Saturday, December 1, 2018

R2BC - The Birthday Party

This is the last Reasons 2B Cheerful for a while. We're taking a month off for Hanuka and Christmas. I'll still be blogging though, and cheerful (hopefully). Meanwhile the linky is live at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.

There's a school policy that most schools adhere to - if you make a birthday party you must invite the whole class or all the girls/boys. When we were told this in first Grade it irritated me and I argued against it in facebook discussions. 1. We have a small apartment (and a winter birthday). 2. It's expensive. And 3, don't tell me who I must invite to DD's party.

Over the years everything has changed. 1. The girls are older and 17 ten year olds is not the same as having 17 seven year olds to entertain. 2. We're not in that same financial situation as when DD was small and I had less flexibility with work hours. And 3, I get it now. If your child is the one who never gets invited to parties, you're very grateful for this rule. Israel still retains much of its socialist origins and the schools spend a lot of time on social cohesion and community building.

In reality, many children had small parties, quietly, usually in the holidays and the invitations were made individually. No one minded. And many parents took the other path - spend the money, hire a children's venue with an organised party included in the price (activity centers, chocolate workshops, entertainer, etc...), send an inclusive whatsapp to the class group and turn up on the day to your child's party. And leave at the end with no disruption to your own house.

We were in the first category and last year I took three of DD's closest friends out to high tea one day after school. It was lovely. In a previous year we had 12 children here for a pirate party in which I was the entertainer so we only invited the English speakers. And one year, in kindergarten, we had a Jewellery making party with seven guests, also English speakers. We usually have a tea with family friends and/or escape to London for a family celebration at my Mum's.

Just once in DD's primary school career, I wanted to invite all the girls to her birthday party. Especially as she has been to so many of their parties over the years. With our new tv and recently acquired Netflix subscription I saw a way to keep it simple. We invited all the girls for lunch and a movie after school on Friday (school finishes at 12 on Fridays). One message to the whatsapp and we were committed.

DD was nervous. What if they don't come? (13 out of 16 came.) What if they hate the movie and spend the whole time on their phones? (There was some phone activity but much of it was  multitasking as we all do when watching tv.) A couple of girls gave her a hard time at school, telling her that she needed to have an activity. I told her to tell them that it's lunch and a movie, take it or leave it. DD was concerned. I was cavalier. If they're bored they can call their mothers (they all have phones) and go home. It's not a disco boat. Most of them walk home themselves anyway. Trust me.

So on Friday morning I got up early and cleaned the apartment. I went out and bought 20 fancy doughnuts. I ordered 6 family pizzas. There was cold water from the fridge to drink as there was enough sugar in the doughnuts and pizzas. And I set the table with paper plates, cups and napkins. Sorted. The girls all walked home from school with DD.

The pizzas were late so we started with dessert. The doughnuts were a great success. I had meant to put some candles in them and have everyone sing Happy Birthday, but I forgot. We put on "The Parent Trap" (with Hebrew subtitles). Then the pizzas arrived and were also welcomed with enthusiasm. By the end of the movie all the phones were away and everyone was hooked. Result.

A couple of girls stayed to play after the party. I chucked all the used paper goods, washed up the three doughnut dishes, and threw the table cloth and hand-towels from the bathroom and kitchen into the washing machine. By 2.30 it was all over including the clearing up. It was the easiest party I've ever made and well worth the cost of the doughnuts and pizzas.

DD was happy and so was I. And Shabbat lunch will be leftover pizza and doughnuts.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

I Did DD's Maths Homework

I know it's a mess. Don't judge me, it was traumatic. 
DD came home with maths homework. Geometry to be precise. I love maths and geometry was always my favourite part of maths. I have also been a maths teacher in my time and I once co-authored a series of maths textbooks for primary school (published by HarperCollins although never actually used but that's another story*). So I offered to help her. She needed help as she didn't understand all the technical terms in Hebrew. Neither did I but at least I understand them in English.

So I'm translating all the technical words with the Google Translate. Meanwhile DD is screaming at me that I don't understand and that I'm doing it wrong. She was totally out of control. It was hard to concentrate. I'm saying, "listen to me, I'll explain," while she's shouting, "no you listen to me - I DON'T GET IT!" You can see how this might take us round in circles. And it did, until I had to send her out of the room and do the homework myself.

I figured that it's ok if I do it providing I explain it to her afterwards so that she understands. It's not ideal but this is the only way we can work. If I show her the answer on the page, she calms down a bit and will listen to the explanation. She cannot watch me working it out as it makes her panic and get hysterical in case I'm doing it wrong.

I worked out that makbilim are parallels and me'unahim are right angles. But now I'm looking at the words, I think it might be the other way around. Alexonim are diagonals, and tzla'im are lines, I know that much. I'd recognise the word for angles if I saw it but it didn't come up in this exercise. It begins with a z.

I kept getting the words muddled up so some of the answers were written after the wrong questions. When you're counting parallel diagonals and perpendicular lines on multi-angled shapes, you need to use different colours on the diagram otherwise you can't keep track. So I employed some pens. Pens don't rub out. The page looks a bit of a mess but all the answers are there - somewhere. Except for two questions which I understood but didn't know what the teacher wanted them to answer: How do you check that two lines are parallel? How do you check that two lines are perpendicular? I don't need to check on a hexagon (meshusheh if you're interested), I can see by looking.

My co-authored maths books for Year 5
I invited DD back to the table to explain my answers to her. She was upset by the messy page but she did understand the geometry in the end. Putting the maths page back into her bag she said casually, "now I need to do my Hebrew homework. Will you help me?" I just couldn't deal with any more of DD's homework tonight. She actually said she could do it herself but she didn't feel like it after doing all that maths. Excuse me? She is so doing it herself tomorrow evening.

*The other story. The books were ahead of their time, using computer programmes in parallel to the books before most pupils had access to a computer for more than one hour a week. This maths programme required an hour of maths with a computer every week when the one weekly computer session in school had to cover all subjects.

Friday, November 23, 2018

R2BC - Kiss And Go Thanksgiving

Unflattering selfie of me doing 'kiss and go'
at DD's school. 
All my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week, are about one day in the life. Yesterday.

1
Kiss And Go
Even those of us without cars have to do our "kiss and go" duty outside the school gates once a year. From 07.30 till 08.15 you help kids out the cars and remind them to kiss their parents before they go. It supposedly speeds up the dropping off process and helps avoid gridlock outside school. In reality, not that many children come by car and most of them don't need help getting out of said car.

We got the list way back in October and thankfully, for once, my day was a Friday (our weekends are Fri/Sat but there is Friday morning school) so no rescheduling was involved. I've repeatedly asked that we get a sign up sheet but they insist on giving out the days and then we are responsible for finding a replacement if we can't do that day. Families with two adults have more options but there's still a frantic swapping fest on Whatsapp after the list comes out. I got a Friday so I just sat back and let the games play out.

Then they discovered that they'd missed out two days because the Hanuka holidays are shorter than they'd allowed for. Everyone got shifted up two days. God forbid it shouldn't go in alphabetical order and the last two people on the list should be slotted into the two missing days. No, 20 people were shifted to different days and the swapping began again. Obviously no one is going to give up a Friday.

I was suddenly on a Wednesday morning. Now, some of my mornings are more flexible than others but I can honestly say that Wednesday morning is the one day that if I don't show up at school on time, a lot of people are inconvenienced and a substitute has to be found for that first lesson. I refused to accept the sudden change. I kicked up a fuss.

Whilst I was kicking, someone noticed that yesterday had been given to the girl whose family had emigrated to Canada in the middle of October. I jumped in and claimed her spot. So I did "kiss and go" yesterday from 07.30 till 08.15 and then went on to my school 40 minutes away on the bus. (15 minutes as the crow flies car drives but I go by bus.) Mrs X in Toronto is now responsible for "kiss and go" on December 19th. LOL.

1
A Day Full Of Windows
Thursday is a ridiculous day at school for me. Whereas Wednesday is seven lessons straight with no free periods (we call them windows here) and library duty during morning playtime, on Thursdays I only teach two lesson (and I missed the first one - a group of 6th graders for English enrichment). So I went in to teach one lesson. Annoying but also a no-pressure day when I get to prepare everything for the following week and do all my marking.

2
Gymnastics
I got home later than usual because the new and very young bus driver, obviously on his maiden voyage, crawled along at about 10 mph. I did eventually get there and then we were out and on to gymnastics. DD still loves it and I used the time to catch up on some school emails Whatsapps.

4
Thanksgiving Dinner
And finally we got to relax as we went on to our Thanksgiving dinner thrown by an American friend for all her nearest and dearest in Israel. It's a big event - catered in a hall with a soft play area for the little kids. DD and the other older girls used this area for gymnastics as the sponge mats were exactly the right thickness. I had a glass of wine, a number of plates of food from the delicious buffet, and long uninterrupted conversations with my friends. Perfect.

(And whilst we did acknowledge that one man's Thanksgiving is another man's Nakba, we tried to concentrate on the joy and good fortune of the European settlers rather than the Native Americans dying from the germ-infested blankets they were gifted.)

One ridiculous Thanksgiving nonsense that has come to Israel, is that all the shops are doing 'Black Friday' sales. It's not even a national holiday here. I refuse to go shopping today. Bah Humbug. Although, actually, it won't help them much as we all did our shopping on municipal elections day three weeks ago which was a national holiday.

Have a wonderful weekend. The R2BC linky is on Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.



Saturday, November 17, 2018

R2BC - Proud Mother

Preparing for Chonchut
Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week are all about DD.

We have a something in Israeli schools called Chonchut (with both ch's being a raspy sound at the back of your throat). The nearest translation I could think of is 'mentoring' as the root of the word is the same as guide and educate.

I first heard of it when DD was in first grade and once a month on a Friday morning, two fourth grade girls would do some fun activities with her and a friend. The whole class was divided into groups of two first graders with two fourth graders. One day we were walking out of school and DD ran over to give a hug to an older girl. When I asked she said, "oh, that's one of my Chonchot (mentors, pl,f) for chonchut (mentoring, n)." I know it sounds like a throat disease if you're not used to it.

The way it works is that the fifth graders are paired with the second graders and the sixth graders are paired with the third graders. Last year in fourth grade, DD was a chonechet (mentor, s,f) for first grade. I remember one Friday when her partner didn't come to school and she had nothing planned. I was very proud that she used her initiative and they chose board games from the class library which the Chanichot (mentorees, pl,f) enjoyed. And one day, as we were leaving school, a little girl ran over to give her quick hug. Her Chanicha (mentoree, s,f) of course. [*wipes a tear at how fast they grow up.]

 
Hanukkah Bingo with prizes
(After play so some pictures are crossed or ticked instead of using counters.)
This week DD had to organise an activity for her second grade chonchot. Her partner had not been in school for a few days so she took it all upon herself. She spent a long time making a Bingo game with Hanukkah symbols. She told me she also needed something active and I shared a Hanukkah game we used to play in my Youth Club when I was a teenager.

It was all a great success.

And on Friday DD came home with the monthly class prize for good work, kindness and patience towards her friends. I didn't know about the prize until I got an email from the teacher tonight saying that she was proud of DD. Apparently DD 'forgot' to mention it.

So from one proud mother, have a good week and if you're looking for more R2BC, the linky is over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Blog Guilt - Is It A Thing?

Something I didn't mention,
Do any other bloggers have blog guilt?

A couple of weeks ago I wanted to write my weekly Reasons 2B Cheerful post and I felt that I couldn't do it without first mentioning the fatal shooting of 11 worshipers in a synagogue in Philadelphia. Obviously that didn't belong in a R2BC post so I delayed the post and wrote about this and other tragedies that occurred that week.

Today I wanted to write a Tuesday Tidbits post. I don't often have funny things that DD says or does to write about now that she's growing up. But a couple of nights ago something funny happened and of course I thought of blogging about it. However, I'm still feeling guilty that I didn't even mention the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) that was last week.

Here I am with a platform that's read by 300 people a day and I didn't write about the Kristallnacht Pogroms. It's was the 80th anniversary, not the 77th or 79th but a significant number that should be commemorated. On the night of November 9th 1938, all over Nazi Germany (including Austria and Sudetenland) Jewish shops were vandalized, looted and torched, Jewish families were herded into the town squares where they were attacked and humiliated, 300.000 Jewish men were arrested and deported to prison camps, Jewish books and and ritual items were burned, and 1400 synagogues were desecrated and torched. Ninety-one Jews were murdered.

This was the turning point for Jews in Nazi Germany. Whereas previously, many had thought the Nazi threat would blow over, now they knew that they were in mortal danger. For most of them, this realization came too late and they were trapped. Some of those who did manage to leave thought they would be safe in France, Belgium, Holland, and other Western European countries. Only those who made it to England and the Americas were spared the horrors of The Holocaust.

On Sunday was Armistice Day, 11/11, when we remember the fallen soldiers from both world wars. My facebook feed was full of my friends' photos of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in uniform. Proud and sad at the same time of the tremendous, often ultimate, sacrifices made by their families. Me? 300 readers and I wrote nothing.

Last night and today Southern Israel has been under rocket fire from Hamas in the Gaza strip. People have died, houses have been destroyed. Schools in the south were cancelled today and until further notice. My friends who live there have spent over 24 hours no more than 15 seconds from their safe rooms (rooms of reinforced concrete) or bomb shelters.

The country is talking about whether we are heading for another war against Hamas. Soldier reservists are waiting to hear if they will be called up. A school in Jerusalem has announced that it will take in any children from the south who want/need to get away and find them families to stay with. And that's just the one school I heard about. Many friends have offered to host families under fire who just need a break from it all.

With all that going on I just can't write about DD's funny sayings.

A couple of weeks ago a friend marked the Yarhzeit (anniversary of death) of her husband who died far too young. She asked that we all do a Mitzvah for Michael (a good deed). I immediately thought, what a good name for a blog post, and I had every intention of writing about it. I did two mitzvot (pl.) during that week. I can't write about either of them. Both were good deeds for specific people who either read this blog or know people who do. To write about how these 'poor' souls needed my help would humiliating for them if they found out.

And there was one mitzvah, another one, that I was able to do and I could've written about it here. It was a general offer that was taken up by a complete stranger, via a facebook group. No one would know who the beneficiary is. But it doesn't feel right to brag about good deeds. Either you do them or you don't, but to tell everyone how wonderfully you behaved... nah, not cool.

So instead of writing blog posts every few days, I've been consumed with guilt about things I'm not mentioning and would feel guilty about mentioning other events that happened. I'm wrestling with the notion that a relatively successful blog (successful in that it's been going almost eight years and people read it) brings certain obligations and responsibilities.

I could say, "I don't write about politics," but that wouldn't be real as politics concern me. I've grown out of cute stories about motherhood, or at least DD has grown past it. I want this blog to be about real life but my real life involves others who don't always want to be blogged about. Sometimes it's hard to find a satisfactory middle ground.

Blog Guilt. Is it a thing?


Saturday, November 10, 2018

R2BC - Hi Tech

Goodbye old TV
Here are my highly technical, digital, and magical (well it's magic to us) Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. The R2BC linky is over at Mich's Mummy from the Heart.

1
Internet And Waste Of Time
I was paying far too much for my internet because it was a package arranged a few years ago which I'd never updated. So I spent about two hours talking (well waiting and talking) on the phone to one company who offered me a good deal. I was already using their router so they told me to call the other company who was providing my internet and cancel it. The other company would apparently inform them and then they'd take over.

So I called Company 2, who I'm already with, and of course they had a better deal for me. So I went with it. They arranged to send me a new router at a very inconvenient time but we fixed it so that the fed-ex guy would meet me at my college. That went smoothly.

Then Company 1 called to ask why I wasn't going with them after all. I said I preferred the deal at Company 2. "How much are you paying there?" "None of your business. And it's not just the money, it's the content of the package." Seriously, if they couldn't give me their best deal after two hours on the phone the day before, I wasn't interested in a sudden new deal only available after you sign up with another company. So she said I had to return their router to the office near the Central Bus Station.

Next day after school I made the significantly out of my way trip to the office near the Central Bus Station with the old router, only to be told that it was mine so I didn't need to return it. I remembered that they'd charged me for it years ago but I assumed that I was being charged for the previous router which I never returned. (Because I didn't know I had to until I noticed that I'd been charged £4 a month for over a year to pay for it.) Turns out, they were charging me for the new router.

It's all double work to get anything done here. But I had my new router and connected to it with no problem. Although we couldn't understand why DD's computer wouldn't connect to our new internet. Luckily she'd been upstairs to a neighbour with her laptop and the neighbour had put in her own wifi for DD and never deleted her password. That might be stealing but DD was given it and we only used it for a couple of days with the intent of sorting out our own internet issues asap.

And after all that, I'm saving about £10 a month.

2
Smart And Not So Smart
I finally bought a smart TV. I spent a silly amount of time worrying about how I was going to get it home (in a taxi of course) and up the stairs (no clue). In fact I put off buying it by several weeks for this reason. In the end I couldn't put it off any longer as I'd been promising DD that we would get it. I thought I'd have to buy the smallest tv in order to manage it. I don't know what happened to me that the obvious thing, to get it delivered, just eluded me. Of course you get it delivered. I think it was because the last thing I bought in that shop was a vacuum cleaner and, though it wasn't heavy, it was a hassle getting the bulky box home in a taxi and up the three flights of stairs.

Anyway, I chose a bigger TV than I'd originally planned to buy because, if you're already going for a cinematic experience, it's a shame to have a piddly little tv. It's 40" but the living room is only 3 metres across so that's like a giant screen if you live in a big house. I paid, in 10 installments which makes it practically free, and they said they'd deliver that same day between 2 and 3pm. It was Friday and I got a call from the delivery man asking if he could come earlier because it was an early Shabbat (an hour before sundown at just after 4pm).

Hanoch (That's Enoch in Hebrew) arrived with the TV at 12.45 and set it all up for me. Turns out I wasn't even connected to my new internet. (I was using the ethernet - what is that even? I've never heard of it before.) Hanoch called Company 2 for me and got me all sorted out with a new user name and password. He was great. I didn't even mind that I had to look at half his bare bottom as he bent down to fix the legs onto the TV. A cracking experience ;)

3
Netflix
We signed up for Netflix. A friend showed me some of the programme and movie options a few weeks ago and if it was only for me, I'd have gone for the BBC Movies and UK TV package. However, DD has friends who don't know English well enough to watch movies without subtitles. Netflix has everything subtitled in Hebrew and some of the children's films are even dubbed in Hebrew. (How annoying is that? It brought back memories of watching the badly dubbed Bel and Sebastion on TV when I was a child.)

It's pure magic. The only downer is that I can't figure out how to change all the movie descriptions to English. I'm not sure it's even possible. And I don't think we're getting to see the full range of entertainment on offer. I'm going to have to explore it a bit more.

Cost of Netflix: about £10 a month.

4
My Baby Laptop
As a bonus item this week, my baby laptop was resurrected. About two years ago I bought myself a small laptop that I could take with me to work and other places if I needed to work outside the house. It's a lovely little laptop - same as my main computer just in miniature. Then DD's tablet broke and my old laptop (the one before my regular laptop) was rubbish to use. DD was distraught and I finally gave in and let her use my new baby laptop. It was less than six weeks old! And suddenly it didn't work. There was a light  behind the screen but nobody was home inside.

DD swore to me that it just stopped. I was heartbroken. I kept meaning to take it to get fixed. It was under guarantee in the UK as I'd bought it when we were in London, but the contract specifically said that the guarantee is void if you take it abroad. And anyway, we weren't in London, we were in Jerusalem. I couldn't deal with it so I just put it away in the cupboard.

Luckily I didn't declutter it as DD admitted to me a couple of weeks ago, that she'd actually spilt water on it and that's why it broke. She was too scared to tell me at the time because she thought I'd go mental. Which of course I would have done. But I'd also have seen if it it could be dried out instead of just putting it away.

This week I got out my baby laptop and it works! In fact I'm using it now. So that's £100 I didn't spend getting it fixed. Hooray! And a laptop for taking to work which I was sorely missing and causing me to waste loads of usable time whilst, e.g. waiting for DD at gymnastics twice a week and during three free periods in a row at school on Thursdays.

5
Facebook Marketplace
On Friday afternoon I put on facebook that I had a 10 year old TV and DVD player to give away. On Saturday evening my friend's son came to pick them up. DD and I quickly went through our DVDs and gave her a bag of about 30 that we don't need anymore. We kept about 10 favourites that we can watch on our laptops (not the baby laptop) but I think even these are on Netflix or some other streaming website.

So that's another empty drawer in the living room, one sleek TV instead of a little tv and DVD player on the side, and a plate of biscuits that my friend sent with her son as a thank you.

All in all, a very technically satisfying week.

Update: I ate all the biscuits so now I hate myself.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Extra Curricula - You Can't Do Everything

Goodbye classical music career
(My dream, not DD's)
At some point in your life you learn that you need to make choices. You can't do everything. No one can. There might, often, be some wriggle room to change times and dates, or fit one thing in after another, but no one goes through life without, at some point, confronting the inevitable choice of one thing over another. And sometimes it's not a matter not being able to fit it all in. Sometimes it's simply a matter of what feels comfortable.

All the above to say, we gave up clarinet. Neither of us was 100% happy about it. However, there were a number of issues that made continuing less than comfortable:

The Art Class that DD loves moved from a different day to just before Orchestra in a way that made getting to the minibus on time a source of stress every week.

Orchestra is held in the Valley of Death and totally inaccessible without private transport.

They do have a minibus from two schools but they wanted the parents to take over the organizing of it and for one of us to go with the bus every week. No parents volunteered.

They said that we needed to have private clarinet lessons if we wanted to continue in the orchestra. The one other clarinetist from DD's school dropped out and private lessons on our own would be very expensive. If DD was passionate about playing the clarinet I could find a way to have lessons. The music teacher even said he would find a solution for us (they are desperate for musicians as the school cancelled the music progamme this year so no new players are coming up and five of DD's school friends from last year pulled out this year). But she kept saying she didn't like it and wanted to stop, now that the social element from last year has gone.

Only one other kid from DD's school is still going to Orchestra and he's a boy. (He's a really nice boy and DD gets on very well with him, but she insists that they're not friends. "We only talk together because it's convenient.")

It's a real shame that the music programme at school was cancelled and that there is no school orchestra this year. But we made our decision given the circumstances. I hope we won't regret it.

We also pulled out of Swimming in the end. Both of us are 100% happy about it. It was only a five-lesson course and we agreed to it because it was still hot at the beginning of October. The lessons were postponed and postponed and by the time we had a date, the weather had changed.

Twice a week we go out in the evening, whatever the weather (we weather the weather whatever the weather), for Gymnastics - DD's new passion. We take a taxi there as we don't have a car. I won't lie, when it's cold and dark outside, we'd prefer to stay at home but we don't. We go and DD loves it once she gets there.

But to go out for swimming with all that involves - wet [now very long] hair, undressing and dressing when it's cold out, even leaving the house on a Sunday as soon as I get in from my work and having to rush to the pool to get there on time... And DD can swim to save her life so it wasn't essential. We just didn't want to so we pulled out and we'll maybe have more swimming lessons next spring and summer.

This week we were offered a place on a programme whereby 3rd Year students from the local teacher-training college (where I happen to work) volunteer to tutor weak pupils in Hebrew and maths. We're fine with maths although I would have taken maths too if we had both days free, however, one of the days is at the same time as the Art Class. So once a week DD will getting a private tutor for Hebrew, at school after school hours. Free.

The weekly schedule has settled into a routine that we can work with and are comfortable with. We have gymnastics, art, and Hebrew tutoring after school. We're both a bit sorry about the clarinet but you can't do everything. You just can't.

P.S. Please God, don't give DD the student who hates me because I made her do all the work assignments when she hates English and thought she could scrape a pass with no little effort.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

R2BC - A Cutting, Elections And Love

Can you see the difference from last week?
After yesterday's list of tragic events that took place during a horrific week, last week, there are also reasons 2B cheerful and here they are. The linky is back with Michelle on Mummy from the Heart for the month of November.

1
A Cutting
The person in the School Greenhouse who gave me the plants last week, also told me how to take cuttings. "It's easy," she said. I've tried it before and it never worked. One of the small branches of the pretty purple plant got a bit crushed and droopy on the way home. So I took it off and planted it in the soil next to the mother plant. You can see it looking all sorry for itself here. Well, blow me, if it hasn't taken. I have a little purple plant making its own way into the world, independent of its mother. I'm so proud. This week I'm going to set it up in its own home nearby, but no so close as to be under each other's feet.

2
Solidarity
Margie from Toronto, a lovely lady who regularly comments on my blog and we have also been in contact by email, commented yesterday that...

"The shootings at Tree of Life were just horrendous - a woman originally from Toronto was one of the victims - members of many churches and mosques here are forming circles around various synagogues this weekend as a sign of solidarity and safety. " 

I was very touched and moved by this news of love and support from the wider community.

3
Election Day
For the first time ever, they coordinated all the municipal elections onto one day and declared it a national holiday. We also have a holiday for the government elections but this is [supposedly] only once in four years. Apart from that, the only other national holiday day like election day is Independence Day in May.

I'll explain. Most adults work a normal, Western World five day week from Sunday till Thursday. However, most children are in school on Friday mornings. Teachers get a different day off in lieu of Friday mornings but the children don't (although they do finish early on Tuesday afternoons when the parents don't). Thus, you have to be at home on Fridays for school. You have to get up early and hussle your kids off to school. And when they come home around midday, the shops and eateries are only open for another two hours until 2pm (sometimes 3pm in the summer). Hardly a family day.

Shabbat comes in at sundown on Friday night and lasts for 25 hours, starting with a festive family meal. There are some places of entertainment (a few restaurants and some cinemas in Jerusalem) and shopping malls open (not in Jerusalem) for those who want them. But for those keeping a traditional shabbat, they are up early for synagogue on Saturday, they have a festive family lunch, and they do not use mechanical transport, screens, telephones, or anything electrical throughout the day.

About those festive family meals... they don't appear out of nowhere. They have to be prepared and cooked on Friday, the house is cleaned, and many families host overnight guests for the duration because they can't travel home after dinner. I'm not complaining about Shabbat, it's a lovely, sociable day. However, it has its limitations as you can see.

That is why a national holiday is so amazing. We have no [we call it] Sunday here. For religious Christians outside Israel it would be your Saturday (although your Sunday isn't nearly as restrictive as Shabbat). A day to go on long trips, eat out, for family shopping, a day at the beach, parties, etc... One morning in the week to get up late and have pancakes or French toast for breakfast and then maybe travel to your grandparents or cousins for tea.

There have been many attempts here to give us our Sundays, especially as no business can be done with the outside world on that day. Sadly, it's not happening. For one thing, we'd effectively be working on a 4.5 day week as you'd still need to finish early on Fridays. Otoh, shopkeepers and eateries take over a month's worth of income on election days.

Finally, a great reason 2B cheerful, we have two new female mayors. One in Haifa, Israel's third largest city, and one in Bet Shemesh where the ultra-orthodox have tried to intimidate women out of public life completely (e.g. even blurring their faces out of photos and tearing down adverts with pictures of women). Two excellent results.


Friday, November 2, 2018

After A Horrific Week

I found it very hard to get my head around writing Reasons 2B Cheerful this week, without mentioning all the terrible events that happened. On a personal level it was a good week but on a community level it was horrific. I feel I need to pay my respects to the community first and I'll come back tomorrow with some personal R2BC.

Last Shabbat 11 Jewish worshipers were shot in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh, USA. Jews everywhere are reeling. It could have happened anywhere and we all have friends and family everywhere. One elderly mother buried two if her sons. One victim was a 97 year old holocaust survivor. Synagogues in the US and the UK, which should be open and welcoming places of God, are seriously considering having armed guards on the doors.

On Tuesday we had a lovely, sunny, municipal elections day which was designated to be a public holiday. Many families went on trips to the beaches, the parks, or the Dead Sea. A family of two parents and six children were driving home from a day out when a car coming in the opposite direction tried to overtake on a blind bend. He hit the family head on and their car burst into flames. All eight were burned to death inside the car. No I didn't know this particular family personally but we are all families in a very small country sharing the roads with drivers who gamble with our lives, either by reckless driving or using their phones whilst driving. The whole country was in shock. It could have been any of us.

Yesterday we heard that an 18 month old baby in Jerusalem has died of measles. A disease that was almost eradicated years ago and one that children in Israel are routinely and without charge, vaccinated against. This baby's parents belong to a cult sect of ultra-orthodox Jews whose rabbis have told them not to vaccinate. I don't know the exact reason why not. They are against the State of Israel as an authority as only God can protect us and only the Messiah was supposed to bring about the return to Zion. Something like that. They are against modern technology because it makes knowledge of the outside world available to all their followers. And against science because it keeps proving things they don't believe in. Basically it's a power struggle and one child was sacrificed for it this week.

And today I received frightening photos from the kibbutz where my friends live, the kibbutz that we go to for holidays and festivals sometimes, my happy place.... A balloon carrying a bomb was let off in Gaza and landed on the path right by my friends' houses (I have several friends on that kibbutz). It hit a jeep that burst into flames, and it started a major fire of trees and bushes along the path. What child doesn't run to catch a balloon floating down from the sky? Israeli kids don't. One of these balloon bombs was found as far from Gaza as Jerusalem (1.5 hrs drive in a car) a few weeks ago. I, and all parents here, had to warn our children not to touch balloons in the street.

Here's to a much better week and may you all have a calm and peaceful weekend.

Friday, October 26, 2018

R2BC - 1K!

From L-R, a pretty plant, rosemary, marva
(sage in English. If you put it in your tea it's supposed to be curative.) 
Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. The linky is still with Becky on Lakes Single Mum as it's still October.

1
1K!
This is my 1,000th post on this blog. But blnk and you'll miss it because I'm going to go back and edit out some of the posts from years ago. I love some of the things I've written but some posts weren't so good, and some were out right embarrassing. So that's a job for this coming week. Minimalism goes digital.

2
The First Rains
We even have a word for it here - The Yoreh. there was one heavy shower in  middle of the night earlier this week. Apparently that didn't count as The Yoreh because it only lasted about 10 minutes. Then there was some light rain yesterday around lunch time, so I'm told, but I missed that one. Finally, last night, there was the biggest storm - wind and rain. Fantastic. We have The Yoreh!

3
Swimming Lessons
In the summer DD's partner for swimming lessons broke his arm and had to miss half the lessons. We paid the difference between joint lessons and private lessons for those sessions and finished the course. Now our friend is going back to use his credit and invited DD to join him for another course of five lessons. I'm always happy to pay for swimming lesson if it's convenient. Five lessons will take us through the autumn and finish just before the really cold weather sets in. We do not swim in the winter.

4
Shopping
The cooler weather and rain took us by surprise and I'd forgotten that DD didn't have a coat for the winter. She needed some supplies for the art class. And there is a pyjama party on Monday night for which her over-a-year-old pyjamas just won't do. I went to the shops while she was at school this morning and got everything. On my way home I went to the big supermarket and did a delivery. I was home by 11.

I have never, well for the past few years anyway, been able to buy clothes for DD without her with me. Either the size is wrong or she doesn't like what I buy. Usually both. This time I hit the jackpot. Everything was a perfect fit and she loved it all. Woohoo.

5
The School Greenhouse
Most of my summer plants have died. I sort of gave up on watering them during the past few weeks as they kept promising rain. Instead we had heat in the 80s. So I wandered into the school greenhouse this week to see what was growing. "What happens to all these plants in the end?" I asked. I was going to offer to pay for some to save me trip to the plant nursery. Not only was I given some plants for free, I also got a lesson in how to take cuttings. I sort of knew that but my cuttings hardly ever take. Must try harder.

All in all, a good week. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

R2BC - Old Friends

Here we are on a girls' trip to Paris in September 2003.
Nicola is third from the left.
Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. The linky is over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum for today and the rest of October.

1
Old Friend
Not so much of the old if you don't mind, but we were best friends when we were seven years old in a primary school in Harrow. Nicola now lives n LA and I live in Jerusalem. We used to pick up the phone and chat once in a while but who does that any more? And she's not on facebook. So, ironically, as social media expanded, she and I had less and less contact. Until last Sunday.

A few weeks ago Nicola and I made a Skype date for a Sunday, which was put off and rescheduled. We finally 'met' last Sunday. It was 8pm my time, dark outside, and I'd finished a full working day. (I'm a teacher so that means 3pm but ykwim.) She was enjoying the morning sunshine in her garden and talking to me on her iphone. I came with my big glass of lemon tea.

We caught up. We gave each other tours of our homes. We laughed. We didn't cry. And we promised to do it again soon(ish) and every few months at least. Thanks for a lovely evening Nicola. (Who says I'm not a cheap date?)

2
Fish Fingers
After almost a decade of looking forward to real fish fingers when we go to London, I finally found some in my local supermarket. Made by the chicken shnitzel people, Off Tov (Good Chicken) I assume, as these are called Dag Tov (Good Fish). Fish Sticks (as they're called here and in the US) are usually minced up fish and other fillers. They're more like fish cakes in breadcrumbs. Captain Bird's Eye would turn in his grave. The Dag Tov wrapper clearly showed real, flakey, white fish inside. We gave it a try.

We bought the goujons and the fried fish fillets in breadcrumbs. Both were delicious. By this week they were gone. I must look for them in other supermarkets. (Caveat: they are ridiculously expensive but as we don't buy any other meat, I'm willing to indulge.)

3
Kick Over
I'd call it a backward walkover but DD insists that it's a kick over. Anyway, we celebrated that she can finally do it after weeks of trying. I would say that this was probably the highlight of her week, if not the whole month.

I totally get it. I remember when I did it for the first time. (No, I'm not talking about that. Cheeky.) It was on the school playing field during the lunch hour. I found a grassy mound and placed myself so that my feet were higher than my hands in the back bend position. (Although it is starting to sound like a kinky version of that. 😜) So I was cheating really. Later I perfected it on flat ground. I showed everyone who would watch. (Stop laughing. I'm talking about a kick over!) So yeah, it was a big moment for us. DD has completely surpassed me. She can do both front/back and box splits which I could never manage even though I wanted it so much I used to dream about it.

Have a great weekend y'all.


Friday, October 12, 2018

R2BC - Autumn

Basil by the kitchen window. In touch with my inner earth-mother.
1
Autumn
It's still reaching the mid 20s during the day. We're still wearing sandals. DD still went to school in shorts and a tee-shirt today. But it feels like autumn and after a long hot summer, that's a great reason 2B cheerful this week.

2
Minimalism
It keeps on going. I had to go through my college papers to prepare lessons for the start of the semester and I found exam papers from up to eight years ago. I kept the most recent as we should keep them for a year or so after the exam, but the rest went out. Whilst looking for a grammar exercise, I flipped though a book that I know I won't use again as I already have better grammar books covering the same topics. So out that went too. We're talking, all in all, a whole big IKEA storage bin on wheels. I also threw out my cooking apron which has hung on the side of the fridge of over a decade and never gets used. Oh, and two old hair brushes. And still not done.

3
Art Class
Turns out that DD can do the Art Class after all. Hooray! She starts this coming week although the day hasn't been finalised yet.

That's it for this week. Short and sweet. The Reasons 2B cheerful is over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum for the month of October. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Reasons 2B Cheerful - Just Life

This week's Reasons 2B Cheerful is back with Becky on Lakes Single Mum and will  stay there for the whole of October. Here are my reasons...

1
Tie Dye Tee-Shirts
The tee-shirts came out really well. Rubbish Photographer (that's me) did not take the time to position the shirts well before taking the photo of them drying on the line. My bad.

DD took BFF's into school for her yesterday and they both promised to wear them with leggings today. Friday is always mufti day in DD's school. Anyway, this morning DD chickened out. I think her tee-shirt looks really cute but she says it's too big. It is big because it's an adult Large but to me it looks like a great tunic. To be fair, BFF's tee-shirt was only a Medium. I wonder if BFF wore her shirt to school.


The Art Class painting from my school
2
Art Class
The artwork from the Art Class arrived at the school where I teach and is now displayed on a prominent wall. You can see the post about this project and DD's class painting here. I wanted DD to be in Art Class again this year but unfortunately it's a one time opportunity so that different kids get to to do it each year.

3
ALEH Arts and Entertainment Fair
We loved the ALEH Arts and Entertainment Fair on Tuesday.

Here's a close-up of the original painting.
Israel View by Yisrael Paldi
4
Orchestra
I can't think of anything else. We're back into the daily routine of school and work so no outings except to school, Gymnastics ad Orchestra for DD. I'm very happy that she decided to stay in Orchestra this year even though only three kids from her school are going. She complains about it but I feel that if she gives up after only one year, that year of clarinet will have been somewhat wasted. So we agreed on one more year and then we'll see what happens.

Wishing everyone a cheerful weekend but also, as the Chinese say, may you live in boring times. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Arts And Entertainment Fair - ALEH

The ALEH Arts and Entertainment Fair
Yesterday wasn't a Jewish festival in Israel (outside Israel it was - don't ask) but the children still had the day off school. As a wonderful end to the festivities we went to the ALEH Arts and Entertainment Fair at The First Station.

I've written about ALEH before - it's Israel's largest network of care facilities for over 750 people with multiple and complex disabilities. They have residential homes, respite stays, medical and rehabilitative care, educational frameworks, and assistive therapies. It's an amazing organization and I'm always happy to support the fundraisers and events.

Tuesday is my college day so I had to work this morning but after lunch DD, her BFF, and I walked down to the first station in time for the show. I enjoyed it although DD and her friend patiently explained to me that if it's a show "for all the family" that means it's for little children. I watched the show while they went shopping.

The tie-dying was held in a bar but unfortunately the bar was closed. :(
The First Station is our mini Covent Garden without the street artists. There were stalls lining the main drag and selling all sorts of artisan items: knitted, quilted, ceramic, jewellery, hats, beautifully painted hand held fans, bags and purses, religious items, and toys. The girls inspected everything and came back with some little jelly beads that grow when you put them in water, and an egg with 'nauty putty' (sic) inside. They spent £1 each and we were all satisfied.

We didn't need the Covent Garden street artists as there were about 20 arts and crafts tables for kids to join, including face painting, glass painting, hair braiding, wooden ornaments to make and decorate, slime making, you name it, if it involved painting it was probably there.

Then we sat and had ice-cream because it's rude not to when you're at The First Station. DD had vanilla and marshmellow, BFF chose the more sophisticated pistachio and cheese cake, and I had frozen yogurt with pineapple and lychee and mascarpone with berries. Delicious!

Yeah, we loved it!
The highlight of our day was a tie-dye workshop. Each of the girls got a white tee-shirt which they twisted and bound with rubber bands. Then they painted them and finally the shirts were handi-wrapped and put into bags for us to bring home and finish. Tomorrow we have to rinse them out, wash them them in the washing machine and hang them out to dry. I'll post the results on Thursday.

We walked home in the sweltering heat, even though it was after 6 pm which is unusual for Jerusalem. Reality hit as we walked through the door - supper, showers, bags ready for tomorrow and early to bed (for DD, obviously not for me). But it felt good to have ended the holidays with a full, fun and active day out.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Minimalism Phase 2 - Milk, Meat, And Playmobil

Goodbye to 7 Barbie-type dolls
This past year I played the Minimalist Game and also gave myself a personal 1000 Clutters Challenge (which included all the items from the Minimalist Game). I held back at 999 items so there could be a celebratory post featuring the 1000th clutter. Then two things happened.

1. We saw on the local fb Buy,Sell,Swap group that one of DD's friends was selling all her Playmobil. DD decided that, actually she doesn't play with hers anymore either. Within half an hour we'd arranged to pass on the Playmobil and seven Barbie-type dolls. (Easily 100 items)

Goodbye to a load of Playmobil
Then DD announced that she doesn't need the Fisher Price dolls' house and all the furniture either. So I packed that up to go back to the friend who lent it to us almost 10 years ago. We also found a load more small plastic toys from Kinder Eggs and cereal boxes, etc... which will go to the next school fair.

2. Although DD won't eat meat (apart from the occasional chicken schnitzel) she does like the chicken soup with lockshen (noodles) that we get on the kibbutz. When she asked if I could make some, it appealed to my sense of tradition.

Now, religious Jews have different sets of utensils, pots, plates, etc... in the kitchen for meals cooked and/or eaten with meat. It's "Thou shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk," blown crazy out of proportion. I don't like it, I disapprove of it in fact, and this is one of the main reasons we don't have any meat in our kitchen. Even though we are not so religious anymore, I need to be able to invite various friends and family over to eat. And, I did have a set of meaty kitchenware packed away, left over from when we did do meat, just in case I ever wanted to go back to it.

Goodbye summer and some more Playmobil
I bought a chicken, I unpacked my meat kitchenware, and I made chicken soup. DD took one look at the chicken carcass in the pot and declared, "that's disgusting! I'm not having any of that!" Then there was the whole business of washing up. I had a washing up bowl for the meat things but the sink is for milk things so how do you throw out the meaty water from the meaty washing up bowl? The answer is of course, to have a milk washing up bowl and the actual sink is only for draining the water. It was all too much bother and too many extra things cluttering up the kitchen.

Little bags of plastic toys waiting for the next school fair.
I have to say that I grew up with this meat-milk divide and it was no problem at all. We didn't even think about it. We had two bowls for the sink, we had full sets of kitchenware for both meat and milk. Even separate bowls for the magimix. Whilst most people who keep meat and milk separate today, and there are thousands who do, have two sinks in the kitchen, most people my age grew up with only one sink and we managed fine.

It's a bit like regular exercise. If you don't do it for a few years you lose the momentum and it becomes a big effort. Obviously you can get back into it if you want to but we decided that we just don't want to. All this to explain why there are a set of cutlery and a soup pot in the photo. I'm not even going to keep my meat kitchenware.

goodbye meat kitchenware and Fisher-Price dolls' house, etc...
While I was sorting I found four medicine spoons/syringes and a set of chopsticks that can also go. (Easily another 100 items including the dolls' house furniture and Kinder toys.)

1,200 items? Probably, but it's time to stop counting. Still to go are collections of dvds and cds that I can't bring myself to part with yet. Two box files of photocopied teaching materials that I know I will never use (but reduced from five box files at the beginning of the year). And my vast wardrobe of clothes I will never wear again. I'm not done yet but I'm almost there. My living room looks like a holiday apartment. I may need to get more plants.



Monday, October 1, 2018

Celebrations and Projects Hahaha

Back in January I eschewed New Year resolutions, word for the year, intentions, etc... for a celebration and a project each month.

January was celebrating planning and preparing my teaching for the second semester and the project was to go through and sort out all my paperwork. Well that second semester is done and dusted and I did go through all my papers and got them sorted. However, ten months on, another pile of papers has emerged that needs sorting and filing.

February was celebrating the promise of Spring with decluttering and Spring cleaning. I certainly have decluttered and I probably did Spring clean. Who knows, it was so long ago.

In March we had both Purim and Passover, so I celebrated family and friends and the project was to actually get together with said family and friends, catch up with promised coffees and invite people for a Shabbat meal once in a while. I think I did all that.

Then came April. Notice that there is no link for April. We came home from London on the 8th and I never got my act together to continue. April should have been celebrating the outdoors and planting a lovely potted garden on the balcony. Well we didn't celebrate much outdoors because we're not really outdoors sort of people, but we did plant the garden - in July. So... TICK! Obviously it now needs some serious weeding and some new plants but We'll do that easily because we actually love our balcony now. In fact, I usually drink my morning coffee out there - so can we call that a bit of outdoors? I think we can... TICK!

May, June, July, August, September. What can I say? Sorry.

And here we are at the beginning of October. Not only is it the beginning of October but we've just had the Jewish New Year, all the festivals are over, and we start the proper and serious working year tomorrow. What better time to jump back onto the Celebrations and Projects train for the remainder of the other year. I'm a Virgo which means I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I hate loose ends. So I'll have to catch up rather than start from now.

May was going to celebrate the early mornings (I have a list) and my project was going to be getting up early for a sort of Miracle Morning routine. Though mine will be less meditating and affirmations and more about doing laundry and other chores. I'm coupling this with going to bed earlier or it won't work. It seems like the perfect time for this project so it starts tomorrow.

June was supposed to be organizing photos and editing this blog. The photos are in pre-digital albums and boxes as well on various sim cards and computers. The blog is approaching 1000 posts (in almost eight years) and some of them, tbh, are not worthy of keeping. In others the photos have mysteriously disappeared making them nonsensical or boring. Still others never had photos and I've come to realize that a picture is preferable. so in a grand nostalgic celebration I will revisit all my photos and blog posts and sort them out.

July and August was the summer holidays. We traveled some, we relaxed, we had some days out. I taught two summer courses. We vegetated and turned to mush. We celebrated nothing to do (apart from the summer courses) and our project was to survive the heat... TICK!

September meant that we went back to school for two minutes before the New Year festivals took hold. September was celebrating the New Year and planning the coming semester. Mostly done and there's still another week until college starts so I'm in good shape... TICK!

Which brings us to October and the happy co-incidence of everything starting at the beginning of a calendar month (like the New Year in January). I have three things I want to tackle. Time management, health (eating, exercise, and enough sleep), and a frugal period as we spent money over the summer and festivals with gay abandon.

I'm going to do all three from now and call it October, November and December. I won't be repeating this exercise next year. It didn't really work for me despite the things accomplished being worthwhile and satisfying. But I started it so I'm finishing it and be done with it.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Final Festival Flings - R2BC

Part of the Sukkah City behind our building
Late to the party again with Reasons 2B Cheerful as I wanted to wait until after the weekend. It's the last week in September so, for the last time until November, the linky is with Michelle on Mummy from the Heart. Here are my R2BC...

The festival period is coming to an end. Only one more tonight and tomorrow and then we can get back to a proper routine for the first time since before the summer holidays. Whilst a nine week school term with no breaks is a bit scary, I'm so looking forward to a bit of discipline in our lives before we waste any more of it with late nights and hardly any mornings.

On Shabbat we went to my cousins in Netanya. It was a leisurely day including two meals in their sukkah with extremely good company. Some of their friends we meet every year and it's lovely to catch up. Some new faces but no one is completely 'new' as everyone is from the expat community. A bit of delving and you always find a connection. The couple I met for the first time were in the Scouts with my dad and remembered him fondly.

There were wonderful sunsets over the Mediterranean but the 25 hour festival without [visible and hands-on] technology encompassed both of them so no photos this time.

This final festival tonight celebrates coming to the end of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah (Old Testament) which we read weekly portion by weekly portion. We celebrate the Torah and that the the book of life, that we were hopefully written into for the coming year, will be signed and sealed by God. There is a lot of singing, dancing, and rejoicing in the synagogue. It goes on for hours.

It's been an intense three weeks of introspection, atonement and celebration. To be honest, I've had enough and I'm looking forward to real life starting again on Wednesday.



Thursday, September 27, 2018

Seven Non-fiction Books I have Loved

A while ago I wrote a post about seven books I have loved in reply to a facebook challenge. After I'd published it I realised that I'd only mentioned fictional novels. Somehow I assumed that this was what was required. (...that this was what was.... a line of words in one sentence without a meaning among them, LOL.) In reality, there are many non-fiction books that I have also loved. So here are seven of them.

1. The Essence of Style by Joan DeJean (Free Press, 2005)
The blurb on the front cover says: "How the French invented high fashion, fine food, chic cafes, style, sophistication, and glamour." Basically, Louis XIV realised he wasn't going to win in the world quantity stakes so he shifted the mindset of the French to value lesser amounts of quality instead. It was pure genius and the reason people are willing to pay small fortunes for what are perceived to be 'luxury' items. How he did it is the fascinating story in this book. It makes you understand that so much gold is simply dross and at the same time, it makes you want to be part of that quality over quantity mindset.

2. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (Black Swan, 1995)
One of Bryson's series of travel books from around the world but this one I found particularly hilarious, recognising so much of the peculiarities he depicts about Britain. One of my favourite observations is that the British are endearingly satisfied with with small pleasures. They are delighted if the sponge cake has currants in it and, when a cup of tea was served at 9 pm in the guest house, he had never seen a group of people get so genuinely excited over a hot beverage. Another observation that I only saw after Bryson had pointed it out is the gender differences at the supermarket express checkout. You only have a small number of items so the men tot up the payment and have it ready to hand over. The women seem surprised by the amount due and only then start searching for their purse in their bag, as if they didn't know that they would have to pay. And don't get me started on the uncoordinated country railways where each train would arrive 20 minutes after the connecting train, on a once a day schedule, had left. There's a lot in this book that perhaps died out with the last century but that just makes it all the more worth reading.

3. The Victorians by A.N. Wilson (Arrow, 2002)
We have a love-hate relationship with the Victorians. On the one hand they personify family values and good behaviour, while on the other hand they conjure up horrific scenes of the work houses, squalor, quack surgery, Oliver Twist type orphans living on the streets and cruel governesses like Miss Minchin in A Little Princess. It was the age of the British Empire - once a great source of pride and now never mentioned because of the shame of colonisation. It was the era in which the biggest changes in in lifestyle occurred due to the agricultural and industrial revolutions. It was when Britain stopped being a nation of farmers and became a nation of shopkeepers. And factory workers. It was the beginning of the end of the aristocrat-servant relationship. So much history and change within one century.

4. The Pity of It All by Amos Elon (Picador, 2002)
Disclaimer: I used to do pilates with Amos Elon's wife but this in no way influenced my opinion of this book. ;~) Joking aside and with all the furore about the rise of anti-semitism in Europe, this book is extremely topical. The book shows how "a persecuted clan of cattle dealers and wandering peddlers was transformed into a stunningly successful community of writers, philosophers, scientists, tycoons and activists." The Jews of Germany were more German than the Germans. They were more patriotic and influential than any other minority. And then this small minority came to be seen as a "deadly threat to German national integrity." The pity of it all is that they were never accepted even in their most influential heyday. And, as we know, they never saw it coming until it was too late.

5. Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton (Pantheon 2004)
This is a group entry with The Architecture of Happiness and The Philosophy of Travel (not pictured). Status Anxiety explains what makes us doubt ourselves and our lives. De Botton observes that you are not likely to be jealous of, for examples, Kate Middleton or Meryl Streep because their worlds are far removed from our own. However, the girl you sat next to in primary school and who now owns a property empire can take up not a small amount of envious obsessing. The reason is, of course, it could have been you. She came from the same place and similar opportunities but she did it while you're still wondering if you can afford a week in a caravan next summer.

The architecture book is about the homes that make us happy and the things we put in them. "It prompts us to think about how we live and how we might change things."

Finally, the problem with travel as a form of escape, is that we take ourselves with us. And that glossy brochure showing palm trees on a white sandy beach facing an azure sea, doesn't show the building site behind the cameraman, the beggars who accost you every time you leave your hotel, the humid and oppressive heat, the smell of the leaky sewer, and the shear inconvenient shleppiness of getting there in the first place. So there you have it, a taste of three books to make you love your life.

6. Singled Out, How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War by  (Viking 2007) 
Not Pictured as I gave it to my cousin.
The Blurb says it all. "After the First World War a generation of women who believed marriage to be their birthright discovered that there were simply not enough men left to go round. Tracing their fates, Nicholson shows how the single woman of the inter-war years had to depend on herself and, in doing so, helped change society." I remember loads of spinster teachers from my childhood who all lived with lady friends. Many of these women lost their fiances in WWII or perhaps there were also just too few men to go round in 1945. And maybe this book is even  more relevant today with the rising number of divorced, never-married and childless women.
7. Outliers: The story of Success by Malcom Gladwell (Little, Brown & Co, 2008) 
Not pictured as I gave it to my nephew.
A bit like Freakonomics, this book takes instances of outstanding success and shows how they are as much a mixture of historical background, social, cultural and economic factors, as they are due to individuals with the courage to go for it. For example, Mayor Guliani who came to office in 1994, claims that he vastly reduced crime in NYC. Whist the crime rate did drop dramatically, Gladwell couples this with legalised abortion in the early 1960s. By the time Guliani was in charge of law and order, for the first time in history there were thousands of unwanted young men who had not been born. In another example, the law in Eastern Imperial Russia that forbade Jews from owning land, forced them to become peddlers and tailors. This gave them a economic advantage over the Italian and Irish immigrants arriving in New York and Boston from the mid 1800s, who had largely been farmers. And if you think western airlines are safer than East Asian airlines, it's partly because the international language of aviation is English, but also because of cultures where people defer to their betters in silence and are always polite - we're very low on fuel but we'll wait until you give us permission to land. Oy vey!

You'll notice that the photo includes A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich (Originally published in German, 1936) but I've not actually read it yet so I decided that it would be cheating to write about it. It does appeal to me though and I do fully intend to read it asap. 
I loved all these books and I'm not even going to give them away as I want to read them all again. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Sukkot 2018: First Day

All the guests depicted in a mural in the Sukkah.
We spent the first days of this seven-day festival in my favourite place in Israel - Kibbutz Alumim. This is my happy place full of wonderful memories of festivals, parties and shabbatot (Sabbaths) going back 30 years.

Two of my friends live next door to each other and share a Sukkah. I took a picture of the outide but we'd not yet laid the tables for the festive meal by sundown on Sunday, so by the time it was looking magical inside, all the technical equipment had been put away for the duration.

It's traditional to have a decoration depicting seven special guests (The Ushpizim) who we [symbolically] invite to the sukkah: Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. One of the decorations in our Sukkah was a mural depicting all the guests, 24 of whom were with us for the first day and the others (not us) will be there on Shabbat.

I am sitting back to back with my hostess - me writing my blog and she reading but also wearing her running shoes. DD is the gymnast with the red ball at bottom right. She loved it. She kept telling me how much she loved her picture.

It was very hot out so the Sukkah was fanned through each of the doors. 
There was also a hanging decoration that DD made in Kindergarten five years ago and we took it with us then. They put it up every year. It's a bit like Christmas decorations that get unpacked yearly. Some are added each year and some are old favourites.

The neighbours' guests included lots of friends, old and new. It was one big catch-up session. We also had a comic rendition of the laws and customs of the festival written in the style of Dr Suess.

On Monday we ate lunch in the enormous communal sukkah that takes up the whole patio in front of the communal dining room. We were about 300 people eating in it. And we ended the day with a light supper back in our own Sukkah.

If you think it's mostly eating and shmoozing you'd be right but there were also a few card and board games going on. Obviously there was a synagogue service in the morning but we didn't go to that - I'm off synagogue services atm but no one minds, each to his/her own.

We had a lovely time, as always. Big thanks to the Landsmans and the Marcuses. xxxx