Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Tonight I saw Mars And It's Beautiful

This is Mars with a crappy camera. 
To my naked eye twas beautiful. And red.
Late this afternoon DD's class teacher whatsapped a poster. In a nutshell, the planet Mars is usually 228 million km away from Earth. Tonight it is only 62 million km from Earth and is visible to the naked eye. The next time this will happen is in 2035. 

The poster said to look to the south. I went onto the balcony soon after nightfall, and I looked west. I caught a sliver of the southern view but my balcony essentially faces west. When I bought this apartment 20 years ago, I had no idea that I was swapping a closeup view of Mars one night every few decades for a nightly full-on sunset.

I was gong to give Mars a miss but I got involved in a whatsapp discussion which ignited my curiosity and motivated me to go down three flights of stairs to look for Mars. I looked south and saw two contenders but my whatsapp pals informed me that these are Jupiter and Saturn. I sort of remember seeing them before and they were bright white so this made sense. 

Apparently there's a star chart app but seriously, I just wanted to see it and go home. So sans app, I set out. If I saw it I saw it and if I didn't I'd wait until 2035 (peh peh peh, please God, thank God, all being well).

A whatsapp came in. "It's rising in the north and travelling by way of the east, to the south." South of where I live is Bethlehem. I decided not to follow the star even if I saw it because the beginning of October is ridiculously early for that sort of thing. Besides, I had no gifts to bear bring. 

The buildings were in the way and the street lamps dazzled. I walked down to the school playground at the bottom of the road. I looked up towards the NE. I definitely saw it. It was small and not white. If I stared long enough I could convince myself that it was red(ish). There was possibly a red aura about it - or possibly not.

Another whatsapp came in with a photo. 'Beautiful!' declared the caption. 

There was a teenage boy playing on his phone in the pergola. "Hey!" I called out to him, "do you want to see Mars?" Of course he did. He was as underwhelmed as I was. We agreed to meet back there in 17 years for the next showing (lockdown permitting of course). I said I'd wear a red flower so he'd recognize me. He said he'd bring more space on his phone so he could take a photo of it. We bade each other farewell, but not goodbye obviously. 

I went home. The rest of the evening passed and suddenly it was 02.30 (it's a school holiday this week so no early zooms to get up for). I decided to take one last look from the balcony just to see. And there it was! A little west of south (S by SW?) and in perfect view. Big (for a star), bright, and decidedly red. It was awesome. I keep going back to take another look. 

I may not have seen the Northern Lights or tasted real truffles (both near the top of my bucket list) but I've seen Mars and it is beautiful. How cool is that? 


Monday, September 21, 2020

Creativity In Lockdown - R2BC

I re-covered the sofa cushions at no expense.
Time for a Reasons 2B Cheerful. No linky this week but it's time to look on the bright side of not being struck down so far and having all this extra free time. 

1

DD's Remote Learning

We've only had a couple of days of distance or remote learning but so far she's doing it responsibly and independently. I'm reading about families with lots of younger children who require constant supervision while the parents are supposed to be working from home. And how one family computer has to accommodate zoom lessons for four children all scheduled at the same time. 

A friend wrote that the parents of her 1st grader told the teacher, "forget the zooms. Just give us the assignments and we'll do them with our kids when it's convenient during the day." I feel their pain and reward my one daughter with ice-cream. 

2

The Cushions

I had these four big sofa cushions that I bought because I got an unexpected voucher for 600 shekels when I purchased my new fridge a few years ago. These vouchers tend to expire, be forgotten, or are subject to ridiculously restrictive small print that no one reads. So I rushed upstairs in the shopping mall to Fox Home and looked for anything that I vaguely needed. 

I did need big sofa cushions but the only design included the colours orange, lime green and turquoise. I promised myself that I would re-cover the cushions in the future. How hard could it be when you already have good quality square shaped cushions? 

Reader, I am no seamstress and I don't own a sewing machine. However, I also promised myself that I wouldn't waste this lockdown as I wasted the last one. Using an old blanket with a reversible pattern, I made two slip covers for two of the cushions. I then used two pillow slips that had been gifted to me when friends left the country, to sew a panel onto the front of the other two. The strip of turquoise and the lime green backing are now perfectly acceptable with the blues. The orange is banished! 

Thank you Netflix for 31 hours of binge watching Outlander, allowing me to achieve this transformation painlessly. 

3

The Headboard

Another project on my list was do do something with the plain wooden headboard on my bed. I had already placed a quilt over it that my friend Amanda made for DD as a cot blanket when she was born. I gave away all of DD's baby things (except for some loved stuffed animals and teddies) but this quilt is too beautiful and personal. And it's about 15 cm too short on either end. 

I had an old woven floor rug (a kilim?) that I loved because of the colour but we don't use woven rugs. Unlike proper carpets, of which we have two, they can't be hoovered easily and they just get dirty and dusty on the floor. So I washed it in the washing machine, cut off the tassels, folded it in half lengthways, and sewed up the two ends. This sleeve fits perfectly over the headboard and comes down as far as the mattress. The quilt sits on top of the kilim and voila - an all washable, upholstered headboard. 

4

Coffee And Shul (Synagogue)

I had two days worth of Rosh Hashanna services without having to get dressed or leave my home. I sat on my balcony with a cup of coffee and heard the whole thing below in the street, including the blowing of the shofar (a hollowed out ram's horn). Now that's my kind of shul. 

5

Not Yet In Total Quarantine

We're in Lockdown but can leave the apartment for essentials. Quarantine is much stricter and more and more of our friends are put into quarantine at home every day. One nursery school teacher had subbed in three different kindergartens last week before testing positive. One of the families we cancelled going to for lunch over Rosh Hashanna is now in quarantine because the son had been in school with a tested-positive child. I hope none of the above will actually get sick and apparently 90% of cases are mild or asymptomatic. We're taking no chances and so far we've been lucky. 

So as Israel careers into total loss of control over the pandemic, I wish you all a good week. 

 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

State Of The Fed Up Nation

I've not blogged much for a couple of months because I didn't feel like it. We don't go anywhere and it's been over 30 deg C for the whole summer and the mercury's still up there. On the one hand, we're fed up at home (fed up in every sense of the words) but on the other hand, I'm thankful that I've not had to go out to work or anywhere in this heat. 

Israel is entering its second lockdown starting tomorrow at 2 pm, the eve of Rosh Hashana - the Jewish New Year. We got the rules a few days ago and they were vague enough that, as someone wrote on fb, you can't leave your house unless you need to go somewhere. 

The one clear directive was that we're not allowed farther than 500 m from our places of residence - except to go to work, shop for essentials, health care, exercise, to assist someone in distress, and various other caveats to do with prayers, children and special needs.

Fine. We have friends who live very close by as do many people. So we all arranged our two-day festival with meals together in each other's homes - not exceeding 10 people at any one meal. Then today - 24 hours before the lockdown, after we'd shopped, after many people have already cooked, after all arrangements have been confirmed, they clarified that we are not allowed to visit other homes (although we are allowed to meet in the local park),

Meanwhile there are thousands of ultra-orthodox men trapped in no man's land between Belarus and Ukraine because they thought God would open the border for them when Ukraine made it very clear that they are closed to tourists until the end of September. It's an annual pilgrimage to the grave in Uman of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. Basically it's a rave party for men and they won't give it up. And their rabbis told them not to give it up because these ultra-orthodox rabbis are power mad and won't be told anything by a secular government, secular doctors and, God forbid, scientists. It hurts because, as one of the leaders of the opposition, Yair Lapid said, we have all had to give up on our personal "Umans" this year. 

These hassidim, including lots of male children, are sleeping rough in the cold and relying on the red cross for food. Israel is telling them to return to Minsk where there are planes ready to bring them home but it'd be a shame if they left and then God sent a miracle - right? Did I mention that traveling on Rosh Hashana is forbidden (Like on Shabbat) so if they don't leave now they will be stuck there until Sunday night. 

The ultra-orthodox are a law unto themselves - they do what they like and bugger the rest of us. Two mayors of ultra-orthodox towns are among those waiting for the Ukrainian border guards to be touched by God. You couldn't make it up. 

So while I'm bashing these hassidim, others are blaming everything on Bibi Netanyahu. They're not wrong. He has put himself and his interests before that of ordinary citizens at every opportunity. But others love him because ...... they have reasons and I'm not going into all the politics now. However, the hatred on and off of facebook is astonishing. 

The Bibi bashers throw vitriol at Bibi and the religious respond with disgust that political demonstrations are permitted with thousands of demonstrators while the rest of us point fingers at their massive weddings and overcrowded prayer services and study halls. They're not wrong either - I also don't understand why demonstrations are allowed.

It's all political. Bibi cannot alienate his religious supporters by banning all religious gatherings, and democracy must be seen to be sacred, hence the demonstrations. Meanwhile the Yeshivas (religious colleges) are open while schools are shut. Ultra-orthodox men travel to Belarus to visit the grave of a man who died in 1810 while we (like many others) can't visit my mother who is very much alive.

I don't even know if a lockdown is effective or not. There are heated arguments on both sides. The only truth is that no one's opinion is totally subjective. 25% of the country are currently unemployed. If I had lost my own business that paid the rent on my family home or was in danger of losing the home that took me decades to buy, and I had more children to feed, etc.. etc.. I'd also be shouting about the unnecessary lockdown. 

But I wore my mask properly when supermarket shopping today while many didn't bother. My motives are not political. I'm scared of getting corona and I don't want to have to pay a 500 shekel fine if I'm caught. For these reasons I tend to follow the rules. 

I canceled our plans for the holiday weekend. Others are sticking a finger up to that and going ahead. I don't blame them and I won't judge. Everyone's situation is different. I'm an older, overweight, single mother and so I will err on the side of caution. 

So as we go into the New Year in a state of mud-slinging, blame naming, anger and hatred towards each other, I wish everyone a happy new year in lower caps. 

Friday, September 4, 2020

Some R2BC And The Crisis To Come

First day of 7th Grade. This is all I got.

I only blogged once in August because there was little to say. We watched Netflix and You Tube, we had dinner a couple of times with friends, DD went to one Bat Mitzva party (a picnic in the Botanical Gardens), she had a friend over a couple of times, and we got fat. That was our summer. Reason 2B Cheerful - we didn't get corona. 

Today is my birthday. I'm nearer 50 than 40 (and always will be). So that's one Reason 2B Cheerful. And another is that we're invited out to dinner tonight. 

DD is back at school for four days a week for half days. This week she was in the second shift - 10.50 am till 2.20 pm. Next week she'll be in the 8 am till 10.20 group. The second shift isn't so good. They have more school hours but there's a lot of hanging around in the morning waiting to leave. It's only a 12 minute walk to her school. 

Only on Fridays it's different because the school closes at 12.30 pm for the weekend. I thought she had a 10.20 start this morning so I didn't hassle her about the time. Suddenly she flies into a panic at 9.40 because that was when her first lesson started. I had no idea. She ran out of the house crying to run up the hill (it's a mountain) in 35 deg C heat. She'll be ok but I felt for her. It's not nice to have to walk in late in the first week of a new school. 

On Sunday and Monday she has distance learning from home for the full 6 hours. It's a R2BC that DD has some sort of schedule again, even if it requires keeping on the ball to know where she should be and when. 

Israel has gone from being among the best coping countries during the first wave, to being the worst as of this week. We are now the top country for the number of new cases in relation to population. R2BC - I did an online supermarket shop and we have enough food in the apartment to see us through the threatened lockdown in the coming weeks. 

Did I mention that my salary a my college has been reduced by 60% for the same amount of work? I'm prepared to take one for the team during this crisis but the great terms of employment we had BC (Before Corona) will never be reinstated AD (After Disaster). What we have now is what most colleges do and have done for years. I enjoyed extremely generous terms for 10 years and now it's over forever. R2BC - thanks for the great first 10 years. 

I'm not panicking about the salary situation because there are about 3 million people in this country who are worse off than me. People in service industries, tourism and all 'non-essentials' related jobs. All these people have either lost their jobs or are on greatly reduced income. People who rent and have a number of children to feed. People in the early years of a large mortgage. Older people who might never find work again. This is not a R2BC but the government will not allow half the country to be homeless and starving so solutions will be found. This is a Reason 2B Hopeful.

I read that the real economic crisis won't hit until next spring when we'll have the beginnings of people using up all their savings and redundancy money, and unemployment payments stop (you only get a year of dole money here). 

My nephew tried to explain to me that he heard from an economist (his brother) that because it's a world wide phenomenon, governments will be allowed to print more money without devaluing their currencies as long as all countries print the same amount of money. This money can be used for stimulus projects and income support. So R2BC - we will cope and we will survive. 

The sad thing is that these drastic stimulus measures will only be implemented when most people have used up all their savings. They will survive but all dreams of a better future (buying a better property or even just getting on the property ladder, opening a business, a comfortable retirement, etc...) will have been dashed and we will have to start from scratch. Or maybe a more modest world will be good for all of us. R2BC? I'm not sure. 

So amongst the doom, about eight or nine Reasons 2B cheerful or at least grateful and hopeful. And this is why I've not blogged for the past few weeks.

A last R2BC is that the R2BC linky is back on Becky's blog - Lakes Single Mum. Check her out for beautiful photos of Kendal and The Lakes. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

One-Upmanship - Let It Go

🏆 In 1952 Stephen Potter (1900 -1969) published the infamous guides to Lifemanship and specifically One-upmanship.

On holiday with a friend, we played several rounds of backgammon in the hotel lounge and I won. "You're very competitive," she observed, "I never realised that about you before." Say it with a smile and it's not an insult right? She lost at backgammon that night but she won at life.

Another time a friend was telling me about a wonderful place she'd visited on her travels. It was the most spectacular scenery in the world. She ended her description with, "I don't care how many pictures or videos people see, you cannot understand the full beauty of it unless you've been there." What is there left to say after that? You've been to better places than boring old me so you win?

Lifemanship is making yourself appear more accomplished or knowledgeable, or the better person. It's chatting with an accomplished writer and saying that you plan to write novels when you retire. It's following a story about a walking holiday in the Lake District with, "When I went hiking in the Himalayas..."

It's basically disrespect for the knowledge and experiences of others.

One-upmanship is altogether more sinister. A back-handed compliment but more nuanced. Use it clumsily and you look mean. However, with some practice it can be honed into an art form. By all means use One-upmanship on your enemies, your adversaries, or your competitors. Be aware that you'll still look mean and people will hate you for it, they just won't be able to pin anything on you.

"One-upmanship is making the other man feel that something has gone wrong ever so slightly" (Stephen Potter). It's leaving the other with a slight feeling of discomfort. You can't argue with One-upmanship. "What do you mean? I gave her a compliment!"

It's meeting an older friend for coffee and saying, "How lovely to see you out and about and looking so well."

Another example I read once, went like this: You invite guests for dinner and you've obviously spent much time and effort cooking a lavish selection of dishes and desserts. One guest compliments you with, "Thank you so much for tonight, it was a lovely evening. The mayonnaise was delicious. I would love the recipe. I can't stop thinking about how good it was. You are clever."

Or the parting that ends with, "I've really enjoyed meeting you and spending time with you. I hope you find what you're looking for in life." (What? I'm concerned about you.)

Have you ever been One-upped? What do you do? You smile to yourself and remember that One-upmanship is the tool of the insecure. It's used by people who feel that: "if you're not one-up, you're one-down" (Rilke). Feel sorry for the habitual One-upman but never confront him. He'll pretend  not to understand why you're upset. If he needs to always feel superior he's not going to apologise, is he? Let it go. And you can feel a little superior if you like, because of your maturity and stronger sense of self.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Corona Changed Everything

I am no worrier. I've lived in Israel for a very long time. I have friends. I even have childhood friends who also moved here. I work, I bought an apartment, I did IVF and had a baby, I've been a single mother for almost 12 years. And all this in a language I'm not 100% comfortable with.

I hate the weather in the summer which is far too hot for me, and getting hotter apparently. I hate the national pass-time of hiking in the countryside because I can't see any countryside - only Mediterranean scrub. Otoh, I love it that we live 45 minutes from the Mediterranean. In theory. We're actually not beach lovers.

I love visiting the UK. I love the countryside, I love walking in the countryside. I love London, I love the humour, I love listening to the radio talk shows and understanding all of it. I love dealing with bureaucracy or commerce on the phone or by email because I have full command of the language and all its nuances.

I've always been torn between living here and living in the UK. The more years you expat yourself, the harder it is to go back. The more you have invested in your expat life and the less you have to go back to. However, no one expected covid-19 or that it would change everything. Not just highlighting what I already knew, but bringing up things that I also already knew but had buried deep.

We are far away from close family. It wasn't a problem when a short plane ride was available and traffic went both ways - they came to us and we went to them. But now what happens if I get sick? Who looks after DD? Would you take in a traumatised child who needs to be in quarantine for two weeks and could endanger your own family?

So I'm being over cautious about social distancing. DD came to me last night and said sadly, "Mummy everyone else is out having fun." In theory she's correct. In practice, we both know that we hate that sort of hiking or even picnicking in 34 degree heat sort of "fun". I don't even know what other kind of fun there is in this country in this sort of heat. In past years we went along with friends and endured the heat in order to enjoy the company.

I have a drivers' license but I don't drive here because I don't have a person to call if we break down, get stuck or have an accident. I mean, I have people to call in an emergency but once the emergency bit is over, I still have to deal with all the mechanical and insurance issues. This scares the hell out of me. So we don't have a car and as much as I say it's cheaper to take a taxi any time we want to go anywhere out of town (which it is - I've done the maths) we don't. Our lives are limited.

Our lives are limited, not only by lack of private transport. It's a language thing. I shy away from too much responsibility at work, at school (DD's and mine) and in the community. This is tragic for a natural joiner and organiser.

Finally, as we face DD going into Middle and High School, I feel I'm limiting her education. Her Hebrew has surpassed mine but due to our English lives at home, she doesn't have the language skills necessary to excel. And though I can help her with the material, by looking up the information in English, I can't help her with presenting what she knows. School is half about what you know and half about presenting what you know according to the teachers' requirements.

Maybe covid-19 has turned me into a worrier. Or maybe it has just made me face some difficult truths. Whichever, it has changed everything.


Saturday, July 25, 2020

One Of Those Women?

A dress. It's not a photography blog, ok? 
Many years ago my flatmate and I decided to have a party in our apartment. We were living in the middle of a building with windows front and back. Left, right, up, and down were other apartments. They were mostly occupied by retired women - probably because it was a building of tiny apartments in an old neighbourhood. So being British and polite, we knocked on all the neighbouring doors to tell them in advance, apologise for the noise, and assure them that it would be over at midnight.

Back in our apartment, my flatmate said, "did you notice how every door was opened by a bra-less middle-aged woman?" We fell about laughing. We didn't get it. We didn't understand how not going out to work, not having a partner or flatmates, not having friends popping over without notice, can lead to a level of not bothering to get dressed heretofore unimagined.

I have DD of course but she's as laid back as I am. When we made the list of what clothes she needs for this summer it boiled down to 1 T-shirt, 1 pair of shorts, and 14 pairs of pyjamas. Even on a normal Shabbat (Saturday) we sometimes don't get dressed all day if we're not meeting up with friends. So I was halfway there before this isolation business. I blame a lot of it on the extreme heat in the summer but essentially, I had become one of those women.

My current neighbour, one of the first of us to go into quarantine after returning from the US in March, is also a single woman. However, she got up early every day, dressed as if she were going to work, and kept to some sort of routine. I want to be one of these women. I was not in quarantine at the time and we'd meet on our balconies - she in full make-up and executive blouse, me in my bathrobe.

The Fly Lady says the first thing you should do every morning is get up and dress till shoes. There is so much common sense in this. When your friend brings something round for you and asks if you can meet her at the corner as she's in a rush, you can just nip down to meet her. When someone says, "meet me in Roladin for coffee in 20 minutes," you can be there in 20 minutes because you don't have to also shower and dress in that time.

Yesterday I decided that with another five weeks of summer break still to go, I was not going to be one of "those" women anymore. So this morning I got up early, showered, and dressed till shoes (my Fitflops do double duty as shoes and slippers). And here I am. All dressed up and nowhere to go - because we're actually trying not to socialize atm.

So did it make any difference? Yes of course it did. Not sure yet. I'll give it a few more days and let you know.