Category Archives: Personal

ones about me, my life and my ramblings!

Day 4 – 15th September – Gibraltar

So today we got up early, had a posh buffet breakfast in the nice restaurant, then had a quick game of shuffleboard before going out onto the helipad to watch us sail through the Gibraltar strait and into the port of Gibraltar.

'pon the Helipad!
‘pon the Helipad!

 

I see Gibraltarr
I see Gibraltarr

 

The views were stunning and we could see Africa pretty clearly! Soon we were docked and we popped into their posh restaurant for a buffet lunch before disembarking to go round Gibraltar!

We walked down the main street ( Called Main Street!) Then jumped in a cab to go for a tour of the rock…

The Caves were Really Pretty!
The Caves were Really Pretty!

The views were magnificent and the weather was lovely. We went down into the caves which were beautiful, before going to the top of the rock to see the views and meet the monkeys. They are very funny and sometimes scary and it surprised me just how close they will get to you!

On the way down we stopped at the Moorish castle which was really pretty as well as having good views.

Two Monkeys!
Two Monkeys!
Another Two Monkeys!
Another Two Monkeys!

 

After the castle we went back to one of the squares where we had some delicious ice cream and a drink but most importantly….. WIFI!!!!

It was quite nice to get back in the loop and see what was going on in the world! After the cafe we popped into WH Smiths and I bought some fruit gums, at English prices, in Great British Pounds (All foreign countries should be like this! Hehe)

Beaut Views... (Hello, Little Ship)
Beaut Views… (Hello, Little Ship)

After that we got a shuttle back to the boat where there was a 45 min queue to get back on!!! Captain Tony apologized….seems there were a few issues!

..... and The Moorish Castle!
….. and The Moorish Castle!

Entertainment that night was Mark Walker who was a “Comedy Impressionist”… we decided that it was fair to say that everything that the comedian last night wasn’t, this guy was…. mainly “Funny”!!

We were up quite late, knowing we had a day at sea to recover!!!!…….

Day 3 – 14th September

So today we’d planned to get up at 10. At ten past ten, the phone rings…. Although according to my tablet next to the bed its 9.10. I answer the phone to mother with then phrase “Which bit of 10 didn’t you understand?!”… She told me it was 10 past. OOPS!!

We got up and had a relaxed breakfast….then we played a game on the deck called shuffleboard…. Bit like curling without the brooms. It was fun but lets just say I wont be taking it up professionally!! (Dad and I lost considerably to Mum and Adam!!) We sat outside for a bit, walked down the promenade and soon it was time for lunch! All these activities are just to fill the gaps between meals right?!

At 2.30 mum and I went up to the bar at the top of the boat for the “Guest Choir”. We’d been promised a Gareth Malone style choir so we’re quite excited – we were even promised a performance from the bridge on the Royal Promenade!

What we were met with was nothing more than a shoddy karaoke with printed sheets. A few of us had expected a bit more organization. We were all just sat round mumbling words! Mum and I led the enthusiasm with a few others joining in and we had a laugh. (Huge Shout out to Rowenna, Janice and Nan!!!)

We told Dad and Adam we had to audition from 65 an were whittled down to 30 before making the final 12. They bought the story,but we felt bad so said simply “Not really, it was sh*t!!!!”… Ah we had a laugh!

We then sat out on deck and took in some sun!

Here's the Sky, not too sunny in this, but it was, I promise!
Here’s the Sky, not too sunny in this, but it was, I promise!

 

 

Mum and I went for the early show by “Fourever” – an Il Divo tribute act…. They were very good…. They did a whole range of songs in English and Italian, mostly from the comfort of “Westlife Stools”!

Soon dinner time came round and we went and had a lovely (as always) dinner to be followed by the Late night entertainment of a comedian….

Let’s just say, the late night bit was correct!!! Comedian was pushing it!

After the ‘comedian’ we went for a walk down the Royal Promenade and had a cup of tea before bed where I found 5 of the 10 Israelis we’d been told were onboard! We’ve decided to do something together for Rosh Hashannah together!

Off to bed we go before tomorrow’s first port call – Gibraltar!

Click here for Day 4!!!

Post Camp Depression

A non medical paper on the Causes, Symptoms and Treatments/Remedies.

 

After Camp, many people young and old suffer from a pseudo-illness known as “Post Camp Depression” (PCD). This blogpost sets to outline the major Causes, Symptoms and Treatments/Remedies of Post Camp Depression.

Update: Sometimes this pseudo-illness is known as Post Camp Blues (PCB). For the purpose of this paper, it will be referred to as PCD.

 

Causes:

What causes Post Camp Depression? Any combination of the following:

Loud Music:

From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, you are blasted with the top tunes of the moment. Breakfast to Beyonce, Lunch with La Roux and Dinner with DJ Capser (and his cheeky +1 called “Slide”). From the morning after camp, your body is expecting exposure to TUNES… but your mum won’t allow you to play any music before 11 am.

 

Hugs:

On camp, whenever you see anyone you get a hug. You sit down for a few minutes, you have a hug. Good morning *Hug*. Good Night *Hug*. It’s a LOT of hugs. Back home, you see someone at school/Work you can’t just give them a hug… or if you do, they’ll probably think you’re a screw loose.

 

Ruach:

Translated literally from Hebrew, Ruach means Spirit. But it’s more than just spirit…. It’s that sense of family you develop at camp. The Chants, the Banter, the feeling of togetherness.

 

Carbs:

You’re on the go from 7 am till 10+ pm… You need the energy. The best way to get that energy is Carbohydrates. Pasta, Pizza, Chips, Wedges… you name it, you’ve eaten that form of Carbohydrates on camp… If you ate that at home you’d feel sick, (as well as become insanely overweight etc) but on camp you use that energy!

 

Shabbatmosphere.

If you go on a Jewish Camp, and it’s over Friday/Saturday then you will encounter Shabbat.  (The Jewish Sabbath.. if you’re not Jewish, you can probably skip this one!)… the whole camp comes together as one family, the atmosphere is intense, and Havdallah is something else. Your first shabbat back home just isn’t the same…your Boobah whines that your taking too long to bless the Palwins no 10 and you should just pass it round already, and your family don’t do the “Nai Nai Nai’s” let alone Havdallah at all!

 

Symptoms:

 

Symptoms vary from Case to case, but usually include one or more of the following:

Facebook Statuses / Tweets:

“HAD THE MOST AMAZING TIME ON CAMP”… “MeT sO mANy AmaZing PeOPLe, Ova Da LASt wEEk”…… “missing you all so much”…. “So Tired, Just slept for 10000000 Hours”…

A common symptom. Facebook statuses and tweets about the amazing time that’s been had, or how tired people are. Eventually your whole news feed is filled with people from camp declaring how tired they are and how much they miss each other.

 

Nasty Photos:

You can guarantee that on the third day, when you’ve had about 4 hours sleep over the whole camp, someone will brandish a camera. They will photograph you looking like you’ve been dragged repeatedly through a prickly bush. This photo will then appear on facebook…. to be complimented by a shower of comments from people missing camp, constantly pushing the worst photo in the world, back to the top of everyone’s news feed.

Huskier than a Husky Dog:

You Over did the ruach. You sung so loud, chanted so hard, that you have no voice. Anything you do have either squeaks or grates into garbage… Sign Language becomes your main means of communication. Well done, you’ve had a good camp!

Reunions:

You’ve been home 2 days from camp, yet you have already booked tickets to some far out town (for those in London, that’s anything outside the M25)… Or all your local friends are meeting up together in town. You’ve just spent a week together, but you want another few hours.

 

Skype:

“Yes Mum, I know its 3am, But I’m on Skype still… I’ll go to bed soon”. Once it was MSN, Nowadays its Skype. What’s the maximum number of people that can skype at once? You bet most people just back from camp can tell you! Keeping in touch for hours, even though you’ve just spent a week with each other 24×7.

 

Countdowns Till Next Camp:

“OMG OMG only a Billion days till Summer Camp!!!! #Excited” I know someone that became a bit famous for this…. knowing exactly how many minutes and seconds till the next camp is not the first sign of madness, yet simply a symptom of PCD.

 

Over Playing “That Camp Song”

No matter how many times you play it, you still smile and laugh along. Even after the 10th consecutive repeat it’s still fresh. You don’t care how often you hear it, it’s good memories….Even if you could never quite master the dance properly on camp.

 

Treatment / Remedies

 

No single treatment or remedy has been proven 100% effective. As PCD shows a different combination of Symptoms in each case, I recommend at least two of the following treatments in parallel.

 

Organise Those Reunions:

Public places hate it when there are more than about 3 people in a group. Be the rebels that meets up with 30 friends from camp. (your sheer number alone will terrorise the old folk trying to do some quiet shopping). Go to the park, Play Guitar, sing songs… Recreate camp… Just not at camp!!

 

Learn The Maximum Number Of People Who Can Skype At Once:

Talk to your friends… keep your post camp relationship as close as your camp one! These people are likely to stay with you for a while… Let’s face it; if they can last a week with you 24×7, then the’re a keeper.

 

Dig Out Photos From Many Camps Ago:

We all have the photo from camp many years ago, when you’re in fancy dress or stood next to someone… and it’s funny… perhaps for everyone else and not you… but hey, no pain, no gain! Share that photo… share someone else’s photo… get the banter flowing, relive the memories.

 

Strepsils, Strepsils and more Strepsils (Or any other equivalent brand of throat soothing lozenge)

There’s only one way to cure that sore throat. Clearly it’s not by resting your voice… Oh no, its the repeated consumption of sickly sweet Strawberry or Blackcurrant Strepsils. On the hour, Every hour… maybe even half an hour… Without Kids going on camp, Strepsils would have gone broke YEARS ago!

 

Overplay “That Camp Song”

Make your Mum and Dad Hum it. Teach the dog the dance you couldn’t master on camp.  Play that song so many times you hear each instrument play each individual note…. but smile each time.

 

Shabbatmosphere-ise:

Ok, that’s an even sillier, even more made up word. But if you’re Jewish, Try and bring some of that Shabbatmosphere home.  Say the blessings together, Say grace after meals together… Sing the songs… and if your Booba Complains… Use the same selective hearing she uses, when you remind her that she owes you pocket money!

**MOST IMPORTANTLY:**

Apply for Next Camp:

There may be over 200 days until the coach departs for the next camp…. but who cares?! Book your seat, reserve your tent, register your ruach… get yourself applied and then post a bragging status about it. Apply as the first person just in case there is a prize!!!

Small Print:

Not all sufferers of PCD will suffer due to the Causes above. Likewise, not all sufferers will show symptoms, or be successfully treated by the treatments above.

Side effects may include Drowsiness, nausea, Sore throat, and addiction to Strepsils. 

Please read through included sheet before taking any treatment. 

Use only the prescribed dose and no more, else bad things may or may not happen to you.

See you next camp! 😀

Grow Broader Shoulders.

Pinned to the front of my blog for National Bullying Prevention Month, October 2015:

If you ask me about my time at primary school, I usually go quiet and don’t have much to say. Often ALL I will say is:

 

  1. Christmas time I used to love going up to the church to sing carols. (and daddy was once father Christmas)
  2. Baby Spice once came to my primary school!! ( I used to be in LOVE with her)
  3. I had a friend in year 1 who was over from Germany for a year and we’re still in touch
  4. I moved Primary school in February year 5.

Those four things are all that spring to mind. Without deep thought, nothing easily comes back to me about my time at Primary school.

Everything else before that February in Year 5 has been covered with a huge mental plaster, stopping me from thinking back to those years….

I was bullied at primary school. Physically, Verbally, and mentally….. The bullying was so bad, that I had to move schools…..

Reception til year 2 was a separate school at my Primary school, those are years I can remember. The computer going up in smoke, Meeting Caroline from Germany, Lessons in year 2 in the hut at the back of the building….

Then we changed to the Junior school (literally the other side of the fence!) for year 3-6 (well, 3- 5).

I remember bits of year 3, Miss Conder, Reading a bit of Harry Potter (I think)… But then it began….

I remember a class project – to have a photo taken with your friends. This was to be put in a frame as a memento….. I remember turning up in the playground, with no one to have a photo with. No one wanted me. I was shoved in a photo with two girls who were best friends. I remember the photo (which I think I threw away) had me pulling the Fakest smile. While deep inside I was so unhappy.

But then year 4…. I don’t remember much of year 4…. not much at all…….

I’m not sure how it started. The bullying slowly crept its way into my life… when I think back, I remember struggling in Year 4 to finish my DT project, because every time we had a DT lesson, more of my Project was broken than I’d fixed in the previous lesson…. at the time it seemed mere coincidence…..

Toward the end of year 4, things took a turn for the worse. The name calling started. I know it started, but my memories are so vague… I blocked them out years ago, not wanting them to haunt me for the rest of my life.

I remember “Stupid”, “Jew”, “Idiot”, “High Pitched”, “Girl Voice”….
It’s amazing how spiteful 8 and 9 year old kids can be.

I’m not entirely sure when it got physical. Every-time I drive past the school and I see the green fencing, even to this day, I go cold and shiver a little.

I remember a number of times, Being held up against the fence. It’s oblong gaps providing slight refuge to my back being pressed against it’s metal bars. I remember what seems like hundreds of faces, yet were probably maximum 3, Crowding round me.

I remember the kicking, the punching, the name calling, the taunting. 3 or 4 against 1.

Writing this is making memories flow back that would never have come to me normally because they are usually blocked out.

I remember in year 5, we had to make a drink… Design the label… and make a radio advert…. I had a Jingle, I had a word art label…. and I had a bottle full of Blackcurrant juice and vinegar….. “Dooberry Ding”.
Our drinks were out on display in the corridor for all too see… well mine was, for all of one day…
By the second day, the bottle was empty, under the table.

The issue was deep routed. Routed within someone whom I thought was a friend. Who at first I trusted as my naive 8-10 year old self.
The main culprit was someone who, on a Monday night, I’d go home with, we’d go to Tutor together, and then his mum would drop me home.

He was the one, making my life at school hell.

The order of the events is blurry…. The mind can play wonders at trying to help you forget.

I remember I was “Computer monitor”. It was my job to turn the computer on in the morning when I got into the classroom. One day I noticed, the computer was already on when I got into the classroom… That night, at the end of school, I turned the computer off, flicked off the plug socket and left. The next morning I get to the classroom, and the computer is back on.

It took me a few days to realise the culprit…. one day I caught him in the act. Sniggering at me as I watched him do my Job. (To an 8 year old, this is important business!!!!)

The teacher told him not to, and he carried on.

The school building was old, and I never forget getting into the classroom one day, finding that snow had come through the tiny missing pane of window, creating a layer of snow on top of the computer screen…. and someone had switched the computer on….! (Bloody fool!!)

As time went by, things got worse… Pencils thrown across the classroom. More physical bullying in the playground…. I hear you cry “Where were the teachers?”… Well…….

I was told, that because I was kicking my way out of being held against the fence, I was equally in the blame… The cold words of the teacher resonate in my head… “People in glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones”…. and for the Verbal abuse, I was to “Grow Broader shoulders” and Ignore them.

Writing this, I’ve gone cold. Ice cold. I’m shivering just thinking about it.

Bullying does crazy things to you. While I came home from school every day, sad, cold and depressed, I also didn’t want to leave the school. My legs was bruised, my soul was beaten down, and my once happy smile was gone. Yet in a way, I didn’t want to leave what I already knew.

Eventually I was lucky. A place became available at a school one of my friends moved to in year 1. Reluctantly I woke up early one Friday morning to go and see the new school. As soon as I walked through the door, my mind was made up.

In what seems now, like a “goodbye sequence” only available to characters in EastEnders, we left the new school, arrived at the old one, told the head teacher I wasn’t coming back… had an afternoon of lessons, and left my mental and physical hell.

I remember crying at break time as I went to tell one of the other class teachers that I was leaving… I LOVED her lessons – possibly once a week (I don’t remember) we were split into abilities, and that lesson, was to me rest-bite. Away from the people who caused me hell and harm…..

 

I do not count the time after that February half term in year 5 as primary school. That year and a half contains enough AMAZING memories to make up for the years I blank out.

I don’t talk about the time before it simply because I don’t like to think about it. Each time I think, it’s like ripping that plaster off the wound. Changing the metaphorical dressing in my mind.

 

I also don’t talk about it, because people consider it  as a sort of “Sob Story”. I don’t need a Sob story. I’m better than the bullies. They stopped me when I was younger, they inhibited my life for a few years. I’m free of them. I don’t need them casting a legacy over me. I don’t need to use their behaviour to grant me merit.
I am my own person, and their words, their games, and their violence is not going to stop me any-more.

 

What’s in a nickname?

On the 13th of September I tweeted a link to @TimesIndyEditor The Times/Independent Editor[Martin Buhagiar] ‘s ‘Opinion Piece’ on the use of the word “Yid”

YidTweet

To read the article (I suggest you do!) Click here

In hindsight, where I wrote “Brilliant” I actually probably meant “thought provoking”.

What followed was a tweet from @CllrRobertRams asking me “Why is it their [Spurs fans] decision to “turn a negative into a positive” what makes it their word?”

I spent that lunchtime deep in thought and reading a number of articles on the use of the word “Yid” in Society and especially in Nazi Germany…

[@CllrRobertRams Wrote a reply to the Times/Independent Editor which can (should) be read here]

History of the word “Yid”

As I sat there that lunchtime thinking things through… I decided to do some research. As a starting point… I thought I’d simply place the word “Yid” into Google. The result sent a chill down my spine.

YidOnGoogle
(I took this screenshot today – so the fixture is different… the idea is the same)

Before any mention of the meaning of the word, the Next Fixture for Tottenham Hotspur is blast onto my screen.

Interestingly, next to the latest Spurs fixture is a box from Wikipedia. My eyes are instantly drawn to the, last sentence.

 It is not usually considered offensive when pronounced, the way Yiddish speakers say it, though some may deem the word offensive nonetheless.

Ignoring the Spurs clutter, I click onto wikipedia. Instantly, my eyes are drawn halfway down the page. All I need to see is four letters for my heart to skip a beat. I feel cold. Instantly my mind jolts back to 2012. Stood in what’s now a museum but was once Synagogue, in a now “Jew-desolate” town in Poland. A Photo on the wall. Jewish people being rounded up to be taken to concentration camps. Upon their arms, a yellow band. Upon the band, a yellow star. Upon the star the word “Jude”. The term “Yid” comes from the German word “Jude”. Jew.  Proudly stamped by Germans on the race they sought to destroy.

Following the thoughts about the photos, I thought for a moment about the time I spent in Aushwitz-Birkanau. The place where the puddles are grey, where I felt constantly sick, where so many died.

To me the word Yid, was sealed in my mind. Discriminatory. DO NOT USE.

I read on through wikipedia especially the section “Usage in Yiddish”. This section explains with almost a surprised tone:

In Yiddish, the word “Yid” is neutral or even complimentary.

While it goes on to explain ” it is frequently used to mean simply “fellow,” “chap,” “buddy,” “mate,” etc., with no expressed emphasis on Jewishness”  My mind reminds me that the use of the term “Yid” in football, is not spoken in Yiddish nor is it meant as “fellow, chap, buddy or mate” ESPECIALLY when chanted with the “Hissing of the Gas Chambers”.

While all this festered in the back of my mind… I kept up with the general gist of news stories on the matter, but I’ve had a very busy two weeks, so thought less on the matter.

Not Just “Yid”

My concerns returned today when reading a tweet from Saira Kahn – A British Muslim who was runner up on ‘The Apprentice’ and subsequently I remember watching as a child her present “Beat the Boss” on CBBC.

 

"For all those who think Muzzie women can't run! Bite me!!
“For all those who think Muzzie women can’t run! Bite me!!

Instantly, my mind raced. “If I was to call someone a “Muzzie” what would happen to me?”

So I asked the question… I had nothing to lose. I was curious:

@steveeypips > @IamSairaKahn Tell me… If you heard a non-Muslim refer to Muslims as “Muzzies” Would you not be offended? #question

Her answer took me a moment to comprehend. It almost shocked, and at the same time amused me.

"my hubbie calls me Muzzie every day - I love it and think its cute"
“my hubbie calls me Muzzie every day – I love it and think its cute”

A little shocked, and a little confused, I took to google yet again. This time, Twofold.

1) Who is Saira Married to? (Just out of curio)

2) What does “Muzzie” actually mean?

 

Results were as follows:

1) Saira is married to a man called “Steve Hyde”. Whom I assume by the way she answered my question with “my Husband” is not Muslim.

 

2) “Muzzie” does not have as big and bold of a statement as “Yid” does… However the first link says enough.

The first link is Urban Dictionary, and the caption says: “A term used to reference a Muslim. Although not strictly a pejorative, usage in certain contexts may be considered offensive” Four out of six definitions on urban dictionary suggest “term for Muslim” and the ‘context sentences’ are shocking!! (Urban Dictionary Link)

Saira told me that “words don’t hurt me – I am above it, I just don’t see it as offensive” That’s easy to say when you call yourself it, but what if called it by others?

I looked back on her original tweet and I noticed that @djgaryr83 asked a similar question. Interested in an alternative view I put in a reply to one of his tweets. Saira replied “each to their own- I’m a Mussie and proud- I own it”

I thought for a moment…. “I own it”…this sounds familiar… I cast my mind back to something @CllrRobertRams asked me: “Why is it their[Tottenham fans] decision “to turn a negative into a positive” What makes it [“yid”] their word?”

I pondered, wondering how the greater Muslim population felt. Foolishly I asked:

“No offence to your fine self but I wonder how wider “Muzzie” population feel. (already regretting using “Muzzie”)”

BEFORE I sent that tweet, I already felt bad. The word had not been published yet I felt the need to apologise.

@djgaryr83 also replied asking:

"are we to assume as 'muzzie' is a shortened term for Muslim and acceptable. is the term 'Paki' fine for Pakistani"
“are we to assume as ‘muzzie’ is a shortened term for Muslim and acceptable. is the term ‘Paki’ fine for Pakistani”

 

When Saira replied to the question with “I’ll let you decide” I felt a little let down. Almost as if she’d accepted defeat for want of an “easy life”. I was eager to know if the word “Muzzie” is acceptable to Muslims so included the Muslim Council of Britian in my last reply.

 

I thought the situation through and possibly over thought it a little. But boiled it down to the following:

1. @CllrRobertRams asked me, knowing I do some voluntary youth work “if you heard a kid at brigade[Where I volunteer] use the word[“Yid”], what would you say them?

I answered Robert saying that for the older kids, I’d ask them if they knew it’s meaning, talk to them about it and ask them to stop.

THIS WOULD BE THE SAME WHETHER, I HEARD “YID” OR “MUZZIE”. I would not tolerate it’s use. (and for that matter any other word typically associated to be derogatory to others)

 

2. If I heard someone refer to someone Jewish or not jewish as a “Yid” OR refer to someone Muslim, or likewise not muslim as a “Muzzie” in whatever context, I’d have the same reaction. It’s simply not acceptable, in the same way as you wouldn’t refer to someone as a “Paki” or a “Nigger”, you wouldn’t call someone a “Muzzie” or a Yid”.

 

3. “Who owns words?” Really, truthfully, no one owns words. I own the words you are reading now, as a collection, on this screen… yet I do not own any individual word of my own. (I must add for the pedants, that patented words are slightly different, but “Yid, nor “Muzzie” is not patented”)

While words are “un-ownable” their meanings are not. By saying “I own it” does that mean that it’s ok for you to call yourself it? What happens if others call you by that word, and then if others call others by that word? All of a sudden things could grow out of hand becoming a pyramid effect, especially if the world has an ambiguous meaning.

 

David Baddiel launched a campaign to “Kick the Y-Word out of football” in 2011 which I feel personally was badly publiciesd as I was only made aware of it by @CllrRobertRams. The Campaign pages on Kickitout.org (http://www.kickitout.org/1307.php) also adds comment from a Jewish Woman who’s father experienced the Marches led by Oswald Mosely and the Blackshirts in the East End of London, a predominantly jewish area, 1936.

“My poor dad God rest his soul fought the blackshirts in the east end. He used to tell me stories of walking along with my mum with these Jew haters walking behind him calling him a ‘yid’.”

I don’t think I need to clarify that they weren’t referring to the football club he supported.

 

I could write all night and all day about the topic, interjecting my point of view into what I feel right, or wrong, and how I feel we can stop/change the habits of people.

I know that it will be difficult to change the views and actions of those around us. Racism is everywhere – Every individual person has their own views, influenced by other people that they interact with…

But personally, I feel that, in the same way I wouldn’t call a randomer a “Paki” or a “Muzzie” Whether they feel they “own the word” and accept its use or not… we should’t allow Tottenham Hotspurs fans to be called or call themselves “Yids” just because they now ‘feel’ they own a word, used by so many others to oppress a people.

 

I’d really appreciate hearing the views of others. Comment on here, Tweet me: @steveeypips or Email me: admin@stevenphillips.me.uk

 

Steven

Poland – One Year On

If someone said to you, that a holiday they’d had a year ago was still causing them to ask questions and was instilling wonder, you’d probably think they were loony. Yet, nearly anyone you ask who’s taken a trip to Poland, to visit the sites where both the Jewish people lived and died, might tell you that their trip still lives afresh in their minds.

Nearly a year on, (This year’s trip is nearly back from Poland) I’m still battling the same questions of faith that I was facing a year a go (Mainly, “do I believe in God?”) and I’m still wondering about the times faced by so many Jewish people whom lived in Germany, Poland, and countries affected by the Holocaust.

Although battling faith, one thing remains certain. The people that suffered were my ancestors. Ok, perhaps not directly as my family links to the holocaust are very distant… but the Jewish people, from whom I “Belong”… Those whom many traditions, the actions I take day in and day out and the way I feel about things are somehow related to me.

A year ago, I decided to uptake a journey, Physically, mentally and emotionally – back to the places which were once some of the epicentres of Jewish life.

On arrival in Poland we Started our Visit “at the end”. We went straight from the Airport to a Cemetery in Warsaw. In many ways, a cemetery not much different to my Local Jewish Cemetery in London. Although this was the “end” for some people… this cemetery was to be the most peaceful rest for the bodies of deceased, I was to see over the next few days.

 

We visited the Last remaining part of the Ghetto wall in Warsaw, Strangely hidden between some flats… Almost forgotten. We visited the site of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, The Umshagplatz – Where the Jews of Warsaw were loaded onto trains.  All of this so far, was the first day.

 

On the second day, we boarded a bus to Treblinka. Deep in the forest, Hiding away. Now it’s nothing but a memorial. A Memorial to the 800,000 Who died there. On arrival, we walked down a path, which ran next to slabs laid out in the place of the train tracks. I walked along the train tracks 800,00 were taken down, during the last few minutes of their innocent lives, packed into a cattle carriage. The memorial, 17,000 stones, in the fielded area which once was the Extermination Camp. Interlaced with a few photos of what once stood there… 17,000 even when shown in front of you, is a number you cannot fathom. Let alone 800,000.  There was only one way out of Treblinka.

 

Day 3, we visited (Briefly) Lublin, and then Majdanek. This time, there was no lengthy coach ride from the town of Lublin to Majdanek.       Majdanek, was in the suburbs. Imagine a Concentration camp in Hampstead or Tuffnel park. From the camp, you could see a main road leading into town. This of course means, that the main road could also see into the camp. I was unsure while walking round, not quite knowing how to feel. Stood in gas chambers. Walking between barbed wire. Standing in front of the ovens used to cremate the dead.

 

What I found the scariest in Madjanek, was the way it’s been preserved. It’s said, that within 24 hours, Madjanek could be operational again. Twenty Four Hours. One Day. We stepped outside the actual camp compound to the mausoleum filled with the ash remains of inmates. I didn’t like this. It was blowing around, there was smashed glass bottles and cigarette butts all around. However as I learnt, there are many different memorials and ways of marking the holocaust. This one was obviously not to my taste.

 

That afternoon, on the way to Krakow. We stopped in a tiny village, The name of which escapes me. We were presented with a building site. Literally a hard hat zone.. but we were taken inside none the less. We were inside a synagogue which was under restoration. A synagogue which in my mind, was the illustration synagogue of our past. On the walls were the (faded and mid restoration) Drawings and writings. The Gallery, high up, light and grand. And the ceiling, Vaulted. Due to the lack of lights, and the dust, My camera didn’t work, but the mental photos of a place of such important to my ancestors will stay with me forever.

 

Early that evening (After a hefty coach trip), we took a trip round “Jewish Krakow”. The Golders Green of Krakow. We looked from the outside at the synagogues, we walked through the streets… and we even managed to have a bit to eat in the “Jewish Style restaurant”.

That night, back in the hotel I wrote on facebook about my day. To which my distant cousin in America informed me that I had relatives who perished in Majdanek. The place I’d been stood earlier that day. The gas chamber which I had walked free from, had killed ancestors of mine, simply for being Jewish.

 

The next day was the hardest. Although not initially. We started by visiting the square where the Jews of Krakow were chosen for deportation. Another memorial… another strange one. We visited the gates of Schindler’s factory… and we looked at the faces which are now in the windows of the factory. The faces of those who survived. I overheard one of our survivors telling someone “You see them up there… third in… I know them…. I met them in a Deli in London”.

Next was something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain. A year on, and what I saw still plays havoc with my mind. We arrived at Aushwitz 1 and I was surprised at the sheer number of people waiting outside to get in. I was disgusted at the graffiti on the wall outside. I was unsure what to expect and what I would see or feel.

We entered Aushwitz through the famous “Gates of Hell”… Arbeit Macht Frei. Work Makes you free.

We were dragged at a pace which was far to fast to take it all in. Possibly for the best. Possibly for the worst. The way it has been preserved, to me, was too clinically. To close to a Museum, Too structured and too solid.

The conditions of Aushwitz, building wise, were not what I’d expected. Brick buildings. 3 floors high. Toilets, Stairs, Rooms. I was overcome with what to think, before being taken into one of the buildings. The building that contained the items left behind.

No photo can ever explain the feeling of looking through a thin pane of glass at the thousands of shoes, cups, bowls, suitcases, prosthetic limbs and the other items left by those whom perished at the Aushwitz camps.

I looked though one particular glass, and saw a pile of glasses. Glasses to me, a symbol of living. Without glasses (or at least my lenses) I cannot see. I am only half living. The glasses set me crying. Crying hysterically, yet without making a sound.

 

As we walked though the “museum that was Aushwitz” It was obvious to me the sheer amount of terror in the camp. Upon the “roads” of the camp, poles with hooks, used for hanging people. We walked down to the infamous death wall. Looking at the gunshots in the wall, but it was also heart wrenching to me, that we were stood between two of the worst blocks – 11 aka The Prison within the prison. and 10, the Medical Experimentation block.

Experiments took place that were too cruel to do to animals, yet were done to inmates without the blink of an eye. Just sitting here now thinking back makes me shudder.

We left Aushwitz and were allowed some free time outside to sit and eat lunch.  I could not eat. I could barely drink I could barely think.

 

We boarded the bus for the short ride to Birkanau.

If only I knew what I was about to see. They say less is more. With Birkanau, this was certainly the case.

 

The coach stopped. We got out, and  I looked. I stared. I rubbed my eyes and I stared some more. Left and right as far as the eye could see – Barbed Wire. I looked through the barbed wire. I could not see the back of the camp.

 

We started to walk though Birkanau. We walked and we walked and we walked… yet still were no where near the back. Birkanau felt to me a place so dark, It’s a surprise the grass grows.

 

The sheer size of Birkanau simply cannot be explained. 11,000 murdered every day. A Number I simply could not imagine. Quantities you cannot imagine, unless you stand there and experience it.

As we took a small wander though the vast amounts of rubble. I stopped and looked at the grass. 67 years after Liberation. The puddles still have a murky grey tint.

I wondered though the remains of a gas chamber. So planned, perfect, meticulous. Down to the art of a small grill at the doorway, so that those destined for the next world, wiped their feet on entry. Craziness to the finest degree.

(I fail to know what more to write here about Birkanau. Over whelmed.)

 

That night, we were taken to a Synagogue to hear the story of one of the survivors who was on the trip with us. I sat amazed, at the colours and the intricacies. The decor, the feel… There was something special. As we stood up to leave I started to sing (Perhaps prompted by one of the Educators!)… Am Yisrael Chai…. everyone joined in. The Children of Israel Live. As we left a Synagogue once belonging to those whom were murdered at the hands of the Nazi Regime.

 

We visited Buna-Monowitz the next morning (Aushwitz 3). It was simply a memorial. Another memorial, and to me… It meant little or nothing.

The next day was march of the Living. 11,000 people marched from Aushwitz to Birkanau. 11,000 the number of people killed every day in Birkanau. Yet it felt empty. Had you told me it was 1000, I’d have believed you. Even with 11,000 people in front of your very eyes. You can’t imagine how many that is!

We marched, led by our survivors to Birkanau. The streets were flanked with local people holding banners. We sung, we held hands. We did the death march which marked the end for so many.

Inside Biraknau we took part in a ceremony of remembrance. We said the Jewish memorial prayer… but the most moving of all we Sang the Hatikvah.

Translated It means “The Hope”. It’s the national anthem of Israel and a sign that Jewish life all over the world is still in existence. No matter how I feel with G-d. What I felt and still feel, is that although Hitler tried to exterminate a race. He failed to exterminate my race. The Jewish People still live. AM YISRAEL CHAI.

 

“As long as deep within the heart
A Jewish soul yearns
And toward the edges of the east
An eye to Zion looks

Our hope is not yet lost
The hope of two thousand years
To be a free people in the our Land
The Land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

 

 

How Sushi has Challenged my Belief in God and Religion.

Sushi and God, Sounds crazy huh? Well… not quite as simple or as crazy as you may think:

Before I begin, this has been a long time coming, and I’ve thought over this a thousand times, but it’s become more poignant tonight, I think….

So I’ve been talking to someone for a while about going out for sushi, and we’ve not been able to find a time… Then, today I was about to text suggesting tomorrow when I remembered that it was Passover still.

For those that don’t know, Passover is the commemoration of the exodus of the Israelites from the Egypt. When they left Egypt, they didn’t have enough time to bake bread for the journey so ate the unleavened cakes… Cast yourself forward a few thousand lifetimes – Supposedly, in a nutshell, in order to observe passover, Jews nowadays don’t consume any bread or flour based products (which could rise.).. they also don’t eat any items that expand(Peas, rice, beans…etc) … and we change all our crockery, and cutlery over to special Passover sets… clean the house from top to bottom, and even sell our “non-Passover” products to non-Jews so that we don’t own any during passover.

I MUST add that we don’t all do all of the above…!!!

Also, one of the subsets of Jew – The Sephardim – do not prohibit the consumption of the “things that expand” (Also known as “Kitniyot“)

In my house, we change the crockery and the cutlery, and we don’t consume any Flour products or any items that expand. This is where my questioning began.

Where did the Israelites do this when they left Egypt… the next year, they didn’t whip out their second set of everything that they shlepped through the Desert to commemorate what they did the year before… Did they?!

Further more, the extremes to which people go to in order to observer passover: “Kosher for Pesach Tea bags, Milk, Washing up liquid…” DOES SOMEONE CRUMBLE BREAD INTO NORMAL TEA BAGS/ MILK/ WASHING UP LIQUID?!

It’s a known joke/fact, that to make something Kosher for Passover, you must do 2 things:

1) Attach a label that says “Kosher for passover”

2) Increase the price by at least 15%.

So, people say that you have to buy everything “Kosher for Passover” but my personal view is that, as long as there is nothing prohibited in the item, then you are ok – E.g. Where is there anything prohibited in Salmon, or ready salted crisps, or salad, or chocolate….

So according to some… by eating my crisps and chocolate, that aren’t “Kosher for Passover” I’m in contravention of the laws. But honestly, what is there that is prohibited  in your normally, perfectly fine fish/chocolate?!

 

My biggest bugbear is the custom of Kitniyot (expanding foods). As if you are Sephardi (Of Spanish or Portuguese background – sometimes including Israel) you are allowed to eat rice and beans and peas… SAYS WHO? … having done some research, it’s a bit hazy and the main consensus of the Ashkenazi (non-Spanish or Portuguese) Rabbi’s of years go by the ruling that you shouldn’t eat them where as the Sephardi ones disagree and say they are ok to be eaten on passover.

I draw your attention to the word Custom. It was decided by some Rabbi’s many years ago… Does that mean it’s what god wants?

 

Talking of God, let’s try and get back on topic (although I have SO MUCH TO SAY).

My next thought was, well what if I DON’T KEEP Passover… I know enough people that don’t… they haven’t been struck by lighting…

I don’t observe other festivals like the weekly Sabbath or the Omer. So to Sudo Quote the Haggaddah (The service book for the Passover services) WHY IS THIS FESTIVAL DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER FESTIVALS?

The short answer is: It’s not.

For me, the long answer takes a look at why I observe what I observe, and why I don’t observe all the festivals

I find the rules and regulations, which define what we cannot do, to be somewhat crazy. For example: On the Sabbath, normally, you wouldn’t be able to push your buggy from home to synagogue, but if you place a piece of wire around an area, then you are able do push your buggy as well as other things restricted without the wire (This is called an Eruv)

The one that annoys me the most, is the use of timer switches during the Sabbath… You are not allowed to flick the switch and create a spark… however you can know that at 6pm when it gets dark, the Timer switch will kick in and on come the lights… It’s breaking the Sabbath by proxy.

 

I could go on all day and night about the niggles of “religion” which annoy me. However I find religion is the wrong word for the practise of what I personally do.

I LOVE the Jewish Heritage. The music, the food, the global community, the togetherness and the special bond. I’ve walked through the Streets of Poland, and visited the concentration camps, and learned how hard it must have been to be Jewish in previous times. AND I felt a special bond to Israel when I visited (But I’m not sure I’d move out there… I feel a special bond to the UK too!)

I will not look to marry ouside of the “faith” as I’d like my children to share the same heritage as us, the “Jewish people”…

However, I wonder how much of our heritage and practise is Tradition Opposed to how much of our heritage and practise is Religion.

To quote Tevye, from Fiddler on the roof…. “You may ask, how did this tradition start? I’ll tell you…. I don’t know. But it’s a tradition.”

I know that the majority if not all of what I do, is because of the tradition… I don’t think there’s much more belief left in me. However that wont stop me from going to synagogue and singing, the songs/saying the poems (oh sorry, prayers)… or keeping kosher… and Strangely, even though my logic says that this is all crazy… I won’t be going for Sushi until after the end of Passover.

 

EDIT: After thinking long and hard, I did actually go for sushi the night after writing this!!!!

The Jewish Dining Experience

So it’s Grandma’s Birthday… and she decides we’re going to that well known Restaurant in Edgware… I say McD’s, but she reminds me it shut years ago, and says “you know THAT kosher one down the bottom” No more to say, Anyone, who’s anyone, knows where I mean.

 

So off we go.  We’ve a table booked for 8pm, but we don’t turn up till twenty past. “just in case they aren’t ready for us.”

We walk in, and instantly everyone is looking at us. Up and down they stare, with their faces saying a mixture of:

  1. Do I know you?
  2. could you be a shidduch for my daughter/son/mother/brother/sister/dogs brother’s sisters son
  3. Am I sure I don’t know you
  4. I don’t know you, what are you doing in here meshugganeh.

Everyone looking, that is, Except the waiters and waitresses.

 

Eventually one of them throws my Grandmother a “YES” in a suitably abrupt fashion. Grandma explains we have a table for 5, and the waitress again says “YES”. After a few Yes’ we get dragged through the diners, all doing the faces above, to our table.

 

Turns out, of course, that Grandma knows not one table of people, BUT TWO.

 

The woman on the table next to us (who Grandma knows) Starts talking to us, and says “So, where are you living now?!” When Grandma tells her “Barnet” the woman answers with “Is it nice”.

 

What’s she expecting as a response?! “No, It’s horrible but I suffer in silence”. It’s not a holiday apartment it Costa del Otzenplotz, but Barnet, not even ten minutes down the road!

 

Anyway, we order drinks, three of us order Coke, so the waiter says “I’ll bring bottle it’s cheaper.” with a tone that makes you feel like he’s doing you a favour for it to be cheaper. Only in a Jewish Gaff.

 

Starters were more-or-less uneventful, with the odd funny comment coming from the table next to us, including a chat about the squirrels that got into Grandma’s shul. I might have mentioned The Ashkenazi (Grey) and the Sephadi (Red) Squirrels and how they made up a minyan….

 

THEN I decide to inspect the porcelain. Upon standing up, almost every head in the place shoots into position, and plays again through the faces mentioned above. THEY KNOW THEY DON’T KNOW ME!

 

Main course comes, I’ve ordered too much, and I’m draying through the beef burger wishing I’d gone shishlick when the other table we know comes over to say hello as they leave. The waiters and waitresses, take this as prime time:

Carefully they watch as we natter to the other people, and while our eyes are averted and our hands are talking, they try to remove anything surplus from the table, like a game of Jewish Jenga.

Waitress was caught however on the selection of 3 sauces, to which my brother declared “Oh, it’s fine, you might as well take them” despondently.

 

Thankfully mother manages to mouth to the waiter, who takes with subtly the fact that it’s Grandma’s birthday and he manages to bring her desert (sticky toffee pud, for those who care) out with a candle in it.

This prompts the table next to us to wish happy birthday, and even for one of them to ask “Well, who’s birthday is it?” while the candle was still burning in front of Grandma.

Eventually, Dad tells the bloke that he looks familiar. BAD MOVE. This initiates the mission of the Jews at dinner: Find a link. Links are suggested as follows:

  • What Shul do you belong too?
  • Who’s the Rabbi?
  • Who was the Rabbi Before that?
  • Before that?
  • Do you play tennis?
  • What do you do for a living? Taxi driver?
  • Do you know: Sid, Shlomo, Hymie / Cohen, Goldstein, Ubeplatz – they all drive taxi’s?

They should have settled on “did you have a bit removed on the 8th day”!

Eventually, they find a vague link through my brother’s girlfriend from Manchester, and the bloke next to us’s Son’s fiancée – I was happy for this palava to be over.

 

In the confusion however, intermingled with the Hymie’s and the Shlomo’s the table has been pretty much cleared, and it’s only by good judgement, that I held my glass at all times, and was still left with it.

 

All of a sudden, there is a dreadful “clacking” noise. Someone’s desert is ready and the chef is banging it on the table at the back for service. The waiter doesn’t hear, so my brother picks up the salt cellar, and starts clacking that. Then the pepper, then a glass, then all three. Eventually the waiter comes over and says to my brother “What” to which my brother (A trainee chef) replies “He wants you” (pointing to the chef) and the waiter replies “NO, What do YOU want?”

 

Eventually we get the bill, pay up, and head for the door. Prompting the scouting of heads again… This time it’s a splattering of:

  1. Not sure he’s a good shidduch
  2. Why haven’t they said hello, I’m sure I know them now they are leaving.
  3. Sid –  ask them where I know them from as they walk past.
  4. Why are they leaving now, they got here after me, was something wrong.
  5. Where’s my bloody dessert.

What a Kerfuffle… but I’m full up…. and you can’t say it wasn’t an experience.

All Change Please

Ok,

So it’s been a long while since I blogged.

You may notice there have been a few changes:

  • New website – http://www.stevenphillips.me.uk (It’s not very exciting!)
  • New name for les Blog – It’s no longer just IT stuff.
  • and I have contact lenses – but you probably can’t see that right now.

So I decided that just me drivveling on about IT and my apprenticeship was probably boring, so I shall now drivvel away on general life!

 

But first:

I have not (pretty much) Finished my apprenticeship WOO. Just a bit of work placed trash to get done, and then I am finished! WOO.

 

Life since my last post;

 

So, I’ve been to Poland and Amsterdam:

Poland:

  • 6 days
  • March of the living – A holocaust remembrance trip culminating in 11,000 Jewish people, marching between Auschwitz 1 and 2.

Another post will fill in Poland!

 

Amsterdam:

  • Business trip for the day
  • To drop off a parcel
  • I visited the synagogue and Jewish museum, and had a boat trip

A different post will do the gory details!

 

Otherwise, Life is currently very boring.

I think I’m going to make a start on my Poland post  – I’ve just watched Strictly Kosher and the Holocaust bit is making me think about my experiences.

Strictly Kosher itself- The heart is in the right place but they chose the eccentric of us, in order to make good TV, thus making us out like fools.

 

S.