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Bullying Personal

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.

 

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Flaky Itchy-itis & Me.

“EWWW is it contagious?” then ask most people at first properly noticing it…. A firm “NO” is my answer.

Psoriasis effects 2 or 3 percent of people in the UK, so roughly speaking, I’m one in 1.8 Million. (In the scheme of things, a mere few!)

Alternately people ask…. “How did you do that?” *Pointing to a patch on my Arm/Knee/Forhead* “I didn’t” I reply, “Biology did”.

Psoriasis. A word many can say but cant read, can say but don’t know what it is, what it looks like, or what it does.

To start with, and English lesson:  “Sore-aye-a-sis” Psoriasis. Sometimes the English language is stupid. A psychology teacher once told me “Psory-Aye-asys” NO.

Most people have heard of or seen Eczema…. Psoriasis is very similar….BUT different.

To quote the Psoriasis Association: “Psoriasis is an immune condition, which causes symptoms on the skin and sometimes the joints. When a person has psoriasis, their skin replacement process speeds up, taking just a few days to replace skin cells that usually take 21-28 days. This abundance of skin cells builds up to form raised ‘plaques’ on the skin, which can also be flaky, scaly, red on caucasian skin, darker patches on darker skin tones, and itchy”

I’ve suffered with psoriasis for many years now, Since I was about 15. Mum noticed some lurking in my scalp, and whatever I tried to stop it, we just couldn’t. Over the years I’ve tried many different topical ways to try and combat the patches of flakes. However I have come to understand, although hard to imagine… There is no cure. 

Luckily for me, I’ve learnt to conceal it well…. I am currently (While writing this) “active” on both legs, my left arm, and my scalp and ears, but unless I mention it, people don’t really notice it.

The summer provides me with a huge dilemma…. Do I wear shorts?

Silly as this may seem, shorts is a two way road:

  1. The sun will hopefully help my Psoriasis to slow down and disappear.
  2. People will see my nasty flaky, patchy legs.

Until not so long ago, I’d only wear 3/4 length shorts to avoid showing my patches… I’d wear longer t-shirts or try not to expose my arms in the summer… one year, I even put plasters over the patches… (This made it worse and was never to be repeated.

2 years ago, I decided to start a kinda “Bugger it, I am who I am” phase… and since then I haven’t looked back, with flaky patches out on show in the summer… most people assume I’ve been badly bitten (Fools).

Last year however I had a course of Phototherapy – Which is pretty close to going on a sun-bed… except you are stood up and completely starkers.

While this sounds like fun – I can assure you that being sunburnt in November when you haven’t been out the country is damn funny to explain!! The phototherapy seemed to remove all the patches that I had (Both arms, torso, back and both legs) but didn’t get the scalp stuff as the hair was in the way. Phototherapy also gave me sunburn, chafing, and made me very dehydrated. BUT, No pain, no gain, so thrice a week I was up at Barnet General, Donning a Gown, and standing starkers, surrounded in light.

The effects of the phototherapy were great, however only short-term hence the fact I am again “Active” on my body….

I’m again applying a mix of tar based and steroid ointments to help try and reduce the areas which is covered with scales. I try to steer clear when possible of the tar based products simply because they have a very strong smell. But, the shampoo I use is tar based, so if you can smell something overpowering (almost tube like) then that’s probably my shampoo and I apologise!!

Currently my favourite (I probably mean most effective) treatment is called “Dovobet” or Generically “Calcipotriol/betamethasone”. This is steroid and comes in a lovely bright red box, in a white bottle with bright red label and lid. (Although this spells danger, it’s not as bad as it sounds!) This is nearly scentless (YAAAY)and seems to do the job… although I’m using this (with doctor’s permission) more than is “recommended” on the bottle but it seems to be doing the trick. (just paused writing to apply this and am now modeling the “Greased” look!)

I realise at this point that I am yet to mention what causes psoriasis… that’s because in short – NO ONE KNOWS. However we do know: “Psoriasis occurs when the immune system mistakes a normal skin cell for a pathogen, and sends out faulty signals that cause overproduction of new skin cells” Thank you Wikipedia! But we don’t know how the skin decides to mistake a normal cell for a pathogen.

It is known that stress can cause trigger Psoriasis or make existing psoriasis worse. For me, this is not the case – during GCSEs and A Levels, my condition maintained at the same severity.

I am, however subject to another known “cause”. The wonder that is genetics. (THANKS DAD.) On the positive side, I know that I am near enough “Pedigree” Phillips, not just the looks, but the hereditary skin condition too! However Psoriasis isn’t much fun, and I don’t think I’d suit a human style Crufts competition.

So there you go –  a short roundup of my weird medical condition… I purposely haven’t included pictures, because some people find it a bit gross… but if you click the two links (especially the WIkipedia one) you will see for yourself! If you are a bit intrigued and would like to see what it’s like – ask me and I’ll point it out to you – although you can hardly really miss it!

 

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My God Illusion at 37,000 feet.

I realise that if I keep this up, I run the risk of turning my blog into a “God-Blog” but hey ho… after all it is supposed to be the many ramblings of my inner mind…

Anyway, on Friday something very odd happened;

On Friday I was flying from London Luton to Glasgow for the weekend. We were delayed 45 minutes and I was restless. I was crammed into my seat, on that Bright Orange airline… I’d listened to the Safety briefing… and as the plane taxied the final few meters onto the runway, something strange happened… something that never happened to me when flying before…. I started to say the Shema. (for those that don’t know It’s the centrepiece of the Jewish Morning and evening prayer service, and is said as your last words or in times when you think you might die)…

I got as far as the third word “Shema… Yisroel……. Adoni…….” or in English… “Hear O’Israel… The Lord”. I stopped. I stumbled. I thought. A few weeks ago, I decided that I didn’t believe in god, but now I’m sat amongst a sea of people, onboard a chunk of orange metal, travelling on the Sabbath muttering to myself about god. I’d gone meshuggeh (Crazy in Yiddish).

I stopped, reminded myself what I thought sat back, watched out the window and off we took….

I’d never felt the need to say a prayer before flying before… not even to Israel, why now?!

I spent the first 10 minutes, of my hour and 10 minute flight, fluttering. Trying to avoid what had just happened; I tried listening to Miranda’s Book, but I couldn’t concentrate… I tried playing candy crush but got bored within seconds. Eventually I stood up, marched to the front of the plane, and joined the toilet queue.

Having finished my business I lingered for a moment, inside the small cell that is the plane toilet. My mind began to wander…I was high in the air… and I’d just had a God issue. I was not prepared for this.

I caught a glimpse of myself in mirror realised the tap had stopped running and there was soap still on my hand… I washed off the soap, dried off and opened the toilet door to a rather unhappy looking queue of 6 people.

I strolled down the plane back to my seat, and sat staring out the window, trying to make sense of what had just happened. The short answer, and in fact the only answer was… I couldn’t.

For the remaining hour or so my mind dillydallied through the clouds I was watching out the window. I was considering everything… I was oblivious to the dire selection of sandwiches, and blind to the hideous watches on offer on the duty free trolley.

I realised a number of things:

I realised that I might not believe in God but I still feel a very strong connection to my people the Jewish People. The traditions, the music, the jokes, culture etc.

I realised that I might not believe in God, but perhaps the Mystical “God” played a vital part in shaping the traditions, culture etc. that I know and love.

I realised that the Mystical “God” was probably a way of keeping things in order in years gone by… a Fear…. people believed that if they did something out of line… this mystical thing would come and “get them”

Most weird and most importantly to me: The Prayers/Psalms/Songs/Chants/words/texts; although I don’t believe in God they are strangely comforting and I do find my self singing bits and bobs now and then!

Bemused, confused and amused, I sat staring out the window, at the flimsy looking piece of metal, keeping me afloat, stopping me from falling to my orange draped death….

Shortly, we made our decent… the Air Hostess pressing the wrong button a number of times causing the cabin lights, to flash on and off like a disco. (Thankfully we had no Epileptics on board!) The wheels came down, and we slowly fell out the sky onto the Tarmac of Glasgow airport.

I had a lovely weekend, and oddly, I didn’t have a repeat on the return flight… I suppose there is more in this journey of religious identity to come… I might not believe in God… but I feel my identity as a Jew shining stronger than ever.

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Jewish Personal Uncategorized

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.”

 

 

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Jewish Personal Religion

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!!!!

Categories
Geek Internet IT Tech

The Thrill of the internet.

I ought to outline from the off, that this is not about internet porn sites. The title may suggest, but really it’s simply the thrill of the internet.

 

While researching some information relating to Windows 8 today at work, I was presented with screenshots of windows through the ages. The second or third picture was Windows 95.

Stupidly, foolishly and geekishly sounding, Windows 95 was where my computer history began. I remember watching over my granddad’s shoulder as he played games sent to him by friends on floppy disk.

 

Back then, we had no clue what was going to come of the computer and of the internet.

Windows 95 and it’s hopeful icons such as “Set up the Microsoft network”  (running in a virtual machine on windows XP!!!)

 

Our first computer was second hand… It was a sort of TV/Computer thing, which now days would be branded “Media Centre” It was way ahead of it’s time, yet suckishly lagging behind all in one go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivetti_Envision I remember it developing a fault, to which an engineer told us “your problem is you are turning it off… it’s only supposed to be put to sleep”.

 

I digressed from the internet for a short while, so let’s return…..

A short while after having the computer, my parents decided that only being able to play “Floppy Swap” with their friends was not enough, and that they would try some of this new fangled internet malarky.

Internet started for many users with the CDs that were given away by ISPs. Every paper, every magazine, HAVE A CD FROM 5 ISPs. Everywhere you looked you could find a CD from AOL with their new version of software…. the poor Sods, all those CDs in the 90s and early 00s but where are they now?! How a user chose an ISP was and still is beyond me… I’d have thrown CDs into a pile and picked the most colourful.

Those of you whom were adept in the internet usage of the 90s will remember that you had a binary choice. A 1 or a 0. Did you want to be able to make/receive phone calls or did you want internet?

When the internet choice was made, it was often accompanied by many shouts of “Get off there, I want to use the phone” OR “Oh, Aunty X said she was going to phone me at 6.30, if you’re on that computer, she won’t get through.”

Avid internet geekies will remember that many ISPs (Namely ours – freeserve) would not connect you to the internet unless after 6pm. Meaning that we’d gather round the computer at 5.40 awaiting 6 to arrive so we could dial to the world.

This waiting till 6pm gave a thrill, a magic, a mystery to the world of the internet. As a young child I often wondered if the world would end if we dialled up before 6?Would a little man explode as there was a call to early? Working in IT, I now know, We’d have just got a rejection message and no connection until 6pm.

At 6pm, a connection was created. Mother clicked some buttons, Typed a password… and the computer started making a funny noise… INTERNET HAD INITIALISED.

The internet made us, or maybe just me, feel a sense of excitement – this element of mystery which involved bright colourful (16 bit) Images, and text magically zapping down the phone line, only after 6pm.

Back in the 90s, had the Harvester EarlyBird deal been more wide spread (or even in existence  you could have popped out for your cheapo Harvester meal before 6, and then been back in time for the internet. However… as things evolve… Earlybird and Internet are both available all day now…. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

Internet is now available all day. Not just all day but everywhere you go. (Ok, Not EVERYWHERE but you know what I mean) It’s so in your face that you take it for granted. Each time I tap the icon on my phone to tweet some pointless information to 600ish followers who probably don’t give a damn about my latest meal, or temperature… I forget the thrill of the internet.

Internet vs phone is no longer a binary choice… you can natter on the phone while internetting, and family rows have henceforth decreased. Internet connectivity allows us to communicate pictures, voice, video and text to eachother, around the world in a matter of seconds from within the palms of our hands, now wirelessly on our mobile phones….

I can bet you, that none of us, gathered round our computer at 6pm in the late 90’s thought, that within 10 years, we’d be internetting, from our palms, all day, at nearly 10x the speed… all without a promotional CD ROM.

So next time your internet connection goes down, or your phone/laptop battery dies… Just pretend it’s before 6pm and you are waiting for the magic to happen…. and when connection/battery is restored…. think carefully as you reconnect, as to what we could be doing differently in just 10 years time.

 

Categories
Jewish Personal

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.

Categories
Uncategorized

The last three weeks/ the night before the course returns

So… the last three weeks – Work work work CAR CRASH work work work JEW days.

 

That’s pretty much it. Important points at work have been:

 

  1. Starting work
  2. Ordering label maker
  3. getting quotes for virus scan
  4. waiting for label maker
  5. waiting for quotes for virus scan
  6. still waiting for label maker
  7. still waiting for virus scan
  8. Label maker arrives
  9. re-organise every single CD and label them all
  10. wait for virus scan quote
  11. CRASH CAR
  12. receive virus scan quote and get go ahead
Simples MEEEK.
Right, course again tomorrow – NIGHT NIGHT!
Adios! 🙂