All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

My Wife, The Biker Chick

When I left her this morning, Dana was doing her normal morning chores, getting the kids dressed, helping to find their shoes and putting them in the car. When I came home, my wife had been transformed - she was now a biker chick.

Cousin Just and his daughter, Cousin Astrid, have been staying with us since Monday. They came from Holland bringing along a rather snazzy motorbike. As they visit the London sites, the bike has been sitting on our driveway, looking rather dejected and downbeat.

Until this morning.

Just took Dana on a ride and, well, she just doesn’t seem to be the same person anymore. The kids got short shrift when I came home, as Dana’s eyes lit up excitedly, during the recounting of her adventures on the bike. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to see her all dolled up in leathers, but from what I hear, a number of incriminating photographs have been taken.

Not to be outdone, I’ve booked my place for a similar experience tomorrow. Still, I know I won’t look as cool as my wife did this morning, not from what I’ve heard…

Military Love

Right now, there is one thing and one thing only going through mind - the latest worrying news emanating from Gaza.

I don’t know how many countries would launch a whole military operation to rescue one soldier, but that’s one of the things that sets aside the IDF from every other army in the world – the idea that they don’t leave soldiers ‘in the field’.

I imagine that the other pretext to this engagement is to get the message through to the Palestinians that they are playing a deadly game, when they start resorting to kidnapping our boys or girls. I pray though, that it might be not be too late to rescue Gilad.

The Jerusalem Post is asking people to post messages of support to Gilad’s family. If you wish to do so (and it would be very much appreciated by his family), please click here.

Monday, 26 June 2006

P r a y

Please, forget the politics.

It doesn’t matter whose side you are on, but right now, a young nineteen year old soldier, wounded and scared, is wondering whether he will ever see his family again.

Yesterday morning, the early mists and fizzling sunshine couldn’t have prepared him that for losing two of his friends and then being taken against his will by the enemy.

What went through his mind as he was walked away, bleeding and against his will into the waiting car? Do we really want to know?

Now, our breaths are together with his. The heartbeats of a country and her people, near and far are synchronised with his. We await and we pray that Gilad (Ben Aviva) Shalit will be returned to his family as soon as possible.

Our prayer is that this young, young man doesn’t become yet another statistic on the blood-soaked board of names.

I ask you, whoever you are and whatever you faith you hold, that you pray for the imminent and safe relief of a child who has become so transfixed in our minds over the last day and a half. May our wishes rise us to G-d and may He in his merciful way, ensure that Gilad lives to see another day.

Amen.

Sunday, 25 June 2006

A New Poem


By Hadassah

Friday, 23 June 2006

Demi-Paradise

The school is going through a transformation, whereby the junior and senior schools are being completely separated.  The younger students (Key Stage 3) will be taking their lessons in the building where I currently teach, whilst the older children (Key Stages 4 & 5) will be taught in the second building, which is about five minutes walk away.

As result, all teaching has been suspended for a week, whilst we sort out our moving arrangements. The room I’ve occupied since September is to be given over to the History Department, which is not a bad thing since it wasn’t really suited to I.T. (witness the “fun” I experienced at the end of last term, when the electrics literally went ‘phut’).

I’ve now got my stuff boxed up, ready for transporting. I will be teaching on both sites, although I think my new timetable, which will come into operation when I return on 3rd July favours my being more on the other site, which doesn’t bother me too much.

A by-product of the move is that the teaching day is being changed, so that our seventy minute marathons are going to become a much more manageable hour in length. The kids are also being bumped up to the next form, three weeks before the end of the academic year (to prepare us all for September). It is certainly going to be strange to come back in ten days or so and teach my new Year 8’s….who are still really Year 7’s!

The good news is that I won’t have my current tutor group. Let’s say that both us are happy to be wishing one another adieu…am I being diplomatic enough?

Until then, if today is anything to go by, going into school will be a most pleasurable experience. My fellow teachers are relaxed and thoroughly enjoying this unusual (but extremely welcome) break from the students.

Demi-paradise?

You bet.

Movie Reviews

I’ve just come back from seeing X3: The Last Stand…but more about that later on.

A few days ago, I went to see United 93. I thought it important to wait a few days to see how I really felt about the movie.

In short, it feels like nothing else I’ve seen before, movie-wise.

A number of factors inform my opinion:


  1. The intimate way in which it is shot which grabs you as soon as the credits start.


  2. The fact that the people in the control towers are actually playing themselves (I only found this out when I read the credits at the end) and thus recreating their reactions to the still indescribable tragedy of 9/11 which is chilling, to say the least.


  3. You root for the passengers. You so want them to succeed in foiling the hijackers but you know – and despite your best intentions, you just can’t forget - that no one is going to survive the flight, which in turn adds an added feeling of desperation in witnessing their very human reactions. My stomach was in knots throughout and in particular, towards the end, when the inevitable was about to happen.

I don’t think I need to add any more except that this is, of course, an important film, that not everyone will have the inclination to see – which is understandable.

Teacher’s Rating:

***** (full score)

Unforgettable.


Now, back to the other type of movie….entertainment!

X3 does what it says on the tin. It’s loud, furious, funny in parts and filled with superb set action pieces. I enjoyed both of the earlier movies and this certainly lives up to their high standard most of the time (although I think the best of the bunch is still X2). I won’t spoil the plot but the only criticism I can think of, is that there are some resolutions that are tacked onto the end, solely to string together ideas for the next instalment.

Teacher’s Rating

****

Fun.

Thursday, 22 June 2006

Priceless!

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Cool Devices (Literally Speaking)

I’ll admit it, I am definitely a gadget man. Usually, I go for the electronic variety but I understand people’s needs to buy electrical items.

A while back, Dana set her mind on getting an upright fridge and separate freezer. Before I had the chance to say “frozen chicken”, she had ordered the items and they were delivered this afternoon. I looked at them nonplussed.  I mean, a fridge is a fridge, right?

Dana is understandably very proud of her new additions to the kitchen. To be fair, she rules this part of the house, so I don’t really have the right to comment on whether or not we (or rather, she) needed to spend a helluvalot of money on two huge white, heat obsessed behemoths.

I didn’t however want to spoil her feeling of pride, so I didn’t say much (except complain that I couldn’t get the light to go off on the Sabbath…I won’t explain, but it’s a Jewish thing)…and then she subsequently came home with sack loads of shopping.

I casually emptied the contents of the bags into both towers (I’m not kidding) and it dawned on me how great these new temples of food are. The foodstuffs just seems to get lost in their new homes and still there is so much room. In short, These new family members are absolutely wonderful.

I am definitely converted and I have seen the light (well, sort of).

Yet again, Dana is way ahead of me.

Sunday, 18 June 2006

The Joys Of Being A Dad

It’s Father’s Day and I’m being spoiled!

Dassi made me a beautiful card and Tali designed one that asked me to provide the punch line to a joke (“What do you call a deer with no eyes?… and I had multiple choice answers).

Dana gave me three smashing DVD’s to add to our collection – Bridge Over The River Kwai and the two Kill Bill movies.

Yesterday, the girls and I spent a wonderful afternoon playing “Let’s Buy Hollywood”, a fab game based on Monopoly. In the end, Dassi won…but only by a whisker.

To spend the afternoon playing a board game with your children and to interact in such a fun way, is to truly smell paradise.

Waiting For Paul II

“When I get older, losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine,
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three,
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When Im sixty-four?

Oo-oo- You'll be older too.
Ah - And if you say the word, I could stay with you.

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside,
Sunday mornings, go for a ride.
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When Im sixty-four?

Ev’ry summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle Of Wight If it's not too dear.
We shall scrimp and save. (we shall scrimp and save)
Grandchildren on your knee,
Vera, Chuck and Dave.

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating points of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say,
Yours sincerely wasting away.
Give me your answer, fill in a form,
Mine forever more.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When Im sixty-four?

Ho!”



I wonder if Sir Paul McCartney, waking up on 18th June 2006, a newly crowned sixty four year old is wondering whether writing (and releasing) When I’m 64 was such a good idea after all.

After all, Heather doesn’t seem to need him much these days and I would hazard a guess that he’s probably feeding himself – fast food veggie stuff. He probably did get birthday greetings, but not from his soon-to-be ex-wife.

Forget the Valentine too, Macca.

He hasn’t lost his hair, rather, his hair colour.

I could go on, but that would be kicking a man when he’s down. I genuinely feel sorry for Paul this morning. I guess that £800 million + can’t provide all the answers, or for that matter happiness.

When I’m sixty four, I hope that I’m still surrounded by the same wonderful people who show me, on a daily basis, that they love and appreciate me. I won’t have Macca’s fortune, but then again, I wouldn’t want it.

I’ll be satisfied with the grandchildren on my knee, the loving, the needing and feeding. At the end of the day, these are the only things that really matter in life.

Happy birthday Sir Paul. I hope you will find some reason to smile today. If anything, you deserve it for writing such a timeless (and to a certain degree, prophetic) song.

Waiting For Paul

It’s not easy being a fan of Paul Simon. When you consider that we’ve had to wait six years since his last offering, You’re The One and eleven years before that one (Rhythm Of The Saints)…we are certainly a patient lot. I could include Songs From The Capeman, but I’m referring to his proper studio albums.

Yes you can argue that we’ve had the Simon and Garfunkel set two years ago, but that doesn’t really count. For puritans like me, Paul Simon has released just three albums in seventeen years.

The good news however, is that the wait (since the year 2000) has been worthwhile. I can report that I’ve got his new album, Surprise and it is superb.

The release has featured in the media quite a bit, not least because it is produced by rock veteran Brain Eno. Now I must confess that I know very little about the said gentleman, except that he’s some sort of legend whose big thing is electronic music. I may not know Mr Eno’s oeuvre, but Paul Simon’s entire catalogue (give or take some bootlegs) sits very proudly in my CD collection.

In other words, it’s his work that interests me.

Surprise reminds us why Paul Simon is so special. His beautifully crafted lyrics roll out like “endless rain inside a letterbox”.

Here are some choice excerpts

In “Outrageous” he repeatedly asks:

“Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?”

and finally provides the answer with the profound:

“G-d will”

He refers to the tragedy of New Orleans being wrecked by Hurricane Katrina in “How Can You Live In The Northeast?”, with the still unanswered question:

“How can you build on the banks of a river when the flood waters pour from the mouth?!


His paean on the horrors of war, Wartime Prayers contains the following heartbreaking observation about how individuals are affected by the war (presumably in Iraq):

“A mother murmurs in twilight sleepAnd draws her babies closer.With hush-a-byes for sleepy eyes,And kisses on the shoulder.To drive away despair.”

To give away any more lyrics would be robbing you of the opportunity to listen to one of the great recordings of the early twenty first century. Please do yourself a favour and beg or borrow a copy of this wonderful CD. You may not get it the first time round, but do give it time and listen again and again. It’s a grower if ever there was one - the music, rhythms and lyrics are first class.

Welcome back Paul. You’ve kept us waiting for six years and although we’ve salivated intensely for your next offerings, it’s certainly been worth the effort. We know that you are a perfectionist and will settle for nothing but best…

…but please bring out another release before 2012!


Teacher’s Rating:  ***** (full marks)

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Meltdown

School finally got to me today. A combination of hay-fever, exhaustion and an unbearably hot classroom made me feel quite ill. The kids were pretty off-task for periods one and three and by the end of the latter, I had really had enough.

When lunch was finished, I could feel the onset of a throbbing head-ache that even two Nurofens couldn’t lodge, so I made my excuses and went home. I hit the pillow and was out for two solid hours. I think I must have been somewhat dehydrated.

I’m feeling better now and ready to go back in tomorrow morning. Thankfully our new ICT teacher was there to take over and I’m sure she did a great job.

Sometimes, when it all gets too much, you are better off tucked up in bed, than screwing up twenty kids’ education.

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

The Truth Will Out - II

It is early days, but it seems as though ‘the chances are slim’ that Israel was responsible for the tragedy that took place on the beach in Gaza.

No doubt, our detractors will do their utmost to discredit the results of the Army investigation into the attack, but reading this, those who believe that the findings are conclusive, will be convinced that the finger of blame looks as though it is being shifted to the Palestinian side.

Irrespective of who was to blame, a family were murdered and at the end of the day, we need to remember that seven innocent people relaxing on a beach, met such a bloody and horrific fate.

I will keep you updated as to any developments in the story.

Dana, My Guardian Angel

One of the by-products of my annual nightmare that is Hay Fever includes the occasional asthma attacks. The weather today has mostly consisted of rain, sun and more rain. One would think that the precipitation would help to dampen the pollen, but unfortunately, the opposite effect has happened and the humidity brought on by the rain has seriously affected the quality of the air.

As you will probably know, poor air quality triggers asthma.

I came home from school, wheezing away and wishing that I’d had the sense to get hold of a ventilator (called Ventolin) after last year’s attack. Dana saw me and insisted that I did have a ‘Ventolin’ lying about somewhere in the kitchen. As I sat down claiming that I didn’t. my guardian angel appeared, Ventolin in hand. Two puffs later and my asthma was history.

Dana, on this website, in front of the world, I want to express my indescribable gratitude to you. You helped me breathe freely once again and there is really nothing I can say that can explain how much I appreciate you right now.

No man could ever ask for a more incredible, supportive lifelong friend and partner than you.

Thank you so very, very much.

Monday, 12 June 2006

Sweltering Time (Podcast)

Sunday, 11 June 2006

The Truth Will Out

The bloodshed that took place on the sands of Gaza Beach on Friday is truly horrific. Seven innocent sunbathers lost their lives just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the time of writing, it seems as though Israel is indeed to blame.

Supporters of the Palestinian Cause (of which I'm not and never shall be a member, or even an 'associate') are no doubt using this incident as yet another stick to beat Israel. The sad truth that that this incident seems to have been a terrible and regrettable mistake on the part of the IDF, will have no bearing on their incessant bleatings and rantings. Forget the fact that the Palestinians are firing Kassam rockets indiscriminately on the city of Sderot night and day, aiming to kill as many people as they can - I have yet to hear any condemnation of this willful campaign - I fear that once again Israel will be accused of all kind of acts, irrespective of what really happened.

I refuse to whitewash everything that Israel does. She makes mistakes and takes actions that I don't always agree with, but my strong belief in what is and isn't fair, takes precedence when a barrage of invective is launched in her direction.

The jury is out as to what happened two days ago in Gaza. An investigation by the IDF and the Justice System will take place and those culpable will be brought to trial, as is the case in similar situations. But I'll be damned if I let any Palestinian loving sonofabitch of a journalist plays judge and jury on an incident that they frankly know nothing about.

Zarqawi's Demise

G-d commands us to desist from celebrating the death of an enemy. At the end of the day, we are told that all human beings are His creations and even though they may turn out to be evil, their death is not something that should bring us joy.

The origins for this commandment lie in the exemplarily behaviour demonstrated by our ancestors after the Pharaoh’s army was drowned at the Red Sea. From time immemorial, we have specifically shortened our readings of the Hallel prayer (which consists of Psalms 113-118) over the Passover festival. This is to give the message that although we are thanking G-d for rescuing us from the Egyptians, we acknowledge that he brought about the deaths of others to secure our salvation. As a result, we diminish some of the joy we feel by reading these prayers. At all other times, we say the “full” version of the prayer. (Please click here for a  more detailed explanation)

I say all this because it has been very much on my mind over the last few days, since I heard about the death of Zarqawi in Iraq. My reaction to the killing of this brute and murderer has been one of satisfaction and relief – but not glee. It gives me no pleasure to dance around, celebrating anyone’s death. I will probably feel the same way when Hamanejad of Iran gets his comeuppance.

Zarqawi got his just desserts.
I just don’t see that much of a reason to smile about it.

If...

If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills,

If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time,

If you can overlook when people take things out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can face the world without lies and deceit,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

If you can do all these things...



Then you are probably the family dog.

Thursday, 8 June 2006

The Tour Guide

A short while back, I volunteered to lead a Year 7 trip around the local Synagogue, as part of their Religious Education (R.E) segment on Judaism.

We took two groups this morning, around fifty kids in all. There were five teachers (including myself) and to our delight, the students (including my very own tutor group, who give the word “dysfunctional” a whole new meaning) behaved impeccably, particularly inside the Synagogue building.

I had found some wonderful worksheets on the Internet that we gave out and got the kids to fill in, at the start of the tour, when the two classes were seated, facing one another inside the prayer room. These resources really helped to get me off the ground running, as I got down to explaining the ins and outs of a Synagogue Service. Some kids asked really good questions and although I was a little overwhelmed at first by the task (I’ve never done anything like this before), I soon found my stride and got them engaged in the environment. I must say though, it did feel somewhat strange describing artefacts whose symbolism I have always taken so much for granted.
At one point, I took out my Tallit (Prayer Shawl) and Tefillin (Phylacteries) and gave a demonstration of how I put these on in the morning. The kids (and R.E. teachers) looked totally mesmerised as I explained the steps I take to don and then remove these holy items. I then ended the tour by taking the kids up to the Ark and showing them the Torah Scrolls.

I’m so glad it all went well…because I have to do this all over again next Thursday for another Year 7 group (albeit a single class).

The Kotel and I

As you might, or might not know, June 7th 1967 was the day on which Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem, and in particular the Temple Mount and Western Wall (or Kotel in Hebrew). It was the first time in nearly two thousand years that Jews were in control of our holiest site - the location of the two Holy Temples. Jews been denied entry by the Jordanians to the Wall for nineteen years.

In that very month, my mother, then pregnant with me, won a trip to Israel and, a week after the end of the war made her way through the rubble, to the recently liberated Wall. So moved was she to be standing at this location, that she made a promise to herself that if the child inside of her was a boy, he would celebrate his Bar Mitzvah at The Wall. Thirteen years later, on November 6th 1980, I was able to fulfill that promise.

You can therefore appreciate that to me, The Kotel is something very special. Indeed, the older I get, the more I come to realise how incredibly blessed I am, to have celebrated such an important occasion at our holiest site.

It is easy to misunderstand the idea of the Kotel. We go there and literally pray to a wall! However, when I'm there, I try my best to look beyond the slabs and rteach out, both spiritually and figuratively to the nearest entry point (on earth) that we have to the site of our Holy Temples. I therefore feel as though I am praying through the wall, and not at it.

The Temple Mount was the place chosen as the location for the House of G-d. We all know that G-d is everywhere and by extension, whereever we pray, He will hear us, but being so close to his earthly home makes our prayers seem that much more relevant.

Recently, I've had the fortune to come across a fascinating toolbar that one can install inside Internet Explorer - you can find out more here.

One of the great features it has is the ability to view instant video from the Kotel, via three different webcams. Since I am finding myself getting up earlier each day (G-d bless Hay Fever), I now click on one of the links and view the Kotel in the early hours of daylight. I cannot think of a more inspiring vision than looking at the early rays of sunshine beaming off the wall, with a tuneful accompaniament of birdsong. It is as though time has stood still and I am right there, in situ, witnessing the opening of the Temple gates, ready for another day's worship.

With the Kotel visible in the background, I don my Tallit and Tefillin (Prayer Shawl and Phyllactiries) and pray with a new intensity towards the very location that I can see live on my computer screen. There's nothing quite as incredible as being able to see the location to which I am facing in prayer, albeit three thousand miles away, there in front of my very eyes.

Thanks to modern technology, a two thousand year wall and I are joined as one. Try it out and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

The Geography "Teacher"

Geography and I have never been the best of friends. In fact, I remember ranking it alongside chemistry as the two subjects I liked the least. This, coming from someone whose love affair with Maths was none too hot either...

To give you an example of how poor I was in the subject, at age eight, I honestly believed that Beirut was the capital of Greece and if you don't believe me, ask my parents.

You can therefore imagine my absolute 'glee' when I was asked to cover the Year 8 geography lesson during period 4. I went into the room and was confronted by about twenty five bored students.

The teacher had left no cover work.

What to do? I started off by asking the kids to name the countries comprising the European Union (I hasten to add that I still don't know whether the answers I put down were correct or not!) and having finished that exercise, and becoming desperate, got them to name the individual capitals.

Fifteen long minutes left. Then, suddenly, it struck me..."get the kids to name the fifty states in the U.S!" Slowly but surely the familiar names came out and I wrote them down, deflecting the continuous San Francisco's, Orlando's or Toronto's (they weren't too up on geography either)with a mournful "it's a city not a state" response, until we had got our fifty up there, in blue ink on the white board.

The bell rang and I made a silent prayer thanking the good Lord for allowing me to teach I.T. instead of geography.

Twenty years later and I still hate the subject.

Questions At Dawn

It's 4.00 am and my eyes are streaming, throat is tickly and my blocked up nose is remembering the good old days when my breathing didn't have to find it's way in and out of my body via the oral cavity.

I've never quite understood why, if all the windows are closed, my body chooses some ungodly hour to go into hay-fever mode. I haven't been near pollen for at least twelve hours and the damn substance hasn't even awoken yet - so why am I having to wake up from a deep sleep and wonder whose receptacle I'm currently inhabiting?

If you are a fellow sufferer, you can probably relate with everything I've just written and if you're not...right now...I positively hate you!!!

Monday, 5 June 2006

Seven More Weeks

I was back at school today, after a week’s hiatus. The teachers (including yours truly) are all humming the same mantra, which is basically “seven weeks to go, seven weeks to go…”

Of the sixty or so teachers at the school, nearly half have announced that they won’t be returning in the autumn term. I’m sure you are not particularly surprised to read this, keeping in mind the postings that I’ve put here over the last few months. I suppose you could say that the school will be a totally different place to work in, come September. I honestly didn’t think when I started almost a year ago that I would be a veteran so soon.

I’m staying put.

I thought about leaving, even made an application, but my Headmistress wisely advised me to stay at least another year in my first teaching post. I’m hanging on for a Jewish school, not least because it will be more amenable tofor teaching - from a cultural point of view.

Don’t be fooled though, the kids are not any easier and there are different issues to deal with, such as erecting the barriers between kids and staff. The children can relate better to someone of the same faith and as a result, they tend to be more informal, making it harder to maintain the distance that is so important between pupil and teacher. The motto of “familiarity breeds contempt” very much applies in such a situation. We shall see what happens.

Did I tell you that I’m going to be taking some Year 7 classes around the local Synagogue? I volunteered (I’m still not sure why) a few weeks ago and the school eagerly took up my idea (I’m going to regret this, I know). So the first trip will be taking place on Thursday.
Watch this space.

Other than that, it was very much business as usual.

Seven more weeks!

Sunday, 4 June 2006

Podcast 4

Saturday, 3 June 2006

The Authorised Crooks II

After my rant in the last posting, I felt it only right to update you as to what’s been going on.

I popped into the bank on Thursday and vented my frustration. Fortunately, I happened to come upon an employee who was sympathetic to my cause and did what he could to placate me – with a result that, although not perfect, at least showed me that the company still cared (a little) about their customers.

The insurance company also seem to be coming through for me, although these are early days and quite a lot still needs to happen for me to smile about the situation.

I’m just wondering whether any of the employees of either company happened to be reading my earlier posting…