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

Monday, 31 December 2007

Out With The Old And In With The Old

2007 eh?

What a year.

I always find it quite a challenge to think back over the previous eleven months. January 2007 seems like such a distant world. The only thing I really remember from that time is the execution of Saddam Hussein. Isn't that tragic? Isn't it sad that I lived through thirty one days of a month and I only remember one horrific moment.

It gets worse. I remember February primarily because of our trip to Eilat - and that's it. Then again, it is a more pleasant memory.

I suppose I should remember this year because it was the last one I lived through before crashing into the ginormous 4 0. It hasn't been an easy annum either. I endured a lot of shit in my last school and although I am much happier, I'm also much more hassled and stressed, trying to keep up with the crushing workload.

I take this all in my stride because I hope that the next academic year will be easier, granted that I will have been in my current post for a full year.

So what do I hope for 2008?

Well, it would be nice to hear of some good news for once.

What with Benazir Bhutto's assassination becoming scarily farcical, Iran racing towards nuclear crazydom (despite America's laughable and highly problematic recent assessment), Israel about to divide Jerusalem if Bush and Olmert have their way and the British Government doing everything in it's power to lose just about every Briton's personal data- things don't look too hot from down here.

Then again, on the plus side, Israel will hit 60 in May and that is a huge cause for celebration.

You could look at the cup/glass and hope for the glint of champagne to appear and fill up that upper half. Then again, I suppose you should be glad for being anywhere near a cup in the first place..

Happy 2008 one and all.

Let's hope it's a year to remember - for all the right reasons.

The Bitter Taste Of Sugar

EU CONDEMNS PALESTINIAN CHEMICALS SMUGGLING DISGUISED AS HUMANITARIAN AID

The European Union on Sunday condemned a Palestinian attempt to smuggle chemicals used to make explosives into Gaza by marking it as humanitarian aid from the European Commission. An EU official called the act detrimental for the Palestinians and said, "If this was an attempt to misuse the name of the EU or European Commission it would be an isolated criminal act and we condemn it."

The comments were made after the IDF released a statement on Sunday saying that a truck carrying 6.5 tons of potassium nitrate, a banned substance that can be used to manufacture explosives and Qassam rockets, was discovered at a border crossing in the West Bank. The IDF statement noted that the chemicals were disguised in sugar bags that were marked as humanitarian aid provided by the EU. A photo of the bags showed a white sack with black print on it reading "EEC 2 Sugar Exported from EU".

The EU official said the bag could not be confused with the proper aid given by the EU because the EU does not export sugar and that their bags carry a 12-star symbol of the EU and the name of the European Commission.

(c) bicom.org.uk

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Power Kills

What is it about the lust for power that made an intelligent person like Benazir Bhutto end her eight year exile in relative safety, ultimately to leave this earth in a pool of her own blood?

It is not as though she didn't know she was living on borrowed time. No sooner had she arrived back in Pakistan, than an attempt was made on her life.

So why stay?

Why risk the most important thing she had?

Was gaining power worth it?

I just can't understand her reasoning for coming back and staying. She could have gone back into exile and called it a day for her political career - I don't think she had would have had a problem finding a job. However, she stayed, knowing she was a target. Its a no-brainer.

So another world leader succumbs to the lethal vanity of power and her death ends up being another statistic to add to the over-bloodied board of political assassinations.

Forget the simplistic adage about power corrupting.
In plain and simple words - it kills.

Movie Review: Enchanted


I'm going to cut to the chase and reveal that I absolutely loved this movie. Rarely has a film lived up to its title, but the entire affair is truly enchanting, from beginning to end.

The acting is fabulous, the songs (especially the Central Park number) captivating, the characterisations....what more can I say except....

GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!!

Really, please don't miss it - it is a gem.

My Rating

*****

Monday, 24 December 2007

A Message For My Christian Visitors

I would like to wish all my Christian friends and visitors to this site a very spiritual and meaningful Xmas. May you celebrate the day in peace, within the bosom of your family and may your prayers of peace for all mankind, be gracious to the good Lord whom we all look up to for guidance over the next twelve months.

Thank you most sincerely for supporting this site through thick and thin over the last three-and-a-half years.

The Xmas Party

FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 4th November
RE: Christmas Party

I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place
on December 23rd, starting at noon in the private function room at the
Grill House. There will be a cash bar and plenty of drinks!

We'll have a small band playing traditional carols...please feel free to
sing along. Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time;
however, no gift should be over $10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone's pockets.

This gathering is only for employees!
The Managing Director will make a special announcement at the Party.

Merry Christmas to you and your Family.

Pauline
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 5th November
RE: Holiday Party

In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees.
We recognize that Hanukkah is an important holiday, which often coincides
with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on
we're calling it our 'Holiday Party'.
The same policy applies to any other employees who are not Christians.
There will be no Christmas tree or Christmas carols sung.
We will have other types of music for your enjoyment.

Happy now?

Happy Holidays to you and your family,

Pauline.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FROM; Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 6th November
RE: Holiday Party

Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous
requesting a non-drinking table... you didn't sign your name. I'm
happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that
reads, "AA Only", you wouldn't be anonymous anymore!!!! How am I supposed
to handle this? Somebody? Forget about the gift exchange. No gift
exchange allowed now since the Union officials feel that $10.00 is too much
money and Management believes $10.00 is a little cheap.

NO GIFT EXCHANGE WILL BE Allowed.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 7th November
RE: Holiday Party

What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20th
begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking
during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate
how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim
employees' beliefs. Perhaps the Grill House can hold off on serving your meal
until the end of the party - or else package everything up for you to
take home in a little foil doggy bag. Will that work?

Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Weight Watchers to sit
farthest from the dessert buffet; pregnant women will get the table closest
to the toilets; Gays are allowed to sit with each other; Lesbians do not
have to sit with gay men; each will have their own table. Yes, there will
be flower arrangements for the gay men's table, too. To the person asking
permission to cross dress - no cross dressing allowed.

We will have booster seats for short people. Low fat food will be
available for those on a diet. We cannot control the salt used in the
food. We suggest those people with high blood pressure taste the
food first.

There will be fresh fruits as dessert for Diabetics; the restaurant
cannot supply "No Sugar" desserts. Sorry!

Did I miss anything?!?!?!?!?!
Pauline.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All F****** Employees
DATE: 8 November
RE: The ******** Holiday Party.


Vegetarian pricks! I've had it with you people!!! We're going to keep
this party at the Grill House whether you like it or not, so you
can sit quietly at the table furthest from the "grill of death", as you so
quaintly put it. You'll get your f****** salad bar, including organic
tomatoes, but you know tomatoes have feeling, too. They scream
when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing them scream right
NOW!!
Hope you all have a rotten holiday ! Drink, drive, and die!

The Bitch from HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


FROM: John Bishop - Acting Human Resources Director
DATE: 9th November
RE: Pauline Lewis and Holiday Party


I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pauline Lewis a speedy
recovery, and I'll continue to forward your cards to her.

In the meantime, Management has decided to cancel our Holiday
Party and instead, give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd December off with
full pay.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

What Kind Of Catholic Will Blair Be?

I'm really not quite sure what to make of Tony Blair's conversion to Roman Catholicism.

On the one hand, I believe it is perfectly within his right to take on whatever religion he wants. At the end of the day, he has the freedom to choose his own spiritual path. Saying that, I very much hope that that he embraces a more modern interpretation of Catholicism - the kind which doesn't blame the Jews for the death of Christ (as per the last two millennia)

I also believe it most uncharitable of people to call him a hypocrite for his past views. Maybe it's my Jewish sensibilities, but we hold that when one moves up the spiritual ladder, as Mr Blair is undoubtedly doing, the rest of us do everything to encourage him/her and at the same time, avoid bringing up past decisions and actions.

Why shoot someone down when they are trying to reach a higher spiritual plane (assuming that their aim is to avoid becoming a fundamentalist and as a result, taking on homicidal intent)?

I wish Mr Blair only success in his new found path. I also hope that he remains level-headed and has the nous to avoid the more contentious elements of his new found religion. He could be the modern of the Roman Catholic church, something that would benefit us all.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Saudi Academic - "Muslim Organisations Must Condemn Terrorism"

I get daily emails from Memri, the Middle East Research Institute, whose raison-d'etre is to provide accurately translated English texts of articles in the Arab media, for the non-Arabic speaking world to read.

Many of their reports provide a fascinating insight into a media that many of us feel secluded from, not least because our Arabic isn't exactly up to scratch. With this in mind, I felt it important to reproduce the email that was sent to me today, so that it receives some more exposure in the blogging world that many of us seem to be inhabiting.

"Saudi Academic:
"Muslim Organizations, Leaders Must Condemn Terrorism – Our Enemies Are Translating Statements of Each and Every [Islamic] Scholar, Imam, and Charity Spokesman"

Articles in the Arab press repeatedly warn about MEMRI's monitoring of the Arab media, and call on the media not only to moderate extremist statements but also to condemn terrorists and their supporters in no uncertain terms. In a recent article in the London Arabic daily Al-Hayat, Saudi academic 'Ali bin Talal Al-Jahni calls on Arab organizations – including the World Muslim League, the Arab League, Islamic universities, and charity funds – and on preachers to harshly condemn terrorist operations. He says that this is especially important in light of the fact that statements by Muslims are translated and publicized by the Western media, particularly by MEMRI.(1)

The following are excerpts:

Articles in the Arab press repeatedly warn about MEMRI's monitoring of the Arab media, and call on the media not only to moderate extremist statements but also to condemn terrorists and their supporters in no uncertain terms. In a recent article in the London Arabic daily Al-Hayat, Saudi academic 'Ali bin Talal Al-Jahni calls on Arab organizations – including the World Muslim League, the Arab League, Islamic universities, and charity funds – and on preachers to harshly condemn terrorist operations. He says that this is especially important in light of the fact that statements by Muslims are translated and publicized by the Western media, particularly by MEMRI.(1)

The following are excerpts:

"Everyone Agrees that Most Muslims Are Not Terrorists... Everyone Also Agrees that... Most Terrorists Have Been Muslims"

"Everyone agrees that most Muslims are not terrorists, but at the same time, everyone also agrees that, for many years now, most terrorists have been Muslims...


The non-Muslim friends of the Arabs and Muslims all over the world, from China and Japan to America and the West, are reprimanding us for letting our enemies lay the blame for terrorism on Islam. They warn that no matter how true the claim that terrorism is not the monopoly of the Muslims, and that the Communists, the Nazis, and [Avraham] Stern's Zionist gangs [also] resorted to [terrorism] – this claim is not going to help us.

"Equally unhelpful is the assertion that Muslim terrorists are [nothing but] a small group of criminals, although this is also true. Nor will it do us any good to argue that, besides terrorism, there is also legitimate resistance to occupation."

"[We Should] Express Our Outrage at the Terrorist Operations that Have Been and Still Are Being Carried Out... in the Name of Islam"

"Indeed, resistance that fails to distinguish between civilians – including children, the elderly, and the sick – and combatants is not legitimate. Such resistance [is nothing but] terrorism. Murdering human beings – even if politicians, both Sunni and Shi'ite, try to excuse it using the slogan of Islam – is forbidden. This was a consensus in all Islamic schools of thought until the arrival of [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini in Iran, and the rise of his supporters in Lebanon and Palestine...

"As stated by our non-Muslim friends, and probably also by the more sensible among us, the only effective [measure] would be to express our outrage, in clear and unambiguous words, at the terrorist operations that have been carried out and that are still being carried out in the name of Islam. However, the rage of an individual who speaks as a journalist or in the name of a newspaper... does not have much impact either. To be effective, rage must reflect the authentic views of organizations, and of those who [preach] from the pulpits of the mosques and [appear] on [various] TV channels.

"The Muslim World League, the Arab League, and Islamic universities must shout out in protest, repeatedly and loudly, every time there is a terrorist operation, and every time a terrorist message is issued; they must voice their fury and disgust at every terrorist act perpetrated in the name of Islam. The mosque preachers have the grave responsibility of condemning terrorism or any attempt to hijack our religion.

"But unfortunately, the reality is that many preachers are preoccupied with narrow political concerns and with speaking out against the enemies of Islam, and fail to realize that the principal enemy of Islam is the terrorists – who threaten, murder, bomb, and blow themselves up in the name of Islam.

"Particular responsibility lies on the shoulders of Islamic charity organizations. In the past, like other charity organizations with noble goals, they were harmed when money from donations was misused [to aid] the Taliban and its supporters. They must acknowledge this fact, confirm that they were indeed taken advantage of... and declare that [they do not even remotely] sympathize [with terrorism], let alone support it. [They must emphasize that this abuse] will not happen again. To show [their sincerity], all charity organizations must, instead of keeping silent, reiterate clearly and without reservation that it is they who have suffered the greatest harm from terrorist operations carried out in the name of Islam.

"Our enemies translate the statements of each and every [Islamic] scholar, imam, or charity organization spokesman, no matter how noble their aims, in order to use them as evidence against us. They are eager to find supplications [inciting against] Jews and infidels, and when they [find them], they rejoice – [for this enables them] to write articles and to discuss them on radio and television programs all over the world. If they do not find explicit statements [against Jews and infidels], they will attempt to discover at least the absence of explicit condemnation of a terrorist act against non-Muslims..."

Endnote:
(1) Al-Hayat (London), December 11, 2007. Other articles about MEMRI recently published in the Arab press include an August 13, 2007 article by columnist Sa'ud Kabili in the Saudi daily Al-Watan (see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1720, "Saudi Columnists: Centers for Hebrew Studies Are Needed To Deal With Israel," September 21, 2007, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP172007); a two-part article by the former editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, Ibrahim Al-Nafi', published November 9-10, 2007; and a November 21, 2007 article by 'Atef Al-Ghamri in Al-Ahram. See also a November 17, 2007 interview with Lebanese columnist Jihad Al-Khazen on the British Arabic-language TV channel Al-Hiwar (MEMRI Clip No. 1621, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1621.htm). "


I would definitely recommend signing up to the site if you wish to have a full picture of what goes on in the Middle East. This is especially the case if you want to know about the various conflicts that are going on in the region. I guarantee that what you will read will be a damn sight more accurate than the so called "in-depth analysis" provided by the majority of journalists working in the non-Arab speaking world.

www.memri.org

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

15 Weaks Later

No, the title isn't a misprint.

Imagine you were looking at me right now (a frightful thought I know). If you were, you would see a face that's been through the scholastic wars.

My nose is blocked, my throat went on holiday about a week ago, but was kind enough to leave me with a voice and my eyes are so darkened by their dark southern pockets, that I've started wondering if I'll ever resemble any member of my family.

Yes folks. I've survived the first fifteen weeks (or is that weaks) at my new school.

However, it hasn't been too bad. In fact, at times, I've even had some fun. The work is at times crushing, the kids, often even more so, but I'm kind of addicted to the place. I don't know why I work so damn so hard, but I feel that it's something I just have to do.

Am I making any sense?

I am definitely going to do my best to enjoy this holiday and proverbially chill out. I have a lot of take-home work, but I point-blank refuse to let it get in the way of enjoying my generous "three full weekends" off. Whilst other schools are hitting their Xmas decks on Friday, we have the good grace to quit whilst we're ahead (and the kids aren't as hyper as I'm become accustomed to) and bid adieu to the first term of the 2007-8 academic year, as of 1.00 tomorrow afternoon.

Believe me though, this break hasn't come a second too soon. I need those eye-pockets to sink back into obscurity, at least until the Easter break.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Making A Difference

Firstly, an apology/explanation.

I know that I haven't been posting here for quite a while. I will give you an honest excuse (something that teachers have to believe all the time...) but I really do not have the time during the school term to sit down and start writing blogs. Last week, I was so busy that I didn't check my email for three days.

That said, I haven't and will not forget you guys and gals. Please keep checking back, because I do update this site, albeit less frequently than previously. With the holidays coming up, I plan to write in more often.

To make up for all of this, I present you with the following, text of which you've probably already seen, but I'll stick it on anyway:

WHAT TEACHERS MAKE wow!

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.

One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do.. Those who can't, teach."

To stress his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honour winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make?" (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn't everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math. They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life."

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

"Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant.... You want to know what I make?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make Mr. CEO?"

His jaw dropped, he went silent.


In the book of life, the answers aren't in the back.
~Charlie Brown






Thursday, 6 December 2007

Absolutely Breathtaking

I'm conducting a totally unscientific (but highly appropriate) experiment.

I want you to put your hand up if you believe that Iran stopped it's nuclear reactor program back in 2003?

You can put your hand down now-if it is raised.

Please put your hand up if you think that the so-called declaration that the Iranians were no longer involved in their missile program, had less to do with concrete fact and more to do with saving the last vestiges of President Bush's rapidly diminishing credibility?

Do you feel sort of silly sitting there scaring at a screen, with your hand in the air? It's OK, you're in good company.

I really don't know what the Americans are up to. If they were hoping to pull off some sort of vanishing trick (e.g. the disappearance of tangible evidence that the program is no longer operational), they should have looked to aping David Copperfield, instead of the late, lamented Tommy Cooper (a British magician who had a knack of botching every trick he attempted - on purpose of course).

Every intelligence agency worth its salt knows what Iran is up to, from MI5 through to the Mossad. Granted, it is true that they don't how far the program has progressed, but, never, in a million years, would they dein to suggest that the Iranians have been pulling the wool over the world's eyes by not even developing their reactors in the first place.

This act of breathtaking stupidity, because I really can't think of another way of describing it, has given that fruitcake in Iran the green light to go ahead and do whatever he wants (coupled with a sickening show of arrogance) on the nuclear front. The Israelis can hardly believe that their greatest ally would carry out this sort of reckless manoeuvre, right at the critical moment where Iran will reach the point of no return in their obsession to go nuclear.

Of course, you could say that I really don't know what I'm saying and that the Americans are absolutely correct in their assumption.

For once, I will admit that I hope you're right, because if I am proved correct, we are all in for a very rocky time - all thanks to that moronic imbecile in the White House.

If I'm wrong, I apologise and look forward to Herr Ahmedinejad joining the small roster of responsible, lunatic statesmen.

Qaddafi and Chavez will be so proud of him.

Monday, 3 December 2007

For Those Of You With Short Memory Spans...

I have decided to make life a smidgen easier for you.

If you have difficulty remembering the URL or web address of this site, you can type in http://tinyurl.com/226bhf and you'll get here just as quick.

The choice is yours.

www.cwscribbles.blogspot.com or http://tinyurl.com/226bhf

Now don't say I don't spoil you.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

40 Reasons To Love This Birthday

I really didn't know what the day had in store. Before Shabbat (the Sabbath) came in, she gave me my birthday present, an incredible JVC digital camcorder, which I can't wait to use (and which I spent the Sabbath day reading about in the instruction manual).

We were invited to a very special evening at the local synagogue, where the youth movement my daughters attend on Shabbat, Bnei Akiva, were holding a Friday night dinner. All went well until I popped out and came back to be greeted by the host asking if anyone was celebrating their birthday on the next day and when inevitably, my name came up, 150 people sang me Happy Birthday. I refused to tell them how old I was (despite everyone there knowing).

The spectacle was repeated on a smaller scale in the little kids service that I helped to run this morning. I still didn't let on to my age, singing ("you already know") to the familiar refrain.

All well and good. Dana had a special surprise when I came home. I found the kitchen table covered in minuscule "40" shaped confetti and I was told that this was the only surprise of the day, since she'd booked us into a restaurant for the dinner. It was to be just the two of us.
No surprise party then.

The babysitter came at about 7.00 and we got dressed up - I even wore my old university tie. We made our way to the restaurant and parked outside a friend's house. I couldn't quite understand why the neighbours who lived directly opposite us were going into the house too.

Anyway, we went in and our friends greeted us in the hallway. I was told that we had stopped over as they had a small gift to give me. As you can appreciate, I won't ever say to 'no' to a present, so it wasn't too hard to convince me to go in there in the first place.

They opened the door to the kitchen and there, in the adjoining dining room was a sea of faces, somewhat reminiscent of the Sgt Pepper album cover. Their vocal "surprise" boomed out and I was truly gobsmacked. There, in the room lay the patchwork of my 40 years of life on this earth, my parents, friends, cousins, past and present - you name it. At least 40 people (hence the title of this entry).

It turns out that Dana had been planning this evening since April and even Dassi knew about it. I honestly didn't twig what was going on. Everyone had brought some food and the spread was breathtaking. It was such a wonderful and memorable evening. I moved around, trying to chat with everyone and ended up by the piano playing songs (Beatles' of course) with my old friend M, who was one of the Best Men at our wedding.

It makes you feel very humbled when so many people take the time to come to your party and share in your celebration. I don't know how I could ever repay them or express how moved I was to see them there, but I think they must have realised by my reaction.

If that wasn't enough, the presents I got were truly splendorous and ranged from generous HMV tokens to a series of original cells from the Yellow Submarine film - the like of which I've seen but never had the privilege to own.

Saying that, if I hadn't received a single gift, it wouldn't have mattered. The image I have of all these faces lined up next to each other in a single room is one that I never want to forget. It was a truly magical moment.

If you were there and you're reading this, thank you so much for being part of my celebrations and making me feel that much better about hitting the big 4 0

If you weren't, I hope this description has managed to convey how unforgettable this evening has been to me. To have your friends and family there like that smiling and enjoying a special moment in your life is like the BarclayCard advertisement states, priceless.

Dana deserves all the praise for giving me the nicest birthday present I've ever received - this evening. Thank you so so so much. xxx

Thursday, 29 November 2007

40 Reasons To Hate My Next Birthday

1. I'll be entering my fifth decade, nuff said about that one.

2. Twenty year olds will look at me mockingly.

3. I'll be the same age as John Lennon - when he was shot.

4. Next year, I'll be nine years away from 50.

5. Prostate problems. Need I expand on that one?

6. I'll never be able to put a 3 before my age. Depressing or what?

7. My friends who aren't yet 40 will have a good laugh at my expense.

8. My middle age spread will keep on heading east.

9. My wife and children won't let me forget my age, even if I try.

10. 50 year olds will tell me how lucky I am to be only 40, which sounds like a compliment but isn't one.

11. My libido will face new challenges.

12. I can forget having any fantasies about gorgeous young models. I might be 40, but I don't want to be a "dirty old man"

13. I'll start having to care about my pension.

14. I'll start longing for the 80's. which is frankly embarrassing.

15. My hair is black right now - but for how long?

16. People in their 40's die.

17. No-one over 40 ever gets called "young" anymore.

18. I'll be twice the age of 20. At least when I was 20, I didn't have an issue with being twice the age of 10.

19. I'll think of my contemporaries who are 40 and positively loaded. Depressing.

20. They say that "life starts at 40" but only because people feel so damn miserable about reaching this age.

21. My whole life will have been the equivalent in time to the Children of Israel wandering around the desert - and they wondered around for a long time (40 years in fact)

22. People will not only expect me to act maturely and responsibly, but will also be scandalized if I don't. I never had that problem in my 30's

23. I'll have to start watching my health. Did I mention that people die in their 40s?

24. When I was a kid, a forty year old was an old fart. Now I'm the one about to become 40...

25. When my dad was 40, I was only a baby. Now I have middle age spread (that's going eastwards. I think I'm already forgetting the ones I added above)

26. I actually remember my mother's 40th birthday. G-d I'm old.

27. My wife is nowhere near 40. I'm on my own here.

28. If I had another child now, I'd be over 50 when they would be batmitzvah (or barmitzvah, I should be so lucky)

29. 40 year old don't get classed as "young fathers".

30. I'll be a new category on some surveys (although I have a while to leave the 35-44 tick box)

31. I'll only be a quarter of a century away from retirement. At least last year, I was 26 years away.

32. Ditto with the bus pass.

33. Everyone under 40 who is reading this will make fun of me. Everyone over 40 will probably be insulted.

34. You can say that "40 is the new 3o" until you're blue in the face, but it's a lie. 40 is 40. Period.

35. If I were hitting 50, I'd still wish I was 30 instead of 40.

36. Being 40 sounds old, irrespective of how you say it. Even if a luscious blonde looked at me and told me that it wasn't so bad, it still would be (then again, if she were that pretty, I probably wouldn't argue too much)

37. When do teeth start falling out? I hear that it happens after you hit.....

38. Everyone will keep on reminding me that I'm hitting 40, even if they think I'm still 39.

39. People who don't know how old I am, will gasp when they realise that I'm 40. Then again, they'd probably behave the same way if I told them I was 38.

40. In just over 24 hours, I will no longer be 39. I guess that says it all.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

The Israel Russia Match

Israel beat Russia 2-1 in the Euro 2008 qualifier.

Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssss!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Al-Dura Trial: Exclusive Reaction From the Paris Courtroom

In 2000, France2, a highly respected news organisation broadcast the infamous footage of 12 years old Mohammed al-Dura, a Palestinian child, being supposedly shot dead by Israel as he cowered next to his father. It had been shot by a Palestinian cameraman.

The footage was of course seen around the world and Israel was, as usual, blamed for this "act of barbarity" against Palestinian children. Case closed. As a result of this incident, countless Israelis were butchered in numerous suicide attacks. Mohammed Al-Dura became a THE icon of the second intifada. His "martyrdom" was burned into the minds of little Palestinian children, who were told that Mohammed Al-Dura was a symbol of Israeli brutality.

However, it wasn't that clear-cut. An independant and thorough investigation was launched by the Israelis, which includee a ballistics check and it was found that the boy could not have been killed by the Israelis. If he had been killed at all.

Fast forward seven years and a course case is currently underway, whereby the veracity of the report under scrutiny in a French courthouse.

Here is a report that came out yesterday on www.honestreporting.com
Judge for yourself what you think happened....

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

She Is My Daughter (And Forget The Maths Score Differential)

Dassi has managed to do it again. She scored 92% in her maths test and she's absolutely bowled me over in the pride stakes.

As someone who just about managed to scrape a "C" at 'O' Level arithmetic (and that was with a lot of help), I can only quiver in admiration and respect at her astounding score.

As the proper Jewish thing to do, with a result like that, I'm writing this blog to let everyone to know that she's my daughter - not that I had anything to do with her maths chromosome.

Blame her mother for that.

You Could NOT Make This Up

NEW DELHI (AP) -- A man in southern India married a female dog in a traditional Hindu ceremony in a bid to atone for stoning two dogs to death, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

art.dogwedding.afp.gi.jpg

P Selvakumar, left, garlands his "bride," Selvi.

The 33-year-old man married the sari-draped dog at a temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu on Sunday after an astrologer said it was the only way to cure himself of a disability, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported.

P. Selvakumar told the paper that he had been suffering since he stoned two dogs to death and strung them up in a tree 15 years ago.

"After that my legs and hands got paralyzed and I lost hearing in one ear," the paper quoted him as saying.

Family members chose a stray female dog named Selvi who was then bathed and clothed for the ceremony.

The groom and his family then had a feast, while the dog got a bun, the paper said.

(c) CNN.com

Thursday, 8 November 2007

What Really Counts

Reading the news today, between the shooting in a Finnish school and Iran about to go nuclear (not forgetting the bloodbath in Afghanistan), one can understand that there isn't much to smile about.

Whereas I am just as glum as the next person (and I really am), there is only one piece of news that makes me even more depressed than any of the above.

In less than a month, I am going to be forty years old.

OH MY G-D.

To make things worse, by an almost sadistic twist of fate, both my Hebrew and Gregorian birthdays fall on exactly the same day of the week that I was born - Shabbat.

I was born on Friday night, 1st December, corresponding with the 29th day of the month of Cheshvan, which just happens to fall tomorrow night. If that weren't bad enough, my birthday will fall this year on Saturday/Shabbat. Do you think the good Lord is trying to give me a message here?

I am depressed.

How the hell did I find myself on the threshold of my fifth decade? I mean, sod it, according to the Jewish calendar, I'm forty tomorrow night - although you won't be surprised to read that when it comes to my birthday, I suddenly cling onto the Gentile calendar with an almost unbreakable grip.

I am depressed.

Where did my thirties go? Why wasn't I born in 1975? Why couldn't my parents have been younger, allowing me to enter my thirty second year instead.

Why?

As I wrote in the last post, I recently hooked up with some old school buddies through Facebook and eagerly looked at their profiles to see if any of them had crossed my incoming threshold. To my dismay, they are nearly all disgustingly still 39. How dare they cling onto their the last year of their thirties whilst I go through that "avenue of no return"?

I am depressed.

For those of you who are over forty, or fifty, this probably sounds like the meanderings of a spoiled immature brat who doesn't want to face up to reality.

And?

So?

What's wrong with being immature?

Who says we have to act our age? Who says that I have to be any different at forty than I was at thirty nine?

I know that I'm not as fast as once was (and I was never that fast) and that my hair doesn't boast the same youthful thickness it did ten years ago, but why should being forty be such a well of depression? I bet that if you're reading this at thirty three, you're just laughing at my vanity and hyperbole.

...and they said writing things down makes you feel better. Yeah, well it doesn't!

Then again, if I were one of the victims of the Finnish massacre, hitting my fortieth birthday probably wouldn't have been an issue

Yes, I am about to forty. Yes, I am depressed, but hell, I'm still alive. I've got two healthy parents (until 120 years), a wife who smiles at me at least once a month and beautiful kids who seem to be happy to have me around (as long as I don't act my age).

It's all relative isn't it?

It is all relative.

Ok. You can life your head about the parapet because the rant is over for now.

Let me enjoy the last twenty four of my Jewish thirties and relish the rest of the month as an enthusiastic follower of the "other" calendar - the one that still allows me to put a "th" before my age.

I'll feel worse this time next week, so I suppose I should get the most that I can out of the remaining third of the month.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Wake up Cat

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Yes, I Have Changed (I Think)

My experience of Facebook has to date been only positive.

Every now and again I am contacted (or find) a person (usually a school friend) with whom I haven't been in touch with for ages, sometimes even decades. Living inside your own little bubble that is your life, one tends to forget that everyone else is also inhabiting their CO2 universe, merrily bubbling along the timeline of their existence.

People change. We all do but we often forget that others are still around, eking out their existence in totally different circumstances than your own. Yes, there are similarities as many have gone through university, got married and taken on the parental roles that we now all seem to wonder how we ever lived without.

Others have chosen different paths, but still we are all the same age as you, facing many of the same challenges that life seems to enjoy throwing your way. Before you realise it, it is twenty years since you saw so-and-so and that he or she didn't stay the same, as though frozen inside the slowly fading school photograph.

Just like you, they too have changed, but it often takes being in touch with them to realise that you are the not same spotty teenager you were when the two of you last spoke. It is unnerving, but strangely comforting.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

How To Make A Woman Happy

How to Make a Woman Happy



It's not difficult to make a woman happy. A man only needs to be:


1. a friend
2 a companion
3. a lover
4. a brother
5. a father
6. a master
7. a chef
8. an electrician
9. a carpenter
10. a plumber
11. a mechanic
12. a decorator
13. a stylist
14. a sexologist
15. a gynecologist
16. a psychologist
17. a pest exterminator
18. a psychiatrist
19. a healer
20. a good listener
21. an organizer
22. a good father
23. very clean
24. sympathetic
25. athletic
26. warm
27. attentive
28. gallant
29. intelligent
30. funny
31. creative
32. tender
33. strong
34. understanding
35. tolerant
36. prudent
37. ambitious
38. capable
39. courageous
40. determined
41. true
42. dependable
43. passionate
44. compassionate


WITHOUT FORGETTING TO:


45. give her compliments regularly
46. love shopping
47. be honest
48. be very rich
49. not stress her out
50. not look at other girls


AND AT THE SAME TIME, YOU MUST ALSO:


51. give her lots of attention, but expect little yourself
52. give her lots of time, especially time for herself
53. give her lots of space, never worrying about where she goes


IT IS VERY IMPORTANT:


54. Never to forget:
* birthdays
* anniversaries
* arrangements she makes



HOW TO MAKE A MAN HAPPY

1. Show up naked

2. Bring beer


Sunday, 28 October 2007

Into The Pit

I guess you could call it one of those "unknowns".

Tomorrow, I will be starting the second part of this term at the school and I really don't know what lies ahead. I'll be spending the next twelve hours or so preparing, marking and recording in the naive belief (or maybe hope) that I will have adequately covered myself for the next five days.

I could go down the road of panicking and chewing my nails off their petrified little fingers, but I choose to face each day as a new challenge and deal with the mass of obstacles as they hurtle towards me at meteoric speed. I know that whatever I do, it probably won't be enough, but that's the nature of the beast we call 'teaching in the earliest part of the twenty-first century'.

The paperwork is endless, the deadlines often so close that you can almost touch them with your nose and the expectations higher than the nearest star. That said, I wake up each day with a sort of smile, knowing that I will meet all of the above, somehow or other.

As bad as it can get, the Xmas holiday is but seven-and-a-half weeks away and believe me, this is the kind of thinking you need when you don't know the depth of the pit you're falling into.

To be frank, I'm dreading my fortieth birthday much more and that's in five weeks time.


(I wish I hadn't just written the above because it's suddenly made me feel much worse...)

Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Friday, 26 October 2007

A Hard Day's Day: Hava Nagila video

Finally, Some Common Sense

The Government of Israel have finally started to think clearly vis-a-vis a way in which to deal sensibly with the ongoing aggressive and totally pointless rocket attacks on her civilians from within Gaza.

She could go down the route of bombing the people to hell, which would only exacerbate the situation, but instead she is doing something that I've heard countless people suggest to me over the last few months - cutting off all power to the Gazans. After all, since Israel supplies all the electricity, why should they put up with being rewarded with missiles and rockets raining down on their kindergartens and shopping centres?

Of course, you can bet your bottom dollar that the same people who said nothing when Israelis were being bombarded, will be first in line to brand the Government "in humanitarian". Frankly though, I don't care.

The Gazans voted Hamas in and although Fatah are behind the attacks (which is all the more interesting granted that they are controlled by our so-called buddy Abbas), there is no reason whatsoever for Israel to desist from this smart policy. Of course, hospitals won't be affected, because we don't do that sort of thing (irrespective of how barbaric the other side acts).

Great move Israel.
Now let's see when the rockets stop coming.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

A Decade Of Dassi

Three thousand, six hundred and fifty two days ago, something very special happened to me- I became a father for the very first time.

I didn't know what it was like to be a father. I had always been the son and grandson. This was a new status, a new place to be in.

What does a father do? What does he feel like? What can he do to make sure he doesn't screw up someone else's life? What rules must he follow to get it right? All these questions had no answers and in a way, still don't.

Dassi though, made some of the answers easier to work out. From Day One, she was a free spirit, an independent little person who knew exactly what she wanted. She could fight her corner but at the same time, show incredible generosity to everyone around her. She knew how to answer back, but not in a childish, selfish fashion. Dassi was going to be special and we all knew it.

One hundred and twenty months later, we celebrate her explosion into our little world on this very day. I don't think I'm anywhere closer to knowing the answers to my questions. I have however come to the realisation that sometimes, these aching problems seem to get addressed by the other people involved in the saga of life.

I am father to four incredible little women. Dassi however continues to be the torch-bearer. Her innate common sense, generosity and intelligence astounds, amazes and impresses me and I honestly believe that I couldn't have wished for a better human being to be my eldest child.

To say that I am simply proud of her is an understatement. Hadassah is a gift to all of us and I look forward to seeing her spread her light into the world.

Happy birthday Dassi.

And thank you.

Monday, 22 October 2007

When Is A Holiday Not A Holiday

I was happy to help the wife out this morning by taking the kids into school.

However, having coped with truly horrendous traffic on the way there coupled with finding the holy grail that is parking place in the school car park and running out of time, I have decided to give the school run a miss and pick the kids up in the afternoon instead.

I came home from the experience, almost having forgotten that I was on holiday.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Half Term At Last

That bastion, so unique to the teaching profession is upon us again.

Half term is back.

Most of you who read this are not teachers and probably of the opinion that we get far too many holidays. Those of you who do subscribe to this point of view could be termed as being "envious" or "jealous", but I'll be kind and just title you as "understandably ignorant".

You see, seven weeks in the the teaching profession, is akin to about three months in every other sphere of work, taking into account the kind of crap we have to deal with from some of our young people, the needless amounts of extraneous paperwork the Government heaps upon us and the general exhaustion that seems to envelop us as we go about doing our thing.

I love teaching and wouldn't do anything else. Period. I also appreciate the fact that every seven to eight weeks, the education system in this country allows me (and my students) to take a breather, re-focus my attention on doing the job in the best way that I can and....

....sleep in late!

Forthcoming Attractions

To my delight, I've found myself in the enviable position of being to go off to Israel for a few days in February to attend the wedding of a family friend.

I was last in mainland Israel (we'll discount the trip to Eilat, which though wonderful, wasn't really "Israel") in 1998 and I've been longing to go back since. Ten years is a long time to be apart from one's dearest love.

The added bonus is that I get to take Michal with me, so that she'll (please G-d) be the first of my children I will be able to take to the Kotel (Western Wall) - which as you know, has a very special place in my heart, granted that I was there In-Vitro and then, thirteen years later, for my bar mitzvah. I have long dreamed to be able to share my beloved Kotel with four of the most important people in my life.

This evening, I booked the tickets. Suddenly, the winter doesn't seem too foreboding because it is always wonderful to have a little light at the end of a cold winter tunnel. Our mini-trip to Israel looks like being that light.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

I Think Too Much

As some of you have commented, this little corner of the web has been awfully quiet of late. You're not wrong. I guess that work is taking over my life, or has been for the last few weeks and I've not really had the chance to do much thinking - well, of the reflective kind anyway.

Saying that, I guess that, ironically, in the words of the great Paul Simon, I could probably be accused of thinking too much.

I wish I didn't analyse everything so much, dammit. I wish that I could get on with my life, just like every other shmoe. It would be so much better if I didn't do so much thinking.

Why all this? Why the downbeat tone? Maybe it's because now, I've got the time to think/consider/analyse/reflect.

Maybe, it's better when I don't have the time to do any of the above.
I don't "think" it does me much good.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

My Wonderful Bonpapa

Think about it.

There aren't that many people in your life whom you can honestly say you really love. Maybe if you're lucky, you can count them on the fingers of one hand and if you're super-blessed, two.

And that's it.

My paternal grandfather is one of those precious fingers. Today was his yartzheit or anniversary of his death in the Hebrew calendar, going back exactly twenty eight years.

I still remember the terrible moment on that criminally early Shabbat morning when the telephone rang and my late grandmother, New York based, sobbed out the news to my shell-shocked father.

I still remember the feeling of how unfair it was that this wonderful man, one of the only two men in my life whom I truly loved (the other being his son) had gone and left me, but a year before my bar-mitzvah, something that he was so looking forward to.

I still remember receiving the haunting gift of a beautiful fleeced jacket, only days after his sudden death, through the post - and not wanting to wear it because I was so heartbroken.

I still remember.

Bonpapa, I miss you, so so much. Your smile, your wonderful audio tapes, your gentle demeanor. How could you leave me so selfishly at the early age of 74. Why couldn't you wait around to see me grow up, meet a wonderful girl and give you four beautiful and smart great-granddaughters?

How could you leave?

You don't stop adoring someone because they are no longer there. You don't ever stop thinking about them, whilst wondering whether or not they would approve of whom you've become - because they are no longer there.

And then, many years ago, my bonpapa came back to me in a dream.

At the time, I was going out with a girl and it might have turned serious. I vividly remember his appearing to me sitting in the window seat of an airplane, parked on a runway. He looked at me disapprovingly (we'll forget that there was thick glass between us - this was after all a dream) and told me not to marry the girl.

And funnily enough, I listened to him and we broke up soon afterwards.

I still remember.

I remember going to his graveside in New Jersey two years ago and speaking to him on a dull, cloudy day, yet, when I'd finished my sentence, witnessed the sun breaking through the cloud and lighting his grave as though he were giving me his re-assuring, warm smile through the impenetrable granite.

I still remember.

Bonpapa, I tried to avoid listening to music today because I wanted to do my bit of mourning - I hope you know, wherever you are, that I love you so very, very, very much and pray that when it is my time to go and join you upstairs, you'll be waiting there to greet me, with your smile. Your wonderful, sparkling smile.

You are my bonpapa.
My wonderful, special, unforgettable bonpapa.

G-d I miss you.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

The End Of The Marathon

I'm really delighted to write that at last, the marathon of festivals is finally over! I know they say that you can't get too much of a good thing but I beg to differ on this one.

Yes, it was lovely to be able to sleep guiltlessly in the afternoon in the middle of the week.

Yes, it was wonderful to spend so much time with the family and get to know my children really well (without a single major row throughout)

Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed socialising with my friends and humming along to some beautiful Synagogue-centred tunes...

...but, enough is enough!

I'm looking forward to re-starting my five-day week on Monday in the knowledge that I don't have to spend the next two days worrying about how I will plan cover lessons for classes that I've hardly taught.

I'm excited about using the lessons I don't teach in (on Thursday and Friday - the days that I've been off) to mark the work, thereby making my evening workload lighter and finally, I'm really excited that in two weeks, I will be off school for an entire week....only this time, along with my students.

It's been a long haul but now, at least, I feel my academic year can really get going.

Here's to a happy healthy and, erm, five day-a-week year.

Monday, 1 October 2007

The Weary Footsoldier

I've managed to make it through 3/4 of the festivals and I'm really looking forward to hitting the "normality track". We've got another bonanza of food, synagogue, sleep, friends and intensive family time and that's it, for another year.

I wouldn't mind it so much if I didn't find it so difficult to balance this existence with my schoolwork. My colleagues might think that I'm having a ball taking all of these days off (which for the most, I'm not being paid for), but they probably don't realise that our (Jewish) idea of a religious holiday isn't exactly the "holiday" that many would understand to be, in the conventional sense of the word.

I am taking time off, but at no point in that religious endeavour, am I able to plan for school. At no time can I sit and prepare lessons. Whereas ordinarily, I have some free periods to plan and sort myself out, I have found myself fighting to clear some time to sit and do the work I so need to carry out. It is now, past midnight on Monday morning and I've just about got my lessons ready for tomorrow - yes, tomorrow, not Tuesday nor Wednesday (nor the rest of the week for that matter) but only tomorrow.

I love being orthodox and I wouldn't lead my life any other way but right now, with the festivals in full swing, being a an orthodox Jew and working in a non-Jewish school is bloody, bloody hard.

Monday, 24 September 2007

The UNITED Nations? Don't Make Me Laugh

Can some please explain to me how a racist thug like Ahmadinejad can step foot on US soil? What the hell is he doing at the UN anyway?

This is a man who continues to openly call for the annihilation of another member state and the deaths of millions of people, whilst developing nuclear weapons for the sole purpose of carrying out his fascist agenda. We won't even talk about how Columbia University could be so incredibly stupid as to allow him the platform to address its students.

If the UN has a crumb of credibility left (UN + credibility = oxymoron if ever there was one), it should impose a statutory ban on his coming anywhere near its offices.

It is absolutely disgraceful behaviour by everyone concerned.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Movie Review: The Bourne Ultimatum




I have just seen this film and I am absolutely speechless. I think it could be one of the best thrillers I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot).

The acting is perfect, the set pieces (particularly the chase through the market), jaw-dropping and the script, as sharp as the shards of glass that almost fly out of the screen at you every quarter of an hour or so.

In one word... stunning.

My Rating

*****


Wednesday, 19 September 2007

That Twinge Again

It's been two days since I got "the twinge" and I'm beginning to wonder if it was more of a message from my brain, recommending me to pace myself and calm down.

I am spending most of my waking days doing something school related, be it planning lessons, thinking about planning lessons, wondering whether my lessons are being properly planned, de-constructing the lesson after the planning has gone awry and basically living between classes.

It's got so bad that I'd convinced myself from the moment I woke up that today was Thursday. Please don't ask me why. Just remind me that it is still Wednesday.

It's not that I'm getting anal about teaching (well, ok yeah, I probably am), I just really want to do the very best I can in my new job, aware that next week, I'll be off for two days again for Sukkot and then, a week later, for another two days.

I have just about caught up from the two days I lost over Rosh Hashanah (well, really three, because I didn't do much on Wednesday evening, whereas, I usually use it to plan for the next day or two) and enjoying the fact that I've got a full week of lessons and some time to prepare for them.

I really love being orthodox, but this year, adhering the religion has really hit me for six, granted the amount of time I am currently making up for lost days that could be used for both planning and delivering lessons. I hope G-d rewards me for my dedication!!

Then again, if we're getting spiritual, maybe that twinge was less of a revelation and more of a prophecy!

Monday, 17 September 2007

The Twinge

I remember the exact moment when I got the twinge. I was in the corridor at the start of break this morning and I'd just taught my Year 12's (A Level class). Suddenly, I got the twinge that told me everything was ok and I'd finally found my feet in the new school.

How can one describe that moment of satisfaction, when you know that you've made it through the turmoil that accompanies a new job? It's like, you know know that you're going to be ok. You feel in control of the situation for the very first time. You are aware that although you're still the new boy (or girl) but you can do it - you will make your mark and be part of the team.

Whatever it was, I got the twinge, felt wonderful inside and made my way confidently to the Staff Room.

I'd finally arrived.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

5768 - Happy New Year

It's probably not best form to begin the new year with an apology, but this is the first time I believe, in the history of this blog, that I have not wished you all a Shanah Tovah (Happy New Year).

Of course I have an excuse! I really, genuinely, honestly was too busy to get onto this blog in time to get that wish out to you. My new school is great and the workload is even greater, which I'm not complaining about...enough carping, Happy New Year already!

It's been a busy festival, with lots of people coming and going, coming and staying, staying and going. Three days in and I've finally had the time to read my 117 emails (is that a lot?) and answer the ones that have been sitting there, waiting for the right moment, if that's how you can describe it.

The one advantage of having the festival and shabbat together are that, at least I have Sunday to regain my composure and face the working week with some sort of plan.

And finally, to my Muslim readers, in case you are feeling left out, Ramadan Mubarak and I hope your fasting goes well. Next week, our nations will fast at the same time - may this bring peace and understanding between us both.

To the Jewish folk out there, I have one thing to say to you:

Dip the apple in the honey....

And to everyone else, welcome to 5768. Let's hope its a belter, for all the right reasons.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

A Breed Apart

I'll start with that rarest of things (at least for me), namely an apology.

A number of people who read this blog have approached me and asked me how the new job is panning out. I know I should have followed the original posts with updates, but honestly, I came back so tired from work, that I didn't have the will to compose any reports.

In short, I am really happy in my new school. The students line up outside the door to my classroom (yes, my classroom) quietly instead of rushing in like a pack of deranged beasts and then, to my utter delight, stand, yes STAND(!!) behind their chairs and wait until I tell them to be seated.

These students are actually listening to my instructions. When I tell them to switch their monitors off, they do what I ask. I don't find myself having to wait for fifteen minutes until they can be bothered to be quiet, they do something that I've been longing to experience for two years - they show an interest, in fact, a very keen interest, in wanting to learn.

I don't think I can adequately describe how all these factors are affecting the way I feel about my teaching. I go to lessons excited about delivering the material, keen to do what I do best, namely instruct.

Yes, I still get back-chat, because that is par for the course in any school, but at last, I believe that I can make a difference because the students have a thirst for knowledge - something that I found lacking in many of the classes I used to teach in my previous school. There are and were always students who wanted to learn, but amongst the din of the others, they seemed to be sidelined. This is no longer the case.

My new school has restored my love of, and passion for, teaching. So I guess, this is as best a compliment as I can possibly give to my new place of work.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Crunch Time - The Other Side

I wrote my first blog today "before" I had gone into school and so, I feel it only fair to bookmark that entry with an "after" statement.

It has been a long, tiring but ultimately satisfying day. The people I will work with seem very pleasant and although I did feel, at times, quite overwhelmed by everything, I guess that this is par for the course.

We have another INSET day tomorrow, in which I will be able to crystallize in my mind, exactly what I will be teaching and to whom (we start lessons on Wednesday)...well that's the idea.

I'm the new kid on the block and I can see that I will need to hit the ground running. It won't be the first or last time this has happened and I just have to prove that I'm up to the tasks that will be thrown at me over the next few days, weeks and yes, months.

Crunch Time

Well friends, I guess this is it. After six weeks, I'm finally returning to work and a whole new future lies in front of me.

I'm really not sure what to expect. At this time last year, I was able to walk into a staff room, greet the people I'd worked with over the last twelve months and get back to the routines that I knew so well. Today, I'll be sitting a staff room with strangers, some of whom I'll become friends with, others....well, let's hope they're as friendly as the people I've worked with in the past.

And that's just the staff we are talking about!

As per the norm, I won't be teaching today, as that begins in earnest tomorrow. new children, new classes, new experiences.

It is crunch time, as I launch myself into a new academic year. I hope it will be easier than the one I've just come through. I don't think I want to be assaulted again....or have my car vandalised. Maybe, for the first time, I'll be able to teach the kids, without turning up to a class where I find that someone has walked off with one of the computers (especially if if its the one that I use).

New school, new term.

Things are lookng up.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Comings And Goings...And Birthdays

I can't quite believe it, but Shira is now four years old. She keeps on asking if she's still four, as on Thursday, she was only three! She had a lovely party at home and Dassi showed some amazing skills in her (single) handling of the party and running the events such as pass the parcel, musical bumps and pin the tail on the donkey. I'm very impressed with her.

This morning, Dana and the girls went off, with my mother-in-law for a two day trip to Paris. They will be staying with relatives and having a pretty cool time. I'm not complaining though, as it gives me the time to get ready for my first day in the new school. It also gives me a chance to seriously tidy up the house and enjoy the little luxuries in life, such as unrestricted and un-nagged (there's no such word, but there should be) access to the computer, tv and dvd collection.

In other words, I'm sort of partying, albeit in a rather formal manner. I do miss them all, but the peace and quiet around the house is not at all unappreciated.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Strawberry Fields Forever

Julian plays Strawberry Fields Forever in the most appropriate location possible. My guitar's never felt so proud.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

9...8...7....

I left Liverpool at just after midday and managed to get home inside four-and-a-half hours, driving without a break. I encountered some mild traffic around Chester and of course, in Birmingham (I know I could have paid the £4 toll, but I felt that I'd spent just about enough money for the moment).

The important thing was that I would be back in time to celebrate Michali's 7th birthday and this indeed is what happened. Dana had taken them out to the cinema (to see Bratz, which apparently wasn't as bad as it sounded) and so I was able to be back in time to greet them when they returned.

I now have three daughters aged 7,8 and 9 - not forgetting Shira who is four, but you know what I mean). I know that this will change when Dassi celebrates her tenth birthday in just under two months, but I like the idea of the sequential ages.

I really can't believe that l'il Michal is already seven. She looked so cute today with her newly cut hair and beaming birthday smile.

That's it folks, I'm back. Liverpool is going to become a memory, but dammit, you can't buy memories like that.

My Liverpool Diary

I'm back! I drove for nearly four-and-a-half hours, directly from Liverpool to London, traversing the UK from the North West to the South East.

Throughout my week in Liverpool, I kept a diary of my trip and submitting postings or rather, notes, to my Facebook page, via my phone. I felt it only fair to reproduce these for those of you who have not read my entries on my Facebook page.

So, now, without further ado, I proudly present to you....


My Liverpool Diary:


Day One (22nd August 2007)

Having returned to one of my favourite places on earth, it feels as though I'd never left. The sun is out and the city is radiant.

I am sitting in Sefton Park writing up this post on my mobile phone...ah the wonders of technology. The parents are talking with their friends as the children run about, feed the ducks' fall over, cry when dogs approach...in other words, pretty much like in London, but oh so very different .

This morning, I was treated to two amazing guided tours, one after another.

The first was around the magnificent Princes Road Synagogue, built in 1874 and not like any other I've ever seen, by my host, the Rabbi, who is an old acquaintance. His breadth of knowledge was incredible and he explained the history of Jewish settlement in the city - and detailed the origins of the synagogue.

This was followed by a wonderful tour of LIPA (the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts), which had formerly been the Liverpool Institute, as attended by my good friend, M.

I was invited to join two old boys who were touring the school (one of whom who had not been back since his graduation in 1976!) and as we walked around, they reminisced together and compared the renovated building with its predecessor, noting where their classrooms used to be - and who their teachers were.

It was fascinating to be a fly on the wall as we walked around the building - to the extent that the very nice LIPA guide said very little and let then get on with it. He realised pretty early on that it was rather pointless trying to get us interested in the modern day structure as we/they were constantly looking through '60s and early '70s rose tinted spectacles!

So here I am, still sitting in Sefton Park, soaking in the atmosphere. I will fill you on my next Liverpool adventures tomorrow.

Tarraa from Liverpool!

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Day Two (23rd August)

Hello again!

Today, I am writing to you from Mathew Street, the epicentre of Beatles activity in the city. Just around the corner, one can visit numerous places of interest, not least, the restored Cavern Club (and much more authentic unrestored 'The Grapes' pub).

Anyway, last night, whilst sitting on my bed, I was looking through a book I bought when I was here last year, called (shockingly) "The Beatles' Liverpool". In an early chapter, the author suggests a detailed two hour walk around the city and points out (in some detail) forty or so different landmarks in the history of the group.

Two hours' walking didn't seem too excessive, so I parked the car near to the Albert Dock and commenced my trek.

One minor detail my erudite guide omitted to mention was how hilly Liverpool actually is and so I soon passed the two hour threshold as I climbed up the city.

Truth be told, the author also hadn't banked on how attractive some of the sights were (especially the shops) and so, here I am some SEVEN hours later, most grateful that my pleasure trip, which eventually turned out to be an ordeal as the shopping bags I was carrying, miraculously started to multiply!

I have bought a ticket to see a few Traveling Wilbury tribute bands at The Cavern and my only wish is that I manage to stay awake throughout the show.

Until tomorrow, I am reporting live from Mathew Street...

ADDENDUM:

I spent the evening at The Cavern Club and it was phenomenal. We were in the adjoining room (for ticket holder only!) and we heard three live bands, two of whom played tracks from The Traveling Wilburys albums and the third who were a Lennon tribute band called Instant Karma. When this band was on stage (they were the second ones to come on). Julia Baird, John's half-sister who looks very much like him appeared in the audience and they played 'Stand By Me' at her request. We had a brief chat and she will be at the convention on Sunday, so that should really cool.

I came out of the club after midnight with the wonderful sounds ringing through my ears (quite literally).

ps: Dana, if you are reading this, thank you SO much for letting me come up here. I can truly state that unless one comes to Liverpool and spends time in the Cavern Quarter, you can't really call yourself a true Beatles' fan. I am very appreciative of you right now xxx.

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Day Three (24th August)


Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes...

I am sitting just off the Penny Lane roundabout, or rather, to give it its accurate title, the junction between Penny Lane and Smithdown Road, writing this post.

I have just had a haircut by a barber whose predecessor enjoyed 'showing photographs. of every head he had the pleasure to know’. However, mine was a very nice lady who cut my hair but didn't take any shots.

Unfortunately, as there were very few people about, not one person did 'come and go' and no-one at all 'stopped to say hello' either. No matter.

This morning I went on the amphibious Yellow Duckmarine ride around the city centre. All was going smoothly until we went into the water, travelled around the numerous docks and found that we couldn't get back onto dry land as the water level had decreased! We had to be rescued by the engineers and disembarked from the vehicle onto the key side. It was absolutely hysterical watching the driver trying to get the boat back onto dry land, only having to see it slipping back into the water. I shan't forget THAT ride!

I will be spending Shabbat with the Rabbi of one of the synagogues in the area and will post the next instalment after Shabbat.

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Day Four (25th August)


Hello from Childwall, one of the Jewish neighbourhoods of the city.

To my bemusement, I appear to have become a bit of a minor celebrity in the Jewish community here.

Apparently, they find it quite amusing that there are Jews in London who have come up for the week (in particular to be at the Mathew Street Festival, which takes place on Monday) and I am one of those bizarre people.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by the Liverpool correspondent of the Jewish Chronicle, whilst the Rabbi who had taken me around Princes Road Synagogue also mentioned my visit in the back page column of the regional Jewish Gazette.

I have to say that I didn't consider appearing in newspapers when I planned my trip!

Today was very restful until I decided to for a 'little' walk, from Childwall to John Lennon's house in Menlove Avenue. When I arrived there, I saw the custodian/curator who gave me precise directions of how John used to get to Paul's house, on the other side of Calderstones Park.

I thought it would interesting to retrace his steps and after half an trek, understood very well why they used to use their bicycles. It ain't exactly around the corner.

Having made the walk, I thought I would drop in on the custodian of Paul's house, but he was less than pleased to see me, as I seem to have caught him in the middle of a 'crisis' as he termed it.

So I set off back the way I had come, went to the Strawberry Field gates, with their ever diminishing foliage, saw the tourists (mostly Japanese) appear, disappear and appear again and came to my hosts pretty tired.
Another successful walking trip around Liverpool had been accomplished.

Ta-ra until tomorrow.

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Day Five (25th August)


In honour of the start of the festivities on Mathew Street, I am posting this note from around the corner.

Actually, the real reason is because I'm not allowed to go into The Adelphi Hotel...but more about that later.

I spent my second night at the Rabbi's house and made my way to the Adelphi Hotel nice and early, so as to catch the Magical Mystery Tour coach to the 'more unusual Beatle places'.

It was a very interesting tour which my friend Julian (who has also come up from London) joined. We were taken to parts of the city that I had not hitherto visited such as Anfield, Bootle and West Derby, where we saw the numerous pubs and halls where the band had played in as well as their early homes and even the former hospital in Walton where Paul McCartney was born.

Another place of particular interest was the first venue that John and Paul played in after their initial meeting at the Woolton Church Fete in July 1957.

However, for me, the most significant (and poignant) stop was at the cemetery where Brian Epstein and his family are buried. It is so sad that he died at such a young age, only six weeks after his father and that his poor mother had to also suffer the loss of her second son (and only surviving child) twenty one years later.

We made our way back to the Adelphi and I walked into the convention hall without being asked to pay the rather pricey entrance fee!

I spent the next six hours walking around the traders' fair spending far too much money on items that I couldn't resist and listening to some fascinating speakers being interviewed on stage in one of the conference halls.

These included Julia Baird, John Lennon's half-sister whom I had met at the cavern on Thursday night and whose new book I bought, which she autographed and dedicated, as well as ex-Wings front man Denny Laine who was a most articulate and amusing interviewee.

One particular highlight of my tour around the central hall where the stalls were situated was a lengthy chat with The Beatles' first manager, Alan Williams who was most affable and very proud to tell me that his grandson who was Jewish (although Alan is not) and attending a Jewish school was learning Hebrew! I taught Alan the Hebrew and Yiddish words for grandpa and he reciprocated with a very passable "Layla Tov", which means goodnight, even though it was morning but I appreciated the sentiment.

I walked around and eventually realised that I hadn't eaten all day (these things fade into insignificance when you're in Beatle heaven) so I made my way out to my car where numerous delectable delights lay stored (i.e. bread, cheese and tuna).

Coming back, I was stopped by a bouncer who asked to see my 'pass' - Oh well, it had been nice whilst it lasted, but my free entry to The Adelphi was no longer valid and hence you can now understand my sitting here amongst the bustle of a revelling Mathew Street.

The atmosphere around the city centre is truly electric and it is wonderful to hear Beatles' songs pouring out of nearly every pub you pass (and there are a lot of pubs in Liverpool).

I walk around the city wearing my kippah (skullcup) and aside from a few inane comments from drunk teenagers, people greet me with smiles.

The other day, when I was undertaking my trek, numerous people approached me out of the blue and offered to give directions. I wish Londoners were this friendly.

That's it for this evening...I'm going to make my way back to the gorgeous quiet of The Wirral. With the way people are partying around here, I doubt anyone will notice my absence.

Until tomorrow and in the words of my new friend Alan Williams, Layla Tov.

ADDENDUM:

Shortly after submitting this note, I was making my way across a grass verge back to my car, when I noticed that my rather temperamental belt had given up the ghost and as a result, my previously attached camera was no longer about my person. Granted that it contained all the photographs taken during the last three days, I was not best pleased. I scoured about in vain and was about to give up when I saw a man and lady across the road and appealed to them in the hope that they might have a flashlight, they didn't but the man graciously came over to help and to my immense relief, found the camera. I don't know what took hold of me, but I was so grateful that I hugged the guy! I assured him that this wasn't because I fancied him in any way...but I wonder what he must have thought of this strange Londoner!

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Day Six (27th August)


As the sun has gone down on my last full day in this wonderful city, I am posting this far away from either Mathew Street or Penny Lane. Tonight, this note comes to from my bedroom in the lovely B&B (bed and breakfast) I am staying at in Caldy, a picturesque village in The Wirral - a wonderful countrified tonic to the city.

Today did not start off that well. I was due to pick up my friend Julian along the dockside, but as the city centre was closed off for the Mathew Street Festival, I found myself getting later and later for a photo shoot in Penny Lane with a Jewish Chronicle reporter (he wanted some shots to accompany the article submitted by the journalist).

I gave priority to the photographer, got to the site on time, had the shots taken and then went to find Julian.

I can tell you that it's not easy being a (minor) celebrity - so much to do in so little time!

When I got to the pick-up point, Julian wasn't there and so I spent the rest of the morning either looking for him or waiting in his hotel.

I made my way to a pre-arranged tour around the legendary Casbah Club where The Beatles had played frequently with their popular drummer, Pete Best (the club was situated under the family home and was run by his mother, Mona).

I got to the location and who should I see but Julian who had been caught in some business and was unreachable by mobile phone (which had made contacting him all the more frustrating).

We were given a fascinating tour by Pete's sister-in-law Cheryl, followed by her husband, Pete's younger brother, Rory. Cheryl took a shine to us and our sixty minute visit soon overran into two fascinating hours, at the end of which, Cheryl invited us go upstairs, which was not usually permitted and see the office where the living room had once been. Added to this treat were some incredible framed photos and posters on the wall, many of which I had never seen.

Eventually, we felt we were outstaying our visit and so we reluctantly said our farewells and left.

What makes The Casbah such a fascinating place to visit is the fact that it looks exactly the same as it used to when the band played there. Standing in the different rooms, it was very easy to visualise what it must have been like on a Saturday night at full capacity.

The Cavern is a must to visit but you know that you're not in the same place that held those bands and their audiences - something that cannot be levelled at The Casbah. Even John and Paul's houses have been refurbished to look like they did in the '50s. The Casbah therefore ranks as the most authentic location I visited on my trip (aside from the cemeteries) which made it a very memorable experience for both of us (and the ceilings hand-painted by the Beatles is an added bonus).

The visit over, I wanted to quickly see the Beatle places I hadn't yet got to and of course, the first had to be St Peter's Church and it's environs, namely, the location of both the first meeting between John and Paul and also, the final resting place of a certain Eleanor Rigby. Have you ever heard THAT name before?....

We started off by visiting the graveyard and locating Ms Rigby's not-so-lonely gravestone. It was situated near the middle of the row.

I wonder if her face-in-the-jar-by-the-door told the undertakers to put the rest of her body in a pretty inaccessible location!

We then cheekily walked through the gates of the adjacent, unattended churchyard into the grounds where the famous fete had been held and took shots on the exact location of the stage (pathetic, isn't it?!).

I followed this by taking Julian to Strawberry Field. He took my guitar out of the car and there, in front of the gates gave a wonderful performance of Strawberry Fields Forever, whereupon a car stopped and two women stepped out, one of whom also a Londoner, joined in with the song.

So there we were, Julian serenading an attractive lady in front of the Strawberry Field gates and me filming the performance with this multi-purpose phone.

I swear that you couldn't make this up.

That done, we went to a few more places and ended the tour outside Brian Epstein's family home on 197 Queen's Drive, Wavertree.

I had finally seen virtually all the places I'd read about over the years and I realised that it was time to call it a day.

I dropped Julian off at The Liverpool Empire Theatre for the annual Mathew Street gala concert and came through the Kingsway (formerly know as The Mersey) Tunnel for the last time in a while.

I had conquered Liverpool and it felt...

fab!


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Day 7 (28th August)


Well, its a week later and I am but a few hours from leaving this unique city.

I have just read the comments many of you have written on these notes and they've really touched me to know that you were there with me throughout my odyssey around the city.

The incredible thing about my trip was that, although I was alone for a great deal of the time, there was not a single moment when I felt lonely. It was as though I had an invisible group of friends, perhaps John and George, keeping me company along the way. This from the city whose son once wrote "ah, look at all the lonely people".

Reading your comments this morning, I now know that you were there with me too.

I wanted to finish off this diary in the same place I began it, because after all, it is a creation of Liverpool.

So with this in mind, I look back in wonder on all that's happened and start counting the days and years until I return here again.

Adieu from Liverpool - one helluva place to fulfil your dreams.