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

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!

________________________________________________________________


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.

__________________________________________________________________

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.

__________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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!

__________________________________________________________________

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!


___________________________________________________________________

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.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

I Love Lucy- Harpo Playing His Favourite Instrument

Another clip from the show. Harpo writes in his biography that when he's playing the harp, you see the real person behind the clown.

I Love Lucy- Harpo Marx

As I wrote a little while ago, I'm going through a Marx Brothers craze...and I couldn't help sharing the laughs with you. This is a classic clip that I guarantee will make you laugh, irrespective of how many times you watch it!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Puns II

Last month, I shared some puns I'd received (you can read them here again, if you wish). One of my ex-teaching colleagues, A. liked them so much that she sent me twenty more...so enjoy!

1. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.

2. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "I'll serve you, but don't start anything."

3. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.

4. A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

5. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and says: "A beer please, and one for the road."

6. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"

7. "Doc, I can't stop singing 'The Green, Green Grass of Home.'" "That sounds like Tom Jones Syndrome." "Is it common?" Well, "It's Not Unusual."

8. Two cows are standing next to each other in a field. Daisy says to Dolly, "I was artificially inseminated this morning." "I don't believe you," says Dolly. "It's true, no bull!" exclaims Daisy.

9. An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.

10. Deja Moo: The feeling that you've heard this bull before.

11. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any.

12. A man woke up in a hospital after a serious accident. He shouted, "Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs!" The doctor replied, "I know you can't - I've cut off your arms!"

13. I went to a seafood disco last week...and pulled a mussel.

14. What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.

15. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says " Dam !"

16. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

17. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why," they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."

18. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain ; they name him " Juan ." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan , you've seen Ahmal."

19. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate ver y little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him. (Oh, man, this is so bad, it's good. . .) A super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

20. And finally, there was the person who sent twenty different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least ten of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Movie Review: Rush Hour 3


"Good Gawd, 'e 'asn't gone and seen yet anuvver movie 'as 'e?"

Sad isn't it? But do I really need to justify my using this holiday updating my internal movie database?

The truth is that I am taking full advantage of the fact that I don't know when I will next be in a position where I am leaving one school for another - and as a result, I have the luxury of not having to worry about next term's preparation (quite yet).

On to Rush Hour.

In short, this is a lot of fun, entertaining from start to finish, although Chris Tucker's voice is seriously, and I do mean seriously irritating. That said, he is fed with funny lines, which help to overcome his shortcomings as an actor. Jackie Chan is, well, Jackie Chan and the Paris locations are used pretty effectively, particularly in the final action scene, which I won't reveal.

Recommended.

My Rating

****

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

I'm A Marxist

My father has a lot to answer for, not least, my adoration for most things celluloid. I grew up watching Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd on TV. Sadly, many of the kids of today don't seem to be interested in this kind of movie genre. Everything has to be either animated, or violent (or both) if they are going to pay it any attention. Maybe one day, future generations will discover what they're missing.

My kids though are different. They watch Laurel and Hardy and Tali in particular sits there giggling her socks off. The kids not yet been introduced to Chaplin, which is not a bad thing. Sir Charles is an acquired taste, whom I think needs to be tried at a more advanced age. I am a great fan of his, but only because I saw his feature films as a teenager - and immediately fell in love with Modern Times.

Having tasted the aforementioned comics, I didn't realise that I had a treat in store (i.e.) the films made by the Marx Brothers. I remember seeing many of them when I was about 16 and I found myself, at times, nearly choking with laughter. Groucho's hysterical asides, Harpo's lunatic antics and Chico's incredibly angular way of looking at things were a perfect recipe to make me chortle, again and again and again.

Shortly after we got married, we stayed at Dana's grandmother's flat in Tel Aviv. Dana introduced me to one of the books (and what an introduction it was!) in the library, which I devoured in a record amount of time (for me) and this was Harpo's autobiography: Harpo Speaks!

This was a frequently uproarious memoir by someone whom I didn't know that much about.

In the book, he managed to do something that virtually no-one else has ever done (including even the Beatles) - fall in love with another man. I came away with absolute adoration for Harpo and praying that when it is my time to go up to the great garden in the sky, I have the opportunity to meet this amazing individual (here's a little bit of trivia - did you know that, in his will, he donated his harp to the State of Israel?).

It was said that everyone loved Harpo and I can certainly understand why. He comes over as a total fruitcake but at the same time, blessed with a heart of gold. What a guy!

We took the book with us, as there was no way I was going to be parted from it (and Dana's grandmother was gracious enough to let us take it) but alas, it fell apart over the years. Finally, I recently bought a new(ish) copy off Amazon, which I am currently reading.

My interest in the Marx Bros has been re-kindled of late, as a result of purchasing most of their movies on DVD. With the summer going on, I am re-watching them and having the time of my life, laughing through classics like Duck Soup, A Day At The Races and A Night At The Opera.

Most people tend to watch the movies to see Groucho, but for me, I experience sheer joy every single time Harpo enters the stage. I've shown A Night At The Opera to my girls and although they can't quite understand the quick-fire gags, they've already understood what their dad sees in Harpo, with the icing on the cake being his fantastic scenes behind a harp (which he said were the only ones where he was truly himself).

Yes, I am an out and out Marxist! Please do yourself a favour and if you can, watch a MB movie today. Entry to our club is free and very, very rewarding.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Movie Review: Transformers


At the beginning of these holidays, I compiled a mental list of must-see Summer movies. Towering at the top of the group was of course The Simpsons, closely followed by the Die Hard, Harry Potter and Bourne franchises and just making it into the top five, the rank outsider, Evan Almighty.

Transformers was nowhere to be seen. If anything, it would have headed a list of must-miss movies. I had no interest whatsoever in seeing that film.

You have to understand that I belonged to the generation who directly preceded the Transformer toys. My early years were firmly rooted in the 1970's and I was an an Action Man freak. I had countless dolls, numerous outfits, cars, skis, parachutes etc. Oh yes, Action Man was my transformer.

And I had Steve Austin.

I was absolutely besotted with the Six Million Dollar Man. I ran like him (in slow motion of course), jumped like him (remember the sound he made when he jumped up and landed on crouched knees?) and lived to watch a new episode of the programme every Thursday night. I had the doll with the magnifying eye, the blue jeans changeover suit and even the operating theatre that transformed into an Apollo Rocket.

I was Steve Austen.

There is a scene in The Forty Year Old Virgin when Steve Carrel's character talks about (and handles) his Steve Austen doll (as well as the Oscar Goldman one). Every time I see it, my heart skips a beat and I get all fuzzy inside. I know exactly where's he going with those thoughts he expresses. Remember, I was Colonel Austen! (I also foolishly made the mistake of watching an old episode a few years ago and it really was quite abysmal - I guess some things are best left to memory.)

Which brings me back to my original statement about my not being part of the Transformer generation - to the extent that I really did not wish to see the movie.

So why am I writing about a film I didn't want to see?

Well, its pretty straightforward. Friends went to see the movie, as did those nasty old newspaper reviewers and everyone I spoke to (or read about) who'd seen the film, gave it a pretty good recommendation.

Now I could say that I am not influenced by reviews, but I'm afraid I'm not that strong. So, on the advice of my good wife, who had also received the same positive vibes, I went along to see what all the fuss was about....and the my surprise, those people and reviewers weren't wrong.

Transformers is that rare breed, an action movie which actually refuses to sacrifice its special effects (and they really are very special) for a good, meaty storyline. This is a sci-fi outing with a soul and a message to boot. Yes, the CGI's are eye-poppingly good, but the storyline and incisive script are also well thought out, at times pretty funny and unusually thought-provoking. I suppose you could blame Steven Spielberg's very obvious involvement for all of this, but at the end of the day, Transformers did not turn out to be the kind of film I would have wanted to avoid.

So in conclusion, I do recommend seeing the film -in fact, I'd say, don't miss it! Then again, if you wait long enough, you might also see a new Steve Austen movie...

My Rating

****1/2

Saturday, 11 August 2007

On The 11th, For Our 11th...

Today, Dana and I celebrated out eleventh wedding anniversary. I'm not quite sure how we've managed to make it thus far, but amazingly we have - and we are blessed with four wonderful daughters for our efforts.

This was really the first year when the girls did something special for this occasion. Dassi and Shira (who despite her spotty appearance is coping admirably with the pox) prepared a glorious fruit salad, laid the table, replete with the named clogs cousin J. gave us last year as place markers and we were even treated to to a set of wine glasses (although a third one was broken in the haste...reminiscent of what happened ten years ago under the chupah, as Dana commented).

The icing on the cake, as it were, was a special musical performance by all four, in wonderful harmony and synchronisation. These were really lovely moments.

So we've got here and we're still smiling (well, I am). Eleven years on and the future looks sort of green, with patches of red at times.

Happy 11th Anniversary, Mrs Scribbler!!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Shira

Shira managed to get to the age of three years, eleven months and eight days without exibiting the signs of chicken pox.

That was until she reached the age of three years, eleven months and nine days (i.e. today!)

Michal

It's not easy being Michal.

The poor girl is squeezed in there between three extremely powerful personalities (two older, one younger) and at times, she finds it hard to cope.

Whereas the others are tomboyish, Michal is the girly one. She cries easily, hurts even more easily and generally appears to get the worse deal of the four. Then again, she also possesses the sunniest disposition whilst understandably thriving on as much affection as she can physically handle.

Michal is the most musical of my girls. She has learned to whistle, which is no easy feat when you're only six and I'm sure that unlike her sisters, she will take to learning the piano in the same way that a duck takes to water.

Michal's fragility is ironically also her strength. Underneath the vulnerable exterior lies a character of steel. When her sisters flinch at scary moments in a movie, Michal sits there completely unmoved.

There's definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to this young lady.

Dassi is the confident one. Whatever she takes on, she does with gusto, particularly when it concerns contemplating a new idea or task. Talia, though less bold, also confronts her trials and fights her way through. Michal unfortunately doesn't possess enough confidence to take on new challenges and will always look for the easy way round. She is very fond of her comfort zone and as a result, will be very happy to spend as much time as she can, basking in it.

I've written all of the above, because I want to impress on you how proud I am of her today. At the beginning of last week, she started her swimming lessons again and spent the time literally screaming her way through each difficult stage in the learning process.

You can therefore understand how I felt as I watched her swim ten metres unaided, exhibiting considerably less hysteria than I'd previously seen. For anyone else, this would have been no mean feat, but when it came to Michal, it meant so much more.

She has made her old man extremely proud!

Sunday, 5 August 2007

The Family Splash

We've had, what could only be called, a perfect family day out.

We started off by going to this pretty cool water slide park, where we slid, splashed and slopped around. This was then followed by a most enjoyable trip to the cinema to watch the very amusing Evan Almighty, which I really enjoyed.

Then it was supper and home time.

A lovely day for all concerned!

Friday, 3 August 2007

Mama Knows Best

ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- A Sicilian mother took away her 61-year-old son's house keys, cut off his allowance and hauled him to the police station because he stayed out late.

Tired of her son's misbehavior, the pensioner in the central Sicilian city of Caltagirone turned to the police to "convince this blockhead" to behave properly, La Sicilia, one of Sicily's leading newspapers, reported on Thursday.

The son responded by saying his mother did not give him a big enough weekly allowance and did not know how to cook.

"My son does not respect me, he doesn't tell me where he's going in the evenings and returns home late," the woman was quoted as saying. "He is never happy with the food I make and always complains. This can't go on."

Police helped the squabbling duo make up and the two returned home together, with the son's house keys and daily allowance restored.

Most Italian men still live at home late into their 30s, enjoying their "mamma's" cooking, washing and ironing.

(c) cnn.com

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

My Shiur

I've been attending a weekly shi'ur (Jewish studies class) for about half-a-year, given by a former high school teacher of mine. The gentlemen, whose extreme modesty is amply matched by his encyclopaedic knowledge, manages to entrance all of those who attend, week-on-week, to the extent that I find it hard to leave his presence. Every word this man speaks is an absolute gem as he takes us through the Book of Joshua, uncovering its beauty - chapter by chapter, verse by verse.

This evening, I brought my father along for the first time. I felt like Indiana Jones, with the Ark of the Covenant in my possession, itching to share its glory with someone else for whom I have the highest degree of esteem and respect. My father, whom I admire immensely, not least for his towering intellect, was finally privy to my little "secret" and I can't describe how extra-special this class turned out to be.

There I was, sitting with both my father and teacher in the same room, experiencing the soul-enriching glow one derives from learning the Tanach (Old Testament).

I can't find the words to express how special these sixty minutes felt to me, except to thank the good Lord for allowing me to bring these two very special individuals together in the pursuit of learning.

My father and my teacher both taught me this evening and that must surely be one of life's platinum moments.

For once, I'm speechless.