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

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Ralph Comes Home To Meet The Family

Exactly a year ago, I told you about Ralph Goodman, who, as a G.I in liberated Belgium happened upon my grandfather and ended up spending Purim 1945 with our family. If you recall, by some kind of miracle, through the angel that is Jane Ulman, we have now re-established contact, a mere 63 years after Ralph last saw my mother as a little girl in my grandparents villa in Spa, which is virtually a hair breath away from the German border.

To our delight, Ralph and his charming daughter, Myla came to England last weekend and spent a wonderful Shabbat at our home regaling us with memories of that very special event, so many, many years ago. It was one of the most fascinating Shabbatot I can remember in a long while.

On Sunday, we (the family members and some guests) were treated to a fascinating talk by Ralph, who recalled with extraordinary clarity the events of Purim 1945, as well as the previous Rosh Hashanah. I discovered that my grandfather possessed an Australian accent (something that no-one had bothered to tell me, assuming I knew!), walked around in a Australian cork hat and kept his holy books buried in the cellar - lest they were discovered by the Nazis. If that weren't enough, Ralph was introduced by my Uncle Romeo, whose extraordinary memories of 1940's Belgium are unbelievable. Between the two of them, occupied Belgium became so much more than just a story from the past. We were literally living the occupation, sitting in my cousin's beautiful house.

I fortunately videoed the entire talk (by both gentlemen) and it is indeed hair raising, irrespective of the number of times I've already seen it.

The star of the event though, at all times, was Ralph, an incredible gentleman, who at 88, has the clarity of mind that many of us can only aspire to.

It was an unforgettable weekend.

If you would like to remind yourself of the whole story, please click here.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Neil Aspinall

I was very sorry to read about the passing of Neil Aspinall, the unassuming and fiercely dedicated former head of Apple, whose tireless work for the Beatles new no bounds - in both good and not so good times. If you are searching for an example of loyal friend, you need look no further than this gentleman. He was only 66.

As a Beatles fan, you will know exactly to whom I am referring. Everyone knows "Nell" his Beatles' nom de plume . He was there with the boys from the start, carrying their gear and baggage and I suppose, you could say that he's now back two of them (as well as with Brian, Mal and Derek) once again.

If you enjoyed The Beatles Anthology, thank Neil. If you loved the Beatles "1" album, give a nod to him because he was the prime mover behind these two wonderful projects.

It is also very sad to note that yet one more person involved in the magic that was the Beatles has passed away at a criminally young age. With Brian dying at 32, John at 40, Mal at 41 and George at 58, one wonders what these poor people did, to be repaid with spending such a terribly brief period amongst us, the living.

It is a sad day indeed.

There are too many goodbye's and too few hello's.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Check The Date

I want you to look at the date about this blog. Does it read December, January or February?

I ask because parts of our garden are sitting under a mottled blanket of snow.

Did I say the 'S' word?

I believe I did.

I am also looking at my calendar as I'm typing this out and it seems to be indicating that we are currently in the third week of March. I don't know about you, but I was always led to believe that by this time of year, snow would be but a fading memory.

I don't know what the reason for this strange weather pattern is, but I want Spring to come back to where (and when) it belongs.

Strange days indeed mama.
Strange days indeed.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Getting OFSTED Out Of My System

Stress is a funny old thing.

I can't believe that it has taken me a week to get over the seven days that constituted my OFSTED hell - from the time we found out on Thursday, through to the moment I left school last Wednesday afternoon. Don't forget that teaching and preparation still went on after the visit and so, although the pressure was off me somewhat, I didn't have any time to sit on my laurels (weekend included). It was business as usual as soon as I entered the car park on Thursday morning, although, to be fair it was a non-teaching day.

Throughout the inspection period (i.e. seven days), I went into a state of enforced calm, very aware that the slightest provocation could lead to my seriously "losing it". In fact, I only ended up shouting once at the kids in school when they were playing up on the day before the inspectors turned up. For the rest of the time, I walked around the school looking severely constipated and no doubt, dosed up to the eyeballs on some illegal calming drug. I am still amazed as to how I managed to enforce this non medicated state upon my very being, but I should have known there would be consequences.

And consequences there were.

Since Wednesday evening, once the euphoria of inspection had lifted, I have been in a state of constant exhaustion. I found myself falling asleep at 7 pm two nights ago and this afternoon, I had to struggle to stay awake through to the end of the teaching day. I didn't fall asleep - the kids were working well and I do remember teaching them - but it was a close call - not helped by my going to bed last night waaaaaaay to late, as I tried to sort out a niggling (and frustratingly unsolvable) problem on my computer.

I came home this afternoon and promptly crashed into the loving warmth of my bed, hoping that Dana would take an extraordinarily long time in coming back from picking the girls up from school.

You will no doubt appreciate my sheer delight in knowing that as of tomorrow, we don't have school (or least lessons to deliver) until Tuesday. The kids have a slightly better deal in that they aren't in tomorrow, even though we have to be for an INSET (teacher training day).

I am thoroughly enjoying the luxury of spending Wednesday evening without having to sort out a single lesson for either Thursday or Friday. I know that, as of Sunday, I'll be back on the preparation trail, but right now, this is a pretty wonderful place to be in.

If that weren't marvellous enough, the icing on the cake is the fact that tomorrow night is the start of the most joyous festival in the Jewish year - Purim. I can't think of many occasions when I will have the luxury of enjoying the day to the fullest extent without having to compromise it by going into school (unless it falls on a Sunday) or having to prepare lessons for the next day's teaching.

The holiday, short as it is, could not have come at a more appreciated or welcome time (even if I do have to spend the day fasting) when I can finally taste the glorious sensation of a truly delicious Hamentaschen!

Friday, 14 March 2008

The Golden Weekend

The inspectors came and went and in the end, they only saw myself and another teacher from the department. I feel very proud to have been one of the two people to represent the ICT Department, particularly as I achieved a good result in terms of the observation (as did the other fellow).

Life goes on and school stops for no-one. I now have to get my Year 8 reports done and dusted by the end of the day. I've done three classes, so I can see the light at the end of a pretty dark tunnel.

I can't find the words to express how delighted I am that this relentless week is finally, finally coming to a close.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The Cowboy

An old cowboy sat down at the Starbucks and ordered a cup of coffee. As he sat sipping his coffee, a young woman sat down next to him.

She turned to the cowboy and asked, "Are you a real cowboy?"

He replied, "Well, I've spent my whole life breaking colts, working cows, going to rodeos, fixing fences, pulling calves,bailing hay, doctoring calves, cleaning my barn, fixing flats, working on tractors, and feeding my dogs, so I guess I am a cowboy."

She said, "I'm a lesbian. I spend my whole day thinking about women. As soon as I get up in the morning, I think about women. When I shower, I think about women. When I watch TV, I think about women. I even think about women when I eat. It seems that everything makes me think of women."

The two sat sipping in silence.

A little while later, a man sat down on the other side of the old cowboy and asked, "Are you a real cowboy?"

He replied, "I always thought I was, but I just found out that I'm a lesbian

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

IAF Israeli Air Force fly over Auschwitz

Dispatches From The Front

It is over.

I have my life back.

50% There

You will be glad to hear that I made it through the first day of the inspection, virtually unscarred (lol). I had an inspector come in and observe my Year 12 class (Thank G-d it was them!!) and that went pretty well. He gave me some useful feedback, although the most gratifying bit was the part where he confirmed that he was pleased with the lesson (phew).

Wednesday is my heaviest day of the week, as I teach all five periods. There is a chance that I will be revisited again, so I can't relax quite yet, but I've done everything that I could to make sure that the inspector if he/she does turn up will be impressed with what's he/she sees going on in the class.

I know that, at the end of the day, its not as though my job is on the line if I give a crap lesson, but there is pressure (both internally and externally) to show my Department and by extension the school, in the best possible light, since people judge a school, wrongly or rightly, by their Ofsted report.

I'm charged up, my bag is laden with resources and I'm ready to rock.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Virtually, from the moment Shabbat went out, I was busy preparing for the school inspectors. Three days later and I haven't stopped.

Sunday is starting to feel like a blur as I spent most of the day in my classroom, with three of the girls having a whale of time, each one on their own computer. They couldn't have wished for a more entertaining day! Bedtime was 1.45 a.m - because I knew that I had to squeeze out every last damn drop of the time I had available to me to get my preparations completed.

Yesterday consisted of a 12 hour shift, from 8 am to 8 pm and then more work when I got home.

By the time I hit the pillow, my head was spinning, my body a mass of confusion and my emotions lost in the numbness of exhaustion.

The inspectors are coming to school today.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Sunday Morning 2 AM

It is quarter to two on Monday morning and I have been preparing lessons since 10.00 yesterday morning. I hate OFSTED in a way that I never knew I could feel about anything or anyone.

My head is spinning, my legs won't budge and I honestly don't know what in the world ever made me want to think about going into teaching, let alone going ahead and doing it.

Good night.
Good morning.
Good bye.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

It's The Way You Tell 'Em

When Charles De Gaulle decided to retire from public life, the American ambassador and his wife threw a gala dinner party in his honor.

At the dinner table the Ambassador's wife was talking with Madame De Gaulle.

"Your husband has been such a prominent public figure, such a presence on the French and international scene for so many years! How quiet retirement will seem in comparison.
What are you most looking forward to in these retirement years?"

"A penis," replied Madame De Gaulle. A huge hush fell over the table.

Everyone heard her answer...and no one knew what to say next.

Finally, Le Grand Charles leaned over to his wife and said:

"Ma cherie, I believe zee Americans pronounce zat word, 'appiness."

Friday, 7 March 2008

Oom Shoom

The UN Security Council has refused to condemn the murder of eight Yeshiva students.

Then you wonder why Israel doesn't give a shit about what they say.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Our Hurt

I'm really hurting.

I'm hurting because a savage of a man walked in Yeshivat Mercaz Harav - a place that I remember passing as I made my way to visit my cousins in Kiryat Moshe, Jerusalem - and shot seven young Jewish boys in cold blood in the libary.

I'm hurting because Palestinians in Gaza spent the next two hours shooting guns in the air to celebrate the tragedy.

I'm hurting.

I'm hurting.

Today, we were informed that OFSTED will be visiting our school on Tuesday and Wednesday. Anyone who knows what these inspections are like (and I've been through two already) is very well aware of how difficult and challenging the next few days will be for all the teachers in our school. However, after seeing the news from our precious city, my situation seems so irrelevant when considering the overall scheme of things.

On Thursday, our ordeal will be over, but will any of the families of those bochurim (young men) fell any relief as they get up for their respective Shiva's (a mourning period of seven days subsequent to the funeral)?

I doubt it.

I'm hurting.

And OFSTED has nothing to do with.

At least, not since I received that Breaking News email from CNN.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Jewish Book Week? I Think Not.

One of the Jews' greatest strengths is also a huge weakness.

We absolutely adore, nay worship the notion of tolerating different opinions, irrespective of how diverse they happen to be. The old joke about three Jews having four opinions isn't that funny these days (was it ever amusing?) granted that there are so many diverse groups, one tends to lose sight of who believes what, if anything at all of any substance.

I'm getting on my high horse about this, because of what I witnessed yesterday when attending the annual Jewish Book Week (hereafter JBW) stalls in Central London on Sunday afternoon.

I took the eldest three girls to see Jacqueline Wilson, who by the way gave a sterling talk. I can't say I really enjoyed the subsequent hour long wait in a very Jewish queue (you'll know what I mean if you're of the faith), but I suppose it was a neccessity, at least from the girls' point of view.

Having kibitzed with Ms Wilson, who is a very pleasant lady, I started perusing the myriad of books available for sale. I was immediately struck by the sheer number of authors whose friendship towards the Jews or Israel is not what one would call "cordial".

We had our Robert Fisks, Norman Finklestein's and Ilan Pappe's (two of whom are Jewish, if only by name) gracing the stalls of the JEWISH book week event. Did I really have to see these odious individuals' titles on sale, in this particular gathering? Don't they sell enough copies of their posionous titles to the hungry Israel bashing masses in Waterstones or WH Smith?

I suppose that's what you get for promoting the idea of democracy and freedom of speech/opinion? In other words, the right to exhibit any book on a Jewish theme whether or not it is particularly attractive to many of the punters spending their cash.

I know that my liberal, wordly brethren will no doubt call me a narrow minded bigot for expressing such views, but the presence of these books really put me off attending any future events held by the JBW committee.

I am not asking for some sort of censorship to be imposed on JBW, but I just wish that we Jews could use such a special occasion to show our brighter, sunnier and more spiritual side. Why weren't there any prayer books or Talmuds on offer? Where was the Hebrew Bible? Why did it fall to a well known non-Jewish bookstore to be the purveyors of the said fayre?

Ok, I'll let you in on a little secret...and probably the reason why I feel so aggrieved about this.

I used to work for the Jewish bookstore that supplied all the books to the JBW event. I remember setting up stalls in that very room and I remember the pride I felt when our bookshop became re-located within the confines of those four walls. We would never have thought of selling any books by people who made their money by attacking our people, heritage and country.

I felt a deep feeling of shame for what I saw there on Sunday afternoon. I'm certain that if our manager (who sadly passed away a number of years ago and who adored Israel) knew that these same tables and stalls were being used as a tool to sell Zion-bashing tomes, he would no doubt be spinning in his grave (which is ironically in Jerusalem).

There is freedom of opinion and there is also pride in Judaism and Israel. I just wonder which of these came into the minds of the people who run the JBW event - or was it a case of just trying to please everyone - at the expense of offending anyone who actually gives a damn about what JBW should represent.

I didn't ever believe that I would rather give my money to Amazon than support a Jewish cause. However, this is exactly how I felt as I exited that disgraceful excuse for a "Jewish" event.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

A Stark, But Simple Message To The Gazans

It is good to see that Israel is finally doing something to send the message to the terrorists that pounding Sderot is not an option. I don't like to see your civilians getting caught up in the fighting, but if anyone asked for a beating, your Hamas buddies should really have expected what was to come. On the other hand, you were probably hoping that Israel would react, you bunch of bloodthirsty savages.

Listen, Chevra (brothers).
It is this simple:

1) Do not bomb our cities and expect us to sit back and let it continue willy-nilly.

2) Don't screw with Israel. The world community will no doubt condemn her, but everyone in the West knows that when you start attacking innocent civilians with daily barrages of missiles, you are going to get it in the neck, sooner or later.

3) Stop the rockets, feed your people, give them a proper education, give them health and most importantly, a future they can look forward to.

4) You've got Gaza. It's yours! Israel doesn't care what you do there as long as you leave her alone.

5) We're Jews, a stiff-necked people if ever there was one. We're not leaving Sderot or Ashkelon or Netivot. Get over it. So give us a break and come to the realisation that, ultimately, you are hurting no-one but yourselves.

Get the message yet?

If not, I'd suggest you switch your computer off and take cover. The IDF is coming to a neighbourhood near you and they have no intention of being "nice".