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

Sunday, 31 May 2009

New Endings, New Beginnings

I've just finished watching the last episode of ER. I can't think of many series that I've followed from the very first to last show, particularly over a period of some fifteen years. ER has always held a special place in my heart, not least because I saw the characters grow through the years, leave the hospital, in some cases even die off - but I knew that come January, my Monday/Tuesday/ Wednesday/Thursday (delete the appropriate night because Channel 4 kept on changing its mind) would be taken henceforth until the summer rays lit up firstly my parental home, then our first abode and finally the home in which I sit writing this up.

Back in 1994, whenever the new medical drama called ER was first televised throughout the British Isles, I had recently completed my undergraduate degree. My MA hadn't been started and I really didn't have a clue about what I was going to end up doing or indeed, being.

Life as a single man was interesting to say the least. Not many of my friends had married and we were still enjoying our salad days as though they could never end. Throughout the years, as my life progressed, I watched the programme on numerous TVs, in numerous locations at numerous times. The babies came and grew and ER returned, like a faithful friend in January.

My life took its usual twists and turns, jobs came and went, dreams were born and shattered and then re-configured, but ER rolled on.

Until tonight.

Tomorrow, I will be going back to school after a week off. I'm very aware that this is my final term in the current job and before I blink, the summer holidays will be upon us, not too long before another school term beckons.

I wonder how I'll feel when Xmas is over and January re-appears. Will the fifteen years I spent settling down to enjoy my weekly rush of phantasmagorical blood be remembered or cast aside for a new televisual experience?

It may only be a TV programme, but sometimes, there is so much more that attaches itself to the sixty minute memory one has of a weekly show. Times pass, times change, but maybe that rare visual feast affects us more than we care to admit.

Adieu ER.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Fun Fun Fun

Many people have different ways of celebrating the arrival of spring and then summer. Some gingerly remove the clasps on their convertible roofs and push the lever that liberates their car from it's winter hibernation. Others choose to mark the occasion by freezing their bodies in early morning swims in Hyde Park's Serpantine lake.

I take a different tact. I slip one band's music into my car stereo and as I'm listening to the Beach Boys' "All Summer Long" CD, I know that the wonderful season we all crave for can't be that far away.

Let's talk about the last two days, because in the parlance of the Boys, they have indeed been filled with a lot of fun.

On Sunday, my parents and I (Dana was unfortunately unable to join us) took the girls to Regents Park, a location that holds many fond childhood memories. The experience that I wished to share with them was that of boating on the lake. After waiting in line for a tad too long, we finally got into our row boat - we could have gone for the paddlers, but believe me, it's half as much fun - and set off across the lake.

When I say "set off", maybe I am being a little too generous. I tried, Lord I tried, to do the rowing, but with four very willful young ladies in tow, I didn't stand much of a chance. In my naivete, I offered to teach them how to row. Not a great idea, because I was soon thrown to the back of the boat, whilst my wonderful daughters took it in turn to steer the boat, mostly in a 360 degree formation, around the same part of the lake.

As we turned round and round (and round), I finally managed to overpower the mutineers (whatever you do, don't call me Bligh) and regain control of the boat. This lasted until the second successful attempt by the girls to replace me and I only finally managed to make my way back to the oars, as we were about to head for the shore. The girls had one thing in mind, a goal that I was not keen to achieve - to tip the boat over and swim to shore, hence their menacing attempts to sit on the same side and give me a damn hard time trying to balance the boat.

I'm happy to say that I managed to get us back, without any "man/overboards" to blot out the glory of the adventure.

Yesterday, I think we even managed to top the fun by taking the girls (this time, we all went as a family unit) to the magical Cadbury World attraction in Birmingham.

This has been Dana's idea and I'd booked in advance, so I knew that we had to get there by a certain time, which we did, although not with as wide a time margin as I had hoped. The attraction was great. The people there gave us free chocolate samples as though they were going out of style. The highlights were numerous but for me the splendifirous experience of having chocolate wafting through my nostrils as I walked around the factory section is I think the closest I've ever reached to heaven. I've never been high, but I think this is what it must feel like!

The day was a couple of notches from being perfect. I therefore knew that something had to go wrong and indeed it did on the way home. I tried my best to drive us out of Birmingham but a nagging sensation inside me felt the need to show the girls the infamous Spaghetti Junction. You know that they say you should never wish to much for something because you just might get it....well, let's put it this way, we did find ourselves on the notorious monstrosity and I'd gone to heaven a few hours earlier, this was surely an earthly incarnation of hell.

After numerous attempts to get back on the straight and narrow (road to London), I finally got us there and the dreaded Bank Holiday traffic that could have been, wasn't too bad. We arrived home, tired yet exhilarated - it had been a wonderful day.

Fun fun fun?
You betcha.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Justice At Last?

I have vivid memories of Pesach 1987.

As usual, our family was staying in the Grand Beach Hotel in Tel Aviv, enjoying the luxuries being offered to us by the then manager, a very amenable chap called Benny who had befriended my parents.

My dad bought the Jerusalem Post every day and I read the biggest news in Israel at that time - the ongoing trial of John Demjanjuk, under charges that he was Ivan the Terrible, a notorious SS guard who had committed the most indescribable savage atrocities at the Treblinka Concentration Camp between 1942 and 43. I'm not exaggerating that Israel was gripped by the events. This being before the onset of the first Intifada that December. It was without a doubt, the biggest news story of the day.

This was the closest experience I could have of an Eichmann type trial, seeing that I hadn't been born when the former took place. I read the reports, watched the TV footage of the proceedings and continued to follow events when I got back to London and in fact returned to Israel that Summer.

The way it was played out, although the evidence was compelling, there was a lingering doubt that Israel had got the right man. Eichmann never denied what he had done, whilst this man feigned innocence admitting that yes, he had been a guard at a camp, but he was not the notorious Ivan.

The case dragged on and eventually, Demjanjuk was found guilty and sentenced death. Fait accomplit.

Except that it wasn't.

In 1993, Israel's Supreme Court overturned the decision, citing "reasonable doubt" that he was indeed the said butcher.

Like many others, I was angered by the decision, but it hindsight, I am extraordinarily proud of the Israeli legal system, which once again proved that we Jews have an incredible innate sense of justice, despite the scurrilous views of our enemies.

Demjanjuk returned to America, had his US citizenship reinstated and looked forward to spending the rest of his miserable life in Seven Hills, Ohio.

Justice though works in mysterious ways, because soon after his return, a new case was opened against him, levelling charges about his activities at the Sobibor Camp. Not under the name of Ivan The Terrible, but as "John Demjanjuk"

The wheels of justice work slowly, but Divine Providence insured that he lived long enough to find himself in German custody yesterday, accused of war crimes.

Yes, I did feel a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Maybe after all these years of troubled existence, this man will finally get his just desserts. He might be the last war criminal to be tried, but, for the victims of the Shoah, particularly in light of the despicable comments of Ahmedinjad and his ilk, this trial could not come too soon.

Could it be that the good Lord above helped to postpone events, so that the true nature of what this man did would come to light, exactly at the same time as Ahmedinejad was peddling his Holocaust denials?

I can't presume to know what G-d is up to, but whatever the outcome, the world's media will be focusing once more on remembering the events that went on during the Holocaust, which is never a bad thing.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

First Celebrity Flu Fatality

I wonder who he got it from?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Shock Horror - I's Still At It!

I know myself.

There are certain things that I can guarantee I will always do, day after day after day.Exercising is not one of them.

Well, that's not quite true - or doesn't seem to three-and-a-half months on.

Do you remember that post I wrote back in January, telling you all about the fitness regime that I was undertaking in the humble surroundings of my living room? You can read the original post here.

That was back in January and to my surprise, I'm still doing it, quite a few months on.

So what's my secret?

It's twofold.

a) I've incorporated it into my "getting up" routine as I like to name it. I wake up, look at the alarm clock, do a few other morning things (which I won't go into here!) and make my way down to the darkened living room. I then lay a blanket on the parquet floor and use it as my exercise mat. Every day. Like clockwork. In the dark. This is augmented by a Rocky-style regime of three steps up and down the staircase, carried out fifty times daily.

b) I've discovered the results of my endeavours. I feel absolutely fantastic (once my heartbeat has calmed down). I can now do things that I thought would forever be alien to me - like walking at a brisk pace without clutching my legs/side/heart.

Now before you start wondering if I've become a little too self-obsessed with my physique, let me reassure you that I am not turning into Orpheus quite yet. I just want to share with you the notion of feeling good inside.

The results of the exercises have also mysteriously given me more self-confidence. I promise you that when you feel good inside, it manifests in the way that you treat others. I find that I am far less stressed - although you wouldn't believe it if you saw me during the last few weeks, granted the pressure I am under as a teacher - and more able to deal with the little matters that might ordinarily niggle me more.

OK. I'm going to stop, because I'm beginning to sound like an irritating convert-to-the-latest-cause. However, if you do want to know what my secret is, please email me on and I'll provide you with all the details.

One note of caution though, please don't undertake the regime without the proper medical advice from your doctor.