Thursday, 2 October 2008

Extreme hospitality update

Reading down the blog, I went back to the first post - time for an update on our global village guests. Our Polish-German friends are now working in Germany with their American toddler and a new (?) German son, whose bris, iy"H, will be tomorrow. Our American PhD student married a woman whose parents live down our road. The wedding was in Israel in the summer and the happy couple will be taking up residence in our loft again for Sukkos. Our Swiss friend is marrying a boy from our shul, in Switzerland, after Yom Tov and we now have a queue of singles, asking if they can live in our loft :) Isn't it amazing what can happen in a year?

yomim norayim thoughts

Snatching a few quiet minutes while everyone else is asleep after Tzom Gedaliah, gives me a chance to catch up. I can't believe I haven't posted for 6 months. I don't know how other people manage to do it every day! Purim was short but wonderful, Pesach long and amazing. Every year I think, surely this is it - Moshiach will come this time, but no, and we went into the sefirah, which for us has 2 birthdays, and this year an opsheren. Our baby is no longer a baby, but a little boy with peyos and tzitzis. He is now in nursery and enjoying it, but still loving his home time as well, and needing to recharge with lots of cuddles.

A gorgeous and revitalising 2 weeks in the mountains - so good that we booked again for next year immediately - this time for three weeks! The back to school rush and now a month of yom tov. The cooking is fine, but I can't see how I am going to get everyone's Shabbos clothes clean twice a week for the next 4 weeks.

B"H Rosh Hashana went very smoothly: no disasters on either the home or shul front. Now Shabbos and into Yom Kippur. Our shul runs a short programme after Kol Nidrei and this year, in the absence of any other takers, I am one of the speakers (gulp). When I have planned what to say, I think I will post it so I can see what it looks like.

The family is "in a good place" at the moment. We have had lots of bonding time and on erev Rosh Hashana we sat at the supper table and sang niggunim and "Melech, melech, melech" which felt uplifting and a good preparation for yom tov. Just as well, because we didn't really have singing guests and also my husband, having davenned, leyned, spoken and blown the shofar, wasn't really up to it at lunch time!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Visiting Kever Rochel

I have just returned from a business trip to Israel. It was a press trip arranged at quite short notice by an airline to mark the launch of its new Heathrow-Tel Aviv route. I had the pleasure of flying business class both ways and 4 nights in the Tel Aviv Hilton for a very minimal attendance at 2 receptions and a press briefing. (Big thank you to my husband, mother and friends who looked after children and ran house in my absence!!)

It was a surreal experience. Apart from the odd night in hospital etc when having a baby, I have never gone away by myself since we have been married. I had to keep on reminding myself that I wasn't dreaming.

It was so lovely to be in Israel - the Hilton is right next to the beach and it was amazing to sit on the balcony and daven overlooking the sea. I went to Yerushalayim for Shabbos and managed to fit in a trip to the Kosel on Friday afternoon before going to Har Nof.

On Sunday I tried out the shopping in Bnei Brak, but became frustrated and went back to Yerushalayim. Having been unsuccessful there, I gave up and decided to make another attempt to visit Kever Rochel. We have been trying to go every time we have been in Israel for the last few years, and it has never worked out. This time, since I was alone, I was able to wait ages for the bus, but it took so long, that even I gave up. I had just decided to grab a felafel and go back to Tel Aviv, when the bus came.

It was worth the wait! Going into the small room, with the kever, was an incredibly powerful experience. I started to read the special tefillah for visiting Kever Rochel and began crying and crying. I dripped my way through mincha and managed to find the bathrooms and some tissue, leaving just enough time for some tehillim before the bus came back. Judging from the faces of the other women on the bus, they had also been crying.

My husband told me when I came home that there is a doubt as to whether this really is where Rochel Imeinu is buried. But I told him that I don't think it matters. I think that the emotion in the room is based on hundreds of years of fervent tefillos and tears, not on whether it really is Rochel's grave. Now I have been once and seen what it is like, I will definitely try to go again on subsequent trips. Somehow I don't think this is quite what the airline envisaged people doing on their free day!

Thursday, 28 February 2008


We have now hosted an entire lifecycle of Jewish events in our home (not in the same house, but always our home.) Having previously hosted a shalom zachor, a bris, a pidyon haben, a bas mitzvah, a bar mitzvah, a chassan's tisch and a wedding reception and sat shiva, tonight, we were privileged to host a chupah. The couple had previously had a non-orthodox wedding, but felt that due to the stage of life/family that they are at now, an orthodox chupa would be appropriate. They duly turned up with parents, relatives and close friends, and the beautiful silk handpainted chupah which they used the first time round, and got (re)married in our dining room. It was a moving, but fun occasion, especially as the bride is enormously pregnant!

Our gorgeous children, ka"h

Our children never cease to amaze me, whether it is with being cute, perceptive, caring or rude. We had the great bracha, not shared this year by a lot of families in NW London, of having all our children off school recently for the same week of half - term. My husband took a day out and we took the family to Woburn Safari Park. It was a great day - the animals were fascinating and the play areas were fun. One of the highlights for the children was when the monkeys climbed on the car. This week, our two year old said to me, "Lions go in car?"
I replied, "What would happen if lions went in our car?
He said, " Me hide!"
We pursued this for another couple of rounds - "and then?"
"Lions look for us."
"What happen if the lions found us?" I asked him
With a big grin, "Lions eat me up! Not very nice!"

This evening is the night to put out the dustbins. My husband had already got into pyjamas when he remembered. Our oldest daughter, not often known for spontaneous offers of help, immediately offered to take the bins out. We accepted instantly - who knows when this might happen again! There have been a few incidences like this recently : the younger girls' school is running another middos project - maybe it is working.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Erev Shabbos thoughts

On the way back from buying my challos last Friday afternoon, I saw two vignettes that made me realise why I love living here. Of course, I would prefer to be in Israel, but failing that, this is about as good as it comes in England.

I popped into the greengrocers for a couple of things. A Jewish lady with a foreign accent was asking the Indian greengrocer where some of the produce came from. He told her that all the Israeli produce was labelled as such and showed her the sign on the grapefruit. She replied, "But grapefruit aren't a problem yet [for shemitta]"

"I know that," replied the greengrocer, "but we have to label everything."

Where else will you find a Hindu who is familiar with the laws of shemitta?

A couple of shops further down is a kosher baker. As I walked past, a young man was coming out with a slice of pizza. He was heavily pierced - the sort of person one would normally avoid in the street, but not only was he eating kosher pizza, but as he walked out of the door, he kissed the mezuzah!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Winter Holidays

It's a bit late, but this is what we did in the winter holidays:

Visited Kew Gardens in the fog. We have a season ticket, so it doesn't matter if we don't see a lot of the gardens. It was amazing - very atmospheric. We went into the Snow Dome, which sprayed foam everywhere to simulate a snow storm (that's often the closest we get in London) and in the indoor play centre Climbers and Creepers, which was a lot of fun, even for the bigger children. Check out the giant millipedes!

Walked with my husband in Golders Hill Park where I discovered the Hill Garden and pergola for the first time, even though I have been visiting the park since I was a small child and we have lived within walking distance for nearly 5 years! It was so good that I went back the following week with our toddler, who was fascinated to see some birds having a bath in the pond.

Had a family outing to the South Bank, to see the Globe Theatre which was really interesting. We strolled over to the Tate Modern to eat lunch on the benches outside and see this year's Unilever installation Shibboleth We reckoned that it was worth looking at if you are nearby, but not worth going specially, unlike last year, when we had a thrilling time on the slides.

Last cultural outing - to the First Emperor exhibition at the British Museum, which was amazing, although not so good for younger children. It has been so popular that they are opening late in the evening to accommodate all the people who would like to see some of the Terracotta Army.

I stayed up late on New Year's Eve to watch the fireworks out of the loft window. Yes they are a terrible waste of money and inconsiderate as well, but since they are there, I might as well enjoy them!

Extreme hospitality

We always have a lot of people passing through our house ( and staying for a while as well) but the last few months have been record breaking even for us. In the autumn, we had a sort of global village in our loft, with a Swiss, a German and a Pole ( plus an American born baby) all staying at the same time. They all moved out before the winter holidays, when it was so quiet that we were even without my husband for a few days.

However, now the Americans have moved in. You know you have a lot of guests when you have to make a chart to work out who is sleeping in which bed. We have a PhD student living with us while he writes up his thesis, then in the space of two and half weeks, a comedienne, the director of a women's seminary and a roving rabbi, some of whom overlapped. In the midst of all that, my parents in law came for Shabbos last week, followed by our Polish-German friends and their American baby this week. That's not to mention the two young women who are sleeping here for Shabbos, but not eating!

It's not really surprising that my children don't want to go to bed - it's just too interesting here!

Monday, 28 January 2008

I Can List

I found this on A Mother in Israel and tracked it back to Aidel Maidel

Here's my list:

I can type without looking at the keys
I can speak reasonable French and make myself understood in Hebrew and Yiddish
I can cook a four course meal for 90 people.
I can multitask
I can play the piano and French horn
I can recognise a reasonable amount of classical music
I can run a fun and inspirational Shabbos table for my children and guests in the absence of my husband
I can write news articles, feature articles and opinion pieces
I can précis an article of 2000 words+ down to 900 words
I can use the Internet to find out almost anything
I can travel with 6 children and a buggy on the London Underground and get everyone there and back in one piece
I can remember the names of loads of people in my husband’s shul
I can make all sorts of different people feel welcome in our house
I can sew buttons on and do basic mending
I can get all my children into bed eventually
I can ensure that everyone has a clean set of clothes and at least one hot meal every day
I can French plait my own and other people’s hair
I can comb for lice
I can put a double duvet into its cover
I can shuffle cards
I can ride a bike
I can drive a manual car (that’s stick shift to you!)
I can post onto a blog
I can sing niggunim from a range of Chassidic courts
I can get my kitchen from disaster area to not too embarrassing in less than 10 minutes
I can remember to greet my husband with a smile
I can hug my children and ask them how their day was
I can tie scarves in lots of different styles
I can have enough self confidence to go out wearing the scarves
I can imbue my children with a positive self image
I can dance at weddings, even in the inner fast circle, and be mesameach the kallah
I can work to deadlines
I can reach the ninth level of Collapse 2
I can do a week’s supermarket shop in less than an hour
I can get more food into the trolley than I thought possible
I can bake great brownies
I can teach my children to bake so that they can now make all the desserts for Shabbos
I can express myself forcefully and clearly without being aggressive.