Friday, 23 January 2009

A Dilemma

I have a non-Jewish friend. Wow! I hear you say. Where did you get her from? What, it's a her!? Does your wife know about it? Shikses have Jewish friends!? How did you do it? What did you say the first time? You know how many times I've tried, but whatever I say doesn't seem to impress them. Antisemites. Sometimes they don't even smile.

There's a counterpoint too. Whom are you trying to impress, you shaigetz? You think that by having a goy for a friend you'll save your skin when Hitler, the sequel rolls into town? You think goyim look up at you because you have one of theirs for a friend? And who is she already? Your Polish cleaning lady probably. A classy English girl like the ones on aeroplanes won't even look at you. So we're not jealous and you can stick her in your mikveh bag. Anyway, what do you think she thinks of you? That you're cheap and you're selling out and just wait till you fall out with her and she'll call you a bloody Jew. My builder, a real englisher goy not one of these cheap poilishers, told me how he respects us for sticking to our own and talking in Yiddish when discussing in front of him the snags of his building work.

Phew! Now that that's out of the way we can carry on. I have a non-Jewish friend. A woman for all my troubles, as will soon be clear. I can't go into the details of the genesis of our friendship as it would blow my cover and, dear reader, you shall be tickled no longer. A harrowing thought that I wouldn't visit on even my first cousins once removed whose weddings I am being dragged to night after night for a lousy meal of (if you're lucky) 'schnitzel or beef, sir?' I do digress, don't I. Which reminds me... Ok, I promise to stick to my script from now onwards.

I know a lovely woman. My wife knows about it, since you ask, and there's no hanky panky and it's all hunky dory or as we say in Yiddish it's a kosher saucepan and a kosher spoon. We used to be closer and regularly have a coffee, she then moved to NY, (big deal, so she's Jewish after all, eh?) and we kept in touch by email. She then moved back and we would meet from time to time but less regularly as we were both working in different parts of town. Not the closest of friends but friends nonetheless.

Without going into the background, part of the reason we got to know each other is because she takes an interest in Israel and things Jewish. She would tell me of her membership of organisations working towards peace in the middle east and would ask me questions about Jewish practices. I in return would ask her what made her take an interest in our people as opposed to so many other peoples round the globe and was tempted to believe that we really are special after all and the rebbe in school and the speaker at the last wedding do really know what they're talking about. What in any event is certain is that we had a basis for countless discussions. This widened to generally shared interests and thus a friendship was formed. As said, not of the David and Jonathan intensity and without even remotely any Romeo and Juliet characteristics but friends nonetheless.

Well, within the last few weeks this particular friend has moved to Stamford Hill and that has unsettled the situation somewhat. While notionally I live and breathe Stamford Hill, walk the walk and oy do I tok the tok and generally am mad 'north north west', at heart though 'the wind is southerly' and even north-west can at times feel a tad stifling, if you get my gist. What I am getting at is that although to my chosen brethren I am one of them or almost so, to myself it doesn't always feel that way. So I go about my business the way it suits me though when at home do as Homer does and tuck in thsolent and kugel like the best of them. I tsk tsk on every new perceived travesty, feign injury at the slings and arrows the Jewish Tribune and the shul noticeboard constantly tell us are heading my way, sacrifice my kids to schools I wouldn't go anywhere near were I in my right senses and when everyone is looking religiously avoid handing over directly money to the lovely girls in Grodzinsky. OK, some of that was an exaggeration but nonetheless I am a local amongst the locals and for the moment intend to leave it that way.

So the question is, how does one deal with a friend like the one I've just described? If I had things my way I'd invite her for a Shabbos meal and introduce her to my family, I'd pop over to her for a natter now and then, get to know her boyfriend, and do all the other things friends usually do. In reality however, every time I go out on Shabbos resplendent in my eastern-European feudal garb I am nervous what would happen if I were to bump into her at all or, worse, while she were lugging a few heavy Morrisons bags. Imagine the sight: Shabbos morning 11.30ish when Stamford Hill goes about its kiddush business, men in their taleisim taking up the width of the pavement, girls and 'ladies' allowed to overtake on the outside, I mean, what's wrong? you don't need a ladder to climb the curb, and suddenly, 'oh, hello Howard, how are you?' and if I'm even more unlucky, down go the shopping bags and out comes a lovely female hand to greet me.

God in Heaven, if you are really watching us minions from high up above and you take a genuine interest even in the coming and goings of Portland Avenue and Heathland Road on a Shabbos morning then I know you must be so proud of your kinderlech in your celestial abode showing off to all the other gods how no one's naches comes close to yours. Pure Yiddish nakhes. But God do you want that merry-go-round to come to an abrupt halt and a sudden stop? Do you want mouths to fall wide open, men and women to stop in their tracks within four cubits of each other, bekitshes and skirts to freeze in their billowing state, plaits and peyes to stand quite literally on their heads, not to mention an overflow on the letters page in the News Update and a condemnatory op-ed in the Hamodia? Is this really your divine will? Well, then you know what you have to do to achieve it. But please, oh please, Hosanna, do chose someone else for this spectacle which I know will give you such heavenly delight. It'll make Your Shabboth, no doubt, and You'll be choking over Your tsholent with Your dear angels, but please again, use someone else to play the role. For as much as I love You, and You must know I do because I've been singing all the latest chart toppers in Yiddish and Hebrew with lyrics exuding my love for You, still forgive me this time, I'll make you more promises than I do during the take-off a an aeroplane but please please please choose someone else.

And if You really must, make her at least visit Waitrose so that she doesn't accost me with bloody Morrisons bags.

Monday, 29 December 2008


The time of week when I most think of this non-entity of a blog is Friday night. It starts in shul, me sitting hidden away in the alcove that is my place, assuming no one has pinched it or there is no simche with brothers, uncles, nephews and cousins far removed from all over the globe taking up the spare and not so spare seats. It is always my seat, chair is more like it, and a rather wobbly one at that, that goes first as I have a revered minhag passed down to me from previous generation to tuck in kugel and salad after the candles have been kindled and if I turn up to shul late, well, unlike a plate of kugel, whatever is missed is shul can always be made up.

The only downside of course being that my seat gets pinched and unfortunately I'm not one of those who shove people off MY seat. First because I don't really have a seat as that was nicked ages ago and second the place I do have to rest my posterior is in reality no more than a tiny space improvised once a week to serve as a repose for my tired self in an area which would otherwise have remained unoccupied. There is no table to rest my siddur in the corner I would never call home and it only really serves its weekly purpose when everyone is seated, for as soon as the point of rising to your feet arrives and all posteriors turn to west I'm squeezed into my little space with a gap to breathe only when the guy in front brings his rear end towards me while shokeling forward and like a swimmer I catch a bit of air at each alternate stroke.

As said my permanent place was stolen eons ago by a smug-face bastard who turns up to shul one of the first and settles into 'his' place as if he has a life tenancy if not a freehold over the place. At his funeral they will lament how punctual he was at the services while those following my cortege will hear sniggers if they only mention the word shul in the eulogy. So let me put it on the record: he is a thief and I am his victim. Let them say over my dead body what an angel I was that even when my seat was stolen in fluorescent-light robbery I turned my nether cheeks and parked them on the equivalent of a double red route during Monday morning rush hour where at any time I may and often am asked to move on to suffer the humility of joining in with a full throated Lecho Doidi in full standing view while those seated have the privilege of catching up on their sleep. And dare no one mention that the real reason for me keeping shtum is that I possess the pusillanimity of the main ingredient of the Friday night soup and like a good Jew don't want to make a fuss -though he will get it- and have the whole shtibel staring at me and muttering, not only does he turn up to lechi neraneno but he turns over the whole place. Go back to where you came from, fress your kugel and in case you haven't noticed some people do prefer to daven. Oysvorf!

So there in that little corner shielded from the glare of the strip lights above and the stare of the eyes around me I can indulge in some day dreaming, insights into the Sedre, some people call them, while heads round me fall like nine pins for a taste of the more authentic nocturnal visions. Truth said I have had an opportunity to stock up on material for my musings. After the shower that is de rigueur for every God-fearing Jew on a Friday afternoon, prostrated on my bed while waiting for the water droplets to be absorbed in my towelling robe or evaporate from those areas the towel can't reach I get the chance to leaf through the weight of newspapers that one cannot get through Shabbos without.

The 150gsm card that the Tribune is printed on, the multi-sectioned Hamodia, the free London Jewish News whose only merit is that it's free and possesses on the comments page some prominent bosoms, clad of course, what do you think we are? A bunch of proste goyim? the one and only JC, oy! what we do without it! we may be blessed with about 5 newspapers and advertisers servicing the holy square mile but how would we discover what's really going on in our midst without the JC? Who's abusing whom? Who stole what? Who by custody and who by penalty? So they don't have a columnist with the sagacity of buffoon yitzchak or tell us which rebbes are in town. I mean that's only because they can't fargin us our gedoilim while the best they have to offer are Rabbis, cough, splutter, Bayfield and Romain. But anyhow I was listing the papers to be perused while drying from the pre-shabbos douche to which must be added the clutch of non-Jewish papers to help me catch up with the doings outside Stamford Hill, NW London and that long and narrow horn-shaped strip on the eastern Mediterranean, not to mention some smatterings of Broughton Park and Brooklyn, NY.

To be continued, to be sure, bli neder, im yirtse hashem, I'm not promising, I do have a chasene tonight and I have to pick my brother up from the airport, but mertseshem I'll really try...

Sunday, 12 October 2008

A Krugerrands worth

So much has been written and said about the near collapse of our banks but still I can't resist my two Krugerrands worth, the liquidity of my bank having put paid to tuppences, so here goes:

1. Poor poor Scotland. If Alex Salmond and the SNP had their way Scotland, with its 2 main banks glengarries in hands at the door of the Treasury, would by now probably have been an Iceland no. 2. We may have had to freeze their bagpipes and whiskey vats using anti-terrorist legislation. And what really makes you shiver is imagining those Scottish balls covered with no more than a kilt frozen by the nefarious English. Some sobering thoughts for go-it-alone nationalists having downed a Glenmorangie too many.

2. It was this government and this prime minister as chancellor that took away the regulation of banks from the Bank of England and transferred it to the FSA. But it would be too much to expect some remorse from a gloating prime minister triumphant for 'rescuing' banks he helped destroy in the first place. The near collapse of the banks happened under his watch and it was his job to hold the nation's purse strings rather than throwing them open. But instead of some words of contrition he presents himself as the Saviour for rescuing us from the tsunami he helped create.

3. The good thing about living in Hackney is that we don't need to wait for a depression to run out of money as there is very little to start off with. So fortunately having nothing means there is nothing to lose in Iceland. Spare a thought for Barnet, though. The shnorer traffic may start moving in reverse from GG to SH once word gets out.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Grateful grace

Firstly thanks to the many nice people who've left comments. Thanks too to those established writers who've written to me privately not wanting to damage their reputation by publicly associating themselves with this blog. I share your concerns and will respect your privacy. Secondly, or, this being Stamford Hill, second of all, thanks to the millions who've yet to discover this site and so the pressure to continue has been manageable whereas if pleas were coming in by fax, email, post and phone not to mention a demonstration on my doorstep as if this were a threatened cemetery in Eastern Europe I would have barely been able to cope.
As things are it feels more like a neglected cemetery in North London which it being one of our own we can tolerate foxes devouring corpses so as to prove that we have nothing against the welfare of animals and all the fuss about circling poor chickens above our heads is no more than fabrication by those who seek nothing less than our total annihilation and to prevent us from building lofts for as it is written in the scriptures 'How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thou front dormers O Israel. As thy extensions are spread forth, as concreted gardens besides thy ceramic floor tiles, as thy Previas which thou hath parked under the trees that Hackney hath refused to cut down or prune.'

That was a long sentence. No question about that. But I am now sitting here and gambling with myself whether I shall be able to pull myself out of bed tomorrow morning for Selichos or whether I should give in and go to a midnight service and enjoy a Sunday lie-in instead. I think I shall gamble on the morning and if I don't make it I shall have the benefit of having retired early and slept in which is the good of both worlds as they say. But there is a third world, meaning the world to come, which is of course not a 'third world' but to the contrary is promised to beat anything the first world has to offer, and sleeping in won't earn me rewards over there. Yet they also say a bed in the hand...

It's this time of the year when we count up our sins and indulge in telling God what a hoary bunch we are and wonder aloud what on earth made him choose us. Yet choose us he apparently did and so we beg his forgiveness which apparently he likes being done at the hour the milkman does his rounds. God does move in mysterious way though I doubt on a milk float.

My sin is that I started a blog and have written nowhere near enough and so I shall make no resolutions since they will only cement my absence from the blogosphere. I will merely say that I shall endeavour to make a more regular appearance and hope the year will give me tickles of sufficient intensity to cause me to laugh out loud on these pages.

And the entire nation shall say Amen!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Springfield Park

Like every blogger I too promised to myself when opening the blog that I would keep it regularly updated but now notice that it is over a month since I last wrote. And it's not as if not much has happened in that time. So I shall try and keep up the momentum.
I was struck by a piece in the latest issue of Hackney Today titled 'Park that nearly wasn't' about the history of the opening of Springfield Park. The entire area of Springfield Park had been put up for sale for development (plus ca change...)