Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Haven't made any new year resolutions, but then in a way it feels more like a series of loosely connected bank holidays than a new era.

Been out and about, relaxing, a fair about of being-and-nothingness.

Friday night, at a dinner party, A said "once you're past customs in the airport, locked in waiting an hour for your flight to board. Who buys the five piece luggage sets? And do theyfit as hand baggage?"


Friday, December 24, 2004

I know, I know, it's xmas eve. I know this because when I went into a client's office yesterday, I was nearly attacked by an eightfoot tree. I'm like the only person I know who's taken on three new pieces of work in the last week.

So for those who do: season's greetings. And for those who don't: have a bit of multicultural good cheer, whydontcha.
Did you know 2005 is Year of the Volunteer?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Saw the real Toby Young in How to Win Friends last night, at the Arts Theatre. Without a weblog I'd never remember that it was March last year when I saw the play at the Soho Theatre. Surreal and moderately self-indulgent as it clearly is to see someone playing themselves in a play they wrote about their own lives, Toby was great. Better than Jack Davenport, if that's possible. And they play's better: tighter, leaner, and almost brought a tear to my eye when he talked about his Dad.
I don't even remeber the whys and wherefores of how I was even looking for this. But anyway: Jewish Communities of Eighteenth-Century London.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


They kinda look like people in those bizarre seventies photos you find in your grandma's old cupboard. Anyway, they're at the Soho Theatre tomorrow and Thursday. Last chance to catch their weirdness in London before they go off and do whatever it is they do. Impersonate my old English teacher.

I'm kinda tempted, actually. Weird is my thing.
While I'm not a New Yorker (yet...), I'm very excited about seeing Modern Orthodox at Dodger Stages. It's a gal's dream come true: I know I'm showing my age if I say The Breakfast Club defined my early teenage fashion sense - listen to those pink bangles jangle - for this you get not one, but two celebrities-formerly-known-as: Molly Ringwald (every John Hughes movie ever) and Jason Biggs (American Pie) grapling with issues of faith and each other. Allegedly. They use Yiddish words, and everything. Only in New York, as they say. Or, as my grandma used to say, Merikey.
Tuesday, Two Weeks Back

The bad karma fairy has got my number.

I woke up with the residue of last night’s tears in my ears, turning my uncleaned earwax into a squelchy mess. Perhaps this is too much information, and you're not impressed. I was not impressed. But then sometimes when you’re upset, you are slightly unimpressive. A friend did something unspeakable to me, and I am humiliated, angry, and slightly shocked by my own bad judgement.

I imagine that the bad karma fairy wears broken purple wings, teamed with a purple tired shaggy seventies jacket that she picked up in a charity shop at the bottom of the Holloway Road.

My neighbour blocked my car in for the third time in as many weeks. Thoughtful is not her middle name. Also, her boyfriend practices being a DJ at 170 million decibels whenever I have a headache. I suspect he is psychic.

The bad karma fairy also has a tinselly glittery wand; a cast off from a kid who was bought it in Claire’s Accessories, but saw a better quality wand in John Lewis’s toy department.

I had so many plans to do good in the world, visit my friend’s grandma in hospital, bake a cake for a neighbour with a bad back, and also do some personal things like rewrite my list and see the Black British exhibition at the V&A, but the evil impulse reached right inside me, kneading my resolve into a demented laziness that spread over the day.

The bad karma fairy is kinda like a cross between Lucille Ball and Tabitha from Bewitched, but with technology: she has a lot of people’s numbers and she stores them in her aging mobile phone. She wishes she knew how to upgrade her contract. But then, mostly, she doesn’t call people, she just visits.

.... found this on my PC. It's kinda creative writing, kinda real. I feel better now, obviously.
Are you - Indeed - looking for a job? Then this could be the (US) place.
From staff writer to business guru in, ohhhh, just a few years? How did that happen?

Malcolm Gladwell, or, as Fast Company (and there's a name from the dotcom era you don't hear about much any more) call him The Accidental Guru.
My Unagi is at low ebb. Or at least, it was back in June. And I'm hoping the other guy's unagi doesn't pick it up.
Hello. Sorry I've not said anything all day. Been out and about; clients, friends, cooking, dinner, Baileys/butterscotch schnapps cocktails. You know how it is.

I went to Brent Cross by mistake on Friday lunchtime. It took two hours to leave. I forgot it was xmas. I could I forget? Search me.

How is it for you?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

And it turns out Kimberly was also having an affair with Simon Hoggart. It's a wonder she had time to straighten her hair.

While this may or may not be good-for-the-Jews, I might as well add my twopennorth on Kimberly Solomon/Fortier/Quinn and the Blunkett Affair. Here's an outrageous piece from the Indepedent, slagging her off in a right royal way.

See, I've wondered since I first saw that clearly-straightened hair and her Monica-Lewinsky JAPPY looks. Then I find out she was a judge on The Jewish Quarterly's Wingate prize. Then I heard tell that she'd been involved in the JCC project. Then I saw a picture in today's Observer of her pre-straightened hair.

Let's face it. She's MOT/one of us/unzerer/however you say it.

Pushy/demanding Jewish women? Nah.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

There is no place in the world where Chanukah rhymes with bazuka. Whatever beautiful music you make (weapon of mass affection) it just doesn't scan. OK?
You a flashmobber? Then be at London Pillow Fight Club on Monday.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Remember I told you a few weeks back about the 1920's diary that had been found in an Oxfam shop? Well, Oxfam have really got their act together, because a reprint/facsimile is out in time for Xmas: The Original Bridget Diary. £6.99 in shops (Oxfam only, as far as I can tell) or £9.99 incl P&P from the website.

Oh, hang on, I've read it properly now (oh, the internet age). It's a 2005 diary, with a facsmile of Ilene's original, as well as your diary.

They discovered it on November 24th. The world moves fast, now.
More cultural-Jew stuff: West London Synagogue runs a cinema club on Thursday nights.
Are you voting for the The Today Programme's Listeners' Lord? You've only got till the 23rd December.
What to do if you're a cultural Jew...

About three times in the last week, friends/acquaintances/people I meet at parties, have said varying versions of the same sentence: "I'm Jewish, but I don't like going to shul. I'm not religious. What can I do in London?"

This is my list:
  • hang out at the Heeb Film Festival this weekend, at the Everyman in Hampstead. They're showing free shorts most of the time, and the sofas are velvet. Need I say more?
  • sign up for the YadArts mailing list. They're strapline is "radical diaspora culture in the present tense" and they do a range of club nights/gigs/art stuff that is edgy and cool and inherently Jewish, but not in a crass way
  • go to Jewish Book Week in February. This is the most Jewish-intellectual fun you can have with your clothes on. Two years ago I heard the most entertaining exchange between Melvyn Bragg and Will Self where Will kept calling Melvyn Lord Bragstein, and outed himself as a "deracinated Jew" and "only Jewish Quarterly". Last year Jaques Derrida was there (he was alive)
  • go to Limmud. Called "the Jewish Edinburgh Fringe", the biggest event is conference in Nottingham over the Xmas week, but there's also day events all over the country - I think about ten next year
  • sign up to the Joseph's Bookstore mailing list. They're in Temple Fortune (NW11) and do a whole range of events ranging from cultural to literary and back. Cafe Also is next door, I think they own it, and it's kinda like 1920's Vienna, but cooler
  • if you are of a holocaust/twentieth century Jewish history bent, then check out the events at the Wiener Library/Institute of Contemporary History. I've been to a couple of these, because I'm contractually bound to do all things Holocaust-related, and the other attendees are a mix of age ranges, and many of them speak with mittel European accents
  • get coffee in Hampstead on a Saturday or Sunday morning. The Coffee Cup is best
  • if you're interested in music, check out the Jewish Music Institute's website; they do a whole range of courses, and gigs and klezmer and all that kinda jazz
  • if you're of the evening class/short course bent, try the London Jewish Cultural Centre, the LJCC, which I think grew in some post-political way out of the Spiro Institute. I heard Andrew Davies talking about writing the screenplay for Daniel Deronda, it was fab. Go by tube; the few available parking spaces are grasped by people with bigger cars and more parking-nerve than you'll ever have
  • if you like writing, then do any creative writing course at The City Lit (creative writing is a subsection of humanities, in their world). While this is not a foolproof way to do Jewish stuff, everytime I've done a class, about three Jews have outed themselves to me, and become firm friends
  • likewise, the one time I went to Skyros, on the last day, the six people I'd hung out with all outed themselves to me as Jews. One was a South African woman whose great aunts were all called Essie and Effie and Emmie, like mine. One was a biker who lived on Cricklewood Broadway who told me that the day after his Barmitzvah at Lauderdale Road Synagogue, his entire family converted to Christianity. One was a guy from Manchester, covered in amazing dragon tattoos, who told me his Mum was from Broughton Park, but when she married out, her family disowned her. One was an angsty accountant from Stanmore who couldn't stop talking about his therapist. So if you're into a personal development shtick, this is for you. Dina, the woman who founded it, did once say to me, "I guess I did kinda base the whole concept on Ha-bow-nim Summer Camp." There's even toranut (washing up duty)
  • There was a kinda Jewish scene happening at Powers Bar in Kilburn on a Thursday night. Don't know if there still is
  • keep watching for the launch of the London JCC - it's gonna be funkier than you can imagine. In a Jewish way

    This list is a work in progress, so I'd value any suggestions you have.
  • There are a lot more Jews in Africa than you think.
    I have a favicon. I am complete.
    I wrote a list on Monday of everything I wanted to blog. Sadly, I no longer know what the list means:
  • heels
  • oversheep
  • list
  • people on a train

    As soon as I work it out, I'll tell you something.
  • Wednesday night, I had a bunch of friends coming round for an (informal) dinner. Went to Tescos sixish, did my shopping, came home, did some work, made chili. B and M turned up around 8.45, and we were just chatting and waiting for the others when I get a call from my gym.

    I should say here that I (sadly) haven't been to the gym for months because of my ankle, so I was surprised to see The Gym flash up on my phone.

    "Hello Sasha, it's The Gym. A guy just called us and said you've lost your wallet in Tescos. He's there now, this is his number."

    So I call the guy, and he says he's there now, he found it in the car park, and do I want to come back and collect it? My sensible friend M is mouthing "why doesn't he just hand it in?" but I figure if he has my wallet five minutes away, I should just go and get it. Maybe he wants something for it, I ask my friends. B wants M to go with my because it sounds a weird situation. We talk about taking a bottle of wine, but I just jump in the car.

    I call him when I get there, and he's walking out of Tesco, and gives me my wallet and says, with a rather thick Israeli accent that I didn't catch on the phone "check it's all there," and as his wife comes out with her head covered, and pregnant, I look at them in their Ner Yisroel (modern orthodox Hendon shul) get up and think gosh.

    I say I'm sure I don't have to look inside, and thank him profusely. He says his wife lost her wallet a few weeks ago and he knows what hassle it is. I ask him if I can give him something, and he says of course not. I say he has good middos, and he smiles a didn't-think-you-were-Jewish smile.

    My faith in human nature has been utterly, totally restored.

    When I get home 10 minutes after I left, B says "lucky you didn't take the wine."

    Thursday, December 16, 2004

    On Writing

    I used to go to a writing class which was a show-and-tell. You know the deal. Everyone brings their work, and you have to sit through other people's 20 minutes of shame till it's your turn for the limelight. Not that everyone thinks like that. But in my old class there was a woman writing (badly) about her experiences with a Neasden drug baron and pimp, a woman writing about people on the tube. And a bloke with a lot of angst who used his slot to say how he couldn't write anything.

    I'm not saying I didn't learn anything, just that it was unstructured and... slightly competitive, even. The teacher inadvertantly set up a teacher's pet type thing, and we were all vying for her love like some kind of dysfunctional writing family.

    Then I randomly - through the joy of the internet - found Diane Samuels, award-winning playwright of Kindertransport (among many other things); you can read more about her here (although I suspect it's a little out of date).

    She's opening up her class, which will be alternate Wednesday's in the new year, and there's also a one-off evening workshop on January 3rd.

    I've been to a lot of writing classes in my time, and what I love about Diane's are: (1) she was a teacher before she was a writer, and it shows, (2) it's not a bring-and-share, but more of a creativity workout. I often come home buzzing with creative energy, and find it very inspiring, (3) other interesting people go.

    If you want to know more, you can mail Diane directly.
    I wrote Urban Junkies today (it's on there today, I think).

    See you later?

    Wednesday, December 15, 2004

    So I know that my first response to a news story shouldn't be about Jew spotting, but I couldn't help wondering, when reading this horrible story about honour killings' in the Asian community, about her Jewish boyfriend's name.

    Temple Jazac. Is that, like, his porn star name?

    Tuesday, December 14, 2004

    A special last-night-of-Chanukah thing, here's My Menorah (if you're at work, turn the sound down).

    In the spirit of those tochniot at machaneh where you spent an inordinate amount of time writing words about how great Bnei Akiva was to fit it with some eighties song, I give you the original lyrics: My Sharona.

    Aside: I have just shared an amusing five minutes asking two friends for the Hebrew word for song-made-up-for-new-purpose-in-Jewish-youth-movement. I think I may have imagined that this word ever existed. L was a little nervous that I would write on my weblog that he didn't know the word and everyone would know. Which thought had never crossed my mind until he said it. Hello, L.

    Second aside: had lengthy conversation with a friend who's an academic over lunch on Shabbat about if you italicize Yiddish/Hebrew words, which I generally have to point out they're not English. As if you didn't know already. She convinced me that it also indicates an otherness, and given that they're (a) not other to me, and (b) generally work-out-able from the context, I have entered a new era where I don't do it anymore.

    See. That's just for emphasis. Which is OK. Apparently.
    Remember when I sprained my ankle?

    June 2003. That's eighteen months ago. And my GP told me to walk through the pain?

    Turns out I've had a broken ankle for 18 months. Which will explain why I can't play netball or do aerobics. Just back to the Free to get another x-ray.
    What's your Ecological Footprint (12 Simple Questions Assess Your Use of Nature). I need at least three planets. Or if everyone lived like me, we'd need three.

    Interesting. Sadly, doesn't work in Mozilla. Tut tut.
    To the person who rolled in here searching on Google Search: pey dalid terrible, I want you to know, that if you're into Jewish renewal/Carlebach music, they're not that bad. And they're nice blokes. Good middos.

    Monday, December 13, 2004

    I realise all my images have gone. I'm trying to find them. Looked behind the sofa and everything. Regular service will resume shortly.
    I have just been patient with my Building Society for 27 minutes, while some woman with a fake soothing voice says she is doing everything she can to answer my call. I suspect not.
    Let's just say I'd really like these Pleat Bow Court Shoe in the style of Scarlet Johannsen.

    Friday, December 10, 2004

    First of all, if you sent me email today, I might not get it for a while. Apart from a brief blip about an hour ago, our mail server is down. So don't think I'm rude - I'm usually rather immediate. As you know.

    The Men Who Know (Brad, Yoz and Richard - I'm in a colo, did I say?) are working on it. Could be, er, anytime.

    Also, I had my ankle scanned - remember I sprained it last June? - and it turns out that the bone might still be broken. Which is good, because it means I'm not mad that it still hurts, but bad because I might be in plaster for a little bit. Did I mention that I haven't played network or done aerobics for more than a year? Think of all that pent-up energy.

    I made a huge batch of chilli for B, but the bag split a little in my car on the way over, and now my car smells like a Mexican bar.

    There's only one thing for it. I'm going to N2.
    Do I, or do I not want to read The Jane Austen Book Club? Is it good or bad that it's on the Richard and Judy shortlist?


    I kinda want to be in a bookclub. And I kinda think they're like paramilitary organisations with crudities.
    There's nothing like Brent Cross Tescos at 1130 on a Thursday night to confirm that there's a Jewish conspiracy.

    I looked around, and it was 95% people in kippot and sheitels, or overdressed in the way that only frummers can be, and I thought, my my, everyone here is Jewish.

    Then I ran into D. He said I was angry. I didn't feel angry, but then it became clear that he's been reading my blog.

    Then I ran into the bloke I queued behind two weeks ago (old, frum, surprised I knew Yiddish) and we smiled at each other, and he didn't know how he knew me (apikorsus that I clearly look, in my trousers etc).

    I think cashiers in BX Tescos on a Thursday night should wish people gut shabbes. I felt like saying this to the Asian woman on the till, and then I remembered that I'm always getting into little scrapes, and my new MO is to keep out of things, and not do any good deeds.

    Sad, I know. But I feel I've been too nice/taken advantage of, and it's got to stop.

    Like today, I was in the Starbucks on New Bond Street with C & M, and the guy in front of me, they wouldn't take his switch card for like £3,79, and then he went and got his friend's credit card, and that didn't work, and he didn't have any cash and he was flustered. I had to stop myself from buying his coffee as a seasonal gesture of goodwill to all men. People.

    See, that's how bad things have got. I can't even perform a random act of kindness anymore.

    But anyway, freilicher chanukah (tonight was day three). I went to a Chanukah party tonight and there were latkes, and sour cream and chocolate money. I was transported.

    Thursday, December 09, 2004

    I've kinda had one of those weeks where the gods of retail therapy and parking shine down upon me.

    So Tuesday, I was meeting a buddy for coffee, I was running a little late, and as I drove (I know, I know... call me environmental) to West Hampstead, I saw a parking spot right outside the coffee shop (independent, of course). What are the chances of that?

    Had a fab time catching up, and then on the way home, stopped in a charity shop in West End Lane to look at the books, and discovered Bergdorff Blondes for £2. It was begging for me to buy it (not sure I would have spent £10). It's a like great, lazy gossip of a read. And it's clearly begging to be a movie, although it has the weakest of old-fashioned romance plots. But it's the journey, right?

    Wednesday, December 08, 2004

    Just what you've always wanted - the Twister duvet cover bed sheet in double king-size & single.

    Set includes pillowcase & dice. Dice. Soft fluffy dice, the kind you hang from the rear view mirror of your Ford Cortina.

    Brings a whole new meaning to bedtime games.

    I know, I know, I could write their copy better than them.
    I read this on heardsaid... about how there's a shop in Wavetree (Liverpool) that only sells printer cartridges. But there's never anyone in it.

    Personally, I think it's a cult. There's a lot of these shops about, and there always empty: clearly a cover for something more ominous.

    Like on East End Road, in East Finchley, there's one of those next door to a shop me and my buddies have wondered about for a long time: Barbados Only Barbados. It's a travel agent.

    - Hello, I'd like to go to Marbella.
    - I'm sorry, we only arrange trips to Barbados.

    They're kinda empty, too.

    I think that stretch of East End Road is dedicated to shops of the one-trick pony, cover for something else. There's another one, I just can't remember the unitary thing it does.
    I have just discovered the A40 Western Avenue site at Derelict London.

    While it sounds like it could be dull - unless you're a transport geek - it's fascinating. The destruction, the ironic planning permission, the beautiful villas.

    And look, there's even a book. Leadville - a biography of the A40.

    When I write a biography of the A5 (aka Maida Vale/Edgware Road/Kilburn High Road) I'll be sure to ensure my bus stop gets its own chapter.
    This is a great story - the diary of a woman living in Bristol in the 1920s was found in an Oxfam shop.

    It's such a great insight into past, everyday lives. Although I gather that "making love" is 1920s for "having a snog" in case you're worried.

    Kinda reminds me of Simon Garfield's book - Hidden Lives - about everyday people's lives during the war.
    My neighbours started drilling at 8am this morning. Anyone I have spoken to today has asked me about it.

    I'm really sorry I'm not more upbeat. I'm just sick of everything.
    OK, I've officially had enough of my neighbours.

    Let me preface this by saying they are really nice people. I like them. But they have been renovating their flat for about four weeks now. Twice they've told me they're "finished" but then they've started drilling pretty damn early both the last weekends, and while I've been at home sick, potentially communing with the silence, they've been drilling away in the background.

    I've had a headache since a week last Monday.

    And now, it's past midnight, and they're dragging things around in their living room, which is right over my bedroom, and I can't sleep.

    I'm tired, emotional, and frankly not to be argued with.

    Tuesday, December 07, 2004

    Worried about getting RSI? Jamie Zawinski has covered pretty much everything in My wrists and welcome to them. Read and learn.

    Friday, December 03, 2004

    OK, that's it. I'm going back to bed.
    I can't help thinking that Aubrey de Grey is a certified nutter.

    So people will live to 1,000 (yep, you read it right, that number of noughts). Forget our current pensions crisis. Has Aubrey given any thought to the social impact of people living - effectively - forever? Housing? Pensions? Healthcare.

    Trim your beard, Aubrey, and do some useful science.
    So I do feel marginally better today (which is good, because after I heard a story on the Today programme this morning about TB, I thought if I got any worse, maybe I'd get it checked out, but then I am a hypochondriac, as is my heritage). But I still feel less than regular.

    Question is: was really looking forward to staying with some friends in N2 and going out for dinner and everything. Part of me still wants to go; part of me feels like I just want to stay in my own bed and do nothing; part of me doesn't want to let people down; part of me doesn't want to cough over people, although I don't think I'm particularly infectious anymore. I am a woman of many parts.

    Waddya reckon?
    I realise this is an utterly facile reading of world changing political events, and I'm proving myself to be just the airhead you thought I was. But do all the political goings on in the Ukraine mean that Mike and his compatriots won't make it to Eurovision 2005 in Kiev?

    Thursday, December 02, 2004

    Let's face it, I've not really been out for a week, and I'm feeling pretty shit. It started off as a cold, now I have blocked sinuses, a sore throat, a hacking cough, blocked ears, and a slight inability to breathe.

    Luckily, I don't have any work. But the worst thing is the TV. I mean, what else am I supposed to do? But I think I'm turning into one long property show, replete with charming regionally accented presenters, ocassionally interspersed with two middle class people sitting on a sofa talking about celebrities. They always go "and now for something completely different" before moving onto property.

    Maybe the Lemsip's addled my brain: I'm living in a purple fantasy land where you can't trust a French roofer, holiday homes in southern Spain are destined to crack at the corners, people with a lot of money like plastic windows, auctions are only for property and the kind of chatchkes that your grandma wouldn't have in the house, and that all TV programmes are about guessing. How much do you think this house is worth? This georgian wash basin? This French gite. It's all about the money. And the forfeits. And the stupid voiceovers about whether they'll get the house at auction/save £1000 for the wedding dress/find the roofer who knicked the windows of the French farmhouse. Like I care.

    I don't care.

    Daytime TV is crap. And that's before I talk about the gardening shows. I'm not surprised that people who stay home all day get weird values, bad taste and need a voiceover just to make a (ready steady) meal.
    I'm having deja vu. Countdown is on again. Have I been watching TV for 12 hours?
    Somehow, I can't help felling that a LaCie Data Bank will make me feel all better. Because they have medicinal properties, apparently.
    Who knew that if you wake up at 5am because you feel crap and can't sleep, you can watch Countdown.

    Frankly, not exactly taking my mind off it, lexicography. What I need is The House of Eliott (although, sadly, they've still only ever put series one of three out on video/DVD. What am I to do? And don't say call the BBC; I have. I know the guy and everything. It doesn't make any difference.

    Wednesday, December 01, 2004

    We're, er, real. The word blog gets into the Merriam-Webster dictionary. And this time, someone managed to write a whole article about weblogs without mentioning Belle de Jour. Think she's back in town?
    I think the world is divided into Cillit Bang people and Viakal people.

    Which are you?
    Yet, again, I have invented a new word.

    Yesterday, in a bid to feel less cold-struck and better about the world in general, I had an eyebrowicure. And believe me, good eyebrows are the key to grooming.

    Turns out, there's a gezillion websites praying at the altar of eyebrow perfectitude.