Slightly Mad

Yeah, I stopped blogging in 2008. Bye now.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Goodnight, Lovely Boy (Don't read this if you've never had a pet)

Sometimes, a dog is more than just a pet. Sometimes he is nothing less than a member of your family.

That was definitely the case with this handsome gentleman to the left who died this morning. Not only that, he was a champion prizewinner, and a prince in his town, where he was adored by all the local lady-dogs and revered by the males. (Except for one particularly evil and very stupid big black Great Dane around the corner.) Taking him for walks through the neighbourhood was a revelation in that regard: there was a true celebrity in the family!

This lovely labrador arrived at a point when my family needed him most, and as such had a special significance for each and every family member, both nuclear and beyond. And so when he took ill suddenly a few weeks ago, it was very hard on us all, especially for those who still lived in the house with him. I felt a bit silly worrying about his health on the one hand, when so many people I know are suffering terribly, and so much crap unfolds daily here and elsewhere, but a sick and sad dog is not an easy image to banish. I suppose that is why I will prefer to remember him as pictured.

RIP Casper- hope that there are just as many adoring ladies in Dog Heaven.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Season's Tweetings

So I'm still working my way thru my MEME tag backlog: a while ago Jameel tagged me for the "Confessional", and my inner Catholic has decided that now is the time. But instead of spewing forth a whole list of skewed private information nobody needs to know, I'm going to limit it to just one timely topic:

I Confess: I Love Christmas... I confess that for the last few days I've been alternating between The Muppet's Christmas Carol OST and The Best Christmas Album in the World...Ever! playing in my car. I confess that I miss all those songs, and I miss how spirited and warm everyone becomes in England as the shops get increasingly twinkly and tinselly. I confess that my Christmas nostalgia has without a doubt reached new heights since I moved away from all that to the Holy Land. (Apt, I guess!) to the point that I even once contemplated attending Midnight Mass to quench my nostaliga (causing Christian friends back in the UK to raise a confused eyebrow, in view of the fact that I was their Jewish classmate who sat out of daily assembly.) Actually, I'm not alone. Many Israelis have apparently started attending Mass out of curiosity, to the point that some of the local proselytising churches have even taken to employing Hebrew-speaking preachers for the purpose. But I'm not into that at all: I just crave winter imagery and sparkly lights, and appreciate a good tune. My interest in Christianity was always purely academic and never really extended beyond the novels of James Joyce- he was so suffused with guilt, I couldn't help but wonder if he was really Jewish.

And I'm not one of those who dig "Chrismukka" - sounds damn scary to me. I absolutely adore lighting Chanuka Candles at my Israeli workplaces and eating doughnuts along with the rest of the nation. But I confess that I'm also excited to have found a Christmas present on my desk this morning in my Palestinian workplace, resplendent with fabulous Chocolate Santa.

So to those of you who do celebrate, have a good one! Everyone else, keep warm.


UPDATE- There's clearly no goodwill to all mankind. I just heard the Crazy Frog's "Jingle Bells". Oh well, at least the Pope has his heart in the right place.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mix N' Match

My my. One quick browse of the Guardian this morning and suddenly my whole life makes sense. The combination of food additives is harmful. No, really- who knew? And not just any food additives: My two all-time companions, MSG and Aspartame.

Yes, yes, I have a "thing" for additives. I don't broadcast this overly- I got very funny looks recently when I found myself holding forth, somewhat wistfully, on my Top 10 "E-numbers" of all time. (The very controversial E471 was my #1. So sue me.) What can I say, I was a member of the Pringles, Mr Freeze Blue Razzberry, Penny Sweets (are they Pound Sweets now?) Nik Naks - and later, I am shamed to admit- Sunny Delight, generation. And the tragedy is that we all knew what we were eating wasn't actually food, but we didn't care! We wanted more of it all, thanks to our old friend (coming in at Number 2) E621. There is clearly a reason why these days I try to be more macrobiotic in my tastes- there are almost 30 years worth of dodgy chemicals racing around my bloodstream on the rampage. Now there's a lovely thought.

But even in today's Zen Food Life of Cabbage and Quinoa, I do make two notable exceptions to my anti-Junk policy: One you are all more than aware of (but not eating enough of, apparently) and the other is the original not-food which makes our soup worthwhile: שקדי מרק , or "Bits" as we called them growing up. (The direct translation, "Soup Almonds" always seemed like overkill, even aged 5. Look no further than the dayglo yellow colour to see proof of how you can't bring something closer to nature by inferring that it might be part of the Nut family.)

I did abandon them for a long time, when Osem sacreligiously removed the offending MSG from them some years ago (as if to infer that they were worried about consumer health! Like they've ever produced anything remotely nutritious.) Yet all has been forgiven with the recent launch of their new, hilarious, fish-shaped variety of said delicacy. I can't even help but wonder if this marketing ploy was specially designed to re-hook this particular boycotting piscean (as well as every irritating child to walk down a processed food aisle in any Israeli supermarket) What can I say, I have been re-converted to their tastiness in the shameful manner of Smithers and Malibu Stacey's New Hat: I might even start making soup again and everything!

I only hope that nobody at my alma mater launches a study sometime in the future examining the effects of mixing chocolate and fish-shaped Soup "Almonds", for then life will truly hold no more pleasures. Although actually, if anyone is planning such a study- look no further for your guinea pig-parrot. She's ready and waiting.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Smokin!

I'd like to dedicate this post to those delightful people in the blogosphere who have accused me of late of lacking any nationalistic fervour and pride in my biblical homeland.

Picture this verbatim scene of a few days ago: Parrot walks into her office in East Jerusalem (where for the purposes of this tale should be noted that she is the only Jewish employee.) A few hours go past before a colleague, on the way out for a cigarette, leans in to her room and inquires if she has a light.

(I should point out here that I'm not actually a smoker. Social/Stressful situations can induce the odd one, but I'm not a contributor to the evil tobacco empires per se. Got that? Smoking is bad, kids! Just Say No!)

Now, untypically for me, my answer was in the affirmative, following the trip to Eilat (which, I assure you, was more sociable than stressful) when a friend with similar political leanings to me purchased an Israeli Flag novelty lighter for our shared amusement. Which I still had in my bag. And on that afternoon in my office, I thought absolutely nothing of reaching into my bag and chucking my colleague said lighter (photographed below). And only as it was hurtling slo-mo through the air towards her open hands did I gasp inwardly and realise that this gesture might be somewhat incendiary.



I'll leave the range of responses of my Palestinian colleagues to your imagination. Suffice to say no flags were burned. And no, you couldn't make it up.

And to any of those trolls out there - Israeli or Palestinian- who can't appreciate the funny side of this incident- you can stick my Blue and White Flag Lighter somewhere where it really burns.

Before the Tan Fades...

... I'm going to do do Karl's "Simple Pleasures" MEME- the Eilat Edition. And to stay on a theme, I'm tagging t'other holidaying bloggers, who are all welcome to adapt it however they so choose:

Chayyei Sarah, who took energy-saving to new levels; Nushyman, provider of incendiary device discussed above, and A, whose hilarious new "Tales of a Tourguide" blog is essential reading for any of you who have ever been guided around the Holy Land.

Ok- 5 Simple Eilat Pleasures:

1. Snorkelling. I mentioned that already I think!

2. Open Buffet at Posh Hotel. Mmm, Food which I didn't have to cook! Mmm Unlimited Wine! (Not to be confused with "Open Bar at Posh Hotel"- the barman whipped out his manual ice crusher with a grimace when we ordered margaritas, and served us beverages which were essentially methylated spirits with a dash of oven cleaner over crushed ice. Not mmm.)

3. Early Morning Swims in said Posh Hotel's empty pool. The view of a blue sky- odd cloud notwithstanding- beat my local pool's ceiling anyday.

4. Sunset on the beach: Sea, Sun, Sky, Mountains, 4 countries: Breathtaking. As opposed to watching planes land at Eilat's airport: Logic-defying and extremely scary.

5. Wonderful friends (both on and off the trip). Especially when they buy you nice cocktails. And even when they don't.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Under the Sea

Looking for Nemo? Well, I just spent the weekend with him, and all his friends! You gotta love Eilat: Or more specifically, snorkelling; I couldn't have better spent my time than face down in the Red Sea, chasing big fat cuddly purple fish, silvery shoals, stripey neon wonders and cute sparkly blobs (which turned out to be narky little stingers) while serenading them all thru my snorkel with excerpts from "The Little Mermaid" OST.

My last-minute trip to "Israel's Riviera" (cough) also gave me a chance to re-visit the "Three Monkeys" pub, scene of my very first bar brawl back in 1998.

(Tinkly Flashback Music) I just had finished my exams and had a week to spare before University began again, so together with my very lovely flatmate- whom we shall call "Sandy" for the purposes of this tale- decided to go to Eilat. One call in to my genius travel-agent uncle and we had a week booked at a nice hotel for what back then seemed like a bargain price.

Anyway. So we landed, were shunted from the pokey charter plane to our tour bus, and on that ride had the pleasure of meeting some of the other participants on our package: Bunch of North-West London oddities, mostly. One of them, a demonstratively lonesome chap- we'll call him Larry- took an immediate shine to Sandy, and proceeded to pursue her valiantly and hopelessly in the way that only single Jewish men over a certain age from within the M25 can. Surprisingly enough, she did not respond to his advances, but being a lovely person, she turned him down in a way that was friendly-yet-firm without hurting his feelings.

Well, at least that's what she thought she'd done: When we arrived at the 3 Monkeys shortly following his unsuccessful proposition, we found our motley crew of fellow package-ers far more hostile than we'd previously encountered them. As opposed to poor Lonesome Larry, Sandy and I were not overly heartbroken at their rejection, yet she - being a lovely person- didn't want to seem even ruder, and so decreed that we must have a drink with them all anyway. I was not in favour of this plan in view of the icy vibes emitting from Larry et al, specifically from a scowling girl to his right who earned the nickname Evil Esther after being absolutely vile to both of us before we'd even sat down. Yuch. Even the Lovely Sandy couldn't take being insulted by a complete stranger for too long, so we escaped to the dancefloor and once the "upbeat" YMCA/I Will Survive/Its Raining Men set was over, we quickly found another table and hid from the nasty people.

Then suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Evil Esther talking to a random Israeli guy on the dancefloor, pointing and nodding in our general direction. About 0.7 seconds later, RandomIsraeli flies over to our table and plants himself next to Sandy, wherein he starts telling her all manner of Too Much Information about himself and asking some very inappropriate questions. The Lovely Sandy tries to be as polite as possible in response, but escapes to powder her nose, leaving me to deal with this very smelly rat.

"What's the deal?" I ask him, pointing at Esther. "What did she say to you?"

"That Sandy told her that she really fancies me, and that she is looking for an Israeli husband, and that I should come and talk to her."

"Riiight," I said, penny dropping while simultaneously realising that this gentleman was perhaps not the most stable. "Look, I think she - Esther- is playing a trick on you. We don't actually know her, I mean, she's in our hotel, but what she says isn't true... er, Sandy has a boyfriend." (Points for creativity? Thanks!)

Suddenly my conversation partner turns into The Incredible RandomIsraeli Hulk. He turns around and points at Esther's retreating silhouette, and bellows "HOW DARE SHE! HOW DARE SHE PLAY WITH PEOPLE'S EMOTIONS!! SHE IS EVIL!!!"

Quite Possibly. But what on earth have I unleashed? "I HATE HER! I WILL HAVE HER DEPORTED!!! I WILL CONFISCATE HER PASSPORT, I AM IN THE SECRET SERVICE!!" and with that roars off towards their table, where Larry, Esther and the other NWLondon Oddbods Association are now all smirking and pointing. Their amusement is shortlived: RandomIsraeli Hulk's yells can now be heard all over the pub- even the screeching covers singer from Newcastle cannot drown them out. And suddenly, Evil Esther is in my face. "You BITCH!" she screams, clawing at me. "Why you causing trouble, eh, eh? What's wrong with you! He's gonna deport me, you COW!" (Redbridge accent, so it was more "Caaah")

Sandy has meanwhile emerged from the loo and is staring on in horror. Ghandi-like, I remain in my seat and say as calmly as one possibly can when one has a drunken hysterical tw*t from Redbridge seething two inches in front of one, "Well, that's your problem for messing with his head. Why did you tell him Sandy fancied him?" Oops. Wrong thing to say: "I didn't, you f***ing LIAR! I've never seen him before, you, you, FRUMMER!" (Ouch. I was wearing a skirt. But she doesn't get any points for creativity)

"Come ON." I snapped, sounding frighteningly like my mother. "I saw you talking to him! If he's angry, you've only got yourself to blame for mixing!" RandomIsraeli Hulk has now reappeared and is staring devastatedly at Sandy (whom he'd clearly already married in his head: can't imagine what else Esther must have told him on the dancefloor.) He starts screaming again at Esther, fists akimbo, who first lunges back at him, and then takes a badly-aimed swing at yours truly.

...the rest is just a blur, but apparently I didn't hit her back (See, anti-violence even back then :) and Lonesome Larry and his cohorts pulled her off me, according to Sandy my faithful eye-witness. All I could hear was assorted insults as she knocked my chair over. RandomIsraeli was at that point asked to leave by the security and I do remember as I was getting myself up from the floor that he was still shouting threats of (her) imminent deportation as he was escorted out. (Note to self- long skirts NOT practical for pub fights.)

That would have been drama enough for one night, but let us not forget that these people were all staying in our hotel. Every morning we saw them, Lonesome Larry, refusing to look at us with Evil Esther on his arm, who snarled like an angry cat each time we walked within 20 feet. And Eilat is tiny: we bumped into them all the time and wherever we were, she continued to threaten us, insult us and on one occasion, spit at us at every turn. All the tourists in our hotel -and everyone else's, in fact- seemed to know all about the evil be-skirted girls who'd nearly gotten her deported, or so it seemed. So much for a relaxing holiday! It was only at the car park at Luton Airport, where I for some reason ended up helping her with her Car Park Pass when she couldn't work the machine (not just evil, but stupid too!) that she managed to eke out something close to an apology. Looking back, it was ridiculous that we let her even get to us. But I would venture that hearing "I'm gonna kill that stupid caaah" or worse every 10 paces over 7 days in a tiny resort would probably drive even Ghandi to some mild distraction.

Ah, memories. Thankfully on this recent trip, the biggest excitement to be found in the Monkeys involved no more than my sampling every cocktail on the menu. But I did find myself looking over my shoulder when walking in certain places, especially when I heard a Redbridge accent- what can I say, Eilat is a small town and you really never know who you're going to bump into. Next time I get down there (and that'll be when I've won the lottery) I'll play it safe and stick to singing "Darlin its better, down where it's wetter" to the fish. At least I know that they won't scream insults back!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sublime

Wow. The drive to work this morning was one of those drives. I'm sure someone, somewhere, can relate- Where every song lyric, English or Hebrew, suddenly seemed to be sending me direct messages?

I only hope that the subliminality ended once I exited the car, however. The downtown Jerusalem busker in my current earshot (a trombonist, noch! Don't see one of them every day, even in this crazy town) has just finished working his way through his From The Movies selection: So we've had "Armageddon","Schindler's List" and the interesting choice of the song Evita sings before she dies, all of which I sincerely hope do not pertain in any way to today's meetings or my weekend plans. Well, I guess you'll hear about it before I do.

Before you snort and dismiss me as some oddball who reads messages into everything, I have seven words for you. Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I know damn well that I can't have been the only person slavering for Wonka's Whipple-Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delight, or frankly anything vaguely close, from about 8.3 minutes in. The overpowering, not very subtle Homer Simpson-esque urge to devour copious quantities of chocolate distracted me sufficiently from Johnny Depp's disturbing Jacko impersonations, although the oddness of British actors discussing Dollars, Candy and Pants (in the non-underwear sense) did not escape me.

All I can say is, thank goodness my wonderful friend had had the pertinent foresight to smuggle a veritable stash of decent choccy into the cinema! The attendants, rather than complain about our post-credits noshing in the aisles, willingly partook of our unhealthy but much-needed feast. And if I needed anymore proof of the outright subliminal message (is that a contradiction in terms?) of that film, (as opposed to any other films about Lions, witches and furniture currently provoking debates about Christian messaging) The Devil got in on the act in the UK and cornered the market! And I doubt I'd have been as principled as to not contribute towards their dirty profits under the haze of such a strong chocolate spell.

OK. Well there is nothing else to do now but pop to the shop and buy some "Click" with wafers and almonds. Lord, I have to stop doing this to myself.

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