Blog Archives

Plates in the air

I have never believed it is possible for anyone to keep all the plates spinning in the air for very long.

Today, the sad news is that we accidentally smashed the commemorative Withindale Easter Egg Hunt plate right in two. Last Friday I smashed a champagne flute and tomorrow… who knows.

Whilst we wait to find out what’s next I’d like the Egg Meister, or a suitable representative to kindly advise if they would like their original plate returned next year, plus some superglue, or shall I get on the case for another suitably Easterish plate and transfer the plaque (also with superglue).

As I said, plates in the air, having it all, doesn’t work: always ends in some kind of smithereens or the other. As it’s Friday night (was dance night), here’s a tune. I couldn’t dance to this in a month of Sundays, but I used to like playing it in Stamford Hill when I was pootling about in my white Peugeot 205 (diesel: as my Grandpa would have said). It’s a shockingly dated video, and Lionel prancing around with a bare chest under an unbuttoned shirt is a big No from me, but still, sometimes it’s good to go back to a time in your mind when you only had the one plate to balance on a stick and keep spinning, into infinity and beyond.

‘It’s alright, do it again…’

Happy Hanukkah

The festival of light started at sundown on December the 1st this year and lasts for eight days. It celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration and, something this blog is quite keen on, of spirituality over materiality.

Today, being Saturday, is also Shabbat (sabbath). I used to work for an Orthdox Jewish family in North London and the holy day starts on Friday at sunset, so the December Fridays were the shortest working days of the year, the sun setting at about 3.30 pm and my having to be well off the premises by then.

I lived right in the middle of the Hasidic Orthodox community, my employers were Orthodox but not quite as Orthdox as most. If they had been I, a gentile, would not have been working for them. Once Shabbat starts there are all kinds of rules about what you can and can’t do e.g. no key carrying or using, no driving, no touching of electrical things like light switches, ovens or thermostats. Many of the families had these things on timing devices to get round the rules but back in the day a friend of mine made a few quid going round the Jewish houses turning lights and ovens on and off. I used to get roped in too occasionally, if a neighbouring family couldn’t afford such things or something had gone awry.

Then there were the kids. Large families are the norm, usually into double figures. The boys all wore these ringlets called payot in Hebrew. The family I worked for were Lubavitch Hasidim which meant they did not wear the full archaic Hasidic outfit of black fur hat, black silk coat, black breeches tucked into long white stockings and slip on shoes (it is forbidden to make a knot or touch shoes on Shabbat). My employer just wore a regular suit and black fedora. He always carried hundreds of pounds in his inside pocket. Rent collections I think. They were quite well off, some of the Orthodox families were absolutely stony broke. They don’t generally work outside the community so jobs can be hard to come by and with the big families… I knew of one family whose 13th child slept in a chest-of-drawers in a hallway.

One week I was required to take a kid a bit like this to school and into lessons in Finchley (from Stoke Newington). We listened to The Pasadenas in the car on the way there, in the car when we were excluded from class for his barking like a dog or hitting things with a ruler, and in the car when we weren’t even allowed in the class for my being a gentile (and a woman) – I never worked out which was the worse. From my point of view, it was all good because I preferred being in the car with The Pasadenas anyway. I am not sure how the erstwhile student felt about it.