Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy 2014

A Hamsa by Jo

This is not good. It's New Year's Eve and a holiday tomorrow, and we are all not 100%. Bwo has a bad back, I have stones, and Roxy tore one of her back nails off, and limping about unhappily. I was planning a nice walk in the country tomorrow, but I'm afraid it's not to be. We will spend another holiday stuck in front of Netflix. I asked bso for some recommendations, as he is into foreign films. He recommended "Old Boy" a South Korean thriller. My God, it was horrifying, violent, quite sick, but "very well made".

Anyway, because it's 31 December today, it's time to look back on 2013. Not a bad year for us. We moved to the UK for a while. I took on more work, walked a lot, saw a lot of the countryside. I also spent way too much time in airports and airplanes. It was a year where our kids had to be more independent, which I'm proud to say, they managed well. Bwo also had a good and quiet year. We got to see my family in the USA with my mom's 90th as well some of the USA and SA family at the Goldsmith 50th anniversary and on their visits to the UK. It has been a peaceful time for us, a good year. I hope 2014 goes as well.

All that is left is to wish everyone a successful, healthy and peaceful 2014. May it be filled with joy and laughter and good things.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lightbulbs

Owl by Jo
I counted and we have 20 different types of light bulbs in this house. Twenty. Many of them are funky in the ceiling types that are hard to change and quite expensive. So I hit amazon.co.uk and bought a bunch on line. They were much cheaper. But, you know, you get what you pay for. They don't seem to be lasting two months at the moment. So I'm constantly up the ladder changing light bulbs. We have all sorts in this house. I have learned the difference between normal screw type, bayonet, SES, GU-10, the type with two wires sticking out, amongst others. The worst are these GU-10 halogens that are all over the house, they are a bitch to insert into the in-ceiling fittings and seem to burn out all the time. I thought of going with LED replacements but these are around five punds each (at the cheapest), whereas I got 12 of the halogens for a fiver on amazon. Why so many kinds of bulbs I want to know? 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Slow Sunday

Three Trees by Jo
Today we took it easy (for a change, right). Usually we go somewhere on the weekends. It's often somewhere pretty where I can walk Roxy and bwo can have tea. But bwo's back is feeling a little fragile and with the amount of liquids I am drinking it's not good to be too far away from a toilet. So I walked Roxy in the area and watched football and Netflix. I am currently into foreign movies (bwo hates them because she can't tangle and read subtitles at the same time). I saw two Japanese movies today. One stupid Samurai story, the other called "Departures" was strange, sort of kitsch but moving. It's all about the Japanese encoffinning ceremony, where professional undertakers prepare and dress the bodies of the dead. If you have Netflix and are interested in something quite different, try it, I liked it. Sort of a Japanese Hevrah Kedish movie - it's better than it sounds.

It was another beautiful, sunny but freezing, day. There was deep frost on the ground this morning, and the puddles were actually completely iced over on our walk. Roxy slipped and slid, but man, does she love the cold weather. Tail up, head in the air, she pranced and paraded, dragging sticks and chasing squirrels. It was a fine time to be out.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Zentangles

Roxy by Jo
The thing about bwo is that she tends to get hyper-focused. Lately I am happy to say, she has been pretty much single-mindedly zentangling. This is some sort of, what she calls, "therapeutic doodling". She is, of course, brilliant at it. She pretty much spends a few hours (sometimes more than a few) each day on these, what she calls, "trivial pieces". Well, I think they are great. And so, I will post one each day. Zentangles. Google it if you want to know more. She has had the whole family doing them, from young to old. Hers are still the best. That's Roxy in case you did not know.

I'm feeling a lot better, by the way. Even took Roxy for two walks, as it was a beautiful day here with sunny blue skies. I am drinking a lot of water and so can't stray far from a bathroom. Hopefully, this, like all else, too will pass.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Story of a Stone

Well that was unpleasant. I have been having attacks of lower abdominal pain for the last few days. I just have not felt right. Sometimes it comes on strong and then goes away after an hour or two. Last night I woke at midnight feeling very uncomfortable. The pain increased over the next few hours until I finally accepted the fact that I would have to go to the hospital. This was our first experience at NHS hospitals in the UK so we did not know what to expect. Off bwo drove me to Kingston General. It's not too far to the south of us. Think of Meir in Kfar Sava but with nurses that speak accented English, rather than Hebrew.

By the time I got to the hospital it was 4am. Luckily it was very quiet and they took me straight away. They brought me some pain killers and took a blood sample. All the time the pain got worse until I could not stand still and needed to pace up and down. Eventually they gave me a pain killer suppository, unpleasant but effective. Anyway it was decided that seeing as there was nothing more they can do, they ordered me a CT scan and sent me home.

Once home I suddenly was able to pee again (just a sad dribble came out before, no matter how much I drank) and almost immediately I felt a lot better. The hospital called and arranged the CT scan for 2pm. So after a 2 hour rest, off we chuffed once again to Kingston General. We just got home (6:30pm). The CT took just a few minutes and gave us a false sense of optimism that all would be over soon. We then waited and waited for the results and explanations. This took forever, as the A+E (accident and emergency - ER) was very busy by this time. (And they seemed to lose our papers once or twice).

It seems I still have a 5mm kidney stone in me. It has passed from the kidney through the ureter and is at the top of the bladder (The passing through the ureter is the sore part apparently). I need to drink a lot to get it to pass completely. They gave me some pain killers (tylenol) and something called Tamsulosin (loosens the bladder and makes urination easier). Well at least I am currently not feeling too sore, so there's that. At least the whole A+E deal is free, which is nice.

Hopefully peeing out a 5mm stone will not cause masses of pain and screaming. As I tell my kids, hopefully "this like all else, too will pass".

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Fallen Tree

We have had some atrocious weather here in the UK lately, although today was quite beautiful, but cold. As my brother said "someone has broken the weather:. In the high winds we had this week, a tree in our garden blew down. It fell across the path to the "ecoden", and made a general mess of things. Now we need to figure out what to do. Call to the landlady and now to find some people to cut it up and take it away. There are many trees down in the area, including some huge oaks in the fields near the river. Roxy is not in the least impressed with it all and sniffs around them in disgust. It is really wet and boggy everywhere and wellies are necessary for even the shortest walk in the fields.

We spent a quiet Christmas bwo, Roxy and I, reading watching Netflix and eating too much. Bwo has been furiously zentangling (more on this some other time). All in all a lovely few days. We are actually entertaining some people tomorrow night. We have been slack at this. In our past moves we were always quick to invite people over and to make friends, but here it has not seemed necessary. We are happy in our quiet lives. We have had many visitors, family and friends. I walk a lot. Read a lot and work is always there.

I promised someone very dear to me who is having some medical issues that I would think of them each time I blog. If I had to blog each time I thought of them, I would quickly run out of what to say. Get well, OK! 

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Weather

In all the year we have been in the UK I have not seen rain like we are having this week in Israel. It's hailing now, and Jerusalem is completely snowed in. I have not been walking for days, streets are flooded, pools of water everywhere. I don't have the right wardrobe for this here in Israel. No wellies or bright yellow jackets, no gloves or scarves or beanies.  It has been a good visit, lots of work, lots of family, lots of bdo's food (she is quite the cook).We have a busy weekend of friends and family planned, then early Sunday morning, back to Richmond and Roxy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Fitting Tribute

Woolworths Parkview and Soweto Gospel Choir Mandela Tribute Flashmob. Well worth watching.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Park

Today was the big 50th anniversary. Bwo's parents have been married that long. A fine affair indeed. Bso made a good speech, short and honest. It rained.

The event was held at the cafe at the little lake at the Park. This dispenser really caught my eye. While in the rest of the world they have condom machines, in Israel for 10NIS you can get emergency sunscreen. You know you are in a country when the sun shines.

Friday, December 6, 2013

RIP Madiba

Mandela died last night. He was one man I truly admired. A great, great human. Thank you Madiba, for showing us just what is possible.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Driving Lesson No. 2

I must be one of the worst drivers out there. I just had my second two hour driving lesson and it appears I should not be on the road at all, not even with a horse and cart. Even though I have been driving for thirty or so years these lessons are necessary to pass the UK practical driving test. I studied really hard for the theory and did pass (I got two out of 50 wrong, which surprised me because I really studied), but this practical driving test is another matter. That have all manner of things they test you on and apparently are really strict. Reversing around a corner is a favorite, and I am just terrible at it. Also the whole MSM (mirror, signal, maneuver) is just not natural. Anyway, Jon my perfectly nice and patient driving instructor seems to think that with only a further 4 hours of lessons I should be ready. My practical test is at 8am on January 2nd, hopefully all the testers will be hung over from their New Years Eve parties.

I decided, somewhat foolishly perhaps, to take my test on a manual (not automatic) car. Here is much of my problem. I have been driving automatics for many, many years with only the very occasional manual rental car for practice. So besides worrying about the mirrors, the blind spot, which lane to be in on the roundabouts and the correct time to signal, I have to also worry about not "coasting" too much (driving with my foot on the clutch). Truly, the train and buses are looking more reasonable by the minute.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Badger and a Bass

Who said an evening walk cannot be exciting? Last night while strolling past the copse on Meadland Drive, Roxy and I came upon a badger. It gets dark very early at this time of the year, and around 4:30pm it's already pitch black. So we stay out of the forests and bush lands, and stick to the streets which have street lamps and the avenues, which don't. We were walking past the houses on Meadland Drive, when we nearly tripped over a badger sniffing about on the grassy verge. Roxy never noticed it at first, when it moved, she stopped, gave a squeak and started pulling furiously at her lead to get closer. The badger looked at her, she looked at the badger - I swear they on the spot decided the other was cool, they both have black faces with white lining after all. Unhurriedly the badger crossed the road, stopped in the middle to look back at us to make sure we were not following her home and then waddled off into the copse. Roxy, more surprised than alarmed, looked at me, then at the badger sort of shrugged her shoulders and on we walked. Not a sound besides the initial squeak of surprise.

We carried on over Sandy Lane and into Arlington Road and its very nice houses, then turned into Lauderdale Drive with its even nicer houses. Roxy spotted something black and big on the pavement ahead and stopped dead. It was a double bass, complete with case, just laying on its side on the pavement. Now I know this is a nice area, and sometimes people put out old, but reusable furniture for the masses to collect, but this looked like a perfectly good, huge double bass. We decided that the best thing to do would be to ring someone's doorbell and ask, because there was little doubt that this was not a discard. Just then I noticed someone a few houses down futzing around in his garage. I "excused me" and mentioned that there was a "large musical instrument on the pavement (US: sidewalk) opposite". The man ran out his gate and nearly hugged me. He exclaimed (words I can certainly relate to) "My Daughter!". It seems, she plays in a local orchestra and apparently arrived home a few hours back, unpacked her bag and double bass, and promptly left it on the pavement, while her ride drove off. "8000 pounds you just saved me". The grateful father thanked Roxy and I profusely. We continued our walk back home. There is lots happening around Petersham of an evening. The little fox we spotted at the end of the lane behind the house as we got home is not even worth mentioning (although Roxy is was very interested).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Nine Years

It's hard to believe it's been 9 years since my dad passed away. I think of him often. He is the little bird sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear. I hope I am listening well.

It's the fifth candle of Hanukah tonight and his yatseit. We struggled to find a yaseit candle here in this Christian land, but they finally came through for bwo at Waitrose. The only problem it's such bad quality it keeps going out. Dad would not be impressed. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Arik Einstein

Arik Einstein died last night. An event so important in Israel that bdo called me from her base and woke me to discuss this. His music was so much part of our lives in Israel, that it's almost impossible to image an Israel without him. His voice instantly takes me back to hot, dusty days in Raanana, sunsets on the beach in Herzliya, cold days in Jerusalem, all those distant images of youth. The outpouring of grief in Israel can be felt all the way here in my office Egham.

Tomer explained his pain best on Facebook (If a little too dramatically):

התאבלתי על קרט קוביין שהיה בשבילי הנעורים
התאבלתי על יצחק רבין שהיה בשבילי האופטימיות
מתאבל על אריק איינשטיין. בשבילי הוא ארץ ישראל

הנעורים שלי התאבדו, האופטימיות שלי נרצחה... ארץ ישראל מתה הערב.


Thank you Arik Einstein.

The Ankerwycke Yew

Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few days. We have had visitors. My brother and s-i-l are in town and it's been wonderful to have them stay with us on Petersham Road. On Sunday we took a drive down to Runnymede to visit the Ankerwycke Yew. The ancient yew tree is at least 1400 years old (some sites say it's closer to 2500, but at that age no one cares). It stands on the opposite bank of the Thames to where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 - some like to call this the beginning of democracy as it required King John to accept that his will was not arbitrary (punishment only according to the law of the land). The tree is also said to have been the place where Henry VIII met Anne Boleyn in the 1530s. We have visited it before. I love how people hide little notes in the branches just like in the wall in Jerusalem. We walked along the Thames and through the muddy fields in the area. Roxy had a wonderful time.

We then walked up the slope to the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede. Quite fitting, as it was the 50th anniversary of his death on Friday. The ladies enjoyed a hot tea in the tearoom while we trampled up the hillside in the light drizzling rain. All in all a very nice outing, and close to home.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Leaves

It was dark when I took Roxy out for her walk yesterday morning. Dark and icy cold. The full moon was trying hard to throw some light through the clouds. We walked down the path, going left this time towards Petersham Road. The frost crunch, crunched under foot. We turned right onto Sandy Lane and walked along the tree lined pavement. The wind blew in small gusts, very fresh. Sycamore trees stand high on either side of the road. Now that it's autumn, their leaves have turned light brown. Somehow, possibly because of the frost and the gusty wind, Rox and I were showered in falling leaves. They swirled around, thick like heavy snow. You could barely see ahead. I could not help laughing aloud. It was magical.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Phantom of the Paradise

I explained a few weeks back about the whole "life tape" thing. Where we made mixed tapes (or USB sticks) identifying important music that epitomize transitions in our lives.When I was young, the movie "Phantom of the Paradise" seemed to show up time and again. I remember seeing it at the Habonim Bayit, at the school hall, at birthday parties and even at camp one year. The music reminds me of those days. The film, which I have not seen for many years, has probably not aged well, but I still like the music. I wish I could post the actual clip from the movie for this "Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye". All the words are deeply engrained and I enjoyed chanting "Eddie believed the 'Merican people had wonderful, love giving hearts..." and so on to the kids in the car while driving up north. I really takes me right back to those difficult teenage years. Perhaps it's time to try find the movie again.

Dear Neighbor

Sometimes things on the internet are just too good. This brightened up my day. Dear Neighbour.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rubbish

Last week when I was in Israel, I noticed the rubbish. I drove from Raanana to Haifa one morning and was surprised to see all the junk collecting alongside the Coastal Road. My favourite part of this road is a little north of Atlit, one one side you have the blue, blue Mediterranean and on the other, in the distance is the Carmel range. I could not help but notice all the broken bottles, cans, plastic bags and general junk lining the road on both sides. It seems I must have become used to this after many years in Israel - I remember it used to bother me when I first arrived from SA all those years back. So much mess. Everywhere.

My eyes have grown accustomed to the English countryside. It's surprisingly clean here. People don't throw stuff out of the car windows, and tend to pick up after themselves. Since arriving I have been amazed at the lack of dustbins in the UK. There are only two on the long walk between my house and Teddington Lock, which meant I had to carry Roxy's poop in the little sacky-kaky for around an hour yesterday. There are no public dustbins anywhere near the house and when I asked the UK squints about this, they claimed it's left over from "the troubles". But, they have not had an IRA bomb go off in the UK for a while (looks like 2001 according to Wikipedia). Still there are very few bins around. Even at the station they have these suspended plastic bags, two for the whole platform.

Even with this surprising lack of places to turf your rubbish, the UK is very clean. In the fields around our house, there are some discarded beer cans and left over boxes of fireworks from Guy Fawkes, but in general, the woods are full of trees and leaves. I have occasionally noticed some of the old people in the neighbourhood walking around with garbage bags picking up trash. I have never seen anything like that in Israel. Visual pollution - it really bothers me.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Alice Holt Forest


Today we visited the Alice Holt Forest. Excellent place (I'll let the pictures talk for themselves, just look at the fall colours). Lynn and I and Roxy walked the Lodge Pond Trail, while bwo sat at the tea room and created zentangles (more on this some other time). We had a wonderful walk, Roxy just loved it, she ran and jumped and darted everywhere. The smells and trees and mud. Dog Heaven. My chip butty (basically a roll with french fries inside) made the perfect post walk snack. This weather is perfect for these kind of walks, it was not too freezing although there was frost on the ground in places, more crisp than cold. A part of the forest has been given over to "go ape", it's a sort of tree top adventure, where you cross rope bridges, Tarzan swings and zip lines - all high up in the trees. Just the sort of thing the UK squints could love, I think we should do some team building here.

The ride home took longer than usual to avoid Twickenham as England vs. New Zealand rugby was on, but I still got home in time to watch the game.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sleeping on Marshmallow

I have been careful to avoid bwo's ire when choosing blog subjects. I am having too much fun here in the UK and am afraid she may punish me by taking me back home to Israel before I am ready. Nevertheless, I feel it is necessary to risk telling the story of the marshmallow mattress (actually mattresses).  

When we moved into this house on Petersham Road, I had a single request of the landlady. Please get us reasonable beds and mattresses (the place came furnished). There is nothing worse than old saggy beds that are too soft and pokey. She kindly bought new beds for us, but let's just say these are not the Rolls Royce of sleep furniture. The mattress (possibly an Ikea special) was a little, how can I put it, one dimensional. Soft, then hard, with a touch of metal spring digging into your fleshy parts. Bwo was unhappy. So I approached the relo people and they agreed (on producing a doctor's letter re: bwo's back) to replace the mattress. Great, I thought, I could finally get a good night's sleep.

Alas this was not to be. Bwo decided that what we needed was a "memory foam" mattress topper, to go over the sub-standard mattress  She quickly ordered one off Amazon. It cost multiple hundreds of pounds, but she assured me this was exactly what we needed to solve our sleeping distress. The thing arrived in a huge box, weighing about 900 pounds. We dragged it upstairs, tried it on the bed. Oh dear! it was way too big. Seems the bed had shrunk from the time bwo measured. This heavy clumsy thing lay around on the spare bed for a few weeks while bwo thought of a solution to the size problem. Perhaps we could cut it to size, or buy a bigger bed. The answer was simple, she simply ordered another one, the right size this time. I then heard the dreaded words "no worries, I'll just return the other one". (Never happened, It sat on top of the dog's kennel for a few months, now it's hidden somewhere in this house, along with the dozens of other parcels waiting to be returned - but that's a story for another time).

So we now have this "luxury memory foam" topping for our mattress. It's like sleeping on marshmallows. Rolling over is exhausting. It's boiling (I even wake up bathed in sweat when it's zero degrees out). It's like sleeping in quicksand. I often find myself dreaming that I'm struggling to swim in a sea of thick custard. But bwo loves it, which is all that matters. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

High Viz Yellow

OK, I need to confess. I bought something that was not at all black. I admit it. I bought a high visibility, bright yellow (with reflective horizontal stripes) waterproof jacket. It was a matter of life and death, it's really a matter of Pikuach Nefesh (פיקוח נפש). I was walking the girly in the dark, early morning a few weeks back, when a car reversed out of their driveway and nearly ran us over. I was dressed in my usual, black shoes, socks, underwear, T-shirt, shirt, sweater and North Face. So I suppose they may have had trouble seeing me and my black (with white accent) dog. I decided I must have one of those high viz jackets that almost everyone who spends any time outside in the UK wears. You see these on cyclists, policemen, joggers, road crew, motorcyclists, firemen, crossing guards, and dog walkers. The postman has one, as do all the garbage men, even the Amazon delivery chap has one.

Amazon did not have the one I really wanted in stock (from Mountain Warehouse). Bwo tried the store in downtown Richmond, but they were fresh out of stock. They did give her a coupon for free shipping. So we bought one from their webpage. All of £14. I waited patiently for it to arrive, careful not to be run down on our dark walks. The webpage promised 3-5 days delivery. Well, a week went by, then another. Still no jacket, and all the while me dodging cars and trucks and buses in the dark. So I called customer service. It seems "something unusual happened" between the order and the warehouse - basically nothing. They had lost my order, after apologizing profusely they promised to send it out next day. Oh, and to only charge me £7. The jacket arrived in all its bright yellowness the next day. I am pleased to say I am now visible from space.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Frost

While not many flights are pleasant, last night's trip back to London was, for some reason, worse than usual. It seemed we had many more stupid people on the plane than is typical. You know the type, people (often religious) who spend way too much time arranging their bags in the overhead compartment while blocking the aisles, men (often religious) who obsess about placing their hats in the lest efficient way taking up way more room than is needed, families (often religious) that have way more children than the parents (often just the mother) can possibly control, people (often religious) that just don't smell so fresh. The plane landed at Heathrow Terminal 1, just a little late, but there was an aircraft parked at our gate, so we had to move. I have never in all my travelling had to walk so far from the gate to the terminal, never. I got home around midnight.

It was cold this morning when I woke. I took Roxy out to the copse around 6:45am and this is what it looked like.
Yes, indeed, that is frost on the ground. The crunch, crunch of the frozen grass, is quite pleasing. Roxy just loves this kind of weather and was friskier than ever, running up and down, bringing me all sorts of sticks and branches for inspection. Apparently this is the first frost of the winter. The car's thermometer read 0 degrees on the way into work, and I had to scrape ice off the windscreen. It's a little different from the 28 degrees C in Tel Aviv yesterday.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Food

It's all about the food. When you are younger it's all sex and drugs and rock and roll, but now days it's all about the food. As I said a few days back, I never realized just how much I missed the fresh food here in Israel. I have been eating salads and vegetables, humus, tehina and cucumbers. Even the sandwich I had for lunch the other day was packed full of delicious fresh veggies along with baked sweet potato and eggplant. No starchy cheese and pickle, or "cheese and salad" sandwiches - while the cheese is tasty the salad comprises some sad, old, shredded pieces of boring Iceberg lettuce.

Last night I met Yuval for dinner at Etna in Ramat HaSharon. It was fantastic. Antipasti that had real taste, and a simple "Salad Aravi" with Tehina that made me want to sing. Not to mention the fresh bread. I am going to have to do something about my miserable eating habits when I get back to the UK. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Noise

I slept badly last night. I just could not get comfortable. Either too hot or too cold. It's perfect weather outside, a little chilly but not cold, nevertheless I just could not find myself the right position. And there was noise. Bdo had some friends over and even though they tried to be quiet, some of them spent the evening (till after 2am) directly under my window. I am just not used this noise at night. We live on a busy street in London (Petersham Road) and there is constant traffic, but it is in the background, behind the double paned windows. We can't even hear the rain from our bed. The only noise at night is Roxy's occasional furious barking at something that messes with her mind (a fox? cat? mouse?). There is so much noise here in Raanana. Besides the kid's friends, there's the sirens on Ahuza, the house alarms (two went off in the early morning), the scooters delivering the newspapers at dawn, some kids coming back from Tel Aviv across the road and listening to music in their car. There is the constant hubbub of Israeli life outside the windows (which are open). I am just not used to it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Red Peppers

I woke this morning quite peckish after a reasonable night's sleep in our firm Israeli bed (a story for another time). Sadly, the food situation in the house is a little desert-like. So I went to Tiv Taam. The Raanana store is open 24/7, which is quite something for this conservatively religious leaning town. I bought some fresh pitah bread, some nice black, heavy Russian rye, some humus with harif and some red cabbage salad. On the way to check-out (the store was as empty as I have ever seen it at 7am on a Saturday morning), I spotted the shiny red peppers in the vegetable section. If there is one thing I miss in the UK (besides the kids), it's the fresh vegetables and salads here in Israel. While you can find any kind of salad vegetable at your local Sainsbury's, they are expensive, and worse yet do not have any taste. The peppers are small and lack that excellent crunch we so take for granted here. So I picked some red peppers, paid the typical grumpy Russian checkout lady and headed out.

I was thinking of going for a walk on the beach, but my stomach took charge), so I came straight home. I cut the peppers into quarters, cleaned out the seeds. Scooped in some humus (with harif) and topped each slice with some red cabbage salad. I ate this in my usual way, standing over the sink in the kitchen looking out onto Rehov Hanevel. Completed by a double Lavazza espresso (after cleaning out the used capsule tray as the machine has not been used in my absence and there was actual mould growing on the spent coffee capsules) it was sheer heaven. Sometimes Israel hits the 80% without even trying. 

Raanana

Today I'm back in Israel. I flew out of Heathrow this morning. I lucked into one of the six empty seats on the plane next to me, so I can't complain. I did not have to wait the usual hour at the Hertz counter to get my rental car, although I did throw a bit of a wobbler when none of the four Hertz dudes in the parking lot would note down the damage already present on the huge minivan they gave me. That all sorted, I drove home to Raanana. The house looks better than the last time (I threatened the kids that if I came back this month and the house was not in better shape I was moving them to their grandparents). It was 6 degrees C in London this morning and 28 here in Raanana this afternoon. And boy, is it dusty. I forgot about the dust everywhere and that faint taste of sand in your mouth, everything you touch leaves a gritty feeling on your hands. I am so used to the eternal dampness of England. 

The kids and I went to the family for dinner. It was good, but I was feeling a bit disorientated, I suppose it just felt a little strange to be there without bwo. Probably I'm just tired. It has been a very busy week with an early flight this morning. Well, I plan to sleep in tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Norwegian Wood


We had the whole family in the car on the way up north to Leistershire for our narrow boat trip a few weeks ago. Bwo and I took a leaf out of cousin Jordy's book and decided to get all of us to make a "life tape". The idea was to make a mixed tape (actually a USB drive) with the songs that marked important points in our lives. Basically songs that defined an important period or person or place. I started out with 10 songs, and soon after some thought (it's harder than you think) I came up with 53 songs (one for each year). We played them in order from Richmond to somewhere near Nottingham. I told the story behind each song. It was great. A special experience and something I recommend.

Anyway. The first song on my list was Norwegian Wood by the Beatles. It reminds me of growing up at 35 Mill Park Road. My sister was an avid Beatles fan. She would scream each time any of their songs came on the radio. For some reason this song has always typified that time for me. I was lucky to have an older brother and sister, who had reasonable musical tastes in the late 60's. Listening to this I can close my eyes and I'm around 8 years old lying on my back on the floor in the passage near the front door, listening to the old "radiogram" in the study at number 35. I had a great childhood. PE was paradise.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

20 Years Ago Today

Judging by the number of fireworks seen and heard over the last few nights it's Guy Fawkes today. Much more important it is our lovely daughter, bdo's 20th birthday. Yes, Jeckle (of Heckle and Jeckle fame) is 20 today. She is spending the day at her army base. Her officers made a fuss of her last night, and the cooks sang Happy Birthday, so it's not all bad. As usual, I have to repeat the two most important pieces of advice from father to daughter. One, All boys are fools. Two, judge people by what they do and not by what they say.

We have the most wonderful, funny, sharp, beautiful, smart girl. It makes me smile just to think of her. Have a wonderful day and an extra special year, girly-bird. While the last 20 years have not always been easy, I would not swap them for the world.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Newland's Corner

Each weekend bwo and I try visit somewhere new. Usually it's in Surrey or one of the surrounding counties. Last weekend I had a fantastic walk around The Devil's Punchbowl while bwo was off at a conference. Today we visited Newland's Corner. It's not too far down the A3, before Guilford, overlooking the North downs. We left quite early and had a wonderful, if a bit chilly walk along the ridge overlooking the downs. Here is a very bad picture, perhaps bwo has something better (I don't think she reads the blog anymore).
Roxy had the best time, sniffing out the many rabbit holes and charging up and down the slopes. One very important aspect of these weekend trips is that there be a cafe, snack bar, tea room or some place bwo can get something to warm up with after a walk in the country. Newland's Corner seems to be a meeting place for "Hell's Grandfathers", there were dozens of octogenarians on their shiny Harleys, hanging around the kiosk looking tough-ish. Bwo found it curiously English that they would stroll up to the counter all buff in their black leathers and jack boots and order a "cuppa tea" (with a spot of milk).

Their veggie burger made the perfect breakfast (bwo had a bacon roll). All in all a very nice place.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Clearing the Copse

A few days ago while walking the dog I spotted a sign taped to a lamppost down the road. It was a call for volunteers to help clear up the copse. We were asked to meet at 11 am this morning (Saturday) on the copse near the Russel school entrance. The copse is actually a grove of ancient oaks, near our house (in Israel it would probably be called a hurshah). We walk through it with the dog at least once a day. It has lovely paths through the huge 400 year old oaks which lead to a nice field behind Ham House. I started walking there as spring sprung, and got to watch the oaks, silver birches and cherry trees bud, then burst into color, then walked by as the leaves slowly turned the last few months, and now squelch through on the spongy layer of damp, fallen foliage. We picked wild berries in summer, spotted foxes and badgers, try keep Roxy away from the grazing polo ponies, and now need a torch (flashlight) to not trip over storm-fallen branches during dark morning walks. I really like our copse.

So I figured we would volunteer. Bwo took little convincing as she too is a friend of the copse. So we rushed over at 11am this morning. It was one of those strange English autumn days, sometimes sunny, sometimes blustery and darkening. I truly expected there to be a bunch of people out helping, there are many dog-walkers in the neighborhood who use the copse daily. But, to my surprise, besides Gena the "official" in charge (contracted by the council it seems) and Andy the local who seems to have organized the event, it was just bwo and I. Our task was to clear a patch of "brambles" (thorny bushes) clustered around some oaks at the entrance to the woods. Well, we hacked and pulled and clipped and raked. I have not worked so hard since I dug at Megiddo two summers back. Even in the fresh autumn air I dripped sweat. We managed to clear out a good bit of undergrowth, but now a few hours later I can hardly move. I must say, I was a little underwhelmed by the local support, you would think that people that use this wonderful piece of nature daily could donate a few hours of their time - Andy claims it's all because of the Germans (don't mention the war).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween in the UK

It was Halloween last night. It's a big deal in the US, pretty much non-existent in the Holy Land, so I was interested to see how it would be in the UK. Our local admin squints, put on a nice Halloween spread complete with fake spiders, scary eyeball chocolates etc. When I got home, I took the girly (the dog, not bwo) out for a walk in the neighbourhood. There were quite a lot of kids around, but most houses did not have pumpkins or Halloween decorations, so going door to door was not quite up to US standards (no one came to our door at all). So Roxy and I took our usual night walk down Sandy Lane towards the Ham Avenues.

It was dark, and cloudy with a light misty drizzle, typical autumn weather. The girly was a little spooked by the various short ghosts and ghoulies we met on the way, but in all she was much more interested in smelling out the fox scent in the area as we wandered aimlessly down the dark lanes. Unconsciously we found ourselves following a number of darkly dressed  being mysteriously drawn towards Ham House.

Ham House is the local National Trust treasure. Built in the 17th century (1610 to be exact) it's a stately house open to the public, overlooking the Thames, about 10 mins walk from our home. The house is supposedly haunted by the Duchess of Lauderdale and her dog, so it's a fitting destination of a Halloween eve. The house looked spooky lit up by various subdued coloured lights. The garden was filled with darkly dressed strangers milling about whispering softly amongst themselves. We took a few photos.

Unfortunately we saw no ghost dog. But as we walked back along Misery Lane (which joins Throatcutter Alley, real names really), we were surprised by a startled fox, which set the girl off barking for a while.

On the lane leading back to the house we met some of the neighbours kids dressed as skeletons. I asked them if they liked Halloween. "What's not to like? We walk around at night and we get free sweeties!"

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bose

Credit where it due. Years and years ago I bought some very expensive Bose noise cancellation headphones. Actually, what happened was that NY Todd gave bwo his old pair, and I liked them so much that I bought a set for myself. They were not cheap ($299) but they worked excellently, especially on plane trips. I can't stress enough just how much having quiet on long plane flights make a difference. Well, bwo's original pair died (my family is incredibly hard on headphones, festerbestertest and her mother have gone through many dozens of pairs), so I kindly gave her my pair and bought a new pair for myself. I do travel a lot you know.

Well, bwo's pair broke. It was the plastic part that hold the two cups over the top of the head that eventually perished. The speakers still work fine, but are unusable without the plastic that keeps them against your ears. (Bwo blames me for breaking them, as the one time I tried to use them they fell apart in my hands, with some serious missing pieces). So I decided I will see if I can find some replacement parts from Bose.

I called Bose here in the UK. I got through to to a very nice Ionne (I think that's how its spelled). Explained the whole thing, she told me that Bose do not sell those parts individually, but they have a trade in policy and for £116 they will send me a brand new updated model. All she needed was the serial number. It turns out that this pair was manufactured in work week 26 of 2003 - more than ten years back. So they have paid their dues.

So I am awaiting the UPS stickers to return the broken set, so Bose can send me the new pair.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Music Tuesday



I was reminded on Monday by one of the original squints, that once upon a time when I was young and interesting and bloggin regularly, I used to post a Video on Music Tuesday. He suggested I post this "new" Arcade Fire video, so here it is (thanks Sagi) even though it's now Wednesday.

I wish I understood why I am having such trouble keeping up with the blog. There are many things to write about, but somehow my days fly past and I can't seem to find the time. I never believed that one is ever "too busy". It's a question of desire and focus, and I suppose if I felt the need I would blog. I know that at least my family around the world appreciated it. Still it currently seems difficult to find the motivation, or things I want to say.

I will try. No promises.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Short Update

Once again I am sitting in an airport lounge. At least the BA lounge here at Heathrow has reasonable munchies and acceptable coffee. I'm off to Israel for a few days to meet with the Israeli squints. Unfortunately the girl will be in the army, but the boy will be at home. I have not written since our wonderful holiday on the narrowboats. It really was special. The week the four of us had together was unique. There is stuff to do, but mostly it's stuff we did together. Locks, and trying up, visiting the many lovely village pubs and eating bwo's vacation cooking. She definitely is the best at rustling up meals while on vacation.

We started off in the Ophelia, which sprung a leak. None of our doing, there was some issue with water coming in where the prop shaft meets the drive shaft. So we were then given the Prince Hal. An eight sleeper. It was comfortable, but not the easiest to manage as it was hugely long (65 feet). We cruised up to Tixell Wide where we turned around. We spent lots of time together. Just talking (the kids managed to find computer games that required no internet) with a lot of resting. Most of the activity was done by lunch time, so we had the afternoons to explore and sleep. It was a wonderful break, one of the very best ever.

Getting back to work was quite a shock. A lot had gone on in my absence, and even though I could keep up with email, the last week back has been stressful. Now it's a quick trip back to Israel, then back to Richmond and the rainy weather.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Richmond TW10


When bwo first walked into the house on Petersham road, she just knew this is where we needed to live while in the UK. I must say, that as much shit as I give the "trouble and strife", one thing I know is to trust her judgement when it comes to living spaces. I could be happy in a cardboard box as long as it had internet and an espresso machine. I must admit that here I was sceptical. The floor is wood and very creaky, and the wallpaper is not what I would choose. It seemed a little far from the centre of town. But she loved the house and we therefore we held out that extra month to get it. She was completely spot on. We love our place on Petersham Road, close to the river, near the Ham lands, our lane, the Polo club, our copse, the 65 bus stop, next door to the Lovely Lynn. Then there's Richmond itself.

Excellent place is Richmond. It's David Attenborough's favourite place on earth, and he's seen a lot (thanks for pointing this out Selina). There are good restaurants (excellent Chinese delivery from the Good Earth Express Takeaway, and the little Italian pizza place in the alley near the Quadrant), fine pubs (I like the New Inn down the road, and the Cricketers on Richmond Green), a great park. Mostly, I like driving over Richmond bridge in the evening after work, then down along the Thames to Petersham Road, knowing that soon I will be home and my girls will be happy to see me. Then a walk down to the field near the Ham Lands to watch Roxy girl dart around, her tail straight up in glee. I like that the station, not too far on the 65 bus, has both Southwest Trains and the London Underground (last stop on the District Line). I like that there are guys decked out in the whitest whites playing cricket on Ham common every Sunday.

Sometimes in the early mornings when I am out walking the girly and it's just her and me and the sounds of the birds on the copse. The trees and damp leaves have that earthy smell just like walking through the golf course near where I grew up in Mill Park. And all around is green, green, green. I still can't believe how lucky I am to be here at this time.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Happy happy

What can I say. I am a lucky man. I have a wonderful family. I got to thinking recently just how fortunate I am to have a big brother. And believe me, if you are going to have a big brother, you really could not do better than mine. I wonder if he realizes just how much the whole family rests on his broad shoulders. He is the very definition of "a pillar". One thing that always fascinates me was just how down right smart he is, yet without any real formal education outside Grey High School. He is the one we all go to for advice and the big life decisions. There really is so much more to say, but it is hard without it sounding corny and sappy. Most importantly I know that no matter what happens to me and mine, our family will always be there. This gives me strength daily.

I have been thinking about this for a while. It was his birthday on the 18th. I know he is probably the hardest person to buy presents for, as my wonderful s-i-l always complains. But he now has both his kids close at hand and both doing very well (check this out - I have to say that it just about makes me explode with pride). He has his seven grandchildren to tire him out. Our mom is doing well. So he is well gifted in love and respect.

Happy birthday brother. You are an inspiration to us all. Just try a bit less grumpy, OK.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Learning to Drive

Thirty five years after I took my first (and until now) only driving test, I took a driving lesson yesterday. The whole UK driving license saga started a few months back. One can only drive for one year on a foreign license here in the UK, so even though I hold both an Israeli and California drivers licenses, it appeared that I needed to go through the whole arduous process of getting a UK license. This means sending your passport off to Swansea for a few weeks to get a "provisional license" - this enables you to drive with a qualified driver. Then you are to study, sign up, and pass a theory test (including a "Hazard perception test") before you can take the practical driving test.

A few months back after rereading the application instructions for the tenth time, I realized that there may be a loophole. Holders of South African drivers licenses can just transfer their licenses (at a cost of GBP50) with no tests, nothing. The small print does say that holders of a "Book of Life" type license are ineligible, you must have the credit card license or submit an appropriate "proof of eligibility". Now back in 1978 when I got my SA license, there was no such thing as a credit card type license. I figured I would try my luck and sent off for a "proof of eligibility". I was pleasantly surprised when a few weeks later two proofs of eligibility for an SA license showed up (signed by different people). Happily I sent these off to the merry folks at the DSA in Swansea, only to find that UK bureaucracy is way ahead (they have had hundreds of years to perfect this). I received a curtly worded reply stating that they were "terribly sorry" but my application was invalid because my letter of eligibility did not include an expiry date. Back I wrote to the SA licensing department begging for a letter with an expiry date. They sadly informed me that this was not possible unless I came to South Africa and applied in person for a credit card type license. Oh and that process takes up to three months.

Sigh! So I bought the "UK Highway Code" book and a DVD to prepare for the theory tests and yesterday had my first driving lesson in thirty five years (courtesy of my relocation package). Well, it seems I should not be allowed on the road. I don't naturally MSM (mirror-signal-manoeuvre), don't check my blind spot when parallel parking, coast on the clutch too much, have no idea how to do a "reverse around a corner", and don't keep 2 secs distance (4 secs in the wet weather yesterday). It seems I need to learn to drive all over again. Maybe I'll just take the train from now on.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fasting

I've fasted on Yom Kippur since I was 11. I'm not religious at all, in fact, I don't really believe in god at all. But I believe in traditions and so there are some things I still do because they are things we have done for generations. This year's fasting was different, bwo and I are alone here in London. I don't think I deal with a single Jewish person in my daily life here in the UK. So I worked a normal day Friday, got home in time to start the fast. I took the Rox for a walk and when I got back home bwo was asleep. So I started my fast on soup and a cheese sandwich.

Saturday dawned nice and rainy. I then found out we were due to meet an old friend (Johnny) in London. So onto the tube I dragged my hungry body, salivated at the "Great Cake and Bake" event going on at the Earl's Court Exhibition Centre which we had to walk past because the district line to the Edgeware Road was closed for repairs, then suffered through a 40 minute 74 bus ride to Marble Arch before we met them at Primark on Oxford street (paying for my sins on Yom Kippur, I was). The then had "tea". Nothing passed my lips. It was good to see old Johnny though.

I got home and spent a few hours in front of Netflix watching rubbish. Bwo then made it all worthwhile with veggie chopped liver, cinnamon rolls and excellent lasagne. I broke my fast on a double Nespresso - fantastic. All in all not a bad Yom Kippur. I missed the family and the quiet of Israel on this day with no cars, planes or TV. I missed the sounds of the kids on bikes and the howl of the odd ambulance going down Ahuza. Still the weather for fasting here in the UK cannot be beaten.

Monday, August 12, 2013

End Marmite Neglect!

It's well known how much I love Marmite. I think it was the key to the success of the Empire. The Marmite company has always been open in it's advertising - some love it, some hate it. I think this new advert is one of the best I've seen. Of course, like anything in the UK, it generated a little debate


Check out the background stories on the Official Marmite Channel. The "Interview with Shocked Neighbour" is excellent.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Corporal Dylan!

Corporal Dylan has gone viral. Check out the article on the IDF Blog. Or check out the comments on their facebook page, quite entertaining. What a nachasmachine!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fran

It's been a few days and I just can't stop thinking about Fran. She passed away Tuesday. It was all so sudden and shocking. I really liked her, with her sharp wit and wry smile. And while we never really agreed on anything politically, she was, at least, prepared to listen to the other side (sometimes). I always admired her bravery, coming to settle in Israel to be with Denise and the family, on her own, later in life. Looking on Israeli life from the outside, she never seemed to become bitter or disillusioned. Her overwhelming love for her grandsons was clearly at the centre of her life in Raanana. The boys will carry a little bit of Fran with them forever.

We shared a love of a good story. I was always amazed that despite her rather conservative politics, she was always ready to read anything from trashy modern stuff to complex murder mysteries. She enjoyed Brother Cadfael and Amelia Peabody, SciFi, Gaiman. She liked a good movie, and quite a lot of bad ones. And she could cook. She will leave a hole at Friday night dinners. Fran was an integral part of the family, inseparable in my mind from Ari, Denise, Meron, Edan and Yarden. Thanksgiving will always be Fran's holiday in my mind, although I can do without the weird fruit jello stuff (sorry, jello should be a dessert, not a salad).

There was something uniquely American about Fran. She embodies for me that down-to-earth, practical outlook on life, which I so admire in Americans. That same attitude lives on in Denise and the boys can be proud of that heritage. I really liked Fran, I should have told her that more often. I will miss her. 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Signs

They love signs and notices in this country. They must be the most signposted people in the world. This all came to head yesterday, when I brought in some left over chocolate trifle made over the weekend by bwo. The squints here at Squint Central UK (Egham Branch) seemed to look on this free food with some suspicion. I was greatly surprised when there was trifle left over by lunch time. Back in the old country at Squint Central Holy Land (Yakum Branch) this would have been polished off within an hour of arrival. On further investigation (during the informal lunch "social" chat), it appears the mob were confused as there was no signage announcing this as free food. The fact that it was placed next to the free fruit, on the table where all free food is usually placed, seemed to go unnoticed. They needed a sign! Apparently a post it note would have been enough, but permission needed to have been given.

There are signs everywhere in the UK. The road signs are huge and extremely visible (this is good). Here at Squint Central there are dozens of "Now wash your hands, please" all over the place (at least they are polite). The door next to my office has a "Fire door, Keep Shut" sign, a "Please Use Door Release" sign and a "Push" sign on the door. A "Fire Exit" sign above the door and an "Emergency Use Only" sign on the button next to the only relevant button for daily use, the door release, which has no sign.

Around the house there are many, many signs. On each walk I get to see at least 20 signs warning you what will happen should you not pick up after your dog (£500 fine), signs warning we are being observed as part of the "Richmond Watch" program, signs to "Save Our School" (complicated issue where some of the land of the local school is being sold to developers for "high density housing") and, of course, the notices explaining why there are no dogs allowed on Petersham Common (it's due to the cows).

The best notice locally though, was the hand written rant I photographed below. This was posted on a tree at the edge of the cute little "copse" next to our house. The cynicism is probably wasted on whomever picked the purple flower, but it's a classic. "You was seen so look out"!!!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's Raining Again


It's been a month. I have no excuses. We were in Israel, I dug at Jezreel. It was hot. We came back to the UK and it has been raining since we arrived. I'm not unhappy as I really suffered in the heat. While we were gone Roxy spent two weeks with some friends - two Great Danes  Merlin and Talon (see above). She seems to have had a wonderful time with them and Jenny's family, who so kindly looked after her while we were away. She has been moping around since we came home looking for something or someone to play with. I got soaked walking her to the river this morning, but she did not seem to mind in the least, happy to be out in the open.

I really suffered with the heat in Israel. For the first few days of the dig at Jezreel we did not have shades and I worked in the open with only shorts, a tee shirt, sun block and a black hat to protect me. I had a migraine every day no matter how much water I absorbed. I got my work done and managed to train Nate to take my place. I hope the dig goes well for the team, they are really good people.

Being home in Raanana for an extended stay was interesting. Our house does not really feel like our house that much. The boys staying there with Gilad are very nice and surprisingly organized, but still there is a different feeling, more like college dorm rooms than our little house on the prairie. Spending time with the kids is always great though. I am proud of both of them, they have grown  up well.

It was nice getting back to our uncluttered house in Richmond. It has a good feel to it. I do worry about bwo leaving her family and friends (and jumpers) behind. It is important for her to get out and be active. Even though it gets light here at 4:30am and dark at 9:30pm, the grey rainy skies  will get her down. She must keep busy.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Dog in the Park

While I travelled to Poland and Israel, and bwo flew off to the family wedding in San Diego, Roxy spent the time with Clive. Clive, "Deputy Dawg" the dog walker is great with her. He walks her at least once or twice a week, and she is always excited to go out with him and his pack. Unfortunately he is also a little too expensive for us, and with the amount of travelling we will be doing over the next few months we will need to find an alternative. Yesterday evening after work, Clive dropped Roxy back home. We were very happy to see each other (Roxy and I, not Clive) and her black and white body shook and shivered while she panted happily. We went out on our regular walk, down to the river and played catch with the tennis ball for a while. It's a reasonable place to let her off the lead as it's a huge open field. She even came back when bribed with doggie treats. So I was feeling like I had this whole dog handling thing down.

I got up early this morning and decided to take Roxy to Richmond Park. Clive told me he lets her off the leash and lets her run when he takes them to the park, so I thought what the hell. She immediately took off like a bat out hell and promptly disappeared for 20 minutes chasing squirrels and rabbits. You could just barely spot her tiny silhouette in the far distance as she darted from tree to tree and burrow to burrow. Luckily there were no deer around. All the while I paced back and forth calling out from time to time, offering treats and water, even the tennis ball - she was just not interested. She would spot another squirrel in the distance and would take off with single minded obsession. All this reminded me of the video below, that went viral in the UK. Basically it's a guy shouting "Fenton! Fenton! Fenton!!!" after his dog as it chases deer in the very same Richmond Park. Everyone in this country has seen it and I can even say that Roxy went all Fenton on me and most people would smile knowingly (I like the whole "JESUS CHRIST, Fenton!" thing). Roxy finally came skipping back, happy with herself, tongue hanging out, eyes sparking, with a huge smile on her face. I don't think I can let her loose in the park too often, I just haven't the nerves.
  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dan+ lounge

Today I am sitting in the Dan+ Lounge at BG airport (note the plus). This is because I have finally reached silver status on BA. Not to say that it's all plane (haha) sailing, as the BA web page says that even though I have enough points, I am still bronze. Apparently, according to a very nice Indian guy called Craig (I swear), their computers take 48 hours to update, so I'm in some sort of twilight zone. I slept in Gdansk on Wednesday night, Richmond on Thursday, Raanana on Friday and Saturday, and hopefully tonight back in Richmond.

Of all the times to pick to visit Israel, I had to pick Lag BaOmer during a bad hamsin. My least favourite holiday. It's the one where kids are taught to steal wood from building sites and then burn it in huge bonfires which threaten to burn down our house. I was expecting a night full of smoke and cinder as in previous years, and was overjoyed when I saw these signs placed in strategic spots in the open fields around the house.
For the Hebrew impaired, it reads something like "It is totally forbidden to light fires in this area. Whomever (or the law breaker who) does not follow this order can expect to be legally prosecuted". Signed by the City of Raanana. Finally they are doing the right thing. Now that we have left.

On top of it all it has been boiling hot here in Israel. Highs about 35 Degrees C both days. With a hot wind. Horrible. But there is nothing like coming home and seeing my kids. Nothing. I am happy to report that the house is functioning perfectly. The kitchen and common areas are spotless, and no thanks to Azziza. The boys (G and Oren and Vardi) are into "maintaining". You clean once and then maintain by dealing with each mess as it happens. What a concept. The boy is actually doing dishes. We should have gone away years ago.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's not all perfect, you know.

It's not all perfect here. Looking over the last few posts, you could get the impression that I am blissfully happy in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. There are some minor issues that do bother me. More than the strange fact that they drive on the wrong side of the road, it's just weirdness that while all of the UK is completely metric, car's speed and distances are measures in mph and miles. Then there is the over enthusiastic use of signs. They love signs, the British. At work there are signs reminding you to wash your hands after you go to the bathrooms, signs to remind you to take your dirty cups to the kitchen, signs to remind you to recycle. At the local railway crossing there are signs to ask you (politely) to turn off your engine while waiting for the trains to pass. There is even a "pelican crossing" sign near the house (seriously).

There are some other quirky things I have noticed. Why in all their years of world domination, have the British still not figured out how to make a toilet that you don't have to hold down the handle when you flush in order for enough water to clear the bowl. Then there's these strange taps.
They make absolutely no sense. Either you get blistering hot water or it's so cold you freeze your fingers off. I'm really just getting started, more will follow shortly.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Around

That's Ham House behind bwo and the broxyo. It's 10 mins walk from the house and overlooks the Thames. The walk takes one out the back gate onto the little path behind the houses on Petersham Road, through the grassy area of "The Copse",  down tree-lined Ham Avenues, alongside the Ham Polo Ground (and the practising polo horses) and over the wooden bridge to the Thames towpath. I have been walking mostly in the early morning or late evening with Roxy-girl, there are few people around, just lots of birds. Some dogs and their people, but it seems English dogs are less friendly (as are their people) than we are used to. So all Roxy's excited shaking and wagging typically goes unheeded.

I feel very lucky to be able to enjoy these views and surroundings every day. I am sure the uniqueness will wear off after a while - but in the mean time, I'm enjoying myself. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

White Cliffs

We got to Dover yesterday. It was a fine spring day, sunny from time to time, and warm. We took Roxy for a walk on the cliffs and she had a good time smelling everything  particularly enjoying the sheep poop. We got stuck in horrendous traffic on the way back (near Chessington World of Adventure or something like that) and after sitting stationary for an hour or so, we pulled off and had lunch at "The Shy Horse". Not bad actually (bwo had her usual bits of cow).

My cold got worse during the course of the day and by nightfall I was really miserable. Not even Manchester City's FA cup victory helped. So I went to bed really early and slept well. Got up early and went into work. All in all, looking back, it was a great weekend. I walked a lot, spent time with my two girls and generally just rested. Somehow having a Saturday and Sunday seems much more relaxing than the Friday and Saturday weekend in Israel. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Walking


It was a hell of a week, last week. It started last Friday with the trip to Israel, then on Saturday I met the boss. After a stressful and work-filled few days in Israel, we flew to the UK (on one of the worst flight ever). Spent a lot of time with the UK squints, drove west to meet the special Bristol variety of squints, and finally some time after lunch on Friday my week work week was over. To make matters worse, I caught a cold from the sad French Canadian that sat sniveling next to me from Ben Gurion to Heathrow. I collapsed in my bed on Friday night, miserable, with a full head, stuffy nose and streaming eyes. It was raining.

Saturday morning, I awoke not feeling much better but decided I needed to walk off the cold. So early in the morning (7:15 am) I dropped bwo off in Richmond, parked and went walking along the Thames with Roxy. We started at Richmond Bridge (actually I parked on the Twickenham side), walked under Twickenham Bridge, all along the Old Deer Park, past the Mid Surrey Gold Course, alongside Kew Gardens all the way to Kew Bridge. The views along the river were spectacular (see pictures). Just my dog and I and a lot of rowers. On the way back the sky clouded over and a light rain added to the atmosphere. I guess we're in England now.

After that two hour trek, I collapsed on the couch for a nap, with Roxy sleeping at my feet dreaming of romping with her friends back in the old country. Later in the afternoon, I took pity on her and we went for another walk. This time out the house, down Sandy Lane (there is a nice house for sale on Sandy Lane for £1,125,000), down Lock Lane, to the Teddington Lock on the Thames and then in the direction of Kingston, past the footbridge to Twickenham, along Lower Ham Road to the Kingston Rowing Club, before turning back. It started raining quite hard and the dog and I got quite wet. We arrived home out of breath and dripping, quite full of mud. It was awesome.

This morning (Sunday) I want to try make it to Dover. I have never seen the White Cliffs in person, and so have some plans. These rarely work out as we usually give up after about a half hour of driving. But I have hope. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

On the way back

It's time to leave Israel again. It was a very short stay. I arrived Saturday morning and am flying out Tuesday morning. I was busy running around the whole stay, but it was very good to see the kids and the Israeli squints. The house is still standing and the boy and his house-mates seem to have it together. I was most impressed to find one of the boys awake and making sandwiches at 4 am this morning, preparing his lunch for work. He left a few minutes after I did a 5 am. The girl's was home for all of my stay and she seems to be dominating the army and to really have things in gear. So far it seems there is little to worry about as far as they are concerned.

It was hot and dusty - a big difference from the snow I left in London. Bwo says the weather has improved, I will find out in a few hours. So in general, it's all good and I am looking forward to getting to the house on Petersham.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Terminal 1 again

Here I sit once again in Heathrow Terminal 1 awaiting a 10:30pm flight to Tel Aviv. On one hand I am happy to be going to see the kids who I have missed terribly, but on the other I hate to leave bwo on her own for the next few days. We only just moved into the house on Petersham, Roxy only just arrive on Wednesday, our shipment (of which I have one of the twenty or so boxes) arrived this morning while I was at work, and I am tired. It's been a lot of early mornings with lots of varied transportation. Then busy days and back home to walk the dog and wife. So all in all I could do with a weekend, but it probably won't be much of one seeing as I am going to meet the boss and then spend time at work in Israel before flying back on Tuesday for some long days in the UK.

I did get to have my Pret, Moroccan Falaffel sandwich here in the terminal, so not all is bad. What will be completely strange is I am due to pick up a rental car at the airport in Tel Aviv, because I had to return the Prius once the relocation started. It will be interesting to see just how efficient Hertz is in Israel, here in the UK they rock and it takes just minutes to get your car. I suppose I will have to put on my 80% glasses again. At least it's a lot warmer in Israel at the moment.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Trains, Buses, Snow and Such

Bwo needed the car today and so I decided I would use public transport to get to work. I woke bright and early at 5:30 am, took the dog out (she is very good), got dressed warm and set out around 5:45. The number 65 bus comes right past the house, and the stop is a few hundred meters from the door. I should have realized I was going to have to wait when just as I left home a 65 bus roared past me. The sign at the bus stop said the next bus would be coming in 18 mins, then 6 mins, then 15 mins, then 9 mins, then back to 15mins (sort of like watching a file download). The bus did eventually arrive and we made our way to the station and another 25 minute wait.  Once the train arrived it only took 22 minutes to Egham and then another 22 minute walk from the station to work.  All in all an hour and a quarter trip.

But... now it's snowing heavily (everyone assures me that snow after Easter is very unusual, but these same people keep telling me the 22 minute walk to the station is actually 10 minutes, so I question their estimation accuracy). I will need to do the opposite journey in an hour or two, and am not really looking forward to this.