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.
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.
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.
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.