Tuesday, November 4, 2014

She's 21 Today

Our little girl is 21 today. She is a force in the universe and I am immensely proud of her. I miss you, girly girl. Have a wonderful day and a joy filled year. Remember the two lessons that I remind you each year: All boys are fools. Watch what they do and ignore what they say.


Monday, September 29, 2014

A Perfect UK Weekend

The weather was perfect for late September, this weekend. Not too hot, not too cold. On Saturday, after a long morning walk with R, I went down to the river to watch the end of the Great Rive Race. This is a 21.6 mile rowing race from the Docklands in London to Ham House, on the river near our house. Three hundred plus boats of all shapes and sizes took part. Very festive, indeed. Jenny bought me a beer and we got to watch all the crazies row in. Here are some pics (note these are from the Richmond Blog Page, as I was too lazy to take any pictures myself).

On Sunday, bwo, R and I went off to Wentworth Arboretum. They have a real autumn in this country, with changing leaves and busy squirrels. The drive there, through Surrey, is spectacular. If I did not have to commute into Egham for work, I would seriously consider living (or buying) somewhere like Godalming or Bramley or Cranleigh. But it's not to be, our ties to our homeland are still too strong. Anyway here is a picture of some of the autumn colors from Winkworth.
This is a pretty country.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all of you out there. Shana Tova. I like this video.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Back To The Salt Mines

Jo's "artistic rendition" of WL10/12 in SQ. N10SW
Well, it's over. Our four weeks of excavation ended Thursday evening. The Megiddo team will continue for another three weeks, but bwo and I will only be in Israel till Tuesday and then it's  back to the UK (rocket's willing). It was sad to say goodbye to the team. We have all grown quite close over many breathless trudges up the Tel, bucket lines, filthy clothing, strong coffee with waflim and egg based meals. And then there is the archaeology, which was fantastic. This was my third season digging at Megiddo, and I am starting to get a clue. At the start of the season I got to work in Square O9, the best square in the best area (Area K). There were a number of questions surrounding Tomb 100 (in O9) which I got to ponder with Mario (Area Supervisor and all around best person). Once we were done with this, I got to move around and work on various other issues. On the last few days I got to excavate and document an interesting grinding stone/pebble assemblage.

Bwo drew sections (the picture above is the result of one of her more artistic moments). This required her to accurately draw walls and baulks which meant a lot of measurements. She also took on her natural role as the mother of the area. She doled out cookies, medicines, massages and advice. They will miss her more than me in K. And yes, she admitted on the way home that she had a great time and will come back in two years time. No one seems more surprised by this than bwo herself.

The last week or so has been a little surreal. We had a rocket alarm one night at around 10pm as we were all dropping off to sleep, and the usual black humor surfaced as we all huddled in the stairwell in our dorms. Some of the young volunteers were a little freaked out, but unfortunately these things are a reality here at the moment. We had another siren in Raanana yesterday. Who knows where all this is going. I just hope we are able to fly out on Tuesday. At least bdo has not been mobilized (yet).

So tonight I'm sure to will get a huge dose of "Sunday Evening Feeling" (except it happens on a Saturday eve here) as I go back to the salt mines tomorrow. I'm looking at a very busy six day week (Sunday to Friday inclusive) to get back up to speed. There is no doubt that the last four weeks have been like a dream come true. I can only thank everyone who had any part in making it so special. I am eternally grateful.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The end of week three

It's Friday at the end of the third week of digging. I am sitting in my comfy chair with my feet on the bed here in Raanana. I have had a wonderful time at the dig. My body is tired and sore but all in all it has been more that I could ever have wished. Having bwo with me has made a huge difference. She quickly became the "the mother of Area K" and a complete and useful member of the team. We have spent all day together. We get up at 3:45 am and drive to the Tel together. Work together in Area K ( sometimes even in the same square). Drive back together, eat lunch together, nap in our room together and then have dinner and sleep together. It has been great. Way better than I could ever have imagined.

One more week of digging and then it is back to the real world.  It is hard to keep the real world at bay here in Israel. What with the occasional work email, the World Cup and kidnappings and then a wedding on Wednesday night (it was great to see the other Ostrins in full force) I cannot say I have completely disconnected. I prefer it this way rather than getting back to a bunch of issues and emergencies.

Blackdaughtero came out for a few days to help dig last week. So now nearly all of us have seen what it's like, although I am not expecting blacksono to rush to the heat of the Tel any time soon. He is still working at the vet and seems quite happy with life. Now that bdo has finished the army she is working at waitressing at a coffee shop here in Raanana. So all is good. I have napped much of the day away and now it's time to prepare Friday night dinner for the local family. I think it's curry tonight. Back to the Tel tomorrow afternoon for the last week. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

First Week at Megiddo 2014

It's pretty outrageous that I have not posted since March. Just have not felt the need at all. We are happy in our life in Richmond. Roxy is a constant joy. Work has been challenging but fulfilling. The kids are alright. Then exactly a week ago we arrived in Israel for a four week stint digging at Megiddo. Right now, I am sitting at home in Raanana on the weekend and I am sore. Every muscle aches, I am battered and bruised. After three long showers, I still feel sandy. Even though I was thorough in my application of sunblock, the skin at my hairline is rather tender. My fingers feel like they have been loaned to me by someone who scaled Everest without gloves. But, you know what, I am perfectly happy.

I was needed this week and that's really all that matters. There were times I ran around like a headless chicken, but I managed to get a huge amount done. Not only on the Tell, where I am supervising (what I think is) the best square in Area K, but also in the Tech Office. It seems that somehow with age, comes a completely undeserved level of deference. People I have huge respect for seem to be looking to me to answer complex issues and then don't even question. It's very good for the ego. At work, the decision process is long and convoluted, but seeing as we only have seven weeks to dig at Tel Megiddo, decisions must be made quickly and implemented immediately. It's such a refreshing change.

Bwo is with me at the dig this time. It has been wonderful to be together. Not only does it mean I have a (mostly) sympathetic roommate, but I think she now understands just how intense all this is for me. She drew some sections up on the Tel (recording the surface of walls in the area), and did a great job, despite being sure that what she did was hopeless. It is extremely hot on the Tel and the walk up and down is killer and she has been suffering. I think I managed to convince her to spend until breakfast with us and then go back to Givat Haviva (where we are staying in a sort of field school with decent AC). Oh, yes, we wake up a 3:45am to leave the room at 4:30 to arrive at the Tel at 5am to start work. Breakfast is at 8:30. Back to GH for lunch at 1pm then I am busy with all the post dig procedures.

That's a picture of what remains of the wall I removed on Wednesday and Thursday. Very interesting (for me at least). Even with the daily headaches from the bright sun and the aching body, I am having the time of my life. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Soggy Leaves

Garbage and recycling in our area is collected on a Tuesday morning. All this is lovely. Here in Richmond they are very efficient and never miss a collection. Over last summer, green things grew. And grew, and grew. Soon our back yard was like a jungle and when the wisteria on the front wall started to climb into our bedroom, we decided that it was time to do something. Bwo found a gardener. Like all service people in this country, he (Henry?) came from Eastern Europe. He was good though and could really teach our 80% gardeners in Israel about real work (these Israeli gardeners are really around 40% actually). Not know the rules we let Henry? filled dozens and dozens of huge black garbage bags with green clippings, branches and leaves. He took a few hours, carrying these through the house, and stacked them 5 high outside the front door in place for the recycling people to take away. There were so many they blocked the sun.

Richmond council, of course, did not agree with this. After a few weeks went by and no one picked up our clippings we checked into the council webpage. We found out that either you buy the council approved recyclable yard waste bags or else drop some cash on an "official" yard waste bin. So we bought some bags. Absolute rubbish they were. They certainly were biodegradable, as they completely dissolved after a few days out in our wet weather. Moving the stuff from one bag to the other was also a giant pain. So the mountain of bags outside the door stayed and grew more and more rotten. Finally we broke down and bought the nice green bin you see in the picture above. Yard waste pick-up occurs only once every two weeks and once the bin is emptied I cram it completely full with some of the left over soggy, rotting clippings. The good news is that now, nearly six months after this joke started we are finally down to having only two huge bags left to have collected. That is assuming they emptied our heavily full bin this morning.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


It's been a strange time here in wet Surrey. Squint central got flooded and we needed to move to a location further west near Reading. Lots of stress and pressure, but the squints are up and running in record time. This place is a little dismal. No windows which makes me sad.

In the central area of this building they have a TV that seems to be on constantly. I hate this. I have a irrational hatred of TV playing while no one is watching. It is constantly set to the Winter Olympics, which here in the UK means constant curling. I never thought anyone cared about curling, but I was wrong. The UK men's and women's (number one in the world) teams are both in medal contention. What a sport. The constant drone about stones and sweepers has become too much even for famed British wildlife commentator David Attenborough who made this tongue in cheek video (He lives in Richmond by the way).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere

This is the sight that awaited me when I drove into squint central UK this morning. Yes, we are flooded. The Thames has been rising and flooded its banks in Surrey. I needed my wellies to get into the building. And still the water continues to rise. This is not good.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


I am finally getting back to normal. I got back from the US last Sunday. It is always wonderful to get back to my family, and after two weeks away I was overjoyed to be home. I took the girly for a long walk, bwo made dinner and all was good. Monday morning I took bso to the airport for his trip back to Israel, and then went off to work. Sometime around mid afternoon I began to feel the jetlag creep in so went home.

By Monday evening I was shaking and shivering like a leaf. My temperature climbed through the room and I started to feel very, very bad. I was out for a full week. Completely knocked out. I could not do anything, no reading, no tv, no work, no nothing - just hurting all over. I don't remember missing a week's work due to illness for 30 years. Two doctor's visits and multiple NHS calls later it turns out I got a bad dose of the flu, and then some sort of chest infection. Today, Wednesday, more than a week from when this nightmare started I am finally starting to feel my strength returning. It was a week from hell.

What was amazing through all of this, was my wife. I have been known to give her a hard time, it's true. But should you be sick, there is no one in the world that can take better care of you. No one is more sympathetic and patient. No one is more gentle and loving. After a few days of laying near death in my bead, sweating and freezing, moaning and complaining, I could not even stand myself! Bwo was there day and night, "now, nowing", feeding, hydrating and just looking out for me. I am so dammed lucky.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Home Is Getting Closer

So finally I'm at San Francisco airport on my way home. I feel like I have been in California so long that I don't remember what rain looks like. Hopefully, some time tomorrow morning I will be home with my lovely wife, son and and dog. I am tired and shagged out. It has been too long a trip and I am more than ready to get home. I am sick of restaurant food, I'm even looking forward to the boring sandwiches we have daily at squint central UK. 

All I have between me and home are long lines, a wait for the flight, 10 hour flight, UK passport control, baggage claim, and so on.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Raining Men

Even More Trees by Jo

Check out this Article on BuzzFeed. A UKIP councillor (sort of UK's version of the Tea Party) blames the bad weather on gay marriage. Not that this sort of sentiment is unusual. In Israel we have had rabbis blaming all sorts of issues on various groups that don't follow their specific world view. What is interesting in this article is the responses. I particularly love Nicholas Pegg's UKIP shipping forecast. I occasionally get to hear the shipping forecast on BBC radio 4 on my way into work in the morning. It is wonderful, and it seems, quite a BBC institution. I love that "UKIP then suspended him after he defied a request not to do further interviews".

Being here in the US just further reinforces just how different the UK really is.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Day in Northern California

After a long and tiring week here in Folsom, I decided to stay put on the weekend. I woke up early yesterday (Sat) and headed out to the North Fork of the American River near Auburn. I went for a long walk along the nicely marked trail. I passed lots of runners and dog walkers,but man, it was sure chilly until I got into the sun (then it was hot). I hiked past the "Black Hole of Calcutta Falls", which was down to a mere trickle, what with the newly acknowledged drought. It was great to hike into nature, lots of bird song and gurgling river, but I missed my Roxy girl. They could sure do with some English rain here.

After getting back to the hotel, I did some washing, ate pizza and read. Later in the afternoon I decided to take in a movie. There is a movie theatre in the parking lot of the hotel, so I got to see the new Hobbit movie in "Real3D" (Gravity, the movie I really wanted to see was only showing later at night). It's a bit long, but very nice effects. All in all a very nice restful day. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Dusty by Jo
BWO started tangling "loved pets". Above is Dusty, sisteraria's cat in Houston. I think the result is excellent. So send her a good picture of your pet cat/dog/hamster/ostrich and she will tangle it for you (she may kill me for this). These could be worth a mint on Ebay one day.

While I understand its necessity, I usually don't pay a lot of attention to sleep. As I typically don't sleep a whole huge amount, and for me, it's usually just a matter of head hitting the pillow, and waking up refreshed. I'm not a great tosser and turner. Except with jet-lag, and as I have grown older, I have been having an increasingly difficult time of it. One thing that has helped is the bed in this hotel. I love the bed. It is so much better than the marshmallow bed we have at home. It's perfectly hard, but comfortably soft. At 2:30am when I jerk awake thinking I am ready to face the day, I can lay back and just melt into the comfort. I can dream about being home and mull over the events of days past and future. So when the squints want to know why I always choose this hotel and not one of the others that are closer to food and other comforts, I tell them that for me, it's all about the bed. Oh, and the shower. Which is not too bad either. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dry, dry, dry,

O My by Jo

My word, it's dry here in California. I have never seen it so brown and sad looking. Even Folsom lake is nearly all gone. It's the opposite of our home in the UK, where according to bwo it has started raining again. The car park at squint central UK flooded a few days back because the creek at one end overflowed its banks. Over here everything looks completely parched - I miss the green, green grass.

The big news in the far away London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames is that someone stole "a rare and expensive plant" from Kew Gardens. I love it that this makes headlines in our little town. No talk of nuclear weapons, or corrupt politicians, or the price of cottage cheese. No the big news is plant theft.

It is always good to visit the mother ship here in northern California. Even with the dryness. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the air is oh so fresh. I think I'll take myself to Chipotle for dinner and then off to early bed to fight jet-lag and get ready for a full day tomorrow.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A New Toy

Yet Another Hamsa by Jo

O.K. I'll admit it, I love my iPad Air. I finally took my hand off my heart and ordered and iPad. It was waiting for me when I arrived here in Houston. What a lovely toy. I got an Otterbox cover so it's durable and hardy.

I'm having a great time here in the bosom of my family. Unfortunately, it's nearly over as tomorrow morning I'm off to California and to work. My mom is doing great. 90 years old and still walking around without any help. The weather is great. All that is missing is bwo. I always miss her so much when I travel, and really, while it's nice, an iPad is no substitute.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

First Class Lounge

A Purse by Jo

After all my travelling in the last year British Airways decided to upgrade me from the silver tier to the gold tier. Much of this is due to our excellent travel agent at work. Anyway, today I am off to Houston for the weekend then to California for two weeks of work. 

I tried to talk my way into an upgrade from peasant class when I checked in this morning, but, although they were very polite, they would have none of it. So I'm still stuck in cattle class, but I do have access to the first class lounge here in Terminal 5 in Heathrow. And what a lounge it is. Full on breakfast, including the ability to order "Cured kippers with poached egg" or "Great British breakfast sandwich with grilled back bacon and fried egg on a toasted wholemeal bloomer" (what's a bloomer anyway). Still, there's nothing really vegetarian on the menu besides hash browns (and eggs, which hold no interest to me). It's a very nice place with huge single access toilets and showers and lots of very comfy chairs. As the famous old ditty goes:
"It's the same the whole world over,
It's the poor what gets the blame,
It's the rich what gets the pleasure,
Isn't it a blooming shame?"

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Poor Girly

Dream Tree by Jo

Poor Girly
Poor Roxy. Her claw (nail) that she managed to pull out, got infected and she needed to be anesthetized and have some of the remaining bits removed, then have her whole foot bandaged up - this for at least a week. She needs the collar so she does not chew her bandages off. She is still so out of it she can hardly walk. She just flops around the place looking miserable. This is going to be a tough week. But it's necessary as her toe was full of puss and seemed very sore.  (300 GBP later).

Monday, January 6, 2014

SAD lamps

Another Hamsa by Jo

After another bleak and rainy day I now understand why 80% of all the adverts on TV here are about exotic vacations in the sun. The all too brief periods of sunshine flit pass in moments and we are left with dreary days with gray skies. Now usually I don't mind the rain or stormy weather, but it has been going on for week after week here. The rivers are full, our lane is waterlogged, fields are flooded and still it goes on. I think I am going to have to buy bwo a "day lamp". One of those SAD averting daylight therapy lights may help her feel happier. It's freezing in the US, wet here, seems the only place the weather is any good is in Israel.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

UK Haircut

Another Lady by Jo

I had a haircut today. That in itself is not remarkable, I know. The thing is, that going to a new hairdresser is one of the significant indications that one has definitely moved country. Until now, I have been back to Israel enough that I have been able to keep going to Avi. He has been cutting my hair for more than 10 years now (for 60 NIS). We talk a little football (I am now much more up on the game than I was when living in the Holy Land), complain about politics, and importantly he knows when I just don't feel like talking at all.

Anyway my hair was starting to get out of control (like a "bushtiger" my dad would have said). I am off to the US for two weeks this coming Friday, so the time had come. Bwo suggested that I go to her New Zealand lady on the Richmond High Street. What the hell, I'm open to new things, so I gave it a shot. It was quite an interesting and enlightening experience. She washed my hair (twice) and massaged my scalp. And then cut my hair without too much chatter. I really liked that there was some interesting music playing (some sort of English hip-hop) and there was plenty to look at (lots of nice young ladies in tight pants). Most importantly, the one thing I don't like about Avi's place - the TV, was missing. I usually go to Avi's early in the morning and so am subjected to the stupid morning shows on Israeli TV. Inane and irritating, but whenever there's a TV on anywhere in my field of view, I have to watch. So all in all, this UK haircut was a good experience. Was it worth twice the price? That remains to be seen.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


3 More Trees by Jo

While I like the rain in general, it is getting a little too much. Two weeks pretty much non-stop. Seeing as the girly is still hobbling on three legs (Roxy not bwo) I have not been walking nearly enough. It's altogether unpleasant out. I have been watching all sorts of foreign movies and reading about trees. Nothing remarkable but it passes then time.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Licensed UK Driver

A Lady by Jo

I passed my UK driving test today! Yipee! I was very, very nervous. It's funny how I have sat through many tests in my life, but this one had me more nervous than any I can remember. My driving instructor, Jon, put the fear of god in me. He was a typical Englishman, very slow to praise, quick to point out all the errors in my driving. After each lesson I was convinced that I should not be on the roads at all. I tossed and turned in bed last night, going over and over all the various combinations of actions needed to drive through multi-lane roundabouts, reversing around corners and emergency stopping. The actual examiner this morning was a kindly chap and I got the impression that he was not trying to fail me. I had 6 minor faults out of a possible 15. Basically all related to not looking in the mirrors enough (especially when I slowed down to park, one needs to check one's mirrors before any action). Still I passed and that is all that matters.

It has been 35 years since I last took a driving test. I have a South African, American and Israeli driving license, and now I am licensed to drive in the UK. I have to say (in hindsight) that it's a good thing to go through after all this time. I was not a very good driver at all. Hopefully I have improved, but I still don't like driving at all. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Soldier Who Shattered Barriers

A Rimon (pomegranate) by Jo

Blackdaughtero is in the news once again. Check out the IDF's 8 Female Israeli Soldiers Who Shattered Barriers in 2013. It's the same article as before, but she is pictured along with some excellent company.We know the truth though. Our soldier was grounded for a week for not having her hair up on kitchen duty (so she claims). Well, bdo, we are all very proud of you. Not long to go and you will be done with the army, for good.