Monday, February 29, 2016

An Aunt

Auntie Masha passed away yesterday. She was an amazing woman. There were many things that made her special: she was an amazing cook (her cooking is one of the things I missed most when I turn vegetarian), she was well-read, interested in the world, and had views and opinions, she was nobody's fool. She did have the most unbelievable hearing. In the old days she would be in her kitchen in Rehov Shwartz and hear every word we whispered to each other on the balcony on the other side of the apartment, with the door shut. She was always a slight, slip of a woman, who got even slighter over the last few years, but she had a strong heart. Auntie Masha and Uncle Gus sort of adopted me when I first arrived in Israel as a fool-hardy, innocent and oblivious youngster of 17. They opened their arms and made their home in Raanana, my home. They were always there for me during those confusing days of early adulthood. I was so fortunate to have them.

I looked through my old pictures to see if I could find a defining picture of Auntie Masha. Of course, I couldn't. Firstly I only have digital pictures on my machine here, and those were the days of Kodak Instamatics and getting pictures "developed" the store on the corner of Borahov. Any picture like that would be somewhere in our myriad of boxes stored somewhere in the world. I did find the following picture. On second thoughts I decided not to post it. I am sure Auntie Masha would have hated it. She really was one of a kind.

She will always be Auntie Masha to me. I could never image any of my nieces or nephews call me "uncle", but Auntie Masha deserved the respect. She earned it over thousands of cups of coffee and Broadway 100s.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Bus

Most people who have worked for me have heard the "bus speech" more than once. The short version goes something like, "You know, life is like a long bus ride. People get on the bus with you, some people get off. Some ride a long way, some are only on for a few stops, but whether they sit next to you for miles or just stand in the aisles, they all add something to the journey". I have been fortunate in my life to have had some amazing rides with some very special people. Today I had the good fortune of meeting up with some of the Israeli Squints that are and have been on that bus with me.

We had lunch at a pasta place down the road from the Salt Mines. Many of my co-passengers on these bus rides came from all over to share their time. It was great seeing them. They are all doing well in life and work. They are what make this country special to me. I have been very lucky to be able to share my travels with them. (I hope they don't get upset that I posted a picture - we know the camera steals your soul). 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Things That Go Bump In The Night

I'm always amazed just how noisy life is in Israel. The Petersham house, while on a busy street between Kingston and Richmond, and directly under the Heathrow flight path when the wind is right, is so quiet. When it rains in the UK, which is quite often, we can never tell and I have to go look out the window in the morning to see if I need my rain gear. Last night, the rain started here in Raanana some time in the evening and went off and on all night. I could hear every raindrop. I hear the neighbors cars arriving and their arguments over how he does not talk nicely (hmmmm). Yes, we now have neighbors all around and opposite and below. I hear their kids coming home in the early hours on the weekends. But mostly it's the elevator that really bothers me.

You know when you move to a new house after 15 years there are bound to be some new noises. The creaks and bangs are different. The doors squeak at a different frequency and the cat's meow echos weirdly. Our new room is on the lower floor, near the kitchen and lounge dining room. We picked this room, because it's smaller and seeing as we are living over the water, it seemed a good idea to let the kids have the upper floor and bigger rooms. What I did not realize is that the wall our bed is against, is right against the lift (elevator) shaft. Every time anyone uses the elevator I hear the door open and close, the whir of the machinery and the door open and close again. Sometimes it starts with the whir then he doors. I can now tell whether it's stopping at the first or second floor. Luckily our building only has two floors and eight apartments, so it's not like being next to the elevator in a 20 story hotel, but still.  

Buckets of Broccoli. Leagues of lettuce.

The Hebrew Squints and I did some volunteer work this morning. We went to help out Leket, an organization that does amazing work feeding the needy with "left over food". Apparently it all started with an American New Immigrant who started collecting left over food from restaurants, then supermarkets and cafeterias, then on to surplus agricultural produce. They are mostly volunteer supported, with a lot of volunteers (55K says the website) and they produce over 1.5 million meals yearly. I particularly like that they don't let food go to waste. 

We arrived to find huge crates filled with lettuce and broccoli, which we had to pack into smaller more manageable trays to be shipped around the country to soup kitchens, schools and other places of need. We then moved onto beetroot and radishes. My fingers were destroyed after two hours, but as usual, I am proud of my squints work ethic. They worked, and worked. We were the first group to arrive and the last to leave. It was good fun and I think we all left feeling we had done something good.


Sunday, February 21, 2016


Alon posted a pointer to this "NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert" and I have watched it five times over the last few days. It makes me so happy. The joyful, smiling cellist, and the semi-serious one in the middle and the Marge Simpson one drumming on the end are so cool. And then there's the dude. I love it, It's one of the best things I have seen on the internet for ages. Watch to the end.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Home Again

I arrived in Israel yesterday afternoon after a pleasant and emptyish flight. I whipped out of the airport, collected my rental car and zoomed home all in about 40 minutes from row 35D to front door. I like coming home to this new apartment. The boy (bso) had actually gone shopping and moved all the junk that had collected out of my office. All in all the apartment here on HaHayil street is light and airy. It now has enough of "the look" that it feels like home. It was great to see bso. He is in good spirits, having done well at university this semester and enjoying the time off. I did the family rounds last night for dinner and after. All are doing OK, except my aunt who is not doing at all well. I hope this week goes well for her. The strain on her children, my cousins, is enormous. Sigh!, all around us people are getting old and health becomes more and more central.

Well I am happy to be here in the holy land, but I do miss bwo.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Of Stents and Stones

Stents and stones can break your bones ..... The stent is out and I am home nursing a sore left side and trying not to bite through my tongue when I pee. It burns. I spent a pleasant night in the New Vic Hospital. The food was not as good as last time, but the nurses are caring and my surgeon (called a Consultant in this country) seems competent. Well at least he has sense of humour. I did not sleep much last night after the procedure which seemed to take way longer than it was supposed to. I was back in room 33 at around 8:30pm. Having precious little else to do (I got tired of learning Python quite quickly) I collected the fragments of the boulder they crushed as they came out of me. It seems this is to be expected with a 12mm stone. Here is a picture. Note that these are just the fragments, they claim the got the big bits out with their "special tools".
That's a pound coin. The bits are hard and sharp, no wonder it's eye watering sore when they pass. It's all rather fascinating.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Quiet House

We just dropped bdo off at Heathrow on her way to South America for her "tiyul". She has a ticket back in June and who knows where she will be till then. It was most frustrating for me to watch just how disorganized they are, these young people. They were packing till the last minute and out shopping in Kigston till a hour or two before leaving for the airport. I hope all goes well for them and they have the experiences they are looking for. Come home safely girlygirl, I miss you already.

In other news, tomorrow is national, well at least blackpetero, Stent Removal Day. I'm not to eat from 10am and then into the hospital at 2:30pm and surgery starts at 4pm. That probably means I will get seen at around 7pm, by then I will be starving and full of headache. I will be happy to see the end of the stent. I have been peeing blood from time to time (this is normal according to the interwebs) and it is uncomfortable a lot of the time. Then it's off to Israel on Friday, so I better make a speedy recovery.

It's nice to have a quiet house again.  

Sunday, February 14, 2016


On Friday I visited a squint office in Bath. What a cool place to work. It's in the center of town, a few hundred meters from the Abbey and the Baths. Given the chance I would move there in a shot. The drive from the M4 was spectacular. It helped that it was a sunny day with clear skies and not the usual gray winter horizon and the traffic was unusually light. One of the advantages of winter is that the trees here shed their leaves so the views open up. In summer these views are often masked by thick green foliage. It was very cold though. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The View

I found out today that London has 13 protected views. These are views that cannot be tampered with for any reason. Turns out I walk by one of these most Sundays. The view of St. Paul's Cathedral from Richmond Park can be seen from the path between Richmond Gate and Pembroke Lodge. It looks like this:
Most Sunday mornings before most of the UK arises, Roxy and I walk down to the river and along the tow path to Richmond where we climb up the Terraced Gardens past The Wick into Richmond Park through Richmond Gate and walk down to Ham gate and then back home along the avenues. It's one of my favorite walks in the world. Along the path in Richmond Park there is, of course, a sign with an arrow "St. Paul's Cathedral, 10 Miles" and you can look through the trees and on a clear morning see the dome of the Cathedral in central London.

It turns out that being protected no one or nothing can do anything to mess with this view (and the 12 other classic views). The view was created in 1710 and apparently has stopped development of high rises around Liverpool Street Station as tall buildings would mess with the line of sight. In the words of Bill Bryson, who's new book "The Road To Little Dribbling" I am reading and where I found this tidbit: "It's all quite splendid".

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Turn's out She's right

It's a say day for blackpetero. It seems that all along bwo was right - it's not what you say it's how you say it. Squint Central UK hosted a "MicroInequities" course today. It all boils down to the small messages you send when you communicate. These, usually unconscious, subtle messages can impact interaction with others in the workplace and in life. You know what they mean, the raised eyebrow, the look away, the sigh and the insincere affirmative. Saying "that was brilliant" when you mean just the opposite. This is all part of the push for a more diverse and inclusive workplace that has gripped our industry.

So in the end it seems that bwo is right as usual. She has been telling me for years that what I say is meaningless, it's how I say it and obviously I usually say it badly. The goal of this program is to make you more aware of the effects of body and spoken language in your interactions with others. I obviously suck at this. The good news I can practice at home with a world's expert on how not to say stuff.

Hopefully this blog is not dripping with MicroMessages.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Full House

The daughter, bdo (blackdaughtero), arrived in London yesterday. She and her travel partner are stopping off on their way to South America for their multi month backpacking trek. I am more worried about this than I was during all her years in the army. I suppose it's a father's lot to worry while the offspring gallivant around the world. All they have as far as an itinerary is concerned is a flight to Buenos Aires and one back from São Paulo. It's good to be young.

In other news BFE (the boyf) arrived today. I reserve judgement as anything I say can and will be used in evidence against me. Roxy seems to like him.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Picture

I stopped blogging regularly a few months before Avril left us. And once she was gone I really didn't feel like writing much. I know she used to read all my posts and in some way she was one of the people I was writing to. I miss her and til now I have not been able to write about Avril much as it was too raw. I started this blog up again because it feels like life is changing again and this is a good way for me to record the passing of days.

While I was in Houston last weekend, we went to one of the (many) storage units we, as a family, rent. While I was looking for some documents of my parent's, I came across the "big box of photos", which is not so big any more. We took it home to look through and while pouring through faded old black and white pictures of my parent's youth, we came across this picture of Avril, and I have to say it brought on misty eyes and a lump in throat. This is exactly how I will always remember her, in that silly, frilly coat and that smile. I am so glad I found it.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Long Haul

Dave retired today. Thinking back, in the thirty or so years I have been working this is the first retirement of someone I have worked closely with. The thing is that our industry was young when we started work and we have matured along with it. I am now a sort of elder statesman and the people my age and older are on the retirement track. I used to think, once upon a time, that I would have a hard time with retirement. I believed I need the work to keep me feeling meaningful in this world. Funny how that has changed over the years. I am jealous of Dave and would like nothing more to be able to give up work knowing I could take care of the wife and kids, do archaeology, build guitars, go study something, travel.

I never thought my dad would be able to retire. He was certainly a workaholic. When he time came, he left his job, packed up 35 Mill Park Road and moved to Raanana and then to Houston. He was always busy and happy. He did his stamps, made sandwiches and collected money for the trampiyada and generally took time to read and drive miles to buy Diet Coke at a discount. I don't think he missed the "salt mines" for a minute.

Sadly this is a long way off for me, both financially and age wise. Today, it was sad to say goodbye to Dave, he was one of the first that welcomed me to squint central UK. He was a giant in history of 3D graphics. We had a nice dinner last night, pizza at lunch, and a nice toast this afternoon. An MacBook rather than a gold watch. I wish him much luck on this new journey.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Can't make this shit up!

At some point this morning bwo texted me "I swear, you can't make this shit up." and I swear you can't. Here's the story. Near the corner of Sandy Lane and Petersham Road a few houses down from us live a nice gay couple S and R. Nice guys. S looks after the Rox from time to time and they have two little dogs Lily and Poppy. Next to them live two other gay guys. For the sake of the story let's call them Guy1 and Guy2. Now not all has been well in the lives of Guy1 and Guy2. S and R have had all sorts of trouble with them. Particularly Guy1. He apparently has been abusive and threatening. S and R complain of shouting matches that continue to the early hours of the morning. I stumbled upon Guy1 sitting outside on the ground in the lane while walking Roxy one morning at 5am. He invited me in for coffee. I did not accept. Rumor has it that Guy1 and 2 are selling their house and planning a move to Houston. This could not happen soon enough for S and R.

I awake at 5am this morning after a troubled night's sleep fighting jet lag to a bothersome flashing light coming through the blinds. I think this is probably some medical emergency as we have some elderly neighbours. I looked out the window to see a number of police vehicles on Petersham road and no passing traffic at all. Hmmm, interesting. I dress quickly and take Roxy out the front door to see what's going on. To the right (see picture below) the road is cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape. To the left a solitary bus is standing all alone except for the driver who is looking up at one of the houses (X marks the spot). I walk over to him and ask what's up. He says there is a jumper on one of the roofs of the houses and seeing as he cannot make a U turn, he is stuck there. Sure enough I can hear Guy1 shouting and ranting at the top of his voice. Repeating the same chants over and over. The police are stationed below looking up and pleading for him to come down.
The bus driver tells me that they have closed off Petersham Road from The Dysart to The New Inn (all directions given based on local Pubs). This means no one can get from Kingston to Richmond or vice versa. Luckily it's still around 6am, so traffic is light. After a few minutes a policeman comes over and asks us to go further away as "things are coming to a head". I walk Roxy round the block and back down the back lane to get back home. Bwo and I go out the front door to see what's up and a nice policewoman asks us to stay inside because Guy1 on the roof decided I was Guy2 when he saw me outside and this has made him more agitated.

The prospects of getting to work any time soon did not look good so we offered the police outside tea. This was a good move as this elevated our status from nosy neighbours to useful citizens in the eyes of the UK constabulary. So much so that they offered to let me back my car out, move the five vehicles blocking the road and take down the crime scene tape temporarily so I could get out and go off to work. Amazing what a good cuppa can do. So I made it out, stopping on the way to give a ride to a stranded commuter waiting for a never appearing bus.

It seems the "incident" went on till around 10am causing all sorts of havoc in Richmond. A "van without windows" took Guy1 away eventually, according to bwo's report. She also spent time on the phone with S  (of S and R) getting the scoop from up close. Seems Guy1 started throwing roofing tiles and parts of the chimney pipe down on the masses of police below. He possibly also assaulted Guy2. Looks like he has been arrested, which worries S and R as this means he probably will not be emigrating to the US any time soon. And people dare say the UK is boring!

And if you don't believe me you can read the story in The Richmond and Twickenham Times.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Our Siddy

Sad news for us this afternoon. Seems the kids needed to put Sid down. He has been getting more and more frail as he gets older. Sad indeed.
Sid and his sister Nancy, knocked on the door of HaNevel street in our first winter in Israel (Dec/Jan 2000/2001). They were tiny, wet homeless kittens and after a close examination of all houses in the 2005 subdivision, they decided we should look after them. A nice South African/American family that would make sure they always had a warm house and good food. Sid was the serious one. While is sister Nancy was a Ninja and lived for the attack, Sid was always very regal and stately. He was not big on chasing things and mostly loved to lie on the bed with his mom, purring. He grew into a big handsome chap, the patriarch of the cats of HaNevel 3. He was not a big fighter, but would arch and hiss and spit at any young whippersnapper that dared intrude into his space.

According to the latest WhatsApp message bso now at the vet and they have decided his time is up. We had 15 great years with Sid and he will be dearly missed. No one purrs better.