Tuesday, August 22, 2006

J.C

At the insistence of both sets of parents (and despite the inherent embarrassment to us both) YKW and I have placed an announcement in the JC’s Social and Personal page. It’s actually the best page of the newspaper. In fact, if I’m honest, it’s the only page I read. Really, they should print the Social and Personal on the front cover and save me the effort of having to flick through all the articles about cemetery desecrations and WIZO coffee mornings.

I should admit that I don’t buy the JC every Friday. There’s really no point because it is exactly the same every week. Without fail, there will be at least one article about Ken Livingstone, something about resurgent anti-Semitism in Hungary, a recipe with a terrible pun for a headline (“Flan-tastic”) and the usual smattering of provincial synagogue tittle-tattle. You could save yourself a fortune by just folding the paper up on a Saturday night and keeping it in a safe place to read the following week. It’ll be 90% the same as a new copy.

But the Social and Personal page is different. It’s an institution in itself. You can gauge the stage of life you’re at by which column you read. Once you hit your early 20’s you head straight for the Forthcoming Marriages. After a couple of years your eyes veer to the left to check out the Births, and later, hopefully much later, you start reading the Deaths. The best column by far is the Births. Initially you read the Births to see which of your friends have had kids and later, once you start having them yourself, to check out the names. It simply isn’t Friday morning until someone has screamed “Milo Patrick!? What kind of name is that for a Jewish boy??” There is also some fun to be had (albeit in terrible taste) in seeing which death has provoked the most announcements. (The record so far is 22. Which I think is a tad excessive. Nobody is THAT important.) My late grandfather outlived most of his friends (I suppose you would if you live til you’re 90) and he would always comment on the age of the deceased. When I was younger this was understandable. “Chap in the JC today, died at 52. Terrible”. But by the time he hit his late 80’s it was harder to sympathise. “Dear God” he’d say. “Hymie Blimie died. 87 years old. That’s no age!”

Be that as it may, you cannot get married in North-West London without placing an advert in the JC. It’s the rule, apparently. And, since we don’t want to rock the boat at this stage, YKW and I happily agreed. The truth is that YKW’s parents were especially keen. This is because their son is now in his [very] late 30’s and the only time he’s ever been in the JC was when they published a photo of him wearing a bra over his t-shirt for a breast cancer charity event. A very noble thing to do, but not exactly what any Jewish mother intends when she dreams of reading her son’s name in the JC.

Placing the announcement has turned out to be more problematic than I anticipated. You would be staggered by how many emails, phone conversations and dummy texts need to be drafted purely to tell everyone that he and I are engaged. You would think that “YKW and R.X are delighted to announce their engagement” would suffice. But no. A whole morning was spent, sending drafts back and forth before we finally pinned down the exact wording for this grand opus.

The parents favour a traditional wording. Something along the lines of “X and Y together with A and B are thrilled to announce the engagement of their children YKW and R.X”. I am not one to wilfully find fault. But I took exception to the phrase ‘their children’. YKW is nearly 40 (as I may already have mentioned) and, to put it politely if bluntly, I’ve been around the block a bit myself. I’m not sure that either of us can accurately be described as children. So that had to go.

Once all interested parties had agreed on the text I submitted the announcement online and pressed ‘send’. I then panicked. Had I spelled all the surnames right? Did I remember to mention my parents? Did I send it to the Forthcoming Marriages page? I decided I’d better phone up to check. The internet is all well and good, but in the end, you always end up having to speak to a human being.

“JC Personals. [pause] Shirley speaking. [pause] How can I help you?”

Now Shirley is clearly a clever woman, who spends the best part of every day talking to people who are either sleep deprived due to the arrival of a new baby, grief stricken by recent bereavement, or giddily in love. But Shirley doesn’t know when she answers the phone which personal occasion the voice on the end of line has called up to announce. So she speaks...very...slowly...and...clearly until she’s ascertained whether I am calling about a hatch, a match or a dispatch. As soon as I tell her that I’m phoning to announce my engagement her voice rises an octave, she starts jabbering ten to the dozen and refuses to let me get a word in edgeways. In fact, she seems so delighted that for a moment I suspect that she might know me. Or my mother. (Exactly how many people HAS my mother told the good news to??)

“How lovely. That’s wonderful news. Mazal Tov. Let me take down your details”

I tell her that I’ve already submitted the wording of the announcement online, together with my date of birth, credit card details and email address, and that I am merely phoning to check that the submission was received and that it’s all right for printing.

“Let me just bring it up on the screen for you. Did you choose a ring yet?”

“Erm, actually, my fiancé chose it. He gave it to me when he proposed.”

“Did he really?? How wonderful. How did he propose? Was it romantic?”

I decide not to tell Shirley the entire Boggle story. I just reply “Yes, it was very romantic”.

“Okay, here we are.” Shirley then mumbles the announcement under her breath. “That all seems fine dear. Only you haven’t mentioned any grandparents. Most people mention their grandparents.”

“Yes, well, er, the thing is we both left it rather late and neither of us have any grandparents left.”

There is a slight pause which I only realised afterwards was the time it took Shirley to scroll up the screen to find my date of birth.

“Yes, I see. Well, never mind. I’m sure they are with you in spirit.”

“Thank you. I’m sure they are too”

“And your mother must be very relieved. Better late than never.”

“Erm, yes, she is”

“Okay, well the announcement is absolutely fine. You did the right thing to call though because you don’t want any mistakes. After all, you only get engaged once”

“Actually Shirley….Oh, never mind….”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

still quite excited...

Being engaged is a full time job. The phone has not stopped ringing since we announced our news. I think shares in vodafone and orange must have trebled in the last 24 hours on the back of the texts that have been flooding in from the four corners of the globe. YKW is still on cloud nine - unable to sleep, grinning like a chesire cat and looking like he's about to burst into tears at any moment (but in a good way). He's so excited that he wonders why he's never gotten engaged before. I reminded him that I have. Well, you've gotta laugh.

Reaction to the news has been very enlightening. My Dad cried. So did YKW's. And within a nanosecond of hearing the news, both sets of parents had phoned each other and arranged to meet for lunch. Without us.

So far, the funniest response has been from my mother. I told her the entire Boggle proposal story (see yesterday's post), making a special effort to highlight the romance of the moment. Her response? "Oh, we've played Boggle with Harvey and Sue".

Scrappino has known about the news for some time so he wasn't particularly surprised. In fact, I think he's probably wondering what all the fuss is about. But when I told him we were officially announcing our engagement he looked me straight in the eye and said "Mum. I am NOT being a page boy". So any plans I had to dress him up in a purple satin shirt and velvet trousers have now been dashed.

Meanwhile, all of our friends (mine and YKW's) have been thrilled. The standard reaction seems to be a shrill shriek, then a loud "Oh My God!!!" and then a sort of yelp. But despite the screaming and oh-my-godding, all are violently insistent that they knew all along and are not at all surprised. In fact, there seems to be a bit of competition between our oldest friends as to who knew first, who guessed it would be this week and what the tell tale signs were. Which, considering I was totally flabbergasted and not expecting it at all makes me wonder how they knew when I didn't.

The great thing about planning a wedding at YKW's age and at my 'stage in life' (that seems to be the polite way of saying divorced single mum) is that we have the authority to do things our way. So we are hopeful that the wedding will be exactly how we want it to be, and we can plan it with little hassle (or, as they put it, advice) from out parents. "We just want you to be happy" they tell us. "Whatever you want is absolutely fine by us". "We'll go along with whatever you decide".

First job is deciding whether or not to put an announcement in the JC. The parents say yes. We say, why bother? They say, because we've waited this long and we'd almost given up hope and he's nearly 40 and she's been single for years and couldn't you just let us enjoy the moment and do this one thing for us and........

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

M.A.Z.A.L T.O.V

Well now, here it is. The post that I never thought I’d write. To be honest, this is the post that nobody thought I’d write. But, we of little faith have been proved wrong. Guess what?

I’m engaged!!

I know, I know. I sound girly and 16 and pathetic and I can almost hear Germaine Greer tutting as I type and relegating my name to the list of feminist has-beens. But, be that as it may, the fact remains, I am engaged.

Oh, in case you were wondering, I’m engaged to YKW.

We’ve been talking about marriage for a while and now that we’ve been seeing each other for 6 months we both felt it was the right thing to do. Let’s face it, I’ve run out of sad-single-female gags. And being a single mother is so last century. And for his part, YKW is nearly 40 and is starting to find that the female Jewish population of NW London is divided into two groups. The ones he’s already tried (largely unsuccessfully) to pull and the ones who are convinced he’s gay. (I suspect there may be a smaller subset of girls who fall into both categories, but we’ll gloss over that for now).

So, on Monday night, 6 months to the day after our first date, YKW proposed. (I know you want the details, so here they are.) As a bit of background, I should say that YKW and I have an in-joke about the game Boggle. (In case you’re not sure, it’s a staggeringly dull word game that uses a 4x4 grid and a set of cubes with different letters on each side. The idea of the game is to randomly shake the cubes and then try to make as many words as possible out of the letters displayed).

Now, the joke between us is that, whenever we find ourselves doing anything remotely dull or boring, I try to see the positive side by saying ‘at least we’re not playing Boggle’. I can’t think of anything I’d rather NOT do than play Boggle. The day my life is so sorted and so complete that it will be enhanced by making random anagrams out of a set of letter cubes I will be a very lucky girl indeed.

So, back to Monday. YKW came home from playing football (wherein lies a whole other post!) and tells me he’s got a present for me. To celebrate our 6-month anniversary. (Cue Germaine throwing up again.) And he hands me a shockingly wrapped present.

“Oooh, what is it?” I ask.

“It’s a present.”

“Can I shake it to see what it is?”

“NO!! Don’t shake it. Open it very carefully”

So I opened it and inside was…a set of Boggle. Not exactly what I’d been expecting.

“Open it” says YKW. “Just don’t shake it”

So I opened the lid and inside he’d spelled out WILL U MARRY ME in boggle letters and placed the ring (yes, he bought a ring too) in one of the squares.

I was a bit confused at first. Mainly because Boggle, as I’ve already explained, uses a four by four grid. So YKW had actually written
WILL
U
MARR
Y
ME
which looked like WILL U MARR ME (Although I suppose the other alternative would have been WILL U MARY ME which is not much better.)

Obviously I said yes. Actually, I thought I’d be a bit cheeky and so I spelled out YES with Boggle letters. I couldn’t resist being a bit clever-clever. But I was totally bowled over.

It was only later on that evening that I realised how much trouble YKW had gone to. He was working in Barking on Monday where they don’t exactly have a glut of Boggle sets. He tried ASDA, Woolworths, WHSmith and the pound shop to try to find a Boggle set. But nobody had one. Let’s face it, Barking is not exactly the anagram word-playing capital of the world. Not a great call for Boggle in Barking. Luckily, the chap at Hamleys was most helpful. In Knightsbridge they have lots of Boggle. They have the deluxe version, the standard version and the family version. (I later assured YKW that there was no need for a family version. Just yet.) So he hurtled half way across London to pick it up.

His trouble didn’t end there. He spelled out WILL U MARR Y ME in his office and discarded the unused cubes. But by the time he got home the cubes had all rattled out of place. He then spent the best part of an hour trying to find the exact (and possibly single) permutation of cubes to spell out WILL U MARR Y ME. By the end of the exercise, he was as anti-Boggle as I am. So there’s no fear that we’ll start playing the bloody thing. (But just to make sure, I glued down the letters so that they permanently spell out WILL U MARR Y ME. Part romantic souvenir. Part insurance against after dinner word games.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Anyone for tennis?

One of the (many) upsides to dating YKW is that he manages to wangle tickets to some of the best events in town. And so on Saturday we had ring-side seats at the Ladies Wimbledon final. Since he had procured the tickets I agreed to prepare the picnic lunch. This doesn’t sound much of a chore. However, one of the (few) downsides to dating YKW is that when it comes to food he is like a 9 year old. He is the most unadventurous eater I’ve ever met. I packed cherries “I’m not really a cherry person”; I packed mozzarella “I’m not really a mozzarella person”’; I packed Green and Blacks biscuits “I’m not really an organic biscuit person”. So I enjoyed a picnic lunch that made the National Trust couple sitting on our picnic table green with envy while YKW munched on a banana, Dairy Lee triangles and Jammy Dodgers. Honestly, he's really just a big kid.

I was disappointed that Venus Williams wasn’t playing because she is so inspirational, so athletic and such a powerful player. YKW was disappointed that Maria Sharapova wasn’t playing because she is blonde, beautiful and has legs up to her arm pits. But instead, we had to make do with Amelie Mauresmo versus Justine Henin-Hardenne. Or, as it seemed to us, a man versus a midget.

The atmosphere was fantastic. There was a brass band on the corner of the court playing the usual brass-band favourites – Theme for Grandstand and Is this the way to Amarillo. The audience clapped along, although personally I was slightly puzzled as to where the band had come from. Do they have coal mines in Wimbledon?

At one point, just before the match, John McEnroe came onto the court to be interviewed by the BBC and he got a louder cheer than the two players did - when they eventually arrived. After a brief warm up the match began and for the first few moments it all felt very odd. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something felt different. I then realised that there was no commentary. Watching a tennis match without the commentators is a totally different experience. And a much more exciting one. There is nothing more annoying than following a point of tennis, only to be interrupted by some old BBC bod who is wittering on about the days of wooden rackets and Fred bloody Perry. Or John Lloyd, who never got further than the 2nd round of an ATP championship, remarking “What Federer needs to do is come into the net a bit more”. I’m sure Roger will be rushing home to write down your advice, John. On the down side though, there were some shots that were so fantastic that I’d have loved to see them again. But there is no action replay at a live match.

I hope I’m not making myself out to be a tennis expert. I very rarely play and Wimbledon is the only tournament I follow. So I can hardly claim to take the experience too seriously. In fact, at one moment on Saturday, I thought YKW and I would be thrown at. At a quiet lull in the match, someone called out (as they do) “Come on Justine!” and then someone else replied “Come on Amelie!” at which point YKW called out “Come on Henman!”. The serious couple to his right tutted audibly. At the next lull, when the “Come on Justine!” started up again, I called out “Come on Eileen!” to which the French lady to my left leaned towards me and said “It is pronounced Ah-Meh-Lee”. Obviously, Dexy’s Midnight Runners didn’t make it to France.

After the three-set match and the presentation of the gold shield, YKW and I decided to go home rather than stay for the mixed doubles. Well, we had important stuff to do (i.e. we had to be back in time for the Doctor Who series finale). So I missed seeing Venus Williams play live. And Andy Ram – the first Israeli player to win an ATP event. Instead, I sat on the sofa with YKW and Scrappino and I blubbered like a baby as Rose and the Doctor were parted forever. Now who's the big kid??

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

...I just couldn't stay away...

As Elton John once sang, the bitch is back. (He also sang Candle in the Wind, but that’s not really the point).

You will no doubt have noticed that there has been a rather lengthy hiatus here at suburban hymns. I apologise to all (both?) readers who have checked in on a regular basis only to find that I’ve not updated since April 8th. If it’s any consolation, I do feel very guilty about this and I feel I should explain.

Firstly, I blame You Know Who. It’s a case of being careful what you wish for. I wittered on for a whole year about my dating fiascos, meeting rubbish blokes and bemoaning my lot as a singleton. And then unexpectedly, out of nowhere (well, not exactly nowhere, out of North London) this rather lovely chap appeared and buggered up my entire shtick. So I found myself happy and settled with nothing much to moan about and the whole slant of this blog was suddenly out of kilter. Bloody men. You just can’t blog with ‘em. (Though, in case you’re wondering, it’s all going rather well. I will change a habit of a life time and leave the personal information at that).

Secondly, I have been writing elsewhere. Not on-line, but in private. A first for me. I am normally one to scatter my creativity with abandon, showering anyone who’ll listen with my latest offerings. But I’ve taken a rather large writing project on that I’m trying to keep under wraps until it’s finished. So the blog had to take a back seat while I concentrated on that. For a while at least.

Thirdly, there’s the World Cup. I’ve been totally hooked. If you’d told me six months ago that I would watch every game in the entire competition I’d have laughed in your face. But that was before I factored in YKW being a football fanatic and Scrappino catching the footie bug from his friends. The result has been a soccer-fest of ridiculous proportions. There are three wall charts in my flat which Scrappino has lovingly filled in, listing every game, the teams, the scores, even the penalty shoot-out results. I even considered joining in the jingoistic fervour of the nation by investing in a St George Cross flag for my car. But I drive a Skoda and I was worried that the weight might tip the balance and topple the car over. (You can tell it’s been a while – I’m making Skoda gags).

It goes without saying that I’ve been supporting the English team (much good it did them). But I’ve taken an interest in the other matches too. Only, like most Jewish viewers, every match had to be viewed from the perspective of how each of the countries has treated the Jews. This is not as easy at it sounds. Obviously, we all cheered when Germany lost. But some of the fixtures posed very difficult dilemmas. Ukraine versus Iran was a tricky one. Talk about a rock and a hard place. I mean, who do we want to lose more?? Or Saudi Arabia versus Croatia? The commentators were no help. Filling the half time discussion with their views on goal defence strategies without a single mention of the Arab boycott or the massacre of 1942. How is a girl to know who to support??

Meanwhile, the sporting bug reached Scrappino’s school just in time for the annual Sports Day. Scrappino came home today with two stickers on his t-shirt – both with a rosette and “2nd” printed on them. He’d come second in two races. One was the running race. I congratulated him on his success but he admitted that he’d not been in a very difficult line-up. Just him, Sam and five girls. “So Sam won then?” I asked. “No, Natasha did” he replied. The other was the sack race. I resisted the urge to praise him for being so good in the sack. “I’ll keep that one for the blog”, I thought.

And so I did.

It’s good to be back.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

all work and no blog...

Apologies for the long silence. It’s good to be back.

While I’ve not been blogging, I have been:

1. Listening: to Sophie Solomon’s new album Poison Sweet Madeira. Fabulous. I saw her recently at the Barbican. You can read about it here. But before you do, I have a confession to make. YKW (“you know who” is becoming too tedious to spell out in full) read the post and thought that I’d over-egged my cultural credentials somewhat. He has a point (he’s always right…) since I didn’t admit that we only actually stayed for the first half of the concert. Well, Sophie played before the interval, and the second half was all a bit too Radio 3 for my liking. So we bought a cornetto and went home.


2. Watching: ”Live and Become”. Quite possibly the worst film I have seen in the past five years. It’s a French-Israeli film set during the 1984 Ethiopian famine, about a Christian boy whose mother realises that his only hope of survival is to go to Israel on the Operation Moses mission. So the boy goes to Israel and pretends to be Jewish and is eventually adopted by a French family. So far so good. However, the film then proceeds to cover pretty much every cliché you can think of. For two and a half very long hours. Intergration, bullying, adoption, racism, secularism v orthodoxy, prostitution, military conscription, etc etc. And the ending (where the boy is reunited with his mother twenty years later in a Sudanese refugee camp) is so twee that it would have been rejected from a trashy airport novel for being too contrived. However, the evening was not without its highlights. As the film began the woman sitting behind me was talking (in Hebrew, naturally) on her mobile phone. In the middle of the cinema. I thought she’d stop once the credits had finished but she carried right on. So after five minutes I turned round and, quite loudly, said “Say hi from us”. People around me clapped. And people around them no doubt wondered what was going on. But the woman turned her phone off and shut up.



3. Playing: poker. I have never played before and I have to admit to a (probably prudish) hatred of gambling. But YKW is quite keen and it’s still early days so I have to show willing. The ‘buy in’ was £10 and I went home with £9.40. So my first proper gambling experience only cost me 60p. (Actually, it cost me £35.60 once I’d paid the babysitter and bought a bottle of wine for the host. But you know what I mean). The trick, apparently, is to work out the best possible hand on the table and then measure your chances of winning based on how your cards compare with that. But I couldn’t quite get my head round the various options. In the end they all blended in to one royal flush straight. I think I’ll leave poker to the experts and stick to playing top trumps with Scrappino.

4. Celebrating: the civil partnership ceremony of A and Y. I’d not been to a civil partnership of men before. I’ve been to one for two girls which was exactly like a ‘regular’ wedding, only with two brides, so I had to pretend to like two dresses rather than just one. But there were no dresses at all this time. In fact, this made it quite difficult to make small talk to guests I didn’t know, as the obligatory “Doesn’t she look fantastic” wasn’t an option. It was a very low-key affair. Just 8 guests, including grooms. A champagne toast before we went in, a 20 minute ceremony, and then lunch at a restaurant round the corner from the town hall. (I had the pigeon. It’s a lot like chicken). It may not have been a conventional do, but I still had to hold back the tears. Just goes to show that you don’t need 300 guests, the Kinloss Banqueting Suite or Danny Shine in order to tie the knot. You just need a lot of love and someone to share it with. And A and Y clearly have that. So Mazal Tov to them both. (And in case you are about to become the Nth person to ask me, no, they didn’t both break a glass.)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A few words about shoes

I am about to get a little bit girly. (Male readers might want to look away now.) To be honest, I’m not really a particularly girly girl. I don’t have endless conversations about shoes and make up. I don’t fixate about my weight or drift from fad diet to fad diet. And I was never one to flutter my eyelashes and claim blonde idiocy to get my own way with men. (All of which might explain why you-know-who is the first proper boyfriend I’ve had in years and why I seem to be frequently mistaken for being gay – remember this?)

That said, I am not without my vain moments. And this week I came upon a revelation. I bought a pair of shoes which

a) look great
b) feel comfortable
c) give me a bit of height
d) can be worn with jeans and smart black trousers
and, the best bit
e) make me look thinner

It’s true. They’re MBT trainers. MBT is (not a yeshiva, but) Masai Barefoot Technology. The idea is that the Masai walk upright for miles every day without shoes and without any back pain. The reason? They train themselves to walk on natural terrain in their bare feet. Meanwhile, I walk for roughly an hour a day in shoes of varying degrees of quality and constantly suffer from spine twinges and back pain.

Now, contrary to what I might have implied above re. blonde idiocy, I don’t quite understand the science. It’s something about replicating the feel of unstable, rocky terrain beneath your moving feet. Clearly, I'm not the only one to stumble (no pun intended) across these shoes and not quite understand the science. These shoes (get this) come with a DVD to teach you how to wear them and how to walk in them correctly. Imagine, a free DVD with your shoes to show you how to walk in them. (Needless to say, I haven't watched the DVD. It would be a miracle if I could get near the TV to be honest, since Scrappino recently inherited another 20 odd Dr Who videos...)

But whatever the scientific reasoning, these shoes are incredible. They force you to stand tall and consequently (point e) they make you look thinner because you hold yourself (and all your wibbly bits) in as you walk. They are amazingly comfortable – like walking barefoot, only with support - and they look brilliant.

How amazing is that?

Okay, enough giggly girliness. Back to normal. What do you think of the budget, eh?