Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Filling the gaps

I feel I should explain my 10 day absence from blogging. I won't give you a blow-by-blow account (sadly, no pun intended) as it's just not possible to fit 10 days into a single post. So, instead, here are the edited highlights.

1. It was Yom Kippur. Given my frank and oft-repeated admissions of religious guilt on this site, you will appreciate that I needed every one of the 25 hours of the Day of Atonement to do justice to a year's worth of sins and misdemeanors. And, considering how difficult I find it to stay in synagogue for two hours on the occasional Saturday morning, an entire day spent in shul is more than enough to afflict my soul. I must admit that I didn't manage to attend all five services. Of course, not even I could miss Kol Nidrei. In fact, I actually turned up, with the correct shoes and prayer book, on time. I also did something that I never normally do in synagogue. (No, I didn't pray, don't be ridiculous); I made Scrappino sit next to me in the main service while the Chazan (well, actually it was a Chazzanit, but that's a whole other story) sang the Kol Nidrei prayer three times. I'm not sure why I forced him to stay in for this service. Nostalgia perhaps? I remember sitting next to my mother, squirming for the entire service on the wooden chair (why is synagogue seating so bloody uncomfortable?) and thinking we'd got to the end of the prayer when suddenly the Chazzan would begin all over again from the beginning.

Don't get me wrong. Kol Nidrei is a beautiful prayer with a stirring tune. And it would be a shame for Scrappino to miss out on this as he's growing up. But I have to admit to being quite pleased that Scrappino found the whole thing so interminably dull that I am confident it will have put him off shul for another year. Which leaves the way clear for 52 weeks of lying in on a Saturday morning, with a mug of tea and Home Truths, without an excited eight year old tugging off the duvet and nagging me to take him to the children's service.

On Yom Kippur itself I wasn't able to stay in shul for the whole day. I arrived just in time to do my maftir and haftara and left early enough to miss the rest of the service. There is a special tune on Yom Kippur which I do not know. Fortunately, my brother (something of an expert in these matters) kindly offered to record it for me on tape. Unfortunately, in these days of MP3 players and CD surround-sound systems, the only tape recorder he has is a Fisher-Price bright yellow 'My First Radio', complete with microphone shaped like a space rocket and the sound quality of an early 78 gramophone player. This was compounded by the fact that my brother and I share a genetic inability to hold a tune and by my decision to leave it til the night before Kol Nidrei to learn the whole thing. As a result, some of the notes were a bit wobbly to say the least. This might not have mattered in most synagogues where the person leading the service has to compete with a congregation chatting incessantly about who's wearing what, why they look dreadful, and trying to cadge free professional advice from the person sitting next to them. But in my synagogue, where there were less than 130 people, all of them earnestly following the service in silence, you could hear a pin drop. Sadly, you could also hear every flat note, every mumbled chord change, every dropped verb. Of course, when I finished everybody said it was excellent. But then on Yom Kippur, what are they gonna say?

I went home during the afternoon and came back just in time to break the fast. I missed Neila - the concluding service. It means "Locking of the Gates" which sounds dramatic, but to be honest, is the dullest lock in I've ever attended. I know. I should sound more contrite so soon after the Day of Atonement. But at least I'm honest. So, if nothing else, 'thou shalt not lie' is covered.

2. It was my birthday. 33 - since you ask. I didn't want to make a big thing of it. It's not young enough that I'd want it advertised or old enough that I'd need commiserating. In fact, I was more than happy to let the day pass without a thought. But a conversation with A at work convinced me to at least invite some friends round for a drink on the day. I sent out a hasty email, a week before the big day, inviting folks to join me for a drink or two. Almost everyone emailed back to say they already had plans. I forget what it's like to have a full social calendar with stuff arranged for months in advance. I'm lucky if I know what I'm doing this time tomorrow. But luckily I have enough friends with similarly empty diaries that I didn't start my 34th year feeling like an utter billy-no-mates.

Scrappino loves a party. He still remembers my thirtieth. Whenever he has a particularly late night (we're talking half nine sometimes!) he always asks me "Do you remember the time you had a party and I went to bed at quarter past midnight" and his eyes are wide open like it's the most amazing thing he's ever done. At the time he could hardly conceal his excitement. As the clock struck twelve (well, as the LCD display became 00.00) he dashed from guest to guest shouting "It's tomorrow! It's tomorrow" like a kid possessed. This memory made it very easy for me to sweet talk him into helping me prepare for this party. So Saturday afternoon was spent pushing the trolley round the supermarket and filling the basket with dips, nibbles and wine.

I think the indication that you're getting old is when the food:alcohol ratio in your shopping basket starts to favour food instead of drink. I was practically crippled trying to push the trolley round the aisles. I'd packed it fit to bursting with guacamole, salsa, crisps, nuts, fruit, cake, biscuits, crackers, snacks, chocolate, cheese and French bread. But it was only while we were queuing at the check out that I suddenly thought "wine!" and rushed back to get a couple of bottles each of red and white. Proof, if proof were needed, that I'm turning 33 rather than 23.

On the day of my birthday I laid the table with all the food I'd bought. It hadn't really hit me until then, but as I looked at the table, with the dips and cakes and crackers for egg salad, I suddenly felt very middle aged. Less 33 and more 53. I'm not sure where I'm going wrong, but I'm sure your 33rd birthday party table is not supposed to look so much like a kiddush?

As it turned out, the party was fine. Scrappino managed to contain his emotions when we got to 11.45 pm and I still hadn't told him to put on his pyjamas. My friends were in fine form and it was great to celebrate (if that's the right word) another year older and wiser. And possibly, best of all, I was able to show off the brand spanking new, and finally completed, bathroom. They say that all the best parties end up in the kitchen. This one ended up in the bathroom. Not as kinky as it sounds. When you get to 33 years of age, and you have a party spread that would make the ladies' guild proud, with one bottle of wine happily serving 20 guests, you don't expect kinky bathroom party stories. You expect everyone to be commenting on the border tiles, the style of the taps and the swivel mechanism of the mirror. Which is exactly what they did. Welcome to middle age.


Blogger bangedmyhead said...


Hope there were enough crisps to go round...

7:31 pm  
Blogger baldricka said...

Happy Birthday. Glad you had a good one!

8:43 pm  
Blogger R.x said...

thanks girls - sorry you couldn't come to the party - but i realise a five hour flight is a pretty long way to come...by the way, 33 isn't nearly as bad as i though it'd be...

6:21 pm  
Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Welcome to 33. We arrived within days of each other, sounds like. Happy birthday!

6:33 pm  

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