Friday, October 07, 2005

New Year digest

Happy New Year to one and all. I had a lovely Yom Tov, thanks, although it wasn’t exactly restful. I managed to arrange an invitation for every meal – except for second night dinner which I had at my flat with my brother’s family. So basically, it was two days of none stop eating, with a frantic rush from the synagogue to lunch to dinner to home to synagogue. For two days. I’d like to say that there was some prayer and self reflection thrown in, but I have to be honest, I’ve never really been big on praying. I did get to hear the first 30 blasts of the shofar though, so it wasn’t a completely wasted effort. And I must admit that after all the food of the first day and a half I was tempted to put in a prayer on the second day to ask for some relief from the over indulgence.

As is traditional we had some apple and honey on the first night. The thing about apple and honey is that it’s great in theory but in practice is not nearly as sensible. First of all, it’s absolutely impossible to get runny honey onto a piece of apple and then pass it along the table to the people sitting at the far end of the room without dripping honey all over the table cloth. I’m not sure why, but there seems to be a tradition at every Jewish festival for eating food that is bound to spill or stain the tablecloth. On Pesach we’re told to drink four cups of red wine late into the night when we are at our most exhausted after a week of non stop cleaning. So there’s always one cup that spills and ruins the white table cloth. On Chanucka it’s traditional to eat jam donuts at five o’clock when the kids are still in their white school shirts. Cue yet another edible spillage.

The tradition for honey at this time of year is doubly ridiculous because we have to carry on eating it until Succot. Who had the idea of telling an entire community to eat their meals outside, in autumn, when the bees and wasps are at their most violent, and, to put the icing on the cake, tell them to take a big pot of bloody honey outside with them? Every wasp in the northern hemisphere makes a beeline (no pun intended) to the Succah to eat your soup before you do.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. No need to worry about Succot yet. Back to Rosh Hashanah. As well as the apple and honey I also enjoyed the other Rosh Hashanah tradition, which is comparing shul services. As soon as I arrived at my friends’ house for lunch on the first day the tradition began. We all began asking the obligatory questions that everyone finds themselves asking, despite not really caring about the answers. You know the kind of thing. How many people did you get at your shul? What time did you finish? Who blew shofar? Was he any good? And everyone gets very competitive about their shul to see who had the most people and who finished the earliest. It’s the same conversation every year and always reminds me of my grandma who always wanted the gender breakdown of the congregation. She would ask “How many people were in shul?”. “About 400”. “Was that just the men?”. Then she’d ask about the overflow. “How many in the overflow?” “About 150”. “Was that just the men?”

Talking about overflow, I haven’t updated about the bathroom for a while, so here’s the latest news on the longest bathroom installation in living memory. The bathroom is now pretty much finished – the bath is in, the shower is plumbed, the sink is connected. There is a new floor and all the tiles are in place and the grouting is done – only 3 months after the builder first started. But there is a downside – the toilet. The builder has discovered that the waste pipe feeding my toilet is made of lead and so we have to get a specialist chap to come in to remove the lead pipe and connect some environmentally friendly piping in its place. I’m hoping this is the last fiasco that we’ll encounter on this job otherwise I’ll probably be coshing my builder on the head with the lead pipe in a cleudo-style murder. And that wouldn’t be a great start to the New Year.

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