Monday, January 30, 2006


There’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that I did not manage to get through to the final round of voting in the Best Humor (sic) Blog category of the JIB blog awards. Although, if this is anything to go by, maybe that’s just as well. (If you’re not into pressing the links, an article in this morning’s Independent [it isn’t – are you?] reveals that men are not attracted to funny women. We frighten them, apparently. Poor lambs.)

However, the good news is that I am through to the final round of voting in the Best New Blog category. (Thanks to Z for pointing this out. I’d not noticed…) So it’s time to get voting. Again. You can vote for me here. Just find the list for Best New Blog and click vote! Oh, and you can re-cast your vote once every three days. I’ve not a hope of winning. But it’s fun to be in the running. And since I’ve no interest in rent-boys and do not have a drink problem, I’m unlikely to find myself canvassing for political votes any time soon.

Thanking you all in advance. And don’t forget to spread the word…

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ten go mad in Calais

My good friend Z celebrated her birthday last Saturday by organising a day trip to Calais. When I say organised, I mean she arranged every detail, from downloading the route from London to Folkestone, booking the train tickets, reserving a table at a fancy restaurant near Calais and even factoring in an hour’s duty-free shopping. When it was my birthday I barely managed to send out a hasty email to everyone in my Outlook address book inviting them to my flat for a drink. So I take my hat off to Z for her military precision planning.

Among those present were Rx, Tx, TC, G, Big J, Little J and ZW. (I’m rather regretting making a promise to all my friends and acquaintances that I wouldn’t expose them on the blog. As a result, I can’t give away any real names, which means that this story is going to resemble a complicated algebraic equation. I hope you’ll be able to keep up. Single initials make it very difficult to distinguish between different members of the group. The only consolation I can offer is that we are all young Jewish adults from North West London so the need to distinguish between us is not vital. We’re all pretty much the same, anyway).

Friday 20th January

22.00 Rx arrives at Tx’s flat.
22.15 Tx gets out his AA Bumper Road Atlas of Great Britain and plots route from Swiss Cottage to Folkestone. Tx whitters on about the M20, the Blackwall tunnel and the A2 becoming the A20. Rx nods knowingly, not listening to a word Tx is saying. (Rx actually thinking to herself “hasn’t Tx got lovely eyes”.
22.30 Tx asks Rx if she understands the route because Rx is going to have to navigate.
22.35 Rx begins to panic. Tx shows Rx the route. Again. Rx tries to concentrate and NOT think about Tx’s lovely eyes. They are lovely though. (Tx wonders if the rumour that Rx has a Double First from Cambridge is true because she clearly has an attention span of less than a couple of mi….they really are lovely eyes.).
23.00 Tx sets alarm for 7.30 a.m.
23.05 Rx cracks joke about not realising there is a 7.30 a.m. on a Saturday.
23.10 Tx doesn’t laugh. He has heard the joke before.

Saturday 21st January

07.00 Z, TC, G, Big J, Little J and ZW meet at 7.00 a.m. sharp in Edgware. They divide into two cars for journey to Folkestone, armed with print-out of route and time schedule for the day. Rx and Tx are scheduled to meet the rest of the group in Folkestone at 8.30 a.m.
07.30 Alarm goes off in Tx’s flat. Rx and Tx faff about for half an hour before finally leaving the house. Without print-out of route or time schedule for the day.

08.00 Tx and Rx now en route to Folkestone.
08.15 Z phones Rx – “Big J wants to know where are you?”- Rx lies “nearly there”
08.30 G phones Rx – “Big J wants to know where are you?”- Rx lies “nearly there”
08.45 Everyone (except Tx and Rx) arrive in Folkestone
09.00 TC phones Rx – “Big J wants to know where the hell are you??” – Rx lies “nearly there”
09.15 Big J threatens to leave Folkestone without Rx and Tx
09.30 Z phones Rx – “Big J wants to know where are you?” – Rx (truthfully) “nearly there”
09.45 Tx and Rx arrive in Folkestone.
09.50 Big J looks at his watch and hurrumphs. Tx asks if there is time to have breakfast. Rx admires his audacity. And his eyes. They’re really lovely eyes.
10.00 Suddenly, ZW screams. “I’ve forgotten my passport”. Big J wants to hit her. Panic ensues.
10.10 Rx and Tx spot their opportunity and head off to buy breakfast. Tx buys a croissant. Rx thinks “coals to Newcastle” and buys a banana.
10.15 Every member of the group (except Rx and Tx, who are eating bananas and croissants, respectively) offers an opinion as to whether a UK driving license can serve as a passport on Euro tunnel. Not one of the group is in any way qualified to give this advice. None of them has any training in immigration law. None has studied the rules for Channel crossings. This does not stop them offering their opinions.
10.30 Big J suggests that Z and ZW phone the EuroTunnel info-line to ask if a UK driving license can serve as passport.
10.35 Little J suggests Big J takes a Zantac
10.40 Euro-Tunnel info-line chap says yes – UK driving license can serve as passport. ZW is white with worry. Big J looks at his watch and demands, for the sake of his health, that we get in the sodding cars and get to the train. NOW!!

10.45 Ten young Jewish adults split into two cars and queue up to board Channel Tunnel train. The noticeboard ahead reads “Les Passeports”
10.50 ZW asks if we are going through passport control.
10.55 Big J asks ZW what the hell she thinks “Les Passeports” means?
11.00 ZW reminds Big J that she doesn’t speak French so how is she supposed to know??
11.05 Ten young Jewish adults board the train and park their cars.
11.10 Z takes out the home-made (i.e. downloaded from the Internet) sing-a-long book (think standard Karaoke catalogue plus Naomi Shemer favourites) that Big J has rigged up especially for the trip.
11.15 Message is relayed over tannoy: “May we kindly remind patrons that smoking and drinking are strictly prohibited on all Euro Tunnel facilities”.
11.20 Ten young Jewish adults begin singing the entire first act of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the tops of their voices.
11.25 Message is relayed over the tannoy: “May we kindly remind patrons that smoking, drinking and singing Andrew Lloyd Webber classics out of tune and with no regard for other train users is strictly prohibited.” Or words to that effect
11.30 Ten young Jewish adults disembark train and begin drive to St Omer (near Calais.) Rx makes jokes about counting the way to St Omer and taking 49 days to get there. Tx doesn’t laugh. He hasn't heard the joke before. But he knows he'll probably hear it again soon.
12.15 Arrive in restaurant an hour earlier than table is booked for lunch.
12.20 Nine Jewish adults laugh at Big J for worrying about being late for restaurant.
13.20 Big J reminds nine Jewish adults about the one-hour time difference.
13.30 Nine chastened Jewish adults and one smug Jewish adult sit down for lunch.

13.35 Waitress arrives to take order. Rx wonders if she should order freedom fries. Rx decides against.
13.40 Rx wonders if she should order vegetarian/fish option or risk ordering treif
13.45 Tx orders fish.
13.50 Rx decides to order fish too.
13.55 Z, Big J, Little J, ZW and TC all order meat
13.57 Rx orders meat too.
14.00 Rx reads Tx’s face for any signs of disapproval. None found. His eyes are lovely though.
14.15 Lunch is served. Cuisine is gorgeous and the wine is fabulous. Ten Jewish adults sit around table laughing, joking, eating, drinking and toasting Z’s good health. It’s just like a barmitzva. Only Danny Shine is not crooning in the background.

15.15 Lunch is over. The bill is split ten ways and each card is charged separately a tenth of the bill. It takes forever to pay. Everyone has to enter their chip and pin. Rx makes gag about using frite and pin since they are in France. Tx doesn’t laugh. He has heard the joke before.
15.30 Ten stuffed Jewish adults decide how to spend the next two hours.
15.35 Big J reminds the group they must be back in Calais by 6.30 pm
15.40 Big J reminds the group that he means 6.30 pm local time.
15.50 TC suggests a trip to the war cemetery.
15.55 Nine Jewish adults roll their eyes in disbelief. This motion is not carried
16.00 The girls suggest a shopping trip. The boys suggest the girls suggest something else.
16.10 Z suggests the group all go on a nice walk in a French village. It is Z’s birthday so this motion is carried.
16.20 Z asks waiter if there is a nice French village near by.
16.25 Waiter points out the window and walks away.
16.30 Ten young Jewish adults mutter ‘bloody French’ under their breath and put on hats and coats for nice winter stroll.

18.00 After nice (but surprisingly chilly) stroll in local park, ten young Jewish adults arrive at Carrefour for a spot of duty-free (well, almost duty free) shopping.
18.05 Big J reminds group that they must be back at the entrance of the shopping mall at 6.30 pm.
18.10 Big J reminds group that he means 6.30 pm local time.
18.15 Rx and Tx head off to buy perfume (for Rx), whisky (for Rx’s dad) and wine (for Tx)
18.17 Rx finds favourite perfume (Issey Miyake should you be wondering) within 60 seconds. However, Rx then sprays both palms, the back of both hands, her gloves and her scarf with various perfumes just in case she finds something nicer.
18.20 Rx buys Issey Miyake, marvelling at Tx’s patience. And his lovely eyes.
18.25 Tx asks Rx if Issey Miyake is her favourite perfume. Rx says yes. Rx takes question as a very good sign.
18.30 Tx and Rx dash to wine and spirits section of supermarket to buy wine and whisky.
18.35 Rx and Tx bump into seven young Jewish adults all buying wine and one young Jewish adult hurrumphing, looking at his watch and telling the others they HAVE to get back in the car or they’ll miss the train.
18.40 Various young Jewish adults pick random bottles of wine off the shelves without any clue as to what they are buying or how much they should realistically be paying.
18.50 Ten young Jewish adults, weighed down with perfume, whisky and wine, load the cars and make their way to the train.
18.55 Big J tells the group they are cutting it fine.
19.00 Group arrive at train too late for next crossing.
19.02 Big J explodes and screams that the next train is not until 7.45 p.m.
19.05 Nine young Jewish adults ask if that means 7.45 local time?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Suburbanhymns on tour...

No words of wisdom or comedy gems today, I'm afraid. The events of this week have taken their toll and the ink has run dry. Plus, I was out with friends last night, celebrating Wednesday's result, and my head is just a tad sore. So, I've decided to take a day off. However, fear not. If you really need your suburbanhymn fix you can get it from my guest post for Jameel of the Muqata.

The post that I left there is a little more serious than I tend to be over here - and a lot more personal - so grab a Kleenex before you start. And do me a favour. Please don't mention it to my face. It's bad enough divulging your teenage crush to strangers - I don't need my nearest and dearest raising the issue.

Tomorrow I am off to France for the day to celebrate the birthday of my good friend, Z. I have no euros and my passport expires on 16th February. So I may well find myself stuck in France with no money and no means of getting home without calling the Consul and asking him to sort it out.

But if I get back in one piece, I'll tell you all about it on my return. Have a good one. R.x.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A few words of thanks...

Today's is a very personal posting. And, for that reason, I've had to ensure that it's fairly cryptic too. In fact, all things considered, it's actually rather pointless, because the people who know me personally and who therefore know what I'm referring to, have already been told this news (via the tens of emails and text messages that I sent out yesterday) and so they don't need to be told again via the blog. Meanwhile, the casual passers-by and blog-pals will have no clue what I'm talking about and, since I'm keeping the news as vague as I can, they will not be able to work it out from this post. So, those who already know don't need to read this and those who don't know will be none the wiser for doing so.

That said, I can't let the day go by without blogging about this. I started this blog just over a year ago and have (surprisingly, considering how easily I give things up when the novelty wears off) managed to maintain a fairly regular diary for the past 12 months. I have blogged about good times and bad dates; made you laugh and made myself cry; taken you all on a journey through Scrappino's obsession with Dr Who and the longest bathroom installation in living memory. And, though I say so myself, it's been a lot of fun.

But throughout it all, in the background, there has been a silent drama playing out. I've never blogged about it. I've not even referred to it in passing. The only impact it has had on the blog is that, on occasion, the situation has left me feeling so low and deflated that I've not really felt like blogging at all. Remember those times when I went for a week without posting, and then had to begin the next post with yet another apology for my absence? That was down to this situation. Sometimes, you're just too low to be funny.

But now, finally, after eighteen months of worry, stress, tears and not a little anger, I can finally reveal that it's all over. You can't begin to imagine how happy I'm feeling right now. And how relieved. For legal reasons I'm not going to divulge details here. But, suffice to say, a very wise judge made a great decision yesterday. A great decision for me. And, more importantly, a great decision for Scrappino.

Personally, I feel vindicated for making a stand on Scrappino's behalf, proud of myself for seeing it through to the bitter (or, as it turned out, not so bitter) end and amazed that I managed to carry on living a semblance of normality with all this going on in the background. I'm incredibly proud of Scrappino too. He's continued to thrive, to achieve at school and has remained cheerful and positive throughout. Not a small feat when you're only eight years old. And I'm unbelievably grateful for all the support I've received from my family and friends. You have been nothing short of wonderful. I've cried on your shoulders, phoned you at all hours for help and advice, and no doubt bored you witless with the 'he said - she said' minutiae of every twist and turn. I would not have been able to get through this without you. And I thank you all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cast your vote!

I have been shamelessly canvassing for votes all day. Via telephone, in person and by email. And now I'm going to blog for them as well. I have been nominated in three categories in the Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards. You can cast your vote for me by choosing suburbanhymns in the dropdown menu in the Best Jewish Humor Category, the Best Personal Blog Category and the Best New Blog 2005 Category. Vote from as many computers as you have access to - and feel free to send to as many of your friends as you can. I have no hope of winning. Firstly, the competition is hosted by the Jerusalem Post and, surprise surprise, Jerusalem Post sponsored blogs are racing ahead in the votes. Secondly, while my blog is (at the time of posting) coming up to 10,000 hits, I am competing with blogs which have an average visitor rate of 1,000 hits a day. So it's an uphill struggle to say the least. That said, it is fabulous to have been nominated (thanks mc…) and who knows where it might lead?? So cast your vote and make blog history….

Meanwhile, we are now 11 days into the new year, so here's my resolution update. Results so far:

1. Give up smoking. I am still 100% nicotene free. It is bloody difficult - I've had three sleepless nights when a crafty fag would have been very welcome. But willpower and Radio 4 sent me back to sleep smoke-free.

2. Watch less TV. An hour a day of TV is a little tricky. I'm probably still averaging more than that. But since most of it is Dr Who videos courtesy of Scrappino I'm inclined not to judge myself too harshly.

3. Lose half a stone. No weight loss whatsoever. Bugger. Though I'm told that losing weight while giving up smoking is scientifically impossible. Must remember to ask Robert Winston if that's true at the next Limmud. I'm sure he'll appreciate that.

4. Entertain more. Does making pasta and cheese for Scrappino and his friends count? If so, I'm on my way. If not, nope. I've still not dared to don the oven gloves and actually cook a meal from scratch for any guests over the age of 8. I told you I'd find this one difficult. Although I did order a smashing take away for my good friend L last night. Does that count?

5. Find love. Rather regretting making this resolution public. Let's just say, there have been developments. That's as large a bone as I'm willing to throw at this point.

Don't forget to cast your vote. I'll be kissing babies at a shopping centre near you soon....

Friday, January 06, 2006

A meme from me-me to you-you

I have been "tagged with a meme". I know. Complete gibberish. (Why can't bloggers use the Queen's English for god's sake?) Anyway, for those as uninitiated as I am, let me explain. A meme is like a game of verbal tag. Someone (who?) has an idea for a blog post - for example "my ten favourite officially-recognised phobias" - and then 'tags' a random selection of bloggers who then each have to write a post on the same theme. I'm not sure exactly how this encourages diversity of content and originality of ideas, but we'll park that reservation for the moment. For the time being, the meme (nope, no idea where that word comes from. Any ideas? I first thought it was short hand for Me!Me! - frankly, ideal for this self-obsessed blog - but that's not it), anyway, the meme is Four.

Now, obviously, my favourite Four is The Fab Four. But apparently I don't get off the hook that easily. Nor, it seems, can I get away with making crass gags like 'my favourite four is fourplay' since the joke doesn't really work when it's written down and is pretty ropey when read out loud. So, I'm going to have to do this properly.

The idea of this meme is to provide four answers to a list of questions. I've had no say in devising the questions - but I'd hazard a guess that whoever did has once worked on a teenage pop magazine. These are the kind of questions that Duran Duran et al used to get asked by the staff of Smash Hits. ("So, you're top of the charts, your latest single went platinum and you've just released your seventh album. What's your favourite colour?") Anyway, provisos and reservations notwithstanding, here's my list of fours….

Four jobs I've had
(That's only three and one is un-paid. Disgraceful.)

Four films I've walked out of
Hand that rocks the cradle
(That's it - well, once you've paid…)

Four films I could watch over and over again
84 Charing Cross Road
Moulin Rouge
Dangerous Liaisons
Big Lebowski

Four places I've lived

Four TV shows I love
Dr Who (The Eccleston Years)
Phoenix Nights
Angels in America (does that count?)
Cold Feet

Four most recent holiday destinations
(Not the planet Barcelona, the city Barcelona….)

Four websites I visit daily
Ebay (my name is suburbanhymns and I am an ebay addict…)
Amazon (I should just set up a direct debit and have my wages sent straight to Amazon)
The Clock's Loneliness (it's a poetry thing…)

Four books that I absolutely love
Middlemarch (desert island choice)
Brideshead Revisited (love, hope, despair)
Pride and Prejudice (because every time is like the first time)
The Great Gatsby (jazz, intrigue and rorbert redford)

Four books that I will never ever read again
Jude the Obscure (unremittingly despressing)
Great Expectations (I don't care if it's Dickens - it's shite)
The Information (I physically flung this across the room when I'd finished - and vowed never to read Amis again)
Anything with 'self-help' or 'how to' in the title

Four of my favourite foods
Grilled haloumi cheese
Roast chicken
Hot pecan pie
Pink Lady apples
(but not all together. that would be disgusting)

Four of my favourite songs
Your mother and I - Loudon Wainwright III
Shine - David Gray
Volcano - Damien Rice
Watching the Wheels - John Lennon
(These change daily - so ask me again some time…)

This meme was tagged from A Whispering Soul and Jameel Rashid. I'm supposed to pay it forward to four new bloggers. But I don't really know any who've not already been tagged. So I'm afraid the chain stops here. If this was a pyramid scam, I'd be out of pocket round about now….

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to one and all. (Or, for my Jerusalem-based readers, Happy Sylvester). Well, we’re now five days in and so far the year has not been too bad at all. I didn’t exactly bring it in with much style. I was down in Bournemouth with my parents who started the year as they intend to continue by going out to play bridge. So I was left on my own (plus ca change) with Scrappino (and Jonathan Ross) to see in 2006.

To be honest, I wasn’t too upset. New Year’s Eve parties are always a staggering disappointment. The weather is invariably freezing; you can never decide which party to attend and whichever one you do eventually go to, you spend the entire evening wishing you’d chosen another. On New Year’s Eve, it always seems like everyone else is having a great time while you’re dragging yourself through the crappest party since the school after-panto disco. So, I was actually quite happy to stay in with Scrappino and the TV. Unfortunately, Scrappino wimped out at 10.30 and begged to go to bed. I did my best to keep him awake with offers of chocolate and Dr Who DVD’s, but the role reversal just got too ridiculous, even for me, and I eventually relented and let him go to sleep. So, I was left with Jonathan Ross and an array of celebrity luvvies, who were recapping on the best TV moments of 2005. Sad to say, and heartbreaking to admit, I remember most of the TV moments like they were yesterday. Clearly, I have watched far too much telly this year (for which, see below) as I could recall almost every clip that was shown, down to the finest detail. But it was something to do til the clock struck midnight. At which point, I turned off the TV and, sober as a judge, but not regretting my party venue decision, I went to bed.

Now, I have made five New Year Resolutions. I realise this might sound over-optimistic. All the experts (by which, of course, I mean, the recently graduated freelance journalists who write the obligatory New Years Resolution stories in the glossy magazines) advise that you should make one resolution only so that you can realistically stick to it. I, however, know myself fairly well, and I am confident that I will almost certainly fail to keep at least two of them. So I figured if I made five resolutions, fail at two, I’ll end up keeping three. Which is better than opting for just the one in the first place. (See, now I’m a New Year’s Resolution expert. I should be sending this in to Bella, I really should).

New Year’s Resolutions – 2006 – in no particular order:

1. Give up smoking. I have to point out, for the sake of close family members who are, at this very moment, no doubt jumping up and down with rage, that I’m not exactly a 60-a-day person. In fact, I don’t smoke at home (Scrappino’s lungs being little and clean and quite precious), or at work (regular fag breaks make employees look lazy) or in the street (where do I begin? It’s common, litters the street with fag-ends, makes your hands freeze or your gloves smell, the list is endless). So, I frequently go for days, if not weeks, without smoking at all. That said, I must admit to lighting up in company, at parties or if I’m out for a drink. But not any more. Despite the various stresses and strains looming in the coming months, I am determined that I have now smoked my last cigarette. I’m not even going to cadge a crafty one off strangers in order to start up a conversation. My name is Suburbanhymns and I have been free of nicotine for five days.

2. Watch less TV. I have a dream of one day writing an award-winning TV drama. It’ll be funny and thought-provoking and challenging and dramatic. One of those must-see, seminal TV ‘events’ that define an age. (So, not a ridiculously over-ambitious dream, then). I’ve even practiced my BAFTA acceptance speech. (Ooh, I hope Christopher Eccleston presents it). Anyway, this pipe-dream allows me to forgive myself whenever I watch too much TV because I’m able to convince myself that it’s all in the name of research. However terrible the programme, I can usually argue that it’s all good preparation and that it serves as a lesson in characterisation, scene building, dramatic tension and story development. This is, clearly, bollocks. Watching crap TV does nothing but addle my brain and it has to stop. So, starting from now, I’m allowing myself 1 hour a day, maximum. Radio 4, it goes without saying, will be available on a 24/7 drip-feed loop. I’m not going completely cold-turkey.

3. Lose half a stone. See, I tell people that I need to lose weight and they reply (bless their hearts) that I look fine. Which, if I’m honest, I probably do. The only problem with the people who give this kind advice is that they haven’t seen me naked. I mean, I know I look fine in jeans. It’s just that once I’ve stepped out of the jeans, things go a bit, well, sort of, wobbly. I know I don’t need to shed bucket loads of weight. But a half-stone would be perfect. So, I’m not going to go mad or anything. No Cabbage Soup Diet or F-Plan for me. Just slightly less chocolate and a bit more exercise and I should be back to a size 10/12 in no time. (For American readers, that’s an English size 10/12. Not an American 10/12. I’m not that wobbly.)

4. Entertain more. I don’t mean, tell more, or better, jokes. I mean, invite people round to the flat more often. I’ll let you into a secret (and this is 100% true) I have an irrational fear of inviting people round to my flat for dinner. I love it when friends pop in unannounced. I’m great with the ‘come round for a drink and a DVD’ scenario. But actually sitting people round the table and cooking a meal for them makes me go cold. I just can’t do it. But I am always being invited to dinner by friends and family, and it’s got to the point where I simply have to return the invitations. I’m not yet sure how I’m going to stick to this resolution. I may have to wean myself in slowly by requesting that guests bring a salad or a dessert with them. But I’m determined to crack this. Face the fear and fight the phobia. As the self-help industry would say.

5. Find love. I have been happily single for a few years. I’ve done things I’ve wanted to do, when I’ve wanted to do them, and I have loved the independence and freedom that it’s brought. It’s been a wonderfully liberating and empowering experience. And the icing on the cake is that I’ve been able to spend time with Scrappino that I simply couldn’t have done if I’d been bogged down by the nitty gritty of a relationship. But I think the time has come to think binary. This is the year to double up. I’m going to keep myself open to opportunities and offers. When friends suggest colleagues and cousins for me to meet, I’m going to say yes. When strangers ask me for my phone number, I’m going to give it to them. And maybe, who knows? If I do find love in 2006 I won’t need the cigarettes, I’ll be too busy to watch TV, I’ll have an incentive to lose that half a stone and I’ll have a helping hand in the kitchen when folk come round for dinner? Sorted.