Pearly Kings and Queens.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 28 May 2018

Sometimes, when the noise ceases, and the outside is jet black, when the cat is snoring on the bean bag and the old man has gone up to bed, sometimes when it's dead quiet, and all around are asleep, I wake up. I know it's bad not to sleep, but sometimes when the day has been full and I've not satisfied my physical, or mental self for that matter, I just cant sleep. Tonight is one of those nights. I'm tired but not yet ready for bed, even though the sheets smell of fresh air from drying on the line

So this weekend was worth noting. On Saturday I sat with my Caribbean cookbook to create a menu for Sunday. It was off to the Spice Shop to buy plantains and cashews, a box of frozen samosas - which didn't get used - gungo peas and an Indian sweet that flakes and melts in the mouth. Then a drive, with the roof down, on the top road, past the turn off to Penshurst Place, down the hill past Groombridge Place, over the mini roundabout to the Organic farm shop.

Spring onions, salad leaves, potatoes and carrots, then a slow turn onto the empty road to the final stop. For bread and avocados, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and cream. Meringues and apples and black juicy grapes.

I had coffee in the garden then, in the silence, cooked. Chopping and peeling, slicing and nibbling. I made a huge I-Tal curry. A Rastafarian meal of uncommon goodness.

On the back burner, bubbled the Scotch Bonnet peppers, garlic and onions, root veg, red peppers then the cauliflower and green beans in last to keep their colour and crunch. Marinaded the chicken in lemon and lime. Soaked the brown rice in water, made a dish of quinoa, and prepped the pumpkin and broad beans. The big green pods, all furry and soft into the compost.

Up early on Sunday to make pineapple and warm cabbage stir fry. The pumpkin and plantain coconut stew in the big wok, and the brown rice cooked to perfection and the tiny sausages for the kids spluttering in the frying pan.

All done in silence.

Then 11.15 and David Baddiel on Desert Island Discs, he cried at his daughter Dolly singing an Elton John song, I cried along with him, my tears plopping into the red kidney bean and gongo pea salad.

I met Jim in 1976 - having seen him on stage 6 years earlier - it was common courtesy to keep our unit small until my biological clock ticked so loudly I needed ear plugs. The dawter was born in 1987. Fear at her status, should I die before her father, forced me to the Register Office, to put up the Banns of marriage, and get hitched to the old git on May 25th 1988.

So we've been together now for 40 years ( and it don't seem a day too long.... but do add one more year for accuracy) 11 years unhitched, so on May 25th this year, it was our 30th wedding anniversary.

We spent it on the beach in Brighton eating fish and chips, me shooing off the gulls whilst the idiot 'oosbind fed them with our anniversary potatoes. The Caribbean feast, however, was for Sunday, a hot gathering of 12 of us, and an infant.

Everybody arrived at the same time. 1.45, tulips, noise, Champagne, cake, noise, children, hugs, tears, red potted geraniums, and the Pearly anniversary begun.

The sun shone, the round table was set under the trees, the food displayed on the long table, and the corks popped. The food was gobbled down, the neighbours came in, the fizzy flowed. The meringues got chucked in the whipped cream over the soft fruit, sprinkled with vanilla and lavender sugar, then for the first time that afternoon everybody sat down together, at the round table, nobody spoke as mouths were full of sweetness.

After the last strawberry was swallowed madness resumed. Then slowly the mob dispersed, by 8.00 p.m peace reigned. Just me and him and the dawter. Glasses in the dishwasher, all the bowls washed and put away. Hugh Grant on the telly then bed. I did sleep.

Today we drove to Olympia for the Mind Body Spirit Festival. I was interviewing Lorna Byrne, talking about her new book - a book of Prayers - and what is to become of us.

We must teach empathy, we must listen to our inner voice and each other, we must speak up and 'Give Out' to God and our Guardian Angels. We must make a difference by caring so that our children don't lose the birds and butterflies. We must keep praying on behalf of humanity and even love the evil ones. We must love and heal the selfish ones, we must embrace ourselves, and as 500 people queued for Lorna to give them her blessing, I was touched by her humility, her power, her innocence. She blessed me when we had finished our two hour interview. I accepted it with full grace.

The roads were clear when we drove home, the 'oosbind heated up the Caribbean vegetables, the evening air still heavy with warmth.

It's nearly 2.00 and apart from my typing there's not a sound in the house.

The tulips have opened, blowsy and crisp, the ceramic tile that Jim bought me for our anniversary is now hanging on the wall. It reads:


Here's to the next 30.

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Nanna Wobble

Posted by Jeni in | 11 May 2018

What is it about sagging arms. My mum, my bubba, me. Sugar gliders, wings of flesh, that hang under the arms and are soft and perfect to play with. My mother had a comfortable, soft set, of two . That is until she got cancer and they removed her lymph nodes. We found out later she need not have had a mastectomy, but hey ho - we did what we were told then. Her lovely soft arm grew big and fat, she wore a sleeve to reduce the swelling, which it never did, but we still had her left arm to play with.

My bubba's were hung bigger, like an old cows udders. She'd had four children, a husband fighting in a secret war somewhere in Egypt and a kitchen table that served as an ironing board, chopping block and central meeting place. Her lovely Nan Flaps, were there for her 8 grandchildren to stroke and flick. She also had one ear which had two lobes, one of her children had pulled on an earring when they were a baby and tore the ear lobe in two. She had no vanity, it didn't matter to her, just something else for us to play with.

My daughter stroked and flapped my mothers arms, you could see the delight in my small daughters face, and the acceptance in my mothers.

Overtime my arms have taken on the female family characteristic. My grandchildren do to me what I did to Bubba Sophie and my daughter did to my mother, and now to me. And so, now everytime I scrub my kitchen table, I think of my grandmother.

I have a very large wooden table in my attic. Made of railway sleepers, bought from a friend when they divorced. It takes three grown men to move it. It's been in Hampstead, Battersea, the piano room, and now my writing room. It is heavy and smells of fancy wax polish I use regularly. But there was a time when it was exiled. Sold to a man in a pine-furniture shop who couldn't understand why I was getting rid of it. I swapped it for a 50's angular wooden hat stand, which lives in the cellar loaded with anoraks, bags and motorbike leggings. A beautiful iron cylindrical Danish stove from Odense, which the old git lights every year, puts a fan in front of to waft the warm air round the cottage, and I clean, using tubes of black grate polish to give it a dull shine, and this 'ere table, in the kitchen, which has my lap top on, a bowl of lemon and limes, another bowl of apples, a little pot of pencils and pens, and a flat slate tile which we stand pepper and salt jars on.

The abandonment of my big sleeping table was so painful that friends from around the world contacted me. Swedish musicians, American writers, Irish poets, all demanded what the hell was I doing getting rid of the table that had seen so many feasts, so much laughter, had witnessed baby changing, political discussions and endless cups of coffee. So sad was I, were we, that I went back to the furniture shop and bought the big table back for 500 quid.

The furniture man was not surprised to see me, he said he wouldn't have been able to get rid of it either. He'd cleaned it up and polished it to perfection. It was a little too sterile but over the years I've got back candle stains and the imprint of hard pressed pens and pencils.

My swapped pine kitchen table, has a long drawer with candles in, always a safe bet to buy me candles for birthdays and anniversaries. We eat and argue by candlelight. It seats a comfortable six, but at a push, we can get 12 round it. I have no idea how we do it, but the piano stool, the adjustable three legged stool, chairs from the shed and the red kick step, are positioned strategically. It does mean that somebody is always sitting lower than the rest, usually me. At my age I prefer to be nearer the floor.

When the the sun comes out the tiled kitchen floor gets a good mopping. I have a system. A mop, an ecological sponge, very hot water, three different types of cleaner and I'm off. I take all the chairs into the sitting room, hoover the kitchen floor and mop and scrub until you can eat off the floor. My Bubba's criteria for keeping a good home.

Before I do the floor I empty the table of detritus, put on the radio and scrub. With a wood cleaner. And that's when I can see my Bubba scrubbing her kitchen table with a hard brush. Two hands, pushing forwards, putting her weight into it. A 'dish cloth' to wipe away the mess. A bucket of water she dipped the scrubbing brush into, and her arms flapping. Her apron wrapped round her belly, her platinum blonde hair up in a scarf. And her insistence that cleanliness was paramount. Not because it was next to Godliness but because living in a slum required extra fastidiousness. Not that she would have used that word, she would have said that the rats, bugs and germs needed to be exterminated. Not a word that hung prettily in the homes of us Jewish refugees.

But my Nan kept a good home. Even though there was no inside toilet, or running water, even though there wasn't enough space to swing a mouse - which was a regular occurence. In my memory there was always a bubbling stew-pot hanging on the range in the tiny kitchen. If my cousins read this they may remember her, and it, differently, but my Bubba had the lungs of a street-seller, the guts of an immigrant and the best bingo wings this side of Minsk.

She would have been proud of my housewifery. Time it was I had a wonderful 'Treasure' called Gaye, but how life changes. Me and the 'oosbind have no disposable income so we do what we do when we need to do it, without the help of Gaye. The Buddhists say cleaning is an exercise in acceptance.

That we benefit from accepting that we have to do things we do not like on occasion, and that by doing them we silence the nagging inner monologue. My Bubba got in there first this morning, not so much a nagging monologue as a fecking great big noisy conversation about our Nanna Wobbles.

I'm off now to marinate some chicken in lime and lemon, Soy sauce, garlic and olive oil. My Bubba would be stoking the stove in readiness.

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Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 9 May 2018

The lawn looked as smooth as a billiard table until the petals started falling off the Tulip tree. But thats ok, the apple blossom is out on one tree and the other two are bursting their buds.

The pink azalea is resplendent next to the sage, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Which have all profited from the wet, wet, wet time we had.

Out came the lounger, red cushion in tact. Out came the swing set cushions, all have been left out over night because rain is not predicted - yet.

The courgettes have gone in, the pac choi, the spinach, runner beans and loads of lettuces. The old git made a may pole out of string and things so that the beans have a chance to climb. The peonies. raspberries, lilies and roses are waiting, just waiting for their time.

I've planted seeds in little green trays, I'll spray them every morning and have placed them next to a big flower pot of rerouted mint.

This morning I took three quarters of a watermelon into the garden. I had a clean tea-towel tucked into my sarong, as the watermelon juice went awol.

The last time I had a whole watermelon to myself was in 1971. I was on tour in Israel. We stayed in a fancy schmancy hotel in Tel Aviv. The breakfast buffet was fresh fruit, dates, more fruit and watermelons as big as Netanyahu's head.
I had never seen anything like it. The exoticism of it all.

The heat on the beach, the pink of the earth, I went wandering and ended up in a brick garden with chickens scratching around and a woman on her haunches kneading bread.

This morning, in my garden, the watermelon as sweet as nectar, the queen bumble bees buzzing, the fountain playing, the birds singing, and before you could say Trump's an ass, 42 years had passed.

And I can still remember the drive to Jordan, the one man in one room selling crystal clear water from one single tap, by his one single bed, the icy water sold in one single glass. He had Jericho eye, a condition brought on by some sort of insect bite.

I remember the theatre in Jerusalem and the smell of grilled meat in the old town. I remember the Sea of Galilee and the reviews I got because I was a young, Jewish girl, playing the piano for a group of anarchic troubadours who smoked, drunk and knew as much about gentility as I did Hebrew.

I remember the Wailing Wall and the cardboard boxes outside a shop in Nazareth selling crowns of thorns. I bought a tiny plastic bottle of Nazareth earth, which still sits on my bathroom dresser. The red earth as dry as the Wilderness.

I remember feeling confused at the sectarianism of the Jews and the Arabs, then the extraordinary generosity of the mixed groups in a Kibutz in Haifa.

I remember being tapped on the shoulder as I sat on the beach. Early morning, tapped on the shoulder to be told I had the shoulders of a Yemenite. Then the walk back to the hotel and the smell of watermelons at breakfast.

Tomorrow I may have yoghurt and apple sprinkled with hazel nuts, but that's another breakfast from a lifetime away.

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April Warmth

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 23 April 2018

I missed the two sultry days.

I was in a theatre for one of 'em and filming on the other .

I don't begrudge either but I do wish the weather had stayed balmy for just a a little bit longer.

It's overcast now, I'm wearing wooly socks and have a blanket close at hand just in case it gets any nippier.

So the old git and I drove to Tower Bridge, parked the car, and feet at the ready, pointed ourselves South. Past The Tower, down to Old Billingsgate Fish Market, then onto the Riverside Walk. The sun felt like Barcelona, the noisy drinkers in the river side pubs sounded like Barcelona. Only this wasn't Spain it was blooming Blighty. The walk was leisurely and new. I've lived for an awful long time but have never walked down by the Riverside. It was sublime.

We stopped for an ice cream, crossed the road at Waterloo bridge and waited for the 139. We were going to a birthday party in West Hampstead which commenced at 19.00 hours, Officer. We stood at the bus stop at precisely 17.00 hours, Officer. Our ETA was, we thought 18.00 hours Officer. When the bus finally arrived we lugged our way up to the top deck. I remember the days when it was full of smokers. Not today; three others, us and the announcer giving us updates every bus stop.

My partner and I started off all relaxed and giggly, like kids going on a school trip.The 139 trundled down the Strand - I lie - The 139 stopped, started, jerked, breaked, stopped, started and trickled down the Strand. The 82degree sun pouring through the windows. My hair stuck to my head, Jimbo's glasses steamed up and the giggling stopped.

By the time we got to Baker Street, we had to disembark and wait for another 139. It came. It went. We stood at the bus stop to wait for another 139 that would take us to The Alice House on West End Lane.

By now it was 18.45 Officer. We didn't want to be the first to arrive, so we consoled ourselves by knowing we would be fashionably late.

The 139 came, and rather than struggle up stairs we sat, tightly knit, in the seat that enabled us to look at the passing traffic - I lie - stationary traffic. We were less than relaxed.

We finally arrived at our destination at 19.19 Officer. The air slightly cooler.

The party was gathered. Then, like a herd of stray dogs, we were whistled down the stairs. I drunk 43 gallons of water, the 'oosbind availed himself of crisp white wine. There were hugs and 'howtodos', air kisses and 'blimylookatyousenow'. There were crisps and assorted nuts, and the birthday girl grinning from ear to ear.

Paris, Japan, America and Hackney, were gathered in the cellar. Then the food came. potato croquettes, avocado canapes, mini burgers in shiny buns, mini Yorkshire puds filled with an obnoxious pate, fishy goujons and tartare sauce, sweet corn fritters and bowls of chips. We were sat where the dishes were served so we had first dibs. I felt ever so slightly embarrassed, like we'd only come for the nosh. Okaaaay!

Happy Birthday was sung to the birthday girl and a candle lit cheese cake was presented to the Septuagenarian, she blew them out with one puff and the assembled revellers cheered. Home videos from 65 years ago had been transferred to a lap top and silence reigned. The colour had bled and faded, like an arty French movie, 15 minutes of ooing and aahing ensued and then it was time to go home. Every body hugged , air kissed and exchanged 'letsnotleaveitsolonguntilnexttime' type things and the old git and I emerged into the balmy air like country moles.

We changed our transportation. Took the tube to Bank, walked the subway until we got to Monument and then it was a delicious walk against the backdrop of the Gherkin, Shard and Walkie Talkie, past the ancient Tower, past the boats, through the Marina, into St. Katherines Dock, and our overnight stay.

Our next door neighbour, from 40 years ago, let us stay in her spare room. Crispy towels, sweet sheets and the knowledge that we were next to the flat we'd lived in for years before we buggered off to East Sussex.

I couldn't sleep, a kid on her first sleepover.

I woke early, dressed, slid through the gate - erected when we left - onto a wide promenade by the river. Turner would have recorded the scene. Sun splashing the Thames, gulls and boats, even Butlers Wharf looked hand painted. Then we set off for breakfast in the Marina.

The sun baking. I had Granola and yogurt the old man had bacon and scrambled eggs, and our hostess had a full English. The Brazilian waiter, tattooed and perfectly formed, brought us icy water and strong coffee. When the sun hit the yard arm we walked up the steps to Tower Bridge, turned right and stood outside the Royal Mint for the RV1.

A one seater bus ride. With an ex-steelworker from Sheffield who told us how to travel on British Rail without paying a fortune. Another passenger joined in, on her way to Bournemouth, delighted that she had eavesdropped. Old people having a chat. No aching feet, no sweaty howsyourfathers, and we arrived at 11.30 but five minutes walk from The Globe.

Th dawter arrived at noon, we drunk a drink in a riverside hostel then we took our seats in the Sam Wannamaker Theatre for a candle lit production of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, reimagined by 6 musicians, 6 puppeteers, and a full house. As the sun burned on the outside, the rapt audience yearned on the inside. I cried at the beauty of it all. The wooden puppets coming alive. A man, a woman, a baby, a cat. Wars, pain and resurrection. The music churning the heart. A woman sitting next to me had on a perfect perfume, which completed the Synesthesthetic experience. We went out into the bright sunlight 75 minutes later.

We drunk some more, talked to a Veteran of The Falklands War, homeless and needy. He said that so many off his friends had died for this country.

'Sacrificed.' you mean said Jim.

'You're not wrong there Jimmy.' said the old soldier.

Then the girl went East and we went South.

Home with enough time to catch the last of the scented evening.

All day Friday we filmed, in the cottage. Four little films about the NHS. We have learnt about terrifying skullduggery. When they are completed I will post them on Facebook.

Saturday I drove an old friend and I to Brighton to attend an Energy Course. 11 women, 2 facilitators, meditations, stories shared, tears shed, numbers exchanged, lives altered. Dr. Susan Phoenix had risen from the ashes of her own tragedy and turned her life round to help others. I interviewed her on Radio Sussex. She was a military nurse, her husband had died on the Mull of Kintyre when his Chinook helicopter had crashed. Ten hours later, at 4.00a.m. Sue, her daughter and son, felt her husbands presence. Dr. Phoenix's psychic abilities, which she'd buried since her childhood, kicked in. She now works as an holistic psychologist helping people heal their 'soul' pain. It's all dead scientific so the sceptical amongst you would be placated. Check her out. Barbara Whiteside, also gave up a lucrative career to help heal humanity. From 10.00 till 5.00 we sat, lay, stood on the carpet in the Holiday Inn, a place lacking in any kind of beauty, but thirteen of us transcended the lousy lunch and lack of loos.

On the way out of Brighton, the sea fret hung in the air. We stopped off for fresh coriander and a bottle of pink Fizz, to celebrate the end of a ridiculous week.

Yesterday I was poleaxed. Drunk two cans of Guinness and fell asleep in the sun reading the papers. After scallops and stir-fry we settled down to watch Will Millard living with a tribe in Papua New Guinea, then it was time for bed. I slept the sleep of the grateful.

It's now 17.00 hundred hours, Officer, a whole pot of Lap Sang has been downed, my feet are warm, the old git's back from buying wood for a new front door, and i'm settling down to some proper writing - whatever that is.


Shearing Test.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 1 April 2018

The clocks have sprung forward, the water, in the vases, is cloudy and it's time to throw the faded flowers on the compost.

The daffodils are papery and crinkled. The hyacinths are drooping and the roses and iris's have dried out. The cottage was full of flowers for my birthday.

It was heartwarming that I had real birthday cards, sent to me, through the post. This year hardly any Facebook messages. But that's ok. What with Cambridge Analytica, Donald Trump and hash tag this and that, I'm seriously considering reappraising my relationship to Social media.

I'm far too old to care whether I have tribes of friends, or thousands of people in a community on line.

Suffice to say I have a handful of good friends, who I can rely on to send me books, hand made cards and good wishes through the post.

So it's Easter Sunday. We went out for breakfast. I had a full english, with local produce, and the old git had a bacon sandwich with bread slices the size of house bricks.

I bought next door some Easter eggs from the corner shop. Amal, the owner, chucked in a bag of chocolate eggs free. He doesn't celebrate the birth of Christ, but then neither do I. I don't celebrate the liberation from Ancient Egypt either.

When I was four we lived in East London. In a flat facing the Highway. 21 Solander Gardens. They were a new build and it was full of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Ireland and Gawds know where.

I went to Canon Barnet School, next to Toynbee hall where I had piano lessons. The kids; C of E, Asians, Jews, Catholics, played together in the playground - on the roof - it was surrounded by wire netting so we didn't fall over the edge onto Commercial Street.

Every Friday the class shared sweeties, every day we had an afternoon nap, on little canvas beds, in the parqueted hall where we had lined up for lunch. The smell of mince and cold cabbage wafted over us as we snoozed under the watchful eye of Miss Ploughman. Our Angel of Mercy in a smock.

So we were taught bible stories, it was an English School after all, and even though I was allowed to miss assembly, which I rarely did, I loved singing the Hymns, our lessons covered everything from Jesus Christ to The Monarchy.

In 1953 we were given a gift for the Queens Coronation. A crocodile line of four year olds, hands outstretched, each given an individual silver spoon, wrapped in white tissue paper, I bit on mine, thinking it was a stick of liquorice, it hurt my teeth.

Outside our flats was a little wall. There was also a playground with swings and a roundabout. I had to be rescued from a square swing when a gob-stopper got caught in the back of my throat. My mother came a-running. Tipped me upside down and slapped my back until the sweet shot out. Her version of the Heimlich manoeuvre.

I was never allowed gob stoppers again.

Now that low wall was to prove significant in the Easter of 1954. We had been taught that Jesus had been crucified, had died for our sins, bunged in a cave and left to rot. After three days, being the Son of God, he rose from the dead and voila we were all saved.

  1. Good Friday April 16th. I was 5. I took my place on the wall. Kicking my heels. I was called in for dinner. I resumed my seat until it got dark.

  2. Easter Saturday April 17th. I took my place on the wall. I was called in for dinner.

  3. Easter Sunday April 18th. I kicked my heels, patiently waiting. I refused dinner that night.

My mother came to find me. My shoes were scuffed from banging them against the red brick.

For three days, and nearly nights, I sat on the wall, waiting.

'What are you waiting for?' my mother asked as she ushered me back to the flat.

'They lied to me.' I said flatly. 'Miss Ploughman said that after three days Jesus would climb out of his grave and walk amongst us again. Well I've waited and waited and he never turned up.'

My mother closed the front door and I went into my room, first right off the passage.

I felt betrayed. Sat down at my piano, an upright that lived in my room so I could practice. I hammered those keys.

I now have a Boudoir Grand. Still my preferred method of stress busting is to sit down and hammer the living daylights out of those fancy ivories.

I've just bought a copy of George Shearing's classics, lost my old book. George, a blind Jew from Battersea, who was fed soup by my Grandmother in Aldgate.

He emigrated to America wrote clumps of juicy chord music and died aged 91 in New York City.

George and I share a keyboard when things get tough. If people lie to me then my piano is often my place of release. So whilst I contemplate the chord structure of 'What Are You Doing For The Rest of Your Life.' I bid you a very

Happy Pascha, Pasoch, Ostre or Easter, and whatever you wish yourselves.

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March 12th.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 12 March 2018

On this day, 127 years ago, my grandmother was born. When I knew her she lived in a tenement block in Aldgate, near Gardeners corner.

She was called Sophie Taylor, her original name Schneider having been anglicised, foreigners were not wanted especially the Jews.

Hmmmm, similar me thinks to BrexiBritin.

Sophie had dyed blonde hair giving her the Sophie Tucker look, played the piano and laughed a lot. She threw back her head and squeezed her eyes together then let out a chesty guffaw. My mother did the same. I'm told I do too, and my muso daughter - who is the spit of my mother - can be heard cackling in Hackney. .

Bubba Sophie wore an apron, had four children, Harry, Siddy, Esther and Rene, which she brought up alone, on account of her husband Albert being stationed in a secret location in the First World War. Albert was an intelligent tailor, who dropped bricks on the heads of Fascists and paid off for an oak bureau full of classic books at 2/- a month. The bureau sits next to our stove, the books creak when they are opened, the pages smell of musty, ancient paper.

My great Aunty Becky lived in the upstairs rooms above my grandmother. I was told I took after Aunty Becky, who had been a manicurist, remained childless and shopped for sugar almonds in Marks and Spencer. She would climb off the 358 bus, outside our house in Hertfordshire, drop her string bag onto the kitchen table, hang up her Beaver Lamb coat, describe the epic journey, then leave. I've still got the coat, hanging in the attic, I know it's un-PC but I can't get rid of it. It's very heavy and if I bury my nose into the collar I can almost smell the antique scent she used to wear.

Before the East End was gentrified we lived in a bustling community of pickle barrels, Sarsaparilla and poverty. I grew up in two rooms with rats, mice and ubiquitous mouldy damp. When we ran out of food, which was often, we would troop down Alie Street, up Lemon Street and climb the stone steps into my Bubba's flat. The smell of chop meat balls and shared cholant, a Jewish stew that hung in a schissel, in a large pot, over the range in the kitchen, lingers in my olfactory organs. She would slam down a loaf of bread, slice it in doorsteps and spread on much butter. Still my comfort food of choice.

In an enamel saucepan, her meat balls - chop minced beef, onion, salt, pepper one egg and matzo meal,simmered slowly over carrots, potatoes onions and water.

She always tapped the egg on her wedding ring to break the shell. That's what we thought wedding rings were for.

We all used the outside lavatory, and jumped on her double bed covered in a puffy pink eiderdown, which was magnificent enough to hide in. I'm painting a picture that existed for me, maybe not for my brother and cousins they may remember a completely different bed spread.

The front room had a big table covered with a green velour table cloth, around which we all sat. Bearing in mind I was five, the bigness of the table may now be considered not so big at all. I still have the table cloth, folded up, in the airing cupboard. It comes out for Christmas and any occasion that requires an exchange of memories.

A piano, with candle holders, stood against the adjoining bedroom wall.

My grandfather, who I never met, was contacted by a small, Medium, largely, during WW1. He sat round the table, set out Tarot cards, Sophies hands were placed on top of the green velour cloth, alongside Aunty becky and various members of the extended family. That's their hands, not them obviously.

They patiently waited for information from the dead relatives.

The cards spelt out I-S-M-A-L-I-A.

None the wiser, my Bubba fed the Medium, watered him with hot, milky, sweet tea, and sent him packing.

When my Grandpa arrived home he confirmed that he had indeed been in Ismailia. The small medium had left out the middle 'i' largely because nobody could spell, especially not cities in Egypt and the spirit was probably dyslexic.

On August 3-5th in 1916 "The City of Beauty and Enchantment", situated on Lake Temsah, was overrun with the Tommies and Hun. My Grandpa barely a man, fought in the Battle of Romani, not the last time he was up against the Germans.

My Bubba didn't have Wikipedia, so the details were never discussed. My Grandpa suffered mild shell shock, thus the silence.

Everybody grew up, and were rehoused. Slum clearance. Most of my lot went North towards Wembley, whilst we were rehoused in Boredom Wood, next to the 'East Enders' set. Although that particular Soap Opera was not around in 1956, it was the continuing drama of the Barnett family that took top billing and the invasion of Hungary by the Ruskies.

Sophie came to live with us when she got ill. Coughing and spluttering she was cared for by my mother. When Sophie died, my mother, folding a tea towel and pressing it into the wooden drawer of the kitchenette cupboard, declared, through her tears, that she was an orphan. Aged around nine I remember thinking that Orphans were only, ever children.

I have a sepia photograph of Sophie, Aunty Esther to her right and my mother to her left hanging in a wooden frame, above the fire place. I'm in my own frame to the left. I'm wearing a hat, a sarong and dark glasses. The photo was taken in Sissinghurst when we went for a picnic with 25 Gay men and a handful of impressively stocked hampers. B, aged 4, hangs to the right, naked, save for a hat and the same expression as me. The female line lives on.

It's fitting that Sophie was born on the same date that Ken Dodd died. Sophie had a wild, wicked sense of humour. She would have laughed at my favourite Ken Dodd joke.

If the cat had been walking the other way, the man who invented 'Cats Eyes', would have invented the pencil sharpener.

RIP Ken and Sophie.

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Go with the Snow....

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 2 March 2018

Dear All, what a palaver.

The snow is as high as an elephants thigh.

My little red car is no longer, she is decreased. On the scrap heap. boo-bloody-hoo.

The dawter's car is stuck in the garage, burnt out clutch.

The old git's car is on the blink.

10.000 steps ain't possible what with ice, and my propensity for falling down.

Meetings are missed, agent's are quiet.

Radio cancelled cos of snow drifts and lack of above mentioned vehicles.

Logs chopped.

Coal bought.

Fire lit.

Stove lit.

I started with two hot water bottles, I now take four to bed, plus the cat and a furry 'oosbind.

I've got wooly socks, woolly jumpers, wooly brain.

I eat porridge at night, soup in the day, drink pots of Lapsang to heat my inner burner.

We had three days in Whitstable, in a house, on the beach, 11 of us, eating drinking and celebrating one of us reaching a remarkable age. We played games and sat close to the blazing fire.

Today we should have been in London celebrating the dawter's birthday instead the snow is as high as an elephants thigh.

You know the rest. STAY WARM.

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The North Wind Doth Blow....

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 6 February 2018

It's cold, but then you know that.

I found a pair of leather gloves with faux fur cuffs in the basket next to the boiler. They had been given to me for Christmas years ago.

I slipped them on over my freezing fingers, and set off on my 10.000 step trek to the village to buy a cucumber, a bottle of red wine, and a big portobello mushroom.

Loaded them into my back pack, humped it on my back then walked quickly. I stopped and stood in the sun, I took my fingers out of the finger bits and curled my hands together to try and re-heat them with my own body warmth, inside the leather gloves. It didn't work. I walked even quicker, into the wind. My fingers just managed to press the button to phone home.

'Please would you mind, if you are not too busy, could you, if you can bare it, collect me from the slip road near the farm.'

He turned up in the dawter's car - I haven't got one any more remember, so to the harshly critical Poppy PeeWee, I would say I HAVEN'T FULLY GOTTEN OVER IT. SO THERE.

I slid into the passenger seat, unable to even blow my nose as my hands had atrophied in the 4 degree wind chill.

The kitchen felt toasty, but only for three minutes, I was frozen to the marrow.

I fried the mushroom with loads of black pepper, placed it on a bed of wilted spinach and slopped on two perfectly poached eggs, made all the more tasty with a cafetier of fresh coffee, heated milk and a sprinkling of sugar.

I ate at the kitchen table with one hot water bottle under my feet, one behind my back, and one held close to my freezing thighs.

The 'oosbind lit the stove and I'm intending to sit quietly and read myself back to warmth.

On Thursday we are attending a funeral in Covent Garden. A man who died far too soon. He had bellyache, went to the doctor and seven weeks later he was dead having been eaten alive by Cancer. It's not fair, only the good die young.

Tomorrow I'm driving to Brighton to attend the Sussex Food and Drinks awards.
There will be noise, and booze, and loads of food. There will be cheers and tears and lots of beer. There will be towers of dessert, cups of coffee and small bite sized petit fours.Then I will drive home, hopefully the right way, last year the wind was blowing, the rain lashing. I turned right instead of left out of the Amex Statium, and ended up driving into deepest Sussex, me howling like the wind.

I am prepared now for tomorrow's excursion. It's only taken a dozen years for me to learn how to use the sat-nav on my phone. I will wear thermal underwear to defy the cold, and I will bemoan the fact that my lovely little red car is on the scrap heap whilst I'm driving my dawter's car with it's tinted windows, low profile tyres, and a sound system that can be heard in Tulse Hill.

The bath is a very real option now. Epsom salts, Paul Reizin's book, face pack and hot, hot, hot, hot water. You know the drill. But first I have to run up and down the stairs for 96 steps to make up the ten thousand.

God the daily life of a numerical neurotic.

Stay warm

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