For God's Sake

Posted by Jeni in | 12 May 2021

Disputes from the bank to an ancient friend

Arguments from the DVLA to Scottish Power.

Fraud in one bank

Then fraud in another.

In days of yore the family astrologer would have looked to see if Mars was in retrograde. We had a new moon the other night so maybe all this lunatic activity is because of La Lune.

But, it was a petition that caused a rift in an old relationship.

'I can't believe you won't sign a petition about cuts to the Arts,' said my friend. I think she's still my friend, because she's called for a two week embargo on conversations so, who knows, by June 1st I could be friendless. Not only did she berate me for not signing but concluded her correspondence with not one, not two but three fucking exclamation marks. Anybody who exclaims markedly three times cannot expect to get away with it - I did in fact sign the petition, although lockdown has caused petition fatigue. Apparently one of the side affects of the AstraZeneca jab is a frozen nervous system in the brain causing anger and irritation, so maybe my anger is caused not by overzealous friends but by the Oxford scientists..

And then Netanyahu raised his belligerent head, and the world watched as orthodox jews jumped up and down singing in delight as a tower block was blown to smithereens in front of their scholastic eyes. Full of people or not, that crumbing tower block revealed religious fervour at its worst. The 'chosen' people had forgotten that maybe all people, 'chosen' or not, are precious.

Hamas offered a truce but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed his troops were committed to a long operation.

'Whatever we don't do now, we will have to do in six months or a year from now.' he said. WHY?

Plans for a ground invasion are being drafted

'This it will not end in the next few days,' the cabinet minister added. 'Israel will not stop and has no interest in stopping. It is all moving in the right direction.' WHY?

Of course I've edited this newspaper article to my advantage. But the truth remains. The occupiers are killing the occupied and condemnation reigns on both sides.

I am an 'oven baked' Jew, a Yid, a Yiddiot, a kike, a four-by-two, a big nose, a Jewbacca on account of my hair, and a Christ Killer on account of my tribe killing the son of God. But what I am not is a Jew hater or a Self-Hating Jew.

I identify as a female heterosexual woman born into the Jewish faith, whose parents were card carrying members of the Communist Party. Any attempt at understanding Jewish rituals or identity flies over my head. We took Jewish holidays off school because my father was an opportunist, and I cook Jewish-style because my grandmothers influenced our kitchen. I don't eat milk and meat together, not because I am Kosher, because I'm not, but because I simply don't eat meat and I don't touch dairy. I have kept all my father's neglected skull caps; they hang on the bedpost alongside the old git's abandoned crucifixes and his flavourless chewing gum.

So, as disputes and conflicts go, the Israeli assault on Hamas and Hamas' retaliation is just about as lunatic as it gets. I am appalled at what is happening not because I am Jewish but because the acts of intolerance offered up by the settler community is enough to make me retch into my chicken soup.

I hate sectarianism whether in Ireland or Sarajevo, Russia or Syria. Whilst working in Israel in the seventies I was afforded the treatment of an entitled Eastern European Jew. I was lorded and praised and given the keys of the city. Whilst wandering through old Jerusalem I happened upon a Palestinian courtyard where chickens wandered freely around a woman on her haunches. I experienced five star hotels in Tel Aviv whilst witnessing the the poverty of its Palestinian neighbours. I drove through the wilderness to Jericho where I was harassed by my Arab taxi driver. I drunk water from a glass sold by a one eyed man living in one room with a glass tumbler and a single bed. He poured crystal clear water out of a hose pipe, which he said came from the original spring somewhere in the mountains. I gave him a shekel for a glass of the icy cold liquid then bad him farewell.

I have two menorahs on the kitchen dresser and kosher candles in the drawer. I have my mother's first cook book which she gifted me on my 29th birthday. The pages are yellow and the spine is stuck together with peeling sellotape. The invalid cooking is well thumbed - most Jews including me, are hypochondriacs - and the recipe for matzo balls and lochshen pudding are stained with melted butter.

My daughter wears an old family Star of David and I have a fantastic necklace which we bought in the original ghetto in Venice. It has a huge silver six pointed star in the middle of a green semi precious gem, It's heavy in more ways than one. I have black and white photographs of my brothers Bar-Mitzvah and a black beaded bag which my mother held during fancy dinners and weddings, it smells of forgotten scents.

All my Jewish trappings do not make it easy for me to watch Israel rip the heart out of Gaza, any more than it does watching Assad rip the shit out of Baghdad. My Jewish trappings do not automatically make me a supporter of Hebrew actions. I HATE what is happening in the 'chosen' country by the 'chosen' people, I hate it because, of all people, Jews should know better. They were gassed, skinned, tortured and traumatised and yet, in the name of I know not what, they are prepared to traumatise their neighbours with a smile and a song.

I am not a Jew hater, I am not a self hating Jew I am an embarrassed Yid who has no way of defending what 'My' people are doing. I cannot support anybody who tries to wrestle people out of the homes they have lived in for over 70 years. I cannot support corrupt politicians who rejoice in their countryman rejoicing in the deaths of another.

The Nazis took photographs of soldiers smiling over noosed, naked jews. The orthodox scholars laugh as defenceless men, women and children, are killed in the name of WHAT?

I am an ashamed Jew.

I am a horrified Jew

I am a disgusted Jew.

I live with a catholic, I have black, brown, yellow friends. I go to midnight mass and I love a good Song of Praise hymnathon. I enjoy Gospel music and love to dance along to Arabian music when I wiggle to the dawters belly dancing video. I do Indian Yoga and dabble in Chinese Qi Gong. I eat French food and make a delicious Italian pasta. I adore stuffed vine leaves and tuck into Halal feasts. I am a global glutton.

What I cannot abide is my 'chosen' people defending a state that hates. in 1948 Israel became a place of sanctuary and peace for so many damaged Jews. Now it is the home of male warmongers.

I am not a Jew hater. I am a Jew-gooder trying to Jew good by all people.

Call me old fashioned, but I think everybody deserves a crack at having a good life, not just us 'chosen' people. Because, if God 'chose' us to be the people he chose then we 'chosen people' should be better at choosing good for everyone. Am I right or am I wrong? You choose.

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A Rose by Any Other.....

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 6 May 2021

As a teenager I spent an inordinate amount of time practicing my signature on the cover of my rough book. Jen Barnett/jj barnett/Jennifer Joy/Jeni with a circle over the 'i', Jenufa and Kim. I had a mind to be called Kim Kent but my mother told me it sounded like a swear word so I abandoned it. The autograph I was looking for was in preparation for becoming a superstar, until I found out that graphologists deem circles over the 9th letter of the alphabet to be narcissistic, egotistical and self obsessed. So I removed the big circle and created a signature that was eligible and simple. Had I changed, thus enabling me to write an 'I' discreetly or had writing the 'I' discreetly changed me? I did use the monica Jennifer Joy for some time, standing on stage wearing an indecent dress bought from a drag artist. I sung songs and played the piano accompanying actors who had no shame. That dress, along with a van full of props, was set aflame by a gang of tasteless thugs, in a side road in Lewisham, goodbye Jennifer joy. Now my signature looks like it belongs to an overblown romantic novelist who wears voluminous tent dresses and paints her lustrous pink lipstick just a little too much over her hairy top lip.

Our handwriting changes, I'm told, as we grow older. It reflects the new you, which I'm also told changes every seven years. My inner me, reflected in my lazy 'y's and jaunty 'j's, is now somewhat relaxed if not a little bawdy. Handwriting that slopes backwards, for instance, reveals folk who 'hold back their emotions, bottle up their feelings, and react too little or too late unless provoked or pushed to the corner'. Those same graphologists say a backwards signature indicates somebody 'who stifles their emotions and postpones their reactions, increasing the chances of being misinterpreted or misunderstood.' I always thought backwards writing indicated somebody a bit dim. What with the onslaught of iPads, iPhones, iMacs and idon'tknowwhatelse, the art of calligraphy may be slipping through our fingers. Although, today's young children are introduced to writing by looping 'entries' and 'exits' to words, making the name 'Millie', for instance, look like an illustration from a parchment map of the ocean - waves and waves of loopy letters.

My father couldn't tell the difference between upper and lower case, so a birthday card from him looked like the ramblings of a serial killer from Belmarsh. The scribbling of a doctor reveals their inability to communicate, keeping our data from us by scratching information on a form that looks like a bewildered spider on ketamine. Big arty writing, warm and inviting, is favoured by the children's book set, or head teachers who stand by their infants and spend their vacations touring around Verona looking for Shakespearian clues.

I write mostly on this little laptop, I can't write as quickly as I think just using my hand, although I am told by therapists that holding a pen and writing from your heart is quite different from tapping away on a computer keyboard. Words, phrases and sentiments spill out differently when handwritten - working on a laptop is more objective, detached even. All my journals are written with a fountain pen which I keep in the drawer of my bedside table. That table is covered in ink blots from emerald green to right royal blue and even splatters of red like the blood of a crushed cochineal. Two duvets that are stained with 'Quink' is a reminder that writing in bed is like eating toast under the covers - you have to be vigilant and skilled at not fucking up the bottom sheet with crumbs or stains. In that drawer I have fountain pens that have been gifted over the years. My gay son-in-law and his husband bought me a delicious red Parker for my 60th. Two Lamy pens and their cartridges sit next to a fountain pen of uncommon beauty that came from I know not whom.

At school I was bullied by a very tall girl from the Quick family. She kicked me, called me a nasty Jew and left me poleaxed on the playground, gravel bruised and bemused. When I told my mother she told me to tell her that Jesus was Jewish. During the next bout I did indeed shout out that Jesus was a Jew and that he wouldn't approve of her big feet stamping on me. She stopped poking at me with her size 14 plimsoll and helped me up. We linked Pax fingers, pledged to, "make up, make up, never never break up" and, just to prove all hostilities had ceased we decided to swap pens. She got a cheap purple and pink plastic jobby from Woolworths and I got her Conway Stewart, I still use it. Karma eh?

But my name has caused issues througout my professional life. Jenn with a 'y'. Jenn with an 'ie', or just Jen with an 'I'. We had a friend who told a correspondent that his surname Hirst was with an 'i' (not a 'u'), from then on he received letters to Chris Withaneye.

I've been Jennifer with one 'n' and more recently Jennifer with 2 'F's. Mostly I couldn't give two F's what I'm called but a review in The South London Press, back in the day, called me Jerry Barrett . The whole review actually read- 'Pass me my smelling salts I think I'm having one of my turns.' Thank God Jerry Barrett caused the kniption and not me.

At the doctor's surgery I am known as Jennifer Joy Barnett Bywater, on my driving licence I'm JJBarnett, but for speed and efficiency I'm simply Jb.

When I made a film with Robert Wagner, which went straight to CD I may add, I was on the front credits - an honour that my agent fought long and hard for. I've been on the end credits of hundreds of shows, but as time and tide wait no fucker my glory days had to come to an end.

A witchy analyst I had a session with looked me in the eye and said,

"Didn't you know you were going to get old?"

"No," I said indignantly. "Actors never get old they just fade away."

"Didn't you know that your work would come to an end and money would be tight?"

"No," I said petulantly. "Actors never stop work if they can help it. Look at Dame Judy she's nearly 90."

"Didn't you know the limelight would dwindle?"

"No," I said belligerently. "If Mick Jagger can act like a dick at his age I can act like a dick at mine."

She concluded,

"Well you are old, poor and unknown - deal with it."

And I did/have. Recently I was stopped in the supermarche and asked 'Weren't you Jeni Barnett?' A status devoted to has-beens and never was-es.

This morning I appeared on GMB - talking bollox. When the anchor Ardil Ray thanked me for my contribution he said, "Goodbye," not to Jerry Barrett, not to Jeni Barnett, not even to Mrs. Bywater. At 9.50 this morning Mr.Ray bid a fond farewell to Jenny Bennett and that's when I knew my broadcasting days were well and truly over.

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Spring clean

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 5 May 2021

Cast not a clout till May is out - you're telling me. I'm sitting with two hot water bottles, baggy, fleecy, pj bottoms, a big blue 'V' neck sweater over a t-shirt, bunny slippers and a gilet. My footwear is provided by my next door neighbour who spends time outside in his garden sorting through piles of clothes to sell at market. Staying outside now though, is tantamount to working in a fridge freezer, with the door closed, in Iceland and not a thermal in sight.

E'en though the sun is out it's still brass monkeys. I have, however, planted up some veg. The pigeons have had me mange tout. The Magnolia petals turned brown in front of my very eyes and the front garden looks desolate and Mongolian. If I sit on the swing seat facing South East, hold my position and pray, I can grab some warmth, otherwise this May finds me firmly home based.

De-cluttering, cleaning, organising - the Northern Bustard says I hoard - I don't hoard, I house treasures that people have given me; from a pack of Virgin Mary contraceptive sweeties to a selection of wooden angels, wooden ducks, and spangly coffee mugs what I have accumulated over the years. Photographs, duct tape and paintings hold the house together whilst thirty thousand books prop up the walls.

The dresser, bought from a neighbour in our block of flats in Wapping, in1984 was the first object to get cleaned. The dishwasher did three cycles as unwanted plates and cutlery were packed up ready for the opening of the charity shops. The marzipan 'Jeni', sculpted by the delightfully mad chef Andrew Nutter, stands behind the cube radio and was carefully brushed clean whilst the two little silver goblets were buffed with Brasso and polished to a rare shine. They stand either side of two, tiny rectangular mugs which say love, love, love, love, love, love all over them and were given to me by our homeopath,

Whilst in the kitchen I started on the pantry. I was gifted Old Sweet Jars from the local newsagent so using my yogic muscles I lifted those heavy jars - turmeric, black pepper, lentils, rice, chick peas and various other vegan abominations - into the kitchen. I decanted the yellow turmeric into a handy pot; coriander and cumin were spooned into old jam-jars; black pepper was ground for the pepper mill whilst the Kosher salt was poured into a mason jar. That segued into cleaning the cupboards in the kitchen and washing down the table which was covered in spilt powder from ginger to garam masala to red hot chilli pepper.

The dresser is home to mugs, cups, jugs, plates, Belgian beer glasses and a naked woman lying atop a Canadian wooden scrubbing brush. She, in turn, is hostess to a mounted piece of barbed wire from the Berlin Wall - I filmed there in 1989 when it came down - a sandstone cobra worth tuppence but which we paid 75 for on a mountain hike in Marrakesh, a miniature bottle of Guinness and a badge which says 'Fuck the Nazis'. Polishing the dresser requires climbing skills to get to the top shelf, patience and a soundtrack that induces both vigour and nostalgia.

The basement blitz started with the dawter painting her miraculous pots in the ancient cellar. The granite walls have been here since 1690 housing the ghosts of Christmas past - arguing blacksmiths, whiny milkmaids and the clanging of forge hammers. Undeterred by our spirit guests she works around the laundry and I work around her yacht varnish. A family that can cook, iron, paint and clean together is a family that either systematically tortures itself or becomes a unit that knows how to compromise. This particular triumvirate uses different modus opperwhachmacallits. HE pleghmatically does the hucking and clupping and SHE quietly makes a mean dinner and is very good at flapping her duvet whilst I, stoically, "Consuela the hired help from Nicaragua", work thoroughly and quickly and have a ritual. I start in one corner, armed with a bucket of hot water an eco sponge, dusters, polish and the heavy vacuum cleaner. Radio 4 is my preferred companion. The landline and mobile are both strategically placed just in case the agent rings to put me out of my misery. I don a playful pair of blue latex gloves.

Boxes of children's gubbins, old lampshades and a selection of doggie blankets are the first things to go. Using the hoover extension, beetles and spiders ( forgive me as they are the weavers of dreams ) silver fish and cobwebs go down the tube. The shelves with boxes of the Old Git's gadgets, a copper jam-making pan, a yoghurt maker and a deflated exercise ball are placed in the centre of the room. Deciding what goes to the tip, what goes to charity or what stays in the cottage, uses up all my will power. There's an antique tea-pot given to me by my German friend, the daughter of a Nazi officer who served ten years in Stalin's labour camps, that's Gruppenfuerer Arschloch not my friend.

The tea-pot, the size of a saucepan, has two parts. The bottom is for a night-light, then a little griddle on which stands the teapot. Enamelled, with a floral pattern and a brass handle which was mended by the 'oosbind, this fancy German exhibit now sits on the kitchen dresser. A remnant from the Third reich sitting next to a pair of goggles that when looked through turn candle flames into an image of the Star of David. Who said entente cordiale was dead?

Pic-nic baskets, photo albums, crash helmets, an old wind up gramophone, an old Fortnum & Mason gift box filled with spare knives and forks, a gold plated canteen of cutlery, motorbike boots, anoraks, leather bags, a dehydrator, a microwave, 8 thermos flasks, 7 chic vases, 6 artsy bowls, 5 goooold things, 4 manky towels, 3 vinyl discs, 2 wooden chairs, and a partridge in a pear tree. Trust me that's not half of it. Finally, after dusting and wiping, hoovering and rearranging, the cellar was done.

The shelves in the pantry are pristine, my bedroom now has dust free rearranged books, and the last three years journals are on the stairs to the attic waiting to be organised with 40 years of diaretic dribble. My last big job is sorting the airing cupboard, sifting the sheets from the tat and giving the charity shop yet more donations.

This pandemic has cleaned up my act; living with mountains of memories is ok but if there's no room to put new ones then something is amiss.

When the old git played Dame Clutterbuck in one of his pantomimes, a favourite line of mine was,

'You can't have everything, after all where would you put it?'

'You can have everything.' I retorted, it's a basic tenet of feminism.

'Oh no you can't,' snapped the Dame.

'Oh! yes you can, you can.' said I stamping my liberated foot.

'Oh! No, you can't, can't can't.' whooped Clutterbuck.

But it pains me to admit that the non-binary she/he/them/ was right.

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Skimming the scum

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 30 April 2021

Chicken soup is to the Jews what the blood of Christ is to the Catholics. You cannot come from the Russian Diaspora without knowing about the bird of youth.

Mrs Gold, in 1953, took her big Kosher hen into the public baths in Whitechapel, and behind closed doors scrubbed it under the hot water tap. Then, like my mother, would take the clean bird home schlump it on her knee and pull out the feathers, one by one. The naked fowl was then carried to the gas stove and turned round and round over a fierce flame like a chicken on a spit, until the last feather had been incinerated, the smell of singed plumage is still one of my olfactory favourites.

Every Jewish cook will say their chicken soup is better than yours, every Jewish chef will have their own ritual passed down from the ancestors, my mother was born in 1922 so her broth came from the 1890's and beyond. I've written endlessly about the recipe and the simplicity of it.

1 big onion

1 big carrot

2 sticks of celery

1 big squashy tomato

1 bunch of parsley.

Salt and pepper

The big bird is placed in a big saucepan.The big bird is covered with clean water. The water is brought to the boil and then, wearing an apron and using a big silver soup spoon, ( which I still have and use every day ) the skimming begins. As the water boils scum and debris rises to the surface, SHAH it off. Add a little water, bring back to the boil and SHAH off the protein. Add a little water bring back to the boil and SHAH off the fat. Keep SHAHING until the water is as clear as the River Sluch flowing from Salihorsk through to Slutsk, then add all the other ingredients. When the water starts to bubble place the big bird in the big saucepan on the back burner, turn the light down to the lowest it will go and cook for at least four and half hours. Serve with 'cnadles' -matzo meal dumplings - or 'lock shun' - vermicelli - or soft cholla bread or on it's own, slurp that hot Jewish penicillin and wish for long life.

Now the theory is the more you SHAH the cleaner the soup will be. The longer you take to patiently spoon away the fat, the sweeter the broth will be.

Every culture has learnt how to patiently stand over a steaming pot. The Italians say that Risotto requires patience and opera, lovingly adding stock into the rice and stirring gently, when the liquid is absorbed another ladle full of stock is added and the gentle stirring continues. A sag-aloo requires a contemplative relationship with the herbs, spices, spinach and potatoes. Even a cauliflower cheese requires a loving spoonful of flour as the grated cheddar oozes into the sauce. So the composure and calmness required to clear a chicken soup of scum is not confined to my tribe alone. Cooking for many with few resources takes patience and ingenuity and we peasants know how to do that. For ain't it the way that them upstairs always employ them downstairs to do their kedgeree for them. Upstairs chewing the fat whilst downstairs are nibbling on the gristle.

But now it appears the peasants are contemplating a volte-face. Silver spoons in hand knicked from the upstairs dining room, those pesky peasants are standing by as the scum comes to the surface. Watching as our bungling PM lies his way round John Lewis, is it time to SHAH off the scum? As Jair Bolsonaro blames the Brazilian people for his bastard corruption it's time to SHAH. As Narendra Modi callously campaigns whilst thousands and thousands and thousands of his people die from Covid it's time to SHAH. As the 19th president of Syria Bashar Hafez al-Assad turns his country into a hell hole it's time to SHAH.

I could go on, but you get the gist. The shit is coming to the surface, the oleaginous arseholes are losing their grip and are being found out. The corrupt fat controllers are quivering in the face of the Greta's and the Alexandria's, the Joanah's and the Eric's. The paternalistic pricks, with their savage sense of entitlement are being challenged, and we watch as their scum comes to the service like sebum released from the uropygial gland of a dying bird, I say unequivocally, wouldn't you, that it is most definitely time to SHAH.

For what have we got to lose? Our planet is shuddering under the weight of all that unholy shit, so with a smile and a song, let us pick up our ladles and with the patience of whichever Saint you choose;

Skim, skim that scum

Skim out loud, skim out strong

Skim for good things not bad

Skim for happy not sad

Skim, skim that scum

Let the world sing along

Skim for love there could be

Skim for you and for me

Skim skim that scum

Don't worry that it's not good enough

For anyone else to hear

Just skim skim that scum

Just skim skim that scum

Just skim skim that scum

Skim, skim that scum.

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Ashes to ashes

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 19 April 2021

I was thinking about funerals, what with the Queen's Escort and Helen McCrory, I was thinking how sombre and dignified the piper was as he played out the lament on his bagpipes. I was so shocked and saddened by the death of Ms M. that I felt the helplessness that we all feel in the face of death. There is nothing so absolute as the last sleep. It doesn't matter how far you run you can't outrun Lillith. And isn't it often the mundane, bagging up carrots, scrubbing the sink, that as we do life we remember that death, though inevitable, is utterly unavoidable.

We'd been on a new ramble, a chalky path through a field. Alex, a geography graduate from Oxford was marching her kids, Harry and Libby and their rescue greyhound Rooster, towards us. Alex informed us we were walking the wrong way to the Caff so she led us back through a kissing gate, down the road, up the hill past the old sandstone 130 million year old rocks, past refurbished stables, the local Brewery though a wooden gate and then into ancient, ancient woodland. White anemones and yellow Celandine hugged the path. Through a mini orchard, under a little railway arch, up a steep hill to Rooster's house where Alex pointed us round her garden, up another field, then onto a wide open meadow with white May blossom home to a herd of deer. Through another field past gnarly old trees with magical trunks out onto the road, into the sunshine, down past the old wild life rescue centre and right into the Caff in the park.

Tables laid out, people chatting, flowers in jugs and freshly baked scones. Wearing a black mask Jack brought us delectable coffee and planted a huge salty scone in front of us, offering cream and jam which we declined.

So today as the sun shone I still felt the melancholy that death leaves. As I reached the May blossom I started counting the funerals I had attended. Eighteen in total, although I've probably forgotten some. It occurred to me that over seventy years of living, my losses, though painful, were not excessive.

My father died aged 83. My mother outlived him by six years. His send off was farcical. He led a life of duplicity and chicanery that resulted in a handful of mourners turning up to the Crem in Luton. The right hand side of the chapel was full of the immediate Semitic family, his brothers and sisters and their sallow spouses.

The left hand side of the chapel was empty bar a handful of non-denominational bemoaners, the old git and me.

His secret second wife - I told you he was duplicitous - had chosen the service from the Christian handbook. Nobody on the right hand side had a clue as to what was going on and especially not Hymn No. 27, so we lefties made up for it by singing 'Amazing Grace' very loudly. Nobody organised a eulogy, nobody laid flowers, nobody exchanged condolences except three women from the bookmakers wearing green Ladbroke tabards. I was encouraged to get up on the raised stage to say at least something about the dearly departed. I have no memory of my spontaneous speech although I am told it was full of expletives and forgiveness. I have no memory of crying for him, although I did spend eleven hours at his bedside, as his face turned the colour of sour milk, stroking his hand and forgiving him and forgiving him and forgiving him.

My mothers funeral was in Brighton. She died alone in her room, in a little nursing home. Holding her morning cup of coffee she passed away with nobody but her nurse to witness her departure. I was working in Ibiza for 'The Groucho Club' when I got the call. Bernie Katz told me to go home so with the help of the other inmates I got back to Blighty to organise her funeral. A mystic once told me that for three days the veil is thinned between them and us, and so it was that for three days I felt the euphoria that my mother had gone to a better place. I was writing a comedy script at the time, including a funeral scene where the mourners covered the coffin in sunflowers. A top shot of luscious yellow offerings. I decided that life/death should follow art. People came from all over the place, down to the chapel in Brighton. My mother was given a rousing send off with a slide show, jokes, songs, Bruch's violin concerto and Stevie Wonder - single sun-flowers were laid lovingly on top of her casket - the scene had worked - and I cried and cried and cried.

When Bernie Katz died, he who ran the Groucho Club, he was given a surprising send off. Bernie, of the leopard skin or sequinned suits, a man of such generosity that I never, ever paid for anything when I went to the club. His funeral took over Soho. Mourners stood on every pavement round Soho Square clapping and honouring him by wearing leopard skin button holes. A coach and black horses, led the entourage to his final resting place. Back at the club drinks flowed. I cried hard for Bernie.

I also cried hard for my poet in Galway, although I didn't attend her funeral. I'd visited her in her last weeks alive, we reminisced, and said our farewells, her cool cheek is still stored in my muscle memory bank.

When my mentor Betty Marsden died I travelled to a church near her home in Kew. So many mourners turned up that people climbed up the wooden beams and hung from the wooden rafters, we all gathered on her houseboat drinking vodka at her round walnut table, the boat bobbing in the water, although it could have been the Bloody Mary's.

Ken Campbell, the genius behind so many performers, opted for a burial in a wood in Essex. His ecological coffin was drawn on a sledge pulled by his dogs, he was laid in the earth to the sound of a lone clarinetist. As in life, his death was madly theatrical.

My dear friend Sybil the Soothsayer said I should write about my own funeral. Well I want a lot of people there. I couldn't bare to go out to an empty auditorium. I want flowers and poems, I want young people and dogs, I want doughnuts at the chapel door and music from Ashkenazy tear jerkers to French Choral evening song, cheesy Rachmaninoff piano concertos, Bulgarian harmonies to very loud Dub with a ridiculously loud bass. I want people to cry - of course I do - but I also want somebody to tell jokes and for those willing in the congregation to drop their communal drawers and moon at the sky. Because when all is said and done everything will actually have been done and said, cos ain't that the Cosmic joke? Cos whatever we do, however we do it, it all ends with a final sigh, a tiny splutter and it's back to the stars we go.

I wish Phillip and Helen and all the others that have recently died, a peaceful journey and I wish you all a long life.


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Posted by Jeni in | 2 April 2021

We lived in East London. Watney Street. Solander Gardens. I went to Cannon Barnet in Aldgate East. I was dark skinned and one of the many Jewish kids at the school.

We non C-of-E pupils skipped assembly and stood in separate dinner lines from the Gentiles. They had milky custard whilst ours was made from water so that the practicing Jews could eat Kosher and not mix milk with meat. Our form teacher was Miss Ploughman and I loved her. She wore smocks over her skirt and presided over us when we had our afternoon nap, on little camp beds, in the hall which always smelt of stale mince, mashed potatoes and cabbage. In 1953, aged four, I queued up with all the other infants for my Coronation silver spoon. I wish I still had it. It was wrapped in tissue paper and I bit on it thinking it was liquorice. I still don't know where that idea came from. That little girl lived in a world of chaotic imaginings, misunderstanding the status quo, making up her own wild stories, feeling like a - 'Nother' is what so-called minorities do don't they?

I was reprimanded for saying I could plait hair, when in fact I had no fucking idea what a plait was. I stood at the front of the class trying to get two clumps of hair to stay in tact - who knew it had to be divided into three - but I had eagerly offered myself up as a hairdresser because I had seen somebody make a plait in the playground, which was situated on the roof of the school surrounded by wire meshing to protect us from falling onto Commercial Street. I watched the plaiting and just knew I could do it. The teacher, not Miss Ploughman, accused me of lying and asked me to hold out my hand. The ruler came down with a nasty sting on my palm. I can remember the humiliation being far greater than the painful slap. It happened again after Friday sweets were handed out. I never got any. One Friday a creche of jelly babies landed on my desk. It occurred to me, years later, that the teacher had had a word with the class. 'Nother' felt that sting of humiliation bite again.

When we learnt about Jesus and the Church of England, I was intrigued by both, since neither Jesus nor England felt like they belonged to me, although Jesus was jewish, his dad was a carpenter and his mum looked decent enough. Our flat had a little brick wall at the end of the communal green. There's an old photograph of my brother standing in a semi circle with all the other kids on the estate, waiting to go on a day trip. I was ill, somewhere in the back of shot is my mother holding me, wrapped in a blanket. Ooops here comes 'Nother'.

When I was sent to the headmistress for banning a girl from a game on my last day at the school, the seeds of injustice were sown. The girl had bullied me for years so I stood my ground and kept her out of the circle. The headmistress called me into her office and told me I was mean and selfish, I never told anyone but a pattern was emerging. Even though I was within my rights to punish the bully I did not defend myself. I quietly took the punishment myself, which is why the story of Jesus appealed to me so much because he apparently took the blows even though he was, like me, just a well meaning Yid. So aged four I sat on that little brick wall outside the flat on Maundy Thursday, took my meals indoors, went to sleep in my bed, but resumed my vigil on Good Friday until the sun went down, took my meals indoors, went to sleep in my bed, but resumed my vigil on Easter Saturday until the sun went down. Took my meals indoors, went to sleep in my bed, but resumed my vigil on Easter Sunday when finally my mother came out and asked me what I was doing. I told her that Jesus had died for us but not to worry because he would rise again after three days and walk amongst us. If I sat on that wall he would find his way to Whitechapel and would turn up and I was determined to be there when he did. We'd have a chat and I'd ask him what was it like being totally dead for three days.

He never came. I'm still waiting for him to walk amongst us. There are those that say he is always here, those who think he didn't exist, and those who couldn't give a fuck. Me, well like my four year old self I'm still sitting on the wall waiting for him to turn up. if only so he can make sense of all the nonsense around us.

I can't be the only one who is dismayed by Myanmar, horrified by police brutality, here and there, I can't be the only one who feels unmitigated sadness as tree after tree is being cut down for 5G, railway lines, property developments. I can't be the only one confused by Covid. I cannot be the only one sitting on the wall waiting.

So it's goodbye Easter, with not many chocolate eggs and definitely no lamb, and a lot of reading when I came across this;

An anthropologist showed a game to the children of an African tribe ... He placed a basket of delicious fruits near a tree trunk and told them: The first child to reach the tree will get the basket. When he gave them the start signal, he was surprised that they were walking together, holding hands until they reached the tree and shared the fruit! When he asked them why you did that when every one of you could get the basket only for him! They answered with astonishment: Ubuntu. "That is, how can one of us be happy while the rest are miserable?" UBUNTU in their civilisation means: I AM BECAUSE WE ARE That tribe knows the secret of happiness that has been lost in all societies that transcend them and which consider themselves civilized societies ....... !!

Oi! Jesus, if you read my blog, come on mate we could all do with a bit of loving thy neighbour and a lorry load of communal responsibility, so if you can find your way - I'll be sitting on the wall outside the pub - just praying - sorry saying.

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Love Thy Residential Occupier

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 23 March 2021

My family are immigrants.

The old gits family are immigrants.

Most of my friends are from Irish, Indian, Caribbean or some other shipped-in stock.

Given that the earth is home to 7.674 billion people it wouldn't be surprising if all of us aren't related to me or to somebody who knows me or to somebody who is related to me and then some.

Out of 195 countries on earth I bet 195 of them have people who have come and gone and then tried to come back again. Conflict, sadly, seems to be part of our human condition. Even as I write 10 wars are being waged on our crippled planet with the USA, the UK, or Russia supplying all the weapons. Just a handful or arseholes sign the papers that release chaos, tear gas and high capacity magazines, which means that money can pass seamlessly from one bloody tyrant to another. The rest of us peaceful folk watch on as they squander our housekeeping. And now the twat that oozes out of No10 wants to increase our nuclear warheads.....

And in whose name are these weapons sold? Not in mine that's for sure.

There are 23 deserts on earth and survival in these hot regions is precarious. Given that Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tuscon, are desert towns let's remember who lays the water pipes, who keeps those desert cities habitable. It sure as hell ain't the likes of the Mr. & Mrs. Trumpington's. The survival of those hot, dusty cities relies on importing people and water. Why, the holiday destination of our nouveau riche is sun kissed Dubai which is predicated on slavery. Oh, how our lovely islanders enjoy their luxurious holidays on the Persian gulf without a thought for the little fuckers that built it. Other countries - India, China, Pakistan, North Korea, Nigeria , Indonesia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia and the Philippines - all keep their slaves nicely hidden. Ok, so I can't verify the numbers but I'm prepared to believe that our little globe is toppling under the weight of clandestine people mismanagement.

Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, all war ravaged cities, have made the UK more money than is countable. And so I ask, without wishing to sound disingenuous, what is all this money spent on, cos as sure as f*k it ain't on me; take a look at the potholes round my manor, they're deep enough to fish for halibut.

Out of 67 million UK citizens only 14% - 9.5 million people - are immigrants. And since London, with a population of 8.982 million has the most immigrants of all, it computes to only 1 million Johnny foreigners.

It is absurd to imagine that any country on earth does not have incomers and outgoers - that's what we nomadic humans do. It's what we've always done. If the watering hole is empty we pack up our bundles and set off to find another one. It is ridiculous to think that EVERY single country on this earth DOESN'T have a pile of people that WEREN'T born with a clear ancestral line. Immigration here began in the 19th century with arrivals from the British colonies. The overall foreign born population in Britain between 1851 and 1901, came from Eastern Europe and Russia, so blame my mob of hairy Yiddishers that brought fish and chips and anti semitism to your shores.

So enough already, and shut the fuck up about immigrants. We have a duty of care to those we have exiled from their own countries. We have a duty of conscience to help those children, young men and women and the old and infirm that our wicked fuckers have displaced. Taking away foreign aid, selling vicious weapons to the likes of Bashar al-Assad whose wife spends money at Harrods whilst her people burn, they need the back of their legs slapping. Enough already and shut the fuck up about immigrants, refugees and foreigners. For they are not the problem it's the self entitled fuckwits who are clinging to a stinking rotten system. My mob were chucked out of Bela Rus because they were Yids. The immigrants that are kissing the white Cliffs of Dover come from countries that we have flattened, whoever they are.

Am I saying anything that is new? Of course not. It's just that today we are witnessing more and more orphaned kids clinging to strangers, clinging to a belief that they will get a fine welcome when they arrive here in Blighty, instead of being treated like dogs. Would Mr and Mrs Holierthanthou put up with the conditions that real life human beings are subjected to?

The earth belongs to all of us - them, us, those over there and the funny looking lot from behind that tree. We are but custodians; the earth does not belong to a handful of indifferent bastards that fill their coffers from making land mines, buzz bombs and L129A1 sharpshooter rifles whilst the tousled haired tosspot orders more nuclear warheads.

Who the fuck can use them and where the fuck can they be used?

It does not make our lives any safer having a closet full of military hardware.

It does not make any sense sending rockets to Mars whilst we are pissing on our own land. It does not help one living thing from a bee to an adder, from an ostrich to an octopus to invest in deadly weaponry that serves no-one but the arms dealer. Only the coffers of the callous, dispassionate few can sleep at night whilst they make money out of the death, maiming and torture of other humans.

Am I saying anything new? Am I saying anything you don't know? For, today's news that, televisions and coffee machines are the most bought items in lockdown whilst alarm clocks and suit cases are out of fashion, comes as no surprise. For it stands to reason that going out out is no longer in in so whoever your neighbour is you'd better learn to live with them because as things appear we are stuck with each other wherever we come from.

"Make nice" - as my father used to say - be six weeks - as my father said. Be as innocent as a babe and share and care and SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT IMMIGRATION, because thems immigrants are not the problem, it's the selfish, petty little Hitlers that are the bastards in this scenario. So let's learn to live with those next door neighbours, whatever they speak because as Covid nibbles away at the corners of society you never know when you may need to borrow a cup of grace.

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What next eh?

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 22 March 2021

I sat in the garden, with Dennis the cat, my face to the sky like a sunflower, I ate a salad with fennel and my new best ingredient chile oil. The cottage is filled with Irish music, because however lethargic I am I cannot resist a little jig to a band of drummers and penny whistlers.

I drove out to the spice shop, the greengrocers and the chemist and bought everything from coriander to Nurofen. Home to the old git who was at his computer, the dawter and her illustrator, who were at their computers, then I changed from my figure hugging yoga ensemble into my trusty pj's.

Supper is being cooked by the artist, whilst the dawter is uploading little films for her recipe book.

I've been scouring the headlines to find something to write about, but I don't want to give any more space to Covid, or vaccines, to protests or Priti politics. I don't want to talk about 'Line of Duty' or why I couldn't give a tuppeny fuck about 'The Voice.' I'm uninspired by The Sturgeon saga, board shitless with the space race and utterly, utterly disillusioned with the Brexit bombshell that is waiting behind the hedge to pounce on us.

I cannot believe the shower of shite that has been unleashed by the myopic Members of Parliament, and I do mean members. We all know somebody who knows somebody who has been effected by our divorce from Europe. Customs chaos, the vicissitudes of our vistas, carne carnage, touring travesties, not to mention the feeling of isolation like methane, which is now hanging over us.

What did Farage want? What did Johnson unleash? Do they care? What once was a spontaneous decision to visit donkeys in Mijas, what once was a delicious treat to jump into an open topped car and drive to Carcasson to visit the ancient sites of the Cathars, what once took a sandwich and a bottle of water on a train ride into Paris, has turned into a fucking nightmare.

What with masks and lockdowns, curfews and fear, our world has been turned upside down. It feels like the end of life as we know it, and since ends are also beginnings, it feels like the beginning of something that is so foreign that who can even call it?

Reading peoples eyes, listening keenly because mouths are hidden, anxiety over bank balances and the knowledge that those in charge have still not sorted out the homeless, the soon to be homeless, the victims of cladding and the reprehensible treatment of care workers. There is a growling lament that is playing out in the wings.

I am at a loss as to what to write about, I want to bury my head in a pillow sprayed with sandalwood and lavender. I want to hurt shameless Etonians, I want to shame hurtful politicians who paddle their own canoes, I want to sink them. Were I younger I would be incandescent with rage, filled with a hot fury that my world is being trampled on and it's future ripped up.

I have a wonderful old friend who thinks I am angry. Well I was born into volcanic fury which was nurtured by injustice and a refusal to read the small print. Even though the devil is in the detail, the detail is on a par with the overtly obvious. I will leave the semantics to the pedants, the wordsmiths and energetic thinkers who will write the next chapter. Right now I am open mouthed at the effrontery of it all. I'm not looking at the detail now because it makes my heart bleed. All power to those who still have the fight in them, I trust that my ancient howl will re-emerge but right now I'm crouching behind the dustbins waiting.

'I am committed to looking reality in the face and speaking about it without pretence. It is because I reject lies and running away that I am accused of pessimism; but this rejection implies hope, the hope that truth may be of use. And this is a more optimistic attitude than the choice of indifference, ignorance or sham.' Simone de Beauvoir

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