June 2013


Some better writers won the contest. But I’m here.

And the winning stories are here.

I’m off to read them – to enjoy and to learn.

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Just some things I’ve seen recently. There’s even something nice from the BBC.

  • Ann Goldberg praised two Israeli drivers.
  • Marallyn was a bit angry with Barbra Streisand, who paid us a visit.
  • Lisa Isaacs visited an oasis in the desert.

And the BBC talked about the well-known Israeli sport: matkot.

I hope you enjoy the links. I might do this again sometime….

Many thanks to the six people who had a go at imagining what this woman is like:

MysteryWomanYour ideas were very interesting. Although they were all different, there were also some similarities.

You all portrayed her as a caring woman. Looking at the photograph, I can see why, but we never saw her as caring at all. At least, most of us didn’t.

Two of you rightly assumed the photograph is old. Not from the 1930s or ’40s, but probably the ’60s. We thought she was old then, but times change. We never saw her smile like that, but we did see that necklace.

Some of you portrayed her as having several children, while others said she didn’t have any. But you all thought she loved children. We didn’t see that either but, looking back, maybe she did. Maybe that’s why she went into that profession.

You see, this woman was our headmistress. For most of us – we who are going to meet up soon at a school reunion – she ruled us for seven years. Yes, Marallyn, with a will of iron. But soft spoken? Well yes, I suppose that, too. She had the gift of being able to control the girls without raising her voice. We were scared of her. And that’s not just because we were grammar school girls. The year after we left, the school went comprehensive, but this woman had no trouble controlling the usually unruly girls who were now part of the school.

But, in general, we didn’t feel she was there to help. Meetings with her were never pleasant. I’m not the only one to think she barely hid her antisemitic views – in a school where a third of the pupils were Jewish. She certainly made no attempt to understand my problems.

So no – not a mother, or a librarian, or a backstreet abortionist. And I can’t tell you how often she cleaned her home, or whether she cleaned it at all. But maybe, in some ways, you were closer to the truth than I will ever know.

A memoir of a trip to Laos

I promised a different post next. I promised to reveal the identity of the mystery woman. I lied. Not intentionally, of course, but it seemed better to change the order of these posts and allow a little more time for anyone who still wants to join in and guess who she is.

Jo Carroll doesn’t lie. She tells factual accounts of her travels, and believe me they don’t need any embellishment. But they still need to be written so as to engage the reader, and Jo certainly succeeds in that. And sometimes she changes names and biographical details to protect the people she’s writing about. This is no secret. Jo writes about doing this in her new book, Bombs and Butterflies. After reading it, I understand that some of the people she meets need to be protected.

There are two main reasons why I prefer to read about Jo’s travels than to experience them for myself. One refers to things I’d rather not do; the other to things I find hard to do.

I’m not an intrepid explorer. True, I spent about three weeks in Nagaland, in north east India, an area that doesn’t see a vast influx of tourists. True, the conditions I encountered there were far from luxurious. But I went with a group. The only trips I’ve been on alone are those in which I’ve gone to visit people.

I couldn’t imagine going alone; I’d be afraid of being lonely for one thing. And there are things I would hate. Being woken up by a large rat, for instance, as Jo was. But Jo takes all these things in her stride and I can sit back in the comfort of my home and enjoy reading about them. I have read her previous book, Hidden Tiger, Raging Mountain, so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed by this one.

What I would find hard to do is to connect to all the strangers Jo meets along the way, locals and other travellers, whose stories make Jo’s books so fascinating. While she tells of needing time alone, she’s clearly a very friendly person, too.

And she’s a wonderful writer. She knows what to include and what to leave out, and how to keep the reader interested with humour and fascinating details. And I love the short chapters, which make this book convenient for reading on a train, in bed or in a doctor’s waiting room.

In short, this is a book worth reading. Want to know how to get it? The information is here.

I’m going to ask you to use your imaginations. We all have them. (I used to think I didn’t have one and didn’t know how to be creative, but I was wrong.)

Here is a photograph of a woman:

MysteryWoman

(It’s actually a photograph of a photograph. You can see the photographer reflected in it.)

What do you think this woman is like? What does she do or say or eat for breakfast? No, never mind the last one. Please write anything that comes to mind in the comments.

I will reveal all in my next post. For now, I’ll just say that this isn’t someone close to me and nothing you say will distress me.

2013FestivalOfLight1The Jerusalem Festival of Light.

This is the fifth year it’s been done, but it was the first time we heard about it! Clearly, others are better informed. The routes inside the city walls were crowded. But we followed the throngs and saw some amazing sights.

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2013FestivalOfLight4.

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Outside the walls it was quieter, and still there was plenty to see.

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2013FestivalOfLight3

Jerusalem Light Railway at night

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Of course we got there and back on our favourite Light Railway. It’s been going for two years and I’m still amazed to see these modern vehicles traversing our old city.

FLASH MOB 2013 is a hybrid blog carnival and competition celebrating International Flash Fiction Day, which is on 22nd June.

The organisers are looking for stories that take risks and experiment.

The competition is free and the details are at FLASH MOB 2013.

My attempt is definitely experimental for me:

The View from Heaven

They stood, she and he, embracing in the centre of a perfect garden. Flowers all around. Pinks, reds, yellows, purples, whites. Water cascading down the rocks into the pool. Maturing plums and kumquats nested by sun-frolicked green leaves. Sweet, juicy fruit waiting to be gathered and consumed.

Over there, on the same level, stood a large bald prism. One triangular end thrust out through needle-sharp pine leaves. Acute angles pointed and menaced. Inside the prism, as clear as if its walls had been transparent and its position much closer, people wandered in a daze, struggling to grasp the horrifying enormity exhaled by tragic reminders.

“It looks quite near,” she said. “Could we walk there, down into the valley and up the other side?”

“Do you want to?” he replied in question.

“How long would it take?”

“Oh, about seventy years, going backwards.”

She glanced at him with a frowning half-smile. “We’d die before we got there.”

“Just as well,” he said, without smiling.