I hadn’t thought of that momentous day for ages, but when Lorraine Mace included this in her interview of me: “Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know”, I was reminded of something good that happened to me when I was twelve.
I won a bicycle!
There was a competition in my girls’ magazine. I had to answer questions on the rules of riding on roads. I even asked my mother whether she thought I should send in my answers and she said yes, never expecting me to win, but I did.
I had asked for a bike before. My parents hadn’t agreed. They said it was too dangerous. Yet my brother had always ridden a bike. I remembered the story of how my dad had taught him, running with him. I never saw my dad run and he didn’t teach me. (I learned to ride on the bike of a friend’s little brother. It was so low to the ground that I wasn’t afraid of falling off.)
“That was different,” they said in answer to my pleas. “We lived in the country, then.”
It was always different for him. The country, the boarding school, being a boy.
But I won a bicycle and so my parents couldn’t stop me from getting one. I remember we ordered a bike suitable for my height, but the one that arrived was adult-sized and so it lasted for years.
I don’t have a bike in hilly Jerusalem, but I’ve enjoyed some good times riding, over the years.
Last week, we joined a trip to our neighbouring country.
This was our second visit to Egypt. Thirty-five years ago, David and I toured the country on a limited budget and completely alone. This time, we travelled in style and with a group. Both trips were amazing, although they couldn’t have been more different; I’m still writing an article about the differences.
Back at home, I caught up with a series of emails from people I was at school with. Some of them are retired and talk about having time on their hands. I’ve never been busier. Here are a few of the items on my to-do list:
I read an article recently. I don’t have the link any more, but it was headed something like: I’m Jewish. Please wish me Merry Christmas. The article went on to explain that although in the author’s family Christmas wasn’t celebrated, the day was meaningful to him as a day off – a day when they, as a family, did joyful things together that were out or the ordinary.
I get it. I remember, all through my childhood, spending Christmas Day in the home of my aunt, uncle and cousins, eating different foods, doing different things. So when I changed schools at the age of eleven and was introduced to Christmas carols, drawing Christmas trees and exchanging Christmas cards, I joined in. In any case, my aim at school was always to fit in, even though I never succeeded.
The trend continued to university and work. Christmas was always a special time, so it seemed natural to exchange Christmas greetings with everyone.
Then I moved to Israel and, for the first time, Christmas didn’t exist, apart from a few cards I still sent to and received from friends abroad. Christmas Day was spent at work. That’s been the case for most of my time here. Recently, with social media and the ability to listen to BBC Radio 4, the prominence of Christmas has again increased, but it’s still not part of my life. That’s the difference between me and the author of that linkless article. He lives in the US while I live in Israel. Like him, I’m not offended when someone wishes me Merry Christmas, but for me it’s meaningless.
“Yes, but even if you don’t celebrate it, you do something special on that day,” people say.
However, this year, I will be celebrating Chanuka at the same time as Christmas, lighting candles and eating doughnuts at home and at folk dancing.
But Chanuka isn’t time off, except for schoolchildren and teachers. And us, last year:
Whatever you do, enjoy the next few days, the whole of 2020 and every other year. May whatever you wish for come to fruition.
In my previous post, I mentioned how a trip to Britain is unlike any other. Our visit to the London Transport Museum is also unlike a visit to any other transport museum could be. Why? Because we remember.
Years ago, before we moved away, we travelled on those old buses and trains that fill the museum. We remember the bus conductor, who rang the bell to signal to the driver that he (always he) could continue to the next stop, took our money and printed tickets using the machine that hung on her neck. “Only five standing,” he’d call out.
And we love revisiting the old tube trains, which really functioned just as they do today, except that they were much quieter. None of that, “Mind the gap between the train and the platform edge.” And definitely no, “See it, say it, sorted.”
Of course, we see exhibits that even we aren’t old enough to remember. I find the film of the underground during the war very interesting and educational, as well as this notice. On all the occasions that I watched films of people sheltering from the bombs in underground stations during the war, I never realised how organised a procedure this was.
“I didn’t think you’d be interested in that,” said David of this museum.
I’ve been away. Again. To a place that will always be special for me. Despite the forty-three years that have passed since I left Britain, it will never feel like any of the other countries I visit.
I have to admit that things have changed over that time. Now, if you sit in a pub, all the conversations around you contain that B word. Various associated terms float towards you in that noisy but cosy place. Terms like “no deal”, “remain” and “leave”. But pubs themselves remain the same: the bar where you order, the drinks, the food, the pleasant, friendly atmosphere.
And then there was Whaley Bridge. Despite its name, it’s a small town. If you live in Britain, you’ll no doubt have heard of it. We hadn’t. We just followed a hiking route that happened to end up in that town, which was convenient for us because we could catch a train back from there to Buxton, where we were staying.
The first sign we saw of something unusual was when we walked close to Toddbrook Reservoir.
“That’s strange,” said David.
“What?” I asked.
“The reservoir is empty.”
I looked across the field and, sure enough, there was no water in the reservoir.
The second sign was that our footpath was closed, with a notice saying it was closed for three months. We retraced our steps to the edge of the town, where a helpful resident told us which way to go to walk to the town centre.
Then we met two men, who told us a better way to walk (through a park) and said the authorities didn’t really know how long the work would take, but it would definitely be longer than three months. The conversation then diverted to the purpose of the reservoir and the history of a long-abandoned railway line. It was very interesting, but I won’t go into it here.
We followed their advice, reached the town centre via the park, and ordered and consumed cream teas before taking the train back.
Strange happenings always come in threes, or at least this series did. My friend Gill, who lives in that area, asked me, on Scrabble, what we’d done that day.
“We walked to Whaley Bridge,” I replied.
“Lucky it’s still there,” she commented.
Huh? What was that about? I googled “Whaley Bridge” and discovered the worrying events that took place just last month. The whole saga made it to the national news, despite the preoccupation with the B word. That’s why those we spoke to didn’t think to tell us what happened. It’s probably a result of sounding British, even though we’re not, any more… almost but not quite.
If you don’t know what happened at Whaley Bridge, you can google it, too.
When you’ve experienced everything you’re ever going to experience, it’s time to write: THE END.
…said I, although I’m probably not the first!
I’m back home after an amazing trip to China and Tibet. I’ve posted my photos and videos on Facebook, which must mean I’m well and truly back, and you’re welcome to view them, whether or not you’re a friend of mine there.
Today, I’m thinking about firsts. Yes, even at my age, there are firsts.
The first time I went to China. The first time I went to Tibet. The first time I slept nearly 4,000 metres above sea level. The first time I climbed to almost 5,000 metres. My first plane ride in which the air pressure was increased as we took off. The first video I created for one of my books:
The Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, Japan is renowned for the cherry blossom that adorns the cherry trees that line its route.
Martin and Fiona get to visit it towards the end of their story, but they have to imagine the blossom. It’s autumn, not spring.
My husband and I also enjoyed our walk along this path, five years ago, in autumn. We didn’t see the cherry blossom either, but we did get to taste a Fuji apple on our trip. Martin and Fiona also experience the sweet, juicy taste of a Fuji apple.
Why am I telling you all this? Read my novel to find out.
CULTIVATING A FUJI is released on 15th May, but there’s no need to wait.
The last post on this blog was two months ago. Time for a catchup.
November was NaNoWriMo, that month of the year when an ever growing number of people around the world try to write a novel in a month. Those who despise it haven’t got it, I think. The result is only a first draft. It’s not for anyone else to read and definitely not for publication. I didn’t manage to “win” this year, but I had a great time creating thirty-something thousand words that will form a basis for a new novel… when I can find time to work on it.
Then we went away, to Vietnam and Cambodia, two countries I never expected to visit, given what I heard about them all through my childhood and beyond. The trip was wonderful.
What’s happening now? Well, I’ve been featured on a few blogs:
“Only one thing marred the trip,” I wrote in my last post. But even that had good consequences, as well as bad.
On the way to Carcassonne, I’d expected not to catch the direct train from Marseille. This would have meant waiting for hours and then changing trains twice on the way. In the event, my plane landed half and hour early and I caught the direct train easily. Plain sailing.
Not so on the return journey. My train was delayed by a full hour. And my suitcase was stolen, probably at the station after Carcassonne. It felt like déjà vu. Exactly twenty years earlier my rucksack was stolen on a train from the airport into Paris. This created no end of complications, involving replacing passports and credit cards.
There was nothing important or valuable in the suitcase. But still.
“You should tell the guard,” said a girl who spoke good English. I found the guard, who also spoke good English but was very unhelpful, unless you count telling me I should have been watching the case all the time.
At Marseille’s Saint-Charles Station, I searched for the police station and found it.
That wasn’t much help. I asked at the information place what I should do. The guy there wasn’t at all helpful. But at my Japanese hotel, I was given a map and walking directions to the nearest police station, which I found easily.
Two things interested me during the two hours I spent there. I wish I could have taken photos, but I decided that wouldn’t be a good move!
As I stood waiting in a queue, a man arrived all cut up and dripping blood. The police officers talked to him from behind the protected counter, and he answered. The people sitting on benches in a corner moved up to let him sit, which he did. A woman who talked to him and seemed to be trying to help got snapped at, but he did thank – profusely – a couple who came into the station with him, for their help.
After a short while, two police officers arrived to administer first aid before taking him away. When I was told to sit and wait, I noticed blood on the bench where he’d been sitting and kept away from it.
Just before that, while I stood at the counter waiting for them to deal with me, I saw two officers – one female and one male – kissing. It occurred to me that this was a strange place to carry on a romance. As I sat in the waiting area, it became obvious that this was a procedure that took place every time an officer entered or left the area behind the counter – men with men, men with women and presumably women with women if there’d been more than one woman. Yes, it was only the kiss-on-each-cheek type, but to one who doesn’t live in France, it seems strange in that setting.
At eleven o’clock, when they finally finished with me, I asked, “Is it safe to walk back to the hotel at this time?” showing an officer the hotel on my map. He pointed to the way I should walk, telling me not to walk round the other way because it’s not safe. That didn’t make me feel wonderful, but I got back in one piece.
The other good outcome was that I didn’t have to deal with a suitcase on the way home. This was particularly useful at Ben Gurion Airport, which was very crowded because of a holiday. I was pleased to be able to get out in record time.