Categories
Holidays

Switzerland – Your Other Questions Answered

There was only one more question, but it’s a good one.

Olga Swan asked: “Did you read the article by Maureen Lipman, who said she’s never going abroad again, saying airports (esp LHR) are hell on earth? How did you cope?”

I hadn’t read the article, but I found it here and read it. While I sympathise with Maureen’s trials and tribulations (probably somewhat exaggerated for effect), I didn’t experience them. First of all, she went for five days. We’d already decided that short hops are no longer worth doing, unless you want to spend half of the time taking PCR tests, checking for updated rules and filling in forms.

Maureen’s other main problem was with the crowds and hassles at Heathrow Airport. We’ll think twice about landing at Heathrow if we ever make it to the UK. Ben Gurion and Zurich airports were nothing like that. Zurich airport seemed almost normal. They checked our vaccination certificates and entrance forms quickly and efficiently and we were soon out of there. Before the return flight, they checked our required PCR results, again with no trouble. At Ben Gurion, everything seemed normal going out. When we returned, we were pleased not to get stuck behind family members greeting each other and blocking the exit. (Anyone not flying is no longer allowed inside.) Instead, we had to go for our tests, but they were done very quickly and we soon found ourselves outside the building.

The (negative) results of the PCR tests arrived in plenty of time for me to go to folk dancing the following evening.

Travel, these days, isn’t what it was, but most of us don’t have the awful experiences that make it to the news.

Categories
Holidays

Switzerland – Your Unvoiced Questions Answered

On 20th August, after completing all the usual preparations and some extra ones, David and I were delighted to be sitting in a plane about to take off.

About four hours later, we landed at Zurich Airport, ready to spend two glorious weeks doing what we love to do – hike, admire views, travel in boats.

You: Why did you go?

We needed a rest, a break from routine.

You: Why did you go abroad?

We live in a small, crowded and tense country. There’s plenty that we love about our country and what it has accomplished. But sometimes it’s nice to get away and experience something different.

You: Why did you choose Switzerland?

We’ve been there many times. We know what to expect. It’s perfect for hiking, with lots of footpaths and excellent public transport. The views are amazing. Our first choice would have been the UK, where we have family and friends and are at home with the language. But current restrictions there are too complicated and limiting.

Let me ask you a question. Why are you asking so many questions?

You: We’re still in a pandemic. Don’t you think you should stay at home?

We stayed at home for nineteen months, most of it literally at home. When we tried to visit places, we found we had to book, and the places we tried were always full for the times we wanted. The pandemic, we’ve realised, isn’t going away soon, so it’s time to get out and enjoy ourselves, taking whatever precautions we can.

You: What did you notice in Switzerland regarding the pandemic?

In general, people are good about wearing masks. The ones who aren’t, in our limited experience, tend to be young men, who sit in a train carriage for the whole journey with their can of drink, presumably so that, if challenged, they can claim to be drinking and hence exempt from wearing a mask.

Even in Switzerland (but less so than in Israel) we saw masks discarded on the streets and on footpaths – even on this path high up in the mountains.

Any more questions?

Categories
Holidays Israel

Vaxing Lyrical

Getting the Covid19 vaccination, part 1

Yesterday, I got the first of two doses of the Covid-19 vaccination. The process was easy and well organised, and I’m feeling fine, thank you.

No country is perfect, Israel included, but it’s in times like these that I feel most proud of my little country. I think this article does a good job of explaining why Israel has succeeded in vaccinating a much higher proportion of its population than any other country. Basically, it’s due to our health service and the way it’s run, with clinics all over the country, and our ability to mobilise in times of emergency.

When makes me annoyed? When I read in the foreign press that Israel is going ahead with vaccinating while Palestinians have to wait. The fact is that Israeli Arabs have the same rights to health care (including vaccinations) as everyone else in Israel. Those who live in the Palestinian Authority have their own systems in place, independent of Israel. Israel is not responsible for their vaccination programme, although it will probably help them.

My appointment for the second injection is in three weeks. I would love for it to be followed by a trip to the UK, my home away from home. Sadly, I don’t see that happening.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone, wherever you are.

Categories
Books Holidays Israel short stories

2020 in Review

2020 – the year when nothing happened. Hang on… is that true? Something must have happened. Let’s see.

Best Holiday (Vacation)

We only had one proper holiday, but it was a wonderful, action-packed tour of neighbouring Egypt in January. I’m so glad we made the last-minute decision to join the tour.

Best Book Read

I read several wonderful books, this year. This was the best. A combination of secrets, lies, and great plotting and writing was what made this novel stand out.

Best Book Written

No contest there. I wrote only one book and wouldn’t have completed that without NaNoWriMo and our wonderful municipal liaisons. (I’m still editing it and hope to have it finished soon.)

Best Book Published

I’m proud to have my short story, Gruesome in Golders Green, in this fabulous collection of short stories, all inspired by the city I grew up in.

Best Photo of Me

Taken by my son for Independence Day.

Best Addition to the Family

Our granddaughter! She’s almost six months old, now.

Yes, some bad things happened, too. The main one was losing a very good friend.

Here’s to a better 2021 for all.

Categories
Books Holidays Israel

Number Seven

I’m author number seven out of the eighteen who have written stories for Dark London, the new anthology to be published by Darkstroke.

Dark London Authors

I’ve long thought of my lucky number as twenty-five. Why?

  • I was born on 25th August.
  • The house I grew up in was at number 75 (25 x 3).
  • I came to live in Israel on 25th October.
  • When I was 25, I lived at number 25.

However, seven is a rather special number in Judaism because:

  • The menorah (the 7-branched candelabrum) has been a symbol for Judaism for about 3000 years.
  • The festival of Sukkoth, which involves eating (and sometimes sleeping) in booths, as a reminder of the years when the Israelites wandered through the desert, lasts for 7 days.
  • Simchat Torah, the Rejoicing of the Torah, includes parading around the synagogue 7 times.
  • The wedding ceremony includes 7 blessings.
  • The festival of Shavuot, commemorating the receiving of the Torah, is celebrated 7 weeks after Passover, which commemorates the exodus from Egypt.
  • The shivah, the period of mourning, lasts for 7 days.

 

Ruth&David'sSukka
Inside a Sukkah (booth)

I couldn’t be author #25 because there aren’t 25 authors in the anthology, but I’m happy to be #7, and I imagine one of the characters in my short story is, too.

Publication will be this summer. I’m excited!

Categories
Holidays memories The writing process

Something You Didn’t Know

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.

Bicycles
Cycling in Devon, UK

I don’t have a bike in hilly Jerusalem, but I’ve enjoyed some good times riding, over the years.

Categories
Holidays

Land of Gods, Pharaohs and Baba Ghanoush

Last week, we joined a trip to our neighbouring country.

Egypt 2020
Our happy guide

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.

Karnak
One of the few photos from 1984. In Karnak.

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:

  • Finish Egypt article.
  • Finish editing short story for darkstroke anthology.
  • Finish editing new version of Neither Here Nor There.
  • Choose new title for new version of Neither Here Nor There. (Hard)
  • Start submitting new version of Neither Here Nor There.
  • Work on new novel – crime genre.
  • Lots more.

Valley of the Kings, Egypt
Valley of the Kings

If you want to see any more of our photos, some of them are available on Facebook for all to see at:

The others will appear when we have time.

Categories
Everyday life Holidays Israel

Happy What?

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.

“Actually, no.”

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.

Chanuka2012Miriam
Celebrating the sixth night of Chanuka in 2012

But Chanuka isn’t time off, except for schoolchildren and teachers. And us, last year:

Chanuka and Christmas in Vietnam
David Drori celebrating the 7th night of Chanuka in Vietnam, 2018

Whatever you do, enjoy the next few days, the whole of 2020 and every other year. May whatever you wish for come to fruition.

Categories
Holidays

Visiting the London Transport Museum

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.

Gibson Ticket MachineYears 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.”

Underground Memories

Sheltering in the UndergroundOf 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.

Of course I am. This is where I grew up.

Categories
Holidays

Home, Almost Home

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.

Money Tree
The money tree we discovered on a different walk. Who said money doesn’t grow on trees!

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.