Categories
memories The Power of Belief

The Power of Belief: Miriam Drori

Yes, this week, I’m going to tell a story of my own, partly to show that this series doesn’t have to be about writing and you don’t have to be “a writer” to join in. The story doesn’t even have to be true; it can be one you made up, or one you read or watched on a screen.

For A-level, I took Pure Maths, Applied Maths and Music. I spent two years studying those subjects, but the teachers didn’t instil in me any belief in my abilities. There was one girl who was brilliant at Maths and always going to get straight As, and others who were clever. I was mediocre and mostly ignored. In Music lessons, I was the only pupil. I struggled with that and never shined in the lessons. My homework, in all subjects, suffered from my lack of self-confidence.

My father, who was a Maths teacher, wanted to help me. He was disappointed when I refused his help, but it didn’t seem right that he should do my homework for me. However, when lessons and homework finished and we were given time to revise before the final exams, I let him go through the whole syllabus with me, and that made all the difference. Suddenly, it all became clear and I knew that I could do this stuff.

I ended up doing extremely well in the exams, surprising myself and everyone else except for my father – or so he said. He hadn’t helped with Music, but I think that extra confidence spilled over into that subject. Also, I was conscious that the teacher wouldn’t see what I’d written in this external exam. This made me feel free to express my thoughts, uninhibited by her potential comments.

Belief produced results that took me to university, where I didn’t excel, but I did have a good time, meeting some lovely people with whom I’m still in contact.

About Miriam

Miriam Drori survived growing up in the UK and now enjoys her life in Israel (although she misses the UK and is looking forward to being able to visit again). Following careers in computer programming and technical writing, she now writes mostly fiction. Her next novel, Style and the Solitary, launches on 26th April.

Miriam is passionate about raising awareness of social anxiety. Not all her writing includes it, but she never fails to mention it in her bio and elsewhere.

Miriam’s Links

Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and many other places, including this website.

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Next week’s post in this series will be from… you, whoever comes first. Remember, belief doesn’t have to be connected to writing, and these posts don’t even have to be about true stories.

If you want to take part, do let me know via Contact above or social media.

Categories
memories

Gill Downs: A Tribute

Gill Downs. 1st February 1953 – 18th November 2020

The six days that have passed since I heard the sad news of Gill’s passing haven’t made this any easier to grasp. The suddenness has made it difficult for everyone, especially for her family. No one expected this.

I first met Gillian at school. She was in my year, but never in my class, and I remember her mostly from the coach that took us to kosher dinners and back. Probably most of the girls who went didn’t eat kosher at home, but their parents saw it as a way for them to meet other Jews.

Gill was much more sophisticated than me, more knowledgeable about things outside school. I was younger than most of them and young for my age and, like all the girls I hung around with, she bullied me. I never called it bullying then. Bullying, I thought then but don’t think now, had to be physical. I called it teasing. It wasn’t pleasant. And yet, despite the way they treated me, I continued to hang around with them, every day, there and back and while we ate our kosher meals. Why? Because the alternative would have been to be on my own, and I knew that would be worse.

No one in that group of girls was the highest in the bullying ranking. There were a couple of others – one in particular – who won that title. And Gill, I remember, even agreed to sit next to me when I found myself in the same Maths class as her.

Eventually, school fizzled out. I left with pleasure and a vow never to be in contact with any of the girls from school again. Fortunately, university was much better. But my experiences of school, and childhood in general, continued to have an effect on me as a person. I often kept quiet and when I did talk, I found self-expression difficult and sounded hesitant.

I moved countries, got married, had three children. I worked as a computer programmer and then as a technical writer. My life was good but the problems didn’t go away.

In 2002, I added myself to the list for my school on Friends Reunited (a forerunner to Facebook). Never did I expect anyone would contact me, but they did – first Jane and then Gill. For a long time, Gill and I emailed each other practically every day. It was the perfect medium for me. It gave me time to consider my words, yet provided an immediacy that letters never could. I poured out my problems and thoughts, and she listened and reacted, showing that she understood. She gave advice and eventually told me about social anxiety. It was hard for me to believe that anyone else in the world could have similar problems, so it was most surprising to discover the name, support groups and therapy.

Gill and Miriam, May 2009

One thing that bothered me was that Gill continued to feel guilty for what she did to me as a child. (She had a different word for it: victimisation.) I tried to make her see that she was too young and immature to know what she was doing to me then. I said any blame should be laid on the adults in our lives – mostly the teachers, and perhaps even that isn’t fair because they didn’t know, either.

Without Gill, I’d have remained the same person, quiet and closed to the world. Probably, many people I meet still see me that way. But, through Gill, I’ve learned to write down my thoughts. Without her, I would never have become an author.

It’s hard to believe that I can no longer reach Gill by any means, technological or otherwise. For her, I’m glad, at least, that decades of enduring pain and disability ended so suddenly. For her family, the suddenness has added to their grief and for that I’m very sorry.

I’ll never forget Gill and all she did for me these past eighteen years. Yehi zichra baruch – may her memory be a blessing.

Categories
memories

Dear Mum & Dad

Dear Mum & Dad,

First of all, I want to wish you happy birthday, Mum. 108 today. Secondly, I want to tell you that you have become greatgrandparents. That little boy, who was 7 and 24 when you left this world, is now a father, and I am trying to get used to being a grandmother.

Baby1-12

You might know this, or you might not. Who knows? If you do, you’ll also know that we’re now in the second wave of a pandemic. I’ve had to stop dancing, and I’ve spent a lot of time at home. But I know I’ve been lucky in many ways.

You must both remember the previous pandemic, a century ago, although neither of you ever mentioned it. Did it somehow pass you by and leave you unaffected? I wish I’d heard more about your lives before I was born. I know I could have asked, but I didn’t think of doing that. And I had no idea about the pandemic. I did learn something of your lives during the Second World War, but nothing of living through the First.

Moshe & Esther

You must have endured a lot, but here you are, standing happily together in the sunshine in front of the back door of the house I grew up in. You must be around the age that I am now. I’m glad you were able to enjoy this and many other happy moments.

Categories
memories

About Facebook Memories…

… and one in particular.

I know, some people prefer not to see them, but I generally like to see those posts from the past that pop up every day. Of course, some of them are no longer of interest, while others bring a smile to my face and words from my lips.

“Was that really six years ago?”

“Was that only last year? So much has happened to me since then.”

In the current climate, I also think of how the whole world has changed since last year.

One of today’s memories brought a different reaction from me: regret.

We met, she and I, in an online forum. Later, she started up another, smaller forum and I joined it. We interacted quite a lot. I even met her in person when we stayed together for two days.

Eventually, with the rise of Facebook, there didn’t seem any point in continuing with the forum. We became Facebook friends. She sent me a message in Hebrew; I was touched.

SadMemory

It couldn’t last. Although we had a lot in common – enough to chat about on the forum – there was too much that separated us. Topics that didn’t come up on the forum couldn’t help but come between us on Facebook. She broke off contact.

I think about her sometimes and hope she and her family are well and happy.

Facebook is supposed to bring people together, but sometimes it tears them apart.

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.