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.

This time last week we were just recovering from the forest fire that damaged our garden and threatened our house.

Things move so fast in Israel that it feels much longer ago. I look out of my office window at green leaves gently swaying in the breeze, the sunlight dancing on them. But overhead I can hear the drone and whirr of a helicopter as it comes and goes. Perhaps that sums up what it’s like here. Life could be so pleasant if it weren’t for all those unpleasant things. I can’t block out the noise of the helicopter any more than I can block out the awful news, try as I might.

But I wanted to think back to the fire and try to describe it as a writer should, using all my senses.

Sight

This is always the obvious one and the only one I can demonstrate to you.

IMG_0853

Each time we looked out, it was closer to us. We saw flames shooting up and clouds of grey and black smoke. The flames made us scared. No, we didn’t take any photos from the house. This was after we left it.

As we climbed the hill to get away from the fire, we saw fire engines racing towards it. At the top of our road, a barrier showed it was closed to ordinary traffic.

Now we survey our view of the Jerusalem Forest and see brown where there should be green, all caused by people who weren’t careful.

Sound

We didn’t hear the fire. The main sounds were the sirens of the fire engines. In my childhood, fire engines sounded a bell. No longer. Now they sound like all other sirens. Two ear-piercing tones a major fourth apart.

Another sound that accosted us as we gazed from a safe distance was of planes droning by. Their sound caused us to watch them as they dropped toxic materials on the fire.

Since the fire, there has been a new sound. The leaves of the tall tree that overhangs our garden now rustle in the wind.

Smell

This was the first sense that alerted us to something as yet unidentifiable. “What’s that burning smell?” I asked my son as we sent off our online shopping order. “No idea,” he said going off, but a few minutes later he came back to look out from the balcony. He’d heard the first news report of the fire.

When we returned home after the fire, the smell of burning was all around us.

Touch

The fire had burnt a hole in the plastic cover of the table-tennis table. The area around the hole felt brittle.

We had to sweep ash away. Little fragile bits, hardly felt, that crumble in your hand, or would have done if I’d tried to pick them up with my hands.

Taste

The only taste I remember was of the restaurant meal we had while away from the house. I chose broccoli pie. It came with salad and was very tasty indeed. After that I had some cheesecake, sweet and cheesy.

~

You know that question: what would you take with you if there was a fire and you had to get out of the house in a hurry? And the person – there aways is at least one – who says, “If there’s a fire, you don’t take anything. You just get out as fast as you can.”

Well, we had time because the fire didn’t start in our house. We took laptops, passports, phones, money, cards, etc. Fortunately we were able to bring them all back later.

Fellow Crooked Cat author, Ailsa Abraham, is running a competion here with prizes. I decided it was time to take a break from the seriousness of reality. Here’s my attempt:

The stranger standing at her gate asked how much her house was worth.

“The asking price is half a million.”

“It looks perfect for us. Location, size everything. Could I have a look inside?”

She should have sent the woman to the agent, but she seemed pleasant enough. And maybe they’d be able to cut the agent’s fee.

“Certainly. Follow me.”

The stranger wiped her feet on the mat. All very proper and good. She looked all round the house, asking suitable questions and looking suitably impressed. They exchanged names and phone numbers. The stranger promised to get back to her after speaking with her husband.

The next day there was a robbery. A police officer checked the house. “No sign of a break-in. Could the robber have had a key?”

She looked for the spare key, on the shelf by the front door. It wasn’t there. She found the piece of paper on which the stranger had written her name and phone number.

The police officer took the paper, gave one look and slowly shook his head. “Oh dear. You didn’t fall for that one, did you?”

She took back the paper and read the name. Roberta Getzklotz.