I think this was the first riddle I ever heard of the type I’m thinking of:

Brothers and sisters have I none, but that man’s father is my father’s son.

Something David (other half) said recently reminded me of that. We were walking through the village of Aldbury at the start of a circular walk in the Chilterns. He said:

I know this place, but I’ve never been here.

Aldbury1The riddle was soon solved. The village was the setting for an episode of The Avengers, a weird crime series from the 1960s. The stories in this series couldn’t possibly have happened in real life, and that’s the charm of it. I’m not totally hooked, but I think I get it.

Aldbury4We looked up Aldbury, of course, and immediately discovered the episode in question: Murdersville, in which all the village residents are involved in regular murders. For this episode, the village was renamed Little Storping in the Swuff and The Greyhound Inn became The Happy Ploughman. This might make me think differently about ploughman’s lunches!

Aldbury2We watched the episode after returning home. As I said: weird. But well done, David, for recognising the village!

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The latest meeting of my writing group involved homemade Sachertorte. Obviously, I had to take photos. Sachertorte… Vienna… The Women Friends: Selina.

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My recent trip to the Vs was exciting and fascinating.

Vienna

I’d never been to Austria before and probably wouldn’t ever have gone if I hadn’t written about this city in The Women Friends. But I left my qualms at home for four days and prepared to enjoy myself while conducting my research.

Four days weren’t nearly enough, but we managed to do quite a lot.

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Sachertorte

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We ate traditional foods. Well, we had to eat something, so why not? And we ate in the famous Café Central.

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We went walking in the mountains near Vienna, along with my nephew who lives there.

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We saw lots of paintings by Klimt, because that was one of the reasons for going there. The one that excited me the most was Death and Life, because it’s featured in The Women Friends.

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Vienna Jewish Museum: Herzl’s Bike

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We saw the Jewish Museum and the Hundertwasser Museum, the Town Hall, Schönbrunn Palace with its fabulous gardens and palm house.

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We even saw Karl Marx Hof, which, as the sign says, is Vienna’s largest residential building of the inter-war period. Wikipedia says it’s the “longest single residential building in the world.” It’s in The Women Friends.

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Prater Park: Wiener Riesenrad

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And the Prater with its big wheel, which is also in The Women Friends.

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Venice

img_2275This was my third visit to this unique city, defined, above all, by the fact that all travel is water-based. We saw ambulance boats, funeral boats, delivery boats and of course passenger boats, which we used when we weren’t walking our feet off, because the mainland of Venice is all about shopping – window shopping, in our case – and anyway, we love walking.

We visited the cemetery island – Cimitero di San Michele – Burano and Murano, famous for glass production and also very beautiful.

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Even the trip to the airport was accomplished by boat. At the airport, a surprise awaited me: an upgrade to business class. What a wonderful ending to a wonderful holiday!

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About The Women Friends

The Women Friends is a series of novellas based on Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece of the same name and written by Emma Rose Millar and Miriam Drori.

The Women Friends: Selina will be published by Crooked Cat on 1st December and is available now for pre-order.

The Women Friends: Janika will be published by Crooked Cat in 2017.

The story of Judith and Holofernes is told in the Apocryphal Book of Judith (a text not  included in the Jewish canon but preserved in the Christian tradition). The story’s plot develops in the context of Nebuchadnezzar’s military campaigns against his neighbours, including the nation of Israel. Under the command of Holofernes, the Assyrian army besieges  the Jewish city of Bethulia and cuts off its water supply. When the thirst becomes unbearable, the town elders decide to surrender to the enemy. At this critical point in the story, Judith, a wealthy widow famous for her beauty and wisdom, appears on the scene. Rebuking the town elders for their  lack of faith, she bravely sets out with her handmaiden for the enemy camp, plotting Holofernes’ downfall. The Assyrian commander is captivated by her beauty, and invites her to his tent. During a feast in her honour, Judith gets Holofernes drunk and, while he sleeps, takes his sword and decapitates him. Carrying the severed head, she returns victorious to Bethulia. Holofernes’ death horrifies the enemy camp and the Assyrians flee in terror with the Israelites at their heels.

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So says just one paragraph of a brochure I received from Esther, one of the members of my writing group. The brochure dates from 1997 and accompanied an exhibition in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece known as Judith I.

The brochure goes on to explain that Judith has been depicted in different ways over the centuries: as the the triumph of good over evil, of virtues over vices, of freedom over tyranny; and also as a sinful woman who dared to use her sexuality as a weapon.

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In 1901, Klimt shocked the Viennese critics and public with the daring eroticism of his painting Judith I. Despite the title, viewers were unable to reconcile Klimt’s interpretation with that of the modest Jewish widow and courageous heroine from the Book of Judith. It was assumed that Klimt had really meant to depict Salome, a favourite femme fatale of turn-of-the-century artists such as Franz von Stuck, Gustave Moreau and Aubrey Beardsley (who illustrated Oscar Wilde’s play Salome). Aware of his departure from artistic tradition, Klimt modelled the rounded mountains and stylised date palms in the background after an Assyrian relief, in order to connect the figure to its Assyrian context. In addition, he inscribed the names Judith and Holofernes on the ornate picture frame made by his brother, Georg.

Klimt created the sensation of a direct encounter with a living and breathing femme fatale by realistically rendering Judith’s face, body and arm. This style contrasts with the geometric, two-dimensional decorations on Judith’s clothes and in the background. Judith’s destructive potential, reflected by Holofernes’ severed head, is encountered by Klimt’s powerful mutilation of Judith’s figure conveyed by the jewelled collar separating her head from her body, and the composition that cuts her off below the navel. Sexual ecstasy is expressed through Judith’s half-closed eyes, parted lips, semi-nudity and her hand that caresses Holofernes’ head. This ecstasy is particularly unsettling as it results from the assassination of her partner. The pairing of sexuality and death (Eros and Thanatos) fascinated not only Klimt, but Freud and many other members of European society at the end of the nineteenth century.

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Klimt’s model for Judith was probably Adele Bloch-Bauer, the Jewish wife of a wealthy Viennese banker, whose 1907 portrait by Klimt became the subject of the 2015 film, Woman in Gold.

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(continued in Klimt and Judith II)

The Women Friends is a series of novellas written by Emma Rose Millar and Miriam Drori, and based on the painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt. The first in the series, The Women Friends: Selina, will be published by Crooked Cat on 1st December, 2016.

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Author of the Day

Esther Rafaeli is an amazing woman with an amazing history. Spanning ninety years, it hovers between the Land of Israel and Australia before settling here in Israel and bringing her into contact with many special people. Esther is full of surprises, the last one (up to now) being that despite a horrible fall, a very short time after her ninetieth birthday, leaving her lying on the floor for 36 hours, she couldn’t wait to get back home and start writing again. Her latest piece doesn’t describe the fall in detail, but lists the fortunate coincidences connected with the fall. I am in awe.

Update: It wasn’t 36 hours. It was 56! Also, I failed to mention Esther’s books, available on Amazon US, Amazon UK and elsewhere.

We don’t travel around a lot when we’re at home. We tend to spend much of our time in our garden and leave touring for holidays. Unlike my friend, Lisa Isaacs, who travels regularly and writes fascinating blog posts about the places she goes to.

But there are a few places I’ve visited recently:

The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art

FriederikeMariaBeerByKlimtPart of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, this pavilion provided us an interesting hour or two. Due to my forthcoming novel, written together with Emma Rose Millar, I was particularly pleased to see a painting by Gustav Klimt. This portrait was commissioned by the young Viennese socialite, Friederike Maria Beer. She arrived at the modelling session wearing a hand-painted silk dress and a fur jacket. Klimt was taken with the lining of the jacket and asked her to turn it inside out.

Sarona

As a place to eat, shop and wander around, Sarona, which is in Tel-Aviv, is still quite new. But its history goes back to 1871, when the German Templers established a colony there.

MigdalDavid19The Tower of David

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Jerusalem’s Tower of David has a much longer history, which I won’t delve into here, but I plan to write about it very soon.

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Author of the Day

Sue Barnard doesn’t parade her wide knowledge, but it accompanies her to quiz programmes and to wherever she write her novels. She’s had three published, two of those influenced by Shakespeare, and there’s another on the way. I met Sue, first online and then in person, four years ago and we’ve been friends ever since.

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Update: It was while tweeting about this post that I realised I should have mentioned an event that links two of its themes: an excellent outdoor performance of Macbeth by Theater in the Rough.

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Following on from my announcement of changes to my blog, this post links all three themes of my blog: writing, social anxiety and living in Israel.

I get it when women say they need to talk problems over with women friends. There’s something about the conversations that makes them different from conversations with men. Yet, for most of my life, I didn’t have any women I was close enough to to confide in. Social anxiety caused that. It told me to keep my distance from women… from everyone… because while I needed them, they didn’t need me or want my friendship and I shouldn’t cling to them.

RambamRambamI still don’t meet other women very often, but I’m getting better at it. There’s one I often meet. We write together and talk, too. And two days ago I met up with someone I haven’t seen for many years. I even initiated the meeting and travelled all the way to Haifa for it. Well, for this country it’s a long way. The bus journey from Jerusalem to Haifa takes all of two hours.

We had a pleasant and interesting chat together. She also gave me a brief but fascinating tour of Rambam Hospital, where she works. In particular, I saw how the underground carpark can be turned into a whole hospital in times of emergency. Amazing!

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Sir Winston Churchill at the Churchill Building, Technion

As I was in Haifa anyway, I did a bit of research for a novel I began in November and plan to return to. I wandered around The Technion Institute of Technology and found some details to add or change in the novel. It was hot and humid and the paths of the campus, up there on the Carmel mountain, are very steep, but I’m glad I went.

The title of this post also has a different significance for me and connects to the exciting news I hinted at in my last post. Along with another author – the lovely Emma Rose Millar, who appears again at the end of this post – I have been working on two novellas based on the painting The Women Friends by Klimt. The first, which will be published early in 2017 by Crooked Cat, tells the story of Selina, a country girl, desperate to escape the demons of her past and searching for solace in the glittering city of Vienna. The second novella follows Janika, who is Jewish. It begins when the first novella finishes, in 1938, a time when Vienna wasn’t a good place for a Jew to be in, to say the least.

So that’s my big exciting news. If you’re interested, you can also read about how I’m spending the summer over on Nancy Jardine’s blog. How are you spending your summer? Or winter, if you’re in the other half of the world?

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Author of the Day

Today, I highlight two authors – the two who appear in the post.

Emma Rose Millar writes historical fiction. Five Guns Blazing, set in the eighteenth century and written together with Kevin Allen, follows a convict’s daughter from London to Barbados. More information is on Emma’s blog.

Nancy Jardine is a multi-talented author, who writes historical romantic adventures, intriguing contemporary mystery thrillers and YA time travel historical adventures. Her published novels are too numerous to list here, but can be found on Nancy’s blog.