Thursday, July 19, 2007

Eight Random Facts About Signs

I have been tagged by Cusp.

Here are the "Rules":
(Note from Signs: Please adapt or ignore as you see fit).

1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

1) My mother was chosen to present a bouquet of flowers to Hitler when she was a child at school in Germany. She had long blonde plaits and Aryan-blue eyes, they didn’t know her father was a Jew and in Buchenwald. She lived with her grandparents. Later, she was sent to England on Kindertransport.

2) My father’s skin smelled of apple pie and sandalwood. My mother says this was because, as a baby, his mother bathed him in goat’s milk. He came to England from Germany in the nick of time, with his family.

3) I have been to eleven schools and wonder if it is for this reason that I have never felt I belonged anywhere, or because I feel myself to be a diaspora Jew. My father thought that it was that it was good, not belonging too much to anywhere. He said, “My home is where I hang my hat.” I sometimes think I should get myself a hat and a nail to hang it on.

4) As a child I lived in Germany for some years. Back in England, I couldn’t get used to the food, especially school dinners. We had to finish everything on the plate, but at my table there was a hungry Greek boy who ate everyone’s leftovers, so I passed my potato lumps, cabbage and meat gristle to him when the dinner lady wasn’t looking. He nodded and smiled. His name was Gregory.

5) I know by heart all the German stories and songs I used to have on gramophone records. Whenever it snows at all I think of Frau Holle in the sky shaking her feather bed and pillows, and the children’s chorus refrain: “Frau hi ha Holle, du, schuttle immer zu!”

6) I once met Harold Pinter’s mum in the launderette near Primrose Hill (before it was posh) doing a bag wash. She looked and sounded like Terry Jones in the Monty Python Jean-Paul Sartre sketch. She told me who her son was and asked whether I’d heard of him. She said that he didn’t visit her very much.

7) My sister and I had our fortunes told by George Melly. He was sitting in a teepee dressed as Gypsy Rose Lee at a (Labour Party fund-raising) garden party down the road from where I lived. He told my sister that she would spend her life looking after an aged parent and that I would be a famous actress. I was delighted but my sister was not best pleased. As it turned out, my sister became an actress and I, though only god and the angels will bear witness to this, have vowed to look after my aged mother (in my fashion) when the time comes. She is still going strong with weekly Pilates and aqua aerobics.

8) When I was three or four my Spanish nanny, who loved me dearly and wanted to secure my place in heaven in the hereafter, had me secretly baptised in a Catholic church. I don't know how the secret was discovered. I remember the priest pouring water on my head. I haven’t seen the the nanny since I was five and she went back to Spain to look after her mother and unmarried brother, but we sometimes exchange Christmas cards. She never married or had children. She thinks of me.

I have tagged:

Anna Mr
That's So Pants
The Periodic Englishman


Big Chip Dale said...

Thanks for the tag, RTS. Unfortunately, I got hit with this meme about a month ago, but I'll happily write another 8 random facts about myself.

And since I can't tag you back, hope you'll accept a place in my highly esteemed blogroll.

Thong on!

Reading the Signs said...

I am honoured, Mr. BCD. Have thonged you too.

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs

I have also done one of these but will try. I mean, how difficult can it be to make up eight more facts?



Reading the Signs said...

Hi Pants - it's actually quite a laid-back way of doing a post, might do it again myself one day.

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating list, Ms. Signs, but not highly unexpected.

Did your mother talk about Hitler at all? Did she mention his reaction or his hands or anything? And oh my gosh, Pinter's mum? Wow. And your Spanish nanny taking you to be baptised? That is . . . quite beautiful actually. That is nice that you are still in contact with her.

What a lovely glimpse of Signs.

The Moon Topples said...

Signs, and the Reader Thereof,

Your writing never fails to entrance me, even though I don't always say so. I have read scores of the 8 things at this point, and yours was almost ridiculously compelling.

Each item on your list was clearly thought out, beautifully conveyed. You are making the rest of us look bad. Keep it up.

Reading the Signs said...

Goodthomas, I have never actually asked my mother those things, perhaps I will. It was just the fact of what happened, and that she had very little idea, at the time, of the connections, and what it was all about.
Yes, the baptism - what can one say? But it makes me happy to think of - it just does.
Thanks for your warm response.

Mr. Moon! How lovely to see you beaming in and thank you also for your comments.
Actually, it felt like rather a relaxed way of putting up a post - I had no idea of what I wanted to say from one item to the next. The writing creates its own agenda, doesn't it?

NMJ said...

hey signs, i just love that you had a spanish nanny, and i love the fairytale quality that runs through your telling of these hard (some of them) truths.


Rob said...

I have a bad record at answering tags . But thanks for tagging me anyway. I might get around to doing it, but I have an awful lot to do over the next week or two.

Reading the Signs said...

thanks, NMJ - interesting that you feel there's a fairytale quality. Can't quite say how, but I sometimes think that this is the realm I most inhabit.

Hi Rob.

cusp said...

What interesting facts.

My grandmother lived in Germany for 17 years until just before the break of the 1st WW. She and her sister (who was born there) and brother had a terrible time on their return.

All their schooling had been in Germany and they could remember hardly any english. They were teased, bullied and spat at for being 'filthy huns'. All her life my grandmother had german tastes in food, decor (esepcially Xmas) and taught us german rhymes. I can hardly remember any of them now.
One went something like:

Messer, Gabel Schere und Licht
Gehts fur kleiner kinder nichts

Reading the Signs said...

I grew up with German Christmas, Cusp, as did my father and many German Jews who would celebrate that as well as Chanukah.

I know that rhyme, with slightly different words:
Feuer, Messer, Gabel, Licht,
durfen kleine Kinder nicht.

(Annoying that I can't do the umlauts).

Anna MR said...

I've done the deed, Signs, but my list is crap.

Your fault, obviously, not only for writing a brilliant one yourself but in particular, for tagging me.

msajxyl - a poisonous relative of xylitol, the sweet substance obtained silver-birch sap which is good for the teeth


Well that Harold Pinter is a very naughty boy. His poor mum.

Now looky here, my honey, but that thing about your mother giving flowers to Hitler is really rather shocking. What an absolutely horrible trick for fate to play on her, given the circumstances of her father.

Nauseating under any circumstances to be in the presence of such a man, but the devil is in the astonishingly cruel detail. As per usual, Signs, you have entirely floored me - but not in a good way this time.

What an excruciating thing, sweet Signs.

Kind regards and a stupid amount of good things to you (and also, if you'll allow, to your mum).


Reading the Signs said...

You're a trouper, Anna. And I mean to say, this is what bloggers do isn't it - I'm learning.

Mr. TPE, I will allow these good things to her, and to me to, and a stupid amount sounds perfect, thank you.

So many extraordinary things happened to my family, to others, so much fallout, one can't consider it all in the ordinary way. For me is best just to say: this happened, and this - and allow the details to speak.

Your response, as always, welcome.

Anna MR said...

Signs, this is indeed what bloggers do. Yes.

McPoni is right in the "your mother and Hitler" story being startling - but in spite of its horrendousness, I see it as a compelling little tale.

quokek - a Native American word for a compelling little true story

wozqr - East European vernacular for the same

NMJ said...

Hey Signs, After I had commented, I wondered myself why I felt there was a fairytale quality to your telling of things:

She had long blonde plaits.

My father’s skin smelled of apple pie and sandalwood...goat's milk

feather bed and pillows.

I just know I thought of Hansel & Gretel (Gregory's hunger?) & the Princess & the Pea, reading your tags.


Reading the Signs said...

Anna, yes it is. Flowers for Hitler.

Re Goodthomas's question: as it happens I was just on the phone to my mother and I asked her if she remembered what he looked like. She said no, she was really just looking at her dress, a white one her grandmother had made her for the occasion, the parade of honour.

NMJ, I was talking with a poet once about inner landscapes and she identified mine at once: a forest of the Hansel and Gretel kind; and the things you picked up on - yes, they are real things but also, in some way, emblematic, and my relationship to them is very much on that level - each thing, person, image, a door or a window into what, I don't always consciously know. But I trust them to reveal some truth - if not to me, then someone else. And I do inhabit that world, it is real to me. The apples on my tree at the moment, for example, ripe and ready so early to be picked: the story of Goldmary and Pitchmary who travel to the realm of Frau (mother) Holle and are confronted with tasks which they meet, or not; the tree calling to be shaken because its fruit was so heavy.

Reading the Signs said...

By the way, if anyone of you good technically-inclined people (or more so than me, which isn't saying much), happens to be looking in - Moonoverwater, one of my tagees, who is new to Blogger, could do with a bit of advice - see comments in her "tagged" post.

NMJ said...

Signs, I am happy that I have tuned into you - although we are very different, I think we are also the same . . . btw is Periodic Pony going to break his (own) blog silence and spill some beans?


Reading the Signs said...

Thank you, NMJ. Aha, the Periodic Horseman - yes, that's a question: I thought I heard the clatter of hooves just then - but it may just have been the rain.

Mellifluous Dark said...

It was just the rain, Signs. I thought I heard clippety-clopping earlier today but it was in fact just hailstones.

I love your eight – NMJ is right, it's very fairytale-like, your prose. I can hardly believe that you aren't making the points up... the Hitler factoid is very bizarre.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi, Mel D. To say no, I didn't make it up sounds rather defensive, but I'll say it anyway.

"Factoid" means something that is unverified, incorrect or invented. This happened. It was not so bizarre in context. She lived in a non-Jewish area, went to a non-Jewish school and looked like a nice German madchen.

That's so pants said...

Dearest Signs

I love all your random facts, and I especially love that they're mostly related.

Thanks for tagging me. I, as you would expect, have responded with characteristic subversiveness. Please believe me, I did try not to be curmudgeonly but it's a genetic fault and I can't do anything about it. I did manage to get to 3b - again!



Reading the Signs said...

Thank you Pants, ma chere, I must have been over at yours while you were here. Full marks for effort, fair play to you, as they say (in Australia?)

The periodic englishman said...

Feuer, Messer, Gabel, Licht,
dürfen kleine Kinder nicht.

I brought you the umlauts, Signs, because I'm a bit like that. At the very least, you will be able to now copy the umlauted letter ü from my saintly contribution and slot it into any words that may require such a thing. Time consuming, certainly, but pointless, too.

So many extraordinary things happened to my family, to others, so much fallout, one can't consider it all in the ordinary way. For me is best just to say: this happened, and this - and allow the details to speak....

Yes, I can see that this would be a more readily manageable way to approach things. The wonder being, I suppose - and I say this as a non-Jewish person - that you can bear to consider it at all.

(I'm leaving aside the abiding and urgent necessity that these things should be known, never forgotten, and talking more about the personal impact on you, perhaps, and Jewish people in particular, as they try to make sense of such a thing. I'm not entirely certain I'd be able to look if it felt in any way personal. Although it does feel personal, I suppose, just not in the way it might do so for you. Hope that makes sense.)

Anyway, moving on.....I dashed (ruggedly and, let's be honest here, sexily) to see if I could help Moonoverwater, Signs, as per your request. I couldn't. And that hurts. I was impressed, however, with your own efforts to do so.

Kind regards and things,


(Thank you very much for thinking to tag me, btw, that made me feel all big-headed and strutty. Hard to believe, I know.)

Anna MR said...

""Factoid" means something that is unverified, incorrect or invented." Oh dear. Forrin geerl here has got her meanings in a twist (it does happen sometimes - not often, but sometimes you can just catch that sexy East European alienness about me). My factoids (and it was I who started calling mine that, you were strictly keeping to the word "facts") were true - I just put the -oid ending there as I thought it would signify their trivial littleness, or little triviality, or whatever. Yours may be random but there ain't nothing trivial about them, honey...

Anyway, there was some other bit of bollocks I came bearing - what was it? Oh yes - "fair play to you" - I don't know whether they say it in Australia (do they, Ms Pants?) but I know for a fact they say it in Wales. All the time, Signs. I used to say it all the time too. It has taken years to wean me out of the habit.

isxise - "Did I have a past life in Switzerland?"

pjipfmhw - they saw me coming, the word ver leprechauns did

R.H. said...

"Fair go." That's what we say:
"Hey, fair go, I saw her first. What yer tryin' to do, back door me?"

Reading the Signs said...

Mr.TPE, what can I say? You dash in ruggedly bearing the umlaut, and now I will be able to say ü to my heart's content. I don't know how you managed it, but thanks.

The other point: it really isn't so much a question of feeling one approach is more readily manageable; it just feels appropriate and right for me to address certain events in this way - to simply allow events to speak for themselves rather than publicly exploring my feelings and responses which are in some measure, I hope, implicit. To state certain things, as I have done here, is in any case not intended to be about me and my feelings, but about bearing witness and, I suppose, saying that this is also where I come from.

Anna darling, is there any language of which you do not have a working knowledge?
Words, words, how they reveal or trip us up, I am beginning to think we ought just to trust the word ver leprechauns (pzinxocy btw, and yes I really should put a sock in it).

Hello r.h., I think I learned most of my Australian from Barry Humphries films. On the other hand, "fair dinkums" keeps running through my brain now. I think perhaps that is what I should have said to Ms Pants.

The Moon Topples said...

Here are somë exträ ümlaüts för yöü. You should be able to copy and paste them whenever you like.

R.H. said...

It's 'fair dinkum' (no 's' on the end). It means 'true'.

'Dinki di' is a variation, and has the sense of meaning 'genuine'.

And no, I wouldn't say it to Miss Pants. Why bother? She's a fair dinkum pom.


Reading the Signs said...

I feel rich in umlauts now, thanks Mr. Moon.

ok, Robert, thanks. Genuine pom, though? I don't think many of us here feel that.

You are welcome to come back and comment here, but please keep it friendly. The comment you put after this, interesting though it was, became unnecessarily aggressive at the end so I took it out.

R.H. said...

I blame poor education.

And hillbilly blogs here which keep encouraging me.


Reading the Signs said...

Ah, education. I favour the do-it-yourself kind. But then, I too had to pull myself up by my bootstraps.

NMJ said...

i have been missing the party here, dear signs, i have been sunbathing, you see. can i just show off and add this little touch, html in foreign languages, i dip into it occasionally.

am delighted to see that both pony & anna mr have brought sexiness since i was last here, pony is unsurprisingly dashing hither 'sexily' & anna has her 'sexy east european alienness' going on...not of course that your blog needs sexed up, lovely signs.

i swear, i've got sunstroke.

Reading the Signs said...

NMJ, you're a star. What more can a humble blogger ask than a foreign language/umlaut resource and sexy blog friends? I am indeed blessed.


Anna MR said...

Signs my dearest, this flowers for Hitler thing has brought to my mind a Szymborska poem that has always wounded me very deeply - I blogged about it once, too, long long ago - maybe it hurts me particularly as I am a mother of two sons. Anyhow, I'm sure you know it, but it's under my signature anyway, dearest (I was majorly pleased to finally find it online to link to).

I hope this doesn't distract from my inherent East European alien sexiness. Sexy alienness. Whatever. Both.

isvim, Signs. We both know that word could have a thousand meanings, a bit like ajougy. Let's keep hold of it.


Reading the Signs said...

It's wonderful, as is she. And this, with the photo, very powerful. It may distract but doesn't detract.

isvim, as always, intact.

Anonymous said...

Signs, your 8 random facts were absolutely fascinating.

Thanks for the tag, it will be quite a challenge.

Reading the Signs said...

Thanks, Digi, I look forward to seeing yours.