Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Juice

Yesterday, as on Good Friday last year and the one before, there was a party in my neighbour’s house (the cottage adjoining ours) with food consisting entirely of hot cross buns which she gets up early in the morning to bake. Last year I had thought we would be gone from here by now, having sold the house, but it didn’t turn out that way and perhaps Saint Joseph, patron saint of house-vendors, who is still buried at the front of the house, knew that the time was not right, or that I couldn’t do without the buns. We take in so much more than food at these festivals. Who was it that said, “man does not live by bread alone?” Well you know who, and this is the time of the festival of his death and resurrection, and I could talk about more than buns and the fact that on Sunday we will be eating lamb tagine with couscous and roasted peppers, followed by passion fruit pavlova. But why would I? Except to tell you this terrible, terrible joke about these men who went into a Chinese restaurant and began to have a dispute about whether there were any Jews in China, so when the waiter came to take their order one of them asked if there were any such thing as Chinese Jews and the waiter said, sorry – only orange, apple and pineapple jews. I thank you.
Gawd. Sorry about that, but I do rather like the joke and can picture it quite clearly as happening in a Chinese restaurant in Camden Town where my Dad took me a long time ago on one of our weekend ‘access’ days out. It was the kind of place (and the kind of decade) where people would go in and order spare ribs, which were listed in brackets as “chop” in case people didn’t know what it was, with a side dish of chips. It was so popular that it became known as ‘chip-chop’ (or was it 'chop-chip'?). And I can, as I said, picture the men talking about the various kinds of Jews, the waiter coming, then me bursting in like a completely inappropriate afterthought, holding up my hand and blurting something about Christian Jews. Because people always seem surprised that you can be one as well as the other. Or as badly. The definition of practising? That one is a bit crap at it, I suppose. Happy Easter.


Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

You remind me of a wonderful story I once heard from a friend who was holidaying with a particularly wealthy Jewish family at their place by the sea over the Christmas holidays. Feeling a little overwhelmed by Jewishness and general lack of Xmas, the friend wandered into the kitchen were she found Moses - the general factotum. "Don't you miss Xmas, working for the X's?" my friend asked, assuming that Moses, like most other black South Africans, was a Methodist.
"Oh no," replied Moses proudly, "for I am a black Jewish."

Enjoy the hot cross bunnies! :-)

Minx said...

Living in a provincial town we have a Chip Chop - you can have battered cod with yer fried rice or chow mein with a pea fritter if you wish. No apple jews though.

Happy Oestara.

Nicola said...

My sister was staying with us a few years ago and, confirmed atheist though she is, gamely accompanied me to mass along with my three nieces, the youngest of whom was six at the time. We sat in my customary place right at the front (on the basis that the children will be able to see what's going on and where we still do even though my sons are now six foot and daughters not much less). The youngest niece loved the music and costume and all the drama of the liturgy. At the end, after the blessing, when the priest told us to go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord, she raised her sword hand in the air and cried out 'Hail Caesar!' Tremendous!
Happy Easter, Signs.

Reading the Signs said...

I enjoy it all, Vanilla - the buns, the bunnies (chocolate ones) and the fact that this year it's snowing.

Thanks, Minx - and it's good to hear that Chip Chop is still alive and well

Lovely story, Nicola. Hope you're having a good one yourself.

ashamed Anna, blushing in the corner said...

Christ is risen, Signs. I have been dithering around your esteemed blog (as you well know) for the past two days, wondering where to come to break these news to you, finally coming to the conclusion that a scoop of this magnitude should just be here on the front page, so to speak. Have you had a lovely time? I certainly hope so.

(And hello and Happy Easter, everyone else here too. Nicola, I am totally loving your niece.)

The tale of Jews-juice you brought here is lovely. There was a thing, which I was meaning to bring up with you over at NMJ's regarding the faked-identity authors and Benjamin Wilkomirski (but never got round to because you know how I can get a bit keyboard-blocked and silent from time to time)... in my growing up years, I really wanted to be Jewish. I don't rightly know why - I wanted to be lots of "exotic" things, things I wasn't, being the run-of-the-mill-ordinary-as-anything Finn girl, but being Jewish was certainly an important something I wished I was. I think Anne Frank had a lot to do with it. Anyway, the Wilkomirski thing reminded me of this. I didn't read his book - I wasn't even aware of it until several years ago when there was a doccy about him on television. But what you said (over at NMJ's) about his desire to be Wilkomirski going deeper than just a craving for money and fame sounded true to me. I feel like I almost understand what was happening inside him, the need to create this identity and live it (NB not saying I condone it - just almost understand, in a personal way). I found the case fascinating to the extreme when I learned about it (horrific and wrong too, of course) and NMJ's post about the other author (fail to remember name - I'm awful with names, Skins, and can only reach approximations at the best of times with the best of friends. I would never have remembered "Wilkomirski" if my life had depended on it, without you coming up with it so effortlessly) just jogged my memory and got me re-interested, so to speak. I diddled about online around the issue and, amongst the (rightfully) furious articles I found this book review, which seemed totally interesting. I'm wondering whether you've heard of it/read it?

Anyway, I'm going on and on here. I bet you're wishing I would have gone somewhere a bit more covert. I am, at any rate. Happy rest-of Easter, Signsikins. Have an Easter egg on me. Mwah. x

(Addendum - that wish to have gone somewhere more covert couldn't be more accurate, after all this palaver. I shall never venture onto the surface again.)

Reading the Signs said...

Dear fabulous igloo-dweller (I have taken it out only because you specifically requested and thanks for the lovely links) - do not speak or think of never venturing to the surface, for then I will be sitting watching for ripples and condemned to eternal disappointment, and why would you wish this on me? I will be like those who sit by Loch Ness with binoculars for months on end, waiting for a sighting of the unique creature (for I will not use the M word). For do we not long for uniqueness? And you would deprive me? No, no, you will have to appear on the surface or I will be sitting with my binoculars, anorak and flask of tea, utterly confounded.

More on the rest anon. Mwah!

Anna MR said...

Oh phew and thank you thank you Signskins. That was a close one - and no, I suppose I cannot send you to eternal M watching (although it is lovely around Loch Ness. I've been, once. Totally gorgeous) so here I am, again, large as life and twice as - well, you know.

So you found your Easter egg, too, then? Hope so.

Off to feed my extended family. Just, you know, checking on you (and my rep).

Mwah, and more soon, you Queen of Uniqueness.

(Meoullah - dare I say this - a cat's version of a Near-Asian deity)

Anna MR said...

(Although, it has to be said, I reckon you'd look stunning in an anorak, and those crushed-silk trousers. Just, you know, saying. In case you wanted to shop for something this year. The Uggs would probably work well with the combination, too.)

But Why? said...

Reminds me of something my mother said today about whether it was ok to eat crisps/nuts/chocolates as it was "pasties today...", which I took to be a reference to the evening dish. This confused me a little as we have a large amount of leftover turkey to get through. When I queried this, it turned out that she was actually questioning whether whether it was ok to continue consuming the crisps, nuts, chocolates, etc. as it was "past Easter Day..."

I think I need my ears syringing.

Reading the Signs said...

But Why, what I like about this is that your mother questions the consumption of chocolate etc - that she has a seemingly proper sense how these things should be done. I continue to consume immoderate amounts of chocolate, feast day or fast day. In my house it is never pasties today - always tomorrow.

Reading the Signs said...

Anna, re wanting to be Jewish: you are not the first I have heard say this, or the idea that Jews are thought to be 'exotic'. As I said in my recent post (not waving but juggling), I am often told, by non-Jews, how very creative, artistic and altogether special we are, and it is meant as a compliment. I'm not addressing this to you, btw, I understand the context in which you were speaking, and you bring consciousness with you - is understood, ok? - But the thing is that when people say these things it is a)really to do with their particular fantasy and b)the other side of a very dubious coin which is also capable of presenting Jews as no-good sharks and moneylenders, you get my drift. When my son once won first place with a cello recital in a music comp a violin teacher, whose pupil only came third, did bang on and on to me about the Jewish thing, how it was in the blood (therefore he had an unfair advantage?), the fact that he was so musical. The truth of my situation, as it happens, is that the Blut und Boden Nazis would have rounded me and mein up for being Jews, but many Jews would not accept us because my mother's mother was not born Jewish - she only converted after the war and her husband had died in Buchenwald, so as not to be buried in a German cemetary.

The Wilkomirski case is fascinating. My own reading of the situation, having read around the issue after the case came to light, is that he too coveted the specialness - of an extraordinary kind, and that he found in the story that he took on and made his own identity, something that resonated, that expressed some genuine deep sense of alienation that could find no expression. This, I think, was an unconscious drive in him, therefore much harder to disentangle. What he did was, in many respects, awful. But I think it more imporant to try and bring some understanding or questioning to the situation than merely to judge him as a charlatan.

Skins - that me? How damn cool is that?

O gawd, gawd -
ucjuw, Anna, can you believe it? True!

But Why? said...

Can consumption of any amount of chocolate be considered "immoderate"? To my mind, if we weren't intended by some all-seeing, all-powerful being to be consuming it in vast quantities, why would our taste buds have been engineered to go crazy on contact with the stuff??

Reading the Signs said...

You give me great comfort, But Why. Of course you are right. By continuing to consume large amounts of Lindt, Green and Blacks and even Cadbury's, we are doing the will of the Almighty. The extra pounds one may put on, though, is a bit of an issue - for those of us who don't engage in extreme rowing-related activities.

Anna MR said...

Yo Skins, thank you for your reply and sorry it's taken me forever to get writing again. After posting my comment, to be truthful I was a little worried (once I'd got used to the burning shame of the link bug attack) that you'd feel I was doing the other side of the coin thing. Thing is my Jewishness-fantasies were those of a very young child-person, and of one who came from a culturally-ethnically tremendously homogenous environment. Being Russian Orthodox (a small percentage of the population) would also have qualified. As it is I have grown up to be a weirdo anyway, a fact that started to dawn on me at eleven, thirteen, and which I then tried rather desperately - and unsuccessfully, as you've maybe noted - to cleave off myself. A-wibble. But yes. Being of a different "origin", if you like, causes people of the majority culture to come up with all sorts of clichés and stereotypes to explain away who you are, whether they are accurate or not (I noted this during my British years, when my Scandinavianness was used to prove things as varied as me being a hard worker and promiscuous beyond belief. Whether either is true is not a topic for this forum) and I can see this being even more supremely annoying when one is in one's own country.

I think one of the key issues - cause-wise - in Wilkomirski's case must be that he was fostered. Whether he knew his birth mother at all or not I either don't know or have forgotten, but from what I've understood from a couple of friends of mine who are adopted is that the idea of one's "actual" origins can become almost obsessive at times. This is where both alienation and the need to create a past can slip in.

I think. And hey, snebjwu. The weevils are watching us, Skins of Readingthesign. Totally gorgeous spring's day here, blazingly white melty snow and sun and birdsong and the smell of the sea (particularly if you go walking on its shore) and generally lovely. Hope it's pretty good near the edge (of the forest) too. Mwah. And hei, one more thing - I don't have ME but man did the descriptions of how your day/world/life pans out with stamps and laundry and stuff making sudden (and often disruptive/debilitating) appearances sound like mine. Take care now, sister Wolf. x.

Reading the Signs said...

Back from the Smoke - good to see you around these parts and elsewhere. All done in from no sleep and travel, so mwah! And to let you know that at primary school I used to pretend that I was really a "Red Indian" (is how we spoke in those pre-pc days). And they all believed me. Now that was exotic.

Anna MR said...

Man, I always kind of fancied being a "Red Indian" too, sis. I like it that they used to believe you.

It's good to have you back from The Smoke, you know. Mwah and mwah again.