Life, photos but not the universe

The Finkler Question

I don’t generally do politics, morals or other ‘big’ questions because I’m fairly ignorant or it’s my own business or I don’t want to upset people – Oh, or I don’t want people to think bad things about me even if I think they’re wrong.   But a few weeks ago we read the above book for our book group.  Generally, we didn’t like it much – I think I found it slightly funnier than the others did.  I think, basically, it was about being Jewish.  And the book stirred up a bafflement which I’ve had, oh, since I was a small Catholic child.

I’ve always had some confusion about anti-semetism – for instance, if it’s just racism, why does it have a special name?   Apparently, in the Papal States (pre-unification of Italy – 1870?) there were two kinds of anti-semetism – ‘bad’, which was to discriminate against them simply for their jewish descent, and ‘good’, which was to object to their supposed conspiracies to control banks, newspapers etc and to care too much about money.  And it was in these Papal states that Jews were first confined to ghettoes.

Apart from the fact that there have been so many enormously talented Jews in the arts and business, what is so special about them, why, wherever they have lived, have people turned against them and in such an annihilating way?  Yes I know they have an exclusive lifestyle and set of religious rules.  Some exclusion of the rest of us ‘gentiles’* though not to the extent of refusing inter-marriage.  So which culture hasn’t?  It doesn’t help me, personally, to understand the whole ‘question’ that the two Jews I know fairly well are a musician (child prodigy on the piano) and an extremely successful civil servant (though not a head of department).  A bit typecast, both of them.

Well, the book itself was pretty low on plot and probably I missed some of its essentials because the main character was a bit of a waste of space.  A beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed gentile man with a passion for Jews and Jewishness. He was the most boringly self absorbed and overblown creature.  All the other characters were much more interesting and believable – except that they seemed to quite like him.  So about half-way in, I was moved to look up Jews because the book was addressing some of my perplexity about the special discrimination against their race – who have always seemed to me to be pretty likable and worthy – but in a way that seemed typically perplexing and also exasperatingly portentious while somehow not very illuminating.

Perhaps the extra problem Jews have had is that they have traditionally been minorities in more places than other minority groups and so practically every big country in the world has had a go at persecuting them? (Oh yes, we in the UK have done it too.  (C16, I think when we killed as many as we could and wouldn’t let them have any important jobs)

Curiously enough, the next book that I read was Ian Banks’ ‘Transition’, which posits a series of worlds in which the big urban threat comes from Christian Terrorists.  (No mention of Jews though).

And the last book I read was Nadine Gordimer’s ‘The Pickup’ which dealt very powerfully with oppression, illegal immigrancy and a sense of place together with a lack of it.  Was there a time when it was only Jews who were constantly forced to pack up and move to yet another country or have there always been groups of refugees travelling the world in hopes of finding a welcoming place to land.  Perhaps the problem for Jews was that they were too good at it.

As to my own views on immigration and persecution, when I was a very small child and overheard a conversation about tramps and other homeless people, I asked my Mum and Dad, why don’t we invite a tramp to live with us – isn’t that what Jesus would have wanted us to do – we’ve got lots of room after all.  The silence which stopped them both in their tracks was more telling than whatever rationalisation they offered as a reason for not inviting tramps into our home and I have never heard anything to counteract my immediate, complete understanding that the truth was that we ought to go out and invite the first tramp we could find to come and live with us.  Even Dad, a non-believer, didn’t dare to say anything against this truth.  (He was a believer in truth).  Safe enough though aren’t I, from my own knowledge – I’m never actually going to go out and look for homeless people to come and live with us.  And it’s a guilt I seem to be able to live with.  More fool me.  Oh oops!  I don’t mean to imply that Jews are tramps – just people to whom other people will not give a home. (I knew I shouldn’t have started this – too many minefields)

Well there you go.  I am no wiser than I was and will have to look further for enlightenment.  This is one of the reasons why I love reading – it makes me think!  And one of the reasons I love making pictures is that it lets me off the hook for a little while.

Oh look!  A chicken.

DSC_3835-CS5 DSC_3837-CS5 DSC_3843-CS5

Several chickens.  I think they thought I might give them breakfast.

And I’m now reading  Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah.  A brilliantly tight, baffling,  crime novel with some strong and completely not-like-me characters.  Time out.

*What a lovely word.  Indeed what a lot of lovely words they have.  Do you know, I’ve never heard people speaking Hebrew (Yiddish?) together**.  Oh, perhaps that’s because it’s mainly spoken as a liturgical language

**After looking at wikipedia, I  looked idly at a couple of  Hebrew language sites and was slightly taken aback when one of them produced a pop-up which said “one of our interpreters is waiting to answer your questions.  Please type in the box below”.  I felt that “why are you persecuted so much” was possibly more than could be answered in a chat box!

January 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

‘Sno water

The house looks like battlefield and the trail of destruction and disorder leads to the door of the music room wherein lies a tiny, sleeping person, freshly bathed and storied and “a little bit cold”  so swathed in several layers of blanket.  (I’ll have to go up later and removes some or she’ll be a stewed GB by the morning).  We are privileged, for the first time, to have fed and bedded her by ourselves and she was wonderfully helpful and accommodating.  She really is a nice little person.  Admittedly there was an excessive amount of discussion about her pizza toast (toast with tomato puree and toasted cheese – I recommend it, I had to pretend to share it and it’s very nice)  and we had to take turns discussing it with her but most of it got eaten.  And I’m afraid I didn’t know all the songs she likes to sing in the bath and I couldn’t get our TV to produce CBeebies at all (but that’s fine as it confirms my insistence that I can’t make TVs work).  There was a slightly unfortunate incident which involved Barney’s chair, not mine so I don’t mind about that – I had offered the potty several times but we got quite involved about the food discussions and there was forgetfulness (potty training is very recent and not completed yet).  So Mr and Mrs Middle have gone out to see Les Miserables at Newbury’s ridiculously capacious multiplex cinema and we are bathing in the warm, emotional glow emitted by the sleeping and apparently contented GB (well it is our first time and she might have suddenly decided that she wanted My Mummy or My Daddy).   It’s all exceedingly good.  And exhausting.  And now I’d better read my crib sheet and find out what I’ve forgotten (not the nappy – last week I forgot that when I put her down for her nap and the results were as might have been predicted – it’s a very recent thing this nappyless-ness when awake).  Oh and then I’d better clear up.  It’s quite amazing how much disorder a very small person can create in a couple of hours – I’d quite forgotten.

Actually I’d better go and have a listen.  Who knows, she might suddenly have realised that My Mummy and My Daddy (I so love that) are really not here and want to be comforted or something.  No.  All quiet on the upstairs front.

Oh and the water is off again (this has enhanced the battlefield effect and extended it into areas where the small person usually doesn’t go much).  I used to be quite blase about this happening every six months or so but recently it seems to be more frequent, March, June and December last year and twice already this year.  What sort of pump was it they put in a few months ago I wonder.  Not a good one obviously.  Up until now, it hasn’t taken long to get it working again but you can’t help wondering how quick and easy it will be to fix it in this weather!  the man in charge of keeping it in order, fortunately (for us) depends on it for his own water so not only does he know at once when it breaks down, he also has a vested interest in getting it going again.  But it is becoming a bit of a pain.  On the other hand, I hesitate to ring the poor man at this time of night in the snow and ask what’s happening.  Well we’ll see.


Yay!  The water’s back.  We’ve flushed the toilets and got the dishwasher going (of course the water stopped just after we’d eaten last night but before we’d washed up) and now I’m going to have a celebratory cup of coffee.  And the snow is still falling and the sun is, well, not exactly shining, more sort of glowing.  This morning I suddenly thought, of course, there’s loads of water just outside, in big heaps.  We could always use that to flush the toilets.  Barney pointed out that you’d need a lot of buckets of snow to get one of water.  Anyway, I’m quite glad that my plan, which involved two buckets, a shovel and a hairdryer, became unnecessary.

What’s really annoying is that though the roads are reasonably clear, all the places where I might park to stop and take photos, are thickly covered and almost certainly conceal pits and furrows of deep mud and car bottom breaking potholes – not to mention ice on which to get stuck.

But I can’t resist.  I’ve gone out and all the parking places looked highly suspicious (ice, mud, the steep banks on the edge of the River Pang, little snowy roads leading up steep hills to places where there will be no turning round – bother!) so I settled on Yattendon Church and parked in the middle of the village.  I found a footpath which I hadn’t explored before so that was good.  And then I returned to the car and found that it didn’t at all want to back out of its space.  Some poking around the wheels with my walking stick and the offer of help from a passing couple fixed that and I didn’t even need a push.

So here be snow.





(I did consider following Rog’s example but there’s too much traffic around here!  And the iphone was buried under three layers of wool and waterproof – very useful if I’d really got stuck.)

Oops!  I’d better go to bed – car wants an MOT tomorrow and they might need it early.  Soft white blankets come to mind.  Sleep well.

January 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments