Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Freedman Down Under: peachy Melbourne

What can I tell you? Much as it has been a trauma for Wifey #1 to go and live on the other side of the world (I have still not taken the hint perhaps), now I am here, I can see why. Melbourne is one of those places that just works. It has a little of everything you'd want - beaches, weather, lovely people, good fressing, nice architecture, good countryside, culture, and a functioning public transport system.

Much like home, however, it has a losing cricket team; here's a pic from the final day of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, a real institution like the opening summer test at Lord's - and the first time in a generation that the Baggy Greens (that's the name for the Aussie cricket team, because of the cubscout caps they wear) have lost a Test series at home.

So far, I have been acclimatising, getting to know the city, and of course, eating plenty of hearty meals. I have decided to have a brief rebellious patch on the whole kosher thing, as it's not every day a nice chunk of marinated kangaroo is on offer. Still bizarrely avoiding pork and shellfish though, and this won't last beyond Oz, but it's nice to just kick back and be someone else for a bit. I think the strategy is that I get three wildcards for treif holidays, so I can experience all the stuff you can't get in Solly's before retreating to safe food beginning with K. To be honest, the yokmeat is all ok, but not so amazing that I couldn't live without it.

On that note, I went surfing the other day! Yes, me... drove down to Phillip Island with Wifey, Stitch (limber London linguist Lilo's little sister), and The Bull, stopping off on the way to meet some koalas, kangaroos and other domestic furries. Then got down to Smith's Beach, squeezed into wetsuits and plunged on in. The Bull was pretty good, having done this before (ie actually getting to her feet on the board), whilst Wifey and I managed a couple of bodysurfs and even got onto knees at one point. We went about recreating the dramatic closing sequence of Point Break - I especially enjoyed wiping out on some strategically placed underwater rocks a couple of times. The things we do for our sport, eh?

In the evening, we got back to Melbourne, devoured some more excellent food, and watched Frost/Nixon (very enjoyable), before visiting Stitch and The Bull's sweet townhouse, complete with basement cinema. That's about all I've got for the moment - Stitch is holding back the release of the pic of the four of us holding our boards and looking very professional, pending airbrushing of how skanky she looked, despite flaking out early from the surfing. Some of us have got it, honey, and some of us have not.

The rest of Melbourne in a nutshell (photos to follow): strolls around the botanical gardens with Wifey, beachfront and St Kilda Pier as well as hearty brunch with Bouncer, enormous meat fress at Limor's, pleasant coffee and nosh with Wifey's friends the Golden Couple, London-style sprint to move car and avoid parking ticket, usual collection of jokes about eating babies, helping Wifey with his eviction, and a cracking meal at the cool aunt and uncle's trendy designer house.

That's all for now... in Alice Springs but no time to finish posting properly, except to complain bitterly about having to fly low-cost to get here. Oh, and the fucking flies are everywhere. Why does nobody mention these? Maybe they are just drawn to me. Like flies to... um...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Freedman Down Under: happy landings

This is the first of my postings from Oz, where I will be enjoying the next 6 weeks in glorious sunshine, hoping that enough of the UK remains uncrunched for my plane to land safely when I get back.

In the "Spirit of Webber", I will try and avoid the "and then I did..." style of travel writing, and I will also assume that Freedmansmum will edit this before reading it to Freedmansgrandpa, so the odd swearword and naughty escapade (yeah, as if) can be included.

So Day One started with Freedmansdad driving me to the airport, via a near-collision with a police van, which had pulled to the side of the road ahead of us, then with no signal or warning, suddenly pulled back out right in front of us. Cue screeching of brakes and a moment where I thought I might get to play out my fantasy of a police motorcade escorting me to the airport in a blaze of sirens, lights and paparazzi flashbulbs (with possible Nicole Kidman rooftop dancing/draping cutaway scene). Sadly the quick reactions of Freedmansdad, and sturdy frame of the Silver Slug, saw to that.

Heathrow Terminal 4, Christmas Day. 100% efnik staff on duty, other than a few hard-ups taking the double-time. Mooch through to BA lounge, devour some cereal and red berries, a couple of hot brekkie rolls, and then the pièce de résistance, warm pain au chocolat and cinnamon rolls with a large glass of champers. Board flight, enjoy delight of not only turning left but going up the stairs, settle into front row seat, drink more champers before take-off. So nice to genuinely begin your holiday before even leaving the airport.

12 hour flight to Singapore, slip on my nice Qantas grey flannels,
devour a G&T before lunch, an excellent chardonnay with my smoked salmon starter, a sauv blanc with the halibut, a pink muscat with the cheeseboard, a little sherry on the side of the warm ginger cake with hot butterscotch sauce, and a decent cognac with the bitter chocolates to finish. Then have a little fatnap, before working my way through Tropic Thunder (human version of Team America), Hancock (abbreviated and more realistic version of Smallville), Etz Limon (depressing, slightly Meretz Israeli-Palestinian lemon grove by security fence saga), Wall-E (nicely done Disney shtick), and two episodes of Family Guy. Flight concludes with a superb breakfast of scrambled eggs, potato pancakes, tomato relish, toast and honey, warm Danish, passion fruit juice and some decent tea. Oh, and a glass of sparkling, of course.

At Changi I waddle off to the Rainforest Lounge, have a neck and shoulder massage, a gin sling and a freshen up. Reboard for 8 hours down to Sydney, have an excellent cream of tomato soup with piping hot sunflower seed roll, excellent glass of shiraz, Malaysian-style fish and noodle curry, date and apricot custard frangipan with a Cointreau on the side, 2 episodes of the Simpsons,
Man On Wire (documentary about crazy French guy walking on a rope between the Twin Towers, obviously pre-9/11, not so challenging now), and a 6 hour schluff curled up in a paralytic ball in the nice big bed.

Roll off the plane in Sydney, fast-track myself, my bags, and the all-important Cadburys delivery from my mother-in-law through customs, then duck into Emerald Lounge, have a hot shower and extensive eucalyptus-related pampering goodies, quaff some domestic sparkling with a few slabs of cheese, a very nice pasta pesto salad thing, and a glass of ginger beer. Seat 1A over to Melbourne, feta cheese and sundried tomato salad on a bed of those rice-shaped pasta bits (do they just get those by sweeping the pasta factory floor?), start to appreciate just how fit Aussie birds are, meet Wifey at airport, admire the white Toyota rip-off, also admire how chilled he has become on driving (always within speed limit) until he tells me how officious they are here and he has already had his first speeding ticket.

Get to Elwood, admire nice house in great location, make myself at home in the outhouse (ie garage), take a stroll with Wifey up the beach and back through Acland/St Kilda, drop off at about 2am to the sound of many strange birds that make the same noises as howler monkeys, and the buzzing from the neighbour's garage-based freezer. Wake up at 10am, buzzing has stopped, realise it was my electric toothbrush, come in for a shower, bowl of cereal, gutted to find no champagne awaits me, nor is there a blonde dolly-bird in a kimono to serve me... ah yes, good morning Nicci (Wifey's housemate), still no champers though.

And that brings us up to date. 29 degrees out today, off for an orientation tour of Melbourne. This rocks.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Shoking mispeling poping up evrywear

I have been so slovenly about this blog. As I'm off to Oz for 6 weeks at Xmas, thought I'd get back in the habit, then use Freedmanslife as a diary of my travels, to save me repeating myself a lot.

Meanwhile, a snippet from the BBC, showing the editing skills that have got Wossy and Randy (sorry, I mean Brandy) in to much hot water:

The newspaper said Shimon Peres, whose career in Israeli politics has spanned 60 years, is tainted with the blood of thousands of Palestinians and that Sheikh Tantawi should richly purify his hands.
Richly purify his hands? What do you wash hands in to richly purify them? And surely that should be "purify richly"? Also on the weekend, I was down at Asda recession-busting my weekly shop, and bought a nice jumper/shirt combo (as worn Saturday night at the hideous O'Neill's in Soho) for a tenner, with a warning to wash the items "seperately". Grrrr.

Big up to the Hammer by the way, he is off shooting and probably doesn't "do" blogs, but he is even more of a fan of good speling and grammer than I is.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Worthy causes

I'm glad to see that the absence of any postings has gone totally unremarked for the last 4 months or so. Makes me feel less bothered about how lazy I've been. Must remember, this is my therapy, not an ego trip based on the number of readers and responses I get. Yeah, right.

Anyway, Freedmansmum brought to my attention this petition to El Gordo:

We are trying to assist with a petition to the UK Government to create a dedicated Military & Veterans Hospital within the UK.

To give you some background, 2 Para have already sent back over 50 casualties to the UK from their current tour alone. Selly Oak, the only military dedicated ward in UK, cannot accommodate anywhere near this number, so when all of the casualties from other battle groups are added to the figure, how is ONE ward in an NHS hospital going to cope?

In truth it cannot !!!! The individual troops are sent home to recover,relying on NHS and the visiting services available, which themselves are over committed.

More names are needed for this petition, and quite cynically, 'Downing Street' has put a time limit of one month for this to be achieved.

Sign now and do what you can. Please click the link below to sign, you will receive and email to confirm your signature.

We need as many people as possible to sign this petition before 19th August. Could you also if in agreement please pass this on to as many people as possible and ask them to do the same thing?

Now most Freedmanslifers are somewhere between rabid Bushmonkeys or rational pseudo-pacifists who, whilst not supporting our various wars, do understand the distinction between this and supporting our TROOPS.

So I hope you will all go sign up and give them the recognition they deserve for their bravery and commitment, by helping them get the specialist care they need.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fuel to the fire

Just a quick note of indignation, as I sit here in deepest Occ Pal, enjoying the fragrant scent of the Zionist springtime. The Beeb have just reported a story about how Israel's embargo of Gaza is preventing the UN carrying out their humanitarian mission.

This is the same UN whose Special Rapporteur on the Palestinians has been refused a visa by Israel because he is so ludicrously biased that even their sclerotic Foreign ministry has got off their falafel-flabby backside and taken a proper stand. Professor Richard Falk, the bloke in question, has had a jolly old time comparing Israel to the Nazis and apparently going on fact-finding missions to Lebanon whose reports then condone suicide bombings. I could write a whole essay on this moron, but instead, found this excellent one at

Anyway, they are repeating the canard about Israel cutting fuel provision for the UN, just a few days after the Pals sent a hit squad to the actual fuel depot where this is put in tankers for shipment. Think about this from the perspective of a worker at that depot. The world barely raises an eyebrow when two of your colleagues are murdered as they go about their work, supplying the murderers' families with fuel, then condemns you when your bosses decide these are not the kind of customers they want.

By way of comparison, the unions at my old haunt of Grangemouth are threatening a strike because new staff aren't going to get a final salary pension scheme. Just like pretty much every other company in the country... puts it in perspective.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Not so Keenan: from Beirut to Stockholm

The Beeb just broadcast two fascinating documentaries back-to-back.

The first was an excellent 20 minutes of Brian Keenan revisiting Beirut and talking about what had changed and his own emotions about returning to the scene of his kidnapping over 20 years ago.

The second was a 40 minute propaganda film in which Lebanon's woes were blamed on Israel, along with the usual broadside of accusations about massacres, disproportion, torture, occupation and myriad other injustices. This was also hosted by Brian Keenan, but somehow the two films merged into one with no credits rolling in between.

Keenan's initial time in Beirut in the 1980s, and his subsequent kidnapping, had absolutely nothing to do with Israel or Israel's presence in Lebanon, and certainly had nothing to do with events in the summer of 2006. Nonetheless, the war that took place then was the focal point for about half of Keenan's documentary, and he placed absolutely no blame on Hezbollah (in fact, he didn't do more than mutter the word under his breath) for any of the terrible loss of life that took place.

Is this the same Keenan who spent over five years as a captive of Islamic Jihad, an associate of the very same Hizbollah? And wasn't his release brokered with Iran and Syria, the only two parties who had influence to do so, and who continue to wage proxy wars in Lebanon and have helped make it volatile and a terrorist hotbed for thirty years?

This is the same Keenan who said in reference to Israel's highly accurate precision bombing of Hizballah's stronghold in Beirut that:
"The word "holocaust" entered my head as I looked back at the devastation."
This seems to be an example of the famed Stockholm Syndrome. I am struggling to put into words how incredulous I am at such an articulate and intelligent man, who has been through so much, taking the standard emotional line of "I see dead people and destruction, Israel dropped bombs, so it's one-sided and all their fault". This is especially distressing from someone who really lived through the complexities and nuances of Lebanon's fractious history.

Norman Geras over at Normblog has summed up in concise fashion:
"It is sometimes said that one of the fruits of personal suffering is wisdom, and I know that can be true. But Keenan's sentiment shows that it is not a truth without exceptions - that even one who has suffered unjustly can make himself the conduit for the most poisonous of themes, this one repeated now often enough to be acquiring the status of a special version of the blood libel."
It is even worse - but totally to be expected - that the BBC would broadcast this uncritically.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Apprentice 4.1 - people in glass houses

After giving the entire third series a miss due to my total disdain for the muppets we met in volume 2, and my own hilarious experiences of the selection process, I thought I would see whether standards had improved this time around. So you will be treated to my weekly critiques of The Apprentice Series Four - or Serious Flaw, as I am already calling it.

The redeeming features of this series are likely to be everyone but the candidates; the Big Koala has already come out with some belting one-liners, whilst Nick's repertoire of pained facial expressions is growing by the week. Best of all, I notice that down on the set of the follow-up You're Fired show, someone's clearly pushing Chilesy and his guests to bare their teeth a bit more.

So, Episode 1 opens with the boss reminding candidates that, despite the obvious spoonful of Sugar gags, "Mary Poppins I am not" (but surely Yoda of the business world he is). Straight on the offensive, he follows this up with a nice put-down regarding their living accommodation:
"In my day it was a glass factory, nowadays they convert them for posers like you lot to live in."
Get in there, you beast.

The first task involved selling - how original for an Alan Sugar task! Boxes of fish from Billingsgate appeared, and candidates had to work it which where what, set prices, pick a location for a market stall, and SELL SELL SELL. Not too complicated to plan and set up, you wouldn't think. But these are the kind of people who think Dover sole is some kind of Kent-based musical genre.

Before we even got to the market, we had the hilarious moment of Sloaney Penelope Pitstop combo Lucinda persuading the girls to call their team Alpha because "it's the first letter of the Greek alphabet, kind of looks like a fish, reminds me of womens liberation due to its Homeric use as a nickname for Helen of Troy's lady-garden, and also because I drive an Alfa Romeo." Okay, I may have made some of that up. But I don't think it would have made Nick Hewer screw his face up into any more of a scowl than the rictus he pulled for what she did say.

So the task unfolded with the girls getting immediately bitchy, using lots of annoying MBA-speak, but at least getting down to the market pronto and nabbing the best stall. Then they used their feminine charms (despite several of them looking like some of their produce) to push all their stock, either at the stall or by flogging it to restaurants and randoms. I'm sure that the Oirish bird who claims to be the "best in Europe" when it comes to sales would present this in a slightly glossier way, but here at Freedmanslife, we call a spade a spade. We may also resort to calling quite a number of candidates a spade as the series progresses.

Meanwhile, the spades on the boys' team quickly divided themselves into two groups along class lines ("I have a Portuguese for that" vs. "use ruddy shoovels"). They then disintegrated completely. It's amazing how a combination of up-themselves chinless wonders and floppy-haired posh twats cannot know the price of a lobster. I keep kosher and even I know it's a bit more than a fiver.

So they went and sold a load of stock before noticing this mistake, whilst blaming each other, mashing fish-brains with a cleaver, wrongly identifying half the product, and getting hilariously ripped off by a bunch of smug lawyers. Given that they wanted to sell for £130, you'd think a starting price of £150 or so and then negotiate would be a good idea.

Instead, they do something that's not a good idea anywhere, let alone with a bunch of (apparently quite literally) hungry shark-type lawyers. They attach themselves like maggots onto the hook, then fling themselves into the infested waters, and seem surprised when the bait is gobbled up along with the rod and fisherman: "...but we'll take £100."

According to the wonderfully named Michael Sophocles (oh lordy, he's Jewish apparently - the shame!), offering less than that would be a price that was "too diminutive". A bit like other parts of the team anatomy, I think.

Final negotiation: the lawyers pick up a fortune's worth of fish for £50. Pretty damn diminutive.

Back in the boardroom, the girls are saved by the boys' even worse incompetence, despite the fact that they spent most of the day selling the fish below cost price. That left Nicholas de Lacy Brown back in the boardroom with raffish Raef and the northern down't'pit charmer Alex.

Nick clearly has no idea who Sir Alan is, or where he's come from (the streets, to the very top, via his bootstraps, blood, sweat, tears, selling his own grandma at Hackney wholesale market etc etc, you know the story, it's told in snarling tones during the opening credits each week). I think the guy (Nick, not Sir Al) is prissy, campy, sly, conceited, snobby mummy's boy, with no real-world experience. I'm thinking not really the Big Koala's type.

So then it may not be the cleverest thing in the world to defend yourself against the "working class and proud" Alex with comments like these:
"It's just that some of us are more educated."
"I feel that the barrier that has been drawn is kind of, you know, like maybe, kind of, educated against, you know, more kind of gritty salesmen."
"I'm very into art and culture... I find it very difficult to have conversations about football, for example - I don't really like football."
Idiot. Especially because Alex was really to blame in this task, for botching up every aspect of it from start to finish. He allowed and encouraged the class division, screwed up on location, pricing, sales strategy, general management, and just getting the f***ing team to a market to set up within, like, half a day.

Still, I was quite glad to see Nick take a hike, especially with his even more excruciating performance on You're Fired, in which he continued his oily arrogance, showed off his ghastly paintings, and generally proved himself to be exactly as vile as I had first thought.

The Sugababe got it spot on when picking up on his conceit about having only "failed" once in life, and duly sent him on his way:
"Tu as été dévasté quand tu gagnais une "B" dans ton GCSE de français, et tu vas être bien plus dévasté maintenant parce que tu as gagné une grande graisse "F". Tu es licencié!"
Nick, that's Sugar's own French for "p*** off, you posh tw*t, and get some life experience."

Until next week...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cycle of silence

Some empirical evidence about blogging came out this week, showing that the average blogger starts out with good intentions, posts regularly, then hits "blogger's fatigue"... seems this happens to me on a cyclical basis. Apologies for the lull... oddly enough, it usually happens when there is too MUCH to write about that I don't know where to start.

Obviously the Israel thing is pissing me off just now; the crazy moral equivalences are so absurd it's hard to rebut them succinctly, and pretty much the entire planet seems deluded or in some way under the influence of mind drugs in that they still just don't get it. Wake up, planet. These people want to kill us, then make it look like our fault because we react "disproportionately", then get you to help them stockpile more weapons, and kill us some more. Eventually they will slaughter you too, but I'm sure you'll just blame yourselves again.

You might note, moronic world, that we have outlived the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Cossacks, Nazis and many other persecutors, invaders and so-called "great civilizations". If I were a betting man, I'd say the odds were that we will survive both you, the wonderful liberal, multicultural society that is a borderline cult of misplaced guilt and self-hate, and the Islamofascism that you embrace just as it tries to destroy you.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

You shall rise up early and strike them first

Before I put myself through the torture of reading the papers and internet comment on what has been happening in Gaza in the last 24 hours, I am going to hazard a guess. If I later have to go and change this article, I promise to leave any amendments in strikethrough, so you can see where I messed up.

The world is largely going ballistic with Israel for what it sees as the heavy-handed and indiscriminate way in which it has gone into Gaza. No doubt they believe the intent is to re-occupy it (some will say "formally" as they think Israel never really left). Israel has been attacking "the Palestinians", many women and children are dead, and as a casual aside, yes, so are lots of "militants".

About now, the UN, and even the Condi-led US State Dept, are probably calling for Israel's withdrawal. Hardly anyone is going to mention the very interesting stat that Sderot, just over the border from Gaza, has been in the last year the most-bombed place in the world on a missiles-per-head basis. Nobody will spare a moment to think about how their own government would react if a neighbouring government launched such an attack.

And yes, we can use the words "state" and "government" because most people see Hamas as legitimately elected, already refer to Palestine like it's a country, and indeed a few weeks ago, Costa Rica recognised it formally as such. This also means, as far as the Israelis are concerned, that it should damn well act like one. The nonsense of media and diplomatic criticism of Israel attacking the poor, defenseless Palestinians on the one hand, whilst legitimising a government that, depending on their whim (and audience), directly carries out, or indirectly supports, the rocket attacks, is just perverse.

Now I am going to have some breakfast. Maybe I will be back later to edit these assumptions, because just for once, the world is seeing Israel's actions in Gaza for what they are. However, I will probably be too busy blogging about Lord Lucan flying a pig to the blue moon of cheese.

Friday, February 29, 2008

London mayor 'misquotes former chief rabbi' on Israel

By Jonny Paul at the Jerusalem Post. Hat tip from none other than Jonathan Hoffman himself!

Responding to a question about his position on Israel during a debate on Monday, London Mayor Ken Livingstone reportedly said his views were echoed by a former chief rabbi of Britain who he claimed had said that Israel should not have been created.

At a debate entitled "How London can stay ahead as a great world city," organized by the Evening Standard newspaper in central London on Monday night, Livingstone was asked how London can stay ahead "when it is led by a mayor who descends into petty sectarianism, notably in saying that Israel should never have been created?"

Asking the question, Jewish community member Jonathan Hoffman was referring to remarks made by Livingstone during an election campaign in Finchley, north London, in 2004.

Hoffman said that in response to his question about his views on Israel, Livingstone said: "I have criticized Mrs. Thatcher in the past. All governments including that of Israel should be open to criticism. Even the former chief rabbi was quoted in the Evening Standard as saying that maybe it would be better if Israel had not been created."

The mayor was referring to remarks made by former chief rabbi Lord Jakobovits in a May 1991 newspaper article.

In the article - which had the screaming headline "Bad news... Chief Rabbi shames Israel" - Lord Jakobovits said that the Palestinian refugee problem was a "stain on humanity" and that Israel, in cooperation with wealthy Arab nations, would do well to remove that stain.

"It is sad that the mayor's recollection of the interview from 1991 isn't as good as mine," Shimon Cohen, former private secretary to Lord Jakobovits, told The Jerusalem Post. "In the Evening Standard interview Lord Jakobovits actually described the plight of Palestinian refugees as a 'stain on humanity' but he said that the Jews were not to blame for creating the problem.

"He added, 'we cannot forever dominate a million and a half Arabs... this blinkered attitude is self destructive,'" Cohen said.

"The mayor has compounded an anti-Semitic statement with a falsehood," Hoffman told the Post.

A front-page article in The Jewish Chronicle at the time asked: "Surely, however, a crucial question must be how a serious newspaper could manage to contort Lord Jakobovits's [not unfamiliar] views on Israel and the Palestinians into an amazing attack on the Jewish state."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

BBC's laughable excuse

This snippet was on an Honest Reporting email I got today:

Many of you send us the BBC's replies to your e-mail complaints, most of which are standard responses claiming that the BBC upholds the finest traditions of balance and objectivity. The following, however, stands out as one of the more ridiculous responses we have seen.

A subscriber wanted to know why the BBC's choice of headlines never directly mentions Palestinians as aggressors, preferring neutral descriptions such as "Rocket injures dozens in Israel", while Israel is almost always named as the primary actor in headlines such as "Israeli raids kill nine in Gaza". The BBC's response was revealing:

Please understand that we try to use neutral language in all our reporting, headlines included. Our writers, sub-editors and editors are required to write headlines that are between 31 and 33 characters long, including spaces, to fit in a Ceefax (teletext) template. It means that some long words, such as Palestinian, are often avoided to get more germane information into a headline. Neither of the suggestions you make (25 and 51 characters respectively) would fit the template.

So, for the BBC, fitting the text on the page and spacing is more important than an accurate message. The BBC admits it doesn't let the facts interfere with a good headline - even if readers get a false impression of the story.

I thought perhaps it would be in order for Freedmanslifers to compose their own headlines of 31 to 33 characters to convey a message. Of course, it doesn't have to have anything to do with the story that follows, let alone the facts.

Here's an example:

"BBC writers deserve to get shot"

That's 31 characters. Of course, I would never advocate that the nice staffers of the Beeb should be killed. The article I imagined would appear below such a caption relates to who should be among the privileged few who would be inoculated in the event of a deadly virus epidemic sweeping the capital. Hopefully an illness like journalismus factuali...

Feel free to send in your own contributions, with headline of the right length, and a description of the article that might follow. Best one wins a special prize!

* * * UPDATE * * *

The Beeb provides 31 joyous characters:

Bomb kills top Hezbollah leader

Monday, February 11, 2008

Grandma (2)

I was asked by the family to say a few words at the last night of shiva for Grandma. She was a really awesome lady, and the way in which our family has come together has been the most fitting tribute, so I wanted to share this with those of you who didn't know her:

This is a bit of a mish-mash of things I have been thinking about this week – a stream of consciousness really. In respect to Grandma’s preference for things to be carefully prepared, and not being a fan of huge surprises, for once I have written my whole speech in advance.

A word we have heard used this week in regard to Grandma is that she was a stoic. I think this is a huge compliment. The ancient Stoics are often misunderstood because the terms they used pertained to different concepts in the past than they do today. The word stoic has come to mean unemotional or indifferent to pain, because Stoic ethics taught freedom from passion by following reason. But the Stoics did not seek to extinguish emotions, only to avoid emotional troubles by developing clear judgment and inner calm through diligent practice of logic, reflection, and concentration.

Grandpa mentioned to me that he didn’t think he had ever seen her cry. Certainly she never cried in public. In fact, he has reprimanded himself this week that she would tell him to “stop being a cry-baby”. I for one have tried to respect her wishes and think of her in the way she wanted – or maybe even planned meticulously – to be remembered.

She was a great one for literature (I remember being made by mum to read War and Peace aged 11 for my City scholarship exam, and grandma had just read Anna Karenina, so we were able to talk about Tolstoy’s style of writing as essentially a form of historical social and political reference, dressed as novel.

A phrase from Tolstoy springs to mind: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Grandma was acutely aware of what she could influence, and focused single-mindedly on it – she was not one for fripperies.

In digging out that quotation, I came across this from Pearl Buck: “You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.” I think that also sums Grandma up. She was not particularly enthusiastic about adopting new things – especially the Internet – and used to roll her eyes and ask what on earth she would need that for. She never took to flying all that much, and we shall politely say she was an extremely patient driver, with an acute understanding that 30mph was the maximum limit, despite the potential power of the car to do a bit more.

All this made me think about the dramatic use of the word “expired” in old literature for when someone died. Somehow this seemed very appropriate to Grandma. We all knew inside that she had been unwell for several months, but none of us were able to break down her stubborn defence of her health and find out how serious it really was. Once she felt unable to continue caring for everyone to her usual meticulous standards, I think she was ready to go.

Until then, she wanted to keep things on her own terms, and most importantly she saw herself as part of a team. For her, what mattered was the aggregate age score with Grandpa. She must have had some inkling that she could not go on in her weakened state, so she carefully laid all the groundwork for him to have the best network of support possible.

Then she was concerned for all of us to reach our own milestones – Aunt Yvonne’s 80th, Helen’s new flat (and becoming a Fast Streamer!), my birthday and brunch – and to see everyone together on happy occasions right until the last.

I must confess that my first reaction on hearing the news was one of anger at her for not taking better care of herself, but almost immediately that I started talking with other people in our family, I realised that her way was never to prioritise her own wellbeing over those around her. This is who she was.

I think very few people have meaningful personalities that everyone gets to know. We all put up a persona for the convenience of associating briefly with the vast majority of people in our lives. I often question whether we are innately anything except to a few who know us incredibly well.

For anyone else who knows us, we are defined by the nature of the relationships we have with other people. In this way, as was said on Sunday, Grandma was defined by the many warm relationships she had. Even those who knew her only slightly would be aware of the constant desire she had to care for others, giving hospitality, time and advice in bountiful quantities. What makes this a point of interest to me is that this really is who she was.

The grandchildren related to her despite the generation gap. This went beyond the standard grandparent to grandchild connection, though we certainly enjoyed getting endless sherbets and chocolate éclairs from the sweet jar. She could outrun me well into her 60s, but only now do I realise that this was cause and effect…

She took a genuine interest not just in our activities, but really in how we developed as people. Who were we really? What were our individual philosophies, political and moral viewpoints and so on? In this way, we spent time with her as a friend and out of choice.

One really positive thing that has come out of this week has been to continue this relationship with Grandpa and Aunt Yvonne, who share many of these characteristics.

How do we cope then, with her passing? I think the answer comes from how she carried herself and what she would want us to do. We have all been so proud of Grandpa, who has been heroic in picking up the mantle of “family stoic” in her honour.

He announced earlier in the week that it was a “new epoch” – and indeed it is. When someone is taken away from us, they leave behind a series of broken connections. Even in these last few days, we have all taken great strength from how some of these loose ends have found each other.

It’s never going to replace Grandma, but it’s absolutely fitting that instead of crying and dwelling on her last few weeks when all was less than good, we are remembering those previous 80 years, largely of health and happiness, looking to the future and thinking about how we are going to apply the lessons she taught so ably.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Grandma (1)

As may of you know, Grandma passed away on Sunday. I'd like to share with you the hesped (eulogy) we wrote for her:

Cicely was the 3rd child of 4, brought up in a traditional orthodox family in Sinclair Grove, Golders Green, the daughter of a founder of Hendon Synagogue.

Highly intelligent and ahead in her year at Henrietta Barnett, she broke the traditional mould by persuading her father to let her go to university, and attended LSE where she studied economics. She recalled with amusement how, after he met the late, well-respected Mr Teff, with his daughter Helen at the enrolment, her father finally relented, saying “well, if it is good enough for Teff, it is all right for me.”

Helen and Cicely became life long friends from that day, forming what she called her “gang” with Phyl Muller. The list of other people she was close to is endless; Cicely was defined by the many warm relationships she had.

Cicely went on to work as a social worker. She was helping make the tea at the JNF meeting hosted by her elder sister, Estelle, when she attracted the attention of Avrem, who was attending the meeting with his friend Sam. Their first date was at the Lyons Corner-house, though she was not sure until Avrem appeared whom she was meeting!

They shared progressive views, going to Fabian Society weekends and reading the Guardian avidly every day. Cicely would listen to Radio 4 whilst Avrem tuned into the World Service, then they would exchange domestic and international news over breakfast.

After a short courtship they married on 19 July 1951, and the subsequent 56 years have been an example to us all of how to conduct a marriage. She was full of wisdom and good humour; on Ruth and Jonathan’s 20th anniversary, she inscribed their card with the words: “Remember, the first 20 years are the worst!”

After raising Ruth and Hilary, she retrained as a primary school teacher and taught in schools in Harrow and Brent, finishing up on the Brent special needs team until her retirement. She continued teaching special needs children privately for a number of years until Avrem retired aged 70.

She spent her retirement travelling with him to visit relatives in Israel, as well as trips to India, China and other places. She was a keen member of U3A and she and Avrem attended several study holidays in Italy under their auspices. She was the president of the local B’nai B’rith Lodge, commanding meetings in a tactful way, giving all a fair hearing – a hard act to follow.

Cicely's smile, and hospitable welcome to us all, warm us when we think of her. She was a pleasure to be with, open to new experiences, radiating warmth, cheerfulness and optimism, thoughtful and devoted, the centre of a loving family.

Her children and grandchildren have learned the value of this hospitality, and she enjoyed sharing recipes with them. There was always a fresh pot of tea on the best china for any guest, and the grandkids were delighted to get such exotic treats as Um Bongo and “uitsmeter” sandwiches. They all relished trips to grandma and grandpa’s, especially playing with the boats and ducks in grandma’s green bathroom, and clambering into their king-sized bed for cups of milky tea and a reading of Babar.

Cicely was particularly fond of her sons-in-law – patting Jonathan’s hand and commiserating on “what a hard day he’s had” – and also shared a close relationship with Beryl and Bernie in Switzerland.

She was always well turned-out. Just last summer, she took great pleasure in a week of pampering at the Carmel Spa in Israel with Avrem, her daughter and son-in-law. As much as she took care of herself on the outside, also on the inside, with weekly trips to meet friends at Hampstead Town Hall U3A to continue studying literature.

You never heard a malicious word about anybody from her. She would be far too modest to agree, but she was that rare thing; an utterly good person. She only got angry about herself and was not frightened to speak if injustice was being done. She was a highly principled and optimistic person, who only wanted to hear of people’s good points. She never broke a promise or harboured a sense of grievance; she treated everyone with respect and kindness.

Cicely made very little of her own needs or desires, not because she did not have them, but you had to try jolly hard to wheedle it out of her. Up to last week tea time she would chat daily on the phone with her sister Yvonne and, despite feeling ill herself, would always say “how was your day?”

She was an able assistant to Avrem, always finding new activities for him, even when he became less mobile. Walking in the fresh air in Roxborough Avenue, she would be greeted by so many neighbours who had come to know her, and she enjoyed looking out of the kitchen window at the goings-on of the street, especially the sight and sound of children going to the local school.

Cicely loved flowers, and enjoyed visits to Kew Gardens, most recently with Helen and Michael, and loved sitting on Hilly and Alan’s balcony in Zurich, admiring the plants and the view.

Whilst not a religious person by the usual definition, she always aspired to something spiritually higher. She would take Avrem to synagogue by car when necessary, and enjoyed the social aspects of communal life.

Even to those who hardly knew her it was clear she was a totally selfless person. She knew that personal happiness and fulfilment comes from helping and caring for others, and once she became ill, this became much harder and she felt her purpose in life had been diminished, because she no longer had the strength to do that.

She was with Avrem, Ruth and Helen – every generation of her family – by her side in hospital at the end, and her spirit of generosity and warmth will remain with all of us, for us to pass to the next generation.

Prayers will be observed at 9 Eastglade, Pinner, from Tuesday 5th February to Sunday 10th February at 8.00pm.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pools panel forecast: home win

Melanie Phillips is on the money as usual - Hamas: 2, World: 0...

Once again, the shrewd strategists of Hamas have played a blinder in the past few days, managing to wrong-foot the governments of both Israel and Egypt and manipulate the ever-obliging western media. First, Hamas bombards southern Israel with rockets and shells -- 220 in four days, the latest volley in the 4000-plus such rocket attacks since Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005. Then, when Israel closes Gaza’s supply route from Israel in a desperate attempt to stop this relentless onslaught, Hamas shuts off Gaza’s electricity, claims that Israel is thus killing its old and sick and organises a candle-lit demonstration whose poignant images of winsome young faces illuminated in deep shadow are broadcast round the world, packing the emotional punch of an electronic Rembrandt. The resulting outcry by a so-called civilised world community that has resolutely refused even to report the rocket barrages (does anyone imagine that if any of those countries had been hit by 4000 rockets in two and a half years they would not have simply flattened the attackers making war upon them?) forces Israel to beat a hasty retreat and re-open the supply route.

Israel: nil, Hamas: one.

Yet even while Israel is being excoriated for ‘laying brutal siege’ to Gaza and inflicting ‘collective punishment’ upon the Palestinians in their ‘open prison’, the said Palestinians suddenly breach a hole in the wall with Egypt and pour through. What’s this – a ‘Berlin wall’ that the Telegraph and others have suddenly discovered Egypt operates to keep the Palestinians in Gaza and out of Egypt? Just like Israel has done? Isn’t Egypt’s wall therefore also an ‘apartheid wall' -- or is it only the Jews who do apartheid? And what’s this – a supply route into Gaza controlled by Egypt, not Israel? So how can this have been Israel’s ‘brutal siege’? Hasn’t Egypt equally been laying ‘brutal siege’ to the Gazans, also enforcing upon them ‘collective punishment’ and also forcing them to live in an ‘open prison’? Or is it only the Jews who can ever be guilty of such heinous acts? Clearly this is so for Tim Butcher of the Telegraph, for whom breaching the Egyptian wall ended
Israel's swingeing blockade
.And what’s this? Khaled Abu Toameh reports in the Jerusalem Post:
At least 90 Gazans, most of them women, were wounded by Egyptian border guards using tear gas, clubs, water cannons and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, who were protesting against the continued closure of the border crossing
That’s protesting against the closure of Egypt’s border crossing. If Israel had wounded 90 Palestinians using tear gas, clubs, water cannons and live ammunition, there would have been hysterical claims of a massacre and genocide. Yet when the Egyptians do it, the British media scarcely even report it.

The astounding distortion of the media’s coverage of the Middle East means that most people are unaware of the extreme lengths to which Egypt routinely goes to keep the Palestinians out. That is in large measure because Egypt’s President Mubarak is fighting to prevent the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is an important terrorist branch) from taking over his country. Gaza is thus a nightmare for him. Fighting to contain the Brotherhood within, he now has them on his doorstep in Hamastan. Unable or unwilling to act against them himself, he relies on Israel to do it for him in killing Hamas terrorists, and has been happy to co-operate with Israel in operating a barrier against them.

But now Hamas has breached that barrier. According to a scoop in today’s Times, far from the naïve stories that the wall was breached by opportunist gangs of ‘masked men’ this was an operation carefully planned and executed by Hamas. As the Times reports, Hamas had been secretly cutting the border with Egypt for months.
Hamas, which took control of the coastal territory last June after a stand-off with Fatah, has denied that its men set off the explosions that brought down as much as two-thirds of the 12-km wall in the early hours. But a Hamas border guard interviewed by The Times at the border today admitted that the Islamist group was responsible and had been involved for months in slicing through the heavy metal wall using oxy-acetylene cutting torches…
The guard, Lieutenant Abu Usama of the Palestinian National Security, said of the cutting operation: ‘I've seen this happening over the last few months. It happened in the daytime but was covered up so that nobody would see.’ Asked whether he had reported it to the government, he replied: ‘It was the government that was doing this. Who would I report it to?’
Priceless. Egypt: nil; Hamas: two.

If Hamas were ever to come to power in the West Bank – which would almost certainly happen if Israel were to withdraw -- and in Egypt, Islamism would be well on the way to sweeping through the entire region, and the rest of the world would be in even more danger than it is now. The gullible stupidity of the western intelligentsia, in sanitising Hamas and mindlessly reproducing its propaganda lies as facts, is thus helping deliver further victory to the very people who are pledged to destroy the free world. But blinded by their prejudice against the Jewish state, this is the last thing the useful idiots of the west will ever see.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Throwing the switch

Goebbels, Alistair Campbell and Al "ManBearPig" Gore could not have spun this any better. For such a deprived group, Hamas seem remarkably well informed, educated and equipped when it comes to manipulating the media (albeit they are quite willing to comply, perhaps even chipping in with the odd suggested still shot or extra-poignant camera angle).

Firstly, they persuaded the world (including Freedmansmum, for crying out loud) that Israel had really turned off all their power, when in fact 75% of it was still on, and they were supposed to have kept reserve fuel stocks to run their local generator

Secondly, they added to this a treacly layer of fantasy about how Gaza was just an open prison controlled by Israel, even quoting the ubiquitous Geneva Convention to try and give it some legal justification. Just so we're clear, Article 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly states that "the Occupying Power shall be bound for the duration of the occupation to the extent that such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory...." If no Israeli military government is exercising its authority or any of "the functions of government" in the Gaza Strip, then there is no occupation.

Having pointed that out, it's quite clear that on the other hand, Hamas is also not exercising its authority or functions of government (as we might define it in even the most remotely-civilized country), except for its attempts to keep to its main policy, on which it was elected: "neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip, nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice for us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don't recognize the State of Israel or its right to hold onto one inch of Palestine," (that's the recently-bereaved Mahmoud Al-Zahar, quoted by the charming Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, based right here in Londonistan).

Anyway, the world gobbled all this up (one notable exception here), whilst Mubarak over in Cairo pressured everyone and their uncle to help his "brethren" - the same brethren Egypt have systematically persecuted, ignored, bullied, starved and OCCUPIED for various parts of the last 60 years. At the same time, Egypt stood by and allowed their border with Hamastan to become completely porous, only for all parties to perpetuate the myth of Gaza being an "open-air prison". At best, with tunnels under one of its four walls, and now a huge chunk of wall flattened, it might be described as an open prison, to and from which tens of thousands of people can stroll as they please.

So guess what? Hamas get to have their cake AND eat it, at home and abroad. To their own people, they are the resourceful heroes who defeated the "Israeli siege", whilst to the mugs of the UN, EU and BBC, they continue the lie that Israel is on a genocidal course to starve and deprive Gaza out of existence. And of course, it's just humanitarian supplies coming over the border. No rockets, no guns, no dynamite. After all, Hamas is a welfare organisation, right?

Enough is enough.

They have cried wolf so many times and the world has chosen to believe them. Now it's time for Israel to really throw the switches and lock down the three sides of the border they DO control. That means the wonderful Egyptians and all the Palestinians' "friends" can step up to the plate.

So good luck, world! I'm sure many of you will be on the next flight out (via Egypt please) to grasp the chance to help the plight of your favourite underdog with both hands, and will be justly rewarded.

Here's a list of some of the things you, dear world, are going to have to pick up responsibility for. I hope the Palestinians treat you with the same contempt as they have us for providing these resources:

1. Electricity
About 2/3 is currently supplied directly from the Ashkelon power plant, which they have hit with rockets.

2. Fuel, petrol, gas etc
This is supplied through a contract with the refinery at the port of Ashdod, the one where they tried a "mega-attack" and also where two teenagers killed 10 people in another bombing.

3. Medical treatment
Those who require care have been allowed across the border to hospitals in Beersheva and elsewhere. This is the thanks they get.

4. Food and other basic goods
This arrives in bulk, in the form of "humanitarian aid", like this "sugar" - wouldn't it be a shame if the Hamas boys stirred it into their tea? - or this "fertilizer". If you don't check what goes into the Strip, you are responsible for the consequences, and if you do, it's not only part of the "evil occupation and siege", but this, this, this or this might happen to you.

Welcome to the Dark Side...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Melanie follows suit...

When Gaza was plunged into darkness, the western media knew who was to blame.

The Guardian:
Besieged civilians pay the price for Israel's hardline response to rocket attacks.
The Independent:
Israeli blockade forces Gaza's only power plant to shut.
The Times:
Darkness falls on Gaza as Israel takes revenge for rocket attacks.
One small problem with this version of events. It wasn’t Israel that shut down Gaza’s electricity supply. It was Hamas. What Israel did was close its border crossings to all goods (eased yesterday) in response to intensive Qassam rocket attacks on the western Negev – 220 rockets fired in four days. Hamas promptly plunged Gaza into darkness, knowing that the west would uncritically swallow its claim that Israel was to blame for the distressing accounts that would follow of a humanitarian crisis. Naturally they did -- just as they continue to pretend that Hamas has only the one border with Israel through which it can obtain supplies, and therefore it is Israel which always 'blockades' it; whereas of course Gaza has a second border with Egypt through which it could certainly receive a flow of goods and fuel – especially since it continues to receive through it an uninterrupted flow of weapons with which to attack and kill innocent Israelis. Indeed, the border with Egypt means that the idea that Israel can ever 'cut off' Gaza or that it has turned it into a sealed 'prison' is entirely false.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, normally so slow to defend its own actions, is on this occasion clearly incandescent at the gross unfairness of the coverage and has issued this furious statement:
The supply of electricity to Gaza from the Israel and the Egyptian power grids (124 Megawatts and 17 Megawatts respectively) has continued uninterrupted. These 141 Megawatts of power represents about three quarters of Gaza's electricity needs. While the fuel supply from Israel into Gaza has indeed been reduced, due to the Hamas rocket attacks, the diversion of this fuel from domestic power generators to other uses is wholly a Hamas decision - apparently taken due to media and propaganda considerations. Noteworthy is the fact that while the Gaza population remains in the dark, the fuel generating power to the Hamas rocket manufacturing industry continues to flow unabated. The Hamas claim of humanitarian crisis in Gaza is also greatly exaggerated. There is no shortage of basic foodstuffs, and Gaza patients who need treatment in Israeli hospitals continue to travel into Israel for care.
Far from Israel imposing ‘collective punishment’ or taking ‘revenge’ upon Gaza, as the EU, UNWRA and the media have claimed, it is almost certainly the only country on the planet which continues to provide fuel and other supplies to people who use them to continue to wage war upon it.

But then, people in the west don’t know about those 220 rocket attacks in four days because the western media simply refuse to report them. Instead they only report Israel’s attempts to defend itself which are thus represented as ‘revenge’, ‘punishment’ or simple aggression. Vile. As usual.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fuelling terror

The lights are out in Gaza, and as usual it's all Israel's fault. Apparently we are supposed to give them electricity directly and a whole bunch of fuel as well. Funny thing is, I'm sure Israeli is sitting on pretty much the only slab of the Middle East that doesn't have any oil. Perhaps those generous Saudis and Gulf Arabs, recently offered $20bn of goodies from the Yanks, could dip into their resources?

Now, I'm not sure who to believe, whether it's the Hamastan government who claim the power is off because of Israel's decision to collectively punish 1.4m Palestinians, or the Israeli government who claim they are still delivering 2/3 of the electricity, and by their calculations think there should be plenty of fuel reserves for the Gaza power station. Could it be that this fuel has been siphoned off, for example to power Qassam rockets? And that the electricity was switched off to make the evil Zionazis look even worse?

Surely not! I mean, it's not like this bunch (in their many forms) have cried wolf before, you know, made stuff up, manipulated, distorted or exaggerated events to stir the locals and the impressionable foreigner against Israel... not here, not here, not here, not here and not here.

And I'm quite sure that as they always have, the Palestinians and their humanitarian Western friends have only been importing the stuff that the people of Gaza need to live on. Like this, this, this, this or this (the last one not being necessary since they did this).

Meanwhile, here in London, the usual sickening bunch of lefties are graduating from the School of Anti-Semitism (SOAS) cum laude. At a talk there on Wednesday night, the new Israeli Ambassador was heckled and generally treated with the traditional lack of respect, despite his conciliatory and humble tone (I know, I wouldn't believe a Sabra was capable of it either). The pattern was quite typical - ask a hostile question, pay scant regard to the answer, then pointedly walk out with your kheffiyah riding high.

Now all that is just par for the course. What shocked me was the number of white, non-Arab students who kept making comments to the effect that the Palestinians have no hope other than to be suicide bombers. With the originator of that statement now enjoying a sabbatical with her hubby in downtown (by which I mean occupied of course) Jerusalem, it was incredible to hear these statements not only repeated but cheered.

I take a simple view - openly, proudly and defiantly condoning suicide bombing against a civilian population ANYWHERE is a form of glorification, justification or even incitement of terrorism, and the myriad policemen on duty (covering the ambassador's sizeable ass) should have been taking names.

If so many Palestinians are really so desperate that they see no other way out, they could, with a modicum of legitimacy, go and blow themselves up at IDF checkpoints inside the West Bank. After all, those are supposedly the instruments of their oppression.

But what she, he, him, her, these people or in fact any of these, have done to cause an anguish so great they deserve to die for it, is beyond me.

And if the benighted citizens of this country want to stand up and support this activity, let them go to Gaza and see how they fare. In the dark. Just like everyone seems to be over here.


The deafening sound of silence as the world fails to condemn South Africa for cutting the power supply to Mozambique and Zimbabwe. And they weren't even rocketing their neighbours! Once again, we are being ORFTORFUed...

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Hi all

Following the unprecedented success of the last brunch (fifty fat freedman's friend fressers filled faces full of food) you are cordially invited to join me at Freedman Villas in Pinner for my birthday brunch, on Sunday 3rd February, from 11am to 2pm. As the house may shortly be flattened and/or I am planning to move out imminently, this is probably the LAST one in its current format, so please come and take advantage!

The usual dishes will be served:

Kedgeree (smoked haddock classic)
Vegeree (by advance request only)
- - - - -
Eggs royale (like eggs benedict but with smoked salmon for the piggie), served on home-made muffins
Creamy smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with fresh dill (yes, finished with residual heat, you old brunch hands)
- - - - -
Full veggie English breakfast
(includes fried eggs, sausages, fried bread, garlicky mushrooms, beans, grilled herby tomatoes)
Fish finger sandwiches
Proper Welsh rarebit with the mustard and beer and so on
- - - - -
Lighter options menu
Swiss-style bircher muesli (now sold in Selfridges)
Fresh bagels and rolls with jams and cheeses - including the Asquith Estates garden-grown, hand-picked, home-made blackberry jam
Fresh fruit platter
- - - - -
All washed down with a selection of fresh juices, tea and coffee

Due to high propensity for over-catering, please RSVP with any preferences (or suggested additions to the menu), and feel free to invite friends, partners, people you think might appreciate the spread.

I am always asked what can people bring, do etc. The rules are quite simple - everyone has to contribute by helping to cook or clean up (special mention to egg-separators and plongeurs from last time), or if you want a free pass to just trough out, please drop me a note in advance and I'll tell you what you can bring to buy your way out of servitude.

Also note that there will be an optional and weather-dependent constitutional stroll around lovely Pinner afterwards.

Travel advice and directions available by request. And yes, those eagle-eyed among you, I did just paste and edit the previous invite.