Slobbing it

Today is my last day of slobbing as tomorrow there will be 2 witnesses. I am definitely going to have to clean up my act as I have become embarrassingly lazy. Which is all well and good when it is just me but as you can see from the image below appearances have always mattered to me and I don’t want to set a bad example to my son.


So, this morning was set aside to clean the house leaving me the afternoon for my last bit of slobbing. I have to admit it I am one proud Roma. Anthea Turner has nothing on me (A sort of British Martha Stewart) My house is now immaculate you could eat off my floors – which I did this morning when I dropped my toast fortunately buttered side up, on the floor. Certainly, could not have done that before. The floors only got washed every 2 weeks when the cleaner arrived. Talking of cleaners, I don’t think I will be needing one anymore. I can do this. I have become a ‘can do’ person. I can deal with the mice that Mo brings in, I can deal with bumble bees, I can sort out locks and I even helped a poor little spider – note the emphasis here is on little – get out of the bath.

It might be difficult though to fire the cleaner. Despite being the world’s worst cleaner, she is a lovely loyal woman, a Kosovan refugee who spent 2 years in a camp before being allowed into the UK. She has been burgled in her small council flat 3 times and last year her husband had a major heart attack. How can I possibly fire someone who has been through all that? No, the cleaner has to stay.

When I was little my mother used to have a cleaning lady once a week called Elizabeth. A little old lady with a grey bun. Funny how these images stay with you. Mum used to say, “come on kids hurry up we need to clean up before Elizabeth arrives.” We could never understand why you would need to clean before a cleaner came. But I did exactly the same and my children were also bewildered by this. I guess you have to have a cleaner to understand.

It’s nearing the end of Passover and for many Jews from all levels of observance the Matza Brie debate continues. The Yiddish translation for Brie is fried which aptly describes the dish. It is a kind of Jewish equivalent to breakfast cereal a Hebraic French toast. It originated among central European Jews and is matzo fried with eggs into a kind of frittata or scramble, depending on how you cook the dish. Everyone has his or her own favourite recipe. It can be served savoury, with herbs, onions, smoked salmon or other inclusions; or sweet, topped with jam or syrup or cinnamon.

The big question is “to soak or not to soak.” (I can hear many of you saying what is she talking about) For centuries people have debated on the best way to make this staple Passover dish. My father would soak it in water then mix it with egg. My mother’s beady eyes watching him intently just in case he forgot to take out the white bits attached to the yolk. (She wrongly believed they were the umbilical cord and thus not kosher they were however called chalaza and the function was to hold the yolk in place.) My father invariably would not take them out if mum wasn’t watching. And who would blame him as they are little devils to extricate. It was a case of crack the eggs and immediately start whisking before mum arrived on the scene. “Did you take out the whites,” she would say accusingly, “Of course answered my father.” “Where are they,” she would ask,” and he would reply that they had been put down the sink. We all knew he was telling little porkies. Dad was a great porky teller. And I had been at the end of these porkies many a time. “Yes,” he would say “I have got rid of that great big spider in your bedroom.” Only to see it a few hours later crawling up my wall.

Yes, I have digressed again. My grandmother would soak the matza in milk and then mix it with egg. I sprinkle it with water — so it is not too soggy, dip it in egg then fry it in butter and sprinkle on top a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. It is delicious and incredibly moorish. Please do send me in your own Matza Brie recipes.

I am only thinking about this because when Toby gets home tomorrow it will probably be the first thing he asks for. So, I am ready for them. There are bluebells from the garden in their  room, easter eggs on their pillows and clean ironed sheets on their bed  – have I mentioned what a good ironer I am? — and I have ordered an organic chicken so I can make a roast dinner.

I am practically perfect in every way.

“Let’s be careful out there”


Seder with Zeder

Tomorrow is the first night of Passover and the Seder Service. For my non-Jewish friends please google what this is all about. My mother, with whom I am sure you are now becoming well acquainted, would read us the story Seder with Zeder every year just before Passover started. I have no idea where it came from, whether she wrote it herself, or lifted it from somewhere, but we would sit around the table and she would regale us with this story. And in her own inimitable way she would add bits to it make us all roar with laughter.

So, I am going to retell the story exactly as my mother did for us. I think it must have been set somewhere in the turn of the century – maybe Poland or Russia – it is long, but then what else have you all got to do?


Passover preparations began early in our home. My mother, who was of a rather impatient disposition, used to begin the spring cleaning during the Chanukah weekend ( The Jewish equivalent to Christmas) and for the ensuing four months, the house was in absolute turmoil. Nothing was ever in its proper place and on one occasion, father himself was mislaid for an entire weekend, which he alleged that he had spent as an unwilling prisoner in the linen cupboard. The climax of the preparations came with the search for bread (no bread is allowed during the week of Passover). He started his search in the very early hours and several hours later we would begin to search for father. He was usually found in the maid’s room, looking in the most unlikely places!

At sunset the following day, the Droshky would be waiting outside in the snow. The journey to Grandfather’s always took a long time. The matzot, (this is bread substitute we eat during Passover) on which the horses were fed, invariably had the effect of retarding their speed and often gave them the staggers, so that not infrequently we had to pull them to Grandfathers and not vice versa. I think probably Mother was right in blaming this on the matzot that the Rav of Khchmtzki used to send us each year. They had a strange gritty consistency and Father always maintained that they were only fit for the horses.

At Grandfathers, bustle, not to say confusion, reigned supreme. The presence of his thirty-seven grandchildren (ironically one of my great great grandfathers in Poland had 3 wives and 37 children – so maybe this really was about our family!!!) did not have the elating effect on Grandmother that might have been anticipated. In fact, as the little ones renewed the fights left uncompleted from the previous year, she often showed every sign of becoming hysterical.

Grandfather loved a huge company on Seder night. As if the assembled family was not enough, he usually contrived to bring some more person’s home from the synagogue. Aunt Maria was allowed down for Seder night. Poor Maria was a little confused and regularly managed in the course of the evening, to cram a prodigious quantity of horseradish (symbolic to remind us of the hard times we had as slaves in Egypt) into her mouth, with the result that the proceedings would be interrupted while she rolled on the floor in agony. To avoid serious consequences, Grandfather would kosher a stomach pump and never a year passed without recourse to its services. Finally, Grandfather tired of this behaviour, which impaired the dignity of the occasion without affording Maria any benefit and henceforth made her appearance at the Seder attired in a rather fetching straitjacket, specially designed for her by a famous Parisian couturiere.

Finally, we would all be assembled; to mark the distinction of the evening, Grandfather would address Grandmother as Elisveta Katerina and she would ceremoniously address him as Boris Petrovitch. To keep us all interested in the details of the service, Grandfather insisted that each of the 37 grandchildren should recite the Ma Nishtanah (this is a prayer that the youngest in the family recites) This tended to make the first half of the Seder somewhat protracted especially as some of the grandchildren were a little exhibitionist and only too ready to give encores. Grandfather took the service with great skill and knew things that you could never find in any book. For instance, I could never discover any written authority for his practice of flinging glasses of salt water at Grandmother in illustration of the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea.

He invariably used a copy of the Haggadah (the book from which the service is taken) that had been in the family for generations. So much wine had been spilled on it that much of it was unreadable. Consequently, grandfather was always assuming it was time to have another glass of wine and to hide the Afikomen (this was a piece of matza that would be hidden during the service so that the children could hunt for it and win a prize.) Thus, the room became littered with broken halves of matzo and everybody drank far more than the prescribed four cups of wine.

The meal as you can imagine was of magnificent proportions. Grandfather had inherited the custom of beginning it with hard boiled eggs in salt water. His practice of eating ten hard boiled eggs in commemoration of the plagues appears to have derived from gluttony rather than tradition.

But gradually the atmosphere of the Seder changed. As the cousins grew up, the simple recital of the Ma Nishtana failed to satisfy them, one would recite existentialist blank verse, another would insist on expounding the theory of surplus value and Aunt Maria ceased to appear.

Interest in religious matters dwindled, only Uncle Alexis carried on the family tradition and even then, in a modified form. Inevitably the family split up and the cousins would run unexpectantly into each other all over the world. One year I came across one of them in Bournemouth at a Seder in a hotel. Naturally we chatted about old times. “People pay a fortune a day for this,” he said to me, “what would they have said to the Seders we used to know.” There were tears in his eyes when I told him.

 “Let’s be careful out there

Am I dispensable?

I am wondering when I see groups of young people gathering in parks and on streets, completely ignoring the ‘social distancing’ dictate, whether it is a deliberate ploy to get rid of us oldies.  Time for us to bail out and make room for the next generation.  Apparently, we have had it too good, us baby boomers.  And if we continue to draw our state pensions, for which we have worked all our lives, then there will be nothing left for the generation below us. Of course, there is a chance that I am being paranoid. But I woke up this morning with a very uneasy feeling.

Mornings are not my best time of the day particularly as I seem to be waking earlier and earlier. Today I was in my woods at 5.30 even before the sun rose.  If I am not careful soon, I will be waking up before I go to bed.  The irony is that for so many years I could hardly drag myself out of bed desperately wishing for just another 30 minutes of sleep. And now – well up at 5 and I have the whole day to fill.

So how did today pan out. I am not going to lie – so far not very well. 6.30 back to bed with a cuppa and Netflix, watching the last episode of Orthodox a 4-part drama series. Very good. Those Haredi Jews are something else. 8.00 breakfast of porridge. No appetite but forcing myself to eat.  9.00 Pilates.  Desperately needed to stimulate my endorphins. 10.00 phone calls to children and friends. 11.00 the start of the big spring clean.

I remember at this time of the year my mother an observant Jew, would start the meshuggah pre-Passover clean up. For non-Jews well it’s a long story goes back to Pharaoh times just google it. It would entail every room in the house being cleansed and even the tiniest bread crumb removed. All the Passover crockery and cooking utensils would be schlepped down from the loft to replace our current apparatus which would be hauled back in the loft for the 8 days of Passover. As it got closer my mother’s neurosis would intensify until the day before when my brother and I would be exiled to the garden whatever the weather with strict instructions not to return for at least 5 hours and then only once we had emptied our pockets and ensured we were completely devoid of any food particles. And then we would have to starve until the kosher for Passover food arrived. Yes, it was all a bit crazy. But in a way I miss the rituals.

Now, of course, I have plenty of time for the big spring clean, but I can do it at my leisure. Time is such an odd commodity. The dictionary defines it: the progression of events from the past into the future. Time is not something we can see, touch or taste but we can measure its passage. But sadly, time only moves in one direction and while it is possible to move forward in time we can never go back. Hence the frustration of hindsight. The ‘the number of — if only’s –I have had in the last 10 days. And the promises I have made.

I will endeavour tonight to stay up later in the hope I just might wake up past 5.30. Need to shorten my day. I know I know I need to see it as an opportunity to do all the things that in the past I never had time for. And on a good day I get it. But perhaps not today.

So, to end on a positive note:



“Let’s be careful out there”