I went to St John's Wood Synagogue yesterday! I was invited there by Philip Sallon to listen to the 16-strong male voice choir. This large choir is apparently a phenomenon which happens just once a month.
It's actually quite difficult to get into a shul these days. Sadly, a high amount of security is required outside, so you can't turn up without an official invitation. That said, saying we were friends of Philip's had us welcomed in with open arms.
Philip missed most of the service itself. He was preparing the hall for the kiddush, a food-based social which takes place after every service. Philip, in true Philip style, had decorated the hall top to bottom with Ivy and flowers. It looked an absolute picture. He was wearing a sailor suit!
The choir sang well, but it was actually the cantor who stole the show. Most of the Shabbat service is sung, and the singing is led by a cantor or "chazan" whose job it is to sing a bewildering amount of religious text. He will also perform various set pieces with the choir. This particular chazan is flown over from Israel to do the service, so he feels like the real deal. He's deeply authentic and performs with an infectious level of emotion, and all sorts of impressive runs full of flattened seconds and major sixths. His voice was incredibly high, much to the chagrin of the tenors in the choir who were having to sing stratospherically high to match him.
From the Shul I went to Wimbledon with Michael for a walk across the famous common followed by dinner with his cousin, Gillian. Sadly there were no wombles on the common, or maybe they were hiding. Wimbledon village is a very charming place, but I wasn't overly impressed by the common. It's rather flat and boring, and has none of the charm or magic which Hampstead Heath exudes in spades. It was also raining.
The food was lovely, as was Michael's cousin. I had a tagliatelle with mushroom and truffle oil. Truffle oil has always had quite a curious effect on me. It makes me a little light-headed. Gillian tells me that the oil is less popular with women than it is with men, and that it's particular popular with alpha males. She has a theory about the oil's smell, which I couldn't possibly put into writing! It's a fairly broad and spurious assertion but I would be very interested to know if certain foods appeal more to specific genders and why on earth that might be.
My brother called in the late evening to tell me that he and his friend Fiona had won the Eurovision Fan Club's "Stars In Their Eyes" competition. They went as Gemini, the infamous Liverpudlian duo who represented the UK at the contest in 2003 and, in the process, did worse than any act up to that point had ever done. You may remember the song, Cry Baby. Not for its melody but for how out of tune the performers sang!