I went to a delightful Shabbat meal on Friday night in Notting Hill. The host was fairly orthodox, so there were all sorts of rules and rituals which needed to be observed, including washing our hands with a jug of water three times and not talking until the bread was broken. I, of course, felt like a hick from the sticks: I forgot to put my kippah into my jacket pocket and, upon arriving at the house, immediately rang the doorbell, rather than knocking. I also came with both a bag, and flowers for the host. Carrying anything on the sabbath is frowned upon.
It got me thinking about the day of rest and wondering when and why Christian people started opting for Sunday instead of Saturday? Jesus was, after all, Jewish, and very keen that people observed the sabbath. His tantrum in the temple was surely about this very subject: “My temple should be a house of prayer and you have made it a den of thieves. Get out. Get out.” He was so passionate about the subject that he sang the last phrase in rock-setto.
(Never let it be said that my only knowledge of the bible comes from Jesus Christ Superstar!)
Sticking to the Jewish theme, Saturday morning was spent singing in synagogue. The choir was a little ropey. Some had colds. Some were deps. Some were underprepared. When things start to go badly, the fear takes over and the house of cards comes tumbling down. I had a little solo in one of the numbers and was aware that everything around me was unraveling at a fairy fast pace. It was a terrible shame. We’re usually an astounding choir.
We took Michael (our choir leader) for some food afterwards to drown our sorrows (and apologise) before heading, in the driving rain, to Portobello Road where we’ve discovered a little vintage shop with a massive selection of cufflinks. I’ve now started to collect vintage cufflinks. They’re a great thing to collect because they don’t take up any room, and what with the quizzing and the singing, I’m rarely out of a suit these days. It’s rather nice to make a point of trying to find a decent pair of cufflinks whenever you’re somewhere you want to remember. I have pairs from San Francisco, Florence and Tel Aviv and a pair which once belonged to my Grandfather.
I woke up this morning to an email which made me feel incredibly sad. It came from the mother of one of the kids who sang in Nene at the Albert Hall. Her daughter, who is apparently very bright, had done well in the entrance exam for a local public school and been offered a music scholarship. Unfortunately, even with a scholarship, the fees were beyond anything which the mother could afford. She wrote to me in something of a state: “I feel I’m begging as I’m a person who’s never asked anyone ever for help before. I’m desperate as seeing my daughter’s dreams fade away in her eyes and it’s heartbreaking to watch her cry. I feel guilty I cant give her the start she needs but we just cant find another way but to ask for help.”
The tragedy is multi-layered. State schools just aren’t offering musical and creative kids the education they need, so kids who can’t afford to go to private schools are just not going to have the opportunity to develop as well-rounded people. The other upsetting aspect is that there’s an assumption that someone who’s done relatively well in the arts like me would have the kind of money needed to help someone in despair. I only wish I could. If I had money, I would immediately set up a fund to help young kids from the Midlands realise their dreams. But I don’t. And this makes me so sad.