Sunday, 1 April 2018

Passoveroestra

It’s been a weekend of festive celebrations. On Saturday night, Nathan and I went to Felicity’s house for a Seder meal. It was the second day of Passover (of eight) and where most Jewish people will probably just mark the first, Felicity organises meals on most of the evenings! I don’t know how she manages to be so efficient, because she’s an observer of Shabbat rules, which preclude cooking and, pretty much everything which you might want to do whilst preparing for a dinner party!

The Passover meal is theatrical, bewildering, exciting, hysterically funny and incredibly warm and family-centred. Each family develops its own traditions based on the rituals dictated by religion, which include leading to the left whilst drinking, eating a massive amount of matzos, chowing down on very bitter herbs, opening the front door for Elijah and singing all manner of fascinating songs and prayers, which tell the story of Moses.

Frogs played a big theme in Felicity’s table decorations. There were glasses with frogs on. Pop-up frogs. Wind-up frogs. We were even given frog-covered kippahs to wear! I suppose we need to be grateful that she opted to celebrate this particular plague from the famous story. A table of locusts or a celebration of blood in the sea or boils would have made for a somewhat less appetising table!

I think my favourite memory of the night was watching our synagogue’s cantor repeatedly hitting the ninety-year old man sitting next to him with a soggy French onion (as tradition in Felicity’s house dictates!)

There was a great deal of religious debate, a heck of a lot of cat-calling, some beautiful singing in multi-part harmony and impeccable Hebrew reading, courtesy of Felicity’s father, Trevor.

I felt very honoured to be there.

Today found us travelling up to Nathan’s sister’s new house in Shropshire. She’s been living there since just before Christmas, but we hadn’t had an opportunity to see it until today. I guess we were celebrating Easter, but it was really just a mega chocolate fest and an excuse to get together and eat a big roast dinner.

We were joined by all three of Sam’s children and their various partners, Sam’s granddaughter, Renée, and Nathan’s Mum Celia and her partner, Ron. It would be remiss of me not to include Sam’s little dog, Gini as one of the cast of characters. She made her presence very well felt!

The somewhat comic recurring feature of the day was our singing a bastardised version of a Judy Garland song about an Easter bonnet which Nathan’s Mum suddenly started singing. It seemed such a peculiar song that we instantly cottoned on to its concept and sang repeatedly, “I’ll be your Easter bonnet, I’ll be your Easter bonnet, I’ll be your Easter bonnet in the Easter parade.” It became an ear-worm which none of us could stop singing!

We went for a little stroll to the local play area with Renée and Gini. Sam’s new house is on an estate which is populated by a fair number of army families. A couple of girls were also playing in the park, unsupervised by an adult. They were plainly the children of soldiers because they had that army brat confidence and openness. As Sam pointed out, these kids are pulled from army base to army base and get incredibly used to making new friends.

Our day ended with the long journey back down the M1. I understand there’s going to be a huge amount of rain overnight, so I was rather pleased to be setting off whilst there was still some light in the sky.

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