Monday, January 17, 2022

Dr King's Message Still Speaks to Us Today

Found this cool photo last night. The chap with the blue X on the left is my father. And I think the one on the far right with a blue Y on his pocket may be Rev. Andrew Young. It was taken on 21st March 1965 during the Civil Rights demonstration that marched from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama.

In the USA tomorrow it will be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I grew up with stories of the Civil Rights movement and the importance of working together for justice and peace. However, the events of the last few years had greatly dented my hope that such things are still achievable.

Yesterday was not a great day. Just before going to bed here in Europe, news started coming in of a hostage situation in a Reform synagogue near Dallas. A rabbi and 3 congregants were being held by an unknown person who had walked into a Shabbat morning service. I am glad to say that, after several hours of negotiation, and then the intervention of a FBI Rescue team, all hostages were released without physical harm. The gunman was shot down, and we will certainly discover more of the story in days to come.

What strikes me tonight is how people responded, at least in the world that I inhabit. With the assistance of the internet, connections for support and information were quickly made, helping those of us anxiously waiting for news. The moment that had the greatest impact for me, however, was the swift organisation of an online place of meeting, where we could be together, make havdalah together, and share space and emotions during a time of such tension. What struck me most was the outpouring of love and support from those of other faith traditions and none. This dreadful event brought us together, and we were able to give each other strength and hope.

It is still possible, for this is not an old dream of the 1960's. I saw something of it yesterday. Dr King told us:

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."*

Today is Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees, when from the depths of winter here in Europe, we look towards Spring and the return of leaves and flowers and plants and fruit. Today we planted parsley seeds, hoping to eat their leaves at our Passover Seder. Last night, at the vigil I attended, and in many others across the land, seeds were also planted, seeds of hope. In order to grow and bear fruit, all these seeds need to be cared for, fed and watered, protected from the cold and given a place in the sun. This is our task for the new year.

Baruch Atah, Adonai, Matir asurim.
Blessed are You, Adonai, who frees the captive.

* from a sermon at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery AL (25.12.1957)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Blast From the Past

The other day there was a discussion on the Retro R's page about the QPR Youth team at the end of the 1980's. In particular, there was a competition called the Southern Junior Floodlight Cup, which was won by the R's c. 1988. In my early days as an official QPR photographer, I got to cover the 2nd leg of the final. Some of the lads from back then are part of the FB group, and as photos were being shared, one of them dropped this on the page:

Gobsmacked is a good word. I've never seen this photo before. It's from one of the players, and it looks like the team is heading back to the dressing-room after the photoshoot. Is that an injured reserve hobbling in their wake? I had completely forgotten that I was still in plaster then and had to take all the pics with the wrong hand. Thank you SL for this lovely memory!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Tearless Onions!

First there were Funyuns, a tasty Frito-Lay oniony snack of the 70's. Today we are being introduced to Sunions, an almost a homophone/homograph but not quite, oniony replacement for those everyday onions that turn the greatest stoics into a weepy mess of goo. I just read about them in the Times, and so can you (if you can get past the paywall). Or you can buy a pack of 3 for £1.50 at Waitrose and test them out yourselves.

Sadly, they do not yet seem to be available in Modena, so I shall have to resort to the old-fashioned ways. In my youth, during a 3-month stint in a kibbutz kitchen where it was my job to prepare the onions each morning for hundreds of people, once my eyes had swollen to the point where I could no longer be trusted with a knife, someone would call for Eitan, and he would unlock the meat freezer and stand me in there for a couple of minutes. Nowadays, with a 2-drawer freezer in our kitchen that is too low down to stick my head in, I resort to the surprisingly successful folk method of holding a wooden spoon between my teeth whilst slicing. Such fun (yuns).

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Graham's Number

So TIL two things. First of all, that TIL is short for "Today I learned". So I learned that. And I learned that there are some numbers that are so big that they are given names. There's a Googolplex, as seen in the illustration. Wiki says that "in 1920, Edward Kasner's nine-year-old nephew, Milton Sirotta, coined the term googol, which is 10 to the 100th, and then proposed the further term googolplex to be 'one, followed by writing zeroes until you get tired.'" My kind of maths!

Of course then they found even bigger numbers, as one will if you keep counting between now and infinity. There was Moser's Number. There was Skewes's Number. And then today on Only Connect someone mentioned Graham's Number, which is even bigger. Can't really get my head around that. So rather than learning what Graham's Number actually is, I have learned that there isn't enough space in the observable universe to actually write it down. I feel better about not having a big enough brain.

This also reminds me that when there is a concept that is too big to cope with 24/7, sometimes by naming it, by defining it on that level, we can keep it near us without being too overwhelmed. Then, when we feel able to look behind the name, we can have a go at relating to it on a more personal level. It could be numbers. It could be God, also.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Drawing Heritage

This is the only drawing I can ever recall seeing my mother draw, or have drawn. I'd broken my wrist playing football in the park with friends. It was my first ever cast, and I was excited for people to sign it. My mother contributed a little curly-headed stick figure with, as I've only just noticed, her right arm in a cast! And signed it, "love love love Mummy'. 

Both of my sisters are talented artists. If I put in some time to practice, I might also improve my technical skills. I have no evidence or memory at all of my father drawing anything, or any other relative. Does this mean I should understand that anything is possible, you just need to have a go (and maybe practice, a lot!)?

Friday, December 31, 2021

Greetings to You for 2022!

I've never really got the whole calendar-change celebration. We grew up with Rosh Hashana as our new year, with the other thing being a chance to stay up late to hear Big Ben bong and maybe get a sip of champagne. On the other hand, my father always said that one should take up any opportunity to make a fresh start. So here's to 2022! May we all be healthy and happy.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Drawing Together Ends 2021 Brightly

The Graphic Medicine's monthly Drawing Together group met again today. After losing the plot a couple of meetings ago, when I got stuck once again on my lack of technical drawing skills (and yet I still don't try hard enough to improve them!), I was encouraged to return by the artist leading this month's session.

The Zoom invitation included a few words from Judith:

"Learning to draw, or more accurately, realising how to look at things, for me marked the beginning of being an artist.

For this Drawing Together session, I have prepared a sequence of prompts with which you will explore when you learned how to draw and how you formed a unique sense of yourself as an artist.

As the New Year begins and the days grow longer, let's draw closer to the light, together."

Asked to recall our first memory of ourselves, what came to mind was sitting on the floor in our flat on W 116th Street, watching Bugs Bunny on TV whilst eating a piece of cheese. We had just under 2 minutes to draw this one.

The second prompt (4 mins) was a bit more difficult at first - I had absolutely no memory of the first time I knew that I liked to draw. I started to get anxious again but, thank goodness, other options were then offered, including "whatever it is that makes you you". And I looked back and saw my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, and remembered how much from as far back as I go that I love taking pictures.

[the earliest QPR pic of mine I've found was taken with an Instamatic!


Judith concluded with a story about a woman she'd visited in a nursing home who had told her a story. The story made the woman very happy. She told it again. And again. In the end, it was the only story she told, but it always made her happy. Judith spoke about keeping ourselves in the light, and asked us to draw a favourite memory, perhaps the one story that we would tell when we were in the home.

Dithering about which memory would steal drawing time, and we only had 10 minutes, so I took the first that came to mind.

It was the day a congregant invited my dad to view the local derby with neighbours QPR in an executive hospitality box at Stamford Bridge. I happened to be a QPR photographer on the pitch that afternoon. In those days there were few, if any, women shooting football matches, so I usually got a lot of abuse from the crowd. However, the R's fans began to recognise me after a while. At half-time I walked towards the away end, and some fans began chanting my name. My father was so proud and excited - his favourite team, his first-born on the pitch, her name being sung by several hundred fellow fans. I sometimes wonder if this was just a bit better than the day he blessed me in front of the ark when I was ordained. So, this is the drawing. And even though it probably wasn't on that day, I drew the floodlight, shining down on the away end.

In between each prompt we got the chance to look at each other's drawings, and hear the stories behind them. I love this group - people are kind and supportive and encouraging. I hope it continues in 2022!

PS Sorry about the faintness of the pencil. You might see the drawings better if you click on them. They get bigger too!

Routemaster Piglet

I do so love an old Routemaster, especially when it is a Number 9. Piglet is also clearly riveted, and posed for me I think when we saw a stationary example on the Strand one afternoon. Approaching the end of 2021, my mind is wandering through random memories. 

Seeing this photo reminds me of when there were no traffic lights at Hyde Park Corner, and you could stand on the platform as the bus took the Corner, holding onto the pole with one hand, and leaning out to swing round with the bus, jumping off as it turned left into Knightsbridge while the conductor shouted at you. Hard to accept how long ago that was!