Idly musing


By Jenni Frazer
April 8, 2011
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Among the endless predictions of how we function in the 21st century is the all-too frequent potential death of newspapers. Of course, I am partial on the newspaper issue but I wonder if thought is being given to the actual tactile, physical product, as much as the content.

In my family, newspapers were crucial. Not just as vital information portals - though I am absolutely sure we never referred to them as such - but as items with an acute after-life. Newspapers, for the uninitiated, can be used for all manner of things once they've been read. And nowhere were newspapers more important than at Pesach.

We used newspapers to wrap our Pesach pans, utensils, and china, before storing everything away at the end of the festival. And every year, without fail, when we came to unwrap the Pesach houseware, my mother would get distracted and get caught up in reading something from the previous year's Daily Telegraph, while my father would make wild stabs at whether that strangely-wrapped item swathed in several layers of the Guardian was in fact the lid for the flowered teapot, or something else entirely.

There were items, such as the big frying pans, which demanded a grand broadsheet wrapping, while the crystal water jug for Seder night saltwater was usually fine with a swirl of tabloid. There were items which were just plain unwrappable, and there were other things which assumed a heavy disguise through the layers of newsprint. Careful calculations were made as to how many soup plates you could wrap into one spread of the old Sunday Express (oh, the shame), and, oddly, we never wrapped anything in the JC. The Manchester Evening News, as I recall, was particularly good for glasses and cutlery.

Those days of wrapping and unwrapping, with happy cries at discovering one's favourite butter dish, may be long gone. My parents have departed for that great reading room in heaven where I hope they have access to all the newspapers they desire. People celebrate Pesach differently now; either they have the luxurious option of travelling abroad, or - judging by the vast displays outside the kosher shops near where I live - those who observe the festival buy in huge supplies of disposable plates and cooking utensils, as though Pesach were one long eight-day barbecue.

And now that the death knell is increasingly being sounded for newspapers, what will people wrap their Pesach goods in? Ipads?

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