- Paul Lester
Sep 24, 2008
Not that I want you to feel sorry for me or anything, but my wife left me last year for the chap who was doing up our house. So now I’ve got three things in common with Larry David — a neurotic dislike of most social situations, not a great deal of hair, and an ex with a predilection for Men Who Can.
Don’t get me wrong — I would have felt just as humiliated if she’d run off with our dentist or even our mortgage adviser. But there was something doubly upsetting about the fact that she chose someone who can put up a shelf while juggling a spirit-level and a copy of The Sun when, frankly, I’m useless at either.
Suddenly, after 14 years with an unusually practical Jewish woman, I was faced with the frightening prospect of doing everything myself — including the washing, working heavy machinery (my brand-new Indesit weighs a ton) and dusting my piles of pristine rock magazines. I’m an anally retentive freelance journalist who writes album and concert reviews and interviews musicians for a living.
- Anshel Pfeffer
Sep 23, 2008
Gordon Brown will probably manage to ward off the latest Labour rebellion, for now, and depart from his party's conference for the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Effectively a lame-duck prime minister, just waiting for the moment in which one of his cabinet ministers plucks up courage to wield the knife.
President Shimon Peres has also left for New York, after calling in Tzipi Livni last night, to entrust her with forming a new government. Ehud Olmert remains caretaker prime minister for at least a few more weeks, as Livni will not likely succeed in scraping a coalition together until the High Holy Days season is over. If she fails, then Israel goes for elections, with Olmert still standing uneasily at the helm.
Peres and Brown will meet another lame duck in New York, George Bush, who has been reduced to irrelevancy in the White House. Real power will return to Washington only in January with the inauguration of the new president.
- Gideon Schneider
Sep 19, 2008
I've got cancer. Here's what to say if we meet
A few days before my diagnosis, I had been sceptical about the accuracy of that advert that says one in three people in the UK will be "directly affected by cancer". Surely some advertising guru had sexed up the stats for dramatic effect.
However, an unexpected phone call from my GP hit me with the news that the lump on my neck was in fact Hodgkin's lymphoma, and not the harmless cyst I was hoping for. Well-meaning nurses as well as the specialist were quick to reassure me that if you had to choose a cancer, this immune-system-attacking variety was the best one in terms of prognosis. I was glad everyone approved of my choice.
Having been diagnosed, I was determined to be practical rather than emotional. I wasn't saddened, nor was I fearful; and after telling my family and some close friends, it transpired that my mortality was something others were concerned about, but not me.
My parents and grandmother took the news badly, distressed by the injustice of it all. After the initial tears had been shed, my mother did what all good Jewish mothers do and asked me to move back to the family home so she could feed me well. I declined, because retaining some independence while weakened during the impending treatment felt empowering.
- Anshel Pfeffer
Sep 16, 2008
The collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers over the weekend prompted an interesting debate in the online forum of the white-racist website Stormfront. Some posters saw the demise of the financial institution, founded by America's grandest German-Jewish banking dynasty 158 years ago, as the ultimate triumph. "Who said Jews were ever good at money? They run a Con Game. Jews can't even manage their own banks," wrote one of them. Others were less jubilant, since "Jews didn't own Lehman Brothers, shareholders did. You me and anyone that has a pension scheme or an insurance policy has lost. The Jews will have known it was coming and moved their investments to a safer place months ago." Still others argued that, despite the bank not being family-owned for decades, this was still a debacle for the Jews as its senior management were hook-nosed.
Putting these rantings aside, it is still too early to say whether the subprime mortgage crisis is good or bad news for the Jews. Do the stories of Jewish-founded banks such as Lehman and Bear Stearns resonate differently than good ol' American household names like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae? Have internal dog-whistles gone off? It would be encouraging to believe that in the 21st century, outside of the depraved imagination of supremacists, Jews are no longer the prime suspects in international financial disasters, and indeed there are no signs of that happening yet. But ancient stereotypes are double-edged. In today's politically correct environment, saying that Jews are good with money can cost someone their job and reputation. But let's admit the truth: many of our chosen people have done quite well out of that image when trying to attract investors over the centuries.
When the credit-crunch crisis is finally over, and the Chinese, Japanese and Gulf Arabs are energetically rebuilding the ruins of Wall Street and the City, will we finally be released from one of our oldest stigmas? The goons can always go back to using the blood-libel.
- Graham Morrison
Aug 21, 2008
The closing ceremony is in three days. I've been here since 6th August and now it feels like time to go home.
Working at these events is like living in a bubble in a world where you lose track of time completely - and if you're not careful, reality. The seven hours difference between Beijing and London does not help either; it keeps you out of bed. And on top of that, you come to the conclusion that if you really want to follow the Olympics, in front of the television in London is probably the place to be - you just miss the atmosphere and the snippets that turn a report into a story.
Until this morning, the weather the last few days has been glorious, but this morning the rain returned. No amount of metaphorical rain though could dampen Team GB's party - as I write they are number three in the Olympic pecking order. Well maybe one thing could. Before the Games, UK Sport had a measurable target in medals, while the BOA just wanted to see progress. The target for London 2012, though, was stated as 4th. So what will Team GB do for an encore?
- Graham Morrison
Aug 18, 2008
For British Jewry, the big Beijing story is Josh West's silver medal in that most punishing of sports, rowing. For Britain as a whole, it's the weekend's golden haul. But out here, the dominant story has been Michael Phelps' record-breaking achievements in the pool - at least before "The Bolt" in the breathtaking 100 metres final.
Phelps seems a fairly modest sort of person for one so talented. But is he the greatest Olympian of all time? As one American track star pointed out, swimmers have a far greater number of medal opportunities than competitors in other sports. Alternative lists of "greatest Olympians"
I have seen do not include Sir Steve Redgrave who took rowing gold at five consecutive Games. Athletes Jesse Owen and Harold Abrahams and gymnast Agnes Keleti are other names which deserve to be in the mix.
- Graham Morrison
Aug 15, 2008
Kayak racer Michael Kolganov carried the flag for Israeli in what most people thought was the best ever opening ceremony. I heard some say it was also the most expensiveof all time. I returned to my hotel to try and fix some glitches with my email programme and missed much of it although I did get to see the Israeli team enter though.
The glitches refused to go away; first I could receive mail but not send. That was fixed and all was fine but then it went wobbly again and I could send but not receive. Then everything stopped.
As a call to the provider's helpline in London would likely upset my bank manager, my wife called (she stayed in London). The help line proved about as useful as a £3 note. So for now I'm using web-mail and my wife will call the provider, who shall remain name-less, again. A few Yiddish words spring to mind. I learned long before we were married not to argue with Israeli women - my provider is likely about to learn the same lesson.
- Graham Morrison
Aug 8, 2008
Beijing is my fourth Olympics and it hardly seems four years since I was in Athens for 2004 Games. That might be because the process of getting here has been so time consuming. The accreditation process takes two years and all categories of accreditation are oversubscribed.
The forms go back with supporting evidence and six months on you get an answer. My accreditation type is ‘E' meaning written press for all competition venues. Then there is a timetable for booking a hotel via the organisers, and a flight. Paying for the hotel was an adventure in itself. I had to turn up at the Bank of China in Cannon Street with the cash. And after more form-filling, my precious piece of plastic arrived... an all-in-one accreditation and entry visa. I'd better not lose it!
The flight to Beijing would have been fine had it not been for the typhoon, which caused cancellations from Hong Kong and a seven-hour delay for the connecting flight. Hong Kong International airport might be efficient and state-of-the-art ultimately a departure lounge is a departure lounge. At least my baggage arrived with me. Checked into the hotel at 3.30am and and slept through breakfast.
- Graham Morrison
Aug 5, 2008
'One World One Dream'. Well that's the slogan for the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games, which officially open on Friday August 8. You wouldn't think it though judging by many of the stories in circulation. Human rights, pollution and so on. But hold on, haven't we've heard all this before? Well, yes actually.
The Olympic Games is no stranger to controversy; Moscow suffered a boycott, Los Angeles was going to have unclean air, pollution was said to be one reason why Athens failed to secure the 2000 Games, Athens was almost not built on time for 2004, and so on. While athletes were being urged to stay away from Moscow British companies were busy signing trade deals just as Britain now has significant trade relations with China. Go back further and you'll find more. But then the curtain goes up and the moans of multifarious protesters are drowned out in the euphoria that always engulfs this quadrennial spectacle of international sport.
And in any case, as Seb Coe suggested on TV on Sunday, you ask an athlete to give half their life to their sport then tell them "Sorry, it's off!" Don't think so. It is not as if there is another Wimbledon next year, another F1 race next week. It is four years and their chance might have gone forever. Also, the Olympics is the one chance many smaller sports have of appearing on the world stage in front of millions of people and gaining much needed publicity - important for a healthy and varied choice of sport.