- Gideon Schneider
Dec 5, 2008
If you’ve ever found yourself being chased down Regent’s Street by an angry mob of drooling zombies baying for your blood, tarmac melting beneath your feet, while Eros swoops down from Piccadilly Circus taking aim at your forehead – you’re either starring in the latest George A. Romero project, or more likely, you woke up several moments later reconsidering the wisdom of downing three glasses of Merlot before bed. Some situations are so implausible they could only be a hallucination or celluloid projections on a silver screen. Sometimes, however, a real life event can be so difficult for the mind to assimilate that despite all the evidence, the participant is convinced it must be a dream.
A scene in the new film Waltz With Bashir looks at how one Israeli soldier coped with his involvement in the traumatic events of the 1982 Lebanon war. The narrator explains that the soldier had disassociated himself from the unspeakable reality by seeing events as if they were a film of someone else’s life. The movie left me wondering whether I too had been ‘disassociating’ in the way I had dealt with two recent health scares.
The first of my health scares came the day after I had my tonsils taken out, five months ago. I woke at 2.30am to find thick, hot blood streaming from my mouth. An incessant out-pouring fast covered my sheets and hands in a sticky coating of crimson goo. The back of my throat had not healed sufficiently and I was haemorrhaging worse than an extra in a Tarantino film. Leaving a snail-like trail of glistening blood in my wake, I lurched to my mother’s room, waking her with shouts that sounded more like gurgles, whereupon she jumped out of bed and rushed me to the car. We raced to the A&E where, still gushing, I was seated on a trolley bed and wheeled to a cubicle. Around my head nurses and doctors flapped and buzzed. A white-gowned woman materialised with a drip while an attending nurse looked at the bucket I was clutching and mildly said, “heavens, that’s a lot of blood you’ve lost.”
- Paul Lester
Nov 27, 2008
It's been a busy week.
I interviewed Glen Campbell for a national newspaper, and Johnny Marr, late of The Smiths, for my book on influential (ie no one's heard of them) art-punk band Wire. I even taught Spanish to some schoolchildren (it's a sideline I have). All very impressive, I'm sure. But still no women, or indeed woman. What to do? As it says in the Torah: "A man without a female at Chanucah is like chicken soup without matzo balls." That was the Torah, wasn't it? Maybe it was my friend Simon after one too many mint Aeros.
And then it hit me in the face like a piece of cold gefilte fish - the local golf club! No, I'm not labouring under the delusion that the 18th hole is a great place to pick up girls. I mean the singles-night disco they hold at the aforementioned haven for wannabe Tigers and Torrances. For years I had driven past it and seen the tantalising white banner: "Over-30s parties, every Friday night". Even, if I was honest, while I was married, I'd pass it and wonder what manner of hedonistic thrills and Dionysian excess lay within.
- Gideon Schneider
Nov 27, 2008
I have a terrible affliction for which there is no cure. Try as I might, I can't seem to stop myself arriving on time. I aim to turn up fashionably late to parties, but I'm always there before the host. When meeting friends I'll call in a panic to say I'm running ten minutes late, only to turn up ten minutes early. The Swiss could set their clocks by me. With my height, I should change my name to Ben and chime on the hour. Unfortunately most things in life aren't so punctual, so I'm often left waiting around with only my frustration to keep me company. Postponed planes, tardy trains and friends who get delayed are the bane of my life. So it's been refreshing that my chemotherapy-induced sickness, at least, has demonstrated such rigid timekeeping.
So far it's been one week on, one week off. That's how I've been living for the past two months. The seven days following each of my bimonthly treatments always see me drop half a stone in weight as the nausea makes eating a struggle. I've tried various cocktails of anti sickness drugs - paper umbrella not included - and even resorted to wearing special wrist bands designed to reduce symptoms, all to no avail. However, while doubled over a bucket, red faced and writhing, I've felt reassured that by the end of the week I'll be back to normal again.
In the throes of an ‘off' week, while curled up in bed and nursing my aching abdomen, a friend from Gloucestershire phoned for a chat. Knowing that my ‘on' week was approaching, he invited me to visit him out west. It would be relaxing, he promised, and at the very least a distraction from treatment. It would also break up the monotony. I knew I'd be well from Wednesday so agreed to take the train over for the weekend. If only the weather was as predictable as the seasons of my sickness.
- Anshel Pfeffer
Nov 26, 2008
Sometimes you can just sense that a political campaign is on a losing streak. I got that feeling on Monday, driving in to Tel-Aviv and seeing the new giant Kadima election posters on the Kibbutz Galuyot Road. There's something about Tzipi Livni's glum and unphotogenic face - and the inarticulate slogan: "What is Good for the Country". It sounds just as bad in Hebrew.
Kadima has the savviest PR team in the business. Eyal Arad and Lior Horev are not only Israel's premier spin-doctors, they are in demand around the world. Legendary ad-man Reuven Adler was the brains behind the transformation of Ariel Sharon from warmonger to cuddly grandpa. If these three can't make Livni look a bit sexier, then she's in trouble.
My premonition seems to have been confirmed by last night's Channel One poll. After a month in which Kadima was polling almost even with Likud, the governing party is now trailing by ten percent.
Nominations have opened for the chair of the Union of Jewish Students. Campaigning began on November 18 and continues for a week before the candidates' road show arrives in Scotland for the first leg of the annual tour.
Canvassing around the major campuses over the years has become innovative, with last year's election featuring sophisticated websites, YouTube videos, interviews and podcasts. This year's election, with more locations than ever before, will be no less hotly contested.
The new road show format has increased participation over the past few years, with more than 700 people voting last year in the election. The 2008 Road Show will visit nine venues over two weeks, culminating in Manchester on December 4.
The chair of the All-Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism, John Mann MP, with Yair Zivan, campaigns director of the Union of Jewish Students, tackled contemporary antisemitism on campus this week in a panel discussion at Nottingham University.
Attended by around 65 students, Jewish and non-Jewish, including some prominent members of the Nottingham Palestine Society and the student union executive, the panel offered a challenging discussion over issues of whether anti-Zionism and anti-religious statements should be deemed threatening, alongside boycotts of Israeli goods and prominent Israeli academics.
Dani Orelowitz, of Nottingham University JSoc, said: "For such a large campus, it was very positive for us to be talking about the issues on our own terms, individual to this university." Mr Zivan said: "UJS is determined to continue to lead the fight against antisemitism on campus, and educating people is a key part of that effort. The message was positive around defining what antisemitism is and how all students can tackle it in their own personal way."
What began as a small fundraising event run exclusively for Bristol J-Soc turned into a campus-wide variety show attended by more than 300 students.
Spotlight Darfur, with the help of the student branch of the Aegis Trust - Britain's leading NGO campaigning against genocide - became the society's most successful function.
A range of performing arts' societies attached themselves to the event, which showcased acts such as cabaret and pantomime, live jazz and improvised comedy.
- Gideon Schneider
Nov 20, 2008
Claire circles the room and hones in on the unfamiliar face. She approaches. "I've put you on the list and will be back when I'm finished with my regulars." I'm attending a chemotherapy session at University College Hospital in London. Claire is there to offer patients complementary therapies while the drugs kick in. For anyone sceptical about the benefits, her warm smile is enough to melt all doubts.
"Get your feet out," she says to Jenny, the 29-year-old girl seated next to me in the out-patient ward. Jenny slides off her striped socks to reveal metallic pink toenails. The two women chat about how Jenny - who was recently diagnosed with cervical cancer - has been getting on since last week's chemo session. Claire places the patient's feet - pink toenails and all - in her lap and begins to massage them. Reflexology stimulates blood circulation round the body. But, more importantly, it relaxes Jenny as potent drugs are dripped into her veins.
As I offer Jenny a Rolo, she tells me that the hardest thing about her diagnosis was realising that she won't be able to carry a baby. She delayed addressing her cancer in order to undergo IVF treatment to store her eggs. Her mum, engrossed in the Times crossword puzzle, has been by her side throughout all her hospital visits. Jenny has also been amazed by how supportive her boyfriend of four months has been. She's relieved that the side-effects haven't been as terrifying as she feared.
- Gideon Schneider
Nov 13, 2008
The timing of the US election couldn't have been more perfect. As all those reheated Amy Winehouse exposes dried up, my thirst for drama needed quenching. Headlines such as ‘Dizzy Broad Runs For Camden Pub' were replaced by the more compelling ‘Dizzy Broad Runs For White House'. For me, Sarah Palin's achievements as well as those of her victorious nemesis, confirmed the mantra that in America you can achieve anything. The trouble is, when anything is achievable, how do you know when you've achieved enough? My cancer helped me find an answer.
Growing up in NW London, life's key objective was keeping up with the Jones-ovitzes. Other people's expectations of me reflected this. At twelve it was casually assumed by all that I should give up an hour of every evening, for one whole year, to learning the entire Torah portion for my barmitzvah. Decent grades were anticipated for GCSEs and A-levels; and as for university attendance, in the suburbs that wasn't expected - that was a given.
Now the expectations feel weightier than ever. There's a list of boxes to tick: marriage, kids, career, car, counselling. For now though, that to-do list remains mostly unticked and my suspicion is, it doesn't even end there. If I do ever have children I'm sure I'll be expected to expect things from them too.
- Simon Friend
Nov 13, 2008
Two British students went to Brussels this week as delegates of UJS for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Aaron Kienwald, president of London J-Socs; and Aaron Collins, of Bristol University Jewish Society, joined 20 other members of the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) at a service which filled the Brussels Great Synagogue.
The two-day introduction to the "Year of Tolerance", an initiative created under the auspices of former Polish Prime Minister Aleksander Kwasniewski, was attended by several hundred political and Jewish leaders from across Europe, members of the European Parliament, diplomats, and other dignitaries, as well as survivors of the Holocaust, and was the first of its kind on a European level.