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  • Food Inglorious Food

    Gideon Schneider
    Oct 31, 2008

    With a sultry voice she unveiled a list of ingredients like it was a catalogue of forbidden pleasures. At the same time a thick, gooey flow of rich Belgian chocolate sauce oozed from the carafe, inching its way to the moist, spongy cake below. Normally the advert would have me salivating like an oligarch over an oil well, but my recent chemotherapy session had left my stomach churning so violently that I gagged at the mere thought of eating. This wasn't just nausea, this was M&S nausea.

    Upon leaving the hospital I had felt fine and even dared to believe that I'd escaped the dreaded side effects. It was only next morning, on waking, that I realised the sickening truth. As I lurched to the bathroom, my agitated intestines felt more stirred up than a United Synagogue made to consider the appointment of a woman rabbi. My stomach was making sounds any soldier would be scared to hear on the battlefield. In fact I felt so ill I couldn't even face the prospect of swallowing the very anti-sickness pills that were designed to soothe me.

    Breakfast was out. Lunch was a no-go. At dinner I made a plucky attempt and managed a bowl of plain spaghetti. It wasn't so much the constant feeling of nausea, but the even stranger sensation that food had become unappetising. Food is usually the quickest way to my heart; my addiction to it is rivalled only by my Facebook dependency. I've always seen seconds as essential and desert de rigueur. At a recent wedding where the bride looked like a meringue, I found myself drooling for all the wrong reasons. I couldn't help thinking that a scoop of vanilla ice-cream with raspberry coulis was a more fitting accompaniment than bridesmaids. But with treatment messing with my love of fressing, I felt more disorientated that Kerry Katona on This Morning.

  • Pain

    Paul Lester
    Oct 28, 2008

    It was while I was sitting in the dentist's chair yesterday afternoon, having emergency treatment for an infected nerve, heavily sedated but still sufficiently compos mentis to feel the miniature pneumatic drill laying waste to my periodontal ligament, that I realised it's nice, at times of crisis, to have a woman around. Any woman. Unfortunately, there were only two ladies in the dentist's operating chamber (that's not the technical term, by the way, it just sounds appropriately brutal and unpleasant), and they were the dentist herself, plus her female assistant - three if you count the big girl's blouse in the chair. As the pain increased - no, intensified, because it sounds more serious - and visions of Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man appeared in my fevered brain, I had just one inclination: to hold somebody's hand (two, actually, the other being to shout, "Yes, it's safe!" really loud at various points of the procedure). And because my mummy was busy doing Jewish-mother things at the time, like making kneidlach and kvelling over my latest column in the JC in a town far, far away (St Albans), there was only one thing for it: I had to grab hold of the dental assistant's hand. Really hard. How hard? Put it this way: I squeezed it white, until it looked like one of those gloves that posh ladies, or butlers, used to wear. Meanwhile the dentist began treating the inside of my mouth like an amusement park. Is this weird? Have you ever squeezed a dental assistant's hand? Anyone's hand? I wonder if it's illegal. Certainly if you approached a total stranger in a park and began squidging parts of their body, they'd have good reason to get you locked up. Hmmm. Hope she doesn't sue. If you're reading this, miss, I sincerely apologise, and by way of consolation, feel absolutely free to squeeze my hand anytime, although probably best not to do it while I'm driving.

  • Finding Chemo

    Gideon Schneider
    Oct 24, 2008

    I arrived at the hospital for my first chemotherapy session. This appointment was about as appealing a prospect as cleaning for Pessach. The dreaded ‘c' word has so many negative connotations it makes ‘colonic irrigation' seem poetic in contrast. Admittedly, my fears were not grounded in any actual knowledge of what the treatment involved. But in any event, it didn't seem like the type of thing anybody would include on a list of ‘try before you die' experiences.

    The ward looked like a 1970s hotel lobby redeemed by leather easy chairs far more comfortable than anything I had at home. I looked for a place to park myself, but all chairs were occupied by other patients. Note to self: next time, turn up early to guarantee a window seat. While waiting, a woman in uniform passed through the ward with a trolley brimming with free sandwiches and a cornucopia of fruit. Singapore Airlines could not match this level of service.

    A silent version of musical chairs was being played in the ward. When one person's treatment finished, his vacant spot was greedily filled by the next candidate. I took my seat and was told I'd have to wait, since the expensive chemotherapy drugs could only be concocted after my arrival, like a pricey Gordon Ramsey dish too luxurious to be prepared unless specifically ordered. My sister had come along to keep me company. She found a small table and laid out the playing cards for a stop-gap game of poker. Her hand was stronger so I wasn't exactly put out by the interruption of my attending nurse's arrival.

  • Meeting over Leeds residence met with student anger

    Simon Friend
    Oct 23, 2008

    A meeting held this week on the future of the residential Hillel House in Leeds was met with some anger from students from Leeds Metropolitan University. The meeting, chaired by Daniel Marcus, chief executive of UJS Hillel, revealed plans to accommodate Jewish students from Leeds Uni in new digs seconds from the original Hillel House, which will continue to serve kosher food. Plans for students from the Met are not finalised, which worried some. Danielle Foux, a second-year student at Leeds Met, said: "A lot of people were upset with the plans, as integration between students from both universities is vital to the Jewish student community." Mr Marcus insisted that UJS Hillel is "working on excellent options for Met students".

  • University of St Andrews has the largest J-Soc north of Leeds

    Simon Friend
    Oct 23, 2008

    The University of St Andrews has a record 120 Jewish Society members this year, making it the largest J-Soc north of Leeds. "This is an extremely proud achievement as the university only has 7,200 students," says Hayden Krasner, president of the society. Jewish students in Scotland have usually preferred Edinburgh or Glasgow, but due to its growing popularity, St Andrews has now been placed on the Chaplaincy Succah trail and has enough regulars to warrant J-Soc staples such as Shabbat meals and bagel brunches.

  • I’ve ventured out of my social comfort zone. Big mistake

    Paul Lester
    Oct 23, 2008

    It's great when your life starts shaping up like a bad episode of the most clichéd soap opera. This is what happened to me last week when I received a message on my mobile from a girl I'd previously met at a launch party for an expensive new designer brand of fizzy water (Eau Dear, I think it was); a girl who appears to base her texts on the collected works of the Hollyoaks scriptwriters.

    "It would be lovely to go for a drink some time," came her reply to an earlier invitation from yours truly. "But I don't think I could handle anything serious at the moment or my head will explode. So let's just be friends."

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not in the business of skull detonation. But I do wonder why she felt the need to deter me quite so cornily. Did she think I was going to turn up on our date with an engagement ring and a copy of Bride & Groom? Apart from anything else, I don't need any more friends - I haven't enough time to see the ones I've already got.

  • Funny

    Paul Lester
    Oct 19, 2008

    I'm looking forward to tonight because I'm going to review Sarah Silverman in concert at the Hammersmith Apollo for the JC. This is exciting for two reasons. One, I get to see whether Silverman really is, as per her reputation, one of the funniest comedians on the planet. And two, there's a chance I might meet a woman. I mean, I'm bound to meet women - after all, they comprise half the world's population - even if it's just the briefest of exchanges with the girl in charge of the guest-list or the lady who shows you to your seat with a torch. Do they still have those? I sincerely hope so. But will I, you know, Meet A Woman, one I can invite to my parents' flat on high holidays? Gigs can be good places to strike up conversations with complete strangers, especially when you're brandishing a notepad and pen in a deliberate attempt to get females to ask, "Why are you brandishing a notepad and pen?" Actually, they're probably more likely to say "hold" than "brandish", but it's good to have high expectations.
    Then again, what's the likelihood of meeting a nice Jewish girl at a Sarah Silverman show? Slim, like Silverman herself. Because from my experience - only vaguely empirical, I'll admit - Jewish women don't usually find Jewish comedians very funny. I knew one who refused to watch Woody Allen films on the grounds that he was a self-absorbed neurotic, narcissistic nihilist, to which I'd airily reply: "And your problem with that is...?" Another refused to be in the same room whenever Curb Your Enthusiasm came on TV. "Too Jewish" was the gist of her criticism. Maybe the audience will be full of Jewish men, then. Still, some of them are bound to have sisters. Better get my notepad and pen ready...

  • Imperial College student 'trapped' within Gaza

    Simon Friend
    Oct 17, 2008

    Emblazoned on the front cover of this week's issue of Felix, the Imperial College London student newspaper, is the story of Zohair Abu Shaban, an electrical-engineering graduate from Gaza University who is, apparently, unable to accept his place at Imperial College for a masters degree owing to being "trapped" within Gaza by an Israeli border patrol.

    The piece chronicles Zohair's failed attempt at crossing both the Erez and Rafah borders of Gaza.
    Additionally it claims that "there are an estimated 600 students in Gaza who have been accepted into foreign universities, not taking into account promising students who have been deterred from even applying".

    The article quotes a spokesman from the Israeli Foreign Ministry as saying: "Gaza has become a hostile entity ruled by Hamas, a group that have essentially declared war."

  • Shocking Orthodox late night internet searching

    Simon Friend
    Oct 17, 2008

    This week, a religious student at Bar Ilan University, after being struck with a bout of insomnia, ventured to the halls of residence's computer cluster in the early hours of the morning to discover strictly Orthodox men browsing the internet's more questionable material.

    "I was in shock," she recalled. "I passed them and they just continued surfing pornographic sites as if they were watching the news. These are not people that I know; they are too old to be students, and anyone can enter the university, so they simply took advantage of the situation," she said.

    The university is aware that many Charedim from the nearby predominantly strictly Orthodox town of Bnei Brak take advantage of the room in order to surf the net, as internet access at home is not usually permitted by rabbis. A Bar Ilan spokesperson told Israeli news website ynet: "In coordination with the union, we reached a decision to decrease the amount of hours the offices are open and we were indeed successful in significantly reducing the phenomenon.