British Army elite fighters should try taking my parents shopping

When I take my mum to Golders Green, she points out every cyclist, pedestrian, dog, car, bus and low-flying bird on the horizon

September 29, 2023 10:09

The British military are definitely missing a few tricks when it comes to training its soldiers to deal with highly stressful situations. In order to test their fortitude and resilience under extreme pressure, some units simulate kidnap situations.

They bundle the soldier into a hooded jacket, blindfold and gag them, tie their hands up, and leave them in the dark in silence for hours, alone and isolated.

What jolly japes! Sounds like the latest luxury beauty treatment at Selfridges for tired posh women bored of seaweed wraps and electrolysis.

No. If they really want to put their elite fighters to the test they ought to get them to take my parents shopping.

First you have to pick my parents up from Stamford Hill. They make their slow walk to the car, my mother with her walking frame, struggling with every step. My father, 90, tottering feebly next to her, walking precariously but unaided because he’s far too stubborn to use a stick.

The slow walk gives my mum a chance to take in my appearance. “Misha, you didn’t brush your hair?  Why is it so big and frizzy? You couldn’t find time to brush your hair? Why do you look so tired?”

My mother always insists on sitting in the back of the car. It calms her nerves, she says. She hoists and heaves herself up with considerable difficulty. “Oy, I am so tired now.  Why is your car so high? Why it’s so dirty?  You can’t clean it?” I then have the customary physical wrestle with my dad over which of us will lift my mother’s walker into the boot of the car.  My dad refuses to admit his frailty and thinks we just won’t notice him buckling under the weight of a bag of shopping.

He, as usual, demands to know when I last checked the oil and water.  He is obsessed with it. I haven’t checked either for at least 30 years. I can’t even remember how.  I pretend I did it ‘just a couple of weeks ago’.  My dad is outraged. Two weeks?  TWO WEEKS?

Once we’re all in and heading for Golders Green, the fun starts.

My mother begins loudly praying we will survive the journey. She points out every cyclist, pedestrian, dog, car, bus, low-flying bird on the horizon.  She bargains with God, convinced we will die before we even get to the kosher butchers. She sucks in her breath so audibly that I become convinced she’s seen a meteor heading our way. Then suddenly comes a sustained, ear-piercing scream. She screams so loudly that I nearly jump out of the car and roll into the roadworks ditch for cover and my dad almost has a triple heart attack.

She’s screaming because there were some roadworks for about 40 metres on my side of the road but the lorry coming in the other direction had stopped at the other end  and flashed its lights at me to pass. The lorry waited patiently for me to come through,  “Miiiishaaaaaa!  What are you doing? You’re going to kill us! Menahem stop her!”

We try to explain we were never in danger. She replies with “take off your kippah, Menahem, maybe a lorry driver will try to kill us”. My dad sighs and takes off his kippah.

My mother tells me that she’s seen all the talk on the telly about the magic fat injection. I say nothing. Just keep driving, looking straight ahead. She’s very interested in this miracle fat injection, says she’s maybe thinking of getting one for herself. Still silence from me. Keep looking ahead. Never know when a murderous lorry driver might materialise. My mother continues with maybe though they wouldn’t let her because of her old age and all the medications. I say nothing. “But, maybe, Misha, you could have one.” Gosh, didn’t see that coming.

We pass by American Dry Cleaners. My mother scoffs. “Ha, Menahem. What’s so good about that?  Why A-meeee-ri-can? So what?” My dad says, “Maybe they clean it extra good?”

“What?! You think just because Am-errrr-eee-can it must be better? How stupid!” My dad looks confused, unsure how he came to be defending the dry cleaners.

My mother screams again. A Charedi man on a bicycle has just weaved around us at the lights.

I send up a small prayer to God myself. At least my mother sits in the back. It calms her nerves.

We’re still only in Stamford Hill.

September 29, 2023 10:09

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