Life & Culture

'Living Well' - in the JC!

Rachel Gaffin Fidler writes about appearing in a full-page advertisement in the JC, along with her family


It's Friday night at Finchley Reform Synagogue. I make my way over to the trestle table covered in pairs of tea lights in order to take part in the communal candle lighting. As we pause to let everyone strike their matches ready for the off, the ex-theatre director, now museum director, standing next to me whispers, "How'd you get that then?" I smile, and whisper back, "My agent." She looks surprised and amused in equal measure. "We even had to schlep into town for a recall," I add, knowlingly. She audibly snorts before composing herself ready to light. 

She is referring to the full page ad of a family enjoying Pesach in the JC. Our family. Apparently we're "living well".  We eye a juicy, tasty chicken (Kosher, no doubt) and carrots - tsimmes? - and some other side dish I've not been able to identify. Never mind the photos of the family, I wish my chicken came out of the oven looking like that every Shabbat!

The recall was an event itself, involving picking up grandparents of varying ages (but all over 80) with varying degrees of mobility and schlepping them by tube into the West End, navigating steps, stairs, ramps, lifts, minding the gaps… it was a marathon itself and we should have got the job just for turning up in one piece.  We're lucky the grandparents in this family are so game!  "Oh," the agency threw in at the last minute, "Do you have any standby children and grandparents you can bring in with you?"  What?!  Panic calls to neighbours and cousins followed and finally we were confirmed for the job.  

I had actually shared a photo of said ad (kindly shared with me by the deputy editor of this esteemed publication) on Facebook the day before it was published. I wanted to head off any shock/surprise/choking on breakfast/spitting of coffee the following morning, and my post was greeted with emojis varying from likes to loves to crying with laughter.

Reactions from friends and family varied: a few comments on the husband's new beard, the odd 'hilarious' from various sisters-in-law, and, bizarrely, someone asked if I'd cooked the chicken.  Ummmm….  In my (biased) opinion, they didn't choose the most flattering photos of the kids, but the grandparents looked great!  And, while it's not going to kick-start my serious acting career, it was certainly fun. I walked into the office on the Monday morning to find the ad stuck to my computer monitor - just in case I'd missed it, no doubt. My colleagues are such comedians.

It was a fun couple of hours, the shoot.  We persuaded the photographer to take a photo of the whole family, which is gorgeous but I wish I'd dressed in more than my usual jeans and striped jumper. The 'client' sat at the back of the studio, a row of stony faces giving nothing away. Maybe they thought they'd gone for the wrong family, I worried. But the crew were just lovely.  

The stylist insisted on clipping onto my mother a pair of huge, silver earrings - my mother, who's never worn jewellery in her life, apart from a wedding ring (but who enjoyed being made up rather more than I think she'd imagined). My father-in-law (they wanted one grandparent from each side) seemed to spend the two hours veering between amusement and bemusement, and my husband enjoyed the whole experience rather too much, in my opinion, and now wants his own agent. As for the kids, they loved the novelty of the spotlight and attention. Even the standbys got their moment in the spotlight, with gorgeous photos thrown in for a memento.

Of course, the assistant make-up artist turned out to be the wife of an old friend of my brother, and sister-in-law to a family we're good friends with at shul.  Six degrees of separation - just three degrees in the Jewish world.  Chag Pesach Sameach!

Rachel Gaffin is an actor.  Rachel Fidler is the Youth & Education Manager at FRS. She copes very well with her split personality, loves both jobs, but wishes she got to be the former more often.

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