The Holiday (Christmas 2015)
Jack and I shacked…up last night…a duvet for our bed
Jim and I were there as well
sharing the blanket, pillow and glass.
Sherry dropped in to lie with us..and soothe our furrowed brow
and Champagne popped her cork
a Christmas time from hell..
It didn’t happen in this world..a world of pain and crime
It didn’t happen in my world..I just thought I’d make a rhyme..
I’m much older now, but it has the advantage of finding joy in “simple things” Last night the wind howled past my window, treating me to a rhythm of gusts and silence that lulled me to sound sleep, one of the best nights sleep I’ve had in years. So perhaps there was a message in the wind from the South to allow myself the space, for now, to enjoy simple things
This evening it was a moment of absolute beauty. On the horizon the clouds were a frame of dark grey and rolling black against a perfect pink sky that melted into a pale blue.
It was the perfect background for a wafer thin moon as it’s brightest light. As I looked out of my window the trees were silhouetted against this canvas. Oaks and Beech trees were like black girders sticking straight up into the blue, rigid and cold. But a little closer two large Willows which, instead of muscular immobile branches had “wisps” which were dancing in the breeze, Their movement full of grace and elegance were balletic. it was a moment of real beauty. It was free and I am so blessed that I’m able to see these things now.
Stand awhile and watch..
Kibbutz Grofit stands atop a man-made hill top on the road between Ber Sheva and Eilat in the Negev Desert and in 1973 was one of the youngest kibbutzim in Israel and, though that’s another story, was where I found myself as a non Jewish volunteer. Nothing exceptional about that except that 1973 was the year of the Yom Kippur War and found Israel once more defending itself against aggression. This is my “Eyes Closed” story…
The kibbutz had it’s own small garrison, tucked away behind barricades overlooking the Jordanian border. I saw the soldiers every so often with binoculars in their hands keeping watch across the desert.
As well as this, it was the communes responsibility to patrol the inner ring of the compound. One of the volunteers and an Israeli resident would walk the compound twice during the night along with “Bomba” the biggest dog I have ever seen.“Schmera” as the duty was known was a duty I didn’t mind because it meant the next working day was a holiday.
The first time I did it, was nothing more than an uneventful adventure along with a kibbutz member who was great company. We met at the “Hador Ocal” the kibbutz cafe, the Israeli carried his Uzi because we weren’t allowed to carry guns at all. This was just as well because I’d never won a prize at the fair for shooting. We all did a circle of the compound, walked back to the meeting point, drank tea for an hour and then completed the second tour.
On my second duty I arrived as usual at 11.30pm and poured a cup of coffee ready for the first tour. I collected Bomba, who in all my experience of “faithful friends” really was our best friend. He went everywhere with us, around the kibbutz, and down in the fields. Bomba was always there. He sat with me patiently waiting for the Israeli to join us for the first tour. We both sat and waited.
At a quarter past midnight I started to get a bit concerned about why my partner hadn’t turned up. He hadn’t been on kibbutz for long and had a reputation for being a “ladies man” or a lazy sod” depending on who I talked to. At half past twelve I made the decision to get on with the tour anyway. I had Bomba,and there had never been a problem before, so why tonight.=? We just had to walk the compound and inspect the perimeter, nothing moved in the night the stars were still in the sky above and the heat meant that there was no wind to move the trees around us.
Bomba escorted me on the walk as we arrived back at the “Hador Ocal” for warm coffee and to relax ready for the second tour. I was sure the Israeli would be waiting for us with an excuse as to why he was late. He wasn’t there. It didn’t matter though, we would wait till three o’clock and complete the duty .Until then I made a cup of coffee, spread some mattza and read a book. Three o’clock came and we got ready for the second tour, no partner, no gun, just Bomba and me.
Out of the building we turned left towards the chicken houses and cow sheds. The sky pitch black, no lights except my torch we walked out towards the sheds in the open ground. Suddenly Bomba took off towards the cattle sheds, with no warning, he just took off into the the night and disappeared towards the buildings. I stood still wondering the hell to do. No gun, no partner and now no dog.
There were obviously enemy infiltrators behind the sheds coming toward me. The scene was already in my head like a block buster movie, the small enemy group silently creeping into the compound, the grenade pins pulled and ready to explode. The machine guns cocked ready to cut down anyone who got in their way.
I threw myself to the desert floor, trying to figure out my next move.
How do I warn the kibbutz?
The enemy could only have been two or three hundred yards away and Bomba had gone after them, so they would be expecting somebody to be with him. All the time the questions shot through my head as I lay still, trying to keep as low as I could.
How could I warn the soldiers?
If I can crawl to the volleyball court and switch on the floodlights the sentries would see them and come to help.
Or the enemy would see me first and shoot.
Or the sentries would see them, think I was one of the enemy lighting the kibbutz up and shoot me.
I even considered telling the enemy I was not Israeli but an Englishman, only a volunteer as if that would have made a difference. I turned and started to crawl back towards the buildings, keeping as low as I could. I heard movement behind me, very close, I turned not knowing what was going to be there and wondered if it was going to be the last thing I was ever going to see?
It was Bomba, trotting back towards me as big as ever. What he must have thought of me we’ll never know, he made no judgement though because he stopped by my side until I got up and moved towards the kibbutz buildings. Whatever had distracted him wasn’t going to put a bullet in me that night.
The first thing I had to do was report to the kibbutz leaders about the situation and the missing guard. The committee member had to go round and wake the volunteers up for the days work. Me, I went back to bed, the drama of the night slipped into oblivion. As far as I know the invisible partner was warned that he would be expelled, if he ever missed another duty.
In the end it was just another adventure.
Why did Bomba run? I still have no idea.
It was the sixties and as a fifteen year old I’d always been more interested in sport than girls, and the Friday night visits to the local dance hall was so often merely an opportunity to listen to the music.
The strutting “cocks” of the town stood on the balcony looking down on the dance floor where they would snap their fingers to one of the beautiful girls moving sensually below. Me, I sat downstairs on the seats around the edge of the floor like one of the young runts of the litter hoping, praying for a dance and perhaps to walk a girl home.
Week after week it was groundhog day, midnight came and if I danced at all it was with one of the girls also left at the side of the hall. Until that particular Friday evening when a girl walked across the dance floor in my direction. Now I was the sort of lad that looked behind him, to see the “good looking” lad she must have been coming over to. But no, she approached me.
“My friend likes you. Can she come over?”
I looked across the floor, the girl she was pointing to was gorgeous, long blond hair, strong chiselled features and a fabulous mini skirt that extenuated her legs.
I played it as cool as I could, with saliva running down my mouth.
“Yes, tell her to come over.” We moved upstairs to the balcony and kissed for hours. It was beautiful and everything I’d hoped it would be.
The library in St Paul, Minnesota became the catalyst for a major change in my life, where I read “Anthem” by Ayn Rand. The story of being an individual and taking responsibility for my actions. It was 1968 and the lesson still took me over thirty years or more to really take shape.
From this book and “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” followed which more or less introduced me to the idea of the entrepreneur and my distaste of socialism in all it’s forms.
Move forward many years and once again I was in Minnesota and had the honour of being invited to a Gathering of the Upper Mdewakanton Lakota Community where I met their Chief, talked to the people and, most importantly, invited to join the group around the sacred fire as prayers were said to The Six Directions.
When I returned to England, the first book I read was Calvin Luther Martin’s “The Way Of The Human Being” a group of stories around the lives of the Native Peoples before, during and after the coming of Europeans.
It introduced me to the spiritual and the physical side of being a Native American.
Picture this and tell me it doesn’t happen any more. A man, it could be any man, but let’s say it’s me, is invited into your dining room and shown to the table. He (I) sit down and you bring me a cup of coffee. I thank you and sit chatting to the other men around the table. You (if you’re female) bring a plate of bread, cheese and some jam over and place it in front of us.
We continue to talk about football, the weather and the fishing, while you come over and refill our cups with coffee. Finally you bring over the meat, on a plate with just one knife between us and take your seat at the table. A bygone age? Well it may be, I haven’t been back to the Faeroe Islands in over forty years, but this was a typical event when I was there.
The bread, the cheese and the jam were all pretty standard, nothing exclusive, it was the meat the intrigued me. It was raw, dried meat called “skerpikjøt” well aged, wind-dried mutton which has been in a drying shed for “who knows” how long. It is simply that raw, dried meat that you carve slices of and eat as if it’s a biscuit. The smell as it approaches the nose can only be described as the smell of very old, dried meat, and the chewy texture of the meat often used to extenuate the taste which couldn’t be described without reverting to toilet language. But if it was good enough for the Faeroese people it was good enough for me. In fact it might have been one of those rights of passage we see when a white man visits a native camp and is given goats blood to drink.
Now the title of the piece is “Delicious” so the question you may be asking is Was it? Of course not, but it became something I looked forward to after work and was, as I said, like having a biscuit. But if you’re a meat eater do not decry it, because it is one of the healthiest ways of eating meat I know of, raw, unprocessed protein which the fishermen had been taking with them for many, many years while they were away at sea.
So, there is my contribution “skerpikjøt” dried, raw meat. Mmmmmmmm
“It appears to me” the Great Chief said “that all things go in circles,” as he stood below the moon and surveyed the horizon. They circled his world from birth to death, from day to day they brought the seasons which circled his life. From the morning prayer to the evening thanks the circle of events coloured his day, his memories passed from one to another in a circle of generations. His grand son stared up in the footsteps of the Great Chief. “It appears to me” the young warrior said “that all things go in circles.