Category Archives: family life

Ofra Haza, Yemenite Songs and Little Elf

Little Elf has a thing for an Ofra Haza album I found in a British Heart Foundation shop. Partly it’s the music, which she loves to dance to (I say ‘dance’ but I seem to do most of the work), and partly it’s the album cover which is understandably fascinating for any Disney Princess obsessed six year old.

Yesterday evening, everyone was back late from Cubs and Woodcraft Folk and I agreed she could sit up and listen to one song (“Oh, alright. Two.”) before going to bed.

Yemenite Songs is a curious beast. Ofra Haza was a Yemenite Jew and the album was promoted as a return to her roots. But the production is a sometimes harsh mix of early nineties digital beats and metallic clatter cut through with traditional string instruments and PCM synths. But Haza’s astonishing voice is at the centre of it, soaring, shimmering, weaving and winding…It’s a gorgeous, passionate set of performances, full of energy, tragedy and hope. I’m not surprised little elf picks it down from the record shelves so often.

This evening, she started asking some of her favourite questions.

“What country is she from?”

“Israel. She’s a Yemenite Jew.”

“Is she still alive?”

“No. She died quite young. It was very tragic.”

“How old was she when she died?”

“Forty two.”

Little elf contemplates this for a moment and snuggles a bit closer to me.

“So she was younger than you?”


“What did she die of?”

Ah. Complicated and yet not complicated at all. She died of complications brought on by her being infected with HIV*. How to explain AIDS to a six year old? Carefully?

“She was in hospital after a miscarriage…”

“What’s a miscarriage?”

“Well…Sometimes a mother loses her baby at a very early stage…I’m not really explaining this very well…”

Thankfully, little elf changes tack.

“Can I see pictures of her?”

So we get out my iPhone and look at pictures of wonderful, lovely, inspiring Ofra Haza then watch some film on YouTube of her performing at the Montreaux festival in 1990.

“She’s very beautiful,” little elf says.

“Yes,” I say. “She was.”

*There’s a good piece by Peter Paphides about this.

I slipped

I came back from yoga as sweaty and in need of a shower. Ashtanga is a bit of a work-out. I turned on the shower, borrowed supermum’s latest seriously-expensive shampoo (the hairdressers see her coming from miles away but, well, she’s worth it) and hopped into the bath tub.

Then I slipped.

The foot in the bath went sideways and I overbalanced, smacking the side of my other knee against the enamelled ceramic. It was hard. I shouted. There may have been swearing. I regained my balance, hopping and yelling

“Ow! Fuck! Ow!”

Supermum appeared at the bathroom door and asked if I was alright.

“I slipped. I bashed my knee on the bath. It hurts.”

Supermum attempted to keep a straight face, failed and began to laugh.

“I said it hurts.”

More laughter. Or rather, sniggering.

“Oh, go away.”

“Are you really okay? I mean…”

She broke down again into giggles at the spectacle of her husband, standing on one foot, stark naked, rubbing his knee and swearing.

“Well, it was a fright. I was frightened. I mean, I felt…old. This is what is old people do – slip in the bath.”

We’re both quiet for a moment. Then she starts to giggle again.

Homemade Tarot birthday card

I’ve been engaging with Tarot cards as a source of imagery, creative prompts, speculation and self-exploration on and off for about thirty years now.

Recently, I’ve been dipping into them again, blowing the dust off a favoured deck or two and, in parallel, exploring runes (that’s another post but much of the most interesting stuff to be said about runes comes from academic runologists rather than occultists if you ask me. Not that you did).

Anyway, I couldn’t find a birthday that really worked for supermum so I bought a pack of Sharpies, some A4 card and sat down in a cafe late last night. This was my second attempt. Note: I’m not an artist!


The card is the Three of Cups and it’s obviously informed by the classic Rider-Waite. The runes are Anglo-Saxon (the names translate as Wealth, Joy and Gift – runes all have names, not unlike ideograms, though the forms themselves are purely symbolic). It’s interesting how the simple ‘X’ rune has come to carry a whole additional freight of meanings. The stylised sunflowers came zooming in from the Sun major trump. Also (supermum reminded me) we saw a lot of sunflowers at that Anselm Kiefer show at White Cube we went to.

I see the Three of Cups as associated with creativity, joy, birth(days), new beginnings. Supermum asked why one cup was suspended in mid-air and I suggested that two cups are grounded, enabling ones creativity to actually result in something being concretely created (what else would any kind of a birth be?) but acknowledging the need reach into the unknown, to step out into thin air (which would remind one of the Fool).

Much else could be said but I thought you might find this of interest.

Snowday 2012…

…Was pretty ace, actually. Perfect snowman snow. So we rolled large balls (which were a bit filthy because there were only two or three inches of actual snow and we ended up with a lot of grass and mud attached) and made snowmen. The following day, I felt like I’d been running for the first time in years and my arms seemed to be dislocated which is what exactly going from a lie-in to three hours of physical labour without a warm-up will do to you.

Show is heavy. And so are sledges. But I decided that I love both.

Afterwards, humongous crowds of people trooped through our house for tea, coffee, GameCube and intense Barbie play-sessions. Grown-ups filled the kitchen, we ran out of cake and milk and all the left-overs clogging up most of the shelves in the fridge came in immensely useful. We aren’t used to being that social at the moment, being as we usually spend most of our free time wringing our hands about the ongoing real-estate car-crash, the Crack In The Front (not anything the the Doctor could save us from, I fear) and the Woman Downstairs. Silly us.

And then everyone went to bed beautifully and supermum and I watched something from Buffy Season 6. And not even that could bring us down.

There are times when we don’t appreciate what’s right under our noses. But not on a Snowday – we had us a good time and we all slept wrapped up in the sleep of a house that had been filled with love and good times. We must do it again soon.

You want a picture, don’t you?

Little elf accessorises a snowman

Little elf accessorises a snowman

Southport Seafront, clichéd decay, weird paddle boats

The fact is, Southport isn’t anywhere near as bad as I remembered. Every toilet in every chain restaurant seems papered over in posters warning about meow-meow and suggesting one ‘asks Frank’ but the expected gangs of feral tweens wandering the seaside wastelands seem to keep themselves voluntarily confined to a large skatepark. Tottenham and Hackney could learn a thing or two there.

We’ve been here for three days, visiting my elderly relatives and taking a ride round ‘my old haunts’, as a obscure track by The Dream Syndicate might put it. There’s a decaying Victorian park sandwiched between an immense Travel Lodge and an even larger Best Western that offers a pleasantly melancholy tour of Southport’s former grandeur.

I had my iPhone so I took a picture of a decaying and pleasantly melancholy park gazebo (or meow-meow house).

In the distance, there’s the deserted coils of the giant rollercoaster in Pleasureland. I’ve no idea if it opens in winter. Probably not. It looks like the council decided to put a lot of money into it at some point and sort of…stopped. But not before they built a heritage centre. I walked around it (it was closed) and couldn’t really work out what it was for. It was surrounded by truncated lampost pillars, like a Greek ruin.


There’s a circular chamber at the back. Perhaps its the airconditioning for a vast underground system of tunnels and bombshelters. Perhaps not.


Dudelet and I took a walk while we waited for the arcades to open. There are rituals associated with seaside towns which must be observed at all costs and the exchange of money for noise, coloured lights and unreliable hits of serotonin is one of them. Dudelet, though he didn’t know it at the time, was about to win a jackpot amount of tickets* and acquire a memory which will remain with him for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, we passed a building with a sign proclaiming it to be the Smallest Pub In Britain.


Next to the Smallest Pub In Britain was an equally small sternwheel paddle steamer. I have no idea how they acquired it.


Back in the park, we found a deserted miniature railway station. It was a forlorn sight.


Elsewhere, the Most Gothic Hotel In Southport stood waiting R-PAT’s wedding party.


Then I discovered Hipstamatic and turned everything into the 1960s.


And here’s a picture of my family. They’re the cold looking little group trudging wearily towards Fun.


Later this week, I’ll do the happy post about the joyous, uplifting things. But today is all about the cliché and the decay. I suppose I’m listening to too many Cure reissues.

*If you don’t already know, it’s far too complicated to explain.