Family News September 2023

News from Michael and Claire – September 2023

Sadly, Claire’s mother Anita passed away at the end of 2022. She had dementia for many years, and was unable to speak or recognise people for the last two years, but was still able to smile. She was wonderfully looked after at Whitchurch Lodge in Edgware with dedicated staff. The home somehow managed without agency staff right through the pandemic and did an amazing job. May her memory be for a blessing.

Artichoke flowers from our garden

As summer draws to its inevitable close, we can look back on some halcyon days and times of peace and enjoyment. Our first trip abroad for several years was a delight, as we took the train to Rotterdam, and then spent a week in Gouda and a week in Amsterdam, with day trips to Delft, Den Haag, Utrecht and Leiden. We attended shabbat services at three Liberal Synagogues and met up with Cantor Nachshon Roderigues Pereira of the Bendigamos Sephardi community.

The cottage where we stayed in the centre of Gouda.

August in London was a delight too, with lots of sunshine, warmth and rain, and as a result three to four times as many runner beans and tomatoes as we have ever managed before. The sense of a time of fulness culminated in our fortieth wedding anniversary, with a small gathering of friends and family, and lots of love, home made food and reflection.

Our wedding in August 1983

As September began Jacob arrived to spend a week with us. Last time he came was in April – he arrived with his girl-friend Holly Mandel and they promptly went off to Paris and got engaged! So now much of the talk is about wedding plans for next summer in California — watch this space..

At the beginning of August our second group of guests arrived under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Angela and Andrew found their own place to live last December. Iryna and her 15 year old son Denys were living towards the top of a high rise in Kyiv, and with Russian planes constantly overhead, found their lives intolerable. They have excellent English and Iryna was able to get a job with the Red Cross in London, having done similar work in Kyiv. Denys has missed a lot of school but is very bright and will soon catch up once he gets into the Barnet school system  – which is taking a while to sort out, but we are hopeful.

Michael has continued his teaching of classical Greek, his mental health campaigning, his interfaith work, leading occasional prayer services, mentoring rabbis and student rabbis, and his studies of Arabic and Judeo-Arabic, as well as working on a bible commentary. There is a lot to do and a lot to write up, as having the time to think leads (sometimes) to inspiration and creativity.

Claire is writing up her book on mental hospital policy, politics and practice in England in the 1920s. She too is continuing her Arabic studies, and also continues to field history queries from individuals and the media on behalf of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Benjamin has just finished editing the second edition of the 80,000 hours career guide about how to find a fulfilling career that does good. You can find his two minute summary of the book here.

Last year we wrote that something unexpected happened every day. This year has not felt quite like that, but most of the time life is pleasantly full. The bumper crops from the garden match the fullness of our hearts.  May 5784 be a sweet and peaceful year for us all. In a world where so much needs putting right, we need to maintain both our social anger and our personal joy.

Vegan food at the Jia Restaurant, South Kensington, 4th September 2023