Now We Are Fifty

Here are some of the things I have done in the past 50 years.

I was born. I learned to walk. I learned to talk. I learned to read.

I went to school. I grazed my knee. I scored a goal. I caught a ball.

I got an orange bicycle for my birthday and I cried because it wasn’t the one I wanted.

I changed schools and wore a blazer and wore a cap and wore a tie. We read James and the Giant Peach and Charlotte’s Web. I cried.

Another time I got a blue bicycle for my birthday and I rode to the shops to buy sweets. When I came out it was gone and I walked all the way home, and I cried. My mummy bought me a silver bicycle the very next day, and a bicycle lock.

At school, I starred as Toad in Toad of Toad Hall. After school, I auditioned for the National Theatre. I didn’t get the part.

Another boy bought me a teddy for my birthday. I slept with it for 40 years.


I went to town on the tube with some friends and on the way back everyone changed train, and I wasn’t quick enough, and the doors closed, and I cried.

We played spin the bottle and I was supposed to kiss a girl, but I didn’t want to.

Later on, I went to see Blade Runner at the cinema and I kissed a girl and I liked it.

Then, in the 80s, I dated a six-foot tall supermodel. She had long legs, all the way up to here. We broke up because our lives were going in different directions.

Later on, we got back together, got married, had kids and were happy.

I’ve read a book by myself. I’ve watched TV by myself. I’ve been to the movies by myself. I’ve been to the theatre by myself. I’ve been to a concert by myself. It was George Michael.

Other people I’ve seen in concert include, Simon & Garfunkel, Oasis, Paul McCartney, Morrissey, Crowded House, twice, Bjork, Barbra Streisand, Stone Roses, 10,000 Maniacs, Suzanne Vega, Elton John, Sting and Madonna, twice.

I took a year off after school. Then I took another.

I was a contestant on Jeopardy.

I won the jackpot on the fruit machine in the university bar, twice. I graduated.

I made a speech at my wedding and everyone laughed. I had a son. I moved to Israel. I had another son. I had a daughter. They learned to walk. They learned to talk. They learned to read. I read to them. I sang to them.

My dad got sick and I held his hand before an operation. I held my mum’s hand during the operation. He was very sick for a while after that, but then he got better.

He met my kids and they loved him and he loved all of us.

I’ve cried reading a book. I’ve cried watching a TV show. I’ve cried during the ads between TV shows. I’ve cried watching a movie. I’ve cried watching a trailer for a movie. I’ve cried on a plane. I’ve cried in the car. I’ve cried listening to a song.

I used to think I was different to everyone. Turns out, I wasn’t.

I used to think I was cleverer than everyone. Turns out, I wasn’t.

I used to think I was better than everyone. Turns out, I wasn’t.

I learned to be OK with that. Turns out, it wasn’t so difficult.

I became friends with my sister and with my brother. Turns out they were there all the time.

Because my wife and I had the same size feet, I sometimes wore her shoes. I always gave them back.

Because my dad and I had the same size feet, I sometimes wore his shoes. There’s no one to give them back to anymore.

I laughed. A lot. My friends made me laugh. My sister and my brother made me laugh. My wife made me laugh. My kids made me laugh. My mum made me laugh. My dad made me laugh.

Later on, my dad got sick again. I sat with him during one of his chemo sessions. He told the nurses they were angels. I spoke with him about dying. He was upset about how sad we all would be. I sat with him when he died. I covered his eyes with dirt. I sealed the lid on his plain pine box. I gave a eulogy. I said kaddish.

Later on, my first son got married, I turned 50, everyone was very kind. I was happy.

In the past 50 years, I have never:

Eaten salad

Broken a bone

Eaten lasagne


Read 1984

Had a beer

Had an operation

Been to Japan

Run a marathon

Eaten sushi

Written a hit record

Been to space

Not been proud of my children

Drunk a cocktail

Been to a Baseball game

Taken drugs

Been arrested

Jumped off a roof

Crashed a car

Put milk on my cereal

Stopped missing my dad

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L’chaim, Fatass

It’s been a busy few weeks both here in the now and back in 1984. I realize that I haven’t been keeping up with my weekly chart rundown so I’ll just go through some of the highlights as we pick up mid-March 30 years ago.

thegovernmentinspector081The beginning of March 1984 was an important time for me. I was in a play. At school. It was The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol and I played the part of the Judge. A solid character role. Certainly not the star but responsible for bringing home a couple of big laughs, nonetheless. We even had some girls from the girls’ school in the play with us. I loved everything about being in a play. Everything except the makeup and the glued on facial hair. I didn’t like that part at all. We performed in the school drama studio on Thursday evening, March 1, 1984 and then subsequently on Friday night and twice on Saturday because of the matinee. I was conflicted. I stayed with a family near school so that I wouldn’t have to drive on Friday night or Saturday, but nothing felt right about the experience even if I wasn’t yet strictly observant in my own life. Continue reading

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Yo Yo Yiggity Yo

Three nights in Barcelona. Three different kosher restaurants. Who knew? Truth is, I don’t usually eat out every night. There were extenuating circumstances. Kinda.

Day 1 – Delicias

I ate here last year. I thought it was the only kosher restaurant in Barcelona and I was going to save it for the middle of the week. I was planning on going back to my apartment after the first day of the show and settle in with some tuna, some crackers, some salt and vinegar crisps and a chunky Kit Kat. But then I waited over 90 minutes for a taxi despite starting at the sign that said “30 minutes from here”. Continue reading

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Good Soldier, Good Soldier

Bunked off yoga as I’m still trying to shake this respiratory infection. Antibiotics seem to have kicked in although I’m still getting those coughing fits twice a day where my visual aperture shrinks to a dot and all I can hear is buzzing. It’s fine if I’m clinging to something solid. Less fine if I’m driving.

Let’s play… cultural catchup.


1goldfinch.JPGI finally finished The Goldfinch laid up in bed on shabbat morning. If I read professionally instead of for pleasure I’m sure I could pick it to pieces. Tartt is still deeply clinical and detached and she probably tries a little bit too hard to squeeze her detached characters into the thing other writers call “plot”. But I don’t read professionally. I read purely for pleasure and for the third time, in as many novels, over a period of twenty years, Ms Tartt has given me nothing but pleasure. It’s a book about Art and Death. If that doesn’t sound like your thing then I have nothing left to recommend it. I liked it very much.

Continue reading

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Galloping Home

Diary entry for Monday February 13, 1984:

Andropov’s funeral tomorrow. Diana, the princess that is, is having another baby. I reckon it’ll be a girl called Rachael or something pretty like that.

Nostrodamus, I ain’t.


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Me and Julia

So, we tried to go to the cinema motzash, but there were no tickets left when we got there. For Nebraska. Which surprised me. I kinda loved Alexander Payne’s last movie The Descendants and I have big, big love for Election. So it was a shame not to get into his latest. Maybe next week.


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It’s Iowa

This morning on my way to the car I passed a tennis ball. On the ground. I’ve never really played tennis, but I do love a tennis ball. I like throwing them and I like catching them.

tennis ball

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Can’t You See I’m Burning Burning?

Publishers like genres. It tells them how they should market the books on their lists and it also helps them set expectations. Genre was the reason Jo Rowling was told she’d never receive a penny beyond her advance for her first book as kids’ books aren’t big sellers.

I won’t say that I like the idea of segregating books by genre, but I can respect the intent of an author to adhere to specific tropes as long as they advance the reader’s understanding and don’t just signify laziness. Continue reading

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Catalano Lives

My diary for this week in 1984 is full of school-related gubbins. On Tuesday, January 24, I mention that I spoke to Estelle on the phone and that Melanie was staying with her because they had the day off school because the teachers were on strike

cos the ILEA are being disbanded or something.

I also note that Prunella Scales had come to my school to give a talk of some kind but that I hadn’t gone to hear her. I can’t imagine what I was doing at lunchtime that would have been more interesting than seeing Sybil Fawlty, but who among us can fathom the mind of a 14 year old? Continue reading

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Still Fond

Some people have expressed surprise that I kept a diary every day as a teenager. Well that’s nothing compared to the surprises I’ve uncovered within. Here is a lengthy quote from Sunday January 22, 1984.


They’re just about to start the second half of Superbowl XVIII with the Los Angeles Raiders beating the Washington Redskins by 21:3. It is ridiculous. John Riggins and Joe Theismann have just not got going but it’s starting to fit together as Charlie Brown completes his first pass. It looks like a comeback.

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