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All posts for the month July, 2008

REMINDERS OF HOME

Published July 31, 2008 by jean cohen

‘Thanks!’ to all those people who emailed or texted that I haven’t blogged again.  I knew I forgot to do something; but I thought it was pay my Council Tax.

 

My friend Misha’s parents flew in from the Czech Republic for Misha’s birthday and very kindly brought me some fags.  Misha and I were unable to coordinate our schedules, so she arranged for a meet with her parents to pass on the loot at Weybridge Park.  I walked over to the park after my shift at Sam.  I’d met her mom before, but not her dad.  Oh my God!  He looks exactly like Borat in ‘Cultural Leanings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’.  He has the same moustache—only it’s white.  (It tickles when he kisses you…repeatedly.)  I spent a very enjoyable fortnight (it felt like two weeks) sitting in the sunshine with them and Mia, nodding and smiling, as they don’t speak a word of English.  Wow, I thought.  This is absolutely why I moved to Europe; so I could get cheap cigarettes smuggled into the country and meet loads of new people from former Communist Block countries.  I would have asked some probing reporter-like questions about the Communism thingy, but we ran out of words we all knew after ‘Hi’.

 

Home was in my thoughts this week more than usual, too.  During one of my shifts at Sam, a woman and her son came in and bought a load of books.  She said something to him like ‘This should hold us on holiday in the States.’  I said to the boy, “You’re going on holiday to America?  Where are you going?”  The boy answered “Philadelphia”, and the mother added “Actually, it’s near Philadelphia.  It’s called ‘Villanova’.  Have you ever heard of it?”  “OhmyGod” I said, “I’m from King of Prussia!  It’s right up the road from Villanova!”  And then she said, “King of Prussia?  Where the Mall is?  Our friends are taking us there.”  I proceeded to draw her a little map of all the stores she shouldn’t miss, like the Divine Church of St. Nordstrum’s Rack, which lots of people miss because it’s across the road from the mall.  (Pinkie will start crying when she reads this.  I had to drag her, kicking and screaming, out of St. Nordstrum’s.)

 

She asked me what else was a ‘must visit’.  Okay.  I did mention the American history stuff, briefly.  I took a deep breath. “Independence Hall, Betsy Ross’ House, Liberty Bell, Valley Forge, the Constitution Center. But you might not have time for that stuff (buy a book).  There’s a great outlet mall in Reading, there’s one in Amish country near Lancaster, and a fabulous one right in Atlantic City.  Go to the mall before you hit the casinos.”  Her eyes got a little glazed and she was breathing hard.  I may have solved that pesky little recession problem back home single-handedly.

 

The other nostalgic bit came from Pinkie.  She had finished her shift as Supreme Commander of the Casualty Department and was leaving the hospital when she met a couple, with their son, going into the ER.  I had taught Pinkie well.  “You’re wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey” she gushed to the boy.  She proceeded to natter on about her friend (me) and the Eagles and about my plot to convert everyone in England to ‘real’ football, by giving positively everyone an Eagles shirt for every conceivable occasion.  (Or in Pinkie’s case also, really cute Eagles knickers with the helmet in the talons you can guess where.  I hope she wasn’t wearing them.  I know she wouldn’t have been able to resist flashing them…even at a child.)

 

I can only hope the father, mother, or McNabb-sporting child wasn’t bleeding all over the entrance from a gunshot wound while this was going on.  No.  Sorry.  That was a ‘Philly’ moment again.  From a knife wound. 

 

They had a nice chat about the Eagles and Pinkie whipped out her mobile and took a couple snaps to send me.  I tried to post them, but the quality wasn’t very good.  Wow!  The English kid’s got a black McNabb; I only have a green ‘home’ one and a white ‘away’ one.  (Hint.  Hint.  Birthday’s coming….Men’s size small or Women’s size medium.  And it’s okay if it’s a Brian Dawkins or a Brian Westbrook.  Did you know Brian Westbrook went to Villanova?) 

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I AM…I SAID…

Published July 26, 2008 by jean cohen

It’s officially Glorious Summer (all 2-1/2 days of it) in Oy-Veybridge.  The calendar said: ‘Summer: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday morning.  Thursday afternoon begins ‘Late Fall’.  When I did my walk along the Thames, people were sunbathing and picnicking, or cavorting naked and offering human sacrifices.  (Tiny exaggeration there.)  I have celebrated by ceasing to wear my winter coat.  “Isn’t it bloody hot” everyone asks everyone else.  “It sure is” I agree.  “It must be 52 degrees Fahrenheit and I’m only wearing a top, a jumper and my Icelandic fleece.” Sometimes, to be contrary, I say “Too right.  But it makes the corn grow as high as an elephant’s eye so it’s all good.”  I find that last one hysterically funny.  I didn’t think you needed to be from Iowa to get it.  I expect they grow corn somewhere in Britain.  And I know that they sell elephants at divine Harrods.

 

Moving right along, I need to give a little lecture about ‘blog-censorship’.  Obviously, everything that I do, or that happens to me, can’t make it into cyber-space.  Although a lot of people want to be mentioned frequently, and by name, to a voracious, blog devouring worldwide public, some people don’t.  Really.  I can’t tell you how many times people say “Jeano, if I read that in the blog, I’ll set your hair on fire.”  Okay.  It was Lulu.  And she said it once.  But you get the point. 

 

As an example, I won’t talk about everybody’s least favourite ex-friend, the one nobody in Surrey likes.  (She put on a lot of weight.)  I know she reads the blog.  And, frankly, she’s not blog-worthy.  Unless any of you have a really juicy story about her.  Text me if you do.

 

And even if I want to whinge or be downright bitchy or catty (not that I ever am) about people who have seriously pissed me off ), I can’t.  Either they read it, or someone they know does.  “Jeano called you a slapper in the blog” doesn’t make an evening in the pub real relaxing.  Remember the time I mentioned that person who shagged that other person, the one they had no business shagging?  It took 4.2 seconds for everybody in Weybridge and the entire Right Coast to be gossiping about it.  So like what happened with Rick on St. Patrick’s Day…  I didn’t blog about it and I’m not explaining it now either.  It happened; I was frightened; Pat had to get involved.

 

This is leading up to two things that occurred this week.  One was totally out of left field, but a really good thing, involving my daughter.  It will not, under any circumstances, be gushingly reported in the blog. 

 

The other was a bad thing. Bagpipe Guy misinterpreted something he read in the blog.  Again, it was a matter of privacy — mine.  The person to whom it referred is from synagogue.  Seven hundred people, approximately, from NWSS read the goddamned blog now; pretty impressive considering there are about 400 members.  A first name or ethnicity would make it all too obvious who I’m talking about.  And the particular incident did not make the blog.  It was not something I would want to share with the entire world.  Of course, I told BooBoo the whole story; but I tell her everything.

 

On the subject of Dickweeds, the MegaWanker had been renamed.  He is now christened “The Mensch Formerly Known as the MegaWanker or Prince’.   (Just kidding on the Prince part.  And if he reads the blog, ‘When the Doves Cry’ is my absolutely favourite song.)  Whatshisname did something so incredibly stand-up guy wonderful, I think we should all start liking him – or at least not be so mean to him.  Again, in the interest of privacy, but not mine, you will not read about it in the blog.

 

There.  Now that that’s off my chest, I can take the piss out of BooBoo.  She should be more diligent about catering to my every whim and let me sing in the car even if we’re just cruising around Surrey.  The Boy, Boo and I were sitting in my garden enjoying one of the 32 hours of ‘English summer’.  Lou mentioned to me casually that Leonard Cohen had added some concert dates to his England tour, and did I want to go.  He went on to warn that tickets started at 75 quid for crap seats and up to 400 or 500 quid for good ones.

 

“Oh” I said after I pondered the matter.  “Yeah.  I’d love to go.”  Then I said, deadpan, “And don’t forget…that’s the price for regular people.  I’m a Cohen.  I get the  ‘Cousin Lennie from Canada family rate’.”   Cheese Boy, of course, laughed.  BooBoo, looking very impressed, asked “Really?  That’s brilliant.  Do you get to go backstage too?”

 

But I’m brainwashing BooBoo slowly and insidiously.  El Cheese-o got restless sitting around.  “What is your problem, Boy?” I snapped annoyed.   “Jeano” Boo told me totally seriously, “You know Lou gets shpilkes.”

Lou looked terrified that Boo was possibly morphing into a JAP wannabee.  I beamed at BooBoo like a proud parent whose offspring just uttered ‘Mama’ or ‘Tea Time’ or whatever they utter in Britain for their first word.

 

In the next blog, I will be back to reporting my exciting social life—to a degree.  Especially my date with Cheese Boy where he got hypnotized and acted like a total prat.  It was fantastic.  And I have video to prove it.

 

WHITE SLAVERY

Published July 23, 2008 by jean cohen

I’ve not been in a blogging state of mind.  Nothing’s wrong; at least nothing important, just niggling little things, some my own and some friends’ problems.  Obviously mine relate to the masculine gender.  My own fault- for getting involved with a Supreme Dickweed.  Note to BooBoo:  I am thinking about what you told me to think about; it’s not helping.

 

I had a lovely day at Kew Royal Botanical Gardens with a friend from synagogue.  There are over 300 acres, so I got just a ‘taster’ of what’s on offer there.  American readers, think ‘Longwood Gardens’.  Jeanette did say that each season (think one: cold, rainy and damp) has special exhibits, so we’ll go back again.

 

I covered a few shifts at Sam this week.  I worked for the first time with a guy named Paul.  He’s very nice, but a bit too trusting.  I was in the back room sorting inventory, and I heard Paul talking to a woman.  When I came out to the front, he was chowing down on a huge donut and the woman was leaving.  “Was that your wife” I asked.  “No” he mumbled between bites of fried dough and lemon custard, “I never saw her before.”  “Wait a minute” I said.  “A strange woman just walked in and handed you a donut, and you’re eating it?”  His manly brain processed that for a minute.  “She might be the Mad Weybridge Poisoner” I told him kindly, “And she goes around handing out strychnine-laced sweets to piggy men who will eat anything.”  (I have to confess here that that seemed like a pretty good idea to me at the time. You go, girl!)

 

“Oh” Paul said, looking nervous, “I never thought of that.  But it tastes fine.”  “Not to worry, Sweetie” I reassured him, “Andrea will probably know what the procedure is if you fall down dead on the floor.  Try not to knock over the bloody display of handmade cards for all occasions (It’s always falling over).”

 

 Of course, I was simply having an “American’ moment.  No American with even half a brain would accept anything edible from a stranger, even if they were a priest, a policeman or a department store Santa Claus.  ‘No thanks, Santa.  How do I know you didn’t dip the candy canes in a vat of the ‘date rape drug’?”  If you’re visiting the Sceptered  Isle, feel free to accept.

 

I played hookey from the Senior Centre this week.  I had a better offer.  Pat is definitely going home to the States, in fact by now she’s left, and she offered me first dibs on the stuff she wasn’t taking with her.  You know Pinkie and I booked it over to Cobham.  I will miss Pat…and the Chock Full of Nuts coffee she always served (she smuggled it in by the case).  We did a walk-through, and I said a lot of “OOH, yes!  I’ll have that!”– completely ignoring the fact that I don’t live in the Taj Mahal.  Pat pointed this out to me, but never mind.  Pinkie knew a bloke who had a lorry, and we would make arrangements with him to pick up all my new furniture.  We were so chuffed we hit every charity shop and posh Cobham store having a giant sale before we headed back to Weybridge.

 

On Friday, BooBoo and I did a road trip to Hastings.  Oddly enough, Boo had to go to her sister-inlaw’s furniture store to pick up a new bedroom set.  She turned up at mine early in the morning in this big mother lorry.  “Can you actually see out the windshield?” I couldn’t resist asking. 

 

The drive was pleasant and uneventful.  We stopped and picked up some jumbo cappechinos (not from Wawa, unfortunately) and sweets, and cranked up the radio.  BooBoo really, really loves me.  She let me sing along to the songs, out loud.  “Did Thelma let Louise sing” I wondered.  “No” Boo said, “She drove off a cliff to finally make Louise stop.”

 

Hastings is quite interesting.  The British had one of their 874,362 battles there in 1066.  There’s actually a town called ‘1066’ nearby.  I did comment that for a race who fought a battle at the drop of any of 874,362 hats, the Brits have gotten kinda wimpy.  I mean, couldn’t some king or other have fought a battle to outlaw queues? 

 

Cheese-boy’s ‘tom-tom’, which is what the Brits call ‘sat-nav’, got us to the industrial park where the warehouse was with only a few glitches.  That’s where the trouble began.

 

Let me say, confidentially, that Boo’s sister-in-law is terrifying.  She is Thai…and about four feet tall.  And when she barks orders at people, she sounds exactly like Pol Pot.

 

First off, the lorry wasn’t big enough.  Boo thought the furniture was knocked-down or unassembled.  It wasn’t.  It was built and it was massive.  We could only fit half of it in the truck.  We’re going to have to go back for the rest.

 

Katie snarled that she was picking up fish and chips for lunch and taking us back to her house for a visit.  We were too scared to decline.  On the way to the house, Katie took us to one of her stores – she’s the Queen of Tat.  Picture K-mart; she has about seven of them.  I quite liked the junk, and wanted to shop, but she rushed us out of there.

 

Katie and her husband (he’s English) live in a modest house—situated in the middle of eight acres of land, including a man-made lake with a bungalow and Buddhist temple in the middle.  Really.  I didn’t make this up.  The gardens are amazing.  The inside of the house was odd, sort of ‘Master of the Hunt’ meets ‘One Night in Bangkok’.  As we sat around the dining room table eating lunch (I didn’t even bother mentioning that I don’t eat fish and chips), I was staring straight at a stuffed fox, which was standing on this ornate table next to an onyx elephant.

 

After lunch, Katie made us go outside.  I didn’t want to.  “I’ll just stay here where it’s dry and warm and drink my coffee” I suggested.  The dervish disappeared, and then reappeared with a heavy coat for me to wear.  I guessed I was doing walkies.  As we went out the back door, she handed us each a large plastic bowl. 

 

I looked at Boo, who shrugged.  I soon found out what the bowls were for.  The first stop was the fruit garden.  There was lots of it growing; pink thingies, blue thingies, purple thingies and many other coloured thingies.  “Ya know” I said to our hostess, “I’m cold, it’s raining, and there are bugs.  I think I’ll just go finish my coffee.”   She glared at me and shrieked “Pick fruit!”  I confess.  I started picking the little suckers as fast as I could.  “No! No! No!” she screamed at me a few minutes later.  “You not pick fruit before? Not like that!”  I mumbled (under my breath) “If I wanted fruit, I went to the bloody Acme and bought it already frozen, like the chopped spinach.”

 

She proceeded to explain how to pick the stupid thingies.  How was I supposed to know you don’t rip handfuls off at a time?  I thought I’d had one of those time travel experiences and ended up as one of the prisoners of war in Tenko. 

 

BooBoo was, of course, peeing her pants and chortling during all this, in between sneaking pictures on her mobile phone.

 

Finally, the Commandant of the POW camp determined we had picked enough fruit.  For what?  Don’t ask me; I have no idea.

 

The next punishment was an enforced march around the entire fucking lake.  I didn’t even try to get out of that one.  But I stood my ground and refused to go out to the middle to admire the Temple and the bungalow up close and personal.  Hey…I was polite.  I said the bloody fish in the lake were cute.

 

LIKE LEE GREENWOOD SAID…’PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN’

Published July 16, 2008 by jean cohen

The Irish Lad did pop down on Saturday evening to drop off a table, some chairs, and most importantly, Pinkie’s prized Pimms pitchers and glasses for the party.  I made coffee and we sat around nattering about life – especially mine, which is, obviously, the most interesting.  We agreed that given the fact the party was secretly a ‘4th of July’ Do and not even remotely Italian, I needed to get into a ‘New York, or more appropriately, a ‘Mid Atlantic States State of Mind’.  I showed him the music I’d mixed for the party, including, of course, ‘God Bless America’ by Kate Smith.  It has to be Kate Smith; ask any Flyers fan.  Anybody else’s cover is just…un-American.

 

Before I went to bed, I prayed sincerely to Yahweh, Buddha, Jesus and lit a candle to Tlaloc (the Aztec Rain God) for a dry day on Sunday.  I didn’t know the duty rota, so I covered all bases.  I didn’t bother asking for ‘Sun’ or ‘Warm’; ‘no rain’ was a big enough favour.

 

I was up early on Sunday morning, and it worked; blue skies and the fuzzy yellow thingy.  I was sure glad I’d learned about Tlaloc and visited his temple when I was in the Yucatan.  At least I think I did; I might have been in the Hard Rock Café in Cozumel.  I’d had quite a few pina coladas. 

 

As usually happens on a party day, my mobile kept going off with texts, and Claire, BooBoo and Pinkie rang to check if everything was under control.

 

“It’s all good” I assured Pinkie.  “I’m frying the onions right now.”

 

“You’re what?” Pinkie asked.  Then, when I repeated it, she yelled to the Irish Lad, “Terry!  You’ll never believe what Jeano’s doing!  She’s ‘frying onions’!”

 

This is true; I swear.  The Irish Lad yelled back “Bagpipe Guy is there?  She’s getting shagged? Now?”

 

“No” Pinkie told him.  “She’s actually frying onions.”

 

“Oh” that Ulysses S. Grant loving pixie replied, “I thought it was another ‘Jeano code’.  Mind she doesn’t burn down the house.”

 

I love my mates.

 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Cheese Boy and BooBoo sneaked my barbecue out of the storage shed at theirs’ to bring over.  The secrecy was totally justified.  We didn’t want Sandra to spot them.  Okay – in a nutshell.  I had invited Sandra to the barbecue.  But it was before she got involved with Whatshisname, the MegaWanker.  (They’re engaged, by the way.)  And not to be confused with The Supreme Dickweed.  That’s someone else’s new name…because he is.  A Dickweed of epic proportions.  Everybody simply loathes Whatshisname.  We forgot to tell them about the new date for the party.  Mea culpa.  Mea culpa.  Yeah…right.

 

I must mention the few, incredibly rude, friends who cancelled at the last moment.  I wouldn’t want them to think it was okay and I didn’t mind.  Didn’t your Mums teach you any manners?

 

There.  That said, it was a perfect guest list; all the people I really care about, especially the Irish Lad; he barbecues.  The Jews were a huge hit with their cute little New Yawk accents and Kosher-ness.  I have to share that Misha, for whom English is not her first language, had read the blog and actually thought I had 35 people camped out at mine for a week.

 

As a corollary to that story, Pat told me yesterday when Pinkie and I were visiting in Cobham that when the ‘Mule’ proudly yanked the Jews out of his suitcase, Pat said straight-faced, “Where are the buns?”   “The buns?” poor Mike yelped.  “Jeano wanted buns too?” Pat, who is my kind of gal, and American, and Italian, wound him up for quite a while before he twigged that she was taking the piss.  Sadly, they missed the party; they were in Spain.  However, two Jews are safely in hiding in an undisclosed location for them.  Even though they will have to be enjoyed dressed in tasteless English buns instead of fashionable Entemann’s Potato Rolls.

 

I had thought long and hard (neither is difficult for me—I think long and hard about what color knickers to put on in the morning) about the music mix for the party.  So did Cheese Boy.  We both burned a disc.  I picked stuff I like keeping to the theme of ‘America’ or ‘USA’ or an American place name in the title.  We had very few duplicates, only ‘Born in the USA’, “Coming to America’ and ‘America’ (the Simon & Garfunkle one).  And I had a few Philly songs- ‘Fall in Philadelphia’, ‘Sounds of Philadelphia’, ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ and, of course, ‘Dancing in the Street’ and ‘South Street’.  The Boy had ‘Philadelphia Freedom’, the lamest song in the world next to ‘We Built This City on Rock and Roll.’

He had some good ones though, ‘French kissing in the USA’, ‘Breakfast in America’, ‘Working for the Yankee Dollar’, ‘All the Way from America’.  And some clunkers.  ‘Is This the Way to Amarillo?’  Seriously, does anybody care which way is Amarillo?  And ’24 Hours from Tulsa’.  Forty-eight hours isn’t far enough away from Oklahoma.   Of course, no mix by Cheese Boy burned specifically to take the piss would be complete without ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.  I hate, loathe and detest that song.  I can hear El Cheese-o saying, right now, “And your point would be…?”

 

But I have to admit he won.  I included ‘The Battle of New Orleans’ in my mix, and even put it on repeat for a while.  I love that part ‘..We fired our guns but the British kept a’comin’…There weren’t quite as many as there were a while ago..’  Lou added an ‘Italian’ section to his mix.  I think you can figure out what he meant.  Tracks included ‘White Flag’, ‘Surrender’ and ‘Hands Up’.

 

I’ll post the Boy’s snaps so you can see what a Happening it was.  And, as someone whinged in an email, I won’t be so lazy and will put captions on the pictures this time so you can figure out who’s who.

 

Quickly summarizing some high points, I did let Eamonn have some food even though he turned up in a New York Giants jersey.  He’s a growing boy and he begged.  I don’t even know what Oz Ed was doing in the loo when his head suddenly appeared out the window.  We rang Scary Fairy at Exit 145 of the Garden State during the party, so everyone could talk to her.  Then Terry made three more pitchers of Pimms.

 

FAR FROM FOLSOM PRISON….WHERE I WANT TO BE

Published July 14, 2008 by jean cohen

I was in a quandary all week about what to wear to the Big House when I visited Chris.  I had mentioned this fact to Bagpipe Guy, who asked seriously, “Is that your friend who lives in St. Georges Hill?”  “No, Sweetie” I told him, “That’s Annick and John.  Chris is in the Big House, the really big one, HM Wandsworth Prison.”

 

The weather was crap, nothing unusual there, and cold, so I settled on a ‘preppy’ look, wanting to appear stylish but responsible, flirtatious but law-abiding.  Mischa picked me up and we headed to London.  We had to drop Mia at Misha’s friend’s house on the way.

 

Wandsworth was a disappointment.  It is really big, and scary, but there were no guards manning AK-47’s in the towers.  There weren’t any towers.  Yeah, okay, there was barbed wire, but not nearly enough in my opinion.  If you’re going for the ‘Penitentiary’ look, you need simply yards and yards of barbed wire and possibly even some glass shards on the 30’ walls to make climbing down a rope of one’s bed sheets tricky.  And lots of vicious German Shepherds (they’re called ‘Alsatians’ here) to track the prisoners down when they do escape.  Maybe Wandsworth borrows the Queen’s Corgis if someone escapes.  Hey, she must have about a hundred of them, and it’s her prison after all. 

 

We went to the first check point, gave our names and received a card with a number on it.  We would be called when they were ready to take us to the next check point.  We locked our purses, after pulling out some coins and ID, in the bullet/bomb proof lockers (they charge a quid to keep your stuff secure while you’re in a prison; am I the only person who finds that a bit peculiar?) and went to the coffee bar to wait.

 

I sat and looked around at the other visitors.  Wow.  Seriously, if these people were the visitors, I couldn’t begin to imagine how scary the prisoners were going to be.  I swear I recognized two blokes from Sky News; I think they were bombing a market in Kabul.  They called our number, and Misha popped up to go get our next pass.  “Don’t leave me” I begged her.

 

Two screws escorted about twenty of us to the next check point.  I was dismayed—actually I was scared shitless – to discover they weren’t packing heat.  I should mention that the only other person I knew who was a convicted felon was my neighbor across the street back home.  And he was a chiropodist; the only thing he did bad was rip off the government for millions of dollars in a Medicare scam (fake injuries from fake auto accidents) and get caught.  He was loads of fun at parties and not the teensiest bit violent, even when he tried to teach me how to play Texas Hold’Em.  Otherwise, my perceptions are derived solely from TV and B movies. 

 

“Excuse me, officer” I just had to ask, “Are you armed?”  “Shut up!” Misha whispered.  “No” he snapped.  “Not even one of those stun gun thingies that shoots like sixty million volts of electricity into them?”  I went on.  Hey, it was a valid question.  I think he might have had the CCTV cameras take a few extra snaps of me at this point.

 

At checkpoint two, we presented our IDs, went through the metal detector, and got searched.  The male visitors got their hand stamped, just like when you go to Hershey Park.  Misha explained that this was so they couldn’t switch places with an inmate who could then happily carry on menacing society.  The Search Screw did not do a very thorough job.  Not that I needed it, of course; I wasn’t ‘carrying’ — anything.  God, I love prison jargon!  I wanted to point out a few of the other visitors to her whom I thought needed a little extra searching.  That Muslim lady might not have really been pregnant.  But Misha was looking like she wished they had barred me in Paris.  And she was mumbling in Czech.

 

So then it was across a courtyard in a group into another waiting room.  “Hey, Misha” I whispered, “I’m the only person here besides the screws who’s speaking English.  And that Arab bloke is giving me ‘the look’.  I am such an Arab magnet.”

 

At each waiting point, the doors on either side closed simultaneously, so that each group of one Italian, one Czech and eighteen Arabs could all stand real close together until the group before ours got through that check point.

 

Finally, the door opened on the final checkpoint.  We gave the guard our paper, and he told us which table to go to.  “Table 31.”  Great…the Arab with the hots for me was at Table 32.

 

The visits are held in a large room with rectangular numbered tables.  On one side is a single chair for the Incarceratee (I just coined that word); on the other side are three chairs for visitors.  There’s a snack bar.  The prisoners hadn’t arrived yet, so we went to the Snack Bar for coffees for us, and a Coke and some chocolate bars for Chris.  The room got very quiet and we could hear the clanging of the two sets of doors opening and closing as the prisoners went through the same process of twenty at a time.  Finally, we spotted Chris.  He’s so tall that he’s hard to miss.

 

I had checked with Misha beforehand, and she’d said it was okay to hug Chris.  I didn’t want the Screws to think I’d passed him some plastique, or whatever it’s called, that I’d stashed in my knickers.  Britain doesn’t like me very much as it is. 

 

Chris hugged me for ages.  I told him that he looked skinny, and he told me the same thing.  I liked hearing it; I’m not sure about Chris.  He was wearing regular clothes, jeans and a blue striped shirt.  I was disappointed; I had my heart set on orange jumpsuits, like OJ Simpson.  But the prisoners did have a red vest over their shirts.  That was pretty neat.

 

Since they wouldn’t let me bring a pen and a tablet to the visit, I had worked out some questions on ‘Life Inside the Big House’ in advance, and tried to memorize them.  I take this blogging job very seriously.  All I could remember were the lyrics to ‘Folsom Prison’ and I don’t even like Johnny Cash.  But here goes.

 

Wandsworth has 1600 inmates.  There are four classifications: A, B, C, and D.  D is the most serious offenders; Chris is a B.  He works in the kitchen, cooking for all 1600 A, B, C, and Ds plus the staff.  He takes college courses on-line, works out a lot at the gym, reads a great deal, and has a nice cellmate.  On Sunday he was playing football, sort of like ‘The Longest Yard’.  Only that soccer kind of football.  According to Chris, they don’t even have an electric chair at Wandsworth, so I’m afraid I don’t know how they whack the Ds.

 

Obviously, Chris and Misha had a lot of personal stuff to discuss, so I just watched all the other visits taking place.  I was glad the Incarceratees had red vests.  Well actually, in a lot of cases, the visitors and the inmates looked interchangeable. I guess the inmates were inept or unlucky as hell.  The creepy Arab guy at Table 32 kept giving me the eye…and smiling at me. 

 

The visit lasted exactly an hour.  An announcement came over the PA system that visits were over, and after hugs and kisses (with Chris; I ignored the Arab guy), we started the 20 visitors at a time process in reverse back through all the checkpoints.  I was quite relieved when we got through the last one, retrieved our purses and were outside—on the right side of the 30’ walls.  I lit a much needed fag, and turned on my mobile. 

 

I had needed to hook up with the Irish Lad on Saturday night to get some equipment I was borrowing for my Festa di Independenza party on Sunday.  Pinkie had sent me a text.

 

‘Terry has offered to bring everything down to your’s.  Text if you’re released.’

 

It was a pretty good year…

Published July 13, 2008 by jean cohen

We’re right smack in the middle of English summer, just in time for my Festa di Independenza barbecue.  Of course, English summer means that on a great day it gets up to 60 degrees and only rains twelve hours instead of twenty-four.

 

People, really strange ones, wander the High Street in tank tops and Capri pants enjoying the glorious weather.  I shiver in four layers and turn up the heat.  My summer clothes are all still neatly packed away; I guess I’ll only see them if I go on holiday somewhere where ‘summer’ is similar to the far distant memory I fondly remember.   

 

BooBoo forced me to buy a pair of Capri pants.  They were on sale; practically free.  I wore them one evening.  “I’m getting frostbite on my calves” I whinged as I watched my legs turning blue.  (The Capris are blue too so at least I didn’t clash.) 

 

I had a date with Bagpipe Guy on Wednesday and, amazingly, he actually turned up.  I guess we can all figure out who was really horny.  He has managed to rack up an unbelievable (considering that it’s me) streak of cancelled dates.  He’s fun when he’s around, but I tend to be less than sympathetic to his tales of delayed flights at Heathrow and accidents on the M25.  He doesn’t grovel nearly enough, probably because I’m his first JAP and he hasn’t read the manual, or he is just really clueless.  But it’s so boring to have to go back onto the dating sites to look for someone more reliable (but hot).

 

I have been given a great honor, and I’m not making it up.  You may all say ‘Mazel Tov!”  I got a letter from NWSS and when I opened it, I just about plotzed.  I have been offered an Aliyah at Erev Rosh Hashana service.  Trust me, it’s a very big deal.  Especially during the High Holy Days.  I immediately shared the news with BooBoo, who pretended to be suitably impressed.  She even told Cheese Boy.  “Jeano got a whatsits for… Whatchamacallit, Jeano?  She’ll be even harder to put up with now.”  I haven’t decided yet if I’ll accept.  I wasn’t even sure I was going to go to services for the High Holidays (very long and very tedious) and I’m not repenting very much, although maybe I shouldn’t have bought that pink outfit.  Pink is not really my colour. 

 

The Irish Lad was in an ‘A’ place again, I hope he was meant to be in Amsterdam, as he rang me from the Duty Free at Schipol to find out what kind of fags I wanted him to get me.  So it was just Cheese Boy, Pinkie and me at the Quiz this week.  Obviously Pinkie is quite brilliant.  Last week, with Terry, Bald Rob, Lou and me, we came in last.  With Pinkie, Lou and me, we tied for first place.  Really.  That is not another whopper.  We lost in the tie breaker…the second tie breaker; the Scary Fairies and us came up with the same answer on the first one.  So we get some bragging rights.  We would have won—if a certain teammate (the one with the penis) ever listened to me.  I told him the first phone directory in London was published in the 1880’s.  But, no, he put down the 1930’s.

 

We knew an awful lot of stuff this week, or we guessed well.  We even got the bonus in the Wipe-out round!  Modestly, I was ‘In the Zone’.  I didn’t know that Jack Daniels was ‘the American whiskey maker’ born in England, but, hey, I never met the guy.  And I didn’t know that the ‘Plains of Jericho’ are in Jordan; I guessed Israel.  It’s not like Jordan is on my holiday wish list.  But I knew a lot of really weird shit.  I knew that ‘love apples’ are tomatoes.

 

I did take issue with Leyla in the Connections Round.  The first question was: The US city nicknamed ‘D’.   “I think it’s called ‘Big D’” I told her.  But when we got question two, I realized ‘Dallas’ couldn’t be the answer to question one.  Answer two had to begin with a ‘T’.  “A city that starts with a ‘D’ and ends with a ‘T’.  Hmm” I mused, “Davenport, Iowa?”  But I couldn’t picture the farmers in Ames going, “Hell, yeah!  We went to ‘D’ for the weekend!  It seriously rocked!  The corn was as high as a fucking elephant’s eye!”  Oh, I thought, as the penny dropped —   Detroit.  Probably people of the black persuasion called it ‘D’, as in ‘Let’s go to ‘D’ for the weekend.  We haven’t been mugged at knifepoint in ages by a guy with his Calvins showing over his jeans which are hanging under his tush and wearing sixteen gold chains and diamond studs.”  When I went to Detroit, all I remember is saying to my boss “You’re sending me to a conference where?  Is this a joke?  I don’t give a rat’s ass if Smokey Robinson lives there.”

 

And I came the closest in the Landlord’s Quiz – the pot is up to about 200 quid.  The question was ‘the year Queen Elizabeth I banished Sir Walter Scott’.  I added, subtracted, multiplied, etc. and came up with 1589.  It was 1591.  Close but no cigar.