Published April 1, 2013 by jean cohen

Wow, it’s great to be in Philly.

Boo arrived at my house wearing her Eagles jersey. I am ashamed to admit that I’d forgotten our pact to always wear Eagles jerseys when traveling to and from Philly. She made me go change.

The flight from London was fine and, naturally, the US of A welcomed me home enthusiastically. And they let BooBoo in, so our vacation was off to a good start.

Sadly, the weather did not cooperate, or we brought it with us; it was cold. But at least there was sunshine.

And we had wheels! Zachary is away at Uni, so the huge Beemer SUV was ours to load, and unload, stuff. We purchased much stuff.

The first night included eating the absolutely essential cheese steak wit’ extra fried onions. I dreamed about that for weeks.

Boo and I visited Dead Jerry and Matt. I wanted to do that early in the trip, before I did too much shopping. Yes, it was sad.

Scary Fairy drove down from North Jersey which was awesome as three of us could buy three times as much, and be three times as silly.

Of course, Pesach started on Monday night. It was really nice to be home and with family for the holiday. Somehow- it might have been the bottles of Zinfy we polished off- I got volunteered to make the Haroset. No problemo. We piled into the Beemer and hit the Judaica Store for Passover Wine and then the supermarket for the other ingredients.

A smart manager delegates. I set BooBoo to work dicing apples and Scary to chopping walnuts. I had coffee and a fag. I had looked up recipes on line that had a lot of funky ingredients, but opted for a traditional Haroset. Mix the apples and walnuts with sweet wine and brown sugar, let it chill in the Frig overnight and Voila! It was absolutely delicious.

It was certainly different than observing Pesach in England. I know I’ve blogged about going shopping for Pesach supplies in England and duking it out for the one box of Matzo Waitrose had (for the outrageous price of £3.99). We walked in the door of the Giant and almost tripped over the twenty pallets of boxes of Matzo- which cost, like, a dollar. And you can go out to breakfast or lunch every day and order Fried Matzo. (Of course, I’m not recommending this as you would then not poop until the Fourth of July.)

BooBoo’s week went way too fast, and almost before we knew it, we were driving her and my cigarettes, Hershey bars, Beefaroni, chocolate covered pretzels, Tanya’s pressie, Hazel’s pressie, my brand new Coach bag, etc, etc, etc to the airport. I cried, but it’s all good. I’ll see my stuff, and Boo, on the 5th.

Dancing in the Street

Published March 18, 2013 by jean cohen

I cross the pond tomorrow to Philly, but that just means it was an even busier week than usual.

The Fashion Show! I know you’ve been wondering how it went. Well, it was really a lot of fun. Once I realized there wasn’t a goddamned catwalk and I didn’t have to worry about tripping and flying off the thing and landing in someone’s rubber chicken, I relaxed and got into it. I sashayed around the room very model-ly and stopped at every table so the ladies could check out my outfit (and me). Carol, Hazel and Live Jerry came to support me, and I knew practically everybody there. There were 140 ladies. I got lots of applause and kisses and hugs.

On my way to Tea Lady duty on Tuesday, ladies I didn’t even know stopped me to say how great I was. And, modestly, my picture was in every local paper.

On a serious note, the event raised over £4000 for the Hospice.

Saturday night was the Sam Beare Quiz, which I co-chaired with Anne. I blackmailed some friends, and put together a table of eight. Ray came, as did JDavid and his partner, Estelle, Adriana and a lovely couple from Syn called Antony and Laura. After I met Antony and Laura, I couldn’t remember their names, so I started referring to them as ‘the nameless South Africans’. Me: ‘I saw the nameless South Africans on the High Street today.’ Or: ‘I think I’ll invite the nameless South Africans to the Festa di Independenza this year.’ BooBoo had a really good suggestion. “Why don’t you ask somebody else at Syn what their names are?” Oh.

Anyway, my team, dubbed ‘the Terminators’, was truly awful. (The nameless South Africans chose the name.) We didn’t know diddlysquat about anything. At least we didn’t come in last. And in fairness to me, almost all the questions were British. What do I know about Britain? I did positively gobsmack the table by pulling Cho En Lai’s name out of my memory bank in answer to the question ‘Who was the Prime Minister under Mao Tse Tung’. Mr. Cho must have been mentioned in a song or something, because I, like, just knew that was the answer.

Those were the highlights of my week. The rest was the mundane coffees and lunches and a dinner with friends. And committee meetings for Sam Beare and the Spring Fayre at the Senior Centre. (Yes, that’s how they spell ‘fair’. Don’t ask.)

Speaking of the Senior Centre, one of the regulars said something pretty funny on Tuesday. I have to admit that it’s someone I really dislike, so I did get a lot of mileage out of it. What she said was “I had a friend who lived to 94. Then she died.” You don’t have to email me to say that this is exactly the sort of dumb thing I’m apt to say. If I say it, it’s meant to be clever and funny. I get the subtext. Duh! ‘Lived to 94, so obviously croaked.’

What I replied was “Really? When she turned 94? My friend became a vampire when she turned 94. You just never know.”

It seems like it’s never the right time to go home. I’m miffed that I’ll miss a really great party that is happening on Saturday night. (It’s a surprise, so I can say no more.) And I’m missing Pesach at shul for the first time in five years. But I’ll get to go to a family seder, which will be nice.. I guess.

As usual, I have a large calendar I printed specially for the occasion with all the social engagements Boo and I, and then just me, have planned. We will be zigzagging back and forth from Pennsylvania to Delaware to New Jersey to Pennsylvania at least twice. And Boo really wants to visit Amish Country. I told her there’s absolutely nothing to see except Amish people and fields, but she is adamant. Fortunately, there’s an outlet mall practically right in Lancaster. Thank you to Scary Fairy for reminding me. So…ten minutes observing Plain People doing whatever it is they do, and then five hours in the Coach outlet.

Oh wow! I got a comment on the blog about cooking with that extra special ingredient. I got quite a few, but they were funny ones from friends. I think this guy was serious. He did clear up the question about freezing. You can freeze it. But he gave my fertile imagination a spectacular scenario:

‘Even better is to ask your dinner guests to contribute.’

Really. I don’t make this stuff up. Of course, I immediately pictured my Festa di Independza Barbecue and handing the guests (male) a little cup. Then standing around tapping my foot snarling “Hurry up! The barbecue’s on! I have to make the hamburgers!”

Note to David B: Just Kidding! This will not ever happen.

And finally, it’s March Madness time! The Big Dance! The Field of 64! Guys with great bodies in little shorts. Men’s College Basketball. I printed several brackets to get me started, and I will update you faithfully. Both Villanova and Temple are seeded- both are 9th seeds – and LaSalle has a play-in. Is that exciting or what?

The next blog will be written in the City of Brotherly Love… probably. Unless I’m having too much fun.

You have the right to remain silent

Published March 11, 2013 by jean cohen

A busy, busy week in Weybridge. And this one is a quickie.

Tomorrow is, remember, the Sam Beare Fashion Show. So I did the usual girlie stuff: haircut and highlights, manicure, teeth cleaning (at the dentist, not just brushing them in the loo), lose 30 lbs in one day. That last one didn’t work out real well.

But on the subject of Mattius (the dentist) wow – he unloaded a bombshell on me – the juiciest bit of gossip. When you get the best dirt from your Swedish dentist, Weybridge is a small town. I almost broke one of my newly manicured nails dialing Live Jerry to share.

A lot of JDavid work this week, some of it at restaurants. We had a working lunch at Oatlands Park Hotel, and I ordered Eggs Benedict. Then I remembered, you know, extra special Hollandaise with the secret ingredient. It almost put me off my Eggs B. I demanded to see the chef, but Monsieur Tariq assured me he didn’t add anything personal.

Tuesday was my usual Blitzing Addlestone with Carol. This is a weekly thing; she picks me up when I finish my shift at the Senior Centre. We hit the charity shops, the Pound Shop, Iceland and then have lunch because we’re exhausted. This week, we made a stop at the Library. I wanted to apply for my Senior Bus Pass. In England, if you’re around 42 years old, you can ride the buses for free. Only a tiny little bit of that sentence was a slight misrepresentation of the truth.

Tuesday was absolutely gorgeous; blue sky, big yellow thingy, and warm. It reminded me of that season they have in America between Winter and Summer. I forgot what they call it. Of course, by Thursday it was back to normal: grey skies and 28°. (If you really want to feel bad for me, in British it’s -2°.) We may even have more snow.

Ray came to play Scrabble on Friday, and we had two tough games. I am now playing Scrabble and Words with Friends online with Scary Fairy, Ray, Toots, Ron and some lady in Idaho. I think she might be a survivalist. She knows a lot of words for guns.

Friday night was a rehearsal supper/party for the fashion show, Saturday after shul I went to friends’ from shul for Shabbat lunch and then out again for dinner on Saturday night. My friend, Jenny, rang and asked “What are you doing? Want to go out for a meal?” Instead of saying “No, thanks”, of course I said “Did the pope abdicate? Sure!” Maybe that’s why I had trouble with those pesky pounds.

You would think that with all this rushing around I have no time to watch TV. Not so. Since I got my Super Magic Gizmo from Sky, I can record stuff while I’m out to watch later. After several lessons from BooBoo, I am pretty good at it now. And there are lots of cool American shows on right now. I am especially addicted to this program called ‘The Following’. It honestly scares the panties off me; it’s so violent. But the FBI hero guy is Kevin Bacon. He’s so hot. And from Philly, too.

I thought about the stuff I record and I realized that most of it has at least one or two court trials. Or, even worse, a few dead bodies turn up in each episode, requiring graphic autopsies. Maybe I’m a psychopath or an osteopath, or some other ‘path’ and I don’t even realize it. At least, Crime & Investigation has been very helpful with tips about pinging cell phone towers and directional blood spatter.

On Top of Spaghetti

Published March 4, 2013 by jean cohen

It has been a grey, rainy, cold and miserable week in Weybridge. Normal weather, in other words. I spoke to my friend, Brenda, this morning and she and her husband are off tomorrow to Boca Raton for three weeks. I, like, really hate her.

It was a good week anyway, in spite of the weather; lots of socializing, including a day in London.

I went to Jewish Book Week at Kings Place with Hazel. The opening event, which had been on Saturday night, was a Leonard Cohen tribute, with local bands covering Cousin Lennie’s greatest hits. On that afternoon, Jenny J called to offer me a ticket. (It was sold out.) I was already committed to going to the Purim spiel at synagogue to take pictures. I was one unhappy Cohen.

I did buy a couple of Len’s poetry books as well as a few novels. They always have a few ‘American’ Jewish authors and Israeli writers and it’s nice to read about happy Jews or non-apologetic Jews instead of depressed English ones.

Hazel and I had a super lunch and then meandered over to Piccadilly Circus to meet Bernard. We had tickets for the matinee performance of ‘A Chorus Line’ at the Palladium. It was a great production.

I did my shifts at the Centre and the Bookshop, and spent Friday working with JDavid. Things had been quiet for a while on the JDavid front, but it’s heating up again.

Friday night there was an extremely interesting Oneg at shul. A London Blue Badge Guide called Rachel Kolsky wrote a book- ‘Jewish London’ – which was also featured at Book Week, and she came and talked about it. It’s almost embarrassing that there are so many neat places I haven’t been to in London. I spend far too much of my time in Weybridge.

Saturday Karen and I had a girl day. In other words, we went shopping. Before you go “Shopping! Again? You couldn’t possibly need anything!” (Oh, wait. That was Dead Jerry on Thursday night.) Anyway, we weren’t shopping for us. We were shopping for more pressies to take to the folks back home, followed by a leisurely dinner and catch-up.

Sunday I stayed home and washed clothes, edited seventeen articles for the next issue of Haderech and blogged. (By the way, being Copy Editor is hard work.)

Yeah, right.

My American friend and #1 Mule Kandice rang and asked if I wanted to meet up in Woking on Sunday. I thought about all the shit I had to do on Sunday and said “Damned straight I do!” Then she rang back and said we were all going to Kimberly’s (another American) for Sunday Roast. I’d met Kimberly and her husband Shez at the Sam Beare Thanksgiving Dinner.

So I hopped on the Southwest Train to Woking and my phone rang. Kandice said “Walk to the first carriage.” She and Nick were on the same train from Vauxhall. Living in Surrey is so damned cool sometimes.

Well, as I said, Kim is American too; she’s from Houston. So we three ladies had a lot of commonality. We confessed to an overpowering passion for Chef Boyardee Beef-a-roni. We missed proper Chinese food, real pizza and Texas ribs. Being from Texas and all, Kim doesn’t have the appropriate appreciation for a cheese steak. We miss Entenmann’s dark chocolate donuts and every single kind of TastyKake. (Gosh. My mouth is watering.)

I said that I would sell my soul for a Bed, Bath & Beyond in Surrey. Big Sigh by the ladies. But the most intense love was shared for Target. Gee, I’m getting teary as I type.

But it’s all good as I will be in Target, buying Beef-a-roni (among other things) in less than three weeks! Cheeseboy always asks for Twinkies when I’m home. That just shows you what kind of taste he has. Bad! Didn’t Hostess go bankrupt? Are there still Twinkies in the land of the free and home of the brave?

Kim showed me this really cool clip on You Tube of a guy called Doug Stanhope about America. I posted the link on Facebook. You should all watch it.

Well, that’s about it for this week, I guess.

Wait! I had another Dark Side issue this week. A delivery one, again. I ordered cartridges for my printer online, and they promised next day delivery. No cartridges. So I rang the company.

The (actually rather nice and helpful) associate checked and said “The driver left them on your porch.” Nah, I didn’t bother to explain that I don’t have a porch. “Hang on” I said. “I’ll go look in the front garden. It’s so-o-o damned huge I might have missed it.”

Sure enough, under the bush by the front door that smells just like cat piss, was the jiffy bag with my cartridges.

In honor of this astonishing fact that my doorway is a porch, I took a picture of it. Feast your eyes on a proper English ‘porch’. Now you know why they can’t make decent pizza.



Published February 24, 2013 by jean cohen

I read an article online about buying a fake internet girlfriend.

Okay. Cue the jokes about Manti Te’o.

(One of my favourites: At least she wasn’t killed by an assault weapon.)

This blog isn’t about a beautiful dead Mormon girlfriend who never existed.

This is about a very good marketing idea.

The one I read about charged $250 a month. For a three-month commitment, the site will create a Facebook profile of an invented woman, then use it to leave personalized notes on the customer’s Facebook page, while also leaving messages at his work, sending texts and recording voicemails.

The site cites some excellent reasons for going the fake girlfriend route including making an ex-girlfriend jealous, keeping inquiring friends and family members at bay, and making it easier to get a job because "some employers are biased towards single folks." The site makes the bold claim that "it would cost you way more than $250 a month if you had a real girlfriend," anyway, so paying for a fake girlfriend is cost effective.

Wow, I thought. I could do this. After all, it’s not rocket surgery. I could start a cottage industry from my little pink house and boost the status of tens or twenties of loser guys. Maybe more if I can send the same message to a slew of guys at a time. I bet they could find a real girlfriend after they fake dated me. At least until their money ran out.

I can be nice… for a price. After all, I was married for a long time so I have experience.

And I know what girls want, especially the Jewish American Princess-y kind. I could happily babble on about the Broadway Shows or Concerts we’d pretend been to. Or the fantastic not real presents I got for Valentine’s Day or my birthday. Or which ‘oh so in’ restaurant we’d really not eaten brunch at.

I would actually post messages on Facebook or send texts using actual words instead of jumbled letters so if their Moms hacked into their accounts, they’d know exactly what we’d not actually in reality been up to.

That last one kinda even confused me.

The site even promises to add "drama” "if that’s what makes you happy." Okay. Drama. I get it. A snarky post…‘You’re damned right I’m pissed off. You know me so well.’

But I would take mine a step farther. Even perfect relationships (like Manti’s) hit an occasional bump in the road. Mine would be absolutely reality fake. Or fake reality. I’m confused again. I mean I’d say some bitchy stuff too.

‘Sorry about saying ‘no fucking way last night, De-wayne’, but I was watching Law & Order and it was a brand new episode.

Your purple helmeted warrior of passion was under the weather last night, huh, Frankie? Yeah. You should worry.’

‘You stupid jerk! You bought season tickets to the Seventy-Sixers? We could have bought an engagement ring with that money.’

Oddly, there are absolutely no sites out there offering fake boyfriends. I guess women are too well adjusted to pretend. Or maybe fake boyfriends are just as disappointing as real ones.

Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner?

Published February 17, 2013 by jean cohen

Another busy week dashing around Weybridge.

I went shopping with Pam and Margaret, the mavens organizing the Fashion Show, to select my outfit. I’m sure I’ve said this once or twice, or fifty times before, it sure is fun to shop when you don’t care how much stuff costs. Not that I get to keep it; I don’t, unfortunately. The idea is to sell the clothes on the day. Hopefully, I will get first dibs on my outfit.

Ray came over for our weekly Scrabble competition. We each won a game. But I got chocolates. From Ray. Either because it was Valentine’s Day or because I’m a superlative Scrabble player.

I did all the usual stuff I always do, and I survived another Valentine’s Day without a date (big sigh), as the Blighty-wide shortage of desirable men continues. Geez. Immigration lets in perfectly dreadful terrorists and whatever every day. Can’t they institute a quota of tall, widowed Jewish doctors to be passed through, say, on alternating Wednesdays? This would work for me as I’m not busy on Wednesdays and I could hang at the Costa Coffee at Arrivals to scope out the possibles.

On the subject of Valentine’s Day, my bestest friend, who doesn’t want to be named (think blond hair, ginormous boobs, Northern accent) came over for lunch and she brought one of her Valentine’s pressies from CheeseBoy.

It sort of made me rethink the whole not having a guy thing.

He bought her a cookbook.

Obviously, that wouldn’t have worked for me, and I would have probably baked the damned thing in a 180° oven for twenty minutes and fed it to him for dinner.

But that’s not the worst part. The cookbook was called ‘Natural Harvest’ and it espouses adding semen as the ‘special’ ingredient in your recipes.

Yes, you read that right.. semen.

The first page says, and I quote: “Semen is not only nutritious, but it also has a wonderful texture and amazing cooking properties. Like fine wine and cheeses, the taste of semen is complex and dynamic. Once you overcome any initial hesitation, you will be surprised to learn how wonderful semen is in the kitchen! If you are a passionate cook and are not afraid to experiment with new ingredients – you will love this cookbook!”

Who knew?

Of course, cynical Jeano thinks perhaps this was a transparently devious ploy by the Boy to get his throbbing thrill hammer more action.

And really, how long does it take to accrue a cup of semen? Can one run across the road to the Neighbors from Hell and borrow some? I’ve seen gangster movies. When you can’t pay back your debt, they whack you.

So I glanced through the recipes. Wow! Chicken noodle semen soup. That would give a Jewish mother agida. Chocolate truffles. Grilled Pink Salmon. Veal Scallopini.

There was a recipe for Hollandaise Sauce – I love Hollandaise sauce on my Eggs Benedict. Hm. Yeah, okay: 3 egg yolks, ¼ cup of water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ cup cold butter, dash of salt and pepper, fresh semen.

Fresh semen? You can’t keep a stock of it in the freezer?

Apparently not. And dump that goo in. Adding it drop by drop poses a risk of improper blending and a lumpy Hollandaise which would be a tragedy.

There was also a great recipe for a BBQ Sauce, but I absolutely promise that the one I use for the chicken at my Festa di Independenza barbecue will be sans semen.


The First Time Ever

Published February 13, 2013 by jean cohen

I’m glad that the last blog was ‘meaty’. That’s kind of the problem with blogging. Sometimes shit just doesn’t happen and there’s nothing to say. I actually pondered penning a few entries to hold in reserve for just such occasions. I did miss quite a few blog-worthy events when I was on hiatus. ‘My Medieval Cataract Surgery courtesy of those jihadists at the NHS’ is a good example. (I’ll start working on that one.)

But the Italians came through with blogoney. (I just coined a new word! Baloney for the Blog = Blogoney!) Viva Italia!

It’s that time again. Actually, in Italia, it seems to always be that time. Yes, we’re having another election.

I got a letter from Italia in the post. Of course, I couldn’t read it. A teensy part of me always worries that the paisons will take back my citizenship because I’m not quite Italian enough. No. Google translate and me figured out that they weren’t demanding the Magical Passaporto Rosso back by return post. Its just election time again. My friend, Ray, was over and graciously offered to translate the letter. I know. Why does my English Jewish friend Ray speak Italian and I don’t? Because. That’s all I’m saying on that subject. Oh, yeah. He speaks Hebrew, too. Give him a gold magen david.

In one whole page of gobbledygook, it explained that we Italians are electing deputies to the Senate and the Republic at some future date, when they get around to it. Just kidding. The election is on February 24 and 25, 2013. It takes two days because the ballot is 1700 pages long.

This part is really good. The elections are being handled by the Il Popolo della Liberta, or the People of Liberty Party, whose catchy slogan is ‘Always at hand for Italians throughout the world’. I did not make that up. And I’m not real sure that I am a member of the Il Popolo della Liberta. I might be a Partito Democratico, or a Rivoluzione Civile, or a Partito Communista, although I’m pretty sure I’m not that last one. We all know I don’t like sharing. Anything.

However, voting is not a problem for me now in the slightest. In the past, I’ve just checked which candidates were the hottest looking and voted accordingly. This time, I just pushed ‘hold’ and rang mia cugina Maria in Colli a Volturno and inquired ‘Yo! Who are we voting for?’ Facile!

Which brings me to the point of this blog.

Did I mention that I visited my homeland (the other one) and my commune?

Well. While I wasn’t blogging, I went on a cruise – two weeks in the Med on Holland America with a friend. I know Dead Jerry was really jealous; we had a snarky conversation about it at 3:00 AM. one morning. (Tallit and yarmulke = grumpy dead guy)

I haven’t lost my Travel Agent touch. Our flights were perfect, our suite was gorgeous, and HAL is still superb. I was born to be waited on hand and foot. I see these commercials on TV here for Royal Caribbean. The tag line is: ‘Nine out of ten people would choose Royal Caribbean for their next cruise’. I’m the tenth person. It’s so mass market and not nearly Jappy enough.

Our ports included Sicily, Greece, and in Italia, Venezia, Roma and Napoli. I know I’ve been to all of those places before, but the cruise included sunshine, more sunshine and temperatures of 90°, none of which are available in England.

And since Napoli was one of our ports, this was a perfect opportunity to visit Colli a Volturno, my ancestral home. Through Facebook, I’d managed to locate my cousin, Maria, who’d moved back to Colli from Philly in the ‘70s. We had been inseparable as teens, but lost touch after she went back.

I have to begin with my arrival in Venezia because it was a momentous occasion. That’s where we boarded the Nieuw Amsterdam. Yeah, yeah, Venice is a gorgeous city… the canals, St. Mark’s Square, the shopping, blah, blah, blah. Been there, done all that many times before.

However, Venezia will forevermore be a special place because it was the first time ever I entered Italy as an Italian citizen. Yes, I handed over the Magical Passaporto Rosso and the officer said: “Buon giorno”, which I understood, and then something else long and complicated in fricking Italiano, which I didn’t. Why do they always do that to me?

I smiled Sweet Smile #4 (one of the nice ones, not the snotty ones), and he asked “Do you even speak Italian, dual citizenship really an American person?” in English.

“I’m studying it” I informed him. “And I’m here specifically to visit all 1300 of my Incollingo relatives who live in Colli a Volturno, Isernia.” It was sort of the truth.

When we docked in Napoli, my car and driver, Lido, were waiting for me. It was an hour and 45 minutes from the Port of Naples to Colli. Plus about 20 minutes, back-tracking when Lido got lost. He said he was stopping to go to the bathroom, but I knew he taken a wrong turn on one of those twisty little mountain roads and was frantically trying to figure out where the hell we were.

When we finally arrived in Colli, I was jumping with excitement. I rang cousin Maria, who sent her grand-daughter to meet us and direct us to her house.

We hugged and cried, and hugged some more. Fortunately, her English is still pretty good, because no one in her family speaks it. Her husband, son, daughter, and 2 grand-daughters were all there to meet the American cousin.

Naturally, I wanted to see my town, so Maria and I went for a stroll. I saw great grandpop’s Butcher Shop (it’s not a Butcher Shop anymore; there’s now a Carrefore in Colli). We knocked at the door of the flat there and I met cousin Carmela, who is married to the grandson of grandpop’s youngest brother. Then we visited the Church where great-grandpop and great grandmom got married. I saw their entry in the registry.

Then it was off to the Town Hall, where even I am registered! I asked to see it. The clerk obligingly showed me my name in the Book of 1300.

We stopped for a coffee; more distant relatives own the little bistro. We went to the bakery, and naturally, they are cousins, too. These cousins swear I look exactly like an Incollingo. Naturally, everywhere we stopped, they fed us.

Then it was back to Maria’s house for a huge meal, and I mean huge. She even made bracchiole in my honor. At the dessert and coffee stage, people started turning up. Lots of them. And they’re all my relatives. None of them spoke English, but from what I gathered, they were all descendants of grandpop’s brothers. Lots of hugging and an obscene amount of kissing.

I wanted to go to the cemetery but we did not have time. Lido was worried about traffic back to Naples, so all told, I had about 5 hours in Colli.

I had brought a few family pictures with me, including the one of the four cousins we took on one of my visits home. Maria only remembered Joanne, who was closest in age to us. And for some strange reason, she vividly remembers my Aunt Tootsie. Aunt Tootsie was quite a character.

Cousin Joey Incollingo from Quebec, Canada (another Facebook find) sent me some details on his Colli relatives, and the Incollingos from Huntington Valley whom Licence and Blood Relative know provided theirs, but no luck. Since practically everybody in Colli is an Incollingo (92% of the 1300 residents) and they all have the same first names, it is impossible to figure out who is related to whom.

I even met an Incollingo in Colli who grew up at 6th and Erie. We didn’t remember each other from the old neighbourhood, although I did know his sister.

Me: “My great-grandfather was Domenico Incollingo.” Him: “So was mine.” Me: “He married Amalia Santilli.” Him: “Mine married Angelina Croce.” So, not the same Domenico, unless he was an Italian cloud (a big-a mist).

I am definitely going to go back and stay longer and do some family history research; hopefully, this spring. Five hours was ridiculously short, but I couldn’t not visit if I was in Italy.

Meanwhile, I faithfully call mia cugina every week now. I want to keep that connection going. After all, she is familiare and io sono Italiano.


Published February 9, 2013 by jean cohen

When I uploaded the new post I somehow deleted the last post. I’ll repost it this week.

I hate Word Press.

This was a frenetic week for some reason; probably because I keep accepting social engagements.

The Israel Group at shul (of which I am a member…don’t ask) hosted a fantastic Oneg on Friday night with Israeli music. We had to bring a dish to share. Usually, Mr. Waitrose and I make a delicious quiche. Well, Mr. W makes it and I put it on a plate. This time I decided to cook. Because… I don’t know because why; I just did. Anyway, I made my Britain famous string bean casserole. It’s a big hit at the Thanksgiving Dinner, and it was at the Oneg. Every drop went.

BooBoo came over on Saturday. I skipped services since I’d been on Friday night. Her new job keeps her so busy I hardly see her. But she’s coming with me when I cross the pond in March which will be super fantastic.

Sunday night was the Super Bowl, but since it didn’t start until 11:30 PM here, I didn’t have a party. As everybody knows, the commercials are the best part, but they don’t show them here. I had to wait until Monday to watch them online. I liked the Dorito-munching goat and the Dorito Daddy Princess. And the Anheuser Busch horse one and the M&M’s singing ‘I Won’t Do That’. The best was the Tide commercial about the Joe Montana stain on the football jersey.

Monday I went to the movies and dinner with Adrianna. We saw ‘Hyde Park on the Hudson’. I thought Bill Murray made an amazing FDR, but I wasn’t crazy about the story. Apparently, and I didn’t know this, one of the tasks of the President of the United States is to sleep with as many women as humanly possible, even if you have polio and you have to improvise.

Tuesday was Tea Lady duty. I’ve sort of lost my enthusiasm for the Senior Centre, especially the Social Committee part. There’s an unspoken rule that things go on as they always have and nothing must change. This results in very few new people (the alive kind) coming in to use the centre and a very unwelcoming ambiance. I went in on the previous Friday with Ray to play Scrabble (my cleaning lady kicks me out when she’s cleaning; sometimes I just wander the streets like a homeless person). We were treated so rudely I was ready to resign. Vicki calmed me down (a bit) but watch this space.

While I was tea-ladying on this Tuesday, Ray rang to ask if I was up for a trip to the British Library in London that afternoon to see the Jewish collection. Since the British Library was on my ‘things I haven’t done in England yet’ list, I said ‘I’d love to!’

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from many countries, in many languages and in many formats, both print and digital: books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings. The Library’s collections include around 14 million books, along with substantial holdings of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC. (I just pasted that in right from their website.)

We trained up to London, and, honestly, London just isn’t a big deal anymore. I don’t, like, go: “Wow! I’m in London! How special is that?” It’s more like: “It’s cold. It’s raining. Ouch. People are encroaching on my personal space.” Seriously, it could be New York except for the accents.

The Library is sort of almost next to St. Pancras Railway Station. Even that’s not a novelty; I’ve traveled to Paris on Eurostar from St. P’s a few times. St. Pancras is pretty cool though. The architecture includes a single-span roof, which, at the time of it’s construction, was the largest such structure. It has since been beaten out for largest by Texas Stadium. God, I hate the Cowboys.

A group of about 14 of us were given visitor passes and our guide escorted us through several locked doors to the sancto santorum where the good stuff is kept. Wow. We saw (with our eyes, not our hands) an illuminated manuscript, a Hebrew Bible, from Portugal circa 1500-ish, some handwritten letters by Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher, written in the late 1100’s, and a sumptuously decorated Haggadah.

The curator spoke about the library’s extensive collection of Ketubot, Jewish marriage contracts, and being American, I suggested to her than she arrange another visit focusing exclusively on Ketubot. I love Ketubot. She promised she would.

After the amazing tour, Ray and I had a great dinner at an Italian restaurant (7 out of 10 on the authentic scale) and then home to the ‘burbs.

Ray was back at mine on Wednesday for Scrabble. Two hard fought games; we each won one. And we’re playing on line now. Ray is also playing both Scary Fairy and Toots in Scrabble and Words With Friends. Scary is talking about another trip across the pond this summer. I hope it happens. Incidentally, when Ray was in New York at Thanksgiving, he spent a day with Scary and Montana Karen in the city.

Thursday was bookshop duty, and on Friday night I worked at a Sam Beare Do at Christ Prince of Peace.

And that was my week.

Jeano in the UK… with diamonds

Published January 27, 2013 by jean cohen

This is positively mind-blowing! It’s my anniversary. I have been back in Blighty for five years. This is the Weekend that was.

I went back in BloggoHistory and reread the momentous entries. I highly recommend that all you readers do the same. The entries are: ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ dated February 1, 2008, and ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ dated February 5, 2008. Have some tissues handy.

It’s hard to believe that I’m beginning the fifth year of my Two Year Plan to live in England. Who knows where the time goes?

I do wonder what Dead Jerry thinks about all the stuff that has happened to me since he shuffled off to Buffalo. Or, Heaven, I guess if you’re a believer. I like to think that he’s happy that I’m happy. The living people who matter are.

A hell of a lot has happened in five years, funny stuff, sad stuff, and good and bad stuff. But I don’t regret my decision and I still love living here, even if I kvetch from time to time.

I Had A Dream. And it mostly came true.

Maybe that last sentence should say ‘I made it happen’, because I did.

Modestly, I’m the Queen of Weybridge and deservedly so, if I say so myself.

So here I am. And I guess here I stay, since I have commitments in my diary for 2014 already.

I’m booked for a ‘visit’ to Philly in March, my annual pilgrimage to see family and friends. I’ll be fielding that awkward question, ‘when are you coming home?’ I guess I am home. Here in Weybridge.

Okay. That was mawkish enough.

Since it’s my anniversary, some presents are in order. I looked up Fifth Anniversary and it is wood. Do not buy me anything wood.

I thought perhaps an advance on my twelfth might be nice; that one’s silk. Undies are a fine present. Or we can just call it the 35th, which is sort of pushing it. But I do love jade.

Then I had a brilliant thought. Five years is 60 months! (I verified this on Calculator.com so don’t even try to confuse me.)

Sixty is diamonds.

The Queen of Weybridge awaits your obeisance.

Hey, can I borrow a cup of Weed?

Published January 25, 2013 by jean cohen

There’s trouble right here in River City. Well, in Weybridge, if you’re British and don’t get the musical allusion.

I love my little pink house and I love ‘Weybridge is a small town’ Weybridge and I love the stuff I do. What I don’t love are the neighbours from Hell who moved into #26 across the road. They are not our sort. Trust me, Lord Whatchamacallit from Downton Abbey would not invite these people to dinner.

It is the custom in England, when the neighbours have had enough and get out their pitchforks and light the bonfire, for the Council to move the troublesome family and foist them on some other unsuspecting neighbourhood at a subsidised rent. Result: the 26ers. There’s a father, a juvenile delinquent in a ubiquitous hoody and two humongous German Shepherds who bark 24/7. My nice next door neighbour says there is an matching mum too to complete the Holy Family tableau, but I’ve never seen her. If she exists, she probably shops at Tesco or Primark. In fact, that might be why she never comes outside.

The weekly drug raids are rather amusing. Lots of coppers scurrying around like ants digging up the Weed growing in their garden. The marijuana kind, not the kind I seem to grow in mine in spite of never ever fertilizing or watering.

The Family Feuds are kinda funny, too. I’ve learned some new curse words I can use during Eagles games to impress the folks back home and I now wonder if when Evil Child was at her worst threatening to slice her up with a broken bottle would have encouraged her to work harder at passing Geometry.

They are just, like, there all the time doing all the things Neighbours from Hell do.

Hoody Boy and his posse of fellow miscreants hang outside my house and throw their beer bottles and crisp packets in my front garden.

I thought long and hard (as much as I can think long and hard) and called Property Peter (my landlord) and complained. I certainly wasn’t going to say anything to the 26ers personally. I’m not stupid. And I am definitely a chickenshit. I presented it in a way that Peter could understand. “Yo, dude. It’s your property value that’s going right down the loo.”

Peter spoke to Surrey’s Finest. Basically, they said: “I say! Those people at #26 have not turned over a new leaf! The Unpleasantness on Old Palace Road is making our single emergency phone line for all of Surrey ring quite annoyingly often.” I’m paraphrasing.

Fortunately, with the cold weather and the recent catastrophic blizzard, I seldom see or hear them. I hoped perhaps they had frozen to death. Not the German Shepherds; I like German Shepherds. Remember Rommel?

Imagine my surprise when I came home from my shift at the Bookstore to find two of Surrey’s Finest waiting for me on my porch. That is the little overhang outside my front door, I’m told.

I immediately assumed they were there to give me a ticket or fine or whatever for wearing those black trousers with the sparkles (they were an error in judgment; mea culpa).

But no. Surprisingly, they wanted to talk about the 26ers.

They wanted me to call the Police, the Council, and/or the RSPCA every time something kicks off at #26. They’re building a case to evict the 26ers and move them to another nice house. Sure. Pissed off Neighbour from Hell: “Who the f*ck grassed us out??? I’ve got a broken beer bottle right here.”

Note to American readers: They say ‘grassed out’ here instead of ‘ratted out’, possibly because the British are so besotted with their goddamned gardens.

Clueless Police, Council and/or RSPCA person: “That is confidential, Sir. But she did say ‘ratted out’ and not ‘grassed out’ with an American accent.”

Note to self: Check with long-suffering Bank Manager whether my Tenant’s Insurance covers Molotov Cocktails.