Israel Stories

Monday, October 08, 2007

I am a rock I am an Island

My policy in life has always been to make the world a better place through laughter and song. My family will tell you how I leap out of my bed in the mornings and dance from room to room waking my children with song and laughter. My colleagues will tell you how their working day only really starts after I have skipped from office to office offering morning salutations with a smile and a joke. And as I dance home throwing open the front door, my family all light at up the site of me, and with laughter and song we end the day with homework, supper and baths. Well sort of anyway.

Years ago I was known from time to time to consume a couple of pints of Guinness and stand before the masses at the well known NW London pub Load of Hay (now a housing development) karaoke night, singing my favorite 80’s classics to an uncompromising and cruel audience. But what did I care, I was standing or rather leaning, filled with Dutch courage belting out some Frankie Goes to Hollywood number completely oblivious to the world around me. So when the chance to shine again presented itself I grabbed it with both hands.

The closest I ever got to Romania was on old cold war films, tails of poison tipped umbrellas and John Le Carre thrillers. But my real encounter with Romania, where I learned to appreciate Romania a little more, occurred last week in the unlikely setting of Jaffa Port. I got to see Romanian fashion; taste Romanian food and most importantly listen and join in with a Romanian band.

And so, as the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea and Jaffa was enveloped in the light of hundreds of bulbs, I took my seat to listen to the best of Romanian music in Israel. I was quite enjoying the tunes and enjoying even more making up lyrics to accompany the melodies, much to the annoyance of those around me and the embarrassment of my wife. So I left my imaginary love stories of shepherds and farmers (Freud would have had a field day) to the dulcet tones of guitars and panpipes.

Then the lead singer in a very broken Hebrew or as my wife pointed out to me ‘better than yours’ Hebrew, asked for a volunteer to play second pan pipe accompanying their band to a well known Israeli classic, Od lo ahavti di. Well here was my chance at stardom, my five minutes of fame and my entry into the world of rock and roll. I raised my hand, my eldest pulled it down, I raised it again, and my other children collectively pulled it down. I raised it again and my wife glared at me, so I pulled it down. But too late, I had been spotted and one of the singers dressed in a poncho, looking more like an extra from the Good the Bad and the Ugly, than a Romanian rock star, grabbed my arm and pulled me on to the stage.

A quick pep talk and a ten second lesson on how to play panpipes and then I was on. The crowd hushed, the spotlights focused on the musicians, my family shielded their faces and braced themselves, and then I suddenly realized that the courage and bravado that I had once displayed in my youth had disappeared.

Someone shoved a glass of some foul smelling alcoholic drink into my hand which I drank down, coughed, retched and then smiled; and like a formula 1 racing car with a full tank I was revving and ready.

The music played, the crowd clapped and sang, then suddenly all went quiet as the spotlight shone on me, I blew the panpipes which sounded (to me) like they had been blown by Pan himself, the crowd roared (with laughter I was later informed) and the band played on. This went on for what felt like hours although it was only five minutes.

Of course the whole thing was a set up to make second panpipes look as stupid as possible. And there was I thinking I had done that myself.

Five minutes of humiliating myself and my family but providing Romanian TV with a deep insight into Israeli culture. Some sacrifices have to be made and as I explained to my family, now all Romanians know with absolute certainty that I cant play panpipes and the world is a better place through laughter and song.

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