I am just back from a short break in the UK, where I presented a paper at a conference on Life, Patents and Social Justice at the Van Hugel Institute, Cambridge.
To keep things bite-size, I am blogging my adventures in a number of posts. This one is about the three days I spent in London.
I love the drizzle of London. I love the Underground where everyone studiously avoids eye contact with everyone else; minding the gap and also their own business. I love the chill in the air and the dampness. I love the greyness and greenness of it all. At least after the hot dry Israeli summer with the long summer vacation, It was wonderful to catch a few days in London and, after the long vacation, to enjoy a holiday from the family.
I managed to catch a couple of plays, to see some old friends and to stock up on underwear in Marks &
Clerk Sparks, Spenser It’s not that one can’t buy underpants in Israel. Israelis do. Indeed, we do for the rest of the family. It’s just that apparently one take the Englishman out of London, but somethings remain. I stocked up on mustard powder, tea bags, smoked salmon and piccalilli.
My fellow ex-Pats such as Israel patent attorneys Dr Susan Lifshitz, Michael Morris, Jeremy Ben-David and Warren Kaye will know exactly what I mean. Noone else will.
“The time has come the Walrus said, to talk of many things”. Who’d have thought that instead of one day travel cards, one pays the carpenter for London traveling with oysters? Other than that, very little had changed. I saw posters in the tube station that must have been around when I was in the third form (Eighth Grade) announcing the last few weeks of 1984. The more things change, I reflected, the more things stay the same. In other, words, the pigs become men.
London Suburbia. Tudorbethan semidetached houses with a garage from which one can take the car out. But why would one? There is no parking in London, any where, or at least not within 1 mile of a tube or train station, at any time. Doorsteps, often covered with triangular porch supported on Doric columns for meeting the postman or milkman. The hall with the stairs running up one side. Wallpaper! Wall-to-wall carpeting over creaky floorboards. Linoleum. Formica covered counter tops. The dining room for special occasions and sancti-sancticorum, the morning room for only the most intimate of friends.
I managed to catch two musicals. I saw a show called “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if You Haven’t Any Jews. The show tracks the development of the Broadway musical from Gershwin, through Rogers & Hammerstein and Sondheim, with performances of many hit songs. The storyline basically argued that it wasn’t just the composers and lyricists who were Jewish, but also the 25% of New Yorkers who were Jewish that made up the audience. I was sitting near the front, and turned around to have a look at the audience. Although I was the only one in a Kipa, I’d hazard a guess that 80% of the audience were members of the tribe. On stage, with the notable exception of the highly-talented but way to blonde and blue eyed Lloyd, and the Gentile but not obviously so, fabulous singer, Sara Brightman, the vast majority of the caste were clearly Jewish as well. The bar was serving special New Year, Kosher Cocktails with ingredients such as pomegranate juice (grenadine), apple & honey liquers. The show was a foot tapping success, with hits from West Side Story, Guys 7 Dolls, Chicago, Annie Get Your Gun and Fiddler on the Roof. The second half had the theme music of Fame, songs from Hairspray and Gypsy.
Fiddler and, of course, Mel Brooks hilarious musical The Producers were obviously written by Jews, but the Sound of Music? Little Shop of Horrors? Sweeney Todd?
The cast came out into the foyer at the end, and were very friendly.
Leicester Square now has a Ben & Jerry’s a couple of doors along from Haagen Dazs , so one can choose from a wide range of gourmet classical or funky ice-creams, and they are all Kosher!
The second show I saw was the fabulous but definitely goyish Mama Mia. I spent much of the Seventies travelling to and from school by school bus, and Abba was the soundtrack of my childhood. I recognized virtually all the songs. Oddly, for a dukebox musical created around previously written songs, it works! The story is about a girl who invites all three of her mother’s paramours to her wedding, as she wanted her father to be there and was sure she’d recognize him. It struck me that the I was about the age of the three men. Spooky.
Professor Jeremy Phillips invited me to join him and his gang of IP professionals at the Old Nick, a delightful olde pub in Holborn. Their local brew is known as badger’s. To me, it tasted like Brockian piss, and after a few sips, I asked the blogmeister if it would offend him if I added some lemonade. He was somewhat horrified by the idea, but not offended. On shandification, it was quite palatable. One eminent practitioner ordered a pint of
tumbleweed Tangle-wood. There was something strange about it all.
IP Solo bloggers Barbara Cookson and Jeremy Phillips, together with Jo Collens, Michael Jaegar and I reconvened at Reubens. I forgo their signature salt beef and their fish & chips for beef wellington. It was very good. You’d never have known that it was made from old boots.