Monday, 2 July 2007

From Genesis to Sunderland Station

I would like to learn Hebrew.

My ambition is to say my name in every possible way.
In the meantime, here's a stab at my name in Hebrew:


I'm unsure about the alef (נ) but I've used it as in Arabic, where I have long been proud of my ability to write my name.


I learnt how to write my name in Arabic (as well as learning how to say 'my name is...' and counting to 10) from (I think) a Lebanese refugee who lived in Jordan called Mustapha when I was studying in Sunderland. Odd really, to be in a place like Sunderland and be surrounded by Arabs. There were - if I remember rightly - four Omanis along with Mustapha, as well as a second generation Pakistani (we had a brilliant time when Pakistan toured against England, bantering endlessly) who was a Rotherham fan and a great bloke. He used to call me Taff. Then there were two Chinese guys, an oxymoronic Geordie wide boy who sold us a telly for a tenner each, and it broke down after two weeks, a 'mature' (he liked Van der Graaf Generator and reel-to-reel tape machines but he was a good laugh if you could persuade him to get pissed) chemistry student from Carlisle, and me. We all shared a student block in residences called the Poly Precinct, a sort of proto Big Brother house, but without any women, as I look back. The Omani guys were all quite young, though they said they had wives and kids at home, and they spoke English quite poorly. They would say: "Mustapha is Shia" in low voices when he was not around and would mime slapping the backs of their heads and frown. He was somewhat older (maybe in his late twenties) and spoke English well. He would frequently have heated discussions with them in Arabic and smoked like a chimney. How little of the world I understood in those days.

In the Precinct, every night (without fail) we would have to endure an extremely loud video recorded off TOTP of two 'monster' hits of the time - Livin' On A Prayer and The Final Countdown. My critical sense may not have been as developed then as it is now, but I was just being introduced to the wonders of the Pooh Sticks and The Primitives, having begun the John Peel journey (despite voting for songs released in the wrong year on my first Festive Fifty) and having met Fritz, a Wigan lad with rolled up jeans and a jaunty hat. It was because of Fritz that I went to my first James gig - at the Poly - and started to feel like a real student. It was also through Fritz that I started to learn a little bit about Catholic people. But despite my relatively callow understanding of what made good or bad music, I wanted to slice off my ears with rusty razor blades every time those abominations came on (which was frequently more than once an evening) and could not drown out the sound as, during the first term anyway, I had no TV or music player of any kind in my own room.

Ramadan was actually amazing. I think the Poly had some kind of arrangement with Oman, because there were quite a few people from that country living in the Precinct. During Ramadan, one of the blocks would host the sundown meal, and ours would take its turn. The large tables in the kitchen area were covered with foil, and huge pots of chicken, rice and vegetables would be ladled out to cover the entire area. Up to a dozen guys (who always wore traditional robes - except on their Saturday night adventures to Chambers nightclub - their wives and kids living far away, after all) would sit around and loudly converse as they ate. This was the only thing which could possibly compete with Jon Bon Jovi and Peter, Marcel, Tony and Kee.

For the second term, I lugged my record player and a vast quantity of my vinyl albums (containing far too much Phil Collins and Rick Wakeman, it must be said) as well as the tiny portable black & white TV I used to own on the train from Gobowen to Sunderland. The records were in a black bin bag which amazingly survived until I left Sunderland station. I commandeered a trolley from there and wheeled that shit, looking like a very young gentleman of the road, through the town centre to the Precinct. This was my own Road to Damascus, mixed in with a bit of Via Dolorosa. And some pease pudding.


Lileth said...

Something about the way you write is familiar to me.
Oswestry....Sunderland....too much phil collins.
I would love to learn Hebrew too.
know of any classes?
Wanna do it?

Anonymous said...

Hi lileth

I haven't seen any Hebrew classes advertised. I will see what I can find out.