Thoughts in unexpected places!

It has been an unusual week! While we all shiver beneath a winter that seems especially reluctant to give way spring this year, just a few days ago a time capsule was buried beneath the grounds of the still-under-construction JW3 Jewish Community Centre on the Finchley Road in London.

This capsule, scheduled to be opened in March 2113, contains an impressive collection of testimonies to the Jewish experience in 21st Century Britain. These testimonies, setting out what it means to be Jewish, were gathered over three months by JW3 and the Jewish Chronicle, and I was tremendously honoured to be included amongst them.

I was asked to share my share my thoughts not long after losing both my parents in January of this year. It was the saddest time of my life and my thoughts naturally turned to the two of them.

I wrote:

“Having just lost my parents within 12 days of each other, being Jewish means faith, spirituality and a careful order to things. It means the strength to endure the most severe of blows twice over. It means my parents will be together for eternity in the care of Hashem.”

What on earth will the world be like in 2113? It is hard to imagine the Britain in which my great-grandchildren – or great-great-grandchildren! – will live their lives. The mind boggles. Things that seemed the wildest of science fiction in 1913 are commonplace now.

But whatever that far-off era turns out to be like, I was so delighted to be given the chance to honour my parents’ memory and legacy for generations still to come in this lasting and imaginative way. My modest parents would never have believed it.  So may the generations still to come, cherish the memory of my beloved parents as I do today.

Meanwhile, and on a very different note, my old pal Barry Simmons suddenly found himself in the news yesterday!

Barry and I used to go running together. During the last 15 years we have run several half marathons and ten-mile cross country races. We have spent many weekends running around the local countryside and it was always a pleasure to chat to him because he has a brain the size of a planet and seemed to know something about everything. He even taught me how to analyse hand writing, as graphology is his passion! A run of 13 miles with him always passed by in a flash.

After going through a tough time in his life, Barry has now found himself a formidable new forte as a professional quiz participant, thanks to his prodigious mind for general knowledge of all kinds.

He has done tremendously well in recent years, winning no less than £64,000 on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and becoming an official ‘egghead’ on popular BBC TV quiz Eggheads, alongside a panel of other equally well-informed quiz champions.

Barry, who is from Leeds just like me, has now reached the final of Brain of Britain for the second time. Back in 2009, he was pipped to the final post by a gentleman called Geoff Thomas. We’ll find out just how well he’s done in this year’s general knowledge championship when the final is broadcast next week.

But while we wait, there have been mean-spirited grumblings from certain quarters about Barry’s participation in the show.

A few people have apparently complained that since he is now effectively a professional ‘quizzer’ he should not be allowed to take part. The BBC, thankfully. has issued a straight-to-the-point response:

“There is no rule banning Eggheads from appearing on Brain of Britain – the only rule is that former champions are not allowed to return.”

Personally I couldn’t believe the Telegraph article, and yesterday tweeted:

“What a nasty piece about one of the greatest Geeks in the country! If he wins Brain of Britain that’s because he is!”

To my surprise my tweet was picked up the BBC and featured in their own report on the story, which quickly became one of the most read on the site. It’s always remembering that someone somewhere is always reading your tweets!

Best of luck Barry!


Photo of a menorah by Roy Lindman via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence

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