Judith wanted to go to the artificial ice rink that's in town currently. So we travelled on the bus and enjoyed the rare chance to chat without any interruptions, and showed up for our turn at the ice-rink. In fact skating didn't really work; I hadn't done it in years if not decades, so I couldn't remember what I was doing well enough to coach Judith. And she was very game about taking time to learn how to balance and move and not minding too much if she fell a lot at first, but the rink wasn't in fact quite cold enough, so when she fell she got soaked in ice water and reached the point of being too cold and miserable to continue before she picked up enough skill to have fun. So we went to the fair instead. I have some insight into why my parents were always less enthusiastic about travelling funfairs than we were, but it was nice to be able to indulge Judith going on several of the rides she was excited about.
And then we went to Pizza Express and had effectively a dinner date. I usually go to Pizza Express with adults so thought of them as less well geared up to children than some of the other pizza places, but actually they were pretty good, they offered a sensible children's menu and provided quite nice colouring things and puzzles. Turns out Judith actually eats a reasonable amount of food if she's not under time pressure or distracted, too. And she was clearly procrastinating over going home so I am fairly confident she wasn't bored of my company even after several hours. That's not exactly the first time I've done anything like that, but it's certainly more single-handed entertaining and supervising a small child than I've assayed before. Andreas seems to have generalized that me taking people out for treats is part of birthday celebrations; I'm somewhat more daunted by taking charge of a four-year-old than a 7yo, but we shall see.
I stayed over in the evening after bringing Judith home, doing relaxed evening things like playing games and reading stories and chatting. The big game was Don't Panic, which is a reasonably playable implementation of the parlour game where you think of things in categories. And in the morning, St Nicholas brought sweets and thematic Playmobil sets to put in the children's shoes, and then everybody went to church for an Advent service.
I discovered that Advent liturgy feels a lot more homey than other seasons, because it's all about waiting for the Redeemer to come and fix what's broken in the world. And the sermon happened to be more like I expect a sermon to be, basically explaining and discussing the readings. The OT one was from Baruch, which has a lot of language in common with the Sabbath hymn Lecha dodi. I don't know if they're both quoting from a common source or if the verses are actually from Baruch (which isn't Biblical canon for us.) And the Gospel was the bit that extensively quotes Isaiah. The preaching was a little strange for me as the priest was employing things I think of as historical as metaphors, saying
Israel is a byword for sufferingbut meaning byword literally, he wasn't really talking about exile or the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem or the history of diaspora Jewry, he was mostly talking about Christians being persecuted by Muslims and the refugee crisis and general rather than specific sorts of suffering.
In the afternoon jack joined us, and we built and decorated the Christmas tree, which apparently is boyfriend's family tradition for the second Sunday in Advent. And there was carol singing in honour of the tree going up and discussing heresies in honour of St Nicholas' day. And by the time we'd done that it was dark so I lit the first candle of chanukah, and told the story. I played Maoz Tzur from YouTube because I'm not musical enough to teach the song; I sang along to it a bit, and Judith told me my singing was beautiful. Which really means that she's taken on board the idea that you're supposed to be supportive and encouraging to people who find things hard, but even if it's just a seven-year-old's tact nobody's ever said that to me before; usually I am intensely flattered if I manage merely "off-key" rather than painfully horrible. I gave small presents to the children (counting Benedict for this purpose cos I reckon at 16 you still ought to benefit from the receiving presents aspects of being a child), and they gave me a huge block of homemade fudge. And ghoti asked for latkes so I cooked a batch of them, and Dad called to wish me happy chanukah, thankfully a bit before I started the uninterruptable frying stage.
I am reminded of the dire warning that used to issue from groups trying to guilt parents into spending lots of money on Jewish continuity initiatives, about how otherwise we children might grow up to put chanukah presents under the Christmas tree. I'm pretty sure that this is not the kind of thing they had in mind, that I might fall in love with people who already have a family and be invited to join in their Christmas celebrations. Last year chanukah was later and we literally put chanukah presents under the Christmas tree, but doing St Nicholas and Second-in-Advent and first candle of chanukah all at the same time seems to count. Anyway, it's not a dire fate at all, I am wonderfully, amazingly happy.
I stayed in Cambridge and worked from home Monday, and ghoti joined me and jack for second candle on Monday night, and we did more chanukah discussion and more gaming. And I got up ridiculously early on Tuesday morning to head to Sheffield for a mini-conference, where I met kaberett's friend. I like Sheffield a lot, and I rather regretted planning things so I couldn't actually spend any time in the city. I felt surprisingly lonely coming home to my empty campus flat and lighting third candle on my own, but it's ok really; my OSOs are coming up for the weekend to help me celebrate the end of chanukah, so really I'm very well off. And today I had a very long day at work and stumbled home to light fourth somewhat after sunset, on the anniversary of my own birth by the Jewish calendar. I'm a bit pressed for time, but I think tomorrow I can manage to acquire doughnuts to bring into work, which is usually how I mark my lunar birthday. (There's no point celebrating my birthday by the Gregorian calendar at work since it's in the middle of Christmas.)
Yeah, I used a word. It's, um, a word. Thing.
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