This year's seder (Passover meal) was pretty small by our standards, just the seven of us plus my cousin J and his partner K, Screwy's carer and a university friend of P'tite Soeur's. The reason for this is rather sad, namely that my mad great uncle who usually comes with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grand-daughter is very sick, so they didn't make it. But although we missed them, it made the occasion much more cosy than our usual bigger seders. Not just the smaller numbers, but because almost all the group are close family who know eachother well and have similar ideas about how a seder should be. No children and no crotchety old people, (Granny's part of the family so she doesn't count, though obviously she is old.)
A good thing about the small gathering is that we started at a reasonable time (rather than having to wait for my great uncle who gets lost on the way every single year). And we didn't have to waste a lot of time washing the hands of 20 people or making 20
It helped that Maman was less stressed doing one meal for 11 than she would be doing two meals for 20 or more. Though she did take it into her head to make challah after we'd already cleared away the leavened food from the house, in order that we could make the blessing for bread on shabbat. And if that wasn't bad enough, she started worrying in case the poppy seeds for the bread were kitniyot (food that is not in fact grain but might get mistaken for such if you know very little botany). It was very good challah, and it's certainly pleasant to have some really nice bread before a week of breadless affliction. But her theology is a little confused.
Insight of the year from Screwy: regarding the question
On all other nights, we do not dip [vegetables] even once; [why] on this night do we dip them twice?, Screwy suggested that this could be connected to points in the passover story where things are dipped in blood. The first dipping event is dipping parsley in salt water; the standard explanation is that the salt water represents tears over the suffering of slavery. But it's also cognate to Joseph's fancy garment which his brothers dipped in blood, causing Jacob's tears because he was led to believe his beloved son was dead. Then we dip the bitter herb in sweet charoset, conventionally said to represent the mortar used in the slave-labour building projects. This is cognate to the dipping of the hyssop in the blood of the Paschal sacrifice, which is sweet because it allowed the Israelite first born to be spared from the tenth plague. Cute, hey?
Cousin J is about to submit his PhD (he is already a medical doctor but has moved over the research side) so we had lots of thesis-related commiseration going on. His career is entirely stellar, since he is already a fellow and has lots of influence both in his college and with the medical faculty. And generally he's very happy. His partner is the sweetest person ever, I really like her! I had met her before but only briefly at a huge family occasion when we didn't get the chance to talk.
Thuggish Poet has been promoted to head of English, pretty good for someone only a year out of university and with no formal teaching qualifications! So he's doing rather well too. He's headed back to Brighton now to organize a poetry performance of some sort. P'tite Soeur has likewise gone back to Nottingham as she has lectures tomorrow. Screwy is not in the best of health but soldiering on. He had to work Saturday morning, which seems a bit much given he works for a Jewish organization, and is working again on Monday, so just now he's preparing some of the stuff he's going to be doing tomorrow.
Today Granny was in a talkative mood so we got a lot of fascinating war stories, interspersed with some rant about the monarchy and the particular individuals in the royal family. Granny is great fun when she's in a good mood like that! So we learnt about the women who drove the army supply trucks from the factories where they were made on Tyneside to the south coast in preparation for the D-Day landings. Huge monster trucks that you pretty much drove by sheer brute strength, and of course there were no men to drive them since all the men were at the front. They would set off from Newcastle before dawn, these women, girls really, cos they were conscripting 17 and 18-year-olds by 1944, and drive straight through to arrive at Granny's camp at 9pm, get food and sleep wherever there was a spare bed, then set off before the rest of the camp woke up in the morning to finish the drive to the ports.
Anyway, I have only sporadic internet access, as I'm sharing Dad's computer which he needs most of the time for working. I am hoping to see pseudomonas, compilerbitch, lethargic_man and with a bit of luck blue_mai at some point this week. May also make it to the pub with pseudomonas &co. on Thursday. Phone me if you want to make arrangements; I may well not see emails at all quickly, and I'm even less likely to see LJ comments.