Perfect Family Tales And Other Trivia

The art of the short-story writer is that of the cartoonist. It is the magical craft of creating entire worlds with a few simple strokes of a pen. Tales told by an idiot? Maybe! But my tales are also a mix of reality and fantasy; truth and lies; some based on my own family; others, not. Readers must guess which characters are real; who are inventions - and who are an amalgam of both. Please draw the boundaries for yourself.

Friday, 10 August 2012

‘Birds On A Wire; Songsmiths Unbound’

Remember the time you said you’d never heard of Leonard Cohen?


(A remark much repeated with most horrid glee at every music festival between here and Galilee).


You made things worse by carolling, “Hallelujah! He’s probably never heard of me! Unless you mean Lenny Cohen from round the corner. The same Lenny who was chucked out of synagogue when the rabbi discovered his family could never have been from our Kingdom of Priests, as his mum had been a Reform convert who’d married at the Progressive congregation in town.”

Then when we went to Jerusalem’s own Woodstock,  you began all over again –  a doleful chorus, sadly out of tune.

All I’d said was, “Isn’t Maya Johanna Menachem sweet? She can’t stop dancing. She’s got happy, pretty feet – and keeps them naked – just like Sandie Shaw.”

“Don’t be silly!,” you retorted. “It’s just bloody hot here. Maya Wotsit Thingy  won’t know about Sandie Shaw. What’s more she’s probably never heard of …”

“Oh, for God’s sake! Shut up! Maya’s a consummate musician with an innate understanding of her art. She describes how lyrics have patterns; change shape, like poetry on the page. If she knows Donovan – the U.K.’s own Dylan - then she’ll ….” Maya Johanna Menachem.Shay Tochner

“Always have something there to remind her?”

“Very droll. Anyway, here’s tonight’s big challenge,” I crowed. “Maya’s only three – no, make that two – feet away from us on stage. If you want to understand things better, go, ask her yourself.”

Scaredy Cat! Of course you didn’t! So I had to explain everything in hurried whispers, between the songs. But you’re right. Donovan  seemed one hundred per cent obsessed by ‘yellow’. Something to do with banana skins and vibrators …

But Maya went much higher ( ‘Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre’ ), sang Bird On A Wire which she dedicated to Moshe Silman and other souls in ashes. This, I said, was the  reality of the new Woodstock. Remembering great music in Israel to make it holy. Not just an international political pariah; an unhappy place of social unrest.

Then you wised up.

“Is this why Cohen’s treated like some sort of  Jewish saint in Ireland?,” you asked.

“ I’ve been studying him - and the local population – very hard indeed. It’s odd how so many have a love-hate thing going with Jews and Israel. They’re fairly drenched in bible, understand the prayerful allusions in Cohen’s songs – and seem almost transfixed, nigh seduced  by his  tender ardour for the work of William Butler Yeats. Then, there’s everything else.”

“Not bad for you. I’m quite impressed. I never thought you’d get beyond Freddie and the Dreamers.”

“You know how to hurt a guy,” you said, pulling me towards you.

“But there are times, even now, when I can make him feel rather good. What, for instance, would you say to a nice cuppa tea?”


*Maya Johanna Menachem appeared last weekend with guitarist, Shay Tochner and Maya Johanna Menachem.Shay Tochner.02violinist Yonatan Miller, at the WOMINI (World Music & Arts Institute of Northern Israel) studios in Shorashim, near Karmiel, Galilee. This picture was taken  by Yishay Sklare at the Kraft stadium, Jerusalem.

Natalie Wood

(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 10 August 2012)

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