Tag Archives: Herzliya Pituach

The Piano Nobile (and the wine that is never mine)

After years of cunning and deceit, I have finally been found out. Well, almost.

When it comes to wine-giving, I have always been firmly of the Costanza school of thought: it is pointless being overly, or even at all, beneficent when no one knows, or remembers, which bottle was yours.

Always the last bottle standing

Chez melchett, therefore, houses a large stock of budget . . . okay, cheap wine, but – and here is the key – sporting deceptively expensive-looking labels to satisfy a potential inspection by host on entry, prior to assimilation on kitchen table. Images of grand castles and villas clearly impress far more than those of, for example, black cats, the reason you will never catch me surreptitiously offloading the ubiquitous Gato Negro, always the last unopened bottle of booze at every Tel Aviv soiree.

My latest bulk buy, just before Passover (from the Or Akiva Supersol next to my office), was the perfectly named Piano Nobile (pronounced as if with an acute é). Together with its tastefully minimalist label, I just couldn’t go wrong, and I snapped up half a dozen of the bastards at the “Pesach special” price of 20 shekels a bottle.

My stock plonks, until then, had been Casa di Luigi and Don Julio, dodgy Chilean reds offloaded by some equally dodgy Gruzini (Georgian) in the Carmel Market at “shtayim be’chamishim” (two for 50). On one occasion, my Don Julio – bottles of which tend to vary in taste, between the drinkable and the paint-removing – was actually opened at a host’s table. “Rather bitter,” commented a smart arse guest (plonker?), whilst I maintained an air of nonchalant disinterest, completely confident that it had rendered itself hefke (ownerless) amongst the other assorted bottles on the table.

Bottles of cheap vino used to be passed between the Shabbos tables of Jerusalem’s Anglos like a relative with Tourette’s, prompting the mischievous amongst them to make small marks on their labels so that they would be able to identify those which had come full circle. Homing pigeons for frummers, if you like!

Last week’s Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), however, was my come-uppance time. Having been invited to the annual barbecue/pool party at an English cousin’s home in the desirable Herzliya Pituach, I found myself clean out of melchett Reserve – the half-decent wine that I keep for such, more upmarket, gatherings (or those sufficiently small for presents to be linked to their purveyors) – with the only wine left being . . . damn! The Piano Nobile!

Still, it wasn’t worth facing the lines of peasants at AM:PM on a holiday, so I took my chances. “Anyway,” I considered, “there’ll be well over a hundred people there. No one will even notice.”

Entering Sylvia’s house, however, from its garden, I was intercepted by my hostess.

“Hello, Michael . . . Oh, what wine is that?” asked Sylvia enthusiastically, prising the Nobile from my (suddenly tightened) grasp.

“Oh, I dunno.”

Piano Nobile? Never heard of that one!”

“It’s rare,” I replied.

“Let’s have a look at the vineyard,” Sylvia – not having paid even the slightest attention to my miserable explanation, and now perusing the rear label – continued. “Hmmm . . . there doesn’t seem to be one.”

“Oh well . . . ,” I said, leaving the sentence hanging as I made good my escape back to the garden.

After regaining a modicum of composure, the horrifying thought then grabbed me: “What if Sylvia opens the Piano at a dinner party . . . or, heaven forbid, passes it on to other Herzliya Pituach folk, who uncork it with her at their table?! Next Yom Ha’atzmaut, instead of sitting round this pool, I’ll be sharing bottles of vodka with Romanian workers on Allenby!”

There was only one thing for it: Waiting for Sylvia to exit the kitchen, I launched a daring rescue mission, and, together with another cousin, quaffed my errant gift in the afternoon sun . . . though the Nobile, being surprisingly agreeable, had the last laugh on all of us.

Anyway, l’chaim . . . and, to Israel, a belated Happy Independence!


Accadia kerfuffle: Enough with this football mishigas!

Who says it is only working class goyim who fight on holiday? Or that only Catholics and Protestants mix religion, football and violence?

No. It is not only in sectarian Glasgow that they have Troubles . . . oy, have we got them too! And the tattle amongst Anglo-Jewish Passover holidaymakers in Israel this past week has been the fracas, during the North London derby, between English guests at the pricy Dan Accadia Hotel in genteel Herzliya Pituach (the cost of being a football hooligan has clearly gone up!)

According to melchett mike sources, the cause of the melee – during the course of which one hotel guest was punched in the face by another and then, in more typical North-West London Jewish hard man style, bitten (yes, bitten!) by his friend – was a disputed front row seat for Tottenham v Arsenal, shown on a big screen at the 5-star establishment, a few miles north of Tel Aviv.

English Passover guests in the Accadia pool room

One such source (or, rather, snitch . . . ex-Hasmo of course) says that the two assailants – at least one of whom he believes to be from Hampstead Garden Suburb, and “in property” – “behaved, and even looked, more like Tony Soprano and “Big Pussy” [appropriately for the biter] Bonpensiero than your typical Accadia clientele . . . even the French ones!”

Accadia security, more used to dealing with suspicious packages than lary Londoners, had to be summoned to calm matters, though tensions continued over the following days. (melchett mike would, naturally, welcome further eyewitness accounts [even anonymous] of the incident by comment below . . . for news purposes only, you understand.)

The standard response (after surprise, i.e., that the volume of food inevitably consumed by the pair had allowed one to throw a punch and the other to bite into anything else) of Anglos at ‘our’ hotel in Tel Aviv – to where the news had spread faster than a plague of locusts – was “What a disgrace!”

Even if such behaviour is rather untypical for your average Anglo-Jewish football fan, it is, nonetheless, unlikely to occur during a screening of the Ashes (cricket) or the Six Nations (rugby union); and it is endemic, for me, of the stupefying loss of all proportion exhibited by so many Anglo-Jewish males towards the game described by Hasmonean’s Legendary French master, not entirely unfairly, as “22 grown men chasing a pig’s bladder.”

In my childhood and youth, no one was more meshugge about football than me. I lived and breathed Leeds United, “going home and away” (including abroad) as soon as I could. But even though I still follow the club’s results keenly, and am founder and “El Presidente” – unelected and unimpeachable, Muammar Gaddafi-style – of the Tel Aviv Whites, I would like to think that, with age (and also, perhaps, time spent in Israel), I have gained some perspective. And it is not merely because I now live over 2,000 miles from Elland Road, or the equally indisputable fact that Leeds are now shite (they were throughout my youth).

Aside from the illusory escape from the mundane, the only thing of any value that my former obsession gave me was the ability, at law school, to memorize scores of cases by association: after all, if the litigants’ namesakes had not featured in the same mid-70s Derby side, how else would I ever have remembered Powell v Lee?!

These days, on coming into contact with Anglo-Jews still living in England – or even just seeing their Facebook updates – I cringe at, and am even sickened by, their all-consuming obsession with football, their seeming inability to discuss virtually anything else, and how they encourage the same in their (male, at least) children.

"Not now, Natalie . . . the footie's on!"

And, on my increasingly infrequent visits to Blighty, I am always flabbergasted at how the most banal snippets of information, on footballer-clients, from a players’ agent acquaintance can so enthral the rapt male audience to which he so conceitedly plays. No one would even notice, I always think to myself, were Natalie Portman to walk in and get her kit off.

I have also observed, on these visits, how even Orthodox rabbis now appear to believe that they will only gain congregant interest if they couch their sermons in football talk (or is it, rather, the only language that they think shul-goers will understand?)

My cousin recently returned from his own visit to London with the tale of how he had witnessed the son of Orthodox friends, in their Hendon back garden, mimicking his footballing hero by crossing himself (though without understanding the significance) every time he took a penalty kick!

My late father, a good sportsman, and uncle, by all accounts one of Irish Jewry’s all-time finest (their ability, tragically, skipped our generation), always instilled in us a sense of proportion when it came to sport (as mere spectator or fan, at any rate). And any thoughts I may have had of my favourite Leeds United player attending my bar mitzvah – as was once de rigueur amongst Anglo-Jews (photographs of proud 13-year-olds and sheepish-looking gentiles appeared in every week’s JC) – would have been swiftly, and rightly, pooh-poohed.

The standard of Israeli football (not to mention commentary) is, of course, very far from Premier League; though, to coin a popular Hebrewism, zeh mah she’yesh (literally, “this is what there is”). But the only folk who display any real enthusiasm for football here are market stallholders and their ilk. Indeed, most Israelis with any education to speak of would not dream of exposing their children to the aggression, racism and obscenities seen and heard in this country’s stadia . . . and it is far milder than that found in English grounds.

"Now where did I put those damn dentures?!"

Quite apart from anything else, obsessive following of English clubs, these days, is an exercise in idiocy: The professional game is now no more than Big Business and an ego trip for Russian oligarchs, Arab sheikhs, American tycoons, and – to my particular regret – dodgy wheeler-dealers (some may prefer malevolent old c*nts) like Ken Bates (above). And any loyalty once witnessed amongst footballers, now just a bunch of greedy mercenaries, is a thing of the very distant past.

So what exactly are we now supporting?

Perversely, however, many Anglo-Jews appear to show an even greater interest in football than they (and we, as children) ever did. And how many of them give even a tenth as much of their resources, time and energy to communal, Zionist, or, indeed, any social or charitable causes (i.e., things that really matter) as they do – in season tickets, Sky subscriptions, and related paraphernalia – to ‘their’ football clubs? (Or is it merely that there is a lot more to ‘escape’ from, these days?)

Before dismounting my high horse, to the idiots at the Accadia . . .

Next Passover (if they’ll have you back), you’d be better advised to take an evening tour of the Jewish Quarter (or such like) – we have real heroes here, you know! – or even one last waddle to the buffet than to disgrace yourselves . . . and all of us.

Taking the SMS: Avi the Texting Masseur

Just when you think that the chutzpah can’t get any worse, the Israeli will usually surprise you . . .

During a massage, last week, in her holiday home in Herzliya Pituach – the hot destination, these days, for British “Deckchair Zionists” – my friend Donna’s blissful indulgence was intermittently disturbed by a faint clicking sound.

She ignored it.

Opening her eyes, however, towards the end of the one-hour session, Donna caught her masseur, Avi, with one hand on her foot and the other typing a text (SMS) message on his mobile phone.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but I would say that a masseur on 300 shekels (50 British pounds) an hour can reasonably be expected to use both hands!

The incident reminded me of a university flatmate whose girlfriend, in the middle of doing something to him that he could not do to himself – would we males ever leave the house? – looked up to find him channel-hopping with the TV remote. (In his defence, there was footie on the box . . . but she gave him a mouthful anyway. The cheeky chappie, meanwhile, eventually migrated to his natural habitat . . . Israel.)

Such chutzpadik multitasking was also exhibited by an Israeli first date of mine who, on arrival at the pretty garden café handpicked by me – and having evidently resolved that I was not as attractive as I considered her – insisted on sitting inside, so that she would not miss any of the goings-on in the Israeli Big Brother house.

Indeed, the Israeli is a multitasker nonpareil, who can, for instance, smoke, devour garinim (sunflower seeds) and cuff the kids and/or missus . . . all while driving at excess speed, with one foot on the dashboard, cursing down his mobile and gesticulating at other road users.

While now – having lived here for over ten years – conditioned to Israeli chutzpah (and not averse to dishing out some of my own when required), I am also far less likely to put up with it . . .

Overhearing, in my local hummus place on Sheinkin, that I was flying back to London the following morning, an Israeli woman who I know from the area enquired whether I would mind taking something for her son, sojourning in Wood Green (of all places).

“Of course not,” I foolishly replied.

The woman scuttled away, returning a quarter of an hour later not with the latest Amos Oz novel or Arik Einstein disc, but with a plastic bag – from the makolet (supermarket) over the road – weighing several kilos and bursting with family-sized bottles of Osem tomato ketchup.

“He is used to it,” she declared, as if that should have been of interest to me.

Some years earlier, I would have been so taken aback by such chutzpah that my only reaction would have been momentary paralysis, an awkward smile, and a hasty unpacking of my suitcase to accommodate the condimentally-challenged nincompoops. And I may even have thanked her for selecting me for the honour.

But no longer.

“I’m not taking that,” I laughed, almost contemptuously. “I am already overweight.” I wasn’t. “Anyway, what’s wrong with Heinz?!”

What could she say? She had been outchutzpah’d.

You see, it is just that on encountering foreign accents – usually accompanied by indications of (relative) meekness – many of the natives see a flashing “Freier!” (sucker) sign.

And not to be taken advantage of here, one, regrettably, must become like them.

Avi “the Texting Masseur” no doubt calculated that – unlike his Israeli clients – Donna would not mind him sending SMS messages while he was supposed to be giving her a massage . . . and that, even if she did, the English lady would not say a word.

And he was, at least, half right.


Discrimination of a Singular Kind: A Rant

As I boarded the vessel, I came under immediate attack.

But, unlike that suffered by IDF naval commandos a couple of months ago, this assault was both innocent and purely verbal. It was, however, no less unwelcome.

“This is Mike. He is 42, and looking for a wife.”

This is how my (with) friend(s like these), Donna, introduced me to the several middle-aged women seated with her at the rear of the boat, in Herzliya Pituach marina, last Tuesday afternoon.

And stern (back of a boat, geddit?!) was what I was. Indeed, if I was not so used to the way that so many married people relate to us single folk, a second flotilla incident may have been unavoidable. But shrugging off, rather than reacting to, Donna’s introduction (she is, after all, an ex-Hasmo girl), I extended a cheery greeting to my fellow sailors and thanked Donna for prompting me to turn my attention to a matter to which I had alluded in an earlier post to melchett mike, i.e., the very different treatment given by certain married people to their single friends, and especially the seeming assumption that the love and private lives of those friends (and not just those who write about them on their blogs!) are fair and public game.

I mean, it is hard to imagine a reaction as restrained as mine, above, were we singles to give our married friends a taste of their own medicine and to start introducing them in an equally uninhibited and intrusive manner:

“This is Josh and Becky. Don’t be fooled by the show – they are utterly miserable. Josh is looking for fun with a woman for whom rigor mortis has not yet set in . . . while Becky is just longing to be touched by any woman.”

Why is it that those married people (and it is not all of them) seem to forget everything that they know about you, their single friend – what you are like, what you do, what you have achieved . . . in short, who you are – but, instead, reduce you to the fact that you have, as yet, always opted for “I won’t”?

Even ignoring the occasional (and always hilarious) gay jibes, such marrieds seem to have all kinds of misconceptions about their single friends: That you somehow won’t be able to cope at a meal out or dinner party with their other, married friends. And, if you do receive an invitation, it will usually be as an afterthought, rather than the advance one received by the other, ‘normal’ guests (so a fellow ex-Hasmo would, at the end of Saturday morning synagogue, invariably invite me back for lunch with other, married ex-classmates who had had the date in their diaries for weeks; I never went). Then, of course, there are the weddings and bar mitzvahs where you get seated at the “sad singles” (with whom you have nothing else in common) table, rather than with your married friends.

But, then, it is not unusual for those same married couples – especially, the male halves – to show inordinate interest in all the gory details of your love life . . . which causes me to wonder whether they actually live vicariously through us.

I mean, of course, most of us singles would love to find our soul mate, procreate (as opposed to merely copulate), and live happily ever after. But, believe it or not, many of us are also pretty complete individuals, who – until we find that person – are quite content with the advantages, and they are not negligible (see previous brackets), that we currently enjoy.

Indeed, if there is a Gay Pride Parade, then why not a Single one?!

Towards the end of our sail, I asked Donna (whom, incidentally, I love dearly) about a guy on the catamaran whom I had not yet met (though I was determined to introduce myself, this time). And I soon got talking to Paul – “Divorced. Looking.” was Donna’s complete profile of him – who told me that the next time he starts thinking about marriage, he will instead (to save on lawyers’ fees) just find someone he dislikes and buy her a house . . .

Which guaranteed that if I was “looking for a wife” when I got on the boat, I certainly was not as I got off.