Tag Archives: Reiss Family

The Edot (Part I): The Pasty UK Years

If pushed to give my primary reason for, on a good day (i.e., when I haven’t been induced into spasm by some impudent native), preferring life in Israel to that in the UK, then pipping even the food, weather and women (in ascending order of hotness) would have to be the rich tapestry of Jewish life here. In spite of our many detractors (and, indeed, problems), the short history of Israel has been one of startling achievement in almost every field, not least of which has been the absorption of so many disparate edot (ethnic groups) – each with its own distinctive culture and traditions – into such a remarkably united (even if we wish it were more so) whole.

But whenever attempting to relate my experiences of, for instance, Moroccan or Yemenite Jews, and especially of their womenfolk, to an Anglo Jew, I am met with a blank expression (one that Part II will attempt to address). The vast majority of British Jews lack any frame of reference in this regard, hailing from or having their origins in Poland, Galicia (today straddling Poland and Ukraine), Russia, the Baltics, Germany, and, to a lesser extent, Hungary. And, growing up in North-West London, the very marginal differences between such Jews could only be discerned from their particular shuls or shtiebls (large and small synagogues) if they had them (most now don’t), from their Shabbos meals, though mainly from their own peculiar – in both senses – sense of identity.

So, in the Isaacson household, for example, my father, of Lithuanian extraction, always appeared to delight in highlighting (in good humour, mind) the intellectual and cultural inferiority of the Galicianer Reiss family into which he had married. The Litvak, he was certain, constituted the very “cream” of European Jewry. Indeed, my father’s claim has always seemed to me to be somewhat justified, the Litvak misnagdim appearing, on the one hand, more enlightened (almost by definition) than the hassidic Galicianers, whilst, on the other, somehow more human than the anally-challenged German Yekkes. (In contrast to most Jewish immigrants to the UK, who arrived immediately before and after the turn of the last century, the majority of Hungarian Jews did not escape the Holocaust and were perhaps, therefore, considered beyond, even light-hearted, stereotype.)

The sickening history of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, however, made the “Old Country” a delicate subject for all immigrants. Even though they escaped Lithuania and Galicia around two and three decades, respectively, before the rise of Hitler, my parents never heard their parents or grandparents talk about the pogroms and persecutions that they had suffered in their backward, Jew-hating hellholes. Anyway, there is far more that unites Ashkenazi (European) Jews than separates them. And the differences between them would be no more recognisable to the outsider – or even to most other Jews – than those between, for instance, British Muslims of Bangladeshi extraction and those from Pakistan.

United Colors of British Jewry: Board of Deputies honorary officers, 2009

United Colors of British Jewry: Board of Deputies honorary officers, 2009

A relatively small community of Sephardic Jews – of primarily Middle Eastern and North African descent – added some much-needed colour to the rather pallid complexion of Anglo-Jewish life. My exposure was to the, largely Indian, Sephardic community of Hendon, to the Adenites of Stamford Hill (many of whom attended Hasmonean Grammar School for Boys), and to a smattering of Moroccans, Egyptians, Iraqis and Persians (most of whom had escaped the 1979 Islamic Revolution, wisely with little more than their carpets).

And these Sephardim brought a lot to the table. Quite literally. Their mealtime plenty was quite an eye-opener for the Anglo Jew, in whose kitchen meticulous Shabbos potato allocation was carried out on a Thursday morning. Blessed with an Egyptian aunt, however, I was spared a childhood of exclusively (miserably bland) Ashkenazi fare (though even that was an improvement on traditional English grub). Wary not to injure his daughter’s (my mother’s) feelings, my grandfather would play months of  ‘chess’ with the food she had deposited in his freezer, while my aunt’s wasn’t even given time to ice over.

The door policy, too, operated in Sephardic households was significantly more relaxed, with strays wandering in and out without any requirement for advance written invitation. This was a real culture shock for the Anglo Jew, who ‘greeted’ every unexpected knock at the door – which, even after positive identification, still wasn’t always opened – with a suspicious glance through translucent curtains or a built-in, magnifying peephole.

Perhaps in their attempt to blend in, however, the differences between these various Sephardic ethnicities and cultures were rarely visible to, or experienced by, their Ashkenazi ‘hosts’. And, beyond the puerile mimicking of the ‘funny’ accents of our new Persian classmates, I was never aware of any racism towards, or even light-hearted stereotyping of, our darker brothers. Indeed, many of them easily assimilated into Raleigh Close, Hendon’s very traditional United Synagogue. Moreover, the fact that the biggest “lout/wretch” (to quote the Legendary Swansean) in our school year was Morocco born and bred was neither here nor there.

In Israel, however, the richness of Jewish multi-ethnicity is celebrated, nurtured, and flourishes. And the deliciously incorrect sense of humour enjoyed here, thriving on ethnic excess and eccentricity (this kinda thing), simply could not exist without the edot. Is there anything to the inevitable, resulting stereotypes? You betcha!! And don’t believe anyone who – serving his or, of course, her ‘god’ of political correctness – tells you otherwise.

[Next on melchett mikeThe Edot (Part II): Ethnic Yentzing in Palestine. If you are offended by generalisations, and un-PC ones at that, then give it a miss. Anyway, you are probably on the wrong blog . . .]


Stanley Reiss z”l, 1934-1996

This evening, remarkably, marks the fourteenth yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of my late uncle, Stanley Reiss.

Remarkably, I say, because so unfailingly is Stanley’s memory kept alive by all those who knew and loved him – with recollections, especially, of his generosity of spirit and unique sense of humour – that we can never quite believe that he has not been with us for so long. That his legacy and spirit still are, however, is, in Stanley’s case, no mere cliché.

Stanley, my mother’s younger brother, was that rarity amongst older relatives in that, far from unavoidable obligation, time spent in his company was hugely and genuinely enjoyed. I would love to join him on his evening walks, with family dog Cookie, around Hendon Park – to discuss his, often radical, views on British politics and current affairs (about which he was extremely well-read) and sport (much of which, with his uncanny ability to see the true nature of things, he was persuaded was “fixed”) – and recall jumping at the opportunity to accompany him on the trek to a family bar mitzvah in some distant community (which no one else particularly fancied) because it meant a valuable hour and a half in his presence.

Entertaining guests at the bar mitzvah of my brother Jonathan (pictured with my father), 1971.

Stanley’s repartee and one-liners, delivered with wonderful comic timing, were invariably followed by his trademark boyish guffaw and – for good measure, as if to guarantee a winner – a hearty slap on the back of the nearest listener.

And Stanley had his regular comic routines. Some of these, such as mock chases and fights with his four sons, involved traditional slapstick, while others bordered on pure pantomime: While one of said sons would be on the upstairs phone, in the middle of a sensitive teenage talk, Stanley would carefully – but always with an eye on his eager morning room audience – pick up the downstairs receiver. Covering the mouthpiece with his hand, he would await the perfect moment in the conversation (i.e., the most delicate) before interjecting: “Oh, come on . . . this is boring!”

In the family tradition (of which I am most proud), Stanley had no time for humbug or status. On one occasion, as the two of us attempted to beat the crowds to the buffet at a wedding (on my, Isaacson, side of the family) in the Royal Albert Hall, Stanley barged past Sir Keith Joseph – the brains behind Thatcherism – as if he wasn’t there. Sir Keith’s face, unsmiling at the best of times, was an absolute picture, and – even if he might not have – I enjoyed the moment immensely.

Such irreverence may have stemmed, to some extent, from Stanley’s knowledge (shared by all) that, without his admirable, unstinting observance of the Fifth Commandment, he would have achieved far more, both creatively and professionally. His father (my grandfather) Sam, however, wanted his only son in “the shop” and, so, Stanley’s most original artistic talent (he produced the work below aged just fifteen) was left to hobby . . . with guests returning from weddings and bar mitzvahs with his hilarious caricatures – often of them – sketched on the rear of their Grace After Meals booklets.

One decision, fortunately, that Stanley did not leave to his parents was his choice of life partner. And in his Egyptian wife, Gigi, Stanley found a soul mate with shared values of empathy, kindness, openness and frankness.

Stanley was a genuinely religious (in the real sense of the word) man, perhaps even – while not bearing all of the meaningless trimmings – in the true, chassidic Galicianer tradition: He loved nothing more than hearing his sons sing zemiros; while his and Gigi’s home operated a strict open door policy (a rarity in England), with the Reiss Shabbos table usually seating an assortment of characters who considered 5 Queens Road their second – and, in some cases, even primary – home.

The centrepiece of our family Seder was usually a Galicianer-Litvak dialogue between Stanley and my father regarding the role of God during the Holocaust. Where Stanley saw Him, especially in the subsequent creation of the State of Israel, my sceptic father did not. And when I eventually started to question, too, Stanley was quick to give me – and to make sure that I read – a copy of This Is My God, Herman Wouk’s classic introduction to Orthodox Judaism.

Stanley was a staunch supporter of Israel, which he backed up by encouraging – and, for once, standing up to his father’s objections to – the decisions of his sons to make aliyah. This love of Israel extended to Israelis, too, who, on chancing upon “the shop” on Sunday mornings (usually following a visit to nearby Petticoat Lane), walked out with clothing at near cost price and often a Shabbos invitation to 5 Queens Road!

The mischievous Hasmo boy, paintbrush in pocket, circa 1947.

As a consequence, in all probability, of a difficult (even somewhat neglected) wartime childhood – spent in a Welsh boarding school, far from his parents’ Letchworth sojourn – Stanley was, by all accounts, a rather mischievous boy. On one occasion, a municipal meeting was interrupted by the announcement, “Mr. Reiss, please go home: Your chickens have escaped.” Stanley had thought that he would let them stretch their wings!

Such humanity earned Stanley the sobriquet, “Shirt”: he would give the shirt off his back to someone in need. And it was a quality that he never lost: in later years, Stanley would leave cash for a down-and-out old school friend – they were the first pupils at Hasmonean Grammar – with doormen of Tel Aviv beachfront hotels, requesting that they hand him a little each time he pass by.

A wonderful son, husband and father, Stanley was also so many people’s best friend. And his sudden passing, at the tragically premature age of 62, was a deep and terrible shock to all of them. My father, not always the most sentimental of men, was quite broken about it for the rest of his days.

Stanley always saw the light side of life, and – while little comfort to those he left behind – there was something in his unfussy departure from this world (though he would dearly have loved a lot longer in it) about which he would have approved. Indeed, there was much about Stanley’s simplicity and lack of ego to which we can all aspire.

Heading straight to Bushey Cemetery from my hastily arranged flight from Tel Aviv, on that dark morning in October 1996, the first words that Gigi said to me were “You had such a lovely uncle.”

That said it all. Here was a man who had made a real difference. And life since, for lots of us, has never been quite the same.


England, Your England

“Sorry,” he proffered, as he inadvertently passed between me and the bookshelf.

“Bloody hell” I thought, after doing a brief double take, “that would never happen in Steimatzky!”

I had been browsing the Travel Writing section of my favourite bookshop – Waterstone’s (formerly Dillons) on Gower Street – as the impeccably mannered Englishman momentarily obstructed my view. This seemingly insignificant episode, however, resonated with me, demonstrating as it did the huge contrast in attitudes and behaviour between my birthplace and my homeland.

There is something lovely and serene about many aspects of life in Blighty, including the manner in which (most) folk treat each other with common courtesy and respect (if not warmth).

After a week in London (following a year and a half without a visit), however, I was ready to come home (which I did a few days later, last Thursday). Whilst enjoying the ‘civilisation’ booster, I now experience considerable difficulty in readjusting to the English, and – oddly perhaps – to English Jews especially.

This has become very apparent to me on Anglo-Jewish charity bike rides overseas, when I find it extremely testing having to spend a week and a half with a hundred, primarily North-West London coreligionists. For my last ride, in the Far East, I made my own way from Tel Aviv to the group’s hotel in Saigon. On arrival, the first person I came across, from Stanmore, on hearing that I had come from Israel, felt compelled to assure me of his Zionist credentials:

“I would never sell my flat in Herzliya Pituach.”

Oh, Theodor would have been so proud!

At last Monday’s seder (Passover meal), which I enjoyed in Muswell Hill, the Manc sitting opposite me, finding an Anglo-Israeli at the table, laid into American Jewish settlers, who – even if I don’t always agree with them – have priorities considerably more weighty than the “French château that sleeps 19” which Manc informed us he is about to lose to his ex-wife. I liked her already.

Then, clearly trying to impress the new fiancée by his side – and more closely resembling the Haggadah’s (seder service’s) Wicked Son (who tries to distance himself from the Jewish people) with every ignorant word – he became a tad bolder:

“It might have been better if Israel had never existed.”

“Your life would be a lot more precarious if it didn’t,” I fired back as if he had just dissed my mum. In fact, if the Wicked Son hadn’t been my friend’s brother-in-law, the Isaac Son might have jeopardised any future invitation by following the Haggadah’s instruction to “smash his teeth”.

The purpose of my trip was to attend an Isaacson simcha (festivity). And whilst – following the bar mitzvah of my cousin’s twins – there are two fine new Isaacson men, the speeches (including that of the Rabbi), essentially on cricket and Arsenal FC, prompted even this once sports mad teenager to think that his Isaacsons (should he, one day, surprise everyone) will grow up here.

When in England, these days, I find myself acting like a member of the Israel Tourist Board. Wicked Son excepted, I offered Melchett hospitality to everyone I met. The obvious reluctance of some to accept it, however, saddened me.

“I am not visiting until there is peace,” declared a cousin on the other, Reiss side of the family, who spends his vacations in Dubai. “I wouldn’t feel safe there” (a curious statement, I thought, considering he has never been). And another (who has a box at Arsenal) hasn’t returned since receiving poor service at his hotel’s pool during his only visit, in the Seventies.

I also dropped in on an old friend from law school, whose seemingly delightful Hampstead Garden Suburb existence – replete with BMW jeep and designer Labrador – showed me what I could have had if I didn’t love this f*cked-up country so bloody much.

The only thing that I truly do miss about Blighty is the sound of leather on willow – one even more seductive than that, from the building opposite, of “Melchett Shabbes afternoon girl” (if you get my drift) – but the politeness, the châteaus, the Premier League boxes, the Suburb, the jeeps, even the ‘proper’ dogs (only joking, Stuey and Dexx!) . . .  none of them held any real allure.

If you feel that you truly belong here, none of that “stuff” is any substitute.

[See also Why I Am Not (Really) an Englishman and the last four paragraphs of my Rosh Hashanah Message.]

Sam Reiss z”l, 1903-1995

Few are the folk who do good deeds without fanfare, and who seek absolutely nothing in return . . . not thanks, not praise, not even recognition.

Grandpa, outside "the shop"

Grandpa, outside "the shop"

“Did he wear a bow tie and smoke a cigar?” is the usual response, whenever I ask an East Ender if he or she came across my maternal grandfather, Sam Reiss. That, however, was the only ‘loud’ thing about him.

“What a character!” they exclaim, when they realise that we’ve got the same man. And grandpa, whose Yahrzeit (Jewish anniversary of death) was on Sunday, was indeed an original. He even sported his trademark bow tie in recognition of his bar mitzvah parsha (Torah portion) being Bo.

Grandpa was born in 1903, in Galicia (south-east Poland today), close to the Hassidic centre of Ropczyce, home to the famous tzadik (righteous man) Zvi Naftali Horowitz. The Reiss family resided either in the village of Radomyśl Wielki or the town of Sędziszów Małopolski – grandpa used to mention both of them, and I am not sure that even he knew exactly which (Jewish suffering in the “Old Country” making it a rather taboo subject for his parents’ generation). He arrived in Britain as a baby, together with his parents and older sister Sadie. 

Family Reiss (circa 1938) Back row: Brothers Morry, Solly, Charlie, Alf, Joe & my grandfather Sam (separated by Alf's wife Bella & bar mitzvah Lionel Becker). Middle row: My mother Norma & grandmother Leah. Front row: My great-grandmother & grandfather Chana & Naftali, flanking Reiss sister Sadie, her husband Jack & son Alan Becker.

Family Reiss (circa 1938) Back row: Brothers Morry, Solly, Charlie, Alf, Joe & my grandfather Sam (separated by Alf's wife Bella & bar mitzvah boy Lionel Becker). Middle row: My mother Norma & grandmother Leah. Front row: My great-grandmother & grandfather Chana & Naftali, flanking Reiss sister Sadie, her husband Jack & son Alan Becker.

My great-grandparents, who had five more boys in England, were Dzikówer Hassidim (of the Ropczyce Hassidic dynasty) – followers of the tzadik Eliezer of Dzików, the son of Zvi Naftali of Ropczyce – and grandpa davened (prayed) at the East End’s Dzikówer Shtiebl, a small synagogue attended by immigrants from that part of the world.

A furrier by trade, grandpa took over the Brick Lane hosiery store of the brother of his new wife, Leah – who, for some curious reason, he always referred to as “Mrs. Reiss” – above which they brought up my mother, Norma, and her three younger siblings, Mavis, Stanley and Gerald. Grandpa then moved the business, now S. Reiss, to Whitechapel High Street, where the artistic flair of my dear late uncle Stanley developed it into a successful, niche, safari suit wholesaler.

This was the precursor of today’s Reiss global fashion chain (my grandfather gifted a store in Bishopsgate to his brother, Joe, which was in turn inherited by Joe’s son, David Reiss). After my visit to the shtetls (small, Eastern European, Jewish towns or villages) of Ropczyce, Radomyśl and Sędziszów, in 2000, it has been both wonderful and somewhat strange to stumble across Reiss stores on New York’s trendy Bleecker Street, as I did last month, and next to that bastion of ‘Englishness’, Trinity College, Cambridge, last summer. From such humble beginnings . . .

During breaks from the hardship of university life, I worked in “the shop” – it was always referred to as that, even though there were more than one – which grandpa believed would teach me a lot more about life. It certainly taught me a lot more Yiddish – whenever someone dodgy-looking walked in, grandpa would alert shop assistants with a cry of “ganef” (thief). As a result, his staff – which included Pakistanis, Sikhs and Greek-Cypriots – developed a command of Yiddish that would have put most British-born Jews to shame.

Grandpa, in his habitat

Grandpa, in his habitat

Until his late eighties – and with his ever-devoted Stanley always by his side – grandpa went into work six days a week, taking liberties and Sundays off in his nineties. Indeed, “the shop” was grandpa’s habitat, and – living for work, rather than working to live – it became an end in itself.

Grandpa had no interest whatsoever in the trappings of the good life that he could so easily have enjoyed. Only peer pressure ‘forced’ him to visit the new State of Israel (see the photo in my e-memorial to my grandmother), and, following another rare trip – to New York on the QEII (with my late brother Jonny) – he commented that “Broadway is just a poor man’s Tottenham Court Road”. In a similar vein, when my parents informed him that they would be visiting Hong Kong, he responded “What do you think you are going to find there? It’ll be like Petticoat Lane with Chinamen.” (And, on arrival, my parents gave each other a knowing look, as if to say “He’s right again.”)

Grandpa had a deep interest in, and understanding of, the stock market. When not in the synagogue, he would spend most of Shabbos (Saturday) devouring the Financial Times and Investors Chronicle. In fact, fellow-congregants of Raleigh Close (Hendon United Synagogue) had more questions for Grandpa on Shabbos mornings than they ever did for the Rabbi.

I would often while away Shabbos afternoons with grandpa in the periodicals section of Hendon Public Library, where he would further study the financial pages. It is to my eternal regret that I never showed the interest in “the markets” that he so wanted his grandchildren to – I would have gleaned more practical and invaluable information from him than I ever did from school or university.

Grandpa was a deeply modest man, uninterested in publicity, self-aggrandisement, or communal high office. In his own unassuming way, he was most definitely another Galician tzadik. In addition to being extremely charitable – letters requesting donations were still flooding in over ten years after his death – grandpa would never turn away anyone he knew, if they needed money during difficult times. When they could return it, well and good. When they couldn’t (or just didn’t), he would simply write it off . . . and suffer the inevitable verbal lashing from my grandmother!

Moreover, grandpa agreed to act as a financial guarantor for numerous refugees to Britain from Eastern Europe – at a time when many were scared to – thereby saving them from the tentacles of Nazism. When publicly thanked by such people, years later, at their family Simchas (joyous occasions, such as weddings and bar mitzvahs) – which he didn’t particularly want to attend! – grandpa would be rather embarrassed, and make nothing of it.

A man of simple pleasures, grandpa truly understood the words of Shalom Aleichem, “A kind word is no substitute for a piece of herring.” Post-synagogue gatherings at my grandparents’ home would generally commence with an in-depth critique of the herring served up at the synagogue kiddush (post-service ‘refuelling’). And I vividly recall grandpa scooping out the brains, or the kop(head) as he referred to it, of fish – a delicacy he claimed – which his neighbours, in Prothero Gardens, would save for him.

His grandchildren, even as young boys, were the beneficiaries of grandpa’s frugality, receiving crisp twenty and fifty pound notes in crafty handshakes, always accompanied by a wink and sideways jerk of the head to indicate that we mustn’t tell our parents. If Iceland’s banks had had the cash reserves that I had under my mattress, they would never have collapsed!

Though without formal education, grandpa possessed an innate literary streak, which produced a distinctive “people’s poetry”. He would make up verses especially for his grandchildren, whilst coining various other expressions that I have never heard elsewhere. For instance, out of superstition, he would never refer to death . . . only to the “dickybirds”. And grandpa was politically incorrect in the delicious way that so many Jewish East Enders were, carrying on the rich tradition of Yiddish irreverence (there are numerous great examples, which are too un-PC . . . even for melchett mike!)

Grandpa also possessed a healthy cynicism. Whenever there was a bar mitzvah in a non-religious family – who only attended synagogue in the run-up to (and, sometimes, only on) the “big day” – the Rabbi would always (as was incumbent on him), in his sermon, encourage the boy to continue attending. Unfailingly, grandpa would wryly whisper to his neighbours that the Rabbi was “flogging a dead horse” (and, again, he was right . . . of course).

Grandpa, I would like to think that you are looking down on us, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, from “dickybird” country . . . and are proud that we have all, without exception, carried on your Reiss legacy of good humour, honesty, and straightforwardness.


Leah Reiss z”l, 1899-1989

Today is the twentieth Yahrzeit (Jewish anniversary of death) of my maternal grandmother, Leah Reiss (née Levy), and another e-memorial (I posted the first on the Yahrzeit of Jonny, my late brother) presents an excellent opportunity to remember a real character and, in her own unique way, Eishet Chayil (woman of valour) . . .

If there is a Platonic ‘universal form’ of Polish Grandmother, my guess is it will not be too dissimilar from “Grandma”. Neighbours would often hear her call out to her then fifty-something year old son – when he picked my grandfather up for work – to check that he hadn’t forgotten his chocolate!

Missing the business on Tel Aviv beach (Grandma is sporting a pearl necklace in the Israeli summer!)

Missing the Business: On Tel Aviv beach in summer . . . Grandma sporting a pearl necklace!

Grandma was born, at the close of the nineteenth century, to new immigrants –  from Rozwadów, Galicia – to the East End of London. She married my grandfather, Sam Reiss, a furrier by trade, who took over her family’s hosiery business on Brick Lane – the precursor of today’s Reiss global fashion chain – before moving it to Whitechapel High Street (where one store is still trading today). Grandma lived for her family and “the business”, and my mother grew up on a counter rather than in a pram.

A firm believer that “blood is thicker than water”, “Auntie Leah” would do anything for her own, especially nephews and nieces, for whom she would often stand up against tyrannical parents. Sadly, this benevolence did not extend to my grandfather’s family, who (for no good reason in particular) could do no right in her eyes, and the relationships between the numerous Reiss sisters-in-law made those of the Dallas Ewings seem harmonious!

And Grandma didn’t give her children’s spouses an easy ride either. When my uncle dared to date a French-Egyptian girl, from a non-Orthodox family – and, perhaps more significantly to Grandma, one of modest economic means – Grandma flew to Paris, unannounced and uninvited, to inform the girl’s mother that this was a wedding that would not be happening (it did). Grandma would also often chide my father – like any good Irishman, fond of a glass or three of the “hard stuff”, when popping in on his way home from synagogue – for drinking too much (my grandfather would wink at him, as if to say “ignore her” . . . which my father always did!)

Jonny, Me, Mum & Grandma (circa 1968)

All Smiles: Jonny, Me, Mum & Grandma (circa 1968)

There was a flip side, however, to all of this. Grandma was a woman of rare substance and steel, and, when my brother Jonny’s problems began, she came into her own – Jonny would go round to Grandma, already in her seventies, for TLC, at a time when no one else could cope with him.

Grandma was a worrier as well as a warrior –  her motto should have been “Work won’t kill you, not worrying will” – and, whenever we told her to stop, she would reply “If I don’t worry, who will worry for me?” To her way of thinking, worrying – far from being harmful– was essential.

The most memorable story involving Grandma, however, and the one which perhaps best illustrates her unique character, relates to the occasion on which she was a passenger in my mother’s car, stopped for speeding on Hendon Way. My mother wound down her window, but Grandma was not taking a back seat: “Thank you, Officer,” she interjected, “I am so pleased you stopped us . . . I always tell her that she drives too fast.” And there was no way my mother was getting a ticket after that!

Grandma only had peripheral vision for the last ten or so years of her life, though her immense pride would never allow her to admit it – in an attempt to get to the East End, to ‘help’ in “the business”, we would sometimes catch her trying to feel her way down to Hendon Central Tube station.

A cliché maybe, but Grandma . . . they don’t make ’em like you anymore. Hope you’re not giving the Angels too hard a time!

“Little Michaeleh”