Day 237

Level 2 Chi Kung.

I have often wondered as to the origins of my strong empathy for, and fascination with, Jewish people. I’m not Jewish and I’m sorry to say that, although I had a couple of Jewish colleagues in the NHS and later in the Civil Service, I haven’t ever had a Jewish friend (other than on FB that is). I think I am atypical of my generation of New Zealanders, who mostly seem to harbour a vague disapproval of Jews and Jewishness, currently justified by a dislike of Israeli foreign policy but which I suspect began as a kind of illogical hangover of their dislike of the US. Listening to the wonderful Judith Kerr (author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, the Mog books and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit) being interviewed on Radio 4, I finally began to understand. Such positivity, such resilience – Kerr, and the many other Jewish people I’ve read about and heard speak, embody all the qualities I most admire and aspire to.

And now for something completely different…

Having briefly felt bad about it, men, being men, quickly moved on to spinning their inability to multi-task from a disability into a strategic advantage (‘It’s not a bug – it’s a feature. Honest’). Very annoying. Likewise, the assumption that, now that boys tend to do less well in exams than girls, it must be because the exams are somehow biased against them and that this must be remedied. Whereas when girls did less well, it was considered the natural order of things, requiring no further investigation, let alone action.

I was thinking about the multi-tasking issue this afternoon, while simultaneously staggering around the kitchen, yelling at the dog, and whimpering in pain. When Katie and I got home from school, I suggested that she get on with her cello practice while I cooked dinner. She fetched her cello and sat down at the bottom of the stairs and started practicing. I closed the kitchen door, to prevent Sherlock from accessing the laundry baskets in the entrance hall. Now, normally Katie practices quite happily by herself for 20 minutes or so, and then calls me in and does a short performance for me. For some reason today, she seemed to want a bit more attention, so, while I prepared roast chicken with roast potatoes and kumara, carrots and broccoli, boiled new potatoes ready for tomorrow’s tortilla, and did laundry, she called through the closed door every few minutes, something along the lines of ‘Hey Mummy, what did you think of that glissando’. Although I was conscious of edging towards overwhelm, all went well until I was bending down to de-fluff the bottom trap of the tumble dryer. At which point Sherlock tried to stick his tongue in my mouth, and I, jerking away in shock and horror, cracked my skull on the bloody worktop. So, I readily admit that my tendency to do five things at once occasionally results in missing ingredients, concussion or the verbal abuse of inappropriately-affectionate companion animals. However the alternative would be for my family to choose between eating and wearing clean clothes. Before dismissing multi-tasking as fundamentally inefficient, as is now popular, consider the example of my beloved husband, a mono-tasker if ever I met one. Early in our relationship, I suggested that he took a turn at cooking. He agreed, and, four hours later, I was presented with a small mound of (really delicious) lasagne, all alone on a large and otherwise empty dinner plate. There was no salad or vegetable, because that would have required him to do two things at once. Unfortunately for me, we had a deal where, whichever person cooked, the other person cleaned up. Of course when I cooked, Nick generally had to wash two plates, two knives, two forks and maybe a serving spoon. Whereas I was faced with a kitchen that looked as if it had been painted with ragout, in which every piece of cooking equipment I owned was dirty (still haven’t worked out what he used the lemon squeezer for). Because clearing up as he went along would have involved, you guessed it, doing two things at once!

Reader I married him. And, 27 years later, I am delighted to report that he can now successfully cook a meal with more than one part – and stack the dishwasher at the same time!

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