The British Mafia

We think of political and institutional corruption as being characteristic of other countries particularly outside Europe:  Africa, Latin America, etc.

Yet we in Britain got an awakening with the MPs’ expenses’ scandal.

And the residents in my previous neighourhood (in London Borough of Barnet) had no doubt that “money had changed hands” when the local council suddenly – really suddenly – in 2006, approved plans for 13 flats to be built just diagonally across the garden from my home – where building approval had failed on almost as many counts previously.  The next step would have been to go to court, and most of my neighbours – who had fought the proposals up to that point, seemed unwilling to put money into litigation.  So for the next year, we suffered the ordeal of a characterful period house being pulled down and replaced by a building which encroached on all possible space in all directions with maximisation of profit as the only motive.  The pilings, vibrations, noise on our doorstep – even on bank holidays and weekends and outside legally-permitted hours, until a letter from our MP at least had the effect eventually of confining their activity to legally permitted hours and days.  I could not bear to be in my home when the work was going on – even if I was ill.

Corruption in Britain – which brings me to my tale of the British “mafia”, and how it affected my mother.

When I published my earlier blog about my mother, (“Where the virulent anti-Semites lurk”) about how the Palestinian/Israeli medical system irradiated her brain when she was child, someone remarked on what “Israel did” to my mother.  It wasn’t Israel, I responded, but a sector of the Israeli medical system at the time, and some politicians, who believed they were actually doing something beneficial.

Well, I think it is time to relate what “Britain did” to my mother when she was an adult.  Only it wasn’t Britain, but just that British institution that serves as our “mafia”:  the Inland Revenue.

My mother had recurring brain tumours and spent inordinate periods of time in hospital undergoing surgery and skin grafts.  In the meantime she was unable to adequately manage her affairs, and as an effect of her illness, it seems she didn’t trust anyone to manage her financial affairs for her.  So the Inland Revenue came to take a great interest in tax that was owing, and my mother’s assets.  These consisted of a Company which owned eight flats in Richmond, of which my mother lived in one or two.  Another two or so were kept vacant for when her children stayed, and those remaining tended to be let out.

The Inland Revenue didn’t have to take all eight flats – but they were entitled to legally.  They could have let my mother remain in her home, but they weren’t obliged to legally.  Their bailiffs forced entry into her home, and kicked her out with great pleasure and gusto, according to my siblings, aged between the approximate ages of 13 to 17 who witnessed the whole scene.  She was moved into council accommodation in an area where she didn’t know anyone.

Not long after this, my brothers cycled across London to where she was living.  I can’t remember how they got in – probably they had to call the police to break in.  They didn’t know for how long she had been lying in bed unconscious.  Her starving alsation was roaming her flat with glazed eyes, having jumped through and smashed a window in order to get out to find water to drink.

My mother didn’t survive surgery for her third brain tumour.

So this is what the British mafia “did” to my mother.  Not as bad as irradiating a child’s brain, but they certainly finished off the job of killing my mother!

They were apparently legally entitled to forcibly evict her from her home, since it was part of the eight flats which formed her Company which they were apparently legally entitled to seize.  But once they sold the eight flats and reclaimed whatever was owing to them and a whole lot more, all that was returned, after my mother’s death, was £24,000.  Perhaps the value of one flat at the time (1982) – almost?  One out of eight!  So what about the value of the other seven?  (Today, eight comparable flats in Richmond might fetch well in excess of £2,000,000.  So the IR retained the equivalent of in excess of £1,750,000.)  One thing my family was certain of was that given the value of the flats and the maximum possible amount of my mother’s debts, it seemed the flats had been sold off extremely cheaply (to themselves?)   Certainly – to themselves!

J’accuse!

Every line of investigation was blocked.  But the Inland Revenue are Britain’s very own mafia – untouchable!

Music by Contemporary Women Composers

Music by contemporary catherine

Including my “Vocalise” for Flute, Oboe and Clarinet in Bb.  (My surname only has one of each letter!)  Called “Vocalise” because I set out to write a “Vocalise” for voice and clarinet – but it took on a life of its own (as these things do), and became a work more suited to instrumental forces – winds.  But I retained the title.  I can’t wait to hear it performed by these superb musicians!  And I love the atmosphere of the venue!

If there is a soprano out there who feels she would like to give the flute part a go, that would be great too!  I would love to hear that!

Also, great that this concert is contributing towards putting women composers on the map.  Women have been grossly ignored in the world of classical composition throughout its history.  Today, when there is no shortage of women composers, there is no excuse.  Just a couple or so years ago, not a single work by a woman composer was played throughout the entire summer prom series!  And in the days when massive CD stores were still gracing the West End’s main streets (London), I went into the largest classical CD section to be found in a CD store in London (Tottenham Court Road) and could not find a single CD featuring works by women composers.

Shadows – projecting our dark sides – or not!

People shadows on sunny city street

Sometimes we may perceive things in people that we react to.  Our reaction may be positive or negative. Is is about us? Is it about them?  As my dear late friend said: “If you don’t like cucumbers, it’s about you, and it’s also about cucumbers.”

We all have different constitutions, and different sensitivities. Some people take in more information than others – they may be psychically more open, because they have inherited a genetic state of being so, because they have been on the receiving end of some tremendous shock, or because they are tired, ill, hungry or in a state of fear, or their energy field has been severely depleted by being poisoned by chemotherapy or other toxic “treatment”.

I can’t remember in which book it was that D M Thomas or one of his characters comments that everyone becomes psychic in a wartime – no doubt because of being in a greater state of fear, and in a state of fine attunement to danger.

Then there is the theory of our shadows, promulgated by Jung, but embraced by many including Deepak Chopra. According to this theory, our shadows – rather than being insubstantial as real shadows are – contain all our self-rejected inclinations and emotions, all our denied negative characteristics: our dark sides! These we project on everything we don’t like.

There are people who take this rather far: everything we dislike, fear, or are repelled by, represents something we have rejected in ourselves that we are projecting on others. We are in a state of flight from our own shadows, and will try anything to suppress, tackle, subdue manifestations from the dark corners of our minds – including or especially self-medication! In order to dissociate ourselves from such shadow components, we may attribute them to others. Such subdued emotions may then, according to such a theory, leap out of their bonds in all manner of forms, including mental illness.

A lot of judgement and assumption is involved in applying such a theory – which is  just one more way of trying to make sense of phenomena by labeling them and fitting them neatly into compartments.

It is an interesting exercise to apply this theory to ourselves. If I feel aversion towards a stranger, is it something in myself that I am projecting on that poor unsuspecting person? Observing myself, I have noticed that when I have felt aversion towards a complete stranger, it may be because this person physically resembles someone who may have harmed me in some way.  (This of course is another kind of projection.). I will then have to tell myself that this is not the same person! That my reaction is unfair.

Generally, in cases of aversion, there are very many sources, and in each case, more than one source may be at work. Very often it is jealousy. Sometimes a person is emanating an energy redolent of a negative emotion which may repel us: one does not have to be extraordinarily psychic to sense anger or aggression emanating from a person, which will cause us to wish to keep a distance. The person may have a valid reason for feeling such a way – it does not have to mean she/he is a bad person – and that energy which may repel us may be very temporary.

These are all cases where projection of our own dark side is not an explanatory factor in why we may feel aversion towards a stranger.

People often reveal elements of their personalities, mind states and intentions in so many ways:   through the way they hold themselves, and they way they move, more obviously facial expressions, their aura…..if we react with aversion – this again does not represent projection of our own dark side.

Thich Nhat Hanh describes the Tibetan Buddhist idea of all the emotions being present in each one of us but as seeds; any one can arise, but through meditation we can learn to recognize when a thought generating an emotion (or vice versa) arises, and allow both the thought and the emotion to subside again. There is no shadow – no dark side; there are simply seeds which we may feed, and allow to grow, or which we may allow to dissolve back to seed-state.

Much as there is a great deal of projection going around, this simplistic idea of projection of our dark side onto anyone we don’t like simply doesn’t hold water as an explanatory factor for all, or even most, cases of aversion. We human beings are far more complex than that! And in some cases, far more straightforward!

Mac said not

                                           20170213_114040View from unglazed window of beach hut when I threw open the shutter each morning – Mac Bay Resort 1989

(Doo dun doo dun doo dee)                  I left Bangkok

(Doo dun doo dun doo dee doo)                    I thought I could rot

                    (Doo dun doo dun doo dee)                          & no-one would know

(Doo dun doo dun doo dee doo)                But Mac said not

 

I was once invited to tell a story about someone’s kindness, and this is the story I told:

My father died of cancer a long time ago now.

Not long afterwards, at a dinner where my siblings and I were of silent and flat mood, so it was difficult to know what to say to us, my cousin’s wife suddenly had an idea: “I know! You could go to Thailand!”

So I went to Thailand.  Though I thought: “I could rot there, and no-one would know.”  This is how my father’s death left me feeling.

On the plane to Bangkok, again, I thought:   “I could rot, and no-one would know.”  But I was distracted from thinking that for long.  The woman next to me on the plane was travelling there for her nephew’s ordainment as a monk in Bangkok, and invited me.

I spent a week in Bangkok. Then I took the sleeper train down south – through the day, through the night, and in the morning I took the boat to Koh (Island) Samui, and from there, another boat to Koh Phanang. (This was in the days before the Full Moon Parties, when travellers wore local clothes and ate local food! When there was just one tiny shop where you could buy toilet paper, water and mosquito coils.)

On the boat, resort owners from Koh Phanang were wooing travellers – showing pictures of their resorts. Mac wooed me and won my custom. I got behind him on his motorbike holding my guitar in one hand, holding onto Mac with my other arm, my excruciatingly uncomfortable rucksack on my back.  Over rough & bumpy terrain – no road that I can remember – we arrived at Mac Bay Resort.  Just a handful of huts on the beach which he’d built himself.  He was never going to have more than 10 huts, he told me.  (This was in the days before there was hot water there, and when we had to flush the toilets by pouring down bowlsful of water scooped from a bucket.  We did however have showers, while the locals would walk to the local pump in the privacy of dusk, and soap and sluice themselves with bowlsful of water in their sarongs.)

And I thought: “I could rot, and no-one would know.”

Since the journey to Koh Phanang with the overnight train-ride had been exhausting, I went straight to bed and slept for a long time.  When I finally got up and went to the restaurant of Mac’s resort to get something to eat, Mac commented: “You slept for a long time!  I was worried!  I thought that you were sick.”

I went for a swim. The sea was very shallow on that beach, so I had to go out far to reach water deep enough to swim in.  There were sharks, I was told, but they were “friendly sharks”!  I wasn’t very reassured, but I needed my swim!  When I got out of the sea, Mac observed: “You were swimming for a long time, and you went very far out!”

It seemed that Mac was looking out for me, and I stopped thinking that I could rot and no-one would know!

Mac brought out some photos of his brother’s funeral.  Mac had been studying Tourism at a university in Australia (where his wife was at the moment, introducing their baby – “a very beautiful baby” – to her family), when his brother was killed in a car accident in Bangkok.  His parents didn’t let Mac know while he was in Australia, because they didn’t want him to abandon his studies.  If he’d come to Thailand for the funeral, he wouldn’t have been able to afford to return to Australia.  So for a year, Mac wondered why his brother never answered his letters.  “He was a very good person…a very good person”, Mac told me, as we looked through the photos.

At this point, I started to cry.  I then told Mac that my father had died just 4 months previously.  Mac took me on his motorbike to a monastery on the island, and said it might help me to stay there for a while.  But I said I couldn’t meditate in front of a statue of Buddha!  (Little did I know that I would spend many years meditating in front of statues of Buddha in the future!)

* * *

When I told this story about Mac’s kindness, some people came up to me and said they’d done that journey from Bangkok to Koh Phanang!  The overnight train…the boats…

14 years later, I returned to Koh Phanang.  By this time, there was an airport on Koh Samui so I could just fly straight there, and then take a boat the next day to Koh Phanang.  Mac Bay Resort was still there, but the original 10 wooden huts had been pulled down, and there was instead a multitude of stone huts with hot water and flushing toilets!

His brother remembered me even though I had only stayed there for a week 14 years previously.  He showed me his guitar, which he said he had bought because of the guitar I had brought with me 14 years before, and because of my singing and playing on the verandah of my hut!   This time, I didn’t have a guitar with me, but there was a music shop where I was able to hire one for my stay.

There was now a parade of shops in the neighbourhood – competing CD/DVD shops, supermarkets, gift shops…  Travellers were wearing special travellers’ clothes and eating burgers and chips, and would go to Full Moon Parties on a beach which fortunately was on the other side of the island!  But which was surreal – like a city for 21-year-olds – like something out of a science fiction movie!

14 years previously everyone on  the island smiled at you as normal etiquette.  The locals smiled at you, so then the travellers smiled back and at each other, and then you struck up a conversation, and spent the day or a few days together, until it was time to move on to the next place.  Now the locals didn’t smile at us, and I was told that in fact they weren’t local.  The original resort owners had moved out and on, and unsmiling outsiders had moved in to take over their prospering businesses.  But Mac stayed!

 

20170213_113911I actually think this is Mac’s brother.  If Mac’s brother sees this, maybe he’ll confirm?

* * *

hill-tribe-boy

hill-tribe-girlHill tribe children (above) probably in Chang Mai

Well, I felt like writing a blog article.  The next one I was planning still requires research.  It’s a serious blog!  So I wondered what else to write about just now, and this is it!  As for the little verse at the top – that was part of another song I wrote but never got round to singing in public!

Rachel Rozsa *************************** In memory of my grandmother on Holocaust Memorial Day

 

silver-leaf-rose

My grandmother, Rachel* Rozsa, was born in Nagy (pronounced “Noj”) Szolos in Hungary (now Vinogradiv in the Ukraine).  An idyllic spa town nestling in the Carpathian Mountains, whose name means “Large grapes” – indicative of its wine production.  (Also famous because the composer Bartok moved there with his mother.)

nagy-szolos-1

ns-5

ns-10

NS 11.JPG

Her father was Rav (Rabbi) Itzhak Braun, who was renowned for being a miracle-worker.  At the end of WWI, mothers would come to him to find out where their sons were.  It was described to me that he would close his eyes and grab hold of the mother’s arm, then after a while, he said:  “He is crossing the border NOW!” banging his cane on the ground at the precise moment at which the returning soldier was crossing the border, and it would turn out to be accurate.  It was also described to me that he would take children who were sick in their spirit into his home and they would heal in his atmosphere.

I was the first family member to visit Nagy Szolos in 70 years.  The previous visit was by Rachel Rozsa, who went to her father’s funeral taking my father when he was just a baby.

When I visited Nagy Szolos, I tried to find Rav Itzhak Braun’s grave in the Jewish cemetery.  The Mukaceve Rabbi’s driver took me there, and we stopped at a house on the way to pick up the key to the cemetery from the lady who lived there, returning it on our way back.  I spent 2 or 3 hours in the cemetery searching, but couldn’t find the tombstone.  Half of the cemetery was overgrown with weeds, so it was hard to access those stones.  Even where the weeds had been cut or trampled down, I was getting grazed and scraped by weeds, and burnt in the hot sun, trying to find it.  Many of the stones were eroded by the elements, so it was difficult or impossible to read the script.

cemetery

Overgrown with weeds:

Cemetery 3.JPG

Rachel Rozsa’s marriage was arranged by a matchmaker.  So after her marriage, she made the journey – a whole day by ox and cart (now an hour by car) from Nagy Szolos across the border into Mukacevo in Czechoslovakia, to live with a man she had met once or twice.  This is the view along the way:

Journey to NS 2.JPG

My aunt told me she was not happily married.  Her mother-in-law would come into the kitchen, lift the lids off her pots on the stove, and exclaim:  “What?  Is this what you give my son to eat?!!!”  So one can imagine this did not go down very well with Rachel Rozsa!  Being Hungarian, she made goulash.  She also made dumplings and pancakes.  When food became scarcer – probably after they were closed inside the ghetto – she was able to make a chicken last for 3 meals for 6 people.

My father couldn’t remember the colour of her hair.  Probably she kept her head covered most of the time.  I think it must have been brown – her daughter had brown hair, and her sons  had almost jet-black hair.  She loved reading and was well-read, took pride in her appearance, and one of the very few things I know about her is that she used to sing a song with the chorus:

Van London, van Nápoly,
van Konstantinápoly,
Van Róma, Barcselona,
Madrid, Csikágó

There’s London, there’s Naples,
There’s Constantinople,
There’s Rome, Barcelona,
Madrid, Chicago

…. and that she used to dream of going to these places.  If she had known that two of her sons would end up living in London and the other son in the States……said my aunt (who lived in Israel)!  (And of course …. if she had known that she would have 24 great-grandchildren, plus one brand new great-great-grandson…so far….)

When I was in Budapest (the nearest airport to Mukacevo & then a 7-hour train journey) I tried to find this song, and asked in a number of shops and museums.  Eventually someone told me it came from a film called Kek Balvany (“The Blue Idol”), and it was quite a feat to access a DVD copy of this film from the National Film Archive in Budapest, with the indispensable help of a Hungarian friend who also watched the film with me, patiently translating it!  I think my grandmother must have seen this film at the cinema in Mukacevo.  The family was religious, like all the Jews of the region.  But they sent one of their sons to the Zionist school (which the Mukaceve rebbe referred to as “that goyishe (colloquial & derogatory term meaning non-Jewish) school”, which indicates that they were not ultra-ultra religious.  And therefore I imagine she would have gone to the cinema.  Although my grandfather would consult the Mukaceve rabbi if he had any concerns about anything.  The song must also have been broadcast on the radio.

My father felt that his mother knew what was happening to Jews during WWII.

In 1944, Rachel Rozsa was transported to Auschwitz with her family.  They were forced off the train by barking SS with whips, and lunging alsations.  She was forced to separate from her sons and husband.  Someone, or some people, had decided that she should be exterminated, and had plotted, planned and collaborated to achieve this.  Someone made her strip.  Someone made her enter the gas chamber.  Someone had designed the gas chamber to accommodate her and others like and unlike her.  Someone released the gas into the chamber.  Zyklon B.  She would have been in her early 40s.

Before she was taken to the gas chamber, she told her 15-year old daughter, Miriam:  “I have lived.  Just that you should survive.”

A silver leaf in her memory was affixed to the silver tree installed by Tony Curtis outside the Great Synagogue in Budapest, each leaf commemorating a Hungarian Jew who was murdered in the holocaust.

Silver leaf + rose.JPG

75990014.JPG

Apparently Rachel Rozsa did go to Budapest once with her father (and sister – I’m not sure how many sisters she had), although it is so far away from Nagy Szolos.

* * *

* Rachel is pronounced with the “a” sounding like the “u” in “up“, the “ch” sounding like the same letters in the Scottish word “loch“, & the “e” sounding like the “e” in “bell“.

You walk down the River Road

river-road

You walk down the River Road…..in Mukacevo (Munkacs) – Czechoslovakia between the wars, Hungary before that,  occupied by Hungary during WWII, now in the Ukraine, nestling in the Carpathian Mountains……

Where my father came from, and where he lived in this house with his family:

house

 

You walk down the River Road, which leads to the River Latorska, where my father and his brothers would jump off the bridge and swim….

River3.JPG

river-2

 

From the town centre ….

town-centre-a

…… from the municipality …..

town-centre-2

municipality

 

….the Town Centre

town-centre3

towncentre4

 

Where there’s a fabulous art deco cinema  (some of the earliest talkies were Hungarian)….

cinema

…and a theatre…

Theatre.JPG

So you walk down the River Road….

river-road

….and there on the left, on a pink wall is a Memorial Plaque. In Ukrainian & Hebrew, the following is written:

“In the year 1944 thousands of Jews were led from here on their last journey to death.”

memorial-plaque