TLV-LND, a fictional flight...
I hope your year started kindly. I hope it’s not too freezing wherever you are. I hope you’re sticking to your carefully thought-out 2023 resolutions and not being too hard on yourself if you aren’t. I myself feel like the real year hasn’t started yet. I’ve been traveling a lot, which is a real privilege after the pandemic, but also made January feel very disjointed. I’m all turned around! I used to identify with migrating birds, now I’m more of a homing pigeon.
The first big trip of the year was to Tel Aviv, a city I know very well, but hadn’t visited for almost five years. It was an important trip, introducing my 93-year-old grandmother to her first great-grandchild! A grand success. She’s an obsessive reader, my grandmother. Her eyesight is waning, yet she still manages to rip through novels like nobody’s business. She told me she’s never lonely, because the characters of each new book provide new company. She also told me she’s ready to go, doesn’t want to see what happens to the country. It all went so wrong, she said, or maybe it was always wrong. There’s been fighting here since I arrived from Ukraine aged 3. Our trip was bookended by two huge demonstrations against the unfathomably right-wing government and their outrageous proposals. This was before the most recent violence, yet it already felt imperative to walk down to Habima Square with the stream of protestors, John Lennon’s Imagine blasting out of a car radio full of hopeless hope.
Politics aside, we ate an impressive amount of hummus, dipped our feet in the sea, frequented the local playground and hung out with good friends in good cafes. On the flight home our toddler befriended the actor Salim Dau, who is playing Mohamed Al-Fayed in The Crown. On the same flight, a few rows back, sat Netta, a fictional character from my novel-in-progress. Unlike me, who was born and raised in London and on my way home, Netta grew up in Tel Aviv and was moving to London for the first time.
Netta walked up the rickety staircase, flashed her boarding card stub at the smiling flight attendant, narrowed her eyes through business class, clambered her carry-on into the overhead locker, jerked it down again when she realised she’d forgotten her book, settled into her carefully selected window seat, examined the tiny screws that fix the flimsy flaps onto the heavy wings, and prayed for the two things everyone prays for when boarding a plane: that the plane wouldn't crash and that somebody incredibly attractive would sit next to her. Only one prayer was answered. She arrived safely at Luton Airport after five hours of intermittent sleep, one stupid romcom about an alien and one obligatory conversation with the woman sitting next to her, who reminded her of her aunt, and exactly what it was she was getting away from. -You don't look it, so I wasn't sure. Sorry to say, I thought you were a tourist. You should have said. I thought you were American, Australian maybe. Are you sure you're not American? -I'm pretty sure. -So what, are you going on a holiday or something, or for work? -I'm moving to London actually. -Oh that. Well, ok, they all go, they all come back. Two years, three maybe. How old are you? You'll come back to have children. What, you’re going alone? No boyfriend? -All alone. -Well ok, you have a few years. What are you twenty-three, four? -I’m twenty-six. -Six already? Well, don't be gone too long. I know how it goes, you want to see the world, fine, but then come home. Be close to your family, your people. -I guess I'll see how it goes. -What, you’re telling me you're going to bring up your children in London? In English? Take them home to see their grandparents once a year? Do me a favour, come home already. -Maybe let me get there before you send me back? -Go, go, have your fun! I'm not stopping you. But come back, promise me. I know how it goes. They don't know in London. I'm on a connection to Washington, to see my sister. You see what a world? Each one in a different place? I don't know what you want with London. Well ok, you're not that old, a little getting wet in the rain is ok. But don’t forget history, promise me. -The world has a lot of different histories you know, different cultures... -Culture you want? We don't have enough culture for you? If all you artists turn your back on the country then we'll have no culture! -I'm not an artist. -No, you don't look like an artist. American you look. I thought you were connecting back to Washington.
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Happy Sunday and see you in March!
Oh I love Tel Aviv!! I've only visited once a few years back but it left an impression on me. I'm glad to hear of the protests. Your grandmother sounds wonderful. How lucky you are to still have her!
Be quick, write more!