Just Nathan

A musical offering, in parts
August 28, 2005
A funeral in the sunshine of North-West London

On a bright, sunny Sunday lunchtime, I attended the funeral of my great aunt Hettie. She was in her nineties when she died on Thursday.

Hettie was an intelligent woman with a sharp mind. Nothing passed her by. She was devoted to her husband Jack, who died about 18 years ago. The familiar ritual of the burial service was all the more poignant for, despite my lack of closeness with her, it was the passing of a generation - the last of my grandmother's siblings. For me, a moment of interest was the presence of Bridget, a pleasant cousin of mine, who I have not seen for many years. We didn't get the chance to speak - I was, selfishly perhaps, more concerned to look after my mother than to converse with anybody else. Mum had called her every week and kept in touch despite Hettie's crotchety reaction to her advancing years.

The whole day brought home to me just how distant I am from my family, and how that remoteness contrasts with the situation only a couple of generations ago.

Posted by nathan at 05:47 PM | Comments (0)


June 02, 2004
Hanging in there

Contrary to popular belief, I am still here. Still with Alfred, my love. But times are difficult and uncertain.

Posted by nathan at 09:32 PM | Comments (0)


June 03, 2003
A mole in Cat Hill

Cosmo's art exhibition today. Fantastic. I was so proud of him - his University place is now secure.

He has photographed, developed a taxonomy and catalogued all his bodily moles and blemishes.

moles and blemishes - the spikey one is hairy

a body's worth


the source

the taxonomy of blemishes

the SIRT shop

I knew he'd grow up to be the next Leonardo da Vinci.

Posted by nathan at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)


May 03, 2003
Family day

Driving in my car. On autopilot. Daydreaming or concentrating? Off to see my family. To gain support? Inspiration? Courage? Vincent first. Cos and Fif out at work, both doing telesales now. Vincent so despondent about his work situation. But nothing dents his openness and warm-heartedness.

Then to Mum and Dad. I hadn’t realised that they have started dancing again. Over three months ago. Why had they kept it secret? I was so pleased for them. They’re going for a dinner dance in London this evening to celebrate Mum’s birthday. Isn’t that great?

Muriel and Ralph next. Muriel looking so well, and chatting excitedly about opera and family.

In the evening, I went round to Yoel and Sharon. It’s amazing how one reverts to old habits (like finishing cold cholent). Levi wandered in, late in the evening. Not a little boy any more, but he retains his characteristic impishness. We chatted until late in the evening before I headed back to Cambridge. My love for my second family never wanes.

My family all seem very concerned about the revelations contained in this web site. It makes me far too self-conscious to write about my feelings, knowing that they will read this. I’m always aware of watching the film of my life.

Posted by nathan at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)


March 26, 2003

We spent the afternoon sorting through files and packing things ready for Friday's office move. It all feels frighteningly real now. I'm grudgingly looking forward to the change, particularly that I'll have my "den" to myself for the first time in several years. I went out for a drink with Robin at the Cambridge Blue this evening, mainly to discuss sales prospects (of which there are now several).

The news of the war is relentless and depressing. Would that our leaders could understand the folly of resorting to violence.

But the most concerning news is about Muriel, who is in hospital in London undergoing a number of tests. I'm full of trepidation about the outcome - she's been such an important part of my life. It's also impossible to express my thoughts for her, as she is so well shielded from contact by my father and uncle. Hmm.

Posted by nathan at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)


March 23, 2003
Birmingham bother

Sorry for the lack of updates. The unjustified attack on Iraq by American and British invasion forces have left me somewhat lacking in the desire to write. I will catch up soon.

Dad called me this morning with two pieces of bad family news:

My younger brother was attacked in, I presume, an antisemetic assault. Dad seemed to think I'd approve. Well, although I hold no truck with the evils of religion or Adam's behaviour, I also believe in his right to walk freely through the streets of England as a Jew.

My aunt is going to hospital on Tuesday for an exploatory operation on her lung. I care very much for Muriel and will be thinking of her on Tuesday. Muriel has been an inspiration to me for many years.

Posted by nathan at 06:50 PM | Comments (0)


March 17, 2003
Into the woods 2

Here's a picture from yesterday's party.

Fif's 18th birthday party in Kenwood

What a girl!

Back to Switzerland this afternoon.

Posted by nathan at 06:43 AM | Comments (0)


March 16, 2003
Into the woods

We left our hotel in Central London and took the tube to Hampstead. We spent a lovely day in Kenwood celebrating Fif's eighteenth birthday. It was a family picnic by the lake, with brilliant sunshine and plenty to eat and drink. Fif has grown up so much over the last two years, and is a pleasure to talk with. She has improved her AS-level results with her retakes.

Meanwhile, in the Azores, the American, British and Spanish Premières issued a 24-hour ultimatum.

Posted by nathan at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)


February 09, 2003

I'm up early again

Work on my mind
Dad's health on my mind
Moody Alfred on my mind
Mad world on my mind
No response from Adam on my mind

No wonder I feel queasy. A correspondent told me to "get a life". I already have one, thank you, but I take it too much to heart.

Posted by nathan at 06:32 AM | Comments (0)


February 07, 2003
Alfred the great

Why is Alfred so kind and tolerant towards me? I am working myself far too hard – from 05:30 to 22:00 most days now. I’m so tetchy and intolerant all the time. But he is caring, loving and caring most of the time. He seems to accept that this is a stage that I must go through if I’m to build the business. But I must admit that I dislike myself, I hate the way I’m becoming – just boxed in by work all the time. Alfred’s loyalty also scares me – in a very selfish way I hate becoming dependent on somebody else, even him. Despite all my frustrations, I love Alfred more than my words can express, and less than he deserves.

Posted by nathan at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)


January 05, 2003
Rumble in the Oakwood

We spent the morning in the gym at the Sanderson, and then in the steam room. The atmosphere there is quite ethereal, with lots of soft lights, net curtains and mood music. Posey perhaps, but enjoyable.

After checking out and schlepping Alfred's purchases from Selfridges out to North London, we popped in to say hello to Mum and Dad. Vincent was there when we arrived - pleasant to see him and catch up.

Shortly after he left, the unexpected happened. Adam arrived unannounced.

Let me introduce Adam, as he has not been a frequent character in this diary. He is my younger brother and, although we were once close, he chose to cut me off from his family nearly four years ago. The essence of this broigus is hard to describe here in that I lack objectivity. So try to understand the other point of view and I'll state my own.

For Jewish people, there are only two ways to have an argument: either you yell and scream and die of a heart attack, or you suffer in silence, martyr yourself (Me? Angry?), and die later of cancer anyway. Our argument is more than a broigus, and marginally less than mutually assured destruction. I have been so hurt and infuriated by his behaviour that I have become incapable of describing my feelings coherently. I have spent the last four years blaming myself for what's happened, although I know, rationally, that the problem is his.

Adam cut me off from his wife and five lovely children as he feels that I would be a corrupting influence on my nieces and nephews. He will accept me but not my partner. For this reason he has not spoken with me for four years. He believes that I am making an unacceptable condition that family contact must include Alfred. From my perspective, I see Alfred as an important part of my life, and my relationship with my other nephew and niece and "quasi-families" as having been managed well, without the "gay" thing being too much of an issue after an initial period of adjustment. Ask Vincent, Yoel or Pita.

Apart from the obvious homophobia and bigotry inherent in these views (which he denies), there is a racism, an overt supremacism underlying this "licence to discriminate". He regards his marriage to Shoshana as being "normal" and my partnership with Alfred as "abnormal". I use these emotive words deliberately, as he has applied the same principles to excommunicate others in the family. But let's not dwell on Adam's problems with Vincent, Muriel and Ralph or Mum and Dad for now.

On a practical level, even if one accepts his wish to protect his children from external influences (the realisation that gay people exist and lead balanced normal lives), there are three strong countervailing factors that should surely persuade him that he is doing more harm than good. First, it would give my parents so much happiness to see their three sons together. Second, don't his children deserve a loving uncle? Third, do he and I not deserve the benefits of brotherhood? We return to the question of whether family ties have any meaning in this age.

I fail to understand the cod-intellectual rationalisation which Adam has used to bring so much grief to me and to the rest of the family.

So Adam walked through the door, and my first instinct was to protect Mum and Dad from a row by leaving immediately with Alfred. I had imagined that my reaction would be to hit, kick, punch or spit at him, so violent has my revulsion become - but when it happened, my emotions combined a desire to flee the situation and to berate him for his ludicrous bigotry.

I did speak briefly with Adam and asked him if he was prepared to do anything to heal the rift whilst our parents are still alive. He said yes, and we left.

On the way to the M25, I discussed the situation with Alfred and we decided that it would be better to return to have a conversation. So we did. Alfred (what a mensch and support to me) joined Mum, Dad, Shoshana and the children and I sat with Adam talking for an hour.

I'm not sure whether it did any good. In the end, it was his decision to exclude me, and it must be his decision to accept me. I'm no longer used to having to defend my homosexuality, or my choice of partners. I was troubled at his lack of mature intellectual judgement - it bothered me that he seems to value the consequences of his beliefs so lightly and bases his actions on such ill-thought-out arguments. I do hope that he'll realise that, even if the damage is grave and we're unlikely to be close again, the benefits of having a family - even if we disagree profoundly with one another - are greater than the adjustments necessary to accept our differences. But if he still chooses to ignore me, I will at least now feel fully at peace with myself and not under pressure to do any more.

We drove back to Cambridge. Drained.

Posted by nathan at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)


January 04, 2003
Dim sum and italian opera

Lunch with Cosmo and a chat about "things" (see my entries of a few days ago). Fascinating and disappointing to see how scarred he is by having been let down by the family around him. My blazé comment "blood's thicker than water" was met with a quizzical response. And I now understand why.

After lobster and crab with a rather pleasant Verdicchio at Randall and Aubin in Soho, La Traviata was our evening's entertainment at the Royal Opera House. A pleasant production, with even but not outstanding singers spoiled just a little by the unnecessary inclusion of a second interval. This made it into a rather heavier evening than Traviata deserves. Paulo Gavanelli made an excellent Germont.

Posted by nathan at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)


January 01, 2003
Sex in the city

Here's a picture of the two of us dressed ready to go out.

Alfred in his 'birthday suit' and Nathan looks unphotogenic and bemused as ever.  Taken 29.12.02

I made a couple of Old Fashioned cocktails this evening to dull the realisation that we're back to work tomorrow. It's been a pleasant break, but not long enough to achieve everything I wanted to.

Posted by nathan at 09:32 PM | Comments (0)


December 29, 2002
More about casa nostra

Down to London today for a friend's birthday party - an ok time except we didn't know anybody else there.

On the way back, I called Vincent on the offchance and popped in to say hello. The last thing I expected was to have my knuckles rapped for my failures as an uncle. Here it is:

No 1. I called Cosmo a day late and didn't send him a birthday card.
JustNathan's defence. I can't excuse not calling on the day, it was an oversight. I did call the following day and apologised, and spent ages on the phone chatting with him. I love Cos and Fif to bits and I'm sure they'll forgive my mistakes and realise that I'm fallible. As for cards, I don't send them. They are not my way of expressing my care for people and I resent being told to send them. I occasionally send cards to people when I want to, or when I've missed somebody for a long time, but it's not my normal way of doing things. It's not something new, I stopped sending card when I was 16.

No. 2. Mum and Dad are evil as they don't communicate with Cos & Fif. Of course, there is a subtext here - it's more about Vincent's vendetta against Mum than anything to do with Cos & Fif. Vincent is so defensive about this that it's painful to watch - he just tells me that I should talk with them (C&F) and find out how they feel. I resent being used as a pawn - V should sort out his relentless nagging gripes himself. As for Cos & Fif, they ought to be making some more effort to see Mum & Dad now that they live round the corner from them. However difficult grandparents can be, we only have the benefit of thier love for a limited number of years, and Mum & Dad do love them. If only they could show this without being spikey. They can be difficult, but it's up to both grandparents and grandchildren to prevent these issues from becoming ingrained.

All in all, I was very unhappy and left quite miserable. Vincent is very dear to me as a friend and a brother, and this is the second time in the last month that he's trapped me into his problems with Mum.

My great fear is that the poison of my own grandmother's bile spreads wider in our small family. There are already too many of us who don't talk to one another. Life's too short, and blood does run thicker than water.

Alfred sat through the discussion and was too cautious to intervene. I don't blame him, although, selfishly, it would have been good if he had stood up for me. But I understand his reluctance in involving himself with family problems.

So, the resultant action was that I've asked Cos and Fif out to lunch when we're in London on Saturday and I'll try to understand their concerns and see if I can be any help. I'd better watch Godfather Part 2 first.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 07, 2002
But was it funny?

We went down to London today for Alfred's birthday party at Jongleurs. The St. Martins Lane Hotel was as swish as ever. It was odd that the room service boy excused his late delivery of our champagne by telling us that he had been attending to a celebrity instead. Well. Indeed.

We met Alfred's friends at the bar above Jongleurs. We had a pleasant evening, and it was lovely to see Alfred so happy (with red and blue streaks in his hair to add to the party atmosphere). A late evening cocktail at the Light Bar and then to bed and a minimalist dream.

Posted by nathan at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)


November 30, 2002
Nowhere in NW3

We went down to Hampstead this afternoon to see Muriel, Ralph, Vincent, Cosmo, Fif, Caroline, Chris, Tamara and Carla for a "second day of Chanukah" family do. I guess it was ok, although I missed Mum and Dad, who were out at a charity event.

Muriel and Ralph are going to Siegfried on the same evening as me, so hopefully we'll be able to have supper together.

Please don't confuse Chanukah with Christmas - they are rather different, despite the superficial similarities. It's twenty-one years since I was in New York at this time of year, seeing the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the wet snow. Memories.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


November 24, 2002
In Neidhohle

More coughs and congestion this morning, but a pleasant lie in before returning to Cambridge. Hopefully I'll shake off this cold soon - I'm so intolerant of things like colds.

I've now listened through the first two acts of Siegfried with the libretto. It's so differently scored and paced from the other three operas in the cycle that it has been a pleasure to return to its charms. I've been trying to understand three key scenes; the death of Fafner, the Wanderer's motive for seeking to block Siegfried's path to Brunnhilde and his descent to seek Erda's advice at the commencement of the third act.

Mum and Dad came to Cambridge this evening - both seemed tired, but we had a pleasant meal (Alfred baked cod which was delicious) and watched Ice Age (yes again) on DVD.

Posted by nathan at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)


November 16, 2002
JustNathan on the (In)offensive

Good evening Mum.

Posted by nathan at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)


October 30, 2002

Alfred's been on holiday all week.

Isn't he sweet?


Posted by nathan at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)


October 21, 2002
Better yet than memories

I was near tears as the gods rode, uncaring over the rainbow bridge into Valhalla’s empty halls, whilst the Rheinmaidens pleaded for the return of their gold. It was a superb performance, and so much better without the staging. The Barbican is so much more comfortable than the Coliseum. The orchestra comes across better on stage than in a pit.

I travelled back via north London and had supper with Mum and Dad. It’s a pleasure to see them so busy, although Dad was looking tired. Sunday evenings can be like that.

We had a long project meeting for our new client in Cambridge during the day. But will he sign up? I think we can do a good job for him.

Posted by nathan at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)


October 14, 2002
Muriel's Birthday

It's my aunt's birthday today and I particularly wanted to wish her HB. I don't really like sending people cards, so rely on them being around to receive felicitations by telephone. It's a funny type of event anyway. After "a certain age" (and I'm afraid even I've reached that point), it becomes a pain to be reminded of exactly how irreversible is the process of advancement of lines and wrinkles to us poor mortals "doomed to die". So why are we all so obsessed with wishing one another "Happy Birthday"? For those younger than me, it feels like schadenfreude, whereas for those much older than me it can feel like checking up. Well, I don't feel that way about Muriel at all - "may she live to be a hundred and twenty". More importantly, may she always be present as a friend, role model and (I have to admit it) a source of amusement in the form of family gossip.

No recruits then, the one I offered turned us down and I rejected all the others. Bother.

Posted by nathan at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)


October 11, 2002
George and Martha, sad, sad, sad

The week ended with a bang. The lava flow from Borsetshire hit Cambridge as Alfred and I had one of our periodic rows. So unfair on him really, as he'd been to the supermarket and bought some tasty steaks for supper. And he'd cooked them perfectly as well.

Our arguments often start with domestic trivia such as who has or hasn't pulled their weight in the cooking, washing, cleaning, repairs in the flat and so on. The underlying cause is, however, my resentment that he shares my living standard without really contributing to it. He works many less hours than me, and has paid holidays, so a bit more help around the house would take some pressure off me.

I appreciate that I also give mixed signals. I don't feel comfortable with people doing things for me (even Alfred), as I like to feel self-sufficient. But I am also finding it hard to cope with my workload - and I'm very fussy about wanting the flat to be kept ina good state of cleanliness and repair all the time.

It turned out that he had had an awful day at work, which contributed too his own fragility. That, combined with my short fuse today, made for an explosive combination.

It wasn't all kiss and make up at the end, though. I really do feel that he could spend less time staring at his computer screen and just a bit more keeping the flat looking just right.

Our occasional rows are so awful as he can be so twisting and manipulative in his perceptions and argument. I always end up feeling humiliated and totally in the wrong, even though I'm not. Do you understand me? We have such different views of right and wrong.

Maybe I'm just realising, yet again, that I'd be better off living on my own?

Posted by nathan at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)


October 08, 2002
Sparky's Magic Piano

I've been in far too introspective a mood recently. I was thinking the other day about the roots of my interest in music. This is almost certainly down to my father, who loves pieces like Rigoletto and Mahler 4, and my mother's fascination with the lyrics of Sondheim, the singing of Cleo Laine and Barbra Streisand. (I know, I know). For some reason, I wanted to listen to a childhood favourite record Tubby the Tuba and Sparky's Magic Piano. I managed to find Sparky on CD at Amazon, and I had some gift vouchers, so bought it online. Given that I also purchased Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled and Geoffrey R Moore's Crossing the Chasm, some packer will have had fun in his cod psychoanalysis.

Sparky was so magical. A little boy's dream of being able to play the piano better than his teacher, better than anyone. On stage in concert performances, playing the most wonderful music such as the Flight of the Bumble Bee and Rachmaninov's Prelude in C Sharp Minor Opus 3 No 2.

And then the realisation that the magic has ended. The piano will no longer play for him and he makes a fool of himself onstage. "Sparky, Sparky.... wake up". It was all a dream, but he has received the gift of inspiration - he'll practice harder now.

What a treat - and what ludicrous sentimentality! But with it I too have the priceless gift of music from my parents.

Posted by nathan at 08:46 PM | Comments (1)


October 05, 2002
Hey Dude

I worked, it seemed like forever, to get my admin up to date, but the day improved as it went on. I spoke with Mum & Dad and most concerned to hear about Dad's impending operation and the trepidation so evident in his voice.

When I bought tickets for the Opera House, I bought extras for Wozzeck and Meistersinger, assuming that somebody would want to come with me. But nobody does. What a saddo - oh well, I guess I'll have to return them.

In the evening, I cooked a rather un-PC meal of seafood salad, calves liver with shallots and chestnut mushrooms with fresh runner beans, baby new potatoes and organic carrots. Then a pleasant panna cotta for dessert, all washed down with a decent bottle of Givry-Chambertain. Candles and roses on the table, Carmen from Glyndebourne on Radio 3, with Anne-Sophie von Otter in the title role. Now you see how the day improved.

You know how many films there are that you miss at the cinema? The ones where people say "it's great", but you just don't get to see it. Well, the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski was just such a film for me. We saw it on DVD last night. Quotes by the bucketload. Go see.

Posted by nathan at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)


September 30, 2002
Underneath the sheltering sky

Today was the most memorable birthday of my life. Alfred had organised a set-up whereby an evening meeting was cancelled and I was dragged away from my desk at 15:30. We drove to a golf club near Longstanton - even as we drove into the car park I had no idea. I assumed we were going for a golf lesson (oh the distantly remembered humiliation)! It was only when I saw all the people standing around the car park that I realised something else was up.


We all had to help offload the gondola, unfurl the huge balloon and inflate it.


Landscape in the haze

The gondola was far more capacious than I had imagined, there were sixteen passangers, plus the pilot. We drifted with the wind about a thousand feet above the flat Cambridgeshire landscape, with Ely cathedral in the hazy distance, fields, roads, villages and drainage canals below.

The overall sensation was dreamlike. It was as though we were floating in silence (except for the occasional burst of the gas burner). I was careless, ecstatic, eyes wide open and scared to blink in case I missed an iota of the experience. A rarity for me to live in the moment.

The sounds that carry into the air are odd. An ice cream van blared out its instrusive tune, dogs barked and children in a garden screamed their pleasure and waved at us as we floated by, underneath the sheltering sky.

The sun set, and it suddenly seemed chilly. We landed north of Chatteris and helped rolll up the balloon before a bumpy ride in a Jeep back to Longstanton.

The rest of the pictures are in the gallery.

We later went to Venue for supper and had a rather pleasant bottle of Gewürztraminer.

An extraordinary day. Thank you, Alfred.

Posted by nathan at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)