liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
What was supposed to happen over Pesach was that I'd get 10 consecutive days off work, but they were going to be extremely hectic including a very rushed trip to Sweden. What actually happened was I ended up working over part of the holiday, not going to Sweden, and actually getting a chance to relax in between some of the rushing around. But it's still been very, very intense!

Working through my supposed vacation was to do with a big grant application. That meant I didn't get marking done by the deadline, and I didn't get my intended Pesach cleaning done at all. But it's one more chance to fund and set up the PhD I've been trying for, and the most exciting thing is that if it works it will be a collaboration with my dear friend MK in Australia. Part of the working when I was supposed to be on holiday involved a long conversation with him; it was genuinely work, but it was still a joy to talk to him again, even about about technical details of grant applications.

I arrived in Cambridge at the weekend, and it was gloriously sunny, and I had a quiet day with [personal profile] jack before plunging into family and festival chaos. There was some amount of looking at wedding rings, but lots of wandering about in the sunshine and chatting and clearing my head. I finally made it to the Devonshire, which contained several lovely people, notably [livejournal.com profile] redaloud whom I hadn't seen in far too long, so I was a bit loud and squeally at her. Also sampled some apple beer, which I'm not entirely convinced by but it was an interesting experience.

Pesach prep was less stressful than it has been some years. With just a dozen of us at the seder, just immediate family plus partners plus one cousin, it was about the smallest group I can remember. And Mum kind of has a routine by now of dishes that she knows will work for feeding large numbers under Pesach constraints. I arrived at lunchtime on Sunday and we prepared and cooked and washed up pretty steadily until 6 o'clock on Monday evening, but it was steady, not panic-stricken. Screwy was around for most of it keeping us entertained with interesting ideas. Thuggish Poet and his SO turned up Sunday evening, and P'tite Soeur with her new squeeze at about lunchtime on Monday. I so appreciate having all the sibs together, even if only for a couple of days.

The seder itself went really well. I cried off leading, as in a very gender stereotypical way I was too tired from cooking and period pains to feel spiritual or inspired by the time we got to Monday evening. But Screwy volunteered instead and did a stunningly good job. The service had to be rushed because even with every effort to start early, it was still several hours after Granny is used to eating and going to bed, so she was tired and hungry, and besides doesn't really hear or see well enough to follow what's going on. I know plenty of ways to adapt a seder for young children up past their bedtimes and likely to be bored with a lot of religious discussion, but most of them don't really work for elderly guests. But anyway, Screwy did an admirable job of incorporating some interesting and thought-provoking ideas and bits of discussion while keeping up the momentum. Mostly the theme was that Pesach is a foretaste of the Messianic age in some ways; we celebrate our redemption from Egypt but also anticipate our eventual true redemption. The mixing up that we do, fresh and salty, bitter and sweet, indicates that the boundaries are blurred between this pre-redemption world and the next, but also that once we are truly redeemed we won't need binary categories for everything. So yeah, my brother is an awesome liturgist.

I had planned to leave at crack of dawn to lead the second seder in Sweden, but my Swedish community decided fairly close to the event that they don't actually need me any more. This is mainly down to the fact that Stockholm has a new rabbi who although Conservative is doing things in a way that appeals enough to the Progressive folk that they no longer feel the need to run separate events as much as they used to. So it's a positive thing, but I can't help feeling a bit sad about not being needed any more, and about the consequences for the nascent Progressive community having a sense of identity. And on a more basic level I was really looking forward to a trip to Sweden and now it might not happen at all or at best it might be postponed until summer. Anyway, the advantage of my trip being cancelled was that I could get enough sleep after the seder, and have a leisurely morning, helping clear up and continuing to chat to siblings. Oh, and I have confirmed that my cousin's adorable daughter will be the bridesmaid at my wedding and P'tite Soeur will make the cake, so that was a productive visit home as well as a highly enjoyable one.

[personal profile] jack came to pick me up late morning and drove me back to Stoke. And then I changed into a smart outfit and went to the Stoke synagogue to lead the seder here. We had 30 people, including several Muslim and Christian friends of the community, but all regulars rather than people who come for one-off big events. Also, all people who were there because they actually wanted to do a seder including discussion and education, no kids dragged there by their parents or older people who don't care for religion but want to keep following the traditions of their own parents and grandparents. Those groups of people are extremely valuable parts of a community, don't get me wrong, but it's a lot more straightforward to lead a seder if you don't have to take them into account. Also people who were not me provided the food and organized all the practical details so all I had to think about was liturgy.

I stuck pretty closely to the original hagaddah, just with a little commentary so the rituals were comprehensible to the visitors and conversands (many of whom had never attended a seder before), but hopefully also interesting to people who've been to dozens of seders. I felt that the event went very well, and was getting back real enthusiasm and interest from the the participants. The minor problem was that there was nobody present who knew any of the tunes at all, which is even worse than our usual low level of musicality. The major down side was that the shul president was too ill to join us. It was bad enough that he was was too ill to lead the seder and I had to step in instead; he's been doing this for more than half a century and I can't even begin to fill his shoes. Talking of mixing bitter and sweet, it was almost unbearable to be leading the community in the most joyful, thoughtful celebration of Pesach with his absence looming so large.

Then a couple of days of pootling about and spending time with [personal profile] jack and also working on the grant and trying to get my head together. [livejournal.com profile] mathcathy came by one evening and we played Ad Astra, a game I'm very much taken with, sort of Settlers in space which fixes many of the problems with the original Settlers game. And Dominion Prosperity, which has been tweaked in ways that just make Dominion players grin incessantly while playing. I lost both horribly, but it was a delightful evening anyway.

Then I went to Eastercon, and talked to lots of shiny people and my brain is full of all kinds of thoughts about who I am and where I fit into communities and liberation and social justice stuff. It was surprisingly apropos for the final weekend of Passover, anyway. I will try to get my thoughts together to discuss it properly before the impressions fade, but not while I'm too tired and too hyper to write coherently.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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