Love at Hyman Fine House14 Feb 2020
“I never thought back in 1955, when I was aboard the SS Philippo Grimani, a rusty old tub of a boat, plunging across the ocean accompanied by a gang of playful dolphins, that this was to a pivotal period of my life. I was on my own, returning to my RAF camp in Cyprus after leave back home in Blighty. I was befriended by a group of Americans on their way to start a new life in a kibbutz in the country of Israel. They wore checked shirts, khaki shorts, big boots and were weighed down with heavy rucksacks. They sang Yiddish songs and told me all about Israel. I was absolutely entranced by them and will always remember them and how they informed my life.
A couple of years after this, when I was demobbed and back in England, I would go to the Polish Yiddish theatre in London, even though I didn’t understand a word of it. I fell in love with klezmer music and with its duck quacking sounds derived from the ducks waddling around the shtetls of Eastern Europe. I also heard all about the Golem and the Dybbuk In plays in BBC Radio Three. Then best of all, in 1998 I fell I love with and married a Jewish woman called Greta, a French Language teacher at Roedean School. We went for a month’s holiday in Israel and met all of her relatives who lived there. I fell in love with the country and didn’t want to leave. We visited Ben Gurion’s memorial where I placed a stone on his tomb. We went to Masada, the saddest place on the world, and I even floated on the dead sea, where Greta took a photograph of me writing a postcard to my brother in Canada.
In recent years my dearest Greta has unfortunately developed Alzheimer’s, and is living and being cared for, at Hyman Fine Home in Brighton. It is possibly the best place in the world to be, with the atmosphere not only of Jewish Culture, but also great consideration to homeliness, love and efficiency.
I feel eternally grateful that I, as a non-Jewish person (although we always believed in my family that my German grandmother was Jewish), am able to live here, so that Greta and I are together.
All this seems to have stemmed from meeting those great people in that little Italian boat, bound for Israel all those years ago.”
(John's artwork of Israel.)
If you have enjoyed reading John’s article, he has recently published a book of illustrated poems called ‘on the downs’ which are available to buy from Amazon.
The pictures are of him and his wife Greta and a painting by John from his time in Israel that hangs in the hallway at Hyman Fine.
If you would like to organise a visit and see what makes Hyman Fine House so special, learn about volunteering at the home, or would just like to come and say hello, please contact Natasha or Mark on 01273 688 226 or email Ncarson@jcare.org and we will be happy to show you around.