Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…a man of his word

They say an Englishman’s word is his bond and so it should be. At the Edinburgh street party, Hogmanay 2008/09, I gave my word to a new friend and this month, much to the surprise of many I’ve spoken to about it, I kept my promise.

In a buoyant mood not long after the bells, a couple of friends and I went to the street party after missing the cut-off point before 12. The crowd was thinning out as many seeked refuge from the cold in beds and house parties around the city but there was, however, still a decent number of people staying out around the Mound, which is where we made our way to. As is the way with this hour of the year, we chatted freely to strangers and exchanged positive wishes for coming diary pages.

I don’t remember many of these people, but I do remember a group visiting the UK from Israel. In particular I remember one beautiful Russian girl whose family had made aliyah to settle in the Jewish homeland.

Nothing happened between us, but I remember thinking for the rest of the night and much of the following days that she was incredible. There were two main things that I remembered about our conversation:

1) She kept lying to me about her age and occupation – at one stage she was a 16-year-old who shot down planes for a living (she did live in Israel, after all) but I later found out that she was 21 and worked in an office.
2) She thought that nights out in the UK were rubbish. I’m not much of party animal but I was having a good night and with it being Hogmanay it seemed a strange time for her to be saying that – this was, after all, our biggest party of the year.

She told me that in Israel they generally don’t go out till about one and they stay out ’til six or seven in the morning, yet here most people don’t even make it to one o’clock. She then said I should go to Tel Aviv sometime to experience a real party, so I said I would. She didn’t believe me and used bizarre woman logic on me to ‘prove’ me to be a liar – if I really wanted to go to Israel I’d have gone by now – although when I turned this on her with her imminent travel plans to Brazil she thought ‘my’ argument was stupid. Not really knowing what to do, I did what any guy with a bit of alcohol in his system would do in front of a pretty girl, and I made a promise. A promise that I would visit Israel within two years.

I struggled for a while to find anyone who wanted to come with me with people generally thinking it was a dangerous destination. I would’ve happily gone alone but I was glad when I found a few people who realised there was more to the country than the one repeated news story we hear about the place.

At Hogmanay she had given me her name so I could add her on Facebook to keep in touch. We did this very poorly – her spoken English was much better than her written English – but we were still aware of each other enough so that when I booked tickets at the end of January this year I told her I was going to visit. She, more than most people, seemed surprised that I was actually acting on my promise. I guess there’s no saying about Israeli men keeping their word.

After I booked my flights, we spoke maybe once or twice in the next few months and then about ten days before I was due to fly over I sent her my rough schedule for the holiday so we could arrange a time to meet up. No reply. A couple days before we flew I sent another message saying where we were staying and asking for tips for the area. A little needy, perhaps, but it felt like a shame to be visiting Israel and not meeting her.

Floating on the Dead Sea

She got in touch after that which I saw as promising, but she was basically just telling me to let her know when I arrived. I repeated my dates for Tel Aviv and told her to pick a time and place and I’d find a taxi driver to take me to there. Her reply didn’t move things along at all so I suggested a day, time and place for us to meet. She didn’t reply but had been online so I hoped that she’d seen the message and was just planning to turn up. Surely it would be rude to just ignore me.

It was then that I remembered that she was a girl and that meant she wouldn’t show up to meet me.

I thought that was going to be the end of the story and I’d make a casual observation on the differences between being stood up in Israel and the UK (it’s warmer and the beer’s more expensive) but when I checked my e-mails in the morning I saw she’d sent me another message – one giving me her number and telling me to call her.

It was by now our last full day in Israel so if she was going to show me a proper night out it was going to have to be arranged right away. With a giddy excitement I borrowed my friend’s phone and tried to call her. Nothing. I played around with the Israeli dialling code and all I got was a message from Orange – first in Hebrew, then English – telling me the number was wrong. I looked through the phone’s recently dialled numbers and saw a call made to another Israeli number. It had one more digit.

Whether it was a typo or a deliberate snub (it seemed rather cruel to get in touch purely to give me a fake number) I decided to give it one more try – I sent another message saying her number didn’t work, that it seemed too short, and I told her what I was going to do that day hoping she’d turn up in the club we were planning to go to. I gave her my friend’s number as well so she could get in touch if she wanted.

Needless to say she didn’t. Since coming home I’ve seen that she sent another message with her full number, but it’s a bit pointless now. I’ve invited her to Australia which I think would be a fair sign that she wanted to make up for not seeing me.

Boys: honest, reliable, trustworthy
Girls: snakes with tits

On a theme of Englishmen keeping their promises to people in Israel, I liked this letter from Sir Winston Churchill that I saw in a museum:

Filed under: life, ,

5 Responses

  1. Dave w says:

    Apparently Tel Aviv doesn’t really count as Israel and Jerusalem is where it’s at, according to the Jerusalemites. Even though there is apparently nothing to do there.

    This is inspiringly tragic, I’m jealous.

  2. Jemma says:

    Not all boys are honest and reliable, in fact I dont think I’ve met even one who is apart from maybe my labrador. I’m sure you’ve lied and done naughty things before mister!

  3. Oliver says:

    The early stages of my autobiography will very much be details about my criminal life and my illicit lovelife, but I was a mere child then. Since I’ve become a man, I’ve become an Englishman and it’s the straight and narrow for me.

    All women, my mother aside, are (and will forever remain) snakes with tits.

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