London, News, People


Long after we knew each other in London, while traveling through Bulgaria, I went to her namesake city. I sent her an email from a camping sports centre, and got a one liner back. It made me realise how I missed her.

Isralie Ashkenazi, PhD Doctor in child psychology, bright combative, she refused to discuss politics and I cannot ever remember doing that. It was her rule which worked for her. I visited her closest friend Matzi, the Lion, in Isreal and we enjoyed our dance together, for he loved Sofka.

Smoking. So many too many cigarettes, drinking far too much red wine down in her Padington basement flat eating her trade mark salad, tomato, cucumber, avocado, onion, – the secret is to cut all small. Relationships, moral dilemna’s we’d talk round them. She enjoyed by vocabulary, reminding me of my pension for P words. Pandiculate was my favorite. John Fox introduced us. Professor John Fox, heading up the AI lab at Cancer Research where I worked. Later we would jest at his expense imitating his self centered personality. Look a field of sheep, I’d say. Is one looking at me, he’d say.

That moment in her life, when her lover died, was it an airplane crash? And his friend comforted her, and they had sex that night – so she taught me the closeness of death and sex. Raw no tomorrows. She’d explored places I had not, been closer to death and war than i had ever tasted.  She married conventionally an Englishman, of the Bootleg Beetles, and had a daughter, Ellie. Mother and daughter were beautiful to watch, their clossness, playfulness, the way they hung out with each other.

She met Sugata, and read him well, better than I did, she saw what I did not. She blessed me for challenging her flat alterations, changing the kitchen to be upstairs.

What took her back to Israel? An eruption in the UK and a desire to return homeward. Whatever it was, she left and so we lost contact for some years.

We met in Paddington Flat. She was renovating it. The tenants turned out to be call girls, and had trashed the place, badly. When Sofka gained access, she had to keep turning away customers who rang the door bell through the night hoping for service. I’d forgotten her ski-jump nose,  she was the same, smoking rollies, bottle of wine on the table. She’d had a few mountains to climb in the last few years. First lung cancer, then breast cancer. She tells me as she rolls a golden Virginia roll up – her compromise from tailor made Marlborough. ‘I cannot want the reconstruction enough to want to give up smoking’. No chemo no surgery, she challenges her oncologist.

She’s thinking of getting a dog. If it’s unconditional love we are after what better than a dog? So i’m going to get a poodle.

‘There’s something about England that’s in me’
‘Remind me why did you leave?’
‘Eleanor. When she turned her back on me. Too many rejections’
We eat at a delicious Lebanese on Edgeware road. Sofka flirts easily with the Lebanese owner and we eat Mezza and chicken.
I’d forgotten how much Sofka had informed me. The strength and drive of curiosity. The pull of travel – free, open nothing to loose, moving on. Celebration of transience.
Here we are two girls on the threshold of 60 walking down St Michael’s street Paddington.

Later she came up to Suffolk on a cold new years day, in her red coat.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s