Jürgen was an enthusiastic but poor DIYer. His son Stefan was enlisted to help from the age of 4. He graduated from being chief drill-bit-finder and screw holder to helping with more involved projects like changing the roof from leaking and flat to pitched. When a job was especially tough, Jürgen would pronounce ‘this needs a Hilti’. Hilti drills weren’t available from the local ‘Bauhaus’, Germany’s DIY/hardware store. They were pro tools and had to be bought or hired from a specialist trade outlet. In his 20s Stefan worked as a brand consultant and would often quote his dad to illustrate the power of the Hilti brand. Stefan, like his dad, was a pretty inept but keen DIYer. For his 30th birthday his friends clubbed together and bought him a Hilti. This being Stefan’s big 3-0 they felt the tool required some pimping. They commissioned a jeweller friend, Katja, to engrave each drill bit with his name and to set a diamond for the dot of the ‘i’ in his surname – but she abandoned the idea after the steel proved too hard.
Rejane tasted America as a teen and was back there in her 20s. She left New York just a month before the twin towers fell. She touched down in her native Rio but within a few years she was off again, to Rotterdam and then London. Her twin nieces, Nina and Lara, saw their aunt regularly but only over video calls. Last year the family flew to London and holed up in Rej’s one room flat. The small space was host to nightly dance-offs, lit by flashing LED balloons, the girls’ extensive wardrobe of tulle fairy skirts and laughter noisy enough to compete with the hubbub of any weekend pub. Rej’s studio also accommodated an exclusion zone around Nina’s tiny broken arm. The trip had been planned well in advance of her accident and the date for the plaster cast to come off fell during their stay. Rogério, Rej’s brother, was the stand-in doctor. The family gathered around for the ceremonial de-casting. Rogério carefully cut down the length of the tiny blue plaster. Rej’ kept the plaster cast and the rest of the family flew off to Disneyland, Paris. Nina was so excited to see Micky’s home that she ran full tilt into the park, fell over and broke her arm again.
Mr Johnny Mills had been ill for some time. But Gilbert was coming. He arrived from Ghana, nervous about the responsibility of being his grandfather’s carer but excited to be in ‘the land of milk and honey’. He lived with his grandad for nearly two years, his visa extended on compassionate grounds. He found a job, tipped off by a Ghanaian friend, Edward, who was working in a restaurant kitchen. But the head chef and coproprietor conformed to the stereotype and Gilbert left after a couple of years. Soon after another young chef left, to head up a new kitchen. He remembered Gilbert and hired him. This was an office kitchen not a restaurant kitchen. Gilbert remembers his manager’s mantra, ‘if you want people to work for you with all their heart, feed them well’. Each weekday, after the rest of the staff have been fed, Gilbert sits down with his kitchen colleagues and they have lunch together. This plate is from all the staff, thanking him for 20 years worth of lunches, ‘cheeky charm and big smiles’.
At 23 Sarit returned to Israel as a qualified chef. She took a job in an Italian restaurant. Friends back in London had put her in touch with Ruthi. They met and were immediately close, bonded, in part, by the fact that they were both ‘big boobed’. Sarit found Israeli culture more judgemental of size than London but here was Ruthi, big and confident and glamourous. She wore a necklace made from a cluster of copper coloured pearls, they were strung together and hung, like an arrow, pointing to her cleavage. This necklace, a copy of her own, was made by Ruthi as a present for Sarit. When Ruthi wears it she too holds her head high, pulls her shoulders back and her chest out – just like her friend.
Eric could hear someone in the garden, it was three in the morning. He opened the bedroom window, there were four cops outside. They were all bent double laughing. Their car was pulled up, blue lights still flashing and a scooter lay across the pavement. They’d been chasing a thief when he jumped off the stolen bike, leapt over Eric’s garden wall and escaped across the neighbour’s patio. One policemen, in not so hot pursuit, failed to scale the wall and now sat breathless, surrounded by bricks and rubble while his colleagues looked on, convulsed with giggles. After they’d composed themselves they took a statement so an insurance claim could be made for the collapsed wall. They sat in Eric’s kitchen under his poster of The Who’s ‘Sell Out’ album. One of the policemen, it turned out, was a fan of The Who. He offered to buy the poster. Eric agreed, he’d bought it on a whim from a brocante in Toulouse. But the policemen never called back, the thief, as far as Eric knows, was never caught and the poster was never claimed.
The camp wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, it was on the outskirts of nowhere. When Itamar missed the bus he had to walk an hour through the desert from Shivta. His military service ended at 21 and he’d only just turned 18. His regiment, The Rams, moved every three months but this did nothing to alleviate the boredom. He was already tired of the smell of boot polish and WD40, of the endless sand and the routine of army life. Thursdays were good though. He got to go home and was back in Jerusalem for Shabbat. Sundays weren’t so good. So this particular Sunday he stayed home with his girlfriend. Going AWOL meant when he returned to camp, it wasn’t to his usual dorm but to a cell. The boredom was more extreme but ‘it wasn’t so different from the regular army’. Itamar passed the time smoking cigarettes and bartering for cigarettes. He wrote appeal letters for inmates in exchange for ten-packs of ‘the roughest Israeli smokes’, each green packet made four links to his chain. This chain represents each day of his time in prison, the last red link is taken from the celebratory Winston that he smoked on his release.