On The Company of Strangers


I learned a new lesson this evening and I learned it well.

The past few days have not been good ones for me. Just as many non-Jews with “complicated” lives find the forced jollity and heightened expectations of the Xmas and New Year holiday period to be tortuous, I have found the just-ended festival of Succoth and Simchat Torah to be a hard and lonely time.

I have good friends who care deeply for me. I know this and am grateful for it. I could have reached out to them to help me through the turmoil of the past few days.

I could, at least, have allowed them to reach out to me. I apologise to those who tried. It’s honestly nothing personal.

But I didn’t. Instead I withdrew into a shell, cut off the world and focused on distracting myself with mindless TV.

Tonight, however, I came to a realisation – that sometimes, the company of friends and those with intimate knowledge of me and my circumstances is not as helpful as that of strangers.

I went on Twitter. I had a conversation in bursts of 140 characters with a group of folks with whom I have the weakest of connections – we all support Arsenal Football Club.

I have never met any of them in person, merely spoken to them on Twitter and on a Web cast (join in next time – it’s worth a listen)!

Yet a bit of crude sexual innuendo (some of it a long way from subtle) was enough to lift my mood from a pretty deep hole.

This is not the first time this has happened. This summer, I went to see the ever-wonderful Kylie (and Chic, Grace Jones and Mika) perform at the British Summer Time festival in Hyde Park. I went alone, but shared a wonderful afternoon with a group of people whose only connection was a willingness to stand up for 7 hours to enjoy some great music from some consummate (and in Grace Jones’ case, totally stoned) performers.


Every time I go to watch Arsenal play, I share the experience with around 59,000 strangers, a few dozen people in the ground I know at least vaguely, not to mention the many millions following the game from around the world.

These events are joyous to me (yes, even when Arsenal lose) because I can unashamedly share my passions in a completely uninhibited way with no consequences.

I don’t have to explain myself, I don’t have to worry about what I say because nobody cares about any of that and nobody will remember me the next day (except perhaps as that odd, fat, loud bloke with the bad jokes).

What a joy that is.

So, please allow me to share two personal messages.

  1. Sorry (no – I really mean it) to the individuals who have tried to help and who I have turned away in the last day or two. I love you none the less, and there will be times your attention will be very welcome, but there are times it isn’t.
  2. Thank you (sincerely) to
    1. those 3 women who went to KFC after Kylie,
    2. the many thousands who have sung songs and talked crap in the Tolly and the streets around Ashburton Grove and
    3. to @garethcmurray, @MrsCharlieGolf and @Johnny_Buttons

You are all great.

Speak soon

Labenal (@GoonerEll)

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