Rhodri Marsden: Let's get this straight, I'm not Jewish and nor is my hat

Life on Marsden

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The Independent Online

When I arrived at university in 1989 with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a catastrophic inability to cook, I was wearing a cap with a floral motif. It had belonged to a girl called Angie, and she'd given it to me because, she said, I looked good in it. I reckoned this cap would mark me out as fascinatingly bohemian, and I wore it all the time, imagining that students and teachers would think of me as a Jim Morrison-esque figure, or perhaps a bit like the guitarist in The Soup Dragons.

A couple of months into my studies, during a conversation with a lecturer that must have touched upon the intriguing subject of pork, she expressed surprise that I ate pork. I assured her that I was a fan. "But I thought you were Jewish," she said, indicating my hat, which didn't look remotely like a yarmulke. I pointed out that I wasn't covering my head in order that the fear of heaven may be upon me. I was covering my head to make a cool indie statement. Totally different thing.

At some point between this incident and the fall of the Berlin Wall, a gust of wind blew my cap over a fence into someone's garden. That would have marked the end of this incredible story, and indeed the end of my association with Judaism, were it not for an incident last week in Brighton where a woman approached me in a pub and said "Excuse me – are you Jewish?" Now, I wouldn't mind being Jewish, but I'm just not.

Recently I did a pub quiz where the quizmaster asked how many candles were in the Menorah, and I wrote down 10, then crossed it out when my friend whispered, "but there's one in the middle, you idiot." That's how Jewish I'm not.

Anyway, I told her that she was confusing me with a Jewish man because of my beard and trilby, and that my trilby doesn't look remotely like a borsalino, or a shtreimel, and if anything I was Church of England, although actually I'm a non-believer. She did a fistpump, hissed "yes", and shouted to her friend "He's not! Told you!" If anyone else is considering placing a bet on me being Jewish, you should know that William Hill have just lengthened the odds to a "highly unlikely" 600-1.