Two months is really far too long …

I began this blog seven years ago and for most of the time, I’ve managed to keep it going fairly regularly about once a week.  Occasionally, there have been periods when, for one reason or another, I missed a week or fortnight but as anyone who has been reading this stuff over the years is aware, I’ve been toing and froing over the past year and a half between London and Tel Aviv trying to reconstruct a life after Vivien’s passing 2½ years ago—and with some success.

I actually began a post nearly six weeks ago and then abandoned it rather than give immediate vent to my frustrations for reasons that many might well understand.   I had  returned to the Promised Land a couple of days before Israel’s most recent general election so as to be able to cast my vote.  Before that I had been in the United Kingdom for two months where some people might have imagined that I’d had a hand in playing havoc with the political system in that benighted country, for during my stay, the UK saw off one monarch and welcomed another, said goodbye to two Prime Ministers (as if one wasn’t enough) while welcoming a third.  Although all this occurred during my sojourn there, I can assure everyone that what happened there and my presence in the place was pure coincidence.  I have to admit that I’d always thought Israeli politics a bit crazy and that British politics was serious and sober —— until this last visit, that is, when the Brits demonstrated to the world what they can actually do if they really try hard enough and put their minds to it.

So this year in Israel, November 1 marked the date of the country’s fifth general election in 3½ years.  November 1 is also, for those who celebrate it, All Saints’ Day, although what a saint is or was, or is or was supposed to be or to have been, is beyond my ken.  November 1  is also sometimes referred to as All Hallows’ Day or the day that follows Hallowe’en, (Holy Evening), which is known to some as “Trick or Treat Night” and it’s the “tricking or treating” that I discovered a couple of years ago that has turned Halloween into an unofficial Israeli secular holiday for many kids and others (without any approval of the bearded holy men who have a disproportionate influence on the character of Israeli society and, it seems, are about to have more).

I was one of the early voters that day, arriving at the polling station on 7.15 a.m. as I wanted to get it out of my system as soon as possible. Being Israel, election day is also an excuse for a public holiday, as if the four weeks that citizens of that country were met with the response “Akharey Ha-Chagim” (after the [High] Holy Days) was not sufficient reason for causing things to slow down and almost come o a halt.  (For those unfamiliar with the ways of Israel, this is the period in which for about a fortnight before Jewish New Year until around four weeks after, practically nothing gets done and is a period that makes the Christmas/New Year shutdown in the UK seem like a piece of cake.)

After arriving, I turned on the TV and watched one of the nonsense gossip programs that pass for sensible discussion, all of which amounts to what my mother used to call “plappel”, a word I can’t find in any dictionary but which pretty well describes a situation in which six to ten people sit around a table, each talking twenty to the dozen at full volume and none as much as even listening, let alone paying attention, to what any of the others is saying—not that what anyone was saying made much sense anyway.  It’s all a question, as Doris Day used to sing, of Que sera, sera and it forced me into deciding that I would not watch any TV news during my stay there, the primary object of which was to clear my apartment before letting it, as I had decided that I was going to stay in London for the foreseeable future.  However, I did manage to keep up with the news by listening each day to 4-5 minutes of news an 6 a.m. and that was sufficient to keep me informed as to what was going on.

I was not particularly optimistic about the outcome of the election but then again I never have been much of an optimist as it’s so much more fun being a pessimist, if only because sometimes one is pleasantly surprised!  I voted for a party called Yesh Atid, headed by the then and, perhaps still as I write, current Prime Minister (for a few more days), Yair Lapid.  Yesh Atid is Hebrew “There is a Future” although after the results became apparent, I’m not not all that sure there is much of a one.  As one of Israel’s leading journalists, Anshel Pfeffer, put it in Ha’Aretz newspaper shortly before the election, The zombie bastard that Benjamin Netanyahu created when he forced Haredi (strictly Orthodox) nationalists, neo-Kahanists and homophobes together on one slate — in order to prevent the loss of any votes of tiny far-right parties that failed to cross the electoral threshold — answered a demand no one knew existed.  Who knew there were so many dormant fascists just waiting for a leader? Thousands of first time-voting teenagers eager to stick it to their elders? So many Likudniks for whom the party’s drift toward authoritarianism still wasn’t enough? And so many Putinist Chabadniks and battalions of young Haredim fed up with being told to vote like their parents always have? Netanyahu didn’t know.”  And if he didn’t know, then he’s more dishonest and greedy than even I thought him to be and if he did know, then he’s really unfit to lead the country!

(Just in case anyone is unaware of the way in which Israel votes, voters are asked to choose a party and not an individual. Effectively, this means that individual members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, bear no accountability whatsoever towards the voters although they might cynically deny this.  The system is in dire need of reform and has been for a very long time—but reform will never happen because politicians in Israel—rather like politicians almost everywhere else—have little interest in changing a system with which they are familiar and understand how to manipulate.)

Lily Waterman, casting her mother’s vote and thereby practising for the future (if democracy in Israel lasts that long!)

They are accountable only to a party that has placed them high enough on the list to take a seat in the Knesset.  There are no by-elections (special elections); there is no postal vote; there is no absentee ballot.  The only day on which this section of democracy exists—and it’s a limited version at that—is on election day itself.  Following on from this practice in which democratic procedures are conducted for just a single day, what comes on the heels of this is coalition-building, never a pretty procedure in Israel and one in which marks where politicians take over the “democratic” proceedings from the population-at-large and that’s what the lawmakers have been doing for the past few weeks.

The search for coalition partners, Israel-style: You smell as if we could form a government together! 

Although I hate to say it, having lived for five decades in the country, I am pleased that I have distanced myself from what I can only see as a nascent fascist theocracy—although things may not be as negative as I perceive them to be. However, as I see it, it appears as if the leader of the right-wing Likud party, Mr.Netanyahu himself, has allied himself and his party, which consists of an assembly of lackeys, crooks and criminals, to religious fanatics of varying hues. (And when I write crooks and criminals, I mean it.)  He therefore feels protected and that he can get away with whatever it is he desires.  These neo-fascists and religious zealots would like, amongst other things, to enfeeble the police, dismantle the independent judiciary and replace the current legal system with one based solely on religious laws.  There is the malodorous stench from these “Jewatollahs” but notwithstanding all this, this is the kind of government that Netanyahu has craved for 25 years, one which will permit him to oversee the “Orbanization” or “Erdoganization” of Israel — even if it means destroying the very fabric of Israeli democracy in the process, for all that really interests him are his own interests and staying out of prison is one of those. Nothing more, nothing less.  As my grandmother said to me over 70 years ago, “The world is vanishing right beneath us”.  She was the same age then as I am now and when I was a kid, I thought she was being overly pessimistic. Now, I think she had got it right!

And so I completed the process of preparing the apartment in Tel Aviv for rental—three weeks of emptying, disbursing, dispersing and casting off the accumulation of many years of belongings, some in good working condition others just plain garbage.  And, that task completed more or less, it was off to London again.  In my aged innocence, I had thought it would take me a couple of days to recover from all those exertions but several people had insinuated that I was being a little naïve about things and that it might take a week or more—and they were accurate on that count for I was a zombie for two or three days and then just exhausted until a whole week had passed.

One of the first programs I watched on TV on arriving back in the UK, was entitled FIFA Uncovered and dealt with corruption in international football over the past few decades.  I had watched the first episode in Israel and the rest in London and I sat goggle-eyed in front of the box for periods of not more than 20 minutes at a time because it was not the corruption itself that astounded me but the level and global extent of the unscrupulousness and the couldn’t-care-less attitude of those mostly closely involved with the shenanigans that left my mind in a state of amazement and depression.

If followed that by watching Simon Schama’s three-episode History of Now, which was a very personal look at the roles of art and artists in maintaining freedom and democracy.  Schama examined artists, writers and musicians who fought for the post-World War II values of democracy, freedom and equality, values that he fears are eroding before our very eyes.  In his words, the History of Now turns out to be the History of Then in that all the battles and big issues from when he (and I) were growing up, and which seemed to have been won, have turned out not to be—issues such as civil rights or the debate about being able to afford a welfare state.  Huge matters, such as the fragility of democracy and its dependence on truth, which seemed to have been sorted in 1989 when the Soviet Union finally collapsed, still appear to be with us, and Vaclav Havel’s Power of the Powerless seems just as relevant today as it was more than 30 years ago when it was written.  Schama’s worries today include how online abuse, anger and lies incite real-life violence and if we all thought that the Internet was a force for transparency and truth and fact-checking, it’s not that it’s not—but at the same time, it has created echo chambers.  So instead of being an indubitable weapon against the authority of lies …  Orwell, it seems, more or less got it right.  Schama interviewed several people — writers, artists, musicians and more — in History of Now, interviews that cover free speech, individualism, the rise in right-wing populism and the reversal of hard-fought freedoms and those battles really have to be fought continuously and continually.  His message was that whereas history always has something to teach, it doesn’t provide recipes but it does provide cautionary notes.  I found the programme both totally absorbing and utterly depressing but nevertheless unputdownable.  However, in an essay in last weekend’s Financial Times, Schama distilled the arguments he made in the television programmes into just 2,500 words and it makes for even better reading than did the viewing.

Schama “Art versus the Tyrants”

And then it was time to get out and find some culture — a concert at The Barbican Hall, with Mitsuko Uchida playing the Schumann Piano Concerto with the LSO with conductor Simon Rattle (and an opportunity to hear Rachmaninoff’s Third Symphony, which I hadn’t heard before and could well listen to again).  Then a wonderful exhibition at the Tate Modern of works by Paul Cezanne, focusing on the tensions and contradictions in his work.  In an exhibition that includes many works shown for the first time in the UK, it seeks to understand the artist in his own context, as an determined young painter from Provence, keen to succeed in Paris in the company of his friends Emile Zola and Camille Pissaro, and follows his struggle between seeking official recognition and joining the emerging impressionists before persistently following his own unique language, grappling with what it means to be a modern painter while remaining deeply skeptical about the world he lived in, from political unrest to a continually accelerating way of life.

  

And then it was time to go outside again and watch the vivid autumn colours and savour the early arrival of winter.

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Birds and some other things that precede them.

 

Be warned, for this is one of my occasional rants!

It’s been an interesting five weeks or so in this United Kingdom. A Prime Minister resigns and is replaced by new one. The Queen who had reigned for seven decades dies and the new King, a man who had been in training as an apprentice for half a century, replaces her. As soon as parliament reconvened following the official mourning period after the monarch’s passing, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer (a.k.a. Minister of Finance), Mr. Kwasi Kwarteng delivered a financial statement, a so-called “mini-budget” (perhaps it might better have been referred to as “quasi-budget”), which according to both the Chancellor and his boss, had the full backing of the new Prime Minister.  And as a result of all this frenetic political activity, the financial markets, of which both the Prime Minister and her Chancellor are fervent devotees, proved that they can be even more hyperactive.  In other words, they went crazy.  The value of the pound declined, mortgage rates increased, &c., all because they had announced tax cuts and energy subsidies, among other things, without explaining how these would be paid for. Mistrust, the Prime Minister,  (sorry— I’m a little hard of hearing—Ms.Truss, the Prime Minister), when asked in a BBC interview a couple of weeks ago if the mini-budget had been discussed in full cabinet, answered in the negative and announced that she would change nothing.  In the week following, she did just that— and then again and again.  So over the past few weeks, there have been pirouettes galore!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5eL5MVkhfk

To cut a long story short, I started to write this blog post on Friday morning October 14 2022 but I had not intended to start it this way or to write 1,000 words about it all.  However, I made the mistake of leaving the television on that morning, the “news” providing some background noise. Mr. Kwarteng, the then chancellor, had cut short his visit to Washington by a day and arrived back in London early on Friday morning.  As he landed, he appears that he had no idea  that he was about to lose the job he had held for just over a month; however, a couple of hours after returning to the UK, the Prime Minister had relieved her old friend and long-time close colleague of his position and poor Kwasi set off for home in his government car for the last time.  Mr. Kwarteng is a graduate of that long-time fabricator of Prime Ministers and other government leaders, Eton College, where he was a scholar and prizewinner. Reading his CV, he is undoubtedly a very smart cookie, earning a double first in classics and history at Trinity College, Cambridge; he has also authored several books.  However, I’ve held a belief for several years that really clever people avoid politics at all and find some other occupation by which to earn a living and benefit society, all of which suggests that Mr. Kwarteng is, to use the old expression, perhaps “too clever by half”.

So while all this drama was unfolding in front of the TV cameras and radio microphones, I started to ask myself what might—or could— happen following this thrilling spectacle? Now, although I’m just an Israeli-Irish interloper in this currently less-than-United Kingdom, I don’t trusst her.  Thrust into the foreground, Ms. Truss was obliged to give a press conference at Number 10 Downing Street, which may yet appear in the Guinness Book of Records as being the shortest prime ministerial press conference on record, lasting just over nine minutes from beginning to end and at which she took a total of four questions, having rather obtrusively scanned the press corps present for a friendly face, before taking her leave.  Asked very pointedly, by a journalist from The Sun newspaper (who she might have thought would be well disposed towards her, why, as part of the fallout of this whole business he (Kwarteng) had to go, and “how come you get to stay?”, she proved that communicating with journalists or the general public (as distinct from older members of the Conservative Party) is not one of her stronger points! Did she bear no responsibility whatsoever?😢🥵🤬???

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt, an experienced politician and a former Health Secretary and Foreign Secretary but a man who supported the former Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, during the Tory party’s long drawn out “leadership campaign” (read: popularity contest) last summer, agreed to become his replacement. And listening to him making his first statement as Chancellor on Monday morning and then performing in the House of Commons at length in the afternoon, the cynic in me couldn’t but ask: “Loyalty or opportunism”?  But before Mr. Hunt made his statement — in a calm and entirely civil manner — in the Commons, the Prime Minister was absent, leaving the task of answering the questions of MPs to the Leader of the House of Commons, Ms. Mordaunt, who had to explain the PM’s absence repeatedly by saying that she was busy in meetings.  And when she did actually sidle in to take her place on the front bench, she looked pathetic in so many senses of that word — pitiable, piteous, to be pitiedplaintive, distressing, disquieting, miserable, sad, wretched, poor, forlorn, tragic, doleful, mournful, woeful, feeble, woeful, sorry, poor, pitiful, lamentable, deplorable, miserable, wretched, contemptible, despicable, inadequate, meagre, paltry, insufficient, negligible, insubstantial, unsatisfactory, worthless., &c.

This morning, Tuesday, at 7.30 as is my wont, I turned on BBC Breakfast (a combination of a news programme and entertainment show) only to see her again, this time being interviewed by Chris Mason, BBC TV’s political editor, in which she apologised for making mistakes (and this after Mr. Hunt had junked almost all of the tax-cutting plans she had introduced only three weeks earlier, adding that her premiership “hasn’t been perfect,” (which to my simple mind illustrate her lack of both communication and leadership skills) but she had “fixed” mistakes, saying that it would have been “irresponsible” not to change course.  She also said she was still committed to boosting UK economic growth, confessing that it would now take longer to achieve. (Understatement? SW).  “I remain committed to the vision, but we will have to deliver that in a different way,” she said. Then, asked whether or not she would be staying in the job, she responded by insisting that she will lead the Tories into the next general election, despite her many U-turns; so many, in fact, that I wondered if she might think of auditioning to dance pirouettes for the Royal Ballet!

I’ve seen some strange things over the years in Israel — making coalitions, breaking coalitions, moving from one party to another without really giving it a second thought but this story beats the lot.  They say that a week is a long time in politics and this week is surely proof!

But how long will all this pandemonium last?  Well, The Economist newspaper put it rather pithily in an editorial this week: “Ms Truss entered Downing Street on September 6th. She blew up her own government with a package of unfunded tax cuts and energy-price guarantees on September 23rd. Take away the ten days of mourning after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and she had seven days in control. That is roughly the shelf-life of a lettuce.”  Quite!

And now the lettuce leaves have necrosed!

Now, having got that unplanned rant off my chest, I return to photographs and the images that follow bear no particular relationship who what has preceded them (and I might also mention that several of them have appeared in posts on this blog before).

Seriousness. Self-portait. January 2018

 

The hoopoe. Voted Israel’s national bird.

 

A hungry hoopoe!

 

A politician speaking (for anyone prepared to listen) …

 

… and I wasn’t all that impressed!

 

… to tell you the truth, nor was I!

 

… in fact, I thought it so boring, I decided it was time to leave!

 

Gull. St. Mark’s Square, Venice. October 2022

 

The gulls are in charge. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

 

Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

And then, there are bottoms up!

Emu. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

 

Murano Glass, Venice.  October 2022

 

Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

 

Hampstead Heath, London

 

At Sde Yaacov, Israel. 1966

 

Peaceful Coexistence. Tel Aviv

 

Breakfast, Tel Aviv Port

 

Swimming lesson about to get underway. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

 

 Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv.

Ready, Steady, Go!  Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

Lapwing x 3. Tel Aviv Port

 

I may look like a Bird of Paradise , but I’m only a flower!

 

Such juicy birds — but what can I do with only one eye???

Oh! And autumn has arrived in London!

 

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Trains and boats and planes

I frequently begin a blog post with a comment — usually flavoured with a sprinkling of cynicism — about what’s going on in the world. However, this time I shall refrain from following this procedure because, amongst other things, the state of the world as demonstrated by the actions and words of Mr. Putin over the past few days leaves us guessing as to what might follow and the state of the United Kingdom, as revealed by the actions and words of the fresh British Prime Minister, Ms. Truss, and her Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister), Dr. Kwarteng, is equally mystifying.

As a result of all this mystification and perplexity, this blog post will deal with something a lot more prosaic than usual — public transport.

For those of us who don’t drive a car, ride a bike or find that walking longer distances is tiring, there is little alternative to using public transport.  Riding public transport vehicles, whether bus or train, can be a boring pastime …

… but nevertheless, I find that there are all sort of interesting byproducts to sitting in a bus or on the Tube.

Sitting on the Underground earlier this year, and looking up at the advertisements and signs on the opposite sides of the carriage, my eyes landed on the poster below.  Staring, it revealed, can be intrusive and can be of a sexual nature and is thus a form of sexual harassment and cannot be tolerated.

Fine! I stare when I’m on the Tube and have nothing to read or anything better to do because I get stupified rather easily.  I suppose that if one’s mind is sufficiently twisted and warped, the fact that I gawk out of boredom might be interpreted as sexually intrusive if my eyes fall unseeingly on a woman sitting opposite— so what am I supposed to do? Close my eyes and miss the station where I am supposed to alight?  As it happens, as I took this photograph, a female sitting opposite was staring at me, possibly or probably equally bored, and I did think of ringing Transport for London’s sexual harassment line at 0800-783-0137 and reporting that I was being sexually beleaguered but then thought better of it as I concluded that nobody would ever have believed me had I done so!

However, most of the time when using public transport, “interesting”  is hardly the operative word.  People do sit and stare — either at one another or just blankly.  Some read and others participate in various other activities — but for the most part, it’s a run-of-the-mill activity.

However, during a pandemic lockdown a couple of years ago, things had a slightly different look about them, as the picture below illustrates.  It was shot at Leicester Square Station at 11.20 a.m on a weekday, and is normally a very busy location where the Northern Line meets the Piccadilly Line.

I’m fascinated by some of the things that people manage to do on the train.  This young woman, who I observed one morning more than a decade ago, managed to apply her make-up with little apparent difficulty as the train bounced along.  And only this October morning in 2022, I watched another young woman put on her earrings, attaching them to the earlobes through a tiny, almost invisible orifice, with what I regarded as literally an incredible skill.  Note, too, that the person in the picture below is using a mirror, which sort of dates things, and these days they are more likely to use their smartphone’s camera to help them do the job.

Others read or do crosswords …

… and sometimes, the reading is serious stuff indeed, as in this case where the young lady is engrossed in The Economist newspaper.

However, these days, you’re more likely to see things being read on phones than on paper! …

… or on iPads!

Occasionally, one comes across something more engaging such as these two images which I included in a post over seven years ago and about which I received an email from an acquaintance who had read it and which had shocked him, less than an hour after I put the post up .  As a consequence, he warned me about being branded a paedophile although I thought then— and I still do — that the photos in question were perfectly innocent and which anyway had been taken in a public space, i.e., on the London Underground, which is part of the public transport network.

All I was interested in was in capturing the expression on the face of the lad on the right—he might or might not have been a minor.  So I thought I should perhaps I should inquire as to what the rules are about photographing in this part of the world, and more specifically, about posting photographs of minors without their permission.  Are there any such rules?  Is there a set of guidelines anywhere?

So, I consulted another person I know who is a lawyer specialising in privacy issues and got the following response:

“Assuming your blog shows a representative sample of the type/genres of photos which you have taken, the chances of the police checking out your computer, looking at your thousands of photos and branding you a paedophile are approx 0%. They also don’t have the time or funds and it would never be investigated — and it isn’t really a police matter in the first place.

There are two areas of law which may have a bearing in this. Data Protection and Privacy. In relation to the former, you have an “artistic” defence and for a privacy action to succeed, firstly you would need the boys to see the picture, then to decide to take offence and claim you had infringed their privacy (which is quite hard to do in a public place)—and then to launch a claim which is speculative and extremely likely to fail.”

He then added: “Having said all that, if your blog starts attracting thousands of hits, I’d keep the pics of kids to a minimum unless you have their consent.”  However, I might add that I never did receive thousands of hits in the intervening seven years!

And some people can read and be bored at one and the same time!

Some people don’t read on the Tube but eat and drink their breakfast while watching a film.  I sat opposite this young man for 15 minutes last week while he drank his juice and ate his sandwiches without once taking his eyes off the phone — even while he was unwrapping the package with the sandwich.


 And it’s not just people I notice on the Tube, for the Underground houses hordes of little furry creatures (and probably some larger and less savoury ones as well!)

Buses are something else though because you generally aren’t sitting opposite someone but close by.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t exactly restrain me or from prevent me doing what I like to do!

But buses and their passengers can be annoying at times.  This gent boarded as bus near the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead six years ago.  I wasn’t even thinking of taking a photograph but I did have my camera around my neck.  I saw him staring at me and then at the camera and then he asked me, rather aggressively, I thought, how much it had cost me (and it wasn’t cheap).  I thought to myself that it was really none of his business but he had looked so disapproving before he posed the question that I decided I would tell him exactly how much I had paid for it whereupon I got even a more disapproving look — and then snapped him at the same time!


 And it’s not only inside the vehicle that one can view interesting things.

On Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park

And sometimes, even on a bus, one does get to view things of interest, such as these hands on a Tel Aviv bus.

Fascinating as those hands and their adornments were, I found something even more alluring on a London bus.  The lady in question wasn’t sitting opposite me but two or three seats away and on the opposite side of the bus — but I found myself looking at the hands even though I couldn’t take a photo unobtrusively.  Fortunately, we alighted at the same stop in Belsize Park and waiting for the traffic lights to change so that we could cross the road safely, I asked her if she minded me photographing her hands.  She couldn’t have been more delighted — but then why would one embellish one’s mitts in such a manner if one didn’t want others to view them?

Finally, while on hands, I saw this old[er] couple on a Tel Aviv bus.  They were sitting beside one another and just holding hands and looked looked so comfortable, so I asked them if they minded me taking a photograph of their hands, explaining that all I wanted was a photo of the hands. They sounded and looked so pleased!

 

I have looked at the seats on the London Underground for years but never noticed before—until my granddaughter pointed it out to me— that the design on the fabric of the seats contains four major London landmarks hidden there— the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, and Big Ben!

And almost at the end, I leave you with a distinctly Tel Avivian feature that has almost, if not already, completely vanished — payment on the sherut taxis.  These are taxis that ply the principal bus routes and pick up passengers en route and not necessarily those waiting at bus stops. Whereas today people mostly pay with plastic, traditionally, one entered the taxi, found a vacant seat and then paid by passing cash to the driver via the other passengers and if change was needed, the driver passed it back using a backhand movement — and it always worked very well.  Much more distinctive than using a plastic card or some other digital device!

Finally, in this post on public transport one is left with some questions.  For instance, was this a hapless individual attempting to signal to the bus driver that s/he wanted the bus to stop and allow her/him to board —— but the driver had neglected to pull up on time?!

And although I’ve been looking at this sign for umpteen years, nobody has ever deigned to explain to me what happens if you don’t!

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In understatement, an interesting fortnight!

This notice has been posted in Belsize Park and Hampstead for quite a while now.  However, as no reward was offered, one can only assume that he has vanished.  Perhaps taken a vacation in the Catskills?!


It’s been a fascinating fortnight, to say the least.  In my last post, I made some comments about the outgoing and incoming British Prime Ministers flying from London to Balmoral Castle, two days after I arrived in the country, each for an audience with the Queen.  Mr. Johnson, the outgoing Prime Minister, went there to tender his formal resignation and Ms Truss, his successor, flew up to receive an invitation from Her Majesty to form a new government.  Watching the news on TV that Tuesday, my reaction at the time was very simple.  It was that the queen was the ultimate public servant.  After all, here she was, 96 years old and had had mobility problems for some time, so it would not have been out of order for her to have delegated authority to her eldest son as she had already done on several occasions in the past couple of years.  But she chose to welcome the new Prime Minister in person.

Two days later, on the Thursday, the early morning news on BBC radio announced that the queen’s doctors were concerned about her health and that members of the Royal Family were flying to Balmoral, the Scottish castle in Aberdeenshire that was her summer home.  The news wasn’t exactly unexpected although what followed was, to say the least, a surprise.  I was out during the morning and returning home, turned on the television to watch a few minutes of news around midday. What I was noticed an abundance of black suits and ties on the announcers and reporters — although nothing had yet been announced.  News of the queen’s death came later in the afternoon and that started an outpouring of emotion that lasted for 10 days.

What I found astonishing was the extent to which people (at least those who were interviewed on radio and TV) seemed to be genuinely affected by her passing — as if some close and elderly relative had passed away.  Strangely, I found myself touched, too. In this world, in which things change so rapidly, Queen Elizabeth II seemed to have always been there — unchanging.  Although we didn’t have TV in Dublin at the time, I remember looking at the photograph of Princess Elizabeth arriving back from Kenya as queen in 1952 after her father had died and then listening to the voice of Richard Dimbleby describing her coronation the following year.

Whatever you might think of the monarchy, the most positive thing that can be said about it is that it offers continuity.  The alternative to the monarchy — a republic — is just as likely to produce a nonentity, an amoral politician, a formerly unscrupulous pol or a soon-to-be corrupt one as anything else, including a dictator.

The death of the queen was about the only thing on TV for 10 days.  What amazed me was the stamina of the new king and his consort as they jetted around the “four nations” that comprise the United Kingdom making small talk with their “subjects”.

Scotland — [obviously]. Note skirt, sox, & sporran.

They’re not exactly youngsters — Charles is nearly 74 and Camilla’s 75 (and with a broken toe), the other sibs are in their 60s and 70s — and on the day of the funeral, they schlepped all the way on foot from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch, a distance of about 2 km and during the 10 days up to the end, they showed no external emotion associated with mourning—except when the national anthem was sung near the end of the service.  However, I did think that at the end of it all, the new king and queen [consort] did look pretty exhausted — no surprise there.

The funeral itself was something that only the British could manage.  It was colourful; it was moving — and, it would seem, was watched by people the world over.  Hollywood couldn’t have dreamed up a better show.  Forget the fact that the whole thing had been planned and rehearsed for a decade or more — with the queen’s approval — so it went off without a hitch.  To my simple mind, the eight pallbearers deserve medals for not dropping the box and the precision with which they accomplished their task, including up and down steps and sideways into the hearse. It was nothing short of amazing.

I suppose that the service in the abbey with the choir and congregation singing and the transportation of Her Majesty’s coffin to Wellington Arch might have been labelled “From hymns to hearse”, but that’s just my not-very-dignified play on words.

Meanwhile, between the announcement of the queen’s passing and her funeral, we spent four days in Venice.  Venice is a place to which I had been just once and what I remembered about it was that all one had to do was to point the camera, click on the shutter button and the outcome was usually a stunning image. So, not having been away on vacation for seven years, I wanted to do it again.

Looking back, my previous visit had been in October 2008, 14 years ago and October meant that it was well after most tourists had already vanished.  This time, things were different.  We stayed in a small hotel near St. Mark’s Square, a location that was very central.  However, this time, the tourists (of which we were two) were multitudinous — innumerable, in fact.  One woman with whom we spoke told us that most of the young people had left the Old City of Venice for locations on the mainland and that there were only three schools left in the old city.  Their place appears to have been taken by the sightseers and visitors.

In the area in which we were staying, one could hear some Italian spoken.  There was also a smattering other European languages but the dominant mode of expression seemed to be uttered in American.  So great was the presence of American tourists all around me that I felt positively slim for the first time in ages.

Line of tourists (all numbered) awaiting arrival of tour guide carrying the same number. Venice, September 2022

The small notice about forbidden activities posted modestly in St. Mark’s Square, seems to have been missed or ignored by the multitude — and the pigeons (and the gulls) seem to be able to look after themselves without the active interference of humans.

Venice, as I remembered it from last time, seems to be falling apart at the seams, if you look at the external appearance of most of its buildings …

… but then there are people who tell me constantly that that is what gives it its “charm”.

There seemed to be a plethora of dogs about (as well as what dogs leave behind them when their owners fail to clear it up) but then, since Covid, there seems to be a plethora of dogs about in general!

Cannaregio, Venice. September 2022

 

Shaggy Dog. Near St. Mark’s Square, Venice. September 2022

There was also an overabundance of tattoos, something I cannot and will never get used to!

This was the male member of a couple that was on the vaporetto.  They had a pram with them so I assumed that they had a baby in the pram — but no, I was wrong again!  The pram contained a member of the canine species!

A Work of art! Venice, September 2022

 

Yet another work of art (on the arm and elsewhere). Venice, September 2022

 

Yet more works of art! Venice, September 2022

… Yet there really are works of art about if one looks around, such as these notebooks.  (Note that the requests not to touch are in English) …

… or these handbags

And it’snot just in handbags that one sees Murano glass, for it is everywhere.

However, the most stunning example of Murano glass was to be found in the church of San Giorgio Maggiore where the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei was exhibiting examples of his work.  He is known for many things but glass has not been one of them. However, this is the result of a three-year project conceived in Murano and the artist is reported to have said that glass is a material, part of our daily life and in its presence, we reflect upon the relationships between life and death, and between tradition and reality.

Central to the exhibition is La Commedia Umana , a 9m-high suspended sculpture involving 2,000 pieces of black glass handcrafted  in Murano. The twisting, cascading chandelier-like sculpture is one of the largest hanging sculptures ever made in Murano glass; it is a sinister theatre of objects including bones, organs, bats and surveillance cameras. This hanging sculpture  in black glass defies definition though part of its beauty is that it remains a mystery, a human tragedy, a comedy, a tangled mess that we each must seek to unwind in our own time, a work that stirs emotions, that forces us to come to terms not only with our own mortality but with the part our lives have to play in the greater theatre of human history.

 

 

And close by are some more works by Ai Wei Wei, including several reproductions of well-known paintings composed of Lego pieces.

Great as these pieces are, the view from the top of the tower at San Giorgio Maggiore is nothing short of remarkable.

St. Mark’s Square from the tower of St. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. September 2022

And getting around and crossing the Grand Canal in the vaporetto is almost as incredible.

We also made it to another island in the lagoon — Burano.  A little further out then Murano, Burano is known for its lacework and its brightly coloured houses.  The most credible explanation for the origin of the different colours of Burano’s houses seems to be linked to the fact that it had been a fishing village and that the fishermen decided to paint the façades of their homes with an identifying colour in order to be able to return there without problems even with the thickest fog — or, one might suppose, if they had had a little too much to drink!

And at the end of a very long day, we decided that it was time to lie out on a bench and relax.

And then it was back to the hotel and while en route, I espied a Venetian traffic jam!

And then it was back to London with Venetian memories in the mind!

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Exits and Arrivals

Well, it’s been a long time again but what can one do?  Better late than never (or perhaps not, as the case may be).  I’ve made the trip from the Promised Land to the country that used to rule over (cartographically, in pink) about a quarter of the world’s land surface and which today is a pale pink shadow of its former self, although on the basis of the results of the election for the leadership of the ruling Conservative Party, some would think that pale pink can be converted to True Blue.

My flight last Sunday was uneventful, which is usually the most positive thing that one can say about flying these days.  El Al, Israel’s national airline, hounded me with emails for four days prior to the trip advising me to arrive at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv at least four hours before take-off to minimise potential delays and other disturbances on travel day.  (They even told me that I could come the day before with all my baggage and check everything in then, so as to avoid delays on the day, which would have meant, had I taken up their kind offer, turning up on Friday morning, and then returning home by bus or train as this generous facility is not offered on Saturday, the official day of rest.)

As departure time was 10.10, I had booked a cab for 06.30 to get me to the airport by 07.00, a time which I thought would have been more than adequate.  I was tempted to ask the cab to turn up earlier but couldn’t find a way to change the booking (I should have asked one of my grandchildren to do it for me but didn’t) and the cab turned up on time and I was off at 06.30.  I arrived at the airport about 07.00 expecting a long line and a longer wait, but all the security checks took less than 30 minutes, meaning that I was able to have a cup of coffee by 07.30.  I asked the young woman who had checked my suitcase why El Al wanted me there four hours before and her response was “just to be on the safe side”  and that if I were to have arrived three or four hours later, the place would have been teeming with people.  I would have thought that they might have taken the departure time and the passenger’s age into account beforehand.

Anyway, to my great surprise — and perhaps I am a little too skeptical about things in general — the plane left on time and arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule.  Customs and immigration procedures were relatively swift and less than five minutes after I reached the baggage carousel, my suitcase was there and I was on my way out.  Wonders will never cease!

At first glance, it might seem that what I have succeeded in doing is to change the landscape colours from shades of beige and brown …

… to shades of grey and green with a little blue  and white intermingled.

But more significantly, I’ve travelled from a country that appears to possess what seems to be a permanent transitional government to another one which, until very recently, seems to have been a country without a functioning government at all.  But at long last the sometime Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, formally tendered his resignation to the monarch on Tuesday morning and flew back home to southeastern England while his successor, having received more votes in the contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party than her colleague the Swishy Rishi, made her way to the same castle in Aberdeenshire in the afternoon to be invited by the Queen to form a government and thus, the new Prime Minister was, how shall I say in my Dublin accent, “trussed into the limelight” as it were and the country will have a performing government once again.

And as Ms. Truss made her way from Balmoral to Downing Street I couldn’t help thinking that the scenes played out on my TV screen somehow summed up the British situation as it stands today.  There, in the torrential downpour and the grey sky, stood tens of MPs and several potential cabinet ministers, awaiting the arrival of the new Prime Minister. Some of them had umbrellas and others were simply drenched through, while the technical staff alternately lugged the podium from the which the Prime Minister was to give her address outside Number 10 inside to protect it from the rain and and then carried it outside again when the rain stopped.

 

Eventually, she turned up and gave a rather bland speech in her very personal accentless accent in which she promised “to deliver” several times (rather like the Restaurant food, takeaway and groceries firms do) before entering the hallowed doors to begin the process of firing and hiring cabinet ministers.  This was the same podium from which her predecessor only a few hours earlier had likened himself to a booster rocket which, having done its job of launching a satellite into space, falls back to earth.  In the same speech and as a classics scholar, he also compared himself to Cincinnatus returning to his plough.  (In ancient Rome, Cincinnatus took a twenty year break before returning to Rome when called upon to be appointed temporary dictator.) Nevertheless, the historian Mary Beard reminded all and sundry that Cincinnatus was in fact regarded as “an enemy of the people”!  In other words, after BoJo has taken some time off to make a few millions from memoirs and winding people up on the lecture circuit, he’ll be back to woo and then torment the voters and his erstwhile colleagues once more.

Be all that as it may, the week before I left Israel, I spent a week with the elder of my two sisters.  Roz has lived in Israel for nearly 60 years and had been a midwife by profession for over 50 and now, retired from hospital work, she has come to specialise in home births

I’d been in Israel since early June this but I hadn’t yet seen her on this visit, so I took myself off to the Golan Heights for a few days to be with her.  We talked for most of the time and towards the end, came to the conclusion that it was probably the first time that we had been together unaccompanied by family members.  On the day before I left, she was going to see a woman who was an overdue 42 weeks pregnant and who lived about 75 minutes drive away and she asked me if I’d like to accompany her while she drove.  We arrived at the home of the expectant couple and as I chatted to the husband, Roz went about her work and decided to ply the pregnant woman with a concoction likely to induce the birth.  The work done, we drove around the Northern Golan for a while and then found somewhere to have a light lunch not too far away.  Lunch over, the idea was to drive back to Roz’ place so that she could rest and I could read (she said that it might take 24 hours for the inducement (or is it induction?) to take effect and off we went.  Ten minutes into the journey back to her place, there was call from the husband to say that things had started.  This resulted in a U-turn and a trip driven at breakneck speed back to whence we had come only a short while before.  Any suggestion from me that she drive a little more slowly or a little further away from the vehicle ahead was met with utter contempt; had car windows been open, other drivers on the road, especially those she felt were not driving sufficiently fast would have heard a set of obscenities proffered that might have caused them to veer sharply off the road.

Worse still was the coarseness of the words uttered when she thought that the driver of the vehicle ahead wasn’t sure whether s/he should continue straight ahead or turn left or right.  When I mentioned that a little slower might only make a difference of 5 or 10 minutes, I was told in no uncertain terms that 5 or 10 minutes might make all the difference between a baby being delivered by an experienced midwife or by an inexpert husband.  I hadn’t thought that a refined woman was capable of uttering such profanities. However, lest you get the wrong impression that the 45-minute hair-raising ride involved only shouts, screams and maledictions, it would only be fair to add that each time the husband called with a “progress report”, Roz’ voice was transformed in order to deliver a set of instructions that sounded absolutely calming and encouraging.  But, advice over, it was back to vulgarities — until we arrived back from where we had started off.  Equipment in bag, in she went, while I remained in the car …

… until about 11-13 minutes later, my phone rang and I heard the voice informing me that a baby girl had been born 6 minutes earlier.  We had arrived just on time.

The following morning, a lawyer appeared to register the home birth and the job had been more or less completed.

Although I have known for half a century what my sister does for a living, this was as close as I ever got to watching her in action and I’m glad that I did.  It really had been something to experience, even if at a distance!

And then it was back to the early morning heat and humidity of Tel Aviv and to prepare myself for the trip to London!

 

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Body Art, Beards and Lionesses

The Yarqon Stream, not-so-early morning. August 2022

This post is overdue by almost a month.  The heat, the humidity, the noise, and the utter discomfort of being outside during the daytime hours in Tel Aviv during summer  lead to a level of lethargy that I can’t remember experiencing before (and it’s not really much more comfortable at night) and it tends to keep me indoors with fans and air-conditioning working full time in whatever room I  happen to be in at any given time.  Other than reading a bit, getting rid of surplus stuff (mostly paper but which will have to include books, something I should have done years ago and will nevertheless cause me great agony as they go) and organizing 40,000 photos so that I can do something with them (something that should have been ongoing over the years but wasn’t), there’s really not been much else to do or report.

Israeli television seems to be either news or current affairs with people sitting around a studio table all screaming at one another — which is par for the course in this part of the world – or programmes that are designed for halfwits.  Sky News, the only alternative I really have to follow what’s going on in the world isn’t really much better.  News used to be about reporting and commenting on what has happened whereas today it’s more to do with speculation about what might happen and in order to attract viewers, speculation usually accompanied  by transmogrifying what passes as news into a lurid description of the worst possible scenario that could come about.  As the British journalist and former Member of Parliament Matthew Parris once wrote “I really don’t like television very much. It’s partly that I don’t approve of television … because I think it is an inherently stupid medium.”  Parris also wrote somewhere years ago (although I can’t find the reference) that if you’re contracted to write piece of 800 or 1,000 words once, twice or three times a week and you have nothing interesting to say, then you still have to produce piece of 800 or 1,000 words even if it says nothing.  And so it is with the media in general — if you have to turn out a newspaper with 32 pages and here’s nothing to report, you can’t have 4 pages of news and 28 empty pages, so you fill what might have been empty pages with garbage.  And the same applies to television — a news programme scheduled for 75 minutes has to go on for an hour and a quarter — you can’t show a blank screen and although filling time with ads might obviate the need for presenting a blank screen, it appeals to me not one little bit.

I actually tried to start writing this blog post a fortnight ago but got nowhere with it.  It was the day after I had watched most of the Euro women’s soccer Cup Final which was held at Wembley Stadium in front of almost 88,000 spectators.  The media, as usual, had made such a hullabaloo about “The Lionesses” that I thought I’d give it a go, with little better to do. Frankly, and quite in contrast to the opinions I heard over the media following the match, I was bored to tears —— but, I must add, not as turned off as I was while watching Brentford thrash an absolutely dire Manchester United by 4 goals to 0 the other day.  The ladies’ match was played at a slower pace than the men’s. I also discovered that ladies don’t seem to dribble (they’re much too refined and ladylike to be seen to do that in public!).  Given that “diversity” is one of the most commonly used of current buzzwords, diversity was not something that seemed apparent on either the English side or the German team that day but I suppose that that will change, too. However, with surnames like Bright (she didn’t seem any more or less so that the others), Bronze (she didn’t seem any browner than the others), Hemp (she didn’t seem as if she smoked any) and Parris (who didn’t look remotely French), I have to say that I was a little confused.  There also seemed to me an undercount of tattooed arms and legs compared with the man’s game!  Other than that, I think the English goalkeeper saved the day for them!

As for tattoos, it struck me the other day as I went for a walk in the nearby Yarqon Park that as a result of the pandemic, things had changed somewhat.  Tattoos are definitely in— I used to see the the odd tattooed person but now, it seems as if every second person man and woman, young and old, has a tattoo.  Sometimes they’re modest —  just a butterfly on a shoulder or a name or a birdcage on an arm …

… but sometimes, it seems like a whole book or art gallery black curtain  has been inscribed on the person’s person.  And, of course, one is not supposed to refer to “tattoos” these days but only to “body art”.  Coming from a generation when it seemed like the only tattooed people were either merchant seamen or former criminals, I find it all a bit strange, to say the least.

And it’s not only tattoos that seem to have multiplied since the pandemic.  I used to walk in the park and see the occasional person with a dog.  These days, the canine population of Tel Aviv has multiplied several times over and it seems as if every second person is out with a pooch or two or three, some even with ten or more …

And beards, too, seem to have appeared in large numbers (on the male population at least).

The only other thing I’ll mention regarding my month’s “unusual silence blogwise” as one of my regular readers put it the day before yesterday is that both in the UK and Israel, people are gearing up for some sort of political “excitement”.  Here in Israel, the country is headed for its fifth general election in three years, not that things are likely to change much as a result.  The country will have survived approximately a year and a half of government by a disparate coalition stretching from left to right, the main aim of its construction having been to prevent yet another coalition of the right-wing Likud and strictly religious parties headed by a man who appears to regard it as his divine right to be Prime Minister of Israel and whose name I shall refrain from mentioning.  The current transition government is composed of ministers who appear to have been trying to do what they had been entrusted with compared with previous government in which ministers always seemed to check with the leader’s wishes first.  There’s been a lot of manoeuvering over the past month as parties split and amalgamate but to my simple mind, the Israeli electorate has shifted even more to the right than is credible and this time around, Likud seems to be competing with parties to its right, one of which can fairly be described as fascist, i.e. adopting a political philosophy that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. There are [too many] centre-parties and a moribund left-wing but all in all, it’s an appalling mishmash— a total shambles.  Meanwhile, in Britain, the Conservative party, airing what the media consider the juiciest comments in a daily contest between Trusty Truss and Swishy Rishi, appears to be doing its best to convince the voters at the next election that it really needs a few years off from government in order to reconsider what it’s really about!

Anyway, back to Tel Aviv.  Walking through the park provides me with an almost infinite source of photographic material.  I’m attracted to tree trunks because although I know what they are and that trees grow in the ground, they often display reminders of perhaps another life entirely, such was this elephantine creature I found lolling on the grass not far away from home.

And then there’s a another tree close by that I’ve observed over and again and which I’ve dubbed “The Love Tree”

 

Meanwhile, the weather is so hot and humid that even the most avid smartphone users have to take to a reclining position to get through the day’s intake of useless information …

while others just haven’t even got the strength to do that!

 

Totally Exhausted. Yarqon Park, July 2022

 

Equally totally exhausted. Mount Carmel, July 2022

And then, the other day, while I was photographing a leaking tap and thinking of the caption “Every drop counts”, (something that is apparently applicable to large swathes of Europe these days, too) …

Every Drop Counts. Yarqon Park. August 2022

… I turned to my left and thought I might be able to use the same caption twice!

Every Drop Counts. Yarqon Park, August 2022

 

It’s a dog’s life … and I don’t even have a smartphone! Yarqon Park, July 2022

The Yarqon Park used to be a quiet place five minutes from home, an area to which one could retreat for some peace and quite.  Not any more!


 

And it’s not just in the park that construction is rife.  The whole neighborhood is under reconstruction.  When I returned at the beginning of June, two blocks of flats were standing on the area pictured below just a few minutes walk from home.  Then, in the space of less than a week, they were reduced to rubble — and so it goes.



 But back in the park, it’s not only human families that go for a stroll in the heat and humidity.  The family below can at least cool off in the water —— at least they will when the children are old enough.

But although summer is still with us, we can always dream of other things!

 

Parkhill Road, London NW3

 

 

… and one for the road

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When the knives came out

The knives came out this week

Usually when I post to this blog, PhotoGeography, I start by choosing a selection of photographs from which I whittle the number down to whatever seems appropriate and then — somehow — construct a story around it.  At any rate, that’s been the procedure for the past 6½ years and has stood me well for 270 posts.  Occasionally, something bugs me and I write the story first and somehow manage to find some photographs that connect, even loosely, to the story.

Being a natural skeptic, most of those posts that are “pre-photo”, i.e. in which the story comes first, have to do with the political situation at the time of writing, which is something that beleaguers us all in many and various ways. And although I promised to certain family members at the outset all those years ago that this blog would remain “politics-free”, regular readers will acknowledge  that it doesn’t always work out that way. (As an example, my last post, written almost a month ago, was little more than a rant on my part.)  Although there has been the occasional foray into the political views of a 77-year old doom and gloom merchant (a.k.a. cynic) it’s very rare that one rant has followed another.  So when I started this post almost a fortnight ago, it seemed as if I  would have to make this an exception.

I started with the picture that appeared on the cover of the issue of The Economist two weeks ago, which more or less summed up the circumstances of the individual responsible for the “farce of the year” competition.  No caption was really needed, I felt. (Parenthetically, I might add that long ago when I. was young and a skeptic rather than cynic, I used to cut out covers of The Economist to line the walls and ceiling of my loo in order to keep me amused while I seemingly I had little better to do.)

And having started this post, this is where where I stopped a couple of weeks ago.  At the time at which I stopped, having intended to take it up again the following morning, my take on the farce unfolding at Westminster was overtaken by events. These “events” concerned the fate of the UK Prime Minister who is now the “caretaker” Prime Minister, when he was was literally told by several of his cabinet colleagues, some of whom had agreed to be “promoted” less than 24 hours earlier, that the game was up — literally — and that he’d have to resign.  Well, after all, 62 ministers had already done just that over the previous couple of days, many of them perturbed by the fact that they had been sent out so often to communicate to the media the disingenuities (a.k.a to cover up for the lies) of their boss.  During this time, he seemed intentionally to disregard the hints that had been hurled at him by several senior ministers but, eventually, he bowed to the inevitable and resigned, as he said at Prime Minister’s Questions last week, “with his head held high”.  However, he’s still there as “concierge” (although my dictionary translates “caretaker” as “concierge”, I’m not sure that it is the most appropriate word to use because it sounds so French, so European) and he’ll hang around (scheming one presumes) until the first week of September, when Parliament reconvenes after its summer recess.

The resignation of BoJo was only the overture to the opera that forms Stage II of this tragicomedy (well, if it wasn’t so serious, that’s what it would be) in which a dozen or so formerly loyal lieutenants vied to be elected Leader of the United Kingdom Conservative party, from which larval stage one of them would emerge as a fully-fledged butterfly and become Prime Minister.  The first act of this drama involved the elected members of the parliamentary party indicating the caterpillars of their choice after which s/he receiving the least votes were ejected from the opera. Stage III will be when the pair receiving most votes from the MPs are subjected to the whimsies of the members of the party throughout the country.  At the time of writing, the contenders to become a Painted Lady or Red Admiral had been pared down to five, three of whom seem to be “serious” contenders for the job (i.e. likely to win) and two of whom seem to be using the time and exposure allotted to larval candidates to advertise their very existence, first to members of the party and eventually to the voters.

And although there have been other “political”  and diplomatic” goings-on since I last posted, such as the visit of the President of the United States to Israel, a changeover the Prime Minister in the country, the calling of another general election (the fifth in just over two years in which millions of shekels will be wasted once more) to be held on November 1 (known in some parts of the world as All Saints’ Day but hardly appropriate to anything involving Israeli politicians), I’ve decided to refrain from writing any more that is even remotely political.  Enough is enough!

I haven’t even taken too many photos over the past three weeks.  The weather has been so hot and humid recently that walking during daylight hours is a burdensome task even though I live a five-minute walk away from the Yarqon Park (and for the first time ever, I  think, I’m glad I’m not in London in July where the temperature is forecast to reach 40 degrees Centigrade this week).  That notwithstanding, I have managed to get out occasionally and the remainder of this post includes some recent images, along with some taken over the past decade, which have been appearing on my computer screen as I attempt to label, classify, and catalogue nearly 40,000 images that have accumulated over the years.

Cooling off, Tel Aviv Port. July 2022

The weather being what it has been, during the last week of June and early July, much time was spent indoors watching tennis from Wimbledon, some matches good and exciting, others less so. Besides the activity on the tennis courts, one image stands out above all and that was the one in which many of the singles champions of previous Wimbledon tournaments came together on Centre Court to mark the centenary of the court’s inauguration by King George V in 1922.  They weren’t all there, of course.  Apparently Martina Navratilová had Covid, Serena Williams was absent because Wimbledon officials allegedly refused to let her keep her five courtesy cars for the whole tournament and Boris Becker is in prison for fraud.  Other than that, the thing that struck me about this image was the differences in the height of the players of the present generation, some standing head and shoulders above the others, the most prominent example being Venus Williams beside Rod Laver and that’s even allowing for age!

Much closer to home, I came across a teacher and his pupils giving and having trumpet lessons in the Yarqon Park.  There were about half a dozen kids (accompanied by parents and grandparents) aged, I would estimate, between 10 and 13, each having a 10-15 minute lesson from the teacher.  Reaching the brain via my unschooled trumpet ears, I reckoned that the quality was quite high — certainly no false notes, false notes being difficult to hide on an instrument such as the trumpet (as I remember clearly from hearing an unfortunate female trompetiste at a concert of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in Canada over 50 years ago).

 

Evening in the Yarqon Park.  July 2022

And if, as you stroll around and the light fades, and you really need to do it, it’s compulsory that errors not be made!


Meanwhile, Tel Aviv, never a particularly attractive city, is constructing its Light Railway and this, in parallel, turns the whole of the city into an insufferable fusion of building sites with roadworks, as a result of which one is beginning to get the impression that compulsory lessons in Mandarin might be appropriate!

 

 

PowerChina, indeed!

On my occasional walks around the city, I noticed that there are people who have evidently been away for some time, presumably to seek cooler weather elsewhere.

Nordau Boulevard, Tel Aviv. July 2022

And while walking about, there are always interesting family photographs at hand, such as this Watermain family not far from the house (no relatives, note!).


One of the things that stand out in a city in which the cars are, for the most part, unwashed, is the accumulation of, for want of a better word, guano,  on the windscreens and from which interesting images can be constructed.

Finally, I’ll conclude with a few images selected at random from the 40,000 or so that I’m trying to sort out over the next few weeks.  A couple of weeks ago, I set up the computer to display as a screensaver at random pictures from the accumulation.  Each time the screensaver is activated, photos are displayed for about 12 seconds over an hour and each time I am astounded by the quality of the images.  The eventual aim is to put together 100 or so of them in a book but first of all I have to try and figure out the topics that might constitute a chapter.

 

Hampstead Heath, London

This photo reminds me that at some stage, I want to photograph all the benches on Hampstead Heath that have dedications.  I don’t know how many there are but there are lots and it would be an interesting exercise.

Tel Aviv Port on a windy day in winter.

The previous two photos are in black and white, which dramatizes contrasts.  The rest are in colour, which, for the most part, I prefer.  The one below was taken in the park not far from the house and was one of the first I took after I started looking for worthwhile subjects.

Yarqon Park.  Tap, Drops, Tail and Angle

Primrose Hill, just north of Regent’s Park is a place to which I walk often when I’m there.  I climb to the summit and look down on the city and then I know that I’m in London for sure.  However, it seldom appears like this!

Primrose Hill on a winter morning

Tree trunks and branches make fascinating subjects, if only you can find the angle from which to shoot when they look like something else!

And sometimes you have to look up or down and not straight ahead to capture in interesting image, such as the case of Iron Baby by the sculptor Antony Gormley, which was located in the forecourt of the Royal Academy of Arts in London rather than inside with the rest of the exhibits.

Antony Gormley, “Iron Baby”, Royal Academy forecourt. December 2019.

 

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Administrations, Alliances and Brick Walls

NEWS OF THE WEEK: You smell as if we could form a government together! The search for coalition partners, Israel-style

I really should warn anyone who is thinking of reading this blog post that the first 2,000 words or so constitute what might customarily be termed a diatribe.

If you’re curious, read on and if you’re not in the mood to be subject to a rant, then scroll down to the pictures!  I will just add here that I made the blunder yesterday evening of tuning into all three of Israel’s TV’s news channels to learn what was being said about the most recent events to have afflicted this country.  I spent less than 60 seconds with each, and all seemed to have adopted an identical format — six people around a table, one of which in each case, being  a moderator, I imagine, although in each case it didn’t seem as if the other five wanted to be moderated at all. Six adults all taking and screaming simultaneously — it was as ghastly as it was grotesque—but par for the course

Enchained! Yarqon Park. June 2022

 

Naftali Bennett (left) and Yair Lapid (right) in the Knesset. June 20, 2022

I’m starting this blog post (#269) on what is an auspicious day which (269, by the way, is a prime number, not that that’s of any significance.  It’s Thursday June 21 and it’s the summer solstice, when one of the Earth’s poles is at its maximum tilt toward the sun and on which the sun reaches its highest position in the sky, ensuring the longest period of daylight for year—in the northern hemisphere at least, but not so Down Under.  It used to be said that the English regarded the summer solstice as the longest day of the year whereas the French thought of it as the shortest night in the year, but post-Brexit, I don’t think that that’s amusing any more.  At any rate, after June 21, it’s all downhill—the days become shorter again and autumn and then winter beckon.  Unfortunately, in the sweat pot that is Tel Aviv, we won’t be feeling the effects of this amelioration for some time yet, probably some time in late October, possibly a little earlier and equally possibly early in November.

This year in Israel it’s additionally auspicious for, watching the news on TV last night and reading it in Ha’aretz, Israel’s newspaper for so-called “thinking” people, “The Israeli opposition hailed Monday’s decision to vote to dissolve the Knesset and hold a fifth general election in three and a half years, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledging to establish ‘a broad, strong, and stable national government…that would bring back national pride.’  Reading that, I almost choked.  I’ve managed to avoid making political comments on this blog — at least as regards Israel (Boris & Co. is another matter)— for several months now but I feel that I need to rant and rave a bit for I’ve missed it.  Anyway, I was reminded that it was just a year ago when I wrote:

“Eventually, Mr. Bennett, a politician who I don’t particularly admire and his politics even less, somehow reached the conclusion of his prepared speech.  He was followed by the “Alternate Prime Minister”, Mr. Lapid, the architect responsible for the construction of this seemingly fragile coalition, who rather than give his prepared piece on the need for national unity, which was to have lasted 15 minutes, simply said the following: “My mother is 86 years old and we don’t ask her to come to Jerusalem lightly, but we did it because I assumed that you would be able to get over yourselves and behave with statesmanship at this moment, and she would see a smooth transition of government, … When she was born, there was no State of Israel, Tel Aviv was a small town of 30,000 people, and we didn’t have a parliament. I wanted her to be proud of the democratic process in Israel. Instead, she, along with every citizen of Israel, is ashamed of you and remembers clearly why it is time to replace you,” and with that he left the podium.

He was followed in turn by the outgoing Prime Minister who spent 30 minutes or so lauding himself after which had the downright arrogance to say that there was nobody else in the country with sufficient experience to lead it (as if he had nothing to do with that situation).  Looking at and listening to the Likud rump, it was easy to see that anyone in the party with sufficient intelligence to have been groomed to have had that experience had either left or had been forced out of the party. And it was also easy to understand how the thuggery that had erupted in some of Israel’s cities a few weeks ago was able to happen.  Oh, and Mr. Netanyahu failed to mention a simple fact while decrying the emergence of what he continues to call “a dangerous left-wing government” even though about a third of the coalition’s members are further to the right than him, namely, that, yes, the voters in March 2021 indicated that they preferred a right-wing government — but one not led by him — and this is what they got, thanks to him and no-one else.

In the end, a vote was taken and the coalition given a vote of confidence by the narrowest of margins — 60-59 and one abstention.  This was followed by a vote for a new Speaker who then took over proceedings.  After another few minutes, the ministers were asked to leave their seats at the Cabinet table for seats on the back benches.  One of the things that amused me was seeing Mr. Levin, the now ex-Speaker, explaining to Mr. Netanyahu, the now ex-Prime Minister, that, as he was no longer Prime Minister, he, too, would have to vacate the chair he had occupied for the previous 12 years and sit elsewhere while he, Mr. Levin, shepherded him directly to that place. Poor Bibi’s body language indicated that he seems to have been totally gutted by this strange situation in which he found himself.”

On Monday night, the same set of two appeared on television, to tell us that in the interests of the state, a decision had been taken to call new elections.  The Prime Minister, Mr. Bennett, actually sounded statesmanlike; the Alternate Prime Minister (yes, that’s what he’s called), Mr. Lapid, once again said what he had to say in just over a minute.  And then they were gone, having told us in the interim that they truly love one another (purely politically and platonically, one would hope); I think “admire” might have been a more appropriate word.  In what has been described as “a jubilant video”, prepared in advance and  released on social media, the leader of the Opposition Netanyahu virulently spat out his toxic venom by stating that “It is clear to everyone that this government, the biggest failure in the history of Israel, is at the end of its road … a government dependent on supporters of terror, that neglected the personal security of citizens of Israel, and that raised the cost of living to new heights”.  I had to remind myself that this was from a man on trial for several counts of corruption, etc. — not that many people seem to care about the amorality of that whole set of circumstances.  Almost immediately, his inane, inurbane and insane supporters began referring to him as “Prime Minister Netanyahu” as if his kingship had been illegally usurped from him only for His Majesty to be replaced by a Regent and even though the election, it appears, may yet be months off.  (The date will be decided next week when the Knesset is to be dissolved, which will leave Israelis with practically the same “choice” they’ve already had four times in recent years.)

It was always going to be difficult keeping such a motley lot as this coalition all on board.  Nevertheless, it seems to have functioned reasonably well for the past year, with ministers actually doing the jobs they’re entrusted with and paid to do rather than carrying out the wishes of what has been a one-man band for the past 20 years.  The thought of the return of a reactionary government held together by right-wing extremists so that the person at the top of the pile can continue his life’s aim of disassembling Israeli democracy and turning it into a demonocracy, dismantling the police, the prosecution service and the judiciary to further his own ends beggars belief — but it could still happen — and sooner than people think.

It actually brings to mind the fact that the Israeli political system is in dire need of serious reform.  People do mention occasionally the need to reform Israeli society and electoral reform was at one time an issue that some people thought about and others talked about occasionally.  However, nothing ever happened and, more than half a century on, it is unlikely that anything will for the only people who could make it happen are Knesset members and to put it very simply, they, in their collective wisdom, are not even slightly interested in changing a system they understand and have learned how to manipulate. It seems as if the electorate, bless them, are for their part both blind and deaf to the need even though it’s screaming at them every time they read their newspapers, listen to their radios and watch their televisions and scan their mobiles for the lies of social media. (Referenda or plebiscites are not something that happen in Israel because if they did, the politicians would have to listen to vox populi.  However, I have to admit that in respect of electoral reform, Israeli politicians are not much different from their counterparts the world over, who tend to despise anything that alters what they’re familiar with.

Fifty years ago, I was too unworldly to realize this and there are very few if any examples in which a Western-style democracy has debated a reform to its electoral system as radical as changing from an at-large to a constituency-based system, for generally speaking, districting (dividing the country into voting areas/electoral districts/constituencies) decentralizes and dilutes political power while simultaneously defactionating politics; it also focusses politics more on local issues, which makes it unattractive to Israeli legislators, although in the Israeli context this would probably be to the nations benefit, as it is anyway impossible to ignore national issues.  I had come to Israel from a part of the world that elected its members of parliament in electoral districts and in this strange State of Israel to which I had emigrated, geographical constituencies simply did not exist; the country operated as a single undivided electoral district.  It didn’t make sense to me mainly because it seemed to my simple mind that the Knesset members were not obligated as individuals to serve any recognizable set of voters and I asked myself not only how this situation arose but how it has endured for so long. 

 

It still amazes me that in Israel, one walks into a polling booth and chooses a slip of paper with the letters that symbolize the party’s name and pop it into an envelope.  Article 4 of the Basic Law: The Knesset establishes that the Knesset should be elected in general, national, direct, secret and proportional elections. However, as I understand it, Knesset members are not directly elected at all.  Rather these privileged individuals are nothing more than names on a partys list.  In the polling booth, voters dont even see the names of the candidates; they do no more than simply place a piece of paper with a party symbol in a box. Consequently, it is parties rather than candidates that participate in elections here. Moreover, not only are the elected Knesset members not beholden to any specific electorate, but unlike a more sophisticated version of the list system such as that used in The Netherlands, voters cannot express any preference for individuals on the list by means altering the position of the candidates on the list selected can be altered thus potentially affecting who is elected and who is not. 

In Israel, its a “take it or leave it” situation and certainly not one that encourages the representatives to pay much attention to voters to whom they never have to answer directly as the recent leakage of defectors, this time mainly from Mr. Bennett’s party, has shown. The are no by-elections (special elections) and Knesset members leaving the parliament for one reason or another (death, retirement, imprisonment or whatever) are simply replaced by the next name on the list.  There’s also no such thing as an absentee ballot or a postal vote—if you’rer not at the address that appears on your ID card on the day of the election, you can’t vote!

I had an interest in electoral reform almost half a century ago until I came to the conclusion that at least in the case of Israel, it’s a purely academic topic.  Meanwhile, in the interim, nothing substantial has happened. The quota (the proportion of the valid votes necessary to gain representation in the parliament has changed several times and the country some years ago experimented with direct election of the Prime Minister, separately from the parliamentary election, but gave up on that after only a couple of goes.  But neither of those issues could be classified as electoral reform. They were no more than electoral tinkering.  Almost half a century on, I still think that there is dire need for Israel to change its electoral system but I’m pretty sure it wont happen in my lifetime, and the four elections between 2019 and 2021 have only confirmed the worst of the system as it currently stands. 

Of course, there’s a long time (in other words, there are a few days) before the vote to dissolve the Knesset takes place and it may never happen at all, for Netanyahu and his zealots might attempt to recreate the so-called “Dirty Trick” (or “Stinking Trick”, as it’s called in Hebrew) when the late Shimon Peres attempted to replace the then coalition, led by the right-wing Itzhak Shamir and of which Peres was a senior member, in order to form a government comprising the left-wing factions and the ultra-Orthodox parties without calling an election after the Knesset had voted no confidence in the coalition that was. It ultimately failed when the ultra-orthodox parties backed out of the deal.  So, in essence, anything could happen.

But enough of this rant even though I enjoyed writing it!  Let’s move forward.

Last walk before travel.  Lichen on a wall, East Heath Road, Hampstead, London NW3

Before I left London a couple of weeks ago, I had the flat cleaned so that on my return, I wouldn’t have too much to do.  Just prior to leaving and before putting things away, I noticed that the vacuum cleaner was giving me a wink of approval, so I smiled back at him.  (In this day and age, I have to stress that the vacuum cleaner is male and his name in “Henry”!


And then it was back to Tel Aviv — although I’ve already posted some pictures from my first trip to the sweltering exterior after coming to terms with the shock of the heat and humidity.

Back out in the park, about 400 metres from the flat, I noticed what appears below.  Although I’d seen it before, I didn’t really pay too much attention to what it was advertising.  It’s a defibrillator, which my dictionary defines as: “an apparatus used to control heart fibrillation by application of an electric current to the chest wall or heart.an apparatus used to control heart fibrillation by application of an electric current to the chest wall or heart.” It tells one what it is in four languages (in addition to Hebrew, there’s Arabic, Russian and English) but unfortunately, having learned what it is, you also have to know what to do with it if, heaven forbid, you have to — and those instructions are solely in Hebrew.  What one is supposed to do is to phone “101”, speak to the duty medical attendant, hope that s/he speaks a language in which you can converse and follow the instructions with which s/he provides you.  One can only hope that you understand what you have to do before you pass on into the the world to come!

Turning 180 degrees from the defibrillator, I caught sight of the hoopoe, known in Hebrew as doo-khi-phat, Israel’s national bird, which always provides a lovely picture though it doesn’t always stay still enough to get a decent picture.

And while the hoopoe uses it large down-turned bill to to probe the ground for large insects, their larvae and pupae (they’re also apparently enthusiastic foragers of animal droppings and dung heaps, seemingly searching there for beetles, their neighbours, the pigeons, seem to have been far better looked after by well-meaning persons, messy though it may all look …

… and just leaving a little more for the cleaner to clear up on his daily search through his patch in the park.


And inevitably, there are the dogs.  This lady was doing her calisthenics on the grass while her pooch looks like the epitome of ennui.  And not only is s/he bored I (the dog, that is) , there’s absolutely nothing that s/he can do about because before the lady started her fitness training, she had made sure to tie el doggo up.


Dogs in the park are a common sight, especially since the start of the pandemic.  Usually, there’s a single one, sometimes two, on a lead with a human attached to the other end.  However, occasionally, one sees dogwalkers in the park and on the streets with many more (my highest count was one woman with 11 leads to which 11 tykes were attached).  However, I’m not altogether dogmatic about what I photograph and in recent days, I’ve come across this gentleman several times.  He seems to specialize in miniature mutts, each one of which has a name (he seems to remember the moniker of each one and I’ve overheard him talking to each of them individually and seemingly lovingly) — but he didn’t seem altogether happy that I was taking a photograph.


 

And then there was a reminder posted on the gates of the Philippines Embassy that we are not our of the woods yet.

 

However, it just seemed that the sun was a more pressing issue than masks and Covid these days, as I noticed when this individual walked past me in the opposite direction!

 

And there was the usual plethora of people on the water, from canoeists …

… to paddlers strapped to their vehicles — just in case they fall in but don’t want to lose it.

And then there was this guy who looked as if he might have been a remnant left over from the Edinburgh Tattoo.

 

And, of course, there are the other inhabitants of the park.

What should we do with our brood?

 

Teach them to swim, of course!

I finally encountered a wall, and realized it was time to make a beeline for home!  Even walls with the right kind of light can seem attractive!

 

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Platinum, Shmatinum!

Well, here I am once again, location altered.

After the extended Platinum celebrations in London and the rest of the United Kingdom last weekend, I find myself back in der Schweiß” of Tel Aviv where the temperature is in the low 30s Celsius but where the weather forecast says “Temperature feels like 37” — no joke!  Moreover, the relative humidity is 50% although I would have guessed it to be even higher.  And —  the same weather chart told me that the humidity in Belsize Park in London is 48% and where 21 degrees actually feels like 21 degrees.   It also tells me that in Tel Aviv, “precipitation is not expected”, which is the way it’s likely to be until the end of October — at least.  Neither rain nor snow will fall.

But let me start with the events of last weekend, not exactly a shenanigans but something approaching it.  This year, 2022, marks the Platinum Jubilee of the accession of Elizabeth II as Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth.  The queen was an active participant in the jubilee events, which lasted from Thursday through Sunday — a four-day break, which was somewhat longer than what the Brits as a group—where national holidays are in somewhat short supply——usually allot themselves for what are referred to colloquially as “Bank Holidays”.  (The banks may have been closed but everything else seemed to be open.).

Elizabeth II R may well have been an active participant but she was considerably less active than she might have hoped to be, reluctantly withdrawing from the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on the Friday, where her eldest son Charles, the dependable Prince of Wales  and “King-in-waiting #1” represented her at the service.  The decision for her absence, it was reported, came after she experienced “discomfort” during the first full day of celebrations as she has been suffering from “episodic mobility problems”; after all, the monarch is 96 years old, well past the official retirement age for the other state employees.  Having watched on TV part of what she missed at the Cathedral, in my humble opinion, she may well have nodded off, such was the lack of exhilaration and animation in that particular ceremony.  Despite this, she did take part in a beacon lighting ceremony that stretched the length and breadth of the country, with the first beacon being lit outside Buckingham Palace in London by the Queen’s grandson Prince William, “King-in-waiting #2”, while Her Majesty herself touched a globe at her home in Windsor Castle, which magically and majestically was the sign for the coast-to-coast beacon-burning to begin in earnest.

Of greater significance, perhaps, was the fact that she missed attending the Epsom Derby, the premier horse race of the British flat-racing season for only the fourth time in 75 years (the queen is fond of horses—and little Welsh dogs). She also missed the Derby last year when it was held behind closed doors (not that a horse race can really be run behind closed doors) due to lockdown, but before that she had only failed to be present at the event twice, once in 1984, when she was in France for the 40th anniversary of D-Day, and once before in 1956, when as a public servant, she attended to her official duties by making a state visit to Sweden.

Of course, there were all sorts of other “questions” being asked in the ever-present and ever-nosy media.  Would Harry, the younger brother of “King-in-waiting #2” shake hands with same?  Where would Harry and his American wife, Meghan, sit in the Cathedral (second row apparently)?  Meanwhile, the “skirt-chasing atheling”, Prince Andrew, seemingly the queen’s favourite child but now scandal-ridden and effectively removed after 61 years as a public figure to life as a ‘private citizen’”, was absent from all of the festivities, having been conveniently diagnosed with Covid-19 a day before things started in earnest.

In the event, Her Majesty appeared on the balcony a couple of times on the first day, flanked by most of the Royal Family, limited to those family members that the Queen designated as undertaking official public duties on her behalf.  Notwithstanding, the less than fortunate family members were apparently still invited to take part in other activities, such as a private dinner, so they didn’t exactly go hungry.  After the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh last year, the queen’s second balcony appearance on the first jubilee day was alongside her cousin, Edward George Nicholas Paul Patrick Windsor, the Duke of Kent .  Although I didn’t notice it at the time I was watching intermittently, from the photograph that appeared in the press, it seems that perhaps one of the queen’s corgis had bitten off part of the duke’s left ear —— but one should not laugh at the misfortune of others.

The Trooping of the Colour, at which over 1400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians come together in a great display of military precision, horsemanship and fanfare to mark the Queen’s official birthday was very splendid and colourful to watch.  Although the official birthday doesn’t have a set date, it usually takes place on the second Saturday of June as it did this year, the parade moving from Buckingham Palace and down The Mall to Horse Guard’s Parade with members of the Royal Family on horseback or in carriages following.  (The “official birthday”was initiated by King George II in 1748, and is related to the British weather, which is cold in winter but warm-ish and sometimes dry in summer.) From the distance of an armchair to the TV screen— crowds are anathema to me—it was quite spectacular, not that I would have gone anyway).

Given my predilection for looking at things rather sardonically, as the horses and their riders rode down The Mall in their finery, I was struck by the volume of equine excrement (a.k.a. horse shit) that had been involuntarily deposited by the gee-gees as they made their way down this rather attractive London street. However, what struck me even more was the sight of thousands of pedestrians, a very short time later, marching down the very same street in the opposite direction.  Who picked up the horse shit and when did they manage to do it? The TV cameras missed that somehow!

And the sight of so many people shuffling along at such high density made me think that it must have been a pickpocket’s paradise (although what sort of person would want to pick pockets on such a joyous occasion?) but it reminded me of Roald Dahl’s short story The Hitchhiker, in which the hitchhiker, on his way to Epsom on Derby Day objects to being labelled a pickpocket by the driver who is giving him the ride.  “So you’re a pickpocket,” I said.  “I don’t like that word,” he answered. “It’s a coarse, and vulgar word. Pickpockets is coarse and vulgar people who only do easy little amateur jobs. They lift money from blind old ladies.” “What do you call yourself, then?” Me? I’m a fingersmith. I’m a professional fingersmith.

The Hitchhiker -Roald Dahl

For me, however, the highlight of the three days was not the Queen — but Queen — who, even without Freddie Mercury, are as good as ever they were!


And there were signs that people were enjoying the jubilee break just about everywhere.  It certainly took their minds off what was to follow the day following the cessation of the jubilation when the Prime Minister, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, survived a vote of confidence by members of his own parliamentary party, winning the vote with 211 in favour and 148 against (59% in favour, 41% against).  And they were members of the his own party,  Watch it, matey!

England’s Lane, Belsize Park, London

 

England’s Lane, Belsize Park, London

 

And there are various ways of celebrating, as demonstrated below (it’s pronounced the same way as the authentic stuff is (yuck!) in southern Britain.

 

The British summer

And then it was time to leave the British summer to pack and return to the heat and humidity of an early summer in Tel Aviv in order to try and sort some things out prior to returning to the UK.

Travel day turned out to be a nightmare. I booked a taxi and was told by the taxi company that if I wanted be at Heathrow by 12.15 (I decided to leave three hours before the flight just to be on the safe side) I needed to book a ab for 11. At 10.55, I received notification that the driver, accompanied my a map, that a cab was was on the way from St. John’s Wood and would be with me shortly. I lugged things downstairs when the taxi company called to say that the drive, having accepted the ride, had cancelled the trip (she’d obviously found something that suited him better) but not to worry because a replacement would be with me within 15 minutes. The replacement arrived 45 minutes later and an hour and a half after that I was at Heathrow. It turned out that there was a strike of train drivers that day and as a consequence, all of London was on the road, more or less bumper to bumper.  Security &c. at Terminal 2 took the best part of an hour, with hundreds if not thousands of suspect terrorists shuffling their way along narrow rope-lined queues, only to be screamed at to removes belts, shoes, &c.  I eventually got on the plane — just. However, half an hour before landing, I was informed that my case hadn’t been loaded on the plane and that I should file a claim on arrival. That took ¾ of an hour even though there were only two people ahead of me and I was told that I could expect to receive the case maybe the following day or the day after that.  In the event, it was delivered just after midday the following day but it was a total nightmare of a trip—an ordeal.

So, after a day playing the role of a zombie, it was back to the Yarqon Park, where the beer grows on trees …

… where the ducklings wait for Mama Duck to tell them in which direction they should paddle …

… where Chinese holes (the Hebrew reads “pit”!) await the unfortunate or less than careful, as they build Tel Aviv’s soon-to-be light railway (tram line) …

 

Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv. June 2022

… and where tattooed ladies walk past a slower you and while trying to photograph the tattooed arm (I’ve never really understood why people tattoo) one discovers that there may be more interesting things to focus on, weariness notwithstanding!

Finally, I leave you with two pictures from the current exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London, which is devoted to the Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch.  Just 18 pictures in two rooms (The Scream wasn’t one of them) but brilliant nonetheless…

Edvard Munch, Evening on Karl Johan Street (Courtauld Gallery)

Although there was little to scream about, the exhibition did include Self-Portrait in the Clinic (1909), one of Munch’s most impressive and introspective self-portraits, painted when he was undergoing treatment for emotional stress in Copenhagen. The therapy Munch received for the following eight months included change of diet and “electrification”, and his stay in hospital seemingly stabilised his personality.  It’s a powerful work, and marked an important shift in his style, adopting a brighter palette and applying paint with loose, jagged brushstrokes that left parts of the canvas visible.