It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

If somebody had asked me yesterday when I last posted to this blog, I probably would have said “a couple of weeks ago” but when I looked, here I am a couple of days after St. Patrick’s Day, and I  discover that my last post was on February 17!  Over a month ago!  I  never would have believed it.  But then …

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 16.20.11

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, indeed! One for the birds, I would say!



Champagne and cigars.jpg

 Just above the shitline: The Netanyahus — Champagne & Cigars.  Case 1000: Bribery

I’m a retired academic and several of my species that I have known over the years have few qualms about re-using material that has previously been published.  In my case, this is attested to by the three images above and the text that follows in blue immediately below, (all of which appeared in a blog post four years ago).  It seems as if very little might have changed at all, even though indeed it has and, in gross understatement, not exactly for the better! I hadn’t actually planned to start this post in this manner but in the course of writing and under the circumstances of the day, this is what happened.  I hope that I can be forgiven!

Contrary to what some of you might be thinking, having read this blog for some time now, and having become familiar with the substandard and unacceptable levels of cynicism to which I am occasionally inclined to sink, the edited and abridged paragraphs quoted below have absolutely nothing to do with Israel’s embattled Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who was recently indicted for fraud, breach of trust and bribery in three separate cases involving him and wealthy businessmen. In fact, the original and unedited version of the piece above appeared in the June 22 2006 edition of The Economist newspaper—a paper little loved by Mr. Netanyahu, as its Israeli correspondent is his nemesis and who last summer published a biography of him [entitled Bibi], explaining much of his paranoias—but was part of the obituary of another rather smart but also corrupt politician, Charles Haughey, Ireland’s former Taoiseach (Prime Minister).  

Foes and critics alike praised [his] … panache, his brains and his energy.… he had mansions, estates and a private island. He liked antique furniture, and fine art, horses, clothes and wines. History may well judge that he was the most gifted … politician of his generation. But it is harder to argue that he put those talents to good use.

Few charges against him stuck … [and m]any had long wondered how he supported a lavish lifestyle on a politician’s salary. [He] had warned [the media] “I can be a very troublesome adversary”.

[R]evelations were tantalisingly partial: … He brushed off … allegations, arguing either that “finances were peripheral” or claiming a precedent: had not Winston Churchill been financed by business admirers too? 

Perhaps, but only when out of power, and Churchill did not plunder the Tory coffers … Even his greatest fans would not call him fastidious. It was best to call him simply “Boss”. There was cronyism for chums and thuggish treatment of the rest. Unfriendly journalists’ phones were bugged. His justice minister even considered having dissident members of his parliamentary party arrested.

… He preached austerity, yet practised prodigality, doling out favours and privileges with flair and precision.

In opposition, as evidence of his heavy-handed ways came to light, [his] party split. But [he] had little time to enjoy the fruits of this rare period of goodish government. Old scandals resurfaced and new ones broke. He left politics for good … his reputation increasingly tattered, and with a lot worse to come.

I thought I might be able to avoid writing about yet another political situation that has evolved over the past few months.  I’m referring to the one in Israel that is unfolding in front of our eyes and all too vehemently. The current coalition is interested, so they say, in reforming Israel’s legal system or perhaps more accurately the relationships between the parliament and government on the one hand and the judiciary on the other. Without an adequate understanding of how the system operates, (I’m neither a political scientist nor do I have legal training), I probably should not be writing anything about it at all.  However, or so it seems to my simple mind, they’re not really interested in reforming the judiciary but in taking it over completely, in its entirety. I have no doubt that the judiciary or the relationship between the judiciary and parliament needs some tweaking but in a state that has always been regarded as a democracy, such changes need to be be brought about by broad consensus among all concerned rather than being something pushed through parliament at breakneck speed in order to save the skin of a Prime Minister and to meet the demands of more several fanatical political factions, both religious and xenophobic. Sadly, what we are observing in Israel is a clear demonstration of the fragility of Israeli society.

It’s an appalling thing to have to write but Israel’s current coalition is led by a man who is no longer under investigation by the police and nor under indictment by the judiciary. No matter how much he denies what he’s accused of, he is actually on trial on three different counts of alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust.  Moreover, the man who is effectively the Deputy Prime Minister (the term that appears on his Wikipedia entry is Vice-Prime Minister (with my emphasis on the first word) has served time in prison, having been convicted of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in 1999 for which he was given given a three-year jail sentence and is currently on a suspended sentence for the same. However, things being what they are in that part of the world, when he did return to politics, he was installed into the same Ministry he had occupied at the time he perpetrated his crimes.

In a country in which service in the military as traditionally been regarded as a great leveller in society, of the leaders of the three other parties in the coalition, one has never served in the military at all (because he, one should understand, is a soldier in the “army of God”) and many (but not all) of his supporters neither work nor pay taxes but do demand and receive money from the state, money that is derived from taxes paid by those  people who do work. Another one did manage to serve 14 months in the army, in comparison to “ordinary people” who do a three-year stint, and then serve in the reserves for another two or three decades. He is the Minister of Finance and is a minister-as-appendage in the Department of Defence, with authority over civilians in the West Bank. No doubt the two functions are somehow related.  The fourth “leader” is possibly the most “interesting” of all for he was rejected by the army as being unsuitable and in the intervening three decades has become well-known to the police on issues related to (Jewish) terrorist activities. So irony of ironies (actually, it’s not irony but pure bloody-mindedness), what better job to give him that Minister of Internal Security, with authority, among other things over the police, an institution with which he has become so familiar?

So it’s quite understandable that there are sections of Israeli society that are revolting in one sense of the word whereas there are other sections that [who] are revolting in another sense. This brings me to Timothy Garton-Ash’s recent book Homelands, which has an fascinating chapter on Hungary and its leader Viktor Orbán who, to my mind, has been for several years now the model for Mr. Netanyahu to aspire to and who actually visited Israel a few years ago as his very welcome guest.

But enough of all this.

Why time flies: A Mostly Scientific Explanation, by Alan Burdick, is a book I bought and sort of read through a few years ago and was also one of the first books I unloaded from the cartons that arrived in London from Tel Aviv a few weeks ago.  Before I made the move, I had to decide what books I was going to dispose of and what I was going to send to London.  In this respect, I was “fortunate” enough to be able to donate a couple of hundred volumes to the University of Haifa Library and gave a lot more to a used book seller on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv.  The rest — almost all of which are books that I had read and want to re-read (and some others that I had bought and never got around to reading at all) turned up here and one of the first I unloaded was Why Time Flies. And how it does!

Part of the reason for my misperception of time is that for the past three weeks I’ve had decorators in the flat and I’ve been “lodging” at Isabel’s place —  not that that’s been anything but pleasant but it does mean that what resembles a regular regimen has had to go by the board.  So today has been “moving back day” after pictures and mirrors have been rehung, so by tomorrow, I should be back to a somewhat more orderly routine.  But as I sit writing this, I’m wondering how my timing of moving to the UK has been little “off” as the former “Great Britain” is wracked by strikes (Wednesday and Thursday it was the Underground, last week the turn if the junior doctors, teachers, universities and probably trains somewhere throughout the country) causing considerable chaos as Britain descends from “First-World” status to something that is less than glorious, with a government that appears to be unable to meet some unreasonable demands made, sometimes by those truly aggrieved (e.g., junior doctors, nurses, etc.) and on other occasions by union leaders interested only, it would seem, in contributing further to the mayhem.  It’s a shame — and reading the chapters on Britain in Garton-Ash’s Homelands, which is, incidentally, a fascinating book about the up-and-down relationships between nation-states in Europe since World War II until today, there’s little to be overly optimistic about.  After 12 years of rule and misrule by the Conservative party, which has conscripted five Prime Ministers in the process, the Labour Party is preparing itself for government—not that I have any conviction at all that they would be able to do much better at treating the malady from which Britain (although I think that perhaps I should write “England”) suffers.

Meanwhile, spring is making an appearance in London (sort of).

Camden Lock

Daffodils are all over the place …


…sometimes accompanied by rain…

… and at other times (and this is mid-March) by a light covering of snow.


Not that that makes too much difference to my London grandchildren as they take a break from running, swimming, tennis, piano, etc.

Over the past few weeks, decorators and temporary lodgings notwithstanding, I’ve taken in some culture.  We went to watch the movie The Banshees of Inisherin.  In some of the reviews, it was regarded as being too “stage-Irish”. However,  I thought it was brilliant and brilliantly acted.  It received nine Oscar nominations and came away with not a thing — but at least the donkey (or its lookalike) made an appearance.  We also saw The Merchant of Venice 1936, a new adaptation of the Shakespeare play, this time set in the East End of London in 1936 when Oswald Mosley’s fascists were rampant. Though written by William Shakespeare, this adaptation with the changed setting, was redacted by and starred Isabel’s daughter, Tracy-Ann Oberman, who plays Shylock.  It worked wonderfully and after a fortnight in each of Watford and Manchester, moves in the autumn to The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-on-Avon.

 Photo: Marc Brenner

We were also fortunate to have been invited to lunch at friends last weekend in Belsize Park.  Besides the fact that the meal was super, Dawn is a sculptor (sculptress is a word no longer acceptable, it seems) and when I asked if I could take some photos of her works, the request was met with positive response.


Dawn in full working gear

Finally, I went to the Royal Albert Hall to hear an evening of music from shows entitled Let’s Face the Music.  It’s quite a while since I had been in this venue and had forgotten just how enormous it really is.


Finally, for some peculiar reason, every now and then someone sends me a picture of a fire hydrant.  This one and its caption (much appreciated) was sent to me by a colleague of my daughters who on normal days is a Professor of Musicology and a violist.

Caught taking a leak (with thanks to Yoel Greenberg)


Some of you may have noticed a prolonged absence from this blog though I’m well aware that many of you might not have.  This is not because I have been neglectful — or at least any more negligent than is usual in my case.  There is, however, a very simple explanation—I was away from home (i.e. from London) and without a keyboard and monitor, I find it difficult to write.  iPads and mobile phones are useful instruments but not when you are trying to compose a couple of thousand words and somehow tie them in together with pictures.

So, where were we?  We were in Tel Aviv but in a part of the city into which I had wandered maybe three or four times over the years I lived there, and South Tel Aviv or at least that part of it in which we were located — Florentin — is as different from the north as could possibly be and still be in the same city.

A grey London

We arrived from a grey London late on a Thursday afternoon and it was the first time I’d been to Israel in 50 years without a home base and it felt really rather odd, having neither home nor car and, moreover, being in an area that I hardly knew.  We were staying in a modern apartment in what seemed to be a rundown neighbourhood undergoing a process whereby the character of an old and impoverished urban area is changed by more prosperous people moving in and, in the process, encouraging construction, as well as attracting new businesses.  However, on the negative side, this gentrification typically displaces most of the incumbent inhabitants.

At ground level, the streets were filled with small wholesale warehouses…

…with the walls of many of the buildings becoming outsize sketchpads for artists specializing in graffiti.

On that first evening, after a 5 a.m. start and travelling for half a day, the main objective became finding somewhere to eat.  We had been informed before we travelled that the area in which we were located was “trendy”, meaning, I think, that it was less than appropriate for older people.  Nonetheless, we were directed to a restaurant no more than about 300m distant which, at first, was difficult to find but eventually we made our way up a dark staircase and there we were.  In retrospect, I think the pair of us without any effort on our part brought the mean age of the clientele, which numbered perhaps 100, up to about 70 years.  My guess would be that there was nobody in the place over 35 except us although on leaving, I think I espied a woman who looked to be in her late 60s accompanied by a younger woman who I suspect was her granddaughter.  Clientele notwithstanding, the sea bream was out of this world.

We were also located close to one of the more colorful food markets in town …

… and although it looks very pretty and colourful, when I revisited it the following day, the pigeons were in full sway having tasting sessions while plodding around the nuts and dates and dried fruit — and presumably bought and consumed by the locals (No comment here!)

Then one morning, I decided to see how long the bus ride to North T-A to visit family would be, a distance of just over 11 kms.  (The answer was two buses and an hour and 10 minutes).  On approaching the bus stop, I noticed something that I thought might be worth photographing and that was when I discovered the advantages of using English rather than Hebrew in Israel.

I approached the gentleman in question and asked him simple English whether he would mind if I took his photograph.  I half expected him to tell me that producing images are forbidden but he answered me in just-about-comprehensible English that it would be fine.  So while I readied the camera, he readied himself by gently twirling his curls to ensure they were suited to the composition of a graven image in the making …

which, when that was completed resulted in what appears below and he was ready to complete the pose and I was ready to click and he seemed to enjoy the idea that someone would wish to take his photograph.

All in all, the neighborhood has its attractions!


On the Friday morning, the day after arriving, we went to the Nachlat Binyamin Art Fair, a weekly live art and handicraft street exhibition.

… and they say that Israel is an apartheid state …

The following Friday, we took in a bit of culture with the Carmel String Quartet at the Israel Conservatory of Music in North Tel Aviv, with a programme entitled Musica Britannica, which included music by Haydn, Dowland, Purcell, and Britten.  Wonderful!

Music wasn’t the only cultural detour during the fortnight.  A trip to Tel Aviv Museum of Arts took in an exhibition of the work of an artist who, in my ignorance I had never heard of, Pinkas Bursztyn, who was born in 1927. The exhibition is entitled My Name is Maryan and follows his life and career through Poland, Auschwitz, Jerusalem, Paris and New York. He was born in Poland to an Orthodox Jewish family and was 12 when the Nazis invaded and in 1943 or 1944 was sent to Auschwitz where, on the the night he arrived, was selected to be shot, but he survived. The only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, when Auschwitz was liberated, he was found “wounded among bodies in a lime pit”, and had his leg amputated after which he spent two years in Germany in a displaced persons camp. In 1947,  he moved to Palestine but found himself alone on the pier at Haifa Port.  He was “adopted” by a kibbutz but was designated as “handicapped” and the kibbutz to which he had been absorbed elderly and disabled immigrants.  He left the kibbutz after five months and was admitted in the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and gave his first solo exhibition at the Jerusalem YMCA.  In 1950 he arrived in Paris, to study at the Ecole National Superiure des Beaux-Arts for three years, where he took on a new name, Maryan Bergman, “borrowed” from a colleague at Bezalel, Marian (Meir) Marinel, who committed suicide a few years later.  After 10 years in France, his application for citizenship was rejected and he migrated to New York and became involved with the Beat movement, dying there suddenly aged 50 in 1977.

I include two photographs below of his many works on show and have written what I’ve written because although I didn’t think that his paintings were artistically so remarkable, it was the only time I’ve ever visited an art exhibition and stood looking at paintings and cried because in every piece, without exception, was reflected the experiences that this individual suffered as a result of the Holocaust.  Truly remarkable.

And just before we exited the museum, we noticed a different kind of exhibition entirely for on the ground floor were 400 birds made of wax standing still on the gallery floor, each one of which was painstakingly sculpted and handpainted by Shira Zelwer, based on the book Birds of Our Land Atlas. Though it is soft and pliable, wax is a stable material bit is in danger of melting, qualities somewhat analogous to human vulnerability and Zelwer uses it to create a parable about place, identity, and belonging.


A day in Jaffa and a visit to view art by Reuven Rubin and it was time to return to London.

And what greeted me on arrival at the apartment in London was … a slew of boxes that had arrived the previous day and which contained materials I had sent from Tel Aviv three months ago.  And here I am, 10 days later, and the mess is almost — but not quite — cleared.

And stepping outside the morning following, I was reminded that I was back in the United Kingdom!

And then it was off to partake of some of what London has to offer, such as the exhibition at the Royal Academy, Spain and the Hispanic World, made up of works from the Hispanic Society Museum and Library, and at which we spent two hours and couldn’t quite believe it when it came to an end.  There are over 150 works on display, including masterpieces by El Greco, Zurbarán, Velázquez and Goya and includes sculptures, paintings, silk textiles, ceramics, lustreware, silverwork, precious jewellery, maps, drawings, illuminated manuscripts and stunning decorative lacquerware from Latin America.  The exhibition also features the famous World Map of 1526 by Giovanni Vespucci, (nephew of Amerigo) and I was fascinated by the fact that on this map, the Red Sea is colored in thick red whereas I was always led to believe that “red” was a corruption of “reed” and that the biblical parting of the waters occurred along the reeds of the Nile Delta!

And maybe this is as good a time as any to display some Waterman art, this piece done by my 11-year old granddaughter, Gali!

Then, to relax, I walked from Hungerford Bridge towards the Tate Modern and back, taking in the scenes as I walked.

Finally, we spent a day at Battersea Power Station, which, like the Bankside Power Station that was transformed into the Tate Modern 25 years ago, has been turned into an enormous and, I must say, very attractive shopping centre and …

… in one of the art shops, we were able to view amongst many other interesting items, a thumb by none other than Salvador Dalí, on sale.  So if you have a few grand to spare, it can be yours!

Dali’s thumb!


P.S.  My apologies to family and friends in Israel who live north of T-A.  Having no car and the weather being so atrociously wintery that I had no way of getting to where I wanted to be for a day or two.

P.P.S.  You may have noticed that I have not expressed any opinion about political goings on either in Israel or the UK.  This is not because I am disinterested — that couldn’t be further from the truth.  The “save Bibi from the fate he might deserve” offensive, if the judiciary was permitted to do its job is tearing Israel apart — to which an assorted cabal of hoodlums bearing grudges of one sort or another — against Arabs, against secular or cultural Jews, against Ashkenazi Jews (of which the Prime Minister is one although they might have forgotten that) &c., &c. — has attached itself — and will exacerbate the already miserable situation that has unfolded there, not to mention the increasingly disagreeable relationship between Israel and the Jewish diaspora.  Meanwhile, in the UK, the Conservative Party is ripping itself apart—and the “Bring Back Boris” song is being heard once more, while the folly of Brexit is beginning to make itself clearer day by day, with trade and the Northern Ireland protocol leading the way. Meanwhile, the country is wracked by strikes and other forms of “industrial action”, and Great Britain seems to be very pale shadow of what it once was!

Home and Away


Some Reflections

Primrose Hill Road, London NW3. January 2023

At the end of my last post, given that I had been referred to not long before as “young and ‘andsome” and “young and beautiful”,  I wrote that perhaps I needed to engage in some self-reevaluation.  However, at almost 78, a reassessment of my own persona seems as if it might well be time wasted.  Nonetheless, I thought that some reappraisal might be in order, if not of the body then of the soul.  So, in that vein, I’ve decided to examine part of this blog, which began all of seven years ago, in December 2015.

I thought I’d been posting to the blog fairly regularly, about once a week, but the first thing I discovered when I started to look through the 275 posts was that initially, I was composing these pieces approximately once every other day! Furthermore, what I’d written in them has long escaped my memory.  Mostly, I think I’d have an idea, write about it and then post it—and that was that.  So … I decided to go back and if not read what I had written, at least look at the photographs that I’d included if only because I had decided at the outset to give the blog the utterly unoriginal title PhotoGeography for reasons that were obvious to me, if not to others.  Consequently, I decided to look not at the text at all but at the pictures as people sometimes ask me what kind of pictures I take, to which my flippant response is usually “whatever the camera is pointing at”.

What the camera saw!

But first, a few words about maintaining a blog, which is basically fun.  I just spill out whatever’s on my mind for it’s not all that difficult to concoct a few hundred words.  Moreover, it doesn’t really matter who reads it or if anyone reads it at all—but nevertheless it’s nice to know if they do. I suppose it’s a bit like what the thousands of journalists who write for daily newspapers or presenters on TV do although it has the added plus in that nobody is paying me a salary for filling up space or time with my rubbish!

Of course, one of the problems with all news media is the curse of a deadline. But as a former academic, I know that if you don’t have one, some things will never get done at all.  However, a deadline for a professional journalist intimates that a column must be seen in tomorrow’s newspaper with another perhaps a couple of days later, or a newscast has to fill a specified time, so if a correspondent has nothing consequential to write about, s/he still has to fill the allotted column space and the TV news show still has to make up 60 minutes, so the programme has to be padded out with inane stories.  But as an amateur blogger, I am not bound by any deadline though having one, even one set by myself, helps me get something out.

The bloggers’ guru, although most people wouldn’t recognize him as such (though even he might have possibly been chuffed by that designation) broadcast a programme that lasted a period of 58 years.  Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America was broadcast on the BBC Home Service between 1946 and 2004 and these pieces were veritable treasures.  He defaulted only once on his deadline, towards the end of his very long life, by which time his lung cancer just allowed him to to talk with great difficulty.  His formula was a gem of compactness and erudition.  The slot was 15 minutes long and the opening was a short pithy statement about something topical. The middle section, which usually occupied the bulk of each “letter”, was another topic loosely — but never artificially — affixed to the opening, while the epilogue reverted to the opening and was linked logically to the middle section.  Reading these pieces decades on is a pleasure for it was pure art, well practised and honed to perfection—and a model for all bloggers to emulate.  It certainly is for me.


Well, it’s taken me nearly 700 words to get to this point so I’ll try to respond to that query, namely, what sort of photos I take or what does my camera see.  I’m ignoring the texts of that first month of posting to the blog and I just look at the photos because until I looked at them again last week, I hadn’t given them much thought for seven years.  In the event, I “discovered” that there are all sorts of things there — such as photos of

Landscapes (I used to be a geographer),

Holiday pictures,

Grand Canal, Venice

Pictures of people, 

Wayne Rooney

Street signs and such like…

… like this one that appeared just after he had become Leader of the UK Labour Party and it was neither the picture nor the headline that caught my eye but the two captions in the bubbles, partly hidden by the lattice!)

And inevitably, even a family picture!

The thrill of winning! Lily Waterman, aged c.3 yrs.

So, let me present some of the pictures that appeared in my blog posts at the end of December 2015 and in January 2016. (I warn you in advance that there are a few more than usual!)

The first is a didactic photo from August 1972 of Bingham Canyon Copper Mine in Utah.  I used to use this photo to explain the concept of scale, as illustrated by the more than 70 goods wagons that appear in it …

… and this is followed by a picture from 1974 following the melt of the winter snow on the Canadian Prairie. Just after the plane had taken off from Winnipeg Airport en route to Calgary, it illustrates the North American system of land division, when the pilot generously circled around twice at low altitude so that passengers could appreciate the scenery …

In recent years, spending time in both Tel Aviv and London, I’ve taken lots of pictures on and from Primrose Hill and at and from Tel Aviv Port and the Yarqon Park, all of which have provided me with subjects galore.

I have photographed these trees towards the southwesterly corner of Primrose Hill at various times of the day and in various seasons …

… even when many people might not think it worthwhile taking a photograph.

Three trees fog 3


Seasonal differences. Primrose Hill, London


Towards the summit, Primrose Hill (1) 

Towards the summit, Primrose Hill (2)

Primrose Hill also afforded me a location from which to view various stages in the construction of London’s tallest building, The Shard, south of the River Thames.


And in nearby Regent’s Park, some years ago, summer would bring us the annual “Tango in the Park”


Though most of the scenes I’ve shot in Tel Aviv were enhanced by bright light and sunshine, I often found that winter photographs provided stronger images …

… and the aftermath of a winter storm often resulted in something resembling the image below.


First rain, Yarqon Stream, Tel Aviv

One of the things that has attracted my eye in both Tel Aviv and London is the plight of homeless people.  I photographed the man who appears in the poster below many times over a four-year period, from 2010 until 2014.  I photographed him and he knew what I was doing—but to my great shame, I never spoke with him.  Then, one day, in May 2014, he had vanished and on enquiring at the greengrocer’s opposite the empty bench, I was told that he had been taken away … to die.

This young man below was a regular rough sleeper in the Yarqon Park over a lengthy period and I could never help but feel sorry for him — until one day, opposite Rabin Square in Central Tel Aviv, I caught site of him at a cash dispenser and waited until he had counted out 2,000 sheqels (over £500 or $600). Gone was the pity.

The man below was one of two individuals I used to see in North Tel Aviv lugging their belongings around at all hours of the day; there are obviously many more in the city.

And while walking in the park one day, I came across this individual.  What caught my eye was not the man himself but the headline in the paper he was reading, which reads “I’m going home

There were other images, too, such as this individual stretching on a cool winter’s day after a run through the park.

Friday morning in Tel Aviv Port also meant a farmers’ market and the opportunity to photograph fruit and veg — as well as people.


Romanesca Cauliflower

Artichoke (in flower)

Occasionally, I also photograph animals — sometimes on the move …

… and sometimes when they pose for me.


Smile and the world smiles with you!


Liz Truss???—on the day before her resignation?: “I’m a ‘Fighter, Not a Quitter'”

On occasion, the London Underground provides me with interesting pics.  Several years ago, I sat opposite these two youngsters on the Tube. One was looking intently at his cellphone while every 15 seconds or so the other one kept glancing to his right—but at what? …

… and there’s the answer — and she knew what she was doing, too!

I also pay attention to written words as they appear on street signs, shop windows, graffiti, &c., such as the anomaly displayed by these two street signs that are located directly opposite one another.  (The reform of the London boroughs occurred several decades ago!)


And then there are the inevitable holiday photographs.

Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao


Ceiling. Antoni Gaudí’s  La Sagrada Familia. Barcelona
Shoes. Barcelona

And then in Siracusa, Sicily, I spent time over three days in the fish market watching a tuna being “prepared” for the table in various stages of dissection.  Big fish!

Every now and then, I alight on a specific topic and look for examples.   Here, it’s hairstyles.

There are also the unavoidable fire hydrants, which I discovered when my camera began recognizing them as faces …

And once I saw faces, faces began to appear everywhere

Suspicious. Siracusa, Sicily


Deep Rumination. Tel Aviv Port


Companionship. Yarqon Park


And then there are photographs that are, well, just photographs.

An army of salt cellars. Tel Aviv Port


A spider’s web after the rain. Belsize Park.


Rowers. Yarqon Park. (No photoshopping; behind natural spray!)


I’m not alone. Yarqon Park.


Bats for breakfast. Yarqon Park


A sort of symmetry. Yarqon Park


Everyone’s welcome. South Tel Aviv


Men’s Loo. South End Green, NW3


Man and Girl. Hampstead Heath. London NW3

    And all of these were from my first month of blogging!


Peaceful Coexistence?

Peaceful coexistence1.jpg

Peaceful Coexistence while looking the other way. Ve’idat Katowicz Street, Tel Aviv

Last week, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Lahav Shani, its music director, broke new ground with its first performance in the United Arab Emirates, at Emirates Palace. The concert marked the orchestra’s first performance in the Arab World for nearly 80 years, having only previously performed at the Cairo Opera House in 1945.  This performance was part of Abu Dhabi Classics, which is organized by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism and recent visitors have included the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam and the Cuban National Ballet.  In attendance at the IPO concert was Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.

Meanwhile, back in Israel, the leader of the Likud Party managed to assemble a coterie of secular and religious Members of Knesset, several with extremist tight-wing views, into a coalition government, with a cabinet that includes a convicted criminal who had been guilty of bribery, fraud and breach of trust and later of tax fraud, now back in the ministry in which his crimes had been perpetrated, a minister who has faced charges of hate speech and who was also previously convicted of supporting a terrorist group known as Kach, and has called for the expulsion of Arab citizens.  In addition, the new government contains several other individuals who are, to my mind, repugnant (to say the least) and I do not include the newly appointed Prime Minister himself, currently on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases!  The less said about this catastrophe-in-the-making, the better.

I can save your soul — Enforced bible reading.  Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel Aviv

At any rate, to return to the IPO in Abu Dhabi, I would proffer the opinion that the aims of the new Israeli government are diametrically opposed to those of one of Israel’s leading cultural institutions.  One can only hope that the life of this right-wing government is short-lived and that it does not succeed in its aims.  (Some hope!).  At any rate, the contrast between the goings-on in Abu Dhabi and those in Jerusalem could not have been greater!

Time to take a running jump!? Hampstead Heath



Anyway, to return to more interesting things.  Last week I read a book that had received several very favourable reviews in the press, its subject matter concerning a topic that has always interested me.  The book is Making Sense of a United Ireland — Should it happen? How might it happen?. Its author, Brendan O’Leary, is a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, born in Cork and educated in Northern Ireland.  He has been involved in conflict resolution in Ireland for four decades and for his sins, he worked for many years as an advisor to the UK Government on The Good Friday (or Belfast ) Agreements, which were signed on 10 April 1998, and which ended most of the violence in the political conflict in Northern Ireland that had been predominant from the late 1960s , and which carried the nicknam “The Troubles”. (The Good Friday Agreement was a major development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s.)

Although intrigued by the topic (Ireland, partition, elections, &c.), I was doubly drawn when I saw the name of the author.  About 16 or 17 years ago, I had received a manuscript that had been submitted to a well-regarded academic journal, the editorial board of which I was a member, with the request from the editor that I help him decide on publication by reviewing it and offering a recommendation.  Blind (anonymous) peer-reviewing of academic papers is part and parcel of the job of being an academic and over a 40-year period, I suppose that I did about 250 or more of these although I have recently learned how to say “No” politely.  I read the paper (“Analysing partition: Definition, classification and explanation”) through several times and for what I think was the only time ever, I recommended to the editor that he publish the paper without making any changes.  If memory served me correctly, I also wrote that although I disagreed with much of what the [then anonymous] author had written, it was so well thought out and the arguments so succinctly presented that for me, it represented much of what academic debate is about.  In other words, although one may disagree, one is prepared to read or listen to a counter argument and be ready to be convinced to change one’s mind if necessary.  Only when the article was published about 18 months after I had reviewed it did I learn the name of the author and then I did what any self-respecting academic tends to do and checked the bibliography to see if I was there—and I was. And then, I read in the acknowledgments, “The author would like to thank …the three anonymous reviewers, especially the one who suggested publication without changes” and I felt doubly rewarded.

At any rate, I started to read the book and after about a third of the way through, I decided to write to the author, something I do occasionally when I feel I have truly learned something new.  I wrote: ” … Many thanks for a very thoughtful and thought-provoking book.  It’s wonderful to read a book by an erudite academic that is written in plain English so that everyone can learn from it.” to which I received the following response a couple of hours later: ” … Thank you very much for this reaction: exactly what any author should strive for. I deeply appreciate this note.” These two pieces of e-correspondence started an exchange that continued in both directions for about two hours during which I learned that we had several mutual connections, both socially and geographically.  Interesting.

Anyway, to return to Making Sense of a United Ireland, O’Leary wrote: “Ill-judged and ill-prepared referendums can be disastrous, as the world saw in 2016 in the UK’s referendum over whether to retain shared sovereignty within the European Union, or to retake it to Westminster and withdraw or secede from the EU.The UK’s decision to hold a referendum on membership of the EU with an unclarified substantive question, and inadequate procedural protections, (the bold print is mine!) produced a poor debate and an institutional and policy mess. … Responsibility for the folly rests with the [then] Prime Minister who called the referendum, David Cameron…[who] called the referendum to discipline his own party, taking a gambler’s risk. Seeking to bias the outcome in favor of Remain, he deliberately instructed his civil servants to make no preparations for a Leave victory. That was irresponsible … It was a referendum held largely in the interests of one party, without any effort to build a serious all-party Remain campaign. … ‘Leave’ was allowed to mean everything for the voter. And then quoting Michael Heseltine, a former Deputy Prime Minister, O’Leary continued: “We all have a clear memory of the Brexit campaign, and what was said. That we were being run by Brussels. That European restrictions are holding back our economy and lowering our living standards. That we could keep all the benefits of the single market and customs union, while negotiating trade deals with faster- growing countries in the world that are shifting east. But we had to regain control over our borders. That there would be no border between Northern Ireland, and mainland Great Britain, and that the Good Friday Agreement having ended years of strife, would be fully honored.

Heseltine is pro-European, but he is not wrong.”

[The] UK’s referendum on EU membership of 2016 was an education; so too has been the conduct of the Johnson administration since 2019, as well as Johnson’s previous conduct as a campaigning Brexiteer, and Foreign Secretary.  Considering this very recent past, it would be irrational for any Irish person, North or South, simply to trust in some nostalgic idea of British Fair Play, especially but not only that of Conservative governments.  The torrent of irresponsibility towards Ireland that has flowed from Great Britain since 2016 is a clear and present warning.  Irish planning for reunification must take place with open consideration of these bleak possibilities.

It should become the duty, and prepared commitment, of both British and Irish governments to ensure that unlawful external impediments to free choice do not happen. Ireland can hope for a more principled UK Government than the present one, but it cannot rely on that prospect. Irish Governments must seek procedural safeguards to advance and use the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to elaborate agreed rules of conduct, and misconduct, regarding future referendums.  It may seem regrettable to appraise the future relevance of the Good Friday Agreement in this manner, but it is wise to do so.  We should not be faint-hearted or down-hearted, however: the hard-won accomplishments of previous cohorts of Irish diplomats and politicians are there to be built on.”

All of which reminded me of a history lesson in school over 60 years ago, when Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, and formerly Lord Deputy of Ireland, was condemned to death by King Charles I, and on his way to his death, reportedly said bitterly “Put not your trust in princes”. Or “trust not politicians”, perhaps.

Time for some pics.

The snow might be gone for the moment, so there was no White Xmas in this part of the world and once it had gone, it was immediately replaced by rain.  Yet some people in Belsize Park were dreaming of a Green Xmas …

And then came the rain. Belsize Park. December 2022

… at this time of the year, leaves fall to the ground …

… and make a colourful addition to the urban landscape …

… but some become more attached to the surface than others …


Winter Scene, Belsize Park.


It’s not just Christmas! A Chabad Chanukah on Regent’s Park Road on the way to Camden Town


Crowds gather on Boxing Day. Primrose Hill, NW3

I’ve photographed the object below some time ago and last week I took a photo again.  I note that it states “NOT IN USE”, something that I’d missed before but that was unsurprising because it says that if you insert a £1 coin you will receive four 1st class postage stamps.  Given that I have no idea what a stamp costs these days (not that it makes much difference when the postal workers are on strike so frequently) I decided to check when I returned home and to my surprise, I discovered that a 1st class stamp costs 95p!  No wonder it’s NOT IN USE.  It must be there as a historical monument!


Finally, I reported in my last post that I had been described by a fellow traveller on a bus that I am “young and handsome”, a combination that I thought improbable for my almost 78-years old persona.  The other day, I discovered that not only am I “young and handsome” but according to a very helpful and efficient waitress in a new restaurant that had opened in Hampstead and where we had dinner the other evening, I am also “young and beautiful”.

I’m beginning to think that I need some self-reevaluation!


Snow, ice, and other forms of precipitation

The UK went through a cold snap over the past fortnight and temperatures were at 0℃ or a few degrees below during this period.  Whereas friends in Canada or Scandinavia, to mention just two places, might well see nothing unusual in this, people here in the United Kingdom were suffering.  This is possibly because the UK is a country which seems never to expect either summer or winter but each year, both seasons turn up and do what is expected of them, so that people either sweat or shiver accordingly.  This year’s cold snap was indeed particularly cold and with strikes of train drivers, ambulance drivers, nurses, and postal workers to mention just some and with inflation running at over 10 percent per annum, it’s all a bit of a mess and doesn’t look as if it’s going to improve quickly. In addition, the cost of heating has rocketed, and that in turn has led the government to warn people that they need to make crucial decisions about whether they want to heat or eat (which, in London, sounds the same anyway, so people here tend not to pay too much attention to it all). All of this is causing some excitement, especially as the media need a good story, preferably one that will run for a fair length of time and, according to this week’s edition if The Economist newspaper (see below), this story is far worse than the government lets on and looks as if it’s endemic, if not fatal.  (For a summary and explanation of what has been happening politically in the UK over the past year, I can recommend viewing Yes Minister, Series 3, Episode 8 — written by Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn and starring Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds and which was made in 1984 and is just as apt today!)

The strange case of Britain’s demise

With this as a backdrop, I went with a good friend the week before last to a concert at the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank.  Getting there was easy as the bus stop is a five-minute walk away from where I live and the bus takes me to within a few minutes’ walk to the place.  The concert (Sibelius’ Violin Concerto and Mahler’s Symphony No.6) was OK although I couldn’t help feeling that Mahler really needed of a good editor after he had composed the piece (80 minutes is a trifle lengthy for one piece of music).  The gentleman who was sitting to my right was obviously familiar with the Sibelius as his head moved in time with the music while the violinist (Lisa Batiashvilli) was performing. However, he seemed less well acquainted with the Mahler and sat with eyes closed during the 25-minute-long first movement.  I thought that perhaps he was experiencing a form of divine bliss — but come the second movement, I realized that had been just the forerunner of something more serious, for he gently snored his way through both the second and third movements, his rhythmic breathing interrupted only for short periods as part of the effects of his wife’s left elbow stabbing his ribs.

His somnolence ended abruptly, however, in the final movement for this is a movement in which Mahler called for the use of a percussion instrument, sometimes referred to as the Mahler hammer. Mahler himself noted that the sound produced by the instrument should be “brief and mighty, but dull in resonance and with a non-metallic character — like the fall of an axe.”  And so it was. The percussionist (one of eight such orchestra members on duty in the performance) brandished an enormous mallet, almost as tall as himself, with which he struck a solid surface, producing a frighteningly loud sound.  All this led to Mahler 6 being described as the composer’s most dark and terrifying work with the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler once terming it “the first nihilist work in the history of music.”  Originally, Mahler had called for five hammer blows, but after revisions, only two remained (though in this performance a third thump was brought back to wake up the audience).  In Mahler’s own life, the hammer blows were said to represent three tragic milestones: the death of his eldest daughter, the condition of his weakened heart and his dismissal from the Vienna Opera.  Anyway, whatever the history of the hammer, the neighbour to my right awoke with a start at the sound of the first whack and remained wide awake until the conclusion, even applauding, his wife’s elbow temporarily not called for.

After the concert, Isabel, my partner, who was at the same concert with another friend, had kindly offered to drive me home, but the Royal Festival Hall is a large space with inadequate cellphone reception and as we had forgotten to agree on a meeting place, we managed not to be able to find one another.  Consequently, I ventured outside into -2 ℃ with the friend with whom I had attended the concert, to catch a bus home.  Fifteen minutes and after substantial a cooling down process, Bus 168 arrived and I boarded but then just a few minutes later, there was an announcement that the bus would not reach its advertised destination (Hampstead Heath) and would instead only go as far as Camden Town.  “Not to worry”, thought I, for I could always take a taxi for the last short part of the trip.

The bus literally dumped its passengers, soon to be near frozen, in the middle of Camden Town.  Luck being what it was, not a single vacant taxi passed by before the next bus arrived over 20 minutes later—and it was very cold. But there I was, with about a dozen other dumpees, with little to do other than to wait.  One of the other people who had disembarked with me noticed that I was carrying the concert programme and struck up a conversation that began with the not very original question “Have you just been to a concert?”  Having been mentored over the past year to start talking to people near me because (so I have been consistently informed) it can be interesting — even fascinating — to listen to people’s stories, we struck up a conversation from which I learned that he had set off that morning for Paris and was on his way back home (this was at 11 p.m.).  And as this is Britain, the conversation inevitably got round to the weather at which point I mentioned that I had lived in Western Canada where, in the winter, -2℃ is considered mild, even warm.  “And what were you doing there?” said he.  “I was a post-doctoral fellow at a university”, I replied. “Oh, so you’re a teacher” came his response. “Was”, I answered, “but that was half a century ago!”.

He then uttered a statement that completely floored me.  “But you look so young” … “and ‘ansom”, at which point, as no vacant black cabs had come driving by, I would have jumped into a hansom cab had one turned up!  It’s been quite some time since anyone referred to me as “young” and I can’t recall ever having been termed “‘ansom” but  it seemed to me at the time that the combination of “young” and “‘ansom” together sounded faintly menacing.  Then he sprung on me that he was going to stay the night with his ‘osband in Belsize Park, which is where I was headed and I started to think of ways and means of somehow distancing myself from him, (i.e., an escape mechanism).  Two possibilities came to mind, one of which was to walk and the other to wait for not the first bus to arrive but the second.  However, seeing that it was cold and becoming colder, I took the risk and when the bus eventually turned up, we both got on — and I took my seat.  As fate would have it, he sat opposite me with his back facing the direction in which the bus was travelling and sat there, staring at me. (I thought of calling 0800-783-0137 (see below) but thought better of it as I didn’t think that anyone would believe me!)

And then heaven intervened.  The bus stopped at Chalk Farm Station and on jumped a man who was, undeniably, young and handsome — too handsome by half — wearing a gaudily coloured shirt and an equally garish waistcoat with a beige jacket lined with gold tassels, and I was astounded by how quickly the gentleman’s stare shifted from me to “‘eem”.  We alighted at the same bus stop and I immediately crossed the road.  He continued straight on, apparently en route to “eez ‘osband” whereas I continued home, as fast as my feet could carry me (which is, alas, no longer particularly fast), in order not to find a foot in the door as I entered the building.  I got home at 23.35 and so ended an event-filled and action-packed evening!

Then, last week, my daughter Shuli arrived with my granddaughter Gali in tow for a six-day visit.  Shuli had decided to take Gali, who will be 12 in April (I don’t believe it) to London as an early batmitzvah present.  Shuli had arranged what I reckoned was an overambitious plan for the visit but, as things turned out, they managed to do everything that had been planned — and even more.

They travelled from Tel Aviv to Luton using EasyJet and, as we have come to expect, there were delays, so much so that they turned up at 03.15 on Tuesday morning.  That did not prevent them from waking at an early hour and not long after daylight broke, they took themselves off to the garden at the back of the building where Gali had her first experience of snow and loved every second of it.

Soon afterwards, they were off to view the snow on Primrose Hill  …

… and then in the afternoon they took off to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park to feed hazel nuts to the squirrels and watch the ongoing tussles between squirrels and crows over the nuts.

The following day it was off to Shoreditch for murals and cookies and things …

…  followed by some serous retail therapy

All of this was accomplished with the pair of them suitably attired for the wintry weather.

The last day but one involved a trip to Bermondsey

… to visit the Fashion and Textile Museum where there was an exhibition of Kaffe Fassett’s The Power of Pattern, which contained some of his own original artworks as well as works inspired by him from several international quilters, quite an extraordinary collection …

… and this was followed by some more serious retail therapy, which I managed to steer clear of.

All this was accomplished while managing to see all the family members—uncles and aunts and cousins who were about at the time.

And then they left for Tel Aviv — and no sooner — literally as soon as— had they boarded the plane than the weather changed and reverted to type, with rain and wind — and it’s been raining constantly here in London for the past 36 hours!  …

… and all that was left for me to do was to record winter scenes in Belsize Park and Hampstead.

One, two , three — JUMP!


Grit their teeth while they grit the bicycle lane. Hampstead.



There’s nothing quite like climbing trees in wintertime! Belsize Park


And what’s Harry doing in Bermondsey ? December 2022

And then, going through some old pictures, I came across one I had taken several years ago in December in Tel Aviv and I wondered what on earth it is I’m doing here!




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.


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!

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!



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 …