I think that this has been the second longest hiatus in the six years I’ve been posting to this blog and what’s more, I have no real excuses though I can produce some sort of an explanation if pushed. I suppose that it’s a combination of an innate laziness and the Christmas/New Year period here in this barely United Kingdom, something I haven’t experienced for several years. As far as I can ascertain, it’s a part of the year that rivals its Israeli double act, i.e. the run-up to Jewish New Year and all that follows it, a spell during which the most usual response to any simple request is “acharei ha-chagim”, in other words, “after the holidays”. Here in the UK, the parallel riposte is “In the New Year” and then when the New Year arrives, there’s a period following which involves recuperating from the excesses familiar to that time.
The upshot of all this is that one loses track of time and during the period approximately between December 20 and January 8, what with Xmas, Bank Holidays, and those bridging days during which some things were open and others are not, not only do you lose track of dates but you also have no idea of what day in the week you’re at. I found that my life had become even more improperly planned and controlled than what passes as the norm for me. In other words, this coming week should be a “normal” week once again. Then when I add to all this the frenetic social life I’ve been leading over the past three or four weeks (but that’s another, rather lengthy, story entirely which I won’t be telling on this blog) then the absence of anything from me on this blog becomes understandable if not entirely pardonable.
While I’m in London, I get around as much as I can via public transport. I sold the car that I had had here for a decade as it hadn’t been driven in a year and a half and even if I had driven it, there’s barely anywhere to park it once you’ve arrived at your destination. (Having written that, I have to add that when the company came to take it away, it started first time after 18 months of inactivity.) Mostly, using public transport involves the London Underground and London’s red buses and when they’re not available or when the weather is foul, I use Uber or some other form of taxi. And that made me think one day last week while I was ubering to my son’s house how some things have changed so radically over the past few years.
There was time when in order to travel by taxi you either needed to phone a cab company and order one to pick you up or stand in the street (in the foul weather) and hope that an empty taxi passed by — and you also had to remember to have an adequate amount of cash in your wallet to pay for the ride. Today, things are different. Last week, I opened the Uber app and booked a car to take me to my destination. By the time I’d got my coat on and gone downstairs to the lobby, I had received a notification that the car was just 2 minutes away, just enough time to check the registration number of the car and then see it drive up close to the building and off I went. Twenty minutes later, I thanked the driver for getting me to my destination safely and as I exited, there was a buzz in my pocket as my receipt from Uber arrived and I’m there without as much as a penny having changed hands. I find it rather incredible although there’s no rhyme or reason why I should feel that way other than the fact that I am rapidly becoming advanced in years.
Meanwhile, Covid rages on with Omicron surpassing Delta as the variant of non-choice. (At the beginning, I was wont to make the facetious statement that O’Micron was only a well-known minuscule Irish virus that affected leprechauns and if you were unlucky enough to catch it but managed to see the accompanying rainbow you might come across a pot of gold and strike it rich.) Funny though that may have been a few weeks ago, it’s been overtaken by Omicron’s rapid spread.
One of the things that this has led to is the increased use of lateral flow (antigen) tests, in particular when you’re invited to friends or going somewhere at which there’s a substantial number of people at high density. It’s now de rigueur.
But now that the government here has seemingly succeeded in getting this through and into the national consciousness, (along with mask-wearing at least in public places) there are reports in today’s papers that these little things will no longer be provided gratis through the National Health Service and that people will be expected to pay for them, just like everything else. And one of the consequences of getting antigen tests is acquiring a test kit and one of the consequences of that is that people are getting more exercise than normal as they tramp through the streets searching for a pharmacy that has any in stock!
Besides walking the streets searching for antigen test kits, I did manage to get out and about but before and after the extended Xmas period. One of the exhibitions I did get to see was a wonderfully curated exhibition on Peru at the British Museum, one of the better presented shows I’ve been to since I got here. But although it was only a few weeks ago, it seems to belong to the distant past. …
… and then last week I went to the Fabergé exhibition at the V&A. It must be one of the most sought after exhibitions in the city air the moment for when I booked in mid-November, the first date I could get was January 7 and when I eventually did arrive, it was a very slow soft-shoe shuffle for an hour and a half as there were lots of people and as far as I could ascertain, many Russian speakers, obviously swotting up on their cultural history.
It was the first exhibition I’d been to since August where taking photographs was not permitted. I presume that that had something to do with copyrights and so forth. I found some of the pieces on display very beautiful and exquisite and the workmanship (or is one supposed to say workpersonship today?) extraordinary but couldn’t help thinking about how many of these very skilled people had problems with their backs and their vision as well as other things as a result of slaving away day after day to satisfy the very privileged very few! And it was for this reason that I also found the whole thing somewhat obscene. But there you are.
And one cancelled theatre performance just before the Xmas break was replaced by an Ottolenghi lunch …
… which in turn led to a visit to some of the most interesting street art it’s been my pleasure to view, outside the old Spitalfields Market.
And it wasn’t just dogs and rabbits either!
And, of course, I did manage to take some “regular” photos over the past couple of weeks as well, the first of which surprised me because it manage to escape the constrictions of the “Green Machine”.
Finally, a piece sent to me by a good friend as An Obituary printed in the London Times. Even if it’s been re-posted on WhatsApp and many other sites over and again and even if it never actually appeared as an obituary in The Times, it still makes for interesting reading in this weird period in which we are currently living!
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
– Why the early bird gets the worm;
– Life isn’t always fair;
– And maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death,
-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.
He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;
– I Know My Rights
– I Want It Now
– Someone Else Is To Blame
– I’m A Victim
– Pay me for Doing Nothing
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.