Autumn in London and all that

Autumn colours, Primrose Hill. NW3 (1) —  October 2020

I’ve been in London now for just under five weeks.  Actually, it net terms, it’s just half of that as the first 17 days were spent in splendid isolation—a fortnight—which was reinforced by three additional days spent inside during which the rain was so heavy that even going out for a a few minutes to buy a newspaper resulted in a through drenching.

I have more or less ceased to watch the news on TV.  Covid, Covid-19, Coronavirus, lockdown, self-isolation, fines, closure of pubs, clubs and gyms.  That’s it.  Each five minutes there’s someone with a new story, two people with differing opinions, four people who start new rumours and the like.  Every now and then, there’s another story to take one’s mind off the effects of the deadly virus for a day or so.  There was a story last week about an unfortunate history teacher in Paris who was beheaded by an individual apparently influenced by the social media rantings of the father one of the hapless decapitee’s pupils, who was incensed that in a civics class, the teacher had the audacity to show his pupils cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.  The deranged headhunter obviously decided that decapitation was the surest way to exact revenge. Well, at least it took our minds off the main news of the day, which has been the same for the past eight months.

So, if you don’t watch news on TV, what do you do?  Well, you can be entertained by documentaries and things like that.  A friend, who shall remained unnamed, suggested that I might like to watch “The Trump Show”, a documentary on BBC2.  Actually, she didn’t actually suggest that I watch it; she just told me that she had binged on the first two episodes so I thought I’d give it a try.  My goodness! I thought I understood that things were pretty bad and mad in the White House but if this is anything to go by, it’s beyond imagination.  Trump is depicted as a Mafia godfather (but American, first, you understand) who lives in Bedlam (there is such a place, officially Bethlem Royal Hospital, a.k.a. St Mary Bethlehem, Bethlehem Hospital) and it is a psychiatric hospital in London. Its famous history has inspired several horror books as well as the current White House).  In this madhouse, the present occupant, the President of the United States, runs a theatre of the absurd for the “outmates”, several tens of millions of Twitter followers (also commonly known as twits) who believe his every word—religiously.  To say that it was shocking would be the grossest of gross understatements!

Meanwhile, back to Covid-19 for it is what takes up so much of our time.  There is an interesting drama playing itself out here in the UK, which was resolved yesterday, in which the Prime Minister, Mr. Johnson and his chief enforcer, Mr. Gove, seem to have decided that Greater Manchester should be “elevated” (or demoted) to Tier Three, in other words that the restrictions of movement, on exercising, on drinking and all that should be tightened.  This is where Liverpool already is and includes no mixing indoors or outdoors in hospitality venues or private gardens, no more than six people together in outdoor public spaces like parks, pubs and bars not serving food will remain closed and no travel will be allowed onto or out of the area.  Tough indeed.  Mr. Johnson says he doesn’t want a countrywide lockdown but that’s the way he seems to be moving, albeit piecemeal.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Mr. Andy Burnham, who had been the Secretary of State for Health about a decade ago, was and perhaps still is holding out for more cash from central government.  But if I heard him correctly on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning, he seemed to be saying that there was no need for Manchester to be downgraded to “Tier Three” as Intensive Care wards in hospitals were not overcrowded and the increase in the number new cases was related to the return of students the universities, most of whom, should they contract the virus will hardly need hospital treatment.  However, Messrs. Johnson & Gove seemed to disagree but if they want that Greater Manchester be locked down, Mr. Burnham wants better compensation for lower paid workers.  (I had lunch with Mr. Gove once and he seemed a decent chap but now I’m not so sure.)  Anyway, as Tuesday progressed, Mr. Johnson used his prime ministerial prerogative and placed Manchester where he wanted it to be.

Israel has slowly started to emerge from its second lockdown, with kindergartens and creches opening and Grades 1-4 following, hopefully, in a fortnight.  The Prime Minister, as is his wont, has been patting himself on his shoulders for the success of the second lockdown, at least as compared with the earlier one.  Of course, the fact that he was responsible for overseeing the emergence from the first lockdown seems to have been forgotten and he has taken to blaming the Opposition for not doing enough to support the government in its current effort.  The fact that the “Independent sector” of he educational system (the Strictly Orthodox) opened their schools and study seminaries in contradiction to the rules laid down by the government and the Ministry of Health seems not to be on his mind. It’s actually scandalous.  It’s beginning to look like the Prime Minister’s shine has been badly tarnished this time and that the shots are being called by a 92-year old rabbi who is ill with COVID-19, deaf, and needs nursing care rather than the 70-year old Prime Minister for whom there is no alternative.  What a mess!

Enough!  Time for some photographs.

The Northern Line at Leicester Square Station at 10.20 a.m.

I eventually managed to get out and about, taking myself to the Tate Modern, a space that always amazes me, to see one of their current exhibitions, pictures by Andy Warhol.  I had asked a friend the pervious week what was the best way to get out and about in London during these times in which, as Seán O’Casey’s Captain Boyle in Juno and the Paycock put it, “The world is in a terrible state of chassis”.  I had been using the rental company Uber for short trips but she told me that the buses are OK and that the Underground, if I were to travel outside of “rush hour”, would be fairly empty.  And so it turned out to be.  The train at 10 a.m. was sparsely populated with a group of masked passengers, some of them gloved, and by the time we had reached Leicester Square at 10.20, usually a fairly busy station even at that time, three or four passengers got off and none got on, so I decided I’d better take the photograph.  I was in two minds as to whether to request the one remaining passenger besides myself if she wouldn’t mind alighting at the next station so that I could make it a more dramatic picture but then I thought that that might be somehow misinterpreted so I left things as they were.

The Warhol exhibition at the Tate Modern was, to my uncultured mind, a disappointment.  But then, I suppose it was always going to be like that because how many cans of Campbell’s soup, Marilyn Monroes and Elvis Presleys can you see when you’ve seen them all before?

Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol (via SW)

But I’m always in awe of space at the Tate Modern, the Turbine Hall of what had been in the Bankside Power Station, providing space for the sorts of things that really don’t fit anywhere else.

As it was a nice day, after the Tate, I decided to walk past St. Paul’s Cathedral, along Ludgate Hill to The Strand and Aldwych, familiar from a sabbatical stay at LSE 35 years ago where I caught the 168 bus home.  The walk had started at the Tate and then across the Millennium Bridge to the cathedral.

St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge (formerly the Wobbly Bridge — until it was fixed). October 2020

My second venture to something “cultural” was an early morning visit to the National Gallery on Monday, which featured an exhibition of works by Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque painter of the early 17th century, now considered one of the most accomplished artists of her time, initially working in the style of Caravaggio. Many of her paintings feature women from myths, allegories, and the Bible, including victims, suicides, and warriors.  They’re subjects that we’ve all become familiar with but in her paintings, painted from a woman’s point of view, they are nothing short of stunning (and most of the canvasses are large), and many of them pretty gory, too.

There are several self-portraits that I couldn’t take my eyes off…

 

Artemisia as a lute player

… and there was one, in particular, Judith and her Maindservant from 1625, on loan from the Detroit Institute of Arts, in which the lighting was so stupendous that I just stood and stared at it for several minutes before moving on.  But this being Coronatimes, when I asked if I could back into the room in which it hung (two rooms back) to view it again, I was informed that because the gallery was operating a one-way system and that viewers/visitors were admitted in quarter-hour slots, if I wanted to see it again, I would have to exit and rejoin the line of others who wished to view the paintings a second time.  Fifteen minutes later, I was back in and it was worth it!

 

Judith and her Maidservant. The National Gallery Exhibition, October 2020

Exiting the gallery and making my way towards Haymarket, I passed a building (below) that I’d never noticed before.  I waited and waited but Borat never appeared!

Waiting for Borat. Pall Mall East

Walking along Regent Street and Oxford Street was an eye-opener.  Many shops closed, including cafés; several boarded up and not looking as if they’re about re-open soon.  The streets themselves if not exactly bereft of people were pretty empty.  Oxford Street at midday, even on a Monday in October, usually involves a shuffle because of the density of the pedestrians; this time around, the shuffle was caused because of the shuffler’s age.

HMV, Oxford Street. Once a magnet for me. Now the voice has been silenced, not just hoarse! October 2020

Walking around the neighbourhood and surrounding areas, it’s possible to feel the effects of Coronavirus, lockdowns and other restrictions.  Its affects almost everybody and everything.

This sunflower is feeling the worse for wear after a difficult past few months.

Nevertheless, the trees on Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill and everywhere close by seem to be doing their “autumn thing”.

Autumn colours, Primrose Hill. NW3 (2) —  October 2020    

 And while doing some local shopping and waiting for a bus, just as I was about to board it, phone and shopping bag in hand, I managed to photograph this advertisement on the side of the bus stop.  I thought I’d seen some interesting signs over the years but this one (the quality of the picture is somewhat lacking) made me laugh out loud.  (I don’t know what the bus driver thought of me!).  And I have arthritis in my thumbs!

I sent the picture to a friend in the USA who is familiar with London and within five minutes he responded with: “Don’t you know the “Shit London” picture books?” and I had to admit that I didn’t.  So, off to check on Amazon, which resulted in yet another purchase!  In addition to being two books, “Shit London” is also a Facebook group, described by its founder as containing “photographs of the unintentional human comedy that surrounds us in the city. It’s the flotsam and jetsam of city life, the overlooked minutiae, the tragic, the grotesque, and the basest of base. It’s the adapted posters, the dirty joke on the back of a van, the misspelled signs, the glory hole in the public loo, that weird shop down the end of your road, and the knob graffiti strategically placed for maximum effect”.

Watching TV the other say, I came across an interview with the actress (or, as you’re supposed to say these days, the actor) Maureen Lipman.  Asked by the interviewer, Mark Lawson, about “being single again after a happy marriage”, i.e. about how she felt after the death of her husband, Jack Rosenthal, she responded with:  “Being a widow, you are a refugee in a strange country where you don’t know the rules.  People tell you how to … Oh, you’ll be angry for three months and then you be depressed for four … oh, you know … it’s balderdash … you will be as you are.”.  Well three months have passed by already and to my mind, Maureen’s description is about right.  I can’t believe where the time has gone.  It seems both like only yesterday and also a long time ago simultaneously.  But “you will be as you are” seems to be more or less it.

As an extra, I’ve included the Introduction to a “memory book” that I’ve been writing on and off for the past 10 months.  It’s more or less complete except for a final proofreading.  I suppose that as I wrote it mainly for myself and my children and grandchildren, I can’t really imagine that a commercial publisher would be interested in it and I don’t think I have the patience to do the rounds of publishers trying to find out.  I had thought of putting up an single chapter with each blog post over the next few months and I still might but on second thoughts, if you read this and feel like you’d like to read the whole lot, drop me a line and I’ll send you a PDF of what there is.

Book Introduction for Blog

 

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Lockdown, lockup, lock-in, lockout!

Lockdown, lockup, lock-in, lockout.

I’m really fed up watching the news. Covid, Covid, Covid; sometimes they use a more complete version of the name of the disease COVID-19; sometimes, they refer to coronavirus or to use its full name: severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, SARS-coV-2.

The past week saw a lot of Donald Trump in and out of hospital, telling the American people that they’ve got it licked, that America has the best medicine and the best treatments in the world (a wonderfully sympathetic statement to make to American citizens who can’t afford even basic medical treatment), that he was leaving hospital and returning to the White House, which has a rather diminished staff of loyal devotees because of COVID-19, a place into which even several erstwhile supporters of the president hesitate or refuse to visit. The highlight of his week in and out of hospital was his appearance on the balcony of the White House where he scornfully ripped off his mask, stuffing it in his pocket, and then appeared to struggle for breath. By the end of the week, however, he had declared himself fit as a fiddle and ready again for the road to read his MAGA gospel to the unswerving, unwavering, adulatory  adherents. Yippee!  Stay positive, Mr. President!

Then, addressing a virtual gathering at a virtual Conservative party conference which was not in Birmingham or Manchester but probably somewhere in London, a rather thinner and more haggard looking than usual British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, told his (apparently now somewhat less than) faithful followers: “… I don’t know about you but I have had more than enough of this disease that attacks not only human beings but so many of the greatest things about our country—our pubs, our clubs, our football, our theatre and all the gossipy gregariousness, our love of human contact that drives the creativity of our economy”.  It’s well worth noting the order of things important to the Brits as expressed by Boris: (a) pubs, (b) clubs, (c) football, &c. Local government leaders are unhappy that they have not been consulted or informed about decisions made regarding the parts of the country for which they are responsible and lots of people seem to think that they are being picked upon as further restrictions on activities and movement are due to be announced.

Meanwhile, I try to keep up with what’s happening in Israel by listening to five or six minutes of news in the morning. There the problem is not pubs and clubs and football but how to keep people from annoying the Prime Minister by demonstrating outside his front doors in Jerusalem and Caesarea. The way he attempted to effect this was by calling a lockdown throughout the whole country from the day after I left Israel three weeks ago and which is still in place. Movement of people is restricted to a distance of 1 km from their houses and a further attempt was made to restrict the distance to 200 m but failed. But all this political manoeuvring managed to do was to disperse the demonstrations against the Prime Minister from two or three major locations to almost every bridge and major junction throughout the whole country. In other words the demonstrations became localised and recruited many more people than had demonstrated before, thereby having the opposite effect to that which the Crime Minister and his dogsbodies had wanted.

At a local anti-Bibi demo, Ramat Aviv

I’ve been in London for just over three weeks now, the first two weeks of which was spent in self-isolation, which I can’t honestly say I enjoyed. In theory, I could have gone out on Friday 10 days ago when self-isolation ended but Friday and the following two days were days during which London received the average precipitation that falls during the whole of October so my release was delayed until Monday.

Succot, Day 1. London. Wet

Finally, I was able to emerge from quarantine and as is my wont when I eventually get to this part of the world, I walk around to Primrose Hill.  Mind you, it was still wet the morning after the rain ceased!

Still rather wet!  October 5, 2020

 

Primrose Hill, first outing 

The first week of quarantine was pretty miserable and although the weather was fine, I didn’t reckon that it was worth the risk of a fine of £1,000 should someone from UK Immigration bother to check up on me. (Friends who had returned from France a few weeks earlier had been contacted twice during their period of quarantine.)  It wasn’t altogether complete isolation.  I saw the grandchildren and their parents twice — in the garden behind the house, and Dov’s in-laws once, in the covered car park while a sheet of water came down from the heavens a couple of metres away.  I also saw my sister three times, twice outside and once when I convinced her that it was warmer in the living room.  And then there were the virtual conversations with family and friends—the conversations were real but there was a lack of face-to-face contact).

By the second week, I was getting used to things.  Anyway, there was “work” to be getting on with as I had planned to rewrite my memory book — Journeys of a journeyman geographer — (I suppose some people might call it a memoir although I think that that’s too grand a word to use for it.)  Anyway, that, at least the third draft has been completed except for final proofreading, although quite what I am going to do with this piece, I really have no idea.

Anyway, on Sunday. the sun came out again (in the morning, that was) and it was off for a walk around the perimeter of Primrose Hill again for a chat with my sister, who I’ve seen for just a couple of brief meetings since I arrived.

Primrose Hill in the autumn sun

Primrose Hill also presented us with its iconic vista over the City of London, Docklands and the West End …

… and by the time that the morrow dawned and the view was from Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, not only had the angle changed but also the colours.

And one can’t help but notice the reminders to keep your distance all over the place — whether on buses to the Underground, in stations …

… and even in the public loo at South End Green, although quite what I’m being instructed to do here was unclear to me.  Am I supposed to aim from a distance or not spray sideways!?  And anyway, I only have two feet, not six!

And while I was out, I came across some interesting things.  For instance, this new-fangled way of refuelling seems to have become more common in the seven months I’d been absent from the city…

… and Transport for London has gone artistic with its logo on at least one station.

… and while I’ve been away and the family has been locked down in Tel Aviv, they’ve been honing their artistic skills there, too.

Abstract. Shuli Waterman, October 2020

And while I’ve been quarantined (i.e. holed up), I’ve had an opportunity to do something that I hadn’t done much of for several months—read.    Strangely, the first three books I chose were one by a forensic anthropologist and one by a forensic pathologist, and sandwiched in between them, a novel Black Sun, based on a true story that dealt with the attempt to develop a hydrogen bomb in the USSR six decades ago, a plan that was aborted — or at least altered — because the scientist directing the project feared that the power of the bomb might be so great and the nuclear reaction it might generate so strong that it had the potential to obliterate the world as a whole.  It was actually a gripping novel.

Currently, I’m reading Andrew Marr’s latest book Elizabethans.  Andrew Marr, for those of you who are unaware, is a British journalist and a television and radio presenter, and a former newspaper editor; he is, to mind, one of the better journalists around and is certainly extremely well informed and writes very well.  The book is brilliant and highly informative and entertaining; it’s a living history of the modern UK tracing how radically Britain and Britons have transformed through Elizabeth II’s reign from 1952(!) through to today.  It tells the story through the people who shaped it, each chapter based on an individual or individuals, and including such luminaries as actress Diana Dors and her friend the murderer Ruth Ellis, the poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, singers Elvis Costello and Bob Geldof, architect Zaha Hadid and inventor James Dyson, naturalist (and much more) David Attenborough and the Beatles.

There are several informative and some very amusing anecdotes.  One, in particular caught my eye yesterday evening as I was about halfway through the book, in the chapter that dealt with the diminution in size and effectiveness of the British armed forces and which centres around the character of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s husband, who fought hard to maintain the strength of the Royal Navy. It was a quote attributed to Sir Gerald Templer, then the Chief of the Imperial General Staff who was reported to have said to Mountbatten: “Dickie, you’re so bloody crooked that if you swallowed a nail you’d shit a corkscrew”.  I laughed out loud and thought as I read it that is was something that could be applied to so many politicians, present and past (and probably future as well)!

 

And finally, one photograph that doesn’t belong to the last couple of weeks but which I took about ten years ago in Jaffa but which I came across while looking through the collection for something that I eventually found.

Wide-angle photography, Jaffa

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Glorious Isolation/Insulation

I needed a change of scenery. After the trauma of the past two months, I’d had enough of being alone in the flat in Tel Aviv in temperatures of well over 30º C and 80% relative humidity every day, hearing daily news about thousands of people demonstrating outside the Prime Minister’s residences in Jerusalem and Caeasarea and on almost every bridge over every highway in Israel calling for his resignation (some hope!) and reports of him referring to people with views like mine as leftists, anarchists, people who are simply out to destroy Israeli democracy.

Really?! Are we that loathsome and repulsive and dangerous? My gut reaction is that the name-callers should look at their reflections in their mirrors each morning and examine them carefully. Israel, after all is in lockdown and if I read correctly a short while ago, the Prime Minister has told the people that the lockdown will last for a at least a month and probably much longer than that.  The hospitals are nearing a critical point with 800 seriously ill hospitalised; around 9,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily the government, apparently, bears no responsibility for the situation that has developed.  It’s all because of the people, it seems and it’s the law-abiding people who appear to be at fault.  Talk about irresponsibility.  To quote the 16th President of the United States of America, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” Time will tell.

At any rate, I’d had enough for the time being and initially booked a ticket to London with EasyJet for Friday September 25) so that I could spend Jewish New Year with my daughters and granddaughters in Tel Aviv and be there for Lily’s 8th birthday.  However, only two days after booking, I was informed by EasyJet that they had cancelled the flight. So it was back to the drawing board where I discovered that British Airways was still flying between Heathrow and Tel Aviv, so I booked for the same outward bound and return dates with BA only to be further informed the following day that they, too, had followed suit and cancelled Friday’s flight.

I was in a bit of a quandary as I really couldn’t make up my mind what to do. And then Shuli and Tami said to that I should I just go a week earlier than I’d planned. So, back to British Airways and I booked for the Thursday of the week before last. 

It wasn’t a particularly auspicious start to the trip. The taxi driver dropped me off at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv where, in 33°C of heat and 80 percent relative humidity, people were lining up outside the airport terminal in bright sunshine, so as sheep tend to do, I joined the queue.

After several minutes an overbearing female official approached me, shouting: “Have you signed a declaration stating that you are not suffering from COVID-19?”  (At no time during the previous two or three weeks did I receive any indication that I was supposed to do this although a British Airways representative, who sounded as if she was at home in Mumbai or Bangalore, had said to me that I did not need a Covid test before flying.) Apparently, the airport authorities were happy enough to take people at their word.

Still, filling in a form was part of a game that had to be played out so the same officious official directed me towards three other lines (still outside the building but thankfully in partial shade) at the top of each was located a computer that would enable me to declare Covidlessness, and consequently, purity. One machine was being operated by a woman ostensibly helping an older (I have to be careful when I use the word elderly) couple to complete their requirement but this seemed to be a never-ending process and it turned out after about a quarter of an hour that it was going nowhere. It was suggested that I and others move to another queue but it turned out that the other two computers weren’t operating at all so after a little while later, I was directed to enter the terminal building where a green wristband with six digits was affixed to my right wrist and I was informed that it must not be removed until after I had boarded the aircraft and that I was permitted to proceed to check-in.

Unlike the usual chaos inside the terminal building the place was virtually empty. I proceeded to the departure area where it turned out that there were lots of people travelling that day but they were dressed as if they didn’t seem to be going where I was going on the grounds that most of them were dressed in shorts and tee-shirts. The noticeboard indicated but most of them were off to Greece, one of the few countries to which is Israelis can travel without being quarantined there or on return.  Chaos ensued on boarding the plane — lots of people with young children and other disabilities were herded on to the plane first and then it was time board.

I thought I’d been clever in choosing my seat, a window seat in the last row of the plane.  My assumption was that there would be little social distancing on the aircraft and that that seat would be the least likely place for many people to pass by throughout the journey. It was a reasonable assumption and the night before the flight I checked to see if the pair of seats beside me were still unoccupied and at 8 p.m. on the previous evening, they had not been taken. However, it was a mistaken assumption on my part because two young women parked themselves on the empty seats beside me just after I had settled in, thinking that I would be the solitary occupant of the row.  

As far as I could ascertain, the plane was chockablock full .  Social distancing apparently is unheard-of on British Airways, its place taken by filling the aircraft and recouping fares. However, we were constantly reminded every few minutes or so that our masks had to cover both nose and mouth. Wearing a mask for 10½ hours on the trot is uncomfortable, to say the least. After just under five hours’ flying time, I was glad to depart the plane even though, sitting where I had been sitting,  I was the last passenger off. The saving grace was that as I entered at the baggage reclaim area, there it was, my case! I didn’t even have to wait to remove it from the carousel.  That had never happened before!

I imagined that some self-important immigration official would remind me that I was supposed to quarantine because prior to the trip I had had to fill out a lengthy online form from the British immigration authorities stating the address at which I would be residing for my first 14 days  and providing them all possible means of contacting me—telephone numbers and emails, and the details of someone whom they could contact if they failed to locate me (They may read this blog and perhaps have thought that I might have made for Primrose Hill to photograph trees and committed the unforgivable sin of not taking my phone with me.  But no such reminder was forthcoming. One was simply supposed to know that self-isolation was the done thing.

I arrived at the flat in London in double quick time. I think that the bemasked cab driver was none too happy about having to travel with another masked individual in his car — but how else could he make a living?  At any rate, we was silent throughout the journey.  The trip from Heathrow Terminal 5 to apartment building took just under 40 minutes, which, I think, was a record time.

I had made an order from Ocado, an online grocery store, to deliver provisions the following morning, and at 07.00 on the dot, there he was, unloading several bags outside the door of the flat. That exercise took about the deliveryman about two minutes, followed by a further 40 minutes of me sorting things out and putting things away. 

When I eventually reawakened, I vaguely remembered something about self-isolation but, as I age, it’s obvious that my hearing has deteriorated somewhat so it seems that I had misheard what I had heard and jumped up.  Obviously, that is not what the people meant and after 24 hours I felt so uncomfortable up there on the shelf in between the books and really unable to do anything, that in the end, I jumped down and tried to organise myself in a different manner. And  the thing is that I felt so sheepish about the whole thing. (This is what tends to happen when one can’t go outside to take photographs!)

Shelf isolation. London September 2020

And after that little escapade, I then began my fortnight of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious quarantine.

As I write, I am now on Isolation Day #12; it’s passed more quickly that I had expected although I have acute sympathy for all those people who have been kept in solitary confinement as punishment or for those afraid to leave their homes and have been inside for the most part over the past half year because anything more than a further week like this would leave me mentally unsound — although I am aware that there are some people who believe that that critical point had already passed some time ago. 

As I wrote above, one of the problems about being incarcerated is that I can’t go outside with the camera to photograph.  As a consequence, I have to make do with what’s at hand, so I’ve been scouring the flat as well as looking out the windows to see and imagine what I can see or to see what I can imagine I can see.

After a few days, you begin to go bananas …

Going bananas

         And after a few more days of lock-up you become completely browned off!

Browned off!
The thing is that when you start feeling that you’re going crazy, you do crazy things.  In this case, I initially thought that this was a slice of wholewheat bread until I picked it up and discovered that it was a cork coaster — definitely not for consumption.

But as it was early in the morning and I wasn’t completely awake and unable to distinguish between the real and the unreal,  I pounced on something else that seemed to be freshly baked bread only to discover that it, too, wasn’t bread but no more than an inedible sponge.

Eventually, though, I managed to locate the bread that I had been looking for and that I knew was there.

Eventually, you begin to see faces wherever you look … though why this bun is smiling at me as it’s about to be consumed is beyond my ken.

However, in addition to such friendly faces as the soon- to-be-vanished bun, I see scowls in the living room …

… toothless grins of inanity and insanity in the bathroom … 

… just black and white in the kitchen … 

… and tilting the camera upwards, all sorts of other strange and wonderful things.
Directly outside the living room, there’s a large tree with bark on the trunk of which has always fascinated me …
… but when the same tree is viewed a different way, I can seem very weird indeed!

Meanwhile, I can stay in the living room and observe the wildlife in the garden from inside.

 

 

 

P.S.  If anyone notices that there is anything odd about the layout of this blog post, it’s because WordPress has changed the way in which I can compose and set up the post.  It takes some getting used to, so I suppose that learning it will give me something to do over the next few days!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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London life

Screen Shot 2020-09-14 at 15.33.19

Self-portrait.  September 2020

This week, I have two stories that relate to my photo collection.  The first is a photo that I used when I posted to Facebook where some of the readers of this blog pick me up.  I didn’t use it in the post itself; it was just a “cover photo”  but it was a photo that got more “likes” than I usually get for things that I post.

Primrose Hill

It’s a picture of six trees near the southwestern corner of Primrose Hill, an extension of the Regent’s Park in London.  This particular photo was taken on a sunny morning in March of this year, the day before I returned to Israel on the last scheduled El Al passenger flight to leave Heathrow before the pandemic caused the cessation of flights by Israel’s national carrier.

I’m booked to return to London for a short visit in a few days’ time, apparently on the last scheduled flight to leave for Heathrow before a renewed lockdown in this part of the world.  In fact, I spent most of yesterday in what I can only describe as a state of high anxiety as in the morning it had been rumoured that the lockdown might start as early as Wednesday—the day after tomorrow, thereby leaving me stranded in the Holy Land.

My quandary was whether I would awake on Friday morning to start a month-long lockdown alone in a flat in the Promised Land, restricted to moving within a distance of  no more than 500m from home, or would I wake up alone in a flat in Belsize Park to begin a fortnight of quarantine there.

Two things emerged while I waited with some anxiety for a definitive answer one way or the other.  First, although such mundane matters as public health and the state of the economy are apparently on the minds of the politicians, it seems as if in political terms Israel is slowly approaching the Lebanese model whereby the politicians (whom I’ve said more than once represent nobody except themselves but I’m about to amend that) cater only to the narrow groups they purport to represent and to hell with the rest of them.  In other words, the Arab politicians, the ultra-Orthodox  Jewish lawmakers, the right-wing “modern religious” representatives, the secular legislators all look after the narrow interests of their followers but few of them tend to see the state of the forest because the the trees that they’re cultivating.

The second thing that struck me as I listened to three Israeli TV channels, occasionally switching to Sky or BBC to see what was happening elsewhere in the world, is that although the zigzagging of the politicians gives rise to confusion, the almost hysterical voices of the newsreaders, commentators, and pundits of various stripes only serve to amplify the bewilderment and pandemonium (no pun intended but the word chosen intentionally).

Finally, around 9 p.m., God’s chosen messenger (Bibi) broke ended the exasperation by informing us plebs that after many hours of intense discussion (and disagreements, apparently) that lockdown would start on Friday at 14,00 and end on October 11.  He then flew off to Washington to sign a Trump-brokered agreement with the United Arab Emirates and a declaration of something or other by the government of Bahrain.  His original plan was to fly in a private plane with wife and children, separated from the other members of the Israeli delegation, for fear that Israel’s Royal Family might contract Covid-19 from some more proletarian delegate,  However, this was scuppered in that it was generally agreed that this was a greed too many.

Primrose Hill

Anyway, to come back to the trees on Primrose Hill.  There’s something about them and  their association the hill that I find acutely attractive.  I think it’s got something to do with the curvature of the hill itself, which is somehow reflected in the curvature of the tree tops and, in this case, mimicked further by the cloud formation, all of which lends a particular elegance to the photo.

I’ve been photographing these trees on and off for several years now and on each trip to London, it’s almost the first thing I do.  It makes me realize that I’m there although this time, it looks as if I will have to wait a fortnight before that happens again.  Actually, I’m curious as to how they’ll look at the beginning of October because it’s a time of the year during which I’ve only been there once in 15 years.  The trees change their appearance with the tie of day, the weather and the seasons, among other things but not matter what, my eye is drawn to them over and again.

Primrose Hill xii.2018

Leafless on a sunny December day

Primrose Hill ii.2017

Leafless on a dull February day

Trees i.2017

Leafless in January

Primrose Hill xi.2015

Still leaved on a foggy November morning

Primrose Hill v.2017

In full leaf on a May morning

Primrose Hill vii.2017

In full leaf in July

Primrose Hill viii.2015

In August during a dry summer

Primrose Hill ix.2016

By September, colours are starting to change

Trees x.2015

… and by October, they have

Looking through the images on the computer, I see that London has provided me with some interesting pictures over the years.

I presume that the one below is there to check up on whether or not I will abide by the self-isolation rules and stay inside for the fortnight …

CCTV reinforcment i.2017

… whereas the one below might be borrowed by local authorities to be used instead of a total lockdown or after total lockdown has come to its end.

No Exit

Some years ago, I came across this [most sensible] sign in a public park in South London …

Dogs

… and then I came across someone sitting by the river near the South Bank Centre who had obviously seen the same, or a similar, sign.

Dog 08.2014

Thinking about the United Kingdom and its problems in these troubled times, one is confronted with the spectre of Brexit and of a recalcitrant Prime Minister who seems intent on breaking international law to “benefit the country” in its negotiations with the EU or to further relegate the UK in the league of nations.

Brexiteers 08 2013

Brexiteers with swords at the ready to defend the motherland for Boris

And the third line of the sign below seems to indicate, this appears to be the Prime Minister’s way of thinking.  Mine is indicated by the upper two lines.

Bollocks viii:2018

Be vigilant

 

One of the plusses of being in an English-speaking country is that I don’t have to translate all the time and my eye is attracted to interesting words I come across almost immediately, words which raise questions as soon as I read them.

So please knock! v.2017

So what should I do?  Just knock?

People endow benches and what they write sometimes makes you stop and think, like this sign affixed to a bench on Primrose Hill.

Signage, Primrose Hill viii. 2015

And we are reminded of climate change and its consequences in many different ways.

Regent's Canal 8.2016

The greening of England.  The Regent’s Canal, London,  August 2016.

And like the trees on Primrose Hill, these windows on Boots Chemists on Oxford Street change with the light, the time of day, the seasons yet are always eye-catching — although you have to remember to look up in order to see them.

Boots windows i.2017

And parallel to Oxford Street, on 23 and 25 Brook Street are two blue plaques that remind us that music is forever — even if the musicians lived 200 years apart!

Music lives forever 2.2017

Finally, London can be very interesting for most people—but if you’re a dog driving around in a van then life can be quite humdrum.

Lockdown ii.2012 1

It’s a dog’s life!

And for those of you to whom it applies, have a great new year 5781.  One would sincerely hope that it has to be a better one than the one just coming to an end.  And to those of you to whom it doesn’t apply. take care of yourselves and by doing that, you’ll be taking care of everyone else as well.

Robin viii. 2015

On Hampstead Heath

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A long hot summer

I was really going to try and make this post free of anything that could be contrived as being a political statement (and in this day and age, that requires some real effort) but events a few nights ago in the neighbourhood have prevented me from so doing.

Vogelman

I had just settled down to watch a recording from the previous evening of the first live concert from the 2020 BBC Proms (performed in a Royal Albert Hall free of an audience, of course) when an almighty din erupted from the street—shouting, screaming, police sirens, and more.  I paused the video and went over to the living room window to discover what was happening. However, other than seeing some of my neighbours with phones attempting to record what was going on, I was not much the wiser.  I could hear police sirens and the street had been blocked and there were voices uttering profanities into a microphone and loudspeakers blaring them out for all and sundry to hear.  Then I noticed several members of the Israel police take up positions close to the house directly opposite.  In retrospect, a police motorcycle had been parked there for an hour or so before but I didn’t put 2 and 2 together.

And then it suddenly dawned on me what must be going on.  One of my neighbours who lives in the house directly opposite, Uzi Vogelman, happens to be one of the 15 justices of Israel’s Supreme Court. A couple of months ago, three people, including a prominent anti-migrant activist, had been detained briefly on suspicion of spray-painting slogans against the Supreme Court outside the home of Chief Justice, the sprayed graffiti reading  “You’ve buried Zionism,” and  “The Supreme Court has destroyed south Tel Aviv.”

Sheffi Paz, an anti-migrant activist, has been campaigning for years against the housing of African migrants, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, in her south Tel Aviv neighbourhood.  In addition to having been arrested for that disturbance, she admitted that she had plastered stickers with the slogan “Jewish blood isn’t cheap” in and around the mailbox of Mr. Vogelman, an act that prompted him to file a complaint with the police. The slogan,  “Jewish blood isn’t cheap” is commonly used by right-wing activists and was an apparent reference to a recent case in which Vogelman, who holds, it seems, liberal views, was part of a court panel that had rejected the demolition of the home of a Palestinian suspect in the killing of yeshiva student in the West Bank last year. Paz’s stickers, marked with reminders of her organization, the “South Tel Aviv Liberation Front”, apparently referred to Supreme Court rulings that had prevented the government from removing migrants from the neighborhood where local residents claim they are a source of violent crime, including rape (although a recent incident of gang rape in a hotel in the southern resort city of Eilat suggests that you don’e have to be black or living in south Tel Aviv to perpetrate rape!)

Uzi Vogelman was one of the judges involved in these rulings, which prompted Paz to say that “We have a lengthy history involving Uzi Vogelman.  It took me some time to find his address, otherwise I would have done it long ago.”  Whereas the almost automatic revanchist reaction of Israel’s right-wing government towards solving the migrant problem was to threaten the migrants with repatriation or just expulsion, the Supreme Court prevented this by stating that a solution must be found that is in line with international norms . 

Immediately following this threatening act against Mr. Vogelman, there’s been a discreet police presence in our neighbourhood, and this became apparent and not so discreet at the first hint of trouble the other night.  I don’t know how many people were involved  in the demo but it was very, very noisy.  However, I can only imagine that there were far fewer people than those who appear close to the Prime Minister’s residences most evenings in Jerusalem and Caesarea, so I imagine what Mr. Netanyahu and his family members must be going through nightly.  My heart bleeds for them and long may it last—but it’s a shame that their unfortunate neighbours have to suffer, too.

The following morning, the footpaths and car windscreens were littered with the poster that appears above and it transpires that the demo was organized by an Israeli NGO, Im Tirtzu, whose stated mission is “to renew Zionist discourse, Zionist thinking and Zionist ideology to ensure the future of the Jewish nation and the State of Israel.”  Whereas some people maintain that Im Tirtzu is an important Zionist movement, there are others who believe that it bears similarities to fascist groups.  Whatever the case, Im Tirtzu has  wide support within the Israeli government, which suggests the latter view is closer to the truth.  Just before the demonstration and the noise faded away about 10.30 p.m., the chant taken up by the mob was “Vogelman is corrupt”, which was repeated over and again.  Given that the Prime Minister of Israel is on trial in three separate cases involving corruption, that he has taken to slandering the judicial system in general, is taking aim at the Supreme Court in particular, and that the government supports Im Tirtzu, one begins to wonder …

*********************

It’s been a long hot summer and there’s still more of it to run.  The flowers outside the house are showing the effects of dehydration, it seems …

Long hot summer

… as does the house below a couple of streets away.  It’s been blistering for a few years already but recently, it seems to have taken a turn for the worse and looks like it needs more than a little work on it!

Paint - 1

************

Out walking in the park one day last week, I took this photograph of parakeets in flight and posted it to Facebook because I thought it was a nice picture.

Green green

I received some “likes” and comment but nobody asked how I managed to catch them all in flight.  A little more astuteness might have provided the answer for it appears as if all the little green birdies are flying in the same direction, away from the photographer with his camera.  And that’s because I had espied these winged creatures happily pecking away between the blades of grass as if nothing untoward might happen to them.  But that didn’t make a particularly dynamic picture and then while I had the camera in hand and the focus more or less right, I decided to shout “Boo!” and four seconds later, the result that is the upper picture of the two was taken.  A little cruel on my part, perhaps, but worth it nevertheless.

Green green 1

Walking home yesterday morning, I found myself walking behind a semi-masked man and his poodle.  There were two things about them that drew me to this picture.  One was the stark contrast between the man with his shaven head and his immaculately coiffured canine.  The other thought that passed through the addled mind of a confirmed cynic was that this picture could easily symbolize the Israeli (or British) Prime Ministers in the company of any one of their ministers.  The faux seriousness of the owner and the friskiness and willingness to obey of the faithful canine? Might I not be correct?

Poodle - 1

 

************

And then one day last week I found myself going through my collections of 42,000+ photos in a futile search for two that I was sure I had taken a couple of years ago but apparently hadn’t.  (You must understand that, like everything else in my possession — papers of various kinds, books, CDs and the like—I start to classify and then usually come the conclusion sorting and filing are absolutely mind-numbing tasks.  The end result is usually partial classification so that whereas I did find several photos taken around the time that I had thought I had taken the ones I was looking for, I didn’t find what I was looking for, probably because I had taken them and then junked them when I reckoned they weren’t up to scratch.

Anyway, what transpired was that I was forced to look at lots of images that I hadn’t seen for a long time and I present some of them here.  The first one resulted, coincidentally, from a question posed by my almost 8-year old granddaughter, Lily, a couple of weeks ago.  She wanted to know if a tuna is a larger fish than a salmon; after all, they both come out of tins that are more or less the same size but as she’s seen a side of salmon, she understood that people must do something to it to get it — and the tuna — into something as small as a tin.

Fortunately, I spent three days just over eight years ago in the fish market in Syracuse, Sicily.  Whereas on the first day, the whole fish was hanging by a hook, the picture below shows the work as it progressed on the second day, on which the fish butcher has not yet got to the stage of cutting steaks, which only occurred on the third day.  So Lily was able to appreciate that a tuna is, indeed, a larger fish than a salmon!

Tuna 1

Then, while going through the photographs, my eye was drawn to this one below so I stopped and looked.  In truth, I couldn’t remember taking it and couldn’t figure out what sort of animal this was …

Biscuits 1

… until I looked at some adjoining pictures and discovered that it was nothing more than a biscuit with eyes and that I’d played around with it!

Biscuits 2

Biscuits

And while looking though the pictures, I realized that I haven’t hung any new pictures on the walls of the flat for several years now as a result of which I’ve ordered four prints for the living room and the bedroom.

The first is “Puppy”, an installation by Jeff Koons outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.  Puppy comprises flowers that grow in an unequal and anarchic way and how s/he appears changes with the seasons and the flowering of the plants of which it is comprised.  This is Puppy as s/he appeared in mid-May 2015.

Koons' puppy

And on that same visit to Bilbao one could not but take a photograph of the Museum itself, designed by Frank Gehry as a ship, in recognition of Bilbao’s history as a port.  Although most photographs are taken from the side of the museum which faces the street, the guidebook told me that the best view was from the other side of the river.  So I crossed to the other side and on the way back, I realized that the best view was actually from the bridge that straddles the river (and which, incidentally, was a physical impediment in the planning of the whole Guggenheim project.)  I just thought that the office block behind the museum, which provided the “funnel” to Gehry’s “ship”, made it into a much better picture that it otherwise would have been.

Gehry's ship 1

The third picture that I ordered was of a sculpture of an “iron baby” by Antony Gormley in the forecourt of the Royal Academy of Arts last December.  I almost missed it, it was so small there, lying on the ground.  The most amazing thing about it was that so many people seemed to treat it as if it was a real baby and were on their hands and knees to stroke it and pet it.  Maybe they thought it was cold; after all, it was December.

Gormley Baby

Finally,  I decided to print a picture I took a couple of years ago on Hampstead Heath in London.  As I walked towards the tree, I was fascinated by the spread of the bare branches so I took several pictures.  However, the colours of the original seemed a little too dull to warrant printing or even posting.  So I decided to spruce the tree up a little (no pun intended; it isn’t that kind of tree) and this is what resulted and it will occupy some blank wall space in the living room.

Heath tree

Finally, just around the corner, there’s a house where one of the residents cut through a tree in order to create sufficient width to park his/her car.  I thought it was worth a picture!

Cut tree

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Monkey Business and all that!

Monkey business

Monkey Business.  Yarqon Park, August 2020

I begin this post on a Sunday afternoon.  I will probably complete it later in the week if and when the Knesset decides whether it should dissolve itself automatically or just hang in there until the next “crisis” is artificially concocted by our so-called elected “representatives”.

The current predicament has been produced by the fact that if a budget is not approved by tomorrow (Monday) at midnight, the Knesset automatically dissolves, presaging new elections.  How has such a situation come about?  After all, a coalition agreement had been signed just a few months ago, following the last election in March (the third in 11 months), and which stated categorically that the budget would be two-year budget, something that the current Prime Minister has pushed for and supported for the past decade or more.

However, suddenly, it seems, he’s changed his mind.  What ever could have brought about such an aberration?  The largest party in the coalition (after Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud) is Blue-White, which is led (sort of) by Mr. Gantz, signed a coalition agreement and is insisting that the agreement it signed (somewhat naïvely, it would seem now, in good faith???) must be upheld; the Prime Minister’s party is equally adamant that if the Knesset refuses to pass a one-year budget, so be it.  On the basis of past “zero hours” in Israeli politics, the likelihood is that about 11.45 p.m. on Monday night, some temporary solution will be found and the crisis will be transmogrified from being acute to one that is ongoing, i.e., until the cycle of lying is has been completed and the scenario repeats itself in a few weeks time.

Could all this somehow be related to the fact that the agreement also contains a clause in which the current Prime Minister (Mr. Netanyahu) and the “alternate” Prime Minister, (Mr. Gantz), agreed to swap jobs a year and half into the life of the current parliament and that once he ceases to be Prime Minister and becomes another minister, however exalted and experienced he may be, he will by law have to resign from the government and thus the last glimmer of hope that he might escape justice by avoiding a trial might be extinguished?  Well, on the basis of past events related to Bibi, perhaps so.

Much of all this nonsense is related to the Israeli electoral system.  I might have mentioned in an earlier post that, cynic as I am, I believe that the vast majority of the 120 Knesset members represent nobody but themselves, least of all the voters, people the likes of which they never have to face on a personal level.

It used to be asked of the late Ariel Sharon, a former Israeli Prime Minister, how one could tell when he was lying, the answer being, of course, “as soon as his mouth was open”.  With the current Prime Minister and Prime Ministerial wannabes during Coronatimes,  now that they all wear masks, it has become more difficult to determine when the untruths begin.

Screen Shot 2020-08-25 at 12.09.55

This is because the electoral system Israel uses continues that employed by the voluntary institutions of the Jewish community under the British Mandate in Palestine in which the extreme proportional system of representation served as a guarantee of cooperation between different political parties. Parties taking part in those voluntary general elections, held before the establishment of the state, were rewarded after each election by receiving a share of the resources (such as British governmental immigration certificates), approximating to the proportion of the valid votes they received so that even some small dogmatic parties cooperated with one another of their own volition.

The roots of the Israeli electoral system, like many other aspects of Israeli society, go back to Central and Eastern Europe in the early years of the twentieth century when the political traditions stressed an “effervescence” of many parties with a broad range among them, stretching from communism to fascism and everything in between. The politics of the Jewish community in British Mandate Palestine, following the tradition of the early Zionist movement reflected this pluralism.

So in order to ensure that all opinions, including minority ones, would be guaranteed expression, representative bodies were elected under a proportional system in which each party had a number of representatives in exact proportion to the number of votes cast for that party so that even parties garnering as little as 1 percent of the total votes would have a voice. This was adopted when Israel gained independence and so it has continued, with just minor changes so that today’s Knesset reflects the heterogeneous population and a multi-party tradition and the only thing that has really changed is that the very low threshold for representation (1%) has risen (to 3.33%).

The “list system” used by Israel is shared with the Netherlands and perhaps some other countries of which I am only vaguely aware.  In other words, when we vote, we do not vote for a candidate representing a party but for a party alone.  If the people on the party list owe allegiance to anybody, then it’s to the paid-up party members who “decide” if they get on to the list in the first place and if so, where they end up on that list.  But unlike the Dutch, we don’t even have the privilege of “promoting” or “demoting” candidates on the list we choose.  It’s a take it or leave it situation — which means that elected members never have to come face to face with the voters at large, something which contributes to the fluidity that comes into being as soon as an election is over, with people switching allegiances as soon as they’re rid of the voters.  This is about as far away as one can get from what the electorate in the USA or the UK are familiar with.

Not that any electoral system is perfect.  Even Boris Johnson’s landslide victory in the UK last December, in which the Conservatives won 56% of the seats, was achieved with less than 44% of the popular vote.  In the USA, despite Donald Trump’s claims otherwise, Hillary Clinton won 48% of the popular vote to Trump’s 46%.  But in both the UK and USA, elected members of parliament or Congress have to go back and face their voters whereas in Israel, voters and their “elected representatives” are that much further removed from one another.

Add to this the fact that Israel has no such thing as postal voting or an absentee ballot — one can only vote in person at the polling booth designated by the address that appears in one’s ID card and the lunacy of calling a fourth election just a few months after the last one, in the midst of coronavirus restrictions seems even madder than it might otherwise appear.  And, as I’ve already mentioned, I believe that the vast majority of  Knesset members really represent nobody but themselves, the voters being little more than irritating appendages.

Anyway, it’s now Tuesday morning, a couple of days after I started this post and it would appear that I was a little out in my estimate of timing because two hours before the deadline the Knesset approved legislation that would extend it the day by which the budget is to be passed by 120 days.  The Prime Minister had appeared on television on  Sunday night to announce that he was ready to compromise (a performance that I didn’t  bother to watch, preferring the highlights of the cricket match between England and Pakistan, something more exciting and less predictable than another Bibi show).  The televised discussion of the Knesset Finance Committee yesterday afternoon had all the value of a circus show with a superabundance of clowns in action.

And the Prime Minister’s words yesterday evening that this is a time for unity and not one for sowing hatred wouldn’t even make it on to a list of the thousand worst jokes told in the last year.  Currently reading Julian Jackson’s book A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle, I came across a sentence that might be appropriate here.  It refers to the extreme-right-wing writer Charles Maurras, whose newspaper Action française was dedicated to opposing France’s parliamentary Republic.  ‘He created for himself a world into which his deafness had imprisoned him. Perhaps that is an explanation for the final aberrations of this solitary individual, who was cut off from the world and because of this became unhinged.’

Enough!  Quite some rant!

Wow!

Wow!  That was quite a rant, wasn’t it?

Hi, there, Kohlrabi

Tel Aviv Municipality has taken to reminding people how they can break the chain of infection — wear a mask, maintain a distance from others of at least 2 metres and be diligent to maintain hygiene, all accompanied by the slogan “The return to normality is in your hands”.

Masks, please

But not everyone is in agreement that masks help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.  The label at the bottom of the picture below taken in the Yarqon Park the other day informs us that masks do no more than defraud the public.

Public fraud

And not far away the birds enjoy their hebdomadary Sunday feast day before the spoilsport cleaner outs an end to it all!

Sunday morning

Avian Feast Day (Sunday in the Park without George)

 

So they might as well vent their anger on parked cars!

Park under a tree, summer in T-A

 

On my way home from my morning walk, I found the footpaths littered with yellow notices.  Curious as to what they might be, I decided to have a look and discovered that for 100 shekels (about $28 or £23) I can be 2 grams of marijuana.  However, I have to be over 18 and must order via WhatsApp.  Delivery is apparently free.

Grass for saleGrass for sale 1

After use, you might need to use one of these!

Defibrillation

And just after I took this photograph of these vehicles of mass annoyance, which, once used, can be (and are) dumped anywhere being returned to their “official” parking places …

Scooter collection

… I espied the latest in summer maternity wear walking along the opposite side of the street.

Maternity wear, summer in T-A

And one day last week I strayed and crossed the Ayalon “river”.  The valley of the Ayalon was mentioned in the Book of Joshua where Joshua defeated five Amorite kings, asking the Lord to lengthen the day by uttering the command: “Sun, stand thou still on Gibeon and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ayalon”.   God seemingly acceded to this request.   These days, the Ayalon is a more mundane thing, with the northbound freeway on the left, the southbound on the right, the railway in the middle and the piddly little Ayalon alongside.

Ayalon

And I couldn’t resist taking this tempting photo in the park of a man awaiting his fate!

Awaiting one's fate

I do not know what fate awaits me

 

And to end with, three images I came across yesterday while looking for something I thought I had photographed but, as usual, I couldn’t find.

 

Pigeons

Let’s stick together.  Belsize Park, October 2011

Hanging in there

Like everyone else, just hanging on in there.  South Bank, London.  August 2015

Nelson

Guess Who’s Looking at You?  Trafalgar Square, March 2014

I love V

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A new normal

Since the arrival of the novel Coronavirus over half a year ago, people have been talking about adjusting to a “new normal” although quite what they mean by a “new normal”, what it will be like and when it will begin to function is anyone’s guess.  Maybe it will start before the end of 2020 or maybe it will be with us until the next decade.  Who knows?

Meanwhile, for me, the term “new normal” has taken a particularly personal twist.  It’s hard to believe that it’s already almost four weeks since I’ve had to come to terms with the concept that I’ll be living alone for the foreseeable future.  Most of the time, I try to get on with things — which means that I try to keep myself occupied, whether it’s exercising or reading or watching TV or writing this blog.  But every now and then my mind slips or someone calls me or writes to me, saying something that causes me to remember things as they were and not as they are or will be.  And when that happens, I think of that beautiful melody composed by Charlie Chaplin as an instrumental theme for the soundtrack of his 1936 film Modern Times on which a song, Smile, (sung here by Nat King Cole to lyrics by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons) was based, and after a few tears, I smile and things brighten up again.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just
Smile

************

The day before yesterday (Monday), it rained in Tel Aviv.

 

Rain in August

Rain in August in the part of the world is so unusual that it warranted a photograph even though what fell in my part of North Tel Aviv was but a few drops.  However, I am reliably informed that 3 km north of where I live, they thought that winter was already on its way (no hope of that being the case—maybe in two or three months) as the heavens really opened with a proper shower.

However, during summer months in Tel Aviv, most of the time the damp comes seeping through from the inside out — even before 07.00 hrs.

07.20 T-A, August

Wet Walker, Yarqon Park. T-A. August 2020

Shoes

Hot enough for shoes!

Others are more relaxed about the heat and the humidity.

8 a.m., Just arrived

Just arrived.  Cigarette still alight at 07.55, Yarqon Park, T-A

Just arrived. Good morning!

Just arrived.  Too tired for a fag at 07.55.  Dizengoff Street, T-A

Everyone to his own

Everyone finds his own comfort zone. 07.30, Yarqon Park, T-A

Exercising?

At first glance, I thought he was exercising. 07.20, Yarqon Park, T-A

Meantime, one topic outweighs all others when you tune in to radio or television or read the newspapers to find out what’s going on — Corona, Corona, Corona.  And in these Corona times, new forms of litter that we hadn’t been familiar with before turn up.

Corona garbage

In fact, masks are everywhere.

Masked men

Even our hydrants are wearing them these days.

Hydra mask

And there are some people who don’t seem to be able to get enough of them!

Masking the truth

Mask, face guard, scarf, gloves, sox and boots — and 30+ºC!

 

I even came across the man finally (after several months without one) tasked with steering Israel through the coronavirus crisis, Ronni Gamzu, (the so-called Corona Czar) in the park on Saturday morning, taking a break from his run to answer what I presume was a Corona-related call on his phone.  As he ran past me a few minutes later, I noticed that he was maskenfrei, which I thought a little odd as I’d only seen him on TV a couple of days earlier explaining to the population at large why it was necessary to enshroud one’s face.  But it was explained to me later by someone who takes an interest in these things that when running, masks are not required.

Gamzu

Why a mask is not a requisite when jogging but is necessary when walking is yet another of the less than logical mysteries of these Corona times.  However, it is not as big a mystery as explaining how, when interior gatherings are [supposedly] restricted to 10 or 20 people, thousands of guests, many of them without masks and many of them failing to observe anything resembling social distancing attended a wedding in the central study hall of the Belz Hasidic community in Jerusalem last week, blatantly violating the ban on gatherings imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.  Though the police apparently turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the contravention at the time, it was later reported that they had decided to open a criminal investigation into the proceedings. 

The Mayor of Jerusalem reportedly accused critics of the shenani-gangs who attended the wedding shenanigans of hypocrisy, stating that mass demonstrations outside the Prime Minister’s residence have not been met with similar condemnation.  But then, why should they?  Social distancing and masking have been observed to a large extent at these demonstrations, which are an essential part of living in a democracy.  Perhaps His Honour, the mayor, was unfamiliar with the fact that demonstrations against the Prime Minister and his alleged corruption have been taking place all over the country and for several weeks now—and not just outside the Prime Minister’s residence. 

Moreover, the demonstrators are not “leftists” or “anarchists”, whatever these terms are supposed to mean beyond disagreeing with or disapproving of the man himself and his policies. Nor are they “aliens” (a turn of phrase used by the unemployed 29-year old Mr. Netanyahu junior, the Prime Minister’s self-appointed (or mom-appointed?) friend in need) but mostly by people who have been out of work for half a year with little or no compensation from government, while the Knesset passed a law awarding Mr. Netanyahu over a quarter million dollars retroactively for renovations to his private home in Caesarea—and this is a man whose net worth was estimated by Forbes magazine last year at approximately $14 million!  “Bad timing”, he was reported to have said at the time. Perhaps the demonstrators feel that the politicians are just playing games and lining their own pockets, and they’d be right.

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Three-quarters of the Carmel String Quartet among thousands of non-alien demonstrators outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, Jerusalem,  11/viii/2020. (Photo: Maxim Reider)

And although the picture below is what I see when I look out of my living room each morning and I know that it’s a poster than calls for a demand for an inquiry into alleged corrupt practices, I don’t like to be constantly reminded visually through an image of the man who is manhandling the country and its institutions in order to keep himself out of prison.

Corruption

And while on this loathsome subject, I will repeat what I wrote in a post at the start of 2020.  When Netanyahu’s immediate predecessor as Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, had been indicted on counts of obtaining by fraud under aggravating circumstances, fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate documents, and tax evasion, the then Leader of the Opposition, a man by the name Binyamin Netanyahu, said in a live television interview that he believed that he (Olmert) should resign, making it very clear that he thought that in such a situation, the Prime Minister had no moral mandate to continue serving in office. He said: “We are dealing with a prime minister who is up to his neck in criminal cases”For good measure, he added that Olmert would be “so preoccupied with the investigations against him that he had to withdraw because the weight of the criminal prosecution hanging above him might influence him not to make decisions that are in the best interest of the nation and that he might place his own personal considerations above those of the nation!” 

Well, well well!  How the time and the same man have changed!  And today (Wednesday), there was a debate in the Knesset over whether there should be legislation to prevent a person indicted on criminal offences from being allowed to form a government.  The main coalition partner led by Mr. Gantz chose not to aattend the session and the motion was defeated.  Surprise, surprise?!  And it looks like Israeli might be headed towards its fourth election in a year and half.

When one looks at things objectively (if such a thing were possible in Israeli politics) it’s not exactly a flattering accolade in favour of Israel’s already stained society that such a person, a man who regularly spreads the gospel of divisiveness and hatred, heads the government and at the first available opportunity, will try to legislate a way out of his ongoing trial.  I can understand why the man doesn’t want so spend several years in prison (after all, we’ve had a former President, former Prime Minister, and former Finance Minister, among others who’ve been there, so he knows what awaits him).  He could sign a plea bargain but that would be admitting guilt.  For several years his mantra had been “They’ll find nothing because there’s nothing to find!” but after they found something, the mantra changed to “Everybody’s against me and it’s personal” — the police, prosecution service, the press, the judiciary, so in order to keep out of jail, I’ll dismantle the state by hook or by crook (with emphasis on the latter word, please).  It really does beggar belief

And, of course, the root of all this skulduggery is the determination to stay in power, fuelled by the blind fealty of the spineless lackeys and flunkeys who surround the Prime Minister, people who never have to face the voters and answer to them directly as individuals, such are the vagaries of the Israeli electoral system. Perhaps I’ll write something about Israeli politicians and the electoral system in a future post but enough of this for the moment.

Getting away from Coronavirus and politics is this country is difficult.  Nevertheless, a  visit to the Friday Farmers’ Market at Tel Aviv Port always yields colourful images.

SweetsSweets 1

Go, Man, Go

Go, Man, Go!

But can it really be this colourful?  Really!?

In public?

Can he really be doing what he seems he might be doing?

And the route through the park en route to the Farmers’ Market is also hardly devoid of worthy images .

Cat

Just checking that you’re on your way!  I’ll keep an eye on the house for you!

Deep end

One, two, three—and off we go!

CactusBrick wallBoat

Boat on river

And en route home, construction work.

Construction

And so ends my first post with a “political”body to it, written without a constraining voice to keep me out of trouble.  I hope I haven’t overdone it!

Schumann

This vehicle belonged to Robert and Clara Schumann

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A Brave New World

My previous post on this blog, which I wrote a fortnight ago, was the first one that I had posted in the nearly five years this blog has been active that Vivien hadn’t read before it went up and out.  And now that she’s no longer here to warn me diplomatically when my emotions got the better of me, as they often did, I have to get used to the idea that I am now my own critic and censor. Like many other things, it ain’t going to be easy.

Married just a month short of 54 years, best friends for longer than  that, 62 years of togetherness have come to an end and I will just have to get on with life, as best I can, on my own.  As my late mother told me 25 years ago, a week after my father passed away, it’s too easy to sink.  She just said in her matter-of-fact way that she had to be like all the other people she saw on the street and get out and do normal things; the following day she registered for bridge classes and never looked back, playing three or four days a week with different groups.  I’m not going to take lessons in playing bridge (my mother also informed me that I didn’t have a “card-playing brain”) but I will find other things to do.

It has been a weird few weeks. For starters, it had been perhaps over 10 years since such a long time had gone by without my shooting a single photograph with a camera although I took a small number with the phone’s camera—but really very few.  The extended photo break was, of course, caused by the fact that for most of the period  from July 2 to July 18, I was ensconced in a chair beside a bed in a ward in Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv during daylight hours, while the doctors tried to identify and locate the source of some nasty bacteria that had decided to come to life inside Vivien’s body.  Unfortunately, even after a fortnight  of “investigation” they didn’t succeed and the end came after an unfortunate piece of negligence on the part of one of the nurses as a result of which she survived less than 24 hours.

Notwithstanding the outcome of the events, it’s always an interesting experience to observe the goings-on in hospitals.  Some years ago, while in London for a short stay, the same lady found herself with a lung infection and was treated at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, an event which extended our planned short stay in the U.K. by a fortnight, something that appealed to me even if the circumstances of the prolongation were far from ideal.  During the few days in hospital and in the five or six days following discharge, there were visits from doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and others who treated her, in hospital and at home.  I counted 16 different people who looked after her (not including ancillary staff such as cleaners and the like). The treatment was highly professional and that was to be expected. However, what really struck me then was that all but two of these professionals originated outside the U.K.  That was long before Brexit “got done” and it does make one think.  And here we are in Israel, which is sometimes (and more frequently than in the past) referred to as a willing successor to South Africa as the apartheid state and, indeed, there are many things that once can criticize in this country.  Yet when I looked around me at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, I saw a group of medical staff working together as a team.  It made no difference whether they were Jewish, Muslim or Christian, whether they were secular or religious, whether they were native born or immigrants from the former USSR or Ethiopia, they worked as one and gave the best treatment they could.  It is a side of Israel that the foreign media never if ever report on or are wilfully ignorant of but which exists in every hospital and healthcare clinic in this country.

Vivien passed away early on Saturday morning July 18.  Our son, Dov, arrived from London two days earlier, ostensibly to spend 14 days in self-isolation and the third week with Vivien.  He managed to speak with her on the phone after he arrived, travelling to my sister to quarantine in Northern Israel.  However, he didn’t succeed in seeing his mother in person.  Neither did our daughter Shuli who had emerged from self-isolation around the same time, having been required to quarantine when a classmate of her 9-year old daughter had been diagnosed with Covid-19, an event which required all the Grade 3 kids in the school and their parents to hide themselves away for the duration.  Shuli managed to see Vivien the evening before she died but by that time she got to the hospital, Vee was already on a ventilator.

We arranged the funeral for Monday as Dov needed to receive permission to leave his place of quarantine in order to be with us.  Permission was granted and he also received authorisation to continue his period of self-isolation in Tel Aviv.  We were restricted to a maximum of 18 attendees at the funeral so after we had accounted for immediate family, I had the task of choosing from among friends and relatives and that was not at all n easy task.

As we assembled prior to the interment, I asked the representative of the Burial Society what was permitted in the ceremony prior to burial.  Expecting to be told that one could only do this and definitely not that, I was pleasantly surprised when his response was “Whatever you want.  We respect the wishes of each family.”  I asked if we could have music and again he responded that there was no problem and then when I asked if a woman would be permitted to sing (hearing a woman’s voice is a no-no among many religious Jews), I discovered that this was simply a non-issue.

So I delivered a eulogy, which concluded with the words from the end of  Dido’s Lament from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, a piece of music that Vivien loved

“When I am laid in earth, may my wrongs create
No trouble … in thy breast.
Remember me, remember me, but ah! Forget my fate.

And as I finished, three friends of Shuli and Tami, Rachel Ringelstein (vocal), accompanied by Tali Goldberg (violin) and Yael Patish-Comforty (viola) performed the aria. (The video above is of the same aria but, obviously, performed by others elsewhere.)

 

A SENSE OF AN ENDING. Vee Eulogy

Dov composed a special piece for Vivien and then all three of our children delivered their own words, followed by  an old friend and neighbour from Haifa, Sammy Beris.

And then, to everybody’s surprise, Shuli produced a bluetooth speaker and we listened as a friend and colleague of Shuli’s, Maya Belsitzman (cello, vocals and arranger), with Matan Ephrat (drums), Tali Goldberg and Sharon Cohen (violins) and Shuli herself (viola) belted out Vivien’s signature tune, When You’re Smiling, from a concert performed earlier this year at the Israel Jazz Festival while all 18 of us present sang along with gusto.

After the funeral, the shivah, the seven-day mourning period began and ended last Sunday morning with a large family hug and tears.  It was an “interesting” week.  The apartment filled up with a constant stream of musicians and both Dov and I had friends, neighbours and former colleagues visit as well.  Shivah is truly a wonderful institution.

Although I stopped being a regular synagogue attender a long time ago (The Almighty and I stopped speaking to one another some years ago) I find reciting the kaddish, the prayer for the departed, a catharsis.  As an old acquaintance from Dublin, Mashey Bernstein, a person whom Vivien and I hosted half a century ago in Los Angeles when he arrived to become a graduate student and later a faculty member in the Writing Program at UC Santa Barbara, reinventing himself in the process, wrote in an article published in The Jewish Chronicle after his mother died nearly 30 years ago, “The kaddish has a peculiar effect on people.  Recalcitrant sons who have not stepped inside a synagogue for years suddenly appear three times a day to recite the prayer.  Those who had bad relations with their parents weep profusely as they utter the words.  For loving children, it offers comfort and consolation.  Whatever the case, reciting the words [in Aramaic], the formula, the mantra, unites the child in some primeval way with tradition, with the voices of equally bereft children who have recited the words over thousands of years.  With their recitation, they find peace.”  And what Mashey wrote about children and their parents is equally true of husband and wife.  When I recite the kaddish, it’s not the meaning of the words that I react to but to the rhythm of the words and the responses.  This is what causes the memories to flood and the emotions to flow.

Immediately after Vivien’s passing and before the shivah began at 10.00 each morning, I decided that the best way to begin the healing process would be to try to return to what I’d been doing almost every day day for the previous 12 years, and that is to go for a morning walk, camera in hand.

First in a fortnight

Smile! (My first photograph in almost a fortnight (Outside the house on Stricker St., T-A)

Other family members did different things then and in the days of corona lockdown that had preceded it.  Tami took to water-colour painting and found it extremely relaxing and soothing.

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Gali, aged 9, enjoyed drawing and also started to paint so that Vivien was able to view the painting below each day she was in the hospital as I had taped it to the end of her bed.

Gali's bird

Shuli, meanwhile, was working on her iPad drawing skills and decided to teach herself animation.  She took a story that Vivien had written for children over 20 years ago, set to a short piece of music for string quartet, Polka, by Dmitri Shostakovich and decided to animate it.  Vivien managed to hear and see the first two minutes of it but Shuli didn’t manage to finish it before she died.  She posted it to YouTube and sent the link to Facebook friends, so in a way, lots more people managed to enjoy it than Vivien would have ever imagined and that would have made her extremely happy.  (Shuli worked on the Hebrew version first and then I discovered on Viv’s laptop that there was also an English version, so that went up, too.  The Hebrew version is slightly better quality.)

 

Like everywhere else, live performances have vanished from the scene. However, just a couple of days after Vivien was hospitalized, Shuli performed in the first of what was planned as a mini-festival of three concerts during the first week of July at the Israel Conservatory of Music down the street.  The auditorium was about 60% full of masked people sitting at a socially acceptable distance from one another and she managed to perform in a Haydn string quartet (Op. 33 #1) and the Brahms piano quintet.  However, the following day, the cabinet or the government or the minister (nobody really knew at the time who was making decisions or why) decided that all halls should be closed and that was the end of that.

Haydn Op. 33 (1))

Haydn, Op. 33#1.  Daniel Bard & Sergei Bressler (violins), Shuli Waterman (viola) and Michal Korman (cello)

Brahms Quintet - 1

Brahms Piano Quintet.  Yael Karet ((piano), Daniel Bard & Sergey Bressler (violins), Shuli Waterman (viola) and Michal Korman (cello)

Then, two days before the end came, I managed to attend the rehearsal of a twice-cancelled concert by the Carmel Quartet, entitled Baroque Avant-Garde.  The quartet had decided to record the concert the following day and send it to series subscribers in a few weeks’ time.  I would have liked to have been able to attend the recording session at the Conservatory the following day but the timing was off for at just about the same time as it was about to start, all hell had broken loose at the hospital.  Tami heard the news after the session had come to an end.

Cello

Tami Waterman, cellist, Carmel Quartet. 

Theorbo 1

Ophira Zakai, theorbo.  Guest of Carmel Quartet

Trio Sonata

BAROQUE AVANT-GARDE in rehearsal : Rachel Ringelstein & Tali Goldberg (violins), Yizhar Karshon (harpsichord), Ophira Zakai (theorbo)

After two weeks in quarantine and two free days, Dov has returned to London to his own family to yet a further fortnight of quarantine.  He was great company while he was here but I have to get used to something else.

Thus I enter a new phase of life, a “Brave New World”.  After 62 years of togetherness and almost 54 years of married life, I have to become used to living alone.  It won’t be easy but my mother is my model in that regard.  “Keep busy; it’s too easy to sink!”, so I will find lots of things to do.  I have to — there’s really no alternative.

I can only hope that Vee would have approved of what I’ve written this time around and that I haven’t committed too many errors of judgement or indiscretions!

 

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Vivien Waterman (1.vi.1945 – 18.vii.2020)

I haven’t been in the mood for posting on the blog over the past couple of weeks.  This was because I was spending most of my daytime hours beside a bed in Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv while Vivien battled with an enigmatic bacterial infection.  Her wonderful carer, Arneath Cruzat, did the same at night.

Yesterday morning she was removed to an intensive care ward, put under sedation and on a ventilator after an accidental and unfortunate incident involving asphyxiation.  She was on the ventilator for about 20 hours but at 8 a.m. on Shabbat morning, she passed away.  The only comfort is that at least she is now at rest and no longer in discomfort and pain.

Vee

Vivien, photographed by Lily Waterman (age 6), 2019

Vivien was a most positive person, always an optimist, even over the 14 months during which she was mostly confined to a wheelchair.  In 54 years of marriage, she seldom had a day that was free of discomfort, pain, illness — but rarely complained and there was always that smile that lit up the room.

I can only describe it as a privilege to have been married to this brave, warm, talented and extremely imaginative person for almost 54 years and to have been her best friend for even longer than that, from when we were 13 and in the same school class at Stratford College in Dublin.

One of our oldest friends from Haifa, Irma Zaslansky, wrote to me the following a few hours ago:

EXTRAORDINARY…VIVIEN

Extraordinary in her ability to love and be loved…
Extraordinary in her care for others, always…
Extraordinary in her musical talents…singing, playing, teaching
Extraordinary in her creativity …art, ceramics, stories…
Extraordinary in her appreciation of everything around her….
Extraordinary in her grace in difficult times. in suffering…
Extraordinary in her acceptance of what life offers…
Extraordinary in her role as mother and wife…
Extraordinary in her friendship and generosity…
Extraordinary in her smile and repeated assurance:”not too bad, thanks”…
An extraordinary person with an extraordinary husband and extraordinary children. 
You will be greatly missed.
Irma managed to say it all in 12 lines.
I will miss her—we all will miss her—deeply.
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What day is it?

Last week, I thought that our refrigerator problem had been sorted when a third technician arrived and got it working again.  It behaved itself for all of eight days when the problem returned (i.e., the refrigerator was not refrigerating!).  I called the company with which our electrical appliances are insured as soon as I noticed that the issue had returned but once more, it was a Friday and it was after 12.30 p.m. so there was nobody to talk to until Sunday morning.

Sunday morning came and I was informed that the earliest they could send someone was Thursday afternoon between 4 and 6 in the afternoon, and all my remonstrations over the fact that I was not talking about a dishwasher or a vacuum cleaner but about a refrigerator in a period when summer had arrived in  Tel Aviv were to no avail. Late Thursday afternoon in Israel actually means that if things don’t work out, I would be back at Square One and telephoning again on a Sunday morning and so on.  So I did what any “self-respecting” person does these days and performed a Google search.  The googled technician turned up an hour and a half later, and the fridge was ready to work again after it had been through another 48-hour unplugged “rest period” .  I turned it on on Wednesday morning and it worked perfectly — for five days this time before it chilled out again.  Monday, I purchased a new fridge, due to be delivered within the hour.

At least it kept my mind off coronavirus and blasted politicians for a week.  A month ago, things here in Israel were beginning to look up.  Many children were back in school, businesses were beginning to reopen and more recently, theatres, concert halls and wedding halls were given the green light even if alongside many restrictions concerning maximum numbers, social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.  However, it nows looks as if things might be about to change following an upturn in the number of new cases recorded three or four weeks ago, which has gathered pace so that yesterday, according the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, there were 7,096 currently infected patients, 46 in serious condition, up from just over 2,000 just a few weeks ago and it appears that we are now at the start or in the midst of a second wave, all of which means that I’m still going to be asking the question “What day is today?” for a while to come yet.

 

And what day is today is a question I’m asking myself more frequently as todays meld into tomorrows and this week melts into next week.  I returned to Tel Aviv and a fortnight of quarantine over three months ago but it might as well be six months or a year or more as far as I’m concerned.  There’s a daily routine which involves an hour and half or so in the mornings observing the urban landscape and taking photographs but there’s no real weekly routine and when there’s no routine, the days and weeks just slip away.

I try to avoid the news as far as that’s possible.  Five or six minutes at 6 or 7 in the morning is as much as I need to hear and even then, the first item is more than likely to concern Covid-19—how many new infections, how many total infections, how many seriously ill, how many on respirators, how many have died and occasionally, but very occasionally, a statistic on how many have actually recovered. Five minutes of radio in the morning means that I don’t have to listen to the gobbledegook spewed out by politicians whose main concern seems to be how to get themselves appointed to government, re-elected or staying out of prison even if it means destroying the police and judiciary in so doing. Having just written what I’ve written, the British Prime Minister, the former leader of the ELO (English Liberation Organization) doesn’t have to worry about elections for a while yet unless he screws things up completely, which is entirely possible.  He seems to be learning the hard way, like many other leaders of national liberation movements, that governing a country is a different ball game from getting a crowd worked up about desperation and independence from an oppressor.

But even Boris has his feet more firmly on the ground than his American dingbat counterparts who seem to inhabit a planet of their own, isolated from what is taking place on Planet Earth.  First we had the President guy, having failed in his efforts to make Americans drinka-pinta-bleach-a-day, telling his MAGA people that he had told his guys to go easy on Corona testing because the more you test, the more cases you’e going to find—and if they find more cases then the world’s smartest person might have to shoulder some blame and that might hinder further his already handicapped prospects of reelection.  In that case I would strongly recommend that testing should be greatly accelerated.

This message was restated by the Vice-President later in the week when we heard him telling the people that total victory is assured and everything will be hunky-dory by Christmas; all they have to do is pray.  There he stood, telling all and sundry that up was down, that square was round and the all-time high of daily coronavirus infections in the United States was as much proof as was needed to show that the curve had been streamrollered completely flat.  There he was, without any face covering because, presumably, that would be a sign of weakness, giving his first coronavirus task force briefing in nearly two months telling the world that “we have made truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward” without a hint of irony that he might not actually believe the fact that two-and-a-half million Americans had been infected and over 125,000 had already died from Covid19, the worst figures on Planet Earth.  “As we stand here today,” went on the man who isn’t worth tuppence,  “all 50 states and the territories across this country are opening up safely and responsibly.”

America’s shame, I would call it, except that I doubt whether that particular word is part of the President’s itty-bitty wordbook and if it is there somewhere, even if someone took the time to explain its meaning, (definition: “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour”) I wonder whether he is actually capable of understanding its meaning!

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I’ve also managed to take some photographs over the past fortnight or so.  Many of you will be familiar with my photographs of fire hydrants, many of which, to my somewhat addled mind, resemble faces.  Then, in the last post, as my mind wandered and the door of the freezer was left open, I observed a smiling face in the shape of two freezer drawers.  This week, I baked some scones and because one of my granddaughters asked if I could make some with chocolate chips rather than raisins, I divided the dough into two parts with the result being that the raisins were insufficiently absorbed into the dough.  That didn’t stop us consuming them and when there were only two left, I turned around and looked at what remained and discovered that one had stuck out his tongue at me and was smiling.  So I did what any normal person would do—I ate him.

Scone smile

Out in the park, this egret was taking its bow for the applause it had received for its latest work of art entitled: “All my own work—Black and White”.  …

Take a bow

… Actually, it looks even better when it’s all black & white.

B&W is my speciality

Whereas the egret above is an artist (of sorts), the one below was driving the the angler crazy, walking from right-hand side to left and back in the hope of receiving a morsel of fish to eat.  But no luck today for either angler or egret.

Egret and angler

Notwithstanding, it’s a pretty bird, indeed.

egret

In addition to the birds, there also dogs all over the place.  This one below was taking it easy in the sun just around the corner and I thought that it was worth a photograph…

Taking the sun

…whereas his friend below was also taking it easy while being transported around the park.

Man & Dog

Just before I reached the port area, I came across this canine and truth is that although I knew it was a dog I wasn’t entirely sure that it was…

Whippet???

… and then before I had rounded the corner to enter the port. I came across the following and for some reason, I immediately thought to myself “Laurel and Hardy”.

There but for the grace of God go I

Masks, of course, are all the rage at the moment and it seems as if we have finally passed some critical point at which most people walking through the park are wearing one and almost everyone walking the streets definitely is.

Payiss

Mind you, you come across reminders here and there, not all of them as large and loud as this one on Nordau Boulevard.

A reminder

All masked up

What a funny place for a mask.  Yehoshua Ben-Nun Street, Tel Aviv

Masking up

Masking up.  Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

However, not everyone uses a mask (or a visor) in the way intended.  The individual below literally walked across my field of vision a couple of weeks ago.  I really didn’t have time to compose the photo and just clicked and hoped for the best.  As happens on occasion, a caption springs to mind at exactly the same time and this one, I thought was appropriate.  During these Covid-19 days, PPE was much in the news as hospitals ran short of Personal Protection Equipment.  This guy had obviously reinterpreted the acronym.

How did he do it?

Man with PPE (Personal Pollution Equipment).  Tel Aviv Port, June 2020

And just a few metres from where I photographed him I found the following three pictures at the Friday morning farmers’ market, which can always be counted upon to provide colours and appetizers.

Friday market

Friday market 1Friday market Cherry tomators

And while on the subject of colours, my daughters and granddaughters took a couple of days off last week and, among other things, went cherry-picking.  The cherries this year are the like of which I can’t remember in all the time I’ve been in Israel!

What day is today? - 4What day is today? - 3

There’s still time to photograph things in and around the house.  The one below was outside the kitchen window one day last week.

From the kitchen window

And, of course, there’s also time for some more abstract creations.

Now you see it - 1legs5

Finally, things are on the way back to normal in fits and starts.  The I Love T-A sign below in the port only a few weeks ago was reminding us about social distancing and masking up.

I Love T-A social

Last week, it was reminding us that it was Gay Pride time again.

Gay TLV

Finally, with all the news about hatred and hate speech in the news lately, it’s worth listening to these lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II once more.

 

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