Figs, Sausages, and Kermit the Frog

What does one do when one has decided that four hours or more in a synagogue on Jewish New Year is beyond what one can take at this particular stage in one’s life?  Well, besides visiting friends and relatives and eating far too much, one can sit at home and read.

This year, I managed two novels—both of them novels and not works of history although either might have been perceived as just that.  The one, The Vixen,  by Francine Prose is based on the story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were sent to the electric chair in 1953 for passing American atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.  The story centres around Ethel and is told by a young Jewish editor for a New York publishing company, a Harvard graduate refused a recommendation by his Harvard mentor to pursue graduate studies at the University of Chicago, and who has been given the job of editing a dreadfully conceived and awfully written novel about the affair, which, he discovers was composed by his uncle, his boss’s secretary, and his boss, who is a CIA operative, as was his Harvard mentor.  He — and the woman who was to become his wife and who had been formerly employed by the same publisher—both believe that Ethel was set up and are amazingly given a free hand by the authors to edit (i.e., rewrite) the novel and manage to have it published in its re-written form to the ire of the CIA and the detriment of the publishing house, which is forced to destroy remaining copies of the book and eventually goes bankrupt .  Compulsive reading and all 319 pages read in a single day.  Ann Sebba’s new biography of Ethel, the woman executed allegedly for espionage, now awaits.

The second novel of the holiday season, by Elif Shafak, someone who has become one of my favourite authors, was her latest, The Island of Missing Trees.  It is a novel about a “mixed marriage” involving two Cypriots, Defne, a Turkish Muslim woman and Kostas, a Greek Orthodox man, who have lived in London with their 16-year old daughter, Ada, born when they were in their 40s.  As the story develops, one learns that they were two teenage lovers who would meet at a taverna owned by a gay couple, one Greek and the other Turkish, the only place in Nicosia where they could meet in secret and in the centre of which, growing through a cavity in the roof, is a fig tree.  And as the story develops, Kostas flees to London in 1974 at the outbreak of the inter-communal violence on the island and the invasion of Northern Cyprus by the Turkish army, compelled to do so by his mother, who has already lost two sons that year.  He leaves only to return after a 25 year absence as an academic botanist of some repute where he meets Defne again.

But it is the fig tree that witnesses their hushed meetings and their silent, clandestine departures and the fig tree is there, too, when civil war breaks out in 1974 and Nicosia is reduced to rubble, and when the teenage romance suddenly ends. But almost 30 years later, Kostas the botanist returns, looking for native species but really searching for Defne who he finds through a mutual acquaintance and they decide to marry and to live in London. The taverna has been destroyed but the fig tree remains and they return to take a clipping from the fig tree, put it into their suitcase and smuggle it bound for London.  Years later, the fig tree in the London garden is the only knowledge that Ada has of a home she has never visited, as she seeks to untangle years of her parents’ secrets and silence and find her place in the world.  In this, she is helped by the arrival for a visit in London of Meryem, her mother’s recently divorced elder sister who takes it upon herself to inculcate her heritage into her niece’s consciousness.

Much of the story is related by the fig tree and that is what makes the story magical, for the fig tree has heard and seen everything over a period of almost half a century, and in the course of doing so describes all the living things that have visited the tree over the years — butterflies and moths, mice and birds— and discusses the differences between fig trees and other tree species, asking the question in one way or another of whether plants as well as animals have memories.  For that is what this book is about.  It’s a novel about memory and remembering, just as Ms. Shafak’s previous book, 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World, about a murdered sex worker in Istanbul whose body was found in a filthy bin by a group of four scavenging teenagers, is in the end a book about friends and friendship.

However, on the first page of the book, as I started to read, I sat up quite suddenly.  This was because, in another life, I was a geographer and I wish I could have written what Elif Shafak managed to write in just 61 words:

“A map is a two-dimensional representation with arbitrary symbols and incised lines that decide who is to be our enemy and who is to be our friend, who deserves our love and who deserves our hatred and who, our sheer indifference.

Cartography is another name for stories told by winners.

For stories told by those who have lost, there isn’t one.”

The Island of Missing Trees is such as well-constructed story and is beautifully written.  Every now and then, there is something that the reader reads that either strikes a chord or that you’d never thought of before, such as this, which appears on p.34:

“It is a curse, an enduring memory. When elderly Cypriot women wish ill upon someone, they don’t ask for anything blatantly bad to befall them.  they don’t pray for lightning bolts, unforeseen accidents or sudden reversals of fortune.  They simply say: ‘May you never be able to forget.  May you go to the grave still remembering.’

 

And now from the sublime to the ridiculous.

One morning last week, listening to the BBC news headlines on Radio 4, we got the following story after which I discovered that it had also appeared in the newspapers.  In the Sunday Times, it appeared under the headline: “Too much sausage, not enough dog” and it concerned the announcement from the Kennel Club, that arbiter of standards in the canine world, that as dachshunds have become more popular, their sausage-shaped bodies and stubby legs are getting too long and they are moving too close to the ground as they are being being bred shorter and longer, presumably to meet popular demand.  As a result of this lack of canine consideration on the part dog breeders, guidance has been updated with the Kennel Club providing new rules to breeders in order to give the sausage dogs more ‘ground clearance’.  So if dachshunds had been suffering, they need suffer no longer.  Help is on the way!

The Kennel Club said the rise in popularity of dachshunds had created a trend for the dogs to be as long-bodied and short-legged as possible, because the exaggerations were ‘perceived as cute’

And then I decided that even if I am not in synagogue, I might one day be called upon to blow a shofar, a ram’s horn, an instrument which is tootled several times during the synagogue service on Jewish New Year.  I once tried to get a sound from a clarinet and failed miserably so I thought a master-class might be due—and as a result of my search and research, I have been schooled in the art of shofar-blozzing.

Last week, I took myself to Tate Britain to two exhibitions — one by J. M. W. Turner and the other by Mark Rothko.  I always find Turner’s painting and especially his seascapes and his use of light stunning …
… but I have a problem with Rothko, whose work I first saw years ago at an exhibition at Tate Modern.  I couldn’t make head nor tail of it then and I wasn’t any better off last week in that regard.  Some years ago, I remember watching a documentary on Rothko where he seemed to spend much of his time in his studio looking at his paintings.  Were I to spend several hours a day looking at large canvases ranging from black to deep mauves, purples and blues, I think I might have become somewhat depressed and on learning that the artist committed suicide, I wan’t entirely surprised—although I imagine that there might have been other factors involved, too.
But then there are others who don’t pay too much attention to what’s around them and just get on with their job!
The gallery operates a one-way system during these corona times and I lost my way looking for these two exhibitions but I managed to find a Tate employee and asked how to get there and the answer I got was: “Turn left at the Epstein and then continue straight.”  So I did just that.
Exiting the gallery and walking across Lambeth Bridge before turning to stroll along the river to Waterloo Bridge, I discovered that tourists have not quite entirely vanished from the London scene.  They’re there but it seems that there are fewer of them.
And then, on reaching Waterloo, and taking the bus back home, I noticed that there are just so many things to remember to do and not to do — and to take heed of — on a London bus.
And while on the bus home, a new passenger got on and sitting opposite me, she seemed to drift into deeper and deeper thought — and not necessarily happier thoughts, it would seem.
The view from Primrose Hill one morning last week was misty, to say the least …
… but I found that the notice that has appeared at each of the entrances to the park to be disturbing.
Still, during daylight hours, there’s room for everyone …
… as indeed there seemed to be the case in Golders Green.
 
And then, one morning early last week, while walking northward along Finchley Road from Golders Green Station and looking across the street, I thought I had finally discovered bliss …
… only to find as I jumped for joy and then skipped a a few steps further on that it was nothing more than a place to treat any injuries should I have had the misfortune to fall while jumping for joy!😅
One day, I will eventually get around to photographing the many personal notices attached to the benches on Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath.  Not all of them are as lacking in modesty as this one, though.
And then last week I passed a street sign directing me to the place pictured below and thought for a few seconds that it might have been rented out by Facebook as a place where friends can actually get together in person.
And walking around Hampstead, where there are English Heritage plaques aplenty (Henry Moore is few doors up the street and Piet Mondrian is on the opposite side), a new one was installed last week.  I had no idea that the Muppets were anything but American but it turns out that they were conceived in Hampstead, where their creator, Jim Henson, lived.  And the result? Another new plaque, of course.  Quite what The Muppets might have to do with English heritage is a bit beyond me but who am I to question the decisions of those wiser than me?
Finally, two pictures from Friday morning.  I took this one near South End Green at 08.50 hrs. of a seemingly homeless couple on the pavement amidst the dirt and squalor of Hampstead before the street cleaners arrived (they were on their way).  Yet I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.  And this is post-Brexit London in 2021!
Finally, when one is out with a camera, one is constantly on the lookout for things that stand out (at least I am!) — and here was one of them!
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Five years and eight months on — and still at it!

 

I don’t usually behave like this—but it’s the pink hair that turned me into a gorilla—instantly.  Camden Market, London

Little did I contemplate, let alone realise, that when I started posting to this blog five years and eight months ago I would still be doing it in 2021.  I had written a blog years ago—very intermittently—but stopped when Apple scrapped the application I had been using and with which I had more or less familiarised myself.

But then I read a blog post written by a person I didn’t know and who had undergone a serious operation in which he described several things that had been happening to him. On reading that, I decided to start using the application that he had used and found it easy-peasy. I had actually wanted to restart the blog as for several years, I had been getting out and about most mornings either in Tel Aviv or London.  In Tel Aviv, “out and about” usually meant the Yarqon Park and Tel Aviv Port, returning home via the streets of North Tel Aviv, with occasional forays elsewhere.  In London, it was a similar story — south to Primrose Hill, sometimes through to The Regent’s Park and into the West End, sometimes east and north to Hampstead Heath.  I almost always carried a camera with me on these walks, noticing and noting the many and varied activities going on while taking lots of photographs. However, l became increasingly frustrated by my inability to disseminate these images. For a time, I sent email attachments to friends and acquaintances but that was hardly adequate.  Now and then, I posted a picture or two to Facebook but as I have no desire to be inundated daily with hundreds of posts, I limit the number of my Facebook friendships to a quantity I can deal with (more or less).  

And then I remembered that in June 2014, I had given a seminar in the Department of Geography at the University of Haifa entitled: “The changing eyes of a human geographer: How being a geographer has influenced what I photograph and how to do it”.  I had intended it as a “serious” seminar, one that I might work on and convert into a paper (I was still in “academic mode” at that time.)  But in the event, the presentation was postponed only to be rescheduled for the last day of the school year and as such, it had been intimated to me that I might like to “lighten” the content as the folks were celebrating the end of another academic year and weren’t up to anything as heavy as an earnest seminar. Consequently I gave a “slideshow” — but a high quality one, I might add.

Anyway, not having looked for over a year and a half at what I had originally prepared for that presentation, which, in retrospect, was 6,000 words long, and at least twice as long as would have been justified for a seminar, I decided to re-read it and on reading what I had written once more, I discovered that the original presentation was quite coherent and could be built on somehow—but how should I proceed?  An article for an academic journal perhaps? I might have done that once but as a retiree, such things no longer interested me all that much and I didn’t think I had the patience to submit a paper to a journal and deal with snooty editors and snotty reviewers (of which I had been one for 35 years).  Perhaps a picture book that my photography mentor had suggested to me that I produce earlier that year, a book on the park and the port in Tel Aviv.  However, after some contemplation, I concluded that a book was too big a project at the stage I was at then. I needed to try something a little easier at first and if it went well, perhaps I might turn it into something a bit more serious. So I decided on an SW photography blog — something where I could show and explain some of the many images I have taken over the past few years.  Consequently, when I restarted the blog in December 2015, my aim was no more ambitious than to see if I was capable of producing just 20 posts and I set out to post my first piece.

The Regent’s Canal, North London

So here I am, nearly six years later, still churning it out, approximately one post every eight days, text (usually frivolous or based on whatever happens to have vexed, irritated, piqued or amused me in the week prior to posting) and photographs (usually taken in the 10 days or so before posting), loosely (if at all, although I usually try) related to the text.  And yet, there are still the faithful few who seem to read what I write and look at the photographs.  And what is more, there is even a small number of diehards who bother to comment, either on the content or on the images, sometimes even leading me to material or ideas that had never before entered my mind.  The other thing I had to remember was that I’m not writing an academic paper but something else entirely and that meant shaking off the language of “academese” and writing in a more informal manner.  An what a relief not to have to worry too much about this word or that or starting a sentence with a conjunction or whatever — although I do have one reader who frequently corrects my spelling mistakes, or inserts commas and semicolons where needed but I take it all with good grace — after gritting my teeth for not having twigged on to these errors myself before posting.

And today, it’s post #250—and I haven’t got the slightest idea what I’m going to write except that it might—I say just might—be a little longer than usual.

In addition to hardly believing that I’ve been doing this for as long as I have, I also find it difficult to accept that I’ve already been in London for four weeks.  And how things have changed in just four weeks. And I’m not referring to the weather, either.  When I arrived, there seemed to be nothing on the TV other than Olympics and Covid, with the odd murder or wildfire thrown in for good measure just to make people feel at home.  And how things have changed during what used to be called “the silly season” — the Afghanistan débâcle(s), fires, floods, and now it’s the paralympics and Charlie Watts, the original Rolling Stones drummer, about the announcement of whose death BBC TV news broke into a serious discussion on Afghan refugees. And of course, there’s still Covid, the numbers about which I can make neither heads nor tails any more, except to learn that it’s still about and will be for a long time. And as I’m in the the UK, and whereas everybody I seem to know in Israel has had a third booster shot, I think I will have to wait until I return to the Land of Milk and Honey before I have mine.

And now for some photographs.

A couple of years ago, while walking up Haverstock Hill in NW London, heading towards Hampstead, I came across this street sign, which I simply interpreted as an error on the part of someone a few years ago.

However, a little further up the street, I had to change my mind, because it seemed as if the same street sign technician had been let loose some time ago and managed up to put yet another dyslexic street sign in place.  I was always told when younger to “mind my P’s and Q’s” but the guy responsible for this obviously didn’t mind his P’s and O’s.  Incidentally, directly opposite this sign is an older one (you can tell it’s older because Willoughby Road, now in London NW3, was once just in London NW.)  Willqughby Road is in NW3!

This stamp dispenser stands just off Primrose Hill Road and it’s been there for a very long time.  I photographed it about 10 years ago and was wondering the other day how often it gets used in these days of FaceTime, Facebook, WhatsApp and all the other devilish pieces of social media that I don’t know about and have never even heard of.  The only time I ever saw this dispenser is use was when Alan Bennett bought four stamps prior to posting a letter — one of the few occasions on which I didn’t even have my camera with me!

And not far from the same place, I came across this couple out for a walk, he wearing the shortest shorts I think I’ve ever seen in this part of the world!

And while walking around Hampstead, I came across a plaque on one of the houses on Pilgrim’s Lane.  Obviously, Jacqui was insufficiently famous to warrant a blue plaque but managed to be remembered by way of a local one (as well as, of course, her many recordings).

However, no sooner had I emerged from Pilgrim’s Lane and was walking down Rosslyn Hill/Haverstock Hill, I came across a different cellist, obviously en route to a recording session in AIR Studios at the corner of Haverstock Hill and Lyndhurst Road, in what used to be a church (signs of the times).

A week ago, I had a guest stay for three days in the apartment and we decided to visit the Tate Modern (a building with which I’m in love) to see an exhibition focussing on the importance of plaster and other soft materials in Rodin’s sculptures. Although he is best known for his bronze and marble sculptures…

… he also worked as a modeller, capturing movement, light and volume in pliable materials such as clay, plaster and terracotta.

Rodin’s giblets

 

Rodin, The Burghers of Calais. Tate Modern, London

And there was also an opportunity to capture how the Tate (and British society) has changed in the past two or three decades.

And just before exiting the gallery,  I took a photo of the enormous play space that has been created for children on the ground floor of this amazing building.

BTW, the picture below is not of a statue by Rodin but was taken not too far from the Gallery. Given that he didn’t move for five minutes, he might as well have been sculpted by Rodin.

And en route to the Tate, while walking down Kingsway, and passing part of King’s College London with portraits of famous graduates on the wall, I was reminded that I have a dental appointment this week!

… and emerging from the gallery after the visit en route to find somewhere too have a bite, I came across yet another young woman full of selfie-confidence

Leaving the house the other day for a walk on Hampstead Heath, there was a parked van with a story to tell.  A vegan activist, known as Earthling Ed just set off on a tour of the British seaside a couple of years ago in a vehicle named ‘The Off the Hook Truck’. He has stocked the truck with free vegan fish and chips – also known as tofish and chips – which, apparently, is one of the best sellers at a London restaurant of which he is part-owner.

No visit to London would be complete without a walk to Primrose Hioll — this one on a misty early morning walk.

And another visit to the same venue brought me this week’s avian picture—of a starling, a beautiful bird I’d never seen from close-up before!

And as a sign of the times, one entrance to Primrose Hill announces “No skating”, “No cycling”, “No amplified music” — and as a sign of the times, a lock and chain have been put in place to close off entrance to the park at night time …

… something that The Economist had a thing or two report about a fortnight ago!

Economist on Hampstead Heath

This gentleman below can be seen most mornings walking down the hill from the direction of Hampstead, replete with sleeping bag and belongings, from where he presumably found somewhere to rest his weary head and body …

… and then he can be observed later in the day walking up the hill from the direction of Camden with what would appear to be his favourite tipple—vintage cider!

And coming home on the Underground one evening last week, I was struck by the slumbering couple on the other side of the carriage …

… and also by the notice on the carriage window next to them.

 

 

Younger people, this actually means “Get off your bike here and now”!

And here are some styles observed in the heart of Camden Town.

 

 

Meanwhile, Tal, my 11-year old grandson has suddenly become interested in taking photographs with his phone and I thought I’d include a couple that he took a few days ago while looking for subjects to do with nature.  I thought it was pretty good for a first try!

Finally—and I’ve never done anything like this before in over five years of blogging—I’m including a so-called “scholarly piece” for your edification. Every now and then, one surprises oneself. A couple of weeks ago, that’s what happened to me. About 20 years ago, I contributed a chapter to a co-edited a book. Looking at the year in which it was published, 2002, I must have received a copy when I was living in London and the book remained here, never making it back to Israel.

Then, one wet afternoon, rather than go out  for a walk in the rain, I did an hour and a half on the exercise bike and took a book off the shelf to take my mind off pedalling.  I vaguely remembered that I had a chapter—“States of Segregation”— in that book. Recalling the writing process, I actually do remember writing it (it started life as five chapters of a book never completed) and I also recalled an exchange I had with the copy editor at the time.  However, having said that, I can’t remember ever reading it after it had been published. So I read it while pedalling and found that I had to keep asking myself if it was really I who wrote it. I reckon that it is one of my best pieces ever—even interesting and free of jargon. What a pleasant surprise it was! But buried inside a book, I wondered if anybody had ever read it!  So here’s your chance!

States of Segregation

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Alice, Bags and Insanity

I really can’t believe that it’s been almost a fortnight since I last posted so I suppose if it’s time again.  I also can’t believe that I’ve been in London for over a fortnight — and what have I done except reorient my body from extreme heat and humidity to greyness and coolness interspersed with something resembling summer sun and temperatures every now and then?  I can’t say that I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for and I also can’t say that I don’t like it — although a little more sunshine might be in order.

I finally “awoke” on my fourth day here, a Monday, and was even alert by the following day, at which point I needed to get out and “do” something.  I had watched a TV programme which was part of a series on museums during lockdown here in the UK and the one I watched was about the Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A) and part of the programme dealt with an exhibition based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass.  Alice in Wonderland, as it is commonly known, was written 166 years ago and, as everybody knows, is a tale about a young girl named Alice who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world of anthropomorphic creatures.  It’s regarded as a wonderful exemplar of the genre known as literary nonsense and it’s a story that appeals to both children and adults and it’s its play with logic that provides the story with its lasting popularity.  Alice has never been out of print and it has been translated into 100 languages. It has also been adapted for stage, screen, radio, art, ballet, theme parks, and even  board games and video games.

As the author apparently imagined the story and then told it on a boat ride with Alice (Alice Liddell was a very real person) and her sisters and started to write it down the following day. Alice was was aged 8 at the time and one couldn’t help but wonder what 21st century paedophilophobes would have made of an adult male riding in a boat on a river, telling three young girls fantastic stories, is anybody’s guess.  Moreover, Lewis Carroll was a keen amateur  photographer who enjoyed photographing children; several of his photos depict nude or semi-nude children—but nevertheless Alice in Wonderland  has been read by millions.

At any rate, I decided to travel to the V&A in South Kensington where I had spent several enjoyable days a decade or so ago participating in two photography courses from which I took away a lot. Before I set off, I booked my entry time for in these COVID days, and notwithstanding Boris Johnson’s “Freedom Day”, many institutions such as museums and galleries operate a form of social distancing based on times of entry.

Having got there, I joined a line for the Alice Exhibition.  I must have been in the line 10 minutes when I was approached by one of the museum staff who asked me if I needed help and I discovered that I was in the right queue but when my turn came, the information I received was that tickets for “Alice” are distributed on Tuesdays and this being a Wednesday, there were none left, which left me somewhat annoyed (I almost wrote a euphemism often used in common speech but I restrained myself at the last minute) as I’d travelled across London to get there.  However, I then enquired whether if I took out membership in the V&A, I could see the exhibition that same day as a member and along came the response “Of course”, so reckoning that I’m like to go again once or twice over the coming months, that is exactly what I did and I was able to see what I wanted to see, and, in addition, another exhibition entitled “BAGS: Inside Out”, which explores the style, function, design and craftsmanship involved with transportable containers for all sorts of nicknacks of all sorts of value, from handbags and purses, rucksacks and knapsacks to despatch boxes, Birkin bags, Louis Vuitton luggage and trunks that the over-wealthy used to take with them on ships and into which would be placed anything that might be needed at the end of a voyage.  Super interesting.  And all from the V&A collection.

… and then it time for Alice.  All I can say about it is that the curator’s imagination ran wild and there’s something in this conglomeration of objects based on Alice for everyone of every age.  I even came home and read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland again for the first time in perhaps 60 years or more.

When Hollywood discovered Alice! (Just look at who’s in the cast!)

 

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (i)

 

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (ii)

 

The Queen of Hearts (accompanied by the King)

This week, friends asked me if I’d like to go with them to Kew Gardens.  Although the weather when we set out was far from perfect, Kew is a pleasant place to visit.  The fact that getting there took an hour or so and getting back even longer, left us about an hour and a half at the gardens, but the company was great, the chat even more so and there were some pictures to be taken as well.

Kew Gardens on an August afternoon

One of the more spectacular trees at Kew is the monkey puzzle, also known as the Chile Pine (Araucaria araucana).  Araucaria was also the nom de plume of the Rev. John Graham, the Guardian crossword setter, over whose solutions I used to study for years (the crosswords themselves were a little difficult for me although from time to time I had partial successes).  The Rev. Graham also set puzzles for other publications, including The Financial Times, in which he used the pseudonym Cinephile, which every crossword setter and solver would immediately recognise as an anagram of Chile Pine,  &c., &c., &c.

 

 

The Hive, Kew Gardens.

My other outing this week was to the Hampstead Theatre (with socially distanced seating) to see one of Tennessee Williams’ lesser known plays, The Two Character Play, in which the two characters are actors on tour, a brother and sister who find themselves deserted by their acting troupe in a decrepit “state theatre in an unknown state”. Faced (perhaps) by an audience expecting a performance, they enact The Two-Character Play – an illusion within an illusion, an ‘out cry’ from isolation, panic, and fear. The plot is somewhat confusing and difficult to follow, and there is little sense of a resolution. It has a concurrent double plot, a play within a play in which the brother and sister characters are psychologically damaged from witnessing the traumatic murder/suicide of their parents, remaining recluses in the family home since the incident though they are attempting to make hesitant contact with the outside world. Because the actors dip in and out of performance—there are only the two of them left since their company has abandoned them—improvising parts not memorised or not yet written, it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate the actors from the characters and reality from illusion.  At the Hampstead, both of the actors were brilliant and the staging was out of this world.  The play is apparently in part autobiographical. The female actor and character are loosely based on Williams’ sister, Rose, who was schizophrenic, and the male actor and character based on Williams himself, who cared for her.

Beyond museums, galleries and theatres, just walking around the neighbourhood has provided its own complement of photographs.  For instance, I know I’m in England when I see a number like the one on the door below…

 

  

… and the bridge over the railway line just before entering Hampstead Heath has been decorated and beautified since I was last here.

Meanwhile, although I’m living in an urban area, there is still wildlife around — even when I take out the garbage…

… or when I look out of the [not too clean] living room window.

Kew Gardens provided me with two of this week’s avian photos

… while this pigeon in The Regent’s Park was only doing what pigeons do — taking the sun.

The Regent’s Park always amazes me — any time of the year, there are flowers and colours.

Meanwhile, on the way back from a morning walk on the Heath, I came across a scene that one can observe almost anywhere.

Too late! The deed has been done!

And while at Kew, it wasn’t all trees and flowers and birds — and there was time for coffee as well.

And moire locally, in the immediate neighbourhood, you can see all sorts of interesting things if you keep your eyes open.

Past its best before date. (Fleet Road, Belsize Park.)

And in a way, this post box, which I’ve been meaning to photograph for years already sort of summarises the current state of the United Kingdom

And the birds at the end of the garden are indicating that perhaps the apples on the trees that I can see from the living room window are already ripe.

Finally, daughters and granddaughters escaped from the heat and humidity of Tel Aviv for a couple of days to the Jerusalem Hills (before the wildfires) and while walking in Jerusalem, Lily (on the left) noticed a poster advertising an “End of Summer Festival”, which contained a drawing that Shuli had done for the Israel Chamber Orchestra’s children’s concerts a couple of years ago.  Great excitement all round, I’m told!

 

 

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Heat and humidity—Wind and rain

It’s Monday afternoon, the second day of August, and I find myself once again in London, the capital of what has been designated by the Government of Israel as a “red country”, a high-risk country, although true-blue conservatives and Conservatives might balk at that description.

The fact that the Israeli government designated the United Kingdom as a “high risk” destination upset whatever fragmentary plans I had for the second half of this summer.  All of a sudden, 10 days ago, I had to decide whether I should travel a fortnight earlier than I’d planned (if indeed I was able to change my booking) or wait until Israel looked upon the UK more favourably.  I consulted with the person who has acted as my travel agent for the past three and a half decades and with another person familiar with the travel business and decided that there was no real alternative.  In fact, changing the booking was the easiest part of the whole process.

The thought of escaping the heat and humidity of Tel Aviv (34ºC, 80% humidity today) and swapping it for the rain and wind of London really didn’t bother me in the slightest although I imagine that after a week of rain, etc., I might be wanting a bit of warmth!

View from the bedroom window that day after arrival

Having completed Stage I (i.e., changing the booking), I then had to put the apartment in Tel Aviv in something resembling order in the space of five days rather than the two and a half weeks I had originally contemplated as I had rented it to an old friend for the duration of my stay away from Tel Aviv.  Given that I am not the most organised person on the planet, what was never going to be an easy task turned out to be nightmarish but I think that by the end of the fifth day, it was sufficiently acceptable to accommodate a guest.

I was due to travel on the Thursday morning but it was only on the Monday that I started to deal with the bureaucracy of travel during the Corona era.  First off, I had to book a Covid test in order to exit Israel.  Although it had been difficult enough to find a time and date, I had already booked an appointment at the airport the day before I was originally due to travel but, of course, that had now become passé.  And as the test results had to be printed in English, that meant that getting a new appointment meant either travelling to somewhere in South Tel Aviv and waiting or, alternatively, paying a little extra and have someone come to the flat to do it.  I chose the latter and was given a time slot by the organisation carrying out the tests—Tuesday 27 July between 10.00 and 14.00.  At about 10.30, I had a call from a woman who introduced her self as Poll, who spoke English with a Manchester accent and told me she’d be with me within the hour to administer the Covid test but no sooner had that conversation ended when the doorbell rang and I was informed by a man called Rami from the same organisation that he had arrived to stick a swab down my throat and then up my nose.  What ensued was an argument between Polly and Rami lasting over five minutes — on my cellphone —  as to who would do the job.  It ended when he came up to the apartment and did what he said he had to do.  The conclusion that cynical me arrived at was that the swab deliverers work on commission and while this whole business of Covid testing may well be a necessary precaution, it is also a racket, a conclusion which was confirmed over succeeding days!

By evening I had received a negative result signed by a senior physician at Tel Aviv’s main hospital that I was “fit for international travel” and I sighed a sigh relief — but, boy, was I naïve!  I had also received notification from El Al, the Israeli airline with which I was due to travel, that my flight had been changed from the reasonable hour of 10.10 to 08.10, which meant a 4 a.m. rise and shine. On the morrow, I filled in a form to satisfy the authorities in the United Kingdom that I was “fit to stay”.  I provided them details of my flight number, my seat number on the plane, where I was going to stay, how many people were travelling with me, how many other people were going to be in the place I was going to live, etc. and I received confirmation once more that I was “kosher”.  Relief — again.

However, there was one more hurdle to cross and that came on the Thursday, the day before I was due to travel.  Just as in England, where they want to know who is entering, the Israelis want to know who is leaving; so 24 hours before the flight time, I filled in the appropriate form and sent it online to the Israeli Ministry of Health and received a response within 30 seconds that given the data that I had supplied, I was forbidden to travel and that I should contact the airline!  I tried again — same response.  I tried a third time, this time in English — and guess what?  So I rang my travel agent of 36 years and asked what might be wrong and she told me that she had entered my Irish passport number on the booking but that she would correct it.  I waited an hour and then tried again — but got the same response.

So I called El Al and got on to someone who tried to be helpful, and asked him if there was an Israeli or Irish passport number on the booking.  “Israeli” was the response, so I tried a fifth time. No good.  At this stage, it seemed as if the only sensible thing to do was to call the Ministry of Health.  Logical? Perhaps.  Sensible? Hardly.  I dialled the number and after 10 minutes of constant ringtone, it hung up on me — which is what I expected.  I was beginning to visualise having an argument with some petty bureaucrat at the airport at 4 a.m. the following morning, something which didn’t really appeal to me. So what did I do?  I called the airline again, as instructed, where I had an altercation with the rudest woman I have ever spoken to (it wasn’t really a conversation but a monologue uttered fff) who ended up screaming at me that the only thing to do was to call the Ministry of Health and that she, an El Al employee, was not responsible for my problem.

Given my experience with the Ministry a few minutes earlier, I didn’t expect anything much to happen but with little alternative, I called “Customer Services” (or whatever it’s officially called) again — and lo and behold, a woman’s voice answered within 30 seconds.  I explained my predicament and she responded with “I understand”.  I was flabbergasted.  Then she asked me to wait for a couple of minutes, returned and went through the process of filling in the form, while I plied her with responses over the phone.  She repeated each response [in English, with an Israeli accent, something that had never happened before] and when we got the question that related to travel to a “high risk” country, she informed that this was my mistake, because Britain would only become a high risk country in the eyes of the Government of Israel on Thursday night at midnight!  We finished the exercise and she then informed me that everything was OK.  I asked for confirmation and I spelled out my email address and waited — and I’m still waiting.  So I reckoned that if it had been OK’d, I would try again myself and so it was.

Armed with a bagful of paper certificates, permissions and whatnot, I turned up at Ben-Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv at 05.00 the following morning and a couple of hours later, I had completed Stage II of the journey and was on the plane waiting the arrival of the other passengers.

Several hours later, and after a total of 11 hours masked up, I had arrived at my destination.

I was a zombie for two days, a result I suppose, of 10 days of stress and tension but I finally woke up yesterday morning and was almost functioning normally.  Today, (Monday), it was cloudy but I decided to go for a walk and dressed reasonably warmly, only to discover as I was on my way, that the sun had decided to emerge and I discovered that I was overdressed.   Notwithstanding, I made for Primrose Hill, which is usually my first stop when I arrive in London and when I can see the London skyline from the summit, I know that I’m here for sure.  I’d been there a couple of days ago but the sky was a bit overcast but the skyline was there and that eased things.

It was certainly different from what I’d become used to photographing recently in the park in Tel Aviv.

Early morning family exercises. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

 

08.00 hrs, Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv. Environment: Tel Aviv summer. Clothing: Polish winter

 

08.00 hrs, Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv. Fully dressed and ready for the day.

 

“Dalmatian” pigeon. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

In London, the only disappointment at Primrose Hill was when I walked around the park to view the five trees that I have been photographing at different seasons and at different times of the day and in different lighting and their curvature which I regarded as mimicking the curvature of the hill itself was the discovery that the southernmost tree had been “decapitated” …

… part of the general “pruning” process that has been going on in the park.

On Saturday morning, as I walked up to the top of the hill, there were two park employees clearing up the litter that had been strewn about by the previous evening’s revellers.  Talking to the older one of the two and remarking that one can view similar scenes in parks everywhere, he drew my attention to the shards of broken glass that were scattered all over the place, with the comment that “It seems like they can’t have a drink without smashing the bottles before they leave!”  This was  as simple case of understatement …

… and then I noticed something that had never been there before and had never needed to be.

It seems as if being cooped up in Covid lockdowns has had its repercussions.

And now that “Freedom Day” in the UK has come and gone, it was interesting to observe what happens when the government leaves it to the individual as to whether or not masks should be worn.  As an example, I travelled from Belsize Park to Edgware, a 20-minute ride in the London Underground, seven stations altogether.  Supposedly, the public is not given the option to choose or not to choose to wear a mask but on public transport as it’s obligatory.  There were no more than a dozen people in the carriage in which I was travelling at any one time and a rough estimate is that about half of the passengers were wearing masks and the other half were not.  However, by my rough estimate, all of those not wearing masks were under 30 years of age!  Obligatory it may be but it seems as if it’s impossible to implement.

Mask on wrist. London Underground, Northern Line.

Still, NW London provides interesting opportunities for photographs.

A London hydrant. No gaudy red here!

 

A member of the local inhabitants’ Association, The Regent’s Park, London.

And the BBC Promenades season has opened and just as I was walking home, I came across this Blue Plaque on the house at 4 Elsworthy Road, in Belsize Park, in which the founder of the Proms once lived!

And here I am, at the computer, writing this blog post and looking at a familiar photograph that a good friend gave us many moons ago.

And I might just as well write as there’s nothing much to watch live on television at the moment save for reports from the Tokyo Olympics or reports on the numbers of people ill or dying from Covid-19, accompanied by a few items here and there about destruction due to forest fires or floods and global warming — as well as the odd murder here and there thrown in in order to make us feel thats we’re living in a normal world, I suppose.

Still, there are things called “books” to read and that is what I am going to do until next week, folks.

Have a great week!

 

 

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“Freedom Day” — Really?

In Keeping On Keeping On, Alan Bennett relates  the following in his diary for the year 2014:

15 April. Watch five minutes of “Have I Got News for You” with Nigel Farage the guest and Ian Hislop and Paul Merton their usual genial selves. I never quite understand why they are happy to sit on a panel with Farage, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Clarkson et al. Their reasoning would, I imagine, be that this gives them the opportunity to have fun at the expense of Farage and Co. And so they do. But the impression an audience comes away with is that actually nothing much matters and that these seemingly jokey demagogues are human and harmless and that their opinions are not really as pernicious as their opponents pretend. And even if they are what does it matter as politics is just a con anyway. Whereas Johnson, the bike apart, doesn’t seem to have a moral bone in his body and the batrachoidal (frog- or toad-like) Farage likewise. ‘So where’s your sense of humour? It’s only a joke.’

Well, well.  What’s new?

Add to Alan Bennett’s view of the British Prime Minister the words of Johnson’s former top aide, Dominic Cummings, who was finally interviewed by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg — while, of course, remembering that Mr. Cummings is a person who has very much his own agenda to manage, his own axes to grind, and his own grudges to bear —  it makes for worrying reading, especially as I am planning to spend some time in the UK from the middle of next month.  According to Cummings, Mr. Johnson denied last autumn that the National Health Service would be overwhelmed and said that he was not prepared to lock the country down in order to save people in their ’80s.  Johnson held out on reimposing Covid restrictions because he was slightly rocked by data on Covid fatalities, with a median age of 82, which, he said, was above life expectancy—and could be expected to die shortly, although he didn’t actually say that. So, according to Cummings, BoJo was of the opinion that one should get Covid and live longer and texted him so.  He really didn’t believe that the National Health Service being overwhelmed (even though he, himself, had been seriously ill with the disease earlier in the year.  I presume that once his antibodies had kicked in, he lost interest in the NHS — although it saved his own life.  The interview cast further doubt over the Prime Minister’s actions in the run-up to the November lockdown (when I was in London myself on a visit planned to last just a few weeks but which turned out to be three months).   And, according to Cummings, Johnson repeatedly ignored the advice of his chief scientific and medical advisers — which we have seen once again in the past fortnight.

Meanwhile, here we are mid-July 2021, and England launched yesterday (Monday) what has come to be known as “Freedom Day” whereby many of the government-imposed restrictions on movement, gatherings and mask-wearing transmogrify from being law to becoming recommendations as to how people should behave.  The government in England (if not in the rest of the United Kingdom) seems more determined than ever to trust in people to act in their own best interests and in the interests of those around them. Is that naïve of what? I suppose the question is whether England is making the stupidest decision ever or whether it’s leading the way for the rest of the world to follow.

The United Kingdom with a population of around 66 million is turning out c. 50,000 new Covid cases a day whereas here in Israel, with a population of around 9 million, there are just under 1,000 new cases a day and they’re worried.  If you do the sums — and it’s not that difficult — then there is a world of difference between the two situations.  The Israeli government is being cautious — perhaps even overcautious — with the Prime Minister and other ministers seriously advising citizens not to travel abroad at all and making it difficult for them to do so and awkward for them when they eventually return.  It must all be something to do with coiffure and clearheadedness.  Nevertheless, 50,000 people a day are travelling out of Ben-Gurion Airport to destinations everywhere even though they will have to quarantine when they return.

Boris

Screen Shot 2021-06-29 at 15.10.46

And this brings me to conclude that Alan Bennett’s assessment—that Mr. Johnson doesn’t seem to have a moral bone in his body—is, if not entirely correct, close to the truth.

And when I observe the unlawful goings on (i.e., base thuggery) a week ago at Wembley Stadium, and afterwards in London and online, when the England soccer team lost to Italy in the final of the UEFA 2020 competition in a penalty shoot-out— a sporting event marred by more jingoism than I can remember, then it seems like unleashing the masses to infect and reinfect one another is madness indeed.  And I’m supposed to be there in three weeks?  Well, I’m only 76 and therefore I’m not a cause of worry for Mr. Johnson!  Anyway, I’ve got family and friends to see and the last eight months haven’t exactly been easy.

Self-isolation

Self-isolation. Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv.

But enough of all this.  This rant is terminated for this week.  Some pictures are due.

Signs of summer

Summer has come to Tel Aviv in earnest …

 

Thriving in the heat

… but some thrive in this weather!

The fact that summer has arrived in Tel Aviv in earnest means that I am getting out into the park earlier than ever before.  I try to get out and about by 06.30 but by the time 07.00 rolls around, hidrosis — sweat, perspiration, wetness — is the operative word and my tee-shirt feels considerably heavier than when I started out.  Still, even at that hour, there are things worth photographing — like this man and his dogs .  I’ve photographed them before but never from this particular angle.

Walking the dogs

Man and doggies. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

The hot weather is conducive to people enjoying themselves during the balmy nights when the temperatures plummets to all of 25ºC but the humidity rises to 70%.  The results of these balmy but damp nights are clearly visible early the following morning …

 

The morning after the night beforeThe morning after the night before 1

… as if it might have been all that difficult to clear up afterwards.

But then there’s always someone else to clear up the mess …

Create the mess

… but not before he’s made some mess of his own by feeding the winged vermin that infest the park.

Walking through the park, one comes across all sorts and this young lady makes me think that there really is hope for us all.

Hope for all 1

Mind you, she’s not always as hyperactive as all that!

I noticed a few weeks that the upheaval along some of the main streets in Tel Aviv, part of the preparations for a light railway, is being undertaken partly by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd.(Israel) …

… so it’s only appropriate that notices, such as the direction of evacuation routes, be posted also in Chinese characters, too.

Translations

Pinkas Street, Tel Aviv

 

And then, of course, the are the birds …

Night heron

So I won’t swim — I’ll skim!

… even the tiny ones that I often miss …

Little birds 1

… and the larger ones that just float by as I walk through the park.

Kite 1

No trust

and I lie and wait in a rather forlorn hope!

 

And we’re constantly reminded of the presence of Corona …

Corona living

… and of Corona garbage!

Corona trash

And then there are the boats on the river …

Messing about on the river

Last week, I cam came across a pair mending a puncture to an inner tube on the bike of one of them and thought to myself that when that sort of thing happened to me when I was young that I  was incapable of doing anything about it other than bring it to a repair shop and have the work done there.  Cack-handed, maladroit, gauche — words that all pretty much mean the same thing.

Bike repair

Bike repair 1

Concentration!

Bike repair 2

Task accomplished successfully!

 

And then there are pictures that are just pictures and don’t really fit into any story.

 

In the early morning

Early morning. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

 

Bike installation

Street Installation. Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv

 

 

Bench & Bench

The sprinkler system was working overtime! Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv.

 

Drying off

Cooling off. Yarqon Stream, Tel Aviv

Penultimately, it strikes me, notwithstanding all the talk about Covid in the news that things are beginning to return to some sort of normality in Israel if only because the main item in today’s news is that Unilever, the owner of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, has decided that Ben & Jerry’s cannot be sold in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, which means that some company with large freezer vans might be transporting tons of the stuff from Tel Aviv to the Israeli heartland of Judea and Samaria.  So what’s new?  And what’s news?

And finally, last week I picked up a book I had bought a decade ago, one of those books that looked interesting and in which you read a couple of chapters and promise yourself to read it when you have some spare time and then put it back on the shelf and forget about it.  Anyway, as I said, I. picked it out last week — David Bellos’s Is that a Fish in Your Ear?a book about translation and translating.  I used to do translating a long time ago when I needed to supplement my university salary so some of the issues raised by Professor Bellos were familiar, some less so and others completely new to me.  Towards the end of the book, there’s a chapter on the issues involved in translating humour and one of the examples he gives had me laughing aloud when I read it.  It goes as follows:

A Brooklyn baker becomes increasingly irritated by an old lady who queues up to buy bagels in his shop every Tuesday, despite the sign clearly visible in the window saying bagels are not available on Tuesdays.

One morning, after she has queued up for the fifth time, he decides to he has to get the message through to her.

‘Lady’, he says, ‘tell me, do you know how to spell ‘cat’, as in ‘catechism’?’ ‘Sure I do’, the old lady says, ‘that’s C-A-T’.

‘Sure is’, the baker replies, ‘now tell me, how do you spell ‘dog’ – as in ‘dogmatic’?’

‘Why, that’s D-O-G.’

‘Right! So how do you spell ‘fuck’ — as in ‘bagels’?’

‘But there ain’t no ‘fuck’ in ‘bagels’!’ the little old lady exclaims.

‘And that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!’ cries the baker.

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Contemplation and then some more

This hasn’t been a normal week.  Personally, it’s been not easy.  For once, I paid little attention to what’s been going on in politics.

On Wednesday, we (the kids and I) marked, according to the Hebrew calendar, the first anniversary of Vivien’s death.  I can’t believe that a year has already flown by and I’ve been on my own for that long.  People used to say that as one gets older, time seems to race ahead at a pace unknown when you were younger.  And so it seems.  To me, she was here just a couple of months ago although the kids say that it seems already like two or three years.  We all lit a memorial candle on Tuesday evening.  I was dreading it for days in advance.  I know, it was just striking a match and placing the lit match against the wick but it was who I was lighting the candle for and why that made me so upset.

Shuli posted a piece on her Facebook page (in Hebrew) which reads in translation something like:

“A year without Ima! Ima, how we miss you so much.

The gentle smile, the small encouragements [you gave] in all areas of life, the togetherness, the endless love. What an rocky year we’ve had since you left us … Corona, war, lockdowns.


In the meantime the grandchildren are growing up and we are left with the memories and the nostalgia and the endless yearning.

Yesterday we lit a memorial candle for you and sat down with the girls and Saba and together we watched and listened to the lovely stories that you wrote, in your soft and gentle voice and funny cute Irish accent. What an asset you left for us and for the children.”

Listening to these stories, it was the first time I’d heard her voice since she passed away and it brought back so many memories, memories that date back over six decades.  She was truly an amazing person.  She suffered so much pain and discomfort over the years but never complained, except towards the end when she said on several occasions that she’d had enough.  She was an incredible individual and I was proud to have been her husband for 54 years.  I only hope that I was able to give her some comfort during all that time.  I miss her more than I ever thought I’d miss her.

Some photos to remind us all.  Tennis, the love of her life until lupus (SLE) struck when she was 16, marriage at 21, mother of three fantastic children, and then it was back to music, which took a back seat while tennis took over. And towards the end, she enjoyed giving piano lessons to Arneath Cruzat, her amazing carer during her last 14 months.

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Foreboding notwithstanding, I’ve tried to get out every morning for an hour or more.  The trouble is that by 07.00, it’s already warmer than warm.  Still, there’re no harm in trying to arrive in the park earlier in time for a 15-minute “warm-up” before setting out.

As usual most of the time, I head towards the sea but before I do, I’m likely to pass any number of people in any sort of calisthenic position.

One, two, three — bend!

One, two, three, four … Group Bend!

Very graceful — but taking no chances.

Early morning is also breakfast time for some.

… like lottery sellers …

On Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel Aviv

… or hungry egrets …

Hungry egret @ breakfast. Yarqon Park

There, as usual, are birds galore —  best of friends and all that.

And some birds are bird-brained, indeed.

Stupido — it i’s for the dogs alone!

And talking about canines —

It’s a dog’s life!

But back to the birds.

Egret. Yarqon Park. Early morning

Then, coming towards me, it seemed  like she was coughing and in these days of Corona, one takes cover.  It was only as she got closer that I saw and heard that all she was doing was having a conversation on her Apple Watch.

Others were just out for a walk with their family.

And, then, of course there are the sweaty women …

… followed by a sweaty man … (and these are at 7.30 in the morning, which explains why I try not to go out during the daytime!)

On the Yarqon river/stream, there are those who seem to have settled in for the day …

… while others just start very young.

And in the words of Cole Porter, “Anything Goes”!

Anything goes!

And one never quite knows what one is going to bump into early on a summer’s morn!  The heat hits everyone differently, it seems.

While walking on HaYarqon Street, I noticed an element of confusion.  Can you see it (and you don’t need to be Hebrew-literate, either).

 

In Tel Aviv Port, caught between a selfie and a pose.

Almost there.  Last week, on Ibn Gvirol Street

Honestly, Guv, it had nothing to do with me. I’m just waiting for her to come out again!

And finally, a short story (Picture caption to be read aloud)

Fido and Rover were strolling down the street one day. Midway along the block, Fido nudged Rover with a friendly flick of his tail and in pure doggerel said: “Just wait here for a couple of minutes. There’s something I need to do on the other side of the street.”

So off he trotted across the road and made straight for a hydrant around which he must have spent at least three or four minutes circling, all the time sniffing earnestly. Finally, he cocked up his left hind leg and spent almost as long again leaving his mark on and all around the hydrant.

When he was done and had all four paws on the ground again, he trotted back over to Rover who was waiting patiently for his buddy, hyperventilating heavily.

“What was that all about?”, Rover inquired.

“Oh, nothing much”, answered Fido. “I was just checking the messages on my pee-mail and remembered that I could use Reply All. So that’s what I was doing and that’s why it took so long.”

 

Inside material: H20 ———— External material: K9P

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From U-No-Hoo to Wu-Han-Cock

grass

It’s been a relatively quiet fortnight in Israeli politics.  The new “Bennett/Lapid” coalition seems to be functioning reasonably well and the various ministers seem to be settling into their jobs and are being given credit for doing what they’re paid to do, i.e., serve the people.  So far, it seems to be in contrast to the way in which the previous coalition operated, whereby when things went well, U-NO-HOO took all the credit and when things proved difficult the ministers would be invited to appear and explain to the public why things were difficult and why they hadn’t quite worked out as expected, meaning that when times were less than good, ministers were expected to accept ministerial responsibility, something that appeared not to be the case with U-NO-HOO.

The new Opposition still hasn’t got used to the fact that it’s not the government.  It’s been reported that there is a move afoot among those who feel that power “was stolen” from them to continue to refer to the former Prime Minister as “the Prime Minister” and according to Anshel Pfeffer, the well-informed correspondent for HaAretz daily newspaper and The Economist, “He [Bibi] smiles benevolently upon those who do so”. However, Pfeffer does warn us that he shouldn’t be written off. Keen to rebound yet again, he and his satraps have taken to delegitimizing Bennett by making it look as if Bibi  is still the real prime minister and that’s the reason he’s  keeping up a stream of images of him greeting local and foreign dignitaries in appropriate settings on his social media outlets.  Quite why he has been allowed to stay on in the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem until July 10 is beyond me;  I mean, it’s not exactly as if he and his wife would have become homeless if the moving van had arrived the day after the new government had been formed.  After all, there is a large villa in Caesarea that is waiting to be re-occupied.

Eventually, I imagine the message will eventually sink in, in particular if the current coalition survives longer than some imagine it might.  Ironically, the way I see things is that Mr. Bennett painted himself into a corner a few weeks ago as a result of which, because of his zigzagging and wavering between a broad and potentially unwieldy coalition like the one he’s now leading and facing yet another election in which he might not have done so well, he chose to become Prime Minister.  And again, there’s irony in the fact that all of his cabinet colleagues, having been given jobs to perform, feel as if they must do them well — because if they don’t, their parties’ share of the vote will likely drop at the next election, whenever that might be.

How does it stay there?

However, one great mystery about the Bennett government remains.  How does the new Prime Minister’s knitted kippah (skull cap) stay on his head.  These days, he has less hair than appears in the photograph above and what little remains appears to be shaven and then the head polished.  Does he use double-sided cellotape? Or perhaps it’s Velcro?  Or Blu Tack? Or Bostik? Or maybe it’s a suction pad? Or for all I know he uses some hi-tech invention based on silicon developed in the Start-Up Nation for which he is now responsible.  I asked a friendly intelligence agent to investigate, and I now have it on good authority that the mystery is no longer.  In other words, I know. However, as the subject in question is the Israeli Prime Minister, it’s a security issue that just can’t be divulged to the general public.

Given the rumblings within the Likud party, with several individuals seeing themselves as successors to U-NO-HOO, the situation appears to me to be beginning to resemble 1990/91 in the United Kingdom, when the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, after three terms in office, managed to alienate several members of her own party because of her poll-tax policies and opposition to further British integration into the European Community, so much so that she came to be regarded as an electoral liability rather than an electoral asset and in November 1990, she failed to receive a majority in the Conservative Party’s annual vote for selection of a leader. As a result, she withdrew her nomination, and was replaced by a paragon of blandness called John Major and she resigned six days later. Her 11 years in office was the longest continuous tenure of a British prime minister in almost two centuries and the outcome was that she was elevated to the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher (of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire).  Just imagine if we were able to carry on like that in Israel — Baron Bibi of Caesearea (on the Carmel Coast)!  In the words of Eliza Doolittle, “… wouldn’t it be loverly”?!

Meanwhile, although Israeli politics has been relatively quiet following the display of bestial animosity in the Knesset a fortnight ago when the Prime Minister was attempting to address the members, British politics took us on an interesting side-trip last week with the story that broke regarding the Secretary of State for Health, WU-HAN-COCK, who was photographed by various media outlets in a close embrace with one, Gina Coladangelo, who he had taken on as an adviser to his Ministry.  The accusations pointed at him, however, related less to the fact that he was having an affair with a married woman who was not his wife, but that he had breached social distancing rules that he himself had authorized.   Notwithstanding all the Woo-Ha, I  thought it was rather touching to have read that he woke his children up to tell that he was leaving home.

I just love those socks!

But perhaps he was only following the example of his former boss, who didn’t think the whole affair sufficient reason to fire him.  But when Hancock resigned, poor BoJo, in trying to tear his hair out just made a mess of it all again!

But I’m really very tired of politics and politicians so time for some images.

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

 

Summer’s come early to Tel Aviv this year.   Temperatures have soared and the humidity levels with them so as a consequence, I’ve had to wake up earlier than has been my wont (not that sleeping in the heat is that easy anyway) and get out before it gets too hot.  However, I’m discovering that even at 06.30, things have already hotted up.

Hand in hand

Morning stroll in the Yarqon Park

One of the upshots of getting out early in the morning is that there’s a dearth of people so the subjects that I see are mainly birds and oarspersons (that’s a strange word but it’s what I see).  Occasionally, one comes across someone who is doing something other than riding a bike or walking or jogging or stretching, such as this skipper who I stopped to watch for several minutes while he did his thing without missing a beat.

Skipper

And in the park, one sees all sorts exercising.  All I can say to this young woman is: “Well done”.  She obviously has a bit of work to do yet but if she keeps it up, she’ll be OK.

Some way yet to go

Sleeping rough is common enough but I thought that this guy was a little overdressed for 08.00 hrs. but I suppose that at least he wasn’t cold.

Sleeping rough

At least he was in the park.  Others are obviously less fussy about where they want to sleep.

Air BNB TA

Airbnb. Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv.

Occasionally, one comes across things that are quite different.  Last week, I observed a Tai-Chi [very slow and elaborately choreographed] sword dance being “performed” for all to see.  I took some tai-chi lessons with the same instructor a couple of years ago and found it all too slow and deliberate for what I thought I needed.

Tai-chi sword dance

The Slow Sword Dance

There are many ways of taking exercise in the park and port.  In this case, this rather mature lady is killing two birds with one stone by jogging and exercising her dog simultaneously, both of which activities are essential for the maintenance of physical and mental health.

Two birds with one stone

And on the same day, I stopped to watch this man figure out the correct angle for taking a drink of water. I knew he’d find a comfortable position after he’d squirted water up his nostrils more than once as he moved from one side to the other. However, it did take him quite a while!

Figuring out a way

That same morning, I came across a guy working near the entrance to Tel Aviv Port.  From the distance, I couldn’t quite figure out what he was doing with the stick, to which was attached what appeared to be a scraper.  As I  approached, I was able to ask him what he was doing and thus was able to ascertain what his job was, but he wasn’t too happy that I photograph him.  Fortunately, I had a telephoto lens on the camera that day so after I had walked past, I turned around and was able to take the photograph.  It turns out that the man in question has the mind-numbing job of scraping chewing gum from off the footpath.  I’ve heard of thankless jobs before and this is definitely one of the more abysmal.

Chewing gum

Exercising in the park at 06.30 in this season can be messy, the reason being that I have to clear away the mess from what is falling off the trees…

Messy in the park

… and then when one wishes to sit down, it’s not such as easy matter either.

Try sitting

This morning, I took the bus to a physiotherapy session.  It was, how can I say, rather hot — but at least the bus had air-conditioning.  The thing about buses is that you never quite know who you are going to be sitting opposite or near, so you never really know if you’ll get a photograph. But today I was in luck and one of the things about using the camera on your phone is that it never really looks as if you are taking a picture.  So I switched from reading a WhatsApp message to the camera by moving one finger and that was that.  Did I ask his permission to take the photo?  No, I didn’t — because public transport is public space and one is permitted to take photos in public spaces.  Anyway, what I was photographing was a work of art not the man; it was just that the man was attached to the work of art. And like all works of visual art, it’s created in order to be looked at.  Not so?  Nevertheless, I’ve never succeeded in understanding the whys and wherefores of tattoos because when I was young, the only people with tattoos were people who you might prefer not to know.

Bus tattoo

Finally, here are a few of and for the birds.

Birdbath

The sprinklers went haywire but the crows have a bath

Crows pose

The crows’ nest

Leftovers

Leftovers are always very yummy!

Crow being careful

Nice and easy does it every time!

Take-off

Take-off

Night heron

Night heron in the early morning

Finally, one from the archive

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of my first.  12 years old and still going strong

 

 

 

Standard

Going, going — gone!

It’s Sunday, June 13 2021.  16.00 hrs IST and I have a dilemma.  At 4 p.m. Israel time, should I turn the TV on and watch Channel 11 or Channel 61?  There are two programmes that I feel I should see and they are being broadcast simultaneously, so I decide that I will record what’s on on Channel 61 and if needs be, watch it in full later in the evening.  So I switched to Channel 11 and after 10 minutes decided that I would ping-pong between the two channels and still watch Channel 61 later on if I felt like it.

And what were these important events that were bringing about my dilemma?  Well, on Channel 11, there was a live broadcast from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, at which the members would either vote confidence in the loosely crocheted “national unity coalition” of eight parties, headed by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid or not, as the case may be, and also elect a new Speaker.  At the same time, Channel 61 was showing a live broadcast of the Men’s Singles Final of the French Open Tennis Championship from Roland Garros between the 34-year-old Serb, Novak Djokovic and the 22-year-old Greek who revels under the wonderful name of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

My heart said Channel 61 whereas my head said that as a not uninterested citizen, I should watch the entertainment about to be provided on Channel 11.  Channel 11 had the usual blah-blah-blah before the show got under way.  Various commentators and reporters, all but a couple of whom seemed to be aged about 25-30 speculating about what we could expect over the next few hours — so I switched back to see how Novak and Stef were getting on and it seemed initially as if the former was being tormented by the latter.  But after some of that, I headed back to Channel 11 and the plenum was filling up with our elected members.

Then proceedings eventually got under way.  The Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett had been allocated 30 minutes to outline the incoming government’s plans.  He had hardly opened his mouth to address the notables at the gathering (which included the State President, Reuven Rivlin, himself a former Speaker of the august body and the President of Supreme Court, Esther Hayuth) that all hell broke loose from the soon-to-be Opposition members of the Knesset.  The Speaker, Yariv Levin, a current stalwart and intimate confidant (these have never lasted too long in the past) of Prime Minister Netanyahu (in fact, the man put in that position to do his master’s bidding and who had managed to postpone this day of reckoning for a week in the forlorn hope that Netanyahu’s Likud could manage to entice any number of “misguided” right-wing members to return to Netanyahu’s fold, thereby preventing the new coalition attaining a majority) attempted to keep order but his erstwhile colleagues from his own party and those to the right of it were having none of that.

What ensued was something that I’d never seen in years of observing politicians behaving and misbehaving.  One correspondent, following the event from the comfort of her Florida home, wrote to me this morning to say “What a disgrace.  I have never witnessed anything like the behavior of the Savages in the Knesset today.”  As soon as I read it, I wrote back to her saying: “You’re too kind to them.  I would have described them as wild animals, and far too wild to have been in the zoo in which they were seated yesterday.  But there you are—Likudniks—salt of the earth.”  These representatives of the “common people”—amkha, in Hebrew—continued their performance throughout Mr. Bennett’s 30 minutes and beyond with the females of the species seemingly making the most noise but maybe that’s because higher frequencies are more piercing.  And it wasn’t just members of Likud and members of the fascist parties who were participating in this debacle but I also observed among the roaring animals several who were wearing large black yarmulkes and had long white beards, too!  Men of God!  OMG!  What has the world come to? Time to Reform!

Heckling is one thing but the ill-mannered and discourteous behaviour and the noise generated by these salts of the earth made the cheering and roaring of the several thousand people on the Philip Chatrier court at Roland Garros seem like a whisper in comparison.  It was literally incredible, demeaning, an acute shame and embarrassment to the State of Israel.  How do you explain that kind of behaviour to children who might have been watching in order to learn our our civilized lawmakers behave in parliament. Mr. Levin was even forced to expel several members of the Knesset from the plenum after each had been given three warnings to shut up, and coming from him, it only illustrated how much hot air and interference has been generated.  Moreover, the attempts of several of the expellees to re-enter the chamber were met with a chilling warning from the Speaker that it was forbidden.

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

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

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

Israel’s new government. President Rivlin seated center; Bennett to his right, Lapid to his left

TAnd then it was back to the court to see the end. For me, this meant the tennis on Channel 61 but in Bibi’s case, it might well be a different kind of court!

And now for some photographs.

Among the many nuisances these days are electric scooters and rental bikes.  And why are they nuisances, in particular, to pedestrians like myself?  For a start the authorities are busily constructing bicycle lanes everywhere.  More often than not, these lanes run parallel and in the same direction as the automobile lanes but sometimes, as I found out this morning, they run up one-way streets in the opposing direction, which, to say the least can be confusing and dangerous.  Even more dangerous is that the majority of cyclists and scooter maniacs seem to be unaware of these lanes, and especially of the directional arrows painted on them.  In addition, both the rental bicycle and scooter companies seem to offer a pick-them-up-anywhere and drop-them-off-anywhere policy, which seems to be interpreted very literally by the users …


… especially when it always seems that there’s someone else to return them for you.


Parking has always been a problem in Tel Aviv but some people seem as if they have found a solution.

And as summer settles in for the next four months or so and we wallow in 35 degree temperatures and 90% humidity, one begins to see more and more bodies in the park at 7 in the morning (which is actually about an hour too late to be going out).

The Yarqon Park, where I go most mornings is currently undergoing renovations along the river banks,

One of the consequences of all this is that the environment of the park’s mouse population has changed and they’ve emerged from wherever they’d been hiding underground and are showing themselves to the wide, wide world.

However, that doesn’t seem to bother the most active exercisers in the early morning park.

It seems was if new neighbours have moved in down the street and it also seems that when new neighbours move in, they need to make their presence felt by installing new numbers, too, lest someone make a mistake about the address.

28 x 3 = 84

Every now and then, your eye comes across something that appeals not because of what it is but because of what you think you can make of it later, so this …

… becomes this.