Autumn, New Year & Pasta

In what is possibly one of the best known first lines of a poem, John Keats wrote “Season of mists and yellow fruitfulness” as the first line of his poem To Autumn.  Well, it looks like autumn might finally be arriving following a fortnight of hot and sunny weather here in London.  Next week’s forecast is for what the forecasters refer to as the “seasonal average”.  Meanwhile, the leaves are turning and even if the thermometer doesn’t actually say so, the trees operate on a calendar of their own.



Yes, here we are in mid-September and this weekend marks the Jewish New Year.  I’ve always believed that we should abandon the lunar calendar and move to a more widely used one, declaring Jewish New Year to fall on September 15 every year but that would be declared heretical and I would find myself in a very small minority were I to go public with that lunacy!  However, when I was younger in what now seems to be a frighteningly simultaneous near and distant past, New Year seems to have been a non-stop orgy of eating and/or sitting in synagogue while a cantor droned on and on (I’m afraid that I have never been a great fan of cantorial singing as cantors tend to draw things out almost interminably whereas I prefer short and sweet), with occasional interruptions from the rabbi asking us to recall all our misdeeds of the previous year while promising to ourselves and to others that next year we’ll behave better than in the past; all this culminated in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which involved sitting in a synagogue the whole day with a short break between Mussaf, (the Additional Service) and Minchah, (the Afternoon Service), culminating in Ne’ilah, [which is, obviously], the Concluding Service. These days, I am less observant (in a strictly religious sense, of course] and am comfortable with it although things may yet change and I might draw down on my “Jewish insurance policy” as I get older.  It’s a time of meditation and contemplation, something that everyone needs to do from time to time, even without the prompt from below from actor Jim Carrey (below).

The past year really hasn’t been one of the best that I can remember.  The war in Ukraine, that special military operation supposed to have lasted a week our so, drags on well into its second year with no resolution apparent in the immediate future.  This week’s meeting between Kim and Putin, the one a paranoid third-generation member of a ruling family of dictatorial thugs, the other a modern-day hybrid between a past home-grown dictator who had signed a non-aggression pact with an Austrian despot and liquidator doesn’t bode too well for the future.  The goings-on in the country in which I have lived for most of my adult life does not seem to be anywhere near foreclosure and the Prime Minister’s trials seem to be going nowhere in particular  and one can only hope that in that case, the country doesn’t turn into something like a dictatorship.  Here in the UK, nothing seems to work as it should and various public services from trains to hospitals are affected by what is euphemistically referred to as “industrial action”.  Why not simply say “strike” or “withdrawal of labour”.  The Government seems unable to make rational decisions and stick by whatever decisions it does make and the Prime Minister is criticized not just by the Opposition but my members of his own party, too.  Over the Atlantic, senility seems to have overtaken the President and members of the Senate, too and the former President faces several criminal charges — but tens of millions will vote for him anyway.  There have been extensive wildfires, floods, and earthquakes,  and so on and so forth.

Sewage leak, Belsize Park, London


… and at almost all stations on the London Underground!


Lest I appear unduly pessimistic, there are some things that enliven me a little and give me some joy.  My youngest grandchild, Lily, will be 11 next week.  Amongst other things (which include climbing, swimming, gymnastics and such like), she enjoys cooking and baking.  There was an early-birthday party for her in school at the start of this week, so she decided to bake a cake foe the class, which was all her own work (no help from mother) and as she returned home with the empty baking tray, it obviously went down well.


It was also hinted to me that being a creative person, she would like a machine for making fresh pasta, so grandfather obliged and just to follow the level of excitement that followed as she opened the package made everything worthwhile.  You don’t have to understand the Hebrew to fathom the level of enthusiasm and exhilaration!

She read the instructions on how to assemble it from its parts and then set to work.


The weather was so good yesterday that I went for what was, for me, a long walk across Primrose Hill and The Regent’s Park. As I wrote above, as I get older I become more observant and so there were lots of photos en route.  Each time I walk the streets in London and look upward, I see remnants of an historical geography — analogue TV aerials that have never been removed, by the thousands!

… spiders and webs …

… pigeons …


Auto mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

And just a small number of old photos to finish up wit, which may have missed the cut before …

…  and  the  insect  below   appeared   on the inside  of  my  living  room  window at the start of the week!


…  and even if you’re not celebrating, I wish you all a Happy New Year!


Armour, tattoos and dogs

It’s a funny time of year. After one of Britain’s wettest and coolest summers in recent years, September arrived a week ago—and alongside it, summer. On what has been referred to — illogically, I always think — as the first day of meteorological autumn, the sun came out and the thermometer climbed above 30 degrees Celsius — not at all what residents of this disUnited Kingdom had been expecting. But then again, the Brits never really expect either summer or winter even though in most years, they get both and they are nonplussed each time

Autumn leaves?

Weather aside, I must be getting older (in fact, I know I’m getting older). For a start, there are two 80th birthday parties to which I’ve been invited this weekend. And then, my two 12-year old  granddaughters began secondary school this week, so I suppose it’s not too long before they start thinking about careers.  It seems like only yesterday that they were in cots and prams (cribs and  strollers). My grandson has been at the next educational level for a year already and seems to be enjoying his studies as much as his running, tennis, &c. And my 11-year old granddaughter, already an accomplished cook and who decided a short while ago that she wanted to learn to play the the flute has taken to travelling to her lessons solo by bus, which allows her to feel grownup. What’s more, she’s asked for a pasta machine for her 11th birthday, nothing more and nothing less, and I’m more than pleased to oblige!

It’s the end of the silly season here in that the news has returned to mundane and uncomplicated things like government misdoings and wrongdoings, traffic accidents, escaped convicts and various other foibles of everyday life, just so that we can all feel comfortable again.

Last Friday, I accompanied my two London grandchildren to the Wallace Collection, one of London’s lesser-known art galleries, although why it should be so. I’m not sure.  It’s situated on Manchester Square, about a 5-minute walk from Wigmore Hall.  It’s not a particularly large building but it does have a lot of “stuff”, including an superb assemblage of 18th-century French art, many important 17th and 19th-century paintings, mediaeval and Renaissance works of art — and this appealed particularly to my grandson — one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the country.  Although I’d been there not too long ago, I’d forgotten how densely packed the works of art are on the walls.

 What’s changed? Grand Canal Venice, 2008

I could have spent a much longer time viewing the Canalettos which are in a room with several other 18th century paintings of Venice, which although pleasant to observe, are completely outshone by these works.  And then there was also Fragonard’s “The Swing” which always makes one think about who is teasing whom!

Having spent some time looking at these paintings, it was time to go downstairs and have a look at more important things.




And it was then that I remembered that we hadn’t seen the guy who seems to see the funnier side of things so I asked where he was situated and so it was back upstairs again, before Mr.Hals’ masterpiece was he was removed to spend four months on vacation at the National Gallery where it will be one of several paintings by Frans Hals.  Although he’s known as the Laughing Cavaalier, the subject is, in fact, not laughing but has an enigmatic smile, which is  intensified by his upturned moustache.


There was also a special exhibition of dog portraits and in addition to paintings by such well-known animal painters as Stubbs and Landseer, there were also several by David Hockney, with a special section dedicated to sketches of his dog called, of all names, Stanley.

And then it was off to lunch as the kids had been provided with healthy packed lunches.  However, during the time we were inside the Wallace Collection, the overcast morning weather had been transformed into a sunny early afternoon.  There were lots of benches along the route but all were occupied and we ended up in Cavendish Square where I was sure we’d find somewhere to sit but we ended up on the grass with the pigeons and some people.  The gentleman in the picture below turned out to be no so gentle.  I thought that one person occupying a bench for three was a bit much but didn’t say anything as the look that I got was more than enough to tell me that the bench was his and observing the passers-by, obviously looking for somewhere to sit but not a soul approached him with a request.

Meanwhile, the kids enjoyed their lunches among the pigeons so I thought it might be an opportune moment to introduce them to Tom Lehrer by letting them hear his Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.  To my dismay, they were suitably unimpressed!


I had originally thought of taking them to the Tate Modern so Isabel and I set out a few days earlier on a “reconnaissance” trip.  Taking the Tube to Embankment Station, we walked parallel to the river along the Victoria Embankment and decided that the weather was really too good to spend a couple of hours inside — but it was the weekend of the Notting Hill Carnival and sights along the route were fascinating as people either made their way to or from Notting Hill, dressed as they were.

And we were equally fascinated by this kora player, performing on an instrument that advertises its African origins and which was set up for amplification.

Returning on the Tube, I  was intrigued by one of the two men sitting opposite me.  I’ve never really understood the meaning behind or the reason for tattoos, not to mention nose rings and as I looked at them several questions came to mind.  Was he really born with horns?  Does he play noughts and crosses on his right thigh?  How does he manage to blow his nose if it becomes runny?  &c. &c.

Finally, you might have noticed that I’ve avoided anything remotely smelling of politics.  I’ve learned a lesson this week in that if you respond to articles and comments in newspapers, you are might be prone to suffering verbal abuse as a consequence!

So I’ll leave you with three photographs to ponder.

This is not a bird!



This not a mobile home


… and this is not “wall art”


The Silly Season is now even Sillier

One, two, three — Take-off!  Prepare for a full-scale fulmination!

In the country in which I am writing this, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (to give it its full name), there is a  period in the summer months,  more or less from mid- July until early September, which is known for frivolous news stories that appear in the mass media.  The Silly Season, by which name it is sometimes known, apparently came into common use in the mid-19th century and was described as that part of the year when Parliament and the Law Courts were not sitting.  The parallel name in North America appears to be the slow news season, which says more or less the same thing but with far less humour.  In other places, it’s called some variation of  “Cucumber” or “Gherkin” Time and that’s a turn of phrase that was also apparently used in England in the 1800s to denote the slow season for tailors, although I can’t imagine why!

I came across the “silly season” when I was young and it was explained to me that this was because it was the period in which the County Cricket Championship season was drawing to a close and it was before the soccer season had begun.  However, that is hardly the case now as County Cricket is not quite what it used to be, having been augmented by something called “The Hundred”, which seems to be a variation of baseball played with a cricket bat in which the batter (one can no longer refer to batsmen because the game now includes women) attempts to belt every ball as hard as possible over the boundary rope (scoring 4 runs) or without the ball bouncing (6 runs). In other words, there’s no elegance, and very little in the way tactics or strategy.  Moreover, the soccer season these days never seems to end at all let alone begin again.

I’m shell-shocked!

As if that were not enough, and I’ve written it here in one form or another more than once, we are now living in an era of round-the-clock 24/7 news on radio and TV and in the print media, which all have to fill up their allotted hours or columns because there can’t be a situation in which there’s nothing to report.  The upshot is that we are subjected to events that some editor or other has considered “newsworthy” at any given moment when it happens, only for it to be repeated hourly throughout the day and night until it is superseded by some other event which that same editor or an equally visionary teammate has deemed worthy of subjecting the public to.

And so it has been in recent weeks in the UK.  Last month’s big story in the UK concerned  one, Huw Edwards, an apparently respected BBC journalist, the frontliner of BBC News, who was taken off air after several weeks of rumors and innuendos and who faces being in that situation for quite some time after the BBC embarked on a fact-finding mission to examine claims against its leading newsreader following a report in the Sun tabloid newspaper (one of the Murdoch stable) which had published allegations that he had paid £35,000 over a period of years to a young person with a drug addiction in return for supplying him with “sordid images”.  The rag (the Sun) subsequently backtracked on its implication that Edwards may have committed a criminal offence by buying pictures when the individual concerned was just 17 and the police issued a similar statement.  In addition, the young person’s lawyer issued a statement to the BBC, claiming the main allegations were “rubbish” although the young person’s parents didn’t seem to see it that way.  The story dragged on for a week, hour by hour, and anonymously (“a senior BBC journalist”) until Mr. Edwards’ wife decided that we should know the name of the person involved after which the story was terminated (for the present).

“Wall Art”. Chalk Farm Underground Station, London

That done, the next story to run over several days concerned George Alagiah, a different BBC newsreader/reporter, a person much respected by his colleagues and who had died of bowel cancer, which had been diagnosed 9 years earlier and for which he had undergone multiple treatments. During the nine years of his illness, Alagiah had also used his affliction to raise awareness of bowel cancer and promote testing kits for the disease. What I found disturbing in both these cases was their work colleagues were those who had to announce the situations to listeners and viewers. In the first case there was noticeable shock in their voices and on their faces; in the second, there was discernible emotion as tears welled up while the news was being read.

Following that, there was short hiatus and then it was the turn of the late Michael Parkinson, who departed the land of the living last week.  Parkinson, too, was an English TV broadcaster, journalist and author who presented a television talk show Parkinson between 1971 and 2007, and whose relaxed style turned the “talkshow” into a talk show rather than an extended and not very interesting question-and-answer session.  I always enjoyed Parkinson although neither my late mother nor my late wife were equally enthralled of him.  Three days of Parkinson reminiscences were overlapped and outstripped by three weeks dealing with the Lionesses, the name bestowed upon England’s women’s football team who made their way through thick and thin to the final of the World Cup in Australia.  It seemed like the whole country was being whipped into a state of uncontrolled excitement, a frenzy of anticipation that these brave lionesses might be able to do what their male equivalents hadn’t managed to do since 1966, i.e. actually win a World Cup.  There was a very loud crescendo that was stretched out over several days leading up to the final to be followed by the inevitable heavy-heartedness and extreme melancholy that came with defeat, which was spun out into every news bulletin as the lead story for two days, followed by another two to cover their return from Australia and the inevitable tears shed as they related their sad final scene, of failing to be victorious.

But then the Lionesses had to compete over the past fews days with a much more serious issue that has occupied the news for several weeks, if not months and years.  This story rose to its climax last Monday morning when the judge in Manchester Crown Court delivered the sentence in the case of Lucy Letby, a 33-year old neonatal nurse who turned out to be a serial killer. She had been found guilty last week of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder seven others — not just babies in general but the most vulnerable ones of all.  He sentenced her to what is described as “a whole-life term” for her “sadistic murders” never be released from prison. (Whole-life orders are reserved for crimes of exceptional gravity.) The judge described her crimes as a “cruel, calculated and cynical campaign of child murder involving the smallest and most vulnerable of children”.  She had refused to be present in court when the parents of her victims described in detail the impact her crimes had had upon them. With discussion to change the law regarding whether or not a convicted person should be made to appear in court to hear their sentencing (currently they can opt not to but may be given a further 2-year sentence for failing to appear in Court; however in this case, two added years would be meaningless to someone sentenced to seven whole life terms.). However, that should keep the media on court, if you can excuse the unintended pun, for another while.  As one of the parents of a murdered child was reported to have stated, she wished Nurse Letby a very long life so that she can mull over what she had done while in prison.  However, fellow-prisoners have never really been welcoming of child murderers and Ms. Letby might well bear in mind the fate of Harold Shipman, an English family doctor and serial killer who murdered 15 of mostly elderly female patients under his care (and an estimated 250 others) and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2000 with a whole life order and who committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell four years later.

And with all this,  I have a thing about the media.  I know that we need to be kept informed as to what is happening in the world but more and more I have come to the conclusion that in their search for “stories”, the broadcast and print media blow things out of all proportion while at the same time, the so-called social (antisocial?) media are open to anyone who wishes not to report the news but to lie about it.

Meanwhile, Israel enters its eighth month of street demonstrations in an effort to rescue its democracy and prevent the country becoming a messianic, fascistic dictatorship, because that is the direction in which it is heading — and all to save one man from standing trial and perhaps from spending time in prison.  It’s scarcely credible but unfortunately genuine.  The demonstrators have been labelled “anarchists” by the pro-fascist lobby but they are true patriots.  In contrast, several members of the current governing coalition have either spent time in prison, have been decreed unsuitable for military service, have refused to serve or been permitted minimal service time; some barely recognize the legitimacy of the State and only because what they can get out of it.

It’s really worth thinking about and bearing in mind!

And as this blog is called PhotoGeoGraphy, I suppose that after the diatribe that has preceded this, I ought to include a few more photographs.

Time for a manicure and some nail polish.  Catania, Sicily.


The tightrope walker. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv


Israel’s National Bird — the Hoopoe


Bottoms Up —What ducks think of the world, Ducky. Regent’s Park, London

Look-alikes.  See below!

And everywhere I look, I seem to see faces!

Walking from Kentish Town to Belsize Park a couple of weeks ago, I came across this sign and thought that it was rather early for supper.  But different people, different customs, it seems!

Church of Christ, Kentish Town, London.
Coiffure 1,  Oxford Street, London
Coiffure 2.  British Museum, London

But in case you’re thinking that I’ve done little else but listen to the news, there has been some culture recently.  A couple weeks ago, we went to The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre to see Le Cage aux Folles, a musical by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman based on a 1973 play by Jean Poiret, and tells the story of Georges, the owner of a Saint-Tropez nightclub, and Albin, a drag queen who is the club’s star attraction and Georges’ life partner. (The staging has the action transferred to a seaside town in the north of England, drawing out a touch of poignancy.) When Georges’s son announces his intention to marry the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician there is a potential catastrophe. Should George and Albin pretend to be something they are not for the sake of the son and his intended?  But it all works out in the end.  When it was first performed on Broadway over 40 years ago, it had to be a bit more laid back than in this production.   Given today’s culture wars, it was really “in your face”, especially as we were sitting three rows from the stage.  Except for two of the songs, “I am What I Am” and “Best of Times”, the musical side of things was nothing too much to write home about.  However, the choreography was glorious and the whole thing was out of this world!  (We were also very lucky with the weather as it was the first day in quite a while during which there had been no rain.

Then a few days later, it was off to the Royal Albert Hall for a Prom featuring the Budapest Festival Orchestra (an amazing ensemble) conducted by Iván Fischer with the pianist Sir András Schiff (a childhood friend of Fischer from their Budapest days) with music by Ligeti, Bartók and Beethoven—and during Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, Schiff was seated above the double basses as a member of the audience!

And finally, I took myself the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery to view 1,000 photographs taken by Paul McCartney when the Beatles toured the UK and the world in 1963/64.

I learned several things from this visit.  First of all, McCartney is a pretty good photographer.  Second, I discovered than John Lennon wore spectacles.  Third (although it wasn’t mentioned), their tour of the UK in November 1963 coincided with the Kennedy assassination, which reminded me that I was at home in Dublin listening to the radio and a Beatles song was interrupted by the news from Dallas so that I always associate the Fab Four with JFK.

Finally, while waiting for a bus in Camden this morning, I saw myself staring at the sign below across the road from the bus stop and couldn’t help thinking to myself that the chickens, about to become somebody’s dinner, were quite as happy as Sainsbury’s make out!

C’est tout!


On pigeons, organs and tyranny


Coalition building, 2023

I started off a couple of days ago thinking that it was time to post once again to this blog and I thought I had a photograph suitable to start the ball rolling.  I know the media were full of Trump last week when he put in [yet another] court appearance to plead not guilty to any wrongdoing whatsoever, and that it was a witch-hunt, prosecution=persecution,&c., &c. but then I thought what’s the point? If I start with a rave, I’ll end up with a rant and do I really need to raise my blood pressure to danger level once more?

What between the Trump, Niger, Modi, Imran Khan, Israeli politics and all the rest of the diabolical news with which the media have to fill up time slots and column spaces, I was reminded of what I felt years ago when a woman called Mary Whitehouse, a British teacher and conservative activist who campaigned against social liberalism and the mainstream British media, would appear on the television.  She would accuse both the print and broadcast media of encouraging a more permissive society and many accused her of being highly censorious and bigoted, her traditional moral convictions bringing her into direct conflict with advocates of the so-called sexual revolution, feminism, children’s rights and so forth. On the other hand, there were others who believed that she was attempting to halt a decline in Britain’s “moral standards.”  My reaction, I remember, from all those years ago when she would appear fulminating forcefully was to say out aloud: “The TV has a on-off button so if you don’t want to hear or see something, then press the button again and turn the thing off—you really don’t have to watch it, you know!”

However, I don’t think she was ever able to hear me.

Jaw, jaw, jaw.

Anyway, I have enough photographs to create a story so why spoil it (at least at the outset)?

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Tal, my 13-year old grandson with a photograph  attached, which he had taken on his phone when he was in Soho a day or so before.  When I looked at the picture, I thought that he has a good eye for a photo (I’d actually noticed it before when about a year ago he asked to borrow my camera when we were out walking on Hampstead Heath). However, he wanted to know if I could turn it into a black and white photo rather than colour, so I obliged and sent a b&w image back to him.

Then he returned with a further request: Could I make it b&w but leave the building in the middle in colour.  It took me while to figure out what to do (it was simpler than I had at first imagined) but I sent him more or less what had been requested and it seemed to satisfy the lad!

Now, to change the subject, I must say that every time I hear a report on global warming, I am inclined to smile a little.  This is not because I think that it’s not happening but from where I am writing this, the last six weeks or so have to have been the coolest and wettest that I can remember.  Yesterday, (Tuesday August 8) was not only extremely wet but also cold (for this time of the year).  Reluctant to turn on central heating in midsummer, I found myself reading in the living room wearing the heavy woolly cardigan that I had bought last winter and it was barely adequate.  Today, there’s a golden circle in the sky which, if I remember correctly, is called “the sun“.

All this reminded me that 10 days ago, we went for a few days to the Cotswolds, an area of outstanding natural beauty  in central-southwest England.  The area really is beautiful but unless one enjoys walking around under a grey sky in drizzle and rain at 18 degrees Celsius, its beauty didn’t exactly shine through.   However, the rain did abate for short periods so there are some photographs.

We discovered just as we were leaving that the cottage we’d been staying in had a visitor and he or she seemed to be comfortable and very much at home.

Perhaps he/she was related to the pigeon that had appeared to be posing for me the previous day.


Walking through the market town with the lovely name of Stow-on-the-Wold, I noticed a gentleman listening to what appeared to be a lecture on a subject concerning I know not what.  The topic of the talk, which I couldn’t hear, did not interest me one whit because it was the gentleman’s headgear that had really caught my eye.  It was only when I transferred the image from camera to computer that I noticed the name of the organization which owns or leases the house or room and the name of which appears on the window on two large posters which read: “NFFF Members” and “OFFICIAL MEMBER”.  Is asked myself what NFFF meant and reading backwards and in reverse, I discovered that it is an acronym for “National Federation of Fish Friers”.  How English!  And that reminded me of a paragraph in Pen Vogler’s 2020 book Scoff, a history of food and class in Britain, where the author quotes from an 1846 book entitled The Jewish Manual by Judith, Lady Montefiore, for young Jewish housewives, in which fried fish has an important role.  Fried fish, incidentally, is one of the reasons that I became a geographer but that’s another story entirely and if anyone would like some more information on that particular episode, I’d be happy to fill them in (privately!).


While we were in Stow, a couple of other pictures presented themselves to my camera.  I came across the gentleman below sitting on the passenger seat of the Jaguar waiting for its driver to return.  As I passed him, I mentioned to him that I thought he suited the car very well and we struck up a conversation in the course of which, he informed me that I didn’t sound as if I was local (so what’s new?).  I mentioned Dublin and he then launched into a discussion of his wife’s family who had been the principal organ builders for churches and things in Ireland for many years and some of who still live, he told me, close to the Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin.  Fascinating.

Across the street, there was another English phenomenon — an ice-cream seller.

We moved a few miles from Stow-on-the-W0ld to Bourton-on-the-Water,  passing a building on the main street, Victoria Street, called The Victoria Hall and on either wide of the entrance were two plaques, the one on the left commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 and the one on the right commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012, an interesting pairing!


There must have been a time when Bourton was a normal village with normal people who did the normal things that villagers do but the day that we were there, it seemed as if it was straight out of Disneyland, with people who looked like they’d come from all over the country — from all over the world, in fact, walking up and down the pathway beside the small stream or canal. It straddles the River Windrush, and is known for its low bridges and traditional stone houses — one description compared it with Venice but is was blind to any remote resemblance to Venice and that’s about it, I’m afraid.

Yet there was a sign that not only caught my eye but also begged me to to enter and find out how it got to Bourton-on-the-Water.  Turns out that Shalom, The RainbowShop is a Christian Bookshop, with  three sections, the first one of which sells Bibles, cards, books, & gifts, all of like subject matter; the second section sells children’s toys, books, gifts, and more and the last section sells music, posters and gifts.  It also has a large secondhand book section run by donations as well as a prayer corner.  The woman who spoke to us was very friendly and helpful indeed, so much so that I felt as if I had to give her a [very] short Introduction to the etymology of the Hebrew word for peace.  It turned out that the shop was named for Jesus who preached peace and the rainbow was named for Noah who survived the Flood.  Shalom, Bourton-on-the-Water!

But as the weather wan’t getting any better, we decided to leave a day before we’d planned and head back to the big city.  And then looking through photographs that I’d taken over the past couple of weeks, I remembered that we had visited the Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy.  We must have spent an hour there but except for a small number of exhibits, I wasn’t unduly impressed .  One of he better ones appears below …

… and then, as I turned around, I came across two exhibits that reminded me that’s hard to get away from certain things these days!


On the way back from the Royal Academy, we exited the Tube at St. Johns Wood Station and I noticed this at the exit and wondered why it hadn’t been entered as an exhibit at the place I’d just left!

However, there’s one more photo that I had taken in the Cotswolds that’s worth reproducing. The red telephone box is a British icon and I felt that this one says a lot about the United Kingdom in 2023.  Nevertheless, each person can interpret it as they will.

And then one morning last week while getting dressed, I happened to look at the window and saw what I saw.  I knew that there wouldn’t be time to get the camera out so wrapped in a towel, I got hold of the phone and made it over the window and managed to get this photo before the tiger moth (I think that’s what it was) flew away about two seconds later.

A couple of days ago, this time armed with the camera, walking up Haverstock Hill in Belsize Park and just before turning for home, I espied these two insects moving about and through they would make a nice photo before they, too, flew away,

I’m almost done but I include one additional London photo.  A couple of weeks ago, while walking from Oxford Street to Leicester Square I found myself behind this young woman for several minutes and wondered whether I should or shouldn’t.  She was having so much trouble keeping her thing above her thong as she strolled down the street that I decided I would so I did and here it is!


Finally, I”m back at where I didn’t quite want to start off this post.

A couple of weeks ago, there  appeared in the weekend edition of The Financial Times, in the Lunch with the FT section, ( an interview with Yale historian Timothy Snyder.  I’d read several of his books over the past couple of years — Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning; The Road to Unfreedom:  Russia, Europe, America; Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and was deeply impressed by his scholarship and knowledge.  Then I remembered that I’d also read his On Tyranny, published the year after Trump had been elected President of the USA.  It’s a very short book—about 120 pages with large typeface and divided into 20 chapters.  It can be read in little over an hour or so, so I decided to re-read it last week given the goings-on the USA and Israel, as well as other places.  It’s quite amazing how much one can say in so few words.

The chapter headings are reproduced below and this short masterpiece should be compulsory reading for anyone who wishes to continue to live under a liberal democracy.

(Leszek Kołakowski was a Polish philosopher and historian of ideas, best known for his critical analyses of Marxist thought.  Due to his criticism of Marxism and the Communist system, he was effectively exiled from Poland in 1968, spending much of the remainder of his career at Oxford  and was a major inspiration for Solidarity.)

Shall we stick together and get on with one another?


Or would we prefer to be mutually hostile?






Difficult Times, Methinks

Front pages of today’s Israeli dailies

I may be in “voluntary exile” in the UK from the country in which I have spent most of my life but that’s not to say that I don’t take an interest in what’s happening there and since yesterday’s vote in Israel’s parliament, I’ve been in a state of enhanced disquiet.

Democracy — The March to Jerusalem, July 2023 (with thanks to Shuli Waterman)

I’ve been putting off posting to this blog again for several days now in the vain hope that Israel’s politicians might see some sense and come to an agreement over the proposed “judicial overhaul” announced by the country’s Minister of Justice, Yariv Levin, a man whose great uncle was commander of the Altalena ship and member of the first Knesset, representing Herut, the right-wing precursor of Likud and a man who was held by Herut’s first leader, Menachem Begin, at his circumcision (judaization??) ceremony 54 years ago.  For those unfamiliar with the history of modern Israel, the “Altalena Affair” was a violent confrontation that occurred in June 1948 between the newly created Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and the Irgun (also referred to as Etzel), one of the right-wing Jewish paramilitary groups in pre-Israel Palestine that were in the process of merging in order to establish the IDF.

The conflict involved the Altalena, a cargo ship led by Eliyahu Lankin, a senior Etzel commander and Levin’s great uncle, which had been laden with weapons and fighters by the independent Irgun, but arrived during the problematic period of the Irgun‘s absorption into the IDF. Following the United Nations General Assembly vote recommending the Partition Plan for Mandatory Palestine on 29 November 1947, Jewish leaders proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 after which a provisional government was established and the IDF came into being. Absorbing all military organizations into the IDF was tricky, to say the least, with several paramilitary groups continuing to be active outside it, one of which was the Irgun, which planned to ship weapons and fighters and a target date for the Altalena‘s arrival from Europe was set for mid-May 1948.

In June 1948, the ship sailed from France but no cable was sent to the Irgun command in Israel, fearing that it might fall into the wrong hands. Nevertheless, it set off with 940 Jewish volunteers and a large quantity of weapons on board, arriving about at a place several kilometres north of Tel Aviv and unloaded its passengers and the weaponry. Menachem Begin, the commander of the Irgun was aboard the ship at this stage and ordered it to sail to Tel Aviv. After fruitless discussions between the provisional government and the Irgun, David Ben-Gurion, head of the provisional government and later Israel’s first Prime Minister, gave the order to fire warning shots above the ship, one of which hit it.  The decision was not a popular one within the newly formed Israeli Navy, Army or Air Force but the ship was nonetheless sunk.  The worry then was that it might have led to a civil war but it didn’t and many years later, Mr. Begin became Israel’s Prime Minister.

I only write this as an introduction to the pedigree of the person most involved with the current “judicial overhaul”, something which might go some way to explaining Mr. Levin’s fervour to remodel Israel’s judicial system, originally formulated by the then “left-wingish” government into something more in line with right-wing views that imagine elected politicians as exercising the “will of the people” in contrast to an unelected judiciary that simply perpetuates the control of politicians by a so-called and imaginary “elite”.  In this respect, Mr. Levin is ably abetted by Simcha Rothman, a member of the Religious Zionist Party, (for whom my brain somehow always seems to conjure up the mnemonic “Simcha Rottweiler”) who was appointed chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and yet another “leading politician” who served but a stripped down army service.

At this point, and without wishing to be overly academic, I need to say something about the Israeli political system.  The Knesset, Israeli’s unicameral parliament has 120 members. That’s part of the problem, of course, because unlike many other democracies, there is no upper or second house to “keep the lid” on the psychopathies of those elected “representatives of the people”.  The problem is, of course, that the elected representatives of the people do not represent the people at all.  They represent themselves and the controllers and overseers of the party to which they nominally belong.  They never have to answer directly to any group of voters as Israel operates a list system.  In other words, when voters go into the polling booth, they do not choose a candidate but select a party.  And unlike other countries that operate list systems, such as The Netherlands, Israeli voters cannot change the order of the candidates whose names appear on the lists, moving more favoured candidates towards the top and those less-liked ones further down, thereby affecting who becomes a parliamentarian and who doesn’t.

In addition to the absence of a second parliamentary chamber and the lack of any personal answerability to the voters on the part of the “elected” members of the legislature, Israel does not have a law allowing referenda. So, unlike countries such as Switzerland or Ireland which use referenda to permit some issues to be decided by the electorate as whole, that method is closed to Israeli voters was the members of the Knesset would have to legislate such a change and they are unlikely to say that the people know better than they.  (And this is not to say that I believe that a referendum is always the best way of solving political issues, as the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom well illustrated.  I wonder how many people who participated in that vote actually understood all the issues at hand.  Very few, I would assume — I couldn’t have pretended to!)  In other words, with the exception of the Supreme Court, Israel is severely lacking a system of checks and balance, something that characterizes other democracies.  And in addition to these deficiencies, Israel has no written Constitution only a series of Basic Laws which can be amended or overturned by the Knesset members by special majority.

And then there’s the Prime Minister himself.  What should I say?  Probably nothing — but I can’t really remain silent.  He’s now 73 and it’s 27 years since he first became Prime Minister and he’s held that position for about 18 years altogether, rather long for a politician in a democracy.  He’s a well-educated man and in positions that he held before he became Prime Minister, (Permanent Representative to the U.N., Minister for Science and Technology, Housing and Construction, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Economic Strategy, Health, Pensioner Affairs), it’s generally agreed that he did a reasonable—even in some cases a good—job.  However, his years as Prime Minister have been, from my warped point of view, nothing short of disastrous.  For a start, any other politician from his Likud party who he perceived to have had “prime ministerial potential” or ambitions either left the party, left politics altogether, or was offered a job that they found difficult to turn down such as ambassadorships — which meant that they ceased to be Knesset members and thus potential rivals.

This has meant that Likud has been left with individuals, some who might consider themselves to be Prime Minister in the future but who seem to my malformed opinions to be, how shall I say, wanting.  We should also remember the speech he delivered almost 30 years ago to a mob of anti-Oslo Accord supporters at Zion Square in Jerusalem when the chants of “Rabin boggéd!” (“Rabin is a traitor!”) from the mob were so loud that Netanyahu, speaking at the microphone and who had egged them on, had to take a break several times until the roar died down so he could hear himself.  It was a meeting in which the language was so noxious that several of his erstwhile Likud colleagues walked away so as not to be associated with it!

Israel has always been divided into camps (former State President Reuven Rivlin named them some years ago as Secular, Religious, Strictly Religious, and Arab and stated that they have to be able to live with one another, which, in a way, until the present government came into being, they more or less managed.) However, perhaps to manage his personal problems (Mr. Netanyahu is suspected of crimes involving fraud, breach of trust, and bribes and has been indicted, enough in a true democracy to have brought about if not a resignation then a temporary break from holding office), he chose to put together a coalition of right-wing parties, supposedly led by the largest one, Likud.  However, it also contains two extreme right-wing religious nationalist parties.  One is headed by a man who has probably been investigated by the police more often than any other politician and who was rejected by the army as undesirable.  He is now Minister for Internal Security (i.e., in charge of the police); the other, the current Minister of Finance, is a man who several years ago was reported to have said: “It is natural that my wife would not want to lie down next to someone who just gave birth to a baby that might want to murder her baby in another 20 years.”, something that might be termed racist if said in another country. The coalition is completed by two strictly Orthodox religious parties, each made up of different factions, one of which is ideologically opposed to army service and even to having males work, and thereby pay taxes, both of which are component parts of a great confidence trick.  The other is headed by a man who served time in prison for taking $155,000 in bribes while serving as Minister of the Interior.  He came back again into government — as Minister of the Interior but on 18 January 2023, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that he was not permitted to be a cabinet minister due to his conviction for tax offences and as a result, was  ejected from the cabinet four days later.

It is this wide and widening fissure between the coalition, which is increasingly seen as constituting a possible future fascist theocracy and those opposed to it (mostly but not entirely) secular who believe that Israel belongs in the modern world where it is regarded as a leader in hi-tech, that has brought about the idea that Israel is heading towards becoming a dictatorship.  I would like believe otherwise but am finding it increasingly difficult to disbelieve my inner thoughts.

And for this awful situation that has come about, one man is responsible and that one man cannot acknowledge that he has been anything but a positive force in Israeli society when in fact he has been the most divisive Prime Minister Israel has ever had.  And what is true for dictatorships appears to be coming true in Israel — dictators generally don’t nominate successors and if they do, it’s often a family member — in which case, there would be little positive I could consider regarding Israeli society!  One cannot help but feel a little bit sorry for Mr. Netanyahu as he sits at the head of a government in which the shots are called by people who have turned him into the person who probably possesses the most moderate views in the government!  And that is something I never thought I would ever write!

One can only hope, as the historian, philosopher and author, Yuval Noah Harari wrote in yesterday’s Financial Times, “… Government members call the  demonstrators and army reservists “traitors”, and demand that force be used to such the opposition.  Israelis worry that we might be days away from civil war. … But the hundreds of thousands of us protesting in the streets feel that we have no choice. It is our duty to ourselves, to Jewish tradition and to humanity as whole to prevent the rise of a Jewish supremacist dictatorship.  We are standing in the streets, because we cannot do otherwise if we are to save Israeli democracy.”


Finally, before yesterday’s catastrophe, I have been working on “filtering” my 42,000 photos to get the number down to a reasonable size.  After going through them —a process that took considerably longer than I initially bargained for—I now have them down to just over 3,500 and the second filtering session will be much easier.

Anyway, and in the spirit of the two photos above, I give you a few signs that have entertained me over the years.

Irish origins!

Israel 2023?

Seen in a Tel Aviv shop window

Same thing, really!

Just spray evenly either side and everything will be fine!

Oxford Street, London

Maybe he should be in Tel Aviv rather than on Oxford Street, London?

This one was (is???) in Tel Aviv

Marxism in action?

… and then my thumb fell off!


About ranting and raving and photographs

It’s time for another post to this blog but to be quite honest, I wasn’t sure where to begin last Thursday afternoon when I started it.

I had spent some time catching up with a young man with whom I had worked with 20 years ago here in London on the previous day.  (Actually, he’s not so young any more, is married with three kids and has lived more than 10,000 miles away from here for a decade and a half.)  He reminded me (I’d forgotten, as I tend to do so often these days) that we’d actually met for the first time several years before we worked together when he came to discuss his MA dissertation with me while I  was a visiting academic at the London School of Economics. In the course of our conversation, I also learned that he reads the posts on this blog and just as we were parting, he mentioned that (a) I should keep it up—something I had intended to do anyway and (b) he hadn’t read one of my “rants” for some time.  The reason for the absence of that particular bit of these posts is not that I have nothing to sound off about or pontificate on rather that there is such an overabundance of topics to fulminate over that I can’t quite make up my mind which might be worthy of subjecting my readers to.

As a consequence, I’ll start this post with something closer to home.  All three of my children are involved in music and last Tuesday night in Jerusalem, there was a concert in which Shuli, who is the principal violist of the Israel Camerata orchestra, was performing.  She’d sent me a WhatsApp to remind me to watch it live on the orchestra’s YouTube channel so I dutifully tuned in.  The orchestra, the soloist and the conductor appeared on stage and just before he mounted the podium, the conductor turned to the audience and mentioned that the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog and his wife were in the audience.  He then mentioned to the audience that he had discovered a connection between the orchestra and the President and that that connection could be found in the viola section.  Then pointing to Shuli, he told those present in the Jerusalem Theatre that her grandmother (my mother) hailed from Dublin, as did the President’s father, the former President Chaim Herzog (they were born six weeks apart in 1918) and that my Ma’s brother, Ucky Fine, had taught Chaim Herzog to box.  Ucky had told me this piece of family legend several times and to which my reaction (internally but never uttered, of course) was always “Yeah, yeah, yeah”.  Anyway, about 40 years ago, Chaim Herzog visited the University of Haifa and at the reception given in his honour, I approached him and introduced myself, telling him that I, too, came from Dublin.  He asked me my family name and as my father was not a Dubliner but from Downpatrick, a small town in Northern Ireland, I thought it better to tell him that my mother’s family name was “Fine”.  He looked me and smiled and asked if was a related to Ucky Fine and I responded that Ucky was my uncle—at which point the President told me that Ucky had taught him to box!  (Posthumous apologies to Ucky.)  (Ucky also encouraged me to learn to box but one visit to the Dublin Maccabi boxing club and a punch on the nose delivered by one, Melvyn Davidson, was sufficient to convince me that words might be more efficient than whacks!)

Anyway, at the interval, President Herzog went backstage and sought out Shuli and they had what I understood to be an emotional and nostalgic conversation, involving people much loved and long gone.  (I mentioned to Shuli the following day that Chaim Herzog’s given name in English was Vivian (a direct translation of the Hebrew name Chaim because apparently it was difficult for his colleagues to pronounce Chaim when he served in the British Army in WWII) and Shuli’s mother was also Vivien.  She knew about this little bit of serendipity but there wasn’t time do discuss it in the limited time available.).  I found the whole story rather moving.


As it happens, I’ve been busy doing something for the past week or more, something I’ve been putting off for years but knew that I would eventually have to do. (So, David, you’ll have to wait a while for another rant!).  What I’ve been doing is “filtering” the photographs on my computer.  Whereas people in the “develop and print” era used to do such filtering by choosing the photos they wished to keep, creating photo albums in the process, in the digital age, when photos are mostly taken not to be saved but to be sent to “friends” and relatives on some social media platform, they tend to remain digital, i.e., on some sort of electronic device.  This does not necessarily mean, however, that the photographer (or at least this photographer) is any better organized than those who stuck their pictures in albums, thinking or hoping that their children or  grandchildren might be interested in viewing them, more often than not running into the questions of “who was that?” or “where was that?” or “what was that”? or “when was that?”.  At least digitally, you can date when the photo was taken and see what it is although the “who” and the “where” questions often remain unanswered.

Starting from before I bought my first digital camera about 16 years ago (I scanned some of the many transparencies I had taken prior to 2007) and working chronologically, I have now reached the summer of 2018 and have been picking out those images that I think might be worth retaining.  And when I’ve completed that and got as far as summer 2023, I’ll go through the ones I kept and be more ruthless in the next sweep.  Rather than all of this taking a week or so, I’ve been at it for almost a fortnight already and reckon that with a bit of luck, I might be done by the end of July — but it will have been worth it.

So, if I’m not going to rant and rave as requested, I thought I’d insert some of them (chosen not quite randomly) into this post and add a short story concerning the whys and the wherefores of how I came to click when I did.  Incidentally, people often ask me what kind of photographer I am — what kind of photos I take — and my response is usually that I take whatever passes the camera lens and I consider to be interesting at that time.  I might add that a lot depends on what lens I have on the camera at any given time for those things for which the lens is unsuited, I generally ignore.

The first photo below was taken in County Mayo in western Ireland in September 1966.  I had not long before bought a camera and the photo was taken on my honeymoon.  We’d stopped for a break and the four nuns were walking down the road in the opposite direction and as soon as the camera appeared, they responded with smiles.  Looking at the picture almost six decades on, I should have clicked a few seconds earlier and then all four of them would have been in the photo but it’s fine as it is!

Get thee to a nunnery

About 30 years ago, we were somewhere in rural Sussex and went for a walk and as we got back to the car park, the picture below is what confronted me.

Mother and Son

Anyone who reads this blog regularly is probably aware that every now and then I post a picture or two of a fire hydrant.  Most of these pictures were taken in Tel Aviv because typical English understatement means that hydrants are just a hole in the ground covered with a metal plate with with a large “H” on a wall or railing marked close by.  Other countries, including Israel, are more forthright than the UK in this regard.

It was the “faces” of the hydrants that drew my attention to them in the first place and ever since, I  seem to see “faces” everywhere as well and not just when I  look at hydrants..

The “eyes” have it!  (Bloomsbury, London)

Every now and then somebody will send me a picture of a hydrant because perhaps they think I’m a bit eccentric or just plain mad but that will nevertheless appreciate it.  My own diagnosis is that I’m quite normal I am nevertheless grateful for the attention which some people occasionally bestow upon me.

Misbeehiving! (with thanks to Irma Zaslansky)


String Quintet (quartet and double bass) by Franz Josef Hydrant (caption acknowledgement: Professor Yoel Greenberg)

Every now and then, an edifice stands out to such a degree that it demands to be photographed.  One example is the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens opposite the Royal Albert Hall, which is one of London’s most ornate monuments.  It’s been around for over 150 years and still looks pretty spectacular.

Another London structure worthy of a photo is the London Eye on the south bank of the Thames.  I have several different picture of this very popular London rip-off usually taken from unusual angles but I’ve chosen this one from across the river and this “doctored” version is far better, I think, than the unedited version.

Years ago, I spent a few hours one morning with a friend at Highgate Cemetery, amongst other things to view the memorial to Karl Marx (I might have chosen Mahatma Gandhi in Tavistock Square or Sigmund Freud in Belsize Park both of which I’ve photographed more than once but old Karl won the gold medal.  What I found fascinating about visiting this tombstone was the number of people of like minds who wished to be buried as close to their hero as possible — but that’s another story altogether.

A couple of weeks after the Grenfell Tower disaster the same friend and I visited what remained of the building.  Grenfell Tower was a 24-storey residential tower block in North Kensington, most of which was destroyed in an appalling conflagration in June 2017. Seventy-two people were killed in the fire in a building from which there was little possibility of escape. The scene was nothing short of horrific.



I rarely take pictures of sunsets but it does happen occasionally.  On a walking tour of the City of London a few years ago, the walk ended just as the sun was setting and we were on the roof of a tall building overlooking the City.  It was pure luck of course, this being London and the sun shining.


Looking eastward towards the City of London

Occasionally, though, I do behold a sunset that’s worth recording.

Sunset over the Mediterranean at Tel Aviv

And then there are those people who like to dress up and pretend to be a sunset!

Off to the Test Match at Lord’s.  St. John’s Wood, London

Misspelled signs always appear to catch my eye (in English, at any rate)

All the beer that you can drink (from a can?) in what seems to be hot dry weather, it would seem!  Tel Aviv


Smoking might be relaxing but it’s also bad for your health! Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv …

… and this lady is the living proof of that!

Sometimes, it’s just colours that attract me, as in this shoe shop in downtown Barcelona …


… or  it might be colours along the sea on a morning in Tel Aviv


… and then there are “food processors”.   Over three days, I observed this man butcher a tuna in the fish market is Siracusa, Sicily.


However, as the crows crow “it’s not only humans who cut things up”!

Breakfast at Tel Aviv Port

On occasion, I just take simple photos of people.

Near Taormina, Sicily


Tango in the Park. The Regent’s Park, London

Another example of something photogenic is when people just have to make their views known to others, like this man on Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv who jumped out of nowhere while the traffic was stalled and decided to engage the unfortunate driver in a prayer session!


Prayer session. Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel Aviv


I photographed this happy older couple on a bus in Tel Aviv — but I did ask them beforehand if they minded — and they didn’t!


Then, on occasion, you pass something inanimate that just cries out: “Take my photo, please”

Spider web on a cold wet day. Belsize Park, London

Sometimes, I see something and a caption just jumps out at me, like this shop window in North Tel Aviv that said “Brexit, Brexit, Brexit!”



Towards the end, here are two photographs that I really like.

Coming home from a walk on Hampstead Heath some years ago, I came across this scene of a man and a young girl and a scooter.  As soon as I saw the scene, I knew that the picture had to be in black and white but the camera was set for colour but the picture in colour was a nothing.  However, as soon as I got home, I turned it into a b&w image and this is what resulted.


Finally, another favourite of mine, taken about 15 years ago, not long after I started walking the streets in Tel Aviv. In the Yarqon Park, not far from my flat in Tel Aviv, this is the image I saw one morning and I knew immediately that it would be a great photo given the angle of the drops from the tap and the corresponding angle of the tail feathers of the bird, which is purposely not in focus.

Well, this has been a different kind of post, so the next one might be a rant as there’s more than enough in this world to shout and scream about!




If you’ve nothing to say, say nothing!

I’ve said it before so I might as well allude to it again. At the end of Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock, just before he passes out in a drunken stupor, “Captain” Jack Boyle, states that “the whole world is ‘in a terrible state o’chassis'” (meaning, of course, chaos).  And it is.  And we hear and see and read about it all the time — unless, of course, one doesn’t read via the medium of newspapers, listen through the medium of radio and watch by way of the medium of television — or engage oneself in those so-called social—or are they better referred to as antisocial — media”?  “Media” by the way, is the plural form, just in case you had thought that I had erred.  After all, wasn’t it Marshall McLuhan who wrote “The Media is the Message”, which in a later reworking became “The Media is the Massage”, where by playing on words and using the term “massage,” he suggested that modern audiences enjoy mainstream media as soothing, enjoyable, and relaxing but that any pleasure we find in mainstream media is deceiving, since the changes between society and technology are discordant, thereby perpetuating an “Age of Anxiety”.

We live in a world that not only reports what is happening but does it on a full-time basis.  “The news” used to be just that — new tidings — whereas today, the news is a show.  Just think of  the way in which the term “news show” is now in vogue.  And, in my modest opinion, now that radio and TV stations give us 24/7 news, this stroke of bad luck is of their own creation.  And again, to requote myself (well, it’s my blog!) from a couple of years ago, “News used to be about reporting and commenting on what has happened whereas today it’s more to do with speculation about what might happen.

Moreover,  in order to attract viewers (and readers and listeners), speculation, usually accompanied by what vaguely passes as news  is transformed into lurid descriptions of the worst possible scenarios that might evolve.  The British journalist and former Conservative Member of Parliament, Matthew Parris,  once wrote “I really don’t like television very much. It’s partly that I don’t approve of television … because I think it is an inherently stupid medium.”  I also think it was Parris who wrote somewhere some years ago (and I still can’t find the reference) that if you’re contracted to write a piece of 800 or 1,000 words X number of times a week and you have nothing interesting to say, then you still have to produce piece of 800 or 1,000 words even if it says nothing. Or, as Daniel Finkelstein wrote a few years ago, in  Everything in Moderation, a book based on some of his columns in The Times:  “The most difficult part of producing a column isn’t writing it. It’s having the idea. From the moment a column appears, I start to worry about what on earth I am going to put in the next one. And the fear grows until an idea comes. I might have been reading the paper and articles and books all week and be completely blank. And then, emptying the dishwasher, a column will appear to me while I’m putting away the teaspoons. Sometimes it is just the very basic argument, other times it’s the whole thing. Once it does, though, I may (in fact almost always do) need to do quite a bit of reading. I might want to use an academic study or tell a historical story or write about someone who has just died. I am fanatical about getting this stuff right and ensuring that even the most expert reader would accept that I know what I’m talking about. Because one thing I can be sure of, working on The Times, is that even the most obscure points will come to the attention of the expert on the subject.”

And so it is with the media in general and with writing a blog post — although I also add that I’m under no obligation to produce anything at all for anyone.  However, if you have to turn out a newspaper with 24 or 32 pages and there’s nothing to report, you can’t have four pages of news and 28 empty pages, so you fill what might have been empty pages with balderdash or gibberish or blarney.  And the same applies to television — a news programme scheduled for 75 minutes has to go on for an hour and a quarter — you can’t show a blank screen and although filling time with ads might obviate the need for presenting a blank screen, it appeals to me not one little bit.  My late mother, a really down to earth person, used to say to me as a child (and as an adult, too), “If you’ve nothing to say, say nothing!”.  And I think she had a point there.

For instance, look at what appeared one day last week on the front page of The [London] Times online edition (and The Times is a so-called quality newspaper!):

Atlantic crossing in ‘wheelie bin’ boat ends in tears — Andrew Bedwell had hoped his voyage in the Big C would raise money for cancer charities

Almost as soon as the British sailmaker set off from Newfoundland in an attempt to set the record for the smallest boat to sail across the ocean, he started taking on water.

Two days on he tearfully told supporters that the 1m-long vessel was all but destroyed and his attempt to reach Cornwall was definitely over. After encountering difficulties, he said: “We got back to the harbour and the boat had basically sunk.”

OR (in the World Section)

Little Mermaid artist offended by LGBT job claim

Some wanted Ursula’s look crafted by a designer closer to the character’s drag queen roots
Melissa McCarthy plays Ursula in Disney’s high-grossing remake of The Little Mermaid

The British hair and make-up designer responsible for the look of Ursula in Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid has dismissed claims that his job should have gone to an LGBT artist.

Ursula, one of the best-known villains in Disney history, was inspired by a drag queen for the original animation, released in 1989. The character is played by Melissa McCarthy in the remake and her appearance was created by Peter King, who has said criticism of his work was ridiculous.

Some have argued that Disney should have hired an LGBT makeup artist as a tribute to Divine, the Baltimore drag queen who inspired the look.

Is this what we really want to be reading or hearing about?


Anyway, enough of all this — and back to me, which is hardly any more interesting.

I actually started this post over about a week and a half ago and then before I finished, I got distracted.  Almost three weeks  ago, we went off for a five-day trip to Italy to get away from all the nonsense that the United Kingdom offers on a daily basis.  The destination was the resort town of Abano Terme, a resort town near Padua with a population of about 20,000, apparently famed for its hot springs (with waters at about 80 °C) and mud baths, which are an important economic resource but a resource of which I did not avail myself during the short stay.

What appealed to me was the peace and quiet of the place.  We made it more or less on time both arriving and returning —despite the combined efforts of Heathrow Airport and British Airways to thwart us in that respect.  On the outbound flight, everything was fine until we joined the melée at Terminal 5, commonly referred to as “Security”.  I stood for 10 minutes in line and then put my cabin baggage on the conveyor belt to be scanned, while holding on to my trousers after I had removed my belt for reasons that were not entirely obvious.  My backpack contained absolutely nothing that might have been considered dangerous but it had six zips and for some reason, somebody thought they saw something suspicious inside it and it was shunted onto the parallel belt to be examined manually.  Three quarters of an hour later, after a 20-minute minute examination of the bag of the Japanese lady before me in the queue and from which every item had been removed and an explanation demanded as to what it was and where it had been purchased, after which each item had to be replaced, it was my turn.  I don’t know what they thought they saw in my bag but the person conducting the search opened just one of the six zips (there was nothing in the pocket!) before releasing us for a plane that was due to take off 15 minutes later, and which was being held because not just us but several other passengers seemed to have been placed in a similar situation.

The return journey was just as eventful.  The incoming plane from Heathrow was almost two hours late and there’s not much to do at Marco Polo Airport if you’re not going to wander around the Duty-Free shops.  And irony of ironies, though, just as the plane was eventually taking off and we were still able to receive text messages and emails, the following email appeared from the airline:

A message from British Airways about your flight to London Heathrow

Booking Reference:


Thanks for choosing to fly with British Airways. 

We’re sorry to let you know that you may experience a delay in your travel plans today. This is due to air traffic restrictions being imposed around European airspace. Whilst this isn’t something we can control, we’re sorry that this may affect your travel plans.

We understand any disruption can be frustrating and we apologise for any inconvenience that may be caused.

If you have a connecting flight as part of the same ticket, we will automatically rebook your onward journey if you are at risk of missing the connection. Please check

We look forward to welcoming you on board.

British Airways

Several things struck me about Abano.  For a start, there seem to be almost  as many hotels as there are people although logic tells me that that really couldn’t be the case.

As neither sun nor pool hold out much pleasure for me, I think I must have been in a small minority of one.  So it became a break in which I mostly read (while sitting in the shade).  (The book that I read was Hands of Time by the horologist/watchmaker and historian Rebecca Struthers, an absolutely fascinating study of time and timepieces.  I found her discussions on time more interesting than her explanations of the mechanics of clocks and watches but then fiddly things like that have never been my forte.  And anyway, as for not sitting in the sun, I’d already seen what happens to people who spend too much time lying around trying too hard to get a tan and I didn’t much fancy wanting to follow suit.

Desiccated in the sun

However, the one thing that really appealed to me about Abano was that it seemed to be a place where I was able to feel young again.

The number of crinklies and wrinklies was astonishing although there was a small number of people around who seemed younger than me.

Ask not the white dicky bow. As I don’t speak Italian and they didn’t seem to be communicative in English, I couldn’t find out

One of the things I did notice was a distinctive lack of English-speakers in town.  Yes, almost all of the hotel staff and shop owners spoke some English but that was it.  We met three other guests in the hotel who were from the UK and three couples from Canada.  On the other hand, my ears perceived an inordinate number of Russian-speakers.  Without wishing to sound bigoted or prejudiced in any way, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people drinking sparkling wines—for breakfast and then throughout the day.  And from a similar viewpoint, it seemed to my simple mind that smoking cigarettes must be an ideal and perfect antidote to the effects of drinking spumante early in the morning, at midday and towards evening — and wherever I chose to sit, I almost always seemed to be seated downwind from the sources of the smoke.

The one day we ventured out of Abano was on a trip to Padua and the Scrovegni Chapel to view the extraordinary series of paintings by Giotto, renowned as his greatest fresco masterpiece and the profound revolution that he brought to Western art. The cycle was frescoed by Giotto in just two years, between 1303 and 1305 and unfolds over the entire interior surface of the Chapel, and narrates the History of Salvation in two different paths: the first with the Stories of the Life of the Virgin and Christ painted along the aisles and on the triumphal arch; the second begins with the Vices and Virtues, addressed in the lower section of the main walls, and ends with the majestic Last Judgement on the counter-façade.  A really remarkable piece of work and well worth the trip.




And almost as interesting as the frescoes were the people viewing them (ourselves amongst them!)

The absence of any English in the area was only underlined by the books in the bookshop at the chapel.  Altogether, there were two in English about the chapel itself on the shelves but not a single book in English concerning Padua.

Exiting the chapel area, Isabel wanted to bring me to the university campus but although we had a map it wasn’t clear whether we should turn left or right as we weren’t sure exactly where we had exited so we found three teenagers near a bus stop and asked.  Although they seem to understand English it was crystal clear (to me at least) that they had sever seen a paper map before in their lives as they twisted it and turned it while trying to figure out what it was.  Perhaps I should just have handed them the cellphone with Google Maps and they (and we) might have managed better!

Back in Abano the following day, we noticed a sign directing us to an exhibition of photographs at Villa Bassi on the northern extremity of the town.  I thought I was familiar with the work of most of the leading photographers but the name of Elliott Erwitt had somehow escaped me.  (When I returned to London, I discovered among my photography books that three of them had made mention of his name and one had a three-page essay with three of his photographs.). At any rate, I regarded this as one of the highlights of my few days away. …

… The photos were all in black and white (although I did learn later that he also photographed in colour).  He travelled the world and produced a large number of photos amongst which children, dogs, and mostly humour featured widely

Elliott Earwitt. London


     Abano also allowed me indulge in an odd hobby of mine —  hydrants, managing to see kinds that I hadn’t observed before.


And then it was back to London …


… and other things that I love, like prominently displayed misspellings.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I started this post over a week ago but had to hold on to it because events were overtaken by my grandson Tal’s barmitzvah, which was at the oldest synagogue in England, the wonderful Qahal Kadosh Sha’ar ha-Shamayim otherwise known as the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue or Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London where Tal did us all proud.

P.S.  To those in Israel who I thought I might see there this week, my apologies.  A bout of ill health meant that I wasn’t well enough to travel.  Later in the year, hopefully!

P.P.S.  Just been to see Barnaby Thompson’s wonderfully researched documentary, Mad About the Boy, a film which highlights the contradictions of the sparkling life of Noël Coward‚ not to be missed.  I knew he was talented — but …………



Spring, snails and other things



Well, Spring has more or less sprung in this part of the world.  I say more or less because this is Britain and we’re nearing the end of May. So, believe it or not, there have been a couple of warmish days with sunshine but this morning, it seems, is not one of them — so far.  Nevertheless, we have been promised no rain and sunshine later in the afternoon. … (and it actually happened!)


…  However, the flora in the gardens don’t seem to be paying too much attention to the meteorology; they just appear to respond to the climatology and get on with their of job making the place seem a bit more friendly and colourful than would otherwise be the case.


Light grey. Typical Spring.

When not discussing the weather, one comes across  all sorts of “interesting” things, like the carton of apple juice pictured below.  This was placed on the table in front of me at a birthday party last weekend.  Initially, I didn’t think that there was much of interest in a carton of apple juice but when I looked again, I saw that really, there was.

The first thing I noticed was on the side of the carton, which told me that it was pressed apple juice and not from concentrate.  So far, so good.  I also learned that the apples came from Ireland. Not only were the apples grown in Ireland but the juice was packed there, though whether this happened in Northern Ireland or the Republic, I can’t be at all sure, at all, at al.  Either way, whether it was packed in Sion Mills in Country Derry or Ballybofey in County Donegal, it was packed a long way from where its potential drinkers are located.  I know this because of what appeared in the middle of the carton, something that fascinated me because this was not apple juice produced for any common or garden apple juice drinkers as it bore the imprint of the the Haredi (Strictly Orthodox) rabbinical court of London.  Moreover, not only is it kosher but it’s also sufficiently kosher to be drunk during Passover.  I assume that Mulrines, the company that produces the stuff, had agreed to have its manufacture supervised by a mashgiach (a mashgiach is a Jew who supervises the kashrut status of any kind of food service establishment, including, food manufacturers, butchers, &c., usually working as an on-site supervisor and inspector).  The thought of one of these lads (and they can’t be lassies) travelling all the way to northwest Ireland to check that not a single iota of leaven or leavening agent might have been floating around while the apple juice was entering the containers just beggars belief.  But there you are!  Then when I turned the carton around, I was in for another revelation …

… for there I read a commandment in Hebrew and English, one which reminded the potential drinkers that the carton should be opened before “Shabbos / Yom Tov (Ashkenazi accented Hebrew for Sabbath/Festivals), and this because the plastic lid needs to be turned anti-clockwise and thus snapped off , something that would constitute work, which is forbidden on such days. So after opening the carton you are free to drink the liquid without antagonizing the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He or his helpers.  (Regarding this issue, a learned friend in the Holy Land, having read this post,  has just written to me as follows: Opening the bottle on Shabbat (for those who so things this way) is not because it is “work” but because it is the ‘creation of a tool’. Until you open the sealed bottle you could not put liquid into it, but after you opened it, you turned it into a vessel.” — which to my simple mind is much the same as “work”.  Amen!



Last week, we went to the Tate Modern, ostensibly to view two exhibitions — more below — and on leaving, I took a photograph of two of the tower blocks that stand opposite the gallery and was reminded of a Supreme Court ruling of several months ago.  The apartments in these buildings were termed “luxury flats” and the case involved five owners of four flats in the development taking action against the Tate over the estimated half million visitors “staring into their homes” annually from the gallery’s viewing platform, which opened to the public in 2016, four years after the flats were completed and is just a stone’s throw (34 metres) away. The platform provides a panorama of London but also looks on to a direct view into the glass-fronted flats.  The owners who took action claimed that they face an unacceptable level of intrusion that prevents them enjoying their homes and sothe Supreme Court ruled.  In what was not a unanimous decision, the court decided that the owners faced a “constant visual intrusion” that interfered with the “ordinary use and enjoyment” of their properties, which apparently extended the law of privacy to include overlooking.

Bearing in mind that some visitors to Tate Modern’s viewing gallery  photograph the interiors and post the images on social media, one of the judges noted that: “It is not difficult to imagine how oppressive living in such circumstances would feel for any ordinary person – much like being on display in a zoo.”  Quite!  However, the judge was clear in his opinion that this was a specific case, as the Tate’s decision to open a viewing gallery was “a very particular and exceptional use of land”, and did not mean that residents could complain of nuisance because neighbours could see inside their buildings.  All five of the judges concerned had disagreed with an earlier appeal court ruling that visual intrusion did not fall under the scope of the law of nuisance, but they were split on the appropriateness of the Tate’s use of its land.  One dissenting judge had agreed that it was possible for visual intrusion to be considered a private nuisance, but he suggested that although the viewing platform was not an “ordinary” use of the Tate’s land, it was nevertheless reasonable. Citing “the principle of reasonable reciprocity and compromise, or “give and take”, he noted that the flat owners could “take normal screening measures”, such as putting up curtains.  Again quite Quite! (again)!  Another judge, supporting the decision, said that asking the residents to put up curtains “wrongly places the responsibility to avoid the consequences of nuisance on the victim”, noting that judges would not ask someone to wear earplugs to block out excessive noise.  However, in this respect, one of my neighbours suggested a while ago that I should use a hearing aid when listening to television or music because the noise disturbs him (my audiologist disagrees and so do I—heartily as it happens) so rather than tell him that he should use earplugs, I decided to close the door, whereupon there was something of an uproar on the landing for a few minutes.  Someone else causing a nuisance, perhaps

St. Paul’s from the Tate Modern

The ostensible reason for the visit to the gallery was to view two exhibitions. One of these was Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, which I had apparently missed in Tel Aviv last year.  The other was  to see what the Tate had described as “the visionary work of Swedish painter Hilma af Klint” and to experience Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian’s “influential art in a new light”.  (Mondrian apparently lived a couple of hundred metres up the street from where I’m writing now and has a blue plaque to show for it but quite when and for how long, I have no idea.


Although they never met, af Klint and Mondrian both invented their own languages of abstract art rooted in nature — they had both been landscape artists at the start of their careers and at the heart of each of their artistic journeys was a desire to understand the forces behind life on earth.

I wasn’t overly enamoured of af Klint’s later abstract work but I did enjoy looking at Mondrian’s abstract stuff.

The other exhibition, of work by Kusama, Infinity Mirror Rooms, was mind-boggling.  Just two installations and a little extra.

One comprised a single chandelier but the mirrors turned it into something else entirely.

To view the second installation, we were told that there was water on either side of the “walkway”. which comprised two steps forward, two to the left and a right turn and then two steps forward again.  You find yourself in a really tiny room but the mirrors make it seem as if it’s something else entirely.  As I said, absolutely astonishing!


And just when we thought we had come to the end, we encountered the Thamesmead Codex, which, in its own way, was equally astounding.


And when we were done, we came across this!

It’s hard work work walking around galleries and looking at pictures!  Tate Modern, May 2023

And a little later, emerging from the depths of Aldgate Underground Station, I came across these gastropods, which weren’t quite what they seemed to be.

And so the week ended, and I’m taking off for a short break.



From Corona-nation to Coronation-nation

Last weekend the citizens of the United Kingdom were celebrating (or at least most of them were) the coronation of King Charles III, a 74-year old man who has served an apprenticeship lasting half a century so he should know by now what’s expected of him.  The ceremony itself, held at Westminster Abbey, was on a Saturday morning but the whole weekend had been dubbed “Coronation Weekend”, with the status of a Bank Holiday, something about which it seems to me the British have become increasingly fond in recent years.  There had already been an “Early May” Bank Holiday and there’s another one due to come at the end of the month.

Some of those more avid loyalists had been camping out on The Mall, the road/street that runs between Buckingham Palace and Admiralty Arch, from early in the week so that they could observe the new king and queen going to the ceremony from “home”, i.e. the palace, to the abbey and back again, thus fulfilling their duty as loyal subjects and thereby “participating” in the event.

The ceremony itself was full of pageantry—lots of prayers and religious oohing and aahing, lots of crowns, lots of swords, lots of singing and dancing, two orchestras each conducted by one of the country’s foremost conductors, John Eliot Gardner and Antonio Pappano, etc. etc.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, eventually placed the crowns on the heads of King Charles and Queen Camilla but seemed to have some difficulty in putting them on their heads so that they didn’t fall off but in the end, everyone seemed happy if not altogether comfortable.  And then there was the rather creepy moment when the king was anointed with olive oil (apparently kosher) and from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where his grandmother is buried but this solemn and mysterious ritual took place behind four partitions that had been wheeled in to shield him from the prying cameras and the eyes of millions while he was disrobed.

To my mind, the highlight of all the pomp and ceremony was the way in which Ms. Penny Mordaunt, Lord President of the Council, carried out her responsibility for bearing the Sword of State and presenting the Jewelled Sword of Offering to the King – the first time the role had been carried out by a woman. (The Lord President of the Council is the presiding officer of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and is the fourth of the Great Officers of State, ranking below the Lord High Treasurer but above the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (really!).  The Privy Council is one of the oldest parts of the government and advises on the exercise of prerogative business and certain functions assigned to The King and the Council by Acts of Parliament and is, therefore, the mechanism through which interdepartmental agreement is reached on those items of government business which, for historical or other reasons, fall to ministers as Privy Counsellors rather than as departmental ministers. The Lord President of the Council has ministerial responsibility for the Privy Council Office, which manages Privy Council business.

The ceremonial sword that she carried for 51 minutes while standing, walking, and singing is apparently the heaviest in the royal collection (I’ve never personally weighed them, you understand, so I have two take it as for granted) and weighs 3.6kg in its gold-encrusted sheath. Ms. Mordaunt is a Member of Parliament and a Cabinet Minister. Amongst other things, she served in the Royal Naval Reserve for ten years,  from 2010 until 2019 and was appointed honorary commander in 2019 and was promoted to honorary captain on 30 June 2021.  She said that she just took a couple of painkillers to help her get through her role of carrying the two ceremonial swords (the second one was apparently considerably lighter) during the Coronation and that she had not been doing press-ups for half a year beforehand as some of the tabloids had apparently reported.  She had also been a contender for Leader of the Conservative party during last year’s shenanigans in her party following Boris Johnson having been shown the door by his erstwhile colleagues.  Had she come to party meetings brandishing her swords, who knows but she might have actually won that competition.  In addition, I can’t imagine any of her predecessors managing to do what she did although I can imagine Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man who appears to live and personify an English gentleman of the 19th century, with a sword attached to his waist.  Another of her forerunners, one Chris Grayling, when he was Minister of Transport some years ago, had managed to injure a passing cyclist when he opened the door of his parked car without paying due attention, so goodness knows what he might have managed to do with a steel blade to hand!



The Lord President of the Council and her sword (Blairs to the right)

The whole shebang was broadcast throughout the day and you didn’t have to even stay indoors to watch it.  I could have stood in the rain and viewed it on a large screen on the side of a parked van not 200 meters from home.  I mean why watch it from an armchair while you can stand under an umbrella in one hand and try to focus your iPhone with the other hand why trying not to get wet?  English weather being what it is, on the day of the coronation, it poured from morning till evening but the following day, with street parties in action and lots to eat and drink all over the place, that yellowish ball in the sky, the name of which I have forgotten, made an appearance.

Even the nearest postbox was dolled out for the occasion in red, white and blue!


And now that the king and queen have been crowned, what else is there to become excited about? Why — the Eurovision Song Contest, of course.  This year in Liverpool, Land of the Beatles, &c., rather than war-torn Ukraine.  Thank goodness I’m going to the theatre and won’t be tempted to watch it.  It’s come a long, long way from Sing Little Birdie, Puppet On A String, Waterloo and all that.  It used to be about songs but now it’s something else entirely and why it’s still called a song contest beats me!  Seems like I’m getting to sound even grouchier than normal.

Anyway, this is spring in London.  Or, at least that’s what my calendar—and some of the flora on the streets— tell me…

… yet here we are in the middle of May and there have been one or two warmish days when the temperature has risen all the way to 20 degrees and the sun (the yellow ball in the sky— I remembered) has appeared for a few minutes here and there while precipitation precipitates precipitously and persistently (I don’t know if that makes much sense but it looks good!)

So what else?  Well, there was a party two days after the coronation to celebrate a birthday.  Like many other things, it being May, it was meant to have taken place in a garden but inclement atmospheric conditions being predominant that day meant that it was held indoors — and not a bad decision to have to make as conversation moved around the room and all 24 people manage to talk to the other 23 at some stage of the proceedings.

We also went to a performance of Frank Loesser’s wonderful Guys and Dolls at the Bridge Theatre, near Tower Bridge, in London.  I’d not been there before and I was very taken with the theatre space and more especially with the production itself.  I love the music and the lyrics and have seen the show several times—but this production, using all the facilities of the theatre — revolving stage,  parts of the stage that can be raised and lowered at will, audience participation (a large number of the audience members stood throughout the performance as the “policemen” moved them this way and that to allow the props to be brought in and out and moved around as needed) . There wasn’t a dull moment in a show that lasted 2½ hours.

And leaving the theatre on our way back to the Underground, there was an opportunity to see one of London’s landmarks, The Shard, at night and up close!


So what’s left? I suppose few photographs from way back when, that keep appearing on my screen as screensavers, would do.

Unsmiling and unlaughing!






Aye-aye. The London Eye.


Would you argue with this gentleman?


Just about the way I feel sometimes!


A very rare bird indeed!  (Look carefully to see why)


The Last Time I Saw Paris

Well, Passover had passed us over thus concluding a week of chewing and consuming a cardboard-like material which has a tendency to block the system. Another year had gone by and it was time to recharge the batteries and do something rather different so it was decided that the best thing to do might be to escape from the confines of the United Kingdom or Israel and spend just a few days in Paris.  So quotinge from the first line of the old Oscar Hammerstein song, the last time I saw Paris seemed to have been a long time ago.  And even though I had a clear memory of the last visit there, I couldn’t quite remember how long it had been. It actually turned out to be much longer than I had thought because when I checked the photographs that I had taken on that visit, it turned out to have been in August 2009, almost 14 years ago.

On that visit, I had travelled on an early morning Eurostar from London with my daughter Tami, intending to return late in the evening. The morning passed uneventfully and we were on our way to the Left Bank to have lunch in a restaurant that had been recommended by an Israeli gourmet pianist when, boarding the Métro, a group of young women were exiting the train.  On arrival at our destination, I put my hand in my pocket only to discover that the pocket that had contained cash and cards had been relieved of its contents.  I sent a text message to Shuli in Tel Aviv to cancel all credit cards and, wondering how we would manage until the evening sans cartes de crédit or argent comptant, I received her response that her Israeli gourmet pianist friend was still in Paris and that I should call him.  I did as I was told and received the information that Tami and I should make our way to Châtelet station and wait there and about 30 minutes later, Iddo turned up with 200 euros, some bananas and some chocolate.  We now had the means to buy a meal before returning to London but not before I had spent an hour with a policeman at the Gare du Nord station, armed with an English-French dictionary vainly trying to file a report of the dire deed that had been discharged a few hours earlier.  So returning to Paris recalled that memory quite clearly.

This time around, Isabel and I set off for St. Pancras station in London to board the Eurostar for Paris.  Now that the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union, it seemed to me that the bureaucracy involved in travelling to an EU country was a little excessive but as an Irish citizen, I was waved through fairly quickly while Isabel’s UK passport received a stamp delivered with what I thought was an excessively loud thud.  Anyway, red tape completed, we had a longish wait before boarding so while she went off to look around the station and make some purchases, I chatted to the man next to me who was, he said, from rural Kent and had not been in in London for a decade.  He was on his way to Brussels and thereafter to somewhere in Germany to pick up a cousin who had gone to visit his daughter a week or so earlier and while in Germany had suffered a detached retina and was unable drive home, so this cousin had kindly volunteered to pick him up and drive him back home to the UK, home being somewhere in rural Somerset, the whole process, including travel and rest, taking a week.  I thought myself lucky that I was only going as far as Paris for four days.

Arriving in Paris we took a taxi to the small hotel that we had booked near the Opera.  It was a small hotel with small rooms and was manifestly run by an organization with an environmental sense of right and wrong, in this case demonstrated by a keenness on saving electricity. That notwithstanding, the location was wonderful…

The hotel lobby as experienced

The hotel lobby as it should have been but was never seen as such









… There were cafés, bistros and restaurants galore within easy walking distance. One could quite happily drink the coffee and eat the croissants whilst simultaneously inhaling exhaust fumes from cars, vans, buses and such like. However, it was this outdoor-ness that initially struck us a contrast with London.

Next door to the hotel was a small bistro, Les Bacchantes with a menu that changed by the day — and what was on the menu was photographed each morning by the chef.


What Paris seemed to have that London is missing was people on the street — talking, walking, jogging, running, sunning, and whatever.  Paris streets seemed to exude life.  But not everything or everyone on the street present a happy sight, as the image below illustrates.

Street people


Taking a break from sleeping rough. Place des Vosges.

There were all sorts of interesting things to observe, such as this woman struggling to get her bike, trike and baggage into the IKEA store while opening the door on her own—all in one go.  However, somebody decided to lend a hand!

… or this professional taking a break from cooking in the relative cool of the street outside.  What made this image particularly interesting is that the gentleman in the photo shows everything that is au fait in the 2020s — cellular phone, tattoos, vape, and mask.


Something else that struck us immediately and which we had seemingly forgotten is the elegance of the apartment blocks.  Most people in central Paris live in apartment block and in addition the grand boulevards, it seems that the architects have given some thought to the external appearance of the buildings in which people live, it being the balconies and and the curvatures that contribute to this.

Place des Vosges on a sunny day

King Edward VII à Paris.  What’s he doing there?

No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to an exhibition.  We could have spent the entire time at our disposal in museums and galleries but we chose just two — one at the Musée d’Orsay and the other at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne.  The former pitted two  friends and competitors from the 19th century (Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas) against one another …

whereas the latter set two 20th century artists, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

To my simple mind, the former had too many pictures and too many people viewing them in poor light and badly hung.  Moreover, there was hardly room to move let alone view the paintings at leisure.   With regard to the latter, I’ve never been a fan of Warhol even in his Campbell’s soup and Marilyn Monroe days and I wasn’t exactly struck by Basquiat although I’m told that he appeals to younger people.


Of more interest were the people in and around the museums.

Paid-for boredom. Fondation Louis Vuitton


In the queue. Fondation Louis Vuitton


Fondation Louis Vuitton, Bois de Boulogne


Three baguettes and two croissants in 45 minutes, outside the Musée d’Orsay

The other great thing about Paris is, of course, the food. On the second evening there, I had the best tuna I’ve ever eaten anywhere …

(I didn’t eat any of these but they do make a wonderful picture.)

and on the last day, the Marais, the best felafel anywhere.

A falafel queue in Le Marais


Hardly a talmudic street discussion. Le Marais.


At work. Le Marais


Tea and cake at Illy’s


Believe it or not, the picture below was in a café!


And, penultimately, just a few photos  …

Ready to retire at 62?

Fondation Charles de Gaulle

Finally, searching for the gentleman’s loo at the Gare du Nord en route back to London and although the French undid their monarchy over two centuries ago, this is what I found  to direct me!   It must be the coronation that’s got to them!

And then it was back to this United Kingdom where, in my absence, the Deputy Prime Minister resigned, another was appointed, a new Minister of Justice was put in place and one member of the Labour Party had the whip withdrawn which, in British parliamentary parlance means that she no longer sits in parliament as a Labour MP but as an independent.  In a letter that Diane Abbott MP sent to The Observer newspaper, is response to an opinion piece that had recently appeared, she wrote that people such as Jews and Irish travellers did not suffer racism but experience prejudice.  She then went on to state that such people in apartheid South Africa or pre-civil rights America were not required to sit on the back of a bus and were permitted to vote—but she’s writing about Britain!  In her eyes, only black people experience racism.  Try telling that to the families of Jews who perished in the concentration camps — because they were of a non-Aryan race and only “experienced prejudice”.  And what is “race” anyway?  And anyhow, “Irish travellers” used to be called “tinkers” and anyone who speaks with a Dublin accent knows that most Irish t(h)inkers went to university!  Diane Abbott went to a Univerity.  She studied History at Cambridge earning a 2ii (a lower second class degree) but it doesn’t seem to have made her particularly appreciative of history, does it?!