The lives & deaths of some trees

When I started this blog over three months ago, I promised (myself and at least two members of my family) that I would not engage in political statements and with some minor exceptions (references to snake charmers and the like), I have generally managed to keep that promise.  However, I must say that it’s been difficult sometimes to remain silent and the temptation remains, day by day.

The evening news on Israeli TV comes on at 20.00 hrs and lasts for an hour, which is at least 55 minutes too long, as it’s preceded and sometimes succeeded by three hours of current affairs shows of one kind or another, which amount to more or less the same thing.  I try either to listen to radio news bulletins now and then, which last five or six minutes and tell you more or less what you need to know for the day, or keep up with what’s happening online.  The daily newspaper arrives at 6, just in time for breakfast. Why I bother, I’m not sure; social convention, I suppose.  It’s all so depressing. 

So why am I writing this?  Because I’m coming to the conclusion that the Greeks and their successors seem to have got it wrong.  I am more and more convinced that the world, despite the “evidence” of photographs from space, is not spherical but a continuos unbroken plane.  Not only were the Greeks in error, but Alfred Wegener, who set forth the Theory of Continental Drift in 1912, was on the right track but stopped short of the truth.  The fact is, according to Waterman, that the flat earth’s surface is semi-liquid and that individual states rather than continents float about in the sludge.  For the past three decades or more, Israel has been wafting towards the right-hand side of this Flat Earth and in recent years, has ignited turbo-jets so that gentle rightward movement now lurches so that the state is in danger of falling off the starboard side and entering deep Outer Space.  But nil desperandum, Israel will not become isolated from the rest of the West as the “civilized world” seems to be heading in a similar direction through the same slime.  It’s a scary phenomenon.  

Now, people who write nonsense like that which I have just composed are much besmirched, using the one of the dirtiest epithets in the current Israeli political lexicon — LEFTIST, a sobriquet for someone who refuses to be brainwashed by government.  Anyway, calling me a leftist is an absurdity because I have been a regular reader of The Economist for 47 years, a journal described by one good and learned friend as a newspaper only “publishing right-wing nonsense”.  

Anyway, diatribe over!  Trump it if you can!

To business

The past few months haven’t been good ones for Tel Aviv’s trees.  

About half a year ago, Israeli media ran stories about the red palm weevil, a migrant insect that kills palm trees, infesting private gardens and parks in Tel Aviv and putting people at risk from falling trees or branches.  Tel Aviv Municipality decided only to do battle with the beasties in public spaces, leaving those in private gardens to be dealt with by residents.  However, the cost of polishing off this plague would likely deter individuals and house committees from dealing with them adequately. The beetle lays its eggs on palm leaves and the resulting larvae burrow into the tree trunk and eat through to the crown, until the tree collapses. The Agriculture Ministry had issued a warning about the consequences of the palm weevil’s presence in Israel two years ago and since then there had been serious damage to some Tel Aviv palm trees, with many trees essentially dead, even if they are still standing. The best way to prevent the pest from spreading is by spraying the top of the tree where the palm fronds emerge from the trunk.

Walking round the neighbourhood and through the park, one can see the consequences of the Municipality’s action and the residents’ inaction.  In the public spaces, those trees infected have been decapitated — actually more than beheaded, rather cut down to knee height — or as it’s trees we’re talking about, more like to ankle level.  The healthy trees or ones that had been infected and then treated were each individually numbered and labelled as such.  

Palm sequence 0

Palm sequence 3

In gardens and yards and it has become not uncommon to find dead trees standing, or the trunks of dead trees aligned along the streets for collection, or the stumps of trees that had stood for years bereft of crowns and trunks.

The palm tree story is unfortunate but is not the only tree story in North Tel Aviv this week.  Eucalyptus trees line the banks of the Yarqon stream from its upper reaches to the Mediterranean and in the 1950s, eucalyptus was a preferred species although it is known that these trees were planted elsewhere much earlier by Jewish settlers and by the British Mandate authorities.  The ones in the park have been there for quite some time.

Last week, as I walked into the park and turned left towards the sea, there were large A4-size notices pinned to two of the eucalyptus trees.  One was an announcement that four trees would have to be cut down because their roots had been undermined by flooding in the river and presented a danger that they might collapse.  The other was the official licence to carry out the intention, signed by the authorised bureaucrat at Tel Aviv Municipality with authority granted by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Jewish National Fund.

Two days later, the sentence was executed for the four trees that were overhanging the river by a team of four executioners. I went out to document the carrying out of the death sentence on the four culprits and as usual, by the time I had taken three pictures, I had been spotted.  

At this point, we went through the ritual of “Stop photographing!  You’re not allowed to photograph here!”, a command that I chose to ignore.  At this point, a young man whose job it was to stack the fallen branches came over to me and asked me to desist and put away the camera.  (Wearing shorts and a teeshirt, there was no where to put it.)  I kept my cool — just — and explained to him that I had no intention to stop taking pictures, that I and the trees were in a public space, and that the notices had been posted on the trees in that public space to inform the public of an action to take place in same said public space.  He was nonplussed a little, I think.  Then, when I crossed the stream to the northern bank a few minutes later and continued photographing from there, they were still up in arms.  Too bad.

I continued to photograph as they moved upriver the following day to another two unfortunates on death row and on the third day, they carried away the sawn pieces of trunk  for cremation.

I found this all a little discomfiting as I had just finished watching the six episodes that comprise the television series Wolf Hall, based on the historical novels by Hilary Mantel on the rise of Thomas Cromwell.  The last scene of the last episode is the decapitation of Anne Boleyn, beautifully done in horizontal style with a sword (“If she doesn’t move, it will be quick, between two heartbeats”, explained the executioner to Cromwell) rather than on a block with an axe (because of her social status as one of the nobility).  The disembodied head and the decapitated body were then joined in holy union for burial.

As with Anne Boleyn, so with the eucalyptus in Yarqon Park — except that the Municipality promises resurrection in form of new plantings.  If these are forthcoming, I shall update!


Streets as performance space

Streets are an integral part of any urban area.  They are used to navigate from one location to another through the city — walking, cycling or using motorised transportation of any kind, public or private.  They are also where a city shows off its wares through its stalls and kiosks, shops and stores, workshops and factories, its cafés, restaurants and street food outlets — and all the rest.  

However, any city worth its salt also provides performers with a forum to show off their capabilities.  All the world might very well be a stage and it’s often forgotten that the urban street is too.  It might be unusual to find a snake charmer on the streets of London or Tel Aviv (probably not impossible, although I’ve never come across one — but I suppose I could visit the Knesset or the House of Commons to see them).  More often than not, street performances involve music but sometimes, it’s mime or other forms of acting; more rarely, someone might recite poetry or prose.  Performers can be acrobats, clowns, jugglers, or painters or sand sculptors; they might be living statues — those people who somehow manage not to move and rarely to blink while the people who come to view them move around, prod and generally hope for a human response.  They might be puppeteers or storytellers.  The range is extremely broad.

Some street performers do it simply because that’s what they are — performers — and performers need a viewing or listening public — an audience, spectators, or just curious people.  Some of them hope to be “paid” for the entertainment they are providing, buskers in the true sense of the word.  Not, of course that they receive or even expect a wage or salary.  A cap or box might be placed at the front of the performance or an “associate” might solicit contributions from bystanders.

Although you might think that busking is just something that someone does where someone pleases, you’d be wrong.  If you want to busk in the London Borough of Camden, for example, you need to pass through the Camden bureaucracy (but not to worry too much because you can apply for your licence online).  Anything involving music (with or without amplifiers) or with amplifiers (with or without music) or any dangerous materials (such as juggling with fire or swords or axes or hoisting yourself on your petard, which, I presume, means applying to Camden) needs a licence.  On the other hand, if you’re a contortionist, a clown, a magician, a poetry reciter or a carol singer among other things, you don’t need one.  Pickpockets — or as Roald Dahl once referred to them, fingersmiths — are not mentioned.  I’m not sure that all local authorities are as well organized as Camden vis-à-vis their street performers, in particular in Tel Aviv, but I really don’t know.

Application form.jpg

Anyway, enough blather.  Some photos.

Transportability, I suppose, is one of the principal prerequisites for buskers,  However, sometimes, an instrument is provided by the responsible authority for the use of potential performers.  A few weeks ago, while waiting for a friend to turn up at our agreed meeting place at St. Pancras Eurostar station, I heard the sound of a piano in the distance and it was obvious that it wasn’t canned music that I was hearing.  So I strolled down to where the sound was coming from and found a traveller enjoying himself whilst awaiting his trip to Paris or Brussels or wherever, playing pretty good jazz piano.  I watched and listened to him for 10 or 15 minutes and then he had to catch his train.  Unfortunately, the piano stool was chained to the piano and either he hadn’t noticed it for had forgotten about it, causing him to come a cropper at the end of his session but he got up unhurt and walked off. 


And in Yarqon Park in Tel Aviv, once a year for a couple of weeks, several small, out-of-tune, upright pianos appear out of nowhere on which anyone can chance his or her luck.

Out of tune.jpg

Accordions are a favoured instrument of buskers.  The man on the left was photographed in Aix-en-Provence a couple of years ago and that on the right in Tel Aviv on a warmish March day six years ago.

The day before the piano picture in the station above, I passed a woman playing the accordion as I crossed Hungerford Bridge in London.  Her playing sounded sort of sad but it was good, so when I’d finished listening, I tossed a pound coin into the plastic box in front of her, at which point her demeanour changed, the tempo picked up and even the prop (the dog) smiled.  (For those interested, the pictures were shot at ISO400 and f/16; the second one has a 1/10 second exposure handheld.  Not bad!)


This guy below isn’t strictly speaking a busker.  I photographed him for the first time on a rather chilly January morning a couple of years ago, in the park in Tel Aviv under the bridge over the Yarqon at Ibn Gvirol Street.  He’d brought not just his accordion but also his music stand, his sheet music and his trolley for shifting his instrument.  And then, last week, on a sunny day, there he was again.  Like the last time, he played away to his heart’s content for several hours, oblivious to his listeners.  And this time, he’d brought with him his tub of cottage cheese for sustenance.

Several other musical instruments feature among the tools of trade of the jongleur.  The guitar is eminently suitable — except that the guitarists, like the accordionists, often need to see to their own furniture, usually a chair and often amplification equipment.

Guitarists in Cordoba (left) and Barcelona (right)

Underground official busker

At Oxford Circus Station (time limited and licensed busking)

Tube guitarist

A “Tubeador” — probably unlicensed, rather loud and too close for comfort


Steel drums are not uncommon on London’s streets, though the pre-Christmas steel band on a cold Oxford Street looks somehow particularly out of place and not at all Trinidadian.


Drums, brass instruments, clarinets and fiddles can often be seen and heard, too — images from London, Tel Aviv, Bilbao and San Sebastian.


This jazz group in Barcelona (two sax, trumpet, uke?/banjo?) was lively and loud.  The old guy, on the right, (about my age, I’d guess) joined in doing a trancelike shuffle and shake and to all intents and purposes was part of the performance.

Jazz Barcelona


And these regulars, playing string trios for their own pleasure, outside a supermarket in a North Tel Aviv suburb, started off as a string quartet.  One down, three to go.

String trio Ramat Aviv

Covent Garden provides a venue inside the shopping precinct for all types of musicians and singers.  This unorthodox string quartet was “on duty” when I visited about a year and a half ago.

String quartet Covent Garden


As I mentioned at the outset, although music is an important element of street performances, not all performers are musicians.  Quite what the man in the dress was about to do at the entrance to the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv I didn’t hang around to see as his costume seemed to be giving him some trouble.  But his companion that day was juggling with fire to the excitement of all.


And the gentleman on the car at the intersection of Ibn Gvirol and Arlozorov Streets in Tel Aviv was taking advantage of red traffic lights to “perform” bible stories for the benefit of the drivers.

Special %22show%22 Ibn Gvirol

Last May, while walking on the promenade in San Sebastián in Northern Spain, I heard a shrill sound in the distance.  On investigating, it was a man playing a sopranino recorder, but one with a difference.  I called to my wife — a recorder player herself — to come and listen because the musician in question had only the use of his left hand.  In our broken French (his and ours), we learned that the instrument had been made specially for him in Pau, across the border in France (there is one recorder maker in Pau — I checked).  He had lost the use of his right hand in a traffic accident not long before this but was determined to keep playing.  There were just two finger holes and a thumb hole in the recorder but he was able to execute a wide variety of very musical sounds.  It was a very moving experience to hear him perform.


Finally, we observed an amazing performance of break dancing in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter by young men from a variety of Latin American countries.  The sequence of 13 shots was taken in a period of 5 seconds.


Watch the birdie

“Watch the birdie” and “Say ‘Cheese'” are two phrases in English often associated with photographers.  I can understand the “cheese” one, as articulating a long ‘e’ sound requires drawing back one’s lips and exposing teeth, distorting the face is some way so as vaguely to resemble a smile, which is why photographers would use it. I suppose that “sleaze” or “frieze” or “sneeze” would have done equally well, but “cheese” is what has stuck and I suppose that politicians must eat a great deal of the stuff.

I was more intrigued by the “birdie”, though, and discovered on checking it out that ‘watching the birdie’ was an instruction usually given to children by a studio photographer to have them look in the right direction for a portrait and unlike “cheese”, it did refer to an actual object, the “birdies” being animated props that could be made to screech or chirrup to attract the child’s attention.

At any rate, birds are among the objects that I have photographed more than a little on my walks through the park in Tel Aviv especially as well as those in Northwest London.  Why?  Well, they’re there and oftentimes if the light is right and they remain still for long enough, they provide satisfying images.  Other than this, I’m ashamed to admit, I have no particular interest in our feathered friends.  I don’t have the patience of birders or birdwatchers (apparently, there’s a difference based on dedication or intensity, with birders perceiving themselves to be more versed in avian minutiae like identification, distribution, times of migration, and habitat whereas birdwatchers have a more limited, more local, scope) who will sit for hours waiting to catch a glimpse of their inamorati.  Neither do I have the paraphernalia of professional bird photographers — lenses, filters, and all the rest — or the skills to catch the birdies as they take to flight (and sometimes you have to have very quick reactions indeed!)

However, the birds are there to be photographed, even if you’re not a specialist or an expert.  As a result, I’ve learned to identify the dozen or so species that I see (and hear) regularly in the Yarqon Park and in the other locations through which I walk.

The first three images on this post were taken in 2008 not long after I started photographing regularly.  For the first one, I observed the egret and the man for about 10 minutes before I clicked.  The bird took three or four steps forward and then back again until it finally accepted the gift of the fish for which it was waiting.  In the second photo, I was more interested in the reflection of the frame and branches in the water than in the gulls but they add content.  In the third, I was focussing on the drip from the tap but when I checked the image, the sparrow was there and it’s the line from the drops to the bird’s tail feathers that makes the photograph.  A second later, the bird had flown.

Herons &c.jpg

Make up your mind!  Do you want it or not?

Gulls frame reflection.jpg

Now you see it, now you don’t.


As you can see, the birds come big and small.  Not counting the emus encaged in the small children’s animal park, the largest birds in Yarqon Park are probably the great cormorants. These birds herald the onset of winter and usually arrive in the park around late October-November and stay until March-April and then they’re gone.  They can be seen on the tree tops along the river and when they arrive in the region and leave it.


Healthier than deodorant

120 Cormorants.jpg

Cormorant formation in a flypast just off T-A Port

Kingfishers come in different colours and sizes.  These birds are a delight to watch but difficult to photograph.  They hover head down, eyes fixed, and then drop vertically at speed into the river.  Sometimes they emerge with food, more often not, before repeating the process several times and trying their luck somewhere else along the water.


There are lots of gulls on the river and these birds stick together.  When they are densely packed, they make a photograph worth looking at.  Most people seem to photograph them when they are spaced out in large numbers on the surface but these are usually anticlimaxes.

Gulls density.jpg

Birds that sit together also sh*t together


Gulls in fright (conflict of interests).jpg

Conflict of interests

Other water birds represented in sizeable numbers are ducks and geese.  They are also present on Hampstead Heath, which provides the picture of the take-off of the four heavies from one of the Hampstead ponds.  


Geese take-off.jpg

The third picture in this series is something that is not all that common.  A couple of years ago while out walking on the Heath, I heard a hooting sound and then what sounded like a slow chugging engine.  I looked up and saw three swans flying around one of the ponds.  An unusual sight indeed.

Swan in flight.jpg

There are crows and pigeons in abundance, too.  I regard the pigeons (or maybe they’re doves) as winged vermin, responsible for most of the droppings in the park.  Why people feed them to such an extent is beyond my ken, but they do.


Winged vermin.jpg

However, on occasion they meet their comeuppance — as good dining for the crows, the nastiest avians in the neighbourhood, the park’s bully-boys, which make most of the noise, squawking and cackling to all and sundry telling us that they’re about and what they’re about.

Pigeon for breakfast.jpg

Though the pigeon obviously made good eating, the most spectacular meal I’ve seen consumed on my walks is not the pigeon fest above but two crows participating in a breakfast banquet duo that I photographed near the Mediterranean coast.  They were enthusiastically sharing rat carpaccio for breakfast.

Rat for breakfast.jpg

They ordered ratatouille.  Waiter was hearing impaired.  Got Rat pour deux instead.  So what?

Not all the crows give the impression of being repellent.  A few years ago, I saw one that obviously had designs on being a trapeze artist and was able to consummate its ambition in Tel Aviv Port.  It flew onto the wire, did two complete loops and then hung there — for just long enough for me to realize what was happening and allow me to shoot (in B&W, unfortunately).


The crows aren’t the only mean-spirited birds in the park.  With their cannibalistic tendencies, the mynahs run them a close race.


The frown adds to their forbidding look

Gang of Mynahs.jpg

Gang of mynahs on the lookout for trouble


Mind you, there are sweeties as well.  The hoopoe, usually a loner, can be seen from time to time in Yarqon Park …  

… and similarly the robin on Hampstead Heath … 


… and the parakeets in Tel Aviv.

Parakeet 1.jpg

Various egrets, herons, and even cranes inhabit the area along the river and the coastline, usually standing or wading but occasionally in flight, too.

Herons &c 2.jpg

Herons &c 7.jpg

The ballet dancer

Herons &c 8.jpg

In the shallows


Finally, there are always birds that aren’t quite what they are made up to be.


Angelbird of Yarqon Park

Weather vane Heath.jpg

Weathercock, Hampstead Heath

Bye-bye Birdie! And for a post on birds, I couldn’t resist this (those who know know and those who don’t can always ask!)


I want to ride my bicycle

First we got the bomb and that was good,
‘Cause we love peace and motherhood.
Then Russia got the bomb, but that’s O.K.,
‘Cause the balance of power’s maintained that way!
Who’s next? …

… Egypt’s gonna get one, too,
Just to use on you know who.
So Israel’s getting tense,
Wants one in self defense.
“The Lord’s our shepherd,” says the psalm,
But just in case, we better get a bomb!
Who’s next?

Tom Lehrer c.1965

Next week, Jews celebrate the festival of Purim, which commemorates the miraculous deliverance of the Jews in the 5th century B.C.E. from the hands of Haman, vizier to the Persian king, Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) who had plotted genocide but who was outwitted by Mordecai, a Jewish adviser to the king and his cousin and adopted daughter, Esther, who had become queen and who gave body and spirit to save her people. 

Purim used to be marked in Tel Aviv by a Carnival-like parade (the Adloyada — literally “until one doesn’t know”, referring to the one day in the Jewish calendar on which the consumption of alcohol is positively encouraged) but such days are long gone.  People — adults as well as children — roam the streets in fancy dress (in a post next week, perhaps) but the only parade of any significance these days is the annual Gay Parade, where people also roam the streets in fancy dress.  

As is my wont, this reminds me of a true story.  Some years ago (I thought it was 20 but “research” tells me that it was 31), we went to see Harvey Fierstein’s play Torch Song Trilogy at the Albery Theatre in London, starring Fierstein as a New York drag queen and Miriam Karlin as his mother.  Towards the end of the play, he reveals his sexuality to his mother and Karlin’s response was “Gay? Gay avek!“, which in Yiddish means much more than simply “Go away”.  It means “Get out of here. Don’t let me hear such nonsense! I can’t believe it!” — and so much more than all that.  It was a line designed to go down well with a predominantly Jewish audience in New York but at a West End gathering, only two people in the whole theatre laughed spontaneously and they laughed very loud.

Anyway, enough digression.  Back to Purim (sort of).  Over the past few years much had been said and written about the threat to Israel’s existence caused by the possibility of Persia (sorry:  Iran) acquiring a nuclear bomb.  Without denying the danger of such circumstances, it’s not something that is likely to happen today or tomorrow.

A much more imminent and potentially lethal hazard to the citizens of Israel — and Tel Aviv in particular — is the bicycle, a vehicle with two wheels in tandem, usually propelled by pedals connected to the rear wheel by a chain, and having handlebars for steering and a saddle-like seat.  That definition is fair enough until the object in question is operated by some citizens of Tel Aviv when it becomes a weapon of terror.  

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

Freddie Mercury/Queen c.1978


Parked bike

(I want to make it clear here before I set out on my diatribe that many cyclists in Tel Aviv are of exemplary behaviour: they ride on the road; they wear crash helmets and they observe all traffic signals diligently.  They are, in other words, perfectly upright citizens but they are, I fear, a minority.)

However, many of Tel Aviv’s cyclists have no respect for the rules of the road. I’m not sure that “respect” is correct here because I have the feeling that the bicycle operators haven’t the slightest notion that the rules actually apply to them as well to operators of motorised vehicles (drivers) and, to some extent, to pedestrians.  Like other protected species in Israeli society, they exercise their terror over ordinary citizens according to rules that each one seems to dream up as they ride along.  I also hesitated before I used the term “rules of the road” because it’s quite unusual for Tel Aviv cyclists to ride on roads at all, footpaths being the principal channels of attack.

Dogs in the street.jpg

So pedestrians have to be on guard as they walk their way along Tel Aviv’s footpaths.  It’s not so much that they have to share the paths with the cyclists; they are expected to give way when they see one coming on the opposite direction.  With bicycles travelling in the same direction as the unfortunate wayfarer, it’s even more perplexing because it’s rare for a Tel Aviv cyclist to have a bell or hooter to warn pedestrians during the day(the modern-day equivalent of the biblical pillar of cloud) or a headlight at night (the pillar of fire).

One-way streets mean nothing to Tel Aviv cyclists (and even to a small number of motorists).  It is not all that astonishing to see a cyclist riding up a one-way street in the wrong direction, with a four-year old in a seat behind him or her and a two-year old in another seat in the front, in animated conversation on a cellphone.  If the children are “lucky”, the phone is attached to earbuds; more likely, though, you’ll see it tucked between chin and shoulder.  

Tel Aviv Municipality actively encourages people to use bikes.  To that end, it has contributed to the current fad for rental bikes (of which I am an occasional user).  

Rental bikes copy.jpg

In addition, they have constructed cycle lanes everywhere.  On some streets, these lanes run between the kerb and the line of parked cars, a hazard in itself, should a passenger deign to open the car door without looking.  

Cycle lane.jpg

On other streets, where the width of the footpath permits, cycle lanes are marked out on the footpath.  In most cases, the direction of flow is indicated by large arrows clearly painted white.  

Cycle lane

As far as many cyclists are concerned, these arrows could just as well be aboriginal totems or works of minimalist art for all the attention they give them.  

Wrong way

What is more, as a cycle lane approaches a junction, the lane ends and then the operators of the four-wheeled weapons (who are of similar ilk to the cyclists but who are more or less obliged to observe the highway code) regard the cyclists approximately as the two-wheelers relate to the footsloggers — as fair game.

Probably the only outdoor place that’s relatively safe from the fiendishness of Tel Aviv’s cyclists is in the parks and even there, where the walkways are clearly marked into cycling and pedestrian zones, it’s not entirely safe — just relatively so.  

However, it’s in the parks that further demons emerge in the form of tricycles for the disabled of which there are many models, some of them so low slung that it’s a wonder that their manipulators can actually see anything at all, so close are they to the ground.  Moreover, although these machines apparently do have brakes, they seem to be rather difficult to engage once any significant speed is attained and because they are operated by hand rather than by foot, any alarm mechanism other than the vocal chords is well-nigh impossible.  

Disabled trike 1Disabled trike 2

Disabled trikes on break.jpg

Worst of all is the almost exponential growth of battery-operated bicycles and scooters which are almost completely silent and Tel Aviv becomes an even more dangerous place to live in.  Some of these appear to be operated by people not long out of diapers.  In addition to possessing the road sense of the average Tel Aviv cyclist, their perilousness is compounded by their having nil driving experience and seem to think no one else is about except themselves and have been granted the opportunity by their reckless, feckless and unthinking parents to scare the living daylights out of older people.  

Couple Yordei HaSira.jpg

This couple are actually waiting at the traffic lights — an aberration indeed!

There are many other hazardous vehicles and their operators with which the unfortunate Tel Aviv pedestrian must deal, a sample of which appear below.

Cello cyclist

Cellist rides to work


Cellephony or Segway transit — which is more important? 


The unicyclist

Roller bladers

Roller bladers cross the road.  Junction of Weizmann and Yehuda HaMaccabi Streets

At this stage, you may begin to understand why some people regard the Iranian threat as a lesser one.

Ah, I feel so much better after that kvetch!  Wonderful therapy for a grumpy old man!


Wider and wider

Yarqon from Namir bridgeLast week, courtesy of the Fujifilm representative in Israel, I had the privilege of being able to use two wide-angle lenses, each with different characteristics, each of which is capable of improving the photographs I take in urban areas if I really knew how to get the most out of them. (For those of you interested in technical specifications — and I am not really — one was a lens with a fixed focal length  [no zoom] with enhanced low light and close focus capabilities while the other was a zoom lens that essentially went from wide to ultra-wide.)  

I was able to use each lens for a couple of days sequentially and knowing that they had to be returned within a short period of time certainly focussed my attention.  The whole exercise proved to be an interesting experience as you have to remember that no matter how wonderful an image that you see might be, if you don’t have the appropriate lens on the camera, it’s not really going to be a picture of any value.  The best thing to do is to concentrate on those situations in which the lens can help you create and amplify the message of an image with which you are satisfied. 

So I walked around North Tel Aviv with each lens in turn and paid somewhat closer attention to the urban environment than perhaps I normally would have.  Having said this, the results do not necessarily bring forth the optimum performance of the lens.  But that was only part of the exercise; the main aim, as usual, was to record what I was able to observe.  So on occasion, even though the lenses provided me with a wide viewing angle, I cropped the picture where necessary.

First stop, as usual, was Yarqon Park.  I already have umpteen pictures of different stretches of the river from the various bridges so I wasn’t expecting anything stupendously different this time round.  What the wide angle gave me was a better sweep across the river while maintaining the sharpness of the picture.  Neither image is the widest sweep, though, which was achieved by stitching together a panorama view. However, I prefer the pictures with the wide-angle, despite the edge distortion.

Yarqon from Ibn Gvirol bridge


Yarqon from footbridgeWhere the wide angle lens did more was in the images taken under the bridges.  Many people think that a wide-angle lens is best used to “get as many people into the frame as possible” and that is one of its uses.  However, it is extremely effective in creating a dramatic effect for an otherwise ordinary scene — in these two cases, views under Namir Road, the surface artery into Tel Aviv from the north and under the Ayalon Freeway.

Under Namir Bridge


Under Ayalon Bridge

… and a similar effect can be observed with these three photographs from Tel Aviv Port.


Reading from Port

T-APort harbour

T-APort promenade


Closer up, what happens?  Well, one of the lenses did a wonderful job with flowers but as I’m not really into macro photography, it didn’t mean all that much.  Still, you have to admit that the results are pretty!

Pink flower


Yellow flower and fly

The same lens did a similarly good job with a hydrant that I’ve been photographing for the past seven or eight years and which has now reached such a stage of advanced decomposition (rusting) that I wouldn’t be surprised if one day in the very near future, I were to find that it is gone entirely.

Decomposed hydrant


It was a Friday morning so I photographed some artichokes at the Farmers’ Market in the port and then “worked” on it a bit to create a more dramatic effect and what I think is a really good picture — so much so that I printed it out and hung it in the hallway.


Turning the corner at the end of the promenade, I took a self-portrait, which turned out not bad at all — even if I had to lop off the right-hand side of the image because I didn’t appear in the third spectacle lens.  Nevertheless, a three-way photo is OK.


Walking out of the port into the north end of Dizengoff Street, I passed the Great Synagogue of North Tel Aviv and observed a new installation on the exterior wall, a charity box with a difference.  Looks like one of the synagogue wardens had been on vacation and got an idea from the hotel he had been staying at.

Charity box

Walking along the streets, looking at everyday scenes, one sees interesting things from time to time, like this elderly woman deciding for herself, as she settled into one of the streetside seats to enjoy the noise from the traffic on Ibn-Gvirol Street, that a packet of potato chips/crisps was what she really wanted to eat for breakfast at 9 in the morning.  And why not?

Breakfast crisps

Further up the street, I passed something that’s so ubiquitous in Tel Aviv (and other Israeli towns and cities) that nobody ever gives it a second thought.  This is the bright orange kiosks that sell lottery tickets.  I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be locked into one of these enclosed spaces for several hours a day, looking out at the scene outside (and probably not even a wide-angle view either).  Yet, people (most of whom look to be about my age) do this for a living!

Lottery kiosk

On one of the side streets, I found a novel way of reserving parking space.

Reserved parking

Then, coming back on to the main drag, Ibn Gvirol Street, a took a photo of this guy.  I had photographed him once before, a few months ago, and then he vanished.  The other day, he had returned to what he obviously regarded as his patch.  He wasn’t any cleaner than he’d been the first time round and he was mightily unhappy that I had taken his picture.  Actually, I was a bit surprised that he had noticed as I hadn’t stopped walking or even slowed down but just clicked as I passed.  But he must have heard it or perhaps I looked him in the eye and he guessed.  At any rate, next time I want to snap him, I’ll make sure to have a telephoto lens and walk on the other side of the street as his threat was not directed at me but at the camera!

Your fucking camera

Finally, there was absurd scene the following day a little further north.  There are lots of dogs in T-A and people are fairly good about clearing up the mess.  However, sometimes there are accidents.  In this case, the owner in question was walking briskly along the street when the dog felt the need to relieve itself.  I watched as the dog dug in but its owner continued walking — until he realized that he and the dog were a cross purposes and the little black plastic bag, designed for a single pick-up, would need to be used repeatedly.  The doggie’s revenge, indeed!

Dog's revenge

P.S.  This is the 30th post!  I didn’t think I’d get this far when I started a few weeks ago!


Doggone! I’ve done it again!

“A dog is a man’s best friend.” OR should it be: “Man is a dog’s best friend???”

“He was dogged in his tenacity.” OR “He was dogged by his tenacity.” (???)

“The game was dogged by bad weather.” (Perhaps because it was raining cats and dogs.)

“In the morning, he made a dog’s breakfast of the job and then tried it again later in the day and made a dog’s dinner of it!”

“The poor guy spent three years as a general dogsbody as Dean of Faculty ferrying messages between the Rector and Department Chairpersons.”

“This country is definitely going to the dogs but there’s little point in being dogmatic about saying so.”

A few weeks ago, I posted a piece about cats.  Now it’s the turn of the cats’ Other to suffer from the words of Waterman.  Yes, dogs.  I upset a couple of people then because I really am not a cat lover.  Truth is, I’m not mad about the canines either but if I have to choose, I prefer Canis familiaris, even though I think they are too familiaris a lot of the time.  It’s something about their personality — although I must say that I find it difficult to accept that dogs (or cats) can have such a thing as a personality — but “dogonality” or “catonality” don’t sound right.  But there’s no point in being catatonic or letting dogmatism get the better of me.

It’s just that dogs are more up front about displaying their characters (that’s a better word!) than their feline friends or foes.  Winston Churchill got it about right, I think, when he purportedly said: “I like pigs.  Dogs look up to us.  Cats look down on us.  Pigs treat us as equals.”, which makes me think that the famous Ronnie Barker(!)/Ronnie Corbett/John Cleese sketch might have been based on it. (

And all of this reminded me of another doggie anecdote that I read many years ago in which Laurence Olivier’s then five-year old daughter, Tamsin, apparently asked Noël Coward what two dogs were doing together.  Coward produced what was described as a masterpiece of creative explanation: “The doggie in the front has suddenly gone blind and the other one has very kindly offered to push her all the way to St. Dunstan’s.”




At any rate, snapping dogs is more fun than photographing cats for instead of staring at you as if to say “You’ll blink first.” or “Your shutter will open and close before I move.”, dogs will often look at the camera and its operator and seem as if they’re about to share a joke — or not, as the case may be.  At any rate, it’s the crypto-human quality that many people (mostly dog owners and dog lovers) read into the disposition of dogs (even though their psyches are rather different to us humans) that makes it so easy to apply captions to images of dogs.

Anyway, enough of this doggerel.  Catharsis by way of showing some images.

However, just to allay any misunderstandings that all dogs are nice and friendly and instantly approachable, have a look at the pair of photos below, taken a few years ago in Tel Aviv Port.  In the second one, I think that the dog is trying to make friends whereas his feline foe isn’t in the slightest bit interested!


Hannibal Lecter.  Tel Aviv Port.  March 2008


I’m trying to be friendly but YOU?  Look at yourself!  Tel Aviv Port.  March 2010

Dogs are by nature scavengers and their nature seldom lets them down. “Take cleanliness into your hands”, the notice says, which is better than taking the other stuff in them. There’s a fine for pooing here, it says, which means that it’s not fine at all for pooing here. Tel Aviv’s dog-owners are pretty good about cleaning up the mess after their dogs have fouled the pavement or the grass.  Come to think of it, in my warped way of thinking, that’s about the only thing that cats have over dogs.

Fine for pooing here

Dogs have character, as I show below. 

Wait for the birdie

We just knew that some nice photographer would snap us today!

Not the happiest od days

I’m not in the mood really.  I’m not as young as I used to be and I need the hairdresser for some colouring.

A wooden pose

What a wooden pose!





Henry the Navigator.  Venice, 2007

Patience is a virtue, they say.  Well, let’s see if we get a crumb or two!


It;’s often said that dogs resemble their owners (or that the owners choose dogs in their own image, something to which they would never admit).  I used to be skeptical about this until I ran across this pair near Primrose Hill in London.

Primrose Hill Andalucia, May 2008


Some dogs make friends with their own as well as with humans.

You're at the wrong end, I think

Listen.  If you think you’ve met me before, you’re poking round the wrong end!


Some dogs have an easy life and others less so.  And some of them live the life of Riley, driving round in their own limousine.


Morning exercise (a)


Morning exercise (b)

I know London like the back of my paw

I know London like the back of my paw!

Hampstead Heath

And can you imagine a cat doing anything like this?  Hampstead Heath, 2011.

Well, that’s it.  I’m done.  

I take my bow!  


Can this be true?

I must be going mad — and so must you!


Music and me


Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 21.28.54.png

For the past 35 years or so, music has occupied an important place in my life.  That is not to say that I am either a musician or particularly musical.  In elementary school I attended choir but the teacher — Frank Edwards, a gentle person, a veteran of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War and member of the Irish Communist Party who taught at a Jewish school because he had been blacklisted by the Catholic church ( — would not excuse me from the lesson even though he ordered me not to sing aloud because I couldn’t hold a note and was bothering the other children.  I had to stand there with the other kids and mouth the words of the songs in silence.  

I play piano (for my own enjoyment) — mostly songs by Gershwin, Porter, Kern, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lennon and McCartney — and, of course, Tom Lehrer.  For this “skill”, I owe a debt of thanks to my late mother who recognised when I was approaching 13 that due to “pressures” concerning barmitzvah (I said I couldn’t handle piano lessons and the other thing), her “investment” of several years in piano lessons were about to go down the drain (in other words, I probably wouldn’t play any more). So she took the gamble of sending me for lessons on Wednesday afternoons with Richard Burbridge, who played piano with a dance band in the Metropole Ballroom in Dublin. I went to lessons with Richie for over two years until he told her that she was wasting her hard-earned money (I didn’t practise enough and hadn’t quite got the hang of chord progressions — I still haven’t). It was true but that investment paid off in the sense that I can sit at the piano, read the sheet music and improvise within limits. It relaxes me.  However, the other four immediate members of the family are all more serious about their music.  





Viola fingers


About 20 years ago, we became devotees of the chamber music festival held at Kfar Blum, a kibbutz in the Upper Galilee, every summer for the past three decades. There, I was fascinated as to how this festival changed the character of the place annually for a fortnight, and this — the change in the character of the place — was the direct connection to geography.

I was so taken by this transformation of place that I wanted to write an article about the festival. I started to write but soon stopped when I discovered that I knew nothing at all about the nature or history of arts festivals. It was then that I realised that before I could write about a week of chamber music in Upper Galilee, I had to understand what I was writing about — in other words where it fitted into the wider scheme of things. So, over a period of a year or so, I immersed myself reading about festivals, museums, galleries and other places where culture is on display. I let myself flow with the current, as it were, and it took me into the sociology of the arts, museology, musicology, anthropology and other areas of knowledge that I would never have visited had it not been for Kfar Blum. There was very little geography, as it happens.

As a result of this journey, I wrote two academic articles — one on the nature of arts festivals and the other on the Kfar Blum festival, as well as several other pieces in the years following. To my great surprise and delight, I discovered that I was dealing with a tabula rasa and the former of these two articles Carnivals for Elites? The cultural politics of arts festivals is still being widely cited almost two decades later. That never fails to amaze me as I’m hardly an “expert” in the field but I suppose that’s what happens when you get to be the pioneer.

Anyway, as a result of this, I kept up an interest in things musical for the next 20 years and published here and there when I felt like it. Perhaps as a result of this and my newly found but serious side-line in photography, I was asked if I would be a volunteer photographer for the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition, which has been held every three years for more than four decades in Tel Aviv.

To cut a long story very short, devoid of any practical experience or expertise, I accepted this invitation. I found the constraints and obligations daunting: no flash photography, barred from moving about (you had to choose your spot and stay there for the duration of each performance), shutter clicks should not distract the audience, the video team took precedence over the still photographer, and there was a requirement to produce several pictures each day for possible use in the following day’s edition of HaAretz newspaper, &c. But it was precisely these constraints and obligations that taught me on the job, as it were.

Rubinstein video

Video wins again

When I look back on the 2,000 or so photos from the competition that I took over a period of three weeks, I see that by the end I was taking perhaps half a dozen images per performance whereas at the start, there were 20 or 30 or more of each competitor. I learned, for instance, that there is a limit to the number of poses that are worth photographing — a bow to the audience before beginning or on completion of the programme, hands raised before crashing down on the keys, a dreamlike pose viewed through the triangle of the piano and the lid.

Occasionally, there will be something different — a dress strap that falls off the shoulder mid-performance, a back arched, a bottom dangerously perched on the edge of the piano stool — so you have to be on your guard the whole time.  But it was fun, educational and exhausting and at the end of it all, I didn’t want to hear piano again for quite some time.

I occasionally take the camera with me to concerts and I’ve learned enough so as not to irritate other members of the audience. For instance, you can minimise the nuisance by pressing the shutter button only when the musicians are playing loud and never during quiet sections. With string players, you can almost bet that the final notes will end with an upward flourish of bows, a position that will be held for a second or two so that if you’re ready, you can shoot a burst from which to choose the best of several shots and you can photograph while the ensemble is tuning, which disturbs nobody.

Rubinstein chamber

Maria Mazo, with Sergey Ostrovsky, Gilad Karni and Zvi Plesser, Rubinstein Competition 2014


Best of all is to capture images during rehearsal when you’re freer to move about and get closer to the performers. In fact, I get the impression that in these situations, they positively enjoy being photographed — or at least don’t dislike it quite as much.

Rubinstein rehearsal

Practice time at the Rubinstein Competition, 2014 (and I’m a little bored)

I need to photograph more hands and fingers on keyboards and strings but that will come over time and as long as I’m able to hold the camera steady. In fact, in this day and age, with improvements in the image stabilisation software in cameras, I suppose I can continue this kind of stuff while I dodder and wobble into old age!


Aviv Quartet with Irina Shostakovich, Verbier 2007


Brexit and related things

To those of you who go straight to the photographs and skip the verbiage (some of you do!), I apologise as the photos come at the end this time.

After the last post, one of my readers wrote that it sounded rather poignant. Perhaps, but I have to admit that I do like London.  It has a buzz.  Don’t get me wrong — I like Tel Aviv, too, but there’s a difference.  Tel Aviv also buzzes quite a bit but there are more and more varied bees in London than T-A.  It’s a larger city and the variety of people it contains never fails to amaze me.

Although I’ve a list of possible blog topics, I never quite know what I’m going to write about until I start. One promise I made at the outset was to keep political statements, even camouflaged ones, to a minimum. Yet, here I am, reading over what I wrote yesterday and it seems that after nearly three months, I’ve broken my own rule.

Years ago, when I was an Academic Visitor at Queen Mary on Mile End Road, in London’s East End, I would occasionally take the Number 25 bus up to Oxford Street to vary the journey back to Hampstead.  When I would board the bus, oftentimes I was the only “European” face on the bus (if people only knew!). By the time we’d reach Oxford Street, black and brown faces had almost gone and the residue was mostly off-white (or “pinkish”, probably a more accurate description).  I found that fascinating, just as 30 years ago when I was at the LSE when I would board a Northern Line train at Edgware, headed for Charing Cross. Then, I usually left the house around 8 a.m. and most of my fellow passengers were reading The Times, Guardian or Daily Telegraph (the Independent was launched in 1986). Occasionally, I would leave earlier and at 7.15, the reading travellers clutched the Mail, Express, Mirror or Sun. That was when I became aware that not only do different people read different papers but that those different people had different working hours and jobs.

Actually (and for the benefit of those who wish to think of themselves as PC — Politically Correct, as distinct from PC/Mac), “European” used to be synonymous with “White”, which in American-speak is “Caucasian”. Black and White are terms used in the UK Censuses in the “ethnic question”.  People whose skin is neither black or blackish nor off-white or pinkish complicate matters and are classified as Asian or as having either mixed or multiple ethnic backgrounds.  I remember some years ago on a visit to the Royal Free Hospital, I was asked to provide some personal details, including my ethnicity. I automatically responded with “Jewish” and there was hesitation on the part of the young woman recording my particulars.  “Do you mean Other White?”, she asked.  “No”, says I, “I mean Jewish”.  More indecision.  “But there isn’t a checkbox for that!”.  I told her that I was aware of that and I that I was getting paid to deal with that very issue (along with other related ones).  Now, the non-PC part of this paragraph is that the skin colour of the woman in question was like a latte with an extra shot of espresso so, just being friendly and curious, I asked her what her ethnicity was.  There was a silence — after which she burst out laughing when she, too, understood the absurdity of the exercise. (A true story, by the way!) 

But times have changed. Today, amongst some in Britain, it seems that “European” is a dirty word, frequently used to describe people from “over there” to the east and south of Britain. You know, people not British (not English, I suppose) — Polish plumbers, French bankers, Spanish waiters, and the like. There seems to be a fear of “migrants” who, it appears, only come to the UK to enjoy benefits that silly governments hand out like people used to hand out lollipops to children.

Yet, this variety is what makes London exciting, what creates its buzz. And what’s more, the National Health System (in London, at least), not to mention the financial system, would collapse were it not for the “migrants” who occupy positions from senior consultants and investment managers to cleaning staff; the buses would operate at half strength and, on the basis of what I see around me in NW London, people might go hungry because the local food stores and eating places would barely function.

One of the nice things about having been in Britain recently was that I didn’t hear any news about Israel (which is good news in itself), although I could have had I wished to.  However, I did follow the goings-on in Brussels over the final stages of Britain’s negotiations with the European Union about staying or leaving.   As a consequence, I’ll be following the Brexit referendum with some interest (and concern) over the next few months. Actually, I think it should be called a plebiscite because the Plebs in semi-detached, semi-detached England will be deciding whether semi-detached England should become wholly detached from the Mother Ship Europa. And, it strikes me (at this stage, although only time will tell) that the decision to stay or leave the EU will have little to do with economics or trade but everything to do with the migrant myth, in particular in those parts of the country that experience migrants the least.  (Migrants, by the way, are part and parcel of British history.  Think Lombards, Flemings, Huguenots, Jews, Irish, Afro-Caribbeans, Gujaratis and many more — all of who have contributed in a positive way to economy and culture!)

When I heard Conservative politicians (including two former [failed] leaders) natter on about unelected Brussels bureaucrats making decisions about Britain’s future (I suppose unelected Whitehall bureaucrats — fond memories of Sir Humphrey and Jim Hacker — are of better quality) and renegotiating a better deal (as if the rest of the EU would be interested in giving the UK a better deal the second time round), my mind boggled.  What flabbergasted me most of all as a concerned observer is how someone could have been so rash as to promise a referendum so long ago, given the unpredictability of referenda.  (Ask the Irish and the Danes all about that.)

My goodness, haven’t I dug myself into a right hole here? Having come thus far in this little diatribe using some distinctly non-PC statements, I remembered that this is a photo blog — so what photos am I now supposed to append to it in order to make this post more palatable?  Well, as it’s about London, I suppose the best thing to do is to give you some [more] London photos, quite unrelated either to what I’ve written or to one another but pictures that I’ve taken over the past few years and which I quite like looking at.  


London August 2011

River Thames, looking east towards the City of London and Canary Wharf behind.  August 2011

Toward Westminster.jpg

River Thames, looking west towards Westminster and beyond.  February 2016




Cranes and Things.  London from Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath.  February 2016


Primrose 1

Primrose Hill, London.  Looking south.  February 2016

London New Religion February 2015

Smartphones and coffee.  Icons of a new religion?  Northern Line, February 2016

London Heath July Man & child 2011

Man and Child.  Hampstead Heath,  August 2011

London Back Lane February 2015

Back Lane, Hampstead.  February 2016

London Big wheel in the sky.jpg

Boris’s Unicycle — Big Wheel in London.  The London Eye, February 2016

London Festival HallAugust 2011

At play.  Near The Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London.  August 2011

London Recycling

Recycling day. Primrose Hill Gardens, NW3

People of London.  Notting Hill, 2011


London Gandhi October 2015 1

Mahatma Gandhi in Tavistock Square.                                                                                                                      The real problem with Britain is that I am simply inadequately dressed to deal with British weather!  



So long, London

The other morning, I woke up in a cold sweat.  I’ve been writing this blog for over two months now directly on the WordPress website and I realised that I don’t have backups for 30,000 words of text and I don’t know how many photographs.  So, I made a backup to a word processor and as soon as I’m back in Tel Aviv, it’s separate folders of the images attached to each blog.  Potential catastrophe #2 averted (for the moment)!

Well, tomorrow we’re off again, back to Tel Aviv.  We’ve enjoyed our fortnight in London.  I’m not complaining but I’ve come to the conclusion that a fortnight is the wrong length of time for us to come on a visit to this city.  A week or ten days and you can get away with not seeing anybody except close family; three weeks or more and you can space out the social visits better.  But two weeks somehow falls between two stools and this time, especially after the last visit a few months ago and which was a bit of a catastrophe, it’s been go-go-go the whole time.  I’m exhausted and I really need to rest up until after the coming weekend but for one reason or another, I feel it’s simply not going to be allowed to happen.

In between the social facets of this visit, I did manage to get out a few times with the camera.  On Wednesday, we visited the Tate Modern to see the exhibition of works by Alexander Calder, Performing Sculpture.  In my ignorance, I think I’d heard his name but had no idea who he was or what he did.  He was a radical figure who pioneered kinetic sculpture, bringing movement to static objects.  Having originally trained as an engineer, he travelled to Paris in the 1920s  and by 1931 he had invented the mobile, a term coined to describe his sculptures, which moved of their own accord. I was quite taken aback because I’d never thought of something as simple and mundane as a mobile actually to have been invented by a specific individual. I suppose I thought they’d always been and if invented at all, then by some anonymous prehistoric geezer. All in all, it was a wonderful couple of hours — and I don’t always say that about art exhibitions.  I left with the same feeling I had a couple of years ago when I visited the Matisse cutouts at the same gallery — that this was something special, something so simple yet moving, in more than one sense of the word.



Alexander Calder, 'Antennae with Red and Blue Dots' c1953

Alexander Calder: c. 1953, Aluminium and steel wire

The Tate Modern is not one of the easiest places in London to reach, especially for someone with mobility problems.  Travelling back home in a London black cab, I was struck by the extent to which this city has become an amalgam of gigantic building site/roadworks.  It seemed as if every street had a sign directing traffic along a diversion and every other street in Central London is dwarfed by some giant crane. In 2011, The Economist reported that about half a million roadworks pock the London’s streets each year, creating 30% of all traffic disruptions and costing about £1 billion a year, on a conservative estimate.  The explanation then was partly historic. Whereas after the destruction of the second world war, some European cities were replanned to accommodate mass car-ownership, London came through the Blitz, keeping its mazelike mediaeval road pattern. Other bits of the city’s infrastructure were similarly decrepit: its water pipes antique, its sewage network Victorian with the consequence that improvements are both frequent and peculiarly disruptive.  Current London government has tried to make things more efficient, with a code that promotes off-peak work, the co-ordination of plans and covering up of holes so cars can drive over them. I would say that it has been only partially successful.  However, there are still glitches. Boroughs commission their own roadworks, and have less incentive than utilities to work efficiently. Budget cuts mean upgrades tend to be delayed until they are unavoidable—at which point they are more troublesome than planned maintenance. With regards the current building boom, however, cheap money seems to be the main driver of activity, of which there is an awful lot.

I did manage a few hours out last week with an old friend, also a retired geography professor with an interest in photography.  (He takes far more thoughtful pictures than I do.)  We spend most of our time chatting as we wander about with our cameras but every now and then I lose him and he me as we each see something different to photograph and meander off separately to find the right angle and viewpoint.  

This time around, we spent the day at King’s Cross, a major railway hub in Inner London, where major construction is currently taking place.  This development has been in the making 15-20 years and I suppose it will take another five or so until it’s complete.  Roger reckoned that it’s the largest single building site in the UK, and I can believe him.

King's X.jpg

King's X 4King's X 3King's X 7King's X 6King's X 5


And then there was the inevitable one-man pilgrimage to Primrose Hill one last time this morning …


… the magnolias all around the place, early this year …


… like the daffodils …


… and, of course, the walk along the river and crossing the exquisite Hungerford Bridge …


Oh well, back to T-A tomorrow.  Have to wait a while to see all this again.  See you again in a few days, I guess.