A terrible state o’ chassis

The final scene of Sean O’Casey’s play Juno and the Paycock, set in the time of Ireland’s Civil War, involves “Captain” Jack Boyle, a man whose officer sobriquet derived from his short career as a merchant seaman.  Jack spends all his time and money at the pub with his good for nothing buddy Joxer Daly rather than looking for a job, and this despite his family’s poverty.  He stumbles home one evening and collapses after an evening at  the pub with Joxer, completely inebriated, unaware that his son is dead or that his wife and daughter have left him.  After a short conversation, Jack accidentally drops his last sixpence on the floor and he drunkenly mourns that “the whole world is in a terrible state o’ chassis” before passing out.  The chassis to which Captain Jack was referring had nothing to do with automobiles but rather to this sotted Dubliner’s perception of the chaos into which the world had sunk, viewed from a Dublin tenement in 1922, just after the outbreak of the Irish Civil War.

In a way, what with a truck bring driven at 80 km/h to kill tens of people and maim even more along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, a machete massacre on a train in Germany, other mass murders in Belgium, France and Germany and the United States and who knows where next the world is going through a difficult period.  Add to this the Republican Party’s candidate for the presidency of the United States (which is still the world’s most powerful state) calling on the President of the Russian Federation to intervene in the American Presidential campaign, Captain Jack had a point.  As did my grandmother, who would bemoan the state of the world with the Yiddish words “די וועלט גייט אונטער” (In German exactly the same thing: Die Welt geht unter).

The month of August used to be nicknamed the “silly season”.  It is when ordinary people and their children,  politicians and other [kinds of] celebrities take off for somewhere else; anywhere other than the usual for a couple of weeks or longer.  Israelis head for “abroad”, meaning any place that’s not Israel (though I can’t imagine too many are heading for Turkey these days even though a month ago, Turkey seemed to be back on the map for Israelis).  Many Brits head off to “the Continent”, i.e., Europe (a dirty word these days) and so forth.

Contrasting with this phenomenon of getting away from it all, newspapers and other media outlets don’t take holidays.  Daily newspapers have to be published daily and the news still has to be reported on radio and TV, even if there’s little real news to report.  So we hear stories about the longevity of the sibling clones of Dolly, the sheep cloned two decades ago in Edinburgh, and which aged more quickly than normal, suffering from osteoarthritis in her knees and hips and who died aged six and a half.  Her siblings, it appears, are doing fine.  

Actually, I’ve never had much faith in daily newspapers and even less in watching news “as it happens”.  Long ago, I learned that if a journalist is committed to write 1,000 words by, say, an 11 p.m. deadline and has nothing to write, then s/he can’t write nothing (that’s not permitted) so s/he fills up the space with 1,000 words that mean nothing — or something like that.  Rather like this blog sometimes, except that I’m under no contractual obligation to do it

As well as Dolly, there is also a lot in the news about Donald … not Duck but Trump.  Not that there’s all that much difference between them except that one is pretend and one is real, one is dangerous and other is benign although I admit that I’m not quite sure which is which.  One is famous for his semi-intelligible speech and his temperamental personality whereas the other is famous for his semi-intelligible speech and his temperamental personality.

And now that referring to the referendum in the UK has become passé and there’s a new  Prime Minister and a new Government in place, all seems to have gone quite quiet.  Presumably, many have taken off for their holiday homes somewhere in Europe to contemplate what to do with that contentious continent, Europe.  I hope that their conscientious contemplation yields some fruit.  As a result of the change of government, the satirical newspaper Private Eye has marked the transformation by renaming its column The Cameron Free School.  Until the next change of Prime Minister, it is to be known as: St. Theresa’s State Grammar School for Girls (and Boys),  which prompted a comment from an old friend that the nearest St. Theresa’s School to where he lives is a school for the blind and that he hoped that this one wouldn’t repeat.  Some hope!

Anyway, time for some photographs.  Interesting as the political events of the past month have been, for peace of mind, I managed to get out with the camera several times recently.

The other day, on my way back home after some grocery shopping, sans camera, I noticed the large, open flower on the tree in the house next door, which overhangs the footpath in the street.  It wasn’t just the flower that caught my eye but the busyness of a plethora of bees inside it.  I hastened inside, deposited the groceries, grabbed the camera, affixing the right lens and was downstairs again within a couple of minutes — and this is what resulted.  And it was just as well that I did what I did because by the following day, the flower had changed colour and had been deserted by the bees and a day after that, it was gone.

Bees in flower

Yesterday afternoon, having walked the length of England’s Lane looking for the wine shop that had been there for years and discovering that it was now a branch of The American Dry Cleaning Company, I hopped on a bus that happened to be at the bus stop just as I passed and took it three stops to the next nearest wine shop for a bottle of white plonk (which turned out to be a Marlborough wine from New Zealand, based on a new grape varietal, Sauvignon Gris.  It was fruity with a wonderful flkavour, too).  The bus stopped at the traffic lights for a minute or so before turning left to Haverstock Hill when I noticed something that bothered me.  When I write (and when I used to review journal articles and book manuscripts), I hate inconsistencies.  And on either side of the bus was an inconsistency, par excellence.

The day before yesterday, again sitting on a bus and again without the camera, I noticed something which appealed to my love of the unusual and which I hadn’t seen before although I must have passed it dozens of times.  This was a sign above a shop advertising horse-drawn funerals and I wondered whether the Dublin Jewish Holy Burial Society would have approved.  I also noticed that when I was growing up, such establishments were referred to as “Undertakers”.  Today, they are “Funeral Directors & Memorial Consultants”, part of an organization called Dignity, which offers “Caring Funeral Services”, which I would have hoped they always were anyway.  So, yesterday, I took the camera and did what I should have done the day before.

Horse-drawn funeralsHorse-drawn funerals 1

On the way home from the horse-drawn funerals, using “Shanks’s Pony”, (on one’s legs, on foot), I came across what must be a joke displayed on a street sign.  Less than 50m away on the footpath were signs that many, many, many of this protected species had been well fed and had dropped their deposits on buildings, pavements and street furniture (i.e., those benches usually inhabited by males (and sometimes females) beer cans in hand).  A £2,500 fine??? Yes, it just has to be some sort of joke, indeed.

Pigeon joke

Finally, summer has arrived in London, even if only temporarily.  And when that large yellow ball in the sky makes one of its rare appearances, Londoners take full advantage.  They stroll and loll, turn pink, red, and purple, the “lucky” ones tan and the tanned ones turn a darker shade yet and the rest eat ice cream.  And some just sit on a park bench and read the newspaper to find out what state o’ chassis the world is really in!

Sunshine in London 1

Primrose HILL 2

Sunshine in London 0

Sunshine in London 3


Settling in and settling down

The United Kingdom (its government and its citizens) seems to be resigned to the fact that it will eventually exit the European Union whenever the politicians decide it’s an appropriate time.  There’s a new Prime Minister and a new government which, I am sure, people will get used to.  Meanwhile, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition appears to be tearing itself apart though, as an outside observer, there’s nothing really all that new about this.  The other day, we had the dubious pleasure of seeing the Leader of the Opposition speak in parliament against the stated policy of his own party on the issue of replacing Britain’s nuclear deterrent.  Whatever you think about Mr. Corbyn you have to admire his consistency, absurd as it may seem to be at times (like the other day).

Immigration was one of the most debated issues during the referendum campaign in Britain.  One of the things about being an immigrant (and I’ve been an immigrant — in Canada, the United States, Israel — for most of my life) is that it takes a lot of getting used to a sense of humour.  Each time I come back to Britain (where, technically, were I to remain, I would again be an immigrant) is that when I listen to or watch a silly quiz programme or comedy show on radio or TV, I understand exactly what people are laughing at and why and I laugh along, too.  I rarely have that feeling in Israel.  So, impossible as it may seem to some of my Israeli compatriots after almost half a century in the country, I am a perpetual new immigrant.

Here, in the UK, as I’ve already said, the situation is the opposite.  Reading the satirical newspaper Private Eye, which I  really should read more often, I see how the Brits can laugh at one another.  If we look at the cover of the last issue but one (the first after the referendum), you can see why they’re to be envied.

Private Eye 8 July cover.png

And the current issue is just as eye-catching:

Private Eye

What’s she got in her handbag, then? 64 years of the CVs of 13 Prime Ministers, I suppose!

Settling down after the post-referendum brouhaha, I thought I might manage to get some serious work done — but no such luck.  My spare computer that I use for travel finally decided to retire — unable or unwilling to cope with the demands of various upgrades of the applications I use, so I had no alternative but to replace it.  The complexities of ordering a machine with the specifications needed were unbelievable:  extra memory is not installed in the UK but somewhere over there, in the part of the world from which the UK is about to disengage.  A week overdue, I called Apple to be told that the shipment was in Köln but they couldn’t explain to me why it was there and when it would arrive in London.  Eventually, I phoned Apple and at the third attempt a wonderfully helpful Irish woman in Cork ensured that the machine was eventually delivered.  However, I had forgotten that new computers with new operating systems often have teething problems and this one was no exception.

By the time I got that straightened out, the weather had changed. In simple understatement, 34ºC in London is not comfortable at all, with nowhere to escape to except to sit in front of a large fan that we brought with us about 10 years ago.  No air/con. Yesterday was a trifle cooler and today is manageable at 24º + a promise perhaps of some rain.

All in all, my photography has taken something of a back seat, then.  But not completely.  Walking on Hampstead Heath one day earlier this week, I noticed a dead tree that I had photographed a couple of years ago.  I sized it up, composed the picture and shot it a couple of times.  As I continued my walk uphill in the direction of Hampstead, a young woman with a young child carefully bandaged to her belly stopped me and asked me what I saw that seemed interesting enough to photograph.  I asked her what she saw and she told me “I see a green fence.”  There was a green fence on the skyline but I hadn’t noticed it and if I had I certainly wouldn’t have bothered to take a photograph.  I explained to her that I saw a tree, a dead tree, and that I saw it in black and white.  She seemed impressed — to tell you the truth, so did I, because that was what I really saw.  There were colours but they didn’t seem to contribute anything at all to the scene.

Dead tree, Hampstead Heath

If I follow a specific route on the way to the Heath, I can pass the wonderful Isokon building, so reminiscent of the Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv’s UNESCO heritage “White City” site. This white building on Lawn Road, a five-minute walk from home, is a concrete block of 34 flats designed by Wells Coates and opened in July 1934 as an experiment in minimalist urban living. The building originally included 22 single flats, 4 double flats, 3 studio flats, staff quarters, kitchens and a large garage. Former residents included émigrés Walter Gropius and Lászlo Moholy-Nagy and Agatha Christie apparently lived there during the war years.  It really is something special. 

Isokon 2Isokon 1


One never quite knows what one is going to find when one is on the lookout for a pictures.  This butterfly was perched on a railing outside a church about five minutes’ walk away from home.  I didn’t have the right lens on the camera for this type of photo but you take what you can when it appears.


Tuesday wasn’t just warm.  It was hot — 34ºC in the shade and even higher in the sun.  Unpleasant, to say the least because, as I said, air/con is almost non-existent in this part of the world.  This woman at the bus stop in Camden provided her own sunshade, which announced that Elton John had lost a four-month battle to keep details of a sexual harassment case brought against him secret.  As per usual in such cases, the alleged perpetrator strongly denied any wrongdoing, but was understood to have paid the man a six-figure sum and the harassment claims were subsequently withdrawn.

Sunshade, Camden

Body art and hair art are still part and parcel of the scene in London as these two young women in Hampstead and Goodge Street, respectively, illustrate.  I have got used to the hair part but I really can’t get my head around the tattoo stuff at all.  Some of the “works of art” on the bodies of people are almost beyond understanding — at least my understanding.

Body artBody art 2, Goodge Street

I continue to be fascinated with post boxes.  The uppermost of the two is a wall box, a common enough installation but less so than the pillboxes.  The lower one is something I’ve only ever seem one of.  Beside the post box in Regent’s Park Road stands a stamp machine.  It will sell you 4 first-class stamps.  Presumably it is operated by desperate people whose internet has been disconnected and are in need to communicate with people notwithstanding.

Wall postbox, HampsteadPostbox and stamps

Finally, another fascination is the Tube, which Londoners, have to endure to get between home and work, like it or not and I find the enforced look of ennui on the faces of most of the reluctant riders a source of endless captivation.  

Tube pics


… and so it continues …

I really don’t know where the week has flown.  When I last posted, the Conservative Party here in the SUK (Still United Kingdom) was shaping up for a leadership contest that was due to last all summer, something that would have kept the journalists on autopilot as they speculated on the two candidates in the race.  It was shaping up to be the cattiest, bitchiest race in British political history.  

Then, at the weekend, one of the ladies, Andrea Leadsom, gave an interview to a journalist from The Times, something politicians tend to do from time to time.  She spoke candidly, something politicians do from time to time but which smart politicians rarely do.  She said that being a mother makes her a better choice for prime minister than Theresa May because it means that she has “a very real stake” in the future of Britain and that the Home Secretary must be “really sad” not to have children.  Well, well, well.  Talk about harakiri.  As Tom Lehrer put it in a song over half a century ago, having read “the juiciest, spiciest, raciest obituary it has ever been my pleasure to read … that of a lady named Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel, who had, in her lifetime, managed to acquire as lovers practically all of the top creative men in central Europe. And, among these lovers, who were listed in the obituary, by the way, which is what made it so interesting ….  There’s nothing quite like candidness!

It was reported that she received not nice communications from some of her erstwhile colleagues in the party and that Britain’s most notorious overnight mum had spent most of Sunday in tears, which more or less tells you all you need to know. By Monday noon, she had withdrawn her candidacy, and Mrs. May suddenly found herself, after just a single  speech as a candidate for the highest office in the land, in the job.  Two days later, she was there, on one knee curtsying before Elizabeth II, a nonagenarian who has already seen off 12 Prime Ministers in her 64 years on the job.  And isn’t it amazing to learn how far a person with a B.A. in Geography (albeit from Oxford) can actually go?  One should never lose hope.

Just so that we shouldn’t become bored with straightforward things like a change of Prime Minister (Israel still has a lot to learn from SUK), the Labour Party has decided to take centre stage and hold a leadership contest, too.  This looks like being much more fun than the show the Conservatives were planning to put on.  And keeping in the tradition of British faunal politicians (remember: the Conservatives had a Crab[be] and a Fox in the first round of voting — was it really only last week?— and the Scots have a Sturgeon and a Salmon[d]), first into the ring to challenge Jeremy Corbyn was none other than Angela, yes you’ve guessed, Eagle.  All we need now, I suppose is somebody called [Turn]Bull — isn’t he Australian? — or Katz to come along, and the farmyard will be complete.  

The unfortunate Ms. Eagle had a brick thrown through the window of her constituency office in Wallasey, near Liverpool, apparently by Corbynistas unhappy with her decision to express no confidence in Jelly’s leadership.  And here she is, in action, on learning about the appointment of Boris (there’s nothing quite like candidness) to the Foreign Office.  Subtlety, apparently, is not her forte!  www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36793178

Barely able to tear myself away from TV and newspapers, so riveting the action, I’ve still managed to get out several times in the past week when the showers have ceased and that yellowish sphere in the sky reappears from time to time.

The weekend before last, we went to see the new David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy “82 Portraits and One Still Life”, in which he painted family and friends in the same chair, giving them the freedom to choose what they would like to wear and how they would like to sit — an absolutely enthralling show.  (The still life was painted when one of his subjects failed to arrive at the appointed time and the materials had been prepared.)  In the courtyard of Burlington House (home of the Royal Academy as well as the Geological Association and other learned societies) was something just as exciting, the installation by Ron Arad, a Tel Avivian and Royal Academician, entitled “Spyre”, a spire with a base and four arms that rotate and different speeds and angles so that it varies constantly.  I didn’t have a camera with me that day, so I returned the other morning to photograph it.  It really is fascinating.  As I was about to leave, I noticed that there was an explanatory notice near the entry point to the courtyard, where you learn that you’ve been caught on camera by the contraption and by being photographed you therefore waive all your rights to not being photographed!  Still it’s interesting.

AradArad 1

The following day, we were with the grandchildren and their parents on Hampstead Heath near Kenwood House whereupon I discovered that there’s a Henry Moore sculpture, Two Piece Reclining Figure No. 5 1963-64 on loan from the Tate.  Like all Henry Moores, you can sit and look at this for ever and ever and never be bored.

Henry Moore

While absorbing the curves and all, I heard a noise behind me and saw two cyclists travelling at some speed.  The young lady at the front had both hands on the handlebars.  However, her male companion seemed to be burdened with a large backpack, which, in all honesty didn’t seem to encumber him one little bit.

Double bass

And, as in Tel Aviv I photograph fire hydrants, in London I’m fascinated with post boxes.  The upper one is a double box from the reign of Edward VII, near Bond Street , sealed at the moment but still standing.  The lower picture is one that I thought I’d never get — from the 10 1/2 month reign of Edward VIII —  a.k.a. the Duke of Windsor — Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David (his parents were indecisive, it seems ).  He didn’t hang around long and there are fewer than 200 boxes with his seal of approval.  However, I found one between Brent Cross Shopping Centre and Hendon Central on Monday evening.

Ed VII DoubleEd VIII

On Wednesday, I was invited to join a walking tour of the Jewish presence in London’s East End.  While waiting for the others (in the wrong place, as it happens, but precisely where I had been told to wait), I managed to photograph a pair of London icons in a single frame.

Two London icons

Later in the day, strolling in and around Whitechapel Road, I was fascinated by the London immigrant scene.  Mrs. May wants to control immigration — from Europe?  Seems like there might be some others, too.

English cricketSchool uniform, EEnd 1Ramadan non-smokers

Walking around Piccadilly, Chinatown, Covent Garden, and the West End, photogenic opportunities forever present themselves.

Sex shop

It may very well be licensed, but it’s not in the “London for the Older Tourist” Guidebook, dearie.

The eyes have it

The eyes have it!

And then early in the morning, Primrose Hill beckons yet again.

St. Paul's and cranes 1Woman & Dog, Primrose

And just to complete the post more or less where I started it, let me end with the Jewish Priestly Blessing:

MAY the LORD bless you and guard you 

MAY the LORD make His face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you 

MAY the LORD lift up His face unto you and give you peace


P.S.  A good friend has just pointed out that the past tense of “may” is “might”.  Be that as it may, it might also be the future!  Remember, Might is Right and to is Theresa and, as she’s proving today, no Mother Teresa she!



The force of farce, Summer 2016

I haven’t been seen here for quite a while, mainly because we were rather busy last week and then when all that ended, I discovered that I had a problem with rather old and frail computer I work with when I’m away from home.  However, I think I’ve solved that issue, temporarily at least.

We arrived in what is still a United Kingdom reeling (at least half the population was) from the results of the referendum held a fortnight ago.  The fallout from what was, in theory, an advisory vote but in practice is being treated as a definitive one, has been complex (and it’s only the beginning.  Sterling has fallen, stock markets have risen, the Prime Minister has resigned, the election of a new Conservative Party leader has begun and the opposition Labour Party is, how shall I put it gently, somewhat in disarray, what with the resignations of the vast majority of the Shadow Cabinet and a vote of no-confidence in the party leader by 80% of Labour’s MPs, a move described by Corbynistas as illegal and unconstitutional.

The Tory MPs have selected two of their own to be chosen from among the party members by September 9.  (I suppose that most of them are vacationing on the “Continent” until the end of August and can’t be disturbed until then!)

If a playwright had wanted to write a farce on the theme of British politics in mid-2016, I doubt whether s/he could have dreamt up anything as absurd and amusing as the events of the past few weeks.  So the Conservatives have two candidates — Andrea [may] Leadsom[e] and Theresa May [win] but at least they’re both women and I think I prefer women politicians to men.  Michael G[a]ove it his best chance but will be best remembered for playing out the the role of Brutus by shafting Boris and saving the country from even more scorn than it already attracts.  Tuesday saw the demise of the Crab[be] and the Fox, all of which you may well appreciate, I find amusing.  All very faunal and I haven’t even mentioned the fishy Scottish duo of Salmon[d] and Sturgeon.


The English bulldog being led along by his European handler.  The Regent’s Park

Anyway, we are settling into London.  I finally managed to get out with the camera over the past couple of days while the weather became warmer and the sun has come out every now and then.  All very pleasant.  You might even excuse one for not thinking about the referendum.

So what’s to see in post-Brexit London?

New England

As usual, I don’t feel I’m really here until I’ve reached the summit of Primrose Hill.  This time was no different.

St. Paul's, City, Cranes

St. Paul’s, the City and the cranes

However, sometimes, the views are more rewarding even than this!

London Eye

The Regent’s Park is just as spectacular — and it’s always worthwhile walking down there.  The walk from Primrose Hill involves crossing The Regent’s Canal, close to the zoo.

Regent's Park Bridge soft

Turn it upside down and it’s just as pretty!

Regent's Park Bridge

Inside the park, the squirrel army was out in force.

I'm off!


What's he reading?

Checking out what other people are reading

The fountains are busy with viscous water — or so it looks.

Slow fountain

And in behind, there’s a talmudic debate taking place.

Talmudic dispute

Some people just come to relax and chill out.

Relax in the park

Others play a more active part!

Someone's cheating

Someone’s cheating here, I think!

And someone just outside the park has a LOT of work still to do!

Still some way to go

The following day, a walk through Hampstead yielded the following.  You never know quite who you might bump into when you’re out and about.

Hugh Gaitskell

Jeremy Corbyn: Pay attention!

Fast to Scotland

A relic from the past, pre-British Rail at South End Green

Meanwhile, just as in Tel Aviv I enjoy photographing fire hydrants, in London I take photographs of post boxes.  These almost relics of the past are dotted all over the place and although they are instantly recognisable for what they are, they are subtly different one from the other.  Yesterday and today yielded a Victoria, a cryptoVictoria and a pair of Georges (V or VI) that are not the same.

Victoria ReginaVictoria enclosedGeorge VIWhich George?

An interesting landscape if you keep your eyes open!