A Change of Season, perhaps?


Just looking at my photos for this month and I see that October has been rather quiet.  With just four days to go until the end of the month, I’ve taken less than half of my monthly average.  

Now, part of this is due to the fact that I’ve been somewhat sidelined with a back problem that has curtailed my walking, which I hope is only temporary issue.  However, it is also partly due to the fact that Israel has just emerged from its annual walk through a tunnel called the High Holidays or the High Holy Days by some and Days of Awe by others.  However, me being me (or is it I being I?) sometimes call them The Awful Days (using my own original and brilliant direct translation from the Hebrew).  

In Israel it is now fashionable to refer to this period of 23 days as Chagei Tishrei, the festivals of [the first month of the Hebrew calendar] Tishrei.   These include Rosh HaShanah (New Year), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles).  These are just over three weeks in which little gets done and timetables are completely mangled.  From sometime late in summer, when one asks when something might be done or something reach its destination, the answer generally given is “after the holidays”.  When the light eventually appears at the end of  what each year seems like a longer tunnel  than the previous years and you emerge, dazed from praying, eating, surfing or whatever you choose to do over this period, you really can’t be too sure what day of the week it is. It just seems like every other day has been the beginning or end of a week for almost a month with nothing substantive in between.   It’s a bit like Christmas /New Year but goes on for longer and without the pre-festivity festivities beforehand or the post-holiday sales.

But now it’s over and the country can get back, somehow, to normal — not that anything in Israel is ever normal.  The Knesset winter session opens next Monday and that will undoubtedly bring us fun and games although try as they will, the members of the Knesset can’t quite approach the toxicity levels of the U.S. presidential election, which will take place the following week.  

And the clock goes back tomorrow night as Daylight Savings Time comes to an end.  In a way, I’m surprised that someone in this country hasn’t complained about the fact that Israel has chosen to make this change on the same weekend as Europe, using the logic that Europe has become so anti-Zionist that we here should have chosen a specifically Jewish weekend on which to make this important temporal readjustment.

The end of DST is not the only sign that summer is coming to an end.  It rained yesterday for a few minutes, which is a sure sign that something is happening but the precipitation wasn’t much in terms of quantity or time.  There’s some more rain in the offing on Tuesday afternoon but that’s it for the foreseeable future.  


The rain on the Yarqon stream

Another sign that winter is on the way is that the Prayer for Rain was recited in synagogues on Monday morning, replacing that Prayer for Dew, which has been said religiously by pessimists since last April.  Actually, I find these recitations and incantations interesting.  If the rain or dew doesn’t come on time and in sufficient volume, then the answer is to pray harder and louder; if, on the other hand, the criteria demanded by the formulae are indeed met, then, of course, meteorology and physics had nothing to do with it.  It was simply the Supreme Being had responded positively to the invocations.

In point of fact, everything is running late this year.  The Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar and leap years keep it in touch with the solar calendar by adding an extra month seven times in a cycle of 19 years (rather than a single day every four years—more or less).  The dates of Jewish festivals thus vary in relation to the solar calendar and this year they have come very late in the civil year, so much so that children were at school (which starts on September 1) for a whole month before the enforced disfigurement of most peoples’ schedules and the university year only begins on October 30, which makes me glad I’m not so young any more!

But the tardiness in the arrival of winter 2016 is mostly noticed by the late arrival of the cormorants in the Yarqon Park where, during the winter months, they perch on the tops of the trees that line the river and put the fear of something into the nasty, murderous, thuggish crows who think they own the place and take to extracting (especially on Sunday mornings) almost everything that well-meaning people have wrapped in plastic bags and placed in garbage cans.  

120 Cormorants



The dates on the palm trees in the park look riper this year than usual but then they’ve stayed on the trees later because they haven’t been picked until “after the holidays” and still haven’t been.


In general, I look forward to the Tel Aviv winter if only because, for no other reason, the light conditions can yield images of some beauty.


Rainbow over Tel Aviv Port.  Winter 2015—16

In general, although winter has not yet arrived, it’s easy to feel that it’s on the way.  The mornings have been a coolish 20º—23º C, the sun has been but warm and it actually feels chilly at night time and for the first time since the summer began, there’s been little need for ceiling fans or air-conditioners and activities in the park sort of reflect this situation.


Sleeping rough at the time of the year requires warmer clothing


That time of year


Autumn and winter fruits.  Friday Farmers’ Market, Tel Aviv Port


Finally, during the past week I decided to clear out some of the garbage on my computer,  in this instance, mostly applications that I never use and/or can’t even remember what they are supposed to do.  However, something that I discovered (and had forgotten about entirely) was that I had tried to keep a blog before PhotoGeoGraphy (the one you’re reading). This was way back in the far distant past, in 2009, when Apple had an application called iWeb, which was terminated in 2011. And as the Wikipedia entry on iWeb states, “On June 30, 2012 Apple finally pulled the plug on MobileMe. All iWeb websites hosted on MobileMe disappeared if not hosted elsewhere. Apple provided instructions of how to move iWeb sites to another host.”  This was nice of Apple (and they are wont to do things like this on occasion).

However, I had saved what I had written before that time and this week was the first time in seven and half years that I actually re-read them.  I wrote 20 pieces between February and December of 2009, most them in February and March.  What I do remember about them was that although I wrote them and published them, I had no idea how to circulate them so that other people could read them—which is probably just as well.  However, I’ve added some two pieces of what I wrote then to PhotoGeoGraphy, so if you’re interested — nor just plain nosey — you can read them at:






Reading and Leading

By far the most exciting thing that actually happened over the past week was not the Third American Presidential debate at all but that our 5-year old granddaughter, discovered one morning that she could read.  It’s not that 5½ is such a young age to begin the process of becoming literate; she’s been spelling out words, for the most part correctly, for almost a year now. However, when coaxed to perform the reverse process, i.e., put the letters together to make words and from these, make sentences and hopefully, some sense, she has steadfastly refused.  The reason for her sustained year-long opposition to becoming literate was perfectly logical —from the point of view of a 5-year old: “If I learn how to read”, she said, “then nobody will bother to read me stories any more!”.  

And then it happened a week ago.  The river burst its banks one morning and she stumbled on the fact that reading was really just child’s play.  More significantly, she found out at the same time that reading not only involves words and sentences in stories and books and other kinds of document.  It turns out that the urban environment is full of words, to boot.  She discovered that people such as plumbers and electricians live and work in the buildings that she passes every day on the way to and from kindergarten.  Moreover, streets have names and there are all sorts of signs announcing what people are permitted or (as is more usual) prohibited from doing — “Keep off the grass”, “No entry for cars”, “Press the buzzer for the gate to open”, and such like.  It’s as if someone drew open the curtains and let in the light. There’s a whole world out there to see and be interpreted.  Do we have another geographer in the making? Heaven forbid!

As an example of her excitement at this new ability to decipher her environment, her mother took her to the park, specifically to where the park authorities had planted fruit some tree saplings a few months ago whereupon she ran from tree to tree to read the names of the different fruits.  Ironic, as she doesn’t eat any of them.  

All of this was enough to take my mind off the major event of the week which was, of course, the Third Presidential debate in the United States.  Not yet mad enough to get up in the middle of the night to watch the proceedings, last Thursday evening, I subjected the pair of us to the cruel and unusual punishment of watching a recording of the whole of this thoroughly unsporting event.  The only reason I take an interest in the politics of a foreign country is, whether we like it or not, whoever the Americans elect as their President affects all of us in the rest of the world as well — and the rest of us don’t have a say.


American politics 2016: Just a storm in a teacup?  (Tel Aviv Port in winter)


I somehow made it through the whole 90 minutes but my good lady retired hurt about half an hour before the end.  I thought that Clinton performed quite well.  She’s not exactly lily white despite what she was wearing, but then she’s a lawyer and has been in politics for 30 years, so why would anyone expect her to be pristine?  Despite grimacing and wincing occasionally (the split screen helped viewers interpret what each debater might have been thinking as the other spoke) she managed to keep her cool for most of the 90 minutes.  And as much as anything else, this suggests — alongside her political longevity and her mastery of detail — that she is well qualified for the job.  He, on the other hand, came over as thoroughly despicable.  His utterly obnoxious and anguishing rhetoric beggared all belief, making other abominable politicians (of which there are many but who shall remain nameless on this occasion) appear to be perfect gentlemen.  But who am I to judge?

Hump off, Europe, I'm voting

Question: “Mr. Trump, will you accept the result of the election?”  

Answer: “Hump Off!”

In fact, although there were some elements of debate in the show, it was about as nasty as it could possibly be, a slanging match for the most part, which might perhaps be summarised by the image below.

crowsDonald’s dream: Hillary for breakfast. [Encouragement from a loyal supporter!] (Tel Aviv Port)

I was reminded of these presidential debates on Friday morning as I passed by a building being erected two minutes walk away from our flat.  The crane works non-stop between 7 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon and as I made my way along Brandeis Street, I noticed that the toilet facilities were being shifted a few meters northward.  The shit was flying, indeed—just like in the debate!  (And for several reasons, I only hope that the loo was empty at the time.)


Finally, just one last comment on the American election. I’ve been perplexed since this election campaign got under way a year or more ago as to why Hillary Clinton is so reviled by Americans.  I googled the question the other day and got to the website below, which only made it slightly less baffling: 


And then, this week’s edition of The Economist newspaper came up with this article, “Hating Hillary: America’s probable next president is deeply reviled.  Why?” and on reading it, I can only conclude that, simply stated, she’s the person many Americans just love to hate!  But I do think that she’s been superseded by her rival so that she no longer holds the title.


P.S.  Not another word about politics — American or otherwise — for a quite some time because the whole world seems to be rapidly going nuts.


… And here’s Hillary’s theme song …


Goddammit: Lusty Sin = Porn

Well, it’s back to the drawing board.  But to start with, I challenge you to unravel the anagram above by the time you get to the end of this post (it has three words, which is as much help as you’ll get from me).

I had a piece ready to post a few days ago, which I thought was quite smart.  However, my personal censor (i.e., She Who Must Be Obeyed a.k.a. She Who Keeps Me Out Of Trouble) thought otherwise.  Perhaps, she said without actually uttering anything audible, it was OK for a fulmination over the breakfast table after a particularly sleepless night brought on by nightmares but it was definitely not for the eyes of others.  

Of course, on re-reading it, she was right about much of it (but not all).  All it was was what seemed to me to be a perfectly logical and therefore a legitimate rant about religious beliefs and practices.  However, in retrospect, it was wiser not to share these personal exasperations with the innocent people who choose to read this blog.  And, as I wrote on my blog CV nine months ago, “I’m basically likeable and essentially happy — just increasingly frustrated.”  

My last [published] post concerned mundaneness, which I had interpreted as “having to do with the practical details of regular life — regular not special … the routine, the prosaic … the unexciting and unremarkable”.   I also stated that I didn’t necessarily believe that the mundane was inherently uninteresting and that with a little effort, it is possible to make the everyday appear interesting.  

This prompted one of my readers whose remarks are always apt and knowledgeable to comment that this latter description of the “mundane” is close to a definition in Webster, which explains it as not only “pertaining to the world” but also as “worldly”, and this reminded him of the similarity between the English word mundane and the French word mondain, which means worldly — but in a different sense entirely, namely that of leading with respect to luxury and fashion.  This, he felt, was reflected in my idea that ordinary things can be made alluring with a bit of effort.

And I suppose that one of the most alluring of all things in our world, whether you accept it or not, is the concept of redemption, in particular, absolution in the world to come, no matter how awful and sinful a life you led in the real world.  

Half a century ago, that wonderfully perceptive social critic, mathematician, pianist and baritone, Tom Lehrer, expressed this idea of redemption very clearly:

Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional,
There, the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

Of course, other religions see redemption somewhat differently, as a less than instantaneous process.  In the photograph below, belief in the Messiah will grant you all the spiritual redemption you might need, from the slogan over the rear wheel reading “Follow me for redemption” through the English-language slogan under the seat to the sign under the steering column reading “Redemption Motorcycle”.  

Of course, the protective gear for the hat and the banner remind us that the rider is a member of Lubavitch Hassidic sect, which aims to attract non-observant Jews to adopt Orthodox Jewish observance, as part of the process of bringing on the coming the Messiah, the ultimate redemption.  [Some believe that the last Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died heirless in 1994 is not really dead but is, in fact, the Messiah.  A likely story.]


The redemption scooter.  Ramat Aviv, October 2016


Of course, when one’s spiritual holder is absolutely empty, at rock bottom, there are somewhat more conventional ways of seeking heavenly redemption — as people familiar with products from as far apart as Bushmills and Middleton or Speyside and Skye  are well aware!  


Spiritual Redemption (Conventional)

And if that doesn’t work, then Rum and Eigg (or certainly rum and sweet vermouth) will do!


Seriously, though, the world is going through a tough time at the moment. If we thought we had experienced enough verbal gunk spewed out during the Brexit campaign earlier in the year, it is nothing compared to the hatred being drummed up in the USA by the Republican presidential candidate, who with each performance, seems to outdo himself through pure revulsion — using as much racial, religious and gender calumny as he can muster in the process.


The evil eye.  (Tel Aviv Port)


Hostility (1)


Hostility (2)


Keep Out! (Buckingham Palace, August 2015)

I lost faith in politicians a long time ago although I still believe that there are some well-meaning ones around, especially towards the beginnings of their careers.  Like clerics, they promise us a lot, including and especially, redemption.  Do as they say (vote for me) and you will be rewarded (and the clerics add: if not in this world, then in a world to come).  But what if it’s all just an illusion (and for the clerics: there’s no world to come)?  Perhaps it’s really just the here and now that counts?  In that case, Americans had better watch out and think hard before they vote in a few weeks time.


So much of politics is bullshit, don’t you think?

I’ve seen and read about some very disagreeable and even loathsome politicians in the past half century who have led or aspired to lead in states that are democracies — just think Silvio Berlusconi, Jean-Marie Le Pen, or Viktor Orban.  But there is none as obnoxious nor as menacing as the current Republican candidate for the Presidency of the USA.  

Dogs Tel AvivPark & Port Tel Aviv

At least this one is muzzled!

Were this snake oil salesman, heaven forbid, to be elected to office, I think America would have a hard time to make its case to the rest of the free world that it still professes to be its leader, let alone its moral leader.  


Even just being able passively to live with one another is preferable to out and out hatred

Tel Aviv

Can’t we just talk things over civilly?

Even if he is not to be America’s 45th President, the damage he has already done to his own country and to democracy in general by exacerbating the tensions and cleavages within American society will take a long time to repair.  And there’s no reason to suppose that he would fade into the background as a gracious loser such as the likes of Al Gore, Walter Mondale, or Mitt Romney or continue to serve their country in come positive capacity such as Adlai Stevenson or John Kerry.  Trump is the epitome of loose cannon. 


America is in need of some spiritual redemption by someone with the will and the ability to carry out the job.  However, given the polarised and fractious nature of the political scene in America in the second decade of the 21st century, it’s unlikely that even with the best of wills that that is likely to happen and the best of wills doesn’t exist at the moment, if there’s any will there at all.  

All that the rest of us can do is watch and hope — and if you believe that it may do some good — pray.

Tel Aviv

Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself




There are days — like today — when I feel totally uninspired.  Nothing seems special enough to photograph or write about.  It’s on days like this when it seems as if everything in the world is mundane and I question whether the mundaneness of everything is real or whether it’s just me thinking that it is.  Mundane, of course, means having to do with the practical details of regular life — regular not special.  Mundane is the routine, the prosaic.  Mundane means the unexciting and unremarkable.  

However, having written this, I don’t necessarily believe that the mundane is inherently uninteresting.  You can make the everyday appear interesting if you try.  

So there are days when having found nothing really interesting outside, I stay inside and see what there is at home to make a photograph.  Or I go outside and take a picture of things that people don’t normally choose to photograph but which still creates something somewhat alluring.

Take, for example, the image below.  One February morning, a couple and a half years ago, I was out in Tel Aviv Port.  There weren’t too many people out, the sea wasn’t doing all that much in terms of waves, foam and surf to provide an interesting photo but it was a morning after rain and the light was good.  So I took some photographs of the wooden planks that make up the promenade.  Nothing spectacular — until I got home and uploaded the few pictures I’d taken that morning to the computer.  I edited the picture as best I could and then I saw the possibility and I then did something I rarely do and opened the image in Photoshop and using its Watercolor filter, produced this image which was a much more attractive image than the “real thing” itself.


I like symmetry and when I came across this corrugated iron wall near the port, just an empty wall, I had to take a photograph. 


The same is true of the these two doors near the public toilets on the southern side of Primrose Hill in London.  I shot this photograph in black and white, but if I had taken it in colour, it wouldn’t have turned out all that different.


One morning a few months ago as I left the house and crossed to the other side of the street, I heard a particularly raucous caw from one of the [far too] many crows that inhabit the trees in and around the Yarqon Park in Tel Aviv and on occasion, plague the street. And vicious birds they are, too — they terrorize other birds and people as well.  Anyway, just as I looked up to see where the avian brute was and there was on an overhead electricity wire just above my head.  Then, at one and the same time, something dropped out of the sky and missed my left shoulder by about 10 cm, landing on the pavement with a very loud “SPLATT”.  As a consequence, my first photo of that day was of a partially consumed pigeon that had fallen foul of the crow, which had, it would seem, eaten its fill for breakfast.


These sorts of gory pictures turn up all the time and not all of them are picturesque. However, sometimes goriness can be pretty, too, like in the picture taken in the nail boutique of Priscilla, the porcine manicurist at the fish market in Catania, Sicily, of all places.  Here they are, replete with porcine nail file. 



Last year when the grandchildren were all together in the flat, they had a wonderful time throwing two small rubbery plastic frogs at the ceiling where they remained, stuck, until they fell or until I retrieved them with the help of a piece of wood.  


They also had some tiny plastic doll-like objects that they were playing with and which, when they tired of amusing themselves with them, I set out on the kitchen table.  For lack of much else to do at the time, I arranged them and re-arranged them and then photographed them from various angles, at which I moved them around and photographed them again.


Looking at them over and over, they looked vaguely familiar — and then it suddenly dawned on me.  This was none other than Snow White and she had ditched the seven dwarfs.  I’d always thought that the seven dwarfs must have been far too set in their ways to satisfy a bright young woman like Snow White but I also always thought it rather peculiar that a young woman would agree to live with seven old men — unless, of course, there was some hanky-panky going on that the Brothers Grimm weren’t telling us about.

On investigation, it turns out that Snow White is not a luscious young blonde but an old woman, over 200 years old.  Moreover, though English readers might know her as Snow White, she’s really the Snow Witch.  Here, she really has traded in her seven old men for several more malleable youngsters, infants even.

But what was she doing with them?  Was she teaching them table manners or giving them lessons in horah-dancing, or encouraging their intellectual stimulation or computer literacy?


No.  None of it.  This dirty old bicentenarian was intent on teaching these youngsters a biology lesson, no more, no less!  Shame on her!



My mind isn’t always as wild as this, of course.  Sometimes there are just gorgeous pictures that appear out of nowhere, right in front of your very eyes, as it were.  About a year ago, lugging the camera and myself around London’s West End, I stopped to have a coffee at Gitane, a café on Great Titchfield Street.  It’s run by an Iranian husband and wife duo, Bahman & Negar.  As well as the best coffee I’ve ever had in London, it does wonderful cakes and salads, too.  But not only was the coffee superb for there was none of this drinking it out of a plastic or paper cup or even a white cup emblazoned with the name of some Italian-sounding coffee company.  What was served up was aesthetically pleasing to look at as well as to drink.


Americano with warm milk on the side.  Gitane, Great Titchfield Street, Central London

In this somewhat off-beat post, I note again that when walking along a street, one generally keeps one’s eyes pitched at street level.  I had mentioned in an earlier post that I was reminded of something that an acquaintance had said to me about a dozen years ago as we stood on a freezing wintery Sunday afternoon opposite the Wigmore Hall in London, waiting for a signal to re-enter after a fire scare.  What he had remarked on was that people walking along streets rarely look up to the roofs, which is where the really interesting things are to be found.  

Well, I took Frank’s piece of advice and have found all sorts of interesting things way up that unless you consciously look for and at, you wouldn’t otherwise see.  However, I also adapted the hint and keep my eyes skinned while looking down, because there are often intriguing things near your feet as well, such as this apparently happy and manageable ménage-à-trois that I noticed one day in Belsize Park. 


They seemed so at home together but it looks as if this homeless individual might have liked to make it a foursome but wasn’t so lucky — and had to sleep rough without a roof over its head or friends to share warmth with.  Poor slug!


Finally, we occasionally buy fresh ginger and then forget to use it.  While it’s with us, we leave it in a pot and if we forget to use it for long enough, then it metamorphoses into almost human forms, to which the politician and the opera singer below both testify.