Fame at last! A real PhotoGeoGraphy

Every now and then, one is pleasantly surprised.  It happens out of the blue and it’s the last thing in the world you expect.  This particular surprise happened just over three months ago.

Professor Shlomit Paz, a climatologist with interests in climate change, environment, and environmental health and recently elected Head of the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Haifa, where I have been employed in one capacity or another for the past 45 years, sent me an email.  It wasn’t the receipt of an email from Shlomit that astonished me but its contents.


In it, she wrote “I have been thinking of how to improve the dull appearance of the department’s seminar room with its blank and depressing walls …”.  She then wrote: “I had the idea of asking you to present a permanent exhibition of your photographic work. …  We’re talking of about 8-10 pictures of your choice in different sizes. I suggest that [they] represent your conception of the term “geography” or, of course, any other idea you might have (these are only preliminary thoughts …).”  

I thought she might be joking and that someone might have put her up to this to wind me up — but Shlomit’s a serious person and she wouldn’t do anything as frivolous as that, would she?  So I checked with one of my colleagues who acts as my informant on the odd occasion I still want to know what’s happening there and he confirmed that there had been a discussion in the department, that nobody had objected, and that there was apparently a small budget for printing and framing, so … 

… a few minutes later, I responded with:

“Well, well, well — recognition at last!  That really would be nice!  All your own idea — or have you talked about this with others?  OK.  Let me think about which of the 40,000+ pictures on file might work.  Probably the best way to go about it would be for me to select maybe 30-50 pictures from which we could choose the 8-10 that might work  and then we can talk about it.  Thanks for thinking of me.”

I was bowled over. I was astounded.  I was nonplussed.  In actual fact, I was very pleased.  The department had bought one of my pictures a few years ago, which hangs in the departmental office and I’d offloaded a few surplus pictures after she-who-must-be-obeyed informed me that after our flat had been redecorated a couple of years back that although I could hang some of my pictures around the place, I mustn’t cover the walls with them.  However, the last thing I had expected was an invitation like this.

Now, in gross understatement, Shlomit is no slowcoach.  Her turnaround time to each of my suggestions or queries over the next few weeks was generally under 24 hours, more often within the hour.  Moreover, I soon learned that she expected me to behave accordingly, which has never quite been my style. Somehow, I sent her over 80 images and she culled them so that just about half remained, which she then sent to the current faculty members, administrative staff and graduate students, asking each to select the 10 images they preferred.  The result of the poll formed the basis on which the images were selected.  In the event, 12 pictures were selected, four of which measured 60 x 40 cm and two 60 x 45, one 80 x 60 and five 90 x 60.  Eleven of these were selected democratically and there was one in which I exercised artist’s privilege and imposed on my colleagues.

I received estimates for the printing and framing after the images had been selected and we then had one meeting at which we discussed the sizes of the pictures, on which of the three available walls each would hang and where.  It was then up to me to see to the printing and framing and to transport them to Haifa for hanging.  I did this a week ago, approximately three months after the idea was initially raised and I have to admit that it was exciting to see a dozen of my pictures displayed together in one space because I never thought anything like this would ever happen.  Actually, I was exhilarated that so many of my images were being displayed together.  Prior to this, I was disseminating by pictures via this blog and I will continue to do this anyway.

The most fascinating part of the whole process was to take in how 12 pictures could transform a room, hyper-euphemistically described as sterile, into a space that seemed to come alive.

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Interestingly, I voted for the pictures I preferred post facto without looking to see what others had reckoned to be in the Top Ten (when the poll had closed, Shlomit had distributed the results among those who had voted) and found that only four of my own selection had made the final ten. But who cares?  As Danny Kaye’s Ugly Duckling said on discovering it had become a swan: “Not I”.

Some of the images have appeared in this blog before but I include them here again with the descriptive notes attached to each one (here in English) and in the order in which they hang on the walls.  (For the eagle-eyed among you, there is one slight change in the hanging/displaying order, agreed after the pics were hung last week.  So please don’t say I didn’t warn you!)


Light rays — Primrose Hill, London.  (October 2012)

Primrose Hill is a protected viewpoint to the north of Regent’s Park and is one of North London’s open-air assets.  It has a character of its own and from the top are some fabulous views across London. I occasionally stray from my regular route on the paths and walk along the grass on the eastern perimeter of the park to observe the spire of St. Mark’s Church opposite the entrance to Regent’s Park between the trees. On one such morning, I caught the early morning sunrays breaking through the trees.


The Yarqon River from Namir Bridge (November 2016)

The Yarqon is a small river — a stream actually — in which the water barely moves.  It flows from east to west bisecting the Yarqon Park in Tel Aviv. This view is westward from the bridge under Namir Road, with a single angler and a couple of boats providing an image that is almost idyllic and which somewhat belies reality.


Man and Child, Hampstead Heath (July 2011)

While exiting Hampstead Heath towards East Heath Road one day in July 2011, I saw these two figures. They might have been father and daughter. The scooter suggests that she may have fallen and was being comforted. The truth is I just don’t know. What I did know was that although I saw the scene in colour, it just had to be in black & white. When I put it up on the computer screen, the colour photograph was nothing special. However, once desaturated and given more contrast, it was converted into a powerful image.

Grand Canal, Venice

The Grand Canal, Venice from the Rialto Bridge (October 2008)

Taken in October 2008, this photo is pure kitsch — oh, but what beautiful kitsch! The weather was cloudy and it looked as if it might rain. Then, on reaching the Rialto Bridge, the sun appeared, resulting in this image of buildings along The Grand Canal in bright sunlight against a grey background.


Tel Aviv Port (February 2008)

It was a dark morning in February 2008 and I was walking along the promenade at Tel Aviv Port. The sea was wild; waves lashed the breakwater; the promenade was covered in debris spewed up by the sea. Suddenly, the sun appeared for all of two or three minutes, highlighting the spray. The gulls, which I hadn’t actually noticed at the time, were wheeling about thus adding further action to the photograph.


Where’s the line? (February 2009)

While walking in the Yarqon Park early one morning, I was fascinated by the six gulls sitting atop a wooden crossbar with their reflection in the water. I had forgotten to adjust the white balance from the previous time I had used the camera, thus giving a bluish tinge to the picture, which only adds to the mystery — and the mystery when looking at this image is in determining exactly where in the “frame” the line dividing the structure and the birds from their reflection really lies.


Early morning at Elgol, Isle of Skye (August 2016)

Each year, my son and family rent a house at Elgol, a village with a population of about 150 at the end of the Strathaird peninsula in the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands and in 2016 we spent a few days there. The view from the house to the Cuillin Hills is spectacular, the vista changing from minute to minute with the vagaries of the weather and the time of day. This image, taken early in the morning, is the last one of several that I took over a 24-hour period.


Río Ara, near Boltaña, Spain.   (May 2015)

There’s a bizarre hotel near the town of Boltaña on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, which had been a monastery, expressed in its grey exterior and interior and general lack of light inside the building. Early in the morning before I left, I took a stroll in the area round about and came across a fast flowing river, the Río Ara. Looking east-southeast along the river as I crossed a small bridge, I caught the rapid flow of the river as well as the early morning sun behind the mist.


The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (May 2015)

Designed by Frank Gehry, extremely thin sheets of titanium comprise the outer skin of this magnificent building causing the colour to change with the light conditions. The two other main building materials are limestone and glass, creating a harmonious whole. The result is an architectural design with great visual impact — a veritable icon for Bilbao.

The building is usually seen from the street on its south side overlooking the entrance but a building like this needs to be viewed from all angles. The outdoor installations on the north side by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor, Yves Klein and Jeff Koons are best seen together from the north bank of the river.

Described by one architecture critic as “a fantastic dream ship of undulating form”, while crossing the bridge to the north bank, I noticed that this “ship” also had a funnel in the form of the office tower to the west, thus completing the picture.


Reading Power Station on an autumn morning (November 2015)

The chimney of the Reading Power Station is one of the most prominent structures in North Tel Aviv and I have photographed it from many angles and different light conditions. Because this image has been heavily edited, it is hardly a true image of anything real. But then no picture is really a true representation of anything. This one emphasizes the fact that what really matters in photography is the final image, the end product.



Gordes, Vaucluse, France.  (October 2013)

I photographed this perched village in the Luberon region of Provence in October 2013.  Gordes appears as if out of nowhere as you come around a bend in the road. Some years earlier, we had stayed a few times in the neighbouring village of Roussillon, Gordes being a little too upmarket—but it is more spectacular. These perched villages are sited high on rocky crags and all have very impressive views across the surrounding countryside; historically, they were important defensive positions. The structure of the village is clear from the image and the transportation difficulties inside it are equally apparent. At the summit of the village is the church tower, capped by the bell within an open lattice to prevent damage when the mistral blows.


Reflections — The promenade at Tel Aviv Port (February 2014)

I seldom use Photoshop to enrich an image and when I do, it’s usually to give a special effect to a photograph. Here, I used Photoshop’s watercolour embellishment to enhance a photo of reflections on the wet planks that make up the promenade at Tel Aviv Port.


Do the pictures really represent ‘my conception of the term “geography”‘, as Shlomit suggested they might at the outset? Perhaps not — but it’s not all that important.  My own preference was for more images with people and with human activity.  But then, I don’t visit this particular room very often any more. Nevertheless, after this exercise, I might just up the frequency of my visits and kvell (for the uninitiated, ‘kvell’ is Yiddish for “to feel happy and proud”) a bit.


Taxis & Canaries

Taxi drivers are an interesting breed.  The taxi situation in London has changed over the years.  In contrast to, let’s say, 30 or so years ago when the London Black Cab had a virtual monopoly, today there are umpteen minicab companies, as well as Uber, Gett and probably lots more that I’ve never even heard of.  Moreover, black cabs are no longer necessarily black and they provide advertising space for any number of organisations — and moreover, with all the competition, it’s become a cutthroat business.



Cut-throat competition

London cabbies still have to pass an extensive training course, “The Knowledge”, in order to be licensed. They have to be able to decide routes immediately in response to a passenger’s request or traffic conditions, rather than stopping to look at a map, relying on GPS or asking a controller to help them.  As a consequence, London cabbies have an intimate knowledge of the city.  They know all the details of 320 standard routes through Central London, involving some 25,000 streets within a 10km radius of Charing Cross.  In addition, they have to be familiar with all the major arterial routes through the rest of London.   Still, it can be a boring job sometimes, though at other times, I guess it can be interesting, too.


B  O  R  I  N  G!


Are you the driver of this vehicle, my good man?

I remember once asking a cabbie to take me to Antrim Road (there’s only one such in Greater London) and as we approached the street, he asked me whether I needed “this end or the library end”.  I was flabbergasted when I paid him opposite the library and he told me that it had been 26 years since he had been in that part of the city.  


A slow trip — but the ultimate in intimacy guaranteed

Things are a bit different in Israel.  The taxis look different and the drivers drive faster.

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Last week, after exiting Terminal 3 at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv in the rain, we encountered the usual line of taxis waiting to pick up a passenger or two.  I checked the price on the computer stand in the dispatch area, added on the two suitcases, the mobility scooter and the two passengers (us) — and came up with an amount that I had more or less expected.   I did this because most of the drivers ask you whether you’d prefer a metered ride or the “fixed price”, which they then quote to you and as I imagine that most visitors haven’t a clue what the price is fixed at, the drivers reckon they might be able to squeeze out a little more than they’re legally entitled to.

As we made our way towards the taxis, the dispatcher handed the docket to the first available taxi driver who scrutinised and our belongings and shook his head in a “No, thank you very much” way.  Consequently, the dispatcher directed us to the next taxi in the line.  This was a smaller car than the one that had just turned us down but this driver, too, looked at us, then looked at his at his car with the open boot/trunk, figured out within about ten seconds where everything should go — including the detached parts of the scooter and within three minutes or so we were on our way home.

Now, I usually do not engage in small-talk with taxi drivers because they often like to talk about politics and more often than not, theirs is not usually mine; or they might chat about football, which interests me up to a certain degree only and if they are devout Arsenal supporters and you mix up Arsenal with Tottenham Hotspur, you’re likely to be in big trouble.

However, this driver — Eliyahu — a personable chap in his 40s, I would guess, wanted to talk.  This had been obvious from the second we clapped eyes on him.  (In fact, he kept up a chat at twenty to the dozen all the way to the house.)  So, not wishing to appear rude, like any good native English-speaker from the ex-British Isles, I politely asked him about the weather. Had it been raining during all of the five days that we had been away? 

His weather report was brief and to the point and the monologue (it was dialogue only if you count my brief questions) developed into a lecture on the effects of global warming.  I  thought “here we go” but I listened to him and within a very short time indeed, I realised that what he knew wasn’t just from things he’d heard on TV or read in the popular press.  In fact, he seemed to understand what was happening so well, the arguments and the counter-arguments as to whether global warming is happening, that I asked him if he’d always been a taxi driver.  This was because I thought that perhaps he had a degree in geography or ecology or a related discipline and was working as a taxi driver in order to supplement his meagre income as a college lecturer or something. Without hesitation repetition or deviation, he responded that he’s always been a taxi driver at which point he then deviated and told me about his car: it was cheap because it had a robotic gearbox, which many people don’t like.  So just in case I ever thought of buying one, he gave me instructions on how to save 30% on the fuel bill if you know how to operate one of these cars in the correct manner.

As we entered the Ayalon Freeway, which runs along the eastern side of Tel Aviv, he began to talk about the effects of global warming on bird migrations.  At this point, we got to the interesting part of his soliloquy because talking about bird migrations led him into what seems to be the love of his life.  He breeds canaries. In 10 minutes I learned more about which genetic traits  are passed to the next generation by male canaries and which by females, more than I had known before in all my 72 years.  (Admittedly, this was nil minus.).  I received information on which veterinarians in Central Israel know something about these little yellow birds (it turns out that most of them don’t know anything because any avians encountered in their professional training were mostly parrots and parrots, I further learned, are not in the least bit like canaries). He also managed to tell me which vets refer their canary patients to him (Eliyahu, the taxi driver).  I asked him where exactly he manages to breed the little feathered friends and was enlightened by the response that he has a 16 sq. m  room in the basement of the building in which he lives.  I also learned about the automatically controlled dimmers and heaters that are used into misleading the birds about day and night and the seasons.  He also writes canary articles for avian journals, &c.  

By this time, I was beginning to have canaries.  I thought that he might miss the turns into the street where we live but he told me that with Waze GPS, he only has to concentrate on being safe on the road.  He was without a doubt the most fascinating taxi driver I’ve had the privilege and the pleasure to ride with.  And the best thing of all was that by the time I had assembled the mobility scooter, the suitcases and backpack were standing outside the door of the lift.  And, as I paid him and he returned to his taxi, he reminded me that one of the bottles from the duty-free was not in a box and that I should be extra careful and I would have been rather unhappy had the rum bottle smashed and that would have been unfortunate indeed because I’m usually careful not to have such rum mishaps.

This morning, as I was in the midst of writing this piece, I went out into the park in search of some little yellow birdies.  I passed a duck but that didn’t count …


… but I didn’t really expect to find any because with my updated knowledge base, I now know that they’re not to be found in parks but in boxes in the basements of buildings.  Nonetheless, I did manage to see a wide variety of familiar feathered friends in an hour’s walk.

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By the way, in case anyone might be wondering, I didn’t have the heart to tell Eliyahu (although I’m pretty sure he knows but keeps it bottled up inside) that well into the twentieth century, well-meaning, hard-working, family-minded, socially conscious, chapel-going, choir-singing, rugby-loving Welsh coal miners brought canaries into the mines as an early-warning signal for toxic gases. The birds, being more sensitive than humans (not hard to be), would succumb fatally before the miners felt the effects of the monoxide, thereby giving them the chance to escape or to put on protective respirators.  


Poor little buggers!  

Oh, I just remembered.  This blog is called PhotoGeoGraphy so I need at least one authentic geography picture, too!


One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London



Unexpected and unplanned

It’s early on a grey, wet and cold Wednesday morning in Tel Aviv.  We came home late last night and this morning I had some difficulty in identifying exactly where I was when I woke up.   It was only after a voice boomed out of the radio at 05.57 and recited, as if a messenger from the Deity itself in repent-you-sinners-accented-Hebrew, “Shema Yisrael &c. … “ : “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one” that I remembered we were back in the Holy Land.  

We’re not normally “on the spur of the moment” people and hadn’t expected to be back in London until late Spring at the soonest but early last week without any medication, premeditation or hesitation, we decided to go for a long weekend.  Despite the ongoing dispute between El Al, Israel’s national carrier and the people who fly their planes, a few hours after we boarded at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport last Thursday morning we were deposited safely at London Heathrow.

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I took minimal photo equipment with as I had no idea whether or not I’d have the opportunity over four days to do what I enjoy doing.  In the event, I managed to get out twice with the camera — once to Primrose Hill, a place that I just have to be each time I’m in the city in order to prove to myself that I’m there and once to the Bloomsbury district — because it was convenient to get to and because finally, on the fourth and final full day, a yellow circular object appeared in the sky, which turned from its dull grey turned to a light blue. As a consequence, I put two & two together and got four by figuring out that the yellow circular object is the sun and that it must be shining.  It was also a milder day; the temperature rose to all of 6ºC but out of the direct sunshine, it still felt rather cold.  So off I went!

Spring is in the air in London but it’s only in the air and hasn’t quite arrived the ground  yet.  There are still snowdrops in the gardens and although the daffodils are peeping through, they’ve decided that they’ll wait a little longer before they put in a full appearance.  

Walking around the Bloomsbury/Fitzrovia areas, I noticed many signs that made me smile.  There are several examples of the first one on the many former residential buildings occupied by various departments of the University of London.  It is a “No Smoking” sign the likes of which I don’t recollect having seen before.  It reads: “It is against the law to smoke on these steps“.  Presumably, then, that means that one removes the cigarette from one’s gob while ascending or descending the steps but when you reach the door, one can place it between one’s lips again and inhale those noxious fumes that will blacken and wither one’s lungs, which means that you might eventually be dealt with at the expense of the National Health Service, which seems to be running into a bit of trouble these days, if it still exists by the time your lungs cease to function normally.  


In contrast to London University’s NO SMOKING sign, other places offer “designated smoking areas”.  However, it was not immediately clear to me what one is supposed to do here were one, or this particular one, a smoker.  Would I be expected to stand on it or lean against it? What function do the holes perform?  If you sat on it, would it heat you from below while you shiver away in the frigid air? Perhaps this is one of those petards I’ve heard all about and I should hoist myself upon with while sucking in the nicotine fumes?  And do these signs apply only to cigarette smokers or do they also apply to scholarly pipe-puffers  or plutocratic Cuban cigar chompers.  


Actually, smoking is an interesting phenomenon in this part of London.  As it’s banned in public buildings the smokers are banished outside.  It’s not unusual to see smokers standing in doorways, shivering their way through a fag.  Sometimes I wonder whether the shivering keeps them warm and that’s why they do it.  On the other hand, they smoke in the summer as well.


Then there was this sign, presumably to scare curious adolescents, outside the east side of the British Museum.  So I checked it out and I’m not sure that I would classify it as a “deep drop”.  But then again, were the climber to be somewhat intoxicated, it might be something worth taking note of were s/he sufficiently sober to read it otherwise there might well be a broken neck or two.


Then, near Brunswick Square, I came across an enclosed area with several of these notices — but try as I might, I couldn’t find any goats here in Central London.  Someone must have been kidding.  (These are real notices.  Really!)


Not far away from the British Museum, I came across this sextet of fire hydrants.  They are a rare and unusual find in Britain because such items are normally invisible, as befits English propriety, and are hidden away under the footpaths.  However, I thought they were rather symbolic of the times.  Their sealed lips reminded me of the lack of freedom afforded to MPs of both major parties recently by the party leaderships in regards the various Brexit votes. 


Noontime — and time to eat.  So I sought out Gitane on Great Titchfield Street run by an Iranian couple, Bahman & Negar.  As well as the best coffee in London, it does wonderful cakes and and now it was time to try something else.  So I went for what was labelled a Persian Fresh Herb Quiche.  I have to admit that I was attracted by the colour but the flavours in it were subtle and far better than any commercially bought quiche.


London is renowned for its pigeons.  Some years ago, the authorities managed to reduce their numbers in Trafalgar Square by banning humans who sell breadcrumbs to well-meaning breadcrumb throwers.  Nevertheless, these resourceful avians have found other places to terrorise.  They are actually quite capable of looking after themselves, as we can see in the photo below — as long as humans remain filthy and thoughtless.  But why people feel the need to feed these winged disease carrying vermin is beyond me.  Would they offer food to tailed vermin in the same way?  Perhaps Tom Lehrer, once again, half a century ago, had hit the nail right on the head.



A few minutes later, while walking south along the west side of Tottenham Court Road, I had to look long and hard at this pile of bedding and belongings outside a Sainsbury’s supermarket before concluding that there was probably nobody within the heap.  Nor was there a canine companion there either.  The individual concerned might well have gone off for a comfort break — though that is hardly an apt term — somewhere before returning to his/her patch(?) pitch(?) perch(?).


John Nash’s All Souls Church in Langham Place is looking as good as ever and I responded to its narcissistic request for another photograph.


There was an alfresco ping-pong game going on in Cavendish Square.  However, as there was also a pretty stiff breeze blowing at the same time, the little plastic orange sphere wasn’t going in exactly the direction that either of the pair of players had desired or intended.


Continuing into Brook Street, after a futile search for Chappell’s music shop (where it always was is now a skeleton of a building) in order to amplify my collection of sheet music of 1930s – 1950s songs, I came to the conclusion that notwithstanding Brexit and the immigrant issue, London is and always has been a multicultural city.  Both Mr. Hendrix and Mr. Handel would have been classified as immigrants — as, indeed, was the King of England in Mr. Handel’s time and as is the current Prince Consort, Prince Philip (the Greek -born Danish man who walks behind the Queen with his hands behind his back). 

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Along Oxford Street, I stopped to photograph the windows over Boots the Chemist again.  It’s fascinating to look at it from different angles and as the light changes.

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Then, sitting on a bus after four hours walking, I noticed this rather elderly adolescent, replete with pins, studs and all the other appurtenances (except that the black leather jacket isn’t leather; it’s not even imitation leather but it will have to do) and thought it might make a decent picture—or as decent as anything else that has appeared in this blog.


And on the final stretch home, walking through Belsize Park, I noticed some fun and games.  I actually heard it before I saw it because the rider attached to the bus had two supporters or eggers-on behind him.  I thought I’d finished for the day and by time I’d turned the camera on again, the bus was past me so I missed the support team. However, the lucky young devil (lucky because he wasn’t killed) was just having some fun.

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Have a nice day, everyone!


Back to PHOTOgeography

My apologies to all and sundry.  I’ve been so traumpatised by events over the past few months in the United States that I have almost forgotten that this blog is called PhotoGeoGraphy and that it is supposed to revolve around images that I have created and not deal with what seems to have become an obsession, a fixation with a contemporary who has recently been elected 45th President of the United States, a country, the institutions of which he appears to relish demolishing.  So let’s leave Wild West D.C. and its ersatz Buffalo Bill for a while and get on with the mundane task of looking at and commenting upon some images that have been created over the past few weeks.


It always amazes me that you see so much and miss so much while walking along at the same route several times a week.  Sometimes you miss things simply because they weren’t there last time you paid attention; more often than not, it’s simply because you have been unobservant (and I am unobservant — or is it non-observant?— in more ways than one).

Take, for instance the breakwater at Tel Aviv Port.  I have been walking along the promenade several times a week for almost a decade now and have photographed it from almost every angle, and in light and weather conditions that might provide an interesting photograph.


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TAMA 38 is an Israeli construction programme designed to strengthen and upgrade older apartment buildings — mainly to protect them from earthquakes.   Or at least, that is the official explanation for it.  However, it is also designed to increase urban housing units in high demand areas. Developers are permitted to add additional floors to existing apartment buildings in exchange for the safety improvements and adding apartments to the building not only includes strengthening the existing building but adds features such as elevators, balconies, safe rooms and parking. All the apartment owners benefit from all  this work gratis — except for the inconvenience caused by the constructions, which can take two years or more.  Developers earn substantial profits for renovating these buildings,and are happy to borrow private funding at high rates.  In addition to making apartments safer and stronger, and providing new housing, the project also generates jobs and stimulates economic development and tax revenues with the additional plus that investors can earn excellent returns at relatively low risk.

TAMA 38 was slow to take off in Tel Aviv but now that it has been launched, it seems like there’s no stopping it.  In our part of North Tel Aviv, there’s hardly a street on which there’s no construction work and in our immediate neighbourhood, the north-south streets that connect the two main east-west arteries seem to be parking lots for heavy-duty cement pourers, trucks bringing steel rods and whatnot.  The other day, I watched a woman driver futilely attempt to negotiate the 100m or so between the two main streets as each of the connecting streets was blocked one way or another.



In addition to all this mess, the municipality has decided (and about time, too) to resurface the street we live on, adding to the chaos.  They’ve started at the other end on the western third and are working their way towards our house, which they expect to reach by the beginning of April.  So streets will now be blocked in all four directions.


On top of all this, on the building site nearest to us, the central issue as I pass each day is to find the location of the wayfaring loo (“loo” = “washroom” for North Americans).  When you have a crane at your disposal and when the building rises by a floor every few weeks, the toilet (and it seems as if there is only one) moves to location in which there is no direct work.


So to add a little levity to the situation, there are the hydrants.  Try as I might to ignore them, they still attract my eye.  I began to pay attention to these several years ago when I realised that the photo editing software I was using at the time was recognising them as faces.  One day, perhaps, I’ll produce a hydrant anthology, in which the things will be accompanied by appropriate texts, as in the picture below.


Lipstick, nail polish, rouge and all the rest


Then there are the fauna (and their owners, where appropriate) that populate the park and the streets.


The dog walker

At least in this instance he’s walking the dogs (there are only 10 of them this time) rather than riding up a footpath on a busy street, terrorising the pedestrians!


Who is taking whom for a ride or a walk?


A Yorkshire terrier and thus a Leeds United supporter (almost).  Bus #25, Tel Aviv


‘Twas a rough week — lost an ear and got a bloodied nose.  Six Nations Rugby, of course!

And then, of course, there are the avian fauna … 


Take off.  (Tel Aviv Port, January 2017) 


Patience is a virtue



I recommended my hairdresser to this gentleman some time ago.  It was par for the course that he didn’t listen to my counsel.


In the same way, I came across this guy in June of last year on Ibn Gvirol Street in North Tel Aviv…


… and suggested very diplomatically that he walk a few hundred meters up the street, turn left and search out …


… Maybe he took my advice because when I bumped into him again last week, it seemed that he had had some work done.


Two romantic street names came into the camera’s viewfinder — the first off Ibn Gvirol Street and the other off HaYarqon Street.  How on earth did the municipal name-givers have the ingenuity or originality to think these names up?  Obviously, they took a course on street names at the University of Haifa!


There’s no smoking in public buildings, you know, so we do it outside instead — as well as chew our gum!


And it though it says the paint is wet, the gentleman assured me that it was dry otherwise he wouldn’t be sitting there.  I suppose he knew best.


And this sign at a shop in the Port has fascinated me for a long time.  Maybe I’ll summon up the courage one day and see what it is they’re doing for themselves.


Finally, just a simple photo from under the Ayalon Freeway this morning as I walked along the north bank of the Yarqon stream.


Yarqon Stream.  (07/02/2017, 07.40 hrs)

P.S.  Although I have been traumpatised over the past few weeks, I can still see the funny side of politics.  That;’s because it’s absolutely plausible that by late spring 2017, the three largest European countries might well be ruled by three women: Mother Theresa in the UK, Mutti in Germany and MaReine, the female swan in  France.  How might the Donald deal with that?


From barriers to Baroque

“to trump”: Alternative meanings: to invent, to make up, to fabricate, to concoct to fake, to falsify, &c … .

Trump Wall.png

The other day, my wife had an email from one of her oldest friends — perhaps her oldest oldest friend — in which she was apparently asked her opinion of the 45th President of the United States.  Apparently, the friend had been on a cruise where she met several people who had a positive opinion of the world’s greatest Bob the Builder.  I write “apparently” twice because I am not privy to the content of all my good lady’s correspondence nor to her numerous telephone conversations from which I have to guess the subject matters and their gravity from the words spoken at our end of the line when I’m within hearing distance— and even then, given my impaired hearing, I can’t be sure what it’s all about, which is probably just as well.

Anyway, I note that the good friend didn’t ask me what I think of the great man himself but then that might be because she is a diligent reader of this blog and must by now have a faint notion of what my opinion is. Truth to tell, just as in the cases of Israel’s Minister of Re-Education, Mr. Bennett, and its Ministress of Kulturkampf, Ms. Regev, I try very hard not to think of Mr. Trump at all. But that, in gross understatement, is rather demanding.  I tend to wake up each day some time before the morning news on the radio at 6 o’clock wondering what was on Donald’s mind the previous day.  What was it that disturbed his sleep that might be disrupting my sleep patterns? What entered his mind when he was practising his by now famous pout and scowl in front of his bathroom mirror.  Perhaps he just suffers from constipation?  Or maybe he just eats unripe persimmons.  (They give you an automatic petulant Trump-like pout, just like Donald’s.  Try it, perhaps!  It’s horrible)  

Does he flex and crack his fingers before he tweets or does he just press the microphone button on his smartphone and talk to the machine in his by now well-known dulcet tones, making full use of his somewhat limited vocabulary and then let his 20,000,000 followers instantly read in a maximum of 140 characters how the world is to suffer today.  All I can say is that I hope his smartphone and Twitter account are more secure than Hillary’s famous and infamous email account, otherwise we may find one day that some Russian or Chinese or Israeli hacker has been listening in to his every cogitation and that Tom Lehrer’s prophecies of half a century (!) ago might, heaven forbid, indeed come true.  

(If you don’t want to listen to it all, just skip the first 2 minutes precisely of the first one and 45 seconds of the second!)

It strikes me that the Executive Order to tighten up border control in the way that it was done is, to say the least, a little strange.  That’s because I always thought that the greatness of America, that greatness which President Trump wishes to recreate, was that it could take in immigrants and refugees of all origins and from everywhere throughout the world and turn them into loyal and productive Americans.  That’s what always made America different — and great.  Or so I thought until the Laird of Trump Tower appeared on the scene to instruct me otherwise.  Oh well, surprise, surprise!  


Surprise, surprise!

No doubt Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are all dangerous places but then so are Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and the U.A.E., countries that, as reported by The Washington Post, a paper that has not been a lover of Republican presidents in the past, Mr. Trump has had business interests.  


Be that as it may, with the exception of 9/11 in which the perpetrators were nationals of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the U.A.E. and Lebanon, my recall is that all of the many terrorist attacks on schools, colleges, shopping malls and elsewhere perpetrated in the United States since 2001 have been by American nationals, mostly non-Muslim.  But then what can you expect from a country that permits its citizens — even those known to have been completely deranged for years — to bear arms and use them?  All of which makes the definition of a Canadian as “an unarmed North American with health insurance” all the more poignant!  


We like to think we’re different but we’re not that much so!

And in Israel, things are much the same as ever.  An ex-President is on parole after serving five years in jail for rape.  An ex-Prime Minister, serving 19 months for fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate documents, and tax evasion has seemingly had enough.  His spirit is broken after a year and it is reported that he has requested a pardon from the State President, a former colleague, though on what grounds I am curious to know.


Amos Biderman in Ha’Aretz 26/1/2017: Rabbi Yona Metzger enters prison as Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto leaves


Meanwhile, this week, a former Chief Rabbi enters the same jail (just as another crooked cleric, a “spiritual adviser” to assorted businessmen in Israel and the USA who paid him well for his spiritual advice and whose bribing of a senior police officer in one of his crimes led to the officer’s suicide, left) to start a three and a half year sentence for bribery and tax fraud and interfering in the judicial process. In addition to his enforced lay-off, Metzger was fined 5 million shekels ($1.3 million) for his crimes.  

Why  was he offered a plea bargain at all? That is beyond my ken.  Were it up to me, I would have doubled the full length of his sentence, given the exalted elevation from which he tripped and fell and given that he was supposed to have been a paragon of moral rectitude — for which he drew his state salary. Evidently, he concluded that he was underpaid.

And the police continue the investigation into the dealings of the current Prime Minister whose comment has been from the beginning “They’ll find nothing because there’s nothing there.”, which recalls the one and only Mandy Rice-Davies of Profumo affair fame testifying in court after Lord Astor had denied an affair with her or even having met her: “He would say that, wouldn’t he?”  And why not?  All the others said the same!


Time to take a break, methinks!

Mind you, even without Donald’s walls and his other impediments, Israel’s shame and all the rest, it was an exciting weekend as we watched three of the best tennis matches ever  at the Australian Open Championship in Melbourne — both Men’s semi-finals (Federer .v. Wawrinka, then five hours of Nadal .v. Dimitrov, followed on the Sunday by the Federer .v. Nadal final.)  All four players played shots that should never have been returned but somehow were.  It was tennis at its very best!  And our daughter-in-law spent the weekend climbing mountains in Morocco — an accomplishment of which to be really proud.

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So after all this flak, what pictures am I supposed to show you now?  I’ll show one calming image, perhaps.  


My favourite trees wear their winter garb.  Primrose Hill, London.  January 2017

And why was this post called “From barriers to Baroque”?  Well, for those of you who are interested, a couple of months ago the violinist Boris Brovtsyn and friends performed a chamber music version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Tel Aviv Museum.  We were there although it was not I who made the video.  We had a family interest in the ensemble in the form of the violist.  Vivaldi was, of course, an ordained Catholic priest, many of whose compositions were written for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, a home for abandoned children, where he was employed between 1703 and 1740.  A Catholic priest with young girls?  Oy vey!  Things must have been very different in early 18th century Italy!  No Facebook, no Twitter, no Daily Mirror.


P.S.  I’m making progress thinning my photo collection and I should be done with Stage I by tomorrow morning, reducing  it from 41,000+ images to 25,000.