Walls (1)

Wall's Ice Cream

Walls.  What are they?  

They can mean different things to different people.  For instance, the association of many Brits with “walls” might be nothing more momentous than thinking about ice cream.  Real walls can be made of brick or of concrete; they can be made of metal or they can be electrified.  They can seal hermetically or they can be open-ended.  A wall can be the membranous outer layer or lining of an organ or cavity such as the wall of the stomach or a line of soccer players forming a barrier against a free kick taken near the penalty area.  

Walls can be structures that provide stability or they can be structures that divide; often, stability can only be guaranteed when a wall is constructed.  Walls are things often regarded as protective or restrictive barriers.  We are all familiar with the Berlin Wall, a structure that went up on August 13 1961 and was reported on BBC news on a Sunday afternoon when I was out with my parents in Phoenix Park, Dublin and it came down on, as most of us remember, on November 9 1989, thereby standing for a total of 10,315 days, physically separating West from East Berlin.  

Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall

It was made of concrete and was the most physical manifestation of Winston Churchill’s prescient “iron curtain [that] has descended across the Continent”, part of his by now famous speech “The Sinews of Peace”, delivered at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri on March 5 1946


The Berlin Wall is just one of a whole series of walls that have been glorified by appending a descriptor to them.  Just think:  The Great Wall of China; Hadrian’s Wall; The Peace Wall in Belfast; the Separation Wall between Israel/Palestine; and, of course the much Trumpeted and Trumped up Wall that the Donald will finish building between the newly-great-again United States of America (believe it or not)  and Mexico (and for which Mexico, of course, will pay).

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In what now seems like another life, I once edited a special issue of the journal Political Geography. One of the articles, “Belfast: walls within”, was by Professor Fred Boal, a distinguished scholar from The Queen’s University, Belfast, who prefaced it with a quotation from Mending Wall:, a poem by Robert Frost, originally published in 1914.

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,

The narrator of the poem, a New England farmer, contacted his neighbour about rebuilding the stone wall between their two farms. As they work, the narrator questions the purpose of a wall “where it is we do not need the wall”, noting on two occasions  that “something there is that doesn’t love a wall”.  Nevertheless, his neighbour sees the wall in a different light and replies twice: “Good fences make good neighbours”.

The Berlin Wall was more concerned with walling people in rather than with keeping marauders out whereas China’s Wall had the opposite aim. The Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem performed neither of these functions but stood as a symbol for the longing of a return to an historical homeland, which was eventually realised, if not quite in the way imagined by most of those who came to keen and pray at it.  

However, Fred was writing about Belfast after the beginning of “The Troubles” in 1969, when rioting followed by ferocious paramilitary violence magnified the already pervasive segregation between Protestants and Catholics, (Loyalists and Republicans, mostly). Bombing, shooting, fire-raising, and intimidation almost overwhelmed this deeply divided city such that a series of physical barriers— ‘peace lines’, ‘peace walls’, ‘environmental barriers’— were constructed at ‘interfaces’, places where highly segregated Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods uneasily adjoined one another and were intended to reduce, if not entirely eliminate, localised conflict. When first constructed they were supposed to have been temporary but were still in situ decades later, with constant additions emplaced into the urban fabric.  As might have been expected, the strangest thing about these walls was that unlike the Berlin Wall, they were open-ended; one could cross from a Catholic to a Protestant neighbourhood by detouring around the walls!  They were truly Irish walls—which is why they were eventually called ‘peace lines’.


Belfast Peace Lines (Boal 2002)

Belfast 2000: peace lines and ethnonational segregation.



But these barriers and partitions, impediments or enclosuresramparts or obstacles, are not really the sort of wall I want to write about in this post.  Although I once regarded myself as a political geographer (sort of—because at other times I thought of myself as a social and cultural geographer until I realised that these different labels were just facets of something else — human geographer), borders and barriers were never quite really my thing.  

The kind of walls that catch my eye these days are what I see on my daily walks, mostly — but not solely — around North Tel Aviv.  There, the walls offer the photographer (in other words, me) a veritable feast of images.  This activity led me to think that in some ways, it might be fairly depressing to be an architect and especially  one working in Tel Aviv, and particularly if s/he is working on multi-family residential buildings.  

Just think about it a bit.  An architect might spend months—years, perhaps—designing a residential building, working out how to use the available space efficiently so that the residents can get the most out it while simultaneously creating something that is aesthetic, and not just for those living in the building but also extramurally (in its literal sense),  so that the building appears attractive to those looking at it from the street.  One architect told me that she’s aware of all this and that thinks that the best thing to do in order to avoid disappointment and despondency is to photograph the work so that she can remember it as it was when the project had been completed. For, when the apartments are marketed and sold, the owners or tenants take over and then often proceed to dismantle much of the architect’s hard work.  Inside, they might do anything from hanging pictures that don’t match to inserting closets that spoil the look of a room.  Externally — and this is what concerns me — they might place objects such as bicycles, surfboards or washing machines on balconies or hang air-conditioning units or satellite dishes on the exterior walls.  In Tel Aviv, they do all this and an awful lot more.

But before I get around to walls in Tel Aviv, which will be the subject of a later post, let me illustrate some images of walls and we can think of them as a control group.

Walls can be constructed of a variety of materials although stones, bricks and concrete are the three most common materials.

Conventional walls a

On occasion, walls need propping up, presumably because someone has worked out that it’s cheaper to use an existing structure than to build a new one from scratch.


Walls have long been used to fortify cities — to keep enemies out.  Although this function has more or less become extinct, city walls remain in situ and, if nothing else, prove to be attractive tourist sites.

City wall by night, Jerusalem1

In a similar way, some walls are designed to keep the sea (another enemy) out — but when the sea is angry, that’s not always that successful!

Sea Wall, T-A Port1

Sometimes, walls are covered by ivy or other climbing plants, which, I imagine, can’t be very good for the wall’s health in the longer run and to its life expectancy!


Ivy cover1

Hidden wall, Regent's Canal1

And sometimes the façade is of a material that surprises you even when you’re expecting to see what you see.  The example that immediately springs to mind is the magnificent Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, designed by Frank Gehry, in which he uses extremely thin sheets of titanium as the outer skin of the building, causing the colour to change with the light conditions.

Guggenheim, Bilbao 1a

Guggenheim, Bilbao a

Yet other walls serve special purposes, such as the climbing wall in Yarqon Park (now demolished) or the wall surrounding the gardens at Buckingham Palace in London that tell the viewer—in no uncertain terms— “Keep Out!!!”

Climbing wall, Yarqon Park1

Buckingham Palace1

And this brings me to urban walls.  I will expand on these images in a later post but here are three examples from Tel Aviv.

In the first image, very little impinges on the clean lines of the exterior walls of this single-family residential building on a quiet street in North Tel Aviv.

Clean wall, Stricker Street, T-A1

In the second picture, the side wall of an apartment building illustrates some of the uses that the architect never dreamed up — or if s/he did, their dreams were of the nightmarish variety.  Railings, air-conditioning units and associated tubes and wires, open and enclosed balconies, added walls, a water storage tank, a chimney, wires for electricity and internet, blocked up gaps where an older form of air conditioner was once located and a wall added to the roof.  Yes, it’s all there (well, nearly all!)

171 Ben-Yehuda. T-A

At first I thought that this mess only applied to side walls — but I was blind for a very long time.  The eye becomes so used to this unattractiveness —no, really, it’s ugliness  — that you become inured to it.  In the third image in this set, the wall actually fronts on to the street.  By-laws?  Perhaps — but if there are, there’s little enforcement, it would seem!

Façade, Yehuda HaMaccabi, T-A1

To be continued…





Politicians, pianists and plumage

The other day while walking in the park about halfway to the sea, I noticed a person I know entering the park from the direction of a small supermarket close by.  In the crook of his right arm, he was carrying a brown bag with loaves or rolls of bread.  Presumably, it was stale bread that had been left outside the shop but this is Tel Aviv so you’d never know as there are all sorts of animal-rights people around. And who knows?  Feeding birds with some oven-fresh bread might well be a hard-won avian entitlement.

Anyway, as he approached the river, he hurled the bread, loaf by loaf and roll by roll into the water whereupon every gull within a radius of 100m or so had sensed what was happening and converged on the stretch of what was by now bread-polluted water.  

Excitement 1

The flapping and squawking rapidly reached fortississimo and the fowls’ foul behaviour was such that I think they might have killed one another for a few breadcrumbs.

There was something awfully familiar about their behaviour but it was only after I had walked on a couple of hundred meters that I realised what was playing on my mind.  The whirling gulls, the screeching and cawing, the lack of any hint of avian mutual respect looked like and sounded like a meeting of the Central Committee of Likud, the leading light in Israel’s governing coalition, where it is commonplace for dog to eat dog or crow to consume rat.  The birds made just about as much sense as the Likud members—possibly even more.


All that was missing from the scene was the sleeked down image of the great silver Bibi-bird, assuring the throng that all is well and that everyone will get his due — in due course, of course.

Cormorant and gulls


Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 16.20.11

So much for this little diversion into the cruel world of avian politics.


Earlier this week, I felt the need of a change of location for a morning walk so instead of heading towards the park, I set off on a bus for Jaffa to have a look at Tel Aviv from the south after an absence of two or three years.  And it really does look quite different viewed from there.


Jaffa from Tel Aviv, looking south

T-A from Jaffa.jpg

Tel Aviv from Jaffa, looking north

Walking around the old port area in Jaffa, there are all sorts of interesting objects to view.  And as my eye is as often as not attracted to signs, I wondered how on earth they managed to fit the yacht through the doorway.

Yacht rent.jpg

And again, here, I couldn’t help but wonder quite what these two eating establishments were really feeding their clients and how long the clients survived after consumption.

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These baklava looked a little more appetising but I wondered about their sugar content and decided I’d be better off without.


The following day, I was back in Tel Aviv Port walking my well-trodden route and although it looks more or less the same from day to day, the wonder of things is that there’s always something slightly different that pops up in front of the camera lens.  In this instance, I couldn’t quite help wondering if the coffee gets filtered on the way through.

Where does the coffee go?

And the egrets were out in force yesterday morning.  One went to such considerable lengths preening itself that it reminded me of any number of politicians readying themselves for an important TV interview.  However, on second thoughts I thought it far too naturally attractive and refined to be a politician.  And on third thoughts, as I look at this image and the preceding one, I see a certain resemblance between the bewhiskered coffee-guzzler and the exquisitely feathered egret.  Just as well I’m not a pteronophobe!

Preening egret.jpg

That particular egret was at the river’s edge.  By the time I got to the sea a few minutes later and turned south towards Tel Aviv Port, I came across the same egret that I have photographed several times over the past few weeks, easily recognisable by the tag on its left leg.  I’ve taken to giving it the nickname “The Optimist” because it seems to locate itself close to the anglers in the hope of scrounging something from them.  In this instance, about half a minute after I photographed it at the sea’s edge, it flew past me at a height of perhaps 20 cm above the boardwalk and came to land beside the two gentlemen with fishing equipment.  It walked back and forth from one to the other, seemingly assessing which one was the likelier to provide it with some sustenance when the man on the left produced a small fish from the basket, which was gratefully received.

the optimistthe optimist 1the optimist 2

Then, as I left the house this morning, I noticed a sign on the building site that I’ve been passing every day over the past six months.  HaAretz newspaper had reported a few days ago that on the second day of a three-day visit to China, which had been heavy on technology, Prime Minister Netanyahu attended a signing ceremony for an agreement that clears the way for thousands of Chinese to work in Israeli construction.  I was confused —until I remembered that Yaron Tibet is the name of the building contractor.  

Not a single Chinese worker.jpg




Next month, and I’m not quite sure why, I’ve volunteered as photographer of the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition for a second stint.  I did this three years ago full of trepidation as I’d never done anything like it before and, as things turned out, it was the most wonderful photography workshop I could have wished for.  Working under the pressures of time and restrictions on movement was a wonderful educational experience and I was on a steep learning curve for three weeks.   I was so enthused by it that I had every intention of writing a serious academic article about music competitions before the next competition in 2017 because the learning experience was not just confined to my photography but to the politics of competitions as well.  

To this end, as a decent former academic, over the following year, I set about assembling and reading a bibliography germane to the topic.  I had just about got to the stage where I felt that I had read most of the relevant material when I came across three articles by Lisa McCormick.  In the third of these papers, she made reference to her book, Performing Civility — International Competitions in Classical Music, published by Cambridge University Press.  The articles were interesting and I discovering that the book had just been published (2015), as a good academic, I acquired a copy and read it.


Dr. McCormick had been a cellist in her native Canada, had four degrees in Sociology from Yale and Rice Universities, a music performance degree from Rice and an M.Phil in  Music in Performance and Interpretation from Oxford and was now a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh.  I read her book with a lot of interest coupled with a tinge of envy.  In the event, as things panned out, she was actually qualified to write a book on this topic. I might have produced a decent attempt had I got around to doing all the work — attending competitions and interviewing organisers, jury members, competitors and volunteers, she had produced the authoritative work.  In doing so, she actually spared me a lot of agony and having got over the shock of finding that somebody else had done what I was planning to do, I was actually quite happy that I didn’t have to do it.  

As when photographing the Rubinstein Competition, I learned a lot about the politics, psychology and performance aspects of music competitions in the process of reading Lisa’s book.  And as I wrote to her after reading Performing Civility: “I probably would have got around to interviewing a few people … To be honest, I don’t think I would have had the patience [to write a book] or even to submit a paper to an academic journal … and deal with snooty editors and snotty reviewers (of which I was one for 35 years).”  I was glad to learn that many of the things I had felt after spending three weeks in the company of  the pianists, their minders, their judges and all the rest weren’t all that far off the mark.

So now I must prepare myself for a repeat performance.  I don’t expect the 2017 images to be any different to the ones I took three years ago.  

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However, there will be fewer of them because by the end of three weeks last time around, I had learned when to click the shutter and discovered that there is only a limited number of shots that are appealing; at the end of the day, everything seems to look the same.  Nevertheless, like a good sports photographer, I will be on the lookout for something special — someone carried away by a Rachmaninov prelude to the extent that s/he falls off the piano stool, the lid prop of the piano collapsing mid-sonata with a loud bang or the fall board snapping shut and bruising some fingers.


At this stage, I was going to give you some pictures of pianos and pianists as well as some other musical gems but then I thought I might have done this before—and discovered that I had done exactly that just a year ago, in March 2016.    Methinks I must be getting old or  else this blog is starting to run out of ideas or both.



On runners, pigeons and phones

10 10 10 10 10

I suppose I could wait another century but I was sure that I’d be able to use it some time!

In the Book of Esther (Chapter 8, Verses 9 & 10) we are told that: “… the royal secretaries were summoned—on the 23rd day of … the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush … Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king.”  


Bringing the news from Regent’s Park to Mill Hill.  South End Green, NW3

And then, according to Herodotus, in the best known legend associated with the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.E., the runner Philippides was sent to run from Athens to Sparta to ask for assistance before the battle.  He ran over 225 km, arriving in Sparta the following day, which makes the 42.2 km run today by marathon enthusiasts all over the world and the 50 and 100 km and even 100 mile ultra-marathons run by a smaller number of über-enthusiasts seem both puny and paltry.   Poor Phil was then ordered to run the 40 km from the battlefield near Marathon all the way to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia with the word nikomen (“We win!”).  

The poor sod then collapsed and died and I’m not in the least surprised.


Running with the news.  Marathon Day, Tel Aviv Port.  February 2014

This suggests to us that in the past, messages were sent only by people such as monarchs and their advisers or in times of extreme crisis.  It also suggests that things in the not so distant past were quite different from today’s environment, which is dominated by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and all the rest.  In these circumstances everyone sends messages.  

Perhaps a small percentage of the communications transmitted by these outfits are of some importance but my guess is that most are insignificant and frivolous, and perhaps better unsent at all.   It’s akin to the way photography has changed in the digital age but mostly since the advent of the smartphone.  Once upon a time, we took photographs and printed them as aides-mémoire, hoping that perhaps half a century or more after the shutter clicked they would help in jogging our degenerating memories.  In today’s world, we don’t generally have our photos printed at all.  That’s passé.  We take them using the smartphone’s ever smarter camera and send them to our “friends” (which may even include some family members) via one of the social media apps to be viewed instantly and then immediately unremembered (which is, incidentally not quite the same as forgotten — it means that you can remember at some later date that there was a photo you’d like to see again but damned if you can remember on which app is was transmitted and received).

It’s one thing wanting to stay in touch but it’s entirely another one hearing that so-and-so has just sneezed seven times in less than a minute and that said sudden involuntary expulsion of air from forward facing facial cavities may perhaps be related to some dreaded disease.  Even worse is hearing that Joe Bloggs has just been to the supermarket where he purchased four doughnuts containing trans fats, sugar, and refined flour, and each of which contains up to 20 grams of fat and between 250 to 300 calories and is about to eat them all in the following 20 minutes — a truly important message that even compares well with some of Mr. Trump’s tweets at 3 in the morning after yet another narcissistic nocturnal nightmare involving those he thinks might be winding him up for the day ahead.  It appears that the value of the information contained in and transmitted by messages  these days has somehow been devalued.

In between the current electronic message mania and the sturdy steeds and resolute runners of the past, messages have been sent by such channels as pigeons, ponies and postal services, by telegram, teleprinter and telephone and, with the passage of time, electronic devices.


There they go — express deliveries

Although I suppose some younger people might still write emails, an increasing number limit their expression to 140 characters or so, which suits better their styles of thought and expression.  (I suppose it would be a challenge to write this blog and limit myself to just 140 characters. It might make things easier for my readers!)  And I suppose that there are still lots of older people who still haven’t managed the art of emailing even though email has been around for over 40 years and in common use for at least 25 years.  Such folks still rely on snail mail.



In fact, electronic messaging of one kind or another is now so commonplace that the former demand by banks, government agencies and so forth to also produce an “original” (“original” meaning “paper”) copy before a transaction can be approved has become less and less frequent, with PDFs and even faxes becoming acceptable.

Whereas over the past three decades most of my e-communication has been done at a desktop or laptop computer, today, I am more likely to communicate via a smartphone although I have to admit to being less comfortable using one of these wonderful machines.  The mobile phone, too, has been around for over 40 years, the first handheld cellphone having been manufactured by Motorola, with handsets the size of a brick and weighing in at about 2 kg, even heavier.  Today’s smartphones are small and compact and have 100 times the memory of my first laptop, which I acquired almost 25 years ago.  

In point of fact, there was a time not so long ago when phones were fixtures.  In order to talk to someone by phone, you had to go to where the phone was located.  At home, this was often in a hallway, far away from where other people might be, and usually cold enough to ensure that all but the hardiest kept their conversations short.  No longer.  Phones are in your pocket, purse or handbag, in the café, the restaurant or the loo.  Wherever a person is, so is the phone.

When a phone was a phone

Once upon a time, a phone was just a phone

As The Economist put it in a leader two years ago, smartphones matter partly because of their ubiquity. “They have become the fastest-selling gadgets in history, outstripping the growth of the simple mobile phones that preceded them. They outsell personal computers four to one. … By 2020, 80% of the adult population [in the world] will own a smartphone. [They] have also penetrated every aspect of daily life. The average American is buried in one for over two hours every day. [And when] asked which media they would miss most, British teenagers pick mobile devices over TV sets, PCs and games consoles. Nearly 80% of smartphone-owners check messages, news or other services within 15 minutes of getting up.”

Although there are some people I know who seem to manage reasonably well without one, the smartphone is now omnipresent. So ubiquitous has this device become that there is a very real danger of the world’s population evolving into physically deformed individuals —hunchbacks with a permanent squint, eyeglasses perched on top of their heads, as they attempt, often vainly, to see what has just popped up on the screen of this very versatile machine.  And although it’s called a phone, it’s obvious to everyone who uses one, and even to those Luddites who don’t, that only a small proportion of the time that it’s in use is for oral communication.


Ménage à trois: they ménage without smartphones.  They’re in unceasing touch .

These machines have literally taken over the world.  You can’t escape them.  Perhaps the only place you can get away from them is on a plane — and I’m pretty sure that even that relative quiet won’t last long.  And there’s nothing quite like attending a classical music concert when, usually in the middle of some piece that is marked “Adagio (Pianissimo)”, (and notwithstanding the request prior to the concert and after the interval) to check that phones and all other devices that are likely to make a noise have been switched off, someone’s phone rings (actually, it no longer rings but is more likely to sing a song, jang a jingle or announce a chord that repeats incessantly — and invariably in a key other than that of the Adagio being performed on stage), and the [typically] older (I almost wrote elderly but I have to tread very carefully here!) person to whom the offending machine belongs has not yet learned how to switch it off.  Or worse, s/he decides to pretend it’s not theirs and the sound continues for what seems like eternity.  I offered the concert organisers of the hall we attend most the choice of two posters (below) —the expense of printing and framing mine — that they could place onstage prior to each half of the concert but my very generous offer was politely refused!

But as you walk down the street, as you ride the bus, as you drive, as people run through the park, there they are and people use them for just about every purpose of communication you can think of.  They are part of the urban landscape, so ubiquitous  that we hardly notice them any more.  

These days, phones can be used — and be seen to be used — for a host of other purposes than chatting.  For instance, they are GPS devices.  You can drive and receive instructions in a variety of languages and accents where best to go in order to reach your destination most rapidly.  You can order a taxi.  You can see how long you have to wait for a bus.  You can pay with it.  

It also might become a means of diversion while performing physical exercises by the sea.  It’s as good a way of catching up on Facebook posts, tweets, emails, yesterday’s news &c., as any while you exercise your body.

Phone exercise1

Equally, in the absence of a mirror, it can easily be used as one.  Smartphones carry cameras and you don’t have to talk to anyone else in order to be able to scrutinise your appearance.

As a mirror

They’re also used in everyday meditation and for communicating with the gods — either rationally or transcendentally.


And although it’s rather dangerous and probably illegal — as I discovered last week when a smartphoning cyclist ploughed at speed into the side of the car, denting its wing — we also engage in messaging and chatting while on the move.


On the move.  Gray’s Inn Road, London

A mobile mobile

On the move.  Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv


Not on the move and I wish you’d hurry up about it.  Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel Aviv

Eyes elsewhere!

Somehow, I think her mind’s not entirely on driving so I’m keeping an eye open for her!

Bike Ready

Not a minute to be wasted! (1)

On the bus

Not a minute to be wasted (2).  (Didn’t help.  No connection in the 20 minutes we sat together!)

Black on black at the V&A

Guess what we bought!.  (Victoria & Albert Museum, South Kensington, London)

And then, of course, there’s the inevitable selfies, the kind of picture which I have never successfully taken — either because a finger gets in the way of the lens and/or my arms are too short.

The inevitable selfie


And although this picture appeared in my previous post, I think that this is where it should have appeared—had I known a week ago what I was going to write today!

Head shave

The ultimate in smartphone loyalty.

At rehearsal

Phones at the ready just in case our agent calls. (Belcea Qt. in rehearsal, T-A Museum, May 2014)


Cooling off

Cooling off after an earful from she-who-wasn’t-obeyed!

It can be awkward, though, at times.  Having a broken wrist or tennis elbow obviously restricts the quantity of calls you can make and the quality of the selfies you take! …



Where's your phone, then?

You can’t possibly keep your phone there, can you? (Barcelona, May 2015)


Moreover, so ubiquitous has phoning become that even the trees are talking now!


Talking tree.  (Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv)

And after all this, you wonder what might be coming next for us in terms of mobility and miniaturization. 

The next generation

Surely not!

Finally, they always say that it’s a good idea to start them young — so here’s one example!
Get me Trump

Get me Trump!  Now!

We have a deal, then?

Don, is that your best offer?

Deal done, then?

OK, Donald!  Deal’s done!




Sometimes when I sit down to write this blog, I know more or less exactly what I want to say. It’s all already in the head and all I have to do is transcribe it.  In such cases (which, incidentally, are few and far between), I manage to get it all down in under an hour and leave the harder part, finding a few pictures that fit in logically with what I’ve written, till later. (This is often more difficult than you might imagine!).  These are the pieces that usually make most sense (to me at least) but I frequently need something to set me off on my way.  

Fortunately, politics and politicians, not to mention so-called “spiritual” leaders, lend me considerable assistance in this matter.  Their arrogance (self-assuredness, self-confidence), their duplicity (I’m free to change my mind if and when it suits me and I can benefit from it and I hope that not too many people notice), their brainlessness (I had a dream/nightmare last night and tweeted it in my sleep so that it would make the early morning news) are often more than my simple mind can take.  

Brexit and Trump over the past few months have been wonderful starting points, providing material for my rants although I do admit that I might have gone overboard once or twice.  My powers of reason boggle when I see and hear politicians who campaigned against the UK leaving the EU all of a sudden, within a matter of days, transmogrifying to become the staunchest of stalwart supporters and promoters because “the people have spoken” and they heard the “will of the people”, which, as good and obedient public servants in a democracy, they must obey.  I also heard the people speak and it didn’t strike me that they spoke all that clearly.  But it’s obvious that my increasingly impaired hearing  is working overtime again.

Whatever kind of Brexit emerges and whatever its implications might be, we will undoubtedly discover as the months pass.   But even the will of the British voters is trivial compared to that of their American counterparts who put in place a man who may know how to build and make lots of $$$ but one, who when he tweets or speaks, personifies ignorance, narcissism and paranoia — as well as broadcasting his infantile vocabulary.  

Mind you although some people seem to think that he’s a pathological liar, others seem to think that he doesn’t lie at all!  For according to the Johnson column in The Economist edition of three weeks ago, “there is a difference between falsehood and lying. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “lie” as a “false statement made with intent to deceive”.  It says “falsehood” is “an uttered untruth; a lie. Also false statements, uttered untruth, in general.”  Falsehood is thus the wider word, covering lying and “uttered untruth, in general”. Lying [therefore] requires an intent to deceive—which implies knowing that what you’re saying isn’t true.”  Unfortunately, it appears that President Trump is unable to distinguish fact from fiction, truth from falsehood.  Consequently, this falls far short of the definition of lying!

Now, after that little rant, let me return to the mundane matter of how else I might write this blog. There are occasions when I start with the images that I want to display.  After I’ve selected and prepared them, I then have the task of somehow finding the words to link them together in some logical fashion. More often than not, these pieces turn out bitty and/or frivolous and in terms of what I write, I’m often dissatisfied with them.  Having said that, they are often the most pleasing photographically.

Then there are the pieces about which I have an idea and know what I think I’d like to say and display but when I start to write, I encounter what is colloquially referred to as “writer’s block”.  In other words, I become perplexed at some point close to where the middle should be and I come to a halt.  This may happen when I realise that I don’t really know enough about the subject and feel that it would be silly to continue or when what seemed really interesting at the outset becomes less so the more I write.  

However, there are other occasions on which I think it’s worthwhile to go on but that in order to do so, I have to give it a bit more thought, which is where I am at the moment.  I want to say and display something about “Walls” — yes, you read correctly —and I’ve started a piece but I need to think it out a little more carefully.  So rather than take a break from the blog for however long the walls might take to be built, this post has a few images I’ve taken locally over the past three weeks or so.  Nothing more, nothing less.  

If nothing else, I suppose they illustrate that if you keep your eyes open and your wits about you, you can see several interesting things—even in the most mundane of places, in the most banal of situations.


The weather has been mixed in Tel Aviv in early March.  It feels like spring is on the way but it’s not quite here yet and there have been quite a few cold days — and on the day I took the photograph below, it seemed particularly cold.  I remember this if only because the individual pictured here does not normally wear headgear or a jacket or a top and is commonly observed—and sometimes photographed— as he appears in the second image.  (I checked what the temperature that morning and found that it measured 9ºC, which in absolute terms isn’t all that cold — although it certainly did feel chilly)

Cold run

Port runner topless.jpg

Within a few days, however, things had changed a little and people were able to snooze, exercise or make phone calls  comfortably in the morning sun or shade.

Winter, T-APortWinter, T-APort 1


A few weeks ago, on the day after I returned after a short visit to London, I had a meeting at the office of the Arthur Rubinstein International Music Society on Huberman Street.  En route to this evening meeting, brought about by the fact that I have volunteered to act as photographer for the forthcoming piano competition once more, I photographed the Charles Bronfman Auditorium (known here by its Hebrew name, Heichal HaTarbut or the Culture Palace of Culture Temple, although Seagram Hall might have been a more apt name) at night, something I’d been intending to do for quite a while.  


(And for those of you who might have missed it the first time around, I wrote a “retrospective diary” a couple of days after the last Rubinstein competition in 2014.  This time round, I’m planning a “live” blog.)  Piano Diary


Tree in Yarqon Park

Trees and tree trunks often appeal to my aesthetic sense.  Even if they are inanimate, they oftentimes seem to display lots of character.  However, in order to bring that character to the surface, as it were, you often have to massage the tree’s image and I’ve found that solarizing it can often accomplish this.   

Yarqon Park tree

(Solarization is a photographic phenomenon where the image recorded is wholly or partially reversed in tone, with dark areas appearing light or light areas appearing dark; this is usually caused by exposing a plate or film to light during developing.  Although the effect has been known since the earliest experiments in photography in the 1840s and perhaps before, the technique was perfected by the artist Man Ray after his assistant Lee Miller had accidentally discovered it in the dark room.  These days, there are digital models to mimic the physical process and they work quite well.) 

Solarized tree trunk, Nordau

And it’s not just trees that “benefit” from being solarized.  The oft-photographed egret stands up well to the process also …

Egret (solarized)

… as does this one, taken at the Friday morning Farmers’ Market at Tel Aviv Port.  To my taste, globe artichokes have to be among the silliest of all vegetables or any plant cultivated as a food for that matter; they rank with pomegranates in terms of eater-unfriendliness.  But in terms of photography, this species of thistle is a joy to behold and record — with or without its flower.

Artichoke (soalrized)

And while I was at the Farmers’ Market, these green and white asparagus also attracted my eye. 

Asparagus 1Asparagus

Neither of the two little organisms below was for sale at the Farmers’ Market.  Each was to be found in gardens alongside streets I was walking along.

Hard to notice — Fungus



It’s Purim this coming Sunday.  Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people in the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire under Ahasuerus, (presumed to be Artaxerxes I).   As recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther, the main antagonist was the vizier, Haman, a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites, a people defeated by biblical kings Saul and David.  Haman’s downfall at the hands of Mordecai and his cousin, the Queen Esther, was a cause of great celebration.  

Growing up in Dublin, Purim was a single day.  Here in Israel, however, it appears to last a week in run-up to the festival itself and it provides an opportunity for children and adults alike to let down their hair and dress up.  People are also exhorted to drink, as the Talmudic saying goes, one should revel on Purim by drinking “until one no longer knows”.  A sort of Jewish Halloween and St. Patrick’ s Day rolled into one. (By the way, only one of the four images below has something to do with Purim; the others were spotted at a kindergarten party for grandparents and on a bus wide and are apparently permanent year-round adornments.

Technicolor hairGingi hairNails to matchShuli.jpeg

And while on the subject of hairstyles, I couldn’t resist this one as I waited my turn for a trim at the local hairdresser a week and a half ago.  Incidentally, this picture displays the all-importance of the mobile phone, which is really what prompted me to record the picture.

Head shave

N.B.  It should be noted that not everyone who appears to be having a conversation on a mobile phone is actually doing what you might think!


Anyway, Happy Purim and St. Patrick’s Day!

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