Decline and Fall

Sometimes I’m at a loss as to how to decide what to write in the blog.  If I don’t have an idea, I wonder whether I should perhaps leave it for another week or fortnight until something gels and I can get started.  And then I think that perhaps I might not have an idea or that nothing will ever gel thus presenting me with a real quandary because I think that that might be end of the blog as a whole.  You know, writer’s block or blogger’s blockage or something like that.  That’s when I feel that I’ve just got to do it, so perhaps I have become a little obsessive about the whole thing.

But why should I behave like a journalistic hack doing dull routine work, who even if s/he has nothing worthwhile to write has been contracted to produce x number of words per day or week or fortnight or whatever and thus has either to fill an allotted y inches of column or go hungry?  Or be like the daily roll-around news programmes in which even if there isn’t anything really worthwhile to report, an hour has to be filled instead with a series of nonsensical showbiz gossip and equally preposterous political speculation?  News used to be news.  You know, people used to report to you about those events perceived as important and add some commentary on what had actually happened (note the past tense).  This is in contrast to what today seems to an ageing doom and gloom merchant (i.e., cynic) that it’s just another show with people spouting on about what they think, working the listeners and viewers up into a totally unnecessary frenzy (that is, if anyone bothers or cares).  I often wonder how you can get five minutes of news at 7 in the morning that tells you most of what you need to know for the day while the “news” bulletins and current affairs prattle and jabber and programmes that precede them and follow them can occupy hours and hours?

So, I have little to write but I’m under no obligation—contractual, moral or otherwise to produce anything.  So why bother? I suppose it’s because I enjoy it—most of the time.

I was in this predicament a few days ago.  It’s been a week since I last posted and since I started this blog almost two years ago, I’ve been averaging one post every five or six days so by the time a week had passed, I was beginning to get fidgety but had nothing to write.  I was thinking about this as I went out for my morning walk on Wednesday and although I’d promised myself last week that I’d go to a part of the city with which I’m less familiar at least once a week, I still ended up as I do most days and turned left as I entered the park to head towards Tel Aviv port.  And just as well I did because it was then that I had a moment of sudden and great revelation, an epiphany perhaps.

Now, one of the merits of following the same path over and over again and photographing what you see is that you can record changes that occur over time that you might otherwise miss.  And so it was on Wednesday morning.  When I reached the sea, it was rough; there was a really strong wind blowing stormy although there was no rain; a stormy sea with giant waves and heavy rain falling at the same time is really dramatic so the stormy though it was, I’d seen higher drama than this.

The sky is falling. January 2013

High Drama

A rough space. January 2013

Anyway, one of my favourite photographs is this one which I took not long after I started this photography lark.  

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Waves, foam, gulls

It was on an equally stormy day, early in February 2008 at 8 o’clock in the morning as I was walking north along the promenade.  The sun came out for about two minutes and as I turned around to watch the waves break, it highlighted everything. There’s a lot of motion in this photograph — the sea, the waves, the spray and, of course, the gulls, which are an important aspect of this picture.  Now, if you look carefully (and you don’t have to look too closely), the waves are smashing against a structure at the end of the breakwater at what would have been the entrance to the port when it was a working harbour.  I tried a few years ago to find some reference to what the structure was but to no avail although I’m sure that if I search further, I’ll come across some reference to it.  I can only assume that it must have housed people who observed the boats entering and exiting the harbour.

At any rate, during the decade that I’ve been passing by, it has never been occupied although the breakwater serves as a perfect position for anglers who seem to sit there for days on end thinking what to write in their doctoral theses in philosophy.  And over the years, I’ve photographed it from several different angles and distances, on calm days and in storms because it always presents a different facet to its character.

 

 

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Then, passing by one morning about a year ago, I noticed something odd.  

Rough morning. December 2016

Something was different but initially I couldn’t quite figure out what. Then I noticed that the rear wall of the structure, the wall that faced the sea and which received the most violent pounding from the elements, had collapsed.  It simply was no longer there.  On walking by, you could see the horizon through the opening where, presumably, a door had once hung.  

Port breakwater 12:11:2016

Well, it had stood for 80 years and been pummelled many times and, as happens with the passage of time; withstanding repeated thrashings was impossible in the end.  Nevertheless, the rest of the structure remained standing and although the authorities had marked off the area as potentially dangerous if not inherently lethal, the fishermen continued to philosophise, and/or be wrapped up in reveries … 

Port breakwater 18:11:2016

Port breakwater 1

…  or doing whatever else deemed to be essential.

Port breakwater

So when I reached the sea last Wednesday, I had a feeling of what Yogi Berra, the American baseball player of yore, might have said:  “It’s déjà vu all over again”.  Except that this time, it was a re-view and there was nothing to view in the vu!  It had simply collapsed.  It was, to paraphrase from Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch, an “ex-view”.

Put very simply, it was no longer there.  Now, not only could I see the horizon when I looked through but I could see an unbroken horizon.

All gone!

 

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But changes to physical structures are not the only things to observe as you walk the same route on a fairly regular basis.  A few years ago, I came across this animated pair playing backgammon, known locally as “shesh-besh”.  It’s the sort of game which, if you haven’t been brought up to appreciate its intricacies as a child, you will never quite get it.  Afficionados usually play it at a speed that makes it difficult to follow what’s going on and, as the pair illustrate, can result in great excitement.

Sheshbesh 2014

Then a couple of weeks ago, I came across this pair.  Initially, I photographed them from the opposite side and then the guy on the left of the picture “invited” me to take them at play.  They didn’t exactly pose and they were engrossed in what they were doing but they knew I was there.  Then when I uploaded the day’s images, I thought that he looked fairly familiar and went back discovered that it was one and the same person.

Sheshbesh 1

And then looking further, I came to the conclusion that this site should be renamed shesh-besh corner.

Sheshbesh

And a similar thing happened when, on Friday, after I had photographed the first images of the collapsed structure in the port and walked on through the Friday morning farmers’ market, I came across this face — and, yes, yet again, discovered that it had appealed to me a few years ago, albeit with a hat—and what looked like a haircut— then.

Face at the Port

 

Tel Aviv

 

Of course, there were some other worthwhile phenomena as well to focus on in the course of the past 10 days or so, such as these to sailing boats that seemed to be on a collision course from my vantage point but which missed one another probably with 2 or 3 m to spare.

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Then, just adjacent to the Farmers’ Market, I came across this vehicle, used for pumping waste from sewage tanks, a malodorous means of making a living if ever there was one.  Why was it parked where it was parked and why was it driverless?

Sewage

Then the answer presented itself to all and sundry.  It was a Friday morning and of course all the driver had been doing at the time was buying flowers for Shabbat!  To which she-who-must-be-obeyed commented: “And that wasn’t enough of a hint for you?” as I once more neglected to buy weekend flowers for perhaps the 2,500th time in 51 years of married life!

Sewage 1

And there were other things, too.

The image of the rusting street lamp with the chimney of the Reading Power Station in the background prompted the caption that accompanies it.

Reading Lamp

A Reading Lamp???

Then there’s the image of the self-conscious hydrant just off Hayarqon Street.

Shy Hydrant

Finally, on Friday’s walk, an exercise class at the port in full view of everyone, including the photographer.

Gymnastics

And a final finally (really, this time). I received this video clip from my daughters this morning.  The pianist in the picture, Iddo Bar-Shai, will be performing Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in E flat Major with the 94-year old Menahem Pressler and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra on this Wednesday night.  Believe it or not, he first of all needed to practise and perform for the Waterman daughters and granddaughters to get in the groove, as it were.  Breathing is not his forte while playing piano. Makes a change though from Mozart and Haydn, Chopin and Couperin in European concert halls!

Have a lovely week ahead!

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Parking, demolition and body art

Prologue:

There was an old fella from Dublin
Whose mind was both fertile and bubblin’
When he decided to snap
And write some more pap
His output, though troublin’ , was doublin’ 

(FYI: Initially, I used a different word in the last position of the penultimate line.  However, this was overruled (unjustly, in my innocent opinion) by the household censorship board.  And for those of you who might be confused, for just this once, Limerick bests Dublin)

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Last Wednesday, we were awoken at 6 in the morning to the sound of loud hooting from some vehicle in the street.  It wasn’t just a toot but a rather violent and vehement hoooooooot followed by several short toots followed by another long hoot.  I looked at my phone to check the date thinking that I might have overslept until September 2018  and was hearing the shofar being blown.  However, it wasn’t Jewish New Year all over again or an invasion by a parliament of owls either (yes, that is the collective term!) but something much more mundane than that.

There is a garbage collection three times a week—on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The garbage truck usually turns up around 6, on some days a little earlier, on others  later.  However, the wheelie bins are moved out into the street for collection sometimes as early as 04.30, so the interference to your night’s sleep can start in what seems and is the middle of the night.  

There’s nothing unusual in this, of course.  Many years ago when we were living in Los Angeles and the apartment house was, as the song says, made out of ticky-tacky, the garbage truck used to sidle up and stop outside our bedroom window while the whole house shook. In retrospect, that should have prepared us for the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, which occurred at 6:00:41 on the morning of February 9. This totally unanticipated thrust earthquake had a moment magnitude (a scale which has largely replaced the Richter scale) of between 6.5 and 6.7 (so it wasn’t enormous) with a strong ground motion duration of about 12 seconds.  But although in terms of energy, it wasn’t an enormous quake, it was destructive and had a maximum Mercalli Index of XI, and was thus classified as Extreme. (The Mercalli intensity scale is used for measuring the intensity of an earthquake and measures the effects of an earthquake.)   At the time, I remember quite clearly, I thought the world might be coming to an end, especially as the swimming pool in the middle of the apartment complex emptied its contents directly into the supervisor’s apartment as he opened the door to get out.

Ever since I had spent three frustrating years as a Geology student at Trinity College Dublin and had read about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and Tokyo in 1923 as well as others, I had always had a yen to experience one.  Having experienced just one, I have no desire whatsoever to encounter another, for when terra firma is no longer firma, it provided one of the scariest moments of our lives.

Anyway, to return to garbage collection in Tel Aviv … 

Ever since replacing the subterranean infrastructure on the main street outside the house began and the end of January, both parking (on-street and off-street) and garbage collection have been seriously disrupted so that people returning home late at night pay even less attention to the no parking signs than usual and will park their cars anywhere in the hope that they can remove them before the authorities are up and about the following morning.  Last Wednesday morning, the hooting involved a garbage truck that couldn’t make a right turn from into Stricker Street because the workers had sealed off the street further to the east and someone had parked a rather large car on a corner.

Shlomtzion, corner Stricker

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Now, you may remember that I’m rather keen on the songs of Tom Lehrer.  They were written and sung over half a century ago, though many are still relevant to today’s mad world.  So, here I was in Tel Aviv in 2017 and I was reminded of the introduction to  “Alma”, a song that concerns an obituary.  

Quoting Lehrer: “Last December 13th, there appeared in the newspapers the juiciest, spiciest, raciest obituary it has ever been my pleasure to read. It was that of a lady named Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel, who had, in her lifetime, managed to acquire as lovers practically all of the top creative men in central Europe. And, among these lovers, who were listed in the obituary, by the way, which is what made it so interesting, there were three whom she went so far as to marry … ” 

So, you may well ask, what might be the possible connection between the obituary of an 85-year old woman who passed away in 1964 and a car illegally parked on a corner in Tel Aviv?  Well, when I went down to take a photograph of the situation, I discovered that pinned to the windscreen of the car was a note to the hapless parker, written in some of the juiciest, spiciest, raciest Hebrew it has ever been my pleasure to read.

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For those of you literate in the Holy Tongue, the gratification and satisfaction is immediately clear.  For those less fortunate, the letter contains words and phrases such as “wild animal”, “neighbour with a walking aid”, “dying”, “check your wheels and body work every morning”, “we have [various means] for dealing with the likes of you”, “[You are] garbage”, &c., &c.  I have an idea which of the neighbours might have written this juicy warning but I am not at liberty to hazard this guess in public!

The past week has been a mixed week.  Familywise, whereas last week brought a brith milah, and the previous week the birth that brought forth the brith, this week presented us with a funeral.  But that’s the way of the world.  Perhaps next week will give us a marriage or an engagement.  Who knows?

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv.  It was early evening and as I walked along the street, I came across a building at #58 that looked as if it had been razed to the ground only a few hours before.  Not being a native Tel Avian, I really didn’t know what the building had been but on asking and then investigating, I discovered that it had been a cinema.  It had been built in 1937, was apparently well used by residents and it became an architectural icon on what was once the city’s main shopping and entertainment drag.  Forsaken in the 1980s as part of the migration of cinemas to shopping malls and the like, in the 1990s it became a pioneering nightclub attracting top DJs from around the world.

 

Allenby cinema

Although the building was listed for preservation, its listing grade was low so that the developers, seemingly, would have had quite a free hand in its redevelopment.  Although it had been expected that the façade would be preserved, it was obviously decided that it would be better to demolish completely and start anew.  

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Compliments of Google Street View

A week after I took the first photograph, the bulldozers were in action and a week later, Thursday of this week, it was almost completely gone.  

 

Cinema Allenby

Cinema Allenby 1

Sic transit gloria mundi!

I resolved, on seeing this, that the time has finally come for me to augment my daily walks through North Tel Aviv and I started last week.  This week, I decided to walk south along the east side of Allenby Street from the junction with Pinsker Street to Levinsky Market, a distance of about 2 km. As a result, I came to the conclusion that I need to do this again at a more leisurely pace and on the other side of the street, too, because, in understatement, there’s quite a bit of activity.

Percussion with a difference

The impromptu percussionist—she nose, you know

On the same side of the street as the impromptu percussionist above, there is what looks like an abandoned synagogue, the Moshav Zqenim at #86 Allenby.  Although it looks abandoned or at least in a state of gross disrepair, there are two panels, one on either side of the entrance, each of which contains 12 square ceramic tiles. The one on the left depicts the 12 tribes and that on the right, the 12 months of the Hebrew calendar.  Somehow, the well-preserved tiles and the crumbling masonry don’t appear to sit too well together but there they are.

Moshav Zkenim SynagogueTribesMonths

Further along, on one of the street benches, I had a thought that there but for the grace of God go I.  Dietician on Monday morning!

There but for the grace of God go I

And then, in one of the shop windows that I caught in my peripheral vision and what I thought were kiddies’ jackets.  On second look I realised that they were, in fact, waistcoats for doggies.  Well, I suppose winter is approaching and naked dogs feel the cold, too.

Dog jackets

Continuing on, I encountered one of my bugbears, misspelled signs.  It’s bad enough when the errors appear on a menu or even on a street sign when the writing is relatively small.  But here, it’s writ big.  I don’t think that General Edmund (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo (!!!) and of Felixstowe in the County of Suffolk) would have been all that pleased!

Alenby

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I hadn’t expected to find a wig shop on Allenby Street.  The owner wasn’t entirely pleased that I was sizing up his shop to take a photograph.  However, as soon as I explained to him that I wasn’t the least bit interested in him at all (he was inside the shop) but only wanted a picture of his wares, he very kindly stepped into the street, cigarette in one hand and cellphone in the other and cleared the way for me.

Wigs

Heading further south, hanging outside a shop selling cleaning materials was this bunch of loofahs. One doesn’t see these too often any more but they used to be commonly used many years ago.  A loofah the fruit section of a member of the cucumber family, Luffa aegyptiaca, which when allowed to mature, is used as a bath or kitchen sponge after it has been processed to remove everything but the network of xylem fibres and which when dried out on the vine can be used as a wonderful body scrub.  Perhaps they are more appropriate to a time in which people took baths rather than showers.

Loofahs

No far away was a brush shop.  Perhaps “shop” is too grand a term for it as it looked more like a dark storage space.  But if the window was anything to go buy, it sells brushes and brooms of just about any and every kind.  And judging by the cut of the clients walking in and out, it is obviously one of the places in Tel Aviv to come to when you’re looking for anything from a toothbrush to a artist’s paintbrush to an old-fashioned broom.

Brushes

Then, on the same street, there were several shops that seemed to specialise in beans and lentils and another selling enough chilli peppers to burn out the innards of an army.

Beans & LentilsBeans & Lentils 1

Spicy

Heading back towards Rothschild Boulevard, I took the almost unavoidable picture of [yet another] hydrant — only this time, beside  it, a diagram explaining to passers-by what it is.  Really!

Hydrant

Waiting for the #24 bus home, an arm passed by the lens of the camera and I thought to myself: “What a novel way to remember where you had been on holiday!”  However, it only added to my confusion and reservations about tattoos and other forms of body art in general.  I really don’t get it!

Remembering holidays

Alighting the bus two stops before home to buy some fish for dinner, I passed what has now become a common sight — a nail shop, with nail filer and painter and nailee present …

Nails

… and then, outside, I took a self-portrait.

Yours truly

I made it to the fishmonger where I took a portrait of dinner before they had become dinner.

Supper?

And then I came home to start work on my annual venture — a family calendar.  I’ve been doing these for about a decade now.  I choose 14 pictures that I’ve taken in the previous year (12 months, front and back covers), add in Israeli, Jewish and UK holidays, birthdays and anniversaries of family members, upload it all to an Apple website, where, miraculously printed in the Czech Republic, about 10 days later, the calendars arrive for distribution.  I usually do a few non-family variants as well.

This year’s version (2018) will be done over the weekend and will include “Skyward”, an invention mine using one of the many applications available to people with little better to do with their time.

Skyward — Image Tricks art

Have a really lovely week ahead.

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A Light unto the Nations?

Well, it seems that winter is on its way.  No, we haven’t put on our sweaters and raincoats yet — or even checked our umbrellas to see if they work.  However, it has rained a couple of times and our five months of sand and dust as they dig up our street and turn its infrastructure into something fitting for the 21st century has turned into mud, with all the consequences of what that means across the living room floor.  But the sign that winter is here is not so much the rain and the mud as the appearance of the cormorants on the topmost branches of the trees that skirt the Yarqon stream.  It was only at the weekend that I mentioned that they hadn’t parked themselves yet and then yesterday morning, there they were on their annual perches.  

Cormorants

Well, there were just three representatives, a sort of search party, but they’ll soon be around as force to be reckoned with, as they are every year.

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It’s time, I guess, for a few more photographs from the streets of Tel Aviv over the past week and a bit.  Let’s start with one that reminded me of a story my late father-in-law was fond of telling.  For over 40 years, he and his brother had a dental surgery at 8 Upper O’Connell Street in Dublin and over the years all sorts of people came in and went out of the surgery, usually leaving with less in their head than they had when they went in, as those were the days when conservative dentistry was less predominant than it is today.  Extractions were the order of the day.  

He told one story of a woman who came into the surgery making what seemed to be grunting sounds; at any rate, she found it difficult to speak and make herself understood.  She kept on pointing to her mouth, which is what people sometimes do when they enter a place where a dentist treats patients.  When finally seated in the dentist’s famous reclining chair, it turned out that she had put her keys in her mouth while she groped for something in her handbag and the keyring had become lodged between two teeth and she was unable to extract it, hence the visit to the dentist.  And at Tel Aviv Port the other morning, as I passed along one of the car parks, it looked as if the accident might be about to be repeated.

Keys & Teeth

Not long before this, on my way through the park, I noticed these two egrets in flight.  As I normally only take one camera with a single lens with me when I go walking, I only had a 35mm prime (non-zoom) lens on the camera, not the most appropriate one for taking a shot of two rapidly flying avian creatures.  But nothing ventured, nothing gained.  So I followed them, took a couple of shots and this was the result.

Egrets in flight

In between these two photos, this one is of the lamps that adorn the promenade at T-A port and which always seem to me to resemble some sort of mantis, and which I have always found attractive.

3 Port lamps

And as what passes for winter in this part of the world approaches, there are all sorts of activities that mark the seasons.  The cafés and restaurants enclose their al fresco areas (they did this a few weeks ago) and they also apply waterproofing to their roofs.  The picture below might in some way be reminiscent of 9/11 but is just a coincidental accident of angle and juxtaposition.  The flame, however, is real.

Up in flames

And, of course, there are also other things of note as you walk through the port.  This graceful beastie came jogging past me — matching shorts and top, sox and shoes — one day last week but I never did get to see what was on the other side.

Rear jogger

Then, two days later, luck being what it is, she came trotting along in the opposite direction and I saw what I had missed. (On the third crossing, two days later, there was a change of outfit.)

Front jogger

And she somehow reminded me of a Bird of Paradise flower.

Bird of paradise 1

By the time I got back home, I began to understand why a manhole is called a manhole.  As I walked along the street, I was sure that I kept seeing a head bobbing up and down showing itself just above the ditch that had been dug earlier that morning and I was beginning to wonder whether I was going a little, well, you know, s*n*l*.  But no, a manhole is just that — a manhole.

Man in manhole

The following day, I changed my route and decided that the streets were more likely to yield something of value than the park and port.  And as I walked south along the east side of Ibn Gvirol Street, I came across these three guys sitting on a wall, enjoying their coffee out of paper cups (how can they?).  They all work in the local fishmonger in the shop next to the wall on which they were sitting.  David, on the right, deals directly with the customers and has been a subject of mine more than once in the past couple of years.  The one on the left spends most of his time cleaning the fish while the one in the middle apparently takes them out of the styrofoam boxes in which they arrive at the shop but and does their initial preparation, whatever that might involve.  He’s a backroom boy.  Neither of the two on the left were especially euphoric that I was capturing their likenesses; the one in the middle was particularly disgruntled.  He claimed that he had seen me photographing people before all over the city and reeled off a list of street and neighbourhood names where he had seen me in action, except that I had never been in as much as a single one of the places he was naming.  Tel Aviv, apparently, must be teeming with paparazzi and other photographers.  However, by this time, the shots had already been taken, so I was happy to move on. 

Fishmonger

Further south, I passed a shoe repairer.  If an earlier image in this post reminded me of my father-in-law, then this one reminded me of my dad, a highly skilled craftsman in his youth.  He was applying polish to a pair of shoes that I presume he had just repaired, something to my dad’s annoyance, I never really learned to do, at least regularly. 

Shoeshiner

A little farther south, I chanced on Eliyahu Tziffer.  Eliyahu had carefully laid out his wares on a street bench and was hoping for takers.  I had a look and saw the they were mostly pamphlets “explaining” biblical stories, translations of various works — stories and the like — into Hebrew and other various bibs and linguistic bobs.  I asked him and he confirmed that all the work was his own and also inquired as to whether perhaps he is or had been a editor or translator.  He seemed somewhat taken aback by the naïveté of my question and told me proudly that he was a computer programmer, so I suppose that people who spend all their time with codes need some form of escapism, too.  One of the pamphlets interested me because it comprised jokes that he had translated into Hebrew and I wondered how the humour(s) they represented might have been lost in translation, even the ones that might have found their way in Hebrew from Yiddish via English.  

Eliyahu TzifferEliyahu Tziffer 1

Arriving at Rabin Square, I spied this unhappy scene and imagined that someone rather young must have been extremely upset when a parent informed him that there was nothing that could be done because s/he wasn’t about to get her/his feet wet in order to extricate something as replaceable as a ball.  

Ball out of bounds

And being at Rabin Square reminded me that this week we mark the 22nd anniversary of the assassination—the politically motivated murder—of the Israeli Prime Minister about 100 meters from here.  As usual, the schools and universities mark this tragic event will all sorts of different messages.  However, I always feel that there’s an elephant in the square and that they miss the central point, which is, of course, very simple.  In a democracy, however much you disagree with a government’s policy, you don’t go around murdering the Prime Minister.  That’s it.  C’est tout.  There shouldn’t be anything more to say.

Wine store opening hours

Turning from Rabin Square into Frishman Street, I came across the window of a wine shop (it used to be a specialist olive oil shop, I think).  What struck me was less the list of different types of wine available in store and more the opening hours. One can only assume that during the hours the shop isn’t open that the proprietors were recovering from massive hangovers (is is it hangsover?)

Later in the week, it was back to the park and port.  I saw this scene with some incredulity. A bottle of Bushmills with something left in the bottle.  Hardly possible, I thought and then I looked again and thought to myself that notwithstanding the early morning light conditions in the park that in all my years looking at and drinking this stuff, I had never seen Bushmills with a greenish tinge.  Could this, in fact, have been “recycled” Bushmills?  (and this, of course, reminded me of an old Irish joke).

Two Irishmen Seán and Paddy, who had been the best of friends for many years, agreed that when one died, the other would spill the contents of a bottle of fine Irish whiskey over the grave of his recently departed friend.
As fate would have it, Seán became very ill — terminally so — and upon hearing of his friend’s illness, Paddy came to visit one last time.
“Seán, can you hear me?” asked Paddy.
Faintly, Seán replied, “Yes, Paddy, I can.”
Bashfully, Paddy started, “Do you remember our pact, Seán?”
“Yes, of course I do, Paddy” said a very faint voice.
“And you’ll also remember that I was to pour the contents of a bottle of fine old whiskey, which we have been saving for nearly 30 years now, over your grave,“ said Paddy.
“Yes, Paddy, I do.” came the whisper.
“It’s a very old bottle now, you know”, said Paddy.
“And what are you gettin’ at, Paddy?” asked Seán, suddenly his strength regained.
“Well, Seán, it’s like this.  When I pour the whiskey over your grave, would ye mind if I filter it through my kidneys first?”

Bushmills

Back in the port, I photographed these two cats beside a derelict building and thought to myself what a difference a couple of days can make to the external décor.

Difference a day makes 1

Difference a day makes

And then on my way home, I was reminded of the John Cleese/Michael Palin “Dead Parrot” sketch from Monty Python.  Only here, it’s not an ex-parrot.  This is an ex-fan, perhaps one who was once crazy about Lance Armstrong or Justin Gatlin.  Who knows?

An ex-fan

An ex-fan

And while of the subject of sport, this poster below has just gone up at bus stops all over the city and probably all over the country, too, as far as I am aware.  Its message is not to drive if you’ve been drinking, which is very good advice, indeed.  The face of the young man looked familiar but as I looked at the poster again, my editorial brain said something was wrong.  Nico Rosberg, the 2016 Formula One Driving Champion has morphed in the Hebrew version into Nico Rosenberg.  Oh well, this is Israel, isn’t it?  I wrote to MEMSI (the Israel Automobile and Touring Club), which sponsors the ad, pointing out their editorial oversight and as expected, there has been and never will be any response.

Rosberg Rosenberg

And on the way home, I spotted this.  People say that there is often a remarkable resemblance between dogs and their owners.  Here, the likeness is all in the respective headgear!

Matching hats

And, penultimately, this:  It’s been a funny year politically. Post facto, learned scholars and intelligent news media have been trying to explain to us why it happened.

The first eruption was in mid-2016 when a clean Eton- and Oxford-educated lad decided to placate some of the more obstreperous members of his Conservative Party, commonly known as Eurosceptics (more accurately Europhobes or Euroabominators.).  In the event, 51.9% of British voters chose to leave the EU on a turnout of 72.2%, so three out of eight British citizens entitled to vote chose to leave.  An overwhelming majority indeed but the cause of great joy among the Euroabominators and when the they got around to finding a quick replacement for the luckless and forlorn Mr. Cameron, the woman interpreted the result with the phrase “Brexit means Brexit”, an unfortunate choice of words that has also descended into history as a declaration of non-leadership (but what to expect from a geographer with a second-class degree?)  A win for the nationalists and the populists there, I guess.

Then the Americans trumped the British, with an election that yielded a right-wing populist winner who received a stunning 46.1% of the popular vote to the 48.2% given to the principal loser and who is determined to make America great again by alienating as many of its allies as he can in his [first???] four years in office.

Even in France, which elected Macron, Le Pen and her nationalist supporters gave him a good run for his money.  Germany lurched to the right as well in its recent election; Poland has been on the starboard side for several years; Austria looks likely to have a coalition that will include a party not quite rid of its Nazi past.  The Hungarian Prime Minister, a man who supports the idea of an “illiberal democracy” engaged some months ago in a virulent campaign to discredit George Soros in its attempt to stifle, if not close down, the Central European University, which Soros—of whom I am not all that enamoured—founded and of which he is main benefactor.  

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Don’t let Soros have the last laugh

 

So imagine my dismay and despair when the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Israel (one and the same individual) upbraided the Israeli ambassador to Hungary after he had complained to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry about the antisemitic nature of the campaign against Soros. Mr. Netanyahu, it seems, didn’t want to upset his hosts on the occasion of his upcoming state visit to Hungary last summer.  

All of this right-wing lurch is rather scary, especially if you’re Jewish and especially when Bibi increasingly regards himself, if not quite King of all the Jews, then their unelected  and sole spokesman.  

In relation to all this, Israel used to regard itself as “A Light unto the Nations”, a shining of example of a liberal democracy, which it once was (or at least aspired to be—sort of).  So when I was walking south along the north end of Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv early last week, I was amused by the sign on the ATM (pictured below) outside the Post Office.  Here, I thought, is Israel as “A Light unto the Nations”, à la 2017.  Who needs your funny money, your $$$, your £££, your €€€, when we’ve got a strong ₪₪₪ of our own?  Let’s make them feel awkward; let’s see how they grub around looking for local currency with which to buy their coffees and croissants without access to an ATM!  

A light unto the nations

Well, isn’t that the nationalist, the isolationist, the populist point of view?  And as there is an old-fashioned informal definition of “a card” as “a funny or strange person”, well, we have many of them in the Knesset here just as other states have in their respective parliaments!  But enough of all this; I get the feeling that perhaps I am just being a little too cynical for comfort once more, too sardonic for my own good.  

Finally, I occasionally get a call asking me if I’m available for a photo-shoot.  When it’s in the family, the call usually comes a few hours before they need the photo, and when it’s done, “could you possibly edit it and send it back to us — immediately?”  So here’s yesterday’s picture, which appeared in the online edition of HaAretz newspaper today.

Carmels

The Carmel Quartet. October 2017

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