I missed the news last Monday. What with the World Cup and what generally gets reported and doesn’t get reported on Israeli news bulletins, I didn’t find out about the exit from the Cabinet of the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union until the following day, when I was informed by a Dutch friend of its happening. The Brits, as often than not, will refer to a person’s class before reporting about him just as in this part of the world people get popped into some religious group or another, like: “Three children drowned on Israel’s beaches this weekend, two Jews and one Muslim”, as if that were of any importance. So, in keeping with tradition, Mr. Davis, a Conservative of working class origins, relatively sane, but for his sins, a true believer in the benefits of Britain leaving the European Union whatever the cost—hard Brexit—did the right thing and resigned from the government rather than go along with the Prime Minister’s ideas for a “soft[er] Brexit”. A minister resigning from government over an issue on which s/he strongly believes is fairly standard practice in civilised countries but is an event almost unheard of in Israel.
Mr. Davis, once described by a Conservative colleague who preferred to remain anonymous as “the only man I know who can swagger while sitting down”, was followed the next day by his non-ideologue colleague, the now ex-Foreign Secretary, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a.k.a. Boris to one and all, Al to family & friends, and Kerfuffle just to me, who could hardly have stayed in once Mr. Davis had gone, given that he fancies himself as a future Prime Minister—but only after the Brexit episode has terminated. Boris, a person for whom the word “opportunist” must surely have been invented, now finds himself freed of any responsibility to anything or anyone but himself (so what’s new?), leaving the politics of the United Kingdom well and truly—in gross understatement—in a shambles, as if it hadn’t been before. As one pundit put it at the beginning of last week, “The trophy might be coming back to England but there’ll be no cabinet for it”. Well, as we now know, that’s didn’t happen either so the absence of a cabinet wouldn;t have been noticed.
And then suddenly, I was reminded of a song by Noël Coward that sort of sums up the whole messy situation and I’ve included the lyrics for those of you hard of hearing or otherwise unable to follow Mr. Coward’s patter.
And related to Brexit was the state visit of the President of the United States to the United Kingdom. For the past two years, Trump has expressed his opinion that Brexit is a great thing, something that should be vigorously supported as a precursor to the eventual dismemberment of the European Union.
On his visit, he gave an extraordinary interview to the Sun newspaper, owned by one Rupert Murdoch, an intervention in which he said that Theresa May ignored his advice by opting for a soft Brexit strategy and warning her that any attempts to maintain close ties with the EU would make a rewarding trade deal between the United States and the United Kingdom very improbable, stating that “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.” So, he told her she should sue the EU and then on Sunday, prior to meeting his Putin in Helsinki, he declared that his highly awkward meeting with NATO last week was a “great summit” and then described the European Union as a “foe”, statements that only suggest (suggest, mind you) that Trump is not only working with Putin to achieve the dismemberment of the EU but is actually working for him.
I look forward to the continuation of Mr. Mueller’s good work (sorry, witch hunt for fake news).
And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, he virtually gave Boris Johnson his blessing. “I have a lot of respect for Boris … He obviously likes me [that’s very important to The Donald (SW)] and says very good things about me [that’s even more important (SW)] … I am just saying I think he would be a great Prime Minister. I think he’s got what it takes.” At least he dumped Farage for Boris!
So one former narcissistic and bullying TV star with an unconventional hairstyle, one who famed for his lax preparation prior to meetings, leading on more than one occasion to diplomatic blunders, endorses another—and on the other’s home ground, as it were. That’s pretty incredible, except for the fact that it happened.
They are quite different, of course. Boris likes to quote from the poetry of Ancient Greece, a fact that would not make many inroads into the brain of a golf-playing real estate top banana not known as a bibliophile. Quoting Greek poetry obviously prepares him more than adequately for the job of leading his country in the 21st century—or it might if he were negotiating Greece’s exit from the EU. Another difference between Trump and Boris is that whereas the former makes judgments and opinions based on his sixth sense, Boris has schemed for years about how to wheedle his way into becoming Prime Minister.
I can’t imagine that the championing of his cause by Trump will do him much good however, as the American President is apparently not a widely liked figure in Britain, as the protests to his recent visit there made quite clear to everyone except Mr. Trump himself who believes, intuitively, that the British people love him and in a world of fake news, all that matters is what Mr. Trump thinks and feels not the facts.
I could go on and on about these things or about the World Cup or Wimbledon but I’ll leave it at that. In the last post, I offered some photographs that had appeared in the blog and that I thought might be worth posting again accomanied by some short comments.
Almost 52 (!!!) years ago, aged 21 apiece, we had a honeymoon in the West of Ireland. Recently graduated with a B.A. in Geography from Trinity College Dublin and armed with my first proper camera (a Canon Rangefinder, which replaced my Kodak Instamatic), we set off from Dublin for Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal and back, all in the space of a week. As a geographer, I thought I was supposed to keep my eyes open and observe the landscape—as well as on my newly wedded spouse—and photograph things that seemed of interest. Thus, the two photographs that follow, which demonstrate the difference between the traditional cottages in the east of the country and those in the west. The differences are quite stark and are there to be seen with hipped roofs prevalent in the east and gable-ended stone dwellings in the west.
Around the same time although it could be three or four years later (I cannot find the transparency on which I would have noted the details and when I scanned it, I neglected to write them down) nor can I remember the location, I photographed the remains of a tree trunk. I suppose that what attracted my eye to this scene was that I saw three men having what I could only describe as a deep discussion about some important issue of the day. Looking at it again half a century later, it might be three men discussing the outcome or the prospects for the World Cup Final after emerging from the shower at the swimming pool. Either way, it doesn’t resemble a tree very much.
Almost 11 years ago, I took a photography course to familiarise myself with digital cameras. I had paid in advance for seven “field days” and seven evenings of instruction in a studio. As we’d been away, I’d missed the first studio class earlier in the week so I caught up with the group on a Friday morning at the Suzanne Dallal Centre in South Tel Aviv, using a camera I had borrowed from my daughter Tami—I didn’t have a decent one at the time—and had no idea what was expected of me this particular morning. I think I had expected to have been given specific instructions and then follow them. Instead, the meeting went something like this:
Itzik Canetti (The Instructor): Off you go to photograph.
I: But what should I photograph?
Itzik: Whatever you see that appeals to you.
I: But of what? And where?
Itzik: Whatever you see that appeals to you. And if you encounter a problem in the next three hours, well, I’m here to help
I (thinking): And I’ve paid this guy money for this!!!
Itzik Canetti is a fine photographer and wonderful person but I thought there was something absolutely screwy with his didactic and pedagogic skills! (I didn’t realize then how wrong I was.) How on earth was I supposed to know what to do, where to go and how to do it?
But I had been given an assignment and had three hours to complete it, and with no desire to drop out on the first day though I must say that I felt somewhat cheated, off I went — without a clue as to what I was doing and why!
The first picture I took on this assigment was the one that appears below.
I like symmetry and a few weeks before I started the course I’ve just referred to, I spent a weekend with my other daughter Shuli in the Loire Valley. One of the places we visited was Château de Villandry near Tours. This was symmetry gone mad, something to be seen to be believed. So I saw — and photographed with the little Pentax Optio camera that I had at the time.
Part of the expectations at the same introductory course in 2007 was that we would get used to the idea of taking lots of photographs close to home during the week then choose half a dozen or so to bring to the studio in midweek and have them rubbished by your colleagues on the course. This was when I started to walk mornings through the Yarqon Park to Tel Aviv Port.
I watched this guy for some time on the beach near Tel Aviv Port holding the fish (from where he caught it, I have no idea because in 11 years taking photos in the same area, I’ve seen lots of anglers but less than half a dozen catches. He would hold the fish so that the egret could see it. The bird would take four or five steps in the direction of the fish and the man and then retreat. I watched this game play out eight or nine times until the egret finally lunged and got what it wanted all along. When the game was over, the guy spotted me and to say that he was unhappy that I had shot him and the bird was gross understatement. But like the egret, I had got what I wanted.
And around the same time, I took this informal portrait at Tel Aviv Port.
Street photography involves lots of informal portraiture. On a field trip in Tel Aviv some years ago, I spotted this couple having an intense discussion. One was seated and the other reclining on the footpath in central Tel Aviv and only had eyes and ears for one another. I have no idea whatsoever what they were talking about, but whatever it was , it was serious. I thought it made an interesting photograph.
There’s no real need to explain what drew my eyes to the next picture. I had spotted the gaudily coloured balloons from some distance but it was only when I drew close that I noticed that they were attached to the young woman who had them for sale.
On a trip to Andalucia and Portugal a decade ago, we visited Sagres in Portugal, the supposed site of the Nautical School established by Prince Henry the Navigator and from which he initiated the Portuguese “Great Age of Discovery”. I say “supposed” because the promontory of Sagres was hardly a place from which such a major event would start and the centre of Henry’s operations was further east along the Algarve coast. While walking around this spectacular site, my eye was drawn to a small detail in one of the fields around about and which yielded this lovely image.
And on that same trip, in Cordoba, there was this picture of a nun taking in the day’s provisions at a convent.
In my last post, I included one image of a ménage-à-trois from a footpath in Belsize Park in London (snails). This time, I give you one taken while walking down Ibn Gvirol Street, a major north-south drag in Tel Aviv.
And just for a moment to return to our own street in Tel Aviv. Work began on the street infrastructure on May 29 2017 and finished—or so we thought—about a year later. All that was missing was a visit from the Israel Eelctric Corporation to finish their job of erecting new street lights, connecting them to the new underground cables and removing the overhead cables that blight the street. The IEC, however, is a law unto itself and two months after the contarctors who had worked on the street for a year had left, they turned up to complete the job so that the contractor can get on with the final piece of work, which is laying a new surface the length of the street.
I watched them work over the two days they were outside our house and while we sweltered with no electricity (no air/con, no fans, no elevator) for eight hours each time. The younger workers did the dangerous work while an older guy sat himself on a chair and alternately barked at the guys up at the top and at people who deigned to call him on his cellphone while he kept himself well hydrated.
Finally, while going through my older photos, I couldn’t resist this one that I took in the Italian resort of Como a few years ago. It’s an in-joke (Jewish Israeli) so I’m not sure whether anyone unfamiliar with the politics of religion in Israel would understand it but if you don’t and would like to know what’s amusing, drop me a line and I’ll try to explain. It’s not too difficult to fathom that the road sign is a warning that there are humps (“sleeping policemen”) up the road, However, when I read the caption under the graphic, something else came to mind.