What had been until about six months ago a fairly regular weekly blog has become something that is now intermittent at best. For those of you familiar with the continuing saga of the Waterman household over this period you’re probably aware that things have not been exactly—in gross understatement—hunky-dory. Repeated hospitalisations, hospital visits and traipsing between home and hospital—as well as clinics and infirmaries of one kind or another—seem to have replaced blogging as the norm, and the most recent event in the series was the most worrisome, even alarming. Notwithstanding everything, the lady is now home again and adjusting to life at home, something which we might take for granted and think shouldn’t be a problem but it is and it’s taking some time to adapt. As per usual a smile has reappeared and the jokes are returning but it’s taking longer than usual. Slow progress is what we have been told to expect with ups and downs along the route and that’s the way it appears to be.
Without my realising it, what has happened over the last couple of years, is that I have become a principal carer, something that I have had to learn on the job and without any professional training. Around the beginning of this year, I came to realise that our children had seen the picture more clearly than me and that it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage this job on my own and that I needed help. And thus, during the most recent hospitalisation, last week, after having had temporary help for two months, our permanent carer has arrived, all the way from the Philippines. She is a 33-year old mother of two who, along with her husband, has made the sacrifice to leave her family for four years to work in Israel as a caregiver so that her children can be offered a better life. I found this explanation very moving, to say the least, but not nearly as moving as the welcome that Vivien received from her when she arrived home from hospital the other day.
In addition to the adverse effect on the continuity of this blog, my photography has been affected in that getting out and about in the mornings has been difficult. However, three weeks ago, I received a treat in that I was able to travel to London for some rest and recreation, a total of seven days, after 147 days in which I had not been outside of Tel Aviv, and most of that time at home. I arrived in London on a Tuesday evening exhausted — but as I had volunteered a staff seminar in Haifa on the Thursday of the week following, two days after I was due to arrive home, there was work to do. And so it turned out that what I had been unable to accomplish at home in Tel Aviv over five months, I managed to complete in London in 2½ days.
The Wednesday evening, the day after I arrived in London, a good friend organised (goodness only knows how) a ticket for a concert at the Barbican Hall, where Simon Rattle conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Mahler’s 5th Symphony. It was amazing and had I not been so completely shattered, it would have been more amazing still. The seat that I was allocated could not really have been better and the performance itself better still. I always feel for the trumpeter who opens this masterpiece as he is so exposed but, as always, it was faultless. What was wonderful to see, after the conclusion of the performance, was the way in which Rattle bounded up to the principal horn (who has amazing solos throughout the piece), the trumpeter and the harpist (who has a most beautiful solo in the Adagietto, the fourth movement) and hugged them warmly.
Incidentally, it reminded me that the last time I saw Rattle conduct was at the Barbican with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the Israeli mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham, who was a couple of years ahead of Shuli & Tami, my daughters, at school. And the first time I heard him conduct at all was in Haifa, not long after the girls were born, when he conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Deryck Cooke’s performing version of Mahler’s uncompleted 10th Symphony in a concert in which Yo-Yo Ma was the soloist performing a Haydn concerto. I remember it because just before the Mahler began, Ma sat down in the seat in front of me (in a scarlet sweater) and followed the whole work from the score. Both the conductor and the soloist must have been about 20 years old at the time!
But now for some pictures.
Any trip to London, for me at any rate, must include a visit to the summit of Primrose Hill. I’ve become attached to the place and I can only convince myself that I’m actually in the city after I’ve reached the top and looked down upon the London skyline beneath me. Moreover, there’s also a clump of six trees that I have photographed over the years in leaf and without leaf, in different weather and light conditions and whose curvature reiterates that of the hill itself. Somehow, it makes me feel at home. And here they are, at the beginning of May, in full leaf. This time, it took me five days to walk around to this spot but it was more than worth it in the end.
On my way there, I spotted a man on the other side of Primrose Hill Road wheeling a pram. However, something looked odd about it. The pram looked too small and too low to be carrying a toddler. So I quickened my pace and caught up with him along the northern perimeter of the park.
And there he was (albeit not quite in focus). It was nothing more and nothing less than a doggy-pram, a canine perambulator. I couldn’t quite believe it for I always thought that dog lovers walked their canine pets in order to exercise them and to allow them to do whatever it is they had to do in appropriate surroundings.
So when I got back and checked it out on Google and then on Amazon, I discovered that there many, many different kinds of dog strollers on the market, priced between £100 and £300! Well I never!
Primrose Hill was in full blossom and looked magnificent that Sunday morning—I don’t recollect ever having seen it as pretty as this.
On the way back, along the southeastern perimeter, I spotted something that appealed to my weird and warped sense of humour.
The day before my ascent to Primrose Hill was my only other “cultural” outing I had on my seven day visit. I had agreed to meet an old friend at the Tate Britain to see the exhibition Van Gogh and Britain which displayed the largest collection of his paintings in the UK for some time with some of his most famous works brought together from around the world, including Sunflowers on loan from the National Gallery.
In my ignorance, of which there is a considerable amount, I didn’t know that he had lived in England as a young man for several years, falling in love with British culture and inspired by the art he saw there, and which affected his paintings throughout his career. The exhibition also showed British artists who had been inspired by him, his vision setting many British artists on the road to modern art.
I didn’t come out of the exhibition on a high as I have from some recent exhibitions I’ve visited in London over the past few years for it was one that was really interesting rather than one which was overly exciting (to a layman, that is).
En route to the gallery, I found that large sections of Westminster Underground Station had been roped off and closed to the public and eventually exiting the station, I discovered the reason; there were two large demonstrations coming along Millbank and past the Houses of Parliament. I only got the tail end of the first one, which was a National Demo for Palestine, which was a pity as had I known, I would have liked to photograph the faces of the demonstrators.
However, the one which I did observe was an anti-abortion demonstration. I think I’m liberal-minded enough to accept that different people can have different views on many topics but I found some of what was printed on some of the placards and what was being chanted by the demonstrators, young and old, male and female, pretty hard to take, such as “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women” and “Life from conception no exception”. I took particular exception to the “no exception” phrase and as I consider that forcing a woman to have an unwanted child is “the ultimate exploitation of women”, I couldn’t wait to get to see Vincent.
The day before I left London, I had breakfast with my son Dov near his workplace in Tileyard Studios, not far from King’s Cross. I had visited the enormous development just north of King’s Cross Station with a friend two or three years ago but I’m not sure that the residential development of what had been three gas holders was there at the time. If they were, I certainly didn’t photograph them not did I notice them, but there they were. I found them to be quite spectacular.
But it was Dov, not I, who got the best photograph of the morning—and with his iPhone, too.
There were reminders that some working people need others to work in childcare and here, close to the Gasholders, was a reminder that there’s a kindergarten or elementary school in the vicinity.
And earlier, while waiting for a bus to take me to the appointed destination, I couldn’t resist the temptation to photograph an example of some obsolete historical artefacts of which there are millions all over the UK. The obsoleteness is, of the course the TV antennae, as analog television hasn’t been around in this part of the world for several years now. I can only assume that the bother and the expense of dismantling them is the cause of their remaining there!
Coming back home and passing Chalk Farm Underground Station, I photographed these red tiles that decorate the exterior of this and many other stations on the Underground. I’ve been meaning to photograph them for years and here they are.
Then it was back to Tel Aviv a week after I left for London and into the current morass in this apparently never-ending nightmare of hospitals and visiting and traipsing back and forth. I finally got out for a morning’s walk and a clearing of the mind last weekend, a week after my return and was immediately reminded that I was in Tel Aviv! But that’s another story to be continued, hopefully, in the near future. (P.S. Amazon says that this book lays bare the history of the bikini, recording its unstoppable progression from the French beaches in 1946 to the vanishingly small strings of today. Packed with hundreds of photographs, it is a fantastic and fun homage to an atom bomb of fashion and will be a must-have for anyone interested in fashion and the female form.). Quite!
Before I conclude, I thought I might avoid saying anything about politics in this post but circumstances are such that this is unavoidable. Less than two months after we stood in line to vote in a General Election, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself, to autoevaporate , as it were, after six weeks in which the Prime Minister, King Bibi, the ultimate political sorcerer, failed to get his magic to work this time and could not form a coalition. Nobody was prepared to compromise on anything and Bibi, facing a pre-trial hearing over three criminal indictments, just a fortnight after the election is due, is in some trouble, perhaps. One wonders, if he is put on trial, how he might continue to run the Foreign Ministry, the Defence Ministry and the country while fighting his own personal battles.
In some ways, these events remind me of what happened in the UK late in 1990 when the Conservative Party came to realise that Margaret Thatcher was no longer an electoral asset but an electoral liability. Then, of course, she was replaced by the man in grey, the son of a British music hall and circus performer, John Major. The Likud party has several circus performers in waiting to replace the god-king but whether they have the guts to be seen by Likud diehards who worship Bibi as some sort of latter-day deity as the one instigating the replacement process remains to be seen.
And while on the subject of Prime Ministers, the President of the United States will make a state visit to the UK next week. The headline might read: “Trump arrives in the UK simultaneously at the beginning of June for the end of May! Can’t be! It must be fake news!”