A different kind of vacation

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.


Portrait of Savta Vivi, October 2018.  (Photographed by Lily Waterman, age 6)

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.

Primrose Trees

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.

Dog carriage

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.

Doggy pram

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!

Dog carriage (ad)

Primrose Hill was in full blossom and looked magnificent that Sunday morning—I don’t recollect ever having seen it as pretty as this.

Primrose in bloom

On the way back, along the southeastern perimeter, I spotted something that appealed to my weird and warped sense of humour.

Yummy railing

Yummy—iron railings are so tasty for breakfast, don’t you think? Primrose Hill, NW3


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.

End the siege (Gaza)


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.

Kings X Gasholders

But it was Dov,  not I, who got the best photograph of the morning—and with his iPhone, too.

Gasholder King's X (Dov)

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.

Kings X Kindergarten

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!

Historical Antennae

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.

Chalk Farm tiles

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!

Bikini Book

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!”


It’s all over till the next time

I know, I know.  This post is long overdue but other things got in the way in the inmterim and now I have some time on my hands so I’ll make a start.

Well, that’s it.  It’s over until the next time — and I’m not talking about the Israeli election, which is now history and the result of which, though not at all unexpected, was and still is a major misfortune.  The politicians are now under way with their give and take (mostly take) trying to put together a coalition, with each party attempting to extract from the Prime Minister (who is also the Prime Minister-designate) agreements to change Israeli society in ways that will most appeal to their voters the next time around.  The people who cast their votes four weeks ago have mostly been almost entirely forgotten already as have most thoughts about any political ethics — or ethical politics —that the politicians went on and on about during the life of the previous Knesset.  Expedience is now the name of the game.

What’s over until the next time is our spring festival of Passover (Pesach), which commemorates the exodus (of the Children of Israel from bondage in Egypt). This year, the spring festival included hailstones on the day before it began, which made it seem like a winter wonderland. It’s celebrated, if such is the correct term, for seven days and although we no longer sacrifice a paschal lamb, we do sacrifice ourselves and our digestive systems to the vagaries of unleavened bread, otherwise known as “matzah” or “matzo” or as it is referred to at the seder table on the first night of the festival as the “bread of affliction”, which is probably the most appropriate term for this particular foodstuff.  It’s really like eating cardboard stippled with shards of plastic, which you have to spread with something appetizing in order for it to be marginally palatable.  Our next door neighbour tried to convince us that matzah has healing properties but I think that perhaps she was confusing matters and what she really meant was that one needs serious healing medications after a week of ingesting this stuff.  

Bread of Affliction 2

Regular matzah

This year we decided to try and vary things a little by buying some wholewheat matzah. However. this only turned out to be browner, more grainy and more cardboard-like than the regular stuff; moreover, the shards appeared to be even sharper that in the regular unleavened bread, so that it could be reasonably labelled “bread of utter torment”.  We also tried some sweet corn wafers that were labelled fit for Passover consumption as well as some rice crackers in a packet, which turned out not to be what I thought they were going to be but which I suspect were an invention of some members of the Israel Dental Association, specifically in an atrocious attempt to drum up business for its members.  That puts them in the more or less the same category as that group known as the Israel Gastroenterology Association, where there are people who, I have come to fervently believe, invented matzah in the first place, such is its effect on the digestive systems of common or garden mortals like me.

Wholewheat matzah - 1.jpg

Wholewheat matzah

The only thing we did not have this year was what is called “matzah shemurah”, (“watched matzah”) though perhaps “guarded” might be a more appropriate adjective. A website (https://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/1851/jewish/Shmurah-Matzah.htm gives the following explanation for guarded matzah: “The day chosen for the harvesting of the wheat is a clear, dry day.  The moment it is harvested, the wheat is inspected to ensure that there is absolutely no moisture. From then on, careful watch is kept upon the grains as they are transported to the mill. The mill is meticulously inspected by rabbis and supervision professionals to ensure that every piece of equipment is absolutely clean and dry. After the wheat is milled, the flour is again guarded in its transportation to the bakery. Thus, from the moment of harvesting through the actual baking of the matzah, the flour is carefully watched to ensure against any contact with water.” That folks, is quite some protective performance! However, it is my belief that the makers of this particular food are in league with both the dental and the gastroenterological associations in order to remind us of the abject suffering of the Children of Israel.  My guess is that if said children were loaded down with matzah shemurah, they never might have succeeded in making it out of Egypt in the first place and then where would Pesach be?!

And so it was back to mornings in Tel Aviv.

Last week, on almost every lamppost and telephone pole in the neighbourhood, the following sign had been posted.  It read “Our Peter has gone missing and anyone finding him will be rewarded.  Contact Naftali at cellphone # …”  Now, cats do go missing from time to time but given the ambit of the notices, I fear that poor Peter might have overstepped the limit and that the chances of his safe return to Naftali are slim.

Peter's lost

Perhaps if Naftali was prepared to be as generous as Hari’s owner, as I observed last summer in Belsize Park, poor Peter’s future might have looked somewhat rosier.  But somehow, I fear for the worst.


In the Yarqon Park, I watched one of the morning regulars at work.  This guy is a rowing instructor and he spends his mornings, every day, cycling up and down the cycle path making members of the rowing club become more proficient oarsmen and oarswomen.  I might have thought that by now, almost 20 years into the 21st century, he might have provided each of his his tutees with an earpiece and strapped a microphone somewhere on his body so that his directions could be passed on softly, softly.  But no.  There’s nothing like the human voice au naturel. And soit is that as he cycles, he bellows his instructions in a voice that can only be described as resembling a ffffoghorn.  At least one gets plenty of warning before you see him.

Rowing instructor

I also find my eye is attracted to notices and signs.  Although I usually spot misspellings in English at half a glance, every now and then I spot something in Hebrew that makes me smile, like this sign on gate beside a taxi rank on Habashan Street, close to the northern end of Ibn Gvirol Street, one of T-A’s main north-south drags.  For non-Hebrew readers, it reads: “To all the drivers!!!  Any driver caught defecating in the yard and who dumps garbage in the public domain will be permanently removed from the station.  The Association Committee”.  Precisely what they had been doing and where before the sign had been put up will remain a mystery—to me at least.

Peeing taximen

And as for signs, I pass this one several times a week and it always reminds me of the trials and tribulations of academia.  “Publish or perish”, they always used to say, although I know several academics who never really published much and never perished and others who published a lot and somehow were never really rewarded for their efforts in following the dictum. This noticeboard, on the wall of The Great Synagogue at the northern end of Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv epitomizes the story of academic publications.  Millions of papers are published, most of which will be forgotten if they were ever read in the first place and these are represented by the staples; occasionally, someone years down the road cites, or if you’re really fortunate, quotes from one or two of these and this is symbolized by the scraps of paper still attached to the staples. The smaller scraps indicate just plain old citations, which a good academic collects and the numbers of which s/he displays to colleagues; the larger fragments suggest actual quotations, which are then proudly shown to all an sundry.  


Am I being too cynical?  Perhaps I am a little, but as I’m no longer young…

Anyway, I’ll move on.  Sitting in the park last week on a warm day, I found myself looking at a cylinder that was covered in slats of wood.  Very young kids were holding on to the bars on either side of the drum and using it as a kind of primitive treadmill and seemed to be having great fun.  I, however, was looking at the wooden slats and thought they made a pretty picture.

In the playground

And coming through Tel Aviv Port last week I stood and watched this guy repeatedly attempting to do handstands.  Several times he almost got there but not quite and the fact that people might have wanted to get past him as he almost futilely attempted the impossible seemed not to faze him in the slightest.  Finally, he made to the vertical (well, almost), providing me with an example of the lies that a still photograph can tell because no sooner had he reached the desired angle than he fell backwards, maintaining the handstand for what I reckoned was less than a second.  Well, well, well, I thought to myself, my six and a half year old granddaughter manages better than that by a long chalk! 


And while in the port area, I came across something unusual — an fisherwoman rather than a fisherman.  She seemed to be working hard at it whereas most of the men seem to use fishing as a substitute for dreaming or philosophizing.


And back in town, walking along Yehuda HaMaccabi Street, (or, if you prefer, Judas Maccabaeus Street, though if you were to ask for directions to the latter, people would stare at you in a peculiar way) I spotted this bunch of garlic bulbs strung together and hanging from the awning across the footpath,  I also thought that was worth a shot.


Coming through the park, I often come across dog-walkers.  This one currently holds my photographic record as I counted 11 canines and their handler strolling along.  I often wonder if the dogs are sedated before they are walked along as their behaviour is usually too good to be true and certainly unIsraeli.

Dogs on parade

About a year ago, signs started going up in Tel Aviv directing people to a Tsunami Evacuation Route.  One day, I will have to follow the arrows to see where they lead and discover what happens when quarter of a million distraught Tel Avivians all the reach the designated assembly point should they ever discover its whereabouts.

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A little further along the street, there’s a house in the early staged of renovation.  It looked as if all the residents had been temporarily rehoused while the construction work was going on and then I noticed clothes hanging on a line inside the partially demolished house.  It didn’t look as if it was totally uninhabited — but who could be living there in such conditions?

Chinese 1

 A couple of days later, as I passed by again, I got my answer!


And now it’s back to politics for the last couple of pictures.

Bibi again.jpg

Sorry, mate, even though it was a month ago, but I do have to tell you that it’s Bibi again!

Meanwhile, Brexit drags on and on … (the picture’s not mine, but Banksy’s devolved parliament)

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