I wrote in my last post that there would be no political statements or comments in this one. However, I misled my readers last time by writing that the new Prime Minister of the [still just] United Kingdom, one Alexander Boris Kerfuffle Johnson had dual British and American citizenship. Well that is no longer the case because Mr. Johnson renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2016 and by so doing gave up any chance of becoming the American president once he became bored with the challenging job of ruining (sorry: running) the UK. SeeFederal Register 2017-02699(Go to page 10199!)
And the week’s news prompted the following question in my addled mind: “What is the connection between the new Prime Minister of the UK and Modest Mussorgsky?” Well, obviously the answer can’t be anything to do with modest or modesty so that leaves just one other possible response in the form of another question: “Is Boris Godunov?”
So here is a [slightly edited] version of the events in Act I, Scene 1 of Mussorgsky’s opera.
“At the Square in the Kremlin, hungry people are milling about clamouring for food and begging Boris not to desert them in their misery. Simpletons appear followed by a group of boys who tease them and take their only money away from them. The simpletons cry and when Boris enters, the simpleton runs up to him and ask him to murder those boys … The prince orders the simpletons arrested but Boris forbids it, and asks the simpletons instead to pray for him.”
OK. So that’s all the politics for this post.
What I thought I’d do this time is something a little different from the usual, mainly because I can’t really think of anything sensible to write, as sometimes happens — other than that for three innings in a one-off Test Match at Lord’s Cricket Ground between England and Ireland last week, it looked as if Ireland was going to pull off the shock of the century or maybe even the last two centuries only to be bowled out for 38 runs in their second innings, the seventh lowest score in a Test Match ever (the lowest was New Zealand’s 26 against England in Auckland in 1955) and the lowest total ever at Lord’s. Phew!
Now for this week’s surprise. Regular readers of my previous 184 posts in this blog might be aware of the fact that every now and then over the past 3½ years I have posted pictures of fire hydrants, mostly but not solely, in Tel Aviv. Somewhere along the line, when I started photographing them, my eye was drawn to this population of red onlookers or bystanders on the street because it just seemed to me that they had faces and bodies and that these were rather expressive. Of course, that was all part of my imagination and over several years, I continued to photograph them in a variety of poses. At the beginning there appeared to be great variety amongst Tel Aviv’s hydrant population; after a while, situations and poses began to repeat themselves although I still find the odd one here and there that looks different to the others and so the collection continues to grow, albeit slowly.
About a year ago, I decided that I would turn a selection of these images into a book, mainly because I thought my grandchildren might one day wish to see the sort of things that I had been doing in my latter years. Sorting and selecting from about 1,300 images of fire hydrants took me a little longer than I had anticipated and turning it into a book even longer still. By the way, the eagle-eyed amongst you might perceive that a small number of the hydrants and hydrant lookalikes are not Tel Avivians and in that you would be correct. Some of the images were photographed in Israel but beyond the confines of Tel Aviv, a couple are from Spain and the UK.
One or two of you might feel that you’ve seen it before although I honestly can’t remember to whom I sent drafts but this is the “finished” product. (A word of thanks here to Yaelle Amir who read what I had thought was a near-final draft twice and by my reckoning, her comments saved me between two and three months of trial and error and frustration.) But I did it and felt that it was some kind of accomplishment when it was completed, even if it was only something that my family might look at and smile at in years to come.
I attach a PDF of the book should anyone wish to browse through it and even read the accompanying text. If you do and are overcome by some uncontrollable desire to purchase a hard copy, then it’s available as a paperback on Amazon.com, should you wish to part with US$57 + p&p. To the best of my knowledge, five copies have been sold, all to the same purchaser and I have two of these on my bookshelves at the moment. I am also happy to autograph a purchased copy (for a fee, of course) as it may become extremely valuable in the future. (https://www.amazon.com/Faces-Crowd-Stanley-Waterman/dp/0464932335/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=stanley+waterman&qid=1564289576&s=books&sr=1-1)
I’ve been very well behaved in recent posts in the sense that I’ve avoided writing anything that remotely reminds readers of my warped views of politics and politicians. However, several things have happened recently that have not exactly contributed positively to my already negative views about politics, politicians and crass opportunism. So if you prefer not to read any of my jaundiced views, which are possibly familiar to you anyway, just scroll down to the pics.
It started with the news that the British Ambassador to the United States, one Sir Kim Darroch, an experienced professional diplomat and civil servant was forced to resign for having done no more than doing what he was being paid to do, i.e., reporting his views candidly to his government. His ill luck was that one or more of his diplomatic reports was leaked to The Mail on Sunday, a paper that seems to have inherited its role from the News of the World, which was forced to fold eight years ago when it was alleged to have hacked into the phones of families of British service personnel killed in action and senior figures on the newspaper were held for questioning by police investigating the phone hacking and corruption allegations. In one message, Sir Kim was reported to have written his superiors that “we don’t really believe [Trump’s] Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept.” Which is something we’ve been reading in the newspapers for the past three years anyway, so what was all the fuss about? True or not, this was definitely a case of something that an arch-narcissist like Trump might not have wanted to read or have others read about him. Poor Sir Kim was declared persona non grata in D.C., then treated as such and resigned within two days.
As for political opportunism, the leading U.K. Conservative party candidate for Prime Minister, one Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, (who might have been Boris Ali Kemal had not his paternal grandfather had the foresight to change his name to Johnson) did not exactly come out in support of poor Sir Kim. Perhaps this was because dePfeff preferred not to antagonise the Americans unduly. After all, he has dual nationality and some years ago had faced a demand from the US authorities to pay capital gains tax on the profit from the sale of his house in North London, as American law requires all citizens to pay US taxes even if they live abroad and even if they had not lived in the US since they were children. (Really!)
Trumpelina, Trumpelina tiny little thing Trumpelina dance, Trumpelina sing Trumpelina what’s the difference if you’re very small? When your heart is full of love you’re nine feet tall
Though you’re no bigger than my toe Than my toe, than my toe Sweet Trumpelina keep that glow And you’ll grow and you’ll grow and you’ll grow.
(based on lyrics by Frank Loesser)
But that was only the beginning of the week’s news about politicians. What really incensed me was a report in Sunday morning’s (14/7/2019) Haaretz newspaper concerning an interview given by the newly appointed interim Minister of Education, one Rafi Peretz (although one friend never stops reminding me that that’s the price I pay if I shell out good money for the lies that that newspaper prints when I can get another set of lies for free if I pick up a copy of the freebie that supports the the Prime Minister).
Bibi’s freebie on a street bench. Just take one … please
Mr. Peretz is a former Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defence Forces and is currently a member of Knesset and leader of The Jewish Home party. In an interview on Israel Channel 12 TV, Mr. Peretz was reported to have said that it is “possible” to perform “conversion therapy” and that he himself had done so in the past. Mr. Peretz was not referring to conversion to Judaism, which possibly he is qualified to do, but conversion from a state of having GLBT tendencies to a state of “normalcy”. When quizzed further how he had advised students (presumably all of them male) who had told him about their sexual inclinations, Peretz said: “First of all, I hugged them and said very warm things …”. Really? (So I wonder if at cabinet meetings, he keeps his distance from another of Mr. Netanyahu’s interim appointments, the Justice Minister, Amir Ohana, the first openly gay cabinet minister in Israel. Or perhaps he chooses to sit beside him so that he can hug him, as well.)
Then, when asked about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he reportedly said that he wants to “extend Israeli sovereignty to all of Judea and Samaria,” vowing to secure Palestinians’ rights, but “they won’t have a right to vote.” Asked whether this does not constitute apartheid, his response was that “We live in a very complex reality in Israeli society and in the State of Israel, and we’ll have to find the solutions — where sovereignty will be, whether it applies to people or land.” And earlier last week, he had condemned intermarriage among Diaspora Jews with the comment that “assimilation is like a second Holocaust.”, and this after warning that Israel was becoming “too secular”.
Really? And this is the Minister of Education, albeit an interim one. Even Mr. Netanyahu appeared to be taken aback somewhat and distanced himself from Mr. Peretz’ statements. Mr. Peretz seems to have distanced himself from his own statements, too, having seen the results of his own cack-handedness, telling us later in the week that he had never converted anyone. So which Mr. Peretz are we to believe? The cuddling one or the fuddling one? Looks like the learned rabbi is having to learn politics and about being in the public eye the hard way—and if he keeps up cuddling and muddling, it will be a persistent lesson without a break.
If he was the only cuckoo in the cabinet, it would be worrying enough, but the newly appointed interim Transportation Minister, Peretz’ colleague Bezalel Smotrich, is a man who was arrested during protests against the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and was held in jail for three weeks but not charged. The following year, he helped organize the “Beast Parade” a protest against a gay pride parade in Jerusalem and is a co-founder of an NGO that monitors and pursues legal action in the Israeli court system against any construction lacking Israeli permits undertaken by Palestinians in the West Bank or Bedouins and other Arabs in Israel. Mr. Smotrich believes that Israel should be governed under halakhah, Jewish law that has evolved since biblical times to regulate religious observances and the daily life and conduct of the Jewish people. Just what Israel needs in the 21st century—a theocracy?!
The Prime Minister has also appointed one Dudi Amsalem, a trusted lackey, as Minister of Communication. Mr. Amsalem bears deep grudges against the media, the police and judiciary, so he’s obviously well suited to the job. All of these join around the Cabinet table assorted bouncers and former student thugs as well as Aryeh Deri, a man convicted 19 years ago of taking $155,000 in bribes while serving as Minister of the Interior and given a three-year jail sentence. As his prison behaviour was commendable, he was released from prison after serving only 22 months and then after taking seven years out of public life, he returned to active politics—but not before he had been castigated by his erstwhile spiritual mentor, the late Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, as “a wicked man and a thief”. Notwithstanding all of this, he was further rewarded for his good behaviour when he was appointed in January 2016—yes, you can guess—Minister of the Interior. And so it goes.
I was reminded of such politicians the other day while re-reading Bill Bryson’s 1996 book Notes from a Small Island, which he wrote when he had decided to move back to the United States for a while but wanted to take one final trip around Great Britain, where he had lived for over 20 years. Finding himself in Exeter and waiting for a train to Barnstaple, he went to the requisite platform and “passed the time watching the station pigeons”. Bryson was of the opinion that they really are “the most amazingly panicky and dopey creatures”, and that he couldn’t imagine and emptier, less satisfying life.
He then wrote:
Here are instructions for being a pigeon:
(1) Walk around aimlessly for a while, pecking at cigarette butts and other inappropriate items.
(2) Take fright at someone walking along the platform and fly off to a girder.
(3) Have a shit.
On this basis, pigeons seem to me potentially to be politicians in the making—though on second thoughts perhaps they are more akin to voters.
Pigeon shit can be artistic if they get the angle and the distance—and thus the splat—right!
Mind you, crows do similar things except that the crows occasionally turn on you and work in groups. They might swoop down and try to remove your headgear mid-swoop or they may drop a pigeon (or a rat or a bat) they’ve just murdered a few centimetres from you as as you mind your own business walking along the street and you hear the loud plop as it hits the ground.
I didn’t wait to witness the murder. The bat was attempting to defend itself and fight back but the crow was unimpressed by its show of valour and was quite determined to have his (or her) way. (BTW, I didn’t bother to check the gender of either combatant!)
And it’s not just the pigeons and crows that muck up life in Tel Aviv. The owner of the car below had presumably gone away for a few days and left their car on Nordau Boulevard under the trees.
In fact, everywhere you go these days, there seems to be the scrunch of fallen berries under foot.
Meanwhile, back in the park, other avians are busy doing different things, thinking that nobody will spot them having a snog while under camouflage.
The rub of the green
And last week, Tel Aviv (and Israel) bade farewell to Zubin Mehta after five decades as he leaves the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra—50 years as Music Director of a major orchestra is a bit unusual in this day and age.
… and while in Tel Aviv Port, in honour of Wimbledon, I suppose.…
50 heads are better than one
Maintenance work in the Port
… and in the park, Friday mornings are tandem mornings … up front a seeing rider and behind, the second rider visually (and sometimes otherwise) impaired …
On the street, in full gear, camera at the ready …
A working hydrant
But this is Israel and one is often-time reminded of the dangers of living in this region of the world.
Public Shelter 415, Gan Meir, Tel Aviv
Finally, taking a bus back home one day during the week, I was impressed with the amount and the quality of the digital information that was being beamed across the front of the bus. It tells me where the next bus stop is and how far it is to the next stop (in the case, The Great Synagogue on Allenby Street, 338 metres away from the point at which I photographed it). The only thing that seemed not quite right was the time, which was showing early afternoon rather than the 08.42 that it really was as I sat there. And then I looked around and checked on my phone. Of course, I should have known! It was 13.42 in Manila and so my obvious conclusion was that this was an attempt by the Dan Bus Company to make the many Filipina caregivers in Tel Aviv feel as if they’re at home!
And with that, time to change character before the next [apolitical] post!
Well, here we are, at the end of the first week of July, and still only at the beginning of summer. For the foreseeable future, daily maxima of between 29ºC (on a good day) and 32ºC or higher on a day that the gods have wish to punish us further, daily minima varying between 24 and 26º, which means uncomfortable nights, 70%-80% relative humidity, a blank rain radar map. Uninviting? Wretched? Well, whatever.
But here we are, ensconced here for the whole of this summer, which will terminate some time around October with a bit of luck or continue through to November if we continue to displease the powers-that-be, i.e., the meteorological gremlins. This will be the first time in two decades in which we’ve been forced to stay all summer with no chance of relief for a few weeks in cooler climes. I can’t say I’m enjoying it at present or looking forward to the rest of it over the next three months — not even a little bit. By 8 o’clock in the morning, it’s definitely uncomfortable.
Drinks break, corner of Nordau/Ibn Gvirol, Tel Aviv , 08.14 hrs
It appears that Tel Aviv Municipality is intent on weaning its residents from their dependence upon their automobiles. Its method is not terribly sophisticated: just get rid of all parking spaces. In the last post, I included three photographs of a former public parking area about 100m to the east of the house which has been designated for the construction of kindergartens and the like to reflect the changing demography of the neighbourhood. This week I observed a similar process under way about 400m to the west although quite what has been approved for construction here is beyond my ken. In total, these two transformations will have resulted in the loss of between 90 and 120 parking spaces (the variability of the estimate is a result of the haphazard and sometimes inconsiderate manner in which many Tel Avivians park their cars). Add to this the seizure of valuable parking spots and reserving them for car clubs and the like—apparently at the expense of spaces designated for the disabled—and one is forced to use bikes or public transport — or taxis, where it involves moving a wheelchair about.
Walking through Tel Aviv Port on Friday last week, one sees all sorts of interesting things. For a start, there were lots and lots of pink ladies.
And then I came across not a pink lady but a lady of a different shade and slightly flatter shape coming towards me from the opposite direction. As I’m always on the lookout for something photographable, and given that the woman in question was attempting to be discreet (well, I mean, look how her coiffure was preventing me or anyone else from identifying her), I decided that discretion is not always the better part of valour and went ahead and pressed the shutter button anyway.
The hydrant was, it seems, somewhat embarrassed by the whole event although for what reason beats me.
Coming out of the port, I passed one of the bistro/restaurants that had not yet opened for business but which had received its daily supply of 20 kilograms of chipped potatoes, which had been dumped on the footpath outside awaiting someone to claim them. As I passed, I looked back, as it struck me that these might have been Irish potatoes although I doubt that they were and that the colours were purely coincidental.
Exiting the park, I encountered one of the occupational hazards of street photography—or as I prefer to refer to what I do photographing the geography of the mundane. An d what could me more mundane than an elderly lady (or of you prefer it in plainer English, an old woman) about to cross the northern end of Dizengoff Street. I watched her for a few seconds and then decided that I would point the camera at her and take this photograph. As I had a rather large telephoto lens on the camera, I wasn’t exactly invisible so she must have noticed me. And as we crossed paths a few seconds after I took the photo, the implement in her right hand became a weapon of war and was used as such, striking me on the right leg as she snarled at me: “Why did you do that?”. I didn’t stop to explain as I really didn’t have an explanation or at least not one that would have satisfied her and I proceeded on my way.
The following day, there she was again. This time, I had an almost unnoticeable pancake lens (27mm wide angle) on the camera and photographed her for a second time, making sure to take a step to my right so as to avoid her, passing her on her left hand side. However, she must have been a tennis or hockey player in her younger days because the stick was swished to her left this time and narrowly avoided catching me for a second time! She may not have noticed the camera but she certainly remembered me! I shall have to be more considerate of the sensibilities of older people in future (some hope!).
That was no joke and I haven’t really learned my lesson but one lesson I have learned is that sometimes when you’re looking for something interesting to photograph, it pays to look either upwards or downwards rather than straight ahead or sideways. It was by looking down that I observed this cockroach scurrying across the footpath to relative safety before it was trodden on. I’m not very keen on cockroaches and in Western culture, they are often depicted as foul and filthy pests but I must admit that they do display a certain survival persistence and I’m sure that after humans have finished ruining the world as we know it that the cockroaches will likely make a better job of it.
Keeping my head down, a little further down the street, I came across what I can only describe as a very poor attempt at a joke. Some years ago, the Municipality spent a lot of taxpayers’ money marking out bicycle lanes parallel to the footpaths and, where it was sufficiently wide, on the margin of the footpath itself. On main streets, these lanes are even signed with arrows indicating that the two-wheeled vehicles should follow the same directions as the motorised ones. This was intended to separate bicycles and scooters from the pedestrians, thus avoiding unnecessary accidents. And what has happened since to this municipal investment? There has been a gross expansion in the number of electric scooters and bikes most of which appear to be operated by people who have noticed neither the directional arrows nor the warnings about fines for improper use. These things are more dangerous that they might appear as they seem mostly to be operated by people who wish to see how close they can get to a pedestrian without actually making contact. In addition, these things are virtually silent so one has little idea what is coming up behind you and usually the first warning is of the operator screaming into a mobile phone. I have yet to see a rider stopped by a person in authority and given a fine, hence my conclusion that what has been glued onto the footpath was little more than a sad joke. (By the way, 250 shekels is about £55 or $70 or just over €60.)
Fine for riding here — so we do!
Electric scooter collection park, Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv
Well-dressed cyclist, Arlozorov Street, Tel Aviv
And while continuing my walk down Ibn Gvirol Street (to purchase coffee beans, if you really want to know although I won’t be in the least bit offended if you don’t), I passed a pizza joint which had invented a novel way of ridding itself on the previous evening’s uneaten materials.
Passing the fishmonger’s on the way home, I was fascinated by the artistic skills of one of the employees who had invented a novel way of displaying some of their wares.
As usual, a stroll through the Yarqon Park yielded its usual number of images, some interesting, others less so. The gentleman in question was doing the right thing as far as he was concerned. Back to the pathway, behind the bushes, &c., &c. What he didn’t take into consideration was his visibleness from the opposite bank. Had he realised his error, he might have been a little peeved as well as peed.
Others just use the park to prop themselves up for some light reading early in the morning.
Light reading material: Barbara Tuchman, The March of Folly
Some pigeons reckon that this is a feast worth fighting over …
… whereas others are confronted with the question of whether to share or not to share
On Pinkas Street, Tel Aviv
Illywarra Flame Tree, Brandeis Street, Tel Aviv
Loud and Colourful. Hayarqon Street, Tel Aviv
The Ginzburgs are not too keen on visitors. Aristobulus Street, Tel Aviv