Idyll, Ideals & Eric Idle

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 14.12.37.pngWell, it’s probably no surprise how I start this week’s post but I promise not to dwell on it—for too long at any rate although I’m aware that what I consider “not too long” might be “more than enough” in other people’s assessment.

Two things happened last week.  Very early on Thursday morning, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, voted to dissolve itself less than three months after a second election in half a year failed to produce any kind of government — unity, extreme right-wing or centre-left.

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Some people seem to think that the main reason for this continuing fiasco has been the unwillingness of giant-sized egos to shrink in any way, to compromise with one another.  However, I think that that’s a naïve way of thinking because even some giant egos have principles above and beyond the procurement and wielding of power.  In Israel, it’s related to the inflated ego of one individual and his more and more desperate attempts to remain in power so as to have the Knesset legislate to grant him immunity from trial thereby declaring him different to ordinary mortals.  However, even some of his most loyal and diehard supporters are beginning to regard him as something of a liability rather than an asset.

And in the latest out of Israel—or at least what appeared in one of the newspapers late last week is that Avigdor Lieberman, (ex-Netanyahu confidant, former foreign minister and defence minister) whose loathing of Netanyahu and refusal to join a narrow right-wing government led by him is possibly the main reason for us having to vote again March 2, has now suggested that Bibi be pardoned in return for his agreeing to leave public life.

I felt like throwing up on reading that.

Let him stand trial—after all his mantra for the past three or four years has been “they’ll find nothing because there’s nothing there”—and if found guilty, then and only then, if the State President so wishes, pardon him to save him from spending several years in prison. If it were up to me, were he to be found guilty of the crimes for which he has been indicted, I would sentence him to the maximum number of years for his felonies but instead of sending him to jail, would require him to bring meals on wheels six days a week to those poor sods throughout the country who voted for him consistently over the years and love him so. Moreover, he should be required to have his wife and older son accompany him on these charitable trips to learn humility. All sides would gain from it!

Later in the day, following the dissolution of the Knesset, the disUnited Kingdom went to the polls and some went earlier than others; what’s more, the voters seem to become younger and younger.  In the family pictured above, I understand there was a split vote but what’s a little difference of opinion among friends and family if not to give the kids to understand that there are differences of opinion and you’re free to express them and vote in accord with your views in a democracy?

Polling Day - 1

As I say, no sooner had the Israeli parliament decided on its own demise but with absolutely no connection to that event, Brits went to the polls and the Leader of the Labour Party, a man not quite after my own heart and one who inhabits a very sinistral bijou nook in cloud-cuckoo land, managed to hand a landslide majority to the Conservative party.  It’s not that the Labour Party doesn’t have good ideas that could benefit the people but it seems as if many of the voters and even those in constituencies that have returned Labour Members of Parliament for most of the last century couldn’t really see Mr. Corbyn as a natural tenant of No. 10 Downing Street.  On the other hand, one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a graduate of Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford and former President of the Oxford Union seemed to fit into the surroundings more naturally and it’s actually something that’s been on his mind for at least four decades, if not longer.

Boris 1

Mr. Corbyn also seemed to me not exactly to exude leadership qualities unless he was leading people who were in full agreement with him, a characteristic, incidentally, that might also apply to Mr. Johnson.  Moreover Corbyn’s handling of the antisemitism issue in his party, an item that seemed to balloon out of all control due to lack of attention, was dire.  Having said that, antisemitism is not the sole property of the Labour Party.  One has only to recall Harold Macmillan’s comment regarding Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet four decades ago when the it contained five Jewish members and when it was reported that he said that the cabinet contained more “old Estonians” than “old Etonians” or when Leon Brittan was forced to resign from the cabinet as Trade and Industry Secretary in 1986 over the Westland helicopter affair and a right-wing Tory backbencher, John Stokes, appeared on the BBC 6 o’clock news and when asked who he thought should replace Brittan somewhat crudely said that his replacement should be “a red-blooded, red-faced Englishman, preferably from landed interests”.

What Mr. Corbyn lacks in charisma is more than compensated for by the animal magnetism that Bojo oozes.  However much charm and self-confidence Boris emits from his supercharged personality, we still haven’t a clue as to how much leadership qualities he possesses, though I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough and however much it is, it surely has to be better than those of his erstwhile opponent.


They didn’t get it quite right—or did they?

For now, it looks as if Boris will be Prime Minister until 2024—unless he grossly misbehaves.  Like the 45th President of the United States who will probably celebrate a happy Christmas at Mar-a-Lago or wherever where he can tweet all day to his heart’s content to please his most fundamental and loyal voters, waiting to be impeached by the House of Representatives and then cleared of any wrongdoing by the Senate but otherwise unblemished, these are two people who, it has been demonstrated over and again, cannot tell truth from falsehood, fact from fiction.  That’s not because they can’t tell truth from falsehood or fact from fiction but because truth and fact are neither concepts that occupy any specific location in their brains nor words that appear in their lexicons.  As far as Boris is concerned, that is little more than an inconsequential triviality, the most important thing from Boris’ viewpoint being that Boris is now legitimately the Prime Minister, elected not just by a coterie of venerable old ladies in the shires of rural England but by the people at large.

Bojo has a mandate the likes of which Bibi could not have hallucinated even in his most delirious dreams. For a start, he has an absolute majority—with no need to suck up to interest groups that don’t really interest him.  As a friend from the UK wrote to me the other day, “Now we’ll see what living under a fascist-leaning, lying populist will be like. VERY nasty: get ready for changes to the constitution, politicisation of the legal system, control of independent media and yet another surge in hate crimes”.  Sounds vaguely familiar!  It may not happen—or at least all of it might but one needs to get ready in case it does.

Which reminds me that last week we went to a concert of the Israeli Chamber Orchestra.  In the first half, they played some variations by Alberto Ginastera and some music and songs by Manuel de Falla and it was all very pleasant.  However, the second half was given over to songs by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill with the wonderful soprano-actress Keren Hadar.  In the course of talking to the audience in between the songs, she quoted from a poem by Brecht, On the Birth of his Son.  (It appears to a poem translated by Brecht from Chinese.)  I’d never heard or read it before but it seemed appropriate to quote it here. Whatever, it’s a piece for our times.

Families when a child is born to them
Wish it intelligent
I who through intelligence
Have entirely ruined my life
Can only hope my son
Will turn out ignorant and too idle to think.
Then he will have a quiet life
As a cabinet minister.

Screw you

As Donald & Boris might say: “Screw You!”

But why should we dwell on such nastiness and pessimism?

Enough!  Time for some pictures.

One can never be quite sure what sorts of two- or three-wheeled transport devices one will pass on the streets of Tel Aviv.  Children on child seats while their parents ride the bikes are pretty standard although I was of the opinion that the picture below might have been carrying things a little far.  It looks like one small child and one larger one had already been deposited at their seats of learning while a third one, too young to be seated in front of the rider was instead strapped to her back…


…while in the image following, it looked as if now that the occupant had been unloaded, the apparatus could be folded up for the return journey home.

Child delivered

In the image below, it is quite obvious that the texter is not prepared to waste his time just by riding pillion and is getting on with the job of keeping in contact with the outside world.  His “driver” is wired with mobile phone and bluetooth attached to the crash helmet so that he doesn’t miss anything either.

Cellphonist and driver

But in the park, en route to a surfing expedition early on a chilly morning, you wouldn’t really need your cellphone, I would have thought.  Nevertheless, the earbuds are in place anyway.

Surfing the web

It’s that time of the year and the kumquat trees in the neighbourhood are in full fruit.

That time of the year

Kumquat time

And avocados often make for model photo models.


Walking through the park the other day, I watched this parakeet fly into the tree and it took me some time to locate it as I approached, the camouflage being almost perfect.

Perfect camouflage

It turned wintry and blustery for a few days last week but it ended after three or four days and that’s it until the next event, which will hit us, it seems, around Christmas Eve (or the second day of Chanukah).

At T-A Port

No central air-con

Central heating/air-con for next year, we promise


Penultimately, en route home the other day, one of the local cats was busy acquiring its  own breakfast.

Waste not, want not

Waste not, want not!


Finally, one doesn’t often get as clear a view of the Reading Power Station, as it appeared one morning last week …

Reading — Winter

… and in my ongoing attempts to photograph the power station and the Yarqon stream,  I decided to have a go at combining the two and the image below is what transpired, a picture that pleased me when I’d finished editing it.

Reading power station and Yarqon stream

Well, all of this makes a grateful change from writing about Bibi and Bojo and Jeremy and Trump but now that I’ve given vent to my feelings, I promise to behave my self over the next few weeks — if possible!


To London and back (I think!)


Emeralds. Burlington Arcade, London

Twelve days ago, according to my calendar, I left Tel Aviv for a seven-day stay in London and here I am, several days after returning, wondering whether or not I was ever there, such is the speed with which I returned to dealing with everyday events here.  But I know I must have been abroad because for a week I was not conscious of hearing anything about attempts to cobble together a new Israeli government after 13 months with just a “transition” government running the country.  Nor did I hear any other news about or from Israel.  Moreover, the only reference to “Bibi” was when the announcer came on the air to say “You’re listening to BiBi-See Radio 3”. All of this made a very welcome change to my regular DDD—daily dose of depression.  Nevertheless, it’s impossible to escape what is generally referred to as “news”, even when there’s nothing new in it and you’ve heard it all before. Thus was I treated to snippets from the Boris and Jeremy show, which is a one-off  scheduled to premiere and conclude in a couple of days time, for better or for worse.

Other than the odd leaflet that came through the letterbox, if you didn’t watch TV, you’d hardly know an election was about to take place in the DUK (DisUnited Kingdom).  There are few if any indications in the street that there are candidates up for election.  I’m still on the electoral register there and the day after I arrived, the forms for casting a postal vote arrived.  Should I bother?  Shouldn’t I? Is it legal or isn’t it, as I am now far more part-time there than I have been in the past two decades.  If anyone is curious to know the outcome of my indecision, if I took a decision, what decision I might have taken and why, I’ll be quite happy to discuss the issues with them privately but not on the blog.

The ostensible reason for the timing of my trip was to attend the consecration of a tombstone for my late sister-in-law who died at the beginning of the year.  As we were not able to travel to be at the funeral or during the short period of time between when she became ill and the end, I was always going to go and so it turned out.  And I suppose because this was the first opportunity to be with Sonia’s sons since she died, I always knew it was likely to be an emotional experience and so it was.  However, the one nice thing about being at the cemetery was that Dov & Keren brought the grandchildren with them.  Tal and Maya are of an age (9½ and 8) when they can understand that families are not always happy families, with birthdays and weddings and the like, and that being part of a family means that you experience sad events as well as happy ones.  As soon as Maya saw that I was upset, she ran over to me and Tal joined her and she wouldn’t let go until the short ceremony was over.  It was such a spontaneous human gesture that I won’t forget it in a long time.

Walking with the the others attending the short ceremony consecrating the tombstone from the prayer house to the graveside, as we approached the area in which Sonia is buried I stopped dead in my tracks—although that might be an inappropriate term to use—as the first grave contained a lovely couple I had known over 20 years ago.   Anthony Jacobs was a successful British businessman and for several years was the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the University of Haifa and we had entertained him and his lovely wife, Evelyn, at home a couple of times.

Jacobs 1.jpg

Death was also the subject of discussion when I eventually turned on the television the evening I arrived to catch up with the news. It transpired that Britain had lost two of its best-known public intellectuals within three days of one another.  The first to go was Clive James—critic, poet, lyricist, novelist, memoirist, TV personality, funny man, intellectual— famous among other things for having described Arnold Schwarzenegger in his bodybuilding days as looking like “a brown condom full of walnuts”, a man who had been diagnosed with leukaemia and kidney failure a decade ago and given only a short time to live and who admitted as to feeling “embarrassment” at being kept alive through experimental drug treatment.  He gave several interviews in which he discussed his illness and in confronting his mortality but he was a person who personified the dictum that having a deadline (a real dead-line, in this case) focusses the mind and makes one creatively productive.

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Three days later and the day I arrived in London it was Jonathan Miller’s turn to depart this world.  Miller was a medical doctor and neuroscientist, humorist (who along with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett gained fame with Beyond the Fringe), a theatre director, opera director, actor, television presenter, author and son of an Irish-Jewish mother (from Cork).  Often admired, sometimes shunned, presumably for possessing so many and such varied talents, he is another man to be missed, indeed.

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As for culture, I had the great pleasure to attend a concert at the Barbican concert hall win which Iván Fischer conducted works by Dvořák and with András Schiff performing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto at the piano.  Schiff we heard for the first time almost 35 years ago at Wigmore Hall and he is my favourite pianist; I’ve been lucky enough to hear him many times since then. But the orchestra was something really special.  I’ve never heard sounds like that from an orchestra ever.  It seemed as if the orchestra and conductor were one person and then Schiff joined them, they were still one!

On Monday, I made for the National Gallery where to see the exhibition “Leonardo—Experience a Masterpiece” where the Gallery was transformed into a painting studio, an imagined chapel and a room-sized experiment to explore Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, “The Virgin of the Rocks”, in which you were invited to a landscape populated by the thoughts and ideas of Leonardo as he set about painting “The Virgin of the Rocks”, discover the secrets that science and conservation revealed as to how it was painted, take part in the room-sized experiment to discover the dramatic effects of light and shadow on Leonardo’s composition, and finally come face to face with the original masterpiece where it hangs on the walls of an imagined chapel.  All in all, it was a giant disappointment and as the explanations were provided in a series of mirrors, mimicking the mirror script that Leonardo used, trying to read them was quite literally a pain in the neck.


From “Light and Shadow” at “Experience a Masterpiece”. The National Gallery, London

The highlight of the few days away was the Antony Gormley exhibition in the Main Galleries at the Royal Academy of Art on Piccadilly. Gormley is a British sculptor whose works are recognised across the world.  Probably his most famous sculpture is Angel of the North in Gateshead and I had hoped perhaps to see it or a reconstruction of it in the forecourt of the Royal Academy of Arts.  Although the forecourt is large, I imagine that The Angel, which stands 20 metres high and has wings that span 54 metres was too big even for that!

I didn’t know it but I attended on the last day of the exhibition so that place was rather full (gross British understatement).  As a consequence, some of the pics that appear below come from the Royal Academy’s website and the photographers who took them had the advantage of being able to photograph in empty galleries.

This exhibition included some interesting and/or exciting works. Host was a room filled with seawater and nothing else and it’s hard to think of anyone else who would be permitted to fill a gallery of the Royal Academy with water!

Gormley Exhibition LondonHost. © Oak Taylor-Smith

There was also Body and Fruit, which are large hollow pieces that expand the form of the body, each one of which weighs several tons and which hover just centimetres above the floor.

Gormley Exhibition LondonBody and Fruit. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

Gormley has used a wide range of organic, industrial and elemental materials over the years, including iron, steel, hand-beaten lead, seawater, and clay.   In addition to all this, the exhibition also had several early works from the 1970s and 1980s, some of which led to Gormley using his own body as a tool to create work.

Gormley 1

Antony Gormley

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Antony Gormley, Subject II, 2019. 

Gormley 6a

Other Highlights included Clearing VII, an immersive ‘drawing in space’ made from kilometres of coiled, flexible metal which visitors “are supposed to find their own path through”.  However, on the day that I was there, the notices said quite clearly that one should simply walk around the periphery of the installation!

Gormley Exhibition London
Antony Gormley, Clearing VII, 2019. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

Gormley 8a.jpg

Lost Horizon I, consisting of 24 life-size cast iron figures set at different orientations on the walls, floor, and ceiling challenged our perceptions of which way is up.

Gormley Exhibition London
Antony Gormley, Lost Horizon I, 2008. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

Gormley 4

It’s not all metal and stuff, though, and organic materials, such as bread and wax were on display, too.

Gormley Mother's Pride  a.jpg
Antony Gormley, Mother’s Pride V, 2019

I decided to avoid a walk through Gormley’s “cave”, thinking that as I would have had to walk half bent through this piece in search for the light at the other end, I might not be able to straighten up again — and I had to be on a plane the following day.

Gormley Exhibition London
Antony Gormley, Cave, 2019. Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

Inside the galleries, if you looked downwards, you could observe these steel grilles that looked as if they might have been fashioned by the sculptor himself but which are actually part of the gallery’s architecture.


However, to my untrained and uncultured mind, the highlight of the show inside the building was the enormous matrix of urban grid that was put together and hung in one enormous gallery.  Quite exceptional!

Gormley 2

Gormley 3a.jpg

And in my ever humbler opinion, the highlight of the show was outside the building in the forecourt.  We didn’t get a replica of The Angel of the North but we got something better — and so small that it was almost missable—Gormley’s cast iron “Baby”, which, it seems, people wanted to stroke and pet!

Gormley Baby a.jpg

What else did I manage in the five free days that I had?  Well, I was able to take two photographs that indicated a sign of the times in Britain’s capital city.

The red telephone boxes, so much a part and parcel of the urban scene in the UK for so long seem to have had their day as the cellphone/mobile conquers all before it, depositing red telephone boxes if not to the scrapheap, at least to other uses.

Sign of the Times

The second sign of the times occurred as I was sitting on a London bus en route to meet my son at his place of work.  I noticed that the bus had a monitor opposite where I was sitting, which showed various views of the bus, downstairs and upstairs.  It then occurred to me that I could take a selfie but a different kind of selfie to the ones usually taken with a smartphone, and here I am doing it.  I’m taking a picture of me taking a picture of me.  Well, fancy that!

Sign of the times?

However, after the excitement of Gormley and the rest of what I saw of London, it was time for the flight home on the Wednesday.  El Al, bless them, had given me seat 47H, an aisle seat towards the rear of the plane.  In my innocence, I asked at the check-in desk if there wasn’t a seat somewhere a little further forward and with a smile on her face, the woman said that she could give me 27H.  I should have been able to read something into the smile!

Boarding the plane, I sat myself in 27H (I like to board early because that way, I don’t have to argue about overhead space with other people).  About 15 minutes later, a large group of people boarded the plane, accompanied by what could only have been a Roman Catholic priest.  It was a group from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Croydon on a Holy Land pilgrimage.  A rather large lady with a broad West African accent, asked to sit in 27J, the middle seat and to my right.  She then informed me that she had requested an aisle seat but hadn’t got one and, as a consequence, she would be asking me at least 20 times (it’s a 4½ hour flight) to allow her out because she has to… you know what.  In addition, I’m not quite sure how to put it, she … well, she smelled rather high.  Stank, actually.  The woman beside her, in the window seat, also part of the group said to me when I arose rise to let my neighbour do her thing, that it might be a good idea if I found a different place so sit as it wouldn’t be all that easy for me (and she knew what she was talking about).

I asked the stewardess, who told me that the plane wasn’t full and that was now I ended up in the last row with no neighbours on either side and had a pretty comfortable ride home!

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Finally, after all the trials and tribulations, I invite you to conclude your reading of this post with a performance of the Dvořák string sextet from Tel Aviv Museum of Art earlier this year.

… and with a rather special recording of Robert Schumann’s first string quartet, performed by the Carmel Quartet, with an animated graphical score (cello at the bottom in purple, Tami Waterman).