Man against machine

Coronatime

It started about a month ago.  All of a sudden, the clothes dryer decided not to function as it should have.  The clothes were coming out dry but the stench that accompanied them filled the flat.  I called the company with which the electrical appliances are insured and they called back about four days later.  When I explained the problem, they told me to find someone to help me lower the machine from its perch above the washing machine and clear out the fluff that had accumulated behind it.  I found someone to help, did what I was told, replaced the dryer on its perch—to no avail.

However, before running off to look at a new machine to replace it, I decided to call the technician who had come to repair it about 12 years ago and he suggested that we soak a towel in vinegar, put it in the dryer and see what happens.  Skeptical as I must be, I did as I was told and lo and behold the clothes came out dry and fresh as they always had previously.  And that worked for about three weeks until the machine ceased to work completely.

This time, things seemed more serious so I called the insurance company again and got on to them a little more quickly than on the previous occasion.  The woman on the telephone asked me for the details of the machine and when I told her, she informed me that because of its make—Mièle—the call out charge, whether or not anything was don, would be three times the normal rate.  To say that this vexed me would be understatement, so once again, I called the same Mièle technician who had advised me on vinegar use a few weeks earlier and asked him if he could come and have a look at it and within an hour, he was here.  Down came the dryer once more and off came its back. Within 15 minutes, and a couple of wires replaced, it was working again — but not when it was plugged into the electricity socket behind the washing machine.  Apparently, it had short-circuited and burned out the socket, which then required the services of an electrician who, to my great surprise, also arrived within the hour and did what needed to be done.

The reason I bothered to write all this is that the dryer is advanced in years, i.e., old.  We bought it from the previous owners of the apartment and they had done a reconstruction of the flat over 30 years ago.  I had asked the technician when I called him if he knew how old the dryer actually is and from the model number, he told me that it had been manufactured 34 years ago!  And as they say about politicians, they don’t make them today like they used to.  And when he managed to repair it, he told me that I was lucky in that he still had spare parts!

Dryer

However, that was just the start of things, for I’d noticed that food in the fridge seemed to be going off more quickly than it should have been.  We had had an electricity blackout in the street a couple of months ago and when power was returned, I noticed that the temperature gauge on the exterior of the fridge door was showing 9ºC rather than 4ºC .  I called the Samsung dealer and was informed that the fall in power had probably just damaged the sensor that displays the temperature and that it happens frequently and would right itself—and it did, for a while.  But why do I always believe these people?  Anyway, the cheese seemed to be still accumulating a mould rather earlier than should have been the case, so I took a bus into town and bought a fridge thermometer and discovered that the temperature inside the refrigerator was indeed not 9ºC. It was 14ºC !

Back to the insurance company.  It took them two days to send a technician out.  He looked at the fridge and then looked at the freezer, told us to turn the machine off for 24 hours and everything would be fine.  It wasn’t.  Two days later (a Friday, never a good day for having things done in Israel) they sent another technician but the fridge was so iced up at the back that he couldn’t unscrew the back panel and informed us that they would send someone else the following week and give us notice 24 hours prior to the technician arriving, so tat we could switch off the fridge again.  This time around, when he came, it took the man about a quarter of an hour to get it back in working order and we are now (I hope) better prepared for the summer.

However, one of the unforeseen outcomes of having the fridge turned off and the doors left open is that as I sat down to have breakfast last Thursday morning, I found myself staring at the two drawers on the left-hand side of the freezer and realized that the freezer face was looking at me as if an old friend who wanted to tell me something — which was probably how it was feeling that things felt far too warm for it to be comfortable.

Smile 1

So when Shuli came around later that morning, I asked her if perhaps she could make something artistic out of the “face” (in the absence of concerts, she’s been honing her skills during Corona-time as an illustrator  and below is what she came up with.)

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The way someone born in the 1970s thinks we all looked then!

Notwithstanding, I decided to have a try myself just to see if I could change moods by making a few small alterations using three different photo-editing programs and this is what transpired.

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On another subject entirely, it was reported in The Guardian newspaper last Friday that one episode of the 1970s TV comedy series, Fawlty Towers, from which “Don’t mention the war!” became a catchphrase was to be taken down from UKTV, a streaming service owned by the BBC.  This was part of the continuation by broadcasters of reappraising old British television content.  In the episode concerned, John Cleese, playing Basil Fawlty, goose-steps around a Torquay hotel while shouting “Don’t mention the war!” while taking a lunch order from a group of German guests staying at his hotel.  A spokesperson for UKTV at the time repeatedly refused to clarify whether the decision to remove the programme was permanent but then, a few days later, the newspaper reported that  the episode had been reinstated, apparently after Cleese intervened.  If only I had been a fly on the wall! Well, well, well!

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This selfsame episode also included a scene in which another regular character, a permanent guest at the hotel, a senile old British army officer, a Major Gowen, played by Ballard Berkeley, uses very strong racist language in relating an anecdote about the West Indies and Indian cricket teams, telling how he explained to his girlfriend when he was young the difference between the West Indians and the Indians, the former being “niggers” and the latter just “wogs”.  The same episode also features Basil Fawlty apparently shocked at being treated in hospital by a black doctor.

The Guardian further reported that about a decade ago many broadcasters began editing out that particular episode of the programme, although the “racist” language can still be heard on the version hosted by Netflix. Seemingly, as part of the political correctification movement, there is growing scrutiny over historic racism in archived entertainment programmes, prompting broadcasters to check back catalogues and respond to criticism of shows that were once considered family entertainment.

I was foresighted or fortunate enough to purchase Fawlty Towers on DVD many years ago so I don’t have to rely on the whims of this or that bureaucratic nitwit (another term  often used in Fawlty Towers)  to decide for me what I can and cannot see. So we watched the Fawlty Towers episode “The Germans” the other night and I thought it was just as funny as ever and I honestly could not see what was offensive about it beyond the fact that the Basil Fawlty character is extremely offensive—to everybody who comes into his hotel.  And that was the whole point of the programme—to make people laugh at his offensiveness and repulsiveness. (And according to Cleese and others, the real-life person upon whom the Basil Fawlty character is based was a far more objectionable character than Basil, although is more than a little difficult to imagine!)

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Much of this comes as a reaction to Black Lives Matter, exacerbated by the callous murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis as few weeks ago.  Yes, Black lives do matter. In fact, for that matter, all lives matter.  But taking offence can be much overdone.  Am I supposed to be affronted by every Irish or Jewish joke I hear told by others? Does the fact that I think that some of the scenes in Fawlty Towers—whether they concern black doctors or Irish builders or ugly nurses, or Basil screaming into the hearing aid of an exasperating and complaining old female guest or beating up his unfortunate Spanish waiter Manuel (“He’s from Barcelona, you know”, another catchphrase from the show) are humorous—hilarious in fact—turn me into a racist or a supporter of cruelty?  Of course not. But what is offensive and what is not, what is “politically correct” or “politically incorrect” swings like a pendulum and just now, the pendulum has swung a little too far in the other direction!

What we’re laughing at is not the supposed racism but the coarseness, the loutishness, of the characters—not just Basil Fawlty, but Archie Bunker, Alf Garnett and others with whom I’m less familiar.  If they can’t understand that, then I really think the world has gone a little mad!  And if, as The Guardian puts it, streaming services are increasingly introducing warnings at the start of programmes alerting viewers to historic depictions of racism or language that viewers would not expect to find in a modern programme, then, very simply put, they’re not doing their job well enough!

And outside?

Out on the streets and getting ready for summer, the street parallel to the one we live on, Brandeis Street, has a couple of bright trees at its northern end.  These are Illawarra Flame Trees and when they are in full bloom as they are now, they are quite a sight to behold.

IllawarraIllawarra 1

The other day, while crossing Dizengoff Street at its northern end, I photographed this parking space for electric scooters, one of the current in-things that make both driving and walking so hazardous these days, as their riders whizz in and and out without  as much as a care in the world for others on the streets…

Scooter park

… and then you’re reminded that in order for these weapons of mass aggravation to be found parked more or less neatly, somebody has to drive around to collect them from wherever their users leave them, which can be anywhere from having been carefully parked alongside a wall to splayed along the footpath, barring access to all and sundry.

Scooters

And then as I got to Tel Aviv Port, I passed this young woman who remained motionless for the couple of minutes from when I noticed her until I passed by and I thought to myself that if she pulls really hard, she might be able to remove the toe, which is what she seems to be attempting.

Remove the toe

And while walking about, I’ve started noticing hydrants again after a while of ignoring them.  Maybe this is why this one is down in the dumps.

Down in the dumps

Down in the dumps

And every now and then, somebody sends me a hydrant picture though I can’t imagine why — like this hydrant encouraging bad beehiveor.

Irma's Bees beehiving

Finally, walking along Basel Street in North Tel Aviv yesterday morning, I came across these death notices covering a whole noticeboard.  It’s not unusual to find one death notice posted up on a few different sites in the neighbourhood where the deceased lived or his/her children live but to see a whole noticeboard covered like this in this part of the world is atypical indeed.  Then I looked at the names and tried to figure out what was going on and I noticed that (a) all the names were of women and (b) each individual notice had a small code in the bottom right-hand corner.

Death notices

When I got home and scanned the code, this is the notification that appeared.  http://www.mudaot.com provides the full list and a click on each notice tells the story — in six languages — of each of the murdered women.  Chilling isn’t the word.

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Bright flowers

 

 

 

 

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On birds, boats and masks

Rope 1

I had a call yesterday morning from my dentist’s surgery telling me that is was time to see the dental nurse again for a clean-up.  I was so surprised as I thought that dentists were still locked down and their patients still lock-jawed.  But no.  My time is up so I asked the young woman who called me when the dental nurse last scraped and hacked away at my teeth and was informed that it was in December.  It very well might have been although given the way I feel after three months of general inactivity, it also might well have been in the previous century.

Israel’s corona cabinet (yes, apparently there is such a thing) met the day before yesterday with mixed decisions.  The Prime Minister  announced that he was slowing down the relaxing of restrictions because of an increase in the number of infections as a result of which train service will not be restored at present, even though many people depend on it.  However, in an unexplained move, they’re talking about relaxing restrictions even more for event halls and weddings.  As part of his plan for bringing about the erdoganization of Israel, the Prime Minister is also trying to advance a bill to extend the authority of the Shin Bet (the state security service) to locate those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus but the head of the service told the ministers that there isn’t a need for the service to be involved any longer, given the current rate of infection.

Part of the indecision is related to not knowing whether or not there’ll be a “second wave”.  Part of the problem is that there’s been a rise in the daily number of infections recently but that might just be due to the fact that more tests are being carried out than before, as a result of which more people are testing positive.  However, the number of people in hospital remains fairly stable and the number of those who have died from Covid-19 remains at 289.

However, that said, we are a long way from the situation reached by New Zealand, where the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that it had been 17 days since the last new case had been reported, with 40,000 people having been tested during that time.  She also warned that it was almost certain that new cases would be seen in New Zealand  again but that was not a sign of failure but a reality of this virus. If and when that were to occur, NZ has to make sure it’s prepared.  As in the case of the murder of 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch last year, she showed leadership when leadership was needed and decisions needed to be taken.

We are also a long way from the near chaos that reigns in the United Kingdom (not to mention the United States where 2,000,000 people have been infected and over 110,000 have died).  On Monday, about three months late, the UK decided to impose quarantine on all those entering the country from abroad.  I occasionally log into the nightly pep talk that British government ministers give in order to spice up the lives of Brits but I honestly can’t fathom what they expect the benefits to be of quarantining people arriving from outside for 14 days, especially as in most European countries coronavirus seems be on the wane. They should have done this three months ago as Israel and several other countries did but they failed to do what was necessary.  In cynic mode, all I can do is interpret this action as a logical perpetuation of a Brexit mentality and they are unlikely to retract unless forced by the courts because admitting they might have been in error doesn’t come naturally to politicians!  And Ms. Pretty Prattle or whatever her name is, the Home Secretary (in other places usually called the Minister of the Interior) seems not to be a woman who might back down.  And this was Boris’s call (or was it Dom’s?)

Given that there are so many loopholes in this decision (which took two weeks after it was announced to put into effect, a joke in itself) I can’t imagine that it will do anyone much good.  Anyone entering the UK from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (the so-called Common Travel Area) doesn’t need to isolate for 14 days.  Also exempt, among many, many others, are road haulage and road passenger transport workers, qualified and responsible persons for human medicines and clinical trials, workers engaged in essential or emergency works (related to water supplies and sewerage services), several categories of workers with specialist technical skills, postal workers… and persons who reside in the UK and who pursue an activity as an employed or self-employed person in another country to which they usually go at least once a week.

In short, a bit of a joke but the bottom line is that if I wanted to visit London in the near future, I’d have to find a flight that takes me to Dublin, or to Douglas or hitch a ride with Christopher Beaumont, the Seigneur of Sark, first — and then, if I succeeded, prepare myself for a fortnight of quarantine on return.

But meanwhile, it’s back to morning walks in the Yarqon Park and along the streets of North Tel Aviv.

The other morning I watched about 20 kids from the sea scouts run into a little trouble with their boat, which had capsized.  I waited about 10 minutes while they tried, they really did, to right the boat but they had no luck and I wasn’t about to hang around any longer to see if and how they might have succeeded.

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And then there was the case of the lucky egret who hung around one of the fishermen along the river for quite some time,  knowing that it was likely to benefit in the end.  No only did the bird receive what it wanted, but the man threw it a second fish so I guess the bird was well and truly sated.

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The park provides me with more photographs than I can manage for a single blog post.  I thought that this silhouette of a woman and her dog was worth a picture.  I saw it in colour but clicked the shutter anyway, and worked on it (not too hard) after I got home because I knew that it had to be in black and white to “make sense”.

Woman with dog by the river

And yesterday morning, I decided that a picture of Action Man was appropriate, with the object being photographed keeping an eye on me.

Photo & crow

Photographer at work

In this time of Corona, masquerading has become common.  Get on a bus, and almost everybody is masked up (and so they should be).

Masquerade

Cafés and restaurants are open again, supposedly with restrictions like 2-metre social distancing although I’m not sure that this is adhered to by everyone all the time.

Cafés are back

Even the hydrants are masked these days!

The whites of his eyes

Some people seem to regard the masks not just as something to protect you from the virus but as a fashion symbol.  Outside the local pharmacy down the street, this young woman who had just exited in her leopard-skin tights (manmade fibre, of course) and matching leopard-skin mask drew my attention while I was awaiting my turn to go in.

Leopard skin

And while on the subject of hydrants (which I haven’t presented for a while), these three neophytes appeared on the street a few days ago, outside a public building under construction, apparently a multiple birth, one singleton and a pair of twins, one of which was closely attached to its sibling.

Neophytes

And here are pictured some hydrants at the end of their life cycle, laid out prior to interment.

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A hydrant graveyard (prior to burial)          (Thanks to Esther Piekarski)

Dogs, of course don’t have to wear masks, although in this weather, not hot enough to turn on the air-conditioners but with the living room window open, I wish that some of them did!

I see the dog, the dog sees me

Pug

But then again, if they did wear masks, they wouldn’t be able to do this (or at least some of them wouldn’t!)

Can't return the compliment

Sorry.  I can’t return the compliment!  I’m short on compliments!

Stop!  Think about what you’re going to write before you continue!

Stop — No Entry

So?  The tattoos scare away the virus, then???

Tattooed in the port

At Tel Aviv Port

Then there are those who don’t wear masks at all.

Some have decided that there are places in which masks are not needed at all, figuring that on a pedalo in the middle of a river, albeit a small river, a mask isn’t a necessary piece of equipment …

Easy going does it ev'ry time

This young lady can usually be observed doing some heavy exercises on adult exercise machines in the park.  One day last week, it seems as if she decided to take it easier and sit in the shade and read, mask at the ready.

News in the shade

This person also isn’t wearing a mask although that’s hard to ascertain given the angle from which the picture was taken. However, she is in the same place several mornings a week doing some pretty heavy physical exercise, all the while declaiming what sounds to me like Russian poetry in a rather loud voice, although I may be altogether wrong and what she’s saying is little more than an expression of the lady’s frustrations over lockdown, at government actions and inactions, about the quality of Israeli vodka (hardly likely) or the evils of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Russian gymnopoetess

But the best by far this week was this young woman who I saw suspended from the bridge on Ibn Gvirol Street, one of Tel Aviv’s principal north-south streets, that crosses the park.  I’ve seen and photographed people here before doing similar things but they usually come in groups of two or three or more, which always means to me that if something goes wrong, there are others there to help out.  This woman was doing the job solo and seemed to be enjoying herself to the full and most of all, getting to grips with herself.

On the ropesOn the ropes 1

But pride of place goes to the the Pink Lady, the apple of my eye (or of my camera’s viewfinder) .  I saw her (well, you couldn’t miss her) as I approached the northern end of Ben-Yehuda Street from the sea.  She was waiting at the traffic lights and I was on the other side of the street but I didn’t have an ideal lens on the camera for taking the ideal photograph anyway.  And then the traffic lights changed and she started to walk while I was still stuck at the traffic lights, so I had no alternative but to click and hope for the best and this is what emerged.

Pink lady

 

And to end?  Some Corona-time music recorded about a fortnight ago.

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