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