A Brave New World

My previous post on this blog, which I wrote a fortnight ago, was the first one that I had posted in the nearly five years this blog has been active that Vivien hadn’t read before it went up and out.  And now that she’s no longer here to warn me diplomatically when my emotions got the better of me, as they often did, I have to get used to the idea that I am now my own critic and censor. Like many other things, it ain’t going to be easy.

Married just a month short of 54 years, best friends for longer than  that, 62 years of togetherness have come to an end and I will just have to get on with life, as best I can, on my own.  As my late mother told me 25 years ago, a week after my father passed away, it’s too easy to sink.  She just said in her matter-of-fact way that she had to be like all the other people she saw on the street and get out and do normal things; the following day she registered for bridge classes and never looked back, playing three or four days a week with different groups.  I’m not going to take lessons in playing bridge (my mother also informed me that I didn’t have a “card-playing brain”) but I will find other things to do.

It has been a weird few weeks. For starters, it had been perhaps over 10 years since such a long time had gone by without my shooting a single photograph with a camera although I took a small number with the phone’s camera—but really very few.  The extended photo break was, of course, caused by the fact that for most of the period  from July 2 to July 18, I was ensconced in a chair beside a bed in a ward in Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv during daylight hours, while the doctors tried to identify and locate the source of some nasty bacteria that had decided to come to life inside Vivien’s body.  Unfortunately, even after a fortnight  of “investigation” they didn’t succeed and the end came after an unfortunate piece of negligence on the part of one of the nurses as a result of which she survived less than 24 hours.

Notwithstanding the outcome of the events, it’s always an interesting experience to observe the goings-on in hospitals.  Some years ago, while in London for a short stay, the same lady found herself with a lung infection and was treated at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, an event which extended our planned short stay in the U.K. by a fortnight, something that appealed to me even if the circumstances of the prolongation were far from ideal.  During the few days in hospital and in the five or six days following discharge, there were visits from doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and others who treated her, in hospital and at home.  I counted 16 different people who looked after her (not including ancillary staff such as cleaners and the like). The treatment was highly professional and that was to be expected. However, what really struck me then was that all but two of these professionals originated outside the U.K.  That was long before Brexit “got done” and it does make one think.  And here we are in Israel, which is sometimes (and more frequently than in the past) referred to as a willing successor to South Africa as the apartheid state and, indeed, there are many things that once can criticize in this country.  Yet when I looked around me at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, I saw a group of medical staff working together as a team.  It made no difference whether they were Jewish, Muslim or Christian, whether they were secular or religious, whether they were native born or immigrants from the former USSR or Ethiopia, they worked as one and gave the best treatment they could.  It is a side of Israel that the foreign media never if ever report on or are wilfully ignorant of but which exists in every hospital and healthcare clinic in this country.

Vivien passed away early on Saturday morning July 18.  Our son, Dov, arrived from London two days earlier, ostensibly to spend 14 days in self-isolation and the third week with Vivien.  He managed to speak with her on the phone after he arrived, travelling to my sister to quarantine in Northern Israel.  However, he didn’t succeed in seeing his mother in person.  Neither did our daughter Shuli who had emerged from self-isolation around the same time, having been required to quarantine when a classmate of her 9-year old daughter had been diagnosed with Covid-19, an event which required all the Grade 3 kids in the school and their parents to hide themselves away for the duration.  Shuli managed to see Vivien the evening before she died but by that time she got to the hospital, Vee was already on a ventilator.

We arranged the funeral for Monday as Dov needed to receive permission to leave his place of quarantine in order to be with us.  Permission was granted and he also received authorisation to continue his period of self-isolation in Tel Aviv.  We were restricted to a maximum of 18 attendees at the funeral so after we had accounted for immediate family, I had the task of choosing from among friends and relatives and that was not at all n easy task.

As we assembled prior to the interment, I asked the representative of the Burial Society what was permitted in the ceremony prior to burial.  Expecting to be told that one could only do this and definitely not that, I was pleasantly surprised when his response was “Whatever you want.  We respect the wishes of each family.”  I asked if we could have music and again he responded that there was no problem and then when I asked if a woman would be permitted to sing (hearing a woman’s voice is a no-no among many religious Jews), I discovered that this was simply a non-issue.

So I delivered a eulogy, which concluded with the words from the end of  Dido’s Lament from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, a piece of music that Vivien loved

“When I am laid in earth, may my wrongs create
No trouble … in thy breast.
Remember me, remember me, but ah! Forget my fate.

And as I finished, three friends of Shuli and Tami, Rachel Ringelstein (vocal), accompanied by Tali Goldberg (violin) and Yael Patish-Comforty (viola) performed the aria. (The video above is of the same aria but, obviously, performed by others elsewhere.)



Dov composed a special piece for Vivien and then all three of our children delivered their own words, followed by  an old friend and neighbour from Haifa, Sammy Beris.

And then, to everybody’s surprise, Shuli produced a bluetooth speaker and we listened as a friend and colleague of Shuli’s, Maya Belsitzman (cello, vocals and arranger), with Matan Ephrat (drums), Tali Goldberg and Sharon Cohen (violins) and Shuli herself (viola) belted out Vivien’s signature tune, When You’re Smiling, from a concert performed earlier this year at the Israel Jazz Festival while all 18 of us present sang along with gusto.

After the funeral, the shivah, the seven-day mourning period began and ended last Sunday morning with a large family hug and tears.  It was an “interesting” week.  The apartment filled up with a constant stream of musicians and both Dov and I had friends, neighbours and former colleagues visit as well.  Shivah is truly a wonderful institution.

Although I stopped being a regular synagogue attender a long time ago (The Almighty and I stopped speaking to one another some years ago) I find reciting the kaddish, the prayer for the departed, a catharsis.  As an old acquaintance from Dublin, Mashey Bernstein, a person whom Vivien and I hosted half a century ago in Los Angeles when he arrived to become a graduate student and later a faculty member in the Writing Program at UC Santa Barbara, reinventing himself in the process, wrote in an article published in The Jewish Chronicle after his mother died nearly 30 years ago, “The kaddish has a peculiar effect on people.  Recalcitrant sons who have not stepped inside a synagogue for years suddenly appear three times a day to recite the prayer.  Those who had bad relations with their parents weep profusely as they utter the words.  For loving children, it offers comfort and consolation.  Whatever the case, reciting the words [in Aramaic], the formula, the mantra, unites the child in some primeval way with tradition, with the voices of equally bereft children who have recited the words over thousands of years.  With their recitation, they find peace.”  And what Mashey wrote about children and their parents is equally true of husband and wife.  When I recite the kaddish, it’s not the meaning of the words that I react to but to the rhythm of the words and the responses.  This is what causes the memories to flood and the emotions to flow.

Immediately after Vivien’s passing and before the shivah began at 10.00 each morning, I decided that the best way to begin the healing process would be to try to return to what I’d been doing almost every day day for the previous 12 years, and that is to go for a morning walk, camera in hand.

First in a fortnight

Smile! (My first photograph in almost a fortnight (Outside the house on Stricker St., T-A)

Other family members did different things then and in the days of corona lockdown that had preceded it.  Tami took to water-colour painting and found it extremely relaxing and soothing.

Screen Shot 2020-07-31 at 16.18.03

Gali, aged 9, enjoyed drawing and also started to paint so that Vivien was able to view the painting below each day she was in the hospital as I had taped it to the end of her bed.

Gali's bird

Shuli, meanwhile, was working on her iPad drawing skills and decided to teach herself animation.  She took a story that Vivien had written for children over 20 years ago, set to a short piece of music for string quartet, Polka, by Dmitri Shostakovich and decided to animate it.  Vivien managed to hear and see the first two minutes of it but Shuli didn’t manage to finish it before she died.  She posted it to YouTube and sent the link to Facebook friends, so in a way, lots more people managed to enjoy it than Vivien would have ever imagined and that would have made her extremely happy.  (Shuli worked on the Hebrew version first and then I discovered on Viv’s laptop that there was also an English version, so that went up, too.  The Hebrew version is slightly better quality.)


Like everywhere else, live performances have vanished from the scene. However, just a couple of days after Vivien was hospitalized, Shuli performed in the first of what was planned as a mini-festival of three concerts during the first week of July at the Israel Conservatory of Music down the street.  The auditorium was about 60% full of masked people sitting at a socially acceptable distance from one another and she managed to perform in a Haydn string quartet (Op. 33 #1) and the Brahms piano quintet.  However, the following day, the cabinet or the government or the minister (nobody really knew at the time who was making decisions or why) decided that all halls should be closed and that was the end of that.

Haydn Op. 33 (1))

Haydn, Op. 33#1.  Daniel Bard & Sergei Bressler (violins), Shuli Waterman (viola) and Michal Korman (cello)

Brahms Quintet - 1

Brahms Piano Quintet.  Yael Karet ((piano), Daniel Bard & Sergey Bressler (violins), Shuli Waterman (viola) and Michal Korman (cello)

Then, two days before the end came, I managed to attend the rehearsal of a twice-cancelled concert by the Carmel Quartet, entitled Baroque Avant-Garde.  The quartet had decided to record the concert the following day and send it to series subscribers in a few weeks’ time.  I would have liked to have been able to attend the recording session at the Conservatory the following day but the timing was off for at just about the same time as it was about to start, all hell had broken loose at the hospital.  Tami heard the news after the session had come to an end.


Tami Waterman, cellist, Carmel Quartet. 

Theorbo 1

Ophira Zakai, theorbo.  Guest of Carmel Quartet

Trio Sonata

BAROQUE AVANT-GARDE in rehearsal : Rachel Ringelstein & Tali Goldberg (violins), Yizhar Karshon (harpsichord), Ophira Zakai (theorbo)

After two weeks in quarantine and two free days, Dov has returned to London to his own family to yet a further fortnight of quarantine.  He was great company while he was here but I have to get used to something else.

Thus I enter a new phase of life, a “Brave New World”.  After 62 years of togetherness and almost 54 years of married life, I have to become used to living alone.  It won’t be easy but my mother is my model in that regard.  “Keep busy; it’s too easy to sink!”, so I will find lots of things to do.  I have to — there’s really no alternative.

I can only hope that Vee would have approved of what I’ve written this time around and that I haven’t committed too many errors of judgement or indiscretions!



Vivien Waterman (1.vi.1945 – 18.vii.2020)

I haven’t been in the mood for posting on the blog over the past couple of weeks.  This was because I was spending most of my daytime hours beside a bed in Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv while Vivien battled with an enigmatic bacterial infection.  Her wonderful carer, Arneath Cruzat, did the same at night.

Yesterday morning she was removed to an intensive care ward, put under sedation and on a ventilator after an accidental and unfortunate incident involving asphyxiation.  She was on the ventilator for about 20 hours but at 8 a.m. on Shabbat morning, she passed away.  The only comfort is that at least she is now at rest and no longer in discomfort and pain.


Vivien, photographed by Lily Waterman (age 6), 2019

Vivien was a most positive person, always an optimist, even over the 14 months during which she was mostly confined to a wheelchair.  In 54 years of marriage, she seldom had a day that was free of discomfort, pain, illness — but rarely complained and there was always that smile that lit up the room.

I can only describe it as a privilege to have been married to this brave, warm, talented and extremely imaginative person for almost 54 years and to have been her best friend for even longer than that, from when we were 13 and in the same school class at Stratford College in Dublin.

One of our oldest friends from Haifa, Irma Zaslansky, wrote to me the following a few hours ago:


Extraordinary in her ability to love and be loved…
Extraordinary in her care for others, always…
Extraordinary in her musical talents…singing, playing, teaching
Extraordinary in her creativity …art, ceramics, stories…
Extraordinary in her appreciation of everything around her….
Extraordinary in her grace in difficult times. in suffering…
Extraordinary in her acceptance of what life offers…
Extraordinary in her role as mother and wife…
Extraordinary in her friendship and generosity…
Extraordinary in her smile and repeated assurance:”not too bad, thanks”…
An extraordinary person with an extraordinary husband and extraordinary children. 
You will be greatly missed.
Irma managed to say it all in 12 lines.
I will miss her—we all will miss her—deeply.

What day is it?

Last week, I thought that our refrigerator problem had been sorted when a third technician arrived and got it working again.  It behaved itself for all of eight days when the problem returned (i.e., the refrigerator was not refrigerating!).  I called the company with which our electrical appliances are insured as soon as I noticed that the issue had returned but once more, it was a Friday and it was after 12.30 p.m. so there was nobody to talk to until Sunday morning.

Sunday morning came and I was informed that the earliest they could send someone was Thursday afternoon between 4 and 6 in the afternoon, and all my remonstrations over the fact that I was not talking about a dishwasher or a vacuum cleaner but about a refrigerator in a period when summer had arrived in  Tel Aviv were to no avail. Late Thursday afternoon in Israel actually means that if things don’t work out, I would be back at Square One and telephoning again on a Sunday morning and so on.  So I did what any “self-respecting” person does these days and performed a Google search.  The googled technician turned up an hour and a half later, and the fridge was ready to work again after it had been through another 48-hour unplugged “rest period” .  I turned it on on Wednesday morning and it worked perfectly — for five days this time before it chilled out again.  Monday, I purchased a new fridge, due to be delivered within the hour.

At least it kept my mind off coronavirus and blasted politicians for a week.  A month ago, things here in Israel were beginning to look up.  Many children were back in school, businesses were beginning to reopen and more recently, theatres, concert halls and wedding halls were given the green light even if alongside many restrictions concerning maximum numbers, social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.  However, it nows looks as if things might be about to change following an upturn in the number of new cases recorded three or four weeks ago, which has gathered pace so that yesterday, according the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, there were 7,096 currently infected patients, 46 in serious condition, up from just over 2,000 just a few weeks ago and it appears that we are now at the start or in the midst of a second wave, all of which means that I’m still going to be asking the question “What day is today?” for a while to come yet.


And what day is today is a question I’m asking myself more frequently as todays meld into tomorrows and this week melts into next week.  I returned to Tel Aviv and a fortnight of quarantine over three months ago but it might as well be six months or a year or more as far as I’m concerned.  There’s a daily routine which involves an hour and half or so in the mornings observing the urban landscape and taking photographs but there’s no real weekly routine and when there’s no routine, the days and weeks just slip away.

I try to avoid the news as far as that’s possible.  Five or six minutes at 6 or 7 in the morning is as much as I need to hear and even then, the first item is more than likely to concern Covid-19—how many new infections, how many total infections, how many seriously ill, how many on respirators, how many have died and occasionally, but very occasionally, a statistic on how many have actually recovered. Five minutes of radio in the morning means that I don’t have to listen to the gobbledegook spewed out by politicians whose main concern seems to be how to get themselves appointed to government, re-elected or staying out of prison even if it means destroying the police and judiciary in so doing. Having just written what I’ve written, the British Prime Minister, the former leader of the ELO (English Liberation Organization) doesn’t have to worry about elections for a while yet unless he screws things up completely, which is entirely possible.  He seems to be learning the hard way, like many other leaders of national liberation movements, that governing a country is a different ball game from getting a crowd worked up about desperation and independence from an oppressor.

But even Boris has his feet more firmly on the ground than his American dingbat counterparts who seem to inhabit a planet of their own, isolated from what is taking place on Planet Earth.  First we had the President guy, having failed in his efforts to make Americans drinka-pinta-bleach-a-day, telling his MAGA people that he had told his guys to go easy on Corona testing because the more you test, the more cases you’e going to find—and if they find more cases then the world’s smartest person might have to shoulder some blame and that might hinder further his already handicapped prospects of reelection.  In that case I would strongly recommend that testing should be greatly accelerated.

This message was restated by the Vice-President later in the week when we heard him telling the people that total victory is assured and everything will be hunky-dory by Christmas; all they have to do is pray.  There he stood, telling all and sundry that up was down, that square was round and the all-time high of daily coronavirus infections in the United States was as much proof as was needed to show that the curve had been streamrollered completely flat.  There he was, without any face covering because, presumably, that would be a sign of weakness, giving his first coronavirus task force briefing in nearly two months telling the world that “we have made truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward” without a hint of irony that he might not actually believe the fact that two-and-a-half million Americans had been infected and over 125,000 had already died from Covid19, the worst figures on Planet Earth.  “As we stand here today,” went on the man who isn’t worth tuppence,  “all 50 states and the territories across this country are opening up safely and responsibly.”

America’s shame, I would call it, except that I doubt whether that particular word is part of the President’s itty-bitty wordbook and if it is there somewhere, even if someone took the time to explain its meaning, (definition: “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour”) I wonder whether he is actually capable of understanding its meaning!


I’ve also managed to take some photographs over the past fortnight or so.  Many of you will be familiar with my photographs of fire hydrants, many of which, to my somewhat addled mind, resemble faces.  Then, in the last post, as my mind wandered and the door of the freezer was left open, I observed a smiling face in the shape of two freezer drawers.  This week, I baked some scones and because one of my granddaughters asked if I could make some with chocolate chips rather than raisins, I divided the dough into two parts with the result being that the raisins were insufficiently absorbed into the dough.  That didn’t stop us consuming them and when there were only two left, I turned around and looked at what remained and discovered that one had stuck out his tongue at me and was smiling.  So I did what any normal person would do—I ate him.

Scone smile

Out in the park, this egret was taking its bow for the applause it had received for its latest work of art entitled: “All my own work—Black and White”.  …

Take a bow

… Actually, it looks even better when it’s all black & white.

B&W is my speciality

Whereas the egret above is an artist (of sorts), the one below was driving the the angler crazy, walking from right-hand side to left and back in the hope of receiving a morsel of fish to eat.  But no luck today for either angler or egret.

Egret and angler

Notwithstanding, it’s a pretty bird, indeed.


In addition to the birds, there also dogs all over the place.  This one below was taking it easy in the sun just around the corner and I thought that it was worth a photograph…

Taking the sun

…whereas his friend below was also taking it easy while being transported around the park.

Man & Dog

Just before I reached the port area, I came across this canine and truth is that although I knew it was a dog I wasn’t entirely sure that it was…


… and then before I had rounded the corner to enter the port. I came across the following and for some reason, I immediately thought to myself “Laurel and Hardy”.

There but for the grace of God go I

Masks, of course, are all the rage at the moment and it seems as if we have finally passed some critical point at which most people walking through the park are wearing one and almost everyone walking the streets definitely is.


Mind you, you come across reminders here and there, not all of them as large and loud as this one on Nordau Boulevard.

A reminder

All masked up

What a funny place for a mask.  Yehoshua Ben-Nun Street, Tel Aviv

Masking up

Masking up.  Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

However, not everyone uses a mask (or a visor) in the way intended.  The individual below literally walked across my field of vision a couple of weeks ago.  I really didn’t have time to compose the photo and just clicked and hoped for the best.  As happens on occasion, a caption springs to mind at exactly the same time and this one, I thought was appropriate.  During these Covid-19 days, PPE was much in the news as hospitals ran short of Personal Protection Equipment.  This guy had obviously reinterpreted the acronym.

How did he do it?

Man with PPE (Personal Pollution Equipment).  Tel Aviv Port, June 2020

And just a few metres from where I photographed him I found the following three pictures at the Friday morning farmers’ market, which can always be counted upon to provide colours and appetizers.

Friday market

Friday market 1Friday market Cherry tomators

And while on the subject of colours, my daughters and granddaughters took a couple of days off last week and, among other things, went cherry-picking.  The cherries this year are the like of which I can’t remember in all the time I’ve been in Israel!

What day is today? - 4What day is today? - 3

There’s still time to photograph things in and around the house.  The one below was outside the kitchen window one day last week.

From the kitchen window

And, of course, there’s also time for some more abstract creations.

Now you see it - 1legs5

Finally, things are on the way back to normal in fits and starts.  The I Love T-A sign below in the port only a few weeks ago was reminding us about social distancing and masking up.

I Love T-A social

Last week, it was reminding us that it was Gay Pride time again.


Finally, with all the news about hatred and hate speech in the news lately, it’s worth listening to these lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II once more.