I needed a change of scenery. After the trauma of the past two months, I’d had enough of being alone in the flat in Tel Aviv in temperatures of well over 30º C and 80% relative humidity every day, hearing daily news about thousands of people demonstrating outside the Prime Minister’s residences in Jerusalem and Caeasarea and on almost every bridge over every highway in Israel calling for his resignation (some hope!) and reports of him referring to people with views like mine as leftists, anarchists, people who are simply out to destroy Israeli democracy.
Really?! Are we that loathsome and repulsive and dangerous? My gut reaction is that the name-callers should look at their reflections in their mirrors each morning and examine them carefully. Israel, after all is in lockdown and if I read correctly a short while ago, the Prime Minister has told the people that the lockdown will last for a at least a month and probably much longer than that. The hospitals are nearing a critical point with 800 seriously ill hospitalised; around 9,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily the government, apparently, bears no responsibility for the situation that has developed. It’s all because of the people, it seems and it’s the law-abiding people who appear to be at fault. Talk about irresponsibility. To quote the 16th President of the United States of America, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” Time will tell.
At any rate, I’d had enough for the time being and initially booked a ticket to London with EasyJet for Friday September 25) so that I could spend Jewish New Year with my daughters and granddaughters in Tel Aviv and be there for Lily’s 8th birthday. However, only two days after booking, I was informed by EasyJet that they had cancelled the flight. So it was back to the drawing board where I discovered that British Airways was still flying between Heathrow and Tel Aviv, so I booked for the same outward bound and return dates with BA only to be further informed the following day that they, too, had followed suit and cancelled Friday’s flight.
I was in a bit of a quandary as I really couldn’t make up my mind what to do. And then Shuli and Tami said to that I should I just go a week earlier than I’d planned. So, back to British Airways and I booked for the Thursday of the week before last.
It wasn’t a particularly auspicious start to the trip. The taxi driver dropped me off at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv where, in 33°C of heat and 80 percent relative humidity, people were lining up outside the airport terminal in bright sunshine, so as sheep tend to do, I joined the queue.
After several minutes an overbearing female official approached me, shouting: “Have you signed a declaration stating that you are not suffering from COVID-19?” (At no time during the previous two or three weeks did I receive any indication that I was supposed to do this although a British Airways representative, who sounded as if she was at home in Mumbai or Bangalore, had said to me that I did not need a Covid test before flying.) Apparently, the airport authorities were happy enough to take people at their word.
Still, filling in a form was part of a game that had to be played out so the same officious official directed me towards three other lines (still outside the building but thankfully in partial shade) at the top of each was located a computer that would enable me to declare Covidlessness, and consequently, purity. One machine was being operated by a woman ostensibly helping an older (I have to be careful when I use the word elderly) couple to complete their requirement but this seemed to be a never-ending process and it turned out after about a quarter of an hour that it was going nowhere. It was suggested that I and others move to another queue but it turned out that the other two computers weren’t operating at all so after a little while later, I was directed to enter the terminal building where a green wristband with six digits was affixed to my right wrist and I was informed that it must not be removed until after I had boarded the aircraft and that I was permitted to proceed to check-in.
Unlike the usual chaos inside the terminal building the place was virtually empty. I proceeded to the departure area where it turned out that there were lots of people travelling that day but they were dressed as if they didn’t seem to be going where I was going on the grounds that most of them were dressed in shorts and tee-shirts. The noticeboard indicated but most of them were off to Greece, one of the few countries to which is Israelis can travel without being quarantined there or on return. Chaos ensued on boarding the plane — lots of people with young children and other disabilities were herded on to the plane first and then it was time board.
I thought I’d been clever in choosing my seat, a window seat in the last row of the plane. My assumption was that there would be little social distancing on the aircraft and that that seat would be the least likely place for many people to pass by throughout the journey. It was a reasonable assumption and the night before the flight I checked to see if the pair of seats beside me were still unoccupied and at 8 p.m. on the previous evening, they had not been taken. However, it was a mistaken assumption on my part because two young women parked themselves on the empty seats beside me just after I had settled in, thinking that I would be the solitary occupant of the row.
As far as I could ascertain, the plane was chockablock full . Social distancing apparently is unheard-of on British Airways, its place taken by filling the aircraft and recouping fares. However, we were constantly reminded every few minutes or so that our masks had to cover both nose and mouth. Wearing a mask for 10½ hours on the trot is uncomfortable, to say the least. After just under five hours’ flying time, I was glad to depart the plane even though, sitting where I had been sitting, I was the last passenger off. The saving grace was that as I entered at the baggage reclaim area, there it was, my case! I didn’t even have to wait to remove it from the carousel. That had never happened before!
I imagined that some self-important immigration official would remind me that I was supposed to quarantine because prior to the trip I had had to fill out a lengthy online form from the British immigration authorities stating the address at which I would be residing for my first 14 days and providing them all possible means of contacting me—telephone numbers and emails, and the details of someone whom they could contact if they failed to locate me (They may read this blog and perhaps have thought that I might have made for Primrose Hill to photograph trees and committed the unforgivable sin of not taking my phone with me. But no such reminder was forthcoming. One was simply supposed to know that self-isolation was the done thing.
I arrived at the flat in London in double quick time. I think that the bemasked cab driver was none too happy about having to travel with another masked individual in his car — but how else could he make a living? At any rate, we was silent throughout the journey. The trip from Heathrow Terminal 5 to apartment building took just under 40 minutes, which, I think, was a record time.
I had made an order from Ocado, an online grocery store, to deliver provisions the following morning, and at 07.00 on the dot, there he was, unloading several bags outside the door of the flat. That exercise took about the deliveryman about two minutes, followed by a further 40 minutes of me sorting things out and putting things away.
When I eventually reawakened, I vaguely remembered something about self-isolation but, as I age, it’s obvious that my hearing has deteriorated somewhat so it seems that I had misheard what I had heard and jumped up. Obviously, that is not what the people meant and after 24 hours I felt so uncomfortable up there on the shelf in between the books and really unable to do anything, that in the end, I jumped down and tried to organise myself in a different manner. And the thing is that I felt so sheepish about the whole thing. (This is what tends to happen when one can’t go outside to take photographs!)
And after that little escapade, I then began my fortnight of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious quarantine.
As I write, I am now on Isolation Day #12; it’s passed more quickly that I had expected although I have acute sympathy for all those people who have been kept in solitary confinement as punishment or for those afraid to leave their homes and have been inside for the most part over the past half year because anything more than a further week like this would leave me mentally unsound — although I am aware that there are some people who believe that that critical point had already passed some time ago.
As I wrote above, one of the problems about being incarcerated is that I can’t go outside with the camera to photograph. As a consequence, I have to make do with what’s at hand, so I’ve been scouring the flat as well as looking out the windows to see and imagine what I can see or to see what I can imagine I can see.
After a few days, you begin to go bananas …
And after a few more days of lock-up you become completely browned off!
But as it was early in the morning and I wasn’t completely awake and unable to distinguish between the real and the unreal, I pounced on something else that seemed to be freshly baked bread only to discover that it, too, wasn’t bread but no more than an inedible sponge.
Eventually, though, I managed to locate the bread that I had been looking for and that I knew was there.
… toothless grins of inanity and insanity in the bathroom …
… just black and white in the kitchen …
Meanwhile, I can stay in the living room and observe the wildlife in the garden from inside.
P.S. If anyone notices that there is anything odd about the layout of this blog post, it’s because WordPress has changed the way in which I can compose and set up the post. It takes some getting used to, so I suppose that learning it will give me something to do over the next few days!