Lockdown, lockup, lock-in, lockout!

Lockdown, lockup, lock-in, lockout.

I’m really fed up watching the news. Covid, Covid, Covid; sometimes they use a more complete version of the name of the disease COVID-19; sometimes, they refer to coronavirus or to use its full name: severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, SARS-coV-2.

The past week saw a lot of Donald Trump in and out of hospital, telling the American people that they’ve got it licked, that America has the best medicine and the best treatments in the world (a wonderfully sympathetic statement to make to American citizens who can’t afford even basic medical treatment), that he was leaving hospital and returning to the White House, which has a rather diminished staff of loyal devotees because of COVID-19, a place into which even several erstwhile supporters of the president hesitate or refuse to visit. The highlight of his week in and out of hospital was his appearance on the balcony of the White House where he scornfully ripped off his mask, stuffing it in his pocket, and then appeared to struggle for breath. By the end of the week, however, he had declared himself fit as a fiddle and ready again for the road to read his MAGA gospel to the unswerving, unwavering, adulatory  adherents. Yippee!  Stay positive, Mr. President!

Then, addressing a virtual gathering at a virtual Conservative party conference which was not in Birmingham or Manchester but probably somewhere in London, a rather thinner and more haggard looking than usual British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, told his (apparently now somewhat less than) faithful followers: “… I don’t know about you but I have had more than enough of this disease that attacks not only human beings but so many of the greatest things about our country—our pubs, our clubs, our football, our theatre and all the gossipy gregariousness, our love of human contact that drives the creativity of our economy”.  It’s well worth noting the order of things important to the Brits as expressed by Boris: (a) pubs, (b) clubs, (c) football, &c. Local government leaders are unhappy that they have not been consulted or informed about decisions made regarding the parts of the country for which they are responsible and lots of people seem to think that they are being picked upon as further restrictions on activities and movement are due to be announced.

Meanwhile, I try to keep up with what’s happening in Israel by listening to five or six minutes of news in the morning. There the problem is not pubs and clubs and football but how to keep people from annoying the Prime Minister by demonstrating outside his front doors in Jerusalem and Caesarea. The way he attempted to effect this was by calling a lockdown throughout the whole country from the day after I left Israel three weeks ago and which is still in place. Movement of people is restricted to a distance of 1 km from their houses and a further attempt was made to restrict the distance to 200 m but failed. But all this political manoeuvring managed to do was to disperse the demonstrations against the Prime Minister from two or three major locations to almost every bridge and major junction throughout the whole country. In other words the demonstrations became localised and recruited many more people than had demonstrated before, thereby having the opposite effect to that which the Crime Minister and his dogsbodies had wanted.

At a local anti-Bibi demo, Ramat Aviv

I’ve been in London for just over three weeks now, the first two weeks of which was spent in self-isolation, which I can’t honestly say I enjoyed. In theory, I could have gone out on Friday 10 days ago when self-isolation ended but Friday and the following two days were days during which London received the average precipitation that falls during the whole of October so my release was delayed until Monday.

Succot, Day 1. London. Wet

Finally, I was able to emerge from quarantine and as is my wont when I eventually get to this part of the world, I walk around to Primrose Hill.  Mind you, it was still wet the morning after the rain ceased!

Still rather wet!  October 5, 2020

 

Primrose Hill, first outing 

The first week of quarantine was pretty miserable and although the weather was fine, I didn’t reckon that it was worth the risk of a fine of £1,000 should someone from UK Immigration bother to check up on me. (Friends who had returned from France a few weeks earlier had been contacted twice during their period of quarantine.)  It wasn’t altogether complete isolation.  I saw the grandchildren and their parents twice — in the garden behind the house, and Dov’s in-laws once, in the covered car park while a sheet of water came down from the heavens a couple of metres away.  I also saw my sister three times, twice outside and once when I convinced her that it was warmer in the living room.  And then there were the virtual conversations with family and friends—the conversations were real but there was a lack of face-to-face contact).

By the second week, I was getting used to things.  Anyway, there was “work” to be getting on with as I had planned to rewrite my memory book — Journeys of a journeyman geographer — (I suppose some people might call it a memoir although I think that that’s too grand a word to use for it.)  Anyway, that, at least the third draft has been completed except for final proofreading, although quite what I am going to do with this piece, I really have no idea.

Anyway, on Sunday. the sun came out again (in the morning, that was) and it was off for a walk around the perimeter of Primrose Hill again for a chat with my sister, who I’ve seen for just a couple of brief meetings since I arrived.

Primrose Hill in the autumn sun

Primrose Hill also presented us with its iconic vista over the City of London, Docklands and the West End …

… and by the time that the morrow dawned and the view was from Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, not only had the angle changed but also the colours.

And one can’t help but notice the reminders to keep your distance all over the place — whether on buses to the Underground, in stations …

… and even in the public loo at South End Green, although quite what I’m being instructed to do here was unclear to me.  Am I supposed to aim from a distance or not spray sideways!?  And anyway, I only have two feet, not six!

And while I was out, I came across some interesting things.  For instance, this new-fangled way of refuelling seems to have become more common in the seven months I’d been absent from the city…

… and Transport for London has gone artistic with its logo on at least one station.

… and while I’ve been away and the family has been locked down in Tel Aviv, they’ve been honing their artistic skills there, too.

Abstract. Shuli Waterman, October 2020

And while I’ve been quarantined (i.e. holed up), I’ve had an opportunity to do something that I hadn’t done much of for several months—read.    Strangely, the first three books I chose were one by a forensic anthropologist and one by a forensic pathologist, and sandwiched in between them, a novel Black Sun, based on a true story that dealt with the attempt to develop a hydrogen bomb in the USSR six decades ago, a plan that was aborted — or at least altered — because the scientist directing the project feared that the power of the bomb might be so great and the nuclear reaction it might generate so strong that it had the potential to obliterate the world as a whole.  It was actually a gripping novel.

Currently, I’m reading Andrew Marr’s latest book Elizabethans.  Andrew Marr, for those of you who are unaware, is a British journalist and a television and radio presenter, and a former newspaper editor; he is, to mind, one of the better journalists around and is certainly extremely well informed and writes very well.  The book is brilliant and highly informative and entertaining; it’s a living history of the modern UK tracing how radically Britain and Britons have transformed through Elizabeth II’s reign from 1952(!) through to today.  It tells the story through the people who shaped it, each chapter based on an individual or individuals, and including such luminaries as actress Diana Dors and her friend the murderer Ruth Ellis, the poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, singers Elvis Costello and Bob Geldof, architect Zaha Hadid and inventor James Dyson, naturalist (and much more) David Attenborough and the Beatles.

There are several informative and some very amusing anecdotes.  One, in particular caught my eye yesterday evening as I was about halfway through the book, in the chapter that dealt with the diminution in size and effectiveness of the British armed forces and which centres around the character of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s husband, who fought hard to maintain the strength of the Royal Navy. It was a quote attributed to Sir Gerald Templer, then the Chief of the Imperial General Staff who was reported to have said to Mountbatten: “Dickie, you’re so bloody crooked that if you swallowed a nail you’d shit a corkscrew”.  I laughed out loud and thought as I read it that is was something that could be applied to so many politicians, present and past (and probably future as well)!

 

And finally, one photograph that doesn’t belong to the last couple of weeks but which I took about ten years ago in Jaffa but which I came across while looking through the collection for something that I eventually found.

Wide-angle photography, Jaffa

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