Five Years On — & a year to try and forget

 

This post will probably seem somewhat different to previous ones, mainly because I have been prevented from being able to go outside generally and to take photographs specifically.  As a consequence, what I’m going to write this time round might seem somewhat out of the ordinary, because what usually emerges is a “story” somehow linked to photographs I’ve taken recently but this time, the photos that appear have have been around for some time and some of the stories are personal.  So if you don’t want to read on, you can stop here and come back in 2021.  (BTW, I’m also taking this opportunity to note that this week marks five years since I began this blog—something that I hadn’t intended to happen when I set out, 20 posts having been my original aim way back in December 2015.)

I arrived back in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening last week at the end what turned out to be 3-month stay in London. The winter solstice has just passed but more importantly than length of daylight hours, it seems like I arrived back just in time, given the COVID-related events over last weekend in the just-about-still United Kingdom, as a new and more virulent strain of the Coronavirus was making its presence felt.  Had I decided to return a few days later, I might just have delayed my return till Easter, never mind the end of year holiday season and that’s because in a state of panic, it would seem, Israel has over-reacted by closing its airspace to flights originating in the UK.  Non-Israeli citizens were not permitted to board the last few flights from the UK to Israel at all and for Israelis in the UK and returning “home”, the government decreed that they couldn’t actually go home but were required to spend 14 days in a government-sponsored “Corona hotel” — but they didn’t discover this until the planes had actually landed in the country.  I attach a piece tweeted by one of these passengers and kindly forwarded to me by one of my daughters via Facebook.  (The translation from Hebrew is mine!).  If I had been on that flight, they’d have had to carry me off screaming — or I probably would have done what some others did and just waited until the plane turned around to fly back to the UK!  Corona Hotel

Actually, before I left London, my son asked me how long I had spent in captivity during the three months I was resident in the UK and the short answer, given a period of 14 days of quarantine, three days of torrential downpour (that was at the beginning of October when Saturday 3 October became the wettest day on record since 1891 for UK-wide rainfall and 84 mm fell on NW3 on October 2,3,& 4), then a 28-day lockdown and four days during which I was ill — a total of 49 days out of 89— 55% of the time I spent there.  Add to that another 14 days of quarantine in Tel Aviv last March, followed immediately when that ended by a month of lockdown in April and all that adds up to a long time locked up/down/in.  And next Monday, after yet another 14 days of quarantine, I am due to exit in order to receive a vaccination but this morning’s news at 7 a.m. informed me that as of 17.00 hrs on Sunday week, Israel starts a further lockdown of two weeks, which, if infection rates fail to come down will be extended by a further fortnight.  And through all of this, the callous cretins in charge of this country couldn’t agree on a budget by the date required by law, resulting in the automatic dissolution of parliament and yet another election on March 23, the fourth in less than two years.  Unbelievable but nevertheless you have to believe it because it will happen, COVID or not!

So I got back, safely at least, in time to experience some reality TV, as vaccination time had arrived for some.  The American Vice-President, Michael Richard Pence, appeared with his wife, Karen, the Second Lady (a.k.a. Tuppence), on live TV to bare their upper arms and receive the needle in an exercise to demonstrate to the American public in general and the League of Anti-Vaxxers in particular  that there is nothing to fear from receiving the vaccine.  Mr. Pence’s eyes even suggest that he’s enjoying his moment of renown; Tuppence, however, doesn’t appear to quite as happy about the situation in which she’s been placed but she bravely went through with it nevertheless.

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Back home on the range, it was the usual Bibi show.  Turn up with an army of handlers and bodyguards alongside the Minister of Health and make a speech in order to be and be seen as the first Israeli to receive a Covid shot (no modesty there) and thereby achieve immunity, even if it’s not the immunity for which he’s been searching for the past three years and as a result of which we will have endured four election cycles in the space of 23 months.  No doubt, he will try and make the case for achieving herd immunity by vaccination during the upcoming election campaign, hoping tat the herd will vote for him, whereas his rivals will make hay by reminding voters of his never-ending attempts to legislate immunity from prosecution for a sitting Prime Minister.  However, to his credit, I must say that it was one of the few times during which he has appealed for national unity and that people work together (by having the vaccine).

However, I noticed that his personal physician Dr. Tzvi Berkovitz who gave him the vaccine is not wearing gloves — so much for hygiene.  Personally, I would have asked his friend Trump whether or not it would have been better to have shot of bleach or disinfectant as the President suggested for curing “Kung Flu” way back when.  Then, after receiving the shot the Prime Minister was seated under observation for 30 minutes I order to discover whether or not he had an allergic reaction but all was OK.  

Fear Not! Nothing could go wrong!

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I suppose it’s time to insert a photo at this stage but photos have been few and far between over the past fortnight.  Nevertheless, here are the last picture I took before leaving London and the first I’ve taken since returning to Tel Aviv.

Back to the stories.  Several interesting things have happened to me over the past few weeks.

The first concerns my first week in London last September.  Last August, a few weeks before I left Tel Aviv, I’d agreed to review an article for a journal I’d been associated with for many years.  I rarely get papers to review any more, which is just as well.  However, every now and then something turns up (it’s as if editors maintain a database of potential reviewers from which my name has not yet been deleted).  I read the abstract and thought it might be interesting so I agreed to do the review but somehow the timing was off and I didn’t get around to it before I departed in September.  I took the printed manuscript with me and eventually, but after the deadline, I got around to reading the article (three times, as it happens) and felt it was less interesting than the abstract had suggested.  These days, requests for reviews are “anonymously” sent from the publisher’s website and in this case there was no interaction with the editor.  I submitted the review a few days past the due date (and I couldn’t do it on the website as a result) but having done the work, I decided to send the review anyway with a recommendation to reject the paper as it needed a substantial rewrite and I thought it unsuitable for the journal anyway and then, a couple of days later, I received a letter from the journal manager and thought that that was that.

So, imagine my surprise when, almost two months after submitting the reviews I received an email from the editor in which I read: “I wanted to write personally, to thank you for reviewing the above referenced manuscript. Reviewing takes a lot of time on top of and in addition to our already busy working lives. I appreciated your review.  I have reached a revise decision on the manuscript. Although this is at odds with your recommendation, the other reviewers felt there could be scope for a revise and resubmit so I have given the author this benefit. I have urged them to think seriously on issues of methodology and the positioning of the paper for our journal.  Thank you for your contribution and time in reviewing this manuscript, which not only assisted me in reaching my decision, but also enables the author(s) to consider their work in the context of expert assessment.”

I wrote back the following: “Thanks for your letter, which I very much appreciated.  I’ve been associated with [the journal] for over 35 years as an author, reviewer and member of the editorial board.  This is the first time ever that any editor has informed me of how my review helped them reach a decision. Occasionally, I’ve asked if I thought I might have gone a bit overboard and received replies.  I hope that this was not a one-off and that you continue to do this with other reviewers because although we do it because it’s part of the job, it informs us that our views have been taken on board.”

Then, the following week, I had a request from a colleague at the University of Haifa to ask me if I’d be willing to talk to the department’s doctoral students about how to prepare a journal article for publication.  I didn’t have to think too long about whether I wanted to do this because over the years I’ve learned a lot and thought that I actually might have something worthwhile to contribute.  Even though it’s a Zoom meeting, which I abhor, I’m actually looking forward to it.

A third event in this month of pleasant surprises was when I received an email from a Professor of International Relations at the University of Tartu in Estonia which read: “Dear Prof Stanley Waterman: I have your conference paper “Partition: Containment or Provocation?” which you were supposed to present at the 7th Mediterranean Social and Political Research Meeting, Montecatini Terme, 22-26 March 2006. Unfortunately, you were not able to make it at that time. I know this because I was one of the workshop organisers. I’m just writing to see whether you managed to get this paper published. If so, could you please send the copy. If not, may I ask your kind permission to make a reference to this piece?”

I laughed out loud as I read this in amazement because I had no recollection whatsoever of ever writing a paper of that title or of planning to be in Tuscany in March 2006.  And then it struck me.  I must have written the paper a few months before the said conference was held but the date of the conference was in between two moves — a short one in Belsize Park in London after which we returned to Israel after nearly six years in London and then moved from Haifa to Tel Aviv.  I must have decided that I wouldn’t be able to manage two moves and a trip to Italy.  However, Professor Berg sent me a copy of the paper I was to have delivered — and yes, I found it on the hard disk of the computer so I printed it out and read it and it actually reads quite well.  So, I might just—I said might—re-work it and see if I can turn it into a journal article!  Miracles never do cease!

And then in the week prior to these events, I had an email from an American colleague informing me about a chapter I had contributed to a book that he had edited.  My chapter was on National Anthems and has an “interesting history”.  More than 15 years ago, the same colleague had suggested that we jointly write an original journal article on national anthems, which  I thought it was a great idea.  So I put together a reading list, bought a CD collection of national anthems so that I could familiarise myself with them (they’re mostly insipid pieces of music) as well as the Ninth Edition of Reed & Bristow’s  National Anthems of the World so that I could analyse the words and play them on the piano.  I created files of themes used in anthems and everything else needed to write an article but after I began to write, managing about 4,000 words, I read it back and concluded that it didn’t really contain enough original material to be an article in a scholarly journal.  As a consequence, I wrote to my American colleague to say that I was abandoning the project.  However, as has been my habit when I forsake something I’ve worked on for some time, I leave it on the computer—just in case.

So, fast forward about a decade and I receive an invitation from another colleague editing a book, tentatively entitled Handbook of Geopolitics, with a request that I write a chapter for a section called Geopolitical Representations and Images with a suggested tentative title: “Geopolitics and Music”.   So, I re-read the partial draft I’d written in 2004, updated the bibliography, read the new material and rewrote the article draft so that it now read as a chapter in a book and got it back to the person who had commissioned it before the due date.  Seven months later, and having heard nothing, I received another email telling me (and another 16 people who had already sent contributions) that for personal reasons, he didn’t have enough time to devote to the project but that [perhaps] in a couple of years …

Well, I’d invested time and effort and it seemed like a pity that it should go to waste.  As a consequence, I sent it to the person who had originally suggested the topic a decade and a half before, simply asking if he could take the time to read it and perhaps suggest a possible outlet for it.  Imagine my surprise when he said he would publish it in a[nother] book he was editing and for which, incidentally, I had already written a chapter—and, more importantly, I didn’t need to make any changes.

Fast forward a couple of years, to three weeks ago, in fact, and I get an email reading: “Greetings… ! I have attached the latest download data for [the book] chapters. Note that some chapters have been available online much longer than others, so chapters at the bottom may catch up in the coming months.  We will send a new list sometime in 2021. The total is now over 50,000! Congratulations on a job well done.”

So I looked and this is what I saw.  I was a little unbelieving and wrote back to say so but was reassured that the numbers were correct.  I was really pleased!

 

Finally, a couple of [mostly unrelated] photographs, but this blog is called PhotoGeoGraphy.

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Ménage à trois

 

Huldai Clean Government 2011

Clean Government!  Ron Huldai, Tel Aviv’s Mayor

 

Stormy day

A stormy day at Tel Aviv Port

 

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Boris’s Folly

 

Mitzpe Ramon

At Mitzpeh Ramon, October 2017

 

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Antony Gormley’s “Baby”.  Royal Academy, London.  December 2019

 

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Jeff Koons’s “Puppy”.  Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.  May 2015

And Season’s Greetings and let’s hope that 2021 is a better year than the one just passed!

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It’s all to do with timing

How do many of us get our news these days?

Why?  Via the Web, of course!

I’m very “late” with this post indeed and, as I sit down to start writing it, which is already a few days ago, I should have been one a plane from London to Tel Aviv at the start of this week. However, the reality is that as things stand, I’m still in London, which, this time, was not something of my own choosing.

On Monday morning last week, I had the beginnings of what is sometimes euphemistically called a “stomach upset”, a pain in the gut, which over the course of the morning led to all the symptoms one would expect in such a situation and I won’t bother you with all the grisly details.  Suffice to say that walking (or shuffling) the eight or nine metres or so from bed to bathroom was a major effort accomplished with more than a little difficulty.  By the following morning, things felt a little better but far from well.  As a consequence, I called the local NHS clinic and asked to speak to a doctor and I was informed by the receptionist that I would be contacted that afternoon. (It’s a group practice and in a group practice one never knows which doctor is going to answer the call).  Sure enough, early in the afternoon, just after what would have been lunchtime had I been in the mood to eat, one of the doctors called me and I described to her pretty accurately all of the gory details of the previous 36 hours.  She listened, asking relevant questions, and then told me what I had guessed anyway, that it sounded like a viral infection but that it was “nothing to worry about” as it usually clears up within 48 hours.

The following morning, however, and feeling a good bit better, I got a shock when I looked in the mirror as I prepared to shave and was got a rude awakening by what I saw.  And what I saw was that I was covered in red blotches from neck to midriff as if someone had taken a pot of purple paint with a paintbrush and aimed the brushed, dripping with paint, straight at me. And the thing was that it seemed to be spreading across my body before my very eyes.  There had been nothing there at all the previous evening as I went to bed yet during the less than two hours from the time I first observed it, just before 6 a.m., it had spread to my thighs.  I looked like some modernist abstract painting in the shape of a man.  Here I go, thought I, I’m on my way out—my end is nigh.

So I phoned the clinic as soon as it opened and later in the morning yet another doctor from the group practice called me and I described the actively developing situation to him.  He sounded cheery enough and he, too, said “Nothing to worry about”. “Urticaria”, he said, “a common reaction to a viral infection”.  Urticaria, I discovered, is just a fancy word for hives, which up to then I had thought was what young children occasionally got as a reaction to eating something like strawberries or raspberries.  The last time I had hives was when I was about seven or eight.

Just to be on the safe side, I sent the pictures of mottled me to my GP in Tel Aviv and asked him his opinion. After a couple of hours, back came his response: “Urticaria”, he said, “a common reaction to a viral infection”.  So, I was treated to a week of antihistamines during which the purple blotches have faded to a phantom what they had once been, the palest pastel pink.

So, I re-booked a trip back to Tel Aviv and hope that next Tuesday evening, at the FOURTH time of asking, I’ll make it—steeling myself for yet another round of what’s become my most frequently played out activity game of this weirdest of years—quarantine/lockdown.  Hopefully, as I move into 2021, I will qualify to have a vaccination against this nasty bug that has upended the world over the past year.

Taking about vaccines, it looks was if at some stage between Chanukah/Christmas and Easter/Pesach, we will have a choice of several different products.  There was great excitement here in UK last week at the announcement that the first vaccine had been approved and was being shipped in bulk from Belgium to the UK and when the first, 90-something year old person received her jab, the event was covered by the media and as she was wheeled away in her wheelchair following the short procedure, she was cheered on by all the onlookers.

As usual, politicians have been at the forefront of the ballyhoo about vaccines.

Matt [wu]Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, smiled for what seemed to be the first time in many months (and given his job, he hasn’t had much to smile about) when he announced that British regulators had approved the Pfizer vaccine. Then he and some other Conservative colleagues put this speedy approval down to Brexit and the fact that the soon-to-be fully re-independent UK did not have to wait for European regulators to take their time over approving it.  (Meanwhile, 4½ years after the Brexit referendum, Brexit talks seem to be drawing to their almost inevitable conclusion that there will be no trade deal, although by Sunday, everything might change on that score.) The fact that the vaccine was developed in Germany by a Turkish immigrant couple seems to have escaped Mr. Hancock’s attention last week.)

On the other side of the Atlantic, three former American presidents, Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton volunteered to have their Covid-19 vaccinations publicly televised once it has been approved by regulators and recommended by US health officials in a move intended to boost public confidence in the safety and efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, a good idea.

We were also treated to President-elect Biden introducing his Health team to the media and the American people in what seemed to me like a patriotic and conciliatory speech that sounded like an attempt to begin to heal the rifts in American society.  He, probably somewhat over-optimistically, set a goal of 100 million Covid vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, starting January 20 and although he realistically said that his first months in office would not end the outbreak and he gave few details about a rollout plan, he said he would change the course of Covid-19.  He also urged Americans to “mask up for 100 days”.  All of this might have been a little far-fetched but it at least indicated to those listening and viewing that he understands that there is an urgent problem that needs to be dealt with.  The BBC News programme that transmitted Mr. Biden’s pitch to the American people then switched to a “Coronavirus event” at the White House chaired by his erstwhile rival, the sitting President, who spoke for about three or four minutes about how wonderfully America has managed the pandemic (really!!!) before switching to a tirade on what has become his favourite hobby horse, about how he had been robbed of the election by people wheeling out illegal votes in suitcases from underneath tables and telling viewers that he won millions of votes more than any other sitting president.  However, he failed to mention that notwithstanding his record-breaking number of votes for a sitting President, his erstwhile rival had received 7 million more votes than he did — but then they were all illegal.

The Israeli Prime Minister couldn’t be left in the cold and remain silent so, in similar vein and is the wont of vain politicians, he announced that he would be the first person to receive the vaccine in Israel, as if we didn’t know already what a brave and thoughtful man he really is!  Given that he has manhandled and mishandled the whole Coronavirus episode as a one-man show, why not bare your arm in front of the nation and receive the first vaccination, thereby protecting himself and allowing us the privilege of being led by him for yet another decade at least.

Having written all this nonsense, let’s hope that by the summer, and with the help of the vaccines, we will be able to rid ourselves of notices and situations such as these and feel healthy again, shiny all over.

 

Post-Coronavirus Man. The Regent’s Canal, London

Looking at the notices on the tunnel wall on the  London Underground, I sometimes avert my gaze and look down and wonder what would happen to those whose English might let them down.  I suppose that if it lets them down, then down they go!

 

Lockdown and ancillary restrictions help bring out initiatives and inventiveness in people—even though entering someone’s home to offer them a haircut or a shave might not be considered by some not to be observing Government guidelines unquestionably.

On the other hand, this gentleman, who was located close to the entrance to Angel Underground Station in Islington was doing nothing wrong, just showing initiative and getting with the job at hand!  (One person who saw this last week observed that initially he thought it might have been the former Leader of the Labour Party seeking a disguise but on closer inspection realised that it wasn’t.)

Ostensibly, I came to London in mid-September for a six-week family visit and somehow through a series of unfortunate series of mistimings and other events out of my control, I’ve seen off a gorgeous autumn and been here to welcome a cold winter.

However, although winter is well and truly here, there are already reminders that spring isn’t all that far off.

… and not everyone or everybody is necessarily cold, including this little furry thing (male)!

And one day the week before last, en route to Hampstead Heath to meet friends, I came across this and wondered what the ½ really indicated.

Really???

And last week, feeling well enough to get out, I managed to do something that I never thought I’d manage on this trip to London and walked along Eton Avenue to the Hampstead Theatre and saw a LIVE performance in a socially distanced auditorium—55 minutes of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter.  Frankly, I didn’t care what it was — just the feeling of being able to sit in a theatre and watch to live actors strut their stuff was enough to leave me on a high!

… and to those to whom it applies, a Happy Chanukah!

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