A Winter Wonderland

How do I begin this post?  With a rave or with a rant?  Perhaps I’ll leave a rant [if one develops while writing this] until the end, as today we might be seeing the very beginning of a return to something resembling normality, as museums galleries, gymnasia and concert halls open to the public again — or at least to those who have received a Covid vaccination.

The thought of things returning to normality was so outlandish that she couldn’t stand the pressure. (Corner of Stricker and Shlomtzion Streets, Tel Aviv)

So, I’ll start off with two stories.  Last week, I received a gift from an old friend.  It was a book, one that I had read several years ago. Nevertheless, but it’s one of those books that if you really want just to read short items and then smile after reading most of them, this is it.  The book is entitled: Am I alone in Thinking …? — Unpublished letters to The Daily Telegraph.  To the uninitiate, The Daily Telegraph, is a conservative British daily newspaper (a broadsheet, which means that it seeks to be regarded as a “serious” newspaper, as distinct from the tabloids, which are not).  Its readership comprises mostly Conservative older folk and its one saving grace is that it publishes generally “do-able” crosswords.  The book consists of letters to the editor, which the editor[s] decided not to publish, which is just as well.  In bed one evening last week, I read the first few pages and when I got to this communication from one, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume, I laughed out aloud, something that might have frightened the neighbours had they been listening.  The letter read as follows:  SIR — I find it intensely humiliating to be asked by airport security staff if I have packed my own bag.  This forces me to admit, usually within the earshot of others, that I no longer have a manservant to do the chore for me.  Gentlemen should be able to answer such questions with a disdainful: “Of course not!  Do I look like that sort of person?”  Well, at least Mr. Ord-Hume, if he is still in the land of the living—the book was published in 2009—hasn’t had to be humiliated recently as nobody has been travelling very much in the past year.

Then, the other day, I travelled out of Tel Aviv for the first time since arriving back in this country in mid-December to visit my oldest friend (we met, aged 6, in Zion School in Dublin), who came to live in Israel in September and what with me being away and then in self-isolation, followed by a five-week lockdown, this was the first opportunity that we had  had to get together.  So off I went to the city of Ra’anana, all of 20 km away.  We nattered away for a good four hours and midway through the chatter and the tea and the lunch and the tea, and me being 76, I asked where I could find the loo (that is the bathroom, as American euphemism would have it).  Directed to the appropriate spot in the apartment, I emerged, announcing that while in there, I had decided to write a letter of complaint to the CEO of Marks and Spencer, where I have bought most of my underwear for the past half century (yes, I admit, shamefacedly, that that’s true).  “Why?”, I was asked.  “Well”, said I, “it’s because M&S have redesigned their underpants.  They used to sell Unterhosen that made it easy for older men to do what must be done quickly and without fiddling.  Not so any more — there are so many folds that what used to be a simple procedure has now turned into a minute and a half of near-absolute panic.”  Mind you, I will mention that there are other aspects of the design that might become useful as I age but it has been suggested by a very wide person to whom I sent a draft for comment that I spare my readers the details!

Anyway, perhaps by the next post I’ll have some more photographs of people in the streets.  It’s not that the streets have been entirely empty but cafés, restaurants and other places where people meet and chat have been—and still are—closed.  So, on the mornings during which the rain let up, it’s been out and about the Yarqon Park for an hour and half of exercise (what actually used to take me about an hour when I started doing this regularly about a dozen years ago).

We’ve had a few wet days, although, as is the case with a Mediterranean winter, after some days of heavy rain, the weather has now cleared up.  (It takes just about 10 minutes of heavy rain to turn in the street into a stream but once it’s over, it clears up as rapidly as it appeared.)

Shlomtzion HaMalkah Street after 20 minutes of rain

We even had a hailstorm one day last week, which provided me with one picture of a situation unusual for Tel Aviv, to say the least.  I suppose that it was just as well I took the camera out when I did because 10 minutes later, the the hailstorm has ended and the sun came out for a few minutes, it was all gone, which indicates, I guess, that it what I photographed wasn’t coarse salt.

 

Hailstones (or just coarse salt?)

 

Mud became the operative word.

The Yarqon stream. Saturday morning, 20/ii/2021

 

And when the storm had abated, the rowers took to the high sea where the mud that had polluted what passes for Tel Aviv’s river had migrated overnight.

Mud, mud, glorious mud (not to mention the floating garbage)

The sea was still rough on Sunday morning, two days after the end of the storm.

 

There was also the inevitable clearing up of the mess caused by the storm so that everything will look neat and tidy until the next squall rolls in and does its thing.

Neat and tidy does it every time

 

However, it’s important that one should note that people , in the absence of cafés and during a break in the rain, continued to stand in a queue for their coffee and croissants in Tel Aviv Port in the hope that they might be able to find a bench under an umbrella where they could sit and chat——and shiver.  And to what purpose?  For the most abhorrent thing of all is that the coffee they had queued for was being served in paper cups—and in gross understatement, coffee—as well as other drinks—doesn’t taste the same in paper cups; that’s because people’s smell and taste perception is affected by different features of the vessel in which the beverage is served and that’s because there are multisensory interactions between the smell and taste of the drinks and the type of vessel in which they were presented. (See Cavazzana et al., “The vessel’s shape influences the smell and taste of cola”, Food Quality and Preference, Vol. 59 (July, 2017) pp. 8-13!). (I used to be an academic, you know!)

 

 

 

Maybe they had run out of coffee at home and had no alternative.

And just around the corner from the where the coffee was being served in paper cups, this unfortunate pooch was left waiting patiently until its owner emerged.  However, the doggie didn’t receive any coffee—or croissants for that matter.

 

And talking about dogs, this mini-dogwalker crossed my tracks earlier this morning.  I mean, I’ve seen more than seven or eight dogs being walked before by a single person but this is the first time I’ve come across a population of miniatures. (Or are they toy breeds?)

 

And when I reached the port area, I was reminded that a year has already passed!

March 2020 (Then)

 

February 2021 (Now)

And so, I was left walking though the park and the port photographing (mostly) the avian population.

Night heron. Yarqon Park.  February 2021

 

Of mixed lineage, methinks. (An avian Dalmatian, perhaps?) Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv. February 2021

 

An egret in waiting

 

And everyone’s favourite bird!

 

Social distancing is for the birds (or not, as the case may be)

And finally, a few images that have nothing (or very little) to do with what’s come before.

I hadn’t realized they’d been selling much lately at all.  Castro, Tel Aviv Port.  February 2021

 

For non-Hebrew readers, the caption reads “Private Parking”

 

And then walking home along Nordau Boulevard, this minibus passed and I was reminded that it’s almost election time again.  Mr. Sa’a the man whose smiling visage appears on the back of the bus, used to live just around the corner and had been Minister of Education and Minister of the Interior before taking “a break” from politics, returning to what had been this “Natural Home”, i.e., the Likud Party last year.  However, like many other advisers, underlings and lackeys who had been close, perhaps too close to Bibi, he did not find favour in Mr. Netanyahu’s eyes and was not reappointed to the [anyway overly bloated] government coalition last year, and so decided to take the make-or-break step and set up his own party, thereby adding to the plethora of rightwing options that the voters have this time on Israel’s eternally revolving election roundabout.  However, when you see a smiling face on the back of a bus, you can’t help but think that things are, perhaps, not going as well as they might be.

Gidon Sa’ar. — and th and the caption? —  Everyone’s Prime Minister

BTW from the smile and slogan, it’s easy to tell from the caption that this before an election.  Mr. Sa’ar  has also promised solemnly  that there is no way will he sit in a government headed by U-NO-HOO.  We’ll see and then judge after March 23 (or more likely, in May), by which time a coalition will have emerged (or not as the case may be).

Meanwhile, I will continue to stay warm and alert by biting hard on these until Spring arrives.

 

And for anyone who missed the livestream last Tuesday, here’s the link to the replay (the music starts at about 12 and a half minutes in).

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