“Freedom Day” — Really?

In Keeping On Keeping On, Alan Bennett relates  the following in his diary for the year 2014:

15 April. Watch five minutes of “Have I Got News for You” with Nigel Farage the guest and Ian Hislop and Paul Merton their usual genial selves. I never quite understand why they are happy to sit on a panel with Farage, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Clarkson et al. Their reasoning would, I imagine, be that this gives them the opportunity to have fun at the expense of Farage and Co. And so they do. But the impression an audience comes away with is that actually nothing much matters and that these seemingly jokey demagogues are human and harmless and that their opinions are not really as pernicious as their opponents pretend. And even if they are what does it matter as politics is just a con anyway. Whereas Johnson, the bike apart, doesn’t seem to have a moral bone in his body and the batrachoidal (frog- or toad-like) Farage likewise. ‘So where’s your sense of humour? It’s only a joke.’

Well, well.  What’s new?

Add to Alan Bennett’s view of the British Prime Minister the words of Johnson’s former top aide, Dominic Cummings, who was finally interviewed by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg — while, of course, remembering that Mr. Cummings is a person who has very much his own agenda to manage, his own axes to grind, and his own grudges to bear —  it makes for worrying reading, especially as I am planning to spend some time in the UK from the middle of next month.  According to Cummings, Mr. Johnson denied last autumn that the National Health Service would be overwhelmed and said that he was not prepared to lock the country down in order to save people in their ’80s.  Johnson held out on reimposing Covid restrictions because he was slightly rocked by data on Covid fatalities, with a median age of 82, which, he said, was above life expectancy—and could be expected to die shortly, although he didn’t actually say that. So, according to Cummings, BoJo was of the opinion that one should get Covid and live longer and texted him so.  He really didn’t believe that the National Health Service being overwhelmed (even though he, himself, had been seriously ill with the disease earlier in the year.  I presume that once his antibodies had kicked in, he lost interest in the NHS — although it saved his own life.  The interview cast further doubt over the Prime Minister’s actions in the run-up to the November lockdown (when I was in London myself on a visit planned to last just a few weeks but which turned out to be three months).   And, according to Cummings, Johnson repeatedly ignored the advice of his chief scientific and medical advisers — which we have seen once again in the past fortnight.

Meanwhile, here we are mid-July 2021, and England launched yesterday (Monday) what has come to be known as “Freedom Day” whereby many of the government-imposed restrictions on movement, gatherings and mask-wearing transmogrify from being law to becoming recommendations as to how people should behave.  The government in England (if not in the rest of the United Kingdom) seems more determined than ever to trust in people to act in their own best interests and in the interests of those around them. Is that naïve of what? I suppose the question is whether England is making the stupidest decision ever or whether it’s leading the way for the rest of the world to follow.

The United Kingdom with a population of around 66 million is turning out c. 50,000 new Covid cases a day whereas here in Israel, with a population of around 9 million, there are just under 1,000 new cases a day and they’re worried.  If you do the sums — and it’s not that difficult — then there is a world of difference between the two situations.  The Israeli government is being cautious — perhaps even overcautious — with the Prime Minister and other ministers seriously advising citizens not to travel abroad at all and making it difficult for them to do so and awkward for them when they eventually return.  It must all be something to do with coiffure and clearheadedness.  Nevertheless, 50,000 people a day are travelling out of Ben-Gurion Airport to destinations everywhere even though they will have to quarantine when they return.


Screen Shot 2021-06-29 at 15.10.46

And this brings me to conclude that Alan Bennett’s assessment—that Mr. Johnson doesn’t seem to have a moral bone in his body—is, if not entirely correct, close to the truth.

And when I observe the unlawful goings on (i.e., base thuggery) a week ago at Wembley Stadium, and afterwards in London and online, when the England soccer team lost to Italy in the final of the UEFA 2020 competition in a penalty shoot-out— a sporting event marred by more jingoism than I can remember, then it seems like unleashing the masses to infect and reinfect one another is madness indeed.  And I’m supposed to be there in three weeks?  Well, I’m only 76 and therefore I’m not a cause of worry for Mr. Johnson!  Anyway, I’ve got family and friends to see and the last eight months haven’t exactly been easy.


Self-isolation. Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv.

But enough of all this.  This rant is terminated for this week.  Some pictures are due.

Signs of summer

Summer has come to Tel Aviv in earnest …


Thriving in the heat

… but some thrive in this weather!

The fact that summer has arrived in Tel Aviv in earnest means that I am getting out into the park earlier than ever before.  I try to get out and about by 06.30 but by the time 07.00 rolls around, hidrosis — sweat, perspiration, wetness — is the operative word and my tee-shirt feels considerably heavier than when I started out.  Still, even at that hour, there are things worth photographing — like this man and his dogs .  I’ve photographed them before but never from this particular angle.

Walking the dogs

Man and doggies. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv

The hot weather is conducive to people enjoying themselves during the balmy nights when the temperatures plummets to all of 25ºC but the humidity rises to 70%.  The results of these balmy but damp nights are clearly visible early the following morning …


The morning after the night beforeThe morning after the night before 1

… as if it might have been all that difficult to clear up afterwards.

But then there’s always someone else to clear up the mess …

Create the mess

… but not before he’s made some mess of his own by feeding the winged vermin that infest the park.

Walking through the park, one comes across all sorts and this young lady makes me think that there really is hope for us all.

Hope for all 1

Mind you, she’s not always as hyperactive as all that!

I noticed a few weeks that the upheaval along some of the main streets in Tel Aviv, part of the preparations for a light railway, is being undertaken partly by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd.(Israel) …

… so it’s only appropriate that notices, such as the direction of evacuation routes, be posted also in Chinese characters, too.


Pinkas Street, Tel Aviv


And then, of course, the are the birds …

Night heron

So I won’t swim — I’ll skim!

… even the tiny ones that I often miss …

Little birds 1

… and the larger ones that just float by as I walk through the park.

Kite 1

No trust

and I lie and wait in a rather forlorn hope!


And we’re constantly reminded of the presence of Corona …

Corona living

… and of Corona garbage!

Corona trash

And then there are the boats on the river …

Messing about on the river

Last week, I cam came across a pair mending a puncture to an inner tube on the bike of one of them and thought to myself that when that sort of thing happened to me when I was young that I  was incapable of doing anything about it other than bring it to a repair shop and have the work done there.  Cack-handed, maladroit, gauche — words that all pretty much mean the same thing.

Bike repair

Bike repair 1


Bike repair 2

Task accomplished successfully!


And then there are pictures that are just pictures and don’t really fit into any story.


In the early morning

Early morning. Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv


Bike installation

Street Installation. Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv



Bench & Bench

The sprinkler system was working overtime! Yarqon Park, Tel Aviv.


Drying off

Cooling off. Yarqon Stream, Tel Aviv

Penultimately, it strikes me, notwithstanding all the talk about Covid in the news that things are beginning to return to some sort of normality in Israel if only because the main item in today’s news is that Unilever, the owner of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, has decided that Ben & Jerry’s cannot be sold in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, which means that some company with large freezer vans might be transporting tons of the stuff from Tel Aviv to the Israeli heartland of Judea and Samaria.  So what’s new?  And what’s news?

And finally, last week I picked up a book I had bought a decade ago, one of those books that looked interesting and in which you read a couple of chapters and promise yourself to read it when you have some spare time and then put it back on the shelf and forget about it.  Anyway, as I said, I. picked it out last week — David Bellos’s Is that a Fish in Your Ear?a book about translation and translating.  I used to do translating a long time ago when I needed to supplement my university salary so some of the issues raised by Professor Bellos were familiar, some less so and others completely new to me.  Towards the end of the book, there’s a chapter on the issues involved in translating humour and one of the examples he gives had me laughing aloud when I read it.  It goes as follows:

A Brooklyn baker becomes increasingly irritated by an old lady who queues up to buy bagels in his shop every Tuesday, despite the sign clearly visible in the window saying bagels are not available on Tuesdays.

One morning, after she has queued up for the fifth time, he decides to he has to get the message through to her.

‘Lady’, he says, ‘tell me, do you know how to spell ‘cat’, as in ‘catechism’?’ ‘Sure I do’, the old lady says, ‘that’s C-A-T’.

‘Sure is’, the baker replies, ‘now tell me, how do you spell ‘dog’ – as in ‘dogmatic’?’

‘Why, that’s D-O-G.’

‘Right! So how do you spell ‘fuck’ — as in ‘bagels’?’

‘But there ain’t no ‘fuck’ in ‘bagels’!’ the little old lady exclaims.

‘And that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!’ cries the baker.


Contemplation and then some more

This hasn’t been a normal week.  Personally, it’s been not easy.  For once, I paid little attention to what’s been going on in politics.

On Wednesday, we (the kids and I) marked, according to the Hebrew calendar, the first anniversary of Vivien’s death.  I can’t believe that a year has already flown by and I’ve been on my own for that long.  People used to say that as one gets older, time seems to race ahead at a pace unknown when you were younger.  And so it seems.  To me, she was here just a couple of months ago although the kids say that it seems already like two or three years.  We all lit a memorial candle on Tuesday evening.  I was dreading it for days in advance.  I know, it was just striking a match and placing the lit match against the wick but it was who I was lighting the candle for and why that made me so upset.

Shuli posted a piece on her Facebook page (in Hebrew) which reads in translation something like:

“A year without Ima! Ima, how we miss you so much.

The gentle smile, the small encouragements [you gave] in all areas of life, the togetherness, the endless love. What an rocky year we’ve had since you left us … Corona, war, lockdowns.

In the meantime the grandchildren are growing up and we are left with the memories and the nostalgia and the endless yearning.

Yesterday we lit a memorial candle for you and sat down with the girls and Saba and together we watched and listened to the lovely stories that you wrote, in your soft and gentle voice and funny cute Irish accent. What an asset you left for us and for the children.”

Listening to these stories, it was the first time I’d heard her voice since she passed away and it brought back so many memories, memories that date back over six decades.  She was truly an amazing person.  She suffered so much pain and discomfort over the years but never complained, except towards the end when she said on several occasions that she’d had enough.  She was an incredible individual and I was proud to have been her husband for 54 years.  I only hope that I was able to give her some comfort during all that time.  I miss her more than I ever thought I’d miss her.

Some photos to remind us all.  Tennis, the love of her life until lupus (SLE) struck when she was 16, marriage at 21, mother of three fantastic children, and then it was back to music, which took a back seat while tennis took over. And towards the end, she enjoyed giving piano lessons to Arneath Cruzat, her amazing carer during her last 14 months.

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Foreboding notwithstanding, I’ve tried to get out every morning for an hour or more.  The trouble is that by 07.00, it’s already warmer than warm.  Still, there’re no harm in trying to arrive in the park earlier in time for a 15-minute “warm-up” before setting out.

As usual most of the time, I head towards the sea but before I do, I’m likely to pass any number of people in any sort of calisthenic position.

One, two, three — bend!

One, two, three, four … Group Bend!

Very graceful — but taking no chances.

Early morning is also breakfast time for some.

… like lottery sellers …

On Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel Aviv

… or hungry egrets …

Hungry egret @ breakfast. Yarqon Park

There, as usual, are birds galore —  best of friends and all that.

And some birds are bird-brained, indeed.

Stupido — it i’s for the dogs alone!

And talking about canines —

It’s a dog’s life!

But back to the birds.

Egret. Yarqon Park. Early morning

Then, coming towards me, it seemed  like she was coughing and in these days of Corona, one takes cover.  It was only as she got closer that I saw and heard that all she was doing was having a conversation on her Apple Watch.

Others were just out for a walk with their family.

And, then, of course there are the sweaty women …

… followed by a sweaty man … (and these are at 7.30 in the morning, which explains why I try not to go out during the daytime!)

On the Yarqon river/stream, there are those who seem to have settled in for the day …

… while others just start very young.

And in the words of Cole Porter, “Anything Goes”!

Anything goes!

And one never quite knows what one is going to bump into early on a summer’s morn!  The heat hits everyone differently, it seems.

While walking on HaYarqon Street, I noticed an element of confusion.  Can you see it (and you don’t need to be Hebrew-literate, either).


In Tel Aviv Port, caught between a selfie and a pose.

Almost there.  Last week, on Ibn Gvirol Street

Honestly, Guv, it had nothing to do with me. I’m just waiting for her to come out again!

And finally, a short story (Picture caption to be read aloud)

Fido and Rover were strolling down the street one day. Midway along the block, Fido nudged Rover with a friendly flick of his tail and in pure doggerel said: “Just wait here for a couple of minutes. There’s something I need to do on the other side of the street.”

So off he trotted across the road and made straight for a hydrant around which he must have spent at least three or four minutes circling, all the time sniffing earnestly. Finally, he cocked up his left hind leg and spent almost as long again leaving his mark on and all around the hydrant.

When he was done and had all four paws on the ground again, he trotted back over to Rover who was waiting patiently for his buddy, hyperventilating heavily.

“What was that all about?”, Rover inquired.

“Oh, nothing much”, answered Fido. “I was just checking the messages on my pee-mail and remembered that I could use Reply All. So that’s what I was doing and that’s why it took so long.”


Inside material: H20 ———— External material: K9P


From U-No-Hoo to Wu-Han-Cock


It’s been a relatively quiet fortnight in Israeli politics.  The new “Bennett/Lapid” coalition seems to be functioning reasonably well and the various ministers seem to be settling into their jobs and are being given credit for doing what they’re paid to do, i.e., serve the people.  So far, it seems to be in contrast to the way in which the previous coalition operated, whereby when things went well, U-NO-HOO took all the credit and when things proved difficult the ministers would be invited to appear and explain to the public why things were difficult and why they hadn’t quite worked out as expected, meaning that when times were less than good, ministers were expected to accept ministerial responsibility, something that appeared not to be the case with U-NO-HOO.

The new Opposition still hasn’t got used to the fact that it’s not the government.  It’s been reported that there is a move afoot among those who feel that power “was stolen” from them to continue to refer to the former Prime Minister as “the Prime Minister” and according to Anshel Pfeffer, the well-informed correspondent for HaAretz daily newspaper and The Economist, “He [Bibi] smiles benevolently upon those who do so”. However, Pfeffer does warn us that he shouldn’t be written off. Keen to rebound yet again, he and his satraps have taken to delegitimizing Bennett by making it look as if Bibi  is still the real prime minister and that’s the reason he’s  keeping up a stream of images of him greeting local and foreign dignitaries in appropriate settings on his social media outlets.  Quite why he has been allowed to stay on in the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem until July 10 is beyond me;  I mean, it’s not exactly as if he and his wife would have become homeless if the moving van had arrived the day after the new government had been formed.  After all, there is a large villa in Caesarea that is waiting to be re-occupied.

Eventually, I imagine the message will eventually sink in, in particular if the current coalition survives longer than some imagine it might.  Ironically, the way I see things is that Mr. Bennett painted himself into a corner a few weeks ago as a result of which, because of his zigzagging and wavering between a broad and potentially unwieldy coalition like the one he’s now leading and facing yet another election in which he might not have done so well, he chose to become Prime Minister.  And again, there’s irony in the fact that all of his cabinet colleagues, having been given jobs to perform, feel as if they must do them well — because if they don’t, their parties’ share of the vote will likely drop at the next election, whenever that might be.

How does it stay there?

However, one great mystery about the Bennett government remains.  How does the new Prime Minister’s knitted kippah (skull cap) stay on his head.  These days, he has less hair than appears in the photograph above and what little remains appears to be shaven and then the head polished.  Does he use double-sided cellotape? Or perhaps it’s Velcro?  Or Blu Tack? Or Bostik? Or maybe it’s a suction pad? Or for all I know he uses some hi-tech invention based on silicon developed in the Start-Up Nation for which he is now responsible.  I asked a friendly intelligence agent to investigate, and I now have it on good authority that the mystery is no longer.  In other words, I know. However, as the subject in question is the Israeli Prime Minister, it’s a security issue that just can’t be divulged to the general public.

Given the rumblings within the Likud party, with several individuals seeing themselves as successors to U-NO-HOO, the situation appears to me to be beginning to resemble 1990/91 in the United Kingdom, when the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, after three terms in office, managed to alienate several members of her own party because of her poll-tax policies and opposition to further British integration into the European Community, so much so that she came to be regarded as an electoral liability rather than an electoral asset and in November 1990, she failed to receive a majority in the Conservative Party’s annual vote for selection of a leader. As a result, she withdrew her nomination, and was replaced by a paragon of blandness called John Major and she resigned six days later. Her 11 years in office was the longest continuous tenure of a British prime minister in almost two centuries and the outcome was that she was elevated to the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher (of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire).  Just imagine if we were able to carry on like that in Israel — Baron Bibi of Caesearea (on the Carmel Coast)!  In the words of Eliza Doolittle, “… wouldn’t it be loverly”?!

Meanwhile, although Israeli politics has been relatively quiet following the display of bestial animosity in the Knesset a fortnight ago when the Prime Minister was attempting to address the members, British politics took us on an interesting side-trip last week with the story that broke regarding the Secretary of State for Health, WU-HAN-COCK, who was photographed by various media outlets in a close embrace with one, Gina Coladangelo, who he had taken on as an adviser to his Ministry.  The accusations pointed at him, however, related less to the fact that he was having an affair with a married woman who was not his wife, but that he had breached social distancing rules that he himself had authorized.   Notwithstanding all the Woo-Ha, I  thought it was rather touching to have read that he woke his children up to tell that he was leaving home.

I just love those socks!

But perhaps he was only following the example of his former boss, who didn’t think the whole affair sufficient reason to fire him.  But when Hancock resigned, poor BoJo, in trying to tear his hair out just made a mess of it all again!

But I’m really very tired of politics and politicians so time for some images.



Summer’s come early to Tel Aviv this year.   Temperatures have soared and the humidity levels with them so as a consequence, I’ve had to wake up earlier than has been my wont (not that sleeping in the heat is that easy anyway) and get out before it gets too hot.  However, I’m discovering that even at 06.30, things have already hotted up.

Hand in hand

Morning stroll in the Yarqon Park

One of the upshots of getting out early in the morning is that there’s a dearth of people so the subjects that I see are mainly birds and oarspersons (that’s a strange word but it’s what I see).  Occasionally, one comes across someone who is doing something other than riding a bike or walking or jogging or stretching, such as this skipper who I stopped to watch for several minutes while he did his thing without missing a beat.


And in the park, one sees all sorts exercising.  All I can say to this young woman is: “Well done”.  She obviously has a bit of work to do yet but if she keeps it up, she’ll be OK.

Some way yet to go

Sleeping rough is common enough but I thought that this guy was a little overdressed for 08.00 hrs. but I suppose that at least he wasn’t cold.

Sleeping rough

At least he was in the park.  Others are obviously less fussy about where they want to sleep.


Airbnb. Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv.

Occasionally, one comes across things that are quite different.  Last week, I observed a Tai-Chi [very slow and elaborately choreographed] sword dance being “performed” for all to see.  I took some tai-chi lessons with the same instructor a couple of years ago and found it all too slow and deliberate for what I thought I needed.

Tai-chi sword dance

The Slow Sword Dance

There are many ways of taking exercise in the park and port.  In this case, this rather mature lady is killing two birds with one stone by jogging and exercising her dog simultaneously, both of which activities are essential for the maintenance of physical and mental health.

Two birds with one stone

And on the same day, I stopped to watch this man figure out the correct angle for taking a drink of water. I knew he’d find a comfortable position after he’d squirted water up his nostrils more than once as he moved from one side to the other. However, it did take him quite a while!

Figuring out a way

That same morning, I came across a guy working near the entrance to Tel Aviv Port.  From the distance, I couldn’t quite figure out what he was doing with the stick, to which was attached what appeared to be a scraper.  As I  approached, I was able to ask him what he was doing and thus was able to ascertain what his job was, but he wasn’t too happy that I photograph him.  Fortunately, I had a telephoto lens on the camera that day so after I had walked past, I turned around and was able to take the photograph.  It turns out that the man in question has the mind-numbing job of scraping chewing gum from off the footpath.  I’ve heard of thankless jobs before and this is definitely one of the more abysmal.

Chewing gum

Exercising in the park at 06.30 in this season can be messy, the reason being that I have to clear away the mess from what is falling off the trees…

Messy in the park

… and then when one wishes to sit down, it’s not such as easy matter either.

Try sitting

This morning, I took the bus to a physiotherapy session.  It was, how can I say, rather hot — but at least the bus had air-conditioning.  The thing about buses is that you never quite know who you are going to be sitting opposite or near, so you never really know if you’ll get a photograph. But today I was in luck and one of the things about using the camera on your phone is that it never really looks as if you are taking a picture.  So I switched from reading a WhatsApp message to the camera by moving one finger and that was that.  Did I ask his permission to take the photo?  No, I didn’t — because public transport is public space and one is permitted to take photos in public spaces.  Anyway, what I was photographing was a work of art not the man; it was just that the man was attached to the work of art. And like all works of visual art, it’s created in order to be looked at.  Not so?  Nevertheless, I’ve never succeeded in understanding the whys and wherefores of tattoos because when I was young, the only people with tattoos were people who you might prefer not to know.

Bus tattoo

Finally, here are a few of and for the birds.


The sprinklers went haywire but the crows have a bath

Crows pose

The crows’ nest


Leftovers are always very yummy!

Crow being careful

Nice and easy does it every time!



Night heron

Night heron in the early morning

Finally, one from the archive


One of my first.  12 years old and still going strong