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.
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.
But enough of all this. This rant is terminated for this week. Some pictures are due.
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.
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 …
… 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 …
… 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.
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.
And then, of course, the are the birds …
… even the tiny ones that I often miss …
… and the larger ones that just float by as I walk through the park.
And we’re constantly reminded of the presence of Corona …
… and of Corona garbage!
And then there are the boats 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.
And then there are pictures that are just pictures and don’t really fit into any story.
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.