I tend to listen and watch the news these days much less than I used to. I get about four minutes in Hebrew between 6 and 7 in the morning followed by a few minutes on the TV with breakfast a quarter of an hour later and that more or less does me for the day.
These days, I’m more confused than ever. It’s not just that I can’t figure out whether the numbers of people with Covid infection, with serious Covid infections, with serious Covid infections and on ventilators, and those dying from Covid are rising or falling or if one feels the need to travel outside one’s country of residence whether one needs to test before departing, after arriving, quarantine for a few days of whatever. All this is difficult enough as definitions and rules seem to change just about every other day.
It’s just that the news in the UK over the past couple of days seems at first glance to contradict what we were being told in the weeks before that. A week ago the news headlines were full of global warming and the large quantities of carbon dioxide in the air that seemed to be the source of all out problems. However, over the past two or three days — in the UK, at least — the dire warnings concern increased wholesale prices of gas, leading in turn to the shutting down of plants that manufacture carbon dioxide, a compound apparently of utmost importance to the food processing industry, which, say the doomsayers, will lead to food shortages in the near future, a possible implication being that in addition to dying of Covid, people will start suffering malnutrition — and this is the UK in 2021. Well, my confusion stems from the fact that I now cannot tell whether there is too much CO2 or too little CO2 about, and if it’s the latter, I can’t fathom why the stuff can’t be distilled from excess that we’re constantly told appears to be in the air. Make up your minds, folks! Much too complicated for a simple mind like mine.
The week started and finished with what is oft referred to by some as “culture” with Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement sandwiched in the middle. At the beginning of the week, I took myself off to the British Museum to see the exhibition “Nero: The man behind the myth”. Nero is someone about whom I knew little more than zilch other than that “he fiddled while Rome burned” and my abiding memory is of Peter Ustinov in Quo Vadis from 70 years ago. It wasn’t exactly an exhibition that left me with a feeling of utter exhilaration and although it was interesting, I felt that it hardly justified the entry fee that the British Museum deemed fit to charge.
The visit began, as things sometimes appear to these days, with a shuffle along in a queue prior to being approved as “Covid-passable”.
As I had arrived at the museum early, I was granted access to the building but had to pass time viewing what was on show for free. The Polynesian house materials were interesting, to say the least although I’m not sure that these are what I would like to greet me when I come home every day.
Also on view while I was awaiting Nero (or while Nero was waiting for me) was the Lion of Knidos, which, we were informed, weighs in at over 7 tons and was carved from marble that originated from a site near Athens, and “came from” an ancient tomb in Knidos in south-west Turkey. There was some additional information about the tomb and other burial chambers contained in it. However, there was no explanation about when and how this heavyweight lion found its way from the Aegean Sea to Bloomsbury.
Finally, the time came for me to check up on Nero, 1,950 years after his suicide. On entering, almost the first thing I came across was this brief synopsis of the short life of the young emperor.
As I read the blurb, which read that: “[He] had to steer a vast empire through a period of great change. Faced with conflicting demands and expectations, he adopted policies that appealed to the people but alienated many of the elite …”, I couldn’t help thinking of another [not-so] young ruler in another part of the world and at a different period who might one day face a similar situation within his own party. Given that following Nero’s suicide there was a brief period of civil war during which between June 68 and December 69, there were four emperors—Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian—who ruled in quick succession, one can only hope that when BoJo’s end eventually comes, his Praetorian Guard will have done a better job than Nero’s in protecting him, that the succession will be more peaceful and that the citizens of the United Kingdom will be free from similar bloodletting after he goes (not that he’s planning on going anywhere at the moment).
On this visit of personal edification, I also discovered from viewing the head of Emperor Claudius that was on display that there was only a slight resemblance between Claudius and his alter-ego Sir Derek J-j-j-jacoby.
Then the following day, I decided to take myself into town to view what is called “The Marble Arch Mound”. While there, I overheard somebody describe the name as more like the title of a sex novel than an artificial and temporary part of the urban landscape only to hear in the next sentence that she admitted to suffering from sleep deprivation when that thought came to mind.
The Mound is a viewing platform that has been described by some as “London’s worst tourist attraction”. This man-made monstrosity was commissioned by Westminster City Council and cost about £6m, at taxpayers’ expense, of course, which is apparently almost double what is was forecast to cost when the idea was dreamed up by City Councillors and their advisers.
I initially became aware of this thing while listening to a BBC radio news item a few weeks ago. It reported that Westminster City Council had decided not to charge people a £5 entry fee before they remove the structure in January 2022. It had ostensibly been erected in order to attract tourists back into the West End. This, of course, is something of a misleading joke, because all you can see from the top of the Mound is a partial view of Marble Arch itself, the entrance to Marble Arch Tube station and some buses going up and down Park Lane.
None of this justifies the 130 steeper-than- usual steps to the summit, so in my humble opinion, the people in charge seriously needed to warn all rather unfit 76-year olds of that hazard before they started the ascent (the steps are actually so steep that it felt like there were 330 not 130).
And what else this week?
Returning from Marble Arch, I photographed the sign below at Goodge Street Underground Station. I’m not quite sure that it was meant to convey because as everybody knows men always do this and not just in London but everywhere they go!
A couple of years back, I photographed this sign in Hampstead village and noted a couple of posts ago that the same dyslexic sign writer who could not distinguish his O’s from his Q’s had also been at work a little further up the street. However, either someone else saw what I had seen or someone who reads my blog decided to take the law into his (or her) own hands, and to hell with the tiles.
And I love the wording in the sign below. It seems that good manners appear to work as it’s difficult to find a bicycle (or anything else) chained to the railings. Then again, it might be that the offending vehicles were forcibly removed!
I’ve always been fascinated by the James Smith & Sons “Sticks & Umbrella” shop on New Oxford Street and am amazed that I’ve never photographed it before.
And as for signs … it took me a while to figure out what was being advertised here. I always thought that a curator was a person in charge of a museum or library or something like that. So I looked up “to curate” in the dictionary and understood it “to be in charge of selecting and caring for objects to be shown in a museum or to form part of a collection of art or an exhibition” or “to be in charge of selecting films, performers, events et cetera to be included in a festival” or “to select things such as documents, music, products included was part of a list or collection…” Apparently, this is a place where customers are allowed to make their own salads or can tell the person behind the counter what you’d like in yours.
And on the same street, another individual asleep in a cardboard box with a sign explaining to passersby that his life is a bit of a mess at the moment but that it wasn’t always that way — and meanwhile, he’d appreciate any help he can get.
At least he looks more comfortable than the guy below on Primrose Hill Road who sits on the same bench, day in, day out, looking just as uncomfortable each time I pass by.
Then, on Primrose Hill, I watched this little canine who kept his eye on the ball over and over again and concluded that he must be making a pitch to be picked for the English cricket team an outfielder.
Finally, the week ended as it began, fittingly, with some culture — a concert at Wigmore Hall …
… and a play at Hampstead Theatre.