Well, here I am once again, location altered.
After the extended Platinum celebrations in London and the rest of the United Kingdom last weekend, I find myself back in “der Schweiß” of Tel Aviv where the temperature is in the low 30s Celsius but where the weather forecast says “Temperature feels like 37” — no joke! Moreover, the relative humidity is 50% although I would have guessed it to be even higher. And — the same weather chart told me that the humidity in Belsize Park in London is 48% and where 21 degrees actually feels like 21 degrees. It also tells me that in Tel Aviv, “precipitation is not expected”, which is the way it’s likely to be until the end of October — at least. Neither rain nor snow will fall.
But let me start with the events of last weekend, not exactly a shenanigans but something approaching it. This year, 2022, marks the Platinum Jubilee of the accession of Elizabeth II as Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth. The queen was an active participant in the jubilee events, which lasted from Thursday through Sunday — a four-day break, which was somewhat longer than what the Brits as a group—where national holidays are in somewhat short supply——usually allot themselves for what are referred to colloquially as “Bank Holidays”. (The banks may have been closed but everything else seemed to be open.).
Elizabeth II R may well have been an active participant but she was considerably less active than she might have hoped to be, reluctantly withdrawing from the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on the Friday, where her eldest son Charles, the dependable Prince of Wales and “King-in-waiting #1” represented her at the service. The decision for her absence, it was reported, came after she experienced “discomfort” during the first full day of celebrations as she has been suffering from “episodic mobility problems”; after all, the monarch is 96 years old, well past the official retirement age for the other state employees. Having watched on TV part of what she missed at the Cathedral, in my humble opinion, she may well have nodded off, such was the lack of exhilaration and animation in that particular ceremony. Despite this, she did take part in a beacon lighting ceremony that stretched the length and breadth of the country, with the first beacon being lit outside Buckingham Palace in London by the Queen’s grandson Prince William, “King-in-waiting #2”, while Her Majesty herself touched a globe at her home in Windsor Castle, which magically and majestically was the sign for the coast-to-coast beacon-burning to begin in earnest.
Of greater significance, perhaps, was the fact that she missed attending the Epsom Derby, the premier horse race of the British flat-racing season for only the fourth time in 75 years (the queen is fond of horses—and little Welsh dogs). She also missed the Derby last year when it was held behind closed doors (not that a horse race can really be run behind closed doors) due to lockdown, but before that she had only failed to be present at the event twice, once in 1984, when she was in France for the 40th anniversary of D-Day, and once before in 1956, when as a public servant, she attended to her official duties by making a state visit to Sweden.
Of course, there were all sorts of other “questions” being asked in the ever-present and ever-nosy media. Would Harry, the younger brother of “King-in-waiting #2” shake hands with same? Where would Harry and his American wife, Meghan, sit in the Cathedral (second row apparently)? Meanwhile, the “skirt-chasing atheling”, Prince Andrew, seemingly the queen’s favourite child but now scandal-ridden and effectively removed after 61 years as a public figure to life as a ‘private citizen’”, was absent from all of the festivities, having been conveniently diagnosed with Covid-19 a day before things started in earnest.
In the event, Her Majesty appeared on the balcony a couple of times on the first day, flanked by most of the Royal Family, limited to those family members that the Queen designated as undertaking official public duties on her behalf. Notwithstanding, the less than fortunate family members were apparently still invited to take part in other activities, such as a private dinner, so they didn’t exactly go hungry. After the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh last year, the queen’s second balcony appearance on the first jubilee day was alongside her cousin, Edward George Nicholas Paul Patrick Windsor, the Duke of Kent . Although I didn’t notice it at the time I was watching intermittently, from the photograph that appeared in the press, it seems that perhaps one of the queen’s corgis had bitten off part of the duke’s left ear —— but one should not laugh at the misfortune of others.
The Trooping of the Colour, at which over 1400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians come together in a great display of military precision, horsemanship and fanfare to mark the Queen’s official birthday was very splendid and colourful to watch. Although the official birthday doesn’t have a set date, it usually takes place on the second Saturday of June as it did this year, the parade moving from Buckingham Palace and down The Mall to Horse Guard’s Parade with members of the Royal Family on horseback or in carriages following. (The “official birthday”was initiated by King George II in 1748, and is related to the British weather, which is cold in winter but warm-ish and sometimes dry in summer.) From the distance of an armchair to the TV screen— crowds are anathema to me—it was quite spectacular, not that I would have gone anyway).
Given my predilection for looking at things rather sardonically, as the horses and their riders rode down The Mall in their finery, I was struck by the volume of equine excrement (a.k.a. horse shit) that had been involuntarily deposited by the gee-gees as they made their way down this rather attractive London street. However, what struck me even more was the sight of thousands of pedestrians, a very short time later, marching down the very same street in the opposite direction. Who picked up the horse shit and when did they manage to do it? The TV cameras missed that somehow!
And the sight of so many people shuffling along at such high density made me think that it must have been a pickpocket’s paradise (although what sort of person would want to pick pockets on such a joyous occasion?) but it reminded me of Roald Dahl’s short story The Hitchhiker, in which the hitchhiker, on his way to Epsom on Derby Day objects to being labelled a pickpocket by the driver who is giving him the ride. “So you’re a pickpocket,” I said. “I don’t like that word,” he answered. “It’s a coarse, and vulgar word. Pickpockets is coarse and vulgar people who only do easy little amateur jobs. They lift money from blind old ladies.” “What do you call yourself, then?” “Me? I’m a fingersmith. I’m a professional fingersmith.“
For me, however, the highlight of the three days was not the Queen — but Queen — who, even without Freddie Mercury, are as good as ever they were!
And there were signs that people were enjoying the jubilee break just about everywhere. It certainly took their minds off what was to follow the day following the cessation of the jubilation when the Prime Minister, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, survived a vote of confidence by members of his own parliamentary party, winning the vote with 211 in favour and 148 against (59% in favour, 41% against). And they were members of the his own party, Watch it, matey!
And then it was time to leave the British summer to pack and return to the heat and humidity of an early summer in Tel Aviv in order to try and sort some things out prior to returning to the UK.
Travel day turned out to be a nightmare. I booked a taxi and was told by the taxi company that if I wanted be at Heathrow by 12.15 (I decided to leave three hours before the flight just to be on the safe side) I needed to book a ab for 11. At 10.55, I received notification that the driver, accompanied my a map, that a cab was was on the way from St. John’s Wood and would be with me shortly. I lugged things downstairs when the taxi company called to say that the drive, having accepted the ride, had cancelled the trip (she’d obviously found something that suited him better) but not to worry because a replacement would be with me within 15 minutes. The replacement arrived 45 minutes later and an hour and a half after that I was at Heathrow. It turned out that there was a strike of train drivers that day and as a consequence, all of London was on the road, more or less bumper to bumper. Security &c. at Terminal 2 took the best part of an hour, with hundreds if not thousands of suspect terrorists shuffling their way along narrow rope-lined queues, only to be screamed at to removes belts, shoes, &c. I eventually got on the plane — just. However, half an hour before landing, I was informed that my case hadn’t been loaded on the plane and that I should file a claim on arrival. That took ¾ of an hour even though there were only two people ahead of me and I was told that I could expect to receive the case maybe the following day or the day after that. In the event, it was delivered just after midday the following day but it was a total nightmare of a trip—an ordeal.
So, after a day playing the role of a zombie, it was back to the Yarqon Park, where the beer grows on trees …
… where the ducklings wait for Mama Duck to tell them in which direction they should paddle …
… where Chinese holes (the Hebrew reads “pit”!) await the unfortunate or less than careful, as they build Tel Aviv’s soon-to-be light railway (tram line) …
… and where tattooed ladies walk past a slower you and while trying to photograph the tattooed arm (I’ve never really understood why people tattoo) one discovers that there may be more interesting things to focus on, weariness notwithstanding!
Finally, I leave you with two pictures from the current exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London, which is devoted to the Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch. Just 18 pictures in two rooms (The Scream wasn’t one of them) but brilliant nonetheless…
Although there was little to scream about, the exhibition did include Self-Portrait in the Clinic (1909), one of Munch’s most impressive and introspective self-portraits, painted when he was undergoing treatment for emotional stress in Copenhagen. The therapy Munch received for the following eight months included change of diet and “electrification”, and his stay in hospital seemingly stabilised his personality. It’s a powerful work, and marked an important shift in his style, adopting a brighter palette and applying paint with loose, jagged brushstrokes that left parts of the canvas visible.
See you next time!