Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Not much too report...

As my shared taxi van was about to circumvent a police car stretched out in the middle of the street and drop me off near the central bus station in Jerusalem, the driver of the aforementioned police car halted all traffic. All of a sudden we were stuck at the head of a long line of cars, trying to get to the centre of town. There was - appearently- a suspect package sitting somewhere near the bus station awaiting detonation by IDF sappers.

This seemed to me like a wholly over protective attitude as terrorism 101 teaches you that the palestinians have not used this tactic (planting a bomb in a bag) in at least two decades. Fewer deaths are caused in this way when compared to suicide bombing and as such is unfavorable for the terrorist. Although I didnt stick around to find out how this particular story ended, Im sure it was not a bomb (it would be in the papers by now if it was) and that the Jerusalem police were being rather daft. Also, this exact same episode occured last month as well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Nation Wide Sirens"

In other countries the term "nation wide sirens" is not heard all that much. In fact, of all the places I have lived in I have never heard the term before. In israel, this practice is common. SInce I have been here there have been four such nation wide sirens: one as a drill test, one for holocaust memorial day and two for Yom Hazikaron - memorial day for the fallen slodiers. On Sunday at 2000 the first of two days of national mania started. A nation wide 1 minute siren alerted everyone to the mournful 24 hours ahead in honor of all of israels war dead. On Monday morning at 1100 there was a 2 minute nation wide siren to usher in the day of mourning. Again there was no television as channels went off the air. On the radio all that could be heard were melancholic songs. We went to a memorial service in Rabin square where we heard a whole bunch of bands (none of which recieved applause after their sets) performing for fallen soldiers. People all over were crying and the mood on the streets was palpably tragic. When the show ended at 11, about 5000 people slowly walked home. The silence was deafening.

On monday night at about 6-7 the mood rapidly changed. Peoples tears were slowly turned into jubilation at the onset of Yom Hazmaut - Independence Day. Bars opened and the alcohol started freely flowing. The same stage that had been used as the focus of sorrow on Rabin square was quickly turned into the centre of a celebration of independence. Fire works, live music, people cheering. Kids all over the city were spraying some sort of foam and hitting eachother with little squeeky blow-up hammers. Then at around 11pm the nightlife took off. semi-illegal parties sprouted up all over Tel Aviv (basically people with gardens and/or roofs charged an entrance fee and served warm beer for a small price). Everywhere you went you heard blasting music and felt the party atmosphere. Because its the only secular holiday nationally celebrated by Israel, the religious can travel and "work". On teusday, the city woke up to the smell of burning charcoal and shishlik as people all over found parks in which to relax and celebrate israeli independence by barbequeing.

The sudden change from mourning to celebration was an interesting socialogical event in itself. What made the whole thing even more pensive for me, is that israel's neighbours mourn on Yom Hazmaut - a day they collectively call "The Catastrophe". For me the images of arabs crying over their lost land on the same day jews celebrate the fact that after 2000 years they are finally the masters of their own fate, put the middle east conflict into a bit of a perspective. Our holiday is their tragedy. So is the fire-born history of nations.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

An appropriate time for a blog resurrection

It being Easter, after all. Happy Easter to everyone! My apologies for such a long absence. I had nothing to say and have been rather busy. But now, I am still busy but have some "chat", to coin a Rossism.

First item of interest was the circus! Lydia (the computer manager at the ICC for non-locals) kindly gave KK and myself two tickets for "Le Grande Cirque" at Newcastle's Theatre Royal last week, since she was unable to attend. So, we got some excellent tickets (in the Grand Circle no less!) for an absolutely MINDBLOWING show. According to KK, they are an offshoot of Cirque de Soleil and it showed. They worked wonders in the relatively small space of the theatre's stage, and we were treated to feats of strength, balance, acrobatics and - to keep the chaps happy during set alterations - some rather tasty ladies dancing in their smalls. If you get the chance to go sometime, don't hesitate. It's a real rollercoaster, non-stop assault on the senses. Thanks again, Lydia.

On Friday, we were joined by KK's mum and went for dinner at Hide (how original). Stotty will be amused to learn which waiter we got: yes, the annoying twerp who loves telling you about his life. Anyway, that's not the story - when we got home, I had a voicemail on my mobile from my brother-in-law. He and my sister were at a somewhat surreal gig: one of the b-in-l's friends had arranged for Ian McNabb (of The Icicle Works fame: link) to play at his house! Apparently this is something McNabb does; you provide £500, a bed and a crate of beers, and he turns up, jams and has a laugh. So, I called back and was promptly handed to Ian (we're best buddies now) and after some banter he asked if I wanted to put in a request. So, I asked for "Hollow Horse" (have a listen to the original here, hope Ian doesn't mind), and was duly treated to an acoustic performance down the dog and bone.

Yesterday we played the role of what KK and I affectionately call "North-Face-Jacket-Wearing-Middle-Class-National-Trust-Lovies", and went to Raby Castle. We've been wanting to go for a while, having driven past enough times, but it's not normally open on a weekend - apparently through lack of interest! I have no idea why, as it's a great day out. The castle and grounds are pretty spectacular, and inside is just as impressive, a real mix of mediaeval fortress and 18th century stately home. The gem is perhaps the Barons' Hall, supposedly the longest room in the country (or something like that) and the birth place of the plotted "Rising of the North" in 1569. The best bit though, is that they have cannons!

and even a cannonade (I think it's too small to be a carronade)...

I'm sure you can imagine the Master & Commander related fun I had once I'd seen them.