Thursday, 21 November 2013

Companions on the way

Part of pilgrimage of course are the chance companions encountered on the way. Sitting at Tel Aviv airport on the shared minibus (the driver couldn't understand what I was telling him about the hotel, so agreed to drop me at Damascus Gate (rather apt... home from home...) it is hot and there is an incident.
Sit in the back seat in the opposite corner from a very lovely woman wearing crimson lipstick (instantly noticed - am trying to wear myself). We were waiting patiently for the bus to fill. Finally the last two passengers arrived, two Orthodox Jews, one older than the other. There were only two seats left, between the woman and I on the back seat.
The younger man - embarrassed - asked the woman across from me to move. The older man refused to sit next to her - or to me - so the only alternative was for we two women to sit together with the younger man between us as some kind of human barrier between us and the older man. "It's not me, it's him. I just want to get home," said the younger man in an American accent.
Tense moments as we drove up the motorway to Jerusalem.
The light was fading.
The city high and dusty looking: many many streets and suburbs with Jews walking, in black in hats and long skirts. The younger man gets out in a suburb. A few minutes later the older man asks us something in Hebrew - directions. We say that we don't understand,
J.ountylose to the centre, we finally talk. She says she is going to visit an elderly aunt for the weekend (she's flown in on the BA flight). She does this often. Her cousin is a tour guide here and sometimes she sneaks in at the back of the buses. She's got a flat for the weekend from Air B and B.
"That's Jerusalem," she said. "I was so angry. Things flare up in a second." Though she didn't show it. Very serene. BRilliant lipstick.
The driver calls for the lady who wants Al Salahadin street. REalise with surprise it is me. It seems we have stopped on a busy road. Where is Damascus Gate?
He gets out and takes my suitcase. Where am I from? "The fare is 60 shekels but I will take 50 only. Welcome to Israel." He shakes my hand.
It is a short walk. Uneven stones under foot - the walls of the old city to my left. Women selling bundles of herbs at the side of the pavement. School children skipping home. The police station on the corner.

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy