Monday, December 31, 2018

Love is all you need (film)

I had recorded some time ago a film whose unpromising blurb was something like 'Romantic comedy in which Pierce Brosnan attends his son's wedding in Italy'. As our Yes Max video recorder is due to be replaced today, I thought it prudent to actually watch the film before it gets lost. The first few minutes were disconcerting: a woman had gone to see an oncologist ... and they were speaking in some foreign language which I originally took be Swedish but turned out to be Danish. Then there was a scene with Brosnan as the CEO of a vegetable/fruit company ... not very promising. I fast forwarded about 15 minutes to a 'meet cute' between the above woman and Brosnan which was taken straight out of 'Cold Feet': the woman backs into Brosnan's car in an airport car park. This reminded me of the exchange between Adam and Rachel in CF: "Who was your driving instructor, Stevie Wonder?" "At least I had a driving instructor".

Once they calm down a little, it turns out that the woman is flying to Italy to attend the wedding of her daughter; strangely enough, Brosnan is flying to Italy to attend the wedding of his son. Of course, it is her daughter marrying his son. Cut to a local Italian airport and then to a drive along countryside which looks extremely familiar: they were driving on the road between Sorrento and Amalfi! From this point on, the charm of this area took over the film, which improved immensely. There were many romantic shots of the gulf of Naples, both early morning and evening, which placed Brosnan's villas in the hills above Sorrento, in the Sant' Agata area.

Apart from general scenic shots, there were a few places which I recognised immediately. There were a few shots of Marina Grande, which is right next to where we stayed in Sorrento the first time. When the ladies went "into town to buy clothes", there was a shot which started with the bell tower then ran down the lane where the 100m pizza was served and into a junction where we ate Gnocchi alla Sorrentina. The wedding took place in the cloisters of San Francesco (pictured on the left). It should be noted that all the locations in Sorrento looked cleaner and less run down than they did when we were there. The film was released in 2012, meaning that it was probably filmed a year earlier, whereas we didn't go to Sorrento until 2014, so the intervening years may have contributed to removing the sparkle from the locations.


There was one thing which nagged at me: wedding guests are seen arriving and departing from Marina Grande by boat. Apart from the fact that most boats leave from Marina Piccolo, why would one travel by boat from Sorrento to Naples (airport)? Obviously, the scenic factor plays a part, but Brosnan was shown arriving by car. Only when watching the credits did this become clear: they all arrived at Salerno airport, not Naples. This explains how come Brosnan travelled by car along the Amalfi coast and why the guests travelled by boat.

In the end, I found the film much more enjoyable than the opening minutes suggested.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Amos Oz (1939-2018)

I have just learned that esteemed Israeli novelist Amos Oz has died at the age of 79 from cancer.

I first became aware of Oz around 1975, when I read the English translation of his (then) most famous book, 'My Michael'. This was a story set in Jerusalem just after the creation of the state of Israel. Probably most of the allusions passed me by, but I remember going past certain buildings and thinking to myself that these were mentioned in the book. I read another of his books in translation a year or two later ('Elsewhere perhaps') which was set in a fictional kibbutz, one which was quite unlike the kibbutzim which I had already begun to know and love.

I emigrated to Israel in 1978, to a kibbutz called Mishmar David, whose closest neighbour is kibbutz Hulda, where Amos Oz was living. I remember that during the first weekend after emigrating, a group of us went to Hulda in order to use their swimming pool (we didn't have one at the time in Mishmar David). If I remember the story correctly, after we had left the pool, Amos Oz arrived with Jane Fonda.

A few years later, in an attempt to improve relations between the two kibbutzim (there were no arguments between the two ...), probably at Sukkot (when it is traditional to entertain guests), we went to Hulda and were hosted by several families. My wife was talking to the family that entertained us about their house, and our hostess said something like "I'll show you something else". She went outside, knocked on the door of the next apartment and was bidden to enter with us. "Thank you, Amos", she said. Only afterwards did my wife realise that we had been in the house of Amos Oz.

An apocryphal story which was making the rounds at this time had the treasurer of Hulda calling upon Oz and telling him that he was the most successful branch of the kibbutz (in monetary terms); the treasurer wanted to improve the income of this branch by allowing a few pensioners to work with Oz and so increase the work force.... Maybe this story loses something in translation.

A few years later, Oz and his family moved to the desert town of Arad in order to ease his son's asthma, and so our paths ceased to cross.

The last book of his which I bought was a non-fiction book about the Israeli elections in 1982, when Oz visited several cities, towns and settlements.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Friday, December 07, 2018

24 hours and 180 degrees

Yesterday, shall we say, was not a very good day. In the morning, I travelled to Tel Aviv and got soaked to the skin. I don't like rain very much, but once I was wet, it didn't bother me any more as I couldn't get any wetter than I already was. I dried off slightly whilst in the train, but the rain at the other end of the journey ensured that I arrived home wet - I went straight into the shower, taking off my wet clothing and hanging it to dry. To add insult to injury, I tried to get some cash from the ATM at our local bank branch; the machine swallowed the card!

Overnight 70 mm (2.8inches) of rain fell on the kibbutz, which is a very large amount! About 11% of our annual rainfall. I was about to take the dog for a walk at about 4pm when there was a break in the rain, but by the time I had put on my raincoat (fortunately I have two, for the first got soaked in the morning) and put the dog on the lead, the rain had started again. We managed a walk later on in the evening.

This morning, a telephone call woke us at 5:40am; it was our daughter telling us that it was time for her to go to the hospital in order to give birth to her second daughter. At 10:30am, she sent us a message telling us that she had given birth to a 3.20kg baby! Our other grand-daughter has been with us for most of the day and will stay with us until tomorrow evening when presumably her father will come back to the kibbutz (he will stay overnight with his family in Jerusalem).

I had a nagging feeling that there was something important about 7 December, but it took me a while to figure out what it was. Aside from it being the sixth candle of Chanuka, it is also the 70th birthday of our kibbutz! So we'll always remember this date! Since the formal announcement via the kibbutz website an hour ago, our phones have been beeping every few minutes with congratulations from our friends.

There's no formal picture of our new grand-daughter, but we do have a picture of us lighting the candles.

And to add icing to the cake, I was able to get my debit card back from the bank and was able to withdraw cash.

My world has changed 180 degrees in the last 24 hours!