Jerusalem (2)

The official tour this morning took us to nearly the same places I had been to last night, beginning with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where I was able to admire the quality of the capitals outside:-

And the door furniture:-

Then we walked through the market to the Wailing Wall:-

But it felt intrusive to take photographs of the Wailing Wall.

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Jerusalem (1)

Based on a belief that the best way of exploring a city is to get lost, I did just that, entering by the Jaffa Gate, wandering through the Shuk, taking a few side alleyways, admiring the accumulation of ancient remains until I found myself in a courtyard outside the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate:-

I was directed to take a short cut through a subterranean chapel:-

And found myself outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where evensong was in full swing:- 

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Israel (1)

Some time ago I was asked if I had ever visited Israel.   The answer was no.   Then I was asked if I would be interested in doing so.   The answer was yes.   I received early instruction in the Old Testament and retain murky memories of plates in family bibles of the Holy Land.   Before university, my parents wanted me to stay on a kibbutz;  I wanted to go on a motorbike to Jerusalem.   One of my first teachers of history is now a Rabbi in Paris.   I missed the Bizot group visit to the Israel Museum and have never seen the Bauhaus houses of Tel Aviv.   I have been the beneficiary of long-term support from those who are deeply  associated with Israel and its institutions.   Why not ?   I discovered that it was a leading question following the publication of a letter in the Guardian which called for a total cultural boycott.   Not long afterwards, I was invited to visit by Culture for Coexistence, a group which exists specifically to encourage a better understanding and knowledge of the cultural politics of Israel.   So it is that I am with a group of fellow neophytes struggling to understand the impossible complexities of Israeli and indeed Palestinian history, politics and culture.

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Terence Davis

Reference to Terence Davis and his book about Tunbridge Wells made me check whether I could find out anything about him, other than what I could remember as crumbs from his dinner table.   He was born in the Midlands and must have inherited quite a bit of money, although this did not prevent him complaining endlessly about the cost of feeding and, more especially, supplying drink to his many friends.   I think he might have trained as an architect at the Bartlett because he was sufficiently good as a designer to have designed his own library in Wadhurst and he had a good eye.   He worked for a time at House and Garden (I think) before embarking on a biography of John Nash.   He and his partner, always known as The Baron, lived in a grand first floor apartment in Cornwall Gardens before moving out to the country.   He was very generous to us when we were no more than kids and it was in his company that we met, amongst many others, Rebecca West and Steven Runciman.

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Yuta Segawa

We went on a short trip this afternoon to Wilton Way in order to call in on Momosan.   They had an exhibition in the window of the work of a young Japanese potter called Yuta Segawa, who has previously shown in Tokyo in an exhibition called FUCK THE BAUHAUS.   I’m not sure what to make of this, but admired the display:-

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Old Velho Cemetery

I was walking along the back route to the canal and thought that I would have a look at the Novo Cemetery, one of the best and most dramatic of the East London Jewish cemeteries, when I remembered that there is a fourth which I have never seen and is only available by appointment.   I managed to penetrate Queen Mary (I don’t recommend it as I may well have been trespassing) and discovered behind some student accommodation what remains of the oldest Jewish cemetery in the country, opened in 1657, only a year following the establishment of a Spanish and Portuguese congregation under the name of Sha’ar Hashamayim, ‘the Gate of Heaven’.   It was on the site of the garden and orchard of a pub called The Soldiers Tenement.   Not much to see, but the atmosphere of Cromwellian liberalism:-

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Stepney Green (2)

You might not guess it from this morning’s Financial Times, but Stepney Green is actually quite green.   So, on my Saturday morning walk to buy goose eggs from Marsh Produce who have a stall in Stepney City Farm, I took photographs of the walk down the side of the Green:-

The church:-

The Farm:-

And the chickens:-

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Tunbridge Wells

I have been writing – or at least thinking about – a talk I am giving to the Art Fund in July and was remembering that East London is not quite my first book of photographs because in 1976 I did the photographs for a book about Tunbridge Wells by Terence Davis, a friend and author of books about John Nash.   He and his partner, Nicolas van den Branden, had a small cottage in fields near Wadhurst, to which Terence had added a grand gothick library, and he asked me whilst I was still an undergraduate if I would take photographs for the book he was writing.   I enjoyed it immensely, but can’t help noticing that the photographs are a bit blurry and that the lens of the enlarger was covered in hairs and grit:-

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Stepney Green (1)

I went out first thing this morning to the new local branch of Sainsbury’s to buy a copy of the Weekend FT to check that the article I’ve written about Stepney Green has appeared in the colour magazine.   It has (p.27).   I found it harder than expected to write a longer piece (well, it’s not that long), having got used to the blissful superficiality of a blog entry.   And it’s odd to see it illustrated with someone else’s photographs, including a basketball game in Bethnal Green Library Park and a brown and white sheep in the local farm.   You can spare yourself £3.80 by reading it online (just google Saumarez Smith Stepney Green).

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Edmund de Waal

Edmund de Waal gave the biennual Leo Baeck Lecture this evening at Queen Mary on the subject of ‘On the Eve of Departure: Art and Exile’.  He must have talked about the background to the writing of The Hare with Amber Eyes a hundred times, if not a thousand (it was published in 2010), but he still managed to invest the circumstances of his family history with extraordinarily vivid immediacy, as if he was only just telling the story for the first time of Charles Ephrussi in 81, rue de Monceau, Viktor von Ephrussi, his scholarly great grandfather, his grandmother Elisabeth who only died in 1991, his great uncle Ignace, who left Vienna to become a fashion designer, and Victor de Waal, his wonderful father who was chaplain of King’s and Dean of Canterbury.   Maybe talking to a scholarly Jewish audience gave the narrative a different edge, because, although his father had apparently suppressed his Jewish upbringing, Edmund said that a visit to the Leo Baeck library reminded him of his upbringing.   It was a tour de force.

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