The Bostock Diaries
As a certain Anglican priest of my acquaintance said, "Israel's OK........ If you're an orange."
Well - Anderson and his tribe would know a thing or two from previous experiences of the Land Of Milk And Honey but it was my first visit. The immigration side of things was a doddle. No big dramas and the officers were polite and efficient. In spite of the odd Lebanese stamp in a passport or two. Anderson had warned us to use the other passport (we all have two) without Lebanese stamps and then, chump that he was, he proceeded to pack the wrong one himself. But being the one with the work permits and the itineraries to hand, he was ushered through and the rest of us lackies, aides and faithful followers with him.
Bags and instruments made it safely on to the carousel of fun to sighs of relief which echoed quietly through the baggage hall. Our Russian Emigre promoter, Yuri, was on the other side waiting and we loaded up the vans in the sultry evening air, en route for a once-swanky beachside hotel on the Northern fringe of the tourist strip.
The Southern end of the seaside esplanade hosts the King David Hotel and the adjacent old town of Jaffa, now an up-and-coming residential area for the liberal middle class Israeli and the address to have. Actually, there are some old buildings and a welcome feeling of history preceding the concrete hideousness of the last 50 years. Truly an ugly city and dirty to boot, Tel Aviv has little charm but is the bustling centre of commerce and activity. Honest Israelis just want to enjoy the Mediterranean cafe society and live in uneasy peace - whatever their cultural roots and persuasion.
And it is easy to see the attraction of the pleasure dome. Bustling nightlife and a heady mix of local and tourist alike go about their nightly sojourns and weekend madness. Miniskirted gals and sallow-faced boys ogle each other without, seemingly, much expertise in what to do next. A bit like Burnley on a Saturday night down the Locarno. If such exists these days.
Anderson, Yuri and I went off immediately to do a radio broadcast in Jaffa and were surprised to find the station run by the army. All staff apart from the presenter were wearing khaki uniforms and there was an occasional weapon worn, and not merely as personal adornment. With good reason, it being a government radio station and a place of high security.
The Jerusalem show was first amongst the three and IA met with two of the intended recipients of his charitable donation from this tour. Difficult to find the "middle way" but NGO charities supporting co-education of Arab, Jewish and Christian Israelis alike in the three Hand In Hand schools or the work of Shatil in the building of human rights for women and children of all faiths and cultures can hardly be controversial. Or so one would have thought, in spite of the occasional hate mail and criticism Mr A gets for going there at all.
Haifa and Tel Aviv were uneventful, and successful concerts and the exit from Israel was the only stressful part of the trip. Enormous security checking at all stages but rather amateurish and slow compared to the UK or US equivalent. At least a kind security lady gave us a priority processing and the inspection was relatively cursory. Except in the case of poor Ryan O'Donnell who left on an early flight back to the UK, not being needed for the Istanbul trip, and was informed by BA at check-in that his return ticket had been inexplicably cancelled and had to fork out a full-fare new ticket to get home. BA have yet to refund the cost of this absurd action and have been, thus far, completely unprofessional and unhelpful regarding either an explanation or recompense. The Ryanair disease must be catching...
And so off to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. OK under the circumstances but a completely full flight and we were late getting in and made it to the hotel just in time for a late supper and bed.
We organised a flurry of promotion for Mr A in the hotel and left him to his customary lone lunching while we headed off for the venue, which was not too bad, in spite of reservations. A simple show without Audio-visual production but OK and quite cool and clement weather-wise. Only sad thing was that we were many miles away from any touristic sites and there would have been no time anyway to sight-see or meander through the old town. Well maybe The Old Bag will want to come and holiday one day but she doesn't much like idea of Turkey, assuming it to be, simplistically, the Land of the Long Kebab. At least we didn't have to endure the local high-octane coffee. Starbucks have made it to Constantinople! So D. Goodier and chums sauntered to find a cafe late or espresso. And then another.
Well, there you have it you toads and rascals. Just time to pack again on return and prepare for the mighty USA. Get the shorts out and the beach shirt. Miami beckons and thunderstorms threaten.
Over and Out. GB signing off.
PS - Are the oranges in Florida better than than the Israeli variety? Probably safer, at least, if Netanyahu gets his way and bombs the Iranians. At least in the USA, the neighbours are said to be, for the most part, friendly.