Nicholas Quirke was enjoying a moment in the sun when an acting exercise played out well for him. His inspiration led to the breaking of a cardinal rule, some crockery and maybe bones. But even the blow to his pride he received from a renowned actor could not dim the flame of self satisfaction he felt.
Nicholas Quirke was flying home on 11th May 2019 and the late night, delayed flight gave him time to ruminate on his stay in Israel; where his thoughts strayed and concentrated on some the negative aspects of the visit, prompted by an incident that morning. He had woken early and busied himself with posting the latest podcast cast episode, 11th May 1981. Their day was going to involve a lot of walking around Jerusalem seeing the City of David, the Wailing Wall, the Garden of Gethsemene and walking the ramparts. Most importantly he needed to get a stamp to post a Postcard to his friend Anna who was in need of some cheer from abroad. Of course, he hadn’t counted on Shabbat and the closure of the post office on a Saturday. As he and Cole stood outside the closed establishment at Jaffa Gate, lost in reverie on opening times, an insidious voice broke their concentration. “Come to my shop”. They had immediately bristled at the demand, one that they had heard over and over in the streets of the Souk which had been their home for the previous 3 days. “No thanks. Can we buy a stamp anywhere else?” “I can sell you a stamp. Follow me to my shop.” This they were lured into an inevitable wild goose chase. Sure enough, once they were in the the apparently residential side streets and staring into a small room filled with cheap jewelry where they were introduced to the ‘vendors’ teenage son, who would go and get a stamp, they were invited to purchase goods. Nicholas was adamant that he only wanted a stamp, that they would not wait in the shop for the boy to go and get them a stamp, just tell them where. The boy insisted on taking them to an establishment and then demanded money from them for the privilege. It was another moment that soured Nicholas’s experience of the market place. Of course nowhere sold stamps, only the post office. He was aware that this feeling of being cheated and conned; a sentiment that had started with their altercation with the restaurant owner, that everyone was trying to rob them, had made him reluctant to buy anything in the shops. The cries of “come look at what I have to sell”, on one occasion “Everything is a dollar, my father died and I have to sell everything” and once lured inside the stall “ I will give you a good price”! “Oh, I thought your stock, which is shit, everything was a dollar”. No one was going to get a gift from this trip as he had lost the desire to haggle, bargain, fight for the best deal. These were the emotions he was wrestling with as the made their way to the ancient and holy site of the western wall, and as it was Shabbat The wailing was in full force as they arrived. The Hasidic and orthodox traditions were being given complete and passionate voice, a moving and profound spectacle. On their way to the Garden of Gethsemane, a site of Christian significance deep in valley of the Mount of Olives, Nicholas was able to indulge his fondness for a Necropolis, mausoleums and crypts. The ruins of David’s city were closed but clearly visible from the road as they made their way back up the steep steps and inclines of the Old City. Their experience of Jerusalem had been of fairly cold city but on their last day the temperature had soared and by late afternoon after another walk in the sudden heat, around the ramparts and despite a rest and sustenance at the comfortable Vegan Imbala restaurant they were exhausted and not looking forward to the complexities of getting to the airport on a day of no public transport. At Damascus gate problem was solved and they shared a shuttle bus with some other travelers. Naturally the flight was delayed and they did not get in the air till gone 11pm. It was going to be a long night. The action packed trip was coming to an end. The fun and photography was over and their appetite for Israel and Palestine had been well and truly whetted. After 24 hours from having woken at 6 am in Jerusalem at 5 am he walked through the door of his home in Brighton and into bed.
Nicholas Quirke was hoping for better things and a way out of signing on but an unfortunate moment triggered some bitter memories. His day didn’t end in disappointment as he made it the theatre.
Down at the Dead Sea. Nicholas Quirke was facing a day of relaxation. Despite the early start, there was only one thing on the agenda and that was a day at the beach. The lure of the Dead Sea was not only its significant healthy mineral properties but that it was 430 meters below sea level and boasted gravity defying viscosity. They joined the coach party at the David Citadel hotel and Nicholas immediately made friends with Emmanuel and Monica from Canada. Two of the girls, Belgians, from the day before were also on the coach. When they reached the Dead Sea resort only Nicholas and Cole were getting off and they said goodbye to everyone, rejoining the coach when it returned at 4 pm. The temperature was warm and pleasant and the beach empty. They got a prime spot and immediately took to the water. The sensation of being in the water was almost impossible to describe. Not only was it thick and dense with minerals and salt which was visible to the eye in water, but once your feet left the shore your limbs and body were compelled to float. It was impossible to submerge your head, and in fact is an ill advised thing to do anyway as the salt in the water was so strong it stung the eyes and you couldn’t see: a situation that arose for both Nicholas and Cole who had to lead each other out of the sea to the shower. They had lots of fun which stepped up when they discovered they were encouraged to slather themselves with mud, bake themselves in the sun and then wash it off in the sea. This provided them with many photo and video opportunities. It felt really good to Relax in the sun, Read and listen to some music before repeating the routine. His skin felt extremely firm and smooth after this pampering. They enjoyed another lunch of yet more Falafels before breaking free from the resort and going for a walk along the desert cliffs. This was curtailed when Cole sank into a mud bog . Nicholas had one more swim, float and their father and Son Spa Day came to a close when they met up with the tour they had left to get back to Jerusalem. It had been their intention to walk the ramparts after supper but annoyingly these were closed so after a short walk and witnessing a congregation flocking to Shabbat at the Wailing Wall they returned home to watch a film, which was interrupted by the sound of the couple next door enjoying some vigorous and noisy sex. Time for bed once the noise died down.
Nicholas Quirke was in full explorer mode on 9th May 2019 and facing a day with Cole of discovering The West Bank, Palestine. Their Itinerary drew them ever deeper into the mystique of the Holy Land and into the divisive politics of these two opposing states. It was with excitement that set they off at 6.45 to meet their tour bus, though it was a short journey coloured by stress as they were called upon to pass the location where they had quarreled with a local native. Fortunately, the Souk, with a very chill wind breezing through its avenues, was dead at that time of the morning and they did not face the encounter they feared. Any doubts about taking a guided tour of the West Bank were swiftly dispelled as their guide Khalil was informed, passionate about his subject, full of energy and truthful. They learned some fascinating facts as they drove through Jerusalem’s suburbs, learning that during the British occupation a law was forced on the city that all buildings must be made from limestone and have a uniform appearance and as a consequence its real estate is ridiculously expensive. It was not long before they were breaching the wall at a check point where once again the presence of armed military, and armed security to protect the soldiers, created a tense and ominous atmosphere. The wall is a chilling presence dividing the states but it was not long before the sun, the informative commentary, the sense of adventure dispelled any bad feeling and apart from the shift in tone to a poverty of architecture the mood of the pair and their fellow travelers lifted. The first stop was Yasser Arafat’s grave, shrine, at which Nicholas was surprised to have his preconceptions about these divided people shattered. It was a whirlwind tour with a visit to Ramallah, and then a drive through the mountains of Judea, past sea level onto the the lowest point on earth at the banks of the River Jordan, where in the waters that Jesus was baptized in they witnessed baptisms, drenched their own feet and gazed at Jordan on the opposite bank. It was disturbing to learnt that there were still a plethora of mines left after the Jordanians had departed after their occupation of the land. They had formed a bond with an Irish couple Steve and Niamh and during the drive to the oldest city in the world Jericho they shared stories of their travels. The temperature had begun to soar and the heat added to the overwhelming sense of insignificance against the tide of history as they surveyed the archaeological remains of the ancient city. Camels, peacocks, falafals dominated their short break before they sped north to Bethlehem and a surprisingly relevant Banksy. They were treated to a lunch before heading towards The Church of the Nativity and a glimpse of the birth place of Jesus and the manger. The tour finished with a walk along the separation wall and the Graffiti art that has sprung up around it. They were sobering images and words and was given the perspective of a native Palestinian who had spent 6 years in prison following the death of his brother in street brawl between Israeli and Palestinian militia They made it back to Jerusalem and Jaffa Gate, said goodbye to their companions and headed back to the hostel. Exhausted by the long day they decided to have a quiet night and dine at the hostel, watch a film, American Indie, Jess and Moss and have an early night before their next adventure. They also had the time to do some admin and decided to check the route back to the Airport on Saturday. To their horror they discovered there is no public transport on a Saturday! The question now is, How will they get their plane to get home?
Nicholas Quirke was enjoying the company of his son Cole, despite the controversy they found themselves continually experiencing over directions. Whilst blame for the wrong road taken was never openly stated, quietly recriminations were being harbored. Yet every destination was reached and any ill feeling swiftly evaporated. it did not help that Nicholas’s bag felt like he had the corpse of a small person inside it. Having located a Cafe which satisfied their dietary needs they walked straight past as it had a different name to the one listed in Happy Cow. They were hungry from the day before and not being able to eat the night before and relief flowed though them when they were finally served their food, till Nicholas discovered that he had not been served the Vegan version and had already eaten a slice of bread. It was all sorted and he got to eat. They went to the beach and took a long walk along the seafront, noting that the national flag was literally everywhere, though that may have been because it was ‘Independence day which meant they found themselves immersed in Israeli culture when at 11am there was a minutes silence. Everything stopped and people got out of their cars to stand and observe the ritual. A very powerful emotive moment. They were getting the bus from the extraordinary complex Central Station and they took an extremely complex route to arrive there. Their Google map reading, their refusal to waste data ensured that they saw some of the interesting sights of Tel Aviv before boarding the bus. One of the things he noticed was how casually soldiers, police, wore guns and he was particularly concerned to see one military man fall asleep on the bus with his gun on his lap. Arriving in Jerusalem, the city rise on he mountain was spectacular and both were excited by the sight. It took them some time to get a bus to the Old, walled city and on the bus they made the acquaintance of 3 elderly but spirited Americans who they thought were going to the gate they needed to get to their hostel and followed to the Wailing Wall. Of course it was completely wrong and they ended up taking 5 hours to get to their hotel on a journey that should have been 2 at most. Exhausted and relieved, they relaxed in their spare room before setting off to a vegan restaurant, 15 minutes from their accommodation. Over an hour later, lost, hungry and tired they sat down at the restaurant only to be served the most meagre portion that by the time they left and night was falling they decided to get a falafal wrap. The night took a sinister turn when the proprietor tried to charge them over £50 for some falafals and salad. They agreed that they would only pay 100 Shekels and things turned nasty. In the argument that ensued the owner raised his fist to strike Cole and Nicholas demanded he called the police. They were marched to the police station and conceded that they would give the owner an additional 25 shekels. The policeman thought this was fair. ‘Fuck You’ said the crook. It was not a pleasant moment and on their return to the Hostel to relax from the stress of their quarrel they played Rummy, listened to music and had an early night before their early start the next Day. Nicholas received a video call from his Russian Instagram friend Alexi who was celebrating his birthday on the 9th of May before calling it a night and going to sleep.
Nicholas Quirke was exercising his itchy feet once more and in the company of his son Cole headed for foreign lands. It had been their intention to visit Nicholas’s nephew, Dominic; who was stationed in Israel for a year. Having booked their flights and accommodation it was then no surprise to discover as they were on their way to the Holy Land, Dominic was on his way back to the United Kingdom, so their paths in Jerusalem were never to cross. And in addition as hostilities between Israel and Palestine escalated over the weekend, it was desired that their paths never crossed with a missile. Inevitably there were delays on the M25 but having left Brighton with plenty of time to spare they got to Luton Airport and were able to enjoy a Wasabi curry for lunch. It was a 4.5 hour flight during which Nicholas taught Cole to play Rummy and was otherwise uneventful; though it was possibly one of the most chaotic flights either of them had endured. The collective of Hasidic Jews who populated the flight were a restless bunch and there was much praying and reading from the Torah culminating in a spontaneous burst of applause once they had landed on Holy Land soil. They contemplated getting a taxi to their Airbnb but were horrified to discover that they would be charged £50. A train ride and a taxi cost them £20 and prompted feelings of authenticity and self satisfaction. They were looking forward to reaching their accommodation and getting a late supper however, Tel Aviv was closed as it was a Day of Remembrance for Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism and the city was shut for mourning and preparing for their day of Independence on the morrow. With empty stomachs in riot they watched Game of Thrones and anticipated the delights of their first day.