Sexy country

If you’re a fan of Chris Hemsworth’s shoulders you will find much to enjoy in Tel Aviv. Sometimes they will appear to be wearing a mohair sweater, but I believe there are people with a taste for that, too.

There are many citizens of Tel Aviv, men and women, with striking figures, not just the young. I guess it’s down to a combination of warm weather, an outdoor life, conscription, and the national obsession with weight. Israelis eat salad for breakfast, for goodness sake, with only lemon for a dressing, terrified of the calorific value of a spoonful of oil. They say health, as they light another cigarette, but they mean weight. I know some people think they’re the same thing.

One morning at the Gordon Pool I watched a man pulling himself out of the water. Almost blond, muscled, more Leni Reifenshtal than Bruce Weber, maybe, and, oh boy, handsome. He was wearing tiny, black Speedos that sat a full nine inches beneath his navel. He towelled himself, leaving droplets of water on his skin, like diamonds.

He sat in a red, plastic chair and slowly massaged sun tan lotion into his broad chest, the hair on his forearms glistening gold. He was the colour of honey, a few freckles across his shoulders, his pale-pink nipples catching the sunlight. He put on dark sunglasses, and lifted a phone to his ear. In Israel, everyone is on the phone, all the time.

I swam a few lengths of the slow lane, catching glimpses from the corner of my eye. If he knew I was looking he didn’t show it. Perhaps he expected the attention. The water is strikingly, deliciously cold, drawn from far below the surface. Never has it been more needed than that morning.

After an hour he put his phone down, swapped his sunglasses, they must have been sunbathing sunglasses, for another pair, walking sunglasses, maybe. He pulled on a pair of denim cut-offs, and a white baseball cap that made him look five years younger, like a boy. He gathered his things and left.

Later that day, Nathan overheard a woman talking on the phone, she was standing in the water, of course, giving someone her email address. He realised she’d written a book he’d loved, had often told me about, actually, about her experiences when she moved here, seven years before, from Germany. They fell into conversation. She said that all the things that had bothered her when she first came, the brusqueness, the scruffiness, the heat, the million dogs, and so on, rarely troubled her now.

Later, I was immersed, Nathan was sitting on the edge, I noticed a woman eavesdropping. I paid no attention, but as soon as I swam away she introduced herself to him. Where are you from? Are you a couple? What nice eyes you have. Which hotel are you staying in? She’d picked the wrong man, but this is a sexy country, I think.

Today’s word: d’vash – honey – דבש

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