Sunday, 30 November 2008

41.In Memory of Zvi Alexander

(Zvi is on the right. Photo: Ze'ev Galibov)
Zvi Alexander passed away two days ago in Switzerland after suffering excruciating back pain for many weeks. He was 86 and was being treated for widespread cancer, but his physicians were unable to find a cause for the back pain, or to give him sufficient help. From a distance, this was most frustrating and perplexing to me. Through my occasional phone calls I could feel his gradual deterioration, but his mind remained crystal clear. I am not sure how much the cancer responded to the treatment, but the final heart attack would have been a merciful and rapid relief.

I became aquainted with Zvi at the Palestine-Israel philatelic meetings, when these still took place at the Victory Club. Whereas I was an amateur, he was clearly a top expert of Holy Land postal history from Turkish times to the War of Independence. His knowledge was phenomenal. His wisdom and wealth enabled him to create an outstanding collection and he reaped the top prizes at exhibitions. This is now housed at the Ha'aretz Museum in Tel Aviv (see: 'A New Book' 09. 06. 08). Despite all this, and his high former position in Isreal business management, there was not a trace of elitism or snobbishness about him. He was always very friendly and he had a marvellous sense of humour.

I was at the time editor of the
Palestine-Israel philatelic Bulletin, to which he contributed occasionally. By chance, one day, Zvi discovered my past history and decoration in the Israel Army (See 'Nuqueib' 26. &27. 04. 08). My senior army medical officer at the time, Gillon, is one of Zvi's good friends and his medical advisers. Later, for a time, I was able to help Rachel with a medical problem - a sign of his trust.

One day in 2000 Zvi showed me the manuscript of his memoirs about his directorship of Israel's oil industry. I found it fascinating. The book was published in Hebrew, but I suggested that he ought to publish it in English. Twice, Zvi angrily rejected examples of the translated English versions that had been produced by the Gefen Publishers in Jerusalem - they failed to preserve the nuances of Zvi's Hebrew style.
We solved the problem with the help of modern technology. Gefen e-mailed me their proposed English translation, chapter by chapter. By reference to the published Hebrew text, and knowing Zvi, I would modify the English style - including the technical details of oil exploration. This I then emailed to Zvi. There would then follow a very long phone conversation between us to sort out Zvi's misgivings. Once it was all agreed, I would email the final version to Zvi, and back to Gefen for type setting.

I advised Gefen not to touch
chapter 9: it dealt with Zvi's family, and it had already been 'edited' by them - Shaula and Kobi and even Rachel, I think. All ended well. The book "OIL - Israel's Covert Efforts to Secure Oil Supplies" appeared in 2004. But it is really of interest mainly to readers who know about Israel's personalities of the 1950s to 1970s. At my request, Zvi did not mention my work - it was purely technical and linguistic. Zvi gave me a generous and practical present.

Zvi's phenomenal memory and lucid style did not seem to diminish with the years. The book reflects Zvi's immense hard work and tenacity - qualities that he demonstrated in all his many fields of activity. Although Zvi encountered some unsavoury charachters and suffered occasional disappointments, he was never bitter in his comments.

When he told me the diagnosis of cancer, we both knew that the outlook was bleak. He said, "this is not the end that had I envisaged." None of us did.

May his memory be for a blessing.

40.Cheating by car insurers

A month after our collision we were informed, that the other side have admitted liability for the accident. The justice of my case was obvious, and although we were quite shaken, we did obtain the particulars of the other driver and of two independent witnesses. Taking this step had been absolutely essential. But we did not record the details of the police who had attended - and they did not point out the need to do so for filling the subsequent claim form. That was very unkind of them: we had no experience of such an accident situation in almost 50 years of driving. Luckily, Ilford Police were later able to supply the details from their computer record.
Combined with my detailed description and sketch of the event, this favourable result, of the other side's admission of liability, was to be expected. So we have no excess to pay the insurers, and our no-claim bonus is unaffected. That leaves the question of the value of our damaged car - and the dishonesty of our insurers.

We were informed, that the value of our 11 year old car was less than the cost of its repairs as estimated by the engineer from the repair garage. Therefore the car was a 'total loss'. I asked, whether the repairs could be done more cheaply with non-Toyota parts, thus avoiding this total loss situation. Our insurers replied that
by the terms of my policy they were not allowed to do this. Later I discovered from my policy, that this was a lie: If a car is more than 3 years old, they can decide to repair it with parts which have not been made by Toyota.

So why lie? Our friend the car engineer later explained to us the reason for this insurers' scam: They will remove my car 'to scrap', but actually repair the car much more cheaply, using non-Toyota parts, re-register it, and sell it to an unsuspecting new customer, while I lose out and have to buy a new car.

Next we discovered that my insurer's 'Total Loss Handler' was trying to cheat us. He wrote that my car 'has been valued' at £900. But I had been warned by half a dozen friends not to accept the first valuation. So I sent him particulars of 5 cars, similar to mine in make, model, age and mileage. All were priced higher by
£300 or more. The 'Total Loss Handler' replied that I might have falsified the data that I had submitted: he required copies of actual advertisements. He claimed that the pre-accident value of my car 'had been professionally calculated'. So I in turn requested proof of his 'professional calculations'. I had not lied - but he probably had.

Three weeks later he had not replied with proof of his valuation. I sent him the
required copies of five actual advertisements, again at least £300 dearer than his valuation of my car. I suspect that the insurance's 'Total Loss Handler' actually benefits from cheating me. Either he pockets part of the underpaid compensation, or it helps his promotion and bonuses from the company.

I only hope that I shall have no future use of the experience that I have gained in dealing with these crooks after my accident.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

39.Our Collision - Part 2

We are insured to receive a 'courtesy car' similar to ours, if ours cannot be driven. So we requested it for Friday, between 9 and 11 am. When it had not arrived after 11 am, I phoned and was told that the traffic was heavy but he was 'near you'. That was a lie. He finally arrived another 4 hours later, without any messages in the meantime. We were told, that 'there was a fault with the car and they had to replace it'. - Perhaps.

But instead of a 1.3 liter petrol, it was a
grey Volkswagen 2 liter diesel 'monster'. The photo is from our upstairs window. It is appreciably bigger, and much more difficult to reverse into our drive from the narrow road and parked cars. Tomorrow I shall try to ask for a smaller replacement.

My impatience was due to my need to reach the post office that day, to post back [certified] to the DVLC our written-off car's tax disc before the end of the month - for a refund of the unused next 3 months. Not that the insurers advised us on this. I thought of it and they confirmed. One more day, and a whole month's tax would have been lost.

Mind you, it's a nice car. Heated leather seats, and most controls are by push-buttons. There is no hand brake lever - just a button. There is no gradual release: this makes it difficult when starting uphill, in case it rolls back into the car behind.

On the following day,
Saturday, we were due to drive to Heather to celebrate Judith's birthday. But Ruth and Andy very kindly offered to give us a lift in their car, to avoid the stress of driving the 'monster' on the North circular, and returning in the dark. On the way back, the weekend traffic was extremely heavy. The return journey home took twice as long, and likewise their drive from us to their home. It took them a total of 4 hours on the road - through constant heavy rain.

We have started researching for a replacement car, and the insurers will no doubt make us an offer for our written-off car. Everybody has stressed, that their initial offer will be too low. We shall have to haggle.
The saga continues. .