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Not George's Night

George is apparently away for a week, leaving Not George to entertain us all by herself. After a slightly nervous start, she soon began to enjoy herself and so did everyone else. For one thing, without George's massive Korg keyboard filling the stage, she had room to dance. For another, there was no need for her to smile bravely through George's doubtful vocals and interminable sax solos. In fact, Not George came of age last night as a solo bar-star in her own right. If she keeps this up, I'll be forced to learn her name. Did she get me up to sing with her? Maybe. Go girl! And George, don't hurry back.

Ratus ratus, by Pararegular

A reader, Pararegular, today left such a paratypical comment on an earlier post that I thought it worth promoting to a post in its own right. Any more stories like this, Mr. Pararegular, and I'll happily extend you authoring rights here. Seriously.
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So, Mr. Paraglider...

Great blog, by the way, but have you heard about the Paranormal rats? Yes, I said rats.

One should almost expect to see the odd vermin patrolling the vicinity of a crumbling 30 yr old hotel, but you don't expect to see them making an appearance in a throbbing Chalky's bar half way through a busy evening!

The first made a rather comic appearence, just as the second D.J. of the night was warming up.
He emergerged from behind the left-hand LCD screen, and boldly skipped and hopped all the way along the top of the wood paneling, pausing briefly to check out the crowd, before vanishing back behind the panelling via the right-hand LCD.
What made this even more surreal, was when the clientel started shouting and pointing, the unaware D.J. wrongly assumed the crowd were highly enthusiastic about the track he was playing, and almost took a bow!

The second was a few weeks later, and even bolder.
He appeared high up in the right corner at the bar, and took a stroll around the "clean" up-turned pint glasses, freaking out all chickens in the corner, before vanishing from whence he came!

The day after, the Manager stated one had been caught overnight, proudly holding his hands out in front of him like a fisherman grossly exagerating the size of 'the one that got away'!

I had been wondering what had happened to all the small roaches one used to spot now and again!

Early Days

You stand on the lawn holding the windfall apple between your feet. Taking care not to split it, you press the garden cane clean through it, a couple of inches into the ground. Using the cane as a slingshot, you launch the apple with all your might. High over the trees and the garden wall. Over the old warehouses and beyond, to land out of sight. Possibly in the harbour. Maybe even across the water in North Harbour Street. Who cares - the fun is in the flight, not the landing. You fire another, and another. When you run out of windfalls, you shake the tree.
When the policeman turns up he doesn't believe a kid can throw apples 200 yards so you have to give him a lesson in how it's done. He's a quick learner and a fit young guy, so his first attempt goes like a rocket. But his round-arm technique doesn't give enough elevation and his apple smashes itself to a pulp against the warehouse wall. Shocked at the raw power of this weaponry, he confiscates your cane and cycles off with it over his shoulder, to practise at home. If he'd only looked in the shed, he'd have found your air rifle and the World War One bayonet. And fifty more canes.
(excerpt from Zen & the Art of Paragliding)

Plus Ca Change

At first sight, Stufital hasn't changed at all through Ramadan, but on closer inspection the tattier chairs are seen to have been re-upholstered and the table tops revarnished. The other change, which we were expecting, is the new duo, George and not-George. No guitar, sadly. George leads from a keyboard which manages to play itself when he switches to saxophone. Not-George, whose name I'll learn in time, is a sonsie lass with a nice smile but rather less voice than either of her predecessors. Otherwise, business as usual, as witness Dindsay's state of, let's say, relaxation.

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan comes round again, and with it the closing of every bar in Doha. Dubai at least allows evening opening. It's not the lack of alcohol that's the problem. Residents' permits solve that one. But it just makes for a long month when there's nowhere to go on a weekend evening. Yes, there are cafes and shopping malls, good for maybe fifteen and five minutes respectively. But these are hardly places to congregate, still less to hold jam sessions. Restaurants? Good. Let's have a Chateaubriand, medium-rare, with Bernaise sauce, accompanied by braised shalotts, duchesse potatoes and a bottle of what? Coca Cola? I can wait.

Another Beautiful Figure

Another small milestone, the five figure visitor count. And in spite of extended periods of neglect, the second five thousand came faster than the first, so we must be doing something right. My thanks to all regular and occasional visitors. Please keep coming, and I'll try to make sure there's always something new to see. Requests will be taken seriously!

Waterloo Sunset GT

For a couple of weeks now one of the Stufital regulars has been asking Paraglider to sing Waterloo Sunset. The excuse of not knowing all the lyrics had worn thin (there aren't very many after all) and last night, after one too many beers, it (the excuse) had finally run its course and the moment had arrived. Unfortunately, said regular made the request indirectly, through Rusty (the band) who proceeded to locate the song on his PC - a high speed drum-filled version that bore little resemblance to the Ray Davies original. Paraglider raced manfully through the first manic verse, wishing he was anywhere else, then decided to take control of the situation. By the simple device of stopping singing, he caused Rusty to stop the crazy backing track. In the ensuing silence, he started the song again, on solo guitar and at a sensible speed, and found the experience quite comfortable and relaxed. Almost like it used to be, before the MIDI invasion, before enhanced Karaoke acts replaced bands. Folk say you can't turn the clock back. But you can. It's easy.

Mr Gumbo Jumbo PBUH

No doubt he had a crush on Lisa. No doubt it was not reciprocated. We think he was a dentist. Certainly he was a gentleman. And a regular. Occasionally, he would come in wearing a business suit, and once, a paisley pattern jumper. But his normal attire was an immaculate white dishtash, his dancing dress. He would drink bottled Heineken with an ever-widening smile and a sparkle in his crossed eyes, waiting for the band to play his request, the one he thought was called Gumbo Jumbo. Then he'd get up and dance. If Lisa let him have the mic, he'd sing - ya ya gumbo jumbo ya ya yai. He liked being happy, was polite to everyone, died suddenly and will be missed. Mr Gumbo Jumbo, peace be upon him.

A Pair of Sparkling

What did you send me there for? It's a terrible place! - Gfoot's first words to Paraglider, in Stufital, on his return from Dubai. It seems the room was OK. Breakfast was OK. Location was fine. So what was the problem? - Cost me a fortune! - What, the rates have gone up? - Bugger the rates - Gfoot is always direct - I never got out the bar! - He'd been aware of eyes in the far corner, following his every move, his every successful extrication from every attempted ensnarement. He was doing well, proud of his resolve. Until, rashly, he returned the gaze. Once only, for three and a half hours. So, was he impressed with Chalky's Bar? - Aye.

No like this Qatar

Clearly scrawled straight from the heart, this choice piece of graffiti must have a sad story behind it. One wonders what poor disaffected soul could have been frustrated enough with his host country (for one assumes he is not a local) to throw caution to the winds and vent his frustration on a defenseless concrete wall. A grey concrete wall in a hot, dusty city. A hot dusty city that doesn't allow its immigrant workers into its shopping malls, or even to walk on the Corniche. I can't understand it at all...

Unpluggeder Still

G-foot's party by the pool was a slow starter. Looking down from the 12th floor balcony, Paraglider & Co could count maybe seven stalwarts, nine floors below, alternately huddling to feel partyish or spreading out to occupy more space. Numbers were such that it was perhaps a blessing that G-foot's plan to provide a piper to entertain the guests had come to naught. On the other hand, Paraglider had possibly been rash in agreeing to serenade the assembled company on guitar, for half an hour or so. If you haven't tried it, singing outdoors without amplification and in open competition with central Doha traffic and the roar of AC headers can be quite a strain. As can controlling an acoustic instrument that you've just taken from a cool dry interior into a humid 35°C poolside patio. Still, a good time was had by all, and there was no shortage of free food to complement the free bar. Lazing on a sunny afternoon - hah!

Unplugged undone

Following the raging success of their inaugural concert, Paraglider and Mr G, in a bold and unprecedented step, promptly embarked on their farewell tour of Doha Stufital, thus cutting out all the usual tedious career-building stuff in between. The teeming fans were shocked and dismayed to learn of the duo's immediate disbandment, occasioned not by the usual flouncing off by a petulant star - I just need some space, man, to, like, be where I'm at as myself, for me, know what I'm saying - but by Mr G's sudden relocation to Japan. Paraglider is already making a few inquiries and it seems likely that, in some form or another, the show will go on.

Paraglider Unplugged

A vast throng in Stufital was treated on Friday afternoon to a live musical extravaganza performed, separately and together, by Paraglider and Mr G, and even, briefly, by Staffer-D who fielded a telephone call between verses 2 and 3 without losing a beat. Never before in the history of musical entertainment has so much been achieved by so few with a single microphone. In fact, Friday's microphones singularly outnumbered the available mic cables by some 500%. Though this had not been planned, it resulted in some spectacular ducking and weaving to deliver the short alternate lines of that timeless classic, Itchycoo Park. Almost equally impressive was the scene of dereliction left behind them by the Birthday Girl and her party. Who would have guessed a bag of mixed nuts could spread so far! Fortunately, seven maids were on hand, if not seven mops.

The Blind Projectionist

If you've ever looked backwards in a cinema you'll have seen a small window close to the projector. This is so the projectionist can check the image quality and focus, and generally keep an eye on proceedings below in the auditorium. Once, between contracts, Paraglider found himself looking after a 3D Projection Theatre in Saudi, for Aramco, and was surprised to find a wooden slatted venetian blind fitted to the viewing window. It seemed to have no purpose. Until Ladies' Day in the Theatre. Then he had to run all quality checks before the audience was admitted and, throughout the show, the blind was to be firmly closed. This, merely to ensure that the ladies could enjoy the performance without being seen by any man. Now that's paranormal!

Spread too thin

I've decided to come clean. I have too many outlets on the web and it's becoming impossible to service them all properly. So, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to kill off Paraplexed because it doesn't really have a purpose in life. I apologise to anyone (*I think there's only one!) who has linked to it. By way of compensation, I'm providing an RSS portal here, on Paranormal, to my Real Life Blog (see side panel). Till now, I've kept the two strictly separate, but it's not really working. So, welcome to the rest of me! Also, I've been writing a fair bit on Hubpages recently. If you haven't come across it, it's a community site with quite a few good writers. But it's more geared towards articles, not blogging. It also makes me a leeetle pocket money on the side. Not enough for a pension, unfortunately. So I'll be here in the Middle East for some time to come. Here endeth the housekeeping...

Parastasis, apparently

It was as if a year had not passed. The floor is still Paranormal pink. The dartboard, mercifully, shows no signs of having been opened. The corner behind the propped-open door (yes, it was the afternoon) was freezing. Such changes as were perceptible were of degree, not of substance. The bar staff are more mixed, with Ethiopia challenging Romania. Bammy has moved 11 degrees clockwise round the (Scottish) table, enough, perhaps to signify creeping insecurity of tenure? Angie has changed the tailored jacket look for something less formal, but the chin is strong as ever. And Helga? She's not grown an inch - upwards...

Transience, even here

Ani's yellow chiffon descended on his head and, for once, Dindsay was silenced. Even dumbstruck. For all too brief an interval, an other-worldly calm permeated Stufital's Old Manger. Diners sat motionless, their steak-laden forks frozen in mid-air like so many bullrushes in a frosted millpond. Coral, realising her song could suddenly be heard, dropped to a velvet pianissimo. Mr Bab stopped swearing and even the AC seemed to draw breath. Such moments are short-lived. Dindsay found his tongue and the mock-doric noise generator licked back into life, with the grace of a rusty pulley. Normality, sadly, was restored.

Reincineration

It is always a pleasure to have some good news to report and, while this is not Earth-shattering, in the context of the Little World of the Paranormal Hotel blog, it may surely have fruitful consequences. After an absence of nearly a year, Paraglider is once again the proud owner of a return ticket to Dubai. Part of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be spent reabsorbing the glorious ambience of Chalky's Bar and recharging the fund of anecdote fodder for the weeks ahead. Good things come to those who wait, even in Qatar.

Concert Time

If Dubai is a Steinway concert grand, Qatar is probably a kazoo - entertaining enough in the right hands and for a short while, but incapable of delivering lasting cultural sustenance. Not that I'm complaining, of course. In three years, I've learned to hoot and toot with the best of them. Polyphony - who needs it? The current beer shortage more than compensates for any indoor ski slope and few words can express the joy of watching half demolished buildings gradually take on the characteristics of natural landscape. It's good to be back.

Beer & Chimneys

It's a pub. It's made of stone and brick and has a tiled pitched roof. This one is called the Cavalry Arms and has a sign to prove it. It has chimneys - remember those? Local people and visitors are allowed to go into it, wearing whatever they please. There is no door policy. It does not close on public holidays. It sells beer, not just lager or 'creamflow'. It is not on the 23rd floor of a 5-star hotel. You can build a pub without driving piles or pumping concrete. Just remember to start 200 years ago.

A Sinking Feeting Feeling

Washing Feet in the Sink is Prohibited. This notice, stuck on the wall in the gent's lavatory in the Doha Stufital's 2nd floor club more or less sums up the difference between said Stufital and the Paranormal. In Paranormal, we know how to behave acceptably badly without being told. In Stufital, the clientèle (who have never, till now, been graced with a French epithet) have to be told how badly not to behave. But let's spare an ounce of consideration for the Stufital Outlets Management who, apparently, have not yet conquered the subtle distinction between sinks and basins (they're French, after all) but have espoused the 'show, don't tell, but then tell it anyway, just in case' maxim of public communication. They consistently book excellent bands, so all is forgiven.

Prophet Earring

A long time ago, Paraglider found an Apostle teaspoon on a family picnic at Tairlaw Lynn. Later, by demonstrating that there were now fourteen such spoons in the house, and two Johns, he was finally believed not to have brought it with him in his pocket. Some things come to pass, sadly. A mere three posts ago, we hinted that the Oddmiral Plaza might not exist - now we learn that it no longer does. Shame. Six posts ago, we compared the Qatar Emir's vast likeness with Vegas Vic, the 40-foot neon cowboy (howdy habibi!) Far be it from me to suggest that his Highness reads the Paranormal blog, but the fact remains, his image no longer welcomes visitors along the Airport Road. Are we influencing events here? Surely not. But just in case, maybe we should go back to our roots and just talk about the girls clustering round the central pillar. Like Victoria - an impossible blend of heels, hair and dangling earrings, whose legs are just too slim to accommodate knees. But that's OK. She bends above the boots.

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