WELCOME, FRIEND!

Season's Greetings, Everyone!

Paraglider is flying out tonight, with a view to getting home, snow permitting and courtesy of First Great Western train service, around noon on Christmas Eve. Season's Greetings to all Paranormal regulars and visitors, and if I don't 'see' you through the coming week, best wishes for a happy, healthy and Paranormal 2010.

Jesus, God and Santa Claus - one man's journey

When I was very young, God had a long white beard and lived in Heaven. Jesus had a shorter reddish-brown beard, long hair and a halo. Jesus and God seemed very nice, but not really in the same league as Santa Claus.

Santa and God could see us, all of us, all the time. They knew if we were being good or bad. Jesus's job was to watch us sleeping and make sure we were OK till the morning. Then, I suppose, he handed back to God and Santa. Santa was the best of the three because he was really nice to us at Christmas. The other two didn't seem to do anything practical, but they were still OK. So of course we talked mainly about Santa. We knew he had helpers to make all the toys. We knew all about his sleigh and reindeer. We knew that the Santa in the department store wasn't the real one - we weren't stupid - he was just there for little kids. The real Santa you never got to see, same as God. He came down the chimney in the small hours of Christmas morning, left presents, drank his sherry and took the carrot back for Rudolph. God must have been OK with that, because of course He could have stopped him if He'd wanted.

We knew a couple of older lads who told us there was no Santa, but they were lying because Mum and Dad believed in him.

Then, one day, we didn't believe in him any more and the strangest thing happened - continued here

Searching for Sofas and More String Theory

Since installing the amazing Feedjit gadget in my sidebar, I've been fascinated at what search strings are leading visitors to the Paranormal. I'm not talking about my regulars (welcome!) who mostly come direct or from the UAE Community, but those random hits, courtesy of Google, in response to search queries. A recent post, Dangerous things, sofas, seems to attract sofa-searchers from the sub-continent. But why? Are there no better super-saturated sofa sites somewhere in cyber-space? (Try that with a lisp!) Oh well - for true sofa lovers, this fine red leather specimen can be sat on for free, during opening hours only, in The Spread Eagle, Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, London, a rough old pub that was succour and sustenance to a clutch of naked Brazilian girls, before its yuppification and virutal abandonment.
So, apart from sofas, what else are our random visitors looking for? By far the commonest search string turns out to be gay doha, not something I was pitching for, but hey, if they spend their money...

Aliens land in Doha

Reported sightings near the Corniche of giant brown ants or large sea-crabs (descriptions vary) have been under investigation for some weeks. Perhaps coincidentally, these sightings follow a discredited claim from a Stufital customer to have seen a bright object in the shape of an octopus hovering somewhere over Mushereib. However, this appears to have been the full moon through the bottom of an empty Jack Daniels glass.
But events took a new turn last night when a Paranormal regular, Rank Badjin, was wakened at 3 a.m. by a weird pulsing sound. Crawling out of the fountain, he was just in time to catch a glimpse of the last of these scuttling beasties before it boarded a greenish landing pod, which then took off without delay. Almost silently, said Badjin.

On the Breaking of Bonds

What's best about living abroad is the range and change of people we meet. It's a truism that every lost soul at the bar has a story to tell. That applies every bit as much in the local back home as it does in Stufital or Paranormal. The difference is in the stories, which tend to be more extreme, adventurous or simply bizarre among ex-pats. I suppose it's to be expected that people who have deliberately exchanged the familiar for the unknown might typically rank higher on the eccentricity scale.
Only last night, I overheard an attempted conversation between a Spanish expert on English porcelain and an English authority on the history of Flamenco. The English aficionado spoke no Spanish save for the names of cantaores and tocadores. The limit of the Spanish antiquarian's English seemed to be a few well-connected towns: Royal Worcester and Doulton, Crown Derby. West Ham and Fulham never got a look-in! It's just conceivable that a similar conversation could break out spontaneously somewhere in the Vale of Evesham, but I wouldn't bet on it. Not where the norm is:
'Ave you seen Jeff? - Jeff? - Jeff, ar. - Old Jeff? - Old Jeff, ar. - A'nt he passed away? - Passed away? - Passed away, ar.
There is, unfortunately a down side to the crazy parade that is ex-pat life. And that is when people who have become good friends disappear from our lives. With or without warning, it's equally tough when you're having that last pint together.
And you say- safe journey then.
And you say- we'll meet for a beer when this contract's over.
And you know you won't.
And you don't.

The King is Dead


The King of Fashion and, just along the street, the King of Shoes, are no more. Casualties of the Heart of Doha project, these venerable emporia have gone the way of the dodo, in the path of the slum-hungry bulldozers. A shame, really. No doubt a shop or two will feature in the new Heart, but will they have doors to the street? Will they have brash, friendly names? And most of all, will they sell affordable things that normal people need to buy? Or will they be upmarket designer boutiques, vying in sycophantic competition for the favours of the spoilt? Sometimes I wish I didn't know the answers to my own questions.

Muntazah, Maya and the Mad Dash Home

In 2002, I celebrated my 50th birthday on the 25th floor of a tower block on Shaikh Zayed Road. It wasn't my party. In fact it was an unlikely annual event to mark Finnish Independence Day and Burns Night (of which it was neither). I remember thinking it was a strange place for a 'Westie Coastie' Scottish kid to have ended up. After all, my brother and I had accepted, 45 years previously, that we'd probably never get the chance to fly in an aeroplane. That's just for very rich people, we said. Times change.
Now, seven years on, to the day, my vantage point is considerably lower - a first floor apartment in Muntazah, Doha, and suddenly I'm struck with another thought. Under Qatari employment law, if I choose to stay here, I've got exactly three years left, and given the rate at which my seven years in the Gulf have shot past, these three years are going to feel like half an hour.
And then what? Fifteen days retirement, of course. Because as we all know, the World is going to end on December 21, 2012. My life savings might just cover 15 days.

Who moved my Cheese?

Now that all the great and good bloggers, journalists, reporters and general pundits have wrung every last drop of spin from Dubai's little local difficulty, the time is right for a considered and serious evaluation from the intellectual wasteland that is the Paranormal Hotel. Anyone who saw it coming must have realised they couldn't do anything about it except talk, so no change there. Anyone who didn't see it coming probably isn't mentally equipped to decide to do anything different anyway, so again, no change there. All of which boils down to business as usual - doing things that don't need to be done for people who don't know if a thing is well or badly done, with the possible exception of the steaks on their dinner plates.

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promis'd joy.

But spare a thought for the Paranormal's girls, arguably the most innocent parties of all in the Great National Hiccup. The poor mice are left wandering around a half empty Jockey's Pub wondering, who moved my cheese? Oh well, there's always Sky Sports...

Crab Sexing by the Sea

There are a few things to do in Doha after all, some of them quite diverting, even for those of us with a built-in allergy to five star hotels and shopping malls. The Museum of Islamic Art is very well worth a visit, for the splendid modern architecture almost as much as for the exhibits. Of course, once or twice a year is probably as often as anyone visits the same museum, which leaves a few more weekends to fill. The next best thing is a walk on the Corniche, which comes in two flavours: out, towards Sheraton, or in, towards the Souqs. Of the two, out is prettier in a viewish way, while in is livelier, especially if you like fish. These can be bought straight from the boats and carried home in a taxi if you can find a driver with no sense of smell.
The way to buy live crabs from a bucket (who said Doha was dull?) is to throw caution to the winds and pick them up, one by one, turning them over and rejecting the males. If you don't know how to spot the difference, just watch any of the Filipinas buying and you'll soon catch on. Crab-sexers par excellence, it seems there's nothing these people aren't good at!

Urinal Etiquette for Dummies

Maybe it's a cultural thing, but basic urinal etiquette, as generally understood in Western Europe and (parts of) USA, appears still to be a mystery in Qatar, at least in some quarters. In the spirit of public service and to give something back to the community, here is Paraglider's Code of Urinal Etiquette. Like all good Codes, it is in two parts. Part 1, The Axiom, sets out the single Inviolable Principle on which the Code is based, while Part 2, The Guidelines, sets out specific dos and don'ts. Are you standing comfortably? Then I'll begin...

Part 1, The Axiom
Urination, even performed in a public urinal, remains a private solo act requiring no intervention, assistance or commentary from any second party.

Part 2, The Guidelines

  1. Do not select a vacant urinal adjacent to an occupied one, unless no other stall is available.
  2. Do not engage your 'neighbour' in conversation, even if he is a friend or colleague. Nothing is so important it can't wait sixty seconds.
  3. On no account look left or right. Either look straight ahead or at the ceiling. Looking down can be misread as an invitation for neighbours to follow your eyes.
  4. Do not break the ice by saying 'This is where the big knobs hang out'. Never, OK?
  5. If the installation comprises three urinals and you are alone, do not select the middle one, as this could be misconstrued as a desire for company. 
  6. If all stalls are occupied, wait at a discreet distance. There is no need to thank the first finisher.
Copies of this Code may be freely distributed. They should be printed on waterproof card and pinned to toilet walls of your choice, until that great day comes when it is no longer necessary.

Dangerous things, sofas


So, the truck laden with sofas ploughs straight into the 4x4 that tried to turn left across his bow. Unusually, there was no screech of locked tyres and no blaring horn to herald the event. Maybe because the trucks brakes and horn didn't work, or maybe the 4x4 just assumed he'd get away with it. The first I heard from my first floor apartment was the dull thump of the collision. It solved the immediate problem I was working on - what to write on the blog. Now, be honest, in that picture of Doha road chaos, did you spot the bicycle? Check again. Is that little black silhouette not a perfect comment on the madness of our modern transport 'system'?
Oh well. Nobody was hurt and the 4x4 was able to drive away from the scene, albeit in need of bodywork and new lights. As for the truck, it wouldn't restart and had to be pushed to the relative safety of the lane behind Taxi Hotel, to the delight of the guy in the white hat. I wonder if his photo is better than mine? All good fun.

Paraglider - Grandfather!!

Paraglider is proud to announce the arrival last night of his grandchild no 2 and grandson no 1, to his wonderful daughter and son-in-law, in Worcester Royal Infirmary. Mother and Baby (all 8lb 11oz of him, that's 4 kilos) doing well.

Yas Island Rotana - 'Right', said Fred

 
Whoever designed the Pool Bar in Yas Island Rotana (Abu Dhabi) must have lived in Bedrock in a past life, with Fred, Barney, Wilma and Betty. It is inconceivable that the similarity to the Flintstones' bar is accidental. And, whoever you are, well done, mate! To find a touch of humour in a five star hotel is rare indeed. I bet you thought no-one would find you out. But don't worry. Your secret is safe with me, and the 100-or-so passing strangers who frequent this virtual Hotel. Repeat after me - five stars good; two stars better - oh wait, that's verging on the Orwellian. Now, there's an adjective tae gang to the kirk wi', as my mother never said.
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Le Mont St Michel rebuilt in the Heart of Doha

The Heart of Doha project is now well underway. An area of a few square miles centered on the Royal Palace is being razed to the ground in a veritable orgy of demolition. But is it Art? This magnificent recreation of Normandy's le Mont St Michel is at least as close to the original as our much vaunted mock Venice in Villagio Mall. But visit soon. As a piece of sculpture it promises to be as permanent as Crazy Lemming's unmade bed.
Tonight, England plays Brazil at foopball (official Nigel Molesworth spelling) in Khalifa Stadium. I'll not be going.

Lund, Skåne Län

It would be surprising in the extreme if you opened an atlas or gazetteer at random to hit on a place that was perfect in every way. Or even a place that you'd heard of before. Lund, Skåne Län, for example, a place no-one can ever have heard of, has a fine Scandinavian ring about it and for much of the year probably has a pleasanter climate than Dubai or Doha, but just how cold does it get in the Winter? And how many hours of darkness has the typical December night? I'm prepared to bet there's adequate rainfall too. Then again, there are probably plenty of bars with real log fires to warm the weary traveller and set clouds of steam rising from his fleece-lined woolen coat. Steam so thick it could almost rival the clouds of cigarette smoke that are still the norm in the Gulf bars. On my rare trips back to UK, for the first couple of days I'm always surprised by the clean air in the pubs. But the downside of that is that when someone goes outside for a smoke then rejoins the company, the smokiness they carry about them is far more noticeable than the omnipresent fug of Stufital or Paranormal.
All of which goes to show nothing of consequence. Skol.

300,000 Tons of High Speed Rubbish

Qatar is launching yet another road safety campaign because near daily fatalities are considered bad for health or image or something. Meanwhile, we continue to import new cars at the rate of 10,000 per month. The typical car here is the Land Cruiser. This weighs in at 5,690 lbs or 2.5 tons. This suggests strongly that 10,000 of them will weigh 25,000 tons, while a whole year's supply, if we assume the 12-month year as a given, weighs 300,000 tons. So there we go - a few pamphlets and school visits on road safety versus 300,000 tons of extra obsolescent garbage hurtling around at 80 mph. Here's my prediction - more fatalities. Something similar happens with guns: when they proliferate, people get shot. Odd, that.
These big, heavy, pot-ugly, lethal, greedy machines are not our friends. They are not even our servants. They are out to kill us, whether by fast violence, slow poison or our own physical atrophy. They don't care. They have no conscience, having been created in the image of the Corporation.

And I've just remembered why our mirror ball Consultant was in Doha - to decommission one of his balls. I could do that!

Mirrors, Mirrors, on the Ball

What's good and bad about Engineering is that there's something new to learn every day. The good is that it can be interesting; the bad is that it's hard work keeping ahead of the game. So I'm always fascinated to meet people with easy jobs, in case one day I wake up tired of challenges and decide to seek a change.
Which brings me to Tony, a recent bar acquaintance. I asked him if he was in Energy or Construction, usually a safe bet in Doha.
No. I'm a mirror ball Consultant. The only one in the Gulf. It's a niche market.
A what? Surely you just stick these things on the ceilings of tacky discos, switch them on, point a light at them, and forget about them till the next refurbishment? How little I knew.
I advise on the ideal ball diameter and mirror-tile size for the venue, the optimum x,y,z coordinates [sic], the correct orientation of the projectors, [I'd have thought pointing at the ball would be a good start?] Oh, and the speed and sense of rotation.
Let's get this clear. You travel around bars and night clubs in the Gulf sticking mirror balls on the ceiling. And that's it?
No, no. I don't touch them. I just give advice on best practice. I'm a Consultant.
Tony - drop me a line when you're retiring, OK?

Doha, by Shanks's Pony

Yesterday evening I finished work about half an hour later than usual, so when I called Mr Harun's private taxi he was already fully booked.
You waiting five minutes I am calling my brother coming.
But I declined. I've lived here long enough to know that taxi drivers' brothers hardly ever come, least of all in five minutes. So, the options were, start phoning around alternatives in the certain knowledge that none would take less than an hour to arrive, or, start walking - Shanks's pony, as we used to say.
It's November now and, apart from having the wrong type of footwear, walking for an hour and a half with the guarantee of a cool beer at the end is no hardship. I'll go further and say it's a pleasure - between obstacles, hazards and obstructions.
The tacit assumption in Qatar seems to be that no-one walks, or perhaps that those who do are too poor to afford cars and therefore need not be considered. How else would you explain occasional raised flower beds the full width of the pavement? Are you supposed to mix it with the traffic or trample the flowers? Or do you risk both, by tightroping the coping wall? And then there are the footpaths that simply disappear just where they are needed most, at slip-roads, roundabouts and underpasses, leaving you to pick your way across fifty yards of desert sand or builder's rubble. By the way, here's a tip - when crossing urban desert on foot, walking with the legs wide apart helps prevent the gritty fallout from the moving shoe landing inside the stationary shoe at every step. Believe me; I have experience.
These minor inconveniences aside, it is rare to walk anywhere for more than half an hour without happening on something of inexpressible worth. Last night, the reward was the huge orange ball of the full moon rising smoothly from the sea behind the classic lines of the Royal palace. At walking speed, you can enjoy the entire performance. From a car, there's the moon is about as far as it goes.
And the cool beer was all the better for the exercise.

Death to Slaka!

The time has come, dear reader, to kill off the Slaka joke and revert to Qatar when referring to this adopted home from home in the desert. Why? Because I've been playing with a new widget called Feedjit (surely only a Scot could have come up with that name). And among other things, it tells me what visitors to the site have been googling for. Needless to say, only a few aging Malcolm Bradbury fans are out there looking for Slaka.
So, what searches bring people to the Paranormal Hotel? The title itself is quite popular (apparently there's a real Paranormal venue called the Stanley Hotel in the Rocky Mountain national park in Colorado that claims to do ghosts on demand). But the single most searched term appears to be 'gay Doha'. Mainly prospective business visitors doing some advance research into the club scene before flying. Sorry guys, you'll not find Qatar the most accommodating of countries! In fact, we're still struggling with the concept of a normal bar...

Dropout Nation - your invitation


A few like-minded bloggers and hub-authors, Paraglider among them, have set up a cooperative blog, Dropout Nation, where we are exploring alternatives to 'recovering' from the Global recession by simply clawing our way back to the mess we had before. Our principles are: Awareness, Conviviality, non-Consumerism, Pacifism and Expectation. The Paranormal hotel isn't geared up to discuss such weighty matters (except perhaps Conviviality) but please do visit to see what we are all about.
Another thing I'd do to fix football is enforce a five-minute interval between the man going off and the substitute coming on, except in cases of genuine injury. You buy the right to substitute in five dangerous minutes with only ten men. This would help the smaller clubs who can't afford such a deep talent pool. Ideas, we're full of them.
This is the Paranormal - the home of the blatant non-sequitur...

Three Girls to Boot

Girl singers are not all equal. And just as some have higher or sweeter voices than others, it's not uncommon to find that some are longer than others, measured from head to foot. Normally, the length of a girl singer is a minor consideration, but apparently not in Stufital's Le Club, where there appears to be a requirement for all three girls' voices to emanate from mouths at the same vertical height above sea level. Assuming the stage to be horizontal, which it more or less is, this iso-mouth criterion could be met in either of two ways: by shortening the longer girls, or by lengthening the shorter ones. Most available ways of shortening long girls are rather inhumane, even for Slaka.
All of which goes to explain why long-Girl-A is free to perform nightly in flat shoes, with mid-Girl-B in stylish four-inch heels, while short-Girl-C is made to teeter on platforms the likes of which haven't been seen since about 1970. She's still the star though, overcoming vertigo night after night to delight her vast crowd of seventeen admirers.

Yellow Bus Blues


I've often wondered if many Americans know where some of their pensioned off school buses end up? Half-way round the World in Slaka, that's where, for a new lease of life as workers' transport. They're not refurbished in any way. Many still have the school name painted on the back and sides. Some still sport the stop sign. In not a few, the upholstery is worn through to the bare plywood. Balding or bald tyres are de rigueur. With no air conditioning, the interiors can get pleasantly warm in the searing desert sun. It's conceivable that the workers (affectionately known as bachelors by Slaka authorities) would prefer more modern coaches, but any such gesture would run counter to the noble tradition of social stratification that must be upheld at all costs. Or something.

Viva MacSween - Haggis in Slaka!

This is a public service announcement especially aimed at ex-pat Scots in Slaka, though others are recommended also to profit from it: Haggis may be obtained from the MegaMart behind the Ramada complex. And not just any haggis. MacSween's, the real deal. A little overpriced of course, but it's come a long way from home. So far, I've been unable to find a source of neeps (swede turnips), the traditional accompaniment, apart from very small ones that are barely worth peeling. A reasonable alternative is to blend a few boiled carrots and butter into the mashed potato, giving it an authentic colour and moistness.
The other traditional accompaniment, Scotch Whisky, is of course freely available from every street corner off-license QDC, with a valid liquor license. Roll on Burns Night!

Beth Tweddle, 1 - Football, 0


Last night, a few of us were watching, with more or less attention, the World Gymnastics Championships, on the big screen in Stufital Old Manger. Beth Tweddle taking gold for Britain in the floor exercise (Go Beth!) was an added bonus. Then, perhaps at someone's request, but without asking anyone else, Mr Syria changed the channel. To football. Local football. And not even a game of football. Just a baldy-headed git talking about football, with the sound turned down. OK, rudeness aside, how can a muted babbling baldy-man ever measure up to the consummate skill and grace of the World's finest gymnasts? And even if you hate gymnastics, the girls are still girls. Maybe the channel was changed because the leotards were deemed un-islamic?

I've started, so I'll finish. The trouble with football, apart from its gross overexposure, is that it's a flawed game. It's always played on the brink of the foul and so has more to do with what you can get away with than what you can do. And the scoring is boring. In Rugby, a single score can reverse the positions, and often does. In football, you can only ever equalise from a goal behind. Then there's the penalty fiasco. Years ago, the heavy leather ball was quite hard to blooter past a good goalie. There was a real competition at play. Now, every penalty is a goal unless the kicker makes a blunder or the keeper gets lucky. Pathetic. And there's the arbitrariness of it all. Foul outside the box - free kick. Foul just inside - penalty = goal. Stupid. The only good thing about football is that it's still amateur... what - you mean these tossers get paid?? Jings. Not too much, I hope.

Now, seriously. Columbia's Jessica Gil Ortiz took a bad fall in her floor exercise last night, shortly after Beth Tweddle's winning performance. Something went wrong in her execution of a double somersault and she landed hard on her head. After what seemed an age, she was fitted with a neck brace and stretchered off. Let's hope her recovery is fast and complete. Tough luck, lass.

Which passeth all understanding

The different interpretations of Slaka's drink laws are to be marvelled at. Twelfth floor Stufital has two doorways. Through one, you may pass freely, sit down and order anything you like from the bar and the kitchen. Through the other, you may pass only after depositing your ID or passport with the doorman. Once inside, your every movement is monitored by security cameras. But you can ignore these and sit down and order anything you like from the same bar and kitchen.
Then there's the Oasis Beach Club where you pay your 60 QAR entry fee, no ID required, and can sit by the pool all afternoon with remarkably cheap cold bottled beer brought to your table on demand. Can anyone spot the logic in all of this? Rumour has it, too, that the Hyatt has been able to stop checking IDs by the brilliant tactic of declaring the bar to be a lounge. That works for me.
The bad news, from last night's waitress in Oasis, is that their license is not going to be renewed when it expires at the year end. Not a surprise. Just another nail in the coffin of Slaka night life.
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Good, Fast, Cheap?

Some industries might be different, but in mine, the golden rule governing any project is the one we call Good-Fast-Cheap. It states simply, you can have any two out of the three, but you can't have them all. You want the best, by next Tuesday? No problem but it's going to cost you. You're on a tight budget but you need this immediately. Easy, but don't expect it to work. You need state of the art, for pennies? OK, hang around till the prices come down. Sometimes, you have to sit your client down and explain this principle. But only in Slaka is it received as Breaking News on every single project. Unless you know differently?
(My apologies for talking shop - one of those days, today. The kind that would drive me from work straight to the Paranormal, were I not Slaka-bound).

Octoberfest hits Doha

The Intercon Octoberfest was pretty good. Expensive, at 200 QAR per head. This included food and the entertainment, but no drinks. And the drinks weren't cheap, at 100 QAR for a stein (1 litre Bavarian style beer glass). Having said that, the beer was specially imported from Germany for the occasion and the food, though pork free, was varied and abundant. Being persnickety, I'd say that the band was a notch down on last year's. They handled the traditional repertoire perfectly, but had less to offer by way of variety. Still, a good time was had by all, with much standing on the benches, swaying in time, beers skywards.
It's not clear how the Intercon managed to circumvent Slaka's latest ruling that bans the serving of alcohol in tents and marquees. But they did, so all is well.

First, dig the hole...


then fall into it. I came across this scuppered excavator in the environs of Muntazah Park this morning. Work was continuing, by pick and shovel, while the foreman and the unfortunate driver engaged in animated discussion with much spitting and waving of hands, none of which seemed likely to effect the rescue of the hapless digger. Not a lot more to say about that.
Tonight will be a change of scene. A few of us are abandoning the Stufital for the rarefied atmosphere of the Intercon's Octoberfest. Should be good.

Cher is (still) sad

As promised, two posts ago, I checked out the Cher-is-sad last night. Not much to report. The refurb is certainly an improvement, but more of a face-lift than a reincarnation, rather like Cher herself, I suppose. It's still a place where you'd better take your own company because you'll find none there. It would help if they drew a light coloured drape across the black gaping maw of the empty stage, to stop it shouting - nothing happening here! And if they do, they can expect a modest invoice from Paraglider Interior Design Consultancy FZLLC. Conculsion: Cher-is-still-sad.
One beer here was enough and I repaired to Orion for the rest of the evening to watch the adequately talented band do battle with a wholly inadequate sound system. Now that's a consultancy I really could offer. Back off the reverb, less bass from the keyboard, more presence on the vocals. Fifty riyalls please!

When Don Quixote met Ella Gow

The talk soon came around to dancing. His pantaloons were incongruous but, in her green drndl hand-me-down, she herself was scarcely a model of elegance. None of which seemed to matter as, seamlessly, they moved from talk to practice. Well, more of a lesson, if truth be told, as Ella, till now, had only read of the Pavane. The Don’s grace and courtly manners were matched only by her guileless acquiescence and, perhaps, by the vacuous stares of the seven attendant Livingstone Daisies, resplendent in their black neckerchiefs and white lace petticoats. There were none to mock, for it was Tuesday, and barely dark.
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No, I've not quite gone mad. There was a short-lived blog once, called Paraplexed. I always had a soft spot for this particular post and thought I'd preserve it here. Anyone recognise the picture?

The Laughter Factory

I've never been a great fan of stand-up comedy, but with nothing else planned for last night and the sudden offer of an unwanted ticket, it seemed a good idea to check out the Laughter Factory event, a monthly occurrence in Slaka Ramada's Cher-is-sad bar. Of the three performers, one I liked, one I quite liked and one I didn't quite, which is probably par for the course. But what I couldn't help but notice was that during the Ramadan closure, the Ramada has greatly freshened up the interior of the Cher-is-sad, transforming the city's drabbest den into something quite light and airy. Not before time. Until a couple of years ago, this was Slaka's liveliest nightspot, thanks to the resident band Streetnoyz, with their high energy and very camp lead singer Nelson. But after getting rid of the band and banning unaccompanied ladies, the place enetered a doldrums which the more recent national ID clampdown did nothing to alleviate. It became not uncommon to find maybe thirty solitary men sitting at thirty solitary tables, drinking, smoking, staring at the wall screens and talking to nobody. And somehow the dinge intensified the mood. So it remains to be seen if the new paintjob will have lifted the cloud of gloom. Purely in the interests of research, I'll visit again soon and report back. I'm not hopeful, but you have to try.

Paraglider - Live at Stufital

Live indeed, but now over a year ago. This major event was previously described here. Shortly after this inaugural performance, Paraglider's partner in crime (against good taste), Mr G, shot off to Japan, not to return until after Stufital had stopped hosting live music and removed stage, lights, sound system and most of their customers. As it seems unlikely that a repeat performance is forthcoming, unless a new venue can be found, here, for posterity, is the duo's version of Sunny Afternoon, Paraglider on vocals and a borrowed guitar. Be unimpressed!

Passport Regained

So, my tall, friendly Moroccan took one look at the typescript and said: right letter, wrong form. Then he said something that set him apart from the rest of Slaka officialdom: Wait here while I go to the typing pool and have it changed for you! What would have taken me another hour, took him five minutes, and after another five I was heading back to the Police Station, where they took the form and said my official Certificate of Loss would be ready in two days time at 11 a.m.
It wasn't.
But at 1:30 it was and I took myself off to the British Embassy with a completed C1 Passport Application and the necessary photos and fee (799 QAR). Ten working days, they said.
The next morning, the Embassy called me. When they started processing the application, my old passport showed up on their database as lost and found. Apparently, a Filipina lady had found it in the street and handed it in to Capital Police Station. Best of all, she had done this on the night I lost it. So, three days before, when I was in the station reporting the loss, my passport was resting in a drawer a mere six feet away. Joined-up policing strikes again.
In fact, I can't blame the police for not making the connection. Lost passports are apparently put into unmarked envelopes and bundled into a drawer. I'd feel lost too. My only remaining regret, and it's a big one, is that the police either did not take, or more likely, did not retain contact details for my Filipina saviour, apart from a Christian name. Thanks and a reward are due if we ever meet.

Passport Lost

When you lose your (British) passport in Slaka, you phone the Embassy who give very clear instructions: report the loss at Capital Police Station. They will make out a report form that you will need for renewing your visa. Then download and complete a C1 Passport Application Form. Bring the form, two photographs (one of them countersigned) and the fee to the Embassy. Renewal takes ten working days. Sounds easy. Here's what really happens:
You report to the Capital Police Station and after queuing for half an hour they tell you you should have gone first to Airport Immigration for a Certificate of Entry. You go to Airport Immigration where (after queuing) they tell you you should have gone to Main Immigration, a Government building about seven miles away. You go there and eventually get directed (after much queuing) to the correct office where no-one seems remotely interested in deciding whose job it is to be helpful. Finally, you reach a tall friendly Moroccan guy who explains that they can only authorise the letter, but it first has to be typed up in the typing pool. You have to go back out, across the car-park to the unmarked portacabins, wherein sit fourteen men (you'll have plenty time to count them), in fourteen booths, each with two ancient manual typewriters (one Arabic, one English), a stack of blank forms for every occasion, and a clamour of customers waving papers. As there's nothing resembling a queuing system, you choose the smallest clamour (no.6) and muscle in with the best. When you finally get your typist's divided attention and explain the requirement, he sends you to clamour no.1 where it all starts over. After about an hour, clutching your typescript, you stagger back across the car-park and up the stairs where, fortunately, your friendly Moroccan has not gone to lunch. End of Part 1.

Eyes right!

Never let it be said that I don't take you to the most interesting places. Here we are in the gents lavatory in that well-known Sports Bar adjacent to the aptly named Mustafawi. The management, in their wisdom, have installed a flat-screen TV, so that if you are caught short in the middle of a cup final, you needn't miss any of the action while performing at the porcelain. This is all well and good, but I would strongly advise avoiding the urinal on the right. It doesn't take too much imagination to work out what could happen if there's a surprise goal and the performer on your left has had a few too many beers.
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The Devil on the Shoulder

It's unlikely that many Paranormal Hotel readers are familiar with Oor Wullie, a Scottish cartoon character who's featured in the Sunday Post for more than sixty years. In moments of temptation, for example whether or not to knock PC Murdoch's helmet off with his 'catty', we'd sometimes see his demon on one shoulder, saying dae it Wullie and an angel on the other, saying no, no, William. Interesting that only the demon had the Scots accent... Now, the immediate question is, which of the apparitions on Mr New York's case is the demon? Probably the one with the glass to his lips.
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If you've got it...

 flaunt it! An ice cube is not to be sneezed at. Or over, if it is a communal one, to be returned for reissue after a spot of localised cooling. That aside, we were all wondering what changes the reopening of Stufital would bring. Not a lot. Upstairs they've revarnished the table tops. Downstairs in Le Club, they've repainted them (white). And that's about it. The rumour of reintroducing live music to the Old Manger proved unfounded. Rather, they seem to be maximising deadness, by recycling the same Carpenters greatest hits album ad nauseam. (In the case of the Carpenters, ad nauseam = once). Downstairs, they've changed the band, for the ones from two years ago. They'll notice a difference - the audience is now all male. But don't start me on door policy. It's the bane of my life these days, specially since losing my passport... The good news, for our Dubai readers, is that the Paranormal hes reverted to all day opening, without the four till six eviction. True civilisation.
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Omar Khayyam had the Right Idea

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly---and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.


We are here for a short time. What is the use of wallowing in repentance? Especially in repentance of imaginary 'sins' that have harmed no-one.

Time spent being miserable, or making others miserable, is time wasted. Instead of worrying about future things we cannot know anything about, we should enjoy ourselves, and each other, now.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse---and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness---
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
. . .
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and---sans End!


And to the many that have told me - "you'll regret your unbelief when it's too late", I say, - you will regret your lost opportunities when it's too late. Enjoy life, with old Omar Khayyam.

Second Quarter

There's a place not to stand or sit, in Jockey's, at this time of year when the humidity is high. And that's around the two high tables just inside the door, officially known as Tossers' Corner, for reasons lost in the mists of time (unless someone has the answer?) At opening time (7:30 during Ramadan) it's no problem, but after the AC has been running for an hour or so, large cold drips start falling from the ceiling vents, typically down the back of your neck or into your beer. Cleavages are not exempt. Then someone notices, tells one of the bar-girls, who tells security, who tells reception, who calls house services, who turns up with a long handled sponge mop to swab the grid, giving a rain free hour or so. The performance is repeated, on the hour, every hour, always with the air of this has never happened before. Apart from the indoor rain, Ramadan is an enjoyable time in the Paranormal. There's no music, not even background music, so you can hear yourself talking. And somehow, watching cricket with the sound turned down makes more sense when there's no music than when there is. Explain that.

Shaken, not stilled

The Paranormal Hotel blog, with its predecessor Helga's Chickens (which it replaced after a year) has now been on-line for four years. In the early days, there was a note in the blog sidebar - comments are welcome, that stay within the bounds of respectful levity. Tongue-in-cheek, of course, but I didn't want anyone slagging off the girls that make the Para what it is. One only has to cross the road to the Old Vets to find out how desperately dull an ex-pat bar can become when the gender balance is heavily skewed. In time, I removed the note as superfluous, because visitors all seemed happy to enter into the Para's frivolous ambiente. And all was going fine until, just over a week ago, we got trolled with a couple of obscenely violent death threats. I deleted them of course, the first posts I've ever deleted in four years, but its rather like cleaning dog-dirt off your shoe - it leaves you feeling less than clean yourself, for a time. Be that as it may, I've decided not to enable comment moderation; I prefer spontaneity. But I would ask all readers simply to ignore any such posts in the future. Ignore & delete - it's the only way to deal with trolls.

First Quarter

To mark the first quarter of Ramadan, maybe just to have a good meal, or possibly even because walking to Stufital on a Thursday evening is an ingrained behaviour pattern, a hot and damp Paraglider found himself in La Villa Mediterranean restaurant, where he was welcomed by the newly returned Alex, tall, slim and gentlemanly as ever. Alex's return to the fold had been rumoured as long ago as last Ramadan. When it did not happen, we all thought he had moved permanently to greener fields and joined the swelling ranks of lost friends. Such things happen all the time in expatdom. So it was an unexpected delight to renew the acquaintance. The food (I had a grilled tuna steak) was excellent, as was the view over the night city and across the bay. A bottle of Rioja Reserva, perfectly served at a cool room temperature would have been the final touch. But this is Slaka. No such harmless pleasures for the next three weeks.

Muntazah Park


I have the good fortune to live beside two of Doha's landmarks, the Dubiyani Restaurant and Al Muntazah Park. The Dubiyani is a name not known to many, but for years it has gone by its unofficial name, Taxi Hotel. It's not a hotel of course. and at most it can seat ten people, but the great thing is, most of them are taxi drivers. So, from anywhere in the city Taxi Hotel is all the directions I need to get home, and from home, when I do want a taxi, there's never a wait of more than a few minutes. Across the road from Taxi Hotel is Al Muntazah Park. It's nice to look out over trees, but I can't go inside because this is a Ladies' and Children's park. Unfortunately, the Ladies & Children can't use it either because it has been closed for maintenance for at least four years. Who are they kidding? Nowhere in the world are parks closed for maintenance. You might fence off one sector at a time, for replanting or landscaping, but you keep the rest open. Besides, what park maintenance can take four years? Paraglider's Park Conspiracy says this valuable city centre land will soon become a building site. Just let enough people forget it's a park, stop all watering and let the sun do its worst, then bring in the bulldozers. After all, no-one uses it. The gates are locked.

As you were

Avid watchers of the countdown monitor (on the right) will have noticed that it has magically jumped back from 99% to 80%. This has something to do with Paraglider's acceptance of one more one-year contract in Doha. Not without regret. The prospect of returning to Dubai was appealing. But the brief fact-finding mission was none too encouraging. Not too many green shoots in that particular desert. So, for the coming year, Dubai will remain a visa-hop destination, and the Paranormal an occasional pleasure. Perhaps that's how it is meant to be. But if I had been asked to put money on it, I'd have bet on the true Paranormal falling down before its sister hotel in Deira. It shows there is a God after all. A Chinese one.

Helga sighted, seated in state

Paraglider's whim last night found him in Waggleworms, where the ridiculously named but very talented SoundSations still hold court every night. Alan A has changed his black trilby for a white golf cap (not, I'm pleased to report, a baseball cap) and is as flamboyant as ever. The back line seemed unchanged, but the three girl singers are newer than my last visit. All fine, but Jee set a standard that's hard to follow. While taking all this in, and waiting for a waiter to bring that vital first drink, there came a touch on the left elbow and a familiar voice - hello Para. And there, as if magically transported from Jockey's 2006 to Waggleworms 2009 sat Helga, all cleavage, teeth and sequins, directing operations from her bar stool, as of old. It seems the Chinese girls are not allowed in here, so the mix is traditional FSE. Helga's immediate brood appears to have shrunk to a single chicken. Maybe she's retiring gradually?

No Fire, no Ice - no good

In the spirit of thoroughness, as a tour guide, Paraglider suggested rounding off the evening's sightseeing with a last pint in Paranormal's Fire & Ice club. The tour, thus far, had encompassed Four Pints Charlatan, Pork International and the Astonishing. Mr New York being in agreement, stairs were climbed only to discover Fire & Ice quenched, melted or both, and its place taken by yet another Indian Club. It's hard to see why any hotel needs three almost identical establishments? It was of course necessary to check all three for differences. None were found, except perhaps that in the old South Indian Club, the dancing girls were awarded the coveted crown slightly less often. Oh well, back down to Jockey's for a night cap.

Creeping Astorification

Noon till late opening is a thing of the Paranormal's past, or so it would appear. There's now an imposed two-hour closed period, from four to six. And with its introduction, the smarter girls have picked up a new script - what are you doing for the next two hours? Not so easy to answer, at least not convincingly - I thought I'd just take a walk down by the Creek. Yes, sure, in the searing August afternoons we all do that, don't we? But for some of the diehards, especially the Scottish Table (now sparser, like Bammy's hair) this is a huge change in weekend ritual and must have come as a culture shock. Apart from that, mostly it's business as usual. The flavour gets more Chinese by the month, but that's been coming for a long time.
More soon - off for a beer and a little more research. Did she really have ankle-length hair? Better go back and check...

A Visitation

Today, Paraglider travels from Doha to Dubai and will be in the Paranormal by mid afternoon whence hordes of devoted fans and autograph hunters will stay away in droves. He may be recognised by his dissimilarity to the African woodcarving on the left. And for the rest of this week, while his posts may not rise to the giddy heights of interesting or relevant, at least they will emanate from the UAE. What does the U stand for again?

Le Club

Thirty-five riyals, a valid ID and the wherewithal to buy two drinks on your first visit is all it takes to secure one of these sought after membership cards. The card lets you into Le Club. It doesn't let you bring a guest, even if you swear on your mother's grave to take full responsibility should said guest break the unwritten law or even occupy one of the scores of empty seats. It does, however allow you and four other members to outnumber the band. Or, if you can muster ten members, to outnumber the band, bar staff and security combined. It hasn't happened yet. Slaka Tourism Authority strikes again.

Go Rectify!

Paraglider's eyesight is not of the best, especially in low light levels, such as may be found in any night venue in the western hemisphere, not excluding the oddly named Sailor's Club in Seaview. Thus it was that, arriving at 11-ish and seeing no sign of Carina, he sent the following text message, or thought he did, courtesy of Nokia Predictive text - Are you awake? The reply seemed a little odd - NOT GOOD ASKING. THIS WEEK OK. (Carina favours upper case). While he was pondering the nonsequitur, Carina followed up with the more normal - WHERE YOU? This was easy, so he responded, or thought he did, with - In Seaview. Carina's response, after some delay - YOU CRAZY. NOT GOOD TALKING. This was becoming surreal. Finding a small pool of light, Paraglider inspected his sent messages. Are you awake had become are you cycle?, hence, NOT GOOD ASKING (though it must be said she did well even to extract that meaning from it). And the innocent In Seaview was rendered, by Nokia - Go Rectify! Sorry Carina!

Kilkenny Surprise - only at Stufital

Promotions come in all flavours but usually have something to do with the product being promoted. Only in Stufital are such trivial constrictions waived. Order three Kilkennies to receive your surprise gift, reads the sign on the pump. And yes, it is something of a surprise to be rewarded with an XXL Danish Tuborg T-shirt for drinking Irish beer. It seems the Kilkenny isn't moving well (does this have something to do with the Slaka door policy?) and there was this pile of T-shirts doing nothing. Big T-shirts. Maybe the Paranormal could try something similar - One free Chinese takeaway with every third 'Stan...

Watch the Birdy

It was the logical next step. The cameras have arrived in Stufital. Cameras in the 12th floor lobby to make sure that the security guy enters everyone's ID on the computer and doesn't accept photocopies. And cameras inside the Old Manger bar to spy on customers relaxing with an after work beer. We learned last night why there are no more peanuts available at the bar. Apparently, they cause fights when the locals lob them at each other for fun and it escalates into a punch-up. It was like this, officer: first Khalid lobbed a nut at Mohammed, then Mohammed lobbed a nut at Khalid, then... They should reintroduce the nuts now that they have the cameras. It could be quite a sensation on you-tube.
Deep in the archives of Paranormal, there's an earlier post called Watch the Birdies. Those were the days, when harmless fun was allowed.

Slaka, 1 : Progress, 0

It's a new month and with it comes the enactment of the ban on afternoon opening of all Slaka bars. And to what end? A few people who do not use the bars have imposed their collective will on the many who do, to the benefit of no-one and the inconvenience of all. And already we can hear the self-satisfied chorus in the wings: if you don't like it, you can leave. I can, I will, and am already counting the minutes until I can again call the Paranormal my local. Did I say no-one will benefit? The Paranormal and its eponymous blog probably will...

Dear Six Nations,

Dear Six Nations,
In view of Slaka Tourism Authority's far-sighted and wholly laudable decision to discontinue afternoon opening of bars, it will prove highly inconvenient if you persist in your parochial policy of afternoon kick-off for International matches. Please confirm, by return, that Six Nations 2010 will rearrange its match timetable in line with the Authority's beneficent provision. Failure to do so will seriously incommode your loyal Slaka supporters. Similar letters have been sent to FA and Europa. Thank you for your understanding.
Sincerely,

The End is Nigh

Or fairly nigh. The countdown monitor on the right is ticking off the minutes that remain of Paraglider's extended sojourn in Slaka. I came here from Dubai nearly four years ago, to service a two month contract. Several extensions later, I'm still here but not for very much longer. I am not sure where will be my next destination, but such is the world that there will probably be a strange bar or two to continue the tradition of the great Paranormal and the lesser Stufital. Watch this space...

This is not about Iran

Earlier this week, in another place, someone posted a piece that wasn't about Iran. Someone else promptly commented that the piece was not about Iran but should have been, because Iran is more important than the subject at hand. And so it is, but so what? Barack Obama is marginally more important than the girls in the Paranormal or the security in Stufital, but he'll wait a long time before he gets another mention here. The commentator was out of order, less for telling another what to think than for making the assumption that the thought was not already in place. We don't have to do long faces on cue. But for anyone worried about offending the thought police, feel free to adopt Parglider's Suitable Simile formula, guaranteed to imply depth below the froth. For example: Narcisa's voluptuous cleavage was like the FTSE 100's recent roller coaster profile... You get the idea.

Tourism, Slaka style

The word in the bar last night was that from July 1st, Stufital will open five hours later, at five p.m. As this fate has already overtaken the Golf and Rugby clubs and even the Ramada, it seems likely that it is true. The crazy thing is that Slaka Tourism Authority is part of the enforcing group. Let's think about this. We are trying to attract visitors to one of the hottest countries in the world. We are trying to promote our image as an engaged and progressive state. We provide top of the range sporting facilities (where people might sweat a little). And during the hottest time in the day when many shops and businesses are closed, we make it impossible to escape from the fierce sunshine and enjoy a cooling beer or cocktail with friends. Oh well, I suppose it's a rehearsal for Ramadan.

Built for demolition

There are a few important blogs out there. This is not one. Important blogs are rare jewels, far outnumbered by self-important bloggers. The Paranormal Hotel is a lightweight, some would say trivial blog, and intentionally so, whose raison d'être is merely to entertain while indulging in the occasional circumflex, en passant. And lest there be any doubt, Paraglider is extremely grateful to the Slaka authorities for the steady stream of quirkiness that feeds his appetite for, well, quirkiness. Such as this new apartment block, viewed from the roof of Stufital. Finished about three years ago. Furnished and fitted. Never occupied. De-furnished. De-fitted. Earmarked for demolition. (It overlooks the Palace). Town planning, Slaka style.

The plot thickens (as the crowd thins)

Last night a new official notice decorated the Old Manger door and no doubt many more such doors around Slaka. Though, come to think of it, the number of bar doors is also dwindling - Amigos, Garveys, Rydges... This notice, also from Slaka Tourism and Exhibition Authority and Ministry of the Interior was a handsome piece of work in red and black making clear exactly what is and is not allowed inside a Slaka bar. Excluded, in no particular order, are: under 21s, immodest dress, Qatari females of any age (sic!), lewd gestures, drunkenness, rowdiness and swearing. But still no explanation of why we are being subjected to this wave of busybodyism. One wonders if it even occurs to the writers of such notices that it is at least mildly insulting both to the clientele and to the management of these international hotel chains to suggest that such admonishments are necessary? Probably not.

Doha's best kept Secret

Doha Oasis became a pile of rubble about a year ago, as part of the Corniche beautification project. Throughout its long history, no-one was ever known to stay at the Oasis, or at least admit to staying there. The three reasons for frequenting the establishment were: the excellent Chinese restaurant, the cheapest bar in town (also one of the 'friendliest' to unattached males) and the Beach Club out the back, where the swimming pool was good, clean and cheap. (The little stretch of dirty beach and slimy water had little appeal but were easily avoided). When the hotel was reduced to rubble, most people assumed the Beach Club had gone the same way, but it hadn't, and is still going strong for those brave souls willing to drive through the wreckage of the Oasis to reach it. Even less well known is that the Chinese restaurant and bar also relocated to the Club area, taking their old menu and prices with them, and now represent the best deal in town. And with no idiot door policy. One wonders how long this can last?

The Price of a Pint in Slaka

Slaka will remain the Paranormal official name for Doha for as long as it perseveres with its current ID door policy. And possibly for longer, as names stick. But, to the subject at hand, beer prices in Slaka have rocketed in recent times. Heineken in the Stufital is now 27 riyals a pint (with no happy hour to ease the pain) while in the Movenpick Piano Bar even 40 doesn't buy you one. Has something similar happened in Dubai? I think not, with the Paranormal's strange sliding scale still starting around 16 dirhams in the afternoon and rising to about 24 by mid-evening. And that's with entertainment thrown in, some of it on shapely legs. By comparison, last week in the UK, Paraglider's pints ranged from £2.70 to £3.20, or about 16 to 19 riyals. And that was for Real Ale. Is it perhaps time to start a popular movement?

Why come to Slaka?

In 1986, when Malcolm Bradbury, author of The History Man, parodied the clunky stupidity of the then Soviet Eastern Bloc in his mock tourist guide, Why come to Slaka? (seek it out and read it!) he little dreamt that twenty-thee years later a wholly serious and progressive state (Qatar!) would rise to the challenge of pointlessest bureaucracy [sic, OK?] by promulgating a circular, to all bars and clubs, from, wait for it... Qatar Tourism and Exhibition Authority and Ministry of the Interior. Which august body requests and requires that everyone entering a liquor-serving establishment shall present official ID (or passport, or residency permit), the which shall be recorded (name and number) by a hitherto unnecessary minion into a hitherto unnecessary log-book. The crazy thing is, even knowing exactly why this happening, I just can't be bothered explaining any more. Clunky stupidity is good enough. 

Open or Closed All Hours

Only in England would someone take the trouble to make a slate message board like the above. It's mounted outside a small second hand shop on Malvern's Bellevue Terrace and seemed, today at least, more or less to sum up the difference between Malvern and Doha. There should be no need to enlarge on that.

Doha's first Gay Club (created by mistake)

Doha's first gay club?
Quite a few visitors are landing here by searching for gay doha, doha gay club, gay in qatar, etc. There's a running joke here which I'd better explain. Doha Sofitel (Le Mercure) has a history of fixing what's not broken and as a result driving away its regular customers. Until fairly recently, Le Club in the second floor, though rough and ready, was quite a lively venue, frequented mainly by Indians, Filipinos, Chinese working girls, Lebanese and a few European ex-pats. The following sequence is how they managed to snatch dismal failure from the jaws of success, in ten easy steps.

01) declare your low dive 'members only'
02) refuse membership to single women
03) refuse membership to unmarried couples
04) as above, but more so, if the woman is Chinese
05) fail to notice that married couples have never come here
06) gaze in amazement at all these empty tables
07) convince yourself that the quietness is a sign of recession
08) fail to notice that Qatar is not in recession
09) turn a blind eye to the pretty boys holding hands
10) be grateful that your takings have bottomed out
11) well done, Sofitel, another first!

shorts and shadows
So, no, sorry if your visit has been wasted, but it's not really become a gay club after all. Having said that, it's probably as close to one as Doha can provide. You'll certainly never find a legal gay bar here. And it's well worth a visit for the relatively cheap beer and one of the best live bands in town. (Yes, I know that's not saying much!)

Now, since you've come, why not read some more?

boogie on down, boys
Some of Doha's dancing boys - not a woman in sight. Except for the band, of course, three girls to boot, but they are paid to be there!
Postscript: the excellent band, Boggs and the Girls, have been replaced by a dismal outfit comprising a keyboard man and two karaoke girls who seem unfamiliar with basic intonation. But as  the Dohaland demolition has already reached the other side of the street, it probably hardly matters any more. The end is nigh!

The Taliban Store


The Taliban are in the next but one street from my apartment. They don't cause any trouble here and are quite well respected. Theirs is a small establishment and one I've never had reason to enter. I'm sure the quality of their cloth is excellent, but I don't wear the dishtash myself. I have promised myself that before I leave the Middle East I will have one made for me. I'll probably go for the red and white checked headgear as the plain white is just too formal for my taste. I don't think the Taliban actually finishes garments. I believe it's mainly a wholesaler for the trade, but there are plenty of small local tailors who could do the job.

All in the Hat

It started with something Carina said, along the lines of not being seen dead talking to someone wearing one of these, these being the distinctive Pashtun 'pakool' hats. No doubt the charge of racism could be brought to bear, but knee-jerks aside, has she unwittingly hit on something? Might the humble pakool, preferably a singularly shabby one, be the ideal accessory for the next visit to Paranormal? Suitably attired, might it be possible to enjoy a beer and the exquisite scenery without having to field the barrage of what you name, how long you in Dubai? This is to be tried. Taliban Stores, here we come...

Fluffy Cheerleaders - a public service


Paraglider received a telegram to the Paranormal Hotel, forwarded to Doha Stufital, bemoaning his recent deprecation of the inroads made by Fluffy Cheerleaders into the ancient and erstwhile serious game of cricket. It seems the girls, all of whom are avid Paranormal readers, 'wish it to be made known that we are only doing our job'. Indeed you are, ladies. That much you share with all the girls in Paranormal. Thank you for your efforts.

Cricket - lest we forget

Stufital has been showing too much cricket lately. Or what passes for cricket these days. The IPL T20 series from India, where the teams wear pyjamas and have baby names like Hyderabad Heroes. All that can be said in favour of this travesty of the great game is that doesn't last long. Lest we all forget what cricket is meant to look like, and did, for more than a hundred years, here is a picture of Andrew Flintoff, properly dressed in white, showing a thoroughly correct action, while playing in a five-day match in a five match series. That's cricket. And not a fluffy cheerleader in sight.

Want to buy a truck?

The good thing about Stufital (having panned it mercilessly in the previous post) is the casual encounters that happen over the bar. The innocent might think these happen in every bar, but not so; in Cher-is-sad, for example, no-one ever talks to anyone else unless they've had the singular misfortune of being acquainted before going in.
It seems, then, that having driven a load of cable from Spain to Qatar Industrial Area, it actually makes more sense to find a buyer for the truck too, and fly home, rather than drive the empty truck. Best of all, of course, would be a return load, but as Qatar manufactures absolutely nothing, this doesn't often happen.
So, there's this truck, big, with lots of wheels. Any takers?

It takes skill

Paraglider has no aspirations to be a hotel outlets manager but can't help distinguishing between sensible and doubtful behaviour from the breed. Take, for example, the Paranormal, and Jockey's in particular. Changes there have been small and incremental, and have usually focused on improving things that weren't quite right. If it ain't broke, don't mend it seems to be the principle at work. Then there's the Doha Stufital. Let's look back over the past nine months or so. Crisps and nuts free at the bar. A nice touch, popular, and sells more beer (the salt, OK?) So, stop it. Happy hour, attracts the after work crowd and encourages them to stay on into the evening. So stop it. Spontaneous dancing to the band, popular, fun, sells more beer. So stop it, and place a small table in front of the stage to rub the point home. Give the bar staff the embarrassing job of having to tell customers to sit down. Clever. The band. Very popular. Guaranteed to fill the bar every evening and to capacity every weekend. So get rid of them. Remove the stage, lights and sound system. And, when each one of these improvements brings about a reduction in customers, compensate by increasing the prices, two, three, four times. Good thinking!
Then there was the episode of the Chinese girls...

All this and money too?

Something has changed at the Paranormal. Friday afternoon was as of old, if slightly quieter, in line with the slightly quieter nature of the rest of Dubai. Speaking of which, there are taxis there for the hailing again, almost like five years ago. So recession isn't all bad. The girls are having to try harder, which can be mildly irritating, if it leads to cling-on behaviour. If the trend is city-wide, the Astonishing must now be positively dangerous. Come to think of it, it always was. But back to the change - in the evening, there's a man on the door taking money. This is outrageous. Forty dirhams for the privilege of buying beer in a room full of 'ladies'. No need to pay of course, but it's the principle.

Alive, alive, oh

Last Friday saw a flurry of musical activity in Stufital, which may be repeated this coming Friday. Paraglider and the transitory Mr A overcame all the odds and mobile phones to delight the assembled company with two short sets notable (by the locals) for the total absence of Bob Marley. Then, later, the Mighty Kim went one further by importing an entire fan club for his own most accomplished performance. And all this before the arrival of the official Stufital band.
Needless to say, these performances were not witnessed by any banned nationality/gender as sense has yet to prevail in this matter.

About my mother...

Choong's mother is visiting him, from Beijing. His presence in Stufital bar is proof enough that the ban on Chinese doesn't apply to men. But can he bring the old lady (she's 73) in for a quiet drink? Of course your mother is welcome sir! But this raises new questions. The ban can't be simply racist, since Choong is unbanned. And it can't be simply sexist, or there would be no Filipinas allowed. We'd thought it was a simple Boolean AND function: banned if [Chinese AND female]. But Choong's old mama has blown that apart. Maybe the secret algorithm is [Chinese AND female AND NOT old]. Or possibly [Chinese AND female AND fanciable]. Or maybe it's just another example of unthinking reflex reaction. But to what? Such occasional trouble as has occurred in Stufital has never involved the Chinese women. In fact, the most troublesome group is...?

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