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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
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...
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.
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 Sofitel 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 (singers and guitarists). The limit of the Spanish antiquarian's English seemed to be a few well-connected towns: Royal Worcester, Royal 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.
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.
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...
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!
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
- Do not select a vacant urinal adjacent to an occupied one, unless no other stall is available.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do not break the ice by saying 'This is where the big knobs hang out'. Never, OK?
- 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.
- If all stalls are occupied, wait at a discreet distance. There is no need to thank the first finisher.
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.
Tonight, England plays Brazil at foopball (official Nigel Molesworth spelling) in Khalifa Stadium. I'll not be going.
All of which goes to show nothing of consequence. Skol.
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!
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?
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.
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...
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...
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.
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.
The other traditional accompaniment, Scotch Whisky, is of course freely available from
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.
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.
(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).
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
More soon - off for a beer and a little more research. Did she really have ankle-length hair? Better go back and check...
Deep in the archives of Paranormal, there's an earlier post called Watch the Birdies. Those were the days, when harmless fun was allowed.
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.
|Doha's first gay club?|
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|
Now, since you've come, why not read some more?
|boogie on down, boys|
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 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.
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.
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?
Then there was the episode of the Chinese girls...
Needless to say, these performances were not witnessed by any banned nationality/gender as sense has yet to prevail in this matter.