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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...

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