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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.

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