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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...

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