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Egypt won - Ghana didnae

But that was over an hour ago, and fans are still driving aimless circles round Doha, beating the timeless tattoo on their horns: Baa! Baa! Ba-Ba-Baa! - Baa! Baa! Ba-Ba-Baa! The same rhythm as favoured by the strutting playground gangs in my primary school, all of fifty years ago, except, for lack of horned cars, it was a vocal exercise: Oi! Oi! Oi-Oi-Oi! - Oi! Oi! Oi-Oi-Oi! It didn't achieve much then either.
Still, a win for Ghana would have been nice. Ghana was one of the first African countries I knew by name, because, as a fledgling stamp collector (all of five years old) I was given a few Ghana postage stamps by a neighbour shortly after they gained their independence. Of course, my Stanley Gibbons 'Gay Venture' Stamp Album (a name they probably abandoned long ago) had no page for Ghana. Stick them under Gold Coast, said my Dad. I did, without knowing why.
Outside my window, the cavalcade continues...

Rantin Rovin Robin

Built in 1757 by William Burness, two years before the birth of his celebrated son, the thatched 'clay biggin' is still standing, more than 250 years later. Which suggests, perhaps, that biggest, tallest, most expensive, might not be a building's only claim to greatness after all.

The man o' independent mind,
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

Loser takes all


Below the blackening sky go I
warily wearily wobbly o
frightened to live and frightened to die
toll bell toll
sick as a parrot covered in glue
languid as leeks in the depth of a stew
who would be me, except possibly you?
loser takes all

Doom is the name of the game we play
warily wearily wobbly o
doom by the bushel an acre a day
toll bell toll
death is a mercy so sing it again
wrists in the bath or a surfeit of men
show me a pain and I'll show you a pen
loser takes all

Moan it and mix it. Trowel it on thick
warily wearily wobbly o
fate is a pheasant with salt on its dick
toll bell toll
cry me to sleep with my head on a sack
stuffed with the rotting remains of a yak
call me an artist - god knows I'll be back
loser takes all

Jester
The picture was made by my brother in 1998, using 100 year old lead pencils and watercolours found in our attic. It seemed to suit the dismal mood of my poem.

Today has brought another few inches of snow. The day after tomorrow, I'm supposed to be travelling to London with a view to flying back to the Qatar on Saturday, after which more normally oriented blog posts will no doubt resume. That's if the trains and planes are moving, of course.
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A bleak, dark place

It's not that the landscape's so different from the UAE. Yes, it's colder. Snow takes the place of sand; conifers, of palms; stone walling, of concrete. One leaden sky is much like another, whether laced with ice crystals or with traffic fumes. And after all, what is a hill but a plane, tilted? Yet here, there is the suspicion, however unfounded, that were attrocities to be committed deep in this frozen wilderness, justice might follow, in due course.

Snow, snow, quick-quick snow...

More than two weeks into my annual home visit, and the snow shows no signs of disappearing. With night-time temperatures dropping to -15C, that's hardly surprising. What is surprising is the grip this cold spell has taken. Usually, the only weather that ever manages to take a hold here for more than a couple of weeks at a time is dinge, that Winter special of late dawn, early dusk and nothing in between but grey mist and horizontal rain. This featured throughout both my previous Christmas trips. So, this time, it's been a pleasant change to have some weather to look at and enjoy. Forecasts are that it will continue for at least another ten days.
In case any of my Dubai readers are a little confused by the picture - it's not faked. Snow really can happen outdoors too, with no heavy machinery in sight. And it's almost the same stuff, but clean, and free!
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The Morgan - what's in a name?

Malvern's old Morgan pub is no more, but the even older Cavalry Arms (which once featured here as a typical example of a real pub) has been refurbished, again, and renamed as 'The Morgan'. Previously, the mid-Malverner had a serious hike up the hill to the Morgan, but an easy roll down after a few beers. In its new incarnation at the foot of the hill, this is of course reversed. It is now easy to roll down the hill to the pub but quite a trek home. Facilis descensus Averni... Not that the Morgan quite equates to the gates of Hades, but how often do you get a better chance to cite Virgil on a blog?
Now, what's so special about the Morgan name that the new owners, Wye Valley brewers, have seen fit to resurrect it? The Morgan is a classic sports car that has been hand built in Malvern since 1913. Far more exclusive (because they make so few!) than any Bentley or Aston Martin, it still comes complete with a timber chassis (finest ashwood), a price tag to match, and a waiting list to die for. Which makes you wonder why there are none in Dubai - yet...

This one rocks

Paraglider's newest toy is a 35mm slide and negative scanner. I have a 35-year backlog of stuff to digitise, which begins to look more like a 50-year collection if I take into account my late father's photographic legacy. This is going to keep me off the streets (maybe!)for the next few months at least. I'm still learning how to use it, but it seems to do a pretty good job on old B&W negatives too. This one seems to be rocks on a beach, almost certainly somewhere, taken some time ago. I probably need to work on my detail recall too! Happy New Year, friends!

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