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Sale of Chicken, Al Mansoura

Sale of Chicken, to include:
feathers, feet, beak, breasts, eyes, legs, tail, gizzard, heart, liver, lungs, wings, intestines, brain and the thoughts therein which may stretch to consciousness, though not self-consciousness (it is a chicken after all). Continuity of such thoughts, if any, is not guaranteed to extend beyond any neck-wringing event that may immediately precede Sale of Chicken.
Weight of Chicken, for pricing purposes, is pre-pluck and is not reduced if plucking is required. Buyer may opt to keep the plucked feathers if desired but will have to gather them up by himself.

The Biggest Mac of all...

the burger at ramada interchange
Watching with interest to see what it is going to be when it opens. The choice is limited- yet another mall, yet another hotel, or just maybe the World's Greatest Burger Museum? If not that, why does it look like a super-bloated Big Mac, replete with squelchy gunge (I refuse to call it mayonnaise) already oozing from between the slabs of sludge. (Or do you have a more apposite description of MacDonald's fare?)

Of course, this should come as no surprise, in the city that built the World's biggest condom.

Beware of Almarai's New 'Mixed Apple' Product!

My favourite Almarai brand apple juice has been replaced on the shelves by Almarai's new 'Mixed Apple' formulation. The retired juice had no preservatives, no added sugar, and only two ingredients: purified water and apple juice concentrate. It was good to drink fresh and also could be fermented into a very pleasant cider.
the original (left) and the foul usurper (right)
The new offering contains: purified water, apple concentrate (blend of red delicious, golden delicious, rolls and fuji apple), refined sugar, citric acid, natural and nature-identical apple flavour, malic acid, stabiliser E440, caramel colour, preservative E202. The fruit content is 50%, the other 50% being accounted for by the added sugar, acids, colours, flavours and chemicals.
The worst of it is that most people will simply pick up the familiar Almarai square bottle with the green cap, only thinking they've changed the label. All the incriminating evidence is on the back, in lettering that can't be read without a magnifying glass.
And of course, it doesn't ferment, which is the only reason I knew something was wrong.

Boggs and the Girls - welcome back!

The good news from the front is that the management at Le Club (Doha Sofitel/Mercure) has re-engaged Boggs to provide the nightly entertainment. Or at least the on-stage nightly entertainment, the off-stage floor show being offered free of charge by the familiar parading ladies and dancing drunks. Nothing changes there.
Boggs, you may remember, is a very talented guitarist with a perfectly OK singing voice, accompanied this time by two girl singers, one is his sister or wife, I forget which, and the other is new, at least to Doha.
A three piece band, midi-backed, with a single instrumentalist is never going to rival Alan and the SoundSations for quality and variety. Nevertheless it is great to have options, especially in the old town centre, for the nights when you don't fancy an hour stuck in a taxi to West Bay. For me, that's most nights.

The Buzzards in Rose Bank Gardens

the buzzards in rose bank gardens, malvern, worcestershire

The more sharp-eyed and astute among my vast readership will have recognised, even without reading the caption, that this is not a picture from Doha or Dubai and will have correctly concluded that I escaped the desert, for a time at least. Sadly, all good things come to an end and, having taken the last ten days of Ramadan off, I am now back in Qatar, working through the Eid. Somebody has to man the pumps.

I'd be quite proud of the photo if the buzzards were real, but they are in fact a sculpture designed and made by Walenty Pytel, from Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Like everything else in Malvern that can in any way be classified as 'change', the piece has divided public opinion and spawned almost as many column-inches in the local press as the grazing of sheep on the common.

The rainbow, on the other hand, is entirely the work of . . . Nature!  Eid mubarak, everyone!

Big, blue and very long

bullnose mercedes truck - blue to boot
I don't expect everybody to share my enthusiasm for the bullnose Mercedes, but bear with me while I explain why this one is special. It's blue. (They are nearly always orange or grey/green). It's articulated, while most of them are rigid 10-wheelers. It has a white painted exhaust stack, nothing short of an affectation. It even has some tread left on the tyres. And it was there, waiting for me.
and articulated, and long

How to dump a load, Doha style

All was going smoothly. The truck was parked in position and the hydraulic ram was raising the huge hopper to tip the load conventionally through the back flap. Until, inexplicably, it tipped over sideways. like this:
unconventional offloading, by falling over sideways

And in so doing, it twisted the trailer out of recognition, or at least well beyond repair. Fortunately, no-one was standing where the load fell.
shame about the trailer though...

The Bollard & the Law of Thirds

The phone call was going on a bit, the sun was hot, the atmosphere humid and the bollard was the only berth available.
The Law of Thirds (photographic composition) states that the best positioning for the main subject detail is the intersection of vertical and horizontal trisecting lines, adequately and innocently confirmed here by our friend Joe.
And speaking of bollards, on another occasion and another country, an Irish friend with a gift for  metaphor related how one of the company, much the worse for wear, left the bar to attempt the short walk home. "We found him 100 yards down the road, starfished over a bollard". An unforgettable image!

When you can't afford the gym...

you make your own. I live on the top floor of my Muntazah apartment block. A few nights ago I heard sounds of work being done on the roof above me. This isn't unusual as the roof carries the outdoor halves of all the split air-con units and all the water tanks to boot. But this sounded different, more like carpentry, sawing and hammering. Next morning, checking it out, I find that the watchman (who lives on the roof in a rough shack) has made himself a private gym from scavenged bits and pieces and made a pretty fine job of it too. The weights are made of sand and cement, cast in old paint tins and joined by a length of scaffold bar. And that press bench is as solid as any 'real' one. Impressive, no?

the home made gym on the roof

SoundSations - A Joe Cocker Moment

It doesn't happen often, but it did last night, in Doha Krossroads. A long time ago, Joe Cocker took a pleasant enough Beatles song, 'With a Little Help from my Friends', and showed us what it was really all about, how much deeper it was than the bland sing-along version on Sgt Pepper with Ringo on vocals. Last night, at Krossroads, we had another 'Joe Cocker moment'. Alan and the band gave us 'Don't let the Sun go down on Me' as I've never heard it before. It was a phenomenal performance, deeply soulful, almost anguished in its intensity. Alan took Bernie Taupin's lyric and Elton's music and turned them into something SoundSational that deserved to be captured for posterity, but wasn't, of course. I hope these guys know how good they are. We do, those of us that bother to listen.

Le Club, back in contention, maybe

le club, doha mercure grand, formerly sofitel - the last word in sophistication
The time has come, the Walrus said, to re-evaluate Le Club in Sofitel. Regular readers here may remember that some years ago the place was heaving every night. A succession of good lively bands coupled with a liberal entry policy more than made up for the general air of dilapidation verging on squalor. It was never a place to take the legendary maiden aunt; nevertheless, a good time could be had, dependably, for the moderate outlay of the price of a couple of beers.
Where it all went wrong was when the management decided a few years back to make it members only and restricted the membership to men and married couples. When people stayed away in droves, they 'compensated' for, or more accurately compounded their losses by increasing the prices and hiring cheaper bands.
But, it's an ill wind that blows nobody some good. Ramada/Radisson's recent decision to blanket ban Chinese girls with UAE or Bahrain visas, while it has killed the Orion at a stroke (takings can scarce be a quarter of pre-ban levels), has almost overnight corrected the extreme gender imbalance of Le Club. In fact, on Tuesday night, for a time the men were actually outnumbered, for the first time in five years. This happy state of affairs, so rare in Qatar, together with Le Club's recent refurbishment, together made for an enjoyable evening.
Were the girls happy with their new venue? Certainly they appreciated the open door policy. They had some reservations about the prevailing demographic of the clientèle (though they expressed it in simpler language) but hey, even that will change naturally with time, if the word gets out.
And if the management re-engages Boggs and his girls.

Over to you, David Cameron...

Paralleling the fatuous Western fashion for tattooing random Chinese characters on various body parts, there is an equally strange but happily reversible Chinese fashion, especially among the younger ladies, to wear T-shirts emblazoned with more or less random English words and phrases. A few I've seen recently include:

"Garage Snorkelling Crew",
"Feathers from an earlier time",
"The mist has spoken from the hill",
plus several that more resemble samples from the shredder bin. But until today, nothing as surreal as this offering:

(picture of horse here)

Well, can he? And if not, why not? Surely his Papty could only benefit from his attempt? The wearer, unsurprisingly, had no idea what the words meant or even how they were pronounced, had never heard of David Cameron or the Tory Papty, far less the Party, but liked the horses, the cut and colour of the T-shirt, and thought it looked well on her. No argument there.
The front, by the way, had more horses. And no politics.

Doha 2006 - Remembering the Music

Doha 2006, but where?
Old timers in Doha will well remember when this was the best live music venue in town. That was before they levelled the dance floor, built the ghastly Qube outside, turned the stage area into a kitchen and decked the walls with screens showing non-stop football. It is, of course, the Sherzhad, in what was the Ramada before Radisson Blu took over. The band on stage looks like Street Noyz, but without Nelson on stage, so probably early in their set. He was always one for the dramatic entrance when the audience was well warmed up.
Speaking of the Radisson/Ramada, last week saw a sudden change in door policy towards the Chinese women. Only those holding Qatar resident's permits are now admitted. Those visiting from Bahrain and UAE (or anywhere else) are not allowed in. While I have no issue with an establishment setting standards of behaviour within its walls and denying return access to known offenders, discriminatory door policies are another matter altogether and would be illegal in most developed countries. But this is Qatar and still developing.

The Pompous Pigeon of Knightsbridge Lane

Like many British expats, something I look forward to on my all too short home visits is a decent real ale. This year, my daughter presented me with a Christmas box of selected bottles. But she didn't stop there. Noticing that our real ales often have quirky names, like 'Bishop's Finger' or 'Old Speckled Hen', she decided to out-do the originals by relabelling them to a new level of quirkiness. I secretly suspect she had some fun in doing it!
don't all buffaloes have waxen knees?

and aren't all porcupines aquatic?

so easy to attract the disapproval of one's peers

who prefers to be in a box today

HSBC Blues

For years, I'd been quite happy with my Internet Banking from HSBC. So I wasn't too worried when they told me my company had to be migrated to the new HSBCnet web portal. The move would take two to three days during which I'd have no Internet access to my account. Stage one went smoothly- they had no trouble at all disabling my old portal. Stage two, enabling the new, was more of a challenge apparently, as it took them forty days (and forty nights no doubt) to re-enable my access and necessitated no fewer than three trips to Dubai (from Doha) to sign various papers and finally collect the new security device.
Then came the real challenge- working out how to use the new portal. There's no doubt that it is more flexible and powerful than its clean and easy predecessor. If I were an accounts manager for a large corporation I'd probably be delighted with it. But for a small company with a single account, its layer upon layer of complexity is overkill with a vengeance. For example, before I could transfer some cash to my personal account (very necessary after forty days in the banking wilderness) I had to:

  • Assign all our accounts (we have only one) to an account group called 'A'
  • Declare a maximum daily transfer limit between all the accounts in group 'A'.
  • Declare a maximum daily transaction limit between accounts in Group 'A' and elsewhere.
  • As System Administrator, assign myself to a user group of one person (me)
  • Authorise my user group to effect payments and transfers on Account Group 'A'
  • Assign my own signing limit within this user group for transfers and payments.
Intuitive, huh?

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