Showing posts from January, 2011

Burns' Night in Jimmy's Bar

It takes exactly the right amount of Glenkinchie to trigger a spontaneous but flawed rendering of Holy Willie's Prayer in a corner of a pseudo New Yorkian bar in an international hotel in Doha, to a small select audience of two, one of whom works for 30 seconds occasionally, by releasing a button, while the other writes about it . In other words, surrealism is alive and well in Qatar. Probably, when it comes down to it, surrealism is the unifying thread in the warp and weft of the expat fabric. All that remains is to append the imperative, 'Discuss!' , to the above to have created the ultimate examination question. But as that is not my intention, I'll resist the temptation.

By Way of Wintery Summary

Nothing much has happened in my first few days back in Doha. The sewage tanker has not been bought after all, but the hopeful vendor has adopted a new policy of moving it to a different location each morning (never more than 400 yards from the old location) and returning it at night. As it is now as dusty as the rest of its environs and bespattered with the season's first muddy rain, the chances of a quick sale seem slimmer than ever, especially as the A4-size for-sale signs are now faded, tattered and all but illegible. The piddling little rain showers seem to have lent credence to the notion that it is cold, which it isn't, and once again we are treated on all sides to the curious spectacle of gentlemen attired in dish-dash, sports jacket and sandals, grumpily picking their way between the puddles in the mall car park, while struggling under the bulk of new boxed electric heaters. I find myself wondering what hapened to the heaters they bought last year, and the year before

Horse Shoe Bar, Bowling and the (Beer) Desert

I can't quite remember why I took this shot of a fairly ordinary pub in Bowling (near Dumbarton). Maybe it had something to do with the mock black and white frontage. That's not impossible, because at the time I'd not ventured much out of Scotland. A few years later, in Shakespeare country, real black and white cottages were all around me and I wouldn't have given the imposter a second glance. But looking at it now, what stand out, literally, are the signs for W M. YOUNGER'S and TENNENT'S LAGER. Because this was the era of  the keg beer, before the real ale revival came North of the Border. Most Scottish bars served Younger's Tartan Special and Tennent's Lager and if you were lucky McEwan's Export. A few also offered Light, which was dark, being the opposite of heavy. And that was your lot, apart from a handful of specialist Free Houses that flew the flag for McClays, Deuchars or the holy of holies, Belhaven. Nowadays (for the benefit of any English

Connemara, with bloke, donkey, cottage and telegraph poles

connemara, with bloke, donkey, cottage and telegraph poles Digitising all of Dad's old family slides and all of my own was fun but enough of a good thing by the time I'd finished. For about six months afterwards, I just didn't have the notion to switch on the slide scanner again. Until today. I've decided this time to process my old black & white negatives, mostly shot between 79 and 81. This one, aptly named Connemara, with bloke, donkey, cottage and telegraph poles, was taken in Connemara, and shows a bloke, his donkey, his bicycle (because his donkey is a pack animal and not for riding), telegraph poles complete with 'jam jars' and wires, and a cottage. The bloke is a donkey pedlar and a bicycle peddler. This happy thought keeps him cheerful even on the longest hills. His donkey cares not a whit. The rest of this first film features a potentially lethal safety hazard, a few shots of Oban, one of a pub in Bowling, one of Galway Bay and several more from C

Forty-Seven-Thousand Girls wanted for Light Duties

I came across an interesting statistic recently, all the more interesting because the source, who will remain nameless, is usually fairly reliable in such matters. We were talking about FIFA 2022 and some of the changes that Qatar will have to make if they are to meet the expectations, not merely of the organisers, management and players, but also of the half-million-or-so fans who are expected to fall like a plague on the innocent city state. Not to beat about the bush, one of us observed that the extremely male-skewed population wouldn't be much to their liking. But apparently this has already been taken into consideration. It seems the Authorities have made the necessary calculations and agreed that 47,000 highly available ladies would fit the bill. It's not clear whether they are to be phased in gradually over the next few years or delivered by a mass parachute drop just in time for the tournament. Time will tell. More interesting to the mathematician in me is, how do yo

The Latin on British Coins

Paraglider returns to Doha next week. Meanwhile, I wonder how many tourists to Britain ever notice the cryptic messages that surround the Queen's head on our coinage? Apart from the coherent Elizabeth II and the date, our pounds bear the legend DG REG FD. Not very informative. The two pound coins, having more space available, expand this to DEI GRA REG FID DEF, which is better, but still a bit cryptic. The unabbreviated form would read DEI GRATIA REGINA (Queen, by the Grace of God) and FIDEI DEFENSOR (Defender of the Faith). The first of these was originally an assertion of the Divine Right of Kings and the second an affirmation of the monarch's role as head of the Church of England (initiated by Henry VIII in defiance of the Pope). Charlie-boy is known to be queasy about Fid Def, wishing to redefine it to mean Defender of Faith, in the spirit of inclusion. It remains to be seen if he'll ever get the chance, of course. Then there was the Queen's grandfather. Coins were