Showing posts from 2013

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&

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

Helga's Chickens

Helga's Chickens take the floor around eight thirty every night. Could anybody ask for more? Perhaps some spotty troglodyte would rather hide away and write computer code, but that's a bore and hardly likely to delight Helga's Chickens. Take the floor for instance - even if it wore a carpet of a lurid white our eyes would still be on the door around eight thirty. Every night the Paranormal's heaving. Quite a crowd prepares for what's in store and brightens as they dim the light. Could anybody ask for more than Helga and her brood? Before you rush to call her 'parasite' or breathe the appellation 'whore', perhaps some spotty troglodyte will rush to her defence and cite an evening back in '94 when he succumbed, gave up the fight and sang - O come let us adore Helga's Chickens!

measure me

and measure me where skies are blue   and life is a designer brand     and rrussian girls go how arr you and cultivate the favoured hue   preferring what they understand     and measure me where skies are blue and winter warms me through and through   like summer from another land     and rrussian girls go how arr you and have you night enough for two   to dim the bleak beyond that's planned     and measure me where skies are blue and high apartments block the view   of sand and sand and sand and sand     and rrussian girls go how arr you and how are you my darling do   you feel a hardness in your hand     and measure me where skies are blue       and rrussian girls go how arr you

The Model and the Miracle Man

I only ever performed one miracle.. and that was ten years ago. It changed two lives forever, mine and someone much more famous, though her fame was to come later. I remember it vividly; how could I not? I'd just arrived back in London from a six-month tour of duty in Saudi Arabia and was in need of three things: a bacon sandwich, a beer, and to see some women wearing less than the Saudi norm. Much less, in fact. And of course I knew of a pub that could provide all three, with knobs on. I'm telling you this to dispel any illusion that I'm setting myself up as some kind of holy guy. I'm not. I'm just another engineer who happened to work a miracle, once. So, duly sated in all departments, I'd left the pub and was walking East along Pentonville Road, enjoying the normality of a bright sunny day after the searing furnace of the Middle East. I wasn't consciously thinking of anything in particular, but there was nothing at all wrong with my world. It was good to

Predestination - Believe it or Nuts!

As good a place as any to begin Halfway through the fourteenth bar of Tárrega's 'Recuerdos da la Alhambra', Michael's 'A'-string breaks at the bridge. The sudden crack and the sharp squeak of spiral-wound silver against skin stirs not a few of the audience into rapt attention. Novelty, after all, and perhaps another's discomfiture, can more than make up for a temporary glitch in performance. Peter, realising a short break is inevitable and conscious of his pre-concert beer, excuses himself politely and negotiates the eight knees and thirty-nine toes (Ms. Jessica Armstrong had a childhood accident involving a bacon slicer) separating him from the aisle. Joe, on the scaffolding, applies himself to the rotting soffit board. Too far gone for patching and filling, this is a full replacement job. He hooks the claw-hammer under the board's lower edge and jerks the shaft sharply downwards. The decayed timber cracks and splinters. Eight hundred and seventy three

Knees, Plungers & Aliens

The old way A long time ago, I studied photography. I used a manual SLR camera, took light measurements (incident and reflected), applied filters, adjusted focus, aperture and exposure, developed my own negatives, mixed my own chemicals, did my own darkroom work and, occasionally, achieved some pretty creditable results, none of which appear on this page. I did all this because I wanted to be in complete control of the image, from inception to display. But recently, because of my traveling lifestyle, my photography is reduced to quick snapshots with a mobile phone - low quality, granular, soft, flared, shaded, blurred - but fun and immediate. And you know, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. But there's a special class of picture for which the mobile phone is second to none - the complete accident! what plungersome thing art thou? Exterminate... Exterminate... The phone rings, you fumble it out of your pocket, press a couple of keys by mistake, and click - another random picture for th

Bull-neck and the Blue Lagoon

More random photographs We can't be serious all the time. What follows is my latest selection of wholly accidental phone pictures, usually taken in the process of fumbling the phone into or out of my pocket. The descriptions probably say more about me than about the pictures, but I'll leave others to judge.   bull-neck and the blue lagoon "Without prejudice" mutters Bull-neck, apparently to himself, lost on his mission to pass through life unencumbered, even by clothes. The almost apologetic bolt from the blue makes no impression; if he so much as notices it, he gives no sign, but blunders on, looking forward and down. Always down. His early baseball cap years have taught him there is no sky, no stars. Now sure in this knowledge, he has no need to shade his eyes. There is no light. memories of a copper still The roof is long gone. The malting loft has crumbled and fallen onto the the stills below. Rats have ravaged the barley sacks and mice gleaned their leavings. Win

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

Things I don't do any more

I've never actively given anything up... but every now and then I realise that I've not done something for a long time. Such a long time, perhaps, that I can't really say I do it any more, whatever 'it' is. This week, I've had a couple of days off work for Eid al-Adha. Now, extra days off in Doha can be quite long. Especially for one allergic to shopping malls and five star hotels. So, between sessions on the computer and sessions on the guitar, I found myself reminiscing over some of these things I never actively gave up but which just drifted out of my life, somehow. For example: I don't run marathons any more In fact, I don't compete in any road races. I used to. For about ten years, between the ages of 35 and 45, I pounded the pavements regularly, training and competing. I'd do about ten events a year, mostly half-marathons and triathlons, with the occasional marathon thrown in for good measure. I wasn't good, of course. My personal goal was

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: CAN DAVID CAMERON  (picture of horse here) REDEFINE THE TORY PAPTY (sic) AND POINT THE WAY TO A NEW KIND OF AMERICAN CONSERVATISM? 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 cu

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 altoge

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.