Friday, January 02, 2009

Hogmanay

Christmas was a modest, quiet affair at the Crumbling Villa. Just the two of us, with Yours Truly handling the dinner while Beloved Wife discharged her contractual obligations by working until mid afternoon. We opened presents and then ate, before settling down to the traditional post-Christmas bloat in front of the telly. One of the gifts I received was the extremely practical flag - hand embroidered appliqué, no less - for attaching to the Goatmobile when desert driving. Other stuff included a book on how to deal with an architect and a “Teach Yourself Greek” computer program suite. As we’re heading down the self-build route for a house in Cyprus, these will be most welcome. You can tell if the software is effective if blogs start appearing by possibly some variant of Ο Τράγος Γκρινιάρης.

The Goat and his Beloved Wife decided weeks ago that seeing in the New Year would certainly not involve expensive tickets to a noisy bar or nightclub. Notwithstanding the dubious allure of ‘free selected beverages all night’ or a ‘glass of bubbly at midnight’, there are many more satisfactory ways to celebrate the annual December to January rollover.

We decided to go camping. The Yellow Box of Doom and his co-pilot would be joining us, as would various diving buddies, work associates and friends of friends. The guest list, including the ‘probably’ and ‘maybe’ brigades started to become long. At the actual event, it’d dwindled down to four cars: the Goatmobile, the YBOD, Louise with toddler offspring and two friends and, joining us after dark because he had to work until late, Louise’s hubby.

As it turned out, all of Dubai’s New Year celebrations were reported cancelled in the 31st December newspapers. To show solidarity, we’re told. I imagine a lot of very upset people. Not just the punters with their now worthless admission tickets, but the events organisers whose venues would spend all night impersonating an English seaside resort on a wet winter Wednesday. Quite how cancelling all New Year revelling in Dubai serves to benefit Palestine’s stand against the Zionist menace seems unclear...

I’d previously located a spot that would be easy 4x4 access for inexperienced drivers to negotiate in the dark. It was off the E77 near The Tiger Woods sandpit golf course and far enough out of town to avoid light pollution and traffic roar. Co-pilot brought along a couple of packs of Cyalume glow sticks. The idea was that the route to the camp site would be signposted with these to augment the sketch map and directions. In the event, only one vehicle would be arriving late, so I simply drove back to the road and escorted Colin to the camp site.

The Box o’Doom is now proudly adorned with a roof tent. [SMUGMODE] No sand in the bed for that couple, we were repeatedly assured. [/SMUGMODE] I’ve only recently come away from the Desert Challenge, so can unpack and erect my dome tent, pneumatic mattress et al in not very much time at all. This leaves more time for the serious business of Hogmanay: the beverages. Meanwhile Louise’s team struggled with an enormous double dome Pleasure Palace with entry hall, separate majlis and snooker room, which would have blotted out the sun had this not already retreated below the western horizon.

With fire pit dug, tiki torches lit and barbecue poised for sacrifice of meat products, I realised that we were actually closer to the road than I’d previously imagined. We could just see the street lights and could hear the constant low rumble of heavy trucks. Nevertheless, suggestions that we relocate further into the desert were met with howls of derision and anguish.

As the crescent moon and Venus both set, we’d have an excellent view of the canopy of stars. But alas, this was not to be. The stars vanished, as did the street lights. Fog had rolled in making visibility probably twenty metres or less. I’ve had dives with better viz. And it didn't arrive on little cat feet either. This sort of fog stomped in wearing wellies: the damp, cloying, soggy, wet stuff of Charles Dickens or Sherlock Holmes, leaving the cars, tents and camping gear all dripping with water. We huddled closer to the campfire, ate our barbecued food, drank, and chatted until midnight. Alcohol-induced wit, jokes and confessions whiled away the damp couple of hours until midnight.

Immediately after the Witching Hour, despite the crescent moon having set some hours previously, a display of full moons inexplicably occurred. There are positively no photos of that rather debauched spectacle.

My al cheabo tent was more or less waterproof. I suspect the little dampness within may have been condensation. Bearing in mind it was bought yonks ago at an Ace Hardware sale, I still think it represents excellent value. I would not attempt to use the same tent in a UK environment; not even in August. That said, with mattress and feather quilt and pillows, Beloved Wife and I had a comfortable and warm night, only occasionally punctuated by my phone bleating every time a new text message arrived.

What a splendid start to 2009! Bright, sunny and warm. No trace remained of last night’s fog apart from dew on all surfaces. All the happy and/or hungover campers assembled and fired up their gas stoves for a monstrous fry-up predominantly comprising haraaminal washed down with steaming mugs of tea, coffee or chocolate. During breakfast we were visited by an enormous herd of camels, which fascinated the toddler. When you’re two, camels must appear enormous; not that this dissuaded him from chasing them. By the time breakfast was complete the sun had pretty much dried the tents, so these could be struck and packed. We swept the campsite for trash to bag and remove, before making biodegradable tracks back to the highway and splitting up to go home.

To our annoyance it turns out that our broadband internet connection has failed. Surfing, blogging and Amazon will be on Ye Olde Dialle-Uppe until we carry out our New Year Resolution and get Itisalot to restore a decent connection. Hope springs eternal.

]}:-{>

3 comments:

alexander... said...

We, too, camped.

Forced smiles, set menus, 'jollity' for the same price as 6 bottles of Bolly?

We took the Bolly. And a hookin' great ice box, too...

J. Edward Tremlett said...

I have satellite photos of the moons. They're on NASA's mainframe as we speak. Dinner at Peppercrab may make them go away.

Happy new year to you and your wonderful lady, sir!

Keefieboy said...

Tremletts, Happy New Year!

And Goat, beaut flag. Perhaps now you have it, you can declare Crumbling Villa an independent country.

 

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