Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Qatar

When I last lived in Qatar, the annual public holiday was 3rd September: Qatar Independence Day, celebrating becoming an independent sovereign state in 1971. Nowadays that celebration has been replaced by 18th December: Qatar National Day, which celebrates the creation of the State of Qatar in 1878.

So this weekend is a long weekend. Sunday 18th is a public holiday. For the past couple of weeks, maroon and white flags have been appearing all over town, all over buildings, fences and even cars. Even the English fashion for miniature flags on plastic poles cranked into car windows has been adopted, although not with the cross of St George, obviously.

Anticipating craziness, I think I'll be avoiding the town centre and the Corniche. On a drive up to a meeting last Thursday, I noticed public seating, refreshment marquees and public-address systems being erected all along the Corniche. The piles of temporary barriers, inevitably resplendent in the Qatari flag, suggest that the road's going to be closed for the celebrations. There will surely be traffic chaos.

This year there's apparently an edict that cars shall not be decorated. The ruling has been roundly ignored. Yesterday I saw several Land Cruisers and Cayennes covered completely in images of the flag, national emblem, and the royal family. By completely, I don't mean the chassis (probably), but I do include all the windows. One of these vehicles was parked on the roadside near the TV station, and the driver was explaining himself to a police officer.

Imagine a similar thing in the UK: Fervent patriot bedecks his British car in red and white and then gets busted by a uniformed policeman of Sudanese origin because it's impossible to see clearly out of any of the car windows. Outraged letters to the Daily Mail ensue.

There are going to be exuberant celebrations, I'm sure. I hope that everyone has a great time and, in the inevitable motorised celebrations, that nobody gets hurt.

Have fun, everyone!


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Forgive me; I was drunk

In 2011 England, it’s not actually OK to get pissed up and then attack someone in the street, but the offence is a lesser one that being rude on a tram.

Four Somali Muslim women get drunk and repeatedly kick someone in the head. The judge decrees that shouting, “kill the white slag” is insufficient evidence to prove that the attack was racially motivated. The attackers get six months suspended and community service for actual bodily harm.

The lenient sentence is because these Muslims are forbidden by their religion from boozing, and were thus not used to alcohol.

Now I may be wrong, but if I committed a violent offence while drunk, wouldn’t my punishment be increased? Claiming that “I was in my cups, m’lud. I didn’t know what I was doing” isn’t likely to help my case. Yet here it reduced a possible five-year sentence for ABH to a non-custodial one.

Meanwhile, the alleged perpetrator of a foul-mouthed racist rant on public transport gets remanded in custody until January. She gets to spend Christmas in the slammer for an allegedly racist verbal attack. No matter how obscene the language and sentiments in the YouTube video may be, nobody was actually physically harmed, were they?

I do not care for street violence I have a particular hatred of drunken street violence, having been a victim. And of course, I only get what the papers choose to print rather than the full court transcripts. However, There must surely be something wrong with a legal system that allows one criminal gang to walk free after kicking someone in the head, yet incarcerates another for a month without trial for a verbal assault.

Daily Telegraph article
Another Daily Telegraph article
Something from This Is Croydon Today


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Dumb as a box

Loyalty to a bank or, specifically to this post, a credit card company, is evidently misplaced. I’ve had a Barclaycard for over thirty years, and I choose to maintain the account because it’s useful to buy stuff from organisations who choose to regard Middle East credit cards as somehow dodgy and untrustworthy.

What is also useful is for Barclaycard to have my correct and up-to-date postal address. How else is Barclaycard to send me a new card, advise me of my PIN, and mail my statements of account?

So I logged on and attempted to change my address. First problem: No UK postcode, so I had to phone Barclaycard in the UK and change my contact details over the phone. Everything went well, right up to the point where I went to change my address. According to the call centre drone in Mumbai, a PO Box is no longer an acceptable address. And no, I could not now revert to my previous address (a PO Box in Dubai that worked just fine up to yesterday). PhonePeon™ told me that I would have to provide a physical mailing address. I am, I was told, the first and only time this problem has ever occurred. No UK citizen has ever before moved to Qatar and tried to maintain he UK Barclaycard account.

This is demonstrable nonsense: something I told PhonePeon in no uncertain terms. Anyone who has any awareness of the Middle East will quickly appreciate that normal post is ONLY delivered to a PO Box. There are no mail deliveries except to a PO Box.

Perhaps Barclaycard could send me my stuff by courier? No, that is also not possible. It has to go to a mailing address. Thank you PhonePeon. You’re so co-operative.

So I have temporarily resolved the issue. Despite my having seen forty-something summers, my Barclaycard correspondence is now being mailed to the UK care of my mummy, for Chrissakes. And the greatest irony of them all? In order to write to the company that refuses to accept a PO Box as a valid address, here is where I should write:

Barclaycard Customer Relations Department
PO BOX 9131
51 Saffron Way
LE18 9DE

Edited on 24th January 2012 to add that when I checked my Barclaycard accounts on line, I discovered that credit has been added to my account for "Telephone and Mail/Courier charges", plus an extra for "Goodwill". I imagine that the explanatory letter will have been sent c/o Nanny Goat, but thank you Barclaycard for taking my complaint seriously.


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