Saturday, February 28, 2015

Muttley, do something!

It apparently takes many months from sending a letter of enquiry to the authorities who are responsibly for our safety and security, and receiving any form of reply.

I found myself speculating on what might happen if an aerial attack were repulsed with a similar sense of urgency.

There goes the siren that warns of the air raid.
Just time to drink one more thimble of tea.
Lean back and press on the little white button,
Shout for the teaboy, “Bring chai now for me!”

We have a squadron or two of Mirages
Recently bought at colossal expense:
These will protect our small piece of the sandpit;
Nothing’s too much for our own self-defence.

Running, scrambling, flying
Rolling, turning, diving. Not this afternoon.
Running, scrambling, flying
Rolling, turning, diving…

Not at weekends, afternoons, early hours,
Nor summer months, Ramadan, happy hour...


Friday, February 20, 2015


One of my dear friends CJ has had some very bad news. It turns out that she has a ghastly brain tumour. Following surgery to remove it and a post-operative infection, the MRI scan has revealed more tumours deep in her brain that even the might of 21st century medicine can't currently get at.

As a token of support, she and her husband Jim have asked that as many people as possible fold origami cranes, take pictures, post them on the internet, and tag them #cranesforcj Post them in my comments if you like, and I'll forward the links.

CJ has long been a fan of origami in general and cranes in particular. So if you, dear reader, are willing and able, please fold a crane.

There's an old Japanese tradition that folding 1000 cranes will make a wish come true.

Goodbye, Chris.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy Hallmark Holiday

That was a busy weekend. First, I had to explain to my employers that I had a certain need to be visiting Beloved Wife in Dubai for Valentine's Day. Then I had to persuade the same employer of the need for me to have my passport in hand prior to my booking air tickets.

So it was on Wednesday that I finally received my passport complete with Iqama, or "Residence Permit", and my ID card. Despite having had to be fingerprinted - twice so far - the authorities have given me the same ID number as last time and the time before that. I don't suppose either my fingerprints or blood group have changed much since 1996. Doesn't hurt to check, I suppose.

Buying an air ticket was another simple task fraught with unnecessary difficulties. Fly Dubai had sent me emails advertising special offers, but their website fell over every time I tried to book. Qatar Airways had nothing for the return flight except at obscene expense. I'm not paying QAR 1200 one way for a 45 minute flight in cattle class. Eventually I ended up with cheapskate Air Arabia via Sharjah instead of Dubai. Fine. The only problem was the screaming brat at check-in who ended up being King of the Seat-Kickers right behind me. I gritted my teeth, put in my earbuds, and shutted the fcek up.

I spent Friday morning in the dust of a desert rally. About 90  knobbly-tyred motorbikes went past at speed over two hours, and my job as one of the many marshals was to keep track of when each and every bike went through my control, and to call into Base any who missed the gate. This was Round 5 of 6, but I can't be at the final round of the Emirates Desert Championship because of the Scottish Play.

I took Beloved Wife to the pictures that afternoon, and we were surprisingly entertained by "Kingsman." Knowing nothing about the film, we didn't know what to expect, but were treated to two hours of fun being poked at James Bond and Jason Bourne, with a hint of The Avengers (Steed, Purdey, Kinky Boots, etc., and not Marvel). See "Kingsman" if you enjoyed "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz", and be prepared for violence, gore, and copious use of Adult Language. Samuel L. Jackson does not disappoint in this area.

Following a further Valentine treat over at TFI Friday's, Beloved Wife and I returned home in good time for wine o'clock.

I'd promised myself a motorbike ride on Saturday, and to this end, on Friday afternoon I'd reinstalled the battery and fired up the Black Beast. First stab of the starter. Although I had set an early alarm for Saturday morning, when it rang I merely found the excuse of a nearly-flat phone battery to give myself an extra hour in bed.

My leathers not only still fit, but are in fact now comfortably loose around my midriff as well as baggy in the arse. The latter is a design feature to make sitting on a motorbike actually comfortable. My reprofiled seat is still a success. I covered some 400km on Saturday morning, seeking out known bendy roads over towards the eastern UAE and I only actually stopped and put a hoof down when refuelling. If you saw a streak of black lightning whizz past you at near-relativistic speed, it might have been me. If you clocked the registration plate, it certainly was someone else.

The therapeutic benefits of going for a good thrash cannot be underestimated, except by non-motorcyclists, who don't understand.

Beloved Wife wished me a Happy Hallmark with a full English, and I went out afterwards, removed the battery and mothballed the bike again. I suspect that it needs new brake pads, for which I've been quotes a rather alarming QAR778, but it's due a service soon. That will have to wait until I'm not whizzing in from Doha about one weekend in eight.

To finish the weekend, we ran an errand up to Barracuda and I got out of the car at Sharjah airport for my 1830 flight.

I'm now back to bikeless, wifeless, catless Doha. My life is shortly to be taken over by the Bard of Avon; I'll not be able to get away any weekends until the end of March. Beloved Wife says she'll come to see the play, so there is some variety on the horizon to break up the soul-destroying cycle of work/rehearse/eat/sleep that epitomises my life.


Monday, February 02, 2015


It’s about this time of year that Facebook is peppered with pictures of motorcycles parked in garages and prevented from going outside by snow and ice. Parked Motorcycle Syndrome. I fully sympathise, but spare a thought for a Goat who can’t ride his own bike when the weather is perfect, because it’s 400km away.

Yes, it’s motorcycle season in Arabia: that glorious period between October and April when dry weather is almost guaranteed, and daytime temperatures are in the twenties Celsius. So why am I not riding?

Because Qatar.

Having landed a job last September, only now in February am I about to obtain my iqama – Residence Permit – without which it’s impossible to have a cheque account, purchase liquor or pork, or own a motor vehicle. I’ve been driving a rented car because there’s no functional public transportation system in Doha. I do look forward to the Metro, but this currently consists of several large holes in the ground where roads used to be and temporary traffic barriers to redirect traffic around the holes. The Karwa taxi service is a semi-functional lottery, whereby it’s easy to get a taxi from a shopping mall, but you’ll wait until the heat-death of the universe before you can hail a taxi in the industrial area.

I was last on two wheels in October, since when I have removed the bike’s battery and the machine languishes in chains in Dubai. A sad situation indeed.

Once I have my Qatar residence, options become available, at least in theory.
  • Obtain a Saudi transit visa, fly back to Dubai, and ride the bike overland to Qatar. Previous attempts to do this sort of thing have ended because I wasn’t resident in both the UAE and Qatar. The fatuous rule about not being allowed to import a vehicle that’s more than five years old will not apply because it isn’t an import. The bike would still be registered in Dubai. In principle this must be possible; I see vehicles in Qatar that are registered in Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, and KSA. I don’t see why I can’t drive from Dubai to Doha in the same way as I can drive to Muscat (without a Sultanate of Oman residence), but this is ‘unbossible’ for the Saudi authorities to comprehend, it seems. Or else it’s my careless choice of passport.
  • Do exactly the same thing as described above, but do it with my Terios. Here is the sensible ‘head’ option, as it would save close to QAR4000 a month on car rental, I’d have a 4x4, and when time comes to demobilise and go back to Dubai I could fling all my stuff in the back of the car and drive it. The fundamental disadvantage of this option is that it doesn’t solve my PMS.
  • Buy a bike. Continue to rent a car, but be self-indulgent in the Department of Large Motorbike. Here is the ‘heart’ option that would cost a fortune. I’d lose my shirt when demobilising from Qatar and selling this putative bike, or I could export it to UAE which would entail expense and heartache (as it did last time, in 2012) and I’d end up with a surfeit of motorcycles.
The bike season will go phut in mid April. Hardy souls such as I usually continue to ride during the summer months, but pleasure rides tend to be nocturnal. In other words, there seems little point in going to the time, effort, and expense of getting a motorbike into or in Qatar for the extremely limited chance I’ll have to ride it. In practice, what seems most likely, and certainly most sensibly, is that I don’t get to ride a motorbike of any flavour except on occasional weekends visiting Beloved Wife in Dubai.

The option of selling my Kawasaki and looking into buying a bike once I know where I’m going to be long term doesn’t make economic sense given my current knowledge of where I’ll be after April. Or after August. Or at the end of 2015... I fundamentally don’t know how long I’m going to be in Qatar, and have even less of a clue as to where I’ll end up next. As the bike is over eight years old it’d almost certainly produce less than AED20k, and a new replacement is now the thick end of AED80k. All for a bike that to me is in perfect order and ready to ride. A used Kawasaki 1400GTR? In the UAE? I think I already own it.

What to do? I work six days a week most weeks except when I’m visiting Dubai, so there’s precious little time to get on a bike anyway. Last time I lived in Doha I used the traffic as an excuse to commute by motorcycle. This time I choose to live literally over the road from the office so the bike would get used only for social events and road trips across a country smaller than Connecticut. I guess that I can simply have motorcycle fantasies until my work in Qatar is done, try not to go insane, and hope that my next job won’t leave me in a semi-permanent state of ‘so near and yet so far.’



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