Archive for the ‘Personal Bloggers’ Category

Madam Ghost Village Pano

Posted on the April 16th, 2018 under Personal Bloggers by

Google being brilliant or scary, you call it. If you have an Android mobile and you’re online, then take a number of snaps by rotating yourself, Google will generally recognise it’s a panorama, stitch it and send it back to you. The shot above was from our weekend fossicking around Madam’s ‘Ghost Village’…They did this stunner when we were a-hiking up in the Mourne Mountains a few weeks back. If you think about it, the processing power to analyse the volume of images uploaded to every Android mobile in the world and determine which ones would make a pano is alone a stunning thing…Google’s like Kate Bush’s yoyo that glowed in the dark… what makes them special makes them dangerous…https://youtu.be/pllRW9wETzwThat’s all folks…

Ghosts In The Desert? Madam!

Posted on the April 14th, 2018 under Personal Bloggers by

Blog posts are like London buses or policemen. You don’t see one for two months and when whoosh along come thousands of the swine.I found myself down the usual wormhole in the Internet the other day and discovered an odd location in a map when I was looking for something else entirely. It caught my eye as I scanned the area and I zoomed in again to check the distinct impression of a strange label flickering on the map.I’d never seen it before and it was oddly fascinating.Sure enough, it was there: ‘Ghost town’.I checked it on Google Maps, where it was labelled ‘Madam old town’. We went there – to Madam old town or Madam ghost town, depending on which source you believe – today.Just south of Madam, (I still can’t say that without thinking about Frankie Howerd and his ‘Ooh, madam!’) you turn right off the road and head into the sands. And there you’ll find this:It’s all protected by a sort of berm of sand humped up at the village entrance, you have to take something of a leap of faith and just drive up over it. The sand’s pretty soft, what with so little rain this winter.What is it? Why’s it there? Was it really Madam before the road brought strip development to this little inhabited area of Sharjah made famous only because it was on the road to Hatta, now blocked to all but Omanis, Emiratis and permit holders? It looks like corpo housing. The sand’s reclaimed it in the main. There are neon light fittings but no sign of power or other infrastructure.All in all very odd. A little mystery…WooOOooo!

Sorry

Posted on the April 11th, 2018 under Personal Bloggers by

Look, I’ve been busy. It’s been crazy busy with the day job, I got loads of admin work for things ‘back home’ and we just spent a week in Northern Ireland for Easter.You ever wanna take a hike somewhere beautiful? Try the Mourne Mountains…Anyway. That’s it. I’ve been busy. I’m sort of writing, but taking my sweet time. I’m not really taking much notice of ‘Dubai life’ beyond work. I’m not very interesting beyond perhaps my abiding loathing for the weevils who staff Budget Ireland and my deep rooted hatred of Skoda Rapids.Nothing to see here, folks. Move on…

Meeting Mr Fox

Posted on the February 28th, 2018 under Personal Bloggers by

Arabian Red Fox picture taken in Al Sukhnah, J...Arabian Red Fox picture taken in Al Sukhnah, Jordan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)I wrote this simply ages ago for Jordanian website/writer’s collective Project Pen, but the site’s down nowadays. So I’m putting it up here, just so’s I can link to it when I want to and stuff. Enjoy!Meeting Mr Fox The shell that almost killed them all came with no warning, sounded no different to the thousands of others scudding around the blue summer skies like little birds. Baba was reading a newspaper, his shirt sleeves rolled up. Ahmed was sitting under the wooden kitchen table, playing. The shell exploded and suddenly Ahmed wasn’t under the table anymore. There was a lot of dust and smoke. Baba looked asleep, but mother was holding her head in her hands and crying. Ahmed wanted to go to her but his legs wouldn’t work. Baba had eventually woken up and Ahmed had walked with a limp ever since.After the shell, they had a big piece of orange plastic sheeting over the hole in the wall. It stretched from the floor to the roof. Now summer had fled and the winter had come, it billowed and flapped in the wind and let the cold in. Finding wood for the fire had become very difficult. The winter took everyone by surprise. This proved, Ahmed’s father growled as he hunched over the mean fire in their damaged kitchen, they were all donkeys. Winter always came, this year was no different. Except this year they were distracted as the fighting became worse, the houses shaking with relentless concussions. Ahmed didn’t go to school anymore, so he was at home when the soldiers came.His mother was making bread, the bakery having been shut by an explosion that took away ovens and bakers alike in a single savage wrench. Baba had salvaged a sack of flour from the ruins before the flames took hold and the stock room collapsed on the heads of some thirty men trying to do the same. They ate bread every Friday to try and make the flour last. Baba was out looking for fuel and food. Foraging, his mother called it. Jamal said it was called looting, like taking the flour, but everyone had to do it because there were no shops. And anyway, nobody had money.The soldiers shouted a lot and one of them punched Ahmed so stars came. His mother begged them but they didn’t listen to her. She cried as they held her arms and pushed her onto the floor. She screamed when they pulled at her clothes until one of them hit her too and she was quiet.Ahmed ran and ran through the streets, his ankles twisting on the rubble strewn on the pock-marked ground. He called out for his baba but nobody replied. There was fighting but Ahmed didn’t care about the bullets and they seemed not to care about him, either. None of them plucked at his skin. They buzzed, whistled and spattered on stone. They called out to him. But he didn’t want them, he wanted baba to come and stop the soldiers hurting ummi.He left the city behind as he tired and stopped running. He walked now, no longer certain of where he was going or why, but impelled by some instinct to get away from buildings and the soldiers and the vague idea that perhaps he would walk and walk until he found his baba. Perhaps God would help him. He started mumbling God’s names, just in case he was listening. He had learned ten of them when school had stopped.There were soldiers on the road. Ahmed was tired and scared. His legs hurt. He bit his lip when he saw them and slipped off into the woodland. The light was fading and it started to snow. There was a big tree that hadn’t lost its leaves and the patch of ground around it was clear of snow. Ahmed sat down on the damp ground, shivering. He pulled up his knees and wrapped his arms around them, listening for the soldiers in case they had seen him. The woodland grew darker. The silence ached. Occasionally there would be a creak. There were no shells or machine gun fire here. Ahmed could hear his teeth chattering, the shivering convulsions making his weary body ache. The snowflakes became bigger.Light-headed with exhaustion and cold, Ahmed tilted his head to catch a faint scratching sound. He noticed a hole in the ground. The scratching was coming from the hole. Something glittered in the darkness of the opening. Eyes. A head emerged, red fur and a snout with a black nose.‘Good evening,’ said the fox in fuzha, the formal Arabic like they had taught at school.Ahmed closed his eyes and shook his head as if it would make the talking fox go away, but it was still there when he opened them.‘You’re not a very polite little boy,’ the fox pointed out as he came out of his set and padded over to Ahmed. He sat down a few feet away and cocked his head.‘I’m sorry,’ Ahmed tried to remain calm. ‘I’ve just never met a talking dog before.’The fox sniffed. ‘I am not a dog,’ he said pointedly. ‘I am a fox.’‘Sorry,’ Ahmed mumbled.‘And don’t mumble. There’s nothing worse than people who mumble. It’s the height of rudeness.’Ahmed stopped shivering. He felt very calm. He fancied he saw the fox smiling, but he couldn’t be sure. The woodland was serene, the snowflakes calming and soft as they touched his cheek. ‘Where did you learn to talk?’The fox rubbed his snout with a forepaw. ‘What sort of question is that? Where did you learn to talk? Humans really do take the biscuit. You’re an arrogant bunch aren’t you? All superior, yet you’ll not find us animals killing each other with weapons like you do.’‘I don’t kill people. The soldiers kill people.’ ‘Same thing, child. It’s your species kills people. Whether they wear uniforms or not. They kill foxes, too, when they can. They kill for sport. I wonder you don’t get sick of killing. You don’t even do it properly, to eat. You just kill to kill. Nasty lot, really.’Ahmed wanted to cry. It seemed so unjust yet he didn’t have an argument against the wiser fox. ‘The soldiers do it. Not me.’‘You’re just a child. You’ll grow up to it. All those soldiers were children once. The men who came to the wood with spades were children once. Mind you, the chickens were worth the trouble. Delicious.’‘So why are you even talking to me if you hate humans so much?’‘You looked lonely.’ The fox shifted and flicked his tail. ‘Where are your parents?’‘In the city. I ran away from the soldiers. They were hurting ummi. My baba was out and they came.’‘Shouldn’t you go back? It’s cold out here and you look blue.’Ahmed nodded. The fox was right, yet he was too tired. He tried to move, but he was frozen to the spot. He felt frozen, too, like a chicken. They used to have a freezer in the house before the electricity went away. It had chickens in it. Ahmed’s eyes started to close, sleep overwhelming him. He moved to lie down and the fox came up to him.‘Here,’ the animal said, not unkindly. ‘You can have some of my heat. I have it to spare.’The warm little body snuggled against Ahmed’s chest. He smiled. The fox had an animal pungency, his fur was soft. Ahmed closed his eyes.Later on, the sky black and the moon casting shadows in the white woodland, the fox woke. He turned to the boy’s face and sniffed it. The warmth had left the still form. The fox licked the child’s soft cheek.After a while, he started to eat.

Leave And That…

Posted on the August 26th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Airbus A330-200 lands at London Heathrow Airport.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)So I haven’t posted in over a month. Sue me.We’ve been on leave.I hate flying, much as I love EK. A380s rock, the films were awful. Kindles rock more than A380s. Except in turbulence which we saw almost not at all. Heathrow sucks lemons.Drove to Wales to see me mum for a couple of days, she’s fine, thanks. Bit shaky. She’s over 90 now. Fierce independent lady. The office calls, can I come back early? No. I shipped our bikes from there over to Northern Ireland. Halfords think I’m a totes jackass. They’re all hardcore bike freaks, we have two bikes we love to ride when we’re home. I got a puncture a while back and took the bike into them. They’re all, like, can’t you fix your own punctures? And I’m ‘No.’ And then they’re, like, it’s a quick release wheel so you don’t have to bring the whole bike in. And I’m, ‘Sue me.’They boxed the bikes for me. They still think I’m a nutter, but now I’m another store’s problem. They’re happy about that.Back to London for a couple of days in a Premier Inn because the sister-in-law’s house (AKA Twickenham Central) is full of neeces. We like Premier Inns, actually. We got a great night’s sleep every night, which is their promise, after all.Photon checks into a hotel. Receptionist says, ‘No bags?’ Photon replies, ‘Nah, I’m travelling light.’Lovely week, Hampton Court, Thames Cruise, shit service at Pizza Express at the O2 (just drop the express, love, and you’re fine) and mad wannabe BBC 2 Children’s Presenters at Hamleys Regent Street. We reckoned these kids are freebasing to stay that hyper all day. They’re so over the top even the neeces think they’re a bit, well, mad. The office calls and asks if I can come back early. Still no.And then we’re on the open road to Salisbury for three idyllic nights at the Beckford Arms, a truly magnificent pub. These people offer you Bloody Mary for breakfast. They’re very likeable. We spend the days wandering castles and long walks. There’s a Catholic cemetery nearby, packed with little snippets of social history linked to the area’s immigrants. The barman at the Beckford convinces me to take black pepper in my Hendricks. Oh me, oh my, people. Black pepper and strawberries in Hendricks. This is the future.Heathrow, crappy BA and then Belfast. Meet up with the neeces again and do much neecing around. Business stuff, solicitors, banks and accountants. Oh, joy. We did a 5k Fun Run in Rathfriland. The bloody town’s on an enormous hill. The outward jog is downhill. It’s only when we turn the corner that the bleeding obvious finally hits our dull monkey brains. Ouch.Two men walk into a bar. Ouch Ouch.Drives up into the Mournes, Camogie practice, Mary Margaret’s pub and wandering along the seafront at Warrenpoint. The Green Pea Café and their insane BLT (Brioche eggy bread, smoked bacon and sundried tomatoes with rocket. Oh dear me) and then the Hotel at Hilltown – the Downshire Arms to you, mate – for Sarah’s birthday. Scallops, steak and dancing. The office calls. I get the message. We rearrange flights and hop to Heathrow, do a night in Twickenham Central and take the all-day flight the next day. I love EK, but that flight doesn’t suit us. Back in the office for Wednesday, wiped out but functioning.The weekend’s almost over and it’s all a vague memory now. A frenetic, lovely charge around the place doing things and seeing things and meeting people and laughing fit to bust, drinking stuff and eating stuff and driving around and just basically living it up.And now we’re back. You know, that sort of what are we doing here feeling mixed with the sense that we’re back home and that. Settling back down into things, taking a weekend drive around the place and getting back into the rhythm. I have my wallet back in my back pocket and have stopped obsessing about the car being nicked. I’m back on 24×7 broadband mobile access and not paying Vodaphone two bleeding quid a day for data.Life’s good…

Roger The Radar Rotter

Posted on the May 18th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Zoom and Bored(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Roger the Radar Rotter generally lurks around the Sharjah University City area. His favourite places are the roads around the AUS campus, the back road that tracks along the landfill from the logistics center to the roundabout by Sharjah English School and the Middle Road from the Mileiha Road up to the 311. Oh! And also on the stretch of Middle Road just beyond the 311 turnoff towards Sharjah City.He’s more Wile E. Coyote than most. He likes to hide his little portable radar behind a lamp post and then drive a few hundred yards up the road and lurk, no doubt giggling softly to himself and drooling, waiting for the flashes to go off.Knowing full well that we skittish victims can sniff he’s around when he parks up, he often hides the car. This means the wary are rewarded with glimpses of cars parked in odd places as more trusting souls trigger the cheery ‘pop’ of the radar followed by the inevitable ‘cherching’ of the Sharjah Police cash register.It’s an expensive game these days: they’ve just put the fines up. So why speed at all? You ask, in all sensibility.Well, the reason Roger has quite so much fun with his sneaky tricks is he likes to pick roads that have insane 60kph limits on them. The roads around the University are, for instance, long and straight and have two lanes. They are nowhere near any crossings or habitation, just long tarmac stretches running along outside the high campus walls. The UAE, very sensibly IMHO, has a ‘grace limit’ of 20kph above the actual speed limit, so you can travel a maximum 80kph on these roads. Nudge it just 1 kilo above it when Roger’s around and POW you’re toast, bub.The wee back road behind Sharjah English is a long straight line of blacktop running along a fence and surrounded by scrubland. The low speed limits make the drive interminably frustrating and the old speedometer does rather tend to sneak up a little. And then you spot, out of the corner of your eye, a glint of something out of place. Slow down, pass by regally and breathe a little sigh of relief as Roger sits in his hidden car, shaking his fists and snarling, ‘Damn you McNabb!’The other day I was driving thusly, overtaking a very slow lorry on the road behind SES. I had spotted Roger’s car on the hard shoulder ahead and was taking things easy, when I get some spotty Herbert in an FJ giving it socks on the flashers and horn behind me. With a resigned sigh I pulled in beyond the front of the lorry and moderated my speed.With satanic glee, I watched my tormentor speed past me, honouring me with a great display of shade thrown sideways as he hit the throttle to let me know one of us was a real man with a real right foot and the other a sissy rated by all and sundry as less than zero.Boom!Tisshhhh…I felt a little like Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock’s anti-hero whose sword feasts on souls and passes a little of the energy to its tragic albino* wielder.For I had given Roger the soul he craved but the benefit, my precioussss, was mine, all mine…*Apparently these days we’re supposed to say ‘person of albinism’ but frankly, my dear…

Roger The Radar Rotter

Posted on the May 18th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Zoom and Bored(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Roger the Radar Rotter generally lurks around the Sharjah University City area. His favourite places are the roads around the AUS campus, the back road that tracks along the landfill from the logistics center to the roundabout by Sharjah English School and the Middle Road from the Mileiha Road up to the 311. Oh! And also on the stretch of Middle Road just beyond the 311 turnoff towards Sharjah City.He’s more Wile E. Coyote than most. He likes to hide his little portable radar behind a lamp post and then drive a few hundred yards up the road and lurk, no doubt giggling softly to himself and drooling, waiting for the flashes to go off.Knowing full well that we skittish victims can sniff he’s around when he parks up, he often hides the car. This means the wary are rewarded with glimpses of cars parked in odd places as more trusting souls trigger the cheery ‘pop’ of the radar followed by the inevitable ‘cherching’ of the Sharjah Police cash register.It’s an expensive game these days: they’ve just put the fines up. So why speed at all? You ask, in all sensibility.Well, the reason Roger has quite so much fun with his sneaky tricks is he likes to pick roads that have insane 60kph limits on them. The roads around the University are, for instance, long and straight and have two lanes. They are nowhere near any crossings or habitation, just long tarmac stretches running along outside the high campus walls. The UAE, very sensibly IMHO, has a ‘grace limit’ of 20kph above the actual speed limit, so you can travel a maximum 80kph on these roads. Nudge it just 1 kilo above it when Roger’s around and POW you’re toast, bub.The wee back road behind Sharjah English is a long straight line of blacktop running along a fence and surrounded by scrubland. The low speed limits make the drive interminably frustrating and the old speedometer does rather tend to sneak up a little. And then you spot, out of the corner of your eye, a glint of something out of place. Slow down, pass by regally and breathe a little sigh of relief as Roger sits in his hidden car, shaking his fists and snarling, ‘Damn you McNabb!’The other day I was driving thusly, overtaking a very slow lorry on the road behind SES. I had spotted Roger’s car on the hard shoulder ahead and was taking things easy, when I get some spotty Herbert in an FJ giving it socks on the flashers and horn behind me. With a resigned sigh I pulled in beyond the front of the lorry and moderated my speed.With satanic glee, I watched my tormentor speed past me, honouring me with a great display of shade thrown sideways as he hit the throttle to let me know one of us was a real man with a real right foot and the other a sissy rated by all and sundry as less than zero.Boom!Tisshhhh…I felt a little like Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock’s anti-hero whose sword feasts on souls and passes a little of the energy to its tragic albino* wielder.For I had given Roger the soul he craved but the benefit, my precioussss, was mine, all mine…*Apparently these days we’re supposed to say ‘person of albinism’ but frankly, my dear…

Alba Car Care: Dubai’s Ultimate Car Detail Shop

Posted on the February 19th, 2016 under Personal Bloggers by

alba-car-careI wanted to get my car detailed for quite some time and, after randomly watching a small billboard of Alba Royal Car Care at Al Quoz Industrial Area 3, I decided to turn the wheels to that direction and try them out. From what I saw while entering the premises, they have a fairly large facility and a sizeable staff wearing a sharp-looking uniform. Proclaiming themselves as the “number 1 car detailing service in Dubai”, they had a nice and quick desk service.

I was given a small form to fill regarding the basic details and also asking for any special instructions I’d like to specify before they begin.  I found their car detailing process to be pretty meticulous and lengthy with the manager constantly briefing me about the specifics such as the use of pH-balanced soap and special microfiber towel while washing the exterior. The next step included careful detailing of dashboard, door panels, console, seat panels, headrests, rubber mats and cargo area. The windows, also, were given a “water-repellent” treatment and I was quite impressed with the shine. While the three guys were detailing the interior, I was shown the exclusive German waxes, cleansers, polishes and conditioners they would use for car polishing after a hand dry finish.  The stuff appeared to be quite expensive and of premium quality.

To sum it up, I was very happy with what I got for only 450 AED and particularly liked the wheel wax treatment which, like everything, lasted quite longer than I had expected. My car interior smelled fresh, pleasant and rejuvenated for various weeks. If you’re looking for a high-quality car detail package in Dubai at a highly economical price, visit Alba Royal Car Care. These guys also provide other services such as window tinting, car wrapping and dent & scratch removal.  Check ’em out and let us know what you think!

Al Nakba

Posted on the May 15th, 2015 under Personal Bloggers by

Nakba 1948 oldman and baby tentNakba 1948 oldman and baby tent (Photo credit: Wikipedia)She talked to the table, her voice low. ‘My father was born on a farm in Palestine in 1946, outside a village called Qaffin. It’s the farm we have today. My grandparents left during the troubles in 1948, what we call the Nakba, the disaster. You know this, right? The Nakba?’ I nodded. ‘When the Zionists threw my people from their land and declared Israel a state. They had a saying, you know, “A land without a people for a people without a land.” But it was a lie.’