Archive for the ‘Personal Bloggers’ Category

The Dead Sea Hotel

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

I’ve gone and done the book thing again.I finished my fifth serious novel, Birdkill, in February 2016 and that was lovely. I messed around for a while doing nothing in particular and then around May or June I started playing with a scheme that had first occurred to me back in November 2014, when I was in Cairo for a conference on the future of publishing, which took place at the Townhouse Cairo. The Goethe Institut was kind enough to fund my trip and stay and they put me up at the Windsor Hotel. To call this a fascinating place was to completely understate things. It hadn’t been touched since the British had left, back when it was used as the officer’s club. It was a gift, really.Krikor Manoukian is the proprietor of the run-down Dead Sea Hotel. His beloved wife Lucine is dead, his daughter Araksi is in love and Manoukian is in debt up to his eyeballs. The last thing he needs is a dead Englishman but that’s just what he’s got. Worse, the man turns out to have been a spy who has left a valise in the hotel safe. When guests start arriving and Manoukian’s hotel fills up for the first time in years, he’s delighted: less so when they all embark on a murderous hunt for the valise. And then the devil checks in…The idea of an Armenian running a hotel just as insanely old fashioned and decrepit as the Windsor but set in Amman, Jordan struck me as rather fun, but about 10,000 words in I stopped and put it away. I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore and I had many better things to do. Two years later, I blew the cobwebs off it and started work on it again. I wasn’t sure if it was genius or nuts, which is always a good sign. I sent off the first scrap to writer pals Annabel and Rachel. What did they think? They liked it. So I set to and got stuck back in. That was at the start of Ramadan. Now it’s Eid, four weeks later, and I’m done. The story took over my life, the characters refused to lie down and be quiet, I was caught in manic bouts of writing; I thought about nothing else. My waking moments were little revelations, a new scene here, a quirk there.And now it’s all edited. 75,000 words of gibbering insanity and a foray into magical realism, a change of direction which you would probably understand if you had read Birdkill. I am very happy indeed with the end result which almost certainly means it’s unreadable, unsaleable and unlovable. Remember, I’m the bloke that thought Space (First Amazon review: ‘this book is not funny’) was funny.It’s with beta readers. It’s going to a few agents. And then, as usual, it’ll get self published.

British Expat Detained In Dubai (Well, Shacked Up In Sharjah, Really)

Posted on the April 29th, 2018 under Personal Bloggers by

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)The car was down at Al Futtaim, going through the process of leaching several thousand dirhams from my bank account, so I had a bit of time yesterday to take on a Quora question asking about the ‘Dark Side’ of Dubai. I occasionally give in to temptation these days and take a few minutes to correct the bias and willful ignorance you find in people’s attitudes towards ‘here’. I know, I know, it’s bad for me and I shouldn’t, but just one now and then couldn’t harm. I can control it. I’ll know when it gets out of hand, trust me.Anyway, yesterday’s post reminded me of the time I was nicked in Sharjah. It’s not quite ‘Brit Expat Jailed in Dubai’, but it’ll have to do.It was back in the early ’90s and it had been raining. A lot. So much so that mate Matt and myself went out for a Friday mooch around with our cameras and snapped the wildly unusual spectacle of cars sloshing through huge puddles anything up to a couple of feet deep. This was prior to the great Sharjah Drainage Project and we are really talking pretty impressive puddles or, as Dubai’s RTA likes to call them on its traffic information screens, water ponds. I mean roundabouts where you can’t see the round to about. (Charmingly, BTW, all roundabouts in Sharjah are called squares. Who knew?)Out of the mosque behind us emerges a small fat man with big fat beard, wearing a Sharjah police uniform, who promptly nicks us for ‘taking photo of lady’. I kid you not. Within twenty minutes we find ourselves down the cop shop facing charges of photographing ladies. It very quickly started to look very serious as our man, let’s call him Abdulla, runs us in and proceeds to start arrangements to charge us. His colleagues clearly think Abdulla’s taking things a bit far and there’s quite a lot of joshing and good-natured beard pulling going on in Arabic. Meanwhile,  Matt and I are starting to realise this could go very, very pear shaped indeed and we are becoming sore nervous.Now I have to explain something. In the old days, cameras used stuff called ‘film’. This is a strip of coated plastic which is exposed to light by a thing called a shutter. Each time you take a photo, a square of plastic is exposed and then you wind it on so that a fresh square is ready to expose. When you’ve done this 36 times, you unload the canister of film from the camera and take it to a shop and pay money to develop it, which is a chemical process that makes prints of your photographs.Seriously.So eventually I break into the excited chatter and address myself to Abdulla’s colleagues and say, basically, ‘Look, he’s gone too far. We were just taking photos of the puddles. But I can sort this easily. Take my film from my camera and develop it. If you find one lady, fine you can arrest us and charge us and throw away the key and everything. But if there is no lady in photos, Abdulla here pays for the cost of developing the film.’This is generally considered to be a beezer scheme and therefore adopted by all present with a great deal of laughter except Abdulla, who fights a brave rearguard action in the face of logic but eventually – with incredibly bad grace – gives in to the prevailing sentiment. We have to sign a chit affirming that we will never again go to the Al Faya area of Sharjah and photograph the ladies. I was all for protesting this clear injustice but a very hard kick on the shin from Matt cured me of the temptation. We signed and fled.I can’t remember ever encountering a situation here that can’t be managed with a little grace and humour – I have found wit and wisdom are greatly prized (mostly by observing others, clearly). And, generally, I have found the police are more interested in arbitration and settling things without filing cases. They have a healthy aversion to paperwork. And every time I see a ‘Brit Arrested in Dubai for Playing Tiddlywinks’ I look beyond the headline and 99% of the time, I get a ‘hang on, it’s not that simple. There’s something missing from this here story’ feeling.Recently, they’ve got to the point where even the comments on the Daily Mail have started to question the ‘man banged up for eating marshmallow’ stories. And the comments on the Daily Mail, as eny fule no, are usually a litany of nail ’em up, a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay etc etc. (The world’s most popular news website, racking up over 250 million monthly views, the DM is actually considered to be too unreliable a source to be cited as a reference on Wikipedia – didja know that?)The problem is not that these stories are all so easily taken in and amplified by media with vast bias and little or no ‘journalism’. It’s that they potentially cheapen and obfuscate real miscarriages of justice.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

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

I can justify that headline. A man called Books reserves his, Books’, books of books. There.Meanwhile, adding to yesterdays frankly amazing news about Birdkill going on promo and being FREE yes FREE for the next four days (it was five days but you wasted a day dawdling), I can now reveal that A Decent Bomber is ALSO FREE for the next five days.Get Birdkill FREE here.Get A Decent Bomber FREE here.And if that weren’t already enough, Beirut – An Explosive Thriller is ALREADY permafree. So now you’re looking at getting THREE of my novels for nothing.AND now Shemlan – A Deadly Tragedy is on promo for £0.99 with a deal through free/bargain books promo website manybooks.net!I mean, gosh, it’s like a bargain book basement around here!Let your friends know. Hell, let your enemies know. Here be free books aplenty!

Birdkill And Book Promo MADNESS

Posted on the April 27th, 2018 under Personal Bloggers by

Of all the reviews on Amazon for my books, my favourite of the lot is for Birdkill: “This is a cynical negative, depressing book. Everyone decent died. I’m sorry I read it.”Well, it’s been a very long while indeed since I did anything about promoting books around here. So I might as well make up for it with a mad raft of book promotions all taking place at the same time.Why?Well, no particular reason other than I’ve neglected things over the past couple of years. Beirut – An Explosive Thriller is ‘permafree’, which is driving a steady wee trickle of sales of the other books and generating the, very occasional, odd review or so on Amazon. These are generally very positive, occasionally sorta negative but, overall, customers have been provided with satisfaction. But it’s generally a wee bit quiet and I’d like it to heat up a tad. SO…For the next five days, psychological thriller Birdkill is a FREE ebook, saving you the trouble of parting with $4.99, the usual asking price.You can get Birdkill FREE by clicking here!Birdkill is about a teacher, Robyn Shaw, who suffered a massive trauma while she was at a school in Lebanon, in a town up in the mountains called Zahlé – it’s a very lovely town, home to – among many other things, the very lovely wines of the Chateau Ksara.Robyn’s mind has shut down and she remembers nothing of the events at Zahlé, but she nearly died up there and goes through extensive physical and psychological rehabilitation in the UK. Back on the road to recovery, she gets a job teaching at a research institute for exceptionally talented children and it’s there things start to go pear-shaped and Robyn’s mind appears to start unravelling.She realises she’s losing her sanity and in desperation calls journalist friend Mariam for help. Mariam has to rush to uncover the hidden secrets in Robyn’s horrific past before her friend loses her mind.“McNabb’s story of weaponized children and disastrous drug trials astounds and horrifies..”“Has a visceral effect on you after having read it, the imagery is so vivid and real.”That sort of thing from the reviewers, thank you very much. So why wouldn’t you a) download it FREE NOW for your own delight and b) TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT IT!!!You might have guessed b) is the payoff line. Do it now before you forget, there’s a good thing. Tell them all before it’s too late…ithankyou

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.’