Sunday, July 29, 2007

Suits you Sir

Broke free from my usual routine this evening and headed straight for the creek and got the abra to cheap suit land near the Sabkha Station, Deira. Among the array of outfitters in the Twin Towers (sic) Mohammed from Damascus sold me a AED 1,200, 100% lightweight wool suit made in Paris (apparently). It fits me, possibly too well, but as long as the gym where I normally go of an evening doesn’t make too much impact on my impossibly rakish physique, then I will look like 10,000 dirhams. The abra back had taken us alongside the Ruler’s Court and the adjoining souk where they have installed some creek side coloured lights. The effect, on an empty stomach, was decidedly hallucinatory. In then collected a cheap pair of shorts from a shop in Bur Dubai with the friendliest bunch of guys from the "computer state" in India…..they offered me pepsi too, but had to grab shwarma from the friendliest kebab seller in Dubai who stands on the Faheidi roundabout. He hasn’t been back to Kerrala in ten years, and is married with children. Started pressing his buttons and I thought for a minute he was going to cry….but these guys are made of harder stuff than western males….

I am currently preparing for a return trip to the Holy Land, this time spending most of the trip in Jiddah rounding up a few summer sojourners before returning to the capital for some obligatory pain. Actually I kind of like the capital, such a good party scene when you are in with the right crowd. Hope I can find a gym back there as I have just started a routine that will make me irresistible by Christmas. Providing I do the right degree of networking out in Saudi, then I will have an interesting report to offer up to the world audience that my company attracts.

Bar fly country blues

Recognising that the audience I enjoy here is a tad smaller, I think it is time to start a debate about American Stars n Bars as the greatest and yet, strangely, possibly one of the most ignored Neil Young albums (well apart from, justifiably, much of what he produced in the 80s). Aside from the penultimate track that everyone knows (Like a Hurricane), which still kicks ass, there is all the booze fuelled country rock, that tears up a storm on numbers like Saddle up the Palomino and Bite the Bullet, the sheer romantic joy of Hey Babe, and then one of the most affecting songs in the singer songwriter, declamatory, vein I have heard in a long, long while, Will To Love. Essentially this is Neil Young as a fish fighting against the odds to get upstream on an impossible quest for love, going half mad in the process, and knowing it and not caring. This and the inspired accompaniment provided by the band, including various sound effects, and the crack of the open fire against which this has been performed live (like much of the set I reckon) gets me every time. Oh, and there’s the ode to the greenstuff, Homegrown, and Star of Bethlehem, which is more the classic mid tempo acoustic Neil Young, and still a damn fine tune all the same. There, now I know this debate will run and run…..

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Another Day in Bur Dubai

Arrived back two nights ago after a flight in from Gatwick. An Arab Iranian taxi driver from Bandar Abbas drove me from the airport. A chance to “speak” Arabic, a rare opportunity in this city state of new buildings and mass immigration. From feelings of despair over the first 24 hours I seem to have reached a more even keel emotionally. Pain at missing her, leavened by reacquainting myself with the solo life that I had almost perfected in the Hotel California in Deira. A day of largely indifferent tapping on the laptop yesterday gave way to a rare session at the gym, having collected three etisalat bills en route (why go the trouble of mailing them together?), and a return trip via the local supermarket Al Madina to cook a Rajastani vegetable dish hastily scribbled down from my wife’s cook book. I am consciously emulating her daily routine over the three weeks I was in Saudi Arabia last month, and it certainly lifted my mood, even if the rareness of a solo cooking experience meant I didn’t eat ‘til gone 1030. An evening in the kitchen listening to a Dubai Eye phone-in on labour issues proved surprisingly stimulating, helping me to feel more at ease with my surroundings, after the difficulty of leaving her in London. This pattern, with a more productive work day and the benefits of cooking food in large quantities, made the evening ritual today a decidedly easier affair, even if the gym was a physical struggle and Dubai Eye brought on waves of alternating elation and misery with its “John Lennon Profile”.

At Gatwick two night earlier I had sat despondent, reflecting on how over the previous 2 weeks in London I could ever have complained about anything when the increasingly rare ability to spend time together is pure delight compared to the feeling of being alone at the airport, waiting to return to a white-walled apartment devoid of character in an overheating desert metropolis. From feeling almost indifferent at the prospect of departure, I felt as sad as I had ever done at such moments. Part of me felt glad, however, satisfied that I had plainly not become the cold desiccated calculating machine that I sometimes fear is to become my fate. The previous night we had visited our neighbour, a beautiful man whose ill health has prematurely aged him and confined him to his home, an experience that made me resolve to make more of our time left together. We have less than 25 years until we reach his probable age. Seeing the new British film, This is England, that afternoon, set largely in 1982 (though it says 1983 on the promo) only underlined how fast the previous quarter century has gone by. From the Falklands to file-sharing, a lot has and hasn’t changed, but the conception of time certainly has as we have grown older, largely together.

I’d give anything to have known her then, or perhaps when I was a bit older. To chat, to drink, to have fun. I know she has always been sweet to those who are sweet to her. Of course she may have found me uninteresting at that age, a recovering Christian with hard left tendencies (testicles? Ed.), and therefore her natural sweetness may have been offset by decided boredom at the suburban blandness of a late flowering virgin. We first set eyes on each other, I think, at her parents’ house in Christmas 1987, although she does not remember the experience. We didn’t meet properly until a folk festival in Sidmouth (where else?) in the summer of 1989. She had interested me a lot then, but I was camped out in a far flung field and I think she had other things on her mind. I remember her that first year though. We entered a large pub near the seafront, with manifold would-be folkies in tow, got drinks (she probably paid), and for some reason began talking about a mutual love, David Bowie. She adopted a decidedly serious tone and stated that he was a very good looking man. I remember simultaneously feeling a bond with her, while feeling somewhat chastened at that remark.