“If this desert’s all there’ll ever be
Then tell me what becomes of me.
A fall of rain
That must have been another of your dreams
A dream of mad man moon”.
(Genesis – Mad Man Moon from the Trick of the Tail album)
“Tempus Fugit”, one might say if one had been ‘blessed’ with an Etonian education. Ordinary Cornish folk might say “Time flies” if they live in a nice detached house in a picturesque coastal village, or “Bugger me, where’s that bleddy time gone?” if they were brought up in the shadow of a mine stack. And so it is that today, I can feel exactly that, how did 14 months of my life go so quickly?
I arrived in Bahrain on the 1st of February 2021 to begin a journey into the unknown. Up to that point, the Middle East was somewhere on the telly or in the Bible. A group of hot countries populated by camels and sand dunes, and a city called Dubai. I had no idea what or where the United Arab Emirates were. Qatar was a vague memory and had something to do with world cup football and the daily death toll of migrant workers, while Bahrain had something to do with Formula 1. Saudi Arabia of course was associated with Oil and 9/11. Oman? What is an Oman? And don’t mention Yemen as there’s a war on and no one in Hull, Hampstead or Helston gives a shit.
The British Press has not been very enlightening over the years, focused as it is, not on fostering peace and understanding between countries, but on the celebrity based trivia that is Westminster and Strictly.
The Financial Times will tell you how much Saudia Arabia is worth and where investments are at risk of burning faster than Gas. The Times might inform you that a government minister has visited to ingratiate themselves upon the Saudi Royal Family by offering shares in Oxfordshire, in return for oil. The Telegraph will tell you how we once ruled the region and why we should again (hint: because we know better). The Daily Mail might tell us who the wives of the Saudi King is and that opposing beheadings is ‘woke’. The Express would tell us that the reason Saudi Arabia is rich is because they are not part of the European Union and that Diana, Princess of Wales, once visited. The Guardian might inform us of the latest executions to have taken place and how horrible that is while ignoring the fact that the State of Texas is also fond of dispatching undesirables, albiet slower and involving torture by anticipation by long waits on death row. The Mirror has absolutely no idea where the Middle East is, except there is a clue in the name, as in:
‘You know where the Far East is?’
‘Yeah, Singapore and stuff’.
‘Well, not as far as that’.
The Sun might shout that women are not allowed to get their tits out, while the Star would show you a picture of the tits of a London based model of Arabic origin (her dad owns a kebab shop in the Mile End Road).
So, yes alighting in Bahrain was a bit of a culture shock which took at least 6 months to ease. I think I have got used to the extreme weather, the arabic food and the lack of a decent ale.
The weather is easily dealt with. You just stay indoors from about April until September. The eternal blue sky, daily sunshine and temperatures at first are alluring but, but.
The song lyric from ‘Mad Man Moon’ springs to mind:
“Within the valley of shadowless death
They pray for thunderclouds and rain
But to the multitude who stand in the rain
Heaven is where the sun shines.
The grass will be greener till the stems turn to brown
And thoughts will fly higher till the earth brings them down
Forever caught in desert lands, one has to learn
To disbelieve the sea“
The food? Let’s just say heaped mounds of rice with everything can easily be avoided because, believe it or not Saudi Arabia has joined the developed world in offering a very wide range of international cuisines. Restaurants abound in Jeddah blighted only by their lack of wine. The chefs at my hotel are superb, and each day vary the offering from each global region. Mind, I’ve yet to see a decent pasty or a cream tea. Saffron buns are an exotic delicacy which exist only in pictures on my laptop. Oh, they don’t do a decent steak and kidney pie for why I’ve no idea because their skill in other cuisines is five star.
Don’t ask for pork.
I once remarked to a rather pretty Saudi woman in the office that if she ever came to Cornwall, I’d give her an experience to savour, something she’d remember for a very long time…I winked and said “how would you like some sausage?”
Of course, I didn’t say that, I like my scrotum attached. And I am a gentleman of honour.
As for an ale, while it is true that this is officially a dry country – and not just in January – it is certainly the case that, behind closed doors, booze flows freely in many a Saudi household. They just keep it quiet and ‘nod, nod, wink, wink, say no more’. It is a bit like masturbation or felching, everyone is doing it, but it’s not something you discuss after the meeting in the office. The bars and whorehouses of Bahrain, Dubai and Qatar are awash with Saudi money and Saudi men who enjoy the sins of the flesh as much as any pissed up pussy grabbing infidel in the White House or a Downing Street party. However, I’m not ‘in the loop’, so all of this debauchery happens elsewhere. For all I know the Saudi couple in the next room could be bang at it after snorting a gram of coke and sipping champagne while dancing to ‘Come on Eileen’ at three in the morning.
I’ll be glad to leave the sun soaked madness behind and come home to what some might see as a boring routine. I’ve missed the everyday ordinariness of life in Cornwall, free from fears of being arrested for thinking naughty thoughts and then being publically flogged in front of a ragged cheering crowd in the execution square in Jeddah. I especially miss being with Ann. Although I dare say not having an annoying messy twat about the house has probably increased her quality of life ten fold. We can get back to the important thngs in life such as the petty bickering about loading the dishwasher, the temperature of the central heating and leaving tea stains on the work top. Oh the joys of a ‘full english’ on a weekend morning, and stanking through the woods and across the fields to a pub serving warm ale and pork scratchings besides a log fire or a sunday dinner with crackling and a decent Rioja.
I miss mates, even the misfits and the drunks. I miss my children, even the misfits and the drunks. I miss my family, even the misfits and the drunks.
I’ll be first in the queue for a pasty.
I might even enjoy a bit of rain.