Wednesday, October 30, 2002
EUROPEAN POODLE GROOMERS.
Met Sue downtown, we had lunch at Casper and Gambini's and then went for a walk which culminated at the Virgin Megastore where we had drinks at the rooftop café – arguably the best view in Lebanon if not the world.
We then caught a bus, of all things, to Jenny's in Ain Saade.
Bus trips in Lebanon are always interesting.
This one was full of plebes and men with their arms around each other.
An interesting aspect of Lebanese and Arab culture is that public displays of affection are usually frowned upon and taboo except if between men!
Draw your own conclusions (I've got my theories).
As with all bus rides, or any ride in Lebanon for that matter, it was pretty harrowing, particularly as we went up the mountain.
As the driver took some reckless turns, Sue observed that it was getting scary.
I agreed with her and said "gee Sue, I wish you were a bloke so I could put my arm around you"(such was the scariness of the driving and the comeliness of Sue).
On another jaunt, that weekend, we had the exact opposite and a rare exception – an overcautious Lebanese taxi driver who drove very carefully and slowly because "I don't want to put an accident" as he told us.
That night saw our return to the pub quiz.
Alas, the Hare and Hounds is dead – long live the Shamrock! (The natural successor further up the road in Beit Meri).
Sue, Jenny, her brother William and I comprised a team we called "European Poodle Groomers" based on a classified ad in that days Daily Star*.
We ended up losing by a point and Sue** blamed Chady (the proprietor who "helped" us a bit) because he misidentified one of the pictures in the table round.
After the quiz, the usual gentlemen's club type set-up ensued with just us diehards hanging around (usually Chris, Peter Casey, Chady, myself and whoever else happens to be around).
Someone, who being on the wrong side of twenty-five ought to have known better, was spouting the usual undergraduate anti-religion facile nonsense.
Sue and I were at one end of the table and Sue was looking at him in an amused sort of way.
Being Irish Catholic, she's not a great fan of that type of bollocks.
"As if nobody's ever said that kind of thing before" she told me in an aside.
"I would have thought that he would have grown out of it by now" she continued "that’s the reason they send you to university for four years – so that you can talk crap with your mates for four years and get it out of your system".
Regarding the Irish and religion, Peter Casey recounted a story about a stay at a bed and breakfast somewhere in the Irish countryside.
Apparently, they're all pretty uniform – right down to being run by the traditional old-fashioned middle-aged busybody Irishwoman.
In the morning, Peter was in the communal toilet when the landlady thought that he'd been in there for too long.
"Are you all right Mr. Casey – what are you doing in there?" she asked.
The answer to that is pretty obvious so Peter replied "I'm praying**".
The shocked and irony-lacking landlady raised the alarm and all the lodgers rushed out.
"There's a heathen in there who says he's praying!" she told the outraged lynch mob.
One of the lodgers, a middle-aged Irishman who had become the unappointed leader and negotiator, approached and spoke to Peter thru the toilet door.
"Mrs. Mcluskey says you're praying in there, what kind of heathen are you – praying in the toilet?"
Peter, realizing that he was in an irony-free zone, recanted to the Inquisition "I'm not praying!"
The delegate reported back to the mob "he's a heathen – he's not praying, he doesn’t even pray!"
Damned if you do and damned if you don't.
*Under "Miscellaneous", surprisingly, not under "Pets" it read "EUROPEAN LADY (in bold capitals) will groom your poodle or pets. Home service."
We think that's a euphemism for something else - Sue was wondering about why I spend so much time in the shower, as that group has been wondering for years, and asked me if I was "grooming my poodle" in there.
**Sue was never afraid of a drink – Saturday night was party night and Sunday was apology day.
A great part of her Sunday’s were spent telephoning people to apologize for the night before – the Beirut Telephone Directory, A-K in the morning and L-Z in the afternoon
***Peter has been rightly described as being "dry as ice".
The all-time Peter Casey classic would have to be when he was pulled over by the police back in the UK and asked if he'd been drinking.
He had (surprise, surprise) and said "I've had a skinful".
They asked him to blow into the breathalyzer and he replied "don't you believe me?"
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
BACK IN LEBANON
- “take me to your stereotypes”
At Beirut International Airport I was whisked through customs, not on the strength of any of my usual whisking connections but because I had befriended, on the plane from Dubai, Tony from Tony’s Food (“Making Doughs Our Specialty”).
Tony’s a nice friendly guy and his name obviously means something in this town – I couldn’t believe that they recognized him from his name alone, let alone that being the proprietor of a company called Tony’s Food (“Making Doughs Our Specialty”) qualifies you and your mates for special treatment.
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
It’s 1.00am in Washington, 4.00pm in London and 6.00pm in Baghdad where the polls have just closed in the plebiscite on Saddam Hussein’s rule.
Our exit polls, that is the amount of people voting “yes” and thus exiting alive, indicate a one hundred percent yes vote.
Based on and projecting from those figures, we’re taking a punt and calling Baghdad for Saddam Hussein.
Repeat, we can now call Baghdad for Saddam Hussein.
We’ll be back in an hour when the polls close in the north and south.
It’s funny how the media, politicians, etc refer to Saddam Hussein as ‘’Saddam’’.
You don’t hear any other world leader referred to by his first name.
E.g. you don’t hear George W Bush making statements to the extent of ‘’Robert has oppressed his people and threatened his neighbours’’ about Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.
Maybe because a name like Saddam is very distinctive (it’s even rare in the Arab world) whereas a name like Robert is pretty common and is more likely to be the name of bloke at the local hardware store than that of a ruthless dictator.