Saturday, December 31, 2005

Another Bombshell

Yesterday Abdel-Halim Khaddam, Syria's former vice-president all but pointed the finger at Bashar Assad for the murder of Rafik Hariri. He stated in an interview last night on Al-Arabiya television that Assad and his intelligence officers had "openly & repeatedly threatened to crush" former Prime Minister Hariri well before his February 14th assassination.
When asked if a Syrian security unit could have been behind the murder without Assad's knowledge, Khaddam replied "Impossible in
Syria - Assad is an absolute authoritarian."

Khaddam ain't no angel despite the urge to see him as an ally after this bloodletting. Even though he claims that he advised Hariri that "the Damascene mood was unfavourable and that he should resign the premiership and leave
Lebanon" Khaddam is anti-Assad, not pro-Lebanon. What a guy. He goes on to say that Lahoud and his inner circle poisoned Assad's mind against Hariri with disinformation.
He seems to be positioning himself to be a candidate for the top Syrian seat when it becomes available. Just remember that "I was only following orders" has been refuted as an excuse since

Nice to see the regime start to collapse one strut at a time. Maybe all the inner circle, current and former, would tell the truth if they lived in luxury in

Now is a good time for President Lahoud to make an executive decision popular with everyone and step down. Just how far removed from reality is he if he can't (or won't) even gauge an overwhelming public opinion?

(Cue Star Wars' theme and......fade).

New Year's Heave

Good morning all. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas holidays and are looking forward to the New Year's celebrations. They seem to be a bit subdued for obvious reasons with so many people opting to stay home this year.

Thankfully, not a lot of anything newsworthy happened over the Christmas week. The Pope used his first Christmas address to ask for peace in the Middle East and the Holy Land – I guess that’s a good thing really, although its effectiveness is somewhat dubious. No harm in asking though.

The old joke says it all where God has come to Earth to grant a child from each country a wish. Each kid asks for impossible things, like mountains made of sweets or the ability to become invisible and each time He granted their crazy wishes, God laughed.
He got to the Lebanese child and asked what his wish was. The child said “Peace in the Middle East.”
And God cried.

Christmas Day at our place was bustling. Two turkeys went under the knife washed down with copious amounts of the grape. My highlight was sitting on the end of Skye’s bed on Christmas Eve while her mam told her a bedtime story and her dad was prancing about outside her bedroom window with Christmas bells, pretending to be Santa on his way to work. The look on her face was priceless, but even more amusing to me was the thought of The Dude jumping around outside in the freezing, pouring rain trying to get some sort of reindeer rhythm going. It really gets a lot more Python-esque in my head the more I think of it.

And here we are at the weekend again, 2006 mere hours away. The best part of the week was that there were 2 games for my lovely Chelsea and 2 Chelsea wins. I missed them both times (circumstances beyond my control) but I shan't be letting them out of my sight this coming week.
Can't think of any New Year's resolutions that I haven't made and broken before so I'll promise nothing and be pleasantly surprised if anything good does come about. Don't even know what I'm gonna be doing tonight - I'd like to be tucked up in bed with a good book come midnight, but failing that I'd like to be holding an economy-sized cocktail and covered in confetti, glitter and raunchy women wearing nothing but party hats and smiles.

But hey, that's just me. Have a great New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 23, 2005

St. George Is Cross

What is it with the sour grapes whenever England does well? When an English restaurant was voted the best in the world by a prestigious 'foodie' magazine, the French and Italians went off in spasms about it. Our winning the Webb Ellis trophy made France, Wales, Ireland & Scotland collectively shudder as we became the first Northern Hemisphere country to do it.
Now even our winning the vote to host the Olympic Games for 2012 has been called a
"voting error".
God knows what's going to happen when we bring home the World Cup next year.

Grocer Jack's post about being English set me to thinking. It's true that we seem almost apologetic for being who we are. The weight of our history seems to have made us overly PC when in all reality, we have more to be proud of than ashamed of. Why do the Welsh celebrate St. David's day, the Scots St. Andrew's day, the Irish St. Patrick's day yet most English don't even know when St. George's Day is? It's April 23rd, FYI.
My ma told me that when she was a lass, St. George's Day was a day off of school, Church service and all the rest. What happened? Here in Lebanon,
MacDara last year flew in an Irish band to play in the Irish pub he had appropriated for St. Paddy's.

The only time I'm able to flaunt my Englishness is when England are playing an international match of some sort - but, even though the flag sellers here have now started to set up shop in preparation for next year's World Cup, you cannot find a St. George's flag. Every other country under the sun has their flag on sale here except England....what's up with that? Go to the pub here to watch any international football match and you'll find there are Lebanese fans wearing the kit - Italy, Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, you name it, there will be someone wearing it.

Except for England. Only the English will be wearing the England shirts.

Now, it could be argued that it's the quality of our game that puts people off but those same fans wearing other countries' colours are wearing Premier League team shirts in regular season. In reality, it's the skewed perception of what it means to be English.

To quote GJ directly "It isn’t racist to declare your Scots heritage, nor your French, Spanish or whatever. However, being English seems to be associated to neo-nazi, Little Englander, racist thuggery."

Anyway, check out the Witanagemot Club website for more.
It's where the title of this post came from.

Broadly speaking, the Lebanese are multilingual and have no problem conversing in Arabic, French or English, or for that matter, a mix of all three. One thing that really annoys me is when non-Lebanese hear us speaking and automatically assume that we are snobs with no sense of identity. That is not an identity crisis - that is part of being Lebanese.

Words in other languages sometimes convey an idea better than the words in one's own language. Just look at English for examples - what is the English word for façade? Zeitgeist? Chef? Adieu? Cul de sac? Faux pas? Deja vu? There are translations but they are clumsy and never used.

I know some bright spark will chirp up with the fact that hello doesn't need to be said in 3 languages (Hi, kifak? Ça va?) at the same time, but most of the time that has nothing to do with pretence, merely a need to fill up the greeting! In English you can say 'hello' and it's over - in French, a quick 'bonjour' or 'Ça va?' and you're on your way. In Arabic, you're not getting away with that...even the quickest greeting has at least 2 or 3 back-and-forths.
Basing the analysis of an entire population on use of languages is not only lazy but also shortsighted and frankly, offensive.
There, it's out & I feel much better.

Nice to see the Cabinet meeting managed to take place despite the absence of the Shiite MP's.

On that note, I shall take a couple day's leave for obvious reasons and see you (hopefully) on Monday.
Merry Christmas to you all, enjoy your weekend.

Al Moghtarebeen

To Lebanese Bloggers in the blogosphere, please post this article on your blogs to spread the word about this upcoming summer event.

Established in 2005 in the United States, Lebanon Expats and are the voice of Lebanese scholars, businessmen and professionals living abroad. Their mission is to promote the powerful presence of the Lebanese abroad by carrying on social activities that will improve standards of living, and economical activities that will create job opportunities in Lebanon.

This article is addressed to you from your brothers and sisters from around the world. We, the Lebanese abroad, have a very strong voice and we are taking action. You are not alone because the tragic events taking place in our beloved country have united us globally. The murder of our leaders, fathers, brothers and sisters are bring us closer together.

Al Moghtarebeen is planning to gather this summer in Beirut to show support for our people in Lebanon and to show the world that the millions of Lebanese abroad will not stand by watching all the tragedies unfold. We plan to travel in large numbers from different parts of the world to be there in Beirut and show everyone that we, the Lebanese--Muslims, Christians, Druze, and whatever else we believe in--are united in the name of our country, Lebanon.

We need the support of groups and organizations in Lebanon and around the world to make this event an unparalleled success and show the world who we are. We are a young group, born after the murder of Mr. Hariri and kept growing with the successive murders, the most recent of which was that of Mr. Tueni.

To all Lebanese groups, to An-Nahar and all media, ministries, embassies, universities, to Mr. Saniora, Mr. Jumblat, Mr. Berri, Mr. Hariri, Mr. Michel Aoun, Mrs. Setrida Geagea, Mr. Mohammad Fneich, and all Lebanese around the world, let us unite and work together to show the world that we are one.

Please check out our website at – let us work together in support of Lebanon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


It's nice to be back after a week of self-enforced semi silence. The past week's events made sure that there would be no pleasure in blogging for me - I didn't want to talk politics or read politics or hear politics and writing about anything else not only didn't inspire me, but seemed a tad crass. I also didn't read any of my fellow bloggers' pages for the same reasons, so my excuses to them as I have missed catching up, but on the plus side I do have a wealth of information to look forward to reading now.

Top 3 happenings for lifting me out of my funk this week are:
  1. The seasonal return of Lindsay, Allegra & the Dude.
  2. The uplifting scenes of Chelsea beating Arsenal 2-0 AT Highbury in a league match for the first time in 15 years. Of course, if I wanted to be generous I would say that the score should have been 2-1 but due to an acknowledged refereeing error, it wasn't. But it is Arsenal, so in all magnanimity, fuck 'em.
  3. I enjoyed my first proper lamb roast of the year with yorkies, roast potatoes and all the trimmings.....all hail Ma!! This followed the Chelsea match...does it get any better?
In Lebanon today..... *YAWN*. Sorry, can't do it.

Oh wait, yes I can. Where do the grumbling Shiite members of Parliament get the arrogance to think that the country should bend to their will? Despite the fact that, to quote LP, "Hezbollah thrives on instability", how dare they still support the Syrian regime's stance and spew the same vile rhetoric and make ridiculous demands? The world points its finger in accusation for the killings in Lebanon and yet still Hezbollah refuses to acknowledge the will of the majority of the Lebanese people.
To add insult to injury, President Lahoud has refused to head Thursday's Cabinet session if the Shiite boycott continues - did everyone receive the same script?

"Why would we be part of this government if the policy is 'agree with what we say or we will have a majority vote?' This is an equation we refuse," said Hassan Fadlallah, Hezbollah MP.

Why? It's simple. The Lebanese Constitution states that the Cabinet makes its decisions by consensus which gives everyone a chance to air their views and grievances and discuss. The Constitution goes on to say that "if a consensus is not reached, the Cabinet then makes decisions by vote of the majority of attending members. When basic national issues are being decided, the required approval is that of two-thirds of the members of the council named in the Decree forming the Cabinet."

This allows the government to function even when certain parties try to hold it hostage. It's called a democracy - try one, you'll like it.

On a completely different tack (although one just as dear to me), what happened to the Champion's League draw? My lovely Chelsea drew Barcelona for the knockout stages, Bayern got AC Milan, Arse-nal will enjoy Real Madrid and LiverPoo go head-to-head against......Benfica?
UEFA, if you love them so much, just give them the cup already.
At least the knockouts will be hugely entertaining as long as you're not a Benfica fan.

Oh well, I'm going to go and do something constructive.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Politics Of Fear

The killing of Gebran Tueni is yet another outrage against our nation's right to live in peace and freedom, an outrage against every human being's right to think, speak and live freely.

The impunity enjoyed by these murderers is sickening. What's even worse is the celebration by certain members of Hezballah of the assassination of a fellow Lebanese and then the walking out of Parliament when it came time to discuss the matter. How much longer can the majority of the country take them seriously as a political force when they don't play the game if they can't bring their own ball? It doesn't matter - there is a majority without them and a strong decision needs to be taken. The Cabinet needs to show strength of purpose and courage - we are all afraid, but our government has to lead the way because courage is not the absence of fear but the continuing despite its presence.

Another political assassination, another chance for some deranged copywriter somewhere to come up with another ludicrous name for the previously unheard of "group" that supposedly carried out the killing. The finger can only be pointed in one direction despite the usual indignant claims of innocence and cries of perfidy - to quote Jimmy Cliff, mon, "the harder they come, the harder they fall."
We need a lot more than simple moral outrage. We need a long memory and the energy and focus to not let this be swept under the carpet. (How is the investigation into Samir Kassir's assassination going? George Hawi's?)
Is there going to be a monstrous act such as this every time Syria comes under heavier international scrutiny, to divert everyone's attention away from the matter at hand? The new Mehlis report reinforces the blame directed at Syria for the assassination of Rafic Hariri, but in the wake of the Gebran Tueni murder this has not received the media attention it deserved.

Admittedly, in a psychotic parallel world where killers have PR agents, this would be considered a coup.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Murder, Inc.

Gebran Tueni has become the latest assassination victim on Lebanon's tottering path to freedom. Yet another car bomb exploded as he drove past it on the Mkalles road, just outside Beirut. Details are still a little sketchy but it seems to have been a powerful explosion, ironically near Monteverde where the UN Hariri investigation team have their HQ.
A vociferous anti-Syria campaigner, MP and editor-in-chief of the An-Nahar newspaper, Tueni was under no impressions that he was just as much a target as anyone else involved in the March 14 uprising and had only recently returned to Lebanon (some say as recently as yesterday) with his wife and baby twins from Paris, where they had been staying due to security concerns.
It seems that the attackers feel they have nothing to lose and that only spells disaster for Lebanon.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Full Circle

Back again at long last, although nowhere near long enough. London was freezing cold, wet and mostly grey and I loved every second of it. The Chelsea game was great even though there were no goals scored - the atmosphere was fantastic and even the line of policemen and stewards between us and the Pool fans did nothing to dampen the fun (or the stream of abuse volleyed from both sides). It is quite impressive to hear 3000 Liverpool fans singing "You'll Never Walk Alone", but not quite as impressive as 45000 Chelsea fans singing "You'll Never Get A Job" in tune and in reply.
The Shed End was as vociferous as ever although alcohol free. I left the Shed Bar to get to my seat early in the hopes of having a few inside before the match but was confronted with fridges full of soft drinks and water with the beer cunningly concealed under a plastic sheet - lest, I assume, we fans are driven wild and insane by the sight of it and decide to storm the coolers. Could happen.

The gang all arrived at various times last Saturday and we all met up in a pub in Soho. Then I came back. I'm sure the memories of the times in between going & coming will surface during the next week.

So what's been happening here since I left? The usual crap as far as I can tell following the news from London. I won't post about it now as it is no longer so topical. Except for the mass grave in Anjar, the former Syrian HQ in Lebanon - why is that not front page news still? Horrific, brutal stuff.

Well, it's good to be back in an odd way, and read that how you like.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, December 02, 2005

TGI Almost Time To Go

It seems that Detlev Mehlis will be leaving the Hariri investigation after its mandate ends on December 15th, whether or not it is extended. Apparently, there are German "political considerations" behind his leaving (read: we don't want our citizens targeted by the investigation's fallout) so it will be interesting to see where the next chief investigator will come from.

Nearing the top of the Syrian-compiled "Dumb & Dumber" list of grievances against Lebanon is a new cracker - floating garbage from the Sidon dump. Watch next week when the culprit will be that funny smell in Dora.

The 'Bad Sex In Fiction' award was given yesterday to Giles Coren. The award itself is pretty self-explanatory but the passages nominated are painful to read. The winning passage is a gargantuan run-on sentence full of punctuation and followed by the two word sentence "Like Zorro'. Brilliant.

Air ticket? Check.
Match ticket? Check.
Beer money? Check.
Now I'm ready to leave for a few days, so if there's anything you need from London, now might be the time to ask. Updates may be few and far between but I'll try and let you know how it's going. What started as a humble football trip has turned into a reunion of sorts with people flying in from all over the place - not planned really, just a serendipitous turn of events (and a bit of schedule juggling...). The usual suspects are going - the G-Man, Tony Soprano, as is The Dude and we may be graced by the appearance of Kenny Rogers with a cameo from Ginge. Vast quantities of alcohol will be consumed and a lot of bollocks will be talked.
Now honestly, what more could a man want?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?

A friend of mine has a 6 year old son that begged for a puppy for the longest time. They eventually bought him a beautiful labrador puppy and after the initial time it took them to get used to each other, the boy would take the puppy everywhere. One day, not too long ago, I was at their house watching a game and having some lunch when we heard this muffled yelp. We went to his son's room and asked what happened....."we were just playing" was the kid's reply as he lovingly stroked his pet.
We heard a couple more yelps after that, went in, asked the same question and predictably, got the same answer - and all the while we're there, he's petting the puppy. His dad told him to cut it out or the dog would be sitting with us in the other room.
"No, no" says his son, "we'll be quiet."
We shut the door but left a little crack open so we could watch and unbelievably, the kid was tormenting the dog, pinching it and making it squeal but as soon as we walked in he would pet it as though he loved it. Thankfully he finally got caught out and I'm glad I'm not the one to have to deal with those issues.
My point is that this story has so much in common with the new Syrian pirouette stance on Lebanon. I think you can match up the protagonists. Even the guy in the photo behind Saniora & Sharaa looks sceptical.

Also in the news is a mysterious masked witness that Syria has claimed was bribed into blah, blah, blah.....

Oh, by the way, the brat has not been allowed near another animal since.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Moving Along

Syria has decided to co-operate with the Mehlis investigation and send the six five senior officers to Vienna to be questioned. It appears that the one not going is Assad's brother-in-law. Interesting to note that the guarantee given to Syria by the Russian mediators (the former Soviet Union was Syria's major ally and armaments supplier) that if found guilty, the officers would not be arrested outside Syria, was considered an issue of sovereignty by the Syrian regime.
On a parallel track, a witness in the assassination of Hariri died mysteriously in a car accident. Considering our driving methods, you know it's serious when the Lebanese press call it mysterious.

Also, in an "intelligence" coup, Syria's official mouthpiece Ath-Thawra declared that there are 400 Mossad spies in Lebanon and that "these agents are encircling Lebanon like a belt and will explode when Israel and her strategic ally, the United States, have decided."
Exactly 400.

I would like to extend promised regrets (but short of an apology) to coolhoor for calling his team LiverPoo and promise not to call LiverPoo LiverPoo again. At least, not until LiverPoo's next game. My lovely Chelsea are back on form with a 2-0 win at Portsmouth and Frank Lampard set a new record.

And look how scary this is..... the American Taliban.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


George Best died yesterday. In these days of football superstardom it's easy to forget the man who Pele once famously called "the greatest footballer in the world". As kids growing up in the UK, it was George Best we all wanted to be. He battled his demons for many years but they eventually beat him. A minute's silence will be observed before all matches this weekend. Unexpectedly, his death at 59 made me very sad.
Goodbye Georgie.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Flying High

May Chidiac, the LBC journalist and anchor, went back on TV last night just a couple of months after she survived an assassination attempt by car bomb. She lost part of an arm and a leg in the attempt (the reasons for which are still quite puzzling) and was on TV to say that she would return to work as soon as she is able. I admire her courage.

I'm currently inquiring into the sport of paragliding. I'm doing this because I would like to know if you have to have the IQ of a boiled potato to be allowed to practice it. An Israeli civilian was blown off course to Southern Lebanon (Hezbollah country!) while paragliding in Northern Israel. How much fun could it be to fly over a war zone dangling from a few strings and a nylon handkerchief? I know it's a dangerous sport but I'm sure they don't have "escaping Hezbollah and running through a minefield" on the waiver form anywhere else. Maybe it was a dare.

I was going to comment on the dropping of leaflets over Lebanon by Israel but I think The Beirut Spring sums it up nicely here.

My lovely Chelsea won 2-0 in an uninspired game last night against Anderlecht. We now go through to the knockout stages along with Arse-nal & LiverPoo. I wonder if Manure FC (hat tip: Grocer Jack) will make it through. I know it's childish to amend names in that way, but not only does it amuse me, it feels good too. I'm 12.

Christmas has whizzed around again but this time I saw it coming. The trick is not to let it sneak up on you and this year I'm planning on buying gifts early, which is not like me at all. This time I'm going to wander through the shops in London with a little Moleskine and carefully purchase and tick off the gifts with great care - providing, of course, that a). It doesn't interfere with my preparations for the Chelsea game, and b). It doesn't interfere with anything else I want to do. So I'll probably end up rushing around ABC on Christmas Eve panicking like a paraglider, begging shops to stay open just long enough for me to buy that classy painting on velvet.

See ya.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Zero Hour

So it turns out that Hezbollah actually wanted to kidnap an Israeli tank and crew and display them during Lebanon's Independence Day festivities. From what I understand, they sent in a kidnap team on motorcycles rather like Command & Conquer which is really quite a computer game.
Unfortunately, in the real world it's an exercise in futility and just makes us look like another crap banana republic. Imagine if they had succeeded in kidnapping them - do you think the Israeli Army would just let that happen again? Would that be protecting us?
In his inspiring speech yesterday, President Lahoud said that our collective mind has been twisted and turned by "conspiring nations in the West" and the Zionists and that he had been "wounded by the repeated libel" of those demanding his removal - so most of the the country then.
As if to complete his total isolation from reality, the President's official reception at Baabda Palace was not attended by many politicians and some EU ambassadors, many of them preferring instead to pay their respect at Rafic Hariri's graveside.

Britain has passed a law allowing pubs and other establishments to open way past the current 11pm licensing. Some places even get 24-hour licensing but a lot of people are complaining that this will fill London streets with drunken yobs. As you already know, I have a ticket to see Chelsea take on Liverpool on December 6th and while I am there in London I shall take advantage of this law and let you know if, in fact, it does lead to heavier drinking. No thanks necessary, consider it a public service.

As if on cue, my lovely Chelsea are playing tonight in the Champion's League against Anderlecht in an away game. I would like to say that so far, it's been a good week to be me, but that's just inviting trouble so I'll say nothing.

Have a good Hump Day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

And The Winner Is....

Happy Independence Day to you all.....and look, I'm not even smirking.

I was woken by the 21-gun salute this morning which normally wouldn't affect me, but in these times it sounded horribly like a large car bomb, along with the rattling windows and sonic wave. It was close by. Before venturing out into the grown-up world I checked my email, scrolling through the bumph and the spam and almost scrolled past the headline "CONGRATULATIONS DESMOND". I checked the sender and it did have Chelsea in the address and so I opened it expecting another newsletter or some such. It was, in fact, a short missive to inform me that I am one of the lucky recipients of a ticket to the Chelsea-Liverpool Champion's League clash on the 6th of December at Stamford Bridge. A long forgotten competition for which I had entered my name never expecting anything as we don't do "winning prizes" in my family. Is there really such a thing as something for nothing? It seems so. I must pack.

My folks came back from Vegas suitably rested and with the requisite stories to tell. I love their traveling faces and moods. You'd be surprised to find out which airline's first class sleepers are better than others! I also spoke to Lindsay, Skye & the Dude who will all be coming back for Christmas.

Hezbollah and Israel are at it again. Rockets fired and all sorts of madness going. Some reports are even claiming that at one point they were going at it "mano a mano".

Sorry it's a bit short but it's a day off for me too....

Friday, November 18, 2005


The Lebanese Cabinet has decided to subsidize diesel fuel prices and in one fell swoop has neutralized one of Syria's (and Hezbollah's by association) weapons for trying to destabilize the government. Hezbollah, having been silenced first by being given the diesel price dossier (a very Machiavellian move by PM Saniora) and now by the subsidy, have reverted to the same old, tired nagging about Resolution 1559. So much for national unity. Again.

The torture allegations about secret Iraqi prisons where Iraqi citizens are tortured by other Iraqi citizens are being downplayed by the Iraqi government. The prison was discovered by US forces during a raid last Sunday and has created an uproar. A government spokesman was trying desperately to justify the beatings and torture by saying that the people held are "the most dangerous criminals and terrorists" (then he waved a bunch of passports to prove his point....obviously under the section "Occupation" in those passports was written "won't tolerate it"). The US, with not a trace of irony, stated that they "will not tolerate abuse of detainees."

Sony BMG has apologized for using stealth software to stop its CDs being illegally copied. The problem is that the software downloads itself onto your computer without your knowledge deep into the Windows operating system (when will you learn? Use an Apple.). It includes a media player which allows you to play the CD on that computer only - unfortunately it also creates a security hazard...... Major international corporations are so fun to watch when they get caught.
Amazon (we love Amazon!) have offered a full refund to any of their customers who bought one of the "spy" CDs from them. Now that's customer service. My own respect for and loyalty to all things Amazon sprang from an incident a few years back. One of my orders had been 3 months en route from the US to Beirut. I got in touch with Amazon to complain and they said that thay had traced the package to its arrival at Beirut Airport but don't know what happened to it after that. They asked me for an alternate address to resend the package to, preferably outside Lebanon so I gave them the address of a friend in the States who was coming here.
After my friend came with my new order, the old one was delivered as well. I contacted Amazon to say it had arrived & that I would send it back to them and to their eternal credit their reply email said: "Don't worry. Please donate the books and CDs to a local library or school." Brilliant. And yes, I did. Donate, that is, not worry.

And yesterday I had a flashback to my youth. A friend of mine in the UK sent me a gift (thanks Suze!) of a DVD of KISS Live... Back in the late 70's, early 80's I was a Kiss fan - more a Kiss maniac. I loved the music, the shows, the make-up (not actually on myself) and yes, the merchandise. I was totally mad about Kiss and a member of the Kiss Army. My tastes started to mature as I did (especially after the release of Pink Floyd's The Wall and the subsequent release of the movie and the mindblowing concert at Earl's Court) but I still have a soft spot for them and still know the words to all their songs, so this DVD of them was a welcome blast from the past. I wanted to say that they were better times, but were they?

On the subject of large companies, check out Grocer Jack's performance appraisal form for a guide to the way one should be written.

Enjoy your POETS day (hat tip Tony Soprano).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Happy Trails

I just wanted to wish a bon voyage to fellow blogger and blogfather (and I mean that in the nice way) MacDara and his missus who are back off to the Emerald Isle for a little jaunt. They'll be back here in time for Christmas so if you want your stocking fillers you'd better drop him a line today. Just don't ask him to mail it to you.

Turkey is the latest country to "urge" Syria to comply with the international community. It's a bit rich coming from a country whose own record on human rights and freedoms is a bit suspect, to say the least. Since they are gagging to please the EU, whatever works, I suppose.

Meanwhile, Syria's co-operation with the UN enquiry is turning into a Monty Python script:

UN: "We'll meet in Monteverde."
Syria: "Alright...we'll meet in Cairo."
UN: "No, we said Monteverde."
Syria: "Good, that's decided then. Let's meet iiiiinnn.......Austria?"
UN: "Look, I really don't think you're listening."
Syria: "How dare you say that? I'm agreeing with you. How about Geneva?"
UN: "You're not really taking this seriously..."
Syria: "Oh yeah? Well neither are you. How about Damascus?"
UN: "You're taking the piss now."
Syria: "Yes, I'm sorry, it's been a long the Golan OK?"
UN: "No."
Syria: "Dubai?"
UN: "No"
Syria: "Moscow?"
UN: "No."
Syria: "Libya? Iran? North Korea?"
UN: "I'm leaving." (UN exits stage left...)
Syria: "Whaaaat? What did I say? What?" (Stage empty except for Syria bathed in a really bright spotlight.)

I'm still confused as to how university student elections in Beirut are so important to the rest of us.

Anyway, godspeed, y'all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Once We Were Heroes

In the news today are unconfirmed reports that Hezbollah has now firmly nailed its colours to the post by visiting meet with the Iranian Foreign Minister. Not only does it show complete disregard for Lebanon as a nation but also contempt for all other parts of Lebanese society. Nice.

Syria has proven once again how out of touch with reality it is by calling on Lebanese to stage street demonstrations to topple our own PM Seniora. Sorry, but this time round they won't be able to bus in platoons of Syrians to bolster numbers. Just to give you an idea of its charismatic call to arms (and I quote the front page of a local paper - except that the capital letters and italics are my own): "On Friday, DOZENS of Bekaa residents demonstrated to demand the government lower the cost (of diesel fuel) to LL12,000 per 20 liters."
The worst aspect of it is that the Syrian regime still thinks it's OK to intimidate, threaten and bully another sovereign state. Come on now. Just because we got our ball back, doesn't mean you can't play nice.

(As I write this, Australia have just qualified for the World Cup 2006 by eliminating Uruguay on penalties. Good game. Except for Harry Kewell's "hair").

Does the Daily Star really think that a Lebanese teenager qualifying for the World Equestrian Championships rates a six-column article on the inside front page? Ok, congratulations to her, and yes, give it a mention, but how about putting it on the sports pages? It surprises me how a newspaper trying to present itself as serious and authoritative can have such lapses in judgement.
Their web site too shows some strange thinking. The only thing flashing on all of their pages is a link for ringtones and logos. Very classy. I won't even mention the massive banner at the top of the home page asking for money to keep the website functional - isn't that supposed to be paid for by SELLING newspapers? I could understand if you were promoting a news website that wasn't affiliated to any newspaper and needed funds. I mean, the logic should surely run something like this: you sell newspapers, you make money, and with that money you expand to include a web site. You don't sell enough newspapers, then take a hint - nobody is reading it. Before anyone sends me an email denouncing me as a closet Daily Star subscriber, let me tell you that I buy the IHT - the Star comes with it.

Good news is that it poured with rain today. I love it. Seven months of only sunshine can be depressing too.

Have a good Hump Day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

3 Pints & A Packet Of Crisps, Please

In the UK, they are trying to pass a law which would allow pubs to stay open 24 hours. Many think that this is disgraceful and that keeping longer licensing hours would mean more alcohol abuse, but personally I think it would cut down on binge drinking. I think this because if someone gives you a deadline by which you have to stop doing something you like, you will intensify your efforts to do as much of it as you can before the curfew. This remains true for absolutely anything.
I've been in pubs with friends and having a chat and a laugh when all of a sudden the last orders bell rings and there is a stampede of people (occasionally myself among them, ahem..) ordering 3 or 4 drinks each and then having to neck them in about 10 minutes, hence the binge-drinking. If you don't finish by drinking up time you just get thrown out and your drink taken away. I go to the pub to see my friends and catch up and I certainly don't count how many drinks I'm having - this doesn't mean I go out with the sole aim of getting drunk, but a good buzz as a side effect is always a plus! Most people know when they've had enough and have the sense to stop or leave. The ones that don't aren't really going to be affected one way or the other by what time the pub closes. There IS such a thing as responsible drinking.
A drinking culture exists in Britain and Ireland. The pub is the centre of the social universe. The pub is where we meet our friends, a rendez-vous point. It's where you go for "one for the road" after work. It's a place you can go to any time of the day and sit quietly and read your paper or get loud and rowdy if you prefer. It's the alcoholic equivalent of the coffee shop only slightly smokier. Except in Ireland.
Anyway, the new campaign warning of drunk & disorderly spot fines in the UK are pretty graphic, with one of the posters showing the fine amount elegantly spelled out in vomit. Nice touch. Bloody yobs.

Another nice touch is that in a small corner of the newspaper today it is being reported that the fine, ethically-minded inmates of Damascus' main jail are going on a 3-day hunger strike to protest the "unfair pressure" being put on Syria by the international community. Yes, you did read that correctly and I'm still looking for my "What the fuck?" section in which to file it.

Personally, I'm on cruise control waiting for Saturday to roll around bringing with it more Premiership fun. My lovely Chelsea go up against Newcastle and if we lose that, we have some 'splainin' to do....


Monday, November 14, 2005

Primus Inter Pares

Good morning all. Normally, I hate Mondays for no apparent reason. Sometimes I hate them almost as if they were a person - but not this Monday. You see, this Monday is a fine day to be a fan. That is to say, a sports fan....and to be specific, an England sports fan. This past weekend has made all England fans proud in all the major English sports - football, rugby and cricket.
In football we beat Argentina in a "friendly" match; in rugby, we beat our old nemesis Australia and in cricket we've taken control against Pakistan.
The football was a sublime showing of latent talent (finally) against the world number 2. On the field the English players were courteous, sportsmanlike and quite frankly, up for it. Even Wayne Rooney didn't lose his cool for a moment. A goal from him and 2 from Michael Owen have kept this grin on my face all weekend long. Well done. I sound fairly restrained but I'm actually deliriously happy and even a grinding, celebratory hangover on Sunday morning didn't dampen my enthusiasm. And against Australia....well, even though the Aussies are having their worst showing for years it still feels good to beat them and even better to see that after all we do have a rugby team again.

Sunday was the annual service of remembrance in London when tribute is paid to the British & Commonwealth war dead. It's always a moving ceremony. A nice addition this year were 20 war veterans who used semaphore to send a secret, silent message along the Thames from Greenwich to Whitehall where it was symbolically decoded. It read: "War turns us to stone. In remembrance we shine and rise to new days".

Also on Sunday was the Beirut International Marathon. 17,000 people turned out for that so it seems to be a success. One of the reasons I was quite impressed with it was that the police actually did their job. My street in Gemmayze was cleared of cars the night before, even though it is full of bars and restaurants, and kept clear politely but firmly (plus last year it was resurfaced beautifully a few days before the event). So it seems to me that our police force are capable of doing whatever tasks need to be done as long as they have the management and leadership. It needles me a bit to see that when it comes to projecting a nice, orderly image to the world we can surpass anyone but when it comes to actually doing something of substance for ourselves we mainly fail miserably. The capability seems to be there, just not the will.

A failed suicide bomber from the attacks in Amman was caught and paraded on Jordanian TV over the weekend. What struck me was that she didn't come across as a raving, fanatical religious extremist. She was a dreary, cold hearted, hatchet-faced woman who nonetheless was able to describe the target as being full of children and women and still be able to try and detonate her bomb belt. No remorse and no emotion.

Have a good start to the week.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Say What?

Well, what a nice couple of days. First the horrific bombings in Amman and then Assad's speech. The former I can't understand and the latter sounded like bravado - like whistling in a graveyard.

For all intents and purposes Assad told the UN and the international community to get the hell outta Dodge. Lovely. That at least calmed some fears that he may go on the offensive. Then he goes on to call our PM Siniora a slave - good, diplomatic language. He's not exactly going out of his way to avoid trouble, is he? Of course the crowning glory of it all is that according to him, Lebanon, the tiny neighbour the Assad regime brutally occupied for 30 years, is responsible for all their woes. And so they stir up more unrest in Lebanon through their thugs. As Parliament yesterday started to discuss the Assad speech, Amal and Hezbollah MP's decided to WALK OUT of the session - again mature, confidence-inspiring reactions. They had to leave because effectively they can't say a thing without conferring with their masters - when something impromptu happens they don't know where they stand.
This does not bode well. Let's hope the international community follows through with its demands and doesn't leave us hanging.

As for the mindless bombings in Amman, well.... major international hotels are well-known hotbeds of western proselytizing, especially when they play host to Jordanian wedding parties. I still can't get my head round the reasons given by terrorists for doing what they do.

I'm starting to have withdrawal symptoms from my lovely Chelsea not playing for another week although I'm hoping tomorrow's friendly against Argentina will give me something to gloat about for a week. I'm also pleased to see that the apparent bust up between Mourinho and Crespo was all a load of cobblers. Where Drogba's muscle doesn't work, Crespo's flair will. Bring on Newcastle.

Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Health & Safety

G'morning all. In the paper today was an article about how the Syrian investigation into the Hariri assassination is proceeding. More lip service being paid to the rest of the world. I love to read these articles for the sheer irony of them and I refuse to believe that the reporter who filed it didn't snigger as he clicked 'save'. The presiding Syrian judge said "we will respect the absolute secrecy and safety of our witnesses."
Now, maybe I'm getting too involved in the minutae of it all or maybe it was a mistake in translation but instead of "respect" she could have said "guarantee" or "ensure" or any other word which would inspire confidence and a feeling of safety. Yeah, makes me want to come forward and tell all....
Please read the Lebanese Political Journal - well written and thought-provoking and the comments are always intelligent and entertaining. You don't have to be heavily into politics to enjoy it.

In other news, I have the flu. Or maybe it's a cold. If I start to chirp or feel that I won't be migrating this winter, I will let you know.

Enjoy your Tuesday as I have to go and start warming up for the England-Argentina "friendly" on Saturday. Oxymoron. Honestly, as if a football match between those two countries could ever be classified as friendly, amicable or even respectful. They are going to play in Geneva, I assume to reinforce the friendly aspect.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Face Value

Well, my face is red. I recently commented that Mr. Phil Collins is a has-been and since then, I have been thoroughly and irrefutably proved wrong. Saturday night's concert was brilliant. He started off by proving that he was still the drummer he always was and never let up from there. Not a song was played that everyone couldn't mumble along to. He was the consummate showman, showed a great sense of humour and even made the (not inconsiderable) effort to say more in Arabic than the requisite "Marhaba" (hello) and "Shukran" (thank you), and thanked the Lebanese for their friendship and hospitality (although that was probably the rock tour equivalent of "Hey (insert city name here), we love you...... You ROCK!!!") I imagine the Turks had heard the same a couple of days before - but I digress.
He was brilliant. I take back anything bad I said about him and put forth my abject apologies. I'm sorry. There Mac, I did it. But I still mean it about everyone else I mentioned....

Of course, not everything was well with my concert experience, but that had nothing with Mr. Collins nor his formidable band. As Sartre said, "Hell is other people"
I make the same mistake every time there's a show, thinking that the most expensive seats are the better ones. As far as the view goes they are, but for concert experience they leave a lot to be desired. The couple in front of me, in their 40's, spent the whole time looking behind them and waving to their friends. Not before the show, but during it. Yes. It was quite disconcerting to have the guy immediately in front of me seemingly stare at me way too often. I could see most of the other people (dressed in their finest) around the VIP section wondering who the hell this Paul Collings is and what he plays....
All the fun was happening behind us, the dancing, the clapping, the whooping and shouting, even a couple of catfights, according to MacDara & the G-Man.
The thing is that, generally speaking, the people who buy VIP tickets (a real misnomer) don't really give a monkey's about who's performing, they just want to see and be seen, and have a cushion chucked on their seats. The real fans who can't pony up $200 a ticket are moved back and the fun part with them. From now on organizers should put the VIP section in the back or even the car park and put fans up front. Of course, failing that, they might want to put ticket prices in line with reality.

On an altogether more depressing note, Manchester United ended my lovely Chelsea's 40-game winning streak with a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford. They deserved the win and that's all I'm going to say. Except something about them winning battles, not wars. Or maybe that we're still top of the league and staying there. And yes, blue is still the colour. But that's all.
Plenty of football and rugby this month so I shall be glued to the screen in a nice way.

Alright, back to Monday. See ya.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Time for a Quickie

Just a quickie before the weekend starts for me. It's Phil Collins tonight and I'm actually quite excited about it. I'm also quite embarrassed about saying that.
The funniest thing I've seen in the past couple of days is a webcam that Belgian Koen Bogaert has set up to watch his chickens Thelma & Louise for signs of avian flu. The horrible thing is that I can't stop watching.....

That's pretty much it. Enjoy yours.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

One More Night

I'm going to a Phil Collins concert this Saturday. Normally, a few days before going to any concert I like to listen to a few of the artist's songs just to put myself in the mood. The last time I did this was for Van Morrison a few months ago and that was to listen to his new album before actually seeing him.
Two things happened with Phil Collins:
1- I realised that the only song I have of his is "In The Air Tonight"
2- I realised that nobody above the age of 30 needs to own a song by Phil Collins. I know this because I can name AND sing a decent version of all of his post-Genesis songs and I'm well over 30.

This came to me as quite a shock because I am really not a Phil Collins fan. I don't even think that Phil Collins' music is all that.....but I seem to have absorbed every musical note of his through some perverse kind of melodic osmosis. At one point, he was on every airwave that was broadcast, every song he wrote went to number one.....hell, even the songs he just thought about went to number one.
He did Live Aid. Twice. And now, against all odds, he's coming to Beirut.

Now, I know we like to think that our country has some irresistable artistic attraction to superstars but personally (and Rolling Stone can quote me), I think that coming here to perform is a sure sign that you're a has-been.
Deep Purple, The Scorpions, Sting, Elton John, ELO, Roger Waters, Brian Ferry, Placebo...... am I forgetting anyone? I excluded Joe Cocker out of adoration and James Brown out of respect, but apart from them that list looks a little....ummm....has-been. Of course, some of them were a few years ago but at the time they were here, their has-been quotient (which I like to call "the BIEL factor"- after the name of the arena) was already peaking.

I don't know whether I should commend him on his strength of purpose for not cancelling during the past couple of months, or commiserate with him on the decline of his career but either way, I'm going to see him and I'll probably have a good time. Besides, I'm secretly hoping he'll do "Follow You, Follow Me". How sad is that?

The Syrian denial at the UN yesterday brought back memories of the barefaced lying of the Soviet Union during the Cold War - happier, simpler times. Besides, any man with such an intricate comb-over can't be trusted.

Off to watch my lovely Chelsea play Real Betis tonight. Maybe another 4-0 thrashing will soothe my tortured soul - that and a lot of beer.


Monday, October 31, 2005

Tell me why

The weekend's over and winter has finally arrived. I can't say I did much this Sunday as on Saturday afternoon I came into possession of a rather large large-screen TV. I went in the morning to get some coffee and fresh bread for breakfast and from the time I got home until late in the evening, I barely moved from the couch. This thing is unbelievable - it has all the bells and whistles and a wireless surround speaker system that has you looking over your shoulder every time it kicks in (but I'm sure I'll get used to that!). I watched every football game I could find, cranking up the volume and almost feeling as if I was there, I threw on DVD's indiscriminately, finding new plot twists and characters in movies I have seen tens of times, it's that clear. I even realised what bad skin the actress who plays Grace in "Will & Grace" has. Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now-Redux is even more menacing than ever and as for Robert's true, Charlie don't surf....
I got online to see what was happening on the news and found myself going back to my TV for confirmation, because hey, if it ain't on my TV, it probably ain't happening. There might be more to life than this, but at the moment I'm not interested.

Syria has agreed to open its own investigation into the Hariri assassination. I know, I laughed as well.
And since we're doing jokes, here's a revival of one of my favourites:
A guy goes backstage at a club in Vegas before a Frank Sinatra show and gets in to see the man.
He says, "Mr. Sinatra, my name is John & I'm at table 7 outside with my girlfriend who is your biggest fan. The thing is that I want to ask her to marry me tonight and if you could possibly swing by my table and act as if you know me, she would surely say yes immediately"
Ol' Blue Eyes, being the supreme gentleman, agrees.
After the show, Frank wanders through the tables nodding and smiling at people until he gets to table 7. He beams, smiles at the fiancee, puts his hands on the man's shoulders and says, "John, buddy, long time no see! How've you been?"
John looks up and says, "Fuck off, Frank, I'm busy."

I don't like Mondays.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Wipe on..... wipe off.

Wow! A head of state calling for the "wiping off the map" of another state. Recently sworn in Iranian President Ahmadinejad made this statement yesterday about Israel which is pretty good going for a country that is trying to be inconspicuous during these times, what with the Syria thing going on. Although the Iranians are masters of rhetoric, this really seems to be crossing the line. They seem to have dug themselves so deep with that statement that they aren't even bothering to backtrack, saying that it has been Iran's official policy for years. What's worrying is that a country that probably has nuclear weapons (or are close to having them) can use such crass, blunt and threatening language towards another nation that is not known for its reticence, that does have nuclear weapons AND is within range.
I tell you, if this thing kicks off I'll be taking a seat at the back of the stands to watch. Way back. About 3,000 miles way back.

The UN is leaking from all over. The investigation into the UN's oil-for-food program shows that it was used and abused like the prettiest sheep in Australia (that's as offensive as I can get at the moment). Russia & France were shown "preferential treatment" from Saddam's Iraq in the form of oil allocations and commissions, and although the French are investigating many of its ministers, current & former, I don't think we'll hear much from Russia. The gem in all of this is that Tariq Aziz, Iraq's then deputy prime minister AND in charge of foreign relations with France, told investigators that "beneficiaries received oil barrel allocations based on their level of opposition to sanctions". So all the French and Russian squawking in opposition was nothing more than white noise to cover the sound of money clinking in their coffers and I assume it got louder or softer depending on budgetary needs.
Either way, the French would have anyway preferred not to go to war.

The Simpsons is being adapted for the Middle East. I wonder how Omar Al-Shamshoom will say this.

I went to Cancun a couple of years ago with a friend of mine - well, about an hour's drive south of Cancun to a place called Tulum. Fantastic little place, beautiful beaches, tropical forests, etc. We got a plain old cabana on the beach for $10 a night and slung our hammocks out on the patio and slept there. There was no electricity, but a generator gave you light until 10pm so it was cold freshwater showers every day. Fresh fish cooked on a beach fire every day, fresh juice and fresh coconuts that drop onto the sand during the night.
Not to belittle the plight of so many people around Cancun after Hurricane Wilma, but a report in the IHT today says that many tourists are still "stranded" there in the conditions I described above. Stranded, my arse. It's 30°C and sunny there.... That's extending a holiday. Next time I go away, I'm going to try that: "I'm sorry, I won't be able to be back at work as see, I'm stranded in Barbados...."

I'm in a bit of a bind for MacDara's Saturday Halloween party. I've contemplated going as myself and saying that I am in fact the G-Man dressed as Desmond, but that will involve making sure the G-Man doesn't turn up. No easy feat if you have ever met the G-Man. I also looked into the possibility of going as the Invisible Man, but that's a little obvious. I'm not one for costumes really, so I may have to brave the barrage of insults and hisses and go as I am just to get to my stool. Maybe I'll sneak some Midleton's with me to calm the seething masses. Maybe.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Norwegian Blue

I think the world is slowly going mad. In England this week they are trying to get a bill through the House of Lords called the Racial & Religious Hatred Bill. While the idea of it is commendable and worthy, the actual practice of it is madness because anyone found guilty of being "insulting or abusive" could be facing a prison term of up to 7 years.

I've called my friends things that are insulting AND abusive based on their race or religion and I still do, while they return the favour tenfold. It doesn't mean that I don't like them or that they don't like me. Now the argument against me could be that I am perpetuating stereotypes and reinforcing negative attitudes and yak, yak, yak but the point is where does it lead?

For example, if I call my friend Tony Soprano a silly Manxman (well, he does support Everton & I'm still being polite) and he's had a bad day at work, could he have me arrested? If I spot a praying mantis in my garden should I keep my mouth shut in case someone takes offence?
In the US, I've seen stickers on plastic bottles of soda warning sugar-crazed morons that "contents are under pressure - open away from face". I've seen Bic lighters bearing the same message but obviously for eyebrow-less morons. I know it's all to prevent the lazy, litigious section of society having their way with corporations and I know it has nothing to do with race or religion but just look how weird that is getting. You spill hot coffee in your lap from a cup that is emblazoned with "CAUTION - CONTENTS HOT" yet you still sue because it didn't specify that the contents were really, really hot. Get a job.

Now, I've been called some harsh things and laughed at some, laughed less at others and returned a few good 'uns but I have never thought about getting the law involved. That's something you save for when you get beaten up in the pub. What a namby-pamby place Britain is starting to be. Besides, if you want to hear some really cruel and harmful stuff, spend a while as a fly on the wall in a schoolyard. That'll put some perspective on it.

While I'm still on the subject, I guess Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch must be driving the PC crowd insane with its newfound relevance. Ahem.

What did you call me?

I can hear sirens.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Viva Las Vegas

My folks are safely ensconced in the hedonist's paradise in Nevada with Lindsay, Skye & the Dude and are quite happy with the 10-hour time difference between us. It's weird getting a phone call at 11am here only to hear a really happy voice at the other end just going to bed at 1am there.....apparently they are overlooking the Eiffel Tower.......and Venice..........and Big Ben.........

Things here haven't changed much. The Mehlis report came out and fingered the people and entities responsible so thanks to the judge, he did a good job. On the heels of the report came Syria, Hezbollah and Amal denouncing it as an American & Israeli blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.....same crap, different day.
There was even a huge demonstration in Damascus denouncing the report AND some Lebanese politicians. Irony obviously not being the regime's forte, there was a photo in the paper today of a sign in the Damascus demonstration depicting Marwan Hamadeh (minister who survived a car bomb attack on his convoy, allegedly by Syria), Walid Jumblatt (minister whose father was killed by a Syrian car bomb), Saad Hariri (whose father Rafic was murdered by a Syrian car bomb and whose death the Mehlis report investigated) and Gebran Tueni dressed as, wait for it........rabbis! Yes! I keep going back to that photo and having a good giggle at the sheer idiocy of it.
Of course, it was a spontaneous gathering and everyone was given the day off work there, presumably by the same people who helped Gen. Ghazi Kenaan "retire".....
A few politicians made their way back home after their self-imposed 2-week exile. Not that they were scared or anything but maybe they knew something we didn't. Anyway, their arrival was made the same way as their departure, without notice or announcement. Some had even tried disinformation and announced their return for the end of the week. Priceless.

It seems that MacDara's Midletons poacher has also got my bottle - he must be bloody good because there was no one at home.....except me.....and a whiskey glass. Now I'll have to get another bottle to see if I can trap him this time.

On a lighter note, a Beirut landmark has reopened. The Beirut Cellar is apparently functioning under new management after being closed for quite a while. It's been revamped, redecorated and a new menu added. I'm just assuming that all this newness means you won't be insulted by the UNBELIEVABLY rude staff while being poisoned by the kitchen, all the while drinking Beirut's most expensive bottle of Almaza. And don't send me angry emails with your rose-tinted memories of the place because as far as I remember, it only managed to stay open when it was the only place in the area.
Having said that, heartfelt good luck to the new owners.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Time to tango

So here we are at the weekend again. Syria has been unmasked, fingers have been pointed and it seems that Dubya is on the warpath again. I think that everyone here knew what was going to be in the report because after 30 years of living under Syrian tutelage, we've become accustomed to the clues. Every murder more brutal than the next and with frankly very little attempt to cover their tracks except the acquiescence of their stooges here to deny everything. They got so lulled by the comfort of their total power that they didn't move with the times - they thought they could keep on using their brutal ways and no one would ever say anything.
Finally, they got caught in their own about poetic justice. It should be fun over the next few days watching the various levels of the regime scream & squawk their innocence and try to belittle the report by calling it an "American trick" or "an Israeli endgame".
I intend to watch a lot of football over the weekend, with the occasional news report for good balance, and drink an awful lot. Where's MacDara?
It's time for Syria to face the music.
Bring on the band.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Head for the hills?

In the run up to the release of the Mehlis report, people are understandably feeling a little nervous and apprehensive. I realize that in Lebanon anything is possible at any time whether good or bad and in the course of the past 20 years or so we have witnessed it all, first hand. My parents, especially my dad, were here through it all apart from the occasional short stay in London when it really got too much to bear. I was away at school during much of that time and only came back here for the holidays but then was here more permanently when I went to the AUB and now work in the family business. My point is that since '81 or '82, my folks have been stalwarts and have never fled the country - they always travel, sure, especially now that one of my sisters and her husband and baby are living in the USA. So it worries me that after all they stayed here through, they have chosen this weekend to start a month-long holiday a long way from here. It worries me because my dad's been quite vocal about taking extra care when out & about during this time, lots of tsk-ing & sucking of teeth when I go to the pub to watch my lovely Chelsea play, and now he's going for a month - the first half very far away and the second half, half as far away...
"The two are not related", he assures me, making sure their travel arrangements are all in place for the day after the report's release, "everything will be fine, we've had this planned for a long time...."

And to be fair, it has been planned for a while.....ever since the report's release date was announced. So I guess that's ok. Not to worry.

Monday, October 17, 2005

My favourite season

Autumn made its first appearance yesterday. Actually, as every year, autumn just popped in to introduce winter. I know this because it pissed with rain, the roads flooded, my electricity went off, the Gemmayze "ishtirak" generator took an hour to get started, my landline went dead, I lost my satellite connection (both internet and TV) and a huge Cadillac SUV spectacularly wrapped itself around a lamppost outside Spinney's supermarket in Achrafieh. Not that the SUV thing is the seasonal equivalent of sparrows and summer but it seems that as soon as it rains for the first time in 7 months, nobody thinks that the going may be a little slick. Tailgating becomes Death Race 2000. Surely it's a no-brainer to be extra careful?
Today is sunny and 25ºC.

Returning to Gen. Ghazi Kanaan's death, I just finished reading a biography on Rommel, who was probably Hitler's finest tactician, the Desert Fox and all that. He was part of a group of top generals that tried to assassinate Hitler but failed. He was given the option of facing a military tribunal, execution and the "disappearance" of his family or....... killing himself and getting full military honours and a hero's burial. He took the poison they gave him. Before the angry emails, the only parallels I'm drawing are between their deaths. How life imitates, well, life really.

On another kind of blue, Chelsea once again walked all over the competition but only after getting a deserved dressing down from Mad Mourinho. Nice to see them hitting their stride.

Right, I'm off to work.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


As if we didn't have enough to worry about, this weekend brings the news that the deadly strain of bird flu, H5N1 has entered the European continent. Lovely. That's an awful lot closer than Thailand. One of the unproven theories is that it travels with migrating birds, in whose path Lebanon lies. The Lebanese government's solution is to ban people from shooting at flocks of migrating birds. Again.

We used to have fantastic flying-V formation migrations directly over Beirut and instead of gawping in awe at nature's genius, we Lebanese would go for our guns. Ah yes, nothing like the smell of cordite to accompany such a display. Families would bring out their entire armoury and let all the family have a crack - from BB guns to bazookas. ("Here, ya ibnee, put it on full automatic").
The flying-V would become a flying-\ /, a flying- and finally a flying-" ".

Who cares what kind of bird it was, it was a fair target, guv.

On a lighter note, I've discovered the joys of Midleton's Irish whiskey, the jewel in the crown of the Jameson's distillery, (thanks to Aideen & MacDara), and Romeo & Juliet Cedros deluxe No.1 (thanks to my dad).
This weekend, I shall mostly be very happy.

Enjoy yours.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sorry, officer?

I've been here way too long to be getting angry at the way things are done here but the useless inflating of the national debt through the purchase of road signs is just too much to stomach.

I mean, what's the point of strategically placing no entry signs and one-way signs on one-way streets? No parking signs on busy roads? No U-turn signs at traffic lights? Come to think of it, why bother with traffic lights anyway? The only times they ever work is when they have a white-gloved policeman underneath them using some inscrutable logic to misdirect everyone, and even then only when he's finished talking on his cellphone or chatted to his friends in cars coming from the opposite direction - and of course, never ever before he's finished his smoke.....

This morning on my way to work, a policeman working the crossroads at the Sofil centre stopped traffic in all 4 very busy directions just to help the friend he had spent a while talking to in the middle of the road make a U-turn right under the fairly prominent no U-turn sign. I hate to nag and harp about these petty things (says he, nagging & harping...), but to stretch anyone's patience the cretin then ended up making a 60-point turn and then HE gets upset when 3000 drivers lean on their horns. Only a driver experienced at navigating these roads could pull a U-ie and give a high finger to all 4 compass points in turn, while simultaneously giving the wrist-swivelling "shou bek?" gesture. If I wasn't so utterly pissed off I'd have been impressed. Oh wait, in retrospect I am.
And your policeman? Smoking a fag on the side of the road, giving a 1000-yard stare to something in the opposite direction. Now that's impressive.

Welcome to my country.

The civic sense? I see stupid people.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

If I were a rich man....

Just wanted to put up a link to this brilliant article, Syria after Lebanon. Good, hard, corrolated facts.... hmmm, it all makes sense now....

Dot, dot, dash, dash, dot....

News of General Ghazi Kanaan's death was met with a somewhat muted response amongst my acquaintances yesterday here in Beirut. I wasn't expecting street parties but I imagined this thought-provoking news would have led to some discussion. After all, this is the man who was basically in charge of Lebanon for 20 years, responsible for those wonderful times. He had called a radio station in Beirut with his final statement claiming innocence or ignorance of any Syrian oppression or crime in Lebanon. Did he know they were coming for him or was the Lebanon situation really "weighing on his mind"? Pfft. I hope this isn't the start of yet another new violent trend.

Went to the pub yesterday to watch England finally put on a footballing display that reflected their £206 million combined worth. Eriksson may have at last found a decent midfield without totems Beckham or Gerrard. Also, next year will be the 40th anniversary of our winning the cup.....could this truly spooky coincidence mean it's going to happen again?? We'll probably beat Brazil and then get bumped out by Togo in true England style...Nice to be back with the usual reprobates after our Cyprus jaunt......
In order, .... the G-Man (our resident international superhero), Tony Soprano (our muscle, and the man who gets things done "that way"), MacDara (inimitable, elusive soothsayer), Kenny Rogers (comic relief and all round good bloke, son)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Here's a tip...

I don't know how half the people put up with the utter rudeness which seems to be endemic in our fair land (I say half, because the other half seem to be unaware of it or simply unfazed).
Just came back from Cyprus after watching the Ireland-Cyprus World Cup qualifier with MacDara, Tony Soprano, Kenny Rogers and the G-Man.......arriving back here at the airport, I went to get myself a luggage trolley and was kindly rolled one from the huge line of them by an airport worker in overalls. I beamed a smile at him, nodded my head in thanks and was subsequently shocked to hear him mutter to his friend the arabic equivalent of "stingy knob".....about me.
Now, I don't consider myself a stingy person by any stretch of the imagination, but does rolling a trolley 3 feet really constitute a tippable job well done?? Of course, his real mistake was thinking I wasn't Lebanese and the attitude does come over me sometimes like David Naughton's pelt on a full moon. Cue torrent of abuse plus a few pointers on customer service. Consider that a job well done.
Oi!!! Where's my bloody tip?