Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Neighbour’s From Rumania

A song in the style of Half Man Half Biscuit:

Picked the lad up at twelve
Another round of expensive education curtailed
School had texted:
“Some cunt’s being marched to his grave”

It dismayed me to note
That his name was Abdullah, not Dave

I wonder if the martyr’s feeling smarter
In the knowledge of his part
In bringing western civilisation down?

Or is the unlucky sod still wearing his frown ferretskin stole?
(He was booked in for back waxing before the traditional Friday stoning, after all…)

Dropped by the local madrasah
Who were none the wiser
All that nutting the floor
Had ’em in a daze

Got a pizza, came home
Had a kip, got on the phone
To the missus
Who once went to Mecca
(Not the bingo, mind)

Still dismayed it was Abdullah
Not Dave

I said:
Hello dear
And asked her if she knew he was dead
She said “What: you’ve fixed the bed?”
The lines here are not always clear

And Abdullah’s gone to his grave
While Dave’s getting ready for another night
Of unIslamic rave

But at least my neighbour’s
From Rumania
A claim that most are unable to make.

More to follow (perhaps)

posted by Kirk at 7:20 am  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bahrain Diary

Happy to report that the situation is now 99% normal. The only abnormality is the visible (and welcome) security force presence at strategic points in Manama and elsewhere. Sustained gunfire could be heard in Saar yesterday which gave everyone the jitters, but this turned out to be the BDF practising on their range.

Everyone is back at work, the schools have reopened, supermarkets are fully stocked and there’s even petrol at the pumps. Strange then, as absent teachers stream back from the Swiss Alps or Phuket, that the British Embassy’s advice – as of right now – is as follows:

“We advise against all travel to Bahrain until further notice… …We continue to recommend that those without a pressing reason to remain should leave.”

Why?

Strange also that the British Embassy here is still “closed until further notice”.

Why?

Well, it’s nearly Easter I suppose, so we’ll just have to leave things as they are until after that. The daffs are blooming in Esher, after all.

There was also a classic Freudian slip on the Embassy’s Facebook page yesterday. I’ll leave you with this, which I’ve cut and pasted (below), without amendment.

“Salima Freeman:
How does the readiness of ex-pat schools to re-open so quickly square with the ongoing advice from the British Embassy to avoid travel to Bahrain and to leave unless there is a pressing reason to remain?

UK in Bahrain:
Dear All, we appreciate how difficult news like schools opening makes things. Rest assured we are regulalry reviewing our travel advice and as soon as there is any change in our advice we will inform the community on Facebook, via our website and through LOCATE.”

You couldn’t make it up…

posted by Kirk at 5:41 am  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bahrain Diary

All quiet on the eastern front. The Iranian werewolf in Bahrain never showed up, despite the perigee moon…

Drove over to Muharraq for a routine medical check-up (government requirement). Other than a few strategically placed tanks here and there, everything is back to normal. That said, it was strange to pass the Pearl Roundabout and see with my own eyes that the iconic Pearl Monument has gone. And the place good old Auntie insists on calling a square has been renamed “GCC Roundabout”. An attempt to airbrush events from history? Or – the official line – traffic flow improvement measures that were already in the pipeline? Who cares. It was a concrete monstrosity, after all.

You never know what to do when you’re low on fuel and there’s none at the pumps. One last throw of the dice and a jaunt up to the big gas station near the airport – surely they must have some there – or a quiet trundle home? I chose the latter. I’m back down to 68km to go – aaaarrrrgghh!

We’ve just heard that the schools will reopen tomorrow. A shame then, that half the teachers are still abroad, having fled at the first opportunity on the advice of the Foreign Office.

F.O., F.O.

And shame on those teachers. Where are their priorities? If their students are here and ready to get back to work, why aren’t they? As a particularly bristly friend of mine in Hong Kong used to bawl at the taxi drivers there: “Oi! I pay your fucking wages…!”

posted by Kirk at 9:10 am  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bahrain – A Different Perspective

Some photos of the gated compound we live in, taken at 16:00 local time today. Tranquility itself.

This is our house, with the Bergmobile parked in the drive.

Some of the flowers in our garden.

Our street. Note the palm tree shadow in the foreground. Excellent technique by The Kaptain. The old Indian gardener slopes off for a cup of chai in between trimming hedges.

Flowers in a neighbour’s garden (better than ours!)

Neighbouring street. An older part of the compound, where the trees are more developed.

Beautiful and unusual flowers in one of the flowerbeds along our street. Any ideas what they are?

School’s out. St. Christopher’s School is “closed until further notice”. So Harry Potter goes for a ride.

The exit gate. I can feel myself being sucked towards it, as if I’m falling horizontally. It’s like a wormhole into a parallel and alien universe.

posted by Kirk at 8:41 am  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bahrain Diary

Friday’s sermon was particularly vociferous. Christ knows what the imam was ranting on about…! So I closed all the doors and put on some Iggy: Loco Mosquito (them); I’m Bored (me); Bang Bang (the solution).

That night a huge racket could be heard coming from the same direction as before. Think of a capacity Old Trafford crowd baying for the referee’s blood after a denied penalty appeal. Some very loud bangs, too, along with the quieter yet more sinister crack-crack… crack-crack… of semi-automatic gunfire.

I’ve discovered that the place it’s all “kicking off” is actually Diraz, which is probably a kilometre beyond Al Markh in a straight line from where I live. Diraz has a history steeped in Akhbari culture/thinking (see Wiki). I don’t know the full story but apparently King Hamad’s late father, the Emir Isa ibn Sulman Al Khalifa, pledged the land there to this lot and they’ve been creating ever since. Today it’s pretty much a no-go area.

Picking up a takeaway from my local Indian restaurant yesterday I heard the unmistakable sound of tanks trundling along the road and, sure enough, they came quickly into view. Not the large Centurion type, but more like armoured personnel carriers with tracks rather than wheels and carrying heavy duty machine guns up front. Not everyone can lay claim to that experience while sucking on a Kingfisher!

Most people are back at work today and the situation appears to be returning to normal, although the security forces’ roadblocks are slowing movement around town. Better that, though, than what we were faced with a week ago.

posted by Kirk at 5:44 am  

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bahrain Diary

Audible cracks of gunfire heard last night over and above the commentary during Man City’s aggregate defeat to Dynamo Kiev. Ventured out on to the porch to hear the familiar cry of “Allahu akbar” followed by further volleys of what was presumably a cocktail of tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and live ammo. Using my knowledge of the stars and training in sea navigation I tried to put this latest disturbance into a “cocked hat”. But in the end I resorted to Google Earth. By my reckoning, the noise was coming from the direction of Al Markh (26o N; 50o E).

During the Liverpool/Braga game there were a couple of very loud bangs nearby. Mighty close, in fact. I found myself outside in the street with my Indian neighbours (the Rumanians next door have fled, along with the Russian/Arab couple opposite. Now I’m not saying they’re swingers, just that both happened to vanish the same night…)

Back to the street scene. We stood under a vaguely pinkish cloud (light pollution?) looking up at the sound of yet another chopper. Positing a few theories on how the situation was going to play out, we encouraged one another that nothing seriously bad could happen. One of the ladies complained of smelling “a strange kind of gas” all day, but then I did have to point out that I knew how much dhal she cooked (and presumably, therefore, ate…)

…Friday today, so a definite “stay at home” affair. As I write I can hear the muezzin’s call from Saar’s main mosque. We are all waiting to see what happens after prayers. Friday afternoons are tense at the best of times. Update to follow…

posted by Kirk at 4:01 am  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bahrain Diary

A new dawn and, with it, significantly less chopper action (in the air).

Managed to buy fuel, although the queue was long and it was rationed. My dashboard indicates I now have 170km to go. To where? Once around the island? Or three-and-a-half times to the airport and back? In the event, I settled for the offie/bottle shop, where I queued with the great unwashed as its shutters went up and down, allowing the hordes of eager punters to enter in successive batches.

The supermarkets have reopened although they’re full of panic-buyers. How many kids must that woman have that she needed to buy eight packs of frozen burgers? There’s no bread or milk, of course, and very little in the way of fruit and veg that hasn’t been picked up and squeezed a hundred times, only to be discarded anyway.

I found myself buying things I’d normally scoff at. Dundee cake, a tin of cock-a-leekie soup. (Never an Arab favourite, there was plenty of it on the shelves.) But then there was the prize purchase: a pack of unsmoked back bacon. (Yes, in certain supermarkets here they have special segregated sections, hidden away, where all manner of pork products are available to kaffirs like me.)

On to more serious matters, and some food for thought:

1: the opposition parties, portrayed by the BBC and other international newsmedia as “peacefully protesting against their lack of representation”, actually have 18 out of 40 seats in government.

2: education and medical care is free for all Bahraini citizens.

3: in Bahrain there is zero income tax and no VAT.

4: premium grade petrol is 25 US cents a litre (when available).

(Compare those facts with the situation in your own country of origin, and/or your current domicile.)

Faced with such “oppression” I’m not sure I’d camp out in the middle of a roundabout for a month demanding regime change, while refusing any form of dialogue.

But then again, the grass is always greener…

posted by Kirk at 8:17 am  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bahrain Diary

Woke up to the sound of helicopter rotors and the crack of nearby gunfire (there are plenty of black flags in Saar old town). Opened email to find an urgent update from the Embassy: “Stay at home and be ready to leave at short notice.” But the septics are still here and as we know from previous experience (Jakarta) they are usually the first to leave, so things can’t be that bad (fingers and everything else crossed). They might not have intelligence but they do have good intelligence, if you know what I mean.

Took a cautious early morning drive to see if I could find some fuel, but nothing doing. No petrol at the pumps and my dashboard readout says I have just 43km distance left in the tank. The supermarkets, meanwhile, are shuttered. Speaking of tanks, apparently they went in Tiananmen-style at first light and have recaptured the Pearl Roundabout. The security forces have pursued the protestors back to their (mainly Shi’a) villages, where skirmishes are still taking place and black smoke can be seen rising.

Bored with watching the news and unable to concentrate on work emails we went outside to play street cricket. A couple of local Indian workmen who were busy repairing the kerbside flower beds joined in, their opening batsman immediately hitting a couple of sixes (neighbours’ gardens) off my bowling. I retired hurt while they went off for lunch, laughing.

posted by Kirk at 5:09 am  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Situation In Bahrain

From Your Bahrain Correspondent, 13th March 2011:

Things took a turn for the worse here yesterday when riot police fired live rounds and tear gas at protestors they were attempting to corral into the area surrounding the Pearl Monument. (It’s a roundabout, not a square, as the BBC continues to insist.)

The roads were eerily quiet as I drove my way to the office – the reason for which was soon to become evident. Up ahead I saw several cars – a half-dozen or so, maybe – screaming towards me, headlights blazing. And this coming the wrong way down the main motorway that bisects Manama’s central business district. Fortunately I managed to avoid them by swerving up a nearby exit, where I stopped the car to draw breath.

I wound down the window to hear the familiar crack-crack-crack of gunfire heard so often on TV but never before for real. Up ahead, in the direction in which I’d been travelling, I could now see plumes of smoke (in the vicinity of Pearl Roundabout) and some 50+ police vehicles parked across the overpass. Fascinated at witnessing what was perhaps a historic event I listened to the sound for a while before continuing on.

I watched as dozens of people streamed out of nearby housing complexes and began making their way towards the scene. Some were trotting, some ran, others merely strolled. There were women among them, clad from head to foot in black. They were making a lot of noise and the overall atmosphere was one of tension. Cars honked their horns in unison. I called a friend and suggested he evacuate his office, which he duly arranged for.

Unsurprisingly, the schools are closed today and all the main shopping malls barricaded against vandals and looters. The Saudi army, meanwhile, has just trundled over the causeway that connects the two Kingdoms. According to the media this was in response to King Hamad’s request. Let’s hope Iran doesn’t get too hot under the collar about it.

posted by Kirk at 4:26 am  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dad

2 years today. I miss you. I’ve been angry of late. It’s been building up inside. Trying to stop myself feeling that way. Promise you I will. I still talk to you every day. Hope you can hear that.

We turned your picture to face the TV the other night, when Spurs were playing AC Milan. We won 1-0 on aggregate Dad. How we’d have celebrated if you were still here.

I love you like no other.

You are still my hero.

Your loving son x

posted by Kirk at 3:41 am  

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