Saturday, 25 December 2010

A Sunday Top Five: Five Highlights of 2010

This time, not in ranked order :

1. Birthday in Malta: Sunshine, parents, good wine & food, a great apartment and swimming in the harbour
Lunch in Malta
2.Roc Soc World Cup: 43 deg C, enjoying cold cider, good music and dubious sporting prowess

RocSoc World Cup
3.The Malta Hash: 4 days of fun, a superbly set hash run (if I do say so myself) with 2 beer stops and more on the beach

1st Beer Stop
4.Trip To Germany: From the first beer on arrival at the airport to the last one before I boarded the flight back to Libya, I enjoyed every minute of this much needed break. And a bonus OW swim.

Homo and first beer at airport

5.A summer of cycling: There was carnage over summer as we discovered new hills and the temperature claimed its victims.Pain & suffering, happy days.

Col de Nom Yai

Sunday, 19 December 2010

A Sunday Top Five: 5 Ways Columbo will catch you

1. The phone records. Don't make a call, or say you made a call, or have someone call you or in any way rely on a phone call for an alibi. "The guys down at the phone company" will soon find you out.

2. The odometer. The extra mileage on your car exactly matches the return trip from your house to where the deceased was found.  Maybe take a longer route on the way back after topping off your victim.

3. Time. Altering people's watches to account for the missing hours you were away committing murder will always be found out. You will also give yourself away by asking people the time at a cocktail party in order to establish your alibi, especially if you've already asked 3 other people that night.

4. Relying on technology. Using any form of 'hi tech' gadgets (for the early 1970's) to establish an alibi is bound to result in a quick arrest. Forget your telephone answer machine, video tape recorder or CCTV system, they will be your downfall.

5. Leave forensic evidence. Long before CSI Where-ever came along and reduced crime solving to a test tube and a computer database, "The boys down at the lab" could match a bullet to a gun, a thread to a pullover or a hair to a head. They'd do it while the kettle boiled and wouldn't complain about people smoking in their lab.

And just one more thing....  Claiming you have 'pull' down 'at city hall' and that you'll have Columbo sacked if he doesn't stop harassing you is worse than wearing a sign round your neck with "Murderer" on it.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Every cloud...

Two and a half hours is how long it took me to drive to work yesterday. Normally it takes just twenty minutes.

We'd had some rain during the night, which has the same effect on the Libyan transport system as half an inch of snow does on the UK's. To be fair, it was alot of rain, a huge amount in a short period of time, even some hail and a superb thunderstorm. This combined with the fact that all of the drains are full of sand, means large lakes appear everywhere and the place grinds to a halt.
The Roundabout of Death Claims 2 More Victims
A local roundabout, known as 'The Roundabout of Death' always gathers a bit of water and yesterday it was resembling a boating lake. The poorly though out road design means that all traffic coming into town has to go through this point, rather than over it, combine this with the Libyan attitude of 'if none of the lanes are moving, make another one' and no one goes anywhere. The traffic jam was made worse by the fact that loads of Libyans had decided to stop their cars right next to the roundabout to look at the water and blocking one of the lanes of the highway.
Luckily I had a magazine to read while I sat there for two hours, unfortunately I had no empty water bottle available to make myself more comfortable.
Despite the inconvenience of getting to work late and having to sit in the car for much longer than my bladder wanted, it was absolutely worth every second. One truck driver had decided to try and cross the central reservation to escape the gridlock and had succeeded in totally seesawing himself, all 4 wheels clear off the ground. It was a classic piece of Libyan bloody mindedness and made my day. If only I'd got a photo.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

A Sunday Top Five: 5 People Not To Buy An Xmas Present For This Year

1. Leslie Nielsen
2.Gary Coleman
3. Clare Rayner
4. Tom Bosley
5. Norman Wisdom

United Nations

I frequent an on line Expat Forum, not surprisingly the Libya section. It can be a useful place to get the latest information such as what the police are stopping expats for this week or to give incoming expats help with visa requirements or where to live etc. However a lot of pointless and petty arguments kick off that invariably end up in expat Vs Libyan battles with biased and ignorant comments from both sides. It gets a bit boring and causes the moderators of the site no end of grief. They've even received threats from irate locals whenever religion is touched on! 
I posted the following thread under the title: How arguments start on the forum to poke a bit of fun at both sides and the various types of people that get involved. 

Guide: Moel is a half Libyan/American guy who although proud of his Libyan heritage, was brought up in the states and misses his home comforts.
Julien is the owner of the site who ends up closing arguments and banning people.
A schawarma is a type of kebab and is just a metaphor for anything expats complain about.

How Arguments Start  On The Forum

Expat1 "I bought a schawarma today for lunch, it was the worst I've ever had"

Expat2 "I agree, the schawarmas here are terrible! Can't wait to go home and get a good schawarma. LOL"

Local1 "Sorry, you didn't enjoy your schawarma, but if you goto my friend's cafe, you will get the best schawarma. Not all schawarma's here are bad"

Moderator "This post should be in the Classifieds section"

Expat1 "Thanks Local1, will try it out "

Local2 "The schawarma's here are better than in your country. If you don't like them, leave"

Expat3 "All schawarma's are bad. Can't believe you can't get Tacos here "

Local3 "The schawarma was probably made by a non-Local, Local schawarmas are the best. We don't like non-locals who can't make schawarmas"

Local2 "You want Taco ? Go home and eat Taco. I ate Taco once in your country and I was ill. And so was my dog that I gave it to when I couldn't finish it. Even rats wouldn't eat your taco"

Expat3 "You sound like the dumb local did in the schawarma shop when I asked for a taco. As long as your country fails to provide meat filled snacks from two different countries, it will never be anything"

Local4 "My friend told me about this forum, so I've joined to make 1 post and to be indignant about the way Expats talk about our schawarma. I will never post again, so don't worry"

Moel "I prefer smoked salmon, cream cheese and fresh basil on a bagel"

Local2 "Mo, we know you don't like Local food, you like US food. Why do you have to always go on about it ?"

Former Expat1 "I'm glad I now live in <<another country>> where there are a plethora of meat filled snacks. I will keep reminding you of this at every opportunity"

Expat55(Expat2 pseudonym)"I'm going for schawarma tonight with my friend, anyone care to join us ?"

Local4 "OK, I'll make 2 posts, then leave. I'm going to tell all my friends to come here and slag off the meat filled snacks in your countries"

Julien "Please, no more food topics"

6 months later

Newuser1 "Hi, I'm new (and statistically, Canadian) where can I get a good schawarma ?"

and go back to the top....

** apart from the grammar and spelling being much better, I think that's about right **

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Daily Male

In the two years that I've enjoyed being a guest of the Colonel, I've seen various nationalities suffer from the results of international relations. The Americans got  punished when some minor diplomat criticised The Leader's speech at the United Nations. The Canadians were punished for something to do with demanding a passenger list of The Leader's plane before allowing it to land for refueling  (that's just 1 version of the story I've heard). The Swiss are still feeling the heat for incidents related to the arrest of one of his sons. At one point this year, all countries who are signed up to the Shengen Agreement were hit due to a tit for tat issue over visas. These diplomatic games usually affect the expats in ways related to getting news visas issued in home countries or trying to get back in to Libya with an existing visa. During the Schengen dispute, people returning from vacations were being turned back at immigration, families made up of 1 Schengen nationality and 1 non Schengen  nationality were being split up. One Dutch guy had to abandon his very pregnant, non Schengen, wife in Libya and he was sent back to Amsterdam on the next flight. Meanwhile businesses have to try and function with reduced headcounts, whilst staff rotations are scuppered and visits from overseas personnel are put on hold.

The freeing of Al Megrahi last year, was a god send to us Brits, keeping us out of the firing line for the time being and putting us at the top table, on 'best pal' status. Today's Wikileaks cables shows how close we came to being in the firing line, should  he have died in prison. 

However, since I came here, I  have joked that we're only ever 1 Daily Mail headline away from disaster: Getcher Daily Mail . Doh!

Hopefully he'll hail WikiLeaks as heroes, the US as the enemy and us plucky Brits as innocent bystanders. Or I'd better pack my bags. 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A Sunday Top Five: Best concerts

1. Mark Ronson (Glasgow 2008). I'd seen the video(see why not watch some classy music ?), so was expecting big things. He didn't have the orchestra there, but the non stop line up of guest singers & rappers to reproduce 'Version' live was just superb.
2. Moby. (Glasgow 2004). I liked Moby's music but thought we'd get a dull performance by a man behind a keyboard. I wasn't expecting a full band, 3 piece string section, awesome backing  singer and a hyperactive bald guy who likes to rock.
3.Kylie. (Glasgow 2008). The X Tour, 3 rows from the front. She could smell my sweat! So what if the show was so long that the trains had finished and everyone walked back to town ? She still talks about it.
4.Wolfsbane. (Walsall 1989). The small rock club at Junction 10. I was probably the only sober person there. A stage diver left in an ambulance. I was never the same again.
5. Dust Junkies. (Aberdeen, 1997). You goto the monthly surfer.skaters' night, you meet all the skaters from the beach and have a few beers, an unknown band comes on. The next day your whole body hurts, your clothes stink of sweat. Was I dancing ? The band release an album, it is awesome.

Honourable mention: Rocket From the Crypt (Aberdeen 1997). I've never left a gig so completely soaked through that I was actually worried about getting hypothermia if I'd had to walk home in a Scottish winter.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Going Metric.

When studying Mechanical Engineering at college, the lecturer drummed  into us the importance of  the units of measurement. All of our calculations had to show not only the numbers but all of the units and the answer with the correctly derived unit. The beauty of the S.I. system of units is that it can be calculated like this, even if you didn't know the correct unit for Work, the fact it is calculated by Force (N) * Distance moved (m) would tell you the correct unit is the Nm. or the Joule to give it another name.

I therefore get slightly annoyed at the British press (for whom all scientists, engineers or anyone who can wire a plug is called a 'Boffin') for constantly using the non SI and non Imperial unit of measurement called 'The double decker bus'. Thus a story about a submarine captain losing his command is dumbed down because the multi million pound, nuclear powered, killing machine (sorry, 'deterrent') that he grounded, weighs 7800 tonnes - "equivalent to nearly 1,000 double-decker buses".

Fractions are best avoided in practice
Fortunately, there is a handy calculator available that will allow you to convert lengths, areas, heights and speeds into manageable 'DDB' units: DDB Calculator. Thus, I know that 1 Blue Whale is equivalent to 3.58 double decker buses and 1 Statue of Liberty is equivalent to 10.6 double decker buses. I will endeavour to use DDB units with my customers when discussing their wells and the performance of our drill bits. I'm sure they'll be more impressed that a bit can drill at 0.1219 double decker buses/hour instead of 30 feet/hour.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Sunday Top Five : Girls Aloud

1. Kimberley Walsh: Lovely, curvy, with an accent like freshly baked bread. But will she go all "Fern Britton" when she hits thirty? That's the worry, I have nightmares.

2.Cheryl Cole: Sexy, skinny and with such a poor track record of picking a man that even I'm in with a chance. A bit of a crier though and obviously can't cook.

3. Nadine Coyle: I'd go out with Nadine just to annoy her Hollywood Ex. but only if she agreed not to speak at all. No, seriously, I'd want that in a legally binding document.

4. Sarah Harding: She's the one you'd go down the pub with, before going home to Kimberley. The pub would need loud music. And nachos. With cheese.

5. The Ginger One: Girl not allowed.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Talking Rubbish

Libya is a rubbish dump, with garbage everywhere and people throwing litter out of their cars without a second thought. You can go out into the hills, miles from anywhere and the stench of rotting garbage will greet you.
And then, several weeks ago, the yellow army arrived. Hundreds of illegal migrant workers, wearing bright yellow coveralls and caps have been filling bags and yellow bins with garbage from the side of the road. A temporary base close to my house is filled with garbage trucks and bins, with trucks picking up and dropping off workers.
The road to my office was beginning to look fairly decent, although it was always obvious how far the workers had progressed the previous day. I was actually impressed that the government was taking steps to tidy up the city and make it slightly less of a dump. "Good on 'em", I thought.

Of course, I should have known better. There had to be an ulterior motive and sure enough today I found out about the 3rd Africa-EU Summit / Tripoli, Libya, 29-30 November 2010.

Oh yes, Tripoli is about to host nearly a dozen African presidents, over 100 delegations and assorted self important big men. So things are being tarted up so that as the VIPs are being whisked around from point A to point B, they won't get to see piles of trash. And to further ensure the city is seen as being modern, sleek and fast moving, there'll be a two/three day public holiday. They call it 'holiday' because 'curfew' doesn't give the right impression, but Allah help anyone trying to drive anywhere in the city. Escape will be impossible, as the airport is being closed down. Although they state 'security reasons', it's more likely to be due to the fact that the car park outside the terminal resembles a car breaker's yard.

Still, we all get another short holiday, but in true government fashion, they probably won't release the dates of the curfew, sorry, "official public holiday", until Thursday evening at 9PM on local, arabic speaking media only. Better make sure the fridge is full of wine and food. This could be a long weekend.

What'll happen to all the yellow army when it's all over and where in the desert has all the crap been dumped ? It'll show up on GoogleEarth in a year's time. You can already  see the lagoons of waste from drilling if you know where to look. At least the poor migrant workers are getting something out of it all.

Edit: apparently now it's "100 leaders" and rumours are that Obama is coming....

Sunday, 21 November 2010

A Sunday Top Five: The Deca Iron Top Five

167 hours in to the Deca Ironman race in Mexico and they're well into the run section now.

NumNameCityGroupLapsDistance CompletedTimeLast LapPlace
11Christian MauditFranceMale143272,137 km Run167:29:540:21:301
13David ClampEnglandMale113215,227 km Run166:40:330:34:132
16Roger LehmanUSAMale64122,274 km Run167:26:360:26:023
12Antal VonekiHungaryMale61116,583 km Run167:35:220:21:164
10Wayne P. KurtzUSAMale4790,025 km Run167:26:280:14:145

Dave Clamp has 110 laps to go and is slowly catching  Christian Maudit who has 87 laps to complete. However Dave's had to strap up his right ankle and is suffering  a wee bit.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Short Road To Freedom

45 minutes.

That's how long it takes to fly from Libya to Malta. If that was British Airways, you wouldn't even get a smile from the cabin crew. Air Malta will give you 2 cans of Cisk lager, or whatever tipples your fancy. The atmosphere on any flight out of Tripoli has to be experienced. The 1500hrs flight to Heathrow is 'The Party Flight', they've got three hours of gin & tonics and they will abuse it.
Pay Your Respects Here

I'll spend more time queuing in immigration in Tripoli, or waiting for my bags when I come back or probably waiting for some muppet Libyan to come back and shift his car so I can get out of the car park* than I will actually flying. And yet Malta is the perfect escape. It's British enough (it has the pub that Ollie Reed died in), they speak better English than a good percentage of the population of England, you can get everywhere from anywhere within the hour, the seafood is great, the bread is superb and they have broccoli the size of basketballs.

Aye, Just park it here love.
What's not to like ? Their driving is more liberal than the UK, but not as anarchic as Libya. It's hot but not in a blast furnace way. They have beaches, but they're not covered in plastic bottles or hair gelled lotharios. It's small enough to see most of, but not feel smothered by. And it's full of old cars, like a set from 'The Sweeney' or 'The Professionals'. No wonder so many Libyan based expats have apartments there.

We're off there tomorrow for a few days with the Hash. A few days of relaxing, drinking and we might even do a run. I'm taking a large bag to bring back plenty of culinary essentials. I'm also currently training for the 2011 Malta marathon on Feb 27th. as I'll most likely still be working here then. Whether I'm actually fit enough (and not injured) then, doesn't matter. It'll be worth the minor investment in the flight just to savour the sweet taste of freedom once more.

*Or you can help a group of equally annoyed Libyans to pick up the offending car and move it - taking care to cause as much damage as possible in the process.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Nuts Part 1

I blame the parents. It has to be someone's fault. A total dislike of team sports (except women's beach volleyball) and a lack of depth perception combined with such poor co ordination  that I struggle to find the Pause button when Maria Sharapova is mid-serve. 

I seem to be attracted to the 'sports' that involve improving your own performance rather than beating others. OK thai boxing might have involved trying to kick seven shades of sh*t out of an opponent, but for me it was always about learning more technical moves, stretching further, kicking higher and faster. I was a pretty useless fighter, but could do the moves perfectly. Probably why I could teach others to fight better than I could do it myself. Rollerblading was always about finding new, higher, steeper sets of stairs to ride down. Falling and falling until they were mastered, then moving on to find a new challenge. With scuba diving I went through the qualifications up to instructor, then was getting into technical diving and rebreathers when I left Thailand. This was about diving deeper, staying down longer and mixing gases in order to combat the body's natural preference to being  on the surface with a nice frosted margarita rather than slowly poisoning it with Nitrogen at 50m down. I dabbled with strength training while in Thailand, increasing the weights every session, finding it hard to sleep at night as my legs were hurting so much. The downside of this kind of training was people would always ask you to carry heavy things ,as you were the 'strong one'. I was training to be a donkey.

I quickly went from running in a 10km race to wanting to do a marathon. I only started to do triathlon because I thought it would force me to learn to swim front crawl, but I knew when I signed up for my first sprint triathlon (750m swim, 20km bike , 5km run) that I'd end up doing an iron distance race (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 41km run) - I can't help myself. Now of course, I want to do another, but want to go faster than before. I want to take an hour off my Barcelona time and go under 12 hours in Germany next year.

Norseman Swim Start
But going faster isn't enough, I want to know how far my body and mind can go. In 2012 I want to do a double Iron distance race, which should be about 30hrs of fun. There's always a triple or quint, but then you're getting into sleep deprivation and losing toe nails. Alot of these ultra distance races involve huge numbers of laps of short bike & run circuits, which keeps things safer (should you collapse or fall asleep while moving!) but are boring. I think I'll attempt the double then just look for the harder or more interesting challenges. Ironman Lanzarote is a brutally hard iron distance course, whilst the Norseman race in Norway starts the swim with jumping off a ferry into a fjord, and after a tough bike leg, ends with a run up a mountain. 

Also interesting is the more bizarre stuff like Ö TILL Ö in Sweden, described as:

A simple concept – teams of two run and swim, continuously, during the hours of daylight, from the northern end of the Stockholm archipelago to the south, encompassing 22 islands from Sandhamm to Üto. 

Total distance is over 66km; 57km running and 9.3km swimming

So that's running in your wetsuit and carrying your running shoes and backpack while you swim - mad as a box of frogs!

Finally there are the people who were dropped on their heads as babies. Starting on November 14th and running (or more likely sadly shuffling) until 12 December, we have The Deca and Double Deca Iron Distance race in Mexico. I'll need a calculator for this:   76km swim, 3600km of cycling and 844km of running. The swim is 1520 lengths of a 50m pool, the bike ride is over 1800 laps. Even if you got to see Megan Fox pole dancing once every lap - it'd get tedious.

Go Arthur!
The winner, as long as they finish in 28 days, gets $2000, which won't even cover the costs for you and your support crew. There'll be no sponsorship deals and I'm pretty sure the WAGS won't include glamour models helping to drain blisters, cut the toes out of running shoes or live in a tent by the side of the track for the best part of a month, feeding their athlete a steady stream of food, drinks and verbal and emotional support. I'm going to be following the daily results for a month. I'm backing Arthur Puckrin, well he's British and his birthday is only 2 days after mine. And he's 73. 
Go Arthur, you're brilliant & barking mad. I blame your parents.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A Sunday Top Five: Top 5 James Bonds

1. George Lazenby. Aside from OHMSS being my favourite Bond film, Lazenby lived the playboy Bond lifestyle. Respect for not selling out to art!

Ding Dong Moneypenny!
2. Daniel Craig. Bond a nasty b@stard? Well he is basically a government salaried hitman. Bourne would still whup him though.

3. Roger Moore. If Leslie Phillips had played Bond, this is how it'd have been.

4. Sean Connery - punch or punchline, you can't have both, ask Steven Segal.

5.Pierce Brosnan. Because there has to be 5 and it can't be Timothy Dalton and I've not seen the original Casino Royale.

Place Your Bets....

For the last week I've not been allowed to drive my company car. Once again the laws have changed and because it's a car with Libyan plates, as opposed to having a blue square and a number designating it as a foreign registered car (20=UK) it means only a Libyan can drive it. Until last week it was enough that I had a letter from the company giving me permission to drive the car, but now the goalposts have moved. To be fair, it is designed to stop private individuals leasing cars to expats and not declaring the income. I'm 100% behind them on this and if I worked for a company that wasn't conforming to the local legislation I'd be suitably non plussed...

So this means I've been relying on Bassim to drive to my house, leave his car at ours & then drive me to the office. So far, 0845hrs has been 0855, 0900 and 0910hrs. At least on Thursday I gave him credit for honesty, ("I overslept"). When he drops me off at night or has left me the car at the office, in the good old days when I was allowed to drive myself, I always (half jokingly) have  asked if he has his keys, phone, cigarettes etc. Invariably he leaves something behind. On Thursday he dropped me at my house and somehow left his house keys outside in the dirt, where my landlord found them. I still have them here.

Anyway, onto the subject of the bet:
I have to go to work tomorrow (Sunday), Bassim has to pick me up from the house, I haven't told him what time to be here. Logically you'd assume it'd be 0845hrs, as that it the normal time to be late for. But it might also be common sense to phone and check what time you're required.
After two years of employing him, I know I need to phone him and tell him what time to be late for.

But I can access my work e mail from home, I have my mobile phone, the boss is away, so let's have some fun rather than get p*ssed off with the never ending muppetry. I've not called him and me & Dear are betting what's going to happen. So join in the fun.

Will he:

a) turn up late, thinking he needs to be here at 0845hrs ?
b) phone from his house, after 9 am. asking where to go ?
c) phone from my office after 10 am. Having forgotten I'm not allowed to drive ?
d) not turn up or call ?
e) be here on time ?

Dear reckons (b), I favour (c).

There'll be no b@llockings or fines this time, I know I should call him as he has zero initiative, but we need to get our fun somehow...

So, place your bets now.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


It's one week to go until the big Eid holiday, which for expats is 3 days off work (praise Allah that it doesn't fall over a weekend this year!) and sheep get nervous when offered a ride home in a stranger's car. Thousands of sheep have been enjoying life in the country, then one day they're loaded into pick up trucks and get to enjoy the feeling of the wind in their faces as they're raced into town. Once here they stand around in makeshift pens, set up wherever the farmers damn well feel like it. These impromptu markets appear everywhere overnight and last until the final runt of the flock has limped away for a ride home in the back of a taxi or a family's Mazda.

Whilst Christmas typically dictates the devouring of a turkey or other fowl, the difference is that it's not a custom that every family attending a Xmas dinner would bring their own bird with them and slaughter it in the back yard. Sheep aren't cheap and yet it is important that everyone can provide one. As the male of his house, my driver will use pretty much his whole month's salary to buy a sheep , yet with only him, his mum and sister in the house, how long are they going to be munching mutton ? And as they live in an apartment, they will have to keep their sheep on the roof overnight until it's time for it to get the closest shave it'll ever experience. It's not uncommon for the more well off families to buy a cow or buffalo; even camels are reduced to handy steak sized pieces. Budding entrepreneurs set up grind wheels at the side of the roads to sharpen the blades of the once a year butchers.

Luckily, as a vegetarian and an atheist, I'm unlikely to receive any invitations to join in the celebrations. And this year we're escaping to Malta with a bunch of people from the Hash, much better to enjoy an Islamic religious holiday in a non Islamic country. I'll raise a glass to all the sheep.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

A Sunday Top Five: 5 Times I've dislocated my shoulder

  1. Falling on a half pipe on rollerblades, Aberdeen
  2. Falling on a climbing wall, Chiang Mai
  3. Falling down some steps, drill ship , Irian Jaya
  4. Jumping off a dive boat roof into the sea, Koh Samui
  5. Slipping on ice when drunk, Kazakhstan
*note: I'd not recommend Googling 'Shoulder Dislocation' if you're squeamish

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Driving Miss Crazy

My driver's mum is on holiday. I know this because he has been late to work every day this week, despite the fact we bought him an alarm clock last year. We've tried fining him 5 dinar a day each time he's late, which when you're on 500LYD/month, can soon add up.

I don't ask much of him, there are just 3 rules:
1. Be in the office by 0930hrs
2. Never give me the car back with the out of fuel light on
3. Never let the windscreen washer bottle empty light come on

He has been my driver for 2 years and yet still can't manage these 3 things.  There's always an excuse, how yesterday he 'forgot' the fuel tank was empty between parking my car outside the office and walking about 200m to give me the keys. If he's late "there was traffic", "he couldn't get a taxi" or "the taxi driver drove slow" or "didn't have change" - "get  up earlier" and "carry change" are alien concepts, it is always someone else's fault. He almost ran into the back of a car that braked - "that car braked!", "No Bassim, you were so close to him I could have picked the couscous out of his moustache"

He has lived in Tripoli all of his life, yet I seem to know how to get around better than him. Despite the number of times he's taken me to my customers, I still have to give my instructions as:

To go to BP: " Goto the office by the chinese people"
To go to Petrocanada. " Goto the office that isn't the one by the chinese people"
To go to Sonatrach "Goto the office we went to last week, and you got lost and went to the coffee shop and got directions" - although after today I might be able to call them "the office by the coffee shop"

Thankfully I can walk to Oxy's office.

I don't actually need a driver and prefer to drive myself, but we need him to ferry Dear around and if I'm using the car I think I should make him work a bit, otherwise he'll just sit around the office looking at his feet.

He has driven Dear to violence, she has hit him at least twice and you would be surprised, nae shocked, at how she speaks to him. She's not proud of it and she admits he really brings out the worst in her.  I recommend pouring her a drink, get one for yourself - make it a large one, get a comfy chair and ask her about him. It's comedy gold!

We're going to let him go at the end of this month, he is being particularly bad and lazy right now, Dear lost it yesterday and told him to not bother coming back today. Yet it doesn't seem to sink into his head. He is 31-32, lives with his mum & sister and has got a pretty easy job working for us, in a country with a high level of unemployment. The only reason we've not looked for another driver, apart from him being a nice enough guy, is that we can trust him and he really looks out for Dear if she's out shopping. He might be as lecherous as most Libyan men, but Allah help any man who would be be lecherous towards Dear, his sister or his mum! It's a shame to let him go, however once Dear leaves, I don't need him. If he was  keen or showed some initiative then maybe I'd keep him on, but if after two years I need to call him at 10am to see when he'll be at the office, then I think I can see how I can save 250GBP/month. Plus - touch wood - he's had alot more accidents in my car than I have....

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


The Crossroads by my house - traffic lights not working and no police present

The horrendous driving in Libya is a constant source of amusing/horror stories. Every day I have to go across a junction (from left to right above) on the way to work. The traffic lights no longer work, which is a good thing as you're better off knowing that no one will stop than assuming they will stop because a light is red. There is always a police car parked up, maybe it hasn't got an engine. Sometimes the police get out and try to direct the traffic, on those days the jams are really bad.  GoogleEarth shows it at a typically chaotic moment, but this natural law does work and is better than the two controlled alternatives.
For true traffic fans it's at: Lat: 32°47'41.99"N , Long:  13° 1'24.32"E

Monday, 1 November 2010

Taking the Mickey

Insert Employer's Name Here ANNOUNCES THIRD QUARTER 2010 RESULTS
 October  2010  Employer's Name (NYSE: E.N) today reported that for the third quarter ended September 30, 2010 it earned net income of $404 million, 

So why can't we get have some money to buy printer cartridges ? I need to print a proposal out for a customer but no one in the office has ink.

A resourceful person would nip out to the shops, buy the ink and claim it on expenses.

They would then be an out of pocket person, because I'm still waiting to get June, July & August's expenses paid. So now Bank of Ed is open for deposits only.

Multi million dollar, multinational corporation or Mickey Mouse Club ?

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Sunday Top Five: Hardest physical challenges so far

'Tis a mere speedbump!
1. Col De Derriere - Libya, Summer 2010:  A 90km ride with a slight climb in 40 deg heat. Reality didn't match Google Earth, meaning a 30km ride back with about 1/4 of a water bottle. Me & my cycling buddy collapsed in our cars, unable to speak and only capable of sipping water without vomiting. Fun!

2. Un-named training ride - Libya, Summer 2009: A 180km solo ride on the flat, again 40 deg C. Despite over 1 litre of water per hour and taking salt tablets, I got severe cramps in both legs with 25km left to go. It was only when my boss called on my mobile that I found out my throat was so parched, I'd lost my voice. My legs were twitching all afternoon once I got home.

Knockburn Oly
3. Knockburn Olympic distance triathlon - Aberdeen, Summer 2008: 1500m swim, 40km bike but as soon as I put on my running shoes to begin the 10km run, an old injury came back and my calf exploded. The run is a hilly on/off road course. It hurt. Alot.

4. Edinburgh University Sprint Triathlon - Edinburgh, March 2008:  750m swim in the pool, then run outside in wet clothing & barefoot. It was snowing. 20km bike in the wind & snow, then a 5km run. I couldn't feel my feet at all on the run. It took a long, hot shower to recover. I love this race as a season starter.

5. Challenge Barcelona - Ironman distance triathlon, Barcelona October 2008: Amazing swim, apart from having to be lifted out of the sea as both legs cramped as I tried to stand up. But I found the 180km bike ride so dull I began to think about things like why not give Pandas alcopops to get them drunk enough to mate ? The 40km run was tough when they ran out of coke (for sugar and caffeine) and again, the run route was so boring.  This was mentally the hardest thing I've done. Yet....

Thursday, 28 October 2010


"Together Everyone Achieves More" say the motivational posters. Teamwork is essential for success and the loner is the loser.

I like to tell people that I'm a team player, although I make sure the sarcasm is impossible to miss. It's also fairly obvious from my favoured out of work activities that I prefer to do things on my own. Although if questioned in a job interview I would point out that I have raced as the runner in a team triathlon and that our victory was due to the combined efforts of all team members giving it their all. And it wasn't just because there were no other teams entered in our division.
At work I prefer to work alone then I don't have to rely on other people, wait for them or correct their mistakes. In sport I like to push myself, improve on my own performance and have the freedom to do what I want. If all else fails, I blame my dislike of team sports on my parents!

This week the boss decided that something needed to be done to try and boost the flagging morale of the workers in the office and in our warehouse. It's easy to knock his efforts but at least he is trying to address some of the issues we have here and I'm 100% for it, as long as I don't have to be actively involved.
My reaction had already been predicted by him and his co conspirator and my protestations that I was a "lone wolf", "an independent operator" or simply that "I hated that kind of sh*t" and was going to be "busy that afternoon" fell on deaf ears. The prospect of seeing me forced to participate in some crappy team event with a bunch of guys from the workshop who I never have the need to deal with or ever see was clearly too appealing to them. They had me cornered and on the ropes. But the best form of defence is attack, and inspired by a bottle of white wine, I came up with a plan  that was nothing short of genius. I wouldn't run from this challenge, I would embrace it in a big boozy hug and make it mine.

There will be a team building event, with randomly picked teams competing for a prize over a series of challenges that will involve a combination of speed, strength, logic, languages and of course teamwork. It will be held at a series of locations, culminating in a BBQ where everyone can socialise and me & Andy can get drunk. However this was my idea and I'm the only one who has experience of organising anything like this. I sold it to the boss by saying that organising something like this required as much team work as participating, but not to worry as I'd take charge. I'll knock up a proposal and budget this weekend, close the sale on Sunday and then work out ways to make my puppets dance for me. 

I'm actually looking forwards to it now, I just hope my boss isn't sat at home, rubbing his hands together and thinking "hook, line & sinker...."

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


I've had two tough decisions to make this week:

1) My boss asked me if I'd like to be "Sales Manager". It's in quotes as I believe it wouldn't be an official job, recognised by HR, it's just a job title he'd give me, along with 80% of his  work load, a hell of a lot more responsibility and equal amounts of stress. In return, I might get my own office, but I'd get no more salary. Or I can keep on doing the boring job I do now, with next to no stress, for the same money. Whilst I admire his new found enthusiasm for trying to motivate his staff, I can't believe he'd think I'm that gullible. No wonder there's a mass exodus from the company right now.

2)The Dog. You've seen the pictures, it's a puppy. It's cute etc.... And I've wanted a dog for ages, but never had the right house for one. I didn't even have to go out and choose one, this one was delivered free to my door. But I've no idea where I'm going to be living in the next year. If it's Libya, the U.S or Australia then great I could keep the dog, if  it 's Balikpapan then I couldn't.  I don't want to be in the position where having a dog controls my job options or have to give it away in 6 months time when we've both become attached to each other. Better to let it go now so it can have a decent home with people who're a bit more settled.

Fortunately, we have an English couple coming today to take him. I wasn't going to let him go to a Muslim family, at least not Libyans, they have no idea how to treat animals. I guess ours was lucky to be dumped near to us, he got some food, a bath, a trip to the vets and a cuddly toy.  In return he's made me realise I want my own dog and that if I can have one at my next location I'll try to take one from a shelter. That'd give me 3-4 years before moving again and having to work out how to take it with me next time.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A Sunday Top Five

Top Five Bars That I Can Remember

  1. Gullivers - Bangkok : Great for people watching and a good place to start an evening
  2. B.A.T.S Bar - Jakarta : Superb margaritas and excellent Philipino covers bands 
  3. Prince Of Wales - Aberdeen: Huge selections of beers, no musak, toilets on ground floor
  4. Bull's Head - Bangkok: A taste of home in the heart of Thailand
  5. Sweet & Soul - Koh Samui: Buckets of Thai whisky & coke, pumping music and the world passing by