Saturday, 19 February 2011

A Sunday Top 5: Changes due to civil unrest

1.) Police have been reallocated from traffic duty to killing unarmed civilians - this results in much better traffic flow as they don't have a clue how to control traffic

2.) Working from home - All work can be done whilst wearing just pants. Without upsetting anyone.

3.) Everything that is bad here such as poor communications infrastructure, slow internet or the absence of quality tea bags can be blamed on the unrest and not just 'Libya being sh*t'

4.) Thinking 'if we're forced to evacuate, I can do X,Y,Z'. Where drinking in a pub, eating something like sushi and shopping make up the X,Y and Z

5.) Having to pack your whole life into a 20kg 'run like Forrest' bag, knowing you might never see the rest of your possessions again and no insurance policy on earth will cover this !

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A Sunday Top 5 - Boo/Hoorays

Whilst living in Koh Samui, I was introduced to the idea of Boo/Hoorays. Initially it started as a drunken , late night thing (see #1) But it evolved into something else, where a person can at any time, identify a cloud on the horizon, but must at the same time find the silver lining. Boo/Hoorays can be done whilst drunk or sober and are recommended as a way of (a) making light of a situation (b) annoying other people.

1.) ((A parent friendly version of the original)): There's only one bar maid left on duty - BOO
But she's quite well endowed  - HOORAY

2.) The Doctor said I've got A.I.D.S - BOO
      But he's dyslexic - HOORAY

3.) Political instability means leave everything behind - BOO
     Duty Free - HOORAY

4.) Chemotherapy - BOO
      Hats! - HOORAY

5.) Testicular Cancer - BOO
      No need for home pregnancy kits - HOORAY

I could fill the year with these. I love Boo/Hoorays.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


The driving in Libya is shocking, as are the attitudes to safety and the conditions of most of the cars. It's no wonder there are so many accidents here and I'm used to seeing cars pulled over on perfectly straight roads, with two drivers standing nose to nose, gesticulating wildly and shouting at each other as they stand ankle deep in broken glass and plastic.
I'm also used to seeing children standing on back seats or sitting out of car windows or seeing babies sitting on the driver's lap. I've seen cars go the wrong way around roundabouts, straddle the central reservation and drive against oncoming traffic and do u-turns on a dual carriageway and drive against the traffic on the slip road. I've seen all of that in the last two days.

Today is the first time I've seen someone get killed.
I saw something like a doll in the road and an on coming car swerving, trying to avoid the car in front that had braked. He missed the car. He went right over the girl that the car in front had just hit. As I passed, I saw the bright, stripey jumper and the dark curly hair of a girl aged about 6-8. I pulled over some way ahead and tried to decide what to do. She had to be dead, so my limited first aid knowledge wasn't going to be of help. A large group of men was gathering and more cars were stopping. I decided that this wasn't the best place to be a white guy who could easily become the stooge when the police finally arrived. So I  drove off.
I don't feel guilty, as there was nothing I could have done, apart from get into trouble. I just keep seeing the car swerving and going over the girl, then seeing her body in the road. And I know that tomorrow and every day, I'll be facing the same idiots on the road.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Cycling Challenge

For the last thirty days I've been doing a cycling challenge. I'd like to say it was intended to raise money for a much needed charitable cause or that record books will now have to be re written to reflect my achievements.

But no, the only goal was to ride every day for thirty consecutive days and the only achievement has been a minor (but much needed) weight loss.

The rules for this challenge were simple. Every day I had to ride my bike, on road, rollers or turbo trainer for a minimum of 20 minutes. However a ride of 20 minutes would have to be a flat out sprint time trial and not a bimble. Bimbling 'recovery rides' of 30 minutes were allowed to give my poor aching legs a break. To keep it fun I split the sessions up and planned a week ahead to ensure I didn't get a weak head and bottle it on any given day.
Week one: various 'real life' dvds of routes on the turbo trainer
Week two: Sufferfest dvds on the turbo trainer - painful sessions of 50-60mins but at maximum effort
Week three: Sessions on the rollers, that ended up being Sufferfest on the rollers, like watching an elephant trying to sprint across a floor covered in ball bearings
Week four: longer distance turbo sessions 60-120km

It's been difficult to force myself to ride everyday, there've been days when my legs were still dead from the previous day's efforts, when I was hungover or when I had a dodgy stomach... So it's been as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Today was the last day,  I'll now take a day off all training then start back on a proper 24 week program that should get me fit for Ironman Germany in July.

The Challenge in Numbers:

Distance cycled: 1122 km
Calories burned: 23,000 (approx)
Weight lost: 5.5kg
Litres of water consumed:  60 (approx)
Number of times fallen off rollers: 2
Shirts worn: 36

Think I'll have a wee rest now, I'm knackered.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

A Sunday Top Five: Things that make Libya liveable

1. Weather  - last year I scraped ice off my car on only one day, it was 4 deg. by the time I got to my office it was 8 deg, by lunchtime 20deg. That's as bad as winter gets, apart from some days of rain, it's not too bad. But from April to November it is superb 35-40 deg C, blue sky and gorgeous.

2. Palm city supermarket - This is a supermarket in a new, expensive, expat compound. Apply for a non resident  entry card and you too can enjoy shopping in a small, pricey but well stocked emporium. You find things you'll see no where else in Libya, they even have Marmite! Sometimes they have Thorntons chocolate. Last week I bought some broccoli the size of a baby's head, whilst the usual Libyan veg stalls sold tennis ball sized pieces. For that alone, they rock.

Whether going up or down, this hill is 10/10
3. Training - there's not much to do here. I don't watch tv, I tend not to socialise on weekdays. That leaves plenty of time for training. There are heaps of places to run, some superb hills to cycle on and the sea or some good open air pools for swimming. I'd prefer to run in Aberdeen, but I'd rather cycle here.

4. Expats -  there's a certain type of expat that comes and stays here. I think if you come and stay for more than 6 months then you are that type. For sure, we all like to bitch about how sh*t Libya is compared to other  countries we've worked in (and it is) but we all much prefer it to living in our home countries.

5. Gin - I could have said alcohol. But gin deserves a special mention. At an 'open bar' it is always the most popular drink. If there's Bombay Sapphire on offer, there will be a queue and a very 'dispirited' host.
Recently Person A said he was placing an order and how many bottles did  parties B,C, and Ed want ?
Answer: get what what you can and we'll divvy it up.
Person Ed got 5 bottles and will pass one to A.n.other in a reciprocal agreement.
No other adult beverage commands this level of respect, but when you're at a party, with a G&T in hand and your pinky is stuck out, elbow high. For a moment, you're not in Libya. and that's a good thing.

Bonus 6. Special mention for: Malta. If you fly from Libya to Malta it is 45 minutes, 2 beers away. If you fly from Malta to Libya it is 3 G&Ts, 2 red wines and 2 beers away. Depending on how early you check in. See a previous post on why Malta is the closest thing to haven we have.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

A Sunday Top Five: 5 Careers sadly not pursued

1. 'Glamour' photographer - as much travel and as many hot women as the other jobs, but without the risks

* I spent many hours, many very happy hours, looking at photos to put here. It's amazing what Google Images offers for 'glamour photography', especially when you set the 'safe search' option to off. I can't post anything suitable, but the results confirmed why this is #1.

2. Motorbike racer - So much cooler than F1 drivers, although spending 75% of the year in a motorhome is a bit pikey

3. Fighter pilot - I met a guy once who flew Tornadoes, I wanted to ask him, "If that's your day job, what the hell do you do for fun ?"

4. Rock guitarist - Playing like Angus Young, without looking like him

160m Down and 'Bunny Ears' is still funny

5. Commercial Saturation Diver - big money, crazy lifestyle, deep water and huge risks

** It goes without saying that being ' Mr Kylie Minogue'  isn't a recognised career.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

A Sunday Top Five : Expat Drinks in Libya

The Top Five Drinks as served by me, the bar man, at Friday night's party:

1. Gin & Tonic (Winner by a ratio of at least 3:1)
2. Mojito
3. Vodka & Cranberry juice
4. Red wine
5. Vodka & Tonic

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Toilet Humour

There is often speculation amongst expats as to why Libyans drive so fast and so dangerously. Why are they in such a hurry to go somewhere and do nothing ? All they seem to be doing is standing around, smoking, chatting to their buddies and drinking awful coffee out of small paper cups on street corners. Today, I may have found the answer.

I was just beginning my drive home tonight when I got a sense of an impending eruption from within. Although my office was closer, it would have required a lot of faffing with U-turns and traffic jams. I decided to make a run for it - in the mornings  my commute is about 20-25 mins, in the evenings it can be 25-30 mins.This evening I think I recorded a sub 15 minute trip. I am ashamed to say I used every trick I've learned in my 2.5yrs of driving here. Undertaking, overtaking, driving in the middle to block others, tail gating, cutting people up, being (seemingly) oblivious to all other road users. The only difference between me and the other nutters on the road was at least I was using my mirrors before swerving erratically to gain a 1m advantage on the other road abusers. With much relief, I made it back home and won't have to have the car fumigated.

Tomorrow I promise to balance the road karma and let people pull out in front of me, not beep the horn at traffic lights 2 secs before red turns to green, not exchange cultural hand signals with the taxi tail gating me at 120kph and I will let pedestrians across the road. As long as they don't dawdle.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A Sunday Top Five: 5 Dinner Guests (Living)

1. Chrissie Wellington (MBE): Women's world record holder for Ironman racing, beats most pro male atheletes too. No ego, does alot for worthy causes, always smiles and likes beer, wine & pizza. Great speaker & alot of fun.

2. Michael Porter: The Harvard Business School professor & the godfather of competitive strategy, he's my geeky hero. If he says something, it's fact.

3. Sir Ranulph Fiennes: His autobiography, "Mad, bad & dangerous to know" sums him up. A true legend, a captivating story teller. Mad as a box of frogs and a Great Briton. I bet he drinks Gin.

4. Kylie Minogue: Because someone's got to make breakfast. 

5. Jimmy Carr: You've got to have a bit of humour at the dinner table. Ross Noble would talk too much and require too much attention. J.C can do a joke in 3 words:
"Stationary shop moves" or 2 words "Dwarf shortage". A comedy historian.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

A Sunday Top Five: Things that wee sh*te of a dog has eaten or tried to eat

1. The nice plant by the front door - destroyed completely
2. Dear's socks  - saved many times before they were taken outside
3. My flip flop - caught him as he couldn't fit it through the gap in the door
4. Dear's slippers - caught as the slipper hit the frame
5. The date trees - well and truly stripped around the base

Sunday, 2 January 2011

A Sunday Top Five: Cracker Jokes

1. What has four legs and goes Boo ?
A cow with a cold

2. What do you call a man who's scared of Christmas ?
Noel Coward

3. How many crime writers does it take to change a lightbulb ?
Only one, but he has to give it a really good twist at the end

4. Did you hear about the constipated accountant ?
He couldn't budget

5. Why do anarchists only drink herbal tea?
Because all proper tea is theft