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Day 365 – The End

Song of the Day: The End – The Doors

Whoosh! There goes another year. A year ago today I embarked on my adventure to Qatar and, in a fit of positive intent, a year ago tomorrow I wrote the first of what I thought would be 365 blog entries, chronicling my year in Doha. Today I am applying the final full stop to a project that fizzled out two months ago, and probably before that if truth be told.

“Be careful what you commit to,” an old man once told me. I ignored him. Never be afraid to commit, but don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t see it through. That’s life. Sorry I didn’t maintain the daily entries but, let’s be honest, you were already getting tired of it and would probably have started sending me hate mail.

So thanks for reading and following and commenting when you did, and thanks for not sending me hate mail. I see from the stats that there are still people reading it every day so I hope they’re gathering something useful about life in Doha. When I think of the city I feel no love for it whatsoever, especially when I think of City Center Mall, but when I think of the people who befriended me there I feel a strong bond and they’ll always be in my heart. I hope I see them again. I gather they’re not suffering quite as much torture and bullying at QF these days. The craven turd who arrived shortly before my departure (draw your own conclusions) fell on his sword recently, so it should all be back to the previous state of carefully controlled turmoil that existed when I arrived. I returned to England with a sense of unfinished business, but then unfinished business is what Doha excels at. I wonder if that hospital’s open yet.

So this is the end, beautiful friend, the end. We can draw a line under 365 Days in Doha and move on. Perhaps I’ll pop up in some other blog one day, about baking or home improvement or bee keeping maybe, but for now, so long and thanks for all the fish.

Day 303 – Coming of Age

Song of the Day: Kid – The Pretenders

Today I became the father of an 18-year-old girl. How did that happen? (That’s a rhetorical question – you can spare me the full biological explanation). The bit that baffles me is that I’m only 17, or at least I thought I was. Frightening how time flies.

Still, beautiful day today and I’m full of the joys of impending spring. Only one more month of proper winter to go. Only 62 more days and my year of Doha will be done. Ha! You thought I’d left, didn’t you? Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. Maybe part of me did and another part stayed behind. Maybe I turned Villaggio into a horcrux containing part of my soul. Or maybe I didn’t.

Such is life: an endless series of questions, doubts and uncertainties. I vote we all take a day off so that I can get my bearings.

Day 292 – Sacre Bleu!

Song of the Day: Je t’Aime Moi Non Plus – Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg

It’s my sister’s birthday today. Happy birthday, Sis!

Today’s revelation comes in the form of Gallic hair god David Ginola, who’s the latest hopeful to throw his chapeau into the ring for presidency of that putrifying brontosaurus of an outfit that is FIFA. I’m excited about this and I’ll tell you why.

Back in the mists of time when I was a football journalist, I interviewed Ginola for Match of the Day magazine. In five years as editor of that esteemed organ, and indeed several years either side, I have interviewed a lot of footballers. Ginola was far and away the best.

I turned up with the Gilster, our snapper, at Tottenham’s training ground in the leafy suburbs of north London as the players were meandering off the pitch and dispersing in their array of expensive cars. This was nearly always an unpleasant moment. The usual form was that the player you were due to meet would hide for as long as he could, then, when he finally showed himself, claim to know nothing of your arrangement and tell you he had to dash. I suspect it’s even worse now.

Ginola came over to us, shook hands, explained that he had to go and buy some Champagne (a dressing room forfeit, it turned out), apologised, gave us the name and address of a restaurant where all the players were going and said he’d see us there in half an hour.

Portrait of David Ginola

David Ginola– well worth it

Most interviews with Premiership footballers were organised through their sponsors: you’d travel the length of the country to be granted a five minute audience in which to get words and pictures, while a PR flunky sat in, recording everything and interrupting whenever you asked anything that might warrant an opinion. A stand-up row with Peter Schmeichel’s agent in the Trafford Centre after one such wild goose chase springs to mind, during which security guards came and asked us to take our quarrel outside among the shoppers. It was far more interesting than anything Schmeichel had to say that day.

Anyway, true to his word, Ginola turned up at the restaurant, arranged a table for the three of us away from his teammates and proceeded to give us an hour of pure interview gold as we tucked into pasta, drank wine and gazed longingly into his eyes. Well, Gilster did anyway. He was articulate, passionate, relaxed, funny, forthright… in short, he was worth listening to. And reading about. And all this in his second language. Alan Shearer, eat your heart out.

And at the end of the interview, he picked up the tab for lunch. Class act.

He was also a better footballer than any of the other candidates by a country mile. Ever seen Prince Ali bin Hussain do this? So I’m throwing my weight behind David Ginola for President of FIFA and I hope you do too. For what it’s worth. I’m not sure we get a vote, do we?

Day 291 – Cat Experiment

Song of the Day: While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles

I love my cats, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t mean they’re above a bit of experimentation. Don’t worry, no cats were harmed in the making of this blog post. But here’s the thing: cats aren’t particularly bright, or they don’t come across as such anyway, and they have a habit of repeatedly doing things no matter how many times you tell them.

So it dawned on me today: maybe telling them isn’t enough; you have to show them.

I’ve explained how Claude likes to sit right in the way of the keyboard when I’m trying to work. I tolerate this up to a point, but if I’m very busy or things aren’t going well, I find it a tad irritating so I usually end up grabbing the animal and lobbing him out of the door with slightly more vehemence than might be deemed necessary.

Oh come now, you animal liberationists! Who hasn’t revelled in the thought of tossing a cat through the air once in a while. They always land on their feet, you know.

The thing with Claude, as I presume it is with all cats, is that he doesn’t get the message. I can despatch him from the room and give him strict instructions to stay gone, but he will always, without fail, leap straight back onto the desk again within, oh, five seconds.

So today I thought I’d try something new. You know how they say that if you give a certain food to a child 14 times they’ll acquire a taste for it? Well, the notion entered my mind that perhaps if you put a cat through the same routine over and over again, it might get the message. So rather than lobbing the cat out of the room, I decided to try patiently and calmly putting him on the floor and seeing how many times I’d have to repeat this before he stopped jumping back up onto the desk.

Answer: seven.

The first time I put him down he bounced straight back up almost without touching the floor. So I picked him up and put him back down again. One second passed and up he jumped. I put him down a third time, he sprang back up. A fourth time – up. The fifth time he looked at me with a face that said, “Give me strength!”, held my gaze for a moment, then jumped back up. The sixth time he was starting to look weary of the whole exercise. And the seventh time he stayed on the floor, looking pensive, as if the thought had crept into his tiny brain, “Maybe he doesn’t want me on the desk.”

Eureka! As Archimedes famously exclaimed when his cat jumped in the bath. Now I can’t wait till tomorrow to see if he’s remembered. What do you reckon?

Day 283 – The Public Interest

Song of the Day: Tommy Gun – The Clash

Sickening news from Paris today. Is that the way to win an idealogical argument? I find it horrible the way the media are feeding on it like hyenas. On the Mirror’s online site you can watch a video of a policeman being shot dead by the murderers as they leave. But why would you want to? What possible purpose does it serve to make this sort of footage public, other than feeding an apparently growing appetite for voyeurism into other people’s tragedies?

When I was growing up, British newspapers and TV made a policy of not showing graphic images of death. A good decision – it serves no purpose other than to chill and titillate the darker side of our souls. They still don’t tend to publish it in print or show it on TV but they’ve decided that it’s ok to put it online?

There’s a phrase they use to justify this sort of reporting: “it’s in the public interest”. Is it bollocks. The public interest means it serves the interests of society to make certain information public; it doesn’t mean “show anything that members of the public might find interesting”.

The trouble with the internet is that it’s left to us to do our own editing. The days when well trained experts did it for you are long gone, with the result that we consume unprecedented quantities of shite. For the media companies it’s like the Wild West: they know there’s gold in them thar graphic images of murder and death and there ain’t no-one stoppin’ em from gettin’ it.

In other words, they’re cashing in on an innocent man’s execution. Again.

Day 282 – Sepptic

Song of the Day: Sexx Laws – Beck

So we’ve got a new candidate for the FIFA presidency. Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has thrown his hat into the ring for the showdown in May, joining the aptly named Jerome Champagne and, of course, the splatter-bomb himself, Sepptimus Arseholius Blatter.

“It is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport,” said Prince Ali, rather predictably. “The headlines should be about football, not about Fifa,” he added. All in good time, Ali, all in good time. The headlines will continue to be about FIFA while we all watch to see if you can prise Splatter’s fingers off the golden goose send him spinning into oblivion. Then we’ll be watching to see if you can restore some credibility to an organisation that currently has none. Good luck!

It’s really in football’s interests to scrap FIFA and start again. There’s nothing to lose. The real business of football takes place weekly at club level. The World Cup is an occasional and generally disappointing distraction, in which ultimate glory is, for all but the top European and South American nations, a futile exercise. And anyway, it shouldn’t take a mountain of self-interested ‘executives’ to get it on. One rep from each confederation should do it. Choose a host country, give them a brief, keep an eye on their progress and turn up to present the trophy. Then go away again.

Until that happens, the English FA should lead the way by pulling out.


Day 276 – Happy New Year

Song of the Day: Nightblindness – David Gray

So there goes 2014. Happy with it? To my mind changing years is like moving house: no matter how attached you might be to the old one, the promise of the new one overrides any sentimentality for what’s gone. And anyway, what’s gone is all part of the foundation for what is to come. So 2015 is a chance to vindicate all the decisions we made in 2014 and turn what might now look like a balls-up into something clever. That’s the beauty of new dawns: there’s always hope, so let’s not care about when the money runs out.

Celebrate wildly, my beauties, and here’s to a fine 2015. May the meteor of celestial happiness forever sprinkle its stardust in your hair.