“Those who wish to sing always find a song.”

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“I couldn’t help thinkin’ if she was as far out o’ town as she was out o’ tune, she wouldn’t get back in a day.”

By popular demand, the small person singeth.

Hold onto your woolly socks!

http://youtu.be/edMOomDwSHg

PS This isn’t listed on Youtube, it’s by invitation only so look, listen and maybe even laugh a little but please don’t share.

TTFN

Six lanes’ worth of unadulterated fear!

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Marhaba!

Don’t get over-excited, there’s not much to report. As far as interesting and fun things go, we haven’t done an awful lot. The recent ballet at The Royal Opera House immediately springs to mind. The Bavarian State ballet to be precise, with their adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. If you’re unfamiliar with this story, yawn, then it goes something like this: boy meets girl, forbidden love, they both die in the end. There was a lot of prancing about in very tight tights and the always amusing ‘lunch-box’ was worth a giggle or two.

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him and her doing their thing!

The lavish costumes and classical dance spectacular was however most appreciated, but not by all of us. On to more interesting things…

We have taken to drinking a strange concoction, bought in bottles, it appears to be frog’s spawn or bacteria.

Tomorrow's tadpoles?

Tomorrow’s tadpoles?

It’s jolly tasty, comes in a variety of alien fruit flavours, is so thick that it struggles to exit the glass and enter the throat, produces an almost immediate quick step to the loo and cost less than the price of a penny-chew. The label states that it’s made from basil seeds – goodness me,whatever next! Bizarre and infinitely more interesting than watching effeminate chaps engaged in a lot of toe-pointing, pas de deux, pirouette stuff.

Talking of interesting things…

Should your life be dull beyond all compare and you have nothing whatsoever to alleviate the monotony of existence, then you can do no better than to waste 32 minutes of your time watching my daily journey home from work. As it goes, it might be of interest in a touristy sort of way, looking at the passing view or even to guffaw at the crazy driving antics (theirs, not mine) that often leads to death and destruction. There are odd characters too, who jump in front of your vehicle for no apparent reason. You should spot a couple of them towards the end of the video, if you manage to get that far without ending it all. The plan is, to continue this theme of film making but only with the edited highlights so as not to bore you silly. Sit back and enjoy the tedium.

Until very, very, very soon,

Happy Easter!

Insa’Allah

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

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Marhaba,

At last! We’ve seen Oman. We’ve been to the northern tip, as far south as you can get (to the Yemeni border), to the coast on the eastern edge and into the Empty Quarter desert that borders with Saudi Arabia. We’ve traversed mountains and wadis, deserts and moonscape plains, villages where time has stood still, cities still in the making, dusty tracks, no tracks and fabulous highways. We’ve detoured to neighbouring countries, camped, glamped, hotelled and helltelled our way around.

Finally, we made it to Musandam, the northern peninsula that is separated from mainland Oman by the United Arab Emirates. Musandam is known, locally, as the ‘fjords of Oman’. Not having seen the Norwegian fjords as yet so therefore relying on family members who live there to tell us otherwise, we don’t think there is too much resemblance to any Scandinavian fjords.

fjords?

fjords?

Admittedly, it is very picturesque and the route in follows the contours of the coast line where a road has literally been blasted from the sheer rock face that looms high above; but fjords? I’m not so sure…

We headed to a secluded beach, having already stopped for a brew on a beach where the downside of the area is the crude oil that lies just beneath the sandy surface, ready to stick to your feet and anything else that it comes into contact with it.

Always time for a brew

Always time for a brew

The Strait of Hormuz is a busy shipping lane for oil tankers so either by accident or purpose, leakage ends up on what should be a pristine beach. The sea is crystal clear and the colours are amazing, turquoise, blue and green, all so much prettier seen through polarising lenses or rose-tinted glasses.

pretty nonetheless

pretty nonetheless

You can see the road as it carves its way across the edge of the rock face and marvel at the beautiful ocean that was so inviting but not so much that we wanted to risk getting covered in half a barrel of oil.

The plan was, we would visit the beach and then stay overnight, take the day to drive to the Acacia forest, camp again and then return home. We counted on driving for several hours to get to the Acacia forest so a day would be long enough. The beach, we reckoned, was half a day’s drive away so we headed east. After some ten minutes of driving, we happened across what looked suspiciously like…the Acacia forest. A quick check of the map showed that the peninsula is only about 25 kms across. The Acacia forest was full of goats so camping would be a job of avoiding the stuff that flies love so much and, of course, avoiding the flies. We doubled back and made for the beach. A few minutes later, we saw the winding track that led down to a seemingly, very idyllic beach.

tucked away and most attractive - from this vantage point!

tucked away and most attractive – from this vantage point!

Sadly, having negotiated the dirt track to the end, the beach was, in fact, mud and stones, it had been invaded by goats, it was littered with rubbish and it didn’t have an awful lot going for it. The sad demise of what was once, or could still be, a stunning hide-away cove. We had a brew and considered our options. We had driven for five hours, left Oman, entered the UAE, left the UAE and entered Oman once again to find there was nowhere suitable to camp and not an awful lot to see or do.

As we gazed across the narrow stretch of water to spy the Iranian coastline in the hazy distance, we decided to go to the zoo. In Abu Dhabi.

Having once more left Oman and re-entered the UAE, we arrived in Abu Dhabi some six hours later. A long drive admittedly but we’re used to that now. We booked in to the most fantastic Premier Inn and sat in their restaurant for a bite to eat. Just like all our Easter wishes coming true at once, we discovered they served alcohol and duly entertained ourselves with a glass or four of red wine. After a stonking night’s sleep – guaranteed apparently, or your money back! – we went to the zoo.

Abu Dhabi zoo, we thought, would be very nice and indeed it was. It was also very surprising. We are now used to the lack of any Health and Safety, as previously reported, so we are no longer shocked at what we find. There were many notices around the zoo which simply stated that if you were stupid enough to stick your fingers into an animal’s mouth and the animal bit them off, then it’s your own fault. Basically, we were in a petting zoo where you could catch, touch, batter, cuddle, kiss and cajole most, if not all the non-predatory animals on display. Having been used to zoos where the animals are kept at a very safe distance, where a ditch and two wire fences separate you from the creatures, not to mention the wooden rail fence for aesthetic purposes; it is quite a surprise to suddenly be up close and personal with the animals.

Incoming!

Incoming!

Giraffes, zebras, camels, monkeys, deer, and a whole host of other furry creatures were there for your touching pleasure. We amused ourselves for hours and if we were stupid enough to put our child in harms way and she got eaten, then it would be our own fault – wouldn’t it?

Eat me!

 How to feed a child’s hand to an animal

Don’t panic! It was all safe(ish). It was hardly likely that our final demise would be a jolly good tonguing from the tall fella.

One for the album lad.

One for the album lad.

So that was us at the zoo. We did pretty much the same with the other animals, getting precariously close and risking our fingers, not to mention the child. We like the giraffes best so we share these pictures with you. You can just see a zebra behind the giraffe, through it’s legs. There was a mix of animals in most enclosures. The bears looked sad and the big cats paced with frustration. The giraffes were happy so we went back for more petting and panicking.

Feed me!

Feed me!

We drove around Abu Dhabi and wondered at the amazing architecture. A perfectly round office block, shaped like a dinner plate but convex, caught our attention. Many tall buildings appeared to defy gravity and whilst they may not have been as tall as those in Dubai, they were all  pretty spectacular. Having done all that we have on our trips, we wonder whether we have become complacent, because we forgot to take any pictures of Abu Dhabi. Maybe the fine wine of the previous evening was having a forgetful  effect on us. A stunning city with loads and loads to see and do, we expect to return very soon  so will endeavour to get some snaps then.

Abu Dhabi is more cosmopolitan than we are used to. There are bars and clubs, top shows (if you like Lional Ritchie), attractions, water parks, amusement parks, shopping malls by the dozen, architecture, open spaces and, of course, the desert. So we decided to stay for a celebration. Of all the top places to dine, including the seven star Palace Hotel, we chose our favourite place of the moment and had a sumptuous meal with some splendid French wine, all for the price of  pint at home, in our Premier Inn hotel. If you ever go, you will not do much better than this fantastic place to stay and eat. We highly recommend it and we’ve been around a bit. Cheers and,

Happy Anniversary!

We decided to stay an extra night to enjoy the rest before heading back  into Oman. As is now customary, we stopped along the way for a brew on a road that was more of a beat-up track than the beaten track. Good old Oman. It was good to be home again.

The road home

The road home

Stopping for a brew.

Stopping for a brew.

So, where do we go from here?

There is not too much more that we can think of to do. Our next adventure will take us overseas but, as yet, we cannot say where. We are about to embark on a period of graft where work and domestic issues must take precedence. We may be inclined to visit friends and family this summer – or we may not. Between now and then, we have an awful lot to do but this will give us time to plan. In the interim, we will no doubt return to some of our favourite spots, camping on the mountain, luxuriating on a local beach, eating out at our favourite Indian cafe.

However, if it sounds like there is nothing new to be done then we have misled you.

We now have provisional plans for the Indian sub-continent, hidden islands in the Indian Ocean, the Far East and possibly even further afield.

But, until then, it’s nose to the grindstone.

Ma’as Salama!

“In every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

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Salam!

The weather continues to scupper most of our plans at the moment. Just when you think it has turned out nice again, something unexpected causes an ‘ooh!’ and an ‘ah!’ and we have to reschedule.

” I know, let’s go to the desert and watch the sun go down”. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It probably was a good idea, especially by the person who thought of it. It turned out to be a nightmare. Down in the middle of nowhere is a vast desert. We’ve been there before but decided to head for a different spot. It’s only a three hour drive away so off we went with barbecue and sleeping bags at the ready. The plan was to watch the sun go down, have a cook-up and sleep in the back of the mighty Ford where there’s more than enough space for three.

Touching 38 degrees C and quite picturesque – things started to go annoyingly wrong.

Camel ho!

Camel ho!

If you’re familiar with desert driving, as we now are, it is imperative to deflate your vehicle tyres to, say 10 or 12 psi. That’s pretty much running on flat tyres. This gives a greater surface area for the tyres to tread when negotiating the more difficult  dunes and powdery sand. The downside of this is, you have to re-inflate your tyres before road driving and this takes some time with a small, ‘carry in the boot’ air compressor. It seemed like a good idea at the time – if we could get away without deflating the tyres then we could save a lot of time and trouble inflating later. Now, remember the bit about tyre deflation being imperative? Immediately we got stuck in the soft sand dunes and was soon in upto our chassis, which is never, ever good. Time to deflate the tyres and hope. Luckily it worked with a bit of digging and some low ratio gear work. We went for a spin around the dunes before parking up. A trek across the dunes led us to our viewing area for the forthcoming sunset.

So far, so good...

So far, so good…

We sat and we waited.

Waiting for the sunset.

Waiting for the sunset.

As the sun edged closer and closer to the horizon, a strange occurrence began. A solar wind joined us and it steadily got stronger and stronger.

A wispy breeze blowing the tops off the dunes.

A wispy breeze blowing the tops off the dunes.

Then all hell let loose and a sand storm blasted us. It was uncomfortable and, at times, downright painful. Being sand-blasted is never recommended.

Blowing a hooley!

Blowing a hooley!

The picture’s isn’t out of focus. The wind is whipping up the sand and believe me, it gets everywhere. Our long walk to see the sunset took even longer to return to the car, the dunes are huge and the storm was biting into exposed skin. You’re suddenly aware that your ears are full of sand and every sweaty area is coated in the fine, desert grains.

Cooking out was now out of the question so, with a three hour drive ahead of us, having had nothing to eat thus far, tyres still to inflate, we made the decision to head for home. Staying any longer and we ran the risk of being buried in our vehicle under a newly formed sand dune.

Once on firmer ground a rummage in the luggage revealed the air compressor, which duly failed on the first attempt. It failed on the second attempt and every attempt thereafter. We sat there in a sand-storm, flat tyres and no useful air compressor. By now, the sun had gone down and it was pitch black. At times like this you kinda wished you had checked the torch batteries so you would have more than a dull, yellow glow emitting from what was once a proud, useful police torch. It was time to swear. A lot. In the most bizarre incident to date, a wandering Bedouin type recognised the good lady wife (now that’s downright freaky) and gave assistance from his Land Cruiser. He had a big compressor and  told a most interesting story of how he had met the teacher previously, who had come in his car once, apparently. I asked no further questions. At the time, as he was inflating my tyres with his macho tyre inflater, my poor excuse for a compressor managed to dislodge the sand that was preventing the airtight seal in the pipeline and began to work. Personally, I would never have asked for any assistance – being a bloke – so I made a point of topping up the tyres he had already inflated. It’s a man thing you understand. In the bible-black darkness of the desert, we headed for home – tired, hungry, and weather-beaten.

Still, we can laugh about it now, can’t we?

Ha, ha, ha, bloody ha!

Did we see the sunset? Of course we did and that made it all worthwhile in the end.

Or did it…?

As soon as the weather breaks, we head North where, currently, there are stories of coastal pirates, gun fights and Iranian smugglers. Well, what could possibly go wrong there then?

Wish us luck.

Lovingly Yours,

The brave and the foolhardy.

Insha’Allah

“We learn from failure, not from success!”

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Marhaba!

The winter months are well and truly behind us now – we hope. Unusual weather, here and wherever you might be, has given us rain, floods, more rain, amazing black clouds, some drizzle and some very strange fog.

FOG!

FOG!

Are these not some of the reasons we left dear old Blighty? Anyway, the sun has reappeared after a long, long spell of cloudy, damp weather and we bask in constant temperatures of 35 degrees C or more. Back to soaking up the sun to produce that leathery looking skin condition that resembles an old leather handbag. Talking of old bags…

It was bound to happen sooner or later. The house-maid was caught dipping into the Master’s chocolate box. A dastardly deed. An inexcusable crime. A misdemeanour with marching orders attached. Whilst the act might sound like some weird euphemism for something totally inappropriate and improper, it is not. Not what your thinking anyway. The Memsahib (the missus) was having none of it and a quick tally of our perishable goods brought more bad news; sticky fingers had ravaged our fish-fingers. The maid was instantly dismissed and we are back to doing our own ironing, cleaning, washing up and the making of beds. We wonder how we will cope but we struggle on. Sometimes exhaustion overtakes us and the front step is not swept for a day or two.

All in all, it was a recipe for disaster and a lesson well learnt. If you want something done, a house-maid is not the answer – do it yourself or coerce your partner into doing it for you with promises of  later gratification.

Our travels have been delayed by one broken suspension joint. There are suspicions that we have deliberately caused this to happen by taking our OFF ROAD 4 x 4 vehicle, well, off road. As we speak, the garage is making good the fault with replacement parts at no extra cost as it is definitely a warranty issue; ain’t that right guv? Once done we are preparing to visit the Northern Peninsula of Musandam, the famous ‘Fjords of Oman’. We’ll let you know.

Before all this, we went to enjoy a bit of culture at The Royal Opera House. Nothing too spectacular, just a matinee performance for the small one to enjoy.

Isn't that dress a little short

Too much knee (cleverly hidden by a small person to protect the shameful)

An eagle-eyed attendant noticed that some knees were on display, which is strictly forbidden, so a cover up had to be implemented on the double. I have my suspicions that it was more of a fashion faux pas but then what do I know? Whatever the reason, an appropriate form of dress had to be worn, and laughed at, before we could enter.

No knees!

No knees!

As it goes, a long, black robe hides a multitude of sins although my suggestion for the full-face veil did not go down too well. A man and his humour, eh? Plenty more where that came from…

Moving quickly on. A view of the inside of the Opera House gives some idea of its opulence. I might even be tempted with a bit of opera one day. The middle, lower box has been booked for a ballet performance of Romeo and Juliet (our aim is to see and, more importantly, be seen). It’s all about status you know.

money sumptuously spent

money sumptuously spent

Anyway, back to basics. Out intention to head up North has been further delayed by a little bother with the old banger – the car that is, not the wife. Guffaw! During the cars time in the garage the life had drained out of the battery and whilst as quick replacement would soon see us on our way, nothing happens very quickly here, so we waited and we waited. Dark clouds loom overhead as I write so the delay may be a fortuitous one after all. Hang on! A voice from the kitchen states, “It’s going to chuck it down!”. There you are then, straight from the horse’s mouth, the weather forecast for the immediate future. In the interim, there are lots of domestic issues to be getting on with – like preparations for the mad rush of rellies and friends who might visit us this summer - or not?

There really is so much to see and experience in this lovely country. The people are polite, friendly and helpful (unless they’re driving). They bear gifts of friendship and sharing. Like the fisherman friend who, after hearing of the delights of Pie, Mash, Stewed Eels and Liquor (that famous East End  and Sarf London fare), brought in an eel that he usually throws back into the sea. “You can make your own”, he said, ” have an eel” and presented a large cardboard box for opening.

What the hell...

What the hell…

I guess it’s some sort of sea-snake or moray eel type of fish thing?  Not too sure but having poked and prodded it for some time the executive decision was made to hoof it into the dumpster. And there it sat, in the blazing, midday sunlight, rotting and stinking to high heaven. Edible or not, it’s the thought that counts and that goes a long way in my book. I sincerely hope the next gift will be of a non-perishable nature;  hopefully a timepiece of some renown perhaps?

Every day is full of surprises. Some good and some highly questionable. Suffice to say, it’s never mundane.

For now, we wait for a break in the weather – it’s not actually raining yet, further confirmation that the car is fit for purpose and then we can muster up the motivation and summon all due determination to drive into the unknown once again. However, at the moment, the comfort zone is very comforting indeed!

Ma’a Salama!

 

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

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Marhaba!

It’s been a long, hard slog negotiating the harsh winter months. The drudgery of waking and getting out of bed in the dark, coming home in the dark and sleeping through the bitter, cold nights. Actually, the bitter cold nights are of our own making as we have the air conditioning on all night. It allows you to snuggle under the duvet, safe and secure, foetal like, hibernating from the cruel world outside. It also keeps the bloody mosquitoes off. If it gets too hot and the duvet is cast aside with wanton abandon, the leg that pokes out, the arm that feels refreshed in the cooling breeze of the fan, the bum cheek once sweaty but now cold to the touch, is mercilessly attacked and usually more than once. Funnily enough, you don’t really notice it until a day or two later when a curious itch develops and before you know it, you’ve scratched the head off the bite and an infection has set in. ‘Tis  but a small price to pay for the warming sunshine that keeps the pain of old age from these creaking bones.

So, what have we been upto? Well, as I say, the weather has been somewhat cool of late. Not so cool that you’d need to dip in to the winter wardrobe but enough to shudder every so often and prevent us from venturing high in to the mountains. For some, cold is a distant memory and they can only imagine what it would be like to be chilly.

Brrrrrrrr!

Brrrrrrrr!

Crazy eh? It was 27 degrees Celsius at the time. Along with our ‘cold’ spell, it has, unusually, rained quite frequently and whenever it rains – it always floods. Floods are fun. Dangerous I grant you. But fun, fun, fun if you have a good 4 x 4 and a reckless attitude. There’s nothing like blasting through where the low-riding speedsters fear to go when a little rainwater is present.

Wet, wet, wet

Wet, wet, wet

Trust me, this is a mere puddle to what is around when it floods. People are seriously washed away as they drive along and death is a reality in such circumstances. Still, four wheel drive engaged and tally-ho!

It was festival time and we managed both venues this year. One was a huge market place selling, well, tat is the best word for it. The other location offered nothing different to the previous year. Of the five photos that were taken on that day, the only two worth offering to you are these:

girls singing

girls singing

Mums-a-chatting

Mums-a-chatting

And, for information, they do wear such clothes everyday and if you were to visit us here in the beautiful Sultanate of Oman, you would see it for yourselves. OK?

It really has been a time of, well, just living I suppose and at times we wonder whether we are still on the ‘holiday that was to last forever’. We blame the winter, feelings of being back in the rat-race and an uncertain future that awaits us. Optimism is ever present though and such negative feelings are quickly brushed aside. A job with the Royal Office, the promise of 50 degree Celsius temperatures this summer and the north of the country yet to be explored goes a long way to  renew our sense of adventure and gratitude that has led us to secure our stay for at least another year.

  Do we have plans? Oh! Do we have plans.

We shall head for Musandam up north, delve into the Empty Quarter that is the interior desert, take to the pirate infested waters of the region, find the elusive beach and watch turtles hatch, immerse ourselves in the arts (Romeo and Juliet at the stunning Opera House this month), partake of new and exciting dishes, drinks, events and traditional ways of life. The holiday certainly does continue…

Before we leave:

Not short-listed for the 2014 Sony World Photographic Competition - what were they thinking????

Not short-listed for the 2014 Sony World Photographic Competition – what were they thinking????

Take care one and all. Wrap up warm. Keep safe. Run fast and stay low.

Until very soon.

Insha’Allah

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

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Salaam!

It is cold, wet and very, very dreary – weather wise.

We have taken to amusing ourselves, whilst we await better weather, with arts and crafts and all things shiny.

An abundance of sea-shells and inexpensive hobby supplies means an afternoon on the veranda, wrapped up warm and cosy in winter-woollies, can be most productive – a wall hanging, for example:

Shells and a dab of paint

Shells and a dab of paint

Or, with a few cardboard boxes and a fiver spent at the ‘ tat shop’, a little imagination and some cajoling from our very own princess; Hey Presto!

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair...

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair…

Your very own, seven foot tall Rapunzel tower. We reckon it will last for the afternoon but then who cares. We have much more inclement weather to come so, you can expect more arts, crafts and frivolous ideas coming to fruition.

Wrap up warm – we have!

Ma Salama!