Ian Winbolt

One of the searches I mentioned in the post Needing to Write and Paint on 24 November 2009 was the term “Ian Winbolt”. This had a familiar ring to it but I could not place the reference (well, there was more familiarity than just the name “Ian”). Today I determined to work out where I’d heard the name before.

It was here.

Yep, Thomo is suitably embarrassed for having forgotten the reference. Back on 9 March 2007 when I was in Jeddah lamenting the lack of any (let alone a decent) Fish and Chip shop in the post No Harry Ramsden’s in Jeddah, Ian Winbolt was the gentleman who commented on the post noting on 19 October 2008 that he:

had the pleasure of eating at Harry Ramsdens Jeddah in 2003, I was in Jeddah recently (summer 2008) and found the building, it is just a shell i.e no walls or windows!! , if you call enquires you can get a number that rings and rings!!

Mystery solved and the search for Ian Winbolt must have been Mr Winbolt himself looking for the Harry Ramsden post.

Jeddah’s Lake

I’ve been here in Jeddah for about 20 months now and apart from watching the shenanigans of the evil buffoons, the C-Men, I have not really got around all that much, apart from visiting the odd shopping mall. Really, it has been hotel, eat, office, eat, hotel, eat, sleep and repeat. This could, of course, explain my weight increase 😦

The Jeddah LakeHowever, one place I have seen a fair bit is the lake at Jeddah (well, it’s really a bay or an inlet). On the edges of it are a hotel, the Head Office of the National Commercial Bank, the mosque that serves as “chop-chop square” on Friday’s and a few older buildings.

When I first arrived here this lake smelled and was filthy. Then the local council started to take action to clean it up, putting aerators in the lake area to increase the oxygen level in the water and make the whole thing cleaner.

We watched the lake clear up over time. We started to see fish, first fry then larger, return to the lake. We also saw crabs. We saw the bottom of the lake through the water. The smell disappeared.

The lake's appearance However, since that time, the lake has deteriorated again. Plastic bags and bottles can be seen in it and it has gone a rather unpleasant brown colour. The bottom no longer can be seen and the smell is returning.

One can only imagine what is emptying into the lake again now – perhaps it is best not to think about it.

King of the Castle

I’ve been living in this hotel now for 17 months – nearly one and a half years. It is a long time in any language. I must admit now to feeling a little like the Major from Fawlty Towers – part of the hotel’s schedule being set around my patterns. Always a newspaper where I can find it, none of the staff looking for tips anymore (I am, after all, Australian, and we are famous for not tipping), chef comes from the kitchen in the evening and acts as my waiter as well as cooks anything I want. Even the maître d’hôtel moved people from a table last night so that I could sit down.

King of the Castle indeed!

One Year Here

Today is the 13th of January, 2008. It was 12 months ago that Thomo’s Hole was moved to WordPress and hosted in coldie.net. In the the last 12 months the Hole has been here, the following statistics are shown:

Total: 78020 hits and 11654 unique.
Today: 87 hits and 42 unique.
Currently: 37 users online.
Akismet has protected your site from 24,690 spam comments.

and there is still a little of today left 😀

Well done me.

I Went To An Iftar Meal The Other Night

It was a formal meal the other night. Iftar, the meal that is traditionally had by Muslims after fasting for the day. The sun sets, the azans call, a quick coffee (Arabic) and some dates and things to break the day’s fast, then a second call and Maghreb prayer. Straight after Maghreb it is into a big dinner, iftar.

So, we had a formal one the other night which was held in one of the wedding centres here in Jeddah. Sunset was at 6:22. At 6:21 we arrived at the wedding centre. 6:22 it was coffee and dates (well, I passed on the dates I must admit). 6:32 Maghreb prayer was on. 6:42 and it was in to the other hall for dinner – bucket-loads and bucket-loads of food. Ate. Ate again. Ate a third time (well, that was the om ali round). Headed out of the food hall almost collecting a free gift of perfume but they had run out. Walked out of the wedding centre at 7:19.

So formalised and so quick. Still, it was interesting – there was about 800 men in the hall. However I will not be doing a suhoor 🙂

Sore Knees and Frustration

I fell over the Armco fencing here yesterday. The really frustrating thing is apart from the fact that my knee is fit to explode from pain, I am sat here at the desk in my hotel room and the TV remote control is over there on the bed. This would not be so much of a problem except that it is the third time today I have seen this episode of CSI Miami.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Russian Films to Be Screened at 2nd Jeddah Fest

The Arab News noted on 19 June 2007 that Russian Films to Be Screened at 2nd Jeddah Fest . They noted that

Organizers of the first annual Saudi film festival, The Jeddah Visual Shows Festival that took place last July, are currently making final preparations for this year’s festival to be held over the summer

This is a sort of film festival and the plan is to show 30 short films over about a four or five day period. I can confirm, however, that I will not be attending it, not because I don’t want to (I would actually enjoy it in this boring place) but rather because I am a single man (here at least) and

For the second year running, single men will not be able to attend the event, which is only open to families. Highlights of this year’s festival also include a competition.

With regard to the location of the festival this year, which is the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s auditorium, the following should be noted:

Movie theaters have been banned in the Kingdom for over 20 years. In recent times, the film festival and literary clubs are the only public venues in which Saudis and expatriates can watch films. However, these venues do not attract vast numbers since they only show certain independently-made short movies.

My goodness, with all this lasciviousness and licentiousness the Saudi people must be really naughty, really bad, worse than any other Muslim or non-Muslim country’s people, to have had movie theatres banned. After all, movie theatres must be traditionally Arabic as they certainly predate the abaya in Saudi Arabia.

Silliness in Saudi Arabia

We were out at a shopping mall last night, gone for a coffee and a Baskins and Robbins. We’d had dinner at the Rat Tikka Restaurant (so called because I have seen more rats in the roof and the corners of the floor than they have sold chicken tikkas). So, we were at the mall.

This was the Megamall. I mentioned this mall before when I was talking about IKEA in Jeddah.

The Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue (or as is probably a better description, the Ministry for Licentiousness and Lasciviousness) does not permit women to work in shops. The reason? Near as I can tell, it is because they will have to deal with men and they may be tempted to jump them and rattle their bones there on the shop counter.

Why is this silly (the not allowing them to work in shops, not the rattling of bones on the counter)? Well, each of those stores has men serving in them, so women have to walk into the stores and deal with men anyway. And most of the shops have glass windows and doors.

The best thing of course is that shops that look after women’s smalls (you know, brassieres, panties, crotch-less knickers) have men serving in them. Now, if my extensive training in ladies smalls is correct, you tell the correct size of bra to wear by measuring the width around the body and breasts, then measure around again under the breasts (lifting them if necessary). That tells you what size bra you need and the difference between the two measures tells you what size the bra cup should be.

Of course, having men measure this means that there is no chance of any lasciviousness or licentiousness correct?

Silly, silly, silly.

IKEA in Jeddah

Tonight I went to the IKEA store here in Jeddah. The main reason for going there was for kjøttboller (meatballs) and to check out the furniture and knick knacks. I like IKEA. I like their furnishings, the simple style of them and I particularly like their knick knacks.

I have been to IKEA stores in Australia, England, China and now Saudi Arabia. The Jeddah store is by far the worst IKEA store I have been to, one that is not really true to the spirit that is IKEA. I am not talking about the stupidity that is the segregated eating area (families in one area, bachelors in another) – especially as just across the road is the Megamall which has mixed seating in the food court on the top floor – but rather I am talking about the service levels and customer treatment in the store.

The bachelor eating area is small – 6 tables wide by 4 rows deep. The 3 table width to the left is a smoking area, to the right, a non-smoking area. Better not to try and segregate the smokers and non-smokers at all as the smokers just sat where they felt like and IKEA staff would not do anything. Better to ban smoking outright from in the store, after all, there are children present in large numbers and I did think that IKEA had a social conscience.

The store itself was laid out like all other IKEA stores, just smaller because it was in Jeddah. Maybe the Riyadh store is bigger. There were many things not displayed, near as I could see, because of the smaller size. When shopping though there were catalogues available with a note on the red/blue plastic covers that these were for use in the store. The covers noted that there were copies available in customer service on the way out. There were not. They were out of stock.

The only positive thing I could say about the trip to IKEA here was that the kjøttboller tasted the same as in every other IKEA store. However, it was not a pleasant experience eating there, or indeed shopping there. I really hope that IKEA senior management take a trip there and have a look at the absolutely worst IKEA store in the world.

Bad Drivers in Arabia

Apart from the fact that some of the worst driving I have ever come across (and I have travelled to over 50 countries) is in Saudi Arabia and indeed, without even considering the blatant disregard of pedestrians here, it seems that the reason for the bad driving is that the drivers are busy [how shall I put this delicately?] getting down and friendly with their passengers.

The Arab News noted in an article “Parents to Blame for Girls Getting Involved With Family Drivers” that there was an increasing number of young women being wooed and made pregnant by the family driver as well as a number of cases where the child in a marriage turned out to have an Asian father at the same time that the family had an Asian driver.

The paper notes:

Some people blame women for the problem, others blame drivers who are usually low-paid workers living single in the Kingdom for long periods at a time. However, the fault really lies with husbands and parents who put their wives and daughters in situations that are sure to lead to illicit sexual relationships.

Well, OK, that’s one view. I certainly cannot argue with the sentiment about workers “living single in the Kingdom for long periods of time”. That is certainly a cause. It is difficult to live here without one’s partner present and indeed, those regulations are probably one of the greatest reasons for some of the morality problems here.

I think, however, that blaming the husbands and parents for putting “their wives and daughters in situations that are sure to lead to illicit sexual relationships” is missing the point. In many countries there are drivers and there are not that same number of problems with the drivers and their charges becoming amourously involved. Indeed, in those countries girls are exposed to the other sex early in their life and given the skills necessary to deal with these issues. At the same time, they are given good education about their bodies and how the whole “thing” works.

Perhaps what is needed here is not so much a blaming of the husbands and parents, but rather a chance to look at making the system work better for both the foreign workers and the women.

And yes, permitting women to drive would be a big start. Families could then hire female drivers to drive the womenfolk around … oh, wait a minute, then the problem would be drivers getting pregnant.