ONE week today, assuming Emirates flies on time, about now I shall be casting around Amman airport attempting to find the Royal Jordanian desk. Alternatively, catch a shared taxi across the King Hussein Bridge and on to the Damascus Gate, final destination a five minute sprint through the Old City to Jaffa Gate. The walk in the opposite direction is pleasant. Walking through the Gate and turning right takes you past Christ Church, where I used to live and David’s Citadel across the road. Live concerts and fireworks free of charge to us… Keeping left takes you right into the heart of the Old City, cobbled, steeply sloping streets teeming with hawkers, buyers, sellers, the the streetwise, the curious and the gullible. In the Arab quarter, you almost have to ‘eyes front’ since catching the eye is perceived as an invitation to haggle. A fast left past the Church of the Holy Sepulchre gets you back to the Damascus Gate, where squatting street sellers display fruit, vegetables, nuts and just about everything else which might fetch a price. There’s a juice shop at the top of the hill that sells the finest in the city. OK during the day but sometimes iffy at night, a friend had to fend off an attack. Still, might be safer than Karachi at the moment. Nonetheless….I can’t wait. Can I, Susan……


Flag Burning

Well, the brouhaha seems, blessedly, to be subsiding. Images, especially in cartoon form, of the Prophet actually published in the Western press shows a remarkable lack of understanding tantamount to blind stupidity. France Soir sacked its managing editor. Seven European publications in total carried some of the drawings, and we all saw a lot of pushing and shoving in the Islamic world, with the burning of a Danish flag. How easy is it, I wonder, to procure a Danish flag to burn? Perhaps someone is asked to run one up for the ceremony.

The cartoons have sparked diplomatic sanctions and death threats in some Arab nations, while media watchdogs have defended publication of the images in the name of press freedom.
Reporters Without Borders said the reaction in the Arab world “betrays a lack of understanding” of press freedom as “an essential accomplishment of democracy.” Yeah, exactly. The word carries a very different meaning in some parts of the world, the West supporting its own flavour in preference to ‘others’. I think we must be fated to develop societies based on an adversarial consciousness. Paradoxically, since most societies have anything more a passing understanding of where they came from, they conceal from themselves the risks that threaten their future.

The image is of a rare orchid, which will lift spirits.

Hiding Dominic

Ah. At last, the 1980’s cult classic ‘The Flipside of Dominic Hide’ is available on dvd. Peter Firth plays Dominic, the eponymous hero, travelling back in time (the ‘flipside’) from 2130 back to the 1980’s to study London’s transport system, in days when you could still park for free behind Harrods after five o’clock and Uncle Ken hadn’t introduced congestion charges and bendy buses. He falls in love and fathers a child with a girl called Jane (what else..). I was reminded of it seeing this image of an island off the coast of Guatemala that someone sent to me, the theme music to FSDH being entitled ‘are there somewhere islands..’ .
With the benefit of hindsight I would surely be able to make much more sense of 1850’s gadgetry than if I were to travel the same time period from now into the future. The unrelenting arrow, the diode of time, pushes us all inexorably forwards. What would Newton have made of mobile phones? Or Leonardo, laptops? Hemingway once wrote ‘the past is a foreign country’. In which case, the future must be a parallel universe.

The Envelope…

Ah, the joys, the joys…
How quickly the annual bananafest and Los Angeles bonhomie creeps up on us. I do hope all the gay backslapping has finally broken it’s back and a worthy winner will be found for best film in the form of Good Night and Good Luck with a riveting performance by David Strathairn. Nice to see our very own Dame JD as the spectacularly rude Mrs Henderson, a coup if she collected, one feels. Best support might be Rachel Weisz’s but the sheer quality of ‘The Constant Gardener’ might have simply swept her up for the ride.

The image? Oh. Nothing to do with the above. It’s Janica Kostelic, the Croatian skier. Years ago, my son and I skied in Austria with Ante, her father, and Ivo her older brother. They were both much faster than me. I must give back the gloves I borrowed….

Eyeless in Gaza

76 seats to Hamas….Let joy be unconfined. In Gaza City, at least where rock-throwing and gunfire seemed to underline the new regime’s priorities. GWB and Tony B seem not to want to do business, however, which is guardedly encouraging. A friend from Israel said to me tonight that ‘everyone’s walking on eggshells, which seem to be cracking underfoot.’
I wondered if the aims and objectives of the above have changed since May 2005, when the US Navy produced their report, part of which follows….


Other Names
Islamic Resistance Movement

HAMAS was formed in late 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Various HAMAS elements have used both violent and political means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in Israel. It is loosely structured, with some elements working clandestinely and others operating openly through mosques and social service institutions to recruit members, raise money, organize activities, and distribute propaganda. HAMAS’ strength is concentrated in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

HAMAS terrorists, especially those in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have conducted many attacks, including large-scale suicide bombings, against Israeli civilian and military targets. HAMAS maintained the pace of its operational activity in 2004, claiming numerous attacks against Israeli interests. HAMAS has not yet directly targeted US interests, although the group makes little or no effort to avoid targets frequented by foreigners. HAMAS continues to confine its attacks to Israelis inside Israel and the occupied territories.

H’m. Yassir Arafat is turning in his grave.

Visa run to Dubai

Dubai. A city with a heart but not much of a soul. At least everything works here, but the city chuckles fatly under a carapace of wealth and privilege. Polite natives but everyone’s out to make a fast buck. Don’t think I’d like to live here, but OK for a visit. Biggest indoor snow slope in the world, and the most luxurious hotels. But, see later….


‘Built in the shape of an Arabian dhow sail and dominating the Dubai coastline, this is one of the world’s most spectacular and incomparably luxurious hotels. It offers unparalleled standards of comfort and service in a unique and unforgettably lavish setting…..’

H’m.. Nice, innit…Drove past it in a Mercedes cab, which stops if requested for the poor and unwashed to gawp at the admittedly impressive structure. All suites – the Sultan of Brunei keeps a $24,000 penthouse here all year round, visiting perhaps twice a year. H’m

Paradise Postponed

SO, a maniac from Islamic Jihad is causing trouble again in Tel Aviv, presumably in the vain hope of destabilising upcoming elections. I hope that the exaggerated rewards awaiting him in Paradise will be worth it. Speaking of which.. Best Foreign Film at the Globes: “Paradise Now”. In Hollywood’s desperate and rather wan attempts at PC it revealed the country of origin as ‘Palestine’. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but no such country exists known to the World Bank, the UN, or even thePalestinian Authority who haven’t applied for statehood yet. In a further ironic touch, the film hasn’t even been seen in Nablus where it was filmed. Locals who’ve seen it on satellite give it mixed reviews, believing it not to further the Palestinian cause. Another little wrinkle in spacetime.. H’m
The image is of two hesitant and rather well-heeled suicide bombers from the movie.