Wednesday, 27 November 2013


For the last few years I have noticed a change in my voice as it becomes raspier and whispier, changes I attributed to age. However it turns out it's actually my bloody inhaler!

All this time while I've lamented the loss of my once *beautiful radio reading voice, it was actually my inhaler thinning me out.

What this means in the short term is that I will now be following any use of the old blower with a drink in the hope that I can turn my "river cottage" voice around and return to the nasal chainsaw everybody knows and *loves.



I've been quite touched by the outpouring of concern from my family in regards to my treatment by the bank, messages from all quarters which, while occasionally incoherent, were none the less enjoyable to read.

The good news is the bank FINALLY let me have my money. I only had to retrieve a small golden idol on their behalf from an undisclosed South American location fraught with booby traps. Several of my travelling companions either betrayed me or were killed, but in the end I flew out of there in my sea plane and could return to teaching university level archaeology.

It really was some of the absolute worst customer service I have ever had. Even now I STILL do not know WHY they wouldn't give me access to my money. Reading back through their emails is like watching an elaborate interpretive dance depicting the difficulty with which you catch a fly with some chopsticks.

In fact jumping through hoops has been par for the course as of late, the debacle that was getting a new gate pass for work was nothing short of your average ancient Greek saga.

Security here is pretty tight, I pass through four gates every morning, I have a paper pass to do so. A request came through to replace this with a plastic pass which would require me to supply a copy of my contract, my passport and a passport photo.

Done. Oh, but you need a physical photo, not a digital one. Ok, I'll get that done. Could you please return my passport? "We will next week." "Ok, but just so you know I only have one day off in the next week to get this photo done." I get my photo, still no passport, gate pass expires, I will be unable to come into work from now on, luck would have it.. also falls on a weekend so no-one at work can do anything about it.

At the end of my 12 hour shift I stay another couple of hours trying to work out a way to be able to come in the next day. After much faffing about with some genuinely helpful people who went out of their way to aid my cause, I had a temporary gate pass drawn up and sent off. All I had to do was pick it up the next day from the security building on the way into work.

After staying late and now getting up early, I was a bit ragged, but managed to dress myself appropriately and fold myself into a taxi.

At the security permits office they  "Didn't get my request for a pass", I'm showing them the email, "No, we didn't get that", "Shall I forward it to you?", "No, we cannot make pass, request has to come from them", "The person who this email is from? That I'm showing you right now?", "Yes, it has to come from them", "But, it has", "Yes, but not to me", "But you're cc'd in right here", "Yes, but I didn't get it", "So shall I resend it to you?", "No, it has to come from them".

*Stab *Stab *Stab stab stab

I ring work, work rings my boss, my boss rings me (from hospital) and after 2 hours of camping out in the carpark, I get a pass. In fact they send through two passes, so security services decide not to issue either of them. Because there are two.

*Stab, *stab stab

I finally get in the gate, go to work, get my passport back and have everything in order to get my new plastic pass. I drop this all off the next day and am told to pick it up the next morning.

I show up, say I'm here to pick up my pass and am told "No-one told me" and "What pass?". I look at the applications on the desk, mine is sitting on top, "That one, that's me." I'm given a *death stare* and told "One moment".. or more accurately 40 moments, if moments are minutes and minutes are stabs.

Still, I got my new pass and the fact it lists my blood group is not unnerving at all.

Monday, 25 November 2013


The entire time I have been in the middle east my bank has refused access to my funds. That is over a month now. A month of constant emails and attempted phone calls, only to be told nothing except "sorry" without ever sorting it out.

I do not understand this way of thinking. I have money in a bank account which belongs to me, I have contacted said bank to transfer the funds so I can use them to I dunno "eat food" and there are no questions over the validity of my being. I am who I say I am and they know this. So why can I not just have my money?

Well I would love to answer that question for you now, but I cannot. I have no idea, because they won't tell me. Even when asked directly, I do not get an answer even close to what I have asked. I am simply apologised at. It feels like I am dealing with our Prime Minister, "Mr Prime Minister, what about 'A'"? "Well you know, *shrug*".

I pointed out that it has been a month now, more apologies, but no action. I've been told to go into a branch or call them, the first option melted my screen with my hex vision, the second has taken some doing as they never pick up, I get trapped in automated message hell or lose the connection. Progress has been slow.

The other day I got someone on the phone, finally! To be told that no-one there could help me. Perhaps I should try calling between the hours of 3 and 4 on the 12th minute, just after the 37th second, but not before the 39th.

So many emails have flowed back and forth now that is clearly troubling those who have to respond to me, so I pointed out that perhaps it would be easier for everyone if they just transferred the money and the whole saga could just go away. Is that such a crazy idea?

That I don't even know why I cannot have my money is the most vexing, I don't even know which battle I am fighting.

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Took a while to get to work today, mostly because all traffic was stopped for a Sheikh to pass through.

Nothing beats pulling up to the lights to see swathes of police with automatic weapons chirping heavily on their walkie talkies and waving angrily at you to stop.

Sure enough, once the roads were completely cleared, and I am talking about whole highways, along came the Sheikh.

Now if I could have taken photos of this bizarre motorcade passing down a stretch of normally very busy highway completely alone, I would have. However doing such a thing would have meant the immediate confiscation of my phone. It's an HTC One and I am quite fond of it, they could have confiscated the headphones though, cut them up and burned them in front of me, I would have pat them on the back.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Old Habits

Today I was asked why I make the trek upstairs to use the bathroom when there is a perfectly good one downstairs.

"Two reasons", I said. The first is because the upstairs bathroom typically has toilet paper, the second is that it also has toilet seats.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


Something odd happened here today, it rained.

It's the first time it's rained here since the first week of April when it ruined a motorcycle race.

It's not quite rain in New Zealand terms, in other words you didn't have to swim from your car to your front door, but certainly everything got wet.

Something I'm quite excited to see once the Sun comes back out (and that can't be too far away), are the skyscrapers. Despite how new and shiney they are, none are older than 6 years, they often look unloved. Haggered by the Sun and covered and dust.

There's something deeply reviving about the rain and I expect the city to look next to new tomorrow.

It's not just the buildings either, I had a real skip in my step when I left the house today. I was excited to see puddles on the ground and smell rain in the air. I had my headphones on and was jamming along, my excitement for all to see as I realised I was becoming the centre of attention as I strut down the street.

I'd actually be very curious to know what a day's rain means in economic terms. I suspect it's worth millions.

It's actually forecast to rain again this week, though I will believe it when I see it. The weather had quite a few people rubbing their eyes today.

Thursday, 14 November 2013


Sleep has been of increasing concern, or perhaps not the sleep itself, but the resulting human refuse.

I'm not sure quite what is causing it, week 1 here I had reverse jet-lag, but I was tired and I did sleep between floggings.

Week 2, I settled into a groove and began to resemble a functioning human being.

Week 3, and suddenly sleep seems like only a theory, debated at length between scholars with a view to preparing a conclusion for the Queen who will then send out explorers on a journey of discovery.

My body and mind are both turning on me, independently. They refuse to work together on even the most minor of basic operations.

I suspect this is the reason I cannot sleep, my body and mind have had a fight and refuse to kiss and make up. Just don't picture how that would work.

I'm afraid I am going to have to go to mediation. Which would normally have been liquor in the past. Seeing as I no longer drink because of tummy troubles, I feel like my hand is being forced.

What my body and mind need is something they can agree on to reunify their approach. Sadly only two such catalysts exist, cricket and pretty girls. As neither are on the cards for the immediate future, I suspect my sleepless nights will continue.

I'm hoping the selection of international delegates arriving tomorrow can put aside their discussions about conflicts, resources and climate change, and really nut out a solution on behalf of my rival factions.

Monday, 11 November 2013


I've done 60 hours in the last 4 days, my brain has been replaced with a cabbage. It's not the work that's done it, it's the fact I've been hyped up on adrenaline and unable to sleep between shifts.

I've been trying my best to contact Earth, but my communications have gone largely ignored. I thought it was a technical issue, but so much time has now passed that I suspect they have abandoned me up here.

Paranoia is setting in and the fruitcake won't shut up.

Shawarma Cat

Another little fella I see often is Shawarma Cat. He lives on the steps of my favourite shawarma place across the road from work. He's a happy little chap and yesterday I saw him sharpening his claws on a car tyre.

And this is Measles who I couldn't find the other day. I found her munching down a stash of biscuits someone had poured on the lawn, but she's going to have a sore tummy because she didn't chew.

Friday, 8 November 2013


I've decided to document the kittehs living here on the lot:

Scabies - the smart one and the one that's been here the longest. She's very friendly and rules the roost without getting into scuffles. She likes a pat and knows all the comfy spots.

Scud - is young and curious, not often mixing it with the others, but always watching what is going on. His curiosity means he's always close by, but never quite within patting range.

Rubella (Ruby) - is on the bottom rung of the ladder and is beaten up by almost everyone except Scabies, she can be skiddish, but is very friendly with humans when she calms down and loves a pat.

Big Orange Tom - is a dick and generally beats up everybody, he stalks the grounds keeping law and order, or thinks he does, can often be seen stalking the others. You can get close, but you'll never pat him. He is way more ginger than this photo suggests as well, he's bright orange, like an orange.

Raggedy Andy - almost looks like a Red Panda with brush tail and big fat cheeks. He's happy to walk over your feet to get where he's going without paying any attention. He is however not keen on pats at the moment because of the big hole in his face.

Black Plague - is very friendly and will gallop up to suss you out for food or pats while the others lie around lazily. She is however just as quick to return to whatever shade she was lurking in. Unless of course she turns out to be a he, which may be the case. Malaria and Lab-rat are her/his sisters.

Malaria (Minge) - is another one of the younger cats, distinguishable by her eyes which are the same colour as her fur, she's quite spry and curious, but more inclined to keep her distance. Often seen hanging out with Scabies, Andy and Plague.

Lab-rat - apparently glows in the dark. Exactly the same size and build as her siblings Plague and Malaria, she appears to be the middle child, happy to follow the other two and be adventurous when Plague is leading the way, but happy to be shy and retiring when Minge is around.

Scraps - is an old girl who likes life next to the rubbish bins and spends most of her time under the air conditioner right next to where they are put out. She's quick to grab a meal and as well as Big Orange Tom appears pretty well fed.

Two cats I couldn't get pictures of today were Measles and The Tick (Tango). Hopefully I can bring you pictures of them soon. Measles would have a rock off with the Plague for prettiest kitteh, while The Tick looks pretty much just like Scud, but appears to be a girl and friends with Scabies.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


I've been in the middle east for 2 weeks now and in this sweat dripping region not managed to get my washing done once.

Sure I could pay for the hotel to do my washing, but with each piece costing the same as your average MP's salary to get clean, I was far from comfortable with throwing any more money down that hole.

On a side note, do you think MP's would cut the benefit if that's what they earned for being dutiful representatives of the community? I think not. I think you'd find most beneficiaries would suddenly have free access to penthouse inner city living.

Anyway, rather than have to dig out a kidney with a spoon in order to get my pants clean, I have instead spent considerable time finding a nearby laundromat.

When first I heard rumour of this divine quarter I sought its location from the helpful staff here at the hotel. Except no-one at the hotel knew what I was talking about, but were more than happy to point me in a myriad of directions.

I've thus spent most of my frugal days off exploring the city in a vain attempt to locate anywhere that could make my shirts stop sticking to me like some kind of sci-fi exo-jelly, each futile step only adding to my already icky predicament.

Desperation came in the form of a footbath full of my undies, an absurd attempt at trying to hold out as long as I could against the organ harvesting nature of the hotel coffers. In the process I managed to flood my bathroom floor and break the showerhead off, so all in all a pretty successful day.

While the laundry soap I bought was effective, drying my undies proved to be anything but. The irony that the desert outside could dry my unmentionables in mere seconds, but that I was forever separated from this blessing by my airlock of a hotel suite, was not lost on me.

I wouldn't exchange my pure air conditioned paradise for anything, except maybe some clean undies.

I have been absolutely parsimonious with my last two pairs of gruts. I've not worn them around my room and have avoided being outside in them as much as humanly possible. Even at work I have only chosen to sit in the breathable nylon thatched chairs, fearing anything cushy would only lead to perspiration no matter how minor.

This entire time my other five pairs have lived the high life, strung ineffectively across the air conditioning duct. There I hoped moving air would dry them quickly and enable me to move more freely without being fraught over bum sweat and tears. To no avail.

Crucially while preparing myself by the hotel's back door for another trek into the unknown, a kind chap asked me where I was heading, when I said I didn't know and explained why, he pointed to the building next door and said "there it is". I've not wanted to punch and kiss someone all in the same moment before, so did neither, in fact I don't think I properly uttered a response of any kind, just swallowed my emotions, turned and left.

Sure enough the building next door has a laundromat and while not cheap, is certainly not in the league of having to have children to sell them off to afford their services.

However the hours they keep, despite the proclamations of their signage, are irregular. On no fewer than six occasions did I venture there only to find them closed. On the one occasion I did find them open and hurried home to gather my clothes, they were closed by the time I got back.

Then came Tuesday, sure enough they weren't open when I bundled up my belongings to take them for a walk, but "lo" they were open upon my return two hours later. My joy was unparallelled and the man behind the counter did very well to avoid a hug, he was fortunate his confused face from my constant thanks put me off him.

And so today, Thursday, I returned, not once, not twice, but thrice. Not because they were shut, but because on some level I managed to forget my inventory slip on two separate occasions. This despite one of those occasions being me returning solely to my hotel and to my room for this specific purpose.

Somehow I managed to come in, pick up the slip, move it to the other side of the room and forget it again. I see this playing out like an episode of 'Unsolved Mysteries', but was no less amusing for the door staff or laundry people.

The other side of the coin is that I have an inner ear issue from an accident I had when I was 12. What it means is that I don't always balance.. good, and even standing up can be a bit of a rollercoaster. Riding an elevator is always a mixed bag and after five trips of 23 floors I was walking absolutely sideways. Old Wobbles was getting the looks from the locals as I negotiated the footpath like it was the deck of a vessel in high seas.

But it was worth it, well not exactly $100 worth it, but dammit if I'm not happy to have clean everything again. For the next week I can look forward to having clothes which don't require me peeling them off.

Then repeat cycle.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


My tummy is getting hairy.

I don't know what set this off, but after 33 years of body baldness things they are a changin'. Feel free to sing that however you wish.

In just a handful of months I've gone from squeaky clean bald boy to slowing enveloped fluff man.

I honestly thought after having been overlooked for puberty that my one saving grace would be the avoidance of unsightly body hair. Now in a cruel twist of fate just as my metabolism hits an all-time low and I begin to spread like I can't believe it's not butter, I am now burdened with extra hair I don't use and never needed.

I suppose this decline began in my mid twenties, a slight row of darker than normal hairs reaching above my belt in an orderly fashion reaching ever closer to my belly button. This is where the advance stopped. Now, as it has begun again encroaching ever further north, I can only assume the hairs went down into my navel and got lost, slowly circling for ten years and asking each other if they hadn't passed that bit of lint before.

I now consider this to be an all out assault. The forest reclaiming the desert (like that ever happens in this world). My body is defying nature and rising up against me, even though I did nothing to provoke it.

The hair itself is spreading in all directions directly out from my belly button, squads appear to be heading both east and west, while several do-gooders stay behind to help the women and children build a city and the main attack force slowly advance north.

Here, just below my man mountains, they have set up camp while advanced parties of their darkest tallest warriors have set up outposts around my nipples.

Runners appear to be relaying messages between these two outposts, while covert operations take place behind me.

I really do hate to think of the breadth and scale of that operation, hidden as it is in total darkness.

If for whatever reason they make a tactical move for control and strangle me in my sleep tonight, know this, I didn't want this fight and was always a conscientious objector.

Sunday, 3 November 2013


A week ago a friend of mine passed away. We weren't close, we hadn't spoken in a couple of years, but she was a constant figure over the years as we knew many of the same people and she dated a good friend of mine for some time.

When young people are taken too soon you feel robbed, you're left with an empty chasm and your heart falls right into it.

A couple of months ago I saw this person pop up on facebook and I went to say hello.. I stopped myself, thinking it had been too long and it would be too weird.

My advice to everyone is not to wait, not to hold back.. she never did.

I can't imagine what my friends and her family are going through, but I'm sure they know just how well she spent her time on this Earth and that will be celebrated tomorrow.

She lived a full life and spent her time discerningly. Those of us lucky to have been given any of it are very fortunate indeed.

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Today was a hard day. I had to work with a lot of grueling pictures out of Syria for several hours and I feel physically sick.

Two shots stuck with me the most, one of a man standing with three others when he is unexpectedly shot in the head and just drops to the ground mid conversation, and the other of a small girl singing to the camera when a missile flies in and explodes next to them killing her.

Both of these images will haunt me for a while, especially the stuff I removed which couldn't be shown on air.

I'm glad I get to help tell these stories to the world, I almost feel like I am doing something useful, almost, I wish I knew it made a difference to these people's lives. When you see what people are going through at the hands of governments, religious factions and corporations day after day, it becomes very hard to stomach the way we ignore their struggle and accept the excess with which we live in the west.


I want to write, but I'm soooo tired. In short, I found a laundromat close to where I'm staying so I don't have to be extorted for clean undies. I went for a walk around the embassies and met many many security guards who wanted to know what I was doing, "Going for a walk" is apparently an acceptable if surprising response. Some of the embassies were remarkable buildings, which I thought the best of was Kuwait, until I came across Iran. However, these signs were everywhere and I was being watched like a hawk.

Beach wasn't much to write home about.

I'm pretty sure some other things happened, but I'm too tired to remember what they were. I ate some Frosties. I saw a child driving a truck.

Oh and I saw a man eating KFC and blowing his nose at the same time.