Would Eight be That Great?

I’ve been tagged by Dave. Here’s the meme: McCain has 8 homes in the U.S. You have to pick eight places you would like to live. List them. You don’t have to list your reasons, but if you do at least for a few of them, it would be more fun. And remember that the only rule is: the homes must be within the borders of the United States of America or else, within the borders of the country you live in, so as to utterly emulate the McCains. When you’re done, tag 8 people, so that they may join in the self-indulgence, forgetting about the crappy property market and the equivalent of The End of Pompeii on Wall-Street. You could spend your time hammering your doors and windows shut in preparation for the apocalypse instead, but it would be much less fun.

Being a normal human being with no powers of teleportation or even a private jet at my disposal, I have to wonder what I would actually do with eight houses. That actually sounds like quite a lot of work. If I had the wealth to afford them, then I would probably also have staff to run them e.t.c, but that still sounds like too much hassle for me.

Anyway, here’s my list:

1) Newcastle, County Down Northern Ireland. A small town at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. Mountains so beautiful, there’s a song about them. They are also the mountains I use in my profile picture, in case you were wondering.

2)Llyn Peninsula, Wales. Another coastal property with great scenery. I’m torn between here and the South Wales coast, but this wins because it’s more of a Welsh speaking area and I would love to learn Welsh fluently.

N.B A native arabic speaker once rather snottily informed that we would all be speaking Arabic in paradise, to which I replied that in paradise all our dreams would come true and therefore I would be speaking in Welsh and Spanish.

3) My Hometown (ish), somewhere in the North West of England. My parents still live there, so it would be good to have a place nearby

4)London, mainly for easy access to Heathrow for trips abroad.

5) I’m starting to run out of ideas at this point. I think a house on one of the Hebrides would be quite pleasant. Plus, Mr Outlines has watched Braveheart a few too many times and is slightly obsessed with Scotland.

6)Birmingham. Unfairly maligned for it’s accent and supposed ugliness, it’s actually got most things you want in a city, is way cheaper than London and with such a multi cultural population, you get no hijab wearing hassles there.

7)Leicester. So I can be close to the mighty Foxes.

8)The Isles of Scilly. The warmest weather in the U.K. Need I say more?

Where I would actually like to own property (but not eight):

1)Llyn Peninsula, Wales. See above

2)Damascus, Syria. Would be great to have somewhere to stay that wasn’t behind a wasikh shwarma shop that smelt like something out of C.S.I. Yes, Mr Outlines and I had to flee to the in laws (which was actually very pleasant and we should have just stayed there in the first place.) Both me and Umm Mr Outlines had to be dissuaded from standing outside the aforementioned shwarma shop and telling it’s many customers to go elsewhere. This was for my own good as my shoddy arabic meant my warning tactics would have just involved shouting “Wasikh!” and “Haraam” while waving my arms, so  I would have certainly been arrested and I’m sure that Syrian prisions do not have Western toilets and I really cannot deal with Arab toilets for prolonged periods of time.

3)Somewhere on the Syrian Coast. Not quite sure where, possibly near Umm Tyroor, but I would want a private beach so no one could drop any litter, anywhere.

4)Barcelona. Freddie Mercury sang a song about the place, what greater recommendation could there be?

5)Amsterdam. It’s just a lovely city with great food.

6)Some tropical paradise in Malaysia.

But again, I wouldn’t be too concerned about owning property in these places, just getting to visit them a lot would suit me fine.

The tagged are:

1) Yasmine of Sweep the Sunshine

2) Dictator Princess

3)Baraka

4)Ali La Loca

5)Forever Loyal

6)Lucky Fatima

7)Southern Muslimah

8)Jamerican Muslimah

Syrian Soda

…Is a very bright orange. I’m not sure drinks here are allowed to be such a vibrant-not-found-in-nature shade of orange anymore.

Of course being British I don’t say soda, I say pop and this post is about some of the pop culture I saw in Syria.

No need to say there was a soap about a man called Mohammed and a woman called Nour. Even though it’s finished, the merchandise is still everywhere and there’s a big rush to translate new Turkish dramas. I saw one (forget the name, it’s about a woman who is terminally ill and trying to find a new mother figure for her children), very glossy, very secular Turkey. Interestingly, there are now lots of adverts of Turkish holiday homes too.

To make a big generalisation, Syrian dramas are set in one of two time periods 1)Now 2)When under french colonial rule. The moustache count is much higher in the latter. The same actors appear in many different shows, regardless of their scenery gargling. One man in particular must either have friends in high places or know the terrible secrets of friends in high places as he’s in almost everything, despite no discernible acting talent whatsoever.

Syria, like many other countries uses soap as a vehicle for discussing social issues. The perils of black magic was the theme of the very campy “Layl wa Rajal” (Night of Men) and one drama even tackled the issue of living with H.I.V. Sadly it featured a scene where the little boy brushes his teeth with his H.I.V positive father’s toothbrush. His granny sees him and fearing he might have become infected, she proceeds to run about in the street in her nightie for a bit (while screaming) and then tries to stab herself in front of the aforementioned grandson and assorted family members. One hopes that this was follows by a piece of exposition explaining that no, you cannot catch H.I.V from sharing a toothbrush, but sadly I wasn’t able to watch any further.

Unfortunately there is still some pretty hideous racial caricatures being shown (I saw blackface AND yellowface) and equally disturbing, women being hit and this not being viewed as domestic violence. Sorry, but even if the character has murdered her own step daughter, she should not be shown getting slapped about.

After prolonged exposure during a long car journey, I sadly have to conclude that Arab pop = crap. By mere mathematical rules, some of it must be good. I guess I just didn’t get to hear it. No wonder Fayrouz is still viewed with such reverence.  Plus she still has her own nose, which is an increasing rarity in some circles.

English language films with subtitles are shown a lot. Amusingly, any swearing is not translated but it’s not bleeped out either, no matter what time the film is shown. I think I inadvertently watched what was possibly one of the worst films ever made.  Called Doppleganger with Drew Barrymore in the lead role (who must be eternally thankful that you can make such awful films and not end up working in McDonalds), it was so bad, I was expecting to see the shadow of a man flanked by two robots (now there’s a show they should bring back).

As far as televisual beauty goes, long, long, straight black hair and plum lipstick with matching eyeshadow, appears to be a popular choice and this make up is to be worn on screen at all times, even in bed. T.V men tend to favour a lot of hair gel. The pillow cases used on tv soaps must get absolutely filthy. Women do look like they are allowed to chew, swallow and naturally digest their food, which is definitely a big difference from U.K and especially U.S tv. I hope it lasts.

Syria: 99 Problems but having enough pictures of Bashar Al Assad ain’t one.

While on the motorway from Damascus to Latakia I tried to see if I could go half an hour without seeing Bashar’s visage. I lasted 30 seconds.

I find them fascinating, not just the proliferation, but the variety. Bashar in a suit, staring into the middle distance, Bashar in military uniform and aviators, Basher with Daddy Al Assad, Bashar flanked by Daddy Al Assad and the late Basil Al Assad. There’s enough material for a whopping thesis on political photography. Interestingly, Egypt which has a similar political set up, does not have the same love of presidential portraiture.

Syria differs from Egypt in other ways too. The poverty is not so glaring, but then neither is the wealth and the foreign investment. Money speaks quietly, and usually in Arabic, as Syrians don’t care for English that much.

When I mention Syria to other Muslims, they often sigh romantically, picturing some mystical land of Islamic scholarship. The truth of course, is some what different.

We tut tut about Muslim majority countries and their failings to be as Islamic as we’d imagine ourselves to be if we were the religious majority, but I think if I lived full time in most of these countries, I’d want plenty of escapism via satellite television too.

I compare the U.K with Egypt and Syria (as these are where I have visited). It’s not that the U.K has greater luxuries, in fact it’s the boring everyday elements. Reliable utilities, Universal health care, public maintenance of amenities, being able to achieve most administrative tasks without having to spend a whole day queuing for some man to blow smoke in my face and be wilfully rude and unhelpful.

And yet, one also has to see the benefits Islam has brought to these societies. Most of the population has been spared the evils of alcohol and gambling, which maybe explains why even the poor areas, don’t look like something out of Dawn of the Dead, as they do in the U.K.

I still feel like Islam is such a gift to the world, but I’m at a loss at to the best way to make it shine.