Archive for the 'Crafty Bits' Category

Short Haired Girl

September 3, 2011

Clockman - outside the fabric souk

I just remembered I was a short haired girl after months of grappling with the desalinated water and trying every conditioning treatment I could find.  It finally occurred to me that the answer was simple – cut it off!  So having sourced a decent hairdresser (it is seriously difficult in this town – in fact it’s easier to find a hooker) I did a ‘Roman Holiday’ and had all my tendrils severed and the result is such a relief – cool and easy and so much more ‘me’.

Poolside - fluffy head but you get the gist

Then I looked around and realised that 90% of the women I saw (who were not covered) had long hair.  The 10% were pretty much western ex-pats and I pondered that this is yet another freedom that I have – I can cut my hair – I don’t need to ask permission, I don’t have to worry about social stigma, I am in control of this and all aspects of my appearance – which I am not sure is the norm in this part of the globe.  It is, of course, mere speculation but as a feminist I like to look at what I see and what it means in practical terms for the lives of women around me.

Beach Club

The need for a coiffure solution had become more apparent as I have finally found an aquatic solution to my presence here.  I live on a peninsula surrounded by sea with months of 40+.  I had been finding it frustrating that:
a. I didn’t have a swimming pool at my compound,
b. At the local public beaches you were not allowed to show shoulders or upper thighs (i.e.: the dreaded burquini),
c. The hotel beaches charged a small fortune and
d. The closest beach I was confident in accessing in a standard car was an hours drive away.


Hello ‘Oasis Beach Club’!  All I need – a small beach, a large pool, a kiosk and umbrella for QR60 (AU$15, UK£10) – I am addicted.  My little Piscean self has come out of hiding and I have spent the best part of my week off basking, swimming, reading and lolling on a banana lounge.  A 10 min drive away, easy parking, friendly staff and apart from an unfortunate incident of a man wanking in the pool all is good.  As I wear contact lenses I swim with goggles and happened to spy said man’s rapid wrist action under water – from above he had the face of an angel!  I gave him a death stare and subtly told the other ladies in the water what I had glimpsed – I hope he was suitably embarrassed and I gave it three days before I returned in the hope that the chlorine had done it’s job.  Filthy bugger!

Other highlights of my week off included a firework display for Eid, I’m a tad ‘bah humbug’ about fire works – I’m not convinced they are good for either the environment or world debt and to be honest – once you’ve seen Sydney Harbour New Years Eve all else is a disappointment.  They were ok as far as pyrotechnics go and it was nice company but it was hot and as I said ‘bah humbug’.  It did give me an opportunity to take in the Cultural Village though – an impressive seaside architectural project that includes a huge amphitheatre, opera house, booze free restaurants and a large public beach (burquinis only).

From pink clockwise: Sumac, Jacaranda, Onion & Garlic, Madder, Red Onion, Chai, Mouldy Onion Skins, Ousef

I have also spent a lot of Ramadan and the last week dyeing and spinning silk caps.  The results have been very pleasing – especially the red onion skins – I felt like I was spinning gold – where’s my Rumplestiltskin?  As I publish this I have turmeric root and hibiscus flowers on the boil!

Spinning Gold

I’m back at work on Sunday – Ramadan is finished and everyone is heading back into town – I have survived the holy month and the worst of summer and it really wasn’t too difficult.  I have two months left of my contract – there is talk of another two months and a ‘then see’ – so we’ll see, not keeping all my eggs in the one basket though.  At any rate I should have a trip to see Ma and Pa in early November and I am crossing off the days – three years is far too long to have not seen them.

Perth WA - where my family live



August 19, 2011

Cute signage at Modern Art Museum

Well I’m over half way through the Holy Month of Ramadan and to be fair I’m loving it.  I approached the season with a sense of dread; fed by established ex-pats with tales of extremes – “everything is shut, it’s unbearable hot, the laws are even stricter with regards to clothing”.  Whilst all of the above is true I have played the game with regards to costume – long sleeved cotton shirts have become my uniform, I’m keeping the volume of music down in my car, I am not a ‘shopper’ and I am always in air-con.

Once I got my head around the no eating or drinking in public during sunshine hours I settled into a nice rhythm.

The ease of the month, to be honest, has largely come from the fact that my work hours have been drastically reduced, 8am-5pm has given way to 9am-2pm – I have always wanted to work part time – and I have been happily pottering; dyeing, spinning fleece and silk, baking bread, boiling jams and swimming laps.  I finally finished the Zwarbtle project that I started many months ago and in my search for buttons wandered off to the oddly named Taliban Store (photo’s below).

Finished! (handcarded, spun and knitted - over a year in the making)

My one small gripe is that the only place they have given us to eat and drink at work is shared with the smokers – a prefab hut in the corner of the carpark.  My colleagues in my office have given me permission to drink water at my desk as long as I am discreet.

Taliban Store - Exterior

One interesting skew is that the playing of music or dancing in public is prohibited.  I have found some cheap salsa lessons during the month and we have to be careful to keep the blinds down as to not offend.  The salsa dancing is fun – I haven’t had a formal dance lesson since I was 14!  I have to wear something cut a tad higher though – one Filipino boy I was partnered with could not take his eyes off my cleavage – I was amused rather than offended – he look so wide eyed and almost in shock – poor love!

Taliban Store - Interior

Some practical things are difficult  – like getting to a bank – they are open from 9.30-2.00pm (I am at work) and then open from 8pm to midnight – I can assure you that going to the bank at 9pm is the last think I would think of, but it is a night culture here at the moment.  The traffic at 10.30pm is like the normal AM peak hour.  I have been told by many people to keep off the roads between 6 and 7pm to avoid crazy drivers who are hungry and dehydrated on their way to prayers and Iftah (breaking of the fast) – too be honest I have seen none of this.  Some of my colleagues were a bit green around the gills on day one, but for the most part those that I have observed fasting have a serenity and seriousness about them.

Krusty Beach Club

Today I went to a beach club that I was told about at a party last night.  It’s far cheaper than anything else I have heard off and consisted of a large deep pool, a beach looking across the bay, umbrellas, banana lounges and a kiosk serving food and drink – almost unheard off during the holy month.  It was an excellent find and one I plan to keep tight lipped about.  So much of that kind of stuff here is over the top posh – this was a tad ‘old raj’ – run down and nothing fancy – just my cup of tea.  Four hours of sun, swims, a good book and a club sandwich once a week is all I’ve been wanting.  I have the week after next off for Eid – so I know where I’ll be!

View From My Banana Lounge

I leave you with a pic I took of kitty Carla – her yawning meets my flash was the method – the result something a tad more sinister!

Psycho Kitty

Change of Tones

March 25, 2011

On the way to the beach...

I realise I’ve been a tad quiet of late – Mum has asked me to tone down any negative perceptions I have of the place, given the religious and political climate here, so I guess I’m going by the theory of if you’ve got nothing nice to say then say nothing.  I do however have nice things to say but will keep my more political musings quieter and save them for when we meet and/or the book deal (I jest).

I’ve made a couple of mates who are taking the edge of things – had a fun random night out last night which was well over due.  Started at Thai Snack – the restaurant in the massage parlour and a Doha institution.  As I’ve started knowing my way around and how to give directions people have said  ‘uh! behind Thai Snack – everyone knows where that is!’  Here you do not use street names but ‘landmarks’ – turn at ‘Toys R’Us’ behind Mega Mart, over the road from the Sheraton and all the roundabouts have an English name –  ‘TV’ roundabout is near the Al Jazeera News channels, ‘Decoration’, near a huge tacky home and decorating store and ‘Rainbow’ – has a rainbow arch on it (no gay pride here folks).

We were sat outside near the water feature – lovely outside temperature and had delightful girlie chats about being new to Doha – I being the veteran on 10 weeks.   The three of us had a thai banquet – dumplings, spring rolls, chicken wings (we passed on the chicken anus’s posted on the menu) and a whole baked fish and half a duck – £13 or AU$20 each.


We had all gone to the beach last weekend.  I had scrawled some directions on a piece of paper when I had been chatting to ‘veteran expat’ about beaches accessible by a normal car.  It went something like take the North road for 40 mins, turn at ‘x’ resort and the beach is to the right – Bob’s your uncle – he was right!  Pristine white sand and clear aquamarine water – temperature was perfect, depth to your arm pits – I was ‘pig in shit’ (apologies for the pork reference).


So after gorging ourselves on amazing food at Thai Snack we jumped in my mates car and headed for the ‘city’ – via my mates amazing apartment in West Bay overlooking the sea – everyone has a pool but me!

NOT at my Apartment

We headed to the Sheraton; Doha’s oldest hotel and very cool 70’s – I like it.  We thought we may have problems as only one of us had their passport – my passport is with HR at work awaiting my exit visa (see below) and many places won’t let you in without one.  So we rock up to the Irish bar and are given the ’are you hotel guests, are you members, do you have a passport’ line by the doorbitch – on not being able to present said passport it was a repeated ‘sorry it’s Qatari law’ – the colour photocopy would not do.  He was very stern and serious, repeating the ‘Qatari law’ line. He then threw us – ‘but you could try the Latino bar next door’.

Sheraton is the 'sail' type structore on the foreshore.

So apparently ‘Qatari law’ doesn’t apply to the cool ambient Latino bar with the live singer, dancing and cheap cocktails – cool!  So a round of mojitos, a wiggle to some salsa and the obligatory sleazy Columbian saw a couple of hours of old fashioned good fun. The fun of the evening was really in the hilarity of the circumstances you can find yourself in this town – restaurants in massage parlours, bizarre drinking laws, being able to just park anywhere on the footpath.

We were an eclectic bunch – all of us promo girls and new to Doha.  A Nigerian/English, a Singaporean/Malay and an Anglo Australian woman went into a bar…

On the craftyside I now have three solar dyeing bundles heating up on the balcony – tumeric root, eucalyptus and tea and just eucalypt – results in May.  I also played with cold dyeing with bougainvillea flowers and got a lovely pink.

Solar Dyeing Project - Eucalypt

I have officially signed up for another six months starting May 1st.  Figure I need to find out about a Gulf summer for myself – may rue this call.  I am still only a freelancer, so I will become a person with no country of residence as I give up my lovely flat in London (thanks Karen & Rich!) and essentially become a ‘tax exile’.  In order to leave Qatar you must have an exit visa signed by your employer – hence I leave in under a week and have no passport.


So, I arrive in London next Thursday to pack up my life, sort out all my paperwork, visit Malta with Joe and Alex and see the Royals wed.  I am liking that my last full day in the UK is the day of the Royal Wedding.  I want to be in the crowd at the Queen Victoria monument, at the end of The Mall, in front of the palace waving a Union Jack as my farewell to Blighty.  She has hosted me well – I’ve had my ups and downs in the UK but London is one damn fine town.

Trafalgar Square & Whitehall from the National Gallery Steps

Hail to the Silk Worm

February 27, 2010

I spent some of my day today spinning silk at the farm.

I belong to a spinning and dyeing group which meets every Saturday at a local city farm – it’s kinda cool sitting spinning the fleece of the alpaca that your watching through the window.

Today I was presented with silk caps – the finest fibre I’ve ever played with – it was so pure and white and strong and I was able to spin the finest threads.  I then made a navaho ply of the thread and it is still thinner than any wool I have spun.  The next phase will be to dye the skeins with something from the dye garden – I love the organicness of the process.

There will be more about the farm as this continues – it’s so nice to break up the week by entering this lovely feminine world – I find London very masculine most of the time – it reminds me of my other life living in hippy rural Australia.  A group of women – all ages sharing knowledge and skills and stories.  It reaffirms how wonderful we woman are.