Weekly Photo Challenge – Close Up

Close Up

Seagull at Lake Geneva


Weekly Photo Challenge – Half & Half

Half & Half.
A photo with 2 different halves.

The night breeze carries the spray from Geneva’s Jet d’Eau (fountain) to the right of photo, creating a 50/50 effect. Photo taken a few days back by MB on a trip to Switzerland.


 I will secretly laugh at the Swiss

The Swiss make the best watches in the world and have developed a country that is nigh on perfect. Everything works. With clockwork precision. But do they know their salt from their pepper? Seemingly not.

MB had occasion a few days back to travel to Geneva for a work-related meeting. He decided to extend his stay for a few days on account of the Eid public holiday in his Middle East abode. Morning Nr 1 arrived and MB headed to the hotel restaurant for his first Swiss breakfast.

All was as expected. Perfect food and perfect plates and all-round general perfectness. MB stacked up his plate with hot breakfast goodies, fresh breads, Swiss cheese and a lot more besides. He made his way to the perfectly set out tables with their perfect tableware and perfect coloured napkins in the perfectly decorated dining area.

Now MB never uses salt on his food. But he is a total pepper addict. So he selected the multi-holed pepper cellar and started to shake. Suddenly, and horrifyingly, thousands of grains of salt appeared from all 5 orrifices of the pepper cellar, covering MB’s formerly perfect breakfast with a colouring of snowy white.

WTF, thought MB, as the sudden unexpected lack of perfectness hit MB like a punch from a heavyweight. “Au secour, au secour” shouted MB loudly (remembering some school French) in desperation – MB was in the French speaking part of Switzerland after all, and was sure that the French speaking staff would immediately jump in with some salt hoovers designed by Rolex or one of the other famous local watch makers, on hearing MB’s ‘au secour’. 

But nothing happened. The Swiss staff continued as if no international incident had just taken place at the corner table by the window. MB looked around to see if any staff members were from 2nd or 3rd world countries, and upon whom one could possibly place the entire blame for the salt cellar fiasco. None were evident. All staff members were from the sole member country of the 1st world – Switzerland. 

Deciding to investigate further, MB then grabbed the single orrifice ‘salt cellar’. He shook it slowly and gently over his food, lest he add to the salt mountain already covering his scrambled eggs and schnitzel. But lo & behold, only the most welcome pepper appeared from the ‘salt cellar’ spout. Swiss wonders will never cease, thought MB sarcastically to himself, as he grabbed a nearby snow shovel to remove the offending salt from his plate. On finishing, some extra coffee was called for, to wash the slight salty residue from the mouth of MB. To teach the Swiss a lesson, MB decided to say nothing of what had happened, and to just allow the entire country to remain and wallow in salt/pepper/cellar ignorance. “And how was your breakfast Monsieur?” asked one of the Swiss staff as MB departed. “Perfect” replied MB.

In the days that followed MB saw much impressive Swiss know-how and Swiss technology at work. He visited the museum of Patek Philippe, the Nr 1 watch maker in the world & saw watches and clocks of incredible precision from olden days right up to current times. He was extremely impressed by a Swiss drinks vending machine he encountered. In 2nd and 3rd world countries all vending machines have a screw mechanism that turns to spit out the selected drink bottle. It drops with a bang onto a tray at the bottom and explodes on opening. The 1st world Swiss variety features a mechanical arm that appears from nowhere, grabs the selected drink and places it gently in a side compartment of the machine, which then opens automatically, allowing MB to remove the perfect undamaged bottle of drink through the perfectly sized opening.

MB traveled on Swiss trains. They arrive and depart as if set to some atomic clock. There is no shaking from side to side as trains do in other countries, as they glide silently along perfectly aligned tracks. MB used the free wifi in many public places and it always worked perfectly. No passwords required. Just click and away you go. Just for fun MB asked staff members on a few occasions if the internet speed was ok, upon entering a cafe or other such place. The Swiss staff looked quizzically at MB, wondering from which planet he had just arrived. Did he not know that he was in Switzerland and such questions do not need asking. “But they politely responded, after initial hesitancy, “mais oui Monsieur, c’est tres bon et magnifique”. 

So all in all MB can confirm that Switzerland lives up to it’s reputation. It’s extremely neat and tidy. The scenery is stunning. The wealth is bulging from the doors of the overstuffed banks, pursuant to much confiscation of deposits from 2nd and 3rd world crooks, who have discovered to their cost the true purpose of Swiss banking laws.

But it is neither the high tech, nor the neatness nor the perfection nor the wealth that MB will most remember. He will first and foremost think of the salt and the pepper – and laugh forevermore in secret at the Swiss. Hahaha…………….!

Weekly Photo Challenge – Symbol


This weeks pic from MB indicates a holy well in MB’s HX homeland called St Patrick’s Well, the small cross over the small door symbolic of the holy water within. The well also gives its name to the immediate locality and nearby church.

Interestingly, the local people in years past did not refer to the water as ‘holy’ water, but rather by a old Gaelic word called ‘dineacht’ meaning ‘protection’. MB scooped a mouthful of the water into his mouth a few weeks back when he was home, so he is now fully protected again!


Weekly Photo Challenge – Doors (2)


A statue of Pope John XXIII stand outside one of the front entrance doors at St Anthony’s Church, Istanbul.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Doors


The round towers of Ireland were built between the 9th & 12th centuries, generally next to monasteries or other religious buildings. Some are up to 40M high. The doors were constructed in an elevated position to enable the monks or priest to take their chalices and other valuables to the safety of the tower by ladder when there was a threat from invaders. The ladder was then pulled up and the door locked securely. Once the invaders departed the monks would then reappear and resume normal duties.

Many of the towers survive to this day due to their aerodynamic curved shape which prevents storm damage. The tower featured below (on a foggy day) is in Lismore , County Waterford in Ireland’s south east.

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One from MB friend DH in Doha, Qatar. For the season that’s in it.

Originally posted on thereluctantemigrant:

Ramadan at Dar Al SalamThis week the Muslim world was greeted by the arrival of the first week of Ramadan. Of course Qatar takes Ramadan as seriously as everything else so there is no dilution in the traditions and rituals.   The gist of Ramadan of course is that Muslims cannot eat from sunrise to sunset. Sunrise at the moment is approximately 4.30a.m. I know this because I’m usually having my 53rd toilet break around then, joys of being four months pregnant.   Sunset is around 6.30p.m. and considering that the working day starts early in Qatar, anywhere from 6a.m., it’s a long day to fast.

When I say, fast, I don’t mean ‘fast’ like the we do on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, making a meal of abstaining from meat but able to pig out on a fish box instead, I mean fasting, proper. No food, no water and no cigarettes. For the curious…

View original 559 more words

Going Backwards – A Lament

“Seems like this whole region is going backwards”, said a friend to MB a few days back. Read More

HX – Animals

The cattle in Ireland look happier than Arabs in the Middle East!

So said an Arab work colleague of MB in recent days, on looking at a few of MB’s photos. Read More

Weekly Photo Challenge – Muse

Muse – A subject that keeps you coming back? – Brie Anne’s photo challenge this week.

MB has taken many photos of the Stone Circle at Grange in MB’s HX homeland in Limerick, south west Ireland in recent years. He found himself back there again last week for the summer solstice, and happened to drop in on solstice eve as the sun was getting low in the sky. A few of farmer Tim Casey’s young calves were relaxing on the grass in the centre of the circle in the very impressive (photographically speaking) shadow of the tree.

The entire scene gave MB yet another interesting shot, unlike any of those he had taken in the past. The muse continues to surprise & provide.


Weekly Photo Challenge – Roy G. Biv

The colours of the rainbow.

Or Roy G. Biv as is sometimes used by school kids to remember the colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo & violet. Or as MB used to recite – Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain, as he once memorised many years ago.

Anyway, MB is only concentrating on one of the 7 colours for the photo challenge – Green – having just spent the last week in his very green homeland.

There’s a song written by Johnny Cash in 1959 on a visit to Ireland called Forty Shades of Green. Sums it up to some degree:

I close my eyes and picture the emerald of the sea
from the fishing boats at Dingle to the shores at Donaghdee
I miss the River Shannon and the folks at Skibbereen
the moorlands and meadows and their Forty Shades of Green

MB gives you 3 pics from his trip home last week in his HX homeland to also give you a flavour:



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Homeward Bound

The Summer Solstice festival in MB’s HX homeland is nigh and MB is homeward bound.

Mid next week MB will be on a plane heading to the furthermost point in western Europe and will be in the thick of the HX festival action. Lots of events to whet the appetite including: a night time lake shore planet & star gazing event organised by a local astronomy group, sunrise at the stone circle on solstice morning (circa 5am), charity solstice sunrise cycle from Limerick city to the HX lake front, the ‘long walk for a long day’ event which will involve a 3 hour walk around the hills and farm land surrounding the lake area on solstice evening, and much much more. MB is like a kid waiting for Santa!

For festival events check out the the following: http://loughgur.com/summersolstice2015/

Maybe catch up with one or two HX followers over there. All most welcome.

To give non-HX residents and new-comers to MB’s HX blog a flavour on MB’s homeland, herewith to drool over.

Ryans Hse & Bouchers Castle

IMG_4298 IMG_4034  IMG_4065 (1) IMG_4205  IMG_4125 IMG_4160 IMG_4040 Crokers - shot from Knockfennel

Weekly Photo Challenge – Off-Season


The grandstand and hotel at Meydan horse racing track in Dubai is a hive of activity from November to March. Outside of that period the hotel still operates at a reasonable but reduced level of occupancy. On the track only maintenance works take place to keep all ship-shape for the following season.

Off Season

Weekly Photo Challenge – Vivid


MB was dining with family recently at the Jebal Ali resort in Dubai. The food and the conversation were suddenly interrupted when a wandering vividly coloured peacock jumped onto the table to say hello and take a look at MB’s 5 star nosh. No kidding. MB is not spinning one of his tall tales. It happened!

Like a deadly gun slinger in some Western movie, MB pulled his camera from his holster faster than the blink of an eye, and grabbed this (seriously vivid) shot.


Qatar 2022 – The case FOR

In December 2010, the award of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar was announced to the ever-so-slightly shocked world football community. MB uses ‘football’ in it’s real sense, and not in the ‘American’ sense, where same word is used to describe some baby game with multiple stop/starts to allow viewers grab yet another pizza, ice cream & coke, and where players wear all sorts of body/baby protection, lest they bruise a limb or their highly gelled hair moves out of place. In fact, when one considers it, the only thing missing from the American game is soothers! But back to Qatar 2022.

Much was/is made of Qatar’s relatively small population of almost 2M. What was not very much mentioned by detractors, surprisingly, was/is the fact that native Qataris make up less than 300,000 of the total population. The other 1.7M are expats like (or unlike) MB, who hold a work permit and residency visa allowing them to remain in Qatar as long as employment lasts. This is the exact same procedure that exists in almost all Arabian Gulf countries. None have ‘open door’ immigration policies, no more than any western country does; just their rules are different and are a product of their histories and other concerns, not least of which is the security of their citizens.

For example, it is currently almost impossible for a Syrian citizen to get a residency/work visa for any country in the Gulf, on security grounds. That is notwithstanding the fact that many millions of Syrians work, and continue to work, in those same Gulf countries since before war broke out in their homeland. Those who had visas before hostilities got to keep them, while new aspiring entrants from Syria were generally blocked. Tough, but that’s the way the Gulf cookie crumbles.

If you think that awarding a World Cup to a nation of approximately 300,000 natives is ridiculous then please consider the following:

  1. Only a country with sufficient existing footballing infrastructure, or the financial means to build one, can possibly host a tournament of such scale.
  2. The majority of Arabic speaking countries do not fall into either of the above two categories. None has sufficient infrastructure, so if you concede for a moment that the Arabic speaking region is entitled to host a World Cup (of which more later) then you can only look at those countries that have the finances to do so.
  3. Those countries that have the financial resources are generally countries of relatively small populations with much oil and gas wealth, compared to the populations of a Brazil or a Germany or a USA – to give examples of more recent hosts of the tournament. Sorry. But not their fault.

Since the first World Cup in 1930 most tournaments were held in Europe or South America. Only the USA (1994), Korea/Japan (2002) and South Africa (2010) have broken the Euro/S American mould. Meaning at least, that most regions have got to some greater or lesser degree, a fair crack of the football whip. All regions that is, except a region of some 360M Arabic speakers who are, generally speaking, football crazy.

MB often makes an effort to speak to the  airport Passport/Visa control staff out these parts, sitting at their screens as MB has his Passport swiped and his iris’s and face scanned for the umpteenth time. When he answers ‘Ireland’ to the usual question, he is often met with the response from the robed Arabic Passport checker – “Robbie Keane is a good player, enjoy your stay” Actually, Robbie was of great benefit to MB when MB lived in Saudi Arabia! But MB digresses.

Football is truly the international sport like no other. The Olympics, for all it’s touting, just doesn’t hold a candle. So football matters in this crazy world, and football matters even more where there isn’t much else going on, or where cultures or religions or daily temperatures do not permit much to go on, or in places that have not yet developed to an extent that provides the huge variety of social, sporting and other outlets that people in more developed parts of the world take for granted. So football does matter.

People in the west do not realise how popular football is in the the Arab world, and how much it really does matter. Tomorrow night the Champions League final is on. Juventus v Barca. Every coffee shop and hotel lobby or bar with a TV will be ‘chocka’, with flavoured shisha smoke from hookah pipes wafting through the night air, delighting the shisha connoisseurs (but choking MB and others of his mindset – and ‘lungset’),and noise levels ebbing and flowing with the action. And whilst tomorrow night’s crowds will be huge, the crowds on any night there is a game on TV is also very large and noisy. Barca & Real Madrid are the two most popular sides, then everyone has a favourite team in the English Premiership (just like the Irish and many others the world over), and of course many support Paris St Germain due to it’s Arabic ownership connections.

So, in the opinion of MB, it’s well time that the Arab region got their chance to put on the football show, if only from the point of view of sheer love of the game.

But what about all the negatives MB?

Let’s take a look.

Apart from the tiny population (already addressed) – the mid 40C temperatures. We are all now aware that the tournament is officially moved to December and the temperatures are no longer an issue. But let us look at this issue in the context of the date of award of the tournament and analyse it a little more.

MB is sure that matches could easily have taken place in air-conditioned stadia. Fully enclosed or almost fully enclosed structures as they are presently designed, would have made such an A/C scenario technically possible. So this much hyped negative does not hold much water in the opinion of MB. What would have concerned MB however, is how visiting non-Arabic fans would have coped with a 2 to 3 week tournament in ME summer temps. MB has to believe the evidence of his own eyes in response, and report to all that billions of dollars are currently being spent to ensure extensive new indoor facilities, such as a very large metro system, new town centres, and new whopping shopping facilities, that will provide comfort zones for tens of thousands on non-match days. So no effort and no expense is being spared in this regard.

Workers rights and workplace accidents. A most serious matter and one that should concern all associated with the tournament and with Qatar’s continuing non-football development into the future.

MB googled ‘workplace deaths in Britain’ earlier this week. For the last 6 years it’s an average of some 160 per year. The Industrial Revolution began in Britain in approximately 1760. So 250 years later Britain still suffers some 160 deaths per year in industrial accidents. Even one death is horrific, let alone 160, or whatever the number is in any country. The vast majority of nations try their best to reduce workplace accidents with new rules and regulations and robust enforcement. Twenty or so years back Dubai had a similar construction boom and was rightly criticised for lax safety standards, salary payment issues and poor worker accommodation standards. The fact was that the huge boom caught the authorities unaware and for a few years they were playing catch-up with developments on the ground. But in the end they solved most of the problems by shutting down unsuitable accommodation and introducing a raft of laws to protect workers and worker rights.

Qatar is faced with a similar situation at present. A sudden huge construction boom has found their regulation and policing of industrial safety standards sorely wanting. But things are changing quickly, maybe in part due to international criticism, but also in truth, because the injury or death of any man or woman is as upsetting and distressing to a Qatari as it is to an Irish man or a German man. And all know that everything must be done to ensure that such accidents are reduced to the absolute minimum. And as already referred, 250 years after the industrial Revolution, Britain still suffers too many workplace deaths (the British numbers are actually better than most of its European neighbours btw) and British workers and Trades Unions continue to fight for better rights and better working conditions. Then consider for a moment that Qatar’s industrial boom has only occurred in very recent years.

The company that MB works for is currently completing new worker accommodation costing almost 4M euro. MB recently visited another almost-complete worker accommodation complex about 1 hour drive from Doha costing some 12M Euro. MB was extremely impressive in terms of facilities and standards. All Qatari companies are now aware that the poor standards of the past, exacerbated by the recent boom, are not good enough and most are already taking affirmative action to address the problems. All are also aware that a host of new worker rights legislation will shortly become law and non-compliance will result in company closures, just as happened in Dubai and elsewhere. So the issues are being addressed and in the not too distant future will hopefully be a thing of the past.

FIFA corruption/possible Qatar involvement.

As the Qataris are tired of saying by now – if any corruption or wrong-doing is proven then let the law take it’s course. Not much more to be said on that score MB thinks. There is much innuendo and rumour, much of it coming from anti-Qatar anti-Arab quarters, but (so far) not much evidence of organised wrong-doing. But if it’s proven – then let the law take it’s course.

Time moves on and Qatar football preparations continue apace. Qatari authorities have recently given the financial green light to the first 5 of 8 stadia. They are each of spectacular design, and some will be dismantled after the tournament and transported to poorer developing nations for re-erection. Not a bad idea and one never done previously.

MB is hoping to attend some World Cup matches in Qatar, assuming the Lord spares him the health. Much of his life has been taken up with a playing or admin involvement in the sport. MB has lined the pitches, hung up the nets and cut the grass. Football is in his blood. And it’s also in the blood of millions of Arabs. Football brothers all.

Qatar 2022 abu.



A 2012 MB photo from downtown Beirut. Kids playing football look the same in every country.



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