I need feminism because…

…my ex threatened to punch me in the face when I didn’t laugh at a joke about domestic violence.

True story.

Firstly a quick, and potentially unnecessary given that intro, disclaimer:

This post? Not a barrel of laughs. If you come here for the yuks it is probably best to look away now and come back next week when I’ll no doubt be dwelling on the incompetencies that fill my attempts to navigate the Gulf and my own apparent adulthood.

Oh, also, it’s super long, you might need a tea break or something half way through.

I have been hesitant about sharing this for many reasons. I first wrote it when it was new, and raw, and too painful to do anything about but write.

Then, after a while, I read the piece at a reading group and managed not to burst in to tears on stage.

Now, finally we’re here.

So why was I afraid?

Making the abuse and the messages return is near the top of that list of reasons.

For months after everything was finally over I ignored the sporadic texts and emails, the fake apologies and all-too-casual attempts at contact until the deluge subsided, and now has dried up completely. There is a fear that acknowledging it could open the floodgates.

But there is something else, a lingering doubt over what other people will think, how others will judge me.

I know that my situation is, and was, nowhere near as bad as that suffered by thousands of women around the world. Acknowledging it, I thought, would seem self-pitying and result in people feeling I am over-reacting.

So why have I decided, now, to share?

Again, there are a few reasons.

My worries about speaking out are shared by women everywhere, and so become part of the problem.

When it comes to abuse, physical, emotional, or otherwise, people think that talking about it will make it worse, crack the dam they have built up around themselves and let the waters pour through, drowning them and washing away their defenses.

The widespread nature of the problem is not known because people feel that their case is not as bad as those they read about in papers; that it is not worth mentioning because they got out before it was too late, or because it never turned physical, or because the scars left behind, real or metaphorical, are starting to heal. But silence can not help.

The one billion rising campaign has been making waves recently, encouraging women who can speak, to speak, and ‘I need feminism because’ shows the extent to which women are still demeaned every day.

What happened to me was a tiny drop, the ripples from which are nearly faded to nothing on an ever-calming ocean, the fact that I can articulate what I felt means that I should.

This all began to make the concept of sharing this piece seem less ridiculous and more important.

And then the final push. Waking on Valentine’s Day (yes, it has taken me that long to actually work up the courage to publish) I saw messages he had sent from a number I hadn’t saved and so hadn’t blocked. Along with the standard pleas for sympathy and attempts at getting me to reply was a “Roses are red” joke about domestic abuse.

The fact a man who had systematically gone about trying to ruin my self confidence and belief, who would scream threats at me for not laughing at jokes about domestic violence and call me a hypocrite for having a ‘line’ when it came to humour, would send me a joke about a women being shot and killed showed such a lack of emotional awareness, a disregard for what he had done and what he had put me through, that I suddenly became incredibly angry.

That anger replaced the void I had been cultivating by telling myself it wasn’t a big deal.

It was a big deal, made bigger by the fact that he seemed to have no idea what he had done. Or if he did know, he didn’t care.

The fact that he still thought it was okay to contact me felt like a personal invasion, I felt sick seeing his name, my stomach knotted with loathing, but fear was gone.

Fear had morphed into anger.

Anger at what he had done.

Anger that he minimised it in his own mind so I was over-reacting.

Anger that he would probably do it to woman after woman until he found someone who might not be as lucky as I was to spot the signs (with a little help from my friends) and get out early.

As weird as it sounds, I was lucky and I know it.

I had what thousands, millions, of women do not.

Despite being far from home, I had a support network who I knew would protect me, I had financial and personal independence, and I had become involved with someone too lacking in self control (or too stupid) to wait until I was emotionally dependent on him to show his true self.

So I got out.

But not as quickly as I should have, because like all bullies he knew how to apologise, how to get my sympathy, how to ‘change’ for just long enough to convince me it was for real. He made me feel stupid and ashamed for wanting to think the best of him again and again and again.

I think for many decent people who find themselves locked in to these situations, you don’t want to admit that you were wrong to put your trust in someone, like it is your fault and your failings when it begins again.

I realise I haven’t actually said anything about what happened.

At first it was fun, and easy, and so relaxed.

And then it became official.

As soon as I was labelled ‘girlfriend’ in his mind it seemed like that was it.

I was his. He didn’t have to try to be the ‘nice guy’ he so regularly described himself as when things began to fall apart.

On my first night back from a holiday I was told that I was stupid, that I shouldn’t have gone and that I should have stayed and “sorted my fucking life out.”

That the fact I was worried about my career was my fault. That the fact he was still in Qatar was my fault, that if it hadn’t been for me he would have left and been happy, so I should feel pressure to make things work, because it would be my fault if I didn’t. I had ruined his life.

Forget that he is a grown man. Forget that he used his weekends to get drunk, and if he did come to the things I invited him to, he was either already drunk when he showed up, or got so drunk during the evening he couldn’t remember a thing.

At first the drinking wasn’t there, or he hid how bad it was, slowly though it began to creep out.

I would show up at four in the afternoon and he would already be on the vodka. He would wake up at 8am and drink what was leftover next to him. He threatened me, he threatened my friends, he forgot entire conversations we had and made up others.

On one particularly memorable evening I asked him to come to a party being hosted by my friends for an hour before he went to watch the football.

He came drunk, he didn’t speak to anyone, he left after 20 minutes, two hours before kickoff, and proceeded to bombard me with abusive messages about how I was a disgrace, how I had ruined his evening because he was ‘too nice’ to say no to me.

He was such a nice guy.

That should have been it. And for a while it was. But he wormed his way back in. He had changed. He would stop drinking. He was sorry. He had been joking.

That was always how he justified it.

Every time I voiced these thoughts to him I was over-reacting, he had been kidding.  (Looking back I am not really sure how I thought him saying things like “I’m going to punch you in the face” would be considered funny.)

But it went on, and it hurt, and over the months he chipped away at everything that made me me. Why couldn’t I just be normal? Why was I so fake? Couldn’t I be serious about anything? I wasn’t passionate about anything.

He hated my friends, they weren’t real friends, we kissed each other on the cheek and it made him sick because it was so fake.

He accused me of thinking he wasn’t good enough for me.

He was right about one thing, then.

Everyone has a breaking point. Everyone has something that finally flips the switch and they see what is in front of their face. Mine came when he told me I couldn’t be who I wanted.

He tried to stop my dreams dead. He tried to belittle me and my ambition.

He was kidding.

I had just taken a test for a job I really wanted. I didn’t think it had gone well and I told him. There was no support, no condolence.

I was told I would never be a foreign correspondent anyway, that I may as well give up. That I was selfish for not thinking of him when it came to my life plans and my career.

That I was an idiot to believe I could do it.

I left.

He stood in the way of the lift doors, stopping them sliding shut to form the barrier I needed between us. But I was done.

I cut ties.

I was never going to forgive him.

Just before he left for home he asked to see me, so I didn’t remember him badly. Stupidly I agreed. He was crestfallen and apologetic and he ‘loved’ me.

I had never been more relieved that someone was leaving my life to live 7,000 miles away.

I thought I would be free.

The messages began when I asked him to stop contacting me via whatsapp.

I was told I was a disgrace, that I had wasted time, that I had ‘no idea’ what he had gone through when we were together.

That he had cheated on me. That the girl was pregnant. That he was lying about the pregnant girl. That he was sorry. That he loved me. That he hated me. That I should kill him or he would kill himself. That he hoped I died.

That he had changed.

That he was kidding.

I blocked his numbers, I blocked his emails, I blocked everything and embraced the silence and the emptiness.

He contacted my friends via facebook asking them for advice, to send him pictures from my account because I had blocked him.

You can probably guess their reactions.

In a move towards catharsis I wrote him a letter, never intended to be seen by anyone let alone sent to him.

But it was an outpouring of the emotions that threatened to engulf me. And it was a reminder.

I will never doubt myself for cutting ties, but in the future there might be another.

These people are not alone in the world, in fact, they are all too prevalent, and if there is another, I will read it and I will remember.

I know this is opening me up to him and to trolls. Those strangers on the internet who sit and smirk and call jokes about rape culture “one of feminism’s more hysterical talking points.” (I’m not linking to the site in question as I don’t want return traffic.)

But I’m out. And those who can speak up should.

Me
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I am 27…

… and you’re still here (correcting my grammar.)

Normally, I share the opinion of many people that you shouldn’t need a special day to tell your parents you love them. And I don’t, not really.

However, as) a journalist and b) a procrastinator, I do need deadlines. Some form of schedule telling me when the random thoughts flitting about should be written down in some kind of logical way.

Add to this the fact that my new shift (and therefore sleep) pattern means I have hardly spoken to my parents for two months and  you get the below, a post about my dad, which happens to fall on Father’s Day, for no reason other than it seems to make sense.

(Some ages approximate due to not having a great memory):

I am too young to remember, and my older siblings learn what embarrassment is as my dad waltzes with me through Sheffield City Centre to stop me from crying.

I am three, and he picks all of us up at once and I think he is the strongest man in the world.

I am four and he lets me wear a spiderman outfit to the supermarket.

I am five and I curl up in the crook of his legs as he lies on the sofa teaching me the rules of cricket and rugby.

I am six and he reads me The Hobbit for the first time and we listen to PG Wodehouse in the car on family holidays.

I am eight and he drives me to judo every Saturday morning, a ritual that will last a decade.

I am nine and he carries me up the road from where I have fallen, breaking my arm.

I am 10 and we drive to Scotland and he does all the regional accents on the way. The same summer he teaches me how to do cryptic crosswords.

I am 11 and we begin the University Challenge challenge, a game I have never won.

I am 12 and we still watch nature documentaries together, marveling at Attenborough’s world.

I am 13, 14, 15, 16 and he drives me all over the country for fencing, waiting in the car or walking the dog because I won’t let him watch me compete. He introduces me to Bob Dylan, the Stones, the Boss, and the Kinks – the soundtrack of our road trips for years to come.

I am 17 and he never says ‘you’re not going out dressed like that.’

I am 18 and he bends the laws of physics to fit all my stuff into the car as I start university.

I am 19, 20, 21 and he picks me up at the end of each term, and takes me back in time for pre-season training. We still sing along to Bob Dylan as we drive up and down the motorway.

I am 23 and he helps me move into my first flat. He loves the river and the swans that nest outside my window.

I am 24 and he helps me buy a house, sitting through mortgage meetings I don’t quite understand.

I am 25 and he is confused when people ask if he is worried about me moving to Doha.

I am 26 and he fills me with bacon whenever I come home. We watch University Challenge, and do crosswords, and drive to see my nieces and nephew, singing Bob Dylan as we navigate the country.

I am 27 and he probably can’t lift all three of us at once anymore, and I have long outgrown the crook of his legs, but he still beats me at University Challenge. Every. Single. Time.

For some reason I only have pictures of Dad and my brother on my computer. So here's one...

For some reason the only old pictures I have are of Dad and my brother on my computer. So here’s one. (Sorry, Rob.)

The things I miss…

… when I leave Qatar.

Ha! Weren’t expecting that, were you?

Most expats who haven’t brought their lives and families with them perpetually have half their brain at home, thinking about pub quizzes and jelly babies (although that could just be me) and fields and trees. And cricket. *Pauses to check scores.*

Oh yeah, and my family, obviously, goes without saying, ahem.

Moving on.

When I eventually do get back to all these they are just as wonderful as I remember them being, but being away from Qatar is also the time that I realise what I love about the place and what is keeping me here.

Within a few weeks of flying back in to Doha, though, I start pining for the things Doha can’t offer once again and it all goes round in a big loop that sees my always wanting to be somewhere I’m not.

Which is ridiculous because everywhere I have been/lived/visited has amazing things that you should focus on while you’re there rather than when you’ve left and it is too late to appreciate them.

So here are the things I miss about Qatar when I am in the UK, being thought about, for once, while I am in Doha.

1) People.

My friends in the UK are amazing and I miss them every day, but by virtue of the fact we have either grown up together, or had our formative university years together, or generally were drawn to each other, we are all more or less similar as far as upbringing, education and opinions are concerned.

The people here hit such a diverse range of nationalities, opinions, jobs, ages, opinions, upbringing and experience that I feel as though my understanding of the wider world as grown exponentially since I moved here.

Of course, you have the few that fit into the typical expat cliche of being here for the money and not much else, but it is easy enough to steer clear of them and seek out people that will add something to your life, either as a passing acquaintance or a close friend.

Having people to share Doha with makes Doha so much more full of joy than it seems when you first find your feet here.

2) Balloo.

I mean, look at the little guy:

I'm sorry, you seem to be under the impression that this bed belongs to you...

I’m sorry, you seem to be under the impression that this bed belongs to you…

He’s just a fluffy, vaguely sadistic, ball of adorable psychosis.

3) Work.

Yes, shut up, I miss my job.

I am still in the heady stage of loving my job and the opportunities I hope it will bring me.

I might have managed to and the same job if I had stayed in the UK, but it seems unlikely, and I will be forever grateful that Doha gave me the opportunity to do something I love to do.

4) The hidden joys.

Okay, a while ago I wrote a piece about how Doha isn’t boring, but that you just need to make more of and effort to find stuff to do.

The other thing is that, once you find something like the mangroves in Al Khor, or the random exhibits at Katara, or a cool display of swords at the MIA that your friend curated (go Bill), it means so much more because you found it and are able to share it with people.

Qatar is increasingly bringing in things to the country that might surprise people on the outside. Cirque de Soleil was here a while ago, today I am off to see Stomp, and there is a modern art gallery that is slowly becoming a pretty good place to be.

While I don’t specifically miss these things, when I’m in the UK there is less desire to do stuff I wouldn’t normally do, because I am doing the things I used to do all the time and now can’t.

Qatar is a place that encourages trying new things, because you’re old things don’t exist.

5) The down time.

When my mum visited at Christmas she observed “your weekends are real weekends”.

And it’s true (although now I’m doing shifts ‘weekend’ is any point I have more than one day off at a time). When we all have time off together we go and do things. Weekend things like shisha at the souq, or visiting the inland sea, or red bucket beach can just happen. No excessive planning, no worrying about the weather (most of the time) and no stresses.

Also, the head-clearing space and tranquility when you get there kind of makes you forget the construction noises the rest of the time.

The contrast almost makes the noise worthwhile.

Red Bucket Beach. I would tell you where to find it, but I don't want to...

Red Bucket Beach. I would tell you where to find it, but I don’t want to…

6) The inside spaces.

Green outside space does exist, don’t get me wrong, but it is getting to the time of year that Qatar’s five months of perfect weather are ending and the humidity and heat is beginning to kick, so being outside isn’t that fun.

When it is perfect for being out and about, everyone heads to the same parks and greenery, so Aspire Park and the MIA park both tend to be full of kids, as they should be, because they are parks, but it makes sitting out under a tree and writing kind of difficult.

However, some of the architecture in Doha is frankly amazing. The Museum of Islamic Art has one of the best foyers I have seen, and the QNCC looks like a frigging tree, so that’s awesome.

Also, it contains this.

Also, it contains this.

A celebration…

…even if it is on the wrong day

Happy Mothers’ Day America! You might get this wrong along with a load of other things (use of the letter ‘u’, pronunciation of lieutenant, etc etc) but that doesn’t make it a less important version of the holiday than the British one. (It kind of does.)

On a serious note, a special very first Mother’s Day to the wonderful Carolina who gave birth to Julia Marie a mere eight days ago and who is basically amazing and one of the only people I know who can rock the hospital gown look.

Because this is fake Mothers’ Day, I have decided to repost something I wrote for my mum last year, but which got lost in the great blog disaster of 2012.

This has the added bonus of meaning I don’t actually have to think of anything to write today.

So here it is:

“My mum… and just a few of the things that make her my mum.” (First published March 18 2012)

1) She once forgot I was in the back seat of the car and drove all the way to college only to have to turn around and drop me at my grandma’s house.

2) She made me wear a blue, knitted jacket with a bell on the hood so she didn’t lose me in shops. It made me look like Noddy. (For this I have always blamed my brother who used to hide from her in clothes racks.)

3) She once forgot where she left me and was fairly surprised when she walked into her friend’s house to find me there. She later admitted this on BBC’s Woman’s Hour to the hilarity of all concerned.

4) When I forget to get in touch, she thinks it is a good thing because I must be having fun.

5) She was always right when she told me to take a jacket and I would never admit that I regretted not listening to her.

6) When we went on ferries she dressed my siblings and I in the same outfit so she could show people in case one of us got lost. (Again, this is totally my brother’s fault.)

7) She definitely isn’t eccentric.

8) When having a bad hair day she drives wearing a woolly hat to flatten her hair.

9) In recent years she has been on more jaunts, adventures and trips than I have managed to fit into my entire life. (2013 UPDATE: She will be spending Christmas and New Year hiking to the Everest base camp. Obviously.)

10) When we were growing up, she kept our baby teeth and now has no idea what to do with them.

11) She’s always right, even when she’s not.

12) Sometimes, when she is laughing at something, she sounds exactly like Eeyore.

13) One year, when asked what she wanted for her birthday, she said ‘An Indiana Jones pinball machine’ (we’re still working on it.)

14) She plays the drums.

15) If she pays for things on her credit card, and then doesn’t open the bill, it doesn’t count.

16) She really definitely doesn’t snore.

17) When I was 18, she bought me a plane ticket and packed me off Greek island hopping. In the months I was away she only called me once because she thought something felt wrong. My purse had been stolen an hour earlier.

18) She has absolutely no frown lines, or wrinkles at all really.

19) If people take the time to listen, her life stories are some of the best they will ever hear.

20) She’s a journalist who would rather stay silent than tell a lie.

21) I miss being small enough to curl up in her lap.

22) Every night, she would read to us for half an hour. When we got older we all wanted different books, so she had to read out loud for ninety minutes every night. I used to follow her around and listen to the other stories as well.

23) When she read, she did all the voices.

24) She strives constantly to make me more organised and less of a procrastinator despite the fact that this has been a losing battle since the day I was born.

25) She came on our school trip to Cadbury World and so I wasn’t restricted by the spending money limit the school set.

26) She once made bread and butter pudding without the butter.

27) When my dad was on a teacher-training course, she set the fish fingers on fire and he came home to find her putting out the flames in the back garden.

28) She won’t be called grandma, but my brother’s and sister’s kids don’t know how lucky they are to have her as their not-grandma. They will one day though.

29) Sometimes, she doesn’t know what country she’s flying to until she gets to the airport. Sometimes not even then.

30) She doesn’t want me to grow up, come home, or settle down.

31) When we speak on Skype, I can only see the top half of her face and her collection of model cars. They aren’t toys, they’re models.

32) She used to sing ‘You are my sunshine’ to me until I fell asleep.

33) She introduced me to The Beatles and, at five, I would bounce up and down on her bed singing all the words Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

34) We’re undeniably similar, and I long ago gave up fighting turning in to her. There are far worse people to be.

35) For more about my mum, visit www.notdeadyettravel.com – says it all really.

Doing all the voices for a whole new generation.

Doing all the voices for a whole new generation.

PS, I already did the discussion of where the apostrophe should go in my real Mother’s Day piece.

Being a grown up…

…and how I am really bad at it.

First off, sorry it has been a month since I managed to put fingers to keys and write anything. A lot has happened in the past few weeks, mostly good, some bad, and nothing that I intend to dwell on for long.

The main news is that, after months of wrangling, foot stamping and form signing, I now have a job (woop) and the incredibly messed up sleep schedule that comes with shift work.

Hence the prolonged silence.

Not that I am complaining, I am loving work and I still walk in to the new office and think “wow, I work here, that’s amazing.”

There are various blog posts milling around my head at the moment, vying for attention like children trying to be picked first in class.

In my half befuddled state, however, I am incapable of putting most of the more complicated ones in to words.

Well, I could put them in to words, but those words probably wouldn’t make sense or be in the correct order.

I haven’t really been working long enough to write anything about that other than ‘ahhhhhhhh, why do people think I know what I’m doing?’ and another post which will come about as close to writing about politics as I am ever likely to get on here is probably best left until I can form sentences without having to check if I’ve used a verb or not.

As I write this, it is about 6.30pm, a thunderstorm is raging around my building, I have been up for slightly more than three hours, and I am wondering when it will be a reasonable time to go back to bed.

It reminds me so much of university that I have decided to finally come clean and write about a fraud I have been perpetuating since I graduated nearly five years ago.

Are you ready?

I am not a real adult and I have no idea what I am doing most of the time.

Seriously, I spend much of my day blagging my way through life and hoping no-one notices that I basically have no idea what is going on.

I am also constantly wondering when someone will catch me out and realise I don’t understand how tax works and I can’t tell the difference between types of wine and I would be perfectly happy building a pillow fort or climbing trees.

I think a major road block on my path to becoming a grown up is the fact that I don’t like muesli.

As a kid, I remember looking at the glass jar of muesli in our kitchen cupboard, with its heavy top that I couldn’t remove, and being vaguely aware that it was ‘for the grown ups.’

I would contentedly tuck in to Rice Crispies or Cornflakes (or their sugary alternatives Coco Pops and Frosties depending on how amenable my parents were feeling) and eye the jar of muesli with half a mind on my glorious future as an erudite adult. (I probably didn’t think the word erudite.)

Then I got to be an adult in the strictest, chronological, sense of the word and realised that muesli is basically bits of cardboard with fruit added in an attempt to fool people into thinking it is food and I would much rather be able to get away with eating something that makes the milk go chocolatey.

And yet I still buy it, just like I pay a mortgage and have boiler insurance and cook healthy meals. Because that’s what people do.

You remember at 10 or 11 when you started ‘big school’ and you looked at all the cool kids in sixth form who didn’t wear uniform and had a common room and were really together and smart and mature?

And then you got to be one of those kids and you wondered when you would start being really together and smart and mature? But you didn’t want anyone to know you weren’t so you just kind of acted cool and hoped no-one would notice.

That’s how I feel all the time.

And around me, everyone else seems to be taking growing up in their stride.

I look at my friends who are getting married and having children and doing all those things and genuinely marvel at the fact they are capable of looking after a whole other human when I occasionally lose my cat.

Somehow, though, I seem to be able to keep alive the myth that I am responsible.

So if you see me, suited and booted, carrying a handbag, wearing glasses and heading for the newsroom, be safe in the knowledge that not 20 minutes earlier I was dancing around my bedroom in flares and a superhero t-shirt, secretly craving coco pops.

A room of one’s own…

…or making a home in a city of hotels.

 

As a result of the latest in a long line of inexplicable visa rules that seem to be controlling my life at the moment, I was given about 48 hours notice to return to the UK.

One set of cancelled flights to Beirut, an afternoon of ‘throw stuff at bag, take whatever lands inside’, an eight hour flight, and a drop of 26 degrees later and I found myself wandering around outside Manchester airport at 7.30am trying to find my friend’s car and rapidly losing all feeling in my ungloved hands.

I have been back since Friday and will be mooching around my parents’ house until my work visa is finally granted.

This will allegedly take 3-5 working days, so I might see the Dohaze again in June.

Being back in Sheffield is excellent. There is cricket, a sofa, and a steady stream of cups of tea and bacon sandwiches, but it is always a little strange to come back.

I haven’t really lived in my parents’ house since I was about 20. Summers at university were normally spent, at least in part, working in Durham. I did my journalism training in Newcastle and then went to work in Lincoln before hopping on a Qatar Airways flight to Doha for the first time.

Having said that, I have never really moved out either. Student accommodation didn’t exactly lend itself to holding an entire life and while the house I own has an attic full of the paraphernalia of my adult life, I did not live in it long enough to make it my home.

The remnants of childhood and teenage years are still very present in my Sheffield bedroom. The same posters adorn the walls (Shaolin Monks, Bruce Lee, Star Wars – what else would a teenage girl have on her walls?), the giant Taz I won at a theme park still sits in a green, high-backed armchair that used to belong to my grandmother, and the werebear I’ve had since I was five is as battered and hugged as I remember, but cleaner, I suspect he has been through the washing machine since I left.

As children, my sister and I shared a room, but she was older than me and very neat and I was (and am) one of the messiest humans who ever existed so eventually I was shuftied up into the attic, previously the play room, and the toys we had outgrown were hidden under the eaves.

Now those toys litter the floor once more, either to be thrown away (finally) or to be played with when my nieces and nephew come to visit.

Swords won at competitions hang from purple-painted beams while questionable teen fashion choices still hang from clothes rails.

It is a hotch-potch of my youth, a testament to my ever-changing identity from toddler to teenager, and it is a reminder that I don’t really have a home that displays any part of my adult identity.

My house is another couple’s home, and the rest of my adult life has been spent in a dusty city that everyone leaves eventually.

All the flats in my building are carbon copies of each other (apart from the ones that are mirror images, which leads to some very confused hangovers when you wake up on a friend’s sofa and can’t work out why there’s a wall where the kitchen should be), and so everyone tries to make little changes, little nods to who they are and how they live. Posters, plants, pots, anything that means you know you are in 2101 and not 2503.

We all try to make a home without buying anything that could be a pain to move to a different flat/building/country.

Bucking this ‘easy-to-move’ trend, my flatmates came with a piano, a drum kit, and a cat in tow and so our living area has a distinctive feel and the flat does speak of ‘us’ as flatmates, which I like because not everyone has the good fortune to find flatmates who are more than people to share the bills, but are people with whom you end up sharing your life.

For me though, apart from some photos, postcards, and a cricket poster, there is nothing in the flat that that makes my feel as though I have stamped my identity on the place in which I live.

Part of this is because I moved so much when I first arrived, and as wonderful and welcoming as my flatmates were, I always felt like I was renting a room in their flat rather than actually living there.

The new set up is different as we all moved in at the same time and have developed a shared history within the social hub of our living areas.

Still, there doesn’t seem any point in buying a lot of stuff when in a month, or a year, or two years, I could be moving house or moving country yet again, no-one wants to store, or ship, or sell a flat worth of furniture and artwork.

It might be different, I suppose, if I was with a family, or knew that I would be here for the next six years, let alone the next six months, but right now putting down roots only to have to rip them up again in a year or two, seems like an exercise in futility.

 

 

A fond farewell…

… to too many friends.

My muscles ache, my head is fuzzy, a tiny gremlin is camped out behind my eyes hitting them with a miniature hammer, and yet I do not feel like my wallet has been violated.

Must have been a house party.

But more than that, it was one of four leaving parties I have been to in the past two weeks, and it clashed with a fifth.

The season of moving on is definitely upon us and I have been saying farewell to friends who are heading off for another expat adventure, or who are finally celebrating a return home.

Lucky gits.

The transitory nature of Doha first hit me after many of the friends I had made in the first eight months or so of living in this dusty city of expats all left within a few weeks of each other.

(Apart from a minor tantrum and attempting to steal their passports I think I handled it quite well…)

After getting over my abandonment issues with astonishing ease I realised that there were other good people here and went out to meet them.

And now they’re all leaving.

Bugger.

Doha is a place where most people plan to spend one or two years. It is not a city that breeds long-term commitments to a new way of life. Maybe it’s the heat, or the fact that if you stay here too long you forget how doors work, or start thinking navigating via five star hotels is totally normal.

Maybe it is the fact that, after a while, you kind of wish it would snow in March (or at all) an that water falling from the sky wasn’t such an unusual event it filled your Facebook and Twitter feeds whenever it happens.

Whatever it is, even people who stay longer than 24 months tend to be planning their departure way before it actually happens.

In a way it reminds me of the first few weeks of university, where a group of strangers are thrown together into a totally alien world and so forge fierce friendships.

A few of these will last and last, some of my closest friends are those I met in Durham and I hope in five years I will be able to say the same about people I have met here.

People leaving is a constant part of life here, and new people arrive fresh off the boat and you want to put them at their ease and offer them the help that was extended to you when you first arrived.

Having said that, I can understand why people who have been here five or six years, and so have been through cycle after cycle of friendships, start to lose interest in meeting new people.

Or making the effort to leave the house.

Even I have stopped trying to remember people’s names if they are here for less than six months. Which is pretty mean but a lot of my head space is already taken up with the dates of everyone else’s leaving parties.

There are some positives in having the majority of your friends abandon you every 12 months. I have a vast number of sofas and air beds all over the world upon which I can crash, and I can now understand American despite the fact that they use crazy words for things.

Mostly though, I wish people would stay put long enough for me to be the one leaving. I’m sure it is much more fun from the other side.

I went to Doha and all I got were friends for life....

I went to Doha and all I got were friends for life….

A quick PS

For some reason WordPress suggested the tags “War on Terrorism,” “War and Conflict,” and “Musical Ensemble” for this post. The reasons for this remain unclear but apologies if this has some kind of unforeseen political message or fabulous West End production values….