Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wheely Good Fun

There have been lots of little snippets of info that I have been saving up for the last couple of weeks which I have not thought about writing about till now, mainly coz my mind has been elsewhere. So excuse me if this ‘Breaking News’ is not that new.

It’s rained! ………Several times now….. and the roof of the jeep has been up and down like the proverbial pair of knickers.
What is it about the rain? Well this is the first true downpour since Gonu, One and a Half Years!!!!! When you live in a hot, dry climate these rainstorms are the equivalent to a sunny day in England, so sorely missed when they don’t arrive.

So as the dark clouds loomed, an expectant shiver of excitement ran through the population and children went out in welly boots, hats, coats and brollies to splash around in the puddles.
As the skies clear, it is the time to look to the mountains. The rains have washed them clean of the accumulated dust and, the colours of the rock stands out so vibrantly that it is a joy to see and always brings a smile to my face.
Now that the new Qantab/Yitti road is complete, my favourite road out of the back end Ruwi is no longer in use, in fact I have been told that it has been closed off (I hope not). This is one of those roads that after the rain, the views and colours of the mountains can really take your breath away. I like it so much that Becky bought me a painting of the view for Christmas a few years back, that way I get to see it every time I come down the stairs!
As a result of the rains, we hopefully have seen the end of the Red Tide. From what I have heard, the phenomenon is believed to have arrived in the ballast tanks of ships from Korea. Whilst, our own red tide occurred and dispersed annually over the period of a few days, this one proved to be far more hardy (lasting a couple of months). The ministries had been monitoring it and calling in experts, doing tests etc. but appeared to be unable to fix the problem and had to let it take its natural course. We hope that Oman has seen the end of it, as it will have major consequences to the tourist industry if it proves to be an annual event.

So, after one and a half years Oscar finally got a haircut. What is it with mothers and their children’s hair?

I had been threatening to take my clippers to his hair for some time now, so Becky eventually succumbed to the inevitable before more drastic action was taken by me. Surprisingly, Becky said it wasn’t as short as she would have liked it.

Our big task this winter has been to get Jacob cycling without stabilisers and at times this has seemed like a mountain of a job to climb. Whilst the promise of a new bike has been Jacob’s incentive, it never really seemed to capture his imagination. We always knew he would be able to do it, what child can’t?, but Jacob always portrayed a negative side no matter what amount of cajoling, encouragement and out and out bullying we heaped upon him.
Due to our busy Christmas and New Years schedule, we hadn’t got any practice in for several weeks, so a quick trip to Ghubra Lake park was organised. Jacob surprised us both by cycling from the get go with very little assistance. We had set his goal at two laps of the circular flower bed near the entrance, and whilst one lap was rapidly covered the second seemed too much with cries of “I can’t do it”, so close and yet so far.
The following weekend we returned to the park, steeling ourselves for a repeat of the previous weekend. Jacob, surprised not only us but also himself, by immediately covering the required two laps but also many more! That afternoon (Friday to us, the equivalent of Sunday in the UK) we took on the formidable task of finding a new bike in Ruwi, surprisingly (and thankfully) all of the shops we open and many bikes were perused and scrutinized, but eventually we finished up with the perfect one from ToysRUs in Markaz Al Baja.
Fast forward to the following weekend, another trip to the park with a new bike and a new Jacob.
‘How about trying to start off yourself, Jacob?’….
‘I can’t do that!’ ….
‘Yes you can, just put the pedal here and push off’ …..
‘Oh…..I CAN DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’

Within minutes of our arrival Jacob was off cycling all over the park, stopping and starting as though he had been doing it all his life, and a grin stretching from one ear all the way to the other.
So this weekend we went down to the sea side at the British embassy, Jacob on his bike, Becky and I taking turns on mine and Oscar on his tricycle (All with cycle helmets) and we rode all the way to Shatti and back.

So much fun was had that we have decided to get Becky a bike so that at least for the next couple of months we can go out cycling as a family each weekend until it gets too hot.

Just one final note for the post, we had a bit of excitement at the office a couple of weeks ago, starting with a loud bang and the lights going out. After exiting the building (which to no surprise, failed to have any working emergency lights) I walked around to see this little bonfire.

It would appear that one of the oil filled transformers at our neighbouring Wadi Adai substation blew up (and fortunately for us the wind was in the opposite direction).

The fire brigade arrived and eventually got it under control, but put on a good show for the next hour. I would have got home earlier than usual, but unfortunately was stuck in traffic as the police had closed the highway to let the victorious Oman football team drive around Muscat in their coach. Ho hum.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Oh there is so much I could be talking about today, but the most important is that Oman beat Saudi Arabia in the finals of the 19th Gulf Cup (Football). Those that know me, realise I have little interest in football, but living in a country that genuinely loves the game, you can’t help but get swept up in some of the euphoria.
We had been around to friends to watch the semi final last week, Becky was hoping to inspire Jacob a little by watching sport on TV, unfortunately neither Jacob or his friend Hamish showed the slightest interest and it was left to the adults to watch, shout and discuss tactics as if they were life long experts.
Lo and Behold Oman beat Bahrain 1:0 with a single goal in the ninth minute and whilst looking somewhat tired in the second half, managed to hold on to the end. That night, everyone was out celebrating in the streets to the sounds of car horns and cheers from happy Omani supporters.
As I mentioned football is taken seriously here with a national hero being Ali Al Habsi the goalkeeper who plays in the English Premiership for Bolton Wanderers.
Supporters dress up their cars in all manner of ways from custom graphic, to paint or electrical tape, with a plethora of flags adorned from any possible location.

Speaking with a friend who came back from a recent trip to Dubai, even the Royal Omani Police got into the spirit of things by ordering the removal of any such adornments from the Emirates cars crossing into Oman, no love lost there!

So last night we hosted the final at our house with chicken salad, baked potatos and plenty of refreshments, Oman Vs the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) kicked off at six in the evening. Tickets to all of the tournament matches were free, but it meant queuing from midday to get a seat.
The game was tense, with Oman seeming to have the upper hand. Chances were missed by both sides and Al Habsi certainly earned his hero status throughout both halves and extra time.
So it was left to a penalty shoot out, both nations held their breath as each player took his mark and shot at goal. One, Two, Three, Four, surely someone would miss? Five penalties apiece!!!
And then to sudden death…………….The KSA player took his mark, aimed, kicked and…………..missed, didn’t even get close! It was left to Oman defender Mohammed Al-Noobi to step up and fire his side to victory for the very first time in a Gulf Cup tornament!

Celebrations went on into the early hours of the morning, and the following day was announced as a National Holiday.

Congratulation Oman, you deserve it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy New Year!!! When was that exactly? Part II

So with two exhausted boys we were guaranteed a good nights sleep to emerge bright and shinny on Boxing day.
With a view to having Jacob cycling properly as soon as possible, I had received a bike of my own for Christmas. I say 'of my own', but in reality I am sharing it with Oscar.

It was with a little trepidation that I strapped Oscar into his seat (He wasn't so sure either) and set off down the road to Ghubra Lake park. I hadn't been on a bike in over three and a half years and was not that confident about the quality of other peoples driving, but forewarned is forearmed and the only iffy point was going around the Chedi roundabout. Still, I wouldn't want to do it on a busy day.
Becky drove with Jacob in the Jeep to meet us at the park and we had a wander and a play in the warm winter sun.

Oscar had the screaming add dabs whilst be placed in his cycle seat for the journey back but was happy as Larry whilst riding back.
The one thing I learned from this.................... I have muscles that I had forgotten they existed!

Determined that none of our delicious Christmas food would go to waste, we decided that bubble and squeak would be the order of the day. For those of you not aware of this tradition, it is made from left overs and comprises potato, mashed and vegetables, all fried in a very hot pan with only a little oil and seared or burnt to add extra crispiness.
Becky, although I find it hard to believe, claimed that she had never quite go it right so I gladly volunteered to take the reigns on this culinary excursion. The result, served with some cold goose and lashings of HP Sauce were so delicious that we had it for the next three days.

After only one day back at work I had the rest of the year off to prepare for our New Years camping trip to Bar Al Hickman. Becky, however, was less than enthusiastic at the prospect of several nights under canvas and engaged me in several 'conversations' on how she should have objected to the idea when I first suggested it.
Still, it was all arranged with our friends and therefore too late to back out, so full steam ahead.
As Gayle and Andrew had friend over from Scotland, we spent the first night at Wahiba Sands, Jacob and I went off with the others to do the dune driving (this time as passengers as our own 4x4 was loaded to the gunnel's), and it I got to chat with a German lady on holiday (for one year!) with her three daughters. They had very a very positive impression of Oman and it's people and I was glad to be able to expand on that.

The following day we set off at around 10:30am and drove for several hours until turning right at the three trees.

The GPS proved invaluable yet again and the only hiccup was when I tried to find a short cut to the beach.

Lesson learned, we followed the track a little further before finally finding the beach and drove along it until we found the perfect camping spot. Tents and shades were erected with military precision and timing before setting up a BBQ and camp fire, just in time for sundowners, perfection!

Much to both Becky and my surprise, she loved every minute of our trip. There were beautiful nights under the stars with campfires, cold foggy mornings (much to our surprise) and warm sunny days with the occasions dip in a cold clear sea, what a beautiful place to celebrate a new year.

Happy New Year!!! When was that exactly? Part 1

OK so I have been a little remiss with the blogging of late but with all the Christmas and New years we are only just recovering from being busy, busy, busy.
So let us start with a round up of activities in December.....
The second Eid (Eid al Adha) occurred at the beginning of December this year and as a result school holidays began early and lasted for almost a whole month, as such Becky planned plenty of activities to keep the boys busy.
Becky took Jacob to the British School Muscat for a rendition of West Side Story, which he enjoyed up to a point, knife point that is, and had to leave as he found it too scary (Never mind Ben 10 with Aliens bent on the destruction of Earth). The real notable point was with a lady in the audience who kept on scowling at, and shushing Jacob when he quietly asked his mummy a pertinent question. I'm sorry but what did you think you were watching? The Royal Shakespeare Company? If she hadn't made such an issue of it everyone could have enjoyed themselves much more, including her.

We also had the Spirit of Christmas fair at the ABA, a lot of effort goes into this every year and it was a great evening with things like carol singing, Christmas craft activities such as origami Christmas trees and cloves stuck in oranges and of course the ubiquitous photo op with Santa.

This was Oscar's first really aware meeting with the big man and he was none too sure about it, Jacob had to hold him down to prevent a speedy exit before the photo could be taken. Still it was more successful that Jacob's first time which ended in floods of tears! The only thing missing was the cold weather, there is something to be said for seeing carol singers with big coats, woolly hats and scarves, but you can't have everything I guess

Jacob's sixth birthday arrived on the nineteenth and whilst he had already had his party, we went down to Qurum Park for a play with some of his friends. This was followed up with a lunch a McD's and a Ben 10 birthday cake baked by Becky. Much fun was had by all.

The last pre-Christmas event was a children's party at the Dolphin complex (or village as they now like to call it). Fortunately, Oscar was having a nap at home for half of it, so Becky took Jacob up there first and I followed on with Oscar later. Imagine the horror on my arrival at seeing hoards of screaming children running around having fun.
Well, it wasn't so bad and both Jacob and Oscar had fun. I spent most of the time chasing after the beast and thwarting his plans to get in the swimming pool. Oscar, it appear has turned into a real water baby (Toddler really) getting wet at the drop of a hat and, he will have an absolute paddy if you try to stop him, quite a funny sight in itself.

As per usual Oscar was not interested in posing for the desired crazy Christmas hat photo, so this is our best hit and run attempt.

Christmas was at last upon us and after some in-depth analysis from Jacob as to where we should put up his stocking (He didn't think his bedroom was a good idea, as Santa might wake him, which in turn might jeopardize his present quota), Becky and I retired to the living room for some Pizza Express pizzas and the task of wrapping the presents.
Becky had thought it would be nice to do this together on the night before Christmas and I understand and agree with that sentiment. However, she failed to take in to account the scale of the task ahead of us and that warm fuzzy feeling was wearing somewhat thin at 1:30am!!

So the boys weren't too bad and only woke up at 6am (yawn), Jacobs excitement was palpable at opening his stocking, whereas Oscar was somewhat bemused and more interested in his brothers toys than his own.

On finding chocolate Oscar took after his mother and devoured as much as possible in as short of time as possible, he was none too happy when we cut off his supply!!

After a family breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, we made our way to the Christmas tree and opened our presents. Both boys were really good at taking their time and appreciating each and every gift. We had two outstanding winners on the gift front as far as Jacob was concerned, Lego Batman for the Wii and real Lego StarWars toys, but the overall winner for both Jacob and Oscar had to be the Plasma Car

Since this discovery, walking has been 'so last year' and the plasma car has been the preferred choice of transport for going everywhere on the ground floor.
After present giving it was full steam ahead for lunch preparation, we had invited friends to join us for lunch and we had chosen to have roast goose with all the trimmings. The goose was cooked to perfection along with roast spuds, red cabbage, chestnut stuffing and of course homemade Christmas pudding and whipped double cream washed down with a few glasses of good wine.
What an absolutely beautiful meal and so much the better to have shared it with friends. Wishing you all a belated Merry Christmas from Oman.

More to come in Part II

Linux Rocks!

I'm going to be a little geeky here, which Becky will groan about, but the reason I haven't updated the blog earlier this week was partly down to computer problems. Our home laptop decided throw a windows wobbly and I decided that it was high time to give Linux another try. So I downloaded the latest version of Ubuntu – Intrepid Ibex, burnt an installation cd, stuck it in the drive and hoped for the best.
Now the laptop is a HP Pavilion 2521ee which came with Vista, (yuck!!!) so I had previously wiped that rubbish off and installed XP. HP being the caring company that they are made it nigh on impossible to achieve this simple goal, actively discouraging it so it took a fair amount of effort to sort it out first time around. As a result I wasn't expecting much from the Linux install as previous experiments had failed.
Imagine my surprise when everything worked first time...................

Linux Rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Windows SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If anyone is thinking of ditching Windows I strongly recommend the Ubuntu version of Linux, and the really good part of it all is that it is FREE including stacks of applications such as Open Office.


PS. I have just had windows reinstalled on my works computer as it had picked up a virus, something Linux users don't need to worry about :-)