Ah, Bahrain

All newly adopted action means taking some kind of a chance. When you come to a crossroad in business, as in personal life, it is often necessary  to weigh up the odds as carefully as you can but eventually to take the path of greater rather than lesser risk. If you have the guts, the drive or the stupidity, that is. Only history will tell which of these belongs to you!

I was at that crossroad in 1995. Having come out from under the umbrella of corporate employment and the property owning thing some eight years previously we were sitting relatively pretty. Of course a long shadow was cast over life from my wife's incurable disability even though she was being well looked after in the South Winds Nursing Home. Robert's problems were if anything even more disturbing. But it is as the old Irish song tells us; What cannot be cured, love, must be endured, love. .As I say, in spite of all that Dee and I and our young pair of Hungarian Vizslas, Mati and Sorosh, were living a more than acceptable lifestyle in long-leased Laundry Cottage. Our consultancy / agency, operating now over the entire Middle East, was riding high. I had a Saudi as sponsor and an office in said sponsor's building in downtown Al Khobar plus I was renting a villa within a very good expat compound. I could come and go as I pleased, subject UK tax laws of course. Freedom!

I would probably still be there had I not seen an opportunity to climb a few more rungs up the business / affluence ladder ...

It is as well at this point to bring in the Emirate (now I believe the 'Kingdom') of Bahrain. Bahrain is approached via a twenty five kilometre causeway from Saudi Arabia's Al-Khobar. Its capital city of Manama was and I presume still is far more westernised than its Arabic neighbours and is therefore a weekend target both for Saudi-based western expats and the more - how should |I put it - fleshpot-loving young Saudis. My own stays at the Intercontinental Hotel in Manama had for years been a highly acceptable staging post for UK/Middle East flights in and out. I have especially fond memories of a certain Italian restaurant there. The excellent singer/guitarist would surrender the microphone to anyone with half a voice professing to know the words. Ciou ciou bambino was one of the favorites, as was My Way. You know ... 'And now the end is near and so I face the final curtain etc etc  ...'  Anyway much to Dee's amusement I determined to learn the words so I could take my turn with the mike and perform for my very first time in public! Dee had flown out to join me for a short stints in Bahrain. She and I returned to that restaurant and when the guy started on My Way I stood up, held out my hand for the mike and for several minutes wandered around the crowded tables. What is a man, I sang, accompanied by the guitarist, What has he got? If not himself  .... Looking at all the faces I knew I knew I had them. Hey, a star is born, I thought, long in the tooth or no!  Then - calamity! I looked down on a particularly lovely young lady - one in possession of one of life's more impressive cleavages - and lost not only the words but the whole bloody plot. Serve you right, Dee chuckled as I sat down red-faced to a mixture of stuttering applause and general hilarity.

Back to the track ... I've got ahead of myself ... Why not open an office over is Bahrain? I wondered. With my visa there wouldn't be any problem coming and going across the Causeway and a Bahrain based business with a high profile address was more than acceptable throughout the region. With the right new staff I felt we could take ourselves fromn where we were to a whole new level. I talked it through with Dee. She was against it. 'We're doing OK as we are' was the gist of her argument, and of course our overhead costs would absolutely sky-rocket. I sat down with my single employee to talk it through again. By contrast  Robin absolutely loved the idea (why wouldn't he when much of his nightlife was over on the island!) even though for sponsor reasons and to keep his mind on the job he himself would be required to carry on actually residing in Al-Khobar.

I consulted Delia once again, finally convincing her to go with me on the move. Taking the proverbial deep breath I  rented a suite of offices in one of Manama's most prestigious tower blocks and then a magnificent penthouse apartment for myself on the 19th floor of another tower. Right outside my apartment was a rooftop swimming pool. I scoured the island for suitable furniture and office equipment and began looking for staff. My new offices were high up in the tower between those of The Bank of Bermuda and Cable and Wireless, each of them large corporations managed by very experienced Englishmen. The Bermuda man, Thomas, who was to become a special friend, introduced himself and enquired as to whether I might consider his Anglo/Iraqi wife, Dina, as my Personal Assistant. Dee came out for the interview. They got on famously from the beginning although I gather the talk was probably more of shoes and clothes than business. Dina was (is) a very bright lady, fluent in several variations of the Arabic as well as English of course, seemingly able at all times able to navigate the complexities of visas, travel, banking and general business life in Bahrain and the Middle East. Next we hired an Indian lady accountant and an Egyptian salesman called Saeed AEl-Jeddawy.

Bibs-industry (Bahrain) was up and running, and how!. 

There was a lot of driving - especially the 400 klix across to Riyadh, and a need often for several flights per week to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar or the remoter parts of Saudi Arabia. My consultancy / agencies continued to prosper. Quickly I settled into the new life. At weekends there were bars, especially the Harp in the Holiday Inn just opposite my residence, even cinemas to go to besides many good restaurants, shopping malls and the famous native 'Sukh' (open air gold market). Even an impressive zoo, would you believe! Most of my breakfasts were taken in the Sunset Cafe over the road rather than up in my apartment. Looking out from my nineteenth floor window I could watch the shrimp boats going out into the Gulf in the evening and could see as far as the airport in one direction and the famous Pearl roundabout / monument. (now destroyed after the riots) in the other. Once I took a special trip down island to see the Arabian Gulf's very first, tiny, long since disused nodding donkey oil well - and that amazingly ancient, very famous Tree of Life.

Yes, expatriate life and social life was not at all bad! Courtesy of Thomas Dee and I were invited to attend Bahrain's famous Poppy Ball (11th of the 11th), also many times to private parties and several times even to the British Ambassador's garden parties.

At this point I was renting a house near Winchester, UK, a villa in Saudi Arabia, a prestigious office suite and equally prestigious penthouse in Bahrain. Oh, and I almost forgot, a very nice Lexus for myself and Ford Galaxies for Robin and Saeed.Our combined mobile telephone bills amounted up to around two thousand pounds a month. But cost mean nothing by itself, I told myself; sales income means everything - and sales were doing just fine.

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