Days of wine and poppies

One day, if I live long enough I think I'll amass these episodes into a proper autobiography. I'll call it...
Me - Myself - So What?
After all who could be interested in reading the life story of a non-celebrity except possibly some of his/her immediate family? Answer: probably nobody. Yet I have a suspicion that there are some more important clues in the parson-poet John Donne's sixteenth century ...
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Any man's death diminishes me!! Of course. And he might have added, Any man's life enhances me. Above and beyond that I write simply because I like to put together the written word. I love the English language and my thoughts of what has been and what is to come, and why. I think we all should have some interest other than simply what am I doing today?  

At any rate there is a selfie photograph on my bedroom wall that takes me to where I have now reached in this mainly chronological narrative: We are pictured in our Bahrain penthouse before leaving the building for that special event on the Island of Bahrain called The Poppy Ball. So, come along  with me ...
Of course this annual event was (is still, so far as I know) a celebration of victory at the end of world war one. Yes, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It is held in a large Manama hotel ballroom with continuous though silent action movies on the wall - biplanes in combat, big guns firing etc. Everyone is well dressed up, there are round tables each of about ten guests. There is of course much dancing . A group of red-coated Chelsea Pensioners is flown in from London for the occasion. The officers of any British military in the vicinity are also invited. On this occasion it seems that most of the upper deck of a destroyer were present, clad in their best whites and having little trouble attracting dance partners amongst the local young ladies. In fact I particularly recall Tom Jones' Delilah being played and a rather beautiful girl being thrown about like a hysterically laughing rag doll. I also recollect Dee being asked to dance by a minute Chelsea Pensioner - an octaganarian whose nose barely reached her bosom!

On another occasion my assistant, Dina, agreed to accompany Dee on a shopping trip. Dina would pick her up outside my office in Bahrain Towers. I could look out of the window to observe her standing down there at the roadside, waiting. After some minutes past the agreed time and no Dina I suspected the worst when I saw a car - not Dina's - stopping alongside her. She began to talk to the driver through his window, then I saw her go, obviously for protection, to the building's security cabin, quickly leaving that to hurry back up to the office. Before she arrived Dina was on the phone panicking. She had been waiting outside our apartment building, not the office. The red-faced Dee told us that the man in the car had stopped to ask her how much she wanted! Then, when she went into the security kiosk for protection the policeman asked her if she was 'in business'. There always was a special sort of innocence about my wife for she pointed up to the tower block and told him, Yes, up there! When the man began to talk money the penny dropped for the second time in ten minutes!

It is extremely hard to obtain a visitor's visa for a woman trying to visit Saudi Arabia with husband, as opposed to reside with husband on a compound That's not straightforward either, come to think of it. In fact on only one occasions did Delia cross over into The Kingdom. That was when Faisal's wife, Nair, invited Dee through Faisal and me to one of her parties. We stayed with an American business couple, good friends, on their residential compound.  At the appointed time a large chauffeur driven limousine with blacked out windows made its appearance. I waved off my lady, dressed up to the nines as she was. Saudi Arabian parties are of course attended only by males or only by females. Never the twain shall meet.

For years afterwards my wife dined out on her account of that party. It seems She had barely introduced herself and had hardly cleared the compound gates before Nair was relating details of her personal life including her childbirth experiences - and expecting Dee to retaliate! Once at Nair's mansion of a home she was seated on the left hand side of Nair in a great, stark white salon with stark white leather settees arranged around all four walls. The only decoration took the form of golden birds in full flight around the walls.When each guest came in she was introduced to Dee before they took up their stations on the settees in strict order of seniority. They were of all ages, all dressed in the black of course, but most of the younger ones at once removed the black to reveal underneath the kind of female apparel you would find in Paris, London or Milan. The older ladies, pure Bedouin with intricately hennaed hands, would prod Delia's stomach with their forefinger and, laughing raucously, comment to each other in arabic that she could not possibly be attractive to her husband as she was far too thin!

Interminable talk of the most frank nature, accompanied by much reacous laughter followed whilst a young woman did continuous rounds with the coffee pot (called a 'dallah'). Dee asked Nair who this strikingly beautiful person was. She was told that this was the ex-wife of a wealthy man who had divorced her by simple declaration, leaving her penniless. Her only way to support herself was to become a servant to the woman (Nair) who had for long enough been her friend, an equal in society.

Dee had been starving herself all day in anticipation of the feast to come but the hours ticked by with the hunger pangs growing and still no sign of anything to eat. Then at midnight she was led outside into Nair's high-walled garden where was enough - and strange enough - food as to make her heart sink. She had read the book of 'Good Manners for British Visitors to Saudi Arabia' so knew it would be very rude not to partake of each and every offered dish. Especially - yes, you've heard about it - the piece de resistance for the principal guest of a sheep's eye!

Meanwhile I am sitting in Virgil's front room long after my hosts had taken themselves off to bed, waiting with gathering concern for the return of my Delia. It was two o clock when the black limousine made its reappearance. Dee tumbled out bidding Nair her farewells and multi thanks. She had the dazed look of somebody who had just been ten rounds with Mohamed Ali. . 

Right, I'd best move on with the story. Just another sixteen years to go..... !

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