Hi there!Mark Whitworth I am Mark Whitworth -
writer, educator, traveller
and all round good guy.
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Late December 2010


Audrey Whitworth, Mom, BirminghamA Christmas Carol

Firstly, a big hug for my Mom; she’s not very well at the moment, which is never very nice over Christmas. I know with all that snow on the ground she’d love to be rushing round chucking snowballs and shoving snow down Dad’s pants, but she’ll just have to stay indoors this year!

Secondly a big happy birthday to Jerry, Andrea’s Dad, whose birthday falls on the 20th, and to Ian Self, whose birthday is two days later, and who should be visiting us in three months. And, slightly belatedly to my niece, Julie...have a good one!

Thirdly, my hearty congratulations to the Australian Test team! Perth was a deserved win and one that will be discussed in more detail towards the end of this piece.


Andrea Kidd, Jerry Kidd, California, Sutter CreekI always wondered how girls called Carol felt about Christmas and, in more recent times, those men who have the same name. Do they regard it as a second birthday or, as is the case with one of my friends whose name includes a festive dried fruit aspect, do they shun the entire season out of embarrassment. Andrea’s second name is Noel, as is Isaac’s, our Tanzanian friend. It’s interesting how these crossover names come about; in Tanzania both Andrea and Noel are regard as boys names, and in that country if you add the surname Kidd, with the number of goats around it’s bound to cause confusion.

But this festive season Andrea is less concerned about her name than her profession, which, for the first time ever, has been listed as “housewife”. She has been keen to point out, being a very PC sort of person, that she has a very high regard for housewives, it’s just that she isn’t happy about having a sticker in her passport that lists her as such.

This unfortunate state of affairs has come about as we have had to go down the route of my Andrea Kidd, Doha, gardening, Umm Salal Mohammad Villassponsoring Andrea’s residence permit, rather than the school doing so. It does seem that when you take things into your own hands everything seems to become considerably easier, although I would be the first to point out that the school have ensured Andrea finally had her medical. Hopefully the whole crazy state of affairs will be sorted out quickly but, as we actually agreed our present path with the school some four weeks ago, I’m not sure that it will; our fingers remain crossed as regards getting away for our holiday in February.

Apparently the queuing in the women’s medical centre was considerably less civilised than in the men’s, which comes as no surprise really, and the pushing, shoving and queue jumping caused the normally placid Andrea Noel to snap at one or two of her waiting sisters. Still, she was in and out in under an hour and, as the girls from school who were involved in the first batch, back in September, queued for six hours, it was a minor inconvenience. Now Andrea has to wait for an all clear before she can be fingerprinted, a procedure that will be over and done within minutes.

Mark Whitworth, Doha, Qatar, driving licenceI had to renew my driving licence, I’d been issued with a temporary one that had actually run out, and again the procedure was swift and efficient. The only real hiccough I faced was having to provide a photocopy of my temporary licence and when I asked the bescarfed clerk where I could get a copy I was waved away with the muffled word, “Outside!”

Fortunately I’m an intelligent sort of chap and quickly realised it was unlikely that a photocopy machine would be located outside and asked a second assistant for further information. This time there was more information, “Sudanese!” and again I was waved away. Clearly it was necessary to track down a national of Sudan, somewhere in the car park, to be whisked away to a Xerox machine before being magically returned to the waiting clerks. In fact it turned out there was a small shop, operated by some Sudanese, with a photocopier; it was closed. Next door to it was another small shop, also run by some Sudanese, which was open and although they didn’t do photocopying they had a photocopier and kindly did the required copies free of charge. Thank you, Sudan, both for keeping the Doha Driving Licence Centre running and helping me!

Vodaphone promotion, Doha, QatarBack to the desk and the clerk pretends to shuffle my papers while texting her friends; it seemed she was quite put out by my reappearance and having looked at my shiny copies simply said, “Captain!” and waved again. Obviously she wasn’t a great communicator, except maybe on the phone, and again it took an intervention from a more agreeable clerk to set me in the direction of the Police Captain whose job it was to authenticate the photocopies; he looked very, very bored.

Back to the desk and the clerk grabs the papers, waving me away to wait. It didn’t matter how much I smiled, said thank you, cooperated and so on, she was always going to persist in being rude. In different circumstances, Andrea had exactly the same situation at the medical centre, where again a clerk was just plain rude without any cause or need. It has to be suspected that both these clerks were ex-pat resident workers, although without being able to see a face or make out much of what they’re saying, it’s hard to tell, but they’re not doing much for the image of Qatar with their surly behaviour.