Sunday, 7 December 2014

Fear And Loathing In Jebel Ali

Brownian Motion on a Sphere. The generator of ...
Brownian Motion on a Sphere. The generator of ths process is ½ times the Laplace-Beltrami-Operator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bring your own shade, said the email from the Jebel Ali Festive Market people. What it didn't say was you'd end up humping a two-ton umbrella base up a sandy assault course for mile after relentless mile. Well, a couple of hundred yards, but you know what I mean.

Our garden umbrella was too big, even if the base came in handy, so I nipped down to Carrefour and picked up a cheapie. I came to hate that umbrella as the afternoon wore on. It spent the day poking people's eyes out, twisting in the base or being blown over - anti-tank grade concrete lump notwithstanding.

I got sunburnt.

Talking children's author, mother of two and borderline lunatic Rachel Hamilton in was a fun start to the afternoon. She was, of course, lost. Her Brownian sense of direction is compounded by a complete inability to translate simple instructions into anything other than the complete opposite of their intent. Most people stopped setting up their stalls to gawp as I wandered around, screaming into the mobile like a parody of Dom Joly's parody of people screaming into mobiles. "NO, TURN LEFT AFTER THE SPINNEYS THEN LEFT AGAIN." Finally she hove into sight, her car resolving from the shimmer above the tarmac like a TV presenter doing the visual for the voice-over intro to a documentary about the Serengeti.

She brought the blasted pop-up again. This, of course, spent the afternoon billowing and swooping around like a malign spinnaker and needed every bit of equipment we had to pin it down. The nice chap on the stall to our right lent us some bricks to try and curb its most wayward tendencies. Always handy to have a few bricks with you, I say. Every now and then I'd be chatting pleasantly to someone then hurl myself to the right behind a flapping canary yellow banner, shout foul abuse and appear to be wrestling with a warthog. By the time I'd reappear, tousled and sweating, they'd usually either wandered away or gathered a crowd of speculative types gambling as to whether the warthog would win out.

Hamilton is, of course, above all this. I watched her trilling and cooing as she prised money out of small children's hands, the heart of Cruella DeVille disguised in the persona of Elsa From Frozen. Children can't resist. I watched them glimpse the bright coloured cover of her book and get drawn in as the evil hag cackled and gibbered. They're helpless, their eyes wide and their souls already on the trash-heap. By the time they've whispered 'The Case of the Exploding Loo?' and started giggling, she's gathered in the billowing mists of darkness and turned into Beloved Children's Author Rachel Hamilton, crooning about how she could sign their book for them if only they'd let 45 dirhams come to a new home where they'd be cared for with unicorns to play with and everything.

I'm stuck with people holding a book splashed with BEIRUT on the front cover asking me what it's about while Hamilton dances widdershins around her cash tin, children now queuing up to send their Dhs45 to the Happy Unicorn Place.

Hamilton finally has to brave the single chemical toilet. A small girl wanted to know where Much Beloved Children's Author Rachel Hamilton was because Hamilton had been performing an act of mass hypnosis at her school and the book was all she wanted for Christmas. 'She's in the loo,' I growled at her. 'And I hope it explodes.'

Don't you hate crying children?

I'd just finished patching it up with the parents by the time old poo pants got back. By now the heat's searing and a car park with no shade in Jebel Ali is not somewhere I wanted to be. Someone buys a book and I love car parks with no shade in Jebel Ali. We pulled off a double whammy, a lovely nuclear family walked away with two kids clutching exploding loo stories and two parents clutching exploding people stories. We were doing high fives and little We Sold Some Books dances when they come back to ask something or another. We tried to pretend it doesn't really matter when people buy our books because it happens all the time although it's always nice to think you've giving someone pleasure.

I started to wonder if that wee Spinneys sells the heavy turkey grade foil so I could make myself a heat exposure bag. A Lebanese chap stopped, seemingly mesmerised by the cover of 'Beirut.' What's it about? He asked. I said, 'It's about what happens when the future President of Lebanon acquires two Soviet nuclear warheads and European intelligence has to find out what he means to do with them.'

He put the book down and smiled a bitter smile. 'Trust me man, he does nothing with them. Nothing.' And walked off. I must confess it was the most brilliant reaction of the day and I was only stopped from running after him and giving him a book by having to wrestle with a warthog behind the yellow banner.

And that was it, really. I went home to immerse my head in aloe vera and Hamilton no doubt made it back to her tottering castle atop the dark hill to count out the gold into the vast coffer she keeps at the bottom of her four-poster bed with the skulls grinning down from their perches on each pillar.

There's probably a crow in there somewhere, too...


GA said...

That made me laugh!! the wonderful world of the Christmas Fayre, we haven't done any this year apart from ARTE. Happy Christmas :)

Rachel Hamilton said...

I'd sue. But it's all true.

Old poo pants x

p.s. they're ravens, not crows.

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