Friends come and go all the time in Doha, but not a lot come back! So this week when a buddy that left the sandy dunes of Doha for the lush fields of Cork made her way back to Doha, for a holiday I was super excited. Not many people come to Doha on a holiday. Not exactly a top holiday destination and I have the added pitfall of a brother living in Tenerife. The result being that every year your family entertain you with the idea of coming to Doha but casually book three weeks in sunny, fun Tenerife instead! Hardly blame them.
Anyhow, my buddy was returning to Doha and I couldn’t wait to see what someone that once lived in the Middle East and returned to live in Ireland, looked like. Often accused of having rose-tinted glasses when it comes to life and living in Ireland, I had in the past suffered massive bouts of jealousy over her return to our Emerald Isle. A new and thriving business, long healthy walks in beautiful autumnal surroundings, the excitement of Christmas bubbling up around everywhere and everyone, theatre, concerts, community spirit, McCambridge’s brown bread and an Aldi within arm’s reach, what more could a body want?
The red wine was chilled down to room temperature and petunias were just beginning to flower, it’s the perfect time of year in Qatar and the perfect time to visit. But shocked was I when I saw my friend, pale and even blue in spots was now her skin which was always honey coloured. It was clear the piggy’s hadn’t seen the salon since they were shoved into a pair of boots at the end of September and she talked of dark mornings, dark evenings and grey days.
‘And how about the business, is it running well?’ I asked as I let the laundry man in, he always seemed to come at the wrong time, I hadn’t had a chance to gather up the ironing, he’d had to grab him himself from the utility. ‘the business is going really well, we have clients and an office, but the accountant says it will take somewhere between three and thirty-three years before we can take a wage, but we’re happy with that’.
‘And what about the house, did the sale go through?’ I asked as I paid the cleaner, ‘Please concentrate on the fridge and oven next week Irena’ she nodded and smiled, she was lovely, nicest one yet. ‘House is going through, we have to pay about sixty hundred million thousand in stamp duty so living with mam and dad as rental property is hard to find, not to mention, extortionate’
‘The kids must be delighted being back have they loads of friends now? Doorbell, again! So hard to have a conversation, the car wash guy, ‘water plants also ma’am?’ in hindsight, I was a little curt, ‘I’m busy, come back later’, ‘sorry hun, what were we saying’, ‘the friends, thing is, because of the catchment area for the schools, we haven’t got into the one we wanted so there’s a bit of a mix both nationality wise and otherwise, so Derbhla’s best friend has no English, still, they seem to be getting along well’.
‘So c’mere what about you, you’re happy being back, good to be back near the family and catching back up with old friends’, well she said, ‘you know you really don’t know how good you have things over here, I’m up at six to get the kids ready, drop them to school, beat the traffic and get parking at work, all winter we live with lights and central heating on, it’s impossible to dry clothes, my car is tiny and…’ (her eyes filled with tears) ‘ I’ve to fill my own petrol’. Just then Amir came in with the water, he sensed the tension and just left the bottles besides the cooler.. I’d do them myself’.
Teething problems, I consoled her, secretly a little miffed at the implication of my life being easy, we were embroiled in a crisis here a full-on blockade. She had long walks and soda bread, should be thankful. Friends, sometimes they just see your world through rose-tinted glasses.