The man in the apartment next to mine is an Englishman, a retired engineer in his seventies who has lived in the Gulf for forty years and will probably stay here till the day he dies. He likes the people, likes the climate, likes the food. Just as I do. As he goes about his daily business he often sings; it’s nice to hear him because the impression I have is that he sings when he’s happy and happy people are nice to be around.
Some of his songs were popular hits when he was young in England—the Stones, Lonnie Donegan, Elvis (I’ve never heard him sing a Beatles number; I must ask him some day why that is). (And if you’ve never heard of Lonnie Donegan, neither had I—I found about him here when I Googled a song wafted from my neighbor’s balcony: My Old Man’s a Dustman. Sometimes on balmy evenings (which in the Gulf means in winter) he takes his glass of Scotch and an iPhone plugged into his portable radio onto the balcony and I hear old Deanna Durbin and Al Bowlly tracks, which must surely be from before even his time. He has to play them quite loud because he’s a little deaf.
My neighbour was a rugby player in the days of long ago; he flies home every February and stays for about six weeks because he has tickets for every one of England’s Six Nations games. Someone who knows him better than I do tells me that the tickets come from the Rugby Football Union and an England cap rests on the sideboard in my neighbor’s sitting room, so I assume he could play a bit when he was young. And some of his songs have more in common with rugby clubs than with the broadcast media.
The first time I heard him sing this was quite a shock:
I’ll be up your flu in a minute or two
I know just where to find it
It’s called a c**t and it’s round the front
And your arse is right behind it.
This isn’t Saudi Arabia but the law on profanity here is quite strict and I wouldn’t want to see him taken in by the police. I coughed, loudly, to let him know someone could hear him and he stopped singing with a snort. It was back to Lonnie and Elvis and Ruby Tuesday for a few weeks after that.
But yesterday afternoon, at a time (to be fair) when he probably thought I was at work, I heard another ditty:
If I give you half a crown
Will you take your knickers down?
Half a crown was something else I had to Google; it turns out it was a British coin until the country decimalized more than forty years ago. There were eight half crowns in a pound so in today’s British money it would equate to 12½ pence—three quarters of a dirham where I (and he) live and not much to pay for a striptease.
He has friends but he lives alone and sometimes he’s probably a little lonely. I have friends and I live alone and sometimes I’m a little lonely. There are plenty of men here who’d be very happy to spend time with me but they’re not looking for conversation or companionship—they’d want someone to go to bed with them until they’re ready for the time when their parents arrange their marriage with a young virgin of the correct family and religious background. They’d probably want the bed time to continue after their marriage, too. I’m not that kind of girl.
I’ve talked enough to my neighbor to know that conversation with him is rewarding. Perhaps I’ll go round there one of these evenings, put a pair of panties in his hand and say, “That’s 75 fils you owe me” and see where it leads.
I don’t suppose I will. Probably I won’t. But probably isn’t certainly. A couple glasses of wine might do the trick.