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Today's quote:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Whatever gets you through the night

"My" corner in my room at the Al-Harithy Hotel

 

The story of my life reads like a fairy tale - GRIMM! And there was no grimmer time than my years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia! Being paid extremely well and living in a five-star hotel was small compensation for living in the world's largest sandbox.

The Four Pillars of Prohibition in Saudi Arabia are No Piss, No Pork, No Pornography and No Prostitution but it was the sheer loneliness of the place that reduced even the most hardened men to tears. Some of us resident expats would meet at lunchtime around the swimming pool of the Al-Harithy Hotel on Medina Road in Jeddah for a swim and a game of chess.

Then came the long night and the lack of entertainment and the lack of companionship until perhaps some time after midnight, just when one had conquered the insomnia, there was a hesitant tap on the door. Outside stood one of the expats one had met at the swimming pool at lunchtime, with a chess-board under his arm, asking in a timid voice, "Feel like a game of chess?"

FEEL LIKE A GAME OF CHESS??? AT 1 O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING???

But, of course, one didn't say that. Instead, one switched on the coffee kettle, set up the chess-board, and made the appropriate moves. Literally! Because it wasn't about chess at all but about the choking isolation, or about a "Dear John" letter from home, or, worse, no letter at all.

And so one played the game because it might be one's turn next to stand outside someone's door and ask, "Feel like a game of chess?"