The short life and strange death of the homeless cat.

Cat guy’s unfortunate adventure put him off pet ownership a bit. But at
the same time he was chasing cats all over Sham another friend of mine
was walking home when he saw an injured kitten. He tried to ignore
her, but she limped after him in such an arresting way he couldn’t
resist her and took her home.

This friend of mine is just inexplicable. Apparently he was in town to
collect some stuff he left here as a student ten years before, but as
it took him three months to collect it all and he then immediately
disposed; we all thought this was a cover story. Which leaves the question why didn’t he have a better one? He’s also way too rich for
someone undercover. Despite his flawless Arabic and connections with
Armajinadad, Nasrala and Assad he hates Syria and the Syrians. He
tried to live off the heath-food he’d imported with him, as there’s been too
much depleted uranium released around here for him to eat anything
produced in Syria. The nuts, iodine rich seaweed and Himalayan mountain
water having run out he’s not around anymore, and has taken most of
the mystery of the orient away with him with him. Needless to say we
hope he’ll return.

Instead of taking the cat to the vet he washed her tail stump and
suppurating wounded leg with homoeopathic silver water, which might
be, as he claims, an unrivalled disinfectant but apparently doesn’t
fix broken legs. He repeatedly forgot to buy her cat litter, so
removed the litter tray and put her on the balcony to live in her own
filth which is not one of the seven habits of the highly successful.
After he’d had her for a couple of months he ran out of food and we
went round to collect her. We were rather surprised to find our self
described green activist and animal lover friend had let the cat get
into such a state. After getting her home and washing the shit out of
her fur we could see just how bad her leg was and took her to a vet.
She threw up en route, needed a second wash and never ate again. The
vet said she’d be ok and we gave her lots of love, made her a nest and
brought her cat litter, but I think her trips round sham were just too
much, and after 3 days she died.

She chose a really inconvenient time for it. We woke up the morning
the mukhaberat were coming round to interview my flatmate (it’s
necessary for some kinds of iqamas, it’s a kind of employment benefit
for whichever goon gets sent) and found her dead. We didn’t have that
much time before the other girl and I were going, we didn’t feel like
unnecessarily bribing people nor did we want to cause problems with our
unorthodox living arrangements, but what to do with Mushys’ corpse?

We ended up on the mean streets of Mohajareen with a dead cat in a
plastic bag. We thought about burying her in a park, but didn’t want
to act too suspiciously or buy a spade. Cremating her was right out,
and the Barada is too low for us to bury her at sea in. Inevitably we
ended up putting her in a bin.

The Assad emails include Bashar’s I-tunes downloads. We can’t understand
why he’s bothered to break sanctions in order to pay for music
downloads. Why you’d respect copyright law but not human rights is
beyond me and I maintain he’s paying for that music with stolen money.
More important are the songs he’s downloaded, which include ‘Sexy and I
know it,
‘ my flatmates ring tone. In the same way that Assad doesn’t
seem like a blood thirsty killer, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy
who’d leap around yelling ‘girl look at that body, I work out.’ While
appearances are clearly deceptive according to the song he sent his
wife ‘The person that I’ve been lately, Ain’t who I wanna be’. We
don’t know whether he’s aware of the irony, but we spend a lot of time
making him a more suitable mix CD.



The revolution turned one on Thursday. We spent it like we spend our Fridays, sitting around flicking through the news and eating a never ending breakfast, but I remember where I was on the 15th of March last year.


It must have been about 4 am that the Fixer and a friend of his phoned me from the alley underneath my old city house. While you could argue that the Fixer had drunk enough you wouldn’t have convinced him, he knew I had a bottle of wine in my room and he wanted to help me drink it. I dropped my keys out the window and he let himself, his crisps and his friend in. His friend, a poet, an artist and an academic with an unfortunate haircut I’d met a few times and got on well with, was pretty embarrassed when he realised he’d got a women out of bed. But as the Fixer said, the was no point him going home now I’d been woken up, I assured Haircut that I knew the Fixer was responsible and we settled down for a surprisingly civilized night. We talked about Haircut’s relationship with a British woman and being Western or Westernised in Syria, about drinking beer in pavement cafés and electricity in Jermaana. We rubbished Huntingdon’s ‘Clash of Civilizations,’ but Libya was in an inspiring phase, and we agreed to go to the poetry night at Al Fardous every week. I remember being happy.


When he woke up Haircut phoned the Fixer. He said the government had shot his cousin and four other men in Durra. Some kids had been arrested for writing slogans on a wall and no one knew what was happening to them. Haircut, who hated corruption and loved Syria, was going home.


A year on and I don’t know where Haircut is. He returned to Damascus in the summer, but when the Fixer tried to restart their friendship where they’d left it Haircut said he didn’t know the Fixer, or anyone of his name or nationality. I haven’t seen him at any poetry nights recently.


The 15th was also teacher’s day, but apparently it was easier for teachers and students alike to attend demos if the public holiday was shifted to the following week. The rallies dominated Arabic language news across the spectrum. Al Jazeera’s ‘happenings of the revolution’ the BBC’s Greek potato revolution and the Assad emails didn’t cheer us up. Helicopters took to the sky, but the streets were pretty empty. A year on and the government could still control the country.


The next day Sabina were out in force on the streets of Mohajareen, but Syria was on fire. It was just as depressing, but in a different way. We all agreed the revolution seemed more intense in its second year.

None of changed our minds this morning, when we were woken by a loud noise. We watch a lot of news and all reacted, alone, in the same way. We first thought it was an explosion, then remembered it was snowing when we went to bed and wondered if it could be thunder, before thinking maybe we’d dreamed it. Then there was a second explosion that blew our doubts up along with Bramkea. Thunder doesn’t rattle houses.


We eventually kicked our guests for the night off the sofa and assembled in front of the TV. Our Iraqi flatmate, who didn’t wake up, was unimpressed by Syria’s reaction – what’s the point of cancelling class after a bomb? We were rather taken aback by his explanation of bullet trajectories, the mathematical impossibility of being shot in my room or the kitchen and how we can get between them. Apparently if you grow up in Baghdad working out this stuff is instinctive. We’re all sad that Syrians are developing these skills.


My friends and family need to know that the bombs were both a long way from my house, we’re on the slopes of the mountain above the school so it’s not surprising that we could hear the explosions. Neither were anywhere I go and like most Shammies I’m still at home at 7.30. Today was a day of heightened awareness, this bombing wasn’t random. It coincided with the arrival of another UN delegation. I am always evaluating whether its time to leave. It remains to be seen weather the second year of rebellion marks a new phase of the revolution.


The Mukhaberat took one of my friends the other day. Ironically he’s an Assad supporter, but he’d quarrelled with his girlfriend and wanted to give her a kitten to make it up. Syria is littered with street cats and he’s a student, so buying one seemed a bit silly. Perhaps in hindsight not quite as stupid as getting himself arrested, but when he saw a big cat entering an old, disused building he didn’t think it overlooked a security building, he thought maybe the cat was so big because it had kittens. He vainly hunted cats all over the building, including on the roof, where he was spotted by security in the building over the road. When he got out he found his comrade had already been nicked and the police were waiting for him.

The police were unconvinced by the cat cover story and took him to intelligence, where the officer started insulting and threatening him. Syria’s take on good cop/bad cop is for one to ask questions and the other to stop the suspect answering so the interrogation wasn’t going well. The situation deteriorated when it turned out my friend has misplaced his ID card, a criminal offence here. He explained he hadn’t got a new one as he needs to go back to his village near Homs. The situation deteriorated further (full stop) my friend has a smart phone, stuffed full of music and videos, so the higher ranking officer went through it. He found a sermon by an Alawi sheikh, but didn’t understand what it was. The lower ranking officer is, like my friend, Alawi and recognised the ‘secret Alawi thing.’ He asked what my friends’ sectarian allegiances are. The big officer went ape shit when my friend said he was an Alawi; according to the big officer Syria is non-sectarian and whingeing Alawi rich boys shouldn’t expect special treatment. The Alawi officer was apparently worried that the Sunni superior would discover all sorts of Alawi secrets on the phone, as was my friend. He started desperately trying to prove that my friend’s merely an idiot, not a security threat, they discovered Alawi friends in common 0fs9 Syria might not be sectarian, but my friend was soon allowed to call a mate to bail him out.

His girlfriend was unimpressed. He was badly scared. The guy who did the bailing was furious about going on record as the friend of someone who’s criminally stupid. There is no kitten. Life continues, watching Al Jazera is less argumentative.


I haven’t blogged recently because I’ve been having a great time in Lebanon, where it snowed too much to ski. Mine and my friends perception of Lebanon is dreadfully warped by only visiting from Syria, the Lebanese don’t consider their country a beacon of freedom and functionality. The Lebanese, however, don’t live in Syria.

When you leave Damascus for the countryside you get off the serveice and suddenly realise how fresh and clean the air is. Mentally leaving Syria has the same effect. You could never appreciate how bad things were hear until you left. In December, which I spent in Jordan, I was absolutely amazed by how easy it is to buy books; I saw everything from the Torah to Mine Kamp in shop windows. Here bookshops deal almost entirely in Islamic, text or English language, books. There are only ever a handful of novels, and they’re almost always the same few. The Lebanese and Jordanians are educated, Syrians are taught to fear. Syrian English has a verb unknown to native speakers -to stupidize. It’s pretty self explanatory. They use it to describe what the government does to them. It tells you all you ever needed to know about Syria.