‘The Baluchi Boys’ Part III: The Musicmaker

‘I am the music man. I come from far away and I can play. (What can you play?)

I play the Spanish guitar … but also ladies’ hearts …’

‘I think that you have been treated badly by Omani men.’

Now, I am not one to generalise, but this was an Omani man making the generalisation and arguably, it wasn’t a generalisation yet. It was a statement. A generalisation would be the deduction that all Omani men behaved this way, based on two experiences.

‘This is what they do.’

Ah ok … there it is. Well, just to reiterate, it wasn’t me talking; it was the Omani.

‘But I will prove to you that some are not like that,’ he continued, ‘because I am not like that.’

This was a fluent, serious and intelligent chap and I believed him. The intelligence was reflected in his cavalier attitude towards his fellow Omanis. To hold an unpopular view and to announce it so boldly, is a sign of intelligence. It is a sign of integrity, of conviction, of commitment to a cause … all very attractive traits. But the intelligence lay in the fact that he knew this would impress. I believe that he believed in his judgement; but was he different? Was the real intelligence that he knew he was the same, so all he could do was pretend he would be the hero, the odd-bod, the one who bucked the trend? Let’s see …

I had met the Musicmaker at a Karaoke night. It was at one of my favourite haunts for dancing, drinking and singing (only on Wednesdays) and he started chatting to me on the balcony overlooking the beach, a swimming pool and a scattering of people enjoying a drink al fresco with perhaps a shisha or two, with the obligatory palm trees to remind us all that we were in a hot country.

My friend with the beautiful headscarves crept up behind me and snatched my mobile from my hand. There was a momentary standoff while I smiled at her and she smiled right back … but her smile said why aren’t you fighting me for it? While mine said I’ve already given him my number … weeks later she would reveal to me that she didn’t want to see me get hurt yet again. Some weeks after that, I would realise that this was a bit of a stretch, but we’ll save that for another post …

We met the following night and this was a man who knew how to soften a woman with romance. We drove into the mountains with food, drink and his Spanish guitar. We stopped where we could look out over the lights of Muscat from a serene vantage point nestled amidst millennia-old rocks. There was something comforting about the contrasting environments; the shooshing of distant cars was hushed by the flawless plucking sounds of Musicmaker’s guitar, accompanied by his unusual, if slightly nasal (in a strangely appealing way) voice. In addition to how impressive this private concert was, I was also struck by Musicmaker’s confidence. Many hide their lights under bushels until the truth is revealed by removing the wrapping paper of pretence that no-one must know; others openly boast; but this perfect-looking man presented his talent at the opportune moment. I felt suitably serenaded, seduced and also shown that he had talent.

To be fair, Musicmaker was very complimentary towards me about my singing voice.

“Lisa has a beautiful singing voice,” he announced to a musical friend one night.

In the early days we camped and barbecued on the beach, went out to lunch, watched TV shows in my apartment and went out dancing and drinking with his friends. He brought his guitar round … hang on. Yep … it is all sounding a little familiar, isn’t it? He surpassed Batman easily with the guitar, though. He wrote his own songs and was keen for me to learn one of them. (I wish that I could erase the melody from my mind. It happened in a film, didn’t it? Come on someone … mimic fiction and invent the darned thing already and make my mind spotless and full of eternal sunshine again.)

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The honeymoon period was brief. Around a week. But it only took a week to fall for Musicmaker. Batman needed longer to make me fall for him, ergo it was vital that the honeymoon period lasted longer. Musicmaker was clever, smooth and wore a facade of sincerity, rather like Rusty when he can see a treat in my hand. Enough said.

So week two was unremarkable. I had to wait till the weekend to see my potential new accompanist and love.

Week three and even WhatsApp messages couldn’t be bothered to crawl out of his phone and into mine.

Yet still I hoped.

“I am not spending enough time with you,” he said, whilst looking directly into my eyes and holding my hands firmly, after a spontaneous visit one Thursday night.

“No,” I replied, “You’re not,” I agreed.

He was blunt so I felt I could indulge my equivocal bluntness.

“I have so many problems,” he continued.

Yes, it really was that similar … to be fair, Musicmaker’s problems were grim. He had suffered two major traumas in his life in the space of a year and like all Omani men (it seemed) he was building a house and had parents.

“Are you in a position to be in a relationship with me?” I asked, fairly and nicely.

“Yes,” he replied with a steely determination, “and the next time my mother invites me for lunch, I am going to tell her that I bringing someone!”

This wasn’t just a big deal – this was a deal with proportions similar to The Rock – it was so huge I couldn’t process it. Which is just as well really, seeing as it never happened. Sorry for the spoiler, but you know that only the failed relationships reach my blog!

I had stopped expecting to see Musicmaker at weekends and was, frankly, allowing the union to fade into obscurity and experience (and eventually my blog). He had told me that he was busy with his house and his mother that weekend and so I ventured to a rooftop venue complete with a swimming pool and palm trees as well as a bar, a dance floor and a DJ. I went with three female friends and – forgive the cliche – we were dressed to kill.

“You’ll see him tonight,” said my closest friend out of the three, in between taking selfies in a very cramped car (but it was a lift so we were just grateful).

We blagged free entry, only to have large amounts of money extorted from us in return for drinks which would not last and eventually danced to the very repetitive (and slightly disappointing, given the wondrousness of the venue) dance music. The youngest of my friends leaned into me …

“He’s here,”

Instinctively I looked around.

“Don’t go to him!” ordered the third friend who had two moods: ecstatically fun and angrily difficult.

I didn’t. I couldn’t even see him and I didn’t look for him. But at some point I needed to venture beyond the two points between which we were moving (our spot on the dance floor and one of those tall tables where you can place your glass and lean, when you’re a bit bored) to visit the bathroom and/or get a drink. I forget the purpose for my journey but I made it all the same and on my return I spotted him, dancing alone. I smiled as I walked past and he extended his arm to me, to invite me to join him. We danced well together and anyway, I wanted to dance with him. So we danced. And talked. I said nothing about the lie but he broached the subject, explaining it away by saying that his friends dragged him out because he was sad … etc … etc …

I let the matter go because I didn’t care. I adored this man, but his lack of reliability was causing me to withdraw and therefore to become less vulnerable to any hurt.

Our last date was at a music festival. This was a relatively hushed-up affair … only made known to those on the music scene so, thanks to my involvement in this area, I made the hour and a half journey in my humble hire car one weekend to a remote beach with a backdrop of a mountain range. The journey was eventful … it began with six people rammed into my car which was all too much for it, because after five minutes it had a sulk and conked out. A kind man fixed it, after Youngest Friend asked him to and for various reasons the rest of the journey was made with just two of us, which I was keen to complete before sundown as I had lost a contact lens. After getting slightly mislaid en route, Fun But Difficult and I arrived (after sundown).

After the stresses of the journey had been laid to rest, we drank, danced and generally had the sort of fun you expect to have at a music festival.

Then Musicmaker arrived. I was surprised about many things concerning the Musicmaker and this festival. I was surprised that he knew nothing of it until I told him about it. Then I was surprised he agreed to come along. Then I was surprised he actually came. It preyed on my mind however, that he had told me that his ex would probably be there. How did he know this? And why would he go to something so far away that potentially would upset him? Especially as he intended driving home the same night. Was he going there to see his ex … ?

Then it all happened. He saw her. She was dancing with her new boyfriend. At this point I realised that my boyfriend was slightly unhinged. He had a tantrum and dragged me into it. Aggressively, he introduced me to her. Then he left.

I chased after him and tried to take his hand, yet he shook me off. Enough, I thought.

“I have done nothing wrong!” I announced.

He stopped and turned.

“She lied to me!” he replied, as if this somehow excused his poor treatment of me.

“So?” I questioned, boldly, continuing with she’s your ex!

“She told me she wasn’t seeing anyone!”

“Again,” I squared up to him. “she’s your ex!”

“I still have feelings for her,” he softened and put his arms around me.

“I’m sorry.”

And he left.

As I predicted, the relationship petered out and I accepted this. I saw him around a month later and he apologised for many things and told me what a wonderful person I was.

“You told me you were different,” I complained, “but you were the worst of the lot.”

“Well I was different then, wasn’t I?” he smiled.

And that was it.

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‘The Baluchi Boys’ Part II: Batman

Shortly after The Playboy had silently slithered out of my life, I found myself returning to the UK, after just a few months of living it up in the sunny utopia of Oman.

I was there for just a week; the Playboy of the Persian Gulf was a mere memory (ok, he was writing material too) and I was struggling with the inner turmoil of being at home unexpectedly, whilst knowing I would be returning in a week to the chalk face in Muscat.

Then one day a message bounced into my What’sApp app on my phone.

‘Hi,’ it said.

‘Do I know you?’ I questioned.

Then one of those audio messages appeared … turned out that it was the Playboy’s cousin and he had contacted the Playboy about meeting up.

“Is Lisa free?’ he had (allegedly) asked the Playboy, when the latter announced his inability to meet up for a drink, due to other commitments.

‘Call her and find out,’ replied the Playboy, glibly giving my number to his cousin.

I had met him one night when the Playboy had taken me to an American-style bar, complete with pool tables and a weird glass smoking room in the corner. He had introduced him to me as his cousin and we had got along well. Despite having played pool many times in my life, I am still fairly inept at potting any of the balls, let alone ones of the correct colour and the Playboy’s cousin was very attentive to my tuition in this area. At this point, I had wondered if the Playboy had lied about his age, as he became increasingly stroppy at my growing expertise with the pool cue and actually left our company and danced, alone, on the vacuous dance floor, in true toddler-tantrum style. His cousin joined him and proved that he was something of a twinkle-toes, which seemed to ignite the Playboy’s ire further. The gradual realisation that these were two peacocks vying for the peahen’s attention took me to the bar to order some drinks, whilst enjoying a silent chuckle on the way.

The arrival of vastly overpriced beer pleased the competitors and once more we were reunited and enjoyed the refreshing beverages, complete with the usual Omani accompaniment of peanuts.

We left as soon as the beers had been supped and the Playboy was driving his own car that night, which was a first, but I was also struck by the fact that he had had a considerable amount of alcohol. I, too, had drunk and driven in my early days in Oman, before realising that there was zero tolerance for drinking and driving. Upon learning this fact I had taken it upon myself to never drink and drive, lest I found myself languishing in an Omani prison for an indefinite amount of time. (This was also the night I realised that the Playboy shaved his legs, as he was wearing knee length shorts.) I had much to learn: I think the zero tolerance regarding drinking and driving actually encourages the phenomenon, which is what happens when you set the standard as impossibly high.

Back to the story: the Playboy’s cousin seemed a decent sort, so I temporarily overlooked the Playboy’s political incorrectness of giving out ladies’ phone numbers without their permission (this argument had its day in due course) and arranged to meet up on my return.

We met at The Beach Club in the PDO camp; again, a nostalgic experience, reminiscent of bygone days with ex-hubby No 1 and thus began a two month romance with one who would be named Batman.

Batman liked Batman … in fact, he sported a Batman pendant and his job smacked of more than a slight obsession with the very human super-hero. His job was to climb the Telecom towers in PDO to fix them. Coincidence? Nah … I have come to realise that very little just happens. Batman liked to take risks. Life had disappointed him thus far and one indulgence – a liking for Batman – could be played out every day if he wished, by climbing the Telecom towers and being Batman for a bit. (And those who are suffering from terminal disappointment, sadly, take very risky risks.)

Initially, it was a fine romance. The honeymoon period was .. well, present. There was no such thing with his cousin; that debacle was just a week or two of mismanaged meetings and stress. But Batman couldn’t get enough of me … he visited me often, bringing roses, alcohol, even complete dinners at times. He brought his guitar; he serenaded me; we lunched out at the weekend; we had barbecues on the beach … and by the way, a sparkly shoreline of phosphorescence with a blazing supermoon setting fire to the sea, to Dan Seals’ ‘If I Had Only One Friend Left’, scores an easy 10/10 for romantic value.

Then the weekday visits stopped and our relationship became one of weekend drinking and dancing into the small hours. This was satisfactory for a while, until I became dissatisfied with the same formula every weekend: ie, always going out with Best Friend plus girlfriend and not playing out any of our plans – rewatching ‘Game of Thrones’ for one thing – or continuing with all the lovely, little, normal things we used to do, like lunching out or chilling at home with him plus guitar. So the weekend shenanigans ended and our relationship became a weekday only affair. This was not satisfactory either, as the evening would sometimes start at 10pm, giving little time for anything more than a short conversation over a fairly rapidly drunk alcoholic beverage.

So the weekday visits stopped and I wondered if I had a boyfriend.

“I never see you,” I complained.

“I have so many problems,” he replied, “like the house I am building … and I have to see my parents … and my children,” (he was a divorcee with four children).

So I ended it.

“But I have all these problems!” he cried.

“So you don’t have time for me,” I shrugged.

But I gave him one last chance.

“Be ready by 9pm,” he instructed, one Thursday afternoon, “and we will go out dancing.”

I was ready.

But he was not.

I waited till midnight and by then I wasn’t really feeling the love anymore, neither for him nor dancing, as this was the umpteenth time that I had wasted precious hours of my life waiting in my apartment. There was a reason, of course: there was always a reason. This one involved Best Friend’s family … lifts to Seeb … what could be done … etc … etc … If it just happened once, then maybe I could tolerate it. But this happened a lot and I began to realise that I had only just made it onto the very end of the priority list. Batman blamed Best Friend, on whom he was reliant for a lift, but over the period of three hours, I felt certain that an alternative method of transport could have been arranged to deliver him to me. But that would mean letting Best Friend down, was the argument. What about letting me down? I argued. This was the crux of the matter … extended families (parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins) came first. Friends came second. Children came third. Girlfriends were bringing up the rear in a poor last place. During the honeymoon period, children and girlfriends temporarily swapped places, to be fair. I would never expect to usurp children – I would have been content with second place to Batman’s children – but the irony is, that they were the only category that Batman would shortchange in favour of me, even forgetting his eldest child’s birthday on one occasion because he was whiling away the hours in my company.

But anyway, back to the story: he sent Best Friend to my apartment and I tried to send him packing. But Best Friend was persistent and I found myself in the confines of his car, with Batman in the front, en route to the local hop, which was always a small Irish bar/club in the basement of a hotel.

Batman was not talking to me, with which I struggled. I had become angry in an audio message but after three hours of waiting, I think that is fair.

On arrival at the club, or ‘disco’ as they still call it in Oman, Batman broke his silence and bought me a drink by way of apology. We had the obligatory argument, after which we danced and things were good. Then he sloped off outside and I didn’t see him again until I attempted to leave. He brought me back from the taxi which was about to transport me home and seemed baffled as to the cause of my incandescence.

“If this is you trying to make things up to me, it’s poor,” I stated, “because I have hardly seen you all evening.”

“But this is my only chance to see my friends!” he argued.

I don’t need to explain my position on this, as you are all decent people who can see how flawed his argument was.

Best Friend’s girlfriend, a sweet Filipino girl with straight, black, waist-length hair which she kept off her face with an Alice band, insisted that I remained with them. Considering her child-like appearance, she was surprisingly strong and also determined to protect me from the perils of travelling home alone. There is an irony to this, which is coming up … I found myself in Best Friend’s car once again (strangely without Best Friend) and when we stopped, a short drive away, outside Best Friend’s girlfriend’s house, so she could collect her belongings with a view to staying at Best Friend’s house (wherever he was – his absence was strangely unnoticed by all but me), I attempted to talk to Batman.

He ignored me.

I left the car and walked.

I didn’t know where I was.

I had no credit on my phone.

I had no money in my purse.

As soon as I had taken the decision to leave his company, I felt a mixture of relief and panic, as I knew how vulnerable I was.

I walked … and walked … and walked … until I found an open petrol station. I didn’t know what I would do at this petrol station, but as luck would have it, a taxi was at a pump and I requested a ride to a cash point and then to my home.

Batman contacted me hours later, wanting to know if I was ok.

Too little, too late.

‘The Baluchi Boys’ Part I: Playboy of the Persian Gulf

I met The Playboy of the Persian Gulf one Saturday afternoon, after another sunny day in paradise. I had been residing in Muscat for around a month and continuing with my mission to drive to a new place every weekend, I had taken myself to a beach which was only accessible by clambering over rocks. It occurred to me that I needed to start building up a tan, as that was one of the trade-offs associated with tearing oneself away from all that one holds dear in one’s homeland. I had been shown the way by a colleague, but I challenged myself to find it on my own and feeling pleased with my small victory, I stopped on my return journey to take pictures of the view of the PDO (Petroleum Development Oman) camp.

After around five minutes of taking in the view, reflecting on the time when ex-hubby No 1 worked there and therefore also reflecting on bygone days, when Joseph and Rhiannon were about a quarter of the size they are now, a sparkly 4X4 pulled up next to me. The tinted passenger window slowly and smoothly disappeared into the door to reveal a ridiculously pretty face wearing a welcoming smile. The ridiculously pretty face belonged to a young man and he greeted me warmly before disembarking from the car. He was wearing formal Omani dress – a white dish dasha and a kuma – and was not much taller than me.

He asked me how long I had been living in Oman – in time I would become accustomed to this question – and upon learning that I was a newcomer, he told me that he worked for a tourism company and he would be happy to show me around.

Ah … touting for business, I thought. This was not the first time a chatty cheery Omani man had given me his business card showing him to be some sort of tour guide.

I thanked him and said that I had a car and so I was quite keen to find my own way around, thank you very much. (And felt a renewed resolve to tan my skin, whose paleness was bellowing ‘newcomer!’ without my permission, to all and sundry.)

“Join us now!” he invited, but I declined, on the grounds that I had work to do, but in reality, because I was not about to allow myself to be driven around by strangers.

“Let me at least take you out for a drink,” he continued with his line of suggestions which would put me in his company for a period of time.

I laughed and pointed out that he was a little young for me.

He laughed back and asked that heart-sinking question: how old did I think he was?

“Twenty-something,” I guessed.

“Thirty-eight,” he replied.

That wasn’t so bad, I thought … same age as ex-hubby No 2, so after mulling it over whilst chatting, I agreed to meet for a drink.

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I should have realised after half an hour of waiting outside a hotel bar, that this was not going to end well.

We had agreed to meet at a designated place at a particular time, but this seemed problematic for The Playboy.

“Take a picture of what is right next to you,” he requested.

I did so and sent it via What’sApp and only after sending it, did I realise the inappropriateness of my view. Part of it included a bridal shop. Oops.

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But it worked; within five minutes my date had arrived.

If I thought that half an hour was an inexcusable amount of time to keep someone waiting, I had much to learn.

We dated for two weeks. Well, one week really, seeing as I did not see him the second week. Some evenings were just a little strange; everything about him smacked of poor little rich kid. His car was chauffeur-driven, every in-built container contained chocolate and the back seat sported a permanent box of beer. I am not sure that I ever witnessed him sober. Some dates consisted of driving around and taking in the sights whilst drinking beer. But ‘strange’ was acceptable in comparison with other evenings when I would wait an hour … two hours … three hours even for him to arrive to pick me up from my apartment. Some evenings went well; he would arrive on time and we would go to a bar or a club – his favourite being a small, slightly sterile venue within a large hotel. Or, he would impress me with a moonlit walk along a private beach and we would sit in the perfect night-time temperatures of the September weather, with just the hushed sounds of palm leaves rustling in the balmy breeze and the occasional wave splashing, apologetically, on the sand.

There was something slightly surreal about his chauffeur always sitting a little away from us … I felt like I was being chaperoned … or, worse, that he was being chaperoned … but in time I became accustomed to his presence and he did a remarkable job of blending in with the environment and only speaking when addressed. A little like a butler. (Some time after my brief friendship with The Playboy had ended, I would learn that the chauffeur’s presence was entirely due to The Playboy’s lack of driving licence.)

But this was a man whose being was rammed with empty promises. The words of a friend before I left the UK rang in my ears … Beware of men who will promise you everything and give you nothing …

“I have a vegetable stall in a market,” he announced one day via WhatsApp, “so I will bring you some fresh vegetables today.”

“You sing?” he questioned, on another day, “Then I will come to Copper to hear you sing!”

“Cancel your car hire,” he instructed, boldly, “because I can get you a better deal.”

Let us reflect on this last one.

It was bad manners of him to ‘forget’ to bring me the vegetables as promised and insensitive of him to display false interest in my singing. It was frustrating when he arrived late for a night out – or not at all. But this last, worthless pledge nearly cost me the convenience of my car

This was not a course of action I would take lightly. There was much discussion about this and so when I was certain that this was genuine – and why would he lie about this – I cancelled my car hire. Then he began to ignore my messages. I became desperate to speak to him, just so I would not be without a car, never mind about any future relationship.

My car hire company were very understanding and allowed me to keep my car. But I was not understanding and I did not allow The Playboy to keep me as a potential girlfriend. I’m not sure how I feel about a man who shaves his legs anyway.