Sunday, 23 August 2015

New Site, Same Old Tripe

In an effort to get back on track, I've created a new Wordpress site.

Sadly, some git has reserved BritinBeirut, so showing minimal imagination, here's the new site:

The first post's a bit grimmer than my usual utterings, but hey, my girlfriend got teargassed yesterday.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Circles of Birds

In British English there's a term for the strange love some people, mainly men, have for flying rodents: pigeon fancying.

It's normally a hobby confined to older people and it's seen as a little odd and, perhaps old-fashioned.

Maybe that's also the case in Lebanon, I don't know any pigeon fanciers here, but it's common enough to see clouds of pigeons circling above Beirut of an evening.

Birds, in a circle

If that's not amusing enough, the accompanying whistles and claps coming from the fancier create a sort of soundtrack to a lazy evening. The kick of it is that Lebanese pigeon fancying is a competitive sport. Yep. I called it a sport.

Fanciers compete, clashing their bird clouds together and attempting to trick birds from another coop to join their pack of flying rats. Yes, the competition revolves around "stealing" your neighbour's birds. I'm sure that the average bird probably changes teams on a regular basis.

Pigeon fancying, in a city. In a country that is notorious for shooting and eating anything that flies. Odd. But fun.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Digital Hobo: Urbanista, Hamra

This is the first entry in my new Digital Hobo series.

After a delay, mostly down to work, visa visits and all sorts of fun and games, I recently visited Urbanista, in Hamra, for a spot of digital squatting.

Firstly, I was amazed to discover that the password for the Wi-Fi in Hamra was the same as that in the Gemmayze branch. So simple, so clever.

I’m a fan of the original Urbanista, I love it, it’s a little pricey, but the coffee’s great and I’d recommend the baked chicken rolls.

Anyway, enough of the food, I was more interested in discovering if I could watch Zoella’s latest offering without having to wait 45 minutes for the stream to buffer.

Here are the results:



Well, after waiting two minutes for the page to load, I actually got a pretty good result.

Taaa Daaa!

Fast, clearly it’s never going to be as fast as Ookla says (0.94 Internets), but it was fast enough to learn about Zoella’s latest skin regimen.

As this is the first Digital Hobo review, I’m unsure as to what rating to give Urbanista, Hamra.

I’ll plump for a good 4/5 WiFis.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Digital Hobo

I'm introducing a new series to BritinBeirut: The Digital Hobo.

Let's start with a definition ... actually, to be more accurate, let's wait for Chrome to load the relevant page on Merriam Webster.

To pass the time, here's a joke I recently heard. "An Irishman, an Englishman and a Scotsman walk into the bar, the Irishman's holding an enormous ... "

Oh, it's loaded.

noun \ 'ho-(,)bo \
: a person who has no place to live and no money and who travels to many different places
:  a migratory worker
:  a homeless and usually penniless vagabond
plural hoboes also hobos

Adding "Digital" to the beginning of that describes my situation in Beirut perfectly. OK, I'm not penniless, nor a vagabond, but I do move around a lot for work and life, and I'm certainly a migrant worker.

As a freelance communications guy I spend a lot of time hopping from place to place, updating various online platforms and generally being the scourge of Beirut's bars and cafes as I relentlessly hunt for a decent Internet connection.

Having left the country for a year, I'm out of touch as to the best connections in town. I have a rule though, it's got to be free, none of this paying for 30 mins here, or an hour there.

So, Digital Hobo aims to give a relatively humorous look at Beirut's free Wi-Fi spots, I might even comment on the usual concerns, like the coffee, maybe. It depends how long I have to wait for Chrome to upload my latest ramblings on this or that...

This post was inspired by the fact I'm currently sitting somewhere waiting for 13MB PDF to download. It's been 10 minutes so far.

Oh, and here's a little tune for you to enjoy. I'll link to it, uploading it would just drain my will to live.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Pictures of Beirut

BritinBeirut has been polluting the Instragrams this week.

A great name for a 24/7 in Hamra

Possibly the Worst Beer in the World

An excited equine in Downtown!

Glad to see that #Grammarfails still happen 
in Beirut

Shopping by "candlelight" #Blackout

Finally, this scary little Wednesday Adams 
in #Oslo in Mar Mikhael

If you'd like to follow along, click on the Instagram widget in the right hand column.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Some Things Never Change

After a year or so out of the country I find myself back in Beirut for a few months before I (hopefully) head off to the UAE.

As a freelancer and a digital media guy, I’ve been rudely reminded of the state of the city’s Internet infrastructure, or the lack of it. It seems that merely updating your profiles and playing around on a few sites takes forever and I half expect to hear the clicking and beeping of an old dial up modem in the background.

I suppose I got lazy and complacent, living in London over the past year and enjoying Internet speeds so fast as to almost be redundant. I mean, if you’re getting in excess of 2 MB/s, who needs 3 or 4?

Case in point - when I shamelessly lifted the image above (from here) the website code popped up in Google and I had to reload.

So, I’m back, trying to (re?) adopt my old lifestyle of sticking the laptop in my bag and heading off to Hamra’s cafes to get a little work done like some sort of high tech hobo. I’m leery of endlessly paying to refill my generator at home, so it’s to Prague I head when the daily three-hour cut approaches.

Freelancing’s a pain in the ass at the best of times, but when you head into a place and get 56 KB coming down the pipe, you know you’re screwed, it's like listening to the endless dripping of a leaking tap. I was told time and again that the Internet plans in the country have improved, but it seems like the bars and cafes of Hamra have avoided the upgrade. Expensive coffee? Sure. Internet from 1995? Yep.

First world problems, as they say, but it is depressing when your 3G connection is faster than your wireless.

If anyone has any recommendations, I’d much appreciate them.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Time at the range

After a long absence I’m restarting my blog, albeit slowly.

So, here goes…

I’m a fan of guns.

I’ll qualify that, within a controlled environment, and given that the users of said weapons know what they’re doing, I’m a fan of guns. I don’t believe in hunting, unless you’re actually going to eat what you shoot. I also don’t believe in gratuitous violence. I also believe that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you have no place owning a firearm.

In short, I enjoy shooting, or more accurately (pardon the pun), I enjoy target shooting.

So, with those qualifications in place, here goes…

I’ve been around guns all of my life. My dad was an officer in the British Army and, at least so I’ve been told, used to carry a sidearm with him all the time when I was knee-height to a grasshopper. After that I was surrounded by soldiers and eventually graduated to shooting empty Coke cans at the bottom of my garden with an air rife (BB gun). I went on to shoot at school during the time I toyed with joining the army. There was a time when I was the best shot with an SA-80 in my local age group. These days, I’m a reasonably good clay pigeon (skeet / tiro) shooter owing to too much time spent in freezing Irish fields in December.

 SA 80

Ireland: Cold

So, it was with great delight that two friends used some form of wasta (influence exerted through personal connections for the non-Lebanese out there) to get us up to the Lebanese Army Shooting Range somewhere in the hills above Dora (the route seemed ridiculous and I couldn’t find my way back) for a morning of target shooting.

Now, and I’ll apologise in advance, I had assumed that the range wouldn’t be anything to write home about. However, what I discovered was quite something. Located in the basement of quite an impressive sporting complex was a modern, well-appointed range. It was certainly more impressive than the range I occasionally shoot at back home in Northern Ireland.

It’s administered by Josons, the best-known Lebanese gun dealers and, as I was about to discover, the distributors for Beretta in Lebanon.

So, we walk in and stroll around the waiting room, the walls of which are adorned with all sorts of pistols. I’m immediately drawn to the Sig Sauer range of handguns. Reputedly the most accurate and reliable handguns in the world (they used to be used by the men in black who guard the President of the US), a Sig is something I’ve always wanted to shoot.

After selecting my particular flavor of Sig, we set off to the range.


A trainer from Josons followed us in and gave us some tips. The pictures below might be some guide as to whether or not he succeeded:

After we’d shot around 50 rounds or so with the pistols we were sorely tempted to try out the Beretta Storm submachine gun.

Beretta Storm

After around 200 rounds giggling like a schoolgirl it was time to hit the road.

A great time, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff in a modern setting, I’d recommend it to anyone.

And here's a little proof that I can actually hit a barn door at 50 metres: