Little Culture Shocks

My first day in Oxford, I arrived at 2 in the afternoon into Heathrow from Dubai, and got straight onto the express train to Paddington then in 20 minutes on the train to Oxford via a neighbouring platform. Pretty straightforward. But when I arrived, little culture shocks began. I search out a Sainsbury’s inside a shopping centre. The shopping centre is dead though the doors are open. Lights are on in Sainsbury’s as a few people push trolleys around. As I get closer I realize they are staff, and they are smirking at the funny guy reading the sign on the door saying it closed at 6.15 pm. That was me. I walk on down the streets and see a red crosses daubed on walls by decorators inside a shop. It makes me think of the two swords of the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi logos. A man stops on a staircase before completing his way down to a basement. I catch him in the corner of my eye and for a second thought for some reason that he was holding the palms of his hands out in a moment of prayer. With no supermarkets to shop in, I check out the prices in a few Pret-A-Manger type shops before moving on in disgust at the extortionate rates, hiked up even more if you want to sit in. Finally I settle on Burger King. How Gulf is that. And when I’m done, I get up without thinking and head for the door. But I catch myself, embarrassed, as a young bloke on the left notes my confusion, then pick up the tray and shove the paper and plastic remains into the designated bin. Life Further North.

Syria and the Battle for Public Opinion

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s recent intervention in American politics with an article placed in The New York Times was possibly the most spectacular turn in an immense battle raging in parallel to the Syrian civil war over the past two years – a battle for control of the narrative. Continue reading Syria and the Battle for Public Opinion