America, Asia, Canada, Central America, Culture, Sport, UK

Queer how offside Qatar is to the world

It’s become a fixture on the party and social calendar in the West but, of course, Pride is a revulsion elsewhere in the world, and in this World Cup year isn’t it queer how offside Qatar is to the world?

Now the football world (a different universe, of course) turned a blind eye to the Emirate’s discrimination and criminalisation of the LGBTQIA community when awarding Qatar the hosting of this winter’s World Cup.

Flagging up an issue: With Qatar

And quite what that’ll mean to LGBTQIA football fans who are wanting to follow their countries’ fortunes then we’ll try here to decipher.

While we all know too that of the hundreds of footballers, coaching staff and officials taking part not one will be LGBTQIA.

And that will get FIFA off the hook… and there won’t be anybody queer in that organisation either.

A word from the sponsors

Take that: The Qataris

Football’s World Cup is, of course, more than a sporting event.

It is a cultural, educational example and the tourist trip football fans have been planning for years.

So make of these welcoming words if you will from Qatari official Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Ansari

‘If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to really take it to really insult him.

‘But to protect him. Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him).

‘Watch the game. That’s good. But don’t really come in and insult the whole society because of this.

‘Reserve the room together, sleep together – this is something that’s not in our concern. We are here to manage the tournament.

‘Let’s not go beyond the individual personal things which might be happening between these people… this is actually the concept.’

Right, where do we start? The Major General’s assertion that he really wants to protect ‘them’?

Qatari protection

Sheikh it off: The Qataris

So, protecting them then would be not exposing them to a punishment of up to seven years in prison and a fine.

And the possibility of death penalty if you are indigenous.

Of course this is for men because just like in Victorian Britain lesbianism wasn’t even considered thing despite upper-class society’s obsession with all things Classical where the Sapphists were chronicled.

Maybe here too Major General you might think.

About criminalising the people who would attack an innocent person simply because which sex they love.

And then what about their concession to gay visitors that they can ‘reserve the room together, sleep together’?

Well evidence this very year has shown that FIFA recommended hotels in Qatar are actively refusing to accommodate same-sex couples.

Or ‘these people’ as the Major General calls them.

Of course it’s not as if we hadn’t been warned.

Bla, bla Blatter

Out of touch: Sepp Blatter

That bastion of integrity, former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter had thought it all a big joke.

When he was asked about a lack of gay rights in Qatar shortly after they were selected in 2010… ‘They should refrain from any sexual activities.’

And the Qataris, naturally, must have seen this as a green light.

Because three years later the head of Qatar’s World Cup bid team, Hassan al-Thawadi, said that everybody was welcome at the event, so long as they refrained from public display of affection.

‘Public display of affection is not part of our culture and tradition’.

To which you can justifiably add… and particularly not when you’re holding hands with, or kissing, a member of the same sex.

American continental LGBTI army

The right path: Pride in West Hollywood

We can console ourselves somewhat that the next World Cup will be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Where people are allowed to express themselves and love each other how they want.

Let’s hope too that by then there will be more than one openly gay professional footballer in the English league structure.

And that this is replicated throughout the country.

And that the sports whitewashing by Middle Eastern and Gulf countries who are buying up, or have bought up Europe’s biggest clibs, does not deter LGBTQIA players from coming out.

Now we’ll leave this heavy but necessary subject.

To get back to checking out where I can get my best Pride experience around here in sleepy North Berwick, near Edinburgh.

A Dutch of class

The future is Oranje: The Oranje Army

But before we go, big hats with feathers off.

To the Dutch politician who suggested that the Netherlands national team play in pink rather than their traditional orange, in solidarity with the LGBTI community.

We’ve not heard whether that this is being taken up by the Dutch football federation.

But having partied with the inclusive Oranje Army on the way to Rotterdam to see them play Greece a number of years ago…

We know the supporters’ only rule is that you love Total Football.

    

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe

Turkiye yeah

And because I’ve been teased all my life about my name and because I love Turks today I’m saying Turkiye yeah.

The Turks have applied to the UN to have the name of their country accepted as Turkiye, pronounced Turkee yeah.

With Onur in Istanbul

And not Turkey as in the name of our favourite Christmas bird.

Or in its modern parlance, meaning a flop.

And I stand guilty of benefiting through riffing any number of headlines as a Travel editor.

The name change sounds reasonable.

And a regular request to the UN from countries, according to Stephane Dujarric.

What’s in a name?

Look at the head on that: Zatec, Czechia

The Czech Republic was born and Czechoslovakia laid to rest when Slovakia went their own way.

Though what happened to the O’s in the divide we never did learn.

The Czechs found too that it soon became long-winded for branding and asked the UN for the change to Czechia (hard k for ch).

And in doing so they are following the precedent of the French who use France instead of their official Samedi name ‘The French Republic’.

Dutch of class

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Now lazy titling becomes wearisome to those of us who have become victims of the bigger country syndrome.

And for those of a Scots, and Welsh, variety it is an occupational hazard to put up with being called English the further we travel.

Similarly in the Netherlands where the short hand of Holland had been used when that should only apply to the north and south of the country.

In 2020 while the rest of us were preoccupied by Covid the Dutch ditched the nickname Holland.

Whatever you call it, and since being alerted to the sensitivities while there for the first time 30 years ago, it’s still Edam good country.

North stars

Fly the flag: North Macedonia football fans

Now putting your place on the compass at the top of your name is always a good idea to differentiate yourself.

And we see it in South Sudan and also in North Macedonia, the latter to placate the Greeks where there is a region, Macedonia.

Throughout the post-imperialist world countries have reclaimed their countries and changed their names to their native tongue.

Shout of Africa

March to Freedom: Siseko and Mandela in SA

And so Swaziland became Eswatini, meaning ‘land of the Swazis’ in their language in 2018, the 50th anniversary of independence from the British throne.

Yes, blink and you can miss the changes and the Port Elizabeth I knew in South Africa’s Eastern Cape has become the Xhosa-clicking Gqeberha… as it should.

In these Celtic countries in which we live (Scotland, Wales, Ireland) there has been a move too to Gaelicise our towns and villages.

Gael force

Piping hot: Scots culture

And during Scotland’s march to freedom, the Gaelic name for Scotland, Alba has raised to prominence.

So here’s to all countries who reclaim their birthright, to Turkiye yeah… and Alba.

Or the Republic of Scotland as we’ll get back to striving for.

Just as soon as this forelock-tugging and curtsying deception, the Platinum Jubilee, is out of the way.

 

Countries

A No1 Finnday Funday

And for the fourth year running it’s the happiest place in the world, it’s a No1 Finnday Funday.

So what do we put Finland’s joy down to… all those icy dips and saunas?

Well, yes, according to the Finns themselves who credit their love of nature.

He’s started so he’ll Finnish

Roll in it: Finland

Heli Jimenez, of Business Finland, explained: ‘We appreciate the small things in our daily lives.

‘Such as sitting quietly on a bench and staring at the empty lake after a relaxing sauna session or taking a morning dip in the sea before starting the working day.’

If you now live in the frozen north of Britain, or Scotland as it’s sometimes called, then it’s a victory for chilly places.

Cry freedom

Happiest place on earth: Paula in Orlando

The UN World Happiness Report looks at perceived freedom, honesty, welfare, good health and generosity.

And a trust in their leaders which has been reciprocated over Covid with that ‘helping to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic.’

Now we’re all of us ambassadors for our countries when we live abroad.

And among my most treasured possessions is the Pleasure To Work With Award that hangs proudly on my wall.

From the Travel trade from my 13 years in Ireland.

And indulge me here but I’d lavish my own praises on unofficial Finnish ambassador to Scotland, and part-time Disney character Paula Murray here.

Among the friends from around the world who I got to meet through Ireland were those who also scored highly for happiness.

Happy talking

Walking on air in Copenhagen

Ireland themselves obvs and it will come as no surprise to our Paddy Party People that they come four places higher than the UK.

The Nordic and Scandi countries and be sure to know the diff.

Denmark, Sweden and Norway are in both alongside Finland, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

The Danes and the Icelanders occupy second and third spots and Sweden and Norway seventh and eighth.

And what they lack in low drink prices which sees cruisers stay dry on on-shore excursions, they make up for in spirit.

And a smile on their faces

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Making up the rest of the top ten are the swish Swiss (4th) and the liberal Dutch (5th),

Tiny Luxembourg (6th) you can get around in a day while Israel (9th) isn’t called the Land of Milk and Honey for nothing.

While the New Zealanders (10th) will be doing the Haka in celebration at being two places above Australia.

It is though refreshing, much like the Nordic air, to see that it’s still a No1 Funday Finnday

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

A kick in the baubles

A kick in the baubles… I’ve lost my battle with The Scary One and her apprentice.

It’s five years since our MLK50 group was serenaded with Merry Christmas Everyone by a Southern singer at an antebellum guesthouse.

The Southern Ball

Southern baubles and belles: Mississippi

And every year when I see the Fairview Inn bauble from Jackson, Mississippi, I think of that Deep South Family…

Her, her husband and their eight kids.

This year though I have to crane my head around the back of the tree to see the Mississippian bauble.

Because The Scary One and her mini-me have decided to hide it there behind glittery shop decorations.

It is a daily ding-dong to get my baubles on the tree…

My belle and her baubles

Masked ball: In Venice

We both love Venice so the Grand Canal bauble makes it.

Greening up: A touch of Irish

While my Irish harp (an extra greening this year didn’t go down well).

Countered, of course, by the red phone box, a symbol of Englishness.

Hat’s a decoration: The Sorting Hat

And a sorting hat and Harry Potter’s Gryffindor scarf.

He’s got bounce: Tigger

Tigger doesn’t deserve to sit below Potter but I expect him to get up the tree.

He has the bounce after all.

A Christmas laaf

Game for a laaf: A touch of Dutch

Up there and deservedly so are my favourite urchins, the Laafs I fell in love with in Ireland.

But who hail from the Netherlands.

Baubles were born in Germany as was the Christmas tree.

So if you were able to get to one of their Christmas markets then you know how tinseltastic they are.

Birthplace of baubles

Birthplace: Lauscha

Lauscha is the birthplace of the bauble and celebrates it every November with its kugelmarket.

Yes, you guessed it, it translates as bauble market.

And it all started in the glassworks of this German mountain town near the Czech border.

With craftsman Hans Greiner moulding the ornaments into the shape of fruit and nuts in 1847 and exporting them to Britain.

Neither of which would work with Santa’s little helper in Chez Murty who clears the tree of hanging chocolate every year.

Before moving my keepsake… it’s a real kick in the baubles.