Two Old Fools go Shopping

October is the month for stock-piling firewood in our little Spanish village of El Hoyo. Evenings are very cool, and by the end of the month Joe and I would be lighting the wood-burning stove nightly. Not so here in the Kingdom of Bahrain where, for just one year, we’re working as teachers in an International School. For the first time in six years, we don’t need to think about logs.



Here in Bahrain, clothes are a problem. The showing of arms and shoulders is unacceptable but neither is it comfortable to wear too much, even in October. The clothes I brought with me from Spain are too warm, or too short-sleeved, and I needed some more to wear to school.

The shopping malls in Bahrain are beautiful; huge, lavish, marbled affairs packed with clothes stores, so I didn’t think refreshing my wardrobe would be a big problem. Wrong.

I’m not a city gal, and I don’t enjoy shopping. Reluctantly I put a day aside to hunt down some new outfits. With Joe trailing behind me, I rifled through racks and racks of clothes, trying to find something suitable. To my surprise, everything on display was low-cut, skimpy, glittery or a combination of all three. Rack after rack of strumpet-wear. How is that possible when Muslim ladies are dressed from head to toe in black, with only their faces (or just eyes) showing? Who buys these clothes?

We deduced something that day. Outwardly, Muslim ladies are the picture of anonymity and decorum, but underneath those veils…who knows what saucy show-girls are lurking?

And these ladies, all dressed in black, posed yet another problem for me this month. It was Parents Evening at school, and the Principal gave an introductory speech. The rows of mothers, all veiled and dressed in black, listened intently. Then the Principal invited parents to introduce themselves individually to us teachers. Soon there was a long queue of black robes waiting to speak to me.

“How is my little Mohamed doing?” asked the first mother.

I couldn’t see enough of her face to work out a family resemblance, plus I have at least five Mohameds in every class. Which of them belonged to this lady? I struggled.

“How is my little Mohamed doing?” asked the second mother.

By the time I had reached the fourth, my reply had been perfected.

“Mohamed’s doing fine,” I’d answer. “Lovely chap, bit chatty – but when he applies himself he can really do well…”