January 2017

Electric D1

What caught my eye, to stand and draw, was the 19th Century-style Parisian lamp-post outside the shop; Shulah Electric, on Msheireb St, Downtown Doha.

This anachronism chimed with the more recent badge of memory; the chunky hand-set logo on the side of the traditional public telephone booth, leaning slightly, just to my left. That hand-set is just like the one we had at home – it was nicer to hold than an i-phone is. We had one phone on the landing on the top floor at Lillian Rd and there was a ‘party line’ with another house in the street so sometimes we heard someone talking when we picked up and had to say sorry and put it down again. That well-drawn logo is part of an international language of memory, but so much has changed since then.

The curly-queues of the lamp intermingle with the ‘70’s flaired-trouser fonts of the shop’s fascia, in Arabic flowing down the wadi and English flowing up, like the traffic. The patterns of the multitude of light fittings inside the shop and the cranes dancing over the rising skyline of the Msheireb site behind me add to the woven richness.

His Highness the Emir and his son, the Heir Apparent’s pictures are looking out from the panels above the shop. I hope they like the new skyline of the three buildings which were my last big project before leaving A&M. Somehow the bold carved form of the National Archive is more ‘on top of a hill’ even than I had realized it would be. I like it.

Back to the moment, the man sitting at the small kiosk to my right is beginning to shiver, and between me and him, the paving stones in front of me seem even more cracked than ever.

Time flows fast on Msheireb Street, the line of the old wadi, running out to sea.