Monthly Archives: April 2012

31. Emirates Road

Every country in the entire world has that one road, that one road that is famous for any reason imaginable.  For example the USA has Route 66, a road that spans the width and breadth of the nation from Los Angeles to Chicago offering sublime views of the former colonies through every conceivable landscape.  Bolivia has The North Yungas Road – which literally translates into the The Road of Death…need I say any more?  The Britain Kingdom has the M25, perhaps the most horrible and grotty metropolitan orbital road in the all the world, famous for it general crapness and congestion.  The UAE has Emirates Road, the E11, a road that runs the length of the land from Ras Al Khaimah toAbu Dhabi.

Emirates Road is at its worst on the Dubai stretch between the E33 (the Al Ain-Dubai Road) and the Sharjah Border.  There are 7 lanes running both northbound and southbound, yet for some reason the vehicles that use the road seem to travel in many directions…either into each other or into the central reservation.  On their roofs.

Bring that road down Mr. Gorbachev, bring that road down

Emirates Road is a lot like Communism.  On paper and then in theory it all made sense.  A wonderful ideology that meant there would be equality, peace and efficiency for all eternity.  Sadly though, in practice it was fundamentally flawed and Karl Marx was left with egg on his face when it all went belly up and Mr. Gorbachev ended up bringing the wall down.  Communism relied solely on the people it controlled all understanding it and following its rules to the letter.  But this was wishful thinking as it is in mankind’s blood to strive for better things.  Inevitably then each man and woman will look after themselves to try to be better off…this goes against the very fabric of the Communist regime.

It is exactly like Emirates Road.  It was designed to allow equal and unhindered passage, so that Lorries, Trucks, Cars and Bikes could run side by side in the greatest show of unity in the history of the world.  But no, everyone wants to be at their destination first, they want to be the fastest vehicle on the road, everyone else is in inferior.  I don’t care if you have a baby on board, get out of my way before my 4×4 eats you.

I have never witnessed such reckless abandon on a single road in all my life.  Whenever my day requires me to traverse this tarmac river of misery I cringe and twist trying to get out of it.  It seems that whenever someone finds themselves on this road they lose their conscience.  They have no regard for the safety of others and if you get to the other end unscathed then you’ve done well.  I cannot a recall a single day where I have not heard of a report of an incident on the Radio.

The solution then?  Just like the Reagan Doctrine, join its opponents and don’t go there…let it destroy itself.

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30. Iiiingliiish

Damn you Collins. I laughed you off at school, where are you now I need you?

It all began centuries ago when the Spaniard Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic in theSanta Maria to prove to the ney-sayers that the world was indeed round, not flat.  Originally he had aimed for India but found a big mass of land known as America in the way.  It was too big to chisel through so it had to remain.  His find led to European awareness of this so called “New World” and as a result lots of colonies started to pop up.

Those fed up of high fuel prices and the EU then started to migrate across the Atlantic to settle down in little wooden towns and wear cowboy hats.  Those from Northern European countries went to the Northern part of America, and those from Southern Europe went to the Southern bit ofAmerica.  It was there that a war began: a war of idiom…English vs Spanish.

Anyway, hundreds of years went by, some stuff happened, some people were killed, some weren’t and as a result English is the third most spoken language in the world after Mandarin and Spanish. There are – according to a Labour poll – 328 million native speakers and 400 million that can “speak” English as a second language.  Obviously Arabic is the national language of the UAE but English is actually more widely spoken due to the internationally cosmopolitan demographics.

Sadly, as it so happens, the English language is one the most complex to grasp.  The reason dates back to middle-age Britain when the gentry were worried about the serfs becoming literate, so the word “thort” was changed to “thought” and “color” became “colour”. This slowed the serfs down by a couple of hundred years but they caught up just in time for the start of the British Imperialism.  So when Sean Bean was over in India, he had his men force our grand old tongue down the native’s throats.  Sadly, the teachers weren’t scholars…

English being as it is then means that the folks who have to learn it as a second language often make mistakes.  There is generally a lot of verb confusion, adjectives pop-up in the wrong place and there is such pro-noun abuse that it is only a stones throw from becoming a criminal offence.  Forget spelling and grammar.

Dealing with the language barrier in the UAE can be infuriating.  I have been into shops many times and asked to speak to someone in English, so they send their finest linguist to me…we then proceed to talk loudly using personal pro-nouns at such volume the windows start to crack.  “Me…this one.  You have?  You have this one?  Yes?  Mafi?”.  See there….I even have to throw in my pigeon Arabic too, like that will help.

Twinned with moving your mouth like a horse and speaking slowly you start making meaningless hand gestures too.  Have you ever tried to make hand gestures to describe to the shop-keep that you want to buy a table?  You are essentially playing Pictionary without the equipment and with someone who doesn’t understand the rules.  It’s a veritable nightmare.

So what may be done?  We can’t go back in time to stop Sean Bean from teaching English; it’s too late, so we have to act.  I raised this point to a friend and he said “learn the language then”.  Sounds like jolly good fun, but which one?  Arabic isn’t an issue, most Emiratis can speak English.  But do I need to learn Tagalog?  Urdu?  Hindi?  Malayan?  Punjabi?  Bangladeshi?  Surely not.  So, I’m going to carry a pocket book and a pencil with me wherever I go and try and convey my thoughts through imagery.  I honestly can’t think of another way to deal with the issue of being unable to communicate.  Who said the English were lazy?

Actually thinking about it, it’s not too different from being in London.

 

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29. Health and Safety

Many blogs ago I recanted you all with a story of how 2 acrobatic plumbers installed a new boiler in my kitchen armed with nothing more than a wrong sized spanner and a shoe lace.  It was poetry in motion.  I made a brief mention of the fact that if the Nazi’s Health and Safety Executive had witnessed such an act take place in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and England and Wales and Scotland Isles then they would either suffer a massive coronary or slap such sanctions of the offender it would eclipse those imposed on Iran.

I read an article today that stated that a massive Health and Safety project is coming our way.  A project aimed at stamping out all the evils of the world by supplying hard hats to bus drivers and high-viz jackets to traffic lights.  I gulped.  I do look around and always instinctively compare what I see here to what I would expect to see at home and my observations are always top-notch pub chatter.  But why will the UAE feel the need to follow the way of the Great United Isles of Kingdom?  It’s an awful model.

I have always worked in an industry that has required me to have lots H&S savvy and exposure, I know the rules.  I know what’s safe and what’s not, I also possess common sense and I know when things “will be ok”.  I don’t care for the Health and Safety Executive and his red-tape regime and am a firm believer that mistakes make the man, you learn from your errors.  The H&S Executive tries to stop us making mistakes, and as such the newer generations aren’t learning for themselves and are totally ignorant to the dangers of the world.  If you want to put your tongue in a live plug socket, go for it, you’ll only do it once though…

New bus drivers uniform 2012: YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR COVERING THE COST IF THIS IS LOST, DAMAGED, EATEN, WORN, SEEN, KNOWN OR EXISTS

People are scared of the Health and Safety Man and his mad power lust and lawyers.  I have seen in the past people going on about not being able to do this, not being able to do that and even shielding behind it when it suits them in order to avoid doing any work…it causes such hindrance.  I can confirm from my own experience that it also makes things a lot more expensive.  Having to take training lessons on how to climb a ladder and so on…its utter madness and the bureaucracy is endless.

Health and Safety in the UAE at the moment isn’t that bad.  In fact I’d go as far to say that it doesn’t really exist, not how we would see it anyway.  It’s all well and good making the motorway workers wear high-visibility jackets and – for reasons I simply cannot understand – wave a red flag.  But have you ever been to a building site?  It’s like a real life version of The Crystal Maze; can you get to the other side without being killed?

There are men using angle grinders with no safety guards.  Oh no it’s ok, they’re wearing a blue set of overalls…twinned with a pair of sandals and no goggles.  None of the equipment has a plug on it…a project stopper back home.  Here?  Nope, just jimmy the live and the neutral wires in there, it’ll be fine.  I charge you to take a look at the scaffolding…it’s no more than a collection of twisted, rusty sticks held together with pure hope.  If the Health and Safety Fuehrer was sent to inspect he’d have to fill out so many forms he would need to destroy the remainder of the Amazon.  Its things like this that should be addressed…not the smaller things.  And this is why I gulped after reading the article.  The target will be missed.

Whilst I would never imply that an employee’s wellbeing should be put at risk, I fear that if the H&S laws over here followed the way of the West the swiftness of simple jobs would be greatly affected.  I don’t think that Johnny Plumber and Joe Electrician would be able to afford all they needed to comply, and if I’m honest even begin to understand all the rules.  They will therefore not be able to work.  So what will we do when they’re gone?

I don’t have the talent to install a boiler barefoot with a shoelace…do you?

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28. Parking

In order for society to function correctly there needs to be a set of rules, there needs to be order.  There needs to be a government that

Left a bit...right a bit...just fold in the wing mirror will you...NO NO NO!!!!!! (Photo courtesy of Paul Granger Photography Ltd.)

doesn’t let the banks do as they please or bow to the pressure of the evil Trade Unions.  There is also a need for courtesy, the will to follow an unwritten code so that mankind can live together in perfect harmony.  Without rules you have anarchy, and as far as my research can prove there is no recorded case of anarchy ever prospering as an economically healthy or socially suitable model.

Look at Somalia as a case in point.  It hasn’t had a stable government since 1991 and as such some of its people like to take small boats out to sea to steal bigger boats and hide the crews in cupboards at gunpoint.  Back on land things aren’t much better as more horrendous crimes are committed each day than you can possibly imagine.  Society doesn’t even exist.  It is therefore safe to assume that Somalia is not going to be chosen to host the World Cup or the Olympics any time soon.

The UAE is the polar opposite of Somalia.  There are many laws, some of which contradict themselves and others that don’t really make any sense.  But nevertheless the laws are enforced when they are needed and as such crime levels are staggeringly low and the UAE is one of the safest places to live in the world as a result.  So that’s all well and good, but what about the rules that aren’t law?  How do they fair in this desert land?  Not well I’m afraid.

All this talk of international anthropology neatly brings me on to the matter of parking.  You can argue with me until you’re blue in the face but white road markings are rules.  They are painted in various locations to inform you that that particular place is a designated parking area and that it has X amount of spaces available.  Good stuff.  Furthermore the white lines indicate where your car should be located in the parking area.  If there are 50 spaces available then 50 cars shall fit.  If however just one person out the 50 fails to follow the instruction of the white lines and decides to straddle them then the remaining 48 cars will all follow suit, and the 49th shall be unable to park at all.

Big deal you say.  So one car out of 50 cant park in a row of bays because one berk can’t navigate between two thin stripes of paint?  Well what if that person needed to go to the bank to pay off a debt to avoid jail?  What if it was near a hospital and his wife was about to give birth?  What if it was you?

We are blessed in the UAE with such a selection of parking spaces and car parks, it’s a parkers dream.  With the exception of Wild Wadi which won’t allow any car inside that is bigger than a Micro Machine car parking couldn’t be easier.  All the bays are angled to make turning in as easy as possible and you are given lots of room to open your doors.  How is it then that people still get it so shoddily wrong?  How can they be that bad?  All cars have a rectangular footprint, all bays are essentially a quadrilateral too… the square goes in the square shape, not the circle…

I’ve got it!  I was procrastinating a bit there trying to come up with a solution, but in a flash of light…  We send the driving schools those toys where indeed you are given an assortment of different shapes and it is up to the user to deduce which hole in the box the shapes should fit into…this would then be a standard part of the driving test and anyone who tries continuously to make the triangle fit inside the octagon is obviously incapable of parking a vehicle and therefore shall fail his or her test…  These under-graduates will soon either come to realise what they are doing wrong and try to remedy the situation or give up altogether and society will be all the better for it…

And who knows?  Maybe one day the Olympics will come to the UAE?

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27. Punctuality

Yesterday morning I drove up to Abu Dhabi.  It was a typical motorway adventure along the E22.  There were 7 ½ ton trucks dangerously overloaded, Toyota Camry’s driving like tools and hogging the middle lane and of course everybody’s favourite: the Toyota Land Cruiser driving at 200 million kph, tailgating me and flashing his lights.  I was in no rush so annoyed him by slowing and before unhurriedly moving over to let him by.  It’s a usual occurrence but this time it got me thinking, where was he going?  Was his wife going into labour?  Had his father been taken seriously ill?  I don’t know but he was in an awful hurry.  One thing I felt was sure was that he was not trying to make an appointment.

I'm late I'm late! Oh my God I'm going to have to take the Land Cruiser to make that dentists appointment!

Timekeeping means jack here.  And that’s a shame.  To arrive late to see someone is to say “your time is worthless to me”, and that is a massive insult.  We read in blog 18 that hands are an important element of good manners in the UAE, and to extend the left one is akin to genocide.  I counter that by insisting that ill-punctual individuals are just as uncouth.

To arrive late after agreeing to meet someone at a certain time is, as far as I’m concerned, more insulting than urinating on them.  But I do understand that sometimes external factors can have a bearing. If for example you are faced with some traffic congestion or you stop to assist at a burning building then a simple phone call to your person in waiting is essential.  If however you are injured or killed on the way to your engagement then fine, not much we can do, but otherwise there are no excuses.

Living in the UAE has taught me a great deal of patience and these days I no longer carry the stress and crows feet I once did.  There have been many, many instances where I have been left standing like a lemon with no call to apologise or to update.  It happens on every level.  I’ve had meetings arranged with high flying individuals that have never happened because the other chap just hasn’t turned up.  I’ve phoned electricians on emergency call outs and despite my insistence that it was indeed an emergency they turn up 6 months later with a bucket and sponge…

My Christmas 2010 was ruined when I was due to meet an IT technician at work on Christmas day itself, he never turned up.  I wanted to peel him and throw him into a barrel of salt.  I was due to meet another IT technician some months later and after agreeing a time again he failed to turn up…was it something to do with Cricket World Cup between India and Pakistan?  You bet it was.  Building contractors?  Yeah the bricks will be here tomorrow…no they won’t.

But we carry on.  About 2 paragraphs ago I lied to you all, I apologise.  I claimed to have become far more patient and to have dispensed with my crows feet.  Whilst in other cases this is true the issue of punctuality still manages to raise my blood pressure to such highs that I could be used as a renewable energy source to power an entire city…

Sadly today I don’t leave you with a solution to this incommodious matter, but a question:  if no one gives a damn about being anywhere on time, why the hell do they drive so fast?

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26. Volume

What is your favourite pub or bar back home?  Me?  I like The Victoria in Surbiton, my local.  It’s a decent old proper urban pub with wood panels, Victorian architecture, Fosters mats and a quaint beer garden in the aft.  I like the ambience, old Ted at the end of the bar with his tankard, the sport on the 14” TV mounted high up in the corner and the insistence that it’s an inviting, peaceful place to go.

Every now and again though they organise a live band to come and play.  Sometimes it’s a tribute band, sometimes an upcoming one or sometimes just a bunch of middle aged men escaping their families for the night.  Whatever, it’s a welcome change and they are generally rather quite good.  It’s something different.  But could you deal with it every night, the same songs over and over?  And the noise?  Hmmm…

The UAE is technically still a developing a country.  Despite the brazen and factually absurd articles you read about the UAE in The Daily Mail and The Sun, it gets a lot of things right.  It has gone from a baron featureless desert to global economic hub in 30 years and should be congratulated.  However there is one thing that needs urgent attention, more so than clean drinking water: hotel bands.

Most are fine.  For example the South African couple that play in The Horse and Jockey are quite good and they play at a volume that still permits you to have a conversation with your fellow pub-goer.  I like to joke with my friends about the lack of variety from one hotel bar to another in terms of what music is played.  It seems that Hotel California is standard issue.  This has made me dislike The Eagles.  It’s all so repetitive that these days I don’t even acknowledge it, it’s just like the CD’s I burn for my car.  Great at first but when it gets played all the time you just switch off.  So in essence it doesn’t bother me, the volume at which it is played however?  Now my finger starts to wag…

There are some bands that insist on cranking their white noise up to 11 and become absolutely hell bent on turning your ear drums into a fine dust.  So as you sit there struggling to order your cool refreshing lager the barman – 1 foot away – thinks that you’re asking for a ticket to Marbella instead of a pint of Stella.  After some curious hand gestures you get your ticket to Marbella and turn to your friend for a conversation.  He is within 12 inches of you and is practically sitting on the same stool, but can you hear him?  Of course not, because Johnny Six-String Shouts A Lot is screaming “Welcome to the Hotel California” into the microphone with seemingly such pain you’d think he was being slowly dissolved by acid.

It gets worse.  As your voice is hoarse due to shouting in your friends ears, you need to keep your throat moist so you look down at your ticket to Marbella and find that most of it is gone, spilled as a result of the contemptible bass abuse.  This is where I have to draw the line.  As I am your servant I will not allow this to continue.  After hours in the blog laboratory (the Lablogatory – I know, I know) toiling with my literary chemistry set I have come up with a theory that I have carefully tried and tested.

I call it “Fullard’s Law”.  Fullard’s Law is simple.  It is an uncomplicated calculation of the number on the volume dial in reference to the number of people in the room.  For instance, if there are between 1-10 people in the bar, then the volume dial should be set to 1.  If there are 11-20 patrons quaffing flagons of Mead in the bar then you may raise the volume to 2 and so on in this fashion.  The odds are that if your bar is full of young ragamuffins – numbering in excess of 100 – they want to party.  So crank up the noise and I’ll go somewhere else.  But if the only people in the bar are the barman, you, me and William Shatner then I want some peace so I can enjoy the conversation and not leave with chronic tinnitus.  It’s all about ratios and I beseech that hotel management take note of my findings.

Of course the alternative is to just buy a CD and play it over and over.  Because then we can just skip The Eagles…

"AAAAHHHHHHHHH HOTEL CALIFORNIA AAAAAAAHHHHHHH I'M BEING DISSOLVED BY ACID AAAAHHHHH AAAAAHH!!!!!!!!" You'll be quiet when Fullard's Law is passed.

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25. Stalkers

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re being followed?  I do.  Back home I used to spend most of my nights (and money) out in Kingston-upon-Thames getting inebriated. The routine generally required me to walk along the Thames riverbank to get home at the end of the proceedings, or if I was feeling brash, through a non-too-pleasant council estate.  It never ever used to bother me, even the time when a delightful fellow leapt from a bush with a knife and an accent, no drama.  Carry on my good man.

Right, thats Aldo, H&M and Guess taken care of... next visit...River Island...lock and load

However, as I power through my late 20’s I have become more aware of the dangers others can pose, so I tread with caution.  Sadly my prudence must give way to the fact that sometimes I need to buy things, and this – rather desolately – means that I have to go into shops.  And that can be scarier than walking along the riverbanks of London’s mugger hideout on a dark foggy night under a full moon, on Friday 13th.

Last week I needed a t-shirt.  Well a polo shirt.  So I popped along to Mall of the Emirates in TooManyFlyOversNotEnoughSignsCity, or Dubai to you and me.  The first shop I visited was fairly neutral with all the garments hanging on either side.  As I approached the rack of choice my sixth sense that I was being followed pricked up.  I saw in the corner of my eye that indeed I was being watched.  No sooner than I could get to the other side was I quite rudely asked if I needed any help.  I left immediately.

The next shop I went into was very boisterous.  For reasons I don’t fully understand they insisted on playing some sort of very loud electro music, but still I traversed their wood-strip floor with a degree of trepidation and proceeded to study the goods.  There it was again.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and sure enough, after turning to my left there she was, the shop assistant, staring at me as if I had just parked my spaceship in the food court.  “Sir you need any help?”  I was gone in a flash.

The next stop was a slightly more upmarket place, my confidence was high that my mission would end here.  I went over to the rack of choice to examine the material and stitching of the garments.  As I sifted through the hanging items I happened across a pair of eyes staring back at me through the polyester and cotton undergrowth… “Yes Sir can I help?”  See ya.

I don’t get it.  Why do they all do this?  If I enter a shop then I like to be left alone.  In actual fact I find it deeply insulting if I’m asked for help.  It’s a clothes shop so there is a high probability that I am looking at clothes.  No, I’m an idiot, I need help in a clothes shop; do you have any car batteries?  I have no issue at all if the shop assistant says “Good morning” to me, that’s fine.  But stay over there behind your counter and stop stalking me around the shop, because I will leave and you will have just cost your firm 200 Dirhams.

So what are we all going to do to tackle this menace, this scourge of society?  The problem is deeply rooted and as far as I can tell is evident in every single retail outlet without exception.  This means that logistically speaking we can’t cut the head off the snake.  We must act on the individuals as we encounter them by giving them a taste of their own medicine and applying guerrilla tactics .  So for example, the next time you enter a shop, home in on the nearest attendant and invade their personal space.  No touching, never touching.  Just get up close and personal. When they move, follow them.  Mirror their every move.  Ask them if they need any help and don’t give them any if they say yes.  If we all work together then I’m confident that the enemy will soon come to realise how irritating their stalking actions really are.  Giveth to them what hath been giveth to you.

Nice idea actually, I wonder if the same approach would work on those funny chaps with the knives and accents that hang out by the Thames…

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24. Waiters

What’s the stupidest question you have ever been asked?  I’m not referring to those preposterous pub table questions like “who would you rather sleep with, SuBo or a mound of dung?” or “if you could choose, would you rather be dropped into a volcano or beheaded with a spoon?”  These are stupid.  I’m talking about actual questions asked by the hum-drum individuals of the every day bustle?  Got one?  Right, now where were you when said question was asked?

I’m going to hazard a guess and say that it was asked by a waiter or waitress in a café here in the UAE.  Did I get it right?  No it’s not sorcery, its common knowledge.  There is something about waiters and waitresses in the UAE that, for reasons I can’t quite fathom, means that they all ask daft questions.  Not all, the guys in the Horse and Jockey and Paco’s for example are brilliant.  But elsewhere…

Recently I popped into a coffee outlet and asked for an Americano coffee to go, and a croissant.  I waited several years and eventually the

The solution? The standard issue mug with instructions on the side. You can buy them from the electrical shop...

cold brown mud arrived in a take-out cup.  The croissant appeared on a plate.  The lady behind the counter became very confused as I persisted to explain that if I wanted the coffee to take out, then there was a high probability that I wanted the croissant to go too.  “Ah Sir you want this one?”  as she held the brown paper bag aloft.  “Yes” I retorted with exhaustion.  This happens frequently.

Yesterday my friend and I went to a café renowned for good food but diabolical service.  We ordered eggs Benedict for yours truly and a chicken sandwich for my chum.  My friend also ordered a chicken soup to go, so she could have something to eat at work later.  The response of the waitress?  “Would you like it today?”  No, next Tuesday will be fine…

There’s more, when asking for a white coffee I was told that they don’t sell white coffee, so I had to write down a set of instructions that explained that a white coffee begins life as a black coffee and the simple addition of milk completes the transition.  I was given some of that Rainbow crap, which is not milk.  More?  Yes, plenty.  Being English I generally make my orders with a “side of chips”, not “fries”.  So when having asked for a side of chips, I was asked if wanted fries on the side…  I once asked for the cheque for a meal, and was asked back if I wanted the bill too…  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of them are great.  The waiters and waitresses in my local bars are fine.

Sometimes I dread going to a restaurant more than if I had to scale the outside of the Burj Khalifa without a harness.  The psychological trauma of ordering anything is just too much after a hard day at the office.  So is there anything we can do to manage the headache?  Fortunately I am here as always with a solution.  Once seated at your table (assuming you are not asked to sit in a bin), present your waiter of waitress with the following aptitude test:

 

  1. Read all of the following questions and instructions.
  2. What animal goes moo?
  3. Please ignore instruction 1 and go directly to question 10.
  4. Who was the Greek God of fire?
  5. Who scored Wimbledon’s 36th minute winner in the 1988 FA Cup final?
  6. What is name given to the event whereby a flower absorbs the suns rays?
  7. Touch your nose.
  8. Please stand on the table and do the Macarena.
  9. Make a sound like a sheep.
  10. Congratulations.  Now I will decide whether you are smart enough to be my waiter or waitress.

It may cause some confusion at first, so as a favour to you all I’m going to go out and test it.  I’ll be back in an hour.

1 hour later.

Well I’m back and sadly the aptitude doesn’t work.  My waitress did well.  She didn’t know anything about photosynthesis, but nor did she do the Macarena or “Baa” like a sheep.  Sadly, my coffee turned up on a plate and my milk on a fork…  And then I was asked if I wanted salt in it.

Back to the drawing board. 

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23. Shops

Tomatos! Get your fresh jersey tomatos here! Tomatos 8 for a pound!

Living in the UAE has taught me that logic is never to be taken for granted.  Some things make a lot of sense, for example shops of the same nature have to all be in the same place.  Al Ain has many perfect examples of this; there are countless mobile phone repair shops all in one place, just as all the electrical shops are within close proximity on the other side.  As a time saving exercise this is splendid, plus it helps to keep the competition healthy and the prices down.  But there is a flip side to this hallmark of convenience; do any of these shops sell what you might expect?

Back home in England-land – and presumably every other nation in the world with the possible exception of Chad– if you want to buy a decent lamb shank you visit your local butcher.  It’s the same for clothes.  If you wake up one day and fancy a new pair of jeans you head to a clothes shop that you like.  You do not go into Caffe Nero’s and ask if they have something in a size 34 waist.  Here in the Emirates anything is possible.

Last year at work we were organising a very big event. The work involved was epic.  During the build up I needed several thousand things every minute of the day, one of those things was an electric fuel pump, which sounds simple enough.  So with my associate we headed into Al Ain’s industrial area; Sanaiya.  I know the area quite well so started my search for this fuel pump in the hardware stores.  They are like Aladdin’s caves these places but the one thing they did not have was the very thing I needed.

I then decided to broaden my search and that next I would try the marine equipment places.  Nothing.  I then went into several electricians where again no one could help.  We visited around 30 places and my temper was beginning to flare.  Whilst stuck at another set of needless traffic lights I happened to notice a lighting shop on the other side.  I still don’t know how I got drawn in but I entered and approached the desk.  I asked the man if he had any idea where I could find my elusive fuel pump. Through his ill groomed moustache and 4 teeth he asked me what size I wanted.

Through all the hanging chandeliers and drive way lights, there, lined up on the floor in the bay window was a selection of fuel pumps.  In a lighting shop?  I asked the man why he was the only person in the world to sell such a combination of things, chandeliers and fuel pumps?  He looked at me like I was an idiot.  I couldn’t work out the logic.  This guy runs a lighting shop, yet sells fuel pumps and not light bulbs.  Regardless though, he had saved me.

Thinking about it, it was a master stroke of genius.  This man had obviously been into every shop in Sanaiya and happened to notice by chance that there was a gap in the market.  I think he’s on to something for sure.  How many times have you been in Zara Home and suddenly realised that you need a leg of lamb?  Or how many times have you been in Aldo and wanted to buy a Luger P08 so you can shoot yourself in the face?  There is definitely something in this.

I don’t really have too much more to say on the matter other than you can get whatever you want over here in the UAE, but you just have to know where not to look…

 

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22. Revelation

The other day I was asked by a fan (or ‘poor unfortunate individual who accidentally stumbled across the blog’ as I like to call them) if I actually liked the UAE at all.  Apparently he finds my blogs most amusing but claims that I focus an awful lot on the negatives.  He’s right, I do.  Because it’s funny.

I enjoy living in the UAE very much.  The nuances that make up the fabric of life over here are all part of the experience, whether it’s encountering a man driving on the wrong side of the road, government officials playing Angry Birds whilst at work or plumbers installing boilers with shoe laces, I love it.

I read a few other blogs written by expatriates living in the UAE and whilst they’re all good they generally cover the same sort of stuff.  They will highlight problems or issues and talk about them, and that’s fine.  I however like to observe, analyse and present solutions or advice on how to tackle the hurdles in which we face.

One thing I didn't learn in Y12 geography was that the UAE economic climate is as good as it's ambient climate... how about that Mrs. L?

Elsewhere I am forever hearing people moaning about the UAE and I truly don’t understand why.  When you come over here you are given accommodation, sometimes a car, medical insurance, you don’t pay tax (well, you pay stealth tax but more on that another day), you’re able to save lots of moon pie and you generally have a superb quality of life, one that you could only dream of having elsewhere.

Ok so I live in Al Ain, not exactly the party capital of the UAE but so what?  I work 5 days a week and on my 2 days off there’s nothing stopping me driving 90 minutes up the road to either Dubai or Abu Dhabi for a jolly up.  It’s an on-tap luxury.  What would I do if I was living back home in London at the weekend?  Head down to Brighton to run away from keen homosexuals or head up to London on a night out and realise that I can’t get home because the last train left an hour ago and the next one will be a million years?  And I can’t afford a kebab to keep warm.

Do I get homesick sometimes?  Yes of course I do, but I then speak to my friends a lot and they are forever telling me that thanks to Gordon Brown they haven’t got any money for a half pint of shandy or a loaf of Hovis.  This is something that I haven’t got to worry about. Europe is in peril and the British government is so far in the red that soon they’ll run out of red ink.

Living is all about quality of life, and what quality of life is it to have 90% of your wages eradicated by bills, rent and beer each month?  None at all and that will drive you to the brink of insanity.  I never went to University and was told by my Year 12 Geography teacher Mrs. L that I was a bum and would never amount to anything.

But I think I’ve made my point.  I love the UAE because although you sacrifice being near to your friends and family all the time, they’re always only a phone call or email away.  You can have a quality of life out here that is second to none, and you don’t even need a degree – or brain – to do it.  The great Western ship is sinking and the money and life quality lies to the east.

So, this weekend I’m off to stay on the boat and have a few lagers.  How do you like that Mrs. L?

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