Monthly Archives: July 2012

69. Hotline

I remember my Media Studies teacher at college, Mr. Roberts…or Robertson…Rob-something or other, said to us “life only gets harder from here”.  It wasn’t exactly the moral boosting statement one wanted to hear, but in essence he was correct.  That avowal has stuck with me for 10 years and for 10 years I have tried to live by a motto: “let’s keep it simple”.  I see no point in trying to make things complicated when there are easy alternatives available.  What is the point, to impress people with your intellect?  To prove to others that you have a different way of thinking and that you are unique?  I fear so, but, and you won’t like this, you’re wrong.  Simplicity is the key to achieving goals.  The simplest idea is the usually the best one.

The UAE is known to not always do things the easy way.  There are many levels of bureaucratic people trying to justify their existence in the big companies.  There are lots of surplus people working for big multinationals who think that just because they live in the UAE that somehow gives them the right to a high salary for very little product.  So what these desperado’s do is come up with complicated new fangled ideas to prove their so-called worth.  Imagine a child being told to draw a straight line between “A” and “B”, but instead the child draws a never-ending squiggle that does loop-the-loop 147 times.  Do you see?  The extra time, money, effort and human cost is all superficial and un-necessary.

So what I want to know is who is responsible for creating this new centralised call centre that takes our home delivery orders?  The numbers start with 6005 and every takeaway restaurant seems to have one, from high-street names to the small curious ones that I’m sure fall below the recommended Health & Safety standards.  On the surface it sounds like a good idea, but in reality it has undone all my years of hard work.  You may recall 63 blogs ago – 6. Directions – that ordering a pizza was a hellish task.  Since there is no address system over here whenever you order out you have to spend several hours in a look-out post guiding the moped in via the stars with a compass.  The solution I posed was to get the mobile phone number of the driver and contact him directly each time you want to eat something fat and grotty.  Alas no more.

That’s it, yep…now turn left……right… left……that’s it right……

The other week I tried to order a pizza.  I called the usual man but he told me that I had to call the 6005 number.  I did so and spoke to someone in the central office.  I had to explain where I lived all over again before placing my order.  The lady on the phone was in Abu Dhabi and had never even heard of Al Ain, I knew then that I was in for more than I had bargained for.  Then inevitably after a few hours my phone rang, it was the delivery driver asking where I lived.  I guided him in under the northern star and eventually received my stone cold pizza.  Then a few days ago I wanted another pizza.  I called the 6005 number once more and had to give all the coordinates again.  After that the person on the phone spoke up and said that she had those details already; great.  Another few hours passed by and yep, a different delivery driver called to ask for directions.  So I went back up into the crows nest with the binoculars and navigated the moped in once more.

This concept is totally flawed.  Life was so simple when I only had to call the guy who knew where I lived.  I was a happy, satisfied customer but now I am angry.  I don’t order takeaway as much as I used to on account of my shrinking waistline but when you finish work at midnight the last thing you want to do is turn the stove on and start preparing the vegetables.  By the time you’ve laid the table, the sun has risen and its time for breakfast.

The only silver lining with this inconvenient centralised call centre is that it has put me off ever wanting to order takeaway again.  This will please my girlfriend as she will no longer have to make extra holes in my belts.  But, on the flip side, this is going to be detrimental to the local economies.  I’m sure I won’t be alone in the takeaway exodus and as such the business’s involved are going to start losing money.  If their sales strategists and marketing consultants are even half smart they will look back through the figures and notice that things started to slide when they signed up to this 6005 business.

This will hopefully mean that the businesses in question will need to cut back and hopefully the people who signed them up for the call centre in the first place will get the boot and justice will be served.  It’s un-necessarily complicated when the simple solution that existed beforehand worked just fine.

Then maybe, just maybe, the work-shy jobs-worth’s will become a thing of the past and we – the real hard-workers – can prove Mr. Roberts* wrong…

*Fairly sure it was Roberts and not Robertson or Robinson, good teacher.

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68. Walking

“One does not wish to walk there. The boy shall make alternative arrangements”

I was watching the most surreal, psychedelic performance on TV last night.  At first I thought I was drunk.  I was not.  Then, as a never-ending parade of people holding flags from countries I am still not convinced actually exist walked by I became fairly certain that I had been drugged.  One minute 007 was in BuckinghamPalace and then the Queen was jumping out of a helicopter, then Mr. Bean was on his iPhone.  There were a load of people doing an impression of Clement Atlee’s National Health Service then some clouds.  There were some weird dancers dancing to a sun and then, after the parade of made up countries had finished, David Beckham set fire to Sir Steve Redgrave whilst His Royal Highness The Lord Sir Sebastian Coe was talking about something before another man started talking about the same thing.  After the Nazi salute that made Boris Johnson laugh some children ran around the place and set fire to some sticks that moved and made a bigger fire.  Then there were more fireworks and a Beatle.

All the bewildering frolics were too much, even Salvador Dali would have had to take a time out.  I decided to pop out for some fresh air.  Back home in London I used to like going for a nice walk.  The clear air, the trees, the greenery, knock the UK all you like it has some of the most breathtaking places on Earth.  A walk is invigorating.  It clears the head and paves the way for calculated, rational thought.  It is something that is so simple and so therapeutic.  It is the only thing in the entire world that you can do for free, no matter who you are or where you are.

But of course the location or route of your walk is the most crucial thing.  You will enjoy a vigorous constitutional so much more if you are walking through the Surrey Downs than you will if you are walking along Streatham High Street late on a Friday night.  The surroundings of trees, tweeting birds and grass are all you need.  Not sirens, stabbings and sewage.

So I left the apartment late last night for a stroll to try and understand what it was I had just witnessed.  After about 74 yards I decided that I was too hot.  It was 1am and still 42 Celsius.  But I traversed despite my moist pits.  About 10 minutes in, as the sweat began to saturate my clothing, I realised that – with all due respect – there aren’t many pleasant walking surroundings in Al Ain.  Yes there are parks, but single men aren’t allowed in those, and at 1am I am in agreement.  The only trees are palm trees, but they are all in the central reservations of the roads.  There is no change in gradient, unless you want to walk the 30km to Jebel Hafeet, a mountain that sits alone like a beached whale and rises some 4000 feet.  All you have are square grid blocks cornered by 4 roundabouts, with sandy linings where nothing is happening, a few really nice big houses and few a hovels.  There is no surrounding beauty to marvel at.

I continued around the block passing the occasional working street lamp and open sewage works and thought to myself what may be done?  There are some nice places in Al Ain, like the Green Mubazzarah, and the summit of Jebel Hafeet.  There is also that road that runs to Al Ain Airport where they filmed Top Gear that gives you a superb view of the desert.  But the problem is they are not within walking distance, you have to drive there.  Then, to fully appreciate them you have to go in the day time when it’s 3 million degrees outside.  You can’t just go for a walk around the block and get lost in the local splendour.

Let’s be honest, Abu Dhabi and Dubai don’t fair much better.  Ok you have Dubai’s beaches and Abu Dhabi’s corniche, nice places but again, you have to get there via a mode of transport, and that defeat’s the purpose.  They will also be crowded and full of people you don’t want to talk to.

I used to walk to school, walk to the shops, walk to the park with my friends, walk into town and of course walk to the pub.  In London this simple pleasure is taken for granted.  Once you come to the UAE, particularly in the summer months, the concept of walking is as surreal and as psychedelic as that weird opening ceremony business last night.  There is no quick fix solution to this matter, but I have found myself asking some questions.  If recession-battered Britain can afford to pay £35 million for a 3 hour show, or indeed £9.3 billion for a 2 week egg and spoon race, then surely the flush UAE can afford to tidy up the local streets in areas where not just the rich and famous live.  What we do about the heat at 1am however will require a more scientific solution.  Sadly, I arrived home after my walk last night even more confused and spaced out than when I left.  And I was also in grave need of a shower.

So there we have it, the cause of Dubai Stone and the UAE being the 5th most obese country in the world has been discovered…

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67. Road Surprises

“Sorry I was late to the Jazz club… I missed exit 44 and had to do a U-Turn at Mall of the Emirates”

Can we be honest for a minute?  Is there any such thing as a genuine road surprise in the UAE?  I mean it’s total bedlam most of the time with people weaving and swerving across 10 lanes, racing, excessively speeding and crashing into each other, there really is little that can surprise the experienced UAE motorist.  Of course the common denominator with all the foibles is that the offences, or surprises if you will, are committed by human beings.  This is the same species that invented the light bulb, the automobile, the Saturn V5 rocket, the iPhone and Kim Kardashian.  The usual road offenders are from an exclusive club, the club of mankind.  The only known race in the entire universe that can harness electricity and that can communicate with each other instantly from opposite sides of the world and that can travel into space.  We should all be very proud of ourselves.

You therefore assume that since one man was able to invent the steam locomotive that another man would know how to indicate in order to change lanes on Emirates Road.  Not so I’m afraid.  The human race is like no other, our intelligence spectrum ranges from mathematical genius’s like Albert Einstein to, well there’s no point being rude, but someone very thick.  Dog’s generally all have the same level of intelligence, they all sit, heel and bark on command.  Zebra’s are the same; they all have the same mindset as each other.  You will never meet a Giraffe that can build a space rocket, just like you will never meet a Giraffe who stares at the TV all day dribbling watching Kim Kardashian, they are all the same.

But what happens if you are to mix the staid animal race with the hustle and bustle of the busy human rush hour?  You may have stumbled across an article in the news this week about a rogue camel running amok near Dubai Marina.  The video highlights a couple of key points that I think will put us in our place.  But first, the nitty gritty facts…  Did you know that camels are protected by law in the UAE?  Ok, you probably did, but did you know that they are third overall in the class structure?  It’s true.  Did you also know that if, when driving, you hit/kill a camel with your car you have to pay AED 10,000 (£1,750)?  That’s if you whack the thing at night, if you clout into one in the day time the fee for replacement is AED 20,000 (£3,500).

Camels are like cows, they are phenomenally heavy.  A full grown camel can weigh up to 1550lb, that’s over 700kg.  If you are travelling in your Datsun Sunny at 120 Kommunists Per Hour (75 MPH) and you hit a 1550lb camel I fear that you may not survive to pay the dowry.  If by the grace of God you do not succumb to un-survivable injuries when what is effectively crashing into a concrete wall, then you are going to bankrupt yourself.  And this may mean no turkey for Christmas.

So, back to the viral sensation.  The camel was sighted galloping in the middle lane of an overpass.  He was giving it the beans for sure.  But what struck me about the majestic beast was that he was following the driving code more thoroughly than about 75% of the human population.  He was sticking to his lane for starters, between the white lines.  He, or possibly she, it was hard to tell, also knew that there was a car undertaking him/her.  This of course was the camera car, which drew alongside on the rogue camels port side, the camel didn’t swerve over, it looked over its shoulder, saw that there was a car there and maintained its trajectory.

The whole thing was marvellous.  Even the most navigational savvy men and women in the entire world have been known to get lost in Dubai and fall to their knees in tears of despair.  I’ve been there too, driving around in circles looking for a quick way out, swerving across 2-3 lanes just to get off the flyover.  The cameraman even stated that he believed the camel was lost, and rightly so.  But it was the way the camel maintained dignity by not swerving into the path of others, by not leaping in front of the other road users.  It showed a level of consideration seldom seen between humans.

The fate of the camel remains unknown, as does the location of the start of his voyage.  I do suspect however that the minder of the camel made a mistake by not doing his job properly.  An escaped camel could easily have caused so much carnage.  It just goes to prove that a human being made a cock-up, a big one.  He let a camel out on to the streets of Dubai.  The camel found him/herself on a busy Dubai road yet – I think – dealt with the situation superbly, better than a lot of people who have been lost when driving in Dubai.

So there we have it, the answer is found, yes there are genuine road surprises in the UAE, and it’s not as bad as you think.  The camels know how much they cost to replace and this escapee did his best under difficult circumstances to ensure he didn’t inconvenience other road users.  Camels are higher up the class structure for a reason.  Like all animals, they may all have the same level of intelligence as one another, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

They put a lot of humans to shame…

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66. Tanning

I hate reality TV.  I hate scripted reality TV even more.  Keeping up with the Kardashians, Jersey Shore, The Only Way is Essex, something to do with Chelsea, Geordie Shore, Big Brother.  It is all so dreadfully hateful that if I stumble across so much as one of the characters in any of these shows online, then my laptop is launched through the nearest window.  I go through quite a lot of laptops.

Fans of these shows generally stay out of my way for fear of me throwing them out of windows too.  However, when my rage it neutered by beer I have been known to answer the following the question: “Wot iz it bout it dat you ‘ate Maaaarty?”

So much.  I hate the attention seeking, the vanity and the cut-away to the studio when Kim is running us through a commentary about how her important business meeting is going.  Quiet you.  You know what is going to happen because you have already filmed it.  I hate how people think it is real.  I hate the pretentiousness, I hate the fact that no-nothings with an IQ of 6 have been rewarded for being stupid when those with high IQ’s and those that work hard to earn a decent living get little to nothing.  Stephen Hawking, David Attenborough, Paul Merton, these are all real role models.  But the thing I hate most of all however is the fake, luminous, terracotta-coloured tanning and the lifestyle and gobby attitude it seems to adopt.

“Oompa Loompa, do-ba-dee-doo,
I’ve got a perfect puzzle for you.
Oompa Loompa, do-ba-dee-dee,
If you are wise you’ll listen to me.
What do you look like if you frazzle all day?
No colour exists that’s all i can say.
What are you at getting terribly orange?
What do you think rhymes…with…orange?
I don’t like the look of it”

It is detestable and anyone who thinks that being the same colour as the jacket of the man who empties your bins is out of their tiny, knowledge starved minds.  I return to the Costa del Thames once a year, and each time I am quizzed by those around me why I am not burnt to a crisp.  Stranger’s who I try to impress by telling them that I live out here don’t believe me as my skin is as white as the head on their lager.

People believe that when you come to live in the UAE you automatically become brown or orange.  But, in most cases, you end up red, for a few days before it all starts to fall off and you end up all white again.  The first few months of living in the UAE is a novelty, particularly if you come from a miserable, grey little island like Britain.  But after a while the sun becomes a nuisance.  It is ultimately a big burning ball of fire that wants to hurt you.  To willingly be out in it all the time is uncomfortable and confusing.

What are the benefits?  What are the pros of having skin with the same texture as a handbag and the same colour as a Satsuma?  You don’t need much sun to top up on vitamin D, and as far as my in-depth research corroborates that is about the only medical benefit of sunlight.  Hey, there is nothing wrong with lounging by the pool browning yourself for an hour or so every day, it can be quite relaxing, but there are limits.  If you look like a fillet steak then you have gone too far.  Mix that with a horrible trashy accent and the inability to talk like a human being and you have a disaster on your hands.  They lose their sense of personality and become a clown.  It just – and pardon the pun – gets under my skin.

So with skin cancer foremost on my mind I try to spend most of my time trying to avoid the sun in the summer months.  When it’s 45 Celsius outside and getting hotter the last thing I want to do is go to a beach and lie underneath the fiery orb just for the pleasure of being told “oh my God, you’re like well tanned.”  I’m white, with occasional panda eyes, for comfort.  I don’t want skin with the texture of a peeled cow or the colour of a high visibility jacket.

I don’t have a problem with modest use of fake tan either.  If you are a woman – not a man – and you want to slap some canned tan on, no worries.  But remember that a little dab will do you.  If you empty the tin all over yourself and walk around with lumps of it dripping off then I’m afraid the rest of us aren’t going to want to talk to you.

Nine times out of ten the tanning club don’t annoy me, if it helps you feel better about yourself then I am all for it.  It’s nice to sit on the beach or by the pool, it’s ok to glob on a bit tinned tomato, but it’s the attitude that abuse of these activities breeds.  Have you ever seen an episode of Geordie Shore?  For reasons I won’t explain, I have.  White and pale, they’re bearable, the second one of them turns orange and that’s it.  Society has fallen.  They are obsessed with their skin colour and honestly believe that looking like an egg yoke attracts the opposite sex.  It doesn’t, believe me.

So a message to that 2% of people in the UAE who live by the sun, die by the sun: By all means carry on grilling yourself, but stop embarrassing us in front of our hosts and please, for your own safety, be quiet…  The rest of us are trying to think.

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65. Beggars

“Scuze me mate, got any spare change? Ah fanks pal.”

The world and controversy go together like strawberries and cream.  No matter what you do or when you do it you are bound to upset somebody.  Thankfully because I’m half English and half British I can call upon scores of examples to back up my assertion.  Those living in the 80’s may recall the Conservative’s Section 28.  Basically the Tory old guard made legislation that local authorities may not willingly promote homosexuality.  Ok, whether you agree or not is irrelevant, it was hugely controversial.  Staying with dear old Margaret for a moment, you may remember something called the Poll Tax.  This involved an ill-calculated effort to raise funds to help pay for the shooting of people.  In 1997 Tony Blair was elected to power, that in itself was controversial and you may recall a small debate about a country called Iraq, a man called Saddam and a few thousand invisible weapons of mass destruction.  And an idiot called Alastair Campbell.

On a lesser scale there are bank charges to be paid.  There is fuel duty on the rise.  There are unfair systems that are sadly designed on logic.  There is little winning for the authorities and they have us all believe that we are in it together.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

It was announced this week that the authorities are to be clamping down on beggars.  In case you are not familiar with the concept, a beggar is a person who begs for things, whether it is for money, food, clothing or an invasion of an oil rich state.  There are many ways of begging, you can knock on somebody’s front door or you can approach them on the street.  The goal of the task to acquire something you did not have previously.

Sadly, beggars come in two different forms, there are genuine paupers who have one day found that they have no home, no money, no food and no hope, and there are those who are villains.  Sometimes it is jolly difficult to tell between the two.  So, to be safe we have all been told that if we report a beggar, we are to be rewarded with some cash.  How much cash you get depends on the size of the beggar, I presume.

Now, how would I deal with this?  I would feel tremendously guilty about sending a real beggar to jail, but would quite happily condemn a charlatan.  So what do I do to fathom between the two?  Johnny Beggar turns up at the front door, should I invite him in?  Should I ask him some questions in a language I very likely won’t be able to speak?  Should I just give him – or indeed her – AED 5 or a KitKat and take the hit?  I don’t know.  There isn’t enough time to sufficiently screen the candidate.  And then on top of that are they going to be willing to hang around for the police?

What perplexes me about the whole thing is that it is being automatically assumed that all beggars are frauds and that the truth is they are all driving around in BMW’s wearing Ted Baker suits with bikini clad super models in the back.  I doubt this is so.  Sure there will be a few fraudsters, but I am fairly certain a lot of the poor folk are completely desperate.  This is going to cause some people a great deal of confusion.  So a beggar comes to your door, you call the old bill and let them know.  Then what, you invite the poor soon-to-be-jailbird in for tea?  Apprehend them with rope?  This is the kind of thing that has ramifications.  What if someone doesn’t like someone else and wrongfully accuses them of being a beggar just to get the cash?  No, no, no there are just too many flaws with this plan.

Why are we being offered cash in exchange for beggars?  If that money is sitting there in the desk drawer and you’re going to give it away anyway then why not give it to the beggar?  Provided you have asked them a couple of questions to make sure they are not pulling your leg, the cash influx will allow them to perhaps go and buy a Big Mac, or get a bed for the night.  I don’t consider myself very libertarian or even humanitarian, but I am a sucker for hard-luck cases.  I can only begin to imagine how terrifying it must be to wake up one morning and realise that I have nothing but the clothes on my back.

The new policy may indeed be good for the gander, but it certainly looks like the goose is going to jail…

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64. Maradona

I was born in 1984 and by my calculations that makes me 27 years old.  This then proves that I am in my 20’s and as such have no business or affiliation with the word “old”.  People in their 90’s are old.  Not people in their 20’s, or 30’s, or 40’s, or 50’s.  So it came as a great surprise to me when I was told last night by a dribbling alcoholic that I was a “grumpy old man who was past it”.  Past what remains a mystery.  But after having spooled back through the last 60 or so blogs it is clear that above all else I do enjoy a good moan.  And damn right too.  It’s easy to compliment and praise and be happy, but this runs no risk and can be quite boring.  I like to grouse and lament because it’s funny and, more often than not, true.

So, after promising the slobbering alcoholic that my next missive would be a more cheerful one, I have this to say…

Shilton: “Oi mate, you’ll need mi gloves!” Maradona “No it’s ok, do you have a £10 note I can borrow?”

…Maradona was a rubbish football manager.  Yep, true.  Maradona was not however a poor football player.  He was one of the greatest of his generation, arguably one of the greatest of all time, up there with John Fashanu.  He could even score goals with his hands, which is something that no one else could do, even the referee basked in his glory.  But why on earth did Dubai based football team Al Wasl employ him as their manager?  That’s like employing Paris Hilton to pilot Air Force One.  Ok, she is brilliant at running her hotel chain but that is a completely different profession to flying a Boeing 747 with the President of United States on board.  By the same logic I could be employed as a neurosurgeon.

Maradona’s football management career has been fruitless thus far.  He managed two Argentinean clubs between 1994 and 1995 with no success whatsoever.  Then, after sniffing lots of cocaine, he ended up managing the Argentine national squad in 2008.  His time at the helm there was also fruitless.  He barely got the team to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and oversaw Argentina’s biggest defeat in history, losing 6-1 to Bolivia, a team that play without boots, or even a ball.  He was sacked after the 2010 campaign and before you knew it he was drafted into Al Wasl in May of 2011.

Of course I’m asking you a question that I have already answered.  Why was he employed as manager in the first place?  Why did Al Wasl want to be affiliated with a player whose career was decorated in equal measures of brilliance and disgrace?  Well obviously it was for publicity.  Sadly, he was highly incompetent and as such there has been plenty of publicity, all of it bad.  And now he has been sacked from his post rendering all of the investment completely and utterly worthless.  This is the problem when money is no object; you go out and buy the big main brand that everyone knows.  We all know that if you do your research and you shop around a bit you will always get a better deal.  You cant afford to be impatient.

There are plenty of decent football managers out there who are more than capable of turning a club around, you have to be modest when picking.  Maradona was a poor choice made for superficial reasons.  It’s a shame because the UAE pro-league is in its infancy compared to the highly established European leagues and it has a golden opportunity to do things right.  A football manager is one of the most important mechanisms of any club.  Look at all of the greats over the years, they all had long careers.  As much as I hate to admit it, Manchester United is arguably the greatest club of all time, and Sir Alex Ferguson has been in the captains chair non-stop since 1986.  He was a bold choice for the club at the time of his appointment, but with a little bit of faith he’s proven his worth.  You need to employ a manager who is hungry to win and prepared to work hard for it, not someone who is hungry for tequila and prepared to phone in sick 3 times a week.

So, there’s no hidden message or morals in today’s missive.  It is what it is, me chuckling at the justified sacking of a man who should never have been employed in the first place, and also proving to the dribbling drunkard that my blogs can be far less melancholic and miserable.  Well, depending upon your point of view.

Actually thinking about it, the bloke last night was a big lad with a distinct South American accent… good with his hands too…hmmm…

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63. Entitlement

Year 2212: Ok class, this is a yet to be identified item from the “Stupid Ages” nearly 200 years ago. Experts think it was used to push other people out of the way so the user could catch diabetes first

I had a typical English, middle class upbringing.  My sisters and I were always looked after and would always receive some cracking presents on Christmas day.  We didn’t really ever go wanting, but we were never spoiled by our parents.  Of course there were some tougher times, and I had to wait a little longer than initially hoped for my Nintendo, but hey, how the wait had been worth it.  If I wanted that toy Ghostbusters Ecto 1 car then my dad would hand me the rake, point to the autumnal leaves that covered the garden in its entirety and the rest was up to me.  I had to earn it.

You see, the world owes me nothing, nothing at all.  If I want something I have to work for it, I have to bleed, sweat and sacrifice; it is simply how the real world works.  Where has this misplaced sense of entitlement come from that so pollutes our species?  Why do so many people think that they should get this and that at a discounted rate or even for free?  Who are you?  Kim Kardashian?

I first noticed this pandemic in London a decade ago.  At my previous job the bulk of the staff at the time were teenagers.  We were all paid an hourly wage.  We signed a contract that agreed that we would sell our time and labour to the company in exchange for a shiny shilling a day.  Then, during the work day, some of my colleagues would continue to complain.  Complain that they weren’t getting enough money, that they should dictate when their break should be and for how long it should last.  “I should get that for free because I’ve been standing outside in the rain all day.”  Quiet you.  You knew what you were agreeing to, and you’re getting paid for it, what gives you the right to complain?  It’s a business, not Byker Grove.

Here in the UAE there is a similar attitude.  Everyone always wants a discount.  Why?  Because you once met a Sheikh?  Because your car license plate only has 3 digits on it?  That somehow gives you the right to barge into a hardware store or mobile phone shop and demand that you should get a discount?  Do you have any idea how hard it is for private sector companies to make money over here?  Even when you have massive luminous rosettes with “50% off” written on them people still ask for the “best price.”  Who the Dickens are you?

We see a similar thing at sporting events.  Yas Marina has a grandstand capacity of just over 50,000.  Each year during the Formula 1 there are still 25% of the tickets still unsold, right up until a few days before the race when all those people-in-waiting realise that the person they thought was going to get them a free ticket isn’t going to get them a free ticket after all.  They were just posturing and showing off, and now it’s bitten them in the arse.  Instead the tout turns his or her phone off and says they’ve been unwell.  So the charity cases have to suffer the indignity of purchasing a ticket to the spectacle at full cost.  And so the event is all-ticket.  Clever marketing.

After discounts, we have the rules.  Both company policies and the word of the law are mere meaningless words on a page to some people.  There is a large chunk of the population that genuinely believe that the law does not apply to them.  If they find themselves in hot water they simply make a phone a call and try their luck.  Company’s in-house rules are also completely disregarded.  Go to a water park like Wild Wadi or Atlantis, the signs clearly say that only one person is allowed to go down the slide at a time, not 7 young adolescent males crammed onto a skateboard all at once.  The poor attendant blows his whistle in a futile attempt at authority as the 7 imbeciles ignore him and exit the slide in a heap of shattered bones, blood and hubris.

If you don’t read the rules then frankly you’re a fool.  If you do read the rules and chose to ignore them anyway then you are a symbol of a broken world that has as much entitlement to success and wealth as manure.  You have no leg to stand on if you get stuck in either case.

The world is going through some tough times right now and we have no time for bit-players.  If the world is to stabilise then we must all stop thinking that it owes us something when in actual fact it is the other way around.

If you don’t want to play a role in society and expect to be given things without having had to work hard for them or you just want to be lazy that’s fine.  But excuse the rest of us when we start laughing at you if you expect anything beyond the basic means of which to survive.

Anyway, changing the subject, does anyone know where I can get a free ticket for the Formula 1 in November?

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62. Clapping

As readers of my meaningless ramblings will know all too well, I am easily annoyed.  There are many different irritating habits that grind away at me and there are many more practices that grind at me even further.  First of all we have the well-documented live band volume in a bar that only has 3 customers in it.  Then we have people who suffer from short-termism.  People who talk with their mouths full of food are infuriating.  People whose only talking point are themselves.  People who forever click pen caps in meetings.  Coffee slurpers, loud talkers, time wasters, snorers, people who talk in gangster, idiots, the Kardashians, damn them all.  But the most irritating of them all, and this is not up for discussion, are clappers.

Clapping comes in 2 main forms.  There is either a clap that shows appreciation or support to a particular entity, such as after a jolly good play or at Tony Blair being sent to The Hague for war crimes.  Then there is the rhythmical clap, this is primarily used by drunken men during the sets of below-par hotel bands.  The latter is today’s complaint.

Hmmm…going to need a bigger glass…

Clapping by itself isn’t too bad when it is performed by normal, staid people.  But when a lout who has consumed way more alcohol units than doctor’s recommend starts to do it – right next to you – you wonder if there is a fate worse.  I never noticed this epidemic in London, or anywhere else in the world, but here in the UAE this is a crisis on a par with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 or the Great Depression of 1929.  It’s a big one that needs urgent attention.

These perpetrators clap their hands together with such vigour that it remains a mystery as to how their bones have not been ground into a fine dust.  The droning and repetition of such shockwaves vibrates your bar stool across the floor.  By the time Hotel California has ended you find yourself sitting 60 yards away in the car park, with chronic tinnitus and a nervous twitch.

So, how can we counter these inconsiderate reprobates?  Well, as luck would have it last night I was acoustically assaulted once more by a very drunk man who could clap louder than Concorde doing a Sonic Boom.  The ear-bleeding experience allowed me to come up with a few different scenarios of what I could do to counter his attack.

The first scenario requires an empty glass.  You will need impeccable timing as when his hands are at their furthest apart the glass must be placed betwixt them.  Then, as the hands come together once more they will make contact with the glass, smashing it into tiny fragments and causing untold pain to the palms.  No more clapping.

The second idea I had was slightly more risqué.  You will need to carefully lure the assailant close to you and ask him to put his hands on the bar.  Then, reach over for the massive knife that is used to cut lemon and lime slices and start remorselessly hacking away at his extremities.  This should solve the problem.

Another possibility is to wait for the man to go the toilet.  No its not what you think, you follow him and place yourself strategically so that you have to open a door for him, offer your hand to him for assistance.  When he is in place standing on a large comedy X slam the door shut, hopefully this will render his hands useless.

Of course these images in my head last night were amusing, but in reality it would have been considered a social faux pas to have actually performed them.  Although I genuinely toyed with the idea of the glass between the hands one.  Who do these people think they are impressing?  I promise you we all dislike you, stop ruining our evenings out and leave your clapping in the form of applause at the end.  Ultimately all I could do without fear of being arrested was give the nuisance a dose of evil-eye.  Sadly that didn’t work either as the inebriate smiled at me, walked over to me and then asked me to join in with him.

I’m no charlatan.  It was at this point that I placed an empty glass between my own hands and as such am writing today’s blog with my nose…

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61. Recovery

Hey, if it helps, go for it…

A few blogs back I spoke up and told you all about my nervous breakdown.  One day I was fine and the next day I was a broken man, collapsing in supermarkets and going 3-4 days without sleep.  There were no tin-foil hats and only small amounts of dribble.  It truly was an unpleasant experience.  I’ll be honest with you; I get annoyed when people say they have been through it when they haven’t got a clue or that they understand when quite clearly they don’t.  Just because someone has had a pop at you and you cry because it’s made you upset does not make it a nervous breakdown.  That’s just something that happened.  We all have testing times and it doesn’t take a genius to decipher whether or not you’re just in a funny mood and you’ll be ok in 10 minutes or that your body is letting you down.

Today I offer advice to everyone, not only to those in the UAE, but world over, on how to deal with breakdown.  First of all, how does it all start?  Well, I hate to sound vague but it could be anything.  A past trauma, the realisation that your life is not as you wanted it, unhappiness or not speaking up and keeping your feelings to yourself.  These thoughts eat away at your background nervous system.  You have 2 by the way.  One of them is the one that makes you aware that your porridge is too hot and the other is the one that works in the engine room, controlling your heart beat, making you blink and keeping you breathing.  You can’t turn it off, it will always be there, but it can get worn out.  That’s basically what kicks the whole thing off.  You start to focus on your breathing, thinking that you control it.  You don’t.  Hold your breath, go on.  You’ll puff and breathe again shortly.  It won’t hurt.

If you are suffering from anxiety, you know that horrible taut feeling in your chest or you feel an overwhelming rising sense of panic then the first thing to do is to…embrace it.  Yep, sounds a bit mad but really, a panic attack cannot hurt you in anyway.  There are 2 options that are well known within in anxious circles, “Fight” or “Flight”.  They stem from natures rawest emotions.  My doctor (in the UK) made me think of it as meeting an equally sized man to myself.  This mirror-me is an assailant, do I stay and fight him? Or do I run away (flight)?  In the mind either way it doesn’t matter because I always win.  This mirror-me simply cannot harm me in any way.

For some, at the onset of a panic attack, sticking it out and ripping the arms off the chair and sweating works just fine.  For others, particularly if they are new to the club, prefer to run out of the room, to just get out.  Either is fine as the whole horrible feeling is temporary anyway.  Afterwards it is common to feel physically drained and to experience an overwhelming sense of relief, it’s not uncommon to cry regardless of how big and macho you think you are.  It’s the release you’ve been waiting for.  Think of the tears as the finish line. Tell those around you so they will be aware if you have a funny turn as opposed to running you through the gossip mill.  Never feel embarrassed by it.

It’s all fairly simple.  The body basically thinks that it is under attack so it releases more adrenalin.  Of course if you were competing in a motor-race this adrenalin would be expected, you’d feel the rush.  Only you’re not in a motor-race, you’re sitting at your desk at work deleting meaningless emails.  The adrenalin rush has come at a dull moment and you are led to believe that you are in trouble.  You’re not, you’re dandy.  It is not uncommon for the adrenalin rush go to your head, as a result you feel light headed, that you are about to start floating off the floor, or that there is a band around your head getting tighter and tighter.  It’s just tensed muscles.  You have to ride it out but don’t worry, you won’t get hurt.

Don’t be a fool and think that you can make it all go away by yourself, you will need help, or a crutch as I like to call it.  You decide what roll your crutch will play.  My crutch was my dad.  I was fortunate in that he went through it too when he was younger so was able to answer the phone from 4000 miles away whenever I needed him.  Whenever I felt that I was having a moment I would call him, just to talk to him.  What he offered was a combination of moral lifting support and – most importantly – distraction.

Distraction is an important element.  A panic attack fuels itself.  The more you think about it, the more you panic, it’s a nasty cycle.  The trick is to distract your mind in the simplest of ways.  Dust down a copy of Jeremy Clarkson from the bookshelf, or stick a DVD in the machine.  Maybe get the cookbook out and throw together some of the weird looking stuff that Gordon Ramsey makes.  You’ll be surprised at what a difference it will make.

At first it isn’t fun.  You feel like you have lost the use of your legs and are confined to bed.  You can’t bear to face the day.  You become agoraphobic (fear of being away from a place of personal safety, not a fear of going outside as is usually thought).  And then you associate places with past attacks and they become triggers.  I was shafted because my three main trigger places were home, work and my favourite bar.  The only 3 places I went to, and Al Ain is a small town and it took a hell of a lot of guts to go back to them.

You will notice that with each wave of panic the intensity lessens and the time between them increases.  It starts off being hours apart, then days, then weeks, then months and finally years.  After 6 months you will deal with it without batting an eyelid.  The recovery period varies person to person; it took me about 6 months to feel half normal again, 9 months before I had a firm control and 14 months before I had all of my confidence back.  So don’t worry about that…it will be ok in the end.  Just remember to refrain from making any big decisions whilst going through a moment, wait for a return to the rational realm.

In the UAE there are places you can go.  I went to my highly rated local hospital and all I was told was that I needed a beer…seriously that’s what the guy said.  I later found (but have never visited) the German Neurology Hospital in Dubai.  On their website they lay it all out and if you are ever in trouble over here, get your ass down there.

Of course I didn’t know about that place at the time.  What I had was a book given to me by my dad.  It is an old orange book published in 1963 and was rented by my dad from Wimbledon library in the 70’s (the late fee for that must be huge).  Self help for your nerves by the late Claire Weekes.  That book will literally cure you; it stopped me doing something very stupid.  It saved my life.

And how am I now?  Alive, well and unquestionably happy.


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60. Weight

Fatty Arbuckle why?

Beanpole.  Lanky.  Skinny.  Scrawny.  These are just a selection of colloquial monikers that I used to get called between the ages of 0 and 23.  I am 6 foot tall and rather under-muscled.  At 23 my waist measured to a desirable 28 inches.  I could eat an extra large pizza glazed with Big Mac’s and sprinkled with lard and still my slender frame cut through the air like Thrust II.  Ah yes, the thin years.  I look back with fondness in the same way that parents of raucous teenagers look back at pictures of their offspring when they were innocent babies; before the rebellion.

I used to walk, run for the school athletics team, play football with a keen but incompetent flare and I used to race karts with 30kg of lead bolted to them.  My skinny stature was my trademark, that and my Gary Lineker ears and Ronald McDonald feet of course.  Then one day I found myself living in the UAE and all of a sudden bending down to pull on my socks started to become a sweat-breaking chore.  The bulging continued over the course of the next few years and now, as I sit here on a stressed and creaking chair I look back and wonder where it all went wrong.

I am, according to a recent poll, one of the worst cooks in the entire world.  No salad goes un-burnt and no meal is free of cheese.  Cooking is something I have had to learn by myself, in the same way that a monkey learns to write bestseller novels.  The best way to get around the whole cooking business is to order out.  The high street names are frequently called upon to provide me with fatty sustenance.  If I don’t fancy high street gluttony I will opt for the expensive, ghee drenched hotel food instead.  I think it is fair to assume then that my diet over the last 4 or so years has been abysmal.  How I have not succumbed to scurvy thus far remains a mystery.

Another cause of this equatorial waist line can be pinned on the absence of exercise.  Back in the glorious towns of Kinston-upon-Thames and Surbiton I would walk to, from, and between pubs.  It was fabulous.  I would leave the house, walk for 9 minutes to the Victoria for a pint, then on to the Coronation Hall for another few.  After that my friends and I would walk towards Kingston via the Grove Tavern, and then on to the Slug and Lettuce before going to the Bishop out of Residence and then onto the now fallen giant; Oceana, and then walk home again.  That was a total of about 8 miles, 12 if you include all the zig-zagging across the pavement and 56 if you were running from a knife wielding drug addict.

Here the concept of walking between bars is absurd.  First of all it’s too hot.  It serves no purpose going into a bar reeking of foul body odour and drenched in sweat.  The bars are also too far apart.  Thirdly if you are caught lurching drunkenly down the street then you’ll be locked up in the cells quicker than an Iranian scotch merchant.  Lastly, taxis are jolly cheap and are usually in vast abundance, so it makes sense to use the service.

Since the turn of the year as I have continued my struggle to find my toes, I have started to make some changes.  I no longer take comfort from the much discussed “Dubai stone”, which is about 6 kg and apparently happens to everyone over here.  I have caught Dubai stone 4 times so I have now said enough is enough.

The first change is the diet.  By the grace of God my girlfriend is a tremendous cook and is very savvy on what can make you look like Mark Wahlberg, and what can make you look like Fatty Arbuckle.  So the white bread is in the bin, the brown bread is served in elegant portions.  Eggs are now poached and not fried.  The cheese has been replaced with lettuce and the Big Mac replaced by Shepherds pie.  Just having eaten well for 2 weeks the difference is amazing.  I have been able to spot my toes, which I previously believed to be as well hidden a myth as Higgs Boson…

I have also, and queue the canned laughter, finally paid to join a gym.  What’s more interesting is that I am actually going there regularly.  What’s even more interesting is that I am still alive.  The blubber in my cheeks is disappearing, my toes and feet have now been rediscovered and I feel the best I have felt in years.  It’s only been a month but already the results are plain to see.  I work hours that don’t really give me the opportunity to get into a set routine and I am always rushing around all over the place.  In the past this would have been a perfect excuse to “miss one day” and eat a pizza instead.  But no, through the packed schedule I find myself making time.

It was reported this week that the UAE has the 5th highest level of obesity in the entire world.  And this is something I spotted a while ago.  But how can that be so?  People over here, well, the offenders, have so much free time on their hands.  At what cost is 1 hour in the gym 5 days a week?

…More expensive than a Big Mac ok, but if you insist on going to McDonalds at least order a Diet Coke instead…

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