Monthly Archives: August 2012

71. Happiness

What is happiness?  No, really.  Can it be defined?  When I was a youth, happiness was playing with my Lego, and then my Nintendo.  Before the callous franchising of the old Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes, I was happy to leave Old Trafford with a draw, and then ecstatic when we knocked the Red Devils out of the F.A. Cup in 1997.  I was happy when AFC Wimbledon gained promotion to the football league in 2011.  I was also happy to see Damon Hill win the Formula 1 Drivers World Championship in 1996, as I was for Jenson Button in 2009.  I was happy when I passed my driving test 10 years ago, happy when Gordon Brown lost the last general election and happy the day that my Dad got rid of that awful British Leyland monstrosity; the Austin Maestro .

These are all circumstances, one off events that made me happy.  They happen, make me joyful, fade away, and then I’m back to reality.  It begs the question, is happiness a long term thing and can it be achieved?  I am forever hearing and reading about people who yearn for happiness, “I just want to be happy” they chant as they sink another cocktail and put their head in their hands.  Well, what’s stopping you being happy?  Seriously what will it take?

The first step is to slap yourself repeatedly and vigorously.  If you start bleeding from the cheeks then you have gone too far.  So slap in moderation.  You must drill it into yourself that you will never be happy if you keep telling everyone that you want to be happy.  This is pointless.  In the time you spent rambling on about what you do and do not want, you could have taken some affirmative action to find some of this elation that so eludes you.

Well, as luck would have it, I am here today to let you all in on a big secret…are you sitting down?  Happiness is not a destination, it’s a journey.  I know that scores quite highly on the blog-o-vomit scale but its true.  If you are sitting around waiting to shit a golden egg then you are going to be grey and old before you realise that your life has whizzed past in a whirlwind of chance and missed opportunities.  Happiness is not so much a choice but a perception.  You may not be happy about going to the same pub with the same people all the time, but for someone else that may be their idea of heaven.  You can’t pretend to be happy when you’re not.  You have to do whatever it takes since only you can make the changes, if not directly, then you have the power to manipulate circumstance in your favour.

So where does the UAE fit in to all of this?  Well when I first moved over here many moons ago I was a little scared.  It’s a strange place to get used to and I was primarily focussed on my work.  I plodded along for quite some time, then had a breakdown, then recovered, I was never unhappy, but nor was I overly happy either…I was just normal, mildly warm somewhere in the middle.  I was a bit lonely yes, but not unhappy.

You see, the UAE is a curious place that receives very mixed reviews.  Some people – like me (despite how I come across on this web-page) – love it.  Some people give it a far more negative appraisal and in all fairness their perception can be justified.  The UAE offers a lot to expatriates like you and I, but, and I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say this, sometimes you can’t help but feel that everything you do is a legal faux pas.  Drinking a beer, holding hands, running nude along Sheikh Zayed Road, you always feel that you could get into trouble.  And it’s this kind of attitude that can hinder the whole happiness matter and put people off taking a shot, or even coming here to begin with.  Think what these missers are potentially missing out on.

It’s these negative perceptions – spearheaded by Rupert Murdoch and his mindlessly immoral empire – that drive people away.  Had I believed all I had heard and read about the UAE without having seen it for myself then I would never have come here in the first place.  And that is scary.  Scary because had I not taken a gamble and boarded that Etihad Airways flight in 2008 then I would not have met a very special someone last summer.  I therefore would not have been able to start my journey through – not to – happiness, and this journey makes me very happy indeed.  Who would have thought I would find the route through happiness in a pretend English Pub in a small town called Al Ain on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula? The Lord does indeed work in very mysterious ways.

So, to conclude today’s dispatch, I would like to formally announce the engagement of Miss. Melanie Croxon and Mr. Martin Fullard.  Happy now, happy forever, and no Austin Princesses…

The official engagement picture…with thanks to our stunt models Terry Scott and June Whitfield… Mel, we’re not driving anything made by British Leyland…

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70. Empire II

I’m sure you’ve all been wondering where the blazes I have been for the last month, no?  Oh well, I’ve been on holiday.  Whilst travelling between Dublin and the Costa del Thames I decided that I would give my typing fingers a rest.  It was in an effort to forget about the UAE and all its delights for a few weeks and concentrate on all that’s right with the world.  And now I’m back.  Back to the incessant moaning and groaning that we have all come to love and enjoy.

So, my observations?  Well, it was 11:30ish in the morning on February 31st 1497 – just before Ski Sunday came on – when Henry VII commissioned a man called John Cabot to go out on a boat and find things.  Anything: gold, animals, land, people, diseases, anything at all.  He came back thinking he had been somewhere when he had actually been somewhere else so went back again and bang, the British Empire was born. The next 500 years or so were a bit up and down.  There were battles, traitors, hand-bagging, murders, colonising and so on.  In a nutshell it was all a draft to build a stable British economy that would endure for all time and see to it that Great Britain would remain the rulers of the world until everyone lived happily ever after.

Things were going quite well until in the early 1900’s when Germany and France started slapping each other about and the poor old Archduke of Austro-Hungary – Franz Ferdinand – got shot and killed.  Enter The Great War.  We won, and 20 years later we were all at it again until we won for a second time.  But we were broken and the empire was on its knees.  Anthony Eden then decided that he wanted to steal a canal and that heralded the end of the British Empire.  The Romans, the ancient Greeks, the ancient Egyptians, the Hittites, they’ve all had a pop at ruling the world but not one has ever been able to hold on to it forever.  So why bother trying to rule the world at all if all it will do is bite you on the arse?

Whilst I was back in London – and also in Dublin – I invented a new game.  It’s called “how many UAE company logos can you spot in a day?”  Sadly I invented the game when I was quite drunk so the results are a little sketchy but I can confirm that it’s a lot; an awful lot.   Emirates Airways, Etihad Airways, Mubadala, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and many more.  These brand names are all over the place.  You couldn’t get on a train or in to a taxi without seeing an Emirates A380 plastered all over the place.  Billboards advertising Dubai are everywhere and God forbid if I ever see another picture of Mario Balotelli wearing that ManchesterCity shirt.  I first noticed this with Arsenal football club who are sponsored by Emirates, and have their new stadium named after Dubai’s flagship airline.  It’s interesting as a lot of people don’t even know what “Emirates” is.  Someone I know thought it was a bookmaker.

Indeed if you pay a visit to company house and trace your finger up the ladders and through the glass ceiling, beyond the boardroom and the CEO’s roof-top golf course you will find that most of the time the real investors are Middle Eastern nations, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE leading the way.  Europe is literally being sponsored by the Middle East in every single way.

Are we that broke?  I know there is a rather large recession plaguing Europe right now, but I thought that was mainly a joke, something that the media can drag up on a slow news day to scare us.  But no, we really are up the creek without a canoe, or a paddle, or even a small tray to hold our Pimms.  This, then, is a crisis.

You see, unlike the Romans, the Ottomans and the Brits, the Middle East has not gone in there all guns blazing, firing into the air and shouting “yeehaw” whilst burning villages to the ground and stealing all the gold. What it has done instead is invest in a continent that managed its finances as effectively as a dim-witted Kardashian.  By buying up all the big beasts, saving them from bankruptcy and slapping its stickers all over the taxis, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have saved – across Europe – millions of jobs and billions of currency.  In addition to this what they are also doing is attempting to secure their own futures.  George Monbiot keeps reminding us all that the oil won’t last forever, and no one will be more aware of that than the people that own it.

I have brought this up with a few of my friends and they scoff with ignorance.  “Pah!” they snort, “you wait until the oil runs out”.  I understand that to be honest.  For a part of the world that only 50 years ago was effectively in the dark ages it is hard for the traditional, established western nations to swallow the truth that they are being outgunned at the very game they invented.  Hmm, it’s a bit like the English football team.  But you’d miss – and notice the absence of – Middle Eastern investment if it went away, which in our lifetime, isn’t going to happen.

For me it was all summed up perfectly on Sunday afternoon when entering Heathrow airport, the gateway to Great Britain.  There, at the roundabout where the famous and iconic Concorde model once stood with pride, is now a model of an Emirates Airways A380.

Maybe the man who built his house on sand will have the last laugh after all?

The UAE welcomes you to Fido (formerly Great Britain)

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