Monthly Archives: September 2012

82. Fashion

Mr. Bieber! Mr. Bieber! Can you tell us at E! how George is?

When I left The United Kingdom of England and The Rest in 2008 and set sail for the Arabian colonies life was different.  Gordon Brown was still in “power”, the Lehmans were still brothers and Manchester City were still a relatively crap football team.  I understood what was socially acceptable too.  Back in those days it was perfectly acceptable to go out on the town wearing a shirt and a pair of smart jeans, maybe with a sharp jacket too.  But nowadays it seems that you aren’t hip unless you are wearing your trousers around your ankles with your lime green pants on full display, like you’ve just been hanging out with George Michael or something…  It is also customary to wear silly hats, Ronald McDonald size boots and talk like, frankly, a moron.  I struggle to understand the world these days.

I accept things change, fashion and style especially.  In the 50’s everyone dressed like either a Geography teacher or a vagrant.  The 60’s was all colour and “fab” and the 70’s were all about beards and brown.  The 80’s, which as latter half 20th Century fashions go was the worst by far, saw a return to colour but with the addition of mullets.  The 90’s were all baggy jeans and Addidas jackets and the 2000’s never had a defining style, and nor do the 10’s where we are now.  So without a tag people think they can get away with wearing whatever they want.  Such a thing is branded “individuality” but is flawed by the fact that everyone else is doing it too.

I have spent the weekend in Dubai and on my travels I came to a conclusion.  Fashion is dead, long live hopelessness.  Walking through Mall of the Alpines I found myself looking in the windows of many a clothes shop.  As I stared vacantly at the mannequins in one particularly jazzy shop I wandered who on Earth would ever copy its style and actually be seen wearing that in public.  Allow me to describe the costume one was wearing:  A pair a trousers, green, with yellow and brown flowers running up one leg.  The belt was rainbow coloured and the sandals were yellow.  Up top, the mannequin was wearing a string vest with a crucifix necklace and the crowning jewel was a brown knitted cardigan that literally looks like what my Grandparents used to wear in the 40’s; in winter.  The finishing piece was a pair of spectacles akin to what Austin Powers would wear.  They weren’t even real glasses but an accessory.

I am not making this up, as I walked around trying to take in all the hedonistic garments a boy, mid-late teens I reckon, emerged from the changing room wearing exactly that.  Item for item he was dressed just like the mannequin.  He looked utterly ridiculous, made more so by his Ali G impression…  His friends were all in their Kandura’s and Sufra’s and all looked very smart.  What did he think he was going to achieve?  I’d hazard a guess and say that the shopkeeper had a spare mannequin kicking about in the store room and just said to one of the staff “just chuck anything on it, first things that come to hand.”  It must have been a joke.  I left the hapless adolescent to it.

As I continued walking around the Mall I started to notice that dressing like a cartoon had become a pandemic.  There were young people from all walks of life and all nationalities wearing knitted cardigans with Nike swim shorts or pretend glasses with shoes for earrings.  Has the world gone mad or is this fashion faux pas just confined to the UAE?

Something must be done to curb this.  If an Alien race landed on Earth tomorrow, regardless of their intentions, and they were greeted by a 21 year old dressed up as a Lady Gaga then they would jump back into their craft and flee.  No I’m not being a snob, I just want to know if their attire is an incongruous, subversive statement or they actually think that they are “with it”.  What “it” is however shall forever remain a mystery.

What to do, what to do?  The Malls already have signs on the doors asking customers to dress respectably.  Women must cover their shoulders and knees and men can’t walk through the food court in their Speedos, but it’s selling the clothes it doesn’t want in there.  You are asked to dress respectfully so as not to insult our hosts and that’s fine with me.  But what is more insulting, a woman in a strappy top or a young male wearing fake glasses, green and yellow flowery trousers around his ankles and his Grandmothers cardigan?

Signs don’t work so I fear we must ask for legislation.  I say cut the head off the snake and ban shops selling such things; force them to sell normal trousers and shorts and nice shirts and inoffensive t-shirts.  It’s not Communism; it’s how the textile industry has always done things.  When you look at some laws that get passed, like having to move to Abu Dhabi if that’s where you work, then my suggestion really doesn’t sound that far-fetched.

It’s not like I’m trying to crush freedom of expression or anything…ok well I am a bit.  But come on, they do look daft, don’t they?

 

 

 

PS. Dear Mr. Editor at bloggers.com, I’m still not one of your picks, get back to me.  Thanks.  Marty.

Tagged , , , ,

81. Beauty

I am forever being asked by my readers where I get my ideas from and how does the stuff that I write about enter my mind.  My answer is simple: I look out the window, open the paper or think back to what happened last Thursday.  Additionally, when I’m not sitting here in my mind palace constructing hatchet job missives I trawl through the inter-web-highway-information-net looking at the work of others.  Not to plagiarise, being original is my motto, but to keep my finger on the pulse.  As such I am signed up to a social networking thingy called Bloggers.com which is kind of like Facebook but for bloggers only.  It’s a fairly exclusive club.

Every day 3 bloggers are featured on the homepage under the banner of “Editors picks” and the subject of at least 2 out the 3, every single day, are “beauty blogs”.  They are generally for a female audience and all talk about what goes with what, what to wear, what not to wear, what will attract a spouse, what will this and what will that.  At first I labelled any such writer as an enemy, “bloody beauty bloggers again hogging all the cyberspace” I would cry.  My fiancé maintains that such things are tremendously popular and that the reason they appear so often as an Editors pick is that they get a lot of hits and have a very large audience.

I have been trying to get UAE Uncut more publicity lately.  I went on Twitter, clicked “Follow” on about a million people who I don’t know and post a link each time I publish some more rubbish.  The same is true with Facebook; a fan page was recently commissioned by my marketing department.  It is doing ok, views per post range between 1 and 250 daily, but that pedestal of being an Editors pick on Bloggers.com eludes me still.  So, if witless political commentary and spurious anecdotes about the UAE won’t elevate me to blog-stardom then I guess that I’m going to have to sell out.

In an extraordinary coincidence today’s blog is about “Beauty”, UAE beauty in fact, somehow.  Let’s start with clothes.  The first question to ask is how can beauty in clothing be defined?  Surely what is complimenting to one persons personality is vomit to another.  So really, is there any point in debating it?  Well, let’s see how far I can drag it out.  Most local women wear Abaya’s so what they’re wearing underneath remains a mystery.  The expat community generally wear what they like but try to remain modest except when they don’t.  They will usually wear what suits them.  So in summary, it’s kind of up to you…

Fit

Next, let’s talk make-up.  I have had the pleasure of spending many an hour of my life sitting in a make-up shop relentlessly spooling through Facebook on my Blackberry whilst the person I’m with plays with paint and coloured powder.  Some girls are very modest with their make-up and apply sparingly.  Others really paint it on there and soon become more of a Picaso portrait than an actual person.  But really, it’s down to the individual.  In conclusion…well it’s already been said, it’s down to you.

Why don’t we have a look at eye-brows for a moment?  Most women have 2, one above each eye.  In some cases they are plucked, or drawn on, or not touched at all.  In other cases the eye-brow bearer opts to connect them both and make one massive omni-brow.  This is as far as my opinions stretch, but that’s not a good look.  Ok, it’s up to you how to grow your eye-brows, but it is plural for a reason.  Simply having one almighty topiary hedge growing out of your face is not a good look.  But again, you do what you like.

Nails?  Some women like to have their nails painted red but would scoff with disgust at someone who has yellow painted nails.  For others it could very well be the other way around; yellow before red.  Either or, doesn’t matter, you choose a colour based on your preference and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  They’re just haterz.

How is this topic the subject of so many blogs?!  It’s impossible.  I don’t know if I can go on anymore about it.  All I’m doing now is throwing random words onto a Microsoft Word document.  The conclusion, UAE beauty is something that is a matter of opinion, is that acceptable?

So, Mr. Editor at Bloggers.com, I did it, I joined the fold, I am now a “beauty blogger”.  Can I please be one your picks now?  The UAE needs me.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

80. National dress

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got married last year, oh, that’s Wills and Kate to the E! Entertainment classes, you may have noticed that a lot of people at the wedding wore appropriate, dignified attire.  William himself was in his Irish Guards get up and everyone else was either in military uniform or fancy suits.  You didn’t see anyone wearing ripped jeans and Nirvana t-shirts, nor were there any rap people wearing stupid hats with the price tag still on.  Thankfully, there wasn’t a Lady Gaga in sight either.

Ole ole! Ole ole! Feelin’ hot! Hot! Hot! Aarrrriiba!!

In a similar context, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin allegedly went to the moon they opted for spacesuits, not Haiiwan shirts and sombrero’s.  I doubt Armstrong’s legacy would have been quite so regal if he had simply succumbed to the blitzkrieg of the moons atmosphere and melted simply because he wanted to wear something different.

Closer to home, what do you usually wear to the beach?  Your swim gear or a three piece suit complete with shiny brogues?  What about when you go to the gym, do you put on your sports gear or dig out the wedding dress?  Think about what you wore the last time you trekked across the Arctic?  I’d hazard a guess and say you wore your thermals and not your banana hammock…

Today I happened across an article which, in summary, was trying and struggling to define where and where not and when and when it was not appropriate to wear either a Kandura or an Abaya (male and female national dress respectively).  I’ll be honest, I’m secretly quite jealous of the UAE’s – and the Middle East’s – national dress.  They are the only ones in the world that seem to have one that is worn every day.  I wish I could dress up as a beefeater for work but I fear I would look stupid, plus it’s a Royal guards uniform, not a traditional British garment.

Anyway, it seems that a lot of people are in a huff about it, and I don’t understand why.  All the examples that were provided were activities that require a certain type of clothing.  Sky diving, Skiing and Bowling.  I don’t think I need to ramble on taking up any more of your time elaborating on why a Kandura or an Abaya may be unsuitable for any of those three activities; but I will.

Bowling is fairly harmless, and along with Darts is one of two sports where you can be fat and drunk and still be excellent.  But it is a common technique to kick your heel out to maintain balance and get maximum accuracy on the ball.  As a result you need your legs to be free, not restrained.  Skiing is a cold sport that requires unhindered movement.  I adore skiing and have been to the Alps many times, and Mall of the Alpines thrice.  I can confirm first hand that a Kandura would indeed get in the way of a) your poles b) your skis and c) would offer you about as much warmth and comfort as a metaphor not found.  As for Sky Diving, come on!  You would never get me doing a sky dive, honestly, why jump out of a perfectly good plane?  It’s bonkers.  But if I did I would insist on the correct uniform.  A Kandura would be most unsuitable because, and I’m sorry, the wearer won’t be wearing underwear…need I go on?

With reference to the bowling anecdote, it was reported that a representative of the bowling alley harked a cry of safety.  Absolutely right.  The reason why the manager of the bowling alley cannot allow people to wear obstructive clothing is because if they slip, trip or disintegrate and say, lose a tooth or break an arm, then the company is liable.  The insurance company has to enforce a strict set of parameters on the alley to ensure that it is taking all necessary and reasonable precautions to avoid law suits.  What’s wrong with that?  The rules aren’t there for a laugh.  The people complaining about not being allowed to wear what they want are ignorant to the facts.

It must be noted that through the UAE’s rapid modernisation over the last 30 years or so it has done well to maintain its national identity, and the Kandura and Abaya are held in high regard.  They are the equivalent of a smart suit for work, they are the norm for a day out at the mall, they can be worn to restaurants and in some cases, even bars…  There is absolutely no sign of the Kandura or Abaya disappearing any time soon.  But for certain activities it is simply not suitable.

So is there a solution?  How can we help people understand that sometimes they cannot wear what they want on the grounds of safety?  We could let them have an accident and let them learn the hard way.  You’d be a silly sausage if, whilst completing your sky dive your genitals were exhibited to the surveying masses.  When your leg snaps off in Mall of the Alpines because you didn’t have enough freedom with your left leg will you continue your stance?  I fear that letting accidents happens is the only way people will learn.  So long as a high court judge grants the proprietors immunity from prosecution of course…worth a shot?

If we go with my idea I must say that I will feel sorry for the lad who thinks that the Kandura will work on the moon… because he will melt.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

79. Maps

As I have said before I have utterly no interest in new fads.  Getting with the times – technologically speaking – doesn’t interest me in the slightest.  I possess a degree of disdain for Apple purely because I can’t afford an iPhone.  I can’t tell the difference between various models or what the upgraded functions are or do and so on.  So admittedly I had a cheeky chuckle about the latest fiasco whereby people have gone out to buy the latest iPhone 5 with something called IOS6 on it and it doesn’t work in the UAE.  As you would expect…

The Fullard-powered app upgrade for iPhone 5 users

All that money and all the device does is the same as what your last phone did too.  These days a phone isn’t a phone unless it is packed full of something called “Apps”.  These “Apps” do all sorts; you can throw birds at walls, keep up to date with the price of barley and even keep up with a Kardashian of your choice.  One of the biggest concerns about the latest money spinner has been that the app that allows you to view maps of the UAE are out of date and don’t show Dubai Mall amongst other landmarks and roads.  As you would expect people are up in arms about it, but why?  Surely if you live here in the Emirates then you know that most of Dubai is just road-works, cones and diversions and that there is no map on Earth that could get you out of a pickle.  So what were you expecting?

If you go onto Google maps or Multimap and type in Dubai you are confronted with what on the surface looks like a lovely map with lots of roads.  You zoom in and look at all the streets and mind boggling intersections and head out in the car with high hopes.  Of course you soon realise that what you looked at on the laptop must have been a map of a road network in Shanghai or somewhere, because it certainly wasn’t Dubai.

The reason that there have been so many road construction areas sitting dormant for the last few years harps back to a case of biting reality.  You can’t reliably build things on credit, because if you do and there is an economic collapse of biblical proportions (Ref. Lehman Brothers 2008) then everything stops.  That’s what happened here.

My Dubai geography leaves much to be desired, I know where I am going by following tall buildings, but give me a road name and I shall start to sweat profusely.  There have been times when I have been circling intersections for hours on end, or have come into road works that filter me off in the wrong direction and I have traversed flyovers only to find that half of it hasn’t been built so I end up dropping to my death.  Have you ever tried getting to Dubai Marina from Sheikh Zayed Road?  Every time I attempt such a thing I end up having to go through Marina Mall’s car park.  It’s impossible.

In a rare act of desperation I once stopped by the side of a road and looked at a map in Dubai.  It was absolutely useless.  Yes it showed slip roads off Sheikh Zayed Road, but in real life these slip roads had not been built and even today I am yet to see progress.

It’s not just Dubai either.  For as long as I have been here, which is coming up to 5 years now, the Tourist Club area in Abu Dhabi has been marked out with concrete blocks and cones.  I have never seen a workman so much as lift a manhole cover around there.  As such the map shows the roads in a certain way which does not match the situation in real life.

Furthermore, when Salam Street was being widened, buried, raised, sunk and re-laid the maps clearly showed the route the new road would take.  Awesome, I’ll be sure to revert back to that map in 2014 when it’s all finished.  But in 2009 it was little help at all, particularly when you followed the diversion signs and ended up falling into the sea.  How can society function in this way?

The iPhone classes need not fret.  Even if you do revert back to your treasured iPhone 3 you can guarantee that the maps on there will be just as inaccurate.

The solution then?  Put the money to better use and buy a Sat-Nav instead.

Tagged , , , ,

78. Commuting

Sometimes you have to look really deep at something to see the reasons behind it and nothing gets the bar stool classes jabbering quite like a new law.  Unless you have been living at the bottom of the sea for the past week you may have noticed that there has been a lot of brouhaha about Abu Dhabi government employees having to move to their city of work.

To begin with let’s go back through the reported facts so we can all broach this subject in a clear, level-headed manner.  First of all, Abu Dhabi government employees must now live within the borders of the emirate.  Secondly, you have a year to do it.

Right, that’s the facts done with, now let’s move onto the thoughts.  My first query is to ask for clarification of what a government employee actually is.  Is it just the folks working in the Ministries?  Does it include expatriates?  What about those who work for companies that are funded by the government?  What if you have a branch in a different city and you have to deliver some headed paper?  Is that illegal?  It seems that everyone works for a government entity somewhere along the line.  So really, is it all of us?

One of the main factors for this seemingly bizarre movement is that the government wants to cut down on traffic between other emirates.  That basically means the Abu Dhabi-Dubai road only.  This raises many problems.  What if you live in Dubai and commute to Abu Dhabi each morning because Dubai is your home?  What if your wife works in Dubai, she will then need to commute from Abu Dhabi to Dubai as opposed to you doing it the other way around.  What if Dubai brings in the same law?   All you’re doing is, well, nothing to curb the traffic and lining up a few divorce cases in the courts instead.  And that will require more driving.

Rents in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are much cheaper than they used to be a few years ago, and lets be honest, commuting isn’t very expensive.  Fuel here is so cheap that it will hardly dent your debit card.  If you work in Abu Dhabi but live in Dubai then the odds are you have chosen it to be that way because it is more economical for you.  Yes they say that commuting is one of the most stressful things in the world, and that was true in the days of brown flared trousers, beards and un-air conditioned Austin Allegro’s.  But these days even the cheapest Kia is a comfortable place to be.  Stick on a bit of Kenny and Accalia’s Breakfast Show and – try – to enjoy The Eagles.

This road safety rhetoric that is being championed as the primary reason is highly flawed and, in all honesty, a poor excuse.  The new law means that you could still live in Al Ain and commute to Abu Dhabi and that makes no sense at all since it is a longer drive than that from Dubai.   During the rush hour the E22 is just as busy as the E11.

This inevitably leads us to the conspiracy theory.  Have you seen how many brand new developments there are in Abu Dhabi?  No, well there are many.  Have you ever driven through any of them?  They are like ghost towns in some cases, totally void of life because I can only assume they are too far out of the city or too expensive to buy or rent.  For as long as they all sit there merely taking up space they are not making any money so it stands to reason that the investors of such places are going to want action.  The bottom line is that they need filling, and there’s no time to waste.

See honey, I told you it was worth it. Ok I know that we’re 458 kilometres from the nearest Lulu Hypermarket but at least we won’t go to jail

I mean the places on Saadiyat Island and Yas Island actually look great, but they are very far out of the city.  Yes ok in 10 years the city may have reached out to them but you won’t be here then.  The villas opposite Ferrari World, despite looking like the town in Edward Scissorhands, are too far from the hustle and bustle of civilisation.  Taxis only come by on a Tuesday morning so if you want to pop out for a beer you’re looking at AED 240 there and back in taxi fares.

Of course you can’t really argue with a law and if you work for the government and are told that you must move to Abu Dhabi then that’s what you have to do.  But that means Johnny Landlord will smell you coming and spend hours of his free time adding extra 0’s to all the rent figures before he flees to Lebanon.  He can afford to do that because he knows you have no choice.  Sadly it means that all you will be able to afford is a wheelie bin, without a lid.

This is a lot to take in and if you’re a high flying Gordon Gekko type person then I’m sure spending AED 14 trillion on a new penthouse in the capital isn’t going to be a problem, but what about regular Joe’s who don’t earn as much?  If the government is willing to fund homes in the capital for its lesser paid employees then hurrah, victory dance, but how long can that dynamic last?  He’s paid to build them, now he’s paying for you to live there.  Does the money even exist?

Ultimately you should be weighing up the cost of a 90 minute commute against living in a wheelie bin without a lid.  If it’s cheaper for you to live in Dubai and drive to and from Abu Dhabi then that makes sense.  Otherwise quit your job and get a new one closer to home.

Alternatively, just don’t tell your boss your address, because addresses don’t exist anyway.

Tagged , , , , , ,

77. International relations

What-a-stan? Never ‘eard of it.

Have you ever wondered what other people may think of you, not as an individual but as a representative of your nation?  We all want to be liked and we all want everyone to know what we’re really like behind the scenes.  Thankfully living in the UAE we have an opportunity to find out, sort of.  About 60 blogs ago I told a tale about a dribbling drunk and I and the perceptions that we both shared.  I highlighted that there are many countries around the world that have stereotypical features, like the Spanish are all Matadors and Argentineans have a penchant for islands.  But it’s hard to nail the British.  Men in suits and bowler hats, football hooligans, that guy from Shameless or Lord Lucan… Chalk, cheese, metal and Playdo.

The other day I was having a conversation with a Pakistani friend of mine who moved to the UAE from Lahore 3 years ago.  His first question was to ask why the English language was so widely spoken, to which I responded with a quick crash course in imperial history.  He seemed confused.  We then got onto the topic – somehow – of people making explosions.  I explained that there was no direct answer but basically it was all related to either a difference in beliefs or political strategy; or retribution for something that happened a long time ago.

We then got onto the United Kingdom and he was exceptionally confused when I started talking about some people called Scots, some people called the Welsh and a bunch of folks from a land called Northern Ireland.  He then asked what they were.  I said that England and Scotland kissed and made up 300 or so years ago and made a pretty flag, Wales kind of got dragged into it and at one point most of Ireland were involved too, until they said “enough” and we were only left with the bit at the top.  The UK is a country that is made up of 4 smaller countries that always get on with each other all of the time.

He then stated that a lot of people in Pakistan believe that “The British” want to invade everywhere and rule the world.  I reminded him that we tried that once before and that it didn’t end very well.  It got me thinking, is that what people really think of us?  I mean, how do you sum up all the Brits and come to that conclusion?

I rarely hear a Scot, Welshman or indeed a Northern Irishman say that they are British.  They are Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish respectively, so why is it that the English use the British moniker?  If you say you are English instead of British then you are considered to be some sort of massive racist.  How?!

I tried to explain to my friend further that the English are fiercely territorial when it comes to their own regions.  Northerners don’t like Southerners and vice verser, East Anglian’s don’t like Gloucestershireians, Midlanders don’t like Geordies, Kentists quarrel with South Westerners…it’s a nightmare!  I reassured my friend that he shouldn’t worry about us invading him anytime soon since we can barely get our own house in order.

But when I tried to explain to the lad that the assumption of “The British” wanting to rule the world again was codswallop he looked even more confused.  “So what do the British think then?” he asked as if there was no other possible answer.  I looked bluntly at my feet and answered “I have no idea”.  Half of Scotland wants to leave the United Kingdom, but they’re divided, like the Welsh.  Things have never been great in Belfast for obvious reasons.  Just under half of the English vote Conservative, the other half vote Labour and the day-dreamers in the middle vote Liberal Democrat, no 2 people want the same thing.   We are such a mess and all want to go in different directions and the rules change daily.

I told him that most Brits these days probably don’t even know what Pakistan actually is and that they would rather watch football or Big Brother than bother waging a war on a country that they have never heard of.  He was surprised, the stereotype of “The British” that he had been led to believe as truth was rubbished.  All that he had known about us had been wrong.  And then he said “Aha that makes more sense”.

It got me thinking of how will peace ever be achieved if people continue to assume based on a false assumption?  Our reputation as imperial crusaders is a bit out of date now; we have given the land that we nicked back (sort of) and have about as much international influence as Amy Childs.  Is it fair for us to burden the blame for the actions of our forefathers forever?

Yes, you can burn flags outside embassies, but who are you talking to?  Most people watching you are just going to assume your message is for someone else, not them.  If someone has insulted you, two wrongs don’t make a right.  When you act like that all you are doing is stooping down to the level of poor behaviour you were protesting against, and that makes you a hypocrite.

In the UAE, at least, if there are differences to be decided they can be discussed in a civilised manner, not burnt outside embassies.  And that is a lesson certain countries could learn from.

Anyway, an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar…

Tagged , , ,

76. Courting

Hey there gorgeous….. you wouldn’t have a charger for an iPhone would you?

As one or two of you may now know I am engaged to be married.  When you grow up getting into relationships and the like is far easier.  You know your place in the world, you have found your social band and you work to your own tolerances.  To get to this stage of relative confidence you have obviously had to learn the hard way.  You have had to take the knocks, the bad hair days when the bit at the back just won’t stay down and of course the crushing rejection of a failed attempt.  Ah, to be a hapless and hopeless teenager again.

Pitching woo is a tricky order as you really only have one shot to get it right.  Screw up first contact and its back to the bar with you, alone.  By all means you are welcome to be persistent if you think your target is worth the hassle, but be warned, you are bordering on harassment.  If after several hours you are still being rejected by someone then may I strongly advise that you take stock of the situation and retire?  Move on to someone else.

What never fails to draw the attention of the people watchers is a good old fashioned public humiliation.  We cringe with dismay if the innocent courter has made a genuine effort to be polite and strike up a conversation about socks or favourite films, but we rejoice and laugh if the rejectee is a big burly chauvinist who thinks that by owning 2 iPhones and a hands-free kit somehow makes them irresistible.  So if you are planning on slapping on some mighty fine rap, make a precautionary sweep of the immediate environment and if you see me sitting there, think twice.  Because I will be mocking you.

Of course over here in the UAE there are lots of different cultures that all have different ideas on how members of the opposite sex should be treated.  There are, then, lots of egos to bruise.  Everyone has a duty to understand the others culture.  If you are sitting enjoying a cocktail with your chums and a man from the local environment comes up to your table and starts flexing his enhanced biceps whilst bragging about how many iPhones and Land Cruisers he owns then put him down gently.  Likewise, if you are the man with the iPhones and the arms, know when you’re beaten.  No means no, just as sod off means sod off.

Top tip for the courtee:  Never, under any circumstances accept a gift from anyone that has a street value of more than a drink.  If you’re sitting at the bar and Johnny iPhones sits down next you and, after praising your lovely ear lobes, offers you a Cartier watch then politely decline.  Of course, you are insulting him, but in the long run it’s for the best.  If you accept the gift then somewhere down the line the other party is going to expect remuneration.  This is a game you likely do not want to play.  Politely tell the person that you are married, or are in a foul mood or even an undercover police officer.  This should grant you some peace.

Top tip for the courter:  Never, under any circumstance offer a gift to anyone that has a street value of more than a drink.  If you see someone sitting at the bar that only has a pathetic Blackberry, do not whip out both iPhones, do not praise their ear lobes and do not give them the Cartier watch you bought for the other girl that rejected you last Thursday.  You are being selfish, if you feel insulted that they don’t accept the watch then really that’s your problem, deal with it.  If they accept the gift that you offer, hang your head in shame since your true motives are obvious.  Your game is ill planned.  If your target tells you that they are married, or they’re in a bad mood or indeed they are undercover on a drugs bust, get the hint and move on.

Last night I was out in a bar in Al Ain that I shall spare from embarrassment, but I can tell you that it rhymes with Vader Bricks.  Anyway, there she was, all blonde and Western.  Laughing, joking, making merry, she was having the time of her life.  Then, a non Western man with a tapered torso and freshly groomed facial hair moved in for the kill.  I was too far away to heed the entire conversation but it was obvious that tempers were beginning to flare on both sides.  Again, it was quite loud in there but I did distinctively hear the young lady shout “Duck cough for duck’s sake!  You are a ducking pervert, duck cough!”  Beardy didn’t take too kindly and there were some hand gestures displayed that I would find difficult to describe with words.  Anyway, he obviously had difficulty comprehending the word “no”.  Who was in the wrong?

Men, if you are going to pitch woo, may I suggest you drop me a line first so I can point you in the right direction?  Ladies, don’t swear, don’t take the watch and don’t get sucked in by the iPhones.

Stick a ring on your finger and then they will leave you alone.

Tagged , ,

75. Road humps

“Arm the road humps, fire on my command”

One constant throughout the course of time is that mankind has always known its enemy.  Fire is mans oldest foe, and has been the weapon of choice of Mother Nature for quite some time.  She doesn’t always play nice and can seldom be tamed.  When she wants to destroy you, she can.  Whether it is with an earthquake, a super volcano, a hurricane or a plague of Kardashians, man will never triumph over her.   I mean, he can barely conquer himself without getting into a tizzy.

Generally it takes at least 2 entities to have a war, whether it’s the Americans versus the Russians, Britain versus France, Iran versus more or less everyone else or McDonalds versus Burger King.  But with Mother Nature the rules are different.  Can she be described as an entity?  She can’t be seen, or even depicted, how can she be beaten?

To have an invisible enemy is a nuisance.  We’ve all seen Star Trek, when the Klingons engage their cloaking device it causes Captain Kirk no end of grief.  He ends up just firing into random space with his fingers crossed.  It is very difficult to beat an invisible enemy.

This somehow brings me onto the subject of the road humps in the UAE.  Or speed bumps, or ramps, or sleeping policemen, whatever you want to call them.  I like to call them “F@#&ers”.  They are, through all intents and purposes, the enemy.  It is an invisible enemy that springs out of nowhere and disengages its cloaking device at the last possible second.  The result?  Smashed suspension, broken anti-roll bar bushes, cocked steering arms, shattered teeth and a powdered spine.  They really are the most evil creation the world has ever seen.

This is the part where the good-willed and the pious will tell me to “slow down to the speed limit you ruffian and then you will see them”.  If you are planning on saying this to me then I implore you to go and put your head in the microwave post haste.  You see, I have crawled along roads at 10kph – when the limit is 60kph – and still hit the humps and have still needed to spend the week in intensive care.  They just appear from nowhere and in some cases are akin to crashing into a wall.

They are painted white and yellow, and in some cases a fine glass powder is mixed in with the paint.  This is supposed to give the paint – and subsequently the hump – a healthy, reflective glow.  Of course, lacing the streets are sodium street lamps, or in other cases, no street lamps at all.  Sodium street lamps are the ones that give the orange glow and are supposed to create less light pollution.  This is preposterous.  The only people affected by light pollution are the 3-4 chaps on the International Space Station.  There are billions of us down here, we need more.  The lamps mask the humps and don’t allow for the glass fragments to reflect anything.  So you end up having to take your car to the garage to be exorcised.

The colour issue is also not helped by the fact that the humps are covered in the tyre marks of a million other road users.  So they are black, the same as the road.  This makes them as invisible, and as costly, as ever.

Then we have the location of the road humps.  They can be found everywhere.  They are in small residential complexes, usually in the wrong place.  They can also be found in the middle of main roads that have 100kph speed limits.  Have any of you driven over the one outside the Danat Hotel in Al Ain?  It’s on the corner on the approach to the entrance and has a similar incline as Mont Blanc.  You can’t drive over it straight so all 4 wheels traverse independently!  No matter how slowly you drive, it hurts.  My favourite ones are the ones that only cover the width of the road, so you just drive onto the dirt on one side and drive around it instead.  Honestly, this situation needs urgent review.

The most wearisome part of the entire episode is the consistency of them.  The Al Ain-Dubai road is a good example.  When you are coming into Al Ain, you’re driving along the motorway at 120kph; you see the sign that says “HUMPS AHEAD” and you start to slow as it, unusually, comes into view.  You don’t feel it; it was more or less the same as running over a catseye or a piece of paper.  So you think that you were played for a fool.  Then instantly after the fake hump is another one, you hit that aaannd… the next thing you know you are waking up in the back of ambulance and your car is stuck in a tree.

Is there a solution for these invisible and lethal weapons of mass destruction?  Is it all part of an elaborate ruse by the motoring industry to cause damage to our cars so we have to spend more money on repairs to help them out of recession?  Is it an Illuminati effort to curb population growth by trying to kill us off?  Or is it just plain incompetence?  I suspect that mans’ oldest enemy is up to her old tricks…

The only rational theory that I can muster is that Mother Nature no longer wants to play with fire now she’s got the hump…

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

74. DVD’s

Yesterday I went to Mall of the Emirates, which in case you don’t know, is a Mall in Dubai with an Alp in it.  I’m a funny one with “Malls”, or “Shopping Centres” as they should be called.  No matter where I am in the world, no matter what is on offer or available, the only shops I will ever go in to are ones that sell DVD’s.

Thankfully Mall of the Alpines has a Virgin Megastore, which for a franchise that went bankrupt a few years ago seems to be doing rather well in the economic afterlife.  So I went in and started snaking around all the different DVD genres.  I pick one up, scoff at the price/actor calibre ratio (honestly, who wants to see anything with Vin Diesel in it for AED 85?) put it down and buy something that I already have in my collection at home in London.

Once home the DVD goes into the soon to be archaic DVD player (I swear to the heavens I will not buy a pointless Blu-Ray player until they too are nearly obsolete) and I press play.  I sit there in awe of the directional prowess, the magnificence of the actors, the twisting story and so on until I soon realise that I am becoming confused.  Confused why?  Because something, some crucial scene that is the fulcrum point of the entire film has been cut out.

Now I understand that the UAE has a strict moral code and that everyone always follows it to the letter without question.  No really, there are no reported cases of anyone ever doing anything untoward ever.  It just doesn’t happen…  But really, there are many aspects of cutting scenes out of DVD’s that I simply don’t understand.

Ok, full on pornography isn’t readily available behind the counter over here, nor is it allowed, but it is true that some films do contain scenes of an intimate nature.  I understand that the UAE would rather it wasn’t displayed and fair enough.  But how on Earth do so many films make it on to OSN (the UAE’s satellite network)?  Honestly, I have been flicking through the channels before and stumbled across some films that I think would even be banned in the USA or the Netherlands.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  Who’s in charge?

I wouldn’t lick a Kardashian if she was glazed in honey!

Furthermore, most of the scenes that get cut from DVD’s aren’t of an intimate nature at all.  I have V for Vendetta sitting here, which according to the box and Wikipedia has a run time of 132 minutes, my copy has only 98 minutes of footage.  No wonder I was confused, I missed a quarter of the film, but what was it that I missed exactly?  Stephen Fry appears nude in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, but thanks to some crafty camerawork he really is only topless.  Ok, it’s not that I am dying to see a de-robed Stephen Fry, but what he has to say in the missing scene is fairly important to the film’s plot.

I own lots of DVD’s, over 300, and most of them have been brought over from the UK.  All of them are also available here so it’s not like I’m smuggling contraband, it’s because I’m fed up of only getting half my monies worth.  Family Guy is funny.  You can moan about it if you don’t like it, but it is light, low-brow relief.  It provides a cheap laugh that can be very much needed over here sometimes.  For a while it was banned, I can’t think why…  But now it’s back on the shelf, fully uncut, yet we can’t watch Stephen Fry josh with his usual aplomb.  If you watch Family Guy then you will understand my point.

So what may be done?  If the Ministry of DVD Mutilation is going to continue to cut out scenes that are of importance to the film and thereby put people off buying them in the first place therefore damaging the local economy, then may I make a suggestion?  Forget about the nudity, really, we all shower and we all know what’s down there, but let’s ban certain actors instead: Vin Diesel, Val Kilmer, The Rock and of course, the worst actor of the lot of them; Kim Kardashian.

Cutting her out of our lives and replacing her and her stupidity with Stephen Fry and his nipples will only improve our quality of life and get our moral compass’s back on track.  Food for thought…

Tagged , , , , ,

73. Small Talk

As we all know the UAE is a tremendously cosmopolitan place.  With all the different languages and nationalities it can be a bit of a minefield.  Of course, thanks to the old empire, English is widely spoken and that’s a good thing for us lazy expatriates.  But sadly not everyone has a good a grasp on the English language as say, Boris Johnson or Queen Elizabeth II.  To some people it is not even a second language, maybe a third or even a fourth, and that means that it can be jolly difficult to understand everyone when engaged in riveting conversation.

You can only ask someone to repeat themselves twice.  It has been well documented by several comedians of late that when you can’t understand someone you say “say that again”, then they do and you’re no better off.  Then you say “sorry I can’t hear you” and your conversational opponent once more utters his or her sentence.  By the third strike you just have to laugh or come out with a vague, all encompassing answer such as “Yeah, no” or awkwardly smile or my personal favourite, pretend my phone is vibrating and answer it, “Fire at the old school house!?  Gadzooks I’m on my way!”

As a rule, then, I try to avoid getting dragged into small talk as much as possible.  There is little more out there in the big wide world that makes me cringe as much as getting dragged into a conversation with a stranger who simply doesn’t get the hint that I would rather sit in silence more than anything else.

“It was not a good race for me, no. Sadly Marty wasn’t there over the radio to remind me which pedal did what. But he did call to ask me if I want to up-size”

One of the worst offenders is a guy that works in the wholesome Hardee’s burger grot house in Khalifa Street, Al Ain.  I don’t talk about my work on here very often but my job combines Motorsport and corporate hospitality.  As such it is difficult to describe exactly what I do in a nutshell.  So when asked by the man – who after 4 years I still don’t know his name – what I did I said “I work at a race circuit, like a sports club”.  The look of vagueness on his face confirmed my worst fears that he hadn’t a clue and I would have to elaborate further.  “Errr…” I continued “You know, like, err, Formula 1?  Schumacher?” I added by using some interesting hand gestures.  “Ah!  Yes, Michael Schumacher!  You teach Michael Schumacher?!”  That was it, if I said no I didn’t teach Michael Schumacher then I would be forced to explain further, so I said yes.  Apart from the fact that Michael Schumacher is 15 years older than me and has 7 F1 World championships amongst other copious world records to his name, apparently I am his instructor and mentor.  So whenever I go into Hardees’s – which thankfully doesn’t happen as much these days – I am questioned about Michael’s progress.  Leave me alone, I just want my Big Deluxe and curly fries.  It’s insufferable.

Taxi drivers are also a pain in this regard.  When I get into a taxi I want to sit in peace in the back with my nose pinched and my seatbelt fastened.  Alas no.  “Hello my friend!  Hell you are today?”  It begins “You from where?” usually follows.  “London, England” I bluntly reply.  “Landown?  Where is this one?  Norway?” he asks.  “No, UK” I add “Aha Landon!  You are Scandanavian, good?”  It is at this point that I consider opening the door and hurling myself out, but sadly the doors are usually locked.

I was forced into an hour of hell last week when travelling home from Dubai airport at 4am.  Things were going well until my taxi driver momentarily fell asleep and we found ourselves veering across the three lanes towards the guardrail.  I considered letting him be before I realised that there was a high probability that I could be killed.  So I reluctantly shouted insanely at my chauffer.  He sprung back into action and we retook our course.  I then had to suffer for the next 60 minutes by forcing small talk out of myself, just to keep him awake.  Again my job came up and somehow he thought I sold cheap Chinese training shoes, and then, when asked which football team I supported, had to explain the entire English Football League system as my team aren’t in the Premier League, together with the geography of London. At one point I honestly felt like allowing him to doze off again.

My own penchant for politeness towards strangers has long since disintegrated, as you can plainly tell.  My malevolence for small talk was born from a man that my friends and I accidentally – it turns out – got talking to some years ago.  Ultimately he couldn’t speak a word of English.  We then met him 3 months later and he had – in that time – learnt English and as an offer of thanks to us wished to provide us with 3 dead goats.  All he wanted to know was where we lived and when we would be at work so he could pop round and leave the three mutilated carcasses on our doorstep.  Hmmm….and then perhaps pick the lock and make off with our 54 inch flat screen.  So we told him we lived on the moon.  And he bought it.

Don’t get me wrong; things like “Good morning Sir” or “can I help you” are fine.  I will either respond with a pleasantry of equal stature or inform you that I do or indeed do not need your help.  But ask me where I am from and you have crossed the line.  What you are now doing is bordering on harassment.  How do I know you’re not an identity thief?  Or a flat screen thief?  Or an imbecile that thinks a pokey Englishman with dirty finger nails who eats grotty burgers at 2am is Michael Schumacher’s driving instructor?

Damn the empire.  If we had just let the French rule instead, like Napoleon wanted, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,