Monthly Archives: October 2012

97. Healthcare

I, like many similar to me, have a saying: “see, told you so.”  We think we know it all, we think we have worked it all out before the authorities and we think we know who Roy Hodgson should have played behind Rooney in Euro 2012.  The truth is that we’re right more often than not.  As I have a deluded sense of grandeur about this website, I think that the authorities treat UAE Uncut as a source of reliable data, and that they use my opinions as a base for gauging public opinion.  I like to think that.  There have been many blog subjects that I have written about that within weeks have also appeared in the national media.  I sometimes think that it’s 1984 and that the Thought Police slip into my head each night to pick through my ideas…  Normally, I get there first.  But today, I’m beaten.

I’ve been wanting to write about hospitals for a while but something else always comes up instead, but today I have been forced into it.  I read today that excessive hospital visits are straining the UAE healthcare system. I fell back into my chair and said “see, told you so!”

In the UK we have something called the National Health Service.  It gets a bad press almost daily and that is a shame.  The NHS is a fantastic thing to have, it is free healthcare.  Free healthcare is the want and dream of billions world over and us grumpy Brits are up in arms every time we spot a Twix wrapper on the floor or an MSRA bug in the bin.  The NHS is strained and struggling for beds not because it’s evil and finds it funny, but because there are too many hypochondriacs rushing in because they have a splinter or because they’re 16 and have just necked a bottle of Jaegermeister.

My God man! Don’t scream just because you were asked to sweep up! Ok ok, have a day off work…

The same is true of the UAE.  Despite the fact that healthcare isn’t free, it is paid for by employers so as far as regular employees are concerned it is like the NHS; free healthcare.  There are a lot of hypochondriacs here in the UAE who think that having a bit of grit behind a finger nail means that you should get a week off work.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say “my allergy”.  What allergy, an allergy of hard work?

So what happens is Johnny Hardworker heads to the Hospital, comes up with a story about being allergic to oxygen or work uniform, screams in agony for a few seconds and then winks at the attending physician.  They then agree that Johnny gets a day off work, and to be safe is prescribed some placebo just so the farce looks authentic.

I rarely go to the hospital, I will only go if I am violently ill and I don’t know what it is.  In one such case a few years ago I was vomiting all day, unable to stop.  Surprisingly it had nothing to do with alcohol.  When I saw the doctor and before I was asked any questions about my ailment at all, I was asked how many days I wanted off work.  I abruptly stated that I didn’t want any days off work and that I was here for a cure.  She looked surprised and proceeded to state the obvious.

It would appear that hospitals have a very poor screening process.  All they are, then, is a government building where you go to get an official letter dictating that you can have a day off work.  But this, as far as the overcrowding situation is concerned, is only half the problem.

Patients do not trust their healthcare professionals.  If the doctor tells them that they are suffering from scurvy or indeed that there is nothing wrong with them then they do not accept the analysis.  They then go and see another 3 or 4 doctors until they get an illness that they like.  I’m sorry, but if you go to a mainstream hospital, and there are plenty in the UAE, then I would be inclined to trust a doctor’s diagnosis.  They would have completed 7-8 years of med school and are bound to know a hell of a lot more than you.  Hell, I’d be inclined to say I would know more than you.

Such antics are putting an enormous strain on the healthcare system.  Every time a lazy employee with a work allergy walks into A&E looking like he’s been marinated in sulphuric acid he takes up to 2 hours of hospital time that could have been used to treat the poor person with cancer who has been made to wait on the floor.  Likewise when some ignorant cretin demands to see 64 doctors to hear the word “Flu” when all they have is a cold then they are putting genuine sick-cases at risk.

I have been racking my brains to try and find a solution and I’ll be honest, some of them are a bit over the top.  I thought about starting a fire in the hospital, so all of those fakers quickly show who they are and get out, but that leaves the real patients in a spot of bother.  Again, what about docking a day’s wages to those who take a day off work?  Well no, that’s not fair for those days when a decent employee is actually ill.  What about if the doctors are actually honest and thorough?  If someone says that they are having an allergic reaction to something and that you, after 8 years of medical school cannot see anything wrong, how about sending them for rabies cure?  You know the one where they put the massive needle into your stomach that hurts more than being eaten by a bear?  Again, it would waste precious hospital time.

Sadly you cannot change the human condition.  There are some who lie and some who just don’t get it, it has always been and will always be that way.  Maybe one day when they are genuinely really ill but cannot be seen by a doctor because he’s writing a phoney sick note they will realise the errors of their ways.  But by then it will be too late.

See, told you so.

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96. Immaculate conception

There are certain things that I need to see in order to believe.  I for one want to know what really happened to former British weapons expert David Kelly.  Given that the whole Iraq business was going on and that he seemed to know that Saddam Hussain had nothing more than a pea shooter in his arsenal, I find his “suicide” hard to swallow.  Likewise, I want to believe that little green men did actually crash at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 and that it is a government cover up to protect the world from the truth.  But, until I see the proof that ET is out there I have to remain sceptical.

Of course, we all love a good conspiracy theory and these days you can get one with just about everything.  From the 9/11 atrocities being orchestrated by the CIA to mind control toxins in jet vapour.  In these situations the facts, or certain facts, are presented to us through the media.  We can pick and choose what we believe and what we treat as suspicious, and it’s from these occasionally conflicting reports that these conspiracy theories are born, usually by hippies living in caravans.

If someone, say, the accused, comes out and speaks the truth then that should tie the subject off neatly.  For example, if Tony Blair came out of his volcano lair and told us all that he gave the go-ahead for David Kelly to be assassinated then that would draw a line under the subject and the conspiracy theorists would move onto something else.  But no, there are some quarters who believe that they can pull the wool over our eyes and that we’ll buy everything we’re sold.

You can only imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the newspaper this week in a coffee shop to read about an immaculate conception.  This is only the second time in recorded history that this has happened, the first being the birth of a well known biblical figure.  Upon re-reading the headline thrice I spat my Americno out over the table and ran about screaming the lord’s name in a crazed panic.

The story states the facts, something that I am going to replicate here, so Thought Police; sod off, I am merely reporting the particulars.  A police medical doctor has confirmed that a young woman who is 29 weeks pregnant is in fact still a virgin.  This is most curious, is this possibly the second coming?  If so, it’s pretty big news.

The case goes further, not only is the young woman only 15 years old, but is also charged with indulging in a physical act with a 17 year old male, now the picture is becoming clearer.  To confirm the charges against her, the young woman has openly stated in a court of law that yes, she has shared full-on intimate relations with the boy and that she is guilty as charged.  The boy, in typical Y chromosome fashion denies such allegations.  But by the sounds of it he is lying.

Despite the open confession of the young woman, the medical professionals are still insisting that she is still a virgin.  Despite her bearing a foetus at 29 weeks logic and science have both been sidelined in favour of a contracted “professional’s” opinion.  Where are they from, Kansas?

Thankfully there was a slim ray of hope for humanity when a doctor who is completely unrelated to the case came out and said something along the lines of “bullshit.”

Yeah ok the kid’s like, totally mine.

When Commanding General Robert Ramey of the Eighth Air Force came out with some tin foil and a story about the Roswell wreckage being that of a weather balloon, his intention was to reassure the public.  How could the USAF concede that they weren’t in control of the skies and that in actual fact some clumsy Martians had crashed their spaceship in the desert?  No, he had a pretty tight story.  Whether you think it was a conspiracy theory or not, he had the nation’s best interests at heart.  This situation, however, beggars belief.

I’m not here to evaluate the moral or social ramifications of what the young courting couple were up to, that is none of my business.  But to the masses this fiasco pertaining to false medical reports is insulting.  The poor girl in question is expecting a child; the father – a 17 year old boy fresh out of childhood – doesn’t want to know and thanks to a preposterous medical examination she is soon to become a modern day Virgin Mary.  Give the poor girl a chance.  She has confessed the truth about what she got up to so can we not go from there and refrain from insulting our intelligence any further?

As for the 17 year old boy, he is soon to be the subject of a DNA paternity test.  If indeed his genetic matrix matches that of the unborn child then what will happen?  Will he contest the scientific facts and deny that he did it still?  Will he come up with a lie that suggests he may have done it but he can’t remember or something slightly more elaborate?  Will he man up and admit it and be a good dad?

We don’t know, but with the kind of medical reports being submitted in this case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Roswell aliens are blamed.

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95. Anxiety?

My issues with panic attacks and anxiety disorder have been well documented on these pages.  I’ve been to hell and back within my own rogue mind.  Of course, that’s what I think anyway.  Yes, I had a total nervous meltdown a few years ago and whilst in the thick of it I honestly could not fathom how a person could feel any worse.  But in the grand scheme of things it could have been worse; a lot worse.

My mental episode changed me, but despite now being the strongest I have ever been, I can’t seem to shake the occasionally constant feeling of anxiety.  It’s a pain in the arse really; I could be walking around the supermarket and for no reason in the ghee and oil section, find myself conflicted.  Some day’s I’m fine, but other days I get nervous even informing a waiter that my order was incorrect, whereas as other days I would shoot them down with a bullet made of pejorative UAE Uncut inspired discourse.  I subsequently have to drink the rancid pint of Fosters and wonder about the Carlsberg that never was.

Oh God really? What next? Old Shep by the live band?!

I hate it (anxiety and Fosters).  I have a degree of control, but it really can get on my nerves, if you will pardon the pun.  Anyone who goes through the same thing gets my sympathy.  Those of you that are just in a bad mood or miserable with the choices you have made that day, stop it.   Anxiety and panic disorder is a real thing, stop it, and stop trying to milk attention.  You’re not “depressed”, you’re unhappy.  There is a big, big difference and I am here today to help you work out what might be wrong.

Mental health is often underestimated and misunderstood, especially out here in the UAE.  The problem is how do you know if someone is having an attack of the nerves or just being a mardy-bum?  For a lot of people, the concept is totally alien.  Sometimes people come into the office and they’re just in a bad mood.  Perhaps they overslept and missed breakfast or they didn’t get to sit in the front seat of the car.  Who knows?  Other people may come into the office and just seem off.  Perhaps baring a poignant face or perhaps they are not as talkative as they usually are.  The giveaway is generally talkativeness.  The moody people will generally rant and the anxious will generally close up and wish to keep a low profile.

How can you get through a day at work like that, unable to control your own mind and unable to concentrate on anything?  I’ve been there, many times, and it’s nigh on impossible.  The trap is to feel guilty about low productivity.  Don’t fret, inform your boss.

The question is what to do about it?  First of all, take a look around.  Are you happy?  If not then you need to take some affirmative action.  If you’re unhappy, be sure that it is a general unhappiness and not just because your flatmate finished off the Cheerio’s.  Whatever the cost of it, take steps to improve your situation.  That may mean making some very painful decisions in the short term but remember you have to put yourself first.

Next, don’t delude yourself.  Don’t sit around and wait to see how things pan out for too long.  By all means give it some time, that’s important.  But after 6 months or a year and you are still walking around with a face like a horse then what are you waiting for?

Thirdly, listen.  Listen to yourself and to your family.  I know that sounds a bit preachy for this page but you’ll be surprised how well your family know you, and how much you know yourself.  If they can tell that you’re unhappy, and they will, then listen to their advice.

You must have a clear divide between work and home.  At home the work has to stop.  You will be amazed at the difference in your life if you open a bottle of wine, stick on a DVD or whatever and just chill out.  It is important however that when you tell your friends that you are “chilling out” you actually say that you are “chilling out”.  Don’t; under any circumstances say “chillin’”, or worse still, “chillaxing”.  This will make you sound like a pillock and you could be slapped with a UAE Uncut social injunction.

You can help yourself over here by also not being a nuisance.  No one likes that one person who is constantly whinging and moaning in open forums about trivial matters.  Ok, beef bacon tastes different here, deal with it.  It could be worse; you could be one of those Bangladeshi Labourers you see pawing through the dirt with their bare hands in 50 Celsius heat for a shilling a month.  No, you need to keep people close.  There is no substitute for being liked.  If you keep smiling and stay away from conflict then you can get through your expat tenure here without problems.  If you start making enemies then, no matter who you are, that is going to grate and serve no benefits at all.  I doubt you needed to be reminded of that…

The bottom line is that panic attacks and anxiety disorder are born from suppression of emotion.  If you repress your true feelings for too long then the pressure becomes too much.  It could take months or it could take years to erupt, but it will.  It’s a bit like Final Destination but without the grisly deaths.  You owe yourself a decent life, whoever you are, so don’t damage yourself.  If you’re not happy here, then get to the airport and try not to remember that opening scene in Final Destination.

I can tell you first hand that you don’t want to go through what I did.  But just remember no matter how rough you feel, no matter how much drama you think you have going on, thank Christ you’re not an underpaid labourer living with 7 other lads in a 12x12ft room with absolutely no hope of a comfortable life.

There’s always someone much, much worse off than you.

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94. Earthquake

We are all familiar with the parable of the man who built his house on sand.  No?  Well I can’t remember their names but there were 2 blokes, Terry and Dave I think, and they both wanted to build a house each.  Anyway, Terry did some research and decided that it would be better if he built his bungalow on a rocky plateau.  He reasoned that the stronger foundations would help his drum stand the test of time.  Dave however didn’t do as much research and decided that he wanted to live on the beach.  So he built his detached house on the coastline.  Sadly for him the foundations weren’t very strong and he lost it all.  The insurance company never paid out and he was screwed.  This isn’t how the parable appears in the bible directly, but you get the gist of it.

Anyway over the last 2000 years or so there have been massive advances in architecture and technology and these days you cannot only build houses on sand, but skyscrapers and ski domes too.  It’s all quite impressive.  If only Dave had had the foresight to dig down deeper he may have found some oil and he could have had a condo.

However I have a question.  Can the UAE’s high-rise skyline stand the threat of an earthquake?  I’m not so sure.  In high-risk quake spots around the globe, think Los Angeles and Tokyo, buildings are fitted with reinforced RSJ cross members in strategic places.  Obviously they are aimed at giving the building rigidity in the likely event of an earthquake.

Not only are the skyscrapers structurally sound but they are supported by a series of complicated flexible foundations.  Laid underneath there are a series of what are basically springs and rubber blocks designed to allow the building to sway gently in the event of a seismic shift.  This acts as a shock absorber similar to that on a car and although won’t protect things entirely will reduce the level of damage substantially.

I’ve been to Burj Khalifa, and since I was only on the 124th floor for 23 seconds before I was sick over myself I had plenty of time downstairs to watch the videos of how the beast was made.  Since I can’t remember any of what I watched I have referenced Wikipedia and at no point does it mention that it is earthquake proof.  Sure there is plenty of reinforced concrete that incidentally can barely deal with the extreme pressure of the building and the Gulf temperatures, but my confidence that it could withstand a sizeable seismic shockwave is weak.

Ok, I’m not going to sit here and proclaim that I am a more qualified architect than the good people at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, but my instincts are telling me that something is wrong.  On a smaller scale, I know how to drill into a plaster wall; I fit many pictures at home.  I know that you have to start drilling with a masonry bit at a very low RPM or the surrounding plaster is just going to disintegrate.  Sadly, the builders here use too much sand in the cement plaster, which is just sand scooped up from the ground outside.  So whenever I try to hang one of Mel’s many thousands of frames I end up with a wall that looks like a block of ementhal cheese and very messy floor.

Build quality in the UAE leaves much to be desired and that is a worry.  The Arabian Peninsula sits on its very own tectonic plate that is moving away from Africa and bashing into the Eurasian plate, with Iran taking the biggest hit.  The northern fault line runs through the middle of the Gulf Sea.  Iran is the deadliest country for earthquakes in the world and it suffers the most, almost daily.  What’s to say then that one day when the Arabian plate gives Iran another nudge that the UAE won’t take the brunt of the quake instead?  Earthquakes cannot be predicted by even the smartest experts or technologies, so are we prepared?

Godammit! What did I say? AED 400 to go up Burj Khalifa was a waste of money. Now look.

Only yesterday were there two 3+ magnitude earthquakes in Fujeriah, and sometimes we get small ones in Al Ain.  Ras Al Khaimah reports several each month.  The Hajjar Mountains (which includes Jebel Hafeet) which run up alongside Al Ain, past Fujeriah and Ras Al Khaimah and under the Straight of Hormuz are pushing on the Zargos mountains in Iran.  This tip from which the UAE takes its physical shape is a seismic livewire.

It hits home the point that some builders may have underestimated this fact.  If an entire courtyard above an underground car park can collapse just because someone sneezed, can you imagine what will happen if a magnitude 7 earthquake strikes?  In such a situation I would be looking to stay close to Charlton Heston.

It won’t matter if you built your house on rock or sand; if it’s not built properly it will come down like an Abu Dhabi courtyard.  Sadly, like so much in life, I fear that the correct measures won’t be taken until after a disaster.

I still think Terry was smarter than Dave though…

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93. School run

London is an ever-changing city that today has a population of 8.2 million people, which is more than the entire UAE.  In the late Victorian era and Edwardian era things were starting to get a bit crowded.  Traffic was a nightmare.  In those days, however, you didn’t have to worry about the diesel fumes, but the horse manure.  You couldn’t cross the road without fear of being run over by a moustachioed man riding a Penny Farthing bicycle.  By the 1930’s it was decided that 100,000’s of new homes were to be built in London’s surrounding fields and within just a few minutes suburbia was born.

Ah the suburbs; the land of opportunity and home to millions.  Suburbia is the ideal location for families as there are acres of space, local shops, decent communication in the form of roads and of course plenty of schools.  Schools were built in strategic places so to form catchment areas so that every house would be within 3 miles to the nearest one.  The schools being spaced out also meant that people weren’t in a mad dash driving all over the place in the morning and so that they could walk to their local school without having to catch 27 buses.

In the 1930’s however, when suburbia was invented, one could be forgiven for not having the foresight to predict just how popular a tool the automobile was to become.  Today cars are used a lot, and as a result the school run has been a major issue ever since global warming was invented and became a taxable entity.  Every morning in the London suburbs, then, is a nightmare: heavy traffic, don’t-know-better kids hurling themselves into the roads and bossy mummies driving ostentatious 4×4’s .  It’s a veritable smorgasbord of obstacles.

The answer to the traffic problem? Make crap cars that never work…

In the olden days when British Leyland was making cars things weren’t so bad.  Most mornings your Austin Allegro or Talbot Alpine wouldn’t start for love nor money so you couldn’t drive even if you wanted to.  These days though, your Citroen C1 or Range Rover is as reliable as a Japanese train.  They’re a damn sight safer too.  Plus it rains more than it used to…

When the UAE came to be in 1971 it had a golden opportunity to do things differently and learn lessons from others.  What Al Ain was before Oilisation I have no idea, but I am fairly sure they had a mass of land and a blank sheet of paper.  Al Ain is like Milton Keynes, which in case you don’t know, is a British overspill town 50 miles north of London famous for concrete cows, grid roads and the callas theft of a once great football team.  Everything in Al Ain is structured.  All the government departments are next to each other in Baladiya and all the traffic related institutions are located in Zakher.  So to are the schools, generally.  Ok, there are schools dotted around all over the place, but the main hive is on Khaled Bin Sultan Street.

Along a 5 kilometre stretch, Khaled Bin Sultan Street is the home of 37 schools and an astonishing 38,000 pupils.  It was reported today that the Al Ain Traffic and Patrol Department has held a meeting with the Al Ain City Municipality to discuss and solve the problem of the chronic traffic jams that plague the road.

The schools, mostly, start teaching at 7:30am which is well before the morning commute for the cities working force.  So it must be the afternoon school run that is the kicker.  Schools finish between 1pm and 2pm, just about the same time that every working person within a 25 kilometre radius decides to leave work for a few hours for the traditional 3 hour siesta.  However it was only the meeting to confirm the problem itself that was reported, the actual action points and possible solutions have not yet been announced, or even determined.

UAE Uncut is all about help, and, well, pee eye ess ess taking.  But mainly help.  So it is clear that the Traffic department needs my help in coming up with a solution.  According to the report the directorate has pledged all its resources.  In my mind, “resources” means money. Excellent, so we have a blank cheque to play with…

One option would be to close the road to everything except school vehicles, but this won’t work as it will just push the problem elsewhere.  It would also cause even bigger jams at each end as the police search each vehicle for children.  Another option would be to change the school times, but if you push it back you are just going to get dragged into the morning rush hour, and that won’t do either.  What about swapping it around so that kids only go to school over the 2 day weekend and have the 5 working days off?  That wouldn’t be a bad deal for the teachers but I fear that the syllabus would be too thin to warrant going to school in the first place.

What about a network of flyovers?  No really.  If money is no object then why not build a suspended road network above the existing one?  It can have ramps down to each school and security barriers at each end so only school buses and pre-approved school run cars can use it.  The suspended road network can trace the existing roads in the congested area so from outer space it won’t look any different.  Plus you won’t have to bother updating the accurate maps…

If there are 38,000 school kids using it twice a day then that is 76,000 acceptable uses plus say 8000 teaching staff.  Each year everyone using the special UAE Uncut-School-Sky-Road can pay AED 200 towards its upkeep.  That works out to over AED 9 million each year.  I reckon that the whole project would only cost about AED 500 million so in the long run, it will be worth it.  Well, it won’t be worth it at all, it would be a massive waste of money, but frankly I don’t think there is a viable alternative.

Unless of course, they do what us British do: shout, stress and swear whilst stuck in school run traffic because nothing can be done about it.

Welcome to the real world.

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92. Opportunity

Pa, it sure was swell the government givin’ us this place ‘n all, but d’ya think we could turn the AC on, its like 150 in here!

Ever since Britain established 13 new colonies on the eastern coastline of a trans-Atlantic continent, America has been known colloquially as “the Land of Opportunity”.  America’s key selling point was to entice the masses away from the oppressing tyranny that ruled so vigorously in their home countries.  As such millions of British, Italian, Irish, German and Dutch and just about everyone else floated across the Atlantic to start over.  Of course when they got there they realised that they had to build their own houses out of trees and had to make sure they weren’t killed by the natives, but otherwise things were rosy.

The USA did indeed become the land of opportunity; he with only a buck to his name could leave the house potless in the morning and return in the evening a wealthy king.  Much like the British thinking that their empire would last forever and ever and ever, America believed that it would always remain the land of opportunity and as such would build such a powerful economy that it too thought it would reign forever and ever and ever.

That was until an accounting firm called PricewaterhouseCoopers stepped in with a survey…  Abu Dhabi is on the USA’s tail.

Well, sort of.

The first thing to mention is that PwC has opted to work out the top 27 cities, isn’t that a peculiar number?  Aren’t things normally listed in 10’s?  UAE Uncut is in the top 20 blogs in the UAE.  Sorry, had to get that in there.  Anyway, spurious numbers aside, Abu Dhabi is doing jolly well.

I must say I take all surveys with a pinch of salt.  It’s no good going out in the middle of the week to get the views of students and the unemployed; the working tax-payer is the person with the answers.  But there is something even more inane about a survey conducted by an accounting firm.  I know several accountants and they are all nice people; good at their jobs, friendly, and as you would expect, good with money.  But accountants share a common catchphrase: “don’t ask me, I’m just the accountant.”  They look at the data and not the human factor.  And that’s good, leave the moralising to the rest of us.

Remarkably, out of the seemingly random 27 cities investigated, Abu Dhabi is the only one from the Middle East.  I’m not so sure their neighbours, Dubai, are going to like that.  The UAE capital has been ranked 22nd in the fifth edition of the Cities of Opportunity…err…challenge.  It looks mainly at finance, culture and commerce and somehow is able to predict exactly what jobs will be the good ones in the year 2025, a year plucked at random, it would seem.

There’s a whole load of statistics, figures and percentages which, frankly, look completely meaningless.  There are also some quotes from people who you have never heard of, but this is all just filler text, all we really want to look at is the list.  Sadly, this being a survey conducted by accountants, there isn’t just one list telling us how good Abu Dhabi is, there are several lists about different things.  Here we are then, are you sitting down?

Abu Dhabi finished in 6th place in the “cost of business occupancy” competition.  Abu Dhabi came home in 9th place in the “consumer index” race.  Abu Dhabi scored a remarkable second place podium finish in the “lowest cost in public transport” challenge.  Abu Dhabi, and this is my favourite, finished in 15th position in the “iPod Nano index”, which measures the number of working hours needed to afford an iPod Nano.  But of course the crowning jewel is a dominant victory in the “highest amount of hospitals per capita” category.  It seems that Abu Dhabi may be short on occupied villas but certainly isn’t short on hospitals.

Add all this together and when pitted against the likes of San Francisco, New York, London, Shanghai and Tokyo, Abu Dhabi is in 22nd place.  Wahoo.  Go get ‘em.

But, the survey exposes a darker side to Abu Dhabi.  It ranked last in the sustainability and the natural environments indicator.  The reason for this, apparently, is because it does not have enough public park space (even if it did, no sod would be allowed to use it anyway) and is – pardon the pun – rubbish at recycling.  The final blow, and quite unfairly in my opinion, is that Abu Dhabi has poor thermal control and air pollution problems.

This is why we can’t rely on an accountant’s survey.  The physical environment has not been accounted for.  Abu Dhabi is a great city, but because it sits on the Tropic of Cancer in the Arabian Desert, which is one of the hottest places on Earth, it cannot progress up the ladder.  No matter how rich it is it simply cannot do anything about the sun and heat.  The main cause of pollution is not cars; there are only 1.5 million in the capital compared to 5 million in London, but from the energy needed to power the air conditioning units.  The sun isn’t going to go away and air-con is here to stay.  Without it we’d all be expatriates working in Hong Kong instead.

So, ditch your rain-sodden jobs and escape the oppressing tyranny of the European Union and set sail for Abu Dhabi, the Land of Opportunity.  You’ll love it; apart from the heat and the pollution of course…

Oh, you won’t need to worry about building your own house, the economy is screwed so they’re just giving them away; until 2025…

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91. Music

There is no way that a writer, especially a rubbish one like me, can please everybody.  Writers aren’t like Politicians or Hollywood Film Actors who can please everyone all the time with their vague, all-encompassing responses and ideas.  No, we piss people off, a lot.  So today, note it down, I am going to lose some of my treasured readers.  Today we are going to discuss music.

There are many factors that split the world and the respective countries that reside within.  On an international scale foreign policy is a big one.  Mitt Romney is trying to give us the impression that if he takes power, everything will be ok and that all countries in the world will kiss and make up.  Religion is another biggun; 99% of the worlds population just want to get on with their own lives, it’s only a tiny minority of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikh’s that want to cause a fracas.  But to the surveying masses the tension between faiths comes across as a bigger deal than it actually is.

As far as an individual nation is concerned, people are split by politics, global temperature fluctuation and X Factor.  But then we get down to the third layer: the people.  The people of a nation are split by one overwhelming factor, and that is music.  From the playground up to the boardroom a person’s music taste can define them.  This is a trend that has been in place, globally, since the 1950’s after the invention of the teenager.  Sub-cultures are basically determined by musical interest.

In 1960’s Great Britain there was a very violent clash of sub-cultures: Mods and Rockers.  Mods wore Lambretta coats, rode Vesper scooters down to Brighton and listened to The Who.  Rockers wore leather jackets, bullrings, tattoos, rode big nasty bikes and ate the elderly.  They generally listened to more dark music like the works of Eddie Cochran and, weirdly, Chuck Berry.

Things haven’t much changed today.  If you like Hip and Hop music, or Rythem and or Blues, then you wear a silly hat with baggy clothes and talk in a language containing very few words that appear in the Oxford Dictionary.  If you like Metal music then you dress in black and dance around heretics and eat bats.  Political parties, global super-powers, foreign policy, it all changes over time but the sub-cultures created by different music genres has stood the test of time.  If all music was the same then surely all its listeners would be the same also.  Imagine if there was no Paul Weller and no Ozzy Osbourne and instead all we listened to Barry Manilow, we’d all be Communists.

So, after 459 words lets see how the UAE fits into all of this.  Arabic music…sorry folks but it all sounds the same to me.  It’s not that I don’t like it; on the contrary, there is just no variety.  I know of one boy band, a group, hilariously, called Salami.  Yes, they are named after cold cut meat.  But even their stuff (don’t ask how I own a copy of their CD) sounds the same as everything else.

Now, the sharper of my readers may point out that I can’t speak Arabic, and therefore have no idea what the singer is singing about.  True, but I have asked a friend about some songs and there is one whereby the male singer spends 3 and a half minutes singing about a ladies leg.  Not legs, leg.  Which leg shall forever remain a closely guarded secret.  But it’s the music itself; it’s a lute, a flute and not much else.

Sssh! Romney’s coming! Play that same song again!

I am not trained in the history of Arabic music, or any music for that matter, and there are too many words on the Wikipedia page that I do not know the meaning of.  I assume they are musical instruments.  So I speak as an ignorant Neanderthal, but without some Arabic musicians riding Vespers and some biting the heads off of bats how can the UAE provide the variety it needs to cater for the cosmopolitan demography?

It just doesn’t fit in with the UAE.  The UAE is all about diversity, there is little you cannot do here if you go to the right places.  Ferrari World, skiing, 1000’s of different restaurants, you name it you can do it.  But whenever you tune into an Arabic Radio station it just sounds like they are playing the same song over and over again.  It’s like listening to the Cantina Band in Star Wars.

This is not the kind of topic that requires me to come up with a far fetched solution, no, but I want to help the cause and stop the UAE accidentally becoming Communist.  Since I am hell-bent on becoming rich and famous by any means possible I have come up with an idea that I think will not only line my pockets, but also provide the UAE with a wide assortment of different musical genres.  I will put together a panel of judges, each from a different musical background.  I will get them to choose their favourite acts through an auditioning process that will be aired on TV.  There will be several knock-out stages for the different Arabic genres and hopefully we’ll end up with a winner.  But it won’t matter; everyone will be a winner because they will all have been on TV. We shall therefore have the variety of Arabic music that is needed.  I’ll call it UAE Uncut Factor.  As far as I know there is no such show out there that adopts this judges/contestant format and I am confident that it will be popular…

And if all else fails at least it will draw attention away from Mitt Romney’s foreign policy…

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90. Speeding

I’m just popping to the shop to get some milk…back in 5.

The speed limit was first invented in 1861.  Initially cars were classed as “light locomotives” and as such were not permitted to drive through built up, urbanised areas at more than 10mph, not bad since they couldn’t go higher than 4.  Over the next 100 years the limit was marginally increased and when in 1961 when the AC Cobra was invented the limit was pegged at 70mph.  The idea behind it was to stop all the crap cars, i.e. anything that was made by British Leyland, breaking down and to stop people dying in fiery crashes.  It seemed to work quite well.

This amazing idea was soon adopted in civilised countries all around the world, the USA copied it, as did France, and Iran too.  When the UAE built its first road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai in 197cough, they too thought that it would be a good idea to control the speed of the passing vehicles and adopted a speed limit, probably.  Anyway since back in 197cough there were only 12 cars in the entire country it very likely didn’t have much of an impact.

Eventually when the UAE became a more civilised country over the 70’s and 80’s more and more cars hit the road and today there are about 3 million.  As per recent population statistics that’s one car for every 2 adults.  In order to manage and control the flow of traffic the UAE implemented a simple set of limits: 40kph in residential complexes, 60kph in urban areas, 80kph in other urban areas, 100kph on two and three lane roads, 120kph on other two and three lane roads and 140kph on every road that is also 120kph.  The limits are printed onto signposts in a red “O”; this genuinely means that the sign is an “order”.  How could anyone argue with that or even get it wrong?

Whilst driving around the UAE some of you may have noticed that there are some people who care not for such signage.  Their easy to point out, generally they are in Land Cruisers or Mercedes, or Range Rovers or Chevrolet Camaro’s, or Nissan Patrol’s or BMW M5’s.  Generally the cars belong to quite well-to-do people.  Regardless, they don’t give a damn.

The Police are making an effort to curb such reckless behaviour.  The amount of speed cameras has tripled over the last 5 years.  There are more Police patrols waiting by the side of the road than ever before and now there are prizes for every single driver in the entire country who does not break the driving code.  According to a recent UAE Uncut University survey conducted on a campus of young communists, the amount of road fatalities has been on a steady decrease since 2009.  This then, is good news.

But further study shows some alarming facts.  Out of the all the nasty crashes that have been bending barriers and taking lives, only a few have been a direct result of reckless speeding.  It’s true, and if we dig deeper into the rabbit hole the truth becomes clear.  One of the main causes of crashes is feckless idiots swerving lanes without indicating.  How many times have you been driving along the E66 between Al Ain and Dubai and seen a truck with camels in the back just pull into the middle lane without warning?  Too many to count I bet.  In fact I bet you don’t even notice it anymore.

It seems that driving without due care and attention is the biggest killer out there.  The unpredictability of hapless drivers just swerving for no reason will cause any driver in their wake to jump and this is how those tramline tyre tracks that you see going off towards the central reservation are born.

Why is so much focus being channelled towards speeding when the reality is very different?  I don’t blame the UAE for this approach; speeding is a relatively easy thing to deal with and tax.  But swerving and not looking in mirrors, how do you police that?  The punishments for excessive speeding can be black points, fines (I had 12 points once and a hefty fine so I know the pain) and confiscation of vehicle.  Great news, the fines hurt those of us on low to modest wages, and destroy the working classes altogether.  But we all know that a AED 3000 fine to the key offenders isn’t going to bother them much at all.  Confiscation of vehicle for 30 days is pointless since all the guilty party will do is go home and get in one of his or her other cars.  The penalties are futile.

But what about swerving from lane to lane without indicating?  Well, here is the driving offence table with all you need to know…

http://www.adpolice.gov.ae/en/portallist/mcontent/black.points.aspx

…and what amazes me the most is that the penalty for racing, i.e. speeding, is more severe than if you are responsible for killing someone.  That, I think, probably says it all.

Anyway, I’m heading downstairs now to see if Mel got me that V8 Camaro I asked for as a birthday present.  If she has then my advice to you all is to stay off the roads for a few hours…

…Fullard is goin’ t’ tear it up!!!

 

 

She hasn’t.

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89. Live Sports

We all have things we enjoy.  Things that we look forward to and plan our week around.  Me, I watch Formula 1.  Ever since I was a young boy I have followed the sport and since the 1998 Monaco Grand Prix have never missed a race.  I would move the heavens so to be able to enjoy a Grand Prix.  Yeah sure a lot of the time I don’t like the result but that’s part and parcel of watching sports.  Your favourite athlete or team can’t win it all.  But watching the sport is only half the experience, your surroundings and how you watch it helps define why you enjoy it.

Since I can’t speak Arabic I don’t like watching the race at home on Abu Dhabi Sports 2 because the “commentary” is in Arabic.  I don’t have Abu Dhabi Sports 6 so if I want to listen to Ben Edwards and David Coulthard I have to go to the pub.  It suits me fine, live sport and beer: perfect.  Usually most races kick off at 4pm, but today was the Korean Grand Prix and it started at 10am UAE time.  This caused me a problem; the pubs don’t open until midday.  There is only one place in all of Al Ain that will show the F1 with English commentary before midday, and that is a poolside bar at a hotel.

I like a drink – who doesn’t? – But 10am is a bit too early to be getting on it, so for me it was a coffee and a sandwich.  I was on a stool with my Americano with only one barman for company.  It was heaven; peace, quiet, coffee and David Coulthard cracking wise.  The lights went out and Sebastian Vettel took the lead.  Moments later and Jenson Button was savagely wiped out and my interest in the race was slashed.

Somehow it is all your faults why Vettel won today

After about 5 laps into the race a few men joined me in the bar.  All three men were not speaking in English and obviously had no interest in the Grand Prix at all.  Of course, they had no consideration for me either.  They weren’t so much talking to each other but shouting over the top of each other.  It was horrific.  How can you, a grown man, be incapable of holding a dignified conversation at a mellow level?

To add to this shouting match was a selection of musical numbers.  I don’t really get Arabic music, it all sounds the same to me, but I can only assume the men were having a ring tone battle.  All three of them, whilst shouting at each other, continued to play with their fancy iPhones playing music very loudly.  We were 12 laps in to the race with 43 to go and Sebastian Vettel was dominating; my left eye was starting to twitch.

There was a lot of action happening on track and we entered the first Pit Stop phase when one of the bearded men behind me started screaming in what sounded like agony.  I turned to him thinking that his leg had just been bitten off by a lion but no, his beer glass was empty and he was trying to get the attention of the barman.  The way the hotel employee was addressed was vulgar.  Had that been me I would have been inclined to smash the glass over his head as opposed to filling it up with Amstel Light.

No matter how hard I tried I simply could not hear David Coulthard over the top of the shouting match that was going on behind me.  I stood up and went over to the TV and turned the volume up to the max, so much so that I think I broke the speakers.  Did this solve the problem of the loud-mouths behind me?  Like sin it did, they just started shouting even louder and playing their music louder still.

At 30 laps with 25 to go things briefly quietened down, the trio of men were now on their 4th beers, hell it was only 11am.  Sitting there I distinctly smelled smoke, turning around to investigate, sure enough one lad had the Marlboro reds out and another had his pipe.  The pool bar is a non-smoking room with signs confirming such a thing displayed everywhere.  Obviously such rules are only meant for some people and the staff didn’t intervene.  Even if they did I doubt very much they would have succeeded.

So we’re half way through the race, it’s the worst result possible for me, I cant hear the TV despite it being on full whack, the men behind me are blowing smoke onto me and I cant have a beer.

I was now at the stage where I was contemplating action.  I imagined frisbeeing a plate at them.  I thought about poking them in the legs with a fork.  I contemplated calling the Police at one stage.  I wanted to cry.  They were ruining the Grand Prix for me, it only happens 20 times a year for 2 hours at a time.  Why oh why did Larry, Curly and Moe insist on making my life miserable?  Don’t they know who I am?  Don’t they have jobs to go to?  I expect this kind of behaviour from young lads on holiday in Ibiza, but grown men who drive Mercedes AMG’s?

The race came to a conclusion, the result was not to my liking and the experience of watching it was horrific.  Will I go back there and go through it again?  Yes…

…Because I’m stupid and won’t buy AD Sports 6.

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88. Time

I want you to do me a favour; look at your watch and tell me the time.  Done?  Ok good.  Now look again and tell me the time once more…ok?  Did you notice anything strange about that?  No, well, the year is 2015, I’m about to turn 31, Germany have just re-introduced the Deutschmark (into the rest of Europe) and Boris Johnson is now the Prime Minister of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland minus Scotland.

Where did the time go?  No really, when did you move out here to the UAE?  How long ago was it?  How much hair did you have then?  How different were your perceptions of the UAE?  What happened to that sunny optimism you carried oh so brightly?  Did you look at your residency visa back then and think “2011, Jeez that’s years away!”?  One thing about the UAE that catches people out is the sheer velocity of how fast the clock ticks over here.  Every seasoned expat I meet always says the same thing; “where has the time gone?”

This coming Monday is my 28th birthday.  And whilst I’m not one to fuss over such a thing I am simply astounded by the speed at which it has come around.  I was 23 when I came here, a boy, but now here I am 730 days away from being a 30 year old boy, if a little plumper in certain places.  What the hell?

Great Scott! In order to restore Europe we have to travel back to 1992 and stop the signing of the Maastricht Treaty! Your friend in time, Marty…

Did I, unwittingly, clamber into a slightly modified DeLorean DMC12, with electric windows and a flux capacitor and accidentally turn the time circuits on?  Did I board a Klingon Bird of Prey and slingshot around the sun?  Did I step into a time travelling phone booth with my teenage, guitar playing friend and wait for instructions from a suspicious looking man in a trench-coat?  Did I go into a coma?  Something must have happened because there is no way the 2008 me is sitting here now, in my mind palace, with a glass of red, snakes & ladders pyjamas and a flabby gut.

When I left the UK the world was different.  In the same way the year 1932 was different to 1996, it is scarily different.  I remember looking at my original labour card back then and thinking that the expiry – 2011 – was an eternity away.  And here we are entering the last quarter of 2012, did I miss something?  Since I came here I have quintupled my amount of Facebook friends, made a few enemies, joined Twitter, suffered a life changing nervous breakdown, switched from Etisalat to Du, got fat, got thin, then got fat again and got engaged.  In what, nearly 5 years?

Where the ravages of time are at their most apparent is when I make my annual return home.  When I left London a million years ago most of my friends still lived at home.  The ones that had moved out weren’t exactly flush with cash and life was as it was.  Now, whenever I go back I expect things to be the same as when I left, in the sense of “let’s go out on the lash”.  We weren’t care free, but we could go out most nights a week, spunk our cash on putrid drinks and take our hangovers into work without let or hindrance.  Nowadays people have mortgages to worry about; they can’t afford to go out on the jolly up 10 times a week.  Most, if not all of my close friends are also either engaged or in serious relationships where spending money is a joint concern.  They are all grown up, even Phil.  This of course was always going to be inevitable.

Since I moved here I have spent just 14 weeks back home in London.  As far as my uneducated mind is concerned, then, I only left home 14 weeks ago, so how is everything all so different?  Is it the fault of the Lehman brothers?  Is it the fault of the FSA?  What about Gordon Brown?  Nope, I’m afraid it is the fiendish doing of Chronos.

You may know the guy, personal friend of mine.  Chronos was the man who gently turned the Zodiac wheel; he was, or even still is, the ancient Greek God of  Time.  Although it must said these days it feels like he is playing Wheel of Fortune with the damn thing.

Yep, you can’t beat the clock.  In the UK time doesn’t move this quickly.  Speak to any veteran expatriate over here and you will be told the same thing: “save your money because if you don’t you’ll never leave.”  Each to their own, you have to live a little but you don’t want to get too lost with the latest Eastenders storyline.

If you are not planning on hanging around the UAE forever then be careful, the longer you stay, the quicker the time will pass and the harder it will be to leave.  One day you will look at your watch and realise the last 10 years have just vanished.  If you go back home be warned; you won’t be going back to what you knew.  If however you are intent on staying then don’t waste a moment.  Ski, sun, sand, sail and spend.  Enjoy it…

…Because there won’t be much to spend it on in the Deutschmark-zone…

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