Monthly Archives: April 2013

149. Expats

Precisely at some unconfirmed moment last year I wrote a blog about the hypocrisy in the UAE. In order to really get the gist of it you had to read between the lines. There were many reasons for my subterfuge, chiefly related to words like “jail”, “blogger” and “cavity search.” Today, however, there is no such masquerade and the views expressed will be as obvious as Kim Jong-Uns’ feelings towards NATO.

Since moving to the UAE I have learnt to control and align my thoughts, and really, it has been very difficult. I have had to change my views on this world to suit the reality of it, and that has been most inspiring. Let us look at British immigration as a case study. These days it is very easy to be racist. Well, it’s not; a joke can be joke to one man, but an insult to another. But the fact that immigration has run riot over the last decade causes a lot of fist thumping and inspired debate in the Fox & Socialist every Friday evening.

I'll tell you why you have no idea what you're talking about...

I’ll tell you why you have no idea what you’re talking about…

You see, when Britain first decided that it wanted to rule a quarter of the globe, it was always inevitable that those whom we civilised/conquered – delete as applicable – were going to join our family. Of course the Indian community in the UK is huge, and that is due in part to the Mau Mau Uprisings in Kenya in the late 50’s. I’ll let Jeremy Paxman give you the details, but in essence the British, together with the Indians who were there under the imperial banner, were expelled from Kenya. Since generations of Indians had grown up in the African nation, they were effectively made homeless and where better to move to than the country that had sworn to protect them, and who took them to Africa in the first place? (Historical correction: It was in fact nothing to do with the Mau Mau lot and all to do with some guy call Idi Amin from Uganda, who basically had the bollock-ache and sent everyone packing.)

Of course over time more and more people wanted to move to the UK and that, really, should be taken as a compliment. I despise the Labour Party and most of their policies, but even I find it laughable that “immigration” (in the out-of-control sense) can be attributed to Blair’s Barmy Army between 1997 and 2010. Maggie filled a labour gap, so to did Wilson and Heath. How many times have you been sat in the Fox & Socialist and heard mad Jim the taxi driver talk to equally mad Bob the plumber about “all these foreigners comin’ over ‘ere takin’ all our jobs!”? Plenty, I’d imagine. But to whom are they referring, the British born Indian who has worked hard and led an honest life as a Doctor or the hard working Lithuanian who would happily work seven days a week cleaning up your shit?

I am forever reading about people on benefits who purposely have 28 children just so they don’t have to work. Then there are those of an “I’d rather stay in bed” disposition who enjoy telling everyone on Facebook what they think the government could be doing better. But tell them to go and get a job and the retort is “there isn’t any work.” Nonsense, there is work out there, just not as a TV star. Would Anatolij the plucky ex-solider from Lithuania do that? Or would he be of the mindset of “if I don’t go to work today then I won’t have a bed from which to get out of.”?

Oh don’t get me wrong, there are crazed lunatics from Birmingham with fetching beards and who want to blow people up and there are Romanian gypsies who want to eat your dog, but there are also Mick Philpotts and Jimmy Savilles.

But returning to my point, if there was one, I can’t remember. If I sat here saying that British immigration was out of control (in reference to legal immigration, not the Albanians who cling to the landing gear of EasyJets) then I would be a massive hypocrite. Because here I am, in the heart of the Middle East, living in a foreign country, earning a salary in Dirhams and ordering beef bacon and labneh for breakfast. I am employed by an Emirati company therefore I am an immigrant. I’ve never fully understood the difference between an “immigrant” and an “expatriate.” As far as I can tell, it is a terminology used solely to make me feel more important than those who wear blue jump suits and who are ferried to and fro in un-air-conditioned death traps.

Back home in Surbiton, I can walk up the high street and the last language I will hear will likely be English. If I want to buy an Arabic newspaper from a Romanian in an Indian shop then I’m sorted. What, really, makes the UAE any different? Why is immigration a problem in the UK but not in the UAE? The Emiratis’ only make up 10% of the population; that’s 800,000.

If I go to a petrol station in London and the man behind counter can only speak Urdu then I tut, wag my finger and say “Ah! English!” But the other day I went to a shop in Al Ain to buy some hardware and discovered much to my chagrin that I couldn’t speak Arabic.

The rubbish that some of my fellow expats – or “immigrants” – come out with is nonsensical. They sit there in a hotel bar criticising the UK’s immigration policies when there they are; an immigrant in the UAE who can’t speak Arabic.

Just like me. Damn.

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148. Police Car

Plot holes are everywhere; in film, in literature, and of course, in real life. Let us take The Lord of the Rings as a case in point. They have to get from one end of a weird world to another for a reason that eludes me. There is a flying bird-griffin thing that assists the starring cast in a time of crisis by picking them up and flying with them on its back. So as opposed to walking across mountains that eat you, and through Orc-infested pastures, I ask why they didn’t just save time and fly the griffin-bird all the way? Surely that would have made more sense?

Then there was The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker travelled a great distance to meet a miniature, green, Frank Oz. But it wasn’t until the ghost of Alec Guinness piped up and pointed out that the little green puppet didn’t have much a choice other than to show Luke how to climb trees to save the galaxy. Had Yoda stood by his statement of “I can’t teach this kid, he’s a mug” then the Star Wars franchise would have stopped there and the Empire would have won. Really, what choice did he have?

Then, of course, there is Keeping up with the Kardashians; how does the title family not know that we, the norms of society, think that they are all morons? Surely no one can be that naïve and dim-witted? Although whether there is an actual plot in KUWTK is debatable in the first instance.

Moving away from the fictitious land of nonsensical rubbish, what of the plot holes in real life? The British press have been in the British press a lot over the last couple of years for numerous reasons. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the whole celebrity super-injunction business? No, well, it’s very simple to understand. Manchester United and Welsh national footballer Ryan Giggs was one of the most high-profile examples. He had an affair with an air-head, but to stop the story making the papers he took out a super injunction in court that prevented the media from outing him as a cheating bastard.

As a result of the injunction the press were then legally bound and unable to print or broadcast the story. However, those who use Twitter and who are not licensed paparazzi were exempt from the ruling because they were the general public. We then had this ridiculous situation where the whole world and its dog knew that Ryan Giggs had been attempting to make babies with Imogen Thomas, but The Sun wasn’t allowed to say so. Madness.

Being fond of saddling my high horse and pouring scorn over those who I feel are beneath me, I enjoy looking for fault and folly in everything. My cynicism, my fiancé tells me, will eventually drive me and her to the brink of insanity. But until such a time I shall proceed. The latest plot hole to expose itself actually comes in the shape of a Ferrari. Yes, sorry Italy, but things aren’t going well.

You may have heard that Dubai Police have recently acquired a Ferrari Four; or an FF for the abbreviation lovers. This, I should add, is in addition to the fleets’ former flagship; a Lamborghini Aventador. The Bill can now protect and serve in sleek, Italian style.

I, typically, have some queries about such a purchase. A police car is supposed to be functional, style is as important as a Kardashians’ opinion. That’s why our lot in Blighty are given the next-to-near useless Vauxhall Astra diesel. Oh it goes, but it has the automotive styling characteristics of a dead hedgehog. But, unlike the Ferrari or the Lamborghini, it is not confused by things like road humps. Can you imagine Sheriff John Burnell commentating on Worlds Wildest Police Chases and highlighting the fact that a Nissan Sunny out-foxed a Ferrari squad car because the driver had the foresight to use a back road replete with humps? Embarrassing isn’t the word.

Dammit Hooker! That's a $300,000 Ferrari! Get off the damn bonnet!

Dammit Hooker! That’s a $300,000 Ferrari! Get off the damn bonnet!

Then we come to the business of arresting perpetrators. Criminals, low-lives and law-breakers should not be granted luxuries. If you were arrested for stealing a loaf of bread then how cool would it be to tell the rest of your friends in the Legion of Doom that you rode in the back of an Italian supercar? But if you were man-handled into the back of an Astra diesel or a Ford Crown Victoria you’d probably want to keep it a secret. Unless TJ Hooker was on the bonnet, shouting.

After all this then there is the inevitable question of insurance and cost. Police cars don’t just appear out of nowhere. Not only are they manufactured just like every other car but they also have to be modified. They need radio equipment, sirens, lights, painting, patronising slogans, and suspension that allows them to launch 80 feet into the air with William Shatner on the bonnet and land without damage. If a police car costs AED 1,200,000 then how can it “pit” rogue car-jackers? How will it chase Burt Reynolds across the confederate rural landscape? How will Mel Gibson pull down a house on stilts? There will be too much pressure to keep the car mint, what will the insurance company say when Riggs and Murtaugh bring it back in a bag?

We all know that status symbols fly over here, and that’s fine. It is a part of the UAE life. But these are austere times and people don’t have the money they once did, with the exception of Fiat and Audi (the owners of Ferrari and Lamborghini respectively). In this rather boring day and age, things need to be functional, appropriate and above all else, cost effective. And there is no better institution to lead the cause and set an example of modesty than the police.

But supercars are supposed to be mad. They are meant to be pointless cars that only the rich and famous can afford. They are a symbol of edginess that suggests to passers-by that the occupants are a bit mad. This is not a becoming look for a policeman.

This is a major plot hole and it begs the question, then, what the hell is the point?

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147. Emirates Road II

Whatever road you choose, always wear your seatbelt...

Whatever road you choose, always wear your seatbelt…

Last year I compared Emirates Road to communism. Both, I said, worked perfectly in theory. No, really. Emirates Road is a 14-lane wonder highway designed to deal with all kinds of vehicles from Kia Rios to articulated leviathans. All the vehicles of the rainbow can travel side by side in perfect harmony. Communism works in the same way; everyone is equal and receives the same treatment as their neighbours. What a picturesque ideology.

Of course, the reality of communism is very different. Firstly, everyone can’t be equal; there must always be a leader. Secondly, it breeds horrific poverty and lots of people are killed. In practice it just doesn’t work; despite what those lot wearing Thatcher masks at Trafalgar square would have you believe. Emirates Road, too, doesn’t work in real life. It’s all very lovely having seven lanes on each side, but if those lanes aren’t used correctly then it all goes askew and the police spend hours picking bits of Toyota Yaris out of Eddie Stobart. It is an undesirable gauntlet.

I suggested last year that we heed the call of Ronald Reagan and tear it all down. Well, in January the UAE did the next best thing and re-branded it. Emirates Road is no more; allow me to introduce Sheikh Mohammed Road. Yes, I know that that is the 246th road of that name, but I am reliably informed that the name change will usher in a new regime of change. The proverbial wall has been torn down.

No longer will Leyland DAF’s perilously swerve lanes without any indication or warning. Goods lorries with missing wheels and un-serviced brakes will no longer be allowed to jack-knife and roll over. Water trucks built during the Battle of Hastings that leak their entire load will be outlawed. In addition to this, each lane will have a fixed speed limit; the outside lane will be set at 120 kph, the next one in will be 100, then 90, then 80, then 70, then 60 and then finally on the inside lane – for the trucks – will be set at 50kph. Your salary will dictate what lane you can use, so the harder you work (or the more cunning the criminal you are) the faster you are allowed to go. Anyone caught doing the wrong speed in the wrong lane will be arrested and fed to the kraken.

But, naturally, no matter how much legislation you enforce or how many rules you make, you cannot stop the human condition. There are still those of a Toyota Hilux disposition that have an unquenchable thirst for mayhem and carnage and they cannot be forgotten. They liked the idea of lane-speed equality and my guess is that they won’t take too kindly to this new, capitalist regime. The UAE has given this a great deal of thought and as such have renamed the Dubai by-pass road as “Emirates Road.” It can only go well. In case you aren’t aware, the Dubai by-pass road is a road that by-passes Dubai, it mirrors the road formerly known as Emirates Road exactly, by running parallel some 8km further inland. I foresee no confusion…

It is a great metaphor for the UAE, which even after having lived here for five years, I cannot decide whether it is a capitalist or communist state. It seems that you are free to make as much money as you like, but at the same time everything is owned and run by the government and they decide who gets what. It seems that there is no difference between nationalised and privatised enterprise.

People are to be given a choice between left and right. All of those who do not fancy driving in class-structured harmony alongside each other on Sheikh Mohammed Road will be asked to transfer themselves onto the new Emirates Road. This new Emirates Road will be a bit like the old USSR. People will be allowed to do whatever the hell they like to survive despite the tag-line of “fairness”. One litre Yaris’ will be able to speed along in the fast lane in-between all the Ladas and oxen. If they crash, they have no one to blame but themselves. Lorries will be able to use whatever lane they like with however many missing wheels they like, too. Hilux’s can swerve elegantly from lane to lane like massive mechanical butterflies. Everyone will be on the same level.

So there we are: you want to get from one end of Dubai to the other, you have two choices. You can either opt for the free-market Sheikh Mohammed Road with its rules of structure. The elite will be able to use their fast, expensive cars in the outside lane, the middle classes can cruise safely in the middle, and the working classes can trundle along next to the truck lane at 60kph, to save fuel. If this doesn’t take your fancy and you have a particular penchant for coal mines, Arthur Scargill and certain death, then you are free to use the far-left new Emirates Road. It sounds like fun, everyone being on the same level and all, but tell me which road you would rather use to get from Sharjah to Motor City?

It certainly all works in theory…

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146. Language

Beef-witted zaftys'

Beef-witted zaftys’

I am deeply fond of the English language. Out of all the languages in the world it is the one I speak, like, the most bestest. The English language has endured for millennia and one principle reason why is that it has evolved with its users. As man has grown and developed, his discourse has shadowed every move.

I studied English language at college and it really is fascinating. Even the most TOWIE of modern society can indentify differences between the 1950’s and today. During the war, when a Dambuster successfully busted a dam with one of his bombs, he would shout “wizard!” in exultation. Today, the same man would shout “f*****g ‘av it!” The dynamic of our language has changed, and that is one reason it is still globally dominant, and why French is not. French is a closed shop and as such in 200 years time may not be spoken at all, like Latin. English grows with each generation.

I like to use archaic words in speech because I find them amusing. A friend and I recently had an entire conversation using a selection of words that have not been used since the Victorian era; lunting, groak, resistentialism, queerplunger. What fabulous words. Then there are contemporary words that I don’t approve of, especially when their context has been misappropriated; bear safe, as in bear safe. Fat, as in it is good or it is bad depending on your levels of telepathy and blood-cannabis ratio. Allow, as in yes, I approve or sorry, I do not agree. I can’t make head nor hide of it.

Then, of course, there are those who use the wrong words at the wrong time. Nothing gets under my skin more than someone who says that something is “well good” when really it should be “very good” or “really good.” Then there are those who don’t understand the meaning of “them” and say “put them ones in that bag” as the word “those” is sent marching with its bindle. “That” and “which” are frequently swapped around and then there is the incessant and un-necessary overuse of the word “like” at seemingly random intervals. “D’ya know what I mean?” no, moron, I really don’t.

I do not approve of poor syntax and I fight it wherever I find it, normally by throwing knives and sachets of polonium. My case is that if you go ahead and speak to someone from the Indian sub-continent by saying “Hiya, when you finished, put them things in that bag you got. Sweet, cheers m’ dears” then they will adopt similar prose before too long. This will cause a great deal of confusion, especially if I speak to them afterwards and invite them for a spot of lunting.

Herein lies the problem, as English is an ever-evolving animal, it makes it well tough for those wishing to learn it. The problem is no more noticeable than here in the UAE. As we come from all over the world, there are many different English dialects circulating and those whose mother tongue is not English must be scratching their heads and wondering who’s in charge.

Things like spelling, punctuation and grammar no longer seem to matter. There are errors all over the place. No, really, how can that be? There are enough English speaking residents in the UAE to assist with the governance of the language. I’m sure there are Arabic errors, too, but every day when I drive past the “English Spaking School” I feel as if I should crash my car into the sign on purpose to protect the masses. People will see it and think that’s it ok, no more so than the children. And that is not fair.

Of course, miscommunication happens everywhere, it is only natural, but somehow it feels as if the UAE suffers more than most. And it can’t all be pinned on racial classification or stereotype, either. No, if I ring my female staff’s landlord then I know straight away that I am going to have to tone it all down. If I called him and spoke properly, as I would to you, then he would most likely catch fire. “Good morning, Mr. Farook. Now, the family of rats that have moved in with the girls are starting to use an awful lot of hot water. The problems I have with this are two-fold; firstly, the disease in which they bring with them is causing my staff to die. Secondly, words cannot express how unhygienic this is, I mean do they have to share the same bathroom?” He would have exploded by the time I had said his name.

What I have to say instead is “Hello, Mr. Farook. Is Mr. Marty, yes, Marty? Ok, there is rats inside this one. You will make gone?” He will understand and execute. So in order to achieve my goal I have to sell out and modify my English to suit his level. Oh it’s not his fault, I could learn Urdu or whatever the hell he speaks, but there’s no time.

But I can’t speak to the CEO of Mubadala like that; I’d be dropped into the shark tank. I would again have to modify my speech to suit the person to whom I am speaking with. It’s a nightmare. You are therefore forced to judge everyone you meet within a nanosecond and resultantly speak to them in a pre-determined style, whether that is like a pigeon or the Queen.

Nothing can halt this phenomena, it is just another stage in the evolution of the English language. And, if I’m honest, I am quite willing to embrace it. I would far rather speak in pigeon English than speak like a pigeon brained TOWIE cast member. Totes? What the hell is that? But, let it be known that despite my willing embrace, I am far happier being a spermologer who’s tyromancy is as Englishable as the snoutfair that I am.

If English isn’t allowed to grow the result would be catastrophic; it’d go the way of Latin, or worse still, French.

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145. Tourists

Sorry things have been quiet on the UAE’s favourite website this last week; I have been clinically dead with the sniffles. And a cough. The only energy I have had is the energy to moan about how Panadol is utterly useless and that I should be transferred to an intensive care unit post haste. After a week of standing on the precipice of eternal darkness I am pleased to report that I am now back to full fitness and that life can resume.

Gonna make a supersonic man out of you...

Gonna make a supersonic man out of you…

When I was back in London two weeks ago I was, as far as I was concerned, a tourist. So being on holiday I opted to do what most tourists like to do when they’re on a break; get drunk. I do enjoy a good drink and to share a pint with friends and some high brow banter is nothing short of holiday perfection. Preferably, I would have liked to do such a thing on the beach, but since the closest alternative I have is the Thames and that it was -1 Celsius outside I was forced into the centrally heated pubs and clubs about town. No matter, dancing and singing, drink I did and drunk I was; burning through the skies, two hundred degrees, that’s why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit…

Once any given evening came to a natural conclusion I found myself needing sustenance, so to either the Royal Fish Bar or Subway I went. I then proceeded to walk home, stumbling across the pavement and sharing opinions with hedges and lamp posts alike. Then, to my hotel, well, my Dad’s house. After very, very quietly opening the door, slamming it, stepping on the cats’ tail, falling up the stairs, falling back down them again and sshhing the bathroom door I made my way to bed peacefully only to arise the following morning with a desire to do it all over again. It was a great holiday. Of course once back in the UAE I had to put my bowler hat back on, fix my tie, jump in the Merc and head to my business meeting.

You may have noticed that lately there has been a lot of brouhaha in the media about tourists here in the UAE getting into trouble. It is common knowledge the there are vast swathes of British media who, in an uneducated fashion, love to pour scorn over the UAE. The tiniest thing goes wrong for one unlucky Brit over here and The Daily Mail goes mad for it. Forget the fact that a poorly written set of words on a page prevents Great Britain from deporting Abu Qatada, a man who vows to destroy us, and that we can’t stop our own people abusing our own welfare state, no, the UAE gets dragged through the mud whenever some mad TOWIE wannabe says “blast” to a policeman.

Recently, two men tried to intervene in what they thought was an attack. One morning, after a heavy night on the beers, the two men witnessed a man tackling a woman and trying to force her into a car. Put yourself in their position, what would you do? Yep, I’d probably do the same as them; get stuck in and wait for the Victoria Cross. So the two lads took the guy out, sat on him and set the young lady free, hero’s they were. Except there was a problem; as it turned out, the lady was a prostitute and the man was an undercover policeman arresting her, well, that’s what he said anyway.

So the two men now find themselves in trouble. They had alcohol in their systems from the night before (and to clarify, that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is drunk) and they assaulted a police officer. Good luck, lads, I hope common sense prevails.

Elsewhere, a Dutch woman finds herself in a spot of bother after being robbed. She reported the crime to the police and was not offered any help. She became irate and passed comment on the attending officer. It is also alleged (thanks, Leveson) that she spat on the officer, too. The prognosis was that she was drunk, at midday. So she also faces the cells.

Being a tourist here can be a hazard. I mean, in order to consume alcohol legally you have to have an alcohol license. But in order to get one you have to be a resident with a visa and an Emirates ID card, so how in the name of Sweet Mary is a tourist going to get one? It can’t be done; therefore being a tourist in itself is technically illegal. The police are not public servants in the same way that our lot are. Yes they are paid for by the state, but there is no “my tax pays your wages blah blah blah” cobblers. They don’t care about your back story; if you don’t play by the UAE rules then you’re in trouble and it’s your own fault for not doing the research. Don’t you wish that the British police were like that sometimes?

Sadly reading such stories will put a lot of people off coming to the UAE and there is a stable economic future, built on trade and tourism, to be considered. If people see that you can end up inside for having a slice of sherry trifle for dessert then they may opt to go elsewhere. That doesn’t bode well for the future of the Emirates and the situation will need review. However, if you do fall into the bracket of looking for an alternative holiday destination, then may I make a suggestion? Have you considered a holiday in Kingston-upon-Thames, London?

Sure the UK is full of hate preachers, green party supporters, benefits tourists and high visibility jackets, but I was there the other week and I had one of best times of my life. I got battered, was able to stay warm on the premise that I went nowhere near the outside world, there was no tourism taxation, and the police only threatened to arrest me if I used the wrong bin in the kitchen, not for being drunk.

The downside was that I nearly died of hyperthermia and brought the sniffles back to the UAE with me, which meant I couldn’t have a drink all week. But it was well worth it.

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