Monthly Archives: June 2013

159. Names

Once upon a time, before microwave meals, “reality” TV, and iPhones, we used to identify each other with our noses. Much like dogs, we knew who the other guy was by having a good sniff. Of course when the population began to increase, it became harder and harder to differentiate one odour from another. One day, a man known as “Smells-like-athletes-foot” stood up and said that he would henceforth be known as Steve. And so the name was born.

Soon enough monikers became all the rage. Before too long there were magic books full of characters, all with different names. It was probably the single greatest invention in the entire history of the human race. No longer did our forebears have to refer to each other with grunts or with mad adjectives, no, now they had a one-stop calling card.

The most common name in the world today is Mohammed. But this is exaggerated since there are several permutations; Muhammed, Muhammad, Mohamed, Muhamad, and so on. This is mainly down to Anglicisation, since the name is the same in Arabic. But it can cause confusion, however.

The typical Arabic male name is one of only about 15-20 possibilities in the UAE; Mohammed, Khaled, Saif, Saeed, Khalifa, Zayed, Ali, Ahmed, Saud, Mubarak, Hamdan, Hamad…you know. Further, there are only a few different family names, too. This can make things very tricky.

In my normal day job, I have to deal with lots of customers. It is common for groups of young men to turn up, and in such a case I need to work out who is who. “Mohammed Al Baloushi” I say. As it turns out, in a group of seven of then, four will have the same name. We then have to pick though the ID cards to try and unravel the mystery; it can be a nightmare.

But here’s the thing; it doesn’t bother me at all. I think that only having a small selection of traditional names is brilliant. It maintains identity, tradition; something that a lot of Westerners have forgotten. As an added bonus, it also cuts out a large chunk of bullying material. No, really. Think back to school, 75% of all bullying is having your name rhymed with something derogatory; Fartin’ Martin, for example. If you tried that with the Arabic names you’d end up insulting at least two or three other family members, or even yourself. This would render the exercise pointless.

Where we come from though, names evolve with time. They are treated as fashion accessories. For example, nothing dictates a new wave of name popularity quite like a royal birth. In the 1940’s, Charles was very popular amongst Brits, so too was Anne in the 1950’s. When William was born in 1982, so to was one out of every five boys for the following year.

She smelled like the cafeteria, so I named her "Burger, hold the gherkins, fries, ketchup, but no mayo. Maybe a little mayo". Isn't she adorable?

She smelled like the cafeteria, so I named her “Burger, hold the gherkins, fries, ketchup, but no mayo. Maybe a little mayo”. Isn’t she adorable?

The problem is that we are all so mad when it comes to names. The Beckham family didn’t help; Brooklyn? Romeo? Cruz? Harper? Then what about Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow; Apple?! Michael Jackson called his son Prince Michael II, aka Blanket. Are they all barking mad? Does having lots of money give you the right to name your spawn after what you see in a Bed, Bath, & Beyond catalogue?

We absorb the celebrity world like a sponge and all of a sudden we find ourselves living in a world where for name inspiration we simply look through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, or the ethnic food section in the supermarket.

Before you know it you’re spooling through the voters register in the town hall and you’re drowning in a world of Ear Bud’s, Venus’s, Pepto-Bismol’s, and Rogan Josh’s. This pandemic has hit breaking point in recent years. It is all so hateful.

I yearn for a world where we can have freedom and where we are left alone, but I want a world where names make sense, and where I don’t have to vomit every time I do a friend search on Facebook. The UAE has it under control. A list of a dozen or so traditional Arabic names gives the country credibility. Ok, it makes calling a register a living nightmare, as I’m sure it would at passport control, or in a police station. But at least they will never be bullied because of their name.

North West?! For God’s sake, Kim. It would have been kinder to have named her after something you smelled in the hospital.

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158. Red tape

Have you ever wondered where things went so wrong in Britain? I mean once upon a time we literally ruled the waves; we were unbeatable on the water as we saw off the French and the Spanish Armadas with ease before sailing off to tame the world. Britain used to have it all under control. At times it was inhuman and evil, and at others it was charitable and kind, but we were a nation of doers; we always got the job done.

During The Great War, we and the Allies saw off the Axis powers and 21 years later we did it again. Many of our Grandparents gave their lives so that we could be free; and so too could the multitude of colonies under British mandate. Fast forward to 2013 and take a look around. If an aggressor decided that he – or she in Argentina’s case – wanted a foothold on our territory, do you think we would be able to put up much of a fight?

I have been kidding myself about this for a long time, and I am saddened to report that I don’t think Britain would last very long. Our Navy fleet are now floating museums, and our submarines are crashing into Scotland. The RAF now only works with paper planes, and, of course, the solitary Vulcan that was saved this week by some men from a pub. Then we have our brave boys and girls in the Army, who have been stretched further than Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy pants.

But, oddly, it is not the laughable Navy, rusted Sopwith Camels or the 18 soldiers that we have left that makes me fear us losing in a spot of international pugilism, but the fact that everything you ever need takes so bloody long.

This week I took my friend to the Al Ain licensing section so that we could get him his UAE driving license. It sounds simple enough and sure enough it was. We went in with the required documents, were handed a ticket, sat next to a man who smelled of vegetables and within 23 minutes we were out. Task completed. It was amazingly efficient and I’ll be honest, I had to eat my hat.

I know I come before you frequently and moan about this and that, and certainly the UAE has a long way to go in certain areas; like sorting a working visa. But the process of getting a driving licence was so astonishingly quick and easy it has technically made UAE Uncut null, void, and as credible as an Alistair Campbell WMD dossier.

I'm telling you. Two minutes I was in and out. New licence: job done my son.

I’m telling you. Two minutes I was in and out. New licence: job done my son.

When did you last try to renew your driving licence back home? Does the DVLA website allow you to do it online? Not without a qualification in astrophysics. No, you have to post off this and that and wait 3-4 weeks for your metro-sexual, EU-embossed, recycled, pink card to arrive through the letter box. It is so dated and useless. Why can they simply not set up offices around the country and employ 5-6 ex-coal miners and bankers to simply print you a new card?

The same is true with your passport. Another friend of mine has recently tried to renew her passport, complete with Queen’s message, from over here. After completing the form, scribing down the card details, getting the photograph lined up and so on she is now 104 years old. Still, 4-6 weeks is how long she was told that she would have to wait. Passport templates are all the same, the only page that needs printing is the photo page, and how in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost can that take between 4-6 weeks?

What are they doing over there in Liverpool? A background check takes five minutes, and the useless courier that will be charged with its safe delivery will only take two or so days to get it back to you. How can 4-6 weeks be justified?

The UAE has Britain crucified on this one; thankfully we’re allies so maybe they can teach us a thing or two. But what if it only takes President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 30 minutes to renew his passport? Or, worse still, what if Mrs. De Kirchner is able to sort out a new driving license for one of her cabinet while on her lunch break? Do you think that they will then hang around? No. Whereas you can imagine what would happen in Blighty; as the four minute warning sounds, the fighter pilots tasked with defending us wouldn’t be allowed to take off because they won’t have the right piece of paper, and the new one will be stuck in the sorting office.

Once, the world hated Britain. Today, they just laugh.

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157. Jackson’s

Faithful readers of UAE Uncut will know all too well that I am not the biggest fan of the iPhone. I hate how people chose to live and die by it. I hate how it has become the peripheral human organ and that without it we would all foam at the mouth and die. I loath those who walk around wearing Apple T-Shirts as if they are the Barmy Army on their way to watch the Ashes. I cannot stand how every 6-8 minutes a new version is released that is differentiated from its predecessor only by the colour of the on/off button. But most of all I despise how it consumes everyday life. You forever see groups of people in coffee shops huddled around a table simply WhatsApping each other or Tweeting friends who aren’t there. Society is dead, killed by the poisoned Apple.

That said, can I let you in on a little secret? They are quite cool and one day I will probably end up with one. But for now I am happy with my Blackberry Curve, which is about three years old and has not let me down once. Why do I love it so much? Well, for a smart phone it is simple to use, functional, it is as tough as nails, – and considering how many times I have dropped it, that is important – and finally it is not garish.

I don’t like brash, gaudy things, I like simplicity. Take my choice of cars for example. I love cars, but there are many things within a car that I do not need, therefore I will not spend money on having them. I have never used a SatNav in my life since I don’t see the need; I don’t really need electric windows, either. I like my cars to look simple, that’s why my favourite cars are generally older, like a MKII VW Scirocco, a Ford Capri, Peugeot 205GTi and so on. Give me a Ferrari 458 or a Rolls Royce Phantom and I will scratch my head and ask why it is so?

The same is true of my home, and where I choose to stay when I am away. My hotel choice is always based on how simple and how cleverly decorated it is; I cannot stand tacky hotels. Once, many years ago in Brighton, I was looking for a place to stay the night and stumbled across one hotel that offered themed rooms. All that was left was the Elvis room, but I didn’t fancy that. It was horrendous in the extreme. Plus, the Maitre D wouldn’t have looked out of place presenting Top of the Pops in the 1970’s…

I only know one of them! And they're getting their own hotel!?

I only know one of them! And they’re getting their own hotel!?

Neatly, this brings me onto the point of today’s missive; how many millions of Dirhams would I have to be paid to stay in the Jackson Family Hotel and Resort that has been proposed for Yas Island? The answer, thus far, is infinite Dirhams.

Forgive me, and I’m only being honest here, but the UAE does have a tendency to be a bit tacky. You only have to walk around Home Centre or Homes R Us during one of their seemingly never-ending 70% off sales to see the kind of monstrosities that people buy. Purple velour cushions, gold painted wingback armchairs, chesterfield sofas; it’s all so hateful.

But put the shopping basket down for a moment and step outside. Do you see Ferrari World? Is there anything more self-indulgent than or as horrific as that? What about the homage to the Elizabeth Tower of The Palace of Westminster (incorrectly referred to as Big Ben) on Sheikh Zayed Road? My, there’s even a fake Alp in Mall of the Emirates.

It’s on a smaller level too, what possible use is vending machine that pays out gold? If you are city trader who understands how the value of gold fluctuates then you will invest your money correctly and accordingly. You wouldn’t see Gordon Gekko stroll up to the gold ATM in Dubai Mall and take out a wedge of bullion, would you?

When things are done properly over here they are incredible. For all its pointlessness, the Burj Khalifa is impressive. The Anatara Resort on SirBaniyasIsland in the Western region is also nicely done; but a Jackson 5 and Janet and Michael and Michael’s kids themed resort? How can this go well?

I’m trying to think of the themes; and I can’t pen them all down without offending everyone. I mean, in their original guise they were a revolutionary and very popular band, but there was so much better out there at the time; The Beatles? The Rolling Stones? That’s like living in a world where Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Lamborghini make the best super-cars, and then Rover come along and open a theme park. Why? They weren’t the best, and in all honesty, were a little bit of a joke.

Besides, Michael’s personal foibles were a global scandal, how can that then be used as the face of a welcoming family resort? What next, Jimmy Saville Land? The Jackson’s were popular, I’m not denying that, but Michael was always the one who epitomised them. I just had to check Wikipedia for the names of the others; and if I don’t know who Tito Jackson is then how will the expected clientele know? Are there enough Jackson family fans in the UAE to justify its construction?

I doubt it. But I’m sure that just like when people un-necessarily upgrade their iPhones, whether it is needed or not, it will happen anyway. I knew society was dead, but sense too?

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156. Speed limits

The other day, before I went off on a mad tangent about personal quandaries, I began by complaining about the latest means by which to stop road traffic accidents. In case you missed it, speed limits in Dubai are to be reduced by a whopping 10 kph on expressways – such as Sheikh Zayed Road – and a further something or another on roads for which I wasn’t paying attention. This, they say, will reduce the amount of accidents because everyone will be driving 10 kph slower.

This is a classic case of missing the point. It would seem that no matter where you go in this world the silent, law abiding masses are forced to suffer for the follies of those who lack a moral compass. The reduction of speed limits is futile, 100%.

Yes, son, I know you're a good driver. But you did a traffic boo boo and now you're in trouble...

Yes, son, I know you’re a good driver. But you did a traffic boo boo and now you’re in trouble…

At present, Shiekh Zayed Road has a limit of 120 kph. It is known throughout Dubai circles as the most deadly road in the UAE. According to a set of misinterpreted Facebook statuses and brazen Tweets, 7 million people are involved in crashes along Dubai’s flagship expressway every minute. But before the high and the mighty bombard me with “speed kills” messages and subject the rest of you to their opinions as opposed to facts; can I point out how few crashes there have been when a car has been travelling at a steady 120 kph minding its own business? Well I cant, and nor can you back up your nonsensical claptrap to the contrary, either. But that won’t stop me giving it a go.

The idea of a man driving his Nissan Sunny at 120 kph along Shiekh Zayed Road is simple to picture. There he is, two hands on the wheel, right foot on the throttle, bit of Kenny and Accalia and a due sense of respect and understanding for the limit imposed. Then, from the port side, a fellow road user swings out of nowhere cutting in front of Nissan Sunny man, clipping the wing and rolling it. Was speed to blame for this? Like hell it was. It was the pure idiocy of the other driver who failed to signal or check his mirrors before proceeding to swerve.

Now, the self-righteous and the pious I’m sure will slam down their tea cups and tell me that “if the lane-swerver was going slower he would never have rolled!” And you’re absolutely right. I agree that if both Nissan Sunny man and the swervista had both been driving at 40 kph then it would have been nothing but a simple scratch. But if you think that there is any notable difference between 110 and 120 kph when it comes to collisions of that nature then I’m afraid the planet Earth has no further need of you.

I charge you to put down your copy of Marxism for Dummies and check into a hotel along Sheikh Zayed Road. Book a room with a view over the road and sit there observing what is going on. By applying a simple mathematic equation you will come to the conclusion that only 0.83% of Shiekh Zayed Road users are uncouth and dangerous. No, really, most people are law abiding citizens who sit comfortably at the speed limit.

The problems lie elsewhere. Idiots who have no sense of lane law are the biggest killers out there, and then there are those who think that the indicator stalk is simply a hook for which to hang their sunglasses. There’s more, Dubai itself can be blamed to a degree by not furnishing the road with adequate signage. If the exits were signposted properly then people wouldn’t need to suddenly cut across several lanes leaving a trail of fire and destruction in their wakes.

Finally, and most obviously, we have those who are over-compensating for the size of their modest vegetables. Johnny Big-Potatoes with is modified Hummer loves nothing more than to hoon along Sheikh Zayed Road at 200 kph listening to Spice Girls remixes. He has no concerns about speeding fines because they don’t even dent his wallet. If the police want to take his Hummer then no matter, he’ll go home and get the FJ Cruiser out, which by the way is the ugliest and most repulsive car in the history of the human race. He doesn’t care for speed limits, why should he? He has nowhere to be and life is just a bit of fun. If he is racing along at 200 kph then it is only the other road users that will have to slow down, he is still able to continue to do as he pleases.

The solution, then? Don’t bother changing the speed limits by the most pointless of margins. Anyone caught driving recklessly, in any capacity, should have their vegetables boiled instead.

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