Monthly Archives: January 2014

171. Metro

Isn’t it great being wrong? Being proven wrong suggests that you were, at some point, immensely confident that you were right, only for someone else to turn around and stick two fingers up at you. Those who believe that they are always right are, frankly, imbeciles. It takes a strong man or woman to hold their hands up and admit error. There is nothing quite so humbling, and there is little else that will aid your human development quite so.

There are, naturally, many degrees of wrongness; ranging from an ill-judged drone-strike on a convent school full of nuns to a simple mispronunciation of someone’s name. Then there are opinions. These can be tricky bastards as the definition of an opinion is “a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge”. So theoretically an opinion can neither be right nor wrong.

Nothing gets a debate going quite like a differing of opinions. I have enjoyed many of these opinionated debates over time, and there is nothing more exhilarating than getting stuck in when you have absolutely no idea what you’re on about, or even what the subject is. But from time to time it’s nice to debate something of which you know a great deal, just to reassure yourself that your place in the Ivory Tower is valid. And among us expats a common topic of debate is that of airlines, something of which I am now quite well-versed.

I am forever being asked who the best airline to fly with is, and my answer is always the same: “British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, KLM, or Virgin Atlantic”. All of them are absolutely brilliant. Once I have laid my cards on the table, the follow-up statement usually runs along the lines of “Oh no, I wouldn’t go with British Airways, I had a bad experience with them once”. If you can be bothered, ask the person what the bad experience actually was, and I’d bet my face that they say something like “I sat next to smelly passenger”. Hmm… Ok.

I know people who have made a complaint about each and every one of the airlines that I listed above, and each and every reason why they “had a bad experience” is due to fellow passengers. But how can you possibly hold the airline accountable for that? Emirates don’t implement mad policies like that of Abercrombie & Fitch. They can’t turn passengers away just because they read The Guardian, nor can they deny travel to a man with curious body odour. “The guy next to me spilled coffee on my lap” they say. Ok, I sympathise, but again, you can’t blame that on poor old Richard Branson.

If the pilot shouted over the PA that everyone on board was a c*** and the stewardess thought it would be funny to open the door at 38,000 feet then yes, perhaps a cause for grievance could be raised. But you can’t judge an airline purely on the smell, appearance, or sexual orientation of its passengers. I have had two bad flights; one due to a wailing banshee, and the other due to turbulence of such magnitude that I am still amazed I am here today. Was that Etihad’s fault? No, of course it wasn’t.

This neatly brings me onto the Dubai Metro. For years I have asked why it was needed, and have refused to believe that it actually makes any difference to traffic congestion. I have called it names, pulled its hair, lifted its skirt up in the playground, and beaten it up for its lunch money. All in the name of reason, I have dragged it through the mud. It may then come as a surprise to read that, this week, I rode on it for the very first time.

Before you all begin to question the integrity of UAE Uncut and cry bloody murder on me, I can honestly say that it was an enlightening experience. With the exception of their BS claim that it carries more passengers annually than the glorious London Underground (nothing compares with the Messiah of urban rail travel), I found the experience monumentally pleasant.

Not quite enough delicious history to be ranked alongside the Tube, but you're alright...

Not quite enough delicious history to be ranked alongside the Tube, but you’re alright…

My first adventure was merely a toe-in. I hopped on at Ibn Batutta Mall, and alighted at Dubai Marina Mall, which was only about four stops away. No complaints. It was Munich-clean, timely, and peaceful. But, it was 1:30 PM, the equivalent to slack water; perhaps not a true test of its rush-hour capabilities.

I then rode it again, this time for a man-sized portion of journey during the evening commute. I jumped on at the Emirates station, up near the airport, and disembarked at Dubai Mall: that is about half the distance of the Red Line’s route. Boy, was it crowded. When I got on it was empty, before I realised I was accidentally in the ladies-only carriage. But even when I was rudely moved to steerage by a snotty lady, it was still empty… albeit for only one stop.

The aroma of body odour and the sound of hocked phlegm nestling in the epiglottises of my fellow passengers was detestable. Thankfully I was equipped with earphones and Greenday and was thus able to drown out the assorted noises. The smells, though, had to be toughed out to the bitter end.

Was my impression of the Metro altered after these two differing experiences? Yes. I still believe that it is more of a tourist attraction than a genuine means of metropolitan travel, and that it certainly doesn’t carry 12 trillion people a day. But it is clean and prompt, the trains are regular and punctual, the stations are well sign-posted and located conveniently. It is, really, an exceptionally well-designed and well-engineered asset.

Was I wrong about it? Yes. Do I take back what I said? Yes. Would I ride it again? Yes… but only if the car was broken-down.

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170. Trade

So we waved goodbye to 2013 and have observed the onset of 2014 through the usual blend of fireworks and Fonseca. For it is no lie that this grubby little corner of cyberspace is, the vast majority of the time, awash with pessimism and tales of woe. So in a rather shocking twist I am going to see if readership increases if we ditch the frown and take on a whole new positive approach. But first let’s have some hate…

I hate New Years. I have never quite been able to get my head around why we make such a song and dance about what is simply just a change in date. We insist on partying into the wee hours, or go to a lot of effort to leave the cities and avoid it altogether. Why? Do you do such a thing on the 31st March to celebrate the dawn of April? So we scribble out the “3” and write a “4”, big deal moan moan moan.

Regardless of how inebriated you were on the 31st December/1st January, every single year brings the same old stories. All we do is run around wagging our fingers and moaning about the state of the economy and the various lunacies that come out of Brussels. If it’s not the Roma Gypsies then it’s Chinese industrialization. Peace in the Middle East to Mylie Cyrus’s bottom, Northern Ireland to Fido, the basset hound on benefits. I personally spend my time trying to guess which major celebrity will be next through the pearly gates in a puddle of vomit and narcotics.

It is a fact that 2014 will be another year of the same: immigration will continue to be an issue in the United Kingdom, the US will once again be trying to raise the debt ceiling so that it sits level with Neptune, and, of course, the UAE will continue to try and get us to spend our hard-earned in the various shopping festivals. This year will be like every other, make no mistake about it.

So, while you’ve all been surmising which member of One Direction will succumb to drug abuse this year and how much the Expo will end up costing you (imagine 10 Olympic games), I’ve been thinking about slightly more positive issues; such as how we might tackle real-world problems without the need for guilt-trip advertising. Buckle up…

The UAE only has five years of natural water resources remaining. This is a little known fact that very few will believe. The desalination plants cannot keep up with the demand for clean teeth and green grass. Water is fundamental to life, more so than oil, something that the UAE does have in vast supply.

If, then, the UAE cannot grow more water, it obviously needs to go out and buy it. After several guest ales I think I may have found the answer: Ireland.

Irish black gold exists in more than one form... but sell the rain to get at it.

Irish black gold exists in more than one form… but sell the rain to get at it.

Like other members of the European Union, Ireland is in crippling debt; billions are owed. Interestingly, and unlike its EU chums, and don’t tell the US, Ireland also has, would you believe it, oil reserves. However, at the moment it is not financially viable for the Irish to start drilling for the black gold; the returns at first would just not be enough to justify starting the project. It’s like having a locked bank account. It’s your money, but you can’t get at it.

In order to get at the oil the coffers need to be a suggestion fuller, so what if it was to receive some oil from the UAE in exchange for a natural resource in which it has a near infinite supply?: Water.

I was in the emerald isle for nine days over Christmas and you cannot walk five minutes without being marinated in rain. So what if we could devise a way for the UAE to make a cash-free exchange with Ireland: oil for water?

Oil tankers could fill up at the rig in the Gulf and sail to Dublin whereupon the oil would be put into barrels and sold to whoever the Irish wanted. The same ship would then be pumped full of the Liffey and sent back to Jebel Ali, and the Palm will be green once more.

The ships would have their efficiency doubled and Ireland could then sell the oil at the going rate, and soon enough they’d be able to afford to start drilling for their own, once all the dolphins have been re-homed of course. Before you know it the loans will be repaid and Guinness sales will quadruple overnight.

And what of the UAE? Well they would be full to overflowing with fresh, crisp Irish water of which there is a continuous supply. Grass will be green, date palms shall tower over the common man full of virility. Teeth shall sparkle and bottoms will be ever fresh. It’s a no-brainer.

It may sound a bit mad, but seriously why not give it a go? Each and every year we are reminded about how crap everything is, and then governments world over try to sell us a picture of an unattainable future. I say Ireland and the UAE take a gamble, try something new. That’s what I’ve done with UAE Uncut in trying to make it more positive.

I don’t like it. It’s easier to moan. Worth a shot though.

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