Category Archives: Culture shock

165. Youths

As I like to mention a lot of the time, I have lived in the UAE for a considerable while. Well, I like to think that nigh-on six years is a healthy crack. In that time I have, in all honesty, barely done anything. My former employment commanded that I work every weekend, and that prevented me from “doing something” interesting. Resultantly, I was only able to go out and drink my spare time away to the milieu ambience of atrocious hotel bands who couldn’t find a key in a locksmith’s and some overpaid Premier League footballers falling over on TV. It was an uninspiring existence.

I have worked continuously since the age of 15, and that meant that I also spent the vast majority of my weekends working and seemingly missing out on what life had to offer. But now life is different. Now I am a free agent, a man whose daily tasks extend to little more than stockpiling the kitchen with crisps. I am therefore unaware of what the world, and more specifically the UAE, has to offer.

So to find out what the life of Riley is really all about, I went to the latest instalment of the Sandance franchise on the Palm Jumierah, which if you live on Mars, or in Milton Keynes, is off the coast of Dubai. The day didn’t start well. Our party awoke the morning of the event with a collective headache that, if measured, would very likely shift the galaxy from its axis. No matter, with heavy heads and oscillating stomachs we hailed a taxi and set sail for Atlantis.

This is Dubai

This is Dubai

A friend had suggested previously that to avoid the traffic, congestion, and damn-right hassle of everything involved in the journey, that we do a brunch at Saffron. My first worry was to fathom whether to use the term “brunch” as a noun or a verb. Do you “do” brunch or go for “a” brunch? Before I could get my head around it, we were whisked through to our table and pointed in the direction of wriggling crowd.

For those non-UAE readers, you must have heard about the famous Dubai brunches. You pay about 500 Dirhams, which is about 100 Disney Dollars, sorry, Euros, and it is all you can eat and drink within a specified timeframe. Inevitably, the halls are usually decked with quivering wrecks and dribbling drunks fairly quickly.

With my stomach going up and down like an elevator, I headed for the counter with the smallest gathering and set about piling my plate with two pieces of salami, some steamed rice, and a piece of bread that had very recently been on the floor. While negotiating through the masses I couldn’t help but pass judgement on the clientele in attendance. It was like The Only Way Is Northumberland’s Christmas party. There were fake tans, earrings the size of banquet tables, shirts with strategically undone buttons, cleavage, vajazzle, facial henna tattoos, the lot. Most seemed to be British.

We tackled our way through the – delicious – food and gave the alcohol a good go, well, my friends did. And before we knew it, it was time to mosey down the road to the beach concert. The sweaty walk helped as booze from the night before oozed gracelessly from every pore. Once the ladies in our group had had their handbags poked with a stick we were in. After six years of living in the UAE I was at my first ever Sandance. We made a beeline for a spot on the beach and got the ciders in, and it was then that it hit me: where was I?

No, really. If you were to be teleported into Sandance from anywhere else in the world then you would be unable to work out which part of the world you were in. One of my childhood friends came to visit the other week, and before his trip had asked a whole manner of reasonable questions about Dubai, such as “am I allowed to drink?” Or “is it ok to hold hands with my girlfriend?” I’m not surprised, we read in the British media all the time about how Dubai operates with an iron fist like the USSR did in the good old days of communism. But the penchant for modesty couldn’t be further from the truth.

At the Sandance music extravaganza there were haircuts, bottoms, men in sleeveless vests (no, by the way, just no, it’s an appalling style), puddles of what I assumed to be custard with carrots in them, and bikinis of such minute proportions that you could be forgiven for thinking it was a nudist colony. It was like the last days of Rome versus 1965.

Such wild hedonism was occasionally interrupted by some live performances. There were The Wailers, minus Bob Marley who had been signed off ill, Of Monsters And Men, whom I have never heard of before but were actually quite good, and then The Killers. Who were f****** brilliant.

All the while I was looking around at the sprightly youths that surrounded me, getting increasingly envious over their perfect complexions and very wealthy parents. It must be nice not having to worry about much. Living in the UAE, and Dubai of all places, not needing to work and being able to enjoy all it has to offer whenever you like. You have no idea what the real world is like. I wish I didn’t need to go to work, and that I could go out every weekend and definitely get served, and that I could hang out by the beach all day.

…Hang on, wait a minute…

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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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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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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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142. UK Uncut

Greetings from the United Kingdom. Yes, that’s right; this week’s edition of UAE Uncut comes from the south western corner of London in Kingston-Upon-Thames; home to me since birth. I have returned to this grey little island for a week to attend my best friends wedding and so far the experience has left me somewhat scratching my head. I spent the weekend in Bristol with all my friends for the stag party, and when the poor groom wasn’t being rescued from toilet cubicles or from the clutches of the Bristol mob, which blog topic I would be broaching this week was frequently raised. So, what the hell am I writing about?

As you may be aware, I enjoy garnishing most things with some scorn as opposed to praise. Praise is boring and weak. The poor UAE certainly can appear battered and bruised at times through the eyes of the typical UAE Uncut reader, but so too can the UK. Readers will know that I was not very fond of the previous Labour government, or any Labour government for that matter. But I can hardly sit here and say that the coalition has been wonderful, either. No, here in the UK there is too much nonsense, too much needless legislation that seems to be designed simply to make peoples lives as miserable and as uncomfortable as possible. Why, then, do I moan about the UAE all the time and some of its mad laws when the UK is 100 times worse?

In the kitchen here at home there are three bins’ one for food scraps, one for papery things and another for everything else. Then there are bottle bins, can bins, cat bins… pah! The UAE wouldn’t waste its time on such things. You know what the UAE would do to separate all the various waste items don’t you? They’d employ a few hundred workers who didn’t mind the occasional whiff, therefore creating job opportunities, not really a desirable one, but hey. Here? No, we’re expected to manually sift our waste so that the council doesn’t have to bother. Have you ever tried stumbling home drunk one night and making a sandwich only to throw most of it away in the paper bin by mistake? I stand before a Magistrate next week!

Unemployment could be reduced if, no wait, sod unemployment, I have a better idea. Why don’t convicts serving time get rounded up and sent into to the landfill site to separate all the cabbage from the copies of The Daily Mail? It would give their eyes a rest from the Playstation and 42” plasma.

We will be great again

We will be great again

I also have a complaint about taxis. Now, those readers who actually live in the UAE will stand with me when I say that the majority of taxi drivers aren’t exactly what you would call competent. There are some that have good knowledge and a keen sense of awareness and we are sure to keep their numbers and use them as much as we can. But most are terrible. They don’t know where they’re going, they don’t know how to drive and they make little effort to keep you safe. I always look back at the UK with fondness when I ride in a UAE taxi. I think of the black cabs and how the drivers have knowledge of such brilliance that I find it amazing that they do not work for NASA. But black cabs are incredibly expensive, so we use minicabs where we can.

In Bristol this weekend I thought I was back in the UAE. We required the services of the taxis frequently and each time relied on the concierge to make the arrangements. Being 12 of us, we required two six-seaters and a speedy drive. Never have I encountered a taxi company like it. To describe them as terrible is a masterpiece of understatement. By UAE standards even they were diabolical. Who in the name of God employs someone to drive a taxi that has as much knowledge of the Bristol road network as a tribesman from some undiscovered South American jungle? No, really. Each time we met them to go to a different activity we had to fanny about on iPhones looking for maps and postcodes to help the drivers out. And they still got lost.

This isn’t the country that I remember. I don’t understand how some things can be so stupid, I really don’t. We are the only nation in the world that has the prefix “Great” before its name and that perhaps gives a false impression. We cannot live off our previous imperial laurels anymore. But, then again, find me a paradise and I’ll find you a six by two foot box buried six feet under the ground; nowhere is perfect.

So now it’s raining outside and the temperature is barely 10 Celsius, but I don’t mind. I need to go and fill my car up in a few minutes and that will bankrupt me and again, I don’t mind. Tonight I am going to walk into town to meet my friends for a few beers, it will be wet, cold and arguably overpriced, and I don’t mind.

But this is my country, this is my home, and I love it regardless.

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141. Parenting

As we know, you cannot generalise. Not all men are sexist, bigoted pigs and not all women are seductive secretaries with a penchant for dropping pencils at inopportune moments. Children, too, come in all variety of sorts. There are some who are athletic, some prefer to be overweight and play video games, some relish education and some prefer pugilism and truancy. Each of us has the right to forge our own path in this world; we can be whatever we want, kind of. I mean I wanted to be a Formula 1 driver but that didn’t work out.

Kids don’t like it when parents interfere, unless the interaction is the gift of money, then the promise of raked leaves and completed homework sounds through the hallways for minutes. No, young teens like to get on with things, they want to hang out with friends, go to the mall, play hoop and of course, pitch woo. But there is a fine line, for all their independence craving, mum and dad still need to ensure that Johnny and Betty Teenager are raised correctly. I don’t have children, but that sounds like a tough job.

It is indeed unfair, Kevin. Don't worry, mum and dad did it too when they were your age...

It is indeed unfair, Kevin. Don’t worry, mum and dad did it too when they were your age…

I guess, and parents correct me if I am wrong, that the balancing act is always a fine line between “thanks for the 20 quid, I’ll do anything for you” and “stop ruining my life, I hate you.” Right now, I don’t have the patience for such volatile behaviour, but I do remember being a teenager and I do remember the conflict and frustration of it all. It is a taxing time for young adults, they are old enough to start doing more grown-up things but too young to actually do anything.

When I was 16 or so, my friends and I would always try our luck by sneaking into pubs or nightclubs wearing fake beards. The results were 50/50, sometimes we’d get in and get served, other times we were politely told to “f*** off.” It was funny; it was part of the growing up process. Above all, it was healthy. Just because I wanted to hit a bar when I was 16 didn’t mean that I was a disappointment to my father, nor did it mean that I would burgle people’s houses or go car-jacking.

Socialising is important. Without social skills you end up with the personality of a rock. If you lock your teenager up every weekend like Josef Fritzl then they are being denied the chance to spread their wings and learn the world for themselves.

Now, to the UAE part of the blog at last; last year I passed note on a kids-only nightclub in Dubai. Truth be told, I cannot remember what my opinion on the matter was. I can’t be bothered to go back through the archives to see what I wrote then, so there is every chance that my thoughts have changed, or the integrity of UAE Uncut is about to be severely compromised.

The nightclub that opened in Dubai for children aged 12-20 has been closed down. What a stupid thing to do. Lets recant the facts; the club dedicated one night a week to teenagers so that they would have something to do. There were snacks and soft drinks on hand together with games, both computer and physical. Chiefly, and obviously, alcohol was forbidden, so too was smoking and other narcotic usage. On the face of it, then, this sounded like the perfect environment for groups of teens to spend together once a week.

So why was it closed? Well, some parents, and in these situations it is only ever a small, miserable minority, have been complaining to the police. The minority have been up in arms and coming out with the kind of statements that make me so angry that I want to punch my laptop screen repeatedly until they feel it. One parent was quoted as saying “whoever came up with this idea should be punished” and another said “children who visit such clubs risked ending up as frequent visitors at bars and pubs once they were independent.”

Who the dickens are you? The idea mooted was to give children somewhere to go once a week. Being a mid-teen is a hard time of life. You want to spread your wings but more often than not there is nothing to do. I despise the expressions “arts and crafts” and “do something cultural”; teenagers don’t want to go to a museum on Thursday night. They need to interact with their friends, but where to go? No really, you tell me.

The character who asked for the founders of the nightclub to be punished must be so far detached from reality that the pink elephant that sleeps under their bed must be looking for alternative accommodation. And then there is the person who states that the idea risked people hanging out in bars and pubs when they reach independence! Are they trying to suggest that once their offspring has turned 21 they will still be under parental duress? Going to a bar is a normal activity. You have a few drinks, you have a chat, you meet new people; what’s the problem? Shut it and let people get on with their lives. Not everyone is a raging drunk who goes round beating people up.

The key factor here is alcohol. We are in the UAE, an Islamic country that has very strict rules about alcohol consumption. That is a plus point, but at no point has alcohol been a factor in this case. No kids have been reported to have drank any and the club had very strict rules about that. What more do you want?  You’re worried about the future of your young? It’s not fair to blame delicious beer.

Nope, someone had a masterstroke of genius by providing teenagers with somewhere to go at the weekend where they could enhance their social skills. But thanks to a handful of narrow-minded, dogmatic elders the plug has been pulled and the kids are to be forced back onto the streets and into the abandoned villas to have illegal parties.

I’m not here to tell people how to act, that would contradict the preceding 950 words, but try to be rational before you start closing peoples businesses. If you have a wayward teen then really, blame yourself before you start blaming everyone and everything else. Don’t stop them having fun at the weekends. And if you do stop them going out to have fun and they get the hump, try to recall what it was like when you were that age.

I doubt very much that you spent every weekend at home watching TV in silence waiting to be old enough to go to a bar…

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138. Profanity

The human body is fundamentally flawed, and if put into the arena with a cheeseburger would likely lose, badly. Take food as a case in point. In the olden days when everything was black and white, people ate food as they do today. But they didn’t have to worry about E numbers, obesity or anything like that. They would eat whatever they wanted and then eventually die of dysentery. They would be none the wiser until they were given eight minutes to live. Today we are constantly warned, mainly by The Daily Mail, that everything we ingest will kill us and that there is nothing we can do. From toothpaste to home-grown cabbage, the poison of nature will make our hearts fall out and our bottoms fall off. There is no hope.

We enjoy a good beer, a burger, a doner kebab and some chicken nuggets, but all they are is a one way ticket to the bone-yard. Why are all the good things so bad for us? Even the stuff that is apparently good for you is bad for you. Apples rot your teeth, bananas make you explosive and a prime fillet steak upsets the cow community. But put our daily intakes aside for just one minute, what about the stuff that comes out? No, I’m not being lavatorial, I’m talking about profanity.

The human body is very susceptible to reflex actions. When the doctor taps your knee with a hammer, it twitches. If you decide to dip your finger into a pot of boiling hot tea then the common reflex is to remove it post haste and yell profanities until the pain goes away. Even the Pope, especially since he has tendered his resignation, would forgive you if you hit your thumb with a hammer and shouted “f*** it.” And that’s just it; to swear is to be human. Anyone who says that they don’t use curse words on reflex is either a liar or a giraffe.

I am notorious for such things. With me it’s effing this and effing that constantly. Whether its traffic lights being difficult by insisting on remaining red or someone whose face I don’t particularly like, they will be on the receiving end of some f-word fun. It’s nothing personal; it’s just what I am accustomed to. I can’t even describe something as innocently cute as a bunny rabbit without adding an f-inspired prefix.

Of course being from the barely-United Kingdom I am used to such language. It is just something that is done. From Johnny Builders-bum to the Archbishop of Canterbury it is as risqué as it is accepted. But, as was established many moons ago, things in the UAE are quite different.

Swearing, it would seem, is unacceptable. To the do-gooders and Liberal Democrats this may be the sweet sound of music that they have been campaigning for; a land where swearing is not just socially inappropriate, but is also an offence punishable by prison. Of all the crimes; theft, blackmail, kidnapping, murder, how narked would you be if you were sent to jail for saying the f-word? You’d be notably f****d off.

No really, you can get your collar felt for overly-liberal prose. The other day I witnessed a person using the most colourful array of adjectives, nouns and metaphors that you have ever heard. It was fascinating to behold. Clearly unaware of their surroundings, the person sounded off as if they were in soft-touch Britain with an expression that implied that they “didn’t see the f*****g problem.” And why should they of? After all words are words, who decides their meaning?

Sadly, there are some words that are considered taboo and you have to be careful. If you utter the wrong word to the wrong person then they are within their legal right to make a complaint to the police. The police, hot off the roundabout, will put on a bit of blues and twos and lock down the immediate environment. Johnny Wordsmith will ask “what the f*** is happening” as he spends a night in the cells, bemused as to his crime.

You may very well be lucky and indulge in a spot of profanity with someone who doesn’t care too much. But don’t be fooled because that is where the problem lies. If you get too trigger happy with Mr. F then you become more and more accustomed to it. All may be well for a while but one day you will accidentally cross paths with a Sheikh, and when you indecorously tell him to “do one”, your time in the UAE will be over quicker than you can say “err no, wait.”

It is all too easy to forget that we are guests over here in the UAE, not hosts. If swearing can get you put inside for one month then you have no one to blame but yourself if you get caught. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but in the grand scheme of things the law won’t make any exceptions for you. Sometimes I wish that the UK would follow the no-nonsense UAE example.

Of course it’s not really your fault for blurting out the f-word or other such choice phrases, as I said; the human body is fundamentally flawed. Science has proven that human evolution has dictated that our reflexes occur quicker than our brains can transmit brain things. If someone cuts you up on the road then they will get a good effing. If someone has run off with your wife, they too will be barraged with a maelstrom of Vitamin F and if someone thinks that they can rival UAE Uncut’s obvious brilliance then they can f*** right off, too.

I love you now but I know you'll be the end of me.

I love you now but I know you’ll be the end of me.

But there is a fundamental problem: swearing is healthy. I know that Polly Toynbee will cover her ears and “la” loudly and repeatedly, but it is true. I was in the most horrific of traffic jams in all of human history this week and the car ahead of me at the traffic lights failed to move off when they turned green. Had I not vented my thoughts the way I did then I would have very likely exploded. When I poke my finger into a live plug socket I need to let off steam via expletive gibberish to make the frizzing go away. If I didn’t I would just be lying there looking bored.

Swearing is good for you in the sense that it serves short term satisfaction, like a Big Mac or a Meatball Marinara on Italian bread. But too much of a good thing can be bad for you. It will catch up with you in the end, and by then there will be little that you can do about it.

Live by the word, die by the word. See you next Tuesday.

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135. Overreaction

Unless you have been living in the news-censored environments of China or Iran, or you have been dwelling in a cave, you may have heard about the meat scandal currently taking the British press by storm. Beneath the banner headlines of copious horse puns, you may have also noticed that MI5 busted three not-so-wise men for their mischievous intentions. It would seem that the three “British” men who were recently sentenced for planning a series of terrorist acts need not have bothered to waste their pointless time on such things. The British public have, unknowingly, been chowing down on Princess Anne’s stable residents, licking their lips and unbuckling their belts as they slowly poison themselves with contaminated lasagnes. Obviously it has caused quite a stir, but beyond a case of false advertising I really do not see what all the fuss is about.

Horse is as common a meat across the world as any other. The reason why we don’t eat it in Britain dates back to the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century. The French loved a good Grand National winner garnished in a little garlic with a side of potatoes, but the Brits, simply to differentiate themselves from the enemy at the time, vetoed them as a main course. We ate rabbits and wolves instead. Mmmm. Horses were also a valuable commodity and were required for the battlefield as transportation. Sir Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, would have looked a bit daft had he turned up at the battle of Waterloo on the back of a sheep because he had eaten Silver for tea the night before.

Since that time the Brits have not eaten horse meat. Not for health reasons, but purely because it would be like eating a car today. There is nothing wrong with horse meat, nothing at all. Think what the Hindu’s must think of us when they see us scoffing down a beef burger, we’re eating their God! Ultimately, and inevitably, everyone is over-reacting and now we can expect meaningless legislation that dictates that we are not allowed to eat anything that can run five furlongs in under three minutes. It is, then, of over-reactions of which I wish to speak about today.

Nothing confuses the world and muddies public perception quite like an over-reactive knee jerk reaction. This week in the UAE it was reported that an 11 year old British boy was “taken to a police station” after the parents of an Emirati boy filed a complaint against him. At first it was to be assumed that the British boy had been indulging in a spot of bullying or general horse play, but the truth turned out to be far more alarming. The incident in question happened during a PE lesson. During a game of football the British boy went in for a tackle that caused the Emirati boy to tumble to the ground. This is a common occurrence in football as tackling is a fundamental part of the game.

If there was no tackling allowed then they would just be playing cricket instead and would probably end up dying of boredom. But still, the boy was alleged to have been arrested. I went to an all boys school in south west London and, being of a weedy frame, I was floored on more than one occasion. I weighed 55kg and had a 26inch waist, how do you think I faired when we played rugby during PE? I would fly for miles. By the logic adopted in this case, I could have had 20-30 of my classmates arrested for grievous bodily harm. But through it all I got up each time, only to be floored time and time again.

Hey ma! Look what I gone caught for dinner! It wasn't as big as what the other guys got but I sure did try!

Hey ma! Look what I gone caught for dinner! It wasn’t as big as what the other guys got but I sure did try!

Anyway, it was rumoured that the British boy spent a night in the cells, and that his incarceration was covered up. Whatever, this doesn’t detract from the main point: the boys were playing football in a PE lesson, one got hurt. Big deal, this happens in every school all over the world on a daily basis. Do we pick ourselves up and move on? No, what we do instead is come up with a mad set of rules and regulations that govern the activity so that all competitive and risk elements are eliminated. This includes the introduction of a code of conduct that insists on fair play – duh – and parental consent forms that will give parents the right to ban their offspring from taking to the field in the first place. That will help the diabetes levels over here. Super, just what we need to toughen people up.

The UAE cannot be singled out as the only perpetrator; the US, the UK and the rest of Europe are also notorious for such crimes against reality. Mediocrity cannot be considered an acceptable goal. Kids need to learn from a young age that they can be good at a thing that others are not, whether that is sport, music, art, writing or even making fart sounds with their armpits. This improves self esteem and creates determination, something the people of the future are going to need to survive the uncertainty that looms on the horizon. Risk and competitiveness is what makes us human and makes us smart. It teaches us limits, self control, and so many other valuable assets that I cannot be bothered to mention. Stupid, over-reactive measures irritate us, neuter the young and leave no hope for the future.

If you stop the kids being able to take part in sport and learning the limits for themselves then all we will have is a future generation that is overweight, ignorant and who enjoy nothing more than tucking into a big, fat, greasy McBlack Beauty.

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123. Numbers

When I first started UAE Uncut (under its original Google friendly guise of Living in the UAE) I envisaged posting one missive a week. I like to pretend that I am a bona fide writer cum columnist and the notion that I could churn out a thousand or so words each week made me believe that I could one day make a living out of it. Of course, if I had stuck to my guns and kept to my initial target I would only be on 48 blog posts, and that is unacceptable. Instead, I sit here today typing out blog number 123, a number that many a self-involved poser would love oh so much to have as a car registration plate.

It's how you read it...

A Real Sense of Enlightenment…

So, in honour of this numerical anomaly I wish to talk today about numbers and their role in modern UAE pop-culture. Let’s begin with my first experience of such vanity exchange. One of the first things I ever had to do when I arrived on the sandy shores of the Emirates was to get a phone. Such a thing was easy for someone who cares so little about them. After selecting my handset I popped over to Etisalat and asked to buy a SIM card. The shop turned into a game show studio as a blonde-haired siren in a cocktail dress waltzed onto the stage brandishing ten sparkling envelopes. The host, a greasy haired spiv called Amir who was wearing a glittery blazer, asked me to take my pick of the available numbers printed on each of the envelopes. A drum roll ensued as the spot light followed my hand to the envelope of choice.

Clearly unhappy with my selection, the Family Fortune failure tone sounded and Amir sniggered at me. It would appear that of all the possible phone numbers I could have selected I had picked a bad one. Apparently 101 2847 is about as neat and as trendy as using words such as “neat” and “trendy” in genuine social surroundings. Amir, presumably a person with as much personality depth as Kim Kardashian, asked if I would like to pick another number. Why, I asked, would I want to do that? I don’t care what digits appear in my number. It doesn’t matter. No one actually dials or even sees a phone number these days; they are all saved in your iPhone so you don’t have to waste time pressing digits.

As it turns out, those who lack in the phallic-inches and self esteem department actually spend a lot of time fussing over such things. How empty and pointless must your life be that you will actually put yourself on a waiting list, and then pay, for a phone number like 111 9999?  What possible benefits can this have?

Perplexed by such things, I hit the mall and interrupted people’s days by asking them if they had ever gone gooey at the knees or had suffered a hot flush after being shown someone’s numerically consistent phone number. Out of the 234 imaginary people that I didn’t really ask in Al Ain Mall, not one of them said that they were even remotely impressed. They were all, I like to think, as unmoved as me. I would genuinely like to hear from people who have gone to the trouble of acquiring a “good” phone number and hear what they have to say in their defence.

It’s not just phone numbers, either. Car license plates are also a must-have fashion accessory that serves as much use as an appendix. In the UAE, a license plate typically has five numbers that are issued numerically to each car that comes off the freighter. Of course, between 10000 and 99999 there will be plenty of so-called “boring” numbers, like 27198 and 46139. These are given to us commoners and let’s the rest of the UAE know that we are meaningless drones who lead boring lives and sit as high up the social ladder as a cabbage. The special numbers, like 10000, 77777 and 12345 etc are put on the market and sold for a price of such magnitude that even the Sultan of Brunei would need time to mull it over before writing out a cheque.

But there’s more; you can, for an even higher cost, purchase a license plate that only has four numbers, or three, or two and if you’re mega rich, I’m talking about Roman Abramovich being a window cleaner by comparison, you can have just one solitary number. There are, however, only ten available, including “0”.

Be honest, what do you think when you see someone driving around with a “special” number plate? Do you get out at the traffic lights and ask for an autograph? Do you nod your head sagely and say “What a guy” or do you just think of the worst word in the English language and mutter it quietly under your breath so that you can’t be lip read by accident?

Being a contented member of the general public I can vouch that I have never, ever heard anyone of intelligence openly praise anyone else on their choice of phone number or license plate number. It is a façade of insecurity as far as I am concerned, a status symbol to disguise a dark truth. These are troubled times with seemingly every country in the world on the precipice of total financial ruin. When the dollar implodes and the USA eventually tumbles down the fiscal cliff the only important numbers that will be worth looking at will be the ones in your bank account, in red, behind the minus sign.

Of course, I don’t mind the number-lovers, in fact I owe them. If they were modest and normal, like you and I, then I wouldn’t have much to write about and this would only be blog post 49.

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118. Justice

Across Europe there is a lot of brouhaha about the European Union and whether or not it is any good.  On one side you have those of Guardian disposition saying that the EU is a blessed old thing that has improved the continent tenfold and that we should be very grateful for all it has done.  Then, in the other corner we have the Eurosceptics, those who think that the massive omni-country that it wants to become is a flawed concept and that endless bureaucracy and red tape is destroying the very fabric of our own nations.

In Britain, many of us are Eurosceptical.  We want to cherry-pick what bits and pieces of legislation that suit us, and discard the rest.  This makes Angela Merkel very cross indeed, but ultimately, we don’t give a shit.  We want what’s best for us.  And who doesn’t?

We find the defendant, Martin Fullard, guilty of looking for justice.  You are hereby sentenced to life living in Europe...

We find the defendant, Martin Fullard, guilty of looking for justice. You are hereby sentenced to life living in Europe…

Of course the EU does have a few positives.  It makes hopping borders very easy indeed, why, you don’t even need a passport to enter neighbouring countries so that makes monitoring terrorists far easier.  Of course trade is much better these days too, and that means Britain can import Renaults and shoes for far less a cost than before.  The idea of a one-size-fits-all currency was a lovely one, until it all went horribly wrong when the small economies, like Greece, realised they had spent money they didn’t have.

But, as with everything in this day and age, it’s the negatives that cause the most chatter.  A while back, the EU thought it would be a good idea to invent something called the “European Court of Human Rights” and that it would ensure justice and fairness for all.  It was a nice idea, but like most things European, it was unrealistic.  It didn’t take into account that there would be some meanies who would abuse the system for their own benefit.  I want to make it plain that I accept and acknowledge that ECHR has done lots of good work, but sadly it lets itself get exploited too easily.

This is why there is a bearded man called Abu Qatada living in a £350,000 rented house, paid for by British taxpayer money.  Now, in case you don’t know, Mr. Qatada isn’t very fond of Britain, or France, or Venezuela, or America, or basically anywhere.  He is what the British press refer to as a “hate preacher.”  This means he walks around town shouting at things that he dislikes, whether it be bus stops, Toyota Camry’s, churches, JD Sports…he is not very easily pleased to say the least.

He has been very mean to those who live in the West also, calling us all horrible names and so on.  He really, really hates us all.  And that’s a shame since we have done so much for the poor git.  Anyway, for a while now, our Home Secretary, Theresa May, has been trying to get rid of him.  We started by knocking on his door and offering him some money to leave, but he slammed the door shut and said “no” quite abruptly.  He spent a bit of time in jail for his disdain of Toyota Camry’s and Adidas trainers, and then the government pursued a case to deport him back to his native Jordan.

But this is where the ECHR got involved.  Mr. Qatada launched an appeal against his deportation because he was worried that the Jordanian government would torture him for information pertaining to other hate preachers, it was, as far as he was concerned, a violation of his human rights.

The ECHR agreed with him and told Britain that it wouldn’t be fair to send the poor old man home.  Never mind that he swore death to us all, the ECHR said we were being mean.  So, the government appealed the appeal.  And it was voted through that, actually, we could get rid of him if the Jordanians promised that they wouldn’t torture him for information.  They obliged – with their fingers crossed – but Mr. Qatada refused.  So, he appealed the appeal of the original appeal which, bizarrely, he won.  So now he is being housed in a plush semi-detached property on the taxpayer’s account, whilst Theresa May appeals the appeal of the appeal of the original appeal.

If you are not from Europe, Britain, or anywhere remotely near, then you must be thinking that this is a load of nonsense, and that I have made it all up.  Check it out and see for yourselves.  I look at it as revenge by the EU against Britain because they don’t like the fact that we waltz into Brussels HQ, choose what legislation we like the best, leave the sprouts and gristle, and walk out again.  But what do I know?  I’m just an aspiring writer who still believes in the Easter Bunny.

This is what I like about the UAE.  Yeah sure, sometimes the legal system over here makes your jaw hit the flaw, but really, I am truly envious of their national security policies.  Not even that, if you don’t play by the rules over here, you’re out.  It’s that simple.  No appealing the appeal, no questions.

The other week, an Egyptian delegation visited the UAE and asked the government if they would release 12 or so members of the Muslim Brotherhood who admitted to conspiring to disrupt national security.  The UAE told them to get stuffed.   Get stupidly drunk and vomit in the back of a taxi here and it is prison for a short while then an economy seat on the next Etihad flight back to homesville.  No debate, you get on the plane.

The Emiratis are looked after so well, too.  Two weeks ago the president ordered the release of all Emiratis who were currently serving prison terms for cheque bouncing.  Just like that, 300 or so locals were out.  Ok, the expatriates stayed there inside, but at least there will be more space now.  Another Emirati got injured abroad last week, so the government sent a private plane to go and get him.  Can you imagine Angela Merkel doing that?

I love the fact that the bureaucracy here is saved for more trivial matters, if it wasn’t that way then UAE Uncut wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.  Instead we have rambled on for 118 topics moaning about this and that.  But when it comes to the big stuff, like national security and putting its own people first, then the UAE is world leading.

Only right now is there a letter floating around social media highlighting how illegal immigrants in Britain receive nearly four times as much money in benefits as the elderly do from their pensions.  The elderly have paid their tax and national insurance every month of their lives and in some cases fought for their country on the battlefield, and for what?  To fund the home and lifestyle of the very type of character they fought against.  Why did they bother and what must they think now?

No such qualms here in the Emirates, if anyone came out preaching hate against them, they’d be swooped on quicker than a 1970’s BBC presenter…

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