Category Archives: Losing my mind

173. Phlegm

What is the worst thing in the entire world? You’re wrong; it’s having one of those precious moments of genuine contentment ruined by something – or, more commonly, someone – else. My wife and I are very much strong believers that happiness is an attitude, and can be achieved quite simply by taking a step back and looking at what you do have, as opposed to what you don’t. In recent months, as I hunt for the right job, – as a Features Writer, by the way. Do get in touch – I have been tested to the extreme. Nonetheless, everyday I am reminded that at the end of it all I have a wife, a decent flat, a mild bout of health, and enough hopes and dreams to feed the five-thousand. I don’t live in a crowded labour camp, or in Chad, or indeed even in Croydon. Nope, here are my blessings, watch me count them…

I doubt it, Pharrell, I doubt it very much indeed.

I doubt it, Pharrell, I doubt it very much indeed.

That being said, when one spends most of his time eating crisps and trolling celebrities on Twitter, the odd sense of achievement or exultation is certain to be occasionally lacking. In any normal situation I would whistle away the hours by getting the Black & Decker out and hand crafting a shower-curtain rail, or trap door, or even a working replica of the SS Great Britain. But since I nailed – pardon the pun – all that a few months ago, there is nothing left to fix or build. My vacuuming is clinical and the crockery is spotless, the laundry is freshly pressed and the DVD’s are arranged alphabetically.

So in order to try and break the mould and step beyond the blue walls of my flat, I’ve started to go about town to look for things that might cheer me up. After dealing with the thriving metropolis that is Al Ain for five and a half years, I am still relatively unconditioned to the bright city lights of Abu Dhabi. Once upon a time, TripAdvisor  was for those lucky folk who didn’t live in Al Ain. But now the content is relevant to me, so I can exploit it, and, you know, actually do “stuff”.

In keeping with this bold, new take on life, yesterday I decided to go for something called a “massage”. It’s a thing you go to where you trade your clothes for a pair of unflattering paper pants, and an Asian woman climbs over you poking at this and that; all for the reasonable sum of AED 140. It’s cheaper than a night out on the beers, and more far more rewarding, too.

During a night out downing pints of Arthur Guinness’s finest black stuff, you enlighten yourself and others with mad, right-wing logic and the feeling of serenity is, at the time, akin to being the Almighty himself. Then you cross the threshold and are sick on your shoes. The happiness you thought you were experiencing quickly renders itself inert and the next morning is spent popping Panadols like Tic-Tacs

Unlike a night out on the sauce, you emerge from a massage genuinely enlightened and contented. You’re relaxed and loose, and are able to touch toes that were once as far away from your fingers as Neptune. As opposed to walking down the road smelling of sick and second hand smoke, you walk down the road smelling of baby oil and paper pants, you feel invincible to all the wrongs in the world. For once, your disposition is at ease; you are properly relaxed…

…Until…

…Who are they? These vulgar cretins whom so callously swoop from the soiled shadows to hock up hairballs of phlegm and expel it from their oral orifices right into your path?

Is it not the most odious, vile, repulsive, detestable, abhorrent, revolting sound and sight you have ever witnessed? It’s wherever you go, from the streets to the malls, dirty men hocking up phlegm at such a volume it’s amazing they don’t actually explode.

After my massage I was skipping along the street, swinging around lamp posts, greeting people in song and helping pensioners to cross the road when, out of nowhere, some ill-mannered troglodyte jumped out from behind a phone box and hocked up an entire lung; my congenial levity evaporated and was replaced with a big puddle of discarded lung juice.

Instantly my new-found love for the world, with its chalky white castles, rolling green hills, and cuddly critters was replaced with a dark, haunted forest of vengeful hate and pestilence.

The simple solution to this would have been to go back and get another massage, to restore the faith. But this dynamic does have some longer-term flaws, especially for someone as unemployed as I. The other solution was to commit Grievous Bodily Harm, but this is illegal and fraught with lengthy and inconvenient consequences. A real conundrum.

Mall toilets are very bad for this whole phlegm thing. There you are, having a wee, when Johnny Snotty comes in to brush his teeth with his finger. After all the farting he feels the need to clear his oesophagus, just at the very moment you are bound by science to be unable to put your fingers in your ears. You can’t take your hands off the task at hand, so you’re stuck and forced to endure the repulsive hocking. It’s made all the worse when the guy next to you thinks you’re mad because your eye is twitching.

What is to be done about this menace, this scourge of the streets? I know for a fact that the rest of you are all as disgusted by this as I am, and I fear that our only method of combat is a good old-fashioned Public Awareness Campaign. I am therefore calling on all UAE Uncut readers to share this blog post around cyberspace, or to print it off and nail it to telegraph poles all around the UAE, or even to distribute it en masse in every public place you find. We must get the message out to the people that hocking up your vile phlegm is as vulgar as… as nothing else. Nothing else is that disgusting, nothing even remotely compares.

Together we can spit in the face of the Phlegm Hockers, and once they’re dealt with we’ll all go for a massage and be able to, finally, prove that happiness is a self-appointed attitude.

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169. Supersize

What is the point? No, really. What is the point of ever doing anything even remotely exciting or pleasurable? Why waste your time doing what you want to make yourself happy? The end result is always going to be the same; eternal darkness. Hmmm… perhaps one of the darker introductions to UAE Uncut, totally devoid of levity, but an accurate appraisal of how I felt when I was spooling through the papers this week.

Sad news for those with a desire to develop diabetes and for those who aspire to be obese: the Supersize drinking vessel is now banned. Gone the way of the unlicensed firearm, phone hacking, and the right to ride a horse, nude, through downtown Dubai. It is now illegal, and no more will the charming lady behind the counter at Hardees be allowed to ask you to “up-size”.

However, this being UAE Uncut, we have been ceaselessly picking our brains to try and work out how you might get around such legislation. And after a great deal of thought and practical experiments we think we may have found a loophole. If you wake up in the morning with an insatiable craving for a Supersize Diet Pepsi, because you’re watching your weight, but the catering personnel are bound by law not to provide you with your desired size, buy two large size drinks instead.

There, problem solved.

I spent 11 years of my life growing up in Blair’s Miserable Britain, 13 if you include that charlatan Brown too. One of New Labour’s party pieces was the incessant banning of everything; fox hunting, smoking, community sports centre lights being on past 10pm, smacking your children’s bottoms, hoodies, the banning of gold from British soil, truthful dossiers, putting food stuff in the paper bin, the right for a weapons inspector to carry on with his life and not be killed… the list is endless. For all the hundred reasons why not, it was always the one or two reasons why.

So, in essence, the news of the banning of Supersize should have been water off a duck’s back to me, but it grated, because it is such a tedious effort to curb the diabetes issues. Why stop at only the Supersize cup? If you can still legally buy two large size drinks then why not simply throw the machine away and sell only water? Better yet, to really make a dent in the public’s sugar levels why not simply replace all the Big Mac’s and Mega Buckets with celery and cabbage?

While we’re at it, why not deal with the fattiest food of them all; hotel food. It doesn’t matter if you go for a bowl of gruel at an underwhelming 2-Star hotel, or if you spend AED 45,000 on dinner at Chamas or some stupid pretentious restaurant in Dubai, hotel food expands your waistline as quickly as injecting your bottom full of lard. Anyone who thinks hotel food is good for you is deluded.

Mr. McDonald, it is the decree of this court that you be taken from this place and hanged for crime of class-A sugar abuse.

Mr. McDonald, it is the decree of this court that you be taken from this place and hanged for the crime of class-A sugar abuse.

I too am victim of weight gain. My favourite food in the whole wide world is a nice spicy curry. But it is loaded with so much ghee that there is every chance that each breath could very well be my last.

I have witnessed parents over here feed their offspring with so much sugar that it is a miracle that they don’t just spontaneously combust. Everything is dealt with in sweets. You barter for peace with sweets, you barter for order with sweets, you barter for bed time with sweets, and you barter for sweets with sweets. A UAE Uncut made-up study suggests that in the average class of 30 children there is a total of only 16 teeth.

Sadly, none of what I have said can come true. You can’t walk around the city banning McHardees and Kentucky Fried Gristle. First, business is business, and the point of a business is to make money, no other. Take the fast food establishments away and the treasury will be left with some very empty coffers. Secondly, if people want to inject their veins with lard and feast on an indeterminate puck of gristle sandwiched between two prosthetic pieces of so-called bread, then that is their God-given right, and who are we to stop them? If a parent wants to replace his or her child’s blood with sugar then go ahead, I’m sure they will thank you for it when they attempt to squeeze their 78 inch waist into a plane’s seat while hobbling with only one foot. Thirdly, you can’t stop globalisation. If you try and oppress people’s freedom then you end up with communism.

This is not the UAE’s fault. They are just another country to join a long list of those wishing to improve their nations’ health. But the ban culture is not the way to go. It starts with education in the classroom, and no cutesy crap either, and certainly no tip-toeing around the issue at hand. They need graphic imagery of someone having their foot amputated or a diseased kidney being fed to a dog to give them nightmares. Blood, gore, and the violent truth are the best medicines. Watch how much sugar they eat then. It’s not propaganda if it’s true.

So in summary, the banning of the Supersize cup is totally and utterly pointless. Solutions? None. But do what you want, trek to a pole, do a sky-dive, and live life to the fullest. The end result will be the same as someone who has spent their life gorging on deep fried chicken, but at least you’ll go through the pearly gates with a smile, and both feet.

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131. Round Up II

Today is Sunday, the Sabbath. Sunday is my day off from my usual employment and generally I like to do things. Except at the moment I am trying to save for my wedding in July, and this means that I do not have much disposable income. I am living on a tight budget and this means that I cannot go off to Ski Dubai or Ferrari World on a whim. What I can do, if I like, is go to a Mall and not buy anything. If I do not fancy that then I can go to another Mall and not buy anything there, either. If I am feeling adventurous I can drive to the top of Jebel Hafeet, a 4000ft high mountain that sits alone like a beached whale on the southern side of Al Ain. Once up there I can look at the town in which I live, say “Aha”, and drive back down again.

Och aye the noo; Mish Moneypenne'

Och aye the noo; Mish Moneypenne’

Today I am bored out of my tree. I have done my compulsory reading and had my breakfast. I have walked around the apartment and monitored the progress of the builders over the way. I have played with a few different hair styles and dressed up as both James Bond and James Dean. I dedicated 35 minutes to perfecting a Scottish accent for no obvious reason; this task in particular was a sensational failure. It seemed like today was a great opportunity to do a blog but for the life me I cannot think of what to write about.

If my creative juices were flowing then I would normally fire up the laptop, have a cup of tea and try to thrash out another instalment of UAE Uncut. But what to write about? Topics for discussion come to me in different ways. Sometimes at three in the morning I awake with an idea and pen it down. Sometimes I have to trawl the media looking for stories that arouse my interest. Sometimes I type out a title and by the second paragraph have skewed off on such a tangent that I end up writing over the wall and have become so far detached from the point that I end up in the neighbours bathroom.

I have spooled through the papers and nothing even remotely interests me. Yes there was that business about Abu Dhabi and Al Ain getting a new address system, but really, that is another classic case of the point being missed. It is not the lack of road names and building numbers that is the problem, these exist, it is the fact that drivers just do not bother to learn the roads. Couple this with the fact that there are insufficient road maps and changing the names and numbers will not improve anything.

There were also some lengthy pieces about herding people into the private sector and the challenges that are faced. Again, the point is missed. You cannot expect private companies to pay salaries that match that of a government institution. They will go bust very quickly. The problem is that a poor precedent has been set by allowing public sector salaries and perks to go through the roof. Don’t raise the pay in the private sector, cut the pay in the public sector. Problem solved.

A boat caught fire in Dubai, no one was hurt and nothing was to blame. There was traffic chaos in Dubai earlier on when the Metro broke down. Pah! That happens in London every day. Abu Dhabi grocery stores have been given four months to sort their shops out or they face closure. Why? They were all closed down last month, and then they reopened. What was the original offence, Health and Safety violations? Everything they sell is packaged; they are not trading fresh livestock. Those lads earn nothing so what is expected of them?

A Dubai passport controller has been caught taking bribes from over 5000 people totalling over 2.5 million Dirhams, falsifying documents so that willing participants can remain in the UAE illegally. He faces trial but will probably be acquitted. Dubai Police caught a cross-dressing man when they asked to see his Emirates ID card. As it turned out, the picture was clearly that of a male, but the clothing and mascara begged to differ. The jig was up and Lilly Savage will have to pay a fine.

The bank franchise HSBC will ban Syrian, Iranian and Sudanese customers as of 20th March this year in response to the sanctions imposed by Mr. Obama. While the sanctions are supposed to choke the economies of nations with fiendishly evil governments, you cannot help but feel sorry for the poor civilians who just want to get on with their lives and who have moved to the UAE to escape the tyranny of their own ruling establishments.

It looks like there is plenty going on across the Emirates right now. But I am sitting here looking out of my window at some guttering and my bathroom ventilation fan. I went to a bar earlier for a pint, to read and to just be while my fiancé nearly killed herself in the gym. Writers block is in control here and I cannot even be bothered to finish this sente…

Oh. My. God. I am so bored. Is this what it is like in Europe every day?

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126. Agendas

Last month, a small local business called Microsoft released an advert for the new Internet Explorer. It was aimed at those of us who were born in the eighties and who were the lucky few who could call themselves “90’s kids”. It was all there, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Hungry Hippos, Tamagotchis, Pogs and course everyone’s favourite; Sonic the Hedgehog. It, like many my age, brought a tear to my eye. Those were the days.

I miss the nineties. Back in those days Wimbledon were a Premier League football club, so to, were Leeds United. Bruce Forsythe was in the prime of his life presenting three out of every four game shows and music was all about the true stalwarts of the music industry: Take That, East 17, Boyzone, The Spice Girls and All Saints. We were also the first generation to use mobile phones as a tool for social classification. We didn’t have the internet so spent our time outside playing football, riding bikes and climbing trees. We didn’t know anything about the threat of Communism and thought that the tearing down of the Berlin Wall was nothing more than another football riot and the concept of war? Pah! War was in the past when things were black and white, it could never happen again.

Our clothes were baggy, our caps were rubbish, our wallets had Velcro, our phones were bricks and we were told that we would be the most financially stable generation on record. I miss the nineties, things were simple, I was a kid and I didn’t understand the world. It was better that way.

Of course through my rose-tinted spectacles I am unable to see the underbelly that inevitably existed, unlike today. Today I see through everything. Ask my fiancé, I cannot even go into a supermarket without psychoanalysing carrots and questioning why things are the way they are. This makes her very cross sometimes, all she wants is for me to go and get the milk but I stand there shouting at the vegetables instead, demanding to know their history and their intentions. Secretly, I am jealous of the vegetables. They remind me of the simple nineties, they don’t have to worry. Their purpose is to grow, be cooked and then be eaten, nothing more. They don’t have to deal with the politics of life or agendas of good-for-nothing charlatans.

Since moving to the UAE five years ago I have met a lot of people. Most of them are just normal folk over here to enjoy life and good on them. But, for every normal, stand-up person I meet, there is an opposite; an egotistical maniac with his or her own ideas on how things should be. These are the people with their own agendas and, man alive, who let them in?

I speak to a lot of people and one common complaint that everyone seems to share is that they work with, or know, a complete pest who has waltzed into their life by some means and effectively set off a grenade. It normally starts with a complete lack of understanding about the environment and ignorance to the feelings of others. If you have been working as a paper supplies salesman for three years and for those three years you have sat at the same desk, would you not be peeved if the new guy came in one day and simply took it without so much as a “good morning” latte? It takes a team of people to build a happy, successful workplace, but only one to destroy it.

It goes on to a grander scale; have you ever met a businessman or self-made millionaire? They are like spoilt children and are exceptionally partial to a spot of word play. What they do, when they don’t like someone else making money, is go and spread juvenile rumours that their rivals eat babies and use Burmese sweat shops to make cheap wine with anti-freeze. They say that they are conning everyone and things like “I can get it for you much cheaper” and so on. And why? Because they just want to make money for themselves and get one over the guy they don’t like. They will happily put you in the middle and, really, they care as much for your customer satisfaction as an Albanian benefits tourist cares for Ian Duncan-Smith. These swindlers are not to be trusted.

Go on Sonic! Those rings are yours anyway! Go on son!

Go on Sonic! Those rings are yours anyway! Go on son!

The agendas that people develop over here soon consume their lives to such an extent that they themselves actually start to believe their own lies. They begin to struggle to trust those around them and loyalty is frequently called into question. It is all well and good saying that you are going to a meeting at 8pm when really you are going out for dinner. Try removing your veil of conspiracy and just speak the truth.

I have never known anything like it. Wherever you go it is all the same; people spreading rumours about other people and other people cheating their way to a pay-rise because they are allowed to. If you do not ask then you do not get; fine, but Hell, what happened to hard work and loyalty? Perhaps I am reading too much into what I hear, but this is why I miss the nineties. I was a kid with an undeveloped mind so I didn’t notice anything like this, but it must have been going on under my nose back then, too.

It seems that you have to approach life like a game of Chess. You cannot just go in guns blazing, you have to slowly work your way around the issue and line yourself up to take the board. It is a long, boring and drawn out process that can barely be classed as a game. This is in contrast to Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic was simple. In Sonic, you just smashed into things and took back what was rightfully yours and always have a laugh doing it.

To get even you might have to get dirty, but really, do you want to be even with a charlatan? Do you want to sink to that level? Wouldn’t you just rather be happy and not get involved?

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95. Anxiety?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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