Category Archives: Personal musings

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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168. Expo 2020

FOR SALE: One large tent, barely used. Seeks loving home where it won't be asked to do much.

FOR SALE: One large tent, barely used. Seeks loving home where it won’t be asked to do much.

UAE Uncut resurfaces its muddy head this week after another unscheduled sabbatical. Over the past few weeks there has been much going on in the Emirates, and only if you have been living in a cave will you not have heard that Dubai won the right to hold Expo 2020. The world, well, the four cities bidding, kept up with the mad voting system via that cornerstone of news, Twitter, and as Dubai was named the champion several thousand people from all over the world cheered in the same way that the English might if they were to win the World Cup. Mass hysteria on a curious scale, and then bizarrely all the schools were declared closed the following day.

Within moments of the news being announced, social media was awash with cheers and praise for the UAE, much of the lyrical waxing coming from those who seem to have no idea what the event actually means, or indeed even is.

Those with dollar signs in their eyes may want to think long and hard about what that means for them, as a quick buck for one means a quick buck for another…

Why don’t we begin by explaining a little bit about what the Expo 2020 actually is, to spare some from the embarrassment should the subject arise with your friends. Dubai will be hosting a Universal Registered Exposition, not to be confused with a Universal Recognised Exposition. This means little. Every few years some countries wish to improve their image and host an event that usually lasts for about six months. These expositions are usually given themes, such as an Elvis theme, or mermaids. In Dubai’s case, the theme is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, which I find vague enough to mean something halfway between nothing and something else.

Once the Bureau of International Expositions sit down to vote on the winner, said winner must build a building and pepper it with lots of things relating to the theme. Usually the structures built are temporary, with some notable exceptions; such as France’s Eiffel Tower. London’s Crystal Palace was supposed to be permanent, too. But it caught fire and burnt to the ground.

Anyway, Dubai is basically going to be spending billions on the whole thing and when you look at the rivals it’s easy to understand how it won the bid. Sao Paulo gave it a good go, but I’d bet my left wedding vegetable that you’ve never heard of the other two places: Yekaterinburg and Izmir? That was as easy to predict as Spain winning a World Cup group comprising England, Andorra and Lichtenstein.

So what does it mean for the great city of Dubai to have been picked to host such a wonderful event? Go on, tell me. Because I sure as Hell can’t work it out. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that there will be plenty of builders, project managers, and plumbers required to put everything together, and that they will all be paid what will be in essence a normal wage depending on their nationality, but then what?

I have read the Expo 2020 website back to front, and all I keep reading are the words “Sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity” over and over again. Where’s the creating minds and connecting people part? There is a lot in there about recycling, and that instead of building the buildings with steel RSJ’s and mortar they will use twigs and moss instead.

The plans sound a little mad. When it talks about “Mobility”, it goes on to say that it is important that people can get around Dubai, and that new creative solutions are needed. I agree, but what has that got to do with the Expo? If you stop building pointless flyovers and ban the white trucks and Land Cruisers from the roads then we will all be able to get around much easier. The paragraph on “Sustainability” is just a load of eco-jargon that seems as pointless as some solar powered Christmas lights, and the “Opportunity” page just says that people will do business. So? People have always done business, and so long as we don’t all stray into the evil grasp of Communism, then people will continue to do business.

All this blurb is just useless text, Expo or not Dubai will continue to build flyovers, it will continue to sustain itself with whatever it has at its disposal, and opportunities will exist for as long as there is money here. So why does Dubai need to spend a billion-gazillion Dirhams on a six-month event where people will be told with a grin that the future is inevitable? We know the future is inevitable. Tomorrow will happen, I can tell you that for free.

I want to make it clear that I am one the first to acknowledge how much Dubai has achieved in the last 42 years. I’ve seen the pictures of Sheikh Zayed Road surrounded by nothing but a barren sea of featureless desert, and although I feel uncomfortable addressing the labour issue, it has gone from rags to riches quicker than any country before it. So why does it need an Expo?

An American man with a bald head answered some rather dull questions on the matter and he seems to think that “Dubai will do well out of it”. For the 1200 words printed from his interview, the only thing of note was that people would stay in hotels, and Dubai is best for finance and shopping. Great. So anyone wanting to make a special visit to Dubai for the Expo will have to spend a fortune on flights, an obscene amount on a hotel as the prices will go up especially, not understand what they’re are supposed to do with the word “finance” when they’re on holiday, and then go to Dubai Mall to shop for things they can’t afford.

Oh, and then there’s property. Always the key thing with Dubai. Apparently rents will go up because that’s natural, and those who can afford to live in certain places will, and those who can’t afford it won’t. Same as usual.

Not that I want to see Dubai’s Expo adventure fail, on the contrary, I owe a lot to the UAE and would very much like to see it prosper. But I just don’t see the point. Any information you want about the world is available on the internet, apart from what will actually be in the Expo building, of course.

If they want people to go, then cut out the eco-jargon and nonsensical blub about finance and flyovers, and kit it out with lots of bars and lots of Sega Rally machines.

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166. Road Names

What is the most annoying thing in the world? Vevuzelas? Bluebottle flies? Kardashians? The answer is none of these; it is in fact the bureaucratic mentality that prevents anything from happening within a reasonable timeframe.

It seems that wherever you go, local councils and governments want to spend as long on any given project as possible, seemingly to do nothing more than justify their existence. Take for example a very British conundrum; do you have any idea how much red tape you need to tear through to get a new park bench installed? No, neither do I. But only because when I stumbled across the procedure online I fell asleep after page 74. It is horrendous. Why does it need to take so long to put a bench in a park? You buy a bench, engrave the brass plaque with the name of a locally renowned goose, and place it in situ. A bench needs planning permission. Why? Put it there, and if enough Guardian readers complain about it then pick it up and move it somewhere else.

This type of mindless bureaucracy, it seems, is a global pandemic. Even those whom reside in the most remote outback wastelands of Mongolia need permission to paint pots. Why can’t those running the show just get things done? Why wait? Alex Salmond wants his vote on Scottish independence, why keep with him waiting until 2015 or whenever it is, just let him do it so we can all get back to work.

Cock-A-Dobby, Jumeriah Lake Towers, please.

Cock-A-Dobby, Jumeriah Lake Towers, please.

It therefore came as no surprise to me yesterday that it is to take five years to rename all the roads in Dubai. Allow me to explain the situation: The road naming system in the UAE is, by its own admission, a joke. There are snippets of sense, such as the main motorways being given numbers like E11, E22, E66 and so on, and of course we have the big landmark roads like Shiekh Zayed Road which are easy to identify. But everything else is a mish-mash of incomprehensible balderdash.

In order to understand the incumbent numbering system you need a mind of such ability that you would be able to crucify Stephen Hawking on Countdown, in the same way that a ferret could outsmart Kim Karsdashian in a game of Battleships. It is all so dreadfully hateful.

Along with the numbers there are also roads named after Sheikhs and prominent Emiratis, and that is normal. It’s no different from road names like Victoria Avenue, Kings Road, Albert Road, Elizabeth Street, and so on. But it can get confusing sometimes. If I’m navigating the Dubai traffic looking for Khaled Bin Khalifa Street, invariably I will get confused and end up on Khalifa Bin Khaled Street.

The new system means that every single road in Dubai is to be renamed, and in keeping with global tradition, the names are to reflect the local district and its history. Take the coastal area, Jumierah. Roads along the coast are to take their names from fish, famous boats, and an array of other nautical paraphernalia. Great, it will be like Portsmouth; Fish Street. Cod Cresent. HMS Ark Royal Avenue. Navy Mews.

The Trade Centre area is to be named after various currencies, which sounds fine, but there are only a finite amount of currencies in the world, so expansion of the Trade Centre would be halted should the limit be reached. Unless they build more roads off Dollar Drive, in which case they can raise the debt ceiling to whatever fictional level they like…

The thing is, this renaming programme is going to take five years, and for the life of me I can’t fathom why. How hard can it be? You break the city up into zones, as they have done, and just go nuts. Honestly, if they were to get in touch with me then I could rename the whole city in a day. Just give me a copy of the Viz Profanisaurus and immunity from prosecution and before you know it you’ll be driving through Uphill Gardens and Bell End, past Busty View and before you know it you’ll be back home on Penistone Road.

Problem solved.

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163. Windows

Batman, Ironman, Captain Kirk, and The Tracy family. These are some of the finest heroes that I can recall from my childhood. They are all strong individuals who would all give their lives in the name of triumph. Whether they were trying to stop The Joker from general frolicking, or attempting to prevent the Klingons from laying siege to a planet full of men in pyjamas, I marveled at their courage and selflessness.

Sadly, none of these characters are real, despite what Fathers for Justice would have you believe. So to get our hero fix in the real world we have to turn the television off and go in search. Obviously the first stop is Google. There are hundreds of examples of so-called have-a-go-heroes out there on public record to enjoy: man saves boy from burning car, man saves boy from burning building, man saves burning building from fire. But for all the heroism and altruism, none of these examples quite capture the imagination.

As you all know I have recently moved to Abu Dhabi where, nestled between all the roads and palm trees, are hundreds upon hundreds of buildings; “So what? Every city in the world has buildings” I hear you cry. And true enough. Abu Dhabi shares much in common with cities such as Dubai, London, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo…the list is endless. The one common feature among them all is that a lot of the buildings are jolly high and made completely out of glass.

One of the fundamental features of glass is that it is transparent. It is intended for dual purpose; so that the occupants can see out, and so that light can get in. However, glass must be maintained, it must be cleaned regularly. Having dirty windows is akin to having poor personal hygiene; people will judge. In older cities, such as London, this is not such a big issue (minus the Shard, or the Gherkin, or One Canada Square, or that concave one that sets bicycle seats on fire). Firstly, it rains a lot, and secondly, older buildings are made of bricks and stone, and windows are generally very accessible. By comparison anyway.

Today I walked from Marina Square on Al Reem Island to the Sun Tower about one kilometer away. While on my saunter I found myself gazing at all the mad buildings either occupied, or in the process of going up. Upon staring at the Shams Towers I stopped to sagely stroke my chin and nod my head appreciatively.

I then noticed atop the roof, under the massive vanity parapet, that there were half a dozen men all standing on the edge looking down. This building is 400 metres high, that is half the height of the Burj Khalifa. There, standing halfway to heaven, were six men all wiring themselves into harnesses and about to make a true leap of faith; they were the window cleaners (cue The A-Team theme).

When I still lived at home in London, we used to have a window cleaner who would come round in a Ford Escort panel van with a step ladder and a squeegee. He’d prop his ladder against the guttering and get to work, and within 6-8 weeks he’d be done. He would charge more if my sisters window on the second floor needed doing, since that exceeded his desired height. What a pansy.

Would you?

Would you?

Obviously, this is not the first time I have seen window cleaners in the UAE. Why, I have seen the lunatics that spend their days swinging around Burj Khalifa like a maypole before. But in essence – forget the sheer height of it for a minute – it is a simple design and relatively easy to clean. Shams Tower is slightly different, as you can see in the picture. When cleaning the parapet you are literally dangling like a worm on a hook, and I kid you not, all the money in the world would not convince me to give it a go myself. I’d rather vote for the Labour party.

The UAE’s two major cities are just mazes of glass towers, and cleaning the windows is an industry in itself. You couldn’t just ask any old Tom, Dick, or Harry to strap in and jump overboard armed with nothing other than a chamois leather and a bottle of Windex. Surely these hardy souls must be trained at the Royal Institute of F****** High-up Windows by only the most chisel jawed of professionals.

But where are things going? Architecture is becoming more and more ambitious, and inherently the windows are becoming harder and harder to clean, I mean just look at that weird twisty tower on Al Sufouh Road in Dubai. How the hell are they going to clean that?

Yes, for real heroes you need look no further than your nearest skyscraper. They are braver than you, me, or any fictional character that you can imagine. Even Ironman needed weapons and armour. No, the window cleaners of the UAE are armed with nothing but a bucket and squeegee, with their only protection from a harness failure and subsequent terrifying demise being a simple 25 Dirham hard hat.

Quite what that will do to protect them I don’t know, but then again I’m not the hero, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they could fly.

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160. Bags

Drum roll please… UAE Uncut is back with a bang! Well, not quite, more of a pathetic drip. Since my last inscription in this muddy puddle of cyberspace much has changed. In the last six weeks I have got married, have resigned from my job of six years, and have moved to a new apartment in Abu Dhabi. As you would imagine, life has been jolly busy and, in essence, has little to do with the point of today’s missive.

Since moving here in 2008, I have read many tales from the crypt about how dear old Mother Earth is starting to cough and misplace her dentures. Where as once she was able to walk to the shops and back in 15 minutes, nowadays she does so with a walking stick, making full use of the park bench at half distance to catch her breath. The old girl is showing her age and, of course, her children are to blame.

Let’s not get embroiled in an environmental debate here, but sometimes I wish people would see sense and realise that money doesn’t do anything of any use. No, really. How does paying extra money for certain things in anyway combat physics? We begin with the most obvious of targets for such heinous antics; airlines. Naturally, everyone is provided with a maximum baggage allowance on an aircraft. Anywhere between 20-23kg is generally the average. Over the summer I have been back to Blighty, to Ireland, and to Italy. Because I was travelling around a bit, I had to pack a bit more and was thusly over my allowance.

In most cases, the options laid out before me were a) unpack some things and leave them there on the floor of the terminal for eternity and b) to pay an outrageous fee so that they could indeed travel. Annoyingly, and despite my best sarcastic cannonballs, I had to get my wallet out. The woman said that if everyone was over their allowance then the plane would be too heavy and would plummet to the Earth and that I would be killed. But how does then paying £4,000 per kilogramme all of a sudden make it ok?

Here in the UAE we are protected from the environmental fascism of Europe, and one can easily forget that back under the iron fist of Brussels, life is far more difficult. What were once simple chores of every day life are fast becoming a royal pain the Merkel. I speak, of course, of shopping.

While away in the EUSSR, each and every time I needed to pop into a supermarket I was forced to carry away my Ruffles, Smarties, eggs, deodorant, and milk in my arms. Plastic carrier bags are now a tradable commodity. If I wanted the convenience of carrying my humble groceries in a bag, then I had to pay for the privilege. I’m sorry, but I just can’t subscribe to this.

Before we go any further perhaps I should highlight that I despise those who litter, and companies that continue to package razors in vacuum formed Perspex are no more morally sound than Somali pirates. Plastic bags are indeed a menace and I hate seeing them blowing around windy allies or wrapped around Nelson’s Column. But why should I have my convenience compromised just because some careless halfwit can’t use a recycling bin properly?

UAE Uncut grade good retaining unit. Trademark, £40 per dozen. What? Someone has to make money out of environmentalism

UAE Uncut-grade goods retaining unit. Trademark, £40 per dozen. What? Someone has to make money out of environmentalism

So, my question is: what is wrong with paper bags? Paper bags were the norm for decades and worked just as well. They can come with handles, can be completely recycled, they are re-useable, and, as far as my research concludes, are cheaper than plastic bags. Ok, in the rain they can get a bit soggy, but no matter.

Food prices in supermarkets are high(ish) across Europe, and there is no way in a month of Sundays that a locally grown apple can cost as much as a majority stake in Microsoft. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that merchants can still afford to bulk buy bags for their customers.

What about those big re-useable bags you can buy? They’re great, after you’ve made the initial down-payment. But their usage is dictated solely by whether you actually have one with you or not. If I pop up to Dubai for the day and then, on impulse, decide that I need to dash into a shop for a pack of Smarties and a plasma TV, then the odds are I won’t have one with me. This is what happened in Italy. I was on my honeymoon, and at no point in the packing process did I think that I would need a re-usable shopping bag. This, I’m sure, would have cost me even more money-for-weight with Aer Lingus. And I didn’t want to be responsible for making the plane crash.

The thought didn’t even cross my mind. If I needed to rake in supplies from the local goods merchant, then I assumed that my convenience as a paying customer would not be called into question. But, instead, I was forced to walk back to the hotel juggling my Lynx and Smarties looking like some mad shoplifter.

Returning to Europe reminded me about how lucky we are in the UAE. Flying back from Italy with Etihad, my suitcase was several kilos over the allowance, I wasn’t asked to pay, and the plane didn’t even remotely crash. Convenience is the cornerstone of the Emirates and long may it continue. The day this country starts to charge me for carrier bags will be the day I decide to pack up and go elsewhere. The question is, where is beyond the reach of madness? And how much baggage allowance will I have to pay for to get there? I need to go somewhere where I can carry my shopping in peace, and for free; Chad, perhaps?

Mother Earth is indeed getting on a bit, but she is not yet at the stage where she needs a Stannah stair-lift. When the time comes we will take care of her, but like any good parent, she will want the best for her children without wishing to be “too much of a bother.” My wish, mum, is that my human siblings don’t deprive me of my convenience. Let me carry my shopping like you used to in the old days, a paper bag will be fine.

Ah, it’s good to be back.

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157. Jackson’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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152. Bieber

One day I want to be a real boy

One day I want to be a real boy

We all have people we dislike for no obvious reason. We can’t quite put our finger on it, but there is usually a certain quality that just gets under our skin. Some, when pushed though, can dig reasons from the muddiest of pits. Maybe you don’t like a co-worker because they are useless. Maybe there is a man in your local pub who, when he eats bar nuts, does so at such a volume it sounds as if HMS Ark Royal is knocking on the door. Then there are those in the public eye. We hate those who we see as stupid, like a Kardashian, or a Jersey Shore. Sometimes we don’t like these people because of how they behave. Maybe they are violent, a charlatan, a manipulator, or even a poor role model.

I can name many people who at least one of the aforementioned adjectives could be applied. But all four? My God, does such a person exist? Could it be Ming the Merciless? Perhaps, but he is fictional. Goldfinger? Professor James Moriarty? The Joker? No, all fictional. Does a person with these attributes actually exist in the real world? The only person who I can think of that can have violence, fraud, manipulation and poor guidance attached to his name is, alarmingly, Justin Bieber.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, what does that punk kid from Canada have to do with the UAE? And more so, why do I care? Well, he was here last week and, frankly, made a complete wally of himself, and I found it funny.

Now, I have to be careful here for two reasons; firstly, I heard on the radio today that a Filipina was fined AED 1000 for calling someone “stupid” in the street in Dubai. So I will have to refrain from name calling. Secondly, Bieber has a substantial following, a full-blown religion by all accounts. He has the ear of hundreds of millions world over, whereas I have the ear of 50-60 UAE expats and a German company called “Strudle-big.” By typing further, I am putting my life on the line and risking the vengeance of the Bieberati…

Justin Bieber did not impress me last week. There, take that. The young, greasy haired, pin-up boy performed two “gigs” at the Dubai Sevens stadium last week and thought that it would be a good idea to keep everyone waiting for two hours, at both concerts. Of course we all know that in the music industry it is fashionable to turn up late, but sadly for Bieber his fanbase aren’t in the music industry, they’re in the school industry. And Saturday and Sunday nights are school nights in the UAE.

After his first evening soiree on a rugby pitch, he decided that he would go and take in a few sights in Dubai. Being only a young whippersnapper – 19 – he is two years shy of the legal drinking age, plus he doesn’t have an alcohol license. For reasons I don’t fully understand, he was given special permission to enter a nightclub in Dubai that I have never heard of. He went in looking moody, so tried to order a drink. Amusingly he was declined service and he was next spotted hanging from the roof of a Range Rover in Jumeriah.

During the last of his two shows, Bieber was commissioned by his puppeteers to play the piano and sing a song, at the same time. Clearly, this upset the fans somewhat as a young boy charged on stage to grab the young Canadian, sending the piano tumbling down the stage and landing upside down. Bieber was rushed to the side of the stage as the assailant was – fittingly, given the venue – rugby tackled to the ground. I have seen the videos; did anyone else find it rather odd that through all the brouhaha, the tackling, the piano, the groping, that he continued to play both the piano and sing completely un-phased? Despite the piano lying broken on the floor and he being cuddled by a man in a black suit?

I’m sorry, no. But if I had paid a gazillion Dirhams to see my music idol then I would expect the full show. If I want to listen to a recording I will pop a CD in the car. How would you feel if, on your wedding day, your partner held up a dicta-phone with a pre-recorded “I do” on it? No, you want to hear the real words.

Thankfully, Bieber was able to restrain himself from any physical altercations this time, unlike when he was in London earlier this year. A man with a camera dared to take a photo of the young scamp and Bieber got angry. Ok, the photo man was winding him up, but Bieber should have realised that by the time he was 15 he was going to suffer a life of public interest, drugs, hair and no concept of reality.

He is a temperamental, fraudulent, crowd manipulating, unsavoury spoiled brat. His whole demeanour is wrong. His Twitter account is replete with hollow gratuity towards the fans; “@dubai massive respect. I will always be there for the #fans”. Apart from when you’re 140 minutes late, you little scallywag.

The music industry has a long, rich history of pillaging younglings from their mother’s nests too early; Britney, Christina, Justin, Miley, that weird kid with the face. Bieber is just another Hessian sack with a dollar sign on it. I know as well as you do that he is just a face, a franchise for a lot of men and women in suits to make money, and the worse part? People are still buying into it. Is this what we want the younger generation to look up to?

I like to think of UAE Uncut as a relatively neutral page…sorry I couldn’t finish that sentence without my moral compass spinning out of control. Unlike Bieber, I respect my followers. Make up your own minds on this twerp, but I’ll be damn surprised if you disagree with me.

Or maybe, just maybe, I am wrong. Is Justin Bieber real at all? Is he in actual fact no different to Goldfinger, The Joker, Ming the Merciless or Professor Moriarty? A mere fictional character simply to bring balance to this world of saints?

Nah, the guy’s a tool.

Right, then, Bieberati…bring it on…

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151. Sandwiches

A couple of months ago I decided it best that UAE Uncut take on a degree of structure. As opposed to simply thinking of a topic, putting some more coal in the laptop and firing out my views sporadically, I opted to churn out one missive a week. Sadly, however, there is just too much going on and I can afford to miss out no longer.

People often stop me in the street and ask where I get my ideas from, and my response is always the same; I just look around. No, really, inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. I notice something, find an absurd metaphor that I twist until it is beyond all recognition, alter history to suit my needs and input a picture gung-ho to suit. My blogs are thrown together with the same delicacy and care as a Taliban-baked wedding cake.

Last night I was out with friends in one of Al Ains’ many social night spots. Conversation meandered through more subjects than the encyclopaedias’ bibliography. We began by talking about working visas and the complications that usually arise. We spoke about our friends and families and the personal foibles that define a close relationship. We discussed, in detail, the UAE demographic and how similar ideologies could be implemented across Europe, and how the European Court of Human Rights could learn a thing or two from the UAE about real justice. And then we talked about sandwiches.

There are three main meals in the day. We begin with breakfast. Breakfast is usually limited to a few options; cereals, fruits and yoghurts, and cooked breakfasts involving eggs and so on. You can’t have pizza for breakfast, nor can you have a mutton vindaloo. Dinner, at days’ end, can be many things. Chicken kiev, pie and mash, pasta, fish, steak and chips; all these things are lovely. But you won’t find anyone having a bowl of Frosties.

The two primary book-end meals are governed by strict EU regulation and rightly so. If people had roast beef and gravy for breakfast and Coco Pops for dinner then we’d end up with a world full of white-face-painted stoners with leather nipple rings and no sense of up or down. But then there is the exception to the trend; lunch. Lunch is the meal in the middle of the day that can literally be anything you like.

Like zoiks! I said NO tomatoes!

Like zoiks! I said NO tomatoes!

I am generally on the go a lot, and the last thing I want to have after lunch is a food coma. This makes me uncomfortable and I usually find myself very fat by the end of the week. What are the options? You go to the mall and sure enough there are plenty of fast food franchises just dying to clog your arteries and get your order wrong. However, a fast-food diet is unsustainable, so we turn to the café’s. But, of course, all the meals are so big that once you have finished your tonne of chips – or the uncouthly-branded “French fries” – the last thing you want to do, let alone can, is stand up and go back to work.

All I want for lunch is a sandwich. I want two slices of bread with some sort of appealing filling within; cheese, turkey, chicken mayonnaise, whatever. Why is this so hard to achieve? Why can’t I just buy a sandwich? No, I don’t want chips, or a Pepsi, or a pointless side salad. And while we’re at it, I want to make it absolutely clear that by simply putting one leaf of lettuce on a plate, it does not make it a “salad.” I have seen sandwiches in supermarkets and at petrol stations but these have the same taste-bud arousing qualities as vomit, and I would sooner eat my own finger nails than put one in my mouth.

No, I am looking for a middle-of-the-road, non-boutique-esque delicatessen that makes normal, edible sandwiches. I’m not asking for Jamie Oliver quality, just something that you can eat on the go to stay alive and that will not cause your tongue to catch fire. Those of you from the West may know the chain “Greggs”, that’s what I am after. They offer a range of simple sandwiches in plastic wrappers that are not stupidly overpriced. Greggs is a good go-to-guy kind of place, it is what it is.

The UAE strives to have everything, it actively promotes itself as having it all and I fully subscribe to that. How many other countries can claim to have five of the last eight Top Gear top super-cars in their police fleet? Dubai has the largest mall (by floor space) and tallest building in the world. The UAE has everything, even rain this year. But the one thing that the UAE lacks – and I will state that the crisis is far more apparent in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain than it is in Dubai – is sandwiches.

Those of an annoying disposition I’m sure will comment below about how I should shut up and simply make my own sandwiches if I’m that fussy about it, and you’re right, I could. But I am a capitalist consumer, just like you. And sometimes my work life means that I literally don’t have the time to sit down and eat, to say nothing about finding the time to go shopping or making my own lunch. No, I need a lightweight snack that won’t turn me into Fatty Arbuckle and that can be collected when I want it; I need a bloody sandwich.

I need variety and flexibility in my sandwiches, like how UAE Uncut used to be in the good old days; sporadic and available at a whim. Please, UAE, heed my call. I enjoy living in this country; it offers me a quality of life that David Cameron couldn’t even pretend to promise me. Please can I have a sandwich?

But not cheese, I’m off dairy. And hold the butter. I want crusty white bread. And I want chicken instead of turkey. No tomatoes. Ok just a little bit of cheese.

Aaahh, welcome back, spontaneous blogging.

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143. Public Transport

Mankind is a remarkable species. We have created and invented so much that, really, we have wiped the floor with the animal kingdom; lions, elephants, badgers, foxes, what have they ever done for mother Earth? Us? Well we have harnessed electricity, sent men into space, and created the microwave meal. Man has achieved an awful lot and throughout history has always had a common aspiration; to push the limits and to improve them.

But what else is there? Everest is conquered, the poles have been walked, and the land and seas have been explored. At the expense of millions of lives we have mapped each and every corner of this world. So now, surely, we must shift the ambition from a sense of challenge to one of convenience. When Everest was conquered it was an achievement of grandeur, but jolly inconvenient. How many explorers never returned? If I was asked if I would like to climb up a hill but was told that I would very likely die, then I would probably decline. If, however, I was asked if I would like to visit the top in a helicopter then I would certainly mull it over.

Strides have been made over the last few years to make our lives slightly more convenient. There are things today on tap that only 30 years ago were merely the dreams of mad men. Take your phone for example. I was from the first generation of youths who used mobile phones. When I was 14 I was given an Ericsson something-or-other that had the same aesthetic qualities as a worn-out brogue. From that day on I no longer had to worry about pay-phones or waiting to use the land line at home. I had the power to call or be called whenever.

Convenience is the key to mankind’s prosperity and future hope; for as long as things are hard to come by or awkward we will not develop as a species. Last week I decided that I would go out for a beer and watch some football in Al Ain. The task required me to exit my front door and make my way to the side of the road. Things were going well until I looked at my watch and realised that I had been standing by the side of that road for 35 minutes. In that time not a single taxi presented itself. I was seething with rage and when one did eventually arrive I made my feelings quite clear.

I am a man of the world who works hard at both home and work. So when I decide it is time for me to go out and indulge in a spot of beer drinking and football watching then I expect no interruptions and no hassle. Being home in London this week has re-kindled my love affair with London Transport; the very cornerstone of convenience.

Now for those foreign, non-Londoner readers, I feel I should point out that we (Londoners) are a curious breed. We do seem to complain an awful lot, often with no real cause or need. Nothing is ever any good, everything is the fault of “that bleeding lot in Westminster” and “it wasn’t like this is my day.” It’s dreadfully tiresome. One of the key targets for out general moaning is our transport system. It seems it can never catch a break.

Everyone is always complaining that the tube is overcrowded, and so too are the mainline trains. The buses, too, are always packed and, apparently, overpriced. The question I always ask is: what the hell do you want? I have been up to the city twice this week and there is a tube train literally every 3-4 minutes. I was sat in Pizza Express opposite Charing Cross station on the Strand on Monday and over the course of an hour there was never a time when there was less than five buses at the stop. The flow of red-double-deckers was as constant as the Thames.

Walk around London and you are never more than a ten minute walk from the nearest Underground station and there are buses everywhere. The main terminals for the mainline networks are also never more than 15 minutes away. Want a taxi? No problem, there’s 6000 of them queuing from Nelson’s Column to Marble Arch.

A symbol of freedom

A symbol of freedom

There is nothing wrong with public transport. The real problem with London is the amount of people there. If public transport could only be used by those wishing to commute to a place of work then there wouldn’t be a problem. You would always have a seat and there would be copies of the Metro for all. But the tourists, with their unfathomable desire to stimulate our ailing economy with their wealth, are clogging up the system. If you are of a brainless or xenophobic persuasion then you could ask them to leave, but London would collapse and burn just like Dubai did in 2008.

Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked; tackling the overcrowding issue isn’t my burden to bear. That’s what Boris is paid for. The spurious point of the today’s missive is that Londoners have it easy. Hush! Yes you do. There is barely a city in the world with such a fabulous public transport system. Buses and trains to all corners of this great city are always there, always constant and always busy. Honestly, I have spent most of this week walking around London wearing a plastic policeman’s hat saluting the roundel wherever I see it. How would you cope if we filled the Bakerloo Line with concrete or flooded the Northern Line with the Thames? What if we got rid of all the buses and black cabs? Would that improve the situation?

Man achieved greatness with his endeavours and he is now in the process of achieving the holy grail of civilisation: convenience. So stop whinging about the District Line being crowded and get the one afterwards in three minutes. You honestly have no idea how lucky you are.

Would you prefer to be standing in the middle of an uninhabited road waiting 35 minutes for a taxi that, once having collected you, will try to kill you? Thought not…

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137. World Expo

You may not believe this, but I am a cynic. Not just your every-day “urgh I don’t eat foreign food” cynic, but a real cynic. In fact, my cynicism is my way of life; it is the default of my very nature. I find it far easier to scoff at something I know nothing about rather than turn around and praise something I know equally nothing about. I prefer to ask questions until I understand something and until I do I don’t like it. I like things to be clear, if I have to read something more than three times then it is not worth knowing. It has failed to arouse my interest and therefore has no right being in my brain library.

I also enjoy being negative. Nothing makes me vomit quite like those who gush at everything they see and hear. “Oooh! That’s amazing” they say as they play with the cup holder in your car. What next? Are they going to start chasing shiny things or claiming that Kim Kardashian is actually a good role model for young girls? There are many names for this kind of person, the most politically correct of which is “idiot”.

Those who come to the UAE and see nothing beyond the high-rise leviathans and countless malls are blind. Do they not notice the rusty buses ferrying the labour classes to and from their holiday camps? Do they not look at a road intersection and think “My God, they really f****d that up.” Or is this just me? Do I only see all the negative stuff before I convince myself that there are positive facets out there? Perhaps.

Anyway, returning to the matter at hand; I like to clearly understand the point of something, and when I don’t I like to research it until I do. So today’s question is: what is the point of the World Expo? You can’t have failed to notice that Dubai is bidding for the 2020 instalment of an event that I don’t fully understand.

Since I was not wowed, and even more confused, by Wikipedia’s explanation of the event, I turned to the private internetters for clues and sadly I have reached my fifth paragraph in today’s epistle and am still none the wiser. A World Expo, or World Fair, is an event held seemingly at random in a pre-designated city. The attractions of this fair vary according to what the host city wants. Generally there will be many other countries showcasing their own lands as tourist or investment destinations. There will also be some people walking around saying how amazing the host city is. It sounds like jolly good fun and on the face of it, why not?

Well, we didn't need Crystal Palace anymore anyway...

Well, we didn’t need Crystal Palace anymore anyway…

But let us take a step back and look at things from a different angle. The first ever World Expo took place in 1851 in London. For the event a grand structure was created; the famous Crystal Palace. The giant greenhouse burned down before too long and its only living legacy is the south London football club who bears the name. The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace was not a success and it financially ruined its owners. One reason was that it was closed on Sundays, the only day people had off work back then.

But things were different in the Victorian era when Britain was at the height of its imperialist ventures. We had men trekking all over the globe, exploring, learning, conquering, and stealing and so on. The British public was craving knowledge of the world after previously knowing nothing beyond those French rascals over the water.

A World’s Fair to showcase the Empire, foreign lands, treasures and different cultures was a sensational idea. It was a chance to show the British people what the imperialists had been up to. This became a regular event with other nations soon joining in.

Today we live in a different world to Henry Kitchener and Queen Victoria. If you want to see what a country is like you can do so at the click of a mouse. You can ask random strangers on Twitter, you can read reviews by Michael Palin or you can simply type whatever you want into Google and you will be presented with all you need.

It is a genius way of doing things that brings the whole Expo business into question: what is the point? Have you seen the plans for the Expo complex? It is insanely big and, obviously, insanely expensive. There is a big push for this to happen but again I do not understand why. My research concludes that the cost of hosting a World Expo far outweighs any financial benefit. They have all been fiscal flops. What kind of business model is this? Don’t forget that Dubai still owes billions of dollars to neighbouring Abu Dhabi after the 2008 collapse. Can it afford to go throwing money around willy nilly?

Why bother going to all the trouble of hiring an expensive architect, finding a builder with some cheap workers, putting together a massive building complex and filling it with things from other countries and then tearing most of it down afterwards? The internet is omnipotent and cannot be beaten, it has all the information. The concept of the World Expo is as archaic as carving out your shopping list on a stone tablet.

Maybe it is just the cynic in me or maybe I am right. But I find it hard to swallow that money should be spent on such things when no benefit will come of it. I can think of many different, better things to spend the money on, such as new buses for the labourers, or a security gate at the airport that keeps out idiots.

Labourers who are looked after a bit better and the extraction of idiots from society: now there is a showcase the UAE could really be proud of.

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