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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164. Warning lights

"Britishisation... Now there's a vote winner with the middle classes..."

“Britishisation… Now there’s a vote winner with the middle classes…”

Next week is the Islamic holiday of Eid Al Adha, and to mark the occasion everyone has been given some time off. This doesn’t make too much difference to me since I currently spend most of my time sitting down watching TV and eating crisps.

Those who work in the public sector, such as teachers and government employees, have the entire week off. Coupled with the two weekends at either end, that is nine whole days. That is a superb result. However, those who work in the private sector will only get three working days off – Monday to Wednesday. This means that they will work Sunday and Thursday.

On the face of it that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but it does kind of underline the fact that things aren’t very balanced. There are many things I admire about the UAE, chief of which is the Emiratisation project that is currently being championed. If such a thing were to ever happen in the UK then we would all be calling Nigel Farage the Prime Minister…

For those who may not be aware, Emiratisation is a drive to get more Emiratis working in the private sector. As you will all know, we expatriates are all here to earn a decent wage and to give something back to the former British protectorate. The UAE population is vastly outnumbered, making up only 10% of the overall population. As such the government is keen to ensure that their own people are not lost in the wilderness, and that they will lead the country to international glory.

Sadly, there does seem to be one small flaw in the plan. Gun against your head, if you had to choose between a cushty government job that paid a handsome salary and offered you shorter working hours and more time off, and a private sector job on a quarter of the money, longer hours, and less holiday, which would you take?

No prizes for answering correctly, I know what I would do. And why not? The drawback is that the parameters between the two sectors cannot be balanced. In the private sector, what you earn is a reflection of how well your company performs. If your business is tanking then your money and subsequent job security is in jeopardy. You are sheltered from this in the public sector to an extent.

You cannot place someone in a private firm and pay them a government-akin wage, unless it was some faceless multinational corporation. If you want to bring balance to the sectors, then conversely you cannot cut every government employee’s wage by 75%; that would have a crippling effect on the economy. I presume.

If you want to devise a balance and make the private sector more appealing you are kind of stuck. The only thing that I can suggest is to keep the salaries as they are, but switch the holiday allowances around. Why not? Make the public servants work longer and those who work for private companies get more time off during special celebrations.

Of course, that wouldn’t work either. Nothing works. Ultimately you just have to leave it be and hope that it all kind of sorts itself out in the end, like Tulisa’s recent drug misdemeanour. But it does, at last, bring me to the point of today’s missive: aviation warning lights.

Once a problem with no obvious fix is in situ, you are kind of stuck with it. One such problem is the luck of living in a tower block and there, right outside your window, is the red warning light that flashes morning, noon, and night, protecting you from stray helicopters and para-gliders.

Can you imagine how annoying that would be? Sitting in your living room watching TV and there, outside your window on the 50th floor, is a red beacon constantly flashing and lighting up your apartment like some dodgy Dutch nightclub. Not even Blitz-standard black-out curtains could stop the incessant red flashing.

Much like the disparity between the employment sectors, there is no solution for such a thing. Those warning lights are a legal requirement, and if a Hughes MD530F did pop in through your window during the middle of X Factor then you’d be up in arms wanting to know why there weren’t any warning lights to remind the pilot.

In fact there it is; the epiphany! I think I have cracked the case and found a benefit of moving into the private sector: you won’t be at home often enough to go insane with the constant flashing.

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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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162. Trucks

Moaning, it would seem, is the last bastion of hope that we have when we don’t understand why things are the way they are. As you would expect, then, UAE Uncut is replete with folly and misunderstandings resulting from lackluster research. It is all too easy to pipe up and say that “none of it makes any sense” when really all it would take is some strategic Googling.  Still, we’re in too deep now so I shall persevere in the manner of which you are all accustomed.

Last week I was at a training day at Motor City in Dubai. Once the day was done, at around 5pm on Thursday afternoon, I was tasked with driving home to Abu Dhabi. On the face of it that didn’t sound like too tall an order, but… sweet baby Jesus. I turned on the radio – a rare treat for an institutionalised Al Ain-ian like me – and sure enough the broadcaster confirmed that it was essentially a frothing maelstrom of hopelessness and despair out there; total bedlam.

I decided that I would avoid the trouble spots – that being literally all of Dubai – and stay on the E111, the road formerly known as Emirates Road but which is now called Sheikh Mohammed Road, and join the E11 at the Abu Dhabi border. It was a smart move and things were going well, right up until the point when I called my wife to boast of my traffic-dodging prowess, when everything just stopped.

For the best part of 30 minutes I covered approximately 500 yards, and looking around it was easy to understand why: Trucks, or Lorries, if you’re British. There are tens of billions of them, clogging up all the main roads and through-fares.

Of course I am familiar with the importance of the truck. Without trucks then there would be no food in the supermarkets, no concrete to deliver to the wrong building sites, and no winter jackets for the malls to sell in the height of summer. The truck is the very backbone of any functional society, and whether we like it or not, is as constant and as inevitable as death and taxes.

That being said, they are a menace to the common man when he is going about his daily rituals. While I was being propelled along Sheikh Mohammed Road by nothing other than continental drift, two leviathans decided to crash into one another at the slowest recorded speed in all of human history. The carriageway consisted of three lanes on the approach to a useless roundabout, and one truck turned in on the other. So the police turned up and after many a furrowed-brow and pointless traffic cone, and just on the eve of my 200th birthday, I was eventually allowed to pass.

Now I know that the UAE has several “truck roads” snaking around the country, and that really is something that few developed western nations can brag of having. I would hate to think how bad it would be without them, but I really can’t get my head around the fact that they are allowed out on the road network at all during rush hour.

Stuff this, I'll take go through Jumeriah Lake Towers, how bad can it be?

Stuff this, I’ll go through Jumeriah Lake Towers, how bad can it be?

The entire inside lane is just one long stream of trucks, which makes seeing your exit nearly impossible, and actually taking your exit physically impossible. Twin this with the fact that there are some rogue truckers who like to overtake the 1930’s water trucks at walking pace and you’re in a whole world of misery. Even Steve McQueen would struggle to negotiate it all. Yes the trucks need to be out there delivering their payloads, otherwise everything would just grind to a halt, but Holy Mary, do you think that we could get them all to pull over between 5pm and 7pm once a day?

As ever, I am prepared with a solution: There is no shortage of space out there as the motorways are generally surrounded by nothing other than mile upon mile of barren, featureless, inhospitable desert. Why not brick it over and make special truck parking bays so when the clock strikes five they all just pull over and let the rest of us go home?

The amount of accidents would reduce instantly, our stress levels would also take a dive, plus we’d all be driving faster and therefore using more precious fuel, which will only be of benefit to the economy. It’s a no-brainer. Ok, there might be the occasional missed delivery, but really, who gives a damn about whether or not River Island don’t have the latest winter jackets in stock? All it would take is some logical planning…

…Oh no wait. That will just cause even more chaos. Bah, none of it makes any sense.

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161. Internet

In life there are many things that happen to a lot of people every single day. People get new phones, new jobs, buy new cars, and of course, move house. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to assume that the professionals who deal with these types of things have procedures in place to make them as quick and as simple as possible. But since when was life reasonable?

My wife and I, as a couple, are perfectly balanced. We have about our relationship a degree of equilibrium; she cooks, I wash up. She leaves the living room in a state, I tidy up. I crash the car into a pillar in the underground car park and knock the fog light out, she takes the blame: perfectly balanced. Whereas I will usually be the one who goes off on mad ranting tangents, she will calm me down by telling me that I’m being a pillock. It works.

However, over the last couple of weeks the mad ranting seems to have shifted from Mr. Fullard to Mrs. Fullard, and, frankly, I just can’t let this carry on. Since we have moved apartment, Mrs. Fullard has been trying to get the home internet sorted. This, it turns out, is a near-impossible thing to achieve. Never have I heard her spit such venomous slurs.

We have moved from our old apartment in Al Ain, where we have internet, to our new apartment in Abu Dhabi, where we want internet. Are you still with me? Is it as simple as just transferring the package over to a new address? No. Is it as simple as cancelling the Al Ain package and starting a new one in Abu Dhabi? No. Would it be easier for family Fullard to invent their own internet? Yes, much so.

If I were to find a book called “Build Your Own Internet” then I genuinely believe that I’d have a fair chance, and that the time taken to chuck it together would be quicker than dealing with the pros. Allow me to illustrate just how hard the network provider has made my wife’s life recently.

First, she went to Internet HQ in Al Ain to ask what the correct procedure is. She sat and waited with her ticket for over an hour before being told that it was home time and everybody’s shift had to come to an end. Down but not out, she returned the following morning and waited for over 90 minutes, only to be told that she had to go to Abu Dhabi, and that transferring the package from A to B would take but a minute.

Earth to Mars communication, job done. Al Ain to Abu Dhabi... The fevered dream of a mad man.

Earth to Mars communication, job done. Al Ain to Abu Dhabi… The fevered dream of a mad man.

That weekend we both paid a visit to an office in Marina Mall, where we were both told that transferring our package across to the new apartment was “not possible.” My wife, incensed with rage, highlighted her displeasure, leaving me sitting there feeling rather awkward, and even, may I add, a touch sorry for the poor guy. The helpless man said that we had to call a random man who, as it turned out, was just a random man who knew nothing of anything. Internet man then said that we could fill out a new application form for an internet to be delivered to our new home…once we had cancelled our package in Al Ain.

So, back to the Al Ain office my wife went. After being made to wait a mere 45 minutes, she met another person whose sole purpose in life seemed to be to occupy space and little more. My wife was told that cancelling the package was not allowed, because she had already submitted a new application in Abu Dhabi. In order for us to get internet in our new home, we had to cancel the new application that we had submitted, call the random man who had no idea who we were for no reason, then cancel the Al Ain package, drive back to Abu Dhabi to re-submit a new application, and then each donate a leg to medical science.

How can all this be so? I am genuinely at a loss to understand how this procedure is allowed to carry on. I can only surmise that the network provider is in bed with the local petroleum merchant and all the driving hither and thither is part of the plan… This is the 21st century, according to experts we’re supposed to start colonising Mars soon. How can we be sure that that will go well if we can’t even move house and take our internets with us?

All I can say is thank you to “bootyman1,” whoever you are, for not password protecting your Wi-Fi… Without you, the masses wouldn’t be able to heed my warning:

…Don’t, under any circumstances, move house if you want internet.

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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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159. Names

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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158. Red tape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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157. Jackson’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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156. Speed limits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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