Tag Archives: Al Ain

167. Problems II

I have had a lot of my time on my hands recently. Curiously, I have not spent it conjuring up nonsensical prose and throwing it against the graffiti-ridden, decaying brick wall that is UAE Uncut. No, instead I have split my time across three key areas: job hunting, moping, and visa acquisition.

My first complaint is about the former. How hard can it be to get a job? I have trawled and trawled online and fired off so many CV’s that I am now fairly certain that there are more copies of it on the world’s wide web then there are pictures of Kim Kardashian. Events Management, writing jobs, and project coordination are my three areas, and have I received so much as one reply? No. It seems that I am more likely to receive an email from Elvis. Still, I remain positive that one day the phone shall ring, and that on that one occasion it won’t be my bank offering me finger nail insurance.

Things have a tendency to move quite slowly over here, and for that reason I am not going for the whisky and the revolver just yet. On a completely unrelated note, should any potential employer be reading this then I love you and think that you are very handsome/pretty and your taste in music is wonderful. And may I also compliment you on your suit/frock/child/children/haircut/car/office. Good job; and I hope to hear from you soon.

Of course when I haven’t been riding around the Emirates in an open-top bus throwing CV’s from the top deck down to the scrabbling masses, I have spent some quality time moping around the apartment and wondering what must be done with this and that. I have, as of yet, been unable to come to any conclusion about anything, and that in turn has made me nothing whatsoever.

Then we come to the party piece of my time-spending escapades: trying to sort a visa. Since I am now out of work I am authorised to be under the sponsorship of my dear wife. On the face of it that doesn’t sound like such a hard to thing to achieve, but believe me, it has been a disaster.

Without wishing to name or shame any specific individual, I was given incorrect information and subsequently had to pay a hefty fine. This did not go down very well in the Fullard residence. Once the fine was dealt with, shall we say, the process of obtaining residency status could finally continue. And by “continue” I mean stop dead several times due to myriad misfortunes, such as the “system being down”, “finishing in two hours so I cannot be bothered to deal with you now”, and of course “actually, Sir, there is one problem…”

The whole thing has been infuriating and needless to say that I am only one more obstacle short of a brain haemorrhage. You can’t just do it all in one place, you have to go all over the city getting this typed here and that stamped there, and it all has to be done in the most absurd of sequences. Get one thing wrong and you land on a snake and have to move all the way back down the board to the start again.

"It was Colonel Fullard, in the Waiting Room, with the victims own leg..."

“It was Colonel Fullard, in the Waiting Room, with the victims own leg…”

It’s getting to the stage that my metaphors for visa acquisition will soon shift from Snakes & Ladders to Cluedo

I’m not kidding when I say that I have not endured one stage where there hasn’t been at least one “problem” of some kind. Why can’t there just be a list, a detailed list of what you need, how long it takes, how much it costs (so far I’ve spent somewhere in the region of AED 70 million) and most importantly where you actually have to bloody well go? I have traced my route on a map of Abu Dhabi and thus far I have covered 60,421 miles. And yet have only made about six feet of progress.

Still, no matter, at least I have my health. Yes, that was verified by the Disease Prevention Centre only today, I am “Fit” apparently. I don’t know how reliable that information is because all that happened was a doctor asked me to lift my shirt for 1.5 seconds so that he could see my back, I was drained of my blood, and had my upper torso x-rayed. All that was confirmed was that I have a spine, that I’m not Vulcan, and that I have some gooey things under my skin. I went to play football in Dubai last week and let me tell you, I am anything but fit.

Still, all my problems and grievances of late pale into insignificance when compared to the events of the recent devastation in the Philippines. All my fist thumping and harrumphing melted away when I saw the images of the wretchedness. I can’t even imagine what horror and hell the people of the Philippines are going through. With over 10,000 reported dead and the survivors totally cut off from the world, I refuse to accept that anyone else has a problem.

Thinking about it just isn’t enough, but I don’t know what else I can do. Hope.

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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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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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155. Problems

I was going to come before you all today and complain, vehemently, about the latest proposal to drop speed limits by 10kp/h in Dubai. This, they say, will double the population by next year as even the raciest of drivers finally heed the instructions of the speed limits and stay planted at a gentleman’s 110.

But the situation has changed. Sometimes a genuine situation arises that requires immediate attention. More often than not, if something can be classified as a situation, then it invariably means it is bad. How do we deal with uncomfortable personal situations from over here on the Arabian Peninsula?

If in need of a smile, always click on the puppy

If in need of a smile, always click on the puppy

We all have stuff going on, but it is always that much harder to do ones duty when we are 2000, 4000, or 12,000 miles away from home. How do you assist with a feud over the phone? How do you try to get people talking again over Twitter when you are not there to witness the true actions? How do you break bad news to someone who – despite assuring you of the contrary – will likely fall apart the minute you put down the phone?

Well, and please cover your eyes if you don’t want to know the truth: you can’t. You are helpless. You can’t protect people from themselves. You’ve got to man up, do your duty and let them make their own choices. Sometimes people just need to be told the truth.

I really can’t be bothered to go on any more. What I will say is that when you are feeling a little bit down because you have had to deal with an unsavoury situation with someone of personal importance, just make sure you have a couple of friends over here to talk to. Luckily, I have one such person, and in eight weeks she will be my wife. And thanks to the nasty last 30 minutes of my day, our wedding day will be completely perfect.

Oh, and one more thought on the speed limits thing; law abiding citizens who drive at 120kph don’t hurt anyone. It’s the morons who peg it at 200kph while talking on their phones whom you should be after.

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154. Roundabouts II

Everything in life has a purpose, apart from flies, obviously. It is true that when you buy a phone these days it is not solely intended to make and receive calls. It will also provide you with internet access, maps, and applications that simulate your friends being killed by meteor-showers. Furthermore, it will allow you to remind the rest of us what you look like with a pouty face in the mirror and give us an insight into the texture and form of your stool through social mediums like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pictaface, and Tumblr.

Phones these days are multi-purpose. If you have an iPhone, what is the point of having an iPad? Isn’t it essentially the same thing but only bigger and more expensive but doesn’t allow you to phone someone on a drunken night out? Further still, what is the point of having a lap top, or even a desk top computer? Black leather address book? No, gone. All replaced by the insatiable beast that is common technology.

One day, when iPhones rule the world, I swear they will look at us primates in zoos and think to themselves “surely this lot weren’t the creators? How did they, these humans, ever invent us, the omnipotent iPhone 40 million and 12? They couldn’t even remain within two white painted lines nor could they apply logic and select the only appropriate lane relative to their destination.”

As the common human laughed at the inability of the dodo to survive the evolutionary washing machine, the iPhones of the future will laugh at us for not being able to use roundabouts properly.

I have written about this before, but how, really, can you not use a roundabout correctly? How hard is it? The UAE is peppered with roundabouts since, if used correctly, they are the ultimate form of junction. Would I prefer to have a crossroad with traffic lights? Absolutely not, spare me from such iniquity. The crossroad is the lazy mans solution; leaving the control of the junction to some malevolent, supercilious, self-obsessed set of traffic lights? No, that’s what the iPhones want. Human chaos controlled by technology. No. No, no, no.

The roundabout is nature’s way of giving us a fighting chance against the inevitable iPhone invasion. When i-Day comes we can stand tall together and say that we, the human race that has collectively won and lost every single war it has ever started on itself, was able to allow traffic to flow freely without the need for electronic technology. We will be great again.

However, there is bad news. It would appear that there are very few around that have worked out what to do with roundabouts. Allow me to illustrate: on the typical Al Ain roundabout there are three lanes. On the approach you must select which is most suitable for you and your desired exit. Now, on your traditional four-exit roundabout you should be in the left lane should you wish to take the third or fourth exits (i.e. a lefterly direction or a U-turn). Should you wish to go straight on – the second exit – then you will ideally stay in the middle lane or remain in the right. Should you wish to take the first exit off the roundabout then you remain in the right lane only.

Whatever your choice of direction is once on the roundabout, you do not break formation. There are white lines on the ground. This is paint. Babies know what paint is. Hell, dogs know what paint is. In fact, scarily, an iPhone can tell you what type of paint it is. You stay within your markers. Should you drift beyond your markers then you are a traitor, a pawn to our future i-Leaders. If you are in the wrong lane, or you have strayed over the white lines because you made an error on trajectory, then you should a) have your license revoked, b) have to re-sit your driving test and c) accept that a phone, yes, a phone, is smarter than you.

This should slow down the first wave of iPhone invaders...

This should slow down the first wave of iPhone invaders…

But there’s more. How many times have you been sat there waiting to enter the roundabout when Johnny Over-Compensating-For-Something is screeching round like Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder? In such a case I would be tempted to play hard ball and risk all – for a laugh. But I am uncouth and brazen and would not recommend you follow suit. I like to put up a fight.

Then there are those who continue to park on roundabouts. I’m sorry, but if anyone is caught doing this then they should have their tyres removed and then be made to wear them. Who could possibly think that that is a good idea? Whatsapp message: “Hi m8. fancy meetin up l8rz? Wht bout RA wit da rock on it?” No! Go to a restaurant and have a meal like normal people for goodness sake!

How will we ever trounce the iPhone invasion if we cannot keep our simple cars – which are powered by a series of successive explosions – between two thin veneers of paint, stay left to go left or right to go right, or continue to treat them as car parks? When the first wave of Angry Birds come, I’m staying away from roundabouts and taking the high road into the desert.

I know that in this multi-purpose world it can seem that everything must have more than just one function. But that is not the case. There are still many things that have been designed to serve one purpose and one purpose only. Roundabouts are to managing traffic as mirrors are to reflecting things. Don’t let these glorious circular beacons of hope go the way of the conventional phone.

Because when the iPhones take over and we’re all caged up in zoos, we will become evolutions greatest joke of all.

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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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150. Petrol Station

This week there have been many shocking revelations in News-o-sphere. Helen Flanagan was voted “Britain’s Sexiest Woman”, another Conservative MP has found himself in hot water and of course the BBC continues to spiral into the scandalous abyss. But that’s Britain; what of the UAE? Well, Justin Bieber got asked for ID in a nightclub, failed to get served a pint, so left on the roof of a car. Property prices in Dubai soared. Then property prices in Dubai dipped. But of all the stories to have caught my eye this week, the revelation pertaining to petrol stations had my arms up the high-most.

From next week there will be ten petrol stations in Dubai that will switch over to self-service between midnight and 6am. In case you require any further elaboration, that means that between midnight and 6am there will be no forecourt attendant; you will have to get out and fill her up yourself.

Stop the presses.

I have just come round after collapsing with shock at this announcement, and I find myself in the uncomfortable situation of having to drag this subject out over 1000 words; but where to begin? Stupidity seems as good a place as any. This has been tried before back in 2008. Dubai and the Northern Emirates trialled 10 or so petrol stations as self-service but the scheme was cut short since – and I quote – “two thirds of the people didn’t like it and couldn’t work out what to do.” Are these the same people who are allowed to drive cars on the road and raise children I wonder?

In the UK, and indeed most of the world, the standard practice when wishing to refuel ones car is to pull up at the pump, turn the engine off, get out, open the filler cap, pick up the nozzle of choice, put it in and squeeze until the dial annoyingly says £10.01. You then go into the kiosk, pick up some Smarties and a Daily Mail, pay the man who speaks Urdu, return to the car and you’re done. This is something that we all do. It is, in essence, an easy process.

Now I want to make it plain that Britain is not the brains of the world, we are the nation that people like Helen Flanagan, Amy Childs, and Alex Reid call home. They too share the Queens’ message in their passports just like I do. These people are just able to fathom which end of a dart to throw and, I presume, are able to successfully use a toilet. But even they are capable of driving themselves to the local BP garage and putting £20.01 of Unleaded into their Citroen C1. Well, without setting themselves alight anyway.

Reading some of the quotes from actual people – people who have been assessed and then given legal permission to control a car that can exceed speeds of 150kph – I find myself alarmed. “What do I do?” said one; “what if there is a fire?” said another. “How do I pay?” was my personal favourite. I am genuinely worried for my own safety, what if I encounter one of these people on the road? If they can’t work out how to use a fuel pump then what will happen if they need to do an emergency stop on Sheikh Zayed Road?

How do you put out a fire? Well, picking up an extinguisher and aiming it and the base would be a good start. Not knowing how to put out a fire is…well…unbelievable. What if your kitchen caught alight and your kids were in there? Panicking won’t help; you could try poking the flames with a broom I guess.

Furthermore, how in the name of the almighty can you not know which fuel your car runs on? What have you been telling the man at the pump? One woman said that she didn’t know which fuel her car ran on so left it up to the man to decide. Wonderful; how the hell can you not know?! Is she allowed to have children? Will she also not know that cutlery shouldn’t be jammed into live plug sockets?

Get. Out. The. Car......Mate.

Get. Out. The. Car……Mate.

The UAE is predominantly a service industry nation, and since labour is so cheap people have been afforded convenience on an unprecedented scale. You have a man for this, a man for that, the only thing you need to worry about is getting out of bed and picking your nose, everything else is done for you.

I’ve always thought that having a man wearing blue trousers and a moustache to fill my car is phenomenally lazy. Don’t get me wrong, it is wonderfully convenient, especially when it’s 50 Celsius outside and you can remain in an air-conditioned paradise. But what will we all do when Mad Max happens?

Sometimes I find myself embarrassed to be a human being. Any motorist who does not know how to put petrol into a car should have their driving license revoked and then be chemically castrated. No, really. If you can’t fill your tank then how will you be able to stop your child from electrocuting themselves?

The only positive aspect about being an ignorant, thick, air-heard is that you stand a better chance of making lots of money and being voted “Britain’s Sexiest Unspecified Gender.”

The world really has gone mad. Depressing.

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149. Expats

Precisely at some unconfirmed moment last year I wrote a blog about the hypocrisy in the UAE. In order to really get the gist of it you had to read between the lines. There were many reasons for my subterfuge, chiefly related to words like “jail”, “blogger” and “cavity search.” Today, however, there is no such masquerade and the views expressed will be as obvious as Kim Jong-Uns’ feelings towards NATO.

Since moving to the UAE I have learnt to control and align my thoughts, and really, it has been very difficult. I have had to change my views on this world to suit the reality of it, and that has been most inspiring. Let us look at British immigration as a case study. These days it is very easy to be racist. Well, it’s not; a joke can be joke to one man, but an insult to another. But the fact that immigration has run riot over the last decade causes a lot of fist thumping and inspired debate in the Fox & Socialist every Friday evening.

I'll tell you why you have no idea what you're talking about...

I’ll tell you why you have no idea what you’re talking about…

You see, when Britain first decided that it wanted to rule a quarter of the globe, it was always inevitable that those whom we civilised/conquered – delete as applicable – were going to join our family. Of course the Indian community in the UK is huge, and that is due in part to the Mau Mau Uprisings in Kenya in the late 50’s. I’ll let Jeremy Paxman give you the details, but in essence the British, together with the Indians who were there under the imperial banner, were expelled from Kenya. Since generations of Indians had grown up in the African nation, they were effectively made homeless and where better to move to than the country that had sworn to protect them, and who took them to Africa in the first place? (Historical correction: It was in fact nothing to do with the Mau Mau lot and all to do with some guy call Idi Amin from Uganda, who basically had the bollock-ache and sent everyone packing.)

Of course over time more and more people wanted to move to the UK and that, really, should be taken as a compliment. I despise the Labour Party and most of their policies, but even I find it laughable that “immigration” (in the out-of-control sense) can be attributed to Blair’s Barmy Army between 1997 and 2010. Maggie filled a labour gap, so to did Wilson and Heath. How many times have you been sat in the Fox & Socialist and heard mad Jim the taxi driver talk to equally mad Bob the plumber about “all these foreigners comin’ over ‘ere takin’ all our jobs!”? Plenty, I’d imagine. But to whom are they referring, the British born Indian who has worked hard and led an honest life as a Doctor or the hard working Lithuanian who would happily work seven days a week cleaning up your shit?

I am forever reading about people on benefits who purposely have 28 children just so they don’t have to work. Then there are those of an “I’d rather stay in bed” disposition who enjoy telling everyone on Facebook what they think the government could be doing better. But tell them to go and get a job and the retort is “there isn’t any work.” Nonsense, there is work out there, just not as a TV star. Would Anatolij the plucky ex-solider from Lithuania do that? Or would he be of the mindset of “if I don’t go to work today then I won’t have a bed from which to get out of.”?

Oh don’t get me wrong, there are crazed lunatics from Birmingham with fetching beards and who want to blow people up and there are Romanian gypsies who want to eat your dog, but there are also Mick Philpotts and Jimmy Savilles.

But returning to my point, if there was one, I can’t remember. If I sat here saying that British immigration was out of control (in reference to legal immigration, not the Albanians who cling to the landing gear of EasyJets) then I would be a massive hypocrite. Because here I am, in the heart of the Middle East, living in a foreign country, earning a salary in Dirhams and ordering beef bacon and labneh for breakfast. I am employed by an Emirati company therefore I am an immigrant. I’ve never fully understood the difference between an “immigrant” and an “expatriate.” As far as I can tell, it is a terminology used solely to make me feel more important than those who wear blue jump suits and who are ferried to and fro in un-air-conditioned death traps.

Back home in Surbiton, I can walk up the high street and the last language I will hear will likely be English. If I want to buy an Arabic newspaper from a Romanian in an Indian shop then I’m sorted. What, really, makes the UAE any different? Why is immigration a problem in the UK but not in the UAE? The Emiratis’ only make up 10% of the population; that’s 800,000.

If I go to a petrol station in London and the man behind counter can only speak Urdu then I tut, wag my finger and say “Ah! English!” But the other day I went to a shop in Al Ain to buy some hardware and discovered much to my chagrin that I couldn’t speak Arabic.

The rubbish that some of my fellow expats – or “immigrants” – come out with is nonsensical. They sit there in a hotel bar criticising the UK’s immigration policies when there they are; an immigrant in the UAE who can’t speak Arabic.

Just like me. Damn.

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