Tag Archives: Ireland

170. Trade

So we waved goodbye to 2013 and have observed the onset of 2014 through the usual blend of fireworks and Fonseca. For it is no lie that this grubby little corner of cyberspace is, the vast majority of the time, awash with pessimism and tales of woe. So in a rather shocking twist I am going to see if readership increases if we ditch the frown and take on a whole new positive approach. But first let’s have some hate…

I hate New Years. I have never quite been able to get my head around why we make such a song and dance about what is simply just a change in date. We insist on partying into the wee hours, or go to a lot of effort to leave the cities and avoid it altogether. Why? Do you do such a thing on the 31st March to celebrate the dawn of April? So we scribble out the “3” and write a “4”, big deal moan moan moan.

Regardless of how inebriated you were on the 31st December/1st January, every single year brings the same old stories. All we do is run around wagging our fingers and moaning about the state of the economy and the various lunacies that come out of Brussels. If it’s not the Roma Gypsies then it’s Chinese industrialization. Peace in the Middle East to Mylie Cyrus’s bottom, Northern Ireland to Fido, the basset hound on benefits. I personally spend my time trying to guess which major celebrity will be next through the pearly gates in a puddle of vomit and narcotics.

It is a fact that 2014 will be another year of the same: immigration will continue to be an issue in the United Kingdom, the US will once again be trying to raise the debt ceiling so that it sits level with Neptune, and, of course, the UAE will continue to try and get us to spend our hard-earned in the various shopping festivals. This year will be like every other, make no mistake about it.

So, while you’ve all been surmising which member of One Direction will succumb to drug abuse this year and how much the Expo will end up costing you (imagine 10 Olympic games), I’ve been thinking about slightly more positive issues; such as how we might tackle real-world problems without the need for guilt-trip advertising. Buckle up…

The UAE only has five years of natural water resources remaining. This is a little known fact that very few will believe. The desalination plants cannot keep up with the demand for clean teeth and green grass. Water is fundamental to life, more so than oil, something that the UAE does have in vast supply.

If, then, the UAE cannot grow more water, it obviously needs to go out and buy it. After several guest ales I think I may have found the answer: Ireland.

Irish black gold exists in more than one form... but sell the rain to get at it.

Irish black gold exists in more than one form… but sell the rain to get at it.

Like other members of the European Union, Ireland is in crippling debt; billions are owed. Interestingly, and unlike its EU chums, and don’t tell the US, Ireland also has, would you believe it, oil reserves. However, at the moment it is not financially viable for the Irish to start drilling for the black gold; the returns at first would just not be enough to justify starting the project. It’s like having a locked bank account. It’s your money, but you can’t get at it.

In order to get at the oil the coffers need to be a suggestion fuller, so what if it was to receive some oil from the UAE in exchange for a natural resource in which it has a near infinite supply?: Water.

I was in the emerald isle for nine days over Christmas and you cannot walk five minutes without being marinated in rain. So what if we could devise a way for the UAE to make a cash-free exchange with Ireland: oil for water?

Oil tankers could fill up at the rig in the Gulf and sail to Dublin whereupon the oil would be put into barrels and sold to whoever the Irish wanted. The same ship would then be pumped full of the Liffey and sent back to Jebel Ali, and the Palm will be green once more.

The ships would have their efficiency doubled and Ireland could then sell the oil at the going rate, and soon enough they’d be able to afford to start drilling for their own, once all the dolphins have been re-homed of course. Before you know it the loans will be repaid and Guinness sales will quadruple overnight.

And what of the UAE? Well they would be full to overflowing with fresh, crisp Irish water of which there is a continuous supply. Grass will be green, date palms shall tower over the common man full of virility. Teeth shall sparkle and bottoms will be ever fresh. It’s a no-brainer.

It may sound a bit mad, but seriously why not give it a go? Each and every year we are reminded about how crap everything is, and then governments world over try to sell us a picture of an unattainable future. I say Ireland and the UAE take a gamble, try something new. That’s what I’ve done with UAE Uncut in trying to make it more positive.

I don’t like it. It’s easier to moan. Worth a shot though.

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122. Contradiction

As you may recall, back in November I went to the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix at Yas Marina; an event that flows as smoothly as its full aforementioned name. Forget the fact that I am an oil-blooded petrol head who has not missed a single Formula 1 Grand Prix in 16 years, my blog focussed more on what the people watching on television would have seen.

If you can think back that far, I passed note that the way people dress and behave at the event leaves those watching at home scratching their heads and asking their wives “but I thought you weren’t allowed to do that over there.” It is understandable, then, that discussions about the UAE and its cultural practices invariably lead to much fist thumping and “I told you so” chatter at the typical British bar. What are the rules? Are you allowed to roam the streets naked or not?

Of course, any country which is centre stage for a world-wide televised event will make an effort to dress itself up and give the impression that it is something else. Take for example the London Olympics last year. My staff at work were watching the opening ceremony and soon bombarded me with questions about the grand old city. They were all in awe of the magnificent spectacle and for the first time had actually seen what London looked like.

Being the dream-smashing realist that I am, they were soon reduced to tears when I told them that London was nothing like what they saw on the box. No, fireworks don’t go off every night; it’s not all clean gutters and freshly painted road markings. There are places like Streatham, Crystal Palace and Hackney. London is as dirty and as grimey as any other city in the world. Stratford, I said, which is where the main Olympic complex was, was the seventh circle of Hell only eight years ago. Under-developed, laden with abandoned warehouses and full to overflowing with narcotics paraphernalia and dead gangsters.

Then there were the people. My men saw all the pretty girls wearing athletics costumes, all the strapping young men in shell-suits and the old athletic legends lighting torches and driving speedboats. When the camera’s zoomed in on the crowds in the grandstand, only the prettiest and most chisel-jawed would suffice. Where were all the obese people? Where were the toothless paupers? These people exist and are as much a part of Britain as the Queen. No, my staff were convinced that this is what London is all the time; beauty, glamour and fireworks.

"Yeah, like, I couldn't find Spot the dog. But like, when I turned it the other way he was, like totes there!"

“Yeah, like, I couldn’t find Spot the dog. But like, when I turned it the other way he was, like, totes there!”

So, those of you back home, I have a question: what do you think the UAE is like? Well, to answer the question I want you to type “The Only Way Is Essex Cast Members In Dubai” into Google and tell me what comes up. Done it? Right. The most recent case of false advertising was only last week. Some air-headed, inflatable Z-lister called Amy Childs was staying at a hotel in Dubai. The same one, it turns out, that I got engaged in. There she is poolside, drink in hand, with her fake-tanned, drawn-on-muscled Ken-doll non-husband of a man. As luck would have it, a professional photographer happened to be passing by so of course a quick photo-shoot was commissioned.

There was Miss. Childs, wearing two pieces of strategically placed string to cover her modesty whilst Ken kissed various parts of her on the sun-lounger. Then, in an effort to dupe us as to her intellect, Miss. Childs was snapped reading a book by the pool bar. The keen-eyed may have noticed that the book was actually upside down. But luckily she was still able to “Spot” the dog. So, in the national UK press we were provided with a full-page spread of an unmarried couple drinking, kissing and canoodling and demonstrating no respect for the local laws.

This happens a lot. Footballers, Reality TV people (I refuse to say “stars”), pop stars, Lewis Hamilton’s…it seems that Dubai is a place where the wealthy can come and strip off and do as they please. How nice it must be to be above the law.

Conversely, last month an Irish welder and a British recruitment officer were sentenced to three months in prison for allegedly having sex in the back of a Dubai taxi. The story has been “well” documented in the British media and indeed over here too. But there are serious flaws with the case. I’ve written about this before also, but a Police-approved medical expert confirmed that there was no sign of intercourse having taken place. Furthermore, the taxi driver was a charlatan and has changed his story thrice, and not once has it matched the details given by the arresting officer who attended the scene.

No, according to the defence, the taxi driver detoured in an effort to make more money. The Irish welder, smart to his antics, spoke up and told the driver that he wouldn’t be paying the extra money. Because the expats had however been consuming alcohol they were an easy target. His false testimony, together with the mismatched story from the officer has landed a potentially innocent couple in prison. They are charged with consuming alcohol, public indecency and sex outside of marriage. They are currently appealing and I hope, for their sake and the reputation of the UAE, that true justice is served.

This, then, a case of words against words with no video or photographic proof either way is in direct contrast to the tabloid-documented display of Miss. Amy Childs and her terracotta, pencil outlined Ken-doll. In The Daily Mail, the story of the arrested couple and the Childs “photo-shoot” appeared three pages apart, so really, what do you make of the UAE?

Some people won’t come here because they are afraid of having their collars felt for eating a Twix on the Metro, but others can’t wait to get on the next flight over because they think they’ll bump into Kim Kardashian getting frisky on the beach. That’s why people argue about what this place is really like, no one knows for sure, not even the people that live here.

So, in conclusion, the UAE is kind of what you make it. You can do whatever you like so long as you pretend to be wealthy, pretend to have no talent and hire a photographer to follow you around all week. You will, apart from a few brain-dead zealots looking for autographs because they’ve mistaken you for the guy who voices The Bachelor, be left alone. If, however, you want to be a normal person who earns a modest wage and can’t afford an entourage or 20 gallons of orange body paint then you should really watch your back and always be sure to carry extra money for the cheating taxi driver.

Surviving is purely a game of percentages…

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116. Welcoming

As many of you know, I am a grumpy old man with an overwhelming disdain for pretty much everything.  I seem to hate whatever is popular just to be different, whether it is whatever Kardashian happens to be pregnant/married/other fairly uninteresting drama, iPads, X Factor, the list is endless.  I have never been one for New Years Eve either, I just don’t get it.  I really don’t see the need for jumping up and down screaming and being sick on your friends head for what is only a change of date.  Add to that the expense of going anywhere with no one else in it or paying to go into a fireworks display that you could see for free when standing in a nearby road and we have a mystery.

In fact I cared so little about it this year that I booked a flight that landed back in Dubai at 23:45 on NYE so I spent midnight standing in a long, smelly line at customs.  I just spent the week in Dublin with my fiancé and her family and I am pleased to report that beneath this Times New Roman facade of whinging and scorn that I am actually a happy, optimistic guy.  In only 7 days I did more walking than I had done since I last visited Dubai Mall; I saw waterfalls, woodland, dogs and my fiancé slip down a hill.  I drank Guinness that tasted correct, not like the mud that comes out of the UAE taps.  I got to wear a jacket that hid my various bulges with a cunning semblance.  I sat by a fire, read, ate, watched Downton Abbey and generally made merry.  It was a fantastic week.

You see, the Irish aren’t too different from the English, we both self deprecate, we both like a drink, we can’t be bothered to go to war, we both have governments making mind-boggling policies and so on, and that’s why I felt at home.  Despite being of Irish heritage, I was still a foreigner and yet was made to feel extraordinarily welcome.  This was none so apparent than when I arrived at Dublin Airport.

My connection from Amsterdam was with Aer Lingus, whose reputation isn’t heralded as world leading, but they cannot be knocked for friendly staff.  From check in onwards I was smiled at, communicated with and offered lots of goodies at knock down prices.  The air stewardesses were also pleasant and the pilot refused to crash the plane.  At the airport I was asked if I needed a hand carrying my jacket or my bag.  There are only a dozen or so desks at passport control and they were all filled, the man who looked at my passport gave me a smile and said “Welcome to Ireland and have a Merry Christmas my young man!” with a genuine sense of meaning.  My suitcase was the first onto the carousel and I was out of there after 12 hours of travelling.  Never have I felt so welcome at an Airport.

Then the week came and went and before I knew it I was back at the airport ready for the return flight to the UAE.  Apart from the man 2 seats across from me who insisted on chewing gum at such a volume I thought would crack the windows, I arrived back in Dubai after a decent flight.  And what a different experience it was.

SHOW ME YOUR F****** PASSPORT!  SHOW ME YOUR F****** PASSPORT!

SHOW ME YOUR F****** PASSPORT! SHOW ME YOUR F****** PASSPORT!

After stepping off the plane I was greeted by an Indian man who thought the best way of being polite was to hock up a nice ball of phlegm at a level of noise that eclipsed the chewing gum man.  I was then walking when a mother, with a pram, stopped just before the flat escalator thing for no reason causing several of us to crash into her and her young infant.  She didn’t seem to care.  There were 6-7 wailing, and I mean wailing, children who were receiving no attention at all from their confused and useless parents and there was also a curious aroma of excrement.

Finally I entered the customs hall, passport control if you will, and noticed straight away that it would take some calculating…45 passport checking desks, 6 passport checkers and 4000 tired air passengers.  As luck would have it, a Filipino man signaled to me to head down one aisle that would see me to the front, I obliged and a queue promptly formed behind me.  By this time all the 6 customs desk men had full queues, and still there were 1000’s of people waiting.  There was, however, one flaw.  The desk at the front of my queue was vacant.  I had been sold a lemon; I was at the front of a queue that was queuing for nothing.

After 10 minutes my patience began to wear thin, so I decided it best to leave and go and join the back of another line.  I can’t tell you how bad it was because some people would be on the forums dragging my name through the mud quicker than a Guardian reader at a British National Party conference.  It was horrific, but at least it would move.

And move it did; at about the same speed as the American continent moves away from Africa each millennium.  Our passport checker was a man whose build suggested that he liked eating both lard and babies and whose last exercise was when he went to the toilet; in 1997.  How hard can it be to flick the visa page under the barcode scanner, stamp it, make sure the picture matches the face and say “welcome.” Really, every single person before me was treated like filth – they were from “lesser” countries according to the man – and then there was me.  I wasn’t even provided with eye contact, to say nothing about a simple one-word greeting.

Once it was confirmed that I wasn’t a Taliban commando my hand luggage was x-rayed for bombs.  I then went to collect my suitcase that still, even after having queued up at passport control for 45 minutes, hadn’t arrived; no ones had.  After another 15 minutes I was bagged up so made for the exit.  After walking through the “nothing to declare” gate I was again ordered to have my possessions x-rayed for bombs and firearms.  Thankfully in the 15 minutes since I last had it done no contraband had materialised.  I found a taxi driver who was reluctant to drive me home and that was it, 2013 had begun.

Ireland enjoyed a boom in the latter half of the 20th Century and its people were able to enjoy themselves.  But along with the rest of Europe it’s going through a rocky patch at the moment.  Everyone is leaving to work abroad, there aren’t many jobs and the cost of living gets higher each day.  Yet still through all this they smile, they welcome you, they are grateful for your visit.  They’ll buy you a drink or 10 and to hell with the hangover.  The UAE has much to learn.  If you treat people like everyone in the airport last night then don’t expect them to come back when you need them and their tourism money.

It all went to prove that I am not a grumpy old man consumed by hate, but that my grievances are indeed valid.  This year is the year of The Gathering in Ireland, a call for people to visit the emerald isle for a holiday and boost its income.  For your vacation this year may I suggest Dublin, not Dubai?  Take your holiday dollars to a country that would welcome them and I promise that you will have a superb time, meet some great people and be treated well.

The experience of returning to the emirates had, for the first time in 10 years, made me wish that I was at a New Years Eve party instead…and that is really saying something…

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