Tag Archives: Tony Blair

169. Supersize

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

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

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

There, problem solved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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143. Public Transport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A symbol of freedom

A symbol of freedom

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

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

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

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

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125. Water II

As I am sure you will all recall, last year I dedicated an entire piece of internet to the subject of water in the UAE. We discussed its temperature and that for ten months of the year your boiler sits there as redundantly as the indicator stalk on a Toyota Land Cruiser. I apologise for the graphic image here, but I was sitting on the toilet this morning while being dripped on by the most elusive leak in the whole of human history. I have had nine different plumbers look for it but no one has been able to identify its origin. Water is a precious commodity in the UAE, as it would be in any desert land and recently there has been a lot of discussion about where all the billions of missing gallons have gone.

It would seem that once the sea water has left the desalination plant and has been pumped around the county some of it is going missing. Once you have brushed your teeth, been to the toilet and had your shower, the water is returned and always, it seems, the water man is out of pocket. This, apparently, is a major cause for concern since we do not have Iran’s permission to suck the Gulf dry and those lads really do hold a grudge.

I don’t think that there is much of an argument here. In the height of summer, go outside and pour a bottle of mineral water on the ground and then time how long it takes for the whole two litres to evaporate. I estimate that within 60 seconds your brickwork will be as dry as the Ayatollah’s liquor cabinet.

Evaporation is a constant, and without a ready source of water collection, is an inevitable outcome. How many gallons of water do you think are used each day to water municipal grassland and all the palm trees that run the stretch of the motorways? Once ejected from the spout it seeps through to the roots of the flora and is either utilised or just becomes a pointless mineral in the ground. How is it supposed to get back to Water HQ?

We will store it in his ceiling...

We will store it in his ceiling…

But, it would seem that yet again, UAE Uncuts’ mad penchant for provable science has been dismissed as codswallop and that the concept of evaporation is as fictitious as the land of Narnia. No, apparently there is some menacing water villain bleeding the land dry, and as a result, it is the public that must bear the brunt of legislation.

Now, I am from a country called England, which in turn is part of a very closely knit community called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, perhaps you have heard of us? Anyway, not only are we famous for our Route Master buses and giving the Middle East lots of failing football teams to buy, but we are also famed for coming up with some very daft rules. We are the only developed country in the world that maintains a hosepipe ban during flash flood season and issues drought warnings in the other flash flood season. We also complain when we willingly buy a house in a flood plain, and complain even more when it floods. I am used to being told off about brushing my teeth with water and not being allowed to wash my car without a jail sentence hanging over my head, so I laugh when water laws are enforced.

But I had to look twice when I read the law about water consumption laws in the UAE. It is perplexing to say the least. It is illegal, and punishable by the courts, to wash your car. Just like in car hating Switzerland.

Thankfully, there is a reason. Apparently the water will run down your driveway and pool up in the gutter. The stagnant water will then “attract insects and diseases such as cholera that will cause death to your neighbours and children.” My God, that sounds awful. It is much worse than Tony Blairs’ feeble drought announcement in 2003 when he said that Trade Union bosses were going thirsty. What a coincidence, then, that you are only allowed to have your car washed at pre-approved washing stations, but are advised to use the state-owned ADNOC or ENOC car washes. I wish I was that smart a businessman.

But there is more. Did you know that it is illegal and also punishable by law to allow the air conditioning unit on your car to leak water drippings? No, I am not making this up. You cannot allow your air conditioner to carry out its designed function of expelling waste water or melted ice.

I agree that water should be looked after and that all leaks should be repaired. But I find it hard to swallow that I could end up in prison for having the air conditioning on in the car when millions of gallons are used each day purely to service the thousands of palm trees that run up the middle of the motorway. If you are hard up for money and want to clean your car, then what do you do if you cannot afford the AED 30 to be lightly sprinkled at ADNOC?

I do not understand why we need to be so careful. It is not like home where we rely on rainfall to fill the reservoirs. Sea water is pretty much in infinite supply. Apparently everyone who drives a car is causing the polar ice caps to melt and as a result the sea level is rising a million feet a day. Surely, then, the Hans Blofeld who lurks in the mountains stealing all the water is only trying to help.

The question is: where is he storing it all? Is it, perhaps, in my bathroom ceiling? Because if Iran wants the Gulf refilled all the Ayatollah has to do is give me a call.

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120. Magazines

So, with Chairman Mao in at number 2, let's find out who tops our list of The 100 Greatest Tyrants...

So, with Chairman Mao in at number 2, let’s find out who tops our list of The 100 Greatest Tyrants…

Before I was old enough to legally get into pubs and nightclubs my weekend nights generally revolved around the television set. After The Simpsons, Father Ted, 999, Strange But True and of course, You’ve Been Framed, there would be the customary Channel 4 program presented by someone like Jimmy Carr with the not-so-mysterious prefix of The top 100… It could, and generally would, be an hour filler of non-stop, useless crap. The top 100 comedy shows, the top 100 comedy show stars, the top 100 comedy show moments, the top 100 comedy show bloopers, the top 100 comedy show credit reels, the top 100 comedy show kitchen sets and so on.

The question is; how valid was each list? Who decided that Only Fools and Horses could in some way be better than Dad’s Army? They’re both brilliant and I could never choose between the two, nor can I think of a situation where I would ever have to. If my future wife was kidnapped, I don’t think her captor would want to know who I thought was the better spiv; Del Boy or Private Walker. He’d make me do something else far more sinister.

The shows would have a collection of people who, according to the dictionary definition of the word, were “celebrities”, in the sense that they had appeared on TV by some means. They were people who only ever played minor support roles, game show panellists, ex-Big Brother contestants and so on. There was no one even remotely worthy of telling me who the best actor of all time could be.

Out of all the Middle Eastern countries, the UAE is the one that has caught Westernisation more so than anyone else. This inevitably means that the culture over here hasn’t just adopted McDonalds, Starbucks and high cholesterol; it too has adopted the pointless and meaningless methods of dictation of our interests and our insatiable need to list things by order of preference.

Now, you and I are smart people, we don’t concede to the likes of The Only Way Is Herpes, America’s Dumbest Criminals or any party political broadcast, we don’t need to be told. We already have a favourite film, a favourite car, a favourite eye-liner and a favourite dog, so why do certain mediums insist on providing us with meaningless lists on such a regular basis?

My fiancé is forever leaving trashy magazines lying around in an attempt, I think, to make me gay. However, since I do the bulk of my reading online I do like to take some reading material into the bathroom each morning…if you know what I mean. So, as I’m sitting there in the bathroom I spool through the latest copy of Ahlan! and – through all the images of scantily-clad women that I assumed were banned in UAE – there is always a list that, as far as I can tell, has absolutely no meaning or relevance whatsoever and has been as well thought out as the Euro.

Recently, in an unnamed publication, I read a list about the top 200 people in the world. Stop right there, “journalists”, how in the name of all that is holy can a list dictate the top 200 people in the world, and by what possible measure? Surely opinion would differ person to person and country to country. Osama Bin Laden was very popular in some quarters, but despised in others. Some people even voted for Tony Blair, so that proves straight away that we don’t all think alike.

Anyway, this list that I came across – complete with glossy pictures and witless captions – gave us some interesting results. Clearly, the writers wanted to make sure that they were covering every angle, so it kind of made no sense at all. Just scraping in at 200 was Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and moody bastard who invented Facebook and Oprah Winfrey came home 197th. Curiously, in 185th was Hans Solo. Nicholas Sarkozy was in 174th right behind Mr. UK himself; Alex Salmond. The Queen was 161st and my personal favourite, Ai-Jen Poo, was placed 157th.

The top 100 made for even more entertaining reading, Kim Jong-Un just making the cut. He won’t be pleased though because in at 97th place was Ayatollah Khameni (Barack Obama was 143rd). Somehow, Ellen DeGeneres was 48th with Hilary Clinton 34th, narrowly beating George Clooney. Usain Bolt came in 20th, no fancy dancing this time, mate, and staggeringly Alec Baldwin was 11th.

Then we came to the top 10, and in descending numerical order – and this is not made up – we had at 10th Vidya Balan, Bashar Assad, Aziz Ansari, Anonymous (yes, 7th actually says this), Jose Andres, Marc Andreessen, Ai Wei Wei, Sheldon Adelson, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and at number one: Adele, the singer.

I am not making any of this up and I want you to tell me honestly, how many of the names in the top 10 do you actually recognise? Furthermore, how inappropriate do you think it is to have the current Syrian ruler appear at number nine? And I’m certain that Ai Wei Wei is a made up name. I have no problems with Adele; the plucky singer is very talented. But by what possible measure can she top a list of the world’s greatest people?

UAE magazines are generally good, so long as they have experienced professionals running them and writing for them. Some of the car magazines for example over here are just franchises of US and UK publications and as such are super reads. But the trashy, glossy, Kardashian-happy guff that forever lists the most inane of things is truly mind-blowing. All the glossy tabloid nonsense will only dumb down a generation, just like reality TV has done. There is nothing real about it.

History will look back at this time and laugh at us. And sadly, I won’t be around to explain that we’re not all idiots. You can see it now in the year 2413, can’t you, The Top 100 stupid things about the 21st Century…

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119. Fines

Ten days ago I broke into your computer and pinned up some thoughts about the swiftness and no-nonsense attitude justice system here in the UAE. Presumably you, my loyal readers, dropped what you were doing, organised some friends in a circle and thrashed out some in-depth discussion pertaining to the matter. Well, I have some good news, there’s more debating material for you today.

In the UK, we’re forever seeing signs that say things like “no dog fouling, £50 fine”, “no smoking, £50 fine” and of course “emergency brake, penalty for improper use, £1,000,000.” These threats are everywhere and you just can’t help but feel a bit bullied at times. The first issue we have is that in most cases these things are totally unenforceable. Tony Blair and his Legion of Doom were notoriously naive and strongly believed that people would follow the rules all the time and that we would all turn ourselves in if we left so much as a light on by accident.

A common example of unenforceable fining is obviously the case of canine stool. You and I both know that you must bend down after poochies morning moment, pick it up and fling it at the door of the nearest hate preacher, or bin it. But what if you didn’t hurl it and instead just left it there for some kid to launch at Abu Qatada instead? To solve the crime, someone would need to go to the trouble of picking it up, taking it to the lab for DNA testing and then acquire samples from all dogs within a 12 mile radius just so the offender could be fined a paltry £50. It just wouldn’t happen, unless the government commissioned a special workforce.

Before I stray too far from the point, it’s worth pointing out that, regardless of what they’re for, the fines are ergonomic; they are tailored to be affordable for a normal person. If you see a sign that says “no loitering, fine £50” then you will be fined by the loitering police the sum of £50 if indeed you are caught loitering. If you wish to appeal you are within your rights to take the case to a tribunal, but this could cost £1000’s or, if you subscribe to a daytime-TV solicitors, nothing at all. But even if you just opted to pay the £50 to the government-commissioned loitering police, you have to admit that £50 is affordable.

Now, this is where the UAE comes a bit unstuck. The fines don’t make sense, what is AED 600 (£100)? Think about what AED 600 will buy you; you could have a night out, buy a decent suit, or get a nice hotel room for the night. Now, what do you think that Johnny Richboy and his Ferrari will think when they look at a pathetic AED 600 in readies? Toilet paper. It’s just pocket money used to wipe the caviar from ones lips. Then we come to the poorer classes, for a lot of them, AED 600 could be their entire monthly salary.

Failed government: £50 fine

Failed government: £50 fine

So it can be argued that fines in the UAE are unfair. If you are caught speeding then the typical fine for an offence that is not greater than 20kph over the limit is AED 600. I could swallow that, but it would sting a little and I’d be sure to be careful next time. Johnny Richboy wouldn’t give a damn if it was 10 times that amount or that his car were to be impounded for 30 days, because he would just go home and get one of his other cars. But what about our poor Patan friend? If he has to fork out 600 sods then his family back home in northern Pakistan will stave.

In Europe, we love a bit of communism “equality” and so things like fines have to be the same for everyone. Those of a Polly Toynbee persuasion will forever croak a cry of egalitarianism, even when they contradict themselves and curiously say that the rich must pay more. Europe has to be seen to be a fair democracy and that everyone must always be treated equally. But it is forgotten that some people are richer than others, and that fining a Lord of the Realm £50 for not picking up dog poo will not hurt him as much as it would a penniless student.

Here in the UAE the problem is similar but far more noticeable. Because there is such a gulf between social classes it is simply not fair for everyone to be charged the same fine for the same offences. I know that Polly Toynbee, despite all her parity-preaching, would agree with me that different bands of people should be categorised so that the fine bites accordingly. To avoid getting drawn into a racism battle, the UAE Uncut team had a quick brainstorming session in the boardroom and came up with a solution: a percentage based penalty system.

When you are called to the stand to pay AED 600 for allowing your dog to make stool in the park, you must bring with you a complete copy of your accounts: bank statements, wage slips, whatever. These are investigated by the board of officials and you are charged a pre-determined percentage in line with your offence.

If things stay the way they are, then those who would rather spend hundreds and thousands of Dirham’s on V8 sports cars instead of genital-enhancement surgery will never learn the cost of speeding or rogue dog fouling. Fining the working classes 80% of their monthly salary will very likely condemn their families to starvation. The penalty must fit the crime but be affordable to the accused. Otherwise the less fortunate who are unable to pay are sent to prison and therefore become state-funded, making the whole thing completely pointless.

The same approach should be taken in Europe, but I fear that the communists in Brussels won’t hear of it. It would be nice though, wouldn’t it, for the highly-paid bureaucrats in Espace Léopold to be fined a far, far greater amount for their fiscal crimes than the European taxpayers?

Maybe that would be the perfect deterrent to stop them robbing everyone?

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100. Century

UAE Uncut thanks YOU! And the UAE, without the UAE this would just be a blank, pointless website.

Well, we did it.  We got to 100 blog columns.  In just 9 months I have strung together nearly 100,000 words about all things UAE.  When I first started ranting in my own little corner of cyberspace I envisaged posting one missive of thoughts each week.  Before she was launched, I scribbled down a few areas that I could cover in what is now called UAE Uncut.  I struggled, but I got as far as 23 subjects that I felt I could write about.  For a start I thought that that would be suitable; 23 weeks worth of guff that should cover 6 months.

But no, every morning I opened the paper there was something else that grabbed my attention that required instant ridicule or discussion.  Over the last 100 blogs we have examined many, many different things.  We have spoken of acrobatic plumbers who twirl and dance whilst installing boilers with boot laces.  We have identified that the Apple classes have too much money to spend on what is basically the same product as the one they are replacing.  Tables and chairs not making sense, music all sounding the same and the need to use the hot water tap for cold water and the cold water tap for hot water.  We have compared Emirates Road to communism and have identified the Toyota Land Cruiser as perhaps the greatest threat to mankind since the invention of the nuclear weapon.

Most of the writing I produce is rubbish.  Hatchet job scribbles with spurious connections laden full of poor factual references, sloppy explanations, flawed solutions and highly questionable conclusions.  But now and again sometimes a good one slips through the mill and makes its way through some cables to your computer.  These are usually the ones that do the worst on the stats page, unlike the rubbish ones, which seem to be the most popular.  It is clear, then, that I do not understand my target audience at all.

Every now and again I get to a stage when I think that I have bled the land dry in terms of subject matter.  In the same way that the UAE is worried about the oil running out, I am worried about the blog matter running out.

But no, all it takes is for a mad law to be passed that bans the use of air conditioning between noon and 3pm or for a story about a man who claims to the courts that he was tricked into mainlining heroin into his veins by some children, and bang, we’re back in the game.

Of course without my readers I would just be an angry man shouting at his laptop whenever the mood struck.  Yes I have offended a couple of people, but it’s not my fault that you’re thick and don’t understand irony.  The rest of you guys have been very loyal to UAE Uncut.  For that I am truly grateful.

So, then, 100 down…we’ve barely scratched the surface.

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96. Immaculate conception

There are certain things that I need to see in order to believe.  I for one want to know what really happened to former British weapons expert David Kelly.  Given that the whole Iraq business was going on and that he seemed to know that Saddam Hussain had nothing more than a pea shooter in his arsenal, I find his “suicide” hard to swallow.  Likewise, I want to believe that little green men did actually crash at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 and that it is a government cover up to protect the world from the truth.  But, until I see the proof that ET is out there I have to remain sceptical.

Of course, we all love a good conspiracy theory and these days you can get one with just about everything.  From the 9/11 atrocities being orchestrated by the CIA to mind control toxins in jet vapour.  In these situations the facts, or certain facts, are presented to us through the media.  We can pick and choose what we believe and what we treat as suspicious, and it’s from these occasionally conflicting reports that these conspiracy theories are born, usually by hippies living in caravans.

If someone, say, the accused, comes out and speaks the truth then that should tie the subject off neatly.  For example, if Tony Blair came out of his volcano lair and told us all that he gave the go-ahead for David Kelly to be assassinated then that would draw a line under the subject and the conspiracy theorists would move onto something else.  But no, there are some quarters who believe that they can pull the wool over our eyes and that we’ll buy everything we’re sold.

You can only imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the newspaper this week in a coffee shop to read about an immaculate conception.  This is only the second time in recorded history that this has happened, the first being the birth of a well known biblical figure.  Upon re-reading the headline thrice I spat my Americno out over the table and ran about screaming the lord’s name in a crazed panic.

The story states the facts, something that I am going to replicate here, so Thought Police; sod off, I am merely reporting the particulars.  A police medical doctor has confirmed that a young woman who is 29 weeks pregnant is in fact still a virgin.  This is most curious, is this possibly the second coming?  If so, it’s pretty big news.

The case goes further, not only is the young woman only 15 years old, but is also charged with indulging in a physical act with a 17 year old male, now the picture is becoming clearer.  To confirm the charges against her, the young woman has openly stated in a court of law that yes, she has shared full-on intimate relations with the boy and that she is guilty as charged.  The boy, in typical Y chromosome fashion denies such allegations.  But by the sounds of it he is lying.

Despite the open confession of the young woman, the medical professionals are still insisting that she is still a virgin.  Despite her bearing a foetus at 29 weeks logic and science have both been sidelined in favour of a contracted “professional’s” opinion.  Where are they from, Kansas?

Thankfully there was a slim ray of hope for humanity when a doctor who is completely unrelated to the case came out and said something along the lines of “bullshit.”

Yeah ok the kid’s like, totally mine.

When Commanding General Robert Ramey of the Eighth Air Force came out with some tin foil and a story about the Roswell wreckage being that of a weather balloon, his intention was to reassure the public.  How could the USAF concede that they weren’t in control of the skies and that in actual fact some clumsy Martians had crashed their spaceship in the desert?  No, he had a pretty tight story.  Whether you think it was a conspiracy theory or not, he had the nation’s best interests at heart.  This situation, however, beggars belief.

I’m not here to evaluate the moral or social ramifications of what the young courting couple were up to, that is none of my business.  But to the masses this fiasco pertaining to false medical reports is insulting.  The poor girl in question is expecting a child; the father – a 17 year old boy fresh out of childhood – doesn’t want to know and thanks to a preposterous medical examination she is soon to become a modern day Virgin Mary.  Give the poor girl a chance.  She has confessed the truth about what she got up to so can we not go from there and refrain from insulting our intelligence any further?

As for the 17 year old boy, he is soon to be the subject of a DNA paternity test.  If indeed his genetic matrix matches that of the unborn child then what will happen?  Will he contest the scientific facts and deny that he did it still?  Will he come up with a lie that suggests he may have done it but he can’t remember or something slightly more elaborate?  Will he man up and admit it and be a good dad?

We don’t know, but with the kind of medical reports being submitted in this case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Roswell aliens are blamed.

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62. Clapping

As readers of my meaningless ramblings will know all too well, I am easily annoyed.  There are many different irritating habits that grind away at me and there are many more practices that grind at me even further.  First of all we have the well-documented live band volume in a bar that only has 3 customers in it.  Then we have people who suffer from short-termism.  People who talk with their mouths full of food are infuriating.  People whose only talking point are themselves.  People who forever click pen caps in meetings.  Coffee slurpers, loud talkers, time wasters, snorers, people who talk in gangster, idiots, the Kardashians, damn them all.  But the most irritating of them all, and this is not up for discussion, are clappers.

Clapping comes in 2 main forms.  There is either a clap that shows appreciation or support to a particular entity, such as after a jolly good play or at Tony Blair being sent to The Hague for war crimes.  Then there is the rhythmical clap, this is primarily used by drunken men during the sets of below-par hotel bands.  The latter is today’s complaint.

Hmmm…going to need a bigger glass…

Clapping by itself isn’t too bad when it is performed by normal, staid people.  But when a lout who has consumed way more alcohol units than doctor’s recommend starts to do it – right next to you – you wonder if there is a fate worse.  I never noticed this epidemic in London, or anywhere else in the world, but here in the UAE this is a crisis on a par with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 or the Great Depression of 1929.  It’s a big one that needs urgent attention.

These perpetrators clap their hands together with such vigour that it remains a mystery as to how their bones have not been ground into a fine dust.  The droning and repetition of such shockwaves vibrates your bar stool across the floor.  By the time Hotel California has ended you find yourself sitting 60 yards away in the car park, with chronic tinnitus and a nervous twitch.

So, how can we counter these inconsiderate reprobates?  Well, as luck would have it last night I was acoustically assaulted once more by a very drunk man who could clap louder than Concorde doing a Sonic Boom.  The ear-bleeding experience allowed me to come up with a few different scenarios of what I could do to counter his attack.

The first scenario requires an empty glass.  You will need impeccable timing as when his hands are at their furthest apart the glass must be placed betwixt them.  Then, as the hands come together once more they will make contact with the glass, smashing it into tiny fragments and causing untold pain to the palms.  No more clapping.

The second idea I had was slightly more risqué.  You will need to carefully lure the assailant close to you and ask him to put his hands on the bar.  Then, reach over for the massive knife that is used to cut lemon and lime slices and start remorselessly hacking away at his extremities.  This should solve the problem.

Another possibility is to wait for the man to go the toilet.  No its not what you think, you follow him and place yourself strategically so that you have to open a door for him, offer your hand to him for assistance.  When he is in place standing on a large comedy X slam the door shut, hopefully this will render his hands useless.

Of course these images in my head last night were amusing, but in reality it would have been considered a social faux pas to have actually performed them.  Although I genuinely toyed with the idea of the glass between the hands one.  Who do these people think they are impressing?  I promise you we all dislike you, stop ruining our evenings out and leave your clapping in the form of applause at the end.  Ultimately all I could do without fear of being arrested was give the nuisance a dose of evil-eye.  Sadly that didn’t work either as the inebriate smiled at me, walked over to me and then asked me to join in with him.

I’m no charlatan.  It was at this point that I placed an empty glass between my own hands and as such am writing today’s blog with my nose…

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59. Tax

Look, Gordon, I’ve come all the way across town. You don’t have to pay me but a contribution towards travelling expenses would be appreciated. That Batmobile needs Super you know…

When you’re a young working person, say between the ages of 15 and 21, you don’t really know much, not anywhere as much as you think you do.  I remember when I started working at a kart circuit in 2000 at a rate of £3.50 per hour, I was 15.  “Dad!” I shouted “look at how much I am getting paid!”  He smiled a patronising smile and told me that in reality it wasn’t very much but hey, for a first job it was ok as a weekend time-filler.

You don’t really know about the ins and outs of taxation when you’re 15, nor do you know any more at 19.  At 19, still working at the same place, I was on a very low salary, but because I had somehow become a grown up at some point it meant that I was eligible to pay 23% income tax each month.  Things were made very easy in that the money was deducted from my wages before I even saw it.  It used to make me very cross.  Why did I have to relinquish nearly a quarter of my wages each month?  Where did that money go?  I worked at the same place until I left to come out here to the UAE when I was 23.  Every month my small salary was obliterated further by the necessity of income tax.

Of course I was blissfully and ignorantly unaware that when I was filling my car with petrol at BP three quarters of that was taxation too; as was the invisible VAT I was spending on penny whistles and moon pie.  It was all kept out of sight along with Tony Blair’s other million different stealth taxes.  I was certainly paying my bit towards the Millennium Dome.  Anyway, there are no such issues in the sunny Emirates.  Or are there?

When I return to London each year I am constantly told by everyone that I don’t have to pay tax.  And it’s true.  I don’t pay income tax to the British treasury because I’m an expatriate.  You can’t catch me George.  But don’t think for a second that I don’t pay tax at all.  I do, we all do.  It surprises me how many people who live out here don’t realise.

Anything can be something else but for a name.  There are certain words like “fee”, “charge”, “administrative costs”, these are all just alias’s for taxation.  Tax is Bruce Wayne.  There by day, known by all as a constant in life wearing beige trousers and drinking tea served by a butler.  It’s the only guarantee in life along with death.  Fee, charge, administrative cost, these are all Batman.  They sound so much cooler and sophisticated and generally surface at tricky times.  But whichever way to cut it, they are essentially the same thing.

Hotel’s lace their bills with Batman-isms.  How much of that 10% service charge that automatically gets added to your bill do you think goes to the waiter or waitress who spilled Carlsberg on your head?  And what about the 6% tourism fee?  I have a visa and a labour card, I’m no tourist but still I have to pay.  Then of course we have the alcoholic beverage charge, an additional 10%.  So for just one pint of lager that is priced at AED 23 you have to add 26% on top of that.  Just up the price and be done with it, don’t break it down for me.  Out of sight, out of mind.  10 pints in and I really won’t mind too much.

Then we have the banks.  Every card payment you make costs the vendor 3% in bank fees.  Of course it is illegal for the vendor to charge the customer that 3% extra so he loses out.  Who gets that 3%?  Where does it go?  It’s all totally bonkers.

Make no bones about it; the UAE is no different to anywhere else about such things.  One thing that this proves however is that the UAE is playing a smart game, it understands fully that as the population continues to grow, with locals and expats alike, it will not be able to subsidise us all forever.  Whether its in 10 hours or 10 generations, things will have to change.

The oil is running out, alternative fuels are being championed and the UAE’s primary export is not going to put goats on the table forever.  Tax is inevitable, no civilised country in the whole of human history nor in the future can or will survive without it.  Don’t talk to me about Monaco being tax-free, €30 for a 330ml can of Coca-Cola…do the maths.  What I like about how the UAE is doing it is the whole cloak and dagger aspect.  They are not taking it out of our salaries, which they know will upset us.  They are dressing it up in fancy syntax and adding little charges on effectively everything that we buy.

We therefore accept it as part of the norm.  There’s no point complaining about it because who do you complain to?  Ultimately it is for the better.  When things start to get a bit tougher (or real) there will be no sudden surprise of “and from Monday you all lose a third of your salaries.”  Our contributions made in tourism fees at Barasti Bar and the Belgian Café should have been sufficient for a decent sized nest egg…hopefully.  Apparently I am in a stark minority with this interpretation, and only tonight I heard more moaning at innocent waitresses about 6% this and 10% that.  Leave them alone.  You are far better off here than you are back home so calm yourself.

It is my observation, then, that there are still a lot of people over here who haven’t yet worked out that Bruce Wayne is actually Batman… Come on, have you ever seen them together in the same room?

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29. Health and Safety

Many blogs ago I recanted you all with a story of how 2 acrobatic plumbers installed a new boiler in my kitchen armed with nothing more than a wrong sized spanner and a shoe lace.  It was poetry in motion.  I made a brief mention of the fact that if the Nazi’s Health and Safety Executive had witnessed such an act take place in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and England and Wales and Scotland Isles then they would either suffer a massive coronary or slap such sanctions of the offender it would eclipse those imposed on Iran.

I read an article today that stated that a massive Health and Safety project is coming our way.  A project aimed at stamping out all the evils of the world by supplying hard hats to bus drivers and high-viz jackets to traffic lights.  I gulped.  I do look around and always instinctively compare what I see here to what I would expect to see at home and my observations are always top-notch pub chatter.  But why will the UAE feel the need to follow the way of the Great United Isles of Kingdom?  It’s an awful model.

I have always worked in an industry that has required me to have lots H&S savvy and exposure, I know the rules.  I know what’s safe and what’s not, I also possess common sense and I know when things “will be ok”.  I don’t care for the Health and Safety Executive and his red-tape regime and am a firm believer that mistakes make the man, you learn from your errors.  The H&S Executive tries to stop us making mistakes, and as such the newer generations aren’t learning for themselves and are totally ignorant to the dangers of the world.  If you want to put your tongue in a live plug socket, go for it, you’ll only do it once though…

New bus drivers uniform 2012: YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR COVERING THE COST IF THIS IS LOST, DAMAGED, EATEN, WORN, SEEN, KNOWN OR EXISTS

People are scared of the Health and Safety Man and his mad power lust and lawyers.  I have seen in the past people going on about not being able to do this, not being able to do that and even shielding behind it when it suits them in order to avoid doing any work…it causes such hindrance.  I can confirm from my own experience that it also makes things a lot more expensive.  Having to take training lessons on how to climb a ladder and so on…its utter madness and the bureaucracy is endless.

Health and Safety in the UAE at the moment isn’t that bad.  In fact I’d go as far to say that it doesn’t really exist, not how we would see it anyway.  It’s all well and good making the motorway workers wear high-visibility jackets and – for reasons I simply cannot understand – wave a red flag.  But have you ever been to a building site?  It’s like a real life version of The Crystal Maze; can you get to the other side without being killed?

There are men using angle grinders with no safety guards.  Oh no it’s ok, they’re wearing a blue set of overalls…twinned with a pair of sandals and no goggles.  None of the equipment has a plug on it…a project stopper back home.  Here?  Nope, just jimmy the live and the neutral wires in there, it’ll be fine.  I charge you to take a look at the scaffolding…it’s no more than a collection of twisted, rusty sticks held together with pure hope.  If the Health and Safety Fuehrer was sent to inspect he’d have to fill out so many forms he would need to destroy the remainder of the Amazon.  Its things like this that should be addressed…not the smaller things.  And this is why I gulped after reading the article.  The target will be missed.

Whilst I would never imply that an employee’s wellbeing should be put at risk, I fear that if the H&S laws over here followed the way of the West the swiftness of simple jobs would be greatly affected.  I don’t think that Johnny Plumber and Joe Electrician would be able to afford all they needed to comply, and if I’m honest even begin to understand all the rules.  They will therefore not be able to work.  So what will we do when they’re gone?

I don’t have the talent to install a boiler barefoot with a shoelace…do you?

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