Tag Archives: UAE living

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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164. Warning lights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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153. Dubai GDP

The question on everyone’s mind right now is: is Dubai back? What a lovely question. The question is a simple one, and if you were to replace the noun with, say, David, then it would be far easier to answer. David is either here or not. Dubai, on the other hand, never really went away. Its Star Trek skyline has been there all the while, peppered with cranes and heras fencing. Of course, when the Lehman Brothers jumped out of their 100th floor office window, they left Dubai with a nasty scar, a wound that will never really heal.

But that was in 2008 and in my experience if you just go ahead and pretend that the problem has gone away then, really, nothing can go wrong. It seems that I am not the only one with this idea. Dubai has left the troubles behind them and is now powering into the next decade with its big guns out.

But I have noticed something a little bit worrying. It would seem that over the course of time, Dubai’s prosperity has mirrored that of regional events. Whenever there has been an episode, all of a sudden the coffers start to fill up. Take the first Gulf War, the one when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Bang, straight away the Dubai spin-doctors were advertising it as a logistics hub for the assisting parties.

Then there was the second Gulf War. Dubai instantly became recognised as the base for Iraq-focussed companies. The same is true of the war in Afghanistan and the daily conflicts that plague Pakistan and Lebanon. And what of the Iranian lot over the water? Dubai, more so than Abu Dhabi, likes to be thought of as the regional go-to-guy, the big kid in the playground who will look after you in exchange for protection money.

After Dubai’s economy went south at the end of 2008, the treasury was all but closed down and the money stayed firmly under lock and key. Growth was slow and at times it looked as if Dubai was dead in the water. Then, in early 2011, a Tunisian market trader set himself on fire and the Arab Spring began.

Civil unrest swept across the Middle East, felling dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Colonel “definitely not mental” Gaddaffi. Forgive me if it sounds crass – as the movement is still in action and tens of thousands have lost their lives – but the instability of the region has allowed Dubai’s growth to accelerate. Business that once was headed for Egypt, for example, is now here.

Egypt has long been the preferred tourist destination in the Arab World, with its tolerance of all things western in the tourism hotspots and such mind-blowing attractions like the pyramids. But the uprisings have all but obliterated one of the world’s most desirable destinations. Airport traffic has increased 16% year on year. Dubai, really, has been one lucky son of a gun.

Trading off the maxim of being the “safe haven of the Middle East”, however, does leave Dubai in a bit of a pickle. How long can it rely on the conflicts elsewhere in the region to effectively bail it out? Had it not made millions from selling use of its ports in the Gulf Wars or lucked into diverted tourism and international commerce from the recent uprisings, where would it be?

Dubai doesn’t have oil; that was all finished years ago. Abu Dhabi takes care of selling the black gold. How will Dubai stand on its own two feet when world peace happens? It is no secret that the Emirate has been looking to diversify from natural resources for some time. Primarily it has looked to develop tourism and international finance. But without a sizable export portfolio that will only get them so far. Beyond petroleum and natural gas, Dubai’s primary exports are fish and dates. Err…we may need to think of a few more.

Thankfully, Dubai has a new ally in the shape of UAE Uncut and today I have come up with an idea. In order to boost export revenue, why not start selling sand? No, really. Sand has many uses and is in more or less infinite supply. Bricks, aquariums, mortar, concrete, paint, kitchen counters, low quality glass; the list is endless. Ultimately the desert is a barren waste land, so scooping up a few bucket loads and selling them to Autoglass is a winner; surely? The infrastructure already exists; the old oil tankers can be used to transport sand to Europe, and there are plenty of diggers and dumpers knocking around.

Now, Mr. Willy Wonka, I want exclusive rights to your sand...

Now, Mr. Willy Wonka, I want exclusive rights to your sand…

Nature will be on Dubai’s side, too. When the shamal (wind) picks up and half of Saudi Arabia is blown across the UAE then the sand coffers will be replenished and they can continue to sell it on to men in Ford Transits. Think of the fortune they could make. This “deal in the desert” will be far better than the one Blair did…

Well, I’m no trade envoy, but surely my half-cock idea of selling sand to manufacturing industries all over the world is better than relying on international finance, investment and regional unrest. Conversely, if you can put it in a box and sell it, you can trust it; its existence cannot be denied. If you can only see it as a long number on an accountant’s computer then trust it in the same way that you would trust your genitals in the hands of a lunatic with a pair of scissors.

So, is Dubai back? Yes. And watch out.

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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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148. Police Car

Plot holes are everywhere; in film, in literature, and of course, in real life. Let us take The Lord of the Rings as a case in point. They have to get from one end of a weird world to another for a reason that eludes me. There is a flying bird-griffin thing that assists the starring cast in a time of crisis by picking them up and flying with them on its back. So as opposed to walking across mountains that eat you, and through Orc-infested pastures, I ask why they didn’t just save time and fly the griffin-bird all the way? Surely that would have made more sense?

Then there was The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker travelled a great distance to meet a miniature, green, Frank Oz. But it wasn’t until the ghost of Alec Guinness piped up and pointed out that the little green puppet didn’t have much a choice other than to show Luke how to climb trees to save the galaxy. Had Yoda stood by his statement of “I can’t teach this kid, he’s a mug” then the Star Wars franchise would have stopped there and the Empire would have won. Really, what choice did he have?

Then, of course, there is Keeping up with the Kardashians; how does the title family not know that we, the norms of society, think that they are all morons? Surely no one can be that naïve and dim-witted? Although whether there is an actual plot in KUWTK is debatable in the first instance.

Moving away from the fictitious land of nonsensical rubbish, what of the plot holes in real life? The British press have been in the British press a lot over the last couple of years for numerous reasons. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the whole celebrity super-injunction business? No, well, it’s very simple to understand. Manchester United and Welsh national footballer Ryan Giggs was one of the most high-profile examples. He had an affair with an air-head, but to stop the story making the papers he took out a super injunction in court that prevented the media from outing him as a cheating bastard.

As a result of the injunction the press were then legally bound and unable to print or broadcast the story. However, those who use Twitter and who are not licensed paparazzi were exempt from the ruling because they were the general public. We then had this ridiculous situation where the whole world and its dog knew that Ryan Giggs had been attempting to make babies with Imogen Thomas, but The Sun wasn’t allowed to say so. Madness.

Being fond of saddling my high horse and pouring scorn over those who I feel are beneath me, I enjoy looking for fault and folly in everything. My cynicism, my fiancé tells me, will eventually drive me and her to the brink of insanity. But until such a time I shall proceed. The latest plot hole to expose itself actually comes in the shape of a Ferrari. Yes, sorry Italy, but things aren’t going well.

You may have heard that Dubai Police have recently acquired a Ferrari Four; or an FF for the abbreviation lovers. This, I should add, is in addition to the fleets’ former flagship; a Lamborghini Aventador. The Bill can now protect and serve in sleek, Italian style.

I, typically, have some queries about such a purchase. A police car is supposed to be functional, style is as important as a Kardashians’ opinion. That’s why our lot in Blighty are given the next-to-near useless Vauxhall Astra diesel. Oh it goes, but it has the automotive styling characteristics of a dead hedgehog. But, unlike the Ferrari or the Lamborghini, it is not confused by things like road humps. Can you imagine Sheriff John Burnell commentating on Worlds Wildest Police Chases and highlighting the fact that a Nissan Sunny out-foxed a Ferrari squad car because the driver had the foresight to use a back road replete with humps? Embarrassing isn’t the word.

Dammit Hooker! That's a $300,000 Ferrari! Get off the damn bonnet!

Dammit Hooker! That’s a $300,000 Ferrari! Get off the damn bonnet!

Then we come to the business of arresting perpetrators. Criminals, low-lives and law-breakers should not be granted luxuries. If you were arrested for stealing a loaf of bread then how cool would it be to tell the rest of your friends in the Legion of Doom that you rode in the back of an Italian supercar? But if you were man-handled into the back of an Astra diesel or a Ford Crown Victoria you’d probably want to keep it a secret. Unless TJ Hooker was on the bonnet, shouting.

After all this then there is the inevitable question of insurance and cost. Police cars don’t just appear out of nowhere. Not only are they manufactured just like every other car but they also have to be modified. They need radio equipment, sirens, lights, painting, patronising slogans, and suspension that allows them to launch 80 feet into the air with William Shatner on the bonnet and land without damage. If a police car costs AED 1,200,000 then how can it “pit” rogue car-jackers? How will it chase Burt Reynolds across the confederate rural landscape? How will Mel Gibson pull down a house on stilts? There will be too much pressure to keep the car mint, what will the insurance company say when Riggs and Murtaugh bring it back in a bag?

We all know that status symbols fly over here, and that’s fine. It is a part of the UAE life. But these are austere times and people don’t have the money they once did, with the exception of Fiat and Audi (the owners of Ferrari and Lamborghini respectively). In this rather boring day and age, things need to be functional, appropriate and above all else, cost effective. And there is no better institution to lead the cause and set an example of modesty than the police.

But supercars are supposed to be mad. They are meant to be pointless cars that only the rich and famous can afford. They are a symbol of edginess that suggests to passers-by that the occupants are a bit mad. This is not a becoming look for a policeman.

This is a major plot hole and it begs the question, then, what the hell is the point?

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146. Language

Beef-witted zaftys'

Beef-witted zaftys’

I am deeply fond of the English language. Out of all the languages in the world it is the one I speak, like, the most bestest. The English language has endured for millennia and one principle reason why is that it has evolved with its users. As man has grown and developed, his discourse has shadowed every move.

I studied English language at college and it really is fascinating. Even the most TOWIE of modern society can indentify differences between the 1950’s and today. During the war, when a Dambuster successfully busted a dam with one of his bombs, he would shout “wizard!” in exultation. Today, the same man would shout “f*****g ‘av it!” The dynamic of our language has changed, and that is one reason it is still globally dominant, and why French is not. French is a closed shop and as such in 200 years time may not be spoken at all, like Latin. English grows with each generation.

I like to use archaic words in speech because I find them amusing. A friend and I recently had an entire conversation using a selection of words that have not been used since the Victorian era; lunting, groak, resistentialism, queerplunger. What fabulous words. Then there are contemporary words that I don’t approve of, especially when their context has been misappropriated; bear safe, as in bear safe. Fat, as in it is good or it is bad depending on your levels of telepathy and blood-cannabis ratio. Allow, as in yes, I approve or sorry, I do not agree. I can’t make head nor hide of it.

Then, of course, there are those who use the wrong words at the wrong time. Nothing gets under my skin more than someone who says that something is “well good” when really it should be “very good” or “really good.” Then there are those who don’t understand the meaning of “them” and say “put them ones in that bag” as the word “those” is sent marching with its bindle. “That” and “which” are frequently swapped around and then there is the incessant and un-necessary overuse of the word “like” at seemingly random intervals. “D’ya know what I mean?” no, moron, I really don’t.

I do not approve of poor syntax and I fight it wherever I find it, normally by throwing knives and sachets of polonium. My case is that if you go ahead and speak to someone from the Indian sub-continent by saying “Hiya, when you finished, put them things in that bag you got. Sweet, cheers m’ dears” then they will adopt similar prose before too long. This will cause a great deal of confusion, especially if I speak to them afterwards and invite them for a spot of lunting.

Herein lies the problem, as English is an ever-evolving animal, it makes it well tough for those wishing to learn it. The problem is no more noticeable than here in the UAE. As we come from all over the world, there are many different English dialects circulating and those whose mother tongue is not English must be scratching their heads and wondering who’s in charge.

Things like spelling, punctuation and grammar no longer seem to matter. There are errors all over the place. No, really, how can that be? There are enough English speaking residents in the UAE to assist with the governance of the language. I’m sure there are Arabic errors, too, but every day when I drive past the “English Spaking School” I feel as if I should crash my car into the sign on purpose to protect the masses. People will see it and think that’s it ok, no more so than the children. And that is not fair.

Of course, miscommunication happens everywhere, it is only natural, but somehow it feels as if the UAE suffers more than most. And it can’t all be pinned on racial classification or stereotype, either. No, if I ring my female staff’s landlord then I know straight away that I am going to have to tone it all down. If I called him and spoke properly, as I would to you, then he would most likely catch fire. “Good morning, Mr. Farook. Now, the family of rats that have moved in with the girls are starting to use an awful lot of hot water. The problems I have with this are two-fold; firstly, the disease in which they bring with them is causing my staff to die. Secondly, words cannot express how unhygienic this is, I mean do they have to share the same bathroom?” He would have exploded by the time I had said his name.

What I have to say instead is “Hello, Mr. Farook. Is Mr. Marty, yes, Marty? Ok, there is rats inside this one. You will make gone?” He will understand and execute. So in order to achieve my goal I have to sell out and modify my English to suit his level. Oh it’s not his fault, I could learn Urdu or whatever the hell he speaks, but there’s no time.

But I can’t speak to the CEO of Mubadala like that; I’d be dropped into the shark tank. I would again have to modify my speech to suit the person to whom I am speaking with. It’s a nightmare. You are therefore forced to judge everyone you meet within a nanosecond and resultantly speak to them in a pre-determined style, whether that is like a pigeon or the Queen.

Nothing can halt this phenomena, it is just another stage in the evolution of the English language. And, if I’m honest, I am quite willing to embrace it. I would far rather speak in pigeon English than speak like a pigeon brained TOWIE cast member. Totes? What the hell is that? But, let it be known that despite my willing embrace, I am far happier being a spermologer who’s tyromancy is as Englishable as the snoutfair that I am.

If English isn’t allowed to grow the result would be catastrophic; it’d go the way of Latin, or worse still, French.

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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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142. UK Uncut

Greetings from the United Kingdom. Yes, that’s right; this week’s edition of UAE Uncut comes from the south western corner of London in Kingston-Upon-Thames; home to me since birth. I have returned to this grey little island for a week to attend my best friends wedding and so far the experience has left me somewhat scratching my head. I spent the weekend in Bristol with all my friends for the stag party, and when the poor groom wasn’t being rescued from toilet cubicles or from the clutches of the Bristol mob, which blog topic I would be broaching this week was frequently raised. So, what the hell am I writing about?

As you may be aware, I enjoy garnishing most things with some scorn as opposed to praise. Praise is boring and weak. The poor UAE certainly can appear battered and bruised at times through the eyes of the typical UAE Uncut reader, but so too can the UK. Readers will know that I was not very fond of the previous Labour government, or any Labour government for that matter. But I can hardly sit here and say that the coalition has been wonderful, either. No, here in the UK there is too much nonsense, too much needless legislation that seems to be designed simply to make peoples lives as miserable and as uncomfortable as possible. Why, then, do I moan about the UAE all the time and some of its mad laws when the UK is 100 times worse?

In the kitchen here at home there are three bins’ one for food scraps, one for papery things and another for everything else. Then there are bottle bins, can bins, cat bins… pah! The UAE wouldn’t waste its time on such things. You know what the UAE would do to separate all the various waste items don’t you? They’d employ a few hundred workers who didn’t mind the occasional whiff, therefore creating job opportunities, not really a desirable one, but hey. Here? No, we’re expected to manually sift our waste so that the council doesn’t have to bother. Have you ever tried stumbling home drunk one night and making a sandwich only to throw most of it away in the paper bin by mistake? I stand before a Magistrate next week!

Unemployment could be reduced if, no wait, sod unemployment, I have a better idea. Why don’t convicts serving time get rounded up and sent into to the landfill site to separate all the cabbage from the copies of The Daily Mail? It would give their eyes a rest from the Playstation and 42” plasma.

We will be great again

We will be great again

I also have a complaint about taxis. Now, those readers who actually live in the UAE will stand with me when I say that the majority of taxi drivers aren’t exactly what you would call competent. There are some that have good knowledge and a keen sense of awareness and we are sure to keep their numbers and use them as much as we can. But most are terrible. They don’t know where they’re going, they don’t know how to drive and they make little effort to keep you safe. I always look back at the UK with fondness when I ride in a UAE taxi. I think of the black cabs and how the drivers have knowledge of such brilliance that I find it amazing that they do not work for NASA. But black cabs are incredibly expensive, so we use minicabs where we can.

In Bristol this weekend I thought I was back in the UAE. We required the services of the taxis frequently and each time relied on the concierge to make the arrangements. Being 12 of us, we required two six-seaters and a speedy drive. Never have I encountered a taxi company like it. To describe them as terrible is a masterpiece of understatement. By UAE standards even they were diabolical. Who in the name of God employs someone to drive a taxi that has as much knowledge of the Bristol road network as a tribesman from some undiscovered South American jungle? No, really. Each time we met them to go to a different activity we had to fanny about on iPhones looking for maps and postcodes to help the drivers out. And they still got lost.

This isn’t the country that I remember. I don’t understand how some things can be so stupid, I really don’t. We are the only nation in the world that has the prefix “Great” before its name and that perhaps gives a false impression. We cannot live off our previous imperial laurels anymore. But, then again, find me a paradise and I’ll find you a six by two foot box buried six feet under the ground; nowhere is perfect.

So now it’s raining outside and the temperature is barely 10 Celsius, but I don’t mind. I need to go and fill my car up in a few minutes and that will bankrupt me and again, I don’t mind. Tonight I am going to walk into town to meet my friends for a few beers, it will be wet, cold and arguably overpriced, and I don’t mind.

But this is my country, this is my home, and I love it regardless.

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