Saturday, December 30, 2006

A thought for the New Year.

Found this quote on a message-board I frequent. I think it's superb.

"To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... cruising, it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

"'I've always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can't afford it.' What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone.

"What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

"The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

"Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?"

Sterling Hayden

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

It's the most wonderful time...

of the day.

Three hours left in this quiet, windowless office. The urge to stuff my face with chocolate is pretty strong. Who works on Boxing day? What a load of old bollocks. It's a real come-down after I almost - ALMOST - enjoyed yesterday.

Actually, it was good. We had a nice time. The kids loved their presents and were full of joy and brightness and all the other things that have been slowly sucked from my soul over the years. Christmas lunch was really quite enjoyable. The venue (Courtyard Marriott at Green Community) was pleasantly decorated and they looked after us terrifically. Our waiter - an Indonesian man named Yoyo (I kid you not) - was genuinely pleasant and attentive to our every need.

We were first in, arriving just before 12pm, so had the whole buffet area to ourselves for a bit, until people started filtering in. By 1.30pm the place was full and buzzing with cheerful conversation. We feasted on smoked salmon, turkey, roast ham and Christmas pudding, and it was all really tasty. The only thing missing was stuffing and brussel sprouts.

Outside, the sun shone in a warm blue sky. We could see a swimming pool out of the window and there were people sat out there drinking. Some even went for swim. It was somewhat strange to be sat eating Christmas dinner, pulling crackers and wearing silly paper hats in such a place.

By 3pm, we couldn't force any more food or drink down our gullet, and I was feeling merry enough, so we paid our bill and headed home, weaving through massive queues of lorries and trucks on the Emirates Road. It's almost like just another day here.

We spent the evening playing games and ate a small, late tea of a few sandwiches. Phone calls to relatives and friends were made, and that was the point when me and the WIFE realised what we were missing. We chatted via video-link to my parents on MSN Messenger, as they prepared to eat dinner at my uncle and aunt's house in Scotland. We spoke by phone to the WIFE's parents, and there was obvious emotion in the voices coming down the phone lines. These are the times you that miss your family.

So, this morning, I had to get up for work again, and face the commute through the blowing sand. It seems a bit pointless, as a lot of people are away, and it is soooooo quiet, and the locals are gearing up for the next Eid, which happens at the end of the week. We should get a couple of days off round New Year at least.

But there you go. Christmas is done and dusted for another 12 months. I wonder where we will be next year.

Monday, December 25, 2006


It's a sunny day. The kids have opened their pressies. Going for dinner in a bit.

Have a good one everyone.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

'Tis the season to be jolly...

Falalalalalala and so on.

A little song for you:

Dashing through the sand,
In a blacked-out four-by-four,
O'er the dunes we go,
Honking all the way,

Horns and flashing lights,
If you get in my way,
Oh what fun it is to drive at high speed here tonight...

Oh, Jingle Bells, Dubai Smells,
Sharjah's even worse,
If you're lucky your landlord,
might leave dosh in your purse,

OH! Jinle Bells, Dry oil wells,
At least we've got the malls,
Spend and buy on credit
Till they have you by the balls.

I imagine someone will find reason to be terribly offended by that. Sorry if that's the case, I just made it up in 5 minutes.

Well, what a frankly stupendous and baffling couple of days we've had. It all started on Monday morning when I woke up in AF at 5.30am. I told the WIFE and she sighed and said, "Oh God, not again..." or something along those lines. The good thing is, it went back to NSR within 3 hours, after I went back to sleep for a bit. I thought I should see the doctor, so went along to the hospital and he told me that it was probably a mixture of stress (traffic! money! banks! work! visas!) and over-doing the exercise. Well I had given it LARGE at the gym the night before and was shattered. I think that I have been doing too much too soon, so I think I might rein it in a bit.

Anyway, the doc advised me to take the rest of the day off, even though I felt that I should really go to work because work would be getting a bit peeved with all this time off. But I went home in the end and rested up. I had a bout of dodgy old belly that afternoon as well. Dunno if it was IBS or some bug, but it disappeared by the evening.

The evening...oh yeah. We ended up seeing doctors again, but this time it was the GIRL who was the patient. Somehow she managed to wedge her finger into a kitchen cupboard door hinge and got it stuck. The WIFE pulled it free and it was cut badly. There was a lot of blood, and it didn't look like a band-aid would do any good, so we clamped some kitchen towels over her finger and rushed her to the clinic round the corner at Springs Village, where they stitched her up. They needed 4 people to hold her down while an impatient doctor put the stitches in. Telling a 2-year-old to stay still when you're doing that is pretty much a waste of effort. The WIFE was in the room with her, and I waited outside with the BOY, listening to nearly 45 minutes of shreiking and wailing coming from the room. The poor WIFE didn't have that luxury and had to endure her daughter begging her to get them to stop. Both of us would have taken her place if we could.

About half-way through the poor little thing's ordeal, I decided to take the boy and go to the ATM out in the entrance area, across from the Choithrams shop. I needed to get that shreiking out of my head, if only for a moment. So, I walked out and was hit by a completely surreal moment. In the opposite entrance lobby near the shop, there was a Grotto of sorts, consisting of random, scary-looking models of animals wearing winter clothes, and a scruffy Santa sitting there looking bored beyond tears. There weren't many kids around, and no-one going to talk to Santa, and the sound that reached my ears told me why.

Coming full-blast from a portable stereo was a Christmas song, but it wasn't any Christmas song, it was Kevin Bloody Wilson singing "Ho Ho, Fucking Ho, What a Crock of Shit" in his inimitable style. The Santa and his elves stood around completely oblivious to the filth spewing out and echoing around the lobby as people ushered their young children past whilst blocking their ears. After stifling a belly-laugh and remembering I had the BOY with me, I cleared my throat and asked Santa if he knew what the song was about. He didn't, but then other people started complaining as well and they eventually changed the music. Absolutely bizarre! You could not make it up.

Then last night we had our office Christmas Party at a hotel restaurant. It was seafood buffet night, so the turkey and brussel sprouts were nowhere to be seen. The wine and beer flowed, the cliques formed onto their own tables, mainly along nationalistic lines followed by seniority. I somehow managed to position myself on the Big Cheese table with a few members of the upper echelons of our company, and even had a brief chat with the MD about my work (good), my health (bad) and my future (who knows?). When he asked me to give critical feedback I did slip a mention about the administration problems in there, but I kept it reasonably polite and not too strong. He listened and made his own points, but before long the conversation moved onto penis-size and the next thing we knew there was a drinking game going on called The Boat Race, which is basically a line of people downing pints in sequence, and the first line to finish all theirs wins.

From there, it rapidly went downhill. One or two of the staff were starting to get extremely drunk, and one or two were looking to stir up fights. Apart from a few drunken threats and raised voices, nothing really nasty happened, and everyone dispersed into the night, catching taxis home or on to other venues. For some reason, I managed to get press-ganged into moving on to a night-club. I'm too easily-led for my own good. I wasn't drinking any more (I'd drunk enough, despite telling myself I should only have 2 glasses of wine) but it was getting late, and I should have called it a night there and then. But no, I ended up in a club called Rattlesnake.

Rattlesnake sounds dodgy, and it is. Entering the place was like walking into a Zombie movie. All the faces were ghostly blue-white with dark, sunken eyes in the UV lighting, and as we walked to the bar, desperate hands clawed and pawed at our arms. Instead of "Brains! Brains!", there was the call of "Luvyoolongtime. Fiedorra" or something equally spooky. Thankfully, I saw sense, and extracted myself after one drink, breaking free from the moaning, meowling masses, climbing into a taxi and speeding home to my waiting bed.

Work today has been an ordeal. Not really hungover, but really, really tired. Early night for me tonight.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Deeper and deeper

So I got my residence visa last week. It happened quite quickly after the medical. I've also got my driving licence, after another visit to another red-tape nightmare with more multiple points of liaison and more sitting waiting for your number to be called while other people ignore the queueing system and just wander up, even when other people are being dealt with. It probably wouldn't have been half as bad if I had actually had my original passport with me. As it was, I had to drive all the way to work to collect my passport through atrocious weather (the wettest December in eleven years, so they say) and trying to get back without getting stuck in a traffic jam on SZR caused by an awful accident early that morning which claimed 9 lives. It seems that people were driving too fast for the conditions again. "Will the learn?" you may ask. I doubt it.

After getting back and waiting some more, I eventually walked away with a nice new shiny gold credit-card-sized licence. I also got a parking ticket. Hurrah!

Traffic, traffic, traffic. It's really starting to grate now. Almost every journey of more than ten minutes in duration will involve some kind of traffic jam or hold-up, and there are often no tangible reasons for it. I've been trying to get savvy and find short-cuts, but I always end up in another queue when I try to get back to the main route. The confusing thing for me is how it has got noticably worse since the end of Ramadan. Before Ramadan was bad enough, during it was absolutely great with everyone going home early, but since the end of it, the number of cars on the road seems to have suddenly doubled, and with all the rain recently, it has only made things worse still. I don't know if it's because quite a lot of people went away for the summer and are now back. It might be a factor.

So, I think on and on about it. I feel quite lucky to live this end of Dubai, where the traffic going to town in the morning and back out on an evening isn't nearly as heavy as the traffic heading in the other direction. But for how long will this last? You only have to look up a bit as you drive around to see all the tower cranes working constantly, and you can't help notice the giant hoardings going up everywhere trumpeting some new mega-development: Sports City, Falcon City of Wonders, The Lagoons, The second Airport, Dubailand....the list goes on and grows seemingly by the day. I don't know what the projections are, but this place could well be double the size it is now in a decade's time.

There are promises of new roads and there is a metro system under construction, but I can't help but wonder what it will be like to live and work here in the not-so-distant future. And the nagging question that I can't get over (aside from building all these mega-structures on sand) is...Who is going to live here, and what are they going to do?

I'd say 60% or more of those living here now are working in construction, from labourers to the likes of me. What happens when it's finished? A lot of people will have to go home or find something else to do. Of course, there will be service-sector jobs, but what about those being served? Where are they coming from? Who are they? Hey, I'm sure they have a plan here, but I'll be damned if I can see what it is, knowing where they are taking this place in terms of development. There are ports and airports and hotels and theme parks to run, yeah, but that won't employ the population of a four-million-plus city, will it? Will it?

As far as I'm concerned, I can't see us living here more than the originally-planned two years. I think we will have had enough by then, and may want a bit of a quieter life. I'm enjoying quite a lot about the place, really I am, but now that I've been here a while, the novelty and the sheen have worn off and I'm seeing more and more of the bad things that lie under the surface and don't get advertised. Then there's the whole hypocrisy issue. Being a liberal/left-winger/commie pinko here isn't a terribly comfortable feeling, and you end up switching part of yourself off to deal with it when you see the effects and (even benefits of) rampant, naked capitalism. See no evil, and so forth. How long one can keep it up for is an intriguing dilemma.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I got my residence visa today!

It only took 5 and a half months.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The sands of time...

slither grain by grain, inexorably towards an unknown future. With every second that passes, another life is made, another life ends. Somewhere around this rock floating in infinite, inky darkness, someone falls in love. Somewhere in Dubai, my puny skills are no match for the DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE.

Random picture.


Ahem. Sorry about that. Where were we? Well, I'm still waiting for the visa. I found out today that I haven't got HIV. Which is nice. Now I only worry about black holes and comets. I never worry about curries, unless they're really hot.

But work has been interesting. I've been working like a dawg. In an office at a computer, which isn't really what dogs do, to be honest, but I don't care. And yet, my company, who shall remain nameless, still haven't paid me for the month of November. They keep putting me off and saying the equivalent of "the cheque's in the post". I also found out I have to fork out a load of money to sponsor my family. Which isn't nice, especially with Christmas just round the corner, approaching it like a white Land Cruiser with the obligatory blacked-out windows on the SZR, lights flashing manically. So I'm slightly peeved, if truth be told. The administration in my company is somewhat erratic. I don't understand why we can't be paid by automatic electronic transfer on a set date every month instead of relying on the vagaries of senior management's movements in order to get the requisite 2 signatures on every pigging cheque.

The atmosphere has gone downhill of late. We've all been told that we MUST wear ties at all times. Mine gets wet in the shower, but it doesn't wash... (groan) Everyone's up to their eyeballs and panicking and snappy and grumpy and when a few of us sit together for lunch, we invariably moan about work, particularly the management and the administration. They haven't even announced a Christmas Party. Maybe it's been cancelled this year. Maybe I'll turn into Tiny Tim. The sad thing is, a happy ship is a productive ship. An unhappy ship loses its deck-swabbers and its cabin boys like that (clicks fingers). I've lost count of the number of times people have said that they're going to quit. It's not as if there's a shortage of work round here.


I'd better be careful. The ears have walls and the eyes have hills, etc. At least I ain't writing this at work.

Waiver: The opinions stated in this blog are a load of old bollox. Names have been changed (and not even mentioned) to protect the guilty. The writer is a highly-strung muppet with a penchant for self-pity and self-righteous bluster. Please send cash now.

So, I'm still doing the gym thing. I'm going every night of the week, and the WIFE and the BOY are not really happy, because it means I don't get home till after 8.30 or 9.00pm. The thing is, the hotel where the gym is located is just of the SZR, which means it is best to go straight there from work, rather than going home first then driving back the wrong way (with all the traffic heading back to Deira/Sharjah, etc.) because even at 8 or 9pm, the traffic is still a complete bleeding nightmare. I have tried it once or twice, and a 15-minute journey can take up to an hour going that way. I've decided that when my free membership is finished, I'll join the gym here in Springs. Then I can come home, see the kiddies and then go to the gym to get all sweaty.

I had a good session tonight, as it happens. I wasn't keen on going all afternoon, especially after walking around the Cityscape Exhibition at lunchtime (it was HUGE, and some of the buildings and developments looked amazing and staggering - they had an 8-foot high model of the buidling that is meant to emerge from the Big Hole in the Ground), but in the end, after getting annoyed at work, I decided to have a quick blast. The quick blast ended up as a long work-out, with cross-training (yeah, I was cross) and lots of upper-body resistance work. I feel somewhat puny struggling with really light weights, but I'm getting better and stronger and my stamina is increasing. My waistline is shrinking rapidly, but I seem to have stopped losing weight at the fast rate I was before. I suppose that's a good thing, because if it's too fast, it's unsustainable, and as everyone likes to say - muscle weighs more than fat, and I'm definitely putting muscle on with the exercise. I am sort over wavering at about 8 or 9 kg less than I was when I started, which is pretty good going for just over one month.

Crikey, it was a month ago that I went into hospital with my last AF episode! It's flown by, and with the new drugs and eating regime and the exercise I am feeling so much better, and my heart flutters (which used to be frequent) have quietened right down. Long may it continue. My goal is to be drug free, healthy and my ideal weight in a year's time. Oh, and rich and famous would be nice, too.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Rain, Rain, Rain and even more rain.

t's been pissing it down all day. Hasn't stopped. It rained quite a bit yesterday and last night as well. Driving along the roads here is now even more interesting, with huge puddles, nay rivers, where the inadequate drainage is failing. In the puddes there are soapy bubbles. Apparently, they put detergent on the road before it rains to prevent the many oil slicks from becoming like ice rinks.

So we've been stuck indoors all weekend. We went to the cinema at Ibn Battuta yesterday, taking the GIRL for her first ever time. She didn't watch much of the film, and wouldn't sit on her seat, but she was fine. It wasn't too bad. Then we had tea at Tony Roma's. They have a branch in Taiwan which I had a few incredibly calorific meals in, mainly due to the amazing pork ribs they serve, especially the baby back variety. However, here in Arabia, as you may have gathered, pork is only available in certain places, and Tony Roma, who are famous for ribs, only do one type of rib - beef. That's by the by. I still had a half portion - no fries, and they were OK, but the service was terrible. They got most of the orders wrong and the food was lukewarm.

Never mind. Today we went to the Mall of the Emirates and had a spot of lunch in Apres, a sort of alpine-style, apres-ski place with fondues on the menu, and a view of people falling over on the ski slopes of Ski Dubai. It was very pleasant, of course, but then the GIRL managed to spill not one, but two of my glasses of wine, so I only drank one in the end.

On the way home, in the continuing rain, I saw a sight I have seen too much of since coming here. I saw a car going along the road with young kids in the back, jumping around, completely unrestrained. It was a western family as well. Just what the HELL are these morons thinking? Is it really such a pain in the arse to strap your kids in safely? Would they do it in the UK? No, I bet, so why do it here, where the chances of an accident are much higher? The sheer selfish stupidity of it just amazes me. Have they become so spoilt and lazy by living a luxury lifestyle that they can't be bothered to do anything that takes the slightest effort? Do they not know what can happen to a loose child in a crash? I know locals and eastern expats do it as well, but they can claim ignorance and cultural something or other...well, they probably can't, but it still shocks me to see people who should know better doing it.

Rant over.