Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Years

We've had some great New Year's Eve's in Dubai.

In the early days we would spend a huge amount of money to attend outrageous feasts at The Highland Lodge (the Legendary Lodge: I must blog about it sometime).

In 2000 we stayed in with a friend to watch the collapse of global civilization on CNN (remember the Millennium Bug?).

Subsequently: camping on Jebel Ali Beach.

Three years ago: a mega knees-up at Jebel Ali Club.

Two years ago, not feeling very festive: sitting on top of Jebel Ali and watching distant fireworks.

Last year: at the Amman Kempinski in Jordan.

Tonight: up the hill again, not bothered about partying (boring old f*rts!), hoping to get some great firework shots.

Possibly I wish I was in Jordan at this time - they've been having snow (140 people had to be airlifted from stranded cars) and I haven't seen real snow for yonks.

Anyway folks, whatever your plans for the night: enjoy it and stay safe! Best wishes, peace and prosperity an' all that to you all.

My resolutions for 2007: get fit, get less fat, leave the UAE. Jajaja.

Bye Bye Saddam...

So, almost the end of 2006 and am I glad! What a horrible year it has been - 'Peace On Earth' - yer jokin', aren't ya? And I don't expect 2007 to be any less violent. But at least we are rid of one hideous tyrant, and I am a bit surprised at the reported reaction on the 'Arab street' - 'yes, Saddam may have been a bad guy, but it was a shame to execute him on the first day of Eid Al-Adha', 'yes, he was a criminal, but what about Bush and Blair?', 'it was all an American plot'. Amazing. I doubt that there is one person on the planet that would deny Saddam's atrocities, but somehow it all comes back to the West.

Well, while I do not support the war in Iraq (it would have been far easier and cheaper to have Special Forces go in and take Saddam out), the people who tried Saddam, found him guilty and hanged him were Iraqis. The future of Iraq is in the hands of Iraqis. They can either unite or split, I personally don't care. It seems likely to me that something similar to the anarchy that prevails now would have happened anyway had some other party managed to overthrow Saddam. The point is that modern Iraq was always three blocs (Sunni, Shi'a and Kurd) bolted together as one. Nobody can force them to stay together. If the factions are too blinkered to see their mutual advantage in being one strong country rather than three feeble ones, then why not let them try it out and see how they get on?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Goose is Cooked

Over a month ago, Dubaibilly and Cher invited us to their place for Christmas Dinner. ‘We’re doing a goose’ they said. It would have been, what’s the word…’churlish’?, nay …’absolutely impossible’ to refuse. I’ve never tasted goose, and neither has BetterArf.

As it happened, all six of the invitees live in Jebel Ali Gardens, and so we arranged to meet at one apartment for some pre-drinkies and then share a people-carrier cab to the venue.

When we got to Bill & Cher’s, gifts and cards were exchanged, cameras were compared* and a bloody fabulous time was had by all. If you ever have a chance to eat some goose, or even cook it yourself, don’t miss it! It was fantastic. B & C also did honey-roast haraminal, sprouts, sprouts with chestnuts, glazed carrots, roast parsnips, roast tatties and bangers wrapped in bacon. Also gravy and a special orange sauce for the meat. Stuffing was served a bit late because someone had forgotten to cook it at the appointed time (but microwaves are marvlious things, aren't they).

This had been preceded by a delicious broccoli and Stilton soup, and was followed by syllabub, Christmas Pudding with custard, assorted cheeses and Port.

Oh, wow. I mean, it was a delicious meal, I actually managed to get to the end of it without falling asleep and without bursting open (although I felt like I might at one point). One of our party totally cracked me up during the cheese course. There was a plate of crackers for the cheese. Not a normal plate with a bit of a rim, this was a flat glass platter. He was looking at me as he swung the platter towards me, holding it at an angle of about 5 degrees towards the floor. I was watching the platter as, one by one, the biscuits fell off. By the time the platter reached me, it was empty. I was giggling hysterically, and John looked at the thing in his hand. ‘Where’s the ****ing biccies?’, he asked. I pointed at the trail of crackers he’d left behind. Jajaja!

A bit later, Billy was attempting to pour himself a glass of Port. The bottle refused to release any of its contents until the cork was removed. I have to confess that half an hour later, I did exactly the same thing – I reckon that Taylor’s Port bottles have a design flaw: they look like they are open even when they are not.

We sang along to a selection of Christmas tunes, playing from Cher’s I-Pod plugged into her Christmas present: a vertical donut full of speakers and a radio: it looked like a shrine to the I-Pod, which in a way it is.

*Cameras. Both Dubaibilly and myself got new cameras today. BetterArf gave me a Sony H2, a replacement for the H1 that I owned for three weeks before some Spanish asshole stole it in Valencia last August. Bliss bliss bliss! Plus a book on how to get the best out of such a machine. Dubaibilly got a top-end Canon digital SLR jobbie from Cher, plus a different book from BetterArf on how to get the best out of such a machine (how she knew this would be useful and appreciated I’ll never know – female intuition I guess). I read most of my book this morning and learnt one very valuable lesson: the thing that buggers up group shots is that somebody will blink. So before you shoot a group, you tell them all to close their eyes, then open them and smile. Then you shoot them, and they all have their eyes open! I tried it and it worked!

We had a very Merry Christmas. I hope you all did too!

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Saturday, December 23, 2006


Regular readers of this blog may have sensed that I have a bit of antipathy towards our northern neighbour, the Emirate of Sharjah. Years ago, it was because whenever I went there I could usually find my destination ok, but I could never, ever, find the way out. Dubai did not feature on the signage system at all. 'snot like Dubai's important or anything. So my early memories of being in Sharjah were closely associated with those of being helplessly lost. And for at least the last five years Sharjah has been associated with being stuck in insane, ridiculous trafic jams.

The last few weeks have been interesting, because our panto rehearsals and peformances have been held at the Dubai Womens' College, which is a stone's throw from the Sharjah border. It's easy to get there on a Friday, fairly easy on a Saturday (weekend for Gubment employees), but a complete pain in the derriere on weekdays. It would take us two to three hours to get to the college from Jebel Ali, and about one hour to get back.

There are two phrases that will induce me to consider a trip to Sharjah...
1) 'Your cheque is ready'
2) 'Come for dinner, I'm doing Beef Wellington'.

Phrase 2 was uttered to me by Grumpy Goat about a week ago. Today was the day, an early Christmas dinner because his beloved has to work on Christmas Day. We were expected to be at Grumpy Goat Towers in Sunny Sharjah at 4pm, so we set off from Jebel Ali at 2.30. Amazingly we were in Sharjah by 3pm, so we jumped out at Al Ta'awon Mall and did a little shopping. Then we walked across the sand (feeling like we were in a foreign country) to arrive at the Towers half an hour early.

A splendid time was had by all. Thanks and Merry Christmas Mr Goat!

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Google Games

A lot of people like to play games with Google. For example Googlebombing - where a group of people post identical links on various websites or blogs in order to influence Google's results (eg, getting Google to display Dubya's website as number one for the search term 'miserable failure') or Googlewhacking - where you aim to discover a two-letter phrase that returns exactly one result.

My reason for posting about this is that I've just invented a new one: Googleloner. You invent a word, and a search for that word returns one main result. Try this: haraminal. Of course, this will only work for a day or two until Google picks up this post, and then we'll have two results. No doubt etymologists in the future will be using Google and other search engines to establish when new words come into circulation.

Bye the way, I'm still number one in Google for 'disingenuous tosh'!


Back to Normality. Aharrr!

So we've just finished our manic Panto weekend. A dress rehearsal and two shows on Friday, and two shows today. Our audiences loved it, and so did we. It was extremely tiring, but great fun.

There is nothing on Earth like a British Panto. It's a hugely stylised form of theatre: there are traditional elements such as the Dame (a man dressed as a woman), the Principal Boy (a girl dressed as a boy), audience participation - 'he's behind you!' - 'oh yes it is, oh no it isn't' - random kids being dragged up on stage for a spot of humiliation - throwing sweets at the kids - splitting the audience for a singsong - making them boo and hiss at the baddies, making them all go 'aaah'. Pour in a dash of innuendo for the parents, throw in some local jokes, singing and dancing to popular songs related to the show, over-the-top acting, and, DING-DONG! You have a pantomime.

It surprises me that Pantomime really only exists in the UK - for sure there will be amateur groups of Britpats doing pantos in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and even Ras Al Khaimah and other far-flung places. In the Dubai Drama Group we have always had a smattering of non-UK actors wondering what the hell was going on. For several years we had a core of Filipino Chorus-boys who never showed up for any other kind of play but were always mad keen to be in the Panto.

If I ever get asked to compile a list of things that define British Culture, it could not be complete without Pantomime.

So now it's all over - I can throw away my script and not worry about it again: all that remains to be said is "Merry Christmas One And All".


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pantomania, me hearties. Aharrr!

I told you a few months ago that Betterarf and I had been cast in the forthcoming Dubai Drama Group production of Treasure Island. And I don't think I've mentioned it since. But we have been rehearsing steadily for the last few months and now we are almost there: there will be four performances next weekend - two on Friday 15th and two on Saturday 16th. It's gonna be great fun for children of all ages (we're talking about panto here so clichés are compulsory). The venue is the Auditorium at Dubai Women's College.

Last weekend and this one we have been rehearsing and set building at the venue. We did a full run in costume tonight and it's really coming together: it is a very funny and entertaining show.

You can buy tickets online at the DDG website or Time Out .


Saturday, December 02, 2006

35 Today!

Today is UAE National Day, ie the 35th anniversary of the formation of the United Arab Emirates. So Happy Birthday UAE, you've come an incredibly long way in a very short time.

It is also the 19th birthday of our very own offspring.

Traditionally in our house we put up the Christmas tree on this day, but there might be a problem today. Having lost the original metal/plastic stand many years ago, we usually stick the (fake) tree in a bucket of sand scavenged from outside. But it has rained continuously through the night, and is still tipping it down at 8am, so any sand we could get would be more like mud. Ho hum.

UPDATE: We've just unpacked the tree, and lo and behold, the plastic stand that has been missing for at least two years was sitting there in the box, looking all smug!