ADVENTURES IN DUBAI: YOUR FAVOURITE NUMBER ONE BLOG BRITISH DESIGNER LIVING IN DUBAI TELLS (NEARLY) ALL
Saturday, April 29, 2006
My first Haiku
There seems to be a trend for people to pop bits of poetry on their blogs, and, never one to ignore a passing bandwagon, here's mine.
April's end gets closer: Vote for Keefieboy on Toot, Receive samosa.
Did u spot the subliminal message! Toot persists in making it impossible for Internet Explorer users to cast their votes, and I hear that the programmer responsible is slightly indisposed at the moment (not my doing, honest). But if you have Opera, Firefox, Safari etc, these should work. 3 or 4 votes gets us into the top ten. 20-odd makes us the winner. So, off you go, thank you very much and your bribe samosa is in the post.
Towards the end of last year the UAE Government announced a plan to introduce a little bit of 'democracy' into the selection of members of the FNC (Federal National Council). I blogged about it then, and was possibly a bit disparaging. Some of the Emirates have now started the process of selecting their councils. Emirati blogged about it, and concludes that this is not democracy. Well, certainly it's not.
But this is where we run into problems, because politics and democratic ideas are so new in this region. There is absolutely no tradition of 'voting' for things. There is a tradition of consultation in Majlises, but that only works when you are dealing with a small number of people. A leader simply cannot ask a million people what they think. I think the UAEs slow and cautious approach is probably wise, given that we actually have the best possible leadership in place right now. It's actually not broken, and doesn't need fixing. The rest of the world, however, thinks otherwise.
We have already seen that democratic elections in Iran threw up the lunatic Ahmedinejad, in Palestine the terrorist Hamas organisation won, and Iraq is a complete can of worms that now can probably not be solved without a horrible civil war and the eventual splitting of the country into three bits. Even sleepy Bahrain has its share of Islamist MPs who would be very happy to take their country back to the 14th century.
Now, I know that in a true democracy, you cannot say 'vote for anybody you like, but if that guy with the long beard and crazed look in his eye wins then we cancel the election and have to start again'. But this is the very very real danger that democracy poses to the Middle East right now. The 'wrong' people will win. I'm talking about Islamists / theocrats. They will win because they want to win. Because the moderate voices of the moderate candidates will not be heard. Because the indigenous population of the Middle East is so pissed off with the way the West has treated them, that they will vote for the guys that will irritate the West most.
To say that the Middle East is not yet ready to embrace Western-style democracy is a total understatement. It'll all end in tears, you mark my words.
Not the American one, the one in Dubai. It's going to close on May 15th. In case you don't know, the Alamo has been a fixture in Dubai for as long as I've been here. It's a bar and restuarant in Jumeirah, at the top of the Beach Road. Before we moved to Jebel Ali we were regulars there. It was very popular with Brits, and we were quite matey with a lot of them. Over the last few years, most of these people have moved out of Jumeirah and into the new 'burbs to the West. So I guess the place has seen a steady decline in revenues, and now it's just had the ultimate decision-making incentive: the rent for the coming year is almost double what it has been previously. Ouch! So closure is the only option. I will miss it, and I will miss some of the regulars there.
Also, I read on Desert Weasel's blog of the rumoured closure of The Lodge and The Cyclone. The Cyclone I will not miss, but the Lodge was another fixture in our social thingy for the first four or five years that we were here. Then it was closed for a few years (that's another story), and then it re-opened under new management. The new version was absolutely nothing like the old one, so we never bothered going there again.
I guess this is the kind of thing that happens in a place as dynamic as Dubai. Sniff.
Not the famed acrobatic Serbo-Croats of yore, not even the eponymous band of the eighties, no, I'm talking about a uniquely Khaleeji concept: the idea that a cheque drawn on a bank is somehow like cash. And that if the cheque is dishonoured, the issuer has committed a criminal offence. Note that well. It's not a simple civil offence, it's criminal. Yes folks it's true, you can go to jail for having a cheque bounce on you.
I have no sympathy for the scoundrels who issue post-dated cheques for large amounts of money, nor for the victims who accept these things and release goods or services against them. Both parties deserve everything they get.
But for us mere mortals, things are a bit different. Let's say you want to buy a car, and you want to pay over 36 months. You have to write 36 post-dated cheques! Or you are renting a house or apartment. You will have to write three or four post-dated cheques for the year's rent. How on earth are you supposed to be able to guarantee that you can honour these cheques? Unless you have a ton of money stashed away under your bed in Switzerland, you cannot. You have no way of knowing if you will still have a job / source of income next week, never mind three years from now. But the law here, stupidly, takes the view that you, by signing a post-dated cheque, have promised that you will have funds in place at the time that the cheque is presented!
So if you have been given a PDC and it bounces, you can take the cheque to the Police, and they will happily arrest and incarcerate the issuer. I wonder how that is supposed to solve anything?
Some of the smarter companies here will delay presenting a PDC for a few weeks if you ask them to, but you have to pay them a fee (I know, I've done it twice with my landlord - 500 dirhams a go it is).
I bring this up because of an article in Gulf News a few days ago. A lawyer is whingeing that banks are being lax in reporting bounced cheques to the UAE Central Bank. The banks are supposed to report all bounced cheques because the UAECB has a rule that says anyone who has four bounced cheques in a year can no longer have a cheque book.
Post-dated cheques are a seriously bad idea. Basing large chunks of your economy on them is silly. Making it a criminal offence for anyone to issue a bouncy cheque is just plain moronic. I hate having to write PDCs, it makes me feel dirty. Basically when I issue a PDC I'm telling a lie, because there is no way that I can know that I will have funds in place to cover it on the due date. Insh'allah I will, but you never know. I could be sick and unable to work, I could have clients (especially Government) who do not pay on time, I could actually have no work at all.
But for many transactions in the UAE - buying a car on credit, renting accommodation - the only way you can do it is by issuing PDCs. Ridiculous.
About once a month my hair reaches a state of unruly messiness and I head off to the hair butcher's to get something done about it. I usually return with a head of hair that resembles a superannuated hedgehog. It takes about two weeks for this effect to wear off, then my hair is ok for a week or two, and then it gets too long again.
A few months ago, BetterArf suggested I should try leaving it to see just how long it would grow. Ponytails were mentioned in passing. Now, I know from the days of my yoof that my hair does not grow super-long - it reaches my shoulders and then basically stops. I could just about scrape enough together to create a one-inch ponytail. And I'm sorry, that would be just too silly for words.
So now I have hair to rival that of Junichiro Koizumi, the Japanese Prime Minister, and very proud of it I am too.
(Sound of weight lifting from shoulders). We finished one of our overdue sites yesterday and made it live this morning (yayy!), and this evening I delivered my lecture. Just call me Prof. The other problem site is inches away from completion, so my workload is about to get back to some kind of normality.
This means that I'll have a bit of time for a semi-normal life. Possibly a day off at the weekend. A spot of reading in the evening. Maybe even (drum roll), a bit of blogging.
You'll have noticed that things have been somewhat quiet on the Bummer front, and probably assumed everything was tickety-boo. Well, not quite. The last thing that went wrong with it was that the electrically-operated central-locking and windows packed up. Two of the windows were half-open at the time. Three days before we went to Jordan in December, I took it to a garage for a service and to get this fixed. Two days later, they had not got the parts (I think we're just talking about fuses or relays here), so I asked them to just get the damn windows shut and give me the car back. This they did, quite hurriedly, and it obviously involved removing various door panels and then sticking them back on with Sellotape. Not a neat job, but it kept the cats out while we were away.
Since we got back, I haven't got around to having it fixed properly. About a month ago, we had gone somewhere in Dubai, and parked the car out in the open. When we got back to it, it was screamingly hot, so I whacked the A/C on full. Pop! went the fuse for the A/C circuit.
So now we have a car whose windows won't open and whose air-conditioning doesn't work. And also its registration is due. This is obviously going to take about a week to get fixed, and, as I explained in my previous post, if I'm TBTB, I'm also TBTGPAWGACR (Too Busy To Go Pissing Around With Garages And Car Registration).
It never rains but it pours. Oh, and when it pours, the roof lets in water, as I discovered when we took it to a car wash, and when we had the recent deluge. So it looks like once the Bummer is fixed, I'll be selling it. Any offers? It's a really good car, really, nothing wrong with it. Only half a dozen careless owners, a million miles on the clock, falling to bits. But the engine and gearbox are fab.
Once again, Keefieboy has been, and still is really, TBTB (Too Busy To Blog). This is due to pressure of work. I have two clients whose projects should have finished at the end of last month, but both of them failed to supply required information. One of them popped up last week with a ton of changes, insisting that they had to be done in two days. Hmmm. I wouldn't mind, but if the shoe was on the other foot - ie us being late despite having all the info, they would be getting seriously ratty. I think it's time we add penalty clauses to our contracts. On top of this we have two new projects that are slow in getting started because the work flow is interrupted by those old jobs that should have been done and dusted.
Plus, like an idiot, a month ago I agreed to do a lecture for a training institute in Knowledge Hamlet. This will happen in about four days' time, and I am nowhere near ready. The subject is 'webcasting', it's a two-hour lecture, and so far I've spent about six hours in researching and writing the damn thing. If the subject was 'web design' or 'web development' I could easily ramble for a couple of hours without any major preparation, but webcasting is something we only do about once a year, and there's a learning curve each time. The money I'm being paid for this is seriously pathetic. Moan moan moan.
Ever since I moved to the Miggle East I have fallen out of the habit of using snail mail. This happened even before the advent of the Interweb. The reason is that using snail mail in the Miggle East has never been anywhere near convenient. To send a letter, you have to go to a Post Office. To receive a letter you have pay for a P.O. Box.
Let me tell you about Post Offices in Dubai. There's one in Jumeirah. There may or may not be one in Satwa - last time I passed it, it looked like they were demolishing it. There's the main one in Karama. No doubt there's one or two in Deira. All of these sites have actual post office boxes, where you could collect your mail if you were fortunate enough to be able to get a key to one of them. I've also seen clumps of P.O. Boxes at some gas stations. There's a mini-clump at Media City. Anyhoo, don't want one, never going to get one. My mail goes to a shared Media City box, and if you are dumb enough to snailmail me stuff, I'll pick it up once a fortnight and then throw it away.
As for sending mail, I usually do it via Media City also. There is another alternative - our local Choithram's sell stamps and they have a Post Box just outside. If your package seems a little bit heavy they weigh it on the fruit and veg scales and it comes back with a sticker that says 'Brown onions, 53 grams, 3 dirhams'.
If you are unfortunate enough to receive something 'suspect', then you will get a card ordering you to go to a real Post Office to retrieve it (Samurai Sam has a hilarious account of such a visit - but I can't find the link...). This is Old Dubai at its worst, and if snail mail wasn't such a total irrelevance I would be jumping up and down about it.
After months of anticipation we finally got to see 'Syriana', a political thriller whose Middle East scenes were mostly shot in Dubai. I have to tell you I was disappointed. Either the film was so badly hacked by the censors that you could not follow the plot, or it was so badly written and directed that you could not follow the plot. Either way, a lot of people in the cinema seemed to be having trouble following the plot, and at least half of them had wandered out before the end.
I'd be interested in seeing an uncut version, so if any Chinese DVD ladies are reading this, you know where I live...
But spotting the bits of Dubai was interesting, especially as we were at Ibn Batutta and a lot of the labour camp scenes were shot not half a mile away with magnificent views of the Jebel Ali Power Stations, the Ibn Battuta flyover, and a historical perspective of the Dubai Marina when Gotham City (the incredibly dense Jumeirah Beach Residence) was still an invisible baby. Deira by turns became Teheran with mountains in the background and Beirut with snipers on every rooftop.
Keefieboy is always pleased when his drivel turns up in the press. Especially when it gets sanitized out of all recognition. Today's Emirates Today contains snippets of his rantette about Emirates Post:
“ The UAE has a peculiar idea of how to run a postal service. They don’t actually deliver to your door. This is a major blow to the customers because they have to rent a PO Box for an annual fee of Dh300, and they have to go to their box every now and again to pick up their mail. Needless to say, this is seriously inconvenient for customers, so what most people do is use the PO Box of their workplace. "Today’s Emirates Today carries a report of Emirates Post planning to crack down on this practice. An Emirates Post spokesman said: ‘The personal mail of hundreds of employees causes a lot of confusion, while sorting out the company mail takes time. .’ Well no, Emirates Post spokesman, that’s disingenuous information. The internal sorting of company mail is none of your business. The… real reason for this… idea is that you want hundreds of thousands of residents to give you Dh300 every year, so you can bump up your revenues ahead of your impending ” privatisation.
Sorry for the shortage of pearls of wisdom tumbling from my keyboard recently. I'm somewhat swamped with work, and also I'm reading a Stephen King doorstop 'Needful Things'. I would describe the book as 'unputdownable', but it weighs a couple of kilos and I need to sleep. I'm about 100 pages from the end, and there is mucho slaughter going on.
Gripping, it is, gripping.
Oh, and I'm pleased to see that 'Syriana' is finally about to be released here.
Disingenuous Tosh - I love that phrase. In fact, I've been doing a bit of Google-bombing with it, and Adventures In Dubai is now number one and number two when you search for it! Yeehaaa.
UPDATE: just tried it in Yahoo. Disappointed to be only number 4 and 12. Some Scottish MP who glories in the name of Murray Tosh occupies the top spot. Which just goes to show,Google rocks, Yahoo sucks.
Like many Gulf Countries, the UAE has a peculiar idea of how to run a postal service. They don't actually deliver to your door. This is a major blow to letterbox manufacturers, but also to the customers because they have to rent a PO Box for an annual fee of about Dhs 300, and they have to go to their box every now and again to pick up their mail. Needless to say, this is seriously inconvenient for customers, so what most people do is use the PO Box of their workplace.
Today's Emirates Today carries a report of Emirates Post planning to crack down on this practice. An Emirates Post spokesman said:
“The personal mail of hundreds of employees causes a lot of confusion, while sorting out the company mail takes time. Sometimes the official mail gets lost or delayed.” The Emirates Post letter to businesses says: “We want to prevent the loss of company’s mail due to sorting confusion when personal letters are addressed to the company’s PO box.”
Well no, Emirates Post spokesman, that's disingenuous tosh. The internal sorting of company mail is none of your effing business. The blatantly obvious real reason for this ludicrous idea is that you want hundreds of thousands of residents to give you Dhs 300 every year, so you can bump up your revenues ahead of your impending privatisation.
Keefieboy for one will not be getting a private mailbox. Why on earth would he want to pay good money to receive bills, bank statements and junk mail?
I don't know quite what they're playing at over at Toot - at the start of this month they were hiding the vote results, but now the Top Ten is being shown and Raising Youssuf and Sabbah's Blog have popped out of nowhere with 7 and 6 votes respectively. This, obviously, will not do.
Ever since I started this blog, I've had a trickle of people asking that question either through the comments or via email. 'How do I get a job in Dubai?' I've been very happy to answer these enquiries, but lately the trickle has become more of a stream. I've had five such enquiries in the last week. So before the stream becomes a river, any future enquiries of this type will be referred to this post. Sorry an' all that, but time is short.
Remember, I'm just one guy, working in one industry. And despite what I used to tell my son when he was about five, I do not know everything. And half of the stuff that I think I know is actually just my opinion.
The answer to the number one question, how to get a job. Get your ass over here and knock on doors. There is a law here (I think) that says potential employers that you post or email your CV to are under no obligation to read it, and are absolutely forbidden from giving any kind of reply to it. So save the stamps, and when you have three and a half million of them, trade them in for an air ticket. The exception to this rule, of course, is if you see a job advertised in your own country.
The number two question: schools. Yes we have schools. For Westerners (the only flavour of people that write to me on this issue), you have a decent range of options, all of them expensive. For juniors, look at Jebel Ali Primary, Dubai English Speaking, Jumeirah English Speaking and Jumeirah Primary. Major secondary schools are Dubai College, English College, Jumeirah College and Emirates International School (International Baccalaureate). There are others, but the ones mentioned are the longest established. Expect to pay Dhs 30,000 to Dhs 60,000 a year, depending on the age of the child.
The number three question: look at my CV and tell me what I should be paid. I can't. But I can tell you that salaries tend to be stagnant - the idea of even a minimal 'cost of living' increment is pretty much unheard of, because officially there is no inflation (actually there is now, but the Gubment's idea of inflation over the last year - about 4% - bears no relation to the actuality - 30-45%). You need to look very closely at what your remuneration package includes. It used to be the norm that your company would pick up the tab for accommodation, a car, schooling, annual flights home for yourself and family, healthcare etc. These days, this kind of 'package' is increasingly rare - companies are tending to pay a flat salary and you have to sort everything else out for yourself. But working in Dubai is not easy - expect to work long hours, five, five-and-a-half or even six days a week. Don't expect to get any overtime pay.
And: the ultra-subjective question, is it as great as they say it is? Well, I don't know how great 'they' are saying it is. There are many plus points and a fair few minuses. Bear in mind that I am planning to leave in a bit over a year's time - I've had twelve years here, had some great times and some shite times, but really I've had enough.
The good stuff: No income tax. Sales tax only on booze and meals in hotel restaurants. Affordable domestic help. Food is moderately cheap. Climate is brilliant from October to May. Cars are cheap. Petrol is insanely cheap. Modern, well-developed infrastructure. Safe environment, very little crime. Fantastic roads and interchanges. You're never far from a beach. You're also not far from the desert and mountains. Unbelievable growth. Vibrant multi-cultural society. The old soukhs, if you can get to them. Unlimited ambition.
The bad stuff: Poor human rights record. Expensive telecoms, censored Internet. Erratic judicial system. The world's worst drivers live here (some of them not for long though). Congestion. Poor public transport (will change in about four years' time when the Metro is open). Shallow. Soulless. Superficial. Restricted job mobility. Vile weather in the summer. Uncontrolled inflation. Limited property ownership / investment opportunities for expats. Racism at all levels.
So I guess the answer is 'suck it and see'. One thing I'm sure of, there's nowhere like it on Earth, so come and have a look, at least.
A few years ago, Khaleej Times signed up with ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) to have their circulation figures audited. They made a huge song and dance about this, pointing out that they were the only paper in the Gulf to have done so.
Two weeks ago, Gulf News signed up with them and BPA Worldwide
..."and challenged them to apply the same stringent end-to-end transparency and standards across all other publications, (...)" said Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, managing director of the Al Nisr Group, publisher of Gulf News and associated titles.
Today, Gulf News has reported that ABC is withdrawing from the Middle East market
This confirms our belief that the previous audits offered by ABC could not stand up to intensive scrutiny," he (Al Tayer) said.
Very very strange. It doesn't actually matter to me which is the biggest selling paper. And to advertisers, it's not total numbers, it's demographic breakdowns that are crucially important. Khaleej Times is a woeful attempt at a newspaper that I read not more than once a week, purely for amusement, and only if I come across a free copy. I would never, ever, pay money for a KT. GN is a halfway decent paper that I probably buy three or four times a week.
But I can do without this constant and utterly pointless sniping.
As has been previously noted, I drive like an old lady, and am generally pretty careful when it comes to maneouvring metal boxes on wheels. So it is with some embarrassment that I present this story:
The Day I Crashed My Car.
First of all, don't get excited: it happened almost two years ago, and, as you can probably spot by the dates on these here blogicles, I'm not dead. Secondly, it wasn't 'my' car, it was a rental. A crummy little Toyota Echo.
Here's what happened. I had dropped BetterArf and Offspring off at their various schools, and was returning home. It was about 7.30 am. The weather that day was a little bit strange. There were clouds on the horizon, and the sun was just rising and trying to break through the clouds.
I was driving up the Gardens perimeter road. It had no speed bumps at that time (they appeared about a month after my accident). I was probably doing a little over 60 kph. I was completely unprepared for the sun on the horizon right in front of me bursting out from behind a cloud just as I rounded a bend in the road. I was completely blinded. I hit the brakes of the car, and then I heard a loud
The car seemed to be moving backwards, then sideways, and then it threatened to tip over on its side. Then it stopped moving. I looked up: the windscreen had shattered into a million pieces, most of which were inside the car, and quite a few inside my shoes. The passenger-side door pillar was bent inwards. Looking around, I saw that the car was parked at right angles to the road, perfectly positioned between two low hedges on the central reservation. Parked on the road opposite me was the obstacle that I had so definitely hit. A flatbed truck belonging to Messrs Al Naboodah. Why was it parked there? They were pruning bloody trees.
I staggered out of the car. No signs of blood. No signs of personal damage at all, in fact, except it was a bit hard to breathe. A car drove past and screeched to a halt. It was a friend of mine who lives close by. She called the cops and the ambulance. After what seemed like an age, a police car showed up. The guy just could not understand why I had rammed this truck with my puny Echo. He awarded me the blame (shukran habibi: I'm bloody dying here!).
Then the ambulance turned up and took me to Rashid Hospital. Well this was fun - I'd never been inside an ambulance before, and this one had magic windows that changed from clear to opaque at the flick of a switch.
On arrival at the hospital they all rushed around like crazy people and then, having established that I probably wasn't going to die straight away, they put me on a gurney and parked me in a corridor. I was sent for an x-ray or ten. And then back to the gurney. A grinning doctor comes up to me and says I've fractured my sternum (breastbone). He wants to keep me in for 24 hours. I protest, and he enigmatically asks me if I have life insurance.
So I'm on this gurney for a few hours while they try to find me a bed. A junior doctor appears and tells me I'll be getting 'nil by mouth', but it's ok because I'll be on this fabulous nutrient drip, and really, it's much better than the food. I am a bit upset. Because, not only was it my first time in an ambulance, it was also my first time as a hospital in-patient, and I really wanted to try the food!
Eventually they find me a bed in a ward full of sick people (ewww it was horrible). I was dying for a fag, but it was Ramadan. Oh, and hospitals are a bit funny about that kind of thing. I get changed into the uniform, and, disappointingly, nobody checks the cleanliness of my underwear. They give me some humungous painkillers and I have a kip. About teatime, BetterArf shows up with some reading matter - a couple of books and what looks suspiciously like a porn mag. It turns out to be FHM, but the cover pic is just astonishing!
Visiting time over, the other inmates get given food - looks like a nice biryani-type thing. I get nothing, and then I realise I'm not hooked up to a drip. When the guys come to collect the empties, they bring me a 'European' meal - grey soup, cold greasy chicken leg, mashed potatoes, peas, an apple and some orange juice. I realise I've eaten nothing all day, and this meal is certainly welcome. I'm not asking anybody about the nutrient drip.
I do a little reading, and then try to get out of bed to use the bathroom. I cannot do it. The forces involved in pushing yourself up all connect in your sternum. I summon a nurse who helps me get vertical, and decide that I will never lie down again. I'm ok while I'm standing or sitting in a normal chair, but being horizontal is just too much. Time passes, though, and I'm ready for a horizontal sleep. It's about ten pm. I struggle into bed, shut my eyes and start to drift off, and am totally horrified when the noise and population levels in the ward start to increase. It seems that because it is Ramadan, they have a late visiting session that goes on till midnight. Bloody hell, somebody give me a beer.
Next day I'm up at six, and breakfast arrives at seven - it was a chopped-up boiled egg, minus the yolk. Yukk. Cold toast, etc. I'm told I have to wait for the doctor, who'll be swinging by at about eleven. When he comes and has finished his inspection, I ask him what he meant about insurance. 'Oh, nothing', he says. 'Just that in cases like yours people sometimes have heart attacks and die, so it's better if you're already in the hospital'. Ah, thanks a lot.
Hey ho. They let me out at about one o'clock. And just in case you're interested, it takes two weeks for your sternum to repair itself, and during that time, getting horizontal and getting up again are absolutely agonising. Even when you have planet-sized painkillers.
So, it's official, the idiotic and completely bloody pointless 'boycott' of all things Danish is over. A conference of Islamic 'scholars' in Bahrain (according to Big Pharoah) has
issued a statement calling for the Muslim world to end their boycott of products made by the Danish company Arla Foods, the manufacturer of Lurpak butter.
I don't know why none of the local papers have reported this, but I did see a freezer at my local Choithram's today, packed to bursting with Lurpak. And the price is now Dhs 8.25, as against Dhs 7.50 before the boycott. I didn't check any sell-by dates.
I was supposed to tell you about our 20th Anniversary, wasn't I. Sorry, been a bit busy, but here goes. The evening was built around us going to see 'Carmen Cantera', a Spanish Flamenco/folk dance troupe at the Madinat Theatre, with a few buddies. The original plan was to have dinner at a posh restaurant after the show, but then we found out the show wouldn't finish until 10.30.
You understand, don't you, that we are Boring Old Farts with a very low Staying Up Late threshold, so we decided to eat before the show. Unfortunately the posh restaurants at Madinat Jumeirah don't turn the stove on until 7.30, so we scratched that idea and ate at one of the promenade restaurants. The Italian one, Toscana. I wasn't too impressed (if I'd wanted my main course destroyed by huge amounts of raw garlic I would have ordered that), but t'others enjoyed theirs, so that was OK.
As an hommage to our English heritage, somebody had arranged for a spot of rain as we arrived.
The show itself was entrancing, only slightly spoiled by two ignorant peasants receiving phone calls.
So it's a new month and all votes on Toot have been re-set to zero. Interestingly, they seem to have changed the system yet again, and apparently will not be showing any votes until the end of the month. Hmmm, not sure about this.
Anyway, March results for the record: Sabbah's Blog was number one with a staggering 22 votes, Adventures in Dubai came a close second with a gigantic 20. I know a lot of people were unable to vote because there is a programming error on the voting pages, but hey.
If you wanna vote for me again, feel free, but I won't be campaigning like I did last month. 'Thank goodness for that!' says BetterArf in the corner. I will have to find something else to amuse me.