Friday, June 30, 2006


Hadn't heard of this movie till I caught it on the in flight guide. I can only describe it as An Officer and a Gentlemen meets Rocky. It never really delivers on either front - but it kept me reasonably entertained particularly the sultry Jordana Brewster.

Overall 6.5/10 (it has to be better than Cheaper by the Dozen 2)

Cheaper By The Dozen 2

Having seen the first I was keen to watch this movie for two reasons a.I was coming to the end of a 6.30hour flight and was rather tired and b. for completeness

This really is the death of narrative cinema to quote a famous film critic. However I found it rather amusing with a wholesome feel. Also how could I not enjoy performances from Steve Martin and Eugene Levy ?

Overall 6/10

It is just the small differences

My second day in Dubai was much better than my first. After a rather restless night as I recovered from a little stomach bug I woke up feeling a lot better than the day before.

My mood also improved as I have been able to "borrow" a wireless internet connection so blogging from my hotel room has become a lot easier as has staying in touch with my nearest and dearest back home.

After yesterday's little trip to the Mall of the Emirates I thought I would sample what Deira City Center had to offer. I had a pleasant afternoon mooching around in there and was surprised to find a couple of sort after Nintendo DS games namely Metroid Pinball and Magentica. The giveaway black boxes they came in shows their US heritage and that works for me.

I found Deira City Center the type of Mall I would actually shop in as opposed to Mall of the Emirates where I would probably just gawp and stare at all the designer shops there. Also Deira I think has the upper in Electronic goodies - but I think I need a second viewing of the Mall of the Emirates just to be sure.

I am still in that odd stage where I keep trying to convert everything back into UK sterling and then deciding if something is cheap or not. Here are the things that are staples to me so far:

xb0x 360 Game - Hitman Blood Money- UK £50 /Dubai 259 AED (£40)
One Pint Strongbow - UK £2.50 / Dubai 22 AED (£3.40)
One 20 minute cab ride - UK - £20 (in Surrey) / Dubai 32AED (£4.90)
BK Whopper - UK £3 / Dubai (£2.80)

I hear from the expats that have been here a while that Dubai is getting more expensive all the time. Well from where I am standing it still seems quite reasonable especially considering the huge price of cars and petrol in the UK.

I feel that Dubai seems to have everything I need - except I have managed to leave my hayfever firmly back in the UK.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Touch Down

Early this morning I touched down at Dubai International. I flew Emirates air for the first time and I was impressed. The seats were comfortable their ICE entertainment system was excellent and the service was really good. I can only dock mark as the lamb dish I ate on the plane did not really agree with me and caused me to feel unwell most of today.

On landing at Dubai - I liked the airport - very modern and a whole host of shopping is available while you wait for your flights.

I had been a little worried about getting my visa at the airport but my company employed the services of Mahabra. This a visa service company where nice ladies in yellow jackets had my visa ready took me to an executive queue and even waited with me to get my bags and meet my ride to the hotel. All in all a very stress free service.

So Dubai - here I am. I find the place like cultural collision of the Far East and North America underlined with Emirate culture. I think it will take a me a little while to get used to everything.

The hotel I am staying at is good for a big rooms but sadly lacking in some of the more modern luxuries like broadband internet. So I find myself in an internet cafe just next door. I am sure I will get to know this place very well.

I did manage to go out and see a little of Dubai today and what a better place to start than with some shopping? I took a cab to the Mall of the Emirates. This is the places that hosts Ski Dubai an indoor 400m ski slope. Kind of weird to see that when the temperature outdoor is above 40deg C. After a couple of hours of mooching around designer stores I decided that this place wasn't for me and tomorrow I may do to Deira City Center to check out more electrical type stores.

So overall -
Emirates Air = good
Hotel = OK
Dubai = going take sometime to get used to

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pack it up, pack it in

The last two days have seen my stuff assembled into little brown cardboard boxes and out onto a not so little lorry. It was interesting to see them seal the container with a tiny sliver of aluminium - didn't seem much to protect all my contents. I was also impressed by seeing a huge articulated lorry in my driveway.

The ship that my container is on leaves Southampton docks on the 1st of July and is scheduled to arrive in Dubai on the 14th July. That seems really fast to me - and if this is the case the next thing I need to find is a nice apartment to live in. I am sure the subject of many a future blog.

T -17 hours till I all seems very real now my flat is empty, my car is gone, I have no keys to anything in the UK and all I have close to me are a few suitcases.

Next blog Dubai

Monday, June 26, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

All my bags are packed, I am ready to go - or so the song goes.

The weekend has been busy as I have offloaded as many things are possible to my nearest and dearest and did the last bit of DIY in the flat (not all of it planned).

I have been amazed at how much I have been able to accumulate in five years in my UK flat.
I think the thing that shocked me most was the sheer amount of clothes I have got. Despite giving away three huge black bags of clothes - packing three suitcases and the removal men filling 4 "wardrobe cartons" why is it so difficult to find something to wear? The lesson here for me is two fold - less is more and quality over quantity.

This morning three chaps from the removal company turned up and have neatly boxed up my worldly possessions in a matter of hours. I was really impressed especially the way they have put my sofa in what I can only describe as the world's biggest jiffy bag. The container arrives tomorrow so the nice chaps will be back to load that up and finish up the last bit of packing.

With that done I will drop my car off and spend a quiet evening with some close friends before heading to Heathrow.

Dubai here I come T minus 48 hours.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Two Screens are Better than one

Yesterday was the official launch day for the Nintendo DS lite I have to admit for falling for the hype and picking one up. Something that I am now very pleased that I did. I have owned a Sony PSP for sometime now having got one before the UK launch. The difference between the two is quite remarkable.

Sure the PSP is a marvel of engineering with a great wide screen display, super crisp 3D graphics and the ability to view photos/movies and listen to mp3s - it is just that none of the games I have played on it have really "grabbed" me. Not that I am short of PSP games I have over 20, but perhaps I have just not found the right ones.

The Nintendo DS lite on the other hand is a model of simplicity. The dual screens and touch screen are used perfectly in the few titles I have played. The games really have grabbed me and have refused to let go:

  1. Mario Kart DS - all my old favourite tracks from previous mario kart versions and a whole bunch of new ones - just the best Mario Kart ever on any platform
  2. Brain Training - some software that had introduced me to the word of sudoku (completed my first 5 sudoku puzzles ever) and has me enthralled with trying to improve my brain age
  3. Advanced Wars Dual Strike - just an awesome turn based strategy game
And I haven't even tried Phoenix Wright:Ace Attorney or Metroid Prime.

I will be keeping the PSP and exploring some other games on it - but for me the hand-held that goes in my hand luggage this Wednesday is the Nintendo DS Lite. In addition to my video iPod of course.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Life is for rent

For the removal of my effects to Dubai - Allied Pickfords have asked for me to inventory all my worldly possessions for the purposes of insurance.

This was no easy or short task to catalogue all my goods and to value them. I was left with a strangely empty feeling that the things that make home home for me are valued at £47k....

One week and counting

Well nearly time to make the trip to sunnier climes. Looking back over the past few weeks I have managed to get quite a lot done:

  1. Flat Rented
  2. Car sold (so sad to see that go)
  3. Tax man dealt with
  4. Work visa obtained
  5. Removals arranged

Just a few more things to sort out - need to get that kitchen rewired and perhaps a matching hob installed to go along with the new oven I just got. Other than that I need to start on the epic task of packing. I have managed to recycle over two years of PC and What Hi-Fi mags and given away about half of my spirits collection (can't take any of that with me)

This weekend will see me disconnect my digital life ready for Pickfords to come and collect it all - put it in a container and sail it all to Dubai.

Goodbye all precious toys ....

Knockout Stages

There will be a lot written about England's performance or lack of it this evening in the 2-2 draw. For me the whole thing is simple:

  1. England finished top of the group
  2. The avoid playing a dangerous looking Germany
  3. Bring on Ecuador
  4. Michael Owen sadly injured

Anything else is histrionics - oh and smashing goals from Joe Cole and Stevie G. I had to watch the BBC highlights just to here the Motson goal commentary - I can't help but enjoy it.

Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo

Having moderately enjoyed the original Duece Bigalow Male Gigolo movie - I thought I would give this a watch. Sadly it was really really awful and not even funnily bad if you see what I mean.

I give it 1/10 - only redeeming feature is that Kelly Brook makes a silverscreen appearance

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lord of War

An usual Nicholas Cage movie based on actual events of a gun runner. I liked his narrative thoughout the movie and the occasional "Jackie Brown"'esq gun descriptions in the movie. Overall 7.5/10


This was my DVD of the day a gritty performance by Keira Knightley - the weird thing is that
she smokes exactly like an old friend of mine Gemma W. This movie also has the main star narrating through it - not as well done as Lord of War from that point of view.

I give it 7/10 mostly for some of the dark comedy in it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Lord of Land

With my impending move to new shores the reality that I should actually rent out my current apartment in the UK was something I needed to sort out. Having finally come close to the conclusion of becoming a landlord for the first ever time I thought it prudent to document the things I have learnt over the past four weeks.

The first task in hand was to get some rental valuations from a selection of local agents. After I did this I was only ever going to select the agency that my good friend Stew G uses to manage his buy to let investment property - namely Luff Associates. Needless to say I found them very professional and having met Mary Luff of said company I have total faith in her ability to look after my flat in my absence. In the space of four days she found a pair of professional sharers prepared to take on my place for a 12 month lease.

Finding tenants was the easy part - getting the place ready to rent was another matter. Here are the things I had to get done:

  1. Landlord's certificate for Gas Boiler and Hob - cost 60UKP for the cetificate and about the same for the boiler service. Note to self I should really maintain the british gas service contract due to its age
  2. Landlord's certificate for the electicals also called a Domestic Installation Periodic Inspection Report - you need to get this done by a NICEIC electrician. This test showed a few faults in my wiring which will be rectified this week. Why did the people who installed the kitchen use cheap lighting flex for the plug sockets - so sad...
  3. Landlords contents insurance - seems that this is required for curtains, floors, light fixtures, appliance and everything else I leave in an unfurnished flat....This was easily taken care of by Endsleigh Insurance and the call center girl from Gloucester who I spoke to was really nice. This made the 160 quid premium all the more worth it
  4. Landlords building insurance - this is all ready covered by the joint residents insurance I have all ready
  5. The tax man - again after telling the tax office I am no longer resident in this country and despite making an overall loss on the rental of the flat vs mortgage/upkeep I had to fill in ANOTHER form this time a Non-resident Landlords form. Having done this I now have to complete a self assessment form every year now despite having managed to avoid this for the last two tax years.
  6. Professional Inventory, rent guarantee and legal expense insurance and professional cleaning prior to occupancy are all other additional costs that will be taken out of my first rent cheque along with the 11.5%+VAT fee for Luff Associates - means I doubt I will see any money at all for the first two months.
Having added up the cost of preparing and renting the flat out I am still trying to convince myself that I have done the right thing. People keep telling me I am....however they are not the ones who keep asking me for money....

Where is the Love?

This weekend a couple of friends and I went along to Wembley arena to watch the Black Eyed Peas and Pussycat Dolls play.

I came away from the concert feeling that the £35+booking fee I paid for my ticket was not only tremendous value but a key to seeing some truly excellent performances. The Pussycat Dolls performed with bucketful's of sexiness and were the perfect starter for an entrĂ©e of Peas.

Now, I am not a massive fan of the BEPs but after witnessing a over two hours of them deliver s across a gamut of musical styles I was well and truly hooked. My top five favourite moments from the concert:

  1. The whole crowd going "retarded" to the song "shut up" - I am not sure I have seen a crowd rock so hard
  2. Fergie's cover/tribute of "Sweet Child o'mine" - summed up her vocal talents
  3. William's beatbox/drumming solo - this dude really can walk and chew gum
  4. and Taboo's Hip Hop tribute to Eminem, 50 cent and house of pain - I really wanted to go to "the after party"
  5. The "Where is the Love?" performance - mobile phones are the new lighters...
I am now well and truly a converted BEP fan and will now promote both their albums to my iPod (heady heights indeed). The way they fused together a broad range of music from hip hop to reggae to make their own unique sound was nice to hear that a band whose songs do not sound the same but are instantly identifiable as BEP.

BEP music for the next generation?.......I think so.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Let's Automate

I was browsing the royal mail website to check on the cost of international mail re-direction (68UKP for a year seemed quite reasonable) when I came across a service they offer - - here you give them your change of address details and moving dates. Then go through a fairly extensive list of organizations from banks to charities that you might have contact with. For those that you have a relationship with you provide the relative details and the website informs them.

I though this sounded way too good to be true. After some initial excitement it seems that even in this Internet world we live in the royal mail are running this service for a good reason. From the 28 (!) organizations that they listed they could only move 4 electronically - the other 24 I would have to send them a letter! sounds like good business for the royal mail!

In fairness to the service it does provide a very good list of companies and government agencies that you really should inform when moving house and not just abroad - many of which would have escaped my attention.

Despite my best efforts with this service I have gone the manual route and am calling each of this organisations directly. Any I miss I will pick up via Royal Mail's re-direction service.

Well at least I tried....

Let it rain, let it rain

Had a fun business trip to Dublin. Got to have a good look around Croke Park a really amazing venue - the rebuild of Lansdown road has a lot to live up to. Shame I wasn't there 24 hours earlier as Robbie Williams had played a gig there the night before.

I am not sure what it is - but wandering around Temple Bar felt very "European" much more so than London. I think this was reinforced by groups of World Cup fans (Italy and Brazil) who were walking/singing in their national colours. It felt very cosmopolitan. To find the Irish spirit we took in some live Irish music and a couple of pints of Bulmer's finest Irish cider.

The trip was a little marred by a 2 hour delay to the flight home. We were only told of some "weather conditions" in London causing a flight backlog. Turns out there was a "monsoon" in London - shame there is more than likely going to be a drought order soon by Thames water.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Windows Vista Public Beta

This is now available for public download - the 64 bit version a 4.1GB download. I think I will give it a go - I am sure I have a spare hard drive that I can safely install it on to.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Tax Man Cometh...

Well at least I hope not. One of the attractions of working in Dubai is the prospect of 0% rate of income tax. However you need to declare to the Inland revenue that your are "not ordinarily resident" in the UK. There is a really nice explanation of what this means here. The short answer is that I need to be working abroad until at least April 2008 with no more than 183 days spent back in the UK and not to forget to complete a P85 form and have it stamped by the Inland Revenue.

The thought that coming back before April 2008 and facing a rather large tax bill on my return has really made me sharpen my resolve that I need to make things a success whilst I am there. Mind you, any other thought had never really occurred to me.

Well another form completed and sent off - I seem to be spending a lot of time filling in forms and dealing with bureaucracy. Whatever happened to e-Government?

Dubai Information

Sites that I have found really useful in my research into what I needed to do in my move to Dubai:

  1. The Expat Forums
  2. The Dubai Forums
  3. The UAE Emabassy website
  4. Expat Info
  5. Expat Focus Forums
There a few others but these were my main sources of information - enjoy.

G15 Keyboard

I know a few people who have got a Logitech G15 keyboard. Having seen one in action with the nice LCD HUD and blue glowing back lit keys I found it hard to resist - also my favourite PC game World of Warcraft will support it in the next pacth 1.11:

In the meantime there is a nice Team Speak mod which shows who is speaking and members leaving and joining:

and a whole host of other mods here:

I recommend one if you can get it. I am enjoying using mine - though I find it constantly reminding of my 400+ unread emails a little guilt inducing.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Banking and Driving

I have been advised that it was a good idea to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before heading out to Dubai to live and work. As a tourist on a visit visa you are able to drive on your UK license however if you are applying for a work visa you need either a local UAE driving license or and IDP to be able to drive.

To be able to get your hands on an IDP follow the instructions on the AA website - you need to supply photocopies of your UK photo license, the paper counterpart (which caused me to turn my flat upside down to find) and passport. I am really glad to have and all in one scanner/copier/fax device at home which makes these things a whole lot easier.

My other small achievement today was to open a HSBC premier account - while I have only ever had good service from my current bank they are unable to offer services that the HSBC can. Namely the ability to open a HSBC account in Dubai and for a much reduced fee easily transfer money back to the UK online.

I have to say that the service I got at my local HSBC branch today was remarkably good and within 45mins I had an account number and sort code. Of course you need to provide 3 months bank statements, passport and utility bill. However with all the other requirements for degree attestation and IDPs this seemed like a minor request.

Steps to get to Dubai - 1

Well - it seemed that getting the job in Dubai was the easy part. However transferring your comfortable familiar life 2500 miles away from leafy green suburbs to shimmering desert flats is not such an easy thing to do.

After accepting the terms and conditions of my new contract (with the same employer) I was asked to "Please have any certificate or diploma you may hold attested by the UAE authorities in the country where it was obtained" seemed a simple enough task....

This led to a couple of questions? Do I need to attest both of my degrees? And what the hell is "attest" anyway. So after a couple of late nights reading various forums and UAE embassy web pages and ringing up my new boss. I had to do essentially do three things with my most relevant degree (in my case my MSc):

  1. Get a solicitor to make a notarized copy of my original degree certificate
  2. Present this to the Foreign and Commonwealth office in the Mall, London to be legalized
  3. Take this attested and notarized copy to UAE embassy for attestation
Well this still might not make sense to some and certainly didn't to me. So here is how to do this in the best layman terms I can manage

  1. Get your original degree certificate (thanks mom) and take it to a solicitor and ask them to make a copy of it and certify and sign this a genuine copy. Be sure that an actual named solicitor does this - not as I found out the front desk of a solicitors office who stamps on behalf of a firm. I actually had mine done at a Solicitors at 1, Great Scotland Yard (cost £7). The solicitor there seemed to have a pretty good business stamping and signing confused looking peoples documents and handing out good advice to boot.
  2. With this in hand you need to take this to the Foreign and Commonwealth office (FCO) in the Mall. This can of course be done by post - however I was in a rush to get this done so that my work visa could be process as quickly (I am sure the subject of another blog). When you get to the FCO a nice man inspects your documents and sends you to the solicitorr if you haven't done your copy right. If all is well he gives you a ticket and you join the queue which was about an hour when I was there. When your number is called you go to the counter and give your document copy and £19 to a man - then go and wait some more. After a while you grab your certificate which has now been "legalizeded".
  3. Then I took this to the UAE embassy in Kensington and gave them this certificate, and a stamped addressed envelope and £20. I could wait around for them to do that and pay them another £10 - but by then my patience had worn a little thin so I got them to post it which take three working days. Be sure to get to the UAE embassy early as the attesment desk is only open 9.30am-1pm in the week.
So there it was - took about a week from start to finish - but could be done in a morning with a lot of waiting around.

I still have a lot of things to sort out:

  1. Obtain an International Driving Permit
  2. Open a HSBC account so I can transfer money via internet with no charge between the UAE and UK
  3. Tell the Inland Revenue and every other organization I have contact with in day to day life
  4. Pack all my gear up!
  5. Find somewhere to live in Dubai
All this and more I am sure - and only three weeks till I fly!