Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Very British Affair

This weeks vacation back in the UK was a lot of good despite Gloucestershire losing its water supply. I really hope if gets restored soon, as just my short stay there proved to be uncomfortable – particularly as my parents had a number of my auntie's visiting. It was excellent to see them again and one of them I had not seen in over twenty years – I plan to go and see them again all next year.

My main reason for heading back to the UK, was a very old and dear friend of mine was getting married. All weddings are unique in their own way, the one I attended this weekend was without doubt the poshest wedding I have been to.

I got a feeling it was going to be something special when on the invite:

Dress Code:

Armed Forces
Please wear number one uniforms with medals and swords.

Boys in black tie and ladies in evening dresses

The venue was nothing less than spectacular. The pre-drinks took place in the Royal Fusilier museum and the ceremony took place in the Royal Fusiliers Chapel. Both of these are situated in the Tower of London – my favorite tourist attraction in London and home of the Crown Jewels.

Having a wedding ceremony in such a historic building brings a real sense of occasion and also one of huge curiosity from the masses of tourists enjoying a fine British summer afternoon. The groom as a serving Royal Fusilier was simply able to request the use of the museum and chapel as this there HQ – it all seemed amazingly simple.

The military theme of the wedding and day was prevalent and made for a very formal occasion. Mr Campion who was lucky enough to be an usher (seen below in the kilt)

Commented that in the 'briefing' prior to the wedding for the ushers was done with military precision. It went something like this:

“At 15.45 hours please take your pre-assigned positions and guide the guests to the Chapel. At 16.00 hours we will all collapse to the Chapel for final preparations”

Mr Campion's response (other than “Sir, Yes Sir) was “Collapse at 16.00 hours? I haven't even had anything to drink yet!”

The wedding ceremony was performed by the battalion reverend who at the age of 85 was retiring that day. Suffice to say he was quite a character and I have never heard a sermon before where he described a story where he was told to “F Off”. Larger than life would not even come close to describing him.

The guests who came in full military number outfits provide the guard of honor outside the church for the guests and happy couple to walk through. It certainly was an impressive site:

It also caught a lot of attention from tourists who joined in the round of applause once they “fell out”

After the ceremony we traveled to the TA base of the Royal Artillery. Which was perhaps the most surprising aspect of the day. I walked through the main gate not really sure what to expect – I was then greeted by a very lush looking cricket field accented by the Royal Artillery's freshly polished cannons:

The reception was held in a magnificent oak panelled drawing room with huge portraits of British Monarchs including Queen Elizabeth II. Despite the surroundings the reception was incredibly fun with heartfelt speeches and a lot dancing to the very good live band.

Seeing Maria and James take their first dance and watching the delight they were having summed it all up for me.

I wish you all the very best in your new wedded life together.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Shifting and Fixing

A couple of weeks ago my time as a Dubai Marina resident came to an end as my lease expired and it was time to the move into Casa Jumeriah. Packing up and moving house is something that has to be at the top of my “least favorite activities”. I think it has something to do with this amount I had to do as a student, where moving all your gear out at the end of each term was standard.

However Dubai has man power a plenty the pain of this can be eased considerably. A lot of my friends swear by the services of the chaps who hang out in Kuwait Street and for as little has 250AED they can “shift” virtually any amount of possessions.

As I needed to put a lot of my furniture into storage but still have things for moving to Casa Jumeriah this led to a rather more challenging “shift” than usual and required the labelling of everything to either “local” or “storage”. I ended using a recommended firm called Total Moving Solutions (TMS), the chaps from TMS managed to do two things

1.Turn up in force (there was eight of them)
2.Work like demons for 12 hours

Here they are packing the lounge:

And they certainly had no shortage of packaging materials:

Still I managed to end up with ten boxes too many boxes at the villa and for some inexplicable reason I have ever pair of shoes with me other than my favorite snake skin ones. I guess I will have to live without them for the next six months.

The whole day was quite fascinating. The team of movers had a very obvious foreman who directed the other guys with a healthy does of assertiveness and certainly had the best command of the English language. Later that day Ganesh (the sales guy) came over to see how everything was going and issued a few commands of his own to the foreman which were then relayed to the rest of the guys doing the packing. I caught a glimpse of a very interesting hierarchy that I was hither to never exposed. Though this all seemed to disappear when I found all of them sat in one of the empty bedroom floors enjoying a very delicious smelling lunch of curry and chapatis. I would like to extend a big thanks to TMS for making the whole process easy.

Moving into Jumeriah has all ready shown me a different much more residential and dare I say “homely” side of Dubai. In six months when my apartment in Dubai Marina is complete I will have a tough choice to make. In the meantime I will enjoy living with my friends.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Bridge of Troubled Waters

On my vacation back to the UK this week, I arrived on the day of some really bad flooding. (Snow, Terrorism, Flooding - respectively on each my last visits to the UK I am wondering if I should stay in Dubai more)

The following day I was helping a friend rescue her sodden possession's from a ground floor apartment that had received three foot of water over night and mysteriously had all gone the following morning. It had certainly left its mark though and the fridge, bed and sofa had all floated and ended up in different places. The fridge was blocking the kitchen door and had to be "kicked in" to gain access.

It was heart breaking for me to see a good friends worldly belongings become ruined. When she opened up a small jewellery box to see her favourite necklace not there and only half a pint of dirty dank water emptying out, it was really a sorrowful sight.

Still everyone rallied around and have provided her a place to stay while the repairs happen and storage for most of her things. I left feeling a sad but heartened by the community spirit and great circle of friends I have who all pitched in to help.

The following day I spent a glorious afternoon and evening in my old stomping ground of Putney. At night the Putney Bridge over the Thames is really a nice sight and typifies London for me:

It is odd to think that this water looking so serene one night was causing so much destruction such a short time before.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

So Salik Can Stay...

Salik is the new road toll that was introduced at the start of July as has been the topic of numerous posts from the UAE blogger community. As well as being a popular topic of conversations in the pub or over dinner. I have resisted the urge to comment so far while I continue to patiently wait for the PIN to my Salik account to arrive via SMS to me.

However, something did make me smile about Salik. While listening to my favourite Dubai talk radio station - 103.8m Eye on Dubai, they have a little segway which goes something like this:

"Where are you suppose to put your Salik sticker on your bike?"
"On your helmet"

While photographic evidence would suggest the contrary and a nice Salik sticker obscuring a good proportion of the windshield would appear to be the solution:

I trust should other Emirates choose to implement their own road toll systems that they all use the same sticker - otherwise the only view out of the windscreen we will have will be very small indeed.

EDIT: As if by magic this morning I received an SMS from Salik informing me my balance was below 30AED - this was excellent. A quick phone call to the call center had me furnished with a PIN. Now if only their online re-charge was working I would be in Salik bliss.

Land of the Brave

It has been a hectic time of the last couple of weeks which sadly has impacted my blogging time. But now normal service has been resumed.

At the start of July I took a trip to Scotland for our Annual sales kick off event. I really enjoy visiting Scotland and the highlight of the week for me was a visit to the wonderful steak restaurant at the Champany Inn situated in Linlithgow. Last time I went (some years ago) I ordered a rather immense Porterhouse that was still on fire when it arrived, however this time I went for a rib-eye and it was a much more manageable size and just as tasty to boot. The restaurant while small, has a real sense of occasion with wood paneled walls and Scottish hunting artifacts hung around the place. I like walking in and looking at the live lobster and oyster pool and on our arrivals the steaks were being rested:

A few years ago I went on a Stag weekend to Edinburgh and I vaguely recall having a fantastic night out in a pub called the "Three Sisters" I went back to reminisce:

This time it was a much more sedate affair, I left the twenty rugby boys and fancy dress at home. We had an enjoyable evening in Edinburgh and I certainly enjoyed all the new (to me) bars in George Street particular Tiger Lilly where there super cool atmosphere made a great accompaniment to delicious Mojito's.

The return to Dubai via Glasgow airport was hectic through the all the holidaymakers and the Emirates flight was totally packed. As a gold skywards member I was impressed that they had a list of us and we were treated especially well and we even got upgraded. With the number of families with young children I thought the escape to the haven of the Business class cabin would be bliss. I could not be more wrong.

As I sat their enjoying the latest podcast from David Pogue I could hear a very distinct high pitched wailing from a young child which continued for the whole flight. Now I do not really mind this but me and my fellow business cabin travelers had a few other things to contend with. Two hours into the flight a passenger collapsed in the cabin. The Emirates staff to their credit, were excellent in their response got him the medical attention he needed (he was smiling and joking by the time we landed) and even located a doctor on board to check him out.

While this was happening and the cabin crew were dashing around ,the chaps in the seat in front of us decided to recline. However a strange clicking sound indicated the in-seat motor had broken and the chair back nearly ended up on my seat-mate's legs:

The staff were unable to fix it, so the passenger who had reclined ended up in the rather unusual position of being full reclined for landing - probably not the best thing to have happened.

At the end of this week I will be boarding another Emirates flight back to the UK for a small vacation. I hope to have a much more restful flight this time - even in economy.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Must Be Something Inside

I am not usually one for car stickers - but I saw one yesterday in the car park in Dubai that really made me smile. One word I did not put into my Bluffer's Guide to Tagalog was the word "Pogi" meaning handsome:

This little Chevvy had numerous "pimping upgrades" but this was by far and away the best.

Monday, July 02, 2007


It is strange to think that of all the places I need to travel to for my job that encompasses over 98 countries the first time I have ever encountered any form of terrorism should be when I go back to the UK. I was enjoying a quiet Saturday evening in Dubai when on Sky News broke the story of the incident at Glasgow airport. So it was with a little trepidation that I flew into Glasgow airport this morning - I had no real reason to be worried. The security at the airport was very tight with a very high police profile.

The damage to the terminal was evident to see and the smell of the acrid smoke that I saw on Sky News still hung thick in the air. Here is the scene some 36 hours later:

The airport was very busy with reduced number of check in terminals, a very odd zig-zag walkway to get into and out of the airport and of course the slip roads to the front of the airport were closed. As ever the great British public simply soldiered on and I have great admiration for the service staff at the airport placating a large number of tourists.

I will be back in the UK later this month - I hope that the security level is reduced from the critical level it is currently set to.