Big events have happened this year. Not just to me but in the World. I've not really commented on them to be fair.
Now is the time!
I've been quietly impressed with the Occupy thing. I hope it continues and I hope that something good comes of it because let's face it, something isn't right when the wealth is kept by the 1%. Fundamentally and ethically, that is wrong. I like to see that changed. How is the question however. It's all fine well saying this or that is wrong but the crux is surely what happens next. What happens when X is changed, what comes in it's place? It's kind of related to the situations in Libya and Egypt. They changed and that is commendable but what now. That's really the issue for me.
I've mentioned the 'phonehacking' previously. I still maintain what I said back then. Perhaps the new year will bring something on that. I hope so. Heads to roll? A change in power? Hard to say. Will it be another whitewash? I think it's too big to be that. Fingers crossed.
I can't continue without mentioning my beloved football. I really should get a hobby, but football is football. In Scotland there were 1, 700 punter's at a top level match. That is shockingly bad. That just goes to show how bad things are now. I've said it before but it's worth saying again. Cut the ticket prices, get the punters in. It's not rocket science. 3, 000 people paying £25 or 10, 000 people paying a tenner. I'd rather get the bigger crowd as it adds to the atmosphere. I hope this trend doesn't continue. Scotland needs football and a strong national team. Please please can those up the top do something.
What else has been bothering me?
The usual: inequality and lack of fairness around me and around the world. It's everywhere really. Heck, it's here in Dubai. Its in the company I work for, for goodness sake! I'd better not elaborate.
I can't think of anything else in the big, bad world. I am mostly in this little bubble. Previously, I was all 'militant' and had opinions on the big issues. These days, I'm less inclined and am more concerned with what's around me. Is that an age thing? Mellowing is perhaps what its called?
Can I really get away with a list of lists or even a best of for 2011?
Probably not. I might give up half way through, so lets see...
I've mentioned before that I've been a bit stuck in terms of music this year. I don't know if it's because it's been a slow year or if music is changing or it's age related. Perhaps all of the above. I have listened a lot to songs rather than whole albums.
That said, I really have listened a lot to Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX's 'We're New Here'. In many ways, its not something that I would have particularly listened to. It was a bit of a curveball but sometimes that is what happens. A little chance is taken. Often it turns out to be a poor choice, but not on this occasion. It's fantastic. I liked Justice's new album. It's not a dance record at all. It's a prog-rock album. Yes, you read that right. Who knew?
Honourable mention to The Rapture for In the Grace of Your Love. How Deep is Your Love was a fantastic first single. All cow bells and high hat. And a saxophone.
In terms of songs, I thought that Lotus Flower by Radiohead was one of the surprises of the year. How do they do that? It's bloody a dubstep song for goodness sake. It's been played a lot. So has Otis by Kanye and Jay-Z. It's old school soul and it's excellent. Predictable but I love the simplicity of REM's final single, We All Go Back to Where We Belong. And the video. Return to form, breaking up who cares, it's just one of those songs. I quite liked parts of Rustie and the Weeknd but definitely need more listens. The same can be said of Kitsune Tabloid by the Twelves. Liking it so far but only got it at Christmas!
Others? Definitely but I seem to have the attention span of a fish. Five minutes and that's about it. Needless to say, the hook up between Metallica and Lou Reed, clocking in at hours and hours didn't get a listen to.
Back to the bloody office today. I'd like to say that I was really looking forward to it and that I really did loads of work and was very productive. I wasn't. Instead, I was covering the classes of my colleague who was, yes you've guessed it, on holiday. I'll get my own back.
I'm trying to look ahead to the new year. It's quite hard though. So much I'd like to do. Isn't that always the case? By the same token, it's all about reflecting on what has been. Eventful, is perhaps the shortest way to describe 2011. There is no way that I can encapsulate all that has happened in one paragraph. I'm not that gifted. I hope that some of the posts that have gone before this one have given an insight into what has gone before. A snapshot, if nothing else.
Clearly, the biggest event took place on Friday 19th August. The 'I' became 'WE'. I don't recall if I ever did get round to describing what happened that evening? I'll recap, just in case.
In short, we had speeches and a buffet. Then this absolutely thrilling thing called 'Handfasting'. It was a 2nd ceremony in which we had some Highlander /think Braveheart extra/ conduct a traditional Scottish joining of hands. It was really meant for the evening guests. Often they come to a wedding and don't really get a flavour of what went before. We didn't want that. Everyone was called into the foyer by this Highlander. We were in the middle and he went through the ceremony. He asked the guests questions and everyone got involved by shouting 'AYE' at the top of their voice. It was something I've never seen before, ever.
Next was the dance. Cheryl Cole, 3 Words was the song. Not perhaps the most obvious choice but it had meaning. I had been worried about the dance. Four minutes of, well, dancing. In front of 120 + people. Not my idea of fun. But it was. It was brilliant. I couldn't care if anyone else enjoyed it. We did. And we finished 'on time'. After that, I could relax and enjoy it. Did everyone else? I hope so but by the same token, it was our day and we definitely did.
Yes, Friday 19th August. Eventful.
Other days were eventful. Perhaps too many to mention...
I took today off work. As well as yesterday actually. It's a normal working day for us lot, though a number of people did take a few days off. Back to the office tomorrow.
Today, we went and did a bit of a tour of the city for the in-laws. We had planned to go to the Jumeirah beach Park but when we got there, found that it was only for Women and Children. What a pain that was. Instead, we went to the Park. No beach but you can't have everything. We took most of the leftovers from yesterday i.e Turkey!
After that we went out to Global Village which is a big, glorified market. It's alright. I can't say that in all the times I've been, I've come away with anything but the missus is a fan of the pottery and getting some designer handbags for what are not designer handbag prices.
Then, finally, off out for an excellent curry at Coconut Grove in Rydes Plaza. It was massive and I really struggled with it. It was good though. I just know that the toilet at work tomorrow will be used. It comes with the territory!
Yes, that day. Merry Christmas. And the real reason for it, well, that has been lost somewhere along the way particularly whilst living in a Muslim country. That said, there are more than a few Christmas trees and bright, colourful decorations going around the Malls and shops here in Dubai.
Christmas Day with the sun shining and the temperature hitting 25C it is somewhat surreal. In my own house with my own missus and my own in laws. How times have changed for the better. I can say that completely truthfully and honestly.
A quick run down of what happened. Books and shoes and sweets and DVD's where the things gratefully received. It's always a very hard thing to receive things. I don't always feel particularly comfortable with it. By the same token, I find it very difficult settling on things to get for others. I really do my best and it does play on my mind in the run up. It's hard.
Most of the afternoon was spent 'in the kitchen'. As first assistant to the missus. I don't know how she managed to do what she did but my goodness, did she do an absolutely fantastic job of Christmas dinner. Turkey and all the trimmings. It was wonderful. I know it stressed the hell out of her especially since her folks were here but it worked and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I even had seconds.
Before dinner though, I did get to speak with them back home. They were just up and hadn't even opened their presents. What's wrong with these people?! Also had a couple of minutes with my brother and sister in law and my nephew which was lovely.
In the evening, it was the Inbetweeners movie and some drinks. The Inbetweeners was a brilliant TV program but I'm always wary of when a TV program is converted to a film. There have been a few misses on that front - Sex in the City and perhaps even X-files to name but two. I was praying that it wouldn't be added to that list. In the end, it was touch and go. Not quite as good as on the small screen but it had its moments. A decent attempt.
After the film, I think it was fair to say that the household were fairly knackered. It's often the case on Christmas day. I think the excitement of the past few days had taken its toll. Or perhaps it was the alcohol. Not sure. Either way, it wasn't a late night at all.
Half way. Or at least, I'd like to think so. Half way to kicking the bucket. Morbid thought but it really has been playing on my mind of late. Can realistically expect to live to 70? Using that as my basemark...then yes.
First though, this is what I did on my birthday!
I was very lucky indeed. My beautiful wife is amazing. She got me this very posh looking coffee machine, coffee and cups to go with it. I was touched. The box was massive and I must say that I had no idea what was in it. She continues to surprise me in so many ways. Fantastic. That was not all. I was told to get up and dressed by 12 noon. I did and I found a big birthday cake had been delivered. Then there was a knock at the door. "You can get that" she said. I did and it was some of our mates. What were they doing here? Not long after, another knock at the door. It was my boss. What the heck?
But, we cut the cake and had that. I got a 'slight' happy birthday sung to me!
Later in the afternoon, the missus, the in-laws and myself headed out. To where, I didn't know. I found out though. Afternoon tea at the Palace hotel. Quality! We'd been before and it was immense. Lovely finger sandwiches and cakes. Right up my street. All overlooking the Burj Khalifa. I think the in-laws really enjoyed as well which is what it is all about.
Next up, Wafi for cocktails. Then perhaps the most unexpected bit. At Wafi they had a Christmas themed light show. I wasn't expecting much but it was absolutely fantastic. I must explain that Wafi is a themed shopping mall of sorts. It's based on the Pyramids and has statues from that era. This light show was projected onto the statues. It was really innovative. They made the 30 foot high statues disappear!
Finally, it was off to the Dubliners. A local bar for a few beers followed by a walk down the street home.
I must say, my birthday has never really felt like an enjoyable day. It's Christmas Eve for goodness sake. Nobody cares, it's Christmas the day after and everyone cares about that. But, my feelings for it might just be changing. That though is entirely down to the best missus a bloke could have. Thank you.
Now that I've written all that, I can't be bothered writing about my 'half way' thoughts. Perhaps I'll save that for later when I'm less than cheery.
Yes, I've been on it before but it really is a great day out.
First up was a Falcon show in which they basically flew a Falcon around for a few minutes. It was a new addition to the Safari. It was interesting and a bit on the hot side, well, hot for December. Then was the drive through the sand dunes in our massive 4x4 beast. I quite enjoyed that. Bit bumpy but that's the whole point of it.
This was all topped off by dinner in the desert. It was ace. Kebab's, salad's, schwarma's. What else could you want?!
At the end, they switched all the lights off in order to let us see all the stars above. I really should learn about the constellations and where they are. It's pathetic to say that I don't really have any idea about them or where they are. What if I got lost and needed to use the stars to navigate. I'd be totally stuck. And lost.
And the down side to the day...the sand. In your shoes and elsewhere!
1. Left the house on time, left the building, walked across the road to Aviation College. At the college is a 5 level car park. I often park my car on the ground level. As you walk in to the car park, on the left is a door that opens on to you. This is the stairs to the higher levels. As I go to this door, it suddenly opened very quickly out and towards me. I literally dropped a brown log in my underwear. I didn't though. I didn't even have time to. Somehow I managed to stop before the door whacked me in the face. I didn't even manage to utter a single word to have a go at the bloke who opened it. I was in shock. A close call.
2. After my near miss experience, I walked up to the car. Something wasn't right. The drivers side door was open. Not just a little bit open but open by about a foot. It was clearly open. 'Oh god' I thought. I got in and everything was as I left it the day before. Somehow everything was still in it's place. Not only that, but the car was still there. In one piece. Not stolen or anything. I couldn't believe my luck. I just sat there in the drivers seat thinking 'bloody hell'. Then I recalled yesterday when I left it. I had got out of the car and went round to the boot to take stuff out. I then closed the boot and walked round to the passenger side. Thinking that I was done, I walked away from the car. I using use the remote to lock it. I pressed the bottom and usually it beeps when it's locked but it didn't. I tried again but nothing. I just thought that perhaps the batteries had gone. I went back and manually locked the passenger side. The beauties of central locking. I know realise that the reason the remote didn't work is because the drivers door wasn't closed. What a fool.
Thank god for that. A success. Yes, the away day came and went. Well, I say 'success', from my point of view it was. It'll be interesting to hear the feedback of the department when we get back to the office tomorrow.
I got to the venue about and hour and a half before it started. We had to get stuff laid out and prepared. I think that was the hardest part to be honest. The pressure was on actually. For this Rollercoaster activity we had a lot of equipment that needed to be put out. Thankfully we had enough equipment and when the teams came to start it, they really got into it. Essentially they had to make a 'rollercoaster' using pipes and bamboo sticks etc. We also gave them a metal ball. The ball had to go from the top of the 'rollercoaster' to the bottom in something like 10-20 seconds. No mean feat to be honest. We set some conditions, like the rollercoaster had to start at a height more than 6 feet and had to finish at a height of 6 inches. They really did well and hats off to them.
After lunch was our talent show and again, my colleagues really continue to surprise. They really went for it. There was singing, dancing, acting...it was tremendous. It seemed as if everyone had a smile on their face at the end. In many ways, that was the whole purpose of the day. That is especially true given that our department has never been busier on the training front.
At the end of the day, my feet were totally aching. I hardly sat down all day. That comes with the territory though. On top of that, my in-laws flew into Dubai last night at 1am. Me and the missus went and got them. I had no issue at all with doing that, in fact I wanted to. It just meant that we both didn't get a full nights sleep and because of that, I was certainly feeling a bit drained. Not only that, it was the nervous energy in the build up to the day that finally was released.
Until next year! (Not sure if I want to get involved in organising it though!)
On Wednesday, we were due to have a departmental away day. It was all organised, everything was pretty much ready for it. I got to work on the Tuesday and I knew I had a few bits and bobs to do but mostly small things like printing off the agenda, making sure materials were in place. Being one of the lead facilitators, today was going to be difficult but I had tried to make it 'less' difficult.
Then I saw an E-mail from my boss. Suddenly I knew it was going to be a difficult day. We were planning on launching individually tailored developmental plans to everyone in the department. We had spent the past 3 weeks writing it, preparing it, researching for it. It was essentially done. My boss even OK'd it. Yet, this E-mail blew it all away. Apparently, we hadn't included a lot of 'stuff'. Why, at the last minute, was this being drawn to our attention?!
I literally blew my top!
In the end, I helped out, got the last minute changes done and left the rest of the dirty work to my colleagues. I can't be doing with last minute-isms. Perhaps it's a cultural thing but they do my head.
Alas, come the end of the working day, I was set. I had everything ready and that's all I could do really.
The day out was going to be at one of the local golf clubs. A really lovely location actually. We had 2 activities planned. The first involved team work to construct a scale model rollercoaster. The other activity was basically a rip off of America's Got Talent. I was excited about them, but there is always that fear that the activities might go pear shaped. All in all, it was going to be a day away from the office with a free lunch included.
I took my car in for it's 'end of warranty' service this morning. I've had it 3 years now, surprisingly. It's still is decent condition. A few chips in the paint though which bother me. They bother me because they have been caused by other people. People who open their doors and whack the side of my doors. I'd have a rant and a rave about it but what's the use. The bigger cars pick on the little cars here. And I've got a small car. It bothers me because I try to take care of my car yet this idiots have little regard for others. O.K. I'll shut up!
End of warranty service. That's what I was going on about. In all it took about an hour. I went back to pick it up and the only thing they told me was that I might need to replace the A/C gas. In this part of the world, I would not want to go without A/C come summer time but for now, I can cope. Besides, the A/C works totally fine. Perhaps they just want more money out of me. And I got a free car wash. Not all good news though. They ran it for 80 km's during the service. That's a lot of petrol when you have a small car like mine. Can't really complain too much though.
In other 'events', I was watching Midnight in Paris. Woody Allen directed it and it starred Owen Wilson. I must say, it's not all that bad. It's a bit farfetched but for a couple of hours escapism, it ticks a lot of boxes.
As a period piece, the attention to detail is excellent. That said, why
didn't Hemingway, or Dali or Fitzgerald ask why Owen Wilson's character
was wearing such strange clothes? Or anyone wonder where all these 'new'
words in his draft novel had come from? How did he manage to get back
to the present?
Yeah, nitpicking, I know!
One further thing, Owen Wilson as the lead though?!
There we were, sitting in the back of a taxi on the way home from a leaving party. It was around midnight. We had been at the Address next to Dubai Mall. Despite the hour, it was fairly busy. A lot of people going around and also a lot of cars. We needed to get out of the Dubai Mall 'complex' and on to Sheik Zayed Road to take us home. It would generally take 20 minutes or so for me to drive and I don't drive fast!
We approached a set of traffic lights in the extreme left lane. There were 3 other lanes to out right. Each one of the lanes started to fill up. We were a distance from the lights themselves. We waited. And waited. And waited. The lights didn't change.
In Dubai, drivers are notoriously impatient. Waiting just isn't done yet here we were, literally sitting for 5 minutes waiting for the lights to change. I know that because the meter in the taxi had a clock timing the journey. We kept waiting. Then came a brace of horns. Patience had snapped from drivers behind. The horns got louder and more frequent. Still the lights didn't change. The horns kept coming.
In the end, the cars at the front had had enough and even though the lights were still at red, the cars went for it! All of them!
What could the Police do on seeing the footage? Give tickets to everyone?! It was quite a sight to be honest. Total disregard of the lights. Imagine that was to happen en masse. Chaos!
That wasn't the only notable thing on the journey home. Our friendly Syrian driver was mental. He drove super duper fast. I was scared. He was like 130Km/h downhill on a slip road. Needless to say, seatbelts were on. We did make it back in one piece. Somehow.
I just can't quite believe how stupidly busy things are at work. I've rarely been this busy. The thing is, I don't really know how. I think it's probably been due to me taking more things on and being really intolerant of my colleagues. That's sounds harsh as anything but it's true. If you want something done, there is little point in waiting for them to get this moving. I do it myself now and get on to them to do the bits that I don't fancy. Perhaps that's called delegating but I kind of think I'm being rude telling them to do X or Y. And by Z. I suspect that's business for you. Maybe the penny has dropped for me. That's how to do things. Don't wait for others to take the lead. Instead, take the lead. Get it done and if that means annoying people then so be it*.
* I have had a cold this week and that probably hasn't helped!
Finally, the Christmas shopping is close to being complete. Thank you interweb thingy, websites and posting and packaging. Without it, I might have been stuffed.
Clearly I can't divulge what I've got for people but needless to say I did what I could. I'm not the most imaginative person when it comes to getting things for people but I do what I can. This year, I've done O.K. Not one gift voucher in sight. That in itself is a cause for celebration!
The question is now, will everything arrive at their destinations on time?
Back at work. A full working week ahead. 5 days. Was thinking that this will be my first full working week since the end of October. I wonder if the energy levels will suddenly fall come Thursday, if not before. Can't be bothered!
I can't really afford to not be on the ball this week. Got deadlines to meet. We're making this development booklet for everyone in the department, essentially it outlines areas and related courses that our staff can do to help develop them within their job and increase their skills so that they can move to a higher level position. It's going to be job specific which is great as we don't have anything like that currently. The downside is that it means we'll need to make 4 or 5 different versions to cater for everyone. Around 60% of each will be the same which isn't too bad. That might help us timewise.
I've got until Thursday to get it done. That is quite tight but to be honest, I want it done by Wednesday, which is even tighter. At least if it's in place by Wednesday, Thursday can be the day for tweeking it if need be. After that, it needs to get signed off by the management then printed, ready for the big unveiling the week before Christmas.
The final day of our long weekend. Back to work tomorrow. What a thought that is. On the plus side, another long weekend coming up over Christmas. Made sure I got those days off work that's for sure. First come, first served.
It was a morning for sunbathing. Yep, on the roof beside the pool. It was lovely. The right side of warm with a little breeze. Topped off with a little swim.
In the afternoon, a sly visit to the pub to sit outside and have a cider or 2. Haven't done that for ages. Sadly, no Magners on the go but Strongbow. I'd forgotten how bitter that tastes compared with Magners. Alas, it was nice just to sit out and have a drink. I did feel a bit tipsy on the way home but given that we are a 5 minute walk, it was easy to disguise my tipsyness!
That's it though. No more drinking until, eh, well, Wednesday actually. Mulled wine and mincemeat pies on offer at the Irish Village around the corner from 6pm. Got to get there early for that. In fact, I think there is a carol concert at the same time. That's not weird, is it? A carol concert, mulled wine in a Muslim country whilst sitting outside in the sunshine.
I never win anything. Raffles, lottery you name it, I never win. I suppose I'm just not a lucky kind of guy when it comes to that kind of thing. I'm lucky in other respects - getting nice jobs, having a beautiful wife, the usual!
That all changed today!
I was doing the weekly shop at Carrefour. I hadn't even planned to go there but changed my mind at the last minute. I had my list and my 1 Dirham coin for the trolley and off I went. I don't mind Carrefour. They mostly have everything that we need. But, the reason for not going all that often is that it is generally packed out, particularly late on Friday's. Thankfully though I got there early afternoon. Not too bad.
So, I picked everything up that I needed and headed to the check out. The missus called me en route and because of that I moved towards 'her' end of the shop. I settled on the checkout that I would spend less time at and went for it. There were only a couple of people in front of me - and no one lurking to jump in front. I loaded my stuff onto the conveyor belt. The guy in front paid up and it was 'my' turn. The missus had turned up by this point so began to pack stuff away.
Just as she started this other bloke rushed towards us with a microphone. He was saying something into it that I didn't quite get. Behind him was some other store worker. She was busy with some documents or other. The bloke with the microphone then asked the cashier if he had 'started' to which he said 'yes'. The guy with the microphone let out an almighty 'we have a winner!'
Needless to say, I didn't have a clue what was going on. The missus being the missus was mortified and wanted to escape as soon as possible!
As it turns out, the bloke with microphone was an MC. He and his colleague had a 'wheel of fortune'. The numbers on the wheel corresponded to a checkout number. He had spun the wheel and low and behold, the number of my checkout had come up. A minor miracle. The prize? My trolley full of shopping was free!
Sadly, it wasn't the biggest shop ever but it was still a sizable one and to get it free, well, beggars can't be choosers!
I wonder long long it'll be until I win anything else?! Another 30 years?!
December is here and with it, my advent calendar and the Christmas tree.
Yes, a Christmas tree in Dubai. Decorated with snowmen no less. The cheek of it. It's a big one, 7 foot but not real, don't worry although I have seen a certain place selling real ones. It's now in the corner of the living room looking a little bit isolated actually. We've got quite a big living room you see.
But the tree is awesome. Clearly, I can't take much credit for it, the missus does!
Christmas Cards to be written followed by the gifts. The Christmas cards are the easy bit. The gifts though. Hmm. I've got an idea of what to get but it's getting them. Then getting back to the U.K. for folks. Tricky.