Monthly Archives: December 2005

From Blackpool to Riyadh

While watching Flog It on BBC today (a ghastly programme where pikey people flog their relatives’ prized possessions, usually “for a bit o’ cash to spend on a five day break in Tenerife”) the commentator started talking about the Blackpool illuminations. The illuminations are a 6 mile visual assault of flashing lights and fairground attractions, peppered with dodgy nightclubs – tacky but fabulous.

Apparently, the illuminations are much sought-after for resale purposes. According to the nice man they were interviewing: “We sell loads to Skegness. And even to Saudi Arabia. One year, Colonel Gaddafi tried to buy the whole lot!” Apparently, the market value for 6 miles of flashing lights is more than ??9 million… glad to see that’s what is catching the eye of Arab leaders these days.

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Falling foul of the census

I had a call from Newman yesterday, to say that Dubai Municipality had come to my apartment and wanted to ask me some questions about the census. Why is it that mention of the census brings out the guilty schoolkid in all of us? When asked if I lived alone, I had to say yes, even though I have been harbouring fugitives – both friends and family – all year.

Unfortunately, Newman and I forgot to get the story straight on why he was in my apartment. I told the Municipality man on the phone that it was my cousin; Newman said he was a friend. Oops. Needless to say, they’re coming back again (and Newman’s hiding behind the curtains).

After all, unmarried men and women living together is technically illegal here, yet of course, loads of people do it, whether as couples, or house share enforced by exorbitant rents. And yes, they have been known to enforce this – two couples I know were jailed for cohabiting.

The Lion, the Witch and the WTO

Newshound Tim has sent me a story that ran on a financial news wire in Asia today, AFX. It’s staggeringly good, though I have no idea how it got through the editorial radar) ….

WTO MEETING – Narnia walks out of talks; says tired of EU, US ‘bullying’
HONG KONG – The independent state of Narnia has walked out of trade negotiations here, citing pressure from the European Union and the US to enforce liberalization of its garment-related sector.

Narnian spokeswoman Susan Aslan said in a statement that delegates “were tired of bullying by EU and US delegations and would be returning immediately to their state capital at Cair Parvel.”

Having said that, it’s about as plausible as half the news announcements in Dubai this year – who remembers Rotating City? Or even Chess City, where you could in theory live in Pawn Tower?

Great Expectations

Amber and Chip have taken the idea of a modern marriage to extreme. Chip has taken to reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting in the vain hope his wife will get the message (at least, Amber hopes it’s a hint and not a sign of something altogether stranger). And, at Chip’s office party, he was chatting away with three mothers, pumping them for info, while Amber kept sneaking off to watch the football.

When asked if Chip had any insights to share on their hopefully-impending family expansion, Amber mumbles: “Dunno. It’s a massive book, so I’m hoping he’ll just give me the edited version to save me reading it. I’m contemplating using it for a door stop or for weight training, but he reads it every night till I drag it off him.”

Monkey business

After what seems like forever, King Kong has arrived in Dubai cinemas. Newman and I trekked across to Grand Cineplex to see it, and were disappointed. Yes, it is the finest film to star a monkey in the last 20 years, but that doesn’t say much – remember Marky Mark Wahlberg’s shockingly bad remake of Planet of the Apes, or even the kids’ movie VIP (Very Important Primate?), and Spanking the Monkey.

The CGI was far less believable than in the director’s fantasy epic Lord of the Rings, and there were just too many dinosaurs. But, what is truly unforgiveable, is that King Kong changed size several times. When the waifly screamer Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) was sitting in his palm, she was dwarfed. Yet when he was lying prostrate at the end, the bystanders were about the same size as his forearm.

But few cinematic experiences in Dubai are able to warm the cockles of my heart – thanks to the management’s habit of turning the AC down to arctic. Even Grand Cineplex by Wafi (my preferred haunt as it used to be the warmest) has now graduated to two-pashmina status. Ibn Battuta and Mercato have one-sweater and pashmina ratings, but the worst offender is Metroplex on Sheikh Zayed Road, which demands full thermals, socks, gloves and a balaclava.

Changing values for Al Wasel

Why has Etisalat changed its Al Wasel cards to Dhs25 from Dhs30? It’s bad enough having to have a pikey top-up pay-as-you-go phone, without having to scrape more cards for the same credit. But as long as a Dhs5 change in value justified the move for Etisalat ….

The real DIFF – Swoony Clooney in Arabia

Syriana, the movie shot partly on location in Dubai, is about to open in America. The film’s writer-director Stephen Gaghan claims the film will help moviegoers understand some of the intricacies of Middle East politics.

According to the New York Daily News, Gaghan said: “To see people sacrifice their personal ethical systems in the face of money and power isn’t unique to Persian Gulf kingdoms. It happens in Hollywood every day.”

The film is about oil, power and politics in the Middle East, and Gaghan gave a real insight into majlis speak. “There are some real similarities in the way that powerful men talk in [Washington] D.C. and the way they talk in Beirut, Damascus or Dubai.”

Sadly, I don’t know anyone in Dubai that talks like Swoony Clooney, but there you go. For the record, Matt Damon is apparently much smaller in real life than he looks on celluloid “and a bit disappointing” according to one Damon demon stalker friend of mine.