Sunday, 29 May 2011

Oh, grow up Dubai!

Dickens talks about how Mid Victorian society has a veneer (I'm going to suggest that this was in Dombey and Son, but please don't quote me on this because I have just spent the last 40 minutes flicking through the 927 pages and I can't find the quotation - just take my word for it!). He discusses how, if you lift off the rooftops of the middle class houses, and peer closely at those pious, respectable people, you would be shocked by what really goes on behind closed doors. Things in Victorian society were not all they seemed to be. Dubai is very similar. As a tourist what you see is the veneer of glitz and glamour; the architecture, 5 star hotels, exotic restaurants and designer shopping malls. As a resident the view is far more complex: the view that underneath that veneer of sophistication is a nation desperately struggling against western culture whilst trying to appear to be accepting of it.

For example, a multinational city needs rules and laws to live by and there are rules and regulations here, like there are in any city, the difference is, that only a few of them are enforced. There is a smoking ban, but you can smoke pretty much anywhere: you should strap your child into a car seat, but most don't; there is a ministry for everything (I collectively refer to them as 'the Ministry of Magic') but, tell me, what do they do again?  Take consumer rights of any kind. Buy something here at your peril because if anything goes wrong, you have no recourse whatsoever. I have experienced this first hand over the past three months.

We purchased a desktop computer. It doesn't work; it has never worked. The well-known-digital retailer has tried to repair it four times, and although they have admitted they can't fix it, they refuse to replace it. Why? Because they know we can do absolutely nothing about it.

And last week, I laughed out loud to hear the discussion on the radio of the Snoop Dog concert. He pitched up on stage wearing a Kandora and was swearing, apparently. An American rap star swearing, you don't say!? It does beg the question of whether Dubai can cope with Western culture doesn't it? You can't have it both ways. If you invite western culture in, then you have to accept it for what it brings. And this just might mean that Dubai has to lose the adolescent temper tantrums, and just grow up.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Would you like wine with that?

I am in danger of liking cooking. Anyone who knows me is now rolling on the floor laughing. OK, so in the past I may have hinted that (a) cooking is not my favourite pastime (b) it is not a skill I excel in and (c) should only be endured whilst accompanied by wine (which I may occasionally add to the food).

But recently, I have begun to enjoy preparing food for dinner parties. I will concede that the eating, chatting and drinking bit is still more enjoyable than the cooking part but nevertheless, and I am choking on the words here, I like it. And, what is more bizarre, is that my friends like it too - my food I mean. They actually eat it and make those 'hmmm' noises. Perhaps they go home and cry, lamenting the terrible endurance test of eating my food, but they are good actors if they do.

As cooks go, I am messy. I can hear my maid tutting when she hears the pans rattling in the kitchen, wondering what disaster she will find when I have finally exhausted my culinary curiosity. The cat, if I had one, would scurry away in fear of its life. The children, ever stalwart in their innocence, will pop into the kitchen, sniff the pots and pans, dip a finger in and pronounce the verdict.

Is this new found hobby a result of getting older? Am I  in danger of becoming my mother or my mother in law? Or God forbid, Delia Smith???? No, it is the realisation that if I want to eat decent food in my own home, cookery is a skill best mastered!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Tail wagging the Dog

The news made me chuckle the other day (as is often the case when living in a Country where the news is censored). In the same breath, the newsreader reported that Peter Werth had gone bankrupt and Boots Pharmacy had made record profits. So, Britain is a nation of badly dressed hypochondriacs then!

The Pharmaceutical industry is huge and powerful, though, isn't it? I went on a training course on Monday and sat next to this lovely Egyptian woman who, despite being a qualified Dentist, was working for a pharmaceutical company, working with people who had HIV or Cancer. She explained that the work was far more challenging, and, I suspect, better paid.

I am beginning to understand just how the pharmaceutical industry drives the medical profession - a bit like the tail wagging the dog. The newly available medication for MS is currently four times the cost of the old one. In what warped, dreamlike scenario can the manufacturing of a tablet be more costly than a small vial of powder, a glass syringe, two alcohol wipes, and the associated equipment needed to adminster said concoction? It isn't, of course, but the medical brains behind the innovation are expensive. And, of course, this marvellous creation emanates from a Country where all medicine is private, and the cost of such will be swallowed up by a multi-million dollar insurance industry.

So, the question is: when an NHS Doctor makes a decision about which medication will best suit his newly diagnosed MS patient, is it the patient's health and welfare he considers, or the strain on his budget?

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Are you free tonight?

Most of the time my life is an episode of that soap "Doctors' but with a lot less sex. Appointments for this, tablets for get the picture. Let's face it, when you've been married for a while, sex is one of those things you do along with everything else: picking the kids up, making the dinner, mowing the lawn and so on. Far be it from me to suggest that it becomes a matter of routine. I can see you, shaking your head, pretending it doesn't apply to you, but I'm sure it does.

At my reading group we recently read The Slap, and the one thing we all agreed on was that the amount of sex the characters had in the novel was far too much. 'Totally unrealistic' was the chorus of the reading group. So, it's not just me then.

So, what do we do when we get to the routine stage? We apply our imagination. Games, roll play, dressing up. A bit of fun so that for a few moments we can pretend that we are young and sprightly, adventurous and carefree. You've seen those films where the characters decide to meet in a hotel, pretending that they've never met. We watched a film recently in which the characters, who were all single executives, joined a group where you dialled a number and simply said 'Are you free tonight?' and a meeting would be arranged for no-strings-attached-casual-sex.

So, in light of this 'humdrum lets have some fun'  and put some spark back into our sex life attitude, I decide to send my husband a text saying simply 'Are you free tonight?' But, instead of a sexy and enthusisatic response, I get a quizzical phonecall 'What are you on about - you know I'm not out tonight!'

Well, there was no harm in trying.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Starstruck - not!

The woman at Dubai One is stalking me. No, really, she is. I must have one of those faces that just says 'please humilitate me in front of your television viewers'. I was rushing to get to the Youth Festival (I was judging the Fashion section - yeah I know, unbelieveable) and this woman from Dubai One rushes up, sticks a camera in my face and asks 'Do you mind answering a few questions?' and before I have chance to say 'Well, actually I'm in a bit of a hurry...', the camera's rolling and I  transmogrify from the normally articulate, reasonably intelligent person that I am, into a bumbling idiot, giggling like a schoolgirl. And they actually air it!

So, the week before the Royal Wedding, my daughter and I are doing some emergency 'she doesn't have the right clothes to go to Paris' shopping and the woman from Dubai One pops up, as if by magic, and sticks her now very familiar camera in my face and asks me if I will be watching the Royal Wedding, and do I think Kate will make a good Princess? Once again, I stumble through a few phrases, acting as if I have just pitched up from Mars and have never spoken English before. And once again, I am humiliated before the UAE population when the show airs.

I should have learned my lesson in England. I had been decorating and was fed up, so packed my younger daughter into the car and we went to a shopping centre. My younger daughter was about 2 years old at the time and I had just given her a packet of chocolate buttons, which she had decided could best be absorbed through her skin, and had smeared most of it onto her face. Because I was decorating I had paint in my hair and let's just describe my outfit as 'not exactly designered up' and leave it at that. I could see that there was some sort of demonstration going on, with an audience standing around and cameras were rolling. Up pops this immacuately dressed woman, asking me if I wouldn't mind giving my opinion of a new product they were launching. I thought fine, I have 5 minutes, thinking that she meant as part of the audience that had gathered. But oh no. She meant in front of the audience, live on air for the shoping channel! By the time I realised, it was too late to back out. The woman was handing me a disclaimer to sign and I was standing, paint-in-hair and all, toddler covered in chocolate, in front of a TV audience. Great.

So, from now on, I am soooo pro the abaya and full headgear. Perhaps the Dubai One woman won't be able to pick me out of the crowd so easily and what little dignity I have left, will remain in tact. 

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Medication Morons

So, my medication over the past few weeks has become troublesome. Dr Neurology asks me not to use any more of the current batch of meds and order some more. Hmm. This stuff is 1000 GBP a box so I am not too enthusiastic about throwing any of it away. But I do as he says.

Now, we have spoken about morons before, and how being a moron seems to be a requirement for certain professions here in Dubai (taxi drivers, maids, gardeners, etc) but yesterday I came across a new job that requires this special qualification: the medical supplier. So, I order a new box of the medicine and when I get home from work it has arrived. But the box is twice the size of the old one, containing completely unrecognisable contents that I can 't use with the auto -injector I have. I go into a blind panic, thinking that I am going to have to undertake two years of nursing training in one night in order to inject myself manually. Yeah, it ain't gonna happen. I contact said moron medical supplier. 'Oh, yes Madam, the medication has been changed. You need to speak to the medical rep. I will give you his number'. What, so you didn't think it fortuitous to mention to me, before I hand over a very large cheque, that I would need new equipment to administer this new medication????

Anyway, the medical rep is coming over to see me tonight with the new equipment and an apologetic demeanour. So, we'll see.