Sunday, January 25, 2009

You've Goat to be Kidding...

This story made me roar with laughter today. A goat, accused of .....eating someone's prized peonies? Going through soemone's bins? No. Nothing as trivial as that. This goat has bee accused of...stealing a car! yes, you read right. Proof that there's always someone in the world more bonkers than you can possible imagine. The story has been widely reported. the Telegraph's version is here. I defy you not to giggle when you read it.
PS To clarify for legal eagles - the goat pictured left is not necessarily the aforementioned accused goat.

Tour of Europe: Part 1

I’m fresh back from Munich. Well fresh isn’t exactly a description I’d use. I arrived at 3 am yesterday and had about 2 hours sleep last night – waking up bolt upright at 4 am this morning was a particular treat.

Anyway…Munich is a great city. I’ve been once before many years ago but didn’t really see the centre. This time I had the chance to wander around in between meetings, and it’s very pretty. A very typical European city.

There’s something about walking round cities that really allows you to get under the skin of the place, I think. As you walk around you get to hear bits of conversation, make eye contact with people, look around at the architecture, breathe the air (very fresh and crisp at minus 6!) and really soak up the atmosphere. Maybe that’s why Dubai feels like it has no soul – even with my current walks to work, opportunities to walk around are few and far between, and that’s always been my favourite part of visiting any new city.

Some of my thoughts and observations after walking round Munich:

Munich has some beautiful old buildings. The main square has a town hall which reminded me a bit of Manchester’s in style. Very Harry Potter.

Church Bells
In a very alpine way, the church bells pealing each hour made me come over all Sound of Music. I especially liked the little wooden people who appeared at the front of the clock in the main square, chopping wood, etc, or whatever they were doing. It was hard to see from where I was standing.

As it was so very cold and icy (piles of snow at the sides of roads) there was grit everywhere. They obviously take this very seriously in Munich. Not like the UK where snow always seems to take everyone by surprise and there’s about one teaspoon of grit to dot he whole of the M6.

I saw a couple of homeless people during the day – not a sight you’ll ever see in Dubai. Very humbling and sad.

Binge Drinking
As I walked past a local hostelrie at 9.30 am I was comforted to see many people inside in the warm nursing not steaming mugs of coffee but giant pints of beer. Not just the Brits that like a daytime tipple then!

Trams and Transport
There are lots of trams in Munich, and they were all being used. It made me smile remembering Manchester trams and the familiar ‘parp’ and ‘honk’ that I used to hear dailty when walking to work. In case your’e not sure, the ‘parp’ is their usual warning sound, the ‘honk’ was much louder and usually reserved for some imbecile scally who wouldn’t move off the tracks in time, or people on i-pods who couldn’t hear the ‘parp’. (Guilty as charged on the odd occasion myself, most embarrassing.)

There’s also a lot of people on bikes, and bike lane running through the centre of the city. There was even a branded bike outside the hotel for patrons to use. Needless to say, my buttocks did not grace the saddle.

Well, I had to report back on this one, didn’t I! As you probably know by now, Dubai is not very dog-friendly – the complete opposite is the case in Munich. Big ones, small ones, some as big as my head. And I saw my two favourites: a bassett hound AND a pug. A treat!

So, that’s my summary of Munich. Next stop: Barcelona, again with work. Again, over a weekend. You’d really think my insomnia would have disappeared due to plain old fashioned exhaustion, but sadly not….

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Littlest Hobo

I'm off to Munich tomorrow so I may be a bit quiet for a few days. I have borrowed a coat, scarf, hat and gloves, as naturally, I own none of these things. Whilst I do have a pile of work to take with me, and will no doubt be run ragged whilst I am there, I am looking forward to being uncontactable in the air for 7 hours each way. I shall report back on my return!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Manners Cost Nothing

Press conference at Emirates Palace today. Did I mention they love press conferences here? Whether you're launching a new product, service, or even an awards ceremony, they like to make a fuss about it.....

My favourite moment....when a French journlaist asked me why we hadn't started at the allocated time of 1 pm, and how long exactly would it be before we began. I had to explain that as most of the media hadn't arrived yet, we had to wait a while for them to make an appearance. He was horrified. "The media don't arrive on time to events?" he exclaimed in a horrified voice. Er, no they don't. Nor do most people, for that matter. Welcome to the Middle East!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Wheely Good Gift

This year Santa brought me a very fun present – Rollerblades! Now before you burst into howls of laughter, I actually am a GREAT rollerskater. I’m a big fan of anything which gets me doing exercise without really noticing it, if you know what I mean. Hence loving walking to work at the moment.

But blades, they’re a different matter. I’ve never ice skated so have never experienced anything quite like it. I first tried them out on Christmas Day itself but, perhaps due to the 12 (approximate estimate) bottles of white wine I had consumed by that point, wasn’t the most graceful, and resembled a demented weeble/new born giraffe as I shrieked and careered my way around the apartment. Last week I took the plunge and donned them for a maiden voyage in public. Well, if by public you mean the underground carpark. To be fair, at least three cars did drive past and see me (the horror!). A couple of people openly guffawed as they went past. I mean – that’s just mean.

I can report that once I get going, I am not bad. I can move forwards at an ok speed. The fly in the ointment is that I can't start, or stop. A fact which thus far has put me off going anywhere really exposed eg a park or the beachfront.

But I can’t put it off for much longer. The weekend approaches. And so, I fear, does my humiliation.

PS Rollerblades shown left are for illustration purposes only and are not my actual pair. Although mine are indeed pink. And grey. Which makes them look a whole lot more grown-up. Ok?

From Dire to Wire

I’ve banged on many times abut the state of the tv here. In a word: Dire. This means that people exchange dvd boxed sets with glee – anything to relieve the endless channel hopping. I’d heard the odd whisper about The Wire – and read about it on the Marple Leaf.

So when a friend here gave me the first series I was looking forward to it – but not quite restrained. Now I’m mid-way thrugh series two and I admit it – I’m hooked!

If you’re one of the 10 people left in the world that haven’t seen any of the show then click here. And then get hold of a series.

I’m just amazed that it’s taken me this long to discover it – the first series was broadcast in the states in 2000! It’s from the HBO stable (ah, SATC) but is about as far removed from Carrie and Co’s glamorous existence as you could ever imagine. It’s a cop show, yes, but much deeper than that. It has drama, grit and perhaps surprisingly, humour, in bucketloads. There’s five series in total so there’s still plenty to come. I don’t want it to end!

Biblical Weather…..

Whilst I know that the weather has been pretty cold and unpleasant in England (hey, what’s unusual about that in Manchester) it wasn’t often that we encountered giant hailstones. So imagine my surprise when I was rudely interrupted from watching the Wire (that needs a whole separate post) by an enormous thunderstorm, with hailstones rattling against the windows and onto the balcony!

I did venture out onto the balcony for a proper look – and interestingly most of the development where I live had had the same idea – all the balconies were packed – but had to bit a hasty retreat back inside such was the velocity of the icy blighters.

We’re in the desert – how is hail even possible? (If you know some sort of scientist boffin answer please don’t share.) I have been assured that no, this weather is not usual for Dubai, and have also been regaled with stories of the time that it “didn’t rain for five years”. Hmmmm. I’d really like the sun to come out now so that I can get back into the usual weekend routine of pool and beach. I’m sure it’s a lament of many people who live in hot countries – but you do realize that there really isn’t much to do here when the weather is bad. Actually scratch that, I’m sure there are hot countries where you can do something other than go to a mall!


I’m off to Munich next week for a client event. Apparently the temperature is hovering around minus 10 to minus 20. Hmmm mmmm!!! It’s chilly enough here at 23 degrees! Last time I went to Munich I turned up to similar temperatures wearing only a fashion jacket. I’d been so busy that I hadn’t had a chance to check the weather forecast, and I vowed never to make that mistake again.

This time I do know how cold it is – but I don’t own a coat! Or a jumper for that matter. Or a hat. Or gloves….you get the picture… should be interesting!

What the…?!

I was alerted to a rather worrying article this week (thank you to The Marple Leaf and PopBitch) in Gulf News – an English daily newspaper. The article is here and is a bit of a shocker. I actually think you can go to prison in Germany for having deranged opinions such as this.

You may or may not know that news here in the UAE is heavily censored and government controlled. I work with an ex-news journo from the aforementioned publication, and she has regaled me with tales of stories written and filed which either questioned the government, or contentious subjects covered that never made it to print. Apparently there would be a single phone call instructing them not to include a story – and that was it. Gone.

So I won’t go on too much about my opinions on the above piece (you may think this ridiculous but there was one blog here that has been banned by the government for being critical of Dubai – my UK readers will be able to see it here) as I don’t want my blog switched off.

But really. How on earth is printing this story considered acceptable?

Eat, Drink, and be Merry

Had a delightful evening out last week. Took a trip to Gary Rhode’s gaff – or should I say: “top-notch eaterie”. Now, I’ve always thought Gary was a bit of a tit. And frankly, his performances and appearance on Strictly Come Dancing last year only cemented that fact for me.

But, the boy can certainly cook!

His restaurant is inside the Grosvenor House Hotel, a very nice hotel down in the marina. It’s home to Buddha Bar which is – so I’m told – a great bar.Dubai’s finest certainly frequent it at the weekends – thus far I haven’t managed to get there.

Anyway, the hotel is divine anyway – a bit dodgy looking from the outside but inside it oozes sophistication and refinement. Gary’s place: Mezzanine, is an absolute feast for the eyes. A bit like what I imagine Alice in Wonderland’s house to look like, if Alice lived in a grown up, French style boudoir type place. It’s nearly all white, with glittering chandeliers and splashes of colour in the form of the chairs and ornaments. The staff all wear white suits. James Bond meets French maid. It is very hard to describe so please don’t let that put you off.

Anyway – back to the main deal: the food. It was AMAZING! You can order a la carte or have a selection of smaller dishes as part of their taster menu. In between your food arriving the staff keep appearing at your elbow with amuse bouches ‘with compliments from the chef. This meant that I ate pretty much my own body weight in food, and by the time the jam roly poly came (with two huge jugs of custard and hot jam!) I was fit to burst. I still managed to polish off said roly poly though, natch.

I’ve always felt lucky that despite my love of the finer things in life, I’m as happy with a picnic in a park as I am in expensive restaurants. But it has to be said, there’s something very decadent about getting your glad-rags on and really treating yourself. Just don’t ask me what the bill came to…..

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Date for this Year's Diary

I am devastated that I was working over christmas and so missed this event - yes, you read correctly, a camel beauty contest! They take their camels very seriously here - and rightly so, they are amazing beasts!

My colleagues remain incredulous about my love of camels (I have three in my office along with pictures. Professional til the end!) but they are fools!

Monday, January 05, 2009

What Have You Missed?

December in Manchester means only one thing: a whirl of parties and events and gereal drinking and socializing. December in Dubai was a little different – mainly work with the odd bit of socializing thrown in when I got the chance.

One event which we did get our best bib and tucker on for was the annual party at the Royal Meridien. This is a very fancy hotel - one of the older ones in the city. By old I mean over 5 years!

The boy was invited through work and got us some extra passes for friends. A very funny evening. We’d been advised to get scrubbed up and I was glad I’d popped an LBD on when we arrived – a glittering white carpet led us into a packed reception area where carol singers and an opera trio entertained the masses. My favourite part was watching the faces of the hotel staff – they were completely enraptured by it all. Very touching.

Quite possibly the world’s biggest buffet then ensued (thank god for stretchy fabric!) and we duly stuffed ourselves silly, washing it down with champagne, of course. Every now and again I wanted to pinch myself - we were sat outside, without jackets – in the middle of December – oh and it was nearly Christmas!

A great evening, topped off by getting into a taxi which had an interesting accessory – a resident black wig. We of course took great delight in trying this wig on, taking photos and also popping it onto the driver. Thankfully he was a very good natured chap and took it all in his stride. Crazy drunken English people, hey?

Some pics of the Big Day....

Anyone for......

These six gentlemen are the reason I’ve been so quite over the New Year period. I was working flat out from 1st-3rd on Abu Dhabi’s first ever tennis championship – and what an event it was. A pleasure to work on and an unbelievable experience. And as for the players – well it would be hard to meet a more pleasant, intelligent bunch of sportspeople (footballers take note.) I am now officially in love with James Blake and Roger Federer – the latter actually took me by surprise. I think it's the combination of brawn plus brains that made me weak at the knees!

It's been a while!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! yes, it's been a while since my last post - but December was one crazy month, culminating in a huge event which I'd been working on. More to follow on that.
So what is Christmas like in Dubai? Well apart from the obvious perk - namely glorious sunshine, it was divine. The weather has actually been a bit rum in the run up to the big day - and as 90% of the 500 diners at the fabulous Ritz-Carlton were seated outside, this could have marred things somewhat.

But the sun shone, with a clear blue sky, in fact it was so warm that we had to keep moving the parasol at our table to stay in the shade!

Hotels in Dubai don't do things by halves, and the Ritz is no exception. It is one of the more understated places in terms of glamour and style - not too in your face, and we had a truly lovely time. It was funny watching the UK 'wake-up' - at about 1 pm there were a lot of 'Merry Christmases' being wished down mobile phones.

The best way I can think of to describe the day is: imagine a VERY posh wedding reception. Multiply that by then. Throw in an amazing atmosphere. And that just about sums it up. A divine day and one which I fully intend to repeat in future!