The tale of the tragic turtle

Did you miss me? I’m DETERMINED to write something on my blog today as I’ve been very lax – no posts in more than six weeks – naughty Flickster! So just sit back and relax as I take you on a journey…

It’s difficult to know where to begin really, but for starters I’d like to tell you about our recent camping trip. I know now there are those of you who are already chortling to yourselves about the very idea of me camping. Yes, I admit that it is an out of character leisure pursuit for me, but given that I’ve not slept in a tent since circa June 1997 (ah Glastonbury, the Year of the Mud) I thought it best that I give it another go – after all, it’s not like I was going to have to take the portaloo challenge again was it?

PD, me and new friends J & T decided to go and explore the further reaches of our environs by taking an overnight trip to Dibba, which is just inside the border of Oman. We’d heard enchanting tales of sparkling white beaches and deserted dunes appropriated by different species of birds and mammals just two hours drive from the hectic highways of Dubai. Armed with a profusion of food and alcohol disguised as soft drink in the cool box (did you know that Pimm’s in a plastic urn keeps cold for hours and looks just like cranberry juice?), tent, night vision torches, toilet paper and T’s fool-proof directions, we set off on a foggy Friday morning.

Before I go on, I should probably list here all the things I don’t like about camping – and before you label me precious, I’m sure most girls (and some boys) – will be able to relate:

1. No showers (and those horrible ones in camping blocks where you have to wear Croc’s or Jellies to avoid verucas don’t count – they are just as bad)

2. No aircon in the tent

3. Flies. Mosquitoes. Anything with more than four legs. Flies.

4. Sand appearing in places where there should never be  sand. Ever.

5. Having to ‘go’ behind a rock/ bush/ the car/ sand dune. And having to keep the used loo paper in a plastic bag

6. Hangovers

7. Being woken up by the blazing sun in a stinking tent at 5am

8. Sweaty sleeping bags

9. People I don’t know nearby – either I’m paranoid that they will rob and/or murder us in the night, or they will be too loud when I want to go to sleep

Things I do like about camping:

1. The idea of camping

2. Bonfires

3. Drinking

4. BBQs

5. Tinfoil wrapped bananas with chocolate inside roasted on the open fire

6. Campfire singalongs

7. Swimming

8. Ghost stories

So, we arrive at our destination, all excited. The first thing we notice is that there appears to be quite a lot of people who’ve had the same idea. This is what it looked like:

Happy campers

Hey! Looks like we're neighbours...great...

Every one of them is in a 4WD (as are we) – because you can’t get to the site without letting quite a lot of air out of your tyres to drive across the beach. OK fine, because as we drive along the beach we notice a very nice looking spot behind a big dune that affords a lot of privacy. We head for that, trundling along the shoreline and feeling very “off-roadish”. The second thing we notice is that the sea looks kinda funny. Like, black in colour kinda funny, and the rocks look unnaturally dirty. Like this:

Why is the water that colour?

Why is the water that colour?

Then we get out of the car to dig out T, who needed to deflate his tyres a bit more in order to exceed the softer sand further up the beach, and the smell (or rather, stench) hits. Now I grew up on the beach mateys and I know what rotten seaweed smells like. It doesn’t smell like this. This smelled like something dead. Oh dear. Then some random local bloke approaches and helpfully explains in broken English that there is, “No swimming today…dirty water.” Hmmm…just as we were getting over the crushing disappointment of that, I spotted something that looked a bit like a khaki backpack in the sand up ahead. By this point we’re back in the car. As we drive past this mysterious object , I am met with the somewhat unsightly, extremely disturbing and profoundly depressing sight of what appears to be a very dead, very fly-blown turtle on it’s back being lapped at by the dun coloured wavelets combing the shore…

OK, so we’ve now established that our idyllic camping adventure is turning into a potentially noisy, definitely smelly and environmentally-suspect excursion into the unknown. I mentally built my metaphoric bridge in order to get over that reality and perked up considerably upon arriving at our preferred camping spot, far from the madding crowd, upwind and a good 200 metres from the rapidly decomposing amphibian. We set up camp, gathered fire wood (from the ground only – unlike our neighbours who we spotted later drunkenly massacring a nearby live tree) and commenced our revelries, starting with the Pimm’s. Sometime later, I know not when, but it was pre-sunset, I made the slightly sick decision to go and take a photo of the dead turtle, to show you all on this very blog. J came with me for the stroll. When we arrived at the makeshift gravesite, we were confronted by a sight that was even more nauseating than expected. Keeping in mind the profusion of 4WDs in the area, the beach looked like this:

Mental note: beach camping in great numbers is bad for the environment

Mental note: beach camping in great numbers is bad for the environment

Now this is bad enough, but catching sight of the tableau below made it even worse. (Warning – the pictures that follow may make the more gastrically-sensitive among you sick):

Who would do THIS?
Who would do THIS?


I was shocked and sickened and filled with shame. WHY? Why oh why God?! J (who had refused to get even this close to the macabre discovery) eventually persuaded me to walk back to the campsite where I self rightously recounted what I’d seen to the boys and showed them the photographic evidence to prove it. PD guffawed until he was nearly dry heaving (I blame the long drive and the multiple beers).
Anyway, the rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough (save the aforementioned theft of the tree), punctuated by BBQ, flies, some very curious mountain goats skittering across the gravelly hills behind us, eager to eat the plastic bag containing unmentionables, booze,  flies, bananas and chocolate. Suddenly it was bedtime (no more booze in the cool box), and PD and I discover that even though the car is packed to the roof with all sorts of useless camping paraphernalia, we’ve forgotton our bed rolls. Who knew sand, such a soft material, would turn out to be as hard and unforgiving as stone? I spent the early morning asleep in the back seat of the car with the aircon on – ah bliss.
So, my camping verdict?
Location  – 9 out of 10
Environmental situation – 1 out of 10 (it could only have been worse if I’d spotted a dead falcon)
Company – 10 out of 10
What more is there to say – the experience was certainly thought-provoking, but it did nothing to change my precious attitude illustrated in points 1 to 9 above. I guess its just camping in the Middle East 2009 – stylee…
Flickster. xx

The smokin’ gun

OK everyone, I owe all and sundry big apologies because it’s been nearly a month since I blogged. And my last post was a bit brief, the one before that my usual moany return to form.

So, while I am at my desk at work and have absolutely shedloads to be doing (it’s Thursday afternoon as well – the clock’s a’ tickin’ till the weekend baby!), I’m determined to post an update on what’s been going on – because the work that needs to be done will still need to be done and it always will – that’s the nature of work innit?

Anyway, as you can see, I am STILL at work and it’s partly because of the extremely unsettling and uncertain time I’ve endured here recently that I’ve been keeping schtum – as it turns out my job is safe. For now. That’s all anyone can say at the moment isn’t it?

Anyway, big news. I’ve given up smoking! Yes, that’s right – don’t faint from surprise or snort knowingly to yourself, “ahh she’ll be back, I know it, that girl loves a snout!”. Yes, me and fags are over. O V A H.  (I mean of course the fags you smoke not the fags who are fabulous).

It’s been unsurprisingly difficult, and I won’t talk you through the usual soulbashing I went through to do it, but as you would imagine, withdrawal has been quite hellish. It seems that I have quite a few unresolved rage issues (who’d have thunk it?!) and I have been variously filled with almost uncontrollable venom, spite, bile and plain old teeth gnashing frustration over the smallest of irritations, issues and mishaps. I know you love a list (well I do, anyway), so here it comes. It’s a special list of some Dubai-specific things that have made me mad, cross and angry in the 13 days I have been smoke-free:

– Road rage. An oldie but a goodie. It seems that pretty much anyone in Dubai who owns a car and drives got their license from a special offer on the back of a Weeties packet (Weetabix to the Brits) . I was involved in an incident only a week ago involving a blonde in a Jeep who had man hands. Yes, you read that right. Man hands – I noticed them because the silly bint was effectively curb crawling in front and to the right of my vehicle at about  minus 5 kmh. I leaned on my horn for about a minute but it appears that she was not only unable to drive, she also had issues with her hearing. This forced me to miss the traffic lights, bringing me to my next point –

– Traffic lights. A specific set of traffic lights (well, there’s a set of THREE in a row) on the relatively short Burj Boulevard near my house. I absolutely have to use this road on my way home from work to get to the apartment. There is no alternative. The RTA (who I have mentioned before) have inexplicably decided that there will be such a vast amount of cars coming in and out of the Dubai Mall at all times of the day (even 3 o’ clock in the morning when it’s closed) that each light cycle should take five minutes. Doesn’t seem like a long time does it? But it’s aeons for traffic lights, trust me. In addition, for this set of three lights on this road that is less than half a mile long, all of the lights are coordinated so if you miss one, you miss all three. Hence, it can take up to 15 minutes to go 500 yards. I could definitely get there faster walking on my hands and knees across broken glass

– Last minute changes to Bank Holidays. Yep, in DXB, someone can just suddenly decide that what would normally be a public holiday (in this case, the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday – Peace Be Upon Him). For as long as anyone can remember, this auspicious day has fallen on the 9th March. Not this year folks, apparently, it’s now going to be on Saturday the 7th March. A weekend! Thanks Ministry of Labour – that’s very generous of you!

– The lack of pavements for pedestrians. It’s no wonder people are obese, there’s nowhere to walk outside without risking your life. All the skinny people have been mown down by bad drivers. Getting out of the car in the morning and walking 20 metres my place of work brings a whole new and exciting dimension to my morning commute

– The lifts in my building. Why oh why, in a bank of three lifts, two of which are chillin’ their boots on the ground floor, do I have to wait for the third lift to descend from the penthouse on the 37th floor to come and get me from the basement – just two floors below the ground floor? Anyone know a lift engineer that can explain this to me?

Now, I think we all know these things would irritate me anyway, ciggies or not, but I have nearly burst blood vessels in my forehead this last fortnight over many petty irritations such as these. I guess it’s better than bursting arteries and having a heart attack though, right?

Send me good vibes to be strong, people – this sure is difficult.

Flickster. x

Update: Sunday 8th March. Had a bit of a mishap at the weekend – I smoked two cigarettes at a very boozy brunch. I know – shame on me – weak person! They did taste horrible though, and I haven’t had any since then, does that count? 😦

More doom n gloom

Downmarket in Dubai

I may not have mentioned this before, but the global recession we now all find ourselves mired in like mosquitoes in Sequoia resin has also well and truly engulfed Dubai. And it’s been just as bad as everywhere else, with mass lay-offs and bank credit drying up daily. About three weeks ago, each morning brought new and fresh hell in a market that knows only growth – downturn really is an alien concept. Suspensions of massive building projects by huge developers meant that a significant portion of the construction which characterises Dubai ceased on the spot.

We all know that much of Dubai’s famous wealth has been solely driven by the huge property bubble (one that got so bloated with greed and opportunity that it really was only a matter of time before ‘correction’ struck). Now that bubble has burst, showering the city with deposit default notices and redundancy slips. We hear tales of thousands of cars abandoned at the airport, left by those laid off and forced to go home. The roads are quieter (small mercy) and the malls echo with the ghosts of footfalls past. Community websites such as Dubizzle are flooded with ads for second hand furniture and property rents have fallen (another small mercy).

So, why is it that upon losing their jobs, so many people b*gger off home? The answer is simple. Lose your job, lose your visa. Your bank account is also ‘frozen’ until you can pay off all your debts. You have one month to have your visa transferred to a new employer or that’s your lot. You also potentially lose all the money (12 – 6 months rent) you paid up front for your villa or apartment. There’s no haven in simply hunkering down for the duration and living on noodles and water – you have to do something or get out. It has been so much worse in the property industry here than for any other sector for obvious reasons, but because this city is built on the property boom, its demise has had a knock on effect on everyone else.

I too have felt the effects. Not to go into too much detail but I had a terrible weekend thinking that I too may have fallen victim to the Redundancy Reaper. Somehow I managed to dodge the bullet, due in no small part to the fact that I work for a company that is robust enough to be able to retain staff whose current roles are perhaps not able to be sustained in the present climate. I am very lucky that my varied career over the years has furnished me with skills that I could use in other areas of the business. My necessity was the mother of my reinvention.

Chin up everyone.

Flickster. x

Banging on about the weather

I doubt that anyone is really going to feel any sympathy for me at this point, given that I live in Dubai, but the weather the last week or so has been cr*ppy – wind, rain, cold. We’ve even recently had some quite spectacular electrical storms lasting hours with massive thunderclouds that were miles and miles long. Our apartment, whilst right next to the Burj Dubai (the tallest building in the world) is facing the wrong way so we can’t actually see it. Bods in the tower opposite can though, and I was woken from a dead sleep the other night by sounds of rolling tympany drum thunder and excited whooping, carried over the sound of howling wind. Opening our bedroom curtains a crack (just like the latent curtain-twitcher I really am!) I could see drunk people on a balcony in the tower opposite smoking fags and yelling and pointing in the direction of the Burj. It must have been hit by lightning!

Sadly, I myself, being clad only in my birthday suit, marooned 34 floors high and facing the wrong way, could only imagine how spectacular the sight. Luckily, someone else saw it while driving down the Sheikh Zayed Road and felt that, safety be damned, they would video this amazing phenomenon on their mobile phone – and gawd bless t’internet YOU can now view the sight that I was so viciously denied that night by the architects of Southridge 6.

According to that wag Oscar Wilde, Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative. I’m really scraping the bottom of the tower this week then, eh folks?

Flickster. xx