Abu Dhabi week 124

Severe weather warning – or, as Gary put it, Armageddon is upon us. I was somewhat surprised earlier in the week to receive an email from the school Health and Safety Officer warning us a severe weather for this weekend. Now ok, it is cold in the mornings, ie 15degC, and it has been windy but the tone of the email was slightly alarming. However, when we received almost the same email from the compound facilities management company, we realised that it must be standard authority issue. I quote:
Dear Valued Resident,
Rain predicted for the coming days as per National Center of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS):
Friday to Sunday (15 to 17 December 2017) – unstable weather condition, cloud amounts will increase with convective thundery clouds accompanied with different intensity and heavy at times over scattered areas especially over Northern and Eastern areas from time to time.
Wind – Southeasterly to Northeasterly moderate to fresh at times causing blowing dust, with speed 30 – 35 km/h reaching 50 km/h with convective clouds.
Sea – rough to very rough at times in convective clouds in the Arabian Gulf and Oman sea.
Safety Tips:
 Check weather update www.ncms.ae before departure / journey;
 Drive Safely! Slow down and should be extra careful.
 Double the distance you leave between your car and the car in front of you, as stopping distances are increased by wet roads.
 Make sure your headlights are on – Be Visible Be Seen! Obey all road and traffic signs – Safety authorities post this information with good reason.
 Be prepared for the road conditions to change over relatively short distances. Allow yourself enough time and space to react to a sudden emergency and move from harm’s way or to come to a stop safely.
 Increase your following distance – Remain well behind the road user in front as stopping distances can be ten times greater than on dry roads.
 Be aware that in reduced visibility conditions, drivers tend to follow the tail lights of vehicles in front of them. Avoid unnecessary lane changes – Stay in one lane as much as possible.
 Keep two hands firmly on the wheel and two eyes on the road at all times;
 Restrict outdoor pesticides application / spray / fogging;
 Ensure all equipment’s / materials are secured.
 Ensure to wear appropriate personal protective equipment’s (PPE’s).

A dedicated stand by team with all needed equipment’s will be available around the hour (Friday – Sunday) for any emergency.
For any in house emergency, please call the Tafawuq maintenance team
Thank you!
Healthy Regards

Brunch – We had a Brunch booking for today. I say had, it’s been a bit tricky from beginning to end. Last month Gary won a ‘Family Brunch for four’ in a competition. As we’d arranged to do something with some friends this weekend, a brunch seemed a great idea. It took over a week for the prize voucher to arrive, the driver didn’t arrive when he said he would, it was for two adults and free kids (apparently that is brunch for four) when it did, the restaurant didn’t reply to Gary’s request to book a table, the voucher is only valid for four weeks, the list of niggles goes on. Earlier in the week the restaurant rang to say the brunch would now be a barbecue. Which was fine until we were informed that the package was soft drinks only. After much discussion and three phones calls and two emails on Gary’s part, they agreed we could have complimentary drinks for two adults, and the additional charge for our two guests was acceptable. Then came the weather warning. So Gary rang again to ask how Armageddon was going to affect an outdoor barbecue lunch. ‘We don’t anticipate any problems sir, the rain isn’t expected until after 5pm.’ And the wind? ‘It will be fine.’ Needless to say, we are no longer attending a barbecue brunch, but are going Mexican instead. Así es la vida.

Abu Dhabi week 123

Customer service(1) – one of the things we have just about got used to in the UAE is the level of excellent (but sometimes eccentric) customer service that we get. You know, things like taxis that turn up within 10 minutes of them being ordered, couriers that will actually ring you to arrange to deliver when you are in rather than just dumping a box on your doorstep, shops that only charge you £3 to replace stones in a Pandora charm and, with the exception of Khalifa City Pizza Hut who are on our blacklist (2 hrs when they promised 40 mins), restaurants who will deliver when they say they will.
This week has been another example, and from a telecoms company at that (this is where everyone in the UK, who are used to the likes of BT, Sky, Virgin etc. will have to believe that we are not writing fantasy stories).
A couple of weeks ago Gary realised that the TV box thingy wasn’t working. We use it so rarely that, to be honest, it could have been broken for ages. Anyway it is only this week that he got round to speaking to Etisalat about having it sorted. So on Tuesday he engaged someone on the online chat who did some “line tests”, asked some questions about what happens when we turn it on (nothing, hence the assumption that it is kaput) and proceeded to tell him that it will need an engineer to call. ‘When?’ Gary asked, well, he has only been here nearly 3 years so, with memories of trying to get BT to fix a problem in the Worcester house still relatively fresh, he was expecting the worst. ‘All of our service calls will be addressed within 24 hrs,’ came the reply. ‘Oh,’ replied Gary, ‘that’s not really going to work for me, can I actually book an engineer for Thursday morning as I know someone will be in?’ ‘Not a problem,’ came the reply. So there we were, no TV, not missing the TV, but very happy that it was going to be fixed just so Will can occasionally watch Teen Titans Go, Phineas and Ferb and Scooby Doo.
And here is the fun bit; since he booked the call he has been plagued by Etisalat engineers wanting to visit the house. One particularly persistent soul rang no less than 5 times while we were at Will’s end of term concert on Tuesday night and twice afterwards. (I will add at this point that the phone was on silent and unlike half the audience, we didn’t spend the entire performance either on our phones, checking our Facebook or running up and down the steps in the auditorium.) All have been told to come on Thursday morning but our service call seems to be have been passed on from shift to shift without this vital piece of information – on Wednesday he had calls from 3 different engineers all wanting to come and solve our problem for us. Which would have been fine if there was someone at home. Anyway the engineer duly arrived on Thursday and had our TV box up and running within 5 minutes. Mind you, he did say that it was out of date and tried to sell Gary a new one for £140!!

Customer Service (2) – Gary also witnessed one of the worst examples of taking advantage of good customer service this week in the local Spinneys. At the checkout in front of him was a woman who only had 3 small items. They went through the till, the bag packer put them in the bag and then she told the bag packer to pick up the bag and follow her out to the car (with Gary mouthing ‘lazy cow’ at her back as she walked out, being trailed by a man with her shopping bag). The worst thing about this is that the car park is less than 10 metres from the door of the supermarket. Some people!!!!

Oh Christmas Tree – I was quite impressed with our Christmas tree this year, despite it being artificial and not having a ‘real’ smell, but having been to Emirates Palace last night for their tree lighting, I feel like the poor relation 😦

Abu Dhabi week 122

Parking fines – this weekend is a busy one, with Commemoration Day, National Day and the Prophet’s Birthday all occurring in the space of three days. As usual, this has resulted in a long weekend, and also free parking for the four days – http://gulfnews.com/…/free-parking-for-abu-dhabi-residents-…. One colleague was hoping that, as in previous years, parking fines would be reduced by 50% over the holiday weekend as well, allowing residents to clear their fines at a reduced cost. As we’ve mentioned before, in order to re-register your car, you need to clear all your fines and as her registration ran out last month and she has racked up in the region of 4000AED of fines this year, she could do with a helping hand. Mind, so could another colleague who has been fined twice in the last fortnight for parking outside the building he lives in, though admittedly not in his designated spot. To say nothing of Mr K, who managed to collect our first fine in over 12 months last weekend on the way to the pit walk.

Some folk have all the luck – a couple of weeks ago a work colleague said she’d been to a restaurant on the Corniche for lunch. She and her other half had been out running (mad fools!) and decided to stop for food. Sweaty and dishevelled, they tried their luck at a couple of restaurants and were turned away. Until a waiter came running out after them to say that although the restaurant was closed for a private function, she and her partner were very welcome to come in for lunch. But only them, no one else. Ten minutes later the place filled up with local dignitaries and VVIPs (as an aside, the nanny of one of the children I teach told me last week that anywhere they went, they went as VVIPs. I said if they went anywhere with me, it would be as ordinary people.), and when I say VVIPS, I mean VVIPs. You know, the type who live in a palace. Anyway, they ate a very enjoyable lunch and asked for the bill. ‘Oh sir, ma’am, it’s complimentary to compensate for any inconvenience we have caused you.’ Right, that will be the inconvenience of allowing me into your restaurant, in my gym kit, on a day you were closed for a private function. Please, inconvenience me again!

Christmas – is in the building. The cakes are baked, the (artificial) tree is up and decorated, and the elves delivered Will’s Lego Advent calendar this morning. Though I’m not sure where mine is. The Molton Brown Advent calendar I ‘shared’ on Facebook a few weeks ago seems to have been delivered to my sister in law’s, rather than to me in Abu Dhabi. Gary’s reaction when I asked where mine was? ‘Catch yourself on, the postage would be more than the calendar!’ Maybe the gin baubles – https://shop.pickeringsgin.com/produ…/pickerings-gin-baubles – are on their way instead.

Abu Dhabi week 121

VAT refund – at last! When we were in the UK in the summer I filled in several forms for VAT refunds (you may remember the palaver we had in Fenwick when the woman wanted to see my brand new, never used British passport as proof that I was entitled to a VAT refund) and posted them in the box at Newcastle Airport. I’d heard many a tale about this magic box in Newcastle Airport – it was a black hole from which the forms were never retrieved and no one had ever had any money back after posting the forms in this box for a start. I was a bit worried as everyone else I knew who had made a claim had flown out through Heathrow where you have your forms stamped upon entering the airport and collect your cash airside, but there wasn’t really any other option. Weirdly, the postal box is after check in, passport control and security, making it really quite difficult to ‘provide the customs official with sight of the purchased goods before the form is stamped’. Anyway, weeks (and months) passed and to be honest we’d given up. Then a couple of weeks ago I happened to notice two payments into the bank and I am now the proud recipient of a VAT refund. The only downside is that as part of the terms and conditions, I have to reside outside the UK for 12 months from the date I left. It’s a hard life.

Grand Prix – speaking of a hard life, the season finale is this weekend and whilst I’ve not really followed the racing this year (blame the time difference, and the absence of JB) except to know that Lewis has already won, the GP weekend is always a good one. I’ve had my nails done in the obligatory Yas turquoise and we’re in the front row of the South Stand, near the turn, as usual. The only problem we’ve encountered so far is the absence of a decent ice cream van, the only options on offer being Nutella or Biscoffi. No, I didn’t bother either. Nor did this seem to be an issue for the car park supervisor. When we left this evening, he was having his tea. Though probably not in a fashion any of you have experienced before. As they say, if you can’t get to your Majlis, your Majlis must come to you. And it had. He was laid on a rug on the grass with his spirit burner, kettle, coffee pot and tureens of hot food. It’s a hard life!

Abu Dhabi week 120

Christmas is coming – as evidenced by the amount of Christmas trees already on show, and the Christmas displays in the shops. I went to Carrefour last week and their Christmas section is a fair size, particularly bearing in mind that as a country, all its citizens are Islamic and don’t celebrate. I could sort of understand the tree in the hairdressers (I’m red and straight again today) as people will now be having their last appointment before Christmas and looking for stocking fillers (that’s ‘stocking fillers’ as in ‘something that fits into a stocking’ rather than ‘cheap tat to keep the kids occupied’), but Will and I were slightly perturbed by the tree in the window of someone’s house as we walked to Spinneys on Thursday evening. It is, after all, only the middle of November.
We’re having an artificial tree this year as opposed to a real one, mainly because just after Christmas last year, someone offered me a 7’ artificial tree. After I’d squeezed it into the boot of the car (bear in mind we have a Mitsubishi Pajero, the ME version of a Shogun, and it only just fitted in and you’ll get some idea of the size of the bag) I realised I had to pick up Will, my parents and three sets of golf clubs from the golf club. I did consider putting them in a taxi, but my dad was adamant that everything would fit in the car. Anyway, Gary came home and relegated the tree to the maid’s room where it stayed for 10 months before we took it out to have a look a couple of weeks ago so I could decide if it was usable or if we needed to order a fresh one. It’s actually quite a decent tree, and I’ve loads of decorations, but I think I might miss the smell of the real one. But never fear, Bath&BodyWorks had candles on offer a couple of weeks ago – 35AED each – so I’ve stocked up on ‘Christmassy’ smelling ones.

It’s a small world – we had a great night last night at the Poppy Ball Abu Dhabi. The Band of the Royal Marines was, as always, on top form and the trumpeter had the most magnificent moustache. Thanks Iain and Erica, Ruth and Craig for coming with us. We hope you enjoyed it too, and bearing in mind the state Gary was in at midnight, I’m not certain how he’s in such good condition today. Of course, when a group of ex-pat ex-servicemen get together, you’re bound to know more people than you think. As Hennie put it, it was the who’s who of anybody who’s anybody in Abu Dhabi. We’d seen a chap a couple of times at events before and Gary knew he knew him. As it happened, he and his wife were seated on our table, and he and Gary have several mutual friends and acquaintances, though as Tony (as we discovered he was called) said, ‘Who? I can neither confirm nor deny that I know that man.’ But the funniest moment was Gary meeting someone he last saw 20 years ago. Elly-from-choir-who-also-lives-on-our-compound told me that her-lovely-friend-Claire-from-work’s-husband-is-also-ex-Navy. Oh, that would be Claire-from-choir? Yes, Claire-from-choir. So I relayed to Gary that Claire-from-choir-that-Elly-works-with’s-husband was also ex-Navy. Claire had done the same and later in the evening we introduced them. You could tell they were both thinking ‘I have to meet a random ex-matelot who I might (but probably don’t) know as there were 40 thousand others, not quite literally, in the same boat at the time.’ I say introduced them; they took one look at each other from a distance of about 5 metres and fell into a typical ex-matelot-type hug, yelling their pleasure at being re-acquainted. Those of you married to ex-Servicemen will understand when I say that I’m just glad they avoided a full blown snog!

Abu Dhabi week 119

Thursday evening – we were invited to a barbecue last night; ‘come any time after 6,’ the hostess said. ‘Mind, the barbie’s not built yet. I’ve that to do when I get back.’ I don’t think Gary quite believed me, but when we rocked up, at about 6.15, having spent 10 minutes trying to find the underpass to take us to the apartment block which we drive past at least once a week but had never been in, Gary and Will were presented with a barbecue, still in the box. But you know them, never one to shy away from a challenge, the thing was built and lit in less than half an hour. Carrefour please note, the instructions were rubbish. At one point in the evening someone opened the door to let in what they thought would be more guests, only to be greeted by two maintenance men. ‘You have pictures ma’am?’ ‘Er, yes, I have two pictures which need putting up on the wall. But we’re having a party.’ ‘No problem ma’am, it will only take 10 minutes.’ And in true Abu Dhabi style they proceeded to drill a hole in the wall, insert rawl plugs and picture hooks, and hang the pictures while 20 people carried on having a party around them. Just when you think you’ve seen it all!
We left at about 8.30, as the ‘youngsters’ were getting into their stride. A message from the hostess this morning: ‘Thanks for coming. Appreciate you making the bbq. So… after you left, we took the kitchen door off to play ping pong, the balcony door fell off, and the aircon (you can tell she’s new, once you’re a true expat you call it the ‘a/c’) leaked. All fun in this house!’
I’m just amazed that the barbecue, which was held together with a wing and a prayer, was still standing on the balcony when we drove past this morning!

Vintage – a child asked me this week why my watch was like it was. You know, a ‘proper’ watch with a face that tells the time and without any bells or whistles. I explained that in England it’s traditional that you receive a watch for your 21st birthday, and that this was my watch, bought by my dad, from my 21st birthday. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘it’s vintage.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I suppose it is. Does that make me vintage too?’ He looked at me as if I was mad. ‘People can’t be vintage Mrs Kelly. They are old.’

Abu Dhabi week 118

Long post warning!! – It’s been a bit of a sporty week this week. As you might have seen, last Saturday Will came 2nd in the HSBC Future Falcons golf par 3 competition that he entered and also qualified for the final in January where he will be playing at the Abu Dhabi Invitational.

Then on Wednesday he and two golfing team mates from Brighton College AD competed against other International schools from across Abu Dhabi and won the School Golf Skills Challenge held as part of the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open Golf Competition (where we will probably be by the time the UK people read this).

And we though the highlight of the week was going to be the cricket last Friday night!

Cricket (by Gary) – Growing up in Yorkshire in the 70’s and 80, unless you were a hooligan who attended football matches just for a fight, the only real sports that anyone really followed were Rugby League or Cricket. 22 years in the Royal Navy changed my Rugby code for me (although I still do watch the occasional League game) and, although I used to watch cricket on the TV and went to the very occasional match, they always seemed to go on for ever and I’ve had no real interest since. Bear in mind that these were the days when David Gower still had blond hair (albeit in a very 80s style!!) and Geoff Boycott was still playing rather than being a controversial commentator.

Anyway, roll forward 35 years or so, the advent of T20 games, the fact that we live 5 minutes’ drive from Abu Dhabi’s only major cricket stadium (It’s such a prominent landmark we actually use it as part of our address and, after a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009 in Lahore, has become the “home” ground for the Pakistan Cricket team), Pakistan (ranked 2nd in T20) were playing Sri Lanka (ranked 8th) in a night time T20 game, the cheapest tickets were only the equivalent of £2.50, and me, Will, and some friends were definitely up for a night out. (We did have the more expensive tickets as sitting on a sand dune didn’t really appeal!!)

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go bore you to death by writing a ball by ball commentary but the evening was amazing, and not as my brother, Bob, said to me “like watching paint dry” when I told him we were going. As fairly neutral Europeans we obviously had a tiny representation, with the majority of supporters being Pakistani and the minority Sri Lankans making up, with the volume of their drum beating, cheering, singing and dancing, what they lacked in numbers.

There was even the presence of HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, who, as Kathryn has commented before, seems to go to all the same events as the Kellys. We couldn’t match his arrival by helicopter though.

Always ones to support the underdogs, the boys decided to cheer for Sri Lanka (because, in Will’s words, “I’ve been there and its’s really nice”, and what better reason could you want!) which was fine until near the end, when, with just the last few overs to go, Pakistan in to bat, and it looking certain that Sri Lanka would win, the boys decided to be very vocal at every Pakistan wicket, mistake or failure to get a run.

Now if you are an impala on the African plain, surrounded by ten thousand lions, the last thing you do is stand up and shout “all lions are rubbish”. As I jokingly said to Iain, one of the other Dads, we might need to bring our best escape and evasion techniques into play in order to get the boys out unscathed! But in the end, with 3 balls to go, Pakistan being 7 runs down, and a Sri Lankan victory looking certain, a fantastic Pakistan 6 followed by a 2 meant that the stadium erupted into an enormous wall of sound, with music, cheering, jumping and dancing by the Pakistan supporters, and we felt a bit safer. Congratulations to the Cornered Tigers for a fantastic come back from the jaws of defeat and thank you to both teams and the staff at Abu Dhabi Cricket for a great night out.

The real test for the value of these sorts of events: from Will a definite “we need to go to the next one” and the fact that despite being up since 6am for a golf lesson and flatly refusing a little nap in the afternoon (I wasn’t so silly) he was totally transfixed all the way through, and never even realised that the match didn’t finish until 11.30pm. Result! Abu Dhabi Cricket, more T20 in Abu Dhabi please.

Thanks to Iain, Oli, Dan and Hugh for being such good company!