Monday, November 30, 2015

Finsh line is in Site

I have not had time to check but it would be interesting to compare how I have managed this year on my post per day for November with previous years. It feels like I have managed more posts although I have still not achieved a post per day but I will check when things are less hectic (busy writing business plans amongst other things) and am lacking in sleep.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

More Cricket

Dad and I went to the 20/20 - England -v- Pakistan on Thursday last week and were entertained once again to an excellent match which England won by 14 runs - mainly due to an enterprising half century from Sam Billings which tipped the balance in England's favour after an early collapse. Apparently this was the second fastest 50 ever by and Englishman so sits compares favourable with Jos Butler's 100 in the ODI we saw last week. The atmosphere in Dubai Sports City Cricket Stadium can only be described as "raucous" as the c. 20,000 crowd (predominantly supporting Pakistan) raised the roof whenever a 4 or 6 was scored.

We have now worked out that by getting the driver to drop us by the Stadium and pick us from the same place we cut down the hassle factor of getting to and from the stadium by around 90%.

While we were enjoying our "staycation" at JBH we were also able to watch the subsequent match on Friday (again in Dubai) which was a lot closer with England winning by 3 runs. If anything the Stadium looked fuller than the previous evening so I would imagine the atmosphere was electric.

Variable reception

I did intend to post over the weekend but when I got a spare moment to myself I was unable to get sufficient wi-fi reception to do anything from my Ipad - my bedroom seems to be the only area in the house where the signal is so weak that anything other than the most basic internet activities is a time-consuming affair - even reading the paper is hard work with pages only partially downloading or not down-loading at all so trying to compose and then post something is an extremely thankless tasks.

I have on occasion tried to remedy the situation by extending the wifi coverage from our PC in the lounge but whilst every other room in the house seems to be fine (even when there are multiple users), the strength in the Master bedroom states resolutely on 1 or no bars. If anyone has suggestions (I have tried range extending dvices etc.) then please feel free to use the comment box.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cricket, Lovely Cricket

We are off to see the England -v- Pakistan 20/20 tonight after the excitement of last weeks ODI. This marks the mid-point in Dad's sporting odyssey to Dubai this year. We saw the Golf last weekend (Rory getting out of jail on the 17th made for compelling viewing although we did not go on the Sunday) and we have the Rugby 7s to look forward to next week. Let's hope Mr Buttler has his run getting hat on again today!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Damp in Dubai

I know I have managed to miss a couple of days posting - absolutely horrendously busy at work so simply have not had time to come up with anything even short to post. Today is no exception so I will simply report on the downpour that we had here yesterday that turned what was already a fairly difficult transport situation into virtual gridlock around the Trade Centre Roundabout. Monday and Tuesday I seemed to have spent most of the day stuck in traffic jams as I went from meeting to meeting and yesterday I had a 4pm meeting scheduled for the airport. Fortunately it was cancelled as I am sure that I would still be waiting in the traffic to get home as the rain hit at around lunchtime.

It has been very grey again today. We are due to be going to JBH on Friday and Saturday so fingers crossed that the rain departs.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

You've been framed

From my office window I have views over towards the Trade Centre Roundabout and Zabeel Park where one of the more interesting architectural developments has been taking shape. This is the "Frame" which as far as I can make out is a square shaped structure comprising two narrow towers joined at the top by what looks like a high-level bridge. Apparently the idea is that if you are looking from old Dubai towards the Sheikh Zayad Road and "new" Dubai you will have the gleaming skyscrapers and the Burg Khalifa presented in a picture postcard frame and likewise if you are looking from the "new" Dubai side you will see Bur Dubai and its environs similarly pictured. I also understand that the bridge will have a glass floor so when you are walking from one tower tot he other you will be able to see the ground beneath your feet- sounds terrifying!.

Dubai has always been a place for the new - but generally it goes for bigger (towers, malls, ferris wheels, roads etc.). The Frame is however something I have never rally come across before and so it will be interesting to see whether this bit of Dubai innovation will catch on in other cities.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Butler Service

I have missed a couple of days mainly due to being very busy - no excuse but still a little unfortunate given how well I was doing.

The sporting extravaganza that characterises my Fathers visits to UAE is in full swing golf today and the last England v Pakistan ODI was yesterday. Sports City is a great cricket venue as the atmosphere is electric even if less than a third full. There was plenty of singing and chanting yesterday as first Roy and then Jos Buttler scored excellent centuries as England beat Pakistan to clinch the one day series. Butler's innings was a joy - 120 in around 56 balls and the fastest test hundred by an Englishmen - he was cracking the ball to all parts and while Pakistan managed to keep up with the 7 an over run rate they kept losing wickets at key times and the victory was well deserved.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Taking the Pisco

The last time I had a Pisco Sour was around 16 years ago when E. and I made our epic trip to Peru as part of our world tour of 1999. The town of Pisco in Peru is famous for the eponymous drink (made from recollection from egg white, lemon juice and a spirit called Pisco unsurprisingly made in the town) and of course we partook with enthusiasm during our visit. We even purchased a bottle (which we then proceeded to transport in our rucksack for the rest of the trip - E. eventually got sick of carrying it and decided to finish the bottle in our campervan in Adelaide during the Australian leg of our tour with hilarious (for me) consequences - it is quite strong!).

Anyway last night I went to the Peruvian restaurant in the Four Seasons. The food was excellent (certainly far superior to what we were eating on our 1999 visit to Peru.....) but the evening was made particularly memorable by my re-acquaintance with the Pisco Sour - it did seem significantly stronger than I remembered it - but that might be because I getting old - it certainly tasted very good and I will be definitely returning to that restaurant.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Twist or stick?

Given my desk bound working life I generally try to go for a walk at lunchtime for some exercise. There is a longish patch of grass outside the office that adjoins the Sheikh Zayad Road (SZR)so whilst it is reasonably green and pleasant and suitable for a work (and there are generally some picknickers enjoying their lunch or an afternoon nap)there is an accompanying roar from the traffic.

I am preparing a presentation this afternoon but decided I needed some fresh air so set off for my walk - it usually takes around 15 - 20 minutes but given the poor progress I had made in finalising my presentation I decided I would try to cover the same ground but in a quicker time so my pace was (comparatively) brisk.

All was going well until towards the end of the grass patch where the path next to the SZR starts. I managed to step on a piece of uneven ground and tumbled with my usual lack of elegance to the ground twisting my ankle in the process. There were two competing emotions. The first was acute embarrassment as my antics were clearly visible to all the traffic thundering past on the way to Abu Dhabi so I was keenly aware that somebody who might know me would have witnessed my clumsiness and secondly acute pain - anybody who has twisted their ankle will know that at first it feels like you have actually broken your ankle such is the intensity of the pain. Eventually this died down and I was able to hobble (covered in grass stains and twigs) back to the office - of course on the way back I had to pass two work colleagues who were enjoying the afternoon sun outside so I was forced to try to explain why I looked like I had been dragged through a hedge backwards.

So now I am at my desk trying to finish the presentation and wondering quite what sort of impression I will be making on the audience this afternoon as I limp up to the podium although hopefully I will have got rid of some of the grass stains by then.

I will let you know how I get on.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Seasons of mist

One of things that we do not get in Dubai is clearly delineated seasons - it is either very hot (during the Summer months - May - September but particularly hot in June/July/August) or nice and warm (roughly October through to April) and the seasons tend to merge into each other. This time of year is generally lovely - although while I was away last week in Seoul in apparently rained (there were definitely puddles around the place when I got home on account of the almost complete absence of drainage). However, it was only during our recent visit back to the UK and my trip to Korea last week that it really brought home to me how much I miss the shades of Autumn - both England and Korea were a riot of colour as the leaves ranged from golden brown to deepest red (although I was told that in UK only 4% of tree leaves are in fact red - will need to check that). Nothing really beats a clear, crisp November day with piles of leaves under foot just ready to be kicked! Obviously I don't really miss everything that goes with it - the raking of the lawn to clear the dead leaves and the dank drizzly days with bare trees that follow but on the whole it is nice to have the opportunity to see Autumn at its best and then have the option to move back to the warmer climes of the Middle East - the best of both worlds!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ride on Time

Now I am back in Dubai from my recent trip to the Far east, I am facing my usual challenges of getting my sleeping pattern back to normal. Although, I was only in Seoul for 4 days, the 5 hour time difference meant that my 7:30am alarm call for our morning meetings during our trip was a particularly unpleasant experience - equivalent to a 2:30am start on Dubai time so breakfast was not particularly alluring (although that did not stop me from tucking in....). By lunch time I would be feeling vaguely human and by late afternoon/early evening I would be firing on all cylinders which did not make getting off to sleep very easy. I read somewhere that it take a day to adjust for each hour time difference. I am not sure how correct that is, but I certainly struggle with jet lag when I get back from the UK (not so much going) and in the case of trips to the Far East, it is generally whilst I am there that I feel the differences although I did struggle to get to sleep last night even though I was back in my own bed.

A. has been asking me questions recent such as "Would you rather be able to teleport or to be invisible"? I think teleportation has a lot going for it but you would still need to find a cure for jet lag!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Shaken not stirred

The flight back to Dubai from Seoul takes around 9 1/2 hours - considerably longer than the flight out which I guess is because in part the plane is flying into the winds - certainly the flight was quite a bumpy one. However the longer flight time at least gave me a chance to check out the bar on our A380. There is something very James Bondesque about propping up a bar at 35,000 feet chatting to a German professor of Information Technology and a couple of South Africans who claimed to work for a sports wear manufacturer (could they have been spies?). In any event, I could not resist the temptation to order a vodka Martina - shaken not stirred of course!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Now you see it

We finally managed to catch sight of the elusive Lotte Tower mentioned in my last post. I guess Seoul is a little more crowded with competing buildings than Dubai as it was obviously a big building but it did not seem to dwarf the surrounding area in the same way as the Burg Khalifa. Having said this, it is not yet finished so perhaps they will adding some additional towers.

Our trip to Seoul is drawing to an end, and as with previous trips, the overriding impression has been of welcoming people keen that you eat as much food as possible! This trip was however made to a glorious backdrop of golden leaves and beautiful sunshine and we even managed a trip to one of the palaces (with the Secret Garden although we did not have time to see the garden) so in many ways the trip has been very memorable. Apparently it has been raining today in Dubai so a reverse of the usual expectation that the weather we are returning to will be better!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hidden Tower

The title sounds like a Tolkienesque novel but actually refers to the Lotte Tower which is apparently under construction (and close to completion) here in Seoul. However, notwithstanding keeping a sharp look out during our voyages around the city we have not yet seen it despite the fact it is apparently similar in size to the Burg Khalifa. Give the fact that in Dubai it is difficult not to catch a glimpse of the BK I am intriqued as to what the Lotte version actually looks like - perhaps long and thin and painted sky blue which would explain its lack of presence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Whole Lotta Seoul

Another quick post in between meetings. I am now in the land of the Han river having arrived late yesterday afternoon. The traffic in Seoul is as dense as ever so I have spent much of the last day ior so in a car waiting in a traffic jam for things to get moving. Like England, Autumn in Korea is currently in glorious technicolor with the leaves a rich ran age of golden brown through to red. The temperature is in the early teens so quite a contrast to Dubai where it is the balmy early 30s. other than business issues, the main preoccupation of Koreans is food so I hope to be able to report on some nice meals over the next few days!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Seoul Man

Not much time for a post today as I have been frantically getting ready for a trip to Seoul tonight which will take up most of my week. Whilst such trips can be very demanding (the flight leaves at an unpromising 3:30am this morning and we do not touch down until around 5pm Korean time) they are generally worth while as the Korean people are usually very accommodating although getting around Seoul can be very challenging wit the traffic and the rather haphazard nature of the satnavs used by the taxis! Hopefully see you on the other side!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The name's Bond

James Bond. We went to see the latest Bond movie this afternoon and it is very much up to the standard of recent offerings with Daniel Craig excelling again in the title role. I think Sean Connery is probably still the best Bond but Craig certainly gives the role a bit of menace and style. It was an excellent movie and well worth the wait since Skyfall which I saw again on the plane over on our recent UK trip. Both movies feature parts of Bonds past and this one raises some interesting questions as to whether he will be around for another edition. When we got home we put on You Only Live Twice which gave us a chance to compare the two and Craig certainly measures up well.

Can't wait for the next one!

Friday, November 6, 2015

I want to ride my bicycle

I think I have mentioned elsewhere that we have been gearing up for some cycling here in the Dubai this Winter (including modifying Em's car to include a bike rack at a fairly significant cost...). Today was a perfect day for having a ride - beautiful sunshine, temperatures in early 30s etc Unfortunately V. choose today (the first time her Mother has accompanied us on a ride we have done a number of times before) to fall off - twice - fortunatley no major injuries but I suspect having a ride around the block might be less easy to wrangle next time!

Long Lunch

A rugby 7s tradition in Dubai is the long lunch where the great and the (not so) good gather for a nice meal and a few drinks to be entertained by a couple of speakers (usually ex-rugby players). Yesterday the Crown Plaza at Festival City held the 2015 edition and I was lucky enough to be invited. I have been t this event a few times in the past and it is always good value. This year we had ex-Scotland and Lions scrum half Andy Nichol and Eric Rush as speakers. Eric Rush was particualaly good. I recall him as a ferocious competitor in the All Black jersey but he was an excellent speaker - apparently his Father was from Northern Ireland and he had soem very good stories. It as a terrific day only spoiled by the fact that I managed to put my blackberry in the jacket pocket of the jacket on the back of the chair I was sitting on towards the end of the afternoon having forgotten that I had moved chairs. Having then returned to my original seat and put my jacket on to leave when I could not find my blackberry and spent a fruitless 40 minutes rootling around amongst the debris of the Dinner for it - particulally inconvenient as I am due to go to Korea next week. Fortunately the Gentlemen whose jacket I had chosen to deposit my blackberry contacted me this morning so I have been re-united but it was an uncomfortable period being blackberry-less!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Summer Holiday 2015 - England Part 3

I have had this in draft for a while and have therefore decided to try to finish off the details of our Summer holidays before I have completed forgotten what happened! Part 2 can be found . As was perhaps to be expected, after the excitement of my big party, the rest of the week was a little very quieter and we spent it pottering around Maidstone and its environs. Fortunately, the weather improved (it could hardly have rained any harder!) during the course of the week and allowed us to catch up with M, and N and J and for most afternoons the kids were able to play together. This included a visit to "Go Ape" at Leeds castle which allowed V. to overcome her concerns about traveling down zip lines and for all the kids to walk around the treetops. It actually looked a lot of fun (although as with everything else it was not cheap). We also managed our traditional trip down to Hastings - this time on V's birthday (9 already! - a separate post to follow on this) where she had expressed an interest in visiting the traditional sweet shop in the old town followed by lunch at White's fish restaurant where they do excellent platters of seafood which the kids tucked into with gusto. I drove the kids down and we had a great time singing a medley of songs from the musicals (mainly Mary Poppins and Chitty, Chitty Bang, Bang) and more recent hits from Katy Perry et al. We were met down there by E., M. and Dad and parked up on Rock a Nore car park where I was able to admire the new apartments (some still for sale even though they were completed 2 or 3 years ago) built in the style of the Fishermen huts.

Whilst not exactly freezing, the weather during our time in Maidstone was a bit wet and overcast so we were hoping for some better whether during our forthcoming trip to Ireland (although avoiding rain in Ireland is perhaps not the most likely of outcomes!).

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Rugby World Cup

I was lucky enough to attend two matches during the recent RWC. The first was the NZ - v - South Africa semi-final which I went to with RP on a rainy day in South West London. Although the score was close (20 - 18 to the All Blacks), SA never really looked like they were going to score a try and Dan Carter scored a sublime drop goal to effectively seal the match. It was the first time I had been to Twickenham for years and the Stadium looked in really good nick - the whole day was expertly organised and I caught up with RP at Holborn from where we made our way by Underground to Richmond for a swift pint in the Railway Tavern (actually a rather nice venue - worth a further visit) and then the Rugby special shuttle to the stadium. We were in the first row of the second tier behind the posts and so had a great view of the game (as well as being protected from the rain that swept in as the game progressed). We were also able to take rugby special shuttle back to Waterloo from the stadium (although it took quite a while) and we had an excellent meal at Café du Marche.

The second game I saw was the Final and this took a bit more planning. I secured the tickets in the ballot last year and so flights etc. had been arranged well in advance. I had booked the Novotel at Brentford and so my Sister drove us all up and Dad on the Saturday morning. Although overlooking the M4/Great West Road, the Hotel was fiendishly difficult to locate in a car - our first attempt ended with us being parked next to it but with no access to the car park so we had to go round again and then drive the wrong way in to the underground car park. Dad, A, M and me then took a cab to the Stadium. Despite dire warnings about difficulties in accessing the ground, we were only 5 minutes walk away and it was a beautiful sunny Autumn day - slightly misty with the sun setting over Twickenham.

This was a a really fitting end to a lovely week weather wise - we had met P. V, C and M at Greenwich Park (where we visited the Observatory and the Maritime Museum) the previous weekend where the weather had been equally good) and during the week had a lovely visit to Hastings (where we picked up some ace Crabs) a great few days with M and B down in Chichester where we had managed a walk on the South Downs and a visit to RAF Tangmere. The weather had been less good when we met up with W, K and J (old friends from HK days) in Worthing the following day after a damp stop at Bosham Hoe (where the road literally disappears under water at high tide) but en route to London we had stopped off for a visit to Brighton where our walk around the Lanes in the Autumn sunshine stirred some old memories of Es time in Brighton!

So Final day was an appropriate finale to a glorious week and we arrived in good time to grab some pasties for lunch and A and I secured some commemorative tops from the merchandise shop and also Dad paid for a couple of the "Referee radios" - which gave access to the referee's microphone and also match commentary. We were sitting high up in the stand opposite the players tunnel and had great views all around the ground (I should think so forgiven the cost of the tickets....). We were treated to a terrific match with NZ dominating the first half but the Aussies storming back in the second getting within 4 points of the All Blacks before the boot of Dan Carter (including another sublime drop goal) saw NZ home. The ref radio is a great innovation. Nigel Owens had a good game. We stayed for the firework display and the presentations and then headed back to Richmond on the shuttle bus before getting a cab almost immediately so we were back at the Hotel by 7:30pm. It was a really terrific day. I have never been to a World Cup final before in any sport (in fact none of us had although M had been at Cardiff when the French beat the All Blacks in the World Cup) so this was a very good way to break a duck!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Post a day in November

It is that time of the year again where I try to make a post per day for the whole of November, and true to form I have managed to miss the first day(mainly because we were travelling back from the UK having spent a rugby-themed 10 days there). I will try to do better than last year where I think I managed to cover only half the available days. There are a number of things that I can talk about and hopefully recording them in this post will embarrass me into actually writing about them! Topics include finally completing a comparison between life in HK and life in Dubai which I promised to do 5 years ago when we first arrived in the Sand pit! I think I did a comparison of taxi drivers and taxi-driving (will need to check in the archives) and I guess thee are a number of other interesting comparisons to make. I also need to complete the run down of the Summer holidays (and also our more recent trip to the UK). So all in all, plenty of material!