Remembering my mother


My mother passed away four years ago today.

I still think of her every day.


Driving home


I think it might take longer than 72 hours these days.

trip home.tiff

What do cows say?


Not much sympathy


I don’t really have much sympathy for these people’s complaints.

Whether you like it or not, having visible tattoos may well affect your employment prospects – that should have been pretty clear to everyone when they decided to get them in the first place. You can complain about whether that’s fair or not, but it’s a fact.

I am not a fan of tattoos and was pretty shocked at how many people had them when I was home over the summer. Seeing so many women with tattoos particularly surprised me, considering that, in general, women tend to change their look or style more often than men. Having a tattoo seems, well, permanent.

Back in Saudi


For this first time since 2009 or 2008, I think.

So little seems to have changed.

A few newer cars and a few newer buildings. Riyadh airport immigration queue was just over two hours. Hotel ok but not really functioning properly, with no one seeming to care.

Dusty roads and half finished buildings.

Feet on the dashboards.


Uber impressed


I finally got around to signing up for Uber last week, using them several times in Jo’burg and today in Dubai.

I’m totally blown away by the whole system – it’s such a perfect use of today’s mobile technology. Available in so many cities, solves the issue of having cash with you, of safety with driver and passenger ratings, navigation with the GPS telling the driver where you are and where to go, how long you have to wait, etc, etc. Just incredible.

The drivers I spoke to all worked for local companies that were contracting with Uber. They all seemed very happy, especially with the way Uber use the technology to pay bonuses – most customers picked up in one day, most trips, etc. Everything’s being used to incentivise everyone, customer, passenger, fleet owner, etc, to buy and sell as much as they can.

Just stunning.

The Dubai driver I spoke to today says he pays 8,000dhs a month to hire his Lexus, with an iPad and Uber. He pays for petrol and keeps everything else, plus commissions based on various factors. He typically makes between 17,000 to 20,000 a month, which is pretty amazing for a driver.

Previously he used to be a normal taxi driver for 36 months, during which time he collected 36,000dhs in fines. His comments echoed what a lot of other taxi drivers have told me, namely that when they are fined it can often be difficult to understand exactly why. This means that bad drivers don’t learn and good drivers become disheartened.

The cars I all took were at the top end of the saloon range. Prices are a bit higher than using a normal taxi (in Dubai at least and I’m sure in Jo’burg too) but it’s well worth it, especially when it can be expensed. The convenience of checking your phone fifteen minutes before you meeting ends and picking car makes a world of difference.

With local companies scrambling to make their own apps, Uber’s still a step ahead with their international coverage. The market’s still wide open though – a real revolution coming to the world of taxis!

The ultimate test – I’ll be in Lagos in November, where Uber are apparently operating on Victoria Island…

What a surprise


Well educated people have some of the top jobs in the country – at least the jobs that require a good education.

My father went to a grammar school. If I wanted my daughter to have an education of similar quality I would have to pay a fortune to buy a house in the catchment areas of the few remaining grammar schools in the country, or pay for a private education – the cost of which has rocketed beyond the means of those who could previously afford it.



Zara is growing up fast. Every day is a riot of excitement.

The dummy will go when teething stops.


Dubai Mall’s aquarium is a daily visit.


We’ll be hiring her out soon of household duties.



She put a shoe on herself for the first time this week.


I want to go for a walk!


Back on the road


I’ve been back on the road, seeing Kenya again since 2007 and revisiting old haunts I hadn’t expected to back to so soon, but where there’s lots of business and I need to play a role in kickstarting things.

Two trips to Nigeria. The first involved my worst ever airport experience, with out of date yellow fever cards, crazy shuttle bus to the car park and nearly falling off the edge of the car park into a muddy field six feet below. The second was with a colleague who I’d prepared for the worse, but who is probably wondering what I’d been talking about – instead of the usual craziness we had smooth boarding in Dubai, little turbulence, AC working in the airport and even a cafe to wait in whilst waiting for another colleague from SA.

We even managed to get the driver to meet us near arrivals so we could avoid the shuttle bus and car park completely…

There was an incident where a soldier spent five minutes shouting at the Avis guy, plus, whilst we drove off, a lady policeman seemed to think we owed her some money, whacking the window of the Camry as we drove off. Sorry, no pay day for you…

Both Nigeria trips were the usual whirlwind of last minute meetings but good progress. The second even coincided with a Citrix event being held in my hotel, but as usual on these work trips, catching up with old friends and colleagues was limited to a few minutes at the top of a staircase. Shame.

Here are some pics, in slightly random order.

TVs have been erected at Lagos airport. Unknown if TVs are still in the boxes…


I didn’t eat this but a colleague did. It’s kind of a grey spicy splodge with bits in.


The view from my hotel room in Lagos. I can never understand why there is so much junk lying around in Lagos. Why doesn’t it get used for scrap? You’ll see all sorts of stuff just lying a around, falling to pieces.



I walked around the ‘computer market’ in Ojota, dodging open sewers and speakers pumping ‘afrobeat’ at top volume.


My colleague from our distributor, Peter. Peter is helping me improved my pidgin.

‘How far?’ – how are you?

‘A dey’ – I’m fine thanks.

‘A beg no vex’ – Terribly sorry old chap, please don’t be angry.

I ate a chicken pie in a roadside cafe and survived. The open drains make the whole experience a bit much at times.



I was in Lebanon when thousands of Syrians went to vote at the consulate, causing gridlock. I saw the tail end of it – lots of people wearing Assad t-shirts. Lots of very tough looking men who’d probably been working on building sites since they’d been in their mid-teens and smoking since their ninth birthdays.


Kenya has a great mix of Indian, English and local food. Chicken tikka, chips and naan bread!


The usual workhorses, this time in Nairobi. I loved Nairobi (compared to Lagos at least). Much more evidence of colonial times and I could walk around outside.



1972 Merc in perfect condition for sale in Amman.


The coolest guy in Amman, driving to work in his Mustang, radio blaring, cigarette in one hand, arm out of the window.


This Patrol is probably in the best condition of any breakdown vehicle you’ll see in Lagos.


I will, one day, talk to the owners of one of these Lagos breakdown Rangies. I wonder how much they go for? There are lots of them. Probably not the end their European or American former owners expected.



Savvy move


I’d love to visit Montenegro.

I wonder if this move will see an influx of UAE tourists or not?

Also, the first time I’ve seen the use of the word ‘ambassadress’. I always find it odd when people use ‘actor’ or ‘waiter’ to describe what I grew up calling an ‘acrtress’ or ‘waitress’, but in this case I find myself confronting my linguistic and sexist prejudices.


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