Archive for April, 2006

Time at home, at last


At least a whole week back in Dubai with no travel – maybe even two weeks, depending.
I’m looking forward to it. Granted, one week away from home recently was holiday, but otherwise I’ve been away every week but one since early Jan. Mrs Saul has lots of nice food planned!

Saturday Pink Rock bimble


Lead a newbie trip out for ME4x4 again on Saturday. A bit more challenging this time, heading off to Pink Rock from Big Red.
Two nice stucks, the best being from Jon, whose four wheel drive wasn’t working properly, leading him to get crested sideways on this dune. I had to anchor him with my car from behind whilst Henk towed him sideways, otherwise he was in danger of rolling.

I managed to get stuck on the simplest crest.

Photos courteys of Henk Bos.

What’s Vienna doing exactly for me?


In Vienna the other week I noticed an odd translation of the Vienna Tourist Board’s current slogan.
In German, it’s ‘Wien erwartet Sie’. The English version is ‘Vienna waits for you’.
‘Vienna awaits you’ would sound much better, I think. It would also be a direct translation of the German.
Far be it from me to suggest reprinting all the posters and leaflets, but ‘Vienna waits for you’ sounds like Vienna’s hanging around the bus stop desperately hoping you might drop by. ‘Vienna awaits you’ suggests what it should – everything one of Europe’s finest cities has to offer, ready for you to come and experience.

The Now Show available as a podcast!


Hooray for the BBC – The Now Show is now is now available as a podcast.
This will liven up future flights. Please, please, BBC, let’s have all your shows as podcasts – I’d happily pay more than the annual licence fee I’d pay in the UK to be able to listen to this stuff.
For a start, I’d like to see Sounds of the Sixties and all the old Wildebeest Years, Goodness Gracious Me and Little Britain episodes too.

Poland trip not favoured by the gods


This week’s trip to Poland has been a bit of a disaster area.
* Suit collected from dry cleaners shortly before packing and leaving – take it out of packaging to discover it stinks to high heaven of dry cleaining chemicals. No choice but to wear the jacket or it would get squashed in my case and feel quite ill for doing so. Packing trousers in my case contaminated everything else, so I’ve smelt rather odd for the last three days.
* Arrive in Krakow to find my hotel reservation hadn’t been made. Krakow is booked out, but manage to find the last hotel room apparently available in the whole city.
* Unable to find the building my first meeting is in. When I do arrive, the room starts to smell like a dry cleaning chemical factory after a few minutes.
* Flying from Krakow to Warsaw – flight cancelled! Airline puts me in a taxi which takes me 5 hours to get to Warsaw.
* Arrive at hotel in Warsaw just after midnight to find that all their systems are down. Wait one hour to get room allocated.
I’m flying back tomorrow and everything today went fine. Hopefully tomorrow’s trip will be hassle free…

Perfect afternoon’s work


Had a wonderful arrival in Istanbul today, flying directly from Bucharest (which I’ll write about later, after I’ve copied the photos across using yet another ‘special’ Sony only usb cable!)
Things started badly, truth be told. At Bucharest people were allowed on to the plane via both the front and rear doors. Most people who got on at the back needed to sit at the front and vice versa, leading to total chaos in the middle of the. I got on at the front and tried to go towards the back with my luggage, but gave up, dumping it around row 16 and then clambering over to my seat in row 22.
When we landed the usual crazies jumped up as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac. I really don’t understand this hand luggage mania. Are people worried that someone else might steal their bags, or are they just a bit dim? The worst example I’ve seen of this was landing in Casablanca once, when a guy jumped up as we bounced along the runway at 500 miles an hour, opened the luggage rack and grabbed his plastic bin bag full of clothes. The bag promptly split and several pairs of underpants fell onto the person below.
I didn’t get any pants falling on me, but the young guy behind me leapt up and opened the rack, causing a laptop to fall out and whack me on the head. I wasn’t particularly pleased and let him know how I felt. ‘No problem’, was his attempt at a pacifying response. Hmm.
Things were fine as soon as we got off the plane – straight through passport control and into a cab belonging to, in my experience at least, what must be Istanbul’s safest cab driver. The drive to the Hyatt Regency was fantastic. No sharp braking, swerving or near misses, just a calm trip along the coast for about 30 minutes, through the town and up to the hotel in brilliant sunshine, past ships on the Bosphorous, 19th century mosques and street sellers selling everything from peanuts to Manchester United shirts.
My room in the Hyatt’s very well laid out and decorated, with a decent view, great desk and a couch that you can relax on and enjoy a view of the sea. The default music playing is not the default hotel Euro pap, but what I suppose might be called ‘chill out sounds’. Certainly the right music to set the mood to spend an afternoon at work at the perfectly proportioned desk, which, to my joy, has no glass top, so I can use my optical mouse.
These small things make a difference, you know 🙂

Traveller’s diet?


I need a magic diet for travellers…
About five years ago, I was overweight and decided to make a change and get back to a healthy size. At my worst, I was over 100Kg. Disgraceful really – when I look at the shirts and trousers I used to wear back then, aged only 26 or 27, it’s hard to believe they were my ‘normal’ everyday clothes.
Although, ironically, I was much fitter than I am today, visitng the gym four to five times a week and doing lots of cardio style workout, I was too big. Actually, I’m being too nice – quite frankly, I was a bit of a porker. My diet was low fat, but I ate a lot of bread, rice and pasta.
In those days I could control what I ate. By cutting out the carbs I was eating and swapping them with vegetables, I lost a lot of weight, painlessly, over around nine to twelve months. Atkins it wasn’t – simply a more sensible balance of protein to carbohydrates. No hunger, no pain, just gradual, sensible weight loss.
By the time I moved to Dubai I was around 80Kg, settling at around 82-83Kg once I relaxed a little and started eating out a bit more, but well within my target healthy weight. Since working in SEE for the last 15 months, I’ve been inching slowly up to 86Kg. (Since I’m talking kilograms, I suppose I really ought to say ‘centimetring up to 86Kg’).
The twin evils of travelling are not being able to control what you eat and not being able to resist eating what you shouldn’t eat when it’s late/early/you haven’t eaten all day for attending meetings. Timezones mean you’re hungry at strange times and inevitably it’s easier to eat some bread or a sandwich rather than grab a meat salad.
Being weak-willed plays a role – I’ll never eat dessert in a restaurant, but if I’m at an event with delicious cakes on offer, I find it very hard to say no. On the other hand, if I’m taken out to dinner, it’s hardly my place to refuse what’s on offer.
So, I admit I’m weak-willed and have a tendency to stuff, so what can I do? My resolutions are –
* Ask for two meat portions on the plane and not eat the bread or pudding
* Avoid deep fried and overly fatty foods at dinner, lunch and the breakfast buffet
* Carry my gym kit everywhere and make sure I use the hotel gym, even if it’s a simple twenty minute walk – anything is better than the “plane, taxi, hotel, meeting, hotel, taxi, plane” lack of movement.
The ‘not eating dessert on the hotel on the plane’ idea works best when I sprinkle salt and pepper all over the pudding as soon as I receive my meal to stop me from gobbling it later on. This does encourage odd looks from whoever’s sitting next to me. ‘Why is this strange English guy pouring salt and pepper on his dessert? Is this some strange English way of eating sweet things?’.
Nope, it’s a fomer porker trying to avoid returning to his old ways…

Mrs Saul hits Vienna


I was in Vienna last week for a very well managed marketing event, part of Sun’s ‘100 Cities Roadshow’.
As a presenter at the event, I couldn’t have asked for more – well organised, good attendance, meetings with partners and some leads following my thrilling presentation on Sun’s desktop solutions.
Instead of flying back to Dubai on the Thursday and then back to Vienna and on to Bucharest the following Monday, I stayed the weekend in Vienna and Mrs Saul came out to visit, as she’s on school holidays. It saves Sun the cost of the flight and means that Mrs Saul and I got to spend some time together abroad, as opposed to me spending the weekend being knackered in Dubai and then disappearing again shortly after arriving home.
We had a super weekend in Vienna, staying in the centre in the Mercure Wien Zentrum, (a little shabby and fairly pricey, but right in the middle of things) seeing all the sights and enjoying Vienna Central to the full.
I’ve been to Vienna about 6 times now, both while working for Sun and when working in my second job after uni, but previously I’d never managed more than a brief walk in the evening around the centre of town. On this occasion we had the whole weekend to see all the sites. The weather was perfect and we tramped around on foot like good tourists, taking in almost everything the centre of town has to show.
One thing that struck me in particular was the number of elderly people we saw out and about. On a positive side, this meant that whilst sitting in old Viennese Kaffeehaeuser we saw old Viennese people, beautifully dressed in suits and smart outfits, drinking Kaffee and gossipping. On the other hand, it did seem to illustrate the issue facing Germany and Austria, as I understand it, of an increasingly elderly population, with fewer younger people filling their place. Amongst my German friends, single child families seem to be the norm, the result being an increasingly older average age and an increasing financial burden on the state to support them. I assume Austria is in a similar situation, unless Vienna’s centre happens to have a disproportionately aged population.
Vienna’s centre is incredibly clean and well kept – it’s a shame London can’t match the same standard. It’s also fully pedestrianised. I’d love to see Picaddily Circus, Shaftesbury Avenue and Soho pedestrianised in the same way.
Mrs Saul took some great photos.
“Ladies and gentlemen, your favourite Eastern European Schwarzarbeiter [illegal workers] do the best breakdancing for your cash, thank you so much.”

Consistently stunning architecture througout the town centre…

Modern art meets roccoco Catholic…

I was forced to eat a delicious portion of Sachertorte, at the Sacher hotel.

We don’t really acknowledge the seasons in the UK. Vienna’s shops were full of Easter celebration, which was reflected in the parks, as the trees recovered from Europe’s harshest winter in fifty years.

View from flat 3404, UP Tower, Dubai


Yes, our rent went up 32% in October, but our Dubai sunset is still beautiful.

Photo courtesy of Mrs Saul.

Cover your parts


We prudish Brits like to cover up in general, even if our continental cousins don’t, as illustrated by the BBC.
The article reminded me of two good stories.
Firstly, a nice comment from the English groom’s speech at a Finnish friend of mine’s wedding (not a verbatim quote, but I think I’ve captured the general spirit) –
“It was nice to be made to feel so welcome by future in-laws, although I hadn’t expected to be naked and drinking beer with them in a sauna quite so soon after making their acquaintance.”
The second story was told to me by the Danish sales rep of one of Sun’s storage partners. Being a Dane, he simply walked into the sauna in his US hotel and unrobed himself in front of his fellow female occupants without thinking twice about what he was doing. The police were called. They kindly pointed out to him that he was in the *ladies’* sauna. Being Danish was a weak defence, but got him off the hook.