Archive for July, 2006

The Poles are coming

25/07/2006

There have been several articles in the UK press I get in Dubai about the current mass migration of Poles to the UK. This is the largest immigration wave the UK has ever experienced, the catalyst being Poland’s joining the EU and the UK being one of the few EU countries allowing Polish people to come and work here. France, for example, does not.
The results can be seen everywhere – all the hotels and pubs are staffed by Polish people and cars with Polish number plates can be seen all over the place, not just in London.
There’s always been a Polish community in the UK, based mainly around Hammersmith, consisting of those who stayed after the second world war and Communist era emigres. The new arrivals have far eclipsed them in numbers now.
The consensus seems to be that the current situation is good for Britain and bad for Poland. Whilst we get lots of (often) well educated people who are willing to work hard and play their part in society, their mother country is losing many of its doctors, entrepreneurs and young people.
I have no desire to see Poland suffer, but to those Poles who are over here, I say welcome and good luck.

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Off on holiday

19/07/2006

Off back to the UK tomorrow for 14 days, with a brief interlude in Bratislava to see the sights.
Hopefully my faithful readers will manage without any postings for that period.
I’m looking forward to a break and the chance to see family and friends. Looking at the packed schedule Mrs Saul’s devised, it looks like I’ll be having the classic ‘expat’s holiday’, where as many things are packed into the break as possible, leaving you needing a holiday to recover from your hoilday.

Free train travel for all, plus some other policies

17/07/2006

It’s always difficult being a politician – there’s always someone who won’t be very fond of your views.
The members of this political party are surely set to be the most reviled political hopefuls of all time.

The Romans are coming

17/07/2006

On my hotel room TV’s interactive menu I was interested to see ‘Latino Ellinika’ as one of the language options.
I remember seeing a Greek person in the UK sending text messages using the Latin alphabet a few years ago and had always wondered how widespread the practice was. As usual, Wikipedia has the answer.
Whilst browsing Wikipedia for an article on Greek written in the Latin alphabet I finally got around to finding out the details of when Vietnamese switched to the Latin alphabet as well.
It’s interesting that certain languages that switched to the Latin alphabet before the advent of the standard ‘English’ computer keyboard or widespread use of typewriters are still hampered in localisation terms by the extensive use of accents, umlauts and other features that standard English doesn’t use. I can’t help wondering that if Vietnamese or Turkish were making the switch today, they’d probably have used a combination of letters and a sprinkling of accents, as opposed to using symbols that require more presses of a keyboard or lines of code to represent a word.
It was fun to see people type in Amharic when I was in Ethiopia – you write the sound of the letter using the Latin alphabet and the Amharic letter appears on the screen. That must really keep those neurons firing in the brain.

The Chinese are coming

16/07/2006

Over the last few months there’s been a definite increase in the number of Chinese people I see at the airports I’m passing through. On most of my visits, particularly in Africa, there’s usually been a contingent of 20 or so Chinese businessmen or engineer types being ushered through immigration.
Today, after landing in Dubai from New York (I got my upgrade!) I noticed the ultimate symbol of China’s increasing regional economic clout.
Dubai Duty Free has now added Tsing Tao to the range of beers it has on offer.

San Fran wanderings

15/07/2006

Took the Caltrain from Palo Alto to San Francisco last night and spent a very pleasant evening wandering around Fisherman’s Wharf, before dropping into a great Blues bar called ‘The Saloon’, on Grant Avenue.
When I’m able to I always try to see some live music. When I was in Santa Clara last I went to JJ’s Blues in San Jose, a grotty bar on an anonymous high street surrounded by discount stores. The location was appalling, but the music was great. In Prague there’s an excellent venue called Ungelt, in the heart of the Old Town, which is also well worth a visit.
Yesterday’s band at The Saloon were the best I’ve seen for ages. Drummer, bassist, guitarist and saxophonist belting out some excellent stuff. Sadly the camera in my phone didn’t quite capture a clear image of the sax player walking along the bar with her ‘glow in the dark’ sunglasses on, or I’d post the image here. JJ’s and this place were full of some quite bizarre characters, most of whom are always willing to have a chat after they’d heard my accent and asked me, as do many Americans, if I was Australian.
I really had to drag myself away to get the train back to Palo Alto.
Somebody scream!

San Fran wanderings

15/07/2006

Took the Caltrain from Palo Alto to San Francisco last night and spent a very pleasant evening wandering around Fisherman’s Wharf, before dropping into a great Blues bar called ‘The Saloon’, on Grant Avenue.
When I’m able to I always try to see some live music. When I was in Santa Clara last I went to JJ’s Blues in San Jose, a grotty bar on an anonymous high street surrounded by discount stores. The location was appalling, but the music was great. In Prague there’s an excellent venue called Ungelt, in the heart of the Old Town, which is also well worth a visit.
Yesterday’s band at The Saloon were the best I’ve seen for ages. Drummer, bassist, guitarist and saxophonist belting out some excellent stuff. Sadly the camera in my phone didn’t quite capture a clear image of the sax player walking along the bar with her ‘glow in the dark’ sunglasses on, or I’d post the image here. JJ’s and this place were full of some quite bizarre characters, most of whom are always willing to have a chat after they’d heard my accent and asked me, as do many Americans, if I was Australian.
I really had to drag myself away to get the train back to Palo Alto.
Somebody scream!

Cross all digits

15/07/2006

All digits crossed for an upgrade from JFK to Dubai. I’m sitting in the airport in San Francisco ready for my marathon trip back – 6 hours or so to JFK and then 13 hours to Dubai.
I arrive at 2000 in Dubai on Sunday and leave for Athens the next morning at 0935, returning to Dubai at 0030 on Thursday morning and leaving for the UK the following afternoon at 1635.
I think I’m going to be feeling quite knackered by the time the weekend comes around, but Mrs Saul and I are attending a two day long wedding in Leicester, so I need to be alert and sociable. By Monday I’ll probably be near collapse.

The Night Manager

15/07/2006

I finished John Le Carre’s ‘The Night Manager’ last week. It’s probably the most thriller-like Le Carre I’ve read. I was exhausted after reading it, partly because I couldn’t put it down and it was three in the morning and partly because things got so tense towards the end.
I started ‘The Perfect Spy’ on my way over to the States, but I appear to have left it in the seat pocket of the JFK to San Francisco run. I’ll have to pinch my dad’s copy when I’m home on Thursday!

The Sporting Event of the Year

15/07/2006

Sadly I wasn’t able to attend The Chap Olympics, held recently in London.
The magazine’s letters page is also rather good.
Here’s my favourite –
“Sir,
I feel I should bring to your attention the horrendous level of service I received at a new lunching house in my village, which appears to be owned by one R McDonald Esq. Upon entering, no-one took my hat or cane, I was instructed to extinguish my Carey, and there was no table service. Instead, they held with a disgusting practice of ordering one’s own food from an open kitchen at the rear of the premises! As it was breakfast time, I ordered a brace of kippers, four devilled kidneys, a dish of kedgeree and a pot of Darjeeling. When the pimpled knave behind the counter began to titter, I demanded to see Mr McDonald immediately. To my horror, a deranged simpleton was produced, whom they had made up to resemble a clown. I have since learned that Mr McDonald is to open another such establishment in the neighbouring village of Westgrove Belmont. Alas! And so the darkness spreads!
Brigadier Gordon Volante, Pudsey”