Archive for October, 2007

Bad diplomacy


I was disappointed to read this news today.
I am not a politician or a career diplomat, but I do think that this is utterly the wrong way to deal with the leaders of countries who have close ties to the UK. Grandstanding like this might appeal to your local electorate in the short term, but it’s not the way to forge ties and create solutions in the longer term. Use these opportunities – if you are not there, you are not important.

SA again


In Jo’burg this week for various customer and partner meetings. In between I will, no doubt, be eating some enormous steaks.
Nice flight down, during which I managed to sleep a fair bit. Usually I never seem to be able to sleep on planes, but recently I’ve been dropping off pretty easily. I think this is due to the fact that I’m feeling pretty exhausted – this is my fourth week in a row of international travel for work. The two weeks after this will be in Dubai with maybe one overnighter. Can’t wait…

Happy Birthday to me


I’m 33 years old today and celebrating by doing partner training in Warsaw.
I’ve revised the age I ‘feel’ I am. I used to feel the same as when I was 23, even though it was clear to me when I met 23 year olds that 23 was well behind me.
These days I think I feel more like 27, the age I was when I first came to Dubai. A bit older, but still young and looking forward to a challenge.
One thing hasn’t changed – I still detest washing up and prefer to leave clothes in a heap on the floor rather than in the wardrobe and drawers where they belong.

Apartment latest


We’ve now been in our apartment for two weeks. Mrs Saul ended up handling moving in as I was away. Unfortunately for her she always seems to be there when I’m not – when I moved to Dubai back in 2002 she ended up sorting out the removals company for me in London as well…
Here’s the good stuff –
The apartment is well sized, with a great view from the balcony. The development also looks very nice – fountains, pedestrianised, nice pool, etc. There are lots of shops, restaurants and general fun things to do all within walking distance. I’m really looking forward to living here. I know the problems will get sorted out – it’s just a shame that they were there in the first place.
Here’s the bad stuff –
The quality of build in the apartment is appalling. Almost none of the issues raised during the snagging process were fixed when we moved in, including the lock on the balcony door. As time has gone on we’ve picked up on more and more problems – everything from scratches and dents to large water leaks. Even the front door bell is scratched. People have been around to fix the odd thing, but have generally left more problems in their wake. A pristine sink was inexplicably washed with a wire brush the other day, covering it in scratches. The builders seem to think that slopping a blob of varnish on a scratch counts as ‘rectifying’. It isn’t, particularly when the varnish is a completely different colour to the wood.
Trying to get any of this fixed has been difficult, to say the least. I am away again this week and poor Mrs Saul has had to handle things on her own. A large explosion apparently occurred yesterday whilst on the phone to customer service. This has lead to a visit today by people who appear to be able to get everything sorted and whose job isn’t simply to stand there and blame someone else. For the next two weeks workers will be in every day from 8 till 4 replacing doors, baths and cupboards and repainting all over the place. I’m sure this will cost the developer a lot more than if it had simply been done properly in the first place. It’s also incredibly inconvenient.
The developer won’t budge on the price of the second car parking space. Their argument that the price of land has gone up seems weak when you consider that I asked to buy this particular piece of land years ago but their processes wouldn’t let me. In addition to that, things were delivered late, so I am being penalised for their problems. This has left a sour taste in my mouth and a hole in my wallet. There is some irony to the fact that the space Mrs Saul’s car will sit is worth 190 times more than the vehicle occupying it.
The service charge is astronomical – way above what we expected, with no advanced warning of what it would be, making it hard to budget properly.
The chiller system has been changed so that we all pay a flat fee, regardless of what we actually use. This seems inefficient and unfair. Apparently an individual metering system will be deployed ‘in the future’.
We will have to pay for the amenities building, something we were promised would be free. It is currently 3,000Dhs per person per year (about $900) to use the pool and gym.
Lights seem to be on all the time around the building, which is a waste of electricity.
There are no timers on our water heaters or AC, so it’s hard to save on the power we use.
Despite all this, when it’s finished, it will be lovely. I was ready for problems, but hadn’t counted on quite so many of them or having to leave Mrs Saul on her own to sort them out.

The demise of the value chain


I’ve always been proud to be a major link in the value chain, adding value moving forward to clients on a global level.
Whilst flying to Warsaw this evening I glanced at the presentation the chap next to me was reading. Apparently the services arm of one of Sun’s major competitors is ‘deconstructing the value chain in order to build value networks in their place’.
Clearly, going forward, I will have to make an effort not to leverage the value chain but to play a notable role in the value network that the chain is replaced with.
Whether anyone will have a clue what that really means is another matter…

The curse of Krakow


the last time I had to go from Krakow to Warsaw, my flight was cancelled, the airline didn’t tell me and I ended up taking a four hour taxi journey to my hotel and arriving very late at night. When I arrived the check-in computers were down and it took an hour and a half to give me my room key.
On this trip, I arrived at the Sheraton to discover my reservation hadn’t been guaranteed so it had been cancelled and the hotel was full. As the whole of Warsaw is also full, it took a lot of calling around by the helpful lady at reception to find me a room somewhere else.
The room I have now is lovely. It’s bigger than the apartment I lived in until recently – I’m not looking forward to submitting my expense claim.
I will have to add truckloads of value tomorrow to justify having my own living room, separate bedroom and walk-in wardrobe, none of which I will get to enjoy during my stay!

Bombs in Karachi


The BBC is reporting that Bhutto’s convoy in Karachi has been hit by what look to be suicide bombers.
My trips to Pakistan are different to those in the countries I cover in Europe, but they are always trips that I enjoy. On a work level I meet excellent partners, visit very savvy customers and do good business. On a personal level I’m always made to feel very welcome by the partners that I visit and am always looked after very well.
I hope that the situation there resolves itself peacefully and that I’ll be back with my colleagues again soon under better political circumstances.

One Emirates flight I’m glad I wasn’t on


I like flying with Emirates. Good service, good in-flight entertainment, great lounges.
On some of my routes passengers don’t seem to bother to ask to sit together when they book or check-in, which can lead to lots of annoying seat swapping before and after takeoff. On a recent Dubai-New York flight I decided to be nice for a change and ended up changing seats three times before ending up in the same seat I started in, with the same process being repeated on the way back. On these same routes there are always issues with people not sitting down before take-off or standing up as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac. The cabin crew handle these situations very well.
This flight to Karachi must have been utter chaos though. Next time I’m flying there I will check before hand to make sure that no major political figures are returning home from exile up via first class.

Time for a smaller bag


I usually travel everywhere with a laptop bag and a suitcase wheely type bag. I have only ever been made to put the larger bag in the hold once on a trip back from Austria, but was able to get around this by taking some things out of it and putting them in a plastic bag. This apparently lightened the other bag up enough and I could carry it on with me.
Today’s checkin lady made me put my suitcase in the hold, despite the fact that I travelled with it here as carry-on luggage with no problems at all, as I do pretty much everywhere else.
My route back home today involves a quick transfer as well as crossing between some politically hostile territories, so I’m not holding much hope for my bag reappearing quickly when I get into Dubai, if it does at all.
All the check-in manager had to do was make a simple exception, given that the plane is only going to be a third full and given the difficulties of this route. Instead she’s risked my luggage getting delayed or lost, not caring less what happens to her company’s passenger.
I need to get a smaller suitcase and vacuum pack everything into it at each end so it doesn’t look as heavy.
Chris is not happy.

I want to be a fly on the wall…


…at this meeting between Gordon Brown and Sheikh Mohammed.
Britain and the UAE have close ties – ties that have certainly played a very positive role in my life so far.