Archive for February, 2009

Apostrophe standards upheld

28/02/2009

I was pleased to see this sign when home in Richmond last week. Quite a different approach to Birmingham council’s.

Just unbelievable. What is so hard about the apostrophe? Its some’thing people just do’nt understand.
Standards are being upheld north of Birmingham though. Apparently signs to Everton and Liverpool grounds mention ‘football stadia’.

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East meets West, via a Chevvie or two

28/02/2009

There was an excellent classic car show held next to where we live over the weekend. Lots of great models, from early Model Ts up to classic Astons and Rollers from the 80s.

This local gentlemen had three Chevrolet pickups on display. We had a good chat about his cars, which he’d bought and had restored in the States before being brought over to Abu Dhabi.

Looking at the picture I took of him with his pride and joy, I was struck by how people of different cultures and backgrounds can be brought together by common interests and that, deep down, the average bloke* isn’t that all that different. Forget East-West dialogue, meetings of religious representatives and the like – let’s talk engines!

I don’t want to sound too presumptious, but a US or British petrolhead might be a bit suspicious of ‘the Middle East’. A strange place, strange people, strange clothes, strange religion. Stereotypes of Arabs or muslims might easily be jumped to over a few beers, yet the guys in the checked shirts and jeans would probably easily bond with the gentleman in his dishdasha and ghutra. True, he might be having a cup of coffee rather than a Budweiser, but as the guys pored over their trucks and swapped stories, they’d probably realise they had a lot more in common with their friends in the UAE than they might have thought.

* I say blokes, as it’s mainly blokes who are interested in this sort of thing, one exception being our friend Georgia Lewis, a car mad lady who is a motoring correspondent for The National.

iPhone makes it to the UAE

22/02/2009

The iPhone is now officially available in the UAE.

I’m very happy with my BlackBerry Bold and have no intention of swapping it. The BlackBerry data plan also seems much better value. But then again, maybe I’m just not cool enough for an iPhone?

I’m interested to see the local telcos now offering deals and contracts. When I first arrived in Dubai I was shocked to find that you had to buy your own phone outright and get a SIM from the phone company – there were no contracts with free phones, no deals on free minutes or SMS. As a consumer, it’s good to see things moving on.

Foiled

20/02/2009

It appears my earlier jubilant post about my service fees was a little hasty.

The property company sent me a text message yesterday informing me that the service fees invoice was in the post – very kind of them, but I had already rec’d it. The message contained a bombshell though, adding that the service fees invoice didn’t include everything. Apparently, AC charges were left out*.

I called the company and was told that AC charges would be billed separately, at some point in the future. They will add another 8.8Dhs per square foot to what I have to pay, bringing the fee back to 26.8Dhs per square foot, what it was in September 2007 when we moved in. This means it’s gone from being outrageously expensive, to completely and utterly outrageously expensive, then back to earlier outrageous levels.

I find this completely extraordinary. They send me a service fees invoice accompanied by a letter telling me that thanks to their negotiating skills, they’ve managed to reduce my fees. I am then told – by SMS of all things – that the invoice misses out a major item. Someone obviously completely forgot to include it, or didn’t think it was worth giving us clear information.

It is then up to me to call them to find out what I am going to have to pay. The end result is that the fee is pretty much what it was when we moved in – a fee which is more than 400% what we were promised when we bought the place.

At least it’s lower than last year. It’s still far too high.

* AC is provided by cold water pumped around the building. This is known as the ‘chiller’ fee. We have to pay a flat fee – no metering was installed. I have no idea why a brand new development was built without the ability to charge people for what they actually use.

Some good property news…

17/02/2009

…and some bad.

The good news – I nearly fell off my chair this morning whilst reading my service fees invoice for this year.

Last year I had to pay 41,500Dhs in two installments, both within a week of each other in September. This year the fees are 21,405Dhs, payable over four installments across the year. This represents much better value for money – 18Dhs per square foot as opposed to 35Dhs last year. This is still nowhere near the 8Dhs per square foot we were promised, but it is nearer the 16Dhs per square foot we’d budgeted for.

I am much happier with this. I will be happier when a dubious ‘late payment fee’ for 206Dhs is removed from the bill.

The bad news…

The quality assurance person I have been speaking to about soundproofing, or the lack thereof, has told me that he has spoken to The Contractor who have told him that the apartment has been built according to The Specification. This is a far cry from his earlier promise that he was speaking to The Consultant about the overall design of the building.

This ridiculous vicious circle of speaking to The Contractor drives me crazy. I need the property company to take responsibility for what was built, rather than simply to throw things over the wall to The Contractor. The Contractor builds things to The Specification – it’s as simple as that. If The Specification stated that the walls should be made out of paper, that’s what they’d build. It’s not their role to question what they are told to build. That is the responsibility of the property company when they sign off the design of the building.

It seems that I’ve hit a brick wall (albeit a thinly built one) with this issue. Currently I’m waiting to hear what was actually built – it would be nice to know what The Specification actually is. Once I know that I can consider my next move. We are due a residents’ association by October this year – once that’s in place we may be able to get a group of owners together to get the problem addressed. If not, I will have to install soundproofing myself, at great expense and inconvenience, something I do not feel is my responsibility. A properly soundproofed apartment is surely the least that can be expected, given the supposed quality of the development.

Either way, I need to find some cost-effective short term measures to block out noise from next door. Time to start saving up empty egg boxes?

BlackBerry Bold Camera

16/02/2009

I’ve been pretty pleased with the camera on my BlackBerry Bold. It’s managed to take a few simple snaps that capture a moment well.
Here’s the view from a colleague’s garden in Paarl, near Cape Town.

Table Mountain, as seen down the road from the excellent Blue Peter pub.

Car back, finally

11/02/2009

Mrs Saul’s car’s mammoth servicing shennanigans seem to be over, finally.

After great expense, only partially covered by the extended warranty I bought, things seem to be working ok. The garage even fixed some rubber trim that had been ripped off around the engine, even though they claimed it wasn’t their fault. The implication seemed to be that I had ripped it off myself, just to give me an excuse to pop around to see them all again, which certainly wasn’t the case.

New tyres are needed – the current ones are perfectly safe, but a little old and not evenly worn. I will put that off as long as possible, as this month also means reinsuring and re-registering, which will cost another hefty whack.

The car made a strange noise this morning when it started, but I’m hoping that wasn’t something that’s about to turn into a major issue. Sounded like a squeaky belt of some sort, possibly caused by the colder weather Dubai’s been having?

I will be on the lookout for something Japanese with no electronics and low mileage. Yes, it’ll look ugly and have a beige interior. No it won’t be as smooth or as fun to drive, but it’ll keep my bills down and generally reduce frustration levels. The current state of the secondhand car market here is not a positive one at the moment though. I might be able to pick up a bargain, but the price I will get for the Range Rover will probably not reflect it’s real value.

To be fair to Land Rover, the stress experienced during this service period was more due to bad customer service than anything else. That said, ignition coils should not be failing like this and the spark plugs should not normally have needed replacing at 100K.

The customer service aspect confuses me. Considering the fact that the garage is responsible for selling some fairly high end cars, their staff seem to treat as if they’re doing you a favour by being there. Calls aren’t returned or dealt with properly, noone says hello or goodbye, noone says thank you, noone explains where they’re going when they walk off and disappear for twenty minutes. It’s nigh on impossible even to book the car in in the first place, as the chap in the booking department is incredibly hard to understand. All this would put me off buying a new car from them, if I had the money. If…

Dubai vs London

06/02/2009

View from my parents’ windows –

View from our balcony –

I remember well the last time it snowed this much in London. We had a day or two off from school and went sledging on Richmond Hill, rather like these people, whose photo I found whilst searching for Richmond Hill on Flickr.
These two great days off playing in the snow must have taken place around 1984/85, when I was ten or eleven. I remember I went sledging with the son of the man who wrote ‘What’s love got to do with it’, as performed by Tina Turner.
And that, dear readers, is your random fact of the day.

Dubai vs London

06/02/2009

View from my parents’ windows –

View from our balcony –

I remember well the last time it snowed this much in London. We had a day or two off from school and went sledging on Richmond Hill, rather like these people, whose photo I found whilst searching for Richmond Hill on Flickr.
These two great days off playing in the snow must have taken place around 1984/85, when I was ten or eleven. I remember I went sledging with the son of the man who wrote ‘What’s love got to do with it’, as performed by Tina Turner.
And that, dear readers, is your random fact of the day.

SA this week

04/02/2009

Nice trip to SA this week, beginning last Thursday with a friend’s wedding just outside of Jo’burg – a rare occasion when work travel fits with something personal.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay outside of town, I recommend Misty Hills, where we were. Odd fluorescent lighting aside, it’s a great place – lots of individual chalets amidst lots of greenery. Steer clear of their restaurant though – everyone recommended we visit The Carnivore, as it’s called, but it must have gone down recently. They couldn’t get our booking right, the ambience was terrible with uncomfy chairs and bright lights adjusted to shine right in your eyes. More importantly, the food was awful. Instead of the buffet of juicy game we were looking forward to, we had to put up with a parade or cold, dry meat, drab salads and desserts that were clearly shop bought. Yuck.