Sunday, 9 October 2016

In Dubai...part one

I set off early, around 0930hrs for London Heathrow's Terminal 5. It was a pleasant day for October, but then again, October is always fairly pleasant and, let's be fair, the weather in the UK seems to be getting milder by the second. I know, I've said it before, but we rarely have serious cold spells and when we do, they're soon over, so who cares?

I was en route to Dubai. I'm told that it's not pronounced 'Dew-by' but 'Doo-by' - or Doo-bai, perhaps. Not sure, but anyway, that's where I was headed on the 1310hrs British Airways flight. As always I lost my shaving foam at security and, fortunately, I hadn't packed any toothpaste. You see, the thing is this: pack shaving foam and toothpaste, but you'll also have to check in your cases and have to wait around at baggage reclaim when you reach the other end; or, I suppose, do what I've just done and go to a local supermarket and buy it there, when you reach your destination.
My Jumbo Jet at Heathrow's Terminal Five...

The flight was smooth and fairly trouble-free. It was a jumbo jet, which was good, and I was in an aisle seat, sitting next to two real 'business' types, reading the FT and so forth, one of them even 'guffawed'. I sat there with my Guardian, which I read from cover to cover, and then a short burst of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which I'm taking an age to read.

Whenever I have the time to read a newspaper from cover to cover I realise what I'm missing out on; there's a couple of good books out at the moment, one by Peter Hook on life with New Order, and another by somebody whose name escapes me, a book about glam rock, both seem perfect for me and perhaps one of these days I'll buy them. My preference will be for Hook's book, having already read Touching from a Distance, a book about living with Joy Division's Ian Curtis, penned by his wife.

The plane hospitality was the usual affair: a chicken-based hot meal, chocolate mousse, small bottle of Cabernet and tea. Then there was the usual sitting around simply waiting for the flight to end. I played a couple of games of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and on one occasion won $125,000, shame it wasn't for real. The rest of the time was spent reading the paper and Cuckoo's Nest and watching the plane's progress on the map.

Kids on a plane - worse than snakes
Kids on a plane are a fucking nuisance, though, crawling up and down the aisles like over-sized rats in nappies or moaning and crying and generally being irritating. I think a lot depends on how you're feeling and once the food is out of the way, the wine consumed and the newspapers read, well, I could wish them further. At one stage I fell asleep. It was daylight outside prior to my nodding off, but when I woke up (I'd been dozing for no more than 30 minutes, if that) it was night time and there's nothing worse than flying at night because it's one less distraction. Not being able to look out of the window means that you have nothing much left to do if you've already read the papers and eaten your meal. At one stage I went to the back of the plane and sat in the chair reserved for the cabin crew. It enabled me to stretch my legs a bit, although I had to keep telling people that I was not waiting to use the toilet.

Early morning Dubai's hazy heat...
Time for a snack...
Towards the end of the flight, snacks were offered and I chose a chocolate chip cookie (two biscuits wrapped in the usual packaging). In the small basket containing the 'snacks' there were small chocolate bars, like Twix, Mars Bar and so on, so I asked if I could also have a Twix as well as the biscuit - often I eat purely out of boredom. In fact, I picked one up, but was told 'only one snack per person, sir'. I liked the 'sir', although it was a loaded 'sir', a 'sir' that said, 'put it back you greedy bastard!'

We arrived on time, I cleared immigration, jumped into a taxi and here I am at the IBIS World Trade Center hotel, it's not too bad. It's hot, though. Or rather it's hot outside. The hotel is air-conditioned, thankfully. Not too hot, though. I remember coming here in July a couple years ago and it was unbearable heat, something like 45 degrees. Now it's only 32 degrees and bearable, although my hotel doesn't have a swimming pool, more's the pity.

The room is fine, pretty average, like the view from the hotel window, but it's all good and I've just had breakfast, taken a stroll across the road to the supermarket, stocked up on Lipton's tea (it's British, but we don't get it in the UK) and, of course, I've bought some toothpaste and shaving foam. I'll have to check in my bag for the return flight.

Worthy of mention 
Something worth relating to the group is that I'm sure somebody entered my room during the night while I was sleeping. I awoke to find a notice resting on my shoes explaining how 'nature needs a rest too' and that I should do my bit for the environment by placing the notice on the bed IF I want my bed linens changed. I couldn't figure it out; it certainly wasn't there last night when I took my shoes off, but there it was, bold as brass, resting against my shoes when I got out of bed. It's a little disconcerting to think that while I slept somebody was in my room, but it's true nonetheless.

I wouldn't have minded so much, but I had a wad of Dirhams – 'look at the size of my wad!' – and a passport sitting on the desk (nothing was stolen, I hasten to add) and, well, you just don't do that sort of thing, do you? Or rather, 'do they'? I'm assuming they knocked, got no answer as I was out for the count, and simply barged in and placed the notice on my shoes. Perhaps they didn't barge in, otherwise I might have woken up, they probably tip-toed in, like Secret Squirrel, left the card on my shoes and tip-toed out again. I would have died of shock had I woken up and spotted the intruder, although I'm assuming it was one of the chambermaids, but who knows what's going on? Not me.

I'm here for a conference, which doesn't start until this afternoon. Thank the lord for that! I'm wondering now whether I should have travelled on Saturday and given myself a day to acclimatise, but I didn't and, to be honest, I feel fine, they're only three hours ahead of the UK. I must have had around five hours' sleep so apart from feeling a little heavy-lidded, I'm fine. Fine enough to find this computer, the hotel's 'business centre' and start writing the blog.

Avid readers (if I have any) will know that I haven't been on top form of late, but I'm amazed at the power of the human body to heal itself. This time last week I was hobbling around and in a fair degree of pain, but now, a week later, things are healing and I'm almost back to normal, although I can't run (as I remember every time I make a dash across a busy highway). If ever you damage your knee, like I did, then the key is to use it, exercise it, unless, of course, you've broken it. I had two days taking it fairly easy, but I was back in work last Wednesday and every day since the accident, things have improved slightly. I'm now virtually back to normal, which is good, and next Sunday I'll be back on the bike again.

The view from room 417 in Dubai...
A good breakfast...
I almost forgot breakfast, or should I say I almost forgot to write about breakfast. It wasn't bad. Lentils and rice for breakfast tomorrow for yours truly, but today it was a mish-mash of stuff: tea, of course, two mugs of the stuff; then scrambled egg, sausage, a few lentils (why not?) and, it goes without saying, some Coco Pops. This might seem odd to you, but whenever I travel abroad I always have Coco Pops for breakfast (or their equivalent) but here in Dubai, it's Coco Pops. What else? Oh yes, a pastry (there's always a pastry) and fresh fruit, although I almost mistook strips of carrot for melon, now that would have been an unpleasant surprise, I can tell you! Have I forgotten anything? Oh, yes, I had a flat bread and I was going to try this semolina-based Arabic dessert, the name of which escapes me, but that can wait until tomorrow – or the day after.

I keep seeing people in shorts, but I know that I'll have to wear a heavy suit all afternoon and into the evening and then I've got a full day tomorrow also in a suit, probably the same one (definitely the same one). Then I've got to head back to the airport for a lunch time flight home. It's so important to build in a bit of downtime, but as I said earlier, there's only three hours of difference time wise, they're three hours ahead of the UK, so it's not that bad, but downtime is necessary, believe me, or you'll burn yourself out. So I'm heading upstairs to room 417 where I'll take a shower, have a shave and then, if there's time, I'll find somewhere to chill before the conference begins. It's going to be a long day.

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