Posts Tagged


A Massive, Fucking Queue

I blink and four days have gone by. I kept telling myself that I would get back to writing, but it has been a few long days and very little time to get my thoughts together. We have now left India and moved onto Dubai. It is the first time that we have been here and it is safe to say that we have avoided coming here in the past. Not because it isn’t an exciting place, but because there doesn’t seem like there is much to do except to shop and sunbathe. Well, if Mumbai was a huge traffic jam, then Dubai is a massive, fucking queue.

I’m British. We are fond of queueing when the result of the queue is worth it. Going to a gig, getting some food or catching a bus are all acceptable reasons to join a queue and they are generally well organised and routine. Not in Dubai. Here, there is a queue to enter buildings, to leave buildings, to get into elevators, to get out of elevators, to get into taxis, to get out….you get the gist. There are only 3 million people that live here, but it seems like they all are standing in front of me.

Our first impression as we reached the hotel is the sort of thing you vaguely remember from that George Clooney movie about tomorrowland. Incredibly flat and fast, as soon as get onto Sheik Zayed Road, the various skyscrapers and hotels pop into view as if you were driving on a car simulator in a service station. Slowly but surely, the tall isolated skyline is visible like an oasis in the middle of the desert. Well, it is an oasis in the middle of the desert. All of the grass is imported from Brazil and it is maintained by fountains – the water has to be imported because the climate is too dry to sustain plants.

You would think that this is unnecessary. However, this place is built for the preposterous grandiose. From gold Rolls Royce cars to the tallest building in the world, nothing is done by halves in this live-in amusement park – a haven for the über rich, a plaything to be moulded by the gold-plated Emirati. The 600,000 citizens here (no one is allowed citizenship anymore) are provided with free healthcare, education, housing, amenities and jobs, with the bill being paid by the millions of tourists that visit every year. That’s right, you. When you check into your hotel here, you have already paid your dues.

The sparkling attraction is the Burj Khalifa, named after the current president of the UAE. Standing at over 830m in the air, it is a spike in the every growing skyscape of the Dubai horizon. Taking over $1 billion dollars to build, it offers amazing views of the entire city as well as housing luxuries like the Armani hotel. God, I sound like a brochure. What they don’t tell you is that the £25 ticket includes a complimentary set of queues and checks totalling two hours. Before you have even got in the world’s fastest elevator (are you seeing the pattern here?) you are so tired and your feet feel like lead. Then you see the view and whilst stunning, it really doesn’t live up to its name. Oh and there is a queue back down too.

I forgot to mention the 45 minute walk through the Metro station, through the Dubai Mall that would make Marx turn in his grave. If there was ever a monument to capitalist consumerism, then this would be the high temple. I like a mall as much as the next person, but this place stands like a giant at an ant’s view – apparently it takes three visits (15 hours) to conquer the mall – we swiftly exited for the first time.

If this place is an oasis in the middle of the desert, then for me it stands as a mirage. Not a good start, we hope for a better (less expensive) day tomorrow.

Midnight Queues at ASDA – Christmas

The title is pretty self explanatory, but it might need to be expanded on a bit. Yesterday, my brother and I went to see a film and on our way back home we stopped for petrol at the local supermarket. Turning into the car park we could see some commotion coming from the main entrance, with about 30 people hanging around the doors trolleys in arms. It was too good an opportunity to miss.

We parked the car in plenty of space and made our way to the crowds of people. Now there was a solid 70 people crowding around a set of doors that were not going to be big enough to hold them. We asked a few people what was going on and they said the same thing as us – they had no idea what was going on, but they saw people crowding around and they couldn’t resist. We couldn’t have been there more than 10 minutes, but in that time more than another 100 people grabbed trolleys, queued or warmed up in their cars.

At 00:01 the shutters came up and the doors open and people shoved and pushed their way in to the store. At this point, we both approached the security guard and asked him what bargains and deals were out to entice people to get to the store so early? He said nothing. Everything was exactly the same price. I think my jaw literally hit the floor. There was more than a score of people, in the freezing cold, to get into a supermarket, with no more incentive than getting to exactly the same goods six hours earlier than everyone else. And then it hit me.

Is this what we have turned the holidays into? Getting into everywhere first, trying to look for bargains and meeting our own selfish needs? But that isn’t what the holidays are about, especially not Christmas. Sure it is exhilarating to be in those queues, trying to find what you want, beating every other person to the punch, but in the season of giving, how can we be satisfied with just taking? I am not here to be Scrooge…by all means spend money on your loved ones, show them your love in any way that you can, even if it is only this one day every year.

But the most important thing to remember is not just the fun, but to be grateful that you can celebrate the holidays with all of those people around you (and the other ones) and rejoice in being together with your health, wealth and luxury. Because today, or tomorrow rather, was the day that a solitary boy was born in the most auspicious circumstances, who would remind us that a life given to the service of others is the greatest life lived of all.

So raise your glasses, to Jesus, to Christmas and to the world as we make it through another day and another year. God bless us all, every one – and a Merry Christmas to you all.

10 Tips For The Olympic Park

For those of you that have not been to the Olympic Park yet, it will definitely be an amazing experience. After having a conversation with someone yesterday, they thought it might be a good idea if they could get an insight into the sort of things that you should know about preparation for the Olympics:

  1. Arrive there nice and early – getting through the queues and the security is a bit difficult. The army are quite stringent there, so make sure you don’t bring a cold drink because they will throw it in the bin. For men, do not wear loose trousers with a belt because you will be asked to take them off (the belt that is!) and for everyone, wear loose-ish trainers as you might have to remove those as well and you don’t want to hold people up.
  2. Eat well before you go – the food there is pretty expensive with not the greatest portion sizes so I would fill up on stuff before you get in. And you will just end of eating McDonalds – oh the irony!
  3. Bring an empty water bottle – rather than paying £2.30 for a bottle of Coke, you can fill up at free water fountains and save yourself some money and probably save your teeth as well. Although you might have to wait in a queue so get one person to do multiple bottles.
  4. Travel light – the chances are that the weather is going to be hot and so lugging around a rucksack is not going to be ideal. You are only permitted to carry a medium size bag anyway so take that into account.
  5. Expect queues/delays – this is probably the most important point. There are going to be lots of people, you are a small fish in an extremely busy, international pond and so don’t do the British thing and complain. Grit your teeth, enjoy the sunshine and bear it because the greatest show on earth only comes around for two weeks in our lifetime.
  6. Take A Walk –the best thing to do is to just explore and look through all the nook and crannies of the park. See if you can find the trail of crayons in the Thames and the meadows of flowers and long grass – really is worth a look!
  7. Talk to Volunteers  – some of them have absolutely amazing stories and information to tell you so do not be afraid to go up and ask them a few questions. They are trained to be polite and smile, so they should hopefully be able to point you in the right direction and give you some good service.
  8. It is not just about Sport – it would be a good idea to download the “Join In” official app on your smart phone and have a look at what is going on elsewhere in London. They have spent millions on making London the best city in the world and so why not enjoy it? Most of it is free anyway, and most of us like a bargain.
  9. Public Transport – make sure that you plan your route before you leave the house, because as soon as you have set foot out of it, you could be stuck and waste a ticket. The Get Ahead Of The Games posters that we have been seeing is a really useful tool to get up to date info and also plan your way in any way out to save you some time and some of your sanity.
  10. Capture it! – for goodness sake, do not forget to take as many pictures and videos as possible and find the weirdest and wackiest things that you can. You can send the best ones on to me and I can post them with your name on this blog and people can have a look at what you have been up to.

That is all from me for now. Hope those of you that are lucky enough to be here will enjoy the games and everyone else on the telly. The greatest show on earth is less than 24 hours away…will you be watching?