Saturday, December 22, 2007

Part 2 of "I'm in Turin, no, I'm in Saudi.........."

Ok, so for part 2 I'm already sitting in Torino Airport (named after some "famous" Italian guy, but I'm not prepared to fork out my credit card details to sign on to the airport wi-fi network to find out who he is/was). I've just had a sandwich called an "Apollo" (suitably Greek-named for an Italian sandwich) and a Danish beer which, at 7.7% alcohol volume, could get you quite nicely pissed if you had just two. Just one, and I'd be over the legal Shit Towne driving limit, but luckily some other dafty is flying the kite out of here and not me. I hope he hasn't been on the Danish stuff when we leave...

Ok, where was I in the story?... Ah yes, I'd just got back into my cubicle in the Diplomatic Hotel...

I figured, seeing as it was only just after 1pm that I might phone my colleague and let him know I was back in town, but that was just a short lapse in my reasoning once I'd unreasonably thought that he might want me to come into the office seeing as it was still "early" and I decided to only call him after 2h30pm...just in case.

I spent the afternoon chilling out in my room with the TV on and figured out how to work out the Italian version of the SkyTV decoder. Most of the channels on SkyTV have the option to watch the show in the original language it was filmed in, so it's quite good to be able to watch something I can listen to as well as watch. The only problem I had with the TV setup was that all the films AND SPORT were pay-per-view. That sucked, as there was a couple of good football matches on that I could have watched, most notably the one where Rangers (once again) beat Hearts...(sorry for you, Jenny-May). There was also a couple of the local games on, which I could have watched too, though I'd much have preferred to go and watch the game at the stadium itself. Maybe next trip I will, if I can get one of the locals to go along with me. Most of the local guys seem to have TV channels where the games are broadcast live.

I sent my colleague a text message to his mobile to let him know I'd arrived back, and we made arrangements to go out for dinner later on. And on that front, we cannot complain...we have had dinner in some fantastic restaurants, and at reasonable prices too, I might add (relatively speaking, cos I have to multiply everything by 10 to get to ZAR equivalents. Just the other night, I spent the ZAR equivalent of R450 on a salad starter, seafood paella, 250ml bottle of red wine, a coffee and a grappa...I also bought a bottle of the grappa, which I'll explain shortly).

One of my favourite restaurants we dined at was called "Orysa" (pronounced Oh-rees-a), named after it's primary dish...rice. Everything in the restaurant has rice of some form in it. You can get dishes from all over the world, so long as they are rice-based. My favourite, for which I went back a second time a few days later when I was on my own, was the paella. The bottle of grappa I bought was made from...rice. Or, at least, that's what the restaurant owner and the label on the bottle told me. I suppose it's a little like Japanese Sake, only with a kick in it. The tot I had with my coffee certainly packed a punch and the first sip caught me a little off-guard. It's quite palatable after that though. The reason I bought the bottle is that it also, perhaps as a gimmick, has a stalk of rice pods and kernels in the bottle. Priced at 20 Euros I thought it was reasonable, and the bottle's a nice shape too...

I can't remember what we ate on the night in question, but needless to say it was another good restaurant. The other thing we would do after dinner was take a walk down some of the tight little Torino streets and see the lights on the main square alongside the Palazzo Madama (Ladies Palace). Me, I'm not used to walking great distances, in fact from the remote control to the TV is about my limit and that's at light speed. But these walks were nice though...the weather, as mentioned, is quite fresh at night with the overnight temperature dropping well below freezing point. Today, at 2h30pm, the temperature outside was 8degC...fresh enough. On the walks though, passing one of the abundant watchmaker shops which inexplicably all sell barometers and thermometers, the mercury would sometimes be around the 4degC mark.

Daytime was spent in the office, a non-descript building prupose-built right next to the FIAT plant. The project we're on is in support of the team that does the IT support for FIAT and they have an astounding number of systems in place. Yet, for some strange reason, the guys who did the proposal (and subsequently won the business) didn't figure out quite how they were going to do the disaster recovery for all these total, there's about 400 of them. And the local guys don't know where to start, which is why they called us in from the Global Team. We're getting used to being the guys who get called in last to fix other people's fuckups, and at super-speed too. Strangely enough, it's always the same division that calls us in to sort out their mess...Strategic Outsourcing Division (or SODs as I call them now).

We usually started in the office at around 9am and went through until about 6pm, with a company-sponsored lunch of two sandwiches and a coke in between. In between working though we also devoured copious amounts of Italian coffee, at dirt cheap prices, from the vending machines scattered around the facility. It's the same quality of coffee you would get in a restaurant, but at machine speed. A good double shot of espresso will set you back 40cents (about ZAR4) so it really is cheap. The vending machine not only dispenses espresso, but also "espresso lungo" (an extra splash of water), macchiatto, cappucino, cioccocino (cappucino with chocolate), and a range of teas (never tried them though).

On Saturday, my colleague flew back to the States and the snow storms they've been having in his area (just south of Lake Michigan) and left me to my own devices in Torino. In all honesty, I've been bored out of my fuckin' head for most of the time, but it's given me time to gather thoughts about a lot of things and, in my own way, meditate on a number of things going on in life which I'm not about to bore you with any more than I have already.

I managed to shoot over an hour and a half of footage on the DVDcam including some great shots of the Shroud of Turin, famous for supposedly being Jesus' burial shroud but which has been carbon-dated to somewhere in the middle ages. Still impressive to see it, though I suspect it's not the original that's in the church where it's housed in a glass frame. I believe the original shroud is in a vault somewhere in Rome. The church where the shroud is kept is totally nondescript from the outside and as my colleague told me he'd done, if you walked past the church you wouldn't be any the wiser as to what's in it. All the information brochures you get also tell you it's kept in the cathedral, a little away from where it actually is, so I don't know if they move it around to different locations or if the brochures tell lies. Anyway, I saw it, and that's what counts. I've read numerous books on the Knights Templar and it's mentioned in all of them as they suspect that the imprint is that of one of their hero leaders, Jacques de Mornay. If the carbon-dating is right, they might have a case for argument.

One nice thing about being here is that I can say to my family that they are all getting Italian Chrismas presents this year and I went to all the trouble and expense of flying over here just for them. Steph wanted "Prada ankle boots, but only if they're on sale" which was to be read as "Prada ankle boots, or don't bother coming home", but at 300 Euros I'll risk a bollocking for buying the 100 Euro pair which, in my mind, look exactly the same except for the missing expensive label. I was joking with another colleague that I'll buy a white marker and write Prada on the bottom of the boots, but I couldn't find a white marker. For Dad, I also bought a pair of Italian shoes and, as Mum said, "get him a pair of slippers cos these ones are about to walk off on their own", so I got him some new slippers too. For my brother, I bought a nice hip flask in a box set with four stainless steel thimbles in a leather pouch and a little funnel so that you don't spill your beverage of choice when trying to fill it. For my sister, I got a knitted cashmere scarf and two wonderful little ornamental ladybirds, each weighing about 100grams. She's going to have problems going home, as she's come out from Dublin to visit us in SA for Christmas and will probably have to pay excess baggage penalties. I already have Mum's present at's from Dubai Duty Free and is a nice little digital camera so that she can finally get rid of her tatty old 35mm model (yes, she still has her photos developed at a shop). While I was in Saudi Dryland, I also got another little bottle of perfume for Steph which she can tote about in her handbag. I've even gone to the extent of slicing open the shoe boxes and stuffing them in the bottom of my suitcase so that Steph and Dad can have their shoes in the original Italian boxes.

Today, I went out around 10am and bought two Pannetone to enjoy over Christmas. For the uneducated, they are like big madeira cakes, traditionally stuffed full of raisins and currants and enjoyed over the holiday period. One of these that I bought though, is also filled with caramel and chocolate, so I'm looking forward to that. The other one is a traditional Pannetone which I might just give to Steph's aunt for being such a good friend to her as well as a relation. The difference in price was fuckin' astounding though...traditional Pannetone, 4 Euros...chocolate and caramel Pannetone, 30 fuckin' Euros!! It better be worth it...

I checked out of the hotel just before midday, as required, and then hung around in the lobby for two and a half hours before deciding to change my scenery and take an early taxi to the airport, where I am now typing up this posting. The taxi ride was interesting too. I was driven by some old geezer who thought he was Enzo Ferrari and he had us bumping along all sorts of old streets and for a while I thought he was going home for lunch first. I'm convinced he must have been a trucker earlier in life though, cos every time (and I mean every time) he changed gear, he double-clutched the car. Anyway, we soon got onto the highway and I realised I knew where I was, as we were retracing my steps of a couple of weeks ago. It's hard to believe that, when I get home tomorrow morning, I'll have been away for nineteen days. Time flies when you work for the Global Team.

I'll try and post this before we go down to my folks so that you lot have something to read to your families over your Christmas pudding and brandy sauce...

If I don't post anything before the 25th, I hope each and every one of you has a peaceful, joyous, Christmas in the spirit of the occasion, that you all get spoiled with some fantastic gifts, eat and drink your fill of turkey, roast potatoes and wine, and in turn, give some of the same cheer back to your friends and families. Going into the New Year, I hope your new year is filled with joy, abundance, family and relationships, friends, and all the things your heart might desire to make you happy.

As I always say in my Christmas cards, "May the best of this year be the worst of next year" to you all...keep well...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Part1 of "I'm in Italy, no, I'm in Saudi, no, I'm back in Italy"...

Where do I start? The beginning's usually a good point, so I'll do that...

I left Shit Towne, en route to Torino, Italia, for the start of a three-week project initiation stint. This project, I've been told, is going to last between 4 and 6 months, so it looks like I'm going to miss most of the SA summer. At least I'll get some over the Xmas holiday break when we'll be going down to my folks for a few days.

The flight to Turin was via Frankfurt, ten and a half hours to there, literally right over the top of Turin. If they'd given me a parachute, it would have saved me the three hour wait in Frankfurt and the flight back to Turin. Fuckin' travel agents...probably don't know where Turin is...

Anyway, a reasonably short taxi ride into Turin and into the Hotel Diplomatic. It's smack in the centre of town, just off the main shopping drag. The room is sizable enough, with a double bed just for me and place to hang my stuff. The shower, on the other hand is not big enough for a cat, let alone space to swing it around in. If I stand with my back against the wal and extend my knee outwards, there's two inches from my knee to the wall. Small? It's so small I have to use only one arm to wash my hair cos I can't lift both arms at the same time for fear of getting my elbows stuck in the corners and having to pull the emergency rip-cord for maintenance to come and pry me out. Anyway, back to the story...

I don't sleep well in a strange bed on the first couple of nights so by the time the third night comes along, I'm knackered. On top of it all, I'm only in Turin for four nights then I'm off to Saudi Dryland again for a few days. The government there is going off on a two week holiday from the 12th December and CC, my host, wanted to get the presentation of the reports I did, out of the way before they all bugger off. It's not actually a holiday in Saudi, but with the Hajj happening there over that period, government literally comes to a standstill as thousands of people pour in for their pilgrimage. Being typically lazy, the Saudi's would rather get the hell out of Dodge while the people are around and take a few days to chill out.

On the Thursday afternoon, I take the train down to Milan for an overnight in the local Holiday Inn before flying out of Linate airport to Saudi. I figured I'd take a late afternoon train so that I could still see some of the countryside during the day, which is supposed to be worth it. Ha-fuckin'-ha!! The train leaves an hour and a quarter late, so by the time we get out of Turin it's pitch fuckin' dark outside and I can't see further than the road winding its way alongside the tracks. On top of it all, in Turin station I have an argument with an arrogant fuckin' train jockey. I see on the board that the train is going to be "30 minutes" late and go into the Information office to find out what platform it's supposed to be leaving from. Jockey tells me "no train, 30 minutes late" to which I say "I see that, but can you tell me which platform it's going to leave from?" to which he says "no train, 30 minutes late" to which I say "I see that, but can you tell me which platform it's going to leave from?" get the picture. Eventually, I point to the monitor in the office and ask "Which platform? Where is the platform column?" to which he takes me outside, points to the big board and says "No platform, 30 minutes late". At this, he mumbles something to some other Italians standing around, from which all I catch is the word "American". So I say to him, "Is the 'Binari' where the train leaves from?" and he says "Si, binari". I'm a little pissed off by now and I walk right next to him and say "Thanks, that's all I wanted to fuckin' know. And by the way, I'm not American, you little cunt, I'm a Scotsman!" and walk off into the crowd.

I wander around the station a while, all the while feeling the temperature dropping as evening closes in. Due to the marble and sandstone construction of the place, it's really getting cold for the jacket I have with me but there's not much I can do about it. The "binari" number comes up on the board and I make a dash for the relative warmth of the coach. The trip is uneventful, seeing as it's dark by the time we get out of Turin. In Milan Centro station, I get a taxi to take me to the Linate Holiday Inn and get checked in around 8pm. A quick dinner (half a dozen lamb chops and a small salad) and a 350ml bottle of Chianti to myself and it's time for bed. This time I doze off pretty quick and am amazed at how quick time flies before the alarm goes off at four fifteen for me to get showered and a taxi to the airport for my 7am flight.

The flight to Saudi is also via Frankfurt and the airport is absolutely massive. It could easily take 30mins to walk from one end of a terminal to the other, though it's not quite as big as Dubai. At least the flight to Saudi is direct from Frankfurt with no long stopover in Dubai. Lufthansa are one of the few airlines that are allowed to fly directly into Riyadh and their service is fantastic. Typical German efficiency, except for leaving a little late. The hostesses are friendly, ready to help or bring you whatever you need. All with a smile. Just the beer was a little disappointing...too sweet. But the cognac at the end of the lunch meal was a nice touch to end it off.

I'm in the usual Intercontinental Hotel in Riyadh and my driver, Siraj, gets me there with a smile this time, instead of his usual scowl even though I've had to drag him out of home on a virtual Sunday evening. The hotel has put me in one of their cabanas next to the pool and it's nice, though the floor is a little cold. The outside temperature is around 20deg and it's amazing how cold it feels compared to the 40-odd of just a month or so ago.

Into the office on Saturday (virtual Monday) morning, I meet with CC and we go through the presentation content. Aside from that, I'm left to my own devices and just potter about on my laptop, looking convincingly busy. I also meet with CC's boss, who is the sponsor from our side. He has a couple of suggestions for the presentation content which is fine by me, seeing as it's just cosmetic and which will make them look good to the client. The Saudi's are very political and easily offended by the way some words are put to them, so the cosmetic changes were all in the name of diplomacy. Me, I'm the worst diplomat in the world. If something needs said, I say it. I don't have the desire in me to butter things up just to make them sound nice. Call a spade a spade, I say...

On Sunday morning, I get into the client office early and meet up with Ahmed the Dead Terrorist to discuss some more changes he wants made to the document I produced for them. This akes us a couple of hours in the end, but it's fine as I'm not doing anything else and would probably just end up stressing before the presentation cos I'm not the most calm before such a meeting. The presentation is at 13h00 and was expected to go on for about 2hrs, pending questions from the client sponsor. In the end, we closed after just an hour, me having told them (in a nice enough way) that they have a lot of problems that they need to take care of to reduce the risks they face.

After the meeting, CC's boss decides to take us to lunch at the hotel I'm staying in, and I end up packing my stuff and checking out earlier than the expected 6pm. I went back to the compound with CC and, together with his wife, we went for a meal at the compound restaurant, before I got my drive back to the airport at 22h30. My flight was only at 1am, but the airport's always busy and it's good to get through customs early. And what a useless bunch of fuckers they are. I had checked my overnight bag into the hold on the way out of Frankfurt cos I managed to get it shrinkwrapped, but there's no such facility at Riyadh. As a result, I had to take my laptop and overnight bags on as hand luggage and, according to the aviation rules these days should not have been allowed to take my Swiss Army knife into the cabin with me. Needless to say, Riyadh the airport police didn't even blink an eyelid at it.

Not until I got to Zurich airport did I get some trouble. Not because of the knife though...this was Switzerland and they like Swiss Army knives there and let it go through when I explained that I had got it as a gift for my 40th birthday a few years ago. What they don't like though, is shampoo and shaving cream, both of which they confiscated, much to my exasperation. Strange rule...I can knife someone, but I'm not allowed to wash my hair or have a shave.

So I go through the customs check and wait around for a few minutes until the flight gate to Milan Malpensa airport opens. The flight leaves on time and the pilot gets a number of us to catch our breaths when he announces that the temperature in Milan is a sultry -5degC. I can't believe the temperature has dropped that much in only a couple of days but when we land, there's a layer of gravel and salt on the runway, and on those airplanes that had been on the runway all night, there's a thick layer of ice.

I wanted to see a bit of Milan, but I have only a hooded jumper and a few t-shirts with me as casual clothes and it's not enough to keep me warm in these temperatures. It appears I packed too lightly for my trip to Dryland.

To get to the central station in Milan for my train back to Turin, I have to take the Express train from the airport station. It's a trip of about 40mins and is quite pleasant cos the train is warm. It's one of the double-decker coaches and the view allows me to catch some of the bleak view on my new DVD video camera that I bought in Dryland as a pre-Xmas gift to myself. I'd thought about buying one on my last trip and now, seeing a couple of days of Italy, decided I'd better get one. Just taking still pictures back home is not enough to show Steph how nice a place Turin is and I can keep the DVD's for posterity. After the Express, I also have to take a short trip on the subway. Not an altogether pleasant experience. The subway is cold, smelly and full of bleak, disinterested looking people. I'm glad the trip is over quickly.

I take some footage of the outside of Milan station as the architecture is quite phenomenal, as is the architecture of both Italian cities I've seen so far. I can see this is one of the reasons Wreckless is proud of his Italian heritage. The other reason(s) I see for his pride, are the absolutely stunning Italian women. Only two other places have women as comparably beautiful, though I would venture to say they come a distant second to the Italian women.

I get quite cold, even in the sunshine, so I decide to forego the sightseeing trip in Milan and head straight back to Turin, thinking I might get some daylight footage afte the night trip of a few days ago. Not so...the fog has moved in due to the cold weather and the entire trip until 10 minutes outside of Turin (an hour and a half) is a grey blur. In places, you can look straight into the sun as the fog makes it look like nothing more than a white disc in the sky.

As with the trip down, the last ten minutes back into Turin is underground and totally boring, so I don't get any footage of that either.

A short walk back into the warmth of the Hotel Diplomatic, I get my stuff unpacked and have a refreshing, if cramped, shower. They've put me back in the same room with the tiny shower, even though I'd asked for a different room. Apparently, they would have had to charge me for a double room if I'd wanted a larger shower...go figure. Italians, by nature, are small people but I think even they would find this ridiculous...

Part 2 to follow as soon as I type it up...stay tuned...

As we're on a religious theme, let's stick with it...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy St Andrew's Day to all Scotsfolk...

wherever you may be.

For those who don't know, like St Patrick is to Ireland, St Andrew is the patron saint for Scotland (and a couple of other countries too, actually). If you're interested in finding out more about the saint, have a look here...

It's also a day when the already fiercly-partisan Scots celebrate the things we have contributed to the progress of mankind. Yes, you think you know of a few (telephone, whisky, tyres, penicillin and so on), but you'd be amazed at just how many more there are...things that contribute to all facets of life. Have a look here...

Anyway, to all Scots around the world, Happy St Andrew's Day...

"Wha's like us? Damn few, an' they're a' deid!"

Translation: "Who's like us? Damn few, and they're all dead!"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Brace Yersel' Shteven...

Last night I filled in for Fishman at action cricket as he was too much of a girl to go out with the guys and still get up at 4am to head to the airport.

Maybe I should have gone to the airport for him.

Today, I spent almost 4hrs between the Xray department, doctors rooms and an orthopaedic consultant for a wrist brace, and almost ZAR700 (excluding xray costs), to be told that I have a fracture in my right wrist and it's out of action for a few weeks. Luckily, I'm left handed... :-)

I tried to take a catch off my own bowling, missed the ball and fell flat-handed onto the carpet, feeling the pain in my wrist almost straight away. Needless to say, I carried on playing instead of getting some ice into my glass, I mean onto my wrist, and am suffering for it today.

The doctor was obviously bemused by the xrays judging by his comment of "we rarely see this kind of injury" which made me proud in a stupid sort of way. On top of that, my left knee also has a carpet burn, not uncommon in action cricket.

Anyone for chess?

Stupid People piss the hell out of me...

Just how fuckin' stupid do you have to be to think that an organisation like "Make a Wish" or MicroSoft are going to give you money, or make a donation to a charity on your behalf, for every time you pass on a FUCKIN' CHAIN LETTER!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Firstly, do stupid people think how these organisations are going to track just how many times the "Amy Bruce Lung Cancer Cause" has been sent, or how many times you've forwarded the "Don't use Internet Explorer" CHAIN LETTERS!?!?!?!?

Secondly, do stupid people really think that charity organisations are going to make donations to other charities!?!?!?!?

Thirdly, do stupid people not think that MicroSoft owner Bill Gates would have had his overpaid accountants investigate how much it might cost him if he was to donate $7 every time someone passed on a fuckin' MicroSoft email!?!?!?!?!


Fuckin' morons...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Problem with being a Global organisation...

is that you have to work across so many different time lines and, in the end, don't have much of a personal life.

Right now, I'm working with Saudi Arabia (1hr ahead), Dubai (2hrs ahead), Italy (1hr behind) and the USA (depends on where you are, but from 7hrs behind). The result is that you end up working more than the average 7.5 or 8 hours per day on a number of days. And what recognition do you get for it? Fuckall, except "it's your job" or, as is the case with SA these days "you have a job, be thankful".

FUCKOFF!!! is what I say to those arguments.

Yes, I have a job which, mostly, I enjoy and which pays my bills at the end of the month (speaking of which, I must do my banking tomorrow) and I am thankful not to be in the lines at the end of the month trying to collect unemployment benefits. Mostly, however, I get strange looks and comments when I say "I have a life. Work can wait until tomorrow if it's not important". But that's the truth of it. I do have a life, a home, a family, animals, bills, and all the other trappings of the working Joe's life. So if I do skim an hour or so here and there from my working day, I don't feel guilty and expect my management to not hold a whip to my back when I tell them I just came from having my car washed. What's the old Biblical quotation? "Let he who hath not sinned, cast the first stone"...not too many takers there, would be my bet.

The other big problem with working globally is that you end up waiting for people on the other side of the world to get back to you on things, things that are important to you both getting things done but, because of time differences, can end up taking place over a couple of days instead of a couple of hours if you're both in the same vicinity.

And then there's the other things that take up your normal working day too...the menial, mundane, tasks and processes that corporations enforce upon their "valued staff members" (read: "serial numbers", which is what we have, not an "employee number"). I reckon that, if you had to take all the internal processes we have and add the time together it takes to complete them all over the course of the year, you would probably spend around two months completing them if you did them from start to finish at one sitting. It's bollox, I tell you.

This actually gets me back to a theory I developed many years ago, round about the first time I did a file transfer from one computer system to another (probably goes back about 20yrs)...Communications will be the downfall of mankind.

I know communications are necessary in the digital world to move information around, but we abuse it way beyond acceptable levels. Imagine if we'd said 50yrs ago that we had to send an email to people on the other side of the world and would get worried if we didn't get a response within a day? Ridiculous...Fifty years ago, people still sent surface mail from one continent to the other and it would take six weeks one way!! Never mind waiting for the person to reply to, and post, his reply. Add another six or seven weeks to that!!

Now we get ants-in-our-pants (like me, right now) if we don't hear from someone who is supposed to be organising a flight for us to satisfy a deadline (20yrs ago, what the hell was a "deadline"? - never heard of it) brought on by some other non-delivery fuckup in the digital world which I now have to go and fix. I'm supposed to be in Turin (ok, Wreckless, "Torino"), Italy, on Monday next week to start a new project for a large motor manufacturer, but I'm also waiting to hear if I'm required in Saudi Dryland to do a presentation of a report I drafted recently. They might want me there around the 8th or 9th December, but because they organise all travel arrangements from their side, I have to wait for them to send me travel confirmations and e-tickets before I can even start making my Italy travel arrangements. That, in itself, is a fuckup due to the three management levels I have to go through seeing as the travel is international. Try getting that done in a day, and still getting the flight reservation confirmed and ticket issued...ha!!

It gets back to those internal processes I mentioned earlier. Management, too, have their own set of processes and tasks that they have to get through in a day. Do I want to be a manager in this corporation? Do I fuck...and I told them as much a while ago just after a Leadership Development Course I went on. I'd love to have a Chief Financial Officer waiting to do nothing more than approve my flight plans, but that would be ridiculously expensive to the corporation and I don't think they'd go for it somehow.

Anyway, where was I going with this ranting?

Oh yes.....I long for a small, easy to manage organisation to work for. Somewhere that I can have a little stress (unavoidable these days), not too much, somewhere I will enjoy going to work every day (not necessarily from home), people I will enjoy working with (yes, I have some today, but would like more), where I don't have hundreds of repeatable processes to perform annually, where I don't have an email system sending me mail that I've missed capturing my hours worked for the week, where I don't have a cellphone/PDA to store hundreds of contact names and numbers that manages my diary for me, where I can afford to take five weeks to go from SA to Europe by boat and not spend eight cramped hours on a jet plane...etc, etc, etc...


Monday, November 26, 2007

A few Nursery Rhymes to teach your kids...or not...

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
The structure of the wall was incorrect
So he won a grand with Claims Direct.
It's raining, it's pouring,
Oh shit, it's global warming.
Jack and Jill went into town
To fetch some chips and sweeties.
He can't keep his heart rate down
And she's got diabetes.
Mary had a little skirt
With splits right up the sides
And everywhere that Mary went
The boys could see her thighs.
Mary had another skirt
'Twas split right up the front
...But she didn't wear that one often.
Mary had a little lamb
Her father shot it dead.
Now it goes to school with her
Between two chunks of bread.
Simple Simon met a pie man going to the fair.
Said Simple Simon to the pie man
'What have u got there?'
Said the pie man unto Simon
Pies you dickhead.
Mary had a little lamb
It ran into a pylon.
10,000 volts went up its arse
And turned its wool to nylon.
Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play
He kissed them too cause he was also gay.
Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To have a little fun.
Jill, the dill,
Forgot her pill,
And now they have a son.
Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
And planned to do some kissing.
Jack made a pass
And grabbed her arse
Now two of his teeth are missing.
Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white and wispy.
Then it caught the Foot and Mouth
And now it's black and crispy.
Mary had a little lamb
Full of fun and frolics
It tried to jump a five bar gate
And landed on its head.
Mary had a little lamb
She also had a duck.
She put them on the mantlepiece
To see if they would play with each other.
Mary had a little lamb
It's fleece was black as charcoal.
Everywhere the poor lamb went
Sparks shot from it's arsehole.

The End...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Previously, I mentioned the price of fuel in Saudi Dryland...

now you can see one of the reasons why it's so cheap...they have all these large old American gas guzzlers to run...

We took a trip down to the Car Souq on my 2nd last evening in Riyadh. CC had mentioned it before and how large it was, but I didn't believe it until I saw it. In Shit Towne terms, it is the size of Sandton. In New York terms, it's probably the size of Central Park. I shit you not!!

You can find any model of car that your heart desires. Hummers (pick a model) are a dime a dozen. I had my eye on a Dodge Charger RS/T, one of the fastest production cars on the road and, after currency conversion, I could have picked it up for ZAR200k. The only downside to that (fuck the fuel bill) would be the import taxes this fucked up govern-munt of ours levies on vehicle imports. Last time I checked, it was 100% of the value of the car.

Chrysler 300C...would make any chick squirm in her panties...

The New Toyota FJ Cruiser...hasn't even arrived in Shit Towne yet...

Rolls kidding, and in mint condition...



Baby condition

No idea what this was, but it was permanent four wheel drive

Looks like this came out of the Gulf War, but it was a Toyota

Just down the road from the hotel was a car dealer (not aligned to any particular manufacturer), called "My Car", who sold 2nd hand luxury vehicles. Not one of them has more than a couple of thousand km on them, but each of them has a tiny flaw (paintwork chipped, what looked like a bullet hole in the rear fender of the yellow Lamborghini, etc).
Chevy V8 pickup

Ferrari...a dime a dozen...

Lamborghini...the one with the bullet hole in the rear...

Maserati Quattroporte...mmm...

One day when I'm big...Audi R8, next to it was a black one too...and another black Ferrari...

And, by the way, this was my bathroom in the last hotel I stayed in...the shower and bath were a bit small but it was clean... :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

All our lines are busy at the moment...

but leave a message after the beep and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Things have been kinda hectic on my side for a while which is why I haven't posted anything recently. But bear with me folks, I promise to put up some photos of my last trip to Saudi Dryland (got back Thursday last week) and I'll stick up some other stuff I've been thinking about.

Also, it appears I may be off to Turin, Italy, in two weeks time for some more business on a different project as the Dryland one is coming to a close (for now at least). I'll find out more details in the coming days and keep everyone posted and jealous (even Wreckless called me an unpopular name for a fanny!! - as you may know, he's of Italian decent).

Hope you're all well...


Friday, November 09, 2007

This is how they clean the machine gun vehicles...

out here in Dryland.

The quality of the photos is not great but they were taken into the sun on a phone camera (not mine, Big Brother, I don't have a camera on my cellphone). Basically, where we are based there is a pickup truck with a bren mounted on the back (no driver, only a rifleman - unless he can perform both roles at the same time somehow) as protection for the site. The rifleman is there 24hrs a day, with basically nothing to do except fiddle with his cellphone or sit on his arse.

Now and then, perhaps as a bit of a break from the monotony, the rifleman gets a couple of the ex-pat Filipinos (all manual labour here is performed by some or other ex-pat from somewhere) to come out and clean the back of the pickup. Fuck knows what he would do if one of them inadvertently stuck the broom handle into the trigger and let it off. There would be absolute pandemonium and I don't want to be around if it does...

Monday, November 05, 2007

I dedicated a song to all my friends from my Facebook page...

after watching a strange movie last night. The movie was called "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", starring Jim Carrey ("Me, myself and Irene" and "Cable Guy"), Kate Winslett (nice), Kirsten Dunst (yummy) and Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings, and still looking like a Hobbit in this film).

Basically, the weird characters of Jim and Kate meet on a train station platform, get chatting on the train, fall in love, fall out of love, and then want to erase each other from their respective memories. It's a bit confusing to start with, but eventually the story falls into place and you end up (or at least I did) thinking "oh, ok, that's what it's all about".

Kate's character starts acting all strange toward Jim's and he finds out she has gone to see a company called "Lacuna, Inc" after reading a note something to the effect of "xxxx has erased you from her memory forever", which he wasn't supposed to see. In spite, he decides to do the same, and has to take some of Kate's things along to Lacuna so that they can begin work on him. He gets a machine linked up to his head (like a big colender) and so begins the process. You see his memories that they are trying to erase and how they become dark spots in his mind as they go through them.

Eventually though, he comes to the realisation that he doesn't want to erase the memories and starts talking to Kate in his mind. She responds, and together they choose to remember each other and fight the machine.

In the meantime, Kirsten, who is receptionist at Lacuna, is also shagging one of the technicians and ends up wanting to shag the doctor who is called out later to resolve a problem on Jim's treatment. It's here that you find out that she has also undergone the treatment previously to erase the memory of her having shagged the doctor before, which was insisted on by the doctor's wife.

Upset, Kirsten goes back to the doctor's rooms and finds a whole load of files and tape recordings made by all the people who have undergone the treatment and she listens to her tape, hearing why she has had the treatment. She then decides to steal all the files and tapes and send them to their respective owners to let them know what went on. Naturally, Jim and Kate also get theirs, and hear parts of the others recordings and some of the spiteful things they said about each other.

At this point, for a happy ending for the film, they both declare that they did not mean all those nasty things they said and declare that they still want each other. The End...

The song played at the end of the movie was an oldie called "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime", originally performed by The Korgi's, but in this case sung by Beck. I thought it was a great rendition and dedicated it to all my Facebook friends...just for the hell of it. If anybody else reading this is on Facebook, and not yet a "friend", let me know and I'll hook up with you...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Ok, so now that I'm in Saudi Dryland, what happened en route?

Let me see...

We left Shit Towne an hour and a half late due to the plane arriving late, which goes to show how these things work. It obviously costs airlines money to park, and leave, a plane at an airport, so they fly them in, turn them around in as short a time as possible, change the crews and then throw them back into the air again. I suppose, with the reliability of engines these days, they can actually do that whereas in the old days, they would have to overhaul the engines first.

The flight was uneventful, except for some cow who pushed her seat so far back I could hardly move my knees (yes, I was in camel class), even after I banged on her headrest the first time she did it...bbeeeaaattccchhhh...

I watched a couple of good movies, "The Simpsons Movie" and the last Bruce Willis "Die Hard" film too. The latter was just to pass the time, so don't kak me out.

As we got into Dubai an hour and a half late, I decided that sleep was of more value than a trip around the old part of the city (and cheaper too). Emirates supplies everyone with a longhaul stopover with a room in their Millenium Hotel so I went and had about 5hrs sleep, a decent meal (also on Emirates in the hotel) and was then back at Dubai Duty Free after taking an hour to get through check-in and customs, by around 5:30pm. A couple of CD's later (Chris Cornell - Carry On, and John Mayer - Continuum) and it was time to go through the boarding gate. After about a half hour, we were herded on board and I was sat in the second last row of the big silver bird. It was actually quite a nice seat, a bit more legroom than the forward rows and right near the gally where we were served our meal first. With only just over an hour flight time to Riyadh, I watch an old episode of The Simpsons and then listened to some of the music channels. Incidentally, on the average Emirates flight these days, there are about 500 radio, music, TV and movie channels you can watch or listen to. Does anyone still remember the old days of air travel where everyone on the flight had to watch the same movie on the same big screen in the front of the cabin? LoL...

Anyway, customs in Riyadh was relatively painless but it still took a half hour more for my suitcase to arrive on the belt. My driver was the same one as last time, "Mr Happy" as I called him (not to his face though), but he was at least in a better frame of mind than last time, even though he still made me carry all my luggage myself (again).

We made small chat in the car about how the temperature had dropped, ("it's winter", he says to me, but it's still 25degC outside the airconned car) and the fact that I was going to a different hotel to last time due to the OPEC conference that's not starting until the 9th but they've booked all the hotels out already...bastards.

The hotel, to say the least, is a hole. It was once a hotel, but is now more like a doss house for ex-Iraqi officials. The place is decorated in the same style as you see in the movies, Turkish carpets on the floor and walls, large vases with nothing in them on marble tables, mirrors facing each other from opposing walls, that sort of thing. Then, of course, there's the chain-smoking Arabian fellow behind the marble Reception desk, looking and sounding a bit like Manuel from Fawlty Towers; same moustache, slightly different accent, same stupid look on his face.

I'm in Room 310, on the second floor (don't ask me...I thought it would be on the 3rd floor too). The bathroom has been recently refurbished and the tiles are as slippy as hell when they're wet. I struggle to turn around in the bath/shower, which is as narrow as George W's mind (speaking of whom, he hasn't written in a while, I wonder what's wrong?). The carpet has seen better days and instead of the original rich, brown, colour showing down along the walls, it is now a sandy sort of colour with a path worn down the middle. The bed looked great, until I sat on it and it creaked like a set of wooden stairs, even though it's firm and comfortable enough. Don't want to think about what's happened in it before I plonked my hairy Scots arse on it...{shiver}...

Anyway, due to the amount of airline food I'd consumed over the last couple of days I decided not to eat dinner, and would skip breakfast as well. Considering the new bed and pillows, I slept pretty well. Mr Happy picked me up at the hotel front door just before 8h30am, ten minutes early, and whisked me off to the office. "Whisked" is rather a lame word for how he drives. I wish I had a video camera to take some footage of it. It's like low flying a spaceship through an asteroid don't see where the asteroids are coming from as they're all driving in the same manner, so your driver has to bob and weave his way to avoid them, all the while ignoring the little bell-thingy that sounds when he hits 120km per hour. And this is in a 60km/hr zone!!!! I shit you not! We get there in one piece though and I wonder if I should go and check my undies as I'm sure I followed through on one or two of the farts that escaped me as we ploughed head first through the asteroid field.

It's "hello"s all around in the office, among the "oh, you're back, how long this time?"s and I can see the sniggers on some of the British ex-pat faces as they know what I'm going through to get this job done. It's good to see Ahmed again, he's a decent and likeable Saudi (watch this video on YouTube and you'll understand why, after tonight, I won't be able to look him in the face without thinking "Silence! I keel you!") and he's just been appointed my contact in the customer office.

I pass a boring day in the office, meeting with CC to discuss a plan of action so that we can get the job done in the coming two weeks so that I, hopefully, don't have to come back again this year.

CC tells me of a little Thai restaurant down the road from the Roach Motel and I decide, after getting changed into jeans and Springbok t-shirt, to take a walk "down the road". It turns out to be about 2km "down the road", but it's a pleasant enough walk now that the evening temperature is down around 20degC. On the way down, there's a 2nd hand car dealer, which CC said I should have a look into. I can see why, as it's packed wall to wall with Lamborghini's, Maserati's, Ferrari's, Mercs, Bentley' name the sports car, it's there. And not one of them, judging by the paintwork, is 2nd hand. I think they're all brand new. I'll see if I can get a photo next time I go for a walk.

I didn't take a camera with me this evening, as I wasn't sure where, or for how long, I'd be walking. The restaurant is called "The Villa" (original name for a Thai eatery) and is literally the size of the average home kitchen. On top of that, there are two entrances (as there are to most restaurants in Riyadh), one for men only, and the other for families or couples. The waiters are all Thai-folks and so are the patrons sitting at two of the four tables. I get shown a chair (all old style formica and plastic kitchen furniture) and have a tatty menu shoved in front of me. The TV on the wall is showing Thai Boxing and, thankfully, the sound is turned down. I ask the waiter what he recommends I eat and decide on a prawn tempura (batter-fried prawns) and a chicken dish which supposedly has bay leaves in it. The tempura is quite good and has a sweet chilli sauce to drown the prawns in, while all I can see sticking out of the chicken dish are chillies and chillie pips. There's the odd green leaf as well, but I think they're chilli leaves to add a bit of heat to the already blistering dish. By the end of the chicken dish, I've cried, sweated, and blown my nose four times, all to the amusement of the waiter and the four Thai lads at the table under the TV. Strangely enough though, by about five minutes after I've finished eating, I can't taste the chilli any more which goes to show that there was only chili in it and no "extras" to add heat. Most importantly, it was tasty too and I might go back in a couple of days time when the ring sting has worn off. Best of all, the bill for the dishes and a Pepsi (Saudi champagne) came to SAR31, or 60 Souf Efrican at the price.

So now I'm back in the Roachery, where the internet access is free, typing this posting. In about ten minutes, I'll be in my creaky bed hopefully getting a decent sleep in time for work tomorrow. I'll write some more in the next couple of days, if I can...

Hope the rest of you are doing okay...

Wouldn't mind getting bitten by one of these Sharks...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Off to Saudi Dryland again...

for another two weeks. I leave tonight at 22h30 local time, flying Emirates Air as usual. Getting into Dubai at 08h30 (local time), I'm no doubt going to be knackered as I don't sleep well on 'planes. Ah well, at least I have a hotel room in Dubai (compliments of Emirates) that I'll be using to grab a few hours of catch-up sleep in. Such is the price I have to pay in being on the Global Team.

Even my hotel in Riyadh is not the usual. There's a big oil conference on at the same time as my visit and thousands of people have had their hotel reservations cancelled by the various chains, regardless of frequent visitor status, just so that all the oil barons can get a decent place to stay. Pain in the fuckin' arse, is what it is. I was supposed to be booked in at the new Holiday Inn (usually I stay in the Intercontinental) but even that's now been comandeered by the rich folk and their entourages...bastards. Now I'm stuck in a pokey little unknown place, probably cockroach-ridden, for the duration of my stay. Thank fuck this should be my last visit there for a couple of months, due to the upcoming holiday period and the time it takes to get things done over there.

Anyway...I'll try and stay in touch. Take care y'all...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Allegiances change at the drop of a hat...

or is that a Crown?

And it's a warm welcome to...

my baby, who has just recently set up her own blogspot...

Check it out here...

Keep the posts coming in, babe... xoxoxo

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Update on Lucky Dube murder...

Today, only four days since Lucky Dube was gunned down at his home in what police are saying was an attempted carjacking, four suspects are appearing in court on various charges ranging from attempted murder, murder and possession of an unlicenced weapon.

It amazes me to see that, when they want to and when they get their fingers out their collective arses, that our police force can actually get something done quickly.

Or is it just as a result of every South African's favourite reggae star being assassinated?

Monday, October 22, 2007

For anyone who still thinks it was a try...


As soon as Cueto went over the line, I called it out, even from the angle we originally saw from the front.

Too fuckin' bad...Springboks deservedly won...get over it...move on...try harder next time...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Karma's one for you girl...

I was sent this by a mate who knows that I'm also feeling a little down today (for some unknown reason)...

The Daffodil Principle

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come to see the daffodils before they are over." I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive. "I will come next Tuesday", I promised a little reluctantly on her third call.

Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised and reluctantly I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house I was welcomed by the joyful sounds of happy children. I delightedly hugged and greeted my grandchildren.

"Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in these clouds and fog and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see badly enough to drive another inch!"

My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time, Mother." "Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears and then I'm heading for home!"

"But first we're going to see the daffodils. It's just a few blocks," Carolyn said. "I'll drive. I'm used to this."

"Carolyn," I said sternly, "Please turn around."

"It's all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand lettered sign with an arrow that read "Daffodil Garden". We got out of the car, each took a child's hand and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, as we turned a corner, I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight.

It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and its surrounding slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, creamy white, lemon yellow, salmon pink and saffron and butter yellow. Each different-colored variety was planted in large groups so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue. There were five acres of flowers.

"Who did this?" I asked Carolyn.

"Just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property. That's her home." Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house, small and modestly sitting in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house.

On the patio, we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking", was the headline. The first answer was a simple one. "50,000 bulbs," it read. The second answer was, "One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet and one brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958".

For me, that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than forty years before, had begun, one bulb at a time, to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top. Planting one bulb at a time, year after year, this unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. One day at a time, she had created something of extraordinary magnificence, beauty, and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration.

That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time – often just one baby-step at time – and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

"It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time' through all those years? Just think what I might have been able to achieve!"

My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way. "Start tomorrow," she said.

She was right. It's so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, "How can I put this to use today?"

Use the Daffodil Principle…

Stop waiting...

Until your car or home is paid off
Until you get a new car or home
Until your kids leave the house
Until you go back to school
Until you finish school
Until you clean the house
Until you organize the garage
Until you clean off your desk
Until you lose 10 lbs.
Until you gain 10 lbs.
Until you get married
Until you get a divorce
Until you have kids
Until the kids go to school
Until you retire
Until summer
Until spring
Until winter
Until fall
Until you die...

There is no better time than right now to be happy.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination. So work like you don't need money. Love like you've never been hurt and Dance like no one's watching.

If you want to brighten someone's day, pass this on to someone special.

Wishing you a beautiful, daffodil day!

According to Fishman...

this is the original of my Dr Phil picture below. I think I prefer his version...

And no, I'm not going to translate it...

Another George W email just came in...

It reads:

Dear DMDad...A number of people say I fucked up real bad in New Orleans following the floods. Any ideas? Regards. George W (president of the world)

To which I replied:

Dear George W...let's say that arriving in a Sherman tank, stogie hanging out the side of your mouth looking like Donald Sutherland in Kelly's Heroes, was perhaps not your finest moment. Also, the fishing rod disguised as an aerial was really badly done...even I picked up on that, you dumb fuck... Warmest Regards. DMDad.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's George W again...

This time, George W writes:

Dear DMDad, Don't you think Condoleeza Rice has a cute arse? Regards George W (president of the world)

In response, I sent him:

Dear George W... For a small horse, probably, but then I'm not into beastiality (you may be though, judging by your question). By the way, who dreamed up the name "Condoleeza"? Sounds like she was conceived in a little Italian rowing boat, for fuck sake. Warmest Regards...DM Dad

A word of encouragement for the 'Boks for the weekend...

Translation of the last two words..."Fuck them up"...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

George W Bush...

has taken to writing to me on a regular basis, asking advice on numerous things that he thinks are affecting his presidency of the world. In keeping with my desire to communicate with lower species of animal without the use of a microscope, I've decided to respond to his emails and show the world just how cared about him I am...

Recently, George W wrote...

"Dear DmDad...Is it just me, or does the world hate me? Regards. George W (president of the world)"

My caring response...

"Dear George's just you, George. The world hates just you... Warmest Regards. DmDad"

Stay tuned for more of these interesting emails...

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's my Brother From Another Mother's birthday today...

so everyone stand up, turn around and moon Mr D, as he's known for the benefit of this posting.

This man and I, as you can see, have lots in common including red t-shirts, dashing good looks, charm and an uncanny ability to pass as Mr Magoo in cartoon strips.

Happy Birthday, ya fat bastard...hope you have loads more, and hope you get pissed out of your brains tonight, even if it is only Monday.

Love ya, man...miss you loads...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I was feeling a bit depressed the other day...

so I called Lifeline.

I was put through to a 'call centre' in Pakistan.

I explained that I was feeling suicidal.

They were very excited at this news and wanted to know if I could drive a truck or fly an aeroplane....

The words of Billy Connolly resonate (rather loudly) in my head this morning...

A few years ago, Billy wrote some alternative lyrics to the old folks song "As Usual"...sing along if you like (but not too loudly please)...

I woke up with an achin' head
as usual
I can't remember goin' to bed
as usual
My stomach's feelin' very queer
I've got a thunder storm in my left ear
It must have been McEwan's beer
as usual

Oh we sucked the drink up like a hoover
as usual
The cheap wine and the paint remover
as usual
And somewhere deep inside my brain
I seem to hear a diesel train
And I promise not to drink again
as usual

I woke up in a public park
as usual
I must have crawled there after dark
as usual
Oh I'd better see how much I've got
Oh Jesus Christ I've spent the lot
I must have been a drunken sot
as usual

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More of the latest photos...

Dubai - Burj al-Something-or-other from close-up with helicopter pad at the top
Dubai - Yours truly, with sexy pose at the beach (this is as sexy as I get)
Dubai - one of an estimated 43 million mosques (just on this street)
Dubai - entrance to one of the King's palaces, with accompanying wild peacocks to the right of the pic
Riyadh - Got Soul? Putting some of it onto a pair of sandals I bought

Ok, here's some more Middle East photos...

Dubai - The Creek
Dubai - Burj al-Dubai - tallest tower in the world, still under construction
Dubai - Ski Slope (believe it!)
Dubai - Burj al-Something-or-other (can't remember the name - famous hotel)
Dubai - the road up to one of only two 6-star hotels in the world, both in Dubai

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sent a SMS home last night...

"...just in from CC's..sends his regards. actually, i'm half-pissed..had two good shots of johnny black he has, then a litre of home-brew wine between us. also had a good chinese food evening in the compound and its only 33deg so you can sit outside almost comfortably..."

So, believe it or not, in the middle of tee-total Saudi Arabia, one can actually get pissed. And yes, I am suffering a little for it today, so I guess the Muttawa have inadvertently got their revenge...bastards...

Leaving for home this evening and will be glad to get back to civilisation (as we know it). The sad thing is, I'll be back here again in about a month for another two week stint...getting out of hand now, but that's how slow and long it takes to get things done over here...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I get told I watch too much's why...

Bill Watterman put it so nicely...

I'm not sure of the circumstances, but I assume Bill drew this Calvin and Hobbes strip following a crime he suffered at home (or someone he knew), but he put it so well and it applies particularly to Shit Towne and SA (and the rest of the world)...

Where in the World is Cuzzin Ross?

Is this the case, or is there something more to his disappearance?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My Pirate Name is...

My pirate name is:
Iron Davy Kidd
A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sitting in Riyadh, smelling like an expensive Saudi hoor...

It's 10h30pm, I've just come in from shopping and having a relatively cheap meal (compared to the hotel anyway). For less than the price of an Iftar meal (more on this shortly), SR155 - about ZAR310 - I've had fish and chips and a pepsi, coffee and a date-filled bagel (yum), bought two bags of Guatemalan coffee and paid for taxi to and from Al-Faisaliyya Mall. Actually, all that came to SR105, so I've scored the equivalent of ZAR100...nice...

Right, from the beginning...I left Shit Towne on Thursday evening, rain pissing down on the runway making it look more like a very long swimming pool than somewhere an aircraft would be launched from, on the 19h30 flight to Riyadh via Dubai. The flight left an hour late due to the rain but the pilot assured us he would make up some time in the air. I cared not, cos I had a 12hr stopover in Dubai again, but this time I had a complimentary hotel room lined up for the day. If you want service, fly Emirates.

We get to Dubai at around 05h30am local time, just after the sun came up over the horizon. It's humid already and the temperature is in the upper twenties. It's gonna be a scorcher. Through the passport control without much delay, I went through to the pick-up for the Millenium Hotel, as my luggage had been sent straight through to Riyadh (perhaps never to be seen again). A short five minute wait and the crowd of about ten of us get shepherded into a cool air-conditioned minibus, the like of which go careening around Shit Towne streets at 200km/hr, except this one is in good condition and has brakes. The driver, as are the rest of the drivers on the road, is very considerate toward other road users and it's evident that I'm not in Kansas any more.

No hassle at the hotel check-in..."Goo Monnin Meesta Duckless" whined the Filipino receptionist, "yoo enchoy yo fly? Whelcum Toobye". "Thank you", I reply, not wanting to go off about being tired and cranky as I'm sure she can see it in my face anyway. "Yoo loom numma too thlee wun wun, thir flo. We call yoo fo pee-em fo bus, che cow fo thirry pee-em". "Thank you", I reply, my eyes already searching for the lift to the third floor, which I spy to my right. No mess, no fuss...Emirates is just pure organisation. They even own the hotel due to the large numbers of transit passengers they have at all times. There's a constant trail of minibuses to and from the airport, as if they're on rails.

In my sparsely furnished room (what did I care, all I wanted was a shower and a bed) where I found a shower and a bed (and a couch and a TV), I had soon showered, sent Steph a quick SMS to say I had arrived and set my phone alarm to give me four hours sleep. Just after 11am, I was woken by the alarm, turned on the TV to see what was on the news (nothing interesting which is about par for the course wherever you go), got up and showered again, dressed and went down for lunch just before noon. I was going to have a bite to eat (freebie buffet lunch sponsored by Emirates, and quite a spread) and see if I could organise a tour of Dubai. As it happens, a four hour tour of the city started as I'd woken up, but the tour operator said she could organise me a two-hour tour for USD50 (about ZAR350). "What the fuck", I thought and signed up. The tour would leave at 1pm, giving me time to enjoy a leisurely meal, which as I mentioned, was really quite good.

I happened to be the only one on the tour so it really was a personalised trip, my driver Kush from Pakistan taking me to all the familiar sights one sees of Dubai on the TV. He was a bundle of insight, very knowledgable about his adopted city. I found out that he has a family somewhere in Pakistan (he told me, but I can't remember where) that he goes home to visit once a year. It's too expensive to bring his family over to Dubai to live, so he works and sends money home monthly for them to survive. The tour group, under Islamic law, is obliged to pay his flight home once a year, so at least that doesn't come out of his pocket.

One very interesting piece of information Kush had was that Dubai is populated by only 20% Arabs at any one time, and the other 80% is made up of ex-pat workers and tourists. Of a city of 1.4million people, that means that only 280,000 are true residents, everyone else is on some form of visa.

You'll have to wait for the photos (cos I left my USB cable at home), but we went to all the familiar tourist traps, but also to a fantastic Souk (market) where one could spend many hours shopping, as well as something you would not expect to find in the notoriously hot middle east, a mall called "Ski Dubai". I shit you not, a fuckin' snow ski slope in the middle of the city!! The building stands out like a sore thumb, unmistakeable when you get told what the building is. There's a shopping mall built around it, and the slope is the centrepiece. While the air temperature outside is around 35degC, the mall is cooled to about 20degC to prevent condensation misting up the windows. The temperature inside the ski arena is minus 6degC!! There are whole families in the arena, bundled up in parka jackets and beanies, sliding down ice slides on mats or skiing down snow slopes, every one of them with a smile on their face.

We spend only a couple of minutes in the mall for me to take some pictures and Kush to show off his knowledge of the mall, and then it's back into the minibus to tour some more. We drive down the road that will eventually lead onto the World Islands, where may famous people have "bought" a piece of sand they can call their own for 99 years, not being able to go too far as the rest is for construction vehicles. We drive down onto the beach road that leads us to the Burj al-Arab, the famous hotel that takes the shape of a yacht sail (the white piece on the curved side of the building is actually a piece of cloth, designed to keep most of the wind-blown sand out and let cooling air through). We drive past the edge of the new part of the city, its skyline criss-crossed with cranes. It's easy to see why the city is the fastest-frowing place on eart at the moment. They're even busy building the highest tower in the world, the Burj al-Dubai, a tower that (if memory serves me correctly) will be over 700m in height when completed, supposedly by 2010.

All too quickly, my two hours is up, and Kush leaves me in the hotel lobby almost exactly on 3pm. I make my way up to my room for a short rest before heading down for the bus back to the airport. A few minutes before 4pm, the room phone rings and the voice says "Arro, che cow remida call, thak yoo" Leaving me no chance to say thanks back, the voice obviously has a few reminder calls to make and I hang up the phone, get my stuff together and make my way down to the lobby again. Hand the room key to the bell-hop, get shown to the airconditioned minibus and it takes us about ten minutes to get back to the airport. Again, no mess, no fuss...pure organisation.

Passport control and check-in is relatively painless, apart from having to pass through three sets of x-ray machines and searches. Fuck knows why though, one should be enough seeing as you do one before passport control and there's no way in between to be handed anything you're not supposed to have on you. Anyway...through to Retail La La Land (also known as Dubai Duty Free) and I pick up a couple (ok, three) CD's, a double album "The Essential Johnny Cash", "Linkin Park - Minutes to Midnight" (that got stolen in my hijacked car) and "Marilyn Manson - Eat Me, Drink Me".

I notice that the gate for the Riyadh flight is already open and decide I better move through, just in case my seat gets given away by some over-zealous ticketer. No chance, this is Emirates. There's a screaming Arabian rugrat going off a few seats down from me, so I plug the MP3 headphones into my ears and crank up Blue Monday by New Order, a classic 1983 track and just the thing to drown out screaming Arabian rugrats. A half hour or so later and the entire Pakistani contingent getting on the plane stands up in unison and races off toward the boarding gate. I sit still to avoid being trampled into the marble floor. Fifteen minutes later and there's a bit of a gap so I make my way to the gate too, elbowing my way in in front of a couple of yakking Filipinos. Between them and the Pakis, they're a rude lot, so I have no guilty feelings about using my elbows to move forward in the queue. They do the same, except they just about hit me on the knees with their elbows due to their diminutive size.

The flight to Riyadh is also painless, with the Muslim passengers being given what I call a Ramadan Carry-out, a small box of eats and drinks for them to audibly consume when Iftar comes along. Iftar is the official time that the sun goes down behind Makkah (Mecca) and the official end of daylight, which means that during the month of Ramadan the Muslims can eat and drink again. There is absolutely no eating or drinking (even water) during daylight hours during Ramadan and even westerners are officially expected to obey this religious custom. Most westerners, however, take a lunch to work which they eat or drink behind closed doors, and to which Muslims turn a blind eye. Some Saudis don't like the infidels to be seen observing their customs but are hypocritically quite happy to point fingers when they see a westerner eating or drinking something.

Even going through passport control in Riyadh is painless, taking only seconds, unlike the first time I came here a few weeks ago. Same as last time, however, I wait for almost 20mins for my suitcase to appear on the merry-go-round. Through yet another x-ray machine (just to make sure I hadn't bought any booze in Retail La La Land) and I move through to where my driver is waiting for me, impatient bastard that he is. I acknowledge the board he is holding that has my name on and he takes off for the parking lot, barely saying hello, me dragging my suitcase along in his wake. Immediately I can feel that the temperature for this time of night has dropped at least ten degrees since I was last here, and it's almost pleasant at 35degC...not bad for 8pm.

A speedy drive along the highway, zipping in and out of traffic with the Chrysler's warning system beeping when the driver goes over 120km/hr, and he drops me at the hotel. After opening the boot and having me lift my own suitcase and rucksack out of the boot, he slams it shut and zooms off again. Maybe he hadn't had his Ramadan Carry-out yet...

The concierge in the hotel remembers me from my last visit, enquires as to my health, and uses the Intercontinental Loyalty card to check me in. No mess, no fuss...gotta love it.

I let Steph know that I'm in the hotel by SMS and unpack my case, then settle down for the night having had a pleasantly edible meal on the plane. It appears that Ramadan is a time for travel to this part of the world and the airline food improves with the festivities.

On Saturday morning, I'm up for work, showered and dressed and out the door to the taxi by just after 8am. I shouldn't have bothered though, as work doesn't officially start until 10am at the client. I didn't know this though and after a quick call to my host to ask what the fuck is going on, I walk up to the Marriott hotel and sit in the airconditioned lobby to read the newspaper for an hour or so. I can't even get a cup of coffee cos of the Ramadan fast that's in effect. Hell, I'm not even allowed to take a sip from the bottle of water I have in my rucksack.

Work goes off uneventfully, boring actually and I decide to leave the office early, around 3pm so that I can do some work and check my email from the comfort of my hotel room, and where I can have a cup of coffee and a banana (complimentary fruit basket in my room) to fend off the hunger pains.

At ten to six, pm, I move down to the banquet hall in the hotel complex. I was advised that the hotel holds its own Iftar banquet every evening of Ramadan and I decided to give it a bash. The banquet hall is decked out magnificently (no photos allowed) in strung fairy lights hanging from the centre of the room, the walls are painted in patterns resembling Turkish carpets and one side of the room is closed off by means of a translucent cloth hanging from ceiling to floor where the traditionalist Muslims have their meals. There are two large screens on the walls on opposing sides of the room, on which is shown footage of pilgrims at Makkah doing their rounds. There's even a sponsored raffle, each diner being given a free ticket, prizes in the form of SR250 shopping vouchers from the sponsors. I was told that this is normal for Ramadan, and some banquets (obviously where the elite hang out) have brand new cars given away as prizes in their raffles!

And what a spread! There's more food and drink in this room than there is at a White House election banquet. There's curries, chinese food, "samboosas" (yes, same as our samoosas), lamb stews, beef stews, calamari, fish, roast potatos, seasonal veggies, three types of rice, gravy, sauces, cold meats, salads, roti's for the curry, bread rolls, cold soups, houmous, green and black olives, at least ten different types of cake, orange-flavoured jelly, cream, ice cream, cheesecake, biscuits, cheeses,... you name it, it was on the serving tables (well, everything except good old pork products).

On the dining tables, there was a pot of tea, a pot of Arabian coffee (actually tastes nothing like coffee and is an acquired taste - not too bad) that tastes of cardamom, flagons of cranberry and date juice, and a rather weak, almost sour, tasteless, drinking yoghurt that I thought was either thick milk or cream when I first poured it. Needless to say, I tried the whole fuckin' lot of them. The date juice was surprisingly tasty and I had a couple of glasses of it. I also had some dessert that reminded me of a good old "koeksuster" except that it was shaped like a tiny rugby ball.

Comfortably full, I paid my bill (gladly, this time) and headed back to my room for the evening and some light work before retiring to watch some TV. I nodded off sometime around midnight and woke up only long enough to switch the box off.

On Sunday morning, I got up around 7h45am, knowing the work routine, showered, shaved and dressed, checked and sent some email, then took a taxi (good old Khalid, who remembered me from last visit) to the office just after 10am. Traffic was chaotic and what normally takes only 10mins, took almost a half hour. I was told that it's always like this at this time of year. Work, as usual, was boring and I finished off a presentation that I'm giving on Monday, had a meeting with the project sponsor and did a bit more work before heading back to the hotel just after 5pm, again in the chaotic traffic.

I'd decided earlier today to take a taxi into Al-Faisaliyya Mall to have a cheap meal and perhaps do some shopping for a gift to take back to Steph on Thursday which is when I leave here. A decent fish and chip supper from London Fish, a Pepsi (Saudi champagne) and I took a walk around the mall, which by now had opened after evening prayer time. Shopping goes on until the early hours due to all the prayer time one has to endure.

Going back to the beginning of this post, I'm stinking like an expensive Saudi hoor thanks to the over-eager salesman in the perfume shop. I had waked past the perfume shop earlier, seen the fancy bottles on display and decided to investigate further. I found what turns out to be a rather strong oil-based Ajmal perfume for Steph, which the salesman just had to dab on my forearm and get me to rub into my other forearm. Needless to say, once the perfume warmed up, it became quite powerful and I'm sure I got a few furtive glances from passing black robes (mind you, that was probably due to my dashing good looks rather than smelling like a tart). Even three hours later, after getting back to the hotel and scrubbing my arms with soap the perfume smell is as strong as ever and will probably be on me tomorrow morning too. Fuck knows what the guys in the office are going to say...'s almost 1am and I better get some sleep before the alarm goes off at 7h30am for work...

Stay well, y'all...I'll keep you posted on further happenings...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Giants Cup Wilderness Reserve...

at the long weekend just gone, was fantastic. A great place to get away from it all (even the mobile reception was shitty, so it was even quieter) and just chill out for a few days.

Nothing to hear but the call of Fish Eagles and the wind in the trees. Nothing to do but catch trout, decide which part of the lake you're going to row next, or make up your mind whether to have a Capn'n'Coke or a 10yr old Single Malt.

In short, this was how life is supposed to be...all the time.

I'd asked my folks to join us on the weekend, partly to get them out of the house and see some different scenery for a short while, but primarily to spend some time fly fishing with my dad as it's something we've never done together and I'd always wanted to do.

We met the folks at the Underberg Inn as arranged, had a quick draught and then made our way along the last 13km to the lodge after arranging some ice and another bottle of the Capn's finest. Three nights, two bottles, should be okay as Steph and mum together don't drink as much rum as I do.

The last two kilometres of the road was some of the roughest dirt road I'd ever experienced and my dad remarked as such when we eventually got to the lodge. His Beamer had reportedly scraped her "skirts" a couple of times along the road, but there were no bits missing.

On our arrival, we were met by a pack of hounds resembling Australian Dingoes which, as we were later told, is exactly what they were although they were interbred with various other species (one of which I suspect was a Grizzly Bear). Our host, Wolf Avni, renown in the SA fly fiching scene, met us at the door and becalmed the Baskerville beasts.

Taken from a publication I read on occasion, "Wolf Avni is one of those characters that needs no introduction! 'A Mean-Mouthed Hook-Jawed Bad-News Son-of-a-Fish' is his first book and is undoubtedly a defining moment in South African piscatorial literature! You may want to read this book with a copy of the concise English dictionary at hand as Mr Avni’s superior intellect will broaden your vocabulary as well as delight and inform you as he takes you along through his 50 odd years of piscatorial pursuits. Full of humor and flyfishing lore, Mr Avni has set a standard and you would be hard pressed to find a more delightful read."

I agree wholeheartedly with the summary as I have read the book and it was one of those that, once started, is not put down easily. Needless to say that, when we were leaving three days later, I bought a copy of the book from Wolf and had it autographed at the very spot he penned it.

Anyway...we tottered off to our cabin and, although I was a little disappointed at what I was spending R1000 a night on, found the little house to be comfortable with every amenity we needed. After unloading the cars, Dad and I headed off down to the lake and surveyed where we'd be spending a great amount of time over the next few days. There were a few fish rising on the evening Mayfly hatch, which gave us the urge to get our rods rigged up and get fishing as soon as we could. However, we resisted, and instead settled down on the garden chairs with a cold one. The rest of the evening was spent chatting, having a couple of drinks and retiring to bed early, half past bloody nine!! I think the last time I went to bed that early I was two weeks old!!

Up at 6am on Saturday morning, the weather was perfect for fly fishing. Not a breeze, not a cloud, and we got the little rowing boat out of the "boat house" (fuckin' lapa on the water, more like) and head out, very uncoordinated, to the middle of the lake. Until just before 11am we don't get a single fish, hardly even a pull, so we decide to give it up for a while and head home for breakfast. I also end up having a snooze while trying to read.

Somewhere around 3pm we decide to give the fishing another crack and head out on our skiff again, this time finding a spot where the wind that has picked up will push us not too close to the weed beds as they are really shallow, sometimes catching the boat to such an extent that it stops it dead in the water and makes fishing impossible. We drift around for a while, rowing out of weed beds into the wind and, upon hearing another fisherman talking to his brother about the fish he just caught and on what fly, we change our tactics.

The aforementioned fishermen were both on float tubes and, having to paddle against the wind too, found that they caught fish while their flies were being trawled through the water. We decide this was the way to do it as we had been fishing traditional fly methods until now. Straight away we are into a couple of fish, land a couple and lose some too. In total, we land seven fish, all of which we release. For their relatively small size, around 350gm, they take the fly and fight like they were 2kg in weight. Just by the fight you can feel that they are not hatchery-bred weaklings, but have to fight for survival in their lake.

We call it a day just before dark and head in, satisfied at having at least caught some fish. Back at the house, we light the braai fire and I braai some lamb chops and chicken kebabs, and we settle down for our meal and a couple of drinks. I round the evening off with a nice 10yr old Ardbeg single malt, then head off for a bath and bed around 10pm.

Up at the crack of dawn on Sunday cos my dad has a habit of bringing Steph a cup of tea every morning, dressed and out on the water at 6h30am, we employ the same fishing tactics as the previous evening, which works and we catch a few more fish, despite the strong westerly wind which picks up early with the promise of rain later. As with the previous day, we break for lunch and a snooze, and are back on the water at 3pm but by now the wind is howling and when we look at the water weed it's as if we've got an outboard motor on the boat, we're going so fast. This makes it more difficult to fish, but by the end of the day we have caught six fish, four of which we kept as Steph was whinging that we weren't bringing any home for her. The ones we keep are a nice pan size so she's happy. As usual, we have an evening meal and a couple of drinks and head to bath and bed early-ish.

When we wake on Monday morning, the weather has turned ugly. There's a strong wind blowing from the east this time and the mist has moved in, totally covering the lake in an eerie cloak of grey spray. Luckily, we had packed raincoats, and we head out onto the water for the last time, a short spell of fishing before we have to pack up and head back to Shit Towne. In the three or so hours we're on the water, we catch and release another seven fish and retire the skiff to the boathouse, then retire ourselves cold and hungry to the house. A quick shower and brunch and we're packed and ready to leave this beautiful place, very reluctantly, I must add.

The drive back to Shit Towne is chaotic and resembles the annual Lemming Run when all the December holiday makers return home. The highway is packed and we have to drive very carefully due to the large numbers of fuckwit asshole hooligans in their Beamers, Audis and Volvos causing havoc on the roads. Thankfully, we get home unscathed, unpack the car and cases quite quickly and settle down in front of the TV for the evening.

Apart from the disappointment at what we got for our money which, as I said, I thought was a bit excessive (even though it worked out to R250/pp/pn) it was a wonderfully relaxing weekend and one which I will remember as I got to spend some quality time with my dad, something we haven't really done until now. Hopefully, we'll be able to do it again sometime soon.