Lucky Voice

If you’re fed up of sumptuous spreads of gourmet food, fine wines and stimulating conversation, Lucky Voice is the place for you. None of the aforementioned items is on offer, as Lucky Voice knows it’s target audience and beats them senseless with a barrage of cheap ale, watery shots and all you can eat finger food.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all, but if your usual brunch has more Michelin Stars than Gordon Ramsey, just know what you’re letting yourself in for.

Mrs H and I spent last Friday there, and increased the average age by about 12 years. Not that stopped us joining in the fun including the karaoke, held in one of the private and, mercifully, sound-proof booths.

Do go if you want a rowdy afternoon’s entertainment, and don’t mind standing for most of the time.

Don’t go if you’re hungry or suffer from tinnitus.

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Back on the Road

Nice run this morning, Mrs H finally getting her running mojo back, with sights set for a race later in the year. 11km comfortably in the bag, my thoughts of going further dispelled by the prospect of a toasted croissant.

Great to see so many people out and about so early, the 30/30 thang announced by the Crown Prince presumably providing the extra motivation. Most of the large groups were of course Filipinos, who are brilliant at mobilising for social activities.

Also spotted a birthday party, complete with cake at 06:45 hrs. If that was in the UK a call to Child Line would quickly follow, as getting any kids up before 11:00 hrs on a weekend is classified as psychological cruelty.

Brunch later at Lucky Voice, (or as it should be known, ‘Unlucky Ears’) as a recce for Perfect Wife’s birthday bash. Joy.

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World’s worst blogger

Pretty sure that’s me right now. Just haven’t had the get up and…..

Despite this, rather implausibly it seems that I have hit someone’s radar as I keep getting random phone calls and e-mails from PR companies about upcoming exciting events in Dubai. Thinking of setting up a ‘What’s On’ page to accommodate them all. If I can be bothered of course.

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Movin’ On Up

Moving house in Dubai is a minefield. Desperate agents, greedy landlords, rent inflation, and the possibility that your new place is in the path of the next “Worlds Biggest” construction to name but a few.

Rather than live on the building site our compound was rapidly becoming, we decided to cut our losses and move.   Cue the standard soul-destroying trawl round the Dubai rental market.   I think we looked at every property for rent in Dubai. No stone was left unturned, every neighbourhood cruised, no estate agent’s number uncalled.

A brief summary of our go-around of the usual suspects;

  • Meadows, (too pricey)
  • The Springs (too small)
  • Jumeirah Village Triangle, Circle, and Village (none of which is actually anywhere near Jumeirah, though all of which are too much like a building site)
  • Jumeirah 2 and 3, (too big, too expensive, and/or too much digging. Though at least Jumeirahs 2 and 3 are actually in Jumeirah)
  • Um Suquiem (as per Jumeirah 2 & 3)
  • Arabian Ranches (too remote).

So, after all this we finally end up moving one block away, much to the confusion of the cats, who can’t quite work out why they can see their old house, but aren’t supposed to go there.

We’ve always been lucky with our landlords, at least till the last one served us an eviction notice on New Years Day, so getting a new place in this town is always a bit of a gamble.

Our new landlord has been smart enough to divorce himself from the entire mucky process and instead outsource all communications and dealings to an agency, who take polite incompetence and obfuscation to a whole new, ‘Worlds Biggest’ level.

All conversations conform to the same 5 step process:

  1. Cheery opening; “Hello Sir, sorry to bother Sir.”
  2. Apology for previous failure; “Very sorry about this one Sir.”
  3. Mangled justification for previous failure; “Sir, for this one, we have emailed landlord,
    and once have received back, we will take care of this one, which is no problem Sir, as he is coming into town, next week itself.”
  4. New promise (which will be broken); “We will get this one today or tomorrow itself, no problem, and come to you first thing tomorrow Sir.”
  5. Cheery sign-off “Thank you Sir, thank you Sir, goodbye Sir.”

We are getting there. All our teething issues are ‘high quality problems’, but it’s slow, draining and at times a sheer test of patience and resolve. In that respect I guess it’s like many things in this place.

p.s. Please come back ‘New-Years’s-Day-Eviction-Giving-Landlord’, all is forgiven!

p.p.s. Our move was handled by MackPack, great outfit owned and run by a lovely Kiwi guy called Rick. You can find them at Highly recommended, and no, I’m not getting a kick-back for the plug!

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Happy New Year, pack your bags.

On New Years Day we were rather rudely shaken from our vegetative state by
a ding dong on the front door. “That’ll be the new tenancy contract”, Mrs
H states confidently, powers of telepathy keen as ever.

I open the door to a slightly sheepish looking security guard, who hands me
a letter, the contents of which can be summarised as “kindly pack up your
stuff and move out, we’d like to upgrade the kitchen cupboards as a pretext to jack up
the rent.”

Close but no cigar Mrs H, right subject, wrong outcome.

Well, Happy New year and f*ck you too, what a way to start 2015.  On reflection, I think this is actually a good example of life in Dubai, the kind of roller-coaster ride that the Expat Guides don’t care to mention. New Year’s Eve you’re watching fireworks over the Burj Al Arab, twelve hours later you’ve got an eviction notice in one hand, downloading
the Property Finder App with the other.  Living the dream indeed.

Of course what the landlord is doing is quite illegal, but they don’t really care, rules and regulations are for ordinary people who don’t have the wasta.  So what to do? Run down the clock on the official 12 months notice period, or get out of Dodge before it turns into a building site? Decisions, decisions.

The landlord “kindly” (as they like to say in these parts) offered us a third option. Move into one of the newly refurbished villas, which will be offering out with a mere 59% increase in rent.  Er, let me think about that…..hang on…..piss off.  Kindly.

If in doubt, blame Health & Safety


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And then there were six.

And then there were six.

One of the things you need to get used to in this place is people leaving. Back in the real world people hardly ever move away, (which is sometimes good and sometimes bad), but here, it’s all part and parcel of the expat experience. At some point, either your mates are going to leave, or you’re going to leave, or both. This is a transient place, so the only real variable is how long you and your pals all be together in the same Dubai-universe. We’ve had a decent run, with our group having been in town and together for five years, so as time moved on it became more inevitable that someone was going to move out.

The smart money was on Kinski and Mrs Momma, so it was with some surprise, and not to mention huge sadness, when Father Ted and Mrs Doyle announced they were heading back to the Emerald Isle.

In line with their ethereal approach to life, they had no jobs, no schools for the kids and no concrete plans, just a small army of packers and five one way tickets. Absolute madness (at least from my perspective), but I’d have been disappointed with anything else.

The sad reality is that for all the good friends you make, and good times you share, life in Dubai always ends with a 40 foot trailer parked outside your house and feeling robbed after selling your car for a pittance the day before you’re due to fly out. Father Ted’s and Mrs Doyle’s departure was no different.

Father Ted’s extensive range of one liners (I’ll never look at Barney the same way) and Mrs Doyle’s transformation from sedentary 40 a day dragster to Boot Camp queen/10k runner, is the stuff of legends.

They have been, and are, truly missed.


Will yer have a cup of tea Father? Ya will. ya will.

IPAD 14th August 2014 1120

Father Ted always went to places twice. The second time to apologise.


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Mish Mushkila, yani.

Work have saw fit to let me out of the office for a few days with an instruction to “get face time with key stakeholders and internal partners to ensure alignment and improve engagement”. I don’t know what that means either, but being ex-military, I know all about blindly obeying orders without actually understanding them.

So here I am, in Cairo, fourth visit, but first one since the Arab Spring. I’d forgotten how insane a place this is, big, dirty and congested, the relentless, mind-numbing tooting of horns ever present. It’s like Mumbai on a cocaine speedball, minus the wobbling heads of course. It does however give me the chance to say “Mish Mushkila” a lot, which is my favourite (and actually only) Arabic colloquialism.

On the way from the airport and with time to pass in the ever present traffic jams, I started thinking that Cairo might be able to challenge World-record-busting-Dubai with a few records of its own. Perhaps not the records you’d find in Guinness, but no less reasonable than ‘World’s Biggest Audi Showroom’ or ‘World’s only [self appointed] seven star hotel’.

So here we go, my nominations for Cairo’s list of world records;

– Most confusing airport arrivals area and redundant customs lane – World’s craziest drivers
– Most unfinished construction projects (yes, even more than Dubai) – Highest number of vehicles crammed into three lanes of highway – Most people wedged into a car
– Highest number of donkeys on the motorway
– Most dented cars (per square foot)
– Most unlikely place to have an Ikea store

And this morning, my hotel scooped ‘World’s worst hotel breakfast’, which
they serve in the atrium of an adjoining mall, charging $50 (not Egyptian pounds, I checked) for toast, luke warm coffee and cold pastries.

It’s good to be back, yani.

Extensive breakfast selection

Extensive breakfast selection

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Vertigo inducing brunch at Prime 68

Dodgy Excuses

They say there’s a first time for everything, so this year I got to choose where to do our traditional pre-summer brunch, though decided that actually booking it was way beneath my station and attempted to outsourced it. Of course there was a consequence to my admin avoidance, which was an email from Mrs Mamma claiming my preferred choice, Saffron, was fully booked when she tried to reserve it “three weeks earlier”. Why it took her three weeks to send this message is subject to some debate with a few folks going as far to claim that she forgotton to do it and was telling a little white lie.

From the jaws of defeat

So, it’s Tuesday, and you’re trying to book Friday brunch in Dubai. Good luck with that matey.  That said, this situation could be fairly described as a ‘high quality problem’, in other words, your world has become so shrink wrapped that you actually give a shit where you go to binge-eat and get rat-arsed on a Friday afternoon. Anyway, that’s the world we’re in, so fine – accept it and begin the frantic dash to find a suitable alternative. Mrs H came to the rescue with a proposal to try out Prime 68 at the JW Marriott Marque. I wasn’t that enthusiastic, but given that a) she had a solution and b) I suspected she might have a voucher, I decided to keep my mouth shut and go with it.

Up in the great glass elevator

Prime 68 is located on the 68th floor  of the hotel (there’s a clue in the name), and after a white-knuckle-glass-fronted-elevator-ride that required fingers to be peeled off the handrails when we got the top, we were rearing to go.


The minimalist interior of Prime 68.  Not a bread roll in sight.

The interior of Prime 68 is clean and minimalist, and felt like we’d gate-crashed someone’s pad just after the painters have just walked off the job and haven’t yet moved the furniture back or put up the pictures.  The views were impressive, and once we’d got our sea legs after the elevator ride, we went to squeeze our faces against the windows and try to spot our houses.


First observation was that there appeared to be no food.  Where was the rows and rows of silver buffet trays and mountains of salad? Nowhere to be seen, and already I’m starting to think this is going to be bobbins.

How many?

After sitting, the waiter came scuttling over and gave us the run down.  Thirty eight courses, yes I said thirty eight, i.e. thirty courses and then eight more, which will be served to us at the table. I speculated it was going to be thirty seven courses of food, followed by a waaafer thin mint so we could all spontaneously explode and complete the paint job.


Tough call – Regular Joe or Champagne Charlie?

Packages pricing was fairly standard, 295 for the sharia complaint version, 495 for the Regular Joe alcohol and 595 for the Champagne Charlie package, i.e. Mrs Mamma and Perfect Wife.

Captain Pugwash immediately smelt a rat and suggested they were going to fill us with 14 course of bread so we couldn’t fit in the good stuff, and for a period I thought he may be right as inconsequential starter after inconsequential starter was brought out.

We needn’t have worried,  they eventually got onto the good stuff, and the variety and quality of food was top rate. After a slightly bumpy and slow start on the drinks, we soon got the team whipped into shape so the service was good and generally on the ball.

The occasion was also likely to be our last brunch as a complete posse, as Father Ted and Mrs Doyle had decided to sell us out and leave the Dubai bubble for the joys of the Emerald Isle. More of that story on another post.

Attendance was fairly compete, apart of course from Kinski, who has decided to cut down his carbon emissions by taking a job 3,250 miles away.


The magician causes much amusement – or perhaps I’d cracked a joke. Hard to tell.

Where did the rabbit come from?

Highlight of the afternoon, and brilliantly timed so the reflexes were somewhat dulled, was a table magician who spirited wedding rings onto his shoelaces and ghosted photos of playing cards into our iphones. Awesome, and what a terrific way to wrap up the afternoon.  Father Ted’s was staring so hard to try and work out the tricks, I thought his eyes going to pop out of his skull.

Wigs & sticks

after brunch

Seemed like a good idea at the time

Another interesting twist, which we sneered at on entry was a dressing up box and background for photos.  Three hours later, and we couldn’t get those wigs on fast enough.  Results left, which are now framed, three of which are on various mantelpieces in Dubai, one is in a forty foot container somewhere on the Arabian Gulf. Inshallah.

Prime 68 brunch – excellent change of scenery, terrific views, decent value for money.  8/10

"I'm not your wife."  "Doh!"

“I’m not your wife.” “Doh!”

And what did you do this afternoon Mummy?

And what did you do this afternoon Mummy?

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Death and no taxes

There’s been quigrim-reaper-funny-pictureste a bit of death on the agenda recently; the sad and very untimely passing of my rock-star Uncle Jimmy, an acquaintance at my bi-annual lunch club and the anniversary of my Father’s death.

That got me thinking about the famous Marc Twain quote “There’s only two things certain in life, death and taxes.” Very clever Mr Twain, but what if you live in Dubai and don’t pay taxes? (Allegedly.) Does that mean that the only certain thing you’ve got in life is death? Not sure I like that concept.


Passing of a legend

Jimmy’s death, which was six weeks after he went to see his doctor with stomach pain, came as a huge shock given, 1. his age – mid 50’s, and 2. his indefatigable nature. This guy was running marathons and chucking himself out of perfectly serviceable aeroplanes mid-flight long before it became fashionable. He was the cool Uncle that actually made family get-togethers fun and something to look forward to.

In fact, such a shock was his passing that when Mrs H used it as the launch pad for her regular “you should go and get the annual health check you’re entitled to” speech, I actually booked it on the spot.

Take a deep breath

The process for booking the medical with Metlife was as farcical as you’d expect in this part of the world. Take a deep breath and… call Metlife, choose wrong option on IVR, speak to wrong person, who transfers you to the right person, though they don’t actually do anything except give you another number, which the first person could have done, and the number turns out to be a generic number, and they have to transfer you to the right branch and then the woman tries to put you through to a doctor for a reason you can’t work out, then you work out she thinks you’re buying insurance, which you’re not, and when you’ve told her you’re not (twice) she finally says “oh – you want the Metlife annual check-up?! I can help you with that” (Hurray!!) because a check-up, apparently, is totally different to a medical, though how are you supposed to know that and before you know it, and as easy and quick as you can say “There’s no place like Kansas.” your appointment is booked! Phew!!

Final comment from the receptionist; “Sir, fast for 10 – 12 hours, before you come ok?” me, “Fine.” “10 -12 hours sir, no eating, you need to fast.” “OK”. “So no eating sir.” “Er, yeah, ok. Think I’ve got it.”

This may feel like Groundhog day. Then again, it may feel like Groundhog day

So the morning of the medical arrived, and inevitably the first question at reception was …. “when was the last time you ate?” “10 -12 hours ago”. “Very good, please go and see my colleague.”

‘My colleague’ was a very brusque but highly efficient Indian nurse who, after asking if I’d fasted, told me to take off my shirt, lie on the bed and put my hands in my pockets. Okaaay. Seems that this is a pre-requisite for an ECG in these parts. Whether some chaps go for a cheeky feel when the nurse is leaning over to stick on the pads I’ll probably never know, but she looked in no mood to piss about, so deep into my pockets the hands went.

After the ECG, and with fewer chest hairs than I arrived with, I was sent for a cursory prod by the Doc and blood samples, Lab nurse – “Sir, have you fasted?” me, sighing, “Yes.” I was then told to go and get a good breakfast and come back in two hours. Breakfast as part of a medical – brilliant! No wonder people here are so fat.

Back after brfunny-grim-reaper-death-kenny-south-park-again-pics (2)ekky, receptionist – “Sir, have you had breakfast?”, “Yes”, go and see my colleague who will take more blood. Lab nurse – “Have you had breakfast?” “Yes.” “Good. Roll up your other sleeve.”

I was then despatched from the med centre and told to await the results the next day…


You’ll live son

Med centre called the next day. (Anyone who tells you there isn’t some apprehension when you get that call is a downright liar.) ‘Put your hands in your pockets’ nurse tells me all is OK and I’m fit to continue fighting the good fight for middle aged expats in Dubai. Cool. Let’s book a brunch – quick.

And what did you learn?

· Not the most comprehensive medical I’ve had, but worth doing and I commit to doing it on a more regular basis. 150 Dhs with a complimentary chest wax is a bargain.

· Get an exit plan should the worst happen to you over here – getting money released here is a nightmare, even worse than changing your autopay credit card at Etisalat. Mrs H was given a full debrief of what to do in the event of my unfortunate and untimely demise. Basically, where our meagre money stash is hidden and how to cash-out. She will of course forget and I will have the repeat the briefing on a regular basis.

· Always, always, always fast for 10-12 hours before going for a medical.


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Hostilities Commence

“That’s the area I’ve been told I’m getting and I’m very happy with it”. In another time and another place this would be an innocuous statement, but it wasn’t. Ikohlberg-cigar-factory-1915t was a meeting to talk about our upcoming office reconfiguration and this, of course, was a declaration of war.

You can’t walk into an office-move discussion and tell people you are sorted. You just can’t. You need to go through the pretence that you don’t mind where you sit and that the entire subject is far too trivial for a Captain Of Industry like you to fret over. This, of course, is all bollocks and anyone who has spent any time working in an office knows it. You’ve got to do the dance. You need to go through the charade. It’s all part of the game, and everyone knows it.

The impact of my colleague’s assumptive statement, and the suggestion that the planning process was over before it even started, was only going to have one outcome. Civil war. It may not have made Sky News, or even 7 Days, but believe me, it was a bitter and bloody affair, in which there were no winners.

Three into Two won’t go

The crux of the issue came down to window seats. Pathetic really, but in these days of commune workplaces, with no walls, just flat open plan savannah-like plains of desks stretching as far as the eye can see, there is only one position that infers any kind of ascendancy in the pecking order. A window seat. They are few in number and consequently highly prized assets and a telling indictment of what corporate life has reduced us to. A window seat. Whose simple elegance bestows upon the owner a modicum of privacy and the opportunity to wistfully gaze, imagining what might have been if you’d never joined the company in the first place.

Our issue was that there was only two window seats, for three individuals. A desperate situation and one that required some strategic thinking.

Dodgy deals and dodgy arguments

First move was to make an alliance with one of my competing colleagues. Tough call, with him being a Man Utd supporter and all, but I figured that difficult situations require difficult choices. Second was to come up with some spurious business reasons why it was so important for us to get the window seats. Third was to discredit the opposition. Weeks watching House of Cards has proved invaluable, and Frank Underwood would be very proud of me.

Our boss had wisely delegated sorting the mess out to his second in command (2IC), who knew he was screwed as he has neither the authority nor the stupidity to try and impose a solution. Instead, all he could do was attempt to broker a deal and try to keep a straight face as the arguments got more heated and the rationale got more preposterous.

At our second meeting I openedlector-at-cigar-factory-1929 with a discourse on the symbiotic benefit of product teams sitting together and that a linear seating arrangement was less conducive to effective communication than a tight cluster. This may have been both pompous and weak, but it was certainly more robust than the pitch from our colleague, who needed the area as “I have a lot of boxes and my plant needs the sunlight”.

The “my plant needs the sunlight” line was met with my withering sarcasm and my partner’s disclosure that he has a vitamin D deficiency and a window seat was “doctor’s orders”. Brilliant. The introduction of a medical condition and an independent expert witness was a masterstroke and made our position look impregnable.

2IC offered a solution to break the deadlock. Using the acumen and insight that made him top of his MBA class he cut right to the heart of the issue. “Let’s draw straws.” I felt cornered by the naked logic, the random simplicity of the solution, and agreed. However, my Man Utd colleague again excelled himself, refusing to participate in a draw, which he stated was gambling and therefore Haram. First medical opinion, now religious grounds. Genius. (The fact that I know he’s prone to have a flutter on the football results at the weekend was, of course, not mentioned.)

After thirty minutes of circular discussion we adjourned, arguments made, agreement unlikely.

I went to the car park that evening anxious, expecting a blow to the head or my tyres slashed. Or both.

Have faith – and friends in high places

Perhaps eliciting ‘Higher Powers’ had helped, as arriving next morning I was told a win-win-win solution had magically been brokered to everyone’s satisfaction. Out of desperation, 2IC had managed to get the Facilities department (who are of course, Higher Powers) to rejig the entire floor-plan to create a third window seat. Hurray! Ceasefire agreed and normal relations returned. Why this wasn’t done in the first place is a mystery, but hey, large corporations do work in mysterious ways.

What did I learn from Window-Gate? The power of alliances? That will-power can bend reality to your desired outcome?  That religion, medical opinion and business bullshit can co-exist in the same sentence? Yes, all of that, but above all else I learned to never, never, never be an office move co-ordinator.

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