Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I found this on the BBC news website, and it brightened my day.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Dragon slayer

St George is the patron saint of England, and also Moscow, Portugal and Palestine, among others. And today, 23rd April is his day. It is also probably William Shakespeare's 443rd birthday.

Being English, I s
hould make a special effort at Englishness today. I'll apologise to people who bump into me. I'll indulge in self deprecation. And I'll form orderly queues.

It's ironic, isn't it, that only in England is a queue-jumper likely to get away with it? The rest of the queue will mumble "How rude!" without engaging in the social taboo of "Oi! The back of the queue is over there!"


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Porcelain express

Perhaps I shouldn't blog about my aquarium. I did so here and two fish promptly dropped dead.


I found an ill-looking tiger barb and isolated it in a net in the aquarium so that it wouldn't get attacked by the other fish, and the barb died overnight. A day later I discovered the mortal remains of one of the allegedly indestructible catfish on the gravel.

Normally this sort of thing is caused by poor water quality, but chemical tests reveal nothing wrong with the water, and none of the other tank occupants seem to be even slightly unwell. So it's a bit of a mystery.

If I never mention the aquarium on this blog again, it'll be because my fish drop dead every time I publish something about them. So now you know.

I am currently considering buying a marine aquarium. Aside from the additional cost and complexity, there is the issue of finding somewhere in Grumpy Goat Towers where a second fish tank won't get in the way of the rest of the furniture whilst still being reasonably visible. It's a bit pointless keeping ornamental fish if no-one can see them. And the decision is also related to whether or not I change my accommodation arrangement when my lease expires in July. And that is subject to how greedy my landlord decides to be.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


It's unfortunate, from the point of view of an insurance company, that those people who reckon that they're not going to need medical care don't pay the insurance premiums. Only the sickly and unhealthy see the need. Of course, if you're forever needing medical care you'll make frequent insurance claims and thus push up the cost of future insurance premiums. Insurance companies are not interested in the health of the nation. They only exist to take more in premiums than they pay out in claims. The local press is quite happy to publicise cases where someone has had medical treatment, only to learn afterwards that it's not covered by the insurance. To quote Monty Python, "You see, you unfortunately plumped for our 'NeverPay' policy which, you know, if you never claim is very worthwhile..."

The healthcare industry is a super money-spinner too. Why else would every other villa along Jumeira Beach Road be some sort of private clinic, dental specialist or spinal injuries unit? Why is an entire Heathcare City taking shape behind Wafi City? Why indeed. Clearly there is a lot of money to be made from illness and injury.

Trying to get my own insurance cover a little while back proved nigh on impossible. I figured that even the healthiest individual could have an accident, and as I explained to the insurance companies that I canvassed, I hardly ever found it necessary to see a doctor, and was looking for something that would help me out largely in case of a traffic-related injury.

The company I was recommended got me to fill in the forms, pointed out that there was no medical required provided that I disclose all pre-existing conditions (such as they are), and took my money. After cashing the cheque the company demanded that I undertake a "full medical examination at my expense"(!) on the basis that my Body Mass Index exceeds 30. Yes, I confess. I'm a lardarse, although "clinically obese" is the official term. And this, it would seem, makes me too high a risk to insure. I made it clear from the outset that I'd undertake whatever medical tests were deemed necessary, but that if the company wanted to change the rules then the company should foot the bill.

The company refused to state categorically what tests were required that would constitute a "full medical examination". I could already anticipate a claim not being paid because I'd not undertaken some obscure test that might have exposed a particular allegedly pre-existing condition. The broker suggested that I could be covered, with exclusions based on claims related to obesity. I see. Anything to do with my cardiovascular system, endocrine system, diabetes and related issues, and even trips and falls would be excluded. Does that leave anything else?

At this point I demanded my money back. If they were going to be this awkward about taking my money, how would the insurers react if I ever had the temerity to make any form of claim? Incidentally, it took a week and threat of legal action before I got my refund.

Other insurance companies proved prohibitively expensive, and some had specific exclusions to their cover such as accidents related to motorsport, skiing, scuba diving, anything to do with motorcycles, and of course AIDS. I must remember not to use a dirty needle while crashing my rally car underwater. One company even refused point-blank to have anything to do with me once I'd disclosed my BMI. This is a great way of getting rid of healthcare telemarketers. Tell them that you're five foot nothing and weigh 16 stone.

The universal Law of Sod decreed that shortly after failing to get insured, I had to go for a minor operation. It was fortunate that the procedure cost a 'mere' Dh 5000. Prior to the op, I had to have a full medical examination. Despite the lardiness of my arse and my desperately unhealthy BMI, the various tests proved that I was healthy enough to have a general anaesthetic. (Apparently they don't give anaesthetic to poorly people - eeek!) Normal blood pressure, normal cholesterol levels and no sign of heart disease, diabetes, orf or hoose. Body Mass Index is fine as one indicator or someone's basic shape, but should never be used as the sole arbiter when assessing whether that someone is about to drop dead of a heart attack.

It's promising, from my point of view as a wage slave, that legislation is proposed to make it compulsory for companies in the UAE to provide medical cover for employees. I'll happily exchange my meagre monthly medical allowance for insurance cover, provided that the insurance will pay up if I make a claim. Eventually a company medical insurance scheme will appear. Unlike individual cover, the up-front administration charges are likely to be lower per employee, thus making the premium lower for everyone. Meanwhile I'll try to avoid too many cashectomy sessions down at the local poly clinic.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Air and water

Last weekend I took some advice often given to bloggers and got out more. Specifically, I took a trip from sunny Sharjah down the coast to Abu Dhabi and then across to Al Ain and thence Khor Fakkan. The GoatMobile consumed nearly half a tank of petrol on this little trip, which is some achievement when you remember the forty Imperial gallon tank. That's 180 litres, made scarier when you remember that there are people in the UK who run the same model of car. Ouch, expense.

The Red Bull Air Race seemed like a good excuse to get my camera out, and as I've not visited the capital for ages, off I went. Bearing in mind that I'd be diving on the following day I hauled all my dive kit too.

Traffic on Abu Dhabi corniche was predictably chaotic. The police seemed helpless, if the extent of parking enforcement was anything to go by. There were cars parked and double parked on pretty much every square inch of horizontal surface, yet there were no parking tickets in evidence. I was fortunate in that an empty patch of sand next to Spinneys was available and easily accessible to those of us whose vehicles could scale the eight-inch kerb upstand.

Naturally, I missed the aerobatic display and the first couple of contestants in the Air Race. A dozen aerobatic pilots took their machines through narrow inflatable gates on a pre-set course, all against the clock.

Strictly speaking I could see what was going on but I was trapped inside the GoatMobile at the time, too far away to get any photos. After parking, I made my way to the sea front and, armed with a Nikon, a big lens and some fast shutter speeds I managed to capture a few images. Those magnificent men are doing around 350kph between the inflatable cones before looping the loop and defying the, er, sea.

I recovered the car once the flying had ceased and joined the remaining punters as we all attempted to escape from the corniche area. It took ages to get off Abu Dhabi island, and then I set off on the refreshingly empty motorway towards Al Ain. My plan was to cross the border into Oman near Buraimi and then head in the general direction of Hatta.

I've not been to Al Ain for ages either. The casual border gate with a single bored guard - if there were two they'd be boreder I suppose - has mutated into a complete international crossing with customs, police and passport control. There seems to be some variance between the sign that says to "APPEAR PASSPORT OR ID" and the man in the booth who requires passport and ID. Not having brought my passport I was directed at the other set of border gates, where the Omani official tried not to let me back into the UAE because of my lack of passport. "But that's why they won't let me leave. So I'm not entering the UAE because I never left."

Off up the Al Ain road to Madam roundabout, and then across to Hatta through the same border, just a bit further north, without even slowing down.

Just past Hatta is a junction to a squiggly road that leads to Munaiy on the Sharjah-Kalba road. Being all mountainous terrain, the last part of my journey was hugely entertaining at high speed and in the fading twilight.

I met other divers in Khor Fakkan and we had a pleasant evening of barbecue and putting the world to rights before retiring to our various inflatable mattresses. Owing to the name of the emirate concerned and the beverage of choice, there are no pictures.

The diving on Saturday was very refreshing. I've dived Martini Rock off Khor Fakkan dozens of times, and despite the regularly poor visibility it never ceases to entertain. But I've not dived Inchcape 10 before. Lying just off Fujairah, I hope to dive it a lot more. The wreck is teeming with life.

I saw a new species of nudibranch (well new to me, unless it's a variant of these)

and the biggest nudibranch I've ever seen.

Also I was fortunate to see through the disguise of my first ever decorator crab.

The moray, hiding in an old tyre, was crying out to be photographed.

The water temperature is still a little chilly. It's in the low to mid twenties Celsius. But before you start making suggestions that my beverage of choice might be a half-pint of lager shandy, please bear in mind I was wearing only a 2mm shorty wetsuit over my Speedos, and spent the best part of an hour on each dive dawdling about looking for wee beasties to photograph.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Phone moan

Someone once said, "Even a paranoid can have enemies." It was Henry Kissinger. It appears that some of my enemies are the purveyors of telecommunications services. That's right: mobile phone operators and their various lackeys. And just for once, It-Is-a-Lot isn't at the top of the list.

Vodafone UK is. I have had the same UK mobile phone account since 1998. Originally I left the SIM card in Britain while abroad, but later brought it with me so that I had international roaming access, as not provided by It-Is-a-Lot. I used to have full international roaming with my old Q-Tel account, so the absence of roaming didn't become a problem until I relocated to the UAE.

Last year I didn't put the Vodafone SIM card into a handset for a year, and then last May I was astonished to discover when I did that it worked fine, and that there was some remaining credit. There followed a series of calls to Vodafone's helpdesk to establish that I could in fact use the account in the UAE. Once I got back to the Lands of the Sand I discovered Vodafone's evil subterfuge. They had failed to lift the barring of international calls and initially refused to divulge the barring password. Then, when it STILL didn't work, Vodafone confessed that there was (allegedly) no roaming agreement with It-Is-a-Lot. Funny that; the handset connected to the network OK. It's just that I couldn't make calls.

Now I discover that owing to inactivity, my account had been terminated and the number recycled. Did they email me first? Did they phone me on the alternative number? Guess. Go on; you'll never guess. And what of my outstanding credit? "We have no record if this, but will 'as a gesture of goodwill' allow you £5 credit on your new Pay As You Yack". How benevolent. How unutterably arrogant!

The issue of the lack of international roaming access on my DU account remains as yet unresolved. The promised return call withing 48 hours has failed to materialise after more than a week, despite numerous calls to Customer Support. And DU persists in deactivating my voice mail. It's been switched off by DU's robot four times now, in as many weeks.

Still on the subject of DU, but now related to my other bête noire: Red Triangles Bank. I have learned that SMS alerts are only possible to It-Is-a-Lot. Red Triangles' terms and conditions specify that SMS alerts of bank account activity can only be sent to UAE mobile phones. But not DU ones, it appears. And no, the Triangles have no idea when it will be possible for the Bank's computer to dial 055- instead of 050-.

According to RTB, "We acknowledge receiving your feedback and would like to extend our appreciation at having devoted customers such as your esteemed self. As a result of your feedback, [RTB] is continuously striving to improve its services and ensure clientele satisfaction." They seem to have forgotten the [IRONY] tags.

Maybe I should give up on mobile technology, keep my money in an old sock under the mattress and go back to banging rocks together.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.