Monday, January 31, 2011

Kitsch tchotchkes

We’ve all seen them. Some have even purchased them. Most of them are brass and glass, and there are even battery-operated ones that flash in various colours. Nanny Goat bought one as a joke last year. Because the title plaque said “Burj Dubai” instead of “Burj Khalifa”, she negotiated a discount. Mazel Tov.

They are all, of course, kitsch tchotchkes. What a fantastic name for a pub quiz team. Or a blog. Not a bad tongue-twister either.

Because these little things please little minds, I am also amused by the snow globe. Not only do we see the two traditional figures caught in an unlikely blizzard, but selected Dubai landmarks adorn the base in front of an incongruous Alpine backdrop.

It is, however, possible to buy rather more up-market twee trinkets. Click on this link and feast your eyes.

Top kwolli’y.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

'Life is good' award

A dubious ‘award’ sent to me by fellow Dubai blogger Seabee.

I don’t normally do these memes, but as this one’s from such an august blogger, here goes...

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy with this? If you aren’t anonymous, do you wish you started out anonymously so that you could be anonymous now?

I’m quite happy with my anonymous status. Most people who know me personally also know who the Grumpy Goat is, as does everyone who’s chatted with me at a GeekFest. I don’t use a blog (or anything else for that matter) for inflammatory personal attacks. If I did, I’d be a lot more secretive about my identity!

2. Describe an incident that describes your stubborn side.

I won’t let go when Officialdom has got it catastrophically wrong yet again. Of course, complaining is utterly futile other than misery loving company. Please come and comment about your similar experiences with the same workshop, telco or government ministry.

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

I think I must have anorexia nervosa. Every time I look in the mirror I see a fat person. And older than I like too. Nevertheless, old beats the pants out of the alternative.

4. What is your favourite summer cold drink?

Proper English Real Ale. But a refreshing ice tea – strong; no sugar; loads of lemon – will suit me very nicely thank you if I’m driving.

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?

Desert driving in the Goatmobile, riding my motorbike or, if at all possible, scuba diving. I’ve been too busy for the last year or so for nearly enough of any of these.

6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life?

Finalise the design of the Dream House(TM) in Cyprus, and get it built. And learn to play the piano And fly a helicopter.

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person or always ditching?

The shy overachiever, except on the sports field. I hated being bullied largely because of this, and was relieved when I turned sixteen and a lot of the bullies left school. Further relief when I left school a couple of years later, but that was partly because A-levels proved shockingly difficult. I never played truant from school.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what do you see?

I don’t really want to visualize this, but if I think of something poignant it’s my father’s funeral. It was deeply emotional to walk into a large and utterly packed church.

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog, or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people and events?

Sometimes the blog is ‘My Not Very Secret Diary’; other times it’s a place to vent my frustrations or expound my opinions. There may be a touch of parody and a soupçon of hyperbole, and I do try to write in an entertaining style. There’s very little if anything there that’s total fiction.

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?

This depends on my mood. Sometimes I just want a private, quiet time and the book wins. Other times I prefer to chat. Face to face, possibly over a meal or a drink, is better than the phone.

And the three lucky winners are:-ex-Dubai now USA J Edward Tremlett; ex-Dubai now Turkey IstanBilly; and ex-Argentina now Germany Martín with the GTR.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ensure you insure - clarification

Seabee will love this: a clarification to my previous blog post.

I now have the paperwork for my new motor insurance policy from AXA. It transpires that what I was told over the phone was, shall we say, less than 100% accurate.

Section 1, own damage, is covered in Oman but Section 2, Third Party liability, is not covered. You can buy Third Party cover at the border, or else GCC cover at a cost of around Dh500 for the year which will cover it.

All parts of the policy are fully in force throughout the territorial limits of UAE and Oman.

GCC cover extends insurance cover to the same as at home in the UAE throughout Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

Now, and this is quoted from page 17 of the policy handbook:
"GCC Cover. The territorial limit for section 1 is extended to include Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. You will not be covered under section 2, third party liability, as this cover must be purchased separately at the border (except Oman)."

My conclusion is that before driving abroad, you should take a very careful look at your policy documents and fully understand exactly is and what is not covered. Beware, for what you get told over the phone does not necessarily match with what is written.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ensure you insure

I thought the man in the insurance shop was winding me up. To paraphrase: “Your car insurance includes Oman cover, but it doesn’t actually cover you in Oman.”

This blog post has been subject to clarification!

The situation with motor insurance back in Europe is that it’s automatically extended when abroad, but only to the minimum required by law. Thus a Brit, driving his British-registered vehicle in France has Third Party Only cover. This protects the French public against loss, damage or injury at the hands of someone who’s not used to driving on the right. This Brit’s insurance company will, on request, issue a Green Card either for free or else for a fee. The document temporarily extends the insurance cover enjoyed at home to forn parts. (Or possibly even faun parts, if taking a Narnian road trip.) Huzzah, comprehensive insurance everywhere!

And I thought that there was a similar arrangement in the UAE regarding Oman cover. But I was wrong.

Motor insurance in the UAE usually has Oman cover thrown in. Without it, driving over the border is illegal, and this includes forays along the Hatta Road, up the Mussandam, and visiting Nahwa and Shis.

It transpires, at least for those having full insurance with Axa and Royal Sun Alliance, that Oman cover includes loss or damage to self, but not to third parties.

This bizarre situation means that I can legally drive in Oman without any protection to anyone else’s property or person. Just because my insurance company will pay to repair the Goatmobile after a prang in Muscat is of little comfort if I’ve to fork out of my own wallet for Mr Abdullah’s broken arm (or worse) and his trashed Lamborghini. Add to the mix a ‘Throw him in jail until he’s paid up’ mentality, and the situation becomes very scary indeed. Why, oh why is it permitted to drive without Third Party coverage? Weird.

Axa told me that an extension to full GCC coverage would cost around Dh500 for the year. Apparently, it’s called the Orange Card system, and provides essentially the same arrangement as the Green Card I mentioned earlier. Or buy insurance at the border and be prepared to jump through a large number of widely-spaced hoops in several countries if you ever find yourself in the unenviable position of having to make a claim.

In the light of actually receiving the paperwork from AXA, I find myself in the position of needing to make a clarification! Have a look at the next blog post.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

A real state

“Far back in the mists of ancient time, in the great and glorious days of the former Galactic Empire, lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.” So go the words of Douglas Adams.

The ancient town of Redditch (where needles and Enfield motorcycles originally came from) in Worcestershire (where the sauce comes from) was, in the 1970s, developed into a New Town. A quango was formed, and the employees of this New Towns Commission played SimCity at 12-inches-to-a-foot scale before SimCity had been invented. Redditch sprawled, and later a lot of these New Towns Commission houses were purchased from the NTC by their tenants. Meanwhile, tenants of council houses elsewhere in Redditch bought their properties from the local authority at well below market rates.

Unusually, perhaps, most properties were sold with 99-year leases and nominal ground rent instead of actual freehold, as is more usual for houses in the United Kingdom.

So far, so good. I bought my ex-council house from an owner-occupier with 89 years remaining on the lease and a known obligation to pay £17.50 per year for 33 years, £35.00 per year for the next 33 years, and £66 per year for the remainder of the lease. These figures were enshrined in the title deeds. There were also rules concerning exterior woodwork being white, not leaving cars up on bricks in the front garden, and no playing of Dueling Banjos.

Redditch Borough Council eventually grew tired of chasing and administering the ground rent. After writing to the leaseholders with “Would you like to buy the freehold? It’s a nominal couple of grand plus legal fees,” the council gave up and simply wrote to everyone with a “You are now the freeholder. Congratulations” letter. This occurred shortly after I’d sold my house, such is the Law of Sod.

Unfortunately for owner occupiers, the title deeds for ex-NTC properties did not include limits on the ground rent. And thus, when the NTC disbanded and sold all its freeholds to private developers, the first thing they all did was to whang up the ground rent to thousands of pounds per year. That’s right: £17.50 became £1000, and all houses subject to this usurious rise instantly became completely unmarketable, and the occupiers were, in numerous cases, left unable to foot their unexpected bills.

And so we jump into a police box and find ourselves in Dubai some ten years later.

The allure of buying freehold property in Dubai instead of paying rent was strong. A guaranteed residence visa so I could live there even if I lost my job; known mortgage payments instead of escalating rent. But when I asked to review a draft contract for a place in the Gardens, (or was it the Greens, Lakes or Springs?), alarm bells started to ring. There was nothing to prevent the nine dirhams per square foot annual maintenance charge from becoming Dh12. Or Dh25 or even Dh9999. Bearing in mind what I’d just seen happen in the tightly-regulated UK, what could I anticipate happening in a new and exciting property market in the middle east? Sure enough...

    Promises of tennis courts, fitness centres and swimming pools become more towers;

    The promise of visa with freehold evaporates;

    New rules regarding pets are imposed retroactively;

    Freehold is redefined as usufruct;

    Ground rent/maintenance charges soar.

What a perfectly marvellous way to kill the real estate market.

“Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen it.”


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.