Saturday, March 26, 2011


The Goat has been instructed by his M.I.L. that another blog post is required. The teeth need to be pushed down the page in order that visitors to this little corner of the blogosphere aren’t greeted by a hideous grinning rictus.

So, instead of further complaints about the state of medical care, motoring, the Crumbling Villa, officialdom or customer service in the Lands of the Sand, the Goat shall reminisce about a delightful recent week in Spain.

M and J got married in Barcelona in February, and the Goat and Beloved Wife were among those invited. Thus any plans for heading east and going diving were put on hold. Tickets to Barcelona were obtained: Austrian Airlines, via Vienna. Beloved Wife wanted to go and do a pastry cooking course in Vienna, but a week in France became a better option. Travelling through Vienna nevertheless remained a fixed feast.

M greeted us at Barcelona airport, and we taxied to the hotel; the same hotel as most of the other wedding guests and about five minutes’ walk from M and J’s apartment where everyone met for pre-wedding drinks the night before. On the Big Day, we all piled into the underground train and headed into town to the registry office.

Although first in line, all the happy couples were kept waiting. The authorities wanted to ensure that everyone was ready so they could be processed very quickly by the judge. At one point in the ceremony, M was nudged by her Spanish-speaking friend. “This is the bit where you say, ‘Si.’”

Champagne Celebration

And then we were all outside for photos before heading off for a slap-up meal of predominantly steak followed by a little sightseeing.

Breakfast: A silly name for a lobster

More sightseeing followed over the next couple of days. Gaudi is Mr Barcelona, and a visit to the world’s most expensive building site had to be on the itinerary. Sagrada Familia was astonishing. It’s not going to be finished until 2040, but the interior was almost clear of construction paraphernalia. Once finished, the clear glass will be replaced with stained glass. There’s a lift to near the top of one of the spires, which will eventually be dwarfed by the final spire. The whole construction works are apparently funded by admission fees.

Sagrada Familia. From Wikipedia, with the cranes digitally removed

The nave of Sagrada Familia

Looking up at the roof

Organ pipes

This stone turtle supports one of the columns

Art Deco knight

We rambled down La Rambla, and explored the Gothic Quarter and Gaudi’s Park Güell. Always mindful of the allegedly ubiquitous pickpockets, both of us were very careful of miscellaneous buskers, living statues and pairs of young gentlemen one of whom would typically ask the time whilst the other one would help himself to the content of the target’s pockets. We were left alone, possibly because the Goat does appear to be a big hard bastard. I was, at one level, spoiling for an attempt so that I had the excuse for pugilism. Presumably, because the local Plod seems disinclined to do anything about low-level criminality, a similar attitude would be taken with someone who broke the nose of a deserving scoundrel.

The splendid warm (for Spain in February) and sunny weather didn’t last. Whilst at Park Güell there were some spots of rain, although not enough to warrant the raincoats that we’d left at the hotel. Gaudi originally conceived the park as a retreat for Barcelona’s upper classes. Nowadays, everyone’s allowed in to see the buildings and vegetation. Gaudi was very much into ceramics, it seems. And his ‘more organic than real life’ style appears to have inspired the set designers for all of the Alien films.

Gaudiesque mosaic roof

Gaudiesque columns

Canine gargoyles

A feral budgie

Getting the hang of a ‘hang’

Levitation on La Rambla

Cowboy on La Rambla

Gothic unicorn gargoyle

In the Gothic Quarter

Our next stop was Madrid to visit Keef and Noëlle. Madrid was much colder than Barcelona. Art and Kulcher were on the menu in Madrid. The Prado art museum was jammed full of splendid paintings and sculptures, including Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and miscellaneous variants of Three Large Pink Women and One Small Piece of Gauze by Peter Paul Reubens. (Thank you, Terry Pratchett - Thief of Time).

Taking photographs was forbidden, although I was allowed to retain my camera. My little tripod was confiscated and held to ransom in Left Luggage for inexplicable reasons.

The following day, we went to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Try as I might, I was unable to appreciate pretty much all of the ‘art’ on display. Even Picasso’s obscenely famous Guernica did very little for me. The photo gallery and preliminary sketches were more interesting than the finished product. Taking pictures of Guernica was supposedly forbidden, but photography was permitted everywhere else in the museum. Like anyone would want to take pictures of spilled acrylics mopped up off the floor with an old piece of tent (and then framed and sold at auction for $100,000,000.) Sorry folks, the Goat is an uncultured savage where a lot of modern art is concerned. Who remembers the little boy in the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes?

I did find a sculpture I liked: Pablo Gargallo’s The Prophet

The weather took a turn for the worse, fortunately after we’d done our outdoor exploring. After trying one of Keef’s English Breakfast pies, which was very yummy actually, we headed off to the airport. Many thanks to Keef and Noëlle for their hospitality.

Why did we fly between Barcelona and Madrid? What was wrong with saving a few polar bears from drowning and taking the train? Well, as flying cost half the price and a fraction of the time, there was very little incentive to do otherwise. How ridiculous!

Perhaps it might have been nice if the Goat’s employers had given him the Sandal Up The Jacksie before the holiday, rather than immediately upon his return. That way, he could have accompanied his Beloved Wife on her exploration of France the following week and possibly helped out a bit with the language.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Down in the mouth (edited)

My toothache started up again on about 10 February, and was so maddeningly painful that I made an emergency appointment with my local dentist on 14 February. This proved to be my first mistake because, although Welcare Clinic Mirdif is ‘in the network’, it turns out that dental cover is through reimbursement only. So much for the all-singing and all-dancing new and improved medical insurance.

The dentist looked, x-rayed, and agreed that the tooth was cracked and the gum underneath was infected and inflamed, hence the excruciating agony. She prescribed mild painkillers and comedy antibiotics, and told me to come back in a few days. She could do nothing until the inflammation had gone down.

I helped out the painkillers with overdoses of what I could find in the medicine cabinet to dull the pain, and at last got some sleep.

Having got rid of me for a few days, the dentist took more x-rays on 19 Feb and ground the top off the tooth so I didn’t press on it when chewing. It would have to come out.

Glory Hallelujah! I have been saying this every few years since about 1979. Long-term readers of this blog who have elephantine memories may remember this polemic.

She made me an appointment with an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. He couldn’t be arsed to look on the Welcare Clinic Mirdif computer system for the x-rays and insisted on taking more, including a gloriously-named orthopantomogram for some unfathomable reason. All at my expense, of course. And then made an appointment for me to come in and have the offending Lower Right Seven and its impacted neighbour dug out.

So when I turned up at the clinic on 8 March expecting surgery, I was less than impressed to learn that no such appointment was recorded on Welcare’s system and Dr Vinod was in fact on holiday for three weeks. The receptionist assured me that the absence of an appointment was my fault, and came within a gnat’s todger of suggesting that the dentist had not made the appointment as I alleged he’d told me, and that I was lying. No, Welcare couldn’t suggest an alternative dental surgeon. Perhaps I would like to make an appointment for after Dr Vinod’s return in about three weeks.

I don’t think so. Goodbye Welcare, for ever. I am currently making enquiries pertaining to an alternative means of having those troublesome things removed from my head. If I’d known this was going to happen, I’d have accompanied Keefieboy on his recent inexpensive and successful dental experience.

Would I recommend Welcare? Based on my experience of booking appointments when doctors aren't going to be there; not letting me see a doctor until over an hour after my appointment was due (because the previous customer was an hour late); telling me my condition wasn’t covered by insurance and refusing to check (it was covered, actually); booking an appointment and then sodding off on holiday; probably not. In fact, I'd recommend a policy of total avoidance.

Edited 16 March to add...

After emailing my letter of complaint to Dr Vinod and the management of Welcare Clinic, I received apologetic phone call, voice mail, SMS and email. Essentially, the Doctor had been called away on emergency leave for a couple of days. He was unable to explain why my appointment had been lost, neither could he figure where the estimate of three weeks vacation had come from.

So I went back and had the offending teeth pulled out as various pieces of shrapnel.

I also had the chance to voice my concerns about Welcare’s management face to face with the said management. Most of the problem appears to be with the front desk; I have little or no issues with the actual medical part of the medical process.

But as I was at pains to point out, the front desk is the first point of contact for a customer. It is also the last point of contact, and will provide the lasting impression when someone leaves. So it is imperative that this front desk is not populated by folk who don’t know what they’re doing.

Does Welcare have a resident proctologist who could perhaps take a rocket and do the needful?


Sunday, March 06, 2011

It's cheap 'cos it's crap

This is getting to be too much of a habit. I took a week’s vacation last April, and was made redundant upon my return to the Lands of the Sand. It was fortuitous that I dropped straight into a new job, albeit in Abu Dhabi, but such good fortune does not last for ever.

I took a week off at the end of February to go to Barcelona for the wedding of two Dubai refugees, and to visit other ex-Dubai friends in Madrid. More fool me: I got my redundancy notice out of the blue the morning of my return.

Here commenceth the rant. Normal service will be resumed in due course.

The official reasoning behind my sudden enforced departure is that bids for new work have not been won, jobs for Abu Dhabi government have been cancelled and there is, well, insufficient work to go around. Despite money pouring out of Abu Dhabi’s ground at $105 a barrel, there seems an over-riding desire not to spend this mineral largesse. With little in the way of construction work going on elsewhere because of the Great Global Downturn of ’09, we find such contracts that are available being bid for at suicidally low rates. Much to the delight of Purchasing Departments, no bid is low enough.

The only construction firms able to win anything at all do so by bidding at or below cost, and hope desperately to make money with additional fees. Commonplace becomes the contractor who waits until the ink on the contract stamp is barely dry before hitting the client for a massive claim for additional payment because of a shoddily prepared contract. Maybe spending a bit more at the design stage instead of rushing it out the door without checking it would have avoided that unexpected piece of nastiness.

Good luck with getting the money: the track record for getting payments out of parsimonious clients in the Middle East (and elsewhere) is not good... Everything remains negotiable, from the tender, through negotiating discounts with the lowest tenderer prior to award, until finally demanding further discounts prior to making actual payments: “Ya Habibi. You can have 40% of your bill now, or nothing ever.” etc.

And so develops an incentive for a design team to take short cuts, to schmooze, possibly even – horror - to utilise the sort of lubricant that comes in a plain brown envelope.

But that is not the way the Goat plays the game. Basically, if you wanted someone who would cheat, lie and behave in an underhand and treacherous manner, you obviously employed the wrong Goat. This one lacks the social skills necessary to do politics; he scores almost zero in so-called ‘emotional intelligence’ tests. The result is that this particular Goat does honesty, professionalism and moral rectitude. (This blog post notwithstanding – names have carefully remained unnamed.)

And the Goat’s inability to achieve the impossible and his consummate refusal to produce crap have resulted in this new entrant into the job market.


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.