Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The Goat was mildly surprised when, over sixteen years ago, he arrived in the middle east and was told about the Post Office Box. The essential detail was that there were no door-to-door mail deliveries in Doha, and all incoming mail had to be addressed to a PO box. In keeping with tradition, the Goat adopted his employer’s PO box as his own mailing address. This was highly convenient, because the Goat’s employer had a driver whose duties included taking outgoing mail to Doha’s central post office and collecting all incoming mail. A change of employer and country in 2002 led to a change of address, and new PO boxes in Dubai and later Sharjah were easy to arrange.

Further changes in the Goat’s employer forced further amendments to the Goat’s postal address, despite living in the same Crumbling Villa. Eventually the Goat got Beloved Wife to arrange a personal PO box address; something that in retrospect he should have done years previously. Naturally, frequent trips to the post office are necessary, but this is a more reliable source of incoming mail than the vagaries of promises from former employers to forward anything that came from someone accidentally left off the “My New Address” round robin.

Unfortunately, we now live in a less innocent world than that of the 1990s. Barclaycard, for example, now won’t accept anything addressed to a PO box in the middle east. And because doorstep postal deliveries don’t happen, this means that the Goat has to use Nanny Goat’s home address in the UK for Barclaycard correspondence. Apparently it’s for “security reasons,” which might mean that PO box addresses are perceived as only being used by drug barons, money launderers and other ne’er-do-wells who don’t want mail items ending up at their homes.

Please: the situation with regard to postal deliveries in the middle east (and possibly elsewhere) is this:-
  • Normal mail does not get delivered door-to-door.
  • Everybody has a Post Office Box, and all mail goes there.
  • PO boxes are not solely for dodgy dealers.
  • Home deliveries are by courier, which is more expensive and needs someone to sign for the goods.

More recently, one of the Goat’s invest managers kicked up a major stink regarding the change of address when the Goat moved back from Doha to Dubai. The change in mailing address was just fine, but the confirmation letter from the Isle of Man was very heavy-handed, threatening that without a proof of residential address, the firm would be unable to manage the Goat’s portfolio. A long email exchange followed, wherein it became apparent that the Goat was seemingly the firm’s only middle-east client, and the absence of door-to-door postal deliveries was clearly a fiction invented by the Goat in order to be awkward. No amount of “The Crumbling Villa is in Beloved Wife’s name, and all bills and bank statements point at the PO box” would be believed. “Your only client in the middle east? Either you’re lying, or everybody else has found a secret work-around that doesn’t involve a post office box.”

Remember, this is simply to establish the Goat’s residence; his correspondence address was already clear and a matter of written record.

Eventually the Goat managed to convince the Isle of Man-With-Tiny-Brain, and all was fine and dandy. For a month. Then the Goat received an email complaining that official investment correspondence addressed to The Crumbling Villa had been returned undelivered. It seems that the obsession with obtaining a residential address (to where it would be impossible to mail anything) had taken precedence over the correspondence address. The Goat had to fill out the Change of Correspondence Address – again – to finally sort out the matter. No naming and shaming, because they did write and apologise about their screw-up.

And now, according to Emirates Post, there is a new “My Home” service that includes doorstep delivery of mail. Dh750 a year for three deliveries a week; Dh1250 for six deliveries a week. That’s subject to the target address being a villa and not an apartment, and further subject to it being located in one of the “selected areas.” The new service does include SMS alerts when registered mail arrives, and a 10% discount on Emirates Post courier service, so it could work for some, even if it doesn’t look like particular good value for the Goat. If the picture on the flyer is to be believed, Emirates Post will stick a mailbox on the outside of the villa and deposit letters from home in it.

Glory hallelujah! Does this mean that, at last, “The Crumbling Villa, Dubai” could become a real address that banks and financial institutions could use without fear of it being a front for money laundering? Of course not: the service consists fundamentally of emptying the PO box periodically and dumping its contents at a target address.


Friday, October 19, 2012


In my defence, I should first note that there are a couple of reasons for not hanging the clean laundry outside to dry. The first is that it makes the towels all rough and scratchy which annoys Beloved Wife. The second is that nobody likes having their freshly washed linen befouled with guano. It's bad enough that a freshly laundered motor vehicle is immediately spotted with pigeon poo and cat pawprints, but at least these wipe off.

Most of our laundry therefore comes out of the spin dryer and goes straight into a tumble dryer for a couple of hours of treatment. The faster the spin, the less tumbling is required.

There's a lint catcher so that fluff, lint, dirham coins and keys that come out of the laundry don't go into the works of the drying machine, nor down the exhaust pipe. And the lint is always the same colour as the majority of the most recent load. Obviously the drying process removes some of the fabric from the clothes that are being dried.

My question is this: does line-drying the laundry produce the same amount of lint? You can't tell, because it would blow away never to be seen again. Is it wearing clothes that causes them to wear out, or washing them?

One for the long winter evenings: it is theoretically possible to gather up all the lint and fluff from the dryer, spin it into yarn, and knit some socks or a sweater.


Saturday, October 06, 2012

The heat is on

Crested, somewhere near Camel Rock
The cooler weather is now approaching, even if it's not yet actually upon us. Beloved Wife now removes the roof from her car on the drive into work, and the water heaters in the Crumbling Villa are starting to see some action following a summer when, as usual, hot water comes out of the cold tap.

The Goat missed the ME4x4 club's annual September Shakedown desert drive and camp out because of an important brunch appointment. So he was pleased to see a separate, smaller Shakedown drive had been organised a few days ago.

Unfortunately, this drive involved the Goat getting on to his hind legs at the exceptionally ungodly 5am in order to be at Tawi Nizwa by six. Five cars; five drivers, and a plan to drive across the sands to Pink Rock.

Naturally there was a little laughing up sleeves at what the Goat had rolled up in. JT referred to Rio as 'the Baby Goat', seeing as she was dwarfed by the other vehicles.

Toyota, Toyota, Daihatsu, Nissan, Dodge
He also expressed concern about the lack of a front recovery point, which is something that the Goat has been scratching his head about: there must be some way to attach a secure front recovery hook to a Terios that doesn't rely on it being screwed into the tinfoil framework under the front bumper.

The drive to Pink Rock was fun. Easy in some parts and a little challenging in others, there were a couple of refusals and the Patrol got crested on a ridge. Attempts to tow it off with a Terios were unsuccessful (possibly to the relief of the Patrol owner), and it took several tries with the Durango to achieve a result.

Approaching Pink Rock from the west involves a long drive up a steep sandy ramp. Everyone eventually made it to the top. Unfortunately for the Goat's credibility, the Terios simply ran out of welly about 30 metres from the top every time. Maybe turning the aircon off and lowering the tyre pressures to 12psi might have helped, but the Goat simply cheated and went around the rock and appeared from the east side. Fundamentally, 105bhp simply isn't enough to get up the steep slope with over 1200kg and no low-range gearbox. Such are the limits of softroaders, but it's good to discover those limits without breaking something.

There were a couple of additional crestings, including Rio the 'Baby Goat' on the way from Pink Rock to Camel Rock, before the party emerged unscathed at Maliha. The lightness of the Daihatsu which was such a disadvantage when attempting to recover a stuck Nissan Patrol, became an advantage with the roles reversed: she's very easy to pull off the ridge of a dune. There's an after-market towbar fitted with a receiver hitch, so a rear recovery point is in no way a problem.

The Goat has been a tad concerned about the engine temperature of his miniature 4x4. The Terios comes from the factory with a blue/green idiot light on the dashboard to say that the engine is stone cold and should not be thrashed. A red light supposedly comes on when (hopefully before) the engine has cooked itself to death. So the Goat bought an Engine Watchdog mail order from Australia. He'd not had time to fit it before the Shakedown and overheating was not apparently a problem, although Rio did smell a bit hot after repeated runs at Pink Rock.

Camera phone: dodgy focus
The device is now fitted and working. Piece of mind in a box. It sounds a warning buzzer if the engine temperature exceeds a pre-set value, so there's no need to keep gawping at the red LED display of degrees Celsius.

A remaining task is to figure out a front recovery point that won't bend out of shape and that won't upset the inspector at registration time. Another less urgent task is to think up and install some suitable accessories to go in those two switch blanks on the dashboard.


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