Sunday, September 27, 2015

Festival of the Sacrifice

I’m sitting in Sharjah airport as I write this, awaiting my Saturday afternoon flight. After booking flights for an Eid holiday week in Dubai and screwing up the flight times, I found that I'd not be flying out on Saturday evening, but instead would spend all afternoon devoting myself to air travel.

After booking my non-refundable, non-changeable-without-enormous fees flights, the official Eid holiday dates were all postponed by a day, resulting in the glorious prospect of spending all Sunday in Cloud City because everything in Doha will be shut.

Much was achieved during my week in Dubai:
  • Beloved Wife and I selected a new dishwasher to replace the dead one. Carrefour sold us one for Dh1800 and phoned a day later to say that it was out of stock, they wouldn’t have any more, no we couldn’t have the display item, and would we like to come back and select a more expensive one? This blatant attempt at bait-and-switch resulted in a refund and our money being directed to a different store. The man came to install the new machine, but the van broke down and he was three hours late. He contrived to drop some hardware down the outlet, and I insisted that we get it out. He wanted me to call a plumber at my expense, but I was having none of this. Eventually we managed to wash the thing down to the floor gully and recover it through use of a garden hose and water pressure. As this is how I unblocked the pipe before; déjà vu all over again. 
  • We got Beloved Wife's car in for service. It turns out that the appalling shrieking noises were not coming from the belt tensioner pulley bearing after all, but the PCV. This is a piece of cheap plastic shit that is notorious for becoming broken on VW engines, but the Sharjah branch of Volkswagen lacked the wit or inclination either to stock the part or phone the Dubai branch. Earlier today I phoned Dubai, collected new PCV, and had the mechanic install it in about ten minutes. All shrieking has now gone and the Eos can safely be presented next week for its annual inspection and registration. 
  • I installed the new battery in the bike, started it on the first prod of the button, and went off first to get the thing washed and then inspected and registered. Beloved Wife had sorted out the insurance, so all I had to do was phone AXA to get a new certificate that stated Oman was an included territory; not just the UAE. 
  • The runaround for my new UAE residence was likely to take all day. It had to be accomplished entirely before Eid, so the Executive Service had to be invoked. A trip to Al Wasl clinic and Dh790 got me a blood test, then across town and a further Dh370 for a new ID card application and Dh555 for a new residence permit. Then back to Al Wasl to collect my blood test result. My blood group hasn’t changed, as eny fule kno. I am so glad I took the bike for this running around town in the traffic. No problem parking, see? Also few issued with traffic congestion. Everything was done by 1330, and I handed in my passport to Beloved Wife’s PRO. I got it back with the new visa the following morning. I now await the delivery of my new Emirates ID card in due course. 
  • I went to the airport to renew my UAE e-gate card. As there is exactly zero free parking at DXB, even for motorbikes, I parked for nuppence at Rashidiya and took the metro two stops. 
  • Other errands included getting de-worming pills for the cats in order to stop the vet from bombarding me with reminder emails, Beloved Wife and me obtaining lacerations while inserting said pills into said cats, more pills for me which are not for removing parasites, and a new button battery for the bike's keyless start system. Any and all attempts to purchase additional pairs of Vibram™ hobbit feet failed. They're all knocked down to about 25% of the normal retail price, and of course my size has completely sold out. 
  • I braved IKEA, then spent a couple of hours balancing on a stepladder – it isn’t a real ladder – replacing burned-out lightbulbs all over the Crumbling Villa including the one at the top of the stairs that involved standing on the very top rung. It doesn’t matter that the halogens are rated for thousands of hours. I suspect wobbly voltage kills them. Anyhoo, IKEA only had LED globes, which have dropped remarkably in price over the last year or so. It remains to be seen if they last longer. 
  • There was shopping and cooking, epic binge-watching of Game of Thrones, and consumption of moderate quantities of special beverage and flat-nosed, curly-tailed haraminal. There was nothing on at any Dubai cinema that appealed, so that was a bust. 
  • On Friday, I slipped into my old paths of wrongtiousness with a high-speed ride over to Kalba for an egg sandwich. I rode alone, noted the presence of new speed cameras near Wadi Hilo, chatted with members of the Ducati club in Kalba, and then got comprehensively blown into the weeds on the way back to Dubai. Call me slow and old-fashioned if you like, but if the speed limit is 120km/h and I'm just below the speed camera trigger of 140, the guys who whizzed past me at perhaps 200 must have plenty of disposable income. I am a bit out of practice; I frightened myself a couple of times on some very, very bendy road between Hatta and Munay. Must. Not. Brake. In. Corners. Next time I’m back in Dubai I should replace the bike’s tyres. The Pirellis still have reasonable tread, but they’ve been cooking outdoors all summer. I have some new Michelins poised and ready. 
  • Finally, I accompanied Beloved Wife to a dead posh dinner out at the Dusit Thani in Dubai (the hotel near Defence Roundabout that looks like a clothes peg), and very fine it was too. 
Putting the events into writing, it doesn’t seem like I achieved much, but I kept busy and my mood has lifted somewhat. I might even be able to face another week back at work.


Monday, September 07, 2015

Magnificent men

Just for a change, I find I have to make one choice from a collection of relevant popular culture. There’s Captain Blackadder’s comment concerning aviators: “I don’t care how many times they go up diddly-up up; they’re still gits.” There’s Fascinating Aida’s now infamous Cheap Flights song, and there’s also Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines.

I got the email from Air Arabia: “Lock in your seat at lower fares: return from AED399 all inclusive!” As I’d booked the Eid leave but not the flights, it was obviously time to secure a cheap flight to Dubai before the world and his wife, children, and animals all decided that Doha was not the place to be. Not being daft, I checked other airlines too.

Hmmm… Qatar Airways bargain basement AED850.
How about Fly Dubai? Not the usual sub-600 cheapness, but AED800.
Obviously AED399 wins.

The Air Arabia website decided to be a recalcitrant beast, failing entirely to do anything on the desktop machine. It would talk to my tablet, though. So through the booking process I went, carefully skirting around and deselecting special meals, special seats, and massive quantities of luggage. Great. Card details…Click…Ping…Job done!

Oh, but in my fervour I’d forgotten to select which flight I wanted. There’s a choice of four, and the booking system had allocated a 9am flight and I wanted the 7pm. To be unfair, I think the website didn’t prompt me to select which flight; what is more likely is that the pop-up keyboard obscured that option. So I had to call Air Arabia to get the flight changed rather than take Thursday off and incur Thursday, Friday, Saturday as additional annual leave.

I don’t know what happened to the putative AED399. I was charged AED577. This included a charge for using Visa (which was drastic, ‘cos how the feck you s’posed to pay if not with fecking plastic?) Still a lot less than the other airlines, until I tried to change the flight. They wanted nearly AED500 to change both directions, so I dealt only with the outbound, at a mere AED369 including yet another charge for using Visa.

So that’s now AED946 of the alleged AED399 for Billy-basic cheapskate-no-frills, and around AED100 more than Qatar Airways. Had I gone expensive early, I’d have saved a bit of cash, got into the Business Lounge and priority access through Immigration, and even collected some air miles.

Edited 8th September to note that within 24 hours of booking and paying for these expensive tickets, Fly Dubai emailed me with a "Book today for 30% discount."

As Muttley so eloquently puts it: “Sassa frassa rassum dassum…


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.