Archive for the ‘Personal Bloggers’ Category

Rain Room Sharjah (#RainRoomSharjah)

Posted on the July 22nd, 2018 under Personal Bloggers by

I can’t remember how we heard about Rain Room. But we did and a glance at the Sharjah Art Foundation website was intriguing, to say the least. It was the work of seconds few to pick a day and time and book (you have to book an ‘appointment’ online, there’s no point just rocking up and expecting to get in – more on this later). That was us sorted – a trip to Rain Room for our 15 minute ‘experience’.What is Rain Room? I hear you asking (unless you’ve been, in which case yes, I know, you’ve got the t-shirt*). It is an experiential art installation originally conceived by an London-based art collective/company called Random International, back in 2012. Rain Room toured the Barbican in London, MoMA in New York, LA’s LACMA and other august artsy locations, to rave reviews. It has found its permanent home in Sharjah, and is open to the great unwashed in return for Dhs25.It’s a giant, black rain shower. You walk into it and sensors clear you a 6-foot dry patch as you wander around. Clearly, if you walk too fast or move suddenly, you get wet.So here we are in Sharjah and it’s late July. It’s hot, the mercury at times nudging 50C. It’s humid, too. Nasty, muggy, dense humidity that gets so thick and cloying a goldfish swam past my head the other day. The very idea of spending a little time in the rain has a certain appeal, no?We booked for Saturday at 5pm. Get there 20 minutes early, says the email that followed my booking. Present this registration code when you arrive. And please use the hashtag #RainRoomSharjah. And so this is precisely what we do. Parking isn’t a problem, there are reserved spaces alongside Al Majarrah Park with the blood-curdling threat of a Dhs1,000 fine if you park and aren’t a guest of Rain Room. How do they know?The building’s totally plain – funky, for sure, but unadorned by any text that proclaims it to be Rain Room or, indeed, to be anything. It’s all concrete, glass and steel and the floor is not only laid with the same blocks as those out on the pavement, but they’re matched so they form a continuation with the outside paving. There’s a Fen Café, just so’s you know you’ve arrived in funky town. For those that don’t know Sharjah’s ‘signature’ art café, Fen is on funk. So much so that it actually aches, like eating too many ice cubes. We get our tickets printed and settle down to wait for our turn.We watch people coming in off the street and expecting to get their ‘experience’ right here, right now. The chap on the front desk seems to spend 95% of his time explaining things and turning very entitled-feeling people away. Do you know who I am? Yes, and you haven’t booked, mate. We’re holding tickets and booked in for 5pm, the next available booking is 7pm. We briefly consider setting up in business buying tickets up online and sitting in Fen touting them to walk-ins. They only let six people in at a time and slots fill fast for popular times like weekends and evenings. Putting up a sign to this effect would save a great deal of very repetitive explaining. Our man stays calm and patient and we admire his stoicism almost as much as we admire Fen’s jars of funky cookies and display of hipster cakes.At just before 5, the security guard asks if we’re the five o’clock crowd. Yup, that’s us. Go to the waiting area, please. It’s around the corner, a long concrete wall with bench seats set into it on our left and a great glassed vista looking out over Majarrah. It’s a bit odd, looking out onto Sharjah backstreets from this cool concrete monument to contemporary chic. We wait. Nothing happens. 5pm comes and goes. I go to see Security Man. We’re aware we’re getting 15 scant minutes and that’s our lot. So what happens now? We are waiting for people in the toilet, apparently. I ask if we’re getting to stay in there until 5.17, then? The security guy giggles nervously. The man on the ticket desk intervenes, no, go on just go ahead. To be fair, they could have been a bit more precise with the old directions, there…We go back down the corridor and turn a corner into a long passage that descends into the very bowels of the earth. We can hear water. A lot of water. At the bottom of the ramp, a local gent greets us and then we walk into a massive black room containing a single brilliant white light and a enormous cube of rain. It falls from tiny spouts high up in the ceiling, spattering and disappearing into the black grating which covers the entire expanse of floor. We walk into it and are consumed, enveloped in rain. The light picks out the droplets and they shimmer and scintillate as we turn and swoop. We’re both laughing. There’s a group of three Emirati girls in there with us and they’re more nervous than we are, picking their way slowly and wonderingly into the big wall of constantly falling drops.It doesn’t smell of anything. There’s no reek of chlorine or even musty damp. There’s no sound beyond the hiss and spatter of rain, no hum of machinery. It’s just the falling water and the shadows picked out by that single brilliant light. We get our mobiles out and start photographing ourselves not having a great time because we’re so busy documenting the great time we’re having. To be fair, you can’t help yourself. It’s deeply photogenic.We throw shapes. We walk too quickly (and are punished). We’re dancers, now, exaggerated slow movements as we carve our wee swathes through the curtain of bright droplets. We play like the big children we are. Our fifteen minutes flash by in subjective seconds and we are politely ejected through a curtain to wander back upstairs, blinking and giggling. It’s all a bit intense, really. You feel bereft afterwards. I prescribe a nice cup of coffee and a Fen cookie.*I said earlier that if you’ve been, you’ve got the t-shirt, but that’s one trick the Rain Room misses – no merchandise. Sharjah of late has been quite good at merchandising its attractions, but there’s not a Rain Room branded goodie in sight. Which is a missed opportunity, IMHO. Yes, yes, I’m sure art transcends base considerations of merchandise and all that…In short, GO! You can get tickets to Rain Room Sharjah here at the Sharjah Art Foundation website. There’s even a pin for those of you that don’t know Sharjah or  where to find Al Mujarrah Park (or Al Majarrah park. It’s a sort of movable feast, that spelling). The traffic’s fine right now, so stop being a lily-livered Dubai type and make the journey North. Swing by the Heart of Sharjah while you’re here and take a wander around some real souks. Or visit the Museum of Islamic Civilization (just around the corner from Rain Room) or even Sharjah Fort and its museum or discover the Imperialistic joys of Mahatta Fort, the site of the first airport in the UAE.Go on, treat yourselves!

Leave And That…

Posted on the August 26th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Airbus A330-200 lands at London Heathrow Airport.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)So I haven’t posted in over a month. Sue me.We’ve been on leave.I hate flying, much as I love EK. A380s rock, the films were awful. Kindles rock more than A380s. Except in turbulence which we saw almost not at all. Heathrow sucks lemons.Drove to Wales to see me mum for a couple of days, she’s fine, thanks. Bit shaky. She’s over 90 now. Fierce independent lady. The office calls, can I come back early? No. I shipped our bikes from there over to Northern Ireland. Halfords think I’m a totes jackass. They’re all hardcore bike freaks, we have two bikes we love to ride when we’re home. I got a puncture a while back and took the bike into them. They’re all, like, can’t you fix your own punctures? And I’m ‘No.’ And then they’re, like, it’s a quick release wheel so you don’t have to bring the whole bike in. And I’m, ‘Sue me.’They boxed the bikes for me. They still think I’m a nutter, but now I’m another store’s problem. They’re happy about that.Back to London for a couple of days in a Premier Inn because the sister-in-law’s house (AKA Twickenham Central) is full of neeces. We like Premier Inns, actually. We got a great night’s sleep every night, which is their promise, after all.Photon checks into a hotel. Receptionist says, ‘No bags?’ Photon replies, ‘Nah, I’m travelling light.’Lovely week, Hampton Court, Thames Cruise, shit service at Pizza Express at the O2 (just drop the express, love, and you’re fine) and mad wannabe BBC 2 Children’s Presenters at Hamleys Regent Street. We reckoned these kids are freebasing to stay that hyper all day. They’re so over the top even the neeces think they’re a bit, well, mad. The office calls and asks if I can come back early. Still no.And then we’re on the open road to Salisbury for three idyllic nights at the Beckford Arms, a truly magnificent pub. These people offer you Bloody Mary for breakfast. They’re very likeable. We spend the days wandering castles and long walks. There’s a Catholic cemetery nearby, packed with little snippets of social history linked to the area’s immigrants. The barman at the Beckford convinces me to take black pepper in my Hendricks. Oh me, oh my, people. Black pepper and strawberries in Hendricks. This is the future.Heathrow, crappy BA and then Belfast. Meet up with the neeces again and do much neecing around. Business stuff, solicitors, banks and accountants. Oh, joy. We did a 5k Fun Run in Rathfriland. The bloody town’s on an enormous hill. The outward jog is downhill. It’s only when we turn the corner that the bleeding obvious finally hits our dull monkey brains. Ouch.Two men walk into a bar. Ouch Ouch.Drives up into the Mournes, Camogie practice, Mary Margaret’s pub and wandering along the seafront at Warrenpoint. The Green Pea Café and their insane BLT (Brioche eggy bread, smoked bacon and sundried tomatoes with rocket. Oh dear me) and then the Hotel at Hilltown – the Downshire Arms to you, mate – for Sarah’s birthday. Scallops, steak and dancing. The office calls. I get the message. We rearrange flights and hop to Heathrow, do a night in Twickenham Central and take the all-day flight the next day. I love EK, but that flight doesn’t suit us. Back in the office for Wednesday, wiped out but functioning.The weekend’s almost over and it’s all a vague memory now. A frenetic, lovely charge around the place doing things and seeing things and meeting people and laughing fit to bust, drinking stuff and eating stuff and driving around and just basically living it up.And now we’re back. You know, that sort of what are we doing here feeling mixed with the sense that we’re back home and that. Settling back down into things, taking a weekend drive around the place and getting back into the rhythm. I have my wallet back in my back pocket and have stopped obsessing about the car being nicked. I’m back on 24×7 broadband mobile access and not paying Vodaphone two bleeding quid a day for data.Life’s good…

Roger The Radar Rotter

Posted on the May 18th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Zoom and Bored(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Roger the Radar Rotter generally lurks around the Sharjah University City area. His favourite places are the roads around the AUS campus, the back road that tracks along the landfill from the logistics center to the roundabout by Sharjah English School and the Middle Road from the Mileiha Road up to the 311. Oh! And also on the stretch of Middle Road just beyond the 311 turnoff towards Sharjah City.He’s more Wile E. Coyote than most. He likes to hide his little portable radar behind a lamp post and then drive a few hundred yards up the road and lurk, no doubt giggling softly to himself and drooling, waiting for the flashes to go off.Knowing full well that we skittish victims can sniff he’s around when he parks up, he often hides the car. This means the wary are rewarded with glimpses of cars parked in odd places as more trusting souls trigger the cheery ‘pop’ of the radar followed by the inevitable ‘cherching’ of the Sharjah Police cash register.It’s an expensive game these days: they’ve just put the fines up. So why speed at all? You ask, in all sensibility.Well, the reason Roger has quite so much fun with his sneaky tricks is he likes to pick roads that have insane 60kph limits on them. The roads around the University are, for instance, long and straight and have two lanes. They are nowhere near any crossings or habitation, just long tarmac stretches running along outside the high campus walls. The UAE, very sensibly IMHO, has a ‘grace limit’ of 20kph above the actual speed limit, so you can travel a maximum 80kph on these roads. Nudge it just 1 kilo above it when Roger’s around and POW you’re toast, bub.The wee back road behind Sharjah English is a long straight line of blacktop running along a fence and surrounded by scrubland. The low speed limits make the drive interminably frustrating and the old speedometer does rather tend to sneak up a little. And then you spot, out of the corner of your eye, a glint of something out of place. Slow down, pass by regally and breathe a little sigh of relief as Roger sits in his hidden car, shaking his fists and snarling, ‘Damn you McNabb!’The other day I was driving thusly, overtaking a very slow lorry on the road behind SES. I had spotted Roger’s car on the hard shoulder ahead and was taking things easy, when I get some spotty Herbert in an FJ giving it socks on the flashers and horn behind me. With a resigned sigh I pulled in beyond the front of the lorry and moderated my speed.With satanic glee, I watched my tormentor speed past me, honouring me with a great display of shade thrown sideways as he hit the throttle to let me know one of us was a real man with a real right foot and the other a sissy rated by all and sundry as less than zero.Boom!Tisshhhh…I felt a little like Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock’s anti-hero whose sword feasts on souls and passes a little of the energy to its tragic albino* wielder.For I had given Roger the soul he craved but the benefit, my precioussss, was mine, all mine…*Apparently these days we’re supposed to say ‘person of albinism’ but frankly, my dear…

Roger The Radar Rotter

Posted on the May 18th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Zoom and Bored(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Roger the Radar Rotter generally lurks around the Sharjah University City area. His favourite places are the roads around the AUS campus, the back road that tracks along the landfill from the logistics center to the roundabout by Sharjah English School and the Middle Road from the Mileiha Road up to the 311. Oh! And also on the stretch of Middle Road just beyond the 311 turnoff towards Sharjah City.He’s more Wile E. Coyote than most. He likes to hide his little portable radar behind a lamp post and then drive a few hundred yards up the road and lurk, no doubt giggling softly to himself and drooling, waiting for the flashes to go off.Knowing full well that we skittish victims can sniff he’s around when he parks up, he often hides the car. This means the wary are rewarded with glimpses of cars parked in odd places as more trusting souls trigger the cheery ‘pop’ of the radar followed by the inevitable ‘cherching’ of the Sharjah Police cash register.It’s an expensive game these days: they’ve just put the fines up. So why speed at all? You ask, in all sensibility.Well, the reason Roger has quite so much fun with his sneaky tricks is he likes to pick roads that have insane 60kph limits on them. The roads around the University are, for instance, long and straight and have two lanes. They are nowhere near any crossings or habitation, just long tarmac stretches running along outside the high campus walls. The UAE, very sensibly IMHO, has a ‘grace limit’ of 20kph above the actual speed limit, so you can travel a maximum 80kph on these roads. Nudge it just 1 kilo above it when Roger’s around and POW you’re toast, bub.The wee back road behind Sharjah English is a long straight line of blacktop running along a fence and surrounded by scrubland. The low speed limits make the drive interminably frustrating and the old speedometer does rather tend to sneak up a little. And then you spot, out of the corner of your eye, a glint of something out of place. Slow down, pass by regally and breathe a little sigh of relief as Roger sits in his hidden car, shaking his fists and snarling, ‘Damn you McNabb!’The other day I was driving thusly, overtaking a very slow lorry on the road behind SES. I had spotted Roger’s car on the hard shoulder ahead and was taking things easy, when I get some spotty Herbert in an FJ giving it socks on the flashers and horn behind me. With a resigned sigh I pulled in beyond the front of the lorry and moderated my speed.With satanic glee, I watched my tormentor speed past me, honouring me with a great display of shade thrown sideways as he hit the throttle to let me know one of us was a real man with a real right foot and the other a sissy rated by all and sundry as less than zero.Boom!Tisshhhh…I felt a little like Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock’s anti-hero whose sword feasts on souls and passes a little of the energy to its tragic albino* wielder.For I had given Roger the soul he craved but the benefit, my precioussss, was mine, all mine…*Apparently these days we’re supposed to say ‘person of albinism’ but frankly, my dear…

Alba Car Care: Dubai’s Ultimate Car Detail Shop

Posted on the February 19th, 2016 under Personal Bloggers by

alba-car-careI wanted to get my car detailed for quite some time and, after randomly watching a small billboard of Alba Royal Car Care at Al Quoz Industrial Area 3, I decided to turn the wheels to that direction and try them out. From what I saw while entering the premises, they have a fairly large facility and a sizeable staff wearing a sharp-looking uniform. Proclaiming themselves as the “number 1 car detailing service in Dubai”, they had a nice and quick desk service.

I was given a small form to fill regarding the basic details and also asking for any special instructions I’d like to specify before they begin.  I found their car detailing process to be pretty meticulous and lengthy with the manager constantly briefing me about the specifics such as the use of pH-balanced soap and special microfiber towel while washing the exterior. The next step included careful detailing of dashboard, door panels, console, seat panels, headrests, rubber mats and cargo area. The windows, also, were given a “water-repellent” treatment and I was quite impressed with the shine. While the three guys were detailing the interior, I was shown the exclusive German waxes, cleansers, polishes and conditioners they would use for car polishing after a hand dry finish.  The stuff appeared to be quite expensive and of premium quality.

To sum it up, I was very happy with what I got for only 450 AED and particularly liked the wheel wax treatment which, like everything, lasted quite longer than I had expected. My car interior smelled fresh, pleasant and rejuvenated for various weeks. If you’re looking for a high-quality car detail package in Dubai at a highly economical price, visit Alba Royal Car Care. These guys also provide other services such as window tinting, car wrapping and dent & scratch removal.  Check ’em out and let us know what you think!

Al Nakba

Posted on the May 15th, 2015 under Personal Bloggers by

Nakba 1948 oldman and baby tentNakba 1948 oldman and baby tent (Photo credit: Wikipedia)She talked to the table, her voice low. ‘My father was born on a farm in Palestine in 1946, outside a village called Qaffin. It’s the farm we have today. My grandparents left during the troubles in 1948, what we call the Nakba, the disaster. You know this, right? The Nakba?’ I nodded. ‘When the Zionists threw my people from their land and declared Israel a state. They had a saying, you know, “A land without a people for a people without a land.” But it was a lie.’