Category Archives: Filthy Lucre

A Big Day Out in London

Seeing as London is too chilly for a stroll right now, here’s my last visit, revisited…

10:20 Pulled into London Paddington

10:25 Purchased a Nero’s Americano. Got my coins confused. Told the edgy server he needed to order the chai latte for himself next time.

10:35 Asked man on tube to look out for his elbows with my coffee. His reaction implied I was trying to communicate to him in Klingon.


10:45 Alighted at Oxford Circus

10:47 Man asked where I got my Nero’s coffee (???)

10:53 Gave a blind fiddler a quid. His box was empty. Has he been robbed? Is it clever marketing? Had he just started for the day?

11:10 Reached Primark Oxford St

11:45 Joined queue for change rooms in Primark
Numero Uno. That's just how I roll.

Numero Uno. That’s just how I roll.

11:55 Entered changeroom

12:10 Arrived at checkout. Spoke to Jujar about life in Dubai. We both agreed that my circumstances were infinitely better than his own experience of Dubai through no fault of either of us.

12:25 Coffee at Pain Quotidien to regroup (repack Primark loot) and plan attack

12:35 Set off for Macculloch & Wallis haberdashery

12:39 Saw quartet of LA porn star types soaking up British culture: looking for an Italian restaurant each carrying nothing but an enormous Victoria’s Secret bag.

IMG_242612:45 At Macculloch & Wallis can’t work out Simplicity patterns. Irony? Bought New Look. Irish cashier admired the pattern for sundresses. Talked about dress code in Dubai. She’s dressed head-to-toe in black and tartan but says not being able to bare her shoulders is the reason she wouldn’t live in the UAE.

13:43 Leaving John Lewis with nothing. Panic. Feet hurting big time. Did the embarrassing Dubai thing of waiting for the doors to open for me. With someone behind me and all!

13:50 Detour via Muji. Talked about Dubai with cashier. Yay for the soon-to-be-opening Dubai Mall store I tells her!

14:08 HMV. Sold out of both titles Robert had asked for “and we won’t be replenishing them”. Good for the creditors, I guess.


14:15 Cloth house. Meh.

14:25 Kleins… Meh.

14:35 Liberty. Meh…

14:47 Feet hurting too much now to focus on anything else. Ow!

14:50 The Air St Cobbler’s insoles smack me in the face. He even cut the spongiest ones to my size for me. Yay! Cost me a fiver which is a ripoff I’m sure but there’s no way I could hide my desperation or relief.


My saviour.

15:10 Waterstones. Collected pre-ordered books. Done.

15:20 Tescos chicken edamame salad eaten at a bus stop. Classy. 260cal

My saviour in form of machine

My saviour in form of machine

15:25 Faffing around looking for a meeting spot with John.

15:30 Aargh. There were onions in the salad!

15:35 Saved by the Extra dispensed by handy toilet vending machine

15:40 Subject arrives for interview.

18:00 I’m “tenacious”, he says. Wine has stopped flowing, the end must be imminent.

19:00 Arrived Paddington.

19:30 Guzzled a sandwich on the train…

20:00 Home. I will sleep well tonight.

My retail trek through London

My retail trek through London


Arriving in the downturn

When I left London in November 2008, Britain was in recession and The City had already adopted the spirit of depression. It was grim. Magazines were running stories on ‘tasty ways to use leftovers’. My cosy freelance arrangements were looking shaky, each every one of them. So I bailed. I had the chance to work in Dubai and I grabbed it. I thought to myself that exuberant Dubai would have to be able to ride this out. And I wasn’t mistaken when I arrived. The pre-Christmas silly season was indeed mad. Expats were splashing their cash around in bars, restaurants and shopping malls like there was no tomorrow.

But three months on,  tomorrow has arrived. Times have changed.

“It is a crazy time to be in Dubai, things are so different economically now compared to when I arrived, it’s hard to believe it’s only been 6 months! It’s all doom and gloom now!”, a twenty-something Western expat told me.

Even the most regular socialites have been postponing nights out until after payday. People are declining invitations to go away for the weekend because household expenses have been racking up. Four people in my immediate social circle have been made redundant in the past couple of months and three times that number in my extended entourage. Note that I’m only referring to expats here because it is illegal to make an Emirati redundant, or to fire them for economic reasons.

Or there’s the horrible Russian-roulette scenario one girl I know had to go through. She works at a large hospitality group.

“I just had a very awful situation at work (basically we were all on the chopping block) which thankfully turned out OK. It seems I am one of the lucky ones to have survived and still kept my job, however we are now seriously understaffed.”

The crunch certainly hit later here, but will hit hit as hard and will it last as long? People certainly talk about the bottom inevitably falling out of the false market. (And talk is really all you can do, seeing as the media is not allowed to report ‘Dubai’ and ‘recession’ in the same sentence. )

The Business Breakfast show on a local radio station, Dubai Eye, recently ran a poll on whether expats thought they were better off in Dubai.

They asked whether people thought their prospects in the financial crisis were better in the Gulf than in their home country and 63 per cent agreed.

I think I’ll stay put for just a little while longer.


I’ve just been done for parking in a disabled spot. In the carpark of my own apartment block. At 2:30am on a Saturday.

None of this was evident from the piece of paper stuck on my windscreen. As you’ll see it’s entirely in Arabic. Sure, I live in an Arabic country, but every single thing I do, every procedure, phone call or form I fill out, is in English.

Fine? Fine.

So I saw the slip under my wiper and guessed it was a fine and was already reeling that my own building’s carpark was subject to municipal fines. I spoke with the guard and he said it was worth 1000 dirhams (that’s about 180 GBP or 330 AUD). I reeled again but knew already I couldn’t do anything but accept it.

I looked online and discovered it was the maximum fine that could be issued. More than speeding. More than reckless driving. If I killed someone I wouldn’t be charged a bigger fine (though I would have to pay blood money to the family of the person I killed – 750,000 dirhams / 140,000 GBP / 250,000 AUD).

I just gritted my teeth and paid it. You can’t argue. A girl I work with recently had a minor traffic accident. The other driver drifted into her lane at relatively low speed. The law here states that cars can’t be moved until the police arrive and hand you a form. Red means culpable. Green means innocent. Justice on the spot, no easy recourse. No mechanic will fix panel damage without a slip. Supposedly.

When the police officer turned up, the other party, the at-fault party, started conversing with the officer in Arabic, my colleague couldn’t understand what they were talking about. Lo and behold, she is given the red slip. But not knowing what the red slip meant, she says the cheeky officer even had the hide to reassure her she wasn’t considered to be at fault. She only found out she had been listed as the guilty party when she went to get the car fixed.

Dubai Shopping Festival

Interesting timing of course, starting on January 15, it’s just after the traditional big spends of Christmas and the post-holiday sales. I’m told this month long event usually attracts tourists who save their pennies, cents and yen all year just to offload it at the Dubai Shopping Festival. Perhaps not this year. We shall see.

A More Prosperous New Year

a sedate, indoors and thus legal event

"Bond girls" celebrate at 007 party: a sedate, indoors and thus legal event

It’s a strange New Year sentiment in Dubai. With public, outdoor celebrations cancelled, in order to preserve a sombre tone in support of the Palestinians in Gaza, Dubai held vigils by candlelight, rather than parties with fireworks.

Our party at Al Murooj Hotel went ahead, indoors. And what happened at 10 seconds to midnight? The DJ faded the track down so we could shout out our own countdown, but he couldn’t lead it for us.

There are headlines here wishing everyone a more prosperous 2009, but it’s very hard to gauge local reaction to the global economic crisis.

I was surprised to see that Dubai’s stock market lost more than 70 per cent in value over 2008. Sentiment just doesn’t seem that bad here. Malls are full, shoppers walk around with bulging bags and lots of labels.

When I arrived here three weeks ago people were saying the crunch had hit Dubai only two weeks earlier. That’s at least a two month lag from London.

One excellent indicator is rental prices. They’ve dropped more than 10 per cent in the last month. Great stuff considering we’re looking to take on a lease in the next month.

%d bloggers like this: