Saturday, June 12, 2010

On The Lam

The Evil Dr Rabbito has gone AWOL.

He may be living it large in Dubai or made a break for freedom at the border, we don't know for sure.

Our scouts are out trying to track him down, but if you see this bunny do NOT attempt to approach him, just let us or the authorities know.

And whatever you do..........................don't call him cute!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mind Your Language

Sorry about the lack of posts recently, I have and continue to be stupidly busy. Once I gain a little breathing space I will knock out several posts bringing everyone up to date on the comings and goings of family life in Muscat.
In the mean time I would like to take this opportunity for a shameless plug for my Arabic Language Teacher, Said Al Busaidi, who persevered with my attempts at butchering his language and has given me a solid foundation in spoken Arabic for which I will be forever grateful.
Said is planning to run another course, details below, and I can heartily recommend it to anyone wishing to learn to talk to Omanis in their native tounge.


There is an Arabic Basic (Spoken) Course run this summer for 2 hours a week. (Every Sunday)

The Course commences once the minimum number of students has been achieved.
(Each Group has 8 - 14 x students)

Date (TBC): (June – July 2010)

- Time: 1630 - 1830
- Fee: Only 100 OMR per student
- Duration: 12 WEEKS
Previous Students Quotes:
- "Plenty of practice and getting more confident in practicing Arabic outside … Lovely instructor, taught us in a friendly and fun way – kept it light hearted."

- "The course is pitched at the right level, we have a good workbook … and a great teacher. He makes the lessons enjoyable."

- "I came to the lessons knowing no Arabic whereas now I feel I have learnt the basics which would mean I could speak basic Arabic with some more practice."

- "There has been a complete change in my comprehension giving me the competence to continue with developing my language skills."

- "Basic skills for greetings etc. Now much better; some better understanding of the language as well. Good Start. Now need more practice."

Mobile: 00968 92170574
- Said:
Mobile: 92370833

Sunday, May 09, 2010


I have today stumbled across this blog. I absolutely adore it. It has crystalised for me some thoughts that I have been having for a while with regard to fashion.

I have for some time now been reading quite a few "fashion" blogs, the main one of which is The Women's Room. This regular activity has helped me come to the conclusion that I hate mainstream High Street fashion. I cannot abide looking the same as every other Tom, Dick and Harriet roaming the streets. If I do buy High Street fashion - as I must here in Oman - I try my very best to wear it in an unusual way, or with an interesting accessory that somehow gives it a lift and makes it different.

I love how the older ladies and gentleman on Advanced Style, are just that Advanced Stylists. I would love to have their unique abilities - to mix and match styles in such an eccelectic way. Most of all this blog makes me yearn to go to New York and meet all these fabulous people who have had amazing lives and through it all have remained stylish and most of all unique. I love that they are unafraid to be themselves, some of them at over 90 years old and still look wonderful.

I lament the fact that the height of style here is Marks and Spencers, or maybe even Zara. Don't get me wrong the High Street shops do some good stuff, but it's just all the same - it bores me stupid - I want unusual, unique, unrepeatable clothes that express who I am, not who the designer at Zara is. Sadly - Oman is not the place to yearn for such things, there are no second hand boutiques here, no independant sellers - apart from the lovely Totem, who do some great stuff if you are 20 years old.

Now shopping on line - mmmm good idea, apart from the fact that I need to feel the fabric, see the style on me and fall in love with a piece. I have recently been looking for a dress for a wedding that we are going to in the Summer. I thought I had found the ideal one, ordered it and well - lets gloss over that and just say that it wasn't the dress for me. So comes to an end my idea of buying something unusual online. So I trawl, Monsoon, Boden and Coast websites - some nice bits but nothing that says "I am the dress that is destined for you" I long for a Horrockes Dress in an outrageous print (I hear they used to do them in a lobster print, just fabulous), unfortunately they aren't exactly easy to get hold of and I am not sure that I could squeeze my ample waist into one even if I could get hold of one.

So my question is, what does one do, when one is stranded in a clothing wasteland with nothing to support you but Marks and Spencer ? Should I risk Etsy, or will it just be another disappointment when nothing fits and I can't send it back - should I try to learn to make clothes ? the thought makes me shudder - smocking at school has left me scarred for life !!!

Just some thoughts.

Becky x

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Getting Down and Dirty in the Garden

A couple of years back, whilst working for a different company in Muscat, Jacob spent a couple of hours with me in the office. It couldn’t have been that exciting for him and he amused himself hunting for errant paper clips and elastic bands, but he loved it none the less and has reminisced about it on numerous occasions since then.
I’m not sure where the whole bringing your children to work tradition has come from, I think it is big in the States with formal days set aside, but I’m not so sure about the UK and Europe.
My father was self employed and mainly worked from home, but occasionally he would have jobs to do at an old Victorian(?) factory in London and, occasionally I got to go with him (before the days of health and safety).
I have vivid memories of the place throughout my childhood, all happy, although the last, after it had been shut down was tempered with sadness, the end of an era.

Well Jacob had been asking to come with me to work for a while now, but being site based there were obvious safety restrictions. I broached the idea of a family day with the company, and we received the green light.
So the much anticipated day arrived with our respective families turning up and being ushered into the visitors centre. A quick visit to daddy’s desk, just to check for itinerant paper clips and elastic bands before an introduction to the Oman Botanic Garden from Sarah, the head of education for the Garden.

From there we had a walk around of the Nursery facilities, where the 1200 species of native plants of Oman are being cultivated for the Garden. Oscar, was of course into everything and frequently disappeared off into the undergrowth. Most of my time was therefore spent corralling him and making sure he didn’t kill any plants or hurt himself whilst swing off parts of the greenhouses.
Due to a slight confusion over a loo break we discovered the site tour bus had left without us, so we jumped into our 4wd and headed into the garden for a private and exclusive tour with commentary supplied by little old me.

Oscar was of course besotted with all the excavators, dump trucks and payloaders, whilst Jacob wanted to know what exactly was being built where and, what it would be used for.
He certainly enjoyed himself and is in Sarah’s good books for wanting to bring his classmates for a visit.

So a big thank you goes out to all involved for hopefully making it a day to remember, hopefully Jacob’s childhood memories will be just as good as mine.

But what’s all this about a Botanic Garden??? I have no idea how many people know of its existence or the scale of the project. It is not as if it is a secret but when I first heard about it, I thought “a garden, big deal”, it wasn’t until I travelled around the project that I realized how big a deal it really is.

The OBG is a project of his Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, as a showcase for the diverse Omani flora, of which there are one thousand two hundred species, and eighty of which are found no where else in the world!
The site is four hundred and twenty hectares in size and we are busy recreating the different environments found in Oman, from the heights of Jebal Akdar to the deserts of the empty quarter and the lush greenery of Dhofar.
Some of these environments such as the Dhofar region will be housed in Biomes, buildings that allow us to recreate seasons throughout the year that are ideal for the regional plants. Imagine being able to see the effects of the Kareef in Muscat!

One snippet of useless information is that the site, near Al Khoud, was the first place in the whole of the Arabian Peninsula where dinosaur bones were discovered!

Currently construction is underway on the visitors centre, research centre, educational facilities and heritage village. The heritage village will be a showcase for traditional Omani arts and crafts showing how plants have been an important part of Omani life and how they have influenced the world.

We have a couple of years left before the Garden is finished, but you can keep up to date with the news letter. Recently the OBG team have been out planting the first of the habitats, the Northern Gravel Desert, and different groups, such as the Womens Guild of Oman, and American Womens Group etc, have visits to see how the work is progressing.
When it is finally finished, it will be a very special place in a very special country.

One last thing, I should point out how the OBG has changed my life……

Yes, I finally did some gardening at home. You really didn’t need to see that did you.

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

Seem like we might be in for stormy weather!

Must mean there's an Irish woman arriving.
Looking forward to seeing you Jo!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

iPad Killer


Those of you that know me will have by now understood that I am a bit of a techie, quite happy to take things apart, understand how they work and fix them if they are broken.
Well I have always had an interest in the replacement of paper printed media since I got the chance to play around with e-ink some eight or nine years ago. So I was happy to see that the inventors had been turning it into a commercial product, the latest offering being under the guise of the Que from Plastic Logic.

Pretty darn good, sunlight readable, very low power consumption, ultra portable and capable of storing thousands of documents. My only criticism is that even after all this time, the promise of a colour version has still not materialized. IMHO a colour e-reader (preferably but not necessarily, capable of video support) could be the catalyst for society to move away from printed media in the same way (Dare I say it) that the printing press brought literature to the masses.
A sad day in many ways, but an exciting one none the less.

So when Apple announced that it was launching the iPad, I thought, “Could this be it????”
Sadly the answer was a resounding “No!”
For all it’s bells and whistle, the apps, the cool functions and the hype, it had a flaw, a fundamental one at that……,the power hungry, sunlight Unreadable and eye straining lcd screen.

Thanks, but no thanks Apple, I’ll stick with the Macbook Air and printed books (Which I absolutely and always will Love).

But all this flurry of activity with tablet computers and e-readers left me wondering, “Who would solve the big problem by finding a replacement for the LCD screen for mobile devices (The iPad isn’t alone, just try using Google Nexus One in the sunlight (Sorry for your loss Sythe) or any other smart phone for that matter).

Well it might be here sooner rather than later, thanks to some Dutch guys and a company called Liquavista, who have taken a century old principle called electro wetting and reinvented it for the digital generation.
Essentially, it involves coloured oils that react to a small electrical charge, set out in individual pixels very much like the existing lcd screen technology. More importantly though, (Drum roll please!) it harnesses rather than fights sunlight. External light passes through the oil and is then reflected back at the person reading the screen (in low light it utilizes a traditional backlight), the brighter the sunlight, the more vivid the screen becomes. Voila!
And if that wasn’t enough, a key benefit over competing technologies such as mirasol, is that because it is so similar to lcd in manufacture, existing lcd factories would only need to be adapted (instead of being built from scratch) in order to start manufacturing the displays!

Could this be the perfect sunlight readable display for our mobile gadgets? Liquavista hope to have them in devices and on sale by mid 2011, and are already working with Liquid Plastic to produce a colour e-reader.

I just wonder how long it will take the likes of Apple (or one of their competitors) to finally dump the lcd screen and have an iPad worthy of the Apple name.

For all of you nay sayers out there, just take a look at what Sports Illustrated dreamt up for the iPad and tell me, can your book or magazine do this????

Monday, April 05, 2010

Learning to Fly

Not a lot to report this week. Biscuit has a sore leg, Oscar’s swimming has come on leaps and bounds and Becky had the boys to herself for most of the weekend whilst I was off camping and driving through another part of the Wahiba Desert. Bit of a long trip this time as you can see from the map.

I thought I would share this little video I made of one member of our camping party, though I should point out that the flight wasn’t intentional. Enjoy :o)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Leaving It All Behind

Becky went for a girl’s trip to Dubai, shopping at the weekend. Twenty three Rials each way with Fly Dubai (But hey, Oman Air will be undercutting that to the staggeringly low price of RO 22!)
I’ll leave Becky to tell you how well it went, but suffice to say that she won’t need any exercise classes for a week or two.

I on the other hand had the boys to myself, and the weekend began with a trip to the ABA Food Fair.
The Food Fair started back in 1995 as part of the UN Day Celebrations and it has been one of the highlights on the school’s calendar every year since. All the food, service and decorations are donated by volunteers, a great deal of the work is done by parents (I helped in my own little way by eating as much as I could), and many staff members get involved as well.
It was great fun, very noisy and exceedingly busy. Food from forty nations was available to taste, covering pretty much all of the planet from as far afield as Fiji, New Zealand, a large proportion of South America, a fair few African nations, European and of course the good old Sultanate of Oman.
I was impressed that Jacob willingly tried a real variety of food, starting with sushi and then some Venezuelan dishes of which I have no idea of their names. Everyone was doing their bit to fly the flag for their respective nations and it was a very colourful spectacle, a special mention goes out to the ladies of Nigeria who were without doubt the most colourful of the evening.
I don’t know why I should be surprised, but I was astounded by the variety and diversity of the nationalities residing in Muscat. I guess we all live in our own little worlds to some extent.
Well done to everyone for all the hard work and delicious food, I can’t wait for next year and in the mean time I will have to do some culinary research to track down the tastiest dishes out there.

It was on Friday that we went up to the pool early for a swim. It started quietly, but after a while there were plenty of other children for Jacob to play with, allowing me to keep a beady eye on Oscar.
Over the winter we rarely went swimming, but for the last month or so, as the temperatures have risen, we have been going more regularly. It was therefore with some surprise that Oscar announced he couldn’t swim. Given his exploits in Bali last summer I have struggled to understand why he hs lost confidence.
Resigned to a morning in the shallow end, I joined Oscar in a game with his Power Ranger action figures. There is only so much Power Ranger role playing a grown man can take and I quickly struck on the idea of the figures doing dive bombs off the side. Would you believe it, that canny little Red Power Ranger got talking to Oscar, and soon enough he too was doing dive bombs off the side! It was a small step, but with a little more persuasion from Red, Oscar was swimming again!!!

Three Cheers for Oscar and Three Cheers for the Power Rangers!!!

Something for the weekend, Sir?

Now I'll appologise straight off for the poor photo quality, but but it was hastily taken with a camera phone.
Oman Oil seem to have a Ying and Yang thing going with men's aftershave at the moment......

I'd love to see the marketing for these products, it must be hilarious. I'm thinking maybe something with a 70's theme, big hair, big flares and bad taste!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wahiba Challenged (or how to loose yourself in a great big sand box)

This must be the year of living dangerously, what with a return to diving, dog ownership, learning Arabic and Becky’s knitting, I thought that the Wahiba challenge sounded like a good idea.
Now I have done a fair few desert camps in my time with dune bashing thrown in as you know, but that’s hardly a challenge.
So when a friend asked if I would like to join him and a few others on a trip through the Wahiba, I thought ‘Why Not??’. I then went and asked Becky for permission. (I should make it clear at this point, that this was not the Wahiba Challenge, merely a weekend away experiencing serious desert driving with seasoned desert drivers).

So the day quickly arrived and I packed up my Jeep and set off to work, knowing that I had forgotten something (This time it was my Crocs). That afternoon I would jump ship early and meet up with my friend Simon before heading down to the Al Areesh desert camp for our first night.
Arriving just after nightfall, we met up with two other members of our party before having some dinner, and a chat before crawling away to our beds for an early night.

So the next morning the rest of the group arrived, a motley crew comprising seven Jeeps and nine people harking from Indonesia, the Netherland, Italy and England. We ‘aired down’ our tyres, put up our sand flags and discussed (with a little trepidation on my part) our journey.
For those of you that don’t know, taking the air out of your tyres is crucial to driving on the sand and as little as 2psi can be the difference between moving or getting completely bogged down. On average we took the pressure down to 9psi and went through the process again once the tyres had warmed up, on the down side at low pressure you run the risk of having the tyre come off the rim.
The other important bit of kit is the sand flag, in my case a red head scarf on the end of a long fishing rod. Before you start taking the mickey, the idea behind them is to see whether there is a car on the other side of the dune, before you come over the top and land on top of it.

We quickly moved into the dunes playing follow the leader, cutting our teeth on the odd steep incline and slowly building up confidence. It was then our fearless leader decided that there had been enough pussy footing around and promptly launched himself up an impressively high dune, power sliding sideways to the top.
I remember the words ‘No #$%#^*&* Way??’ left my mouth followed shortly afterwards with ‘He doesn’t expect us to follow, does he?’
Sure enough one by one we followed, but try as I might I just couldn’t reach the top, despite helpful hints from my companions. It was then that one of our party took a more direct approach, simply blasting straight up at full throttle until he reached the top and following his lead I found myself, to my great relief, sitting on top of the dune, no longer playing tail end charlie.

It was also with great relief that I was not the first or the second person to get stuck, being the new kid on the block I had no desire to upset the others, but sure enough my time came sooner rather that later, and again, and again and again……but hey, that’s all part of the fun.
A small note of caution when placing your cool box in the car, DON’T position it with the lid facing forward. After going over the top of one dune, my cool box opened and proceeded to deposit melted ice water over me and the passenger seat, squelch!

We stopped for lunch short of our intended site due to a squeaky drive shaft. No such thing as a service centre in the desert, it was a case of repairs on the hoof and in no time at all, a badly damaged U joint had been replaced with a new one, it’s amazing what you can find at the bottom of a handbag (or a glove box in this instance). Speak to a Jeep owner and you’ll hear of the joys of parts breaking and how easy it is to fix them, simply because they are so basic. It is not for nothing that a common motto of Jeep owners is “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”.

For me there were two notable incidents to the afternoon and fortunately for me the first one came before the other and not vica versa.

It’s not all that clear from the photo, but I breached (went over the top) of the dune slightly faster than I had intended. Coupled with a slightly steeper than normal back side, the front wheels of my Jeep dug in deep, whilst the rear wheels did their level best to overtake (Over the top!!).
It was at this point that there was severe clenching of certain parts of my anatomy and I repeatedly chanted “Please Don’t Flip Over!” whilst simultaneously and somewhat pointlessly using my body weight to force the car back down on to four wheels. Suffice to say that someone up there was looking out for me at that particular point in time.

The second event of the afternoon revolved around something (I know not what) I had eaten earlier. Stomach cramps and numerous pit stops later, it was with the utmost relief when we stopped , set up camp and for me, went straight to bed.
Everyone else had dinner (No curry for me ) and chatted around the camp fire. However, I’m sure you’ll agree that the order of the afternoons incidents was the best outcome for everyone, most especially me.

The next morning we slowly emerged from our cocoons and prepared ourselves and our vehicles for the rest of the journey. I was still somewhat crook, so my much anticipated fry up was replaced with a banana and a cup of tea.
We drove off experiencing more of the wide expanse of nothingness that is the desert before finally reaching our intended target, a sand mountain.
Now, being a gormless newbie, I was blindly playing follow the leader and only casually noting that we were not making the same headway as the previous day and, that the dunes were tightly packed and only seemed to be going in one direction, UP!
It wasn’t until we reached the top that our fearless leader remarked with surprise (his) to the two newcomers (myself included) with the now infamous words “Not a lot of first timers would have attempted that climb, that was quite brave of you”
Brave my arse, I was just following you!!!! (I don’t remember if anyone was wearing an ‘I’m with Stupid’ T shirt)

I will say that the view and experience was well worth it.

In the two days we had travelled one hundred and twenty five kilometers from the Al Areesh camp at the beginning of the Wahiba to Falaj Al Mashayek, close to Sur.

During our journey I had practiced my Arabic on some poor unsuspecting Bedouins, learnt how to repair a drive shaft, as well as remount a tyre that had come off its rim, and most importantly how to really drive in the sand. Not bad, Hey??

Now, how can I persaud Becky to let me go again…………

********** Update **********
********* 28/03/10 *********

Here is the video of the trip kindly filmed and edited by Danielle

And I have a pass for this coming weekend, should be hot!!!

Dragon Blocked Again

Ho Hum,
I suppose it is not so much what was said/shown, but who it is about this time

Suffice to say that if you are in Oman and see the above message, go to google and search for the site of interest

Now just after the description can you see the address? and after that the word "Cached"
Yep you got it, click on "Cached"

That is the end of this Public Service Announcement

In an aside to Surburban, shit happens. It is not pleasant or fair and you are going to have to deal with it for a long time to come through no fault of your own.

To everyone else:

Swimming pools are dangerous places and if you have children it is your responsibility to make sure your children are safe, every second of every minuet that they are in or around the water, no one elses.
That being said, maybe the Government would think about imposing professional lifeguards at public pools? At the very least there should be a designated First Aid person.
If you want to read more I suggest you check out the link to Other Oman on the right.

My heartfelt condolences to everyone directly or indirectly involved.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Rednecks in Muscat

I drove to work this morning, much the same as any other working day.
Thirty minutes at mostly highway speeds.
Parked up, went inside, went out on site and then came back.
It was then I noticed my front bumper, well I noticed what was on my front bumper, you can see if you look carefully……..

Yes, Oscar had left his toy rifle on my bumper and it had made it all the way to work, I’m happy the ROP didn’t spot it, or I might have had some explaining to do ;o)

Speaking of Oscar and the Jeep, I know that it is just a big boy’s Tonka toy and Oscar treats it that way too. However, I was hunting for my keys the other day and Jacob mentioned that Oscar had been messing around with them. I looked under the sofa, lifted cushions, and all the other places I could think of without joy (Asking a two and a half year old doesn’t work).
Finally I gave up and went to the jeep and found then in the ignition………………………………That boy is going to be trouble, I just know it!!!!

Tomorrow I plan on strapping a dead Elk to my jeep’s bonnet to see if anyone notices.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Law samaHt

I am ashamed to say that it has taken this long for me to seek professional help, but as they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery.

I have known for a long time that this is what I wanted, but trying to do it on my own has always ended in failure (and sometimes mild embarrassment).
Ok, maybe not complete failure, I have picked up the odd pointer on the way, but it is not what you’d call a resounding success.

I don’t want to blame others for my failings but, when ever I have tried to demonstrate my progress, people have looked at me as though I have a pair of antlers on my head (or something equally bizarre), or else given me a sympathetic, pitying smile. Hardly encouraging I think you’d agree.

So as a group we are spending two hours each week talking at or to each other and generally helping our fellow attendees when they slip, whilst doing our best not to laugh.

Last night was the sixth session in a twelve week programme and I think I’m making good progress, but only time will tell.

So I will be eternally grateful to Said, under whose patient guidance, I butcher his language and ear drums in the hope that someday soon I’ll be talking Arabic like a native (ok, maybe not like a native but maybe well enough not to cause offence).

Maa assalaama

Oscar the Ant

I came downstairs the other day and realised my son had been reading Kafka.

In years to come he'll regret this I'm sure. ;o)

Service with a Smile

Apologies for the interruption, normal services shall resume shortly.
This post is one I have been meaning to write for some time, but had not got around to it for one reason (excuse) or another and, is dedicated to Suburban, because she asked so nicely.

Has anyone been to Al Ain Airshow? I have,.................twice.
Originally I thought it would be pretty cool to take the boys to the Dubai Air Show extravaganza, but then I found out it was trade only – How stupid is that???
Well, last year without knowing anything about it, I took Jacob (Oscar was too small) and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t big or glitzy by any stretch of the imagination, there was precious little on the ground to keep you interested (kind of reminded me of the farmer’s market in my home town), but the pilots put on some wonderful displays and there was a decent play area available for when the children got bored or restless.
Well, one year had past and Oscar, being a confirmed petrol head and wannabee fly boy, was in need of his first real fix, so I decided to take the boys up to Al Ain for the day. We were joined by one of Jacob’s friends (Will) and his father for a decidedly boy’s day out and by eight o’clock we were on our way.
It takes about two and a half hours from Muscat to reach the border at Buraymi, nothing interesting to report with the boys plugged in to their respective gadgets and the normal antics of taxi drivers and driving instructors raising the occasional eyebrow, that is until we reached the border crossing.
For the first time ever, we were directed to park up and go inside the building, I have been so used to breezing through without getting out of the car I was taken somewhat by surprise. The Royal Omani Police were as gracious, warm and friendly as ever, and other than pointing out that their computers said Jacob was Irish (I checked, he's not), there was nothing to report and we were soon on our way.
We quickly crossed no-mans land and pulled up at the appropriate UAE border post window (Insert metaphorical screeching of brakes), when we were asked to park up and go into a second building. Here we had a retina scan and were then directed to go back to the first building to get our passports stamped with an entry visa.
On arrival at the first building we were informed that he couldn’t stamp our passports (???) and we needed to proceed to a third building.
On arrival at the third building the guard told us to go back to the first building.
On arrival at the first building we waited for ten minutes until one of the guards decided that he would rather not have three bored boys anywhere near him and took me back to the third building. Here, he kicked the guy out from behind his computer and did the whole immigration thingameejigg himself.
Having now got appropriately stamped passports, we bundled ourselves back into the car and headed off to the customs building…….but that’s another story.
So FINALLY, we arrived at Al Ain airport just in time to see the first display of model aircraft. Now, before you ask I’m not talking about the little things that you get from LuLu’s or Toys’R’Us , but really BIG boys toys (The sort of thing that would ensure you had a really bad day if it hit you).
I remember the previous year walking in from a distance and seeing these aircraft perform all manner of aerobatic tricks, knowing that something was not quite right, but not knowing quite what. It wasn’t until I saw concord fly past in a slow nose up maneuver that I relised I was watching models…………….Doh!
So we had a walk around and the good new is that the air show is maturing. There is still the farmer’s market feel, but way more to see than the previous year.
There was a Ferrari F1 car on display with Etihad, a Citroen rally car, a UAE F16 Falcon, Apache Helicopter and a Dassault Mirage, oh and a certain Oscar who was beside himself with excitement.

The fire fighting services had a display but was unfortunately unmanned (Fireman Sam would have gone down a storm) and a Bedu tent complete with falcons for the children to get up close and personal with.

The real winner though, were the three (real) cockpits brought over by a couple from Yorkshire in which visitors and more importantly boys could sit. I’m sure Oscar would have spent the whole day there given half a chance.

There was a English Electric Lightning, a Harrier Jump Jet and a Hawker Hunter to choose from and at one point, whilst I was helping Jacob and his friend Will clamber in and out of the Lightning, Oscar took himself off, circumvented the security, climbed the ladder and managed to get himself half way into the Hunter before I or anyone else had spotted him.

The show itself was great fun with jets, single prop aerobatic planes, pylon racers, bi planes and parachutists all doing their bit to thrill the crowds. Many Ooo’s and Aah’s ensued, culminating with a wide eyed WOW!!!! When a Buccaneer proceeded to do a bombing and strafing run on the airfield (Courtesy of some discreetly placed pyrotechnics, shsss!......don’t tell the children!

Soon enough it was time to head home, and with the boys all in commemorative T-shirts we drove back to the UAE border.
On arrival at the first building our passports were withheld and we were asked to park up. We duly did so and collected our passports and returned to the third building. On completing five sets of exit forms, I proceeded to hand over our passports at the very desk that our entry had be recorded five hours earlier.
Everything went swimmingly until they got to the last passport, mine.

Guard: Where have you been?
Me: Al Ain Air Show
Guard: No, since 2009
Me: ????? and ? eh, Oman
Me: I came for the air show with my children, my entry was approved at this very desk five hours ago.
Me: I live in Oman and my children can’t drive yet!
Guard: The computer says you didn’t leave the UAE in 2009, do you speak Arabic?
Me: Yes I did and no I don’t

At this point a kindly Omani gentleman decided to intervene on my behalf and listen to the conversation between the Guard and his colleague.
I am convinced that the question as to my knowledge of Arabic was for no ones benefit, but solely to allow the guards to verbally abuse me without my knowledge, for in the words of my new found Omani friend, “They are not saying very nice things about you.”, the look on his face told me so much more.
I can honestly say, with my hand on my heart that the UAE border guards come second only to the USA for being miserable SoB’s. A great first impression for visitors to your country, way to go guys!
Word of advice, if you are planning to bad mouth a person in the belief that they won’t understand you, make sure there are no translators on hand. Better still STFU (excuse the profanity) and then no one gets upset.

The only other comment to be made about the day is the arrival of a strategically placed service station on the Muscat side of Sohar.
I think it is a shell petrol station, which is only important in identifying the location from a distance. Attached to it is a building with a Khimji’s Mart at one end and a pizzeria on the other. On entering the building, one finds themselves in a quadrangle of eateries, with a couple of enclosed play areas for the children.
Given that we usually pass this way early evening (ie. the boys tea time), it makes for the perfect opportunity to stretch ones legs and feed the family before embarking on the final leg of the journey home. Well done to whoever thought of building it!!

Oh, and one other thing whilst I am on the subject of service stations, am I the only one that compares Muscat service station convenience stores to the Cold War??
What is it with the Al Maha ‘Souk’???
On one side we have Oman Oil and Shell convenience stores, well lit, clean and well stocked shelves (everything you would expect of a ‘convenience’ store), whilst on the other we have the Al Maha Souk with untidy, grubby, ‘new’ inconvenience stores, shelves predominately empty and, the goods available appealing to the desperate only.
I half expect to see a bread queue of ancient eastern European women patiently waiting outside.

Come on guys, why are you even bothering?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm Demotivated :o)

Today I have received a couple of those motivational posters via email that bring a smile to your face, must be in the same group as Muscat Mutterings!
But there are companies and people out there that do an important service and take the business of motivating the rest of us very seriously.
My personal favorite are these guys

Smile, it's almost the weekend................for some of us al least

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Taking the Mickey?

Given that Oman Air had a really calamatous training exercise last November(see Muscat Mutterings and Muscat Confidential), do you thihk that the person in charge of advertising at Muscat City Centre was having a laugh, or are they really that blind?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Evil Dr. Rabbito

So in the last few weeks we have seen some pretty unusual rain. Not that it is blue or yellow with pink dots or anything, just that there has been so much of it.

The first downpour was a couple of weeks before Christmas and lasted for four days. Fortunately we had prior warning, (I saw some clouds coming) and had time to put the roof up on the car.
So I set off for work the next day expecting trouble on the roads but it seemed that a lot of people chose to stay home instead. It wasn’t until I turned off to Sultan Qaboos University that I saw a flowing wadi. As per usual, cars were backed up on either side with people assessing the conditions and watching carefully those who chose to drive through the flowing waters. I myself watched and waited for a good ten minutes before deciding it was safe enough to cross. I stuck the jeep into 4Low and with a little trepidation eased the jeep into the water.
Everything was going swimmingly until I bumped into a couple of rock about half way across and the jeep came to a complete standstill. Arghhh!! Poo Pants etc. WHAT HAD HAPPENED???? Fortunately panic didn’t set in, I didn’t open the door and let the water in and I didn’t stall the engine. After the initial shock, I realized that I had somehow slipped out of 4Low and try as I might couldn’t get it back, switching to 4Hi I was able to carry on again, ffffeeeeeewwwweee! So I carried on with the journey through the water, heart pumping somewhat faster, face considerably redder but somewhat relieved none the less.
Wadi watching appears to be a national pastime in Oman, so I hope that my performance was well received amongst the copious amounts of spectators that morning and that they weren’t too disappointed by my recovery???

It may all seem amusing in hindsight, but driving through fast flowing water is not to be treated lightly; a friend of a friend lost his life trying to save an Omani family whose saloon car had got stuck in a fast flowing wadi on the very same day. It can be genuinely frightening to see the power of the water in motion, but underneath the surface, large rocks are on the move that will pummel anything in their path.

The rain provided us with another opportunity in that we got to test out the ‘new’ old house. Previously in our ‘old’ new house the rain would allow us the opportunity to host the unexpected attraction of an indoor waterfall, all the way from the third to the ground floor (Everyone should experience this at least once in their life). Conversely, the ‘new’ old house was pretty much watertight, with only one minor leak at the door to the roof, thereby denying us the pleasure of an impromptu water feature, what bliss!
Becky told me of a friend’s house on a newly completed section of the Wave, whose back wall was one complete water feature, not what you would expect from a brand new house built by the No.1 contractor in the country.
Our ‘new’ old house may be a little tired around the edges but I bet it will age better than the new ones.
Recently, someone at work tried the “But this is Oman, what do you expect??” excuse on me to try and excuse bad workmanship, I was not a very happy bunny prior to this, so after the steam had stopped coming out of my ears, I politely explained that they would have to re-do the work (and continue to re-do it) until such time as they did it properly. Early indications are promising!

As the official holiday for his Majesty’s Birthday had been moved to coincide with the Islamic calendars’ New Year, I think the celebratory street lighting had stayed up a little longer and closer to Christmas. Just so that no one got confused why they were up in the first place, the workmen got them down a week or so before Christmas day. Still, it did help to get one in to a more festive mood, I think I have grown so accustomed to LuLu’s all year light round show that I no longer notice it.

There was a fair amount of talk on different blogs on whether or not it was appropriate for Muslims to wish Christians ‘a merry Christmas’, it is not something I had ever thought about before and I was really surprised by some of the comments. I recommend you have a read of this post and comments on Dofari Gucci’s Blog.

Well, this Christmas our goose was cooked thank to Al Fair’s (Not so fair?) pricing. Last year we had friends over and so we organized a large goose for the princely sum of RO 45 or there abouts. This year with just the two of us and the two boys, a small goose was the order of the day, or so we thought.
However, at just under RO 13 per kilo and a minimum weight of 5 kilos, meant a minimum price tag of RO 65, which is equivalent to One Hundred and Four Pounds Sterling!!!! A little too rich for my taste, I am afraid.
So it was CarreFour that eventually supplied us with a far more reasonably priced duck for our Christmas family lunch.

Christmas morning began with the boys sleeping in a little, which was an unexpected surprise, and when they did wake (Oscar was full of Christmas Cheer, NOT!) there was some confusion as to why Santa had left an extra stocking by the tree. Even more confusing was that it was filled with dog treats and dog toys. However, common sense soon prevailed and it was decided that there had been a North Pole admin error and that it was probably meant for our friend’s dog ‘Harley’, although I suspect Jacob felt a little crestfallen.
The traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and a small glass of bubbly, was forgone this year for bacon sarnies, brown sauce and big mugs of tea, yummy :o)
Being suitably sated, the serious business of present opening began, with young Oscar doing extremely well on the aircraft front, much to his delight. Needless to say that both of the boys did extremely well on the present front, with gifts from family and friends, near and far. It was at the very end that Jacob picked up a festively decorated bag and began to remove copious amounts of tissue paper from within. Deeper and deeper he delved until with a puzzled (but extremely short lived) look on his face he pulled out a little red dog collar. This look rapidly evolved into an enormous grin and he continued to pull out more tissue paper until he found a photo of a little brown chocolate labrador with a message asking if the puppy (called Biscuit) could come to live with us.
It wasn’t long before the realization that Jacob’s longest standing wish had finally come true and boy, what a moment that was!

Christmas lunch was a success with both of the boys surprising us by tucking in to their food with gusto, and as per usual there were plenty of left-overs to facilitate several days worth of bubble and squeak. Becky had clearly stated her intention not to cook for the next three days and we were not disappointed.

Thankfully, despite Omantel’s best efforts we were able to share our celebrations with our families back home, via the wonders of modern technology and some free software, and introduce them all to Biscuit.

So despite the miles apart we had a very Merry Christmas and we hope you did too.

And finally to the name of this post, the Evil Dr. Rabbito.
I don’t quite remember when or how it happened, but it has everything to do with bedtime cuddly toys. Jacob had the traditional bear (who has the surprisingly deep and meaningful moniker of “Bear”), whilst Oscar has a long eared rabbit, the result of a lost argument in the Kingston branch of John Lewis department store a couple of years back.
Now at some point in the intervening years, the rabbit gained first, the name of “Rabbit” which then evolved into “Dr. Rabbito” and finally reached the ultimate title of “The Evil Dr. Rabbito”.
He appears to have a quasi East European accent, ostensibly due to my enjoyment of Phineas and Ferb, with megalomaniacal tendencies and a desire for a good nights sleep before hatching yet another diabolic plan to take over the world.

I’m not sure if it is appropriate to have a warm fuzzy feeling as my two and a half year old son apologizes to this rabbit for not going to sleep and, agreeing to demands for hugs and no further interruptions with a sleepy “OK Dr. Rabbito, I’m Sorry”, what do you think??