One morning, in church…

Yesterday I attended my kid sister’s first communion in my Dad’s local Catholic church in Wapping.  I’m not into this kind of stuff, and I’m certainly not Catholic, but I went along for the occasion anyway.  One of the friends of the family who was there was a recently retired English teacher, who started teaching in rough-arse London schools sometime in the late 50s or early 60s.  He has obviously seen monumental changes in the education system throughout his career, and he is less than impressed by the current state of affairs.

It was therefore quite amusing to see Ruth Kelly, the former education minister, present in the church to take communion (she lives over the road from my Dad, and her kids go to school with my siblings).  I asked the retired teacher if he could think of anything to say to an education minister in the Labour government, and he said that he could think of many things, all of which would get him thrown out of church.

Made me laugh, that did.


Posting on here will be sporadic at best, because tomorrow I am heading off on holiday with my girlfriend.  We are going to London for a few days, then taking the train to Hereford to visit some friends, after which we’re off to St. Petersburg for just over a week. 

Apparently it is thirty degrees in St. Petersburg now, which is about forty degrees warmer than when I was last there, and twenty degrees colder than here.  I will finally get to witness the famous White Nights, the phenomenon whereby the latitude of the city means at the height of summer the sun does not set completely and it doesn’t go properly dark.  Apparently, this provides the excuse for everyone to stand around outside all night drinking heavily in the gloom.  In fact, described like this, it doesn’t sound much different from a British summer.

After some thought, I have decided to write a full travelogue for the Russian part of my trip.  I cannot promise that it will be anything like as exciting as my rather idiotic trips of the past, but I will do my best.  I have been encouraged to do so by my girlfriend, who read the previous two accounts before she actually met me, and several readers who have emailed asking when I’m going to write another one.  It goes without saying that I will be taking a large number of photos, and I will publish the best ones on here on my return. 

Lastly, thanks to all my readers and their kind comments which continue to provide the motivation for me to write this stuff.


I like football.  I like football very much, and have been watching the World Cup with enthusiam.  I don’t have it at home, as the monopoly service provider in the UAE have slapped on an £80 surcharge for anyone wanting a world cup package.  Given that I am only here for the first two weeks of the competition, I would rather hand money to the Georgians who staff my local bar in exchange for their excellent service, a table in front of the giant screen, and large quantities of Stolichnaya vodka which they have on promotion.  Thus far, it is looking like a wise decision.

I have been entertained greatly by the football, but then football never fails to entertain me.  The way the entire industry works is a hoot.

Take Steven Gerrard’s recent comments concerning England’s shaky start and their forthcoming game against Sweden, who they have not beaten since 1968:

“We have got to show them a lot of respect, but the boys were saying today we need to get a win against them pretty soon,” the Liverpool midfielder said.

“We are confident we can progress in this tournament. The bigger the game the more you are up for it and the better you play.”

Good job young Gerrard doesn’t run offshore construction projects:

“We know that the job is going to be damned difficult, but my colleagues were saying today we need to do one right pretty soon. 

We are confident we can do it.  The bigger and more difficult the project, the more we show interest and the better we deliver it.”

I’m sure his clients would be impressed.  Still, international football isn’t quite as ludicrous as the domestic game.  Here’s Gareth Southgate back in February, when Middlesbrough were facing relegation:

“We are showing character. We still think there’s a lot more to come and we must keep ploughing on.”

I must remember that line next time a client asks to see my recovery plan for a project that’s gone belly-up.

I’m sure my clients would have nothing much to say if we appointed as project manager somebody with no experience whatsoever on the basis that he had once been a superb instrumentation engineer.  They’d approve his CV in a flash.  And of course, were we to spend £100m staffing a project with a budget of £20m, our head office would not bat an eyelid.  Should a process engineer mistakenly route fuel gas through the fire water system, we’ll simply allay the client’s fears by telling them that he’s the best process engineer in the world.

Yup, I love football.  Top class entertainment all round.

Three Years in the Desert

Two days ago marked the 3rd anniversary of my emigration from the UK.  Just before I left, I put up this post on my old blog, saying I’d be going away for 4-5 weeks.

This is normally how British expats become so.  They are sent away for a few weeks’ business, and never come back.  They have a revelation similar to that of the Soviet soldiers who arrived in Germany in 1944 to discover that ordinary farmers had such luxuries as mirrors, clocks, and china cups in their houses – items which were so rare in ordinary Soviet society that the soldiers initially mistook these German farmers for aristocracy.  

Many a Brit travelling abroad finds the developing world to be no more filthy than the streets of London, but notices that he is not paying for the privilege of having a local council pretend to keep the place clean. 

He laughs heartily when he recalls a salesman once trying to flog him some Vauxhall for thirty thousand quid, and runs his hand over the smooth wing of a Beamer which for the same price is much more to his liking.  Upon purchasing a DVD player for the bedroom, he is not offered a monthly payment plan to cover the purchase because it is not ridiculously overpriced in the first place.  (Being offered a financial plan for anything other than a house or car is a sure sign you are being ripped off big style.)

Should he fall sick, he finds £50 and a twenty minute wait to be preferable to the National Health system whereby you wait so long to see a doctor that the body can heal a severed limb of its own accord.  The envy of the world, he learns, is not much envied around the world.

He is at first taken aback by the poverty in which many of his new neighbours live, but this is quickly met with delight to find that scrotes are a uniquely British phenomenon.  He can climb on a bus with the poorest of the poor, yet will be spared the pantomime of some degenerate decked out in three hundred quids’ worth of shell suit and Rockports arguing with the driver over the sixteen pence difference of a juvenile fare.

His joy is further compounded by his being able to watch TV without receiving threatening letters from the state demanding he pays for a channel containing shite which he doesn’t want to watch.  True, he gets annoying flyers for umpteen equally shite cable channels shoved under his door, but then nobody slaps him with a fine for throwing these straight in the bin.

In my case, I may be growing a little tired of the Middle East, but the chances of me going back to the UK any time soon are pretty damned slim.  I’ll be an expat blogger for a good while yet.

If engineering consultants ran restaurants…

…they’d be something like this.

Waiter: Evening sir!  Are you ready to order?

Customer: Yes…I’d like the fillet steak please, done rare.  And a bottle of your red Chateaux Neuf de Pape to go with it.

Waiter: (scribbling away) No problem, sir. (Starts calculating something in his head, scribbles something down on a small piece of paper) There you go, sir.

Customer: What the fuck is this?

Waiter: That’s our invoice for a 10% advance payment, sir.  We’d like you to pay it now so we can start preparing your meal.

Customer: What the….? (overcoming his initial surprise, anger rising rapidly) 

Waiter: (hastily) Okay, forget it.  Fillet steak…rare…okay, no problem.

(An hour later)

Customer: Look, what’s the delay?  I’m getting hungry. 

Waiter: Sorry sir, we’ll have your steak for you in a jiffy.

(An hour later)

Customer: Listen, this is getting ridiculous!  I ordered a steak two hours ago, where the hell is it?

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Hände Hoch!

From the BBC:

A ceremony has been held in Berlin to present more than 300 police officers from 13 European countries who will be working in Germany for the World Cup.

Britain has the largest contingent, with 82 officers, who will be in uniform and have powers of arrest.

I wonder if they also have powers to gun down speedy Brazilians who are judged a serious threat to Englishmen?  If I were Ronaldinho, I’d want to know.

Change in Editorial Policy

For reasons which are nothing whatsoever to do with censorship in the Middle East or as a result of pressure from the authorities, this blog will no longer be commenting on political events in the Middle East.  Previous posts which fall under this category will be removed from the archives at some point tomorrow.

If anyone wants a further explanation, please drop me a line.