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Abu Dhabi Woman

Chaletfan

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Chaletfan last won the day on October 3

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About Chaletfan

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    cooking, baking, reading, my family, sewing

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  1. Taxes – I like to think that our weekly blog is a tongue in cheek view of the everyday life in the UAE, and in the main we’re happy with our lot. We live in a nice villa on a compound with decent facilities, we can go swimming every day of the year, never have to wear a jumper in daylight hours and have met some lovely people and made some great friends. OK, the roads are, in general, a nightmare and friendships are more transient than at home, but these things are character building. One of the big perceived advantages of living in the Middle East is that income is tax free at source. But that’s not to say that your income is all ‘yours’. Housing in Abu Dhabi is still outrageously expensive (in the region of £800 a week to rent a villa or apartment for a family of four), electricity and water prices, though still subsidised, are creeping up and the latest tax is on cigarettes and sugary drinks. Cigarettes are ridiculously cheap here, I was behind someone in the supermarket last week who paid 10AED for 20 cigarettes. Can anyone remember when cigarettes on the UK were 10p each? I think I was still at school! But as of last weekend ‘The United Arab Emirates has instituted a hefty tax on sugary drinks and cigarettes: 50% on soda and 100% on energy drinks and tobacco products.’ But no one was quite sure what 50 (or 100)% will look like. Is it half the selling price? Half the manufacturer’s costs? Half the current level of tax (whatever that may be)? One article I read said that the cost of a can of Coke, an item on the Government’s set price list, will rise from 1.5AED to 2.25AED so it looks like it’s 50% of the selling price, or for cigarettes the cost to the consumer will double. How it’s going to affect prices in hotels and restaurants is anyone’s guess. Last week I paid 16AED for a can of Coke (with a glass and a straw) at the Golf Club. I’m not sure I’ll be buying it if the price goes up to 24AED, or a whopping £5!!! Driving – great news last week that Saudi Arabia has lifted the ban on women drivers and by this time next year woman will be allowed to drive on the roads. View the full article
  2. Pandora – a shout out for great customer service this week. I’d lost a crystal in one of the charms on my bracelet so took it to the Pandora shop in Yas Mall to be repaired. ‘Can you tell me roughly how much it will be?’ ‘Around 15 dirhams ma’am.’ ‘Fifteen, or fifty?’ ‘Fifteen ma’am, maybe 20.’ I wasn’t really convinced – £3.50? but it needed repairing so I left it. Last Friday we went to collect it and it was, indeed, 15AED. That can’t have covered the time it took to log the charm in and out of the system and transport it to the workshop. Bargain! Medical Insurance – Gary thinks I might have written about this one already, but I can’t find it. Apologies if you’ve heard it before. Whilst we were in Oman back in July, Gary had a text on his phone to say that a charge had been made against our medical insurance. He googled the company mentioned and it was a pharmacy. He emailed the insurer who said that yes, a prescription had been made in a pharmacy in Sharjah. Sharjah? Sharjah is on the other side of Dubai and besides, I was in Oman on that date. How could I possibly have cashed a prescription in Sharjah? Do not worry Mr Gary, came the reply, we have investigated and your wife made this transaction. We have closed this issue as the complaint is resolved. Now hang on a minute, this issue is far from resolved, and I quote Gary’s reply: ‘Hello, Please don’t close this My wife was with me in Oman at that time. It was a family holiday – 6th to 10th July as stated below It bothers me that someone is using my medical insurance to obtain items from a pharmacy. It most definitely wasn’t anyone on our policy. I’m not sure how we would have reason to go to a pharmacy in Sharjah anyway. We live in Abu Dhabi. Do you know what the prescription was for, who issued the prescription and what the drug is used to treat – is there a signed receipt for the drug. If we had a prescription issued by a doctor surely I would have been claiming the doctors’ fees as well. That would have been a larger value claim than a prescription. At the very least please remove this claim from my records. Regards’ The reply: Dear Mr Gary, We will investigate and revert with an update. Best regards,’ So Gary rang them. It would appear that a pharmacist in Sharjah ‘accidentally’ typed in the incorrect policy number, but cancelled the request later, after they realised it was incorrect. Would that be ‘later’, or ‘later after they’d been caught out’? Hmm. Gin – I’m delighted that last weekend we found 6 gin balloons in Home Centre for the princely sum of 79AED (£18). I’m sure the gin will taste even better, particularly as we’ve stocked up on Fever Tree tonic, which is only available from the bottle shop. Gary must have been the only customer that week who went to the ‘speak easy’ for 2 dozen bottles of tonic water. Warning – http://gulfnews.com/…/briton-questioned-for-flashing-middle… Any friends visiting Dubai in the near future had better watch out! Birthdays – happy birthday to my little brother Al who hits the ‘big’ one tomorrow. Love you. View the full article
  3. Drafted by Gary Kelly Happy New Year – as you may know, the UAE runs on the Gregorian calendar for business purposes, but for religious occasions uses the Islamic calendar. This week saw the start of the Islamic year and hence a national holiday. (Well we have been back at school for two weeks!) As always the actual day is dependent on the phase of the moon and the holiday is not usually declared until the moon is sighted the night before, so it leaves any plans hanging in the air (or in space, whichever way you want to look at it). There has been much consternation and debate, especially in the national press and school Facebook page, about when this day will be. Would it be Thursday (bonus holiday), or would it be Friday? The idea of Friday was filling people with dread as this would mean the ‘dry’ night (ie no alcohol) would be 6pm Thursday to 7.30pm Friday – no brunching. Imagine, New Year’s Eve with no alcohol and on Monday Abu Dhabi declared Wednesday asd the provisional ‘dry’ night. Dubai , not to be outdone, chose Thursday. Anyway we’re glad to say that in this case the national government took decisive action and late on Tuesday declared that Thursday would, indeed, be a holiday and the moon did, in fact, make a guest appearance on Wednesday night, so it just leaves me to say كل عام وانتم بخير Happy New Hijri Year and welcome to 1439. Abandoned house – as you drive in through the gate of our compound (or gated community darling as my mother insists in calling it when she speaks to the ladies at the golf club) there is a house that has had Municipality (Council) enforcement notices attached to the Jeep, the Porsche and Harley Davidson motor bike that are parked outside it. The house looks like it is still lived in; curtains at the windows and furniture in the house, but we haven’t seen anyone around it for weeks and the cars and bike, that were usually pristine, haven’t moved, are covered in dust, and look as though they haven’t been washed in ages (remember that it is offence to have a dirty car in the UAE). It seems the occupants of the house may have done a bunk. I’ve mentioned before about people leaving the UAE either of their own free will, because their contracts were finished, or because they were made redundant (as happened to a friend of Gary’s on Sunday – completely out of the blue and in the second week at school for the children) but everyone we know who has had to leave within a short time period has managed to execute their exit plan, planning shippers, selling cars and clearing any debts – I think if everyone in the UAE was totally honest with themselves they do have a plan in the back of their minds and 30 days to leave after visa cancellation is usually enough time, albeit stressful, to pack up and bugger off. I can’t even consider how bad your situation must be to just leave your house, furniture, cars and motorbike, and, potentially with only aircraft baggage allowance, get on a plane and not come back. There is no way we could do what used to be known in the UK as a ‘midnight flit’ as we moved out here lock, stock and barrel. 20 years of accumulated memories, cake making equipment, fabric, ukuleles and ‘stuff’ all came with us. Even, as you may remember, a Christmas pudding, a 3.5” floppy disc drive and the wellies. View the full article
  4. Lakeland in Mushrif Mall

    Thanks @Grace, that shows how often I venture out!
  5. Lakeland in Mushrif Mall

    Lakeland was closed today - does anyone know if it's closed permanently, or if I caught them on an 'off' day? The shelves looked quite empty.
  6. I would recommend visiting those you shortlist as one person's idea of a good education might not be another's. A full list can be found here https://whichschooladvisor.com/uae
  7. Which Salon is good in Haircut and color

    Kirsty at Glamour at Al Zeina was excellent last week , and I always think ladies who've been to Tara Rose look great.
  8. It’s a funny old world – at the end of last term I was told that this year there wouldn’t be any cover work (supply to those in the UK) available as, well, there just wouldn’t. Because of ‘local regulations’ I can’t have a permanent job – primary teachers must have a BEd and middle/secondary teachers must have a degree in the subject they teach so my Engineering degree and Primary PGCE don’t fit either category – so I do supply. Pretty much on a permanent basis. Everyone looked at me as if I was mad; how were schools going to function without a pool of people like me to call upon? And what do you know? They were right. I’m back at school. Until Christmas. Teaching Maths to Years 6 to 8. It’s a funny old world. School – speaking of school Will’s got off to a good start. He’s already auditioned for the Prep School Orchestra – the Brass section is him on his horn and two trumpets – and tried out for the Swim Squad. I’m now trying to arrange a schedule to accommodate these activities as his golf lesson is on the same day as Swim Squad. Not that he’s too bothered about being in the actual Squad, I think it’s too much like hard work and one of the training sessions is at 6.30am, and really he wants to be in the Development Squad. Which is on the same day as Prep School Choir. You see the problem? Gin – after last week’s introduction to the various gins we bought in the holiday, this evening we will be moving to more exotic combinations. Mango and chilli for example. Watch this space! Hair – it’s still red, but it’s no longer straight. I’m considering buying a hairbrush and blowdrying it. Will’s still not convinced. View the full article
  9. Water – it never ceases to amaze me how much water some families use here. Our water bill is about 50AED (£10) a month and we use about 7000 litres. Other folks say that their bill is nearer 500AED a month, meaning they are using 70000 litres. Assuming a bath or shower uses 100litres, that’s the equivalent of 700 baths a month! Much of it seems to go on watering gardens, hence the popularity of astroturf, but that’s a ridiculous amount of water in a country where all water has to be manufactured. Mind, we had a near miss last week. The day we got back from the UK I was in the kitchen when I heard a hissing sound, as if the washing machine was filling up, followed by a pool of water coming from below the machine, then a spray of water coming from round the sides. Fortunately Gary was in and he came and pulled out the machine, and I had opened the drain in the floor allowing the water to drain away. The hose had split. It’s a good job we were in the house, imagine if this had happened the day after we’d left for the UK and the water had continued to flow for a fortnight! Deodorant – a bit of an odd topic I know, but disaster has struck and Gary’s favourite Body Shop deodorant has been discontinued. It’s happened once before and in the end the Body Shop saw sense and brought it back, so we live in hope. In the meantime, Gary had been stocking up every time there was a sale so he’s got two dozen bottles in stock and we’ve been into every Body Shop we’ve seen in the vague hope that they might have some stock left. No luck in the UK but we hit lucky in Jordan. Until we saw the price. It was £5 a bottle in the UK and an eye watering 45 AED (£10) in the UAE. But Jordan made the UAE price pale into insignificance. 12JD a bottle. £1 currently buys 0.93JD making a bottle of Body Shop deodorant £12.88. It’s no wonder they had stock left! Speaking of Jordan, it was amazing and definitely one to put on your bucket list. We really did float in the Dead Sea. As you walk in, you can feel the water pressing against you and it’s a bit like lying in a hammock. The strangest thing, though, was the security. The other side of the Dead Sea is Israel and the West Bank, and at one point I was connected to Israeli telecom on my UK sim, and Palestine on my UAE one. But every time we entered a hotel we had to walk through an airport style metal detector and have our bags scanned. Weird. I would recommend getting a large car if you visit. Our hire car was only 6 months old but was covered in so much damage it looked 6 years. The roads were, well, primitive is probably the best word and at one point the ‘King’s Highway’ was a single lane road. We were up hill and down dale, travelling on single track cart roads with no barrier on the outer edge. I’m only pleased it was a holiday weekend and not very busy as no one seemed to look before pulling out (at least in the UAE you know they’ve seen you, they just choose to ignore you) and the cars we did see were obviously designed like the Tardis as despite being saloons they seemed to be carrying seven or eight passengers. Hey ho, one of life’s experiences. Fame at last – as I write, Gary and Will are searching for music on Amazon. As a joke (I think!) Gary searched for Worcester Uke Club, and bizarrely, they are there. So there you are, Gary Kelly is freely available on Amazon. You heard it here first. View the full article
  10. The Bank – I have two bank books at my parents’ house, one for TSB and one for Northern Rock, and periodically my dad takes them to be updated. The last time he took the TSB one he was told that the account was dormant, no interest was being added and the best thing to do was for me to go, with ID, and close it. So last week, complete with brand new passport and a copy of our marriage certificate, off we went to the bank… ‘Hello, can I close this account please?’ ‘This account is for TSB, this is Lloyds, you will have to go TSB.’ ‘Oh? My dad always brings it here to be updated and was told I could come here to close it, it’s an old account from before TSB and Lloyds merged. It’s probably older than you.’ (At which point Gary and I couldn’t resist a wry grin as the account was from 1976 and the cashier was probably about 25.) ‘Could you have a look please?’ And she did, and the account was there. Great! But no. ‘There is no name on the account’. (I reached for my passport.) ‘No, there is no name on the account, I don’t know who it belongs to.’ ‘Is the balance the same as the passbook? And is the account number correct?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Excellent, it must be mine.’ ‘I will have to get someone to look at this.’ And off she went to consult with what appeared to be the entire staff. Eventually, and by this time the queue was out the door, she came back with someone else. Who appeared to know what to do. Great! ‘Do you have ID? ‘Yes.’ (I handed over passport and marriage certificate.) ‘I don’t need that,’ pushing the marriage certificate back. The cashier then had to recreate the account using the details from the passbook, my parents’ new address and the details from my passport. At which point she realised I’d changed my name. ‘Yes, I’ve brought you a copy of my marriage certificate’. (I’d even taken my husband as further proof.) ‘Hmm, it’s not the original. But it is a certified copy. That’ll be fine, can I keep it?’ ‘Yes, we brought that one for you.’ This was going well, though we had been in the bank for half an hour and the queue had gone. After some faffing between various systems, the money was in an account that could be accessed and she handed over my £27.81 cash. Result! Now, let’s imagine 1% of the population of the UK has an account like this, that’s 656,000 people. And let’s imagine each of those people have a dormant account holding £10. That’s £6.56 million, which is not to be sniffed at, and if everyone in the country has £10 in an account, that’s £656 million, which is definitely not to be sniffed at. And, according to MSE (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/r…/reclaim-lost-assets-free), is closer to the £850 million thought to be sitting in banks and building societies. Makes you think, doesn’t it? Heard on the bus – ‘Buying a coffee in a café is very expensive; you’re far better getting it in a paper cup to take away.’ ‘Oh yes, my granddaughter’s just graduated, from the University, you know. She’s working in Primark, but it’s not her proper job. No, it’s not her proper job.’ (Note: It’ll not be paying proper money either then.) Conversation between two women in their late 20s, early 30s. 1: So how many do you have? Two? 2: No, just the one. (Note: Will and I thought they were talking about children at this point.) 1: Oh that’s nice. 2: Yes, I keep her in a cage, covered over, when Dave’s not in. (A dog?) 1: Oh. 2: Mmm, she is very noisy. (By this point Will is giggling uncontrollably.) 1: Yes, I can see that. 2: Yes, and I don’t like her flying round the room when he’s not in. Do you have a parrot as well? Let’s face it, who would bother with a car when little gems like this are available free of charge on the bus? View the full article
  11. Looking for new hair stylist-Help!!

    Kirsty at Glamour did an amazing job on my hair last week.
  12. Hi honey, we’re home! – It’s a bit of an odd one, but where is ‘home’? Everyone went ‘home’ for the summer, but coming back to Abu Dhabi is ‘going home’. In the UK, we do feel as if we’re at home, but coming back to our house (even if it is 38deg inside), I can honestly say we’re ‘home’. It was lovely to catch up with so many friends – same time next year? Tax free shopping – as Will was having some golf clubs and we needed some bedding, I was determined to shop ‘tax free’ this year. We’d had three good experiences, though in the first shop no-one really knew what to do so I’m hoping we’ve got the right paperwork! And then we went to a very well known department store in Newcastle. We had to go to the Bureau to get the correct form and I have to say they were complete and utter jobs worth. You would have thought the money was coming out of their pockets! Basically, the shop either fills in a form or they give you an extra till receipt detailing your purchases. ‘Can I see your passport please?’ ‘Passport? No one else has asked for my passport. Why do you need my passport?’ ‘I need to see your passport.’ ‘But why?’ ‘I need to see you are entitled to the tax refund.’ ‘How will my brand new UK passport prove this?’ ‘We’re just the agent and I need to see your passport.’ After 5 minutes going round in circles, we left, minus the required receipt. So I rang the company and asked how a UK passport would prove that I was entitled to the tax back on my purchases. After five minutes on the phone to them (fortunately we had moved on to John Lewis for a scone and a cup of tea so it wasn’t too much of a hardship), the person on the other end agreed that another form of ID (like an Emirates ID card) proving I resided in another country would suffice. So back we went. Gary was quite disappointed that the woman we’d spoken to wasn’t there but the next woman was equally awkward, saying she’d do it ‘just this once’ but she really needed sight of my passport to prove I was entitled to the refund. Again, she had no idea how a UK passport would prove this, but the instructions from Global Blue said they must see a passport. The first woman reappeared at some point and was obviously not happy that we were getting the required receipt. The golf shop where we bought Will’s clubs use the same refund company and they were not bothered in the slightest who I was, or where I was exporting the golf clubs to. To be honest, why would you bother asking for something you weren’t entitled to? Fenwick, improve your customer service please. Shopping – speaking of shopping, I’m not sure what we bought, but we were on the absolute limit for luggage, four bags of 23kg each plus a set of golf clubs. Even now we’ve unpacked, I’m not sure what took up all the space, or all the weight. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t think two sets of bedding, Will’s shoes, 24 bottles of Body Shop deodorant (it has been discontinued), 500 Tetley teabags and a couple of bottles of gin would weight 92kg. View the full article
  13. Hiring a car – we’ve had a range of experiences hiring cars in the past. When we were leaving the UK and had sold both our cars we were told by the hire company that we needed to take out the additional insurance as cars never came back from a month long hire without some damage on them. We didn’t, and it was fine. The following year the same company wanted to do an Experian check which turned out to be for UK residents who were non-UK licence holders. That wasn’t me. Last year in Italy the hire company didn’t want to accept Gary’s licence. The criteria on the booking was that an international driving permit was needed if the licence wasn’t in English, which it was. Unfortunately, as it was also in Arabic it apparently wasn’t acceptable. After much toing and froing, they decided that as we were EU citizens they would do us a favour and give us the car anyway. This time, once we’d booked and pre-paid, we received a list as long as your arm of required documents, as follows; driving licence (held for at least 12 months), International Driving Permit, photographic ID and two proofs of address, one of which was to be a credit card statement dated within the last 8 weeks for the credit card with which the booking was made and neither of which could be a Council Tax bill. Off we went to the Post Office in Khalifa City for the International Driving Permit which was issued in five minutes for the very reasonable cost of 140AED (cash) and in true UAE style was stamped, counter-stamped and counter-counter-stamped. The proof of address was a bit trickier. Everything in the UAE is done via email or text message and as we were using the UK credit card which is set to online statements, I didn’t have one. Add to that that as a ‘dependent’ I’m not allowed to have anything more than a savings account and all official documentation is in Gary’s name, you can see we had a potential problem. So armed with my bank statement from my UK account which comes to our PO Box, a Council Tax bill (probably useless but with an address on it because we were between tenants), my passport, the IDP and my UAE licence, I set off to collect the car. I handed over my licence and the pre pay voucher, and that was it. No further documentation was required, just an address to send any accrued fines to. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. Gin – Gary and I thought we were gin aficionados having bought a bottle of Hendricks about 18 months ago. How behind the times are we! Apparently there are now in the region of 300 British gins and gone are the days of ‘ice and a slice’. So on Wednesday evening we were educated, by my brother Al, in the art of gin. I hope I’ve remembered what was what and how it was served. First up was Gin Mare, a savoury gin from Spain which is best served with basil and rosemary. I have to say this was my favourite, but basil is extremely difficult to find in the UAE so I’m not sure this one would be a good buy. Next up was Drumshanbo Gunpowder gin. This was Gary’s favourite, served with grapefruit, but I didn’t like it quite so much. I loved Durham gin, served with celery and pink peppercorns. Gary wasn’t as keen but as celery is quite expensive in the UAE, I’m sure this one is going to get on the shortlist either. Gary also tried Alnwick gin, lovely bottle, and I finished with a gin and rhubarb liqueur which I wasn’t too keen on, though I did enjoy Colin’s homemade rhubarb gin, diluted with some tonic. I’m now reading up on what’s hot and what’s not. The good news is that we can each take 4 litres of spirits back into the UAE. The bad news is that none of our favourites are stocked in Newcastle Airport’s Duty Free. View the full article
  14. The weather – to say it’s been a bit of a shock is an understatement; I went to bed in a pair of socks one night! Though yesterday was lovely and we met Liz at North Shields for fish and chips and a walk along the front. It was lovely to see you Liz and when the weather is like that, you wonder why anyone would live anywhere else. But then in a rainy, gloomy Alnwick today, a big of sun wouldn’t have gone amiss. Our friends definitely got the better weather yesterday. It was ‘magic’ at Alnwick though, look at us flying on our broomsticks. Golf – despite the cold, Will’s been golfing several times with Grandad and even played alongside a par 3 competition last week. It’s a shame he doesn’t have a handicap as he’d have won! Nice to see you – it’s been lovely catching up with friends over the last two weeks; we’ve been to the Hancock with Sara, for tea with Karen and for lunch with Liz. We even managed to squeeze into Al’s busy schedule and had a few gins with him and Nikki before taking the most relaxing taxi I’ve been in for two years back to the parents. We’re off to Wakefield tomorrow to see the outlaws and then down to Worcester where Will and I have an action packed few days. We’re looking forward to tea, cakes and catching up with more friends, while Gary will be mainly checking the house over. Speaking of which…. The house – we’re delighted that we’ve got a new tenant, a couple in their late 30s complete with a dog and a cat. And a larger than usual deposit ‘just in case’. The new agents seem to be on the ball, they found a tenant within 48 hours, and the inventory is comprehensive to say the least. Only two issues – one of the smoke alarms is broken (it had been turned off, make of that what you will) and the kitchen sink is blocked. That’ll be the 4th time it’s been blocked in twelve months. Again, draw your own conclusion. And the issues with the old agent? Well, let’s call that a work in progress. View the full article
  15. Extremes – two new items popped up this week about the Emirates. The first was the tragic story of another building fire in Dubai, this time at Dubai’s Torch Tower and the second, the rather bizarre tale that an iceberg is being towed from the South Pole to the coast of Fujairah in order to make drinking water. Earlier in the year this second story was denied by the UAE government, but hey, it makes a great story. The Quayside – Will and I went for a walk along the Quayside last Sunday. After the obligatory ice cream, we were lucky enough to arrive at the ‘Blinking Eye’ just as it had opened (or closed, depending on your point of view) so got to see it move. We also saw a ‘sword swallower’, but as he hasn’t yet got his licence to carry a sword, he swallowed an inflated modelling balloon instead. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. Things I have learnt this week: 1. Shopping in Lidl is almost like shopping in Waitrose, but half the price. 2. Supermarket trolleys have specially built platforms at the back for your crate of ale. 3. Nothing changes in Eastenders, except that the cast look older and rougher. And Michelle Fowler is no longer played by Susan Tully. 4. Sitting in the back of a car driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road can be quite an experience. 5. It is impossible to walk around Primark without a bemused expression on your face. Although they do give out paper bags for your shopping, which may go some way to explaining its popularity. 6. The bus is still the easiest way to travel. We got back from High Spen in less than 10 minutes and for a cost of £2.65, even cheaper than the Westin to Sas Al Nakhl. 7. The weather forecast is unreliable, hence the need to carry a coat and umbrella everywhere ‘just in case’. 8. Lots of museums are free, with a suggested donation of £5. 9. Will and I don’t understand ‘Contemporary Art’, so it’s a good job entry to The Baltic was free. The only things we liked were a black and white picture of birds which when we got closer we realised was made up with the words of a song, the effect when you leaned over the staircase, and the view from the top. View the full article
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