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365 Day 3 La vista

Hanging at home in Dubai Marina

The first day of the working week is over and I’m chilling on the balcony at home, reading a novel and contemplating life. Everything’s about to change as I soon say farewell to Dubai and head to older, better known shores.

I’m not sure how much I’m going to miss this place, if at all. I’ve missed Istanbul ever since I left it, and nothing makes me smile more than knowing that in under two months I’ll once again be among the swarming masses of a exuberant metropolis, a city that defies any attempt at comprehension, a place so familiar yet so irresistibly foreign.

But tonight I’m enjoying the hum of the traffic in a city that often feels so devoid of human existence. From my balcony I spot a sole jogger. That’s it. No one selling tea, no kids booting a dilapidated ball about the sidewalk, an absence of elderly women exchanging pleasantries and enquiring after each other’s health. No one selling artichokes off the back of a truck. No cats. No quarelling youth. It’s empty here.

 

365 Day 2 Birds Without Wings

It's gonna make you laugh, then cry

If we had wings, do you think we would suffer so much in one place? Don’t you think we would fly away to paradise?

I’m not sure how many times I’ve read this novel but I’m yet to grow tired of the all-too-human characters, the beautifully sculpted insights into daily life during turn-of-the-century Anatolia, and an end that has not yet failed to make me weep.

When this novel ends, you somehow feel like your heart has been a little bit broken. That sinking feeling. You know you just need to move on, that time will heal everything, that the same mistakes won’t be repeated, and finally, that all’s well that ends well.

Except it isn’t.

Marcel Pagnol wrote it best:

Telle est la vie des hommes. Quelques joies, très vite effacées par d’inoubliables chagrins. Il n’est pas nécessaire de le dire aux enfants.

Melancholy is my friend today. I’m going back to my novel.

 

 

365 Day 1 Safa Park

Loving the new running shoes

OK. Today is a good day. It’s a new start. I just managed 15km around Safa Park though I promised myself that I’d finish 20km. Also, I’ve decided that watching my life pass by so fast was enough reason to start that 365 project. Today is Day 1. Let’s see how long I can keep this up.

 

And I love my running shoes.

Best driver in Sri Lanka for your vacation!

Jally, our drive in Sri Lanka

Best driver in Sri Lanka (in my expert opinion)

If you’re looking for the right person to take you around the island, then Jally is your man.

We found Jally from recommendations on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum, and from there got in touch via email. He provided a quote, his responses were prompt and clear and we immediately understood we were putting ourselves into good hands.

Essentially, the driving experience in South Asia often determines your state of mind upon returning home. Paying a fair price for a competent driver who takes you only where you want to go, who speaks English fluently, and who provides insightful local knowledge and is forever punctual, meant our journey becomes effortless. Getting a bad driver means wanting to punch everyone by the time you pass back through passport control on your way home. We paid a fair price and opted for the good driver.

Jally picked us up from Colombo airport at some ludicrously rude hour of the morning and we never looked back. We’d already planned our more-or-less fixed itinerary before departing, and for the next eight days everything ran smoothly. Jally took us where we wanted to go, was flexible as we altered our arrangements,and has 20 years’ experience of dealing with foreign tourists which has given him an aptitude to understand his customer – not once did he so much as hint at taking us to a local emporium to buy anything – and that alone is enough for me to recommend him highly.

In short Jally will take you where you want to go and not take you where you have no intention of going. He is well-educated, softly spoken, polite… and answered every question we asked in a manner that displayed personal insight and not memorised facts and figures from guide books.

Thank you Jally for making our Sri Lanka experience an exceptional one.

Get in touch with him at rehana_jaleel@yahoo.com

GG مع السلامة

I’ve been in Dubai for over a year and have sadly accumulated the grand total of approximately three friends.

One is leaving tomorrow morning on a flight to Brazil (which leaves approximately two friends), and GG intends to spend his days doing things in a more relaxed mode that would ever be achievable here.

So he bids adieu to this:

What the UAE abounds in

And in less than 48 hours will greet as his new home, this:

What Brazil has to offer

Understandably, I know why you’re leaving GG.

Best of luck and I shall be over for carnevale sooner rather than later.

Zighy Bay – The Best Resort in Oman

View from the villa balcony

Six Senses Zighy Bay is the most astoundingly beautiful resort I’ve ever stayed in. After living just over a year in Dubai, and as much as I secretly love the bling-infested buildings and inhabitants of the UAE, Oman continously beckons for a getaway that puts my mind, once again, at temporary ease.

After previously rewarding tent-on-deserted-beach adventures in the northen Omani enclave of Musandam, it was time to check out Zighy Bay, a Six Senses resort located a short hour-and-a-half drive away from home.

We set out early on Friday morning, my bag containing little more than a toothbrush and boardshorts. I was counting on the five-star resort stocking everything else I’d need for the weekend. After a cursory glance at our passports, the Omani border guards waved us through and a short while later we were climbing the steep ascent to Zighy Bay, tightly tucked away in Musandam.

Everything required and nothing more

The picture-perfect view enraptured us from above as our driver descended into the bay. All was all turquoise water, sandy beach and date palms. The Omani village looked so sleepy that it might actually have been in a coma, and the heat ensured that I would be within an hour.

Arriving at the resort we were introduced to Julius, our butler. I liked that very much and we decided as a group that the most apt thing to do was to rattle off a string of outrageous requests before we even set eyes on the villa.

Enough has already been written on other sights praising the Omani-style villas, replete with infinity pool, sunlounges, outdoor shower, enormously oversized flatscreen TV (why bother?) and every other amenity that adorns these kinds of places. A whole lof of love, care and attention has gone into the details of this place – dagger-shaped towel hooks fashioned from wood, cigarette lighters encased in a straw sheath. Kinda over-the-top but in a very stylish way. Nothing gleaming, no shiny surfaces and no outlandish use of gaudy colour. This was not Dubai.

Yes, I'm mostly enjoying the infinity pool

The infinity pool quickly became the focal point for the weekend and most of my remaining time in the resort was spent, beverage in hand, moving from one end to the other like a half-mad polar bear trying to make the best of it’s undersized enclosure.

Julius arrived with ice to chill the champagne. Just in time too since the feta cheese and smoked salmon were demanding an appropriate accompaniment. After about five hours and several bottle of France’s finest, I thought perhaps that the beach might be worth a look…

Omani beaches are spectacular. All of them. The water is almost always pristine and there’s inevitably a dramatic backdrop of majestically barren, jagged mountains that were clearly dumped viscously after some primeval upheaval in an age long forgotten. The Omani desert landscape is a beautiful and serene as any I’ve visited.

About as far as I ventured on foot from the villa

The sun set slowly while the temperature hovered insistently at an offensive level. Summer heat in this part of the world is quite unlike any climate I’m ever likely to experience again. Sweat beads poured down my back as I sat in the restaurant and exhausted myself by chewing. I was glad to return to the airconditioned comfort of the villa and the newly fill bucket of ice. Juluis was clearly doing his job well.

It was an early night.

Breakfast was ludicrous. The menu was more irrationally large than my imagination and I feasted my way through a fruit platter, some club sandwich construction and regulation coffees. A donut on the way out the door ensured I’d suffer indigestion for my gluttony.

Back in the infinity pool, I started to get that feeling we all suffer from when the first working day of the weeks looms into view. But I managed to blot out such hurtful visions by returning to my polar bear-like existence for a few more hours, chatting with my fellow villa guests and failing to read a chapter of a novel.

Eventually, we had to leave, calling Julius one final time to collect us and our belongings. I was unconsolable and pleased that Juluis knew it too, transporting us the 250m from villa to reception area by golf cart, since in my state of tristesse it would have been impossible for me to cover the distance unaided.

I seriously want to go back. I became used to the infinity pool. Dubai Marina just seems shoddy without one.

This is what Oman is all about - relaxation

 

 

 

Uploading your CV or resume

The online versions are often harder to read. Really.

This week I’ve read, scanned and skimmed 276 uploaded resumes. Yes, I’m in currently involved in the joyless and thankless task that is recruitment.

It’s a tiresome thing to have to upload your CV to an impersonal website. With the advent of outsourcing came the growth of crappy recruitment agencies and the disappearance of the humane from Human Resources.

Instead of a quick chat over the phone to clarify job location or verify desirable criteria, today applicants are faced with faceless websites that even the best marketing and copywriters can’t change then from what they really are: a people shredder.

Incomprehensible formatting = declined application

I’ve just spent the better part of two full day’s of work churning through candidates’ resumes. Two days after which I have incredibly bleary eyes and no longer any desire to drink just one more cup of instant coffee.

Very few of the applicants are going to the next stage of the recruitment process, primarily since they did not meet the essential criteria. However, after ploughing my way though countless screens of data, I think it’s worth making a couple a suggestion to those of you out there who do upload your CV from time to time.

Most importantly, keep two versions of your CV.

Strip down and go naked

The first can be that MS Word version with fabulous, colourful and inventive formatting. I enjoy perusing a considered CV that contains information in a consistent manner and that present a logical flow. Even better, it’s pleasant to come across a CV that has a personal touch; a dash of colour or a non-standard title font. This is the version you email as an attachment or present in person to that sour-faced recruitment agent who’s only after you for the commission he’ll make.

The other version should be naked. A stripped down, de-formatted, bare-bottomed resume that contains no quirks at all. The best way to create this is to copy your fancy word-processed number and paste it into Notepad. Hey presto, just watch the three hours of font selection and border choice disappear as the bones of your life are laid bare in black and white Courier font.

This stripped-bare edition should be what you upload. If you can make sense of the Notepad version, you can bet I’ll be able to work my way through it easily as well.

As I became progressively tired during the course of my second evening reviewing the resumes, it struck me that I was declining applicants without remembering any information about them. Why? Because at 1am I could no longer be bothered translating enigmatic computer code to decipher what had originally been expressed.

Sad, but true. At least 50-odd applicants didn’t make it because their unreadable tables, weird font choices, underlining, strikethroughs and a myriad of other formatting selections didn’t translate well during uploading. I refused to struggle any longer and just simply declined the applicant.

For those of you who upload your CV regularly, it’s certainly worth considering half an hour’s extra toil to save a neat, clean and boring Times Roman file. At least it promises to get you closer to the second step of the recruitment process.

The joy of English spelling

To learn pronunciation from a dictionary, you have to learn a separate alphabet, the IPA. It's not fun.

Since the world we live in is strange and unfathomably difficult to comprehend, it seems proper that English, once confined to a barabric, rain-sodden people of northern climes, should rise to the status of lingua franca and make life infernal for the hundreds of millions of students who attempt to learn it as a foreign or secondary language.

And since language seems to raise the passions of people almost as much as religion or sport, it’s often a subject best left to those who love composing screeching rants to newspaper editors.

English spelling is, at best, laughable

You cannot escape the fact that English spelling is at best, retarded. French spelling is possibly even more so, though as current French politics relegate la langue francaise to the neophytes of religious bigotry and sour grapes, English is set to reign supreme for a while yet. For English speakers who happen to speak another language, one of the most startling revelations about our own language is its almost arbitrary spelling. And while I could wax lyrical about how easy it is to learn Turkish spelling conventions or the almost child-like orthography of Castilian, I’ll attract too much hate mail and virus-laden spam. This will make me tired.

English spelling conventions are an approximate visual representation of the spoken word. And often, of the spoken word as it was uttered several hundred years ago. Even without delving into a dissertation on historical linguistics, it doesn’t take much to conclude that when ‘enough’ was written for the first time, it pretty much didn’t sound like the word as we pronounce if today. Otherwise, common sense would have dictated ‘inuff’, or else something close to it. The ridiculousness of English spelling is easily apparent from a lesson my tortured English teacher once gave in high school, where he scrawled ‘bough’, ‘rough’, ‘through’ and ‘ought’ onto the board to enlighten us a little further on the capriciousness of our orthography. He never did explain how things got that messed up, but he was like that.

How to spell correctly and influence people

So here is a very short list of suggestions for those who really want to discover the path to spell English words ‘correctly’.

Decide on American or English spelling. Your words, your choice. Don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise. Like your football team, make the choice and then stick with it for life.

Secondly, purchase a big, fat dictionary, one that you’ll be proud to own and that you’ll keep as a handy reference book. A big, fat dictionary might be either the Oxford English or the Longmann American. I have both and I worship them equally.

Thirdly, a search on Google cannot help you spell with great certainty. That compound adjective or doubled-up vowel for which you seek clarification online will be spelled with a great deal of variety by a large number of people. One dictionary, one reference. Stick with it.

Next, a word processing spellchecker can facilitate your task but it cannot replace your big, fat dictionary. Not yet, and not for a while longer. When it does, I’m out of a job.

Further, never listen to anyone who states that such-and-such is the only correct spelling. The person is most likely an extremist, and quite frankly, we need to educate these types before the twenty-first century breeds more of them and spells the end of civilisation (love my pun).

Love your English, whatever it may be

Lastly, don’t be too precious about spelling. Just be consistent. My good friend is a talented designer, by nature is an accommodating and sensitive soul. Her online jewellery site contains a post on ‘Jewelry versus Jewellery‘. Since she sells fabulous creations online and across the world, Simone is smart enough to know that people might pass judgement on here site if they visit, say, the British English site from North America. She has it sorted.

It will already be evident if you’ve read this far that I do not use American English anywhere on my website. My choice. And though I suggest you own one big, fat dictionary, I possess 42 of them, in all shapes and sizes, colour and hues. They are my tools and that’s what I spend my day doing. Making sure that the spelling and grammar in a document are consistent and understandable to the greatest number of any given audience.

To finish, I do love the French. I’m just frustrated with the current course of events, where the government is taking a course against a significant portion of it own population. Dismal, really. But that’s for another post.

Compound adjectives (are fun)

Today I came across an advertisement from a national tourism authority that is promoting the azure waters, spectacular mountains and breath taking landscapes of this attractive Balkan getaway.

Unfortunately, though I’m no purist when it coming to language, breathtaking is the most appropriate form to use here. Even breath-taking appears awkward to my eyes, since the adjective has long been in use, perhaps to the point of cliche. The merged form is instantly recognisable to any native English speaker.

Still, compound words can cause everyone to be hesitant periodically, primarily since their form can change over time.

Compound words consist of two or more words that carry a new meaning. Some combinations begin life as two separate words, separated by a space, then move to a hyphenated form and eventually to a single word. Even so, hyphens are sometimes maintained in some compounds, especially where both components are multi-syllabic.

Here are a few guidelines to help you determine whether or not you really need that hyphen.

Compound adjectives formed from two adjectives, or noun plus adjective

Always place a hyphen between the two words, such as in sugar-free, stone-deaf, white-hot and bitter-sweet, regardless of whether the noun it describes precedes or follows the compound adjective.

Compound adjectives that are set phrases

However, a noun plus a noun, or an adjective plus a noun is less likely to be joined, as in the tax office report or an equal opportunity employer. That said, if the expression is modified further, a hyphen can be inserted where the meaning might become ambiguous, such as in annual tax-office report.

Compound adjectives with a participle

Forms such as a gut-wrenching film or school-supported facility usually take a hyphen, though I personally waver between inserting and omitting the hyphen. Depends on the time of day…

A compound adjective consisting of a participle or adjective preceded by an -ly adverb has no hyphenation, as in a fully functioning brain, while a compound adjective preceded by an adverb not ending in -ly takes a hyphen, as in a fast-paced marathon.

Should a compound of this kind be modified further, perhaps by very or extremely, a hyphen is not used, as in an extremely well written play or a particularly well known individual. The absence of a hyphen extend to compounds adjectives consisting of comparative or superlative adjectives or adverbs plus a participle, as in the least understood teacher.

Confused? Such is the work of an editor.

Compound adjectives that are adverbial phrases

These are always hyphenated, though I’ve seen enough in-house style guides to perceive that such usage is on the wane. For example, it is suggested to write up-to-date document and million-year-old fossil, even though my instinct tells me that this may become an obsolete usage as the movement towards minimal punctuation expands.

Personally, I don’t like the hyphens here, and the forms are so ubiquituous as to be recognisable without the hyphen, or italics for that matter.

Compound adjectives involving numbers

Use the hyphen, as in a eight-part documentary and a fifty-storey office building.

Compound adjectives containing capital letters

As with compound adjectives containing italics or quotation marks, omit the hyphen. Otherwise it’s overkill. A Federal Court jurisdiction, an ad hoc presentation and a ‘devil may care’ attitude are busy enough from a punctuation perspective to be understood clearly without a hyphen.

And that, in brief, is the joy of compound adjectives.

Back to the breath taking scenery of eastern Europe. Maybe it doesn’t look odd to you. The guidelines for English usage are just that. They are not rules. Using or omitting the hyphen rarely hinders comprehension. Time will sort that one out. Just as I still prefer to write awe-inspiring today, it’s likely that within years the hyphen will disappear here too.

To avoid the whole issue, avoid breathtaking and awe-inspiring and just go visit spectacular Montenegro. But their tousim authority really ought to have employed a more thorough editor.

New sandals

I kind of feel repulsed by shopping centres. Never liked them. Mostly, being in retail space reinforces the inferiority complex I have along with a certain frisson of je ne sais quoi: I don’t belong. I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why anyone would want to spend time in a cavernous concrete temple of artificiality, and anyway, what do people do once they get there?

I know that some indoor shopping centre contain bookstores, stationery shops and hardware stores, and I certainly enjoy wasting my time among shelves stocked with paper, calligraphy pens and drill bits. Lots of little things arranged together side by side, to form a magical whole. Whenever I’m roaming among aisles of glue and adhesives or comparing wall plug sizes, I always think about what it must be like to perform a stock take in this environment. Imagine spending your afternoon attempting an accurate count of erasers, bath plugs or Lonely Planet Guides?

Personally, I think working in retail would be a death sentence for me. Not only because of my poor social skills and unwillingness to sell anything to anyone, but because standing on my feet for eight hours a day seems is as appealing as a Los Angeles-Sydney non-stop flight seated next to a Philippine Roman Catholic nun. Which, by the way, happened to me. I have no desire to repeat the experience, and certainly not every day of my chosen career.

Still, some people choose to work in retail because they feel good about helping people and enjoy giving customer satisfaction. There is a infinitely small percentage of retail staff that can read me, who can feel the ‘stay away from me’ vibe’ which I emit whenever I start browsing. The remainder of retail workers can be divided into those who follow me unceasingly around the shop and those who look at my appalling dress sense and ignore me therewith.

The latter group of retailers are uniquely to be found in clothing and accessory shops. People working in clothes stores and I, well, we are mutual in our antipathy towards the other party. I consider fashion very low on the ‘list of things a human needs to achieve self-satisfaction and happiness’. It’s down there with ‘meeting a celebrity’ and ‘shaving every workday’. Luckily, human are a rich, varied and surprisingly disappointing species, so there are a plethora of types who couldn’t think of any place better to spend the day than ‘Gap’ or ‘Harvey Nichols’. Good, now you people can serve me.

However, don’t look at me like that. I know I look crap and I’ll never make it into Vogue, but to be fair, I think Anna Wintour would look good as a coat and Karl Lagerfeld is one of the reasons that the Taliban isn’t all wrong about western values. One of my closest friends once said that on a scale from one to ten in dress sense, I scored a zero. Luckily for me, I couldn’t give a toss.

However, I cannot live without sandals. And today I bought some. They are very special. The man told me how wonderful they looked and I asked him to be quiet because this would be the twentieth pair I’ve bought in my life. They just happen to be back in fashion now, so spare me the sycophantic obsequiousness. I’m wearing them about the hotel room because I can.

With any luck, sandals will be in fashion again for the new few years and at least once more in 2023, probably the next time I have to enter a clothing store. Of course, the irony is that my article on Istanbul shopping centres is the most read of all the online pieces I’ve written. Rubbish.