Friday, December 19, 2008


I have been critical on occasion of the Gulf News, I have even penned critical lines which have been published in the paper, which is how I came to be accorded membership of the Readers' Club. On the first of December, a Sunday, my Sandlands cell phone rang and I was asked in a barely comprehensible sub-continent accent to what location Gulf News could courier something to me. I presumed this had some connection with the forthcoming National Day. But I had to explain that I was far from my old office on the Abu Dhabi Corniche and gave my German office address.

It took a couple of weeks but the DHL package arrived. As an incentive to "keep writing" the gift turned out to be a most elegant gold-plated Cross ball-point pen. Now I don't know which writing instrument to pocket each morning; until recently my preference was for the lovely fat Montblanc which was given as a guest present when we visited somebody very senior in ADNOC!

Irony? You'll understand shortly.

Once, over a period of a few weeks, I collaborated with a Gulf News journalist who intended to write an article about the iniquity of basing end-of-service gratuity payments only on the
basic salary component of ex-pats' remuneration packages. When hired many ex-pats take little notice of how their total pay is built up with layers and layers of 'allowances', over and above the notional basic amount; they tend to look only at the bottom line figure, and fondly imagine that it will be that sum paid out as an end-of-service bonus for each year worked.

I readily admitted that in my own case my basic was less than a third of my monthly pay-out but that I was resigned to the fact that my end-of-service bonus would be based on this lower figure. Indeed I knew this for a fact, having ceased to be an employee at the turn of the year.

This, however, I didn't divulge. Nor did I mention that almost half of that meagre sum due to me is still outstanding.

A couple of days ago - the day the pen arrived - I received an SMS (which is so often the sole textual communications medium used by Sandlands CEOs) saying "just 2 say hi n u will have ur [balance] in ur aacnt 2moro".

Yeah, well it ain't there yet. But it is, after all, Christmas and it's the spirit that counts.

I wonder what the Pythons would have made of the Sandlands?

And, by the way, the story about the basic pay scam never ran!


There is a Santa Claus, and he wears a dishdasha! The payment mentioned above was credited to my account on Sunday, coincidentally the date as of which the days get longer again. Yo Saturnalia and shoukran all round!

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