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Kids have a close look the lion cub at the Kids' Park and Zoo just outside Al Shahama in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Kids have a close look the lion cub at the Kids' Park and Zoo just outside Al Shahama in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

From the desk of Frank Kane: Tigers and pussycats

What can bankers learn at a zoo? And what poetry goes over best on a shuttle in Davos? Frank Kane finds out.

I bumped into a banker friend yes, some of them do still have friends in an entirely unexpected place at the weekend: the Kids' Park and Zoo just outside Al Shahama in Abu Dhabi.

The zoo, incidentally, is one of the best I've ever been to, with an impressive array of animals kept in good environments but still accessible to visitors, inevitably with a large number of children among them.

I was there with my 3-year-old, who was happily feeding the sheep, camels and llamas in the "farm" area of the zoo, while my banker's 6-year-old son was being wowed by the Siberian tigers and the other big cats.

We sat and had a coffee and a chat, catching the odd roar or bellow from the cages as we talked.

"All this stuff about Fred Goodwin back home, it's really damaging to all of us and the profession as a whole," he opined, referring to the former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). "We're all being tarred by the same brush, and it's open season on bankers anywhere in the world."

I didn't really share his view. Fred the Shred, as he was known from his days as a ruthless cost-cutter, had been responsible for the strategy that made RBS go bust and forced it to be bailed with 45 billion (Dh261.22bn) of taxpayers' money.

Being stripped of his knighthood was the least the authorities could have done, and far less painful for him than being stripped of his multimillion-pound pension.

We agreed to disagree, but it was only when I was heading off that I noticed my friend was peering fixedly at the vultures' cage. Obviously looking to learn something on technique.


My search for the perfect football-watching venue is at an end. I've roamed far and wide around Dubai to find the best place to watch my team, Tottenham, and have finally decided the Underground, a bar at the Habtoor Grand hotel near the Marina, ticks all the boxes.

For a long time, the Dhow & Anchor at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel was the venue, and I watched some good games there beneath the shadow of the Burj Al Arab. But for late-night games, it was a no-no, closing early amid guest complaints about noisy football fans.

I'd been put off by the Underground's reputation as a Liverpool fans' venue, but the crowd there on Monday night - Liverpool versus Tottenham - was split 50/50 between the two sets of fans, and there was an enjoyable bit of banter thrown in. There appears to be a TV screen for every viewer, so no fighting over the best spots. An excellent evening, thank you Mr Al Habtoor, and I will be back.


Last word on Davos. I had the pleasure of sharing a shuttle (one of the little minibuses that do the icy trip between Klosters and the Congress) with Nina Rodin, an artist from Geneva.

Nina was there with her husband, David, a philosopher and an Oxford University authority on the ethics of war and conflict.

It was all genteel chat, until my mobile rang. My daughter cannot sleep without hearing The Owl and The Pussycat by Edward Lear, and I've found myself reciting the poem to her in Dubai from some faraway places.

But in the Davos shuttle in the presence of an artist and a couple of bankers, it was surreal. When I finished the poem, there was a little ripple of applause, and Nina said: "That was one of the loveliest things I've ever heard".

A few days ago, I had an email from her, again mentioning how much she enjoyed my recitation, and ending: "Wouldn't it be good if all the fathers at Davos took time out to recite a poem to their children, regardless of what their high-powered friends thought?"

Indeed it would, but I doubt it will catch on. The image of Klaus Schwab, the deadly serious founder of the World Economic Forum, pronouncing the words: "What a beautiful pussy you are, you are, you are " is just too bizarre.


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