x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A roundup of the week's news

And another thing column: a roundup of the week's news from the headlines: The trouble with airports (snow and men), dressing up to avoid a dressing down, and the limits of licence.

Dubai Duty Free is convenient for men to do their gift-shopping while waiting for flights.
Dubai Duty Free is convenient for men to do their gift-shopping while waiting for flights.

Dutiful husbands

Dubai Duty Free is already the world's largest airport retailer and expects its revenue to double over the next six years as passenger traffic grows. I'd love it to give us some statistics about who is buying most, men or women.

I'd hazard a guess it's men. The only time they concentrate on shopping is when they have nothing else to do. I even heard a presenter on Dubai Eye radio the other day announcing that he only ever shops at the airport and even buys his shirts there and all of his gifts. If ever there was proof that women do all the present-buying at Christmas, then that was it.

This is no reflection on the quality of the shops at Dubai International Airport, but I would be really cross if my husband waited till he was on the way home to buy me a present. I'd rather he put some thought into what I would like, rather than buying something just because it happens to be on display at the airport.

Most women start dropping hints around October about things they would like to be given. It usually has to be done several times and never when men are on the computer or making a phone call or even watching a movie on television. Unlike women, men aren't programmed to receive incoming information when they're concentrating on something else.

You see them at the airports hovering around the perfume counters, seduced by pictures of movie queens such as Charlize Theron and Scarlett Johannson and stuffing utterly unsuitable boxes of scent into their briefcases when their long-suffering wives and girlfriends have been wearing the same scent for years - and it's nearly always one they have chosen themselves. How many men actually look at the bottles on their wives' dressing tables and take notes? One of the funniest sights I've seen was a well-dressed businessman, who couldn't have been short of a bob or two, picking up a designer handbag in an airport shop and asking the assistant the price. "How much?" he shrieked on hearing the reply, dropping the bag and beating a hasty retreat.

So if you're a man and you're flying home for Christmas, make sure you bin the duty free bag before you get home and at least pretend you've given your present a bit more thought.

Dress code for bankers: deep pockets, please…

City types were chuckling at the photocopiers last week after a Swiss bank issued a very specific new dress code for its staff. Nothing is left to chance in the new directive from UBS, right down to flesh-coloured underwear for women and plain socks for men, who were also warned that on no account should they wash and iron their own ties.

Women's skirts should reach 5cm below the knee and they should be very careful not to wear blouses that are too tight or have too many buttons undone. They are warned not to wear jackets with shoulders that are too wide, otherwise they will appear "too big with too small a head". Jackets should always cover a woman's bottom, says the guide. There's a fine line between dressing smartly and dressing provocatively, which isn't right for an office environment anywhere in the world.

Men should not carry bulky wallets in their pockets, never wear socks with cartoon motifs, or jackets with more than two buttons, which should be fastened when standing and undone when sitting down.

It's all common sense, says the bank. A flawless appearance can bring "inner peace and a sense of security" they insist in a 43-page document that offers advice on appearance and personal hygiene.

Actually, they have a point. Unless you work for a rock star or a circus, there are some clothes that just won't cut it in an ordinary office anywhere in the world, but it's amazing how many people do wear unsuitable clothes to work. Once, when I was working for a business magazine, a teenager on work experience rolled in wearing shorts and flip-flops. Much to her surprise, I sent her home to change, explaining that I couldn't send her out to interview a chief executive looking as if she was going to the beach.

Years ago, when I was a young reporter, I spent a large chunk of a month's salary on a pair of beautifully tailored plain black designer trousers, only to be told firmly by my news editor that they were "unsuitable" and I should wear a skirt to work.

Dress codes have thankfully relaxed since those days 30 years ago, and out here in the UAE very few men actually wear ties, never mind washing and ironing them. It's worth remembering, however, that we're all judged in a matter of seconds by our appearance and it may cost us money and opportunities if we don't get it right. Professional people can't turn up to the office looking as if they have just fallen out of bed.

It shouldn't be necessary for banks and other companies to issue dress codes but the way this particular directive has rattled around the world from Sydney to Hong Kong is evidence that it has struck a chord. If you don't believe me, have a look around next time you're in a lift in an office block.

The 1990s were a decade when ties became uncool and women turned up at the office looking as if they were on their way to a party. It's interesting that the recession has forced people to smarten up and ironic that a bank is leading the way. Banks have taken a bit of a beating in the past year. Maybe it's time their staff started quite literally to pull their socks up.

Facts are fair game but the classics are off limits

Do you buy the book or watch the movie first? It probably depends on when the story was written and whether it's a novel or a true story. I had not heard about The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz when I went to see the Peter Weir movie The Way Back at the Dubai International Film Festival. It is about a former Polish soldier and six other prisoners who escaped from a Siberian gulag during the Second World War and crossed the Himalayas on foot, the survivors ending up in northern India.

The film has reignited a row about the truth or otherwise of Rawicz's tale. It was an extraordinary journey and several of the men died along the way, but researchers have questioned whether or not Rawicz, who died in 2004, actually made it himself. There is no doubt that he was a prisoner in a gulag, but they say he was released before that particular journey was embarked upon.

In this case it doesn't matter. Weir says there is no doubt that a journey like that was made by somebody, and anyway his film is fictional.

It would be different if film-makers started tinkering with the classics - such as Emma, Pride and Prejudice or Dickens or Shakespeare. There would be uproar in literary circles. It's funny to think that you can mess about with a true story but not with classic fiction.

Don't worry, you're not the only worrier

As if we hadn't enough to worry about, a new survey reveals that the average person spends too much time doing it.

Apparently we think of something to worry about at least seven times a day for about eight minutes each time. In a lifetime spanning just over 60 years, that tots up to two years. Most of us, of course, hope to live at least a decade or two beyond that.

Top of the list is the cost of living and at least five topics in the top 10 favourite worries involve money or the lack of it, not being able to pay bills or having nothing put away for a rainy day, or even spending too much on the shopping.

Right down at number 10 on the list is worrying about upsetting someone. We're clearly a hard-skinned lot, otherwise that would be further up the list.

People in relationships worry about being dumped and everybody worries about their health.

The survey, carried out by the UK energy supplier Npower, seems to prove that we worry too much about things like keeping the house clean or getting wrinkles rather than whether our children are happy. It's definitely time for some people to get a life.

Deserting the sunshine for a frozen travel ordeal

By the time you read this I will either be in freezing, snowbound London or rushing around Spinneys buying a turkey portion for one person.

My suitcase has been packed for several days as I anxiously watch news bulletins about frustrated travellers shivering themselves to sleep on the floors of airport terminals.

The white Christmas I've been dreaming of is rapidly getting less and less attractive as the reality looms with rather less of the white fluffy stuff and too much of travel stress, bad-tempered people, horrid grey slush and temperatures that I had forgotten existed since moving to the UAE. Searching through my drawers for warm socks, I've just realised I haven't worn a pair for three years.

On top of chaos at Heathrow the spectre of a more virulent form of swine flu has raised its ugly head again.

If I do make it back to the UK, it will be one trip to the supermarket and then I will be battening down the hatches and not going anywhere till it's all over.

So wherever you are have a good one. I haven't even left yet but I can't wait to get back to lovely sunny Dubai again.