x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Football, water failures and UK rain fail to spoil a classy trip

Frank Kane's trip began so well. Then, much like his football team Tottenham Hotspur, it disappeared down the drain in disappointment and despair.

Tottenham Hotspur: a master of disappointment. Reuters
Tottenham Hotspur: a master of disappointment. Reuters

It began so well, then, much like my football team Tottenham Hotspur, it disappeared down the drain in disappointment and despair.

This time last week I was happy as a spring lamb, kicking my heels for joy on the surprise news that I had two tickets for the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium in London.

What joy. A few days back home, see the family, including my football-mad 15-year-old son, and a big football match at the national stadium. Surely nothing could go wrong with that?

It got better as I went through the boarding gate on to an Emirates Airline A380. The young chap on the desk looked at my pass, looked at his computer and then, before my astonished eyes, tore my ticket in half. "I regret to inform you, Mr Kane"…he began. What? I'd forgotten to pay my Dewa bill and wouldn't be allowed on the flight? My passport had expired with my noticing and I couldn't travel?

"I regret to inform you that you've been upgraded to business class," he finished, with an ironic little grin.

As I settled back in the reclining seat and took a first sip of something sparkling, I thought, "Surely, this is an omen. How can anything go wrong after this?"

I had forgotten, in my biz-class euphoria, Tottenham's fathomless ability to disappoint, of course. As anybody who watched the match will know, it all fell apart in a welter of bad refereeing decisions and miserable play by my team.

But thank you, Emirates, for those few hours of happiness - before reality struck with a vengeance.


Despite the football, it was still a good time to get away from Dubai. My apartment block in the Marina has been going through one of its increasingly regular bouts of utilities and maintenance failure.

The block must be about eight years old, but if things go on at this rate, I feel sorry for anybody who is relying on the full 99-year lease. I cannot imagine it habitable after 20, let alone nearly 100 years.

The AC regularly fails for several hours on end, there have been disruptions to electricity supply and, of the six elevators that serve the 53-floor block, it seems as though at least three are permanently under maintenance of some kind or other.

Last week, it was the turn of the water supply. A burst pipe on the 29th floor forced the building management to cut the supply to 20 floors, both above and below that level.

Hour after hour passed with no water. How you take it for granted; how the smallest thing becomes a chore without water, let alone major tasks like bathing my 3-year-old daughter before bed.

But also how quickly you adapt. After 12 hours, I lost all inhibitions about using the "communal facilities" by the swimming pool, where my girl eventually got her bath.

By the following morning, it was almost as though we'd lived all our lives in one of those communal housing projects they had in Soviet Russia - queuing patiently, complaining about the authorities in a conspiratorial way.

The maids proved the most resourceful of all. As I headed back up to my apartment on the 44th floor, two were chatting happily as they rinsed out the washing in the kiddies' paddling pool.


It may be that Britain will have to resort to equally Spartan practices if circumstances continue.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, it's a "fact" (according to the water authorities) that the UK is in the middle of a drought that will last until Christmas at least, and could be a disaster for wildlife and farmers.

Well, you could have fooled me. It rained on each of the four days I was there, and there was nothing to suggest anything other than business as usual for Britain's meteorologists: rain and more rain.

Maybe this is the real sign that Britons are going soft. Now they even refuse to believe the evidence of their own eyes. It's raining, yet there's a hosepipe ban in place across most of the country.

As summer stokes up in the UAE, they should take a trip to see what real dry weather looks like. That should toughen them up.