x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Communication: This week's round-up

The cost of keeping in touch, Rachel Weisz’s winter walk, Hefner’s new fiancée, women’s guilt and a Happy New Year.

The need for cheaper mobile phone bills

One of the worst things about coming back from a holiday abroad is receiving your mobile phone bill and seeing how much international calls have cost you. The high cost of making foreign calls on your mobile is also one of the downsides of living in one country, when family and many friends live in another.

In a country such as the UAE, where there is such a high percentage of expats, the need to keep in touch with loved ones makes our mobile phone more of a lifeline than a luxury, so it’s a relief to see that the tricky subject of high charges is at last being addressed.

Fintan Healy, who is in charge of regulating such things at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, says it’s an area that “has to be worked on” because consumers think the charges are too high. And he’s right.

Elsewhere in the world, notably Europe, international call charges became cheaper this summer after a EU legal battle over roaming charges. As a result, the price of calls throughout the EU was slashed by about 60 per cent. For once, the needs of the consumer were put before the commercial interests of the network operators. One watchdog described the 200 per cent profits they creamed off for mobile calls made while in another EU country, and the 300 per cent for calls received as “roaming rip-off”.

Clearly, the European phone companies were in no hurry to bring down the charges themselves and it took EU intervention before they reluctantly agreed. It may well be a case of a government decision here, too.

For many of the poorer-paid members of our society, keeping in touch with parents and children is what keeps them going from day to day as they work hard to send money back home to countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines. They are the hardest hit by high charges, and the least able to afford them.

It would be a relief to us all to be able both to see and hear our loved ones on Voice Over Internet Providers such as Skype, so it is good to know that the subject is at least being discussed by the authorities.  For many, without regular access to laptops and computers, that will never be an option anyway.

My firm belief is that if Du and Etisalat slashed the cost of phoning “home” we’d all make many more calls and stay on the phone much longer. I certainly would. 

The survey carried out for the TRA that revealed increasing consumer dissatisfaction was a small one, although it was a start. Now we need to delve deeper and do some more comprehensive market research on several levels, not least the humanitarian one. It would be a kindness to help the neediest among us to whom the sound of the voice of a loved one makes life worth living.

Is Rachel Weisz the new Bond girl? 

Falling in love with your leading man or woman seems to be an occupational hazard for actors. How easy it must be when both are looking their cinematic best and the plot calls for on-screen intimacy. After it has happened once or twice, though, you’d think they’d get the message that the hothouse atmosphere of a film set perhaps isn’t the best foundation for long-term happiness. Rachel Weisz met the James Bond star Daniel Craig on the set of a thriller called Dream House, set in Canada, and who could blame her if she felt a little flutter of interest in the hunky star. We all remember his muscular physique emerging from the sea in those blue swimming trunks in Casino Royale. 

Despite public denials that they were a couple, made just a few weeks ago, the British press have run a series of photographs of Weisz and Craig in the snowbound wilds of Dorset.

They were pictured hand in hand strolling through the frozen countryside, all wrapped up against the cold. It was the very picture of wintertime romance. 

Weisz recently split from her long-term partner Darren Aronofsky, with whom she has a four-year-old child, Henry. 


A happy Christmas for Hugh Hefner

What a jolly holiday it must have been in the Playboy Mansion where 84-year-old Hugh Hefner proposed to 24-year-old Crystal Harris on Christmas Eve. What exactly do you think attracted the nubile blonde model to the multi-millionaire founder of the Playboy empire whose wealth is estimated at around $100 million (Dh367m) and who has his own private jet and fabulous mansion? Don’t really have to answer that one do we?

Women feel ‘guilty all the time’ for being grumpy, eating too much chocolate

or for not recycling the household rubbish

It’s part of our conditioning, but apparently women are consumed with guilt about something or other at least once a day. It’s usually something unimportant, such as having skipped the gym, eaten junk food or chocolate, or perhaps not having spent enough time helping the children with their homework or being nice to the mother-in-law.

According to a magazine survey, more than half of women asked said they felt guilty four or five times a day. It’s called Guilty All the Time (GAT) and it only applies to women because men just don’t seem to beat themselves up like that.

Not recycling household rubbish is one big guilt trip and being grumpy with loved ones is another. It’s seldom more important than that and stems from -lifelong cultural, familial or -religious pressures to be “good”.

More than half of those questioned admitted that they stay awake at night because they feel guilty about snapping at a friend or being cross with a child and even more women said it gets worse after giving birth.

Speaking as someone who hasn’t been to the gym in a fortnight, has just eaten half a box of macadamia pralines all by herself and snapped at her sister for not washing a red pepper before chopping it up for a salad, I’ve probably just clocked up about a weeks’ worth of sleepless nights.

Happy New Year to everyone

Maybe it’s an age thing, but New Year’s Eve is often such a bittersweet time. You just can’t help reflecting on the plans you made at the beginning of the outgoing year, the unexpected life events, the illnesses, the loss of friends, the stupid rows you’ve had, the thoughtless words that can’t be recalled and sometimes just the things you meant to do or say, but the moment passed.

It’s the one time when people always remember exactly how they felt this time last year. We celebrate the dying of the old year and the dawning of the new for no logical reason apart from the fact that it’s a milestone. At the risk of sounding cheesy it’s also a time to tot up all the good stuff. My granny used to sing me a song made famous by the Irish tenor Josef Locke and used in the 1991 movie Hear My Song. It was called Count Your Blessings and it’s not a bad mantra for 2011.

A survey published this week reveals that about 80 per cent of people no longer make new year’s resolutions. Maybe it’s because they’re just too difficult to keep, often involving losing weight or quitting smoking, and rarely last more than a few weeks, so what’s the point?

After all, it’s only another day in the 365 that make up the year, but many people still see it as a fresh start. How often have you heard someone announce that they’ll be glad to see the back of 2010 or whatever year it is? It’s illogical to believe that at the dawn of the new year things will somehow be different, but human beings can be extremely illogical. So I, for one, intend to make 2011 a year of counting my blessings “for the sake of auld lang syne”. The Robert Burns lyrics, written in 1788, refer to old times, but it’s worth doing it for the sake of the new times, too. So Happy New Year and make it a good one.