The Most Impossible Place…

6 04 2009

When I flew to Africa four years ago, I went via Dubai. We spent about five hours in the airport there and it was an amazing experience. The airport is massive, designed as you would expect of anything in Dubai, on a huge scale. My knowledge of the place was non-existant at that time. I knew we were in the ‘east’ somewhere, but I couldn’t have told you what country.

Suffice it to say my knowledge has grown since then, and I have come to view Dubai with awe and fascination. The sheer nature of the projects that are undertaken is testament to human ambition and ability. The vision for the city is staggering, and the look of the projects is amazing. The whole place has an aura of creating impossibility. I have watched countless programmes (usually on Channel 5) about the building of the islands, or the tower, or the golf course, and have come away believing in the creative potential of the human being again. Yes, it is over the top. Yes, it is disgustingly wealthy. But I still maintain it is a fascinating project to witness the evolution of a city from nothing in little over a decade.

Yet there is the side I’ve never thought about too, that of the workers. I don’t know why I’d never thought about them, maybe because in a city that is as wealthy as Dubai, I’d presumed this wealth would filter down somehow. It obviously doesn’t. It was with interest I read this article. I am unable to watch the accompanying programme tonight (there is a rather important football match on), but will watch it when I have the opportunity to. It should be fascinating, and for me at least, enlightening viewing.

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A Grand Death…

11 03 2009

Today, I have been reliably informed by the radio, is no-smoking day. A day designed to encourage people to give up the disgusting habit so as they don’t kill themselves early. I was listening to an interview with a young man about the day. He smoked, and dismissed the day as a gimmick, something designed in absence of anything better. He also said that he didn’t care about the health effects of smoking as he wasn’t feeling the effects yet.

I was appaled by his attitude. This, apparently, is the sort of ignorant, self-harming, worthless individual we should be helping out. Right. Forgive me while I struggle to find any degree of compassion. I get that many people take up smoking due to peer pressure, and do not fully realise the risks when taking up the habit, but for someone to be so stupidly nonchalant about the whole thing is beyond me. I do not get why any full grown adult would take up the habit knowing full well the risks and consequences of smoking. I’m wondering if anyone can explain it to me.

Secondly then, the campaign seems to be the last chance saloon for anti-smoking campaigns. It has got to the stage where the only thing people will listen to is money. It is no longer about cancer, or death, or the appearance, or the anti-social aspect, or the smell. It is about money. Cold hard cash. The campaign suggests that in one week you will have saved enough to have a cheap flight abroad. In one month £176 will have been saved. In a year £2111. I sort of wish I had this sort of money to burn as quickly as smokers do. In fact, this money is only if you smoke 20 a day. There are many people who smoke much more. What sort of careers do these people have that lets them burn over two thousand pounds a year?

My final gripe is much simpler. The campaign, in Birmingham, is taking place in Victoria Square. It is a day full of fun and festivities, with one of the local radio stations offering those who turn up to try to stop smoking the chance to win £1000. I’m sorry, but what? Win a grand by giving up smoking? Seriously? It’s not even giving up, it is merely the promise of giving up. I remember Ned Flanders’ comments about ‘good intentions’ and think that this applies here. Why should anyone be rewarded for promising to kick a disgusting anti-social habit that was entirely their choice to take up in the first place? “Here you are, you were either stupid or ignorant. Let us reward this. Have a grand.” Why should there be a financial incentive? It is beyond me. All it does is seem to trivialise the issue of smoking into some form of competition where everyone has the same chance of winning.

I’m sorry, but I think smokers get what is coming to them. It serves them right. There are enough places to learn about the risks and consequences, yet still people take up this habit. This woeful lack of intelligence, or foresight, or sheer stupidity all deserve to be punished, not rewarded.





The Big Sheik Up…

4 09 2008

This week has been one of the most unbelievable in footballing terms for a long long time. As new owners aquired Manchester City on Monday, they immediately agreed to fund bids for various players worth around the £30million mark. On Monday, long time Chelski target Robinho was the first arrival at what has quickly become known as “Middle Eastlands”. He arrived for £32.5million. Other offers for players such as Berbatov and Torres were soon made known too (Torres was apparently subject to a £50million offer). The new owners have quickly upset footballing circles, circles based in tradition and history.

As they plan to revolutionise football, I am left wondering quite what the appeal of Manchester City is. Yes, they have a brand new stadium (one less thing to worry about – look at the mess Liverpool are in with regard their prospective stadium), and some very good youngsters, but aside from that, were City really going anywhere? They got a new owner just a year ago, but Dr Thakshin’s dodgy finances have meant he has quickly reliquished power to the oil-rich buyers from Dubai. It is easy to forget, but City were in the Championship (or Division 1) as recently as 2002. There are more established clubs in the Premiership to pick from (Everton are crying out for investment as Moyes has struggled to finance players this summer). Manchester City just seems such an odd choice. I don’t get what the appeal is.

Then there is the knock-on effect this will have on the club. As I already mentioned, Manchester City have one of the most promising youth set-ups in the country. They have already brought through players such as Shaun Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards and Michael Johnson. There are others who have immense potential too. What will happen to this policy (of which I am in favour) once the best players in the world are brought to the club for stupid amounts of money? Will they be forced out to find other clubs? I think they will be left with little choice.

Then there is the manager. Mark Hughes (of whom I am a huge fan) is one of the best young managers in the league. But if he fails to match his employers ambitions with silverware, he too surely will be on his way, to be replaced with someone with more managerial clout (Jose Mourinho is still hot footballing property, don’t bet against a return to England for the self appointed “special one”). The best players, after all, need the best manager.

There is a short-term nature to this. If the man at the helm fails (as happens – Mourinho couldn’t deliver the Champions League despite huge financial backing) then they will be sacked. It’s a simple formula really, but one which is potentially very disruptive both to the players and to the fans. I have always maintained football clubs need consistancy, but this formula does not allow for a manager building a team, and a squad. It gives him a short-term goal of ultimate success, but nothing more permanent. In the long-term, this will put prospective managers off the job, simply because they are more realistic than the prospective employers.

So there are exciting times ahead for City, yes, but there is also a feeling of suspicion on my behalf. The Chelsea revolution has stalled, despite appearances, Manchester United have shown that money doesn’t necessarily buy success (compared to Chelsea they spent little – until signing Berbatov for £30million – this summer). City fans will be hoping that the same thing doesn’t happen at Eastlands. I fear it might, to the detriment of football as a whole.

There is much more I could add with regard to the huge sums of money involved in the game now, but that’s a different point for a different time.





Anyone fancy giving me a job?

5 03 2008

As I am very much on the lookout for work following the end of my university studies, I was pleased to see this news floating around.

The minimum wage has helped very many people in work earn enough money to live on even when everything else has been taken away. Whilst trying to work out how much money I would have to survive next year, obviously the only benchmark I had was the minimum wage. This increase, albeit by only 21p, is mcuh welcomed. What irks me though is that as a youngster for my academic year, if earning minimum wage, I would be stuck at the £4.77 level as opposed to people in the same year earning £5.73. That whole pound difference really does add up.  It’s about £8 a day. That’s £40 a week. To me, that’s a lot of money to be missing out on just because my birthday is in August.

Leaving my issues aside for a moment though, I was surprised to find out that there were still some 150,000 people being paid under the minimum wage. Personally I don’t think I would stand for it, but I realise that circumstances dictate otherwise. If you need the work, you are glad of the income, and if you earn £5225pa, you avoid income tax. The question is whether you could live on that much a year. Especially with costs rising all the time.

I will return to my initial musings then: is there anyone out there who reads this that fancies giving me a job?

No? Damn…