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Saturday, 30 October 2010

Down under

One thing you can do to pass nine night hours in transit at Dubai is to find a way out of the airport without taking a taxi or free hotel minibus, by finding how to buy a NOL card (Nol means 'fare' in Arabic) which is needed to access a public bus as well as a very efficient looking Metro which doesn't run until 7.00am, though, puzzlingly, we could see trains without passengers running to and fro above the terminal. It took us an hour to find anyone at a desk inside the concourse who could even give us the name 'NOL card' so that we knew more exactly what we sought, but after shunting between our arrival Terminal 3 where NOL cards were unavailable (as we were told when we tried to board a bus there) we took a free airport bus to Terminal 1 where for UAD20 (United Arab Emirates dirhams) - about £4 each -  a machine next to the bus stop efficiently took our paper money and dispensed the blue plastic cards we needed with receipts, and with some sense of achievement we boarded one of the half hourly bendy buses in company with a few of the night and day workers upon which Dubai's flagging economy depends. For twenty minutes our driver whirled through the dual carriage-ways and roundabouts along a placeless corridor of concrete constructions in the company of the many taxis that we'd seen converging with normal passengers on a long queue out of the airport, what sky we could see, like the start of Nueromancer, 'the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.' Now and then the bus speakers announced a stopping place like a machine part code, until of a sudden we were at Satwa Bus Station. Here I stopped to use the WC but found it locked, with a sign 'for staff only'. A man snoozing on a bench outside his shift, handed me his key, and for that charity I'd have spared the city, so much does a human touch make a place somewhere worth recall. In a couple of minutes, having strolled round the bus station - not a distinctive place (but for that key loan) - we gazed up to catch a glimpse of the Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world and might have seen its towering spine of tiny lights in the orange gloom. We caught the next bus back to Terminal 3, having shared a few hours of transit doldrums.
After a 21 hour flight including an additional 9 hours in Dubai and an hour in Singapore Lin and I were met by John at Melbourne Tullamarine,  to be driven tired but relaxed through the eucalyptus landscape to Bendigo diverting to the Malmsbury Bakery for a pie and tea, rain drumming on the corrugated iron roof, shooting from spouts off the street veranda and pouring along the cobbled gutter. In previous years I've seen this land parched, suffering 15 year's drought, all but indigenous trees wilting or become leafless skeletons, the sky cloudless blue, dry creeks, remaining farm ponds dry or holding a pool of borrowed water below their parched banks. Now the skies were grey, the air cool,  even slightly chilly, the upper part of mount Macedon hidden by low cloud, screen wipers working steadily, cars throwing up spray. It was 2.15 in the morning for us, and hardly eleven in the morning in John and Annie's house. "It's more like Corfu rain than English rain" said Lin. Tomorrow we head north past Brisbane for the first seminar on Mayor-CEO working relations in the hot weather of  outback Longreach in northern Queensland.
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Interesting news via June Samaras of green developments in Anavras in central northern Greece and I see that Jim Potts, quoting a depressing tale of ill-tiding about the Hellenic economy in The Daily Telegraph of 26 October by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (plus at least 114 comments), wonders how much of this is alarmism - κινδυνολογία. Well indeed. Keynes, or was it Galbraith, or Ezra Solomon (thanks Google) or - whoever -  suggested economics was invented to make astrology look like science? None of us knows very much as the king knows who summons his wise men for advice in difficult times. I wonder if this is how things felt in Europe in the 1920s; the bonfire of the European democracies that Mazower describes so well in the first half of Europe's dark century. (See: IFS disagreement with the Coalition on interpretation of COINS in aftermath of CSR 2010)
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It's 0255 EST Sunday morning here in lights on as I know it enough now to get round blind, though without my specs I wondered momentarily at the tiny lights of our tooth brushes glowing greenly in the dark, hearing low hum of the fridge, then the lights of our laptops on the sitting room table, ceaseless rain making white noise around the sleeping house. My body's fooled about the hour. Is it tea-time in England - four or five pm - or supper time in Greece? Eightish and already dark again with the earth turning towards our dawn. Who like us lies dead to the world? Who's bustling about their work? I'm somewhere between. We're all up in another three hours to head to Melbourne and fly north to the Queensland outback.


  1. Lucky man, down under. I like the photo...but isn't it para poli kindinos?

  2. Later the Vizer will decide who gets a meeting with his executioner


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Simon Baddeley