A construction chum had to do a three-week stint in Dubai recently to cover for a colleague. In vain he pleaded every reason under the Sun to be excused, but had to do his chokey in the end. I've vowed that I will never, under any circumstances, set foot in the ghastly place. Every hotel is a luxury hotel, twinkling with light and glass and gold and reflections from polished stone, with subservient and deferential staff and every pampering luxury one can imagine. But not a second-hand bookshop to be found in the entire Kingdom. This is truly what Hell must be like - an eternity in Dubai. Not surprisingly, it is a favoured destination for Labour councillors and senior council officers; there's something about the gross vulgarity, the hatefulness, the massive gap between rich and poor that attracts them like magpies. They can draw their designer blinds against the sight of Indian contract workers plunging past their windows, one expects. Dubai is the bowge of the panderers and flatterers.
Give me the salt tang of a muddy English creek at the waters retreat, the approach of an unconcerned Oystercatcher, and the company of Swans. Give me a cranky waterside pub where the carpet may be sticky but the ale is chilled and fresh, the laughter honest and the company equal, with staff who'll answer back. Give me the sound of church bells in the twilight air as the ringers practice, the sweet smoke of singeing meat and herbs and the dust of narrow rough-metalled tracks and byways.
Wherever you are this weekend, except Dubai, have a good one.