The end of the teenage years
This is my 52nd Blog of 2019. At the end of the year is is usual to look back, but in this case it is also the end of the decade. The end of the teenage years of the 21st Century so I thought I would look back over the past ten years.
With a digital camera – and a good filing system – it isn’t difficult to do, even though there are thousands of photographs to go through.
Carry on blogging
Although I only started the blog when I came to Dol, for many years I had sent an annual Christmas Photo Album, with images taken throughout the year. This was before the first Blog had been invented, before Social Media and a host of other on-line platforms which today we take for granted.
Starting in the late 1990’s I uploaded annual albums to various on-line platforms. I think I chose them badly, because none are still available.
Google+ has gone, as has MSN.Groups, but I do still have the photos. I keep all my photos backed up onto external hard disk drives, just in case…
What did surprise me was my consistency. Every year there are felines, DiY jobs, history, plants and gardens, together with innovation in different areas. I very seldom take photographs of people!
Although by year the order may differ, the same threads are clearly there throughout the prose.
I recently looked at trying to load all the blogs from the past five years, so they are available in one place. I gave up. The time it would take to find and format the photographs, edit and load the text and link everything, for the number of people who might read one just didn’t seem worthwhile.
Without further ado, here is a photo essay look-back over the first half of the 21st century’s teenage decade.
At the start of 2010, I began my fifth year working for Abu Dhabi Police. Here the police HQ, before construction work started on the old Civil Defence site to double the available space.
I had opted to live in a villa, close to my Bateen office, because it had a garden.
The tree which shaded the villa is a Manilla Tamarind. The local kids used to pick and eat the fruit.
My Emariti neighbour had his trees removed when he moved in. He asked me one day if I had trouble with the Djinn (Genie / الجن) who live in trees. I told him no, but there was a local cat burglar who used the tree to come in when he was hungry…
I had my weather station set up. 37ºC outside was a standard spring and autumn temperature. 30ºC inside was normal when the air conditioning stopped working, which it often did.
The reinforced concrete walls though acted as a Faraday Cage, so the weather station, being wireless, often lost the signal from outside sensors.
I created a modification to add an external antenna. Just a bit of electronic open heart surgery, but it worked. This is the same station I am using today.
I encouraged wildlife and fed the local birds on my study windowsill. All the windows were one way glass.
My office was at the police helicopter base, where there was a small air force of 17 helicopters..
Being the Interior Ministry police aviation adviser was an immense privilege. I got to go flying and see the Emirates from the air.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with the grounds still being landscaped in 2010.
A laser straight highway dissects the ever shifting sand dunes.
When on the unfenced highways, you would often see camels, here with their young.
Along with colleagues, I was involved in planning and stress testing the police operation for the first Abu Dhabi Formula 1 race, at the then brand new Yas F1 track.
Abu Dhabi city is built on an island. Here the Al Maqta bridges cross the tidal race with the centuries old watch tower in the centre.
As everywhere, New Year is celebrated with fireworks.
After five years in a 25 year old (ancient by Abu Dhabi standards) villa, I had started to look for somewhere else. The neighbourhood was changing and the owner didn’t want to do maintenance.
I used to go out on Friday mornings and drive around looking for “to let” signs.
Through one of the senior staff at the helicopter unit, I found somewhere nice, in Khalifa City, opposite Masdar City
The place was HUGE, but so was the garden. The felines each had a bedroom with ensuite and there was still a guest room too.
On May 1st, Risha came to tell me something had happened. The stray who had hitch-hiked from the old villa had had kittens under the settee. Callie was one of three sisters. She is on my knee as I write this…
I needed to fill the available space, so had my container from Spain sent out. It arrived at Dubai in June and all the boxes were delivered on pickup trucks.
At work I was becoming involved in several special projects, for example organising the annual Earth Hour celebrations.
Then there were the discussions about measuring inputs, outputs and outcomes. A difficult concept to explain in English. Infinitely harder in Arabic!
But at home I could relax in the garden, enjoy the pool and plant suitable shrubs to cover the bare compound walls.
I was still taking photographs and experimenting with low light and time lapse photography.
At the end of the year, I was invited to a friend’s home in Al Ain. Here the barbecue has been lit and the air blower is creating a fire genie from the sparks.
With heat, soil and water most things will grow. In a little under a year from planting, one morning I came down to find one of the banana plants had produced a flower.
It then took five months for the fruit to grow large enough to harvest and eat.
Other plants I grew were Karkade, Hibiscus sabdariffa, used to make Hibiscus tea.
It didn’t rain often then in Abu Dhabi, but when it did, everything flooded. The first 15 months I lived there, we had no rain at all.
As well as the helicopters, I also worked with the police ambulance service, developing a performance management system.
I tried to interest air support with the idea of air portable rescue equipment, to support the police crash rescue vehicles, but there was little interest.
The police set up a complete USAR team, which did include air portable vehicles, for deployment to disasters across the region and beyond.
2012 was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee.
As part of the celebrations in this former British Protectorate, a parade of British made vehicles, representing each year of her reign was assembled. I drove a Mini Clubman 1275GT, in British Racing Green. The finale was a two lap concourse round the Yas Island F1 race track.
Home is what you make it. However I realised that no matter how long I was in Abu Dhabi, it would never really be “home”. So I started to research where I might go next.
I had and have no intention of returning to the UK to live, so using all the on-line resources available, I began to look at different countries.
Another of the special projects I was involved with was the VGT. This is a group of law enforcement organisations who work together on combating child abuse.
In 2012 Abu Dhabi hosted the annual conference. It was very interesting working on such an international gathering.
There is something about photographing the solstice sunrise. Many people see beautiful sunsets. Fewer are around for beautiful sunrises.
Abu Dhabi was changing before your eyes. I saw it before sky scrapers dominated the skyline and when there were still just two bridges on and off the island.
The rate of progress was blistering. In 2013, all the streets were re named and at every junction QR codes were on display to help visitors to navigate.
The old buildings, going back to the very beginnings of the country were steadily being removed, mostly to be replaced with new. The growth was exponential.
The tiny corner shops with the Indian or Pakistani owners were closed, to be replaced by Baqala. These were strictly controlled, with refrigerated cabinets and new displays. Gone were the floor to ceiling piles of flour sacks and the old ways of selling.
I had decided to move to Croatia. It was to join the European Union in July 2013 so I made several visits, at different times of the year and to different regions, before selecting the island of Hvar.
I then had some more visits to look at properties which were for sale. I had a criteria. Somewhere that I could develop. Somewhere with land attached and a room with a view.
To describe some of the places as “ruins” would be an understatement!
Back in Abu Dhabi, the year moved on. Summer was as always, hot and humid.
But taking an afternoon nap comes naturally in this heat.
The gardens around my villa were maturing and some of the special plants, like the Travellers Palm were settling in and starting to thrive.
The Spider lily’s were forming thick clumps.
And trees like the Flamboyant Tree, Delonix Regia, were in flower for the first time.
Autumn saw the annual GITEX exhibition in Dubai, where I was working on the police stand.
Every kind of new technology was on display for the world to see.
December 2nd is UAE National Day, when buildings across the country are lit in the national colours.
Even in winter I had plants in flower in my villa garden.
It was also the official opening of the MoI Child Protection Centre
Another of the projects I worked on, through the CPC, was improving school bus safety
But I still had time to practice Kite Boarding at the beach. The Arabian Gulf is warm even in winter.
Working with colleagues from all the different countries, meant lots of invitations. Like this one to the Australia National Day celebrations.
Climate change was not a phrase that was on everyone’s lips, but my weather station was recording changes to the local climate.
Storms were becoming more frequent.
However it was time to start packing for the move to Croatia. Not everyone was happy about this.
But everything (and everyone) had to go.
Apart from the plants.
It was a shame because the mango and grapefruit trees I planted had their first fruit on them.
At the end of May we waved bye bye to Abu Dhabi, after almost 9 years and set out on our travels again.
The arrival in our new home was uneventful. It had been planned well.
But there was immediate work to be done. 13 cubic meters of space was taken up with wine vats, capable of holding 1,000 litres of wine. I needed the space!
And a month later my container arrived from Abu Dhabi. That’s me done roving!
The summer of 2014 rained a lot. My neighbours said I had brought it with me.
It helped focus attention on urgent tasks – like fixing some guttering…
Building work began by removing and replacing the kitchen roof.
There was history plastered into the ceiling – old newspapers from 1913.
With new walls and a leak proof roof, the things which came in the container started to be assembled.
Other urgent jobs included making doors which were water and rodent proof.
Then there was the spaghetti mess of the wiring.
I had identified re-wiring as an urgent task, so everything I needed had come in the container.
I got the local electrician to come and do wiring in the new kitchen. After his first visit I fired him and decided to do everything myself.
Planning the orchards was fun. I decided to plant trees immediately, then they could settle in while I was doing all the other jobs.
Even though I had looked at the angle of the sun, I was surprised how the trees to the south reduce sunlight hours around mid-winter. And of course, trees get taller every year….
Next week I will finish the look-back. NRC