We left Abu Dhabi a year ago today, and it seems more distant in time than that.
Adapting to the south of France, buying a house, getting key renovations made, moving in … that seems like the effort of more than a year.
Meantime, lots of things were going on back in the UAE, a country that will always pique our curiosity, after our six years there working for The National newspaper.
The newspaper was sold earlier this year, and will transfer from government ownership to private ownership. It is not clear what the new owners have planned, but we hope for positive change.
Meanwhile, tightened budgets in an era of low oil prices seem to have prompted more movement away from the newspaper … which hits harder because no replacements have been hired.
A good guy (and a competent guy) is sports editor. He knows his stuff and also is one of those who was on board from Day 1 of the newspaper, back in 2008, and he will do his best to keep standards high, in cooperation with those who remain on staff. The hope is that new owners might see fit to bring staffing back up from the current 10 or 11 in sports and closer to the former peak of 20.
I have found myself interested in where some of the people I worked with directly have gone, or will go. (The BBC, Cricinfo, etc.) Perhaps the interest is to be expected from the fresher memories of the co-workers at the job that preceded retirement and perhaps the interesting jobs they are getting are a function of working overseas.
I recently found myself strangely pleased to see several of my former co-workers on a fun video that compared word-usage among Arabic speakers. All of those people were in the newsroom when we left (one lived down the hall from us), and there they remain.
I continue to follow UAE sports. I remain a fan of the national soccer team (still alive in 2018 World Cup qualifying!) and of the domestic soccer league, which is sometimes goofy but always entertaining. There are days when I wouldn’t mind a couple hours of Al Ain v Al Jazira, done by an excitable Arabic-speaking broadcaster.
We both will remember The National as a place that allowed us to end our newspaper careers with enthusiasm and a fine employment package, after experiencing first-hand the sad fade of print in the U.S.
The National remains by some distance the best English-language newspaper in the Gulf … and the UAE continues to be a place of order, sanity and ambition in a tumultuous part of the world.
Here is to more of that in 2017. We will be hoping for the best.