The other day I was opening a bottle of tomato ketchup when I noticed the expiry date was long past. The contents of the bottle also looked a bit strange.
On my next visit to the store, I asked for an exchange. The counter clerk shrugged his shoulders and said "Go see the manager." What a different attitude to that of stores in Asia, Europe and the United States!
My mind ran to a friend's suggestion that a body to watch over consumer rights in the Gulf should be set up. I agree that it is difficult to enforce consumer rights, and the laws need to be drafted so that effective and immediate restitution can be made if something goes wrong.
The major issue is that the consumer should have the right to seek restitution from the shop or company that sold the goods or provided the service. Most items bought in Saudi Arabia are imported and the consumer has no access to the manufacturer, so a manufacturers' guarantee is useless unless it is binding on the shop or selling agent.
Another issue is that the consumer should be able to insist on a choice of three options: repayment of the money in full, replacement of the item, or repair of the item to the correct standard. This choice means that the consumer would not be bought off by uncaring sales agents, but could insist on quality delivery.
Taking consumer rights beyond the purchase of goods into the purchase of services is harder but essential. Computer software upgrades, telephone lines, TV maintenance are all as much part of our lives as are buying cars, shirts and televisions.
If you have ever felt that you are too old for that taxing game of tennis or that stamina-sapping marathon, think again.
Today age is the new frontier and every day we see more and more people taking up sports and I am not referring to teenagers. I am talking about those in their 70's and even older. One of them is Joginder Singh, a 105-year-old Sikh who fought in World War I.
Every day he runs up to 20 kilometers and rides a bicycle. He is a vegetarian, neither drinks nor smokes and lives on milk and Indian bread.
Joginder Singh is not alone. His racing rival, Larry Levis from San Francisco, was running six miles a day, working full time as a waiter and training with weights until he was well past his 100th birthday. In fact, only 2 weeks before his 106th birthday, he took part in a 10 mile run.
Noel Johnson from San Diego took up exercise when he was 70, forty pounds overweight and had 6 months to live. Eighteen years later he set up a world-age-group best for the marathon. He ran and cycled until his death at 96.
In New Zealand, Derek Turnbull 70, dubbed the "fastest old man in the world", still competes in "open" as well as age group events. In 1987 he became the first person past 60 to run a marathon in under 2 hours and 40 minutes. Such men make time their friend and give us a glimpse of what is possible and what we can hope for our future.
Personally I like to have a strong game of squash with players half my age about three times a week. Stepping off the court, I am sometimes met by stares and even comments about how people on the wrong side of forty should not indulge in strenuous exercise.
The next time someone does that I will stick this article right in their face.
Of the many jobs women can undertake, nursing is one that frequently springs to mind. It is therefore regrettable that the profession that has not appealed to many Gulf women. For one reason or another, women have shunned this honorable profession, compelling the authorities to recruit nurses from abroad.
Nurses have a unique opportunity to contribute to the overall health of the individual and the community by advising on the various aspects of primary care. A nurse is in the front line in the defense against illness, communicable disease and health education. It is important that nurses realize their responsibility to the community and take on such work with dedication and commitment.
At a forum on the theme " Partnership for Community Health" for this year's International Nurses' Day, Sheikh Mohamed ibn Saqr Al-Qasimi of the Sharjah Medical Zone stressed the importance of nursing and how it is in accordance with the teaching of Islam.
Nursing also has changed. Gone are the days when nurses were supposed to do menial jobs, bring in food and clean up.
Today they have to reach a high professional standard. With the advance in technology it has become imperative for nurses to be well-trained in health care as well as in the use of sophisticated machines.
Today the nurse acts as a partner to the doctor. She operates computerized equipment, takes readings, analyses results and helps the doctor in patient care or recovery.
On several occasions I have observed how senior doctors listened to nurses' views and opinions while handling their patients.
Nursing is a highly professional and rewarding job and society should view it as such.