There’s a strict division of labour in our house. I’m not going to beat about the bush and pretend it’s anything it isn’t: DH earns the money, does the odd jobs / dirty work and drops the kids at school every morning, and I do everything else.
And, in our household, “everything else” catches a lot of stuff, from meal-planning and cooking to managing the finances, maintaining the house and garden, planning the holidays, making sure the family paperwork is all up to date (passports, visas, alcohol licence, ID cards and so on), trying to make sure we have some form of social life – oh, and looking after the children with all that that entails. I’m sure you all know the score.
Usually, we all bob along nicely: we both know our place and our system works for us.
But this week there’s been a hiccup. DH’s car developed a flat tyre. In my job as sorter of “everything else” I took the tyre to the tyre place: it’s not a puncture, it’s a cracked wheel rim that’s causing the tyre to lose air.
So, in my role of sorter of “everything else” I searched for new rims for DH and presented him with a few options, which he – in his role of boss of “dirty work” – rejected. He found a place that mends rims. I took the rim in to be mended… and DH was left with no car.
As you can imagine, this lack of car has had a profound effect on DH’s ability to drop the children at school every morning, so the division of labour has shifted: I’ve added morning drop-off to my list of daily chores while DH has enjoyed an altogether more leisurely start to his days.
‘Mmm,’ he said this morning as he lay in bed with his coffee and I galloped about the house gathering children, lunches, homework and swimming kits while making sure I had two contact lenses in and at least some knickers on. ‘I could get used to this… and… you seem to be enjoying doing morning drop-off?’
If looks could kill, my friends, if looks could kill.
DD, who’s now nine, has, to date, lacked any interest whatsoever in the facts of life. I know some people’s children start asking questions quite early on but I’ve managed so far to dodge the whole issue of the birds and the bees simply because DD hasn’t yet asked a difficult question.
That all changed on Saturday.
Picture the scene: all four of us in the car, going out for lunch.
‘Mummy,’ pipes up DD, apropos of nothing at all. ‘Why are there males and females in the world? I mean, why isn’t there just one sex? Why do we have to be different?’
‘Yes, Mummy,’ says DH, beaming at me and rubbing his hands with glee. ‘Why is that?’
I’m driving, for goodness sake! On the highway! My mind is otherwise occupied!
‘Well…’ I say. ‘Because… umm… goodness! What a good question!’
The thing is, DD is old enough to hear the facts of life and I’m happy to tell her (with the aid of an age-appropriate text book, of course). But we’re in the car with DS – aged five – who’s all mischievous ears and, to my mind, still too young to be told about any other wonderful things he can do with his willy.
I’d imagined this conversation would take place in DD’s bedroom – DD and I alone somewhere planned, not ad hoc in the fast lane of Emirates Road. I think about fobbing her off, but then opt for a halfway-house of a reply:
‘Well, because, to reproduce – you know, to have babies – you need a male and a female. And if you didn’t have both, the human race would die out.’
I nod to myself: well dodged Mrs D.
‘But,’ says DD after a pause, ‘what does the male do? What does he contribute? I know the female has the eggs and the baby grows in her and stuff. But why is the dad needed? What does he add?’
There’s a silence as I think about what to say, then DH jumps in.
‘The money,’ he says. ‘The dad contributes the money.’
Although I do a good impression of being a full-time housewife, I do sometimes still get invited to events, especially if they’re to do with the wonderful Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.
Last night was such a night and I was pretty chuffed to be able to throw on some glad rags and attend the opening of the Dubai International Writers Centre.
Located in a traditional house in the historical district of Shindagha, the DIWC will offer a year-round programme of writerly events, as well as provide a place of peace where writers can come together to talk about all sorts of literary things (such as how it suddenly becomes vitally important that you iron the duvet cover and clean the skirting boards Now! Yourself! when you’re faced with a blank page and 2,000 words to write).
Guest of honour was none other than His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
This morning I told the children all about my evening.
“And guess who was there?” I trilled as I flipped omelettes at 6am. “Sheikh Ahmed!”
“Who’s he?” asked DD.
“Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline.”
“You mean he’s, like, the boss of Emirates?”
“Well, sort of.”
“Oh wow,” said DD. “Did you ask him why they always forget your veggie meal on the plane?”
I have a confession: I’m Mrs Dubai – and I joined a gym.
I’ll just wait for you get up off the floor where you fell in shock that your sauvignon blanc-loving exercise-phobe of a blogger is actually considering Lycra… (actually, no Lycra is involved: that would be too cruel).
I do appreciate that I haven’t set foot in a gym since 2001 (seriously) but there comes a point in a 40-something woman’s life when she looks at the wobbly thighs and has to decide: is this it? Am I going to slide into my late 40s in loose-fit M&S slacks, or am I going to continue buying bikinis?
So I decided to make friends with the cross-trainer (it’s a machine, DH); to acquaint myself with the treadmill, the rowing machine and the stair-climber. I decided to start doing weights. And you know what? It’s going well.
I credit my success in the gym – and by “success” I mean the fact that I’ve actually been four times – to the system of public-shaming that the gym utilises.
They give you a heart-rate monitor and, should you choose to register it, whenever you wear it in the vicinity of the gym, your exercise stats are displayed on public screens for all to snigger at.
Under your name, it tells the entire population of the gym what your heart rate is, how many calories you’ve burned and, crucially, how much effort you’re putting in so they’ll know – they’ll know! – if you’re just strolling gently along reading the Daily Mail on your iPhone or actually giving the cross-trainer some serious wellie.
Furthermore, I think there’s a shame – no, definitely there’s a public shame – in leaving the cardio area until you’ve burned at least eight fingers’ worth of Kit-Kat calories….
You didn’t hear this from me but, being quite a competitive person who likes to exercise alone, I think I could just have found the motivation I need to turn that 5kg of extra body fat into 5kg of muscle… I’ll keep you posted.
As I start writing dates into my 2015 diary I see that, back in about 2000, I bought tickets for DD, DS, myself and a friend as yet to be chosen to attend a One Direction concert in Dubai in April 2015. At the time of booking, DD was all over 1-D. Her room was plastered in posters of the band; she wore those rubbery bracelets with hearts and the names of Harry, Zayn (and who are the other ones?); her school book-bag bore badges of their greasy teenage faces.
When I booked the tickets – as I remember, at precisely 10am when the online booking opened and on a day I had better things to do given I was literally about to fly to London – I was the best mummy, like, ever.
But, as I opened my diary to April 2015, a little shudder ran through me. Would this be like Bieber-gate? Having bought tickets to Justin Bieber’s Dubai concert also about a decade in advance, I found that, by the time the concert rolled around, DD had completely grown out of him and had precisely zero interest.
(It probably hadn’t helped that I’d done a pretty comprehensive smear campaign using the Daily Mail as evidence of how unworthy the Biebster was of our time and money, what with spitting on his fans, rocking up late to concerts and getting done for drink-driving) – thankfully I managed to sell the tickets and no animals were harmed in the avoidance of said concert.
But is 1-D to meet the same fate, I wonder?
While eight-year-old DD, when I booked the tickets, was heavily into the band, nine-year-old DD – who will be 10 at the time of the concert – is into other things. Malory Towers (yes, I had a hand in that). Books by Louis Sachar (thanks to her school for that). American Girl dolls (DH brought one back from San Francisco; anything to keep her off the iPad)… and 1-D is suddenly 1-Who?
Well… if four middle-aged ladies would like to join me ogling Harry, Zayn and [blank] and [blank] next April, I suppose we’ll at least be able to see over everyone’s heads. Every cloud and all that.
October 23 will go down in history as Mish-Mash Day. It was, for my children’s school, the last day before half term, which meant that, as it was the closest school day to October 31, the younger half of the school usually celebrates Spooky Day – Hallowe’en to the rest of us.
This year, however, the school also wanted to fit in a Breast Cancer Awareness Day before October was out, so October 23 was also designated Pink Day.
And then someone else remembered it was Diwali. Oh, and that it was Egyptian Day for Year 4.
So what we actually had yesterday was a mish-mash of all four. The youngest two years dressed up for Spooky Day (we note that this seemed to include quite a few Disney princesses – spooky? Maybe). The senior school wore pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. The infants wore normal uniform but brought donation money and decorated pink cupcakes before they made lanterns for Diwali… and Year 4? Well, they came to school as spooky pink Egyptians. As I said: Happy Mish-Mash Day.