Until this summer, ‘looming’ was something that, in my vocabulary at least, was done only on dark streets, distant horizons or foggy oceans by ghosts, shadows, ships and baddies.
But, since June, I’ve had to accept and embrace a new definition of the verb because my daughter has taken to ‘looming’ in her room.
And, oh, how it makes me laugh when I call up to DD, because she’s been silent in her room for three hours, and the reply comes back, ‘Yes I’m fine! I’m looming!’ Or I get asked, ‘Do you mind if I loom for a bit?’ [‘Over what?’ I always want to ask.]
You’d think I’d have got used to the new vernacular by now but I still imagine my daughter dressed up as a headless ghost, peering over the shoulder of some unsuspecting victim; or looming out of the mist over our pool in her M&S swimsuit and scaring the dragonflies.
But, to be fair, looming’s a craze that served us well. It kept DD quiet through the boring bits of the summer and has, to date, yielded 268 bracelets, a pair of foot thongs, a belt, a necklace, a headband, two watch straps, two pencil grips, a glasses string, an entire class of little rubbery figures with backpacks, an owl, a Minion, Ana from Frozen, a panda and a life-sized version of a Range Rover Sport (not really on the last one).
But I think it’s a craze on borrowed time – at least in our house. Give it a month or two and I’d bet my bottom dollar the only ‘looming’ being done around here will be me in a ghost costume out trick-or-treating.
After a summer spent browsing the aisles of Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, Waitrose and the joy that is the Marks & Spencer’s food hall, it’s always somewhat disappointing to come back to my local supermarket and view once more its tired looking display of last season’s Easter eggs (still at full price).
In fact, I only managed a 50 per cent hit-rate on this week’s shopping list, because the shop was out of stock of such basics as Parmesan cheese, sour cream, Cheerios and apples that hadn’t been juggled by a blind circus trainee.
But what my supermarket did have in stock was this handy foot-washer – a snip at £100. And, I suppose, really, who needs physical sustenance when you have clean feet?
If I thought I was pushing my luck as the tooth fairy last time DD lost a tooth, I was really stretching it when she lost her first molar yesterday. I was toying with the idea of coming clean rather than going through the agony of creeping into her room and fishing under her pillow without waking her, but then she brought me a little note:
‘Dear tooth fairy,’ it said. ‘I’ve lost another tooth. It’s a special one: a molar! What do you do with all the teeth? Please write back as I love getting your notes.’
How could I disappoint her?
So I wrote a little note back to DD, turning my hand-writing into fairy-writing as best I could (if you’re wondering, the TF grinds up the teeth to make fairy dust, which she sprinkles on herself to make herself fly – right?).
Then I did a dummy-run into DD’s bedroom to check she was properly asleep. Convinced that she was, I slipped my hand under her pillow, did the deed, and skidaddled out of the room, relieved.
Fast-forward to the next morning. The bedroom door opened and DD came in brandishing the note from the tooth fairy.
‘Did she come?’ I asked brightly.
My daughter stood by the bed and looked me in the eye.
‘It’s you, isn’t it? You’re the tooth fairy?’
And what do you do? She’s nearly 10. I don’t want to make her doubt my word when it comes to Santa – a question I know must soon follow.
I needed to pick my battles. I went for credibility. ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Sorry darling.’
‘It’s Santa next,’ said DH sadly after DD had left the room. ‘You know that question’s going to come this year.’
I sighed. I don’t want Santa to stop. I love being Santa.
Later that day, DD and I talked about the tooth fairy.
‘Are you horribly disappointed?’ I asked.
‘No,’ she said. ‘Not as long as I keep getting the money.’ A pause. ‘But now I know why you don’t get presents from Santa.’
I stopped dead in my tracks. ‘Why’s that?’ I asked carefully. Was this it? Was Santa to bite the dust on the same day as the tooth fairy?
‘Because Santa only gives presents to people who’ve been good,’ she said. ‘And you’ve been lying. Tut-tut, mummy.’
Forgive my silence. I was on holiday.
Well, I say “holiday” but, as all expats know, a trip back home can, at certain points, seem more like a month in a Victorian workhouse than it can a holiday. For a start, the children are off school and, unless you either ship your full-time, live-in helper over to the UK with you or don’t mind your offspring ripping each other limb from limb through boredom, you have to come up ways to keep them entertained. Constantly.
The maid-less status also means there’s no help with the washing, ironing, cooking, washing-up and certainly no help spooning dinners into reluctant children’s mouths as they run full pelt around the garden (not that that should ever be happening, but…).
As if that in itself isn’t enough, I have the type job that doesn’t stop over the school holidays so I spent the last month entertaining children with my toes, washing clothes with my elbows and typing with my teeth while Googling ‘Fun things to do with children in London’ once I’d finally coaxed the little darlings into bed. Which, in itself, is an issue when the sun doesn’t set till 9.40pm.
But I’m not complaining. I do enjoy doing it all myself for, as the ads say, a limited period only.
One of the things that does tend to fall by the wayside while I’m in the UK, however, is beauty. Last night I flew back to Dubai with two children, three suitcases, two boxes of Playmobil, an inch of grey roots, a six-week-old pedicure and a rather embarrassing bikini line.
No surprise then that I was up at eight this morning, inhaling coffee and dashing off to a hair appointment I’d made over the phone from London.
“But you haven’t even unpacked!” DH muttered from the depths of our bed.
Priorities, darling: priorities.
We come to England each summer, the kids and I, to get away from the scorching hot summer of the Gulf; the summer that stops the children from being able to play outside and leaves us little choice but to spend three months sucking air-conditioned air into our lungs in shopping-mall play areas, or roasting like boil-in-the-bag meals in the boiling-hot sea.
So we come to England where the children can reconnect with their granny, run about in the garden and breathe fresh air. Well, that’s the theory anyway.
But we’ve been here a week now and the number of hours spent running in the garden has, so far, been zero. It’s been raining cats and dogs. That’s phrase I never use in Dubai but it’s the only way to sum up the amount of water that’s fallen out of the sky onto my mum’s garden this week.
Even the children – and this is saying a lot – are fed up with it. They’ve been throwing themselves around the house moaning, ‘What are we going to do today? I’m so bored’ while I’ve been shivering in my fleece and wondering how many times a day I can ask Mum to put the heating on.
But there has been one silver lining in all this: Playmobil. DS is massively into Playmobil, those indestructible, plastic German toys that I had myself in the 1970s.
Despite Playmobil being incredibly expensive in Dubai (think remortgage the 5-bed villa to buy a Playmobil house), we have a few pieces there. I bought them in England and smuggled them over as part of my 30kg EK baggage allowance last May. But now we’re here and it’s raining, it’s fair season on the Playmobil. All I can say is, thank heavens for eBay.
‘Tis the season for beauty treatments – at least it is for someone like me who doesn’t bother with too much in the way of regular salon treatments unless there’s a holiday looming.
And there’s nothing like looking down the barrel of a day at a waterpark followed by a night away followed by five weeks in the beauty wasteland that is the UK to make me book a bit of pre-trip threading, waxing, shaping and polishing.
But, for me, beauty treatments, unless they involve foot or back massage, are more about endurance than pleasure. Endurance because they’re down-time that can’t be used for anything more productive than making small-talk with a therapist who’s heard it all before. How many times a day, seriously, does she listen to housewives pretending to care where she’s from and how long she’s been here?
Anyway, I digress. So, given the amount of primping and preening that needs to take place this week, I’ve divided it into a couple of manageable appointments that won’t send me screaming into the desert. One for waxing and eyebrows (in and out in 12 mins), and one for pedicure (with an in-chair back massage thrown in – how else can I bear it? In and out in 30 mins).
And today was the waxing appointment. So, there I am, lying on the table, flabby 43-year-old legs bare to the electric light, and the therapist barks ‘Backside’ and gives me that little slap that we all know means, ‘roll over, fattie’. I do, and then I remember that the salon I’m using used to offer cellulite treatments. Thinking about my return from England, where I will be drinking my body weight in red wine, mainlining farm-made Victoria sponge cake, celebrating beer o’clock at 11.30am and gorging on all sorts of pub food, I ask if they still offer it.
‘Nooo, madam,’ she says in that terribly apologetic Filipina way that suggests she may break into tears at the thought of disappointing me, ‘but…’
She pauses and I hold my breath. She’s staring at my backside and thighs as she speaks and, for an insane minute, I wonder if she going to say: ‘But you don’t need it, ma’am!’ We’d both know it wasn’t true – goodness, I’ve seen my butt in the mirror – but the lie would be a kindness that I’d appreciate.
So I wait… and then she continues: ‘But… we offer it in our Barsha salon,’ she says. ‘Very near. I give you the number.’