Archive for December 2009
Dubai has an ice cream van service. Conceived and run by an entrepreneur from Essex, ‘Desert Chill’ had a few teething problems (and you think British councils are jobsworths) but I’m pleased to report it’s tinkling nicely round our community now, its tinny renditions of ‘Greensleeves’ and ‘Boys and Girls Come out To Play’ taking me back straight to the scorching summer of ’76 (yes, I remember it – JUST).
Anyway, today I was sitting in my study during a welcome five-minute break from childcare, looking out at the silver bells in next door’s palm tree, and at the inflatable Santa on the roof of the house opposite and thinking how funny it is that it’s Christmas, because the weather is just like the kind of British July we all hope for – sunny, blue skies, 26 degrees. If only!
And then I heard the chime of the ice cream van – the sound of a British summer in the heart of Dubai. I could almost taste a Mr Whippy.
The music stopped; there was the sound of screaming children running after the van, then the music started up again. This time it was ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed-Reindeer.’
Now that was odd. I can honestly say I’ve never heard an ice cream van playing ‘Rudolph’ before. Have you?
Oh, how I hope he starts an authentic Fish & Chip van. Actually, forget the fish, I’d settle just for the chips.
Forget “‘tis the season to be jolly’” – over here in Dubai ‘tis the season to get the parents over. Every day, the gated expat community where I live swarms with Airport taxis, particularly an hour or two after the flights from the UK get in.
First come the rich grannies – the ones who flew Business Class and got through the airport quickest. They turn up with their expensive luggage in the dark blue or silver airline limousines. They’re followed a little later by a clutch of Airport taxis carrying the Economy-class grannies – the ones who had to queue a bit at Passport Control.
The limos and taxis pull up next to the bougainvilleas (it’s not just me – almost every house has them) and disgorge stiff old ladies in winter woollies and sensible shoes, the pallor of a British winter still clinging to their pasty faces; their bright lipstick and a couple of spots of rouge hastily applied at the airport. These sweet old ladies with freshly done hairdo’s (‘Oooh, love, make it last – I’m off to Dyoo-buy for me ‘olidays this year’) get out gingerly, stretch and rub their aching hips as they hand over clinking bottles of Duty Free and WHSmith bags of magazines to the daughter (-in-law) while the son (-in-law) gets the suitcase and hand baggage out of the back of the taxi.
I’ve never seen so many grey perms and blue rinses in my life. Our community is over-run. In the next week, they’ll be at the local supermarket, picking out air-freighted copies of the Daily Mail and the thick-cut marmalade they can’t live without; they’ll be wearing their snap-on sunglasses as they walk the family dog; they’ll be in the parks, pushing little tots on the swings, their patience endless as they don’t get to do it all year.
On Christmas Day, they’ll be in the Golf Club, the Polo Club, the beach hotels, eating their turkey in the sunshine in silly paper hats and hoping they left the heating on at home so the pipes don’t burst and willing the cat not to set off the burglar alarm.
God bless the grannies. Wish my mum was here this year.
Tonight’s post is not about me. It’s about a report I saw in our weekly tabloid paper, The Express, called ‘Caught InThe Act.’
I quote: ‘Police caught 6,385 people – or 21 daily – for offences on the beach in the first 10 months of this year.’
But we’ve only heard about the infamous ‘sex on the beach’ scandal (or was that 2008?). What on earth are these thousands of people doing on the beach that’s so terrible as to be counted as an offence? Here’s a breakdown:
- 927 people caught ‘causing discomfort’ to other beachgoers (wow). Like, putting sand on their pizza?
- 427 people caught swimming in their underwear – now, as someone who’s witnessed this I have to just add that we’re not talking about La Perla here; we’re talking about men in saggy white Y-fronts who decide to take a dip in them, usually followed by a rummage down the pants to get the sand out. Really, it’s not attractive (though fairly amusing).
- 348 people caught taking photographs of women without their knowledge (fairly creepy).
- 98 illegal immigrants arrested (if you’re illegal, avoid the beach).
- 11 people caught consuming alcohol (only 11?).
- 8 cases of theft ( – in 10 months?! How I love Dubai).
- 2 people wanted in ‘dud cheque’ cases caught randomly (how about that for coincidence!).
- 2 homosexuality cases.
- 1 caught consuming drugs.
- 1 indecent act (only one?! Maybe the Vince & Michelle message hit home).
BUT the most amazing thing for me in these figures is this: 4,596 people were caught for ‘swimming fully clothed’.
Now there’s a case for getting a new bikini for Christmas if ever I saw one.
All you need to know about me tonight is that I’ve baked far too many cupcakes for the school fete and I’m talking on the radio tomorrow morning: tune in to Dubai Eye at 9.30am to hear me live.
I’m about to go out for a girls’ night dinner, to say farewell to a dear friend who’s moving to Doha, Qatar, for her DH’s job. We’ve had it planned for about a week and it’s nothing major – just an easy night in the Golf Club that we all live around.
Anyway, turns out it’s a national holiday tomorrow: Hijri New Year, I think. Most people won’t notice it as a day off as Friday is the weekend anyway, but what it does mean is that the Golf Club – and any restaurant or bar here – won’t be serving alcohol.
You read it right. No alcohol.
[Can you imagine bars and restaurants in the UK not serving alcohol because it’s New Year?]
For any religious festival or holiday, no alcohol is served from sunset (or 6pm) the night before, till 6pm on the day. Of course I respect it – and it’s a good reminder that Dubai, for all its Westernised appearance, really, truly is a Muslim country.
But it’s very unfortunate for our farewell dinner.
Is it an example of what an alcoholic I’ve become that I found it hard to see the joy in a night out without wine?
DH said I should take a hip flask – well, maybe he fancies the challenge of trying to get me out of jail, but I won’t be risking it. I’ll just have a couple before I leave home, and do the night in reverse. At least I’ll go to bed sober.
Last night I dined at the Polo Club. My friends in England think it’s amazing that I can nip somewhere so glamorous for a quick supper, but I’ve lived here so long I see nothing strange, anymore, about nipping five minutes down the road to a Polo Club to watch the horses being put through their paces in the floodlit arenas while I relax with a glass of wine and check out the fit men in breeches and riding boots.
Anyway, the ‘occasion’ last night was a much-overdue catch-up with a fellow Housewife. We’re both pretty tied up during the days, what with school runs and Housewife jobs like baking, so we rarely get a chance to meet up. Most of our gossiping and chatting is done online, in those rare moments when we get to take a G&T to the computer for five child-free minutes.
I knew it was going to be a good evening as my Housewife friend also loves both wine and cars, so we have a lot more to talk about than cupcake recipes, matt nail polish and how to discipline the staff (though the equation between skinny jeans and pear-shaped hips does probably feature quite highly on our list of popular topics).
Knowing that she was pretty clued-up on matters automotive, I was looking forward to sounding her out a bit more about my choice of new gas-guzzler – she’d already used a Jeremy Clarkson article to put me off a Lexus LX570, and has been gently nudging me towards an Audi Q7.
DH, however, was convinced we were going out to gossip about some mutual friends. As I heard the unmistakeable growl of my friend’s Range Rover (black, HSE) in the driveway, DH said,
‘Got your keys? Purse? … List?’
‘What list?’ I asked.
‘Your gossip list,’ he said, innocently. ‘Is it alphabetical?’
Before I had a chance to even splutter my protest, he continued:
‘No, it can’t be. You’ll be wanting to start with T…’
As it turned out, he was spot-on. The car-talk lasted five minutes. T’s ears must have been burning.
The Jeremy Clarkson quote on Lexus:
‘Nobody who’s interested in cars, whether they’re a man or a woman, will buy a Lexus. They’re just not zingy enough.
‘So they are only for people who are not interested in cars, people who simply want four reliable wheels and a seat. And this is where things split. Men are happy to go down the Lexus route whereas women are not.’
Read the whole – and very entertaining article – at:
During my first pregnancy, I developed quite an obsession with how difficult it was going to be to drop the baby weight. Some mums appear to lose it easily; other never lose it, and wear their squidgy tummies, wobbly upper arms and back fat as the battle scars of ‘being a mum’.
Each to their own, but I know I’d rather have thin thighs, a flat tummy and a kiddie’s painting stuck on the fridge as proof of my mummy-hood.
It didn’t help that I was reading a lot of celebrity gossip magazines at the time – of course all the celeb mums drop the weight a heartbeat after the tot pops out. I knew that would never work for me, so I started looking at every new mum I saw out and about and judging what shape she was in – was it possible, I wondered, to be a ‘real’ person and still shed the weight pretty quickly?
Yes, it seemed. Maybe it’s just Dubai, but almost every new-ish mum I saw was looking pretty fantastic. There’s nothing like knowing you’ve got to spend half the year in a bikini to provide motivation, I guess.
Anyway, like it or not, we all compare ourselves to others. Today, for example, a new mum was coming to the house to pick up some baby gear. I was confident she’d at least be fatter than me.
She wasn’t. She was amazing. Tiny. Not skinny, just perfect. She looked like she’d never had a baby in her life. Perhaps I’d misunderstood – maybe the baby stuff was for a friend.
‘The kids are in the car,’ she said. Kids?? Her new one was three months old.
I’ll be the one eating lettuce for lunch. And dinner.
The other day I was flicking through Dubai’s edition of Grazia when I saw a picture of someone who looked familiar. I checked the name and, indeed, it was a woman I used to do a bit of business with ‘back in the day’ (when I had a life before babies) – a few years ago.
But the strangest thing was this: while I’ve aged in the time since I last worked with her, she hasn’t – she’s mutated. I’d like to say she looks younger or fresher or something, but it wasn’t that. It was kind of weird – she was stretched and ironed so she had absolutely no expression at all; a pursed little mouth; a face devoid of any lines; and funny little eyes that looked like holes in her flat-ironed cheeks .
Either it was a really bad airbrush job, or she’s not going to the right cosmetic surgeon. Honestly, it was scary.
It was a good moment for me to see the picture because I’ve been giving more and more thought to the idea of what a cosmetic surgeon could do for me. I don’t want to look 18 again – I’d settle for ‘awake’ and ‘healthy’ – two quite elusive goals when you’re averaging five hours of broken sleep a night.
Anyway today I was stocking up on my under-eye Polyfilla and eyeliner at the Bobbi Brown counter in Harvey Nicks when I asked the sales lady to recommend the right blusher for me. For the last six months I’ve either looked too pink, too red, too brown or too ruddy as I’ve worked my way through a series of self-chosen colours.
The pro took about one second to pick one out, slapped it on my cheeks – and took 10 years off me. Not only did I look younger, I looked healthy, I was glowing, I was radiant, my eyes sparkled, my hair colour was revitalised and I had amazing cheekbones. [Yes, I did spend a few minutes pouting at myself in the bathroom mirror – it was THAT good.]
So here’s my tip for the day: get the right blusher, and never let an idiot in the art department airbrush your face.
At this moment, I’m feeling lucky to be alive. You may wonder what generated such a feeling – with me living in the Gulf, I’m sure all sorts of front-page-worthy images of destruction come to mind but, actually, what had me on red alert today was the rain.
Yes, we finally got our winter in the form of 16˚C and buckets of rain. The thing about Dubai in the rain is, it’s a bit like England in the snow. Everything stops. No-one knows what to do. Houses leak, cars aquaplane, roads flood. I mean, really flood. There’s not much in the way of drainage over here (why bother when it rains so infrequently?) – so the rain just stacks up on the road instead.
Then you get the usual idiots bombing along at 130kph until they hit half a metre of flood water in the fast lane. It’s not pretty. I passed six accidents just on the return leg of the school run.
All this is hair-raising enough, but one of the most dangerous things about Dubai in the rain is that everyone feels they have to put on their hazard lights. Not only can you not tell if someone’s indicating, but you also can’t tell when you’re about to slam into the back of stationary traffic. I once asked an Indian chap why people drive with their hazard lights on in the rain and his argument was:
‘The rain’s a hazard, so I put hazard lights, no?’
So, to recap: deep floods, low visibility, no headlights, speeding drivers, hazard lights blinking. I’m glad to be home. Given that the ceiling outside DD’s classroom had collapsed and torrents of water were streaming into the corridor, I wonder if there’ll even be school tomorrow… it’ll be just as well if it’s cancelled as the pool’s got about 2cms to go before it overflows into the living room. DH and I will be up all night throwing the pool water into the flowerbeds. Ah, desert life.
Every wife, at the bottom of her heart, dreads the call that tells her her husband’s been in an accident. Especially so, I would imagine, if her husband’s career is a dangerous sport.
DH and I have spent many a happy afternoon on the beach with a picnic, watching the thrill and excitement of the Class 1 World Powerboat Championsips off the coast of Dubai. The deafening noise of the powerful engines, the plumes of spray, the smell of burnt fuel, the throb of the helicopters that tail the boats – it’s a pure adrenalin rush and something I’ve always felt honoured that we could watch right on our doorstep.
How proud we are of Dubai’s Victory team.
As a wife and mother, my heart goes out to the families of Mohammad al-Mehairi and Jean-Marc Sanchez, who died in yesterday’s tragic accident.
They cut off the water yesterday morning. Just like that. No warning.
Next door (they may be noisy but they’re also quite friendly, which is a difficult combination) hung over the garden wall and told DH their taps had run dry. Not good news any day, but we were preparing to host a barbecue for 20 people.
‘Did they pay their bill?’ I asked somewhat condescendingly as we’d just enjoyed long, hot showers. DH checked our water tanks. One empty; one half full (ever the optimist). I told Gerlie and her friend, whom we’d hired to help out with the barbecue, to take it easy with the water. I thought I’d explained the problem clearly but, within five minutes, a load of useless things were washed, the half-tank was gone and the taps were dry.
The first guests arrived. The skies clouded over, a cold wind whipped across the pool, and it began to rain.
Have you ever just felt that events were conspiring against you? I mean, really, the one thing you can count on in Dubai – the one thing we Dubaiites bang on about to our friends back in Blighty – is this: at least if you plan a barbecue, you know it’s going to be sunny. Ha ha.
Still, the guests rallied. I handed out cardigans with the wine. The pergola’s slatted roof kept out most of the rain; we got through the afternoon without anyone developing hypothermia, or even frizzy hair.
But then the guests started needing the loo. Without water, you can’t flush the loo. You can’t wash your hands. Twenty adult wees and a few kiddie poos stuck in the loo is not a pleasant thought. I was contemplating offering a unique experience – ‘country wees’ behind the bougainvillea – but thankfully it didn’t come to that.
The water came back on just as Gerlie and her friend clocked off – and just in time for the washing up. Typical.
[I couldn't post this last night as the one flash of lightning and the teaspoon of rain we had brought down the internet connection...!