Archive for February 2010
Last night, after a couple of weeks of unseasonably hot weather, we had a much-needed and spectacular storm. As the lightning flashed away like a tourist’s camera in the distance, I sat outside on a sunbed with a glass of wine, and watched. While the thunder was still a way away, the rain started to splatter, slowly, in big, fat teardrops… then the wind started.
Oh boy, did the wind come. The trees bent double; our palm tree turned into an octopus – its branches waving in every direction. Rain and sand lashed the house. Within minutes, our street was turned into a raging river (we have no drainage system here; it doesn’t rain ‘enough’ to warrant it).
I watched a Volvo XC90 (a 4-wheel-drive) plough its way down the street, the water gushing over its bonnet and up its windscreen. I’ve not lived through a typhoon, but I think this came pretty close.
DH of course, went on ‘flood watch’. Our house – like most of the new-builds here – leaks. Usually only when the wind comes from the north-west, slapping the rain against our two-storey window – we know just where to put the towels and buckets. But tonight’s wind came from the south-west, bringing with it a whole new checklist of windows and potentially leaky balcony doors.
Spare a thought, though, for the cleaners at Dubai Mall. Just as they’d mopped up the mess from the leaky aquarium on Friday, the mall was flooded by rain.
We just got back from a long weekend break, which we’d tagged onto the end of DD’s half term. We were really tempted (read: ‘desperate’) to go somewhere overseas, but I remembered my vow, on returning from Cyprus last summer, not to fly anywhere until DS is off the formula and a little more amenable to the whole travelling process.
There’s simply nothing relaxing about getting baby formula through airport security; nor about changing a pooey nappy in aeroplane toilets; nor about checking in pushchairs and car seats; nor about having an 11kg baby sitting on your lap for eight hours because he’s too small for his own seat.
So we went to the Cove Rotana hotel in Ras Al Khaimah (‘RAK’) – one of the Northern Emirates of the UAE.
RAK’s just under an hour’s drive through the desert from our house in Dubai, but it feels like another country, it’s so different; it’s a much more simple, traditional place, that really feels like a settlement in the desert. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Dubai’s actually built upon the desert sands. Not so in RAK – it’s hard to go two minutes there without seeing a herd of camels or goats mooching about.
There used to be only one or two hotels in RAK but a couple of glitzy new ones have popped up in the last few years. The Cove Rotana is one of our favourites as it’s styled like a village, with winding cobbled streets leading to the rooms and villas.
This time, we booked a two-bedroom villa on the lagoon, which means you have to cross little wooden bridges to get to the beach, and take a golf buggy up the hill to breakfast, which you can imagine goes down really well with DD.
I have a soft spot for the beach at the Cove; I think it’s one of the best in the UAE. At low tide, you can walk over to sandbanks, spotting fish, crabs, shellfish and even families of starfish.
Yesterday, we returned to our villa to find Housekeeping had been – knowing we had DD, they’d left a ‘rabbit’ on our bed (see pic). It’s this kind of unexpected attention to detail that makes us return again and again. If only they’d heat the swimming pools, it’d be pretty perfect.
This morning I was invited to the most glamorous coffee morning ever: on my friend’s new yacht.
I kid you not. One day, she was just a girl like you and me, then she bought a yacht (with two double bedrooms!), and now she’s living the life of the super-glamorous.
‘The other weekend,’ she said on deck, as we lingered over fresh coffee and Bateel date cookies, ‘we just dropped anchor out at sea. The kids played in the shade below deck, and DH and I dozed in the sun as the boat bobbed on the gentle swell…’
Anyway, this morning, without even setting sail, was glamour enough for me. I haven’t been down to the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club for about 10 years and, as one of the oldest clubs in town, it was like peeping into another world; a simpler world; Dubai before it became brash and bling. Real life, you could say.
It was a beautiful sunny day, shoals of fish danced in the green water, the boat bobbed gently up and down, the sky was clear and blue. I’m not the sailing type myself, but today, I began to wish I was.
Obviously there’s the cumulative effect of nearly a year of interrupted sleep, plus the immediate effect of a few nights with under four hours a time (sick kids, say no more).
But, really, I’m almost too tired to sleep these days. It’s like my body’s forgotten how to, despite the exhaustion. I fall into bed, then lie there wide awake, my mind racing, planning how to drag myself through the next day’s challenges while utterly drained.
Yesterday, for example, after a 3.30am start (vomiting baby), I reeled through the day drunk on tiredness – by the afternoon I was slurring and bumping into objects. My eyes felt like they’d been scraped out of my face, stamped on and put back in wrongly, then punched for good measure. My muscles didn’t do what my brain willed them to do. Even my hair was tired.
So I was ready for an early night. DH was out at a work do and, as I was getting ready for bed, he texted to say he was leaving the table of his fancy restaurant on The Palm. 40 minutes later, we were both in bed but, while DH was fast asleep, I was STILL wide awake.
The irony wasn’t lost on me.
Today, I think I found the reason (see pic). I eat one of these six-cereal bread-rolls for lunch most days, along with a bowl of homemade soup.
That baker has a lot to answer for.
I had a little time to myself this morning. Much as I wanted to stretch out my pasty limbs in the balmy sunshine, I decided to start working on DS’s scrapbook.
Ever since he was born, I’ve been throwing bits and pieces into the plastic bag containing his empty album, so I had a wealth of material to work through.
Please don’t think I’m one of those ‘scrapbooking’ women who gets all excited about pinking shears and glittery pens. It’s just that I did a scrapbook for the first few years of DD’s life and she loves to look at it, so it seems only fair to do one for DS, too.
In it, I include photos, aircraft boarding passes, entry tickets, cards and gift tags, small pieces of artwork – anything that serves as a record of the things the children were doing and places they were going. I do special pages for overseas holidays and birthday parties, and I do pages that show what the children’s hobbies were that year, who their friends were.
As I write the captions and stories, I realise that these are the things that are going to be remembered over the years. The things I write will become family history; they will be the anecdotes told at 18th birthday parties and weddings. I like to imagine DS and DD showing their albums to their partners and children in years to come.
So, annoying as it is to have to sort through all the odds and sods that I’ve accumulated in the past year, and get it all in some sort of logical order in the scrapbook, I do feel it’s an important task, and an important part of my remit as a Housewife. If I don’t do it, who will? It’s a nice thing to have a record of your family’s life, surely.
The creak of leather, the thwack of mallet on ball, the thunder of galloping hooves, flaring nostrils, the tinkle of laughter, a fizz of gin & tonic, and the chink of champagne glasses… the royal sport of polo is inherently steeped in romance.
Unless it’s played on camels.
When polo’s played on camels, it’s more about the lollop of ungainly soup-plate hooves, camels having unscheduled lie-downs, and frustrated riders trying to get the obstreperous beasts to go where they want while preventing them kicking the ball through their own goal.
Ships of the desert aren’t known for their neat forehand turns, nor for their nimble gallops to the goal posts. What’s more, camel polo’s usually played with a beach ball, which just adds to the comic value.
I found this all out on Friday, when I went, en famille, to the Polo Club for the Prince’s Cup. This annual match of traditional polo starring Oxford v Cambridge and Eton v Harrow was preceded, Dubai-style, by an exhibition game of Camel Polo played by The Cavalry v The Guards.
We went with friends, took a picnic, and camped at the edge of the field – close enough for DD to see first-hand what a camel poo looks like. It was a lovely afternoon, all told, but we didn’t get to see the end of the Princes’ Cup since DD fell ill and we had to scrape her up and take her home early. Such is life with kids.
Okay, so maybe ice-skating after sports day wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had. I’d thought sports day would involve me sitting down on a plastic chair with a cup of coffee, clapping, gossiping and taking pix of my (not very sporty) DD as she flumped her way through various methods of torture.
But no: no sitting down. Sports day for the tiny tots was a little like circuit-training: DD’s class moved through about 20 different ‘stations’ where they had to undertake various races – while the parents tagged along with them.
I didn’t get to sit down for two hours! TWO HOURS!
Now before you say what a wimp I am, please bear in mind I had to leave home at 7.15am and drive on a 12-lane highway in the fog in order to tramp around a field after a bunch of five-year-olds before the sun was barely up. Is that reasonable? I don’t think so.
DD stood up to the challenge remarkably well; she even won one of the races – it was me who was falling at the last hurdle.
So, after this marathon for us both, at midday I found myself at the ice rink in Dubai Mall, on ice skates for the first time in 12 years, and with a wobbly tot in each hand. Factor in that the hired skates were blunter than a butter knife and it was a case of Bambi on ice for us all.
Ice-skating used to be my sport (looking elegant for minimal effort) and I’d really like DD to love it so we can go together, but I was almost relieved today when she said after about an hour, ‘Mummy, I want to get off and I never, ever want to come skating again.’
That’s kind of how I feel about sports day. I think we may be in the Seychelles this time next year.
DD’s got her school sport’s day tomorrow. It’s my first one.
‘What have you been practising?’ I asked her.
‘Running in bags,’ she said, shrugging like she’ll never understand adults.
Last week I dined with a few mums further up the food chain than me – mums who’ve been through the sport’s day thing before. I was going to turn up in heels with a snakeskin clutch and a camera and cheer every race DD was in. But no, apparently there’s more to it than that.
You have to be ready for the (dreaded) Mother’s Race. Apparently people turn up in sports kit and trainers, it’s that competitive!
I’m very glad at this point to be a mum, because DH will have to run against Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff in the father’s race (apparently Trevor Sinclair creamed the other dads in the Junior School sports day last week). Mind you, FF’s probably taking it easy after his knee injury so he certainly shouldn’t be giving it his all (hear that, Andrew?).
Meantime, I’ll be up against his wife. I don’t know her, but I see her all the time. She’s really tall – built like a beanpole – and seems quite fit judging by the number of times she does the school run in her tight lycra gym kit. Someone told me she’s not very fast, but I’ve been assessing form and, a bit like with racehorses, I can pretty much guess from the length and curve of her legs that there won’t be any flies on her.
Me, I’m not sporty unless it involves getting to the champagne, so I was wondering how to find a get-out clause when I heard a story – truth or urban myth I’ve yet to discover – that the Mother’s Race has been banned since someone broke their collarbone at the Junior School event last week.
Sorry love, if it was your collarbone - but thank God if it’s true.
I had to take Gerlie for her annual ‘Medical Fitness Test’ today before renewing her residence visa. At first we went to the wrong clinic but an official directed us to the clinic for ‘servants’ (not demeaning at all) – where I noticed a sign clarifying that ‘servants’ meant ‘housemaids, drivers and housewives’.
If DH decides to tease me about that, he’ll be cooking his own dinner for the next year.
Anyway, it wasn’t easy this morning. The procedure, which involves having a typist fill out a form, stamp and staple it, then paying a fee and going for a blood test and a vaccination, should take about 20 minutes, but it took us two and a half hours today (including the false start at the wrong clinic and the traffic jams between locations).
It got me thinking about all the administrative procedures that Dubai residents have to go through, from setting up a residency visa to getting a National ID card, an alcohol license, and registering a car. None of these things can ever be done online: they always involve a personal appearance and oodles of cash, and you always need to bring your ‘documents’ with you.
The ‘documents’ are: 216 passport photos, 140 passport copies (no originals unless you get a wild card), 27 pictures of your cousin’s wife’s dog, 23 pictures of your swimming pool (empty and full), a no objection letter from your junior school headmaster, and a note from the milkman.
Once you’ve gathered those together, you need to queue at a series of ‘counters’ where various staff members do important things like ‘checking’, stapling and stamping. Sometimes they ask for money, but you can’t give it to them directly – you have to go to the ‘cashier’ who’s invariably to be found at the end of a long corridor in a room with no sign on the door (the door marked ‘cashier’ is the cashier’s ‘old’ office, now inhabited by nothing but dusty HP printers).
If you’re lucky, the procedure goes smoothly but, if you’re unlucky, one of the counter staff tells you the pictures of your cousin’s wife’s dog are not current enough and asks you to come back only on a cloudy Tuesday at half past the hour. It’s usually at that point that you realise your parking meter money’s run out…
When I was younger, I never understood why older women spent so much money on cosmetics and clothes, when High Street brands of both were more than good enough for me.
I thought: when I’m older and richer (I always assumed I would be richer), I won’t get blinded by luxury packaging and designer stores; I’ll keep on buying perfectly good High Street brands and spend all the extra money on fabulous things like fancy holidays, polo lessons and fast cars.
But now the big 4-0 is getting so close I can smell it, I suddenly ‘get it’. I get why older women spend more on clothes, makeup and skincare than younger ones: it’s panic.
Panic, and a certain belief that, the more you spend on an item, the more likely it is to skim over your gravity-stricken ‘curves’; to make you look younger; to ease the tiredness from your face; to erase the black circles and fill out the wrinkles.
Faced with an increasingly haggard face in the mirror, we start to root around, like pigs after truffles, for things that’ll disguise the ruin of age: we buy expensive tailoring to skim our figures, and cosmetics that prop up our sagging faces. When the High Street brands no longer perform, we throw more money at the problem until something actually does work.
Me, I’ve found my miracle cosmetics brand. Rodial. It’s stupidly expensive but, amazingly, almost does what it says on the tin, namely prop up my under-eye bags in the morning, and make my skin look like I’ve slept a bit. I’m yet to try the ‘Boob Job’ and ‘Bum Lift’ products but, if they’re anything like the day cream, eye cream and outstanding ‘Glamotox Peel’ products that I’ve already tried, they could well help me stave off the surgeon for a few more years. That almost justifies the price tag.
Just don’t tell DH.