Archive for March 2010
There’s something about being in a hospital that makes me really want to drink tea and eat pre-packed cheese salad sandwiches. Which is a fact that I remembered yesterday.
My nicely planned day started to implode with a call from the school nurse around 11am.
‘Your daughter’s had a little accident. She’s fine, but has hurt her ankle a little.’
I hate it when they pussy-foot around. Tell me: do I have to pick her up or not? Turned out, they ‘thought it best’ I pick her up as soon as possible. I found her sitting in the nurse’s room, one grossly swollen ankle elevated and bandaged. She’d fallen from the top of the (small) climbing frame.
‘Better get it x-rayed,’ said the nurse, so we trotted on down to a hospital with a walk-in clinic, and spent three hours there waiting to see a doctor, get x-rays and get the suspected fracture plastered up (all the while, I was dreaming about those cheese sandwiches and tea from a disposable plastic cup – I hadn’t had any lunch).
It’s absolutely beastly having an active, almost five-year-old at home all day, immobilised in plaster. But, as my mother said, ‘That’s motherhood. At least she didn’t break her neck.’
DS turned one today. He was so excited, he woke up at 3.45am and didn’t go back to sleep. Well, he was about to drop off in our bed at 5.55am, but then the alarm went off and that was the end of that. Yawn.
The first birthday’s always an emotional one for the mum, I think. I simply can’t believe that DS was in my belly this time last year. I spent the day remembering the sound of his first cry in the delivery room, and the sight of the attending paediatrician turning round and giving me a big thumbs-up.
‘Ten out of ten,’ he said. (Clearly he didn’t know about the insomniac gene) and I wept with relief.
Anyway, this morning, DD asked when we were having DS’s cake. Cake? I hadn’t planned that. It’s so true what they say about subsequent children getting less attention. Suddenly I felt guilty that he wouldn’t have a picture in the family album of him with his first birthday cake.
So, somewhere in between the grocery shopping, checking out a new nursery, cooking a lasagne for dinner and doing the school run, I managed to bake a cake and wrap up some presents so we could have a little family party this afternoon, just me, DS, DD and Gerlie.
DS seemed to enjoy it –he scoffed some cake, played with his toys and tried to eat the wrapping paper. The main thing, though, is that I have a photo for the album.
One less thing for him to seek therapy about when he’s older.
Residents of Dubai get used to new malls opening. It’s a bit like buses coming in England – one every few days, or something. So we just got used to finding our way around the behemoth that is Dubai Mall and now we have the addition of Mirdiff City Centre.
To be honest, I didn’t think it’d be much. It’s in Mirdiff, for heaven’s sake.
Mirdiff, for those who don’t know, used to be, in about 2002, the ‘suburb’ on the final approach to the airport where it was really cheap to live because there was always a risk of a dodgy Russian jet crashing on your roof.
Seriously, it was cheap because there were no services there, just a few villa compounds in between masses of sand – no shops, no supermarket, nothing. Just a lot of really annoying aeroplane noise and the smell of jet fuel. (It’s got a lot better in recent years and is quite the community now, though it never really shook off its airport stigma.)
But then I heard that the new mall – which opened just over a week ago – is ‘a bit like Mall of the Emirates’ (large and popular ski-slope mall). Crikey, I thought. More than just a Carrefour, a sexy underwear shop, a Promod, a Mango and a dodgy food court?
So, like the rest of Dubai, I went. With DS, on Thursday. We did a little recce, had some lunch in a cafe, entered the raffle to win a(nother) Audi and pronounced it worthy of a family visit on Friday. Not least because it has the UAE’s first branch of Pottery Barn.
I have to admit that the first I ever heard of Pottery Barn was on an episode of ‘Friends’ where Rachel buys an ‘antique’ from PB and passes it off as genuine. Anyway, in the catalogue that was dumped at our front door last week, I spied some definite potential in terms of family-room sofas, so I wanted DH to come view them with me.
But, as life would have it, we’d just scored the poll-position parking space on a Friday morning (incredible) when DS puked his guts up right there in the car park.
DH turned white.
‘Thank GOD he wasn’t in the car,’ he said referring to the Range Rover Sport that’s the love of his life. (I swear, if it would fit in bed with him, I would be sleeping in the garage).
‘I think we should just go home,’ he said, as we mopped sick off the pushchair and DS’s limbs and removed his saturated clothes.
Oh no. This lady’s not for turning. We’d driven 25 minutes on Emirates Road to get there and I was revved up for sofa-shopping. A bit of sick wasn’t going to stop me, even if DS was a bit clammy. ‘His fever doesn’t feel like it’s over 40,’ I said. ‘Let’s buy him some new clothes in the first shop we see, and go see Pottery Barn.’
So we did. DS got a new outfit (note to Mirdiff City Centre management: the doors to the baby-changing room really ought to be wide enough to fit a pushchair’s wheels through, no?) and we looked at sofas in Pottery Barn.
They were lovely, with a good choice of fabrics and a man willing to hand out swatches. But nothing machine-washable. I’m not calling in the professionals each time DH drips his coffee on the cushions so it was back to square one: When does the next new mall open?
DS turns one this weekend and I think I’ve finally perfected ‘the move’. If you’ve got a baby, you’ll know the one I mean: the getting-out-of-the-bedroom move.
So, you’ve patted or sung or hummed or back-rubbed till your little munchkin’s breathing has slowed. If he’s a sucker like mine, you can hear the odd little butterfly suck on thumb or pacifier but, because it’s quite dark, you can’t quite see the eyes.
Are they open or shut?
You don’t know and you don’t want to risk walking to the door if they’re open because it’ll set you back another 10 minutes and that glass of Chablis you started before bedtime is starting to warm up to the point where it’s really not that nice.
So you do ‘the move’: you move a foot experimentally. No reaction. You step one foot to the side – no reaction – and slide the other one next to it. You’re still within sight if the baby appears to be awake, but you’re one step closer to the door, the stairs, the wine glass.
So you take a step backwards, as silently as you can. No reaction. You take another backwards step, ready to shush if there’s a movement from the cot.
You side-step, silently, towards the door but your dicky ankle – the one that you sprained playing rounders when you were 16 – cracks.
It sounds like a gunshot. The baby stirs. You freeze. He settles. You reach the door. You take a deep breath, open it as quickly and silently as you can, slip through it like a summer breeze, close it silently behind you.
In the landing, you wait. Five seconds. Ten seconds: nothing. Your evening may begin.
Yesterday I had DD’s parent-teacher meeting. As DD only started school last September, I’m quite new to them.
So, having negotiated the sartorial minefield of what to wear, I hovered outside the classroom in my long bias-cut skirt (I’m taking the brave stand that cast-offs from 2005 now count as ‘vintage’) at the appointed time until DD’s teacher called me in.
She indicated that I should sit on a miniscule chair at a miniscule table, and watched with amusement as I folded my knees up under my chin and arranged my massive size 5 feet under the tiny table. Definitely there’s something to be said for being small if you teach at Infant School – delicate-boned and petite Ms X looked like she was born to use the tiny furniture of the classroom while I just looked like an overgrown triffid with tentacles flailing over the table.
‘How do you think she’s doing?’ asked Ms X.
‘Alright?’ I ventured.
Of course I know she’s the offspring of genius, light years ahead of the rest of her class [ahem] but no-one wants to be the smart-aleck parent who says their child is a superstar only to find they’re absolutely nothing of the sort.
It turned out I had nothing to worry about: DD is doing supremely well and even behaves herself in the classroom.
But then Ms X produced the ‘Writing Book’. This is the book in which, every Sunday morning, DD spills the family secrets of what we did at the weekend, for example, ‘I helpt daddy wosh his car,’ and ‘We went to the beech.’
I wasn’t impressed. By the next parent-teacher meeting I want to open that book and see, ‘I went to Morishus on a pryvit jet,’ or ‘A hellycopta pickt us up for dinna,’ and nothing at all along the lines of ‘Mummy drank all the wyne and fell asleep befor tee.’
A serious one tonight: something close to my heart for the past 18 months has been the fate of Sammy, the whale shark that’s been kept captive at Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel.
A year and a half ago, the huge fish was captured from the waters off Dubai and has since spent its time swimming mindlessly around the hotel’s not-so-huge aquarium, while Atlantis, which initially claimed the shark was distressed and in need of medical care, has remained silent in the face of appeals and campaigns to release it.
Experts will tell you that whale sharks are migratory creatures – aquariums are totally alien to their natural habitat. Sammy is apparently young. While whale sharks in the wild tend to live for about 60 years, the average life span of one in captivity is just two years. Surely Atlantis would let it go?
No. The hotel had whale-shark merchandise made for its souvenir shop and stayed mum on any release date.
This week, those following the story were delighted to hear that the whale shark had finally been set free. But euphoria soon turned to suspicion. Given how much of a fuss had been made about Sammy’s captivity, and how much positive PR the hotel could generate by making a splash about its release, there’s been a suspicious dearth of information.
No pictures. No information about tagging. Nothing. It’s more than a little fishy.
I know I’m not the only one starting to wonder: did the hotel let the whale shark go because its health had deteriorated to the point where it may die in custody? Or worse… will Atlantis’ restaurants be serving fillet of whale shark this week?
I’d said I would boycott the hotel until Sammy was released but now I won’t be darkening its doors until we hear the truth about what really happened… come on Atlantis, spill the beans…
I bet I wasn’t the only Westerner to choke on my muesli this morning when I read 7 Days newspaper’s shock headline: ‘Boozy Dishes Off The Menu’.
For those who didn’t see the story, Dubai Municipality has written to restaurants to warn them that those using alcohol in cooking will be risking a fine of up to Dhs 27,000 (£4,500).
Apparently the law’s been in place since 2003 but has never been implemented. Dubai’s chefs have used alcohol for the past 30 years – the dishes containing it are always marked on the menu with a big ‘A’, just so lushes like me know which ones to choose.
But we all know there’s no arguing with the Municipality. So it’s a case of bye-bye steak and Guinness pie. Au revoir boeuf bourguignon; farewell fruit flambé.
Eating out is a huge part of life in Dubai; this is a city of five-star restaurants. Gordon Ramsay, Gary Rhodes, Vineet Bhatia, Richard Sandoval, Giorgio Locatelli and Nobu Matsuhisa all have outlets here; James Martin is apparently considering opening a place in Abu Dhabi (not for much longer, I mightn’t wonder, if Abu Dhabi follows suit).
Sad news as it is for consumers, I’m reeeally glad I’m not the poor so-and-so who’ll have to tell Gordon Ramsay…
[Edited to add: the Municipality reversed this decision the very next day, claiming the restaurants had misinterpreted the letter... hmmm..]
Mother’s Day arrived in our house today, a week later than I was expecting. Okay, DH had a point: it IS Arabic Mother’s Day today.
So, at the crack of dawn – literally – I went to wake up DD (usually a struggle at 6am), to find her already awake.
‘Go away mummy. I wanted to surprise you,’ she said, so I got out her uniform and went back to bed; she appeared two minutes later in her school uniform.
‘Are you surprised?’ she asked. ‘That I’m up and dressed? Happy Mother’s Day!’
But it got better. I arrived in the kitchen to a red envelope covered in hearts: a hand made card from DD and, by osmosis, from DS as well. And the shop-bought ‘fablious’ card (see last week’s blog) finally signed.
Better still, the shop-bought card contained a voucher (see pic). And now I have to decide: diamond earrings or Coach Kira handbag? Mmm. What a nice thing to have to think about.
Even though I personally think Mother’s Day’s all a bit of a ‘Hallmark day’, there’s definitely some mileage in it. I can’t wait for American Mother’s Day. First Sunday in May, I think…
I had a little ‘bring and buy’ sale at my house today.
If I’d suggested such a thing just two years ago in glamtastic Dubai, I would have been the social pariah of the school gates, but… well, a recession, some redundancies, a bit of belt-tightening… and how times change.
Anyway, the phrase ‘bring and buy’ took me straight back to the drafty church hall where I endured Brownies and Guides in the ‘70s and ‘80s (not nice memories). I was always having to take in stuff for the ‘red table’ at the bring and buy sales of my childhood.
I tried to think of a better name for the sale, but ‘bring and buy’ says it all, really. Bring something; buy something; go home happy.
I thought about making it a swap party – a ‘swish’ or whatever they’re called – but I wasn’t sure how that would work. What if you want something but the owner doesn’t want something of yours? Do you have to coerce her into liking something so you can have what you want? And what if you want a Tod’s handbag but all you have to offer in return is a necklace from Zara?
It was all too confusing, so ‘bring and buy’ it was. I threw in a jug (or four!) of Pimms and a plate of cupcakes and called it a ‘Pimms bring and buy sale’ in an effort to erase the memory of the drafty church hall, and I think it worked: everyone turned up looking glam and brought lovely stuff with them (except one friend I’d dearly have liked to come but, when I sounded her out she said she rarely makes wardrobe mistakes and hence had nothing to sell. How impressed was I?)
I think we all had fun parading up and down the living room in clothes we normally wouldn’t try and I think everyone had a good time.
Who needs crowded shopping malls when you’ve stylish girlfriends and a bucket of Pimms?
I had another one of those ‘Dubai’ moments today. Gerlie came to me, wringing her hands and shuffling her feet, looking shy and clutching a screwed-up piece of paper.
Uh-oh, I thought. Pregnant? Leaving? A pay rise?
‘Madam? I’m so shy to ask you this,’ she started, and I thought: definitely pay rise (FYI before you all jump on me, she’s paid very well). But no, Gerlie didn’t want a pay rise.
She wanted an ‘advance’ aka a loan, for a down payment on a plot of land in the Philippines, where she will, ultimately, build her family a house. Her husband works, but in the Philippines, where his salary is very low.
The total cost of the plot, it turned out, is Dhs 30,000 (about £5,000). But she has several years to pay it off. Then she’ll build the house.
‘I’m planning for my family’s future, madam,’ she said. ‘First the plot, then my son’s education, then the house. I’ll stay with your family many, many years, madam.’
It reminded me of a situation a year or so ago when I heard her shouting into her mobile, then collapsing in tears over the washing up.
‘Come on, Gerlie,’ I said. ‘Buck up. It’s only a few saucepans.’
It turned out her six-year-old son, when playing with matches, had burnt down the family house, which was made of wood. They’d lost everything, right down to her son’s school uniform and books. She never asked me for money, but her friends had a whip-round and raised Dhs 800 (about £130). She needed another Dhs 1,200 (£200) to buy wood, then her family would rally together to actually build the house. (We gave it to her, of course.)
My ‘Dubai’ moment both back then, and today, was when I realised how little Gerlie needs for her down payment on her land. It’s not much more than a couple of the divine Coach handbags I was planning to buy. I’ll now be holding off for a while.
Then Gerlie will own more land than DH and I do. Smart cookie.