Archive for April 2010
My mum left yesterday. I took her to the airport. It’s funny, isn’t it, what you talk about in the car on the way to the airport? Chit-chat. Pretending that she’s not just about to disappear inside the terminal doors and you won’t see each other again for months.
The drop-off zone at Dubai Airport isn’t set up for long, fond farewells. It really is a case of drop and run; any thought of lingering is seen off by the policemen blowing whistles as they march ominously towards you, truncheons glinting, or by the impatient taxi nudging the back of your legs, trying to get into your parking space.
So I grab a baggage trolley, load on the luggage, check mum’s got her passport and boarding pass (she likes to check in online exactly 23 hours and 59 minutes before departure) then it’s a brief hug and back into the fray of the airport traffic, waving over my shoulder in case she’s watching, but realising too late that she can’t see through the tinted windows. Pulling out between 2,002 airport taxis is enough to stop the tears.
Back home, mum’s perfume, freshly spritzed for the journey, lingers in the hallway. Her last coffee cup, neatly placed in the sink, bears marks of her lipstick. She’s stripped the bed. Her room looks bare; the house feels empty. One minute she’s there; the next she’s gone. I feel abandoned.
You’d think that after 12 years as an expat, I’d get used to saying bye to my mum, wouldn’t you? It hasn’t happened yet.
Money takes on a weighted importance in a marriage when one person works and one does not. You go from being equals, or at least from having independent means, to one being dependent on the other, and it’s a situation many find tricky to handle. I’ve already mentioned that my DH is very special when it comes to this, saying ‘If you didn’t do what you do, I couldn’t do what I do, so we both earn my salary.’It’s very noble of him, but the money issue is rearing its head once more in our little family and it’s all because of one thing: sleep. Or, should I say, lack of it.
DS goes through phases of night-waking. Several times a night. All he needs is the pacifier put back in or a little pat on his back – 20 seconds and I’m back in bed. But I’m a bit of an insomniac by nature. The risk, for me, is whether or not I get back to sleep after the 20-second hiatus. Often I’m so tired I can weather one or even two wakings but, by the third, I’m so disrupted I can’t get back to sleep for a couple of hours. Given we have to get up at 6 for DD’s school, I don’t have the luxury of time on my side at 4am.
DH on the other hand, can sleep at the drop of a hat. Often, he’ll have an entire dream while I’m speaking, and wake up in time to reply. He’s even been known to fall asleep in the middle of his own sentences. It’s that easy for him.
Surely it makes sense for him to get up in the night, not me?
But I won’t ask him for one reason: I won’t ask him because he earns the money. Because he’s the one who has to be fresh at the office. He’s the one who mustn’t make any catastrophic mistakes that could see our family deported from Dubai quicker than you can say ‘Sorry Sheikh Mo’.
I don’t aim to be a martyr, but when you think about how much we depend on him and his salary, me falling asleep while making the spag bol, pricking my eyes open with cocktail sticks or snapping at the kids because I’m knackered seem a small price to pay.
Yawn. I hope DS learns to sleep better soon.
I went to see a new nursery today, with a view to enrolling DS there in September. It’s a 10-minute drive from my house, which is bliss given that my current school run – if I drop off and pick up both children – is 170kms and takes three hours.
But the new nursery is in the middle of nowhere, in a cluster of villas so new the paint’s barely dry and I doubt they even have electricity, let alone running water. How would I find it?
‘It sounds mad but the only landmark I can give you is a tree,’ said the manager apologetically. ‘There is a tree.’
You would never think a tree could be a good landmark, would you? But because addresses are so non-existent / incomprehensible / irregular over here, people often rely on physical landmarks to get directions.
Things like: ‘At the dusty roundabout, turn left, then look for a line of three wheelie bins. After them, you’ll see a white cat sitting on a parked Pajero’s bonnet. Count three houses, turn right, and stop by the tree. There’s some bougainvillea coming over the wall.’
So, to find the nursery, I drove to the area as directed, drove around a high compound wall – villas on one side, road, sand and desert on the other side – and, just as the lady said, there it was: a tree. One lonely, dusty little tree.
I found the nursery really easily. It’s such a shame I didn’t like it.
As my friends’ children get older, some of my Housewife friends are finding themselves jobs. I’m very proud of them but, as each one swaps the social scene for the office, I can’t help but feel a little sad for me.
Most of my friends who had their first baby with me went on to have second children much faster that I did. While I now have a one-year-old, my friends’ littlest ones are old enough for the mums to start picking up the threads of their own lives; to launch new enterprises; to get back their social lives and, frankly, I’m jealous.
DS is not as settled at night as (I think) he should be – often I go for weeks on four hours of broken sleep a night. There are days when I am more monster than human. All niceties go out of the window; I snarl; I stumble; I bump into things; I have no memory; I can’t even finish my own sentences. How could I hold down a job?
The social invitations come in and, much as I’d love to do this or that at night, I can’t entertain the thought. By 9pm my eyes are slits, I’m a zombie.
Still, I have recently managed to get myself a little job that I can do in my own time, from home. There is a stipulation on the minimum that’s required from me each week, but no-one beating the whip about when I actually do it, as long as, at the week’s end, I’ve done the quota.
It’s given me back a little work-related self-respect, and I love having it. But I do see DH trying not to laugh when he sees how seriously I take it. As I throw myself about the house, wailing that I haven’t had a chance to do my work, I see him thinking, ‘It’s just a little job, darling, not the end of the world.’ But, if I’m doing it, I want to do it properly.
However small it is.
For now, it’s all I can manage.
I had coffee with a friend recently and we got talking about what I think is one of the trickiest social dilemmas on the mummy circuit.
So here it is: my friend recently threw a birthday party for her six-year-old daughter. You know what girls are like: last August, the daughter was planning a Mamma Mia party; by October, it had changed to a High School Musical party. What she actually got was a lovely non-themed party at a nice venue with good food.
The party was not ridiculously expensive (the venue was not the Burj Al Arab), but it wasn’t cheap either. On the guest list was the whole school class, all her friends from outside school, plus the kids the mum wanted to ask because she likes their mums. 38 in total.
And herein lies the dilemma. Siblings. Just as my friend had arranged her final head-count with the venue and confirmed the space available was suitable for the number invited, out of the woodwork crawled the siblings. The late RSVPs that came in with the addendum of ‘You don’t mind if I bring x, y and z, do you?’
Don’t mind? Of course she didn’t. But the venue did – they had space for 35 children and the quota was more than filled with invited guests.
Personally, I wouldn’t dream of asking for both of my children to attend a party if only one was invited (imagine the chaos if every one of the 38 guests brought a ‘plus one’?), but I came up with a great solution for my friend: siblings welcome. A snip at £20 a head.
The reason you haven’t heard as much from me as usual is because England’s Desperate Granny, aka my mum, is in town, and I’ve been running all around showing her a good time. Because we’ve lived here for so long, she’s done all the usual stuff, but you can always rely on Dubai to come up with a few new things in a year, so there’s always something new to do; somewhere new to take her.
Looking at the list below, it’s hard to believe that not one of these things was around this time last year (except the horse show).
After the trip to Sir Baniyas Island (new), we squeezed in a sunset dinner at “The Riv” (new) overlooking the Burj Khalifa fountains (new). Having already seen the fountains myself, I was able to continue eating nonchalantly as the fountain belly-danced away and DD and DG (Dear Granny) jumped up and down like tourists, cameras snapping, and DH looked mystified (‘What’s all the fuss about?’).
DD turned five this week and, for her treat, she chose to go on one of the World’s Great Train Journeys – aka Dubai Metro (new) from Mall of the Emirates to BurJuman. DG, who’s recently crossed both Siberia and the Canadian Rockies on trains, was equally thrilled to view Sheikh Zayed Road from a train carriage, even if she had to spit out her gum before alighting and couldn’t put her feet on the seats.
Last night DG and I went to see ‘Al Saheel – A Thousand And One Horse Tales’ at Dubai Polo Club. What an amazing show. It only plays on Thursday and Friday nights and there’s only a few weeks left before it closes for summer. If you like horses – and I think you would have to be quite interested in them, or have ridden, to get the most out of the show – it’s a great night out. And licensed, too.
We saw 20 different acts (out of a possible 43 – they vary the show each week to keep the horses fresh). Some involved horses alone in the arena, no saddles, no bridles, just the horses doing the show to music. It was incredible. The riding, too, was stunning – one rider performed 17 non-stop flying changes (I didn’t count – I was sitting next to the show manager and he told me); others galloped past standing on the horses’ backs or dangling off their bums, but the stars of the show really were the horses.
We finished the last week of the school holidays with a trip to Mirdiff City Centre (new) – I’ve just discovered the joys of Cité des Enfants (new) – an edutainment experience where I can leave DD safely to broaden her mind for 90 minutes while I explore the shops – and a slap-up lunch at Carluccio’s (new). Even DS, who’s currently in the grey area between baby food and a full child’s portion, scoffed the chicken with rosemary potatoes while I enjoyed 20,000 calories of gnocci in gorgonzola sauce and a chocolate bread and butter pudding.
Actually, with hindsight, I should have just smeared both dishes straight onto my hips.
You may not hear too much from me this week as I’m holidaying en famille on Sir Baniyas Island, about four hours’ drive (plus a speed boat plus a bus) from Dubai.
It’s a lovely hotel, one of the Leading Small Hotels of the World. Despite being quite picky about hotels (I could always do things better than the hotel management, natch), I have no complaints here.
DD’s going on a game drive tomorrow, hoping to spot the cheetahs, which have new cubs. I drew the short straw and will be staying back with DS. Short straw if he insists on crawling in the swimming pool again… long straw, possibly, if he has a long morning nap and I can sleep off an enormous breakfast by our private pool… I know which I’m hoping for.
Before I had children, I used to work hard and party hard. I used to crawl home at 2am and be back at my desk at 8.30am. I thought I knew what tiredness was. Oh no. Nobody knows tiredness like a mother. Here are my thoughts on it. Feel free to add more.
You know you’re really tired, when…
- You think of a leg-waxing appointment as a chance for a lie-down.
- You have micro-sleeps at the traffic lights.
- By the time you get to the end of the sentence, you’ve forgotten the beginning.
- The sound of DH pacing the floor puts you, not the baby, to sleep.
- When your child’s reading to you, you doze between words.
- You can sleep through anything: even three noisy children playing in the same room as you.
- You fall asleep standing up with your head resting on the side of the baby’s cot, and only wake up because your arm goes dead.
DD went to her first hip-hop class yesterday. I don’t even know what hip-hop is, let alone that four-year-olds can do it, but DD does: she’s been pestering me to sign her up since Christmas. Well, specifically, since she got ‘Hannah Montana – The Movie’ for Christmas.
In it, there’s a scene where Miley sings a hip-hop song at a barn dance. For the last three months, DD has been copying the moves, perfecting her little hip-hop routine. I finally caved in and agreed, yesterday, that we would watch a class so she could decide if it’s what she really wants to do.
(This comes after the disastrous attempt at ballet, which she found ‘boring’ after I’d paid upfront for a 16-week term. Mind you, I watched the demo for parents at the end of term and realised the only person having fun was the teacher.)
Somehow, ‘watching’ the hip-hop class ended up with DD disappearing into the room with the door shut. All I could hear was thumping music and energetic shouting. When someone opened the door I got a glimpse of my baby wiggling her tush and shaking her shoulders along with the best of them. So much for shy.
DD was full of it all evening. She had Gerlie and me practising the moves on the kitchen floor. It’s not really my thing; I’ll be paying more attention when she starts belly-dancing…