Archive for May 2010
I tried to book our summer trip to Disneyland Paris, on the Eurostar, today. How difficult can it be? Pick a website that offers packages, punch in the details, click ‘pay’ and Bob’s your uncle. I’d done a bit of research in advance, I’d asked around, and decided which hotel was possibly best for us: Sequoia Lodge – close to the park, but not costing the price of a medium-sized family car.
I’d even briefed DH, gently, about the appalling standards we were going to have to endure. I’d used words like grit’, ‘teeth’, ‘get through it’ and ‘for the kids’. I’d explained that in most of these places there’s no private butler, no champagne check-in and, most likely, no tea and coffee-making facilities, no minibar and even no room service [shudder].
I’d explained that the family rooms are about the size of a bathroom in your average five-star Dubai hotel. And that we’d all be sleeping in one room.
In the ‘real’ pix, the rooms looked dated and tired, not to mention tiny. The bathrooms looked like you could catch something in them (disease or rats, take your pick). The reception had a rope queue-management system. Reviews on tripadvisor.com said you had to queue for breakfast even at 7.30am as it gets so busy. The exterior looked like the national jail, but it was about the size of Milton Keynes. The ‘shuttle’ to the park was a double-length bendy bus.
All the pictures did for me was bang home the fact that it would be a mass-market stay in a below-average doss-house that had seen better days.
“Oh,” said DH in a ‘I hadn’t realised quite what you meant’ voice. “Isn’t there anywhere nicer?”
The look on my face must have said it all. I’d just spent two hours online on a beautiful sunny afternoon, getting absolutely nowhere.
“Gin and tonic?” asked DH.
We decided not to go to EuroDisney after all.
And I don’t mean the fruity sort.
I’ve been sure for some time now that my life will be improved if I own a BlackBerry. Maybe it’s clever marketing; maybe it’s just “gadget lust” when I see my fellow Housewives whipping out their shiny hardware to check their nail appointments, or maybe, just maybe, I could actually find a “genuine” need for one in my life.
I mean, I really do have a little job now, and it does involve a lot of internet research. If I could do that research in the dead times that I’m stuck in the car with DS asleep in the back, it would cut my time spent at the computer and hence improve the quality not just of my life, but those of the kids, too. See? No more, “Go away! I’m working!” snarled at the little darlings.
So I did some research and was more than amazed how the same piece of kit can cost as much as Dhs 1,000 more at one shop than it does at another (don’t get it at Etisalat; try Sharaf DG, even better, try Axiom).
Then I researched the package: to which of the UAE’s two fabulous telephonic providers would I like to pay mega-bucks every month? Du required a load of documents from me, including a ‘salary certificate’ or pay slip. Hmm. I don’t really get pay slips for my little job and, I almost can’t bear to admit this, but I think my salary falls beneath the threshold for being allowed to apply for a BB anyway (well, it is a part-time job). Never mind that DH has a good job and that Du already provides our landline – and has done since Du itself was created.
“But I’m a Housewife,” I said to the lady behind the counter when she asked for my pay slips.
“I don’t work.”
Pause. Quizzical look.
“I don’t have a salary? No pay slips?”
“Oh. Then we need your tenancy contract.” (Really, would that be in a housewife’s name anyway?)
“I don’t have one. We own the house. But we are existing customers of Du. I’ve brought the past three months’ bills for you, showing my fixed address and my customer details,” I said (rationally, I hoped). I’d also got passport copies and a real, genuine National ID card with me.
“No, madam, not allowed. Our requirements is [sic] pay slip, madam…”
Is there some unwritten rule against Housewives having BlackBerrys?
I walked two shops down to Etisalat. All I needed to do there was text a code to them and I’m up and running. I left singing that little Du ditty from the ads. Du-du-du-du-du-du-du. Bah.
As an expat, you’d think I’d get used to losing friends from Dubai. And it’s true to say that, over the years, a fair number of super people I’ve been close to have upped and left. Some remain friends – true friends whom I visit in their home countries as much as possible and move heaven and earth to see – others remain good Facebook friends, and yet others descend into the ‘Do you remember so-and-so?’ category, remembered only after a few drinks with mutual acquaintances.
So, this week I’m losing a girlfriend who lived just around the corner from me. I’ve known her for almost two years. Is that a long time? In expat life, where many people only stay for a two-year contract, it’s a pretty good friendship.
True, we’re both busy, and I haven’t seen as much of her lately as I’d have liked to, but tonight she dropped around for what we both knew was the last face-to-face meeting before she flies back to Canada on Monday.
And what do you say under such circumstances?
‘It’s been nice knowin’ ya. Safe journey’?
‘See you soon?’
‘So long and thanks for all the fish?’ (Douglas Adams)
I hate goodbyes and, judging by the speed that she fled out of the door after we’d had a chat, I think she does, too. For the record, I said, ‘See ya!’ as she disappeared down the path…you never know… Canada’s not that far.
Guess Who? was DD’s favourite game last summer. In fact, that and the Mamma Mia DVD got us through a very long, lonely summer in Dubai, during which I largely refused to travel as I had newborn DS to contend with. But, last summer, DD could not read. She mastered the reverse logic of Guess Who? beautifully – better than my own mother, I must add – and memorised all of the faces and names so she knew who we were talking about.
And then she had played it too much and the Guess Who? box grew dusty at the bottom of the bookshelf until…
‘Mummy, will you play Guess Who? with me?’ asked DD yesterday.
Of course I will – out of playing Lego, reading stories and doing colouring, Guess Who? is definitely my favourite. I used to love it myself as a child.
So we played a round or two, then DD’s attention began to wane. Now she can read, she started enjoying reading the names more than actually playing the game; then she started letting slip which card she had. Then it all went wrong.
‘Mummy, mine’s got a really silly name!’ she said, giggling.
Herman, I’m thinking. Maybe Philippe? Katrin?
DD is beside herself. She can’t contain it anymore.
‘Step. Hen!’ she said, falling over with laughter. ‘His name’s Step Hen! What a funny name, mummy!’ She stepped around the room pretending to be a hen.
I always had my doubts about learning to read using phonics.
DS went for his MMR today – better late than never. Rumours that it can cause autism, especially in boys, made me slower to do it than I should have been, but it seems those rumours are unfounded and there’s no connection between autism and MMR, so… off we went.
Now, I have to admit, I was a little lazy. I’ve been very busy lately and I decided to go to a nearby clinic, where the nurse could do the MMR, instead of driving across town to the paediatrician because the trip would take up the whole morning. It’s a jab: what could go wrong?
Well… at first sight, all went well. DS barely winced as the needle went in, let alone screamed the place down, which is what he usually does. I watched him like a hawk all day and he’s been fine. Better than fine, actually.
In the bath tonight, I gingerly peeled off the plaster and found… nothing. Nada. No mark, no little drop of blood on the plaster, no redness, no swelling, no pain, no tenderness.
So I replayed it in my head. He didn’t cry at all – usually he continues screaming for about 10 minutes after. The injection was over before it began (at the paed’s office, they seem to go on forever as he empties the syringe into my baby’s tiny leg). There was NO blood, not even a speck. DS’s leg is not swollen, sore or tender – I can poke it quite hard and he doesn’t even wince. When DD had the MMR, the site was a little swollen and very tender for a couple of days. She was listless in the day and slept a lot.
Tonight I called the clinic and spoke to the head nurse. ‘The swelling goes down,’ she said. ‘Anyway there’s not much swelling as we do it in the top tissue not the muscles.’ But why do all the books warn you of pain and tenderness around the injection site?
Honestly, I doubt the injection went in. But what can I do? How can I know? I can’t get him vaccinated AGAIN just in case. Why is there no manual for things like this?
A curious thing happened today: I was in Marina Mall lazily discussing summer holiday plans over coffee with a dear friend and her DH while our children attended a birthday party, when we noticed a group of what could only be British tourists walk into the mall. How could we tell they were British tourists? They were wearing bikinis.
Oh yes. Bikinis. In a mall.
Sure, they had things over them, but so little that you could clearly see the bikinis. One had a white cotton shirt over the top – it barely covered her bum – and flip-flops; another had on a chiffony sort of beach cover-up – you could see straight through it, not to mention it was pretty short and she was a b-i-g girl. The other two were passable.
No sooner than my friend and I were gawping at them in shock than they were approached by a smartly dressed lady from mall management. A conversation about their clothing choices ensued, during which the one in the see-through ensemble was clearly trying to explain that her negligee was actually long enough. (Never mind that you could see THROUGH it whether or not she’d had a bikini wax.)
The passable two continued on into the mall while the others were eventually escorted by the mall management back up the escalator to their hotel. I’m guessing they were staying at the connected Address Dubai Marina as they returned about 20 minutes later, far more appropriately attired – one in a reasonable maxi dress, the larger girl, however, crammed into a shorter, badly fitting albeit less transparent, frock. Immediately they stopped to speak to mall staff again. What could be wrong this time?
‘Crimes against fashion,’ said my friend’s DH.
Yesterday, DD and I were at the Polo Club for her hip-hop class. We’ve got it perfected. While she gets on down in the dance class, I sit outside in the terrace bar with a cold glass of something crisp, and watch the stunt rider from Al Saheel – 1,001 Horse Tales gently exercise his beautiful Arabian horse in the arena. Such majesty, such power and discipline – and that’s before I even look at the horse.
Anyway, yesterday, among all the ponies being lead out for riding lessons, I noticed Barack: the pony DD used to ride long before Barak Obama appeared on the scene. I think she was probably two and a half the last time she clip-clopped around the Polo Club on him, yet she still talks about him; yearns for him.
So, when she came out of her class, I took her to the paddock where Barack was trotting in circles with a bouncy child strapped onto his back. I expected her to faint with recognition and delight, but no. What happened?
‘Oh mummy, you’re wrong. That’s not Barack.’
‘Yes it is, darling.’
‘No!’ (wailed). ‘It can’t be! He’s so small! Barack was MUCH bigger. He was a BIG brown horse, not a little pony.’
Oh, my aching heart. How quickly our children grow.
The school car park is a funny place. It’s knee-deep in Range Rovers, Audi Q7s, Nissan Armadas and Toyota Prados. But the funniest thing is: they’re all black or white, maybe with a bit of silver thrown in. To make a statement among the school-run mums is to have – gasp – a navy blue Range Rover. In fact, I’m sure I’m not the first mum who’s tried to prise my way into the wrong car; neither is DD the first child to write her name on the dusty door panels of the wrong black Audi (sorry, if that was yours).
So I can totally understand where this mum is coming from with her hot-pink, sparkly ‘Barbie’ car. I managed to have a word with her – she says her husband got it done for her at www.foilacar.ae after she jokingly said she could never find her car in the school car park.
Now she’s the driver of Dubai’s highly visible ‘pink car’, she says she’s amazed how many people comment on it. ‘On my road there are at least six Ferraris and four Lamborghinis plus the usual Porsches and Rolls Royces,’ she says, ‘yet it’s my car that gets the smiles from the security guards. It’s the same when I valet-park in hotels: all the attendants and tourists love my car. I was dropping my sister and her family off at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and another family tried to get in, thinking I was one of those women-only taxis.’
Is there a down-side to owning a sparkly pink car?
‘It gets a bit annoying when I’m driving and people keep pulling up alongside me or rushing to overtake me so that they can take a picture,’ says Ms Pink.
I imagine she also has to drive impeccably – even if she’s going too fast for her number to register on camera, there’s no arguing with a line of pink streaking across the frame.
I recently read about an Islamic shopping site called http://www.3abaya.com. It was touted as a site ‘for women who have the frequent urge to indulge in retail therapy but may not always be able to act upon it due to their busy working, home and social lives.’ (I note ‘lack of disposable income’ doesn’t come into it but this IS Dubai).
Of course I hot-footed it to the site only to be disappointed that it only had abayas for sale. I don’t know what I was expecting – everything from cosmetics to jeans and handbags I guess. I mean, I know it has ‘abaya’ in the name, but ‘abaya shopping’ doesn’t really equate to ‘retail therapy’ for me.
Anyway I did a bit of my own retail therapy yesterday in that, out looking for a new suitcase (how DID Emirates manage to break all three of our large suitcases last summer, I wonder?) for DH, and I decided, on the spot, to cash in my Mother’s Day voucher from DD for ‘earrings or handbag’. I chose diamond stud earrings. I thought they were remarkably good value – so much so that I threw in a new Marc Jacobs handbag as well.
I must have been feeling a little guilty because, on the way home in the car, as I gazed at my new sparklers and simultaneously stroked my new handbag, I explained to DH what good value the diamonds were, and how much cheaper they were than other quotes I’d had for similar earrings of that size.
‘What size are you talking about?’ he asked.
‘A carat in each ear,’ I said.
‘Oh no!’ he said, bashing the steering wheel in frustration. ‘I could have given you a carrot in each ear myself. Much cheaper.’
Okay, so today DD went on a school trip. Another one. Since the first one to Dubai Museum, I’ve been forced to get over my phobia about her riding in a dodgy bus with adult-sized, two-point seatbelts, on some of the most dangerous roads in the world, because they’re always going on school trips. It’s like the exposure therapy that psychologists use for phobias: the more you expose yourself to the stuff, the easier it gets.
But this one was different: today the dodgy bus was to take them to the mall, where they would get on the (unreliable? Am I being harsh?) Dubai Metro and ride to another stop, where they would disembark, get back on the dodgy bus and ride to another mall, where they would walk to a restaurant and eat low-grade chicken nuggets. Before getting back on the dodgy bus and driving – on some of the UAE’s worst roads – back to school.
I tried not to think about it all day. I tried not to think about the day my teenage DD will be jumping into taxis or – worse – cars driven by skinny, spotty youths and disappearing off drinking, dancing and god-knows-whatting all night.
She got back from the school trip alright. She was full of it. The best bit? ‘I finished my chicken nuggets before anyone else and I even ate some without ketchup!’
Sometimes I think these school trips are more for the parents than the kids; lessons for us about letting go