Archive for June 2010
Exhausted, grey-faced and drained by the heat, we’re crawling towards the end of the school year. And that’s just DH and me.
DD’s full of beans. She’s met her new class, is looking forward to meeting her new teacher, is excited about sitting at ‘real desks’ rather than on a carpet on the floor, and can’t wait to have homework, spelling tests and visits to the school library next year.
DS left nursery today without a backward glance.
‘Pay attention. It’s the last time you’ll see Ms X,’ I tell him sadly. She’s the classroom assistant who’s loved and nurtured him through the ‘sensitive’ first term when all he’d do was cry, and to whom he now runs in the mornings. Ms X is going back to the Philippines to have a baby. In September, when she’s back, he’ll have moved to a nursery that’s less than a two-hour commute away.
I explained all this to DS as we left today, but there were no tears, no last cuddles, no photo opp. All he wanted was his toy car.
DH and I, however, are overjoyed at the thought of 10 weeks without a 6am wake-up call for the school run. This morning we both slept through the alarm.
‘I just can’t open my eyes,’ I said sleepily.
‘Why don’t you drop off DS and then go out for a coffee? Go to a mall, do some shopping, have a beauty treatment till pick-up time?’ he asked.
My eyes flew open.
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ I snapped. ‘I’m so busy! It’s my last morning with both kids at school! I’ve got to do this and this and that and this!’
DH smiled knowingly, his eyes still closed.
‘Opened your eyes, though, didn’t you?’ he said.
I love handbags. You know I love handbags. On Saturday I engineered a family trip to Dubai Mall just so I could go to Bloomingdales and, specifically, its beauty department, which I always enter via the handbags section.
Amazingly I manage to shake off DH, DS and DD in the mall, so am free – for about 10 minutes – to shimmy onto the soft carpeting of the Coach concession for a little ‘touch and feel’ therapy. Of course, though, I’m a responsible Housewife who holds the purse strings of the family budget, so there’s no chance of me dropping a few thousand on an impulse-buy handbag, however nice. Off I trot to Beauty, where my mission is to buy a day cream from Rodial.
And that’s where my problem starts. I’d read in Grazia about a new Kiehls organic range that contains Acai berries and is really good for anti-aging. I think the article said Cate Blanchett uses it and, while she looks about 40, she’s actually 87. Or something.
So in I walk and there, straight ahead of me, is the Kiehls counter. The lady smiles at me. I remember the miracle Acai berry product.
‘Oh yes!’ says the lady. ‘Here it is.’
Remember I’ve left a husband, a baby and an impatient five-year-old outside the shop. I’m in a hurry. Let’s cut to the chase.
‘Does it work?’ I ask. Oh yes, she simpers.
‘How much is it?’ Buckets cheaper than Rodial.
‘Okay, I’ll take it. And throw in the cleanser as well.’
And here’s where logic fails me. Instead of taking my purchases to the till, I continue on to the Rodial counter as if I haven’t just bought a miracle anti-aging product and its matching cleanser. My day cream is in stock and, while I’m there, I may as well stock up on the cleanser, too, because mine’s running low and I love using it. Never mind that you can fly to return to Athens on Air Arabia for less than the price of that silver tube of gunk.
‘And we have the Glamoxy Snake Serum in stock as well,’ says the lady.
The Glamoxy Snake Serum? OMG, that’s the Holy Grail of beauty. It’s been out of stock since its launch earlier this spring.
‘Does it work?’ I ask.
‘Oh yes, madam. It’s so good all the ladies is buying it. We had 50 pieces this morning; now we have only six left.’
I’m so excited I forget to check the price. At the till, my bill for beauty products is far more than the cost of the Coach handbag I stroked on the way in. And later, as I get in the car hugging my Little Brown Bag of goodies to my chest lest DH sees the price stickers, I realise I’ve now invested in two different, over-priced skincare regimes when Nivea probably would have done the job just as well. Cate Blanchett’s got a lot to answer for.
This morning I was flicking through a copy of House & Garden magazine from the UK. What is it about property that makes my heart beat faster? I have no desire to live in the UK yet seeing the glamorous conversions of beautiful stone houses made me close my eyes and slide off into a dream world of living in such an elegant place. Stone house with conservatory, Mark Wilkinson kitchen, free-standing Victorian tub in traditional beamed bathroom (with space for an armchair??) and riverfront… sigh.
It was obvious to spot what the current obsessions are with the Brits: conservatories and kitchens. Every other page had an ad for either and some were unbelievable: whole tropical gardens packed into conservatories in SW8. There was even a section, given it was the May issue, on the sort of outdoor furniture that would be perfect for a Dubai garden, but I thought that was a little ambitious for the British climate. I mean, really… HOW often will you use it?
Anyway, so I’m leafing through the issue in bed with my coffee, waking DH up every few seconds with a ‘Wow!’ and ‘Look at this!’, ‘Oh, you have to see this!’ when I come across a gorgeous house. ‘Wow!’ I breathed. ‘I could live THERE if we have HAD to move back to the UK,’ I told DH, generously.
‘Darling, that’s Hampton Court,’ he said.
Last night I went to Caramel. For those who don’t know it, it’s one of the newest and trendiest bars in Dubai right now. Its hyperbolic write-ups claim it brings a slice of ‘Las Vegas’ to our city (the mind boggles: gambling? Overweight, middle-aged saddos on slot machines? Wearing ‘fanny packs’?).
Going to trendy bars used to be my life. Every night I could be found propping up a bar till closing time yet, as I prepared to venture out last night, I realised it’s been so long since I last went anywhere remotely trendy that I’ve completely forgotten what to wear.
I pored over the pages of Grazia, analysing what the Bright Young Things wear for a night out these days. I realised I’m never going to replicate that look. I’m a 39-year-old mother of two for goodness’ sake, not a 25-year-old PR exec.
I agonised over a rather ‘nice’ one-shoulder top I have. It’s hot-pink silk crepe, with a jewelled border, sort of sari-style. I thought about wearing it with cropped, skinny black jeans and killer heels. But somehow I was getting ‘sparkly granny’ not ‘sexy young thing’ from that idea. The thought of white jeans popped into my head, then out again quicker than I could say ‘Liz Hurley’.
I decided to ask a friend who’s 10 years younger than me and who, despite also being a mum of two littluns, frequents a lot of trendy bars.
‘LBD,’ she said. ‘LBD, nice shoes, nice bag. You can’t go wrong.’
Given that Caramel’s located in the Dubai International Financial Centre and would hence attract lawyers, bankers and serious career people for after-work drinks, I thought my friend was onto a winner. I would blend in seamlessly; lawyers, bankers and serious career people wouldn’t point at me and snigger ‘what’s the mummy doing here?’
I got out my only LBD, dusted it off and remembered that it’s a UK size 8. I had last worn it at my absolute skinniest and even then I had to breathe in to do it up.
I breathed in and stepped into it. It fit – a bit like a second skin – but, with the right undies I could get away with it. I dug out some sparkly heels, a fabulous red LV handbag and some diamond earrings and I was ready to go. My friend looked a million dollars in a to-die-for Maria Grachvogel, slashed-to-the-waist jumpsuit.
I just wish I’d known that the waitresses’ uniform in Caramel is an LBD that fits like a second-skin. I spent all night fending off lawyers, bankers and serious career people trying to order another round of martinis.
At the risk of sounding like the Housewife I am, I have to tell you about the new milk bottles we have from local dairy, Al Rawabi. For how many years has milk come in a bottle-shaped bottle? Even casting my mind back to the haze of my distant childhood, milk came in bottle-shaped bottles. Yes, they were glass, but they still had that ‘bottley’ design that, well, works.
So I wonder what Al Rawabi was thinking when they decided to reinvent the wheel bottle. Recently they rolled out the new design. To me, it looked a bit like a giraffe. My mind struggled to find the connection between giraffes and the UAE, but the bottle did fit nicely in the fridge door, so I let it go.
Until I tried to extract the milk from the giraffe-shaped bottle. Oh my. Milk everywhere. All over the kitchen counter, all over the floor – everywhere except in DS’s cereal bowl. After a few similar such pouring disasters, I started buying another brand – one that still comes in bottle-shaped bottles.
Yesterday I saw that Al Rawabi has now added an explanatory tag for those who, like me, are dumbfounded by the giraffe-shaped bottle. I bought it for fun.
‘Bottle Design Inspired by our Cows’ it says on the cover, with a picture of some fluttery-lashed, human-looking eyes. Bottle designed BY cows, I wonder?
‘How to pour perfectly with the new Al Rawabi bottle’ says the back cover. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? If you have to explain to adults how to pour milk from your bottles, maybe there’s a design flaw?
Inside, a diagram: ‘Pouring technique. For an easy pour, grip the handle placing your thumb through the hole. With your other hand, grip the bottom (mouth) and tilt the bottle. Enjoy the control and smoother pouring experience!’
I got aproned up, got out the mop and bucket, and gave it a try. If you’re right-handed, you have to cross your hands across your body in order to grasp the correct ends of the bottle. It’s a bit clumsy, and the milk still ended up all over the counter. Send those cows back to design school, I say!
Now I’ve had the BlackBerry for a couple of weeks, I find myself comparing it to having a live-in housemaid.
Namely, you can live all your life without one and not miss it. When you get one, it takes a day or two to get used to, then you start wondering how you ever lived without it. As I said: just like a housemaid.
Truly, I love my BB.
Now I find myself measuring my tediously long school-run drives by the length of the red traffic lights – are they long enough to check my emails? Suddenly that interminably long light at the Al Khail Rd / Umm Suquiem St roundabout has a purpose; likewise Umm Suquiem St lights by Mall of the Emirates. No longer am I champing at the bit for the signal to turn green and willing the driver of that white truck up front to find first gear – I’m up to my eyeballs in email.
Likewise, when people keep me waiting, instead of storming out after 30 seconds (I’m a busy girl), I just get onto the BlackBerry: with it in my hand, no time is wasted time.
The BB has reduced the amount of time I spend glued to the computer; has enabled me to reply to urgent emails quickly while on the two-hour school run; and has allowed me to get on with my job while DS is sleeping in the back seat outside nursery. It’s also allowed me to send cute pictures of the children instantly to their daddy at the office, and to upload them straight onto Facebook for my family overseas. I’ve even been instant-messaging my cousin in Canada (for free!).
In the evenings, when the BB quietens down and the beeps and flashing lights slow to a halt, I gaze fondly at its sleek lines and marvel at how such a tiny thing can bring the world so close to me. Make no bones about it: one of these days, I’m going to wake up with the BB in my bed and DH asleep on the kitchen counter.
On Friday England played Algeria. I’m not a football fan but I’m not averse to watching the odd international match, especially if it involves good friends, nice wine and good food. So we got together with some of our dearest friends and tried to get a table at the Golf Club, from where we watched most of England’s performance in the 2006 World Cup.
Sadly, though, the club wasn’t taking bookings and I’m far too old to turn up on the off-chance of some dinner, so we went to Palermo, the ‘posh’ restaurant at the Polo Club, instead, with a view to watching the 10.30pm kick-off back at our friends’ house.
I’ve not eaten at Palermo before – not since the day DH and I turned up to find no vegetarian food on the menu: nothing, not a lettuce leaf. They had some paella, it being a Spanish sort of a place, but when I asked if the chef could perhaps refrain from throwing the meat or seafood into my paella, the answer was a resounding ‘no’ so we couldn’t stay. (The chef must have really twitchy arms.)
Anyway, into Palermo we trotted on Friday, me fully expecting to have to order Pizza Hut, only to find there were several vegetarian dishes on the menu, all of which sounded quite nice. I was just contemplating grilled Mediterranean vegetables with melted provolone cheese as a starter when the waiter, a chap I think was South African, turned up with the wine list.
‘Where shall I leave this?’ he asked.
‘Here!’ said my girlfriend, indicating between herself and me. The fellas were all sitting on the other side of the table.
‘Best place for it,’ said the waiter, sniggering (he did – he sniggered). Then, as he walked off, he said the strangest thing.
‘I’ll just get another one for you,’ he said to the guys in a conspiratorial, wink-wink-nudge-nudge sort of way.
‘No need,’ said my girlfriend. ‘We’re fine choosing, thanks.’
‘No, really!’ said the waiter, laughing like he couldn’t believe a woman could choose a bottle of wine, and off he trotted, bringing back another wine list and plonking it down next to the men.
‘Here you go,’ he said. ‘Let the ladies look. You can choose, heh, heh.’
Heh heh indeed.
My friend’s DH – our hero – gave it straight back to the waiter, who later found out that it was the ladies in charge of tipping that night.
It’s hot. Hot, hot hot.
A tropical cyclone hit Oman just over a week ago, and we were told the knock-on effect here in Dubai would be higher temperatures for a few days. Well, the few days have been and gone; the humidity that followed the cyclone has thankfully passed my neck of the woods, but the high temperatures remain.
Yesterday, when I picked up the kids from school, it was 47 degrees. Just like that. When I stepped out of the car, my skin burned, not from the sun, but from the air temperature.
So, of course, all the weather rumours have started again. One that’s doing the rounds today is that it’s going to be 61˚C on Sunday. Hello, guys. 61˚C? I know Dubai likes to break world records, but that’s one I don’t think we’ll be getting this weekend.
Another report – which probably holds more truth – is that we’ll be experiencing ‘heat cyclones’, which start in the Empty Quarter (desert) and get pushed towards the UAE.
I don’t know what a heat cyclone is, but I drove through something yesterday that may well have been a small version. It was a funnel of sand, probably about one or two metres in diameter and the height of a three-storey house – from a distance, you could see it spiralling up from the ground like a whirling dervish. I see them occasionally on the bits of desert near Al Khail Road, but this one was right in my path.
I did what every self-respecting Housewife would do: drove straight through it. The impact rocked the car, any lingering dust was sand-blasted off the paintwork and the wipers – sensing ‘rain’ – came on: Vorsprung Durch Technik. Love it.
I nipped into Carrefour today – I was in the mall before it officially opened (at the ATM) when I remembered I needed some mascara and that Carrefour stocks my brand. Don’t laugh, but it’s actually usually quite hard for me to shop because, in the hours that I’m out and about on school runs, the malls aren’t yet open – and, once I’m home, I’m working, not buying shoes and handbags. Carrefour, however, was just lifting its barriers…
Easy, I thought: rush in, grab mascara, leave. Lady Luck was shining on me – the door that I walked through was right in front of the Maybelline stand so I really could have walked in 10 steps, grabbed the mascara, walked 10 steps to the till and been on my way.
You know what’s coming, don’t you?
What IS it about Carrefour? As I’ve said before, I rarely go there, but when I do, I get sucked in: flooomp! So today, instead of coming out with a Dhs 47 mascara in my handbag and Dhs 53 change in my purse, I came out clutching a Black & Decker ‘Mini Chopper’ (no, it’s not a bike); two printer cartridges; a game for DS; six pairs of High School Musical pants for DD – and my mascara.
As I walked my guilty purchases to the car, I was wondering what it is that makes me spend money in Carrefour. Clever marketing? Bright lights? Fabulous stock? Must-have offers? Amazing customer service?
Nah, none of the above, I decided. I think it’s just that it’s the only shop open at 9am – amazing the effect that can have on a woman’s psyche.
The Mini Chopper, by the way, is ace.
The gas-guzzler – my much-beloved Audi – has a slow puncture. I know this, but DH hasn’t quite realised it yet. I think he thinks it was a one-off that the tyre pressure sank over the last couple of weeks from 35psi to 13psi.
‘The tyre looks a bit flat,’ I’d said.
He’d pumped it up and handed it back to me.
‘There you go,’ he said. ‘It’s fine now.’
I suspected not.
‘Didn’t you get the tyre replaced?’ I asked.
‘No,’ he said. ‘Why? It doesn’t seem to have a puncture. Tyres lose pressure from time to time. It’s probably nothing.’
Further probing from me revealed that, with no evidence of a puncture per se, if the tyre sinks again, it could be caused by the rim being a little bent out of shape. How on earth would that happen? *Blushes*
‘If the pressure gets that low again,’ said DH, ‘you must fill it up at once, otherwise the tyre could come off the wheel.’ Given that most of my driving is spent bombing up and down a 12-lane highway at high speed with a car full of children, this is a potential disaster.
So today I was at the petrol station again, blasting air into my tyre. The tyre had looked a little, umm, squidgy, and, while I didn’t see what pressure it was at when I started pumping, let’s just say it took some time to reach 35psi (you would think that men in this country had seen a blonde get out of a car and pump up the tyres in 40˚C before, but apparently not – I almost got a round of applause and a bunch of roses at the end of it).
‘Darling, I think you need to take the wheel in to the tyre place to get checked,’ I told DH tonight. ‘It keeps losing air.’
‘Shouldn’t be necessary,’ he said. ‘Unless someone’s bashed the tyre into the kerb and dented the alloy?’
Crumbs, I thought. Who would be so careless?