Archive for August 2010
I’m back from England, and overjoyed. I appreciate that I’m weird and that most of my friends returning to Dubai from England spend a few days feeling a little shaky, perhaps even shedding a few tears, but I love Dubai. I just love it.
Anyway, to prove I’m not heartless, I’ll tell you that cried, too: I cried on the plane when, after the night flight back to Dubai, the crew opened the blinds and the cabin was filled with the joyous, warm, orange light of a Gulf sunrise. To me, it’s the most beautiful sight: it means I’m nearly home.
Don’t get me wrong. England was fine. The first two weeks were great. I loved spending time with my mum and catching up with my friends. I adored going to Tesco and the M&S Food Hall. DH was with me and my ‘batteries’ were still topped up with solar energy from all the year-round sunshine in Dubai. But two weeks in England really is my limit, and I should have quit while I was ahead.
Then DH left, what little patches of sun we may have had disappeared and I was left in the miserable, cold European light, dodging the rain just to go for a walk; eating an al fresco lunch while the rain poured down around our soggy little fabric cabana (“We planned to eat outside, so let’s not let the rain stop us!” Gah!) and, ultimately, weeping on the sofa with the sheer misery of it all.
England is grey. Too many people are miserable – I don’t blame them, they seem to be having a tough time of it lately and I would be miserable if I, too, had to live there. It’s cold and it rains all the time. Rubbish is collected only once every two weeks. Nobody seems ever to have a blow-dry just because they feel like it; my friends had never heard of eyelash extensions; everyone loves Primark. Not that these are bad things (except the Primark-worshipping) – it just means the Brits en masse are not very aesthetically pleasing. Track suits, anoraks, trainers as day wear. It hardly makes your retinas skip with joy.
Oh, to step back into Dubai Airport, and see Dubai-ites in all their glory: fabulous luggage, glossy hair, pretty makeup, good teeth, beautiful clothes, high heels, handbags, big, shiny cars.
Then, a porter running to help me; my lovely DH; our own, luxurious gas-guzzler; my home. Bliss.
I used to be her. That woman on the train with the handbag and the shoes. The one snarling at the mum who’s blocking the aisle with her grotty pushchair; her snotty kids taking up the seats while I was left standing in my painfully high heels.
“Why do they do it?” I used to moan to DH, who was, at that point probably only Dear Boyfriend. “Why would you take your kids on a packed train full of commuters? Why can’t mums just stay at home and do Play-Doh with their brats?”
So today, with a 17-month-old, a five-year-old and a pushchair that was just a little too large for public transport, I was the Other Woman: the one with the snotty kids, not the good shoes.
Oh my. London is not made for pushchairs. “Mind the gap” took on a new meaning as I nearly deposited both DS and the pushchair down the looming hole twixt platform and train at London Bridge. I know DD is going to have nightmares about leaping over the chasm herself.
And then, when we got to our destination – in the ghoulish desertion of off-peak hours when there was neither stationmaster nor lonely cyclist to help – we were faced with three flights of stone steps to get down to the street. The only people in sight were a pair of pensioners, on their last legs after the dizzying ascent.
“Looks like you could do with a lift,” panted one before collapsing on the litter bin. I wasn’t going to get any help from them.
So I loaded the 10kg nappy bag onto DD, took DS in one hand and the pushchair in the other and bumped it down all three flights. The return, at 3.30pm, was not so easy. Climbing up three flights with a pushchair in one hand and a wriggly baby in the other as the train pulled in overhead was more than a Challenge Anneka job for me.
Still, we managed. Our connection at Waterloo was faultless and we made the 4pm train back home. I’d planned the time thinking we’d beat the rush hour but sadly not. Lady with the shoes: if you want the train free of kids, work till 6.
“The success of your shopping trips is measured purely on the food you’ve eaten,” said DH about me, once upon a time.
He was right, of course. No matter what I’ve bought or failed to buy when out shopping, my happiness is more linked to the food I’ve eaten than it is to my purchases. It’s very simple:
- A failed attempt to buy something + a good lunch in Carluccio’s = a happy shop.
- Fantastic shopping + miserable food = miserable Desperate Housewife.
One of the things I’ve been enjoying most about England is the food. I’m not talking about the chef’s table at some Ramsay emporium, nor about the latest trendy bistro in town. Rather, those delicious – and so unexpected – moments in average pubs and cafes.Maybe I’ve just been in Dubai too long. But when you go into some rubbish-looking chain café in a shopping mall and order some run-of-the-mill dish and it comes with a large glass of wine and tastes exquisite, I nearly fall of my chair in delight.
It’s probably why I must have put on about 3kgs in the last two weeks. I haven’t weighed myself, but I can feel it in my tummy; in the jiggle as I walk up the stairs; in the bloat as I sit at the computer.
In Dubai, I’m really careful about what I eat. I weigh myself every day. People have nicknamed me “sparrow” for the teensy size of my portions (really!). I manage to maintain a reasonable size.
Since I’ve been in England I’ve fallen hard for pub lunches, drinking at lunchtime, chip-shop chips, M&S sandwiches (450 cals in a cheese sandwich!), M&S tiny desserts, Pizza Express 14” pizzas and creamy desserts.
DH leaves tomorrow. I’m going to stop eating and start running. Either that, or I’ll have to book an extra seat on the plane to get myself home at the end of the month.
We’ve just got back from a few nights spent in a castle in sunny Somerset. The castle had tiny rooms, low ceilings, a narrow spiral staircase to the upstairs bedrooms, a turret, a portcullis and no en suites. I hardly need to add that it had no WiFi, do I?
There were, however, cows at the bottom of the garden. They came over to see what was going on every time we stepped outside, and did vast poos and wees, much to DD’s amusement. Even DS loved the cows, shouting obscure baby words at them with much excitement.
I suppose they were more interesting, visually, than sand-coloured camels.
While we were in Somerset, we spent a day at Lord Bath’s ancestral home and major tourist attraction: Longleat. We didn’t manage the safari drive, but we visited Postman Pat Village (“But he’s not REAL! He’s not WALKING!” wailed DD), went on the miniature train (and lost DH’s Ray-Bans in the process), went on the safari boat trip, and generally meandered about amongst the throngs of other millions of stressed parents who also thought it a good day to visit.
When I was planning the summer, the decision came down to EuroDisney or Longleat. Longleat obviously won. In retrospect, think it was the right choice, not least because our castle was much nicer than the Disney hotels I looked at.
We also paid a visit to the Clark’s Outlet Village near Street, where we gorged on bargain buys from GAP, M&S, Joules and Ecco. I even got DD measured and fitted for next year’s school shoes at a fraction of what they’d have cost in Dubai.
I’ve never been to an Outlet Village before (unless you count Dubai’s dreary Outlet Mall) and I was pleasantly surprised. It was done up to look like a little village, with flower baskets hanging outside the shops and a traditional carousel in the village square. All very twee, and a big thumbs up from me and my 15 bags of Joules frocks.
I’ve now been in England for two weeks and that’s my usual threshold, beyond which I start to pine for Dubai. DH flies back on Wednesday and I’m already fantasising about changing my ticket to return with him. I keep thinking about our pool. If I knew it was cool and inviting, I may be more tempted, but I know that ad this time of year, and without a chiller, it will be like hot soup.
And then I look at the kids at bedtime and see their tired and happy little faces flushed with fresh air and the great activities we’ve been doing and I think: for what to take them back to 49°C and humidity? To an indoor life with all their friends away?
We’ll stick it out for two more weeks. Forgive me if my posts are irregular. Back to usual service in September.
One of the things about coming back to the town in which I grew up is that I keep expecting to bump into people whom I know. I spend the whole time looking out of the car window, scanning the supermarket aisles or watching the pub doors, waiting to see my old classmates.
The only thing is, I keep looking at 20-year-olds.
I forget that my classmates, now, will be approaching 40 and, truth be told, probably won’t be that up on the old Rodial skincare and botox jabs. It’s just not that kind of a town. DH, from time to time, points out a grey-haired granny hobbling along with a hunchback and a shopping trolley and says sweetly,
“Was she in your class, darling?”
But I knew that about him before I married him.
So, last night, DH and I decided to go have dinner in a local bar. I thought it was perhaps a notch above the local pub in terms of classiness, and I think I was right: it was all very pleasant bar the semi-naked ASBOs in the corner.
DH and I were just finishing our food and enjoying a coupla drinks when I spotted a girl who used to be in my sixth form class.
A couple of swigs of Merlot later (Me: “A large glass of the Chilean Merlot, please.” Barman: “Come again, luv?” Me: “The Merlot. From Chile?” Barman: “That’s a wine, yeah, luv?” Me: “Um, yes.” Barman: “Is it red or white?”) and I decided to go chat to my old classmate on our way out.
I hadn’t spotted it but she was with ANOTHER classmate on a sort of Facebook Reunion – a girl who I’d liked a lot at school although we’d never become that close. She, it turns out, works for a government think-tank now, and we had a lovely conversation till DH, standing outside the pub in his raincoat, started dancing up down to indicate his lips were turning blue with cold and would I please hurry up.
I made my excuses and left, realising only as I did so that DH and I were the only people in the pub in sweaters, jeans, raincoats and boots. It was at least 17°. Everyone else was in summer frocks, strappy tops and hot pants.
But it didn’t perturb me. My friends probably didn’t notice a thing: I never blended in that well at school, either.
Silence from me for a couple of days because I’m now in England. First, a day spent packing for four people who’ll be spending the best part of a month in unpredictable weather.
Long gone are the days when I could spend an afternoon filling my suitcase with lovely things to wear on holiday. Now, I pack everything from shorts and vests to raincoats and fleeces for the kids; then I pack their familiar toys, cups and other gee-gaws without which they could not live; then I spend five minutes at 10pm throwing a few pairs of jeans and some t-shirts into the top of the bag for me. That’s motherhood for you.
Anyway, so we arrived in England yesterday and the first thing we did was to go to Tesco. A run-of-the-mill supermarket. To me, it was heaven. I could have spent a whole day in there, just looking at all the stuff my compatriots can buy. My eyes were on stalks – whole product ranges I’ve never heard of; so much choice. The bakery; the branded birthday cakes; the wine aisles; the yoghurts; the kids’ stuff; and the baby products – things I never knew I needed till I saw them there. I had to exit the cakes aisle at a trot to stop myself from stocking up.
And then the Ready Meals.
I was in that chiller aisle for so long DD’s lips went blue. With everything from low-calorie through healthy-eating and kids’ meals to Tesco’s Finest, WHO in their right mind in England would EVER want to cook from scratch? Sigh.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, as I manoeuvred the laden trolley to the check-out: a man dedicated to guiding customers to the shortest queues. How about that for customer service? In Dubai, they watch out for you and close the counter just as you’ve finished loading your trolley onto the conveyor belt.