Archive for September 2010
A visual one for you today. Are these, or are they not, the most useless parking spaces IN THE WORLD? (assumes husky Jeremy Clarkson voice).
Those having trouble parking at DIFC and DMC could always park here and, um, walk?
God bless Dubai.
Many of my friends roll their eyes when they see me striding into school wearing galactic heels.
‘You always look so glam: you’ve always got your heels on,’ they sigh, looking down at their comfy ballerina pumps and flip-flops. I’m sure they’re thinking, ‘You’re so try-hard.’
Well, girls, there are reasons why I wear heels, and they don’t have anything to do with trying hard. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Here they are:
- Wearing a high shoe is the quickest and easiest way to lose a dress size (or two). There is a direct correlation between height of shoe and perceived width of hip / size of bum. Try it: get dressed and look in the mirror wearing flats, then switch to the highest (and preferably chunkiest) shoe you have. See how your legs lengthen and your hips disappear. Fabulous.
- They make your legs look thinner and your ankles look bonier: really, they do, just make it a shoe that’s both high and chunky, not a spindly heel.
- They are comfy: wedges and platforms don’t feel like heels. Your weight is not pushed forward onto the balls of your feet. You feel like you are wearing flats.
- They are perfect footwear for sandy car parks: wedges and platforms in deep sand mean your feet are still above the sand – no sandy toes.
- They are a great work-out. Given my aversion to exercise, wearing high shoes is the closest I ever get to calf raises. If you run a few steps (perhaps to stop the officer giving you a parking ticket outside Caffe Nero, for example), you can even feel it in your bum.
- They make my highlights last longer. A good height of shoe, along with my being 5 foot 8, ensures I am taller than the majority of other mums, which means I can get away with the roots showing for a good couple of extra weeks as no-one’s tall enough to see up there. (I only know one mum who’s 5’ 11” in flats). Men, who can be taller than me +platforms, don’t tend to notice roots on the school run.
- A good shoe really pulls your outfit together, even if all you’re wearing is cropped jeans and a vest. Try-hard? Couldn’t be farther from it!
And there you have it. That, ladies, is why you see me running around in heels all day.
Today was the day my new custom-made sofa should have been delivered.
You can kind of guess that it wasn’t, can’t you? To be honest, I knew it wasn’t going to be ready. A week after I ordered it, they called to say the fabric I wanted was out of stock and would I please go choose another. It took me a couple of days to get up there – juggling trips that far away with a 12pm nursery pick-up is not easy.
“You can see the frame, as well,” said Rashid. The words “dangling”, “carrot” and “donkey” sprung to mind.
So I drove up there a week ago and was ushered into a meeting with the production engineer. He was an incredibly well-informed chap who – thankfully, given his job – knew everything there was to know about sofa design. I settled down at his desk and we talked for an hour about every single measurement of the sofa: how tall DH is; how long his legs are; the relative height of the base; the depth of the cushions; the shape of the corner wedge; the height of the cushions and the ratio of foam to Dacron. The curve of the armrest; the height of the back; the thickness of the back cushion; the stuffing for that. The legs, the piping, everything.
It was one of the most satisfying conversations I’ve ever had with a tradesman in this country. As I stood up to leave, the production guy said,
“Oh, and your fabric. It’s not good. I make you a beautiful sofa and you hate it because you chose wrong fabric. Come… let me show you…”
And we spent another half hour going through fabric books.
But, while I’d found it easy to communicate with him over the design, I wasn’t having much luck with the fabric. I want a natural fibre, but the production engineer, he thinks a polyester is better. More hard-wearing. More popular.
“If my husband sits on polyester, his hair catches fire,” I said. The production engineer smiled.
I took home two books: one of cottons that weren’t washable and so were about as useful as making the whole thing out of chocolate, and one of polyester chenilles that shone in the sunlight. DH snorted.
Today I went back to search some more. I found my fabric (Oxford cotton 470gsm) but it doesn’t come in the colour I want (as close to white as is humanly possible in an Oxford cotton).
“Can I see the frame?” I asked Rashid.
“The men are at lunch,” he said apologetically.
“But the frame is not at lunch? I can see it?”
He agreed reluctantly and led me into the workshop.
“There are a few frames. Any one could be yours,” he said, indicating a three-seater, and a small sofa with chaise.
“Not mine,” I said. Mine is a three-metre by three-metre L-shape.
Rashid led me into the woodwork room, where the wooden frames are constructed.
“Madam, yours will be in here,” he said.
We looked around. There was nothing. Just some long strips of wood that may one day make up the frame of my sofa.
I felt it would be rude to point out that it was delivery day and it hadn’t yet been started, because Rashid was being so pleasant.
“Lovely,” I said.
I’m hoping we’ll have it for Christmas.
Sometimes, I think I feed my children too much pasta. It’s easy to fall back on and, when you’re stuck for a dinner with little time for cooking, it doesn’t feel as ‘bad’ as giving them orange fish fingers or frozen chicken yuckits, for example.
So, we do pasta with pesto; pasta with tomato, tuna and broccoli; pasta with cheese sauce and salmon; pasta with tomato and marscapone (thank-you Sacla!); and pasta with crème fraîche and smoked salmon (their favourite).
Every now and then, though, I try to break out of the rut and make something that doesn’t revolve around carbs. Yesterday was an example: I decided to make a shepherd’s pie. Because I’m vegetarian, it wouldn’t have mince in it but Annabel Karmel (AK) does a nice recipe for a lentil shepherd’s pie – I’ve made it before and it even got a thumbs-up from DH, the eternal carnivore.
It’s packed with green lentils, which are full of iron, fibre and protein and, thanks to a generous slosh of my best Shiraz, which is not prescribed by AK, it’s quite tasty, too. Oh, my lucky family!
The only thing with the cottage pie is that it’s quite time-consuming to make. Green lentils take forever and a day to cook, and then you have to make the mash as well. DD doesn’t like mash with ‘lumps’ so I end up mashing the potatoes, then adding cream (or milk), butter and nutmeg before using the hand blender on them, to get a beautiful smooth consistency. Then you sprinkle it with cheese and bake the whole lot in the oven.
So I slaved away over the hot stove yesterday. It took about two hours, during which the a/c poltergeist turned our kitchen a/c up to 31˚C (bless) so I really was a mess by the end of it. Still, I put dinner in front of DD and the response was gratifying:
“It’s the YUMMIEST dinner I‘ve EVER SEEN!” she enthused.
“Did you try it?” I asked.
“Not yet,” she said, looking at the fluffy potatoes and rich, juicy sauce that smelled every-so-slightly of Shiraz.
And then it turned out that DD had a tummyache and DS was too hot and tired from playing in the park; both of them had eaten biscuits and ice lollies earlier; and neither of them felt like eating any dinner… so they didn’t.
[Note: if you use Annabel Karmel's recipe, I recommend cutting out almost all of the sugar (it's very sweet otherwise). You can also add extra vegetables - diced courgette's a good one to hide in there - and a slug of red wine. Mmm!]
DS has moved nursery. Having completed a full academic year at a place where he was very happy but that took me two hours a day to get to and from, I’ve now placed him somewhere a lot closer to home (three minutes, to be precise).
WHAT a difference it makes to my day not to be flashed into the gutter and cut up by idiots in white minibuses for two hours each and every morning.
I am overjoyed with the new nursery. The staff are warm and welcoming, and DS – well – it was a rocky start, but I think he almost loves it. He’s only been in for four mornings so far and already he’s settling nicely and there haven’t, really, been many tears.
One of the things I like a lot about the new nursery is its location. It’s very rural: there’s lush greenery, trees, green grass, hedges, flowers, white picket fences and – yes – horses. Every morning, as I drop off DS, I see a few women trotting their horses serenely around the paddock, backs straight, jodhpurs on. The creak of leather, the scent of horse… it sends me back to the days when I was a pony-mad teenager who would have sold her granny for an extra hour galloping a pony around a field.
So, of course, I started thinking – well – why don’t I try riding again? I still have my riding hat, my jodhpurs and my calfskin boots. Whether or not I still fit into the jodhpurs is a whole different issue but it didn’t take long for me to talk myself into the health and wellness benefits of early-morning riding lessons in the fresh air. I was about to pick up the phone to book when…
… the other morning I arrived not to the sight of the disciplined riders trotting neatly along the picket fence, but one of the horses cantering and bucking wildly around the paddock, reins and stirrups flying and the rider chasing madly after it (she could even have been limping or I may have added that in my imagination).
Oh yes. I’d forgotten about ‘being thrown’. That bit’s not so good for the health and wellness. Maybe I’ll just enjoy from afar.
Okay, so there used to be a time when I was invited to cocktail parties to celebrate the openings of restaurants, hotels, bars and art galleries.
Nowadays, I’m invited to children’s birthday parties. Parties for under-fives, at that.
And what DO you wear to a children’s birthday party? Overdress and the other mums will spend the afternoon dissecting your outfit; under-dress and you’re a slummy-mummy. How do you hit the right note to look a) on trend b) classy c) mutton dressed as mutton not lamb (I will be 40 next birthday – no more hotpants for me), d) not frumpy while still being able to chase a toddler around on your hands and knees, e) have a five-year-old wipe snot on your top without wincing and f) not mind if E-coloured birthday cake icing is smeared all over your trousers by Someone Else’s Badly Mannered Child?
I have realised the key is in the accessories: a good handbag, a good pair of sunglasses perched on the head, maybe a nice watch and some eye-catching jewellery. A nice car parked outside always helps: if you have a Mulberry Alexa bag and a Range Rover Sport parked outside, no-one’s gonna argue with you about the denim cut-offs and the manky flip-flops.
So, I was invited to a five-year-old’s party this weekend. It was to take place in an art gallery. An art gallery where the children paint the masterpieces – ie. the kids are let loose with paint brushes and paints, with which they are supposed to cover the canvases not the parents.
Despite having known the exact time and date of the party since about last February, we were late. Why? Because I was hopping about the bedroom in my undies, trying to figure out what to wear. Having put on 2.5kgs in England didn’t help: all my usual ‘kiddie party’ clothes were too tight. Lately, I’ve been relying too heavily on a pair of five-year-old white jeans, which fit me better than anything else in my wardrobe right now.
But I can’t wear them, I thought, trying on black peg-leg trousers and cage shoes (too ‘try-hard’) – white jeans in a kiddie art gallery is asking for trouble. The red maxi dress was too much; the brown one too frumpy. The cotton Joules frock was in the wash; the linen knee-skirt was too prissy. The denim cut-offs really were too casual; the usual blue jeans too tight (god bless those pub lunches); the skinnies too long.
So, 15 minutes after the party started, and still a 20-minute drive away, I fell into the favourite white jeans.
‘They’ll be okay,’ I thought. ‘I’ll just stay away from children with paintbrushes.’
The party was great, but the white jeans now sport an artistic streak of yellow oil paint. For DD’s sake, I’m relieved to say it wasn’t her handiwork.
So anyone who knows me knows that I love a good swimming pool. But what I love the most is sitting, up to the waist and no further, in the cool water while the top half of me basks in the sun. Once a sun-worshipper, always a sun-worshipper.
If ever there’s an emergency and I have to get into the pool properly, there is no way ON EARTH that I’m getting my hair wet.
No way, José.
Nothing to do with discomfort; everything to do with painting neat bleach onto my brunette hair every six weeks in order that it fools everyone I am blonde. And we all know from chemistry lessons that bleach + hair + chlorine = disaster. Dry hair; straw-like hair; green hair.
DD knows the facts: mummy CAN swim, she just doesn’t because her hair will turn green and fall out (‘Doesn’t she see that as a challenge?’ asked a friend of ours, a father to boys, I barely need to add).
So today I took DS for his first swimming lesson, but only after I had been assured by multiple friends that I wouldn’t have to get my hair wet.
‘You may need to put down your Costa for a bit,’ said one helpfully (it was 9.30am), ‘but I doubt you’ll be going under.’
What they forgot to tell me about the baby swimming lessons is this: after a summer of swimming in our own un-chilled pool, the communal pool is chilled. DS and I both got in and nearly had heart attacks. Of course he started screaming. I wanted to as well: it must have been a positively arctic 29 degrees in there.
Next week, we’re going half an hour early and in wet suits so we can acclimatise. Come November, when it’s seriously freezing both inside and outside the pool, daddy will be on swimming lesson duties while I sit at home and eat pancakes …. oh yes he will…
Yesterday DD came back from her first day in Year 1 with big news.
“Guess what?” she asked, bursting with excitement.
I couldn’t guess: was it that she got a place in the Bollywood dancing class? That her new teacher is really nice? Her best friend’s in her class?
With shining eyes, she explained that one of her friends “has Lelli Kelly shoes!”
What, in god’s name, I wondered, are Lelli Kelly shoes?
And then I remembered. In the mornings that I’d let DD watch Channel 5’s ‘M…m…m… m… m… m… m… m… More Milkshake’ TV programmes in the UK, DD had seen an oft-repeated ad for Lelli Kelly shoes; specifically for a black pair that had interchangeable straps. For school, there were black straps; for weekends and parties, there were sparkly and “dolly” straps. The shoes came – for a limited period only – with a “free makeup bag” that you could open to reveal lip gloss. DD begged me for the £45 shoes for the whole time we were in England.
Furthermore, while we were in England, she started singing the Argos jingle. All the tempting toys she saw advertised between episodes of ‘Peppa Pig’ and ‘Olivia’ were apparently for sale in Argos. DD now thinks it’s some sort of Santa’s Grotto.
I don’t know where she gets it from.
Anyway, I told her yesterday that you can’t buy Lelli Kelly shoes in Dubai. As if I’ve got time to source them over the internet: I’m off to book some laser-lipo – I read that it resculpts the body with no pain and no down-time… fab results seen, apparently, after just one session….
I switched jobs today. After three months as a full-time children’s entertainer, I finally hung up my faded clown’s suit and put on my chauffeur’s hat: till Christmas, Matthew, I will be working as a driver. Mums who’ve just been through the ridiculously long three-month summer holidays and are now returning kids to school will know exactly what I mean.
So this morning I was up and functioning at stupid o’clock. I pasted on some makeup lest I scared the Reception kids, jumped into a dress that I hoped covered all sins, packed the pre-made lunch, fed and groomed the girl and was out the door by 7.10am, lunch bags, book bags and water bottles flapping in my wake (I still forgot the sunhat).
Despite the early start, it was kind of nice to be back. I’d forgotten the camaraderie of driving along Emirates Road as the sun’s coming up over the desert, waving to friends in the convoy of luxury SUVs all heading to school. I’d forgotten the zoo that is the car park on the first day of term as many of the 1,200-odd parents (and yes they are often odd) come in two cars.
I’d even forgotten the dress code for early morning drop-offs. For a minute, as I took in the sight of 1,200 glamorous mummies mingling on the grass, I thought I’d arrived at the races on Ladies Day. We had full make-up; we had diamonds glinting in the early morning sun. We had maxi dresses, skinny-skinny jeans, sparkly vests and cage shoes; we had more designer wear than you could shake a bangle at. We had statement sunglasses, glossy highlights, “it” bags and chunky wedges. The air was thick with expensive perfume.
I looked down at my crumpled cotton dress – one of my outlet village bargains from Joules – hid behind my large (gilded but not gold) sunglasses, and scampered back to the car as quickly as I could. After a summer in England (“comfort over style, dear”) it’ll take me a few days to get back into the style stakes. God I love Dubai.
After nine months of searching for my ideal sofa – or in fact for just any acceptable sofa – I’ve discovered a company that will custom-make sofas for a reasonable cost.
Believe me, I wanted to buy a readymade one, but they were all either too low, too soft, too small, too narrow, the wrong colour, the wrong fabric or not washable.
I’ve stood in Ikea trying to persuade myself that a tiny yet washable sofa is perfect; I’ve drooled over squishy sofas in Pottery Barn only to find the fabrics are not washable (I have a toddler of the male variety!).
I almost ordered one from Crate and Barrel only to realise the wrong colour was so hideously wrong I’d probably vomit all over it. I’ve hidden my shock that Ethan Allen takes eight months to deliver. I’ve thought about leather; I‘ve thought about cheap sofas and expensive sofas; I’ve trawled Marina, The One and Outlet Mall. I’ve been in every over-priced French showroom, mooned through Natuzzi and flirted with the good-looking chap in Mobilia.
Ultimately, I’ve sat on our 13-year-old, fraying, stained and squashed sofa, which we bought to celebrate our wedding and have already had restuffed once, and cried over how we’re going to replace it.
So today I went to the furniture-making company with a handful of sketches and measurements of my ideal sofa (funnily enough, I was thrown out of art class aged just 12. “Did you draw these yourself?” asked Rashid-the-clerk of my 3D renderings. “No,” I said. “My five-year-old did.”).
I talked to him about fabrics and slip covers, foam and Dacron, piping, studding (no thanks!), seat-to-armrest ratio, armrest shape, scatter cushions and feet.
“Do you know what I mean?” I asked hopelessly, as he nodded vigorously.
“No problem,” he said. “We make you nice sofa. We are professionals.”
It was indeed a leap of faith. I handed over the thousand pound deposit, shook his hand and walked out with my fingers crossed.
It’ll be ready in 20 days. Inshallah.