Archive for May 2011
I don’t know what made me do it – try a Zumba class, I mean. Really, what was I thinking? I’m the girl who hasn’t been to an exercise class since I was 17 (that’s 23 years!) and I quit that one because I was defeated by the complexity of “the grapevine”.
But, you know, it’s too hot for cycling and horse-riding and, given my love of a cold Sauvignon / gin & tonic / champagne / sometimes even a beer, it was the best thing I could come up with to stay in shape. Ever since DH laughed at my dancing when I was 19, I’ve fancied learning to dance, so I was also secretly hoping I’d discover a love of Zumba, become slim and trim, and learn some impressive booty moves I could throw at our next Christmas party.
After all, the Zumba website describes it as “an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party™ that’s moving millions of people toward joy and health.”
Goodness knows, I could do with some exhilarating.
So there I was this morning, putting up a valiant attempt, I thought, at trying to dance the steps whilst shaking my booty and waving my arms in the air and keeping up with the relentless beat of the music. And then something funny happened: I realised I knew some of the moves. In fact, I’ve danced them a million times.
They were from “Stepping Dance” by the Teletubbies. You can see it on You Tube. At 1.08 mins you’ll see the bit I’m talking about. And, while my Zumba technique needs some work, I don’t think anyone will deny that I did a fine job of dancing like a Teletubbie.
I went for a massage today. Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@mrsdubai) will have some inkling of what I’m about to write. Let’s just say, it wasn’t what I expected.
So the massage name had the word ‘Back’ in it. Being one who adores nothing more than having my back (feet and scalp) massaged, I read no further than that. A 75-minute back massage, I thought, what bliss – and booked at once.
And when I got to the spa, I thought it a little odd I had to fill out a form saying on what part of my body I’d like the therapist to focus. Upper back? Lower back? Shoulders?
So the massage starts and it’s bliss. I’m sinking into the massage bed like it’s made of feathers. My brain waves are switching to alpha and, I do believe, that for some time, I’m awake but not even thinking at all. 75 minutes of this. How often can I come?
And then she exposes a leg and starts working on my thigh. I’m one of those who thinks having your arms, legs, elbows, shins and knees massaged is a complete waste of time, but I’m relaxed enough to think: Okay, maybe “back” includes backs of the legs.
And after she’s done both legs she taps me on the shoulder and says, “khlease turn over” and I realise I’m not having the massage I thought I was.
So she starts on the tops of my legs and I’m already getting irritated because, honest to god, who goes to the spa for a shin massage? Am I missing something?
The worst is yet to come.
After she’s worked all the tension out of my shins and elbows, she covers up the limbs, whips down the top towel, exposing me to the waist, and starts on my tummy. And, as I’m lying there, a fixed smile on my face as I contemplate my nakedness and wonder what to do about it, her hands slide up and she’s massaging my boobs.
Yes, you read that right. She’s doing my boobs, and I’m half expecting her to say, “Madam, you not need khmassage; you need boob job. I give you number. My khousin…”
And, by then, all the goodness of the relaxation has gone and I’m tense as can be and I lie there rigid as a poker until she’s finished.
“Please be seated,” she says next, and I wonder what to do given I’m already lying down. She tugs my arms and it becomes apparent she wants me to sit up and put my arms behind my back. The towel falls down and, by then, I’m freezing cold as the a/c’s on the “winter ski resort” setting and she starts pulling me through a series of Thai-massage stretches, my bare boobs pointing to the ceiling.
“Enough!” I yelp as joints click and muscles squeal. “Stop!” and, finally, she quits.
“The oil is good for your skin,” she says as she leaves the room. “Leave it on for at least two hours.”
She says that, but what I hear is: “Why not wipe your oily arms all over your luscious leather handbag, gunk up your jewellery with it and slide your oily arms all over the cream suede interior of your hot car?” so, as soon as she leaves the room, I grab a towel, soak it under the tap, and frantically wipe off as much as I can.
In future I’ll be sticking with the nail-bar foot-rub. The only risk with that is oily flip-flops and a bit of extra cuticle care.
I vaguely remember, at some point in the motivational speech DD’s school gave back in September, that there would be assessments at the end of the school year, but that it was vitally important that the children didn’t know the papers were actually tests. The exercise would be marketed by the teachers as a bit of fun; the children wouldn’t feel any pressure; and the results were just to check progress. Or something.
So this morning DD says to me over her Cheerios, “It’s my big maths test today,” and I think: You weren’t supposed to know about that.
“Oh,” I say, wondering if I’ll make her nervous if I admit that she’s right. “Were we supposed to have done any work for it?”
“Nah,” says DD. “Just a bit of revision.”
“Oh,” I say. Rubbish mum didn’t look in the homework folder.
So I decide not to make a big deal of it and off she trots to school.
“Mummy! We had our maths test today!”she squeals when she gets home.
I ask her how she did.
“I got them all right!”
Before my glowing smile reaches my eyes, I sense something’s not quite right.
“Hold on, how do you know you got them all right?” I ask. “Did the teacher tell you, or are you just guessing?”
“I’m just guessing… because… why would I write down the wrong answers?” She rolls her eyes like it’s obvious.
One of the problems / advantages with being married for so long is that your spouse knows you inside out. And my DH, I have to say, is a particularly good “people” person. He knows things about me before I do.
Actually, he knows things about me that I don’t even know myself.
So it’s quite difficult when it comes to playing games with him that involve any amount of guessing, for example, “paper, scissors, rock” – that silly little game where you bang your fist on the table and present your hand as paper, scissors or rock to try and beat your opponent.
DH always beats me.
“You’re so predictable,” he says, rolling his eyes, so I try to mix it up to confuse him. But he even knows how I’ll mix it up.
DD had more luck, when she played with him the other day. Bang, bang, went her little hand, then she stuck a finger out in a straight line.
“What’s that?” asked DH.
“Sellotape,” she said. “Always wins.”
Okay, so here’s a confession for you. My name’s Mrs Dubai, and I’m addicted to property.
At first I thought it was normal, healthy even, to browse magazines and websites full of beautiful properties, ogling spiral staircases, infinity pools, floor-to-ceiling windows, ocean views and kitchens so white you’d need a degree just to figure out where the door openings were.
Doesn’t everyone dream about houses? Doesn’t everyone look at a picture of a gorgeous property and imagine themselves living in it? Imagine the life they’d lead if they lived in that beachfront mansion in the British Virgin Islands / farmhouse in the Majorcan mountains / ranch in Texas / brownstone in New York city / penthouse in Chelsea / state-of-the-art apartment overlooking Sydney Harbour?
Doesn’t everyone let their eyes glaze over and dribble just a little bit as they view pictures of a clapboard beach house in the Hamptons and imagine themselves, limbs warmed from a day in the sun, coming up off the beach for sundowners on the sea-facing deck as the ocean changes from white-capped turquoise to the dark, shifting indigo of evening?
So, when DH brought the latest property porn magazine back from England, I couldn’t stop talking about it to my friends. In full grip of my addiction, I emailed them details of a couple of spectacular properties here in Dubai.
One replied, “Agree plot’s a bit cramped. Worried about you. Do you have a problem with property porn?” and I realised that not everyone – not even my friends who quite like houses – imagine 25 different lives a day; lives in which you’re running a B&B in France; commuting from a farmhouse in Jersey to your children’s Cotswolds boarding school; writing best-sellers from your beach house in Mauritius; splitting your time between the pad in Mayfair and the sprawling finca in Majorca; holidaying in your $8million pad in Thailand; parking your speedboat outside your island home off Abu Dhabi; or living with 10 white-clothed servants in a colonial villa in Sri Lanka.
Goodness knows, when I’m browsing a property website, I even figure out where the children would go to school (no wonder the novel’s not written).
If I have time, and the price isn’t utterly ridiculous, I also work out the mortgage repayments and send the details to DH (who I’m sure bins them without opening them). In the evening, I’ll thrust print-outs of interiors and exteriors, pools , terraces, sea views, free-standing, ocean-facing bathtubs and large, gleaming kitchens into his hands.
Then, having exhausted myself going through the imaginary details of what I’d cook at the imaginary dinner parties when my imaginary friends came to visit my imaginary house, I look at our floodlit pool in the backyard; I look at our lovely terrace, our garden furniture, our plantation shutters and our smart white kitchen, and I think, you know what? I’m happy here. I really love our house. If I saw it in a property magazine, I’d want to buy it, too.
In a move that can only be seen as a novel-writing-avoidance technique, I’ve joined Twitter and now spend many hours a day happily chatting with strangers who have two heads, 15 toes and look like blue jellyfish (why else would they be on Twitter instead of sat in Caffe Nero?)
Just kidding Tweeps.
I’m @mrsdubai – log on and tell me about your day in 140 characters or less
Today I was having coffee with a dear friend who used to be, three children ago, a high-flying professional in London.
“I need to get back to work,” she said, her youngest having turned 18 months, her oldest seven. “Being at home, it’s just not enough anymore.”
Join the queue, I thought. So many of my mummy friends are about to start jobs, looking hard for jobs or dreaming about jobs they’re about to look hard for.
And I have to wonder: what’s happened to me?
When I had DD, six years ago, I was the ultimate career woman. I went back to work full-time when she was 14 weeks old, much to the shock of the baby-massage class.
“I don’t know how you do it,” they said as I turned up late to baby play dates in my work dress and heels, trying desperately to remember what my baby’s name was.
“I don’t know how you do it,” I’d say to myself, looking at their saggy linen shorts and vomit-streaked t-shirts, their careworn faces and flip-flop calluses.
But times, they are a-changing. Now I’m the odd one out as friends reclaim their pre-child wonderfulness in various high-flying careers and I’m the one left at home chopping broccoli and getting the felt-tip marks off the fridge in flip-flops and saggy linen shorts.
But the problem with me is that my all-consuming goal in life is not to run a business or fly the world in Business Class, but to be a novelist. And not in the way of “everyone’s got a book in them.” For me, it’s a career choice – perhaps one of the most difficult on the planet. Me, I hope to write not just one novel, but bookshops full of them. One after the other until I retire.
I said all this to my coffee date this morning; my eyes, I’m sure, shone with passion as I explained about story arcs and paradigms; subplots and intrigue.
“So why aren’t you doing it?” she asked.
As excuses fell from my lips, I heard myself.
“Just do it,” she said. “Schedule it, then sit down and do it.”
So I’m not going back to work, not in an office, anyway. While my friends go get their highly paid jobs and float about in designer clothes and new shoes, I’ll be the one in the saggy shorts sitting at my desk hoping for genius to strike.
One year from now there’ll be a completed manuscript. Just you wait and see.
As I write this, a cold but fast-diminishing glass of Sauvignon at my side, the children are eating their dinner under the supervision of Gerlie. I’d love to top up the Sauvignon but I daren’t go into the kitchen because, as they say, all’s quiet on the Western front, and I can’t risk upsetting the delicate balance that is quiet-children-eating-dinner.
I’m scared, you see, that if they see me, they’ll tell me how much they hate their dinner.
And I wouldn’t blame them. Because I’ve spent all afternoon thinking how much I’m going to hate our dinner. I worried so much about them hating their dinner that I cooked extra rice so I could give them emergency fish fingers with rice if required.
The chilli was a new recipe. Triple-tested from a magazine. It looked really nice in the picture, made with lentils and kidney beans, the fresh green of coriander carelessly scattered on top. “Serve with a crispy tortilla,” it said underneath. “Mmm,” I thought. “Yummy.”
So I bought the ingredients, followed the recipe, tasted it and thought, “Oh dear.” Because it wasn’t half as yummy as it looked.
It didn’t help that I was in Mirdiff City Centre this afternoon before school pick-up. This mall is home to PF Chang’s, which, as you may know, serves the absolute best Chinese food this side of the USA. My mouth watered at the thought of picking up the tofu with broccoli and mixed veg noodles for supper while drinking enough Sauvignon to forget I’d binned the chilli.
But sense prevailed.
After a huge struggle with my conscience, I resisted the call of the American-Chinese and dished up the chilli for the children. Before they got it, I threw in a spoonful of sugar and a couple of spoons of yoghurt and… as I said, all’s quiet on the Western front, which can only mean they’re eating it.
The emergency fish fingers, meanwhile, are on standby for DH.
Update: Not only did the children eat the chilli without grumbling, but DH loved it – so much so that he scoffed the lot. Huzzah!
In the midst of my busy life toiling away at the coal-face of motherhood (“Only another 16 years to go,” says my mother) there are things I sometimes forget.
As I scurry about town, lugging groceries and researching recipes; as I chop, steam and bake; as I wipe bums and snotty noses, attend to homework and make packed lunches; as I replace lost school hats and buy new school shoes; and as I click cruise control on yet another eternal school run, I forget that we have a beautiful swimming pool in our garden.
I forget that we live in a climate about which Brits can only dream. That I see blue sky and glorious sunshine almost every day. I forget that we live close to beautiful beaches that Brits pay good money to visit.
And I forget that my children love nothing more than an impromptu dip in the pool before bedtime.
Today I remembered some of these things. I made the effort to get into my bikini and take the children swimming before dinner. If they’re fast asleep by 7 o’clock, I might do it again tomorrow.
Because, clearly, if DH has flown Business Class to London on the A380 and had a week of unbroken nights’ sleep in a 5* hotel while I’ve been up consoling his heart-broken son every night, there has to be a gift involved for me.
So what would you ask your DH to bring you back from London? Perfume from Duty Free? A little something from the Harrods food hall? Jewellery from the in-flight Duty Free magazine? (Joke).
DH and I have been together for half my life and he knew exactly what to bring me…
Can you guess which was my favourite, which was the one that dilated my pupils and made my heart beat faster?
It was the Christie’s International Property magazine.
“Oh darling, you’re so lucky it only covers places I don’t want to live,” I told DH magnanimously, as I devoured stunning property after stunning property.
“Lucky how?” he asked. “The cheapest house in there is $15 million!”