Archive for September 2011
This time last year, I was bemoaning the fact that DS, then aged 18 months, liked a nap at midday. Any later and he would be too fractious to get to sleep. Given he’s never been good at sleeping in the pushchair, it meant we could never go out for lunch.
I’d force down my sixth homemade lunch of the week and throw myself around the house in whingeing “When will we get our lives back? All I want to do is go out for lunch! Is it too much to ask?”
Really, I think it was the idea of having one more meal to think about and cook in a week that tipped me over the edge.
Anyway, without me even noticing, we segued into later naps and a spate of delicious weekend lunches at Tribes, Carluccios, California Pizza Kitchen (have you tried their tortilla spring rolls?), Carluccios, Tribes, Biella and, of course, Carluccios. The nap got pushed to 1.30, 2pm, sometimes even 3pm.
But now we’ve hit a bit of a watershed.
“I not sleepy,” says DS chirpily while I chase him round the house with his dummy and DH stifles a post-lunch yawn on the sofa. “I not habbing nap. I play wiv mummy.”
“Sorry, darling,” shrugs DH, heaving himself off the sofa and heading up to the comfort of our lovely bed for his own afternoon nap. Of which I’m usually a part.
I’d give anything to get those naps back. Even at 12 o’clock.
I don’t know at which school you trained, but let me give you a quick crash course. If you want me to get your hands on any my family’s hard-earned cash, please pay heed to the following:
- Cold-calling at lunchtime, school pick-up time, kids’ dinner-time, bath-time or bedtime will get you nothing more than an irritated “not interested”.
- Asking me “when’s a good time to call?” will also get you a curt reply. You want this call, not me! If you push it, the answer’s “never”.
- Getting my name wrong will never impress me.
- If you think I’ve got to the age of 40 and had two children without planning my financial future, you’re underestimating me. That’s doesn’t make me like you.
- Telling me I’ve been selected as one of “Dubai’s highest earners” makes me realise how badly informed you are. I am a housewife. My income is zero; it’s measured in the heart, not the wallet.
- Telling me I’m a valued client when I closed my accounts with your bank in disgust back in 2007 isn’t a good introductory sentence.
- Telling me I’ve been selected for a preferential mortgage rate is, quite frankly, ridiculous. One, I already have a house, and two, do I have to say it again? I have no income!
- Sending me a gold credit card that I haven’t asked for just embarrasses the courier as I will foam at the mouth, curse the bank and refuse to accept delivery.
- Assuming that because I’m a housewife I have all the time in the world to “meet for coffee and a chat” (“Everyone has time for a coffee, don’t they, Mrs Dubai?” Um. No) insults me.
- Asking to meet me in Costa Coffee makes me feel uncomfortable. Do you really expect me to divulge me family’s financial status in a public coffee shop? Seriously?
- If I agree to see you, calling me up from your car to tell me that my house doesn’t exist, just because you can’t find it, makes me wish you didn’t exist.
- And, finally, you turning up in a car that cost more than my house makes me want to lock the door and run as fast as I can in the opposite direction.
The problem with Twitter is you make a lot of friends. You wake up early and exchange greetings with total strangers who just happen to be up at stupid o’clock as well as you; you find out what their plans are for the day; you make friends with their friends; and you exchange a bit of playful banter with everyone. Come the evening, unless you have the resolve of superglue, they see you at your worst as you “drink and Tweet” – which is always as much of a mistake as drinking and dialling.
You feel that you really know your Twitter friends. And, perhaps in some way, you do know them better than your real friends because people are, I think, more revealing, flirtatious and friendly in 140 online characters than they are in the cruel light of day with a headache and a screaming toddler attached to their leg.
So, many of my Twitter friends, I know, live in the same area as me. I think I’ve spotted two of them in the local supermarket. There’s also a lady I keep seeing around town who I’m convinced is one of my Twitter friends, and I’m even sure I saw @Geordiebird_DXB of Dubai 92 (another Twitter friend) at Dubai Airport last August, but what’s the Twitiquette in situations like those?
Can you bound up to a total stranger in real life and say: “Hello! Are you @Dollywoodhills? Does the name “@isparklefairy” mean anything to you? Oh my god, you must be @mita56! Hello @DubaiNameShame – lovely to meet you at last!”?
What if you speak to them and realise, instantly, that you’d never, not in a million years, despite adoring their Tweets, get on in real life? That you’ve been being slightly too flirty with someone you really shouldn’t have been?
And what if you’ve got the wrong person?
Is it better simply to nod to yourself, walk quietly by and then ask them later on Twitter, “Was that you I saw valeting the bright red drop-top Bentley at the Burj Al Arab today?”
Myself, I think that’s the best policy. And, if you ever see a skinny girl in high heels with her legs hanging out of a champagne glass, you’d best walk straight past and send me a DM later.
I did an exercise class this morning. Apart from the Zumba I tried before the summer, it was the first aerobics class I’ve done in 20 years.
There was a lot of coordinated hand and leg moves and a lot of fancy footwork, though nothing I haven’t seen before. But, as I bounced about behind the instructor, getting my feet mixed up and panting like a steam train, I had an epiphany.
What I realised, while watching the mirror mid-class, was that having long arms and long legs is a hindrance in an aerobics class. While my smaller, squatter, more muscular classmates were able to move their limbs with fast and neat efficiency, I flailed around like an octopus, the pendulum effect of my long legs meaning I had to move my feet twice as far further to achieve the same result. No wonder I struggle to keep up.
Clearly, aerobics clearly isn’t suitable for anyone with longer limbs than average. And my incompetence has got absolutely nothing to do with being unfit.
You heard me. Nothing at all.
Generally, I love Dubai and I try never to rant about the less pleasant aspects of life here. But I have to tell you a little of what it’s like to live in a house that you own in Dubai. I mean, you bought your house – you handed over millions of Dirhams for it – so you own it, right?
I’m laughing so hard my wine’s coming out of my nose.
No, no no. Once you’ve “bought” a house here, you don’t “own” it at all. While you may think you have the right to repaint your walls, do up your garden, put in a pool or change the kitchen in your “own” house, you actually can’t modify it much at all without prior permission from the developer.
Which costs AED 5,000 (just under £1,000) per permission.
Fair enough, if the work meets the approval of their inspectors, you get most of this back, but the developer still pockets Dhs 1,000 (nearly £200) for the inconvenience of having you change your kitchen cabinetry to something less offensive.
And you can only use companies registered with the property developer, who have paid a fee for a permission slip to actually enter the community.
Anyway, this is all old news. Long ago I became reconciled to these money-grabbing rules. But now my particular property developer appears to be short of cash for it’s sending its lowly paid security guards out on bikes to spot any flouting of its rules and warn residents that they will be fined.
The sort of transgressions that attract fines are having a satellite dish that’s visible from the road; having a non-approved fence around your garden; parking cars outside your house overnight; not having pest control in on a regular basis; and, as I discovered yesterday, using bricks to keep your bougainvillea upright.
Yes, that’s right. My gardener’s used two bricks to counterbalance the weight of the heavy bougainvillea in my front garden. The bricks hang down the front of my garden wall.
That’s MY garden wall, just to clarify.
Yesterday, the security guard rang the doorbell to tell me I must remove the bricks or be fined Dhs 1,000 (nearly £200) by the property developer for the “eyesore” that is the two bricks.
As we stood there, looking at my wall, at my pretty bougainvillea and at the two offending bricks, I noticed that the communal flowerbed on the property developer’s side of my wall is a disgrace of dead plants, dust and dried dog shit.
If only I could counter-fine them.
How many times have you had this conversation in the past three weeks?
“Hi! Welcome back! How was your summer?”
“Great, thanks! How about yours?”
“Oh, you know, kids’ve only just gone back, so just getting it together again. You know how it is when they’ve been off all summer. No time for anything.”
“Yeah.” Pause, scratch around for something else to say. “So, what’ve you been up to?”
WHAT HAVE I BEEN UP TO?
I’ve just told you the kids have been off for three months so what are you expecting? A spot of salmon-fishing in the Scottish highlands, followed by a month-long charity trek in the Himalayas? Oh and I redecorated the house, wrote a novel and took up capoeira in my spare time?
What do you want me to say?
“Well, I spent about three hours a day for three months pushing Thomas the Tank Engine around the floor while shouting at DD not to irritate DS. I cooked more fish fingers than you’ve had hot dinners, screamed at the children at least once a day, wished we’d booked that holiday in Mauritius instead of spending four weeks in England, forgot to do DD’s school reading list, left buying her school shoes till the queues in Clarks were really long, neglected to take up the hem on her new school uniform, ironed labels into all her clothes but forgot about buying a new pencil case. I haven’t had my hair colour, eyebrows or waxing done since late June but I did buy an iPad and use it as a baby-sitter, let the children watch too much TV, grow extra grey hairs, fail to do any exercise whatsoever, drink far too much wine and put on 2kgs.”
Well, you did ask.
Obviously we mums love our kids more than anything. DD and DS inspire in me the kind of love I never thought possible before I had children; that sort of tigress love, where you know you would do anything – and I mean anything– to keep your children happy and healthy.
But that doesn’t mean to say being a mum doesn’t have its frustrations. Here are five of mine:
- Having to shout “Sorry? Say that again?” down the phone 25 times in a two-minute phone call because both your children just have to speak to you at that one exact moment when you’re on your only phone call of the day.
- Finding and paying over the odds for imported yoghurts only to have the children open them but not finish them.
- Wanting five minutes to do something with your hair and makeup before going out for dinner, only to spend those precious few moments reading a third bedtime story as the taxi hoots outside.
- Running around with forkfuls of food after a toddler who won’t sit in a high chair yet is still too little to sit still at a table either (yes, this is DS right now).
- That moment when your littlest one calls you at 5.45am on a weekend morning and you know you won’t get any more sleep for at least another 17 hours.
Would love to write more but I’m going to take advantage of the children being in the park with Gerlie for five minutes to try and do something with my hair before going out for dinner….
So we decided that, at six years old, it was high time DD learned about the value of money. We agreed that, along with her tooth fairy money, she would be given some sort of cash from DH and I so that she could learn about saving and spending.
The obvious answer is to get her to do chores around the house, like I did when I was young.
“I don’t want to pay her to do things she should do routinely, like tidy her room,” said DH.
He’s got a point. So how about washing up? Might break stuff. Washing the cars? Too hot outside, cars too big (two 4WDs in 44 degrees is hardly like me wrapped in an anorak running a sponge over my mum’s Vauxhall Nova, is it?) Ironing? Too dodgy – she’s only six. Gathering leaves (I used to get 50p a bucket at my granny’s)? The gardener does it. Cleaning the pool? She might drown.
I ran out of housework ideas. Really, I pay Gerlie to do all that stuff – I don’t want to pay my daughter to do it, too.
So then we hit on the idea that we would just ask her to do her best at school; to work as hard as she could and to do her homework nicely and read her school books every day and, if she was doing that, we’d give her money now and then, no matter what her scores were in class (it’s important to encourage the effort, not the results, I feel).
“Cool,” she said.
So today she’d saved the sum total of Dhs 45 and she wanted to go and spend it. I took her to the local shops, where there’s a small ELC. She wanted an electric guitar, price Dhs 189. What do I do, I wondered? Tell her she doesn’t have enough money, or silently stump up the difference?
“It’s not a very good toy,” I said diplomatically. “All you can do is press the buttons. You’ll get bored with it really quickly.”
So we rejected everything in ELC and headed to the local bookshop. There, DD decided she wanted a new pencil case, which her Dhs 45 easily covered.
“Yep,” she said, having scoured the entire shop. “I’ll buy this. It’s what I want more than anything.” She clutched it to her chest like it was a pair of 10-carat diamond earrings.
I took her to the till but could I let her pay for it? Could I hell!
“Darling, how about I get this for you and you save your money?” I said. How’s she ever going to learn?
While most children have been back at school for ages by now, my littlest hobo, DS, only goes back tomorrow. He’s had nearly three months off school – and do you know what three months off school does for you?
It gives you a mummy’s boy.
I sent DS to nursery from the age of six months, precisely because I didn’t want him to be clingy (I’m Aquarius – we dislike clinginess be it in children, pets or husbands). We got through the separation thing and I was very pleased with my little boy who would trot happily into nursery without any fuss, and who waves me out of the house with a “Bye, mummy! See you later!” if I need to pop out.
But what I’ve got after spending three intense months with him is a mummy’s boy. “Mummy” has to do everything – Gerlie may as well file her toenails all day given he won’t let her do anything for him. It’s all “Mummy do it!”, “I want mummy!” or “Mummy play it wiv me.”
I suppose there’s a tiny part of me that finds it sweet but, mostly, I find it beyond irritating, especially when I’ve given him 12 non-stop hours and I’ve been desperate for a chance to send just a couple of emails, make a phone call or look up something on the internet without my office chair being dragged across the floor (with me on it). So, as you can imagine, I’ve been hanging for tomorrow, when the little person goes back to nursery – just for four and a half hours a day (which still leaves plenty of time to choo-choo Thomas the Tank Engine round the living room floor in the afternoon).
“Back to school tomorrow!” I told him happily today, getting out his diddy uniform.
“No!” he said, folding his arms resolutely and giving me his stern look. “I not go school tomorrow. I stay home wiv mummy.” He almost stamped his little foot.
Wish me luck in the morning.
“Mummy, why do you always wear those dresses?” asked DD as I was getting dressed today.
She was talking about two linen maxi dresses I bought from Mango in spring 2008. I liked the style so much I got one in black and one in pale pink. The latter’s not so useful but the black one’s fab. I wear it all the time. As DD noticed today.
I’ve even sewn up tears in it twice – not that DD knows that – and, trust me, I have to really love a piece of clothing to get out the needle and thread.
“Because I like them and they cover everything and they’re really cool when it’s hot,” I said, slipping the pink one over my head.
“But I hate them,” she said. “I don’t like the top bits and I don’t like the colours. And you always wear them to my birthday parties.” This last bit so accusingly it was almost whingey. “Why do you always wear them to my birthday parties?”
She’s right. Her birthday’s in April and the party’s always outdoors. I wear the dresses because I can get away with flat shoes without looking stumpy-legged – and because they’re cool when I’m running around after small children in 38-degree heat while kidding myself I look semi-glamorous. The black dress made its debut at her third birthday party, with wedges, as I remember, hoop earrings and a chunky bangle.
I said as much to DD.
“Well, this year, when I’m seven, I’m choosing what you’re wearing to my birthday party and it’s not going to be one of those dresses. My friends will think that’s all you’ve got,” she huffed.
Daughters. Who’d have ‘em?