Archive for January 2012
Right up there under wishing I had a personal hairdresser to “do” my hair every morning, I wish I had a stylist.
Not one of those I’m-really-a housewife -but-I-think-I’ll-be-a stylist people who drag you round the shops spending your salary faster than even you can on things you’ll never wear, but a real-life fairy who pops up in the bedroom every morning and magics up stunningly easy outfits from my wardrobe.
I always complain in the mornings when I see how easy it is for DH to get dressed. It’s either a suit and tie with work shoes for work – how complicated can that be? – or a polo shirt, long shorts and flip-flops for weekends.
We girls, on the other hand, not only have the misery of hair and makeup to contend with but the agony of shorts vs trousers vs jeans vs skirts vs maxi skirts vs shift dresses vs maxi dresses, and that’s before you even get to thinking about which shoe will convey the right message about your current state of mind.
A heel? Too try-hard. A flat? Makes you look dumpy. A wedge? Gives you thick ankles. A kitten heel? Not if it looks like Carla Bruni. (Maybe I’ll wear trousers after all.)
And what of these mornings we’re having in Dubai at the moment when it’s about minus 10 at 7am and warms to 28C by lunchtime? How, dear readers, do we dress for that?
Anyway, DH emailed me the solution yesterday (as if he needs any help). Every night, his hotel in London leaves him a little card with a hint for the next day, so he can fall asleep thinking “stripy tie or dotty tie? Navy socks or black socks?” Wasted, don’t you think?
There’s not a lot I won’t do for my children. I’ll wipe bums and clean snotty noses; I’ll get covered in vomit, stay up all night, calm tantrums in Spinneys, pick up stray pooh by hand and even sit through the horrors of sports’ day with a smile and a cheery wave, but there’s one thing at which I draw the line: The early-morning school run.
In fact, to date, I’ve done everything I can to avoid it. I do it, as a matter of principle, on the first day of the new school year – and then, never again. Luckily, school is on the way to DH’s office, so he’s more than happy to oblige. (If any of you are thinking what a lucky coincidence that was, you’re seriously underestimating me.)
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m in bed enjoying an extra hour’s sleep in the mornings, or having my personal trainer over for coffee and a few stomach crunches. I’m up at 6am with the best of them, but the big advantage is that, when I’m not doing “the drive”, I don’t have to get showered and dressed until after DH and DD have left for school.
Instead, from 6.15am to 7am, I’m usually cooking DD’s breakfast (she has a penchant for hot breakfasts: Homemade apple and cinnamon pancakes, scrambled eggs, or sausages, beans and toast), making her packed lunch, listening to her reading, testing her spellings, brushing her hair, packing her PE kit and her library book, Tweeting Catboy on the radio and doing all those other little things that make life run smoothly in the mornings.
But, drum roll please, this week DH is away – and it was with a heavy heart that I realised I had neither friends to bribe nor neighbours to cajole: I was going to have to do the morning school run myself.
For a week.
So now I not only have to do all the above-mentioned tasks in the morning, but I have to shower AND dress like Elle Macpherson by 7.10am (have you seen her school-run outfits?)
It’s inhuman, that’s what it is.
Anyway, we’re two mornings in already and I know you want to know how it’s going.
On the positive side, I’ve been enjoying the early-morning drives. Despite the suicidal maniacs going hell-for-leather in the Abu Dhabi direction, the traffic’s not as bad as I imagined it would be, and the sky can be very pretty as the sun comes up over the desert. It’s also been pretty chilly, so I’ve got away with swathing myself in a large shawl, which hopefully covers the fact that I’m wearing yesterday’s yoga top with my scruffy jeans (eat your heart out Elle Macpherson).
On the down side, being over 40 and without a morning bike ride to get the circulation going, my face looks positively crumpled for at least an hour after I wake up, and, at 7.30am drop-off it’s still a whisker too dark for sunglasses. If you see me, please do the gracious thing and look the other way, I beg you.
“Mummy? Will you always love me?”
Folding her into a whole-body hug: “Yes, darling, I’ll always love you more than you know.”
“Even when you’re old?”
“Always, darling.” Big hug.
“When I get married?”
Sob. “Yes, I’ll cry with joy when you get married.”
“Will you still love me when you die?”
“Yes, darling, you and DS will be the last things I think of when I die. But that’s not for a long time.”
“Who’s there?” (Giving big hug)
“You’ve forgotten me already!”
I’ve been mulling over the idea of starting a regular slot called “What I wore Wednesday” (WIWW) where I post a picture of the outfits I wore that day.
I say “outfits” because, unlike these fashion-blog fashionistas, who step out in the morning looking like they’re off to Paris Fashion Week, then add another layer of mascara, change their shoes and stay out till 2am all in the same outfit, I get through three to four outfits a day.
They are invariably as follows:
For most of the year, I fall out of bed into shorts, a vest and flip-flops – but given it was nine degrees this morning I can’t even imagine ever wearing shorts again. At the moment, the first outfit of the morning is a t-shirt, jersey yoga pants and a fleece.
Cycling, yoga or exercise gear for obvious reasons (cycling, yoga or exercise of some sort, natch).
After my shower, I get into the main outfit of the day. This has to be comfy, be age-appropriate and hopefully stylish, though it’s often not. This outfit’s rarely “fashion” though it can sometimes be “fashion-victim-y”. (I’m working on correcting this to “classic with a nod to fashion” but it’s a long road – I blame it on 13 years of school uniform).
This is something relaxing for the evening – something in which I can cook without worrying about getting slops and plops all over it; something I can curl up in on the sofa; and something – at the moment – that’s warm and cosy.
So anyway, I started to think about posting a pic for “What I wore Wednesday”. I went upstairs and took a picture of one of my favourite outfits. And then, as I thought through the practicalities of posting WIWW each week, I realised I can’t do it.
Because: 1) My outfits aren’t very interesting. 2) In about two weeks I’ll start repeating outfits because I’m not very imaginative. 3) I’m not very good at photographing clothes flat on the floor, and 4) If you see me in the supermarket, you’ll know who I am!
Well, if it’s Market Day at Spinneys, not a lot.
For those of you who don’t shop at Spinneys (a Western supermarket), every Monday they have “Market Day” when certain items of produce or from the bakery are on special offer.
Last week, my favourite Energy Bread was on offer for Dhs 3.50 instead of the usual Dhs 4.50. Looking at the pic below, can you tell which loaf was sold cheap on Market Day, and which is the usual one?
Dum-dum-da-da. Dum-dum-da-da. Diddie-daaa. Diddie-daaa.
You knew Mission Impossible: IV was set in Dubai – even if you lived on Mars you couldn’t have missed those pix of Tom Cruise dangling off Burj Khalifa – but what you might not yet know is that Mission Impossible: V has also taken place in Dubai.
This morning. In DS’s bedroom, to be precise.
5.45am – a tricky time, a whisker too close to morning – a sleepy cry from a little boy’s bedroom. A woman rolls over in bed, one ear pricked. A husband sleeps on.
Another cry, louder. The woman waits, holding her breath. Another cry. A word: “Mummeee!” The woman waits. The cry is louder: “Mummee! My wee-wee!” The woman slides out of bed, shivers, pads across the landing, enters the bedroom. (The husband sleeps on.)
“Mummy, need a wee-wee,” says a little voice. A potty’s fetched. A bum’s bared. A wee trickles.
“Back to bed now,” says the woman, placing the boy back in bed.
“No. Breakfast. I want breakfast,” says the boy, jumping up and down on the bed.
“It’s the middle of the night!” hisses the woman, peeping at the shutters to check the sun’s not up. “Everybody’s asleep!”
“No!” shouts the boy. (The husband sleeps on.)
“Yes,” says the woman firmly. “Bedtime.”
The boy considers his options, lies down with a sigh.
“Songs. I want songs,” he says. The woman starts to sing Baa-baa Black Sheep – and this is where the Mission Impossible theme music kicks in.
As the woman sings, she surveys the room. Her mission, should she accept it, is to lift her bare feet soundlessly off the laminate floor, and to back across the room while throwing her voice so as not to give away her retreat. She will have to turn, open the door, slip her body out without catching her nightie on the handle, and close the door not just silently, but without as much as stirring the air inside the room. She has to do all this without the husband’s alarm, set for 5.55am, going off in the middle of the operation.
Dum-dum-da-da. Dum-dum-da-da. Diddie-daaa. Diddie-daaa.
The tension is unbearable. The woman peels one foot then the other from the floor with the slightest of crackles. There’s a click of an ankle as she pads across the carpet singing slightly louder; she pauses at the door. What if the alarm goes off now? She takes a deep breath. Swiftly, she opens the door, glides out, closes it quickly, easing the door silently against the frame with her fingers while tailing off the song.
Despite the biting cold, she pauses outside the room. She listens.
Mission Impossible? Mission Accomplished.
I’ve touched before on DS’s desperation for it to rain. To be fair, he’s barely ever seen any of the wet stuff in his little life, and certainly not in Dubai. But ever since he first watched Peppa Pig jump in a muddy puddle, he’s wanted nothing more than to jump in muddy puddles himself, his feet shod in a pair of shiny Wellington boots.
And every day that we see a cloud in the sky – and even on days when we don’t – he clutches my arm, looks skywards and says, “Mummy? Itsh going to wain today?”
Even when I say no, absolutely not, look – there are no clouds in that bright-blue sky, he still says, “But it might wain later, yes? After school it might wain?”
So there were DH and I on Saturday morning, trying to have a little bit of a lie-in at 8.10am while Gerlie payed with the children in the garden, when what should we hear but the gentle artillery of feet crashing up the wooden staircase.
“It’s raining! It’s raining!” shrieked DD as she charged into her room like a baby elephant and proceeded to throw the contents of her wardrobe around like they were caught up in a tropical cyclone.
Our bedroom door flew open (thank heavens nothing untoward was happening).“Itsh waining!” announced DS with the pride and gravitas of a footman announcing the arrival of a highly esteemed monarch. “I need my waincoat!”
DH and I peered out at the balcony. Pit…pat…pit….pat…. splot. It wasn’t so much rain as a reluctant spit from a god unwilling to part with his saliva.
“Hurry up outside, children, or you’ll miss it!” I shouted.
“But we need our raincoats or we’ll get wet!” they shouted back as they delved deeper into the cupboards for raincoats I realised with a jolt of guilt were still hanging in wardrobes in the UK.
Then, a clomping back down the stairs, the sound of shrieks from the garden then, once more, the artillery up the stairs, this time accompanied by disappointed voices.
“Mummy, it’s not raining anymore.”
“Never mind, dears,” I said. “There’s always next year.”
- · 148 passport photos showing me with a semi-smile, no teeth, no grimace – check.
- · A letter of no objection from every male in my family dating back three generations (including the family pets) – check.
- · A letter of no objection from all of my previous bosses, dating back 20 years – check.
- · 24 copies of my hamster’s paw prints – check.
- · A (colour) photocopy of our goldfish’s profile pic (squashed against the bowl, eyes looking straight ahead) – check.
- · A sworn affidavit from my great aunt that she’s never been to a luxury spa in the Maldives – check.
- · A photo of a black camel taken on a Tuesday with a Full Moon rising – check.
- · The name of the factory worker who produced at least 100 components of my car when it was made in Germany in 2009 – check.
- · And his passport copy (no Israel stamps) – check.
- · And his wife’s shoe size – certified by a lawyer and stamped by the UAE embassy – check.
You get the picture?
Since January 1, I’ve been driving around town with a folder stuffed with these kinds of documents, for all of my expat admin seems to be due for renewal this year.
Honestly, I don’t know how anyone in the UAE can actually hold down a full-time job given the amount of admin we have to do.
This month we’ve got:
- · Car registration (and insurance) renewal
- · Alcohol license renewal
- · PO Box account renewal
- · Gerlie’s visa renewal
- · Gerlie’s passport renewal (and which came first, the visa or the passport? That took a few days of full-time sleuthing, six taxi rides and 12 hours queuing to find out)
- · Emirates ID card for Gerlie
- · My own visa renewal
- · A new house maintenance contract (maybe? Maybe not?)
- · DS’s registration with the Emirates Identity Authority
- · DS’s application for big school (plus a trip to get recent passport photos of DS)
- · An executive health check-up for DH (and me?)
- · Renewal of DH’s Emirates ID card
- · DS’s visa renewal.
On top of that, I’m supposed to be booking a cruise for 10 adults and five children who live in four different countries “somewhere in Europe in July, as long as everyone’s happy and has the right stateroom and the right visas for entering each country on the cruise” to celebrate my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary, and writing cheques up until July 2013 to get DS into school (that required getting a new cheque book issued – sounds simple, but translates as a 100kms round trip to order it and pick it up).
So have I got any of this done?
No. My goldfish was looking sideways. I need to get a new pic. Smile!
I got into a chat on Twitter today with fellow blogger Grace, who juggles writing Sandier Pastures with taking care of her new baby. Given I struggle to find the time and energy to write my blogs most days, I asked her how on earth she manages.
“I blog on my iPhone while breast-feeding the baby,” came the reply, making me feel like I’ve barely skimmed the surface of multi-tasking.
I invited other bloggers to share their blogging habits with me. We’re quite industrious creatures, it seems, fitting in our blogging as and where we can.
“On the iPad, after the kids have given it back and in bed, usually on the sofa. Sometimes in Costa for a treat!” said @dubaiunveiled
“Usually blog late at night. I intend to start earlier but get distracted w other ppl’s blogs & twitter!” said @Strawbry_Blonde who produces a beautifully photographed beauty blog, often while her children are jumping on her.
“From 7.30-9.30 in the morning, same time’s I write me books!” said @AlexanderMcNabb, a self-published author with a full-time job.
As I try to get the writing done in those rare slices of time when the children and DH are either out or not in need of my housewifely and mothering skills, my blog is rarely written in daylight hours.
Sometimes I literally write three sentences, then rush off to marinade some salmon; I write another sentence then jump up to stop the children fighting. I help DD with her homework, then dash back to finish a sentence. I write two more sentences, then cook the children’s dinner; I rush back with a G&T and write five more, then disappear again to dish out the children’s dessert.
I fit my blog in between working, running the house, exercising (a bit), driving the school runs, cooking and falling asleep, shattered, in the evening. The average blog takes just 15-20 minutes to write and five minutes to upload.
These are my time slots:
Morning: My best blogs are probably the ones that get written in the mornings when the children are at school, I have nothing else to do and inspiration hits me. Those days are rare. If I get a day like that and I’m on a roll, I try to write four or five blogs to stock-pile for days when I’ve no inspiration.
5pm – Teatime: Sometimes (if I give large portions) I’m able to bash out an entire blog while the children are eating dinner under the watchful eye of Gerlie. This time slot’s often interrupted by wails of “I’ve had enough!”, “Mummeee, I don’t like this!” and “Pleash can we have ice cream?” but generally I push on with a G&T or a cold glass of wine for company.
5.30pm – After tea: There’s usually about half an hour after the children finish eating and before I take them up for their bath. I encourage playing in the park or on the trampoline with Gerlie at that time – it gives me another little slice of time. If I’m really lucky, I can post at this point and call it a night with a clear conscience.
7.20pm – After bedtime: Given DH has a high-powered job, he often works till stupid o-clock, which gives me another slot after the kids are in bed and before he gets home to tie up and post the day’s blog. But this time slot is hampered by the fact I’m usually chewing my elbows with hunger having had lunch at midday (so I can fit in the school runs) and, frankly, I’m fighting the urge to slump on the sofa with my dinner.
9 or 10pm – After dinner: After DH and I have had dinner together and chatted about the day, I sometimes slope off to the study to blog. I dislike writing this late as my judgement is usually marred by wine and my eyes are heavy. Many’s the good intention that’s gone by the wayside at this time. In fact, if I don’t blog on a weekday, you know that’s what’s happened…
While I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that my villa doesn’t exist, it never ceases to surprise me. I mean, these people say it like they truly believe what they’re saying, while I’m actually standing in my villa, looking out of the window and talking to them on the phone.
It’s as if they expect me to say, “Oh yes, you’re absolutely right! Fancy that! I didn’t notice that my villa just spontaneously combusted!”
Some are contractors and workmen, but most of them are Dubizzlers, to be fair. And, much as I love a good Dubizzle deal, it is a website that seems to attract a high number of numpties.
Take the one who drove all the way from Abu Dhabi to my house in Dubai to view some rather nice pieces of furniture I was selling. After getting almost all the way to my community (I know this because I talked to him multiple times as he reported his progress), he took a wrong turn, ended up back outside the community gate so he decided to drive all the way back to Abu Dhabi instead.
Then there are those who drive along the wrong street looking for my villa and then tell me, “But there is no number 36,” to which I always want to reply, “Oh my! You’re right! I’ve been living in an imaginary villa for the past six years!”
And today I had a classic that I’ve never had before.
“We’re in your street, but there’s no 36.”
“If you’re in the right street, 36 will be there.” [I know it does because I'm standing in it!]
“It’s definitely the right street, but I’m telling you, there’s no 36.There’s 33, 35 and 37, but no 36.”
Um, how to say this politely? Look on the other side of the road, love.