Archive for April 2012
It’s no secret to anyone who lives in Dubai that the quality of radio ads here is abysmal.
Everything from buying a car or taking out a loan to conserving water seems to be acted out by a smug family of ignorant parents who’re inevitably educated by smart-alec children with terrible accents. Dialogue invariably runs along the lines of “Ooh, Ahmed, you are a clever boy! Mummy’s 42 and even she didn’t know you should turn the tap off while cleaning your teeth! / should have banked at X bank / should have bought Y car!”
Someone, please shoot them all now.
Anyway at present there’s one ad in particular that makes me want to throw a brick at the radio. It’s the one for the Arabian Radio Network (ARN) Business Club seminars.
I can’t quote it verbatim as I usually shout abuse over it, but it goes something along the lines of: “Every morning, thousands of mums in the UAE get up and feed their children a healthy breakfast of branded items bought from their chosen supermarket. They dress in clothes they’ve chosen from their favourite malls, get in a large SUV and drive the children to a well-researched school.”
I think it’s supposed to tell potential advertisers what a great target audience these mums are – so far, so good. Most mums do make most of the decisions regarding these matters: We are a great target audience.
But then it all goes wrong. “And during that whole hour,” the ad continues, “the chances are those mums will be listening to the radio.”
THAT WHOLE HOUR????
What mum in the UAE can wake the children, feed them breakfast, make their lunches, get them dressed, ready and out the door, drive the average 70km round-trip school run and be back in ONE HOUR?
Unless you’re one of the handful of debentured families that lives a stone’s throw from the local school, the school-run alone takes an hour, forget all the other bits.
The irony is, the ad is for a seminar that teaches “effective radio advertising.”
If you asked me, the number-one rule of effective radio advertising would be to understand your audience. But what would I know? I’m just a housewife.
“Mama I love you,” he sings to the Spice Girls’ tune. He knows it from DD, not from me, I hasten to add. It’s very sweet, because he’s pitch perfect.
“Mama I swear.
“Mama I love you…”
There’s a pause as he’s forgotten the next line. He improvises:
“I love your yellow hair.”
At which point he yanks out a handful and head-butts me.
When my mum was here, we did a lot of touristy things. One of them, scraping the barrel somewhat given it was the third week of mum’s 15th visit to the UAE, was to take a ride on the Trolley Bus that goes around Dubai Mall.
I barely need to tell you that the ride was more for DS than it was for my mum, but she was game to play along. And it was quite sweet, I suppose, inhaling the fumes of Dubai’s morning traffic seated on the wooden benches of the open-sided bus as it dodged speeding cars and trucks.
An experience, at least.
Anyway, as we were the only passengers, the conductor decided to point out all the landmarks to us. Every hotel was described in awed tones as “FIVE-star”, so the speech went something like this:
“Old Town. Nice view Burj Khalifa. The Address Hotel – FIVE-star hotel [eyes round with wonder]… Souk Al Bahar… The Palace – FIVE-star hotel [round eyes]… Dubai Mall – World’s BIGGEST mall…. Nice view Burj Khalifa – World’s tallest building… The Pavilion –nice place… Burj Khalifa… Mazaya Centre – shopping mall…”
Um? Mazaya Centre? Is that still standing? I looked in the direction he pointed and, blow me down, he was right – if you peeped through a construction site, over a fence and across the other side of Sheikh Zayed Road’s 14 lanes, you could just make out the Madonna-bra cones of the Mazaya Centre’s roof.
By Dubai standards, this mall is a dinosaur, and not even a T-Rex at that. Even in its heyday, back in Dubai’s Jurassic period when Spinneys was still inside it, it was dingy, dark and smelly. How it’s not been demolished is a mystery; why it’s being pointed out on a tour of Downtown Dubai I’ve no idea.
But, back to the tour:
“Armani Hotel – first 15 floors of Burj Khalifa: FIVE-star hotel. Al Murooj Rotana [peers under the flyover] – FIVE-star hotel. And now back at Dubai Mall.”
Now that’s what I call a FIVE-star mall.
I went to Ikea this afternoon to buy three silver picture frames and a potato ricer, the latter on the advice of my dear friend A, whose mashed potato my incredibly fussy D-there’s-lumps-in-it”-D and D-“don’t-like-mashed-potatoes”-S actually will eat.
I found the ricer and the photo frames but, at the check-out, my trolley also contained:
4 x swimming towels (not needed but I liked the pattern)
1 x stuffed doll (boy variety, clutched by DS)
1 x stuffed dog (Dalmation variety, clutched by DS)
1 x washing-up brush (clutched by DS: “I help Gerlie.”)
2 x funnels (I often wish I had a funnel. Can’t think why now, but… next time)
1 x roll of art paper
2 x duvet cover sets (for DS)
1 x pillow (for DS)
2 x chopping boards (can never have too many)
1 x packet paper napkins (ditto)
Anyway, I’m slightly relieved, in a strange way, to say I actually ended up buying none of these items, despite ringing them up at the till. I also didn’t buy marshmallows for the children to eat on the way home, much to DS’s disgust.
That’s what happens when you leave your purse at home.
I live in a compound where, since January, it’s been possible to have mail delivered to your door. Stop sniggering at the back – it’s a big thing here. Up until then, doorstop postal delivery simply hasn’t existed in the UAE.
Instead, we all have Post Office Boxes – while that might not sound like a trauma, consider that, at one point, ours was so far from home we were driving a 75km round trip just to pick up the electricity bill.
So when Emirates Post announced this wonderful new breakthrough of door-to-door postal delivery I signed up. And it’s been great. We now have a post box stuck to the side of our house and it has a little red/green indicator to show if there’s any mail.
Only I think they forgot to teach the postmen what red and green mean.
I imagined that red might be “you’ve got mail” and green might mean “empty”. But sometimes I have a look inside when it’s on green and there’s a letter going crispy in the heat. So I slide the indicator to red to show I’ve got the post. The postman then slides it to green but when I next look, there’s nothing there.
So it’s taken me four months of experimenting to figure out what the colours mean, and it’s far more basic than “mail” and “no mail”: A change of colour simply means the postman’s been. He’s just making sure that I know he’s doing his job by visiting my house three times a week and it’s absolutely not his fault I’m a Molly-no-mail. Doh.
It’s been a sweaty old day chez Mrs Dubai. More than once I’ve caught myself wiping a haze of moisture from my brow. By 3pm, and after a particularly sweaty school run, I quit trying to look graceful in linen, skinny jeans and heels and changed into shorts, a vest and flip-flops, while the children, looking slightly damp and pink of cheek, retreated languidly to the sofa from which they watched Horrid Henry DVDs (after promising to model themselves on Perfect Peter, not HH, natch).
The problem is, it was only 34˚C outside and, just as my father resolutely turned off the heating on April 15 each year (no matter if I was building a snowman in the garden), I just can’t bring myself to turn on the air-conditioning until it’s at least 36˚C.
Because once the a/c is on, that’s it till November. Sometimes even December. And I can’t bear the thought of breathing that artificial, recycled air 24 hours a day for the next six months. It makes me want to run outside and hyperventilate by the frangipani tree just thinking about it.
But the relationship I have with the air-conditioning is, as Facebook would say, “complicated”. There is love as well as hate. There is a critical tipping point at which I can’t live without it – as anyone whose a/c has broken down in the summer will testify. I think it’s about 36˚C; 38˚C if I’m feeling tough.
Meanwhile, I feel we’re about to enter the few days of “cheating” that I sneak in before going fully air-conditioned – a buffer zone, so to speak, a period of adjustment, during which I switch on the a/c but keep the patio doors open to give the illusion of a cold breeze wafting through the house.
It’s our last gasp of fresh air till we reach Europe in July.
April’s an expensive month for me. DH, DD and DS, are all Aries. To be honest, I used to think that I, as an Aquarian, got on best with Librans and, sometimes Cancers and Leos. But, given that our household is as harmonious as a house full of small children governed by a frustrated career woman can be, I guess Aquarius plus Aries works pretty well.
Anyway, I was commenting on this this morning, as DH opened his birthday cards at stupid o’clock.
“We’re all Aries!” shouted DD, dancing around the room flapping her arms.
“Yeah!” shouted, DS, flapping his arms like DD. “We’re all fairies!”
I think his father may have something to say about that.
It’s no secret to those who know me that I didn’t really enjoy living in the UK. I’m of a constitution that functions best in hot weather and I love seeing blue sky every day. And, much as the UK may have going for it, those two basic requirements of mine are never going to be met. Not unless we really speed up the global warming.
So I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’ll probably never move back there. When my friends get misty-eyed talking about small village prep schools, corner Post Offices and staying in treehouses suspended over fields of lowing cattle, I smile politely and think, “rather you than me, baby.”
I just don’t get it.
And then my mum arrived for her holiday, bringing with her a clutch of British magazines. Gone are the days when she hefted over Vogue, Tatler and Harpers Bazaar for me. This year, she produced Good Housekeeping, Coast and Country Living.
And, being a magazine-a-holic, I still looked at them. Good Housekeeping was excellent, but then, I always like it. Coast had some nice pictures of clapboard houses with beach-style décor and gave me a few ideas for building a veranda; but Country Living was the biggest eye-opener.
It made me envy life in the UK.
But not the life I expect I would have there, with children and school runs, housework and a small, economical run-around for a car.
It made me envy a life of lake-front properties with rowing boats tied up at the jetty. A life populated by people who wear stripy Breton tops, fisherman’s sweaters, twill shorts and loafers; by people who ride elegant bicycles to the grocer’s; sip freshly squeezed orange juice in sympathetically constructed, centrally heated conservatories; have immaculate kitchens made by the local joiners; and knock back ales in the pub of an evening.
It made me envy a life where even winter looks tolerable by dint of the steaming mugs of tea you’d drink by the fire after all those cheek-rosying walks on the beach.
I know it’s an illusion; a life that couldn’t exist without a million-dollar bank account to fund it (and the bolt-hole I’d need in the sun). But, honestly, it did suck me in for a while. Sigh.