Archive for June 2012
I’m not the best at packing for holidays at the best of times – not since I now have to pack for two small people as well as for myself. Long gone are the days when I could throw a few bikinis, some mini-skirts, some sparkly flip flops and a sarong into a bag and swan off to the airport to drink champagne.
When you travel with children it’s not just about clothes and shoes: There’s spare outfits for emergencies, spare underwear, in-flight amusements, books, toys, DVDs, nappies, mini cutlery, snacks, drink bottles and medicines as well.
And then there’s also a huge amount of chargers that never used to be needed. BlackBerry, iPad, camera, phone…
And although I do do lists, I don’t do Big Lists. I simply can’t write everything down a month in advance. My packing is far more organic – and when the cases are half full, I get to writing lists of last-minute things to be thrown in in the morning.
And I add to that list at 2am. And 3am. And 4am. Yawn.
Anyway, packing for our impending trip is proving to be even more complicated than usual. Emirates Airline allows us 30kgs of baggage per person in as many bags as we like. Once we arrive in London, 7kgs of baggage per person needs to spontaneously combust because we’re transferring to a British Airways flight which allows us just 23kgs of baggage per person – in one bag per person.
And the BA website is quite clear about this: Any bag weighing more than 23kgs will be charged as overweight, even if you’re under you’re total allowance.
So I can’t pack one bag for both children and have it weigh in at 27kgs – 19kgs lower than the allowance for both children and 5kgs lower than the UK’s ElfnSafety limit – without being charged extra for it. Oh no. I have to pack separate bags for each child and lug an extra suitcase half way around the world (thanks for that, BA – it’ll be Virgin next year).
Then we have the problem of the cruise. There’s not a lot of storage space in a cruise ship Stateroom, so I don’t want to carry all the boots, jumpers, fleeces, thermal undies and jeans that I’ll need to get me through July in England (just being realistic), let alone things like my laptop, so I need to pack those in an extra bag and somehow jettison them in London.
I’m sure I’ve aged five years in the last three days, not to mention grown 100 new grey hairs and 50 new wrinkles. Holidays? Sometimes I wonder if they’re more trouble than they’re worth.
DD, aged seven, wants to be an art teacher, a rock star or a fashion designer when she grows up. While I bear no responsibility for the art teacher idea, nor the rock star, I have to confess to having placed the idea of the fashion designer in her head myself.
Perhaps I’m living vicariously through her.
You see, despite having both an aunt and a grannie who were professional artists, I could never draw. It was so bad I was thrown out of art class aged just 12 for using a ruler when told to draw a telephone for art homework (the straight lines were important to me).
Apparently, art should not involve a ruler, but a free hand. The (young, blonde, married) teacher was so appalled she threw me into metalwork class where I fashioned an enamelled copper brooch of a pig’s bum with a curly tail and gave it to my mum for Mother’s Day (what a sense of humour the metalwork teacher had). The art teacher, meanwhile, went on to sleep with one of my classmates (male, handsome, at least).
I don’t think she liked girls.
Anyway, I could never draw. I was also always pretty rubbish at fashion. Having worn school uniform from age five to 18, I really struggled out in the real world. I only feel it’s in the last five years that I’ve found a sense of my sartorial self, so it staggers me when DD effortlessly puts together amazing outfits.
In fact, I love having her in the changing room when I’m shopping, because she makes or breaks an outfit in a second. “Mummy, that’s so not your colour,” she’ll say, rolling her eyes. Or, “Why are you trying on those trousers when you know that shape doesn’t suit you?” or “Mummy, it’s really not that ‘wow’.”
At the weekend, I found a couple of drawings she’d made of fashion outfits for fictional figures.
“Do you want to design some more outfits, and we’ll take them to the tailor and get them made up for you to wear?” I asked her in a fit of parental madness, and with a long, hot summer looming.
Her eyes widened with disbelief. “Really?” she said.
“Yes! And, if your friends like them, we could get more made and you could hold fashion shows and sell your clothes for charity,” I told her (madly) while DH looked on in what can only be described as shock.
“Yes! Yes! I’m going to design a whole collection,” she yelped, disappearing upstairs with her Maped Color Peps and a load of recycled paper.
What on earth have I done?
There’s been a lot of fuss in Dubai lately about what one should and shouldn’t be allowed to wear to shopping malls. It all started when a couple of local ladies were “disgusted” by the sight of Westerners out in public with “shorts that could pass as hot pants” and skirts that “don’t fully conceal undergarments”. They started a campaign on Twitter, demanding the government do something about it.
And the government has taken them seriously. So seriously it’s said to be considering making it illegal to dress “inappropriately” in public in the UAE.
But of course “inappropriate” is quite subjective. How do you quantify “respectful dressing”? A woman could be covered from neck to ankle in clothes so tight they hide nothing, while another could be wearing baggy shorts that show a little leg above the knee, but be far more chaste.
Personally, I doubt it will ever become law, but what I wanted to write about today was how the whole debate has made me start to feel like a criminal when I’m out in the malls in an outfit of dubious decency.
Now I’m a reasonably respectful dresser at the best of times, not least because I’m a 41-year-old mother of two and not a pretty young slip of a girl with nothing to hide. My outfits are chosen on the value of what they can conceal, not what they reveal.
But since #UAEDresscode became an issue, I’ve become paranoid in the malls. Today, for example, I was in a loose-ish top and jeans – but the top, while covering my bra straps and coming up to my neck – was sleeveless and made of broderie anglaise, through which you could possibly see a little bit of lacy bra (if you looked closely).
Were my jeans too tight on my bum? When I bent down to put DS’s shoes back on, did I get bum cleavage? If there was a law, would that be a crime? Would the security guard stop me as I walked in? Were the Emirati ladies I passed whispering about my visible shoulder as I walked past? What about the men? Was one going to remonstrate with me?
See what I mean: Paranoid.
But while some things are clearly not acceptable, there’s a large grey area. I almost feel we need an online service where we can ask before going out, “showing 80 per cent arms but zero per cent leg, outfit 50 per cent tight – what’s my decency rating?”
What do you think?
DH was like a little kid when he came home from the office last Thursday night.
“Long weekend!” he sighed as he sank into the sofa. “No work till Monday!”
“Yay! No school on Sunday!” yelled the kids, jumping about with glee. “What can we do, mummy? Cinema? Play area? Play dates? Swimming!”
And you know what? If anyone deserves a long weekend, it’s my DH. He routinely puts in an 11-hour day – often a 13-hour day – and didn’t get a day off at all last weekend. While I know he enjoys his job, I’m still grateful to him for being the main wage-earner.
“But,” a small, unentitled voice within me whispered, “what about me? I am quite royally knackered, too, and I would give my back teeth for a long lie-in and a little time ‘off’.”
As the housewife of the family, I’m the one who holds everything together; the one who keeps the cogs turning; the family well-fed; the bills paid; the a/c working; the pool clean; and the house ticking over. I’m the one who gets the flights booked; the suitcases packed; the homework done; the cars serviced; and the social life organised – the one who maintains the rhythm of our happy house – but when do I ever get a three-day weekend?
Actually, come to think about it, when do I get a “weekend” at all?
My working days are 13 hours long, seven days a week, and they’re not spent in an air-conditioned office. They’re spent running from pillar to post in 40+ degrees of heat, soaked in sweat and usually dragging various children with me, wrestling them into car seats, listening to their screams, wiping their tears, adjudicating their fights, toiling over a hot stove to make dinners that are thrown back at me – and trying to be “fun” as well.
And a three-day weekend for me means nothing more than an extra day of the above when, really, the kids should be at school – and I have to get my “other job” done on top of doing all the above.
No wonder I’m so blinkin’ knackered.
And no, I don’t mean the weather. A religious holiday today meant alcohol was banned from being served in public places from 7pm yesterday to 7pm today. So here’s the golf club restaurant on a dry night:
If you’ve ever rented or lived in an old stone cottage in the UK, thanks to the low doorways on which you’ll regularly bash your brains out, you’ll know what I mean when I say that people are getting bigger. We’ve all seen the stats about how much fatter the average housewife has become in the last 60 years – the Daily Mail blames it on housewives “not using as much elbow grease when doing the housework.”
But I tell you, Daily Mail, it burns quite a lot of calories telling Gerlie what to do each day, then stressing about whether or not she’s doing it right. I dare you to come here with your tape measure.
Anyway, I digress, aside from our new, 21st century curvy boob-waist-hip ratio, people, in general, are becoming taller – and no company knows this better than Mango, which is ahead of the game with this season’s collections of super-long clothes made for giants.
I’ve long been fond of the maxi-dress. In fact, two that I bought from Mango circa 2006 are still going strong, much to DD’s disgust. But this year, it’s been a disaster trying to buy anything new from Mango because their maxi-dresses are simply so goddamned long. Their in-house model must be, I swear, Long Tall Sally. On stilts.
Let me show you – I am five foot nine (1.75m) and this is the amount of fabric that pools on the floor when I wear a S/S 2012 Mango maxi-dress – while wearing 3.5” (9cm) wedges (that’s a total height of 6 foot and a half, or 184cm).
And yes, I know Mango has in-house tailors who will alter the frocks for you – but, having just had a brand new dress ruined by the in-house tailor who a) hemmed above my pinned line so the dress now swings jauntily around my lower calf and b) sewed it so badly it looks like DS did it while blindfolded, I’m loathe to go there.“Oh,” said the cashier after that alteration, “We’re having problems hemming that fabric. It’s very difficult.”
Yes, dear. 350 wasted Dirhams later, I see.
Mango, get a grip. You may be manufacturing for a wedge to be worn under your dresses, but the average height of a Spanish woman is just 161cms; 163cms for a Brit. If I, at 175cm, am struggling in my 9cm wedges…. who on earth do your dresses fit?
My first boss here once told me “In Dubai, it costs money just to stand still and breathe”. Although that was over 12 years ago, when it actually didn’t cost that much to stand still and breathe in Dubai, I think of it often, as I sometimes I feel like I walk around Dubai haemorrhaging money without actually spending it. If you know what I mean.
So here’s what I spent yesterday, without actually going shopping, as such. It’ll be too irritating for you, I think, if I put the conversions in – divide by 5.6 for sterling.
AED 208.95 – Spinneys
Quick dash to pick up bread, milk, cereals, hummus and a random packet of AED 37 hair dye (hoping to save AED 580 at the hairdresser’s).
AED 272.00 – Philippines Overseas Labour Office (POLO)
Sent Gerlie by taxi to get her Exit Certificate for her summer holiday.
AED 370 – School Book Fair
Okay, so DD was supposed to buy only one or two books, but they were all so nice and I try to foster a love of books…. and it was unfair to leave DS out just because he can’t read… and I bought a few for birthday presents as well. Everyone loves a book.
AED 1,890 – School uniform
Isn’t it great the way the schools change the uniform every couple of years so you have to buy a whole new kit? DD needed new shirts, skorts, a tie and blazer as her new Y3 uniform, plus new PE kit as she’s grown. DS needed the full Monty right down to bags, hats and swimming kit as he starts big school in September.
AED 165.50 – Petrol
Okay, I admit, it would have been about £3,000 and a kidney to fill my car in the UK. But still, there it is. The AED 5.50 was for a petrol station cheese roll and a banana for the children as they were “famished” while I was buying the next item…
AED 101 – SALIK tag: Needed a new tag as only 10 per cent of the old one is actually stuck to the windscreen since I had the glass changed two years ago. For two years I’ve been manually holding it up while driving through, as I waited for my account balance to dwindle to nothing because SALIK said they couldn’t transfer the amount (which was at the time AED 300) from one tag to another.
AED 421 – Travel insurance. 30-day, single trip family policy. With all the fannying about we’re going to be doing, I thought better safe than sorry.
AED 300 – Pool maintenance. For fixing the broken pool filter (while failing to fix the broken light).
TOTAL: AED 3,728.45 (£665) spent in one day without really thinking about it.
It’s actually exactly what I saved by not buying the Jimmy Choo “Kate Middie” sandals. I saw them. I stroked them. I tried them on. They didn’t fit.
We talked the other week about the scourge of nursery drop-off, Slow Mum, and this week I want to bring your attention to another one you need to watch out for: Flaky Mum.
The problem with Flaky Mum is she’s often in disguise. To all intents and purposes, she looks normal. She usually looks exactly like someone you might be friends with. In fact, she’s lovely, she dresses nicely, has good highlights and nice handbags, and she likes a glass of wine. When you first meet her, your friendship radar is buzzing: She could be a keeper.
But once you arrange that first play date for your child at Flaky’s house, you’ll start to see the full force of the flakiness.
In its most benign form, it will manifest as a last-minute cancellation, which will come after you’ve arranged, not just your life but the entire universe and the Milky Way, in order that you can be available to pick up your child from Flaky’s end-of-the-world house at six. Furthermore, the cancellation will come 20 minutes before Flaky’s due to pick up your child from school – and you’ll be naked, covered in oil and 45 minutes away (stop sniggering at the back, I’m thinking spa).
Other manifestations include forgotten pick-ups that involve panicky calls from the teacher and you being labelled by the school as an Unreliable Mum; age-inappropriate activities on play dates; unchaperoned visits to the mall for seven-year-olds; suggestions that the kids might like to ride in the front of the car sans seatbelts “just for fun”; and copious amounts of junk food.
If you’re in any doubt, sound your alarm bells if any of the following happen.
Five things Flaky Mum will have no problem doing:
1) Offering to take your child somewhere really exciting and cancelling at the last minute.
2) Letting your child ride shotgun in a taxi on Emirates Road, no seatbelt, no car seat.
3) Agreeing to collect her child from yours at 5pm, and not arriving till 7pm.
4) Letting your six-year-old swim in her pool without an adult watching. “Oh, the maid was watching from inside.” Yeah, right.
5) Agreeing that you will pick up your child from a play date at six, then being out and not answering her phone.
Trust me, all of the above and more. And she looks so nice!