DH writes from a conference he’s at in the south of France (I know, seriously, the south of bloody France): “Hi darling, how are you?”
Me, from home: “Glad the week’s over. How about you?”
DH sends me a couple of photos of the view from his room: “I’ve just checked in. That’s my view.”
I’m looking at the photos – they’re all palm trees, Art Deco architecture and bright blue Mediterranean Sea. I can even see a cruise ship anchored offshore in one of them.
Me: “Looks gorgeous. It’s been a tough week; I’ve been working till 11 every night. Obviously up at 5.50am to do the school run. Can’t wait for you to get back.”
DH writes: “Oh, hold on. Got to go, they’ve just told me I’m moving to a suite…”
Messaging resumes the next day – Saturday.
DH: “Hello, conference is finished. Suite’s gorgeous! I’m sitting in Cannes old town, having a beer. So what are you up to?”
Me: “Oh you know. Usual Saturday. Screaming loud kids’ birthday party. Now I’ve just dragged two bickering children round the supermarket, fighting with them all the way. When are you back?”
DH: “After the weekend.”
“Mummy, is the tooth fairy really real? Like, a real fairy comes? Or is it just you putting money under my pillow and taking my tooth?”
I know she’s suspected this for the last two teeth and she’s probably old enough now for me just to come clean – but I have DS to think about. She’s had eight magical visits from La Fairie Des Teeth - I don’t want it to be ruined for him before he’s even had one.
“Why do you ask?” I said. “Don’t you believe in her?”
“Yes…… I… do,” she said. “But some people don’t?”
“Well, all that matters is that you do. She exists.” (In your imagination, I added, crossing my fingers.)
But then came the moment of the dreaded tooth/cash exchange. I’d asked DD to put the tooth close to the edge of the pillow to “make it easier for the tooth fairy”.
“But she’s a fairy?” DD had retorted in a “der” voice. “She flies! She can do anything.”
DD placed the tooth under the centre of her pillow and plonked her head right on top – a position she was still in when I crept into her room at 10pm to do the deed. I did it as stealthily as I could, balancing on three toes and sliding my hand like a snake under the pillow, but there was a crackle or two of the letter she’d left for TF and then, when I got back to my room, I wondered if she’d actually been faking sleep.
I crept back in and looked at her. She’d changed position, her knees were drawn up. Was she smiling? I went back to my room.
But I couldn’t settle. I had that sinking, quicksand feeling that I’d been caught out; that she’d seen the whole exchange. I went back to her room. “DD,” I whispered, watching her carefully for a tell-tale flicker of the eyelids in the light from the hall. “DD?”
No response. Did I get away with it? I had to wait till morning.
“Did the tooth fairy come last night?” I asked, casually, when she came in to say good morning.
“Yeah,” she said, with equal nonchalance. “15. Can I have toast for breakfast?”
She wasn’t telling – and I wasn’t asking. I wonder how tooth nine will go.
The KHDA (the UAE’s version of Ofsted, for those unaware) released the results of this year’s school inspections this week and I was delighted to see that my children’s school was not among the 12 that had been rated as “outstanding”.
Yes, I said not.
Obviously, the mums whose children go to the “outstanding” schools were looking a bit smug in Dubai’s coffee shops yesterday, but I personally think we mums should trust our own judgement more than that of the KHDA.
The KHDA ratings are done on a combination of school inspections, which are carried out with the school’s knowledge and hence open to abuse, as well as questionnaires filled out by parents.
Significant weight is given to the teaching of Islamic education and Arabic language; if these aren’t up to the KHDA’s expectations, the weighting of the school slides a little. My children go to a British school, with a British curriculum. That they learn Arabic is a wonderful thing, but it’s hardly the lynchpin of their school careers.
Anyway. When our school sent home the link to the online questionnaire, the headmaster pointed out what a disappointingly low percentage of parents had bothered to fill it out last year and appealed to the parent body to make more of an effort this year.
But, why would I want to fill it out? If I admit that the school’s as good as I think it is, it’ll get an “outstanding” ranking and hence be permitted to put its high fees up even more. The alternative is to lie and say it’s pretty rubbish – if we all did that, it’d get an “unacceptable” rating and wouldn’t attract good teachers.
So, stuck between a rock and a hard place, I didn’t bother doing it. Again.
But here’s the thing: My children run into the classroom each day without looking back; their teachers have all been excellent; the children astound me with the things they’ve been taught each day; they’re both making progress above my expectations; and they miss school in the holidays.
You can’t get more “outstanding” than that, can you?
My hips sometimes get an honorary mention in this blog. It’s not that they’re fat – honestly, there’s not a lot of fat on them – but they’re wide. “Child-bearing hips” says mum – to be honest, I’d have gone with two C-sections if it meant 5cms off the hips for life (before you shoot me, I had one C-section – I know they’re not easy).
Anyway the other night we were at a friend’s house for a little evening soirée and it turned out she’d arranged a belly-dancer to entertain us.
I haven’t seen a belly dancer perform live for about 12 years. Like visiting the National Portrait Gallery when you live in London, it’s not something you do much once you live here.
So she shimmied and she jimmied and she jangled and she wiggled – and she held me totally entranced. She had a little belly, but what I noticed that night was that belly-dancing is actually not dependant on a big, wobbly belly. It’s more about a slim waist and curvy hips.
It was a revelation to me. At last the hip girth is useful for something. My friends, may I reveal my new career: Mrs Dubai – belly-dancer.
I like to think my children are pretty literate. You could discuss some quite hifalutin topics with DD when she was two, and DS, while being slower to get there, is also showing the same tendencies. Which I’m happy about.
But there are times when he just doesn’t know the word for what he wants to say, so he tries ever so hard to describe it. An example would be: “Mummy? Mummy? Please can we get a … a … what are cats called when they’re really small?”
“That’s it! Yes, please can we get a kitten?” (The answer was no. Mean mummy!)
But he flummoxed me the other day when he asked if he could go to the “castle with pointy bits”.
I racked my brains. “Atlantis? Where Aquaventure is?”
“The Tower of London?” Who knows what they’ve been learning in school.
“No!” (Rise in pitch denoting increasing frustration).
“Darling, you’re going to have to help me a bit more here. I can’t think of a castle with pointy bits.”
“It’s here. On the way to the shops. That castle, you know, with the pointy bits? Can we go to it?”
Here? On the way to the shops? Oh good god, I have no idea what he’s talking about and, if I don’t decipher it in the next 20 seconds, he’s going to go into meltdown.
“Where on the way to the shops?”
“It’s by the car park. You know, the castle with the pointy bits. It goes ‘Allahu akbar!’” (he sings the call to prayer remarkably well). “S goes on Fridays?”
“Oh! The mosque! You want to go to the mosque?”
“Yes,” he says. “I want to see inside. Can we go? Please?”
Can he? Can I take him into our local mosque? I’m ashamed to say I have no idea.