Posts Tagged ‘Dubai’s Desperate Housewife’
I’ve been busy lately, planning the family’s summer holidays. Anyone who thinks you just go onto emirates.com and click “book flights” has no concept of what entails a family holiday. Honest to god, it’s not an easy task.
We have flights. We have stops in hotels because onward flights don’t connect. We have more flights and more nights in hotels because cruises and flights don’t connect. We have The Cruise (more on this another day, I’m sure). We have shore excursions and we have drinks packages. Then we have car rental, Spanish villas, optional WiFi and pool heaters. And return flights, airport transfers and UK car rental. We have different people returning to Dubai on different days. We have the possibility of a Skywards upgrade (fat chance).
And then, after all that’s signed and sealed, we have Gerlie’s flights to organise.
See? Not simple.
So, I’ve been doing a bit at a time. Disappearing into my office after dinner with a glass of Merlot and choosing airlines, seats, meal plans and hotels. Reading hotel reviews, checking airline timetables, viewing ship cabins on You Tube. And every now and then I make a decision and click “book”.
Then I wander back into the living room and collapse on the sofa with a sigh.
“Booked the flights then?” asks DH with a smug smile.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. But how do you know?
He knows because our bank calls him up, late at night on the sofa, to tell him that his wife’s booked flights to Europe, a hotel and a hire car in Spain and does he mind? Shall they let her? (And what does she need a 9-seater for anyway?)
Welcome, Dubai, to the 21st century. This, dear friends, is life as a Housewife.
I had dinner with a dear friend last night. Although she’s the same age as me, she doesn’t seem as traumatised by the aging process as I am. To be fair, she’s very pretty (as I was told by my own DD) and shows hardly any signs of age on her porcelain complexion – so why should she be worried?
I, on the other hand, have been throwing a never-ending barrage of stuff at my increasingly saggy, baggy, sun-damaged and wine-ravaged face and, last night, my friend, who is largely unaware of the majority of my slightly pathetic anti-aging efforts, greeted me with the memorable sentence: “You’re looking very youthful tonight.” (I think there may have been a question mark, but maybe I imagined it. Maybe it was actually an exclamation mark of surprise.)
So what is it that did the trick, I wondered, as we pondered the menu?
a) Five sessions of anti-aging facial acupuncture? Definitely there’s less puffiness after that, but “youthfulness”? Not sure.
b) The fact that we’re on school holidays and I’ve been waking up at least half an hour later than usual and lingering in bed with my coffee and Ideal Home magazine? Quite possible.
c) The way I applied my blusher last night under my cheekbones instead of on the apples of my cheeks? Maybe?
d) My slightly darker hair dye? (No longer the 25-year-old beach blonde.)
e) My new supermarket face cream? For the past two years my precious and ridiculously priced Rodial cosmetics have been the things I would save first in a fire (after the children and DH, of course). But, since January, they’ve been impossible to get hold of in Dubai so I picked up a bog-standard £10 moisturiser in the supermarket – L’Oreal Derma Genesis, to be precise – and, I can barely bear to admit this, but [whispers] I think it’s better than the Rodial.
As I sipped my first glass of Malbec under the golden glow of the fairy lights at the golf club last night and bit into a deep-fried jalapeno, my mum, visiting from the UK, hit on the real reason for my youthful look.
“It’s just the lighting, isn’t it?” she asked. “It’s very flattering out here tonight.”
If you’re anything like me, you read and research voraciously. You think, as you browse the internet, “one day we’ll go there, do that, try that. Wow, that looks like fun. We’ll do that one day, when the weather’s better, when the kids are older, when we have visitors, when we’re not so tired…” You bookmark them on the iPad, tear out magazine pages, create “things to do” files.
And, sometimes we get around to doing those things, but often we don’t. We forget about them, or we do newer, more exciting things – let’s face it, in Dubai there’s always something newer and better to do than last year’s theme park, shopping mall or penguin-cuddling experience.
I was thinking about this the other day as a dear friend left Dubai for good last week. Of course we did the drinks, the girls’ night at Rivington Grill, the teary goodbyes and the “see you in the summer”s, but it’s taking my brain a while to catch on that, after three years of top-notch friendship, she’s gone.
In the back of my head I’m still planning things we can do together. Dinners out, pool barbecues (now the littlest children are old enough not to be a liability), weekends at Zighy Bay.
And then it hits me like a sledgehammer that those weekends at Zighy Bay? They won’t be happening again. There’s no point planning a barbecue because she’s seven hours’ flight away and up to her knees in Cotswolds mud.
And it made me think: When I come up with these ideas, these plans, ideas for things to do, we should just do them. Stop waiting for a better day. Stop procrastinating because, before you know it, your friends might be gone. Carpe diem, friends, carpe diem.
Given that DD broke all ties with her cot, with the help of tactical screaming, vomiting and falling out of it, at just 18 months old, DS has come late to the Big Bed party. To date he’s showed no desire to leave his cot – and I, as a mum who values her sleep, have also showed no desire to move him out of it.
But needs must – and when he turned three I realised if I didn’t get him out of the cot soon, I’d be paying for it in terms of therapy when he turned 18 (“Doctor, when I shut my eyes, I see bars!”) – so I had a Flexa bed delivered to his room on his birthday.
DS’s joy knows no bounds. “Look at my big-boy bed!” he squealed, turning ecstatic somersaults on it.
My joy, however, knew several bounds, the most important one being that DS is now free-range and able to venture into our room at whatever time he likes.
Whereas I used to ignore him when he woke up and hence get an extra hour in bed (we’re talking 6am to 7am on a weekend here), I now get woken before 6am by the pitter-patter of tiny footsteps and a little boy clambering awkwardly onto my tummy.
It wouldn’t matter if he then fell asleep in my arms, but the dawn requests vary from “Read me a story!” to “I want breakfast!” and “Play with me!” which, honest to god, at 5.45am in the school holidays, is not welcome.
A week on, that cot is looking awfully attractive. I’ll deal with the shrink bills another decade.
I’m the first to admit, I came late to the Entertainer books. First, I worked in media and had people throwing everything at me for free, from champagne and gourmet dinners to holidays and cosmetic surgery (no, I never did it, if you’re wondering, although one well-known clinic did once offer me a boob job, tummy tuck or liposuction for Christmas); second, I thought voucher books were tacky; and third, I had two babies and hence no social life.
In fact, for the past seven years, the thought of doing enough “stuff” to warrant a 400-page book of money-off vouchers was as laughable as sending the children to Mars for supper.
But DS just turned three and, in a fit of yoga-induced energy, I bought Entertainer Kids on a whim. Not only would it be a source of ideas for fun-filled family days out, I thought, but it would be a challenge. How many vouchers would I be able to get through in a year?
Needless to say, April dawned and not one voucher had been torn out of the book.
So yesterday I decided to dust it off and start working my through it. With my mum in town, it was the perfect opportunity. At a loose end in the afternoon, we drove to Palm Jumeirah and took the monorail up to Atlantis (nice views – Dhs 25 return), where we used two vouchers to get the four of us into The Lost Chambers at a 50 per cent discount.
“Mummy, I’m having so much fun!” squealed DD as she skipped from tanks of prehistoric dinosauresquey fish that were bigger than DH to tanks of neon-pink jellyfish.
“Me too!” squealed DS, because he’s three.
I couldn’t believe it was such a hit. We even spent 10 minutes sitting in front of the main aquarium, quietly hypnotised by the fish swimming past. I did wonder, though, if DD’d got the right end of the stick, when she said, “Mummy! Look at that one! It would make such a pretty handbag!” (Leopard print with flashes of neon blue and yellow, by the way – she wasn’t wrong.)
50 per cent off haircuts tomorrow; Thursday, the world’s our oyster.
It’s not my natural habitat, hosting parties. Any of my friends – especially my Cancer and Virgo friends who care about details – will testify that I’m actually quite rubbish at it.
But I’m an Aquarius, for goodness’ sake. All we care about is that our dearest friends come, and that they have a good time. We don’t notice details. We don’t notice that there’s no table centrepiece, and no candles; that the wine glasses are different sizes or that the crockery doesn’t match. And we don’t give a damn about the colour scheme, that the napkins are from Ikea, or that the flowers are wafting too much of the wrong scent across the garden.
Honestly, all we want is to do is show our dear friends – the people who light up our lives – how much we appreciate them.
So I was somewhat out of my league last weekend, when I realised that I had organised myself not only into hosting a dinner party for 20 on Thursday night (Thursday! What was I thinking? DH wasn’t even there to help me set up!), but also a birthday party for DS at home on Saturday.
Mad as cheese. That’s what it was. Mad as cheese in the heat with bells on.
But I gave it a good go. On Thursday evening, my garden looked like this:
By Saturday afternoon, it looked like this:
On the whole, I think I pulled it off. But, oh my, do I need a foot massage.
I hate air-conditioning. I hate that DS and DD, both born in the spring, breathed nothing but a/c air for the first eight months of their lives; I hate that we’re dependent on fake air for so much of the year. It can’t be healthy.
Still, as anyone whose a/c has broken down in summer will tell you, in the UAE it’s a necessary evil. I keep it off for as much of the year as possible and I do what I can to maintain our air quality by getting the system cleaned and serviced every three to four months.
But I’ve known for a couple of years that, when it comes to a/c services, there’s cleaning – and then there’s cleaning. Some time ago I gave up calling in the lame lizards who spat on a toothbrush and a tissue to “clean” the vents, and I started using a company that actually got the hose out for something (not sure what) and did at least leave the house smelling of disinfectant.
But this week, I learned that there’s a whole new level: CLEANING.
CLEANING of the a/c system involves eight men spending nine hours taking out every component of the system, vacuuming, cleaning and disinfecting it, then putting it all back together again, before “misting” the entire house with something magic to ensure that any mould spores don’t get back into the clean a/c.
It’s the type of cleaning done in hospitals and ambulances, apparently, and it’s very, very good. They even take “before” and “after” photos to show you what they’ve done. Would you like to see my before and after pix?
Remember, this is an a/c system that was professionally “cleaned” (for about Dhs 2,000) every four months:
This type of deep-clean needs to be done only every two years. It cost Dhs 500 per “living area” ie room or corridor. It can then be maintained with a small clean every 3-4 months. I wasn’t paid to write this but, in the interest of your health, the company is SaniService: 04-3415592.
I gave up dancing a long time ago. I can almost remember the night in question: I was 32-ish, and throwing some shapes in Carter’s bar at Wafi when I looked around and realised that, not only was everyone a good 10 years younger than me, but their thighs were a good 10cms thinner.
And, having never truly been the sort to go clubbing anyway, that was effectively the signal to me to stop dancing and start staying in with a nice dinner and a bit of telly instead. No-one wants to look like an old lady on the dance floor.
So it was with some surprise that I found myself once more on a dance floor at the weekend. DH and I had gone to the Help For Heroes event at the British Embassy. And what a lovely night it was, too: Twinkly lights, great people, moving speeches, lots of fund-raising, a slap-up supper, and more drinks than I could shake an empty glass at.
But, after the speeches, the auction and the dinner, suddenly there was a DJ and a dance floor under the trees on the Embassy’s lawn. And, even more suddenly, I was on it. Dancing!
I don’t know who was more surprised, me, DH, or our friends who have (for good reason) never seen me shake a tail feather. They played “Moves Like Jagger”, “I’m Sexy And I Know It”, “Mr Saxo-Beat” and countless other songs that had me leaping about like a 7-year-old.
And then on came Abba’s “Dancing Queen” – and what 40-something Housewife on a rare night out doesn’t like that song? Arms in the air, hips creaking, panting a little, singing along, I was off.
“Friday night and the lights are low… Looking out for a place to go….”
It was all going well until I got to the chorus. “You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen” I sang to DH. He shook his head in mock sadness.
“Not seventeen, darling,” he mouthed. “Not by a long shot.”
The room swam with the heady scent of perfume. The outfits were stunning: Cocktail dresses, peplums and maxi-dresses in sherbet-coloured silks and satins. There were hats and fascinators, Jimmy Choos and Louboutins. There were sky-high hairdos, blow-drys and enough makeup to stock the Harvey Nicholls beauty hall.
There were fuchsia lipsticks, daring eye-shadows and laser-whitened teeth. Honeyed highlights. The perfectly plucked eyebrow. French Jellish by the bucket. Diamonds, pearls and platinum. Boob jobs, Botox, fillers and implants – neither a hair nor a molecule was out of place.
Tea was sipped, coffee drunk. Smoked salmon nibbled, scrambled eggs tasted. Mushrooms artfully speared, toast pushed about. Scones, cream and jam consumed with guilty looks. Surgically tight smiles. Tinkling laughs.
But where were we? Paris Fashion Week? The Cartier Polo? Ascot?
Heck, no. Just another coffee morning in Dubai.
It’s a question to which I’m applying way too much thought at present.
I’m talking, of course, about my struggle to find a suitable villa to rent in Spain this summer. The ideal villa would be “a short stroll” from the beach, shops, cafes and restaurants. For me, that would be anything up to about 300 metres (500 at a push) but, add in a pushchair, a 7-year-old, a baby in a pram and a mother-in-law whose fastest walking speed is “shuffle”, and you can halve that.
But owners of Spanish holiday villas are super-competent speed-walkers, it seems, for they have different ideas to me of what comprises a “short stroll”.
And I know this, not because they admit how far it is to the beach from their €1,000-a-night piles, but because I have on my side a secret weapon: DH, Super-Sleuth.
While I spend my days poring over the internet, printing out possible villas, DH, after I’ve gone to bed, calls up Google Maps and double-checks the locations, identifying the villas by things as random as the shape of the pool and the positions of the palm trees. He even goes into “street view”, identifies the villa in real view and “virtually” walks the route to the beach.
And you’d be surprised how many times the owners “accidentally” place the map pin locating their villas a kilometre closer to the beach than it really is. Or on the “better” side of the highway.
You’d be surprised how “a short stroll” can actually mean a kilometre of hard slog with no pavements, followed by crossing a four-lane highway with concrete central reservations. And even then to get to a stony beach with no facilities. You’d be surprised how “2 mins to the nearest shop” actually translates as “2 mins to the petrol station”.
“A short stroll”? My word, if you’re renting any villa this summer, please check out Google Maps first.
If you like property porn, you can view my ideal Spanish villa here.