Posts Tagged ‘expat’
Don’t you just hate it when your child makes a BFF and then said friend disappears off to Hong Kong / Saudi / Singapore / back home and you end up spending every bedtime for the next year wiping tears from the lashes of a child who can’t understand?
DS made a best friend before he was two. He’s always been the kind of child to single out one BFF rather than play to the crowd, and this other little boy wasn’t only in his class at nursery, he lived just down the road – they played together in the park every day once nursery was done.
But then, when the boys were two and a half, the friend moved to the US.
And I – shoot me now – I lied. “He’s on holiday,” I told DS as he searched the park each day for his friend. I hoped that, after the first three months, he’d forget his friend and move on.
But he didn’t.
So, after three months of sobbing, “I miss X!” I admitted that the friend had actually decided to stay in the States.
“I want to go America,” said DS (fat chance, I thought).
But then amazing news – the friend was coming back to Dubai on holiday, 18 months after leaving. I wondered whether DS – who has truly moved on now – would care.
DS cared. He was beyond excited all week before the scheduled play date. But I couldn’t let go of my scepticism. They won’t remember each other; they’ll be shy; they won’t like each other anymore… I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within seconds of seeing each other they were playing like the past 18 months hadn’t happened; like they’d never been separated at all.
Now I’m working on the mum to move back to Dubai… well, with a friendship that special, wouldn’t you?
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.”
When I was nine, my school teacher asked us all what we wanted to be when we grew up. Pony mad, I said I wanted to be a show-jumper. Nick Skelton was, at the time, my hero.
“You want to be a horse?” asked my teacher (he was a bit of a prat, I realise now, looking back).
Well, my show-jumping career never really took off, despite me winning a rosette in a local gymkhana, but these days I find myself thinking more about another type of horse race: The steeplechase.
For those not familiar with the steeplechase, it’s the one where the horses have to gallop flat out for all they’re worth, then leap over various “obstacles” such as fences and ditches that are often much, much higher or longer than the horses are themselves.
They land hard and at high speed – scrunch – then throw themselves straight on towards the next obstacle, nostrils flaring, breath rasping. With no time to prepare, to gather themselves or even to consider what they’re about to do, they hurl themselves over that, too – ad nauseam till the end of the course.
I have to say: It sounds very familiar. I may not have become a show-jumper but, some days I feel more like a steeplechaser than a mum.
This morning I was in a showroom that sells stone flooring tiles. I need to get our front path repaved as, after eight years of Gulf summers, the current tiles have given up the ghost. DH, quite rightly, has washed his hands of the whole job. At this stage of our marriage, he works and I run the house (or, as he prefers to put it, “I make the money and you spend it”).
It seemed, though, that I’d chosen one of the most expensive stone in the showroom. And for some reason, the salesman didn’t like that one bit.
“We have cheap Omani marble here,” he said, kicking a slab of dull, white stone I wouldn’t put under our rubbish bin. “Use that – a quarter the price.”
“But I really like the other one,” I said. “How much will 15 square metres come to?” But still he wouldn’t level with me.
“It’s different depending on whether you get pre-cut tiles, or you have the stone cut to order,” he said.
“So tell me the options,” I said, pencil poised to make notes. “What sizes do the tiles come in?”
“Madam,” he said, sighing, and I realised we were finally getting to the crux of the matter. “You get budget approval from boss at home for before I talk to you about prices. If husband approves AED 6,000, you come back and we talk sizes and costs.”
What a contrast it was to the greasy garage I’d been in half an hour before. As part of my morning’s work as housewife, DH had asked me to get two new tyres put on his car. I was kind of expecting patronising and/or sexist behaviour from the grease monkeys, as is often the case when assertive white women stride in demanding high-performance Pirellis – but those men couldn’t have been nicer.
As all four of them lined up to wave me off, one said ever so nicely, “Thank you for first-time visit our workshop, madam.”
Another said, “We have nice coffee-tea machine. You tried coffee-tea?”
“Yes, I tried, thank you,” I said. “Very nice coffee.”
“Come again soon,” said a third. “Any time wheel-balancing – always good job for madam.”
Now that’s more like it.
“Mummy, after school, can we go shopping?” asked DD this morning. “I want to buy DS a birthday present.”
Forgive me for not replying to her. It was 6am I was weighing up the pros and cons of her request while making two packed lunches and trying to persuade a tired DS a) to have breakfast and b) go to school. My thoughts – for once – were not on shopping.
“With my own money?” she added.
And what could I say to that? DD does not have a lot of money. After Christmas she had about AED 450 (£82 for those of you freezing in the Northern Hemisphere) but, when I sent her out to spend it with her godmother, it turned out she’d blown AED 180 (£30) of that on a talking Moshi Monster toy. With which she’s never played.
I ask you.
Anyway, she learned, I hope, about spending her money on crap, but it’s left her (what with the other things she bought that day, marginally more successfully) with just AED 30. I owed her AED 50 for learning to tell the time properly, rather than just guessing by the position of the sun over the yardarm (that’s my speciality!), so she had a total of AED 80 (£14.50). Reasonable enough, I thought.
“Okay,” I said. “That’s very sweet of you, darling. How lovely to buy a present for your brother from your own money. Of course we can go.”
“I just want to get something little, though,” she said. “Like a pen? He’s only four and I don’t want to waste my money.”
I swear, we’ll make a saver of her yet.
I usually provide my gardeners with bottles of cold water while they blow the dust off my fake lawn but some months ago it dawned on me that they may actually like something a little more interesting so I started taking them out a can of soft drink and a bag of crisps each. On a cold day, I was even moved to provide a flask of hot tea or coffee and some biscuits.
I think it went down well, but DH was not so impressed.
“You’re creating a rod for your own back,” he declared on seeing the 20-pack of chips marked “Gardeners” in the larder. I’m guessing he was piqued that he doesn’t get Tango and crisps at home, only Delia’s mushroom risotto with porcini and Parmesan.
And yes, he may have a point. But, to be honest, it makes me happy to bring the two of them a little joy in their long working day.
Anyway, since the campaign of chips and soft drinks began, I’ve noticed two developments: 1) The gardeners have been coming more often (three times a week, though I’m sure I’m paying only for once a week) and 2) the team for our small, low-maintenance garden has been upped from two to three men.
Yesterday, as I bustled out of the front door with three cans of Lilt and three bags of Bugles in my arms, DH shook his head.
“Watch out,” he said. “Before you know it, you’ll be offering dim sum and a selection of dips.”
It started with a pair of leopard-print skinny jeans. They’re pretty subtle, and I liked them a lot.
“Seriously?” asked DH, as I took them out of the shopping bag. “For who?”
“For me!” I said.
“Fashion victim,” mouthed DH, returning to SkyNews with a barely perceptible shake of his head. His ideal woman, as far as I can tell, would dress like Audrey Hepburn. Even on the school run.
Anyway, with the words “fashion victim” going round in my head, I started to doubt the jeans. Seriously, my next milestone birthday – although a long way off – will be 50. I’m a mother of two – should I really be wearing leopard-print skinnies? Would I just look like one of those sad mutton-dressed-as-lamb mums I sometimes see at school? I decided at bedtime to take the jeans back the next day.
But after a fitful sleep, I woke in the morning feeling defiant. I tried them on one more time and I thought they looked fine. They fitted really well – not too low-rise, not too skinny, nice stretch in the fabric – so I decided to keep them.
And, to cement the decision, I wore them to a children’s party that morning. DH’s eyebrows shot up, but he didn’t say anything. I thought the party would be a good testing ground. But I needn’t have worried about looking like a fashion victim there: One of the mums was in over-the-knee boots, skin-tight jeans, a tight gold sweater and sunglasses – bear in mind that it was 10am on a Friday, inside a shopping mall, at a party for a four-year-old, and it was 30C outside. Honestly? She looked hot: The wrong type of hot.
But I digress. I wanted to see how the jeans went down in mummy-company.
“Mmm,” said my French friend. Well, I wasn’t expecting high praise from a French stylista.
“They look great,” said my friend G, not very enthusiastically. “I know a woman who’s nearly 50 who still wears leopard print.” (I have to add that G is still the young side of 40).
I must have looked crestfallen. “And she looks amazing!” added G, eagerly. Too little, too late, as they say. But I decided that I still liked the jeans. Even if I am now mutton-mummy.
And then DD arrived with DH and she, my little fashionista-in-training, she said:
“Wow, mummy! Nice jeans! They’re very flatteNing!”
Well, I suppose that’s something. At least she didn’t say “fattening.”