So, despite knowing better and despite trying my best not to let it happen, I managed – somehow – to put on 3kgs during the summer holidays. To be fair, the holidays were 10 weeks long and I spent four of those weeks in England eating pies, plus two weeks in the States. Yes, two weeks in the States – come to think of it, it’s actually a wonder that I only put on 3kgs.
So this September, as I do every September, I weighed myself, tried on my benchmark white skinny jeans and cried silently into my skinny black coffee, then drew up a plan to shed the extra kgs.
I never do classes. If there’s one thing I hate more than the gym, it’s classes. I drew up a schedule. Four classes a week.
So today was the first class. Bounce Fit. Says the website: ‘The opposite of a gruelling ordeal, our classes are all about high spirits and awesome soundtracks. Most of all, it makes you smile, laugh and is great FUN!’
Sounds okay, no? Especially the bit where it says you can burn up to 1,000 calories a class!
There were five of us there today. That threw me. Having looked at the pix on the website, I’d imagined there might be 30 people and I could hide at the back, panting quietly into my baggy T-shirt and maybe even sneaking out for a doughnut half way through, but today there was no place to hide.
So we started. We bounced, we jumped, we leapt about till my heart was pounding out of my chest and my sweat was decorating the trampoline beneath my feet. I stopped for a breather.
‘Ahem,’ said the instructor, a guy who looked like he’d competed in the last Olympics. ‘We haven’t started yet. This is just the warm-up.’ I laughed. ‘We’ve been here eight minutes,’ he said. ‘The class is 60 minutes.’
Had I have been on a trampoline nearest the exit, I would have left. Really, I would.
The class then started in earnest. Bouncing boot camp is all I can say. I’ve never worked so hard in my life and the instructor took no prisoners. If someone faltered, we started the set again. There’s a fine line between feeling motivated and vowing never to go back, and I bounced that line for the whole hour (usually on the side of ‘never again’).
‘Remember! We’re aiming to burn 800 to 1,000 calories!’ shouted the instructor.
‘I think I’m going to be sick,’ I whispered to my squats partner 40 minutes in. Having bounced on our knees, our tummies and our arms, done sit-ups, press-ups, mountain runs and all sort of other nasties, we were holding hands facing each other and doing bouncing squats for 20 before dropping down to plank for 10. Three sets of each. Plus some more because someone dropped their knees in plank. My partner didn’t answer but I didn’t blame her: she looked like she was about to pass out herself.
But I did it. It was close, but I got to the end without dropping dead. The instructor high-fived me.
‘How was it?’ he asked, bouncing about on his endorphin high.
‘Great,’ I wheezed. Then I went home and had a lie-down.
This is not a sponsored post.
We often get messages from the property developer that originally built and now maintains our community.
Ramadan Mubarak. Eid Mubarak. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Happy Diwali. It’s sweet how inclusive it tries to be.
But today, for the first time in 10 years, I saw a post-summer message. And it made me smile. It’s good to be back.
Like most parents, I’m trying not to skip about the house singing as we look down the barrel of the new school term. Yes, my lovelies, after 10 weeks off, my little angels go back to school tomorrow.
Are you ready? I am!
I don’t mean mentally. I’ve been mentally ready for school for the last four weeks. What I mean is that I’ve done all the necessary back-to-school prep to get the kids off to their classrooms with suitably stuffed pencil cases and spanking new lunch boxes and water bottles, as well as kitted out in school uniform that’s correct, fits and is labelled.
And please, non-parents, don’t underestimate how much effort that takes, from the tedious “trying on” of old uniform (budget at least half a day if you’ve got an uncooperative wriggler) to the sizing of the new uniform, wherein the sizes printed in the clothes bear absolutely no resemblance to the sizes of the actual clothes meaning your child has to struggle in and out of four different PE shirts labelled anything from age 6 to age 14 in a room with an ambient temperature of about 56C (or maybe that’s just our school’s uniform supplier).
And that’s before we negotiate the social minefield that is admitting on Facebook that you’re ironing in the name labels as opposed to sewing them in tiny backstitch. Yeah. Hands up to that one.
We’ve also come up with a tick-box menu for daily packed lunches; we’ve baked “pizza rolls” for the days when sandwiches are just too “meh”; and we’ve pre-made batches of morning pancakes. We’ve shopped for snacks and agreed that, for one fussy eater (I’m looking at you, DS), school lunch is the only way to go (never mind about that camo-print lunch box I lugged back from the States in my handbag!).
It’s fair to say – it really is – that we’re ready for school.
But then I look in the mirror and realise that, in all the prep, I’ve overlooked one thing.
In the rush of sorting out the children – in the excitement of getting them back to school – I’ve overlooked my pedicure.
My toenails are pale. They are unvarnished. They are in their August resting state. They may be neat, but they are as bare as the day I was born. This, in the circles of Dubai school mothers, is social kamikaze. What woman allows herself to be seen within the school grounds without at least two coats of TITO’s London Calling? DH, my love, my sweet… you’re on drop-off duty.
You get it every now and then if you live in Dubai: the email from the bank that asks you to update your visa and UAE ID paperwork.
I ignore it, of course. Don’t we all?
I ignore it maybe three times – until I read a horror story on Facebook about a friend of a friend whose account was frozen with no notice, leaving sleeping rough in Cambodia with three kids under three all because she didn’t update her paperwork, and I think maybe I ought to, y’know, do it.
So I call up the bank and ask if it’s possible to email scans rather than rock up at the branch with originals.
It’s not possible. Of course it’s not possible. I knew that.
“Just drop by your local branch with the originals,” says dear, sweet Preeti on a crackly line from Andhra Pradesh.
“But Preethi,” I sigh. “The words ‘drop by’ are hardly appropriate in Dubai where your branches are few and far between. The nearest branch of your esteemed institution is 24kms and 30 mins drive (I Googled it) from my house. There is no ‘dropping’ involved.”
Of course Preethi doesn’t care. “Is there anything else I can do for you today, Mrs Dubai?” she asks.
I drive to the bank. Only this is Dubai and in the six weeks I’ve been away, the bank has disappeared. Well, it hasn’t disappeared: I can see it. I can see it through four lanes of roadworks, construction, cranes and concrete barriers. I can see its jolly little logo peeking out at me through the haze of construction dust. But I can’t get to it. It is a tiny island in an ocean of construction.
I drive past the bank in four different directions and in ever-decreasing circles, each time doing elegant U-turns that bring me a few metres closer but never quite close enough to actually access the car park. I consider turning my documents into paper darts and launching them across the Dubai Creek extension and then, about 35kms and 45 minutes after setting off from home, I give up and turn for home.
Let the account be frozen, I think. There are other banks out there.
But glory be, on my way back to the main highway there’s a sign – a yellow sign with the name of my bank on it and an arrow to follow through the construction site.
It’s a post-apocalyptic world out there; a world of dead palm trees, of juddering JCBs, mountains of sand and half-built concrete pylons; a world of ant-like construction workers grey with cement dust – but then, suddenly, there it is among the cranes, no longer separated from me by concrete barriers: the bank. I feel like I’ve completed the final round of The Crystal Maze. I cheer. I park. I update my documents.
And then, dear friends, I start finding my way back out…
- Always push both the UP and DOWN buttons to summon the lift. Sure, the first lift that stops may not be going in your direction but at least you can while away the minutes saying ‘Going up? Oh no. I want down’ to a lift full of (irritated) strangers.
Always remember that there’s no such thing as a full lift. People are squashed in like sardines? Shove a little harder – if they got in, you deserve to be in, too!
- Don’t, whatever you do, wear deodorant.
- When you’re first into a lift with people following, don’t move to the back. You might not be able to get out!
- If you’re standing by the lift door, never ever use the ‘open door’ button to let the people at the back out. Timed lift-exiting is soon to be an Olympic sport.
- After the lift door closes, keep on talking on your Blackberry / iPhone / both at the same time. It’s important that you look important.
- Do utilise the lift’s mirror to apply your makeup / do your hair / inspect your pimples. What else are mirrors for?
- If you’re going above the 15th floor, try to start a conversation. ‘Do you know what material this shirt is made from?… Boyfriend material!’ is always a good line.*
* Hands up, I stole this line from the Laughing Cow cheese ad.
Apologies for going AWOL – life kind of attacked me all guns blazing. I’m still here, but something odd’s happened while I’ve been off the ether: the children have grown up. When I started this blog I had a baby, six months old, and a little girl, just turned four.
I now have a six-year-old and a pre-teen who’s 10 going on about 16 on a good day. (Other days, it’s more like 25, especially when she looks at my outfit and just gives me “that” look – the withering one that says “Like, seriously, Mummy? You’re going out looking like that?”)
Anyway, I digress. Star Trek. A show I remember little about except some writing disappearing off into space and a voice saying “In a galaxy far, far away…” , Dr Spock, Captain Kirk (come to think of it, with outfits not unlike The Wiggles) and something about “to boldly go” which, even has a child, I realised was incorrect use of grammar. Split infinitive. Always a pet hate.
But it seems it’s a badly kept secret that the latest Star Trek movie is to be filmed here in Dubai next month and a casting call was put out for Dubai residents to try their chance as extras.
The kids heard the ad on the radio. The casting was taking place across the road from our house.
I tried to come up with excuses: trust me, I did. I utilised every creative bone in my body to come up with excuses, and when that didn’t work, I switched tack: “It’s only to be an extra. You probably won’t even get picked. Even if you do get picked, you’ll be a tiny face in a crowd. You might even be dressed up as an alien wearing a mask so no-one will even know it’s you. You’ll wait about for hours on the day of filming. You’ll have to miss school. We might even be in the States for Eid.” (Technically a lie, but I’m not beyond making it happen.)
So we went to the auditions. We got the wristbands, we parked in the ‘Extras’ car park. We walked the walkway through to the studio. DD minced along like a Hollywood starlet, practising her walk for when she’s on the red carpet. I told them both to lower their expectations and prayed for a short queue.
We entered the building. The queue was short. The security guard stopped us.
“We can join the queue?” I asked, edging towards the straggle of people waiting.
“Shway-shway,” he said, holding up a hand. He had épaulettes. We waited.
A stampede of people turned the corner from the opposite direction and joined the queue.
“Now you go there,” he said and pointed us in the direction from which the stampede had just come. We stood on the brink of a film studio the size of an aircraft hangar, packed with rows of chairs. Chairs with people on them. Tired-looking people. Bored people. People with bums numb from sitting so long.
“Join the back row,” said a man wearing a ‘Crew’ lanyard. “Wait’s about three hours.”
What would you have done? Would you have stayed?
In my defence, I’ll say it was it was 4.15pm and I knew the children wouldn’t last three hours. But I am now officially the meanest mother “like, ever!”
I may or may not have mentioned in the past how we don’t really have postal addresses in Dubai. If you want to receive mail, you have to have a PO Box, be it at a post office or, more recently and only in some areas, attached to your front wall. Even then, the mail is not addressed to the house, but to the PO Box.
Part of the reason for this was because many of the older houses and streets in Dubai didn’t really have numbers and names. Giving directions to visitors has always been more a case of “Turn left at the rubbish bins, go over two speed bumps and turn right at the purple bougainvillea – not the limp-looking one; the one that’s really in bloom right now? Yeah… usually there’s a tabby cat sitting next to it?”
Which of course is a little worrying when you think about how an ambulance, for example, might find your home in a night-time emergency. I can just see the driver now, hopping out of the ambulance to check the bougainvillea flowers: “Are they purple or hot-pink? It’s hard to tell in the dark… mate, have you got a torch?”
But all this is now academic. Today there was a knock on my door and, though the peephole, I could see it was Security plus another man in uniform. Stifling the urge to run out the back door as fast as I could, I opened it to learn that Dubai is now a Smart City and that physical addresses are “so, like, 2014”.
Oh no, forget “Street This, Villa That” – we are now all to have a Makani number. The whole of Dubai, from ambulance drivers to taxis, pizza delivery boys and all my friends, will download the Makani App on their smart phones and then all I have to do is give my visitors my 10-digit Makani number and they will be directed via GPS to within one metre of my front door. One metre! Yeah, baby! I’m ordering pizza tonight! And it’d better not get lost!