Dubai's Desperate Housewife

Trials and traumas of a full-time mum in Dubai

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas shopping

Seasonal supermarket rage

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I think we’ve all been there, haven’t we? And I’m not talking about someone swiping the last box of six Mr Kipling mince pies (£15.50) from under your nose. No, for me the seasonal supermarket rage isn’t about groceries at all. It’s about people.

So, as a mum, you know you’ve got precisely 48 minutes left until your children will be released from school for the whole of the next three weeks – and you need to use every second of that time to get your festive manicure, pedicure, blow-dry, gift-shopping and grocery shopping done – and, if you’re anything like me, you will get all of those thing done in 48 minutes. So let’s just say you’re moving fast.

She could be me - but I'm a little more glamorous

She could be me – but I’m a little more glamorous

On the supermarket hit-list is a pint of milk, some fresh bread and a bag of apples, so you race in, trolley on two wheels as you screech into the first aisle, shopping list between your gritted teeth, nail polish drying and curlers still in. You’re running (you’ll know this is true if you’ve ever seen me in Spinneys) past the cleaning products when you see them up ahead.

The festive Family.

Not just any festive family – these are the extended family, over from goodness knows what corners of the world and covering every age group from five to 95, including two self-conscious teenagers wearing black – and I can tell you now that the festive family is not achieving the impossible in 48 minutes. The festive family is in the supermarket “for fun”.

Cursing your unlucky stars, you fall in behind them, catching snatches of their conversation as you try desperately to gain ground when they hesitate by the Thorntons dark-and-milk selection boxes. But they don’t stop quite long enough for you to edge your trolley through and you’re forced to continue following them, cursing and sighing to yourself as they get ever slower.

“Ooh, look! Pasta!” says an older lady dressed in M&S holiday separates and comfy shoes.

“Yes!” laughs the one who lives here (even before she speaks, I can tell by her highlights). “We get everything here! It’s even from Waitrose!”

Another one in an iffy pair of shorts and a shapeless t-shirt stops dead in the aisle. I nearly ram my trolley up her bottom.

“That reminds me,” she says slowly, stroking her chin as if in deep thought. “What are we doing for dinner tonight?” Everyone stops. The angst is tangible. What? Dinner is not planned?  Eyes widen, looks are exchanged. Whose monumental fail was that?

And I can’t hold it anymore. I can’t hold the trolley back. My feet are running before I know it and I try desperately to edge the trolley through the largest gap but the corner catches the backside of self-conscious teenager A who looks like she’s going to smack me and then it hits the shoe of Fat Aunty but I don’t stop, I can’t stop – I’m through, I’m free and –

Well, thank heavens that’s over for another year.

Written by mrsdubai

December 26, 2012 at 7:15 pm

The Christmas “open house”

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It’s at this time of year that my inbox starts to clog up with invitations to “exclusive open house” events, at which local artisans, fashion designers and small-business owners set up tables to sell their beautiful homemade or self-imported goods.

I’m all for “mumpreneurs” running businesses that allow them to have some kind of satisfying work while retaining a presence at home for their children – and they usually sell lovely things – so I try as far as possible to support the ones I know.

But the “open house”? Honestly? Jumping into a tank of piranhas might be more fun.

Take one I went to the other week.

I walked through the open door and the buzz of chat stopped immediately as 25 pairs of eyes gave me the “Dubai once-over.” You know: The “Oh my God, she’s wearing that?” look, followed by the “What’s she doing here? She doesn’t look our type; bet she doesn’t even live in this community” look (“Oh god give me strength,” I thought, poking a flip-flop further into the living room).

To be honest, I could see why the eyebrows would have raised, had the Botox allowed: The sellers were as dressed-up and made-up as if they were going for a night out at the opera. I’d never seen so many tonal silk scarves in my life. Furthermore, despite it being only midday, they were all clutching glasses of bubbly (“They’ve been at it since 10am,” said the friend I’d popped in to see).

I, on the other hand, had been working at home all morning and was dropping in to the “open house” en route to the first of two hot and dusty school runs, so I was wearing something simple: A strappy vest, ¾ length jeans and flip-flops (I did, of course, have a great handbag). It looked alright, but polished it was not. My makeup was bare minimum and I’d committed the ultimate Dubai Mum faux pas of no lippie.

Not even a Bobbi Brown neutral.

When I finally got both flip-flops into the room (not even Havaianas, dahling), there appeared to be no genuine customers, so the sellers, tipsy, loud and, honestly, a bit precious, were all trying on each other’s stuff. Even if I’d wanted to get my wallet to their tables, I’d had to have broken through their ranks first.

Some of the other sellers had the alcohol munchies – they were stuffing spring rolls into their chops in the kitchen while trilling that faux-naughty, giggly line of “I’ll just try one of these….mmm…. there’s so moreish, Jessica! Did you make them yourself?”  (No, she bought them frozen from the supermarket and got her maid to deep-fry fried them you numpty).

My overall impression of the first “open house” I’ve actually attended in two years was that of intruding at a private party. Sorry girls – next time I’ll buy from you directly.

Written by mrsdubai

December 5, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Christmas shopping. Sigh.

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I love to shop for other people but it seems to me, as I trawl the malls with a credit card begging to be used, that all the people I have to buy presents for are particularly difficult this year. How about you?

Causing anguish this year I have:

Dear Husband: Been together 20 years and, as he’s the sole earner (my income just about buys the loo roll each month), he effectively buys what he wants himself. Ways to surprise him? Nil. What he wants for Christmas? The 2010 Range Rover Sport Supercharged. Can I buy it for him? Not without a Letter of No Objection from him and a loan. On his account.

Dear Son: At two and a half, he’s no longer such a tiny baby that he doesn’t know or care what he gets. He doesn’t know what he does want, but he’ll know (as will we all) if he gets something he doesn’t want.

Dear Daughter: Aged six and a half going on 16, DD is no longer impressed by gimmicky plastic tat (was she ever?), fake BlackBerrys and fake makeup. Kids’ toys are a no-go. What I need is one big “wow” present that’ll knock her socks off and intrigue and entertain her for hours on end. It’ll be intellectually challenging, exciting, fun and grown-up. It’ll have infinite variety in the ways it can hold her attention, and it’ll grow and expand as she does. (yes, an iPad would be ideal but I’m not going there; she can use mine).

My mum: She’s easy in that she loves jewellery but difficult in that her tastes are wildly different from my own. She also plays a lot of golf – but how many golf balls, tees, Big Berthas and computerised score-card tally things can you buy for one person?

Brother and SIL: Oh god. I mean, really? What do you buy your 43-year-old millionaire brother? What?

Best Friend: The most stylish woman I know, BF has far better taste than I do. There’s always a fear that, whatever I choose for her, she would have chosen a slightly more edgy, more unique and more classy version herself, from an oblique, sustainable, one-woman business that also happens to give something back to the world in an angel-pleasing way. “Inadequate” doesn’t come close.

Best Friend’s Husband: He’s a man. What else can I say? *Tricky*.

Any ideas? Leave me a comment!

Written by mrsdubai

November 24, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Mummy tries to be Secret Santa

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Two sleeps to go and Santa’s elves have really let me down. The stockings aren’t ready, and I’ve still a mound of family presents to wrap. I can’t believe it’s come to this; usually I’m so organised. But, this year, for the first time ever, I had a five-and-a-half-year-old to contend with.

In years gone by, I’ve managed both to shop and wrap presents under DD’s nose without her realising. A little sleight of hand; a “Look over there!”; bags left in the car; and a carefully considered “Why don’t you play in your room?” has always got me through it.But this year, DD is watching me like a hawk. She wants to help with the wrapping; she wants to help with the shopping; she wants to know WHAT’S IN THAT BAG.

Just how do you do it when you're under constant surveillance from a five-year-old?

“DS would love that!” she says about dinky little toys and board books we see, and I think: yes, he would, but in his stocking from Santa – so I can’t buy it with you here. I’ve had to make double trips to every shop, sneaking back after dark to buy the things I couldn’t get under the watchful gaze of Bright Eyes, and wrapping late into the night.

But there were only so many late-night shopping trips I could make, so we shopped for DH’s present together one morning.

“Don’t tell daddy what we bought,” I said, as DD wrote gift tags that said, ‘Dear Daddy, Merry Krismas, love from Dorta.’

“Can I tell him we got five presents?” she asked.

“I suppose so. Just don’t mention what they are.”

When DH got home that night, she ran up to him.

“Daddy! You’re going to LOVE the DVD we bought you!” she squealed.

“What?” she demanded as I looked at her in horror. “I didn’t tell him WHAT DVD it is.”

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December 23, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Christmas shopping – II

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DH is taking the day off work tomorrow. That’s about as common as waking up to find snow in the desert.

“I’m taking you to choose your Christmas present,” he said tonight, just as I was about to go to bed. I wanted to know which mall we would be visiting – logistics of school pick-ups and all that.

“Dubai Mall,” he said in a voice that intended it to be the end of the conversation. Of course, being a woman, I need to know more. I begged for a clue.

“The shop begins with ‘h’ and ends with ‘s’,” he said. Harvey Nicks? I thought. Not in Dubai Mall. I was stumped. I needed another clue.

“Okay,” he said. “The first syllable is a type of meat.”

Running through all the meats I could think of, I came up with horse, ham and hamburger.

“What noise does the ‘meat’ make before you eat it?” I asked.

“Oink,” he said.

I suggested “Hamas” as a version of local jeweller Damas, but DH just laughed, and then I finally twigged he meant Hamleys. HAMLEYS?

“Just kidding,” he said. “You’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”

I hope the present’s as good as the build-up.

Oh spare me: please, not Hamleys

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December 15, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Christmas shopping

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I scheduled in a little time for Christmas shopping today. Well, “scheduled” makes it sound like I had a choice of when to do it. In reality, it was a case of grab the two hours between nursery pick-up and school pick-up that I had today, or give the children imaginary presents this year. Luckily a catalogue of children’s Christmas gifts had recently landed at my door; I’d studied it, DD had studied it, and we’d written lists, which meant I achieved 80 per cent of my child shopping in about 30 minutes. You have to admit, that’s pretty impressive.

Seven bags in 30 mins: I AM Dubai's fastest Christmas shopper

But, as I lugged the seven heavy bags back to the car, I got thinking back to the days when Christmas shopping was easy. Pre-children, DH would buy me some diamond jewellery; I’d get him some cutting-edge electronics; and we’d disappear off to Mexico or something.

But now Christmas means a set of presents for each child plus two sets of “Santa” stocking gifts – plus gifts for the children’s friends. That’s an awful lot of shopping before I even start on DH and all our nephews and nieces who are inconveniently located in far-flung destinations around the world.

By the time I’ve finished all that this year, DH will be lucky to get a kiss and a pair of socks, let alone a ticket to Mexico.

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December 8, 2010 at 8:50 pm

The Last-Minute Mall Trawl

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Ho ho ho!

I almost made a terrible mistake. I thought I had Christmas all wrapped up and then I realised, with a jolt of horror: I hadn’t done a stocking for DS.

Not a problem, I hear you say: he’s not even one. He doesn’t know – he won’t care. All he’ll want to do is chew the wrapping paper.

That’s what I thought.

And then I remembered DD. Dear, clever, smart DD, who’s going to ask: if my baby brother’s been good, why hasn’t Santa brought him a stocking?

Oh boy. Shopping mall on Christmas Eve. Something I always try to avoid. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know I did DD’s Christmas shopping weeks ago.

A frantic rush around Toy Store and a dash through M&S with DS in the pram and DD flying behind me, all the while hiding my purchases from her eagle eyes. There’s not a lot you can hide in a nappy bag from a 4-year-old, I can tell you.

Anyway, situation solved. Tomorrow there will be one big stocking and one baby stocking at the end of mummy and daddy’s bed (DD is very concerned about a strange man – albeit Santa – coming into her room when she’s sleeping. We have to write him a note to leave the presents in our room. ‘Hope she doesn’t want men in her room till she’s 40,’ says DH).

Merry Christmas!

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December 24, 2009 at 7:40 pm