Monday, December 22, 2008
Last night I sat outside for a few drinks at a hotel, and on arrival scoffed at the large gas ‘patio’ style heaters next to the tables. I wasn’t laughing 20 minutes later when I was so cold that I had to ask the waiter to switch mine on! No need!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
If you haven’t seen it – it’s a truly gripping thriller (heart was in my mouth on many occasions) brilliantly produced and directed. Glenn Close is as fabulous as you would expect her to be as a manipulative lawyer battling for her clients. Possibly the most ruthless woman I have ever seen on screen. I won’t ruin the story line for you, but I thoroughly recommend you get yourselves a copy of this. Or, of course, borrow mine. Form an orderly queue!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It was all I could do to contain my excitement! I haven’t seen the real thing yet – and haven’t even seen it on the telly, so this was a treat. They look very graceful from the wait up, bless them. Waist down it’s a bit of a jumble of legs and hooves!
You have to laugh though – only in Dubai would this be playing in an office. Can you imagine walking into a UK office and the latest footie match being screened? Hilarious.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
To all those who I had the pleasure of spending time with: thank you. I see that time as credits building up in the bank that I can draw on when I’m not there.
To those that I missed: I’m sorry. The week flew by in a heartbeat. I'm completely worn out and have developed a cold from overdoing it.
But I’ll be home again soon. Or there’s always a bed for you in Dubai!
Yes, having spent the last 7 days in the best city in the world (other than New York) I am feeling very homesick. Manchester is worlds apart from Dubai – well of course, you may snort. Visually there’s no comparison – yes it has the slick skyscrapers of Dubai, but it also has the most awe-inspiring gothic and ancient architecture. It has culture in spades (none of that here) but one thing which it has bags of, which you can’t really explain or quantify is this: personality.
You can feel it in the air when you’re walking down Market Street – gritty and dirty it might be, but it has a swagger (quite literally at times) and vibrance which is palpable.
And it’s so easy to get anywhere, and get things done. I think I achieved more in the first few days of arrival than I could in weeks in Dubai. Everything is within walking distance (such bliss after 6 months of having to get in the car to go 50 yards!), if you don’t want to walk then there are trams, buses, trains, all in addition to taxis – which is all you have to work with in Dubai.
I’m sure I’ll get back into the swing of things here in Dubai soon, but Manchester, I miss you.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
It’s along the lines of St George’s day in the UK, only everyone really gets into the spirit of things, and celebrates properly. After a leisurely lunch in the sunshine we headed to one of Dubai’s many gorgeous green parks. (Yes folks, we ARE in the desert.) And it was fabulous.
We had to queue to get in, such was its popularity, but once inside it wasn’t cramped at all. Miles of rolling green grass, hundreds of picnic areas with bbq’s and tables. The park, we discovered, is very much a family affair. Whole generations of families were there, sat on the grass, furniture, eating and drinking. Some had brought their maids/chefs to cook for them!
It made a pleasant change from the beach, and we relaxed on blankets with friends, food and drink. This being Dubai, there was no booze. There were some attempts at rounders, Frisbee and football by the more energetic amongst the group, but I was far too busy eating twiglets. A great day. We left vowing to visit the rest of Dubai’s parks just as soon as we get back from the UK.
Alicia Keys was supporting – bless her she has a great set of lungs (not a euphemism) but not many people were really interested in her. Everyone wanted George!
He came on stage at a tardy 11 pm, and stayed on til 1.30. That’s value for money folks! With a back catalogue as wide and varied as George’s he has plenty to choose from.
And he was AWESOME. Not for him the Madonna attitude of “I’m too good to perform the old hits.” No, he came on stage to Fast Love and went straight into I’m Your Man. What a treat.
We danced, we sang, we left happy. And his encore? Careless Whisper. You really can’t say fairer than that.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
The Dubai Rugby 7’s is slightly different – in that it is one enormous party. And I mean, PARTY.
The event was held in a purpose built stadium about half an hour out into the desert. And it was pretty impressive, a vast thing with lots of activities, food, and of course booze.
We arrived with a group of friends from work, and also met up with the lovely Roz, who was over for the event. It seems obligatory for everyone to wear fancy dress – there were male Baywatch lifeguards (“my eyes are up here love” one of them said to me – well, if you will put it all out there…), sumo wrestlers, and nuns. My favourite outfits? The large group of bananas sat in the stand next to us…..
I was surprised by how little attention people paid to the actual rugby, with a lot of singing, dancing and general revelry in between and during the games. The atmosphere was amazing – even when South Africa beat us in the final it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.
Thankfully we’d had the foresight to arrange a driver to take us home – I didn’t fancy a 4 hour queue for a taxi – and we made it home tired but happy by about 10.30. That was over 9 hours of partying. Well, you have to let your hair down once in a while.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
So there was a loud squeak from on Sunday when I logged onto News of the World to read details of his alleged 7 year affair. Am I surprised? Not really. He has a definite twinkle in his eye – when I met him at a Manchester book signing (yes I did take the afternoon off work to queue up like a loser, and I am not ashamed of this!) he was incredibly flirtatious, and invited me out for a drink. Well, he’s only human….
But it’s still disappointing to read news like this. I’m still reeling over the Becks/Loos story from yesteryear. I mean, we all know men (and women) are not perfect, and sometimes stray. Especially celebs who have everything quite literally laid out on a plate for them. But sometimes, even though I work in PR for god’s sake and shouldn’t believe a word of the gumph I read in Hello/Ok et al, I just want to believe…..thanks Gordon for letting the side down so spectacularly.
I nipped to a large hypermarket for some provisions the other evening and was surprised by the huge Christmas onslaught that I saw – trees and decorations for sale, cards, wrapping paper – all the usual. It just felt unusual as the sunshine had lulled me into a false sense of non-Christmas security!
As I’m heading home in just over a week, I snaffled up wrapping paper and spent a few happy hours sorting all the presents that have been stuffed into kitchen cupboards for the last few weeks. See you at the German Markets!
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Security was in total overdrive – friends and clients who actually live on the Palm had special passes to allow them into their homes on the opening day – and had strict instructions to be back home by 4 pm. They were also forbidden from swimming or sitting on their own private beaches – having seen the fireworks display which came from each frond, I’m presuming this is because if they had done, they might have found a rocket in their bikinis!
The guest list was leaked (no, really) and such stellar stars as Richard Branson, Mary-Kate Olsen, Nathalie Imbruglia and Charlize Theron were in attendance. I was most excited about Janet Jackson and Oprah, but apparently Oprah was a no-show. How rude!
Some friends were lucky enough to watch the fireworks from a specially chartered yacht (5 grand for four hours, if you please) and it does sound like a spectacular show. Me? I was far too busy at my regular wine and cheese night to be watching 13.5 million quid quite literally, go up in smoke. Champagne corks were the only loud noises I heard that night. Still, this being Dubai, there will no doubt be another ‘party of the decade’ just around the corner….
All healthcare is private here – in fact it’s a legal requirement that your employer provides you with as part of your package. I duly found a doctor about half an hour away from home (this is super convenient here in Dubai) actually named ‘The French Clinic (receptionists were French, doctor was not.)
I had a straightforward chat with the doctor – but the main difference from the UK was this: there was no rushing me out of the door as there would have been in the UK. The doctor was very chatty – we had along talk about his daughter and her career choices, but the piece de resistance was this: at the end of my appointment (half an hour) he took out his business card, wrote his mobile number on it, and handed it over to me. “Please, call me in five days and let me know how you are,” he said. And he meant it.
He was quite bemused as I chuckled away, and I had to explain that getting into see a doctor in the UK required James Bond like skills and persistence. And you certainly don’t have the mobile phone number of the doctor at the end of it! I guess the old adage is true: you get what you pay for. Oh, and my foot has returned to a normal size. But I still have to wear trainers to work. The glamour never ends.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
You see maids everywhere you go – they tend to help out looking after the children. And they don’t look happy much of the time. Quite often I’ve seen them trailing along behind a family, carrying bags at the mall, or trying to control unruly children. Sometimes they bring children down to our pool or take them into the play areas.
For the first time in my life we have a cleaner – I’ve always felt slightly guilty about this and never had great feedback from friends who have them in terms of then doing a very good job. Also I always have a strange urge to tidy up before she comes! But I love her now – when you don’t get home before 8 pm each night, cleaning really isn’t top of the agenda. And as the boy only gets one day off a week, it definitely isn’t the way to spend that precious time.
Ours is allegedly called Eileen – which I am skeptical about as it is such an English name (who next – Edna?!) and she leaves notes for me along the lines of: “Ma’am, I need: Jif cream cleaner and a BRUSH FOR THE TOILET.” This last part was actually written in capitals! Last week she left a letter from the agency she comes from asking that we don’t give her gifts (!) as the maids on their book sonly have small lockers and can’t fit much into them……nice touch. Thankfully we tip her in cash. I am truly grateful every Tuesday when I come home and can smell the Dettol before I open the front door.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Then when you’re having a (particularly brutal, by the way, but thankfully a bargain at 8 quid) back massage, they whip a boiling hot towel out from what looked like a bread bin, and incorporate it in the massage. I tried to squeak but at this point the therapist was virtually sat on me and i was rendered speechless.
Friday was glorious – another perfect day. We spent the day at the beach club – all expenses paid for by the hotel – one of the boy’s very useful contacts. Crab claws, oysters and wine – and someone else footing the bill – perfect.
Saturday the weather was perfect in the morning, and then, quite literally in the space of 5 minutes, it changed. Howling wind – which inevitably means a huge sandstorm here, the poor pool guy was in a right old tizz piling up the sunloungers, chasing comically after umbrellas etc. I was at home at the time so watched all this unfolding from the comfort of the lounge: outside it was a different, and dangerous story. A couple of construction workers died on a site at the marina, and friends had to pull their cars over on the main highway because they couldn’t see anything.
And then, last night: rain! I’m not being funny, but this is exactly why I left the UK! I can’t bear rain! Anyway, I am assured that rain isn’t that common, but to expect more wind and sandstorms in coming months. Maybe I should have packed my fashion wellies after all?! I’ll keep you posted.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Ok, so explain this to me regarding banking in Dubai:
Direct debits do not exist. Yes, you heard me. A colleague just bought a car, and had to HAND WRITE 36 cheques. Yes, 36 cheques.
The bank cannot activate my cashpoint (sorry, ATM) card. They tell me every day that they have done it. Two weeks later, it still won’t work.
The bank mixes my signature on the system WITH A COMPLETE STRANGER’S. To be fair to them, the entire staff at my local branch went white as sheets, and pronounced this as a ‘disaster’, so they did understand the severity of the situation.
That said, it took another TWO WEEKS to sort it out. Meaning that every time I went into the branch to withdraw money (because, duh, they can’t get my ATM card to work) they challenged who I was as my signature didn’t match. Err that’s because you have it wrong, dunces!
I don’t mean to moan. I have come to expect mediocrity and stupidity from the service industries here, so I am actually remarkably relaxed about issues such as this. How will I cope when I return to a normal country? I may die of shock to encounter someone that knows what they are doing!
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
He announced his plans to play a gig in Abu Dhabi a few weeks ago, and yesterday I sorted tickets. I missed is Manchester concert last year, and had to experience it vicariously through Julie and Aimee the morning after.
You really can’t beat a bit of Club Tropicana, Freedom, or Outside. More than just his music I admire his honesty and spirit. Very excited about December 1st. And the next day is a public holiday! Perfect timing.
I hadn’t actually intended to go in – I can take or leave the malls here – in my opinion they’re overpriced, vacuous places. But in I went – twice! In my defence, the fist time was necessity – the traffic situation was so bad at our offices that I had to abandon my car and walk home. Now I LOVE walking, but this is starting to get a bit arduous in the evening heat and humidity.
I set off home from work with a couple of colleagues – and it dawned on us that rather than running the gamut of crazy drivers on the highway, we could cut through the Mall. This was easier than it sounds, as, despite being open, it is far from finished.
We meandered down into the bowels of its parking, which is like another world. It reminded me a bit of Mad Max – lots of dust, noise, cars horns, traffic going the wrong way – general pandemonium. Eventually we found our way into the actual mall itself, and by this stage the air con was a major relief.
My verdict on the mall? Well it’s much like any other mall in Dubai – with only 30% of the shops actually being open. There’s the usual Kurt Geiger, Reiss, Zara, Mango (all at about 30% more expensive than the UK), there’s a Nivea spa (because Dubai just doesn’t have enough of these).
The big attractions are Hamleys, Bloomingdales (opening in 2010), and Galleries Layfayette.
The other huge attraction is the world’s biggest aquarium. In the mall. This area was packed. Being Dubai, nothing comes for free, and although you can walk around and get a general view, if you want to get up close and personal to the fish, you have to queue up and pay for the privilege to walk through an enclosed tunnel. The queue for this was huge. I smiled smugly as I walked past – regular readers will know that I visited the mall for a sneak preview and have already done the tunnel!
I was genuinely surprised by the amount of people in the mall – I ended up going back in a few hours later as I met a friend who wanted to have a look – at 9 pm it was packed. I left wondering what it said about Dubai – try and find an art gallery and you’ll probably have to drive for hours into the middle of nowhere. Open a mall – that isn’t finished – and within two hours it will be rammed to the rafters.
There is no getting away from the fact that it is ridiculously handy to have this beast so nearby – it’s about ten minutes on foot door to door- but I’m a bit concerned about the amount of traffic that we’re now going to have roaring past. A high price to pay for Zara on your doorstep? Only time will tell.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
I know Russell Brand has a marmite effect on many people, and to be honest I detested him as much as the next Daily Mail reader until I started downloading his podcasts each week and listening them on my regular walks to work.
These were utterly hilarious, and I’ve converted numerous friends to them over the last year. Many was the time people used to increase their distance from me when I was listening to them in public, so loud were my burst of hyena-like laughter. It was actually getting embarrassing, especially in confined spaces like shops.
And since I moved to Dubai they’ve provided not only laughs but also a much-needed reality check, with news and stories from home discussed regularly.
So imagine my horror when the recent shennanigans with Andrew Sachs hit the headlines, resulting in both of my favourite radio shows being axed!
I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of the gaffe that they made (suffice to say that I bet the Middle-England daily mail readers who are doing most of the complaining have never listened to the show in their lives and should really get a life) but I am going to say this: that’s 2 hours less audio-pleasure I am going to get a week now! You have to hang onto these small things when you live in a culturally barren country!
Rant over. Thanks god Strictly Come Dancing has thus far avoided offending the nation.
So this weekend I combined the posh version of the beach and the free version. The first version involves going to a luxury beach club set in gorgeous grounds, where waiters tend to your every whim. The most exhausting part of the day is getting up for the huge buffet lunch, served on crisp white tablecloths in the shade. The only thing which breaks the calm is the sound of the sea plane landing and taking off each hour or so.
The second version involves driving down to the public beach, via a lesser-known side road which takes you to a slightly quieter part. You have to walk through the sand to get to the beach. No sun loungers, just your towel at the edge of the sea. No waiters, but you can munch on your own snacks (watermelon, yum). The sounds of fellow sunbathers and the odd rubber ring/banana inflatable ring in your ears. The view is: lots of other people, the Atlantis Hotel and the Burj Al Arab.
Opposite ends of the scale but whichever way you look at it, not a bad way to spend a weekend!
Why? They’ve changed the roads, again, and it has meant complete gridlock outside my office and the complex where I live.
When I say gridlock, I mean bumper to bumper traffic, that DID NOT MOVE from 4pm until gone 9 pm. And even at 9 pm it crawled.
There was a ‘spirit of the blitz’ in the air. Colleagues abandoned their cars (think England when it snows) and went to nearby bars and hotels. I walked home, yes walked home. This was not a casual stroll, oh no. I had to navigate through about 500 metres of building site (down trenches, past diggers) and then down a 4 lane highway – which I have to say was a bit hairy. There was no pavement. Thankfully I was with two friends from work and we encouraged one another as we trudged along.
By this point it was clocking off time for thousands of Indian construction worked, god love them. We must have looked particularly out of place as we tromped past suited and booted, carrying laptops.
With the world’s biggest mall about to open in two days time, I fear for the traffic situation going forward. Many people cite it as a reason for leaving the city, full-stop. I’m not at that stage, but you have to wonder how a city which has such high aspirations can get the little details so very very wrong. Watch this space.
Last weekend, as I was having my huge barnet tamed (think afghan hound in need of trim) I witnessed a girl, no older than 7 years, in the chair next to me. Nothing unusual about that, until I noticed that she was having a FULL HEAD OF HIGHLIGHTS. Ok, so what possesses a parent to allow a load of bleach to be shoved onto their child’s head? And that’s just the physical side of things, never mind the mental implications of 7 year olds thinking it’s completely normal to get a full make over.
It is getting very hard to surprise me these days. What next, Junior Botox?
Sunday, October 26, 2008
In Manchester I was forever carrying around fold up flat shoes in my handbag (no, really) for when I had to hot foot it home from a work or evening event. Living in the city centre was great for my exercise programme. I even teamed trainers with smart work outfits, just for the walk to work, you understand. Yes, I looked ridiculous, but you can pick up quite a bit of speed when you have those bad boys on!
Here the complete lack of walking, anywhere, has meant I have really smartened up my act in the footwear department. Fascinating, I'm sure you'll agree!
Then there was my dad and his amazing 'boat-digging' skills. Yes, he used to draw out a boat in the sand, and then dig it out for me. I would then spend many a happy hour pretending to sail it. I have the photos to prove this, but no I'm not sharing them.
And of course there were the days we spent trying to fly kites (I think this was more for my dad's benefit than mine) I don't remember much about this other than sand dunes may have been involved.
Anyway, the point I am getting to is that in these credit crunch, belt-tightening times, it's good to know that there are stil some pleasures in life which don't break the bank. You do have to pay a small fee to get access to some beaches in Dubai - and for a large fee you can visit the private beaches of some of the top hotels.
But there are some beaches which are completely free. And we discovered a new one this weekend. It was busy, but fabulous. You can drive the car right onto the beach (helpful when carrying an over-sized beach bag stuffed with books and magazines) althought this did elicit much squealing at one point when we thought the car was going to get stuck in the sand.
So anyway, we're on the beach. The weather is perfect (36 degrees). I'm sipping an iced mocchiato whilst catching up on news, celebrity gossip, Radio 2 podcasts and Cherie Blair's autobiography. The rain, wind and cold of a UK Winter seemed very far away. Call me shallow, but that's why I live in Dubai.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
This one goes without saying: my gorgeous and wonderful friends and family. Your daily texts, emails, calls and instant messages mean the world to me. Thank god for technology.
Marks and Spencer’s Food Hall.
Yes, we do have M&S stores here, but they are dire. The food sections barely run to a few packets of crisps. I miss all of their food, particularly the Tuna Nicoise Salad, their pink fizz, Percy Pigs, mashed potato and crunchy Combo crisps. I shall be beating my way down Market Street to stock up when I get home in December.
You cannot find this stuff anywhere here! Shelf upon shelf of skin whitening products (event he big brands like Clinique and Clarins have whole ranges devoted to this – which I have never even been aware of before) but not a whiff of fake tan anywhere. And believe me, I have searched for it. You know what I am asking you to bring with you when you visit!
Nipping to pick up a bottle of wine on your way home from work. Nipping to get a bottle of wine at any time.
Here you have to have a licence, and go through all sorts of faffing to get a bottle of vino.
The British sense of humour.
As you know kids, I am a hoot! And bless my team at work, they are trying to get my sense of humour, but so very much of it is lost on them. I have another Manc colleague who sometimes visits my office for some morning banter. The team literally stares dumbfounded. They maintain they cannot understand us. Sigh.
I warn you: Never take Sky for granted. And never complain about the state of the tv in England. Yes, some of my viewing choices may have been a bit, well un-challenging. But if there is a better way to spend an hour with the girls than discussing: Katie and Peter/Kerry Katona – Crazy in Love/Pride of Britain awards/Lost/Ugly Betty/Heroes, I have yet to discover it.
Maybe because I’m not ‘hitting the club scene’ here, but I really miss hip hop. You couldn’t swing a cat in Manchester without hitting a fab club or night that we wanted to go to. I think Dubai likes its clubbing a bit more ‘handbag and heels’ than ‘sneakers and hoodies.’ Shame.
A Decent Hairdresser
Read my previous posts, and weep. I need say no more.
Here it is customary to do the same, with the added twist that most hotels will not only make your lunch for you, but also deliver it to your door (thanks for the tip Alice!).
I opted for the out of home experience, and have a table booked at the gorgeous Ritz-Carlton on the beach. Our table is on the terrace, if you please. I’ve always wanted a warm Christmas (sand over snow any day for me) so I’m really looking forward to it.
Journeys to Abu Dhabi are now taking up to two hours. And last week it took 3 hours to get back. For a 95 mile journey, I think that’s a bit rough.
This makes you think twice about venturing out of the house when you finally arrive home after a long day at work. There’s not much incentive to drag yourself back into a car or taxi at 8 or 9 o’clock when you know it will take you another hour to get anywhere.
I’m lucky because the apartment is next to a myriad of hotels and restaurants, but seriously, I have eaten nearly everything from every single menu. A girl needs some variety! I am determined to get out more in the next few weeks. Watch this space!
SOCIALISM:You have 2 cows and you give one to your neighbour.
COMMUNISM:You have 2 cows; the Government takes both and gives you some milk.
When it became clear that we weren’t going to see any polo ponies practicing we gave up our seats in the afternoon sunshine and headed home. Not before I’d bothered a few members of staff about where the ponies lived, what the ponies ate, how the ponies trained…..I may not be allowed back
It’s divided up into lots of different sections – as varied and diverse as the predictable clothes, bags, etc. Then you go round to electronics, fine. Then you turn a corner and find a load of fork-lift trucks. I’m not joking!
Still, I think this may be the perfect solution to shopping with a boy. I’ve always preferred to shop alone to be honest, I’m very single minded and know quickly what I want or don’t want. There’s nothing worse than a man huffing and puffing over your shoulder as you elbow someone out of the way to get to that perfect pair of shoes. Or face cream, Or…you get my drift.
No chance of this happening at Dragonmart. The boy disappeared off into my idea of hell (the heavy machinery section) for at least an hour, leaving me free to roam the shops. I returned jubilant with a variety of gorgeous dresses (30 dirhams each – that’s just over 4 quid) and presents for the gang when I return to Manchester in December. I hope you’ve been good guys!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Me, usually (to concierge):
I believe there are some guest suites in the building for people to stay in when they come to visit Dubai. I’d like to book my parents into them in January. The apartment is a bit small for us all to squeeze into! Any idea of prices or booking procedure would be great, please.
Me, in Dubai:
Guest suites. Open? (Accompanied by lifting up of shoulders and hands in air and quizzical expression.)
Me, usually (to laundry man):
Last week when you collected our ironing you took a king sized duvet cover from us. I can’t find it now, do you think you might have forgotten to drop it off? Could you check and let me know as soon as possible, as I don’t have a spare! Many thanks.
Me, in Dubai:
My duvet cover is missing.
Me, usually (to car hire company):
I’d like some prices please for a couple of different options of hiring a car. It’s for a client event. I need an option where I have one car, to seat one person, and a second option, where I have a bigger car, for example a people carrier. I need the cars for a return trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai, in October and January. Many thanks.
Me, in Dubai, to car hire company:
How much cars to Abu Dhabi?
Get my drift? Really quite exhausting!
It’s one thing resisting the sugary blighters when you occasionally pass by a store in a mall, but another thing entirely when you drive past it twice a day, every day, and can reach it in about 20 steps. Temptation has a face. And it’s round and glazed.
Fast forward to yesterday when I then had to retrieve the car. Broad daylight made the walk a bit easier but as it was about 37 degrees it was a bit of a hotter walk. What was amusing about the whole episode was how bemused people were that I was walking. Three taxis stopped to see if I wanted a lift – and couldn’t believe that I was opting to walk what is probably a 400 metre stroll. The ever-present construction workers sweeping, holding ropes, going past on a tricycle (what DOES that guy do?) were completely fascinated by me walking past. “There she goes, the crazy English lady walking in the heat!”. I’ll concede that it was a tad hot. But my legs really appreciated getting stretched.
Now, I truly couldn’t care less about her impending divorce (‘ordinary’ people go though far worse each day without the luxury of her vast wealth to cushion their pain) but I did think that the comment from Guy Ritchie that going to bed with Madonna was like: “cuddling up to a piece of gristle” a bit rum. I mean, he probably has a point, but come on, do you really have to say it out loud? What a gent.
Thank god for the BBC and their downloadable podcasts. These are the best invention ever – your favourite radio show minus the music, just the chat. Each week I download Chris Evans, Chris Moyles, Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. I’ve had to stop listening to the Russell Brand ones by the pool as my hyena-like laughter has started to get a bit embarrassing.
I used to listen to these on my daily walks to work through Manchester. Now I catch up with them by the pool or on the beach. Bliss.
The last time I watched 7’s was at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Before the stadium was handed over to Manchester City football club, the stadium was covered on three sides only. In typical Manchester form it pixxed it down all day, and in typical form, I was sat in the end without a roof! Still, it was great fun.
Am slightly concerned about horror stories of the weather last year (apparently the rain was torrential last year) and also of tales of 3 hour queues for a taxi home. So (this being Dubai) we’ve sorted a driver for the day. Shame I can’t guarantee the weather!
The kids were pretty badly behaved but nothing too shocking. What did make me do a complete double-take though, was this: when it was time to pay, the eldest of the two children (who I estimated to be 5 years old, at the most) reached into her pocked, and handed over a credit card.
The assistant swiped the card, printed out the slip – and PASSED IT TO THE CHILD TO SIGN. Which she did. He accepted this.
I obviously did a huge double take, as did the woman in the queue behind me.
I mean, I know we’re in Dubai, which is like nowhere else on earth. And having a parent’s credit card is pretty standard behaviour here. But surely NOT when you are 5 years old and can barely even write. What is wrong with people here???!!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
It was the one where the girls head out of town to a baby shower. They've rented a car for this journey, and as they prepare to set off, climb into the back seat, and the passenger seat, but no-one gets into the driver's seat. They're all so used to walking and cabbing everywhere in New York that they forget someone needs to drive.
Chance would be a fine thing here!
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Glorious sunshine? Yes.
Amazing hotels and restaurants? Hmm hmm.
White sandy beaches and crystal blue sea? Well, no actually, quite the opposite.
Dubai has been having a small crisis recently, in the shape of raw sewage being dumped straight into the sea. Why? Well Dubai has no sewage system (no, really) instead sewage is collected by large tankers and taken to a sewage plant on the outskirts of the city. Unfortunately Dubai has grown at such a pace that this plant is well over capacity, and tankers can queue for up to 12 hours to discharge their waste. And tanker drivers are paid according to how many loads they take. Or dump down drains, as the case would seem.
This has led to sewage making its way onto the beaches, and the situation is very serious. Raw sewage, as you can imagine, carries all sorts of nasty bacteria and creatures, which at best might give you a bit of a dodgy tummy, at worse could leave you with full-blown e-coli or even make you go blind. Nice!
It’s meant that we haven’t been to the beach in a few weeks (they actually closed one of them last week), but this isn’t supposed to be a moan about how this infringes on my bikini time, more a concern that this can happen. I’m truly amazed that the international press hasn't got a whiff of the story. (Couldn't resist that pun, sorry.)
Combine this with the fact that it is so hard to combine any physical activity into your day – walking is impossible (heat, fear of being mown down by erratic drivers, no pavements) and I am reminded of the warning I was given before I came here: watch out for the ‘Dubai Stone’. This is, at it sounds, the depressing fact that most people chunk on the pounds when they get here.
Weirdly, I don’t actually weigh any more than I did when I arrived, but my body does feel different, and let’s just say that some of my clothes seem to have, ahem, ‘shrunk in the wash’.
I try to swim a couple of nights a week and I usually make it to the gym on a Saturday. But it is hard to get motivated for anything more than that – if I finish work at 8 then there is no chance of me throwing myself into any physical activity that doesn’t involve uncorking a bottle.
So, I’m not a bloater – yet. But watch this space.
It’s cooled down enough to walk up to the bars, hotels and restaurants near our apartment – a very pleasant 10 minute walk. The novelty of walking anywhere in Dubai is not to be under-estimated!
So now my thoughts have turned to this: just how cold is it going to get? My number one favourite thing about Dubai is the weather, and if this goes too far downhill, well, there will be trouble!
Everyone from friends to colleagues to clients has a different view on the weather. Some people say it gets very cold – cold enough for tights, knee high boots and a winter coat, if this is the case, I am not going to be happy. Others say this is complete balderdash and it won’t get below 23 at the lowest in the day.
A colleague says that children walk to school wearing hats and gloves, and some construction workers wear balaclavas! It should be interesting anyway, especially as our apartment is completely devoid of any heating whatsoever.
Anyway, today is blue sky and sunshine, for a change. How can I ever face English weather again?
So, imagine my excitement when I discovered that the classic film: “Muppets from Space” was on last night! As far as Mupppets films go it was nowhere near as good as “Muppet Treasure Island”, or my all time favourite “Muppets take Manhattan”, but it was the Muppets, and that was good enough for me.
I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a small tear at the end when Gonzo chose to stay with his friends rather than leave in a spaceship. Maybe I should keep this sort of information to myself?!
A colleague came into the office last week most upset. She’d woken up in the morning to find that someone had tied a puppy to her gate, and abandoned it there. Why did they choose her house? She thinks it’s because they already own a dog (he is a big fella but very cute) so someone figured that they would keep this little guy.
This is very common here – abandoning pets that is. There are two charities, one for felines, one for canines, and they are always completely chocka with animals that have been turfed out on the streets.
Anyway, the story does have a happy ending. In true pr person style we drafted a very persuasive email highlighting all of the little guy’s best features (cute, playful, well behaved, house-trained, wet nose, waggy tail, etc) and then circulated it to everyone we knew. With obligatory cute photos of course. And he now has a new home! Hurrah.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I had the pleasure of spending most of the week at the event, and I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it.
For a start, the event brought the entire city to a grinding halt. As usual, the roads haven’t been particularly well thought out around the venue, meaning that it took me 90 minutes to get from my office to the vicinity. This is a journey that should take no more than TEN minutes.
After driving around for hours trying to park, I gave up and parked quite some way away in a dusty carpark. Just getting into it was a challenge in itself but I refused to give up (after arguing with a member of staff and nearly crying. I have been told that this approach often works wonders here but I have yet to use it. I’m saving that for the police when I inevitably have a car crash.)
As I dragged myself through the sand and heat, a helicopter landed 20 metres from me, and a member of the Royal Family disembarked. This is such a normal occurrence that I barely flinched or looked over, and just carried on walking.
The show itself is outrageous. Some stands are the size of a new bar or nightclub, most are two storeys high. God knows what they cost to design and build. I tried to think of the most lavish show that I’d ever visited in the UK, but there is truly nothing that compares to it. It was an exhausting week, and left me confused about the property market here, to be honest. Depending on who you talk to, properties were selling, or they weren’t. All I know for sure is that when faces with such opulence and confidence, the global economic crisis seemed very far away….
Three months after moving into the apartment, I finally have blinds in the lounge. This was not without incident. The apartment complex has an army of security guards (what do they all do??) they are on the gates, at the doors, and each tower has its own concierge and team of staff. This meant that when my blind man came to install the blinds, he was met with a wall of people who didn’t want to let him in.
As with most trades of this nature, the blind man, and his team, were Indian. Despite me telling the concierge to let him into the lift to the apartment, there was a real hoo-ha with security, who refused to let them in. They kept the men waiting for over an hour in a tiny office in the basement, and it wasn’t until I got a call from a very upset blind man that I even realised that anything was wrong.
I had to go and rescue them from the bowels of the building, which was a very unpleasant experience. I don’t think I’ve ever been so embarrassed to be English, and I have been very embarrassed before (see previous posts.) This was the worst.
As soon as I arrived on the scene, things were different. I politely explained the situation (no-one speaks much English so there was a lot of gesturing and smiling on my part) and frog marched the team out of the office, out to their car, round the complex, and into my building. My concierge was most upset by this (as were the security guards) but I felt so bad that I had to get the guys in as quickly as possible.
The entire time they were virtually in tears, apologizing over and over for keeping me waiting (!). Howveer much I told them it was no problem (and it really wasn’t, they were the ones who had been kept prisoner for hours!) they were truly devastated to have kept me waiting.
One of them turned to me in the lift and said: “They don’t listen to us. But you’re English, you have power.” He laughed as he said it, and it was such a matter of fact statement that it made me a little sad. These are people, probably the hardest working that I have seen in my life. But because I’m English, my word is somehow more powerful that theirs. A sobering experience, but sadly, very typical here in Dubai.
I bobbed into one the other day, on my never-ending quest for fake tan (this is worthy of a blog post all of its own.) Now, lest you need reminding, this is a Muslim country. Sex before marriage is a definite no-no, and it is illegal to live together if you’re not married.
So imagine my surprise when I rounded a corner to be greeted by shelves and shelves of the contraceptive pill. Yes, you can buy it straight off the shelf, no questions asked. I didn’t think my eyebrows could get any further back into my head, until I saw that you can also buy the morning after pill too. Welcome to Dubai, country of contradictions……
Thursday, October 09, 2008
You can watch tv on the BBC website. BUT the BBC website doesn’t work outside of the UK.
This has led to me having to purchase a complicated piece of equipment (do not ask me to explain, suffice to say it has taken me 4 long months to work it out) which will allow me to get around this and watch it anyway. I finally got it to work yesterday!
You can imagine my excitement as I sat glued to my laptop for four hours watching the main Strictly shows and also ‘It Takes Two’ from BBC 2. What a treat! I howled with laughter for most of it – WHAT IS WRONG WITH GARY RHODES he is a complete idiot!
A good old fashioned family show, great outfits, make-up and fake tan everywhere. I was genuinely in heaven for an hour and a half.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
When you spend a bit more time here you notice another army of people, those in the service industry. Whether you’re in a bar, restaurant, hairdressers or shop, chances are you will be served by someone from another country who has come here to earn more than they could at home, and send money back to their family. They sometimes tell you shocking stories of their lives back home, and how they are trying to make a better life for themselves here.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
The one thing which I wasn’t ready for was the sea. In Dubai the sea is a pretty placid affair, very few waves or spray, and just perfect for lounging in and relaxing. The sea in Fujairah is a beast of a thing, huge swell, massive breakers,and a very strong current which pulls your feet out from under you even when you’re just standing on the shoreline.
All of this makes for much fun and excitement if you’re under the age of ten. There was a variety of children having the time of their lives playing in the waves, being thrown around and shrieking with laughter.
When you’re in the your thirties and the effort that you want to expend on the beach is minimal this poses a slight problem. The heat forced me down to the sea on the first day, and to begin with, the sea seemed to be behaving itself. Then before I realized it, it took a turn for the worse.
My feet were swept out from under me, I was sucked into relentless waves for what felt like an eternity but was actually about five minutes. I couldn’t stand up, and every time I tried I just got sucked under again. It was no doubt, hilarious to onlookers (I had spent a pleasant few hours chortling to myself whilst watching other poor souls suffer the same fate) but it didn’t feel that funny from where I was standing. Or should that be lying?
In all the drama I lost my Marbella sunglasses, but thankfully, not my bikini bottoms (it was at one point a very close call though). My dignity was washed away in the first few seconds as I flailed about on my back like a squealing beetle trying to get up.
I am still finding sand in places, which frankly, no sand should ever get to!