A little ‘me’ time

Firstly, apologies for the radio silence. Things have been a little hectic due to visiting relatives, theatre performances and the small matter of a 4000 word short story to write for my degree portfolio. Not to mention the PTA obligations, Sports day, International day, and the various overseas train smashes concerning future schools, renting houses and sick family to manage.  Blogging has been beyond what time has allowed. And so when it came to dress making, I figured it was time to outsource.

I have a perfectly good sewing machine at home, I just have no inclination to do anything more complicated than table runners and cushion covers. On the tourist trail to Bur Dubai a few weeks back, I came across a particularly spectacular bolt of patterned silk (well they said it was silk) for a mere £7/m in the fabric souk, and decided to get a jump suit copied I’ve been wearing almost non stop since I bought it nearly three years ago.  For Dhs 250 (about £40) I will have a brand new swishy silk pantsuit to play in, made to measure and cheaper than the original one. Tick in the box for supporting the ‘local’ (chinese) economy while I’m at it.

Having visitors, especially first time ones, often opens my eyes back up to what’s around and gets me out of my self imposed local living rut. Going down to the creek always reminds me where we are, that we aren’t just in this little bubble, that there is a lot of other real life to see out there. Of course it’s full of touts trying to sell me pashminas and boat rides but if you get past that you can really enjoy just being part of the city, haggling for fabric and riding the abra alongside every other creed and colour who is crossing the creek for one purpose or another.
Somewhere lurking near the opposite end of the expat spectrum, during my blog hiatus I was also part of Dubai’s first Short+Sweet theatre festival. A great initiative to encourage local people to write, direct and act in a series of 10 minute plays, it was a spectacle of good, sometimes great, and some downright awful entertainment, but it was ours. Five years ago or so there is no way the city could have even conceived of hosting a festival like this, and it is really exciting to be contributing to the arts scene and (hopefully) changing it for the better. This weekend was spent performing and at and participating in the Emirates Literature festival, another fantastic example of how much things have moved on in the past few years.
And so that’s the end of my excuses; why the dog ate my homework etc. I now have three glorious weeks of relative relaxation, or two weeks of holiday and a  ‘reading week’ as its called in university circles.  I’m looking forward to it: gym, spa, vacation in the desert, and maybe even a trip to my beloved but much neglected mall. The year has certainly got off to an intensive start but it’s been incredibly satisfying too. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so full of ideas and optimism for the time ahead.
It’s also fair to say I’m knackered. Pass the wine someone…

Boys will be boys

My blog pal over at Circles in the Sand wrote a charming little post this week about having boys. It made me smile because she’s right, it doesn’t matter how much you try to produce a child without conforming to stereotypical behaviour, nature always wins out.

Boys are mental. I never appreciated until I had a small one in the house, how much energy they use and how much food they consume. I never think of mine as being a particularly gung-ho kind of a boy, yet he still insists on talking, singing, playing, arguing, and running from dawn to dusk, permanently on the move, climbing, jumping, and using me as a wrestling dummy. The sheer exhaustion caused by bringing up a boy, any boy, should not be underestimated.

A grey toy car, n°1

Of course when they hit puberty and retire to their rooms with porn, acne and terrible smelling clothes, we mothers of sons will get a bit of a break. Whilst they sit languishing over computer games and rap music or alternatively run about on a field with a ball of some description, we will be gazing from the sidelines and merely be in charge of providing food (this is my vision; don’t ruin it for me). The mothers of girls, on the other hand, will be dealing with horrid younger versions of themselves getting into trouble at every given opportunity whilst being overly emotional and completely foul at the same time. All those years drinking coffee and watching their little girls strut about in dressing up clothes or sitting doing ‘colouring in’ will fade into a grey memory as they attempt to dissuade them from older men with cars and clothes small enough to fit a Barbie doll.

But, in the spirit of ‘enjoy it while you can’ I try not to imagine those heady days when I might not claw my way to 7pm and a bottle of wine after an afternoon spent throwing, catching, pretending to sleep/eat/fly/drive/be at school/belly dance etc. etc. I try not to yearn for a time when I don’t have to stick the TV on just to have a conversation that doesn’t involve the words ‘Why?’ or ‘Because’ or ‘be careful‘ or ‘mind my hair/sofa/your fingers’, or ‘get down/sit down’ (delete as appropriate).

And right now, my son really is very enjoyable. Despite being relentless. So I really do have a lot of love for him, and as I watch him grow from a baby to a little man I am so glad to be part of this series of special moments. And special they are. For example, this morning, at breakfast, he gazed up at me and said in his very serious voice, “Mummy, it would be very sad if everyone in the house died. Then I would be all alone.”  (I’m not sure where his current obsession with death came from but it seems he has some issues to work out)

“Yes, that would be very sad,” I replied. “But it’s not going to happen, so you don’t need to worry about it.”

“Mummy, I don’t want to die,” he said, “you have to look after me very well so I don’t.”

I gathered him up in my arms and got the best little boy cuddle ever. “Of course I will look after you, you are my number one boy, and I will always look after you.” I replied, with a little catch in my throat. I kissed his head and held on as tight as I could to the moment, hoping he could feel how much I loved him.

Then my darling little boy looked me in the eye, gave me a smacker on the lips, smiled, and farted.

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Popcorn

Dinner, anyone?  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apologies for this fleeting post, and for the completely unoriginal title, but it’s been that kind of week. Just when I thought this place couldn’t give me anything else to laugh/scream/sob about, it comes up trumps once more. I kid you not, here are some of the completely stupid things that have happened to in the past seven days that just make me want to bang my head against a wall.

– I tried to mail a birthday card to my aunt in Mallorca and the post office informed me that they no longer deliver to the Balearic Islands. EH? I thought the point of a postal service was that they mail ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. They helpfully suggested if I put ‘Spain’ on the envelope, it was nearby and might get there.

– Overheard at a party on Saturday:

“I ordered a pizza and a salad the other day and they told me they couldn’t deliver the salad because it was raining.

“What about the pizza?”

“Oh yeah, they brought the pizza.”

EH?

– On the subject of pizza, our local take out place made waves this week by encouraging people to take photos and text whilst driving. Their genius ad campaign, later removed from their website after several complaints and an article in the local newspaper, read, “Catch us on the go! If you’re on the road and spot us, snap a pic and share where you were!”

– Our gas bottles were replaced on Tuesday and the regulators on the bottles changed at a total cost of Dhs 750 (about $200). The oven has since performed its own comedy show every time I use it and I am only able to light one gas ring OR the oven at any one time, or it all trips out. This is making cooking tricky and I have visitors arriving in the morning. Not an auspicious start. Upon recalling the gasman to sort it out, he blamed the electrics and told me to call the electrician. The electrician came and told me there are NO ELECTRICS to fix and it’s the gas regulator inside the house that is the problem. The perfectly functioning regulator that went wrong on the very day the bottles were changed, what a co-incidence. No-one can tell me who the hell fixes these but clue: It’s not the gasman and its not the electrician. Is there a regulator-man I wonder? Answers on a postcard please.

I’m sure there were more; these are the stand-out moments. It is no small wonder I look as deranged as I do, if you throw in hours devoted to PTA, the 2 days of acting work that meant I had to entrust someone else to pick up my baby from school for the first time (emotional stress = 8.5/10), the guys that were supposed to come and remove half a ton of broken furniture from the house and forgot after I waited for 4 hours for them to show, a monologue to write and about 400 pages of reading to get done by the weekend. Did I mention I have visitors arriving, or that my husband is away until Friday morning, meaning I am completely sleep deprived, slightly grubby and suffering from mental exhaustion due to single parenting the ‘Child Who Wouldn’t Stop Asking Why’? I would worry about the lack of food in the house but there is nothing to cook it with, so, you know, whatever.

I refer you to the title and bid you goodnight.

 

 

 

Cream crackered

I love being busy. This new episode of my life where I’m doing things all the time is much better than sitting about moping (although there is less time to shop or have manicures, and this is a downside). However, the nature of my new ‘work’ is such that I spend much more time at the computer and less time doing everything else. I sit and sit, in what is probably the worst posture of all time, with my shoulders hunched and my legs crossed, and I read, I write, and I catch up on the relentless influx of emails that invade my computer (everyone on the MA course writes so much my inbox can be filled with up to 70 or so emails a day, containing musings, feedback and so on from my fellow students which although interesting are somewhat over-prolific), and I don’t seem to do a lot else.

I’m feeling pretty mediocre at everything too, probably as a result of trying to be good at everything and failing because I’m simply not ready for that yet; and tired, because I’m just not used to all this concentration. My life is usually a little more ‘free’, a little less chained to the desk – and I seem to be thinking an awful lot, which hasn’t really been my thing for a while. I am struggling to keep my mind on the everyday aspects of life, like grocery shopping, and remembering to send birthday cards and – if you were to push me – parenting. Not that we’re having a bad time – I just know my mind isn’t really on the job of being ‘mum’ at the moment and I’m starting to feel a bit guilty about that too. I have found myself struggling with the  ‘who, what, where, when, why?’ questions several times this week, and failing to come up with my usual satisfactory answers to the major social, emotional and moral dilemmas my three year old poses. This includes the “Why do we die Mummy?” bath time quiz which left me floundering as I tried to think of ways to explain that wouldn’t leave him a)confused or b)depressed. I’m not sure I managed either.

I’m so busy concentrating I can’t concentrate. I keep forgetting to do things, or go places. This week alone I have forgotten I was getting my hair cut and that my husband was going to Oman. Both are in my diary, I have looked at it several times, and yet still failed to take in the information well enough that I wasn’t totally surprised when my hairdresser turned up at the door on Sunday, or that my husband was toting a suitcase this morning. I have PTA issues to deal with and summer holiday bookings to make and a whole host of things in between that really do require attention that I am failing to give. I do a little bit of each every time I remember and then have to drop it all to get something else done before a deadline passes. Take this morning: I know I need to book restaurants for when my visitors come, call my mother, and get the maintenance guys in to do their quarterly checks on the house, but I just don’t have the energy for any of it. I am lurching from day to day in a daze, going to bed late and rising early and not sleeping well in between. My face is full of spots (WTF I’m nearly forty, when does this END?) and each day when I drag my sorry butt out of bed I think about how I still haven’t been to the gym in three weeks but simply can’t summon up the enthusiasm to go. I feel like I need to sleep for a thousand years. And I’d quite like to go shoe shopping when I woke up, if only all this ‘work’ was paid.

I’m fully aware that this is just a period of adjustment and that my brain and my body will figure it out soon enough. And I know there are ways of making it easier on myself in the meantime (drink less, go to bed earlier, get off the computer, stop procrastinating in a blog and get on with it). I just need to relocate my motivation for all of this and I’ll be good to go. Sigh.

Show me the way to go home

King's bed at the Louvre Museum

Man I miss my bed. It looks just like this too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Less than 48 hours to go and my seven week long jaunt around the world is over for another year. It has been a wonderful holiday full of great memories, the boy has been AMAZING (I attribute this to great parenting on my part, obviously) and I will no doubt be shedding a few tears on top of the ones already parted with as I say goodbye to my dear, dear friends and family for another half year. We have spent time at the beach, in the city and the countryside and immersed ourselves with trips to farms, aquariums, museums and theatres, saturating ourselves with both social and cultural experiences we just can’t get at home. My heart aches at the thought of leaving behind days playing in back gardens with my friends and their kids, and of nights spent in pubs or gazing out to sea or tucked up on the sofa with family all around.

But deep down, in places I don’t talk about, as much as I have had a great time, I’m rather looking forward to being back in Dubai. I would even go so far as to say there were things about it I have missed. A neat ten in fact. So here they are. See you back in the sandpit…

1. My bed

2. My cats. And (and this is a first) my friends. Plural.

3. My kitchen

4. Swimming. Or more realistically, lolling about in a pool to keep cool.

5. The driving (I appear to have gone native and driving in a civilized manner bores me rigid)

6. A manicure, pedicure, massage, eyebrow threading, hair cut and colour and a facial. Words fail to describe the general degenerative state of me right now. I need help, fast.

7. Shopping

8. My weekly thespian fix (the build up of attention seeking behaviour and the need for adulation and applause is overwhelming)

9. My shoe collection. Six pairs of shoes seemed excessive when I was packing two months ago, but I now have serious high heel withdrawal.

10. Going out for dinner with my husband. Well actually, I just miss my husband. See you in a few days babe. X

Holiday, what holiday?

Beach towel Español: Toalla de playa

All I need (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why is it the older I get the more like work going on holiday starts to become? I remember vividly the days of packing a medium sized suitcase stuffed full with bikinis, shorts and a nice dress or two and zipping off to my destination of choice with barely a backward glance. A few hours later would find me unpacked, showered, and by the pool with a drink in one hand and some awful chick lit book in the other – and that would pretty much be the  assumed position for the duration of the trip except to occasionally rotate myself, spit-like, to ensure an even tan.

These days travelling is starting to morph into something more akin to a hard labour. For a few too many hundred dollars, I leave the comfort of my beautiful bed to stay in something resembling a banana hammock, leaving me crippled and unable to turn my head for days at a time. Armed with the knowledge that I am in physical agony, my child and husband then do their best to keep me awake the entire time, by snoring (the big one) and waking me up at 3am every day with jet lag (the little one) and then acting surprised when I am grouchy and emotionally spent. After nearly two weeks away it has also become extremely apparent that we don’t have a maid when we are on holiday.  I have spent more time doing housework and chores than I would normally do in the average year. It’s only down to the fact that I haven’t seen anyone we know for the past few days that I have avoided the ironing, but it’s coming, I can feel it…

And the packing. And unpacking. And packing. And unpacking. And packing. And unpacking. Even writing it that many times feels arduous, but the reality is even worse. The contents of our enormous suitcases seem to morph, expand and multiply with each stop, to the point where I’m sure that sometime around our departure from our current destination we will be forced to purchase our annual extra bag to accommodate everything.

Dont get me wrong, I am loving being on holiday with my boys and away from Dubai.  Nothing could make me happier than the experiences of the past few weeks or indeed the month we still have left to look forward to. I do just wish it wasn’t quite such an exhausting process. I am constantly running mental and actual checks on where our belongings have spread to as well as operating our social logistics from an excel spreadsheet in order to remember where we are going/ what we are doing/ who we are seeing.

My carefully coiffed and polished ‘Dubai style’ is being slowly deconstructed as my clothes become more casual (creased), my hair grows and curls up due to lack of blow drying and my manicure fades away. The final hopes of staying within the same dress size as I arrived disappear as my food and alcohol consumption creeps up and my chances of excercising go drastically down. Make-up becomes a thing of the past and is quickly replaced by a decent SPF. And just when I think I need a holiday from my holiday… I realise that it’s taken me nearly a week to write this post and I’m so relaxed I woke myself up snoring in the sun earlier this afternoon. I feel like I don’t even the know the person who wrote the first few paragraphs, in fact. The jet lag is over and the bed we have arrived at for the next few weeks is blissfully comfortable. I wake, eat, and sleep to the sound of the ocean waves breaking onto shore and I honestly couldn’t care less about anything beyond seeing the smiles on the faces of my family – except maybe having a drink in one hand, my book in the other, and getting an even tan. It’s beginning to sound a lot like a holiday.

There’s no place like it

English: Illuminatable Earth globe, Columbus, ...

Pick a spot, any spot

Home. As usual our time in London has flown past in a blur of rainy days, sunny days, drinking, late nights, laughter and love, this year with a bit of Olympic excitement thrown in for good measure. We are physically exhausted but emotionally refreshed, and for a brief shining moment our Camelot-on-Thames has been the centre of my world once more.

With each passing year I get more used to the hellos and goodbyes, but this year as the faint whiff of hope surrounds me that one day we may come back, I have started to really think about what it would mean to return to London for more than just a holiday. There will be many good things about coming back that would have been lost on me had I never left. Staying in London as a comparitive tourist rather than living and working here has opened my eyes once more to what an incredible city we have at our feet. Walking the streets (walking! An unimaginable pastime for the average citizen of Dubai) and enjoying the weather, the people watching, the architecture, the noise – it is something of a musical dance whose moving parts make up the sum that is this city, full with life in a way that Dubai cannot possibly hope to master. The wonderful parks, museums, galleries and theatres that we have enjoyed the past ten days would never again be taken for granted or left unvisited by the repatriated version of me. Neither would the myriad of bars and restaurants and coffee shops that decorate the streets, or the boutiques and nick nack shops that nest amongst them. But have I been gone so long that I can’t see my city through anything but my sunglasses? And rose tinted ones at that?

With all the thoughts of registering with schools and so on, to plan for this hopeful but currently unsecured comeback, it occurred to me that I may have left a Londoner, but I will return as one third of an international family, a repatriated trailing spouse with an american husband and a third culture kid in tow. It is not going to be as easy as I think to become ‘English’ again, if ever.

My son will be homesick for a place neither me nor my husband call home. And yet, Dubai is our home, and by the time we return it will have most likely been so for nearly a decade. We are long time expats now, and even for me, the only true brit in the family, calling London home again will take time. I struggle with the basics of contemporary London life already, like how to charge my oyster card, and what can I recycle in those orange bags, and do I turn right at the lights if there is no oncoming traffic? And that’s just the start. I have no idea about tv (there were 5 channels or sky when we left), I’m a nervous wreck getting on the tube with my son in case we both magically leap off the platform or get split up by a closing door, and pretty much everything I have in my wardrobe is too white/shiny/expensive to be trotting round cobbled streets in the rain. To repatriate will be a difficult journey, I see now. I will not just simply slot back in, and pick up where I left off. I think it is good to be aware of this now, to start accepting that things will feel different, and that we may not always like it.

We are lucky to have a relatively international set of friends, full of expats and repats and hailing from around the world. They all call London their home and the city is such a melting pot that it hardly matters we’ve been away in that sense. But as I pack our bags and leave behind my beloved city to travel across the pond, I realise I am, these days, just as excited about returning to the US – I get that same familiar, easy feeling from the cities of Boston and New York as I do from London, and with the other 66.6% of the family unit holding a US passport, I am finding it increasingly important to promote American culture in the house and feel as comfortable with it as I do my own.

I wonder had we not lived abroad if I would have found it as easy to bring two cultures under one roof. I wonder if it would not have seemed so important, that my son who belongs to two countries and was born and raised in a third, should have the best experiences of them all and be truly international in his identity, rather than coming ‘from somewhere’. I wonder if coming ‘from somewhere’ has actually ceased to be as important to me. I certainly feel distinctly foreign when people talk about the jubilee, or the Olympics, or David Cameron. Well not foreign, just remote. I can’t relate to these things that people feel so passionately about, and yet I feel like a I should because I am ‘from here’.

But I fear I am not, anymore. Part of me is sad about that, that I have accepted a slightly nomadic existence that will no doubt continue to affect the way I live for a long time to come. That other part of me embraces the fact that I am living this incredible life that spans continents and oceans, that I have learnt and adopted new and different ways of doing things because of who I married and where we live and all the things we have seen along the way. I am daunted and yet excited by the prospect of raising my TCK to appreciate his place in this world. To belong ‘everywhere’ instead of ‘somewhere’, which must surely mean there are more places in this world to call home. To feel connected in these huge cities but undaunted by change. I hope this for him, but for myself as well, that the lessons I have learnt through moving away will stand me in good stead for moving back. To say ‘home’ to me now it means so many different places and I love each one for different reasons. So, from one home to another, we fly off on the next part of our summer journey. Tell you what, if Dorothy lived my life she would have been hard pushed to end up in the right place even with those ruby slippers…