A small but amusing expat moment of clarity

It was National Day celebrations at my son’s school today. National day is a BIG thing in Dubai. Like, really BIG. And of course the UAE may not be my home but it’s the only one my son has ever known. For better or worse, this is where he identifies with, this is his place in the world. So I duly dressed him up in the flag colours – white trousers (I know, stupid), red shirt, a specially purchased clip-on bow tie made of green, red, black and white and a sparkly green top hat. Flags painted on his arms, armed with paper and four correctly coloured crayons to draw flags on the car journey, he went off to school with more enthusiasm and excitement than I’ve ever seen (and this is a boy who is fairly enthusiastic and excited to go even on a normal day). When we arrived, the Principal was outside greeting students as usual. He exclaimed over my son’s outfit whilst The Boy did a small turn for him to admire it from a 360 degree point of view. Photos were posed for. All around ooo-ed and ahhh-ed at my cute little offspring (he did look really cute). The Principal said to me “Bet you never thought you would be doing all this did you?!”

“Yes, I did actually,” I replied “but I thought I would be doing it in red, white and blue to be fair…”

 

Oops I did it again

Dammit. The weather is beautiful. The sky is blue. Life is exceptionally good. I’ve gone and fallen under the Dubai spell all over again.

It happens every year. It’s difficult not to love never-ending blue skies and warm sunny weather that is perfect for doing just about anything in when you are skype-ing a family in polo neck jumpers and reading FB status updates that continually moan about rain and putting the heating on.

Corona

Just about the only thing likely to give me cold hands this side of Christmas (Photo credit: Tris Linnell)

Sometimes I feel bad that I don’t miss the UK anywhere near as much at this time of year as I do in May or June; but most of the time, I couldn’t care less. I’m too busy worrying about getting rid of strap marks, booking outdoor tables at restaurants and figuring out which pool to go to. Living in Dubai is no holiday, that is true, but at this time of year it can really start to feel like one.

However, this week is particularly troublesome in that a whole load of people we know are lying in wait to see what Hurricane Sandy will blow their way. As well as the friends that are all on Sandy’s current flight path, half my family are also getting ready for the hit. My sister is in New York – last year we camped out at their apartment in Manhattan a mere block away from the evacuation zone, and watched Irene blow through the city from rain spattered windows. My in-laws are scattered over Massachusetts and New Hampshire and various of them lost power in a freak snow storm that hit in October last year. So it would be fair to say it feels a little churlish to complain about the Dubai version – a couple of hours of blustery sandy shamal that forced us out of the pool and indoors this afternoon and has already moved on as I write this.

In summary, America is windy. And everyone in the UK, without exception, is cold. It’s half term from school there as well as here, and I compare struggling to think of anything to do with a small child in the cold and wet (maybe that should read ‘anything to do that involves me having to leave the house’) vs. my oh-so-difficult choice of beach/pool/park to fill in the hours over the course of the next few days. Clearly there is absolutely no better place to spend an October week off with your kids than Dubai. The thousands of tourists that have flocked here like penguins at mating season would seem to concur.

So our host city wins. And it will continue to do so for the next four months. With the brief exception of two weeks at Christmas of course, when we will dress up in our finest antique wooly jumpers and grace England with our suntanned faces and relaxed demeanours and everyone will be jealous and think about visiting us again (although they probably won’t, even though they should).

Whilst it might travel under the guise of spending time with loved ones, in reality this fortnight of cold, damp and darkness is not a particularly desirable choice of Christmas vacation. After all, we could be eating turkey on the beach. However, I like to think our decision to leave Dubai in what could easily be agreed on as the BEST TWO WEEKS OF THE YEAR (not that I’m bitter) is done for three reasons:
1. It is incredibly difficult to get into the festive spirit required of a mother of a pre-schooler if you are dressed in a bikini and drinking rose wine in the garden instead of trawling Bluewater for tree presents.
2. My son has demanded snow for Christmas. Whilst it is unlikely to actually snow in the UK in December, it has been known to – and there is a greater chance of it happening there than here in Dubai.
3. It is essential to refresh the memory of how awful the cold, damp and darkness is in order to prolong the feeling of smugness as long as possible into the new year. There are a good few months left until the summer begins in earnest but it’s never to early to start emotionally preparing for it.

So it’s time to enjoy the next six weeks before we break out the hats and boots and jump on a plane. To get out in the warm sun and make the most of every single day. To worry and fret about our loved ones with serious weather warnings and – well – largely ignore the rest of the moaning masses who are a bit chilly. Get on a plane dudes. It’s bloody fantastic here.

Keeping up with the Janeses

A friend of mine showed me an hysterical email this week from her son’s new ‘Class Rep’. I am using ‘hysterical’ in both senses of the word, because firstly, the woman who sent it clearly has some major issues, and secondly it made me laugh uncontrollably that someone has worked so hard to conform to a stereotype that they’ve actually gone one further and become one.

The email went something along the lines of being terribly upset at the rest of the mums in the class for not all committing to attend a voluntary social function, insisting that it was insulting to her as organiser and had destroyed the spirit of the team. Despite the fact that the other mums who said they could go are still going, she has refused to attend, in the process alienating herself and making everyone else feel really awkward and slightly incredulous at the childishness of it all. It’s four weeks into the school year and she’s throwing her toys out of the pram and calling people names. I can only imagine what she’ll be like by International Day.

I’m rather thankful that I don’t run into many of these VIMs (Very Important Mothers). We live a relatively small development in Dubai, that appears to have mostly escaped infection, and due to my inability to be socially fully-functional I’ve successfully managed to befriend a total of zero of these horror show alpha-mums during my six years in the city. Even better, my son goes to the local school that no-one has ever heard of and is American curriculum anyway, so I’ve successfully swerved the typical (mainly) Brit-expat-mum nightmare of early morning fashion parades, pushy class reps and competitive parenting – the ‘Jumeirah Janes’, if you will – in favour of a far more laid back approach with mums who just want to create a community without all the pomp and circumstance and designer maxi dresses.

The term ‘Jumeirah Jane’ was coined many years ago, essentially to describe the non-working expat wives and mothers who hung out in coffee shops along Beach Road and relied on each other for support in the days when it really mattered – when it was a small town and people needed each other. I believe they gave themselves the name. It has altered over time from a rather catchy and fun definition into something of a blanket insult to all mildly unpleasant expat wives who don’t work, get their maid to bring up the children, and then bitch about it over coffee. I hate it when people label me as a Jane. Which has been known to happen, although I’d like to think once they get to know me, they see I’m just not committed enough to the cause to be a fully paid up member. But before anyone says ‘I think thou dost protest too much’, I guess I’ll admit I’ve been around long enough in Dubai to have a little bit of Jane rub off on me. But it doesn’t sit with me easily, and when I recognise it in myself I run my head into the nearest wall at high speed so it doesn’t happen again. Jane is the devil’s work, a beast to seduce even the most normal of women into ridiculous behaviour. It is a constant battle to resist the call of the honey highlights, neutral toned designer wardrobe and french manicures and remain with ten slutty-red painted toes planted firmly on the ground.

Anyway, as a bit of fun to stretch the poetic muscles a little, I put together a ditty in honour of the Class Rep who Shall Remain Nameless, because I think she, along with a few other horror stories I have heard of late, has managed to epitomise for me the spirit of the modern-day Jane, and has served as a reminder once more as to why I will never succumb to Janedom  – or VIMming for that matter. Enjoy.

I’m Jane, I’m a VIM, and I live in Dubai
My husband’s in oil or construction
I’m blessed with four children, a dog and a maid
And with Harvey Nicks and Bloomies to raid
I don’t have much time for a job I’m afraid
So I simply meet friends for luncheon

I’m Jane, I’m a VIM, and I live in Dubai
I have poker straight yellow hair
My forehead’s been smoothed and my arse has been sucked
My boobs have been lifted, my tummy’s been tucked
I’m regularly sanded and waxed and plucked
To look just like the others, so there.

I’m Jane, I’m a VIM, and I live in Dubai
I’m dressed just a shade less than mutton
My sunglasses perch on my head at all times
My iphone is poised to snap fashion crimes
If you see a white Prado it’s probably mine
(But my K-middy accent is put-on)

I’m Jane, I’m a VIM,and I live in Dubai
In a villa that’s been in ‘Ahlan’
My jewellery collection is big on the bling
No Karama for me, my Birkin’s the real thing
I bake cupcakes and daily I go to the gym
I’m a totally friggin’ perfect woman

I’m Jane, I’m a VIM, and I live in Dubai
I am fabulous, witty and rich
I have friends by the dozen to call on for tea
To play status games with surreptitiously
(I am sure that they secretly want to be me
Even though I am such an old bitch)

I’m Jane, I’m a VIM, and I live in Dubai
My career is to be a good wife
With no credit card limit I cannot complain
My identikit friends keep me reasonably sane
I’ll put up with Dubai ’til we move yet again
To the next tax free bolt hole in life

Contemplation by the creative mind (or some such poncey nonsense)

I love it when interesting people stumble into my life. After an initial flurry of – ooo – two or three people, whom I met in the first few months of being in Dubai, I then spent a good few years yearning for more of them to cross paths with me and become my friends.

And whilst I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t have much in the way of social stimulation I can honestly say that I didn’t have a whole lot of opportunity. The first year we were in Dubai I was studying, so I had plenty of time in the day to meet people. But it didn’t work like that. I found it very hard to just ‘make friends’ with people, for starters, because I couldn’t find anything in common with most people I met. Because I didn’t have kids, I was dismissed by those that did, and because I didn’t work in an office, I was dismissed by those that did. And I dismissed them too. They weren’t interesting to me, and I started to think I didn’t fit into anyone’s world. I was bored and I was boring.

In my second year here I started work as a teacher. I didn’t have a huge pool of co workers to get to know, nor the time to spend getting to know them. Most of my days were spent in the company of twenty under-5s, and whilst they are interesting in their own way I wasn’t exactly going to be drinking buddies with any of them. After that I gave birth, and I think anyone who has done the same can say, hand on heart, that it saps all the ‘interesting’ out of you for a good chunk of time. Meeting people who make your brain come alive is only relevant if you haven’t had all of your little grey cells burned up by sleep deprivation and shitty nappies. I was irrelevant to my old teacher chums and although I met a few new mums once I had the baby, most fell by the wayside as our kids got older and we found we had less and less in common.

But when my son turned a year old, he wasn’t the only one to take the first baby steps towards independence. Upon realising that my life probably wasn’t anywhere near as awful as I made it out to be, I realised that my angst and anger at being stuck in a foreign land with a small baby and no friends really needed to be channelled into something more positive. So I went back to my roots, and joined a drama class, where I finally found the energy to be me again.

That was two years ago. The people I met in that class went from being a bunch of misfits I vaguely knew the names of, to being my friends who I can count on to have an interesting and entertaining time with whenever we meet. The class gave me confidence in myself and my ability, and has led to more and more involvement performing and learning with an ever expanding group of people who inspire me to be great. It allowed me to think again, and to celebrate the weirdo in me that had got lost in a sea of conformity somewhere along the journey into expatriateworld and mummydom.

Once the juices were flowing, it made me want to do more. I began to write again. And six months ago, I joined twitter to boost my reader numbers (because as any blogger knows, the stats page is the most important one of all, especially if you thrive on being the centre of attention like I do). And now I have friends who I have made through blogging and twitter, because we write, and we like how each other write, and although I don’t know them terribly well, I have begun to put my trust in the theory that if someone can make me ‘feel’ with what they write, or say, or how they act, that they are ‘my kind of person’. They become interesting. They become my friend.

I had assumed a rather old-fashioned definition of ‘friend’ up until this year. I was searching for people to replace the ones I left behind. It took me a long time to realise that they can’t be replaced, nor do I want them replaced. But now when I think of all the interesting people I have met through being a little more creative, and a little less judgemental and proud, I realise my life is the fuller for it. And if I really think about it, all the friends I left behind came from the same place – they too were once a bunch of misfits in a rehearsal room who over the decades, have become my family.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately, of books and blogs, in preparation for my MA and to improve and invigorate my work onstage.  I find increasingly that these two ‘careers’ of mine overlap, and intertwine, so that my life is slowly becoming fluid again, and instead of wearing many hats in a day to try and fit in with everyone else, I find my world as a mother, wife, friend, and ‘creative person’ is about life fitting in with me. The two things I loved doing in life twenty years ago – writing and theatre – have once again become central to my life today. And life – mine and my family’s – is all the better for it.

People thrive on different things to get them through life. How I keep forgetting, and how I only just figured this out again, is beyond me. I have the attention span of a fly, clearly. But in my life, being busy doing creative things is key. If I am not creative, I am not inspired. If I am not inspired, I am not interested. If I am not interested, then I am bored. If I am bored, then I am thoughtless, and lonely, and sad. And right now, I am horribly, smug-tastically happy with my life, which is full to the brim with busy all of a sudden, doing all the things I love, surrounded by people who make me smile. Which can only mean I’m getting it right.

And they all lived happily ever after

I’ve just finished watching the season one finale of ‘Once Upon a Time’, which turned out to be surprisingly good in the end. I suppose given it’s by the same people that made ‘Lost’, that I should have expected an awesome pilot episode to hook me in, some fairly random and dramatic twists and turns during the early part of the season, a few ‘album fillers’, followed by a blinding ending; it would appear that’s exactly what was delivered. Here’s hoping that, unlike Lost: a) the second series is as good as the first, b) it continues to make some sort of sense and c) it doesn’t limp on aimlessly and draws to a neat and comprehendible conclusion by the end of the third season.

A classic fairy with a wand

I wish for…a perfect place to live  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, it got me thinking about Dubai vs London, and how it’s often kind of like living in Fairytale land vs. Storybrooke (for those people who haven’t seen it – which I’m guessing by the audience figures reported on Wikipedia, is the majority of you – Storybrooke is the town full of fairytale characters who live under a curse of unhappiness in a land with no magic i.e Maine, USA). And like these places, Dubai and London are worlds apart, one’s glitter to the other’s grime – but sometimes there are parallels. Usually about stuff that irritates me. In fact, the things we most often moan about in the UK are quite often startlingly similar to the ones we complain about the most in Dubai, too. Here are my top three ‘mirror, mirror’ moments, that bug me just as badly in both places:

1. Driving

It takes HOURS to get anywhere in a car in London. It never ceases to amaze me how bloody long it takes to get out of London as well. It has been known on a bank holiday weekend to take me three hours to reach the M25. The traffic officially moves slower than it did when horse and cart was the only thing available. And yet ironically there are cameras and speed humps everywhere, to catch you out when you are finally moving faster than 20mph and riding a wave of euphoria. White van man with his abusive and cavalier driving is the scourge of society and everyone hates anyone in a flashy car. You can never find a place to park and traffic wardens are evil. As are cyclists, pedestrians and buses.

vs

It never takes very long to get anywhere in Dubai unless you are a) headed towards Sharjah or b) you get into an accident with a fundamentally stupid person and die on the way to your destination. The traffic officially moves faster than the speed of light, except when there is a hidden camera in which case everyone will jam their brakes on really, really hard just as they reach it and cause even more accidents. White toyota truck man is the scourge of society because they drive at about 30km/hr everywhere and use the indicator stick to hang their lunch bag on, and everyone hates people in flashy cars, even other people driving flashy cars. Everyone except you is terrible at driving and it’s each man for himself AT ALL TIMES. There are no pedestrians or cyclists because you would have to be certifiably insane to be either and expect to live.

2. The Weather

London is wet, windy, dark and cold for about 13 months of the year. It seems to take everyone by surprise each March that spring does not produce daffodils, farmers markets and glorious sun-filled Easter egg hunts in Hyde park, but instead is just a slightly less dark version of winter. Summer yields about 2 weeks of glorious weather which everyone gets very excited about and when, it’s true, it is the best city in the world to be in. (Luckily that’s the bit I’m normally there for). Outside of these precious 14 days, Londoners experience soggy tennis, Shakespeare in the park shivering under umbrellas, and endless rained-out BBQs. The saviour of all this atrocious weather is The Pub, which can be relied on in all situations to be warm and sell alcohol. Two things which Londoners value above all else.

vs.

Dubai is hot, all the time, and when it isn’t hot it’s hotter – or alternatively, hotter than Hell. It seems to take everyone by surprise each May that it’s time to decamp until October. Although a few silly people insist it’s ‘mild for the time of year’ as they boil in 110 degree heat to eat their dinner, mostly everyone just sits inside and moans about how hot it is. Air conditioning is a way of life, and for four months a year most people do not breathe fresh air or see the sun unless they can absolutely help it. Everyone gets sick as a result and with pasty sallow skin and dark circles from too much partying to make up for the lack of fresh air (well that’s my excuse) they mainly look like they live at the North Pole, not in the desert. In the winter season, which is glorious, it usually rains for about 2 days, torrentially, in localised patches. Everyone calls their friends and people get jealous if they miss it.

3. People

People are quite rude in London. And pretty selfish. When I was pregnant and travelling on the underground, even though I had a badge that said ‘I’m up the duff, give me a seat please’ (yes, there are official badges) no bastard gave me a seat. No-one looks where they are going in London. No-one says ‘excuse me’, or ‘sorry’, or ‘good morning’. In fact eye contact alone can count as a human rights infringement. The only time this is not true is if you are queuing for something, when good manners abound for some reason, and everyone gets really mad if someone tries to cheat. If there’s one thing we Brits can do right, it’s form a line. But other than that, most of the time, Londoners could learn a few manners and it would be a nicer place for it.

vs

People can be pretty rude in Dubai too. Except if you are pregnant or have a small child, or are paying for something, in which case no-one can do enough for you. Except if they are having a bad day or are terribly important with a small penis, in which case they will still be a complete a-hole. Queues, like car indicators, are an urban myth. They ignore the laws of physics, refuse to go from first to last person in a line, instead they generally form a sort of seething mass of humanity grouped from front to back in roughly the following order: Local, Female, Western, Regional, Female & Filipino, Other. If you are female and western, lets face it, this is an excellent system – but I imagine it pisses off large portions of the expat population no end. Hence system B of queuing which goes like this: Bunfight.

Yes, two cities… different yet the same. I’ve not even started on tourists or the cost of living. But I guess there are things that are annoying wherever we live. My husband and I once conducted research on where would be the best place in the world for us to live, with the intention that we would be there by 2005. We took into account weather, education, work, housing, ability to travel, potential to die from a natural disaster, political climate, taxes, and distance away from our families. The place we came up with was San Diego, CA. We went there on holiday to check it out, so serious were we that this was ‘our place’. It was crap. We just didn’t feel the love at all. A year later we ended up in Dubai. Which I guess just goes to show that magic isn’t always where you expect it, and true love is a city you can bitch about and still want to live in, happily ever after.

Or at least for another few years.

If it ain’t broke…it’s not Dubai

Last September, upon our return to Dubai, our coffee table melted. Literally sank to the ground, in a sort of Wicked Witch of the West moment, crying “I’m melting! I’m melting! Oh cruel world!” Well, ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, our coffee table wasn’t well known for it’s Wizard of Oz impressions (although as a small aside, I am – to such an extent my brother in law calls me the Wicked Witch of the Middle East he is so funny ha bloody ha). However – back to the point – it really did melt. We’d been back a matter of days, and one minute it was fine, all smooth glossy black glass and shiny legs, and then I heard a creaking sound from the kitchen and came out into the living room to find the mdf base the legs were bolted to had been slowly dissolving during its five years of service and the table was gracefully sinking to the ground with the legs folding up underneath it. I took it as a sign there and then that we had been in Dubai FAR TOO LONG if our furniture was falling to bits.

Margaret Hamilton as the Witch in the 1939 fil...

If my brother in law is to be believed, this was me at school drop off earlier this morning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The year before was pretty special too. The air circulation machine-thingy had stopped working and so although there was air conditioning there was no ventilation in the hallways or bathrooms. Obviously there was a touch of mould here and there…and OMG on my HERMES handbag and ALL my suede boots and shoes…it was a disaster of epic proportions that I have never fully recovered from. And, despite being sent to Paris for some R&R at the Hermes Home for Sick Handbags, my lovely little black number has never been the same since either.

Every year we come home from our summer trip to find something has gone wrong in our absence. It’s hardly surprising given how long we are away for, although it always amazes me that so much can still break in a house whilst it’s not being used. This year’s list goes something like this:

– Oven ignition not working on the grill and intermittently on the top gas rings, new front panel required

– Handle of tumble dryer broken off in my hand (of course my sheets were in there) and requires replacing, unless the maid can replicate my spanner-prising technique for the next year until the whole thing inevitably breaks down next summer

– Front door swollen and stuck, door has also dropped a few millimetres making it almost impossible to lock or unlock it. Other doors that have swollen and won’t close or open include the ensuite bathroom in our room and my son’s bedroom door i.e. the two doors we use most in the whole house.

– Shoe cupboard showing signs of mould again – but this time only one casualty, a pair of wedge platforms c.1996 that I only keep to remind me of why the 90s were a bad fashion decade. So no biggie.

– Car requires four new tires. Immediately. Oops. Ker-ching.

– Several toys appear to have completely run out of batteries despite not being touched in months although I am not sure I am hurrying to fix them

–  Living room rug covered in stains and ripped up by the cats so badly it needs replacing. This was true before the summer too but coming back and seeing it after some time away made me realise how totally gross it really looks

– Our mattress has two distinct his and hers dents in it. I moan for weeks on end about wanting my own bed and come home to find it’s really uncomfortable. Brilliant.

So it’s a month of expense and boredom waiting in for repairmen that never come and trawling the shops for replacements to stuff I didn’t want to replace. Yippee.

Still, looking on the bright side, I haven’t found any spiders yet.

Crisis of conscience and the post summer blues

I have spent alot of time wanting my son to get older. To move past being a newborn, a baby, a toddler – to be the age he is now, really – that perfect moment in a child’s life where they are no longer a baby and have a degree of independence – but everything is still new and exciting and they want to share it with you. What I forgot to consider over the summer is that they move on from this. And if you push the agenda, it will go faster. And now as I see him changing before my eyes, I’m already lamenting the loss of my baby boy and feeling terrible because I think I am making it happen.

The Crystal Ball

The Crystal Ball (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was so sure I wanted my little boy at preschool this year. He’s a smart kid and a big kid and a September kid, and the school down the road has a September 15th cut off date, so I went right on ahead and put him in. He didn’t cry and he doesn’t look out of place amongst his class, who, it turns out, are mostly aged within six months of each other. But I wonder if I did the right thing by taking him out of nursery. That window where they are so cute and innocent and yummy will close before I know it and instead of putting the breaks on I fear I have sped up the process, making him move away from needing me more quickly than I truly intended. I miss him eating with me at lunch, I miss his little smile and I miss the coziness and security of nursery – and now he is in this big grown up school that I’m not sure I’m ready for anymore.

I feel like a terrible mother for making my just-turned-three year old dress up in a uniform and stay in someone else’s care from 8.30 until 1.30 every day. And yet, what was the alternative? Another year at nursery (which is only a half hour less, btw, and where they also wear a uniform) where he might feel less grown up, but quite probably get bored – and in a class that is one third as big again as the one he is in now, quite possibly be left to his own devices for more of the time? In these terms, he is better off where he is, in a class of 11 children and a wonderful classroom that has far more interesting things to explore than his nursery would be able to offer. So then I swing back and think that maybe it is all in my mind, that he will have a far richer experience where he is and I should just stop worrying. Maybe my judgement on this is clouded, and it is my experience I am missing after all the interaction I had with the nursery. Whatever it is, it’s bothering me. A lot.

I think having had a few weeks with just me and him on the road, there is also the Daddy Factor which is making me extra emotional. My boys have always worshipped each other, this much is certain, but since we got back to Dubai, my son has expressed clear favouritism towards Daddy and quite frankly, whilst I don’t blame him (there are times I like him far better than me too, and this past week may well be one of those times) it is very upsetting to think that all the hours I put in doing my best to be a good mother might be somewhat akin to pissing in the wind. Everyone assures me he doesn’t mean it, and whilst I remain unconvinced (he really has made it very clear) it has encouraged me to try harder at being a super dooper Mummy (I am nothing if not competitive). Dumping him off at school for 5 hours a day doesn’t really fit with that, making it doubly upsetting.

Oh, I don’t know, this is just a big ‘sigh’ of a post isn’t it? Maybe I just have to get back into the swing of things and I’ll be fine. After all, coming back here after nearly two months surrounded by everyone I know and love is a big adjustment for me too and I haven’t really had much time to get my head around that. I need to get to know the school and his teacher and be involved, and then I am sure I will be more comfortable with it all. I need to figure out fun things to do with my little boy when he gets home so that we can still play together and enjoy the time with each other. I need to start doing the ‘school mum’ thing and make some friends, and have some play dates, and figure life in Dubai out all over again. And I need to decide how to spend my own time while he is gone in a positive and productive manner so that I don’t wallow.

But mainly I need a crystal ball to tell me I’ve done the right thing.

Blogcation

Good Housekeeping is one of several periodical...

I’m not sure there is anything ‘good’ about my housekeeping (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…whatever you want to call it, I’m aware I’ve taken a bit of a blog holiday of late. Something to do with have travelled 3 continents and back in 7 weeks, coming home to social cold turkey, no cleaner, still no school and husband travelling for work. All I seem to have done is housework and yet the place is still a tip and there are seventeen loads of washing to do even though I swear the laundry basked was empty before the weekend. However, this morning I’ve waved the little man off to his first day at pre-school (GULP) so normal service should be resumed shortly. Only not today because I really do have to clean the house. And fix the oven, which won’t light. And get a man in to sort out the front door, which is so swollen from all the heat and humidity I can barely get it open. And change the sheets. And buy a pot plant and an art apron, which were on the list of things to bring to school that I didn’t get chance to get. And still somehow find time to sit worrying about my little one all morning, wondering if he is doing ok in his new class and if the teacher was paying any attention at all to the fact that his snacks are in the front zip of his bag, NOT in his lunchbox. I’ve spent four weeks wishing for today and I just realised I didn’t mean today. Today is not about enjoyment or relaxation. I’m not sure I will relax until I pick up the boy and I know that he survived, that he is happy, and fed, and that I am not a terrible mother for leaving him in the chaos that is the first day of the school year. And in the meantime I have all that lovely housework to do. The bit where I go to the gym, have a manicure and then sit in a sun-filled cafe writing my novel (HA!) is a few weeks off, I fear. So, off to work I go. I wonder where the maid keeps the dusters…

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

Better late than never…a half year review

Well actually the year is nearly three quarters over but the end of the summer and the start of the school year seems like a good time to take stock and make sure there is still time to get the outstanding things done before the year end.

I am feeling pretty good about life actually. Almost to the point of smug,  but I’m not smug, I’m going to be 38 in a week for goodness sake and that is NOTHING to be smug about…no, really I’m just thankful that I worked it out finally this year, how to be an expat and a trailing spouse, and a mother, and not go crazy living in the sandpit.
The trick, I have discovered finally after a mere six years of trying, is to adhere to the Expat holy trinity :
1. Keep busy
2. Keep making new friends
3. Keep making the most of it
 
 
Keeping busy has always been the seemingly easy bit, but it would appear that historically I haven’t really been busy at all. I’ve been shopping, which is not the same thing. Now I am hurtling towards the start of a masters degree which will eat up most of my time whilst my son is at pre school, as well as spending my evenings in the pursuit of dramatic excellence. Inbetween times being the most excellent mother and wife of course. I am so fearful of this new version of busy I have (shock horror) started to think things like “when will I get my manicure done?” and secretly worrying I won’t have time for the gym and the occasional coffee in the sunshine, but my husband has reminded me that the hours will expand to fit it all in and I live in hope that he is right. I may have to compromise on Internet browsing and shopping trips but that is probably no bad thing. (god I sound like a spoilt brat).
As my son will be starting his new school in a few weeks I will no doubt be kept busy with this as well. And it will certainly be a time for making new friends. I will have to work hard to overcome my ‘do I really have to be endlessly nice to perfect strangers in the hope of finding one or two I actually like, AGAIN?’ issues, but I remain confident I can add a few new mummy pals to my depleted post summer collection in time for the cooler weather and a myriad of playdate opportunities.
Which leads, of course, to number three: keep making the most of it. We have a while left yet in the old girl that is Dubai before we pack up our kit bags, but it’s fair to say the majority of our years here are (hopefully) behind us and the majority of the hard work of baby/toddler parenting is also (hopefully) drawing to an end. So it’s time to get on with that bucket list.
Our son is three and the variety of things we can do with him grows week on week. Trips to the beach no longer require a flotilla of nappies, specially prepared lunches and endless toys. A bucket and spade, money for a hotdog and a towel are pretty much all that is required to spend several hours on the sand, which instantly makes the proposition a whole load more attractive. Going for brunch on the weekends has become a walk in the park since he stopped napping and figured out the iPad, and weekend evenings have become a far more relaxed affair since he proved able to stay awake without morphing into the devil child by 6pm. I am already dreaming of the moment some time in November when it will be cool enough to picnic at the polo or enjoy a pizza whilst watching the sun go down over the warm waters of the gulf – pleasures denied for the past few years but that I would dearly like to take advantage of before we leave this amazing life behind.
And the sand. The glorious sand. We have visited the desert a lot in a kind of sanitised 5 star hotel fashion, which i have little intention of giving up of course, but this Christmas time I hope we will be able to really make the most of living right next door to it and partake in some carolling, Dubai style, around a campfire amongst the dunes. In fact the build up to Christmas should be altogether alot more fun this year and I am looking forward to a much more relaxed time than the past few years when the business of having a small toddler has stopped us from taking part in many of the festivities.
There are so many things we simply haven’t done yet. There are waterparks to visit and zoo trips to be made and parks to be played in, amongst the beach/pool/desert activities that will fill our winter time and make us glad to be here instead of freezing in the dark damp of those dark satanic mills. We can go to watch the dolphins leap and see the king penguins waddle around the ski slope, and maybe even brave the Olympic ice rink to see if we have a future figure skater on our hands. And hopefully we will get some visitors this year to share all this with us, to make us make the most of it even when we are tired from all the keeping busy and making friends bit.
I guess it goes back to what I wrote at the start of the year. If we can just set aside the annoying bits about living here and be happy about it then it’s a good year done. So, September, and my return to Dubai, do your worst. I have my three laws of expatriate survival and my Q4 2012 Bucket list and I’m ready and waiting to come and get you.