Fashion victim

Do you remember being seventeen? I do. Vaguely. I was finishing up A-levels at a girl’s grammar school where I never really fitted in with anyone (although I’m not sure anyone else did either) and more interested in boys than school. I drove a beige mini cooper with a maroon top that broke down on a regular basis, usually when I was hanging out late at my friend’s house and had to get his dad up at 2am to jump start me and send me on my way. I had an unsuitably ancient boyfriend who worked in the city and cooked me cheese on toast with herbs on at the weekends (the height of sophistication when you’ve never even boiled an egg) and I earned enough money waitressing at a variety of pubs in the area to pay for the car, until I was old enough to pull pints and graduate to the heady heights of ‘barmaid’, when I used to spend my wages on drinking pints when I wasn’t serving them.

I wore jeans, t-shirts, or long paisley skirts with tassels on, and owned a short black skirt for work. On my feet were usually a pair of ‘chinese sandals’, awful flat misshapen things from Chelmsford market for a fiver, that were almost compulsory for every sixth former. I used to occasionally trade these in for a pair of jazz shoes to dance in, or boots, if it was wet weather.

When I was seventeen, my idea of a career was non-exisitent. I had no idea what I wanted to do, I didn’t mind too much, and nor did anyone else. I wrote a diary, not a blog. I didn’t know about fashion and fashion didn’t know about me, and we got along fine that way, because I was young enough for it not to matter. I thought the pink and orange chiffon top I bought for a party at Chelmsford City Football club was the height of sophistication. I owned a black cotton bag with sequins on the front (again from the market) and lived in my black cardigan with buttons down the back until it rotted off my shoulders. My hair was curly and out of control and done by my mum’s friend when it was done by anyone. I owned eyeliner and mascara and an old Clinique lipstick from a multi pack my mum didn’t want. I danced to the Happy Mondays and the Farm and mixed Bacardi into a bottle of coke to take to parties.

I was considered fairly cool, I think, although slightly odd (not much has changed in 20 years). How would have I described my personal style? Top Shop meets Miss Selfridge. Whilst I’m aware than a few decades have passed since then, and we are admittedly living in a very different place to the chavland of my youth (although sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference), I wonder at what strange creatures Dubai has managed to produce, for example the teenager I happened to stumble across on the back pages of Grazia Middle East this week:

‘This trendy twin describers her personal style as classic and minimal. “I tend to stick to a monochrome palette when dressing.” she says. Here, she works her style magic with this ultra-feminine white and nude ensemble. She teams a slouchy white tank top by Michael Kors with a pair of cream lace trousers by Cameo, adding a vintage Chanel belt to nip in the waist. She finished the look with a pair of nude Louboutins and a beige Chanel bag.’

You’re seventeen, FFS. You’ve got years to covet nude Loubs and neutrals. Go out and get yourself a pair of Havanias and a crop top from H&M and have some fun, girl. And give me your wardrobe. I may be old enough to be your mother but I’m not above borrowing your clothes.

Arise, agents of change: an open letter

To all the seven kinds of crazy women currently populating our school gates:

It’s fair to say, that I have whined in my time. There have been moments so low in my life that I would have gladly traded all my worldly goods for things to be different. But if there is one thing I have learnt over the course of the past few years, it’s that if you don’t like something, don’t quit, make it right. Change things. Be better.

Take your child’s school, for example. Say there has been an unexpected change of leadership halfway through the year and you have doubts about the school’s future and their ability to maintain the quality of education you would prefer your  little darling to receive. Say the school had offered one on one meetings with the new principal to thrash out any worries or issues you may have, but instead of going and asking the important questions you want answered, you sit and listen to the idle fishwife gossip at pick up time. Say you were that person. I would not want to hear what you have to say, because I’ve already heard it all and never listened to such a load of tripe in my life. Examples of ‘why i am not coming back next year’ that I have overheard include:

– the school curriculum is based on the practices of scientology

– “everyone” is leaving

– one of the FS2 teachers has fingernails that are really long

Dear mother with nothing better to do: look around you. Do you see happy children who are confident, sociable and comfortable in their environment? Do you see them learning? Is there anything to suggest that this isn’t a great place for them to go to school? Does the class size of 10-15 children bother you, that maybe they are going to receive too much attention, too much individual time with their teacher, that they might learn more, develop skills that might otherwise go ignored in a larger class? Do the huge, well equipped classrooms put you on edge? Do you think your children will do better in a school that is brand new with absolutely no track record, and might not even open by september? Or one with 3000 children milling around inside it? I’m sure you feel it’s completely justified to spend your days sitting and spouting idle gossip, spreading your poisonous nonsense and putting doubt in the minds of every parent within a 14 mile radius, just to placate yourself, that hauling your third culture kid out of one school and into another after just one year won’t be detrimental to them in the slightest.

Or…hang on….could there be another way? Could it be that instead of wrenching your child from the bosom of their school because of some whimsical notion based solely on conjecture that the grass is indeed greener, that you could be an agent for change and make the community you and your child exist in work harder for you, to get what you want, what you believe you deserve? Could it be that communication, and a mutual resolve to make things the best they can be, might just be the better way forward? How about instead of moaning about the things you don’t like to people who have no bearing on the situation, that you address them with some one who could actually help you change them?

Of course this crazy idea of social responsibility might never catch on. You do deserve the moon on a stick after all, and if you can pay the fees why on earth should you have to make any more effort than that? Your responsibility lays purely with destroying the spirit of the people around you who actually like the place. Because if you choose to leave, you’re gonna damn well make sure you have someone to share the new school run with, right?

I believe in choice. What suits me may not suit you. But make an educated decision, not some half baked one based on what the popular mums said over coffee last week. And should you decide to go, do it with dignity and respect for the rest of us. Because I am bored with your tales of woe and your ‘genuine concern’ that the school is going to the dogs. I am tired of feeling like I have to defend my decision, that i should in some way be ashamed of myself for choosing to give my child consistency and a strong sense of community that our school offers in spades. That I am crazy to believe the incredible progress he has made this past six months could not possibly be repeated, and that the teachers will, en masse, decide that small class numbers are really not their thing, and jack in their jobs and their visas to go and live on a beach and teach TEFL. I am making a herculean effort to ignore all of you but I really do think you should shut up and give us all a break.

And lastly – Do try to remember your child is four years old. The likelihood of you being here long enough to care whether a school has IB or not is slim. The likelihood of you screwing them up by moving them across the world five times in a decade is far greater than the school ruining their kindergarden experience and rendering them illiterate. So as long as they are happy, why the hell aren’t you?

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.

If you don’t know me by now

Well here I am, one day into my MA and absolutely NOTHING’S HAPPENED. It’s no-one’s fault, but the first study block opens today and of course, there’s me clearing the decks to start work and it’s only when I sat down I realised that it will open at 9am. UK TIME. Duh. So now I have a very empty looking morning which I’m trying hard to spend productively rather than at the mall, and so far I have managed a coffee with a friend, some form filling and a blog post. I’m ignoring the unpacking sitting in the guest room that I STILL haven’t done and there’s filing all over the floor of the office but I’m taking things slow and with an hour left until pick up I’m sure I’ll squeeze it all in.

The form filling was for the course, so technically I have been working today. It was the usual stuff – why are you doing the course, what do you want to be when you grow up, what are your strengths and weaknesses etc. etc., along with the one that has really caught my eye and is bugging me senseless, a finish the following sentence-type-thing:

‘Most people don’t know that I can….’

Now, several things spring instantly to mind and I’m sure those of you that keep your minds in the gutter along with mine have already filled in the blank with a hundred ‘amusing’ endings (Actually the next question is worse, “Most people don’t know that I have….” which I could potentially go to town on, but perhaps it’s best not). But this is my master’s degree. So I have to be reasonably sensible. Or do I? Should I just be honest? Trouble is honesty weirdly keeps sounding like I’m making it up. And it says something about me I’m not sure I’m ready to share with a bunch of strangers as their first impression. Or anyone else, come to think of it. Which presumably is why ‘most people don’t know’. Of course now I’m blogging about it a whole lot of people will know, which again, means I’m already editing out what I’m not willing to share even as I write, and again defeating the point of the question. After over half an hour of agonising about this incredibly elementary question, I’ve come up with these alternatives:

‘Most people don’t know that I can operate four different types of mechanical saw, remember things longer than the average elephant, and lose weight without trying very hard’. (Show off)

‘Most people don’t know that I can pole dance’ (Shallow, and possibly makes me sound like a dirty hooker)

‘Most people don’t know that I can judge whether or not I will be friends with someone the instant I meet them and will then stick to that opinion even to the detriment of myself (Self depreciating and bitchy)

‘Most people don’t know that I can….OH FFS, I don’t know! It’s too much pressure, to say the right thing. And for those of you that say there is no wrong answer of course there is, don’t kid yourself.

These answers, as well as not being anywhere near as interesting and challenging as I really feel they should be, do not get over the essence of me to a complete stranger. Or maybe they do? Maybe if I put all of them into one sentence and added ‘..can be more anally retentive than a constipated octopus’ it would sum me up completely.

What would yours be?

I want to break free

There’s no two ways about it: I want to go back to work. I don’t mean actual work of course; Working 9 to 5 (who ever finishes at 5, anyway?) in some grey office doing the bidding of a boss I can’t stand has never been my strong point and that’s not about to change. And I have a degree to start thinking about in January which will eat up large quantities of time I’m sure. No, I don’t mean I want a job…I mean what I said – I want to work. And I think I’ve finally figured out why I’ve flitted between so many different careers all these years – administrator, manager, writer, theatre practitioner, teacher: so I can do virtually anything on a need-to-work basis whilst remaining resolutely uncommitted to anyone except myself. In posh terms, I believe one would use the term ‘Freelancer’.


Dear patronising Worker Bees: Despite being a stay at home mum for three years, both sides of my brain are working just fine, thank you (Photo credit: TZA)

Of course the word ‘Freelancer’ is partly composed of the word ‘free’ which has several meanings. ‘Free’ can mean uninhibited, or unpaid. So let me be clear. I want to be paid. I don’t want to compromise on the time with my son but I would really like to earn my own money again and feel like I’m making a contribution to wider world once more. And despite my adoring fanbase whom I truly appreciate for all their kind words and encouragement, I am not making it a better place just sitting here faffing about with a blog. Nor is it earning me beans to buy shoes or birthday presents for my husband, who with the best will in the world must be slightly bored with his ‘surprise’ gifts turning up on the credit card.

And that’s the crux of the matter. Never mind that thing about having to use my brain again – despite evidence to the contrary, I use my brain almost all the time, every day. I have plenty to keep me busy and I’m not desperate for company, so whereas I thought I would eventually return to work to be around people again, this is not the reason. No, the reason is I want to have some earning power again, no matter how small. It has great meaning, to be able to earn your own money. It is synonymous with freedom and even the smallest amount would change how I feel. Some of it is about me, of course. I want to buy that dress I saw that would be perfect for Christmas without it appearing on a Mastercard statement for my husband to torture me with. But most of it is about pride, and achievement, and just the very basic happiness that can be derived from buying something with money you worked for. For example, I’d like to take my husband out to dinner and actually pay rather than ‘pretend pay’ with money that he gave me in the first place. I’d like to treat my son. I’d like to send myself flowers, and maybe send them to other people too, to make them happy and because I can. It’s not the stuff mortgages are made of but it’s the little things that I’m tired of not being able to do without relying on someone else to pay for it.

Not working is a curious state of mind. It is not easy to not work. If you’re not careful you start to lose respect for yourself at approximately the same speed that everyone else does. People that work don’t understand that people who do not have lives that are just as challenging. We do all the stuff the people that work don’t have time to do, but that add a little love into the world, like baking cakes or going to sports days or being on the PTA committee or keeping the house standing. Not all of it is fun and there are days when I wish I was in an office with a boss I don’t like, just so that I didn’t have to wait in for the electrician or look after a sick child. But a lot of it is fun, and valuable, and irreplaceable. I would not want to give up the time I have with my son when it’s just us and no-one else, nor would I want to watch the house disintegrate into chaos as a result of me resuming a full time career. And as an expat, I would not want a mere four weeks of holiday to take to see family and friends on two continents, nor would I want to be reliant on a housemaid to look after my child every day because I am not there.

I’ve talked a lot in the past about ‘having it all’ and struggled to find peace with only having ‘some’. I believe there is a balance and the more people I meet the more I understand what the balance is and how to achieve it. The next step is to actually do it. So that’s what I’m concentrating on now, to make the most of the many strings on my bow, new skills and old ones, and get out there and work them. I believe I will get there.

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.

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.

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…

Hair today, gone tomorrow

As any woman will know, finding a decent hairdresser is like searching for a needle in a haystack; and when you find the one that can tame your curly/straight/long/short/thin/thick/flyaway hair you will move heaven and earth to keep them. I have short hair that requires a regular 6 week crop and colour to maintain its precision cut and keep away the wavy 80s Princess Diana/Farah Fawcett style it would otherwise morph into if left to its own devices. I am incredibly particular about who cuts my hair and insist that they gaze at old photos of me with longer locks and bad styling before they make the first incision in order to fully understand the horror that awaits if I do not keep it short and in tip top condition.

Princess Diana on a royal visit for the offici...

I am only ever eight weeks and some hair lacquer away from Princess Diana c.1987 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine then, if you will, my dilemma when my hairdressers move away from Dubai nearly as often as my friends do.

In the time I have lived here I have had no less than eight hairdressers. The first time I needed a cut I went to a local salon in the Marina where we lived and he sheared the whole thing with a razor blade and refused to let me look in a mirror until he was finished. And the end result looked…well, like I had sheared my hair with a razor blade and no mirror. After that experience I timed my trips back to the UK often enough to ensure my old stylist could do my cut and colour and when it got too unruly inbetween times I stuck a scarf on my head. Eventually (and it must have been a good year or so later) I decided that commuting back to the UK for a haircut was a little ridiculous and decided to brave the salons of Dubai once more.

I found my next salon from recommendations on the forum of a local website. After a single false start involving a junior stylist and six weeks of sporting a mullet only a Premier League footballer could be proud of, I was booked with a more experienced hairdresser in the same salon who mastered my hair at almost the first cut. She lasted for precisely 8 months until she got pregnant, and as it was unplanned and she was unmarried she had to leave Dubai. Something the manager of the salon failed to inform me of until I arrived one day for my appointment. She offered to do the cut and colour for me instead, so I hesitantly agreed, laid back and thought of England. Literally, because when I looked in the mirror again that’s precisely where I wished I was so that I wouldn’t be staring at my PURPLE hair. Yes, this ‘highly experienced’ manager had managed to use so much toner on my dye job that she’d given me a blue rinse. I spent 2 months using special shampoo and an awful lot of product to try and hide my ultra violet fringe.

Are you keeping score? So far that’s a tally of five. Number six saw a radical rethink. No longer a big fan of trying yet another tinpot outfit in a random high rise on the Sheikh Zayed Road just because a few Jumeirah Janes had had their uniform pencil-straight highlighted long bobs trimmed there, I decided to go with the safe but expensive option and hit Tony and Guy. Amy, my stylist, strolled in looking hip and laid back, kicked off her Loubs before snipping and sculpting the funkiest hair I’d ever had. I finally felt like I’d found my hair mecca.

Of course, this isn’t the end of the story because – guess what – Amy decided that she was going back to London. I was seven months pregnant at the time, extremely hormonal and somewhat devastated. (I may have even cried about it but don’t tell anyone.) I stuck with Tony and Guy, but unfortunately due to circumstance the next hairdresser in line didn’t really stand a chance and she lasted a mere two cuts – one before my son was born and one soon after – before I was swallowed into the world of parenthood where six-weekly trips to the other side of town to sit in a chair and do nothing for two hours were nothing but a dream. I was on the hunt again, and this time my friend came to the rescue and gave me the number for her hairdresser who did home cuts.

Enter Luca. Luca was – is – perfect. Italian, male and straight he is exactly who every woman should want to do her hair. I have always had a theory actually, that the best hairdressers are straight men. Call me hideously politically incorrect, but I think a trip to the salon should be a bit like walking past a building site. I mean, you can pretend to ignore the comments but a bit of attention never hurt anyone, right? Anyway, back to the point. Luca has been my stylist now for three years, and has restyled and resculpted my hair to the point where I am barely recognisable from when he first clapped scissors on me. I absolutely love my hair these days. Love it. So when he announced last month he was leaving Dubai and I threatened to hunt him down, bunny boiler stylie, there is a good chance I meant it.

I feel like I’m being dumped, or worse still let down gently to spare my feelings. He has promised he is keeping on his clients in Dubai and will be back every four to eight weeks, but is this code speak for that throwaway classic ‘let’s stay friends’? Am I keeping a torch burning for him when really I should just find someone new? What if I make a date and he stands me up? Then I will be left desperate and alone, starting all over again with my caveman hair.

I really thought I would make it through to the end of my time here without having to search for yet another hairdresser but now I fear the worst. I am under no illusion that commuting back and forth to Dubai from the UK will be easy to do every month and I suspect the novelty will wear off sometime within the second six months he is gone. But, like all bad breakups, I can’t quite face the thought of moving on and finding someone new just yet. So like a fool, I will do what women have done for time immemorial: I will wait for my hairdresser’s call and if the inevitable happens and he resigns completely I will start the search for someone new and hope that I can find ‘the one’ all over again.

And if not I will be headed back to London SW13 to see if my stylist remembers me from 2006.

You know you are creating an expat brat when…

I’ve been poorly with the ‘flu over the weekend and so instead of getting some much desired family time I’ve spent most of the past few days curled up in a ball shivering. Whilst flaked out on the sofa I stumbled across this blog post about ‘Things you never said until you lived in Dubai’. It got me thinking about writing something myself but I couldn’t face the computer. Then my husband and son got home from Dubai Mall and – hey presto! The work was done for me.

Me: Where did Daddy take you for lunch?

My son (aged not-quite-three): We went to the Armani cafe

Me: Did you?! And what did you have to eat?

My son: I had a wagyu beefburger and fries and dip dip, but the dip dip was too spicy so I asked the man and he gave me some nice dip dip.

Me: A wagyu beefburger hey? Wow, aren’t you lucky?

Having picked myself up off the floor and raised an eyebrow to my other half, who claimed that ‘all the other restaurants were out of kids food’ I realised with a cackle of amusement and horror (I told you I was feeling ill) that we were indeed raising our own little expat brat. So here for your pleasure are the top 10 signs you might be headed that way too:

English: Dubai Mall

Mummy is this our new car? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. They automatically turn left when they get on the plane

2. ‘Lamborghini’ is one of their first 50 words

3. Princess manicures are a Thursday afternoon ritual

4. Their 3rd birthday party cost more that your first car

5. They refuse to wear any polo shirt that doesn’t have a horse sewn on it

6. They think all beaches come with free ice pops and a man that sprays you when it gets too hot

7. They are on first name terms with the staff at the Polo/Golf/Beach club (or indeed, all three)

8. You buy them the cute little housework set from ELC and they leave it outside the maid’s door

9. They can operate Skype before they are out of nappies

10. They think gold and silver are part of the colour spectrum