A Yuletide Typo

I’m aware it’s only the middle of November, but things are hotting up in our house as the weather outside cools, and the small fella has a moment of realisation that – YESSSSSS! – Christmas is coming. So, the countdown to putting the tree up has begun. Negotiations about which date Christmas songs are allowed to be played on the ipad have started. And we purchased a snowy owl decoration yesterday the boy has fondly christened ‘Owl’. But earlier today whilst in conversation once more about the festive season, I was surprised to find him looking rather sad.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, seeing his face go all serious.

The boy: “Mummy, the Christmas Elves is dead.”

Me, the grammar police: “ARE dead, babe…anyway, not they’re not, what makes you say that?”

The boy: “He is dead like John Lennon.”  (We are currently in the midst of a death obsession and a Beatles obsession, which happily for him, coincide in the form of JL.)

Me (Pause. Try to think like a 4 year old and join the dots. Dawn of realisation. : “Do you mean Elvis?”

The boy: “Yes, the Christmas Elvis that helps Santa.”

After another 15 minutes of explanation, we have closure on this subject, and whilst Elvis is most certainly dead, Christmas is not cancelled and all elves are immediately relieved of sideburns and burgers for the remainder of the festive season. I am however, looking forward immensely to the grotto visits this year when he inevitably asks some dude in a green hat and leggings to sing ‘Hound dog’.

Spare me the drama

Three years ago I was a completely different person. I was lonely, depressed, desperately homesick and, save the odd coffee here or there, completely friendless. I sat at home with my one year old son and tried not to cry quite a lot, wondering how I could make things better and failing to come up with any ideas. It was a very low time in my life and clearly something had to change. With my husband’s support, I revisited an idea I’d had a few years’ previous, and signed up to be part of the Desert Monologues, run by Drama Dubai. An old hand at musical theatre, I’d never done ‘straight’ acting before, and didn’t know what to expect. It was six weeks of workshopping followed by a performance of my very own four minute monologue, playing a knife wielding crazy lady who had murdered her husband for laughing during an argument. I loved it.

Fast forward three years and once a week, sometimes twice, I leave behind my studies, my parental responsibilities, and all the other every day stresses and skip into rehearsals like a very theatrical Bambi. I have been lucky enough to take this exciting journey at a time when the cultural scene in Dubai is really beginning to take off, and as a result, I’ve performed in a play, appeared at the Emirates Literature Festival, the Sikka Art Festival, and Short + Sweet Theatre festival. I am in love with improv’ theatre – from theatresports, to long form, to musical improv (my current squeeze)…anything goes, I can’t get enough. I am surrounded by people who make me laugh – big belly laughing – and they are my kind of people, from all walks of life, who love every aspect of being up on stage just as much as I do.

Six months ago, the owners of Drama Dubai, Kemsley Dickinson and Tiffany Schultz, did something brave and inspiring. They walked us into a boiling hot, dilapidated office space and told us they were going to turn it into a theatre. Into our theatre. The Courtyard Playhouse. I am so proud to have been part of this story, and I’m so excited for what it is about to become – a performing arts space that’s as unique as the people that will fill it.

It’s nearly finished; there are a few things that still need to be done – lights, dressing rooms, and some decent washrooms – and so a crowd funding campaign has been launched to raise the money that’s needed for the project to be completed. Click on the link and watch the video (you will even get to see me in it!) and if the mood takes you, donate what you can to support.

Being an expat often means you are detached, uncommitted, and uninvolved in the society outside of your immediate home, school, and work life. You don’t always get involved like you would at home. I spent a lot of time being that way, and I can say, hand on heart, I wish I hadn’t wasted so much of it. I am immensely grateful to Drama Dubai for handing me a lifeline even if they didn’t know it – and know that I will always carry the most amazing memories with me of this place because of the people I have met by doing all of this, and the experiences it has given me.

If you love theatre, even if you only love watching it, please think about helping enrich our city with something unique and inspiring. Click on the link and grab your wallet, tell your friends, share this post. Be involved – play your part.

That is all.

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Welcome, newbies

September: I crawl down the road behind the shiny new no-dents-in-the-doors 4×4 that carefully weaves its way across the three lanes of traffic using – OMG – INDICATORS to change lanes, and catch the driver’s eye as she ‘Mirror, signal, manoeuvres’ her way into the slip road to Spinney’s. She parks – within the lines – and nudges her door open so as not to disturb the car parked so precariously close to hers, before grabbing her recyclable reusable hessian bag collection from the passenger seat and encouraging her kids to make their way to the store. Once safely inside, she tucks her non-designer sunglasses into her non-designer handbag and consults her list. She spends hours wondering where the organic section is before realising there isn’t one, and does the same for ready-meals. She checks over her shoulders before she enters the ‘Pork for Non-Muslims’ section, even thought she’s perfectly entitled to be there, and hides the sausages and bacon under the rest of her shopping to avoid being detected by the Pig Detectives who haunt every supermarket checking passports for illicit pork consumption. (Okay, don’t panic: I made that bit up). She reaches the checkout and juggles her screeching kids, loading the conveyor belt at one end and packing her shopping at the other, whilst the jaded long-time expat behind her (possibly me) wonders why a) she didn’t let someone else pack the bags, b) why she didn’t leave her kids at home with the maid and c) how many weeks it will be before she leaves the hessian bags in the car and can’t be bothered to go back for them.

Ah yes, it’s September; the birth of a new generation of expats. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, wondering if it’s always this hot (yes, quite a lot of the time – and sometimes its hotter) and if people really do leave their kids with the maid in order to get their grocery shopping done faster (yes) – in fact they will wonder why everyone seems to have a maid and if it’s weird having someone live in your house who cooks, cleans and babysits on demand (yes, it is, until it isn’t, and then it’s just genius). They will no doubt stare aghast at the fashion parade that is the school run, shiver with horror at the cost of birthday parties for an entire classroom of over-priviledged children and wonder if manicures and pedicures are absolutely necessary on a fortnightly basis (again, you’d be surprised). They will join PTA and attend coffee mornings and zumba classes and slowly build a life along with the hundreds of other women going through exactly the same thing. One day soon they might meet me, and ask the standard question, and my answer will be ‘eight years’. They will raise an eyebrow, comment that they can’t possibly imagine being here that long, and they are only here for a couple of years. I will smile, and say ‘that’s what I said’. They will think they know better. But before they even know it, they will find themselves in a three year old car with paint chipped off the doors, skating through slow traffic at warp speed to make a nail appointment and swearing at the woman in her new 4×4 who is actually slowing down at speed humps. And then, newbie, you will know you have truly arrived in Dubai. Welcome. Have fun. Embrace it. And get your nails done.

Reasons to be cheerful

A slightly lazy look at life today, either because a) analysing the Star Wars screenplay for my course has been surprisingly draining,  or b) it’s nearly midnight, I’m still not in bed having swore I would go early, I can barely read the screen my eyes are so tired and I need the bathroom.

So, five things that have made me laugh this week that I thought I would share, for better or worse:

1. ‘Girls’. I just finished Season One and I’m hooked. If you haven’t watched it already, get hold of it. Funny,clever, poignant and goes where no Sex in the City episode would have ever dared to tread. (Note: if you were ever remotely shocked by Kim Cattrall, you might want to skip it)

2. My son and his incessant thirst for knowledge. Question of the week: “Why don’t cats have hands?” A close runner up: “Mummy, can we buy a book about lungs?”

3. The fact that I had a spot on that bit under your nose that really hurts when you have a spot on it. This, per se, did not make me laugh (why the f*** am I still getting spots?) but my idiotic reaction did, in a sort of ironic way reserved usually for people I don’t like very much. Aged 38.5, instead of leaving well alone, I did the mature thing and wrapped my fingers in toilet paper, squeezed until my eyes watered from the pain, then cursed at the resulting sore mess on my face for the next two days. Dumb ass.

4. Relentless Laundry , whose brilliant writing never fails to make me laugh out loud and reassures me that I am not alone.

5. My son, again, this time for managing to fake a limp so realistically I made a two hour round trip to the physio to get him checked out at a cost of $100. He told me in the car on the way home “it was just a pretend bad leg”. This has not made me laugh yet but I’m sure I will look back on it one day with a smile.

Happy Monday y’all.

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.

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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.

The little things

We are home and yes it’s raining and cold, but I really don’t care. It is wonderful to be back, for the obvious reasons of course, but increasingly, I realise, it’s the smallest, simplest pleasures that make it so great to be back. So here is just one of them, from this morning, that made me smile. It might not seem like much, but looking out from the kitchen window this morning to see a little dappled sunshine through the greenery and the pretty pink flowers along the sill is such a beautiful sight after months of staring at sand and concrete that I just had to snap it and share it. It’s the little things…

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