Man flu

My husband has just diagnosed me as having man flu. Having greeted me this morning by way of ‘you look like sh*t’, accusing me of over-dramatising a mild sense of unwellness seems like a compliment in comparison. But he’s right on both counts: I’m just ill enough to not function in any real capacity, but, with no fever in sight, not actually feeling bad enough to be officially sick; and I do look like sh*t. And actually, he’s been very kind and told me to rest up and get better, while he runs about with the boy all day. This is a luxury I am not about to say no to; I have taken him at his word and vanished as fast as my shakey legs will carry me. However, it being the weekend, I am stuck in our bedroom and can’t sit downstairs watching TV and drinking hot Ribena, which is how I would like to be spending my confinement. I’m tired, but awake. I’m bored but don’t want to do anything. I’m hungry but I don’t want anything to eat. Except maybe a chocolate digestive would be nice, if only we had any. Also, no one likes me very much. On my occasional forays downstairs even my little boy has been full of helpful comments like ‘go away mummy, I don’t want your germs on me’. So instead I’ve laid up here for hours wishing my headache would go away and making a list of things I need to do when it does, that finally got so long I started to go crazy. In a last ditch attempt to rescue myself from utter boredom I’ve grabbed my laptop and decided to write a long overdue post until my head gives in and falls off.

So, happy new year and all that. 2014 was a terrible year, all things considered, and I’m rather glad to see the back of it. When your 40th birthday is the highlight of the year, you know it’s not been a good one. Turning middle aged should definitely not be as awesome as I think it is. But there’s been so much loss and sadness in our family this year that I just can’t say I’ve enjoyed it, despite it being peppered with personal highs like finishing my MA and rocking the improv world (okay, maybe that’s a gross exaggeration, but I’m sick, remember, and taking that cold and flu stuff that makes your head go la la so cut me some slack). Looking back, I’m really just relieved to have got through it with my sanity intact.

Onwards and upwards. I’m totally excited for 2015. It’s a blank canvas for me, in many ways. No more assignments to finish, no feedback that has to be given by Monday night every week. No more milestone birthdays for at least 10 15 years. No more musing that I don’t know what to with my life. I know exactly what I’m doing with it and I love it. I have gasp – spare time. The boy is settled into school and I have successfully avoided all kinds of PTA nonsense this academic year that I so foolishly volunteered for the year before. I am working a few days a week doing something I love that earns me some money, and hit the theatre once a week to be applauded by strangers who think I’m funny. The rest of the time I get to write, and in theory, go to the gym and have a nice long swim in the pool. Mostly I just write. Apart from the possible collapsed lung I am suffering from, life is GOOD.

But it would appear that 2015 is not charming the pants off of everyone. Me, who is renowned for her generally glass half-empty state – or more accurately ‘what f-ing glass?’ – logged off Facebook on Thursday because it was full of grumpy people arguing, posting depressing news and statistics and generally being miserable. Where’s the happy, people? I know it’s January, and January is always a bit rubbish, and maybe it’s the weather, or the dark, or whatever…and I know there are things going on in the world that suck, but there are always things going on in the world that suck. We need happy in our lives to balance all that. Especially when you might have japanese encephalitis.

And that’s what I like about social media, or, at least, what I used to like about it. For every person bemoaning the evil in the world, there was another one in the wings waiting to fill your heart with joy. I know it’s not for everyone but I genuinely enjoy logging on in the morning and seeing what’s been going on around the world while I’ve slept – and I don’t mean ‘the world’; I mean the worlds of the people I’m friends with, who give me a window onto their lives. But those windows are open less and less, holiday snaps and snippets of personal news replaced by quizzes and newspaper articles and marketing. And yes, before you say it, this is a middle aged person speaking. No doubt something waaaaaaay cooler has already been invented that’s taken its place, like, three years ago, and I just don’t know about it. But I’d like to know about it, because I’m fast falling out of love with what I’ve got. Facebook seems to be more of a place to air your political views or promote your business or watch videos of cats than check out what your friends are doing these days. Linked in is just a convenient way to stalk people. Twitter – ugh – is there anything more exhausting than Twitter? – seems to be much the same as Facebook, but just 170,000 times more prolific and annoying. Instagram? Is this my only choice? Do I have to??

Where do you go these days to just hang out and be happy, make sure your friends are happy, and then log off? It may be the rabies talking, but come to think of it, I vaguely remember that it used to be called ‘the pub’.

Happy new year everyone. Now log off, and may your year be filled with happy people and pubs.

Here comes the rain again

The first rain of the year in Dubai, everyone gets incredibly excited. The second time, they all complain about it bitterly. This time the rain is accompanied by cold (by cold I mean below 20C/68F) and so the winter woolies have been broken out, along with umbrellas and raincoats.

Of course in our house the winter woolies are all stacked in a neat pile waiting to be put in suitcases. This is most likely going to be my last post this side of the big man coming, because in three days we fly to the UK and are staying in a field somewhere between the end of the world and the Dark Ages, with no internet or wireless to be found for a clear three miles in any direction. I’m not sure how we are going to cope with this as a family, what with my husband’s blackberry being nicknamed ‘the other wife’ for a few years now, my iphone permanently welded to my hand and my son assuming control of the ipad to the point he knows how to work it better than we do. However, I’m sure we will find a way to manage. Frequent visits to my mother’s house is probably the key.

Anyway, back to the winter woolies. It’s that time of year, when I open up the cold weather wardrobe and assess what is there and discover that I’m staring at decade-old clothing from top shop that I used to wear to the office, intermingled with a few dodgy 50% off jumpers I’ve purchased in the January sales in Dubai over the years. It makes for a sorry collection of clothing but up until now I have refused to spend the money on buying myself stuff for what amounts to two weeks of wear per twelve months of life. I spend a ridiculous amount of money as it is buying new for my son every year, with the intention of selling it off to recoup some of the costs when we return and finding that of course, this being Dubai, no-one wants second hand clothes unless they are free. So the thought of buying for myself has always seemed even more extravagant when I have been able to get away with what I have for so many years.

But this year, I gazed at the pitiful collection and decided I needed to add to it. Trouble is, I have lost my sense of winter style. I have no idea what’s in fashion, or more to the point what isn’t – because most of the year there is no reason to pay attention. It’s hard to shop wooly jumpers and long sleeved dresses when it’s 80 in the shade. It’s hard to imagine how you will be cold enough to require a coat, or even to try one on when you are sweating buckets. My ‘nod’ to winter is getting my nails painted in a berry colour instead of their usual coral or red. Taking off flip flops to try on a pair of fleecy lined boots for size it’s just very difficult to imagine I will ever have cold enough feet to worry about fitting thick socks in them as well.

wallpapers wallpaper christmas sweater sexy nina

This? (Photo credit: 黎湯姆)

I have forgotten how to be cold. I can’t remember how I should cope with party shoes and pantyhose: if I have open toed shoes should I go bare legged and risk pneumonia, or should I get a new pair of shoes that are closed in so I can cover up? (I got new shoes, obviously). Do I wear a coat in the car or take it off so I don’t boil when the heating kicks in? Do pub and restaurants provide extra pashminas for you to pop on if you get chilly? (I suspect this is a Dubai thing). Is it skinny, straight, boot cut or flare this year? Are there any such things as pyjamas that keep you warm and don’t make you look like your Gran? Why are all jumpers hand wash dry flat when you wear them during the worst time of year to get things dry? Is is acceptable to wear jumpers more than once on this basis, as long as they don’t smell of bacon? When do you wear welly boots? Is it every time there is rain or just when it floods? I’m sure I didn’t own wellies for about a decade until we went to Hong Kong to visit my sister, so therefore, Glastonbury excepted, are wellies a middle aged thing rather than a fashion thing in England, and should I not be wearing them at all? How do you wear gloves and not get your rings caught up in them?

Ugly Sweater 2010

Or this? (Photo credit: Sappymoosetree)

There are other, less fashion oriented questions I now ask myself before we leave. Exactly how much moisturiser do I need to wear in order to stop my face and body drying up like some ancient reptile from the cold/wind/central heating? How environmentally unfriendly is having a bath if you run the shower for half an hour anyway because you don’t want to get out? Why has no-one invented a car that de-ices itself? Why do all pubs with working fireplaces feel cold? Is there any way to get my feet thawed out, ever? Why am I in the cold instead of in the sunshine?

But today, we have rain. Dubai has provided me with a sort of purgatory, a place of transition to sit and get comfortable with the concept of dark days, bad traffic and a chill in the air before we travel to the real, slightly more hardcore version on Thursday. So as much as everyone else may be moaning, I am embracing it.

Should I not get chance to write again, I’d like to wish everyone reading safe travels if you are travelling, and a very merry Christmas. I’ve increased my readership by a fairly wild amount this year and for that I am very grateful and not a tiny bit flattered, that my ramblings are still providing entertainment (and maybe a bit of education?). I have certainly enjoyed sharing them with you. I hope that 2013 will find you happy to keep reading and wish you all the very best for the new year. Over and out.

Rubyslippers 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.