Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2016: Week 11

I had another busy week and a whole lot of work to do. I managed to fit in a few gym and yoga sessions too…

I met a friend for coffee on Sunday afternoon. We went to The Brass at the new Citywalk extension. We sat outdoors – but we didn’t find the chairs particularly comfortable and we also had to keep swatting the flies away! I guess the weather is starting to get warmer, which brings the flies.

I had a busy Monday – with a session with Pete, a piano lesson and Arabic in the evening. I often get no real work done on a Monday (just emails and other random bits and pieces) as I’m in and out of the flat all day. I’d wanted to go to Art Night at DIFC but by the time I was done with Arabic it was late and I was knackered.

I did make it to Art Dubai on Tuesday evening though. I’d been invited to the opening and took a friend (V) with me. We got there at around 8pm (it took us an hour to get to the Madinat because of an accident on Sheikh Zayed Road) and had a look around. It was pretty busy, considering it was the Patron’s Circle opening – and people were more interested in being seen than actually looking at any art. We decided to walk through the two halls and then get some food and drinks, before heading over to the main bar. I bumped into another friend and V and I joined him and his friends for some drinks. We left just before midnight, both of us having early starts on Wednesday.

I was tired on Wednesday, and very tempted to have a nap after my session with Pete! But I had work to do, so I didn’t. I also had to finish off my Arabic homework and go to class!

I thought I’d be able to get a lot of work done on Thursday. I went to yoga in the morning and had lunch with NP at Zuma. I hadn’t seen her in months so it was great to catch up. We both ordered the business lunch – you get a miso soup, two starters and a main course for AED 130. I ordered the beef skewers and prawn gyoza for starters and the seabass for my main course. She ordered the Zuma salad and the gyoza for her starters and had the black cod for her main course. We also ordered a portion of the tuna tataki from the a la carte menu for the table (which mostly I ate).

I got home after lunch, got into my pajamas and settled down to do some work. About 30 minutes later, the doorbell rang. Some friends of ours were in town and popped in to see us before leaving that evening. They stayed until 7pm – so I got no work done. I started working after dinner and didn’t finish until 3.30am.

I was tired on Friday but carried on working for some of the day. I met up with a friend for dinner. We went to Loca at Souk al Bahar. We got a table in the bar area and ordered some drinks while it was still happy hour. She had wine, I had margaritas. We also ordered a portion of the spinach and artichoke dip to share. I later realised that there was no artichoke in it at all, it was just spinach. We both had the jalapeno prawns for our main course.

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It’s definitely my favourite thing on their menu. When we left Souk al Bahar, we got into the cab and I suggested we go to Zuma for a drink. It wasn’t even 10pm yet, but Zuma was pretty empty when we got there. We only stayed for a drink and left. It took me almost 40 minutes to get home from Zuma – there was so much traffic at that time of night!

I took it easy on Saturday and then went for a walk on the beach. We went early and caught the sun setting.

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I was home by 7.15pm. Dad and I had dinner together and another week was over.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2016: Week 7

After a very dull week the week before, it was business as usual this week.

Sunday was Valentine’s Day and after the gym that morning, I spent some of the afternoon working. I decided to treat myself to a 90-minute massage at Spa Zen in the late afternoon. It was just what I needed. That evening my dad took my mum and I out for dinner. I chose Taste of Italy by Heinz Beck at Galleria Mall – a friend of mine had been there recently and said the truffle pasta was to die for. Sold!

Everything on the menu looked good – and I came very close to having the red snapper but in the end the truffle pasta won. For starters I ordered the marinated salmon with sour cream, Dad had the seafood salad and Mum had the seabass carpaccio. Everything was excellent. For my main course I had the truffle pasta.

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Dad had the baked seabass and Mum wanted a side order of mashed potatoes (tut, honestly). I’m sure my pasta was about 1000 calories but I loved every bit of it. We shared a passion fruit crème brûlée for dessert.

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I would definitely go back there again.

My Monday was busy. I had a session with Pete in the morning, worked all afternoon and an Arabic class in the evening.

Apart from the gym on Tuesday I was at home, working in my pajamas.

I had another session with Pete on Wednesday. Before my Arabic class I had some errands to run at Mercato and when I left the mall at 5.30 it was pouring. In just the 15 seconds it took for me to get into the car, I got drenched. Luckily the rain had almost stopped by the time I got to the Trade Centre Tower, but there was a huge puddle at the bottom of the staircase and I ended up going halfway round the building via the carpark to get into the building. And by the time my class was over it had stopped altogether.

It was my last Arabic class of Intermediate 1 so we had an assessment. We were allowed to look up words in our books (thank God) and I managed to do the whole assessment written in Arabic. I was also the first to finish by almost 20 minutes so the teacher went through the paper with me once I’d finished. I was quite pleased with what I’d done, but my brain was totally fried after that!

I got home at 9pm and had a late dinner with my parents and some of their friends who had come over.

I went to yoga on Thursday morning and then met a friend for lunch at The Sum of Us. I had a green juice and the smoked salmon omelette with goats cheese. My friend had the veal schnitzel, and he said it was pretty good. We shared a slice of carrot cake for dessert and had some coffee.

After lunch I went to the Hummingbird Bakery at Citywalk to collect some mini cupcakes I’d ordered. It was about 2.30pm but Citywalk was packed – I didn’t think it would be so busy in the middle of a weekday afternoon. Once I got home, I got into my pajamas and worked for the rest of the day.

I’d been invited to a friend’s place for tea on Friday afternoon (hence the mini cupcakes) – it was just a small close crowd: me, her, her parents, a friend who was visiting with her 10-week-old baby and her mum, and a couple of other friends with their 1-year-old daughter. I was the first to arrive so my friend, her mum and I sat outside by the pool for a little while until the others arrived. It was a bit chilly for the baby outdoors so we moved inside. It was a lovely afternoon and I didn’t leave there until 7.30pm. My plan was to go home and change for a party at some friends’ place but in the end I just quickly stopped at home to freshen up and pick up a bottle of vodka and some chocolates.

It was such a fun evening – it was same group I’d been to China Grill with a few weeks ago so I knew it would be pretty boozy and at some point there would be loads of 80s music! I drank a lot of vodka – and I was making my own drinks which is never a good thing as I’m sure they get stronger and stronger as the night goes on. I got home at around 3am (I think).

I felt like hell on Saturday and had a really bad squink. A ‘squink’ is a word I coined to describe the feeling of being hungover with a stabbing pain in either or both eyes. Each time I blink it feels as if the Devil himself is stabbing my eyeball with his pitchfork, causing my eye to water uncontrollably and usually remain swollen for the rest of the day. And it’s usually my left eye (although I once had a double squink – which was pure torture). It’s not pretty. And it only started happening after I’d had my laser eye surgery in 2003. My siblings used to laugh at me in those days – and then it started happening to them too. That, my friends, is called Karma!

I was supposed to meet some friends at Purobeach at 11.30 but at 11.20 I was still in bed. I’d warned them the day before that there was a good chance I’d be hungover so they weren’t too surprised when I said I was going to be late. So, looking and feeling a bit like Shrek, I got ready and went over to the Conrad – I was there by 12.15 and kept my eyes fully covered with my sunglasses! It was still watering a little but not too badly. The four of us chatted for a while and then noticed a woman with long red hair (dyed) spilling out of her tiny bikini top. And then she stood up and bent over and we realised she was wearing a G-string. Oh. My. God. I would say she was perhaps a bit bigger than me – but she must have some serious body confidence to prance around wearing almost nothing! We were mesmerized – it was a bit like a car crash – we just couldn’t look away.

We had lunch at the Purobeach restaurant. We’ve all been trying to eat healthily this year and the three of them ordered salads. My hangover demanded that I have the hot dog and fries and a Coke. It was exactly what I needed. We went back to our sunbeds for a little while longer and then left at around 4pm.

I spent the rest of the day catching up with emails and some TV shows. I couldn’t focus on much else!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 16

Another busy week!

After my session with Trevor on Sunday morning, my sister, her husband and I took the kids to the Shangri-La pool. We’d wanted to do this for a while but V2 had been quite unwell and coughing so we thought we’d wait for him to get better. It was his first time in a swimming pool. V1 had insisted from the beginning of their holiday that there was absolutely no way he was going to go swimming. My sister told him to just wear his swimming trunks anyway, and that he didn’t have to come in the water.

We got to the poolside at about 1pm and there were no sunbeds available. We put our stuff down in the lounge area and got V2 ready for his first dip. There were no tears, no fuss. He was very happy floating around in his inflatable turtle! V1 still refused to get in. We were all in the shallow children’s pool and kept pushing V2 back and forth in his turtle. Eventually V1 suggested he might dip his feet in. But just his feet. Once he’d dipped his feet in it didn’t take long for him to put on his armbands, take off his T-shirt and get in the pool with us! At about 2.30pm we sent V2 back home for his milk and nap. V1 was still jumping around in the kids’ pool.

So, we ordered some lunch and some wine. V1 had a couple of chicken nuggets, said he wasn’t hungry any more and got straight back in the pool. Then he insisted that we all go to the big pool. He was really enjoying himself!

At about 4pm, I decided to walk home. V1 was still in the pool with his parents. My sister later told me that on their way home, she asked him if he’d had a good time. ‘Not really,’ he responded. Cheeky!

That evening we had dinner at Silver Fox Steakhouse at Citywalk. We took V1’s dinner from home as they didn’t really have a children’s menu and ordered him some French fries too. He ordered his dessert while we were having our main course – it was the biggest slice of chocolate cake I’ve ever seen. It was bigger than his head!

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Of course, he couldn’t finish it. He had a few bites and then fell asleep. We were all tired from being out in the sun that afternoon. The car had to make two trips to get us all back home so Dad and I walked around while we waited for the car to come back for us.

I worked at home on Monday and Tuesday. Vs 1 and 2 and their parents left for Lagos on Wednesday morning. They left at around 6.45am and I went back to bed. Trevor had also cancelled our session and I was so pleased I could have a lie-in! I had some friends in town who were staying at the Atlantis for the week so I went to meet them for lunch. I got there at 1pm and one of them was waiting for me in the lobby. We walked to where he had left his wife and kids by the pool – it was packed! There wasn’t one sunbed free – and the pool area is huge. We ordered some fresh juice and chatted while the kids went back in the pool. We walked over to Nasimi Beach and had lunch there. It was a really hot day. We ordered a couple of salads and the sushi platter. It was too hot for anything else. I had to leave at around 4pm as I had a piano lesson that afternoon.

After my piano lesson (I started learning a song called ‘Take me to church’), I met up with a friend at Calabar. I still had a bottle of Pinot Grigio left over from my birthday drinks and had to finish it before Friday. We ended up ordering a second bottle and I had more sushi as my dinner. I was home early though, before 10pm.

On Thursday I was at home during the day, catching up on work. That evening I went to the Capital Club party with some friends who are members. The theme this year was ‘The 7-year itch’. There were a lot of Marilyn wigs and dresses, and one woman even showed up in an itsy bitsy teeny weeny (pink) polka dot bikini! The spread of food was amazing. Last year we made the mistake of drinking first and missed out on all the good food. This year, we knew exactly what to do!

After a couple of drinks, we went down to the third floor. There was a seafood section with oysters, lobster, smoked salmon and different kinds of ceviche. Yum. They also had the champagne bar on that floor. After we were done with the seafood, we were able to walk through the kitchen where they had fresh caviar (I’m not a fan) and where they were preparing the foie gras. Gosh, it was so good. And it was empty! So we hung around there for a bit and decided to go back upstairs.

We stopped on the fourth floor to see what was on offer there – there was one room where they were preparing salt beef sandwiches and nothing else. Again, that room was empty at this point. After the salt beef we decided to go back up to the main bar and maybe try and find somewhere to sit. On the way back up the stairs, I could smell cheese – and remembered from the year before that there was a whole room with nothing but cheese in it. We decided to come back for it in a little while. We found a table out on the terrace and made ourselves comfortable. It was nice to sit down! We spent an hour there – someone went in and came back with two plates of cheese. Heaven! Once the bar on the fifth floor closed, we went back down to the fourth floor. Earlier in the evening they had different live bands on each floor, but now they’d set up the DJ and dance floor – and we danced the rest of the night. Until 3am. Until they threw us out (in a nice way). None of us took any photos which was a shame. On the way out there was a guy passed out on the sofa – and I did take a photo of that, but nobody really wants to see it.

By the time I got home it was almost 4am and I was exhausted. I woke up on Friday at 10am. I wasn’t hungover – I had stuck to vodka the night before – but I was tired. I got ready and went to a friend’s champagne breakfast for her birthday at her place. I picked up a friend on the way and we got to her place at about 11.30. She had scrambled eggs, cold cuts, croissants and champagne. It was a really nice start to the day – and the view from her balcony is gorgeous!

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I also liked the way she was collecting champagne corks!

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At 1pm her limo arrived to take everyone to Cove Beach at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. I had declined this part of the invitation as I knew it would be a long day and I knew I would be tired from the night before.

I went home, got into bed and tried to do some work. I also tried to have a nap but couldn’t. That evening I had a friend in town from London for the weekend (the same one from January and February). We went to the 40th birthday part of one of his friends – it was at the Atlantis, in one of the ballrooms. I knew more people there than I thought I would. Champagne was flowing, we had some dinner – my friend who was staying at the hotel joined us for a drink too (she abandoned her kids and husband for an hour). There were also live performances by Apache Indian (yes, he’s still alive) and Sukhbir. It was a fun evening – lots of dancing – but it was another late night and I got home after 3am.

I didn’t want to wake up on Saturday. I stayed in bed for as long as possible and then got out of bed for lunch. Later that afternoon I met a couple of friends for coffee at the Dubai Mall. They were already at Papparoti so I joined them there. It was my first time at Papparoti and they just couldn’t believe I’d never tried it. Part of me hadn’t wanted to try it because I thought I’d like it so much I’d be eating their buns all the time. I ordered a ginger milk tea (low fat) and had a bite from one of the buns they’d ordered. It was… OK. I think I’d heard so much about these buns that I was a little disappointed. At least I know I won’t be tempted by them again! After we said our goodbyes, I ended up buying two dresses from Debenhams – and then went home.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 12

I had a busy week with work and most of my plans to attend Art Dubai went out the window.

I had a session with Trevor on Sunday and then decided I was going to finally open my new laptop! Later that day I went to Spa Zen at the Radisson Royal for a massage. I wanted to use my Entertainer voucher before it expired at the end of March – they give a gift voucher which you can use for the second massage. The week before I’d been to the Oberoi and they told me I’d have to take the second massage before the end of March as that’s when the Entertainer voucher expired. I was prepared for the same thing to happen at the Oberoi, but instead they gave me a voucher valid for six months! Awesome – so I didn’t have to rush to use it (although I was fully prepared to squeeze in another massage before the end of the month).

I worked all day on Monday. I’d wanted to go to Art Night at DIFC but had too much work to do. I still had work to do on Tuesday but some friends of ours were in town so my dad and I took them out for lunch. We went to Don Alfonso – I’d been raving about it so much that Dad wanted to try it. We got there a little after 1.30 without a reservation and were shown to a table. I have to say it’s much more crowded at lunch than it was the last Thursday evening. They had a set menu for lunch.

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I thought that AED125 for two courses and dessert was very good value for money! I started with the seared tuna and capers (I love capers) – our friends ordered the buffalo mozzarella and tomato starter – the amount of mozzarella was huge – it was about the size of a tennis ball! For my main course I had the beef tagliata.

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It was excellent. I was full after that but as dessert was included we ordered a few things to share, including the almond lueco fagon – the waiter told me it was similar to cheesecake (it wasn’t, but it was still good).

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After lunch, I went to Holland & Barrett at Citywalk. I wanted to pick up some vitamins and the other things Dr Leila had mentioned in her talk the week before. I bought three things: a Holland & Barrett multivitamin for women, Omega 3 capsules and a probiotic. The total for those three things was AED360 – so expensive! I think I’ll have to stock up the next time I’m in London… After leaving there, I went to Boots next door and that’s when I discovered that instead of giving me AED140 in change, the shop assistant at Holland & Barrett had only given me AED90. So I went back, fully prepared for an argument. I told her what had happened and she just handed over the other AED50. Had she done it intentionally? I never check my change – perhaps I need to start!

It was almost 5pm by the time I got home and I finally settled down to do some work.

After my session with Trevor on Wednesday morning, I worked all day. And I mean all day. I cancelled my piano lesson that afternoon and knew I wasn’t going to make it to the opening night of Art Dubai which I’d been looking forward to. After last year, I somehow managed to make it on to the Collector’s Circle VIP list and wanted to make the most of all the talks they were holding! But work comes first.

I finally made it on Thursday. Some friends and I had decided we’d meet for a late dinner so we could have a look around Art Dubai beforehand. With various work commitments and traffic, it was almost 9pm by the time we got to Madinat Jumeirah and I noticed that they were closing at 9.30pm! I didn’t think we’d have enough time but in retrospect I think that’s the best time to go! By 9pm on Thursday, everyone was already at the bar and the halls weren’t crowded at all – we actually managed to walk around the exhibition in about 45 minutes. There were some stunning pieces of work – and there were some which made me wonder why they were there. I loved this person in prayer but I wish I’d taken it from different angles so that the letters were clearer.

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After walking around, my friend and I picked up a third friend from the Abraaj Lounge and walked over to MJ’s Steakhouse at Al Qasr where we were meeting our fourth for the evening.

We decided to skip the starters and go straight for the main course. I had the 200 g Wagyu steak and a side of macaroni and cheese (for the table – ahem). The food was delicious. We also had a couple of bottles of Shiraz – and it was a really lovely chilled evening.

It was only about 12.30 when we left Al Qasr and three of us decided to go to the Four Seasons for a drink. I hadn’t been there yet and had been wanting to see it. The hotel is stunning. We went up to Mercury Lounge, their rooftop bar. We were met with Randy Crawford’s ‘Street Life’ playing extremely loudly and one couple dancing furiously by themselves, between the bar and the lounge area. I thought they might be the ‘entertainment’ as they seemed to be very keen on the song!

After the chilled evening we’d had, none of us were in the mood for loud 80s music so we decided to try the bar in the lobby, Hendricks Bar. It was quiet and comfortable – just what we were looking for. We went through the wine list, thinking we’d share a bottle of rose but all they had was Whispering Angel (which the three of us had had before at La Serre) – either by the glass or a magnum. We certainly weren’t going to finish a magnum at that time of night between the three of us, so we ordered three glasses (at AED95 each – rip-off!). The waiter brought the magnum over with three glasses and poured it for me to try. It was nowhere near chilled and I told him so. ‘But it’s been in the fridge, madam,’ was his response. He was such a condescending shit I almost asked him whether the fridge was actually switched on. There was no doubt the glasses had been chilled, but the wine certainly wasn’t. At AED95 per glass, I expect chilled wine. We decided we’d all have a Belvedere and soda (my first vodka since 2nd January) and I asked for some fresh lime juice on the side. The lime juice never turned up and I just could not be bothered to ask for it again. We had one drink and left – it was after 2.30 by this time!

I met up with a friend for lunch on Friday. He had a friend staying with him so the three of us (and his puppy) went to Maison Bagatelle on the Boulevard for lunch. Even though it was cloudy, it was a surprisingly hot day but because we had the puppy with us we had to sit outside. I got there first and ordered a refreshing cucumber, apple, mint and ginger juice while I waited for the others to arrive. I ended up having the nicoise salad, my friend had the full English breakfast and his friend had the tapenade and a salad. We also ordered a truffle mac and cheese to share.

After lunch, we walked back to his place. The Classic Car Festival was on so we saw a few rare cars and then decided to walk through Burj Park. We opened a bottle of wine at his place, watching the activity on the Boulevard.

Mini Coopers on display

Mini Coopers on display

I went home after that. My mum arrived that evening so my parents and I stayed in for dinner and ordered some Chinese food.

I was home all day on Saturday. That evening, my mum’s cousins were having a housewarming at their new house in Emirates Hills. Mum was too tired to go so Dad and I went together. The dinner was outside in the garden – and it was such a lovely evening. I met some people I hadn’t seen in a while, had some dinner (catered by Royal Orchid) and was home by midnight. Perfect for a Saturday.

And that was my week!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2014: Week 13

The week started off much quieter than the previous week. I was busy at work on Sunday and Monday – the April issue finally went to press! I’m really pleased with this issue – my editorial was easy to write and I’ve got an article and photo published in the issue too.

On Monday morning I went to the clinic for my blood test. I’d been dreading it because every time I have a blood test I end up being stuck with needles as my veins are difficult to find. My record is eight times, spread over two days (they gave up after a few times on the first day). By the end of the second day, the doctors were looking at my ankles and I told them there was no way they were sticking needles in my ankles. They eventually found a viable vein in my wrist. The pain in my fingers had vanished which was a relief. I was called in to the nurses’ station and a male nurse sat me down and tried to find a vein. He told me he could see one in my right arm and started preparing me for it. I really had my doubts – but he did it the first time. I was so impressed!

On Monday evening I had dinner with NP at Toko Dubai. We went early – I’d booked for 8pm and the place was rather empty. I guess 8pm is early for Dubai! NP had never eaten there so was happy to go along with most of my suggestions: rice chips, nasu dengaku, beef gyoza and Japanese salad to begin with. For our next course we had the soft-shell crab tempura, grilled avocado and seared salmon maki. For dessert we shared the green tea ice cream and coconut sorbet.

I decided to work at home on Tuesday. The doctor called with my blood test results. She said I was severely anaemic – that my iron levels are ‘on the floor’ and my haemoglobin levels are so low that I’m a fraction away from a blood transfusion. Oh great. She said she would prescribe iron tablets which I’d have to take three times a day and have a blood test in another week to see if there was any improvement.

I went to my piano lesson that evening – we went through various patterns you can use with the left hand while playing the melody with the right hand. He also gave me some new music (‘Let It Go’ from Frozen) and a couple of others. I had wanted to walk home after my lesson but it was raining.

When I woke up on Wednesday it was still raining. And by the time I left for work it was pouring. I stopped at the clinic to collect my prescription and tried to get what I needed at the pharmacy in the same complex. They didn’t have ferrous sulfate 200 mg so she offered me ferrous sulfate 80 mg. Well, that’s not what the prescription says, is it? I declined and told her I’d find somewhere else. I went to work (waste of time) and got a lift back to the Dubai Mall from a friend. I rarely go to the mall but I needed something to wear for my birthday drinks on Friday.

He dropped me off at the Waitrose entrance so I went to the pharmacy next to the supermarket – they didn’t have ferrous sulfate. I went to Boots – they didn’t have it. I went to one more pharmacy and they didn’t have it either. I picked up a dress and then on my way home stopped at Life Pharmacy on Al Wasl. The pharmacist told me that they only had ferrous sulfate 80 mg and that’s the highest dose pharmacists are allowed to stock. If I wanted 200 mg I’d have to go to a hospital. Now why couldn’t the first pharmacy have told me that? It would have saved me a lot of time and irritation! In the end I went with the 80 mg but just got double the quantity!

I took the day off on Thursday. I did some work at home and had an early dinner at the Meat Company in Souk Al Bahar with a couple of friends. I was tired and I didn’t want to be hungover the following day. I was home by 10pm – my parents were out and came home shortly afterwards. ‘Are you ill?’ my dad asked (as I knew he would). No, of course not. ‘Why are you home so early?’

On Friday I’d organised drinks at 40 Kong at the H Hotel from 6pm onwards. My birthday wasn’t until Sunday but Sunday is a working day here… I was at 40 Kong with a friend shortly after 6pm just in case anyone did show up at that time! It was a little chilly up on the 40th floor but at least it wasn’t raining! We ordered a bottle of Prosecco and watched the sun set.


My guests started arriving from about 7pm onwards. It was a fun evening – a very mixed crowd but everyone seemed to get on with everyone else. And then, my surprise cake was brought out. The cake that stole my thunder. Everyone wanted a photo of it – I don’t even know where my two friends got it from and they still won’t tell me! All that was left of it was this:


At about 1am, most people had gone and a friend and I decided we were hungry and went to Zaatar w Zeit. I was home by 2.15. I’d had a really fun night and I think everyone had a good time.

I woke up on Saturday feeling exhausted. I was home for most of the day and then went to meet a couple of friends at Iris for drinks. I was only there for a couple of hours and had two glasses of red wine and really wished I’d had only one. It started to make me feel sick – and I don’t normally drink red wine any more. I got to Sapore di Bice at CityWalk where I was meeting my parents for dinner and nothing on the menu appealed to me. I thought I’d go with something simple and ordered the penne arrabiata. Yes, it’s boring, but it was a safe choice. When the food arrived I started to feel much better! We were home by 11pm and I watched a couple of episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2014: Week 11

After another crazy weekend, I was exhausted. I had a session with Trevor on Sunday morning and went to work.

That evening two friends and I had signed up for a Restronaut event at Spill the Bean, a coffee shop at the mall. I’d been on the Restronaut mailing list for several months but this was the first time I’d been compelled to attend an event. The email said:

The Outpost is a Beirut-based magazine about possibilities in the Arab world. The magazine was named by the Guardian as the successor to the Economist. The Editor in Chief is in town for the weekend. Join him in this gathering where he’ll talk about how stories can impact societies and cultures and the quest to create a magazine with a mission to change the world. Join this table if you’re interested in creativity, media and culture. If you’re a writer, artist, film-maker or thinker, this gathering’s for you.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? It cost AED 70 to attend which included a coffee and a selection of cakes and muffins. We got there at 7pm and met a few people at our table – we were supposed to be 11 in total but at that time we were only five. There were a few copies of The Outpost being passed around. I have to say it’s a beautifully produced quarterly magazine, the kind you would be proud to display on your coffee table. It’s printed on high quality matt paper and is very text heavy. I would buy it – and it would probably take me three months to get through each issue. The editor in chief told us that it was in its second year of publication and until now had been financed by himself and a few investors. He was looking for fundraising ideas. Or perhaps he was just looking for money – because whenever someone made a suggestion I don’t think he gave any of them much consideration. I can understand that when you’ve worked so hard and someone tells you to change it, it’s difficult – you have your own ideas of how things should be. But then why ‘invite’ people to discuss these issues? I felt a bit bad for the editor in chief – I think he came under attack by a few people who asked why, if the magazine was aimed at change in the Arab world, it was published in English? Wasn’t that considered elitist? I left at about 8:30pm. I was tired and was disappointed by the evening. I think the description of the event was misleading and didn’t think it applied to writers, artists, film-makers or thinkers. But that could just be me.

On my way home I spoke to my parents. They were having dinner at Silver Fox Steakhouse at Citywalk so I joined them. I was tired and hungry and a steak sounded so good. I ordered the 6 oz. petite filet. It was served with mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. It was just perfect. We got home, I got into bed and passed out.

I woke up on Monday with a sore throat and fever and was home until Wednesday.

On Wednesday I decided I had to get back to the office – I had so much to do! I met a friend for lunch at the Urban Bistro. I really like that place. We shared the chicken and avocado wrap and the smoked salmon focaccia sandwich. I had a green juice to drink. I really wanted a Coke but they didn’t have any!

On Thursday night some friends and I went to Toko for dinner. I’d been thinking about the beef gyoza since the last time I’d eaten there!

It had been cloudy all day and by the evening it was drizzling. I was worried because I’d booked a table outdooors. I got there about 20 minutes early as my parents were dropping me off so I decided to have a drink at the bar while I was waiting for the others to arrive. It wasn’t very pleasant – it had that stale bar/cigarette/alcohol smell that you find in cheap bars and it really put me off. Luckily my friends showed up on time and we moved to our table.

I have to say the food was amazing. For starters we had the spicy edamame, crispy rice chips (okowa age), nasu dengaku, the warm French bean salad and the beef gyoza. We ordered one dish at a time so we could enjoy each dish without worrying about the other dishes getting cold!

After our starters we ordered some sushi – prawn tempura rolls and spicy tuna rolls.

By the time we were supposed to order main course we were quite full but we ordered the grilled avocado (excellent) and the grilled scallops.

All the food was incredible and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

For dessert we ordered the chocolate and hazelnut fondant. Once we had demolished that we ordered another. Fantastic! Our bill was a nightmare though – between us we’d had 24 vodkas. It would have been cheaper to buy a bottle!

I was home all day on Friday – I stayed in my pajamas, did some work and caught up on some TV shows.

On Saturday I was home for most of the day and then met up with a friend at Iris. They have a chill-out Saturdays where selected wines and cocktails are half price and you get free food between 5pm and 9pm. We got there at around 7pm, it wasn’t crowded and we got a table. I had the rose wine and my friend had the red wine. We were brought a platter of food to share – crudites and dip, cheese, olives, bresaola, spring rolls. It was quite substantial. We were there way beyond 9pm though and I got home at about 1.30am, already dreading having to wake up the next day.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2014: Week 10

After my crazy weekend, I was exhausted. I had a session with Trevor on Sunday morning and went to work. Still no sign of the March issue! As I was waiting for the lift to leave, one of the guys saw me and said the magazine would be at the office in 20 minutes. Would I wait? I decided not to – I’d see it the next day. And anyway, I wouldn’t be able to change anything if I spotted any mistakes (which always happens after publication!).

I got home, my parents went to a movie so I caught up with some TV, practised the piano, had some dinner and decided to have an early night. I was asleep before midnight!

The downside of going to bed so early meant that I was up before 6am. I don’t know if I was already awake or whether the call to prayer woke me up, but I couldn’t get back to sleep after that – no matter how hard I tried!

I got to the office by noon and my first issue of the magazine was on my desk! So exciting!

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I was home by 5pm that evening and spent the rest of the evening working.

After work on Tuesday, I had a piano lesson. Instead of going through what I’d been learning over the last few weeks, my teacher decided to go back to the music I’d learned at the very beginning but use more complicated chords and rhythms in the bass. It was quite fun! Straight after my lesson I went to DIFC where I was meeting a couple of girls for ladies night. The plan was to meet at Caffe Florian, then go to The Gramercy and then end up at Caramel where we’d get some food as well. When we got there we realised that Caffe Florian wasn’t open, so we went straight to The Gramercy at 6:30. We each ordered a drink as ladies night didn’t begin until 7pm. At 7pm we were each given four vouchers for free drinks. These went down really quickly. Another friend joined us but as she wasn’t drinking, she ordered a non-alcoholic drink and gave us her remaining three vouchers. At 9pm we couldn’t decide whether to go to Caramel or not – and made a good call to go home. We’d had six drinks each and I also wasn’t up for a very late night.

I had a session with Trevor and worked at home on Wednesday – uneventful!

On Thursday I had to go to a workshop at the Literature Festival. This year I decided to pay the extra money to be a ‘friend’ of the festival. As I was early I sat in the Friends’ Lounge (lovely outdoor space) and had some water and a cup of tea. The workshop was run by Anita Papas, a psychologist from Lebanon, and she was speaking about positivity. I went because I was going to interview her for the magazine. I wasn’t sure what to expect from an ‘interactive workshop’ but she did most of the talking. She was interesting – it wasn’t information I didn’t already know but putting these things into practice is always harder than one imagines (I think). After the session I waited for her to finish her book signing (and ended up buying three books) and we had a quick chat in one of the rooms. It wasn’t an interview really – by then I’d decided to write about what she covered in her workshop and there wasn’t much else she could tell me. I thought about getting a bite to eat at the festival but in the end went home.

That night some friends and I went to see Eric Clapton at the Media City Amphitheatre. It was much more crowded than when Alicia Keys performed in November. I didn’t recognise the first few songs and it was only when one of my friends and I were stuck in the longest drinks queue ever that he played ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ and ‘Wonderful Tonight’. Typical. We got our drinks, headed back to the others and he played ‘Tears in Heaven’. The audience was quiet during this song. I don’t even know how he sings it without crying. He played a few more songs that I didn’t know and by 11pm it was over. He didn’t play ‘Change the World‘ which was disappointing as it’s one of my all-time favourite songs.

After the concert we went to Icon, the bar at the Radisson Blu, to avoid the mad rush for taxis. There was no avoiding the mad rush for drinks though as several people had the same idea! We were there till almost 2am and drank far too much wine.

On Friday morning I woke up feeling like hell and realised I’d missed the first session of the day at the Literature Festival. I don’t know what I was thinking booking a session for 10am but I didn’t make it. Luckily it wasn’t someone I really wanted to see. One of my friends was at the festival so I got ready and met her for lunch at Jamie’s Kitchen. I ordered the pasta of the day which was spaghetti with crab meat, olive oil and chillies. Yummy! My first afternoon session was with Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer (and four other books I haven’t read yet).

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If you haven’t read The Horse Whisperer, please do. Just read the first chapter and you’ll be hooked. I read it when it was first published and I’ve never forgotten it – it has one of the best opening chapters I’ve ever read. I could never bring myself to watch the movie though.

He talked about how he got started, how he was in so much debt when he started writing The Horse Whisperer, how six UK publishers were fighting over his book at the Frankfurt Book Fair – literally passing one page after the other to the next person once it had been read. He also said that the day he was told he’d sold his book (even though he hadn’t finished it yet) he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and wasn’t sure he’d even live long enough to finish it. He said he had visions of his children being left with nothing, and an unfinished manuscript that could have been their future… He also said that a few years ago, he and his wife and a couple of relatives were poisoned by deadly mushrooms that they’d collected. He said they all had to undergo dialysis for years and eventually had a transplant using a kidney donated by his daughter. He’s such an interesting guy – and lovely to talk to. I bought a copy of his latest book The Brave and he signed it for me. He asked me what my name meant. ‘That’s quite a name!’ he said. I wonder if he’ll use it in his next book…

By the time he’d signed my book, I was late getting to my next session which was with Jojo Moyes. I’d only ever read one of her books (Me Before You) but thought she would be interesting to listen to. She was very funny and so down to earth. I picked up a couple of her books (she says none of them are alike) and she signed them for me.

I love the Literature Festival, but clearly it isn’t for everyone!

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I got home at about 5.30, did some work and then got ready for my evening at Music Hall at the Zabeel Saray on the Palm. A friend was going with some friends and asked me if I wanted to join them so I’d said yes. I got there at about 10.15pm.

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So what happens is every half an hour there’s a live act that comes on stage. Between the live performances there’s a DJ playing music. It starts off quite civilised – the DJ played a few songs from the 70s and 80s – but as the evening progresses the DJ and the live acts get more current. The first act I saw was a country singer (‘Take It Easy’ by The Eagles), then there was a Russian folk singer, then there was an Arabic instrumental group, then a Brazilian group, then a couple of Arabic guys, a reggae act, it just went on and on. People were dancing everywhere and the place was packed. At about 2am I thought it would be wise to leave as I knew getting a cab at 3am when the club closed would be a nightmare. I was home by 2.45 and couldn’t wait to get into bed.

On Saturday I met a friend for lunch at La Serre. We met in the lobby of the Vida Hotel at 1pm. I love this hotel – there’s always a beautiful display in the lobby.

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We walked downstairs to La Serre and got a table outside – the weather was amazing and I felt like I was on holiday. Earlier in the week, I’d seen a friend’s photo on Facebook of the scrambled eggs with truffles at La Serre and had been dreaming about that ever since. So when we sat down I said that was what I was going to have. When I looked at the menu, I noticed that was the most expensive thing on there at AED 185 (roughly £30). Bloody hell. I thought about having something else but nothing appealed to me and I knew I’d still be dreaming about those silly scrambled eggs with truffles. My friend said to just go ahead and have whatever I wanted so I followed his advice. The eggs came, served in a hot dish, and as soon as the waiter put them down the smell of truffles floated up to me and I knew I’d made the right choice. The eggs were covered in truffles – it was incredible. I wish I’d taken a photo but I couldn’t wait to eat them. (Next time.) For dessert we shared a strawberry tart. We were there till about 4.30pm – it was a fun afternoon.

That evening I met my cousin for dinner at Yabani at Citywalk in Jumeirah. I’d been wanting to try it and had heard good things so I booked an outdoor table. To start with we had the cucumber and sesame salad, the rock shrimp tempura, the seared tuna with black pepper, and the salmon and tuna izuzukuri. Everything was excellent. For our main course we shared the hibachi beef and for dessert we shared the chocolate fondant. Our waiter was efficient and I can’t complain about anything. I’d definitely go back. As my cousin and I hadn’t seen each other since I started working at the end of January, we had a lot to catch up on and were at the restaurant till after midnight.

I got home, totally shattered, and was so happy to get into bed.

I love my life.

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