Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2016: Week 5

After the gym on Sunday morning, I went to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch with my parents and some friends who were visiting from out of town. After lunch I went to Go Sports to get a yoga strap – and I also ended up picking up a new zip-up top from Nike and a t-shirt from Under Armour. Mum wanted to go to Kinokuniya (honestly, it wasn’t my idea) to look around (and I ended up buying a book).

On Monday I had my piano lesson in the afternoon and finished recording a piece called ‘Elements’ by Ludovico Einaudi.

I also had my Arabic class that evening.

On Tuesday I went to the gym and then took my parents to Jean-Georges at the Four Seasons. It was my mum’s birthday and neither of them had been there. The weather was lovely so we had a table outside, in the shade. We each ordered a glass of Prosecco and shared a few starters: truffle pizza, hamachi, crispy sushi, warm prawn salad.

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We ordered our own main courses: I had the ‘simply prepared’ grilled sea bass, my mum had the lamb chops and my dad had the roast sea bass. For dessert I ordered the cheesecake for all of us to share, but they also brought out a little chocolate mousse cake with a candle for my mum (I’d called the day before to see if they could organise something).

After lunch we went to the Virgin Megastore at the Dubai Mall as Dad wanted to get a new printer. I ended up getting some new headphones (Yurbuds) for my iPod, for the gym. That evening Mum and I went to see Sisters at Mercato (Dad went to play poker) – it was a funny movie if you’re in the mood for a chick flick. We had planned to grab a bite at Mercato after the movie but we were still so full from lunch so we came home and had some soup instead.

I had a session with Pete on Wednesday morning and my Arabic class in the evening.

On Thursday evening I went to the Capital Club for a friend’s birthday. I got there at about 7.30pm and met a few of her friends. I’d met a couple of them before, but it was mostly a new crowd. They were a fun group and there was a lot of vodka. I left at around 2.15am (several of them were still there) and it was only when I got home that I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch – apart from some peanuts at the bar…

On Friday afternoon, I went to Spa Zen for a massage with my friend who had celebrated her birthday the night before. Our massages were at 4.15pm but we met at 3.30pm and chatted in the relaxation room until our appointments began. Luckily there was nobody else in the room! After our massages, we carried on talking until 7pm before deciding it was time to get ready and go home. I got home, ordered some sushi and got into my pajamas.

I was home on Saturday, doing some work and generally lazing around. In the evening, my friend picked me up for our usual walk on the beach. We got there a bit later than usual but still managed to catch a gorgeous sunset! I was home by 7.15pm and had a relaxing evening at home.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 7

What a quiet week!

I decided on Sunday afternoon that I’d go see a movie. I went to Mercato and got a ticket for ‘Birdman’. It was empty – apart from one guy. I love empty cinemas!

Apart from yoga on Monday morning, I didn’t leave the house the rest of the day. And not on Tuesday either.

On Wednesday I had a session with Trevor. That evening I went to my piano lesson and then met a friend for dinner at Loca. We had the spinach and artichoke dip to start with, and I was thrilled to see that the sauteed prawns in jalapeno butter were back on the menu. I’d tried them once last year (they were a special) and ever since then they haven’t been available. Now they’re on the actual menu and it looks like they’re permanent! Just look at the size of the prawns…

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I think it’s the best thing on the menu. As it was ladies night we also got two tokens each for margaritas.

On Thursday I went to get my hair coloured. I’d been toying with the idea of changing the colour altogether but my regular hairdresser wasn’t there so I just stuck to my usual root colour. Maybe next time…

That evening I had dinner with some friends at their place. It was very casual, just five of us – roast chicken, potatoes, loads of cheese. They’d had a photo shoot of their dining table earlier that day – isn’t it gorgeous??

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I was home early – before 11pm. I spent all day Friday at home – I was working and reading. I was home most of Saturday too – but by the time 5pm came around I decided I’d go to the Dubai Mall – just for a walk around. I ended up buying a pair of sparkly shoes from LK Bennett. I also went to Kinokuniya and picked up two more books. Well, a girl has to treat herself sometimes, no?

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 6

It wasn’t a terribly exciting week to begin with. I was home for most of it, unless I went to yoga or to the gym or to a piano lesson.

On Wednesday night I went to a ‘Book Lover’s Quiz Night’ at the World Trade Centre Club. I’d managed to put together a team of six people (all women) and just prayed that we wouldn’t come last! There was a buffet dinner to start with and some wine, and then the quiz began. The first round was all about Shakespeare – so it could only get better after that! We got only three out of ten questions right in that round – the rest were better. The second round was multiple choice. The third round was a general Q&A. The fourth round was all about locations – we were given a location (e.g. Tara) and had to write the book and author to get the full ten points. The fifth round was sound and vision – soundtracks and movie adaptations. And the sixth round was a picture round. By the end of it, we came in eighth. Out of eleven. Not great, but at least we weren’t last!

I met a friend and yoga teacher – Chandra – for lunch on Thursday. We met at the Roseleaf Cafe (again). I had the spinach and egg white wrap and a berry smoothie. Both were excellent. After lunch I walked around the Dubai Mall for a bit – I’d been thinking about getting a new yoga mat (I didn’t end up buying one) and I browsed in the bookstore (I didn’t buy anything) and then I went home. I stayed in that night.

I was out all day on Friday. A friend was having a barbecue at his villa on the Palm. I left home at 12.30 and picked up a couple of friends on the way. We got there at around 1.30 and were the first to arrive. What a fabulous villa! I thought it would be odd if I walked around taking photos of everything but couldn’t help it when I got to the deck overlooking the beach.

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We sat at the table outside and were there until the sun started to set.

My initial plan was: go to the barbecue, get home at around 5pm, relax for a bit, go out for dinner. Well, that didn’t happen. At 7pm I was still at the Palm and decided I’d book a car via Uber and go straight to dinner.

I had booked a table at CUT by Wolfgang Puck at the Address Downtown for 8pm. I got there on time and my two friends arrived shortly after. We decided we’d skip the starters and order a few sides to share with our steaks. We all had the USDA Prime filet mignon (225 g) – and we shared the mac and cheese, truffle fries and Moroccan carrots. The steaks were excellent (I had mine with the armagnac and green peppercorn sauce) – as was the mac and cheese. The fries were average and I didn’t try the carrots. For dessert, we shared the chocolate and caramel fondant – it wasn’t as impressive as the rest of the meal.

After dinner, the three of us went to Pier 7 next to the Marina Mall. One of our friends was having his birthday at The Scene. I’m not a fan of Pier 7 – I’d been there twice before and each time I resolved not to go back. We got there at around 11pm and stayed for about an hour. I was tired, my feet were hurting, I’d been drinking red wine all day – and all I wanted was my bed. Leaving Pier 7 is one of the most irritating experiences I’ve had in Dubai. Considering there are seven restaurants on eight levels, the driveway to get to Pier 7 is pathetically small and the traffic getting in and out builds up fast. It took thirty minutes for the valet to get the car! It was ridiculous.

I spent all of Saturday at home – working, watching TV and rehydrating!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 5

After my session with Trevor on Sunday morning, I had to get down to some work as I was still swamped. At about 4pm I decided I needed a break so I walked up to Tim Horton’s and sat down with a coffee and my book. I wanted to finish reading Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón so I could move on to something else. It was an easy read, but as I’d predicted it was nowhere near as good as Shadow of the Wind.

I went to yoga at the Shangri-La on Monday morning. I was home by 9.45 and had the whole day to work. I was supposed to have a piano lesson that afternoon but I had so many deadlines that I ended up cancelling it. That evening I went to the Scene Club in Knowledge Village – they were screening ‘Factory Girl’, an Egyptian movie about a girl who works in a garment factory and has a crush on the manager. It was a good movie – but it did make me angry. Angry that things don’t really seem to change for women in the Middle East, and angry that people will believe a rumour about a person which turns that person’s life completely upside down.

I had yoga at home on Tuesday and was home the rest of the day – just working!

I had a friend in town from Lagos – so we met up for an early lunch on Wednesday. We went to Wafi Gourmet at the Dubai Mall and we overate – hummus with pine nuts, grilled halloumi, muhamara, fried aubergine in yoghurt, potato harra. I couldn’t move after that – but we still went to Eataly for dessert where we shared a Nutella crepe!

I got home, did some work and then went to my piano lesson. That night, Dad and I went to Sobahn, a Korean restaurant on Sheikh Zayed Road. I’d been there once before – I didn’t think it was great (nothing is as good as Arirang in London), but it was close by and I knew we’d be home early. I’d booked a table online in the afternoon but when we got there, they said they had no record of the booking. It wasn’t a problem as the restaurant wasn’t crowded, and I had a confirmation email and a text and I wondered whether they just hadn’t bothered to check their messages.

We were shown to a table and sat down. I ordered a small bottle of still water and Dad ordered a small bottle of sparkling water. They brought both but no glasses. Dad asked the waiter for some glasses and he brought us one. Were we supposed to share it? So we asked for another one, obviously. We flicked through the menu – this page amused me:

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What is ‘flap meat’? I didn’t fancy trying it. To start with, we ordered the pah jeon (without seafood) and Dad ordered a kim chi soup. Little dishes of a variety of kim chi were brought to our table and were complimentary. For our main course we ordered a beef bulgogi and spicy prawns. I asked the waiter to bring the starters first and then the main course – and not to bring everything at once. The waiter came back and said they didn’t have any beef bulgogi – so I ordered bee bim bab instead.

So, what did the waiter bring? The pah jeon and the spicy prawns.

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‘I specifically asked you to bring the starters first.’

‘The prawns are a starter.’

‘So when I ordered it as a main course, why didn’t you say so?’

No response.

Then they brought the bee bim bab and the soup. Crazy. The food was average – I’m not sure I would go back.

On Thursday morning, I had to go to Sharjah to collect my passport and I had to be there by 10am. I was in and out in about 5 minutes but there was a lot of traffic on the way back. I got home, did some work, had lunch and then went to get my hair done.

That night I had dinner with some friends at Rivington Grill in Madinat Jumeirah. We hadn’t seen each other since November so we had lots to catch up on. We had a bottle of Shiraz, skipped the starters and went straight to the mains. I had the lamb chop (disappointing), one friend had the rainbow trout, another had the Dover sole and the fourth was still full from lunch so he ordered a starter portion of calamari and a portion of chips. We shared an apple and blackberry crumble for dessert. After dinner we went to The Agency next door for another drink. It was quite a late night and it was 2.45 by the time I got home.

On Friday I had lunch with a couple of friends at Maison Bagatelle. I ordered the beetroot and goat cheese salad with spinach and pine nuts, one of my friends had the full English breakfast and the third had a steak. Every time I’ve been there, the food has been very good – and this time was no exception. We decided to share a blueberry tart for dessert and finished with coffee. After lunch, I walked to the mall and ended up at Kinokuniya. While browsing, guess what I came across? Two Folio copies of Travels with Charley that I’d been looking for the week before! I should have known the man at the information desk had no idea what he was talking about. I wanted to see if he was there, but it was a woman at the desk. How infuriating!

On Friday night, Dad and I went to Y by Yabani at City Walk for dinner. I ordered the starters first and told them I’d order the main course when we were ready. I didn’t want them bringing everything at once like they did at the Korean restaurant! I ordered a sesame seed cucumber salad and some spicy rock shrimp tempura. Dad also ordered a miso soup. When we’d finished that I ordered the salmon and tuna izuzukuri (thin slices of salmon and tuna, coriander, sesame seeds, green chilli, chilli powder, spring onion, izuzukuri sauce). We ordered black cod with miso and nasu miso for our main course with some sushi rolls. There was too much food but it was all so good. We could have definitely done without the aubergine and I think I would have chosen either sushi or black cod – not both. We were home early and I helped Dad pack as he was off the next day.

Dad left on Saturday afternoon and I was home all day. That evening I went to see Zakir Hussain’s Nirvana 2015 at the World Trade Centre. It was an Indo-Celtic fusion concert and it was fantastic. Also on stage with him were: Rakesh Chaurasia (bansuri – Indian bamboo flute), Ganesh Rajgopalan (violin and vocals), Navin Sharma (dol and percussion), Charlie McKerron (fiddle), Patsy Reid (fiddle), Jean-Michel Veillon (flute), Fraser Fifield (bagpipes and whistle), Tony Byrne (guitar) and John Joe Kelly (bodhran).

The musicians were incredible, but the event organisation let them down. The acoustics in the hall we were in were pretty awful, and the lighting was a joke. During the concert, the house lights were switched on and off, and one strip of lights (right above us) was even left on for about 20 minutes right in the middle of the concert.

The concert finished at about 10.30 and my friend and I went to Zuma for a late dinner. We ordered the yellowtail sashimi, tuna tataki, prawn and black cod gyoza, dynamite spider roll and spicy tuna roll. We were till about 1am and then went home.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 4

I had to cancel my Sunday morning session with Trevor as I had to be in Sharjah by 10am and I wasn’t sure I’d be back in time. I got to Sharjah, had my blood test and X-ray and was done in about 20 minutes. The traffic coming back to Dubai was pretty bad and I’m glad I’d cancelled the session.

Instead of going straight home, I decided to go to the Dubai Mall and have a look around. I needed to get a birthday present for a friend and I’d seen the perfect book at Kinokuniya – Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck (Charley was Steinbeck’s dog and my friend has a dog called Charlie). On a previous visit to Kinokuniya I’d noticed three Folio Society copies of the book and thought I’d get one. I also wanted a couple of books for myself (naturally). The Folio Society copies were nowhere to be found. I couldn’t believe that three people had bought them and I went to the Information desk to find out if they had any in stock. I gave the man behind the desk the title, the author, the publisher – and he insisted they’d never had that edition in stock. And I insisted that they had at one point. Why was I so sure, he asked me. Because I used to work at that publisher in London, and I worked on that particular book. Anyway, I ended up getting the Penguin Classics edition of the book – it’s nowhere near as impressive as the Folio Society edition, but there you go. I also picked up the new Wally Lamb book (We Are Water) and a book called Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It was written before Shadow of the Wind but was only translated a couple of years ago. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have bought the second book because I doubt it will be as good as The Shadow of the Wind! While I was browsing I was horrified to see this sign on one of the shelves.

I was so horrified I went to Debenhams and bought a dress to cheer myself up. I was home in time for lunch and spent the rest of the day at home.

I woke up at about 6am on Monday – all I could hear was the wind howling outside. It was dark and looked like rain. It rained most of the day and I hoped that my piano lesson would be cancelled (it wasn’t). Luckily, when I left for my lesson it had stopped raining and only started again after I got back home. I could still see lightning and hear thunder as I got into bed at around midnight.

I had yoga on Tuesday morning and then met up with NP for lunch at Tasha’s in Galleria Mall on Al Wasl Road. NP got there a little before me and managed to snap up the last available table. There were already people waiting when I got there at 1pm. She had the wagyu burger – she said it was better than the one at Jones the Grocer. I had my usual quinoa salad with chicken and a carrot/beetroot/apple/ginger juice. We both had a coffee after that and went our separate ways.

I got home and did a bit of work. I was reading Natalie Goldberg’s The True Secret of Writing and it made me want to start writing again so I decided that my project for the week would be to clear up my desk. (I finished reading the book later that night, and to sum up her ‘true secret’ of writing: Shut up and write.)

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Yes, that is a bottle of vodka. No, I haven’t been drinking it – I inherited it half full. What else is on there? Camera lenses, books, papers, sunscreen, makeup, my old laptop from three years ago which I must get rid of. I haven’t worked at my desk in about two years and I need to start using it again. Where do I work? On my bed. No comments, please.

So I put off clearing up my desk until the evening. And then I spent about four hours sorting out papers, emptying drawers and basically throwing out a lot of sh*t.

On Wednesday morning, my desk looked like this:

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Miles better, but still room for improvement! After my session with Trevor that morning, I had to get ready in a rush to go back to Sharjah to finish off the rest of the visa renewal process. I was in the visa application centre this time. My dad had arranged for someone to take me through the procedure as I had no idea what to do or what queue to stand in. I had to wait in line at the front desk while they stamped all my forms, then I had to queue to pay for my renewal, then I had to queue to submit my passport, then finally I had to submit the rest of the forms. I sat in the chair opposite a local woman. She looked at me and decided she’d rather continue chatting to the male colleague on her right. For about ten minutes. Eventually, she decided she’d better get on with her job and looked through my forms. She told me one form was missing, so the guy I was with rushed off to get it while I waited there, and this ‘official’ folded her arms on her desk and just put her head down. Erm – that’s professional. The guy came back with the form, I filled it in, signed it, she woke up and that was it.

I had a piano lesson on Wednesday afternoon – we spent the entire hour working on the Debussy Arabesque. I spent a few more hours clearing up my desk that day. I even came across my first plane ticket which my mum had saved.

By Thursday morning, my desk looked like this:

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Yes, there was still crap under the desk and that’s a work in progress. But – I’ve been feeling very positive and energised since clearing it up.

On Thursday night, I went to my friend’s Gatsby-themed birthday party at his house (I wore my new dress and he loved Travels with Charley). It was a nice evening – and not as many people as I thought there would be. I had just two glasses of red wine (I hadn’t had any alcohol since my friends left after that mad week they were here). I hadn’t really missed it and even started with a mocktail, but because we were outdoors and it was quite chilly I thought the red wine would warm me up. I got home at about 2.30 and went to bed.

I worked all day on Friday and most of Saturday. I had a sudden influx of work on Thursday and my only option was to work all weekend.

On Saturday evening a friend and I went to visit some friends who’d had a baby just before Christmas. We were there for about an hour and then headed home. And I went back to work for a few more hours! I love being busy at work, but I’d been swamped on Friday and Saturday. According to one of my clients, I should expect it to be like that for the next couple of weeks. Oh well, more work equals more money!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 37

I had a really busy week with work and it was a heavy social week too!

After my session with Randy on Sunday, I had a few errands to run – send out a transfer from Standard Chartered Bank in Mankhool, pay one of my mum’s bills in Karama, and meet a friend for lunch at the Dubai Mall. I actually got to the mall early and browsed in Kinokuniya (dangerous!) – I ended up buying the new Jhumpa Lahiri book. I met my friend for lunch at Shake Shack. It’s just opened and is on the first floor next to the Waterfall.

I’d never been to Shake Shack but my visit to Burger Fuel over the weekend had whet my appetite for another hamburger. I mentioned I was early, but my friend was running late so by the time we ordered I was famished. I had the double Shackburger and fries. And a diet Pepsi (ha!).

Double Shackburger and fries (and diet Pepsi!)

Double Shackburger and fries (and diet Pepsi!)

It was so good but as I was eating it I could see the grease dripping out of it onto my tray. Definitely for cheat days only!

I worked the rest of the day. That afternoon I got a call from the bank to say that the IBAN number I’d provided on the transfer form was wrong and I’d have to come in and submit a new form. For goodness’ sake – isn’t that something the woman checking and stamping the form is supposed to do? When I went back on Monday with a new form and the correct IBAN number, she said, ‘Oh, you’re back again.’ ‘Yes, stupid. If you’d done your job properly I wouldn’t be here,’ I replied. Well, OK, no, I didn’t say that. But I sent that to her telepathically.

I woke up on Tuesday feeling feverish and my throat was scratchy. Great. I took some Panadol and felt better for a while. I had a piano lesson on Tuesday afternoon. I’m still working on ‘When I Was Your Man’ and ‘Primavera’. My teacher also gave me the music for L.O.V.E by Nat King Cole and told me to ‘play around with it’.

That evening a friend and I went to Karma Kafe at Souk Al Bahar. They were launching an event called ‘Sake in the City’, an after-work alternative to ladies’ night every Tuesday. Women get three tokens for free drinks (either wine or a choice of three sake-based cocktails) and there’s also 50% off selected items from their a la carte menu all evening. We got there at 7pm and ordered some cocktails. I can’t remember what the cocktail I had was called but it had sake, vodka, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, lime and who knows what else. It was yummy. We also ordered some food – edamame, spicy tuna rolls and a dim sum basket. A little while after we got there the two women on the next table said they were leaving and gave us four of their tokens. We ordered some more drinks (I stuck to the cocktail the whole evening while my friend switched to Pinot Grigio) and some crispy duck rolls. We basically had four drinks each – we didn’t get round to using all our tokens! When the bill came we each paid… AED80. That’s just under £14. How crazy is that? I think we’ll be going back there a lot! There were a few photographers there from various magazines and we had our photo taken a few times.

I still wasn’t feeling great on Wednesday but really fancied some pasta from Vapiano so I went to the mall for lunch and came straight home.

I felt better on Thursday and went to wine club at the Sheraton MoE that evening. The first three wines were white, the next three were red. I didn’t particularly like any of them. I tried the first white and thought ‘Ugh, this is Chardonnay.’ I tried the second and third and thought the same thing. Surely they wouldn’t have three Chardonnays in one night? My fears were confirmed at the end of the evening when all the wines were uncovered:

  • Catena Chardonnay from Argentina. Ripe tropical flavours, white stone fruit and citrus notes, lively floral notes, strong mineral character and excellent acidity.
  • Finca el Origen from Argentina. Bright greenish yellow in colour, aromas of tropical fruit, pineapple and melon, light floral and citrus. Round velvety texture on the palate, a refreshing acidity and elegant finish.
  • Kumeu River Chardonnay from New Zealand. Elegant citrus and peach fruit aromas, along with a touch of hazelnut that is typical of quality Chardonnay. The palate also shows nice ripe peach flavours with fine, flinty acidity that gives the wine a refreshing long finish. This wine is perfect to drink with fish and shellfish.
  • Robert Giraud La Collection Saint-Emilion from Bordeaux, France. Seek out a rich dark ruby colour, aromas of blackberries and other fruit mingles with oak and a little spice. On the palate, a moderate body with a medium finish. The palate should confirm fruit found on the nose.
  • Chateau de Moulin Neuf from Bordeaux, France. A well-crafted authentic Left Bank Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (for structure and power) smoothed with elegance and finesse of Merlot. Deep red appearance with ruby highlights. Reveals delicate aromas of ripe raspberry and blackberry, with hints of soft spices. Melting tannins introduce a well-structured wine on the palate, with a great balance and dark fruit flavours. Its elegant length makes it a great accompaniment for roasted or grilled meat and soft cheeses.
  • Montes Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. The classic series-intense ruby-red colour. The nose has layer upon layer of caramel, cinnamon and candy with hints of mint, but without any dominance of oak. A spicy, full-flavoured wine, with good body, fruit and firm tannins and an engaging strong finish. Drink now or cellar for a few years.

After wine club a few of us went to Vantage, also at the Sheraton, where we ordered more wine and were there until closing. On the way home, three of us stopped at Burger Fuel for a bite to eat.

I felt like hell on Friday. I was home all day and would have happily stayed home all night but had a friend’s 40th to go to. I met my cousin at the Fairmont where the two of us and one of her friends had a drink before heading to the party – in the ballroom of the new Oberoi hotel. There must have been at least 200 people there – and several of them were from out of town. I met people I hadn’t seen in years and had completely forgotten about! At the beginning of the evening, I really wasn’t sure how long I would last – my head was aching and I was so tired. But after a few glasses of champagne, I got my second wind and was actually there until 5am! The DJ was amazing – he played loads of Prince – and I told several people I’d seen Prince in concert nine times (whether or not they were interested). Ha! When we left at 5am, the party was still going strong, champagne was still flowing and breakfast was being served (omelettes and shawarmas).

If I thought I felt like hell on Friday, I felt even worse on Saturday. And I had a cough. My original plan had been to spend the day at the Radisson Royal and have a massage in the evening. When I woke up, the last thing I felt like doing was sitting out in the hot sun with a pounding headache. I ordered some Chinese food for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon in bed. Dad arrived that evening so I spent some time catching up with him before going back to bed!

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 39

It started off as a quiet week but soon changed!

I had a session with Randy on Sunday morning and then decided that as I’d spent most of the weekend working I wasn’t going to do any work that day. I sat by the pool for a while, I got into bed and read my book. I did check my work email once but didn’t reply to any messages or do anything else work-related.

On Monday night I went out with a friend and a few of her friends. I’d met two of them before, at the end of September when we went to Karma Kafe, but the other two were new to me. Six of us met at La Petite Maison. We had a drink at the bar and then moved to our table. There was lots of burrata. We also ordered a bottle of rosé. The waiter came back to say that they didn’t have the regular size available but would we like the magnum? Why, yes. Yes, we would. The guy sitting on my right was concerned that it might be too much wine, but we finished the wine before we even finished our main course. We then decided to switch to Tomatinis (tomato martinis). I’d never tried one, but the girl on my left let me try hers before I ordered mine. Wow. No wonder she didn’t want any wine! It’s like a chilled gazpacho sprinkled with black pepper. I had two. After dinner we decided we’d order dessert at the bar. We switched to vodkas with soda. I had two. It was a fun evening. It was just what I needed. It was also the most expensive meal I have ever had in my life!

I woke up on Tuesday with a headache. I got out of bed to make some tea but got back in for the rest of the morning. I had a conference call with the new publishers that afternoon – the three women I spoke to seemed pleasant and professional. When I asked them how long they thought they would need me, they said it would be about 4 to 6 months – which is better than what I’d imagined.

That night my cousin and I went to The Meat Co at Madinat Jumeirah for dinner. We both had steaks – I had mine with a jacket potato, she had the mashed potatoes. I hadn’t planned on drinking alcohol but ended up having some red wine with dinner. It was a nice evening – and we saved 100 dirhams each as I had an Entertainer voucher for the restaurant.

On Wednesday I had a meeting with a potential piano teacher. I finally got round to calling him on Monday and he suggested I meet him for a chat and he could explain his teaching method. My appointment was supposed to be at noon. I was walking towards the car when I got a text from him asking if we could postpone to either later on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday afternoon. I called him and said I couldn’t do either of those times. We eventually agreed to meet at 12.30 – in the meantime I went to the supermarket, dropped my groceries off at home and then went to meet the teacher. His studio is in Saeed Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road – very convenient for me! I got there a bit early but he hadn’t arrived yet so I waited in the corridor. He was 10 minutes late.

Anyway, we sat down and he explained that he didn’t have a conservative method of teaching music. He said that as adults, people expect to progress faster and he had a method which would get people playing immediately. I was a classically trained pianist (even though I haven’t played properly in 20 years) and my old piano teacher would probably be turning in her grave if she heard what he said! I spent hours practising scales – major, minor, chromatic, a third apart; arpeggios; tearing pieces of music apart bar by bar – hands separately, then together. Hours. He told me he didn’t teach that way but he did say that his method would have may playing all my old clasical pieces on my own quickly. Of course I want to play all the George Michael and Prince in the world, but I still love Chopin and Schubert and would like to get back to that level at some point.

He made me sit at the piano – he asked me to play something I could remember, just so he could see how my hands moved. I couldn’t remember much but played a few bars of a Chopin waltz. He then played some chords and asked me to sing the notes back to him. He then asked me to play a Mozart piece that was open on the stand in front of me. He said I would progress quickly and that daily practice would be important. I wasn’t sure how his method of teaching would work for me but I decided there was only one way to find out. I’m scheduled for lessons every Tuesday afternoon from now until the end of the year. I may even upload some recordings later on… You have been warned.

I met NP for lunch on Thursday. I’d been craving Jones the Grocer so we went there. It was good to see her and catch up – I hadn’t seen her since our dinner at Zuma soon after I got back from Bali. I couldn’t decide what to have but each time I’ve been there I’ve told myself that next time I’ll have the Wagyu burger. We both ended up having that – it was fantastic. I don’t think I’d have it every time I went there, but I’m glad I finally tried it.

That night was wine club. This month it was held at Origami at the Radisson Royal on Sheikh Zayed Road – convenient for me! The venue was nice – a big room, round tables, and it was for wine club members only. The wines were average – there weren’t any that I particularly loved, and there were a couple that I really didn’t like (but still drank, of course). The wines were:

  • Veuve de Vernay Brut Sparkling Wine-NV: Pale straw in colour, fresh, fruity and floral on the nose. The palate is full with delicate apple and pear fruit flavours complimented by smooth velvety bubbles. This wine is perfect served as an aperitif or with salads, fish, white meats and fruit desserts. Colombard 40%, Sauvignon Blanc 40%, Chardonnay 20%
  • Lamberti Pinot Grigio: Very crisp, a little light, citric, bright and clear, if somewhat short in the finish. Pair with light foods or as an aperitif
  • Robert Mondavi Private Chardonnay: These Central Coast of California Chardonnay grapes enjoyed an extended period maturing on the vine, resulting in fruit with impressively concentrated flavours and richness. Serve with light meats or cheese dishes (Chardonnay? Enough said)
  • Sidi Brahim Rose: Made in North Africa, bottled in France. Second most popular selling imported brand of wine in France as of 2005 (I can’t think why). Made in a New World fruity style. Consists of 40% Cinsault grapes and 60% Grenache Gris
  • Robert Mondavi Private Pinot Noir: On the nose, lovely rose petal, violet, and red cherry aromas mingle with complementary scents of smoky vanilla and nutmeg. Very soft and round with good length and richness on the palate, the wine displays supple, silky berry and cherry jam flavours
  • Antares Merlot: From Chile’s Valle Central, a major grape-growing and wine-making region of central Chile. ‘Lovely, sweet and complex cassis fruit. Delicious follow-through – a perfect glass for uncomplicated pleasure’ (Lies)

As usual there was some mingling at the end, and I ended up going to Icho, the bar at the top of the hotel, with a couple of people where we had even more wine…

I spent all of Friday in my pajamas. It was awesome.

I thought I’d venture out on Saturday so I went to the Dubai Mall. I had lunch at Vapiano and then browsed in Kinokuniya (the book store) for ages. I walked from one end to the other, just checking out what they had: a ridiculous amount of books on how to have a healthy relationship or a ‘happy’ divorce, business books (How to Make Partner and Still Have a Life – I’m serious), the usual fiction (including the 50 Shades trilogy which I thought was banned here), and I was surprised to see they even had a small Tarot section (but I have most of those already).

After that I went over to a friend’s place for a cup of tea and then headed home. I was supposed to be out for dinner but that was cancelled at the last minute – which was annoying, but c’est la vie.

I love my life.

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