Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Week 46

I woke up on Sunday feeling awful. I’d been out the night before and had way too much champagne! Any plans I’d had of going to the gym in the morning (or even getting ready) went out the window as I got out of bed at 1pm. I spent the day in my pajamas. It took me all day to edit one paper which would have normally taken me an hour. I just couldn’t focus on anything.

Monday was a bit better. I had a session with Pete, sorted out some paperwork at the du shop and then had my piano lesson. I came home after that and worked the rest of the evening.

After the gym on Tuesday, I went to the monthly lunch of the IBWG (International Business Women’s Group) at the Trade Centre Club. On the way there, I realised that I was in one of those moods where I didn’t feel like speaking to anybody. Networking was not going to be easy that day! I got there, picked a number out of the bowl (which indicates which table you sit at) and found my name tag. I said hello to a couple of people I’d met before and had a quick chat, but a few minutes later I found my table and sat down. There were two other people already sitting there so I guess they didn’t feel like networking either! Our lunch was served – I opted for the braised lamb with vegetables.

The talk that day was really interesting. It was all about posture and ergonomic work spaces. Er – if the presenter could see how I worked, she’d have been furious. I work on my bed with my back against the headrest and my legs either straight in front of me or cross-legged. I suppose it’s good that I’m not hunched over my laptop though! She went through consequences of bad posture and some exercises (which I either do as stretches with Pete or in yoga). She was an interesting lady though – and I enjoyed the talk.

After lunch I went to Mercato to pick up some Patchi chocolates and other things that my mum needed in Bombay. My dad was leaving over the weekend and she had a list of things to buy.

I came home after that and did some more work. I’d been swamped for the last two weeks or so, which is great!

It was Diwali on Wednesday, but honestly it felt like any other day. I had a session with Pete which pretty much knocked me out for the rest of the day. I was exhausted. After lunch, I worked until the early evening, fighting off the urge to have a nap. At about 6pm, Dad and I did our Diwali puja – which took about fifteen minutes – and that was that. I’d been invited to a friend’s place for the evening but Dad didn’t want to go anywhere so I stayed in with him.

The weather was horrible on Thursday morning. Five minutes of rain in Dubai means five hours of traffic. The whole city comes to a standstill – and apparently so do I. I took one look out the window and decided to stay in and do some work.

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Of course, it had cleared up by the afternoon.

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That evening I met a friend for dinner at Segreto in Madinat Jumeirah. I had initially thought I’d eat something healthy, like grilled fish, but when we got there they had a special truffle menu which included pasta with truffles. We both took one look at that and ordered it. We shared a crab/prawn starter – it wasn’t what we expected but it was OK. The pasta with truffles was delicious. We also had a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, which was lovely. For dessert, we shared a cheese platter. I really think Segreto is one of the best Italian restaurants in Dubai – the food and service have always been excellent whenever I’ve been there.

After dinner we went to The Agency for a drink and then went to meet some friends at Cave at the Conrad. We had some more wine and at 1am, decided to head home. On the way home one of our friends decided he was hungry and wanted to stop at Burger Fuel. I hadn’t been there in ages and was also feeling a little peckish (our dinner was early – 7.30pm). I ordered a hamburgini with jalapenos – there was no way I could eat a regular burger so the mini one was just fine. I walked home after that and got into bed.

On Friday, I went to the gym in the morning. As I was walking to the Shangri-La at about 11am, I noticed how much cooler the temperature was – that rain the day before really cleared out the last of the humidity. That afternoon Dad and I went to Sakura at the Crowne Plaza for lunch with my uncle, aunt and the kids. The food was good, as usual, but it’s scary the amount of butter they put on the teppan when they’re preparing the food! I went home after lunch and did some work.

On Friday evening, I went to a friend’s birthday drinks at his place in Executive Towers. I didn’t know anybody there but him, but I’d already RSVP’d ‘yes’ and didn’t want to flake. I hate it when people do that to me, so I know how it feels! I stayed for over an hour, met some of his friends and then went to meet some other friends who were at Roberto’s in DIFC. I don’t know what it is about Roberto’s but every time I go there I just want to go to sleep. I start yawning and feel bored in general – it doesn’t matter who I’m with. Even though the bar area was crowded, it had such low energy that we had to leave after one drink.

As soon as we left – literally, as soon as we walked out of the restaurant – we were all in a much better mood! We went to La Cantine at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel and were dancing until 2am. When we left we decided to go to Zaatar w Zeit for some food. I hadn’t eaten dinner and was famished! After eating, I got home at around 3am.

I was home for most of Saturday. Dad left for Bombay and I did a bit of work. There was a gorgeous sunset that evening. I had been invited to Maya at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort for a friend’s engagement drinks. I got there at around 6pm and stayed for a couple of hours. A friend and I decided to have dinner after drinks instead of staying on there and went to Jones the Grocer. I hadn’t been there in ages. I had the pasta with chilli and prawns – which was OK. I thought it would be better. I was home by 10pm.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 1

Another busy week! I managed to get loads of work done as well as going out and about!

On Sunday my parents, sister, her husband, son and I went to Wafi Gourmet for lunch. As usual, by the time we get anywhere for lunch it’s almost 3pm. We ordered loads of starters and by the time the main course came, I couldn’t eat any more. We wandered around the Dubai Mall for a while and then I went home.

That evening I met up with a friend from London. We decided we’d meet in the lobby of the Shangri-La and then go to iKandy for a couple of drinks. I got there before she did and while I was waiting in the lobby, a man approached me. He was Middle Eastern and probably in his mid 50s.

‘Are you waiting for someone?’ he asked me.

Obviously, I thought. Why else would I hang around a hotel lobby? Then I thought that perhaps he worked at the hotel.

‘Yes, I am,’ I replied.

‘So am I,’ he said.

I looked at him as if to say ‘Well, what do you want me to do about it?’ and he walked off.

He came back a few minutes later and asked if my name was XYZ.

‘No, it’s not,’ I replied.

Thankfully, my friend walked in at that moment and we went to the bar. But seriously, what a freak.

We had a couple of drinks and I was home by 9pm. My parents were out so my sister, her husband and I just relaxed at home.

Monday wasn’t very busy. I went to get my hair done at the Fairmont and came back home. We’ve stopped using the sleazy hairdresser because he was always late – if he showed up at all! There were a couple of occasions where he’d cancelled at the last minute and that was just annoying. I did some work in the evening but could see the traffic building up on Sheikh Zayed Road from about 6pm onwards. I was glad we were staying close to home!

New Year’s Eve began with a drink at a friend’s place. She hosts a New Year’s Eve party every year and she doesn’t live far from me so I went for a drink. At about 10pm I made my way over to iKandy where my sister and husband had just got to. It was a fun evening – very chilled with unlimited alcohol.

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Four of us got through two bottles of Tattinger, a bottle of Belveder and a bottle of Chivas. There was some food brought to each table but by the time we got round to eating it, it was cold. The highlight was being able to see the fireworks at the Burj Khalifa from where we were.

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2013
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What ruined the night though was the DJ who was absolutely rubbish. He was flown in from the UK and played at The Ministry of Sound – and he only played ‘house’ music. However, if you requested a ‘house’ track, he didn’t have it. That would be the only criticism I would make.

We did our traditional dim sum lunch on Tuesday – just the cousins and spouses. We didn’t eat until after 3pm and we were all famished by then. That night, my sister, her husband, son and I went to Nando’s for dinner. It was the first time I’d been to Nando’s since I left London at the end of 2011 and I don’t remember the last time I had it in London either. It’s not something I’ve really craved or thought about at all!

I was home all day on Wednesday until dinner. We had a late table booked at La Petite Maison – at 11pm. It wasn’t very crowded at that time – and the kitchen was going to close soon after we got there. For starters we had the burrata (of course), the goat’s cheese salad, the beef carpaccio, the marinated salmon with pink peppercorns. We shared three main courses between us (although in hindsight we could have done with two): the pasta with black truffle (which was one of their specials that day), the sea bass with artichokes and tomatoes, and the grilled veal chop. We ordered a side of the baked gratinated potatoes. Amazing. We were too full by the end of it to order dessert.

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All I did on Thursday was work and go for my piano lesson. We spent most of the lesson working on different kinds of chords (major, minor, dominant, dorian) and ‘As Time Goes By’. I also got some new music – ‘Autumn Leaves‘ and ‘Comptine d’Un Autre Été‘ (from Amélie) which we looked at briefly.

I stayed in that night – I was tired from being out so much during the week.

My dad hosted a family lunch at Sakura on Friday – six of us plus eight other family members. As we were so many we ended up sitting on two separate Teppanyaki tables, which really defeated the purpose of a family lunch. Dad and I walked home after lunch, stopping at Tim Horton’s for coffee. We stayed in on Friday night but once Vinay was asleep, my sister, her husband and I walked over to iKandy for a drink. It’s so convenient that it’s just next door!

On Saturday my sister, her husband, Vinay and I went to the Dubai Dolphinarium in Creek Park. We aimed to get there in time for the 3pm show and made it with a few minutes to spare. Entrance to the park is AED 5 and then you have to buy tickets to see the show. Tickets were AED 100 for adults (AED 120 for VIP seats) and children under 2 years are free. I can’t remember how much a child’s ticket cost. We sat down and got some popcorn and the show began. There were four dolphins and two seals.

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2013

It was fun to watch but it was a shame the Dolphinarium is indoors – it was perfect weather for an outdoor show. I suppose they have to think of the hot summers here.

After the show we hung around outside while Vinay went on a camel ride and a horse ride.

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By 4.30pm we were famished and ended up at McDonald’s on Sheikh Zayed Road. After we’d eaten we went to Jumeirah Town Centre for a wander and then went home.

We stayed in that night and my brother-in-law left for Lagos.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 31

What a busy week!

Aside from gym sessions and work, it’s been quite a social week.

On Monday I had dinner with NP at Zuma. I hadn’t seen her since before the summer and it was fun to catch up. The food at Zuma is always excellent: we had the sliced seabass with yuzu and truffle oil (amazing), tuna tataki, Zuma salad and rock shrimp. We skipped dessert although I’m going to have to go back at some point and have the green tea and banana cake!

On Tuesday evening, Mum and I went to the Dubai Mall as she wanted to send some chocolates to Bombay. In the end, she picked up a box of dates from Bateel. Every time we go there the man at the counter gives us a taster – I usually go for the dates with pecan but this time I also tried one with ginger. It was interesting, but I prefer the pecan.

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The Hummingbird Bakery also had its opening at the Dubai Mall on Tuesday and they were giving away free cupcakes. Yes, of course I had one. You could choose any one you wanted so I got a red velvet cupcake. The mall is becoming a dangerous place!

I went to see ‘The Imposter’ on Wednesday evening with a friend and one of her friends. I’d heard about the movie and it was the last night it was playing so I decided to go (and also because I really fancied some popcorn). ‘The Imposter’ is a documentary about a French man who manages to convince a Texan family that he’s their long lost teenage son. It’s a true story. I can understand that they must have been desperate to believe that anyone was Nicholas, but these two people looked nothing alike. Nicholas was blond with blue eyes, Frederic Bourdin had brown eyes, dyed blond hair and spoke with a French accent. Even with a shadow of a doubt, wouldn’t you insist on a DNA test? There were some funny moments in the movie, such as when Nicholas’ sister recalls receiving the phone call telling her that he was found in Spain, she says ‘Spain? Isn’t that on the other side of the country?’ Good grief.

We had a girls’ night on Thursday evening – five of us went to Loca at the Dubai Marine Beach Resort. I’d never been there, and it was a nice place. We started with wine and I moved on to vodka after that. It wasn’t a very late night, and we did eat while we were there (spinach and artichoke dip, spicy guacamole, lamb burrito – which was actually very tasty) so I didn’t feel too awful the next day.

Dad and I had lunch at Sakura on Friday with my uncle, aunt and their grandchildren. My cousin was out of town and I ended up sitting between the 12-year-old and the 4-year-old. I had a headache by the end of lunch. My mum’s aunt and her two sons came over to visit later that afternoon and stayed for a couple of hours. I’d forgotten how much my great-aunt looks like my late grandfather – they have the same eyes – and I couldn’t help but miss him.

That night I was supposed to see The Proclaimers at Irish Village with a friend and were told tickets were available at the door – but when we got there they had sold out! Who knew they had so many fans in Dubai? Or anywhere, for that matter? We decided to go for a drink instead and ended up at Carter’s at Wafi. The crowd was dire and the music was appalling. We sat at the bar and had a few drinks and I was home before midnight.

I lazed around the flat on Saturday. I did some work, watched some episodes of ‘Suits’, Dad left for Jamaica. I met up with a friend for drinks and dinner that night. We met at Karma Kafé at Souk Al Bahar with two of her friends whom I hadn’t met. We had a few drinks at the bar intending to move on to Bice Mare for dinner, but in the end we stayed there for dinner. It was a fun evening, the vodka was flowing, the conversation was stimulating and the food was great. We had salmon tataki, prawn tempura maki, new style tuna sashimi, black cod with nam pla sauce, and a chocolate fondant for dessert. We calculated at the end that we’d had 25 vodkas between the four of us by the end of the evening!

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 24

Week 23 was a write-off so there’s not much point saying anything about it. I got back, fell ill and spent the week in bed. On Saturday evening I decided I’d had enough and that it was time to get back on track.

I had a Sunday morning session with Rama (it killed me). My parents wanted to go out for lunch so we headed to the Dubai Mall. Considering it was a public holiday it didn’t seem so crowded at first. When we were told we’d have to wait 1.5 hours for a table at one of the restaurants we decided to go elsewhere. We ended up at Red Lobster (I had grilled salmon, broccoli and a baked potato) and then went to Tim Horton’s for coffee. It must have opened while I was away because it definitely wasn’t there before I left. I had the French Vanilla cappuccino – I’d never had it before. Lovely!

After lunch, Dad went home and Mum and I went to get a birthday present for my cousin’s daughter. We went to Times Square Center intending to go to Toys R Us but I got side-tracked by a music store selling pianos.

I’ve been wanting to get a piano since I moved to Dubai (but admittedly haven’t done much about it) so I went in and looked at what they had. I’ve noticed a lot of places selling electric keyboards/pianos here, but very few sell traditional upright pianos. The assistant in the store said they only sell Ritmüller pianos. I’d never heard of them. I was told the pieces (hammers, strings, keys, soundboards) are crafted in Germany and assembled in China. I suppose Yamaha are also assembled in China – so what difference does it make? I’ll have to do some research. 

We eventually made it to Toys R Us, picked up the present, and headed to Oasis Centre. It was dull household stuff – hangers, plastic boxes for the kitchen, and so on. I couldn’t wait to get home. 

On Monday I had yoga after ages. After that I went for a Balinese massage at Dreamworks Spa at Palm Strip Mall. I’d bought the deal (1 hour for AED99) a couple of months ago and forgotten about it. When I found the voucher, I realised that Monday was the last day I could use it and luckily they had a spot available. I went there, really not expecting very much (especially after the massage at Chelsea Tower) but I was pleasantly surprised. 

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It was quiet. The rooms were comfortable. And the massage was amazing. I will definitely go back – and they have 25% off massages on weekdays! 

By Monday night I had a slight temperature again and my muscles were aching after my training session the day before.

I woke up on Tuesday at 6am to see the sun rising (I sleep with my curtains open).

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I did go back to sleep though, and stayed in all day – working.

On Wednesday I had another session with Rama and then Mum and I went to the Fairmont for a sushi lunch. We over-ordered and ended up taking home a doggy bag. After lunch we both had our nails done. I had a much-needed pedicure – all that walking in London didn’t do much for my feet, and even if I’d wanted to have a mani/pedi while I was there I don’t know when I would have fit it into my busy schedule!

My parents were out that night and I had the place to myself. I caught up on some work and some TV shows. That night a friend suggested I start a food blog. I admitted that I would love to but that I usually remember to take photos of my food after I’ve eaten it (oops). I must try and remember to take more photos. 

Thursday was quite busy. I went to the gym in the morning and then my parents and I went to Vapiano at the Dubai Mall for lunch. I knew their portions were huge from the last time I went, so I ordered a Greek salad to start with.

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For my main course, I was supposed to share the tagliatelle funghi with my mum, but it was too much. Next time I’m just going to stick to the salad. Oh, and of course I forgot to take a photo of the pasta! After lunch, I got a takeaway coffee from Tim Horton’s and we headed home. 

An hour later we went over to the Shangri-La as my cousin was having her daughter’s 4th birthday party there. There were kids, mums, babies, nannies, balloons, an entertainer, a bouncy castle, food, cake. The kids looked like they were having a good time. We stayed for just an hour. 

That evening I went to Dubai Wine Club. The last two times I’d been, the venue had been outdoors at the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel. This time it was at the Radisson Royal, just a few blocks down, at their restaurant Indo Thai. The venue is lovely but I preferred the set-up at Ibn Battuta: you can see everyone, you’re on a round table so you get to talk to most people. At the Radisson we were on long tables of 10 and the layout of the room was such that you couldn’t really see any of the other tables. Because we were on a long table our table was very much divided into two – which wasn’t very conducive to the discussion of wine (or anything else). I sat with one of my friends and the rest were all new people. I met an English/Irish couple and when they asked me what I did and I told them, the husband looked shocked and said ‘My wife wants to be you!’ She also works as a freelance writer/editor and in fact knew my ex boss from Haymarket Publishing. What a small world. 

On to the wines. Six sparkling wines were chosen for the evening – as before they were all blinded. 

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2012

E was my favourite, followed by A. I didn’t like B. C and D tasted almost the same and I didn’t like them either. I didn’t really care for F either. So what were they? You will be s
hocked. I know I was. 

  • A: Spanish cava (Castillo Perelada)
  • B: Taittinger
  • C: Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir
  • D: Moët & Chandon – and guess what grapes they use? Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
  • E: Italian prosecco (Prosecco di Valdobbiadene)
  • F: German sekt (Henkell Trocken)

No wonder C and D tasted so similar – they’re the same grapes! And compared to a couple of the other wines, D didn’t taste that good. Surprising.

The choice of food was quite good – chicken satays, beef satays, calamari, spring rolls, fish, steamed dumplings. Again, I forgot to take a photo – but instead of it being a buffet like it was at Ibn Battuta, the food was brought to each table on long platters. 

As people started leaving, a group of people gathered at the bar. I’d met some of them before so I joined them for some drinks. Three glasses of Sauvignon Blanc later, we were the last group to leave the bar. I got home after 2am. 

On Friday the three of us went to Sakura for lunch with my cousin and her parents. The food was good and I overate as usual. As much as I like Sakura, I think the rest of the Crowne Plaze Hotel could do with a makeover. It’s pretty shabby.

We got home from lunch a little before 4pm and I thought about going down to the pool. I looked down at the pool to see if there was anyone there – about 20 kids were splashing around, there were tables and chairs laid out and there was even a blow-up slide leading into the pool. I decided that maybe I could wait until Saturday to lounge around by the pool!

 

My cousin and I were supposed to meet for a casual dinner that night as well – but we both knew our parents were out and both wanted to make the most of the peace and quiet so we decided to postpone it! 

On Saturday I went to the gym quite late and then spent the afternoon at the pool, swimming and reading. There was an English guy there – I’d seen him before but had never spoken to him. I’m terrible with guessing people’s ages but I think he must have been in his mid to late 50s. We started chatting while we were in the pool and he said that there had been so many problems with the pool the year before that he joined the gym at the Shangri-La. He said the pool had become an algae green colour (gross) and nobody was doing anything about it. He also said that the residents in the building should be concerned about their safety in the event of a fire. He said the smoke alarms don’t work and that there aren’t enough sprinklers on each floor. He said the chances of people on the higher floors making it out alive were slim. I have to admit this had crossed my mind already. It’s a long way down from the 23rd floor. Since I moved I’ve read about at least five fires in residential buildings with devastating consequences. We talked for a bit longer and then he left. I did a few lengths, dried off in the sun and finished my book. A great Saturday. And the icing on the cake? I had the place to myself on Saturday night too.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 21

A busy week!

After my usual session with Rama, my mum, grandmother and I decided to go to Royal China for lunch.

I’d barely been there 5 minutes and the waitress started to annoy me. She asked us three times whether we wanted virgin mojitos and we told her three times that we didn’t. We ordered some dim sum (prawn and chive dumplings, vegetarian dumplings, spring rolls, crispy asparagus), and after we’d finished that we ordered our main course (noodles with mixed vegetables, tofu and pak choy). She asked us about the virgin mojitos again. Good grief. NO! 

After lunch we went to the Dubai Mall. I had a couple of dresses that needed altering and we’d been told there was a good tailor there. I’d heard about other tailors in Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai but this was much more convenient. I tried on both dresses and they said they’d be ready later that evening. 

That evening, I was supposed to go to an InterNations event at Jambase but by the time we got home it was after 5pm and I was feeling too lazy. I got into bed and decided to do some work.

On Monday I had yoga and was home until the evening. I’d booked a facial at Spaces at Oasis Mall (they offer 50% off on Mondays) for 7pm. I learned that 7pm is really the wrong time to go. There was traffic getting there and back, and the spa was crowded too. Next time I’ll go in the middle of the afternoon. A couple of days later I got a call from the spa telling them the payment on my card hadn’t gone through.

‘Really?’ I asked. ‘Because I paid cash.’ 

‘Oh! So sorry for the inconvenience, mam.’ 

Mental.

I worked all of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but was out those three nights.

On Tuesday evening I met up with NP (formerly known as ‘Twitter friend’). She suggested we meet at Jetty Lounge at the Royal Mirage Hotel. I’d never been there so it was nice to go somewhere new (for me). It’s located on the beach, on a jetty (hence the name), and it was very chilled. We ordered a bottle of rosé and some food (the mezze and Mexican platters). The houmous and guacamole were fantastic. It was a warm night and the rosé went down very smoothly.  

On Wednesday evening I met up with a friend and one of her friends at Blends Bar at The Address Marina. It was Havana Night, which meant women got free mojitos until midnight and there was also a free salsa lesson taught by Aloy Junco. We got there at about 9pm, got a round of drinks and then joined the salsa class. There were about 40 people in the class and once I figured out the instructor’s strong Cuban accent it wasn’t difficult to follow. As the class went on, the room started filling up, and once the class was over the dancefloor was overtaken by the serious salsa lovers. It was fantastic to watch – all that twirling and hip-shaking! By the time we left just after midnight the dancefloor was heaving. We had such a good time we decided to make it a regular event once get back from our various travels. 

On Thursday night I headed to Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel for Dubai Wine Club. As I walked in I prayed that the crazy woman from last time wasn’t there. And my prayers were answered! What a fun evening! Our table consisted of four men and six women (nine singles, one married man): I knew one of the women, and two of the men and two of the women were on my table at the last wine tasting. Again, we were seated outdoors just outside the lobby area, and this time all six wines were red. I thought it was a shame as it was quite warm and a perfect night for chilled white wine! We went through all six wines – talking about them (and other things). The woman on my right said ‘I think they’re all Cabernets from different regions’ (the bottles are covered so you don’t know what you’re drinking). How on earth could anyone possibly know that? One of the guys said ‘I think F is a Malbec.’ I had to disagree because I actually like Malbec and F smelled (and tasted) like burning tyres. At the end of the evening, the organiser unveiled the bottles and, sure enough, they were all Cabernets. Genius. The conversation flowed (sex was the topic of choice) and people on other tables kept looking over at us wondering what the raucous laughter was about. We were by far the best table there. Pretty soon we were the only table left, still sitting down, still talking – and the organiser brought over two bottles of Bordeaux to our table. At about 11.30pm we decided to move into the bar area as it was getting too warm outside. I think Dubai is the only place where it gets hotter as the night goes on rather than cooler – of course the red wine didn’t help. I left soon after midnight – all that red wine had left me feeling dopey.

Friday was relaxing – I had lunch with my parents and grandmother at Sakura at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. We all overate, as usual. Imagine if I’d gone for that awful massage after Sakura?? After lunch I went down to the pool, pleasantly surprised to find nobody there. I stayed in that evening – I think being out three nights in a row is enough for me! Plus I knew Saturday would be an early start as Mum and I were taking Joy to the airport.

After seeing Joy go through passport control, Mum and I left the airport. The Metro station was right there so we decided to go home by train. I hadn’t been on the Metro yet and was in no rush to get home. I already had Mum’s old Nol card which needed topping up. I put it in the machine and decided to top it up with 5 dirhams. As I was fishing around for change in my bag, I noticed that there were some coins in the change box in the ticket machine. Five dirhams exactly! Perfect. 

Because we were close to the beginning of the line we got seats on the train. It was 9am. We got to Financial Centre Metro station by 9.30 and started walking home. We passed Tim Horton’s and decided to get a coffee. Mum bought a croissant which looked and smelled so good. I’ll admit I had two bites of it. It was my first time at Tim Horton’s and was pleasantly surprised by their coffee. We got home by 10am – it’s about a 7-minute walk from Tim Horton’s to our building and I could feel my skin burning, even at that time of the morning.

When we got home I finished my coffee, did the crossword, and sat with my grandmother. Mum went back to sleep. At about 11am I decided to go down to the pool. It was boiling so I sat under an umbrella. After a while I was so hot I thought I’d do a couple of laps in the pool. The metal railings on the ladder getting into the pool were so hot I could barely hold them for more than a couple of seconds at a time. And once I was in the pool I felt like I was in a tepid bath; that’s how warm it was. 

That afternoon I was supposed to go to my writing/book group, but I only went for the book part of it. There were just four of us this time, but I got some good book suggestions which I’ll look into when I’m in London. After book group I went to meet my mum and grandmother at Burjuman. They were having coffee with one of their friends at Hediard Cafe in the mall. After that we walked Saks for a little while and then went home. 

That evening we went to Social House for dinner. Mum had made lunch but didn’t feel like making dinner so we went out. When we got to the mall we passed a watch repair shop so I had a few links removed from my watch so that it finally fit properly. Let’s hope I never have to use them again! The man charged me 10 dirhams. By the time we sat down to eat it was 9.45 and I was famished. I couldn’t see anything on the menu that sounded as appealing as the Wagyu beef burger and fries (I didn’t eat the bread)… and it really hit t
he spot. 

I was shattered by the time we got home and couldn’t wait to get into bed. It was the longest day I’d had in a while!

I love my life.

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The final few: Week 6

I had my 30th session with Rama on Sunday morning. Thirty! Time really does fly… While I was on the cross-trainer, he told me I was going to do some of the fitness tests which I hadn’t done for a while: push-ups, crunches, wall squat, plank and 500m on the cross-trainer. I’ve done burpees in the past as well, but he said the last time I managed to do over 80 in 7 minutes so it wouldn’t be much of a test. Thank goodness, because I hate burpees.

I did the following:

  • 1 minute of push-ups (39 push-ups, 36 last time)
  • 1 minute of crunches (39 crunches, 40 last time)
  • Wall squat (1 minute 8 seconds – an improvement of just 7 seconds)
  • Plank (2 minutes, an improvement of 26 seconds)
  • 500m on the cross-trainer (3 minutes 12 seconds, an improvement of 29 seconds) 

The wall squat was torture and the 500m on the cross-trainer killed me. Rama told me to aim for 500m in 3 minutes and 30 seconds, and even he was surprised at my improved time. I told him there wasn’t a vast improvement with my push-ups or crunches, but he said my technique and range of motion had improved so each push-up/crunch would take a little bit longer. Neither of us could remember what my first results were. I had a rest after that and then did some lower body exercises, wall squats using a Swiss ball, stepping on and off a bench, Swiss ball crunches, and finally a cool-down on the treadmill. 

I woke up on Monday with a sore lower body: abs, hamstrings, thighs, they all ached. I had yoga on Monday morning. It was much better than the week before, and much quieter for most of the class! That evening Rama sent me a message with my first ever results: push-ups 22, crunches 26, wall squat 32 seconds, plank 37 seconds, burpees 11 (pathetic), 500m on the cross-trainer 4 minutes and 53 seconds. And that was four months ago. I was pleased about the improvement, but feel the wall squat could be much better…

I got to the gym quite late on Tuesday morning to find four Lebanese women there. I’d spoken to them all before, but had never encountered them together. They were chatting and cackling, the iPod speakers were on, it was noisy. I felt like I was at a Lebanese hen night. I still managed to do my 5k and left.

My Wednesday session with Rama consisted of target training using free weights and the weights machines. I worked each targeted area for 4-5 minutes, starting with abs, then moving on to legs, then hamstrings, then my upper body, then some cardio (boxing moves holding the 3-kg weights) interspersed with squats and burpees (still holding the 3-kg weights), and then back to abs again. It was tough – and I woke up sore all over on Thursday.

Even though I was sore, and a little hungover from Havana Night at Blends Bar on Wednesday night, I went to the gym intending to do just 3k. Something is better than nothing, after all. 

I planned to go to the spin class at the Shangri-La at 7pm on Friday evening, but I was so full from lunch at Sakura that I didn’t think it was a good idea. Instead I went to the gym: I did 3k on the treadmill, two sets of tricep extensions and two sets of Swiss ball crunches. Of course I could have gone on Saturday morning but I’d decided to take Saturday ‘off’ as I wanted to spend the morning at the pool after taking Joy to the airport… 

On Sunday, Rama asked me what my target weight was, and I told him I wanted to be 23 kg lighter than when I started, so I’ve still got just over 8 kg to go. And actually, even if I make it to 20 kg I’ll be pretty thrilled! It seems to be taking me a month to lose just 1 kg so I should hit my target by the end of the year. And if I do, I’ll be the same weight I was when I was in my early 20s!

Low point of the week? Having a burger (without the bread) and fries on Saturday night. By the time we sat down to dinner it was almost 10pm and I was famished. The only thing that looked good on the menu at Social House was the burger… 

High point of the week? As loud as the Lebanese women in the gym were, when I saw them they told me I looked like I’d lost a lot of weight (I hadn’t seen one of them in a few weeks). They asked about Rama (they’ve all seen him at the gym at some point), they asked whether I was on a diet, they seemed impressed. 

Weight loss? I’ve now lost 15.1 kg (just over 33 lbs), which I was surprised about considering how much I ate and drank this week! 

2012

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Dubai: Week 11

It started off as a quiet week. I had a session with Rama on Sunday morning, yoga on Monday morning, a cardio session on my own on Tuesday, and was home the rest of the time.

I had another session with Rama on Wednesday. That afternoon I went to the Fairmont to get my hair done – I wanted it coloured and blow-dried. From the time I got to the salon to the time I left an hour and a half later, I was asked six times whether I wanted a manicure and pedicure. By six different women. They asked me: when I got there, when I sat down, when I had the colour in my hair, when my hair was being washed, when my hair was being dried, and when I was paying my bill. Jesus, if I wanted it I’d ask for it.

After that, I met my cousin for a coffee in the lobby. It was my first coffee in almost a week!

On Wednesday evening I went to the Intercontinental Hotel at Festival City – the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature was on and there was a talk by David Nicholls (author of One Day, Starter for Ten and The Understudy). I’d booked my ticket back in January and had been looking forward to it since then. The venue for the evening was the new Heritage Centre on the waterfront. It was a chilly evening and I’m glad I had my shawl.

2012

I got there early enough to get a good seat.

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He was ‘in conversation’ with Rosie Goldsmith.

2012

He talked about his acting ‘career’ – how every time his friends saw him in a play they’d say ‘Well done! Have you thought about being a writer?’ He talked about how he *almost* went on stage as the understudy in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and that it took him ten years to realise he wasn’t a very good actor.

When discussing One Day, he said he’s often asked whether he’s more like Dexter or Emma but he feels he’s more like Ian, the failed stand-up comedian. Why do writers always suffer from intense self-loathing and the feeling they’re never good enough? He’s thinking about a fourth novel, but worries that it will always be compared to One Day and won’t be as good and it’ll be all downhill from there. What I didn’t know is that the date used in the book (15th July) is St Swithin’s Day – if it rains on St Swithin’s Day it’ll be a wet summer, if it’s sunny it’ll be a warm summer. You learn something new every day.

The one piece of writing advice he did give away is that whenever he’s editing/re-writing a finished novel, he prints the whole novel and re-types it. It’s easy to gloss over things when you’re on-screen editing and re-typing it adds more weight to the words. He said One Day took him two years to finish (well, no wonder if he was constantly re-typing it).

There were a few questions at the end, and then he signed copies of his book for people who had brought their own copies. Unfortunately the two books of his I do have are both on my Kindle. If I bought books on the offchance I’d meet their authors, I would need another 6 x 6 foot bookcase. At least.

After my yoga class on Thursday I went back to the Intercontinental – I had a ticket for a session called ‘Who Am I? Who Are You? A Panel Discussion on Identity’. In the cab on the way there I started thinking about identity – my identity. Who was I? I had images of Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club – sitting at a desk, chewing on a pen, asking himself ‘Who am I? Who am I?’ Born in London, to Indian parents, childhood in Nigeria, moved back to London, now living in Dubai. Where is home? The place of my birth? My country of origin? The city I currently live in? Who even lives in the same city they were born in these days? Well, actually I used to until last year.

I wanted to go to the session on identity as one of my favourite authors was on the panel of writers. The first time I’d heard of Romesh Gunesekera was in 2004 – I was doing a creative writing course at Birkbeck and he talked to us about writing on a cold Saturday afternoon in November. I found him fascinating and loved listening to him talk about writing (I should really find those notes – I’m sure they’re around somewhere). I ended up buying one of his books (of course) and he signed it for me. After that I bought another of his books (but admittedly haven’t read it yet) – I took the book with me, hoping he’d sign it. I got there about half an hour early, bought a coffee, and browsed the books. And I ended up buying The Prisoner of Paradise, Gunesekera’s latest novel. So much for not buying any more books. I found a seat in the second row and sat down.

2012

The rest of the panel consisted of Daljit Nagra (a British Asian poet), John O’Sullivan (an Irish poet who now lives in Bali), and Yang Lian (a Chinese poet who now lives in London). Gunesekera is a Sri Lankan who also lives in London. The panel was chaired by Suzanne Radford.

2012

It started with each of the writers reading a passage of their work or a poem and then talking about how that passage/poem contributed to the Festival’s theme of identity. Gunesekera read a short passage from his novel The Match. I’m not a huge fan of cricket but listening to him read made me want to go and buy the book. Lian then read a poem in Chinese, and Daljit Nagra read the English translation. John O’Sullivan read a poem about Cambodia. It reminded me that I need to read The Killing Fields. Daljit Nagra read a poem about shopping. Well, it was a poem about Sikh Panjabis in Britain who buy all their wedding clothes in Jalandar and then head back to the UK.

I took copious notes (which I won’t reproduce here) and one thing I found interesting was Suzanne asking the writers how their parents figured in their writing. O’Sullivan read a poem about his late mother. Lian said his mother died in the 1970s and never read anything he’d written, yet she breathes in every line he writes (now if that isn’t poetry, I don’t know what is). Nagra said his parents barely spoke English so he could write absolutely anything he wanted about anyone – and he knew they’d never know! Gunesekera said it worked both ways, and that he wondered what his children would think of his writing. He then added that writers worry needlessly about things like this and most people won’t read what you write anyway. I would love to sit down with him for an hour and just talk about writing.

It was an interesting talk – and I’m glad I went. When it was over, the writers had to rush off to somewhere else so I never did get my books signed. I also found out that Gunesekera was giving another talk the following day about his latest novel (the one I’d just bought). Unfortunately it wasn’t in the programme when I bought my tickets – and I’d booked a couple of seminars at Gulf Photo Plus at the other end of town. Dammit.

I stayed in on Thursday night as I had be up and out early on Friday morning.

I left home before 9am and made my way towards Knowledge Village where Gulf Photo Plus was being held. I’d booked two seminars for that morning. The first one was ‘Turning your photos to Profits’ – not that I’m anywhere near good enough for that, but I was just curious. The panel consisted of Chris Hurtt (travel photography), Louis Pang (a Malaysian-based wedding and portrait photographer) and Sascha Weis (business development manager at a stock agency). There were lots of interesting tips and tricks of the trade – and things I’d never have considered. For example, if you took a photo of a building (the building is the main focal point of the image) and you wanted to sell that image for commercial use, you would need a property release for that photo. Who knew??

The second talk was by a photographer called Joe McNally. He’s been in the business for over 30 years and has worked for National Geographic, Time magazine, and many others. He took the audience through several photos in his portfolio, the stories behind them, what he had to do to get certain shots (hanging from helicopters, and so on), and the people he’s met along the way.

It was a shame that the literature festival and Gulf Photo Plus were on in the same week – I’d have liked to spend more time at each one!

I had lunch on Friday with my dad and my cousin and her family. We went back to Sakura for the sushi/teppanyaki offer and ate way too much.

That evening I met up with a friend for a couple of drinks at Trader Vic’s at the Madinat Jumeirah. I had two glasses of wine – my first drinks in just over three weeks! I was home by 10pm as he had a flight to catch that night.

Saturday was a lazy day – I would have been happy to lump around the flat all day but by the late afternoon Dad was getting a little restless. We ended up going to see ‘John Carter’ at the Dubai Mall. I only agreed to go if we could go a bit earlier and have a coffee at Gloria Jean’s. Just as well, really – because I might have fallen asleep in the first ten minutes of the movie. I had no idea what was going on. What I figured out was this: man in 1890s gets transported to a different planet, captured by aliens, and falls in love with a princess (rolls eyes). It was far too long – just over 2 hours. After that we went to the food court for an Iranian dinner and we were home by 9.30pm.

So what started off as a quiet week actually became quite busy – and the time just flew by… Soon I’ll have been here three months!

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Dubai: Week 10

I woke up on Sunday morning to another sandstorm. There was no way I was leaving the house with all that dust outside – I’m convinced that’s what made me sick to start with! On Sunday afternoon I received a call from Dubai Bank. It was a courtesy call – what did I think of the procedure for opening a new account? Simple. How did I hear about them? There’s a branch under my building. Was I happy with my account? Well, it’s only been one day so ask me in a month.

On Monday morning I had another call from the bank. Actually it was Aramex telling me my debit card was ready and would be delivered the following day. Wow – they weren’t kidding when they said it would take three days. I have to admit I had my doubts. I had a yoga class on Monday morning – my first ‘exercise’ in 10 days. It was fine apart from a slight coughing fit after being in shoulderstand. I was home the rest of the day, working. 

On Wednesday I had a training session with Rama, did some work, and then went to watch the tennis with my cousin. While we were there I was given the option of coffee or alcohol. I chose coffee. I think that was the first time that’s ever happened. I bitterly regretted it when I was tossing and turning at 2am, unable to sleep. Always choose alcohol, I told myself. Always.

After the tennis, we went to a restaurant called Lemongrass near Lamcy Plaza. They were quite busy and we hadn’t made a reservation but managed to get a table. My cousin had a voucher which gave us one main course for free – so our meal of green chicken curry, steamed fish with ginger and soya sauce, rice, water and a soft drink cost us Dhs 77 (just over £13). Bargain!

On Thursday I had another yoga class and then met up with a friend for coffee. We went to Paul at Mall of the Emirates. We walked around for a while afterwards – she wanted to go to Crate and Barrel so I went with her. Shopping for household items really doesn’t interest me much but some of the things they sold in the store were fascinating. Not fascinating because I would want something like that, but fascinating because who buys all these things? Strawberry hullers, grapefruit knives, bagel knives, and so on. I have to admit that if I did cook I would want one of their garlic presses… After that my friend wanted to go to Carrefour. That’s where I drew the line and headed home.

On Friday we had lunch at Sakura at the Crowne Plaza Hotel with my cousin, her mum and kids. They do a special Friday lunch offer for AED170 (about £30) which includes salads, sushi and sashimi, tempura, teppanyaki and dessert. It doesn’t include drinks but is still great value for money. After that I really fancied a coffee at Gloria Jean’s which was a short walk away. They were closed when we got there! I was so disappointed – they close for the afternoon on Fridays. Surely that’s when they’d be busiest?? Dad and I decided we’d go to Mercato Mall and have a coffee there instead. We thought about seeing a movie that night but by the time we got home we were both feeling too lazy to do anything.

We’d been meaning to get a TV for Joy’s room – just so she’d have something to do in her free time and not get so bored. On Saturday we went to Harman House on Sheikh Zayed Road to see what they had. We chose a TV but didn’t buy it as the technician needs to come and check that the points in her room work. We haven’t told her about the TV so hopefully it will be a nice surprise for her when it arrives! 

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Dubai: Days 25-28

After my early session with Rama on Wednesday, I did some work and then went to the Dubai Mall. I was meeting a friend of a friend who I’d never met before. She just moved to Dubai herself a few weeks before me as she recently got married. We met at Social House in the mall – the sushi was really good and I would go back to try some other things on the menu. As we were chatting, it turns out that she knows a good friend of mine in London, and my cousins in China! What a small world… 

On Thursday afternoon I decided I really needed a manicure and pedicure. I went to the salon at the Fairmont where I’ve been going for the last few weeks. Oh, that’s one thing that really annoys me: in Dubai, they say ‘saloon’ rather than ‘salon’. It is SO irritating. Am I going to find the fastest hairdresser in the Middle East? I don’t think so.

But I digress. Being a Thursday I thought I’d go earlier rather than later. When I got there, I was surprised to find I was the only person there. I sat down, one person did my hands, another did my feet. The rest of the girls were chatting in a corner, giggling and laughing. I tweeted: ‘I want to learn Arabic but after sitting in this salon for the last hour I think Tagalog might be the way to go.’ Maybe I should learn both? 

On Thursday evening, I had dinner with my parents, sister and a couple of my parents’ friends. We met them at The Address where they were staying, with the intention of going to PF Chang’s at the Dubai Mall for dinner. We walked through the hotel to get to the mall and had to walk past Ember Bar and Lounge to get there. We decided to stop for a glass of wine before dinner.

2012

After our bottle of Pinot Grigio we carried on through the mall, but when we got to the restaurant there was a long queue outside. We were told it would be at least 45 minutes until a table for 6 people became available. We put our names down and a couple of us headed to Waitrose and the chemist while the others waited near the restaurant. We didn’t sit down until 10.45. I was pleasantly surprised by the food – the dynamite shrimp were excellent, and I ordered steamed salmon with vegetables as a main course but couldn’t finish it. It was just before midnight when we left the mall – and the shops were only just closing at that time!

I had my photography class on Friday afternoon. When I was finished, I was on my way to meet my mum, sister and nephew, when I saw a little boy – he was probably about 4 or 5 years old and he was bawling. I looked around but couldn’t see anyone who he could have been with. ‘Are you lost?’ I asked him. He just carried on crying. ‘Where’s your mummy?’ I asked him. He shrugged, still crying. ‘Should we go find her?’ He nodded. I looked around for an information desk and saw a security man – so I took the little boy over to him and told him he was lost. The little boy seemed a little calmer by this point but I didn’t really want to leave him alone with the guy so I walked with them as he spoke into his walkie-talkie. Two minutes later, the boy’s mother found us – and she was walking towards us from the complete opposite direction to where the boy had been. I don’t know how long he’d been lost, but she seemed more annoyed at him for getting lost than relieved to see him safe and sound! Anyway, at least they found each other.

On Friday evening, my sister and I went to Caramel for dinner. We got there just after 9pm, didn’t have a reservation, but got a table straight away. We were told they’d need it back at 10.15. We sat down, and as soon as I looked at the menu I knew it was going to be a ‘cheat night’. We ordered a few small dishes, and one main dish – all to share.

We had the seared Kobe beef carpaccio and spicy tuna roll:

2012

TNT shrimp and petite Kobe sliders (I didn’t eat the bread):

2012

And the macaroni cheese (those croquette-like things):

2012

Talk about carb-fest. I felt quite gross after that! And we had two glasses of rosé each.

We sat at our table till after 10.30 – and nobody asked us to move as there were several empty tables around.

On Saturday I was home all day after going to the gym in the morning. It was cold and windy all day and I could hear the wind howling outside. My mum and sister were out shopping all day while Dad and I entertained Vinay at home. He was hard work, wanting to watch ‘Wheels on the Bus’ on the iPad or laptop over and over and over again. 

In the early evening, we took Vinay to Mazaya, a small mall not far from our flat. My mum had seen a photography studio there where they take portraits of kids dressed up as sheikhs and in other costumes. I did wonder whether they were in ‘costume’ or whether they actually owned their traditional dress, but my mum wanted Vinay to dress up in one of these sheikh costumes. I thought it was a bad idea from the start – the boy can barely sit still for 5 seconds and hates wearing anything on his head. He was tired, cranky and refused to sit by himself. He wasn’t even wearing the costume at this point. The photographer decided the best thing to do would be to take some photos of Vinay just as he was and then use Photoshop to add the costume to the picture. We eventually got Vinay smiling and laughing – by my sister pretending to hurt herself by banging her head on my arm – and the photos were done. This is the final result:

2012

As it was my sister’s last weekend in Dubai, she wanted to go to a Japanese restaurant for dinner. We ended up at Sakura at the Crowne Plaza on Sheikh Zayed Road – close to home. The service was a bit slow, but the food was good when it eventually arrived! I ordered a salad to start with – it was one of the biggest salads I’d ever seen. At least three people could have shared it as a starter. I ordered the salmon teppanyaki for my main course – without rice. The food is good and the portions are generous, but there’s not much choice if you’re vegetarian.

Wow – my first four weeks in Dubai went by
really quickly!

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