Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Week 14

I was working all of Sunday and didn’t leave the flat other than to go to the gym.

It was my birthday on Monday so I spent most of the day with the family. I’ve had a ‘no work on my birthday’ policy for the last few years (I would even take the day off when I worked in London) and managed to stick to it this year. At about 10am, the guy from security came up and told us there was going to be a fire drill and we’d have to leave the flat. I was a bit annoyed because I’d seen the signs next to the lift the day before and specifically asked him if we’d have to leave and he said it was just to test the fire alarms. So, instead of waiting for the fire alarm to go off at 10.30 and having to walk down 23 flights of stairs with two kids, I got ready for the gym and made a cup of tea while my mum and sister put V2 in his stroller. We went down in the lift and just waited for everything to kick off. Dad decided he was going to stay in bed (no, I’m not joking). Once the alarm went off, some people came out of the building while others just watched from their balconies (again, I’m not joking). The fire engines came, the paramedics came. V1 was thrilled to see it all in real life but it was a joke. Forty-five minutes after the alarm had gone off, people were still strolling out of the building in no rush whatsoever.

Once everyone was allowed back inside, I went to the gym. Later that day as I told friends about the fire drill, they said ‘Oh, wow. You got to see some real firemen on your birthday. What a treat!’ I had to point out that these weren’t New York firemen, worthy of a calendar page – these were short, stocky men from Kerala and Tamil Nadu!

That afternoon, my sister, V1, my cousin and I went to the Meat Company for lunch. We had steaks all round – so good! V1 had eaten at home and just had some chips. Afterwards we went home and I chilled for a bit. We cut a cake that evening, with V1 helping me to blow out the candles. That night my parents, sister and Vs 1 and 2 went to Sapori di Bice for dinner. It’s very kid-friendly and V1 had brought his scooter to play around on. I also bumped into a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in about a year so that was quite nice. I thought I might go out for a drink after dinner but was feeling really tired and lazy! It was such a chilled birthday – and not even one drink…

On Tuesday afternoon, Vs 1 and 2 had been invited to a friend’s daughter’s second birthday party. The party was at G’s Cafe in JLT and V2 cried all the way there. When we got to the party all the kids were with the entertainer already and the mums were having tea and coffee and finger sandwiches and little pastries. It was really nice. I even met someone that I knew but hadn’t seen in about two years! When it was time to cut the cake, we all went into the cafe – and there were some amazing cakes on display! After having a bite to eat, we headed home. V2 had slept the entire time we were there and woke up just in time to cry all the way home in the car.

I had a gym session with Trevor on Wednesday and a piano lesson in the evening. I tried to do as much work as I could as I knew I wouldn’t get much done at the weekend.

I woke up on Thursday to the most awful sandstorm. Visibility was almost zero and the world had taken on a bizarre natural sepia filter. I couldn’t see the Shangri-La next door or even the street below.

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Someone told me there had been a weather warning and that this was going to last all weekend. I panicked as I’d booked my birthday drinks at Calabar and had reserved an outdoors space. I sent the manager of the bar a neurotic email and he called me back a few hours later to say that it looked like the sandstorm was improving (it was) and that they were opening their outdoor area that evening (phew) and that it would be fine tomorrow (it bloody better be).

I worked most of Thursday. That night I had dinner at Royal China with a friend of mine. We’d booked a table for six people but everyone gradually bailed as the day went on, so we decided to go anyway – and he bought me dinner for my birthday. The food and service were really good. We shared a hot and sour soup with chicken to start and a quarter crispy aromatic duck. For our main course we had the Szechuan prawns and black bean beef with steamed rice and a portion of pak choi. Yum! I was full after all this but we had toffee banana for dessert anyway! It was a quiet evening and I was home by 11pm.

I woke up on Friday to glorious sunshine and clear skies. Thank goodness. However, that afternoon my sister and I walked to the Shangri-La to get our hair done and it was so windy that by the time we got there we were covered in sand. It was disgusting. I could feel it down my back (how??) and up my nose and in my throat. Ugh. Luckily the walk home was nowhere near as bad, and even though there was a breeze at Calabar that night, it wasn’t a gale!

It was a nice evening. I got to Calabar with a friend at about 6pm and my first guest arrived at 6.30. I had 39 people show up, 22 people didn’t. Out of those 22, some had said they couldn’t make it, some had RSVP’d ‘yes’ but never bothered showing up (rude) and some didn’t bother to RSVP at all (also rude). But I think those that showed up had a good time – I know I did! And then when the bill came, I couldn’t find my debit card in my handbag. I knew it was there because I had checked twice before leaving home and I hadn’t opened my bag so it couldn’t have fallen out at any point. I emptied my bag but it was nowhere to be found. In the end, a friend paid the bill for me. After he’d paid, the waiter said he’d ‘found’ my card on the floor somewhere. It was all very suspicious. And for the next two days I thought I must have been going mad every time I mentioned it as people laughed it off and put it down to too much alcohol. And then I thought they might be right until… a friend told me that when she got home she noticed that her credit cards were loose in her handbag instead of in her wallet like they usually are. So, on the plus side – I wasn’t going mad. On the minus side, the only people who had access to our bags were my guests. And that is a real negative. But, if you were going to go through someone’s handbag, wouldn’t you take the cash instead of the cards? I had AED 700 in my bag and it was still there the next day. None of it made any sense.

I had asked everyone not to bring a present, but a few people did get me something. I got: a box of Godiva chocolates, a book of 5-minute crosswords, a spiralbound notebook and two Smythson notebooks – one is black and says ‘Frankly, my dear’ on the front and the other is orange and says ‘Expect the unexpected’ on the front. Lots of notebooks!

It’s probably no surprise that I spent all of Saturday at home. I got out of bed at about 1pm, barely able to move. I had lunch, got back into bed and watched an episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ with my eyes closed. I showered, got into different pajamas and lazed around all day.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 9

What a busy week!

I spent most of Sunday recovering from the wedding I’d been to over the weekend. That night I had dinner with some friends at Sho Cho. The weather hadn’t been great all day – there was still some sand flying around and it was really windy. We thought we’d decide whether to sit in or out when we got there. Walking from the entrance to the restaurant was like walking through gale-force winds! But funnily enough, once we got to the restaurant, the outside area was quite sheltered (I’m not sure how) and we decided to sit outside.

We ordered some edamame and lychee martinis to start with. We then ordered the yellowtail sashimi, rock shrimp tempura and the seared tuna salad. I hadn’t eaten there in a while and I have to say the food was disappointing. Even our lychee martinis were disappointing – and I ended up switching to red wine after the first drink. We were there until almost 1am and had to tackle even stronger winds on the way back to the car. As we drove past the Shangri-La on our way home, I noticed the doorman was wearing what looked like a sheer stocking over his face to protect it from the sand and dust flying around!

On Monday afternoon I had a piano lesson. That evening, I went to The Scene Club at Knowledge Village – they were hosting a screening of Wild Tales, an Argentinian movie that had been nominated for an Oscar (Best Foreign Film). It was brilliant! And crazy! And hilarious! It’s a black comedy/drama which consists of six standalone shorts – the only common theme is violence. Apparently the director wrote the entire movie in his bathtub. But what I really want to know is: what the hell was he smoking in that bathtub??

I was home for most of Tuesday. I went to the Shangri-La Spa for a massage in the afternoon. God, it was just so good. Ideally I’d have liked to have spent a couple of hours by the pool as well but: (1) I had too much work to do; and (2) the weather has become ‘cold’ again – last week it was 34/35C during the day and the last two days it’s been 20/21C.

On Wednesday I was home all day apart from my piano lesson. That night, I met up with a friend who was on her way back to Jakarta from Los Angeles. She was here for work for a couple of days and we hadn’t seen each other in over five years. I picked her up from her hotel and we went to Madinat Jumeirah. We walked around for a while and eventually decided to eat al fresco at Trader Vic’s. They’ve changed their menu! I was disappointed to see that their seared tuna with jasmine rice is no longer available. We decided we’d skip the starters and share two main courses – we ordered the lamb curry and the crispy chilli red snapper. Both dishes were tasty, but not as good as the seared tuna. We were two full for dessert after that and walked around the souk a bit longer.

She was leaving on Thursday evening so we decided we’d spend the afternoon together. I did some work in the morning and she came over at lunchtime. We went to Maison Bagatelle for lunch with a friend of hers. After lunch, we walked around the mall for a while and then went straight to the airport. It was so good to see her – and I hope it’s not another five years before we meet…

I stayed in on Thursday night, working. I knew the weekend was going to be busy so I tried to do as much as I could on Thursday night.

My friend from London who was here for New Year’s Eve was back in town for one night and staying at the Conrad again. We spent the afternoon at the Conrad poolside with a couple of his friends, drinking wine and eating. That evening we went to see John Legend performing at the Media City Amphitheatre with a few of my friends. He was amazing. I don’t know that many of his songs but I love ‘Ordinary People’. I think I’ve heard ‘All of Me’ a bit too much recently but I loved the version he sang at the end – with a Middle Eastern twist.

Whoever took that video must have been standing very close to us as we had the same view from the same distance. After the concert, my friend and I went to Pacha. I’d booked a table on the terrace – one of my other friends joined us, and a few of my friend’s friends joined us. What a night – champagne was flowing and I felt like hell the next day.

I was out all day on Saturday. I had another friend in town for the day so I met him and some mutual friends for lunch at Katsuya in the Dubai Mall – the food was really good but I was too hungover to deal with chopsticks! After lunch we decided to go to Karak House on the Boulevard for tea. All I really wanted was a Coke but I haven’t had a soft drink since 2nd January – so I ordered a mango iced tea instead. It tasted a lot better than it sounds… We sat there for what felt like hours. At about 5.30pm we decided to go to Calabar for drinks as happy hour would start at 6pm and his flight wasn’t until 11pm. Just outside the main entrance to the Address Downtown, we saw this crazy Ferrari with Saudi plates! Only in Dubai (and Saudi, I guess)!

We got a table outside, ordered some drinks and eventually some food – we were feeling peckish again. A few more people joined us but I left after we finished a bottle of Pinot Noir – I was home by 8.15pm, had some dinner and got into my pajamas!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 8

What began as a quiet(ish) week ended up quite the opposite! After my session with Trevor on Sunday, I was home the rest of the day.

On Monday afternoon I went to the Dubai Mall – I was thinking about getting a foundation (I don’t wear much makeup) and had heard that Sephora had some skin-matching machine/app that would find you the perfect foundation. I thought I’d give it a try. I walked into Sephora – and I walked straight out. It was like the makeup equivalent of Top Shop – crowded, loud pumping music and inattentive sales staff. No, thank you.

So I walked to Bobbi Brown – much better. Not crowded, no music (that I could hear) and someone who knew what she was talking about. In the end, I ditched the foundation idea and bought a tinted moisturiser. The reason I don’t wear foundation is that every month my skin is a different colour – I’m either tanned or not, and how many foundations can a person have, really??

I had a facial at Dermalogica after my little shopping expedition. They really are the best – and they have an offer on Mondays which is 25% off your treatment. I’d been using the same products for a while: Special Cleansing Gel and an SPF 15 moisturiser (which has since been discontinued and is only available as tinted moisturiser now – why?). I rarely bothered with toner (although I have it) or exfoliator (I have that too). After my facial, Judy suggested I try the UltraCalming Sensitised Skin Kit – my cheeks tend to be more sensitive – and I thought I’d give it a try. It’s only been a week but I’m amazed at the difference in my skin. The only thing that irks me (don’t you love that word?) is that the moisturiser doesn’t have an SPF. In this day and age, it should be mandatory for all moisturisers to have an SPF.

On Tuesday evening I went to Karma Kafe with a friend. It was ladies night so we got three tokens each for drinks – and 50% off our food bill in the lounge area. We used to go quite regularly but hadn’t been in a while. We had some edamame to start, and then we had the dim sum basket, rock shrimp tempura and spicy tuna rolls.

I had a piano lesson on Wednesday afternoon and then was home after that.

I knew the weekend was going to be hectic as I was attending a friend’s wedding at the Ritz-Carlton DIFC on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I ended up getting slammed with work on Thursday so couldn’t attend the lunchtime functions on Friday (mehendi) or Saturday (wedding ceremony).

Thursday night was the engagement dinner at the poolside. I didn’t know a lot of people there – it was a very different crowd. I didn’t think it would be a late night but we ended up going to the after party in one of the suites and were there until 5am!

There was a sandstorm all day on Friday. They usually last an hour or two and then it starts to clear up – but not this one. It went on all day. On Friday night (sangeet), I was exhausted. I only stayed until 1.30 – I couldn’t wait to get home and get into my pajamas.

The sandstorm continued all day on Saturday too. I didn’t want to leave the house but I had to go and get my hair done at the Shangri-La next door for the reception. I didn’t think Saturday night would be late as Sunday is a working day here – but the wedding card said the reception started at 10pm. I got there at 11pm and was still ‘on time’. The newlyweds hadn’t made their entrance yet. They came in at about 11.30pm – and we didn’t eat until almost 1am. And once again, it was a 5am finish!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 36

What a busy week! I had my usual work and gym sessions but it was also a very social week…

After my session with Randy on Sunday morning I went to the airport to meet a friend from London who was on his way to Riyadh. He’d been in Abu Dhabi for work and his flight to Riyadh was leaving from Dubai. We went to the food court in Terminal 1 and ended up having ice cream rather than coffee. I had a scoop of the Pralines ‘n Cream flavour. I don’t eat ice cream very often and I never know what flavour to have! We spent about an hour together and then he had to go check in for his flight.

By this time it was 2pm and I was getting hungry. I’d been meaning to go to the Dubai Mall to take some photos of the Moon Reflections sculpture so I decided to do that and have some lunch there too. I’d been thinking about the pasta with creamy salmon at Vapiano for a few days so I took my photos and then headed down to the Lower Ground Floor to the restaurant. Being Sunday it was fairly empty – I ordered my food and a Diet Coke and thoroughly enjoyed it when it arrived! I was home by 3.30pm and spent the rest of the day at home.

As I didn’t have yoga on Monday, my cousin and I decided to go to Tim Horton’s for a coffee. She’d been in London for a friend’s wedding and we hadn’t caught up properly. We spent about an hour there and I went home for lunch and to finish off some work. At about 5pm I noticed that it had suddenly gone very dark – I looked out the window and all I could see was… nothing. It was like being in a big white cloud – I felt like Mary Poppins.

Sandstorm!

Sandstorm!

The sandstorm came out of nowhere. Visibility was very limited for about 10-15 minutes but gradually started to improve. As it cleared up I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw people still swimming in the Shangri-La pool. Sandstorms are disgusting – if you happen to find yourself outdoors and in the middle of one you will end up with sand in your hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, nostrils, ears, teeth, throat – it gets everywhere!

That evening I went to Galleries Night in Alserkal Avenue with a friend. It was the first event of the new art season – it’s a sign that summer is definitely over and things are starting to happen again! All the galleries were open and serving refreshments. I was surprised to see some of them serving wine and champagne as I didn’t think they’d have a license there.

We started at Salsali Private Museum which was exhibiting photos by Christian Voigt. I loved them. All of them.

Nocturnes

Nocturnes

Dark Burj

Dark Burj

There was also a fabulous photo of Downtown Dubai (which I never tire of looking at) and one of the Pharaoh’s tomb in Egypt.

At another gallery (I can’t remember which one) we met a young local Emirati photographer who had three photos exhibited – I liked all three photos which depicted life, death and burial with a woman’s hands and jewellery. I also liked some work by Jung Lee at the Green Art Gallery.

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JL2

We walked around a few more galleries but nothing was as good as the Christian Voigt exhibition (for me).

While walking around Galleries Night I realised I’d forgotten how dressed up people get for events like this. It clearly is the place to see and be seen! Heels, make-up, little black dresses (actually little dresses in all colours) – it all seemed a bit much to me. But I suppose this is Dubai. Note to self: don’t wear jeans to events like this ever again.

After I left Alserkal Avenue I met NP for dinner at MJ’s Steakhouse at Al Qasr. I hadn’t been there before but I had Entertainer vouchers so we thought we’d try it. We each had a glass of red wine and we both had the same steak (200 g organic tenderloin) and shared three sides: garden salad, onion rings and the mac and cheese. While we were waiting for our food, our waiter brought over an amuse bouche – unfortunately neither of us could figure out what it was even though we asked him to repeat it three times. We were then told we could choose our own steak knife.

I chose the sixth knife from the left

I chose the sixth knife from the left

The food was really good – I’d definitely go back. For dessert, we decided to share the blueberry cheesecake. With my Entertainer voucher we got one main course free, so we each paid AED250 (we saved AED110 each) – not bad!

On Tuesday afternoon I had my first piano lesson since July. I also hadn’t done any practising since my last piano lesson! At about 2.30 Kaleem (our driver) called me to say that the car wouldn’t start. WTF? I walked over to the car park and another driver had jump start cables attached to our car and was trying to get it started. I had no idea what to do, who to call; I don’t even drive! I called my dad who told me to get in touch with AAA who provide roadside assistance. They said they’d have someone with us in about an hour. We managed to get the car started, Kaleem dropped me off at my lesson and I told him to go back home and wait for them to call.

My lesson was good – it was good to be back at the piano. I must practise more! We went over a couple of things I’d been learning (When I Was Your Man by Bruno Mars and Primavera). When I finished I called Kaleem to see if help had arrived. He said they hadn’t called him yet and he came to pick me up. He’d obviously left the engine on the entire hour I was at my lesson because once he switched it off it wouldn’t start again! They called while we were on our way home and had a look at the car. They replaced the battery and everything was fine after that.

That evening I met up with a friend from Lagos who was in town for the night. We went to Loca. We went after dinner so I had a couple of margaritas. One of the guys with us was a stand-up comedian. He was so interesting – and as he was speaking I vaguely remembered reading about him in the paper a few months ago. His father is South Korean and his mother is Vietnamese – he was born and raised in the Middle East and speaks fluent Arabic – in fact, his shows are mostly in Arabic. I asked him what languages he spoke at home with his parents and sisters – they speak Arabic at home, to his mother he speaks Vietnamese, to his father he speaks English, and when the siblings don’t want their parents to know what they’re talking about they speak French which they learned in school. Fascinating! He had us all laughing – it was a great evening.

I was home all of Wednesday until the evening. I went to see a movie called The Hunt (Danish with subtitles) which was being screened at Knowledge Village by The Scene Club. It was absolutely packed and they had to turn away people who had reserved tickets (you sign up online and then collect your tickets at the door – it’s all free). The movie was brilliant but a little disturbing. It’s set in a close-knit community in Denmark. The main character is a teacher who has lost his job and is helping out at the local nursery where he gets falsely accused of exposing himself to his best friend’s daughter. He gets shunned by the community but the ostracism turns to violence when his dog is killed and he gets beaten up while trying to buy food at his local grocery. Eventually everything gets resolved but it just shows you how a person’s life can change overnight. Why would a child lie about something like that? The main character was played by Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre in Casino Royale) and he won the Best Actor Award at Cannes in 2012. It’s definitely worth watching.

On Thursday night a friend and I went to Zuma for drinks. Yes, I go there a lot! We were having a good time – we bumped into the guy from Bahrain we’d met a few weeks before and were chatting with him and some friends until they left. We had just about finished our bottle of wine when the bartender gave us two more glasses telling us they were from the guy standing next to my friend. He was probably in his late 50s, but wouldn’t he have thought that if we were interested in speaking to him, we would have started a conversation? So now we had to talk to him. He was Swiss, born in Ethiopia (he was half Ethiopian but didn’t look it), and spoke German, French, Italian and Ethiopian. His English was terrible. My friend asked him about Haile Selassie and what he thought of him. The Swiss guy then said that he was a descendant of Haile Selassie. I really didn’t want to talk to him so said very little. When the next two glasses of wine came for us (again without him asking us whether we wanted them), we decided it was time for us to leave. When I tried to settle our tab, the Swiss guy told us he would take care of it, and the bartender annoyingly let him and gave my card back to me. So we actually didn’t pay for any drinks at Zuma that night. Did I have a business card for him? Hell, no.

It was only 10pm at this point and my friend and I decided we’d go elsewhere for a drink. We walked into McGettigan’s and decided it was a bit like being in Essex (now that summer is over, everyone is back in town). We ended up back at DIFC at Caramel – much better! We had a couple of drinks there and then decided it was time to go home. We were both hungry by this time and decided to stop at Burger Fuel on Sheikh Zayed Road. We both ordered the Hot Rod (beef, sliced jalapeno peppers, melted Cheddar, salad) and fries. It was the best damn burger I’ve had in a long time!

I spent all of Friday at home in my pajamas.

I had a lot of work come in this week so spent most of Saturday at home working too. A friend and I had booked massages at Spa Zen at the Radisson Royal – I had two vouchers for AED100, one of which was expiring soon and wanted to use up. The massage was great, as always. It was almost 6:30 when we finished so we decided we’d go up to Icho, the bar on the 51st floor. Being a Saturday evening it wasn’t very crowded so we sat at a table near the bar. The waitress told us that it was happy hour until 8pm and they were offering 50% off some of their wines. Excellent! I asked her what time happy hour began – she said they had happy hour every day from noon till 8pm! That’s good to know! We had two glasses of wine and then our friendly waitress convinced us to split one glass between us (I think she just wanted to finish off the bottle) – but when she poured the wine, the ‘half’ glasses were as full as the two previous ones! Our bill came and we paid just AED70 each. I was home by 9pm, had some dinner and did some more work before getting into bed.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 13

After the excesses of my birthday weekend, we showed no signs of stopping.

My friends who were staying at the Shangri-La invited us over on Sunday to hang out by the pool. We were there by noon and we took Vinay with us – he thoroughly enjoyed splashing around in the water. The poolside was crowded and my friend managed to convince the pool staff to turn a couple of sofas into a very large sunbed!

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We had pizza and several bottles of wine. At last count, it was four bottles (I think?). At about 4pm I went to The Fairmont to see my other friends who were leaving that evening too – we had a few drinks in the bar. I got home at about 7.30. I chilled out for a while and then met up with my parents, sister and brother-in-law at the Dubai Mall. We had dinner at PF Chang – their hot and sour soup really does hit the spot! By this point my hangover was starting to kick in. That’s the trouble with daytime drinking!

I was home all day on Monday – I was exhausted and was starting to feel jetlagged. That evening I met up with a couple of friends at iKandy for their ladies’ night. We met at 7pm and shared a few bottles of Prosecco – my sister and brother-in-law also joined us as the three of us were going on to have dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse at the H Hotel. I’d booked a table but the restaurant was completely empty apart from one couple in a booth. We each had a steak (my cousin joined as too) and shared the dessert and two bottles of red wine. I managed to use a couple of Entertainer vouchers too! My brother-in-law left late that night for Lagos…

By Tuesday I was sure I needed a new liver. The last few days had been mental and it needed to stop. I cancelled my piano lesson and stayed in my pajamas. All day. I was shattered. I did some work but didn’t leave the house. It was also my first day without alcohol in 5 days!

It was my cousin’s birthday on Wednesday and she had organised a girls’ lunch at Apres at the Mall of the Emirates. There were six of us at lunch – we shared a cheese fondue, some pizza, and some other random starters. We also had a bottle of wine between us. After lunch, we had planned to walk around and do some shopping but we walked around for about 20 minutes and quickly lost interest in everything. We headed home instead.

Thursday was busy. I had lunch at Vapiano at the Dubai Mall with my sister and then we did some shopping. She bought me a lovely Ted Baker dress for my birthday and had some of her own things to do! We went home for a while and then decided to go to Safa Park. None of us had been there – and Vinay was very excited. We got there at about 6pm so it wasn’t too hot.

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We walked around for a while and then my sister took Vinay and the nanny for a boat ride. It was getting dark by the time they’d finished…

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But Vinay didn’t want to leave!

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That night my sister and I went to iKandy for a drink. We just wanted to get out of the house really – and I hadn’t tipped our waiter from the night of my party as every time I’d been back to iKandy he’d had the day off or was ill. I finally got to meet him on Thursday evening – he told me that there he had kept what was left of the Patron XO Cafe and could pour us a shot now if we wanted one. I looked at him like he was crazy. I’d have to do that another night…

We had lunch with my cousin and her parents and kids on Friday. We went to PF Chang at Mirdif City Centre which was nice for a change. After that everyone went their own separate ways – my dad went home, my mum took Vinay to the kids’ area, my sister and I walked around the shops for a while.

That night we went to see Olympus Has Fallen. I’d heard it was good but had no idea what it was about or who was in it – I thoroughly enjoyed it!

We were back at the mall on Saturday. A sandstorm (or shamaal, I’ve learnt) had blown in and there was sand everywhere. My sister and I went to Tim Horton’s for a coffee but there was nowhere to sit inside so we ended up outside – in about 10 minutes we were covered in dust. It was gross. She ran her errands, I tagged along and then we went home. At about 8pm she realised she had to go back to the mall to change the iPad cover she’d bought. Kaleem, the driver, had already gone home so we had to get a cab. It was windy outside! We were in the mall for about 20 minutes and then took another cab back home. On the way home it started raining. There was lightning every few minutes and it was windy! It was so windy that when we got home I couldn’t push the cab door open – the driver had to turn the car around so that we weren’t against the wind! We had sand everywhere when we got home – our hair, our eyes, our ears. Yuck.

My sister and Vinay left late that night – the house was going to be very quiet after that!

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 16

It’s been a busy week! My cousin came into town from London for Easter weekend and we’d had quite a busy weekend. On Sunday I had my morning session with Rama, and then Dad took us to Hakkasan for lunch. I’d booked a table for 2pm, but the restaurant was very quiet when we got there. 

2012

We decided to go for the set menu for AED120. We had a choice of starters, a choice of main course and a choice of dessert. It also included steamed rice and greens. To start, Dad had the hot and sour soup with chicken, while the two of us went for the assorted steamed dim sum. We also ordered a portion of the prawns on toast with foie gras. We then had the prawns, beef and steamed red snapper to share. The choices for dessert were lemon tart and assorted sorbets. The portions were quite generous and I thought it was good value for money. 

After lunch we went to the mall – we all had a couple of errands to run. My cousin and I wanted to rush back and sit by the pool but it was quite a cloudy afternoon. We relaxed at home for a while and then got ready for dinner. I had booked Okku for 8pm but was still full from lunch. Of course we went anyway. My cousin and his wife joined us for a couple of drinks while we ate. We had edamame, spicy tuna and crispy rice, rock shrimp tempura, sashimi salad, and of course the truffle fried rice. The waiter asked whether we wanted something to eat with the rice – black cod, chicken? I was perfectly happy to have it on its own. At 9.45, the waiter said they would need the table by 10pm for the next sitting, but we could hang around by the bar and have a few more drinks. We decided to do that – a waiter took the drinks we already had and we followed him down to the bar. He disappeared in the crowd, never to be seen again. I complained to one of the staff and told him what had happened – and he replaced our drinks. It was quite crowded – I’d been told that Thursdays and Sundays are their busiest nights (Sunday being retro night). We started chatting to some random people, had more drinks (which the bartender didn’t charge me for – I’m definitely going back), and eventually decided to leave at 1am. I only left because I had yoga the next morning, and was already dreading it.

After yoga, we decided to sit by the pool before lunch – it was a hot day and I took my book. When we got to the pool I realised I was still wearing my bedroom slippers. Thankfully there was nobody else around. I was outdoors for about an hour and had to come back in – it was too hot for me. After lunch, we went back down to the pool (in my flip-flops) and I sat under an umbrella while she lay out in the sun. I managed to get some colour, however, and no longer look anaemic. Hurrah! I went back indoors at 4pm as I was meeting a schoolfriend at Gloria Jean’s at the mall. I hadn’t seen her since we left school in 1991.

It was nice catching up – finding out who the other was in touch with, what everyone else was doing. We chatted for almost an hour and a half, and then I went to Wafi Gourmet to meet some friends who were in town from London for the Easter holidays. They’d booked their tickets to Dubai before I booked mine last year – and I couldn’t believe how quickly the time has gone and that they were already here! It was great to see them.

My cousin left early on Tuesday morning, very unwillingly. Back to the cold and the rain and the office. I love my life. I thought I’d sit by the pool that afternoon but it was cloudy so I decided to stay indoors and do some work. 

After my Wednesday session with Rama, I went down to the pool for some fresh air and to finish my book. The pool area was pretty crowded – there were seven of us there. That’s the most crowded I’ve seen it since I moved here. By 1.15 I was sweltering and decided to go back indoors for lunch and some work. I had an umbrella covering most of me, but the three girls sitting by the pool didn’t and I wondered how they coped in the heat. I went back down at about 4.30 with some proofreading – it was still hot but there was nobody else around.

On Thursday Joy and I did our weekly shop at Lulu. I’d written a couple of weeks ago that going to Lulu is a pointless task for me because all I do is push the trolley. I’ve since learned that that is not the case. I’ve noticed that Joy shops according to her list, not according to what aisle she’s in. For example, if she needs chicken fillets and minced chicken but they’re not next to each other on her list, she will get the chicken fillets, and then look for whatever comes next (toothpaste, homous – it could be anything) and then eventually come back to the minced chicken. She could spend all day at the supermarket if she continued shopping like that. No wonder it has taken us so long in the past – today it took 1 hour. There is no method to her madness. 

On our way home from the supermarket, our cab was suddenly surrounded by dust and sand – and there was debris flying into the windscreen. It was a sandstorm! I don’t know where it came from but by the time we got to our block of flats, I couldn’t get the cab door open as the gusts of wind were so strong. We managed to get the shopping into a trolley and take it into the building. After unpacking everything I decided to go to the gym. It was still windy outside and while I was on the treadmill I could see the sunbeds and umbrellas being blown over. And then it stopped just as suddenly as it had started. 

2012

On Friday, my friends from London invited me to brunch at their hotel. We had planned to spend the rest of the afternoon by the pool but one of the kids had a skiing lesson at Ski Dubai so we went there instead. 

I didn’t do much at all on Saturday – went to the gym, sat by the pool, watched ‘Game of Thrones’. I love my life. 

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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: Week 8

Quite a busy week, I think!

I started off my week with an 8.45am session with Rama on Sunday morning. I was keen to get back on track after the week before where I did almost nothing. Dad and I went to Texas Roadhouse for lunch at the Dubai Mall – I wasn’t all that keen on going, but thought it would be a change from PF Chang! I ordered a filet steak, with a salad and jacket potato on the side. The house salad was disappointing but the steak was actually very good. I was pleasantly surprised – and very full when I was done.

We walked around for a while and sat down for coffee at Gloria Jean’s on the first floor. Just that morning I’d complained to Rama that most places in Dubai had never heard of a flat white coffee – even the staff at Starbucks stared at me blankly when I asked for it. At Gloria Jean’s it was on the menu – and it was one of the best coffees I’ve had in Dubai. Definitely somewhere to go back to! 

Dad had a doctor’s appointment after that, so while he was at the clinic I went to the supermarket next door and picked up whatever we needed for the house. Joy had given me a list of things we’d run out of so I trawled the aisles looking for them. It was so dull. I took my time on purpose as I knew Dad’s doctor was running late, but it was just so boring. I’m sure the security guards looked at me suspiciously as I pottered down the aisles over and over again.

Anyway, we finally got home, I changed into my pajamas and that was Sunday over with.

On Monday I had my yoga class at home and then worked all day. On Tuesday I met a friend for lunch at Social House at the Dubai Mall. The last time I went there we sat inside on bench-type chairs which weren’t conducive to long lunches. I didn’t realise there was a whole separate section on the other side – and a huge outdoor section. It was a nice lunch – I had the spicy tuna roll to start with and then had the spicy wok-fried chicken. The portion was really big and I ended up taking half of it home for Joy. 

On Wednesday I had my 10th session with Rama and then worked the rest of the day. 

My yoga teacher had a cancellation on Thursday so my cousin and I took advantage of that! I then went to PF Chang for lunch at the mall (again). Someone I know had just gotten married and moved to Dubai – she got in touch and we decided to meet for lunch. There were four of us in the end – the two of us, her friend from Singapore who also lives here (who I met for lunch a few weeks before at Social House), and her cousin who lives in Dubai. They decided to wander around the mall after lunch, but I headed home. 

On Thursday night I was supposed to go to one of the British expat meet-ups in Marina, but that afternoon a friend said he was going to Okku for dinner and did I want to join him? I still drool when I think of the truffle fried rice, so I said I would. I met him there at 8pm – we had a table at the bar. He had said two other people were joining us but they were running late. In the meantime we ordered a portion of the wasabi rock shrimp and two types of chicken. I’d forgotten he rarely eats anything but chicken. Oh well, more shrimp for me, and I thought we could order some more food when the others arrived. When they did arrive, one turned out to be vegetarian and the other vegan. Yes, vegan! This did not bode well for the food fest I had planned. So I switched to vodka. After dinner we moved to the bar and a couple of other friends joined us. It wasn’t a late night but it was nice to be out and about!

On Friday, I woke up and looked out the window. I couldn’t see very far and thought it was fog… but it was a sandstorm.

2012

A couple of hours later, it got worse. When I leave my building, the first thing I see is the Burj Khalifa, but on Friday it had disappeared. Apparently visibility was 800m that day (according to the paper). When I think of sandstorms I think of that old Laurel and Hardy movie, Beau Hunks, where they join the Foreign Legion because Hardy has a broken heart – and they then get lost in the desert in a sandstorm!

2012

Dad and I went to Red Lobster for lunch. I’d mentioned in an earlier post that the Dubai Mall has everything you could possibly imagine – and I wasn’t kidding! Dad and I shared the fried calamari and vegetables as a starter. I then ordered the grilled salmon and broccoli as my main course. It was extremely filling. After lunch we went back to Gloria Jean’s for some coffee…

We were only outside for 10 minutes at the most but by the time I got home, there was sand in my hair, my eyes, my throat… it was gross.

That night I had dinner with my cousins at Spectrum on One at the Fairmont. The restaurant was empty – apparently it gets very busy for Friday brunch, but by dinner time the crowd had gone. We had sushi to start with, and then shared the prawn teppanyaki and two portions of the lamb chops. We had ordered the black pepper beef but sent it back as it wasn’t very good. We shared the chocolate fondant for dessert.

Another cousin from Lagos arrived on Saturday morning – and was staying with us. He arrived at about 9.30am and we chatted for a couple of hours until he decided to go nap. I went to the gym. The sandstorm still hadn’t subsided. We later met our other cousins for lunch at Lafayette Gourmet – the service was bad, and I wasn’t sure whether our waiter was a man or a woman. I asked the others what they thought and they weren’t sure either. We had a mixture of food for lunch – sushi, pasta, curry – they do it all there. After that we went to Caffe Nero for coffee. I did try to get them to go to Gloria Jean’s but they said it was too far.

I went home and decided I wasn’t going anywhere else the rest of the day. And by dinner time my throat was hurting… 

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