Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Week 41

After a very busy few days, I was exhausted on Sunday. All I wanted to do was stay in bed but I had work to do. I had also booked a 90-minute hot stone massage at the Shangri-La Spa for later that afternoon. It was exactly what I needed and I couldn’t wait to get home and get into my pajamas when it was over. Unfortunately, I had accepted an invitation to a friend’s 40th birthday drinks that evening so I had to wait a bit longer for my pajamas!

Her birthday drinks were at Iris – and thankfully indoors because it was still unbelievably humid outside. I hadn’t been to the indoor section of Iris but was pleasantly surprised – a long bar and lots of seating. The outside area was totally empty that night. It was all women at her drinks – and it was my first outing after the summer (with this particular group of women) so it was nice to catch up with everyone. As soon as the birthday girl cut her cake, I left with one of my neighbours who was also at the drinks.

On Monday I had a session with Pete at 10am – by noon I was showered and back in my pajamas. And I intended to stay in my pajamas until Tuesday morning! It had been days since I’d been able to do that and I was looking forward to it.

Apart from yoga on Tuesday morning, I was at home (in pajamas) until the early evening. I met up with a couple of friends at Calabar for happy hour. We got there at 6.15 so we were able to make the most of it! At about 9pm, we ended up going to The Eloquent Elephant where we had a bit more wine (not very wise). I was home by midnight.

I had to be up early on Wednesday as I had to go to Sharjah for some paperwork. Drinking all that wine the night before really wasn’t a good idea. I got back home by 11.20am, had a cup of tea and got ready for my session with Pete. After that was over, and I’d had some lunch, I got back into bed and slept for a couple of hours!

On Thursday I met up with a friend who was in town from Lagos for a couple of days. We went to his favourite – Wafi Gourmet at the Dubai Mall – and ended up overeating as usual! I actually felt a bit ill afterwards. We thought we’d walk around for a while to digest our food but ended up walking to Patchi (and not buying anything) and then walking on to Eataly where we sat down for coffee. I needed to be rolled home after that.

I got home and did some work for a few hours. That evening I met up with some friends for dinner at Catch at the Fairmont on Sheikh Zayed Road. I hadn’t been there and had heard mixed reviews – but I was pleasantly surprised. We were seven people, and a few of them had been before so knew what to order. And because we were so many we were able to order a wider variety of dishes. Some of the starters we had were: crunchy rice cakes (similar to the spicy tuna on crispy rice at Okku), crispy shrimp and the DXB roll (tuna, crab, avocado, wasabi, yuzu). For our main course we had the Korean fried chicken and a whole roasted sea bass (chilli rubbed, cracked olive, artichoke, rocket greens, turmeric silky potatoes). For the sides we had the macaroni & cheese and parmesan truffle fries. I didn’t think I could eat any more after that and had a small bite of dessert when it came (the ‘Hit Me’ chocolate cake). We also had two bottles of wine (which isn’t bad between seven people!). It turned out that I knew the sommelier – she used to be the co-organiser of the wine club but now works at Catch full time.

There was some debate about what to do after dinner, but I was too tired to do much and was home by midnight.

I met up with some friends for lunch at La Serre on Friday afternoon. We met at 1.30pm and surprisingly didn’t have to wait too long for a table for five people on the ground floor. Once we had ordered, however, the food took ages to arrive! We complained about how long it was taking and our waitress was very apologetic.

I couldn’t decide whether to have breakfast (scrambled eggs with truffles) or lunch. In the end I opted for the portobello mushrooms with braised beef. Divine! After we’d ordered our coffees and dessert (lemon cake and some pistachio thing which I didn’t try), the waitress said that our coffees and dessert would be on the house.

On Friday evening I met up with a couple of friends for dinner at Loca. We met early, at 7.30pm, and it wasn’t too crowded at that time. They have several new guacamole options on the menu so we decided to try the guacamole with prawns. We also had the spinach and artichoke dip (of course). For my main course, I ordered the camarones a la diablo (tiger prawns sauteed in jalapeno butter). We skipped dessert as we were all too full. I was home before 11pm which was nice!

I was up early on Saturday as I had a piano lesson (I didn’t go on Monday so had to make up the lessson). After lunch I met up with a couple of friends at Common Grounds at Mall of the Emirates. Common Grounds is the new cafe from the people who opened Tom & Serg and The Sum of Us, and it’s in the new expansion at MoE. We had to wait a while for a table as it was pretty crowded. Once we sat down, we ordered a couple of juices and again I couldn’t decide between breakfast or lunch! In the end, two of us shared the pan-fried salmon and jerk chicken. Both were very good. I’d definitely go back and try something else. We also had some coffee and skipped dessert.

We couldn’t decide what to do after lunch and thought about seeing a movie at the new Vox Cinemas at the mall but there was nothing on for at least another hour. We eventually decided to go back to my friend’s place on the Palm and play Scrabble! He has a great view from his flat:

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We ended up playing a game of Scrabble on the balcony (I won) and making plans for our upcoming road trip to Muscat.

I got home at around 6pm and got straight into my pajamas!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘The prawns are a starter.’

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

No response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Wednesday morning, my desk looked like this:

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

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

By Thursday morning, my desk looked like this:

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

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

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

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

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 5

There isn’t that much going on here (for me) to write about each day separately so I think will have to be weeks from now on.

So, week 5. 

Torture session with Rama followed by Sunday brunch at the Shangri-La – my parents, sister, cousin and me. It was nice but the food was different from the last time we went, and the service was pretty rubbish. We waited 20 minutes for our coffees after lunch. I don’t know what’s happened to me but I crave coffee these days. In London I would have one a week, but here it’s every time I go out (but not at night – I’m not quite there yet).

After lunch, my dad had an appointment with his physiotherapist. My mum usually accompanies him but she was helping my sister with her packing so I went with him. My mum had been saying how good-looking this physiotherapist was but I couldn’t really judge because I’d never seen him. So when I met him… Oh. My. God. She was right! I’m sure there must be some part of me that needs physiotherapy? Hmm… Anyway, while my dad had his appointment I sat in the waiting room counting all the spelling mistakes in the magazine I was reading. I thought I might go along with him every week!

Monday was uneventful – I went to the gym for a cardio session and did some work. 

On Tuesday I spent the whole day with my parents. We had to go back to Sharjah to sign our contracts. I decided to take my camera with me as I haven’t been taking enough photos. It’s all about practice, right? We were in Sharjah for about an hour – we signed our contracts and went to see a friend’s furniture store. 

On our way back, my parents decided they wanted to go to IKEA. Again. They were looking at cupboards for their room and my dad finally found something he liked. We ordered it and while they were paying I took some photos.

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Instead of going home, we went to BurJuman – a different shopping mall. It was nowhere near as crowded as the Dubai Mall or Mall of the Emirates – it was quite nice to walk around.

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My dad was in the mood to buy some shoes and ended up buying five pairs. I’d never seen him like that. It was as if he had the need to fill his new cupboards before they’d even arrived. So while he was trying on shoes, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and chose a pair for myself.

We got home and I was relieved my parents were going out that evening. After dinner, I went out to the balcony and took these:

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I think I need to take my tripod out there too – just so the camera doesn’t move as I take the photos. And it might be a good idea to wait until it’s a bit warmer. It was quite windy out there. 

It had been a long day and I was asleep before my parents got home. 

Wednesday was uneventful, apart from the yoga class I had in the morning. 

On Thursday I had a session with Rama in the morning. I then went to the ‘saloon’ (FFS) at the Fairmont and met my cousin for a coffee. 

That evening I went out with a British expat group I joined online. I had never met any of them but it was a fun evening and I paid for it the next day (when I had to spend four hours in my photography class with a stinking hangover). I could not wait to get home and into my pajamas. My parents wanted me to join them for dinner with some of their friends, but there was no way I was going anywhere. 

On Saturday morning, my mum and I went to the gym. My parents had been wanting to take me to an Italian restaurant called Vapiano at the Dubai Mall so we headed to the mall for lunch. The restaurant was so crowded when we got there that we decided to go elsewhere. We ended up at Wafi Gourmet – again, great food but terrible service. I’d never been to the cinema at the mall (there are 22 screens there) and we ended up seeing ‘Haywire’. Not a great movie, but definitely not the worst I’ve ever seen…

And that was week 5!

See more Dubai updates here.

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Dubai: Day 19

Thursday (Day 19) was a long day.

My mum, our housekeeper and I needed to get our medicals done for our resident permits – and we needed to be in Sharjah by 10am. I haven’t woken up that early in almost a month. Dad said we’d leave home at 9.15am. 

For some reason I woke up at 7.45 – I could hear Vinay so decided I’d sit with him for a while. He played with his animals and then with my hair for a while until his nanny took him downstairs for some fresh air and to see the resident cat. I got ready and was ready a little before 9. Neither of my parents were ready and we eventually left home at 9.30. We got to Sharjah at about 10.15.

The Public Medical Centre was packed. There must have been 100 people waiting there for their medicals. They were mostly men, and they were mostly Indian/Pakistani. Fortunately we didn’t have to join that queue and were seen in about 15 minutes.

First was the finger printing. This was done in one room which was divided into two sections by a screen – one side for men, one for women. My hands were sanitised with liquid soap and then placed onto a scanner. The lady did the four fingers of my right hand together first, then she did each finger individually, then the thumb, the palm, and the side of my hand. She did the same with my left hand. Apart from the ‘No photography’ signs, there were also signs for ‘No eating, drinking or smoking’ and ‘No mehndi’. It didn’t actually say ‘No mehndi’ but there was a hand with mehndi on it with a red cross over it. 

Once that was done, I had my photo taken.

After a short wait, the three of us were taken to a changing room. The radiologist told us to get changed into the gowns provided and come into the next room one at a time. The changing ‘room’ was a white tiled cubicle, about 5 ft x 5 ft. It was tiny. And the gowns provided? Well, I have no idea how many people had put them on before us but there was nothing else. It was quite gross. We went to the X-ray room, one at a time – it took less than 3 minutes. And thank goodness, because I couldn’t wait to get out of that pink gown.

Then came the fun part. The blood test. I sat down, the woman tapped the inside of my elbow and stuck the needle in. Nothing happened. She tried again. And nothing happened. Considering that’s her job, she wasn’t very good at it. She looked at my other arm, shook her head, and then looked at my hands. She eventually stuck the needle in the back of my hand. It hurt like hell but she found blood. When she was finished, she told me I’d have to press it hard so that it wouldn’t bruise. I did that, but still developed a lovely bruise on the back of my hand. Not to mention the puncture wound where she stuck the needle.

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After we were done with that, we headed back to Dubai. As we had hired a car and driver for the day, we decided to go to IKEA in Festival City and see what they had. I still needed bookshelves and side tables and a few other bits and pieces.

We stopped for lunch at a place called Bread & Co. They did have other things apart from sandwiches so I was OK. Food was average, service was terrible.

And then came IKEA. I’d never been to an IKEA before (can you believe it?). In a way, I’m glad I’d never been because I would have had to ship double the amount of crap that I did. We walked around and I finally decided on a bookshelf. It’s 6 ft x 6 ft and a brown-black wood. It’s huge and it’s lovely. I’m just not sure it’s big enough for all my books. 

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I found my side tables in the same shade of wood. 

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I also bought a desk lamp and files for my papers.

There was no way we could take the bookcase home in the car. Or even lift it. It came in four boxes and they were all bigger than me. After paying for everything, we took it all to the Home Delivery station – they would deliver that very evening and assemble the bookcase and side tables too.

It took two men almost an hour to assemble all three pieces of furniture. Again, Vinay was fascinated by what was happening in my room. 

I think all I need now are lamps for the side tables and then I’m done. A successful day!

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