Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2016: Week 1

I woke up with a start at 7am on Friday, New Year’s Day. I could smell smoke all over the flat and I got out of bed to find out where it was coming from. I thought something was on fire but I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I opened the front door and the smell of smoke was even stronger out by the lifts. I called security downstairs and told them I could smell smoke everywhere. He said he’d take a look and get back to me. He called me a few minutes later to say that the whole building smelled of smoke because of the fire at the Address Hotel Downtown the night before. The wind had changed direction and was blowing the smoke towards us. I couldn’t believe the hotel was still smouldering.

I was home all of Friday. I was working and reading. On Saturday I went out to get some new gym clothes but was home the rest of the day. I went to the gym on Sunday but that was it – I worked the rest of the day.

I had a session with Pete on Monday morning. I got ready straight after my session and went to meet my cousin for brunch. He was in transit for a few hours on his way back to New York.

We went to The Sum of Us for a bite. I had a green juice and ordered the smoked salmon salad. He had the lamb salad. Considering we ordered just salad, it took a very long time for the food to come! When the food finally arrived, I realised my smoked salmon salad wasn’t smoked salmon at all – it was more like seared salmon. It was still good though. I was at home working after that. I cancelled my piano lesson as I had so much work to do and was starting to panic about deadlines!

Apart from the gym on Tuesday, I worked. At about 4pm I decided to stop working and look at my Arabic course books from the previous classes I’d taken. I was starting a new Arabic course on Wednesday, Intermediate I, and hadn’t done any Arabic in almost two years. In hindsight, looking at those course books and realising how much I’d forgotten probably wasn’t a good idea. I guess you can’t cram several months of Arabic into two days!

I had another session with Pete on Wednesday morning. That evening I had my Arabic class.

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Apart from one other person and myself, all the others in the class had been on the previous course together. So they all knew each other and were more practised with their Arabic. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be though – I remembered a lot of the grammar, now I just need to brush up on my vocabulary to really catch up with them. It was the first time I was doing an evening class – all the other courses I’d been on were in the morning. They seemed like a fun group though. The classes have really changed since the last time I did Arabic – the teacher now writes on a tablet on her desk, which is project onto the screen behind her, and we all get sent PDF files of the class the following morning. It certainly beats taking photos of the blackboard every few minutes!

I went to a yoga class on Thursday morning and had a much-needed manicure and pedicure that afternoon. My feet were starting to resemble something that could swoop down from the sky and snatch my dinner out of a lake – I hadn’t even wanted to touch my own feet in the yoga class that morning. I also wanted to get out of the house for a while. All I’d done all week was work, and I needed a break. I stayed in on Thursday night.

I was home all of Friday and most of Saturday. I decided to treat myself to a 90-minute massage at Spa Zen on Saturday afternoon. It was amazing. And it was also an Entertainer voucher so I got a voucher for another massage! I got home at the same time as my parents were arriving from the airport. I’d really enjoyed having the place to myself – I think that was part of the reason I hadn’t really forced myself to go anywhere! I also hadn’t had a drink since Christmas Day but I sensed all that would change now that my parents were back!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Weeks 52/53

I got back from Bali on the 23rd morning. Similar to when I left, the passengers had to get on a bus after leaving the plane and were then taken to the terminal. I stood at the top of the stairway at 5am and was hit by a blast of cold air. I got on the bus, found a seat and sat down because I was feeling tired and lazy. Just as well, because the bus ride to the airport took forever. It felt like we were going around the airport in circles. I felt like one of the hostages in the movie Speed. We finally got to the terminal, I went through the e-Gate, collected my luggage, bought five bottles of champagne at Duty Free and went home. I was so happy to be home, and back in my own bed. I’d missed my pillows! I passed out for a few hours until lunch.

That evening, a friend had invited a few people over for mulled wine and mince pies. We got to her place in The Springs at about 7pm. It was nice to see everyone after my trip, and we sat out in the garden, sipping wine and chatting. I left at around 9.30pm – I was exhausted and a bit jet-lagged.

On Thursday, I went to the Dubai Mall – I needed a Secret Santa present for Christmas lunch the next day. Once I’d picked that up I went back home. I had a load of work to do and was starting to panic about how I was going to get it all done before the deadlines. I stayed in that night.

I spent Christmas Day with some friends at their flat in Business Bay. I got there at around 2pm and we had lunch at 4pm. It was also my fourth anniversary of being in Dubai – I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone!

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There was so much food! Prawn cocktail to start with, and then turkey, pork shoulder, roast potatoes, stuffing, brussel sprouts, pigs in blankets, and I’m sure there was more that I can’t remember. There was Christmas pudding and cheese for dessert. Not to mention the prosecco, champagne and wine that we all enjoyed. The weather was lovely too – and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening sitting on their balcony, watching the full moon move across the sky (and watching random YouTube music videos).

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I got home at around 11pm. It was a long day, but it was really fun.

I went to the Dubai Mall on Saturday as I was meeting some friends at Vogue Cafe in the Shoe District for tea.

On Sunday, I decided to try out a new yoga studio at Village Mall. It was really nice and I ended up buying a package for 15 classes.

I had my usual piano lesson on Monday, but that was all I did that day. All I’d been doing otherwise was working. I’d hoped that as my UK clients were closed for the holidays, there’d be no more work coming in over the holidays and I could catch up properly, but I didn’t realise that their Indian offices would still be open and send me things to work on! It was good though – I kept my head down and got on with it.

I’d been invited out for lunch on Tuesday. I wasn’t keen on going but I had some friends visiting Dubai who would be at lunch so I went anyway. Lunch was at Apres in Mall of the Emirates. I got there at 1pm (which was the time on the invitation) and there was nobody there, not even the two hosts. There was also no table set up for 10-12 people so I asked the waitress at the door whether they had a booking under either of the hosts’ names. ‘For today, ma’am?’ Well, yes, I’m here, aren’t I? She looked in her diary. ‘Oh yes, 1pm for 12 people.’ So, where is the table? ‘Oh, we didn’t know if they wanted smoking or non-smoking.’ You have the number there so why didn’t you call to confirm? ‘Yes, ma’am.’ The woman was irritating. But what irritated me more was that the hosts should have been dealing with the lack of a table and not me. I got the table sorted and sat down. I asked the waiter for a bottle of water (which never arrived). At about 1.15pm one of the hosts arrived – she’d had errands to run in the mall which was why she was late. Good grief – couldn’t she have done that later? Anyway, people started arriving – we were nine girls in the end – and lunch seemed to go on forever. The service was awful. I would never go back there. At 4pm I made my excuses and left – the others seemed quite happy to sit there for longer but I had s*** to do!

I had a session with Pete on Wednesday and spent the rest of the day working.

On Thursday morning I went back to Eco Yoga Sanctuary for a Hatha Flow class. After that I decided to get my  hair done as I looked like a homeless person after the yoga class. It was also New Year’s Eve and I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do that night. My number one choice was to stay home. I’d been invited to a few places but I couldn’t face the thought of the traffic going Downtown and then getting stuck there until 4am. I could see it building up from the afternoon onwards.

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I ended up staying home. And I’m glad I did because soon after I’d had dinner, I saw a post on Facebook that said the Address Downtown was on fire. What?? I’d been hearing sirens for the last 10 minutes but assumed it was regular New Year’s Eve police controlling the traffic. I thought it was a hoax and then I checked Twitter. I couldn’t believe the pictures I was seeing.

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

I felt sick – there were hundreds of thousands of people in that small area – and I couldn’t imagine how many people would be injured. I kept reading that there were no injuries but I just couldn’t believe that. Eventually, it was reported that there were 14 minor injuries – a bit more realistic, but still unbelievable in a way. I hoped everyone had managed to get out of that building in time. And then I heard that they were planning to go ahead with the fireworks Downtown. Next to a burning building? It seemed ludicrous. And people were still heading Downtown. Friends called from London and other places to see if I was OK – WhatsApp had stopped working!

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At about 10 minutes before midnight I made my way to the pool area of my building to watch the fireworks. The crazy thing I’ve noticed about people on New Year’s Eve is that wherever they are on Sheikh Zayed Road, they’ll abandon their cars and run to where they can see the Burj Khalifa and watch the fireworks. It’s like watching a disaster movie, although instead of running from disaster, they’re running towards the fireworks!

23:55 on New Year's Eve

23:55 on New Year’s Eve

And then it was midnight. The Address Downtown was still on fire (but under control, they said) and the Burj Khalifa lit up.

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It was bizarre. The fireworks went on for about 5 minutes – I brought in the New Year watching the smoke from the fireworks drift off into the night like dancing skeletons, with the smoke from the Address Downtown streaming behind it.

I’m so glad I stayed in.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 17

Another busy week!

I had a session with Trevor on Sunday morning and managed to get some work done that afternoon. My friend from London was still in town so we went to Iris for happy hour. It was lovely – not too hot, not too crowded. We had some red wine and then he was going out for dinner and I went home to have dinner with my parents.

I worked the next day and then met up with a friend for a drink at Zuma. We met early, so it wasn’t too crowded – and we managed to get a table in the bar area. I hadn’t been there in a while – but I really do like that bar.

On Tuesday I had lunch with a friend from my Arabic class. She was in my Beginners I class a couple of years ago – and it wasn’t until our last class that I realised she lives in the same building as me! We went to Yo! Sushi in the Dubai Mall. I’d walked past it hundreds of times but had never eaten there. The food was pretty good and (mostly) healthy.

That evening I had a massage at Spa Zen at the Radisson Royal. I can honestly say it was one of the worst massages I’ve ever had. The therapist’s hands were so rough and bony, it was like being massaged with gravel. I even had bruises on my upper arms the following day. I would still go back to Spa Zen (this was the only bad experience I’ve had there) and now I know who not to ask for.

On Wednesday evening, I had dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House at the Address Marina. A friend of mine’s father had won a voucher for dinner worth AED 1000, so my friend invited me to join her as her dad wasn’t going to use it. The food was great – we shared the calamari and a Caesar’s salad to start. I then had the 8 oz. petite filet (it was the smallest cut they had) with pepper sauce. We also ordered some mashed potatoes, creamed spinach and onion rings. It was far too much food – and we ended up returning the onion rings as they weren’t cooked properly. After all that, we still looked at the dessert menu but didn’t order anything. It was a nice evening and I’d go back – especially as I found out they do two-for-one on Tuesday nights. Buy one steak, get the second free! Bargain.

On Thursday, my friend from London came back to Dubai (he’d been in Abu Dhabi for work since Monday). He was staying at the Palace Hotel for his uncle’s 70th birthday weekend. That afternoon, I went to meet them by the pool and have a couple of drinks: his parents, his uncle, his cousins… it was nice. Eventually it was just the two of us so we ended up ordering a bottle of wine.

That night we’d been invited to our friends’ place in Emirates Hills. It was a small(ish) dinner – under 20 people, but it was a lot of fun. There was drinking, dancing, eating… even some swimming (just the guys). And I fell asleep on their sofa. We eventually got home at 6am. SIX! It was broad daylight when I went to bed and I hadn’t done that in the longest time.

I couldn’t get out of bed on Friday. At about 1.30 my mum asked me if I wanted lunch but I think I mumbled something incoherent and went back to sleep. I got out of bed at 4pm, got ready and went back to the Palace Hotel. I met my friend at the pool, ordered a Coke (my second one this year) and went for a swim. The water wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t freezing – it was just what I needed to wake me up properly. We ordered a bit of food and were joined by another friend who was in town for the 70th birthday celebrations. We sat by the pool long after the sun had gone down and then realised we had to rush to get to our respective dinners on time.

The ladies were meeting at Neo’s at the Address Downtown while the men had been invited to a Bahraini friend’s house for dinner (without alcohol – ha!). The guys did eventually join us at Neo’s at about 11.30pm and just before 1am, my friend from London and I left to go to Pacha where another friend of mine was celebrating his birthday. We didn’t get home until 4.30am.

On Saturday I went back to the Palace Hotel for lunch. We ate by the poolside – it started off as just the two of us, and then we were three, then five, then three, and so on. People came and left, bottles of wine came and left (empty).

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I went back home at about 6.30pm to get ready for the dinner that evening. The dinner was held in the Ballroom at the Palace Hotel. Being a Saturday night I thought it wouldn’t be a late night, but I was wrong. We danced until 2am and it was 2.40am by the time I got home. I got into bed and texted Trevor to say I wouldn’t be able to make my session on Sunday morning!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 16

Another busy week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I also liked the way she was collecting champagne corks!

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

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

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

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 15

What a busy week!

I had a session with Trevor on Sunday morning. I still had a headache from my birthday drinks two days before! I was home in the afternoon and managed to get some work done – my mum and sister took the kids to Mirdif City Centre. That evening I went to a barbecue with some friends in JBR. It took forever to get there. The traffic is a nightmare and if I lived in that area, I would move! It was a really nice evening on their balcony – champagne, barbecued meats, what more does a person want? It wasn’t too late a night – I was home by 11pm.

On Monday I did some work and that afternoon my dad and I went to see Fast and Furious 7 at Mercato Mall.

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Everyone in Dubai loves these movies – even the cinema at Mercato was half full which must be a record for them! I thought it was OK, the action is entertaining but it was far too long and the acting was terrible. I did like the tribute to Paul Walker at the end though.

While we were at the movie, my mum, sister and kids had come to Mercato as well so we met up with them for dinner afterwards. Mum was halfway through her pizza, my sister and V1 had finished their McDonald’s and Dad and I ordered from Noon-o-Kabab. As the driver would have to make two trips to get us all back home, the others left while Dad and I finished our dinner.

On Tuesday I told V1 that I would take him to the Aquarium at the Dubai Mall. We got there at around noon and walked through the tunnel. I love seeing the sharks close up. I tried to take some photos but they were moving too fast! After going through the tunnel we went to the Underwater Zoo upstairs. I could have spent much longer at each exhibit but V1 kept dragging me off to see something else. He wouldn’t even let me look at the piranhas! It was my first time seeing ‘King Croc’. I’m pretty sure the life-size replica they have at the Aquarium entrance on the ground level is much smaller than the crocodile in the exhibit upstairs. This crocodile is massive, weighing in at 750 kg and measuring 5 metres in length! You can view it from the level above and stand directly over it, and you can also see it as a regular exhibit, through the glass. There was a short video playing – a documentary about how they got him to Dubai. I’m sure they must have paid a fortune for him.

After we were finished at the Underwater Zoo, we met up with my sister and a couple of her friends for lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. It was full of families, children, noisy (fake) animals. My sister and I both ordered the steak (nothing special). She also said the bathroom was really awful – just one stall and really dirty. After we’d ordered our food, the waitress came back with a plastic cup with flashing lights and asked V1 if he’d like to have his milkshake in that. Of course he said yes. The waitress then turned to my sister and said ‘It’s AED 35 and you can take it home with you.’ Cheeky! I think now that we’ve been there, there’s no need to go back. Ever.

The Rainforest Cafe is a restaurant I associate with families, kids, noise. So imagine my surprise when, on our way out, I spot three men in business suits having lunch there. How random!

On Tuesday night, we were out for dinner at Royal China with some friends. I’d just been there the week before but really didn’t mind going back – the food is so good. There were eight of us at the table, and the restaurant was quite crowded for a weeknight. We wanted to order some crispy duck but they’d run out (annoying). We ordered some soup, crispy asparagus and a couple of other things to start with. For our main course we had the chicken in black bean sauce, beef with ginger and spring onions, and Szechuan prawns. Yummy.

I had a gym session with Trevor on Wednesday and a piano lesson in the evening. I finished my recording of Le Onde (by Ludovico Einaudi). It’s a bit long but I quite like it.

My sister and I went to Jumeirah Town Centre for a wander before dinner that evening. We went into a children’s clothing store and I spotted some hair products on a shelf. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always looking for some miracle straightening, defrizzing hair product (no luck yet). I used to be able to manage my curls, but now that most of it is grey (and coloured) the texture is very different. It’s coarser and frizzier and nothing seems to work on it except a Brazilian keratin treatment and that just makes my hair fall out. I’d rather have frizzy hair than no hair! Anyway, I found a product called Natural Curl Calmer by a company called Organic Sprout.

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It’s 100% vegan and completely organic. I’ve used it twice since I bought it – I’ve noticed that my hair is definitely softer after I’ve used it and let it dry naturally. It’s not cheap though – it was AED 80 for the tube!

On Thursday evening I met up with a couple of friends at Calabar. I had some alcohol left over from my birthday drinks the week before and had two weeks to finish it. There was half a bottle of Belvedere, two bottles of Merlot and one bottle of Pinot Grigio. It was just three of us and we managed to polish off the vodka and the red wine. I’d have to go back for the Pinot Grigio soon! It was a really fun evening and we were out later than we intended (considering we met at 7pm)…

I was home all day on Friday. That evening, my sister, her husband and I went to La Petite Maison for dinner. As usual, the food was excellent. To start with we had: burrata (of course), beef carpaccio, lentil salad and crab and lobster salad. For the main course we had the salt-baked sea bass and the beef entrecote. We also had a lovely bottle of white wine. We shared the cheesecake for dessert and finished with a cocktail. Lovely evening…

On Saturday afternoon, my sister, V1 and I went to the Dubai Mall to do some shopping. We stopped at Tim Horton’s to pick up a coffee to walk around with and went straight to the Shoe District. My sister bought a pair of shoes and we went on to Sephora. I bought a mascara and eye liner from BeneFit (which I didn’t need). We stopped at Mothercare and Waitrose as well. I took V1 home while my sister had a mani/pedi at the mall. I was home that evening – the mall is quite tiring!

I love my life.

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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 13

Compared to the week before and the week before that, it wasn’t too busy a week.

I was working on Sunday and Monday. On Monday afternoon I had a massage at the Oberoi Spa – which was lovely, as usual!

My sister arrived on Monday night with her two boys – V1 is 4.5 years old and V2 is 7 months old. I hadn’t seen them since I was in London in October. They had flown Etihad so by the time they got home from Abu Dhabi it was after 11pm. We had dinner, played with the kids for a bit and went to bed.

On Tuesday afternoon, I went to see a hypnotherapist. I met her at the IBWG lunch a few weeks ago and decided I was finally going to get some help about my fear of descending stairs and escalators (and anything downhill with nothing to hold on to). I’d mentioned her name to a friend and she said she’d heard really good things about her so I was quite keen to get it done. I was at her office for about an hour and a half. She initially asked me all kinds of questions – how long I’d been in Dubai, what I did for a living, who I lived with, were my parents together, where were my siblings, what I did in my free time, whether I drank and smoked, whether I’d had hypnotherapy before (I had two sessions in 2011 when I was starting to lose weight). We talked about a lot of things. And then the hypnotherapy began. I was conscious the whole time while she spoke to me and responded when she asked me to. At times she would lift up my arm and drop it, to see how relaxed I was – or she would touch my shoulder or forehead. When the session was over, I felt good. We were on the first floor so she told me to take the stairs down and see how I felt. So I walked to the stairs and walked down – without holding on to the bannister. I didn’t freeze at the top, I just walked down like it was the most normal thing in the world. I went back up and told her. She asked if I wanted another session the following week but I told her I’d see how I got on and if I needed another one I’d be in touch with her after her holiday. And then I left, taking the stairs again without holding on to the side. I couldn’t believe myself.

I had a session with Trevor on Wednesday morning, and then worked the rest of the day. That evening I had a piano lesson and then met the rest of the family for dinner at PF Chang at The Dubai Mall. I hadn’t been there in ages. We had some hot and sour soup, dynamite prawns and spring rolls to start with. For our main course we just ordered the Mongolian beef and some rice. It was quite a filling meal.

On Thursday night I met up with a couple of friends at Calabar. I got there at about 7.30 and the place was packed – inside and outside. We had a space at the bar so we were comfortable but I’d have rather been outside. We had some wine (hooray for happy hour) and then ordered some pepper beef, volcano rolls and beef sliders (which I didn’t eat). We decided to go to La Petite Maison for a drink afterwards. Of course one drink became five and I got home at around 1am. I felt awful the next morning.

On Friday we were home until the late afternoon. My sister and I took V1 to Oasis Centre, which he loves. We went to Baby Shop (crowded and horrible) to pick up a few things and then wandered around. We took V1 to Fun City and then to McDonald’s. I hadn’t had McDonald’s in months but had some chicken nuggets and French fries.

I was home all day on Saturday. My sister and mum took V2 to the doctor as he’d been unwell for a few days. Dad was out playing poker. V1 decided he’d stay home with me. He was watching a movie, I was doing a bit of work. Everything was under control. And then. His movie finished and he ran into his room. Ten minutes later he still hadn’t come out so I went to see what he was up to. And then he started hollering for his mother. He hollered for an hour. In his room, in my room, in my face. I told him I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say when he was screaming so he would calm down for a few minutes, say what he wanted to say (mostly ‘Where’s Mama?’ and ‘Tell Mama to come home’) but as soon as I would respond he would start hollering again. He didn’t want chocolate, he didn’t want Oreos, he didn’t want to go for ice cream, he didn’t want to play with his iPad. Oh. My. God. Finally I told him I’d call his mother if he brought his iPad to my room. He said ‘I won’t bring it until you call her,’ and I responded with ‘I’m not calling her until you bring it.’ This went back and forth a few times until he brought his iPad to my room. I called my sister – there was no response so I pretended I was speaking to her – and then I told Vinay she was on her way home and that he had to teach me how to play ‘Memory Game’ on his iPad. By the time she got home with V2, he was so engrossed in the game, he barely looked at her! Men. Honestly.

That evening my sister, V1 and I went to the Dubai Mall to do some shopping. We picked up a bouncer from Mothercare and then went to Koton and Debenhams. I tried on a few things – I needed something to wear to my birthday drinks the following week and actually managed to find something (thank goodness). We were home for dinner and it was an early night for us all.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 41

Sunday was National Day and a public holiday in the UAE. I didn’t have much planned until the evening except have lunch at home with my parents and wait for the sleazy hairdresser. Late that morning one of my friends from Wine Club asked what I was up to and did I want to meet for lunch? I told her I’d meet her for coffee after lunch instead. I met her and another friend from Wine Club at Toscana at the Madinat Jumeirah. They’d had lunch and were sipping prosecco by the water – so I joined them. It was a lovely warm December afternoon and we stayed there till almost 6pm.

That night a friend had invited me to one of his friends’ birthday drinks at Okku. I love Okku and I love Okku on Sundays! We got there a little after 10pm and hung out at the bar – we didn’t really meet many new people as we were chatting and drinking and it was quite crowded. Sunday is retro night at Okku so they play a lot of music from the 80s and 90s – they started with ‘Africa’ by Toto which is one of my all-time favourites. They also played ‘Ain’t Nobody’ by Chaka Khan, ‘I Can’t Wait’ by Nu Shooz, ‘Self Control’ by Laura Brannigan, some Michael Jackson and a lot more songs I loved. We left a little after midnight as my friend had an early start the next day.

The rest of the week was pretty dull until Thursday. I had my second piano lesson on Thursday afternoon – it went well. I hadn’t practised on my own as much as I would have liked – it’s difficult at home and I usually wait until I have the place to myself before practising. But still, the class went well. I spent most of it playing variations of a piece called ‘Love in Portofino’ and Elvis’ ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’. My teacher said he would also give me some classical music to learn so I was happy with that.

After my class I decided to walk home – it’s really not that far – and I stopped at Tim Horton’s for a French Vanilla cappuccino on my way back. It wasn’t too hot either which was nice.

That evening I met up with a friend and one of her friends. I’d met her friend when we had dinner at La Petite Maison a few weeks before. We went to the Jetty Lounge at the Royal Mirage – I’d only been there once and that was back in May. We got there at about 9.45 and every table was taken. We added our names to the waiting list and sat at the bar until a table became available. We had three Margaritas each and ordered two of the ‘Mexico’ platters – tortilla chips, guacamole, salsa and jalapeños. After drinks we decided we’d meet a couple of other friends at the Cigar Lounge at the Address Downtown. It wasn’t a very late night – I was home by 1.30am.

I was home all day on Friday until the evening. My cousin had organised her son’s birthday party at the India Club in Oud Metha. My parents and I got there at about 6pm – the kids were playing cricket indoors and the women sat outdoors having tea and sandwiches and chaat. I was only there for just over an hour as I was meeting some friends for drinks elsewhere.

I went to Sho Cho for drinks with some friends – we were five girls in the end. We had several glasses of wine and then moved on to Boudoir because they had free champagne for women until midnight. Score!

2012

There were more drinks and some dancing. We were there till just after 2am and we’d started to feel peckish by then. We walked over to Japengo Cafe but their kitchen had closed 10 minutes before. I suggested we go to Zaatar w Zeit next to the Shangri-La. We sat down and ordered fresh orange juices all round. I had the halloumi and beef bacon wrap (amazing but probably 10,000 calories) and we ordered some French fries to share. I walked home from there as it was just a few minutes away.

I spent all of Saturday in my pajamas.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 40

On Sunday I had been in Dubai for exactly 11 months! The time has just flown by…

Apart from work and the gym I didn’t do much else on Sunday and Monday.

I had my first piano lesson on Tuesday! It was supposed to be at 2.30 but the piano teacher called me to ask whether we could make it 3.30? That was fine with me – I got there at 3.25 and he wasn’t there yet. He called me at 3.30 to say he would be about 10 minutes late (again). He was 25 minutes late – he said there was lots of traffic – and so he gave me (and charged me for) only half a lesson. I hope this doesn’t happen every week!

The lesson was interesting – we went through various scales and chords and then he gave me a couple of sheets of music and asked me to play them. The first one was simple – he made me play the right hand only but without looking at the keys. After I’d played it a couple of times, he covered it up so I couldn’t see the notes and asked me to play it again. I could remember the first seven bars (the piece was only 16 bars long) and he told me I had a good memory. He turned it over again and made me play it again, reading the music. To cut a long story short, I could remember the whole thing in about 7 minutes (but it was really basic). The second piece was a bit more complex – he didn’t ask me to memorise it – but I was playing with both hands. He gave me some things to practise during the week and my half hour was up very quickly.

He has an interesting method and I wonder what it would be like to learn from him without having had any prior knowledge of the piano. How would he teach me to read music? How would he teach me about the note values? How would he explain keys and sharps and flats?

On Wednesday night I had dinner at my cousin’s place – it was very chilled, just her, her mum and me.

On Thursday I decided to have a manicure and pedicure at the Fairmont. It was pretty crowded as it was a Thursday afternoon but the whole place smelled like sewage! Apparently there were some building works going on in the basement and the salon had been smelling like that for three days. It was not pleasant.

That night I met up with a friend and a few of her friends. I’d never met any of them before but it was a fun evening. On my way to The Address Downtown it started raining! This was only the second or third time I’d seen rain in Dubai. We met at the Cigar Lounge and sat outdoors (it had stopped raining by then) – there’s a great view of the Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa from there. We had a drink there and then went down to Calabar. We managed to get a table for six people even though it was crowded. We had another couple of drinks there and I was home by 1am.

I woke up on Friday morning to a dark grey sky. There was thunder and lightning – and lots of rain. Before I moved to Dubai I used to think that all photos showing clouds surrounding the tall buildings were created in Photoshop – but I was proved wrong on Friday!

2012
2012

What I really wanted to do was set up my tripod and camera on the balcony but it was so windy I didn’t think it would be a good idea! I could see the traffic backed up on Sheikh Zayed Road and was glad I didn’t need to be anywhere.

That evening I met up with a friend and one of her friends who was visiting Dubai. We went to The Stables behind the Radisson on Sheikh Zayed Road. The two of them got there before me and as I walked in and climbed up the stairs all I could hear were loads of Brits singing along to ‘Wonderwall’. I walked in and got my free glass of champagne (women drink champagne for free until 8pm) and joined the two of them. After 8pm we ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and carried on talking. A guy who thought he was Snoop Dogg bought us another bottle of wine which we didn’t accept. He was odd – and we ended up leaving because he just wouldn’t leave us alone! I got home at 10pm.

My mum was arriving that night but her flight wasn’t due to land until 2am. What was I going to do for 4 hours? I was on Facebook for a while and noticed that a friend of mine was also online. I asked her if she fancied going for a drink? To my surprise, she actually said yes! I picked her up in a cab and we went to Calabar (yes, again). As it had been raining all day all the seats outside were still wet so we managed to find a table inside and order some drinks (many drinks!). It was a fun evening and we were one of the last people to leave when my mum called me at 2am to say she’d just landed.

Mum was home by 3.30am and we chatted for an hour or so. It was 5am by the time I went to sleep. I was woken up at 10am by the doorbell – Dad had arrived – and I didn’t really sleep after that.

I was exhausted on Saturday and didn’t do very much apart from my writing group at the Pavilion Downtown that evening. The organiser and I were the only people in the group to start with. We were eventually joined by an Indian guy (who was 30 minutes late) and an American woman (who was 45 minutes late). I don’t know what it is about Dubai but people don’t seem to think that being on time is very important. It’s irritating.

The two exercises we did were first-line openers. The organiser gave us an opening sentence and we had to carry on writing. The first exercise had to start with ‘Nobody knew where the lighthouse had come from’. The second exercise had to start with ‘The day of the anniversary arrived with an air of dread’. I found both of these quite easy as you don’t really have any restrictions and I managed to turn them both into something I could continue writing…

I was home by 8.30pm and was in bed by 11 – I was tired and had passed out by midnight.

I love my life.

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