Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Week 34

It was a quiet week. I didn’t do very much at all. I visited Dad every afternoon/evening in the hospital until he came home on Wednesday afternoon.

I had a piano lesson on Monday afternoon. As usual, I hadn’t practised at all! I had yoga on Tuesday and Trevor on Wednesday and three workouts on my own in the week as well.

I went out for dinner on Thursday with some friends. I hadn’t been out in two weeks and I hadn’t had a drink in two weeks! Two of us started at The Agency – we had a glass of wine each. We then joined our two other friends at The Meat Co. It was really nice to see them all – it had been ages. We shared a couple of starters: salt and pepper calamari and the chilli prawns. We each ordered our own main course. And we had two bottles of the house wine. We had two Entertainer vouchers for the main courses and one Entertainer voucher for a complimentary bottle of wine, so we only paid for the starters, two main courses and one bottle of wine! It was only 10pm by the time we finished dinner so we walked back to The Agency and had another drink there. It was a really nice evening – I was home by midnight.

I spent the rest of the weekend at home with my parents, doing some work and reading.

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 2014: Week 13

The week started off much quieter than the previous week. I was busy at work on Sunday and Monday – the April issue finally went to press! I’m really pleased with this issue – my editorial was easy to write and I’ve got an article and photo published in the issue too.

On Monday morning I went to the clinic for my blood test. I’d been dreading it because every time I have a blood test I end up being stuck with needles as my veins are difficult to find. My record is eight times, spread over two days (they gave up after a few times on the first day). By the end of the second day, the doctors were looking at my ankles and I told them there was no way they were sticking needles in my ankles. They eventually found a viable vein in my wrist. The pain in my fingers had vanished which was a relief. I was called in to the nurses’ station and a male nurse sat me down and tried to find a vein. He told me he could see one in my right arm and started preparing me for it. I really had my doubts – but he did it the first time. I was so impressed!

On Monday evening I had dinner with NP at Toko Dubai. We went early – I’d booked for 8pm and the place was rather empty. I guess 8pm is early for Dubai! NP had never eaten there so was happy to go along with most of my suggestions: rice chips, nasu dengaku, beef gyoza and Japanese salad to begin with. For our next course we had the soft-shell crab tempura, grilled avocado and seared salmon maki. For dessert we shared the green tea ice cream and coconut sorbet.

I decided to work at home on Tuesday. The doctor called with my blood test results. She said I was severely anaemic – that my iron levels are ‘on the floor’ and my haemoglobin levels are so low that I’m a fraction away from a blood transfusion. Oh great. She said she would prescribe iron tablets which I’d have to take three times a day and have a blood test in another week to see if there was any improvement.

I went to my piano lesson that evening – we went through various patterns you can use with the left hand while playing the melody with the right hand. He also gave me some new music (‘Let It Go’ from Frozen) and a couple of others. I had wanted to walk home after my lesson but it was raining.

When I woke up on Wednesday it was still raining. And by the time I left for work it was pouring. I stopped at the clinic to collect my prescription and tried to get what I needed at the pharmacy in the same complex. They didn’t have ferrous sulfate 200 mg so she offered me ferrous sulfate 80 mg. Well, that’s not what the prescription says, is it? I declined and told her I’d find somewhere else. I went to work (waste of time) and got a lift back to the Dubai Mall from a friend. I rarely go to the mall but I needed something to wear for my birthday drinks on Friday.

He dropped me off at the Waitrose entrance so I went to the pharmacy next to the supermarket – they didn’t have ferrous sulfate. I went to Boots – they didn’t have it. I went to one more pharmacy and they didn’t have it either. I picked up a dress and then on my way home stopped at Life Pharmacy on Al Wasl. The pharmacist told me that they only had ferrous sulfate 80 mg and that’s the highest dose pharmacists are allowed to stock. If I wanted 200 mg I’d have to go to a hospital. Now why couldn’t the first pharmacy have told me that? It would have saved me a lot of time and irritation! In the end I went with the 80 mg but just got double the quantity!

I took the day off on Thursday. I did some work at home and had an early dinner at the Meat Company in Souk Al Bahar with a couple of friends. I was tired and I didn’t want to be hungover the following day. I was home by 10pm – my parents were out and came home shortly afterwards. ‘Are you ill?’ my dad asked (as I knew he would). No, of course not. ‘Why are you home so early?’

On Friday I’d organised drinks at 40 Kong at the H Hotel from 6pm onwards. My birthday wasn’t until Sunday but Sunday is a working day here… I was at 40 Kong with a friend shortly after 6pm just in case anyone did show up at that time! It was a little chilly up on the 40th floor but at least it wasn’t raining! We ordered a bottle of Prosecco and watched the sun set.

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My guests started arriving from about 7pm onwards. It was a fun evening – a very mixed crowd but everyone seemed to get on with everyone else. And then, my surprise cake was brought out. The cake that stole my thunder. Everyone wanted a photo of it – I don’t even know where my two friends got it from and they still won’t tell me! All that was left of it was this:

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At about 1am, most people had gone and a friend and I decided we were hungry and went to Zaatar w Zeit. I was home by 2.15. I’d had a really fun night and I think everyone had a good time.

I woke up on Saturday feeling exhausted. I was home for most of the day and then went to meet a couple of friends at Iris for drinks. I was only there for a couple of hours and had two glasses of red wine and really wished I’d had only one. It started to make me feel sick – and I don’t normally drink red wine any more. I got to Sapore di Bice at CityWalk where I was meeting my parents for dinner and nothing on the menu appealed to me. I thought I’d go with something simple and ordered the penne arrabiata. Yes, it’s boring, but it was a safe choice. When the food arrived I started to feel much better! We were home by 11pm and I watched a couple of episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 2

Yet another busy week!

After my session with Randy on Sunday I took my sister to the doctor at GMC in Jumeirah. We then wandered around the book store for a little while waiting for our mum to show up. By this time it was after 3pm and none of us had eaten lunch. We ended up at Johnny Rocket’s on the other side of Jumeirah Beach Road. Once we’d sat down, Dad decided to join us as well. The food was average and the fries are better at McDonald’s. I wouldn’t go back.

Across the car park from the restaurant was a pet shop called Animal World. We took Vinay in to have a look at the animals – they had many puppies, birds and rabbits.

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After the pet store, my sister, Vinay and I went to Mercato. He fell asleep in his pram in about 5 minutes so we walked around in peace. We went to La Senza and I saw a pair of pajamas I liked. I didn’t feel like trying them on (especially after the burger and chips I had) so I asked one of the sales assistants for help.

‘Do you think I need a medium or large?’ I asked. I had a medium pair in my left hand and the large in my right.

‘Yes,’ she replied.

I looked at my sister. I repeated it slower. She looked like she understood.

‘Yes. We have medium and large.’

Jesus.

‘Yes, I’m holding them. Do I need medium or large?’

It would have been quicker and less painful to try them on.

‘I think medium will be OK. Large is bigger.’

Genius.

That wasn’t much help but I went with the medium though – the large pair seemed too long and big.

We had a quick look in a few other shops and then went home.

Our parents were out that evening so we relaxed at home.

I had a doctor’s appointment on Monday on Monday afternoon – back in October I had a stye and I thought it had cleared but while I was in Singapore it had come back. It wasn’t swollen or painful, just a solid lump under my eyelid. The doctor gave me a prescription for a cream that should be applied and massaged on the eyelid at night. She also suggested I see the eye specialist at the clinic the following week. I thought I might as well mention my sore wrists but she told me to just ignore it unless it got worse. Er, OK?

After my appointment I picked up a French Vanilla cappuccino from Tim Horton’s next door and went home.

That night my sister and I had dinner with three of our cousins at The Meat Company at Souk Al Bahar. We had to sneak out of the house and hope Vinay wouldn’t notice we’d gone! I’d just bought the new Entertainer voucher book so took three vouchers with me and we ended up saving AED 585! We ordered six main courses and got three free. Bargain! I think the steaks there are very good, and definitely worth it if you get two main courses for the price of one. We also had two bottles of red wine.

Tuesday was the busiest, most exhausting day. My sister, Vinay and I left home at 10.30 to meet a friend at The Dubai Mall for breakfast/coffee. We met at Erik Kayser and ordered our food. We had omelettes and coffee. The omelette was good but the coffee was vile. I didn’t enjoy it at all.

Just after 12 our friend had to leave and Vinay had been promised a ride on a bus since the day he’d arrived. As we walked to the main entrance of the mall, we walked past Nine West and got distracted. We each bought a pair of bright yellow heels and my sister also bought a bright pink pair too. As we were paying I wondered how we’d carry these things around with us, and look after Vinay. I asked the sales assistant if we could leave the packages with him and come back for them later? Yes, no problem, madam. Great.

We made it to the front entrance without buying anything else. Phew! We waited outside for the Big Bus to arrive and a few minutes later there it was. The expression on Vinay’s face as we got on the bus was priceless. He was so excited and couldn’t stop grinning.

We took the Red Route which took us to the older part of Dubai. The Blue Route went down Sheikh Zayed Road to The Atlantis on the Palm and Mall of the Emirates and so on, and we didn’t fancy that. You could hop on and off at the various stops but because we were with Vinay we stayed on the bus the whole time. We went to Wafi, Creek Park, the Spice Souk, the Gold Souk, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s house, the Old Souk, Al Fahidi Fort (which houses the Dubai Museum). The route took about 1.5 hours and all the excitement proved too much for Vinay who fell asleep. We eventually got to Burjuman where we had to change buses to get back to the Dubai Mall.

I realied that once we had switched to the Blue Route it wouldn’t take us straight back to the mall. It was going down Jumeirah Beach Road towards the Palm. We got off the bus at the Jumeirah Mosque and took a cab to the mall. Our parents were meeting us there for lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. By this time it was 3pm.

It didn’t take long to get a table, thank goodness. I was hungry, thirsty and tired. I had my usual herb-encrusted salmon. I do want to try some of the other dishes but the portions there are huge! I always order from the Lunch Specials menu where the portions are smaller (and even then the portions are still big). We were talking about the bus tour we’d been on when Vinay suddenly announced: ‘I’m farting in my nappy’. We all burst out laughing – it was so unexpected!

After lunch my parents took Vinay home and my sister and I stayed on at the mall. It was 8pm by the time we got home! We were shattered. It had been a long day.

I met a couple of friends for lunch on Wednesday. We went to Balance Cafe at the Oasis Centre. I’d never been there before and both Rama and Randy had told me the food was very good and very healthily prepared. Through the Entertainer website I’d coincidentally found vouchers for Balance Cafe – buy one main course and get the second free! Lunch was very nice – we ordered a salad to start, and for my main course I had the steamed cream dory with asparagus. It was so tasty! One of my friends ordered the grilled chicken skewer and the other ordered a prawn curry. For dessert we had coffees and shared the chocolate and date torte (yum).

I was home the rest of the day.

I had a piano lesson on Thursday. We worked on some sightreading, some scales, ‘Autumn Leaves’, and spent most of the time on ‘Comptine’.

My sister and Vinay left for Lagos that night. The flat was so quiet after they’d gone.

I went to a party at my cousin’s place in The Lakes. I knew about seven out of the 100 people there but it was a fun evening. They had the party out in the garden, the food was catered from Royal Orchid, they had leather sofas to lounge on, and the DJ was really good. We drank, danced (a bit), ate. It was after 3am when I got home.

I spent all of Friday in my pajamas. That night I met up with a couple of friends at Vintage in Wafi. We had a couple of bottles of wine and some cheese fondue. After that we went next door to Carter’s for a drink. I’d only been there once, back in September. The music was much better than the last time but it was just as empty. It was an early night – I was home by midnight.

On Saturday Dad and I decided we’d go out for lunch. Mum was busy at home with the cleaner so it was just the two of us. We thought we’d try a Chinese place my parents had found the week before called China Times at Jumeirah Plaza. We really fancied some dim sum but when we got there, the waiter told us their steamer had broken down. We ended up ordering soup and crispy beef for starters.

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I ordered the steamed hammour for the main course but the waiter reminded me that the steamer wasn’t working. We ordered the black pepper beef instead (we’d forgotten about the beef starter).

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I wanted the pak choy in garlic but they didn’t have that either. The food was good but I think if I decide to go back I’ll call them beforehand to find out what they have and whether their steamer is working!

That evening I went to my writers’ group at the Pavilion Downtown. As my wrist had been sore I decided I’d take my iPad and work on that rather than my usual pen and paper. I downloaded an app called ‘Inkwell for Dropbox’ which backs up your documents to your Dropbox account automatically. Amazing!

I got to the Pavilion, connected to their wi-fi network and we began. The organiser had decided that she would do ‘first liners’ this week, where she provides a sentence and you make that the first line of your writing. The first exercise began with: ‘His grandfather had worked at the grocery store ever since he was a young man’. I started to write about an older Cuban man who had been in New York since he was a child. It was very different to anything I’d written and I really thought it was something I’d consider continuing when I got home. Once 30 minutes was up, we stopped writing and talked about what we’d written. How had we found the exercise? Did this method of writing work for me? I said it did, because it’s easier than looking at a blank page and wondering where to start!

After a chat around the table, the organiser gave us the second sentence. I powered up my iPad and… the writing I’d done had disappeared. I checked my Dropbox account. It was empty. F***! I was so annoyed! I wanted to punch someone – I’d written about 700 words and was so pleased with what I’d done. I decided to use the regular ‘Notes’ section in my iPad for the second exercise.

The second exercise began with ‘In the middle of nowhere, along a quiet stretch of road, the diner dreamt of the hungry dead’. I was still upset about my writing vanishing so I wrote about a writer sitting in a cafe thinking how being eaten by a zombie would be a better fate than facing his editor (with whom he had also just begun a relationship) and telling her how he’d managed to lose all his research and didn’t have a back-up. The other members in the group were quite amused when I told them what had happened…

I was home by 8.30pm and my parents were out so I had some dinner, read my book and went to sleep.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 39

It started off as a quiet week but soon changed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love my life.

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Dubai: Days 21-24

A busy week: lunches, dinners, drinks, and work when I can fit it in!

I spent most of Saturday at home – my mum and sister were out shopping and there was no way I was going to join them. That evening my sister and I went back to The Meat Co. for a steak dinner. We’d been there a couple of weeks before and this time we didn’t order any starters, just our steaks and salad, and no dessert. Our table was booked for 9pm and we were home by 10.30!

On Sunday morning I had a session with Rama, my trainer. After that my cousin hosted a girls’ ‘welcome’ lunch for me at the Fairmont – there were seven or eight of us. It was a nice group of people – me, my sister, my cousin, and some other cousins and friends who used to live in Lagos and London but now live in Dubai. It was an early lunch because most of them had kids that needed picking up from school from 2pm onwards. School on a Sunday? That’s just wrong.

On Monday afternoon, we were invited over to someone’s house for tea. Five of us (my mum, sister, nephew, his nanny and me) went over to their place in the Lakes. I met another cousin who lives here – and while chatting about where to go for various things (massages, facials, etc.) she gave me numbers for various people and places. It was like speaking to the Yellow Pages. Useful!

On Tuesday evening I went out to Calabar at The Address for some drinks with the girls – it was a very random group of people but it was nice to get out of the house. It wasn’t a very late or heavy night as I had a session with Rama at 9am the following morning. As we were saying our goodbyes in the lobby of the hotel, I heard someone call my name. ‘Who the hell knows me here?’ I thought to myself. It was someone I knew from London! ‘What are you doing here?’ she asked. ‘Er. I live here now.’ (Even as I said it out loud, I still didn’t believe it.)

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Dubai: Day 3

On Day 3 (Tuesday) I decided to try out the gym in our building. It’s in the same complex but you have to collect an access card from reception and walk across to the car park. The pool and gym are on the top floor/roof of that building. When I got to the sixth floor, I couldn’t figure out how to use the access card. The machine on the wall had a number pad and I had a card that (I thought) needed swiping. There was an office across the hallway so I went in and asked if anyone knew how to get to the pool/gym area? One of the guys came out to help me – he tried holding the card against the machine but nothing happened so he punched in a code and let me in. 

There was an entrance to the pool, a door which said ‘Aerobics’ (I didn’t go in), and the gym. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I think there’s enough equipment there to keep me busy! It’s not the most up-to-date equipment I’ve used but it’ll do. 

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I usually use the bike but I had another ‘blonde’ moment and couldn’t figure out how to use it. I started pedalling and followed the instructions but the machine didn’t start. So I decided to use the treadmill. A few minutes later a guy came in, sat down on the bike, started pedalling and it worked – eh?). Anyway, when I pressed ‘start’ on the treadmill, cold air started coming out of the top of the display. I’ve never seen or even heard of treadmills with fans before! I also bumped into someone I know, who also lives in the building, but apart from that it was very quiet. No people-watching, no music, no screens to watch the news on… Very different to LA Fitness! So I watched the poolside (which looks much nicer from pool level than from up above). I did some weights, some lunges (yes, lunges!) and some stretches and went back home. On my way out of the gym, I tried holding the access card against the number pad on the machine. And it worked. 

My brother-in-law hired a car and driver after lunch and we drove to Sharjah. The plan was to go to the Arabia Wildlife Centre and show Vinay some animals. It took us about an hour to get there and when we finally arrived, the couple outside the Centre told us it was closed. WTF? After all that! And that meant the Children’s Farm next door was closed too. Hmm – someone didn’t read the website properly. So we piled back into the car and Googled other things to do in the area. The driver must have thought we were morons. The Sharjah Aquarium? Yes, we’ll go there! It took us another 30 minutes or so to get there and when we did it looked like the building was closed – it was under scaffolding and looked like it was being renovated. Thankfully, it wasn’t and we went in. It cost AED20 (approximately £3.50) per person.

The aquarium was interesting – they had a variety of aquatic life on display. The only thing I’d complain about was that at every exhibit they had touch screens where you could find out more about the creatures in the exhibit but none of them worked. Each time I clicked on the screen, it would bring up starfish and other ‘harbour’ creatures, but nothing about the sharks that were in the tank.

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We got to walk through an underwater tunnel where stingrays and other big fish were swimming around, but I have no idea what they were. It was interesting nevertheless.

After the aquarium, Vinay played in the children’s area outside. He loved going down the slide and did it over and over again with a huge grin on his face.

The drive home didn’t take as long as the drive there and we were home in time to see the sunset (ignore the streaky windows!).

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My dad finally got me a du SIM card – I put it in my phone and nothing happened. He told me to wait an hour or so and it would start working. About two hours later, the only things working were the phone and Twitter. And really, who uses the phone any more? My BlackBerry service wasn’t up and running yet so I wasn’t getting any emails or BB messages. It’s shocking how much I rely on my phone!

That night, my sister, brother-in-law and I went out for steak. We went to The Meat Co in Souk Al Bahar at the Dubai Mall. We sat indoors as it was quite cool outside. After we ordered the waiter brought over some bread – a chocolate and cranberry loaf and an onion loaf. It looked so good.

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The two of them had some bread and butter, and by the time the real food arrived I was too hungry to take any photos… I had calamari and they had bruschetta to start, and we each ordered a steak. I had the USA Black Angus 160 Day Grain-fed Cut steak, they both had the Brazilian Grass-fed Beef. I asked for a salad instead of the fries that came with the steak. The other two rolled their eyes. We also ordered some broccoli and spinach as side dishes. And a bottle of red wine, which soon became two bottles… 

We were home soon after 11pm – it had been a long day! 

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