Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2013: Week 23

After my session with Randy on Sunday morning I did some work and then spent the afternoon at the pool. That evening I had a friend and her son flying in from Hong Kong for a couple of days on their way to London. I went to the airport that night to collect them and by the time we got home it was after midnight. We chatted for a while and eventually went to sleep.

My friend’s mum was arriving early on Monday morning (and also staying with me) so we left home at 8am to pick her up from the airport. We got home, I had a cup of tea and then had to go to my Arabic class. We learned:

  • The words for month/s and year/s
  • How to say whether we were married or not – and also the words for husband and wife
  • How to ask someone how long they’d been in a place (and a reply)
  • More pronouns, e.g. his house, her house, their house
  • More random vocabulary: yesterday, day before yesterday, tomorrow, day after tomorrow
  • How to use the tamarbuwta
  • More verbs – to want, to visit, to go, to drink – and how to conjugate them in the first person

After my class, I met up with my friend, her son and her mum at Nando’s and we had some lunch. She and her mum had some errands to run so I took her son to the pool for a while.

That night, the two of us went out with some friends. We went to Pai Thai at the Madinat Jumeirah. I’d never been there and was pleasantly surprised. The service was also better than in many places I’ve been to. I used two Entertainer vouchers as well and we saved about AED 200!

The next day the four of us went to Wafi Gourmet for lunch. I had to go to a piano lesson straight after and my friend and her mum and son were out until the evening. That night the two of us had dinner at Karma Kafe with a friend we bumped into at the airport on Monday morning. Small world! The food was good, as usual – and I used yet another Entertainer voucher. I’ve used so many of them this year already! We got home a little after 11pm and my friend, her mum and son left for the airport at about midnight. It was quite a busy couple of days!

I had another Arabic lesson on Wednesday. We learned:

  • More verbs – to live/reside, to study, to know – and how to conjugate them in the second person (male and female)
  • Random vocabulary – family, parents, people before, sometimes, always, beach, gym, building
  • We learned two new letters and also did some writing practice (still looks like a 3-year-old’s writing!)

I went home, did some work and then that evening went to my second creative writing class at The Pavilion Downtown. We talked about opening paragraphs and how naming characters is so important – names change with generations and different social classes. We were told that we need to be the character we’re writing about and have to know them inside out. We talked about character traits and how flawed characters leave plenty of room for growth. For our homework we were asked to write about people meeting and coming together, perhaps at a dinner party, picnic, or something along those lines. How do they behave? What are their flaws?

I was home all of Thursday and then met up with a couple of friends at The Agency in Madinat Jumeirah. What a night! We ended up having four bottles of wine. When we left we wanted to go dancing, so we hopped in a cab and headed to Malecon. We were only there for about half an hour, and we didn’t drink any more, but we had a great time dancing to salsa music!

I was home the whole of Friday. My head was aching and I didn’t feel like doing very much apart from reading by the pool.

On Saturday I did some reading by the pool and then went to see The Internship with my dad and uncle. It was better (and longer) than I thought it would be – I quite enjoyed it!

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 22

I had another busy week, but thankfully it was nowhere near as busy as the week before or the week before that!

My Sunday was relaxing. After my session with Randy I decided to do some work and then went to the pool with my book in the afternoon.

Monday was a busy day. I had my Arabic class at lunchtime. We learned:

  • How to ask what the date is – and how to respond
  • How to ask how many/how much – and how to respond
  • Two new letters
  • Random vocabulary – appointment, colleague, manager, husband, friend, teacher, lesson

I feel like I’m learning a lot but my writing is no better than a 3-year-old’s!

That afternoon I went to see a friend who had a baby recently. I hadn’t seen her since our lunch at Okku in March and it was nice to see her kids and catch up.

I left her place and went to a concert at The Fridge in Al Serkal Avenue – piano (Viktoriya Zaharieva) and violin (Nadine Artuhanava). These two women were young – and they were amazing. Not all the pieces they played were duets – sometimes it was just piano or just violin. They played the following:

  • Bach – Adagio and Fugue from Sonata in G minor (first two movements)
  • Chopin – Ballade no. 1 in G minor, op. 23 (I absolutely love Chopin)
  • Grieg – Sonata no. 3 in C minor, op. 45
  • Sarasate – Andalusian Romance for violin and piano, op. 22/1
  • Stoyan Stoyanov – Scherzo – picture (this composer currently lives in Dubai and was in the audience)
  • Bartok – Romanian Folk Dances

Whoever complains about there being no culture in Dubai clearly isn’t looking very hard.

My Tuesday was quiet. I didn’t have a piano lesson so I was home working most of the day.

I had another session with Randy on Wednesday followed by an Arabic class. We covered:

  • Some verbs – I am, you are, and so on
  • Four new letters
  • Random vocabulary – big, small, middle, chair (kursi), welcome (i.e. make yourself at home), thirsty

It doesn’t sound like much, but we’ve started putting sentences together: After Arabic class I have a meeting, or I’ve been in Dubai for 1.5 years and I’m happy, or I want tea with milk and sugar. As our teacher would say, ‘Shway shway‘ (slowly).

I started a creative writing course on Wednesday evening. I’d heard about it through Time Out a few weeks before and emailed the lady who runs the course. It was just 4 weeks in June – on Wednesday evenings – at The Pavilion Downtown. There were about seven or eight of us – we went round the table and introduced ourselves.

The first writing exercise we did was to write something (anything) for 30 seconds, just to get us warmed up. The next exercise we did was taking the letters of our name and then revealing something about ourselves beginning with that letter. For example, with ‘E’ I wrote ‘Ex-Londoner now living in Dubai’. It was harder than it sounds!

We talked about creativity and generating ideas. We each had to write three random words on three little pieces of paper (I wrote ‘desk’, ‘mobile’, ‘cigarettes’), fold them up and put them in the middle. We then had to pick three of these pieces of paper and write something which included all three words. The three words I ended up with were: tea, community, cigarettes. I wrote about someone who’s caught smoking by a senior member of her community while she’d popped out of the office for a cup of tea.

We got some useful tips: always use a clear and readable font, break up long paragraphs with dialogue, avoid using too many adjectives, avoid abbreviations and txt spk! We also got a list of writing prompts which might come in handy if I ever decide to write something and don’t know where to start – an example is: ‘He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. To his horror, he saw…’

It was an interesting evening – and it gave me a few things to think about.

I was home most of Thursday – either working or at the pool. I met a friend for dinner at Loca. We had been there in September and I loved the barbecued lamb wrap they did. I also had some Entertainer vouchers so we only paid for one of our two main courses. Halfway through dinner I started feeling a bit sick and I felt a headache coming on. When my friend suggested we go somewhere else I told her I had to go home – it was only 10pm. Normally I would have loved to go out (as you have probably figured out by now) but that night I just couldn’t do it.

I was home all of Friday, catching up on work – and I still wasn’t feeling 100%. I was home most of Saturday too. It was a quiet weekend.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 4

I was feeling less cranky on Sunday than I had for the previous 2 to 3 days (thank goodness).

I had a session with Randy and then had lunch at the Dubai Mall with my parents. I’d been wanting a steak but knew I was going to have one that night so we ended up at Vapiano instead. I had the penne with salmon (as usual). After lunch Dad went to a movie on his own while Mum and I browsed the shops. I was heading to London soon and needed to take some gifts for all the new babies that had arrived since my last trip!

That night I met up with NP for dinner. The last time we’d met was before Christmas when her son and my nephew had a playdate at the Mall of the Emirates. We went to Ruth’s Chris Steak House at The Address Marina. I walked in and was immediately impressed with the music (George Michael’s ‘Older). It wasn’t very crowded and the service was good. We both ordered the set menu (three courses and a side dish for AED 315 each). We both had the seared ahi tuna to start with (other options were Caesar salad, onion soup au gratin, and mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat); and we both had the 8 oz filet of beef with pepper sauce as our main course (other options were Caribbean lobster tail, stuffed chicken, and caper dill sea bass). We shared creamed spinach and fresh broccoli (the third choice was mashed potatoes) and shared the two dessert options (chocolate sin cake and creme brulee). I think it was pretty good value for money. We also had a nice bottle of red wine (I think it was a Malbec but can’t remember). We enjoyed the wine so much we ended up ordering another glass each after dinner. When the waiter brought our bill we thought it looked surprisingly low and then realised that the waiter hadn’t charged us for the bottle of wine (of course we told him). 

Monday was uneventful but when I woke up on Tuesday morning I couldn’t see out the window. It was a little before 9am but it was like being in thick white cloud. I couldn’t see the Shangri-La just a block away. I could barely see the pool 17 floors below.

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As the day progressed, it got better.

On Tuesday evening a friend and I went to a Lime and Tonic event at Hakkasan. The deal was AED 150 for a selection of dim sum and two cocktails. I was expecting it to be an interactive event like the Secret Gourmet Supper Club the week before so I was mentally ready for that (kind of). We got to Hakkasan and were taken to the separate bar area away from the main restaurant. People were sitting at tables in small groups and we were asked to sit anywhere we wanted. We joined a couple of girls who had also just sat down; they were so engrossed in their conversation so we just caught up on our own. 

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Our dim sum basket arrived with our cocktails. I ordered the Thea martini (vodka, apple juice, ginger juice, lime juice, vanilla/chilli sugar) – it was yummy!

We stayed for an hour and then walked over to The Agency at the Emirates Tower Hotel where we had another drink each. After our drink I went over to Thai Chi at Wafi Pyramids to meet my parents who were having dinner with some cousins who were in town unexpectedly. They were on their way back to Ghana from India and had missed their connecting flight.

The following morning it was foggy again, but not as bad as it had been the day before. On Wednesday night I went over to a friend’s place for dinner. It was a lovely chilled evening – good food, good wine and good music (once we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’) figured out how to create a playlist on the computer)!

Thursday was a public holiday (the Prophet’s birthday) and I didn’t have my piano lesson. That night I went to wine club with a couple of friends. This month it was at the Radisson Royal on Sheikh Zayed Road so quite convenient for me! Sadly there was no wine that I really enjoyed that night – and I noticed the ‘Sula’ on the neck of the bottle as the wines were being poured. I have to say that Indian wine is disgusting.

The wines we had were:

  • Lindeman’s Bin 30 Sparkling Rose (Australia): A fresh, lively, full-flavoured sparkling rose. Strawberry and cherry fruit flavours are complemented by a creamy texture. The finish is soft and dry with lingering flavours. If I had to pick a favourite this time, this would be it…
  • Argento Pinot Grigio (Argentina): Pale straw colour; peach and tropical fruit aromas; extra dry palate with medium body and crisp flavours. Serve as an aperitif or with creamy pasta dishes.
  • Sula Sauvignon Blanc (India): Herbaceous, crisp and dry, with hints of green pepper and a touch of spice at the finish, this wine is well balanced with good acidity. Serve chilled at 8-10C.
  • Mancaro Marche Sangiovese (Italy): Ruby red colour with purple tints, fruited, fragranted bouquet with hints of wild berries. Fresh, delicate taste.
  • Sula Shiraz (India): A smooth, medium-bodied red wine accentuated by ripe cherry  and plum fruit, with attractive aromas of black pepper. Pair with tandoori dishes and mildly spiced curries. Serve lightly chilled. Open and allow to breathe before serving. If it were up to me it would be opened and poured down the drain and never served.
  • Argento Shiraz (Argentina): Dark berry fruit, cedar and smoke on the nose. Palate confirms the nose and has moderate tannin in a house style that is maintained from year to year. Serve with lamb, beef, duck and hard cheeses.

There was a good selection of food – some sushi rolls, and a lot of small sandwiches this time round – no satays or anything. There were also some delicious deep-fried cheese rolls. 

We didn’t feel like lingering that evening – usually we’re the last to leave wine club and hang out on one table at the end, but this evening we decided to leave early and go elsewhere. We ended up at the Blue Bar at the Novotel World Trade Centre. We ordered a round of drinks and listened to the live band (who were actually very good). We stayed till after midnight and then decided to call it a night.

Friday was very chilled as well – I was home until the evening. I went to see Argo with my cousin and a friend. What a fantastic movie! I’m not usually a Ben Affleck fan but he was so good in this. And the last 10 minutes – oh my goodness – my heart was beating so fast! What I couldn’t unders
tand, though, is that over here in Dubai subtitles are in Arabic and French – which is fine – but during the movie, in the parts where the conversation is in Persian/Farsi, there were no English subtitles. Luckily I could understand what was happening by reading the French subtitles but my friend didn’t have a clue! A few days later my parents went to see the movie and came home asking the same question: ‘What happened in that bit with the housekeeper?’

After the movie we had planned to eat at the mall but it was SO crowded. Instead we ended up at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Burj Plaza called Yeldizlar – it was average, I’d say. We ordered a mixed grill, some hummus and some tabouleh. The service wasn’t great either. We did walk over to the Dubai Fountain to watch the Fire and Water show at 10pm. 

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We watched for about 10 minutes and then walked back to our table. I was home by midnight.

I was home all day on Saturday until my writing group at the Pavilion Downtown. I wasn’t in the mood to go but decided that I had to go if I was going to write anything! There were 13 of us and I felt that the group was too big. In theory we just sit and write but that particular day people were talking and it was very distracting. There were a couple of annoying characters there who I hope I never see again. 

I got home at around 8.30pm. I had some dinner and had the place to myself for the rest of the evening.

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 realised 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 38

It was a somewhat turbulent week – not much seemed to be happening on the surface, but it was all going on behind the scenes.

I had a session with Randy on Sunday morning. That afternoon I met a friend from London for coffee at the Armani Cafe. After that, I decided I’d try on some clothes – I hardly ever feel like doing this so I thought I’d make the most of it. I’d had my eye on a dress for a while and when I found it I just decided to buy it!

I went home and had a call with the person who took over my job when I left London. It wasn’t a good conversation – I had to sign a confidentiality agreement before we had the call but I’ve since seen a press release about it so I can mention it here.

When I got the confidentiality agreement on Saturday I told a friend of mine what my suspicions were – that the journals had been sold to another publisher – and this was confirmed on Sunday evening during my phone call. Before I asked what this meant for my position, I asked about the team I’d put together. They were being made redundant and had been told 3 weeks before. All of them. They’d all had to sign confidentiality agreements which explained why I hadn’t heard from any of them in a while! Not one of them had been offered a job with the new publisher. Hearing that actually made me feel sick – I’d hired most of them and now they were all out of jobs. And me? After hearing about my team I expected to be told my services were no longer required. However, my colleague explained that as I was a supplier for the company, the new publisher had agreed to continue using the existing suppliers. I was surprised – of course my colleague couldn’t tell me how long they’d use me for – it could be for just a month or so. I emailed my team to say how sorry I was to hear the news and if they needed any references from me I’d be more than happy to provide them. Only three people responded – I felt terrible.

It was a quiet week otherwise – I’d been very unmotivated to do anything. I met a friend for lunch on Monday – we’d been trying (not very hard admittedly) to meet up since I moved here but one of us was always either busy or out of town. We went to Shakespeare & Co, next to Park n Shop – it was a fun lunch and it was good to catch up.

Tuesday was my first Diwali in Dubai and I was on my own. I was home all day, and that evening I went over to my cousin’s for the Diwali puja and then we went on to a couple of parties, one in the Meadows and the other in Emirates Hills. I actually knew a few people at the Emirates Hills party – people I’ve met over the last few months.

I didn’t go anywhere on Wednesday and was home most of Thursday too – on Thursday night I met up with my same friend from Monday’s lunch – we went to Costa Coffee at Mercato. It was a very impromptu evening – I was glad to get out of my flat and out of my own head. My thoughts were going round in circles and I welcomed the distraction.

I went home in a more positive frame of mind. It’s cheesy, I know, but I decided to re-read The Secret. I read it a few years ago and I thought I should read it again. I was up till 4am on Thursday night and finished reading it on Friday morning. I felt a lot better than I had all week. I decided I was going to focus on the positive things in my life and I am grateful that there are so many of them.

I spent the rest of Friday at home – mostly working.

I was home most of Saturday too. I decided I wasn’t going to continue with the NaNoWriMo challenge this year – I was already 15,000 words behind schedule and had no idea what I was writing about. Next year (if not before) I will be more prepared, less distracted, block out some time, and kick November’s ass!

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I went to the bookshop at the Dubai Mall in the evening – I wanted a couple of Moleskine notebooks (I love them!). As I was waiting for Kaleem to bring the car round (how spoilt do I sound?) I noticed that it was a bit chilly outside! The temperature couldn’t have been any lower than 24C but it felt cool. I’ve also noticed that it’s dark by 6pm these days. Winter is coming! After the mall, I went to my writing group at The Pavilion Downtown in the evening. I was a bit early but the organiser was already there when I got there and we ended up chatting for a while.

‘What do you usually write?’ she asked me.

‘Rubbish,’ I replied. She burst out laughing and then expected more. ‘Rubbish fiction,’ I clarified.

We talked about the writing process and how we both went about it.

We were eventually joined by a few people and the session started. As before there were two exercises, each lasting 30 minutes. The first one was about characterisation – you could develop the characters however you wanted but the one stipulation was you had to mention a card game. I’m not a big card player so I actually wrote about a Tarot reading (the origins of Tarot lie in 15th century Europe, and it started as a deck of playing cards) and developed my main character through that.

The second exercise was about voice – the organiser asked us to use a humorous voice about finding directions to a coffee shop. I found this one tough – humour is actually very difficult to write, no matter how funny you think you are. If I try and re-create a funny incident that took place, it never sounds as funny as it was when it happened. Halfway through this exercise my wrist started aching. Some people bring their laptops to the write-in, but I prefer a notebook and pen. When the 30 minutes were up, the organiser said we could do another 30-minute exercise and had my wrist not been hurting so much I’d have stayed on. I didn’t think I’d be able to write for 30 minutes.

I was home by 8.30pm and finished off some work. It was a quiet weekend, but I enjoyed it.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 36

Sunday was another holiday and I was still recovering from the long weekend for Eid. I was home most of the day. That evening I went to see ‘Skyfall’ at the IMAX Meydan with my cousin and her son. I’d never been to the IMAX and if you asked me to point it out on a map I wouldn’t be able to – I have no idea where it was. The cinema itself was great though – a huge screen – and it was full. It’s much more expensive than the regular cinemas though – standard tickets are AED 60 (compared to AED 35). Even the popcorn is more expensive – I bought a small popcorn, nachos for my nephew and a bottle of water and that came to AED 62. It would have been less than AED 30 anywhere else. Anyway – the movie was great (much better than ‘Quantum of Solace’) and I enjoyed it.

On Monday night my mum left for Jamaica. My dad had been in Kingston for a few weeks and hadn’t been very well for the last 10 days or so. She’d wanted to leave sooner but Hurricane Sandy was wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and we didn’t want her to be stranded somewhere mid-journey. It was the first time I was home alone since I left London in December last year. My parents didn’t want me to be on my own – how would I manage? Er – I was alone in London for so many years, I told them – and I managed just fine!

I was home most of Tuesday – in the morning I met my cousin at the Dubai Mall for a coffee at Tim Horton’s and that night I went to an InterNations event at Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Lounge in JBR. I went with a friend, we met a few people we knew, and we had too much wine.

Wednesday was uneventful – I had my last session with Rama (although I didn’t know it would be my last session with him!). I was home the rest of the day. I don’t know whether it was boredom or determination but I signed up to take part in NaNoWriMo – I have the time, I have the peace at home, I just didn’t have a plot.

Thursday was busy. I’d been wanting to get my hair cut for a while and a friend recommended Pastels salon in Jumeirah. I made an appointment for a hair cut, colour and blowdry. The two women who did my hair were a South African woman called Shakira and a Filipina woman called Girly (yes, really). I have to say they did a great job – I paid more than I would have at the Fairmont but it was worth it. The colour was better, the blowdry was better.

After getting my hair done I went to the Fairmont to get my nails done – the place was packed and I had to wait a while. By the time I got home it was after 5pm.

That night a friend of mine was in town for one night on his way back to Lagos. I hadn’t seen him since January so we had lots to catch up on. We went to Hakkasan for dinner (we’d been on the waiting list for Zuma and La Petite Maison for days without any luck) and when we were done we were so full. I ordered the prawns on toast with foie gras and left the rest of the ordering to my friend (who is vegetarian). We had the vegetarian dumplings and the lettuce wrap. We also shared two dishes for our main course and a couple of cocktails. It was too much – I could have done without the prawns on toast (I had to eat all four). We skipped dessert. It was lovely to see him and I was home by midnight.

I went to a friend’s engagement brunch on Friday. It was at the H Hotel (formerly the Monarch), at Mizaan restaurant. I knew a handful of people there, and met some of the people I’d met in Phuket over the summer too. I got home at around 5pm and relaxed for a while.

That night a friend made me dinner – it was an early night.

I was home most of Saturday – day 3 of NaNoWriMo and I was already behind. That evening I went to the Dubai Writers’ Group at the Pavilion. Unfortunately the organiser couldn’t make it in the end so people were just focusing on their own work. Several of the people there were also taking part in NaNoWriMo so it was interesting to hear how people approached their writing – I asked whether anyone actually had a plan of what they were going to write about (I never do and usually just go with the flow – wherever that may be). I was relieved to find I’m not the only one who does that. The downside to that is because I never know where my characters are going to end up, I have several beginnings of stories but no endings.

I decided to stay on at the Pavilion and have a bite to eat after we were done – I had the smoke salmon on gluten-free bread (yummy) and then headed home.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 34

The first half of the week was unpleasant, for reasons I won’t go into – and I was irritable and unmotivated. Aside from work and sessions at the gym, it was quite uneventful.

I woke up on Sunday not having slept well at all, Rama cancelled our session and I had to go to brunch at someone’s house. My cousin and I got there just before noon. All the girls who were at dinner at Toscana the week before were there, plus a couple more. Conversation revolved around schools (again), Bollywood movies (again), what the kids are going to wear for their Diwali show, and a couple of other things.

I left brunch at 2pm and went over to another friend’s place for a short while – she had been at brunch too and I went to say hi to her mum who was visiting Dubai. I felt brain-dead after brunch and making conversation was an effort. I left after 20 minutes.

While I was at brunch my mum decided to go to the Mall of the Emirates so I joined her on my way home. She was looking at coffee tables – and I didn’t like any of the ones she showed me. We went home and I sat down to do some work.

I didn’t sleep well on Sunday night either. I did manage to get some work done on Monday afternoon though, so that was good.

I slept about 4 hours on Monday night/Tuesday morning – I kept waking up and at about 6.30, I was up. I stayed in bed, hoping to go back to sleep for a while but it didn’t happen. I had too many thoughts rushing through my head. I was supposed to meet a friend for coffee that morning but she couldn’t make it in the end. That afternoon I sat down to do some work only to find that the files I’d worked on the day before were corrupted and I had to do the same work all over again. I wouldn’t even be able to charge for it. What a bloody waste of time.

I had a session with Rama on Wednesday morning. I sat down to do some work after that but at 4pm I decided to walk to Tim Horton’s for a coffee. I just needed to get out of the flat for a bit.

That night my mum, cousin and I went to the Dubai Mall for dinner and to a movie as it was my parents’ 42nd anniversary and my dad wasn’t in town. We had dinner at PF Chang and then went to see ‘Arbitrage’ (I was disappointed by the abrupt end).

Things started to pick up on Thursday. That evening I went to Wine Club. As usual there were six wines to taste – one sparkling, two white and three red. There was also a lot more food than last time (thank goodness – I dread to think what state I’d have been in if there hadn’t been enough food to go around). There was a lot of mingling at the bar afterwards and it turned out to be quite a heavy late night.

I was a little hungover on Friday but went to meet a friend for lunch. We went to Al Dawaar, the revolving restaurant on top of the Hyatt Regency. It’s a lovely restaurant – there was a variety of food but I went for the hummus, baba ganoush, grilled chicken. And a Bloody Mary, of course.

I was supposed to be out for dinner that evening too, but those plans fell through and I ended up staying home.

Saturday was a very chilled day. I spent the afternoon by the pool, reading my book.

That evening I went to a writers’ group at The Pavilion Downtown. When I decided to move to Dubai I thought I’d have more time to focus on my writing but apart from attending a different writers’ group a few months ago (and just once at that), I’d done f***-all about it. As the time drew nearer I was very tempted to back out but forced myself to go. I’m so glad I did.

I got there on time (no thanks to the idiotic cab driver) and there were just four of us to begin with. The organiser told us there would be two writing exercises, each one lasting 30 minutes, and we were to focus on dialogue. He gave us a line of dialogue, an object and a character and we had to start writing.

In the first exercise, the line of dialogue was ‘I don’t think that’s how it works’, the object was a bicycle and the character was a teenage girl. It took me ages to get started and I didn’t really connect with the first exercise at all.

The line of dialogue in the second exercise was ‘Tomorrow is another day’, the object was a red ball, and one of the characters had to be a grumpy old man. This was much easier for me. In fact, I’m thinking of turning this one into a proper short story.

Several people came in after we’d started the first exercise, including a guy who actually said he wasn’t really into writing so would just read his book while we carried on. I thought that was odd.

What I liked about the group was that we didn’t have to read out our work afterwards. We could ask questions about any issues we may have faced but we didn’t have to critique anyone else’s work.

After the second exercise was finished people hung around chatting to each other. It was a friendly group – 11 of us in the end – and I would definitely go back. They meet every two weeks. The next meeting clashes with a book group I was going to attend but I might cancel that – I think I need to focus on this now.

I also really liked The Pavilion – I can see myself spending more time there and it’s not far from home.

I got home at about 9pm, had dinner, watched a couple of episodes of ‘Revenge’ and read for a while.

I love my life.

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