Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Week 9

What a busy week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 27

On Sunday Dad and I had lunch at Vapiano and then he had a few errands to run. He left for Jamaica that evening. I finally had the place to myself, even if it was for just a couple of weeks instead of the couple of months I’d hoped for. Something is better than nothing!

I woke up to silence on Monday. It had been a long time since I’d experienced that. I decided I’d go see a movie at the Dubai Mall while I could still go in the daytime and have popcorn! Once Ramadan started I knew my options would be limited. I went to see The Heat – I’d heard it was quite funny but I still wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised – if it hadn’t been for Melissa McCarthy, the movie would have been terrible but she made me laugh out loud. It was surprisingly crowded for a 1.30pm show on a Monday afternoon! I was also relieved to see quite a few other women sitting on their own too.

I had a piano lesson on Tuesday afternoon but apart from that I was at home, enjoying the peace.

Ramadan began on Wednesday. It was my first Ramadan and my first summer in Dubai both rolled into one. I wasn’t sure what was in store for me. In the run up to Ramadan, I’d been seeing advice regarding appropriate behaviour for expats during Ramadan. I compiled this list from a couple of websites:

  • Do exchange Ramadan greetings during the Holy Month (‘Ramadan Kareem’)
  • Do get into the charitable spirit by donating to Ramadan camps, care packages and other campaigns
  • Do listen to music quietly through headphones if you wish
  • Do show your respect to those who are fasting, and check if someone is abstaining before offering food
  • Do be mindful and consider whether you have Muslim friends who are fasting on Facebook or Twitter before using strong language or sharing images that could be revealing
  • Don’t eat, drink, chew gum or smoke in public during the Holy Month (including in your car as this is considered a public place) – you could be fined or even deported
  • Don’t play loud music as it may offend those who are fasting
  • Don’t wear tight or revealing clothes during Ramadan and dress conservatively when in public
  • Don’t get into debates or arguments or pick fights – it is the month of peace and serenity
  • Don’t leave dinner reservations to the last minute

Quite a list, isn’t it?

So on that first day of Ramadan I was walking across our driveway to the gym for my session with Randy when a woman (I thinks she was Indian) told me to cover up my water bottle. I wasn’t drinking from it, just holding it. She made me wrap it in my towel. I thought that was going a bit over the top! If I’d come home from the supermarket would I have had to cover up all my shopping bags?

On Thursday I went to the Dermalogica store at the Dubai Mall to pick up a moisturiser that I sometimes use. The therapist in the store told me that the one I wanted had been discontinued but that she had two left and would give them both to me for the price of one – bargain!

That evening a couple of friends and I decided to have dinner at Trader Vic’s at the Madinat Jumeirah. I expected it to be quiet, no music, not very crowded. I was wrong. It was packed. We had dinner and then moved to the bar. They were playing music, not as loudly as it would normally have been but you could still hear it. We had a couple of drinks at the bar and then decided it was too crowded so we went to The Agency. It was also packed! We waited a few minutes and were able to get a table. At about midnight I went to join some other friends at McGettigan’s at the World Trade Centre. Also packed and the music was even louder than it had been at Trader Vic’s. Ramadan? What Ramadan?

I unintentionally fasted on Friday (although I did have some water). I was so hungover from the night before I spent most of the day in bed and couldn’t bear the thought of eating. I went over to a friend’s place in Downtown that evening just before 7pm. He had booked a table at Loui’s, a restaurant near his place, for Iftar for the two of us and another friend. Soon after 7pm I was standing on his balcony on the 30th floor when I heard a loud booming noise echoing through the buildings. ‘What the hell is that?’ I asked. ‘It’s the cannon,’ he replied. ‘Are we at war??’ I wondered. Well, no. There are six cannons around Dubai that go off to announce the Iftar time and one of them happens to be Downtown near the Burj Khalifa.

I went to my first Iftar that evening, an all-you-can-eat buffet for AED89. There was a selection of sushi, Arabic and Italian food. I had some sushi, hummus, moutabbal and fatoush to start with. Most of the main course dishes were huge platters of different Arabic ‘biryanis’ with grilled meats and seafood. There were a couple of Italian main dishes but I didn’t try them. Dessert was all Arabic – and far too sweet for me. After we’d stuffed ourselves we went back up to my friend’s place for some wine and sat around until midnight.

I was home all day on Saturday, catching up with work and taking it easy.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 3

Another busy week!

After my session with Randy on Sunday I met a friend for lunch. He was in town from Lagos for a few days and I was looking forward to catching up with him. We hadn’t met since November and it was the first time in 5 years that we hadn’t had our New Year’s Day dim sum lunch together. We decided to meet at the Dubai Mall.

I was there a little early so sat outside watching the fountain (Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino caro’). It was a beautiful day, warm but not too hot, and it wasn’t very crowded being a Sunday.

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We went to Ping Pong for lunch (just to keep up our dim sum tradition). I hadn’t been to Ping Pong in Dubai and had heard mixed reviews about it. I was pleasantly surprised. As he’s vegetarian we ordered more vegetarian dumplings, but I ordered the prawn and chive dumplings and lobster dumplings for myself.

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Nothing on their dessert menu appealed to us so we went to the Hummingbird Bakery a few doors down and had a cupcake each. And I wonder why I’ve put on weight recently! To be fair I did ask if they had any mini cupcakes but the waitress said they were special orders only.

I walked around the mall for a while and then went home.

That evening a friend and I had booked to go to Lime and Tonic’s first Secret Gourmet Supper Club. We’d booked it in advance (AED 260) and were told the pick-up spot would be at DIFC. As it was Art Night the dinner would have an ‘arty’ theme to it. About 30 people gathered at the entrance to DIFC and we were led to a coach. We had no idea where we were going. We knew vaguely what we’d be eating as we’d been sent a list of ingredients beforehand so we could let them know if we had any allergies. There would be no alcohol served.

About 15 minutes later the coach pulled up outside Sama Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road, between the H Hotel and the Fairmont. We were having dinner at the Miele showroom! We were given glasses of lime and tonic when we arrived and were shown around the store. We were taken upstairs where they have a space for cookery classes (I’d imagine?) and met the chef who would be preparing our dinner. We gathered around one of the long tables and were told that it would be a very interactive evening and it would be a lot of fun.

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At that point, all I really wanted was my dinner and the thought of being ‘interactive’ did not appeal at all. I simply wasn’t in the mood. Two long tables had been set and we sat down and waited for our starters.

We each had a card with ‘tasks’ listed inside.

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We were already speaking to people we didn’t know. I had a French/Australian couple on my left and a freelance journalist from the UK opposite me. We started drawing our favourite dishes on the blank placemats in front of us (full English for me, thanks).

Ten of us were then called up to collect the starters – one dish for ourselves and another for someone we didn’t know. As it had an ‘art’ theme, the starter was based on Jackson Pollock’s ‘Summertime’.

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It was quail breast and roulade with mushroom, lemon confit, beetroot, balsamic and jus – the four sauces were drizzled over the plate, similar to the painting. I took my portion and an extra and served someone on the next table explaining the significance of the drizzled sauces. When I got back to my seat, the placemats had been turned over and was an image of Pollock’s ‘Summertime’. I thought that was clever.

Our main course was based on Joan Miro’s ‘Sun’. Once again, our placemats were changed to match the painting.

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The main course was fillet of beef with smoked eggplant, capers, herbs and anchovies. It was really good – the meat was so tender.

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For dessert we had banana cake with cardamom, caramelised banana and whipped sour cream. That was based on Andy Warhol’s ‘Banana’.

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After dinner we were each given a thank you card which listed the evening’s menu.

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Each card had a little present inside – fridge magnets!

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Mine was Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Girl with Ball’.

After we said our goodbyes, we all got on the coach and headed back to DIFC. It was a fun evening but I’m not sure how often I would do something like that. Perhaps if I was with a bigger group of friends I’d consider it.

On Monday afternoon I had to go back to GMC to see the eye specialist. I was given an eye test (perfect, she said) and she looked at the lump under my eyelid. She gave me a prescription for eyedrops and an ointment, both containing steroids. I wasn’t crazy about the idea but she told me to try it and come back in 3 weeks.

That night I met my friend from Lagos for dinner. We went to Zuma. I can’t believe that place is always so crowded, even on a Monday! We met at the bar and ordered a drink – I had the raspberry and passion fruit martini (again). We went down to our table and ordered our food and sake. Most of our food was vegetarian but I ordered the tuna tataki for myself. As always, the food was excellent. And the sake was fantastic too. In fact, we ordered a second flask of sake! After dinner we were joined by one of his Lebanese friends so we hung out at the bar for a while and had a few more drinks. I got home at around 1am.

Fortunately I had no plans on Tuesday until the evening. A friend and I were going to a talk by Egyptian photographer Laura El-Tantawy at Gulf Photo Plus in Alserkal Avenue. The talk lasted over an hour – she talked about her work on Egyptian identity, suicide in rural India and her latest collection called ‘The Veil’. She was very passionate about her work – I think to be an artist you need to be passionate. As she was talking I wondered how she survived financially on photography and she later said that she had a regular job which enabled her to save up and travel and take photos. Artists really suffer for their work… 

I was home all day on Wednesday and had a piano lesson on Thursday afternoon. I had managed to learn ‘Comptine’ but it still wasn’t perfect and I wanted to record it in my next class. We spent most of the lesson working on something new: Solfeggietto in C minor. I hope I sound as good as that when I finish learning it!

That evening my friend from Lagos and I went to Trader Vic’s at the Crowne Plaza Hotel for a couple of drinks and some deep-fried cheese balls. I thought we could get a table and sit down but as we weren’t having main courses we had to stay in the bar area. It was horrible – we managed to find a stool at the bar but it was really smoky in there. We stayed for an hour or so and left. He was heading out for a late dinner and I went home. 

I was home all day on Friday – I just didn’t feel like doing very much. I had a couple of friends call to go out that evening but I just wanted to be at home. 

On Saturday afternoon I went back to Gulf Photo Plus as I’d booked a ticket for a seminar on architectural photography. It wasn’t a practical seminar so I didn’t even need to take my camera, just a notebook and pen. Several of the people were architects or interior designers and I thought it might be a bit too advanced for me (I was just curious), but it was interesting to learn how to take photos of buildings and rooms and to get the best shots. The photographer said he spends as much time in Photoshop as he did taking the actual photos. Perhaps I’m just naive but he said that on all hotel websites/brochures, all the photos you see are actually made up of several different shots! I thought that was kind of sad in a way. It’s like finding out Santa Claus doesn’t really exist!

I went home that evening and got into bed. I’d been feeling tired and cranky and upset and broke (long story) for the last few days and just couldn’t figure out why I felt so down. What was I doing with my life in Dubai? Would I be better off back in London? All kinds of things were going through my mind. As I was brushing my teeth that night I caught sight of my eyedrops and wondered whether it could be the steroids in the eyedrops that were affecting me so negatively? The percentage of steroids in the eyedrops must be miniscule so it didn’t seem likely, but I actually started to feel better once I had a probable cause of this ‘meltdown’ (to be overly dramatic). 

And that’s another week gone! I think this year will go by even quicker than last year!

I love my life. 

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Dubai: Week 37

It was quite a busy week and I didn’t get as much work or writing done as I would have liked.

I’d bought a voucher a while ago for a Dermalogica massage and facial at Onyx Fitness and Spa on Jumeirah Beach Road. I made my appointment for Sunday and went along with my voucher. It’s a nice place – I think it’s new. The treatment rooms were spacious and my therapist told me she’d do the massage first and then the facial (which I thought was odd, but she was the expert). Both the massage and facial were OK – what ruined it for me was that the therapist kept coughing. I know that people get coughs and it can’t be helped – but during my facial she kept coughing and I just wanted her to stop! What should she have done? Covered her mouth when she coughed and washed her hands each time before continuing with the facial? Or carried on with the facial while coughing without covering her mouth? I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

On Monday I had an appointment with Randy, my new trainer – as Rama had left Dubai.

That afternoon I had an appointment for a Brazilian keratin treatment. It was another voucher I’d bought before my trip to Bali and it was expiring soon. I went to Hair and Colors Salon at the Four Points by Sheraton on Sheikh Zayed Road. The salon was empty apart from the two Arab men who worked there. In the past, it has always taken at least two hours to do the treatment – by the time my hair was washed, and the chemicals applied followed by the blowdry and ironing, it’s at least 2 hours – depending on the length of my hair.

The younger guy washed my hair, rough dried it with a hairdryer and applied the treatment. It wasn’t the same treatment I’d used in the past – it was a spray called Brazilian 24 Hour Keratin Treatment by Rejuvenol.

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The hairdresser sprayed it into my damp hair, straightened my hair with hair straighteners and I was done. In just under an hour. He told me to leave the treatment in for 24 hours and then I could wash it. Great!

I picked up a French vanilla cappuccino from Tim Horton’s on my way home and settled down to do some work.

I was home most of Tuesday. That evening I met up with someone I’d met at the last wine club. Her office is at the World Trade Centre so we decided to meet at McGettigan’s at the World Trade Centre. I was half an hour late – it took me ages to find a cab and when I got to the World Trade Centre I couldn’t find the bar! I got there eventually and we had a few drinks and some dinner. Considering there was an exhibition on at the World Trade Centre the bar was quite quiet – apart from the table next to ours who were singing along with the Irish folk band. It was a nice evening and I was home at a reasonable hour.

After my session at the gym on Wednesday I washed my hair, not knowing what it would look like after the Brazilian keratin treatment. I let it air dry and was pleasantly surprised at the results. The frizz had gone and it was slightly wavy rather than poker straight. Perfect – now let’s hope it lasts at least a couple of months!

On Wednesday afternoon I headed to Abu Dhabi (for the first time) to see one of the boys who was there for the day. It took just over 1.5 hours to get there – partly because there had been an accident and traffic was being diverted in different directions. Thank goodness for Google Maps! His meeting was done by lunchtime so I met him at the Beach Rotana where he was staying and we had lunch outdoors at Indigo. We ordered our starters from the Indigo menu but didn’t fancy a heavy Indian meal for lunch – we asked them whether we could order from the Italian restaurant next door and they didn’t have a problem with that (eventually). We ordered the spinach salad with goat’s cheese and artichokes to start, and we shared the grilled salmon and tiger prawns as our main course. The salad was good, the main course was disappointing. We also had a bottle of rosé which went down rather quickly! It was great to see him and catch up – we hadn’t met since I was in London in June. Later that afternoon another friend of his joined us so we ended up ordering another bottle of rosé – and then heading to Trader Vic’s for a drink (totally unnecessary!).

I left Abu Dhabi at about 6.30pm and was home by 8pm. I thought the traffic heading back to Dubai at that time would be worse but it wasn’t too bad.

I was home most of Thursday, apart from a trip to the supermarket and a stop at Tim Horton’s for a French Vanilla cappuccino.

It was a very lazy weekend. Friday was lazy but I managed to drag myself to Karma Kafe for a drink with a friend. I had two drinks and was home soon after midnight. Saturday was also lazy. I suppose that’s what weekends are for!

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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London: Part 2 (and a few hours in Oslo)

On Wednesday morning I was up at the crack of dawn. I left home at 6.15 for a flight at 8am from Heathrow Terminal 5. I got there and went straight through security – I had my handbag and my laptop, that was all I needed for the day. Once I was through security I called one of my colleagues to find out where he was. ‘Oh, we’re in the First Class lounge,’ he replied. He was with the guy I was supposed to meet the day before who decided to go home instead. He invited me to join them so I walked towards the lounge.

I got there, got a cup of coffee, and Tweedledum introduced me to Tweedledee. ‘What happened to you yesterday?’ I asked. ‘Oh, I had stuff to do at home.’ Oh, that’s nice, I thought. We all have stuff to do at home. No apology, no explanation. Not impressed. Luckily they had checked in together so were sitting next to each other. I was far away. On my way to the airport that morning I considered using my airmiles to upgrade to Business Class so I wouldn’t have to sit with them.

We got to Oslo, came out of customs, turned right and went to the Radisson Hotel where our meeting was. It was uneventful – I don’t think my being there was very necessary at all – and we left. Our flight back to London was supposed to be at 5.15 but it was delayed by over an hour. I had to listen to Tweedledum and Tweedledee slagging off my ex boss, my ex ex boss, the ex head of sales and marketing, the ex marketing manager and goodness knows who else. Tweedledee does the job I used to do and now I wonder what he says about me to other people…

We eventually boarded the flight at 6.15pm. We were just approaching the runway when the captain announced that there was a discrepancy between the load counter and the actual number of bags on board. He said we’d be delayed a little while longer. I was getting frustrated because: (a) I was exhausted; and (b) I had dinner with friends at China Tang that evening. Luckily we only had to wait 5 minutes while they sorted it out and we were off.

We landed at Terminal 5 at about 7.40pm. The captain made another announcement. He told us we’d landed in the Domestic Arrivals area of the terminal and would need to take a bus to the International Arrivals hall. What else could go wrong?? I switched on my phone to let my friends know I had landed and to go ahead without me and… nothing. Nothing happened. My battery was dead. I thought about borrowing someone’s phone but then realised that I could only remember three phone numbers and they were all useless.

I eventually got home at 8.50pm, charged my phone, called my friends, got ready and was at China Tang by 9.30pm. I needed a big drink. Had it not been one of the girls’ birthdays I’d have stayed at home… but the food was perfect. We had a table in the bar area and all we had was dim sum and roast duck. Divine. I was home a little after midnight and I passed out.

One of my ex-suppliers took me out for lunch on Thursday. I’d always looked forward to our lunches so when she found out I was coming back for a holiday she took me to Trattoria Semplice, just off Oxford Street. It was great to catch up – and again I felt like no time had passed! She even came shopping with me after lunch. She sat in the next cubicle while I tried on one dress after the other, giving me her approval (or not)!

I went back home after lunch and relaxed for a little while. I had to go back to the office as there were some leaving drinks for the HR department (the team of two had been made redundant – don’t ask). I got there in time for a shockingly embarrassing speech from the Chief Executive. I stayed a couple of hours, met a few ex-colleagues and then had to leave for my dinner that evening.

Some friends were taking me to Maguro, a Japanese restaurant in Maida Vale. I went over to their house first as I wanted to see the kids before they went to sleep and then we headed over to the restaurant.

Maguro is a tiny Japanese restaurant in Lanark Place, just behind Raoul’s. I think the food is great, but the restaurant is too dark and the tables are really close together. We had some sake and dinner (their salmon tartar is amazing – I’d never had it before). Another friend joined us while we were eating and then we all went to the pub next door for a drink.

I went to get my hair cut on Friday morning in St John’s Wood High Street.

2012

I then met the girls for lunch at Oslo Court. It’s one of my favourite restaurants in London – and I always overeat when I go there. The portions are huge! I started with the escargots and had the grilled salmon as my main course. I ordered a chocolate dessert which I couldn’t eat. I felt like I was in a coma. I had planned to go shopping after lunch but was feeling so lethargic it just wasn’t going to happen.

I ended up meeting a friend of my mum’s for coffee at Fenwick in Bond Street. I called her and told her I’d just eaten, that I don’t eat bread, and that I would just have a coffee. By the time I got there she’d ordered smoked salmon sandwiches and scones. I couldn’t touch anything. I had a coffee, she ate, and we left.

I walked around for a while and then went to the pub with the boys. On my way there I got a text from one of them saying he had a surprise for me. I had images of vodka shots lining the bar and thought about going back home. When I got to the pub his dad was waiting for me. He heard I was going to be there and wanted to see me and see how I was settling into Dubai life and so on. I was touched. I was there for an hour and then went home. Later that evening a friend came over and we opened a bottle of red at home. He stayed about an hour and then I had to get ready for dinner.

That night a friend had organised dinner at Novikov (or Escortikov as I like to call it). I’d heard so much about this place, good and bad – it was interesting to see it all in the flesh, so to speak. I’ve never seen so much cleavage in one room. Butt-skimming dresses, plunging necklines, fake lips, fake breasts, fake cheeks (both kinds). On the table next to ours were two guys with what looked like female twins – same short red dress, same long black hair in a ponytail, same everything really. After dinner we went down to the club for a few drinks. At 2am, the two of us that were left decided to go to Boujis in South Kensington. It was totally unnecessary but it seemed like a good idea at the time. We were there for an hour and then decided to go to Maroush for some food. We walked home at 4.30am and it was after 5am by the time I went to sleep.

One of the girls had her birthday lunch at Pearl Liang on Saturday. I could barely string a sentence together for most of the meal, but dim sum and diet Coke were just what I needed. After lunch I met one of my cousins for coffee at Selfridges and then walked home.

That evening was another friend’s 40th birthday. They’d booked a room at The Cinnamon Club in Westminster, champagne was flowing and the DJ was great. It was just me and two of the boys – their wives weren’t out with them that evening. It was like old times. And by that I mean there were shots, more shots, dancing and more dancing. We left at about 1.30am and on the way home one of the boys said ‘We should go somewhere – it’s just the three of us!’ So we ended up at Trader Vic’s (like old times) followed by the Colony Club (like old times). And once again, it was 4.30am when we got home (like old times).

I don’t know how I managed to wake up in ti
me for brunch on Sunday. We had a reservation at Cut at 45 Park Lane for 12.30 and we were on time. We’d booked it ages ago and I’d been looking forward to it. We sat down and as soon as I saw the menu, I knew what I was having. ‘But you’re supposed to have steak or some meat – that’s the specialty,’ my friend said. I didn’t care. To start with I had the fresh burrata, prosciutto di Parma, roasted peppers and basil pistou:

2012

And for my main course I had… buttermilk pancakes with whipped maple butter and seasonal berries:

2012

They were the most expensive pancakes I’ve ever had in my life, but they hit the spot. Along with the Bloody Mary.

On Sunday evening I went to a friend’s sister’s wedding reception. More champagne, more wine, the food was good, the music was amazing – I felt like I was back in the 1980s – ‘Caribbean Queen’, ‘Rhythm of the Night’, ‘All Night Long’, ‘Ain’t Nobody’… it was another heavy night.

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Dubai: Week 11

It started off as a quiet week. I had a session with Rama on Sunday morning, yoga on Monday morning, a cardio session on my own on Tuesday, and was home the rest of the time.

I had another session with Rama on Wednesday. That afternoon I went to the Fairmont to get my hair done – I wanted it coloured and blow-dried. From the time I got to the salon to the time I left an hour and a half later, I was asked six times whether I wanted a manicure and pedicure. By six different women. They asked me: when I got there, when I sat down, when I had the colour in my hair, when my hair was being washed, when my hair was being dried, and when I was paying my bill. Jesus, if I wanted it I’d ask for it.

After that, I met my cousin for a coffee in the lobby. It was my first coffee in almost a week!

On Wednesday evening I went to the Intercontinental Hotel at Festival City – the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature was on and there was a talk by David Nicholls (author of One Day, Starter for Ten and The Understudy). I’d booked my ticket back in January and had been looking forward to it since then. The venue for the evening was the new Heritage Centre on the waterfront. It was a chilly evening and I’m glad I had my shawl.

2012

I got there early enough to get a good seat.

2012

He was ‘in conversation’ with Rosie Goldsmith.

2012

He talked about his acting ‘career’ – how every time his friends saw him in a play they’d say ‘Well done! Have you thought about being a writer?’ He talked about how he *almost* went on stage as the understudy in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and that it took him ten years to realise he wasn’t a very good actor.

When discussing One Day, he said he’s often asked whether he’s more like Dexter or Emma but he feels he’s more like Ian, the failed stand-up comedian. Why do writers always suffer from intense self-loathing and the feeling they’re never good enough? He’s thinking about a fourth novel, but worries that it will always be compared to One Day and won’t be as good and it’ll be all downhill from there. What I didn’t know is that the date used in the book (15th July) is St Swithin’s Day – if it rains on St Swithin’s Day it’ll be a wet summer, if it’s sunny it’ll be a warm summer. You learn something new every day.

The one piece of writing advice he did give away is that whenever he’s editing/re-writing a finished novel, he prints the whole novel and re-types it. It’s easy to gloss over things when you’re on-screen editing and re-typing it adds more weight to the words. He said One Day took him two years to finish (well, no wonder if he was constantly re-typing it).

There were a few questions at the end, and then he signed copies of his book for people who had brought their own copies. Unfortunately the two books of his I do have are both on my Kindle. If I bought books on the offchance I’d meet their authors, I would need another 6 x 6 foot bookcase. At least.

After my yoga class on Thursday I went back to the Intercontinental – I had a ticket for a session called ‘Who Am I? Who Are You? A Panel Discussion on Identity’. In the cab on the way there I started thinking about identity – my identity. Who was I? I had images of Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club – sitting at a desk, chewing on a pen, asking himself ‘Who am I? Who am I?’ Born in London, to Indian parents, childhood in Nigeria, moved back to London, now living in Dubai. Where is home? The place of my birth? My country of origin? The city I currently live in? Who even lives in the same city they were born in these days? Well, actually I used to until last year.

I wanted to go to the session on identity as one of my favourite authors was on the panel of writers. The first time I’d heard of Romesh Gunesekera was in 2004 – I was doing a creative writing course at Birkbeck and he talked to us about writing on a cold Saturday afternoon in November. I found him fascinating and loved listening to him talk about writing (I should really find those notes – I’m sure they’re around somewhere). I ended up buying one of his books (of course) and he signed it for me. After that I bought another of his books (but admittedly haven’t read it yet) – I took the book with me, hoping he’d sign it. I got there about half an hour early, bought a coffee, and browsed the books. And I ended up buying The Prisoner of Paradise, Gunesekera’s latest novel. So much for not buying any more books. I found a seat in the second row and sat down.

2012

The rest of the panel consisted of Daljit Nagra (a British Asian poet), John O’Sullivan (an Irish poet who now lives in Bali), and Yang Lian (a Chinese poet who now lives in London). Gunesekera is a Sri Lankan who also lives in London. The panel was chaired by Suzanne Radford.

2012

It started with each of the writers reading a passage of their work or a poem and then talking about how that passage/poem contributed to the Festival’s theme of identity. Gunesekera read a short passage from his novel The Match. I’m not a huge fan of cricket but listening to him read made me want to go and buy the book. Lian then read a poem in Chinese, and Daljit Nagra read the English translation. John O’Sullivan read a poem about Cambodia. It reminded me that I need to read The Killing Fields. Daljit Nagra read a poem about shopping. Well, it was a poem about Sikh Panjabis in Britain who buy all their wedding clothes in Jalandar and then head back to the UK.

I took copious notes (which I won’t reproduce here) and one thing I found interesting was Suzanne asking the writers how their parents figured in their writing. O’Sullivan read a poem about his late mother. Lian said his mother died in the 1970s and never read anything he’d written, yet she breathes in every line he writes (now if that isn’t poetry, I don’t know what is). Nagra said his parents barely spoke English so he could write absolutely anything he wanted about anyone – and he knew they’d never know! Gunesekera said it worked both ways, and that he wondered what his children would think of his writing. He then added that writers worry needlessly about things like this and most people won’t read what you write anyway. I would love to sit down with him for an hour and just talk about writing.

It was an interesting talk – and I’m glad I went. When it was over, the writers had to rush off to somewhere else so I never did get my books signed. I also found out that Gunesekera was giving another talk the following day about his latest novel (the one I’d just bought). Unfortunately it wasn’t in the programme when I bought my tickets – and I’d booked a couple of seminars at Gulf Photo Plus at the other end of town. Dammit.

I stayed in on Thursday night as I had be up and out early on Friday morning.

I left home before 9am and made my way towards Knowledge Village where Gulf Photo Plus was being held. I’d booked two seminars for that morning. The first one was ‘Turning your photos to Profits’ – not that I’m anywhere near good enough for that, but I was just curious. The panel consisted of Chris Hurtt (travel photography), Louis Pang (a Malaysian-based wedding and portrait photographer) and Sascha Weis (business development manager at a stock agency). There were lots of interesting tips and tricks of the trade – and things I’d never have considered. For example, if you took a photo of a building (the building is the main focal point of the image) and you wanted to sell that image for commercial use, you would need a property release for that photo. Who knew??

The second talk was by a photographer called Joe McNally. He’s been in the business for over 30 years and has worked for National Geographic, Time magazine, and many others. He took the audience through several photos in his portfolio, the stories behind them, what he had to do to get certain shots (hanging from helicopters, and so on), and the people he’s met along the way.

It was a shame that the literature festival and Gulf Photo Plus were on in the same week – I’d have liked to spend more time at each one!

I had lunch on Friday with my dad and my cousin and her family. We went back to Sakura for the sushi/teppanyaki offer and ate way too much.

That evening I met up with a friend for a couple of drinks at Trader Vic’s at the Madinat Jumeirah. I had two glasses of wine – my first drinks in just over three weeks! I was home by 10pm as he had a flight to catch that night.

Saturday was a lazy day – I would have been happy to lump around the flat all day but by the late afternoon Dad was getting a little restless. We ended up going to see ‘John Carter’ at the Dubai Mall. I only agreed to go if we could go a bit earlier and have a coffee at Gloria Jean’s. Just as well, really – because I might have fallen asleep in the first ten minutes of the movie. I had no idea what was going on. What I figured out was this: man in 1890s gets transported to a different planet, captured by aliens, and falls in love with a princess (rolls eyes). It was far too long – just over 2 hours. After that we went to the food court for an Iranian dinner and we were home by 9.30pm.

So what started off as a quiet week actually became quite busy – and the time just flew by… Soon I’ll have been here three months!

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Dubai: Day 5

On Day 5 (Thursday) I went back to the gym. Not only did I manage to use the access card, I also managed to get the bike working. Hurrah!

My parents, sister and I went to the Dubai Mall (yes, again) after lunch. My sister and I wandered around while my parents looked at more furniture. We decided we’d get our hair done but couldn’t even find appointments at the same place or at the same time. I ended up at a place called N Style Nail Lounge while she went to Sisters Beauty Lounge. N Style looks like a small reception area – but once you go through the blue door, the salon is HUGE:

2011

I was taken into a much smaller room for my blowdry – the woman sitting next to me had removed her veil to get her hair done but put it back on before leaving the room. I’d never really thought about Arabs and hairdressing but there you go…

One of my best friends from Lagos was at the mall so I went to join him and his friends at Wafi Gourmet, a Lebanese restaurant on the waterfront by the Dubai Fountain. Forget about needing a map to find my way around Dubai, I need a map to get around the bloody mall. It’s huge – I know I’ve been there almost every day since I’ve arrived but I still can’t get my bearings. And I usually have a good sense of direction. While walking to the Dubai Fountain, I saw this:

2011

It reminded me of the girls and our trip to Paris!

That night about 15 of us went out to dinner at Trader Vic’s, just down the road from us. When I heard that’s where we were going, I wasn’t sure I was ready to go back there so soon after my night out with the boys, but it was nowhere near as messy, thank goodness (even though I had close to three Scorpions)!

2011

Over dinner, I mentioned that I was thinking about doing a diving course – and it turned out that the guy sitting opposite me is a diving instructor (but that’s not his day job). How weird is that? I’m going to look into that once the weather’s a bit warmer… After dinner, we headed to Mahiki which has just opened at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. It took us over half an hour to get in, in spite of having a table. There must have been close to 100 people waiting outside the club – they weren’t letting anyone in as they had ‘reached capacity’. I felt like I was back in London. Just as we were thinking about leaving, they let 10 of us in. It was heaving in there.

2011

You couldn’t move without bumping into someone, and at one point a fight broke out right where we were standing. We decided to leave at about 2.30am, and it was still hot, crowded and smoky… Just how the clubs in London used to be in the 90s! 

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