Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Week 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘The prawns are a starter.’

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

No response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Wednesday morning, my desk looked like this:

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

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

By Thursday morning, my desk looked like this:

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

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

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

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

I love my life.

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Dubai 2014: Week 9

In case you’re wondering – no, you haven’t missed several posts, I just haven’t written them yet! I figured I had to start somewhere so I thought I’d start with my most recent antics and work my way backwards (and forwards).

I had a Sunday morning session with Trevor and then went to work. It was a manic day – the March issue was due to go to press on Monday and I still needed to go through the table of contents and do the contributors page! Once we’d sent everything off to the printer, I could relax. It’s just as well that I don’t have my Arabic class for a while as I had to be in the office early on Monday to go through the proofs and make any changes.

I left home at 9.15 on Monday – the proofs should have been in by 9am – but I encountered the most awful traffic. I didn’t get in until 10am. And I didn’t think that because I was stuck in traffic, the proofs would be too. We waited around for a while and they eventually arrived at 11am. I made a few changes and the proofs were sent off to be printed. My first issue put to bed! I went home for a while and then had a meeting at PAUL in Mercato with Jan who’s running a yoga for teenagers course starting in March. This is the same lady whose meditation course I went to last year. We decided I’d go to their first session to meet them and ask questions and maybe take some photos for the magazine. I’d then go to their fourth and final session and ask them whether they feel any different and whether they’ve found the course beneficial, etc.

I decided not to go to the office on Tuesday as the issue had been wrapped up and my editorial meeting was postponed to Wednesday. I’d have been sitting around with not very much to do when I could be at home getting on with other work. I met up with NP for lunch at Tom & Serg. We’ve both been so busy that we hadn’t met since before Christmas! I had a piano lesson that afternoon (still playing Wonderwall, More than Words, One and Only – I really need to practise!) and then went to Calabar for drinks. I had a friend in town for a few days so a few of us were meeting for drinks during happy hour. Of course we stayed beyond happy hour and had some dinner too. We ordered some tempura rolls, chicken enchiladas and club sandwiches.

On Wednesday I got to work only to find that the issue we’d worked so bloody hard to put together hadn’t gone to press at all. The printer had called that morning to say they hadn’t been paid which was why nothing had been done. That was infuriating. And not my responsibility. We’d done our job – organising payment is not a part of it! I had my editorial meeting with my team and a couple of freelance writers – trying to put the April issue together in good time. After the meeting one of the writers and I went to Urban Bistro for a coffee and quick bite. I’d never been there and loved it. We shared some guacamole (delicious) and I had a flat white. I went back to the office for a bit and then went home.

That evening I was meeting my friend from out of town and some of his friends at Iris. It was happy hour until 8pm (I love happy hour!) but again we stayed after that and had some dinner as well. We ordered the french bean salad, the seared tuna and the beef sliders. The food there is excellent.

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On Thursday I had another session with Trevor and decided to work at home that day – I had a few deadlines to meet and ended up working until 8.30pm. That night six of us went to Toko Dubai for dinner. I’d been there twice before – once for drinks and once to the official launch party – but had never eaten there. The food was incredible and I’m already planning my next dinner there. We had spicy edamame, beef gyoza (I insisted we order another portion of this as it was so good), tempura, sushi, salmon miso, nasu dengaku, chicken skewers, chicken wings, some avocado dish I’d never heard of before, and we shared three desserts – yuzu cheesecake, chocolate fondant and a mousse. We also had two bottles of Chenin Blanc. I’d have been quite happy to stay there and have more wine but a couple of others wanted to go elsewhere. In the end, four of us ended up at Cafe Habana in Souk Al Bahar. After the sophisticated atmosphere of Toko, it was a bit of a letdown! We had one drink and headed home.

I had brunch with some friends on Friday. We went to Story Restaurant at the Holiday Inn Express in Knowledge Village. It wasn’t very crowded and we initially sat indoors as it was too warm outside. The food was Peruvian and quite varied – the starters were great (guacamole, quinoa salad, ceviche nipon) but most of the mains were fried (lamb spring rolls, chicken empanadas, etc). The quinoa salad and ceviche were my favourites and I went back for more! We also had a ton of alcohol – once 4pm came and our free drinks ran out (we were sitting on the terrace by this time) we thought it would be a good idea to order a bottle of vodka and watch the sunset. And we ordered some dudu shots. And once we’d finished the vodka (we were seven people so it was easily done) we ordered a bottle of champagne. And once that bottle had finished, we ordered another. We were at the restaurant until 9:30pm and I was supposed to be at Zuma at 11pm.

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We left at that point but the traffic was so bad I didn’t get home until 10:30 and then quickly got ready to go to Zuma. I got to Zuma at 11:20 only to find that the couple of friends I was meeting there couldn’t get in – and I’d just ordered my drink. Luckily I knew a couple of other people there so hung out with them for a bit. I ended up chatting to one of their friends and the two of us ended up going to Harry Ghatto’s for a drink, but also hoping to sing! It was quite late by the time we got there – and the song queue was too long so we had a drink and called it a night. Don’t ask me how I lasted that long – I have no idea!

I woke up on Saturday wanting to stay in bed all day but had told my cousin from out of town I’d meet her for lunch. We were going to meet at the Dubai Mall so I got there a little after 2pm. She was still shopping so I told her I’d meet her by the fountain when she was done. The weather was beautiful – it had suddenly warmed up in the last week and I enjoyed the fresh air while I waited for her. We eventually had lunch at a Lebanese place in Souk Al Bahar – Zahr El-Laymoun. I’d never been there before but would definitely go back. We had labneh, hummus, Mediterranean salad and grilled halloumi to start with. For our main course we shared the grilled chicken with thyme. I don’t often eat chicken when I go out but this chicken was tender and succulent.

After lunch, she carried on shopping and I met up with some friends for coffee at Carluccio’s. I got home at about 6pm, got into bed and did some work for the rest of the evening. What a week/weekend!

I love my life.

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