Thursday, February 12, 2015

Working Mums: The SAS Has Nothing on Us

My morning mantra
Fail to plan, plan to fail. That's the mantra of the SAS. I think. Actually it might not be. But it should be. It's certainly the motto of every good PR Person. And this stands you in oh such good stead when you have a baby and most especially when you go back to work. 

I'm not saying you need an excel spreadsheet for getting out of the house in the morning, but as much planning as possible helps everything to run smoothly. Here are some of my top tips.

Get Your Work Outfit Sorted
It is amazing how much quicker you can get ready when your outfit is hanging, ready to wear, on the wardrobe door in front of you. Sure, you can wait and select your clothes in the morning. But having a small bald person clinging to your legs whilst whining to be passed jewellery/be picked up is: a) stressful b) annoying c) distracting and OH how it slows you down.

Once Baby Britney (BB) is in bed each night I head straight to the wardrobe and select an outfit for the next day. And not just the clothes, I also pick out underwear (sorry), jewellery and shoes. This means that you  can slip everything on whilst on complete autopilot. 

Apply the Same Principle to Food/Work Sustenance
Who in their right mind wants to prep food at 7 am with a baby on their hip? Do it all the night before. I even prep the nutri bullet concoction at 10 pm. All contents are in the freezer so ingredients are thrown in the cup, blade attached, ready to be whizzed up just as I walk out of the front door.

Apply the Same Principle to Coffee
Get your morning coffee lined up....you guessed it....the night before.
It is truly amazing how much more smoothly your morning will run if the kettle is already filled, and a tea bag/spoon of coffee is waiting for you. Of course, if you're fancy, get the coffee machine prepped and ready to go. I'm fine with Nescafé and inhale a brew in the manner of a snake with a rabbit.

Divide and Conquer
If you have a partner, get them on board the planning bus. Sure, there will be days when one of you has an early morning/late night, and the other is left to hold the fort alone. But if you're both there in the morning, tag team:

One feeds the Tiny Tyrant, the other puts a full face of make-up on. 

One showers, the other entertains the Tiny Tyrant with animal noises and Molly the Cat Bothering. 

After a year of this you'll have it so locked down you'll feel like Olympic synchronised swimmers, such is the beauty and smoothness of your routine. And the real benefits are: your mornings are calm. Your day begins in a positive way. You are not ready to chew your own face off by the time you arrive at work. 

Disclaimer: I only have one child, she's still small and relatively immobile and she doesn't have to be at school at 7.30. But I'm hoping that these foundations will help us to keep some small grip as she grows. What are your best tips?


The Nutri-Bullet: Just Another Fad?

Totally converted....
Never one to pass up a new health fad, particularly one that promises to be easy and simple, we embraced Nutri-Bullet fever recently.

As a household that already owned not one but TWO blenders, I was naturally sceptical about inviting yet another electrical item into the house. Particularly when said item seemed so similar to the others. But I'm here to tell you: the Nutri-Bullet is amazing! 

The principle is this: you start off with leaves (hello frozen spinach), then add berries/any fruit that takes your fancy (hello frozen fruit) then you add a 'boost'. In my case this is ginger (frozen) plus flaxseeds and wheatgrass powder. Then blend. Because I've loaded up the freezer with frozen fruit, this whole process takes approximately 60 seconds, start to finish. It also takes up a teeny-tiny amount of space on the work surface which is an added bonus, both in terms of space but also likelihood of usage - it's staring me in the face every day, so is top of mind.

I'm not gonna lie, to begin with the resulting concoctions took quite some getting used to - turns out there's a reason why I don't eat kilos of spinach each day - it tastes vile. After I'd dialled down on the spinach and dialled up on the ginger, I actually started enjoying my creations. It's now firmly part of my morning ritual: make bullet, blend bullet, leave house, drink bullet at work with a handful of supplements.

The best part about the process in my opinion is this: whatever else the day holds; endless meetings, unhealthy choices, vino, dodgy snacks...well, at least it started right. 

FYI - this is not a sponsored post, I succumbed to the marketing all on my own! I picked my NB up from MumzWorld, they deliver direct to your door. And half the price of the UK!

Fairmont the Palm: Must Try Harder

The view is fabulous....
I know I've had a glut of hotel posts recently - but what to do, this is Dubai! A large part of our socialising revolves around hotels as a) they are licensed b) they are often on beaches c) they can be fabulous locations for a catch up, a night out, or a weekend away. All of which we are pretty keen on!

Our latest find was the Fairmont on the Palm. We've seen a plethora of hotels open on the Palm, following in the footsteps ofthe world-famous Atlantis. 

We checked in for the day to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The verdict?

The hotel is....well....underwhelming. It's a pain to get to - you have to go all the way up the trunk and u-turn to get back to it. The design is blah. No-one opened my car door on arrival. I KNOW this sounds princess-like but this is a 5 star hotel, on the Palm Jumeirah, in Dubai. Their service should be off the scale. Beach food service was glacial. Lunch was average.

Don't get me wrong, we did have a lovely time, and were giddy as kippers to spend some time together on such an auspicious day.There is something fabulously decadent about taking the day off work for such an event. After all, we live in a country where people pay vast amounts to come on holiday each year, and this is right on our doorstep! We've vowed to do this every year from now on. 

The real selling point for the Fairmont is the beach, and the view, both of which are lovely. But it's a mission to get to and there's far more beautiful beach hotels in Dubai: the One and Only, JBH, The Four Seasons. Sorry Fairmont, must try harder...

Giraffe Bothering Joy at Emirates Park Resort

Watch out for the whiskers!
It's no secret that I'm an animal lover. If you haven't been regaled with tales of the time I was a zoo-keeper for the day, consider yourself lucky. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that there was a zoo, in Abu Dhabi, where you can not only bother animals, but also get up close and personal with them and STAY THE NIGHT IN THE ZOO! Thanks to Tuesday's Child for the tip....

I'm dubious about zoos in the region - Dubai Zoo is notorious for being cramped, dirty and just plain cruel. Emirates Park Zoo doesn't score too badly on this scale, the animals in the main have space and seem well cared for. It did pain me to see a lone Capybara - they are such sociable animals and love a mate.

But the real fun starts when you check into the resort itself. This is attached to the zoo, and there's a very limited number of 'Executive Suites', which are in fact chalets that look directly onto the giraffe enclosure. 

Manage your expectations: The Burj Al Arab this is not. If you're old enough to remember the UK show "Hi-De-Hi" then you can imagine the scene. But the chalets are spacious (lounge as well as bedroom), with a kitchenette, and best of all, a small terrace to sit and watch the world and the giraffes go by. And watch them we did!

We were fore-armed with carrots aplenty which meant that we were extremely popular with the two giraffes, two zebra and small deer. The squeaks of joy from Baby Britney on first sighting the giraffe beauties, plus her throaty giggle when getting tickled by their whiskers, still fills my heart with joy, weeks on from the visit.

The resort is well set-up for children, providing a comfy cot bed at no extra charge. Once BB had retired for the night we cracked open the vino, lit a small disposable barbecue on the terrace, read books, chewed the fat. A treat!

Given that small people tend to wake up at the crack of dawn, we opened the curtains early the next morning. It was the most magical foggy UAE morning, and the animals moving slowly through the mist was a sight to behold. As everyone else slept, we crept outside, carrots in our collective grasp, and communed with the giraffes one last peaceful time.

Without children, I would have enjoyed this trip. With a small person, it was truly wonderful. I can't recommend this weekend enough. Yallah, before the temperatures rise!

Useful Info:

We booked through www.agoda.com and paid around 750 for an executive suite.
Resort information is here: http://www.emiratesparkresort.com/
The drive is about an hour and ten minutes from Dubai.
Don't forget your carrots!









Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Finally, Four Seasons Dubai

Just stunning......
I like to keep my finger on the pulse of all things new in Dubai. Given that this is the city that prides itself on the the biggest, the best, with heaps of ambition, it is no mean feat to keep up with all the changes and developments that seem to happen on an hourly basis. Plus, truth be told, I'm a simple girl at heart, and perfectly happy to sit in a  scruffy Satwa bar if the company is good and the newest sparkly bars have to go some way to beat that.

So I have to confess that it's taken me a couple of months to get round to visiting the new Four Seasons hotel on Jumeirah Beach Road. An anniversary provided the perfect opportunity and we rolled up, eager to see exactly what had been created on the site of the old Shoreside Beach Club - the scene of so many fun-filled beach Fridays....

First things first: it's beautiful. It has a strong whiff of Mina Al Salam; Arabesque architecture, twinkly lights, flowers in abundance. Whilst not hugely unique, it's still quite the entrance. 

We headed straight to the rooftop bar, which can be summed up in one word: spectacular. The decor is ultra-modern, but complements the architecture perfectly. A central bar, styled like a pearl, is totally show-stopping. 


The amazing bar....
But the real star of the show is the view. Oh, the view! The entire Jumeirah and Sheikh Zayed skyline lies before you as you sip on your eye-wateringly priced drinks (95dh for a glass of wine. High, even by Dubai's standards.)

We didn't eat, so I can't comment on the food, but the hotel definitely gets the thumbs up. We wandered down to the beach bar for a few more drinks and it really is a stunning location. 

One observation (apart from the outrageous drinks prices) is this: the place is DEAD. As a dodo. Literally two other people in the beach bar. We didn't care as we were too busy catching up and laughing at our own hilarious jokes, but if you're after a place with a buzzing atmosphere, this ain't it.  Perhaps the Four Seasons has a plan for raising its profile and it will soon be full of Dubai's movers and shakers...perhaps not. Either way, it's a great place for an expensive drink. With a view.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cold, Colder, Coldest

Obv, I look JUST like this at home....
Winter in Dubai is a funny old time. Residents reach near hysterical conditions at the sight of rainfall, gird their loins for the drop in temperature and suddenly, convector heaters magically appear in the shops.

A quick stroll to the local supermarket and you will walk past people dressed as if they are on a mission to climb Mount Everest: puffa coats, wooly hats, gloves.

In truth, the mercury rarely drops below 15 degrees, and that's extremely early in the morning. Yet somehow, it feels cold. Really cold. All the time. I've been driven to buying not one, not two, but three pairs of pyjamas, plus bedsocks. (Next Directory, if you're interested. They now deliver to Dubai. Treat!) And I'm still cold! 

Perhaps after 7 years my blood has thinned and I feel the cold in a different way. 

Perhaps it genuinely is colder than it ever has been. 

Either way, I'm honestly not moaning - all too soon it will be fiercely hot again and this will seem like a distant, chilly memory. Until then, pass the jumper, please!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sorry!

Ho ho!
It's happened, hasn't it. 

I've neglected my blog terribly. And when I do write, I appear to have turned into a *whispers* mummy blogger. I can only apologise. In my defence I was so deluged with questions about what it's like having a baby that I felt compelled to tell you. 

Plus, in my experience, very few people tell you the truth about what it's REALLY like when you have a child. And I wanted to do that. Be truthful. Be honest. In the hope that women will feel less like a failure if they don't breeze through pregnancy and a new born (who ARE these women that do?!). Because it's perfectly normal to reel from the shock of it all. However prepared you think you are.

Anyway, there's SO much happening here in Dubai right now. We won the Expo2020, it's been non-stop events season: food festivals, the Emirates Literature Festival (where last year I met Richard and Judy!) concerts galore (hello Lionel, hello Justin! hello Gary Barlow!) and the city is full of verve, vigour and palpable energy. Love it.

We survived another Summer, which meant heat as hot as hell and humidity to make your eyebrows swell. It meant Ramadan, which is a favourite time of year chez Britney. It meant lazy afternoons and evenings in the pool and boxed sets on the sofa in the cool AC.

Now the Winter is firmly here and I'm sure it's the coldest I've encountered in 7 years. I've bitten the bullet and purchased several pairs of pyjamas and....bed socks. Yes, it is rock and roll here chez Britney, let me tell you.

So there you go. I promise, in future: less baby, more life. Which to be fair is not a bad motto for life, as well as blogging.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Born Too Soon

A hospital intensive care unit is not a place you'd choose to spend time in. But if you do need expert medical care, I'm sure you'd be hard pressed to beat the City Hospital in Dubai. 




Their NICU, for tiny newborn babies needing help, is as you would expect: state of the art, modern, with amazingly supportive staff who exhibit patience, kindness and control in equal measure, just when you need them.

As our baby rushed into the world a month early, we knew she would need a bit of help. She arrived perfect in every way, but a lot tinier than your average bear. After cuddles she was whisked away to NICU to be monitored. I was wheeled off to my room.




It's a very strange sensation having a baby, then having it taken away from you. Throw in the huge amount of morphine and hormones coursing through your veins and it makes for quite the experience. I spent the next few hours in my calm, quiet private room in a daze..wondering: "did that really happen?" The agony that kicked in when the spinal block wore off told me that something definitely had happened. But did I really have a baby or had I just been hit by a truck?



DH popped down to see Baby Britney every few hours and reported back with photos and videos. They were the only proof I had that she was real, that she actually existed. I waited eagerly for them every time he disappeared and made him play the videos over and over again.




The next day I was cleared to visit her. I've never been in a NICU before, and I hope I never need to go again. As I was wheeled in past the other babies needing help, I held my breath. They were all undoubtedly in the best place, getting great care, and hopefully looking forward to a happy life after their initial stumbling blocks were overcome. But it was one of the most overwhelmingly emotional places I have ever experienced.




Although there's lots of noise - machines beeping and buzzing, it's also a very still place. Parents sit quietly next to incubators, touching tiny babies. They hang onto the medical staff's every word. I felt I had to whisper in case I disturbed anything, intruded into anyone's time with their precious, tiny babies.




Most were smaller than our girl. One, surrounded by UV light, was a 24 weeker weighing just 500 grams. He was the exact cut off weight for resuscitation. Any smaller than 500 grams and the hospital lets them slip away. This 500 gram mite looked like a tiny, helpless mouse. His skin transparent, his little arms up by his head, his eyes shielded with the tiniest eye mask I've ever seen. He took my breath away with his size, with his sheer vulnerability.
His mother stood over him. Helpless yet stoic. I tried to smile at her. I tried to look relaxed, not terrified, as I was wheeled past. I didn't want her to see my terror. That was the hardest poker face I've ever had to hold.
I felt like a fraud visiting my healthy, if tiny, baby from just steps away. The baby on the other side of us was being diagnosed with leukaemia as I held Baby Britney for the first time. 




The enormity of what we'd narrowly escaped, how poorly our tiny baby could have been, crept over me and squeezed my chest like a vice. I couldn't breathe. I could barely squeak out the words:" Get me out of here. Fast." I cried silently all the way back to my room: sadness, relief, guilt washing over me.




We were lucky. So very, very lucky.  Some parents and babies face the NICU for days, weeks and months.


14 months on, I still think about that tiny mouse baby. What happened to him? At bedtime each night when I'm cuddling my peachy-headed, healthy baby, I say a tiny prayer for him. And for all the babies born too soon. Some of us get lucky. But some don't make it. 




Footnote: If you have a baby born too soon, Bliss is the most amazing UK charity who offer support and help. I recommend them wholeheartedly.


http://www.bliss.org.uk/


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Falling Apart

I've been feeling more Skoda than Roller....bring on the Celergen!
I've been a huge fan of supplements for years. It started when I became vegetarian aged 13: my mum didnt' want to take any chances of me missing out on vital nutrients from dead flesh and so I dutifully chowed down on a variety of vitamins each morning. 

It continued from there, even when I switched back to meat eating. I always took a good multi-vitamin, a fish oil, an evening primrose. And a few months ago I got involved with CelergenBilled as "the one and only Swiss Anti-aging Marine Oral Cell Therapy Supplement in the world,' the good people at Celergen asked me to try their product for two months, and report back on how it went. I hadn't heard of the product before, but a quick look online revealed it as "The Anti-Ageing Secret of the Rich and Famous". I was instantly hooked. Shallow, moi?

Well here's a confession: I stopped taking it a few weeks ago. I usually take my vitamins first thing in the morning at my desk. I'd been so busy at work that I was hardly ever at my desk, plus I ran out of tablets and didn't seem to have time to contact the Celergen team to get more. Would you like to know what happened? Honestly, all of this is true:
  • I got an eye infection in my right eye
  • I got an eye infection in my left eye
  • I developed a twitch above my left eye (I only ever ger this when chronically tired, which brings me onto my next point)
  • I became so chronically tired I could barely get out of bed in the morning
  • As a result of this I couldn't face the gym
  • The skin on my face became so dry and flaky I resembled a lizard (last night I resorted to putting oil on my face in desperation.)
  • I developed a sore throat and have been fighting a cold for a week (Note: I haven't had a cold since 2008)

Say what you like, but this list is way too long to be purely coincidental. If there was any small part of me that still needing convinving about Celergen, that small part has been well and truly silenced. I'm practically breaking my fingers logging on to order online

Oh dear Celergen friends, how I've missed you! I shall of  course report back when I'm back to my full, fabulous self.









Hard Graft

PR: It ain't like this, kids
Many years ago, in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I started my career in PR. 

I was fortunate enough to cut my teeth at one of the UK's best agenciesWe romped through awards ceremonies like rumbunctious toddlers, drunk on our own fabulosity and success, collecting awards like sweets, for hundreds of campaigns, for Agency of the Year, hell, we even won Agency of the Decade. 

We were young, we were hungry, we were ambitious, we were the epitome of work hard play hard. We were out every other night of the week, but always in the office first thing the next day. Sometimes we'd go in at the weekend, just to get a steal on the (inevitably) crazy week ahead. We knew that there were hundreds of people who wanted our jobs, and they were good. So we had to be better.

It was a whirl of hard work, hysteria and happiness. 

Let's be clear: it was extremely tough too. It wasn't nicknamed the 'House of Pain' for nothing: there were regular tears in the toilets and throwing up in the car park due to the pressure. But some of my best and most enduring friendships were forged there as we bonded through the grind. And I can honestly say the leadership and the talent that I met, worked with and learned from, was the best in the business. It is no surprise that everyone who worked there has gone on to be successful in their careers, and we all attribute that in part, to the time we spent there.

So when I first arrived in the Middle East I was truly knocked for six by what I encountered. Apparently, it was perfectly acceptable to send a text informing your director that you couldn't make it into work because you suffered period pains, a headache, or (my personal favourite) 'my eyes feel funny'. It was also a normal occurrence to be late for work. Every day. With excuses more weird and wonderful each week.

Six years on and I'm happy to say that standards have improved massively and we've (mostly) moved beyond this. But I'm still gobsmacked by the people that I interview. They frequently come with a list of demands: not just salary and package, but what they will and won't do (mainly won't), whch areas/sectors they want to work on, which clients they want to dedicate their time to....the list is endless.

Sometimes at the end of a hard day I ponder what would happen to these precious little darlings if they were dropped into a UK PR agency. Better still, if I put them in front of some of my ex-employers for interview. I think I know the answer. And it isn't pretty....