Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'm Back!

I’m back! Did you miss me? I had a quick jaunt back to Manchester last week – treat! The trip was characterized by a lot of champagne (40 quid a bottle rather than 40 quid a glass as it is in Dubai) and general catching up. I’m always struck by how I feel as if I’ve never been away, as soon as I arrive back in the city. A bit has changed – some shops have closed, some streets are being dug up (try getting around when most of Deansgate is closed) but other than that, it’s all scarily familiar. And the weird thing – as soon as I got back to Dubai - I felt exactly the same. I think it helps that I live in the moment and try to enjoy and embrace where I am – wherever that may be.

If you haven’t been to see Everyone’s a Winner at the Royal Exchange, then get down there before it finishes. Set in a bingo hall in Manchester (as the bingo queen this obviously caught my attention) it was hilarious and sad in equal measure. Sally Lindsay (of Corrie fame) did a great job in the main role, as did the rest of the cast. A real treat and had me reminiscing about many happy trips to the theatre. One of the things I really miss about Dubai.

I didn’t get to see nearly everyone that I wanted to, such is the nature of such a flying visit. And I was bedridden for two days after having some safari jabs – who knew that the side effects could be so horrific! Anyway, normal blogging service will resume shortly. Ta ta for now.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Back to Crack

I’ve been having some treatment for my back this week – I’ve always had problems with it and not sure what’s triggered it this time – although I suspect it could be the weekly flights where I wrestle my carry on bag into the overhead lockers whilst the entire plane watches without offering to help…hmmm. In the last four months I’ve probably caught 20 flights – and only once has anyone helped me – and it was a Brit. All the Arab men just sit motionless. Sweeping generalization alert: So much for the stereotypes of amazing manners and never letting a woman do anything for herself!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Get Yourself Connected

So here's the deal in Dubai: if you want to connect the water and electricity to your property, you have to do it in person. Yes, you have to drag yourself to an actual office and wait in line. And it goes a little something like this:

  • Arrive at office. Take number in manner of Asda butchers and get ready to wait.
  • Find seat. Not easy.
  • Realise that my number is 2280, and they're only on 2255. Go figure.
  • Feel smug. I have a book! I have a magazine! I can keep occupied! No problem!
  • Start getting fidgety. What's taking so long?
  • Finish magazine. Attempt to watch news on tv. It's in Arabic.
  • Make a start on the book. Can't concentrate due to overwhelming smell of BO coming from the man sat next to me.
  • A drama: girl enters who doesn't understand the number/queueing system. She walks straight to a counter. Collective intake of breath from the crowd as she does so. She's turned away and has to get a ticket like the rest of. Crowd feels slightly triumphant.
  • Pretend to read book whilst eavesdropping on conversations around me.
  • Realise I am sat next to a client! High point of the 90 minutes as we have a quick catch up.
  • Get introduced to client's family.
  • Conversation dies as neither of us wants to commit to a long chat as we have eyes and ears on high alert waiting for our numbers to be called.
  • Check through texts.
  • Check through handbag. Contents remain the same as they were when I checked five minutes ago.
  • Examine pedicure. Has lasted over two weeks.
  • Check for facial hair. Realise eyebrows are taking over my face.
  • Scamper over to counter and present documents to surly man behind desk.
  • he informs me that I need two extra documents. My landlord's passport copy and a copy of the sales agreement of the apartment. Why, I have no idea.
  • I explain that no one told me this when i called, and it doesn't state it anywhere on the website.
  • We have a face off.
  • I sigh, a lot.
  • Man behind counter leaves counter to check upstairs with colleague.
  • Five minutes pass. The crowd glares at me for taking so long.
  • Check through texts.
    Check through handbag. Contents remain the same as they were when I checked five minutes ago.
    Examine pedicure. Has lasted over two weeks.
    Check for facial hair. Realise eyebrows are taking over my face.
  • Says sorry, he needs those documents.
  • I morph into Hollywood actress.
  • I do not have documents. Landlord on holiday (not a lie, I'm sure he has been on holiday at some point in the past). I cannot get documents. How can I survive heat with no AC. No water. Please can he help me.
  • Another face off.
  • I clutch chest, face (being careful to avoid eyebrows) and, I'm not ashamed to say, resort to a trick which I have been assured works, but have never used in Dubai. I've saved it for a whole year for a situation such as this.
  • I well up.
  • This has desired effect. Water and electricity connected immediately. Documents can be emailed.
  • I rise, triumphant from the counter.
  • Client gives me a thumbs up. Hell, never mind thumbs, I should be getting an Oscar for that performance.
  • Feminist movement call me to say thanks for setting them back 50 years. I should feel ashamed, but don't.
Note to Dubai: ever heard of connecting these things over the phone?? Online?? With a website that works? No, that would be too easy.

Add up all the time of all the people in the office that day and the figure would be staggering, I'm sure. And that was just one office. But hey, why worry about wasting time?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Things We Wish We'd Known

I got an email today asking for top things that I wish I'd known before I moved to Dubai. There were quite a few people on the circulation list so I thought I'd share the responses. If you live here, these will be all too familiar. Can you guess which ones are mine? I know the fake tan/twiglet references are a bit of a give-away.....

You need 500 passport photos to do anything
You need your passport to do anything
Without a visa you cannot function
Your visa will take 3 months
Your life will therefore be impossible for 3 months
You can have anything delivered to your door
You will pay 5 quid for a bag of twiglets
Fake tan is non existent
Sea snakes are a real menace
Parks are places where you take your whole extended family, and staff to cater for you during your visit
It will take you ten minutes to get into your house/apartment because 25 different people will say hello to you
People in the queue in front of you at Spinney’s will gladly let the poor checkout girl pack their bags whilst they look on doing nothing
If it’s not the world’s biggest, best, first or fastest, we’re not interested
No 5 star hotel in the UK will ever quite measure up
Marks and Spencer doesn’t sell food
Be prepared for the total hassle of getting a driving licence
That when people phone you and you say’ hello’ , they say ‘hello’ and so you say ‘hello’!
The Gold & Diamond Park is cheaper than the Gold Souk – by far!
That a joint account with your husband isn’t really a joint account – I can put money in but I can’t take money out....because I’m just the ‘wife”!!
I wish I’d discovered the tailors in Satwa earlier than I did
I wish I’d discovered the handbag shops in Karama earlier than I did
That, even though we can plan Easter years in advance, over here we have to wait for some guy to crawl out from his tent and spot the moon before we get the official notification of Eid
That, whilst driving, indication means you are going to change lanes, irrespective of whether another car is in that lane or not
That ‘inshalla’ is the excuse for everything!
That ‘I’ll call you back’ is a bigger lie than ‘the cheque is in the post’

One for the girls only:They whip your pants off completely when you have a bikini wax and get VERY close to your lady bits!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Not on My Watch!

I loved this story from today's Daily Mail - thanks Emma for sending it through to me. Some chimps at Chester Zoo 'escaped' causing the zoo to be evacuated. Now, as someone who is near-professional in this area (ah, my day as a zoo keeper, happy times) I can assure you, this wouldn't have happened on my watch. Zoo keepers of Britain: toughen up!

Note: when you read the story, it's clear there's some tabloid scaremongering going on. the chimps didn't actually make it out of their enclosure, just into a holding pen. My favourite quote:

'At no time did we have chimpanzees running amok in the zoo.'

Shame- I bet it would have been entertaining. As long as they were in a good mood.....

Anyone For...?

One word: tennis. What an amazing Wimbledon final. Was on the edge of my seat and seem to have developed a back problem from being so tense over the bar table watching it! I have to confess I was rooting for Roddick. But Federer is clearly an impressive athlete. In fact, impressive isn’t a good enough word…..I may have mentioned once or twice (!) how I was lucky enough to work with Federer and Roddick at an event at the start of the year, and I have to say, ever since then I’ve had nothing but the utmost respect for tennis players. Of all athletes I’ve been amazed at how hard they work, how seriously they take the sport, and what generally pleasant, polite and helpful people they are. They could really teach footballers a thing or two. I really felt for Roddick when he lost - but he put up a great fight. I wonder if I'll be seeing him later this year?!

Oh and ladies - he often trains topless. Yes, topless. A very welcome sight, let me tell you.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

20 Degrees is NOT Sweltering

Come on kids, I know I've mentioned weather-related whingeing before - but this news story takes the biscuit.

The Met Office said the minimum temperatures in Manchester on Tuesday and Wednesday night reached a sweltering 20C.

Come one! Even before I moved to Dubai I wouldn't have classed that as sweltering! I have my air con set to 22 degrees in the bedroom every night! 20 is positively chilly!

Rant over...

Friday, July 03, 2009

How Many Types of Heat?

Before I moved to the Middle East I thought there was only one kind of heat. If it’s hot, it’s hot, right? Wrong. Turns out that there’s an oppressive, humid, ‘wet’ heat (as experienced in Miami…Dubai) and there’s an oppressive, crisp, ‘dry’ heat as experienced in….Vegas, the African plains and….Doha. And they feel very, very different. The dry heat wins hands down every time for me. Don’t get me wrong, it still makes me panic a little bit if I don’t know EXACTLY where I’m walking (mental calculations: how many seconds will I be out in this for) but somehow it’ just a searing burning sensation, and not a heavy, drowning kind of feeling. A bit like opening an oven door and getting your face too close to it. The weirdest sensation? When the dry heat gets windy – we’re talking 48 degree heat wafting in your face. At one point it actually felt like the surface of my eyeballs was peeling off. Nice, eh?

Tall Man Heaven

Anyone who know me will know that I have a penchant for tall men. So imagine my excitement when I realized that I was staying in the same hotel as not one but five basketball teams this week. I first realised this gem when waiting for the lift. A very tall (6 foot 5 plus) young man emerged. Aha! I thought. Finally, some tall men! And men there were…he was followed by not one but 6 more equally strapping young specimens. And a short walk into the nearby restaurant made me feel like I was in land of the Giants – everywhere I looked there were more, and more of them. Believe it or not there was a huge basketball event taking place – and all of the teams were stationed in the same hotel as little old me. Treat! Boy can they put away a lot of breakfast….