Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Soul of Discretion

I'm reading the book La Petite Anglaise at the moment.  If you're not aware of it, it's a book written by an eponymous blogger...in a nutshell: English girl moves to Paris, falls in  love with French bloke (Mr Frog) has a baby (Tadpole), becomes disatisified with life, embarks on affair. The interesting part is that throughout the eperience, she was writing her blog.  As her real self.  Her fella, Mr Frog, even knew about her blog, but never read it.

It's been making me ponder about my blog, and self-censorship.  Hers was completely anonymous, no-one knew who she was (apart from her 'couldn't be bothered to read it' fella), so she could chronicle her life's ups and downs in a very open way. 

I started mine as a way of updating friends and family whilst away from home, and as I was going through some momentous life changes ie leaving the UK, it seemed like a good way to do it.  I've always kept my really private life out of the blog, preferring to keep my dirty laundry private and operate some level of self-censorship.  I like it that way.

But reading La Petite Anglaise, I did have a hankering to really let rip about everything that's been going on since I moved here.....there's a lot more to tell than you're reading here!  Discussed this with a couple of friends who also blog in the same way that I do and we all felt the same.

Maybe time for a completely anonmyous and more scandal filled blog?  Who knows.....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Britney of Arabia Beach Guide

So, you want to spend the day on the beach in Dubai? Pretty easy, you think. Slip on a bikini, grab a few magazines, and plonk yourself down on a beach towel, right? Wrong!!

I’ve been here for two years: I’m pretty au fait with the way Dubai works – you can keep it low-key if you like, but more often than not, the blingier the better. I’ve gradually got used to squeezing myself into hot pants for a night clubbing. And on the odd occasion that I make it to a brunch I’ll be in an outfit that I’d normally reserve for only a wedding in the UK. Fair enough.

But now this level of commitment on the grooming/outfit front has extended to…the beach. As a beach club regular every Friday I’ve watched the ensembles ramp up on the glamometer. Here’s my handy guide of things to consider before going to the beach in Dubai – well, you wouldn’t want to knowingly be under-dressed, would you?

Bikini: The blingier and fancier the better. Think ruffles, think cut-out shapes, think unusual fastenings, think metal pieces. I have approximately 20 bikinis (true story) and they’ve been becoming more and more elaborate the longer I’ve been here. Beach Bunny is the current fave brand.  Note: remember to phase eating out of life and consider having a couple of ribs removed before trying them on.

Accessories: Earrings, necklaces and bangles are your friend. Yes, they may get covered in seawater, sand and suncream, but you must smile gamely as this happens in the knowledge that you look good. Goes without saying that these should in some way co-ordinate with your outfit. Which brings us onto…

Clothing: It’s not just about the bikini, folks. This isn’t Europe, you can’t just rock up in a sarong and a smile. Ideal beach ‘arriving outfits’ include strapless/halter-neck maxi dresses, cute as a button playsuits, and the ‘never goes out of style’ vest and denim hot pants. Be sure to remember a kaftan for the moments when it gets just too hot or for eating lunch. And for sundowners when it starts to get dark.

Headgear: You’re no-one without a hat. It’s best to go to one of two extremes: small: a straw trilby. Large: enormous floppy Bianca Jagger/J-Lo straw sunhat. Note: a baseball cap will absolutely not cut the mustard.

Other accessories: Sunglasses. Anything goes really but the general rule is: size matters. Either rock out the most enormous pair of plastic frames you can find, or stick to mirrored aviators (Raybans, natch) Note: mirrored aviators are perfect for openly staring at other beach-goers without them being completely sure that you’re staring at them in particular. Which brings us onto…

People-watching: If there is anywhere in the world where openly checking out talent is more obvious and accepted, then I have yet to visit it. Naples, Italy, may be a close second. If anyone in Brazil is reading this, I’d love your feedback. The rules are simple: You’re amongst the beautiful people. And beautiful people merit watching. Embrace it, learn to love it.

Make-up: What do you mean, you’re sweating like a pig and can’t possibly have a slick of make up on your face? Toughen up! Ok, we’ll let you off a full face of foundation but you must dig out the waterproof eye-liner, mascara, and a bright lippy or gloss. Re-apply regularly to maintain standards at all times.

Games: Bring your own, or borrow them from the beach club. These include cards, backgammon, or our personal favourite: travel scrabble. If you think these are to be taken seriously, you’re wrong. The main objective is to allow you to sit up on your sunlounger so as to reach your white wine spritzer more easily, and to have a better vantage point for checking out other talent.

Music: Whether it’s the tunes that the dj is spinning, or whatever’s rocking out on your ipod, music is a crucial part of the day. It may even lead to dancing come sundown. Do bear in mind that as soon as you don your headphones, you may be missing out on important conversations (from your group or the one next to you that you’re ear-wigging on.) Hence you may choose to listen to only one headphone. I’m just sayin….

Gang: You can go on your own of course. But nothing’s more fun than a group of your favourite people to share all of the above hoop-la and hilarious moments with. Whether it’s exchanging celeb gossip info (have they really split up? What is SHE wearing? CBA with….etc etc) having a dip with a chum, swapping i-pods, or enquiring whether it’s wine o’clock yet, it’s so much more fun with the full crew.

So that’s my most important tip for the beach in Dubai..see you on the sunloungers….

Crash Test Dummies

This news came as no surprise to anyone this morning: 98 per cent of children are not strapped in when they travel in cars in the United Arab Emirates.

Only yesterday I was at traffic lights next to a car with two unrestrained children in it – one standing up in between the two front seats, and one on the driver’s lap. Yes, you heard me correctly. There has been some debate about levels of education on car/child safety in different parts of the world, but I just don’t buy it. This is idiotic, imbecilic stupidity of the highest order. Dubai: get a grip.

Back to the 90's...

What news? Well, we have a plethora of music events coming up in Dubai, including DJ Yoda, Trevor Nelson, Grandmaster Flash, and (wait for it) Vanilla Ice. Oh, and Snap! The first few I can understand, but where the planners came up with the idea of VI and Snap, I have no idea. That said, I’m not complaining. I have been known to bust out more than a few moves to Ice Ice Baby at Chi of a weekend…..

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Road to....

I’m off to Damascus next month. Not a place I would ever have visited if I hadn’t moved to Dubai, so I’m very excited about it. Syria is supposed to be beautiful, and Damascus in particular. As usual, the joy of living in a place as multi-cultural as Dubai is that you know people from all over the world, so we’ve already been able to tap up some Syrian colleagues for hotel recommendations and sight-seeing.

And whilst enjoying sundowners at Nasimi on Saturday the lovely Melissa and I got chatting to a group of….Syrians, who were not only thrilled that we were visiting their country (and kept asking us why we were going) but have also offer tour guide assistance when we’re there. Love Dubai.

Friday, March 12, 2010


The reason I’ve been working all weekend is handling the media at a literature festival here in Dubai. Dubai is often hailed (partly unfairly I think) as a cultural desert, so it’s great to have an event here in the city which celebrates culture and learning. There’s huge names here: Martin Amis, Kate Adie, Yann Martel, the list goes on.

Things that struck me most: number one, how utterly lovely all of these authors are: they’ve happily endured our endless media requests and interviews with very good grace. Number two, how passionate people in Dubai are about literature. There’s literally hundreds of them packed into the Intercontinental Hotel at Festival City, whether it’s to attend talks, workshops, or even queue up for hours to meet their favourite author during a signing (which takes me back to a hysterical few hours queuing for the lovely Gordon Ramsey with Maggie, many, many years ago. Happy days!)

It’s been a manic few days – by running the press office for the event we’re effectively doing the pr for every individual author, plus the organizers. And as there are over 100 authors, it’s a mammoth job managing media. But it’s also been highly entertaining and rewarding. As soon as I finish today’s shift I’m off to buy my own body weight in books. Bliss!

Caught in the Act

Far be it from me to a) bring this blog down to nothing more than a musing over celebrity news stories and b) reveal my guilty secret celebrity obsessions…..but I do have to share my disappointment over the Mark Owen revelations.

I’ve loved Take That since I was a teenager (who else remembers the dance routines we carefully practiced in the sixth form centre…Lauren?? Catherine??) and was beside myself when they reformed. The first time we saw them back together in Manchester was a beautiful, and, I’ll admit, drunken, night of absolute hysteria. I’m not ashamed to say that Lauren, Adam and I sobbed tears of joy throughout most of it (did I mention the word drunk?!)

Look, I’m not stupid, I’m not naive, I know men (and women, but mainly men, I’ll wager) cheat. Not just the famous ones either – we’ve all, sadly, had first hand experience of this. It’s just that…well….Mark seemed like one of the good ones. Yes he played up his ‘cheeky chappy’ persona, but I did see him with his then girlfriend, now wife, when they were in Manchester, and she was heavily pregnant. They looked the picture of happiness.

I’ll chalk this one up along with Vernon Kay, David Beckham and all the other philandering celebs who have been caught with their pants down. Shame on you.

Men in Tight Trousers

Last weekend saw us get round to something we've been trying to sort for two years: polo. This might sound ridiculous but due to the heat the polo season is actually only four months long..and when you have a very busy weekend schedule it's just not always feasible to fit in everything that you want to.

The lovely Melissa had just arrived in Dubai (she’s here to help Dubai World sort out their problems, as, it seems, are half of London’s legal people) so it was perfect timing to showcase the best of Dubai during her first weekend.

The polo club is a short drive out of the city near a large residential development called Arabian Ranches. It’s a compound situation – no-one gets in or out without getting through security, unless you’re off to the clubhouse or polo club. It’s an absolutely gorgeous place, another vision of lush greenness rising out of the sand. The polo pitch is also incredibly green: and huge! We settled down at a table on a divine terrace overlooking the pitch, and got down to what we do best: quaffing chilled white wine and eating our own bodyweight in delicious food. As ever, with Dubai brunches, the choice was excellent (I gave the goat a miss) and it was just another of those perfect: “This is why I live in Dubai" moments.

After a fair few hours of stuffing our faces the serious business began: polo. It was actually the first day of a big polo event: The Gold Cup. Not to do this a disservice, but we really didn’t care, just the fact that there were so many beautiful polo ponies to look at…and the men riding them were also quite easy on the eye.

It’s a fast, exciting game: we were gripped. There were heaps of photographers there from various OK/Hello style publications who did manage to distract us for a few minutes at a time, but in the main, we were completely hooked. I’m not sure which team won, but for us that really wasn’t the point. The location, atmosphere, entertainment, and of course, company, really did make it a perfect day. The next challenge is to fit in another visit before the season ends…watch this space!

Heat Watch

Another week where I've been deathly quiet on the blog front - mainly because, yet again, deathly busy at work. What's a girl to do? I'm actually typing this whilst working the weekend: eurgh. Although to be honest, I'm in one of those great moods that even working the weekend can't erase.

It's a beautiful day here in Dubai - like 360 days of the year it's clear blue skies, sunshine, and warming up very nicely. I have mixed feelings about his - on the one hand, I do love the heat, and nothing says the weekend like two days spent on the beach. But very soon it's going to be back to unbearable temperatures...constant clamminess, and our favourite outdoor venues closed for the best part of five months. Boo!

I'm not sure exactly how hot it is but I've developed a pretty good personal thermometer - I reckon it’s 34 plus today. My actual digital thermometer gave up the ghost a few weeks ago so I'll be sorting new batteries for it soon so that I can get back onto Temperature Watch. Yes, I know I'm sad....