Sunday, June 27, 2010

No Sex and the City, Thanks

So I FINALLY watched SATC2 last night. I probably mentioned that it was banned here, so seeing at the cinema was a no-go. We had to make do with a copy from the DVD man (don’t ask). Obviously it launched everywhere else in the world aaages ago, so it was with much excitement that the girls hot-footed it round to mine to see what all the fuss was about. We all agreed that we hated the first one, but this one had been billed as much more upbeat and ‘fun’. My verdict? Disappointing.
I really wanted to like it – most of my friends did – and in particular they thought that I would ‘love all the Middle East references.” Actually, those were the parts that I hated the most. I found those bits cringeworthy and actually a little bit offensive. And I don’t think it’s that I‘ve lived here for a years that made me think that – Mel is new to Dubai and agreed that the women/abaya scene was downright wrong.

There were some parts we loved:
  • The fashion, obviously. Although who rocks up to the Souk, in August, in a full-length couture skirt is questionable. But I can forgive them that.
  • LOVED Smith showing up in an early scene – but he just wasn’t on-screen long enough to satisfy us. (When a man looks that good, why limit his screen-time to three minutes?!)
  • Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship can identify with the theme of Big and Carrie trying to ‘keep the sparkle alive’ – hello, no tv should EVER be placed in the bedroom…..

 Other than that the main highlight was the arrival of enough Mexican food at my door to feed a small army….so you can see: it just lacked something. Still, a night of wine, food, and the company of my homegirls is never a night wasted. I’ve heard there’s talk of SATC 3…I won’t be holding my breath..


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

DIY – Dubai Style

I’ve had a few teething problems in the new apartment – nothing major and only to be expected really. The landlord doesn’t seem to have put together any sort of snagging list which I find staggering – call me old-fashioned but if I’d just rinsed 700 000 British pounds on an apartment, I’d want it to be perfect. I digress. The main issue so far has been with the A/C. Even when left on at full tilt for a whole day it’s still a balmy 26 degrees in the lounge. Not what you need when you fall through the door after a 12 hour working day.

I duly called Emaar (the property developer) and they sent round a trio of very sweet Indian men to tackle the problem. I knew they were highly trained operatives at the top of their game when they arrived with top-class equipment: a bucket and length of hose.

After 5 minutes (ok, it was really about 2) of watching them discussing the problem and wrestling with a step-ladder I lost interest, left them to it and jumped into the lift down to L’s apartment for wine, food, and an episode of Footballer’s Wives. (This alone is worthy of a separate post: Tanya Turner = top class entertainment!)

It was only when I’d been down there for about twenty minutes that I even thought about the fact that I’d left three strange men, alone, in my apartment, with all my worldly goods, including my purse/cash/cards etc. And it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I did have a passing thought of them rifling through my underwear drawer and prancing around with my knickers on their heads, but other than that, not a problem at all. The joys of living in Dubai!

After half an hour or so they came to retrieve me from L’s and I went to inspect their work. I’m not entirely sure that it’s sorted but I was too exhausted to argue with them. I haven’t counted my smalls, but everything seemed in order…..

Sunday, June 20, 2010

At The Top

Finally: I made it up the Burj Khalifa….you know the one: world’s tallest building, can be seen from space etc etc (ok, I made that bit up.) But it is BIG. ENORMOUS. And many other superlatives. I see it all day every day given that I live and work about ten paces from it, but it’s taken me until now to get up the courage to actually hurtle 124 floors up for a neb at what the views are like. Maybe it’s living on the 28th floor that made me a bit more up for it. Anyway….we had a bit of a work outing – originally we were planning to take our global CEO..his flight changed so he didn’t come – which in hindsight was probably a good thing – no need for someone quite so senior to see one of his Dubai management team weeping openly in public…

So what was it like? Well, amazingly, I absolutely loved it. I’m sure you’ll remember just how excited I was when it actually opened, and it’s full of fascinating facts as you go through and start your ascent. (Vikki Harris: you’d be all over it. They don’t have the KitKat fact – I think you need to have a word.)

It takes a good 30 minutes from the time you enter to actually getting into the elevator..that’s 30 minutes to have a really good think about the fact that you:

a) are scared of heights
b) have your team with you, who may well see you cry in public
c) have no way of getting down if the lifts fail

It was a tense 30 minutes, let me tell you. The lifts are an experience in themselves: pitch black, flashing lights, and disco music. I think this is to distract you from points a, b and c above. I’m not exaggerating when I say it takes all of 10 seconds to go from ground to 124……compare that to the Empire State Building and it’s a blink of an eye.

Lift doors open, and you’re faced with the most amazing view. Obviously. But it bears re-iterating. Once I’d got over the first terrifying ten minutes or so, it was brilliant. Hey, by the end, I was even strolling around without gripping onto the wall/bars/anything solid that I could get my hands on (sorry James!). It’s spectacular and I can’t recommend it enough. And if you pre-book, it’s 100 dirhams. A bargain in Dubai terms. Visitors, be prepared to pay it a visit, whether you like it or not – I can’t wait to go again!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Swap Shop!!

I went to my first ever clothes swapping party last night. I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was ACE! The MO was as follows:
• Take 6 girls. Order pizza, provide wine
• Each one brings a large bag/bags stuffed full of clothes that are in good condition but that they’re just not interested in any more. You know how it is ladies, wear it once, get bored of it, etc etc.
• Dump each bagful of goodies into huge pile in the middle of the room
• Trough pizza, drink wine
• Assign one person (the hostess) to go through the items one by one, holding them up and giving a quick description, with the original owner chipping in (size, make, any particularly interesting features eg makes your boobs look great, v flattering when on, only worn once, an ex-boyfriend bought it for me and I always hated it but it cost 300 quid so someone has to have it)
• Each item gets ‘claimed’ with the caveat that if it doesn’t fit/look right, it goes back into the pile
• Trying on session with items replaced in pile as above
• Process repeated
• Any items not claimed popped in a bag for charity
• Everyone leaves laden down with new items and v happy

I left with a variety of gorgeous tops, dresses, and jewellery. Some of which still had the tags on them. All the pleasure of shopping with none of the guilt, and the added bonus of seeing things that I’ve spent good money on going to good homes. An absolutely top night!

Monday, June 14, 2010

PR not ER

We had an intern in the office last week - the son of a good friend, and a lovely young man. I say man, he was 15, with a confidence that belied his years (is this the case with all teenagers these days? Is it just my age?!) and a great attitude towards work and life in general. Something that young people in this region could learn a lot from. Anyway, I digress.

It fell to me to sort his schedule, and it got me thinking back to the days when I did work experience. Mine was mainly journalism based - the Jersey Evening Post, Island Eye (a short-lived weekly freebie) and then in later life, and on a more permanent, if unpaid basis, the Sheffield Star. I was never one of those teenagers who didn't know what they wanted to do. I only ever wanted to be a journalist. My degree was in journalism. And then somehow I ended up in PR. How?

Back in those days (ha ha) PR was in its infancy. It certainly wasn't a well-know career choice - unlike now where every 12 year old or 21 year old that I interview seems to want a PR job. When I ask them why, they can't articulate it. At best they come out with some clap-trap about 'being good with people'. There's no understanding of the fundamental skills needed such as writing, and don't get me stated on strategy, new business, pitching, handling clients etc etc.

I think I fell into PR as seemed to have a lot of transferable skills: writing, interviewing, and a strong news sense (or nosiness you could say). If I’d known then what I know now about just how hard it was going to be, would I have made that choice? Hard to say.

For the most, I enjoy my job – just as well as I’m not really equipped to do anything else. In an ideal world I’d be a zoo keeper or veterinary nurse (in no way influenced by Frank Harvarde’s very hot vet back in Manchester, honest) but the amount of studying needed, combined with pitiful salaries has always ruled out those options. So for now, I’ll keep slogging away at the coal face. But there are times when I think longingly back to those early work experience days, and wonder…what if…

Hey Shorty, It's Your Birthday

Can you believe I'm about to spend my third, yes third birthday in Dubai...? No, neither can I!  This year it falls on a weekday, so I'm not sure what the MO is as yet.  A very swish bar is offering some sort of free drink/free food/free MAC cosmetics type event - what's not to love?!   Otherwise it will be dinner and drinks with my lovely friends closely followed by mayhem at the weekend.

Tinie Tempah is here on Thursday night - do not even ask me what sort of music genre he falls under...but I'm all over it.  And then of course there's the football on Friday.  I say this as if I'm some sort of afficionado.  Just don't tell anyone that I spent the first England game curled up on the sofa watching Gossip Girl Season 3, eh?  I'm sorry, but Chuck Bass or a load of over-paid petulant children kicking a ball, badly, round a pitch for 90 minutes.....? No contest.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Home

I started writing this blog post from the most spectacular location....looking out over the blue sea, mosques and villas of Jumeirah, and the 12 lanes of Sheikh Zayed Road. In the distance I could see the Burj Al Arab and Jumeira Beach Hotel..on a really clear day you can just about see the marina skyscrapers. Where am I, I hear you cry? (Ok...maybe it's just a passing thought) No, not the newest hangout in Dubai, not the viewing point of the Burk Khaifa (that's 124 floors up), but the couch, in my new apartment! Which, for the record, is on the 28th floor....

Yep, I'm finally in. Moving has been on my to-do list for the last month, but a hectic work schedule (is there any other type) has meant that it's been a half-hearted attempt with a lot of false starts. After scanning round a new development I quickly spotted my favourite style, and after one of my good friends moved into one that was the same configuration, I fell in love. I realised that after spending a good two-hour visit at hers with my nose pressed against the glass staring at the view that I just HAD to live there.

Cue much emailing/phoning/dealing with ridiculous estate agents.....haggling overprices, number of cheques. If you don't live in Dubai you'll be staggered to know (if I haven't already bored you with this fact) that you don't pay your rent month to month. Oh no. You have to pay in one, two, or (if you're lucky) four cheques. Not only does this mean having to stump up a huge amount of cash up front (I still smart when I remember handing over 9000 quid one lunch time) it means you're basically betting on the fact that you’re going to be in Dubai for the next six months/a year. I have absolutely no plans to leave, but I am a girl who likes to have some flexibility to move..and if Ashton Kutcher calls me asking if I can move to L.A...well, my chances of getting that pre-paid cash back are slim to non-existent....Anyway!

What's it like, you've all been asking me....well, it's GORGEOUS. The crucial stuff: you can sea the sea from the front door, and from pretty much the whole apartment...including whilst sitting on the toilet..The usual Dubai stuff: it has two enormous pools, a gum, a balcony which gets the sun all's the perfect location with malls and metro just steps away. I LOVE it.

Visitors: you're welcome any time (just a bit of advance warning so I can re-arrange the kitchen cupboards!).

Thursday, June 03, 2010

No It's NOT Abu Dhabi!

As you would expect, all of my female friends in the UK, and across the globe, to be fair, have Carrie fever right now.  Yes, they've all been off to watch SATC 2, but I can't watch it here.  A great explanation on this can be found here.

My friends have mainly given it positive reviews - thank the lord as I hated the first film - and much of their comments to me have centred round the Middle East theme: "You're going to love it/Abu Dhabi is in it loads " etc etc.  I have pointed out that it was shot in Marrakech....

I wonder if they've shown the Abu Dhabi we know and love/loathe....too much traffic, insane driving, dead bodies at the side of the road...I suspect not!  Until our office 'dvd man' comes back from vacation, I can't get my grubby hands on a copy to judge for myself.....and I HATE to be the last to know about something!  Patience...patience....

Dating in Dubai: Chapter Two: Things That Are Perfectly Normal in The Twilight Zone

If you're a single gal thinking of moving to Dubai, or you're happily ensconsed in a relationship and just wondering what life is like out there when you're unattached, here are some guidlines accumulated with the help of my friends.

Small-World Syndrome
As Dubai is so small, you may discover that the cute guy that you gave your number to/were exceptionally rude to on Friday night works in your office building. Or lives in your apartment building.  And who suddenly is always at your pool. Or in your lift. Or at the table next to you when you're on a work lunch.  Slap on the mirrored aviators and play dumb, ladies.

Stalker Alert
I mentioned that Dubai is small, right? This means that when you get talking to new people, they will inevitably know people that you currently work with/used to work with/have just interviewed. 

Slightly more terrifyingly, they may also comeout with gems such as: "I know you, you used to live at xxx.  I used to see you at the pool there.  You've moved recently, haven't you.  You now you live at xxx."

Or my personal stalker favourite: " I saw you in Sho Chos last year.  You were with my friend xxx."  This is despite never having seen or spoken to this person before.  So you had a good look at me, didn't approach me, but stored that away FOR A WHOLE YEAR????!

No Date
You may find that you never actually get to go on a date.  As PDA's are famously frowned upon in Dubai, there's none of the traditional going out for drinks and then having a quick snog in a darkened corner.  There are a few clubs where you can get away with this but nowhere that you'd go for a civilised date/drink.  If you so much as want to have a quick snog at the end of thenight, you have to either fancy your chances of risking deportation, or go back to theirs 'for one last drink'. 

And sometimes you just decide to cut out the middle man and stay in. Or go to theirs. Whatever.  It's a frequent lament of my female friends that you're forced to go to the effort/inconvenience of schlepping to someone's house just for a smooch. 

One friend has seen more of her latest squeeze 'Hot Boy' or 'HB' for short than the photographer who took his photos when he modelled naked for Calvin Klein, yet has never been out for dinner with him/seen him outside her apartment.  As she says: "What's the point, when it's only going to end one way? I might as well cut to the chase - I'm a busy woman!"

Brace Yourself
When you do move things into the bedroom, you may discover all or any of the following actions are now common parlance: spanking/biting/crying (see previous post)/suggesting a threesome.  I'm no prude, but boys, come on!  Where's the chivalry?

Perhaps these issues are not just unique to Dubai?  Readers, help me out.

Ah, India

I’m fresh back from a long weekend in India. Kerala to be exact. It’s only a 3 hour (very cheap) flight away from Dubai, with the fabulous budget airline Air Arabia. Add in the fact that India is super cheap anyway (we stayed for 3 nights/4 days, all food included, and the hotel was just over 100 quid – bargain!) and it was the perfect combination of great get-away, at a fab price. My dear friend Sian was in Kerala last month – she travelled from the UK, and suffice to say she spent probably 10 times what we did on our trip.

After arriving at Kochin airport we were picked up by our lovely driver in an enormous, brand-new people carrier, and settled in for the drive down to Alleppey. Two and a half hours later (and some hairy driving) we arrived at the gorgeous Maria Heritage.   By this stage we were absolutely hank marvin, and thankfully they had a delicious meal prepared for us.

As you’d expect, curry featured on the menu a lot – I love spicy food so this was no issue. I have to say, by the last day, curry for breakfast was getting to be a bit much. We staggered off to bed, only to find that they were rock hard. I mean, like a stone. So hard that when I first tried to sit on it I actually ricocheted off it. I’ve had some bad nights sleep in my time but that first night was up there with the best of them.

Thankfully we had scheduled in precisely nothing for the next day – much to the amusement of our hostess. We hunkered down in the hammocks so thoughtfully provided in the garden, and got down to the difficult business of snoozing, book reading, and a bit more snoozing in the sunshine.

We did get up to go for an ayurvedic massage in the ‘spa’. I use the word loosely – it was a wooden table in a small shack – well this is India. It wasn’t really what I’d call a massage, more of a frantic rub with what smelt like cooking oil….but my skin was super soft afterwards and I did then sleep for another couple of hours afterwards….all good.

The next day we set off for one of the area’s famous house boats – gorgeous looking things with thatched roofs and all mod cons – ours had AC, a bedroom, and a bathroom with a shower and toilet! It was a super-relaxing, wonderful day. As you gently cruise up and down the waterways (which have a very lush, green, jungly feel to them) you get to see ordinary Indian people going about their lives. As you would expect, they don’t have much, living in extremely modest houses at the side of the river. And the river is their life-blood, they use it to bathe in, to drink from, to wash pots and pans and clothes in.

After that we went to a nearby town for some shopping, Indian style.  It was incredibly busy and bustling so we got in amongst the locals and had a good look round the shops.  Interestingly no-one sleazes at you (hello Beirut, Hello Damascus) and we felt incredibly safe the entire time.

Home for more curry and a last morning of lounging in the house whilst watching the torrential rain.  Then back to Dubai..

Visually, India was just what I expected - it looks a lot like Sr Lanka, green, tropical, lush.   When it came to the experience and the people I didn't know what to expect - well I can report that they are absolutely lovely, so friendly and welcoming.