Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TV Gold

As a woman whose tv isn’t actually connected, I don’t tend to watch a lot of tv shows at home, preferring to pick and choose the odd boxed set when I’m in the mood (who knew Allo Allo was so hilarious?!). But soon there’s tv gold to be had, and my laptop will be downloading a few gems from the BBC.

First off there’s Strictly: a fabulous plethora of sequins, inappropriate outfits, and lashings of fake tan. The gang has already agreed that Sunday nights will be reserved for communal watching sessions.

Secondly, there’s The Apprentice. I’m not a big fan of reality tv shows, but there’s something about the combination of deluded freaks that they put on the show, combined with Suralan’s caustic wit that has always had me in hysterics.

Some of my favourite comments from the lunatics they’ve lined up:

• I'm Stuart Baggs 'The Brand' - I've got a certain type of charisma’
My first word wasn't Mummy. It was money.
• I'm ruthless, even in Monopoly.
• I've read all your CVs and on paper you all look very good. But then again so does fish and chips.
Obviously that last one was from Suralan.

And of course, it’s always oh so easy to watch the hapless mugs try to complete a task from your own sofa, wine in hand, passing judgement on their terrible skills and brainpower, meaning that you, of course, are the next Richard Branson in comparison. It will be the first season that I’ve watched since moving to the Twilight Zone. I wonder if I’ll have any more sympathy for the contestants and if my retard-tolerance level will render watching the show easier or more difficult?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Drama at the Beach

I think I've posted quite enough about my preferred weekend activity of kicking back on a sunlounger with my favourite people and a pile of celebrity trash magazines large enough to sink the Titanic, so I won't bore you with more details on this.  Suffice to say it was the usual routine this weekend, with one small drama - a near drowning!  No, I'm not joking.

There we were, cooling down in the sea next to the Burj (which incidentally is a LOT colder than it used to be)  generally chewing the cud and gossiping.  About what, I can't remember.  Boys, fashion and make-up most probably.  The first time we heard a cry of 'help' we all looked at one another blankly.  "Did we really just hear that".  Then we heard it again - coming from a woman, quite far out - and very clearly shouting and in distress.  The lifeguards didn't appear to have heard her.

L and I looked at one another in horror. 1) I'm not into swimming in the sea 2) When I do swim I don't get my hair wet 3) I was wearing a pair of my favourite shades and didn't want to lose them 4) A strapless bacofoil bikini is not ideally suited to frantic sea-rescue missions.  Thankfully J came to the rescue.  "hold these" he bellowed as he thrust his Raybans into my hand, before proceeding to dive in, swim at high-speed, and pull the woman out from under the water.  It was all very Baywatch, let me tell you!

L and I basked in J's reflected hero glory ("Our friend just saved that woman!") as she was led away by the lifeguards.  We were imagining all sorts of drama - jellyfish sting, shark attack, but apparently she had 'got a bit tired' and couldn't stay afloat.  Not that I'm being disparaging about her predicament.  And obviously L and I would have helped out no-one else had stepped up.  That's if the bacofoil bikini was up to it and I didn't burn her retinas out before we got to her!  The whole incident was quite exhausting and we all retired to the sunloungers for a much needed snooze.  No change there then!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

You've Know Been Dubai-ed When....

It happens to us all eventually.  It creeps up on you without even realising it.  Just received this message from M: "I ordered a bright red leopard-print bikini yesterday - clearly I have been Dubai'ed !!"  Brilliant.

Don't get me wrong,  Dubai has many facets, and it's not all glitz and glam.  In fact we regularly eschew events and places that we think are going to be populated by the plastic fantastic set from the city.

But that said, there is something in Dubai's very DNA which ooozes glamour, charisma, sparkle and gloss.  And you can fight it all you like, but sooner or later it gets you.  It happened to me four months after I moved here.  A friend was visiting from the UK (hello Roz!) and I took her on a shopping trip.  Sunglasses were top of her list.  We entered a shop and I gaily went about picking up and trying on a variety of (what I thought were) suitable options.  Like an excited magpie I squeaked and squawked as I found pair after pair that I liked.  I was sure she would like them too.  After a few minutes I realised that she wasn't oohing and aahing with me.   More like looking a little aghast at my choices.  "Kelly!" she trilled.  "They might work in Dubai, but they won't work in Manchester!". Oh.

It appeared that rhinestone-encrusted, logo-stamped, sunglasses-so-large-they-could-be-seen-from-the-moon had now become completely acceptable, nay NECESSARY to me.  I'd been Dubai-ed.

This theme has continued throughout my wardrobe during my time here (hello strapless leopard print catsuit, hello skyscraper heels and wedges, hello accessories at the beach, the list goes on) with the peak of my Dubai bling purchases being...a tinfoil bikini.  Yes you heard right.  My hand would never have even hovered over such an item in good old Blighty, but here I virtually elbowed people out of the way here to get to it.  I have to admit to feeling intense trepidation about wearing it, and it remained in the cupboard for almost a month gathering dust before the light switched on in my head: this is Dubai - if you can't wear it here where can you wear it?  

Oh and - I'd like to think that I look like the picture above in it (it is exactly the same bikini) but as Miranda Kerr is a) 12 years old and b) hasn't eaten since 1990, it's not quite a mirror-image...If you'd like to see the bikini in action, head to any Dubai beach club at the weekend.  I'll be the one burning out peoples' retinas...

From Catwalk to Cross Trainer

Dragged myself to the gym for the first time in a week last night.  It wasn't pretty.  Amazing how quickly your body loses condition, despite you forcing it through more sessions in one month than you normally manage in six.  And call me old fashioned,but there's something about exercising when it's pitch black outside that I find particularly uninspiring.  Give me a hazy sunset any day of the week. 

Anyway as I slogged away, in an outfit that quite frankly, looked like I'd escaped from somewhere (and nowhere that considered fashion a priority), a couple of girls caught my eye.  They were slim, sexy, and swathed in body hugging lycra.  One was wearing an extremely short-shorts/leggings-underneath combo which looked as if it had come straight out of an MTV base video.  In short, they looked fabulous.  And so very Dubai. 

Now, I'm all for making as much effort as possible in Dubai: turning up to work in sheath dresses rather than shell-toes and boyfriend jeans, and heading for dinners and nights out in dresses that frankly, I would only have worn to a wedding in the UK.  But the one place where I am not prepared to dress up to the nines is the gym.  It's enough effort just mentally preparing myself, never mind having to overhaul the wardrobe too.  That said, my hand did just hover over the Stella McCartney Adidas range.  Fickle, me?!

Can Cook, Won't Cook....

I've been taking a bit of stick recently for my culinary skills.  Or lack of them.  It's true, I haven't spent a huge amount of time in the kitchen recently, and what time I have spent in there hasn't really centred around cooking (I'll leave that to your imagination).   

My whole family loves food, so as I grew up I was surrounded by great smells, recipes and dishes.  So when I left home at 18 I was always able to whip up a variety of great dishes, as my friends, housemates, and parents can testify.  When I had a live-in partner, I cooked, a lot, whatever time I fell through the door.  So why haven't I been slaving over a hot stove recently?  I laughed a lot when i was sent this as a possible explanation.  Let's be clear, the reasons are much more likely to be:

a) I've been trying to eat a lot less (that bacofoil bikini is so unforgiving) so producing calorie laden meals holds little appeal
b) M introduced me to sardines on toast (hideous but nutritious and no cooking time needed)
c) There's such a fabulous array of amazing restaurants in Dubai which I feel the need to frequent, frequently
d) I've never been the type to try to impress a man with my skills in the kitchen (unless they're non-cooking related, see above)
e) I simply can't be arsed
f) All of the above

I CAN cook, ok?!  Honest....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Where in The World?

The next adventure is booked: in November I’ll be jetting off to Singapore, and then onto Bali. If you know me you’ll know that my hunger for world-exploration has gone up about ten notches since I moved to Dubai – and it was pretty high before I got here. The top list of places I want to visit (in order of preference) are:

Singapore/Bali (tick)
Hong Kong
Vegas (probably unlikely due to distance but if accessible from Tokyo then all over it)

I don’t think it’s an unreasonable list and I’d quite like to cross Hong Kong off before the end of the year – we have another public holiday coming up in December which would make it feasible.

Thankfully my desert family is also like rats up drainpipes where this list is concerned. We all have a slightly different list but with some common denominators.

This has all been made much more fun (honestly) by the procurement of a giant world map, the likes of which I haven’t seen since geography lessons in secondary school. And speaking of which, despite getting an A in GCSE geography, I have learned that I haven’t a clue where anything in the world is!

When I told a colleague I was going to Bali he asked: “Why don’t you do Australia at the same time?” I thought this was a ludicrous question and said so. He gently explained that Bali is…right next to Australia. Who knew!? And don’t even get me started on the fact that I thought Vietnam was only a 3 hour flight away. I’ll get my coat.

We spent a hilarious ten minutes scouring the map the other night at M’s, with much wine-fuelled exclamations: “Oh, so that’s where Hawaii/Beijing/Mauritius/Vietnam etc etc is.” Well, there’s only one way to truly know your way around a world map, and that’s to jump on a plane and see as much of it as possible. Watch this space.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Powers of the Internet

I had to help the global team on a pitch this weekend….I can’t say who for, but it’s a hotel brand, and one I’d love to work for. The team wanted some quotes from me about travel – why I love it, what it means to me, and a couple of photos of me in exotic locations around the world. Both requests were easy peasy in theory…

BUT I didn’t have my lap-top and I still haven’t sorted an internet connection at home. I duly typed out a quote on the Blackberry, but had to inform the team that all of my photos (of which there are hundreds that fit the bill) were at work, and un-emailable. “Not to worry” came the response. “We’ve found a picture of you on the internet. It’s not ideal, but it will do.” My heart sank. My blood ran cold. “Don’t worry, we’ll email it to you so you can have a look,” they said.

The photo came through. It’s a photo of me, in Hive, in front of the dj booth. Drunk. On ladies night. How they ever thought this was appropriate, I do not know! And interestingly I was going by my alter-ego “Kelly De Bunny’ that night. Obviously I am now off to frantically Google myself and delete anything else inappropriate that I find!

Just Another Birthday in the Sunshine...

Another weekend, another trip to the beach…..we’ve been a little at a loss since Shoreside closed down – and with the sad news that it isn’t re-opening, we’ve had to look further afield for our beach fix.  As it was M’s birthday weekend, we allowed her to choose the venue, and she plumped for the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.  It’s a stalwart of the Dubai hotel scene, with a fabulous rooftop bar, Uptown, and of course the amazing 360.  The latter is a circular bar, which you reach via a narrow causeway…and it’s in the middle of the ocean.  Gorgeous.  It’s also right next to the Burj Al Arab – priceless location.

In typical Dubai beach style, we were rocking out a variety of fabulous bikinis…purple, white, frilled and my favorite (mine) silver.  When I say silver I mean tinfoil-like.  Only in Dubai would my hands have ever lingered on such an item, least still, grabbed at hungrily and charged to the cash register with.  It’s so wrong it’s right is all I’m going to say.  

We duly collapsed onto the ridiculously comfy loungers, handed round celebrity trash magazines, and got on with the business of tanning and talking boys fashion and make-up.  All interspersed with free ice lollies, water misting and a regular supply of iced, lemon scented towels.  Occasionally a helicopter came into land on the heli-pad of the Burj.  Spoilt, us?

The evening saw us head down to the marina and to Frankie Dettori’s restaurant.  I may have blogged about this before – it’s one of my favourite Dubai eateries, and not just because I love Italian food.  It has a great piano bar, which leads to a great atmosphere.  There’s usually a fair few Italians in there which I think is always a sign of a restaurant that’s cracked the formula.  We troughed, we troughed some more, we slurped wine, all with lashings of gossip and boys fashion make-up chat.  There’s a theme here! 

It’s always hard to come up with birthday celebrations, as it really does seem like every weekend in Dubai is a birthday, such is the fun that we have.  This was a good weekend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Christmas in the Desert

It's never to early to think about Christmas when you're an ex-pat, as it inevitably involves a discussion about where you're going to be.  Thankfully this discussion has always been very short since I moved to Dubai: I want to be in the sunshine, thanks very much!  The first year I was here I did nip back to Manchester in the December, which was all very lovely: fur hat, fur boots, fur stole....oh and the mulled wine at the German markets.  But apart from the fashion and the festive beverages, I really don't find much to commend about the UK in wintertime - wanting to escape the sleet, snow, hail, and freezing fog is one of the prime reasons that I left in the first place.

Thankfully my gorgeous mini-family are just as in love with Dubai as I am, and whilst I know my dad would love a cheeky pint in a down and dirty Manchester pub over Christmas, he manages to somehow kick back with the bottled designer beers and numerous stylish bars in my home city.  So today I gleefully booked their flights; no mean feat considering the Jersey - London combo and timings.  Without wishing to bore you, there are no flights from Jersey to Heathrow, only Jersey to Gatwick, meaning that I was faced with a choice of schlepping them across London in a taxi to Heathrow, or biting the bullet and paying for the pricier tickets.  Without quoting figures - the flights are daylight robbery.  In the end I decided that they have enough of an incredible journey ahead of them, which they wouldn't have to endure if I hadn't decided to move out here, so I took the pricier path of least resistance.  They're worth it. 

The inevitable itinerary is being worked on as we speak....the authorities are on full alert...I've booked my place at the Betty Ford clinic for the day that they leave....can't wait.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is There Anybody Out There?

If you write a blog, there are times when you wonder: is there really anyone out there reading this?  You try to make your posts witty, interesting, revealing (whilst keeping your dignity intact) and yet you could still be (figuratively) shouting into a black hole.  So it's all very lovely when I remember that I have a handy little Google tool that tells me that....people are reading! 

To be honest I'm not exactly sure why - I originally really started blogging so that I could update everyone on my move to Dubai.  I didn't really expect to still be writing two and a half years later.  And there are times when I go extremely quiet - if you don't have something interesting to say, don't say anything at all!

Here's some facts which I found interesting....for some reason August was a busy month.....45% of you are loyal, regular readers (hello, mum!) and the remainder are new.  The biggest readers are from the States (accidental?) the second highest is the UAE, and the third highest is the UK.  Others are Australia (hello Lee!), India and Canada.

I can tell where people have landed from, and staggeringly, some dear people are actually typing 'Britney of Arabia blog' into Google!

Note to self: Really must try harder to find interesting things to blog about or this isn't going to continue!

The Wisdom of Friends

Feeling very sober at the moment.  Not just because I’m on the wagon (don’t ask) but because there’s a weird feeling in the air at the moment.  Whenever I’m feeling a little ungrounded I reach out to the people I love most in the world, and this time I had a chat to Mr L in Manchester.  He’s one of my oldest (quite literally – ha ha – sorry Mr L) friends and always cheers me up.  But this time he was the one feeling glum – a friend of his had just died of a heart attack.  Yikes. 

Then there was news of a girl who killed herself here in Dubai.  Let’s be clear – I don’t know her/never met her, but it did start me thinking about my lovely uncle, who did the same thing when I was a small child.  I have one fabulous photo of us together – I’m all blonde tumbling ringlets and bridesmaid dress, he’s sporting a debonair seventies hairstyle and enormous tache.  We’re both laughing and it’s a stunning shot.  He can’t have been more than 25 when he died, and my cousins were my age ie 3 or 4, and just born.  It’s something that I haven’t thought about for probably 30 years, but it’s been on my mind for a few days.

I’m all for mulling over lessons that life throws at me, but those who know me well know that dropping into a slump isn’t my usual style at all, so what to do to change this status quo?  

In the words of Mr L: “Don’t be glum - I have had a rude awakening.  Burying (or actually cremating) one of your friends is a sobering experience and it makes you stop, take stock and look at what's going on.  I am going to make each day count.”  Sage advice.

So this week I shall be mostly: booking flights for the family to visit at Christmas, sorting a November break to Singapore and Bali, and hitting up my international playboy friend Rich in Hong Kong about putting me up in December.  Which all sounds much more like me.  You have been warned…..

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back to the Grindstone

It's the first day back in the office after Ramadan, and it's really not a treat so far.  My body had completely acclimatised to rolling out of bed at 9.15, and was not at all happy about the earlier start.  I can't imagine it's going to feel much better at 7 when I get out of this place!  Hey ho.  It feels like all I've done for the last few days is eat and drink, so we're all on the wagon, and in varying stages of bootcamp/pilates/slimming green coffee (no, really).  Welcome to dullsville!

Sorry to moan. I shouldn't really complain as the aforementioned eating and drinking was with my favourite people, partly on a mini break at the Jebel Ali hotel and partly just hanging out in Dubai.  As M pointed out, people spend good money coming to Dubai for along weekend, so just being here is like a mini-vacation!

 In a bit of a slump today. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

All Good Things Come to an End

We’re heading into the last week of Ramadan here, and this year, it’s really been a treat for me. I love Ramadan, and I’ve blogged about it before. Of course there’s a huge amount of religious protocol to be observed and for my Muslim friends, it’s significant in a different way. For me, as a non religious bod, it’s wonderful to be able to embrace the social aspect – iftars with good friends, catching up with people, great food, and home by 8.30 to collapse on the sofa – what’s not to love?!

And for the first time in three years I’ve actually, more or less, managed to work reduced hours – a blissful 10-4. This has never happened before and is such a treat. To be in the gym (yes, the gym) for 4.30 means that you can exercise, feel smug, AND have social life and be propping up a bar by 8. Rather than falling through the front door at 8, which is sadly so often the case.

We’re already lamenting the end of Ramadan and the short sharp shock that will be a 10 hour working day. I’m determined that my rigorous gym schedule won’t be compromised, but really, you’re a better woman than I am if you can face the gym at 7 am or 8 pm. Which leads to only one conclusion: boot camp. Whilst it pains me to even utter those two little words, I fear that it’s the only solution. That, or this young man. Watch this space.

Home is Where the Heat Is...

I know, I’ve been so quiet since I’ve been back from the U of K – not like me at all. I promise to try harder this month!

We’re right in the middle of vacay season here which has meant that the desert family has been missing key individuals throughout August – most disconcerting. Anyway, we’re all back now, and missed one another so much that we have a new rule: one goes, we all go! I.e if we’re off on holiday we go together, and if we’re going back to the UK, we all go at the same time. It’s just easier that way.

Everyone was champing at the bit to get back home for their annual visits, After a year without seeing home, catching up with friends and family, putting up with retards on a daily basis, you yearn for some sensible attitudes, good customer service, and a real , actual breath of fresh air. But as Dubai can be such a transient place, if the truth be told, everyone’s eagerness to get home was niggling at me a little bit. E had been homesick and dying to get back to see her girlfriends. F couldn’t wait to get back to the states and was even talking about moving to London. M was missing her mum and L was looking forward to trips to Paris, Manchester and Liverpool. And everyone else was just, well, keen to get out of Dubai. We kept in touch, of course, as the family left, and began their exciting jaunts around their home countries. We commented on the photos of drunken nights out, reunions, and watched as everyone generally had a riot back home. And then we waited for them to return.

And then an interesting thing happened. They all came home, one by one, and bar none, declared that they ‘couldn’t wait to be back home in Dubai.” Home wasn’t the UK any more. Home was Dubai. It was a refreshing revelation, and interesting that each and every one of us reached that conclusion at pretty much the same time. All talk of ‘where next’ and ‘how much longer’ has completely dissipated.

Let’s be clear, it’s not that we hate the UK, and we’re all feeling torn about leaving friends and family behind – that’s a given. It’s just that there’s so much to love about Dubai, and after two years, we’ve all put down roots here. Roots that go deeper than I think any of us had realized. We’re already back into the old routines: wine after work, pool and beach at the weekend, and just as soon as Ramadan is over, we’ll be storming a dancefloor near you. Dubai, we missed you. And there really is no place like home.

Hello, Good Morning

If you know me, you’ll know I’m a pretty cheerful person. I’m generally in a good mood, and I treat people as I like to be treated – nicely. In the UK I’d always say hello to the postman and have a chat with the owner of the nearby newsagent. So I’ve obviously brought this attitude with me to Dubai, but now I’m wondering if it needs to change. Because Dubai is so full of people hanging around generally waiting to help you, or with unidentifiable jobs, it now takes me about ten minutes longer to exit the house and get to work. This morning is a prime example, I said hello to:
  • The man outside my apartment doing something with the wiring
  • The man in the lobby swiffing (no, really) the floor
  • The concierge (who also opens the door for me and tells me to have a nice day)
  • The security guard outside my building (not sure what he’s securing)
  • The taxi driver (who I also have a little chat with about Ramadan, his day and how it’s going so far)
  • The man cleaning the doors to the elevators in my office building
Once in the office there are of course numerous work colleagues, the office boys, and a couple of randoms who I’ve never seen before but say hello to all the same. I’m exhausted!

I’m joking, of course, about ignoring them all. I could try, but I just couldn’t do it. Especially when I’m sure that so many people in Dubai do ignore people, or worse still, are just plain rude. In the words of the Wagamama’s delivery man last night: “Kelly, I always look forward to seeing you as you are always so happy. A lot of my customers are not.” Bless him. A smile costs nothing, people! (PS I don't order Waga's delivery that often. Honest)