Sunday, September 08, 2013

Pregnancy Reading Material

As a voracious reader and someone with a thirst for knowing as much as possible about anything unknown, it will probably come as no surprise that I have been reading A LOT during this pregnancy. As one friend pointed out: "If Britney hasn't read the book, it's probably because that book hasn't been printed yet."

You could go wild in the book aisles (and I did) but here is a small selection of my favourites:

I LOVE Tess. This isn't a manual so much as a lovely memoir of pregnancy, birth and beyond. As someone who comes across as refreshingly normal, this felt a bit like having a chat with a friend rather than a preachy 'you must do la la la' book. Good fashion tips too.

This is HILARIOUS!! A week by week guide that has literally had me guffawing. It's possibly the only that one that i could persuade the husband to read (no luck yet). I cannot recommend this enough. Note: It was previously called 'The Rough Guide to Pregnancy and Birth."

I know the next two books divide people, but I am all over learning anything that might help, in any small way. I'm a complete novice. A friend said she tore two pages out of this, stuck them on the fridge, threw the rest of the book away. Guess what's on my fridge?!

As above. I've enjoyed this book. Whether any of it is actually realistic or not, I shall have to find out.

Pregnant in 48 Degree Heat: What to Wear at the Weekend?

This is a slightly easier challenge. Skinny jeans become less attractive in the heat of the Summer, pregnant or not, so I would usually switch over to dresses. And I am a woman who owns A LOT of dresses.

I was been lucky enough to still fit into some of my bodycon Whistles numbers at 6 months (god bless lyrca) and lots of my beautiful silk shift dressses and batwing kaftan numbers were just born for pregnant women to wear.

Obviously it's always good to update your wardrobe, especially when you are starting to feel like a cow. Couple of my best weekend purchases below...

This nautical number is ACE. Fab with converse and equally good with pumps or flip flops. I would have worn this even when not pregnant, which is a good yardstick, in my opinion.

Image 1 of ASOS Maternity Exclusive Bodycon Dress with Colour Block Stripe

This dress might look a bit dullsville but it's amazing on. I wear it with nude heels (when not much walking is required) for dinner and drinks, it also works well with flip flops and casual lunches. Very fitted, very comfy. 

Image 1 of ASOS Maternity Exclusive Bodycon Midi Dress With Half Sleeve

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This Too Shall Pass....

There are some pregnancy symptoms which, quite frankly, you could do without. I shan't list them here as my husband reads this blog, and he really doesn't need to know about some of them. (I'm a 'bathroom with the door closed' and 'no flatulence in front of the other half' kind of girl.)

Thankfully, I'm lucky that two very good friends of mine back in the UK (hello J and S!) are pregnant at the same time as me. One is due 4 weeks before, one 5 days after me. What are the chances?!

We soon became dab hands at exhanging emails and messages, usually titled 'What Fresh Hell is This?!'. This meant that when, on waking, and realising something was amiss/something had moved/something didn't feel quite right, I had two fantastic sources to check in with. And when you're half way round the world and know very few people with children, this is an absolute godsend.

And when I was in the depths of some dodgy symptom or other, tired or in pain, I clung to the fact that whatever it was, it usually passed. And a few days later it would. Hang in there ladies.....

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blazers Still Fit!

Gwen: Always an inspiration
Newsflash!!!! (Mainly of interest to pregnant women) BLAZERS STLL FIT!!! To be fair I haven't had to expand my wardrobe too much, but it's quite clear that a large proportion of items are no longer feasible. Which makes a walk round the mall a) dull and b) disheartening. Minimal interest in shops when I can't fit into anything. 

This weekend, a revelation:  blazers still fit! I love a blazer. Big fan of wearing one over dresses for work, or skinnies and a t-shirt at the weekend. So to discover that these still fit, AND with the right cut they can actually nip you in a bit and give you a good shape was a joyous moment. I snaffled one up in bright yellow - well, anything to distract from my tired face, hey! It has most definitely perked me up no end.

Mine was from Zara, but they are everywhere, ladies. Enjoy!

New Habits: Troughing

Me, at pretty much any time of day.
I never really had a sweet tooth. Sure, I'd scoff Creme Eggs at Easter and I do love anything from the lovely Mr Kipling. But I'm a cheese or crisps kinda gal at heart. Add in the fact that I do like to eat as healthily as possible, and I'm just not a big indulger in all things sweet as they tend to gravitate to my middle and thighs.

That all changed when I became Up The Duff (UTD). I fought it, I really did. But I've found myself leaning towards sugary treats like Kim Kardashian after a hunger strike. 

Things I find myself eating most on a regular basis that I SWEAR never normally touch my lips:
  • Pain au Chocolat
  • Cinammon Whirls
  • Creme Eggs (to be fair, a usual occurrence, especially round Easter)
  • Ice-cream (nightly)
The Husband watches with a wry smile as I scoff the above items - he isn't used to seeing me with my snout in the fridge quite so much, and certainly not emerging with anything unhealthy.

I reasoned with myself: on a normal evening I might have a couple of glasses of wine, on a night out, a bottle. Which meant I had HUNDREDS of spare calories to consume, non? And I kept repeating the mantra: pregnant women only need and extra 2-300 calories a day, so I did exercise some restraint. And at 24 weeks, with no one any the wiser that I was pregnant, it seemed to work...but a lot can happen in the final few months. As I hurtle towards 33 weeks, watch this space.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pregnant in 48 Degree Heat: What to Wear to Work?

It is not easy dressing in a Dubai summer at the best of times. Throw in being pregnant, add the fact that hardly any stores here stock maternity clothes (wake up Gap/Top Shop/H&M etc etc) and you have a real problem. 

I've been lucky that I could stretch my pre-maternity wardrobe until around six months, at which point something had to give. Yes, I could pull my trousers up , but this is not much use if you can't sit down in them.

My work wardrobe saviour was - they deliver to Dubai! Stylish, reasonably priced clothes for work and weekend. And I also had a lovely girlfried who visited and brought some of my purchases with her. I say some. I took up at least 50% of her baggage alloowance. Now that's a true friend.

Here are my some purchases that got me through the hot days when I needed to look professional and a bikini just wouldn't cut it:

Swing Dresses

This one is a lovely stretchy crepe with dinky gathered cuffs. Great with a blazer, huge necklace and ballet pumps. I have it in black.

Image 1 of ASOS Maternity Swing Dress In Crepe

This is also great for work - a bit more casual with cute pockets at the front. Again, in black. I do usually love wearing colour and am not a fan of black. But black seemed to work better for me in this case - I had the fear of looking like a giant walking piece of fruit in any other colour.

Image 1 of ASOS Maternity Shift Dress With Pockets And 3/4 Sleeve

Long Skirt

I'm not really a floaty kind of skirt girl, but this black number was elegant, can be worn with ballet pumps or converse depending on the day, and dressed up with a blazer if necessary. And my LORD it is comfy.

Image 1 of ASOS Maternity Exclusive Maxi Skirt with Foldover Top

Lounge Pants

These are really best worn with converse and a denim jacket, but with a good blouse and pumps, they did for work too. They were like pulling on molten silk and I suspect will be worn long after the baby is born.

Image 1 of ASOS Maternity Exclusive Lounge Pants With Fold Over

What I Ate Today. (Answer: Everything.)

Me, in a few months, I expect
Did I mention I've been hungry during this pregnancy? Well, I am. In addition to his I'm actually under doctor's orders to eat more as baby Britney is a little on the small side. 

This is quite the mental transition: from a very healthy and moderate eater to a crazed fridge raider. Such is life. 

Just to illustrate quite how much I am packing away, I give you, my daily food diary. Brace yourselves. And perhaps loosen your belts....

2 x apples
1 x yoghurt
1 x tuna salad
1 x strawberry smoothie
1 x bag of hula hoops
1 x donut
1 x bounty 
1 x ice cream
1 x corned beef hash

I ask you, IS THERE ANY NEED??!!!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Mothercare: Just Say No

Me, on exit
This week I faced my own personal Vietnam of pregnancy: I went to Mothercare.

Have you ever been in Mothercare? If so, and you have managed to emerge without weeping, clawing for air and despairing of the human race, you are a stronger woman than me. Here are the main reasons that I will be avoiding Mothercare like the plague FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

1) The Shop Assistants
Let's be clear, Dubai customer service is poor at the best of times. Expect to approach most stores (esepcially beauty or clothing) armed with far, far more knowledge than the shop assistants. How I yearn for New York, where the women on the Estee Lauder counter can analyse your skin at 20 paces, and make skincare and make-up recommendations with one eye closed.

The staff at Mothercare take incompetence to a whole new level. Bear in mind that I am far from a typically maternal fawning woman, whose knowledge of baby equipment hovers around the low to zero level. And yet I still knew more about car seats than the indept twerp who attempted to serve me. I rest my case.

2) There's SO MUCH stuff
The Mothercare in Dubai Mall must cover the size of four football pitches if not more. To be fair, if this floorplan was full of clothes, shoes, cosmetics or capybaras, I'd be more interested. But the vastness of it overwhelmed me. Who buys this stuff? And why?

3) The Clothes Are Offensive
I should have known better than to stray into the maternity clothes section. What I found there rendered me speechless. Hideous outfits that my grandmother would baulk at and refuse to wear (she isn't nicknamed Joan Collins for nothing!).

4) It is FULL of Other People's Children
I know this is a tad ironic given that I'll soon have one of my own, but the children in Mothercare seem to be a special breed. An out of control, screaming, raging, mayhem causing breed. I swear my ear drums are still whimpering.

Never mind all the advice about what to eat/what not to eat/what to do with a baby/what not to do with a baby: mothers of the world, please share the most important advice of all: ENTER MOTHERCARE AT YOUR PERIL.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Pregnancy Glow

Heidi has it. Bxxxh!
We've all heard about it. Thousands of pregnant women are no doubt trying to find it: that elusive glow that everyone raves about.

I definitely started to look better after about week twenty. My hair and nails - which always grow super fast in Dubai - were even longer, the aching exhaustion passed, and I felt good. Most of the time I forgot I was pregnant.

And then the heat kicked in.

Dubai in Summer is testing for the best of us, never mind being six or months pregnant. But here's the thing: if you time your car to office walk just right, that slight mist of dewy humidity on your cheeks can (almost) make you look like you've found the Holy Grail of pregnancy glow.

Sadly, if your timing is off, you look like something that the cat coughed up: wet, slimy and to be avoided.

I enjoyed the gamble.

And on the days when I lost I thanked the lord for MAC face powder and this stuff.

The Kindness of Strangers

I am blessed with truly lovely real-life friends who have been an absolute tower of strength throughout my pregnancy.

And I have also encountered overwhelming kindness and support from people who I have either: never met in my life, met very infrequently, or not caught up with in years. Truly incredible.

There was the lady I met on a Dubai forum, who had the same challenges as me, but was pregnant with twins after 4 rounds of IVF. Safe to say I take my hat off to her for how she's handling things. We met online, and graduated to daily emails with updates and support. We shared medical information, hospital advice (crucial) and cheered one another on through dark times and happy times. Our emails literally got me through the day on more than one occasion.

Then there was the lady on a UK forum who also was in the same medical situation, who emailed me before and after emergency surgery, and who even set up an online group where about 15 of us checked in and chatted (virtually) about what we were going through. And what we were going through really wasn't easy. They are an amazing bunch. Again, I have never met any of these lovely ladies.

And then there were the amazingly thoughtful messages and emails from blogger friends and ex-work colleagues that I hadn't spoken to in YEARS. Truly incredible.

Living away from home, going through a high-risk pregnancy, it's hard not to feel isolated. The kindness shown to me by strangers and those far away, the support, advice and joy they gave me, has been immense. Words really can't express how much they have meant. Thank you all.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How to Not Look Half Dead when Pregnant

See! Lovely!
There's heaps of tips on how to distract from the fact that you are getting fat as a pig when pregnant. As a fan of oversized everything (sunglasses, jewellery, handbags) I already have a lot of these in my armour, and am rocking them on a regular basis to even out my growing tum. 

But by far one of the simplest tricks I found was good old fashioned lipstick. My secret weapon? Chanel Rouge Coco, in shade Mademoiselle. It's the perfect shade of pink: attention grabbing enough that people notice it, not so bright you look like an explosion in a Girls Aloud factory.

I can't take the credit for this find, a few years ago in the fair city of Manchesterford I Single White Femaled it from my friend Emma. Turned out she'd SWF'd it from our good friend Vikki (Von Straussbag). 


However we discovered this, the end result is the same. I've found that a simple sweep of this joyous tube really distracts people and has actually led to hugely positive comments. And as I've discovered, a pregnant woman will seek out a compliment like a pig searching for truffles. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What's in a Name?

It's a big responsibility, naming a child. Now cats, cats I can name. But there's a world of difference between a whimsical, slightly comical name (Frank, Benjamin etc) and a name that a human being has to live with not just as a baby and toddler, but fully functioning adult.

Obviously I am approaching this like any normal person: I have an excel spreadsheet split into: Boys/Girls (obv), and then 'English/Arabic'. It seemed only right that a child born in the country that we've grown to love and call home, should have a name which reflects this.

When I told my lovely Iraqi/American friend of this plan, she was quick to point out a potential pitfall. 

"Britney!" she mused. 
"Bear in mind you'll have a British baby. 
Born in the United Arab Emirates. 
With an Arabic name. 
You are just asking for trouble at immigration desks around the world!" 

She made a good point. 

As it is, the husband and I can't agree on anything, male or female.So the poor child may be nameless for some time. Rumours that Burj Khalifa/Fazza/Twiglet are front runners are completely unsubstantiated!

It will be a nice surprise for you, dear readers!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hunger Games

How dare someone photograph me at breakfast!
You do hear stories about women eating for England whilst pregnant (hello Jessica Simpson!) and there is no doubt that I've been troughing more than usual. I'm aware of what I'm eating, and especially aware that as on an exercise ban from the consultant, I don't have my usual option of running off any extra calories each night.

I've operated three main modes when it comes to food during this pregnancy:

Zero interest (sick as dog)
Self-explanatory really. Whilst I was luckier than most in that I was never actually sick, I did feel grim and hungover until about 12 weeks. Thankfully this was almost predictable to the minute (11 am -1 pm each day) so I could pre-plan. My handbag was never without breakfast bars and dried fruit boxes for the first 12 weeks.

Don't Stand Still, I Might Eat YOU!
I've been hungry before, of course. But until pregnant I had never experienced hunger so bad that it gnawed at my insides and rendered me absolutely incapable of doing ANYTHING other than eat. To the point where I would be reduced to tears and/or violence if anything stood between me and a meal. Again, this was mainly for the first 12 weeks (husband drew huge sigh of relief when we passed this milestone).

"Honestly, I'm Not Hungry." UNTIL Food is in Front of Me.
Towards the end of the second trimester I was really relaxed about food. The sickness had long gone. I wasn't ravenous. I was relaxed. Or so I thought. 

I've now discovered that once a plate of food is in front of me, whether at home, or in a restaurant, I chow down with the ferocity and enthusiasm of someone setting a Guinness World Record for Speed Eating. It ain't pretty, let me tell you. I could clear a plate in the time it takes for others to pick up their cutlery and re-arrange their napkin. Which I can just about get away with at home, but which is NOT a good look in a restaurant. What to do? I'm powerless. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Where's the Bump

I couldn't let this be me...
It took me a while to start getting fat. I was still scampering around in a bikini at 22 weeks with no one anyone the wiser and zero bump. At this point I'd put on about 4 pounds. That said, my trousers did start to feel tight. And believe me, there is nothing worse than rushing to get to work and then realising in the melee that your trousers don't zip up and you have naff all to wear.

My tip to avoid this? As soon as you realise a garment is too small, put it away. Don't cling onto it in the hope that somehow you'll squeeze it back on. You may well be able to get the zip up, but as soon as you move you'll feel like you're being cut in half by a cheese wire.

In my case I had a storage box in a bedroom wardrobe where I sadly bid adieu to my loved and much enjoyed pre-fatso clothes. 

The way I looked at it, it's something to look forward to when the sprog pops out and you snap back into shape immediately, yeah? (snorts derisively.)

I fought the urge to burst into tears as my favourite Whistles skinny jeans went into the box. Along with the pencil skirts and much, much more.

So long, dear friends. See you in 2014.

Crying Over Split Milk...and Everything in Between.

Watch out, there's a blubber about!
Lord knows there's been reasons for tears this pregnancy. It's been stressful and high risk, and therefore traumatic on far too frequent occasions. However I think it's safe to say that not all of my tears have necessarily been rational. 

One thing I realised early in is that pregnant women cry like fountains. Well this pregnant women does anyway. Show me a picture of a kitten on a plate and I could easily break down.

Top (ridiculous) things I have cried about so far this pregnancy:
My GHDs smashed
The husband was well and truly to blame for this one, in his rambunctious striding across the bedroom he tripped on the cord, as I was using them. As I saw them ricochet out of my hand and onto the tiled bedroom floor, I knew it wasn't going to end well. Ceramic plates and tiles are not the best bed fellows. And as I picked the shattered pieces up, I cried like a baby. I was half way through getting ready for afternoon tea at Atmosphere in the Armani Hotel, it was 40 degrees outside, I looked like an Afghan hound at the groomers : the 'before' shot.

Ghds are extremely hard to find in Dubai, and when you do, they cost around 200 quid. In my defence I probably would have wept over this when not pregnant.

Molly the cat stayed out (almost) all night

We tend to keep MTC in at night. She's black, cars drive fast, the roads aren't that well lit. And well, I just feel better knowing her hairy wide ass is snoring and safe within the walls of Casa Satwa. To be fair, she rarely shows any interest in going out, at all, during the summer months so it's not usually an issue.

One night she did venture out, and there was no sign of her at midnight. I had visions of her poor broken body at the side of the road (morbid thoughts also more frequent when up the duff I found). My mind imagined her dying a long painful death, ALONE.

This just broken my heart into a million pieces. Hot fat tears ran down my face as I explained this to the husband. And I cared not one jot that I was sat in a crowded bar as this happened.

Obviously when we got home she was nonchalantly on the front step like nothing had happened. I gathered her up and whispered sweet nothings into her hairy ears. The husband eye rolled.

Raw bacon
Only a pregnant woman can understand the ravaging hunger that can come over you. This, coupled with morning sickness, can make you like a heat seeking missile where food is concerned. 

So you can imagine my horror when sick as a dog, starving, yet realised I was physically repulsed by the (normally) delicious pack of bacon in the fridge. I literally couldn't touch it without dry heaving. When then turned into huge heaving sobs. Not my finest hour.

Sad movies
Pregnant women: do yourselves a favour: do not watch The Quartet (nursing home with old folks and Billy Connolly) or Song for Marion (woman dying of terminal cancer). Well you can, but you will be bereft for DAYS. I sobbed into a towel in the bathroom for at least three consecutive nights.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pitter Patter in Le Famille Britney

The times, they are a'changing. 

I'm getting fat for the second time in my entire adult life. 

(The first time was a few years into Dubai when I put on about 10 pounds. I was miserable for 6 months until I stopped eating like a pig. Then I returned to my happy, svelter self.)

Why, you say? Yes, you guessed, I'm up the duff! 

What, you hadn't guessed? Well luckily I haven't turned into Kim Kardashian (yet). Although there is plenty of time for that. And, if you live overseas, you haven't had a chance to see me from the waist down (god bless Skype).

You may have gathered from the low key Las Vegas wedding that I'm not a pomp and ceremony kinda gal. So don't expect this to turn into some glowing, slushy, Earth-Mother baby blog. But I will share some observations and tips (bear in mind I am far from your traditional fawning pregnant woman) which may or may not entertain you. 

Answers to anticipated questions:

  • No, we don't know if it's a boy or a girl
  • Yes, I was sick as a dog at the start (never actually threw up)
  • Yes, I have felt the baby kicking
  • Yes, this heat is killing me
  • No, I haven't had any strange cravings
  • Yes, the husband is the giddiest goat on the block (as am I)
  • Yes, I am having the baby in Dubai
  • No, this doesn't mean it is a UAE citizen
  • No, we haven't decorated a nursery

Oh, and all things being equal, baby Britney will be rocking our world by the end of October.

Watch this space.

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's That Time Again

Home Sweet Home
I've said this before, when it comes to visa renewal time I'm always a little surprised. Can two, three or five years really whistle round that quickly?!

The last time was back in 2011, before that 2008. My first visa took forever to come through, but more than that, I couldn't help but wonder: would I stay in Dubai for a WHOLE THREE YEARS??!!

Fast forward five years to my second renewal and it's fair to say that should they ever announce permanent visas for UAE ex-pats, I will be first in the queue. Elbows at the ready!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

My Name's Monica, and I'm a cleanaholic

Love it! (Disclaimer: not my hand, not my sofa.)
I make no secret of the fact that I like things neat and tidy. It's not for nothing that I've been compared to Monica from Friends in the past. In the words of the woman herself: 

"If it's not a right angle, it's a wrong angle!!"

OK I'm not quite that bad, aside from anything else I have precious little time to arrange things symmetrically like a crazy person, but I am a sucker for a tidy room, organised closets and orderly drawers. I just feel more calm and soothed when everything is in its rightful place, and will happily pad around the villa for an hour on Friday morning neatening things up after the usual whirlwind of the working week.

It's meant a few clashes with DH. He's a pretty typical man: ie just doesn't seem to SEE mess or be bothered by it all. He can step over pants on the floor for a full week without thinking: " what are these clothes in a heap here?" or "perhaps I should move them."

We've rubbed along ok - I've relaxed a little about high-jumping the pile of pants, he's learnt the route to the washing machine and dishwasher.

One thing that has bothered me for a long time (and is nothing to do with DH, god love him) is our sofa. It's been around for a few years, survived a few years, and it's textured grey nature has meant for me, it just MUST have been hiding a multitude of sins.

This being Dubai, one quick call, 25 quid later and a team of little men turn up to clean it. They arrived with what looked like a white dalek, and giddily went about what can only be described as 'wet vaccuming' the couch.

Their giddiness reached fever pitch when I got giddy about the whole process too. I was then treated to a description of the process so detailed and enthusiastic that I'm pretty sure I could now turn my hand to the career of sofa-vacuuming, should I wish to.

One hour later they left, the sofa was resplendent in its new, sweet smelling, sparkling glory. I swear it looked brand new.

"Look!" I exclaimed to DH!  "It looks amazing no! And smells fantastic, hey!"

He cast an eye over their results with a bemused expression. "This makes you happy darling?" 

"Yes!" I squeaked.

"Well in that case let's get it cleaned whenever you like."

Ah. His housework misdemeanors were all forgiven in a flash.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Good Morning World!

Good morning world!
I love my journey to work. Aside from the fact that it's 8 minutes by car (used to be the same on foot) it's a really great route. 

After pootling through some of the oldest residential streets in the city, I head down a large main road. Although this is sparkling and well groomed (as are all of Dubai's roads) you can tell it's been around for donkey's years. It's flanked by trees: big trees, not the skinny, newly planted ones in Downtown. These are so wide you'd struggle to get your arms round them, with branches so vast you could get the cast of Fame in the shadows they spread. 

The palm trees are old too. Like the gnarly older brothers of the Downtown Boulevard palm trees, their knotted trunks and oh-so bushy tops make them look markedly different to the usual sanitised Dubai palm trees.

At the end of the road I turn onto the huge highway that takes me into the office, and am met with the (always) resplendent sight of Sheikh Zayed road, complete with skyscrapers, the Burj Khalifa, but also piles of low rise villas back from the days when Dubai was a pile of sand with no electricity and A/C. Oh, and 99.9% of the time there's a backdrop of blue sky and sunshine. Joy. I love love loved my walks to work through the Manchester streets, but it's hard to beat this view as I head to the office each day...

Always impresses me...

Saturday, May 04, 2013

The Card's in the Post...Oh Really!?

My reaction to the bill. Minus tie and dodgy hair.
You probably know by now that Dubai has no postal system. Ridiculous, I agree. 

If you're in the UK, you CAN still send things here, if you're prepared to go to the post office and pay a little extra for an air mail stamp. 

Or, you could of course courier something, if you really wanted to. 

No one ever uses this option. 

In fact, it's rare to get any post at all. 

I have a few friends who do send me mini parcels on a regular basis, and when they arrive, they are like GOLD. The office boy chirpily brings them to my desk like one of the wise men clutching precious Frankincense. Honestly, it's THAT big an occasion when a parcel arrives from the mystical 'U.K'.

If you're in Dubai and want to send anything to the UK, the post office is a bit of a waste of time. There's a very good chance it will never get there. This means that in order to sort birthdays, Christmases, and general gifts, you have to use a courier.

I use the office UPS service. It's easier, quicker, no hassle of trekking to an office or a mall. I have to pay for it, it's not a freebie. Each month a finance bod brings me my bill, I sign it off, and it's deducted from my pay packet.

Want to know what this month's bill was? Really? Ok then:

  • 200 GBP.
  • $280
Whichever currency you write it in, that's a whole lot of dosh in my opinion.

I didn't feel like I'd sent a lot of things...a letter, a few packs of wedding photos, a couple of gifts. But wowser! Call me tight,but that bill made me flinch.

Here's the thing: I want to stay in touch with my lovely friends and family. I don't want to be the kind of person who gives to receive. But it's hard not to feel like things are a little one sided when you see the black and white evidence of the effort you make to stay connected, and compare it to the number of birthday, Christmas and wedding cards you've received over a five year period. Which barely make it into double digits.

What are your thoughts, Dubai chums and overseas ex-pats? How do you correspond with the UK? Rely on Moonpig? Never send gifts or parcels? Or bite the bullet and cough up, like I've been doing? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Just Call me Grandma

Comfy, no??!!
Heels. High heels. Women salivate over them, lust after them, covet them. And years ago, I was never out of them. In my twenties I went from office to bar to club to bed with a pair of them stuck to my feet like glue. In my raving days I'd dance for 12 hours without flinching in a pair so vertiginous it would make Posh look short.

And then something happened. Living and working in Manchester city centre meant that walked a lot, and realised that I couldn't reach the warp speeds that I like to move at if I was teetering in heels. 

But more than just practicality, I realised that THEY HURT. This revelation was a huge surprise to me. This had never bothered me before. Perhaps in the past I was always anesthetized by wine, perhaps I just got older. Whichever, heels are not the friends they used to be to me these days. I'm tall, so I'm lucky that without them, I don't look like Kylie's twin sister (although I'd love her bottom!) so I don't feel the need to wear them day in day out.

We started an office clear out this week and as I rifled through my cupboards I discovered I have SIX pairs of heels tucked away to change into for meetings. I simply can't stand them for a full day so just jump into them when I want to. Rock, and indeed roll, my friends.

I paused in Marks and Spencer a few months ago - they have lovely heels with (whispers) padding inside them. Is this a step into middle age? Will it be a slanket and giant slipper next (have to confess have always thought these look ace.) Answers on a postcard, please.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Storing Nuts for Winter

Me, about to head to Choithrams.
You snooze, you lose!
My Facebook chums will be familiar with my annual search for seasonal items...iced mince pies, hot cross buns...CREME EGGS.

Last month's plaintive cry for help in sourcing Creme Eggs meant I gleaned a huge amount of intel about where exactly the fondanty little critters were hiding in this fair city. What with my enthusiastic (some might say Holy Grail searching dedication) to finding them, and my lovely visitors and friends supplying care packages, my fridge now literally overfloweth with these treats.

Last count: 19 Creme Eggs. Make that 18, I just scoffed one.

Happy Days!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bills, Bills, Bills

I prefer the bills these gals warble about..
NO, not some whimsical post about the back catalogue of Destiny's Child (although, to be fair, I could write a few tomes about my mis-spent youth and dancefloor bogling to these fine ladies), more an exasperated mini-rant about bills of the 'drain your bank account' kind.

There's a definite load of assumptions made about living in Dubai, the tax-free salary, the savings we must all be making. That's a separate post. But I'd be very interested to know what people cough up in the UK on monthly basis for utilities. You know, electricity, water, the kinda stuff you'd struggle to live without these days. Because my tax-free salary is disappearing into my meters!

From memory my Manchester bills never crossed the 150 GBP mark per month, absolute max. I had a large two bedroomed apartment, and Manchester is COLD most of the year round, you hear me. I wasn't skimping on the (electric heaters). 

Dubai is HOT for most of the year which means the reverse is needed - from May until November our air con is on pretty much 24 hours a day. To be honest, I can't sleep without it now, and it's only April. This means our monthly bills average the $600 mark. That's about 400 quid. Call me old-fashioned, but that's a lot of money, no? 

And it can be even more when you hit the 'think you might die if you're outside for more than 5 minutes without a white wine spritzer/gallon of water' death-months of July and August. Oh for the days of apartment living when my monthly bills were so small they were less than a bag of groceries from Spinney's.

Tell me, UK chums, am I way out of touch with the price of fish back home? 

Dubai chums, how does this compare to your monthly outgoings - and any tips to reduce them? I'd love to hear from you...

Monday, April 15, 2013

6...Is the Magic Number

A Golden Age....
I'm an only child. I didn't grow up in a house full of rambunctious brothers and sisters. I don't have any children. So it's safe to say I'm not massively familiar with the ways of children, young and old. So what an eye opening pleasure to was to have my niece and nephew to stay with us for a week this month. 

Of course we threw ourselves into general visitor related tourist fun: as my favourite blogger says: 

"Having visitors of any sort staying means you do more interesting things, too, doesn’t it – when someone’s paid £400 to fly here, they rarely want bad TV on the sofa every night, do they?"

I learned a lot about children - well 6 and 11 year old children anyway. They're both gorgeous, well mannered and entertaining kids. They eat a lot. They use untold amounts of toilet rolls (How? Why?). They LOVE the swimming pool. 

And I also learnt that basically, I am a 6 year old girl inside a 30 something (ahem) woman's body. What do I mean? Well we just have SO much in common. I hereby present the evidence:

She adores Molly The Cat (MTC). Hours of fun stroking MTC, chatting to MTC, having her photo taken with MTC, throwing toys for MTC. Enough said.

She has an eye for fashion. Take the girl to a shoe shop and she was snaffling up pink Ugg ankle boots faster than a rat up a palm tree. Whilst never owning a pink pair (if only they did adult sizes!) I am rather partial to wriggling my toes into my fur lined Uggs when the Dubai mercury plummets to 20 degrees.

Bikinis are very important to her. As a woman who owns upward of 20 such items, we had numerous chats about the merits of various styles and colours.

She's a big fan of the otters and beavers at Dubai Aquarium. As both these critters make it into my top ten favourite animals, you can only imagine the fun we had gazing through the glass at them. And taking photos. And oohing and ahhing. You get the picture.

The Build a Bear workshop was a highlight of her holiday. I've wanted to get into this place since the day it opened, but with no ankle biters, did not feel appropriate to barge in. Words cannot express the joy at finally getting in there! And making a bear! (It's called Kelly, natch.)

She's a beach bunny. Hours of endless fun were spent paddling, collecting shells, laying out and examining shells, basking in the sunshine and generally prancing about in bikinis. Whilst I confess this involves slightly more movement that my typical day at the beach, it was a joy nonetheless.

Make up your own mind, but I ended the week feeling that we were practically the same person. I think this says much more about me than her. Hurry back to Dubai little one, we miss you.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Garden Joy!

Best money we ever spent. Note: the sea is not in our back garden.
Just the sofa.
Before we moved to the villa, I have to confess, my interest in anything garden related was minimal. Back in Manchester my balcony gardening resulted in a number of (non-intended) deaths, resulting in the purchase of some beautiful and expensive artificial plants. They looked just like the real thing, required no watering or upkeep and could survive the hideous Manchester weather.

I did try a few plants on various Dubai balconies, but despite my dear dad being a landscape gardener by trade, I lacked any real skills or enthusiasm.

Fast forward to villa living and it's a whole different ball game.

We're blessed with a front and back garden, the latter of which has proved a revelation. I have to admit, when we were pricing up the villa, I wasn't sure at all about the extra work/water/dirhams (monthly bills of 500 GBP, anyone?!) involved in keeping a garden, but oh! How we love it now.

I've never been a morning person, so after dragging myself out of bed for work on my hands and knees each morning it's a beautiful treat to stagger to the back terrace with a coffee and Molly the Cat to contemplate the world before the melee of corporate life. There's a 99.9% chance of blue sky, sunshine, and sometimes little fluffy clouds. At this time of year there's a cool breeze, the birds are singing, butterflies waft past (no, really) and the whole thing feels a bit like a Disney movie. It's an absolute treat.

Fast forward 14 hours and it's still a treat. Darkness has fallen, the stars have come out, there's the same cool breeze, mingling with the call to prayer from the mosque next door.  Our huge garden lounger comes into its own, and there's something so soothing about lounging on it, glass of Sauv Blanc, or fizz (depending on severity of the day) either reading a book, chinwagging with DH, or sometimes (the treat!!!) catching up on UK TV on the ipad.

In a month the sweltering Dubai heat will rule the garden out of bounds until October, but just for now, we're eking each and every minute from it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Eggs, Buns and Easter

You KNOW by now that I love living in Dubai not least because all of the nationalities and religions seem to co-exist here in peace.

We celebrate Diwali, Eid, Ramadan, Christmas in equal measure, and last weekend saw Easter roll into town. My frinds with kids giddily set up Easter egg hunts in their gardens, took the ankle biters to meet the Easter Bunny (no, really) and I even got given Easter Sunday off work (the owner of my company is Christian.)

As I spent this precious extra day off reclining on the garden sofa (sorry!) in the sunshine I too a moment to reflect on the bliss of this cultural melting pot. We are blessed. 

Then I reached for Cadbury's Creme Egg. These suckers cost more than gold here in Dubai (5 GBP a box) but boy oh boy they are worth it. I ate two, just to check their import quality. They passed.

Happy Easter everyone. (A few weeks late, I'm behind on the blog, sorry!)

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Why Get Married?

If you know me well, you'll know I've never been a big white wedding kind of girl, and have actively run from the prospect of marriage like Kim Kardashian from all things tasteful and decent.

Which may have explained some of the reactions we got to our surprise (for everyone but us) wedding. I've gathered some of the best/worst (depending on your viewpoint) here for your reading ease:

Was it a complete surprise/spur of the moment?
No, we secretly got engaged last year and thoughtfully considered how to actually become man and wife.

Did Elvis marry you?
No. God, no! Just because we got married in Vegas, it still meant something and was significant to us. We got married here. A beautiful little chapel, with a real chaplain, in a real and serious ceremony. Their slogan/tagline/motto is: Simple, Elegant, legendary. Which sums up their approach, and I'd like to think...ours.

Did you get married so you could live together legally.
Please. I have heard of people doing this in Dubai and fair play to them. But no, no and no.

Did you get married because you were pregnant?
Again. NO. Again, plenty of people do this, and good luck to them, but not us. Added to which, if I was knocked up I wouldn't go to the time, trouble and expense of flying to Vegas, one of the most debauched and liqour loving places in the world, to get married.

Vegas without booze has got to be like a coffee without caffeine: boring and NO FUN. And let's be clear, our Vegas trip was a melee of champagne for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So why DID we get married? Aside from the obvious L-word (I know, I know, stop dry heaving and bear with me), there was a permanence, peacefulness and sense of certainty: this is the one and only person I've ever imagined growing old with. And for us, that mattered.

I hope that clears up some of the discussions, rumours and general chit chat. You're welcome!

Still makes my heart sing....

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Big, the Fabulous 4 - OHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

A very dear friend of mine turns 40 this week. We met when we were in our twenties, hard at the PR coal face, regularly clocking in 12-14 hour days (hang on, why hasn't that changed?!) dreaming up crazy PR stunts...we were the very epitome of work hard, play hard. In our agency gang the dreaded communal carpark 'walk of shame' was a regular occurrence - it was no surprise to see someone turn up sheepishly at their desks in yesterday's or last night's clothes.

Our regular Friday night happy hour in the bar under our office (think Ally McBeal but less annoying) also meant that it was no surprise to find yourself on a dancefloor, at 3am, still dressed in your work suit. 

They were heady, heady days.

As lives and jobs changed, our friendship didn't. We might not have been crying in  the work toilets or throwing up in the carpark together (mainly stress, sometimes hangovers) but we were always joined together spiritually.

It seems inconceivable that said friend is turning 40 - aside from looking fabulous and easily ten years younger than her birth certificate, it also seems like just 5 minutes ago that we were muntering our way around the Miami Winter Music Conference, throwing ourselves onto dance floors, gatecrashing pool parties and dj booths with abandon.

And yet that was ten years ago. 

I still have a few years (honest!) before I reach the same milestone, but it has made me a little reflective nonetheless. I'd like to think that with the advent of fabulous skincare (most of which I've been taking advantage of since my teens - thanks mum!) and some good genes, the ageing process shouldn't be too horrendous. But there's no escaping that inside, I still feel like the footloose and fancy free crazy twenty-something I once was. 

The beauty of living in Dubai, is that you can indulge that on quite a regular basis. It feels like a young person's city and is abuzz with social misbehaving every night of the week, should you wish to partake (we do!).

So there seems only real way to avoid any 40th birthday malaise: make sure you celebrate it in my fair city! You're welcome any time, Birthday Bird xxx

Munters til we die!