Monday, November 17, 2014

Born Too Soon

A hospital intensive care unit is not a place you'd choose to spend time in. But if you do need expert medical care, I'm sure you'd be hard pressed to beat the City Hospital in Dubai. 

Their NICU, for tiny newborn babies needing help, is as you would expect: state of the art, modern, with amazingly supportive staff who exhibit patience, kindness and control in equal measure, just when you need them.

As our baby rushed into the world a month early, we knew she would need a bit of help. She arrived perfect in every way, but a lot tinier than your average bear. After cuddles she was whisked away to NICU to be monitored. I was wheeled off to my room.

It's a very strange sensation having a baby, then having it taken away from you. Throw in the huge amount of morphine and hormones coursing through your veins and it makes for quite the experience. I spent the next few hours in my calm, quiet private room in a daze..wondering: "did that really happen?" The agony that kicked in when the spinal block wore off told me that something definitely had happened. But did I really have a baby or had I just been hit by a truck?

DH popped down to see Baby Britney every few hours and reported back with photos and videos. They were the only proof I had that she was real, that she actually existed. I waited eagerly for them every time he disappeared and made him play the videos over and over again.

The next day I was cleared to visit her. I've never been in a NICU before, and I hope I never need to go again. As I was wheeled in past the other babies needing help, I held my breath. They were all undoubtedly in the best place, getting great care, and hopefully looking forward to a happy life after their initial stumbling blocks were overcome. But it was one of the most overwhelmingly emotional places I have ever experienced.

Although there's lots of noise - machines beeping and buzzing, it's also a very still place. Parents sit quietly next to incubators, touching tiny babies. They hang onto the medical staff's every word. I felt I had to whisper in case I disturbed anything, intruded into anyone's time with their precious, tiny babies.

Most were smaller than our girl. One, surrounded by UV light, was a 24 weeker weighing just 500 grams. He was the exact cut off weight for resuscitation. Any smaller than 500 grams and the hospital lets them slip away. This 500 gram mite looked like a tiny, helpless mouse. His skin transparent, his little arms up by his head, his eyes shielded with the tiniest eye mask I've ever seen. He took my breath away with his size, with his sheer vulnerability.
His mother stood over him. Helpless yet stoic. I tried to smile at her. I tried to look relaxed, not terrified, as I was wheeled past. I didn't want her to see my terror. That was the hardest poker face I've ever had to hold.
I felt like a fraud visiting my healthy, if tiny, baby from just steps away. The baby on the other side of us was being diagnosed with leukaemia as I held Baby Britney for the first time. 

The enormity of what we'd narrowly escaped, how poorly our tiny baby could have been, crept over me and squeezed my chest like a vice. I couldn't breathe. I could barely squeak out the words:" Get me out of here. Fast." I cried silently all the way back to my room: sadness, relief, guilt washing over me.

We were lucky. So very, very lucky.  Some parents and babies face the NICU for days, weeks and months.

14 months on, I still think about that tiny mouse baby. What happened to him? At bedtime each night when I'm cuddling my peachy-headed, healthy baby, I say a tiny prayer for him. And for all the babies born too soon. Some of us get lucky. But some don't make it. 

Footnote: If you have a baby born too soon, Bliss is the most amazing UK charity who offer support and help. I recommend them wholeheartedly.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Falling Apart

I've been feeling more Skoda than Roller....bring on the Celergen!
I've been a huge fan of supplements for years. It started when I became vegetarian aged 13: my mum didnt' want to take any chances of me missing out on vital nutrients from dead flesh and so I dutifully chowed down on a variety of vitamins each morning. 

It continued from there, even when I switched back to meat eating. I always took a good multi-vitamin, a fish oil, an evening primrose. And a few months ago I got involved with CelergenBilled as "the one and only Swiss Anti-aging Marine Oral Cell Therapy Supplement in the world,' the good people at Celergen asked me to try their product for two months, and report back on how it went. I hadn't heard of the product before, but a quick look online revealed it as "The Anti-Ageing Secret of the Rich and Famous". I was instantly hooked. Shallow, moi?

Well here's a confession: I stopped taking it a few weeks ago. I usually take my vitamins first thing in the morning at my desk. I'd been so busy at work that I was hardly ever at my desk, plus I ran out of tablets and didn't seem to have time to contact the Celergen team to get more. Would you like to know what happened? Honestly, all of this is true:
  • I got an eye infection in my right eye
  • I got an eye infection in my left eye
  • I developed a twitch above my left eye (I only ever ger this when chronically tired, which brings me onto my next point)
  • I became so chronically tired I could barely get out of bed in the morning
  • As a result of this I couldn't face the gym
  • The skin on my face became so dry and flaky I resembled a lizard (last night I resorted to putting oil on my face in desperation.)
  • I developed a sore throat and have been fighting a cold for a week (Note: I haven't had a cold since 2008)

Say what you like, but this list is way too long to be purely coincidental. If there was any small part of me that still needing convinving about Celergen, that small part has been well and truly silenced. I'm practically breaking my fingers logging on to order online

Oh dear Celergen friends, how I've missed you! I shall of  course report back when I'm back to my full, fabulous self.

Hard Graft

PR: It ain't like this, kids
Many years ago, in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I started my career in PR. 

I was fortunate enough to cut my teeth at one of the UK's best agenciesWe romped through awards ceremonies like rumbunctious toddlers, drunk on our own fabulosity and success, collecting awards like sweets, for hundreds of campaigns, for Agency of the Year, hell, we even won Agency of the Decade. 

We were young, we were hungry, we were ambitious, we were the epitome of work hard play hard. We were out every other night of the week, but always in the office first thing the next day. Sometimes we'd go in at the weekend, just to get a steal on the (inevitably) crazy week ahead. We knew that there were hundreds of people who wanted our jobs, and they were good. So we had to be better.

It was a whirl of hard work, hysteria and happiness. 

Let's be clear: it was extremely tough too. It wasn't nicknamed the 'House of Pain' for nothing: there were regular tears in the toilets and throwing up in the car park due to the pressure. But some of my best and most enduring friendships were forged there as we bonded through the grind. And I can honestly say the leadership and the talent that I met, worked with and learned from, was the best in the business. It is no surprise that everyone who worked there has gone on to be successful in their careers, and we all attribute that in part, to the time we spent there.

So when I first arrived in the Middle East I was truly knocked for six by what I encountered. Apparently, it was perfectly acceptable to send a text informing your director that you couldn't make it into work because you suffered period pains, a headache, or (my personal favourite) 'my eyes feel funny'. It was also a normal occurrence to be late for work. Every day. With excuses more weird and wonderful each week.

Six years on and I'm happy to say that standards have improved massively and we've (mostly) moved beyond this. But I'm still gobsmacked by the people that I interview. They frequently come with a list of demands: not just salary and package, but what they will and won't do (mainly won't), whch areas/sectors they want to work on, which clients they want to dedicate their time to....the list is endless.

Sometimes at the end of a hard day I ponder what would happen to these precious little darlings if they were dropped into a UK PR agency. Better still, if I put them in front of some of my ex-employers for interview. I think I know the answer. And it isn't pretty....

Britney's Top Tips for Travelling with a Baby

Snakes on a plane:
marginally less frightening than babies on a plane
It's been a while since I boarded a plane and flew to foreign climes. 18 months to be precise. 

I had a travel ban from my consultant when pregnant so was effectively grounded. Then the fear of travelling with a small tiny tyrant rendered me uninterested in any sort of plane situation. I know many some people trill merrily that: "Babies are just so portable" and that child travel is "So easy! Just wait until they are walking!". I didn't subscribe to this.  When you've spent 6 months living on zero sleep the thought of negotiating a busy airport with a baby that eats every hour is not a pleasant one.

For the woman who never spent longer than 8 weeks on Dubai turf, this travel ban was a total killer. Every time I walked past my (spectacular if I do say so myself) framed world map in the hallway, I sighed despondently. So much of the world still left to see! 

Would I ever quaff fizz in the airport bar whilst waiting to board again? 

Would I ever go wild in the Mac Duty Free aisles again? 
Would I ever sachay through the Dubai E-Gates again? Well - that's actually a tricky one with a child as they still need their passports stamped...humph.

I've blogged before about travel and shared my top tips. Here's an amended version for travelling avec Baby Britney (BB).

Divide and Conquer
If you're travelling with someone else, anticipate the worst case scenario. I'm lucky enough to have never lost my luggage....BUT......just in case: When you're packing, split the absolute necessities across cases. Eg one tub of formula in each, a stack of nappies in each, a handful of food pouches in each. Bless my husband for taking this on the chin and accepting his share of BB's frilly bikini bottoms.

Pick Your Airline Wisely
We paid a bit more to fly Emirates. They have bassinet seats which are a godsend. Even if your baby is too big for the bassinet (BB only just fitted), even if they don't sleep in it (ha!) you can use the bassinet for keeping baby stuff in. Or in our case, wine and gin.

Emirates also go a long way to making the flight more bearable. Mini baby packs with toys, wipes. Infant meals. Generous sevings of wine. Oh and my absolute favourite: they come round with a polaroid camera and take a photo of you as a family! Genius.

Fly During the Day
This will vary by child, but for us, it was a no brainer. BB is mainly awake during the day, so if she misses a daytime nap, it's really not the hugest deal. If she just cat naps in your arms for 40 minutes, this will get her through the rest of the flight.

But at night, in her normal life, she sleeps. When 6.30 pm rolls around, she's begging for bed. She practically cheers as she gets lowered into her cot and goes down like a stone. If, at 6.30 pm, you're experiencing mid-air turbulence and holding her, with bright cabin lights in her face, she isn't going to sleep. And she's going to protest, loudly, about this.

Take Your Routine with You
This is where you'll reap the benefits of your routine and rituals. Babies are malleable little individuals, and if you take all your sleep cues with you and crack them out, you stand a better chance of having a rested time. In our case, bath before bed, bottle, grobag, the white noise app, BB is powerless to resist. Whic brings me onto:

Invest in a Snooze Shade
This genius invention velcros over your pram, creating a lovely, snooze-inducing, dark environment. We cracked out the bedtime routine, popped BB inside the pram with the Snooze Shade covering it, blasted the white noise and voila! Sleeping baby. Ready to be wheeled downstairs to snooze next to us whilst we ate dinner. And drank wine. Best buy ever!

Be Relaxed
Ha! Ha ha ha! Have we met? I can't believe I'm even writing this. Honestly, try to relax. Wine massively helped me onthe plane. Also, baby screaming is surprisingly muffled by the sound of the plane. Who knew? You can barely hear it. I promise you. Which brings me onto:

An Extra Pair of Hands
I am extremely lucky and have a very hands on DH. A whining, teething, crying BB does not phase him one jot. One afternoon I handed her over, scampered down to the pool clutching a bonkbuster and enjoyed two hours on a sunlounger, quaffing wine and losing myself in a Hollywood trash bonkbuster. Imagine! 

I obviously reciprocated when he went to the gym every day, so it worked both ways. But it is worth repeating just how invaluable an extra pair of willing, loving and supportive hands are. When turbulence hits at forty thousand feet and you've been trying to placate the tiny tyrant for an hour, it is bliss to be able to take turns.

So there we go. There's no denying it's a dfferent experience travelling with a baby. And I'd definitely like to supplement this with some weekends away with a girlfriend. But there's something very beautiful about spending relaxed time together with the people that you love most in the whole world. You bond in a way that you don't always have time to when in the daily grind of life.

We went away as three separate people. We came back as a family. I recommend it.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Guilt of the Working Mother

I've spent the last few weeks dipping in and out of the notorious Sheryl Sandberg book: Lean In. It courted controversy when it was published and divided opinionShe was criticised for not breaking any new ground, and leaving out issues such as how to overcome patriarchy, race and finances.

You were either for her, or against her. And a lot of people were against her. 

I'll be honest, I'd kind of made my mind up about it before I started and I was in the 'against' camp. What could a billionaire tell me, an ordinary working mother, about how best to run my life, my career? How was Sheryl, with access to the best and most comprehensive support, childcare and even wardrobe, going to relate to the woman on the street?

Well I've finished the book and I'll give you my opinion. 

I was pleasantly surprised. I'm just going to say it: I loved the book. Her style is self-deprecating and her prose is peppered with personal anecdotes which reveal her to be disarmingly human.

She admits that she feels like a fraud. She feels fear. She is unsure. She credits her husband with being crucial to her success. One of my favourite quotes is this:

“When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier.” 

She also speaks of being wracked with guilt when leaving her children each day. Now this is where my ears pricked up. 

Real maths that I have done in my head, on the way to work in the morning:

  • 8 hours - Total time I'm out of the house on a typical day
  • 2.5 hours - Total time Baby Britney is asleep during this time
  • 5.5 hours - Total time she is awake during this time, and thus with the nanny 
  • 4 hours - Total waking time she spends with me
Which means that the nanny is 90 minutes in credit versus me. I have tortured myself over those 90 minutes. Hoping that the 48 hours at the weekend when the nanny is off-duty make up for it.

Now, I'll take a wild guess here, but I think it's fair to say that no man has ever attempted these mental calculations. And that's not because they don't care, or don't love their children. They just don't feel the guilt that women do. And why should they? Why do we women do it to ouselves? 

Sheryl actually quotes research that confrms our guilt is unfounded: 

"Exclusive maternal care is not related to better or worse outcomes for children.  There is no reason for mothers to feel as though they are harming their children if they decide to work. Parents who work outside the home are still capable of giving their children a loving and secure childhood. 
Some data even suggests that having two parents working outside the home can be advantageous to a child's development, particularly for girls.” 

So should you read this book? Yes. Yes you should. Even if you're a man.

As Sheryl herself said, she wrote the book: "For any man who wants to understand what a woman - a colleague, wife, mother, or daughter - is up against so that he can do his part to build a more equal world.” 

Amen to that.

Holding Back the The Ravages of Time

My skinspiration. LOVE BLAKE.
There are few words more wonderful than: "You look lovely today. Really young and fresh-faced." 

That's what someone said to me, this weekend. They were followed up by: "Have you been sneaking off to see a plastic surgeon?"

Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha! No comment! Whilst I haven't succumbed to the surgeon's knife (yet), it's no secret that I'm a fan of anything that will keep the ageing wolf from the door.  I'd rather not embrace the Bride of Wildenstein look, but I see nothing wrong with attempting to maintain a level of grooming and facial upkeep that is younger than my years. Just keep within reason, yes?

After I'd hugged the deliverer of this great compliment tightly and managed not to faint right away through shock, I checked the diary: when did I last invest in some 'facial (ahem) rejuvination'? I was pretty surprised to see that it was April. That's five months ago. I'm usually booked in every three months, so that's a pretty good achievement. I've checked the mirror, and although there are a few signs of wear and tear, I'm pleased to confirm that I haven't shrivelled up into an old raisin.

So what have I been doing differently? Well, I've invested in a Nutri-Bullet - but that's a recent purchase. I can't see it will have impacted my skin that much in the seven days that I've been forcing the resulting concotions down.

I've been running twice a week, which definitely helps with circulation and all-round appearance. But it's hardly marathon efforts.

So I can only surmise that the Celergen has been working its magic. You may remember I started on my Celergen journey back in June. It has a whole host of ingredients that claim to help in many different ways and it looks like the Peptide E Collagen is the ingredient that's working its magic. Apparently it’s easily absorbed and rebuilds outer skin layers from the inside out – so helping to improve lines and wrinkles.

I'm still taking it (who wouldn't?!) so I'll keep you posted.

If you want to try it yourself you can order online and they'll deliver it to you, wherever you are, for free.

Disclaimer: This product was given to me for free for the purposes of reviewing, however all opinions were independently formed by little old me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What's the Weather Like?

Make it stop!!!
It's a standard joke that Brits are obsessed with the weather. In a country known for its grey, overcast days, it becomes a fallback conversation starter, but also a very real logistical challenge. What, precisely, does one wear on a British summer' day, which could run the full gamut of drizzle, sunshine, wind, rain? But mainly rain.

I'll let you into a secret. Even though I live in a country with blue sky and sunshine 360 days of the year, we are also obsessed with the weather. We talk about it ALL the time. This builds into a frenzy in August, when it feels like the Summer is never going to end.

How hot is it? How humid is it? Is it hotter or cooler than last year? Will the Summer ever end? Is a sandstorm on its way? And most thrilling of all: IS IT RAINING WHERE YOU ARE?!

I'm currently in a frenzy as the humidity has dropped in the past week. This means that although it's so hot (49 degrees today!) you feel like your eye balls are peeling away from your lids, it's somehow more bearable than being drenched with water 30 seconds after leaving the house.

Mid August is a real test. For those of us who've stayed through Ramadan and most of the hottest months of the year, you start to feel like the Summer is going to last until December. Any tiny dip in temperature is embraced, discussed and regarded as a tiny chink of hope in the heat quagmire.

We're now casually throwing around the phrase: "Just one more month to go!" Which, sadly, is a total lie. It doesn't cool down until November. So that'll be another two months. Two months two weeks, really. Oh lord.

Just one more month to go!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What Does Having a Baby Teach You?

Guess which one I am?!
As Baby Britney approaches her first birthday (yikes!) I'm in a reflective mood.

I still can't believe that this time last year I was pregnant, with all its associated stress, pain and daily woes. I remember it like it was yesterday, but I just somehow can't believe it ever happened. It's hard to equate the rambunctious, squeaking, peachy-headed munchkin in front of me to the 8 months of pregnancy I endured.  Which is quite ridiculous really, but there you go. 

So what have I learned over the last year? What does having a baby teach you? I won't wax lyrical about the capacity for love you realise exists deep within you, blah blah blah. That's a given. Trust me on this one.

I've thought long and hard about this and decided the number one thing I've learned is...patience. 

I'm a fast moving kinda gal. I walk fast, eat fast, talk fast. Speed is integral to my being. (Have you ever sat round a table with a group of PR people? They speak like the wind. A non PR friend likened it to: "Being put through a washing machine. On spin cycle.") 

Some people see this speed, this mercurial tendency, as a negative. They assume that to move so quickly, you must be feeling pressured and stressed. Quite the contrary. I love a bit of vigour, a bit of gumption. I'm at one with the universe when I'm making things happen, organising events/people. It's my version of Zen.

Then along comes a baby. They operate to their own, crazy timetable of insanity. They wake, eat, poop, scream, EXACTLY when they want. They are marching at the beat of their own teeny, tiny, ever so slightly bonkers drum. And there's very little you can do to influence them, in the early months. As they get bigger, sure, you can get them onto a routine. But things still take forever. You can't rush through bathtime. You can try. You can cut corners. But essentially, that baby won't be rushed through the process.

When you're pacing the floor in the dead of the night, sssh-patting for the third hour, for the fourth time that evening, you may wish with every fibre of your being that you can fast-forward through the torture. But you can't. You inch forward on your hands and knees, one second, one minute, one never-ending hour at a time.

Mealtimes are another thing that just cannot be rushed. Have you ever tried to feed a 9 month old baby that isn't interested in food? It takes cunning and wile. In this house we have to allow at least 30 minutes per meal. Often more. No scoffing food, no inhaling a tin of tomatoes and some brown rice, no existing on a banana and a handful of multi vitamins (her mother's staple diet) for Baby Britney.

You have to offer finger foods, which may or may not be eaten. (May not, frequently). When these finger foods are wobbling towards the tiny tyrant's mouth, you go in, like a ninja, with a spoon of lovingly made home cooked food. When this is inevitably rejected, you offer an Ella's pouch. 

You try to spoon feed. This is resisted. Food is flung on the floor. The walls. The ceiling. The cat. You cave, and food is slurped directly from the pouch. The pouch is then rejected. You scramble around inside the fridge for another option. This goes on, in all it's comedic glory, for a period of time that feels long enough for the Beatles to consider re-forming. Throw in the fact that your kitchen now resembles a Jackson Pollock painting and it's enough to give a clean freak like me a slow lingering heart attack.

Tracy Hogg, the Baby Whisperer (say what you like, I love her book) identifies this pretty early on and actually defines SLOW as: Stop, Listen, Observe, What's Up? It really applies to tiny babies who can't easily tell you what's wrong. You know, when they try their best to tell you by screaming for three hours every night from 4-7 pm. But it definitely applies to parenthood in general.

It's going to take you longer to leave the house, get in the car, leave the car. I'll be honest, that bit hasn't bothered me so much. Like I said, I'm a natural organiser, so I'm pretty much ready to leave at a moment's notice anyway. 

The hard bit was surrendering to the  general slow down in pace. Because surrender you must. You'll drive yourself mad trying to speed them up, it just isn't going to happen. The good thing about this? Babies live very much in the moment. Unlike adults, they're not ruminating and dissecting the previous day. Worrying about the past, scared of the future. They're just living their baby lives, one crazy minute at a time. Experiencing every touch, every sensation, every taste. Finding joy in the small things. 

As I type this, Baby Britney is chewing the tail of a toy cat. She's been at it for the last 15 minutes. Every few minutes she stops, inspects the tail, looks at me, and smiles a toothless smile of contentment. I'm telling you, babies have a lot to teach us. Slow down, and you'll hear them more clearly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Keeping Up Appearances When Pregnant - in 45 Degrees

Great inspiration, even when not up the duff.
I strode into pregnancy determined to keep a grip on all things beauty and fashion related. 

"I am not letting myself go!" I exclaimed loudly to anyone who would listen (mainly Molly the Cat). 

I attempted to take inspiration from this gorgeous blogger in Dubai, who puts a non pregnant woman to shame, and this previosly pregnant blogger in San Francisco. Her wardrobe is to die for.

There were times when I looked less than be fair after after emergency surgery and two weeks on bed rest, my looks were not my number one priority - but my vanity did win out, and I tried to keep some semblance of normality on things.

Here are my top three beauty tips for surviving pregnancy in the Dubai summer:

The girls at Feel Pink are regular visitors to our villa. I dialled them up every few weeks when pregnant and they dutifully arrived, laden with kit. 

This means no faffing about in the car travelling to the mall or a salon in 45 degree heat, no trying not to smudge your nails on the way out, a simple call and they're at your sofa. A classic mani/pedi is a snip at 150 dirhams,  done and dusted in 45 minutes, and they do a fantastic job. Extra points for their giddiness about impending baby Britney, which reached fever pitch. And now they get to see the lady herself every time they visit - it's really very sweet.

The only small issue is manoeuvring an eye-rolling husband out of the lounge when they arrive. Not as easy as it sounds if he is mid-way through watching a spaghetti western (don't ask!).

There is only so much you can do when it's 45 degrees and 90% humidity, but I wasn't about to take hair Vietnam lying down. I discovered this stuff a few years ago when working on a beauty project. In this region women are all over hair oil - thick Middle Eastern hair needs taming. Women religiously apply this overnight and wash out in the morning.

But it is, as you can imagine, messy. So the clever boffins at P&G came up with this as an alternative. It looks just like a normal conditioner, feels just like a normal conditioner, but it isn't. You're supposed to take handful of it and leave it in over night - I just use it after washing and rinse it straight out. 

I don't look quite like Cat Deeley after using it, but it does tame my hideously huge humid helmet to manageable sleek (ish) proportions.

If your waistline (and backside) is going to expand, it might as well look bronzed, in my opinion. Hence a weekly spray tan became as essential as breathing - which has always been my stance when it comes to tanning, more so when lumbering around like a whale in a bikini.

Getting to and from the salon without sweating it off became more challenging as summer progressed, so I did an at home job. L'Oreal is my favourite - minimal smell and air dries really quickly. Obviously I go for medium/dark not light- what's the point otherwise?

The Dubai Boom: It's Back!

What will this skyline look like in ten years time?
Dubai is booming again. Ever since we won Expo2020 there's been a whiff of hysteria in the air. Part of my love affair with Dubai comes from the ambition, the positivity, the drive to make things happen and get things done, so this excitement is great to see, hear and feel.

It manifests itself in a number of different ways. The most obvious, before Ramadan, was the traffic. We'd returned to the 2008 glory days of being stuck for hours in the evenings after work. Getting into the office became an incredible journey each morning, and has resulted in me flinging myself from a moving vehicle at the nearest metro station and walking over the bridge to Emaar Square, rather than sit in stationary traffic for 45 minutes.

The other is the building sites. They're popping up everywhere again. With a remit of 200 extra hotels by 2020, there's no time to waste. But it's not just hotels. Apartments, villas, offices, you name it, it's appearing, in what feels like record time.

On a conference call yesterday we looked out of the window. Aside from being able to see the sea (joy!) we also overlook the new Citywalk development. You know, the lovely lunch place a stone's throw from Downtown. Well, they're also building a whole residential area too. We counted 39 cranes. 39! 

There's also a huge office tower coming up right next to the window. We're so nonchalant about these monoliths appearing almost overnight that they don't really register any more. But when you walk through the Metro station, and see crowds of tourists gazing into these building sites in awe, I'm reminded. They are pretty special, it's true.


Handsome no doubt. As many sociopaths are...
I was a teeny tiny bit obsessed with the Oscar Pistorius trial. It gripped me in a way not seen since Madeleine McCann went missing (guilty!).

I don't know what it was about the whole story. I'm not at all interested in athletics, could barely have picked OP out in a line up before the hideous tragedy occurred. 

think it's this: something about his self serving emotional outpourings, the controlling texts, the reluctance to ever admit being in the reminds me of twenties.

It's a sad fact of life that almost every woman I know of a certain age (ahem) has experienced life with a sociopath. And alarm bells the size of South Africa have been ringing ever since I started watching the trial and listening to the evidence.

I've blogged about this before: what makes successful, intelligent women succumb to men like this? It's a tough one to answer. We never really reached a conclusion. If I could travel back in time I'd have some sage advice for my twenty-something self. Whether I'd take it or not is another matter, of course.

On the 11th September, Oscar Pistorius will hear his conclusion. The verdict will be announced. I watch with interest. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fealing the Fear

SO worth a read.
Have you read this book? If you haven't, you really should. I came across it about 5 years ago and it completely changed my life. I make an effort to re-read it every year (preferably on a sun lounger). 

The last time I did this (in Mauritius, on sun-lounger, with fizz) I returned home to discover that the author, Susan Jeffershad died. Very sad news and the fact that it happened just as I was hearing her voice through the pages made her passing even more poignant.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, before I had a baby, before I got pregnant (and let's be honest, the whole way through my pregnancy) I was gripped by fear. Aside from being out of control, having a dramatic pregnancy and in and out of hospital every two minutes, I had some very tangible, real fears. Want to hear them?

1) Lack of Sleep

If you have a baby that sleeps then look away now (in fact don't even speak to me!). This fear was totally founded. Times a million. Enough said.

2) Screaming

I've never been a fan of screaming babies (is anyone?) and I was terrified of this. Again, I was right to be. 

For me, it' s not just the sound, which is like nails being hammered into your soul, but the fact that sometimes you just don't know how to stop it. You are completely and totally powerless. And it can strike any time, any place.  Obviously you get better at this as time goes on, but the first few months were hellish. 

A highlight for me was a neighbour knocking on the front door to see if everything was ok. "The baby has been crying for a very long time," she helpfully pointed out. Thank god she came to check - I mean I never would have noticed....

3) I Wouldn't Love the Baby

I look back on this now and laugh. Actually chuckle. I was GRIPPED by this fear. I've never been maternal, not a huge fan of children, never been a baby snuggler. I lay awake the night before my c-section wondering if it had all been a big mistake and feeling so sad for Baby Britney. That I might not love her at all.

If only I could whisper in my pre-baby ear that this really was the least of my worries. The absolute one thing that I shouldn't have given an inch of thought to. It might not rush over you instantly (rather a fierce protective instinct) but when the love comes, it is incredible. 

Every cliche is true: it takes your breath away, makes your heart stop beating, makes the world stop turning. It's like falling in love, every second and every minute of the day. Apart from the minutes when they're screaming, obv. 

Of course, this love is also coupled with a crippling sense of responsibility that also takes your breath away, but by this stage you're so drunk in love with your tiny tyrant that this is bearable (most of the time.)

The moral of the story? Feel the fear. Jump off the cliff. You'll survive. I promise.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Screamerama Drama

Even this photo makes me tense....
We've all been there: a small baby starts crying somewhere...maybe the mall, maybe a restaurant, maybe (worst of all) a PLANE. And I freely admit, I have been the person that glared. 

It's loud, isn't it, when a baby cries? And annoying, yes? Goes right through you, doesn't it?

Well let me tell you (all parents will know this already) when it's your own baby IT IS TEN TIMES WORSE. 

Apparently your own crying baby makes women secrete a stress hormone, which is why men can remain calm in the face of a mewling infant, but women start sweating and have to comfort them. Pronto.

Added to this, if it's your own baby you are likely to be stuck in a confined space with them when the screaming is in full flow (taxis and elevators are the worst) and then it seems even louder.

AND factor in the stress of (what feels like) the whole world staring at you and judging you, and it is fair to say that I dread screamerama with every fibre of my being.

It's amazing what can set her off; I've learned at some cost never to sneeze or cough loudly in her presence. My poor Dad removed his glasses which for some reason terrified her - he never did that again after the hysterics took an hour to abate.

Now when I see or hear a baby crying I'm torn between wanting to hug the mother and relief that it isn't mine. Their crying barely even registers on my radar now.

Oh, how I regret the glaring of my childless days now.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Holy Month

It's Ramadan again. My absolute favourite time of the year. Such a special time to be living in the Muslim country and every day I'm thankful for the experience.

As we head into the second week I thought I'd summarise some of my previous posts on the Holy Month.

I hope you enjoy them..

Re-connecting with old friends

Food and friends

Taxi Drivers


Opening Hearts

Patience and Prayer


Palm Trees and Dates

The Fountain of Youth?

If celebs are involved, I want in.
As you know, I'm not one for letting the ravages of time take hold of me. Even in the dark early days of Baby Britney's arrival I often applied a full face of make up, even if I was staying in the house. With no visitors. It made me feel so much better about myself/life in general.

I'm pretty much a marketing man's dream, and although I have dialled down some of my health and beauty obsessions over the years, I'm always eager to try new things...especially if these things promise youth, energy and vitality....

Last year I tried the Collagen Gold product, with limited success.

This year has seen more trials in the Britney House - in the form of Celergen . Billed as "the one and only Swiss Anti-aging Marine Oral Cell Therapy Supplement in the world,' the good people at Celergen asked me to try their product for two months, and report back on how it went. I hadn't heard of the product before, but a quick look online revealed it as "The Anti-Ageing Secret of the Rich and Famous". I was instantly hooked. Shallow, moi?

On closer inspection it has amazing results in clinical trials.(At 28 days, 71% of users showed a significant decrease in the number of deep wrinkles.) Hell, even doctors take it!

By the point of closer inspection I'd already been taking the product for a few days. Hey, I have a new baby, I'm back at work, I need all the help I can get! I didn't want research to slow my anti-ageing down!

How does it work? Here's the lowdown of Celergen's three main ingredients:
  •  BioDNA Marine Cellular Complex has great antioxidant properties that protect our bodies against cell oxidative aggression, and its clinically proven to boost energy and stamina. It helps alleviate pain, improves quality of sleep, enhances memory and sharpens mental focus.
  • Peptide E Collagen works its magic on the skin and joints and cartilages.  It is made up of all-natural collagen and elastin peptides in the same proportions as that of our skin that  improves skin rehydration (moisture balance) and elasticity. The good thing about Peptide E Collagen is that it’s easily absorbed and it actually rebuilds the outer skin layers from the inside out – this is the ingredient proven to reduce lines and wrinkles.
  • Hydro MN Peptide is a mix of hydrolyzed proteins (mainly Collagen) and polysaccharides (35-40% chondroitin sulfate – cartilage-friendly components) that regenerates cartilage and improves skin structure. It provides UV protection and prevents unhealthy body fat accumulation by reducing appetite and promoting satiety.
Sounds good, yes? And I'm sure you don't need to be a mind-reader to know that the words that jumped out at me from the above were....WRINKLES and SLEEP. The holy grail of every mother....

So let's cut to the chase as I know you're wondering. Did it work? Do I look 19 again? Have I slept like a log ever since taking them?

Well, let's be fair. With a 9 month old baby there is only so much a supplement can do, however marvellous it is. 

But here's the good bit: I have been feeling strangely stronger in the mornings. Even on the days when I've only had 5 hours sleep, once I'm up, I do feel more resilient. 

My face definitely looks better too: I had a bizarre rash on my forehad ever since giving birth (delighful) and that's completely gone. This morning everything looked smoother, and (whispers) glowing. And that was a night with 6 hours sleep.

I'm still forgetful (words don't come as easily as they used to) and my joints/back still ache. But that's probably down to aforementioned small baby and the fact that I've recently starting running again after an 18 month hiatus.

So overall, I'd recommend it. The one stumbling block? The price. To be fair, $350 per month will not be flinched at by many Dubai residents and is significantly cheaper than going under the knife. For mere mortals, you might find it a little pricey. You can order online and they'll deliver it to you, wherever you are, for free.

Disclaimer: This product was given to me for free for the purposes of reviewing, however all opinions were independently formed by little old me.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Baby Essentials - Number 3 - The Swaddle Me Wrap

Easy peasy and genius!
If you'd been tucked up in a cosy, warm, very tight bed for 8 months or more, you might protest at being dragged kicking and screaming from it without warning. This is what happens to babies when they're born. And it's even more of a shock to them if they're born prematurely, like Baby Britney (BB).

They also have a very strong 'startle' reflex which means that their little arms twitch without warning, giving them a huge shock. If this happens as they are drfting off to snoozeville it wakes them up and you can forget any type of sleep.

So to make them feel cozy and snuggly, and to stop them startling like crazed ferrets, you swaddle them. Now there are all sorts of rules about the how and why to do this - their little hips can get stuck apparently. Personally I feel that unless The Hulk is swaddling your baby, you are on pretty safe grounds.

We did this from day one, using swaddling blankets. It was the only thing that soothed BB, but there was one major problem - she could fight her way out of any blanket, and did so frequently.

Then we discovered the Swaddle Me pod. It is basically a teeny tiny baby straightjacket - it allows you to wrap the tiny tyrant up AND velcro them up. Get out of THAT Houdini!!

The one caveat is that they have to be a minimum weight - 3.2 kilos- which meant that the tiddler BB couldn't go in it for a few months. Once she could, it was a DREAM. 

They're here in Dubai at Babyshop, or order them online from Amazon. Honestly, it will change your life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hair Today....Gone Tomorrow

If I do end up needing a wig, I'm getting a Dolly...
It's a truth universally acknowledged that when you move to Dubai, something happens to your hair: namely, you lose it. 

A combination of heat, humidity and harsh water means that your precious locks head down the plug hole at a staggering rate. Online forums are full of Dubai newcomers lamenting their lost locks and asking for advice, and there's a whole range of businesses devoted to restoring them. The good news is that although it's horrible whilst it lasts (around six months)  things usually even out - your hair grows back and stops falling at such an alarming rate.

If you've had a baby, you may be familiar with what I'm about to say: brace yourself, as your hair is going to fall out like never before. 

It wasn't really an issue when I was pregnant, but at 9 months post-partum and jesus wept. I'm amazed there is a single hair left on my head judging by the amount that comes out when brushing, washing, blow drying. I'm sure I could have stuffed at least two (l-shaped) sofas with it by now.

The hairdresser commented on it last month as she tried to wrestle the baby fluff I've been left with into my highlight foils. Such was the extent of said fluff that I had to go back a second time as it just wouldn't comply.

The full damage was revealed to me last week when in a store fitting-room. Of course I did the obligatory examination of my backside in the oh-so flattering mirror (never a good idea) but then my eyes were drawn upwards. I'd swept my hair up so  could get a good look at the top I was trying on, so the underside of my scalp was revealed in all its glory. In all its patchy, BALD glory. Ok, I'm not quite at the wig/hair transplant stage, but there is no denying the fact that I have lots of noticeable hair loss. 

I left the mall with a lighter wallet and heavier heart.

Is there no justice?! Is there no part of a woman's anatomy and looks that isn't ravaged by pregnancy?! (Well, if you have a c-section certain bits remain perfect...thank god.)

Did you lose your hair after having a baby? When did it slow down? Mine is now serious enough that I'm going to get my bloods checked for thyroid! I will of course update you.....