Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Goodbye Amy

Rachel was sad that the time had come to take Amy to the airport - and not just because it meant another nasty drive at yuck o'clock in the morning.

Rachel wasn't the only sad person up horribly early. The first miserable face to appear was Jody's: "Mummy, I don't want to say goodbye to Amy yet. Can I come to the airport?"

Then Dylan came limping through, declaring grumpily: 'I'm sad. I'm coming with Amy."

Finally, even Mark climbed into the back seat of the Barbie car - although his red eyes were due to yesterday's night out at Nobu.

If we were in a film, Madonna's "So far away" would have been playing on the radio. But, as it was, we got Britney's "Womaniser". Still, it was very sad watching Amy walk away in the rear view mirror while we dodged speeding taxis.

Rachel had thought she would miss Amy helping out with the cleaning. But at 2pm, while Rachel was waving a j-cloth towards the toilet, there was a knock at the door. Behind the door stood a wonderful woman named Sunita offering to do the cleaning. With obvious reluctance, Rachel handed over the j-cloth.

Rachel had thought she would miss Amy helping out with the children. Particularly with Jody's 'make-a-piece-of-transport' homework. But both kids were a joy all day - Jody even helped with the cleaning before the arrival of super-Sunita - and we made a lovely pink Barbie car for a real Barbie.

It was at 9.30pm, with Mark still at work and with no one to talk to about how crap the TV was, Rachel realised that she missed Amy for Amy.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Missing Matthew

Amy's boyfriend, Matthew, has been staying with us for the last two weeks, but he flew home this morning, and all that is left to remind us of him is a fridge full of Pizza Hut leftovers and a slightly strange smell of feet.

It has been great having him around - although he and Amy have had to be told off for arguing more often than Jody and Dylan, and he did sulk when Middlesbrough lost the football. Five nil.

Sleeping Beauty and Scooby Doo will certainly miss him. And not just because he buys them nice fancy dress outfits.

Never mind though, the never-ending lollies that Matthew's mum and dad sent over are very useful for stuffing in their mouths if they make too much fuss.

Rachel will also miss him. A bit. Although she won't miss the strange looks she got from her new ladies-who-lunch friends before she explained he was Amy's boyfriend rather than her toyboy.

But she did get up at 6am this morning to take him to the airport.

And after waving goodbye, she drove off, sadly, into the sunrise.

Then swerved sharply because the glare made it impossible to read the road signs in time to avoid ploughing through a couple of cones to get on to the flyover.

Still, there were always the Pizza Hut leftovers to polish off before anyone else woke up.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Oooh, heaven is a place on earth.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to heaven was paved with camels and cock ups.
A while back, Mark and his friends made provisional reservations for a group trip to Fujairah over the Eid holiday. Sadly, everyone else in the UAE seemed to have made similar plans for Eid, and what sounded like a nice idea turned out to be hugely expensive. So, they decided to cancel the reservation.

Unfortunately, while everyone else actually cancelled their bookings. Mark remained at the decision stage.

Since hotel receptionists are not psychic, we were left with a very expensive, very "non-transferrable, non-refundable" booking we couldn't even use because Rachel had organised Dylan's birthday party over the Eid weekend, labouring under the false impression that Mark was not a muppet.


Forgetful Jones

Fortunately, despite being extremely foolish, Mark can also be rather charming. So he got back on the phone and used his Irish accent to not only transfer the non-transferrable booking, but also to get the price reduced by 50% as we were going outside the Eid holiday.

So off we drove, last weekend, from Dubai to Fujairah - the only one of the seven Emirates on the East coast (Gulf of Oman) rather than the West Coast (Persian Gulf)

It was a strange drive through the desert, with only camels and large cement lorries for company.

But the place itself was amazing. Too good for words - so here are a few pictures...

We had such a great time, that Dylan - who is renowned for spending every family holiday chanting, 'I want to go home' - turned round with a big grin and declared, for the first time ever:

'I don't want to go home'

In fact, the only way we got the kids out of the resort without a complete meltdown was by getting a golf buggy to take us...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Late for School

School in Dubai starts early. Ridiculously early. We have to be there for 7.30am. To be there for 7.30, we have to leave home at 7.00. And to leave home at 7.00 we have to get up at 6.30am - although we are usually conveniently woken at around 5.30am by Dylan's dulcet tones:

"someone wipe my bottom..."

Therefore, yesterday, when Rachel, Jody and Dylan piled into the Barbie car and realised the petrol tank was nearly empty, Rachel decided to risk it to get to school on time.

But we didn't get to school on time. We nearly didn't get to school at all.

The first sign something was wrong was the man on the radio warning everyone to stay away from Exit 44 on the Emirates Road as a gas lorry had collided with a dodgy waste truck and the roads were blocked. But because Rachel still has no idea what any of the roads are called, our happy carload remained in blissful ignorance, warbling along with Dylan's new favourite song ...

"If you ain't got no money take your broke ass home.
You say: If you ain't got no money take your broke ass home
G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S, yeah G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S"

The second sign was harder to miss. A huge wall of gridlocked traffic blocking the entire 5-lane highway - made up predominantly of horribly huge lorries

Then the phone rang:

'Hi, it's Dina. Just calling to see what the Emirates Road is like?'


'Yes, the radio said traffic hadn't moved since 6am. Oh well, good to know. I'll take the other route. Byeee'

But there was no other route for us. There was no movement at all. So there we sat. And sat. And sat. Our only consolation was that we were stuck next to a lovely picture of our 'visionary leaders' - the three Sheiks, who Dylan is still convinced are called Shrek 1, Shrek 2 and Shrek 3. But at least he has now been trained not to say so in public.

But even our visionary leaders couldn't help when the petrol gauge hit empty.

In a desperate attempt to save the last dribble of petrol, we turned off the air conditioning. With Sheik Mohammed looking down sympathetically, we sat, we sweated, and we played 'Eye Spy'.

JODY: "I spy something beginning with 'g'"

RACHEL: "Gear stick? Gravel? Glove compartment? (and various other excellent guesses) ...Okay, I give up. What is it?"

JODY: "It's granny. I win"

RACHEL: "How can you 'spy' granny if she's in England? Rubbish. You're not the wi-... Okay, okay, don't cry. Yes, I know it's hot. Fine, never mind, be the winner. Congratulation. Okay, Dylan, your turn"

DYLAN: "I spy something beginning with 'r'"

JODY & RACHEL: "Road?", "Range Rover?", "Rachel?" ....

DYLAN: "Wrong, wrong, wrong. Time's up. The answer is 'tree'"

RACHEL: "Aaarrrrrrgggghghghghghhhh"

As Rachel began banging her head against the steering wheel, she noticed several braver drivers 'off-roading' across the sand dunes.

Tempting. Particularly given that the Barbie Car comes equipped with a 4 wheel drive shift-stick-thing. Unfortunately, it doesn't also come with a shift-stick-thing instruction manual, and the idea of being stuck in the middle of the desert with no petrol and no air conditioning, seemed even worse than being stuck on the hard shoulder in the same situation.

At least Dylan had cheered up, and had even stopped kicking Jody, because he had come up with the brilliant idea of building a very big sandcastle at the side of the road for us to live in.

Slightly freaked out by the idea of sandcastle-living, Rachel called Mark because she needed someone to shout at, and the kids were too busy shouting at each other to pay her any attention.

Mid-conversation, Rachel spotted a track at the side of the road that led directly to the overpass and tried to squeeze through it. When a police car appeared, she dropped the mobile phone on to the floor and forgot all about it until she finally arrived at school at 9.20 - nearly two hours late.

Mark later explained that what he heard on his side of the call was:

RACHEL: "Yes, and we're stuck here, the kids are turning purple, the petrol's about to run out, and there's a massive truck parked on my bumper. You have to do something ... Ah, wait, there's a tiny gap I might be able to get through if I can convince this lorry to move. Uh oh, I'm not sure we'll fit - .... Oh bu*%&^&"

JODY: "Look out, mummy"

BACKGROUND NOISE: Cacaphonic blaring of lorry horns

Mark was so worried he called back to check we were okay. Four hours later.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy Birthday Dylan...

We knew school would be closed this Thursday to celebrate Eid (the end of Ramadan). But Eid depends on the moon, and the moon is a fickle thing. When we picked the kids up last Thursday, we were told they were off for the whole week. Joy for teachers, joy for kids, slightly less joy for parents - especially as half term is only two weeks away.

We decided to fill Tuesday with a birthday party for Dylan. Largely because it was, actually, his birthday. So, we invited some little friends from his class - lovely kids, and (more importantly) lovely parents.

Rachel thought a coca-cola cake would make a great birthday cake. Unfortunately, the cake thought otherwise.

Looking back, there may have been a little too much coca-cola. After sitting in the oven for the best part of two hours, the cake was still leaking. But Dylan liked the look of it. So much so that he stuck his fingers in it. Determined not to be defeated by coke or child, Rachel decided to add the icing before removing the cake from the tray, in the hope that it would fill the hole and glue the cake together.

Rachel looked at what she had done, and it was good.
Unfortunately, beauty is only tin deep, and when the cake was released, it slithered out, and the lovely fudge icing slowly... sadly... dribbled off the top, and down the sides, and away

And the cake wasn't the only thing dripping...

The kids were all playing beautifully in the pool, supervised by the 'ladies', while the men did manly things like fiddle with their Blackberries. For reasons no one could quite work out afterwards, Mark suddenly took it into his head that Jody was in trouble. Without a second's hesitation, he dashed across the garden and leapt into the pool fully clothed.

He surfaced to find Jody looking at him in alarm, asking, 'Are you alright, daddy?'

Claire, Amy and Rachel were laughing so much that they were in danger of falling in, while Tarek shook his head and muttered about David Hasslehof.

The only person who didn't notice was Dina, who was peering suspiciously into her Diet Coke.

DINA: 'Mark, have you spiked my drink?'
MARK: 'No'
DINA: 'I haven't drunk alcohol in ten years, and I know there is alcohol in this drink'
MARK: silent for a while, then 'Oops, must have used a glass with beer in it.'
Rachel contemplated pushing Mark back into the pool.

Despite this, everyone had a great afternoon. Oh, and the kids enjoyed it too.

Dylan got loads of great presents, as always. When asked what his best presents were, he didn't hesitate.

'My football chocolates' (cost: approx 70p)

'My Wolverine vest and pants' (bought as a joke from the supermarket, cost: approx £2.30).

There's a lesson in there somewhere, that Mark and Rachel will probably never learn.