Liquid Sunshine: The spray tan

I never thought I’d say this, but today I was a body model. I’d always thought there was more chance that camels might fly, but this morning, I found myself standing semi-naked in a tent, being sprayed with a liquid I can only describe as the colour of black coffee.

Its name: St Tropez – something you’d think you wouldn’t need in Dubai. But, as I’ve discovered, the winter (and middle of summer) here can actually leave you maybe not exactly waxy-white, but definitely on the pasty side.

Work has gone really slow, and so when I was offered a free professional fake tan as part of a training session, I said yes immediately, and had visions of turning nut brown while having all my knots massaged away by warm, enveloping hands.

And fire …

And fire …

At least that’s how I remembered it from the only other time I’ve had a fake tan done, just before my wedding 11 years ago.

This morning, while striking various poses in the polythene, pop-up tent – as a lady took aim at me with a fully loaded spray gun – I realised that technology has moved on since then. “Eyes closed,” she ordered, before blitzing my face with a mist of fake tan. ‘Turn … and turn again. Arms up … Elbows out … Face the other way.” (Is this how they spray-paint cars? I wondered.)

“Now lunge …”

She looked so disappointed with my lunge, she did a quick demonstration, and I tried again – only to step back off the towel onto the slippy bit and nearly go flying. It wasn’t the lying down experience I’d envisioned, let me tell you.

Feeling as though I was being trussed up and basted like a turkey, I let her do a second coat and, afterwards, emerged from the cavern – the colour of mahogany!

DH came to pick me up. I’d warned him I’d taken on the appearance of a cigar. And how he laughed when he saw me! “You look like a really well done chicken,” he chortled, clearly worried about the car seat. “Mum, what’s that smell?” asked my oldest, inhaling the distinctive scent. “I really did prefer you when you looked like a peach.” (!)

Given that Catherine the Great spends her whole life trying to look whiter, I have no idea what she must have thought, but she was definitely amused too.

But, I’m happy to report that, after 8 hours and a good shower, it’s now toned down nicely (in fact, it’s great! I glow!), with not an orange patch in sight. I’d even do it again.

Not a sponsored post, but the spray tan took place at Locks By Lou Lou in JLT

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A note on school remember lists

It could be because it’s the last week of term, but I feel like I have a mild form of dementia this week. I’m forgetting all sorts of school-related things. And, boy, do the kids let me know about this!

“Mum, you forgot everything today!” my oldest told me, as he burst through the door yesterday afternoon, the indignance chipping away at the edges of his voice. “My reading book … the zumbathon … money for Tanzania Day.” Never mind the equally long list of things I did remember.

“Well, you are nine now, big boy. It might be time you started remembering some of these things for yourself?” I suggested hopefully. He looked at me aghast, as though I’d proposed chopping him into little bits for dinner. DH glanced up from his chair in the corner, enjoying the distraction from his airplane manuals, and raised an amused eyebrow.

Last week of term and nothing is sticking in my memory

Last week of term and nothing is sticking in my memory

The thing is, there’s just so much to remember, isn’t there? Your child will need: an iPad for Arabic; an oversized white shirt for science; a costume for Book Character Day; a 3D model of the Ruler’s Court (okay, I made the last one up, but I know any mums reading this will relate!).

My friend A, who is frantically busy setting up her own company at the moment, told me she had a chicken bone soaking in vinegar in the kitchen for a science experiment on calcium deficiency, and had just bought plastic juice bottles to make lungs. “Tomorrow he needs recyclable materials to create artwork for the theme ‘a sustainable and happy society’ … and that’s just for the little one. Don’t get me started on the older brother.”

I gave her a wobbly, sympathetic smile, knowing that this is what I’m in for next year.

In our household, having two completely different schools makes the remember list even longer. I’d go so far as to say it adds a bi-polar element to our school situation (the result of a waiting list as long as your arm) – and this morning I found myself cursing my inability to stay on top of things.

Raising money for children with genetic disorders

Raising money for children with genetic disorders

It was Jeans for Genes Day at Son2’s school, necessitating the wearing of denim and a 10dhs donation (which had to be in 10 dirham coins, not a note, as they were going to use the coins to fill the outline of a pair of jeans). A great cause, and I was all for it. We picked out his coolest jeans. He pulled them on, and buttoned up his blue and white stripy school shirt at 7am this morning.

Big mistake – when we get to school, all the other kids are wearing T-shirts with their jeans.

Son2 bursts into noisy, guffawing sobs and runs away. I’m feeling mildy annoyed that he’s having such a dramatic reaction. But then, the teacher goes off to see if there’s a spare T-shirt, and half the class pours out the door like flood water, to stare at my son, who’s hiding round the corner. “A-ha, you’re not meant to be wearing that,” trills one classmate, pointing.

My words, “It doesn’t matter!” fall like rocks in the morning air.

And I feel so bad – so horribly bad – that I go straight home, pick up a T-shirt (his brother’s, another brain freeze) and drive it back to school.

Bring on the Easter holidays! (Now, if someone could just tell me where I put my car keys … )

Posted in Children, Dubai, Expat, Family, Parenting, School, UAE | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Is there anything else I can help you with?

If you live here, you’ll know there are only two phone companies – Etisalat and Du. Which means if you’re not satisfied with one, there’s only one other provider. And after that … well, you’re back where you started.

You might also know that Dubai has plans to become one of the world’s smartest cities. We’re talking wi-fi on the beach, smart taxis, smart buses, smart rail, smart parking and, at DSO Smart City, even smart lighting that gets brighter when pedestrians are passing, and solar-powered, motorised smart shading for open areas.

All well and good. Except when it doesn’t work, and the technology leaves you scratching your head and reaching for the gin (like when the SMS parking system doesn’t let you pay; or the ticketing system for the shiny new $1.1bn tram spits your credit card out in disgust and won’t give change).

Dear Du, My recent interaction with you left the hairs on the back of my neck standing up as though they were about to march off and do battle somewhere

Dear Du, My recent interaction with you left the hairs on the back of my neck standing up as though they were about to march off and do battle

So, back to my phone. I get an ominous sounding message, among the million other ‘special offer’ SMSs from the phone company. The text says I need to visit one of their shops immediately to avoid disconnection.

But I’m at work. I can’t take a whole morning off to queue up at the Du store. So I do what any other hopeful, time-pressed mother might do – I assume they’re just joking.

Until two days later, when I wake up to find the number I’ve had for six years no longer works. And I end up at the Du office, in their queuing system, with 33 customers to be served ahead of me.

And, two hours later, the man tells me that the documents I’d re-registered with a year or so ago (my passport/ID card) had expired, and, without actually being told, I was meant to somehow know to bring my new documents in to re-register for a second time. Who needs telecommunications when they can use telepathy, after all?

I hand over my passport, chew the inside of my mouth, and ask when I’ll be reconnected: “In 24-48 hours Ma’am.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

At this point, his face has become an oval with two vacant, expressionless eyes and just a slit for a mouth, and I leave, flashing him my best dissatisfied look and knowing there’s an apocalyptic pile-up of customers behind me and making a fuss won’t help.

But you know what: something strange happens over the next 24 … 48 … yes 72 hours. I love not having my phone. I quit a freelance job that’s making me wait months for payment, knowing that the boss won’t get on the phone to talk me into continuing. I spend a day with my bestie from the UK, safe in the knowledge that the school, my car pool, etc, will have to get hold of DH instead.

Then after 72 hours, DH casually mentions: “Have you rebooted your phone?” No, Du never mentioned that, I think to myself – and it turns out to be another telepathy fail because as soon as I reboot, the network springs back to life.

Anyway, rant over. The moral of this post being: if the phone company threatens to cut you off, they’re not joking. Far from it … then they’ll ask what else they can help you with.

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The school lockdown drill

“Mummy! There’s going to be actors playing terrorists in school tomorrow!” said my older son, the excitement chipping away at the edges of his voice.

Goodness, I said, my brows knitting together. I knew there was a travelling theatre coming to school soon (I’d sent the money in), but this sounded far too dramatic for a class of imaginative eight and nine year olds.

Further questioning revealed that the school had planned a lockdown drill – something all UAE schools are doing this year, most for the first time. Kind of like a fire drill in reverse: the warning sounds and everyone stays inside.

Today on the curriculum: Hiding practice

Today on the curriculum: Hiding practice

Explaining this to children can be tricky, and you end up mumbling something like, “It’s safest to be outside a building if it’s on fire, and sometimes it’s safest to be inside the building instead.” Pushed into it … “If we were in America there might be a man with a gun.” [their eyes expand like saucers] “But not here …” (lest they suddenly decide they never want to go to school again).

Well, it turned out there were no play-terrorists (over-enthusiastic primary school kids really know how to spin it, don’t they?). And, to be honest, it sounded more like hiding practice as it’s not like they were allowed to pile tables and chairs up against the door or anything. But the novelty factor certainly meant Son1 told me far more about his school day than he usually does – and went to town on the sound effects.

The alarm sounded, he said, demonstrating it loudly with siren-like wailing. And all the children had to huddle in the corner of their classroom, with the lights off. “The head then came round banging on all the doors, kind of pretending he was trying to get in.

I’m trying to imagine all the children and teachers hunkering silently in darkened classrooms away from closed blinds and locked doors, while the headmaster prowled through the hallways decorated with student art and jiggled doorhandles.

“We made two mistakes,” said Son1. “Ms B forgot to turn the smart board off, and left her phone on her desk.”

“But Ms T’s class made the worst mistake,” he added, the corners of his mouth twitching into a smile.

“What was that?” I asked.

“They forgot to lock the door.”

Posted in Children, Dubai, Expat, Family, Parenting, School, UAE | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The job ad that will leave you speechless!

Here’s one for all the pilot’s wives out there … in fact, for all wives in the Middle East who have carved a career for themselves out here, or are currently working hard at the coal-face at home. It seems we’ve got our priorities all wrong! This is an actual job ad …

Bhahahaha! In case the type is too small to read: “Fly the world’s 5-star airline and give your wife even more to be proud of, like an exciting lifestyle with a choice of accommodation, shopping, dining and adventure in up-and-coming Doha …”

Bhahahaha! In case the type is too small to read: “Fly the world’s 5-star airline and give your wife even more to be proud of, like an exciting lifestyle with a choice of accommodation, shopping, dining and adventure in up-and-coming Doha …”

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Dust storm leaves sand all over the furniture

My parents are visiting at the moment, mainly to see the grandchildren, but also because it’s cold in the UK and they fancied a week of sunshine.

Okay, no laughing at the back!

We ventured out at the weekend, into the giant dust-ball that’s engulfed the country – otherwise known as a sandstorm. It billowed and swirled for two days straight, chucking sand everywhere, and filling the sky with a thick, fog-like dust; all weekend the daylight was tinged with yellow and stretched long and thin.

Hitting the UAE from Saudi Arabia, the sandstorm settled in like slow blindness, sucking the colour from the sky, the sun (you could even look straight at it) and the cars on the road. Driving became hazardous as the visibility dropped, and stepping outside meant sand blowing into your hair, mouth, eyes and ears – the blustery conditions really did give a new meaning to the term ‘yukky weather’, with more sand yet to come.

I was having visions of being swallowed up by the desert, while innocently on our way to watch Shaun the Sheep, and could see the headline in my mind: ‘Expats vanish in Barsha triangle’.

And, it’s when these sandstorms hit that you realise just how poorly sealed our houses are. This photo was taken by my lovely neighbour B, inside her villa! Good luck with the clean-up everyone. :-)

My desk where I blog is by the window and was also covered in a thin layer of sand!

My desk where I blog is by the window and was also covered in a thin layer of sand … clogged up sinuses, anyone?

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So You Want to Write a Blog?

“First, if you could ask the person next to you what they’d never blog about, what they’d love to blog about, and what they hope to learn today – then we’ll go round the room and everyone can introduce their neighbour.”

A ripple of nervousness spread from the overhead projector and all the way round the tables. “Now you know how we feel,” said a smiling Kirsty Rice, co-founder of Blogging ME, the first blogging agency of its kind in the Middle East.


Kirsty shares her blogging wisdom

I was attending Blogging ME’s inaugural conference in Doha, Qatar, and found myself among a receptive audience of writers, bloggers and wannabe bloggers, gathered at the city’s fabulous Four Seasons hotel.

As we introduced ourselves, little did we know that later that afternoon we’d all don personalised, white dressing gowns – gifted to us by the hotel – and jump into bed together. Not just any old bed, but the very bed that David Beckham recently slept in when he stayed at the Four Seasons, in one of their regally furnished, villa-sized state suites.

Kirsty, the writer behind the spectacularly successful expat blog 4 Kids, 20 Suitcases and a Beagle, and co-host Sarah Derrig, the author of the lovely Lady Sadie’s Emporium, needn’t have felt nervous. Everyone was keen to hear what they had to say, and the rest was taken care of by the Four Seasons, which laid on an amazing spread of food, followed by a sundown reception with champagne and chefs at live cooking stations. Bubbles and bloggers, it turns out, are a great combination.


The Four Seasons had thought of everything

“A new blog is started every minute,” Kirsty told us. “From the online diaries of the 90s to the political blogs of the 2000s and the launch of wordpress in 2003, people have been sharing online for two-and-a-half decades.

“Now, there are personal blogs, business blogs and blogs covering fashion, food and photography, to name just a few. There are also niches within niches, such as children fleeing the nest. After about two years, I found that expat life was my niche.”

Informative sessions on all aspects of blogging followed, from choosing a platform (wordpress, Blogger or Squarespace?) to blog stats and widgets. “From Google Analytics, I know that there’s a lady in Russia who reads my blog every single day,” said Sarah.

Blogging ME: Coming soon to Dubai, Kuwait and Oman!

Blogging ME: Coming soon to Dubai, Kuwait and Oman!

We learnt about logos, fonts and colours (choose wisely: red is aggressive; orange less so; blue denotes authority; and green is associated with wellness). It hadn’t occurred to me before, but the wrong font is apparently a buzz-kill. Sarah then revealed her photography tricks, including how to do pretty – while we all got busy instagraming under the table. The prize for the best picture – a weekend at the Four Seasons!

There was tonnes more I could write about, but I don’t want to give too much away about the wonderful afternoon – as the exciting news for any Middle East bloggers reading this is that Blogging ME has plans to expand into Dubai, Oman and Kuwait. I highly recommend subscribing here to receive Blogging ME’s regular updates!

Over to Kirsty for the last word: “Just 20 minutes of creative writing a day is wonderfully therapeutic. As I told my teen, if you get it out on the page, how you feel becomes much clearer.”

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