On New Years Eve, we took Raff and Carole up on their totally spontaneous offer to host a party. They are one of the first to take up residency on The Palm Island Jumeirah, on the ‘trunk’ of The Palm. They bought a fifth level apartment (technically the fourth floor, since the ground floor is level 1).
The Palm is still largely a construction site, an aural cacophony of drilling, hammering, revving, piling, beeping and scraping. But Raff and Carole’s apartment looks out on an expanse of sea with the Burj Al Arab in the distance and Sheikh Mohammed’s private island in the foreground. If you squint out their living room window, beyond the scum at the waters edge and heaps of construction detritus, you can really see the potential.
The party was on New Years Eve and we didn’t fancy our chances of catching a taxi later in the evening. Raff and Carole offered us their sofa (presumably for sleeping on and as limited to their premises) but, although we packed bedding and toiletries, Husband was not mad keen. After a stressful evening of self abuse there is no substitute for falling into your bed. It HEALS you: slumber is more even, the hangover less vicious and – let’s face it – it’s always preferable to drool into your own pillow.
“We could always walk home,” said Husband.
“It’s ten kilometers!”
“Ah, come on now,” said My Beloved (this being one of his favourite expressions since Raff, Carole and I tortured him with Father Ted screenings for weeks on end). “It’s probably not more than six.”
“I’m not bloody walking,” I said. “Tell you what though. I could cycle.”
“Great idea! And I could run.”
“Yes, run. As in jog. To put one foot in front of the other, quite fast.”
I didn’t say anything as he packed my bike into the back of the car, followed by his running shoes and shorts. I figured he would probably be incapable of STANDING at the end of the night, never mind putting one foot in front of the other, quite fast.
When we arrived at Raff and Carole’s, Husband bonded with the beer while I got stuck into the margharitas. We spent most of the evening on the balcony which was lit up with fairy lights and candles and was unspeakably charming until it was gate crashed by mosquitoes. They were like armadillos with wings.
We repaired inside, where Raff put on ‘Finding Nemo’ to demonstrate the quality of their new plasma screen. One of their friends, who was blitzed when she arrived, had for some reason been talking about tap dancing. Carole and Husband were drunkenly exhorting her to shake her funky stuff, and she was going: “No, no I couldn’t, no really – oh, alright then”.
She started dancing across the room, accompanied by herself and considerately giving us a tutorial as she went: “Tap-dancing is really just one move, where you TAP! the ball of your foot against the ground. It’s a shuffle, like this. So let me see – HAPPY FEET! I’VE GOT THOSE HAP-HAP-HAPPY FEET! Shuffle left, shuffle left, shuffle shuffle shuffle left – I CAN’T CONTROL THE DANCING DEAR TO SAVE MY SOOOOOUL! Shuffle right, shuffle right – THOSE WEARY BLUES CAN’T GET INTO MY SHOES!”
I understand she learned the routine when she was seven. There was something frankly disturbing about a grown woman singing ‘Happy Feet’ with that level of gusto – or any level of gusto, for that matter.
Meanwhile, Husband and I were engrossed in the gripping tale that is ‘Finding Nemo’, but this woman was tap-dancing across the screen, and we were bobbing our heads around trying to follow the action
“Are you watching?” she shouted.
“Absolutely,” said Husband, trying to see through her flailing arms, “but Marlin and Dory are about to go searching for Nemo and it’s a very tense moment. If you could just move to the left-“
“HAPPY FEEEEET!” she bawled. “You’re not WATCHING!”
“I am,” said Carole with a poker-straight face that made me see my friend in a whole new respectful light.
At around half two in the morning I was trying to scare away a slavering-fanged mosquito by pulling faces at it, with not a lot of success.
“Shall we go?” asked Husband, clearly fed up with the insane tap-dancing lady.
We said our goodbyes and, at the car, I donned the reflective jacket Danny gave me for Christmas while Husband swapped his shirt and trousers for singlet and running shorts. And then he started jogging, while I wobbled along behind him with my flashing rear light.
Husband started strongly, powering up the overpass towards Dubai Marina. I stopped every half a mile to text status updates to an incredulous Carole. The number of cars on the road at 03:00hrs on New Years Day was mad, although maybe they called their buddies when they saw us: “Hey, I’m not sure whether I’m drunk or . . . yeah but I’ve just passed this bloke JOGGING and . . . and there’s a bird behind him in an evening dress on a bicycle. Get down here and take a look.”
Husband was slowing down coming to Interchange 5, going slower and slower, and by the time we hit The Springs entrance he was practically in reverse. His knee had crapped out and he was starting to whine.
“Go on, Niamhie, give me a backie.”
“Shaw. I mean it. Step away from the bike.”
“Aww, come on!”
He attempted to forcibly hitch a lift but I was giggling too hard to cycle. Somehow he talked me into relinquishing my beloved bicycle and taking a backie. Since it’s a mountain bike, the crossbar is not level: from the handlebars it slopes down to the saddle support. Three seconds later I was firmly wedged in Husband’s sweaty crotch, getting rhythmically kicked by his sweaty knees.
We finally made it home at four o’clock in the morning in one piece – although I was severely dented in the left hip region