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Right hand rule

I was getting quite adept at jump-starting the Mazda when Husband stripped off his shirt and glistened manfully in the sunlight. Oh yes, and he also sorted out the starter, exorcised the hazard lights, and fixed the driver’s window. The button now works in reverse to the rest of the electronic windows, but ‘works’ is the word to focus on here. (That reminds me, I really should go and wipe the greasy handprints off the inside of the window.)

We also got an air freshener.

After all that, Husband decided the Mazda didn’t suit his boy-racer image and talked me into buying a 1993 Toyota MR2. It’s a two-seater targer-top, which is quite possibly The Most Impractical Car in the World. (In the interests of fairness and full disclosure, I’d better point out that Husband claims the Yukon is the current titleholder.)

When we collected the MR2, we faced a dilemma. To date, I had fulfilled the role of Chief Navigator and, although I could give you the grid reference and corresponding map number of any street in the greater Auckland region, I am pretty rubbish at getting there without my eyes glued to the map and a spare digit following the route. Husband often turns left or right on whim, which doesn’t help.

So I drove the Mazda home with the A-Z propped against the steering wheel and Husband following in the MR2. By the time I neared Mount Wellington, I was well stressed, what with reading the map while watching the road and fretting about taking a wrong turn because Husband mightn’t love me any more (since I apply strict conditions to my love, I expect Husband does the same).

There is a bizarre right hand rule in New Zealand – or is it the left hand rule? – whereby – and look, you’re going to have to suspend disbelief a bit here. Is it suspended? How about now? Ok. Visualise this: you’re driving along a main road, on the left hand side if you want to avoid head-on collisions. You want to turn left, and the car coming against you wants to turn into the same road, ie their right. Well, YOU HAVE TO GIVE WAY TO THAT DRIVER.

I suppose the NZ Transport Authority were kicking it around one day:

“What about this? Everyone’s driving on the left BUT at roundabouts they go anti-clockwise. Aw yeh? Aw yeh?”

“OR how about: everyone drives on the left except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays? We can tell them it’s to improve traffic flow. HA HA HA!”

“No, I have it. Alright lads, listen up. How about IF someone’s turning right, yeh, yeh, wait- ok, so they’re turning right, and someone else is turning right, no, left, no- WHATEVER, then that guy has to let the other one go. Except if he’s at a stop sign- no wait, except if he’s not at a stop sign. Doesn’t really matter. More obscure the better.”

“<awed silence>”

“Oh god, that’s beautiful.”

Now, I understand the left hand turn rule in theory, but in practice . . . I’ve examined it from any number of angles and maybe you can explain it to me, but it seems there’s just no way to make it work. Although I try.

On this occasion, I was turning right and the car coming against me indicated into the same road. She was moving pretty fast and I made the mistake of pausing. She went to go, then stopped, so I nudged forward, but she whipped around the corner, leaving me stranded across the wrong lane with a line of cars squeezing past.

“Did you see that COW?” I seethed to Husband back at the house. “That was TOTALLY my right of way!”

“Actually, not exactly,” said Husband. You’ll be noticing that after nearly 10 years together, the man still lives on the edge when he’s not preoccupied dicing with death. “If the car is turning left but there’s traffic backed up behind it which wants to go straight ahead-”

“Well how the <expletive deleted> am I supposed to know if they want to go straight when I can’t see their indicators?” I shouted.

Husband: “Yeah ok, it doesn’t make a lot of sense-”

“YA THINK?”

“Anyway, in that instance they have right of way-”

“Ok look, you’re making this up-” I said, getting a bit teary.

“No-”

“You ARE! You’re just- just making it up as you go along! You expect me to drive around this <expletive deleted> country – uninsured – and drive and <expletive deleted> navigate and expect me to turn LEFT! And then you make up some rule – I have no idea why, except you obviously don’t want sex for the next six months – or maybe you’re just trying to wind me up – well, I’M <EXPLETIVE DELETED> WOUND UP!”

I got my own back a week later, when I was driving the MR2 with Husband providing last-minute instruction from the passenger seat.

“Turn left here,” he said and, in my defence for what happened next, I was pre-occupied wondering whether I’d have to apply the handbrake to do so.

“Give way to that car,” said Husband. “Niamhie, the car turning right,” a note of panic creeping into his voice, “you need to give way-”

Now, Husband swears I floored the accelerator but he doesn’t have to swear because I admit it: I did, and thundered around the corner in oblivious violation of the Road Code, inches in front of the other car’s premature bumper.

“What the- what the hell!” screamed Husband. “Didn’t you HEAR me tell you to give way?”

“Kind of, yes.”

“But you ACCELERATED! . . . WHY?”

“Because the rule doesn’t make sense! Not even a little bit! None! Admit it! And ah,” I admitted, “I forgot.”

“Gah!”

The next time we took both cars out at once, Husband offered to lead. After a short distance, I realised Husband’s method of navigation is according to whichever traffic light happens to be green at any given intersection. No idea where the fuck he’s going, bless him. (In case you were wondering, I still love him. Can’t explain it.)

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I have, we go, come

Over the years, the Yukon attracted a certain amount of interest. In a way, it was like a mobile landmark – after all, you couldn’t miss it. Practically speaking and on the surface, you could interpret as insanity the fact that a car the size of a jumbo jet featured only two doors, but I considered it quirkily eccentric.

I wasn’t the only one, because strangers would knock on my window at 120kph on Sheikh Zayed Road to ask whether it was for sale and for how much and did I have a husband?

I should have known better than to place the car in Gulf News Classifieds for sale at Dhs 32000, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW MUCH I WANTED. If you’ve ever lived in the Middle East, you will understand my error.

For the first week, I fielded many calls, all following the same basic script:

“Salam a’ Linkum. Walla yallah <lots of throat clearing>”

“Hello, Niamh speaking.”

“<silence>”

“Hello, can I help you?”

“You have carrr.”

“That’s right.”

“Yukon G-M-C.”

“Yes.”

“How many cylinder?”

“Eight cylinders.”

“Very good, very good. How many wheel?”

“Four wheels plus spare.”

“Very good, very good. What is colour?”

“Gun metal grey.”

“Bad colour.”

“No, it’s a good colour.”

“Ah! Good colour, very good.”

“That’s right.”

“<silence>”

“Was there anything else?”

“I give you Dhs 10000.”

“No thanks. Bye now!”

“Wait! Wait! How much you want?”

“Dhs 32000.”

“Ok. I give Dhs 15000. Good price for this carrr. Very good.”

“I don’t think so. Seriously, good bye.”

“Wait! I give Dhs 12000-”

“<click>”

Every couple of days, I went out and gave the Yukon a Brazilian Wash (due to the V-shaped swathe of dust extending from the roof down the centre of the windscreen according to my reach). This was for the few people who came to view the car and absently readjust their dishdash before offering Dhs 10000.

Although I wanted to sell the Yukon – knew I had to – I was secretly glad when negotiations failed. It was like Sophie’s Choice: the tragic decision between my car and a wad of cash. (Before you denounce me as shallow, do remember that Sophie and her children were FICTITIOUS CHARACTERS.)

After one close encounter, wherein a caller flirted with the asking price, I put down the phone and burst into tears.

“He- he offered thirty thousand!” I blubbed, throwing my body on Husband.

“Ah-” said poor Husband.

“The Yu-yu-yukon! It was a serious oooffeeer!”

“Well- that’s great! Isn’t it?”

“I suppooose!”

“Niamhie,” said Husband with perplexing patience as I prowled miserably around his lap. “You don’t have to sell the Yukon if you don’t want to. Hey- we can get a 40 foot container and just- bring it with us! I know – we could live in it! We’ll put what we save on rent towards petrol. What d’you think?”

“Boo hoooo!”

Finally, Mosabeh and Mohammed came all the way from Dhaid to see the Yukon, and adhered to the standard procedure for viewing the vehicle, as follows:-

(1) Circle car kicking tyres

(2) Circle car checking stubble growth

(3) Circle car knocking randomly on the body while doubled over

(4) Open bonnet and peer intently at engine

(5) Unscrew radiator cap

(6) Replace

(7) Tweak spark plugs

(8) Check how much pressure can be applied to the running fan belt to draw blood

(9) Test-drive car, preferably off-road

(10) Ignore all potentially major trouble spots in a car this age and obsess at length about some minor and happily fully functional feature

(11) Haggle Jihad

Mohammed checked out the 4-wheel drive function at 100kph and hurled it over some lorry ruts to assess median bounce tolerance, while Mosabeh turned the interior light on and off, on and off: ‘Hey! Light works. Hey! It still works. Hey! What d’you know? . . .’

Back in the carpark, I tried to persuade my legs to stop trembling.

“Very nice car,” pronounced Mohammed.

“Oh!” I said in some surprise. “Yes, it’s in great condition-”

“But,” said Mohammed holding aloft a doleful finger, “there is scrrratch. Here. You see.”

“Well yes, the car is eight years old. Look: here’s another one.”

“It have only six cup holders.”

“The car only seats five!”

“But, what if someone, he have two drinks?”

“Yeah, that would need six holders-”

“Ah! You see! What if TWO person, have two drinks?”

“Hmm, I see the problem.”

“Ok. You will give us good price?”

“Absolutely. Dhs 32000 is a fabulous price for this classic car featuring six cup holders which, let’s face it, is excessive by a factor of about four.”

“I give you Dhs 20000. Final offer.”

“No thanks. Sorry you wasted your time, I hope you find another car-”

“Wait! Final offer. I give you Dhs 21000. Very good price.”

“Mohammed, I’ve been offered Dhs 30000.”

“I give you twenty two. Final offer.”

“Did you miss my saying I’ve been offered thirty? Or do you think you’ll persuade me via the powerful magnetism of your personality?”

“Twenty three. Cash. We go now to police. I have, we go. Come.”

“<putting the Yukon in gear>”

“You will call?”

“It’s looking unlikely, but bear in mind I am occasionally given to exaggeration.”

“Wait! I give you-”

“<Drives away with excessive revving>”

Later that evening, I received the following text message: I offer 25k it is good price for YOUR CAR mosabeh

My response was phenomenally polite under the circumstances. Which is probably why Mosabeh called me two days later offering thirty.

“No.”

“How much you want?”

“I will take thirty one if you stop arguing with me for the love of margharita.”

“Yallah.”

We arranged to meet at the Police Station the following evening to conduct the transfer. Dan had just sold his Range Rover and emerged from the experience uncharacteristically bitter. “Make sure the git has thirteen months insurance,” he hissed, “and brings a copy of his passport. And don’t bother going to the Police Station until they tell you they’re already there. And then tell them you’re two minutes away and instead have some lunch.”

Upon Danny’s advice, I sent Mosabeh three text messages instructing him to bring his passport and thirteen months insurance – which made it all the more embarrassing when, after two hours of car tests and paperwork and teaching Mosabeh and his cousin dirty English words, the police refused to complete the transfer due to a HSBC car loan listed on my registration card.

Four days later, after a daring mission (Codename: Operation Muppetation) to extract a clearance letter out of HSBC, I returned to the police station and transferred ownership of the Yukon to Mosabeh.

Despite the increasingly frequent squalls of tears leading up to the event, I was not prepared for the devastation accompanying the sale of the car. I couldn’t understand it. After six years of ownership, I was always pleasantly surprised when the Yukon started which, considering it’s a core functionality, is hardly a selling point. The car featured spongy brakes, soggy suspension and an oil leak on the right hand side.

Yet after handing over my car, I wept all the way home – much to the consternation of the taxi driver, who spent far too much time looking under his seat for a box of tissues considering he was slaloming past speed cameras on Chicago Beach Village Road. At least by the end of the journey my tears were inspired more by terror than loss

Tow hitch featuring 2” receiver

In the olden days – ie prior to last week – whenever Husband went biking he had to drive out to Arabian Ranches to pick up Mark’s trailer, bring it home, load his bike on it, drive to the desert, unload the bike, pose, conduct aerial stunts, hump the bike back onto the trailer, drive home and unload the bike, drop the trailer back to Mark and drive home again.

 

In fairness, just typing that exhausted me, never mind actually doing it. Roughly every three months, Andrew would say: “Hey, I’ve got a great idea! How about I buy a bike trailer?”

 

It was always heart-rending watching the light in his little eyes slowly die as the voice of reason (me, in case you were in doubt) listed the reasons not to: (1) there’s nowhere to keep it; (2) no, it won’t fit in the cupboard under the stairs even if you throw out your vintage collection of Phillips screwdrivers and half of your boxes of Stuff; (3) no you can’t bloody store it in the bloody living room; (4) we’re leaving the country in 12 months/ 9 months/ 6 months anyway; (5) it’s summer so you won’t use it enough to justify the expense; (6) it’s winter so . . . well, I can’t think of any reason relating to winter, but please revert to reason #1 and repeat loop.

 

About four months ago, Andrew discovered a device that could attach onto the back of the Yukon – similar to a side-mounted bike rack but for a motorbike. The only trouble was that it required a rear tow hitch for support and the Yukon didn’t have one.

 

After a couple of weeks wherein Andrew diverted phenomenal amounts of energy towards muttering about what sort of a four wheel drive doesn’t have a rear tow hitch, and what sort of person would buy the sort of four wheel drive that doesn’t have a rear tow hitch, and that’s not to MENTION the fact that it only has two doors, Andrew asked me to call GMC and ask how much a tow hitch with 2” receiver would cost. You might wonder why I was required to call GMC – in fact, I wondered as much myself – but at that stage I would have placed a reverse charge call to Osama Bin Laden if it would only stop the griping for the love of god.

 

GMC said they didn’t have a tow hitch in stock; they could order one, but it would take a couple of months to arrive, cost US$ 450. Andrew converted the griping to thankfully largely silent inner reflection and eventually – I’m not sure why – he decided not to purchase the tow hitch. Perhaps he felt he would miss the conversational outlet afforded by the great trailer debate.

 

Fast forward four months, when Andrew spotted an advert on the Spinneys notice board for a second-hand motorbike carrier.

 

“Let’s go and look at it,” he suggested.

 

I thought he was going to gaze wistfully at it, prod and shake it, maybe smell it for a while, but US$ 260 later Andrew emerged with the motorbike carrier.

 

Of course he couldn’t use it, because we still had no tow hitch. Andrew suffered a delayed reaction, and then one day shortly afterwards, he called me from work:

 

“Niamhie! Niamhie! I need a tow hitch.”

 

“Jesus, not this again.”

 

“Yes but, I need a tow hitch.”

 

“What the hell am I supposed to do about it-”

 

“Glad you asked. Call GMC and tell them you want a tow hitch-”

 

“I CALLED them ages ago, remember? It’ll cost US$ 450 and if it’s not in stock, it’ll take them up to two months to get one-”

 

“Oh no, that’s no good.”

 

“Well, when do you want it?”

 

“Today.”

 

I rolled my eyes so vigorously, I’m sure he heard it down the phone.

 

“And hang on- why am I calling GMC? YOU bloody call GMC!”

 

“No, you have their number.”

 

“Here! I’ll give it to you!”

 

“You have a relationship with Moorthy-”

 

“I bring my car in, he services it! I’m not sleeping with the man-”

 

“Aw Niamhie!” Yes, can you believe it? He took out the wheedle. “Aw! Aw! Aw Niamhie! Come on, you KNOW you’re so good at this sort of thing-”

 

“Phoning? It’s not that difficult, you know. Almost foolproof, even.”

 

Of course, I ended up calling Moorthy, who put me onto John in the workshop. There were no tow hitches in stock. I thought of Andrew’s disappointment, the light dying in his bleak little eyes, the incessant brain-melting bitchin’ 24/7.

 

“Listen, is the item stocked in any of your other workshops?”

 

“I’m afraid not, Madam.”

 

“Ok. What about a second-hand tow hitch? You have any of those lying around?”

 

“No Madam, but I can check.”

 

Andrew didn’t take the news well: “Did you shout at him?”

 

But then John called back and – wonder of wonders – he had found a second-hand tow hitch (probably boosted from some truck out back). He said it would be in the workshop for collection by 11:00am. It was US$ 270, but because we had such a good relationship (no, I’m not sleeping with him, either) he would give me a 35% discount, which would make it US$ 170.

 

Andrew collected and installed the tow hitch the same day. I am glad to report that meaning has returned to his life – and peace to mine

I like to ride my bicycle

Since leaving The Company, I used to drive to the supermarket, the gym and make occasional forays to proximate shopping centres – Ibn Battuta or Mall of the Emirates. However, most of the time the car sat in the garage collecting sand and ‘CLEAN ME’ messages on the windows.

Upon moving to The Springs, Husband and I often discussed getting bicycles, but . . . look, I can’t even think of a decent excuse. To be honest, laziness was a large factor. We agreed that it was such an effort even TALKING about getting bikes, what was the likelihood we’d ever dredge up enough energy to cycle the things?

However, before Christmas Husband brought me shopping and I picked out a mountain bike, which he accessorized with front and rear lights, bell and basket for Christmas. Danny got me an XXXL reflective jacket.

And so I am a familiar figure around the community, carefully cycling along on my bike, basket brimming with toilet rolls and celery sticks.

The other morning I set out to cycle up to Ibn Battuta. Rather than risk my sanity on Sheikh Zayed Road (which would have been, I found out later, illegal), I thought I’d blag my way into the Jumeirah Islands Residential Community adjoining our neighborhood, which lets out the other end at the mall.

As I cycled towards the Jumeirah Islands Security Post, I decided the best course of action would be to charge by at a fast clip. Unfortunately, I am not well practiced with the fast clip, my top speed being more a gravity-defying wobble. The Security Guard, unimpressed with the ‘White European Female’ royal wave which nearly brought me down, shot out of his shed and held up an authoritative hand.

“You can’t pass here,” he said.

“Why not?”

“Jumeirah Islands is a private development.”

“Pleeaase?”

[I’ve noticed that the damsel in distress routine cuts it less and less. I think you need a quivering bosom for full effect, and now that I was stationery my bosom was commensurately immobile.]

“Look,” I said. “If you don’t let me through I’ll have to cycle up Sheikh Zayed Road and I’ll die. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience now, would you?”

I detected a slight hesitation.

“Madam, do you have friends or relatives residing in Jumeirah Islands?”

[Result!]

“Yes! Yes, I have both friends AND relatives living in Jumeirah Islands.”

“Where do they live?”

[So. He was going to make me lie for it – and as you are aware, I am just so very very bad with the porkies, the evidence for which I am about to conclusively demonstrate.]

“Er. On top of the hill. Over there,” I gestured vaguely. “By the er, island.”

“And what is your . . .”

“Friend-who-is-also-a-relative.”

“What is your friend-who-is-also-a-relative’s name?”

“Bob,” I said with authority. Having observed The Master (Husband) for over eight years, I know that successful falsification requires Authority. If there had been a table to hand, I would have thumped it.

“Bob who?”

“Marley,” I said instantly. “No! No! I meant Quealy. Sorry, Quealy. Not Marley.”

“Which is it?” said the Security Guard with no small measure of impatience, although I’m pretty sure that somewhere deep down – or not so deep at all – he was enjoying himself immensely.

“Bob Marley Quealy. With a hyphen. Marley-Quealy. He was formerly a Quealy but married a Marley. No, that’s not right, hang on. No, yes, that was just his name. IS his name, I mean – he’s not dead. He’s very much alive and living in Jumeirah Islands, on top of the hill beside the island in the middle of the desert. Please don’t ask me any more questions. Can I go now?”

No doubt because I had provided more entertainment than the man had seen in WEEKS, the Security Guard waved me on.

Since then I have found a shortcut through the perimeter fence and most days I cycle up to Ibn Battuta to write in peace in The Lime Tree Café.

In the four weeks since, I have become more proficient with the cycling. After days of daring, I finally mastered The Kerb Wheelie, although on two occasions I inadvertently head butted the pavement. The first time, although I successfully popped the front wheel in the air, I misjudged the distance by about a foot, give or take three. The front wheel landed in front of the kerb and I got intimate with the handlebars followed swiftly by the pavement.

The second time, having got the front wheel up the kerb, I was so overwhelmed with my own skill that I paused to give a victory salute, thereby neglecting to pedal. When the back wheel encountered the kerb I promptly toppled over.

Even when trundling around in Tank Central (the Yukon), the road conditions here – ie drivers – are beyond terrifying. When cycling, I stick to the pavement where possible. Even this route is fraught with danger, what with rabid dogs, psychotic toddlers, and uneven paving stones.

I am often required to cross the two x two-lane road in The Springs, which is equipped with the odd pedestrian crossing. The crossings are a bit hit and miss and, lthough I generally aim for ‘miss’, I would probably have better luck betting on the geegees as to whether and which cars might stop at the pedestrian crossings. Most drivers like to speed up for them. Occasionally, when I’m paused at a crossing waiting for both lanes to clear, a misguided driver will pull to a stop, which results in enraged drivers thundering past in the other lane blaring horns and shaving my eyebrows off.

Despite all this, I love getting around under my own steam and being out in the fresh air. By ‘fresh air’ I mean the chemical-laden fug masquerading as oxygen around these parts.

I realize that perhaps I haven’t painted the most idyllic picture of me and my bike, so here is a whole list of perquisites:-

1/ The sand blast/dermabrasion effect that Cleopatra’s Spa would undoubtedly describe as: “Fine sand hand-picked from the Arabian Desert gently massaged into every pore of your body,” for which it would charge Dhs500

2/ The glorious scenery: buttercup strewn fields, country lanes wafting honeysuckle, charming villages with giggling children running after you down the narrow cobblestone streets

3/ Cycling with no hands – which I’m sure will be a big thrill when I master the trick

4/ The daring intrepidness of it all

5/ Ringing my bell. It’s great

6/ There’s got to be another reason. Oh, how about the health benefits? Big thighs: there’s number six

Saudi Arabia: 5km

About two months ago Husband was gnarly with flu – hacking cough, sore throat, masses of snot and the sweats. At one point he asked me to take him to see a doctor so that gives you some idea of the severity. He’s also suffered on and off from a dicky tummy, but I’ve been dosing him with spuds which has lent a robustness formerly lacking in his constitution.

I think some of it is stress – he’s had a lot on at work recently. The company was booted out of their office and had difficulty finding alternative premises. Rents have gone psycho in the last year, and The Company eventually had to take an office at twice the price they were paying. The building is not great and is host to a cockroach orgy, so they are hoping it is a temporary measure.

Generally Dubai is going through a psychedelic phase, and we’re wondering how the place will shake down in the next couple of years. Residential and commercial rents have risen so sharply that many cannot afford to live or work here any more. Rents have increased on average 30% with the prospect of further hikes next year. There are no laws protecting the tenant – in fact, the government recently announced that the market would dictate rents.

There is plenty of hype about the hordes flocking to the UAE; but there are also swarms of people stampeding off into the sunset. Government charges are creeping into the formerly tax-free haven and with many Expats being hammered by adverse exchange rates, people are questioning whether it is worth their while staying in Dubai.

I am getting quite nervous about being in this place, but then I am a worrier. (It’s always particularly worrying when there appears to be nothing to worry about.)

We are still planning on two more years in the Middle East, but we are relieved not to be renting from the end of September.

Speaking of which, we are still waiting on Emaar to announce the availability of our house. Andrew and I paid a visit to the estate last month and evaded the security guards by dodging behind a pile of rubble. Andrew boosted me into the back garden over a nine-foot wall. (I am frankly amazed – not that my husband fired me over the wall – but that he persuaded me to do it in the first place.) The house is finished – tiled, painted, wired and garnished. The surrounding infrastructure is also complete. We’re not sure why Emaar is waiting to release the property, but we are not counting on getting it any earlier.

After we have moved in and settled the dust, we are looking at taking a break in Thailand or Sri Lanka. In the meantime, I am planning a solo trip back to Ireland in early August, stopping by Róisín on the way.

Last month Andrew went to India over the weekend on business. We can spend a fair bit of time apart since I have frequent business trips, but I was not prepared for the impact of Andrew traveling. I am so used to him being part of the fabric of life that it feels all kooky when he’s gone. I had to throw his clothes all over the floor to make the place feel normal.

The first morning after he left, I decided to get up really early and go to the beach for a swim. I was on my way out the door when I noticed a spare car-key hanging by the door.

I was delighted with myself, since I didn’t even know I had a spare car-key.

Once at the beach, I removed all valuables from my bag and, with the door open, locked the car with the main keys. Then I placed the keys carefully in the ashtray and slammed the door to. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the waves were lapping, there was not a care in the world.

Unfortunately, it was only at that point that it occurred to me to check that the spare key worked. I mean, why wouldn’t it? It was the same as my master key, with a black rubber fob and ‘GM’ stamped on it.

But er, it didn’t.

Never mind, I thought. The door locks are pretty heavy on the Yukon. I just needed to give it some welly; woggle it around with a bit of spit.

But it didn’t matter how much I woggled or spat: the door was not budging.

The key was similarly ineffectual on the remaining doors. I might as well have been jamming a fork in there.

I experienced an overwhelming compulsion to scratch my head – but it didn’t achieve much (and I gave it a good five minutes).

Well, there didn’t seem much point in standing around half naked staring at my car in total confusion. I was a bit worried about my state of undress – but at least I had a rubber hat and goggles. I tramped out to the road and managed to flag down a taxi.

Of course, my wallet was in the car with all my cash, ATM and credit cards.

There was only one thing for it. In the absence of Andrew, Danny was my best option. So I asked the taxi driver to take me to TopBiz. It took Danny a while to answer the door – well, it was 08:00 in the morning and we had been out on the lam the night before.

“HI!” I chirruped. “Would you mind paying the taxi driver, there’s a good fellow.”

Armed with coffee and Danny’s mobile, I texted Andrew. Helpfully, his set of keys was in his trouser pocket in Mumbai. The dysfunctional ‘spare key’ turned out to be for the glove compartment of his new Chevy Lumina. Chevrolet being a sub-division of General Motors, explaining the black key fob with ‘GM’ stamped on it in a muchly similar if not frankly identical fashion to my Yukon key.

Once he fully woke up, Danny derived great amusement from my predicament. He presented a hammer and crowbar ‘just in case’, and was mad keen to smash a window – ‘if we lob a rock through the windscreen, you might be able to claim it on insurance’.

However, I thought there might have been a spare key cut for the Yukon back in the days when men were men and against Danny’s protests, deemed the first course of action to be hunting it down. Remarkably, after the security guard had let us in to the apartment, I found the spare key relatively quickly and – what d’you know? – it worked.

The whole weekend I was lost without Andrew – and literally so on Friday night. I’d been invited out for dinner. Although I’d visited the Arabian Ranches on many occasions, it was always with Husband. Either he was driving, in which case I didn’t pay any attention to where we were going; or if I was driving, I didn’t pay much attention either since Andrew interjects with directions.

Anyway, I ended up in the middle of the desert on a dark potholed track (‘Off The Beaten Track’ in the UAE means any road less than three lanes – so you can imagine how far I had strayed). Every now and then a truck would roar up the road at me and honk their horn.

Poor Andrew was on the phone from Mumbai: “Ok, where are you now?” and I’d go, “Well, there’s a sand-dune here, and another over there, and I’ve just passed the bloke from Deliverance who’s the first person I’ve seen for over an hour. Oh look! Here’s a signpost . . . hang on . . . it says . . . Saudi Arabia 5km.”

I finally arrived at dinner – an hour and a half late. When I got home, there was 270km clocked on my speedometer.

Having sproinked the Alpha just before Christmas, Andrew treated himself to a new car a month ago – a Chevrolet Lumina. He has turned into a menace on the roads. (There’s no doubt that Andrew always had the potential for vehicular menace; he just lacked the means.) He likes to sit at red lights revving the engine and staring moodily at the car next to him; then squeal off in a cloud of vaporized rubber leaving a zigzag trail of skid marks in his wake.

I have sometimes worried that his new car is a Chickmobile, but he doesn’t appear to be ogling eye-candy and anyway he’s too young for a mid-life crisis (I think) (although he recently suggested taking a course of Grecian 2000) (but that’s been a bi-annual discussion for seven years). My role is to sit at his side all lipglossed up, oozing sex appeal and cleavage and laughing gaily at his every utterance. So far I am a grave disappointment, since I spend most of the time fighting g-forces with my face smushed up against the passenger window.

Not only am I tarnishing my husband’s image, I also leave greasy nose prints on the glass.

In contrast to Andrew and his speed machine, I am currently driving a Fiat Uno. Or it might be a Fiat Halfo. 0 to 60 kph in 7 minutes, as long as there is no hint of headwind or incline. Two months ago, I brought my Yukon in for a service and was hammered with a $2000 bill. Half of that was for the air-conditioning unit, which was exhibiting distinctly rock star behavior at the time. Whilst hyperventilating over the invoice, I seriously considered trading it in but I get very emotional about my cars, stopping just short of signing birthday cards ‘Love from Andrew, Niamh and The Yuk’ decorated with a couple of tyre prints.

Unfortunately, with spectacular timing given that we are stuck in the very bowels of Summer, last week the A/C packed in again. They charged me $120 to replace the compressor fan, and returned the car to me with assurances that there would be no further problems. I believed them, since at the time Andrew gave them a piece of his mind (they tend to completely ignore me) and Husband can project excellent controlled psychotic anger when he puts his mind to it. He got all flinty-eyed and thin-lipped and throbby-veined. He really was as manly as can be without a handlebar moustache and rippling hairy chest.

Sorry: I realize I’ve just described one of the Village People, but I come from an era where Tom Selleck was considered the epitome of XY karyotype.

ANYWAY, they assured us that the Yukon was fixed. The following morning, I got into my car to drive to a meeting and far from being spritzed with cold air, I got a faceful of car fart.

Hardly the ideal means of conveyance, but at least they gave me the Fiat Halfo to drive in the meantime. It’s better than a bicycle I guess.

Six months after the New Years Resolution was minted, I am still going to the gym three times a week. I got myself a heart rate monitor in February, which makes sweating a bit easier. My company gave me an iPod Shuffle MP3 player, so I plug myself into the headphones and belt out/massacre eighties classics on the treadmill. I like to do the instrumental bits too and am proud to report that my electric guitar impression is as a chainsaw to the nerves.

I have successfully cleared the gym of all other life forms.

Andrew sometimes accompanies me although it’s tough on his ears; even when he’s plugged into his iPaq he can still hear me burbling away. His gym attendance is sporadic at best.

I still fail to be convinced that exercising is good for you. Personally, I suspect it is an urban myth perpetrated by gyms and the sports companies to make money. Weird muscles ache all the time. And it’s not restricted to muscles – ligaments, bones, tissue, veins, even my eyeballs throb after a workout.

I don’t feel any fitter – or healthier. After six months of concentrated push-ups, triceps dips and extensions and lateral raises, I seem to be physically incapable of executing a pull-up – not even the one. Sometimes for real sport, Andrew likes to lift me on to the pull-up bar and chortle as I grunt and heave and kick impotently at thin air in order to raise myself half a centimeter.

Additionally, for the first time in three years I have been experiencing back problems again – I have renewed acquaintance with my Osteopath. He likes my underpants. (There aren’t many people get to see my underpants, so I appreciate when those who do notice.) I am also halfway through a course of Pilates but thus far, the benefits have been minimal

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