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Posts tagged ‘jumeirah’

My Precious

I lost my wedding ring on Sunday.

Six years ago, when Husband presented me with my engagement ring, he said:-

“Will you marry me? Oh, good. You’re going to lose this, aren’t you?”

I was sure I wouldn’t, because it was so pretty my very life force depended on the ongoing presence of this thing in my life. I can be impressed for minutes at a time by sunrises or ladybirds or a storm at sea or Husband’s cheeks when he’s eating lamb chops, but I can stare at a 0.55 carat H colour VSII Princess cut conflict diamond for HOURS.

Shortly after we married, I nearly lost my wedding rings at Ex-Employer’s office in Dubai Internet City. I went to the bathroom and removed both rings to wash my hands. Back in the office, I resumed compiling a nail bitingly tedious document on change request procedure, then paused to reread a paragraph. As I clasped my hands together to better aid concentration, I became aware at a subliminal level there was something very wrong in the world in addition to evil dictators and global poverty. Then I realized:-


Much to the bemusement of my three colleagues, I catapulted out of my chair, hurdled the desk, and ripped out the door screaming all the way to the bathroom where my rings glittered reprovingly in the soap dish. I’m not sure whether anyone had been there in the twenty minute interim – in Dubai, many people are too lazy to go to the toilet – but still.

After that, I resolved never to remove my wedding rings; I even wore them swimming in the sea.

My engagement ring is currently out of action, having split after a period of intense digit expansion, but I always wear my wedding band. On Sunday morning, I was pottering around the kitchen cleaning up before the guys woke. The Bro had stayed over the evening before, so there were beer bottle tops all over the place. I have ranted about bottle tops before, so I will spare you- ok, no, I won’t. THERE’S A RUBBISH BIN! RIGHT THERE! WHAT IS SO COMPLEX ABOUT FLIPPING BOTTLE TOPS INTO IT, HMM?

Sorry. So, my wedding ring was irritating me for some reason – although not as much as the mess DO YOU NEED TO BE A WORLD CLASS ARCHER OR TIDDLYWINKS CHAMPION TO GET A BOTTLE TOP INTO A BIN?! IT’S LIKE HITTING A HIPPO WITH A SHOE! – so I transferred it to the little finger of my right hand. Even as I did, I thought, ‘Hmm. That’s not going to stay there,’ and then ignored myself.

It was after The Bro left that I noticed my wedding ring – gone. My ring finger looked plainly wrong without it. There is a pale groove worn around the base of the finger where the skin is puckered and defenceless looking.

I alerted Husband as to the situation.

“Will you look for it?”

Husband nearly choked on a gigantic sigh, but he performed a sweep of the living and kitchen sectors while I repeatedly checked that I hadn’t misplaced the ring on my finger. There was no sign of it – on my finger or anywhere else.

“I’m sure it will turn up,” said Husband and shuffled off to not obsess about where the ring might be.

Throughout the day, I looked in all the obvious places: the kitchen bench, the key hanger, under the sofa, in the microwave. I kept visualising the ring in different places, with the result that I checked the cutlery drawer and kitchen windowsill several times (maybe THIS TIME it will be there). In the evening, I turned the rubbish out onto the garage floor and picked through it with a fork.

On Monday morning, I put Husband at Defcon 3, increasing to Defcon 2 as the day wore on. We tore the house apart. I moved everything out of the pantry; we checked the drains; Husband squeezed the fingers on my rubber gloves; we crawled around the floor with torches.

I had a vague recollection of leaving the wedding ring on the hallway banister. Late last night, Husband revealed that he had vacuumed the stairs on Sunday morning. There had been debris on the treads after he had knocked a couple of holes in the wall. No idea why. Because he could? Maybe? But really, you’d have to ask him.

He offered to go through the vacuum bag this morning in daylight. I knew that’s what had happened to my ring; in fact, I was so sure I actually slept last night.

It wasn’t in the vacuum bag.

Then Husband went through the week-old rubbish. We’ve been together over 10 years now and Husband drives me up the wall on a frequent to full time basis. However, there are rare, brilliant moments when I understand exactly why I am with Husband. Watching him sift coffee grounds, turn over greasy chop bones and wipe rotten spinach off mouldy lemons without complaint, I had one of those epiphanies.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I was his favourite wife at that point.

It wasn’t in the rubbish either.

Back upstairs, I got a bit teary:-

“Tell me you love me and the wedding ring is just a symbol in no way indicative of the future of our marriage and it’s not as if you even wear yours and the fact that I’ve lost something that’s blessed won’t curse us for the rest of time forever and ever amen.”

“Er, yes. All that,” said Husband. “Look, we’ll get another ring and get your father to bless it.”

“Yeah, but he’ll give me a lecture on how he can’t go around blessing every time I lose my wedding ring,” I muttered darkly, “and how I should be more careful-”


“Are you sure you want to go there?”

“Absolutely not. No.”

Then I found the ring in the plastic bag drawer

Nostalgic Middle Eastern snapshot #22

For the first time in ages, we went to the beach with Danny today and he brought his kite. Dan’s kite is no shabby paper box with bows on its tail. NO, it is a Man Toy: a three-tiered miracle of lightweight aerodynamics.

Within a short while, a group of children gathered beneath the kite, shrieking and jumping as the kite swooped and glided just above their heads. It was a beautiful, misty tableaux: the kite dancing against the perfect blue of the sky, the minarets of a mosque in the background, the children’s laughter. If you strained your ears, it was almost possible to hear a heartbreaking soundtrack swelling to a magnificent crescendo.

Right up to the moment Dan crash-landed the kite on a kid’s head.

He was showing off, executing loop-the-loops and playing the kite inches above the beach. He put it into a nose-dive, a manoeuvre he had been practicing earlier, whipping up the kite a millisecond before it seemed it must plough into the sand. However, this time he took out a six year old.

Dan put down the controls and sprinted over to the child, who appeared more bemused than hurt. When we saw the parents jogging purposefully towards Dan, Husband and I pretended we didn’t know him – we even considered moving our towels a few yards down the beach. I’m wondering whether Husband and I should ever have children, since we couldn’t stop laughing.

There followed a discussion with surprisingly little parental shouting, arm-waving or kite-vandalism involving smashing it repeatedly against Dan’s torso before dismantling the spars for use as a weapon.

“What happened?” asked Husband upon Dan’s return.

“I accused the kid of trying to sabotage the kite.”

“You what?” said Husband.

“He was very apologetic.”

“What did you say to the parents?” I wanted to know.

“Told them they should keep a closer eye on their children.”

A spank of jellyfish

I have not entirely given up swimming, but this is not a good time to stage the grand aquatic comeback: it is the dread jellyfish season. They swarm just off the beach, fluorescent blue blobs up to 16” in diameter with short, stubby tentacles.

Husband has formulated an effective response to jellyfish attack, which is: throw your wife at them. Apparently, it’s an inverted variation on the ‘Flee! Save yourself!’ method of heroism.

We set off one morning and swam about 1000 metres with not a blob in sight when, just beyond the crow’s nest, we hit a spank of jellyfish. Yes, you read that correctly: ‘spank’ is the correct collective noun for Catostylus Mosaicus and shame on you for doubting me. After all, this is what I do for a living.

(Write, that is. Not necessarily research.) (And technically I’m not making much of a living out of it right at the moment.)

WARNING: artistic licence alert.

I was thrashing along when I heard a noise like a submarine generator. It seemed to be coming from all around; the water was thrumming. And then I headbutted one. It was more solid than you might imagine, but I’m happy to report that in this particular battle of wills the jellyfish came off worse than I did.

The wounded jellyfish retreated, only to return with reinforcements. Millions of them.

I alerted Husband to the danger by stating clearly:


Considering he might have water in his ears, I sketched a little pantomime for him, involving lots of gasping and spitting and splashing around waving my feet in the air.

“What? Agh!” said Husband, getting to know a jellyfish in the Biblical sense.

We were surrounded by, on average, one jellyfish per square metre of water. There followed quite a lot of swearing (us, not the jellyfish) which seemed as effective a solution as any under the circumstances. You know, maybe at a specific pitch and resonance the jellyfish would start vibrating and possibly explode.

After a while, we realised this tactic was less effective than it might come across above.

“Don’t move!” I instructed Husband.

“Right,” said Husband.

I should have known better. Husband’s response to direct orders is to fulsomely agree before wilfully doing his own thing (which is normally the precise opposite). So I shouldn’t have been at all surprised when he picked me up and fired me at the biggest jellyfish.

Then Husband escaped The Swarm using my body as a human shield, while I tried to extract my foot from the jellyfish’s bowels. You might be interested to note that the consistency of the tentacles was that of hard plastic embedded in slime. Eventually, I managed to give it a good kick up the chuff, freeing myself of the deadly jelly grip.

“You are so bloody unchivalrous!” I roared at Husband as I scrabbled for a foothold in the shallows. “Ow, my foot’s stinging. OW!”

“Awww, Baby! Would you like me to wee on you?” he enquired solicitously.

“Get AWAY from me!”

By the way, you might be interested to learn that applying urine to a jellyfish sting has no basis in scientific fact; you should use vinegar or salt water on the affected area. Also that jellyfish procreate by releasing sperm into the water around hot jellyfemales – so the sea is probably a whole pile of jellyspunk at the moment.

Swim, anyone?

Modern Cain and Abel parable

Husband’s brother, The Bro, started as he meant to go on, eating his way through the house like a giant locust (there are no walls left, and only a portion of the roof). His 24 year old metabolism, at the peak of its processing powers, is an awesome thing to behold.

Two days after he arrived, Husbandoffered to take The Bro dirt biking. Cue great excitement and lots of manly flexing of muscles using bungee cords. Since The Bro had never been astride a motorbike before, I thought I might tag along for the entertainment.

We drove out to the desert and parked at the lip of an oval of hard-packed sand. After unloading the bikes, Husband commenced the tutorial with a brief demonstration. Clenching his buttocks for effect, he was still strapping on his helmet as he roared off on one wheel in a spray of sand.

Husband is not normally the flashiest of characters, but he turns into something of a showman on a bike. He performed a few aerial somersaults before careering back to us, braking at the last moment so that the front tyre nudged my shin as the bike skidded to a stop. I was only disappointed he didn’t produce two doves from the petrol tank.

Then it was The Bro’s turn. Husband’s instruction was – let’s call it spare:

“Right, here’s the brake. Here’s the clutch. Anything else? Oh yes. Here’s a push.”

Throwing his shoulder into it, he launched The Bro over a dune. The Bro gave the bike maximum throttle, released the clutch, and careered off in a wild yawing effect. For a couple of seconds I was sure it was all going to end in tears – or, more accurately: spurting blood, broken bones and ruptured spleens – but somehow The Bro managed to gain control of the bike. He completed a wobbly circuit of the desert bowl in first gear.

“Right,” said Husband briskly upon his return. By his tone, I could tell he was proud of his protégé’s progress. “To change gear, you tip this lever with your toe. Up to change up. Down to change down. Am I missing anything? Oh yes . . .”


Watching The Bro’s erratic takeoff, this time with an inadvertent wheelie thrown in, I thought perhaps Husband should spend a bit more time on the basics – like stopping, starting, staying upright; stuff like that. I was taking him to task when The Bro disappeared behind a sand-dune.

“Where’s he gone?” I fretted.

“He’s fine.”

“That terrain is pretty choppy.”

“No worries! Woman.”

Off in the far distance, we could hear the bike engine shrieking at maximum rev.

“Has he got it out of first yet?” I asked.

“No. Oh hang on, yes, he has now.”

Suddenly there was a sharp blast of rev and then . . . silence.

Husband and I looked at each other.

Find him!” I squawked, doing a little panic shuffle. This, in case you were wondering, is where I trot back and forth on the spot, bumping into as many proximate objects as possible.

Husband slewed off on the second bike while I prepared my speech to his parents in the event that The Bro had broken a leg. I didn’t want to consider what else he might have broken (Husband always scoffs at the notion that he might break a neck or a cranium. “It’s only sand!” he says whenever I raise the issue, as if hurtling head-first into a dune at 60kph is equivalent to settling gently into a mass of goose-down).

Husband returned ten minutes later without his t-shirt. No doubt he had proffered it to stanch the blood – but from where? Nicked finger? Broken nose?

Severed arm?

“Is he ok?”

“I’m not sure.”

We unhitched the bike trailer and drove the Yukon to The Bro. Although he looked all right – well, no spurting blood – he was making sound effects like a punctured accordion. I was encouraged when he correctly identified how many fingers I held up – although I’ve never been sure what the purpose of the test is, apart from confirming the subject is roughly sober.

We got The Bro home and stuffed him full of Brufen. Thereafter there was more moaning than pain (admittedly The Bro might not agree with that diagnosis). (In fairness, I was only able to accurately measure the moaning.) (But surely he couldn’t have been in THAT much pain?) Over time, The Bro perfected a gorgeous, breathy little gasp which somehow managed to simultaneously convey his stoic agony, his ongoing despair over starving children in the third world, and all the wasted opportunity squandered in his young life.

In between complaining about the lack of sympathy and how the hunger was killing him, The Bro maintained he had broken his tailbone.

“Which is worse: the hunger or the pain?” I’d ask.

“That is such an unfair question.”

Looking on the bright side, his injury gave him the perfect excuse not to get spanked at squash. He also managed to bravely stuff his broken tailbone into a rubber ring and fire himself up a water chute at Wild Wadi.

Apart from the lack of clucking and my ongoing refusal to dress up in a nurses’ uniform, The Bro would find it hard to deny the fact that I was an unwavering source of practical support. I sang to him to take his mind off the pain and regularly dosed him with Margharita, which he claimed was more effective than Brufen. And at least I didn’t try to make it worse – UNLIKE SOME.

The Tuesday after the biking incident (‘accident’ implies nobody is to blame), The Bro being relatively confident that his broken tailbone had limited impact on his ability to pose, he and Husband were set for a Lad’s Night Out. They swept out the door on an exuberant tsunami of aftershave.

Five minutes later Husband called. He’d had a car crash up the Springs Drive; yes, he and The Bro were ok; no, he wasn’t sure what the damage to the Lumina was; no, the other guy’s car was totalled; oh and could I come and collect The Bro while he waited for the police? He’d also be grateful if I brought the insurance papers, thanks.

When Husband had slowed for a speed bump, an Aramex car had driven right up the Lumina’s arse. The Aramex driver admitted that he had dropped his electronic orders device on the floor . . . and bent down to pick it up. The bonnet of Aramex Guy’s Toyota was a crumpled mess and his airbags had deployed.

From a distance the Lumina looked sound, but the boot wouldn’t close properly, and the frame was shunted in under the back doors. (For the next couple of days, whenever Husband drove the Lumina, drivers on the Sheikh Zayed road would slow to 120kph in the next lane, knock on the passenger window and shout at him that the back door was open while helpfully pointing at it.)

Poor The Bro had recommenced moaning with renewed vigour, so I got him installed on the sofa with 600mg of Brufen and a bucket of margharita. I went back to the scene with a cup of coffee for Husband, but the police had arrived so I drove on and pretended I didn’t know him. Hey, I love the guy, but there is nothing on earth that will induce me to spend time with the UAE Fuzz.

Apparently the Lumina’s chassis is bent. Although it can be repaired, it is expensive and is unlikely to pass its next registration. Therefore, we’re going to have to try and persuade Aramex Guy’s insurance company to write the car off

A watery wave

For a while I stopped going to the beach in the mornings: the memory of Raff in a pair of speedos lingered. It was too fresh (the memory as opposed to Raff, who is distinctly more fruity).


Just before Christmas, Viv contacted me and asked if I still swam. At the time I had a lot on my mind and, although my gills had closed up from disuse, I thought consorting with sharks and stingrays might provide welcome distraction. Also, although the gym offers much in the way of Melody TV and a Spandex Spectacular, I have recently found the whole experience a little bit lamé.


I totally underestimated quite how cold The Gulf gets this time of year. Obviously the effects of plunging into The Gulf in winter are not as extreme as a paddle in The Atlantic at any time at all, but 20 minutes/1000 metres into the swim and my skull was numb (not that I noticed much difference, apart from a headache). I am ashamed to admit that, after being washed up on the beach by a large wave, I took a more solid route back to the car.


The following week I came fully equipped with thermal vest, sweatshirt, fleecy jacket, beanie, scarf, mittens, and a flask of hot tea. Have I forgotten anything? Oh yes, woolly socks and a car heater. I got some funny looks driving home. (The rigid purple lips probably don’t help.)


The other day Helen told me I’d have to ‘bulk up’ for The Palm swim. She’s done some long-distance swimming and reckons I’ll have to adopt some flobber to cope with the water temperature over a 20 kilometre route.


“There’s no way,” growled Husband when I told him about ‘Operation Flobber On’.


At the start of January Danny, still flush with New Year resolve, joined The Girls for the bi-weekly morning swim. Over the years Danny has been known to sport a wide range of alternative fabrics, yet I felt it was a particularly audacious move when he turned up to meet The Girls in a rubber suit.


“I’m going to tell everyone about your rubber suit,” I thought it only fair to warn him.


“It’s not rubber,” protested Danny. “It’s neoprene. People might get the wrong impression if you call it a rubber suit.”


“How do you spell neoprene?”


“Er- ok, go with rubber. Hang on – why not just: sleeveless wetsuit?”


“Sleeveless rubber wetsuit.”


“Just WETSUIT! What’s WRONG with you? Do you have some kinky fixation with rubber?”


Danny has since ditched the suit, but still swims with The Girls. Brave lad; the oestrogen can reach toxic levels. I’m so proud of Dan – to date, he has partaken in discussions ranging from how alcohol encourages Viv to air her mammaries; how many would volunteer their wombs to carry Wentworth Miller’s baby (all present excepting Dan but only because he is not thus equipped); the correct way to don a brassiere (Helen, demonstrating leaning forward and placing ones bosoms in the cups); and Helen’s colleague who accidentally – not to mention forcibly – sat on a stick necessitating 56 stitches up the hoohoo


Perverts can’t swim

This morning I struggled down to the beach at 08:00hrs. Carole bravely accompanied me, although she was a bit concerned about perverts. There has been a lot of publicity recently about men loitering on the beach for a leer. I haven’t been, er, exposed much to that sort of stuff apart from one morning when Róisín was over. We’d chosen a spot next to the outdoor shower. There was a bloke having a wash and upon seeing us, he plunged his hands down the front of his shorts and administered a really very thorough cleansing.


“Róisín!” I whispered. “That man! He has his hands down his shorts!”


“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’m a nurse.”


I felt she wasn’t so much missing the point as totally losing her grip on the space-time continuum.


“Róisííííín!” I hissed urgently. “He’s got his mickey out! He’s floppin’ it around!”


“Ah sure, all power to him.”


If I’d been on my own, I would have had no qualms about saying: “Put that thing away immediately,” but Róisín seemed unperturbed so I left her to it. Once I’m in the water I’m not that fussed; controlled studies have shown that perverts can’t swim very well.


Since there were no perverts in evidence this morning, I left Carole power-walking up the beach. I think I might still have been drunk, because I was in blistering form. I was pounding towards the shore 2000m later when I swam into a stingray. There are plenty of them about, usually buried in the sand where all you can see of them is their outline and a pair of beady black eyes.


This time I was in about five feet of water and he gave me quite a shock when he rippled beneath me. I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to a ray before and I’m not keen on repeating the experience.


That said, according to Wikipedia: ‘stingrays don’t usually attack aggressively’ (which prompted me to wonder whether there is any other way to attack? Can you attack kindly? Peacefully? I suppose friendly fire is a sort of sociable assault, is it?)


Viv is organizing a swim around the Jumeirah Palm Island in February and I suspect I might have accidentally signed up for it. It’s a distance of 20 kilometres and I’m a bit dubious – I mean, that’s nearly as far as the English Channel – well, only 14 km less. But Channel swimmers train from the age of three. Also, Nakheel is still dredging; in this part of the world there’s a distinct possibility of being sucked up and having your skull become a feature in Posh and Beck’s garden

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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