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Posts tagged ‘sand dune’

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


Keren, Mark and Wayne mock Miles as he tries to extract his car from a sand dune

Fairly common sight in the desert

Arty: skyline

Sand, lots of

Husband after just two beers

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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