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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Auspicious day

So long time no posting. However, today marks an auspicious day as it is A’s 16th birthday! It is hard to believe that 16 years ago today I was on a flight back to UK from Cyprus (after a somewhat desperate search for flights) having tuned into my mobile phone and discovered 8 voicemail messages from my Father-in-Law recounting in increasingly concerned tones the likely and unexpectedly early arrival of my first born.

In the event I had found a flight back from Larnaca airport to Heathrow where I was met by my Sister (who unbeknown to both of us at that time was pregnant with A’s cousin N) who drove me at breakneck speed through a torrential downpour to Southmead Hospital where “Boy R” (he had arrived before we could name him and would remain that way for a number of days!) was relaxing in the Neonatal ICU and his Mother was recovering from the shock of his arrival 6 weeks early and being a boy rather than the widely anticipated girl!

As far as I can recall A. weighed in at 5lb 6oz and was not only very titchy but also long and thin. He is still long and thin but is now over 6 foot – his arms and legs are longer than mine (although he still has a bit to go to catch up height-wise) which gives him a considerable advantage during our games of table tennis (a present from his birthday last year and still proving popular).

A. has a map on his bedroom wall – acquired during the Summer holidays earlier this year when we were visiting Oxford – which allows him to scratch off the countries that he has been to. He was able to make an early start to his collection of countries visited when we moved as a family to Hong Kong when he was 22 months (in fact just before we left, he had also been to France on a holiday involving both sets of Grandparents for an early taste of Europe) and he has not looked back having lived in the Far East (HK) until he was 7 and since then the Middle East (as well as various countries on holiday in between) so he is certainly a lot better travelled than either me or his Mother at the same age.

Whilst a little shyer and more reserved than his younger self, A. is still a very friendly and personable chap with an established circle of friends. As with most teenage boys (it appears) he is seemingly surgically attached to his gadgets and devices – he inherited my iphone after I got given one through work which seems to be his go to device if he is not on his playstation (now complete with 50 inch TV and – once it has been delivered as part of his birthday present – a mini-fridge to keep his juice and water cool!).

The last 12 months have seen him pass his Grade 4 Piano (with Distinction) and pass his English Language and Astronomy GCSE’s which is a good start on the exam trail although this year is the big one in terms of the main bulk of his GCSE’s so it will be all hands to the pump at home and school over the next 9 months. However, for today, we can wish him a very happy birthday and look forward to a weekend of sleepovers and cake!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A New Home

So (almost) two posts in a row after weeks of radio silence – hopefully I will be able to maintain this kind of form for what remains of the month! I mentioned earlier that we had moved villas and we are now based out in the Desert between the E311 and E611. We had been in our previous place pretty much as long as we had been in Dubai – so 7 years (apart from a month or so at JBR when we had first arrived) which is even longer that we stayed in our apartment in Hong Kong so it was quite an upheaval to move. We decided to go mainly because the new place is close to the kids school – V. moved from primary to secondary school in September so for the first time in 3 years, V. and A were both at the same school and getting the school bus together which has certainly made things a little easier although with all the extra curricula activities, there are still some major transport logistics to deal with in the afternoons.

Our new place is located in a fairly typical (for Dubai) community based around the E311 road – probably around 2000 villas with a supermarket and various other smaller shops and a restaurant built around three circles with interlocking paths and landscaped areas. Although gaining access is not straightforward (there are entrances at either end which require traversing roads through building sites and desert areas), once you are inside it is surprisingly green – the majority of the Villas were built by the developers to various different designs but some of the plots were sold off and individuals were able to build to their own designs so there is probably a greater architectural diversity than would normally be the case in these kinds of community. Whilst I cannot deny that I enjoyed living in our old place – particularly with its proximity to the beach and Al Safa Park as well as ease of access to Work/ shops etc., the new place certainly has more space with a decent sized garden. More details to follow.
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Monday, November 27, 2017

November 2017 Post a Day

This has been a spectacularly poor “post a day” November for me and I was very much at risk of recording “nil points” on the historic blog posts that I have managed for this annual Autumn blogfest probably for the first time since I started keeping count.

This has partly been due to the fact that we were back in Blighty for a birthday party for my Sister at the beginning of the month and, as a consequence of some unfortunate planning on my part, I was then back in UK on business for much of the second week of November. For part of the following week, I was in Abu Dhabi for a conference and last week was spent catching up on all the “to do” items that were awaiting me once I was finally back in the office for a decent length of time. I was also supposed to be starting a trial (again in Abu Dhabi) but that was postponed at the last moment so that involved a certain amount of rushing about.

The other reasons for my lack of productivity (I am almost finished with the excuses so please bear with me for a little longer…) is that I have been “in training” (in the loosest possible meaning of that term) for the Dubai 92 cycle ride on December 15 which has rather eaten in to my spare time.

As noted in earlier posts, we have recently relocated to the Desert and one of the advantages to our new home is that there are plenty of paths and areas to cycle and, rather handily, there is an 8 lane motorway just outside the entrance to our community which has not been opened to traffic yet but is sufficiently complete to allow a uninterrupted 3km ride down towards the Al Ain road (and a rather longer 15kn ride up towards Arabian Ranches in the other direction once one has navigated the various obstacles barring access). As can be seen from the picture below, our own private "cycle path" has also proved popular with the kids.



The actual “training” started somewhat fitfully in September when I tried to spend more that the odd 20 minutes pootleing around the development and whilst interrupted by a trip to Seoul and the various trips to UK mentioned above is now a bit more focussed and regular although whether it will be sufficient to see me complete the 92 Km course remains to be seen - the roads around Dubai are being closed for a few hours but in order to take advantage of this, riders have to finish within a set period of time which requires an average speed of 26 Kph. I can probably keep this up for a little while but 3 ½ hours is going to be a real challenge! I have however just bought myself a proper road bike in the recent Dubai 3 day sale (picking it up this evening) so we shall see if that makes any difference to my performance.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Birthday Bulletin

Last Tuesday marked A’s 15 birthday – it seems barely credible that 15 years ago he was born in the middle of a torrential down pour in Bristol as I high tailed it back from Cyprus where I had been on holiday with my parents (his arrival was a little unexpected in my defence…). In the intervening years, A. has lived in London, Hong Kong and Dubai so has lived in English, Asia and Arabic society and has been educated in a range of different schools including an English Schools Foundation ( ESF) school in Hong Kong (Quarry Bay on HK Island) and the Canadian International School (at Aberdeen on HK Island) before completing his primary education at Wellington Primary School (part of the GEMS for profit school network) in Dubai before going to his current school – a secondary school in the Dubai not for profit sector where he has just embarked upon his GCSEs. I suspect that his background has certainly given him a knack of making friends although unfortunately it does not seem to have particularly assisted his linguistic abilities!

He has shot up in the last year and is now a good 6 inches taller than his Mother (but some way to go before catching me up). He is still into his gaming – not so much Minecraft these days but he certainly he enjoys playing his PS4 and is taking ICT and computer studies as GCSEs so computers and devices (like every child it seems these days) play a large part in his life. He does find time for other activities – he finally beat me at table football – on his 15th birthday and we have been playing table tennis on the table we got him for his birthday so that will no doubt feature in future competitions! He is currently practising for his Grade 4 piano (notwithstanding last year’s debacle when he practised the pieces for one board only to find out on the day of his exam that his teacher had entered him for another board….) and while it is fair to say that piano practice is not at the top of his list of favourite things to do, when he gets into the swing of it, he seems to enjoy it and is in fact pretty good.

He has a good circle of friends at school and remains the easy-going, friendly chap personality wise that was so characteristic of his earlier years. Happy Birthday A.!




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I win a prize

Apologies again for the delays between postings. I will continue the update of our activities over the Summer (promise!) which includes our relocation to a new Villa but in the meantime a quick post to commemorate the winning of two tickets to a show next week courtesy of Dubai 92 - one of the local radio stations which I have been listening too since our arrival (now over 7 years ago!) but which due to my longer commute to work from our new abode (25 minutes on a good day since you ask) I have been spending more time listening to(Dubaieye is the other station of choice). Every morning there is a competition called topical tune of the day where the presenters select a story or topic (usually a story from the days news of a quirky/offbeat nature) and the listeners have to select a song that matches the story - I have entered a few times in the past but for the first time I received a call to say that I had won - a slightly surreal experience as the main presenter of the show (rejoicing in the name Catboy) not only seems to present the show but does all the admin as well - he took my name and contact details etc. for sending the price and we had a quick chat. I was then put on hold and he then put me on air for what turned out to be a discussion about my job and whether TV programmes were a true representation of the profession (it was actually a more interesting chat than you might imagine) before I was asked to announce the winning song. So some 20 + years after my last radio broadcast (from my URN days at college, I once again hit the airwaves and also sorted out a gift for E for next week's wedding anniversary!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Summer Update

Another long gap since my last post, so time to dust down the keyboard, open the thesaurus and provide an update to this blog. I should also apologise in advance for the blog post title as my last post concerned the Rugby 7s last December - a mainstay of the UAE sporting calendar and another fabulous weekend of sporting action for Dad and I courtesy of the delightful NC, so this will be the starting point for update. I am also experimenting with some pictures for the first time so let's see how that goes!

Christmas last year was spent back in UK with a couple of beautifully sunny days spent in London staying on the Strand and enjoying the delights of Christmas in London courtesy of Es parents which took in a visit to Jersey Boys, our now traditional trip to Chinatown for some crispy aromatic duck at the Four Seasons (restaurant not hotel!) and also some ice skating for V. at Somerset House Ice rink.



Christmas Day and Boxing Day was spent with my Sister and her family, and then with K. and A. We also managed to catch up with my cousin C and his wife L at Wisley RHS (a bit of a busman's holiday for Leonie!)and our traditional trip down to Rock-a-nore in Hastings. All in all, a very relaxing traditional Christmas spent with family and friends. Back to Dubai after the New Year and I was straight into preparations for my big case which was due to start at the end of January. The team duly decamped to AD and there followed a very intensive couple of weeks of verbal cut and thrust which was enjoyable but completely exhausting! Fortunately, everything finished on time and so I had a couple of days to get mentally (if not physically) prepared for our trip back to Europe for Skiing and a wedding in February.

The skiing was in Norway – Trysil – and was terrific fun. It is not particularly high – the top ski station was around 1200m but the snow was excellent and whilst at times very cold (I think -18degrees was the lowest temperature), the ski conditions were excellent. The kids (we went with my Sister’s family for Bs 40th birthday) had an absolute blast. V and A had skied before but N and J had not previously skied apart from some dry slope lessons. However, the collection of Green/blue runs and easy off-piste through the trees meant that they all were zipping about without a care in the world by the end of the week. The Hotel (Radisson Blu resort) was also lovely (and ski in/out so very easy with our room having a view over the slopes) – probably the nicest venue I have every stayed at on a ski holiday and the conditions were so benign that E. and I as well as the kids and M and B were all able to ski together on a couple of occasions.



Although the transfer to the resort deep into the snowy mountains was a good three hours by the regular bus service (and only marginally quicker by taxi on the way back), one of the attractions was the two hour flight time from Gatwick which was very helpful from a planning point of view (we stayed at a Gatwick hotel overnight before meeting M and her family to fly to Norway and Gatwick was close to the Wedding in UK which we were attending after the skiing). In fact the only downside was the cost of food and drink so we mainly ate in (although we were in a hotel the rooms were essentially self-catering) or had take-out pizzas.

On our return to UK E and I went to L and Ds wedding – weddings are so few and far between that we decided to make a special effort for this one and it was great to see all the extended family again – one of the downsides of expat life is that you tend to miss out on events like this but we had a great time with all the younger cousins who were now getting married or starting families of their own. As usual with weddings with the Irish side of the family it all got a little raucous but we had to leave relatively early to prepare for our flight back to Dubai but a good time was had by all.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Long Weekend

The National day holiday and the rugby 7s have coincided perfectly this year (as has the weather) and today we achieved a good balance between the spiritual ( V. executed her reading with considerable aplomb this morning), and the sporting - Dad and I enjoyed another feast of rugby under another cloudless sky which included a trophy for the Irish ladies (although unfortunately not the English ladies). Dubai definitely comes into its own at this time if year and hopefully there will be more of the same tomorrow.