Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Broadcast recommencing

I had intended to try to a post every month for November (as per previous years) but for reasons that still remain unclear, every time I tried to create a new post the screen froze on "loading" and no matter what I did it steadfastly refused to allow anything to be drafted. But we are back now so I had better get cracking in case computer starts to say "no" again!

My last post was in July so I guess the starting point is our Summer holidays - particulaly hectic this year. We had gone back to London for a few days to sort A.'s passport out in early July and had a lovely time in and around Kew Gardens. After retuning to Dubai for a few weeks (the kids and E stayed in Bristol) I came back to UK and headed to Bristol where E's parents were settling into their new house and we all flew off to Spain where we had a great week in L'Escala staying at a nice place about 15 minutes from the beach and a short drive from my Sister's place where they were staying at the same time so plenty of BBQ's and lazy mornings drinking coffe overlooking the kids playing on the beach.

We then went back to Bristol for a few days before heading off to Ireland - first stop my Cousin's house in Killarney. We were only there for 3/4 days but managed to visit - in the pouring rain - an undergound cave with ancient stalagmites and tites. We also took a trip to Valencia island (great lunch of crab claws salad in a little cafe overlooking the harbour) along the Dingle peninsula (lovely part of the world) and we also learned all about the Skelligs - it was a beautiful day so we were also able to see them off shore as well as visiting the aquarium in Dingle itself. We also had time for the traditonal day of surfing at Inch(which the kids enjoyed although the Atlantic waters were rather colder than they are used to...).

After Killarney we drove down to Castletownbere where we met up with the America/London/Cork based cousins at Mary Etnas (and went to the sheep racing held by the Adrigole GAA - not to be missed) and then on to Castletownbere where we met up with Kevin S and various other cousins. Spent a great day at the regatta (by a miracle the sun shone as it had two years ago the last time we had been to the regatta) and we had a great time catching up, pottering around on K.s boat and enjoying the guiness in McCarthys.

We then headed back to Bristol and then on to Maidsotne for the last part of the holiday with Dad and M and B before I returned to Dubai followed by E and the kids a week or so later (due to on-going dental issues with V.).

A busy Summer!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hither and Thither

Just back from the second of two trips back to the UK following my return from HK. Both times the weather was absolutely splendid - London definitely looks at its best in the sunshine. For various reasons I flew with the three main carriers from Dubai back to the UK - Emirates, BA and Virgin - for BA and Virgin I was in the premium economy (PE) cabins. It is quite interesting to compare the three airlines. Emirates remains by far the best in terms of all round service, quality of food and plane etc. (even though it was economy, the seat pitches were not significantly less than the PE seats on the other carriers). Virgin provided a welcoming glass of sparkling wine but apart from that it did not seem noticeably different (apart from the legroom) than their economy offering. Even though it was a 777, the BA plane's entertainment system seemd quite old fashioned when compared with Emirates and Virgin. However, BA did provide some fancy earphones.

I suspect that next time I will probably stick with EMirates unless I had to fly economy rather than PE.

Did quite a lot of driving up and done the M4 for the last trip as we had to get A's passport renewed so we had a night in London staying at the Moran Hotel in Chiswick - nightmare to reach from the M4 (traffic at the Chiswick roundabout on Sunday afternoon was terrible) but pretty convenient to get into Victoria for the passport office and also to go to Kew Gardens where we spent a lovely afternoon potterng aroung the grounds (the kids were particulaly taken with the rowing throught the "Tutti Fruitti" groto on the boating lake - special glasses and banana smells made the experience rather surreal.

We also had a trip around the Tower of London - V. insisted on queuing for the crown jewels so we were all exhausted (although to be fair the queue whilst seemingly interminably long did move reasaonbly quickly) by the time we had returned to pick up the car (now rather dented following an unfortunate altercation with a pillar in the carpark after Saturday's scrapping incident in Bristol...).

Now back in Dubai in time for Ramadan before heading abck to UK for my main hols in a couple of weeks.

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 6)

After the rather late night last night we had a very quiet day today - again heading off to Stanley for breakfast at Rolf's and then on to Shek O to take advantage of the beautiful weather. If anything the beach was even more crowded than yesterday. After a relaxing couple of hours sunning ourselves we headed back to the Hotel for a quick change into our travel clothes and then headed off to the airport for our flights back. Whilst there were a couple of Lions shirts to be spotted (catching flights on to Oz) we were sharing our flight back to the Middle East with the London Scottish ruby team who had apparantly beeen touring in HK.

The flight back was uneventful and we were back home by around 11:30pm. All in all a really fabulous trip.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 5)

The day of the big game dawns bright (but not so early after our visit to Stanley last night..) and we travel back to Stanley for the "classic" breakfast at Rolf's (Spyagia) down on Main Street. Then onto Shek O again by taxi as it is another fantasticaly clear day. By the time we arrive (just before Noon) it is alrady very crowded and after the umbrella ladies have worked their magic we are happily reclining in our deckchairs surrounded by what appears to be most of the population of HK. I swam out to the pontoon and the view back to the beach clearly showed how crowded it had become with very little sand visible between the arrayed sun-worshippers.

Having had such a massive breakfast we did not bother with lunch and headed back to the Hotel at around 4pm in order to get ready for the evenings entertainment. After a quick shower and change of clothes our next challenge was to find a taxi to the Hong Kong Stadium.

In theory we could have walked it in around 25 minutes. It was however over 75degress and the humidity made such a plan very unattractive. However, on a Saturday afternoon taxis were plentiful but fully booked no matter where we stood and waited (at the hotel, out on Wong Nai Chung Road and then at the bottom of Stubbs Road). A couple of taxis stopped and the occupants offered a lift - but only had space for one until one chap kindly gave us a lift in his cab to a nearby restuarant where he was meeting a friend to walk on to the Stadium and let us have his cab thereafter. It turned out (small world) that he knew a former colleague of mine in London. In any event, we arrvied at the Stadium in good time to enjoy a pint of beer, buy some Lions shirts and then take our seats high in the stand amongst a sea of red (Dad and I were also wearing our newly acquired shirts although they were not really suitable for the sub-tropical heat and humidity of HK - we certianly felt hot and sweaty up in the stands - goodness knows what the players must have been feeling at pitch side!).

The match was keenly fought albeit with frequent water breaks. Given the temperature and humidity the players certainly made a huge effort (including Mr Farrell who ended up getting involved in some fisticuffs with a South African clubmate). The Lions were deserved winners although the extent to which this provided a menaningful prelude to a tour of Austrlai in Winter is somewhat debatable. Neverthe less the corwd (c.29,000) certainly enjoyed it and we made many friends (including a bunch from Austalira celebrating a 50th birthday of one of their number - they had sponsorship and everything!)with fellow Lions travellers as we all made our way towards the post-match celebrations in the direction of the Casueway Bay an Wanchai.

Predictably Wanchai was heaving and after a couple of drinks dad and J headed home and I caught up with some old friends. I go t abck at arpudn Midnight and J was still at the Hotel bar and in consequence we decided on a night cap which ended up being one of many as various Lions supporters trcieled in from the vairous bars and joined us for a few drinks (including a chap from Nepal who seemed to ahve used the Lions tour as an excuse for a medical safari which included various check ups en route).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 4)

Up at 9am to find breakfast. We decided to walk to the parade of shops/pubs/restaurants in Happy Valley beind the race track gievn taht it was such a pleasant (albeit slightly warm) and sunny morning. Unfortuantley the Jockey and the Stable which I had in mind would probably do breakfast were both still closed so we ended up at a pub which I recalled visiting ater the 7s one year - cannot now remember its name and had a full English breakfast.

Given that it was such a beautiful day we decided afterwards to take the bus to Stanley again and then head on over to Shek O beach. Having collected our trunks from the hotel we caught the No. 6 bus which took us over the top of the Island (again fabulously clear views as we travelled down Repulse Bay Road). We then picked up a cab from Stanley Plaza to take us around the penisular to Shek O. This is a lovely drive as you are moving along the other side of Tai Tam Bay from where we used to live and can see Red Hill, Pacific View and Stanley in all its glory.

We got to the beach at around noon and the "deckchair ladies" in their large hats sorted us out some shade and places to sit (HK$90 for a deckchair and an umbrella - and she will install it all for you!). Despite the blazing sunshine I have never seen these ladies wear anything other than long trousers/jeans and full length shirts - they must get extraordinarily hot!

Shek O beach is set in a bay with cliffs at either end and a wide sandy beach dotted with lifeguard platforms. The car park adjoins the beach (and is usually extremley chaotic) and there are various small kosks and restaurants on one dside of the car park selling food, soft drinks and beach toys. There is one road in to Shek O (past a very exclusive golf course) and there is a lovely art deco bus station just as you get into the village. On weekends its gets very crowded as it provides easier beach access than the neighbouring beach up the road at Big Wave Bay.

We had a very lazy afternoon sunbathing and swimming (the water a little cooler than Dubai) and J and I bought some chips and samosa from one of the little kiosks in the car park for lunch.

I left Dad and J on the beach later in the afternoon and headed back to the Hotel to get changed and then on to the tailors to pick up my new suit. I then headed over to the office to meet up with some of my former colleagues for a few drinks. I ended up going for drink with N at The Junk in Wanchai where we ran into one of the many old style consultants (MB) who appear to have been in Hong Kong forever.

I then headed back to Stanley where I met up with Dad and J at Spyagio on Main Street where I had one of Rolf's famous tenderlion steaks. Rolf is another character who seems to have been in HK forever. Originally from Austria he used to manage a large hotel before coming to Stanley and making Main Street his home (he used to operate the restaurant Main Street before moving to the end of the road taking the chef with him). We then went for a couple of beers in Smugglers - another part of the HK environment that never seems to change (- still as seedy as ever!) and then headed back to the Hotel for a final beer and then to bed.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 3)

A very quiet start to the day after the excitement of the night before commencing with a visit to the office to pick up my asiamiles vouchers for the turbojet to Macua. I had a chat to some of my colleagues and promised to join them for a drink tomorrow evening. We then headed off to the ferry terminal (on HK Island)and swooped my redeemed asiamiles for three return tickets to Macau.

The Turboject is a catamaran which heads off to Macua every 15 minutes or so during the day for the 1 hour trip down the Pearl River Delta to the former Portuguese enclave. I used to visit Macau fairly regulaly when based in HK and it always provided a welcome contrast to the hustle and bustle of its bigger brother. These days Macau is very much about the huge casinos which have been built over the last 5 years or so (Venetian, etc.). However, it still has some of the old world charm of the rather sleepy town left by the Portuguese and our first port of call was to the expat mainstay Fernandos on Coloanne Island. Macau itself is a series of Islands linked to the mainland by huge bridges that stretch over the Peal River and Fenandos is around a 30/40 minute taxi journey froom the ferry which takes you over one of the many bridges and past the airport to the forests and bays of the Island. We also went past the Westin Hotel - a rather old-fashioned and (in contrast to the opulent new casino-hotels we passed on the way) rather dated looking member of the Starwood group.

We arrived at the tail end of lunch time so were easily able to get a table (no booking allowed and generally a wait during peak periods). Fernandos started life as a beach hut diner next to Coloanne beach and was established (it is said) by a former chef at the Lisboa HOtel. I am not sure if that is correct but nevertheless a trip to Fernandos was always a popoular part of the itinerary whenever we came to Macau and it did not disappoint. We all had crab in a pot - a sort of hotpot with a whole crab and various herbs and vegetables cooked in a superb sauce. It must have taken a good couple of hours to eat - trying to break into the crab (and avoiding burning ones mouth on the suace which remined piping hot throughout the meal) was part of the fun but did take up some time. The bread accompnaying the meal (and the Portuguese wine) was superb and we were very replete when we eventually finished!

We had a brief wander along the beach and then headed to the old town where we pottered around some of the churches and the ruins of St Pauls before heading back to the ferry terminal for the trip home.

Despite the huge late afternoon meal, we decided to go for a quick drink in the evening and ended up at the Darby - just along the road from the Hotel where we did a few quiz questions and managed to eat some samosas and potatoe skins.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 2)

Wednesday dawned bright and sunny and we kicked off the day with a visit to the "Flying Pan" in Wanchai for a fry up. This establishment is something of an institution - providing fried breakfast 24 hours per day - and is handily located at the corner of Luard and Lockhart Roads. After fortifying ourselves for the day ahead we set off for Stanley on the No.6X bus - sitting on the top deck is the best way of seeing the sights on the way to Stanley past Ocean Park, Deepwater Bay, Repulse Bay/South Bay and Ma Hang. The views were as clear as I have ever seen them with the many islands (and the huge container ships making there way to and from the Harbour)surounding HK clearly visible.

On reaching Stanley I took J. around the temple next to the plaza (containing the skin of the last tiger shot in HK - in 1941 outside the police station in Stanley) and then to the small fisherman's temple around the corner in what is now a small country park. We had left dad (who had already seen the temples on previous visits having a coffee in Saffron (now relocated at the ground floor of the plaza) - and our first disappointment of the day was finding that Saffron no longer made their chocolate caramel slices - a mainstay of our mid morning coffe breaks in HK. Dad was most dischuffed.

We soon put this behind us with an extended visit around Stanley Market. E. had carefully briefed me where she wanted me to go (mini-Boden is apparantly all the rage) and so we stoked up on Children's clothes, Rugby shirts (from the rugby shirt shop in the market - it is apparantly going to close down as the Chinese factory has been relocated to Vietnam and the owner cannot now get them cheap enough) as well as belts and a rucksack for me. After an al fresco lunch at the sitting our area overlooking the harbour next to the market, I headed back to Admiralty in the afternoon for a suit fitting and then joined Dad and J back at the hotel to prepare for the evening's excitement at the Racecourse next door at Happy Valley.

We had already looked at the runners and riders and had made some tentative selections. We arrived at around 6:30 after a two minute walk through the underpass from our Hotel (literally opposite the race course). The Stable Bend Terrace was fairly full when we arrived and the BBQ in the middle was smelling delicious. We had booked the international buffet (HK$500 each for all you can eat and drink) and we soon got stuck into the food!). The first race was incredibly successful for all of us as we backed the first winner at 5.5 to 1. We also won on the second race (although mine was only a place). However,the main excitement was the arrival of the British Lions rugby team enjoying a bit of R&R before their game against the Babarbarians on Saturday. We had been sitting next to a couple from England who were on the table next to us and who had said they were travelling with the Lions and knew the coaching staff. However, they had not mentioned that the Lions would actually be watching the racing with us and as you can imagine it was a matter of particular excitement for our little party with Dad and J getting some autographs (including Owen Farrell) and photos with the team (including the mountainous Richie Gray). It also transpired that the couple we were talking to were big mates with the Lions coach Warren Gatland. We only relaised this when (after the team had gone home - presumably becaude of a 10pm curfew) he came over to the table and we were able to have a chat to him (and take the obligatory photos). Whilst our selections (certainly for the last few races)were not particulaly successful (although I think Dad won some more money) we had an absolute blast talking about the rugby.

We were the last to leave the racecourse and managed to find our away back across the road to the Hotel where we decided that it would be a good idea to have another drink at the outside bar (where J managed to knock over a glass leading to plastic glassses outside for the remainder of the stay!). I managed to break my room key in the lock when I went to bed and it was touch and go whether the maintenance man would be able to get it out (he did - eventually). I also managed to trip over on my way to the loo later in the night and spent a good half an hour trying to stem the flow of blood from my nose and then another half an hour trying to make myself look less like the victim of a car crash. All in all an eventful day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bonkers in Honkers (Part 1)

As foreshadowed in my previous post, we ahve just returned from our trip to HK (more or less) in one piece. As we covered a lot of ground, I thought that I would split up the posting of our adventures so here goes the first part.

The journey (overnight from DBX) was uneventful and we arrived to overcast skies and slight drizzle at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Wanchai around mid-afternoon. Everybody we spoke to told us that the weather over the past few months in HK had been rubbish but that it was predictd to get better towards the weekend. We crossed our fingers.

After checking in and freshening up, we headed off to Sam Wu the tailors (now relocated at 1/f Tower 1 in the Admiralty Building)for a survey of the suit prices and also to order some more shirts. We decided to take the tram and notwithstanding missing our stop outside Pacific Place arrived there within 1/2 hour. After some good natured negotiations (I have been using Sam since HK days) we agreed on a price of HK$5,000 for a suit (two pairs of trousers) and three shirts - around £420 all in and to be ready by Friday. Having completed business for the day we then walked to Fenwick Arcade for Dinner at The Quaterdeck. I am sure I have previously recounted our meals here when we lived in HK (see However, by way of update, the Fleet Arcade still remains something of an anachronism in HK. Essentially it is a club that is open to the general public but which caters for sailors (I think mainly US military) who vist HK. It therefore has various facilities such as barbers and trinket shops to ease them into HK life when on shore leave.

The Quarterdck was formerly a MacDonalds (apparantly the only one to serve alcohol in the World) which was converted a few years ago into a more upmarket restaurant serving international food - steaks, fish and chips etc. The best bit about it is that it is one of the few places in HK where you can sit at ground level with some food and a drink right on the shore line with views over Victoria Harbour and it is located in a quiet part of Wanchai close to a park and to the Convention Centre.

We had a very pleasant meal (Mussels for Dad and I and F&C for J) and then wandered back to the Hotel via Delaneys in Wanchai for a quick beer.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Heading East

Just found out that I neglected to publish the post below before heading off to Hong Kong. Now returned so thought that I would publish anyway and then do a recap.

"Just putting together final preparations for our visit to Hong Kong tonight. This is the long anticipated return to HK for the Lions rugby game against the Barbarians which forms the first leg of the Lions tour to Austraia. Dad was trying to decide which sporting event he would like to go to as part of his 80th bithday celebrations and finally plumbed for this game as it combined an opportunity to watch the Lions with a return to some old haunts next to the South China Sea. I had been back in HK last December on business and we had also stopped off en route to Hua Hin in thailand for our Easter hols last year with the family so I have been back a cople of times reasonably recently. However, this will be Dad's first visit since we left HK during Christmas 2009 so we are all very much looking forward to it (his Cousin J is also coming along).

Apart from the rugby, I have booked the Stable Bend terrace for some food and racing at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (the Stable Bend was the venue for our first visit to Happy Valley with Mum and Dad when they visited us when we first arrived in HK in 2004)and we are also due to spend an afternoon in Macua as well as catching up with some old friends so it promises to be an action packed few days."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Weekend round up

Another packed weekend in Al Safa. On Thursday night Dad, J and I went to the tennis stadium to watch the first rounds of the Dubai World darts tournament. Plenty of razzamataz and crowd participation with lots of cheering and music to accompany the players to the oche. We actcually saw some very good darts being played despite the breeze (apparantly this was one of the first tournaments to be played outside) with all the top players in town to compete for the US$50,000 first prize. The crowd grew increasingly raucous as the evening progressed (a quite lot were in fancy dress) with mexican waves and general merriment. Phil "the Power" Taylor was (much to his disgruntlement) knoced out in the first round) but it was very good fun and I also ran into oene of my cleints.

It was the last day of Church School on Friday so we had a half a proper lesson and then a 'boys v girls' quiz on some of the things that had been covered during the year. The acoustics in the classrooms are very poor - every scrape and banging of desks is accentuated so by the time we came to the denouement of the quiz it sounded as if there was a riot going on. The boys won fairly convincngly although there were some questions raised regarding the marking system used for some of the boys' papers!

It has been an interesting year teaching the class - having not done this kind of thing before it is difficult to know whether this was an especially lively class or whether teaching 9/10 year olds is always like this! Certainly having help with the crowd control from E. and J was absolutely critical and during the occasional lesson when I was left to my own devices, keeping everyone on track was pretty demanding.

For Friday lunch we went to Galleries Lafayete in Dubai Mall. The food Court their is very good with CHinese, Italian, general buffet and Spanish - I particulaly like the tapas (Gambas al Ajicco is recommended) and there is a play area which is done up like a little French village which the kids really enjoyed (although at AED80 a go they needed to!).

The afternoon revolved around BBQ preparations and swimming - still a reasonably cooling breeze but in the direct sun it is hot - and the water was fairly warm. I decided to be a little more adventurous with the food for the BBQ and so did a couple of tuna steaks with a soy/sugar marinade and broke the bank with a couple of lobster tails for which V. and I prepared a lemon/olive oil/garlic marinade - I found a recipe on an Australian food website which also had an accompanying video which was very helpful in terms of cooking the lobster tails (slit the shell lengthwise and cook on the soft side for 6 minutes and then shell side for 6 minutes on a high heat). It worked a treat (at AED190 per kilo, it needed to....).

We also spent a good deal of the afternoon on the telephone to various lawyers and estate agents trying to push through E's parents house sale. What a carry on! After several days of being assured everything would be done before the deadline for exchange on Friday there was a day of increasingly tense discussions with the various interested parties (developer, lawyers, estate agent etc.) before everything finally clicked into place just in time. It certainly made the BBQ more celebratory and the lobster tails in particular were delicious.

Saturday started as usual with the football and cricket at Safa Park. The kids enjoyed their cricket with V. captaining the winning team and A. bowling the other sides last man with 2 more runs to win (and taking a spectacular catch) so they were happy. Although there was still a little breeze it was much hotter than last week so footy was hard work - although I did manage to score this week (and Dad happened to be watching which was nice - I am not sure he could quite believe it!).

After a quick shower we then drove to Deira to meet some friends for a Dim Sum lunch. We do not go across the creek very often and part of the reason is the traffic - the Al Shingaha tunnel was chaotic and we were nearly 25 minutes late (it did not help that the directions to the hotel were fairly "high level" and it transpired that there were around 5 other hotels on the route that shared the same name). We did everntually find it and had a very enjoyable afternoon with K, J, and their kids as well as D. The food was OK - the dim sum lacked a bit of varety but the buffet was fine and the total cost was around AED70 each for the 11 of us.

Last night was spent at the Al Manzil Hotel watching the Heineken Cup (Leicester beating Northhampton) and the Eurpoean rugby final between Ulster and Leinster (Leinster winning). Both were good games and we also saw some of the England -v New Zealand cricket with Joe Root scoring his maiden test century at his home ground in Headingly.

This morning was an early start as we all went to the kids school to see A. get his Congratulations award for his work during science week - he prepared an experiment on paper aeroplanes to see whether the size of the paper made any difference to the distance they travelled - it doesn't - it is all about aerodynamics) and it was nice to see how pleased he was to get an award in front of his parents and Grandfather.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gentlemen, please put your pens away and hand up your completed papers....

It is that time of the year again - exam season, and A and V are both doing SATs related tests at school. I will always assocaite exams with the early Summer - that time of year when the weather in England had finally relented sufficiently to allow more time to be spent playing football or other games outside but by cruel timing, also coincided with the need for frantic revision and long hours spent racking brains and frantically scribbling over reams of paper (I was always of the opnion that quantity of answer was much more prefereable to quality...).

I cannot clearly remember when I statrted to do exams (or tests)but it would probably have been at the end of primary school - they seem to start the kids a lot earlier these days given that V. is only 6. However, for me things only really started to get serious at O level stage. I seem to recall we did one of the English O levels (English language) a year before the main O levels but I can still recall the elaborate "revision" schedules that I prepared which gradually became more cluttered as time started to ebb away and I gradually realised how much work I would actually needed to do to be anywhere near ready to do the exam. I still get bad dreams about waking up the morning of an exam knowing that there was no way I would be able to revise everything that I needed to have learnt. Very unpleasant.

From around the ages of 15 to 19 exams were a fairly constant Summer companion (and at Law School, Winter as well). I do not miss those days at all. In fact after qualifying, I said that I would never do another exam. However, when I went to HK I had to do a conveyancing exam - nightmare (I used to hate landlaw in any event) so I found myself some 15 years after my previous exam, picking up my pen in anger again - although nowadays I imagine that it is mostly done on a PC.

A bit of a catch up....

So, after a 6 month hiatus, this blog is cranking into life again. Having looked back at my history over the last 3 years or so it seems that I have bursts of creativity during the November "blog post per day" challenge which (despite never actually managing to achieve that level of productivity) seems to exhasut any desire I have for publishing until the next time it comes around a year later. I thought that perhaps if I tried to spread my posts around the calander a little more I would actually manage to post more frequsntly. So here goes...

My usual excuse for non-posting - too much on at work - was very much in evidence again certianly up until Easter when I was involved in a couple of very big projects - one of which had pretty much fully occupied me for nearly a year. Fortunatley things are little quieter now so I can provide a recap of the last six months. Christmas was spent here in the Desert with my Father and the in-laws which was fun (and fortunately the sun kept shining).We also had a visit from my Sister and her family in February which involved visits to the beach and much fun and games for the kids with their cousins. We also had one of our old Hong Kong friends (K) to stray for the Dubai World tennis and we managed to catch quite a lot of the Men's action including Nadal's win in the final. Will definitely do it next year although the application lottery over the internet was something I could have done without!

We went back to the UK for Easter and my Father's 80th birthday. Apart from the bitter cold, it was nice to be home not least because of Dad's birthday party which saw a huge number of old friends, schoolmates and of course family gathered together. We masssively overcatered on the alcohol so there will be plenty to drink when we go home for the Summer. Apart from finally getting to put faces to the names of some of the people Dad has been telling stories about over the years, it was also a chance to catch up with some family who we do not usually see. This included D and F, two distant cousins who are very close to my age and who we would occassionally see as children but whose base in the West Country meant that we have not seen them for over 30 odd years! We also caught up with my Counsin Cris and his wife who we last saw at their wedding a couple of years ago, and of course the Irish contingent were out in force. Dad and his Cousin J (currently staying with us on route to the rugby in Hong Kong next week which I got for dad's birthday present) were watching the video from the party last night and seemed to enjoy the party as much on film as they did in real life!

Amongst the other "projects" from the last couple of months is trying to buy a house in Bristol. This has been something of a rollercoaster ride and we are still trying to push it over the line as we try to exchange contracts. One thing I have managed to finalise is the Summer holidays. We are having a bit of a tour of Europe this year. Starting in L'Escala (as last yar) we are then in UK for a few days and then going to Ireland for some time at K's place in Killarney and then off to Castletownbere for the regatta and then home for a few days in blighty before returning to the Middle East.

That's it for the moment. Hopefully more soon.