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.