Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Summer Holidays Part 9 (UK)

So on to the last part of our Summer adventure! The day after we got back from Greece my Sister organised a tea party for E's birthday in a little cake shop/cafe just outside of Maidstone. The weather had held good so we were able to sit out in the back garden and stuff ourselves with some delicious cakes with a good turn out from the family (K. A, C and her two kids as well as M. B and there two kids + Dad). We ended up heading for a drink at the Malta where we caught up with S. who is moving back to Maidstone and had a very pleasant drink as the sun set over the Medway (never thought I would write that!).

In the couple of days we had in Maidstone we managed our reguar trip down to Hastings where we had our usual seafood lunch at Whites and explored the beach and the Fisherman's Museum and also picked up a couple of huge crabs.

I have written before about my love of Hastings and here is a good shot from the beach of the fishing boats with the cliffs behind. This is a good shot of the old part of town.The fishermans net sheds are at the back of the boats.

We have been going to the same fishmongers for years - the ones on Rock-a-nore road although I noticed some little shacks around the back closer to the fishing boats that had also opened up and were selling crabs and whiting. We usually buy our crabs from the fishmonger on the right in the photo below In the converted fisherman net sheds (they are just along from the Fishermen's museum - a converted Church) although it sometimes depends on what is in stock.

We ate the crabs in the evening washed down with a couple of glasses of cold white wine and baguette - bliss!

Our next Port of call was Bristol where E's parents had agreed to look after the kids while E. and I spent a day or so in nearby Bath - our first night away from the ids since V. was born! Bath was only around 30 minutes drive way from their house and I will describe our stay in the last post for this month.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Summer Holiday Part 8 (Kefalonia contd)

Whilst pretty basic, the rooms were fine with a little kitchenette attached to the sleeping area for boiling water etc.. The accommodation arrangements also worked very well with the kids occupying the room next door which meant that they could go on the early morning run and yoga sessions planned by B and M without waking us up.!

In the mornings we all met for an al fresco breakfast next to the pool where we were treated to Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit. it was then off to the beach (We arranged a cab for Dad) where we basically swam/snorkelled/sunbathed most of the morning with a bit of fishing off the breakwater (not hugely successful) and hole digging (by the kids - much more successful).

At lunch we ate our own body weight in Greek salad (what else!) and indulged in a local dish of "cheesy chips" and granita and then headed back to the Hotel for an afternoon of siestas (adults) and running around like mad things/diving into the pool (kids). Towards the end of the afternoon as the sun set picturesquely behind the mountains I would wander down for some more sunbathing/book reading by the pool and a leisurely swim.

In the evening we all walked down to the beach/main street and decided on which restaurant we wanted to eat at. As it was a fishing village most of the restaurants had an ice cabinet out the front displaying the day's catch and most offered a very reasonable deal on meals for two (tuna, calamari and sea bass being particular favourites) which usually included wine.

Everyone at very well and I was particularly taken by the grilled calamari at the Lighthouse restaurant. All of the restaurants were right on the beach overlooking the sea and it was a terrific place to eat. The kids could play on the beach whilst the adults could finish the meals at leisure. We would all then head back to the hotel with dad and I (and occasionally B) breaking the journey up with a quick trip to a small bar which was handily located on the road back to the hotel. The bar was also the source of some football (Chelsea) and a pub quiz as well as a duet between the landlady's mother and Dad one evening (1). Dad also managed to win a raffle (Euro 29) which was also very handy.

We did not do any exploring other than hiring a couple of boats for a trip up the coast. E. and the kids bailed out very early as the wind was blowing and it was quite choppy which proved to be a very sensible decision. The journey up the coast was fine albeit a bit bumpy. However, we had a real problem in finding somewhere to stop for lunch and ended up mooring next to a beach which could only be accessed by a stony/rocky stretch of water which was a nightmare and then we could not find any shade. Dad had to stay on the boat because of the access difficulties and felt seasick all the way back as we spent a couple of hours crashing from wave to wave as the wind blew harder as we were steering into the wind - I also lost my cap and B 's fishing lines got tangled. Not a success!

Other than the boat trip, it was a terrific holiday - very relaxing and the kids were clamouring to go again almost as soona s we left.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Summer Holidays Part 7 (Kefalonia)

Having spent 5 days enjoying the sunshine in the wilds of Oxfordshire at the Wilderness festival we returned the vans and then packed for our trip to Greece with my Sister and her family. They had visited the same resort (Katelios)last year and had really enjoyed it so we all decided to go (with my Father) for a relaxing seaside holiday ... and that was exactly what we got.

We had all ordered a large van to take us all to the Airport (Gatwick) from Maidstone) very early on the Tuesday morning (although we ended up in going in cars as for some reason the van was not available) and we arrived in good time for our Thomson flight. Everything proceeded smoothly (flight into Kefalonia was around 2.5 to 3 hours)and the Hotel sent a coach to big us up at the airport and take on the short (45 minutes) drive to the resort. It has been a long time since I have stayed in Greece (probably when E and went to Crete back in the day) and Kefalonia is a largish Island which was quite reminiscent of Cyprus which we used to visit regularly - green and full of flowers and quite hilly.

The Hotel was just outside the (very) sleepy fishing village of Katelios) - around 10 minutes walk down the hill to the main street where there were 5 or 6 restaurants, a beach and a tiny harbour. The beach was protected by a breakwater and sloped gradually out to see which meant the water was very clear and calm and absolutely perfect for snorkelling as there was plenty of safe water for the kids to explore and the breakwater was home to many multi-coloured fish. The beach was sandy (although there was a lot of seaweed on the shore) and there were plenty of sunloungers which could be hired with parasols.

The Hotel was on three levels and very small - probably around 22 rooms but it had a great pool, a bar and a nice flower clad eating area for breakfast. Given our early start from UK, we had time to have a swim in the pool and then down to the Lighthouse restaurant (which became a firm favourite)for Dinner on our first day having allocated the two sets of kids to separate rooms and the adults and Dad to our own rooms.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Summer Holidays 2016 Part 6 (Wilderness days 3 and 4)

Highlights of the rest of our time at the festival included various visits to the "naked" fruit juice stall which dispensed huge quantities of free fruit juice (which the kids loved and given how hot it was, everyone took full advantage of), a ride on the Big Wheel which also gave panoramic views of the Park where the festival was being held as well as a number of trips down the nearby helter skelter by the kids; plenty of excellent food including a chocolate brownie stall and a waffle store which were in very convenient proximity to each other; plenty of live music including Robert Plant (of Led Zep fame) at full throttle and a jazz band that seemed to consist of a couple of huge Tubas and musicians who basically danced their way through the songs along with the audience; various demonstrations of dance, crafting, henna tattoos taxidermy, a "quiet" disco (where participants wear headphones playing the music and dance around to that but there is no other sound - it is pretty surreal to be standing around watching everyone cavorting in a silent room - the kids absolutely loved this); a late night yoga class which the kids found hilarious; more wild swimming; lazing around in the Summer sunshine people watching - the dress code appeared to be hippy chic with lots of glitter and the very young children (of which there were many) being transported round in little carts decorated with flowers - there was also a couple who were simply "dressed" in blue body paint and there was plenty of sunbathing with varying degrees of clothing (although pretty tasteful all things considered)around the wild swimming area; a couple of glasses of champagne in the Champagne tent to celebrate E's big birthday; games of Frisbee and football with the kids; and the David Bowie tribute set on the last night where Kate Nash and Charlotte Church shared top billing with yours truly and the Wilderness choir (well we opened the show with a four part version of Space Oddity which was quite magical even thought I say so my self).

I had never stayed at a festival before and this was very user friendly and loads of fun - I would definitely do it again although we were truly blessed with the weather which was uniformly good until the morning of our departure and even then it was just a bit overcast. We even got the hang of the toilet/shower facilities (the showers were actually pretty good). There was a lot of walking around and we barely skimmed the huge variety of events, shows, lectures, seminars, concerts on offer so next time I will pay closer attention to the programme. N. managed to break her teeth brace on the penultimate day so there was a bit of a rush to get back to Maidstone and return the vans and get to the orthodontist in time before our early morning departure on the Tuesday to Cephalonia for the next part of our Summer adventures.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


After a hectic day of football and house hunting we caught up with JG who was in town en route from Thailand to Oman having embarked upon what appeared to be a World tour of education conferences. We caught up with him at the Tim Horton coffee shop near the kids old school which E and I use to go to after drop off and, after a fruitless trip to Nelsons at the Media Rotana to watch the England game (it was not on there) ended up watching England's victory over Argentina and Ireland's victory over Australia in the rugby at home. Despite our best efforts we were unable to tune into the Chelsea game although Chelsea did manage to win. It was good to catch up with J. Who now appears to have acquired a dog and a beer belly!

Friday, November 25, 2016

BBQ Friday

The rain stayed away but it was probably as cool in Dubai it gets this time of year as the sun hid behind a thin layer of cloud and the wind blow hard. We caught up with P and L at Wild Wadi an P did the Jumeirah Scarah which was the kids were fascinated by. We returned to ours for a BBQ a and some quizzing and it was very much like old days. A good evening was had by all!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Raindrops keep falling on my head

Not literally but certainly there were clouds in the Dubai skies today and reports of rainfall in some parts of the Emirate - the first rain since last Winter. P and L are in town - old friends from HK days who are taking a break before P starts a new job in London having spent the last 5 years in Zurick. We used to play tennis together on a Saturday morning and watch footy in Main Street of an evening. We also used to team up for the quiz at the Pickled Pelican in Stanley which we regularly used to win (there were usually only 3 or 4 other teams .......).

We tried to revive the glory days at the Dhow & Anchor quiz on Tuesday night (where by coincidence P and L were staying) with assistance from Dad and E. Unfortunately the old magic was in short supply (or perhaps the questions were more difficult). In any event, we did not cover ourselves in glory although given that it was held outdoors at least it did not rain. Hopefully we will also avoid rain tomorrow when we have invited P and L to a BBQ after a trip with them to a Wild Wadi waterpark.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

10000 a Day

Not words but steps. As mentioned in an earlier post, the default mode for a daily step target on my Fitbit us 100000. Based on an average stride of around 1m that in theory means a 10km walk per day if I hit the target which I have just about managed to do over the last couple of weeks(coinciding with the less strenuous but equally testing post per day challenge). Quite apart from the difficulties of so arranging my day to give a least an outside chance of achieving that number- and it is not a particularly easy given by sloth like nature and sedentary lifestyle- requiring planned lunchtime and evening jaunts on shanks pony - 10km a day sounds quite a long way (although during my lunchtime walk today I encountered a flock of peacocks feasting nonchalantly on the roadside which is very Dubai so it is not all hardship). I hope to keep this up until we go to UK for Christmas so wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Summer Holidays 2016 part 5 (Wilderness Day 2)

The configuration of our motor home was a little different from last years van comprising a bunk bed for the kids at the back and a double bed that descended automatically from the ceiling in the middle section which was an interesting feature which required us to ensure there was nothing in the way of the bed as it made its descent. We were situated around 150 yards from the perimeter fence for the main arena so there would be occasional bursts of sound from the sage during our first night but all in all everybody slept reasonably well and B and I fried up a full English the following morning in our respective vans which were parked parallel to each other. The kid were still running around the fields like mad things playing football and Frisbee, and we all ate at the put-me-up table and bench which we had erected between the vans. Although the van had its own internal shower/toilet, I tried to encourage everyone to use the onsite facilities – this was only partially successful mainly because the state of the onsite loos were a little hit and miss….

We then set off to sample the delights of the festival and what delights there were. There were 4 separate stages with a variety of performances available during the course of the 4 days ranging from rock music (the headline act was Robert Plant and there were also turns from the Flaming Lips and Goldie) as well as big band/ Jazz/ Performance Art and classical. There were also various marquees for debates and presentations as well as a huge number of food outlets; a craft village and various other entertainments including a high wire act, a cricket match (with much nudity) as well as “wild swimming” in the Lakes below the venue.

I had also signed up for the Wilderness Choir – a motley collection of festival goers albeit led by a professional musician who had agreed to learn a four part version of “Space Oddity” to be sung as the opening song of a David Bowie tribute set on the last night of the festival. We all gathered by the big Red Bus in the centre of the festival area and were divided into Bass/Tenor/Alto/Soprano and were taken through our paces on the Friday morning. It was really good fun and actually sounded very impressive even in the early stages. I genuinely found participation really satisfying. The rest of the day was spent in exploring the myriad entertainments on offer under the blue skies and sunshine of the Oxfordshire country side including some wild swimming which offered a very vivid contrast to the bathwater temperatures that we are used to in the Arabian Gulf – it was absolutely freezing and the kids (and adults) were a little wary of the mud and reeds that had to be overcome in getting in and out before the swimming proper could begin. It was – ultimately – really good fun but we were fortunate that the sun was shining as the water was extraordinarily cold…

Monday, November 21, 2016

Summer Holidays 2016 Part 4 (Wilderness first day)

This year it was Es turn to choose a special trip and her choice was a music festival in deepest Oxfordshire. In fact it was more of a music and food festival. We agreed that we were probably a bit past the hardcore festival camping experience (particularly since we were taking the kids and going with my Sister and her family) so we booked a mobile home ( as did M and her family) from the chap in Harrietsham who rented us a mobilehome for our France trip last year) and headed to the Wilderness Festival.

This year we did not have to contend with operation stack. However I did have to contend with a 5 hour delay at DxB as I managed to arrive for my flight just as an incoming flight decided to land without the undercarriage down which caused the closure of both runways for a number of hours.

As a consequence it was early morning before I reached Maidstone so I was not at my brightest when B and I went to collect the motor homes on the Thursday morning. However after loading up with enough clothes and bedding for at least a week (the festival was only for 4 days) we were soon making our way in convoy towards Oxford (M drove her car as she was taking J back early for his tutoring). The weather was beautiful and after around 4.5 hours drive including a stopover at the services we were ushered through ancient trees and freshly cut grass into field near the main arena. It was a great setting surrounded by woods and hills with various categories of campsites from "glam ping" and tepees to "live in vehicles" (us along with some truly beautiful classic Airstream motor homes and an eclectic array if VW Camperrvans and customised vans).

The kids had time to race around the field and deposit huge clumps of newly mown grass in the vans as they clumped in and out and the we then went in search of food. The entrance to the arena was next to the main stage opposite which was a number of old fashioned fairground attractions including a big wheel and a helter-skelter - both of which saw considerable use by the kids before the weekend was out. However our first priority was food and the area was crammed full of pop up dining venues ranging from tents with crisp table clothes and silver service cutlery to market stalls selling bacon (or rather hog roast) butties. There was no shortage of food or indeed representatives from some of London's more fashionable restaurants and there was no problem in finding something to suit the tastes of 8 hungry people.

After having a quick tour around some of the music stages we headed back for our first night "under canvass".

Sunday, November 20, 2016

For whom the bell tolls

After a number of years of good and faithful service my IPhone (a 4S for connoisseurs) has finally expired after an unscheduled bath in a rucksack during one of our walks last week. Fortunately it lasted long enough for the IT department at work to download all the relevant data, contacts, photos etc. So I made the trip to Dubai Mall (by metro - my second time since it was opened....) to purchase the latest IPhone mobile telephonic device which is no less than 3 versions up from my last phone (which various colleagues have suggested shows that my last phone should have been in a museum rather than in use....).

Whilst it is all very whizzy the one thing which neither I or the IT department or my son can yet make it do is to persuade it to ring when I have an incoming call. To some this might be regarded as a disadvantage. I am undecided on the issue and will give it a little more time to sort itself out.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Greatest show on Earth.....

That is the greatest show on Earth golf course where the Race to Dubai golf extravaganza is being held this weekend! This is one of the highlights of the Dubai sporting calendar and Dad always makes the effort to come out for it given its close proximity to the Rugby 7s which is the weekend after next.

My own sporting day started of with football in Safa Park (with the newly opened canal in close proximity - hopefully we will have a chance to explore shortly) and for the first time A. came along too as his Mother kindly rescheduled their Spanish lessons to start a little later so that he could do both. It was a good introduction to our our "jumpers for goalposts" (in fact cones) Saturday morning footballing endeavours and he acquitted himself well scoring a goal and putting in avoid all round performance. I also managed to score a couple of goals so we both I think felt it was a a satisfactory start to the morning.

After a quick shower Dad and headed off to the golf where we were treated to a lot of sunshine and excellent golf by Messrs. McElroy, Stenson, Dubuisson and Cabrero Bello who scored an excellent 63 for the day. It is always good fun to watch such great players in close proximity and we also struck lucky with lifts in the golf buggy from the entrance to the golf village and back again at the beginning and end of the day (as well as scoring some clubhouse passes from the driver in the morning) so our walking whilst still fairly substantial was not completely exhausting.

We were home in time for a roast lamb dinner with the family and a very entertaining game of rugby where Wales just about shaded the Japan team by 3 points. An excellent sporting day!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Magical Beasts.......

Another busy day in Al Safa. Having picked up my Father from the airport last night we launched ourselves into a Winter season of visitors and fun with JG joining us next weekend and P an L - old friends from HK days also visiting us from Zurick just before their move to London.

I had an early start today with a walk around the block in an attempt to maintain my 100% record this week of 10,000 per day. This was followed by Church School and then a trip to the cinema for to watch the new JK Rowling film after which this blog post is named.

Although V and E bailed out shortly before the end when it got quite scary it was a very engaging film. Very much in the HP tradition although probably aimed at an older audience. There were some very funny set pieces as well as some serious messages and everybody enjoyed the spectacle.

After a trip to Spinneys to pick up some food for our Friday night BBQ we enjoyed some prawns, sausages and quizzing although England's cricketers contrived to put a slight dampener on the evening in the test match against India.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Summer Holiday 2016: Part 3 (return to Dxb)

Whilst E and the kids enjoyed the first part of their Summer down in Bristol, I returned to Dubai for 5 weeks of work and sunshine (or more accurately, intense heat!). Actually, it was not all work as I also invested in a fitbit (basically an exercise tracker)and managed - with the exception of one day, to hit the "recommended" 10,000 steps per day that seems to be the benchmark for "proper" exercise in the 5 weeks or so I was back in Dubai on my own.

This was actually no mean achievement given my almost exclusively sedentary working environment which makes achieving even half that figure a real challenge. I was however assisted by the fact that we moved office in early July so that we were much closer to the WTC with its cavernous - and more importantly air-conditioned - conference halls which were perfect for lunchtime walks designed to increase the number of daily steps.

Even with this facility on my door step, hitting 10,000 steps a day was not possible unless I also planned a walk (which increased to a fast walk and then a fast-ish walk with intermittent slow jogging as July wore on) either around the streets of Al Safa near our Villa or on the running track down along Kite Beach/DOSC. Given the heat and humidity, even a relatively short walk gave rise a decent sweat. This coupled with a very close eye on my diet - the Fitbit dashboard allows the recording of all foods as well as related calories so I was able to eat reasonably healthily, and the avoidance of too may after work drinks (which is a major feature of HK and Dubai expat life when the families are away for the Summer holidays!) meant that not only did I feel about as fit as I had in years but also I had lost around 4kg by the time I headed back to UK for the rest of the Summer holidays in early August. Part 4 to follow shortly.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Summer Holidays 2016 - Part 2 (London/Maidstone)

After a relaxing weekend in Brighton we have a slightly more stressful trip up to London when the train unexpectedly terminated at Gatwick and we were forced to get on a Victoria train and then get a cab across to Clerkenwell to the apartment we were staying in. The apartment was just off Clerkenwell Road and whilst entry was somewhat complex, once in it was exactly what we needed – two bedrooms and a big lounge/kitchen in a quiet location very close to my old office on Clerkenwell Green and handy for the City.

After dropping our bags we headed off to the British Museum near-by where we had booked timed tickets for the Sunken Cities special exhibition – it included artefacts and a couple of huge statues recovered from the lost cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus which lay at the mouth of the Nile and had disappeared into the Mediterranean a thousand or so years ago. The kids seemed to enjoy it as well as our quick look around the Egyptian gallery and also a visit to the Rosetta Stone which I always enjoy.

We then had a quick dinner on Holborn at a very nice Italian restaurant and then back to the apartment. I then went off to Highgate to meet up with OF to watch England get beaten by Iceland in the Euros. The less said about that the better although it was good to catch up with OF.

The next morning I was working in the London Office. There was very subdued atmosphere when I got in - a combination of England’s defeat in the football the previous night and the continuing somewhat stunned reaction to the Brexit vote. The mood was not exactly helped by the pouring rain. We were due to go to the theatre in the evening but had to change the date because V had not been feeling well. We were lucky enough to change the tickets to Wednesday and so were able to make a trip to Chinatown that evening where we indulged ourselves in some Chinese food and the crispy duck that had been such a hit last Summer.

I was working again the following day and also decided to buy myself some shirts – my collar size seems to have increased! In the evening went to Gaucho off Piccadilly and then went to the Criterion Theatre to watch “The Robbery that went Wrong” – the kids absolutely loved it – English slapstick at its best and everyone had a great time!

The following day I met JH for lunch and then took the family down to Maidstone where we stayed with my Father. On the Friday E and I went off to a big Dinner with senior management in Pennyhill Park – training HQ for the English Rugby Union team and a lovely hotel although getting there around the M25 was a nightmare. We caught up with R and S as well as some of my colleagues Dinner where the topic revolved again around Brexit.

On the Saturday we had a leisurely morning and then headed back down to Maidstone where we picked the kids up from their sleep over with their cousins at M and B and then we all headed off to D’s 40th at Maidstone Football Club. A live band and a chance to catch up with the family made for a pleasant evening and on the Sunday I headed back to Dxb and the Kids and E. headed to Bristol for the start their Summer holidays proper. Stand by for the next instalment of our Summer adventures after my month back in the sandpit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Summer Holiday 2016 Part 1

Slightly belated round up of our adventures during the Summer. Things kicked off with the Kids and E flying back to UK for the Summer holidays towards the end of June. I was able to go back with them as I was working in London the following week and we had chosen the day after the Brexit referendum to travel.

Because of flight timings, we were up with the lark on the Friday morning so were able to see the early voting returns and things were not looking terribly promising for the Remainers - and of course this was borne out by the time we landed in London when the majority in favour of Exit was confirmed shortly before touchdown.

Our trip to the UK also coincided with the Euro Football finals and England had already shown signs of things to come with a rather laboured draw in the first game.

We had flown into Gatwick and had decided to revisit old haunts down in Brighton at the weekend with the kids - staying at the Renaissance Hotel on the sea front. We had a great room with partial sea views and great views over the rooftops of Brighton town and the Pier.

After unpacking, We had lunch in Harry Ramsden's and spent the afternoon walking along the pier, sitting on the beach and eating ice creams - very pleasant indeed. After such a huge lunch we had an early night and were up bright and early for a great breakfast in the Hotel and then a quick mooch around the shops before meeting an old friend JG who had travelled down from his Mothers in East Grinstead and who worked at Sussex Downs College. It was good to see him again and we spend a very pleasant couple of hours having lunch at Café Rouge and then wandering the beach-front (including taking advantage of the photo opportunity afforded by the giant donut statue next to the pier....) followed by a visit to the Aquarium - a very well-renovated version of the 19th Century original.

JG and I then decamped to the pub in the evening to watch some of the football which was a real through back to times past when we regularly used to do that of a Saturday when he lived in London in the late 1980's (that makes me feel old simply writing it .....).

Sunday got off to a slower start as we did a bit more shopping and then met up with some old friends from HK days (K and W who will be recalled from my previous blog ( and their son J. The kids were delighted to see J and we had a lovely meal with them at the Dome next to Brighton Pavilion (a restaurant E and I used to frequent back in the days when she lived in Brighton) and we then had a pleasant stroll with them down to the seafront (where a seagull nicked part of my doughnut - one of the fresh ones made before our very eyes on the pier which E and V took a real fancy to).

The sunshine of the Friday had been replaced by more changeable weather by the Monday but all in all it was a pleasant break which was only slightly disrupted by the challenges of getting up to London by train due to the problems with Southern Railways - tune in for the next instalment tomorrow!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Piano confusion

The more eagle-eyed of you will have spotted that A. has been preparing for his piano exam over recent weeks (Grade 3) and has been busily practising the various pieces, exercises, scales/arpeggios and aural/Musical knowledge sections of the syllabus (and I have been swotting up on my rather ancient musical knowledge to try to help).

The exam was yesterday and A. had been very diligent in his preparations - no mean feat given how packed his schedule is with school work, ECA's etc. There aw therefore a great deal of consternation yesterday afternoon after he arrived at the exam venue only to find that, whilst the time and venue were correct, his teacher had in fact entered him for the Grade 3 exam of a different exam board - he had been practising pieces for the Trinity exam whereas the examiner was from ABRSM!

They let him play the pieces (I think one of them may have overlapped with the ABRSM syllabus) and he went through the scales/arpeggios and the aural exam (again one or two parts overlapped between the two music boards). Unfortunately there was no musical knowledge section - only sight reading which he had not prepared for this time (he did it for Grade 2 last year) - Trinity make it one of 4 options whereas ABRSM seem to make it compulsory.

Despite the rather disconcerting turn that events took for him yesterday afternoon, A. did not seem to be too downhearted - probably relieved that he would not have to put up with my nagging any more to practice! We will have to wait and see whether ABRSM allow the examiner to take into account the pieces he had prepared. It is obviously very frustrating that this has happened and we are keeping our fingers crossed that everything works out OK and he does not end up having to do it all over again.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Year in Review 2015: July/December

Only a year late! I had forgotten that I had not finished this. Most of the Summer of 2015 is already on record as I counted down my big birthday bash. It kicked off with a motorhome trip around France which preceded a Hog roast party for friends and family in Maidstone to the accompaniment of pouring rain and was followed by another BBQ in Castletownebere in Cork which was similarly accompanied by pouring rain! We did not let this dampen our spirits and the weather in Ireland subsequently improved allowing a visit to Allihies beach as we did a tour around the peninsular (the colour of the water there was incredible), a trip to Bere Ireland and then a few days at K's house in Killarney which allowed a nice drive around the ring of Kerry and some (very cold) surfing at Inch.

September saw us return to Dxb for our birthday proper but we were soon on our travels again in October when we had 10 days in UK during the Rugby World Cup. The first part was spent down on the South Coast with my Sister and her family when we did some walking around Chichester - we stayed at a very olde Wolde BB in a delightful village just outside Chichester and the weather was lovely - misty and golden in a very autumnal way! I also managed to snag a ticket to the Australia v. South Africa semi-final with Richard P. The main event was the RWU final which Dad, me, A and my Sister went to on a beautiful Autumn day. Twickenham was looking at its best and the full house crowd were treated to a decent game of rugby which at one point looked like it might get very close until a certain Dan Carter asserted his authority and took the All Blacks away from the Aussies. We were straight back to Dxb the day after, and since I had exhausted my holiday allowance for the year, that was the last of our travels for pleasure for the year. However, in November, I had another work trip to Seoul where although cold the weather was good. Christmas was spent in Dubai and we managed to have our Christmas Day swim which was very pleasant.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday in Safa

A beautiful autumnal day with the temperature in the early thirties, the sun shining and the sky clear. Em and A. went off to their Spanish class this morning and so V and I had a lazy morning. Brunch was at Shakespeares as Em and I caught up on the weeks events. The afternoon was a mix of intensive piano practice with A. in advance of tomorrow's exam including a good session on the aural exam which taught us both some interesting facts about major and minor chords...

Today was also the day I decided to prepare the bikes for our winter cycling activities. I probably have the most awkward bicycle pump known to man. It has an attachment nozzle which is so sensitive that it will fall off or let the air out of a fully pumped tyre as soon as you look at it. So cleaning and preparing the bikes was perhaps slightly more stressful than I should have been although the kids helped with the cleaning- in fact A. cleaned his Mothers bike under a a slight misapprehension that it was his own - as I said to him it was the thought that counts ( and they do look a bit similar!

We then went on a very pleasant ride around Al Safa and ended up in the little park where we had a game a football against another family and the back in time for Dina's speciality BBQ spare ribs preceded by final piano practice before tomorrow.

I then had time to watch England beat South Africa to bring to a close a very satisfactory Saturday.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Busy day

Up early to read a decision on one of my cases. Slightly disappointing start to the weekend! Also some early piano practice for A. before his exam on Sunday and then off to Church and then Church school. E. is having her belated birthday celebration at a local Hotel this afternoon and A is at a confirmation retreat so V and I go off to the beach where V. clambers around the climbing/obstacle course and I swot up on musical notation for A's musical knowledge section of the exam. Bit of a rush to get to Jebel Ali in time for parants meeting at A. Retreat and then back via Spinneys to pick up prawns and Clonakillity bangers for BBQ tonight. Everyone seemed to have a good time so after an unpromising start, eventually a pretty decent day.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New beginnings?

The big news today is that Donald Trump is the new US President. Following hot on the heels of Brexit, this is a good example of why I should not trust my political instincts anymore! I thought that the Brexit vote would probably be close but that Remain would win and I thought that DT was most unlikely to be voted in as President. Very wrong on both counts and it just goes to show how living in a little expat bubble for over 10 years can leave someone with very little idea about what makes people tick politically in UK and USA (although to be honest I have always found US politics a little hard to fathom out!).

IT will be very interesting to see what happens next. I have probably followed this American election with more interest than usual although I do recall from Obama's first victory how it seemed to be achieved on the back of a groundswell of hope for the future. How times have changed. No such groundswell today with this US election being very much characterised by constant personal attacks on each other by the candidates. Hopefully this will not set the pattern of behaviour for the next 4 years.

Change in Season

After a long hot Summer the cool of Winter seems to have arrived. Last Saturday was Bonfire Night (November 5th for non- Brits) and having been out trick or treating with the kids on Halloween we decided to try to remind the kids about their British rootes by buying some sparklers and toasting marshmallows (over a BBQ so not very British....). We managed to miss the DOSC fireworks display by an hour so we went for a walk along the beach and that coupled with the fact that we managed a swim in the pool earlier in the evening tells you that we were very far from a traditional British November evening so I suspect we are going to have to work a little harder to recreate for our kids the Bonfire Nights of our youth!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Abu Dhabi

Another day of travel, this time up the SZR to speak at a conference in AD. After 6 weeks of what feels like fairly constant drafting of notes/presentations/submissions/power points for a variety of talks and presentations in Europe/ Far East and the Gulf, I can finally focus on drafting some blogs! Of course, whether that actually means I will put finger to key board is another matter....

Monday, November 7, 2016

November Post a day

Well I have come a little late to the party this year - my first post is 7 November which even for me is pretty tardy. In my defence, life has been very busy work-wise having just come back from a short trip to do a hearing in Paris and prior to that a business trip to Seoul for a week in mid-October. Work is still pretty busy but I will see what I can do to catch up on some of the missing posts so that I can at least say I have done close to 30 by the end of the month!