Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A pinch and a punch....

A bonus post after the end of post a day November and we start the first day of the new month with a picture from our trip to the seaside yesterday - now that we live in the desert, our trips to the beach (a 30 minute drive) are much rarer but when we do go, are always enjoyable.

This is a picture looking towards kite beach and the Burg al Arab - in fact these are trainee kite surfers who were being put through their paces by no less than 5 kite surfing schools who had set up next to the running track (and what looks like a new cycle track albeit it seems to be mostly sand) yesterday afternoon. 

If you have ever seen a kite surfer in action it is a truly an art worth mastering as it looks great fun and also extremely difficult - almost all of these kites were being operated from  land -  presumably to practice control although there were a couple of adherents in the water.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Picture This

As the end of post a day November finally hoves into view, it would be remiss for me not to provide an update on my favourite (and as she always reminds me, only) daughter V.  

It has been a challenging time over the last year or so for her, mainly due to a nasty accident where she broke her leg (see previous posts). Thankfully she successfully had the pins removed in June (although the timing for a full anaesthetic operation during the lockdown was not great  - almost as poor timing as A’s hospitalisation with a collapsed lung - also thankfully fully recovered the following month). Apart from a couple of small scars where the pins were inserted, her leg has completely healed and so she has been building her confidence  gradually back up although she remains a little anxious among crowds of people  and has been distance-learning since the schools returned in September.

Whilst not ideal,  the distance learning seems to be going OK and her teachers seem to be generally pleased with her progress. She remains a big fan of art and can spend literally hours drawing on the art app on her I-pad - she has also set up her own “virtual”  business where she accepts commissions to create /draw avatars in return for virtual currency which can apparently be converted into real currency. 

She is an avid Minecraft fan (as her brother was at the same age - and on the quiet probably still is) and is quite happy to put her head phones on and draw or entertain herself in the corner of the lounge. She also dotes on our cat Minnie who seems to feature very heavily in the numerous pictures that for some reason end up in my IPhone photo library.

Although a couple of her friends have now left Dubai she still has a good friendship group from School - one of whom lives very nearby and another who will shortly be our near neighbour which is good news. She remains tall for her age having overtaken her Mother in height and towering over her friends. Having recovered from her broken leg she has also  returned to her habit of dancing around in a day dream. 

Although she is focusing more on her art at the moment, she is still a keen writer and is currently getting to grips with Frankenstein in her English Lit. Never one to shy away from an argument, she also remains a keen debater although due to Covid, debate ECA is currently not being run much to her chagrin but hopefully it will return soon.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Where the Streets have no name

Having built up a sizeable stock of untaken annual leave I decided to take today and tomorrow off (which with the three day holiday later in the week would give me a week off). Unfortunately clients intervened but E. and I did manage lunch together today at the Lime Tree cafe in Al Quoz (we need to buy some shares in that chain). 

Al Quoz is a rather unlovely industrial area running parallel to SZR  and due to a mishap with the directions I spent rather longer driving around the warehouses, car showrooms/workshops, and concrete factories (including the former precast works of a client of mine which looks like it could double as a film set)  that gives the area its unique character. 

The network of roads is intersected by alleyways and anonymous cut-throughs which have become the last resting place for a motley assortment of broken down lorries and cars so can be quite a challenge to navigate particularly at going home time.

On first blush it would seem to be a rather unusual location for an upmarket coffee shop/restaurant that prides itself on catering to the needs of what were known as the “Jumeirah Janes” when I first arrived here 10 years ago - essentially the ladies who lunch. However, it is located next to an interesting older building that has a somewhat bohemian air and houses a small theatre (which judging from the adverts in the entrance specialises in comedy stand up/ improv) and some very small art galleries and pop up craft shops. 

Not sure you could really call it old school Dubai but it does have a certain unexpected charm given its location among the gritty urban hinterland of this part of the city and definitely worth a quick look if you are looking for some decent grub and a somewhere a bit different to explore.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Good day Sunshine

A very sporting Saturday as we kicked off with the first of the build up rides for the Dubai Cyclechallenge. A very early start for a Saturday morning but we were rewarded by a fabulous sunrise that greeted us at around 6.30 am on our arrival at the start line in Al Qudra although unfortunately our team leader had what in cycling circles is known as a “mechanical” as he was riding towards the start line involving his wheel coming out of alignment  - very unfortunate as he had a similar problem a few weeks ago so having corralled us to the start line and registered us for the event he was unable to ride (all the hire bikes having been snapped up).

In consequence, I spent rather longer at the front of our group than I would normally expect and I am feeling a little stiff this evening but very pleased with our average speed c.31kmph which will hopefully stand us in good stead for the main race.

For lunch E. and  I headed to the new Waitrose at Motor City where there is a Lime Tree cafe and I indulged in smashed avocado on toast with soft poached eggs - this almost never grows old for me and I really must work out how to make it for myself. 

Tonight was Roast lamb and England beating Wales in the rugby so pretty much a perfect Saturday!

Friday, November 27, 2020

Ride on Time

Tomorrow morning is the first of the Dubai 92 build up rides - rather later this year due to Covid but nonetheless a welcome return to a major event on my sporting calendar. In fact the main race is usually around this time of year and the format has been changed so that you can sign up for all four build up rides and the race itself and you keep the same timing chip and race number all the way through.

As with previous years we are putting together a work team  - and following the recent retirement of a colleague I suspect that I will be the oldest member- so no pressure!

Tomorrow’s ride is 37km at Al Qudra so definitely within my capabilities  - the key is to finish with a decent time as it will be used to grade your starting position - in previous years we have been towards the back so have been battling through the field but the plan is to try to start in one of the higher categories for the race so that means recording some good time in the build up rides so wish us luck,

Holidays in the Sun

 Very short post tonight after a long slog through the week in anticipation of the almost unprecedented three day holiday next week - we are all looking forward to the the three day break. I have blogged before about the extraordinarily long public holidays in Hong Kong so it is nice to have a few days off in the desert! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Champagne Supernova

Great article in The Guardian (of all places) today regarding the science behind the popularity (amongst some) of drinking champagne with oysters. Apart from being very much associated with high living and fine dining, the combination also conjures up images of slightly louche dinner parties attended by the wealthy and dissolute (or is that just me?) so I guess the combination already has something of an image in popular imagination.

Apparently serving them together creates “umami” - a word that apparently derives from the Japanese for ‘pleasant savoury taste’. I have always been partial to an oyster - I once read that  eating an oyster is like taking a deep breath of sea air when standing on an Atlantic seashore during a storm, and this has a certain resonance for me although I am aware that this is not universally shared - whilst my Mother was a fan, my Father cannot stand them. 

I am also a big  fan of champagne (a love shared with both my parents) and it seems that the “yeast cells in champagne supply the glutamate and the muscles in the oysters add a seasoning of tasty nucleotides” which triggers the umami.

In the interests of research I am therefore inspired to put this Scientific thesis to the test. Dubai is not exactly renowned for its oysters but I have seen them on sale at my local Spinneys and Champagne is also readily available (albeit at eye watering prices) so I shall report back on my findings.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Another Brick in the Wall

It was over 35 years ago that I was going through my list of preferred educational institutions to try to make sure that, of the 5 selected, some of them would actually give me an offer which I was likely to achieve and hopefully one or two of the more august institutions on the list would make me any offer at all even if it was at grades that were likely to be something of a stretch for my academic abilities. 

The received wisdom was that you put the institution that you most wanted to go to (and who were likely to give you an attainable offer) at the top of your UCCA list along perhaps with another university which might make a “Stretch” target offer  in case you out-performed your predictions plus a few colleges who were likely to offer lower grades as an insurance against exam disaster. 

It was quite a balancing act and I seem to recall that I had Nottingham and LSE as joint top with Warwick, Hull and Keele in joint third place - even as a teenager with very little understanding of the world I seem to have lent towards hedging my bets.

Slightly bizarrely I seem to recall applying for slightly different courses depending on the institution involving a combination of History and Politics (and in the case of I think Nottingham and LSE only Politics).

In the event, only LSE decided to forgo the opportunity to have me as a student (their loss obviously) but I ended up in any event in changing my course after the A level results  had been published to Law and Politics which is how I ended up in Nottingham for the next 4 years (and the rest as they say is history).

A. is going through the same process at the moment, and whilst the subject is very different (he is set on doing Computer Science which is very different from his Mother and Fathers skill set), the balancing act of finding an institution and course you like and ensuring you get an attainable offer remains very much the same as it did 35 years ago. 

The playing field has however been affected by Covid - many students will be in the same boat as he is with a big chunk of their last academic year being taught on-line, and many students due to start college this academic year apparently deferring entry until next year (ie when A is due to start) so not sure how many places are actually likely to be available. 

At the moment his Mother and Father’s alma mater is among his favourites along with Exeter, Royal Holloway and UEA but I suspect there will be further anxious thought over the next few days before a final selection is made. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Son of my Father

As mentioned in a previous post my Father would normally be in town at this time of year  for the Golf and Rugby 7s. Instead he remains back home in Kent (in fact residing in the home town of the band who achieved success with the song which provides the title of today’s blog) and is busy contemplating the second lockdown of the year. Although 87, he keeps himself reasonably active seeing my Sister and her family  and also his girlfriend J on a regular basis, and religiously does his 1,000 step tour of the house every day notwithstanding the aches and pains that I life time of sport tends to bring.

Like me, he still loves his sport and is an avid fan of Championship rugby which he watches on BT Sport and will also watch the highlights of the football and cricket (he has never got Sky which I guess is slightly surprising but I think he was concerned that if he did, he would not get anything else done!).

He has a huge collection of films that he has faithfully recorded onto videos and which provides a ready source of classic movies for when we visit  (as well as Tom and Jerry compilations which used to keep the kids entertained when they were younger).

His other great love is music. He is in the midst of recording his favourite tunes as played by him on his Grand Piano - he has already produced one disc of bar room favourites from his days of making a big of pin money from playing at the pubs around Penge during his younger days. Sadly the project has been halted by Covid which has prevented his partner in crime (and sound man cum computer expert) J from visiting but hopefully production of the next collection (favourite classical pieces) can resume in the New Year once the promised vaccine has started to be distributed.

I have also been encouraging him to consider a further instalment of his writing endeavours (having already produced and self published 4 (or is it 5. I cannot keep up) of his memoirs) as well as recently producing (with the aforementioned friend J) a Centenary memorial booklet for the local bowls club. He seems understandably reluctant to embark on another writing project given the amount of material that he has already retrieved from him memory but I shall persevere.

He still lives in the family home we moved in to in the mid-70s which also provides a fair amount of things to do to occupy his time including some gardening although he has help with that from my Sister’s friends M and P.

I certainly hope that I have them same levels of vigour and enthusiasm if I manage to get to is age!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Words (Don’t Come Easy)

Of course my last post should have been titled “Lazin’ on a Sunny Afternoon” - truly an accurate  testament to my proof reading  skills but I do not dare amended it for fear of upsetting the post a day timeline (although I seem to have achieved that already with my post from a few days ago in the wee small hours).

I am not sure how successful my decision to use the musical theme of my post to provide a counterpoint to the subject matter has been - certainly it has led to an increase in drafting time as I have wrestled firstly with an idea for content (and then actually composing something) and then trying to come up with a suitable song title. 

Today is a case in point - my original idea was to use the title “Stop Making Sense” but I see it was actually the album title (named after the film for which it was the soundtrack, for those Talking Heads completists out there) so an alternative was necessary. I also see that nobody has yet taken up the challenge of naming the bands who provided the songs - I might need to make them easier.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Lazin’ on a Sunny afternoon

Early start for my Saturday morning ride- the one big draw back is the 5.30am alarm call. However, once up and running it is great fun - around 60 km up to the Mosque and the a coffee/tea at the Zads before heading back to the car - this week with a great tail-wind which pushed our speeds up to 56kmph. 

The latter part of the morning and lunch was  focussed on helping V with some cooking homework. The salmon and prawn fish cakes that were produced were very good as was the dill mayonnaise sauce notwithstanding the fact that V had not come across dill  before so was somewhat suspicious.

The afternoon was mainly taken up  with chilling by the pool with the newspaper and the latest Eoin Colfe. Dinner was one of our favourite Nigella roast chicken recipes which G. has mastered to perfection. This evening has been all about England beating Ireland in the rugby and watching Chelsea playing Newcastle United so a very lazy day. [originally posted on 21 November]

Friday, November 20, 2020

Video killed the radio star

As regular readers will be aware, Friday mornings in UAE are devoted to relaxation and matters spiritual, and are the equivalent to a Sunday elsewhere in the World. For a number of years I have been corralling 9 and 10 year olds on the finer points of their First Holy Communion. As one might imagine, this can occasionally be quite a challenge as,  even at the best of times,  engaging the attention of 30+ students on the first day of a weekend  at the end of a busy school week is far from straight forward. 

Lessons were abruptly halted at the start of lockdown in March and for the most part the Churches have either been closed or operating very limited services. 

Lessons recommenced at the start of October on-line. My work day is very much centred around teams meetings and zoom. However, either someone is paying for the benefit of my presence on the call or it is a broadcast to my colleagues so there is a fairly strong incentive on participants to fully engage. 

For my Friday on line sessions the onus is very much on me to entertain the students and while I am very keen to avoid “death by PowerPoint”it is actually very challenging to get through all the material and still keep the students engaged. 

Today went pretty well - although it is always difficult to tell when communication is virtual and one of the things I always enjoyed in face to face lessons was the interaction with the class which is difficult to reproduce online. The use of the “chat box” at least gives some indication that people are listening but I have no doubt that I have some way to go before striking a better balance between communication, engagement and content.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Don’t Stand so Close to me

Another slightly tangential musical title for this post as the topic today is parent/teacher evenings. Over the years (and rather like trips to the dentist) these have been the cause of some degree of trepidation - although thankfully we have moved away from the summonses that we used to get from the Canadian International School during our time in Hong Kong.

Yesterday was our chance to catch up with As teachers (and I guess this might in fact have been our last PT evening for A which is a sobering thought). It was conducted over videocon using As computer and as I was in work yesterday and the school operate a closed system, I had to join in over zoom meeting we set up using Es phone which was then placed next to the computer screen.

Despite the somewhat complex arrangements, it worked surprisingly well.For reasons that are difficult to explain (but presumably to allow the teachers to get through all the parents they need to see), the sessions were limited to 10 minutes with a strict guillotine - rather better than the 5 minutes we got for our virtual meetings with Vs teachers but still pretty rushed with a couple of the teachers being cut off in mid-flow.

 The main topic was As recent mock A levels and it was noticeable that all the teachers sped up the delivery of words of encouragement and explanation as the countdown towards the end of the 10 minutes got closer - I imagine that a whole evening of that must have been exhausting.

The general messages were fairly positive and we are gearing up for 6 months of revision and exam preparation so I really hope that they actually go ahead next Summer.

Cum on feel the noise

A late night tonight so a short post. Very pleasant evening with the work team at a local restaurant with a rain forest/South American river theme. Food was excellent and ambience in the eating area with its jungle canopy was great. However (and I am probably getting old) the rooftop bar was clearly designed for people who were not that concerned to hear themselves think as the sound system pretty much overpowered any conversation. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

As tears go by

An update on matters dental following my earlier post (see Comfortably Numb from around 2 weeks ago) regarding my chipped tooth as today my gold-plated crown (my assumption based on its cost although it seemed to be of the regular variety when I inspected the installation) was fitted. Other than the dent in my bank balance, it was a surprisingly pain free experience. Last week’s impression/fitting was more uncomfortable and I have certainly got value for money in terms of drill time with a total of three visits. 

They say that there is no such thing  as a poor dentist, and I am inclined to agree - I have vivid memories of the collection of Porsches parked outside the dentists of my youth. 

An even earlier memory is of the huge house in South London where my Father’s dentist resided. I have never seen a surgery as big since (and I am guessing that such an opulent looking workplace also doubled as his London residence). Too my (admittedly child’s) eyes, this mansion formed an overwhelmingly grim backdrop to my terror filled childhood dental visits. The ‘Butcher of Penge’ as Mr Hodge was known in our family (well at least by me following a particularly brutal extraction under a general anaesthetic - he used a gas that smelled uncannily like Persil washing powder - and I have never really been comfortable around washing machines ever since) was only abandoned as our primary dental care giver when I refused point blank to even get in the car for our next visit - probably the first ( and only) time that I managed to prevail upon my parents to cancel any kind of appointment. At least today’s experience was not accompanied by floods of tears.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Sharp Dressed Man

The title of today’s blog only bears a tangential relevance to the content (although I guess that could be said for a number of recent posts...). A number of people have had lockdown projects and whilst there have been a number of activities for me, by far the most controversial has been my lockdown beard that has certainly provoked a variety of reactions from friends, family, colleagues and clients.

My Father has taken a visceral dislike to it although he has finally stopped asking when I am going to shave it off but still cannot resist the odd cutting comment when he spots me during our regular Teams calls adopting a Sherlock Holmes-style reflective beard stroking posture as if pondering a particularly complex problem (I don’t really notice I am doing it but it certainly causes him some irritation). 

Others have been more supportive although one client did refer to me as Grizzly Adams which, whilst I took this as a compliment, was not quite the look I was going for - in my minds eye, it is more George Clooney-esque but the reality is probably  loser to a Mormon elder although not quite as bouffant as the lead guitarists of Z Z Top.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Stray Cat Strut


Regular readers will know we have a cat - Minnie pictured above mid-yawn. This is a rather ironic shot as for those who do not know her, it suggests a degree of  ferociousness which is entirely unwarranted. Her hunting abilities are non-existent (unless you count leafs and the odd feather) and she spends most of the day stalking between her favourite places to sleep - on top of one of the armchairs next to the backdoor, anyones bed and, in the garden, in the gap between the outside dining table top and its base or on the sunlounger. 

We inherited her around 7- 8 years ago from some American neighbours relocating back to the US. In our old house she was very much an outdoor cat spending her nights in the garden  but since moving into the desert, she is confined to barracks from twilight to avoid unfortunate encounters with neighbourhood dogs or the odd desert fox who sometimes visit. Apart from a propensity to be sick on (white) carpets and to yowl mournfully outside my bedroom door at 4am, she is a much loved member of the family and the picture below is probably a better representation of her peaceable nature.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

All those years ago

I had a quick look at the archive of this blog earlier today - November 2012 to be precise (since November generally appears to be the only time I actually update it...). So A. was 10 and V was 6 and we were still living in Al Safa (erstwhile name for this blog) - V had won best batsman at the mini cricket the kids played at Al Safa Park and her brother seems to have been hors combat due to losing his voice which I have absolutely no recollection of.  The  main sports on TV were the rugby and football with the promise of live Golf (Race to Dubai) and the Rugby 7s to come later in the month. No such luck at the moment. There was some Rugby on TV ( England v Georgia) where England’s hooker Jamie George scored a rather surprising hat trick (which probably tells you all you need to know about the nature of the match). The Golf Masters from Augusta is also on at the moment but does not seem to be on Dubai TV. Neither event has any spectators which for the time being looks likely to remain the position. Roll on an effective vaccine.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Spice up your life

Regular readers will know that Friday night is BBQ night and tonight was no exception. The winning formula that has emerged over the last few years has been spicy prawns and steak with some French stick, a ( very) little bit of salad, mozzarella, fried lardons and an avocado dip which mainly comprises avocado, garlic cream and a squeeze of lemon. We also do some garlic chicken on skewers that Em likes and normally have the leftovers cold for lunch on Saturday.

Trying to find something that the whole family will eat has proved something of a challenge but the balance of surf, turf and coop seems to do the trick.

The spicy prawns have evolved over the years but the present iteration comprises large Indian prawns which are marinaded in a combination of garlic (3 or 4 large cloves, chopped), around 2cms fresh ginger (chopped), lemon juice (1/2 lemon - use the reminder for the avocado dip and a G&T), tsp salt, tsp chilli flakes (which is where the spice comes in). I then fritz  this up in a food processor and then stick it in a plastic bag with the prawns.  Normally marinade for an hour or so and the impale on metal skewers. Cooking time is around 3 minutes per side for the prawns (using BBQ coals stoked up to a fairly high heat). We have been using Wagyu striploin steaks which literally take no time at all - maybe 2 minutes a side depending on thickness and if rib eye maybe 3 - 4 minutes a side. The chicken skewers take around 10 minutes.

We also have a film on a Friday. Again finding something everyone likes is challenging but a Bond movie is usually the answer although tonight’s offering- Salt - which was a little like a female James Bond proved acceptable although V found the principal character somewhat hard to like.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Don’t you forget about me

 Lovely Dubai evening tinged with a little sadness as we caught up with some old friends heading back home. As an expat this is not an unexpected occurrence. However, having spent the last 16 years living in HK and UAE, it is always  a salutary reminder of the somewhat transient way of life albeit that the friends who are leaving are heading back to  an area we will be close to when we return in due course. Tonight was particularly poignant as pretty much our first major introduction to Dubai life was a “Brunch” with the  same couple within around 2 weeks of touchdown over 10 years ago.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

I’m Only Sleeping

One of the reasons that I have been wearing glasses since late teams was my  predilection for reading after my parents had turned the lights out for bed  - I used to carry on reading using whatever light was coming through the crack between the door and doorframe of my bedroom from the landing light. In retrospect this was not such a great idea as the illicit pleasure of unauthorised reading (and finishing a good book) does not outweigh the consequential eye strain that ultimately led to the need for glasses.

I mention this and in particular the challenges of bedtime in the context of my current parental challenges in enforcing a reasonable bedtime for V and A - this seems to be getting harder as we all get older - me because my desire to go to bed as early as possible seems to get stronger with each day whilst both of them seem to have turned into night owls - A has always favoured a late finish over an early start but V was until recently up with the lark. 

No doubt the siren call of the entertainment available on the ubiquitous IPads that I mentioned in my last post accounts for this at least in part and so I have been trying to persuade them both to forego devices at 9 pm. This seems to be having some effect (although it can be hard to tell) but at least I can console myself that even if they are reading after “lights out” it will not be using illumination from a crack in the door frame if the IPad is involved.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tomorrow Never Knows

Interesting chat with V. this evening essentially concerning differences in perspective and experiences. She had been giving some thought as to how I would have reacted if a similar  Pandemic  with lockdown etc. had occurred during my childhood ie in the absence of the internet providing information and Teams/Zoom to allow communication with the outside World. 

I am not sure that things would have been much different in 1960s/1970s England. We obviously had telephones for communication and our sources of information would have been TV/radio and newspapers - which for me at least - is not really that different from today. 

I did admit that if someone had given me an Ipad like the one I am typing this out on as a teenager I would probably have regarded it with some degree of amazement but the raw material of communicating information whether by news stories or encyclopaedias etc has merely become more effective and efficient rather than any fundamental change in the nature or quality of that information.

Her biggest concern (I guess she was trying to imagine what it would have been like if she had been living through a pandemic during my childhood) was how one would have entertained oneself in a pre-internet age lockdown without being crushed by boredom! I genuinely do not recall being bored as a child (although it is possible that my closest family remembering that era might beg to differ?...) even when confined to home due to weather etc (which was a pretty frequent occurrence although admittedly not the same as a lockdown). I guess we did make our own entertainment in the absence of today’s myriad distractions available on the world wide web but TV was not (on the whole) that bad and there was plenty of books and newspapers, and even when none of these options were available, I had a fairly vivid imagination that I could lose myself in.

I  do however think that a child of the “noughties” used to today’s entertainment options would perhaps be - at least temporarily- taken aback by the degree to which a 60s/70s child was forced to rely on themselves to inject excitement/ interesting activities into their own lives if they were suddenly transported back in time.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Living in a Box

 Lockdown in Dubai started around 26 March and continued until June. We were only allowed out of our homes to buy food or go to the hospital and at one stage we needed to obtain a permit before we could go to the shops and were limited to food shopping once every 3 days. Thereafter, the restrictions have been gradually reducing in severity. The bars and restaurants have been open although there are social distancing measures in place including limits to the numbers per table and you have to wear a face mask when you leave home except when sitting down to eat food/drink. The shops were a little bare at the start of lockdown but are now pretty much fully stocked. Travel restrictions into Dubai were lifted in July (although Abu Dhabi and the other Emirates did not follow suit until October and it is still the case that you cannot travel into Abu Dhabi from Dubai unless you have a negative Covid test). 

Due to the various restrictions we have not travelled out of Dubai since March (apart from a couple of business trips I was required to make to Abu Dhabi), so it has been a long hot Summer- our first where we have not travelled since we moved here over 10 years ago. Although the sun always shines, the intense Summer heat (coupled with the Covid restrictions) rather limited entertainment options and I have to say that the arrival of the Winter season has been a very welcome relief. Despite (or quite possibly because of) the pandemic, work has been very busy and quite intense with a seemingly never ending sequence of Teams calls with colleagues around the Middle East and the rest of the network on management/BD issues as well as the day job of client work. In consequence and despite my warnings to my own team to “use it or lose it” I seem to have built up a large stockpile of annual leave which will remain untaken unless I can use it over the remaining 6 or 7 weeks. The joys of management.

The schools have been open since September and A. has been going in everyday and seems to be enjoying it. V. has been remote learning which has brought its own challenges although it has been nice to see more of her ( and Em) while I have been working from home. The cat is of course delighted with the turn of events.

We have been very fortunate here in Dubai  - the infection rate is currently around 1100 - 1200 per day (up from around 300 - 400 earlier in the Summer). However this has been holding steady for  5 - 6 weeks now and the Government has continued to ease restrictions whilst testing huge numbers of people - anything up to 100,000 tests per day which is pretty extraordinary given the relative size of the population and probably explains the success in limiting the numbers of infections.

Still no clear indication as to when we are likely to be able to book flights with any degree of certainty to visit home. However, I read today that there have been positive signs from a vaccine testing programme (press reports suggesting 90% success which seems very high but obviously fingers crossed). Hopefully things will continue in the right direction.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Mr Blue Sky

Having waxed lyrical about the beautiful autumn sunshine here in UAE in my last few posts, for the first time in many months we had some cloud today and parts of Dubai had rain. Hopefully not a sign of things to come after what feels like the very recent end of a blisteringly hot Summer. 

Rather later than normal but again another sign of the Winter season was today’s announcement of the Dubai 92 km road race. This usually takes place in December with build up rides starting in September. This time the race is in February next year due I suspect to the need to accommodate Covid related issues with the practice rides starting later this month. Good news though and something to aim at for the New Year.

Of course at this time of year we would normally be anticipating a visit from my Father in time for the final part of the Race to Dubai golf and the Rugby 7s. This year the events have been cancelled and Dad remains cooped up at home. However, a slightly unexpected and beneficial side effect of the pandemic has been the fact that my Father and I are now videoconferencing 4 or 5 times a week - usually running through some quiz questions from the local paper and catching up on the events of the day. Whilst obviously not the same as catching up in person a Teams call is the next best thing and we have probably spoken more in the last 7 months than since I lived at home so I guess every cloud etc..

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Bicycle Race

A cracking Dubai weekend with blue skies, soft breezes and comfortable temperatures.  Lovely bike ride at Al Qudra this morning - less busy than usual so able to find a parking place and managed a very pleasant 60km ride up to the Mosque finding time for a cup of tea before head back to the car with a couple of other riders from our Saturday morning group as we hurtled down what is popularly known as the “stick” with the wind behind us.  Dubai’s cycle tracks are very much designed for the social rider - dedicated cycle tracks through relatively flat and scenic desert landscape and in the winter season it is pretty much perfect for some fresh air and exercise.

After a long,  hot Summer it is great to be able to spend time outside and we have taken full advantage of the ability to sit outside in the sunshine on our (relatively) new garden furniture. I have also recently subscribed to a bird recognition app so looking forward to spotting some unusual visitors to our part of the sandpit.

And in breaking news we finally seem to have (subject to any Court intervention) a new President of the USA so will be interesting to see how Mr Biden gets on with the job.

Friday, November 6, 2020

From Russia with Love

 Quick post tonight to confirm that we are still awaiting an outcome to the Presidential elections and as mentioned in my last post, it seems more than likely that it will be the lawyers who are going to benefit from the chaotic state of US politics. In other news we had our usual Friday night BBQ and as a nod to Fireworks Night yesterday we toasted some marshmallows very successfully.  We are also as a family are big James Bond fans and so watched one of the great Bond movies - From Russia with Love to mark the passing of one of the great Bond actors Sean Connery.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Hanging around

The end of another week and the welcome arrival of both the weekend and also a new member of the family - the first bearing my surname since V. was born 14 years ago. My cousin C and his wife L had a little boy this morning so another cousin to add to the roster and the first from my Fathers side of the family for probably around 10 years so great news and another reason for a big family celebration when we finally get back to the UK.

I should add that the news of the new arrival is not related to the title to this blog (regular readers will be aware that there is a song title/line theme to this year’s November post a day - answers in the comments box if you can name the artists). Instead the title is reflective of the fact that for the third day running we are still none the wiser as to the winner of the Presidential election and the best that can perhaps be said judging by the reports coming out of America is that this seems only to be good news for the legal fraternity......

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Comfortably Numb

An eventful day with back to back meetings most of the morning and afternoon, followed by a trip to the dentist - my first since before the start of the lockdown in Dubai in March. It was originally going to be a rather belated check up (even though the lockdown ended in June, I must confess that the UAE Government’s social distancing requirements provided a convenient excuse to put off an appointment). However, a couple of days ago I could feel an unexpectedly rough tooth edge with my tongue and sure enough part of a tooth had apparently broken off  and I now need a crown (poetic justice I guess for the delayed dental visit). 

I was telling the dentist that my Father back in the UK  had broken a tooth a couple of months ago and is still waiting for an appointment to fix it (a wait that seems likely to grow longer given the new lockdown in UK starting tonight....). My dentist told me about receiving during the Summer  a Whattsapp from a former patient  who had moved to the UK, telling a very similar story - broken tooth and no dental appointments available to fix it. He was  able to access her old dental records from his surgery and identify the miscreant tooth and suggest some temporary palliatives. Her rather unexpected response was to book a flight and to spend a couple of days back in Dubai catching up with old friends and having a crown fitted by him during the visit! I probably will not mention this story to my Father as I am pretty certain he requires very little excuse to leave UK at the moment.

In other news, the US Presidential election is apparently to close to call, so we have to wait a little longer to see who will be the next leader of the free world.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Born in the USA

There is a, possibly apocryphal, story that the character of Biff in the film Back to the Future - the potential nemesis to the Michael J Fox character Marty McFly - was based on current US President Donald Trump. Whether that is true (and given the fact that the films significantly pre-date the Trump presidency, the characterisation seems remarkably prescient), today marks the opportunity for the American voters to decide if Mr Trump’s own potential nemesis, Joe Biden, triumphs.

Although I ultimately ended up with a law degree, for part of my time as an undergraduate I studied political mechanisms and this included American political processes. Whilst I did not go so far as some of  the students on my course who had travelled  to the US to participate in the elections in support of the candidates (Reagan v Mondale which does rather date me.....), I nevertheless found US politics (and some of its terminology - “Pork Barrel Politics”, Gerrymandering anybody?) fascinating. The UAE dirham is pegged to the US dollar so the economic fortunes of the USA have had a much larger impact on our own sense of financial well-being over the last 10 years we have been in Dubai (particularly so when I was being paid in Dirhams) but undoubtedly I will not be the only one awaiting the outcome of today’s election with considerable interest.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Design for Life

The new normal usually encompasses a couple of days in the office for me and today was one of my days in - to catch up with the team for our weekly meeting (some online and some in person) and also to deliver a client seminar. So today probably provides as a good an illustration of how my work life has changed. The firm I work for has long been a champion of agile working although (like many of my era I suspect), my own views about working away from the office were until Covid fairly ambivalent with my preference being to work among the rest of the team. I am very much in the “working agilely” camp now mainly I guess because I am lucky enough to have sufficient space at home to hide myself away from the rest of the family but also because working productively is easier away from the myriad distractions and interruptions of office life.

I can certainly see why some people still  prefer being in the office although I am not sure anyone particularly enjoys the commute but over the last 7 months I have definitely come to see the advantages of working from home (not least the time saving from avoiding the said commute even though for me it is generally only around an hour per day). I certainly do not enjoy the demands of reading everything in softcopy (although my desk is immeasurably tidier) and I can foresee that challenges lie ahead when clients start to demand face to face meetings again. But for the time being I am quite happy to  enjoy the view of my front garden from my spare bedroom window and conduct my business via teams /zoom.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Here comes the rain again

In fact the weather here us fine. However, I thought I would kill two birds with one stone by avoiding a title which would no doubt echo the heading of every other blog I have posted on 1 November (usually a variant on "its that time of year" or "can you believe that post a blog a day November comes around again" etc.) and choosing a musical theme for my post headings for this years blogging endeavours. So plenty to blog about this year not least the continuing pandemic saga, A's mock A Levels, US Presidential elections and my lockdown beard - something for all the family. Lets see I can maintain momentum (and remember my new password) for the whole month.