Sunday, October 15, 2017

Birthday Bulletin

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I win a prize

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Summer Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Long Weekend

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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rugby 7s and other matters

Although it is now 1 December I do fell that I should carry on posting given (a) my tardy start; and (b) the fairly hectic schedule for this Holiday. We started off today with a visit to the the Bond a Exhibition at the Burj Khalifa. I had no idea where the exhibition was being held - obviously other than the fact that it away somewhere close to the Worlds tallest building but given he fact that the tickets said that it was next door to the Armani Hotel, I was somewhat concerned that there was unlikely to be any parking and even if there was, it wold be eye-watering expensive.

As it turned out it was relatively straightforward. Admittedly, we had to valet park at the Armani (and braving the various sets of security and gatehouses on the way in took a significant portion of my reserves of chutzpah....). However everybody was very accommodating and we soon found ourselves wandering next to the original James Bond Aston Martin and an extensive collection of JB memorabilia. V. had been very anti going (having visited the the Bond Museum in Covent Garden already) but it proved a hit with all the family with a wide range of gadgets from "Q" on display (with clips from the relevant Bond films showing on screens extra to each item where they were being put to use) but was the last to leave.

The display was very extensive and the coffee shop at the end of the exhibition was very welcome.

Thereafter a. Dad and I went straight to the 7s at the Stadium on the Al Ain road and spent a very pleasant couple of hours watching the rugby out in the desert. We had time after that finished for a BBQ and some pratice for Vs 2nd Reading at Mass tomorrow (her first time and given the numbers in the congregation - usually 600 - 800 - quite intimidating so all positive thoughts welcome!). All in all a very pleasant day.

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.