Sunday, 24 February 2008

The Weather

I have to touch on this subject, as it really is the average British person's favourite subject!  Count how many times in a week you talk about the weather . . . !!

When you say you live in Dubai, everyone expects the weather to be hot for the vast majority of the time.  Myself included.  When we arrived in January, even coming from nearly freezing temperatures, it was cold here.  The thermometer showed that it was about 19 degrees, which on paper sounds quite pleasant, but combined with the wind and the sand blowing, it really was weather you didn't want to be out in.  Follow that with January's "it never rains like this" comments . . . . and it appears that global warming is apparent in this part of the world too. 

IMG_1219Environmentalists would be up-in-arms at the lives and habits of Dubai residents.  Tim and I (shockingly) both drive monsters of cars - more out of safety than anything else, but at £10 to fill up the tank, there's hardly an incentive to drive a small car. 

You can see in the picture that Oliver doesn't even come up to the top of the bonnet on my car (lets hope he never gets hit by such a beast).  On the plus side, it does seat 8 people, so if anyone wants to come and stay . . . . . we have plenty of bed and car space. IMG_1221

Similarly, there are few recycling facilities - we did find one, 16km away, which strangely enough does not recycle glass.  Perhaps its because there is so much sand around us (picture 2 is our sandy garden) that they feel they can't be bothered.  The amount of plastic bottles we throw away is criminal.  I heard on the radio that the UAE's carbon footprint per capita is the highest in the world - even higher than the USA's.  I am ashamed to be throwing away all of this recyclable stuff each day.

Now that we are in February, a mixed month in terms of weather, we have now experienced a shamal and the expected beautiful weather. A shamal is  major sandstorm and incidentally, the one that we experienced in early February has been IMG_1180noted on Wikipedia as a notably massive sandstorm, thousands of feet deep, extending from Somalia to Mumbai in India (with Dubai in the middle) with gusts of up to 49mph.  I appreciate that this doesn't sound very much compared to the gale force winds we regularly get back at home, but throw a pile of sand in the air, wait for the wind to blow IMG_1184and it hurts to be out in one of these storms - air travel is disrupted and ground travel is strange to say the least.  Apparently, some sandstorms have been known to strip paint off cars!  The only way to describe it is that it's like yellow fog.  You look up into the air and you can see yellow with visibility at about 200m.  This was the view driving along the road with sand blowing.

We made the mistake of opening one of our doors at home - you should have seen the mess - I had a complete meltdown - dust is the devil over here.

Contrary to this strange phenomenon, we have also had some cracking days in the last month - last Friday was also the hottest day in February in history, when it hit 30 degrees.  It was rather lovely, so we went to the beach.  Most of Dubai's beaches are private beaches - although all still owned by the Sheikh, they are primarily reserved for the large 5* hotels, which mere mortals can't set foot upon, unless you pay the £300 a night price.  IMG_1189However, there are a few public ones to be found.  They are quite basic in terms of facilities, but there are bathrooms, changing rooms, and the occasional refreshment centre.  They are also fully attended by lifeguards.  The beach was swarming with people - by the time we left (mid afternoon) it rivaled Brighton beach (but not the nude one) on a summers day.

IMG_1191Ultimately, the weather is better and can be gorgeous - the children are already starting to acclimatise.  In temperatures of about 23 degrees yesterday, Ella put on a long-sleeved t-shirt and a jumper.  Oliver complained of his legs feeling cold in his shorts. Tim got his fleece out to go to the pool.  I suppose we have to as temperatures will get into the 30's shortly, IMG_1192and post June, we will be indoors most of the time.  We have a fabulous air-conditioning system in the house - we tested it the other day - but I didn't like the look in Tim's eyes when he saw the electricity meter whirring around fast . . . . something tells me I'm going to need to buy more anti-perspirant before that air-con goes on full time!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Our House . . . .

IMG_1204Firstly, apologies for the lack of communication.  We had our house, then the container arrived, and frankly, I got stern looks from the man of the house when I picked up the computer, rather than sorting through our belongings and sorting the house!  We are now in a "not too bad" state and have taken some photos to show you the kind of house we are in!

This is (clearly) the lounge - one photo from one and then the other from the other!!!  The house kind of runs left to right - the left hand door in the first photo is the door to the kitchen.  The doorway you can see in the second photo is the door to the dining IMG_1201room.  Clearly, we have no curtains nor rug yet - they are due in about a week.  The children are also oblivious to the photos being taken around them - for the initiated among you, you will probably identify Lazytown on the TV - not a chance in capturing their attention. 

We have nice high ceilings  - I think about 10-11 feet and air conditioning vents in all rooms, which is so needed.  It's been hot for the last few days (well, about 26 degrees C and quite muggy) and only February!!!



This is the dining room - it looks a bit dark, but I think it's just the sun streaming through the window.  For the eagle-eyed of you,you will notice our glorious picnic chairs taking pride of place - proper chairs are due to arrive this week!!!



Next up is the kitchen - it's quite basic and really the quality is not great.  Dark wood and marble counters are really not my cup of tea!!  The rental market here also means that we have to provide IMG_1205all of our white goods too - the landlord does NOTHING!!!!  It's fairly spacious - there are units behind me too so I have loads of space to put all my china - which incidentally all arrived completely intact, despite all of the boxes being upended in the container!  A miracle happened there.

Downstairs we also have a maids room (tiny box-room to you and me), two bathrooms and also a laundry area which gets BOILING hot as there's no air-con in that area - and yes, bonkers as I may be, I have bought a tumble dryer!!!

IMG_1206Upstairs we have 3 really good sized bedrooms and 2 further bathrooms.  Here is the children's room - they decided they wanted to share, and given that Ella's current desire is to be a boy, the colour blue for their room was an acceptable choice to both of them!!  As you can see, their room gives them loads of space to move about and a good amount of storage for their toys too (they have far too many)!!

IMG_1209I haven't taken a photo of the second bedroom as it is such a complete pig-sty!!!  It's high on my priority list though as I have my great friend Janine coming over next week and it's where she will sleep!!!!  Perhaps I had better get off the computer then!!  Finally, we have our bedroom which is really quite big - that's a super-king size bed, so it gives you a good idea of the space we have.   As you can see, we have done virtually nothing to this room apart from to buy a bed and have piles of stuff in the corner.  Again - a job for this week!

The final photo is why we fought for this house . . . . . this is the view from our balcony.  IMG_1210You can see on the left that there is a children's playground right across the road.  What you can't quite see in the photo on the far right is the community swimming pool.  It is lifeguarded from 7am until 10.30pm and there's a kids pool too.  There is also a basketball court and a tennis court.  Having this right across the road means that it is so easy for the kids to have a run and jump IMG_1211and swim if and when they want to, rather than a more planned outing to the pool in the car (in the summer, you don't want to walk outside for more than  minute if you don't have to - at 45 degrees, you really would pass out)!!

That's about it for now folks!  I will write more again soon!











That's about it for now folks!  I will write more again soon!

Friday, 1 February 2008

OK . . . . we are in!

Well, after a great deal of negotiating, we are finally in our house.  We still did not know until 10am yesterday (20 minutes before the container arrived) whether we actually had the house.  DL turned up to hand over the keys and sign the contracts – when he saw the contracts, there was unfortunately a spelling mistake on his name, so he refused to sign the contracts.   He wanted us to hand over a cheque for £30k and then after his appointment (which he was desperate to go to) he would sign the contracts and then give us the keys.  There were times when I fully expected a camera crew to be hovering nearby, with Rogue Traders filming him, but we were told to trust him . . . . .   Needless to say we felt a little twitchy about handing over our cheque without anything in return, but after a great deal of cajoling, he finally agreed to leave us with the keys – all 42 of them.  Every door in the house, be it a cupboard or a bedroom or a bathroom has a key and can be locked! 

We were nearly there . . . .  he then went off to his urgent meeting, and after a promise to sign the contracts by 1pm, we got into the house to wait for the container.

The container arrived, duly on time, looking far more rusty than it had when it left UK shores.  Customs had opened the container and apparently had checked about 10 boxes for contraband.  Now, we really don’t quite know what happened, but this is what we saw when the container was opened:

This was a far cry from the beautifully packed container we had left in Basingstoke.  We were told it had fallen over.  No . . . . !  Did that mean that the container had fallen over?  Was it just the boxes that had fallen over?  Who knows, but we were a bit worried and thanked our lucky stars that we had paid for tip-top insurance to protect our possessions.

The guys started unloading – every box has a number, which you then tick off on a sheet and tell them which room you want the box in.  I cannot tell you the muscles and strength on these guys.  One of them sauntered in with a 40” TV box perched on his shoulder . . . . a box which had taken 2 people at the other end to lift, if for nothing else but its size!  Incredible. 

Then, Tim’s mobile rang . . . . it was the bank.  They wanted to know whether we had issued a cheque for £30k and was it OK for it to be cashed.  The bloody DL’s urgent appointment at 10am was with the bank to cash our cheque!!!   Many adjectives and expletives were used between us when Tim had finished the call . . . . . but we had to still hope that he would sign the contracts.

But they were still coming with boxes and packages of all shapes and sizes.  We had no more time to fret – we had to just get this stuff in the house.  They unloaded the van within about an hour and a half, at which point, they stopped for a break and Tim went to pick up the kids from school.  I started to explore and unwrap presents – oh, the excitement, but let’s not forget, we still had no contract to actually be there . . . .

At 1pm, the call came – DL had signed . . . . . oh the relief that the man’s word was as true as he assured us it would be!  We were legally OK – all of the time and energy it had taken to get this “deal” sorted. 

The time has come to now open all of the boxes, so as you can imagine, things are rather messy – we are trying to ascertain damage (if any)!  I will send some more photos in a few days.

Take care everyone!

Alice, Tim, Oliver & Ella