Address to Impress

One of the most confronting things about moving to Dubai – and there was stiff competition – was the lack of a proper postal addressing system.

“Wah wah!” I hear those back home mocking me, but I challenge you to question if you don’t take for granted how easy it easy to write your address on a form and know it will ensure items large and small arrive at your door without fail. We can’t fill out a form like that. We don’t have street names, street numbers or post codes. There is no residential ‘address’ system as such in the UAE.

If you order takeaway, you give your building name and apartment number and general vicinity – then you describe your location using a prominent landmark or two, “opposite HSBC” or “after the butterfly roundabout”. But can you imagine trying to squeeze this information into the change of address form from your bank back home?

Lucky people just have mail delivered to their company’s post office box. Others purchase a mail box and drive to the opposite end of the city whenever they remember to check it.

But change is in the offing. Late last year, I was elated to hear that Emirates Post was commencing residential postal delivery in the UAE,  but the geek in me (well, perhaps the control freak in me) was doubly excited to read that Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipal Affairs had started implementing a comprehensive new addressing system across the emirate.

They’ve already setup a database to log, code and file names for geographic locations. Addresses will include a building number, unique street name, city name, the emirate and postcode. (A postcode!!!) They say this database will be used as an official reference for the street names. (An official reference!!!)

The Municipality project will create around 12,000 new street names and at least 20,000 street signs over the next two years and a half years.

Just to prove the UAE capital is bringing in a system just like any other, they say streets will be named after prominent people in the UAE, historical people from the Islamic religion and from other countries. I wonder if there will be any embarrassing oversights or strange inclusions like we see the world over?

Glad I’m not a comedian’s wife

As funny as my fiance is, I’m really glad I’m not marrying a comic because their wives cop it, big time.

We know the drill all too well here in Dubai. Unfortunately, many of the stand-up routines we see on tour here in the Middle East rely on old (or let’s be generous and say, timeless) material. Or they focus on material that is personal rather than sociopolitical because they don’t know where the line is here. For whatever reason, too often the comic’s wife or partner bears the brunt of a gag. But I’ve never heard a spouse cop so much abuse as Tom Stade’s wife at last night’s [Aussie beer-branded] Laughter Factory.

It’s mind-numbingly normal here to hear the one about about the wife’s nagging or her waning sexual interest (think about cause and effect here, funny men). Last night however, we heard about the brunt Stade’s long-suffering wife of 17 years is forced to bear: anal rape, in graphic fluid detail.

Don’t worry, Mrs Stade (Trudy, according to Wikipedia) loves it, behind her crying, he says. Hang on, that’s really not funny.

The Edinburgh-resident Canadian’s jaw-aching humour – and Trudy’s indignity – didn’t stop there. I had been wishing the ten-minute setup about his Groupon addiction would just end, but little did I know it would finally have a donkey of a punchline. Not even having forced himself into Trudy’s rectum (well, he slipped in there by accident, but stayed on purpose) could stop him extracting himself from her to retrieve his phone when the Groupon app announced a new sale.

I walked out of his routine at this point, through a packed house at the Grand Millennium Tecom, because I didn’t have the stomach for Trudy’s real or fictitious degradation being made a mockery like that. It was sick-making. Especially with all the woman-hating going on in Australia over the past week, I’m over the one about misogyny-as-humour.

Worryingly, his rape jokes obviously got some women going. Laughter Factory MC Gail Clough (who’d presumably been watching their shows all week) was so enamoured of Stade’s humour she introduced him as her favourite; a slap in the face for the rest of the line-up, which was hardly devoid of talent. Both incredibly funny and musically gifted to boot.

Charlie Baker seems to have missed his calling as a jazz singer. Some of the notes he was belting out (as a Cornish Frank Sinatra) stopped me breathing. I’d have to say he was my favourite, if only because it’s the first time I’ve snort-laughed at the Laughter Factory (did you know Devonshire women lactate clotted cream?).

Jim Tavare accompanied his dry wit with comedic skills on woodwind and strings. His rendition of Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ on the cello was unique. Tavare might have been trying to warn us about his fellow comedian’s sexual “humour” but we all thought he was being self-deprecating at the time and laughed along: some comedians are brought on to talk about sex to get you moist, he said, I’m brought on to dry you up.

I only hope Trudy avails herself of some moistening. Or listens closely to Tavare’s routine before she reaches her 18th anniversary of this, so she can hear that the Bridal March is only the Death March played backwards.

Lingfield Melts

“Mad March” splashed across Monday’s Daily Mail as “Britain was plunged into the worst spring freeze in more than 25 years” but the sun came out the following day and as the town of Lingfield melted, I took my first ever walk in the snow, filming as I went, without a tripod unfortunately.

The snow came tumbling down in the county of Surrey on what was labelled the coldest day in March since 1986. Reported temperatures dropped as low as minus-12 celsius, but here in Lingfield, I personally saw the gauge reading a relatively balmy -3.

It was the region’s first March snow in seven years and while unofficial reports put it at 12cm, the Met Office measured 7cm at nearby Charlwood.

Only 24 miles south of London, as well as being a dormitory suburb for London commuters, it’s home to a good number of residential facilities for the elderly and, of course, Lingfield Park Racecourse.

While racing officials at Cheltenham were bravely peeling off their thermal covers this week to say their show would definitely go on, it was just as uncertain if Lingfield Park will be able to host their scheduled meet this Friday.

Dubai 2.0

Seeing Dubai through a visitor’s eyes is a rejuvenating process

I’ve been entertaining my Dad in Dubai for the past ten days and it’s been surprisingly wonderful. Whether it’s that we’ve both mellowed enough to enjoy a more extended dose of each other’s company, or whether it’s having T around as the defuser, or much needed pressure valve, I don’t know. All of the above?

I was explaining this to my colleague, Greg, and he said ‘isn’t it wonderful having guests and showing them around and rediscovering all the things you love about the place!’. It hit me that it was exactly what had been happening. Everywhere I’d been going, I was thinking to myself, ‘wow, isn’t this a wonderful place’. I was falling in love with Dubai all over again.

The past year has been levelling. A lot of old friends moved away and the transient nature of this expat hub was drawn into all too sharp a focus for us. I’ve been finding it too easy to fixate on this young city’s room for process improvement and have let myself lose sight of the rich and wonderful parts of living here. Having Dad’s fresh eyes has helped me see through the crap. Not only his fresh eyes, but he managed to bring another set of fresh eyes into my life – kind of. Let’s just say, last week I met a friend he’s known since studying Mandarin with her in Sydney a decade ago, she’s just moved here on her own journey making New Memories and I really look forward to hearing about how she finds her feet and sharing her discoveries.

I’m right in the middle of my Dubai renaissance and I’m going to start talking it up, and shift the balance of this blog to ‘travels’ from ‘travails’. Perhaps you might start seeing a hint of the effervescence of fellow Dubai blogger Britney of Arabia and just maybe on my way, I can even convince the doyenne of all things Shamelessly Salacious to fall in love with Dubai again with me.

A Big Day Out in London

Seeing as London is too chilly for a stroll right now, here’s my last visit, revisited…

10:20 Pulled into London Paddington

10:25 Purchased a Nero’s Americano. Got my coins confused. Told the edgy server he needed to order the chai latte for himself next time.

10:35 Asked man on tube to look out for his elbows with my coffee. His reaction implied I was trying to communicate to him in Klingon.

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10:45 Alighted at Oxford Circus

10:47 Man asked where I got my Nero’s coffee (???)

10:53 Gave a blind fiddler a quid. His box was empty. Has he been robbed? Is it clever marketing? Had he just started for the day?

11:10 Reached Primark Oxford St

11:45 Joined queue for change rooms in Primark
Numero Uno. That's just how I roll.

Numero Uno. That’s just how I roll.

11:55 Entered changeroom

12:10 Arrived at checkout. Spoke to Jujar about life in Dubai. We both agreed that my circumstances were infinitely better than his own experience of Dubai through no fault of either of us.

12:25 Coffee at Pain Quotidien to regroup (repack Primark loot) and plan attack

12:35 Set off for Macculloch & Wallis haberdashery

12:39 Saw quartet of LA porn star types soaking up British culture: looking for an Italian restaurant each carrying nothing but an enormous Victoria’s Secret bag.

IMG_242612:45 At Macculloch & Wallis can’t work out Simplicity patterns. Irony? Bought New Look. Irish cashier admired the pattern for sundresses. Talked about dress code in Dubai. She’s dressed head-to-toe in black and tartan but says not being able to bare her shoulders is the reason she wouldn’t live in the UAE.

13:43 Leaving John Lewis with nothing. Panic. Feet hurting big time. Did the embarrassing Dubai thing of waiting for the doors to open for me. With someone behind me and all!

13:50 Detour via Muji. Talked about Dubai with cashier. Yay for the soon-to-be-opening Dubai Mall store I tells her!

14:08 HMV. Sold out of both titles Robert had asked for “and we won’t be replenishing them”. Good for the creditors, I guess.

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14:15 Cloth house. Meh.

14:25 Kleins… Meh.

14:35 Liberty. Meh…

14:47 Feet hurting too much now to focus on anything else. Ow!

14:50 The Air St Cobbler’s insoles smack me in the face. He even cut the spongiest ones to my size for me. Yay! Cost me a fiver which is a ripoff I’m sure but there’s no way I could hide my desperation or relief.

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My saviour.

15:10 Waterstones. Collected pre-ordered books. Done.

15:20 Tescos chicken edamame salad eaten at a bus stop. Classy. 260cal

My saviour in form of machine

My saviour in form of machine

15:25 Faffing around looking for a meeting spot with John.

15:30 Aargh. There were onions in the salad!

15:35 Saved by the Extra dispensed by handy toilet vending machine

15:40 Subject arrives for interview.

18:00 I’m “tenacious”, he says. Wine has stopped flowing, the end must be imminent.

19:00 Arrived Paddington.

19:30 Guzzled a sandwich on the train…

20:00 Home. I will sleep well tonight.

My retail trek through London

My retail trek through London

Come Argue With Me!

I applied for Come Dine With Me Dubai this week. Rima didn’t know I had and suggested it separately on her Wall (great minds?). Her friend said that the number of crackpots in Dubai could fill a whole series, not just a couple of shows. Rima said she literally LOLed when I confirmed that I’d “talked up my difficult nature” in my application. Continue reading

Missing Mary’s Laksa

Laksa is my favourite meal in the whole world and Mary’s laksa is my favourite variety. Two types of noodles (rice and egg). A light broth that’s not as heavy on the coconut or chilli as it is on the savoury tang.

But it did not start with Mary, no no no! I’ve been a devoted fan of this tangy, spicy soup for years. Continue reading

The Data Debate (OR ♫ You say po-data and I say po-data ♬)

Dah-ta, day-ta or datta? As a word-loving Antipodean who doesn’t mind a stoush with many similarly-natured British friends I have gotten myself into this argument more times than any other. (A close second is the Great Scone Debate which has, on occasion turned into a bun fight. Sorry.)

The Data Debate came up most recently at a barbecue. We had previously been politely discussing ways of saying ‘oral’ versus ‘aural’. (For what it’s worth, oral as in ‘coral’ and aural as in ‘choral’ is where I stand – and interestingly, this one divided the Brits too).

Then I was reminded of it again yesterday Continue reading

From Chocolate Bread to Chocolate Bread Pudding

I’ve not indulged in chocolate much over the past few years, nor had much of a sweet tooth in general, but I’m gradually developing a taste for sugar. When I saw this amazing chocolate bread with chocolate chips in Waitrose this morning I knew I needed to taste it. The chocolate chips are dark and rich, but the bread is not too sweet, a very adult alternative to cake. Pretty soon after it landed in the kitchen I decided I needed to make my very first bread and butter pudding.

The Inspiration: Waitrose Chocolate Bread

A Google search for chocolate bread pudding, landed me with nothing involving ‘chocolate bread’; just bread with chocolate added, so I adapted a recipe from Martha Stewart, adding my favourite flavour du jour, coconut. I think it tastes divine. Gooey, chewy and crunchy all in one mouthful. But don’t take my word on it alone. I sent a dish off with some friends tonight, so await their verdict on this creation too!

Chocolate Bread and Coconut Pudding

1 tablespoon butter, plus more for baking dish
6 slices (roughly equal to 230 grams of) chocolate bread
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
2 cups milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (170, if fan-forced). Lightly grease a 30x20cm (or 23cm square) baking dish; set aside. Toast bread in the oven (so choc chips don’t get stuck in the toaster!)
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine milk and butter; place over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted.
  3. Tear bread into 4-5 pieces per slice; spread evenly in baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla. Whisk in warm milk mixture until combined. Pour over bread.
  4. Bake about 25 minutes until pudding has puffed up and has set. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Drying out? Not likely

Pic courtesy of Rima

One of the more unusual things any new expat needs to contend with in the UAE, is the ‘dry night’. From sundown the day before any religious holiday, until the following sundown, licensed venues are not allowed to serve alcohol.

While this does mean there is no drinking in public, it also means the tradition of the house party is alive and well in Dubai.

Take for instance, this Friday night just gone. Saturday was the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday (peace be upon him). This meant half the weekend was ‘dry’. But rather than drying out, someone had the fantastically spontaneous idea (ok, it was me) of hosting a very liquid evening.

Surprisingly, as the word was spread around, it was interesting to hear just how many responses were along the lines of ‘wow, what a great idea, no, we didn’t have anything planned tonight!’. It was as if the whole concept of socializing had not yet been invented.

Anyway, fast forward to Saturday morning, well, afternoon, by the time we actually surfaced and there was many a sore head being reported on Facebook, as well as a mysteriously dodgy knee, sprained ankle and a busted speaker tower (ok, that was me too). Apparently my traffic light jelly shots were the cause of most guests’ chagrin, but I make no apologies for being a great hostess.

Thank you, friends, for keeping the tradition of spontaneous house parties  alive! And thank you, Prophet Muhammad for being born all those hundreds of years ago.

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