Thursday 24 May 2012

Sharjah and home

Pete and Tracy are renting one of the many massive mansions that line the streets of the UAE. With four-metre high ceilings and plenty of floor space, it seemed big enough to fit our house into a couple of rooms. There is very little garden since, as Pete pointed out, looking after one is too much work in this climate. They have a small pool at the front and Jamie, Helen and Michelle have been making the most of it, their swimming improving on a daily basis. We ate out by the pool in the evening we arrived, the heat still warping the air.

On the Tuesday, I didn't venture out the house! I got into reading magazines and cookbooks and just enjoying having the time to do so, without worrying about shopping, cooking, cleaning or looking after the boys. That said, Helen adopted me as soon as she came home. We had to "draw wishes" in a Dora the Explorer annual. Unlike Rowan, her peer, Helen was very into writing and telling coherent stories (Rowan's tales usually descend into superheroes and baddies and abstract flights of fancy pretty quickly). Jamie is also an avid reader, unlike his peer Finn, who given the choice of sitting sucking his thumb or reading a book would take the digit option most times. Sometimes Sharon and I wonder if we are encouraging or pushing our boys hard enough academically. But they have to be want to do it.

We had a fantastic Sri Lankan curry in the evening cooked by Pete and Tracy's part-time housemaid earlier in the day and a relaxing drink in the lounge. Pete is working while we're over, unfortunately, so the evenings are his only chance to see us. Wednesday followed a similar vein to Tuesday, with Sharon continuing to pile through the Hunger Games trilogy while I began Stephen King's Dark Tower series.

Once the children were home we headed into downtown Sharjah where the university and administrative buildings were magnificent in their architecture, more classical and less glass and steel then in Dubai. Sharjah has its share of towering office blocks and apartments too. It's hard to believe that there are enough businesses and workers to fill all the office space. We stopped at the Blue Souq for a wander round the shops which were notably more local than the familiar names that populated the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Sharon eventually bought a camel soft toy for Finn. We earlier bought a pad for Sean and a toy "boom-box" for Angus that plays a selection of Arabic ditties. Rowan got some Ben 10 twistable pencils and Jumeirah wristbands (Rowan likes a wristband).

Next we drove closer to the coastal parts of the city, where docks and ports and tower-block lined drives swept round artifical bays. We stopped at the Al Qasba canal area to meet Pete while the kids played in the playpark, curiously juxtaposed with the concrete monoliths of surrounding multi-storeys. Dinner was a huge mezze of Middle Eastern dishes in a nearby restaurant - very tasty and extremely filling! We drove back to do some packing as we had a relatively early start on the Thursday morning. We bade our farewells and headed by taxi to Dubai airport. Despite the many lanes, progress to the airport was slow, speeding up slightly once we crossed into Dubai with its even more lanes.

Our flight was delayed inordinately on the runway, sitting for an hour and a quarter before we finally took off. Whilst not quite as comfortable as the A380, the 777 was still a pleasant ride as we made our way back up the Arabian Gulf, over Iraq and Turkey and across Europe to Britain. Such was the delay at Dubai our transfer from Terminal 3 to 1 was fraught and close to the cut-off time. Not surprisingly, one of the cases didn't make the transfer in time so were a case light when Michael picked us up at Edinburgh.

Edinburgh had been enjoying indifferent weather in our absence but the sun came out for our homecoming. The boys were delighted to see us, and us them. I was away from them for 11 days, which is the longest separation since Sean was born. Angus was running about the garden, soaked from the hose, as we dined on the patio. It was good to be home.

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