Yes, it’s very nice to go trav’ling, as the song goes, but it’s so much nicer to come home. Well, I say home, I mean the place where I keep most of my newer stuff. My older stuff is quietly disintegrating or being eaten by moths in dusty suitcases shoved under beds in various relatives’ houses in the UK.
One day I would like collect all my old stuff (if I can remember where I left it) and introduce it to my new stuff and live happily ever after in a nice big house…..one day. Meanwhile, in the desert outside Dubai, I met some Bedouin tribe’s people and found myself jealously eyeing up their tents, lovely carpets, ceramic pots and clay lamps. I felt more like a nomad than they did!
In England, Spain and Italy I stayed with friends and family, varying the weight of my luggage according to which airline I was using. At the Ryan Air counter in Valencia, I was half a kilo over and had to remove a single wedge heel and carry it in my hand. I had been careful only to buy fridge magnets as souvenirs but they must have tipped the scale. I still don’t know how I managed to travel around Europe for two weeks with only 15kgs of luggage; I usually take more than that in toiletries!
One of the problems with this expat lifestyle is that you often have to impose yourself on people when you travel home. You also have to keep moving on because you don’t want to overstay your welcome. Even so, the time together can be intense and sometimes you spend far longer with a person than you normally would, and that can lead to over-familiarity, which is never good. The whole thing is a recipe for disaster.
A low point for me was arriving at my brother’s house after a day’s train travel, changing in London, with a child and two heavy suitcases in tow, to that chilling question: “Can I have a word?” Apparently I should have organized myself better and arranged to stay at his house longer than the allocated two days as it wasn’t fair on the kids. (Duly noted, but I was only in the UK for a week and in that time had to visit my parents in the West Country, in-laws in the South and collect my son from boarding school!) Tired and emotional, I exploded with rage and stormed off to TK Maxx where I sat on a low wall weeping. I didn’t even have the heart to go in and buy something because I knew whatever I bought wouldn’t have fit in the suitcase anyway.
And so, having (unwittingly) royally pissed off various family members, I headed off to Mumbai with the kids where we were reunited with Daddy for two days of unpacking and repacking, before we set off for a fortnight’s family holiday in Dubai. Many people have asked me why on earth did we choose Dubai? Surely it’s just a boiling hot shopping paradise? Yeah, exactly. And it’s easy to get to and organized, with a massive Waitrose.
Because we are that kind of family, we didn’t even realize it was going to be Ramadan half way through the holiday which, in fact, turned out in our favour as the hotel was half empty so they upgraded us to a palatial three bedroom apartment overlooking the Palm. It was way bigger than our flat in Mumbai with baths and showers that actually worked. We spent the first two days in Carrefour and Waitrose buying legs of lamb, mince beef and even bacon! We went into the very well-stocked Virgin Megastore and bought up a load of TV box sets, pulled the curtains and hunkered down with snacks, snacks and more snacks. The lack of alcohol for sale in the shops wasn’t even a problem as we had stocked up in Duty Free on the way in. We needed a couple of extra trolleys for all the booze but it meant that once we reached our new home, the Oasis Beach Tower, we didn’t have to move again for quite some time. (FYI, we calculated perfectly the amount we would consume in two weeks. I mentally congratulated myself on the last night as I lay in bed at 3.am finishing the last of the Tanqueray while watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony! )
After living in Mumbai, it is so nice to have order. Yes, I am a bit of a control freak, but I just love walking to a shop without falling down a hole and buying a decent (?) newspaper, a packet of in-date cereal and a litre of semi-skimmed milk. Such simple pleasures but alas, denied to me here in Mumbai.
When I was a kid, I used to play ‘house’ in the garage with my next door neighbour, Jeremy Goodwin (who, for some reason, always wanted to be ‘mum’ or big sister’ - he grew up to be a concert pianist!) Anyway, in that apartment in Dubai, I felt like I was playing ‘house’ all over again, except this time I was allowed to be ‘mum’ and get the dinner ready and stuff. The kids had their own space and we could all go to the toilet at the same time if necessary. Yeah, I love Dubai. It is a bit hot though. One Sunday morning I got up early and sneaked off to the Spa at Atlantis the Palm. As my family lay sleeping in their Super king beds, I found myself submerged in a rose petal filled Jacuzzi, awaiting a Body Scrub, Fake Tan and Blow Dry. I chose to wear a new beige silk dress for the occasion. As I left the Spa with my big, bouffant hair and sun-kissed skin, the therapist told me to avoid getting wet for a day. Of course I won’t get wet, why would I get wet? In the time it took me to step into an AC taxi, dear reader, I was drenched in sweat and the ‘tan’ seeped through my dress, staining it beyond repair. When I got back to the apartment, my hair was a frizzy mess sticking to the back of my neck and forehead and my dress was ruined. I didn’t have the heart to tell Mick how much my little jaunt had cost him. I just had a shower and got back into bed. That’ll teach me to get up before noon on holiday!
Back in Mumbai, with only a week or so left of Hugh’s school holidays, we went to Bhandardara for the weekend. Just three hours out of Mumbai, this holiday village nestled in the mountains is nothing short of stunning. Everywhere is verdant, lush and fresh, with spectacular waterfalls cascading from the mountains, a very dramatic place to experience Monsoon. We stayed at a lovely resort with delightful staff but, boy, was everything wet! Being the sort of family we are, we (I) had not brought any waterproofs or warm clothing (obviously Mick had brought all the requisite clothing for himself and was very pleased about that!) so other than a couple of trips out to the waterfalls with nothing but three partially knackered umbrellas to protect us from the elements, we sat in our dark, damp cabin watching the Olympics on a hissing 1980’s telly and playing Scrabble. We had a fabulous time! I guess what’s important is who you share your home with, not the home itself. But on the other hand, I’m still dreaming about that rose-covered cottage. One day, Linds…..