Deepest Darkest Duty-Free Dubai…

I awoke at the godly hour yesterday… whispered hello to the awakening sun. Skipped the salutations… and wandered outside. To tip the pool attendant so he’d reserve the 2 pool loungers in the quietest far corner with that desert view… for when we finally decided to wander down poolside ourselves later. Yup a week back in Dubai and I’m totally in sync with the vibe here…

Sprog and I are taking a little sand-filled breather in the designer desert surrounds of Bab Al Shams… 45 minutes away from the looping highways and vertical street-towers of the city. I spent the better part of a decade in the nineties and early noughties living in Dubai. There isn’t a word for folks who reside here (you know like New Yorker or KLite). Dubaian doesn’t cut it. Maybe that’s telling. Cause really. Who belongs here? Of course I’d heard so much… firsthand… reported… about how ghastly it had become. How what was already a vast vacuous cultural wasteland had evolved into one of grotesque gaudy greed… This cautionary tale of rampant ego and coldhard cash. In magnitudes that deluge. And though I barely recognised this sprawling cityscape of clawing glass and metal, you know what? it’s pretty impressive…

Some kind of beautiful even…

Dubai is absolutely fabulous at replication. They have Harvey Nicks, Galeries Lafayette, Gordon Ramsay, Nobu, Momo, Zuma, Baker & Spice, Dean & Deluca – New York London Paris Beirut – imported culture delivered wholesale on your dusty duty-free doorstep. None of this is pioneering of course. Vegas grew glitter in the desert decades earlier. There too barren earth was soaked for golf greens and palm boulevards. It’s probably best not to let your thoughts linger for too long on the level of the non-existent water table as necessities like backyard pools and dancing fountains are filled. Tune out the mutterings of religious hypocrisy, class strata, slave labour… and yet and yet and yet… life is what you make of it. I remember learning,  growing, being fulfilled. When you uproot your life to live where most are without extended family, the friends you find become your family. Those who are generous and giving to a fault. Who knew and loved your children even before they were born. As you did theirs…

And in this global village of today, it’s only natural that friends from home pop up from time to time…

And in a city that values the shiny and the new I pilgrimed in sentimental search and found…

… my very first villa here. This shot snuck over the back garden wall. It’s fallen into terrible decay. But who woulda thunk? Still standing 🙂

And of course…

… my last villa here. The blue window was where Sprog’s bedroom overlooked the Burj Al Arab. And I planted that flame-of-the-forest 🙂

And right across the road ~ our little beach ~ a lot less quiet than back in the day but hey! miraculously still virgin beach…

And even as the tentacled motorways snake farther and farther into the much-treasured desert there is always enough space for that which we love…

Whilst always willing to embrace the new…

xox

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Posted in Family, Stuff and Snippets, Travel | 20 Comments

Reprise…

There’s this shot of Sprog that I love. I was just testing the light and didn’t even realise he was in my frame till after the shutter clicked.

He’s happy. And flying ♥

Frozen in a perfect moment of abandon.

We need to do this more ~ The Dance Of The Dusun ~ from some weeks ago. Where certain steps keep running through the choreography 🙂

Zara And The Crisps for example.

Or ~ Doin’ The Tarot Shuffle

Following The Leader for sure…

Marching to The Green And The Prickly

Flapping to The Chicken Song

Reflection in The Meaningful Pauses

Applauding The Splashy Solos

The Synchronicity

The Harmonisation

The Support

The Intrigue And Discord

The Nostalgia

The Curtain Calls

Before readying-up for The Encore 🙂

The rhythms of escape.

Reprise please ♥

xox

Posted in Family, Moments, Travel | 11 Comments

Blogs Blocks and Brunei…

Since I last posted (seventeen days ago – the last post was by my guestblogger Stuart – thank you kindly again dude) I have been to 9 birthday bashes, 2 farewell dinners, 3 orthodontic appointments, a brilliant concert, a less-than-brilliant musical, hammered away at my quest to attain a level of fitness with runs hikes yoga pilates trx jukari latin dancing, eaten more healthily, rediscovered the exquisite pleasure of Sri Lankan Crab and English Cake, overeaten, put together a photobook that I’m really excited about, learned the songs for Sprig’s new term at music class, learned the moves to Sprig’s new gymnastics class, signed up for a creative writing course that I intend to stick at this time, still not managed to catch the whole of a single week of American Idol, become an online vendor 🙂yeah exciting stuff – and – uhm – popped over to Brunei for a couple of nights.

I could’ve blogged there I suppose, especially since I’d been warned that there is ab-so-frikkin-lute-ly nothing to do in Brunei. But instead I went equipped…

Ken Robinson ~ who may well be responsible for Sprig’s unschooling, April’s Bazaar ~ cleverly edited by Ms SunnyT, and Hello Hag oops! Mag ~ perfect for poolside flipping but which sadly remained untouched all trip.

Cause I was just too mesmerised by this view from our room…

It really is this miragelike. Our private backyard lagoon. Actually the whole gilded gargantuan hotel was like this. Miragelike. And very empty. It had its own tres plush cinema where at 10am me myself and I watched a screening of Matt Damon hunting down Emily Blunt ~ in absolute solitary opulence. Surreal really.

So we ventured out in search of reality…

We found ambuyat ~ which will not, sad to say, be making my list of favourite meals. And beautiful mosques. But then the stormy skies broke. Perfect blogging-in-bed weather. But as we were already wet we instead headed over to Kampung Ayer…

Where we watched and waited…

And the skies reigned in just a bit…

Just enough to give us this…

♥ ♥ ♥

Gotta get back to my Hello Mag now 😉

xox

Posted in Stuff and Snippets, Travel | 3 Comments

What Stuart Ate…

It’s been a whole week since I last posted. Oops 😦

Which brings us back to a posting of What Guestblogger Ate 🙂

And this week’s post was intended to read What Ola Ate… Ola… Who seriously could teach Martha a thing or three. Who merely read law at Cambridge but now reads Animal Tales exquisitely in Bangkok to the three most beautiful boys. Ola… Whose camera died on her and but with typical inspired efficiency got her guest and BIL … Stuart … to save my day. Thank you Stuart. For opening me up to that which is forbidden. For your heroism and irreverent insight. Feel my gratitude please.

So dear friends, read on and  enjoy…

Sniffing Out Bangkok’s Foodie Bits….

As part of a midlife crisis (so I’ve been told), I have ended up in Bangkok. Luckily my brother beat me to it and has a spare room. Also luckily, being a mongrel, I am used to having my taste buds tweaked in various directions.

Back in London this morphed into a near obsession to find out-of-the-way places where preferably the staff didn’t speak English and food hygiene was not necessarily top priority. From my first step into Bangkok, things where looking good on all these fronts.

Oysters…

Usually eaten, lives freshly ended, by a man with money and little imagination in front of a lady who knows she should have done better.  However an oyster omelette? I encountered this briefly in Malacca and didn’t see much future in the relationship. But Mr Lonely Planet insisted that Nay Mong in China Town had cracked it.

If I’m honested the oysters reminded me of another brief encounter; this time with cockrel testicles in Slovakia. The battery/eggy fried splat which served as a base was delicious though and I wasn’t going to argue with Mr Lonely Planet this time.

Next to the market….

Apparently Chatuchak market is all the rage on a weekend. Can’t quite see it myself. Did see endless rows of shoplets selling complete tat. Always suprises me that one countryman’s rubbish is another’s evidence of mind broadening cultural interaction.

As you would expect the good stuff is round the back of this place (I’m sure the locals use a different entrance), which I found by getting thoroughly lost. Ended up next to some Thais and pointed to one of their bowls of noodles and intimated to the vendor, “I’ll have what  he’s having”.  I was quite impressed with my non-verbal communication until I realised that was all he had anyway.

Noodles in brown broth with pork ball, green bits and what I think was crispy fish skin – but you never know.

Fine dining on the cheap…

Thanks to Nancy Chandler’s Map of Bangkok, I found Ruen Urai. An old wooden house next to the swimming pool of a midmarket hotel. It was mid-afternoon and I was the only one in the place. On these occasions I tend to pretend I am a snaz-pants food critique, as opposed to just a bloke who can’t remember what he has eaten unless he takes a picture of it.

What we have here is some minced up, spiced up meat (pork, always a safe guess) wrapped in a egg lattice (ooooooh), fried rice with shrimp paste, egg and bits from the garden, and a coconut chicken  soup with galangal and bamboo shoots.

The shrimp paste made the rice sandy, the egg lattice…Pollock-ish and ineffectual, but the soup was fantastic: light, flavoursome and balanced. Even the odd bit of chicken gristle couldn’t temper the yumminess.

NB: the only reason I could see why this place was less than expensive, was the proximity of two old European types, one in speedos and the other in a bikini that she probably bought when she was 40 years younger.

●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●

And with that … errr … thank you Stuart 🙂

xox

ps – please fix your camera pronto Ola 🙂

Posted in Food, Travel | 3 Comments

What Goddess Ate…

And so the cold ungentle rains came. Washing the hills and banishing mosquitoes. In a giant aged vessel we nurtured our fire. We warmed our hands and scorched our dinner.

We were smug and snug and soon to be satiated.

There was rump and sirloin. Grass-fed and herbed. A golden disc of melting provolone.

Smoke wafted as water puddled. A scattering of salt as juices dripped. It was perfect, primal, perhaps even raw.

And clashed gloriously with a delicate watermelon chopped with rocket. Sprinkled with feta. Tossed with almonds.

And the piece de resistence? Sprog burnt marshmallows on a stake 🙂

Postscript:

As raindrops still linger under glass … reheated pastries the morning after from l.o.v.e.n

Greedy little fingers will attest…

Terrestrial Heaven. Goddess Moment people. Yes indeed.

xox

Posted in Food, Travel | 9 Comments

Goddess Moments… My 200th :)

The Verandah . Emas House . The Dusun . Kampung Pantai

3pm. A couple of days ago

Spouse is slipping slowly into a red and white coma on large cushions scattered just outside our bedroom. Its sliding doors are wide open and I can see our luggage against wooden slats, cool white sheets, the lazy rotations of the ceiling fan. Big Sister and Zara are napping upstairs in the loft. As is Sprig on the sofabed in the living space. Her pacifier bobs in and out as she sucks and breathes. She has perfect rhythm. Sprog is hunched over the small dining table – skull earphones clamped on tight. He’s muttering to himself. Maybe that’s singing. Zaid sits cross-legged by his feet. Fully focused on a post-lunch post-dessert ?nth-helping of chicken friedrice leftovers. Every few minutes he rises nimbly to cartwheel silently. He never stops chewing. Beth and Em who help us have ambled over to Berembun House their abode for the night.

I am deep in a low-slung deckchair. Feet propped on a glass topped table on which also rests a hastily restacked Jenga and green tea in a red mug. Book on lap. Quietly filling up on this moment. This goddess moment.

Distant thunder rumbles. A friendly warning softly growled. The skies are gorgeous epic sculptures of pale grey cloud. Brilliantly rimmed by white sunlight. Gusty winds lift the branches overhead. Green leaves gently bounce. Yellow ones spiral down. They land on me, around me. In monoseasonal Malaysia … this is my favourite weather … when it showers golden leaves.

The house will awaken soon. The family will shake off their post-lunch languour. Rested from a morning of battleshrieking and adventure. We will pad barefoot in bathers to the pool. Venture in search of durian trees and run from buzzing insects. The barbeque will be perfectly prepped before the rains arrive. And yes there will be marshmallows.

But this goddess moment right here. It’s all I need. It is but fleeting. And it is perfect.



xox



Posted in Family, Travel | 17 Comments

The Wild Wetlands…

Quick one cause it’s late and we’re off on another road trip in the morn … make that a few hours. I’m watching the American Idol repeat as I type this … the other J.Lo … fierce in her leopard print non? 🙂

So our recent venture into rural wilderness, we leave the city limits to see stuff like this?

But then we also got to soak in scenes like this…

The Paya Indah Wetlands. A swamp sanctuary dotted with lakes and lotus. Which didn’t really do it for the kids…

Though this guy did…

As did this gaggle…

And helloo there…

And whad’ya know … we ambled into our good friends … intrepidly exploring on their bikes…

Hey Candy Girl and ZW 🙂

We abandoned the pedaling of course…

Cause Sprig had her own plans…

Her needle got stuck in the groove of Hi Duk ♥

Though a nearby enclosure just about contained the grazing stomping chomping highlight…

Hey Sweet Lips!

Ooh and gleee … the grub-barrow…

Peace…

Joy…

And her…

Junior Masterchef is cookin’ now…

Have a safe weekend all.

xox

Posted in Family, Travel | 17 Comments