Sunday, 31 December 2017

One Daily Positive Week 52 Goodbye to 2017 Hello to 2018

Like I've said before, 2017 hasn't all been bad and in many ways I really don't want to see the back of it, as 2017 was the last time I got to see my father.

I guess there are some people who are thinking and wondering why I talk so much about him, why I grieve like I do, some will be people who have yet to loose a parent. Some will be thinking 'it'll be ok, you'll get there' as they will have lost a parent 25 years ago like my husband did and others will be thinking ' I know exactly what you're going through' as they are going through exactly what I'm going through.

I have no expectations for 2018, I'm not a believer that a New Year marks a new me, the clock is forever ticking, life just goes on. It's rare for us to have events/set dates to plan for. Birthdays, anniversary's etc get marked/acknowledged and we try to make sure we're in the UK or the the right child is with us for big occasions, such as child 5's 18th birthday and Peter's 60th this year, we got everyone together for the teen and those that were available for the 60th. But for 2018 we have set events we need to plan our travels around, rather than just visiting when the weather is too hot in Dubai or the plane tickets are super cheap or sadly as is often the case, because someone has died and we're attending a funeral. (as I've done in 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017)

Apart from child 4 and 4a due to visit in march/April, there are no other visitors booked to come out. Child 3 and 3a will be leaving Australia in June to travel Asia and will be back in the UK in October till January 2019. I'm really hoping we'll get to see them sometime in 2018 as I haven't seen them since July 2017. I'd love to get out to South Africa also as I haven't been there since July 2016 and I'm missing my friends, although some of them have travelled here to stay.

Well I best return to what I'm here for. My week in pictures:

358 Sunday Santa
Up early, decorated cakes, ironed, dusted and swept up outside. Off to Dubai Marina Mall and a walk on the Beach, came home and swept and mopped the house. Out for the evenings with friends for dinner.

359 Monday Rest
A lie in, breakfast and got ready for Brunch at JW Marriott Hotel, the afternoon spent slummed in front of the TV.

360 Tuesday Sleeping
Back to work for Peter, Christmas isn't a holiday here, unless you choose to take it as one. I sorted the water/electricity refund and called in at the Mall of Emirates for a coffee and see what was on offer at the sales. Another leak in the hot water tank and the plumber arrived at 7pm to fix it.

361 Wednesday Smile
Peter and I visited Bollywood Park, I had a free ticket, he wasn't keen to come at first, but we both had a lovely day out, the evening was spent in front of Netflix, eating crap and an early night.

362 Thursday Me
Peter was back in work today and I caught up with the washing and some blogging before meeting a new friend for coffee at the local mall and exchanged a memory stick I bought for an android phone instead of the iPhone for Peter and did a food shop, checking out the sales as I walked the length of the mall.

363 Friday Door
A lazy day and a coffee out while Peter did a food shop. A quick tidy round (swept the sand out the house as I do daily) and prepped dinner for friends coming round for the evening. The afternoon was spent watching TV, writing letters and surfing the net.

364 Saturday Night Sky
We drove to Dragon Mart to buy some fencing so we can let Bob stay out in the garden on his own, at the moment I'm worried he could jump the fence especially as there are stray cats on the other side of the road that catch his attention. In the evening we explored a bit more of the estate we've moved to with Bob and we're really enjoying the winter weather here in Dubai while it lasts.

365 Sunday Celebration
New Year gets bigger every year in Dubai, but so does the traffic and the number of people at the venues, so this year we've opted to stay at home, with beans on toast, a mug of tea, movie and left over Christmas crackers.

I'll be back tomorrow with Day 1 of Year 4. The only difference will be I won't be using photo prompts anymore as Britmums have decided to stop doing them and just use the hashtag #snaphappybritmums as it's become a large community and they feel the prompts don't always reflect on people's days. This is a shame for 2 reasons 1) the prompts for me encouraged me to get out and about and 2) It was my reason to keep me going when we first moved to Dubai 3 years ago. However, I've not found the community to be that good, with little interaction from Britmums themselves, so I'll just continue with my hashtag #OneDailyPositive and if you're in the mood, feel free to use it yourself.

My Sunday Photo - More of Christmas in Dubai
Days out with the kids - A visit to Bollywood Park with Dubai Parks and Resorts

My Sunday Photo - Week 157 N is for New Year

Dubai have decided there will be NO fireworks at the Burj Khalifa this year. One of the most iconic landmarks in the world and when you think of New Year and fireworks you tend to think of Sydney, Dubai and London for staging spectacular events.

They're having a light show instead. I expect it will be spectacular for sure, but for me it's fireworks. There are fireworks at the Burj Al Arab and the Atlantis, but after 3 years of living in Dubai we've sort of 'been there, done that' so we've decided to stay in and besides getting out and about in a major city on New Year is not easy, until 4 weeks ago, we lived near the beach and in the heart of Dubai so it was easy to get anywhere.

There are no new year resolutions for me, I don't have staying power. 2018 brings a lot more travel, but all UK based. We have child 4 and 4a visiting in March/April after we visit them in the UK for Child 4's medal parade after he returns from his posting in the Middle East.

Child 2 and 2a are getting married in June. Peter is best man at a wedding in July, so two trips close together for him, but I'll be over in June and staying till the end of August to escape the summer in Dubai as normal. And we're back again in October for Peter's nieces wedding.

Hopefully we'll get to see child 3 and 3a as they pass through Dubai from Australia on their way to and from the UK, if not we'll have to fit a visit in there also and of course we'll see children 1 and 5 when we visit the UK. I'm also hoping we can get my mum out to Dubai for Christmas next year, as she'll have moved into her new home by then.

I'll leave you with my favourite photo of 2017 a picture of me and my father taken 3 days, sadly before he passed away and a collage of 2017.

January - visit from niece child 4 & 5 and a trip to Egypt

February Tour of Dubai Bike Race

March 3D Canvas Street Art

April Child 5s 18th Birthday and a trip to Hong Kong for the Rugby 7s

May Ramadan and a declined job offer from me

June Ramadan and a trip to the UK

July Northern Ireland to visit child 4 and 4a and my father died

August selling dad's stuff and making memories

September Peter visited the UK

October and a quick visit to Dubai to rent a new home

November back to the UK for 2 weeks to tie up loose ends

December a new home and Christmas in Dubai

Thursday, 28 December 2017

A visit to Bollywood Park with Dubai Parks and Resorts

Dubai Parks and Resorts are located about a 20 minute drive from the Marina on the road to Abu Dhabi and will cost you around 50 AED to reach by taxi. You can also drive there yourself and it's worth visiting the Outlet Mall located in the same area.

Since the kids left home, theme parks are not something my husband and I visit, in fact we will avoid them, especially during the holiday season, but I had a free ticket to visit one of the parks and after our visit to the cinema on Christmas Eve to see Paddington, without kids, where we stood out from all the other parents with small children, we opted to visit Bollywood Park rather than Legoland or Motion gate.

I failed to check the website properly for their opening times and we arrived 2 hours before Bollywood Park opened and we could purchase a 2nd ticket for Peter, but we spent our time in Riverland which is an outdoor area with activities, shops and restaurants. Sadly as the park doesn't really come to life until after 4pm, a lot of the attractions, stalls and restaurants weren't opening, but most of them were related to children's activities anyway, so we weren't that bothered. So we sat and had lunch and coffees and enjoyed walking around in the fresh air and enjoying being outside in Dubai in winter rather than stuck inside a mall.

There was a free shuttle bus for the parks from the car park, but I can imagine there will be a lot of waiting in the busier periods and indeed when we returned to the car park at 6pm, it was very busy indeed. Parking costs 20 AED and tickets for the parks can be purchased either online or at the individual gates, but queuing times can be long.

The park was very quiet when we entered at 2pm which meant we were able to enjoy everything the park had to offer and not have to queue for any of the rides and had a good view of all the entertainment.

Now I know nothing about Bollywood, the closest I've ever been to a Bollywood movie was Slumdog Millionaire, but I was surprised by how much of the merchandise I recognised for the movies, especially Gabbar Singh and Dabangg.

The rides in the park were 3D and 4D motion rides, they were fun, especially the road chase through Dubai to catch Don, but both Peter and I spent our time watching the scenery to see if we could spot our house. We particularly enjoyed the 'shoot the villains' ride and we were rather competitive. peter won and I'm annoyed with myself for telling him how the game worked, giving him the edge over me. lol.

There were plenty of restaurants and snacks stalls inside Bollywood Park to choose from, including a train that was converted to a dining car and a double decker bus.

It was good value for money at 95 AED per ticket and I'd like to go back and explore the other parks at some point before it gets too hot and too busy and it's certainly best visited on a working day, if like me you're not a big fan of crowds and other peoples kids. But I'd recommend you check opening times as they are seasonal, consider VIP parking and book your tickets online to save queuing.

For residents, annual passes are available and if you're planning on visiting 2 of the parks, even just the once it's worth purchasing a pass.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

My Sunday Photo Week 156 X is for Xmas in Dubai

Well here are the last of the photos of Christmas in Dubai. Apart from Christmas day itself which will be spent at the JW Marriott Hotel at the Gardens on the Sheikh Zayed Road, with all the food and drink you can manage, with a taxi both ways. Presents will be exchanged in the morning and the evening will be spent on the sofa, complaining that we'll never eat again.

Dubai Marina Mall

Dubai Mall. I'm not impressed with this years decorations.

Souk Madinat and Burj Al Arab

The Ritz Charlton

Next week is N for New Year, not sure what we'll be doing this year. Sort of seen it all and done it all the last 3 years spending New Year on the beach in Dubai watching the fireworks go off at the Atlantis and the Burj Al Arab. There's not a lot left in life that can top the experiences we've had here in the past 3 years, other than the 4 years before that living in South Africa.

Other Christmas related posts:

Saturday, 23 December 2017

One Daily Positive - Week 51

Almost at the end of year 3. I started One daily Positive when we moved to Dubai as I was unhappy about leaving South Africa and needed a reason to get out and about every day and look for the good things in the move and in life in general.

I'm still not that happy about being in Dubai. I'm not unhappy, I'd just rather be back in the UK now where I could return to my career and be nearer to my family, but that's not going to happen for another 2-3 years and although I can work here, it's just not viable for me as I don't have the flexibility when working to travel freely back to the UK. By the time we do return I'll be nearing 50 and I'm not sure a career will be on the cards anymore, a job will be and when Peter retires, I will be going back to work in some form or another.

This year has been mixed emotionally, we had a good start with a trip to Egypt and Hong Kong and I'd planned time in the UK to spend with the 3 youngest children as they set off on new adventures. Child 3 to Australia, Child 4 to the Middle East with a military posting and child 5 leaving boarding school and transiting into the world of work. All this still happened but it was tinged with an even greater sadness with the death of my father in July. Despite this, some happy times were still had and I got to spend more time with the boys than I would've done had this event not occurred. Some good news though at the end of 2017 as child 2 announced he was getting married in mid June 2018, so something positive to look forward to.

351 Sunday Clouds (some rain this week, but by UK standards you'd not even bother bringing your washing in)
Rain and storms were forecast for today, but it came to nothing. I had to visit several banks to sort out change of address and obtain a refund, but I achieved nothing other leaving the customer happiness centres in floods of tears. This is one side of Dubai I really dislike, there's an assumption that we all have maids who clean up after us and can wait in all day for deliveries and that we have drivers who can pop to another branch to collect documents. We went out in the evening with a colleague of Peter's and his wife for dinner.

352 Monday Friends (this little fella popped in to say hi while I was having a coffee)
Bob went to day care, Pushkins to the vets for her annual jabs and me to the Doctors about this recurring hip pain. I also visited DEWA to obtain a refund on a payment I made on someone else account after they gave me the wrong account number and the afternoon was spent with some last minute cleaning before our visitors arrived in the morning. Peter was out in the evening from work and I was left unsupervised with a tin of Quality Street.

353 Tuesday Green (lack of)
Off early to the airport to collect friends, home briefly so they could shower, change and grab something to eat then off to Dubai Mall for a trip up the Burj Khalifa. I used this time to grab Peter's Christmas present and have a coffee, we stayed out for dinner over looking the fountains and Peter joined us. I was really disappointed with the decorations at Dubai Mall, rather bland and boring compared to the other malls.

354 Wednesday Future(istic)
Breakfast at home of bacon butty and fruit, yes you can buy bacon in Dubai, a taxi to the Marina and the ferry to the Creek to explore the Souks, we got the metro to Mall of the Emirates and Peter joined us for an early dinner at the Souk Madinat.

355 Thursday Red
Up early to the airport, caught up with washing, ironing and yet more UK paperwork and bills, it never stops. Always on a downer after visitors go, so Peter recognising this came home early, took me out for a coffee, cooked dinner and let me select a movie. We watched Elf, neither of us had ever seen it. We were asleep by 9pm.

356 Friday Play
Up early and off to the Mall of the Emirates, it must be only a few days before Christmas as I'm all wrapped and under the tree and Peter has asked me to wander around the shops with him pointing things out, then retreating to a coffee shop where I can blog and he can make purchases. Spent the rest of our day sweeping up sand, it'll all be unswept by the morning and back in the house, we really must get round to putting down some grass and block paving in the sandpit/garden.

357 Saturday Food
Woke in a sea of fog with visibility down to 160m's. Wanted to see Murder on the Orient Express but when we got to the cinema at Dubai Marina Mall, it wasn't on, so we watched Paddington instead, we were the only adults there without Afternoon spent watching TV and a walk to the local shops with Bob to collect something for our tea.

On the blog this week:

MySundayPhoto More Christmas in Dubai
TriumphantTales Managing grief 5 months on. It's not all sad, 2017 has brought some happy times also.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Managing grief 5 months on.

It's a sad post to end 2017 with. It's not been a sad year, there have been some great times, in fact 2017 started very well with Peter and I visiting Egypt, the UK and Hong Kong. Despite my father's death in July which was tough and something I'd been expecting, we still have some lovely memories of the year. It was still a shock when he died so suddenly, although he'd been in ill health for many years and had had a heart attack in 2012, it was still very sudden.

I never realised what the impact of losing a parent was like. I'd seen both my mother and father grieve  for their mothers (I'd never known my grandfathers) I was very close to my paternal grandmother, I focused on my own grief, I didn't really pay much attention to what my father was going through at the age of 66. I just thought he was lucky to have had his mother around for so long. I was 46 when my father died, I feel cheated.

I live in Dubai and previously we were in South Africa. For the past 7 years, returning from visits to the UK has been upsetting, always, without exception, worrying I may never see my parents again or not being able to get there in time, as has happened with other expat friends, when a family member has been taken ill suddenly.

When my father had his heart attack in 2012, it took me 48 hours to get back to the UK, 24 hours in flight and transit, no communication and not knowing if my father was alive or not until I got to the hospital in Cardiff as he was coming out of surgery.

I was fortunate enough to have been in the UK this year when he died, just a mile down the road when my sister rang to say he'd collapsed, I arrived before the paramedics and without sounding too dramatic, I sat with him as he died.

It has been a painful and difficult summer, but it's also been lovely to spend so much time with my mother, children, family and friends. Sadly 3 of my close friends lost a parent this year also. One in January, 5 years after the other parent died, another 2 weeks after my dad died and another 2 months later. My fathers cousin on his maternal grand mother’s side, wife died 5 days later also. His daughter who I consider a cousin and whom I’ve been in touch with most of my life called me to ask for the family list of phone numbers as she knew it would be up to date. It must’ve been a terrible shock for everyone to receive the 2nd lot of bad news in such a short period of time.

We've had a lot to do this summer, mum is moving into a brand new 2 bed flat in town in the New Year. We sold the house a week after putting it on the market, 2 months after my father died. My parents were wanting to downsize and move, but my father kept putting it off, as his idea of downsizing meant still having somewhere to store his vast collection of items that he would not/could not part with. So the task began to sell everything as quickly as possible to get the house ready for market.

Although we have a flat a in the UK where I could stay, it wasn't my home. Peter remained in Dubai, keeping the roof above our heads and flew to the UK for the funeral and again in September. But I didn't have him to come home to everyday, I didn't have my routine, my home. I did have my friends around me, but they were dealing with their own grief and I just needed some support from Peter, which of course he did give, but over Skype is very different from just being there, to give me a cuddle and hug me when I cried.

Mum has always said 'One year and a day' in reference to any decisions being made after a spouse has died in regards to moving on. But because I was in the UK for an indefinite period of time, we just decided to get on with things. Would life be any easier going through everything and selling up 366 days later?

We've literally stripped the house bare, emptied the attic, study, games rooms, 2 sheds and a garage. We've sold a train set, toys cars, pub and sporting memorabilia. There were 4 sets of golf clubs, 20+ fishing rods and all the associated paraphernalia. Stacks of newspapers, a pool table with 10 sets of pool balls. We sent a whole truck off to auction, sold things at boot sales, donated clothes to charity shops and done more skip runs than I care to recall, getting rid of furniture, video cassettes and enough paint and DIY products to start our own shop.

This has meant each and every item that belonged to my father has been examined, handled, plugs have been rewired so we can remove items from behind furniture. Furniture has been dismantled. It feels like not only have we got rid of my fathers stuff but we've removed every last trace of his essence, his being. When I next return to see my mum, she'll be in her new home, there will be no physical or emotional trace of my father in there.

It was an intense 5 months and now I'm back in Dubai, we moved house ourselves this month. I've had to tell people over again, as if it's all fresh and only just happened that my father has died when they ask where I've been all summer. But the hardest thing for me has been packing and moving. I feel like I've started all over again with my fathers things. There is so much of him in our home, even though he's never visited here, although he did visit us in South Africa. There is furniture we had in the UK and SA that he sat on, there are items he fixed, there are gifts he bought me as a child from his travels. His old story books his granny gave him as a boy, that he passed onto me recently. Company pens and other paraphernalia, popping out of drawers and cupboards, photos on the fridge of him with his mum, with my kids.

When mum and I went through my fathers things together, she attached a story to various items before dismantling or selling them (need to know anything about fly fishing, then seriously she's the woman to ask) I'm now going through the process again, 5 months later, reliving family events, childhood memories with Peter and they feel fresh, the grief feels like it did in the first few weeks again. I feel ill, sick. I'm not sleeping.

When I got on the plane last month to return to Dubai, it was knowing that this time my father wasn't going to be there on my return. I've not left my mum on her own she has my sister and niece and family in the same town. But this is my story of my grief, what I've done, how I've coped and how I'm not really managing. They have their own ways of dealing with things. Christmas will be hard for them without my father there, even if it is missing his moaning about the cost of things. But I'm not really sure much thought has gone into what I'm going through, how I'm coping because I just get on with things, or take over (as i'm often told) because I don't share how I'm feeling. I guess I just understand what is going on in the UK, but no one understands what it's like to live so far away, even if it is through choice. I've missed out on so much stuff back home, but I've done so much more stuff by living away.

I know my father was proud of me, despite never saying it, he wasn't one for emotion. I can hear his words and often say them out loud as we sold his stuff, dismantled the furniture. 'that's a good piece of wood there Suzanne, save those screws' but he would not have been proud of me for doing all the above, because he would have hated every minute of it. Had he survived the stroke and we'd had to sell the house, the stress of us selling his stuff would've killed him regardless, he wouldn't have let us get on with things in our way, he's have shouted at us from the sidelines to stop telling him what to do and it would've all been very unpleasant.

So in a way, my father had the best death that was possible for all of us, he always said 'I'm just going to go one day' and he did. At home, with his wife, 2 daughters and his youngest grandson. Peacefully and without pain and now we're just doing what we have to do, in our way, whether it's right or wrong or being done too quickly, who cares?

This is the last photo I took of my father, 3 days before he died.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

My Sunday Photo Week 155 Y is for Yule. Christmas in Dubai.

So Christmas is now in full swing in Dubai. Sorry but there will be more than 5 photos today Darren.

I've been having a few discussion on the internet about representations of Christmas in regards to what is seen as religious and what is acceptable as a Winter Festival.

Santa Claus has it's origins in Saint Nicholas, obviously religion. He was a Saint. Jesus in a manger in a Nativity scene is obviously celebrating the birth of christ to the son of God. I'm sure there are many others, but as I've said previously I'm not here to write about religion, it has just intrigued me.

The coffee shops, like the UK and I assume other countries have their Christmas takeaway cups out. They are also selling cookies in the shape of bells, trees, stars, snowflakes and reindeers. At Birmingham airport last month I had a Santa cup in Costa Coffee, in Dubai I had a snowman. Both cups say made in the UK. I posted a picture on Instagram to ask if both cups were available in both countries and so the discussion began about religious representations of Christmas.

In the stores they are playing anything from Jingle Bells to I wish it could be Christmas everyday. There are trees, decorated to excess, decorations galore, signs for winter festivals, signs for Christmas Village. In 2 supermarkets there are nativity scenes for sale, Jesus in a Manger and life size Santa Claus in the Garden Centre. There's even a Santa's grotto in several of the Malls. I took the dog to see Santa. We've decorated our house on the outside as well as inside also.

There is an assumption that when one lives in Dubai, it is in an expat community. That the local malls cater for none Muslims and that's why certain things are available in certain areas. In our first house in Umm Sequiem, our land lady was Muslim, we rented over the Christmas period. On Christmas day, which isn't a public holiday, we had workmen fixing some plumbing, she apologised for interrupting our Christmas. My Muslim friends will wish me a Happy Christmas as I wish them a Happy Ramadan. The new area we live in, half our neighbours are Muslim and some of the children have come over to ask if Bob the Dog can come out to play and to look at the Christmas decorations, while their Mother waved from her front door and said 'hello'

I'm sure I could go out my way to find someone who is upset by all this. Who would rather I and others didn't do the above, that Christmas didn't happen in Dubai, along with numerous other things like selling alcohol and pork products or people wearing bikinis on a public beach. But I'm not here for that reason. I'm here to merely show you how Christmas is done here in Dubai if you choose to celebrate it or not.

There will be more photos next week as we have guests and I'll be getting out and about further a field. We've also booked a brunch for Christmas day while we'll eat and drink to excess, come home and watch a Christmas movie on the local TV stations.

Google 'origin of decorating a tree at Christmas' if you want to know more about how this all started. 

I must say I do think Dubai decorate their trees better than I do.

Jumeriah Beach Residence

 Ibn Battuta Mall

Mall of the Emirates

My surprise find this year was an actual tin of Quality Streets like the ones we get in the UK with soft centres, my favourites being the strawberry and orange creams.

Other Christmas related posts: