Harry’s last stand – Harry Leslie Smith

harry's last stand

I decided to read this book around remembrance Sunday.  It’s the anniversary of my grandmother’s death and I wanted to read something that I felt she would have empathised with.  Now my grandmother grew up in a castle in Belgium so her start in life was very different to that of Harry Leslie Smith but she firmly agreed with him that the war they fought was not meant to save the country they were now living in.  they fought so people would have a brighter tomorrow and to be able to enjoy their freedom, they did not fight to see a return to the times of the great depression.

My grandmother grew up in Belgium and lived through the Nazi occupation where she joined the resistance.  She then met a Brit and moved to London and began a new life.  When she left Belgium her father told her ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’ or in other words ‘assimilate’.  She took those words to heart and really became a proud British citizen who loved her new homeland.

She raised my mother and later me to be proud to come from England and Belgium.  However in later years she felt a lot had gone wrong, she felt it was a darker sadder time than in her youth and she felt that somewhere along the line things had gone wrong and that change needed to occur.

Reading Harry’s last stand I could just imagine her nodding along.  Here is a man who lived through the depression and world war two and who was willing to fight to protect his country.  He managed to get himself out of poverty by joining the RAF and met the love of his life and has for the most part lived a happy and fulfilled life.  Now he is angry and disappointed and wonders why he bothered.  He wonders whether it was worth it and why the world we live in seems to be intent on blaming the poor for all the miseries people face.

He makes valid and well reasoned points to back up his argument.  It’s well worth a read to really see what is happening in the UK and what could possibly be done to change it.  If nothing else he’s become an iconic figure and it was fascinating to read about a lifespan that has spanned nearly a century.

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Tantastic

Today my boss told me I looked like I had gotten some colour on my face.  It’s kind of an office joke that I am vampire pale and seem incapable of tanning so this comment was a pretty big deal to be honest!

The question then became…do I tell him it’s fake or simply smile and say ‘Oh thanks’ while keeping the truth to myself?  Now I am one for honesty, but really discussing beauty secrets with your boss is a bit weird…so i simply smiled and thought ‘that was money well spent!’

However I will share my secret with you – it’s fake, and the tanned legs are fake and the slightly tanned arms and chest those are all fake too.  I was NEVER the fake tan girl in the UK choosing to hold on to the delusion that pale is interesting.  Out here though it’s different, being as pale as me simply makes me look tired and ill to be quite frank and I just had enough of it.

The siren call of Sephora was too strong to resist and so off I trotted, it all started innocently enough with this:

I couldn't find this anywhere online but they are selling it in stores in the Middle East at least!

I couldn’t find this anywhere online but they are selling it in stores in the Middle East at least!

But then I decided that wasn’t enough so I upgraded to this:

tanning lotion

However I couldn’t stop there and got this too:

face water

Then in the evenings when I really want my tan to pop I spray on this:

Who knew it was such a slippery slope!  I have to say though that these products are fantastic, they are easy to use and do what they say on the packaging.  They even smell lovely which I have heard is a problem for fake tan.  I definitely think that they are all worth investigating and investing in if you want  a natural look that’s easy to apply.

I do seem to be going brown rather than orange and it’s been a few applications and no one seems to think I look dramatically different only healthier and glowing – so what’s not to like?!

This weekend I will go and try for the real deal at the beach, but I don’t hold out much hope…perhaps I am part vampire after all?!

JBR – Jumeirah Beach Resort or Just Brilliant Really?

This weekend we decided to make the most of our fantastic location and headed to the beach in JBR.  The walk really is wonderful, boasting a cinema, a great range of restaurants to suit whatever your stomach desires and terrific shops – most importantly a Sephora that I love!

We made ourselves at home on the sand and P headed off for what transpired to be an EPIC swim – honestly I heard that Michael Phelps was concerned for his future Olympic victories due to this previously unknown contender training in the UAE!

When he returned I went for a walk from one end of the beach to the other while listening to my iPod.  It was so relaxing to wander around and feel the sun on my skin and just walk with no purpose.  I was also very happy to be able to model (alright, alright ‘wear’) my new bikini.  I had ordered it from ASOS online and two weeks later it was delivered free of charge to me all the way in Dubai!  It’s from Pistol Panties which is a brand I hadn’t previously bought from but I am glad I decided to try them in the sale, I got two and both fit well and are comfortable and don’t move around when you swim which has been a previous bug bear of mine.  I definitely recommend them and if you are lucky you will be able to get them in the sale for a fraction of the price!

Having made the most of the beach we decided it was time to eat and we set off to Menchies for frozen yoghurt.  Previously I have never been a fan of frozen yoghurt but at Menchies they have a great range of flavours and toppings and the mango is AMAZING and so refreshing that I am now a ‘fro-yo’ convert.

All in all it was a terrific day at the beach, somehow we are managing to survive the tough Dubai winter!

A yoghurt wall - what's not to love!

A yoghurt wall – what’s not to love!

 

 

Health Kick

In London I was definitely not a gym bunny or a health nut at all – my friends would despair of me to be honest, urging me to ditch gluten and sugar and to drink herbal tea and I would laugh and say ‘pfft agave what now?’ and grab the granulated white stuff while enjoying a bread roll. However in London I was walking five miles a day, eating healthy and small lunches of sushi or a sandwich max so I could get away with my indulgent ways (sort of…) here in Dubai walking isn’t so easy and my company provide AMAZING lunches of delicious middle eastern food that I love.

agave

That is the question!?

So after putting on a few pounds I had to accept that I needed to adjust my lifestyle thus Dubai has seen MANY changes for me, it started small but it’s pacing up a lot.

First of all I accepted that walking out here isn’t that enjoyable as it’s too HOT, believe me I REALLY tried but it was miserable.  P proposed a revolutionary idea that I could walk on a treadmill (he is so smart sometimes) and so I went to the gym a few times during the summer or to the pool in the evenings.  My friends nearly died of shock – I loathe the gym and lycra but needs must.  Still it never quite took and I realised that if I wasn’t going to commit to working out then things needed to change…plus people judge you if you don’t run on a treadmill I find!

Next green Total sweettea replaced normal breakfast tea.  Transpires I actually really enjoy it and have even picked up some Jasmine flavoured green tea which I love.  Even at weekends now I don’t really drink normal tea any more and if I do I use a sugar substitute that i picked up at Holland and Barrett.  Total Sweet is meant to be better than Agave and is cheaper and lasts longer and vitally for work is easy to store and mess free.

I have cut soft drinks out of my diet – where I used to have diet coke regularly as it was provided free in my old job I now have it very rarely.  Even my new lovely boss no longer offers it to me on his ‘coke run’ as he knows I just say no. I also upped my water consumption, previously two litres a day was something comical to me. Now I drink nearly two by lunch time, by the end of the day I have drunk usually 3-4 litres.

Fruit is now something I eat daily – a banana or apple for breakfast at least.  Now I admit that I am not doing so great at hitting the five a day but it’s a big improvement for me.  Turns out that I actually like bananas…sorry mother for the battles on that one!  Still have no love for tomatoes, sneaky seeded so and sos.  I am even eating huge salads each day with balsamic vinegar which is probably the only healthy dressing option provided in the canteen.

I have started to take vitamins for my hair, skin and nails that I found in Boots which along with Holland and Barrett are the two health stores I trust – though the licorice they sell is problematic as I can’t leave without it!!

vitamins

All in all I am a whole new person and it’s reaping rewards – I lost a few Dubai pounds I gained and I feel healthier and more energised.   Not to worry too much, I am still human and there is a tin of mini oreos on my desk which I really should investigate!

multi pic

On and side note…yes I still take awful pictures…

Hybrid taxi??

Dubai is RIFE with cars, and the motto seems to be when you enter Al Futtaim Motors or any of their competitors ‘The Bigger the Better’.  We are no better than anyone else in this respect, work provided P with a HUGE Subaru Tribeca and are disinclined to downsize it.  I can call it Sammy Subaru all I like but that monster damages the environment, and I have NO idea how I can offset the probably huge carbon footprint of the beast.

If anyone has any ideas on things that make a real difference I would be so grateful!!

In the UAE these gas guzzlers are also cheap to run because petrol costs peanuts here.  We can fill the tank for 15 quid and it lasts us a pretty decent amount of time.  Everyone has them and a lot of that is because the driving is pretty ‘interesting’ to say the least, so you do feel safer in a 4×4.

I don’t drive (as I don’t have a licence due to my total fear of driving – a few lessons proved that was actually rational as I am a terror on the roads!) and out here when P is unavailable to chauffeur me and the metro isn’t an option I take taxis.  In the UAE these are dirt cheap, I can cross the whole Emirate for less than 20 pounds and honestly anything over a fiver seems expensive!  So imagine my DELIGHT to discover Hybrid Taxis, I jumped in to one today and then did some research.  Seems that soon there will be more and more of them across the UAE and the cost is the same as a normal taxi.

Now all I need to do is keep my eyes peeled and take them wherever possible – wish me luck on my quest please!?  From what Gulf News are saying it’s only a matter of time before my quest gets easier and easier!

Clever Clarisonic

A few weeks ago I decided to treat myself to a Clarisonic face and body brush.  I have wanted one for AGES and finally decided that with my Sephora discount now was the time to get it.  I was keen to review it on day one because WOW the difference in just one clean was impressive; however I think that to give a fair review you need to use a product a few times and see if it makes a difference.

It’s been a month now and my skin feels and looks better than ever before.  My pores look smaller which makes me beyond happy (I hate my pores!) and my skin seems more radiant.  Now this may all seem vain but believe me, the week I bought that machine EVERYONE was telling me I look tired, a few days of using it and suddenly everyone said I looked great and the only thing I changed was the Clarisonic.  You can’t get better feedback than from your straight talking colleagues out in the UAE…

There are other advantages to this product:

1) You can use your own cleanser so you don’t need to buy new products.  My two favourites are Make up Forever’s Extreme Cleanser and Burts Bees cream cleanser.  They both work well with the brush as well as being great in their own right!  In fact all things MUFE or Burt’s bees are great – the Burt’s Bees lip balms are wonderful!

mufe

burts bees2burts bees

2) By buying additional products two people can use the handle – so now P looks great too and I can further justify the expense.

3) It really does only take a minute so I do use it twice a day and feel nice and clean before I put my make up on and before I go to bed.

I am a skin regime obsessive so to have found something that halves the time it takes while producing a superior end result is terrific.

The power of ‘Thank you’

The last few days have provided me with a few moments where I needed to be grateful.  I was always told that a nice note means a lot to the person receiving it and takes little effort on the part of the sender.  That said my handwriting can be atrocious so I have to concentrate a lot to write a letter anyone could read!

Last week one of my bosses agreed to sell me a truly beautiful one of a kind Lanvin handbag for a heavily reduced price – this will cut into his margins and was a display of kindness and generosity I had done nothing to deserve.  I literally said ‘nice bag’ and the next moment I was allowed to buy it.  Naturally I wrote a little note to say thank you and how grateful I was.  Imagine my surprise that my boss took the time to get my mobile number and phoned me in his free time to say how lovely I was and how much he had appreciated the note.  He then proceeded to tell everyone that I have beautiful manners and am a ‘class act’.  Who knew that a simple note would have such an impact.

The next evening some colleagues said that I HAD to attend the Baccarat 250 year party they were throwing.  It was a fabulous evening and I was especially touched that my boss who was throwing the party and was thus very busy specially came over to meet P and to thank me for attending the party.  The girl who had organised the whole event even made an effort to say hi and to ensure we were having a good time.  Obviously the next day they were each getting a note.  Seems that where I work EVERYONE loves a letter, I had visits to my desk from both of them to say that they appreciated my note and how glad they had been to meet P and that we had made the effort to attend.

The post it note my colleague left me showed me that two small words can mean the world if you take the time to really make them count.

pos it

Let this be a lesson to me to always write the vital thank you note…who knows whose day I could make!

Thank you for the Tram Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Two days ago saw the great unveiling of the long awaited tram in Dubai.  It has taken 6 years to build and I am lucky enough that I only had to endure 3 months of the traffic chaos it caused! Rather pleasingly for me Besix, a Belgian company were involved.

As with all things ‘Dubai’ it is of course a record breaker; being the first in the world to have platform screen doors at the stations and the first tramway project outside Europe powered by ground based electric supply system.

The tram opened with GREAT fanfare, there were even fireworks where I live and each station had huge stadium lights beaming light into the sky.  Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum even went to open the tram.  It’s been his pet project for a while and he is reported to be delighted that it is finished.  Almost as thrilled as those of who can finally use it!

I took it for the first time last night and it really is very smart, the stations connect directly to the metro and are sleek and easy to use. The crossing gate are also really beautiful wrought iron. I hopped on to the tram, goodness everyone on board was very excited – it was the prime spot for a selfie apparently.  I take awful photos else I might have indulged in one myself!  The ride was smooth and in moments I had reached my destination, having sat in air conditioned comfort.

This new tram means I can now get from my apartment to the nearest mall within five minutes and only need to walk for two minutes to get to the tram stop.  That may not sound like much but believe me in the height of summer here managing to avoid the great outdoors is the only way to survive!

As with all public transport in Dubai it is incredibly affordable – 50p a ride regardless of how far you go.  Boris has much to learn from my new fearless leader, Sheikh Mohammed is greatly respsected by us all, he really is a visionary.  While at times when I first moved here the love people said they felt for him seemed a bit much now after a few months I have definitely drunk the cool aid.  Sheikh Mohammed is a leader to admire and be proud of.  I may not be an Emirati and I never will be, but I feel very patriotic about my new home.

The tram is just another way that the UAE is making life better for the people who live here – local and expats combined.

Blindingly Beautiful Baccarat

Apologies…I love to alliterate and for this title I couldn’t resist!

enchanted table

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to the Chalhoub Group celebration for Baccarat. It was their 250th anniversary and my word did we celebrate in some style.

The party was held in a Heritage building (the Juthoor arts centre) overlooking Dubai creek.  It really was amazing and special to be able to be at an event at a Heritage building as they tend to be rare.  They had beamed the logo on to the building and it looked beautiful.  We walked in on a red carpet and we were greeted with hot towels to freshen up before we had our cocktails.  There were four different mocktails (out of respect for the local guests the event was dry) all of which were delicious.  The food was wonderful, amazingly varied and with decent sizes so we felt that we had really eaten by the end of the event.  You really can’t beat Arabic hospitality.

The decorations were stunning, everywhere you looked there was another piece of Baccarat to ooh and aah over.  They had recreated the special ‘Enchanted’ table (pictured above) designed for the anniversary and I fell in love with it.  Each place setting had it’s own Baccarat butterfly and a wonderful Harcourt candlestick. I decided that one day I will have to have these lovely things.  My grandmother had a Baccarat butterfly broach that she loved and I think my mother inherited and I told my mother that the candlestick is a must have!  At least I can vicariously enjoy it!

butterfly Harcourt

 

The chandeliers really caught my eye too, especially the one that was suspended from a tripod device, I have tried and failed to describe this many times so I include a picture for you!

umbrella chandelier

It’s just so clever – Philippe Starck is a genius.

The music was even perfect with a live band, the flautist and violinist were especially note worthy as they walked around serenading us all.

We had a fantastic night and were very impressed!  Now to start creating my Baccarat wishlist!

Sweet treats!

Osweetsn our trip to Hatta we stopped off at a little sweet store that was really wonderful!  The sort of place you wished had an outlet in Dubai.

The gentleman who owned the store was a delight and let us try all his delicacies – he was urging us to try everything.   Eventually we decided on some chili cashew nuts, wasabi peas, three different bags of sweets (the best cola bottles EVER) and headed off.   P let the nice man keep the change and he kindly gave us a bag of chocolates to say thank you.  We were very happy with our purchases and for the lovely experience.

I thoroughly recommend stopping off at a nice confectionery stall and getting some really good treats!  Plus you get to support local businesses, it’s a win win. cola bottles