Thursday, July 19, 2007

Another Day in Bur Dubai

Arrived back two nights ago after a flight in from Gatwick. An Arab Iranian taxi driver from Bandar Abbas drove me from the airport. A chance to “speak” Arabic, a rare opportunity in this city state of new buildings and mass immigration. From feelings of despair over the first 24 hours I seem to have reached a more even keel emotionally. Pain at missing her, leavened by reacquainting myself with the solo life that I had almost perfected in the Hotel California in Deira. A day of largely indifferent tapping on the laptop yesterday gave way to a rare session at the gym, having collected three etisalat bills en route (why go the trouble of mailing them together?), and a return trip via the local supermarket Al Madina to cook a Rajastani vegetable dish hastily scribbled down from my wife’s cook book. I am consciously emulating her daily routine over the three weeks I was in Saudi Arabia last month, and it certainly lifted my mood, even if the rareness of a solo cooking experience meant I didn’t eat ‘til gone 1030. An evening in the kitchen listening to a Dubai Eye phone-in on labour issues proved surprisingly stimulating, helping me to feel more at ease with my surroundings, after the difficulty of leaving her in London. This pattern, with a more productive work day and the benefits of cooking food in large quantities, made the evening ritual today a decidedly easier affair, even if the gym was a physical struggle and Dubai Eye brought on waves of alternating elation and misery with its “John Lennon Profile”.

At Gatwick two night earlier I had sat despondent, reflecting on how over the previous 2 weeks in London I could ever have complained about anything when the increasingly rare ability to spend time together is pure delight compared to the feeling of being alone at the airport, waiting to return to a white-walled apartment devoid of character in an overheating desert metropolis. From feeling almost indifferent at the prospect of departure, I felt as sad as I had ever done at such moments. Part of me felt glad, however, satisfied that I had plainly not become the cold desiccated calculating machine that I sometimes fear is to become my fate. The previous night we had visited our neighbour, a beautiful man whose ill health has prematurely aged him and confined him to his home, an experience that made me resolve to make more of our time left together. We have less than 25 years until we reach his probable age. Seeing the new British film, This is England, that afternoon, set largely in 1982 (though it says 1983 on the promo) only underlined how fast the previous quarter century has gone by. From the Falklands to file-sharing, a lot has and hasn’t changed, but the conception of time certainly has as we have grown older, largely together.

I’d give anything to have known her then, or perhaps when I was a bit older. To chat, to drink, to have fun. I know she has always been sweet to those who are sweet to her. Of course she may have found me uninteresting at that age, a recovering Christian with hard left tendencies (testicles? Ed.), and therefore her natural sweetness may have been offset by decided boredom at the suburban blandness of a late flowering virgin. We first set eyes on each other, I think, at her parents’ house in Christmas 1987, although she does not remember the experience. We didn’t meet properly until a folk festival in Sidmouth (where else?) in the summer of 1989. She had interested me a lot then, but I was camped out in a far flung field and I think she had other things on her mind. I remember her that first year though. We entered a large pub near the seafront, with manifold would-be folkies in tow, got drinks (she probably paid), and for some reason began talking about a mutual love, David Bowie. She adopted a decidedly serious tone and stated that he was a very good looking man. I remember simultaneously feeling a bond with her, while feeling somewhat chastened at that remark.

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