There was a gentle lull in Apartment 603, Ali has got to grips with the early morning schedule as has Mike but I am still trying to figure out just how I am going to occupy all those hours from 6.30 am until 2.30 pm when Mike normally reappears. Usually, this is the end of his working day and the longed- for moment when my playmate returns.
Am I sounding a little forlorn, yes, probably and maybe a little defeatist, possibly. From the time of Mike’s departure until his return the empty hours stretching before me loomed large and I needed a very fertile imagination to keep my pecker up and my wits about me – Oh, how sad it all was.
As you will be aware, it’s jolly hot in the Gulf especially during the summer and to make working conditions somewhat more bearable most people work until 2.pm, this results in a seven hour working day with no break and that was 6 days a week. I on the other hand had all the time in the world, but what to do!! The odd game of tennis was coming my way but in temperatures of up to 4Oc one had to be desperate, the only other activity that one could indulge in without the fear of sun stroke was that jolly card game Bridge, and in the attempt to learn this damnable game I repeatedly fell by the wayside.
I was in a total quandary, yes, I needed something to do but was I so desperate that I would willingly fall foul of so many of those formidable ladies who lived for the game and I’m sure even retired to bed wearing green eye shields.
What to do, yes, after due deliberation I decided to gave it a whirl and tentatively let slip that, yes, I did play but not too well. Actually that was a massive understatement because once seated at the Bridge table one morning with the cards in my hand, shaking like a proverbial a leaf, I realized that I had no real idea as to what my next move move should be. When the bidding had reached three no trumps on the opponents side and I had not responded to any of my partner’s bids and could feel her eyes piercing into me, I thought maybe I should take a flying leap but where too!! Under the table was too close for comfort and I suppose dashing out of the door would have rendered me a party pooper!! It was more than apparent that I had no clue on God’s earth what was going on.
If a morning on my own was bad then this was excruciating it surely must have reached ten on the Richter scale of one’s most terrifying moments. My only joy had to be that I was so bad that they would never invite me again, but I had no doubt that after this encounter they would be convinced Mike was married to the village idiot. I left feeling very contrite!!
I quickly realized that playing card games in the morning, with formidable ladies to while away the hours wasn’t and would never be my idea of fun, so that was a valuable lesson learned. I was in need of a bona fide occupation fast but how was I going to find this elusive pimpernel, divine intervention was most definitely required!!
We were getting nearer to obtaining a telephone, what wonders, which would obviously help my plight and August was drawing to a close with the ‘wives’ slowly returning to take up the reins, organizing everything from coffee mornings to luncheons and really formal dinner parties. You sure needed a fertile imagination to keep the show on the road and your feet on the ground in this place.!
We were now receiving quite a few invitations to drinks parties, but I am quite sure lots of them were from inquisitive people to see whether we would pass muster and also to become acquainted with the General Manager and his wife of the newest Company in Dubai I think we did!!!
Most of these invitations were very formal, using the same format as for wedding invitations, they were always professionally printed and some, I think, were even embossed. That was our next task as it was quite obvious we had to conform and not let the side down, but where were the printers! Mike managed to get the ‘show on the road’ and we were soon the proud possessors of lOO very smart formal invitation cards bearing our name Mr. and Mrs. M H T Constable requests the pleasure of the Company of who ever to whatever and at the bottom was our phone number and, of course, RSVP. Actually, this gave me quite a buzz, progress was being made in this social minefield but what I did not bargain for was our very disastrous first dinner party. To this day it makes me want to hang my head in shame as it was so shambolic. It proved the point that by sending out smart dinner invitations did not mean that the party would go with a swing, we had an awful lot to learn if we were going to be able to keep up with the Jones’
Occasionally there was a hand written RO at the bottom of the card, could I figure this out? – no it took forever, it was a little like communicating in shorthand, I eventually discovered it meant’ Regrets Only’!!! This was like learning a whole new language and another anomaly was that the envelopes were always addressed to Mrs. Michael Constable, I used to think this very strange that they were only inviting me and not Mike. It was sometime before I learnt that this was the form in polite circles – Yes, even in this desert kingdom the Memsahib’s were sticklers for protocol.
1970 was just at the tale end of the Raj, East Africa was becoming a little tricky consequently quite a few Ex-pats from East Africa were posted to Dubai, some of these people worked for Smith Mackenzie in East Africa and were transferred to Gray Mackenzie in Dubai, goodness these Memsahib’s were real Kahighs, they could teach new recruits like me a thing or too and into the bargain frighten one to death.
Everything was so incredible formal, one custom being calling on a new arrival to introduce ones self which, in fact, was a very civilized custom but it could be a terrifying experience for a young wife, like little old me, to be confronted in such a manner. Actually, without telephones there was no other way of making contact other than smoke signals, but sometimes I think they were secretly being nosey. If one was not at home the houseboy would probably invite them in and offer a suitable beverage consequently it was not unknown to arrive home to find some formidable woman occupying your favorite armchair waiting for your arrival, what a fright that was! Then it was up to you to make a good account of yourself!! It really helped if your lineage dated back to the Doomsday book and a hint of blue could be detected in your veins, snobbery was rife in those days.
Another must that had to be addressed, were there any hairdressers in this place, as I was utterly incapable of fixing my own hair As we still knew very few people it was difficult to find out, but along from the Apartment was a little hairdressing salon where an enormous fat Indian Lady ,with streaky long black hair , sat behind a counter with her equally fat son beside her, not exactly a good advert!! But I was desperate so I braved it,. She pointed to a step ladder leading up to the second floor but for one fleeting moment I thought she was going to tell me to shin up a rope to reach this secret place. Once there I found myself in a salon, Bombay style. where a young Indian hairdresser was waiting to attend to my every need. Mercifully my hair didn’t fall out and we soon became good pals and for quite a while she was the best coiffeur I knew this side of Bond Street.!
Yes, once again the point was proved that adaptability was surely the name of the game!!
Please be reminded that I desperately need some feed-back, if your have a moment your thoughts would be truly appreciated.
ESSAY 9 Will be published next Tuesday