Essay 08 – Apartment 603

May 11, 2014

by — Posted in Dubai

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.



sad sun flower
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, 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.bridge pic 3

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.

under the table 2

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 invitationto 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.indian memsahibs

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.more memsahibs

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.!bombay beauty 1

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


21 thoughts on “Essay 08 – Apartment 603

  1. Most enjoyable reading, Jan. And the little cartoons are perfect. All the while I am reading your wanderings I am saying to myself” been there, done that”.
    For me , on our arrival, I think I tried to emulate the Raj days——a romantic notion I have had for many a year despite the many hardships the Memsahibs suffered. To this day I still have the ” head wobble”
    What a pity that Dubai has changed so much. Of course, it had to happen but I am glad that we lived in the old “Dubay”.
    Look forward to your next account. X

    1. Hio Jane – From one Memsahib to another!!! Ho Ho – Yes, those were the days, so glad you continue to enjoy my musings – Do The Javea lot know? ie Tynes, Robsons etc.,?
      If not can you do the honours for me? Need to gather a very large following!!!!
      Chat next week. xxxx

      1. Alas, Jan. The Javea lot. “Don’t do Face Book”. They don’t know what they are missing.
        I don’t know what their objection is but, there it is.

  2. Love all tour essays Jan, my only criticism is they are too short! Yours (waiting in earnest for next Tuesday) Alison

    1. Thanks Alison for those kind words – Just keep reading and please tell your friends, I need a big band of merry ‘folk’ as followers!!!!!

      So pleased you would like more, but need to keep you in suspense!!!!!!!
      By the way where are you in this big wide World of ours?

  3. Really enjoy your recounts, I’m a new Dubai bod (8 years), but enjoy reading about the beginnings of Dubai. Look forward to the next wee chapter 🙂

    1. Hello Jan – I’m so glad you are enjoying my tales, my goodness ‘my Dubai’ is light years away from yours, a little bit of both would have been lovely!!!

      At least we paved the way – But please tell me how have you found your way there? Are you enjoying yourself? and from my point of view most importantly how have you stumbled upon My Blog?
      Can you spread the word for me as I’m finding it difficult being the Author and the Publicist at present!!!! Look forward to hearing from you Jan

      1. Hi Jan,
        I stumbled upon Dubai during a holiday, when I just happen to go for an interview with a friend and they offered me a job too! I’m about to start my third teaching job in Dubai so I feel I’m part of the place, so I definitely enjoy it. Even though I see how things have changed in the relatively short time I have been here, I’m am completely captivated by the original Dubai and have taught what information I have found out about old Dubai to Emirati children I teach. So I love reading stories such as yours. My father also has a fascination for Dubai after each annual holiday, he prepares informative talks at home on the history of the UAE. So he has started reading your blog too, but it will try to share amongst more friends too!

        I’m not sure where I found your blog, I think either through expatwoman or Dubai confidential at a guess.
        Well I look forward to your next essay!
        Many thanks,

  4. I’m really enjoying your essays but I thought you you ended up being a good Bridge player.
    It really was a challenge to get settled in and organised, especially as you arrived in the summer.
    It will be great to hear about when you find some real friends.

    I feel as if you are chatting to me personally about your time in Dubai and you sound just as funny as in real life!! I’m looking forward to reading the word «fruitcake» somewhere.

    Keep up the great Blog.

    1. Valerie – Thank you for your lovely comments!! Oh. Fruitcake!! had slipped my mind – Can you give me a clue? Did I call everyone Fruitcake in those days??

      What ever it obviously made a big impression!! Are you in touch with Elaine? If so how about sending it to her. xxx

  5. I can’t remember all the comments that Jan asked me to make on the site, I’ve been sharing them direct with her! I remember her and Mike (or should it be Mike and her??) being called the Constabubbles by a lot of us! I’m throughly enjoying them all – Jarmans were in Dubai from 1968 – 2002 and the early days were definitely the best.

    One of my early memories (I still shudder at the humiliation!) was being briefed by my Parents on procedure for going to a Party at Khalifa al Nabooda’s house…..long dress, arms covered and when asked what I wanted to drink – a soft drink…..I was 18yrs old! I complied and yes! all other non Muslim ‘girls’ were wearing mini skirts and drinking alcohol!

  6. Hi Jan ..I discovered your blog today and have had great fun reading your posts about the Dubai of the past….I currently live and work in Dubai, clearly a vastly different city from the one you encountered all those years ago!
    I have been living here for 15 years and while it certainly was no real hardship in those early years, it was very different from the city in the sand it is today…I have seen so much change since arriving here at the end of 1999 and not all of it good!
    I have really loved reading your musings because they remind me a lot of some of my feelings and emotions about living here back then…I look forward to hearing more …

    1. Hi There, Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on ‘my musings’, I don’t know your name?

      Yes, even in the time you have lived in Dubai it has changed, but as you are beginning to find out not as much as in ‘my’ day.

      Essay l9 was posted today – I do so hope that you continue reading them and please tell your chums, if you would.

      I see your are on wordpress and have a notebook? I am seeking people to spread the word!! Speak soon, I hope Jan

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