I would never have thought that our newly acquired abode, Flat 6O3 Almulla Building, Creek Side Dubai would ever have been considered home but it just goes to show how wrong one can be. Although it was a brand new building and at first sight not at all welcoming, the prospect of ever calling it home seemed far from our thoughts, how wrong one can be – Given a little time it came up trumps and did us proud.The building was set adjacent to the Creek with the Dhows and their occupants our closest neighbours, as one would say, just over the road. Sure don’t think I could ever have borrowed a pound of sugar from these neighbours but maybe a goat on the hoof, what an intriguing thought. I am quite sure they would have cooked it for me too!
Outwardly the building was hardly attractive; it appeared to be built of something akin to breeze blocks in unforgiving battleship grey and surely built to last. Under normal circumstances it would not have warranted a second glance but these were early days in Dubai as far as construction was concerned and at that time there was no hint of the building boom that would be unleashed a few years hence. In Wild West terms the ‘gold rush’ had not yet begun!
The building’s saving grace was it’s imposing entrance decked out in marble, no expense spared here, with vast steps leading up to the lifts. Along side the lifts lay the Farash’s quarters, actually a hole in the wall, in a more up market environment he would have had the grand title of Doorman resplendent in a smart uniform but this was Dubai so his attire, yes, you have guessed was a dish dash and his name was Mohammed, what a surprise.
As we were soon to discover our neighbours were garnered from far and wide, a veritable united nations, British, Pakistanis, Indians, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians and Americans, what a mix. As they were all in Dubai on business they mostly spoke English with a few exceptions – It should be pointed out that in those days English was the language of choice in the business community.How could one be neighbourly under these circumstances, a conundrum – We were all very polite to each other when meeting in the lift whilst going about our business but that was the some total of any interaction.
This stiff upper lip approach needed jazzing up, or so we thought, consequently Mike and I had a bright idea to invite the ones that we could communicate with to a little soiree. Gosh we were so daft it never crossed our minds that their tipple might just be water or fruit juice, just how naïve could one be.
The initial exercise proved quite easy, invited the guy on the top floor, who turned out to be a Scot and was the General Manager of Almulla’s Construction Company another British couple, then Indian’s who had come up from Aden and were running a very successful Trading Company and also a very fine Lebanese Gentleman who was with a Lebanese Catering Company, these were just a few on our ‘hit list’
The evening duly arrived and whilst we were awaiting the first guests there was a power cut, what a catastrophe. Mike ended up banging on people’s doors, candle in hand, to be met by men wearing only underpants, too hot and breathless to speak, the heat was truly unbearable, may be 4O-45c (not funny). So that put paid to what we thought was a very good idea, our ‘breaking the ice’ party would have to be put on hold.
The outcome though was most unexpected as the Scottish guy on the top floor was undeterred by a little heat and hurtled down the stairs behind Mike to claim his Scotch. Whilst with us he said he needed a secretary and would I be interested – Hadn’t had such a good proposition in ages and there and then a deal was struck.
They say every cloud has a silver lining and who would have thought that what started out as such a monumental flop the evening should have had such an amazing ending, for me at least, but not too sure about my new Boss, because he had no idea just what he had let himself in for,
I was invited down to see the Office the following day, I say down because I could have rolled out of bed and flopped into the typist’s chair with ease as the Office was just three floors below, on the first floor of this illustrious building.
Mohammed Almulla was a man of many talents; in fact, he owned a Construction Company and also a Trading Company. I was assigned to a dingy office in the back apartment which was home to the construction Company and for some unknown reason also home to lots of Indian Clerks, all busy tapping away at calculators – This was a little like a scene from a James Bond movie but I sure wasn’t going to be a match for Pussy Galore!.
The Boss’s Office was duly located, on entering there was a desk on the left on which stood the largest typewriter I had ever seen – It was an electric IBM, in those days, state of the ark, but oh dear I was only used to the ‘steam’ variety. I stared on in horror how was I ever going to make that thing come to life let alone make it write a letter. To me it looked as if it had just landed from outer space – Oh My God, should I make a dash for it now.
The Boss’s office was straight ahead through a glass petition, horror of horrors he would be able to watch my ever move. So this hole in the wall was to be my new home from 8-l2 six days a week, in Dubai parlance this was called progress.
I elected to start the following Saturday, and was up bright and early all set for my new challenge. Having run the gauntlet through the Office where all the Indians were focused on their calculators, retreated behind the IBM, no sign of the Boss so thought I better try and become acquainted with my new electric friend or more to the point enemy.
I will be honest I had no idea on God’s earth how to make the bloody thing work – What ever I prodded or did there was no sign of life, even standing on my head didn’t work!. I was paralysed with fright and when the Boss asked me in for dictation I nearly fainted because I had omitted to explain that my shorthand left a lot to be desired and only if he dictated slowly would I be able to cope!! Dictation over I retreated to my position behind the monster becoming more and more frantic because I couldn’t get it to fire up. In the end had to admit defeat and explained that obviously the typewriter was broken and needed fixing before play could begin!
A mechanic eventually appeared on the scene to declare in a very loud voice, no wonder it wont’ work it’s not plugged in!! I hung my head in shame and realized I had to make amends swiftly and get these letters typed in double quick time – Yes, there was another problem once fired up I couldn’t control the machine it kept running away with me, the letters dashing and dancing all over the page, what was I to do – This did seem like such a good idea a few days ago but I now wasn’t too sure!!
Please note that Essay l6 will be published on Tuesday l5th July
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