‘North or South Island?’
‘I was thinking South,’ he said sagely. ‘Just imagine it. Stunning landscapes, peace and quiet – a place for the boys to learn all about the wonders of nature… We could run a B&B. You could make breakfasts while I could teach courses…’
There was a thoughtful pause as I digested this, and then, ‘But I thought you said New Zealand was too cold, too remote, too full of bumpkins and too far away from home? What’s brought this on?’
‘Oh, well, I was chatting to Pete the other day – you know, Irish Pete? Married to Cath, with two small kids…’
Oh yes – Irish Pete.’ I did vaguely recall him.
‘Well, he’s gone and got himself a place on the South Island; lots of land and nice house.’
‘Ahhhh.’ I knew where this was going…
‘He’s planning to breed Alpacas apparently,’ continued DH, now warming to his theme. ‘He was showing me some pictures on his iPhone. It looks idyllic.’
And that was how our latest discussion on ‘leaving Dubai’ began. You see, DH and I have now totted up a collective 30 years of Dubai life between us. And as a result, we go through intermittent phases where we decide we’ve been in the UAE far too long, and that it’s time to move on.
Trouble is, we’re not sure where we want to go….
For example, a few years ago, we discussed the possibility of the US. I got very excited about it – especially when the housing market collapsed. I spent weeks signing up to real estate websites so I could get all their property price updates. ‘Look babe, we could buy a seven bedroom mansion in Malibu – with 20 bathrooms, for $2.50! Don’t ya just love foreclosures?’
‘Malibu? Are you sure?’ asked DH suspiciously. He was used to me crapping on about cheap houses by now, but this one caught his interest.
‘Yes! Take a look if you don’t believe me!’
So he did, and he pointed out that I was actually looking in the postal district of Malibu County, Iowa – and not California at all. The same-sized property in the real Malibu, we then discovered, was still selling for a healthy $20 million. I was gutted.
Then we discussed Canada – a place we’ve both visited. ‘It’s too cold,’ said DH. ‘Can you imagine spending eight months of the year wearing three pairs of socks? And if it’s not cold, it’s either raining or its burning hot.’
‘The children will learn to ski, and snowboard and ice skate! It’s green – and they will still get enough vitamin D,’ I protested. But even I knew, with our now-thinned, heat-shedding blood, that we’d be frozen solid – let alone fed up before the week was out.
‘How about France then?’
‘Can’t stand the French,’ he said (I’m inclined to agree – and only suggested it to be facetious). ‘How about Italy though?’
‘They can’t speak English. They shout ‘buddabing!’ all the time. And they’re really disorganized unless they’re in the Mafia,’ I pointed out.
And so it continued, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
‘What about St Helena – that tiny volcanic Island in the middle of the Pacific? We could go all eco-watsit and self-sustaining and we’d survive a third world war because everyone would forget the island was even there. We’d be like the new Adam and Eve.’ By now, I was quite excited.
But DH had got there first. ‘I already researched it,’ he said. ‘They have an issue with alcoholism because everyone’s so bored. And the land is barely arable, which means 80 per cent of their food has to be imported. We’d all starve within weeks if the rest of the world exploded.’
‘Oh.’ Then, ‘Australia? We love Australians – and Jacobs Creek. The sun shines, the schools and hospitals are great, the land is cheap, the scenery is spectacular…’
‘And I’m not a plasterer or a plumber, so that’s not going to work either,’ DH gently reminded me, mid-flow. Oh yes, that’s right. We’d already investigated Australia several times during other ‘phases’.
So I thought for a while, processing the situation and then came up with the latest solution. ‘I know!’ I shouted joyfully, clicking my fingers for added effect, ‘Let’s set up an ostrich farm in New Zealand, run it for a few years, sell it at a huge profit, and buy our way into Aus!’
‘Now why didn’t I think of that?’ said DH. But his sarcasm was lost on my current state of excitement.
‘Ostrich is like the new crocodile!’ I continued, completely unperturbed. ‘Why I saw an ostrich skin bag in Galleries Le Fayette only the other week with a price tag of Dhs60,000! Even Victoria Beckham has one!’
I immediately googled ‘Ostrich farming, New Zealand’ and couldn’t believe my luck.
‘See!’ I squeaked at DH, as though I was proving the existence of Father Christmas, ‘Ostriches are the new super-livestock! You can raise them anywhere – even in Alaska (if you put tights on them). They’re more randy than rabbits and their meat is fast becoming the new ‘thing’ too, because it’s like beef, only it’s good for you and the environment. Apparently, ostriches don’t fart as much as cows. You can sell their eggs, their feathers and after that, you can turn them into It Bags! It’s brilliant!’
‘You’re forgetting one main component,’ said DH slowly.
‘What?’ I asked, ready to argue myself blue.
‘I’m bird phobic,’ he said. ‘And don’t even begin to try and persuade me that ostriches are different. Just look what happened to Rod Hull!’
I sighed, because once more, the wonderful dream was over. It was true. And there was no way around it. While DH will happily climb stupidly high ladders, smash gigantic cockroaches, put up shelves in the blink of an eye, clean up dog whoopsie without a murmur, and even get up in the night to see to sick children, just the thought of spending any time with one of our feathery friends, literally leaves him reeling.
‘Well,’ I said in a defeated manner, ‘you think of something then.’
So he did. ‘Look babe, why don’t we just stay where we are? The weather’s pretty good, the crime rate is low, the schools are great, we’ve got the beach, our friends, a nice house, we’re not too far from home, and we’re making a living… What’s not to like? Why rock the boat?’
Never ones to break from tradition, we’d completed the ‘let’s leave Dubai’ phase in the usual manner, and come full circle.
But I’m not quite ready to give up on my ostrich skin It Bags just yet. And that’s the wonderful thing about Dubai, because it really is a land of opportunity. Paul McKenna will be out here again soon. And when he does next appear, DH will be getting a front row seat, with a volunteer stage pass and a special request, whether he wants one or not….