There’s a special but not that exclusive club that most Dubai male expats join once a year. It full title is the ‘Wife Away No Kids Eating Rubbish Club’, or W.A.N.K.E.R Club as it’s usually referred to here. Enrolment to the club is automatic once schools have finished and the families have departed for their long Summer break, leaving the men-folk in town.
In case you were thinking most blokes look forward to this period of separation, you’d be wrong. Anyone who has experienced it knows the novelty of having the house to yourself and the opportunity to go out socialising every night lasts about 2 days, before you realise a couple of things. First, you’re too old and boring to be out more than once a week and second, whilst the wife and kids are noisy and demanding, you quite like having them round the place.
This year, like the last two in fact, my Home Alone period has been rudely interrupted by Ramadan, which really rubs salt into the wound, compounding your boredom by turning the place into a ghost town during the day. And not just any old ghost town. Oh no, a kind of bizarre ghost town that’s been taken over by a Food & Beverage Vampire, so all the cafes and coffee shops are locked up from sunrise to sunset.
Anyway, enough context, let me provide a quick insight into four weeks Home Alone in Dubbers.
Week 1 is all about establishing your new routine and finding ways to relieve the tedium. Actually, that’s a complete lie; it’s about organising drinks with the guys that are still in town before they all start disappearing themselves.
Our big plan, formulated some weeks earlier, was a ‘3 Star session’, eating and drinking at the budget end of town. Needless to say, organising this event fell to me, which of course turned into a disaster as our gang of four was decimated when Captain Pugwash and Father Ted decided to depart Dubai early with their families. SPLITTERS!
That left just two amigos, me and Kinski, presenting a bit of a dilemma. Do you go for brunch as a twosome, taking a risk that people will think you are a gay couple (again!) or even worse, think you’ve got no mates, or do you hastily form an alliance with some other pals, forming a bigger, rowdier and (optically), less gay group?
Perhaps because I have several pink shirts, a Scissor Sisters album and obsess about my shirt and tie colours matching, I decided I’m giving out enough ‘Gay-dar signals’ and the only recourse was a hastily formed alliance. This turned out to be trickier than I thought, but after several calls and texts, followed by a ring around half a dozen venues, we were all set to go.
Go that is to Media One, a 3 star proposition with 4 star prices. 250 dirham for access to a place where the food resembles a bad day at Charnock Richard service station and the waiters look like outcasts from a Columbian drug cartel. A place where they offer a combined brunch and bedroom rate, presumably to let the party carry on swinging, or perhaps so there’s less risk you vomit in the taxi on the way home.
Nevertheless, the limited selection of ‘hops and grape based beverages’ were free flowing, our new alliance worked out well (2 lawyers, 2 bankers and an accountant – now there’s a conversation serial-killer) and despite the fact that by 4pm I could barely speak, we soldiered on and made it to The Sea View hotel.
The Sea View Hotel is a legendary Dubai establishment, with relatively cheap beer, a terrific Filipino band and a fair selection of ‘ladies of the night’, a deadly combo, looking to part you from the last of your money and a large percentage of your self-respect.
Kinski and I did our best to validate the well known hypothesis that drunken blokes are great singers and even better dancers, spending much of the night air-guitaring and head thumping to the band’s heavy rock set. If it hadn’t been that, we’d have found a karaoke bar, so perhaps the lesser of two evils.
Arriving home in the taxi I realised I was 10 dirham short of the fare, and suitably embarrassed, even through the alcohol fog, asked the driver to take me to an ATM. Bless his cottons, he wouldn’t hear of it and let me off with the difference. What a star. I felt slightly bad the next morning when I realised that one of the notes I gave him was torn in half, finding the reminder of it stuffed in my jeans. Oops, sorry mate!
Anyway my penance was the worst hangover I’ve had to endure for 25 years. Unable to move or eat, I spent the entire day prone on the sofa, watching dreadful daytime TV, but too catatonic to change channel. I plucked up the courage to eat at 6pm, bad mistake, it just lit the touch paper and I spent the rest of the evening in the bathroom (you can fill in the blanks here) vowing never to eat, drink or dance again.
A day of my life wasted and one I’ll never get back.