Dubai mum interview

Mandy Harel just can’t get enough of Powerpoint


You’re a mum of three who’s learning web design for fun. How did that happen?
It started when I realised I didn’t know a thing about Powerpoint, which my son was using at school. I decided I’d attend some courses just to refresh and learn the new versions of certain software. I really enjoyed getting into it a lot, so I decided to try web design for beginners, which at first was quite difficult for my under-used brain, but I managed and I’m now getting busy mastering the intermediate class. ‘Empty nest’ is fast approaching – my youngest son is nine – and I don’t think I’ll handle it too well, so I may end up getting a part-time job if I can.

Is IT as nerdy as it sounds?
I don’t think it’s nerdy at all. In fact, knowing your way around technology is pretty cool. After all, everybody uses a computer these days, and life is so much easier when you know how. At first, web design is quite challenging. Actually getting to grips with it is tough. It seems a bit weird that all those codes are building a website.

What’s the attraction?
I’m a woman – so that makes me naturally curious! And I just wanted to know how it all worked. Now that I am beginning to have more of an idea, I’d like to improve my skills and maybe use them professionally one day. Right now, it’s just a really great way to give my brain some exercise.

What do your friends think of your hobby?
They think it’s great, and I am continually asked what course I’m busy with now. Hopefully I’ll be able to show them I have actually learned something soon. At the moment, I find it all quite therapeutic.

What other IT stuff have you done for fun?
I’ve done iphoto for Mac, and various Microsoft office programmes. I’d like to actually get to do the Powerpoint course – which I still haven’t got round to doing, despite it being the reason for me getting into IT to begin with! I’m also keen to attend the imovie for Mac and blogging courses. We’ll see what happens after that.

Blimey! What do your kids think? Or are they beyond you when it comes to computers?
I don’t think they’re beyond me yet, so I do come in handy when they need help with homework. I don’t look forward to the day when I will be asking for their help. It’s a reason to keep one step ahead actually!

Do you have any other geeky hobbies we should know about?
Geeky? Erm, no. I’m not into Star Trek or Dr Who, and I’m not planning on being the next Gary McKinnon (the Brit who hacked Pentagon and NASA computers). I’m quite normal really. I read a lot and like to keep fit in my spare time, so no IT geek pot belly on the horizon yet either!

Mum about town

Other people’s children are not always Christine Kempell’s cup of tea

My youngest daughter invites her new best friend round for tea. She’s a sweet little thing with angelic curls, a lovely smile and good manners. It’s all going well and they disappear upstairs giggling, leaving older sister in peace to do her homework and me free to prepare their supper. I like my kids to have a good diet. I cook fresh, homemade delights whenever the mood takes me, and even when it doesn’t, and I always make sure their play-date pals leave my kitchen having devoured something vaguely nutritious and healthy.

So after an hour of banging my pots and pans, I turn around to find the little cherub staring at my back as I stir away at the stove. ‘What are you cooking?’ she intones in her cute little sing-song voice. From this moment on it all goes downhill rapidly. I’m not dealing with just any kid here. I have before me ‘Fussy Child’.

‘Fussy Child’ does not like my painstakingly prepared offering, so I improvise, and thinking on the spot, offer her the greying fish fingers that I discover in the back of the freezer. She doesn’t like fish. She doesn’t like potatoes or pizza either, but we finally settle on something she will eat: pasta. It has to be plain pasta with no sauce, mind you, as ‘Fussy Child’ does not like sauces, or cheese, or butter, or anything else apparently.

By now, I am banging around the pots and pans just for the sake of it, and also because it offers some minor relief from my culinary frustrations.

My kids, sensing that it’s mum, and not the pasta, that’s about to boil over at any minute, are very quiet, exchanging worried glances, and tucking into their supper with over-enthusiastic vigour.

The pasta is eaten, plainly, and they happily trot off to play once more, leaving me with the dirty dishes and a welcome silence. I’ll know the next time she comes over that before she can say ‘I don’t like that’ I’ll slap that plain pasta down on the table quick as a flash, and all will be well.

We know that all kids can be awkward at times, but somehow I feel a new sense of empathy, or possibly sympathy, with ‘Mother of Fussy Child’.

Perhaps it might be an idea to ask her round for dinner..

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