I remember my last week in England like it was, well, last week. It was a little frantic. Things began calmly enough – the casual mention over breakfast of a need to commence packing, a cursory check in the cupboard to make sure the suitcase hadn’t been stolen, that sort of thing – and culminated in a mad dash through Selfridges purchasing a suitcase (it had been stolen), shorts, sun cream, sunglasses, T-shirts, a hat, a map of Dubai, a book on Dubai and, quite by accident (it’s amazing what you will buy in a panic), a small haggis.
My partner, of course, was better prepared. She had packed some time last September, dedicating the remainder of the winter to ‘looking smug’, and used the time I spent sweating on Oxford High Street to calmly peruse the January sales.
But of course she’s English (I have a Glaswegian dad, making me officially British) and the English don’t do ‘rushing’. Sunday roasts, cricket, a Bond movie and an afternoon nap? Yes. Dashing about like a lunatic? No. Which is why Dubai, an emirate that strictly adheres to the policy ‘if it can’t be done in five minutes, it can’t be done at all’, can come as something of a shock to the brilliantly ill prepared (that’s me, in case you’re wondering). It’s a city whose inhabitants resolutely refuse to stand still for more than three minutes. Take the famous weekend buffet for example; from what I can tell (and I did some fairly extensive research last Friday), it involves running to a line of food, loading the plate, sprinting back to your table, demolishing the contents and charging back again. It’s not just food, either: hotel bars are heaving with people on their way to other bars. Impatient taxi drivers beep their horns if you stop walking for even a second, and shopkeepers insist on following you around stores, forcing you into a demeaning ‘no thanks, I’m just looking’ semi-jog. There’s even a sign outside my apartment that says ‘no sleeping’. It’s probably a warning for the construction workers, but I have a sneaky suspicion the entire city has taken it literally.
Where does all this energy come from? It can’t be the sun, because I’ve been to California and the people there only move when physically prodded. Whatever it is, it’s a) giving me a slight headache, and b) is worryingly addictive. Yesterday, for reasons I still can’t explain, I went for a run. Today, I quite fancy a jog around the Marina. If you see me, stop and say hello, as I don’t know anyone here yet. But a word of warning: I’ll be moving fast.