Friday morning disappears in a haze of hangovers, 'nippers' (Lion's activity with other Aussies on Umm Suqeim beach on Fridays) and shopping for obscure ingredients for the following day's adventure in dining. I find myself falling out of a taxi into extreme afternoon heat on Palm Jumeirah in a bundle of noodles, towels, tangles of goggles, squeaky rubber rings and all manner of buckets and contraptions. Bloody hell, I forgot the bleeding present.
There is a three second reprieve from the heat as we walk through the foyer, but we are greeted again with Dubai's favorite hair-dryer in the face weather as we stumble through the opposite doors. I catch my reflection before I shove the doors open, and with my burden of primary coloured contraptions I look like some kind of mutant irradiated giant squid. Earlier, I had put on earrings and makeup, but already the foundation is dripping into my cleavage and one earring is gone - probably in the cab, or dangling off the end of a piece of floaty foam.
We're late. There are already dozens of kids in the pool, but it's hard to tell how many - in typical child-pool relationships, all I can see is bums, half of which have one cheek hanging out of the swimming costume. The noise is cacophonous. Scream, yelp, whoop, splash, waahh, crack, bounce, wheeeee, whoosh, smash, cough, thud. And yet, above all, I can hear Lucrecia, a broken record, "NO! Stop that! Put that down! Sharing is caring!"
I head for the bar.
This haven is also not silent, full of topless men 'Corr'ing and guffawing into their pints. In typical western fashion, we have battle of the sexes - the females try to keep their children alive in the face of certain peril, and the males try to sink as much beer as possible before the respective female elevates her hand in SOS fashion. If the men are fortunate enough to be slurring their words by this stage, they will be able to escape child minding duty, and possibly even an early start on Saturday. The payment is having to apologize profusely, deal with rolling eyes and nagging, but it's probably worth it. Hambone has left me to fend for myself on this occasion, pleading unfinished work at the office. Yeah, right.
I notice none of the other women are drinking (yet) so I ask for my scotch and dry in a tall glass. I can pretend that I too can enjoy a day such as this sans alcohol. The yummy mummies are bikini-clad and lined up along the wide top step, pretty derrieres just grazing the water, long brown legs angling onto the second or third step, a foot occasionally lifted to inspect the pedicure on their un-bunioned tootsies. They recline back on elbows, keeping their tanned midriffs free of unsightly creases, and chat about schools, maids and handbags.
I sit, fully clothed beside like-sized mothers, these are the ones I relate to. We also pretend to take an interest in the children, but like all the others, are in fact doing the very best we can to disappear into our happy place. I have a reverse "Twinings" moment, where I make it unfortunately obvious that I thought a friend was not pregnant, therefore inferring I had believed she had just got quite fat, or that she was already too fat for me to notice. This is in fact untrue, I had never really checked her out that well, but people tend to cringe when I start on "your beauty is on the inside" stories. I refrain from digging myself further into a hole and shift position to the baby pool.
While Goldie is terrorizing smaller tots, particularly one which is subjected to constant ball-bouncing on the head, I look astern to find Lion vamoosing out of sight around the corner. Mischievous little so-and-so. I immediately leave the alcoholic drink within reach of 15 small hands, and career after him, screaming like a harpy and dragging a flailing and highly disappointed Goldie in my wake. Of course everybody in the vicinity except the intended recipient notices my voracious one-sided discourse.
I finally catch up with him, and discover that he is at the tail end of a conga line of naughty eight year old girls sidestepping out on a ten cm wide ledge that is 4 meters above some very hard brick flagstones. I ask the leader: "Does your mother know you are here doing this Tabby?"
I get the look I used to give my mum when I was 15. "Yes."
"Fine. Go ahead then. Lion, I expressly forbid you to kill yourself. If I find you on this ledge I am going to pull your pants down in front of all these girls and spank your bare bum. Tabby, have fun breaking your legs." I am not going to discipline other people's children. I have a hard enough time stopping my own kids from having fun.
Now, where's my drink?
By now, the 6 year old boys have invaded the baby pool, and the little ones are either face down in tears on the side, or piffing missiles from behind their mothers skirts beyond the wet edge. I find my drink, but it tastes of chlorine and cooties. Lucrecia is still in the pool, now simply tipping buckets of water over the head of any child who gives her lip. The eight-year-old girls are taking this one step further and dunking anyone and anything that gets in their way. The nine-year-old boys have snuck around the corner to tell penis jokes and attempt dangerous jumps. There are at least three children crying uncontrollably, but none of them are mine, so I order another drink. The life guard sits statue-still in his tower, gazing over the mayhem to the hazy Burj al Arab on the horizon. He has obviously found HIS happy place...
Finally we get the summons "FOOD!"
25 children launch out of the pool in a tidal wave and over to tables of sweeties and pizza. Goldilocks emits a battle-cry and forces himself through the fray of larger bodies to the bowl of mini marshmallows, which he proceeds to force in fist-sized lumps into his hungry mouth. Lion arrives three seconds too late, and there is only one slice of pizza left. Goldilocks opens his mouth and kindly offers Lion some marshmallows that are now looking like a tennis-ball sized wad of unicorn poop that refuses to be swallowed.
Lucrecia shakes her voluptuous booty to something upbeat and sickening from The Wiggles, and all join in 'Musical Statues'. The big kids pretend they don't like it, but are experts. They whine when they are eliminated for the slightest twitch while the three year olds stay in despite obvious lack of rhythm and reflexes. In the end, Lucrecia is surrounded by a group of hot and grumpy mini complainers, all of which think they deserve to win. She sighs, not for the first time today, and everybody gets a prize.
I sit in the shadows trying to delve inside myself for inner cool, but cannot find it. The heat is unbearable. It's sticky and still, and I wish I'd brought my bathers, even though I'd have to wave my dimpled white butt in front of all those nymph-like bodies and risk unsightly pool-hair. As it is, my face is melted off completely, and my hair has curled in the humidity to the point where I look like I have two little horns protruding from my temples. As Hambone finally arrives (with the forgotten present), I decide to act like the devil I look, and have another glass of Chardonnay. He asks why I'm not swimming in this heat, and I try to explain the large amount of people and my ugly bottom, and he glares at me like the idiot I am.
At 5pm the cake arrives. It's a masterpiece of pink, girly fluffiness - a princess, complete with a de-legged barbie thrust in the top. Goldilocks thinks it is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. Lucrecia has finally attired herself in a towel of the Australian flag, and fends off the mosh-pit of children developing around her, just for the amount of time it takes Angel to blow out the candles and the rest of us to sing a particularly un-gorgeous version of Happy Birthday. Then it implodes like a reverse volcano, occasionally throwing up an arm loftily bearing a plate with its prize of cake. Goldilocks manages to get a piece against all odds, and eats only the frosting - delegating the rest as 'Mummy's cake'. Nummy.
Today we are fortunate, and Lion is tired and wants to go home. This saves all levels of bribes and unhappiness at the exit (I have found that party bags just don't cut it any more - our spoiled children seem to need more than we did to keep them happy). We say goodbye and thank Lucrecia for putting up such a wonderful show. We apologize for the lack of conversation. I feel guilty. I could have helped a little more, especially when she was tipping water on the kids heads. But then again, I did my party miles in March, and will do so again in October. I can tell you now, it won't be a pool party.
...Maybe a sleep over....?
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