Pale grey misty clouds lay over the sleeping city. They formed layers interspersed with rosy-pink sky, like the tiers of an elaborate wedding cake. The sun emerged from this canvas, rising slowly, enjoying its moment in the spotlight as cameras clicked all around. The sky was soon filled with bright blue; the temperature already rising, the sunrise show over, for today at least.
Nothing. No planes, no cars, no machinery. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been surrounded by such peace, alone with my thoughts. Not quite alone though; there was the sweet song of the blackbird, the mooing of cows from a distant farm, the breeze through the apple blossom trees. I shared the quiet evening with a bird of prey, far overhead, surveying the resting valley. What a view she must have; a patchwork of fields of green and yellow, dotted with plump white sheep, cows and horses like daisies in a meadow. It was one thing to drive through this bucolic landscape, it must be incredible to see it from above.
Rice. It was the only thing on my mind as I pushed through the crowds, past the many markets stalls, past the vendors selling spicy noodle broth and skewered meat, as great vats of hot oil bubbled next to them. Lunchtime, and everyone except me seemed to be stuffing their face with something good. “Rice”. I demanded of a stall owner, “plain, white rice, do you have any?” She glared at me and shook her head. I moved on, trying one vendor after the other. No one would oblige, I was shooed away by everyone, it was as if I’d said a bad word. Hungry and confused, I marched on, a woman possessed. I knew what I had to do.
November. Its raining. The lawn is a soggy mess, the floors are stained with paw prints. One month till Christmas, thoughts turn from stocking fillers to sunshine. Its the usual dilemma; where to go for some winter sun without breaking the bank? Without enduring long haul flights, jet lag and mosquitoes? We thought long and hard about Florida, but in the end looked towards the Middle East. Oman? Still too expensive. Dubai? Overcrowded and overrun, right? Then we chanced upon a deal to Ras al-Khaimah, Dubai’s next door neighbour and fellow Emirate.
The snow had fallen hard all night. By morning all my worries on the drive over were put to rest- there was more than enough snow to ski! Strapping on ski boots, fitting those helmets, trudging down the road with that funky walk unique to winter sport (think of a drunk lizard). First up on the first lift.
Prune jumped out of the Audi’s boot. She pricked up her ears, taking in the sound of leaves rustling in the light breeze, the call of a blackbird perched in a cherry tree. Her nose twitched, distracted by the scents in the warm air. Then her face broke into a smile and her tail swept back and forth ferociously. She remembered this place! Her emotions mirrored mine- if I had a tail I’d have wagged it too. It was a beautiful July day and we were back in the Loire- our favourite place in France.
A motorbike pushed its way through the traffic. Another followed, then another. Some had the whole family on board. A man carried two goats under each arm on another. A small car decided to follow the motorbikes, forming an 8th lane where there was space for two. The pretty face of a Bollywood actress smiled down from a billboard, urging us to drink Coca Cola. Kids sold cheap plastic toys whilst the light was red and a cow blocked the road when it turned to green, to be met by a chorus of hoots and horns. We sped off, into the chaos, our windows open, the car soon filled with fumes and warm tropical sunshine.