It’s the time of year when all around the compound you can see people whiter than white walking around aimlessly, some carrying a plastic shopping bag containing at most a packet of biscuits and a newspaper, the older ones often walking in twos, the younger ones alone, pushing a pram or walking slowly with a child. Worst of all is when there’s a group, like a swarm of busy bees they buzz incessantly and disrupt the nest. The first sign is that their flipflops are new, they wear sun-hats and if walking towards the pool they are carrying an oversized coloured bag which holds their sunbathing paraphernalia, you’ve guessed it, they’re the visitors!
One of pitfalls of the living in the year-round sunny Abu Dhabi is that all winter, just when the temperature cools sufficiently, to start enjoying living abroad, a trail of visitors start to trickle in. Needless to say that a portion of these visitors are so welcome, however, it’s the fraction that arrive in Abu Dhabi after a dubious invitation at the barbeque in Ireland the summer before that make any expat shudder. A living consequence of having a big mouth and a generous heart, it only stands to reason that when you’re extending free bed and board to just about every second, friend, acquaintance and casual by-passer when in Ireland that someone is going to snatch the offer and pack their bags quicker than you can say, “maybe next year would be better”.
So it starts, you vow that they can do their own thing, fix their own breakfast, lunch and partake in what you’re having for dinner, but it doesn’t work out like that, does it? A side-effect of being Irish means you cannot ignore an opportunity to accommodate, hospitality runs in our veins and selflessness seeps from our very pores. Three days later you’re lining up the cereals and fresh croissants in an accessible row on the worktop in continental display on par with a Radisson hotel, and fresh out of ideas for lunch, as they don’t like tomatoes and won’t eat anything other than Irish ham ( which incidentally they didn’t bring). Dinner proves another stumbling block as Izzy doesn’t like onions in her bolognaise and Mommy doesn’t eat red meat so in the absence of tasty tofu or a personal chef it’s at this point you decide that tour-guide would be an easier position than Bean an Ti and with that you rev up and trek around Abu Dhabi in an effort to pass the remaining days without having the urge to knife one of the guests.
You try as best you can to sell the sights of Abu Dhabi as must-see sights but as most of the sights are without a gift shop or ice cream stand it’s not always easy. Let’s face it when you visit Bunratty, Blarney or Birr, you lengthen the visit with a trip to the giftshop and then the suggestion of an ice-cream adds on another half hour as you won’t let the kids back in the car until they’re finished dripping their cones. With a notable lack of enthusiasm at the Abu Dhabi tour you decide to venture to Dubai, at this stage you become hell bent on evoking reaction from the weary travelers. Jaw-dropping architecture on a giant scale along with obvious and opulent wealth do nothing for these visitors, as they enquire where they could get a sandwich and a coffee. Mentally noting that wherever they’d get it in Dubai they would have to pay for it, unlike the free silver service they availed of all week at my house. I use the term loosely.
The eve of their departure and already I could feel the tension fizzle out, this time tomorrow we’d be back on terra firma, hotdogs for tea and ice-cream cake for dessert, yahoo. My week was done and searching for some kind of gratitude or appreciation I asked the question, “so did you enjoy your holiday?”, I nestled back and waited for the compliments to wash over me and the response was, “Ya, but it was a bit hectic, we just like hanging around by the pool and stuff, we’re looking forward to getting home and having egg and chips for tea and chilling out in the front of the telly for an evening”. Lovely.