So, when I came back to the land of sand with the gruesome twosome for a few weeks I was anticipating a quiet time, relaxation, no adventures and the chance to regale you all with the crazy adventures, incidents and discoveries at EIOT Towers.
But no, a matter of days in and the first land of sand adventure has befallen me and to be honest has broken me very unceremoniously back into life among the camels.
Now, I will go on to unburden myself later in today’s post with my slide down the slippery slope into the mire of being the world’s most embarrassing mother with The Strawberry Blond Hand Grenade, (TSBHG), but first I feel I must cleanse my traumatised soul with the events of this morning.
You see, as part of my endless, self-extending and potentially endless quest to leave the land of sand there is a necessity to acquire a security or police check.
This works along the same lines as a DBS, (or previous CRB check), and basically confirms that in my time in Kingdom I have behaved myself and have not been arrested or convicted of anything.
The truth of the matter is that if I had committed some heinous crime I would either have ended up in the renowned ‘Chop-Chop Square’ or deported, not running around trying to get a certificate in Arabic that says I behaved myself.
But no, in order to be squeaky clean in the employment bunfight of the UK it is a good piece of paper to have.
So, while here the plan involved getting hold of the said piece of paper.
In order to achieve this there are several hoops to be jumped through and as I am a woman in Saudi, these were initially best completed by himself.
So, on arrival the initial hoops had been well and truly jumped through, a certificate from the British Embassy was waiting for me and I was informed that I had to be in an admin office at 0730 this morning to be transported to somewhere to do something that equated to jumping through the next hoop.
Now, there are a few points here which are pertinent.
Firstly the certificate from the British Embassy. This was quite an imposing document and I have to say that with its large wax stamp on it and almost parchment feel it would have been more at home as a prop in the set of Poldark than in the 21st Century as a tool to confirm my upstanding character and clean slate.
Next there was the requirement to be in the admin office at 0730 this morning.
I do not do mornings, but I made the effort and got myself there on time, grumpily.
Thirdly, the admin office in question is a relatively long way away, beyond the first security gate therefore necessitating the need for a black abaya. The outside temperature at 0715 this morning was already 30℃ plus and in order not to cook too much cycling was much more favourable than walking.
Don’t forget that women are still not allowed to drive in the land of sand – the reasons stated include driving causing misalignment of the pelvis which then results in infertility, the vibrations of the engine may mean that the female drivers may enjoy it a little too much and finally that women driving would increase levels of female homosexuality.
So, independent travel around the compound is either on foot on on a bike.
So, cycling in an Abaya. I have done it before but for obvious reasons not very often.
Climbing onto a bike with a crossbar is not a ladylike mission in the first place but with an abaya on it is akin to a suicide mission. Get the fabric in the wrong place and you either choke as you sit down or it gets caught in the chain and the whole ensemble disintegrates.
Whichever way once you start peddling some part of it invariably gets caught somewhere and you are lucky to make it to your destination without falling off at least once.
They then billow and blow and quite frankly the whole philosophy of abayas goes out of the window and the object of the exercise is neutralised.
Anyway, I made it out of the first check point and to the bike rack miraculously unscathed, climbed off my bike as ungraciously as I got on and went to the office where I was told a driver, (or broker), would meet me.
Problem number one, the powers that be had not booked the driver.
One was hastily summoned and 45 minutes later in he strolled.
Now, I ought to point out that when himself informed me that I had to go somewhere to do something as the next stage of the process I assumed that he would take me.
That idea was quickly dispelled as I was informed by himself that I would be going with a driver and he would be at work.
Now, this did not go down well. The whole concept of me getting into a car with an unknown local with minimal english, going to a thus far unknown destination in the middle of Riyadh was a little hard to take.
But that was the case and no amount of kicking and screaming on my part was going to change it.
So, there he stood – my driver.
Now, I am trying to find a way of describing him. Firstly I feel I ought to say that I am sure that the gentleman in question was a very nice, friendly chap – but as he spoke about as much english as I speak arabic then it was hard to confirm that theory.
So, there he stood in his immaculate, white thobe with pristinely ironed keffiyah, (traditional Saudi male headwear as per the camel at the start of the post), fashioned to fall gracefully across his shoulders as all local chaps tend to do.
Lots of the local chaps have black beards and moustaches, but his goaty and tash were jet black – Grecian 2000 jet black.
His sunglasses were impressive and were the sort that underworld types in New York wear.
Yes, the truth dawned on me, I was to be driven to an undisclosed location somewhere in Riyadh by Borat.
He was chewing on his gum as we walked out of the building, me very aware that I was getting into a car with a man resembling Borat, who I didn’t know, couldn’t communicate with, in Riyadh, to an unknown destination with nobody else around.
So, off we set on our magical mystery tour, complete silence in the car except for the sound of his chomping on chewing gum and the usual sounds of travel in Riyadh, screeching brakes, yelling tyres, police sirens, prolonged use of car horns and what can only be guessed as being arabic swearing being projected out of car windows.
Now, I have to say at this point that Borat did not fall into this category and I actually felt very safe with his driving. The only occasion where he did take evasive action was unfortunately just as a took a swig out of my water bottle which resulted in an eye full of water and an almost lost contact lens – but almost is not quite and the lens stayed where it should be.
Which is quite a good job as I was desperately trying to make mental notes of our route just in case I was heading anywhere other than the location of the next security check hoop.
Today, I went to places in Riyadh that I have never been to before and quite frankly do not want to go to again and it was all a tad disconcerting.
Now, it was at this point that I iMessaged himself as I was convinced that in my best interests and safety he would be stalking me on ‘Find My iPhone’.
The text message ran as follows:
So, as you can see I really was on my own.
Anyway, after Borat stopped to ask a taxi driver where the still undisclosed destination was, we eventually made it to a building that was surprisingly bedecked with a big sign saying ‘Police Check Department’.
Borat guided me into a door and I knew that we had a problem as the sign said ‘Men Only’, but several years in the land of sand have taught me not to question the locals – especially male ones – so I was not at all surprised when a holy furore broke out when I walked in.
Yes, the frantic arm waving, gesticulation and rapid speech was reminiscent of when I innocently walked into a male only mobile phone store a few years ago.
That is another story for another day.
Anyway, Borat rapidly steered me back out with all due haste and we soon found the ‘Women’s Only’ section.
I was quite relieved when he handed me my passport and residency permit and waved me in alone.
At least if I didn’t make it home it could be evidenced that I had been there if there had been a search for me.
The next few minutes of the process were quite routine and I came back out to find Borat chilling in the car.
We set off home – this time I didn’t assume that himself was tracking me for my own good and instead followed the route on my phone as we homed in on the compound.
Relief slowly overtook me as we pulled into the first check point and then back to the admin building.
I was back.
The return journey on my bike was as tricky but uneventful as the first and I finally stumbled back into the house, sweaty and flustered not to welcome greetings from the gruesome twosome but to the question, ‘have you brought anything in to eat?…….’
I feel that I ought to say that I was clearly correct in my impression of Borat being a thoroughly good man and his driving was immaculate.
So, onto the acquisition of my position of ‘World’s Most Embarrassing Mother’
Well, what can I say, other than to a large extent I did deserve it but I do not deserve to be reminded of it on a daily basis.
I hasten to point out that this mantle is only in the eyes of TSBHG, The Small Testosterone Filled One, (TSTFO), is still in the phase where his old Mum can do no wrong and she is there to be protected and cuddled.
But yes, back to TSBHG.
Before I go any further I ought to point out that even without the enormous bloomer that I dropped, TSBHG is at ‘that’ age. Yes ‘that’ age where it is not cool to be excited, happy or any other emotional state that shows any element of positivity.
I spend my life being viewed with derision and disgust by TSBHG – something that I am told is completely normal.
We fight tooth and nail, not only because of her age but also because she is of course, a ‘mini-me’.
When I sing or dance I am abruptly told to stop – something which just makes me do it even more.
I actually think she is embarrassed by my breathing and existing on a regular basis.
Yes, she is a teenager.
So, onto my bloomer.
In true, fine educational fashion the gruesome twosome’s school puts on annual displays of thespian activity with pomp and ceremony.
These are no humorous productions on minimal budgets here, such as we had each Christmas at our school with tea-towels on heads, Grandma’s old coat as a dress and an old rug covering a bent over pupil and a papermache donkey’s head on another.
Oh no, these are grand affairs, put together by the drama teacher and to a standard that the highest level drama schools would be proud of.
So, when TSBHG auditioned for a production and was given a leading role we were delighted and proud. Needless to say we supported her and encouraged her as much as was humanly possible – even if all our efforts were greeted with a grunt and roll of the eyes.
The production was on a Monday and Tuesday evening and on the Sunday before we were informed that there was a mandatory dress rehearsal. Miss it at your peril.
Needless to say that this went down like a lead balloon with our teenage prodigy who was more than slightly miffed that her one day off of the week was to be sacrificed but tough, we had had a three line whip and she was going.
So, I dropped her off at 1200, telling her as she slammed the car door and rolled her eyes that I would be back at 1700 to collect her.
At 1650 I walked into the auditorium to be greeted by about 30 teenagers who had clearly been confined to the zone for the afternoon and were bouncing off the walls.
As I walked through the door the rather beleaguered and stressed drama teacher made a beeline for me. The conversation went along the lines of:
Beleaguered teacher: ‘Oh Mrs EIOT, I am so worried. TSBHG does not know her lines and tomorrow is the first night’
Now, it takes a bit more than that to make me panic so I calmly said that it was no problem, we would make sure all the lines were learnt that evening and all would be well.
At this point I glanced around to see TSBHG on the stage, casually kick and punch a fellow student.
That sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable in our household and I bellowed across the busy auditorium:
‘TSBHG!!!! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING????’
There was nothing subtle about this. The whole auditorium fell silent. The technician took his finger off the ON button and the music stopped. Everybody turned around and looked at me.
After what seemed an eternity of me, (the wrong person), being in the spotlight, the slightly harassed, (now even more harassed), drama teacher tapped me on the shoulder and muttered the words that will rattle around in my head forever:
‘Mrs EIOT – it is part of the play’……..
Oh no, oh dear, what a bloomer. The usual level of derision in which I am held by TSBHG was clearly sinking to a new low.
At this point the auditorium started to whirring back into life as TSBHG stomped over to me with the words, ‘we are leaving, now’
Well, to say that the journey home was frosty is an understatement.
We got back to EIOT Towers and she regaled the story to himself who actually did very well to keep a straight face and soothe her wounded pride, well to her face anyway. Away from her he rolled around on the floor laughing.
Needless to say I was not the person to go through her lines with her that evening and himself and TSBHG made a fine job of perfecting every last sentance.
My discomfort at the situation was just augmented the following night at the performance when chatting to the headmaster’s wife about my small error of judgement when she casually said, ‘oh yes, I heard about that’.
A few days later a parent made pretty much the same comment.
My descent into the dark and lonely world of parental ostracism has continued ever since with the whole seedy experience being thrown back at me on regular occasions.
Oh well, best make myself comfortable in my embarrassing mum zone, think I might be here for some time.
So, I seem to have smashed to smithereens my new principle of no extra long posts, but in my defence I was not expecting the excitement of this mornings mystery tour with Borat.
So, best I go off and attempt to instigate a conversation with TSBHG, keep an ear open for the sound of tutting, eye rolling and door slamming from the land of sand – I am sure it will be perfectly audible from wherever you happen to be in the world.