|Enjoyment against all odds|
1pm yesterday revealed a great disappointment. We had intended to attend the tree lighting at the Montgomerie (swanky golf club managed by swankier hotel chain The Address.) closer inspection to the website had revealed it was on the 11th, not on the 10th as I had imagined. Now WHY would they do a kiddy thing on a school night? Pain in the butt. It left me with two hyped up children hellbent on seeing Santa, demanding presents, candy canes and bouncy castles. A friend had mentioned that the Sheraton at JBR were doing a “Kids Day”, starting at 4pm. I was poor for options, and thought “it’s 5 star, by the beach, today, licensed….it will be perfect”
We should have turned away when we saw the lame Christmas train display in the lobby; carriages derailed, fake snow sullied, light globes blown, and train traveling no faster than 1km a day, even slower around corners.
We should have re-evaluated when we realised that we had to pay not only for the children, but also for ourselves. 100 dirhams each.
We definitely should have asked before we paid if we could get a drink in the cordoned area. I’m not really into fanta when I am surrounded by 400 screaming leprechauns – nerve strengthener it is not. In fact, those levels of sugar and tartrazine only serve to increase the adrenaline levels, which were already stretched to the point of psychosis.
We had been told there was no need to make a reservation. So of course this meant that although we had paid the full amount, there was nowhere to sit. We managed to find a table for four with three chairs – perfect for 7 adults and 6 children. Luckily the kids immediately threw themselves into the fray and we couldn’t even see the backs of their bouncing heads within one tenth of a second.
Within two minutes Lion had returned crestfallen. The bouncy castle smelled of poo and socks. Luckily there were camels to ride, and although they also smelt like poo and socks, they spat and were grumpy and bumpy, making for extra excitement. That was good for one minute… Then we found the falcons. But the poor birds were completely spooked and the handlers grumpier than the camels. They couldn’t take the shrouds off the birds for obvious reasons (remember the 400 screaming leprechauns,) so that was exciting for about another minute.
The “magic show” consisted of a guy dressed as a clown who was having a really hard time twisting balloons. In fact when I first saw him, he couldn’t even seem to get any air into the things. Then Barney arrived accompanied by a ghetto blaster stuffed with annoying high-pitched children. Of course it was deemed necessary to play this very, very loudly. Over and over and over. Shall I remind you that there was no alcohol being served?
For lack of anything interesting to do, my boys turned to painting, where we saw a similar seating arrangement as we did around our own table. Lion succeeded in painting six circles on a paper plate before he was ejected. Goldilocks painted the sky and his own ear.
In our boredom we turned to the buffet, seeking some value for our money. In the land of the perfect buffet that Dubai usually is, we found very mature and gourmet snacks like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, popcorn, mini pizzas and other kinds of cardboard flavored and textured delicacies. Yes, they were lukewarm… I’m sorry – There were some nice desserts there – chocolate mousse, Christmas cake and cotton candy. Goldilocks discovered the latter quite early on, and refused to eat anything else at all. At one point I found a five year old child with his face in the Stollen – doggy style. The Sheraton employees were walking past ignorantly. His parents were nowhere to be seen. I had to stop one of the staff and ask for a knife so I could cut off the tainted area and give it to him on a plate. He happily left with about half a kilo of the stuff. I decided to skip dessert as I lost my immunity to boy germs when I was twelve.
We were counting the minutes until the beach bar opened at 6pm.
Santa arrived at about 5pm. We could just hear the bell over the riot. He came encased in six layers of greedy children aged between four and forty. The Sheraton appeared quite happy with the Santa free-for-all, and allowed the melée to continue, parents reaching into the sack and taking as many presents as they could grasp before being crushed by the fray or ejected by a peculiar centrifugal force that happened to increase as the sack emptied. I’m not sure if this had an effect on Santa, who of course was in the eye of the storm, but by the time I got Goldilocks anywhere near him he was a sweaty Philipino man with skewy glasses, black hair showing everywhere, a beard with no mustache (which he had pulled up under his nose so you couldn’t see his mouth), and an empty sack. He had also lost all ability to speak English. I asked the supervisor if there would be more presents, and he stopped typing in his blackberry for two seconds to say yes. I suggested a queue next time, and he agreed that it did seem a good idea. Another mum came over to tell him that Santa sucked. He agreed with her, but said he had been chosen because he was the fattest.
Do you think they changed the gift protocol with the second sack? I’ll let you guess…. I had to send Lion in, because he has a remarkable ability to get whatever he believes is his, and will allow none to get in his path. He steamrolled all others to bring Goldilocks back a fake Barbie. Just in case you hadn’t realised, both my children are boys. The doll was wrapped in blue paper. To Hambone’s disgust, Goldilocks was thrilled with his dolly, and point blank refused to exchange with our friend’s daughter’s gift, which had been a car wrapped in pink paper.
I then broke my shoe. Of course the ground was damp and I was wearing white linen pants just a little bit too long for me.
At this point my friend and I recalled that Sheraton is part of the Starwood Hotels group, as is The Westin. Guess where we have booked to have Christmas Lunch? We had to pay three weeks ago. It was 6 times as much, and I am very, very afraid…
I also have a blog detailing my photography lessons, and it is full of beautiful images of Dubai (and some of my mistakes). See the sandpit diaries here.