Amanda is excited beyond words; she is leaving Dubai at the end of June and not returning until sometime mid-September – the longest ‘sabbatical’ she has wangled to date. Although, annoyingly, she hasn’t been able to persuade their maid to accompany her this time; Latchme has never quite recovered from the copious dog hair and freezing temperatures of the in-laws’ farm in Scotland last summer. How on earth she’s going to cope with two children on her own until her other half comes over is beyond her but she supposes that everyone has their cross to bear. However, this inconvenience hasn’t dampened her spirits enough to stop her reminding her friends exactly how many days she has left until she leaves the ghastly Dubai sauna.
It doesn’t take long nevertheless for the dream to fade. Forced to fly BA rather than Emirates, Amanda finds herself having to look after her own children for the whole flight meaning she arrives feeling like a wrung-out flannel, with a large coffee stain covering her crotch. Having looked forward to the wonderful smells of fresh nature she so misses in her own country, her senses are assaulted by the airport’s heady odour of bodily fluids while she queues for hours to be accepted into her home country. When her passport is given a very skeptical and thorough examination by a clearly eastern-European woman, it’s only the sheer size of the inspector’s girth that stops her thumping her fist on the desk and holding forth on her rights as a citizen of this country, etc. etc.
Finally Amanda is on the road and, despite waiting at a petrol station a good 15 minutes before realising she has to get out and fill the tank herself, her spirits are beginning to rise. Unaware of the many offended drivers whom she carves up, undertakes and forgets to thank for giving way, Amanda dreams about the first supermarket shop and buying all the things she’s missed for the past year. She will have to pack her own bags though, she thinks with a grimace, and considers whether she can persuade her mother and father to accompany her. Her children stare open-mouthed out of the window as the rain starts to come down – a look they will adopt for most of the summer. The novelty wears off for them fairly quickly after the first few attempts to go outside are hampered by having to spend at least ½ hour putting on damp boots, hats, coats and gloves. (They are both so scarred after the trip to the local swimming baths that all requests to go for a swim stop fairly abruptly after that).
Indeed, after only a few weeks back in her homeland, even Amanda is beginning to feel the strain. Time with both sets of parents is taking a considerable toll on her marriage and her friends’ only question about her life concerns when she is returning home and how she copes with living in such a materialistic and shallow hellhole. Amanda smiles politely but she’s miles away; she’s dreaming about returning to the sun, a celebratory mani-pedi and a welcome home hug from Latchme.