Saturday, 30 May 2015

Living Life on the Edge: Visiting the Dentist in Riyadh

The King’s Dentist lives down the road from us. His other title, so my early morning walking friends tell me, is the Royal Flosser. His job is to accompany the King on all his trips so that he’s on hand should there be a sudden royal dental crisis. On one hand, it sounds exotic, but I’m guessing it’s also pretty boring. A pack-a-good-book sort of job.

And talking of crises and dentists, I’ve my own story to tell, but there’s no royal dentist in my narrative. Actually, it’s really a story in three parts, or if you like three separate dental crises spread over several years.

Crisis One
To sort my first crisis out, I visited a dentist recommended by a medical clinic near where I worked. I’ll call him Mr Grumpy Scottish Dentist. I had misgivings from the moment I walked into his clinic. Firstly, the place was undeniably grubby. There was a thin sheen of dust over every surface. I could have written my name along the window sill. Minutes later, when I was prostrate in the chair, his nurse dropped an instrument on the floor, then picked it up and handed it across to him. (He was left-handed and this seemed to complicate matters enormously.) At this point, Mr Grumpy Scottish Dentist tore strips off her. It was unpleasant and unprofessional. I left soon afterwards with absolutely no intention of returning.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Just a Poem

Just a poem. Spotted on the wall of my son's classroom.

It's Lauris Edmond and I've long loved her poems, so how could I not be drawn to it and stopping in front of it, read to the very end? 

I'm as far from this Wellington harbour outlook as you could imagine, but in essence this is me. Traveller and observer.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Riyadh, Roller Coasters and One Small London Backyard

There’s a roller coaster thundering above our heads and children shrieking as it dips and dives.

No, we’re not in Disneyland, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so. This is Panorama Mall, or more precisely the food court on a Thursday night where we sit to eat before doing our weekly grocery shop. And in fact it’s not just one roller coaster that confronts us as we eat, it’s a whole line up of fun park rides.

There’s a reason for this strange juxtaposition. In other countries, malls commonly have an area reserved for cinemas. In Saudi however, public movie viewing is banned, and so malls often find themselves with an area of potentially empty space. It's a problem, but there is a solution. Firstly Saudis typically have very large families. They always visit malls and shop together. This is because Saudi women are unable to drive and so have to do pretty much everything in tandem with both husband and children. Secondly these same children cannot play outside for most of the year. It’s simply too hot and often too sandy.