AFTER A DELIGHTFUL, IF SLIGHTLY INTENSE, WEEK, Ma and Pa Phillips have departed the sandpit and made their merry way back to south London’s comforting array of Toby Carveries, sunbed shops and Brutalist 1960s architecture. And I have to admit – I’m a bit jealous.
It was, on the whole, a rather more successful trip than the last, which shall be remembered as the time when we all got food poisoning the same day that my flat flooded and I had to squeegee water out of all the rugs using rogue DVD cases and my feet. I felt so sorry for myself after that, that I crawled into bed with my parents. Dubai ain’t all glamour, folks, let me tell you.
The bar, then, was set pretty low, meaning that this visit was comparably the dream holiday. From Ravi’s finest to jaunts up the Burj Khalifa, we gadded blithely about town, high fiving ourselves after every meal that our stomachs had managed to hold up as well as the weather. And even though my dad woke me up at dawn every morning demanding a laminated schedule for the day ahead, and even though my mum kept insisting, irrationally, that I buy more towels, I absolutely loved having them here.
I’m pretty sure they did too, returning home a bit happier, a bit fatter, a bit pinker, and with enough holiday snaps to make Barbara next door incandescent with envy. Or boredom. Maybe both. What Barbara won’t see, however, is the slightly weepy aftermath of them leaving. Or the slightly weepy aftermath that comes whenever they leave.
That’s the bit that Instagram never shows your mates back home. That it’s hard. Hard to be away from your mum and your dog and your stupid brothers. Hard to sometimes, against all your better judgement, really miss the rain. And equally hard to have family and friends descend on you here, in your newfound, independent space, throwing around judgement on your ex- pat life willy-nilly, punctuating it only to ask when you think you’ll come home.
Unless they’ve experienced it themselves, other people will never quite grasp the heaviness that comes from a divided life. And that’s fine. They’re not meant to understand. They’re meant to carry on leaving incredulous comments on our social media posts.
Of course, this is a very Dubai predicament to have. Specifically for the millennials among us who are guilty of thinking that life should be nothing but plain sailing. Woe is me. I’m so misunderstood up here in my ivory tower. The air in my 72nd-floor penthouse is so very, very thin. Sometimes it takes forever for my Urban Bistro delivery to get here in the lift. Wail.
But all brattishness aside, though, it’s still very much the unavoidable truth that for every brunch and for every beach day, the constant threat of homesickness looms like a dark cloud in Dubai’s otherwise perfect sky. If you don’t count the cranes, anyway. That sometimes – not all the time, though, let’s not be crazy – we’d swap the rooftop hob-nobbing for a dirty fry-up that costs a fiver, or one of those idyllic, freezing cold but sunny days where you feel compelled to go outside and do something wholesome involving walking, knitwear and a massive pie.
No, unless they’ve experienced it themselves, other people will never quite grasp the heaviness that comes from a divided life. And that’s fine. They’re not meant to understand. They’re meant to carry on leaving incredulous comments on our social media posts, making sure that we remember exactly how jammy we are.
And we are, you know. Not that I need to remind you. You probably have a brunch or a boat lined up for this weekend. It’s this that a girl I went to school with sent me a message about last week, just in time to rescue me from the doldrums of missing home. She told me she regularly stalks me on Insta, showing her colleagues what ridiculous thing I’ve been up to in what ridiculous outfit. I told her that it’s a veneer; a highly filtered version of events. “Filter or no filter,” she wrote, “we went to the Harvester last year for my birthday. That, vs. a boat party…”
That’s the good thing about home. Sometimes, it can slap you in the face and remind you that you’re being an idiot for not loving every single second of being here.