During the last few months some things I knew immediately I would miss. First, my early Friday morning visit to Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach, a weekly ritual for many years and a delightful way to start the day.
Claim your little patch of sand, lay down the beach blankets, set up the parasols and chairs, store the picnic box in the shade and listen to the wind and waves declaring softly: ‘The weekend starts here’.
But first we need to blow away the cobwebs of the working week — and earn the keenly-awaited ‘beach breakfast’ carefully prepared and packed before we left home.
While the lockdown had imposed many a restriction on movement and other personal freedoms in the UAE and around the world, it is life’s small pleasures that I have missed most of all — the one’s you take for granted until they are gone
For me that means an hour’s workout, beginning with a brisk jog along the running track while exchanging nods, smiles and the occasional ‘good morning’ with other like-minded souls. A few stretches, sit-ups and assorted exertions later and my rumbling stomach is ready to attack the breakfast box.
I usually find that the wife and her best friend have beaten me to it, already tucking in to the glutinous goodies after a strenuous session of lounging, tweeting, gossiping — and occasionally drifting off into an involuntary catnap under the gentle breeze and rapidly warming sun.
Without a care in the world
They usually leave me a crust or two before disappearing into the blue waters to swim, frolic and laugh like naughty schoolgirls — seemingly without a care in the world.
As for me, I’d content myself with my flask of coffee, my book of choice, the sun on my face and the warm glow in my heart. Several hours would pass before the heat of the sun signalled time to head off home. But not before a final walk along the beach to buy huge freshly-caught crabs straight off the boat.
Often the fisherman would see us coming — and steer the boat in our direction. We would banter and bargain and joke; the same routine every week. And we would part always with a handshake and a smile. That was our Friday morning — invigorating, refreshing, relaxing and empowering all in equal measure. So good to be alive ….
And then came coronavirus. While the lockdown had imposed many a restriction on movement and other personal freedoms in the UAE and around the world, it is life’s small pleasures that I have missed most of all — the one’s you take for granted until they are gone.
Like breathing in clean fresh air without the hindrance of a face mask; huddling round the dinner table with friends; fighting over
‘Friday’ on the sofa after returning from the beach — another little ‘marker’ in the calendar of my week.
And if Friday isn’t Friday without the beach, then Saturday is most definitely not Saturday without the sport. English Premier League Football, Six Nations Rugby, Golf, Athletics — you name it, I’ll watch it. I can even give a passable commentary on the Sumo from Japan.
Indeed, so ‘hectic’ is my Saturday viewing that I sit down on a Friday night and draw up my own sporting schedule to make sure I don’t miss a moment of the action. Yet another little ‘marker’ in the social calendar. And in the calendar of life.
For daily existence is mostly made up of these little ‘markers’ and timetables. The routines we set our lives by. Time to sleep. Time to get up. Time to head to the office. And if we’re lucky, time to relax. Work, Rest and Play. The anchors of life — all now pulled up as we struggle to stay afloat in the stormy waters of coronavirus.
Of course there are bigger long-term concerns than closed beaches and missed football matches. What will the state of the world be when the pandemic is finally under control and life returns to normal.
Or the ‘new normal’ we’ve been warned to expect. Will I still have a job? Will it pay enough to live a decent life? Will I ever have another holiday abroad?
Schooling from home, holidaying at home … we’ll all have to get used to it. Luckily, when home is the UAE; when the sun is shining almost every day of the year; when the aquamarine waters of the Arabian Gulf are within everyone’s reach; when you don’t pay through the nose to get sand between your toes, then there’s little need to fantasise over exotic foreign climes.
Friday mornings on the local beach will do me just fine.
John Finlayson is a veteran UK journalist based in Dubai