It’s retail hara-kiri at the best of times. Let alone 48 hours before Christmas, in a city brimming with tourists and visitors.
But it was my last chance, and the present was important.
Each year, on top of a Christmas bonus, I like to treat our helper Catherine the Great to some girly presents. It’s the least I can do, given how hard she works, and I also love shopping for her. Being the sole female in our household other than the cat and me, it’s the only chance I get to buy guilt-free girl stuff, usually in pink.
This year, I’d left it a bit late, and while at the Madinat Jumeriah with the children, I realised I probably wasn’t going to get another chance to buy her gift.
The kids darted through the Arabian souk, past wind towers and lantern-lit hallways. We paused briefly at a few market stalls, my eyes scanning the rows of sparkly jewellery. My fingers roamed over the rings and I picked up a couple of silver bracelets, turning them over in my palm to see the jewels catch the light.
All in about two seconds flat …
Because the boys’ hands would reach up to grab the shiniest item within touching distance. They dropped things, sent rings rolling across the floor. They knocked pots over. They put their fingers in the jars of coloured sand and it was a small miracle the souvenir bottles of sand didn’t go flying. Then someone needed a poo.
We found ourselves in one of the boutique clothing stores and I resolved to make a split-second purchase before my stress levels got too high. But then they discovered a mannequin, dressed in a floaty white cotton top.
“She’s got boobs,” announced BB to everyone around. It got worse: he cupped them in his hands. Gave them a rub, and called his brother over. “Look, boobs!”
I shooed them away, but they spotted the male mannequins, in swimming trunks. The boys peeked down their shorts to see if there was anything there (I must admit, I did ask them later: it looked like a nose, said BB).
Then, as I raced to the till with a hurriedly chosen item, BB appeared with a bikini top clutched against his chest.
“Look Mummy, boob holders,” he said loudly, with a triumphant grin that suggested he’d just invented the wheel.
I’m never taking them shopping again, I swear.