Another month has darted past, tail feathers sticking up and sashaying off into the distance. It’s been a mixed one – none of the late summer narcissism of September’s hedonistic timetable and just a touch of wintry pubbiness. My writing seems to have slipped backwards whilst my mind hums and whirrs, plotting and planning the not too distant future. As cold, long nights creep up, visions of sunkissed skin, warmth and beaches seep into the most mundane errands – a move towards the equator feels more necessary than ever.
But there’s something so deliciously comforting about being holed up in a pub for hours, drinking red wine and enjoying simple pleasures that makes the onset of winter actually quite a pleasing time. I know there’s more to winter than pubs, but they are so integral, so homely and so unique in their British ubiquity that they are the one thing expats always mention when asked what they miss most about home. Especially as you can’t get away with lazing around in a pub, drinking, debasing politicians, mocking economists and flirting with the opposite sex in so many exotic, far-flung outposts – and, scarier, in many new ‘global hubs’.
The pithy little epithet ‘Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai or Goodbye’ has never rung truer, yet – in the case of Dubai – the thought of spending a warm winter in a land of dusty building sites, clogged roads, unbuilt pavements, alcohol illegality and no tolerance towards public displays of affection is not a comforting, duvety one. These relatively minor cons are far outweighed by the the shocking (and scarily underacknowledged) fact that corporal punishment still goes on just down the road. I won’t forget, during my time in Abu Dhabi, the chilling public notices published in the newspaper, declaring Sharjah stonings and the minor crimes for which they were doled out. And Sharjah is by no means far-flung – the unrelenting pace of construction in the Emirates means that Sharjah has effectivley become a suburb of Dubai.
So, whilst hungry bees head to oily honeypots and ‘bright young things’ lounge in the winter sun, my experiences of the Middle East – utterly edifying and fascinating as they were – mean that the novelty of enjoying a pint with my boyfriend in a simple, warm pub in the most liberal – albeit suffering -country I have ever known won’t wear off for a while.