Looking for Christmas.

There is one Christmas that always stands out, it is quite a memory, but it’s not because of the joy and laughter I remember it, no it was because there was almost no Christmas that year.

We were living in Shotts with my Grandad at the time, both parents were working. Dad was driving long distance and often away for long periods and Mum part-time, as most of the time she was looking after us and my Grandad too. We three girls shared a room, so I must have been about 7 or 8 at the time. It was a big room for the 3 of us, there was a single bed, a double bed, a wardrobe, dressing table and fireplace. The wardrobe was about 5 feet tall, walnut with a pewter handle. It had a single door, with clothes hung to the left and right and shelving at the top on either side. It wasn’t for our clothes, they were stored in drawers, but my mother stored all of her glamorous gear in this wardrobe so we often sneaked in here to look at her clothes and dress up in her shoes.

The three windows in the bedroom overlooked the front of the street and our garden. The hall, accessed by the front door in the middle of the front elevation, gave access to this bedroom on the left and the living room on the right. I don’t recall if the front door was ever locked, when Grandad lived in the house he was never really out and we had a dog, which was the fashionable and affordable security back in the day. Anyone could have come in, I guess, but everyone had an open door back then and if we heard the door we would rush to see who had come to visit and what delights they had with them.

At the rear of our house we had about 6 steps leading to the back door, into what we called the back kitchen and a door out into the T-shaped hall. Within the T part were the other 2 bedrooms and bang in the middle was our bathroom. It would have been easy to access our bedroom but hardly unnoticed.

As Christmas approached we had already put up our tree, but something was not quite right. By the age of 7 I could tell when things were far from harmonious in the house, call it intuition or just being alert to the dynamics but I could tell my mother appeared distracted. We girls were all at school by now, apart from the youngest sister who was only just 4. Being out of the house at school meant we missed a large part of family life and by the time we returned home the usual rush to have dinner before brownies or the salvation army meetings meant you were pretty much oblivious to what everyone else was doing.

There was a sense of panic one night just two weeks before Christmas. Dad was off ‘down the road’ as we used to say, and mum had been searching for something for days. While this began with periodic glances behind cushions, or digging out old handbags, it built slowly toward a crescendo becoming more frantic as days went on. Grandad, who never did anything around the house, had even joined in taking to turning cushions over and even tipping the sofa upside down.

Looking on I was trying to make sense of the emerging chaos, but in all honesty had no idea what was happening. I knew however what ever it was it was bad; the adults were distraught. Our dog just looked on bemused while this tornado of torment continued. She was trained to recover things, but I’m guessing they thought her skills were just for the dog shows as no-one thought for a moment she could assist. I pushed this childish idea out of my head. While I guessed they were looking for something I was clever enough to know I was not able to help because my requests fell on deaf ears. What ever had been lost was significant. At one point my mother was in tears.

These were the days long before telephones and with dad away she had to bear it herself. She was 25 years old when I was 7 so her youth combined with her isolation seemed to add considerable weight to what ever it was she was seeking. Finally three days before Christmas she clearly had no options left but to take me into her confidence.

By 7 I guess you are mature enough to hear bad news, I mean, I might not have been prepared for it, but she must have had no choice but to tell me as my father was still not back from his travels. I sat down, and looked at her, my steady little childlike world about to be rocked by the news she had to share. I was a little nervous and could feel my heart start to pick up the pace as she looked me in the eye and began to tell me her story. It must have been a dilemma for her, knowing what I would make of this loss, knowing too it meant the end of my childhood. She clearly had no other option but divulge what was ailing her and end my fantasy right there and then………

Lapland

So while we were completely overjoyed at the early and safe arrival of our new grandson we were about to top this with the trip of a lifetime (for me at least) and taking the mermaid with us. I’m not sure whether this one was more for me than her but it was an incredible deal so I booked a trip to Lapland. I do love Christmas and have never lost the magic of the season, even into adulthood Christmas remains such a special time, evoking memories of long ago. I don’t often broadcast it but I am still a believer, ignoring the inevitability of reality, and clinging onto my desire for magic for as long as possible.

It was only a day trip so we had an early start, therefore the mermaid spent the night with us. This was not the best idea as I tend not to sleep when she’s here just because of the overwhelming responsibility that comes with keeping someone else’s child overnight. We had read that we needed to have plenty lairs on so we had prepared double of everything to pull on once we were up. I was wide awake with excitement at 4 am, then woke up the mermaid at 5, who was distinctly unfazed, to get dressed then head to the airport.

There was a jingling, jangling atmosphere in the airport where several day trips to Lapland were scheduled and little children, dragging their reluctant parents behind them, amassed in unprecedented numbers in the departure lounge. Gabbling with excitement, gleeful in anticipation their cheer was infectious. They raised the roof in the security hall with their chatter and staff had to work hard to focus on the more important task of making them all safe. Staff too had joined in the festive frolics, adorned in festive garb, tinsel tied in their hair and baubles replacing their earrings.

Before long we were all aboard and ready for take off. Flight attendants wearing elfin chic served mulled wine and mince pies, but the mermaid was busy colouring in, now feeling the early rise, she was looking for a more substantial breakfast. Santa (posing as the captain) was flying the plane, without Rudolph! But fear not for he was still there, colourfully shining brightly on the overhead lockers with each of his fellow reindeers painted along side him. Bells jingled, children were laughing, adults were singing and suddenly (but really after about 3 hours) we landed in Lapland.

It was 1pm and we had only 1 hour of daylight left. There was a lot of snow at the airport and it was hard to distinguish the roads from the pavements, shiny, slidey snow that was hard to walk on or find well trodden pathways. Once we had disembarked we had to locate our bus to transport us to be fitted for the required Lapland attire. It was -28 degrees and even double lairs weren’t enough to cope with this cold. After a few seconds outside, taking in the wonderful sights, it was onto the bus desperate for the heating. But you could not fail to feel Christmas had arrived.

At the changing station we were provided with onesies, in navy or red, hats, snow boots and gloves, especially essential as fingers and toes felt the bitter cold first. Once suitably kitted out the mermaid wanted to make snow angels so we ventured outside hoping our new winter attire would keep us cosy. She had the gloves off instantly making snowballs, falling down and loving it all laughing. At one point papa fell into the snow completely disappearing engulfed by a 10 foot drift. We pulled him to safety, covered in snow just in time to get back on the bus to head to Santa’s pad.

It was now about 3 pm and pitch black, our little village lay in a valley and was flickering with fairy lights welcoming our coach, it was so magical just as you would imagine. A white reindeer with bells along the red straps that attached him to a sleigh where animal furs were piled on for warmth, pulled us around the village, the wind factor reducing the cold to -36 below. After this we found the kitchen and had a warm meal served by elves; traditional in its offering, just what the people of Lapland would live on, chips with meatballs and spaghetti. Back outside, once we had managed to climb back into the onesies we took a husky ride. Our snot forming frozen laces stretched across our cheeks. The mermaid stood watching the dogs and was mesmerised, worrying where they might be sleeping tonight and how they were going to get warm.

Finally after several sleigh rides, snowman building, tobogganing and sleds we joined the queue to be transported to see Santa. In no time our sled loaded with blankets and fur skins arrived. Jingling with excitement as we climbed in and our safety helmets suitably secured against the elements. The snow was thick, laden on the fir trees feathery branches and frozen solid, the additional weight pulling them to the ground. The full moon shone creating an eerie runway amid the trees and as the huskies dragged us closer to Santa’s house there was an ethereal glow and calmness provided by nature in all its glory in this winter wonderland.

The sled flew along the hard packed snow and we could see smoke, still and steady, in the distance. An elf, scantly clad for this weather, waited excitedly while we climbed out, our faces red raw, our fingers and toes toastie from the extra clothing and the blankets. The gingerbread house door opened into a sea of warm, red felt and velvet curtains, a little log burner glowing in the corner gave warmth to the room and illuminated a massive gold throne. As we ventured inside following the scantly clad elf, the mermaid hesitated a little; fear rather than fascination the feelings at that time. Then I caught my breath, my stomach flipped and there was Santa, he emerged cloaked in glorious deep red velvet, lined with ermine and the white flowing, curly beard. Be still my beating heart….

Flying the Flag for British Airways.

Never forget that you have a choice, when you travel. We have flown with a range of air carriers on international, European and internal flights. For our holidays to the USA, I will now only fly British Airways. The reason for this will become clear as this blog is all about the quality of customer experience on offer.

We have flown Continental from Edinburgh on several occasions, twice when we went to Nashville and twice when we went to Vegas. We travelled on a basic economy ticket on these flights and they enabled connecting flights to our destinations in the USA from New York, Newark airport. The main benefits were that they left from Edinburgh only 15 minutes from our home and we were able to book our luggage all the way through to our final destination. Although you did have to collect it at Newark and pass it to staff at a central point to redirect as appropriate.

On the Continental flights we had around a 3 hour layover in Newark, which is actually quite a nice airport with a sufficiently interesting and varied range of quality dining and drinking experiences to make it pleasurable. However, on the down side, on each occasion that we used Continental there were delays. In fairness we acknowledge that delays do happen and there are often a variety of legitimate reasons for it, as seasoned travellers we accept this inconvenience as long as it’s not too frequent. Travelling outward Continental delays were not so common, however on all our return journeys that connected in Newark, the flight was overbooked and delays as a result of this caustic organisation were common. Passengers played cat and mouse with the carrier awaiting increased amounts of cash to travel the next day, and all the while the inevitable delays associated with this game were lengthening.

This was not uncommon practice with most airlines, we have learned. However the frequency and overt nature of their malpractice created dysfunctional customer relationships based on greed for the few rather than satisfaction for the many. It put me off using them for future flights and we have found a much more customer focused experience with British Airways. Now I accept that it won’t always be this way for every customer, but for me I’m flying the flag for BA and there are important reasons for that.

Our first long haul flight with British Airways was indirectly booked through a tour company taking us on a trip of the Music Cities of the Deep South (if that sounds good it will be covered in a later blog). My husband became ill on the internal flight and the service we received as a result was first class. I was so impressed with the attention and care we received I felt compelled to write and express my gratitude. In addition, for the remainder of that journey, they upgraded us to business class and once you’ve had a taste for that, well there was no going back really.

This necessitated an exploration of their website and, in an unusual but not regrettable step, I joined them as a member. This was, in the beginning, just to be advised of offers via email. This was reasonably effective and how I first became aware of their world sales. I also realised that we could fly business class at a much reduced cost, particularly if we were able to travel at non-peak times. We have worked and saved our money to enable us to travel quite a bit when we retired so this was something we felt we wanted to experience again especially on long haul. Buying our flights this way increased our membership ranking and this provided additional customer loyalty benefits that among other things include free flights. What was not to like about this??

We have travelled to the USA with British Airways on several occasions now. We have not experienced any major delays, barring a recent experience when our connecting flight to Edinburgh on our return from the Caribbean was delayed. I’ve already stated how helpful, compassionate and supportive the BA staff were when we needed to get home in a hurry. What I did not mention however was that the hotel we had been staying in, Coconut Bay Resort and Spa, was part of a British Airways package we had booked. Other than gaining their assistance in contacting BA to arrange our flight home, we had made no representation to them about our stay having been cut short. We only had time to check out after 4 days, leaving 10 days of unused all inclusive holiday costs behind us.

So it was an incredible surprise, and one that actually had me in tears, when BA called me this week. They wanted to speak to me about having had to cut my recent holiday short, “what a nice gesture” I was thinking. Then she went on to advise me that the resort wanted to refund the part of my holiday that I was unable to have. I had not expected nor requested this I reported through my uncontrollable emotional response. I had thought we would need to seek compensation from my travel insurance claim. But not on this occasion, not when you book with BA.

Within 3 days, a substantial and unexpected refund went back into my account. Apart from the obvious good fortune creating more than a glimmer of warmth and fuzzy feelings amongst the recent darkness that had befallen my family. And it was further reinforcement, if any was needed, that you can’t go wrong with BA. I for one will always, always fly their flag. When I have needed them, they have been right where I needed them to be, with minimum fuss and maximum effort. From the bottom of my heart thank you, so much British Airways……………

A little bit of Christmas Fun

Here we are in December; I love Christmas and all that it promises, family, faith and fairy lights. I’m usually quite religious about putting my tree up 12 days before the 24th and taking it down on the 12th day too, but when I was working in the early days, driving about our home town in Livingston in 1979, it was my guiltiest pleasure to play spot the Christmas tree.

In those days it was exceptional for trees to be put up early so spotting one was rare and spotting one in November was extremely rare. You were guaranteed to see them in December of course and I always found it strangely marvellous that people chose to put them up as soon as December burst onto the scene. I loved to search for the sparkling lights; the multi-colour ones were best, so pretty fanning out in the window like a preening peacock staring out into the wet bleak nights of winter. It wasn’t such a bad way to spend our time, as the roving car all we had to do was drive around, being available or looking for fairy lights while waiting on someone to call for our help.

As a woman (it was the 70’s) I was rarely in the driving seat so I used this prevailing order to give me a massive advantage over my colleagues in this game. As the passenger it left me free to scan the houses and flats that lined our route and spontaneously shout out “Xmas tree!” while they were consigned (in this job) by gender to concentrate on the road. I know for the most part they were humouring me; I was a young naive girl trying to find my way into a man’s world. So my fascination in all things Christmas was almost stereotypical and provided a form of light entertainment for them.

Of course there were the hard nosed individuals, who were not enamoured by my game, but my naive persistence bit into their stoic repudiation to humour me (or ignore my ravings). This was actually a test of their tolerance and acceptance of me and let me know where I stood. By the end of the shift, it was not unusual that they too would be sucked into the search by my girlish enthusiasm for something as simple as looking for Christmas trees in what could often be an otherwise difficult day.

My most guilty pleasure at this time of year in my working life, was the opportunity we had to creep on other people’s Christmas. No matter where we were in the town when you went into a home, there was the chance to glimpse Christmas and all its splendour. Everyone had their own traditions and take on the celebration; sparkling lights, wrapped presents, chocolate advent calendars, bright baubles and flickering candles that added to my catalogue of ideas and developing my own style.

It wasn’t until the late 90’s outside lights began to appear, by which time I was working in Edinburgh. It was a real treat to explore the various parts of the city, to see whether tat or taste was on show. I loved the bright, staccato pulsing colours that lined the roofs, inflatable Santas chained to chimney’s, trains and reindeers pulling present laden sleighs that were most frequently on show in the council estates. While among the bourgeoisie there were single colour white or blue lights gracefully adorning trees, or reindeers and snowmen standing tall, burning brightly and fashionably alone in and among the shrubs and conifers of stately addresses in Edinburgh.

If I was working on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve the sheer excitement of both days was some times tempered with the reasons for us being called to homes during the holidays. On those occasions, the lights were dulled by parents fuelled by drink or children for whom the promise of Christmas had not yet been delivered. Bright lights often belied what lay behind closed doors, all too often we were called in when the lights went out. The thrill of Christmas lights helped to mask the realities of life and everything we had to deal with in our working days………………..

Bring a little belly dancing magic.

The weather in Dubai in November can include rain, but not much, while temperatures generally range between 18-31 degrees celsius. The warm weather was the principal reason for visiting albeit for only 5 days. Since serious shopping was curtailed, we shifted our focus to sunbathing. In keeping with other futile attempts to gain good fortune, we had rain for 3 of our five days so sunbathing was ditched just like the serious shopping. Still, we had excursions and sightseeing to look forward to.

Dubai certainly has a lot to offer; the Dubai Mall (despite trying hard not to look at the fabulous jewellery) has an actual aquarium in its midst. In close proximity is the iconic Burj Khalifa surrounded by dancing fountains. I had downloaded the city of Dubai from trip advisor which was a fantastic asset and it guided us to the main attractions in and around the Mall. We ate in one of the many fantastic restaurants located there and although alcohol is not on the menu there was a much greater variety of soft drinks and mocktails to choose from. From the metal divers on the waterfall to the Arabian coffee with camel milk, the visit to the largest Mall in Dubai was memorable.

As it was our anniversary I booked us a desert safari trip, which promised an authentic Bedouin experience; a desert sunset, camel ride, henna tattoos, belly dancing and sheesha in a variety of fruity flavours. There was also some dune bashing which involved quite a rough ride over the dunes by an experienced driver. Now this was the only issue for my husband who lives with a very serious back injury so we asked if we could do without the dune bashing. That was no problem so a private hire, different from the event operator, was arranged to take us direct to the site.

Our driver was lovely, providing us with a commentary on our short ride to the desert. We stopped outside to deflate the tyres which was necessary for dune driving but he reassured us we were not going to be bashing them any time soon. The drive was enjoyable and when we arrived I was busy taking in the sights filled with trepidation and delight at the night ahead of us. We thanked him and he left us to commence our ‘desert experience’.

They made it a special occasion by placing us at our own table, but in all honesty the whole experience was special. We even managed to make a dignified entrance on the camel, despite falling flat on my backside when I tried to disembark. The food was wonderful and unusually alcohol was also on offer. The exotic belly dancing and other entertainment contributed to a fantastic night. All over too soon, darkness fell along with the temperature and we were not dressed for it.

The hundreds of people who were at the event, made their way along with us toward the exit area where similar numbers of blue and white 4×4 vehicles were waiting with their drivers. It began to dawn on me at that point (ok maybe a bit too late) we weren’t too clear about our pick up arrangements, we didn’t have the required number for our vehicle, and we didn’t know which company we had booked with. Within minutes the desert was deserted. We were the last ones standing; no cars, no drivers and no marshal to herd any lost causes- like us.

Thankfully the alcohol had been limited because the temperature was dropping fast. We could see the food being cleared up and that attracted cats. I am terrified of cats. That is sufficient information for now but their appearance had me frozen to the spot. I couldn’t take another step toward the lights that were quickly diminishing as the staff readied to make their way back to their homes. I clung to my better half, as we were forced to forge into cat territory. I was now operating at critical alert status.

Not everyone spoke English, but we managed to secure a barman who, when he got over the initial surprise that we were actually still on site, made several calls to try to find us our driver. We were directed to the Sheesha tent where I was relieved of cat terror for a few moments, reducing the threat level to severe but that could change at any time. We didn’t do the Sheesha, and were becoming increasingly anxious as one by one the lights went out around us.

Finally our saviour in the desert arrived shrugging his shoulders and telling us he couldn’t find anyone willing to take ownership for abandoning us. The strappy dress I was wearing could easily double as a nightie, but it was getting pretty cold and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep here, even if the place was plagued with cats. I could feel the firm lips and cutting glance in my direction from he who rarely makes mistakes, so I avoided his accusatory gaze. But our saviour was not finished yet, he had secured us a lift home with the belly dancer. Instantly the firm lips broke into a smile as he recalled the tiny, beautiful lady who had entertained us so majestically less than an hour ago. I guess that was the point I was reprieved and the journey in this little beauty’s company was more than sufficient for my latest drama in the desert…….

Drama in Dubai- anyone for TV?

Being in Dubai without a credit card, is a bit like forgetting your swimming costume when you go to the SPA, the whole experience is diminished. Shock – Horror we were credit card less in Dubai. And it was not that straightforward to get cash from the ATM’s there either. There was a glimmer of hope however as our lobby, linked into Festival City shopping centre, which had an ATM that actually took our debit card ( thank god). We could access some cash albeit that particular purse was severely limited.

Desperate to look as if we could afford to be here we tried this out, but I could tell it was dawning on the night manager that he was dealing with a right couple of chancers. Any credibility that we were actual customers of a certain standing seemed to have disappeared into the night along with the bogus taxi driver. Despite his obvious misgivings, and probably against his better judgement, we were finally taken to our room, it was 2 in the morning.

Our room was palatial, we had upgraded this so would have been disappointed if the reception cock up meant we would not have been able to get the room we had paid for. But we were comfortably ensconced and with this securely under our belt, I rang the credit card company to establish why my card had been cancelled. OK, I get it I did have a slight idea why, but I also knew that the process had been aborted (I threw the phone away). Frankly I had not expected the automaton (that couldn’t speak Scottish) to have a modicum of brain matter that allowed it, not only to translate my abrupt narrative sufficiently but equally to have the artificial intelligence to complete the incomplete and work out that it needed to cancel my card.

While the call centre staff were helpful and understanding of my plight (even to the point of empathy for the lack of a card in this particular location), there was no way I was going to have my card reactivated and available to me on this holiday. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of my husband, who had remained quite quiet throughout this conversation, breathing a sigh of relief that our bank balance had unwittingly achieved a little reprieve on this particular trip.

At 3am I fell into bed, exhausted, frustrated and annoyed. Sleep in this state was elusive but after about an hour I could feel my eyelids weighted with exhaustion and just about to drop off when the TV (60 inch screen) suddenly jumped into life and bellowed pop music. We sat erect shifting from semi-slumber to wide awake club in seconds. Searching frantically for the doofer to turn it down or off we scrambled from the bed feeling around the furniture before finally locating it on top of the TV unit (where else?). And we zapped it ferociously and the room fell into momentary silence.

Now all we had to do was get back to sleep, but the wheels of frustration started rolling again and it was another 20 minutes before I started to fall asleep. I was just about there………….then the TV lit up again, not quite booming but nevertheless shattering the silence and our sleep. We zapped it again, muted it and tentatively looked at each other before we lay back down on the bed. And this blinking TV insisted on breaching into the bedroom every 30 minutes after that.

On the fourth occasion, I murdered it; frenziedly pulling the wires out of the wall. It lay motionless and blank but it did the trick and finally we were able to get some shut eye. We were both exhausted and deflated as we headed for breakfast the next morning. But first stop reception, where we had become so familiar with the night manager the evening before, to report the malfunctioning tele.

It was while in reception I noticed that there was a bit of tartan adorning the pillars surrounding the Lobby and a poster welcoming the Graduates of Herriot Watt University. All the way to Dubai and a graduation party for a University less than 10 miles from home, it was unbelievable! As we headed for breakfast, sitting at the first table as we entered the buffet, was a lady I knew well enough to have shared more than a few glasses of wine with.

Turns out she was organising the graduation party, what an incredible coincidence. We exchanged niceties but I also regaled the tale of the credit card, (you can tell how much this had upset me). She went immediately to her purse to offer us her card, how tempting it was but I declined this offer, preferring to stew and wallow in my misfortune because I knew my other half was actually breathing a sigh of relief it couldn’t be used.

I was ready to accept this, after all we were on holiday, it was Dubai and nothing else could go wrong, could it???????????????????

Dramas with Dirhams in Dubai

A Facebook post this week reminded me of our eventful trip to Dubai in November 2013. It’s really no coincidence that we take holidays in November, it is our wedding anniversary as I have previously intimated. As we couldn’t afford a honeymoon in 1982 every year since I try to organise a holiday masquerading as the honeymoon we never had. We have had a few interesting trips over the years and not always abroad. But if you go in November and you want sunshine you do have to go a bit further to get it and Dubai appeared to deliver that.

I had never been to the Middle East and, as Dubai was enjoying a period of popularity as a holiday destination, it was an easy decision. I made plans and booked our trip some 6 months ahead for November. I was so excited to be staying in Festival City and travelling Emirates for the first time. For me it was an exotic, untested adventure for us and one that promised romance, mystique and intrigue. For my husband; he was not an explorer, he was non-plussed, not one for demonstrating his emotions, instead he prefers to humour my childlike excitement and anticipation for the trip. However on reflection given all the dramas we have experienced perhaps it’s more likely that he’s quietly speculating what calamity will befall us this time (note the choice of tense).

In a totally separate but connected incident the mermaid put my driving licence in between a space in the floorboards a few weeks before we travelled, and unless we wanted to lift the floor ( which we had to do two years later) I had to apply for a new one. I went on-line, but unfortunately it was early in my silver surfing career and I was not aware of the Google algorithms that would prioritise services for me. Hence it was that I was guided to a site, similar to the Government site, but where you had to pay money for what was in essence a free service. I was reasonably far into this application, including having given my credit card details to pay for what was free, when it crashed and everything was lost.

This alerted me to a potential fraud and misappropriation of my visa credit card, so my next move was to cancel that. Now I was more than a little frustrated by this techno failure but cancelling the credit card took that to an entirely a different level. It was an automated system (non-human) requiring you to speak, fine, except it did not speak Scottish (most of them don’t). Despite using my best rolling r’s accent (received pronunciation) I continued to flummox the computer persona, unable to make any progress with the process, and as I was already frazzled I discontinued the call (threw the phone away) half way through.

I didn’t hear another word from them, and having calmed down sufficiently to make rational decisions, I determined that since the process had failed my card was still active. The card details did not appear to have been compromised so I was going to forget about cancelling it.

The next two weeks flew past, and soon it was time to head off to Dubai. When we arrived at the airport we were immediately approached by a man offering to taxi us to our hotel. Although we later became suspicious of him, when he took us to his car in the car park, we initially judged him harmless and threw in our cases and got in the back. Nothing about this vehicle looked like a taxi, there was no meter, it was sparkling clean (should have been a clue), but lacked any safety or regulatory notices. Our hotel was only a five minute drive from the airport so despite nervously exchanging glances and holding onto our hand luggage just that little bit tighter, we made a timely and safe arrival.

When he charged us 100 Dihram I contemplated whether that was bit too much, but to be honest we were more relieved we hadn’t been slaughtered or kidnapped by this random individual posing as a taxi driver. What a start to our holiday… I was immediately distracted by this absolutely fantastic hotel; splendour and glamour emanated from within the Lobby, which was a vault of statement, stature and style. It was midnight and although there was an absence of guests, clearly staff were still milling around in numbers and smartly whisked our cases off to the desk and corralled us into the reception

Exhausted from the travelling, overwhelmed by the Lobby and relieved we had our lives intact, we prepared to check-in. I provided our details and waited, taking in our palatial surroundings I noted it was almost 1230am. We waited, then the desk clerk went off to find the night manager ( sorry, it was not Tom Hiddleston). He arrived and while we continued to wait, both of them were transfixed by a screen, muttering in Arabic, and then making another call which had the effect of summoning a woman. Half an hour passed while all three continued to stare at the screen, before finally informing me that our booking had been cancelled. Flabbergasted, but ready for retaliation I proudly produced the email confirmation. This created further palaver and to-ing and fro-ing, all the while being reassured that everything would be fine. Then suddenly to a cacophony of 1000 apologies, we were allocated our room, our anxiety palpably disappearing momentarily. ” We just need your credit card” and I handed it over.

We did not have many Dirhams with us, and had planned to rely on using our credit card to savour many of the treasures that Dubai had to offer. But that was until the manager advised me it had been cancelled……………………