Social Bite is lucky to have my girl.

This year my daughter and her husband are sleeping in the park for the charity social bite. They’ve been raising money throughVirgin Media and I think so far they’ve reached their target. Of course they are not homeless, but are nevertheless unselfishly willing to sleep out in the extreme Scottish Weather to raise awareness and much needed cash for those that are less fortunate in life. By any stretch of the imagination this is quite an impressive commitment; they have stepped right out of their comfort zone to make this unselfish commitment to people they’ve never met. Granted you might be thinking “that is no big deal for one night is it? ” so I’m using this opportunity to provide a little insight to what her “comfort zone” actually looks like and then you can make your own mind up about it being a big deal.

My daughter found out a little too late she was allergic to pregnancy; 6 weeks too late to be accurate. She suffers from severe hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Described as a pregnancy complication, it results in severe nausea that can lead to weight loss and dehydration in pregnancy. It can also lead to deep vein thrombosis. She spent most of the 9 months of her first pregnancy in hospital due to complications with this condition. Then toward the final three months, as if she hadn’t suffered enough she developed Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction (SPD). This misalignment of the pelvis is common in pregnancy, 1 in 300 will get it. This condition causes, extreme discomfort and, sciatic pain and can affect simple tasks like walking. In her first pregnancy she was using crutches for the last three months

Her second pregnancy magnified both the HG and the SPD which were much worse, simple walking for the first six weeks was a problem. So my treat for her recent graduation; a trip to NYC was a bit of a flop since she struggled to walk at all for any of our short visit. ( it was a holiday could we expect anything more??).

SPD is caused by production of the hormone relaxin necessary for the ligaments to loosen and enable delivery, but in her case her body reacts badly to this hormone so much that by the 3 months her pelvis had separated so much she was on crutches. By 6 months she was in a wheel chair and had started to develop several DVT’s. Her delivery was a finely tuned performance with a team of over 10 specialists on hand to support delivery of her second baby. The risks to her own health, led the consultant obstetrician to propose that any more children were out of the question. Neither condition disappeared after the pregnancy as she was advised they would and her health has continued to deteriorate over the past 3 years. On the positive side her children are both healthy, and well (thank the lord). But SPD in pregnancy in particular has left her with constant nerve pain, pelvic and sciatic pain and a recent MRI revealed she has two bulging discs.

I don’t know the last time she had a full nights sleep, she cannot find a comfortable place in her bed. She has basically been advised by the NHS that they cannot do anything for her except to dispense a complex concoction of pain killers to help her get through the day. It seems pretty inevitable she’ll need them for the rest of her life. It’s so heartbreaking to watch, she is such a young woman. Like my daughter in law, she has had so much to deal with so young, and the total lack of any positive prognosis for this condition it is bound to affect your equilibrium.

As a mother myself I’m not sure where her parenting skills were honed, it certainly wasn’t on my watch. She does a very good impression of Mother Nature; her devotion and commitment to her children appears an inherent trait, it takes so little effort. She has also become involved in supporting the community and is becoming an amazing role model for her children. She rarely if ever complains about the constant pain she is in and is first to support any one that needs her help. She has continually made herself available to me during my challenging few months.

It’s hard to remember when she’s doing so much for me that she is struggling so much herself. Although she rarely gets a sleep, this week has been incredibly hard as her youngest has had an awful cold. He has a bit of a weak chest and struggles to breath sometimes. On Wednesday night after a prolonged period of nose-bleeding she had no option bit to take him to A&E. It was 3 am before they were allowed home but she didn’t get any sleep that night as a child that has trouble breathing is like living with a hand-grenade without a pin. And it’s been pretty similar for the last two nights. In addition to a sick child she was on civic duty yesterday flying the flag for the gala day at the Christmas light extravaganza. As if she hadn’t enough to do!

She has recently started a nursing course and is busy trying to write her first essay and prepare for her first exam this Tuesday. And it is her youngest’s birthday today so she has of course organised a party for family and friends, leaving her just enough time to organise her sleepover in the park tonight. It’s the reality for any young parents that sleep deprivation is a fact of life for the first 8 years (if you are lucky). Nothing can alter this, it has to be accepted and managed as routine as preparing your breakfast.

So tonight it is a bit out of the ordinary for them, they’ve put aside their own needs to support others. I am immensely proud that they are doing this. And I am sure that she will actually sleep if the conditions allow and the pain relief she needs work their magic.

I cannot say she is a credit to us, this girl is a credit to herself, determined, altruistic, generous in spirit and kind. While I am glad she has her prince with her tonight who will protect her but I am almost certain she has her own reserves to drawn on if she needs them. Sleep tight baby girl love you………………………..

Rehearsals for Christmas have been curtailed.

It has always been my favourite time of year, from a very young age I was mesmerised by Christmas magic and it’s never left me. My earliest memories of Christmas were full of joy and excitement reinforced by the happy times when we lived with my Grandad, my parents and two younger sisters in Shotts.

The Christmas season kicked off when we began preparations for the end of term school party. From the end of November we learned Scottish country dancing and were introduced to the delights of the Gay Gordon’s, Strip the Willow and the Military Two Step. If you were lucky (and your parents could afford it) you got a new outfit for what felt like a never-ending run of Christmas parties. It was such a busy time for budding socialites like me. Largely dependent on the social standing of the organisations that you attended and their predisposition for throwing parties, like the Salvation Army, the Sunday school or the Brownies.

As is true with every fanatic there are bizarre unexplainable behaviours associated with your obsession. For me these centred on precision planning for the Christmas discovery that Santa had been. In my opinion this required a finely tuned and masterfully orchestrated plan to reduce all possible margins for error for such an important occasion. To suppress any anxiety I had that I might miss Christmas Day (hardly likely) I organised weekly rehearsals. These were much to my sister’s consternation, as the rehearsals ran for four weeks up to Christmas Eve and were always in the middle of the night. As an adult you could never understand nor appreciate the necessity for such a rehearsal. However for a childhood fanatic like me it was essential; the order in which we awakened and the precision timing associated with the start of the big day was a matter of significant importance.

This was one operation which in my view could never be left to chance, nor could I ever envisage the circumstances that would mean I was not the person to announce that Santa had been. So in addition to making sure we were up, my priority was all about being the person who made the Christmas discovery. Such was my obsession I was unable to contemplate the scenario that my younger sisters would be the first to the scene. So the rehearsal was designed to reinforce the prevailing status and order among my siblings and that it was absolutely my responsibility to make sure this happened.

After all Christmas was such a rare but exquisite event when you were wee that you couldn’t afford to miss a thing or sleep in. Getting my sisters (who were not yet at school) out of bed in the middle of the night proved to be a very difficult task, they’d rather be sleeping than creeping along the corridor in the freezing cold. Because we shared a room they had no way to escape this drill, but at least this ensured that no-one else was disturbed. However they were sleeping so soundly (and one was in a cot), that it was almost inevitable there was a bit of a racket when I was getting them up. So much so Dad heard us one night and, although we did our best to blend into the wallpaper in the hall ( just as we had been practising), his late night discovery curbed the remaining schedule of rehearsals I had planned.

Therefore I had to find other ways to satisfy my longing for all things Christmas until one year the ultimate happened- I was awake when Santa called. It was Christmas Eve, outside the heavy snow had become hard packed under foot and was glistening like diamonds in the moonlight. I’d been up at the window on numerous occasions that night hoping to catch a glimpse of the man himself. Our fire was smouldering in the room creating a fiery glow at floor level. The windows were frozen on the inside, but the laughter of our neighbours making their way home from the pub caused me to scrape a small viewing pane. They were sliding, throwing snowballs and partaking in other festive foreplay on their way home. This upset me greatly as it was highly unlikely Santa would appear while they were still up. I climbed back into bed unable to sleep, crippled with excitement.

Back in my bed, I’m sure I heard bells ringing. Now I am not 100% sure of this, but something stirred outside making me hold my breath to aid my hearing. There was a rustle of papers and stamping of feet and I heard my Grandad, who was babysitting, say in quite a clear and unaffected way, “Oh it’s you Santa, come in!” Without response I heard his heavy feet stamp on the doormat, I imagined him clearing off the snow from his boots before he entered the hall. I felt the air in the bedroom chill as the door continued to be held open for what seemed an age, and finally I let my breath fly out of my nostrils into a frosty cloud when I was sure he had entered the lounge.

I was terrified and excited all at the same time but I noticed I was frozen to my bed. I was quietly frustrated at my Dad for curbing the essential drills that would have enabled me to sneak out of the bedroom and into the living room where Santa was being entertained by my Grandad. But I was also grateful because I’m not sure how I would have responded coming face to face finally with the great man that Christmas Eve.

Transfixed, I lay there wide awake, breathing deeply, wishing and wondering about the delights awaiting me the following morning when I got up. If I didn’t sleep in I’m pretty sure I would find out…………………..

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……………………