I remember the day that my boyfriend announced he had been offered a job in Dubai so clearly. It was a sunny evening in June 2009 – and I remember sitting there, listening to the excitement in his voice, and wondering whether he realised the world as we knew it was about to end.
In the end it was a mutual decision that he should take that job. Career wise and financially, he’d have been silly not to. And just a month later, it was time to say goodbye.
I’d had tickets booked for months to see Take That The Circus in concert at Wembley the night before he left – so I decided to still go with my sister and cousins. There was Mark, Gary, Howard and Jason dressed as clowns with their faces painted in their make-shift Big Top – and there was me sat amongst thousands in the crowd with a big lump in my throat, knowing that my world was going to change forever.
But as the boys sung out the lyrics to The Garden as the concert closed “This is the life we’ve been given. So open your mind and start living”, I made a vow to be brave and get on with it.
I haven’t been able to listen to that song or those lyrics without that same lump appearing in my throat ever since. But eight years down the line, I couldn’t be more thankful that I took that leap of faith and gave Dubai a chance.
And now here I am, as a mother of three, doing the move the other way round.
And honestly, this way is much harder.
Back then, my heart belonged in the UK. I was passionate about it. I’d have moved back to the UK at the drop of a hat, with a gigantic smile on my face. For the first few years, I hung a sign in my kitchen that read ‘When you are tired of London, you are tired of life’ – until we moved to a new apartment and I never unpacked it from the box.
My love for Dubai grew slowly, but steadily. I remember one trip home for summer in the early days when I was on a train back to Kent from London late at night. I picked up a magazine that was lying on the seat next to me and flicked through it, coming across a page with a full page glossy advert for holidays to Dubai. Real tears welled in my eyes I realised I felt homesick for a place I never even realised was home.
Over time, I built a home in that city. I grew three babies without ever having to step out of my summer maternity dresses and flip-flops, I decorated apartments and villas with framed pictures of desert dunes, and I filled my work days writing about what a fantastic place it was to bring up a young family.
And it was. It really was – and if I could’ve moved all my family and friends over to the desert and fixed the climate a little, I probably would’ve stayed there forever.
But forever isn’t happening – and we are now home to start a new life in the UK. Not all of us, admittedly – as that boyfriend who was packing his bags back in 2009 is now my husband. And he’ll still be based out there in the desert (for the meantime, at least), flying back and forth when he can.
We always intended to come home soon – but admittedly it happened much quicker than we had planned. As the summer ticked on, a few things made us realise that now was probably the best time. At the beginning of a new school term for Stanley – and before Wilfred had started full-time education and we ended up paying for a new villa contract without wanting to be there. There were hours of discussions, plenty of tears, moments of excitement, and a heavy dose of ‘what the hell have we done?’ as we signed the kids up to a new school. But with that, the deal was done.
On Sunday afternoon, we decided to take the boys for one last treat with their Daddy – before he packed his bags and flew back to Dubai. I had spotted that the circus was in town and hastily booked tickets to the afternoon performance. It didn’t even occur to me that we were going full circle, until I was sat in the audience watching those clowns in the Big Top.
Back to the circus, with a lump in my throat – waiting for my husband to head to Dubai.
All over again.
I know we are going to OK here in the UK, but it’s going to take some adjustment. I’ll miss my husband all the time he’s away, Ill miss my friends in the desert, I’ll miss our nanny who had become part of the family, and Ill miss the weather as it starts to cool down for winter. But seeing my children exploring the countryside, running around in the fresh air, getting to experience the seasons for the first time in their lives, to kick leaves, to feel snow fall on their noses, and to head over to their grandparents houses whenever they are missing them. This will make it all worthwhile.
And the rest? I have high hopes that it’ll fall into place.
After all, this isn’t the first time I’ve left a place that I love.
And this time, we’re coming home.