I am in my tour guide mood right now - my grandma is visiting us in Dubai. The days have passed in a flurry of sightseeing. Well, more of a flurry of eating and shopping - my idea of Dubai’s main attractions.
Grandma isn’t interested in either. I keep using her as an excuse to do far too much of both. “You will love this gelato, you can’t come to Dubai and not try it.” Grandma does no more than touch the edge of her spoon to her mouth once because of her diabetes and enviable self-restraint. I then “finish off” what’s left in the cup.
What she is interested in are books, newspapers and mind-bending puzzles. She has already worked through my dad’s Biggles collection since she got here. She is usually dressed and seated sedately at the table when I blearily lumber downstairs in my pyjamas every morning. “Do you think you could help me with six across, darling, the third letter is ‘P’.” No, I don’t have a clue what six across is and I wish she’d stop going through all the cryptic crosswords. It makes me feel awfully shallow when the first thing I scrabble for in the paper is the television listings. I had to draw the line when she started challenging me to Sudoku competitions.
However, it’s been pure fun having Grandma take my side in every family argument and having someone to whisper to at night and enjoying endless warm hugs. I was convinced, as usual, that I’d do a great job of showing delicate, kind Gran around and telling her all about the glitz and glamour of a place she’d never seen before. Being a Miss Marple type, though, there’s no hint of frailty lurking under the china-doll figure.
One evening, we zoomed up to the viewing deck of the Burj Khalifa. The fountain below shimmered and sparkled, an Italian tenor crooned through the loudspeaker and the lights of a hundred skyscrapers winked up at us. I took one of Grandma’s three Apple devices from her and tapped on the camera icon indulgently: “I’ll show you how to make a video of this – hang on, there should be an option somewhere.”
“Here,” Grandma tapped the screen helpfully, “you just slide the circle across.” I like to think that is exactly what I had been about to suggest.
Very sweetly, Grandma declared delight at being shown Bloomingdale’s: “I’ve only read about it in books.” Without complaints she allowed us to subject her to endless evenings out; there’s only so much mall-hopping you can do. At dinner at The Meat Co, she liked her lamb skewer, so we thought we’d buy a huge pack of biltong to sample from Spinneys, which was utterly inedible to our novice palates, but she saved the day. “Crystal [her dog] will love it,” she assured us.
She’s utterly unique and yet fitting a grandma stereotype, she can beat the best chefs at their game. At least I’ve got a stash of her laddoos – delicious Indian sweets – to sort of make up for how much I’ll miss her when she leaves.
The writer is an 18-year-old student living in Dubai