x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Best-laid summer plans

There was a shelf-full of classics waiting to be read this summer but then came Dr 90210 and the endless memorials to Michael Jackson.

As two months of insane heat stretch ahead of us, it is important to pass the time with constructive indoor tasks. Last weekend, for instance, was occupied almost entirely by my ongoing search for the perfect toaster. This weekend, I intend to find a master tailor who can cover our dining room chairs. Boring? Maybe, but my list of things to do when outdoor options are unavailable has now taken on a life of its own. And from rather humble beginnings, I am now on a full self-improvement plan, which includes working my way through several Great Works of Literature, learning at least a smattering of Arabic and upping my exercise regimen to the point where I can pound up and down the Corniche for 40 uninterrupted minutes once the heats drops.

Things got off to rather a good start. I raced through Great Expectations in no time. I left a message with the language centre over the road about starting a course. And I even hit the running machine for the first time in six months. But the road to enlightenment appears to be rather more rutted than I had hoped: just as I was about to move on to Bleak House, I found myself distracted by the Dr 90210 marathon on the Style Network, and have instead been filling my time with gory stories of people's full body and face lifts while Dickens gathers dust on the shelf. Michael Jackson must also take a share of the blame, since all the news coverage, his True Hollywood Story and memorial marathon combined have eaten up at least two days of reading time.

My linguistic ambitions have hit choppy waters, too: it turns out that a mere smattering of Arabic is not going to be possible, and intense summer courses consisting of five two-hour sessions a week are the only option. Even my efforts to take up Pilates have floundered since I discovered that the place that offers it is closed for the whole of July. But I refuse to be beaten. And salvation has come in the form of Kinokuniya, the mammoth bookshop in Dubai Mall, which has delivered all the self-improvement I need in the form of an Arabic phrase book and a Pilates DVD. I have also stocked up on some slightly slimmer Great Works of Literature, including Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. They will improve me no end while still allowing my attention to drift, every now and again, to Rita's "whole body wonderwoman overhaul".

Just one rut remains - and it's toaster-shaped.