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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

As a nine-year chapter comes to an end, it’s time to go and fly kites

I’m leaving Abu Dhabi as a journalist who managed to report on the The Louvre Abu Dhabi's development in more detail than anyone else, as a father of two, and as the owner of far too many pets

As my career in Abu Dhabi comes to an end, there is now more time for family. Farouk Batiche / AFP Photo
As my career in Abu Dhabi comes to an end, there is now more time for family. Farouk Batiche / AFP Photo

Season’s greetings. As I sit and type this column, the holiday festivities are still in full swing in the house where I am staying temporarily, now that I am back in the UK.

In the room to my left, Dick Van Dyke is noisily stepping in time, while in the room to my right, my daughters are discovering that although it’s possible to cheat at board games, you will always be found out, and doing so never gets you very far in the end.

I was hoping for the time and inspiration to make my last column for The National a more fitting farewell.

Unfortunately, the only thoughts that are managing to make their way through the thick head cold with which I have been afflicted belong to Dick Van Dyke’s fellow character in Mary Poppins, the repressed English banker George Banks.

“A man has dreams of walking with giants

To carve his niche in the edifice of time

Before the mortar of his zeal

Has a chance to congeal

The cup is dashed from his lips”.

As I consider life beyond this newspaper and post-Abu Dhabi, I find characters such as Banks looming ever larger in my imagination, but the comparison only goes so far.

At the end of Mary Poppins, Banks, played by English actor David Tomlinson, rejects the pinstriped strictures of his career in the City in favour of one dedicated to his children and famously, to flying kites, a decision that resonates with my own decision to leave The National and to return to the UK.

In the ever-popular film, Banks gets to have his cake and eat it. After the romantic but seemingly irresponsible act of whimsy that releases Tomlinson’s character from his gilded cage, he is almost immediately rehired and becomes a partner of the bank.

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Read more from Nick:

Reflecting on one man’s journey as another one ends

An Iraqi legacy celebrated on Abu Dhabi’s streets

Abu Dhabi hidden gem Bayt Al Jenaibi should be preserved

Welcome to the neighbourhood – a catalyst for Abu Dhabi’s urban renaissance

Examining the past should be an uncomfortable experience

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I’m under no illusion that it will take some time to fashion my own fairy tale ending, but just as there is a certain circularity to Banks’s fortunes, there is a similar echo in my own departure and my arrival in Abu Dhabi, which took place during Ramadan 2008, just a couple of days before the Lehman Brothers’ collapse.

Back then I was a landscape architect who came to the Gulf to work on massive infrastructure projects and to escape the global financial crisis that was devastating the careers of so many of my UK-based colleagues.

If I had an ambition, it was to work on Louvre Abu Dhabi, although I didn’t really know why I wanted to or how that might come to pass.

A decade later, I’m leaving the UAE’s capital as a journalist who managed to report on the project’s development in more detail than anyone else, as a father of two, and as the owner of far too many pets.

Those are the kind of opportunities and changes that it’s hard to imagine happening anywhere else.

Thank you Abu Dhabi. It’s been a blast. Now it’s time for the kites.

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