x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Extracting the most fun out of the holidays

The last couple of days of school before the holidays begin are probably the best.

I love holidays. By the time this goes to print, Christmas will have come and gone, and with it the delicious feeling of community and togetherness that arrives with the festive season - although we'll still have New Year to look forward to.

The last couple of days of school before the holidays begin are probably the best. You can still see everyone and skip around corridors with other people, lustily belting out carols, usually in different keys, and lessons mostly have a festive twist. It feels as if it's just been a couple of weeks since you got back from the summer, and suddenly you can't walk around without being within a two-metre radius of a Santa-hat-sporting kid with a head that doesn't quite fit it.

Christmas cards were fervently exchanged, and now I wish I had had the sense to invest in some shop-bought ones myself. I'm not sure how well I pulled off my hand-drawn versions, all of which boasted a skeletal Christmas tree or cross eyed snowman with a stick figure portrait of the person the card was meant for.

"Oh, thanks, you've drawn me a little unicorn!" one receiver cooed when I gravely handed over a card. It wasn't a unicorn; it was Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer wearing a hat over his antlers, but no matter. It was the thought that counted, not what it resembled, as I stoically pointed out when she opened her mouth to presumably debate my artistic ability.

A Christmas concert presented us with a chance to hold pre-concert mince pie-eating competitions - there were endless boxes of mince pies on the refreshments tables - and then later stagger off the stage slightly unsteadily after our performances, although the concert ran smoothly enough. The festive season always does manage to trick you into a false sense of security as you indulge yourself. You don't have the heart to refuse yourself that unneeded calorie because, hey, it's Christmas. I did buy an advent calendar, but didn't have the discipline to chow down my one chocolate a day. They were all gone in about 48 hours; they were ridiculously small and ridiculously good.

While the malls all look gorgeously Christmassy, I only wish that the weather could have taken a turn for something a bit more seasonal: in the afternoon the sun still blazes with a vengeance and you can't help feel a bit sad when you can't wear the cute scarves and boots you bought to try to incorporate some wintriness to your wardrobe. I suppose we must be grateful; snow's great for being a nice background for singing White Christmas but there's the tiny problem of road blockages and airports grinding to a standstill and so on. A few friends have been stuck at airports in France and the UK for as long as 48 hours.

However, being home in sunny climes these holidays, I've been doing quite a bit of sailing at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club - quite the traditional Yuletide pursuit - and had to lather on oodles of sun block just to stop getting burnt. I did build a little "sandman", and gave him shells for eyes and a nose, but it almost immediately crumbled down.

Not to be deterred, I've made do with snowball fights at the Ski Dubai snow park, although we were quickly stopped, had hot cocoa and even sat still long enough to start shivering, something I actually miss living in the middle of a desert. To make sure it was a memorable Christmas, I made long lists to Santa and left them in places where I was sure my parents would find them - purely for old time's sake, of course. I wouldn't dream of using Christmas as a time to behave any less maturely than how I usually conduct myself. Still, I don't think it should be too hard for certain persons who have it within their control to give me a meagre raise in my pocket money.

The stockings - well, old socks, were hung up, albeit on the handle of the kitchen door for lack of a fireplace. At least 10 batches of fir-shaped cookies have been baked and devoured, and all seems well with the world. All that is left to do now is watch and wait, and see how many items on my list I can secure. I'll know by the time this is published.

Christmas holidays are always fun, but they also have a tendency to end alarmingly quickly. At the other end of the tunnel we do have a number of things to look forward to, but these mostly consist of things like GCSE mock exams and demands for holiday homework. Still, I'm determined to enjoy every minute of the festivities while I can, so here's to what will hopefully be a very happy New Year!

The writer is a 15-year-old student in Dubai