x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Happy new families -- away from home

When a young man breaks free of his mother's apron-strings, he doesn't expect to find himself being mothered in his new bachelor digs.

I was in a rush to get to work. Lugging my bag and headphones, I was nearly out the door when I realised I had forgotten my lunchbox. I quickly made my way to the kitchen where our cook packed me a fresh sandwich.

She asked whether I had eaten breakfast, I nodded. This was followed by questions on whether my room needed cleaning and a small plea to eat healthier food.

I tried to convince her that I was looking after myself, and this time I was so late I rushed to the door. Her urgent call stopped me in my tracks, she sounded worried.

I turned around and there she was standing, her hand outstretched. "You forgot your apple," she beamed.

You know, this was not part of the plan. My decision to move to the UAE was not simply to cut my tax-bill, but the umbilical cord as well.

I am what you would consider a mummy's boy. Well, having a single parent for most of your life kind of does that to you.

There was a stage where I couldn't make any decision without Mum's advice (really, her consent). Even when I would go on a CD shopping spree my mother's voice would barge into my conscience and ask me whether I really needed that new B-52's greatest hits compilation.

Even if I managed to buy the CDs, the fun would be spoilt by the guilt of the purchase. But to show you how under the thumb I was, I wouldn't blame Mum for being too financially responsible, I would blame the CD store for jacking up the price and the band itself for thoughtlessly releasing the CD at a time I was saving up for a car.

So my UAE adventure was going to make a man of me, and I began preparing. I called up all my culinary-savvy friends and they gave me a crash course in cooking. In three weeks I mastered pasta, curries and salads. I could even whip up a decent iced coffee using Fair Trade beans.

I jumped on that plane ready to face the world.

I kept telling myself to enjoy this new experience, but initially I couldn't. Mummy's boys miss their mums even when they are hitting 30.

Noticing my glum mood one particular day, the cook said she knew what I was thinking. "Don't worry," she said. "We are all one big family here."

I was permanently cheerful after that. Her name is Zarah. So is my mother's.