x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

It's nice to travel but it's nicer to come home

Holidays are complicated for expatriates. There's the going home at the start, and then coming home at the end.

Despite still not being able to name any of their songs off the top of my head, I've now seen James Walsh, from the band Starsailor, perform twice. The first time was in London, in a sticky, sweaty Shepherd's Bush Empire, among a throng of people swaying to the northerner's surprisingly dulcet tones. Last Friday, standing in the sand with views of the shoreline and the Palm on one side and a gleaming Dubai skyline on the other, I listened again. Both experiences were fun, but, thanks to its still slightly surreal (to me at least) location, the latter gig was the more memorable.

I began telling a friend back in the UK about this the other night, but after a few words, I found myself holding back. As unintentional as it was, it just sounded like I was boasting. Sometimes it's difficult to describe the subtleties (if that's the right word) of a Dubai life, whether by phone, email or handwritten letter, without it seeming like gloating. How do you talk about the hotels, the supersized malls, the fountain that dances to music, expanse of open desert and the easy travel to the rest of the world, without irritating the person on the receiving end of your musings? So, sometimes I just bite my tongue and then worry that I'm losing touch.

Which is why I'm particularly pleased that soon I'll be packing a bag and heading home to the UK for a week. I'm already pretty sure that the inevitable gust of cold air that will greet me the moment I get off the plane will be reality check enough. My sister has promised to meet me at Heathrow armed with a winter coat; I've already dug out the old Oyster card that gives me access to public transport in London, and importantly - and after some serious deliberation - have put in a request for a full roast dinner as my first meal.

Also on the agenda are oysters for lunch in south London's Borough Market, a mooch along the south bank of the Thames and a proper cup of tea. Not forgetting a long walk across the fields with my parent's black labrador Ramsay, who was named in a mildly ironic homage to my former boss, a certain Gordon of that ilk. There's a certain pleasure to be had in shouting the words: "Ramsay, come here right now" - and being obeyed.

All this makes me feel giddy with excitement. Yet despite the inevitable goodbye tears at the end of the week, I know that I'll be pleased to be jetting back to the desert. And there's something quite nice about that.