Some of you may have realised that, once upon a time, I lived in the Middle East. I spent almost eight years there, happy as an animal (not a pig: it was a Muslim country) in poo. That was, until the ex decided he preferred my best friend to me and felt I had to clear off as I was cramping his style.
The expatriate lifestyle in Oman is such that you are fortunate enough to meet many new people, from all walks of life and can engender such friendships that last a lifetime. Your social circle is not just quality, but also quantity, and great fun can be had on a daily basis...
The ex worked as a Design Manager for a large construction company, building palaces for the Sultan (who collected them like I collect credit card bills) and came into contact with many sub-contractors with whom we ended up socialising and becoming good friends.
One such couple, Chris and Dave, were firm favourites of ours and we were thrilled to be invited to their wedding, to be held at the British Embassy. It was a small gathering, with only a handful of guests allowed to come and I felt very privileged to have been invited.
Chris had selected the two young daughters of a work colleague to be her bridesmaids and they looked beautiful carrying their posies aloft and attempting to carry Chris's train as she hobbled up the steps in too-tight shoes and a definitely too-tight skirt. My own #1 daughter was in a foul mood because she hadn't been asked to be bridesmaid, but as she was only about six at the time, and a bit daft, I think Chris made the right decision.
As is the bride's prerogative, she was late. So late, in fact, that Dave (Hobbsy) told us we might as well all clear off to the pub and have a skinful as he 'wasn't waiting around for any bloody woman'. He proceeded to chat up all the other women in attendance, liberally poured the Moet & Chandon into any empty glass and started singing Oasis songs. I think he was somewhat disappointed when Chris did finally show in a vintage Rolls Royce as he was having such a good time. Where Hobbsy got that Roller from is still a mystery, but he was a wheeler-dealer if ever there was one - if you needed anything in Oman, Hobbsy was your man...
The ceremony was lovely and we all traipsed outside for the obligatory photographs. Hobbsy didn't want anything formal, and ended up lying on the grass with me hovering over him, my right foot holding him firmly to the ground by his neck. In retrospect, this may have been because he wanted to see up the women's skirts as he had been rather flirtatious all day...Chris's photographs consisted of her in the arms of pretty much every bloke in attendance, and then they all carried her à la Madonna's Material Girl which really tickled her fancy.
The reception, unbeknownst to all of us, was to be held on a dhow, which is an old, galleon-like vessel, and which would set sail for the afternoon with all of us on board, getting more and more drunk as the day wore on.
Well, let me put this question to our two dear readers. When you think of Middle Eastern weather, I am sure the image which is conjured up is one of glorious sunshine, clear, limpid blue skies and searing heat.
OK...it started off that way...but the minute the last guest had got on board the dhow and we had cleared the marina, the clouds closed in...
Dressed in all my finery, and getting merrier and merrier with each bottle of Corona I imbibed, I briefly wondered whether my unsteadiness was due to the ever-increasing, wind-whipped waves (God, my alliteration improves with each blog, doesn't it?), or my ever-increasing inebriation. My balance was starting to go, somewhat, and in order to cover it up, I decided to put on an impromptu line-dancing display, having put myself through a crash course by DVD so I could help a friend out and teach 10 nine year olds the basic steps at a birthday party. The rocking helped me to look almost professional until I tripped and fell heavily into the mainstay mast where I decided that it would be easier to cling on for dear life than attempt any more Fuzzy Duck.
I felt nice and safe holding on to the mast. Unfortunately, other people started to feel the same insecurity as I was feeling, and after a few minutes, there were four of us fighting for the same piece of pole.
Buffet was announced and I considered that if I was going to be sick, I should at least attempt to have something other than Corona with which to feed the fishes. I ladled myself out a large portion of Prawn Cocktail and attempted to eat it. I felt sicker and sicker - so much so that when Hobbsy saw that I didn't have a beer in my hand, was shocked at my request for 'some water, please'.
I felt a trip to the lavatory might be prudent at this stage, but was summarily informed that there was a queue. My only port of call (pardon the nautical pun) was to get to the side of the boat, pronto. I moved as far from the bulk of the guests as was possible, but there's always some bleeding heart liberalist who deems himself your saviour and feels he should be mopping your fevered brow as your rectum hits the back of your throat, isn't there? My 'saviour' was Simon - one of the most handsome, lovely men in Muscat, and I really, really didn't want him there as he watched technicolour yawn after technicolour yawn come hurtling from my guts.
'Urghoahgggoooo aaarghway, Ssimmon!' I growled at him through retching.
'No, no, you need someone here with you, you poor thing,' he replied. 'Where's Anal (this is an anagram of the ex's name, by the way - work it out for yourselves)?'
'Urghodunnnnoooo, anna don currrr, gooo awayyy, pleeeeeeasasse, urghoahghghh!!'
'Oh dear, this isn't good. No, this isn't good at all. Stay there, I'll get something sorted out right now.'
He left me in peace to dry-retch with tears streaming down my face, my hair covered in all sorts of nasty stuff, and feeling very sorry for myself. I pathetically brought my head up to view the horizon where I saw forked and sheet lightning scudding across the skyline, heard the rolling thunder, saw the roller coaster waves and wondered what I had done to deserve this.
We were way out to sea, but on the other side of the dhow, land was still in sight, in the form of Marina Banda al Rhowda, slap-bang in the middle of nowhere.
'Right, we are putting you off on the outboard. One of the crew will take you to the Marina and you can wait for us there. OK? You can't carry on like this.'
Relief - I was eternally grateful to my saviour. He helped me stagger across the deck - Christ knows where the ex was at this stage - and gently assisted me down the ladder into the waiting inflatable outboard.
I climbed aboard and the guests gathered at the side of the dhow, cheering, jeering, making vomiting gestures and calling me lots of rude things. As we set sail, the sun came out, the wind died down for a few minutes, and a fantastic rainbow appeared in the sky...In the half mile journey, I lay across the sides of the dinghy and vomited while the young Omani sailor stared at me with distaste. At least he didn't charge me five rials for soiling his transport, though.
Suddenly, he stopped.
'You get out now,' he stated.
'But the marina is over there,' I stated rather obviously, at a distant speck.
'No. I cannot get any further up to the beach. You will have to swim now.'
I stared at him, askance, pleaded with him; offered him my wet, vomit-stained body; was refused; and thus walked the plank...
I landed in icy cold, choppy water, wearing some of the most expensive shoes I have ever owned, a Oui Set dress which had cost me my last pay-packet, and a beautiful pure wool jacket. Remembering my Swimming Certificates from Primary School, I trod water and removed the shoes, buckled them together, clamped them firmly between my teeth, and swam for safety, being unable to touch the sandy bottom of the sea. I have never swum in tights before and I must say, I do not recommend it to any of you, male or female.
Ten minutes later, I reached the safety of the beach, and crawled up it, exhausted, still hearing the jeers coming from the dhow which had stayed moored in order to watch me arrive safely...or was it basically to video me for viewing at the party later? I have my own suspicions...
I was bitterly cold. My clothes clung to me and the biting wind made my extremities turn waxy blue and white. The Marina's café was deserted, and I plaintively knocked on the locked door until a waiter showed his face...
'I have no money, but I can open a tab, and when they come to collect me, I will settle up with you. Can I have a black coffee, please?' I begged forlornly, looking like something the cat had dragged in.
'Yes, ma'am. No problem, but you will have to stay outside as we have Pest Control in at the moment and the buildings are off-limits, hence why the café is shut.'
So, I sat by the beautifully-lit swimming pool as the sun set, soaked to the skin, shivering with the icy wind, sipping my coffee and choking as the DDT fumes were pumped all over the premises, inside and out, to eradicate Malarial Mosquito.
With a spirit of adventure, I wrote this event up for the happily married couple, who actually managed to consummate their vows on board without regard for their guests, and published it for them using Microsoft Publisher. I framed it and presented it to them a few weeks later.
What's the bets it's now hanging on their toilet door?