I want you to do me a favour; look at your watch and tell me the time. Done? Ok good. Now look again and tell me the time once more…ok? Did you notice anything strange about that? No, well, the year is 2015, I’m about to turn 31, Germany have just re-introduced the Deutschmark (into the rest of Europe) and Boris Johnson is now the Prime Minister of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland minus Scotland.
Where did the time go? No really, when did you move out here to the UAE? How long ago was it? How much hair did you have then? How different were your perceptions of the UAE? What happened to that sunny optimism you carried oh so brightly? Did you look at your residency visa back then and think “2011, Jeez that’s years away!”? One thing about the UAE that catches people out is the sheer velocity of how fast the clock ticks over here. Every seasoned expat I meet always says the same thing; “where has the time gone?”
This coming Monday is my 28th birthday. And whilst I’m not one to fuss over such a thing I am simply astounded by the speed at which it has come around. I was 23 when I came here, a boy, but now here I am 730 days away from being a 30 year old boy, if a little plumper in certain places. What the hell?
Did I, unwittingly, clamber into a slightly modified DeLorean DMC12, with electric windows and a flux capacitor and accidentally turn the time circuits on? Did I board a Klingon Bird of Prey and slingshot around the sun? Did I step into a time travelling phone booth with my teenage, guitar playing friend and wait for instructions from a suspicious looking man in a trench-coat? Did I go into a coma? Something must have happened because there is no way the 2008 me is sitting here now, in my mind palace, with a glass of red, snakes & ladders pyjamas and a flabby gut.
When I left the UK the world was different. In the same way the year 1932 was different to 1996, it is scarily different. I remember looking at my original labour card back then and thinking that the expiry – 2011 – was an eternity away. And here we are entering the last quarter of 2012, did I miss something? Since I came here I have quintupled my amount of Facebook friends, made a few enemies, joined Twitter, suffered a life changing nervous breakdown, switched from Etisalat to Du, got fat, got thin, then got fat again and got engaged. In what, nearly 5 years?
Where the ravages of time are at their most apparent is when I make my annual return home. When I left London a million years ago most of my friends still lived at home. The ones that had moved out weren’t exactly flush with cash and life was as it was. Now, whenever I go back I expect things to be the same as when I left, in the sense of “let’s go out on the lash”. We weren’t care free, but we could go out most nights a week, spunk our cash on putrid drinks and take our hangovers into work without let or hindrance. Nowadays people have mortgages to worry about; they can’t afford to go out on the jolly up 10 times a week. Most, if not all of my close friends are also either engaged or in serious relationships where spending money is a joint concern. They are all grown up, even Phil. This of course was always going to be inevitable.
Since I moved here I have spent just 14 weeks back home in London. As far as my uneducated mind is concerned, then, I only left home 14 weeks ago, so how is everything all so different? Is it the fault of the Lehman brothers? Is it the fault of the FSA? What about Gordon Brown? Nope, I’m afraid it is the fiendish doing of Chronos.
You may know the guy, personal friend of mine. Chronos was the man who gently turned the Zodiac wheel; he was, or even still is, the ancient Greek God of Time. Although it must said these days it feels like he is playing Wheel of Fortune with the damn thing.
Yep, you can’t beat the clock. In the UK time doesn’t move this quickly. Speak to any veteran expatriate over here and you will be told the same thing: “save your money because if you don’t you’ll never leave.” Each to their own, you have to live a little but you don’t want to get too lost with the latest Eastenders storyline.
If you are not planning on hanging around the UAE forever then be careful, the longer you stay, the quicker the time will pass and the harder it will be to leave. One day you will look at your watch and realise the last 10 years have just vanished. If you go back home be warned; you won’t be going back to what you knew. If however you are intent on staying then don’t waste a moment. Ski, sun, sand, sail and spend. Enjoy it…
…Because there won’t be much to spend it on in the Deutschmark-zone…