Tuesday, July 24, 2007


James’ Mum and Dad arrived at the end of March for a 10 day visit, just before James went into surgery to have his gall bladder removed. This happened on April Fools Day and, other than having a cup of tea first thing in the morning because he forgot that he was going into surgery, the whole thing passed off thankfully without mishap. James woke from his drug induced stupor late that afternoon, with a bottle full of gall stones and a video of the proceedings to show for the day. The whole thing had been filmed via a camera inserted through his belly button and he is desperate to show off the dvd to anyone willing – so far there have been minimal takers – bah humbug.

James was released the following day and had to spend a few days in bed and then the rest of the week recovering – men and their illness – it’s never a pretty sight ! Shortly after his return home – Kate, Mark, Ella and Seb arrived for a two week holiday which was quiet and uneventful as neither of us were in any fit state to do any major activities. Still trips to the pool, the souk and the beach were had and even a spell dolphin watching on the glass bottom boat, which proved to be a very successful day out indeed, even though it was quite an expensive activity.

The rest of April passed very uneventfully as doing an impression of a beached whale proved to be quite difficult in the increasing summer heat. Swollen ankles are just so attractive. April was followed by May of which we have no recollection which is probably due to events in early June.

As with many small multi racial communities rumours often get out of hand in Muscat and, are then often dismissed as pure fiction – so it was at the beginning of June. A cyclone named Gonu was rumoured to be heading towards Oman – oh yes, thought I as I sat playing Mexican train ridiculing those who were over reacting, evacuating their homes and generally panicking – how much worse than a typhoon could it really be if it even got this far – how mad to go and collect your children early from school and insist that your husband come home from work – sadly not so. James had set off merrily to Sur that morning to check on his site – gradually the rumours got worse – Ras Al Hadd had been hit and it was heading up the coast. I called James to suggest he come home – he reassured me that all would be well and then five minutes later called back to say he was indeed heading home as he had been reliably informed that Sur was being hammered and all the hospitals in Muscat were on disaster watch. He turned the car around and got home mid afternoon, whereupon we had a lovely time watching tv and drinking tea whilst marvelling over what a fuss people could make about a drop of rain – they should try living in England after all !

The next day all seemed normal, but a little wet and windy, with very little damage to be seen – Cyclone – what Cyclone ! James set off to work as normal. Gradually as the day progressed the weather got a little worse as did the rumours – the ODC had been hit badly and it was only a matter of hours until it was upon us, etc etc. After giving James a little bit of grief about going in to work, he reappeared at the front door, to say that the weather was worsening. We spent the rest of the day mopping up the rain from all our lovely leaky windows, which as everyone in Muscat knows is a fundamental part of living here. And still we wondered – Cyclone, what Cyclone ?!

And then the hour came. James was upstairs at about 6.00pm looking out of the window and then he saw it – the water came gushing like a huge torrent from between two houses further down our road and then to add to that – the water started gushing into the road from behind the house opposite. It rose and, it rose and, it rose and it just did not stop – so we started moving our possessions upstairs. I was minimal use given the size of my stomach, but managed a couple of cushions and some pictures – Jacob brought a few of his toys upstairs but just did not grasp the urgency of the situation. James and Jenny did an absolutely amazing job managing to bring anything of value upstairs with the waters rising around them and in darkness, no power, no ac, no lights, no nothing, just the sound of gushing water pouring into the house. At one point Jenny got stuck in the kitchen and James just could not open the door to get her out, but luckily the water evened out and he managed to get the door open. We decamped upstairs, where Jenny sat on the landing and prayed and James sat in the spare room drinking wine! We waited and waited to see how high the water would get – friends were texting us the numbers of the emergency services in case the water go so high that we needed a boat to get us out and indeed it was looking that way for a while. Then at about 10 O’clock – the water started to recede and we could all breathe a sigh of relief. The water had got up to about a metre high inside the house and even higher than that outside, up to about two meters in places. I had managed not to go into labour, Jacob had managed to stay calm, once he saw that his toys had been rescued and James and Jenny had managed not to get drowned – it all seemed like such a major achievement – we were still alive and that was definitely what we had to be grateful for. Jenny and James had managed to salvage some food from the fridge whilst it had been floating on its back and Jacob chose that night to have a major surge in appetite and eat us out of house and peanut butter! We managed to get a little sleep that night altogether in the spare room, with no ac or fans – but honestly much of the time was spent on the balcony watching the water just to make sure that it was still heading in the right direction. By morning the road was kind of passable in a 4wd and several sets of friends turned up to get us out of there. Jacob and I ended up going to stay with our friends Andy and Mandy who live literally two minutes away, but had not had the water inside the house due to a back gate that proved to be an invaluable exit route for the rising waters, lucky them.

The whole area resembled a war zone, destroyed cars, rubble, furniture littered the street and so began the clean up operation.

Jenny and James spent the day squeegying liquid mud from inside the house before it started to dry, but without power or water the whole day was unbearable. The two cars had been lost – James’ Hummer had been flooded up over the dashboard as had my Durrango which had also sunk into a massive hole that had opened up outside our living room window. The Hummer had been knocked into by a Mercedes from down the road as it floated on by and round the corner never to be seen again. It was all really quite unbelievable. People said we must be devastated by everything but really, we weren’t, we were just so grateful to be alive and that was enough. We ended up loosing very little indeed, some bookcases from Jacob’s play room and our tv cabinet. The dining room table needs a new top and the antique chest in there needs some attention, but nothing like as bad as it could have been – oh and we had to get a new washing machine, but James managed to save all of our fridges, which was a bit of a shame as I had already earmarked a lovely shiny new fridge that would have been fabulous – ho hum !

With a lot of help from friends, a water truck or two and some assistance from work acquaintances the house was liveable after just over a week. James had had to stay overnight at the house every night of that dreadful week as there was just so many reports of looting going on, we could not risk surviving Gonu only to loose everything to thieves – but with no ac, no water, no power it was an awful thing to have to do and it certainly took it’s toll on him – by the end of the week he looked just dreadful. Fortunately after that first week he went back to work for a well earned rest! So with the house in a right old state – all the floors on the ground floor collapsed and you could not get in the front door, not only because it had swollen up and could not be opened, but also because the front steps had totally gone and the ground between the front gate and the front door had disappeared, we needed to get things sorted quickly – we had a baby on they way and we needed a house we could bring him home to. Our landlady was absolutely stellar. She got the insurance people around straight away even though they had been badly hit themselves. They assessed the situation and work started within a week, with a 10 day deadline for completion – and they did it – unfortunately the baby couldn’t wait quite that long – but that is another story ! They relaid and retiled the whole of the ground floor – which was a nightmare as we had to have all the doors and windows open downstairs, with no ac’s on and they were basically mixing concrete in the middle of the living room – it was worth it – the work was done so quickly and looks really great. The downstairs was repainted in just about a day and a new front door is now up and running with lovely new steps outside – so we are just about back to normal – a few little issues still to sort out, but pretty much all is well again. Ah apart from the CAR ISSUE !

Mmmm the CAR ISSUE. Long story short – both cars should have been insured – same policy, same insurance company – same old same old – lesson learnt: READ YOUR POLICY. The Hummer was covered – the Durrango apparently not – wrangling ensues and we have now managed to get satisfactory resolution on both cars – it’s taken a while and the loan of a car from a very generous friend – who is also in insurance!! We hope to buy a car in the next week or so for me – James has already got a nice little Jeep Wrangler to see him right – I’m hoping to get a Ford Explorer – watch this space.

So Mum and Dad arrived for a visit on 29 June – Dad was due to stay a week and Mum two – I was hoping and praying that the baby would decide to put in an appearance whilst they were here – I needn’t have worried. I had been having contractions on a regular basis for a week or so – nothing to worry about – nothing too serious, but they were there – all my friends were desperate for the baby to arrive whilst they were still here – only so that they could call him some ridiculous name like Hurricane or Gonu – I assure you ! The wee one was to disappoint. I woke up at 5.00am on the morning on 01 July with some contractions going on – nothing worse than I’d had before so I went back to sleep. James went off to work with a warning that I was having some contractions and I’d call him if they got any worse. They didn’t seem to get much worse, but they didn’t go away either. Mum gave me a nice foot massage and I just pottered about taking it easy. I decided that going to the hospital would be a waste of time as the contractions were not getting any worse and they would just send me home again and I would have dragged James away from work for no good reason. No I’d just ride it out at home until the contractions got worse and really started doing something – MISTAKE ! About 11.00am Mum decided to have a shower so I thought I’d go and have a nice lay down on her bed – the ac is nice and cool in there. I laid down and thought – ah there we go – the contractions are going away now – I knew it. Mum had her shower and suddenly I had two really large contractions and my waters broke at 11.45 – oh lordy I knew about the contractions then I can tell you. We called James and told him to get home pronto, which he did, a few misunderstandings not withstanding – well, trying to talk on the phone whilst having contractions is not easy you know. Anyway he got to the house and between him and Mum they managed to drag me past the builders and into the car – where the pain became almost unbearable. James did a Starsky and Hutch drive to the hospital – driving between two lanes of traffic with his hand on the horn and a screaming wife and almost screaming mother in law in the back of the car! Well done James! We got there and went to the emergency dept, where they all thought I was a first time Mum who was making a big old fuss about nothing – they brought out a wheelchair which I tried to sit on – twice – to no avail – that was not happening – then they brought out a bed for me which was so high I couldn’t get up on it, so they had to go and find a stool – what a farce. Anyway we got to the labour ward and once they prised my hands from the bed the consultant examined me, her face fell as she told us that the baby’s leg was already out. She examined me further, which felt like she was trying to push him back in! Whereupon she proclaimed that there was no way the baby was coming out like that and I was whisked off for an emergency c section. Oscar Theodore Smith was born nine minutes later at 12.49pm, weighing in at 9lb and 52cm long – very healthy indeed. The Doctor did a little light liposuction, a mini tummy tuck and then closed me up – you don’t get that on the NHS – if only you could tell !

So I stayed in hospital for 4 nights as per the c section package – private room – private bathroom – cleaners in twice a day – room service and nurses that offer to take the baby away whenever you want so that you can sleep ! Pembury Hospital it certainly wasn’t – Jacob’s birth at that dreadful place seems like the dark ages in comparison – the sooner they knock it down the better. Mum and Dad were happy to look after Jacob and, he had a fab time – going swimming, doing experiments and all sorts of lovely activities. He was so fabulous with little Oscar – desperate to come and see him and give him lots of hugs and kisses it really was lovely to see – so far, this has continued in the real world – we’ll see how long it lasts – I think he’s going to be a wonderful older brother – he loves Oscar – or Strudel as he insists on calling him. Apparently when my Dad told Jacob that the baby had been born and was called Oscar – he burst into tears and said “but I wanted to call him Strudel”!

So we are home, I am still recovering from the C section (Oh how women complain about their illness’ ;) ) – I feel so much better than I did, but it’s hard not to overdo it and not being able to drive is just plain frustrating – but it’s not for ever. James is currently having two weeks off work and it’s lovely to all be together as a family. I’m looking forward to all my friends coming back from their hols so I can show off my new bundle and frankly have some female conversation ! I can’t wait to get back to Starbucks – oh how I miss you so.

Just to finish up – some good friends of ours and Jacob’s recently left Oman to relocate back to the UK – Julie, Michael, Will and Francesca – we will miss you lots – hope you have a lovely time in the UK and we really hope to see you at Christmas. Lots and lots of love.

Oh just thought – we had better change the name of this blog now – we are no longer the Oman three – we are the Oman four !!!


Anonymous said...

Wow! That's some story, no, that's some stories. I've been wondering how you were getting on, but I can see that life has been more than a little dramatic.

Congratulations on Oscar's safe arrival.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant!! - many congrats indeed to all of you for all that you have survived and achieved the last couple of months. No wonder you've been so quiet!! Love the names too, and I have a friend here who had a baby on July 1st too, so I'll think of you when I see her little one! Take care of yourselves and do post pictures if you ever have the time to do so...

Marissa said...

Hi Becky and James,
Just wanted to say congratulations on the safe arrival of your beautiful new son Oscar. Have been thinking about you loads, wondering if your little bundle had arrived. What a read your latest blog is! You've been through so much .....and then more!

Fantastic news! Can't wait to see Oscar, he looks so beautiful, and you all, when we get ack to Muscat at end of Aug. Make a date at Costa for some serious catching up!!
Much love to you all
Marissa, Graham & the boys

Anonymous said...

Belated congratulations on the birth of your baby!
My husbaand was in Muscat during the hurricane and told a similar story to you, scary stuff!!
Best Wishes