Having completed our first year in Al Ain, I am very grateful to be living here.

As I was thinking about writing the first draft of this page, I had a moment of serendipity…

It was the last day of the school year – and so the last day of my sons’ first school year in Al Ain. I was driving 5 boys back to our home for a change of clothes before taking them to the cinema to see the new version of The Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith, son of Will Smith and Jada Pinket Smith. As we drove along we played a fab song on my iPod that my 10-year-old son Toby has introduced me to: Dead And Gone by T.I. (featuring Justin Timberlake).

All 5 of us sang along loudly: “The old me is dead and gone, dead and gone” – and I felt present, alive and my heart opened. A perfect line, a perfect moment, the joy of driving, listening to music, being with my boys and their friends.

Living in Al Ain, for me, is a different life from the one I had in the UK.

There have been many moments during the last year that I really appreciate, some of them a little tongue in cheek!

* not wearing socks and shoes, just sandals in nearly a year

* not tucking my shirt in either

* meeting some wonderful new friends

* speaking more French in the last 10 months than I have done in the whole of the last 25 years (one of Toby’s classmates’s mother only speaks French)

* sitting chatting with a delightful German family while our mutual sons played tennis in the early evenings

* meeting new people and listening to great world music at a local fort at the WOMAD (World Of Music, Arts And Dance) Festival

* taking driving lessons (four) for the first time in 30 years so I could pass my test – and realising how badly I drive a manual car!

* standing with my boys, backs to the high waves on a windy day on a beach in Dubai, and constantly being knocked off our feet. Hilarious and exhilarating

* trying to pay for an upgrade to my desktop publishing software (QuarkXpress) having received a call from a saleswoman from India while the Red Devils screamed overhead at the Air Show, relaying my credit card number during the rare quiet moments

* lounging by the pool in the glorious sunshine, drinking a mocktail, buried in a wonderful book, interrupted by friends passing by who stop to chat

* watching my 7-year-old run full pelt across the playground with pure care-free abandon once I’d picked him up at the end of his school day

* listening to my wife enthuse again and again how much she loves her job teaching local Emiratee teenage girls

* marvelling at the sheer, slick professionalism and devoted care given by the staff at the Al Noor Hospital when my eldest tore the ligament in his leg

* the beauty of the neon lights above the shops while driving through the town centre at night

* the delightful friendliness of the staff at the Hilton Hotel, Magrudy’s bookshop, and other places

…and many more.

Welcome to Al Ain: shed your old skin, step into a new life, and enjoy the simple pleasures of daily living here.

“The old me is dead and gone, dead and gone.”

If you live in Al Ain, do tell me what you appreciate/love about living here. I’d love to know!