Directions aren’t my strong suit
There are only three roads out of Abu Dhabi. How hard can it be?” I told my husband and ferals happily as we left home one Friday morning aiming for the seaside town of Mirfa in Al Gharbia. “I think we head towards Mussafah and then we’ll see the road.” Ever since I went to the Western Region to write an article about women weavers there, I had wanted to come back with the family. It’s so different from Abu Dhabi, almost another world. No traffic, lots of nature, lovely coastline. And we need to take advantage of the lovely weather.
So we were ready; picnic packed and some friends following us. The plan was to get there around 1pm and eat by the sea while the children ran around. It wasn’t until Lucy, a friend following us, called and asked if we were sure we were going the right way that I started to doubt my sense of direction. Why I had ever trusted it in the first place is beyond me. Then I saw a sign for Mafraq. “We’re fine,” I said. “I’m sure I’ve seen Mafraq on the map. That’s the right direction.”
“You always say that,” said Bea. Minutes later there was a diversion and we found ourselves heading towards Abu Dhabi once more, and this happened twice again. My husband passed the time telling his favourite story about how we almost got divorced on our first day of marriage after we left the hotel and drove for three hours around the Swedish countryside before ending up back where we started. Finally we ended up on the right road by heading towards Al Ain. In another hour, we were there.
“Are we back in Abu Dhabi?” quipped Olivia. The road into Mirfa is beautifully kempt; flowers line it all the way. We stopped the car by the sea and inhaled the fresh air while deciding where to picnic. The view was lovely: sand and a corniche with a walkway and lamp posts, a kind of mini Promenade Anglaise. Lucy got out of the car. She had been travelling alone with her three children all under the age of five and was ready to kill me. Happily she is too well brought up to murder anyone before lunch.
“Let’s drive to the hotel and see what the beach is like there,” she suggested. We followed signs to the Mirfa Hotel and ended up on a sand dune where they are constructing a new road. One of the few people we saw told us to drive up towards the highway and go round. No one was keen on yet more driving, so we went back to the seashore and ate our picnic. There was no one else around the breeze was cool and the sun warm. It was almost like being in Brighton except a lot warmer in January than it is there in June. The children ran around on the wooden benches and we watched the fishermen bring in their boats. The whole place felt like a sleepy little village.
I am pleased to report that the journey home went extremely quickly. In fact, Mirfa really is only just over an hour away, if you just follow the signs. Lucy, very wisely, refused to follow us. firstname.lastname@example.org
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019