Swimming with sharks and ferals
Sometimes when travelling with your children they ask questions that make you truly proud. This was not such an occasion. Helena Frith Powell visits Atlantis with her family
Sometimes when travelling with your children they ask questions that make you truly proud, such as “when did the first man walk on the moon?” or “what is the square root of 566?” This was not such an occasion. We were at the Atlantis Dive Centre in Dubai. Our cheerful young diving instructor was explaining what was about to happen. “This is what you will be wearing,” he said, showing us a drawing on a flipchart of our diving kit.
“Is there any pink?” asked Bea. “If a shark comes, will he eat me?” asked Olivia. As we were diving in an indoor pool there was not much risk of sharks. Leo was in the Kid’s Club, since the diving experience is only for children aged eight and above. So there was no risk of a silly question from him. Sadly, I had one. “Do we wear swimming costumes?” I was slightly confused by the picture of a wetsuit.
“What do you think this is?” barked my husband. “Naked diving?” “No, there is no pink,” explained our guide patiently. “And there are no sharks. And yes, you will need to wear a swimming costume. Shall we get started?” The one thing, in fact one of several things, I really hate about skiing is getting everyone into all the kit. I imagined diving would be the same kind of thing. Happily I was helped into my diving vest by our handsome guide and the girls were much more adept at getting their flippers on than I imagined.
I also thought they would have panic attacks underwater and start spluttering and complaining within seconds. Not a bit of it. They loved it. The silence once you’re diving, which is truly magical, seemed to entrance even the ferals. Our guide had told us that the most important thing to do was to remember to breathe. Seems odd advice for someone underwater, but it was extremely easy. We played Frisbee in this other world and swam around happily until our time was up. Then we went to collect Leo and head off to dinner. He had found a computer game where he was Didier Drogba scoring endless goals for Chelsea so we were late for our reservation at the Ronda Locatelli restaurant.
Being half-Italian, I was not expecting to be overly impressed. But it was exquisite, quite the best Italian meal I have eaten outside of Piazza di Spagna. The service was outstanding. When the children had difficulty drinking with their straight straws, the waiter came back with bendy ones without even being asked. After their pizza and lasagne the ferals all played football on the grass by the restaurant.
“Would you like to see the menu for pudding?” asked the waiter. Finally, a sensible question. firstname.lastname@example.org For reservations or additional information, call The Atlantis Dive Centre on 04 426 3000 or email email@example.com. The Atlantis Dive Centre is open daily from 8am to 5pm. For Ronda Locatelli, call 04 426 2626
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