Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve is not traditionally one of my favourite annual events, mainly I think because I don't like being told when and how to enjoy myself, but this year (or should that be LAST year) I had a great time, as did everyone else at the Embassy.

A "Travelling Supper" was planned for the evening (more on this later), and to further fill the day for all the families who had teenage children over to visit during the holidays, Karen organized a quad-biking trip. She had also managed to be on Duty Officer watch that week (not sure whether by accident or design), which meant she had to stay near the Embassy in case of emergencies and therefore couldn't come with us, so she stayed home (and probably went back to bed for all I know).

We've been quad-biking several times before (as regular readers will know), but this was by far the largest group we had ever had, with about 35 people heading off from our house on New Year's Eve morning in a convoy of ten 4x4s.

The quad-biking dunes are around 50km Southwest of Riyadh, a journey which took our convoy about 40 minutes. Having arrived safely the next order of business was to negotiate a good price for our "bulk purchase" of 30 bums on seats, and Sherard did us proud here; dismissing the first group of Bedouin who had taken one look at our Diplomatic licence plates and had immediatly inflated their prices accordingly, wanting to charge us SR150 each (£20) for an hour, then moving further down the road to another group where he negotiated (in Arabic) a great rate of just SR50 (£7) each.

"Here come some ex-pat suckers."

Sherard with his negotiating hat on

We had the usual mix of experience in the group, with a couple of devil-may-care maniacs who shot off immediately, wondering how quickly they could hit a dune to lift them airborne, followed by the confident, experienced, but still sensible group (thankfully including my children).

"Whatever you do, don't press this button!"

I stayed behind to assist the first timers; some of whom just needed briefing on the controls and some who needed a little encouragement to mount up. As is usually the case, the nervous first-timers soon got to grips with the bikes and were then off whizzing all round the dunes.

...and they're off!

First-timers Gill and son Jack

Yours Truly with Alexander

Paul getting carried away

Abigail's an old hand now

Melanie had a laid-back approach to the whole thing

Sherard playing with the new camcorder he got from Santa

"Eat my dust!"

Megan (another first-timer) looking like a pro after just one session

The morning was a great success, and we returned to the DQ at around 2.30 in the afternoon, just in time to catch a power nap before getting ready for the evening's festivities.

A travelling supper is, well, a supper that you travel to. Each family taking part hosts a single course in their house, then the group walks to the next house for the next course, and so on. For us, this meant following a pre-determined route that Karen had worked out and that had to be followed with military precision if we were all to make it to the Ambassador's residence by quarter to midnight.
Thirty-eight of us (including all the visiting teenagers) had cocktails at 6 at Kevin & Louise's, then the starter (liver and fish pates) at Lynn & David's at 7. This was followed by an Indian main course at 8 at Ian & Carol's house and dessert at 9 at Karen & Adrian's (sponge pudding and custard!). Then at 10 it was off to Paul & Elke's for cheese and buscuits, then our house at 11 for coffee before moving to the Residence in time to see the new year in with some dancing.

Wonderful. Next New Year's Eve is going to have a tough act to follow.

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