“…freight train running through the middle of my head”

Hangovers can feel like that. You reach for the pills and only succeed in grabbing some air. You half heartedly try to search for pain relief but your body says ‘no’. Everything slows down. 


Inside, every single bodily process can be felt wading in treacle, slow to react and when it does it react, it is to the wrong stimulus. Your head says ‘get up’, everything else says ‘stay down, just stay down’. The only organ in charge is your bowel which will not be mocked. It knows it is the boss for a few hours and no matter what your limbs and stomach are saying, it will have its way. You would be wise to have a clear path between you and the bathroom. And do not think that once will be enough. It will not. This is what air travel can do.

In my case this morning, alcohol is not the culprit. Tiredness due to a very long day, and a changing time zone, reduces my brain to fuzz and my limbs to lead. I got to bed, local time about 0530. Sleep just doesn’t overcome me, it envelops me in the totality of nothingness. It takes me to where I have already existed….in the 13 billion years of oblivion since the Big Bang. They could crash several squadrons of jumbo jets into my hotel tower; and earthquakes, cyclones and a major war would not rouse me. My whole body is shutting down just as a grizzly bear prepares to hibernate for winter. I welcome the comforting arms of the long dark sleep. And yet.

It is 0930 and the hotel room phone rings. Well, it rather chainsaws its way into my brain.

I wake up wondering what circle of hell I have just become conscious of. 

Reception informs me that a taxi driver has just arrived. What!? Has a meeting been arranged at this hour without my knowledge? I’ve been asleep for 4 hours, I am unshaven, and there ain’t no fuel in this boy’s tank. I’m running on fumes. I look and feel like a poorly tied bag of potatoes. Panic sets in…’you mean I have to spend a day, having had no  breakfast, meeting people I have never met, in places I have never heard of to discuss things of which I have no knowledge?’ This is what I thought, not say. I can’t really speak as my tongue refuses to stop clinging to the roof of my mouth in its dryness. 

“Give me 10 minutes” I croak, like a gin sodden Gollum, down the phone. 

Enough time to shower and throw on some clothes? I should have said “give me a day”. After all, I had no record of the meeting, so why should I dance to their tune. But, I’m a guest in the country, meeting the firm for the first time. First impressions count…right? God knows what they’ll think when presented with a complete and utter shambles of a man, a pale shadow of humanity, and certainly not representative of the post colonial imperial masters of the past who were besuited with linen, entitlement and arrogance that comes from owning the whole world bar the United States. 

Throwing some water in my general direction, and grabbing whatever shirt and trousers are available, since actually trying to find where I have put stuff in the room is as easy a task as solving algebra, I ooze painfully downstairs to reception. The taxi driver is waiting patiently, no hint of annoyance at having to wait. He hands me a laptop and turns to go. It is clear he is not taking me anywhere. He is just the delivery driver. 

I then realise that there is no meeting. He is simply delivering. I could kiss his head but this being a rather formal and polite country in every day interaction, that might have been a bit ‘forward’, certainly not ‘British’. I don’t quite skip back to the lifts, but my demeanour is somewhat lighter. 

And so, at that moment, the white fluffy heavenly clouds part, and a choir of beautiful angels sing my salvation. I am free to go back to bed to continue dying. 

When I log on, using the aforementioned technical kit, I get an email from my contact who makes it clear that today, nothing is expected of me due to the travel. If I was religious, and I’m not, I would sacrifice my virginity to whatever gods are in charge of ‘reprieve’. This is what death row inmates must feel when the last minute pardon from the President arrives just as the leather straps on the chair are being tightened. 

A thought crosses my mind. ‘Should this be a billable day?’ Maybe not. That would be taking the piss of epic proportions. Instead I’ll let nature takes its course and explore the hotel in the afternoon. If wake up.


The Sheraton Grand is a 54 story edifice of modern steel and glass. It soars into the stratosphere pointing the way to the pole star in the heavens. On the top floor is a swimming pool and small bar…just as if you were on a Mediterranean island resort. The pool is set among white and grey marble, allowing the sun to bounce its light within. The glass walls on one side allow a view a cross the city to downtown Dubai and the towering spire of the Burj Khalifa. It sparkles in the daytime light like a diamond encrusted upside down Cornetto. There are not many guests allowed in, and the limit is 20 at any one time. The late afternoon heat is about 25 degrees and a hardly perceptible breeze ripples the surface of the pool just enough to indicate it is actually water rather than pale blue glass. The underwater blue lights are iridescent, matching the total blue sky above. The Queen of Sheba would have been impressed and for Cleopatra only the ass’ milk is missing.  

There are a few extremely mini bikinis on show….and I mean ‘on show’. Were bikinis this skimpy on a 1970s Cornish beach? I don’t remember it being so. These appear to be merely ‘pencilled in’ as if they had taken a small brush and just covered the important parts. Now there is a business. Take enough material to cover two nipples (about a postage stamp size each) and charge £50 for less than 50p worth of silk. The ‘bottom’ bit is extra.  Two bikinis strut their booties while taking the classic posed selfie to send to themselves, to the remind themselves just how beautiful they think they are. The puffed out pouty lips are obligatory.

The bar sells G and T. Of course it does. I order a pre prandial libation, Hendricks being on offer. Now, as we all know, ordering a G and T in the U.K. is a fools errand unless you enjoy sipping water with a hint, a merest hintette, of gin. The offer board sets out singles and doubles prices…so suitably drawn in, of course I go for the double. 

Doubles in Dubai, in this bar in any case, are not what they are back home. I know this because after a few sips I can feel it. Perhaps it’s still the jet lag…but I know the feeling of an early evening aperitif that leads you to the edge, if not quite over it. Ok I’ve not eaten today so perhaps that’s the reason for the sudden mild dizziness. I’ll not bill the client for this one.

And so to bed, hoping oblivion this time is a happy place rather than the deadened senses of doom it was last night. 

Published by Lance Goodman

Freelance writer, bon vivant and all-round good oeuf.

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