If someone had told me that my husband was going to get arrested at Dubai airport, and that a couple of days later I would be standing up in an English court of law, on a separate charge trying to defend myself, I’d would have said to them, ‘Yer ‘avin a giraffe with me mate’ But that my friends, is exactly what did happen a couple of weeks ago when we flew back to London for a brief visit.
It started at Dubai airport. Dubai airport always gets my hackles up. It probably doesn’t help that whenever I land there it’s the middle of what would normally be my night, or the fact that despite having been 38,000 feet up in the air for what seems like an eternity, that one is still subjected to strict security checks and x-ray machines whilst going through transit on to your next flight. You’d have to be some sort of genius to magic a whole load of weapons and drugs quite literally out of thin air between Jakarta and Dubai, but that still doesn’t stop the painful security exercise that greats you as you step off the plane.
I shall not bore you with the whole story but it started when I had a small run in with the security guy at the x-ray machine. He insisted that I took all my bangles, beads and boots off. Most of my bracelets are just ethnic beads but I have a few silver ones that I never take off if I can help it. Heathrow airport has never worried about them, nor Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta but Dubai airport in it’s wisdom wanted me to remove each and every one of them which made me furious as it takes hours to undo all the knots on the strings and my boots were glued to my feet as my legs had swollen on the plane. I suggested to the man that he might like to help me remove them as I was struggling. He took great exception to this request and I was duly frog marched into a small dimly lit cubicle to be searched by a female security officer.
The first thing she did was unceremoniously head straight for the top of my thighs, and clamp her hands firmly onto my crotch and squeeze it. I stared at the ceiling and tried to think calm relaxing thoughts to myself as inch by inch she went over my entire body. If she was hoping to extract a Kalashnikov rifle from my arse, or a load of heroin from inside my knickers, she must have been bitterly disappointed.
When I came out of the cubicle there was a bit of a scene going on. There in the middle of it was an over-excited Irishman and an extremely irate policeman and a red-faced security guard. A small crowd had gathered around and were watching. Impatient after my frisking, I stormed into the middle of it and demanded in my plumiest English accent, ‘What on Earth is going on?’
‘He’s only gone and taken my fucking passport’ hissed Irishman ‘Apparently I made an obscene gesture and for that he can put me in prison for 4 years’. My heart sank as like little lambs, we were escorted down endless passageways and corridors till at last we arrived at a police cell. ‘Sit down there’ the officer spat at us as he then turned round and started talking loudly to his two colleagues in Arabic and pointing at us every now and again. After what seemed like rather a long time to be sat there doing nothing I asked if we could have a translator/and or the British Embassy so we could find out exactly it was that Irishman had done to have his passport taken off him, also mentioning the small matter of the fact that we had a plane that we needed to catch.
‘Your husband will not be going anywhere’ said the policeman ‘I can put him in prison for four years’. Irishman stamped on my foot to make me shut up as the policeman then read us the riot act about Irishman’s apparently obscene gesture and showed us various photographs and made us repeat what it was that was written underneath them. By now my blood was beginning to boil ‘Excuse me’ I said ‘but I find it rather obscene having a stranger put their hands on my….’ Irishman stamped on my foot so hard this time that I had to stifle a yell.
Eventually, after an hour and a half of brown nosing and grovelling from the Irishman, and me making loud and effusive comments about how fabulous Dubai airport was, we were freed.
On the plus side it meant that we only had 20 minutes to wait until our connecting flight back to London, just enough time to down a glass of the worlds most ridiculously over-priced beer.
The following evening safely back in London, my daughter Annie bought over two bulging bags containing our mail. Normally I don’t open it until shortly before we leave to go back to Jakarta, it’s mostly junk mail and nothing very interesting, but my first night back I was sleepless and so for want of something better to do started to sift through it. Within minutes it became clear that I was in a bit of hot water.
Letters from the police, letters from a magistrates court, letters demanding my driving licence back, letters wanting £700 for a driving fine, letters saying that I should have been in court, letters saying that if I didn’t respond I would go to prison, so many letters and not one of them saying anything nice!
Slowly I pieced together the correspondence and the penny bounced. Shortly before moving to Indonesia, I gave my Father my car to use while we were away. Just a month before we moved, Irishman and I tied the knot so I quickly had to change my passport, driver’s licence, pretty much everything into my new married name before we left. The one thing that I did not have time to change, was getting my car put into my Fathers name. It seems that Speedy Gonzalez Dad has been clocking up a few fines since I’ve been away and as the car is still registered in my name, the strong arm of the law rests firmly and squarely on my shoulders.
Needless to say I had to spend far too much of my precious week back in London trying to sort it all out. I did go to court, and I did stand up on a podium in a courtroom in front of a judge and beg for mercy but it wasn’t enough. I have another court hearing in a week’s time because however much I tried to explain that I was not the one driving the car, and that I live in Indonesia, the judge would hear nothing of it. The moral of this story is, make sure that you have dotted all the ‘I’s’ and crossed all the ‘T’s’ before moving to another country. I rest my case.