Sunday 22 November 2009

Abu Dhabi Television newsreader training 1983

Thursday 29th September. We see beautiful pair of turquoise Dogs of Fo in Wong's Emporium shop window. They are priced up at 600 dirhams. I have a mental picture of them in my house in Benfleet UK and know they would look stunning with my other furnishings. But Bill says they are too expensive so no, I can't have them.

Mohammed is my houseboy, he comes from Sri Lanka and is lovely, very kind and patient with Toby and Celia who play him up atrociously. His sponsor is Hassan Hussein, a local who is manager of the Abu Dhabi television studios. I have been looking for jobs, as International Property Investments has wound down. So out of work. As I can only keep Mohammed if I pay for him look around for something new. Maybe Mohammed is worried about my not working ha ha.

Saturday 1st October. He rings his sponsor and I speak to him. The job is news casting, reading the English 10 o'clock news. I couldn't do it in a million years. He wants me to go along Saturday morning. No chance. However, Bill keeps going on about it even though I'm sick with nerves at the thought. So go to shut him up. Car breaks down en route – much to my delight. But short-lived, as Bill rings the tv manager who tells us 'no problem, get a taxi'- damn.

On arrival they made us Arabic coffee then got down to business. He handed me a news bulletin to read and digest mentally. When I'm ready we went through to the recording studio. The studio lights are very hot. I read it through aloud to them six times, Bill said various people were coming in and out as I was reading it out saying 'tamum (good)'! All I can think is there must be a chronic shortage of people here. They show me the news printer machines whirring away constantly and my job is to pick them up and go through them, marking where the political and topical emphasis should be. My speech should not be monotone. Not as easy as it sounds. But I had a great interest in politics so found that part highly interesting.

Bill is very keen for me to do it as we'll mix with the local establishment, ambassadors, ministers and such like.
I met Angela Trew who was one of the established newsreaders there, she was very friendly. And very encouraging. We go again on the Monday Oct 3rd, there is another rehearsal. I don't feel as though I sound very convincing. But Ossama seems confident enough. The studios are surprisingly scruffy and ancient, really quite disgusting. I go again the next night. There's an Egyptian girl there who's very nervous but reads quite well. They talked a lot in Arabic. I don't feel happy about carrying on. It's such a late schedule as have to get up very early to get Toby and Celia to school. I don't get back from the tv studios til midnight.

Wednesday 5th October. Really don't want to go the following night and hope to get out of it as we're out to dinner at the Holiday Inn at Nihad's boss's invitation. We go to Al Nakheel bar and annoyingly Ossama will pick me up from there, so can't get out of it. The lengths they will go to to get me there does make me wonder. The money must be crap. I enquire later. It is. 100 dhs per appearance. No wonder they are desperate for people. Ossama drops me at the Holiday Inn, it's 11pm. Find everyone in second restaurant. Nihad's boss is French. Not bad for a frog! We leave at 12.30am. a good night.

Thursday 6th October. It's last day of school today – thank goodness. Had to get a taxi three times that morning – car still not fixed - as Toby had assembly at 10am and couldn't miss that. Getting them to school is becoming a nightmare without a car. The taxi's know it the school run and won't stop when hailed as hate Airport Road: not that I blame them, the traffic is appalling. We're out with John Bridgen tonight. Al Knakheel Club as usual. Another good night.

Monday 10th October. It's our wedding anniversary. School activities start today, both Toby and Celia are doing Christmas decorations. Then gymnastics and rounders. It's a little easier collecting at 3.30pm although it's a long day for them. But otherwise stuck in flat. Sandra phones asks if we want to meet up with her and Ahmed Shalakti Thursday night. And Craig phones shortly after from Bahrain. Wants me to ring Sharjah Expo Exhibition Centre to get some details. Tells me the security men were watching me at the Inter Continental Hotel – bloody cheek! They questioned him about who I was.

Bill is pleased I've kept up the television newsreading training and goes to Wong's to buy me the Dogs of Fo. That was the hook. I'm thrilled. We meet John at ANC 8.30pm for dinner. He buys a bottle of champagne. Lovely evening, don't feel the least bit guilty haven't gone to the TV studios tonight. ha ha!!

Tuesday 11th October. Start back at work for Francois this morning. Nice that everyone seems pleased to see me. get Mohammed to take Toby and Celia to school for a month, they're aren't happy about it. Feel very tired all day. get taxi to Corniche, taxi-driver adjusts his mirror to stare at me, so after staring back at him – which doesn't seem to be working, ask him what he thinks he's looking at? Late for school, can't find Toby and Celia anywhere, start to panic. But its ok, one of the other parents points me to where they are. Desperate for some sleep. Can't face the studios tonight. But Bill insists. Feel irritated by it but when I get there have a good time. Thoroughly enjoy it. Quite a laugh. The newcaster comes in – watching me with a huge grin on his face – mimicking my sarf London accent. But Ehab and Ossama are on my side. We all know he wants his wife in the job. Feel quite elated when I get home – can't sleep now of course!!

Wednesday 12th October. Things seem better today. Toby and Celia go off with Mohammed quite happily – good. Very busy in office this morning. Francois has some hefty claims going on the Al Ain flyover. Work right through to 1pm. Hope that I've done everything properly. Hate the thought of studios tonight.

Go to Centre Hotel at 8pm to meet John for a drink. Leave them at 9pm. They head off to ADMA, I go to studios. As I walk in hear my name called – it's the Egyptian boy. No passes at security so we have to wait 15 minutes until Ossama can get them through. The boy tells me he's high on hash. I've had vodka. What a combination!! Read through. Angela Trew listens in sound room. Comes in for a chat and helpful hints. Then I go into the recording studio to listen to Mohammed Gassim. Tremendous silence as they come on – funny to see cameramen in dish-dashes. Very casual attitude. Am frightened to breathe. But very interesting. Mohammed has an attack of the giggles. Angela keeps looking over giving me reassuring smiles. When it's finished go to New Room. Ossama long gone. She gives me a lift home. Certainly an interesting person regarding broadcasting – she seems to have done everything and been everywhere.

Apparently quite a few of the BBC newsreaders have visited. Including Kenneth Kendall who Celia calls 'kennel kennel' and they are amazed how basic it is. No teleprompter. The news is collated by us. There is a news room with dozens of telex machines from different news agencies all going constantly with the latest news from around the world. I'm also made aware, rather more chillingly, that in the event of an insurgence, the tv station is the first place that's bombed!!

I tell her I'm not classically beautiful and this is painfully confirmed by the banks of screens and my face blown up to massive proportions with all the technicians studying my face. She tells me a story about a girl in UK who was being filmed. The camera crew were going mad over her, Angela said she couldn't understand what all the fuss was about, she wasn't pretty or beautiful. So she looked through the lens for herself and saw what they were raving about. Whatever she had came across on camera. And wasn't that common. Then she looked at me and said 'you have it too'. She advised me to stick at it as once I've done it I can get work back in UK. Anglia or Southern TV afternoon programs. I'll be made for life.

When I get in very concerned, Mohammed isn't there. Sitter hanging about.
Thursday 13th October. Go to pool this morning. Very concerned about Mohammed. They flung him in prison last night. But let him out this morning, very sorry for him, he looked in a state of shock. Talk to Megan Wade for a little while. Weather is absolutely gorgeous. 93oF. Have lunch with Bill and he comes with me in taxi to school – and gets an idea what it's like. Go to ANC in evening. There's a rock group playing. The lead guitarists wife works with Egyptian girl also practicing news reading. She describes me to her – so now someone else knows. Trying to keep it quiet. The group give us some champagne. Lots of talk about article in Khaleej Times today. Threat of alcohol ban in Emirates. Sharjah's already done it. Leave with Andy – go to Zakher Hotel. What a dive! Feel awful as we walk in – everyone staring – keep my jacket on. Go with Abdo Sayeed and friend. Leave 3am.

Friday 14th October. Bill goes fishing with Nihad. I take Toby and Celia to buffet at ANC. Very enjoyable leave 3.30pm. look at Suzuki jeep. Kids will love it. But don't tell them, want it to be a surprise.

Saturday 15th October. Bill has bought the jeep. So excited. We pretend we're getting a taxi, then Toby spots it – shouts of joy. Its wonderful. Drive around in it. The feeling of freedom is fantastic after all this time getting taxi's. also good to be able to drive to studios, no more taxi's or lifts home. Don't feel happy about my reading tonight. Ossama gives me pep talk about tomorrow, feel sick about it.

Sunday 16th October. Go to licence section with Mohammed. Lucky I anticipate the Gulf way… the usual motley collection of ghastly blokes. See an Englishwoman so chat to her, she is equally dumb-founded by it all. Then onto Batin police station. Then back to licence station. Finally drop Mohammed off 12.30pm. not enough time to go home so drive around. It's fantastic. Our little Suzuki is smashing. And with the hood off, it's out of this world. See Francois by Intercontinental, hope he doesn't think I'm skiving off. Pick up Toby and Celia, they are excited too.

Though my elation is somewhat marred by the video of me newsreading being made tonight at the tv studios. Bill's coming with me, thank goodness. We arrive late. Have a read through, about 13 pages. Not too bad. Go into hair and makeup. He stares at me hard. He tells me my nose is big. I tell him his isn't so small either. We all laugh, I relax a little. He wants to give me eyebrows, I decline his offer laughing. He's not happy about my mouth, too distracting from the business of the news. So the lippie is toned down, also smooths my hair flat. Off we go into the recording studio. Meet the cameramen, seem quite friendly. They tell me 14 million people in the Emirates watch the news to learn English. I feel sick. Then suddenly laugh at the thought of 14 million balushi's and Arabs talking with a sarf London accent.

Gives me the signal and off we jollywell go. It's very dark except for huge powerful spotlights on all aimed on my face. I can see little except for the white dish dashes of the cameramen. It's not so bad. I feel I've done a reasonable job of reading the news. After I'd done it go into recording room, Ossama seems quite happy with it and Bill is smiling – a good sign. Ossama says he'll let me know. It'll take a week for the Director General to give his opinion. So I've got a rest from it. Feel on a high as we leave – relief it's over. Bill takes me out. We visit John at Centre first. Danny and John Bell are there. Tell them about TV. Onto Nakheel Club for drinkies. Jawad Dodin who's Palestinian joins us, his father was Kuwaiti ambassador. Then Nihad. Very good evening all round. Everyone in excellent humour not least me. Good dinner. Thankful sleep.

Tuesday 18th October. Feel ghastly. So tired. Must have an early night tonight. work interesting at office so perk up a bit. Keith Bowers rings from UK, decided to come back out Thursday to get money owing him. Can he stay with us? Bed early, bliss!

Wednesday 19th October. Up at 6am to get toby and Celia to school. Pleasant school run with the hood down. Hare back to flat with 10 minutes to spare then off to work. Spend nearly an hour on phone in office trying to get through to Bombay. Activities again that afternoon. Cook lunch. Feel irritable and edgey. Keith rang, coming out tomorrow. Then cancels as he got his money thankfully after all. Take Toby and Celia to art exhibition. Exhausted. Bed.

Thursday 20th October. Bill goes fishing with Nihad. Take Toby and Celia to pool. And have tea there. Use hair-styling tool I've just bought in souk on Toby's hair. Looks beautiful. What a handsome boy he is.

Friday 21st October. Just approaching roundabout when bang! Bill hits taxi in front.out the driver jumps. Crowds start to gather. Young lad from Automatic Restaurant know us, sees what happens, and runs over to driver bargaining with him. This is a relief as he's all for calling the police. Bill asks me how much I have in my purse, 90dhs. He settles for 70dhs. Drive off in fits of laughter and relief. Get more money and off to Nakheel club again for drinks, then downstairs to eat. The snails are delicious. A good evening

Sunday 23rd October. It's been a week since the video and still no news. Call Mum in evening, eleven minutes. To ask them to come out for Christmas. It would be wonderful. Nihad pops over for a while.

Wednesday 26th October. Give anything for a layin, so tired this morning. If only I could find someone to share the school run with. Cant find car keys, we are now late for school. Traffic very heavy. Nearly go through red light. Policeman sees and glares at me. don't want to get arrested after last time. Not a good idea, a white woman in Batin police station after horror stories I've heard. Sheikh Ahmed appears in office this afternoon. Yet another new car!! Race home to cook lunch then back on road again to get Toby & Celia from activities.

Thursday 27th October. Letter from Mum and Dad, they can't come out at Christmas, they can't leave John, it wouldn't be right. Disappointed but not unexpected.

At tv studios this evening, lots of military crawling all over the place. Feel very uneasy. High ranking officers come into the news room, one looks like a general. Rushing from one teleprinter to another, scanning the printouts. I quietly disappear. There is something amiss. Can't wait to get out and get safely home. Know there are military manoevres going on just outside Abu Dhabi in the desert.

Next day at the pool hear a domestic British Airways plane has come down as it was approaching Abu Dhabi airport. Everyone on board is killed. Including two classmates of Toby and Celia. Rocket science?

Have decided not to take tv job. I can't keep this pace up. getting up really early to get kids to school, going to work in morning, school run again midday as well as afternoon activites, then tv studios very late in evening, not getting back til midnight.

Do I want celebrity status or do I want to be a Mum? I can't be both.


  1. Dear Jean,

    I found your blog whilst I was absent-mindedly surfing the internet - My mother was Angela Trew. I remember sneaking out of bed with my siblings and watching her as she read the news. To me it seemed perfectly natural to see my mum on the Television! In fact my brother was nearly born during the 9 o'clock news... They had to find a replacement pretty quickly as she was rushed to the Corniche hospital!
    She sadly passed away a few months ago after an eight year battle with cancer - but kept her TV smile and her incredible presence... So it is really lovely for us to read such warm comments about her and to remember her as such a glamorous but kind person.

    We miss her every day.


    1. I remember Angela Trew very well, whilst working in Abu Dhabi, and as organist at the church whilst situated on the Corniche, where Angela was in charge of the choir. She was a charming person and fun to be with . I was in Abu Dhabi from 1978 to 1983. I thought she had gone to live in the USA but perhaps not? I'm very sorry to hear she is not with us anymore. Harvey, Malvern, UK

  2. Dear Bel

    I'm so sorry to hear about your Mum. Having lost both my parents and my brother in the last few years I know how you are feeling. Yes, she was a real celebrity in Abu Dhabi, that I do remember. And very kind and generous to me, you're very lucky to have had such a woman for your mother as I'm sure you know.

    Kind regards


  3. Hello

    I am sorry to hear about Angie now being with us any more. I remember her from her news reading and radio work in Abu Dhabi on Capital Radio & talking to her many times. My husband & I were watching the Pam Am programme on the tv and often think of Angie as she was at one stage if I recall Miss British Airways. So decided to see what she was doing now.