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Being married to a teacher can have its odd effects on life, not the least of which was a recent dash to try and find inflatable aeroplanes. It's a long story, but the theme of the week in class was transport and Sarah had created a rather fabulous little role play area for the kids which let them check in at the airport, shop at duty free and hang around in the café before boarding their flight. There was even a wee plane with a pilot's cockpit, portholes and chairs with seatbelts and overhead lockers.
If they'd been role playing this weekend at Dubai International, incidentally, they'd have been coming to school three hours early to avoid the huge crowds milling to exit the country at the start of the schools' summer holiday.
By any standard, it was a cool role play. But Miss Jean Brodie wanted some inflatable planes to hang above it. So one fine day, I found myself stopping at the local cold stores, most of which sell a range of wild and wacky inflatables (being as wot we live near the sea, see?), from 'Milka' branded cows through to beach balls, zebras and virtually any other imaginable inflatable. And you can stop that filthy minded stuff right now; this is Sharjah, Bub.
Did any of them have an inflatable plane? They did not. A raft of uncomprehending faces met my enquiries as I tried to find every possible permutation of the words 'inflatable aeroplane', even reduced to holding out my arms and whizzing around the darkened, pungent interior of one shop, to the bewilderment of the small and mildly wizened Malabari gentleman in charge.
It started to become an obsession. We remembered places we'd definitely seen planes hanging up, but all professed complete ignorance. We quartered the area, tracking down cold stores like stars of the History Channel reality series 'Inflatable Hunters'.
Not one of them had an inflatable plane of any sort.
And then we remembered seeing them hanging from the shops as you leave Dhaid towards Masafi. Dhaid is Sharjah's inland oasis town, about 60km from the coast. Finally, driven by the mission to get those damn blow-up planes by hook or by crook, we launched ourselves onto the desert road past Sharjah airport and the Wildlife Centre, into the wilds of mysterious Dhaid and there, in a moment of glorious epiphany, we found inflatable planes. Seas of them. Millions of them. It was like a view of FlightRadar24's display of Heathrow out there.
It was also Friday and just gone 11.30am. They were all closed. The next day I went back solo and bought up their stocks, paying prices that could only have inflated the market for inflatables in a massively inflationary way. I didn't care. We'd done it. Tadaaaa! The role play area was little less than glorious and there, in the skies above the airport, hung on nylon threads, were inflatable planes flying against the backdrop of azure skies.
Well, textured ceiling tiles. But we can imagine, no?
Talking of imagining, I can only imagine what happened next, but it goes something like this. A few weeks later, the chap from the specialist distributor who's cornered the Sharjah inflatables market goes on his rounds to the cold stores around the corniche areas of Sharjah and Ajman. And in each call he makes, he's asked if he has any inflatable aircraft? There is being too much demand for these in the European market demographic which is, we all agree, sought after due to its delightful propensity to accept the 'first price' no matter how insane the sum postulated may be.
But of course, says Mr Inflatable Distribution Specialist. I am having these aircraft wery much in stock. They are with Emirates liwery only. And, he adds, I can assure you they have been selling like hot dosas in Dhaid, where the market for them is like masala.
This is the only explanation I can come up with for the fact that every single cold store in my area is now festooned with displays of bloody inflatable aeroplanes, bobbing mockingly in the warm breeze coming in off the sea.
Seriously. Blow up aeroplanes, everywhere the eye can see...