It is 11.35pm and I am incandescent with rage. I am trying to sleep, but there is an anti-lullaby of banging, beeping, clattering and clanking playing directly outside my window. Industrial-strength spotlights pierce through the curtains, lighting up my bedroom as if it were the middle of the day. Even the cat is struggling to get any shut-eye.
Living next to a construction site is a very UAE experience. In more established cities around the world, you are unlikely to find yourself in this infuriating predicament. In Dubai, it is almost par for the course. I had somehow managed to escape this fate for more than a decade and then, last year, diggers rolled into the open plot directly opposite my house (which begins mere metres from where my garden ends) and never left.
Saturday morning lie-ins are now a thing of the past and the dogs are constantly spooked by the noise. Construction of the second storey of the building is now in full swing, so the hordes of men toiling day and night can see directly into my house. Everything I own is covered in a permanent layer of dust.
Every now and again, I storm over to the makeshift site office, which is a 30-second walk from my front door, and demand to have an audience with the site agent. I acknowledge that he probably also has better places to be in the dead of the night, but I present him with my catalogue of grievances all the same.
I beg him to turn off the spotlights, tell him that I have just worked a 10-hour day, commuted to and from Abu Dhabi, and would love to be able to sit on my sofa and actually be able to hear my television over the din. I tell him that I go to sleep to the soundtrack of cranes and trucks, and wake up to the same.
He smiles and nods and we both know I am wasting my time. But it makes me feel ever so slightly better. Because the worst thing about living next to a construction site is how powerless you feel. For months, if not years, on end, your life is massively inconvenienced – and there is not a thing you can do about it.
Let’s ignore the fact that, as far as I understood it, the stretch of land opposite my house was supposed to be turned into a park. I live in a low-rise, strictly residential community and yet, somehow, the school that has decided to plonk itself directly across from the end of my garden has managed to get a licence that allows construction work to go on until midnight.
My neighbours have just had a baby, and there is a young toddler two doors down, but there is scant concern for their, or anyone else’s, sleeping patterns or peace of mind.
There is a certain irony in the fact that we are all trying to flee and will move away as soon as our contracts allow it. And so, the Arcadia Secondary School, which should be trying to position itself as the linchpin of our quiet neighbourhood, is alienating everyone in its catchment area before it even opens.
Such blatant disregard for others is unbecoming of an institution tasked with enlightening our youth. Surely there’s a lesson in there somewhere?