Brown Bread?

Years ago, I used to be an avid listener of the radio,  BBC Radio Two being my favourite station. On Saturday nights, I'd be driving around in my mini-bus delivering revellers here and there and tuned into the Martin Kelner late night radio show. On this show he had a feature called "Brown Bread", being a rhyming slang for "Dead"!

It worked with Martin giving a name, like Jack DeManio, or Englebert Humperdink, and contestants would phone in and tell him whether they thought that the named person was either dead or still alive. I cannot now remember whether any prizes were given, or the contestant just had the pleasure of knowing that they were right. Number One Son and I still might telephone one another occasionally and say "Jimmy Young (or whosoever); Brown Bread?"

Well, this is all working up to the fact that news reports of the demise of people "in the public eye" are not always true. For instance: In Cairo airport, on Tuesday as we were travelling home to Windy Nook, we came across the famous English All-in-Wrestler Mick McManus! There he was, as large as life, yelling instructions to other staff members (yes he's learnt Arabic) and directing passport wielding travellers on their way, you could have knocked me down with a feather!

No sooner had we left that part of the airport than we came across another 'mis-reported as dead' film star; one Boris Karloff, I was just about to type "as large as life" till I remembered that he was more likely to be as "large as the undead" when I remembered the type of role which made him a world-wide star.

The flight was relatively uneventful, I listened to my music whilst watching the two films in silent  mode; they're more fun that way, although it can be a bit difficult to catch the different nuances here and there. When the meals came around there was the usual choice of meat or chicken; we get one of each in the hope that one of them will have potatoes (for me) instead of rice. I opened the chicken one to find rice, and Freda opened the beef one to find what looked like a preformed slab of mashed potato. "Oh goody!" I exclaimed, and whipped it away from her.

The chunks of beef were a delight, no fat or gristle and in a small amount of tasty gravy, the veg were sliced carrots (very good) and pieces of something else which I couldn't actually identify (but which was OK). Then I cut into the potato and popped a forkful (metal cutlery as well!) into the expectant mouth, only to find that it wasn't potato after all, but homogenised rubber! What a surprise. (Freda said it must have been pasta; that foreign muck which the poor foreigners have to put up with because they don't have potatoes!) I did persevere with it, and actually forced down at least a quarter of it, but that was quite sufficient; I'm not  glutton for punishment.

Anyway, to get back to the theme of this posting; when we returned to Manchester International Airport, whom do you think we almost fell over? Davy Jones of the Monkees! Yes that's right, him that we've been told was actually Brown Bread. But he's not. He looks older mind you, with his hair, which he still wears long, going grey. And he's still wearing denim jeans as well; always a mistake on older gentlemen in my humble opinion.

But there you are, don't trust all that you read in the newspapers or see on the telly! Which reminds me of the kerfuffle regarding the imprisonment of the "Al Jazeera Three" in Egypt. Judging by much of the over-sensationalised and untrue reporting of Egypt's ongoing problems which I've actually seen for myself, along with the above posting, it just goes to show how dodgy it might be to call into question the Egyptian Court's opinion!

TTFN.

   

An extra night of luxury!

It never rains, but it pours! I'm sure that you're all familiar with that saying, it's often used allegorically as well, as in; you never get only one problem, they always come in multiples. Or in our case today; we didn't just have a good day at the Winter Palace, they fed and entertained us during the evening too! AND, they then changed our room for an even better one!

One of the managerial types engaged me in conversation this afternoon, and I said that we were happy with the room we had, even though it was a bit on the small side. Immediately, he offered to fix us up with a superior one.  Well, what could I say? Really?

So, here we are ensconced in our new room at the Winter Palace, for another two nights. Freda just doesn't want to leave! (Actually, this experience reminds me of once when we stayed at the Emilio Hotel, quite a few years back, with my brother Richard and Number One Son. The manager, Mr Shoucat, had us in 4 different rooms in the one week, and we'd spent two nights aboard a Nile cruiser! We had quite a turn with one of the rooms that he tried to get us into; there were already people in there, and asleep!) This room is a little better than any of the rooms we've had at the Emilio over the years, as you would expect.


Although this room must measure about the same as the last one; it certainly seems to have more usable space, plus, it has two bathrooms and a balcony! The view from the balcony over the Winter Palace gardens is magnificent.


And, over to the left, we can see into Abu El Haggag Square.


It's just lovely! We sat on the balcony for a while earlier; it was a real "balmy" evening, perfect for lovers. (Pity that it's us that are here, I can hear you say!)

Anyway, I'm getting in front of myself. After having a little siesta, we decided to have a slope around downstairs, among the common folk. Again, I got into conversation  with another of the 'management' types. (They just seem to home in on me, somehow.) Could I explain this certain English phrase in an invitation which they were handing out to the guests, as he hadn't come across it before and did't want the guests to think that the management were daft. I acquiesced and it was OK. He went on to personally invite us to this "do" which was a Music Festival, to be held tonight! Is the Pope Catholic? Especially when he mentioned that there was to be free food and drink provided as well!

The Music Festival (not a label I would have given) consisted of a horse dancing to the strains of a rabbaba band, followed by a very good (boy) Whirling Dervish. He, in turn, was followed by two enthusiastic young stick dancers, and then a four- man singing troupe with their own two drum accompanists, who were joined by three stilt-walkers, who were amazing! Although I took many pictures and a good few short videos of the various performers, I think that this short clip of the "Grand Finale" will suffice to give you a taste of the thing:

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The choice of drinks included everything except spirits, I think, and the food was laid out buffet style on the Nile Terrace, where we were entertained by a very pleasant violin player. I tried, from the small heated tureens, kofta, fish and chicken, along with a goodly selection of small open sandwiches, including; cream cheese, turkey and cheese, pate, tuna.......I can't remember the rest, there were so many!


I remember when the Winter Palace Butler (that's him on the left) young Mr Ahmed, first started at the New Winter Palace as a trainee waiter, he learned a lot of his good attitude from Mr Bassem, who was a real Hercule Poirot type of character; waxed moustache and everything, and he was fitted with wheels, I'm sure! Anyway, it meant that we didn't need to buy any dinner, as we'd been well fed.

The evening was rounded off by the appearance of this man in a replica of a 500 year old uniform:


He was something to do with the ceremonial lighting of the foyer candles, I think:

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One of the best things about this little holiday is the fact that we aren't having to suffer the consequences of having no electricity during this oppressive heatwave, role on Autumn, when the electricity usage will come down with the temperature and we'll all be happy again. 

Not my words!!!

One of our neighbours, Mr. Mohamed the ancient English speaking guide, has a saying for when the inevitable happens, i.e. the expected workmen, delivery or whatever don't or doesn't arrive…. "Bloody W**s!" he'll shout out. As you know, Dear Reader, I wouldn't dream of using such a derogatory expression, but lately 
I've been sorely tempted. 

I've been told by my editor that I cannot print THAT word in its full form as someone with a chip on their shoulder could take offence and report me to the thought police and I might get locked up

I've been working away quite well, making the frame for the stair window, re-designing the guest bathroom and trying to make good the shoddy workmanship of the Egyptian tilers and plumber. "Now just hang on there for one cotton-picking minute!" I know exactly what you're thinking, because I've been there before you, and asked the same obvious question. "Why didn't I just bite the bullet and pay the first (recommended) tilers and plumber their ridiculous prices?" I've thought long and hard on this, and to be perfectly honest I don't think it would have made a blind bit of difference, except that I would have paid out several times more money for work which I still wouldn't have been happy with! (The situation reminds me of the old undertaker adage, "What's the difference between a three hundred pound coffin and a seven hundred pound coffin?" Answer: "Four hundred pounds!") Never fear though, even though I definitely don't want to add these trades to my ever lengthening CV, I will make their sow's ears into silk purses, mark my words! (What a lot of exclamation marks.)

Here's a shot of a little of the damage that the tilers did whilst removing the old bottom row of tiles, in all they damaged 9 of the tiles which were to remain in 
place.


(The tiles are really white, but my dodgy camera skills are self evident, as usual.) 

I've been using some architectural uPVC (plastic window stuff!) at home in England, and brought a few small pieces with us to Luxor, as I thought that I might find a use for it here to make a small cupboard type of thing to cover the pipework in the shower. Of course, after making some lovely 45 degree cuts for the outside framework, I found that the flat pieces I had just weren't big enough, job stopped   


I had a Paul of Tharsus moment, when I suddenly realised that some could come to my rescue and be used to re-style the lower part of the shower, and without looking at all out of place either. Of course, it isn't available in Luxor, or anywhere in Egypt as far as I can ascertain, so it will have to be brought here via  
our 17 stone luggage allowance on EgyptAir when we return after the summer. Job stopped 

 The other project, making the stairs a bit more sound and cigarette smoke proof,  is also on hold, again! I got friend Abdu, the Karnak joiner, to cut and machine the first and most important pieces of timber and picked them up in the caleche of Mr Ahmed. All well and good! By the time I got around to pretending to be a joiner, and putting into practice some of the skills which Piggy-Man Jenkins had instilled within me at Jarrow Grammar School, some of the timber had twisted. Just a fraction, mind you, but when I had cut my intricate joints squarely, they didn't fit too well. They'll be alright though, don't worry



I have to admit that I was quite proud of the finished result, a bit of Dave King syndrome again, I fear. Eventually, I managed to get Abdu to come to see what I needed him to do next, as there's still quite a few pieces of queer-shaped timber needed to fit in here and there between our well misaligned flights of stairs. (The Egyptian Way, you know!)

Being a self-confessed THICKO, I'd forgotten that, since Ramadan is almost upon us, Abdu the joiner would be stowed-off with work, it's coming out of his ears!!! The Egyptians have to have everything sparkling and new (if the cash is available, that is) for the Holy Month of Ramadan. It's like our Christmas and New Year rolled into one, as far as showing off is concerned. So, that job is also at a standstill!

"Never mind," says I, "I've got plenty of cleaning and the like to get on with in the meantime. It's less than a week till we go home, anyway." Horror of horrors! My faithful old friend; the K'Archer 2101 vacuum cleaner, which I bought second-hand from "Ken the Builder" at Pelaw in 2007, started making an awful noise. Being of an engineering bent, I recognised the sound as that of a bearing having gone West. (Colloquialism: Gone West = broken, worn out.)I stripped out the motor and took it (confidently) to the Christian electrical repair men behind the suq, the one's who re-wind the big electric motors (do keep up!). I was dreadfully disappointed when two of them told me that it was beyond repair, and needed replacing. On returning home, I decided to have a go myself! I got so far, I can see the collapsed bearing, but it just doesn't want to break-down any further! There's a rubbery plastic part, which seems to have fastenings embedded into it, and they are completely inaccessible. Another job abandoned for the duration! I've emailed K'Archer in England regarding the availability and cost of a new motor, but as yet they haven't bothered to reply.  (What I cannot say about them is "Bloody W**s!")





Even with all this frustration and upset, we still had our little holiday travelling around England to see a few of our sadly missed friends, to look forward to. WRONG! As we've had to spend so much recently; we can no longer afford to stay at the pleasant guest houses which we had booked. We might yet still get away, but only if Freda can be persuaded to rough it in the odd Travelodge, and if they can be booked cheaply!

Instead though, Dear Reader, we're having a short break , here in Egypt! At the Winter Palace, no less. (No, not the New Winter Palace, which was demolished six years ago, or even the Pavilion Wing, but the real thing!)

Once upon a time, EBookers were advertising the Winter Pavilon (it's French, dontchaknow) for 71 GBP per room B&B for two nights, including taxes etc. On top of that, booking through "Quidco" Freda could get a 10% cash-back deal, which would bring the price down to 63 quid. Not at all bad for the two of us to escape the twice daily power cuts (the temperatures are crippling at the moment, running in the high 40's) and to pig out on a good breakfast with no washing up or bedmaking to contend with. Then, we realised that the Pavilion Wing was actually closed, and that we would be upgraded to the actual "Winter Palace". Well!!!!! What would you do?

So, here I am, mid-afternoon (when we'd normally be experiencing our first power cut of the day) luxuriating in our beautifully cool (NILE VIEW) room at the Old Winter Palace, while Freda gently snores away taking her afternoon nap. It's like a foretaste of Heaven!

Being the second cheapest room type, the regular cost per night is only 600 Euros, with breakfast adding on only another 180 EGP each. (See the picture below of the rate table on the back of the door, and that's for last year!) Although we don't have a balcony, we do have a nice view of the Nile Terrace and the West Bank. The room is four and a quarter metres high a has about 20 square metres of floor space plus the bathroom. Not huge, but perfectly adequate, and very comfortable. The 180EGP breakfast went down very well, I can tell you! (In fact, it may have even surpassed the famous "Our Luxor" breakfast, but at six times the price, it should have done, don't you think?)



All-in-all, we've ended up having a 530 pound holiday for 63 pounds! Can't be bad, by anyone's calculation! I know that it's bucked me up, no end!!!! Here's a few pics, just to prove to you that we're here:



Our corridor Northwards


Our corridor Southwards


Nile View


Breakfast room


Flower Arranger in Foyer

Chandelier


Our room 


Our room

After all that, it's actually good to be alive, eh?

Moulid of Abu El Haggag June 2014

Dear Reader, I'm sure that you already know a bit about Luxor's famous Moulid, but just  in case........

Each year, 15 days before the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, the said Moulid reaches its climax. It commemorates the mid 12th century birthday of Luxor's most revered 'Holy Man' the Sufi Sheikh Abu El Haggag, whose Mosque is the one built on the top of Luxor Temple. (Although he was actually born in Syria.) I lifted the following titbit direct from Wikipedia. As you well know; I'm not cynical, or anything like that, but doesn't the following scenario sound familiar, or at least typical? 

"When Shaikh Abu El Haggag came to Luxor, Islam at the time was not the major religion in Egypt; Coptic Christianity was the leading religion at the time[citation needed]. The city was a colony owned by a religious Coptic lady[citation needed]. She used to be called The Princess[citation needed]. Her soldiers saw Sheikh Abu El Haggag there and was immediately recognized as a foreigner, therefore he was taken to the Princess for questioning as they feared that he is a spy from a different tribe/region. He complained to her about the treatment he received and expressed that he wishes to become a local citizen[citation needed]. The lady was generous and offered him to stay as long as he wishes[citation needed]. He asked her to give him a land as big as a camel’s skin to sleep on it, she thought that would be maximum of 2 square meters, so she agreed as she was a generous Lady, he asked her to sign a contract confirming the deal which she agreed to[citation needed].
At night, he took a camel’s skin and he cut it into a very thin line at the front of some local witnesses, something similar to a very thin washing line, he used it to border a big part of Luxor Temple[citation needed]. In the morning, soldiers saw this line and reported it to the Princess, and then she realised that he owns this bordered part of the temple as per their written agreement[citation needed]. As much as she was feeling deceived by his plan, they met few times afterwards, she was impressed by his knowledge and then she converted to Islam[citation needed]."
Like so much in Egypt today, this particular Moulid is actually a remnant of Pharaonic ritual and celebration! Islam, as with other religions around the world, has commandeered something of the form and content of preceding religious festivals. In this case, they have usurped the 'Beautiful Festival of Opet", along with its Holy Barques (now dressed-up feluccas) being pulled along with ropes by strong men, and sacrificial foodstuffs now represented by floats from the various trades of Luxor. But, most importantly, in the forefront of the procession come the learned 'Holy Men' of today in their dazzling white robes, chanting verses from the Muslim Holy Book, the Quran. Then, the camels which represent the Mosques. As in all these similar circumstances worldwide, the 'religion of the day' must be pre-eminent! 

Well, I'm afraid that general circumstances conspired against me, on Thursday, to prevent me from catching the earliest parts of the Moulid parade! Nevertheless, I didn't miss very much and caught the Mosque camels, which you'll remember, Dear Reader, are pretty well near the front of the procession.

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I'm almost certain that there used to be only six Mosques represented by camels, but I see that there are now eleven. (Mind you, if ALL the Luxor Mosques had a camel in the parade, it would go on till Kingdom come!!!!)

Next came the caleche men, and the carters (with various forms of 'carting' ranging from the humble donkey-cart through three-wheeler motor bike trucks to diesel powered pick-up trucks and up to full sized wagons) there was even an Amoun man with his two-dust-bin hand barrow!

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There was a diminution of the number of trades represented at this years Moulid, but the fruit sellers were still in evidence, and the other participants and onlookers were very grateful for their generosity!




These next pics shows the Luxor Health and Safety Executive float as they demonstrate what not to do with butane gas cylinders, they even had a boy on the road demonstrating what not to do with fly-spray canisters; yes they have them actually alight!!!



I watched and filmed the carra-navAl, (the emphasis being on the capital letter) with our friend and regular guest, the Quadbike Queen, from Yorkshire. I had reserved a place for us in the upstairs room of the coffeeshop belonging to one of our neighbours, Mr Fowie (the beast actually took money from me!!!!) as it has a great view over our square (known as "El Hod", after the water trough which used to be there) which the procession was bound to pass through. We were there for the best part of two hours and the camera battery gave out just before the end. (I should have re-charged it after filming the Stick Fighting the evening before, dummy!)

As usual, the event had its share of characters, I don't know the man in the monkey suit, but the headcase on the cab of the wagon is Mr Nasr who works in the suq selling statues and the like, he lives a couple of streets away with his many brothers.


Dispersed throughout the whole of the procession, perhaps the most numerous and vocal of all those employment groups were plainly visible to be seen. Maybe it's only fitting that, as I swear that I heard the name of Sisi...Sisi being chanted, the most boisterous, energetic and enthusiastic group of the day hove into view:

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That's them, the unemployed youth! Let's all hope and pray that their Champion, President Abdul Fattah El Sisi, can find some way of harnessing all that exuberance, before it's too late?

God bless them!

This posting was supposed to be all  videos, but I was unable to get some to load. So I apologise for the photographs, which clearly don't do the action scenes justice. Onward and upward!

Moulid time!


Yes, the Moulid of Abu El Haggag is upon us once again. I know this because of the Stick Dancing outside our building here at El Hod (apparently this refers to a horse drinking trough which used to be in the square here next to the Mosque). I took a five minute video of it earlier this evening, while it was still light. Enjoy:


Tomorrow is the grand parade (Car-r-r-naval) which processes all around town, and which will undoubtedly pass-by the end of our little cul-de-sac. If you're good, I'll try to catch at least some of it for your delectation, Dear Reader. But for now, it must surely be bedtime! 

Did I say 'Woe is me'?

I know I actually did, but......... 

That was before our lap-top went on the blink! Now it really is a case of woe is me.

We have been using a Dell 1545 Lap-top, which our No. One Son bought a few years ago, and passed it on to us when he bought another new one, all singing and all dancing! It's been pretty good, really; runs hot a lot of the time, which makes it slow down but fairly reliable and consistent. Until the day before yesterday, that is.

It was working, but wouldn't load the Internet at all; I took it to be a fault with our USB modem/dongle thingy, took that to the shop on TV Street, (full of righteous indignation, of course) and was told that it was working fine!!! It must be a problem with my lap-top, the man told me. Helpfully, he suggested that I bring it in, and he would try to sort the problem out.

Whilst I was reasonably confident that the man was genuine, I couldn't help but recall the liars at Vodafone, who strung me along for weeks while knowing full-well that it was their system which was causing me no end of problems when I was using their dongle, but they were determined to NOT admit it.  

Anyway, he did try, he did this and he did that, and he also did the other, but all to no avail! Eventually, he gave up, telling me that there was a problem with the operating system on the lap-top. After I got it home, it wouldn't even start, although it did finally, but it still wouldn't connect. I tried everything that came to light as I fiddled here and there, but then I came across something that said that not only was the computer not able to connect via the dongle, but neither could it connect via Wifi (if there had been a Wifi connection available, that is) nor anything else!

In a bit of a panic, I rang our little mate Mr Bahaa, as I knew he had a tame computer 'expert'. We dropped the useless piece of junk off at his office, where Mr Ahmed was due to arrive at any time. Of course, he wasn't able to do anything with it, and it would have to go to the real repair man, Mr Noubi, at the bottom end of TV Street.

We got it back this evening, after Mr Noubi had installed a 'new' Windows. Actually, it's only 'new' to us; it's a copy, and it's all in Arabic, and with the writing going from right to left! What a carry-on we've had trying to get it to work for us knuckleheads, even now, it's still using the wrong keys for some of the punctuation marks. I hate this sort of thing, but I've been told before that you just cannot get a genuine Windows in Egypt, at all. 

It cost the princely sum of thirty Egyptian pounds (just about two pounds fifty) and will keep is going with emails etc until we get back to Blighty in a couple of weeks time. Hopefully, we'll be able to get it properly sorted out then.

I wouldn't really care, but I've lost ALL my pictures, and ALL my music and videos. I'd saved a lot of pictures of the ongoing works in the guest bathroom, gone; along with alsorts of irreplaceable pictures of miscellaneous oddities found around Luxor and videos taken at the Folk Club (even one of us singing!). I could just SPIT!

As I've already said, "Woe is me!" 

Only in Egypt: Woe is me!

Only in Egypt! How many times have you seen that as a title for yet another ridiculous picture of an overloaded donkey/bicycle/ truck or bus? It's what I would class as a hackneyed phrase; overused and overly simplistic. Yet, here I am utilising the self-same cliché!

I'm confident, though, that you Dear Reader will indulge me. Many of you will have already been to Egypt, and will therefore have an idea of the hap-hazard 'rules of the road' in this topsy-turvy land. Those of you who are yet to have the privilege of visiting the Land of the Pharaohs; pin back your lug-holes and rub the sleep out of your eyess!

It's just very recently that I've realised one of the simplest of the 'Egyptian Rules of the Road', and that is that a driver is wholly responsible for driving into anything, but not at all responsible for anything that happens behind his direct (frontal) field of vision. Once this becomes clear, then a great deal of the stupidity (or that which we Westerners would view as driving stupidly) comes more into focus, and seems less stupid, after all. So, driving around roundabouts the wrong way, or pulling out into a major road without bothering to look first, becomes 'not my problem' (another very common Egyptian phrase). Like this:

Yes, we drive on the right here in Egypt. That's the left ear of our caleche hose in the bottom right hand corner, and a small car toodling along in the 'fast' lane. On the opposite carriageway, there's a tourist coach coming in the other direction, possibly from Luxor Airport, as it's the airport road that we're on. But, the next coach, right in the middle of the picture, above the car,  overtook our caleche a minute or two previously and is  now travelling on the wrong side of the dual carriageway! It's alright though, as it's big enough to see. As I said, "Only in Egypt".

By sub-titling this post "Woe is me!" I thought that I might pre-warn you of impending written 'doom and gloom'. (That's one of the Master Carpenter Jim Crow's old sayings, I hope you don't mind me referring to him yet again, but I still regularly imagine him looking over my shoulder whilst I'm attempting some woodwork!)

Honestly, why any sane person would contemplate living here is completely beyond me! It's like some sort of debilitating and incurable viral infection; once it's taken hold, there's no stopping it! And, as well as there being no cure; none of us sufferers want to be cured anyway.

(Sorry, that was just a little frustrated aside, and not a genuine complaint.)

So, back to the current woes! You'll remember the debacle of  Mr Hashim's 'tradesmen'? Well, to further the job, I decided to carry on myself. I set to with my lovely Aldi angle-grinder and equally lovely Aldi stone and ceramic cutting discs, and cut out the old shower tray and surrounding tiles:

 
Although I'd had the vacuum running to try and catch some of the dust, and was wearing a mask and goggles and a plastic bag over my hair and ears, the dust still managed to get on my chest. So much so, that the following morning I was struggling to breath and my chest was very painful. In fact, I was convinced that I was actually gasping my last, right then and there!! Of course I wasn't, and it turned out that I (again) had a belly bloated with wind,  which was pushing upward and interfering with my lungs; hence the pain and the difficulty in getting much air into them.) Anyway, it meant a day off.

I had almost decided to just persevere and complete the whole job myself, but reality kicked in when it came to chiselling out the concrete shower-tray base; I'm not young and energetic enough for that kind of hard labour any more!  

A female English friend and her husband are busy constructing a flat, and she kindly put us in touch with her plumber. He, eventually, landed with a 'boy' and the two of them spent two days with hammers and chisels digging out the whole floor and more of the bottom row of tiles, God bless them! They also helped me to move the electric water heater from where the new extended shower will be and into, the spare W.C. next door. (It really should have been in there in the first place!)


They came with a load of sand and a bag of cement, the man with the motor-bike-truck thing wanted 100le, but I got him down to 50. Seeing as he carried most of it up the stairs, I don't suppose it was all that bad. He looked pretty plugged by the time he'd finished.

The plumber, Ayad, and his labouring boy got the shower tray in place, and promised that their tiler (ceram-IQUE) man would be here "after tomorrow". That was three days ago, so we're not sure how many 'after tomorrows' he meant!

I'm sorry about the picture quality (sound familiar?) but I just don't know how to improve these, all the pics I've taken of the guest bathroom are rubbish, they're an embarrassment on our adverts too. It must be something to do with the camera settings, about which I haven't a clue! Anyway, you get the gist don't you?

I'm not being completely idle, mind you. I have been doing bits with the large and expensive pieces of timber which I've been acquiring for the stairs, and doing a great deal of thinking about how best to tackle that job. More about that on another day.  

Of course, all this is going on in the midst of irregular power cuts! Here's a shot of my beloved searching her pockets for her phone, which has a good torch on it:

It wouldn't be so bad if the temperature was in the normal range for May, but it's getting just too hot for comfort. In fact, Freda decided, yesterday, to move downstairs, as the A/C units down there are so much better than our own. Of course, that means moving everything else as well! 

The electric kettle down there hasn't been de-scaled since the last guests were here, so I part filled it with white vinegar and set it to boil, with the lid open, so that it wouldn't switch off automatically. That's a wonder cleaner that white vinegar! After a minute or so of letting it boil away, I switched it off and poured it down the sink; spotless!  After refilling it and boiling another couple of times, to get rid of the vinegar smell and taste, I poured the last lot into the sink just in time to get newly boiled water splashing all over my plastic sandalled feet! Lo and behold; the heat had expanded the piping below the plughole in the sink and it had come apart. There was water everywhere, as you can imagine! I've slathered silicone sealer all over the inside of the pipe joint today, and we'll see how it performs by tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'm having to cart dirty dishes up and down the stairs in the scorching heat to be able to wash them, it's getting rather tedious.

Another catsafterme (Colloquialsim: catsafterme is Stan-Laurel-speak for catastrophe.) occurred yesterday as well. Freda was just about to step into the shower, when the water stopped! At first we thought that the water might have been cut by the powers-that-be (like happens regularly, apparently, on the Side of the Dead), or maybe a charming child of one of Dr Al Malach's patients had clambered onto the wall and turned off the main, which has happened once before, or possibly the water filter had become blocked? Armed with a screwdriver and a new filter, I trudged down the stairs. 

Yes, everyone else had water. No, the main hadn't been turned off. And, I would change the filter anyway, now that I was here.

I normally open the bleed screw for a few seconds, just to, take the pressure off the filter bowl before unscrewing it. I was mystified as to why, after about five minutes, the water was still emitting from the bleeder under a seemingly enormous pressure. Removing the screw altogether, I got a jet of water which bounced off the ceiling of the stairwell! The water was red hot! So was the water pump and the pipework leading away to the upstairs apartments. It seemed as though the pump taken a wobbler and had just gone on and on building up pressure without the actual water going anywhere, how could that be? (That was a rhetorical question, by the way.)

With much to-ing and frowing,  up and down stairs, switching taps and the pump on and off, it all seemed to be back to normal, the filter hadn't been ready for a change, but I've no idea what had happened. 

Only in Egypt? Who knows? What I do know is that it's still too hot for May, look at this:

That's what greeted me when I carried some dishes up the stairs this afternoon. You cannot get much closer to 50 degrees Centigrade than  that without it being 122 Fahrenheit, can you?

I'm off to luxuriate with my three and a half horse-power A/C! Goodnight.


Calling all plumbers!

I'm not a nasty man, I know I'm not because everyone (including my wife, even) tells me how nice I am! I hope that they aren't winding me up, as I do genuinely try to see the good in everyone and treat them accordingly. I want to treat tradesmen fairly, in fact I want to treat them generously, either here or in the UK.

After all; I've been there, done that and got the tee-shirt too, haven't I? Over forty years of self-employment, over forty years of trying to keep successive governments, in their various interfering, controlling and money-grubbing forms, off my back, over forty years of cow-towing to some of the most awful people, because they were customers, over forty years of doing without while other families were enjoying foreign holidays and riding around in cars that were painted all over in only one colour (instead of the "bitsa's" that I had managed to cobble together). And NO, I'm not bitter, that was the life that we (more or less) chose for ourselves and our long-suffering children, and we've all managed to come through in just about one piece. I'm only making the point that I do know what it's like to struggle for a living, and that knowledge and experience certainly colours my dealings with other people in similar or worse situations.

So, why is it that so many of the tradesmen I meet here try their level best to take me for a ride? Do they really believe that all "tourists" are that stupid, and that rich? Long-time Readers of this Blog might remember the running battles I've reported on which I've had with so-called "tradesmen", those who bluff their way around day-to-day as they baffle people who don't know any better with fancy sounding talk and twiddling a few knobs here and there! I'm sick to death of them!!!!!

Freda goes mad with me when I suggest doing any sort of improvements to our property; she's the one who remembers the frustrations and rows that we invariably have with either workmen or go-betweens or suppliers. (My failing memory just blanks out the unpleasant things, or so it seems.) Hence, I've become something of an expert electrician, even though I'm seriously colour blind, and a passable carpenter, even though I cannot pick up a saw or any other bladed tool without attempting to cut off a limb. I'm now something of a dab-hand at fitting A/C units, and kitchen design, manufacture and fitting.

You, Dear Reader, understand well that I don't want to be, or do, any of these things, I've done my stint "at the coal-face" proverbially speaking!

I've not been happy with the guest bathroom for quite some time, as you'll remember. The replacement of the old-fashioned pedestal wash-basin with the lovely counter-top sink was a vast improvement, in my opinion. But it wasn't enough!

At last, Ahmed Hashem (of the flashing teeth and perpetual 'flu) the owner of Hashem Tower bathroom and ceramic shop on Medina Street, has our "Ideal Standard Ultra Flat Shower Tray" and accessories in stock, and they are being delivered to our humble abode tomorrow!! (Insh'Allah.) I had the marvellous idea of asking him to provide the labour to accomplish the fitting etc of the shower tray and the tiling modifications which were required to accommodate it. Good idea? I thought so, after all, he must know the good tradesmen. And, he should be able to command proper prices (to which I would add a worthwhile bonus if the quality of the work warranted it).

Am I really as green as I'm cabbage looking? Mr Hashem duly sent his best man (Ayman) with a "professional" plumber and two tilers (who both looked as if they had taken the day off school, and with oily hair and vile baseball caps, to boot!) Between Ayman and myself and a few translatory phone calls to Mr Hashem, we all eventually understood what each of us wanted to get across, and the gang retired to work out their estimates and deliver them to Mr Hashem, whom I would call "after one hour".

He rang me, within a half hour with the awaited quotes. I was (well, almost) dumbstruck when I heard the price from the plumber, he wanted a month's wage for the hour or two's job of fitting the shower tray! "WHAAAT?" I yelled down the phone. Freda nearly jumped out of her skin, as she hadn't quite been prepared for me losing my cool with the man with whom we'd dealt amicably for the past 9 years. Following a slight pause, he came out with the price from the tiling children. It really was one of those "Richard Littlejohn Moments", when you just "couldn't have made it up"! These two little scrotes wanted two months wages to sort out less than four square metres of tiles!

I didn't dare to go and see Mr Hashem until the following evening, and even then I was still fuming! I couldn't accept the fact that he'd actually given me those prices, knowing us as he does. But, he passed it off as being all he could do. He had complained to both the "tradesmen" that the prices they were offering were far too high, but they wouldn't drop any lower, so much for wanting work, eh? I told Hashem that I'd rather knock the building down altogether than be held to ransom by these clifties.

So, unless you, Dear Reader, knows someone who is skilled enough to complete this task for me, and wants a week's accommodation in Luxor free of charge, then it looks very like I'll be adding becoming a skilled plumber and tiler to my list!

And goodnight Vienna!

   


Picture Book.

Now then, I'm sure that many of you will have enjoyed "Watch With Mother" when you were little boys and girls (I certainly did) before the advent of Game Boys and all the other mystifying electronic gadgets that the young'uns seem to waste their time with nowadays. And I'm equally sure that you'll now be thinking that "Picture Book" was on on a Monday, washing day, and not a Wednesday like we have here in the "Twilight Zone" which is Our Luxor! But don't despair, it's not of earth shattering importance, it's just that I've got a few recent pictures to share with you, and it's a Wednesday......OK?

We've been invaded again by pigeons! We came back here to a warning from our temporary caretaker (Coffeeshop Adam) that we were playing host to a nest of the dirty little beggars on top of one of our A/C's, but that we shouldn't disturb them as there were two fledglings just about ready to fly the nest. We, accordingly, left them alone as they dropped bits of nest fabric (twigs, baling wire and the like) all over the roof terrace, along with ploppings here and there. Then, the other day, I noticed that the adults seemed to have moved on, but when I looked properly; lo and behold the young were still there; and very still. They were, in fact, dead!

I got the steps (remember; selem kheshup...stairs wooden?) and a dustpan to shift the corpses, but they seemed to be well and truly stuck, somehow, to the top of the A/C cover. After taking down the cover, it became clear that their little feet had become entangled in the pieces of wire that the parents had used to build the nest, thus preventing them from their normal progression of flying away. Poor little things, there are no pictures of their pathetic little cadavers! Instead, here's a one of another cheeky blighter who was intent on doing the same on the top of the other A/C unit:

While we're doing our Johnny Morris (a sometime animal programme presenter on the BBC, years ago) bit, here's another animal, one which is very close the heart of one of our regular readers (and commenter):

The foal is Annabell and the horse is Edward, Ahmed the caleche-man and his nephew Bedawi can be seen at top left. I took the opportunity of snapping Annabell while Freda was across the road getting the bread, fresh from the baker on Madina Street.

A bit later on, I snapped the "Luxor Helter Skelter" again, as we neared home. I'm amazed that it came out so well, as the caleche was trundling along at the time.

After the indignity of having our A/C in the bedroom freeze up, we had to have the man out to see to it. It was short on Freon, apparently. (Why?) Here's the boy helper posing for a picture while he was replacing the one in the livingroom, which we had checked out at the same time:


And, I had almost forgotten, here's the mess they left behind!

Dirty beggars, like workmen everywhere; they hate to clean up after themselves!

Meanwhile, the ongoing saga of the guest bathroom goes on! (What a surprise there, then!) You'll remember, of course, that we bit the bullet and replaced the hand-wash basin and stand etc, which I do believe was a major improvement, but not quite enough of an improvement to really satisfy us! So here we are (now biting the heavy artillery shell) and finally replacing the shower cubicle. Of course, it's turning in to a saga all of its own! We could now easily find our way to the Ideal Standard shop of Ahmed Hashem, across in Madina Street, even if we were doubly blindfolded!!!!

Enough moaning, "I didn't get where I am today by moaning, Reggie!" (Another reference to long-gone British TV, this time a situation comedy, which will be lost on some of you, I know, but it tickles me, and I hope one or two others who might recognise the character). Here's the forlorn state of the guest bathroom today:

Yes, I know; it's a terrible picture, but up to my usual standard, eh? The new job will be beautiful. (Insh'Allah!) We took the mowgoff (Translation: 'bus terminus) bus from Sharia Karnak up to New TV Street and the plumbing emporium branch of Ahmed Hashem, to have a look at alternative bibet (the floor-mounted drain, as in the one next to the W.C. in the picture above) styles, and found a rather pleasant looking one, which we'll have in the new-look guest bathroom.

While we were there, we decided to have a butchers (Colloquialism; "butchers" is Cockney rhyming slang for "look", as in butcher's hook.) at the second-hand-man's burgeoning empire. He's now extended his stockroom space onto a second floor, which has recently been built, but doesn't have a proper staircase in yet! (See the third picture down.) A bit difficult to access, but what the heck? I think he's going into competition with "Cairo" (being the only place where we have been told certain articles are available) in the matter of cane and wicker chairs and tables.




 He's even set up a workshop (of kinds) where he has men repairing them!

That's all that I have for you at the moment, Dear Reader. But don't worry, as soon as I know anything; I'll pass it on.

Whale meet again! (Insh'Allah)

NO COMMENT.

Well, that isn't strictly true, as you might guess Dear Reader. There's only the following little movie which I don't feel really qualified to comment upon, and I know what you're thinking, "That doesn't usually stop him!" So maybe I'll offer just a few words of explanation?

video

Anyone from "Oop North" (as those Southerners would call it) will have heard about the annual "Hoppings" held on the Town Moor (where the public hangings also used to take place) at Newcastle, yes? But I suppose that I should explain for those poor souls who do have to suffer living in the South (i.e. farther down than Middlesbrough.) The Hoppings is the biggest travelling fair in Europe, and the showmen have gathered in Newcastle, from all over the country, since time immemorial, to the general delight of the local populous. It's held whilst the world's tennis stars are all occupied at Wimbledon, and that's why it nearly always rains during Wimbledon fortnight; because the Hoppings MUST have rain to remain authentically disappointing!

My favourite attraction at the Hoppings when I was a youngster was the "Helter Skelter", it was marvellous rushing down those wooden runners sitting on a raggy piece of coco matting, and then getting a hot-dog and some candy floss! (Not forgetting, of course, the mud trying to suck the little shoes of my feet!!!!) Lo and behold, what did I see on my return to Luxor......(what I imagined to be) a lighted up helter skelter! There it is, in the short video above.

After rubbing my eyes, I realised that is wasn't an Egyptian helter skelter, it was the minaret of the Mosque in the in the local suq! Apart from being appalled, I'm not able to add further comment.

                                   
The above pic is what I thought minarets should look like.

Never mind, ours is not to reason why etc etc! I also came across a new hotel name the other day, although I wouldn't suggest that it's namesake should stay there:

The name has been added to the Queen's Valley Hotel. which is directly behind the Emilio, facing onto Sharia Karnak and the Sphinx Avenue.

One more picture to go, and here it is:




OK! Two more pictures. (I feel like Michael Palin in the "Cardinals" sketch):
video

Do you know what these pictures are? They're the air intake of our bedroom A/C unit........blocked by ICE!

Freda was sitting on the bed with her Kindle, and I was in the livingroom, doinmg something important (like eating?) when I was disturbed by her shouting through that the "note" of the A/C had changed. Of course, being the ever vigilant husband that I am, I immediately went to her aid. On removing the filter, which hadn't been cleaned for a while, I must admit, we could see that the heat exchanger was a funny grey sort of colour through the grille. Thinking it was more of the furry stuff which collects on the filter, I removed the front of the unit (using one of my recently acquired new tools from Aldi) to find that nearly all of the exchanger surface was covered in ice. What a turn up for the books, eh? After letting it alone to melt for a while; it seemed to be working again quite normally. (I did check the operation of the unit, and found that it blows four tenths of a degree colder when the fan is on "low" than it does when it's on "high", I'll bet that surprises you, eh?)

I think that's enough boring news for tonight, don't you? TTFN.