Oh the shame..........the bitter shame!

I don't know if any of my esteemed Readers are poor enough to ever have had threadbare carpets? I have, and although it wasn't at all unusual or particularly indicative of anything at the time, nowadays it would be a source of general shame and embarrassment.  Anyway, I would think that it's reasonably fair to say that this horror would creep up on you, relatively unnoticed, until, quite suddenly, there it was; a patch of threadbaredness! (Is that really a new word?)

Well...........Dear Reader, as I'm sure you're aware, we have a total of 83 steps from the street to our little roof-top hovel, and we're responsible for the top 36 or so, I forget exactly how many are inside our stairway door. The rest are the responsibility of the other occupants of the building; the dentist and the surgeon. So, I either clean them myself or get someone else to do them for me. (A blog in itself!!!)

For the past year or so, we've had Joseph as a replacement for the hapless Rachad, who was as much use as man off! Joseph is employed, full-time, as a street cleaner, otherwise known as an "Amoun Man" after the name of the company which used to have the street-cleaning contract. He comes every Sunday (without fail, so far) and brushes and washes the stairs from top to the street at the bottom. He also, occasionally, runs one of the filthy floorcloths over the painted walls on the way back up the stairs, when he returns the bucket etc, leaving lovely dirty marks which NEVER come off! Bless him.

Well.........(again?).......... I have to say that I've noticed that the white mosaico (Colloquiallism, mosaico = the white cement with flecks of stone in, which is used all over Luxor on stairs and footpaths and some floors, as well. Pronounced "moz-eyeco") wasn't as white as it used to be. In fact, after inspecting it, as we had guests arriving, it was scruffy! Joseph was managing to mop it dirty instead of clean! I have showed him (time and time again!) how to do it effectively. Sweep first, then mop (hard) with the prepared solution in scalding water, of Gen-er-Al cleaner and either bleach or vinegar, and then dry immediately with the bundle of floorcloths provided. It's not rocket science!

Anyway, I knew I wouldn't be able to see to our stairs in time for the guests coming, so I was just a bit ashamed, but didn't say anything to them about it. They didn't mention it either, so it was a case of "Least said soonest mended!".

Obviously, the situation couldn't just be left as it was, and I would have to tackle the stairs sooner or later; it ended up being sooner! The trick is, when they are really stained with ingrained dust etc, is to clean them as if they were concrete, with an acid based cleaner. In other, here in Luxor words, neat vinegar, especially as it's only 1.5LE per bottle!

Here's the first flight of our stairs as you come up them:

Not all that bad, would you say?

But take a better look at that top one, and there's worse to come! Here's the next landing:

So........I started from the top; working down is easier than working upwards, or so I think. 

Marigolds on, to save my lovely soft hands, you know, along with my trusty work apron, all the floorcloths (newly washed, of course), a new litre bottle of vinegar, a one and a half litre bottle of water with a pierced top, a suitably sized scrubbing brush and a bucket of clean water. Armed for the battle, wouldn't you agree? Except for one thing.....the round tag on the vinegar bottle seal, inside the screw-on cap, snapped off, and I had to go back into the flat to find a knife to pierce the seal. Believe it or not, this happened every time, with 6 vinegar bottles, and every time, I was unprepared. I could have spit!

Never mind. I'm almost done now, I've been averaging a flight, or a landing, per day, my knees won't take any more than that, and I run out of clean cloths as well. 

Here is the bit where I almost die of shame for letting it get sooooo bad, the difference is astonishing:

Do you think that that's a good reason for never doing today what you can put off till tomorrow, Dear Reader? Oops, perhaps I've got that wrong?
Yes, tomorrow is another day, and I hope to get it finished before dinner time (that's lunchtime if you're POSH) as I'm back in demand as an actor in an Egyptian film production tomorrow afternoon. No idea of what I'm supposed to be, yet, but "a foreigner" will certainly be part of the job description. I hope I'm not playing a cleaner, eh?

I'll tell you more about it next time, Insh'Allah!

Lest we forget?

Here's a timely little reminder to all you budding "oldies", like me.

Can you distinguish the bruising on that finger? I've put shakily drawn lines around them with the help of one of my lap-top gizmos. Well, they're a sign that things are not what they used to be, believe me!

Let me tell you a little story...........

A wee while ago, our local Aldi store was selling pliers similar to these:
for a very reasonable price. So reasonable, that I was almost tempted to buy a pair. However, as I didn't envisage clarting (Colloquialism: clarting = messing) about with any ceramic tiles (for that is what they are for) in the foreseeable future, and any surplus money would have been better used by going into my melodeon fund, I resisted and left them on the shelf.

Woe is me, Dear Reader! Here we are back in Luxor, and I have now embarked on the latest project which is something that I foolishly agreed to do for my beloved as a Christmas gift; it involves cutting tiles, as you may have already guessed. So I should have bought the d****d pliers after all! Never mind, as I always have done, I'll get by with what I have; simple!

What I do have is a pair of cobblers pincers, which (I think) were bought here in Luxor, so will be of the usual quality of tools available here.

As can be plainly seen, they're not of quite the same build; shorter handles, less advantageous handle to jaw ratio, less ergonomic handle grips. The list goes on!

The upshot of all this is that when I came to nip off yet another piece of ceramic tile, and again gripped the handles of the pliers with much more force than would have been required with the right tool; I felt a searing pain in my finger, like something bursting or snapping, and it immediately swelled up and could no longer be bent. The job was stopped!

Lest we forget? Yes Dear Reader, lest we forget that we are getting older, and more frail, and that bits of our bodies are less able to cope with the pressures and stresses which would have been as nothing to them in former years. Let my lightly bruised but nevertheless painful finger be a warning to all you who would hope to delight your wives with a gift of your handiwork. BE B****Y CAREFUL!!!!!

Yet another foolhardy, and possibly life-threatening, pass-time of many of us older chaps is to try to relive our youth by riding about on giant-sized motorbikes. Like these, possibly?.........


They belong to the members of some Egyptian motorbike club, and apparently, they do a tour of Egypt every year or two, being welcomed with open arms, it seems. It's not everyone who gets a police escort and can then use the front of the Winter Palace as a car park! The hotel even put on their stock VIP outside show of the dancing horses and whirling Dervish etc. Not even Yours Truly gets that sort of welcome,......huh!

Mind you, the bikes were lovely, and I can see why many a man might be tempted! Suzuki Boulevardes evidently, with rear tyres which were over a foot wide! One of the riders was a childhood friend of Ahmed the caleche man, he told me that they had engines of 1800cc capacity, and were very quick! I declined his offer of a "backer"; I couldn't really see myself as a modern-day Peter Fonda, could you? (Colloquialism: backer = a ride on the pillion.)

That's all for now, as it seems that we have to go out and get the curtains back from the dry-cleaner. Bye for now.

Christmas 2016?

I thought that a few of you could be mildly interested in what we (as a small English Methodist Chapel) managed to do this year. As I've mentioned before, all of our Christmastime fundraising is for the charity "Action For Children", which, in the olden days, was called "The National Children's Homes".
Traditionally (well, for at least 100 years) we've gone out at Christmas (until just 20 years or so ago, we started at midnight on Christmas Eve) to sing Christmas Carols around the locality, at either houses or groups of houses where we had been especially invited. Mostly by members or associates of the Chapel. We now start and finish earlier, this year we met at 18.15hrs and sang till about 01.00, if I remember correctly.
Being one who just loves to sing, and especially Christian hymns and songs, I haven't missed a year since I was converted in 1967. Nowadays, we have expanded the boundaries of our "catchment" area and have resorted to using transport in the form of a mini-bus (kindly donated by Kingsley's Coaches of Washington) to whisk us around an area which we could never have achieved on foot, (while carrying the small pedal organ which used to be carried about the village).
This year, on the night, we collected £660 which included some pre-payments from people who would be in bed before we got to them. The dreaded "social media" of facebook has been beneficial, in that some of our listeners have passed on their delight to others whom we didn't previously know, and to whom we now sing! We also sing, by telephone, to a number of friends who have emigrated to foreign parts, including (I believe) Australia and America!
In addition to the Carol Singing, we also hold a "Community Carol Service" with sweet mince pies and hot and cold beverages, on the last Monday before Christmas (it also includes an hilarious 3 minute pantomime) the collection from which is added to the Carol Singing money.
This year, I plucked up the courage to try to do a bit of busking outside of our local Tesco supermarket. After enquiring with the manager and him making all the arrangements with his area superiors, it only depended on me not losing heart! After failing to step up to the mark for two days, I eventually went along (it only being 200 yards from our house) and made a terrifying start. Happily, within minutes, people were readily dropping pound coins or bits of change into my box, whilst wishing me a "Merry Christmas", and I found that I was really enjoying myself! I did 5 spells of about 30 minutes each over the next couple of days, and, to my astonishment, raised £107.58p, which was also added to the Action For Children mix. We sent them a total of over £1000, which we (and they) were delighted with.
There are some "you tubes" of the various events on You Tube, which I'm sure can be found by searching on there for the channel of my infamous brother Richard Jennings. Have fun!

Not Only, But Also!

So here we are, yet another New Year, and what have we got? Peace in our time? An end to starvation? No! There have been fairly recent explosions in Cairo again and more one-off terrorist incidents all over the place! But in Cairo, was it general Middle-Eastern terrorism, or just a violent protest by some disenchanted pressure group against El Sisi's government. Whichever; it only means that more people will jump on the bandwagon of boycotting Egypt!

It sickens me, that so many stupid people rush to condemn a whole country because of a tiny minority! I'm sick of reading folk's comments like "I can't believe that anyone is still going to such a dangerous and backward place?" without them having the slightest knowledge of Egypt's kindly, protective people, or its world-beating antiquities or the searing heat of an Egyptian summer, or the cooling, refreshing breezes of their short Autumn and Spring. (And that's before we even look at their own country's dismal efforts at keeping their population safe!)

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to face Egyptian friends (many being highly educated people with university degrees) who are trying to secure, even dish-washing, jobs in foreign countries, by paying bribes! It's heartbreaking.

But enough of that sort of thing, you don't come here to listen to me harping-on about the hardships of my friends, do you, Dear Reader? Let's get back to something a bit more cheery, eh? How about our trip to Andalusia? (Spain, you know?)

What a queer place! Streets not wide enough to drive a car along, some so steep that they become steps.

No doubt, you'll notice that these pictures show streets which are cobbled, but with pebbles instead of stone "sets". I can assure you that they are very uncomfortable to walk on for any length of time!

We found little Arab/Muslim shops in a miniature souq area right
behind a HUGE Roman Catholic Cathedral.

All very incongruous, I can tell you! I didn't know whether I was coming or going. These shops were typical of other Arab type souqs we've discovered elsewhere; lots of smallish shops selling the same sort of stock at similar prices, with just a little variation here and there.

It was also here that we came across this "Bull in a China Shop"!

I was taken aback to realise, after a second glance, that the fancy stonework around these windows was only painted on! (Don't forget that by clicking in any picture you can see them altogether and bigger!)

We were only there for a few days, so had to get acquainted with our surroundings pretty quickly, hence Freda had booked a sightseeing 'bus/train tour. As we waited where it was supposed to stop, I kept thinking "An articulated 'bus cannot possibly negotiate that "U" bend!" But, it did, Dear Reader.

And it also managed to navigate the streets which were only wide enough for a single car to squeeze down. They are obviously specially built for the purpose, and not too bad either. Each row of three seater, padded, benches has its own entrance and exit door (At this point I should point out that they would never, in a million years, pass the British "Certificate of Fitness for Public Service Vehicles" test.) and are relatively comfortable, especially as the whole journey only takes 50 minutes or so, and you can jump off (literally, as they are quite high) and back on another throughout the whole route, all day. Vision is good, especially with having a glass ceiling/roof, to view the fabulous carvings and figures set along the rooflines of various buildings.

The windows stretch all the way around the little vehicles, with only very narrow pillars for doors and window glass. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour, and it did familiarise us with the main areas of interest. Recommended!

I was interested in the everyday shops, easily recognised for what they sell by the names, thus:

                  Or so I thought, until I came across this one:

                              No, I don't believe it either!

And, it wasn't just the shops which were if interest! When did you last see a British bank with an entrance like this:

But, of course, any British bank worth its salt would have ripped out such beauty and sold it to add to their disgusting profits!!!

Of course, the actual point of the visit was to see the famous AlHambra, the fortified palace where the invading Muslim kings lived, and it's certainly worth the trip! I've never seen plasterwork or joinery so exquisitely fashioned. Some of the intricacy was staggering!

Mind you, the hotel we stayed at was also astonishingly beautiful too. Being ten minutes walk to the ticket office at the AlHambra and two minutes from where the local mini-buses and the City Tour Artic stops, it's also very handy!  

Here's the front of the hotel;

And one from the dining terrace which runs all along the outside of bar and restaurant.

That's Granada, many feet (sorry, metres!) below, I'm sure I took some more interesting pics of this fabulous view, but I cannot find them at the mo.

The interior of the hotel also had loads of very intricate platerwork, but when I inspected it closely, it became apparent that the beautiful finish on the walls was actually a large number of pre-formed panels!!! We have shops here in Luxor which make and sell pre-formed plaster decoration; corbels, ceiling roses, cornice etc. but nothing like these, I'm sorry to say.

Here are a few shots taken inside the hotel;

Sorry, but I've no idea what happened to the colour on that first pic! Suffice it to say that the hotel was beautiful, and matched all of our expectations!

Back to the Alhambra itself, some of it is in ruins, but a good deal of the place is intact. It's a big site, with walkways and narrow roads criss-crossing here and there. I was very surprised to came across a "Dempster Dinosaur" (probably not an actual Dempster, but a later copy). For those of you who have now lost their way here; the Dempster Dinosaur was an innovation in commercial vehicle bodywork! Interesting? Read on......
As far as I'm aware, this style of body was the first to be able to be hydraulically removed and replaced along with its load. This picture comes courtesy of "Classic Refuse Trucks.com"

When first introduced they were quite a sight to see! But I never imagined that I'd come across one quite like this:

Tiny, or what????

Well, Dear Reader, perhaps that's enough about Spains Andalusia in a blog about Egypt? You know me, I could go on all day, and I'm sorry that I've abandoned you and your Egyptian appetite for so long. We'll have to wait and see what Luxor can turn up in the next few days or weeks to tickle my fancy.  

Go on, then. But just a quickie!

Yes, just a quickie today, I'm afraid.

You know how Clarkson and his chums were fired from the BBC, and started work on a rival show for another channel? Well......... the bloke whom the BBC decided to replace him with has now also been given his "marching orders". That's right, Chris Evans has now been dumped as well! But not to worry, he's gained employment elsewhere; in fact, it would seem that he's been inflicted on Luxor:

I'm confident that if this is, indeed, the great man's new enterprise, his "shouty" presence will go down very well with the other road users in Luxor. Don't you agree, Dear Reader?

The shops are struggling to fill their shelves here in Luxor. I'm sick to death of trailing the streets looking for odds and ends which we normally use, and which used to be readily available. Whether it's water filters or skimmed milk, new suppliers are having to be found. Only this morning, I had to fight my way into the "Government" shop on Youseff Hassan Street, in my daily search for that self-same skimmed milk.

On interrogating my "in-shop spy" I found that all the folk blocking the footway, and half of the road, were waiting for a promised delivery of sugar. I found it very strange that there should be a sugar shortage, as it always looks as if more than half of Egypt's agricultural land is given over to sugar cane production!

But, what do I know, Dear Reader, I'm just a long-staying khawadga tourist!

See Ya!

A Quickie add-on?

Did I tell you about Luxor being piped for natural gas? Well, they've left really badly filled-in trenches all over the place. So much so that the caleches are breaking their springs, more expense with even less income!

Well, good news today. Here are the road men, re-surfacing Sharia Karnak behind the Temple. They're also creating havoc and much excitement among the diverted 'bus drivers and the disoriented general public.

We don't need another hero?

Tina Turner wasn't really thinking when she sang those words;

We'll get to the relevance of this song shortly, don't worry. I never leave you in the lurch, do I Dear Reader?

I was nosing around the different selling sites on the laptop last night until quite late on. I rather like to keep abreast of which melodeons and concertinas are for sale and for how much. (But I think you are already aware of that, aren't you?) By the time I went to bed, there was an awful noise coming from somewhere outside, a large machine of some sorts. Being tired, I didn't go to investigate, it wasn't that intrusive. 

However, as the clock ticked away and I didn't go over to sleep, I found that the noise was becoming rather annoying by 03.30!!! It was actually interfering with the grandiose plans which were forming in my mind, and I couldn't have that, could I? I rose, and made myself decent, and went out onto the terrace to see if I could determine just whereabouts the noise was coming from. On listening to it properly, it was obviously a mechanical shovel loading a steel-bodied tipper, and down on Youseff Hassan Street. It would wait till morning for further investigation. Breaking the pattern of thought for my future plans seemed to do the trick as far as sleep went. Even with the ongoing noise outside, I soon slipped away to dreamland.

This morning, the slave-driver (who is more often known as Madame Farida) chased me out to get some aish fino (white bread) to make our luncheon sandwiches, and while I was out I thought that I'd check to see if my earlier suspicions about last nights noise were correct. Sadly, they were!

I say "Sadly", because this used to be the building of the most local carpenter. The father (who used to spend his days sitting outsode the door, drinking tea and chatting to all and sundry) died earlier this year, and I don't think the son had very much "go" in him, at least I hadn't seen much work going on there since the old man "got away".  

Nevertheless, I was sad to see it go. The son had turned out to be a hero of sorts, to me anyway , as can be seen in the following picture and Blog post: 


That's all folks!

In for a penny; in for a pound!

Intrepid? That's us!

Yes Dear Reader, as you know, we recently visited Aswan, staying at the Old Cataract Hotel, and it was wonderful! Nevertheless, we aren't made of money, and couldn't possibly afford such an expense again, so soon. So we had to trim our sails and cut our suit according to our cloth, to mix our metaphors.
Freda booked us into the "Nile Wing", formerly the New Cataract, that awful concrete monstrosity which stood next the glorious Old Cataract. We don't mind slumming it to bring you the low-down!

Actually, it's not three bad! (Colloquialism; not three bad = better than not too bad!) here are some pics of our room, a "Luxury room" of course!

            What do you think so far? Wait till you see the view!

Here's a shot of the actual balcony, taken from the doorway. Isn't it a treat? The sun never gets to shine on it, and there seems to be an almost constant "movement" of the air, not enough to call it a breeze, just enough to keep the heat at bay! And what about these views?

No panoramic shot, just overlapping pictures:

Now you can tell me where a lover of the Nile could find better views? It's just fabulous! Like the hotel.

A few more views in the room?...........

Sorry about the bathroom looking as if it's different colours; it's not in reality! The bath is very deep and wide, ideal for plump blokes like me.

There was the fridge and mini-bar, complete with a mini-kitchen too. Tea (and coffee) on tap, almost. Who could ask for more?

We've been looking at hotels in Europe, to replace the holiday to Andalusia which we missed this year, and the prices are higher, with views of the street!!!! Honestly (and I'm not getting paid for this) you couldn't better this hotel for value anywhere else in the world, and if you want to spend more than we could, there's always the likes of the Winston Churchill Suite at something like £10,000 per night.

We can hardly wait to go back! (But we'll have to save very hard.)

Don't forget, click on any picture to see them all, but bigger and better.

Another day, and yet anther dollar.......spent!

OK then, I've been having a sort through some of the photo's I took whilst we were away on our intrepid jaunt. These first few relate to visiting a dear friend who is our sometime neighbour when he is in Luxor. We went to visit him at his mother's house, which lies behind the railway station, very nearby an impressive Fatimid cemetery which I didn't even know existed!

They live on the first floor of a two storey dwelling. His next-door-neighbour is Muslim, but both downstairs neighbours are Christian. Although a devout Muslim, he did make the comment that if he'd been born downstairs, he'd have been a Christian.

Anyway, the Muslim neighbour soon arrived with a queer looking pot:

I cannot deny that I thought it looked rather dubious! "We have this before drinking tea." piped up our host. He went on to explain that, in the olden days, on seeing someone receive guests, it was customary for a neighbour to quickly kill and roast a lamb for them, but that custom had slid by the board. (These are Ababda people, originally from Arabia and reputedly numbering something like 34,000,000 in Egypt.)

So now, we had to suffice with a welcoming, neighbourly, drink of jababnah (pronounced jAbanA). It's made with hand-ground coffee and rather more hand-ground ginger, amongst other bits and bobs. It's heated on charcoal, hence the rag around the red-hot handle, and some wire wool is stuffed into the spout to act as a filter. Speaking as someone who only likes Irish coffee, and that because I cannot taste the coffee for the Irish whisky, I could have sat and drunk this concoction all night. I'm surprised that they get away with serving it in these tiny cups? (Unless it was/is relatively expensive to make?) In short; it was utterly delicious!

After a good old chin-wag covering the various differences in politics, religion, economics and social problems in Egypt and England, we had a stroll past the fascinating Fatimid cemetery, and ended up at a house/factory belonging to an old man who was his life-long friend. The old man, who was asleep while we were there, makes decorative man-hole covers. Like these:


We sat by the roadside for ages, just watching the back-street life of Aswan going about its routine, it was lovely, and peaceful too. 

Our Aswan friend maintains that the British introduced the segregation of rich and poor in Egypt, when they built the railways. He pointed out that the rich live between the railway and the Nile, and the poor are confined to the East of the railway. This had never occurred to me before, but on reflection, and in the main, he's right! But was it a deliberate policy decision? Who knows?

It's about bedtime now, but my mouth is watering thinking about that jabanah! See you later, alligator! 

Intrepid travellers!

Yes, that's us folks. You all know how Freda likes her luxury, don't you Dear Reader? Well, we've just returned from a little jaunt to Aswan, where we had 3 nights of roughing it! You couldn't make it up!

But never mind that for the moment, it's Sunday; supposedly a day of rest, so I'll go through the millions of pictures maybe tomorrow and get back to you. Our hardships might bring you to tears, so you'd better have a box of tissues at the ready.

Today........we woke to the sound of a windy pick (jack hammer to our friends over the water) in our little *local* street below. It's been on-the-cards for a while (Colloquialism; on-the-cards = an inevitability, something being due to occur.) but which we'd put it to the back of our minds, as you do with things which you would rather just go away.

It meant, "The Gas Man Cometh!!! And there he was, drilling away for all he's worth! There was another poor beggar with him, shovelling out the muck into piles on either side of the trench, completely blocking the street to anyone other than experienced mountaineers!

If you don't believe me, just look:

That's Coffeeshop Adam having a look as well. Not too happy!

Never mind, it would appear that President El Sisi wants everyone to have the opportunity to get piped up, and reduce the dangers inherent in bottled gas. 

When I went down to go to the government shop, I became aware of the full effect of their mornings work;

I thought that it was just as well that Dr Al Mallach didn't have any patients booked in for major surgery today, they'd have had a bonny job on, getting them over that lot! 

On my return from the shop (10/15 minutes? At most.) I found the lad back-filling his trenches. "That was quick work", thought I. I couldn't see any pipework in what remained of the trench, and sought out the man with the clip-board, and neighbour (and translator) Mr Radwan, who were over-seeing the work. Apparently, the gas trench had to be 20 cms wide and 20 cms from any other services, e.g. water or electricity. Well, Dear Reader, you've seen how narrow our street is, oh, haven't you?

There it is, it has a water main running the length of it and also two or three waste water pipes too! No gas pipes for you today, Mr Edward! I actually felt heart-sorry for the labourer, it's still quite hot here, certainly too hot for labour-in-vain!

(*local* is an inference which might well be too obscure for even some of our UK friends! You see; our's is a "local street", meant for "local people", as in the strange cultish TV series "The League of Gentlemen".)

Have a look here and you might come to terms with the concept:


For the moment, I'll leave you with the lovely people of Royston Vasey, but "I'll be back!"