Just a little quickie.

I'm 64 today!

Freda reckons that she does "still need me" and she will "still feed me" even though "I'm 64". It's just as well, really, as I'm not prepared to try to break a new wife in at my time of life. Got lovely cards from Mother and Sister and B-I-L, plus emails from and sms's from other family members, all well received. It won't be long now before I can thank them all in person.

I thought that you might like to see the cake which our current (newly wed) guests kindly got for me:

Underneath all that fancywork, there's a chocolate cake. We had some with a cuppa this afternoon, and it tastes as good as it looks! The guests are busy having a meal cooked by Mrs Adam, fish for the groom and kofta for the bride, I've told them that if they finish all their food, then I might let them experience a small piece of birthday cake each for their pudding, we've got a little cream to go with it, yummy!!!!

Here's the tray with their evening meal on it, as delivered:

What do you think, could you manage some cake after getting that lot down? It's a tall order, methinks.

Bye for now.

The Answer.

If you ask my darling wife any awkward questions about the trials and tribulations our life here in Egypt, she'll reply that the answer is always "It's Egypt!"

Like our neighbour Mr Gamal, the other day; when the water people had left some water bills, for me, with another neighbour, Mr Abdu. There were two bills, one for November and December 2014, and another for March and April 2015, but added onto each bill was another amount(?). Of course the bills are written in Arabic, as you would expect, and dummy Edward cannot make head nor tail of the "squiggles"! On further investigation, i.e. getting Mr Gamal to translate, it transpires that the secondary amounts are for April 2012 and October 2012. When I quizzed Mr Gamal why these should be included, his reply was "Egypt!"

So there you have it, Dear Reader, Freda (as ever) is right again! The answer to every question does seem to be "It's Egypt!" But not quite, eh?

A few days ago, I posted the following picture, as a bit of a teaser. Then, our special friends Sandra and Mick suggested that it might signify I might be contemplating painting the stairs, even though I hadn't actually asked the question of what the picture was about.

Nevertheless, the implied question was surely "What will this future blog concern?" (And Sandra and Mick's answer wasn't all that far away.)

I'm sure that you're all (well, the English speakers, anyway) familiar with the old saying "Slowly slowly, catchy monkey." Well; we are believers, especially since we  moved here to Luxor! The above photo' was taken in October 2013, when my "cunning plan" was first forming in my nut (or, if I was pretentious, I'd say in my "design engineering brain").

When we first had the conversion work done on our Egyptian property, way back in the mists of time, I wasn't "into" taking pictures. If I had been, I would certainly have taken one of what our Egyptian project manager had judged to be an acceptable partition on the stairs. It consisted of the wrought-iron gate in the above picture, but with the section where the triangular ironwork is in the picture being two odd shaped bits of raggy-edged thin steel plate welded together with what resembled pigeon droppings. (They also had an uneven, thin and thick, coating of rust.) I wasn't best pleased, I can tell you!

He was most apologetic, and had two (supposed) welders there the following morning to create the triangular wrought iron panel which is in the picture, and which has sufficed until very recently. I've never been particularly fond of it, but it did the job of closing off the gap in the mis-aligned flights of stairs.

I know it's quite difficult to see, but in this picture taken from the top flight of stairs, it is discernible that the handrails just aren't parallel; they actually form a "V" shape, and there is about a 10 inch (25cm) lateral difference between one floor and the next. Consequently, the wrought-iron wallahs produced this rather unkempt design to compensate for the discrepancy:

Can you see the queer, wedge-shaped panel between the door and the triangle?

No, I've never liked it, nor imagined it to be worthy of what I had envisioned for our Egyptian home!!!!

My hand was eventually "forced" by circumstance. Not wanting to spend our meagre reserves of cash unnecessarily, we had become used to the poor quality of our boundary marking partition, putting any annoyance at it to the back of our consciousness. However, the inadequacy of the situation again reared its ugly head when we started to get regular power cuts between Revolutions 1 and 2! Our dentist, on the floor below, got himself a generator! And what do petrol generators produce, apart from electricity? That's correct, Dear Reader, noise and smoke!!!!!! Noise and smoke which took the natural way out of the confined space in which the generator was placed; straight up to the stair landing of our Guest Apartment, and then farther on up, to our bedroom window. Luckily, we didn't actually have guests and power cuts and generator operation all at the same time, but it was always an unacceptable possibility.

I determined to seal off this small part of the outside world from out future guests!

After a good deal of thought and consultation with carpenters and bricklayers, who both wanted more than I was willing to pay for work which I wasn't really sure that I'd be happy with; I decided to undertake the work myself. (Fool that I am!)

I remembered the problems I had had when making the cupboard on the stairs, the fact that nothing was straight, level or plumb created problems at every stage. Here we were again, with the self-same problems but with variations. It meant that for all I had designed what I wanted, it had to be actually made "on-the-job". (Difficult when you're by yourself trying to hold quite heavy wooden structures whilst measuring gaps etc which were required to be properly vertical.)

Never mind! For a start, I knocked off part of the protruding wall, and plastered it up (after a fashion):

I had the triangular wrought-iron in and out whilst fashioning the wooden framework which would replace it:
Of course, this wasn't the finish! Although the frame was made out of door frame sized timber, it still wasn't wide enough to stretch from the downstairs handrail to the bottom of the upstairs handrail wall when in the vertical position. (If this is getting too technical you have my full permission to just look at the nice pictures instead of carrying on reading.)  More wood and more on-the-job design modifications and I was finally getting somewhere.

I fixed the triangle of wrought-iron onto the inside of the new timber frame, just for a semblance of security, whilst I ordered the Georgian wired glass for the windows. 

I had imagined (foolishly, as it turned out) that the iron door frame, being made of angle-iron and fastened into the wall, would have remained straight and perpendicular. (There's no fool like an old fool, is there?) It had to be chiselled out of the wall, before I could get it straight enough to work with. And getting it reasonably straight was a job and a half, I can tell you!

When it was finally straight enough, I realised that I really wanted to have a wooden door on the inside of the iron one, so a frame for that was duly ordered from Mr Abdu the carpenter from Karnak.

It's all coming together now, and apart from the actual wooden front door (about which Mr Abdu and I cannot seem to agree a price!!!) it's almost finished. I had to spend quite a bit of time sorting out and shaping beading to go around the edges, but I think it has been a worthwhile project. All I need now, apart from the wooden door, is some water based white gloss paint, which doesn't seem to be available here in Egypt. (Sipes Paints do one, but our local Sipes shop says that he just cannot get hold of any, at all! I also emailed their help desk but got no reply: EGYPT!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Sorry about the black spots in the corners of the pictures, it's something got into the inside of the lens, and I'll have to get a professional to take the camera to bits to get it out, but NOT here in Egypt, thank you!

Off now to jump in the shower before shopping. 

Congratulations and celebrations!

Now then, who among you can "Name that tune"? Well, the name's in the title, obviously!  "Congratulations" by the ever youthful Cliff Richards. Was it his Eurovision winner? I believe so.

Never mind. I'm offering my congratulations to Kheir Zaman, the very useful supermarket on TV Street. Apparently it was the birthday of their Luxor store the other day.

Outside the store they had someone painting faces for the children of shoppers, but we didn't have any of ours with us. (I can just imagine our Alice and Charlotte reliving their childhood with tiger faces running around Luxor, lol.) Also they had people dressed-up in animal costumes, with some for little kids as well:

No freebies for us old tourists, though!

Last week, a new shop opened just about opposite KZ; they had the usual deafening music, but accompanied by stilt-walkers weaving in and out of the busy TV Street traffic! Congratulations to them, as well.

There's only one stilt-walker in the picture (centre) I'm not sure what happened to the other one!

Of course, the main celebration today is Shams el Nessim, or Sniffing the Breeze, in English. It's Easter Monday here, a bank holiday for both Christians and Muslims, but the actual celebration is for the coming of spring and hails from the times of the Pharaohs.

I was up early, this morning. The alarm was set for 05:40, in order to be up to
see our guests away to the airport, but I was awoken by various strange noises from out in the street. At first I thought it might be that someone had died and the noise was the beginning of the wailing, which would go on for most of the day. I didn't want to think about it too much, as it would have woken me properly; you know what I mean, don't you? Anyway, after a while, it became obvious that it wasn't wailing women at all, there were too many children's voices, and they were laughing and carrying on. I had to get up, and it was still quite dark, about 04:45, I think, to see what was what.

Kettle on and cuppa made, I went onto the terrace to see what I could see! There is only a view of a small section of the main street from our terrace, as the next building sticks out past the front of ours, but I was able to see and realise what and where the noises were. They were coming from families as they made their way down to the Corniche and the riverside to stake their places for a day of picnicking and frolicking fun! I could see young girls skipping and dancing their way down Mustafa Kamel Street clapping and singing as they went. (And this was still very early, not yet properly light and with the temperature still below 14 degrees; freezing, in fact!!!)

It was just about then, that I noticed that there was a balloon up! I also noticed that the Pharaohs of old still had something on us newbies; Christians and Muslims alike. The West Bank Lights, which illuminate their places of burial, were still shining. They had been on all night! So the old religion was still having the last laugh, as its relics are fully illuminated whilst we Johnny-cum-lately Christians and Muslims are being subjected to willy-nilly power cuts at any time of the night or day!

Only in Egypt, eh?

Only in Egypt? Nah!

I've been reading the dreaded (or so some would say) Daily Mail, online. Yesterday and today it was warning people who live in England that the "Blood Rain" of the Saharan dust cloud is headed their way. What they're saying is that the prevailing wind is picking up fine sand in the North African desert, and depositing it in various areas of the British Isles. (By the way, and not many people know this, but; "sahara" is just the Arabic pronunciation of their word for "desert"! Only it's not pronounced sa-har-ah, but sah-ha-rah. So when you say "The Sahara desert", you're really saying "The Desert desert" which is rather silly, I'm sure you'll agree.)
But never mind! Before you get it in sunny old England, it's dumping some here in Luxor, on our roof-terrace!!! Of course it probably isn't exactly the same wind, as ours is the "Khamseen", traditionally the fifty day wind, which comes off the desert in a (generally) Northern direction and dumps it's load of fine sand over all the Egyptian towns as it makes its way up to al Quahira...Cairo. So, the Khamseen's sand isn't only in Egypt!

I'd bet (if I were a betting man, that is, which I'm not) that the following is "Only in Egypt" though. If you've been persevering with my scribblings for a long time, you might remember this picture from  years ago:

Yes, that's right; Facebook Shoes!

Well, here's a new one for you, and in the very next street:

I wonder what Uncle Walt, and the Mouse, would have thought of that? Maybe they'd just shrug it off, like the owners of all the other registered trade marks which are being mis-used and mis-represented here in Luxor. I think I've probably pointed them all out at one time or another, but just for a laugh.......
PC World, Windows (crisps), facebook shoes, Disney shoes, B&M Stores, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, and they're the ones that I can bring to mind!

 In the last Blog, I advised you to "Watch this space". Well, I haven't collated all the pictures yet, as they're spread over a couple of years, but here's a taster for you:

On this Coptic Good Friday, and especially for all you unbelievers reading this, I've entitled this picture "In the beginning". (But it wasn't quite, actually!)
Again, watch this space!!!!

Nice to see you; to see you, nice!

To any foreigners reading, you won't recognise the words of today's title as being a catchphrase of the ancient English entertainer Bruce Forsyth. So it's entirely wasted on you, sorry!

But never mind, the words are directed at our old friend Ruby Tuesday (although she still won't sat where she's from!) on the occasion of her re-entering the world of Blogging, in short; she's back!

I noticed her latest offering (after an absence of tooooo long) the other day. You can find it here:- Ruby Tuesday! Her blog is very different to mine, in that she is what we oldies refer to as "young" (blast her) and she has a young family too. Mind you, I don't envy her that responsibility in this day and age. I'm glad we had ours when we did, and that they are now (supposedly) independent.

It's funny, but I also took a picture of the sunset for this blog, and I think it must have been on the same evening as the one she took for hers.

Is that beautiful, or is that beautiful? I don't know whether it's an actual weather phenomenon or what, but it certainly seems to me that we are seeing more clouds in the sky over Luxor than we used to, anyone have an opinion on this?

I've been incredibly busy of late. That's why I haven't been writing (it's not because I've gone off you, Dear Reader, honest!), but I will get around to showing you the fruits of my labours before too long.

Watch this space!!!!!

Heroes of Luxor!

It's not every day that one comes across a real hero. But it's not every situation which requires one, either.

Nevertheless, on occasion one does need help, and in many circumstances the helper does, indeed, become our hero of the moment!

I've been on with the modifications to the main staircase here for quite some time now, it may even get finished this year!!!! But I've been held up of late, what with sitting on the landing just looking at it and wondering how best to overcome the problems created by nothing being straight, level or plumb, and then wondering what I'm able to accomplish myself, with the limited selection of tools (and even more limited skills) at my disposal, not to mention who I'm going to persuade to do the bits of machining etc.

The last time I bought a piece of wood at Naseem Salama (Luxor's B&Q, also known as the "underground" shop) next to the Horus Hotel on Sharia Karnak, I thought that it was hugely expensive! I'd been used to paying 32le-ish for three metre pieces of 3 x 2, and the last piece was about 90le or something. Mind you, it wasn't 3 x 2, and I think it might have been some sort of hardwood (which I didn't need, but the dimensions were right). Anyway, I snaffled 100le from the Dear Leader's purse, just in case, and off I trotted! I also needed another 2.4 metre piece of architrave.

Found the architrave straight away, in the stack just inside the rear entrance, from the tourist suq. I had to get the gaffer to give one of his slaves the key to their storeyard where they keep the bigger pieces of wood, and off we went to see what could be found. It's chock-a-block with bits of undressed and warped timber which look as if they've been lying there since Noah built his Ark. They're also all filthy! After sawing a piece off (1.7m from a 3m plank) I took it back into the store, expecting the worst. I know that the architrave is 15le per piece, and I held my breath as the slave told the master the sizes of the timber which I had.

"Twenty six pounds." came the mumbled demand through 70 odd years of untrimmed moustaches.  I could hardly believe my ears! It was only 11le

But now I had to get it dressed, Dear Reader. The last time I went to our nearest carpenter's shop, it was to learn that they couldn't make a simple table from a drawing, but the alternative was to pay 20le for the caleche to trail me all the way to Karnak to Abdu's workshop, and then, would he be there?

Actually, the carpenter man was only too pleased to see me, and he understood my hand-waving gibberish immediately. Here he is, adjusting his planing machine. Hero number one!!!

OK, OK, I know it's smudged; he moved! But it doesn't matter if you don't recognise him; he's the only carpenter on Youseff Hassan Street, and his workshop is directly opposite the El Zaeem restaurant and take-away.

Samir (or Samra, as he's sometimes known) is the softer-spoken elder brother of the famous Mr Ahmed Badawy; they're caleche-men extraordinaire! I can nominate him as yesterday's Hero. I've told you before about their often distressing state, lack of cash engendering all sorts of problems. Thankfully, a regular reader, and sometime Luxor visitor, often sends us sums of money specifically to help the two branches of this family, else I really don't know what might have become of them! Obviously, we use their caleches as often as we can, although they'll never get rich from our three or four times a week hires. He landed at our door last night with this:

Yes, children, it's a whole chicken on a bed of potatoes, tomatoes and onion, and it came with about ten pieces of beef kofta, a bowl of home-made tahina, and a bagful of aish fino (white bread rolls). We had it for supper last night, Freda made soup with the bones for a starter at lunch today, with more of the kofta etc for the main course, and we finished off the chicken and the last of the potato etc tonight: DELISH! Hero designation well deserved.

Finally, I'd like to tell you a little of our trip out to the Nile Palace this afternoon. When we got there, we were nonplussed to find that our usual table, on the terrace, was already taken. Never mind though, the usurpers were English tourists, so we had a chat with them, and let them off! Usual tea, de-caff and English cake were ordered and duly served, spot-on as expected.

It was nice, just sitting there and watching the Nile traffic as it made its leisurely way up or down the lazy river.

A sudden mushroom of smoke caught my eye as it billowed around a distant matching pair of West Bank palms:

I love to see the palms like that, I think they're incredibly beautiful! To top the experience off, there was the slightest of movement in the air; just enough to feel its coolness on one's face, "Perfick" as Pa Larkin would have said. (Explanation needed:- Pa Larkin is a fictional character from the pen of H E Bates, and "Perfick" was his trademark mispronunciation.) We stayed there, on the terrace until the sun retired:

The only problem with staying so long at the NP, was making my tea last. And this brings me to my final hero for today, here it is:

I can read your mind, Dear Reader, and NO it isn't the cup and saucer which is the final hero for today, nor the tea in the cup; it's the humble tea bag!!!! Five cups of tea were painfully squeezed out of it for my delectation, only the very last one was a little under par, but still eminently drinkable. So, I salute you Mr Dilmah and your flavoursome and health promoting "Hero" of a drink.

Please, don't imagine that I'm denigrating the real heroes of this world. I have the greatest of respect for and gratitude towards those whose magnificent efforts have kept our shores safe these past hundreds of years, and those too who, even today, are working tirelessly to prevent harm coming to us. God bless them all!



Panic Today in Luxor!

Professor Gumby and his wife were enjoying the cool of the evening on their Luxor roof terrace, after a sumptuous supper consisting of a beautiful home-made smoked ham and cheese quiche, accompanied by some home-made black pudding and HP Fruity sauce. The following is a stock picture of our good friend, the eminent professor R F Gumby:

Our heroes were minding their own business, and whilst watching episode 1 of series 2 of Call the Midwife on their lap-top, the Prof noticed it in the middle of the tiled terrace! What sort of creature could it possibly be?? Perhaps it was a distant relation of the last beast to invade their private space:

But no, it was too thin and menacing looking, so much so that the celebrated Mrs Gumby leapt from her place and into the hoped for safety of our living room, almost knocking over the table in her panic!

Here it is, terrifying eh, Dear reader?

I'm sorry for the picture quality; I just wanted to snap it quickly (in case it managed to devour us or something) so that there would be some evidence of the culprit for those who would eventually come to discover whatever was left!

It didn't seem to move at all, and after quite a while, I plucked up the courage to gingerly approach the beast, and prod it with something. I soon realised that it was dead, and had fallen from our shady roof. In fact, I immediately discovered exactly where it had fallen from and exactly what it was!

Yes, Dear Reader, it was actually one of the raffia Nubian ladies, which had blown off our hanging ornament which we had bought from the suq in Aswan! Panic over.

It only goes to prove that people (even eminent professors and their wives) can be panicked by non-events, until the truth is actually known. Perhaps this might be something to ponder whilst reading the various news reports about bombs or "sound bombs" "exploding" in Luxor? (In England, I think we knew them better as "bangers" on the 5th of November) Mind you, from local reports it's still unclear what actually did occur, but (as usual) our beloved media are making hay whilst the sun shines!!!  

What? No nite-life in Luxor????

You could have knocked me down with a feather!

Those of you who have become "Dear Readers" might just recall that I've had more than a few peculiar dreams, which I have tried to recount on here. Well, I was having one during the night; or was I?

I'm sure that you've all either seen or heard about tunnel boring machines? Didn't Dick Dastardly have one at one point? Or perhaps you saw one of the huge things that was used to dig out the Channel Tunnel, on the news? I've also seen them in various forms on sci-fi movies and in international news reports. Terrifying things with huge cogs and cutters whirring around at the front.

Well, there was one bearing down on me in my dream! It would run for a few minutes, then stop, then it seemed to run quietly for a minute or two before roaring away in earnest again. By the increase in noise, it was getting closer and closer!!! Quite nerve-wracking, I can tell you!

Eventually, I was sure that I could also "feel" it as well as hear it. That's when I awoke! And, horror of horrors, it was still there!!!!!!! I went out onto the roof terrace (after getting hurriedly dressed) and, sure enough, it was actually happening. Imagining new scenes for the modern horror film, "The Mummy", I grabbed the keys and camera, and made my way downstairs.

As I stepped out into the alley, I could hear muffled voices coming from the main street, although the "machine" had temporarily quietened. I'm not sure whether I was relieved or disappointed to discover exactly what was "The Destroyer Of Sleep" in old Luxor Town:

Yes Dear Reader, it was the gulley emptier/drain cleaner or whatever you want to call it!

AT 03:30!!!!! IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course, they had moved on to the next man-hole by the time I got there, but they hadn't yet put the lid back on ours, so here it is; nicely cleaned out.

At about 03:50 or so, when I arrived back in our livingroom, I was pleased to see that Freda was up and had the kettle on, also the lap-top. So it was a lovely cuppa with a handful of Tesco's best "Economy Range" ginger biscuits and a quick look around my favourite forums etc, before climbing back into bed. But it seemed like no time at all before my ears were assaulted by the local faithful's call to prayer! What was left of the night was taken up by fitful sleep, so I'm not in the best of fettles this morning. (That means "Keep out of my way!!") 

And don't you dare, whatever you do, complain about a lack of "nite-life" in Luxor!

Tim Wannacott, where are you?

How about this for a stunning antique?

Obviously, it looks different depending on how it is lit, but I'm trying my best to show you the relief colours in the carving. (It's a particularly difficult task as I'm unable to see them properly myself, being colour blind!!!!)

It's brass, quite weighty, and three feet tall! What's most surprising is that we bought it (via ebay) from a lady less than five minutes drive from where we live in Windy Nook. Small world, eh?

Now all we need to do is decide where best to display it. Life's never easy, is it?

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

Or is it some sort of furry creature, a bear, perhaps?

You'll not guess in a million years, Dear Reader, so I might as well tell/show you now.

Yes folks, it's the inside of a reusable vacuum cleaner bag! I'm a lover of the Kirby brand of vacuum cleaners, as you may have gathered from earlier posts on here. This is the bag from my Kirby "Vacuette", which has been on loan to a household which includes two daft boxer dogs. Here it is in use on our stairs at Windy Nook:

Cleaning stair carpets is the main function of our Vacuette, and that's also what it was used for (for a few weeks) by the lady who borrowed it. She said that she'd emptied the bag, but that wasn't all that was required, as we now all know! I had to engage the "Heavy Squad" in my efforts to remove the hair from my little gem! The Vacuette's "Big Brother", in the form of our Diamond Edition Ultimate Kirby upright, was well powerful enough to suck all those hairs away into its disposable bag, I'm very pleased to say.

When I saw the amount of hair which the little Vacuette had picked up, I was very impressed, and wondered why some people paid significant sums of money for vacuums which supposedly specialise in keeping dog owners' homes hair-free?

I also found a special kit to fit our older Kirby "Legend 2" (it's here in Luxor) on eBay! It's called a Handi Butler, it drills holes and has polishing and sanding heads. It'll be very useful, once I get around to having a try, I'm sure.

When we're home at Windy Nook, I always seem to get lumbered with the job of taking the oversize rubbish to the Council dump! This time was no different, and I made a couple of trips there. There's invariably a queue of cars waiting to dump all sorts of treasure! Honestly, you wouldn't believe some of the stuff that seemingly sane people throw away!!! But never mind that; what caught my eye was the following draught excluder on the gate to the Waste Disposal Depot:

Is it just me, or is that the daftest thing you've ever seen; a draught excluder on a wire-mesh gate in a wire-mesh fence, and outside? The mind boggles!!!!