"Yes, God is good!"

Hi, I’m sorry to have been silent for so long, but I’ve been busy. (busy busy bee, in fact!) And now, I’m all alone as Freda has run off to Windy Nook to tend to our distressed children, or was it to tend to cause distress to our children? I’m never quite sure, but as you all know I’m good at keeping schtum!

The title of the post is taken from an old favourite hymn of mine, probably no longer sung in Methodism as I don’t think it’s in the “new” hymnbook. Grrrrrrrrr! You’ll see the relevance later on.

We’ve been spending money that we haven’t got, “Is that new?” I hear you ask. Well not really, we’ve become experts at it over the years. But we did need to have our own little kitchen, I’m sure none of you would begrudge us that? We started off with a wardrobe in our bedroom which was “built in” to a substantial alcove.

Our washing machine was in the bathroom,
like many Egyptian households, and our
cooking apparatus; on the sideboard, next
to the fridge, in the living room.

The idea has been fermenting for quite some time to “do something” about it. Well we’ve done it now! Out came the wardrobe,

I’ve never seen so many panel pins in my life, or so many masonry nails, each one either snapping and leaving a half inch sticking out, or coming out with a big chunk of cement still fastened to it! Absolutely crackers! I’ll kill that Hamada the carpenter if I get my hands on him. Never mind, it’s all lying around on the roof terrace at the moment, along with various tools and bits of old pipework it’s a good job we haven’t got any guests just now.

The new plumber (another Girges, who is also known to Igor, Girges the doctor’s assistant) was brought to me by our old friend Al Fatah, from Qus. (Isn’t this nice and confusing, Dear Reader?) Al Fatah, more commonly known as Abdul, oversaw the original work to make our building habitable, and he had been a good friend for many years before. Mr Girges the plumber would price the job of making a new drainage system for the air-conditioners, changing the pipework to accommodate the new kitchen sink and the new position of the washing machine, etc. It’s taken him since last Thursday till today to finish it, mind you, he had three days off during that time! Of course, you cannot leave a workman in the house alone with the woman of the house, so I had to be there all the time he was, which made things a bit awkward for me going to the West Bank each day.

Anyway it’s about finished now, well, usable at least. I’ll get around to making a bench type thingy to go under the sink in the near future. I’ve reused the top cupboard doors to make two shallower cupboards above the sink, with a concealed light below so that I can see the dishes when I’m washing them. While I was on making Mr Ramadan redundant, I also put two separate sockets in! I wouldn’t dare try that at home, as I’m badly colour blind, but here it doesn’t matter ‘cause there are only two wires, so you really cannot go wrong.

Freda kindly gave me instructions on how to use the washing machine before she abandoned me; they are Sellotaped onto the wall above the sink!

I’ve spent a good few hours taking nails of one sort or another out of all the plywood and spars which combined to make the wardrobe. I don’t want to waste all the lovely timber, but I’m not sure where I can keep it all. I think the roof might collapse if I put any more up there!

I’m not good at being by myself! In fact, this is the first time in my entire 59 years that I’ve actually been by myself. I’m constantly checking things when I go out, keys (I have a deadly fear of losing keys), wallet, phone, stair lights on, two hankies. It’s like being an obsessive compulsive (is that the right term?). I HATE it!!!!!!
Yesterday, I went to visit the boys at the Sunrise Tours office. Got the ‘bus at the bottom of the street on Sharia Karnak. After being there for an hour or so, I decided to ring our lawyer to try (again) to get some sense out of him. When I went for my phone: it wasn’t there. Horror of horrors! I was certain I’d picked it up! Got Mohamed (don’t even go there, as the Americans say) to dial my number, and it was switched off. This confirmed to me that someone else had it, I never switch it off. Anyway, I dejectedly trudged home, in the vain hope that I had left it there, switched off. No! It was nowhere to be seen.
Spent the next hour or so emailing away, as I knew Freda would be worried that she was getting no reply on the phone, and eventually went to my lonely bed!
The doorbell rang at shortly after 9 o’clock this morning, I thought it was rather early for Rashad the cleaner, who usually calls at around lunchtime. When I peered over the railing there was Adam (coffee shop) looking back at me, holding something black in his hand. “That’s my phone!” I shouted down. And sure enough, it was. His second son, (Yousef, about 12) had found it on Sharia Karnak. When he brought it home, Adam had looked in the contacts list, and seen his own name there along with that of Al Fatah and one or two others we both knew, and eventually deduced that it must be mine. I was flabbergasted! It must have been a million to one chance of my neighbour finding it so far from home. I gave Adam 10le for the boy. (I hope he got it.)

The (un) Usual Suspects!

Hello again. I've just got back from Sofra (the restaurant in Luxor which does all Egyptian food and is tastefully furnished with Egytpian antiques) where I had been invited to share a meal with Mr eLaReF and his wife. They were celebrating Mrs eLaReF's birthday and also their wedding anniversary. It was also..........a Trip Advisor Destination Experts for Luxor get together!
The eLaReF's were already there when I arrived, he's a big fellah, and was instantly recognisable as the bloke I was looking for. We chatted for a few minutes before the others arrived. Suziesooze brought her travelling companion (really her mam), and KV Explorer brought his charming wife. We made for an odd gathering, I can tell you. KV's trademark hat was worn (as ever), but he'd managed to steal or borrow a pair of long pants from somewhere. eLaRef even had a tie on!
KV and his wife had kindly brought some ginger snaps and jelly babaies for Freda and I (along with several bars of Wright's Coal tar soap, which had stunk their suitcase out!). And Susie had a bagful of TA goodies, caps, tee shirts, key rings etc. along with some magazines for Freda, I struggled to carry the bags home!!!!
We started off with a selection of hot mezzes and drinks and after a good while, ordered our respective main courses. We ate at a leisurely pace, and the conversation was not really interupted by the eating. I think everyone enjoyed the food, which was steaming hot and properly cooked. The others had several fruit juices, and I had water. KV and I had apple shishas while the desserts were served. All in all, it was a very pleasant evening. While the others went on to the Winter Palace to be with the posh folks, I returned home to do a bit of cleaning (for a change, I'll tell you about that later) and to write it up for you lot!

So here they are, from left to right:
Mrs eLaReF, eLaReF, KV Explorer, Mrs KV, Suzies Mam, and Suziesooze.

Don't try to stick pins in them, it'll damage your screen.

Inter-connected tales from a "Saga" writer who is losing his mind.

When Mrs Akshar wrote “We think it’s all over” on Trip Advisor in reference to the water problem here in Luxor, I was sorely tempted to add the famous “It is now!” But I managed to refrain as it was a bit obvious and old hat, to boot. Also, of course, it would have been a mis-quote anyway. Never mind, good old Matt (m151cat) didn’t miss the opportunity to make the point not long afterwards.

I’ve now emptied all of our containers of water and started on the job of washing everything. I’ve stopped just now, because my back is aching. We had the water pump switched off too, ‘cause if the water had been turned off when we were asleep, or out, the motor would have burnt itself out trying to pump what wasn’t there!

Sorry, just stopping for a moment to get a yogurt from the fridge for Freda, as she would have to get off the bed to get it herself. Poor lamb, it’s a heavy book she is reading!

Anyway………the water emergency does seem to be past, I’m pleased to report. My worst fears were, as usual, a bit over the top. I find it difficult to imagine anything being done efficiently in this country, not because I’m naturally cynical (it’s taken 40 years of training to get me like this!) but because I have been trying for three years to find anyone here who can REALLY do anything properly.

While we’re on about cleaning (well, washing pots and pans), I’m reminded why I sat and started this tonight! After years of trying different men and women to clean our stairs reasonably well, I gave up and decided to just bite the bullet, and do them myself. It’s a job I don’t like, but it has to be done. Apart from getting covered (like everything else) with the dust and sand from the Sahara, we also have the visitors to the doctors surgery on the first floor making their usual Egyptian mess.

A few months ago, one of the men who work in the “Government” shop was complaining about his measly wages of 10 le per day. I regularly see him passing the end of our street on his bike, and supposed (correctly) that he passes within 20 feet of our stairs four times each day. A light came on in my head! Good old Girges, I wonder if he can be persuaded to spend ten minutes a day, while passing, to sweep the lower stairs for 40% of his normal wages for working all day? Sounds like a pretty good deal, if you ask me! Not to cause unnecessary embarrassment to either of us, I wrote a note asking him if he knew anyone who might undertake this little task, and had one of my friends translate it before giving it to him. I was dumbfounded on the following day when he said that he was sorry, that he would have helped me out himself, but he didn’t have the time with working in the shop.

Never mind! Eventually, I managed to get hold of someone I’d tried before, but the last time I had wanted him to sweep and wash the stairs from top to bottom, which proved to be too much for him to cope with. Nevertheless, just sweeping the two flights of stairs and the entrance surely wouldn’t tax his brain or body beyond their normal limits? We are talking here about Mr Rashad, ex-Amoun man (street sweeper) and general dogsbody of other people around here. Using various people to interpret, he and I eventually agreed that he would come every day and sweep the lower stairs, entrance and pick up the rubbish in the alley for 5 le (cash) per day. Lo and behold! He comes every day, except when he doesn’t, that is. He’s not thoroughly reliable, but he’s the best we have, and I mean to keep him!!!!

The rather shy, Mr Rashad.

Well: yesterday, I got a telephone call from Dr Yacoub’s assistant (another) Girges. We’ll call him Igor, so as not to confuse you further, dear reader. Igor took a full two minutes to tell me that Mr Rashad was waiting downstairs for my instructions! Being still in the land of Nod, I leapt up and slipped into my fashionable galabeya and leaned over the roof terrace to tell him to “Get on with it!” It wasn’t until I went down to pay Mr Rashad that I wondered why he hadn’t rung the doorbell? But he had, it wasn’t working!

Today, I thought I’d better get Mr Ramadan out, of course you all remember the famous “Spitting Electrician”, Mr Ramadan from a former post. After getting Adam (coffee shop) to interpret over the phone, I asked Adam to get Ramadan to give me a “missed call” when he arrived. The next thing was another call from Igor!!!!! “Ah, Meester Adward, Ramadan is here”. As I trotted back down the stairs, I met Mr Ramadan on the way up, with the bell-push in his grubby hand. “Ahhhhh, Meester Adward, electric finish! Finish, Meester Adward!” As I new perfectly well that the electric wasn’t “finish” I dragged him back downstairs to converse through Adam (coffee shop) to find out what the old fool was on about. Of course, I have every confidence in Mr Ramadan’s professionalism, but it was tested beyond its limit when Adam translated that he wanted to put in new wiring from top to bottom, and that the wire alone would cost 175 le! I nearly hit the roof!

Adam in his small coffee shop.

On dragging Mr Ramadan back into the building, all the while repeating “Mish faloose, mish faloose!” (No money, no money!) he started to pull wires out from here and there, tapping the side of his head, and smiling inanely at me, and saying “Ahhhh, Mr Ramadan, hahaha!” Honestly, with Igor downstairs and Mr Ramadan manically laughing and spitting: it’s like being in a madhouse at times! When we got up the stairs he took down the bell and tested it in a socket, it was ok.

Eventually, he climbed onto the top of the stair wall (purposely refusing the steps so that he could leave dirty marks on the painted plaster!) and, hanging onto the iron railings, pulled a bundle of wires out from behind the wall. He snipped away at these, and taped the ends up, and then dragged some of them along the wall towards the water pump switch, in its lovingly constructed meshrabeya box.

It was just at this point that I thought “I’ll switch the pump back on, while I’m here.” So I did, and the doorbell began to ring! I switched it off, and the doorbell ceased! I did this quite a number of times before it sank in that the doorbell was actually fed from the business side of the water pump switch and hadn’t worked because it was SWITCHED OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mr Ramadan gleefully joined all the wires back up and replaced the bell-push outside the front door, and then looked to me for payment, whilst all the while making it seem like HE had solved the problem with his razor-sharp brain. I could have killed him, but paid up instead, because the poor man has to travel up to Assuit at midnight to see his wife who is there in hospital. Their problem made my embarrassment seem wholly insignificant.
God bless you both, Mr and Mrs Ramadan!

Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.....literally!

Well, this is a queer kettle of fish, and no mistake! The picture below is our carry-on case, which I've just used to bring 15 litres of Baraka water from Ahmed's little supermarket down in Yousef Hassan Street. (The Mohsen Market, for those of you who know the area. Ahmed is also a local plumber as I've mentioned on here before.) I would have rather bought a box, but I don't think I would have survived the stairs, in all honesty.

The reason for hoarding water? In all probability, we shall be "cut off" tomorrow for a couple of days! Someone has sunk a cargo vessel loaded with around 1000 tons of fuel, 100 tons of which have leaked out into the river. "Charming", I can hear you say.
The government departments are enacting their "emergency plans" and hope to contain the fuel in the Aswan area, but I believe it will prove to be an impossible task, and that they will close off the filtration and purification plants as soon as they know that they are unable to keep the drinking water safe. So, thanks to warnings on the Luxor4u forums, we are stockpiling like crazy!

As I went out of the building to buy the Baraka, I came across Adam in his coffee shop over the road (lol at "over the road", he's about five feet away). He and his wife have four boys, and they'll use some water during two days, I'll be bound. His wife was busy filling every container she can lay hand to. When I got out into the street, I came across Nashat (the tailor from the souk), a normally placid fellow who was wound up enough to be raging against the government. "What about the poor people? How will they manage?"

When I came back with my laden case, I promised to bring some empty bottles down for Adam. "No, no Mr Edward, just send them down on the string." (Now, I need to explain this to the uninitiated. Being on the roof, with 83 stairs: we have a bucket on a string, which we can let down to the street door. When the electric man comes and rings the doorbell, he then puts the bill in the bucket and we send the money back down. This happens with several people, and if we haven't got any money, I peep over the roof terrace wall and just pretend we're not in! Anyway, it all saves my poor old legs. OK?) After struggling up the stairs with my 15 kilos of water, I had a breather and then put the bottles (I only had 6, though) in a bag, clipped it onto the string and lowered away. I almost broke into a sea-shanty at this point, but I get into trouble with Freda for frightening the neighbours, so desisted. After gently letting it down the 5 floors (quickly past the doctor's window though, in case any of his thieving patients grabbed at it as it went past) I shouted for Adam, and shouted for Adam, and shouted for Adam. (No, the record hasn't stuck!) Then I whistled, and shouted for Adam, several times. In a state of some frustration, I eventually decided to go down the stairs again and get him by the hand!!!!! Yes, you've guessed it, just as I opened the street door, there was Adam taking the last bottle out of the bag! Apologising profusely for making me trail all the way down the stairs, he forced me to take a seat in the coffee shop and have one of his cigarettes before he would let me mount the stairs again. Well, you have to be sociable at times like this, don't you?
Poor Freda was, in the meantime, trying to find receptacles to hold water for our own needs. Here they are, taking up the shower and the livingroom floor.
InshAllah, it will all be sorted out by morning, but you never know?

When I noticed the sign in the picture below, I immediately thought of Karen the Copper, our Welsh friend.

Do you think they are giving tours of Luxor Police, or are the Luxor Police at last joining all the rest and proclaiming themselves to be tour operators. I wonder if they have a licence?

Bye for now, I'm off to have another cuppa before bed.

Still "Ringing the Changes" on the East and the West.

Well, it's all happening here in Luxor!
I was on the West Bank yesterday, visiting a place I go to regularly, I've posted pictures of the Wall before, but it seems that it's virtually finished now. My mate's place is all the worse for it, I'm afraid. You cab see what I mean by these two pictures which were taken from within a few metres of each other. I don't think I need to entitle them "Before" and "After"!!!!

Of course you are all conversant with what's been happening near to the Winter Palace. I've had a few pictures on here about the Aboudi Book Shop and it's demise, well Mr Aboudi wasn't the only friend who was displaced. Here is Mr Jadhalla, perhaps better known to you as Mr Shakespeare, the felucca captain who had his office in the garden next to Mr Aboudi's.

I've put this particular picture of him on because it was actually taken in his "office". The next picture is taken from a previous post:

And this last one was taken today from about the same place. The tarmac road is new, and finishes just about exactly where Mr Jadhalla had his office and where he was sitting when I took the picture above.

I know everything needs to change as time marches on, but it's still sad, isn't it?