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!

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