Famous Names?

I think I once told you about my love of these delightful chocolate liqueurs from the company of Elizabeth Shaw. Well I'm not writing about those tonight!
Tonight, I want to pay tribute to my very good friend KV Explorer, he's a famous name in his own right , and rightly so. On the Egypt forums of TripAdvisor, he dispenses timely and sometimes fascinating advice, while imparting an impression of someone who is rather daunting, and sometimes quite cutting with his comments. Nevertheless, he is a good friend to have, and is really as soft as clarts. (I am constantly in trouble for using colloquialisms like 'clarts', so......clarts is a word meaning mud, as in "Your wellies are all clarty!")

My current project (the new shady roof for our terrace) would have been impossible without his generous birthday present to me last April, of a large assortment of screws. So, when it's finished, I can tell future guests that the famous KV Explorer was partly responsible for their comfortable surroundings! I don't mind being known as a 'Name Dropper'!

However, as KV himself will surely testify, "You can never have too many screws!" And, of course, neither can you have too many sizes of screws. As I have found to my great annoyance, out of all the different size and type of screws I have collected or had donated, I didn't have the very ones of which I need about 100 or so. They are for screwing bracing pieces of timber onto the hidden side of the plywood which will eventually provide the actual shade of our new shady roof.

The hardware man in the next street (a lovely shop, which looks as if it goes on indefinitely, with alleyways through stacks of shelving and cupboards) doesn't stock much in the way of cross-head screws. That's why I've been bringing my own from Geordieland and commandeering stock from 'the rich and famous'. But there's no time this time! I want this job finished before our next guests arrive. (Yes, we do have some guests booked in, and we've just taken another booking from a couple whom we were recommended to by some past American guests. So there!) So I needed to find the right ones here in Luxor.

Here's the place where all your dreams can come true! That's if you're a sad old fogey like me, anyway.

I don't know what the shop is called, but it's downstairs from the Horus Hotel, just behind the Temple. As you pass down the aisle in the last picture, you can see small 'rooms' built out of even more shelving! It's the original Aladdin's Cave, I'm certain. If you click on the pictures and then click again, you can use your cursor and magnifier to look about the shelves and inspect some of his stock. From model torsos for hanging clothes on, to six inch shackles and nice big steel hooks. I have been intrigued by the other hardware shop, as I told you, but this one takes the biscuit! They even have real 'Pozidriv' screws, for Heaven's sake, and roofing screws with the built-in drill bit ends. There was an ordinary Egyptian bloke in there, galabiya and headscarf type, buying four nuts and bolts which were about 8 inches long by roughly an inch and a quarter diameter! What on earth was he going to use them for?

Anyway, it's my new 'favourite shop'. It's owned and run by an old gent who is the third generation of his family to be there. He has only daughters who aren't interested in the business.

Perhaps I can persuade him to adopt me?

And on the seventh day.........

I knocked off early!

You know about all the wood and everything, well, I cut the wrong piece and now I haven't got enough to finish the framework!!!!!!! I could just SPIT! Today, being Sunday, the Christians don't work, so Mena the wood man won't be there until tomorrow. Today, I've been finishing off the corners and checking that all the spars are at the same height and angle (yes, it's going to,have a slight slope so that the rain runs off). I'm short of one long spar (3m 15cm) and one short one (1m 65cm), trouble is that I think nearly all of Mena's wood comes in at 3 metres, so he'll have to machine down a great big bit for me, "Ohhhh, the expense!"

This shows where the missing spars are to go, the long one runs from above the right hand A/C to the cross piece on the two pillars nearer the camera, and the short one is for about where the thin white stick is near to the left hand A/C. Never mind, it's gained my poor old aching body a rest for tonight.

I suppose that I should show you the pictures that 'A Certain Person' took, you would have thought that after 40 years she would by now know on which side her bread is buttered, apparently not! (Seems she is hoping for a job with that Jonathon Routh bloke on 'Candid Camera'.) Mind you, you'll note that along with my best white boxers, I'm sporting a very stylish 'Welcome to Luxor' baseball cap! I don't often resort to such proletariat headgear, but this was presented to me on behalf of our beloved Governor of five minutes; General Khaled Fouda, on the occasion of the 'Luxor Clean City' campaign. I knew it would come in useful at some point!

Freda snapped the first one just a moment before the jig-saw cut my thumb off at the knuckle!

Before I leave the roof for the time being, I've just got to show you the following picture!

I spied this from the top of my steps, over the roof of our little hovel, it's on next door's roof. I haven't seen anything like it before! A kiddies pedal powered Vespa, would you believe it?

And now for something completely different!

Anyway, I had promised to bore you with some holiday snaps from England, although I fail in all sorts of other ways, I do try to keep my promises. (When I was little, my Dad once promised to take me to the swimming baths, and he never did! I forgave him, but I haven't forgotten it.)

We travelled home with our good friend Christine (the owner of Tuttie Frutti in Luxor) who just happens to belong about 8 miles away from Windy Nook. Small world! We flew with Easy Jet, the flight was OK but when we were looking forward to our bacon baguette and cheese and ham toasty, we were frightfully disappointed to be told that there were only cheese salad sandwiches left! (Rabbit food, uuurghh.) However, after Freda had taken all the disgusting green stuff out, it was quite nice, really. We thought that it would be nice and cheap to hire a car between the three of us, and drive up home, big mistake! We were all tired and ratty, and it wasn't all that cheap after all, same on the way back down to Gatwick. It won't happen again!

When I saw this coming along our street, I thought it was a funeral, but then I noticed the white plumes and realised it must be a bridal carriage. I rushed to get the camera, and just managed to get this poor shot.

The building at the extreme left of the picture is our local Anglican Church, St Alban's, where the wedding was to be held. Queer place, Windy Nook, originally a pit and quarry village with various Methodist Chapels and the one Church. When I was a nipper, there were five families called Stephenson in the village, and none of them related! 

We were one of the posh families, with an INSIDE toilet, and a bath that wasn't galvanised tin and didn't hang on the back of the scullery door!

Took Mam and little Brother Richard to the Hancock Museum in Newcastle to see their Egyptian exhibition.

(It's now called the 'Great North Museum Hancock' or some such tripe!) But the exhibits were very good. Of course, you'll recognise the Rosetta Stone, which proved to be the 'missing link' as far as hieroglyphics were concerned. (It's not the real; one.)

I was quite taken by the 'Pylon', with the projected carvings, very original idea, I thought!

I have quite a few more pictures, along with some that our Richard took as well, but I think this posting is getting rather long, and there's still more to write!

While we were home, we were invited to Dear Sister's house to celebrate the 60th birthday of  Brother-in-law, Uncle Roy. His cake came all the way from Harrogate, where it was made by the artist mother of our eldest granddaughter Kezia. What do you think?

The masts and yards are made of wood, but everything else was edible! She's a marvel that girl (Emma).

We used our Benjamin's car quite a bit, but with petrol at this price..............

we didn't go as far as we would have liked!

Mam and I had a trip out to view the coastline one day. First at Marsden (very near to where Christine Tuttie lives) .....

and then  across the Coaly Tyne, and out to Whitley Bay, past the Spanish City (which used to be a huge funfair) and on to St Mary's Lighthouse.

We also went a bit farther north to Seaton Sluice, where a relation of hers used to live in a house right on the little harbour, but it's all gone now!

It was a very pleasant day out, we both enjoyed it.

Well, I'd better stop, I think. I've done enough rambling to warrant joining a rambling club!

The 'Mysterious Men of Zawaggy', at night.

So, I went to Zawaggy on the bike to see my new friend Mena. Mena is a Christian boy (well, young man, I suppose) who works in his father's timber business. They have lots and lots of lovely bits of wood. Some of it (Zann?) is so dense you can hardly pick it up, it comes from Romania, and is a dark colour. As usual, I had little option but to go for the cheapo rubbish from either Russia of Finland, it's white, soft and rather lightweight. (Remind you of anyone, Dear Reader?)

Also, as usual, Zawaggy being part of Luxor and being in Egypt; the evening was almost a complete farce! I'd been to see Mena the night before, told him what I wanted, all the wood dressed, what lengths I wanted, everything! When I arrived, I was introduced to another young chap, Marcus, who would be overseeing the dressing of the timber etc. Off we went, on a donkey cart, armed with a bunch of keys and a battery lamp. "This doesn't bode well" I thought.

The light was because the particular warehouse where the first pieces of timber were stored had no electricity, (neither did the other places either) that's Marcus in the background, as we tramped around collecting the different bits of timber..

 Two or three roller shutter doors ground up and down before we had all the bits and pieces we needed. Then off we went again to the machine shop, which was just across the ring road, farther to the east of the town. What a fab place! I know one or two blokes who would be in their element here.  Belts and chains driving antiquated machinery, and chippings and sawdust lying knee deep on the floor, all over.  Girges (George) knows the character and foibles of each machine!

It was yon time when I finally got home to Our Luxor. The carter was very good, and carried more than his share of the timber up the stairs for me, I was dead beat!

I think these two bits have been dried out a bit too quickly, but we couldn't see any that were any better!

Never mind, a bit of filler here and there and no-one will be any the wiser. (Except you and me, that is!) My air-conditioned workshop is a bit tidier than theirs, don't you think?

These are the main supports for the new shaded area on the terrace. Freda made me take them outside into the heat before I rubbed the filler down, she just doesn't care, that woman! Anyway, they're ready to go up now. I've spent this evening varnishing the plywood sheets to make them waterproof for when it next rains cats and dogs.  (I know! It mightn't be for another four of five years, but better be prepared, eh?

Current problem is that my hands are aching! I'm no longer used to this WORK lark. I was getting spelks in my fingers etc, which are all now sore to touch, before I remembered that my old mate Andy Kennedy had given me some lovely work gloves. Not the usual rubbish made out of cheap cuts of thick suede-like leather and hard fabric! No sir, these are proper tan leather gloves,  lined to be comfortable and actually usable! They're drying out something terrible though, I wonder if I can rub some olive oil or something into them before they're spoilt altogether? 

I'll report back when I get a chance, you know how busy I can be, what with building and fitting air-conditioning, along with my more normal duties of washing dishes and vacuuming floors etc etc!

See you soon, insh'Allah.

There may be trouble ahead!

I've got to tell you that I'm too whacked to be of much use to you tonight, Dear Reader. I'll just bring you a snippet or two of what's going on at the moment.

Last night (or should I really say, yesterday evening?)  no, last night I rode a push bike for the first time in about 25 years! The last time was during a holiday at Haverigg on the Cumberland coast, I fell off over the handlebars. This time I was OK though.

I wanted to go to Zawaggy, which is about a twenty minute walk, and thought that if I borrowed a bike I could get there and back quicker and easier. First I asked Adam (Coffeeshop) if I could borrow Haggag's, but it had a flat tyre. Then I thought of Mohamed Sabba. Mohamed said that his bike wasn't good enough for me to ride, but that I could borrow his brother's. We toddled off to the family home and found the brother and the bike, and away I went.

Now then! If you've been to Luxor, and you take notice of things in general, you probably noticed that Egyptian bikers ride around  turning their front wheel from side to side as they go. So that when they are coming towards you, you can never tell on which side they intend to pass you, or indeed, whether they are going to ride straight into you! I supposed that it might have something to do with a lack of a 'Cycling Proficiency Test' and that it was an Egyptian trait. I was wrong! I found, to my utter amazement, that I too was doing it from time to time. I think it may have something to do with the bikes being Chinese, and everything seeming to be not quite in the right place? I don't know. Mohamed wouldn't let me have his bike as it didn't have any brakes (at all, just not there). You'll be pleased to know that he is taking good care of me by getting me the brothers bike, which has brakes front and rear, neither of which made the slightest effort to stop the machine, but they were there.

Here's a little warning to all the cooks out there: When you're making lentil soup, don't put the lentils and chopped onion in water and leave it to stand overnight in a temperature of 30 degrees ish. It ferments or something, and smells awful with a thick foam on the top!

I've got the wood and stuff for the new shady bit roof. I'll put some piccys on during the next few days, promise!

007 and the Man with the Golden Gun! (Not quite)

Well Dear Reader, I've seen this bloke knocking around for years.
You know the type: doesn't ever speak to anyone, is always by himself, seems 'disconnected'! Around Gateshead, there is still a bloke on a bike whom I've noticed for twenty years at least. He wears a 'Northern' 'Bus Drivers hat and has a truck rear view mirror fastened to his handlebars. I used to see him all over, sometimes miles and miles away!

But back to this strange one in Luxor. He carries around a gun! Something like a big shotgun! Here he is, snapped at the end of our little cul-de-sac. Freda was returning from Mohamed Saba's other shop, when she came across him on the road outside. Luckily, I'd stopped with the other shopping and was chatting to the boys in Adam's coffee shop when she came back, all excited, and told me where he was. By the time I'd got the camera out of my pocket, I only had one shot to get him, it was like being a hitman!!!! Here he is:

He isn't a vigilante or anything, the gun is made of painted wood!

Strange or what?

Creatures of the Night.

Well and truly back!

I didn't actually slit my wrists, us 'Jenninsies' are made of sterner stuff! Instead, I got out my trusty camera. This is a very interesting picture of a drip forming....(no, it really isn't!)

Click twice on the picture to get a better look. This is one of the unforeseen consequences of sorting out our water problems; i.e. more water problems!

Never mind, as the Muslims say; Al hamdulillah, which roughly translates (or so I believe) as thank God for everything, whatever he sends. I'd promised myself that I'd get the livingroom A/C working as well, so the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Freda again, a multi-talented girl if ever there was one) and I counted up our money and off I went. The switch for the A/C was 30le, I was hoping to get a bit discount from that, which would leave me a little bit for other bits and bobs. The shop was shut! I trudged home with some water, which wouldn't do the same job.

Of course, I tried again later, only to find that another of the brothers who run the electrical shop wouldn't budge from 35le. As I only had 33.50le, this was obviously a non-starter and I left the premises in disgust! Hey ho! There's another (newer) electrical supply shop on my way back home, so I tried there. No English here at all, but fortunately I'd written down the details of the existing switch on a scrap of paper, and so eventually found one...........for 31le. I was as happy as a sandboy! Reinvigorated by this minor success; I tripped off down to the plumbers merchants again, could the leaky valve be replaced for 2.50le?

Sometimes I really wonder about my sanity. A valve the same as my defunct one was 10le, but that was Egyptian, and the better quality Italian one was 15le. It might as well have been 1000! I showed the man what I had, and told him that I would return when I had some more cash. At this, he pressed the Italian job into my hand, indicating by sign, and the odd attempt at English, that I could pay him on Monday.

I suddenly felt like Bob the Builder again. Can we fix it??????

As soon as I got home I tackled the leaky valve. As it's on the feed into the hot tank; I had a constant trickle of near boiling water to contend with as I wrapped the threads with Teflon (P.T.F.E.) tape. It was soon done though, even though I smashed to pieces a plastic step while standing on it to better gain access to the valve etc. I'm sure that less than 16 stone shouldn't have done that! Anyway, the job was OK, and I was even more enthused and raring to go. It was coming up to midnight.

Being very colour blind doesn't endear one to the mysteries of electricity, however, since Egyptian electricity satisfies itself with only two wires, I'm not afraid to have a go at it (within reason!) on occasion. When our good friend Mr Ramadan (the local electrician with the unspeakable habits) fitted up the wiring and switch for the A/C in the bedroom, he had said that a completely separate cable and trip switch would be required for the other (livingroom) one. Now, me being of a cynical nature, I wondered if that was really the case, or was Mr R. just trying to weedle a few more quid out of me? 

While we were at home in Windy Nook, I found an old, slightly rusty, Vernier caliper! I also got some new spectacles made by the excellent Mr Hadwin. (Why is he telling us this?) I was now equipped to measure the actual wire inside the cable! (See?) The cable attached to the A/C unit had wire that measured one and a quarter millimetres, whereas the wire that Mr R. had run from the trip switches, was two and a half millimetres. Even someone who once got a mark of three out of a hundred for arithmetic can calculate that that is twice the size, and go on to suspect that it would be OK to run the two A/C's off it. While measuring the thickness of the wires, a mini-disaster struck! I found that the cable attached to the A/C unit had THREE cores. After a moment or two of initial panic, I just removed the cover from the live switch and got my apprentice (that's right, Freda again!) to check on the colours. Mafeesh mushkellar! (Remember? "No problem".)

After getting confirmation from Uncle Roy (without whose kindness and generosity we wouldn't even be here) that the 2.5mm cable and 32 Amp trip etc. should be adequate, an orgy of cutting and drilling, hammering and screwing ensued until at about 02.30 when it was finally time to have both of our rooms air conditioned! First the bedroom one......OK, then the new one.....OK, but it was blowing warm!!!! The stupid thing took about 15 minutes or so to sort itself out, but when it did; it was magic! It had the livingroom like a fridge in no time at all. (They must be reflections on the wall, sorry.)

I left them both switched on for a couple of hours, while I had a look around the forums and Freda did her Sleeping Beauty impression. I checked the wiring for heat, and found that the main cable from the tripswitch was a bit warm, nowhere near hot, you understand, but it felt warm to touch. I'll keep an eye on it.

Now, after clearing away all the tools and rubbish etc. it'll be another meshrabiya cover for the outside! No rest for the wicked, I'm afraid.

Have a nice day! 

So you're back?

Yes Playmates, we certainly are! (The title was the opening line of an email from our good friend Phil900 of TripAdvisor fame.)

I've had a touch of writer's block (says he pretentiously) since we got back to Luxor. There wasn't a great deal to report on whilst we were in England, but I have a few pictures and stuff to share, when I get around to it.

In the meanwhile: I've had a touch of the galloping "Egyptian Frustrations" to deal with!!!!

Firstly, the tap which feeds the toilet cistern was leaking. I thought that it would fix itself, as it would just be dried out with having the water switched off for two weeks. Why do I always convince myself that things aren't as bad as I really know that they will turn out to be? Out with the gear, off with the tap, as I couldn't get the top off in situ. Down to the shop, where the man tells me that they aren't made to fix, but to throw away. There's a surprise now! Here was another for 9le. Of course that wasn't the end of the tale, was it?

The stem on the tap was too short as the fitting was sunken into the wall by just a bit too much. Back to the shop for a longer one. "10 pounds please?" So I gave him the extra pound, "No, another 10 pounds." "NINETEEN POUNDS?" says I. I had to have it, so coughed up. When I got home, I wound the tap threads with Teflon tape and screwed it back in, and put the pipe on: Magic! It wasn't until the next morning that we noticed the floor wet again!!!! This time it's only the outlet pipe from the toilet, dripping a bit. I've fixed that with a small dish on the floor, I'm turning Egyptian!

Continuing in a water related way, you will of course remember this..................

Perhaps you also remember the extremes of 'carry-on' which almost brought me to distraction? Well. we came back to Luxor for it to start all over again.

Before we left, I knew that the water wasn't working properly, and expected that when we returned I would be in possession of a 12 volt compressor to use via my 230v to 12v transformer in order to 'blow up' the 'balloon' without dismantling the whole kit and caboodle. Dear old Uncle Roy found such a compressor in his garage, and as he had a newer one, he kindly let me take the old one away. However, when I went to try the Schrader valve in the top of the tank, there was water coming out of it. Bad sign!! The 'balloon' must have burst.

Now then, I know what to do to change the balloon, you probably do as well after the explanation in the other posting. So off I went to my local plumber's merchant to price a new balloon; 30 pounds, or the whole tank new for 120 pounds. (Egyptian, that is.) "How long should the balloon last" I asked, as we've had three in four years. The man told me that they should last about two years, but here in Luxor; only about six months as the water is so bad! As you know, the old tank was brazed up the last time, and now it's had more oxygenated water in it, causing yet more corrosion. What to do, what to do? I plumped for the complete gizmo! No more wasting time with old worn out gear!

They had to send one of the staff away on his motor bike to their warehouse, as there were none of the 'quality' Italian ones left in the shop. He was only away about 20  minutes or so, and came back with two boxes. Mushkellar (problem) number one, the new tank is a different shape, and I'm not entirely sure that it will fit against the wall, where there is a bit which sticks out about six inches or so! Never mind, it was paid for and I'd try it, it could always come back. Just then, the Boss of the shop shoves this other piece of equipment in my face.

"What's this?" I enquired. " Ahhhh, Meester Adwa, no more balloon, mish mushkellar, water cut; machine stop. Very good, Meester Adwa." That's all very well, but what was the price? Only 220 Egyptian pounds. After coming home and consulting the 'Oracle' (Freda, actually) who counted up our money, we decided to do without the usual caviar this evening, and lash out on the real 'I am' switching system! With the obvious need for pipe shortening etc. it was clearly a job for a skilled man. But we got an Egyptian plumber to do it instead! Hahaha!

The new equipment is much prettier, don't you think?

So, now we have a shower which will happily peel your skin off, but various leaks all over the place due to the increased pressure!

I think I'll just go and slit my wrists under the warm massaging stream from the shower head.

I'm OK without a coat, thank you.

Well, here we are back in Old Blighty, temporarily, of course.

So far, we've been busy seeing family, shopping and cleaning. (The last bit sounds a little familiar, don't you think?) Yesterday, I took the time to attend the evening service at our local Methodist Chapel, really enjoyed it, the preacher was a local man who made a lot of sense and his choice of hymns was OK, especially the last one, which was a bit of a 'ranter'!
I then took myself off to the folk club at South Shields Rugby Club with Dear Sister and BIL. The club had an invited guest, one Anna Shannon. She was excellent; 'BBC Songwriter of the Year' 2006. Very talented as an instrumentalist, and a characterful voice singing a variety of her own songs, which were really in the traditional idiom. It was a much better night than I had expected from someone who sings their own songs. Highly recommended!
Have a quick listen at:


Of course, she's much better live!

Number One Son has just landed with two smallish people who might be grandchildren, so I'd better go and be grandfatherly towards them. see you later.