Simple Pleasures.

Hello again, I'll bet that you all thought that I'd forgotten about you, didn't you?

Well, you'll be gratified to know that I haven't, how could I when so many of you have shown us so much kindness over the past couple of years? The fact of the matter is that I've really not got much that's worth relating! Of course, we all know that bad news is what sells newspapers, and that people are more likely to want to read the sensational type of offerings rather than everyday 'homey' stuff. That's all I have!

For instance:

Most people who aren't British, will not know what this picture is of. But a closer inspection will reveal, to many English people at least, that it's a slice of 'game pie'. (With a little HP Fruity Sauce, for dipping into!) Now then,while I admit that it's not the be all and end all of British cuisine, it is a lovely change from the diet which we have become used to in Egypt.
It's a simple pleasure!

Being able to see and look into the eyes of our family members, while we are conversing with them, is another simple pleasure. Hearing and seeing young Coco giggle is definitely another:

I could just eat him!!!
Of course, seeing all of our grandchildren is always a very special pleasure as well as a simple one. Where would we all be without them; those children who give us so much pleasure, while not having the responsibility of their full time care?

Yet another simple pleasure came by way of an email just yesterday. It was another award from our advertising company 'FlipKey'. For the second year running, they've awarded us the 'Top Luxor Rental' accolade, and a badge to display on our blog. You can see it on the right of this page, just below the same award for 2011. The 'simple pleasure' is just to know that someone appreciates the work that we put in!

As I'm sure you're all aware by now, I love singing! Along with singing in our local Chapel each Sunday, I also attend South Shields Folk Club on most Sunday evenings while I'm at 'home'. Here, I join with sister Susan and brother-in-law Roy, offering some ditty or other which we used to sing more regularly in our youth, forty or so years ago. We aren't all that 'good' but we are better than some, I can assure you! On Sunday last, the club had the family singing group known as 'The Wilsons' from Teeside, as guests. They're quite famous (having performed for the 'Proms' at the Albert Hall, as well as being sought after to appear at many of the major folk festivals up and down the land) and are really very good! I took a few short videos of them, just to give you one as a taster:

Last Friday evening, we were at the north east's most prestigious music venue; 'The Sage' at Gateshead. Our Susan has, for several years, been giving those of us who enjoy this particular style of music, tickets for the annual Christmas show performed by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band. This year, there were Susan and Roy, Alice and I, and Benjamin, Bridget and Benjamin's daughter Kezia, who's 11. (Kezia was actually being born while New York's 'twin towers' were being crashed into by the 11th September terrorists.)  

You might have heard of Maddy Prior; she's the lead female singer in Steeleye Span, of 'All Around My Hat' and 'Gaudete' fame. The Carnival Band are probably less well known, but certainly not short on well qualified and exceptionally talented musicians. Their 'leader', Andy, specialises in playing medieval instruments. Together, they usually make for a highly enjoyable evening of music, some of which is familiar, while some of it can be really quite obscure, but enjoyable, nevertheless. This years show was perhaps a bit specialist for much of the first half, and consequently less entertaining for the more casual members of the audience, although the Transylvanian dance tunes in the middle of it were magic, and the second half was excellent, and as entertaining as usual! 

Although the following video wasn't taken at that particular concert, it is typical of  one aspect of their wide-ranging repertoire, enjoy!

I hope you liked that.

On Monday evening, we had the usual 'Community Carols' at chapel; always well attended and enjoyed. This service reunites many people who have moved away or moved churches, or who have 'ceased to meet', as has traditionally been the term used in Methodism.. For most it's another simple pleasure as well as a reminder that Christmas is not just about presents over-eating and 'good works', but about living an extraordinary life, with God at the centre!

I'd better shove off now, as duty calls.

Back in Blighty, to Disaster, Rain and Frustration!

Well, we're home again, our English home, that is! It's been lovely to be re-united with our family, and how 'Little Coco' has grown! He's like Pinnochio was at the end of the Walt Disney classic; he's a 'Real Boy', even though he's only 16 weeks.

The disaster is the result of my idiot memory! If I'd remembered how the remaining upvc was to be allocated from when I left it standing on the landing in August, I wouldn't have cut the wrong piece which left me a 45 inch piece short of finishing the rear windows. Of course, when I went back to the place which sells it, it was Saturday morning; and they were closed. Never mind, Monday would do. I wanted to get the rear windows finished before our friend from Luxor (Beverley, who now  lives back in Dumfries) came to stay for a few days. It wasn't to be, though!

Here's the place:

I started the morning with good intentions, did I tell you before that our bins (trash cans, to our readers from across 'The Pond') have been stolen? Well..........we should have two 'wheelie bins' one for general household rubbish, and the other, which has a separate compartment within it, for different recyclable items. They empty one bin each week, alternating between the rubbish and the recyclables. I HATE IT!!!!!!!

Once upon a time, the binmen had a relatively strenuous job, heaving bins full of ash and general household detritus out of the backyard and lifting it up to empty it into the waiting truck. Nowadays, they wheel the bin (that's on condition that it's been put in the correct place by the householder, and the handles are pointing in the right direction with the bin lid fully closed, of course) to the back of a fantastically engineered and expensive 'refuse collector' truck, hook it onto the waiting contraption, and press a button! Because we are all being entreated to 'save the planet' by recycling, we now are required to separate all the differing types of garbage into different bins and boxes. Cans should be washed out, cardboard flattened, cellophane removed from window envelopes and tops removed from glass bottles, the list seems endless. And we don't get paid for relieving the binmen from these, their arduous tasks! No, in fact, our payments to the Council (whether rates, community charge, council tax or whatever they wish to call it) seem to rise exponentially, partly because of the cost of the fancy and extra bins, along with the fleets of fabulous new and complicated trucks, all of which must cost a king's ransom!

Seeing as we don't have bins any more, we've been slipping the odd bag or two into my mother's bin, or my sister's,  but it's very unsatisfactory. Freda won't hear of paying £20 each for new bins, just for them to possibly be stolen again!

Feeling soft in the head, I decided to do the local authorities job for them, just this once, and separated and prepared all the rubbish, and then put it into Benjamin's car to take to the dump. I really felt quite 'public spirited'!

On arrival at the 'Waste Station' I politely informed the 'operative' that I had "A bag of glass bottles and jars, cleaned. A bag of plastic milk cartons, some flattened pizza boxes and two bags of general household rubbish." There are 15 large skips (dumpsters) standing around the edge of the yard. From past experience I know that there are some for ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, wood, electrical items, TV's and computers, obviously there are skips for allsorts.

I was utterly lost for words, absolutely astonished, when the operative said, "Put it in number one, mate."

All that enormous expense, and criminalising of people using the wrong bin for the wrong items, the 'bin police' of the popular press, the concealed spy cameras! All for this man to say, "Put it in number one, mate."

My disbelief was not helped by my mother's retelling of my brother's tale of being sure that he saw the binmen empty all of the communal recycling bins at his block of flats, into the same truck.

They're having us on, aren't they? This is all just another cunning plan to relieve Mr Joe Public of some more of his 'hard-earned'! It makes me want to vomit!

Dot dot dot, dash dash DASH !

Well, not quite yet, eh? First of all, I've got one or two little things to share with you, Dear Reader, and none of them are concerned with Morse Code in the slightest!

How about starting off with 'Road Safety' and 'Health and Safety at Work'?

This is Ibn Khaled El Walid Street, also wrongly called the Corniche by some people, it's the road that runs south of the Corniche El Nil and past the Sonesta, Lotus etc. As many of you will know, it's a busy road, with lots of tourist coaches flying backwards and forwards. But that's no real reason to stop car drivers leaving their charges all over the place while half of the road is blocked by lopped off palm fronds, is it?

Then there's the nutter up the palm tree:

Yes, that's a bit of old string around the tree, fastened to what looks to be a length of coco matting around his waist. That chopper looks rather fierce as well. Does he have his tree climbing certificate, I wonder? What about 'Employer Liability Insurance'?

Believe it or not; we've had two guests this past week! So I've been up with the larks, sorting out the famous 'Our Luxor' breakfasts. I'd forgotten how pleasant it can be in the early mornings; watching the balloons floating about as I clean all the surfaces and try to keep out of Freda's way as she sets the tables with all the delights.

While the sun comes up, the light seems to be different, as do the colours (even to someone as colour-blind as me! What do you think of the colour of the mountains here:

I'm sure they aren't usually that colour.

As I was on the way out the other day, shopping for the guest's breakfast, I think, old Mr Mohammed stopped me. "Ah, Mr Edward, see, see all the men from the Engineers Department of the Council? They are here about your neighbours, they're building another floor without permission! Perhaps these men will make them tear it down again?" (His old voice sounded full of mischievous glee.) Of course I knew that they were building; last week they put in two flights of stairs leading onto the roof, and cleared all the rubbish which they'd spent years collecting. After craning tons of sand and cement and a load of bricks up onto the roof over the past few days, that morning they had started laying bricks around the perimeter.

When I got back, the engineers pick-up trucks were gone, so I imagined that they had stopped the work until the permissions were sorted out. Silly boy!!!! They must have been paid off, as this was the view when I had mounted the stairs:

Yes, still bricklaying! Today, two days later, they've been soaking the new walls with water from a hosepipe. Both on the inside and the outside, what's all that about then? They're up to about hip height, and all the way around. But the actual building work seems to have stopped now. All the bricks and sand and cement have been used, so we'll just have to bide our time and wait and see?

To get back to the post's title, we're going to have to DASH around for the next few days; getting everything cleaned again and then put away till next year. Why? Because we're going to our other home on Monday! For Christmas! Six whole weeks with our family!

Because we won't be having much in the way of Egyptian food over that time, we decided to have some falafel for our supper tonight. Seeing as the new potatoes are out here, we thought that we'd try them with the falafel and fried aubergine.  What do you think? Will they go well together?

Yes, they did! The potatoes were lovely, with a few knobs of butter to make taking the anti-cholesterol tablets worthwhile, and a bit salt to justify the ones I have to take to keep my blood pressure somewhere near normal. The falafel was from our mate Osman, of course, and was up to his usual standard.

Well it's coming up to hot-chocolate time, I think. So I'll wish you a good night, with God's blessings! TTFN.

Tap Tap Tap Taaaap Taaaap Taaaap Tap Tap Tap

Who knows Morse Code in these superfast digital times? Not many, I'll warrant! OK, who can even have a guess at what the title is on about?

Yes, Smythe-Harrington Minor, it is the SOS or 'Save Our Souls' as some would have it. It's the internationally recognised distress signal. If you remember; it's what Peter Ustinov's Hercule Poirot tap tap tapped on the bathroom wall when he was confronted by the serpent aboard the Nile steamer 'Karnak', in that fabulous film of Agatha Christie's 'Death on the Nile'. (To say that it's one of my favourites would be something of an understatement.)

But, what else?

It's certainly nothing to do with the policeman in that dreadful TV series set amid the 'Dreaming Spires' of the old university city of Oxford; Detective Inspector Endeavour Morse! I could never be bothered with that, although Freda used to enjoy it.

No, I was really just trying to get across to you, Dear Reader, something of the depth of the frustration engendered in us by the number of taps, and the number of tap shops, we searched through while trying to find one suitable for our new handbasin. (And which didn't cost more than the rest of our guest apartment in its entirety!!!!!) You've no idea of 'heartache' or of 'losing the will to live' (or of having an aching bottom from travelling over Luxor's hundreds of speed-humps on a caleche) until you've spent four or five evenings searching this town for the 'right' tap! I'm not sure about Freda, but I was actually dreaming about taps, they were either beckoning me forwards to forbidden delights or coming screaming at me with gnashing teeth where the stream of water should have been! (Remember the 1995 movie; 'The Langoliers' anyone?)

Eventually, we came across a shop which we had never seen before, and after traipsing all around Luxor and Karnak etc, would you Adam and Eve it, it was only about 500 metres from the very first shop we'd looked in; Ahmed Hashem's. There it was, staring right at us! The shop man had to take it off the display, as the only other one in stock was the wrong colour.

It only remained now to find some sort of 'counter' (there's that blinkin' word again!!!) on which to mount the new handbasin, along with it's shiny new tap, of course. We'd seen one or two 'ready-made' offerings on our wanderings during the previous few weeks, but nothing which was either the right size, colour or within our much depleted and ever-shrinking budget! "I'm sure you could knock something up, if you really tried". (I heard the words before she even thought of them!!!! It's taken me over 40 years to develop this level of 'second sight'.) "On your bike, Missy" I thought, "I've slid down this bannister before!"

I made a detailed, three dimensional, drawing of what I thought was wanted, and took myself, and it, off to the little carpenter's shop on Youseff Hassan Street "Shop local!", I thought. After about 10 minutes of trying my best to communicate with these 'beings from outer space' (well, they might as well have been, I mean, you show a tradesman a simple drawing of an article in the medium in which he works; you shouldn't need many actual words should you?) I gave up! I went back when I managed to collar my Egyptian (English speaking tour leader) mate to interpret for us. It transpired that neither the local carpenter, nor any of his men could work from drawings????????????????

Now you might remember Taha, the carpenter from Karnak who so tragically drowned in the Red Sea? Then his younger brother Abdu, who took over the business, and whom I fell out with over an outrageous price he gave me for extending the roof terrace canopy? Well, I didn't really want to go 'cap-in-hand' to him again, did I? 

I had a nose down to the furniture manufacturer at the Sharia Karnak end of the street where Alfred the ham man is. I dealt with him via Mustafa the A/C man, when he cobbled up the wooden frame for the first hole-in-the-wall air-conditioner unit. "No problem, Mr Edward; in zan wood?" Now, I know that zan wood is very expensive, 'cause it's hard and close grained, "No no, " says I "just cheap rubbish!" He wouldn't have it, he'd only do it in zan, and there would never be any comeback simply because of the good quality of the timber.

Next, I was on the verge of buying the wood and tackling it myself! Horror of horrors!!!! So it was a trip to Zawaggy, to see young Mina, the timber merchant's son. I was dreading this; it meant selecting and buying the wood, then taking it to some woodworking shop to have it all machined to size, and all that before I even got it home where I could make my skew-whiff cuts! (Colloquialism: Skew-whiff = off centre, out of true or out of line)

The wood was going to cost 220le, and I just thought that I'd quiz Mina about someone to make it up for me; nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh? "I'll do it for you Mr Edward" For a minute, I thought we were 'cooking on gas', but then he figured out the price! It was less than half of the price of one made in zan wood, but still almost twice as much as I had calculated to be a reasonable price. Dejection set in!

Abdu seemed genuinely pleased to hear my voice on the phone! What a surprise. I had just about expected him to hang up on me, to be perfectly honest. Never mind, to cut a long story short, we agreed the price with very little haggling, and he promised to deliver it on a certain day, and everything went (almost) to plan. The only problem was that Freda HATED it! As you can imagine, I was a bit 'put-out' to say the least. Back it went to a rather non-plussed Abdu, for some slight modifications and a complete colour change! Eventually, it passed muster and I was allowed to get on with fitting it all together. Thank heaven for silicone, to stop those fiddly little leaks here and there.

Well, here it is, in all its glory, I'm sorry that it's not well photographed, but it's quite difficult for a fat lad to get a decent picture while he's squashed into a corner!

No, the inside isn't really yellow, it's just a trick of the camera or the colour-blind cameraman!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

That was Daphne Oxenford's catchphrase on 'Listen With Mother' many years ago. The next time I heard of her was when she played the village postmistress in 'To the Manor Born', alongside the incomparable Penelope Keith and the very dashing Peter Bowles. I'll bet she could relate an interesting saga or two.

That's what we in the literary business call 'a clue'! And here's another:

And yet another!!!!!

Yes, Dear Reader, it's the 'Saga of the Guest Bathroom'!

It started when we had no guests, and nothing to do except annoy each other because we were getting bored. Freda is an artist when it comes to gentle persuasion, and, like all dutiful husbands, I've fallen for it for the past 40 years. First it was 'just' the tiles behind the sink in the kitchen, then it was the sink itself, and then............well, you know the rest.

Now then, I've had my own plans for the bathroom in the guest apartment for quite some time. But I don't insist on having my own way, as it tends to generally upset the apple cart.  Shwy-er shwy-er (slowly slowly, or softly softly) as the Egyptians would say. I'm not quite as daft as I look, you know, or as green as I'm cabbage-looking!

So, what do you think of these two pictures of our guest bathroom? It has certainly served its purpose over the past 6 years, it's relatively user friendly with its pedestal handbasin and mirror, it even has a little shelf for bits and bobs. But no 'wow' factor, something is missing!

After consulting her interior design books and winding up her interior designer's brain, Freda decided that the pedestal handbasin was ugly and 'old hat', and it had to go to be replaced by a modern, eye-catching 'something'. Eventually, the something was revealed as a 'counter-top' handbasin. (How I hate that expression 'counter-top', it's as if you were going to have your handbasin, which in our case is next to the toilet, on public display in a shop. After all, that's where you'd find a 'counter', is it not? A surface onto which you would 'count' a customer's money, or change, when selling something? Stupidity, I say!)

The hunt was on! As Luxor slowly modernises, there are more shops selling the necessities which are needed to provide pleasant accommodations for modern living. Ahmed Hashem is no longer the only worthwhile bathroom shop in town, although that is where we started to look. There was one handbasin there which caught my eye as soon as I saw it. It was square, and tapered towards the bottom, it just shouted "Buy me!". But, never mind, we all know that Freda will not be rushed in to anything, shwy-er shwy-er, steady as she goes!

Actually, this whole operation has taken so long that I cannot reliably recall the exact sequence of events any more! Suffice it to say that after visiting all the other bathroom shops in Luxor, we eventually plumped for this square 'Ideal Standard' handbasin, even though it cost a small fortune. Mr Ahmed wanted me to take the one from the shop, assuring me that it would prove to be very difficult to obtain another. But I didn't want my guests to be confronted with a lovely new, and expensive, square handbasin which had black marks around the top edge, funnily enough! After much cajoling, he promised to order another from Cairo, al hamdulillah! (thanks be to God).

It would be delivered on the following Monday, insh'Allah, (God willing.) I arranged transport and toodled off to the shop, money in hand. Mr Ahmed was just going out the door, "Ah, Mr Edward, I'm just going to pray. I'll only be five minutes." How dare he tell such a bare-faced lie about praying? It's beyond me, but I waited anyway. He returned after about 20 minutes. "I've come for the sink," says I. "Oh, it didn't arrive yet Mr Edward, the truck broke down at Minya, perhaps tomorrow, or after tomorrow?" Why on earth couldn't he have said that before he made me wait while he went to pray??????

A similar sequence of events, with only slight differences, occurred several more times, and each time he tried to persuade me to take the display model from the shop; yes, he knew it was marked, but he'd give me a good discount! (????) I stopped actually going to the shop, telephoning him on his mobile instead. At last, his answer was that it had arrived and was waiting for me to collect it! I was there like a shot, but he wasn't, and no-one else knew anything about it. I didn't know whether to be deflated or enraged! Finally, I decided to search the shop myself, and found it. It was lying on the floor, and the top edge was covered in 'Ideal Standard' tape. "It's the same one," I thought, "and that thieving little swine has just stuck this tape over the top of the damage!!!!!" I was livid! I've no idea what the bathroom and tile seeking Egyptian families thought of this little, fat and red-faced, Ingleesi as he sat on the floor in the middle of the shop picking away at the super strong Sellotape on a handbasin.

By the time Mr Ahmed returned, I'd got all the tape off, and realised that it hadn't been another of his tricks, but that the tape had been put on at the factory to protect the edge while it was being transported. Deflated, this time, I think!

So, that was a major advance, next we would need a tall tap (faucet). Mr Ahmed had just the one! As he is the main agent for Ideal Standard, that was the manufacturer, and it was only 3889le, how spiffing, 400 nicker for a tap? The man is certifiable!

If you're like me, than you won't be 'sitting comfortably' any more. My bottom is aching, along with my bad knee, so I'm giving up for tonight.

Look out for the next instalment, where (among other eye-popping revelations) Freda wants to kill the carpenter!!!!

The Lotus Eaters?

Do you remember the TV programme? With Kieth Barron? I'm not really sure if the bunch of misfits in the following picture could actually be classed as anything more than just "Hawawshi Munchers"! Even though they are regulars by the Nile, where the lotus blossoms once bloomed.

The tea towels and facecloths were kindly supplied by the photographer, you'll no doubt notice that I got the tea towel; Freda has a constant dread of me getting grease of any kind on my pants! Actually, she did a good job with taking this picture, she caught us all chewing away nicely, didn't she?

Sadly, Sandra and Mick are away home on Wednesday, so we won't see them again until next spring. (Insh'Allah.) It's at times like this that we realise just how fortunate we are in being able to stay here, while our poor readers are battling against snowstorms and even hurricanes. We do commiserate with you all, you know; well, sometimes!!!!!

While Sandra and Mick have been here, Freda has been trying to turn me into a painter, to add yet another string to my overburdened bow! The problem is, that I just cannot paint with gloss paint, especially black! No-one can say that I haven't tried, but it's truly AWFUL! It's that bad that I'm contemplating taking the pieces back to England and asking my favourite son-in-law to do them properly, and then cart them all the way back here again!

I don't know whether you have a favourite paint manufacturer, they're all the same to me, being the dunce that I am, but I can imagine people preferring Dulux over Crown, or Homebase's own make over B&Q's.  Here in Luxor (as you can imagine) we get whatever we can. I found the following primer quite good, but then I'm no expert. But, somehow, I don't think I'll be asking for it by name when I get back to England:

We've just been watching a couple of episodes of 'Spooks', it's great! I was almost on the verge of telling Freda about my exploits for MI5 (while she thought I was working with my coach on rail replacement for all those weeks away from home) but I thought better of it. I don't want to be picked up as soon as I arrive back in England and thrown into clink, again!

No shame!

Hello Dear Reader, I don't suppose that you expected to hear from me quite so soon, did you? But here I am with yet more fascinating facts about Luxor and it's inhabitants.

Despite the title of this post being 'No shame!', I have to tell you that I am currently consumed by it! I love this town, and I also care deeply about most of the people whom we come across in our day to day wanderings and transactions. But today, on this Eid el Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, I feel contempt for them!

I trundled out this morning in search of black gloss paint and wood primer, along with a few sheets of sandpaper, and some of Mr Alfred's tasty smoked ham, as I would be passing his little emporium on the way to the hardware shop and the baker.

As I stepped out of our Osman Alley onto the main road, I was shocked to see this:

We've had our apartments for seven years, and never, ever, have I seen such an accumulation of rubbish in our main street. It was disgusting! (There wasn't a thing there last night.) Is this the 'freedom' which the revolutionaries claim to have won for Egypt last year, to fill the streets with garbage?

As I went on my way, I found that there was no escape:

Don't get me wrong here, I've also seen the trash which is generated by festivals and suchlike in England. What gets my goat here (no pun intended on this day of sacrificial lambs) is that my local friends might say something like "Very bad, Mr Edward!". But then they'll sit all day completely ignoring these piles of rubbish just a few paces away, as if they just weren't there! (Ignoring, that is, until they then go and add to them!)

Funnily enough, there weren't the same piles on Sharia Karnak, where any stray tourists might spy them, only the coats of the ritually slaughtered sheep, and those were on display outside the Mosque!!!!

No shame? They just don't seem to care at all!

Perhaps a more fitting photo, on this day when all my neighbours are supposed to be turning their thoughts to the faithfulness of God, might be this one following. Our youngest daughter sent it to us, she knows the mother, but not yet the premature daughter who was born three weeks before the picture was taken. I hope that those of you who are able will remember them both in your prayers.

Foodie Snobs?

We do get some strange people in Luxor! Some complain about the heat; well, it is Egypt! Some complain about the dirt; well, it is Egypt! Others complain about the hassle; well, it is Egypt! Yet more complain about the 'rip-off' prices; well, it is Egypt! Then we get those who are looking for fine dining experiences; well I'm sorry but, it is Egypt!

I'm sure that you're aware by now, Dear Reader, that we like our food. As long as it's tasty and properly cooked, Freda will try most things; then she tells me if I'll like it! I can still remember the day she made me try this new foreign muck, 'yoghurt', sour milk, more like???? (It was 'Ski' strawberry, actually. Whatever happened to them, |I wonder?)

I knew a relatively famous darts player, who wouldn't eat 'Spam', wouldn't even taste it! "Poor man's meat!" he would say as he turned up his nose in disgust. One of my greatest friends won't touch spready cheese (you know, the stuff which comes in triangles). He reckons that it's all the rubbish which would otherwise be thrown out after they've finished making everything else.

I even have Egyptian friends who turn their noses up at the mention of the likes of hawawshy, simply because it's made from offal, like haggis. It's a touch of the 'poor man's meat' syndrome, I think, rather than just the fact that it's offal. Never mind!

As I reported, Sandra, Mick and Freda and myself had a lovely hawawshy supper the other night. We followed that with a bit of a falafel feast the following night, from these blokes up the street:

I always had a fancy that falafel would be enhanced a little by a touch of HP Fruity Sauce, I tried it, and it certainly is! You see that Osman? He's over 70, and his hair, moustache and eyebrows are still a very youthful (and suspicious) black, don't you think it's a bit far-fetched?

Over the years, we've tried quite a number of Luxor's 'restaurants'. The inverted commas are there because I don't consider most of them to actually be more than just cafes, pretentious cafes, but cafes nevertheless! It's no wonder that the food snobs complain so bitterly when they've been to one of them that they've read such glowing reports of, only to find that they are sitting in something which resembles an all-night coffeeshop from the sixties. All some of them need would be a sixpence-a-play juke box belting out Stevie Marriot to make the illusion complete!
"What....ya gonna doooo aboud-it?" Hehe!

Here's some fine 'Eid el Adha' dining, waiting in the souk yesterday:

They had the place humming! (Colloquialism = stinking.) Let's all wish our Muslim friends a 'happy eid', with the hope that they'll have a bit of meat to celebrate with, God bless them!

It's high time for my beauty sleep, so I'll say, "Goodnight."

Tutti Frutti as a wedding venue?

We were in for a bit of a surprise this evening! A family staying at the Etap had been talking to Sandra and Mick about their holiday. It transpired that, as part of it, the husband and wife planned to renew their weeding vows of 20 years ago!

Today was the day, and they asked Mick to do two readings (which they had chosen from somewhere on the Internet) so he did. Lo and behold, they were having a 'bash' at Tutti Frutti at the same time that we would be there!

Now then, if I'd known beforehand, I wouldn't have booked for that time (being anti-social and all) but we were in an awkward position, weren't we? Never mind, we went ahead, and when we arrived we found an Egyptian band in full flow, it was almost deafening!

The music ceased after a minute or so, and we took our seats. The place was really quite busy, I'm pleased to say. No sooner than we were seated, the 'bride' came over to thank Mick for his ministrations, and we were introduced. Here she is in her lovely bridal gown:

The meal was as you would expect, we don't usually go anywhere where there would be any doubt as to the quality of the food. Sandra disappointed me a little, as she couldn't manage all of hers. However, Mick, being as gallant as ever, managed to finish it off for her!!!!

The band started up again before we had actually finished:

I only could get a small video, and sadly it doesn't have much of the singer's extraordinary voice, very powerful!

Before too long, Christine and most of her staff had joined the bride in dancing to the music. It was very entertaining, and they were clearly loving it!

I captured another shot of the bride, this time with her husband, as she took a well deserved rest.

Seeing as the revelling was going to continue for some time, and Mick couldn't get the Egyptian fiddle to work properly;

we decided to take our leave and find a quiet spot for a cuppa and a chat. The Sonesta St George was the nearest to walk to for people with full stomachs. But what a shame such a prestigious hotel couldn't provide any staff to serve us! There was no-one to be found, except a receptionist who was too busy talking to another person to even acknowledge Freda as she stood right in front of him.

The Nile Palace never treats guests or visitors like that, so we went there, and they got our trade, yet again. You'd imagine, in these straitened times, that businesses would learn that it's customers who actually pay the bills, and not their gossiping friends!

We were joined there by another friend, Ann, who stays at the NP twice each year. Ann brought us some Wrights Coal Tar Soap last week when she arrived, it was completely out of the blue, bless her.

All in all, we had a very enjoyable and successful evening. It's good to have friends, isn't it?

David Attenborough, eat your heart out!

I can still remember being transfixed by the pictures appearing on the black and white telly as David Attenborough stalked the fearsome, and yet unidentified, creature which had supposedly been eating the village children. It turned out to be the 'komodo dragon'. Do any of you remember that programme? Or are you all too young?

Anyway, as you know, the tourist numbers in Luxor recently have been at what must be an all-time low! (And no, I'm not ascribing the dearth of tourists to the appetite of an Egyptian version of the aforementioned dragon.) But I'm trying to tell you that we haven't been going to the Etap of late, just because of this shortage of tourists. It's no real fun for us to sit and watch noisy Egyptian families misusing the hotel and abusing the staff, while embarrassing and disturbing the few foreign guests who would so like to just have a peaceful time. Sometimes, they act as if they owned the place, honestly!!!!

However, this week is a little different! We have two good friends from Lincoln staying there; Sandra and Mick. They both have a severe case of the dreaded 'Luxoritis'! They've been staying at the Etap for over 20 years (no, not continually, silly!) so should know Luxor very well. They arrived last Wednesday, with the very welcome gifts of a packet of ginger snaps and and a Jamaica ginger cake.

We strolled down there tonight, hoping to catch them as they ventured out for their evening meal. We were parked almost in out usual seats (our usual ones were taken up by a rather noisy group of Egyptians who must have all had worms, as they couldn't sit still for more than a minute or two!!!) as we awaited Sandra and Mick's appearance from their upper floor, Nile View, room. We needed to make the arrangements for tomorrow night, when we are all dining at the delightful Tutti Frutti, where we shall partake of Christine's lovely 'Sunday dinner'.

This is where the fabulous David Attenborough came into the story, no, not the hotel! I don't know what sort of 'ologist' the famous man is, but I should think that he must be responsible for introducing more young people to an interest in the natural sciences than any other person, living or dead.

We had a question for the ornithologists out there, the other week, and now I have one for all the entomologists among you, or your families? As we sat out front of the Etap, we were concerned about this huge beast which kept almost dive-bombing us as it flitted from plant to plant with it's long proboscis.  Can anyone identify the following creature? (I hope that David Attenborough is reading this, and thinks that my wildlife photography is worth appearing in the same piece as his name.)

He was about 2 inches long (50mm) with a wingspan of maybe 3 and a 1/2 to 4 inches. He didn't seem to make any particular noise, as you might expect from a bee or wasp, but he was nor'alf a whopper!

We caught Sandra and Mick as they were heading out to 7 Days 7 Ways, and have arranged to meet them at 6.30 tomorrow. Looking forward to another scrumptious meal from Christine!

I seem to be eating very well lately, just had a quarter of an absolutely gorgeous mushroom quiche tonight, after a large dish of corned beef hot-pot at lunchtime. I think Freda might be fattening me up for the coming Eid, like all the poor sheep who are tied up all over town just now. I'd better keep an eye out for her coming towards me with a smile on her face and some strong string and a sharp knife in her hands, what do you say?

Now it's time for my hot chocolate, delicious!

For Your Eyes Only.

Hello there, long time no see!

You're going to be the first to see the latest improvement to the "Our Luxor" Holiday Apartment. We started out with this:

That's right, it's the kitchen! It was always functional, without being flash or showy, with enough equipment and utensils to make a wide variety of meals. But it was never what Freda had actually wanted.

When we were having the apartment re-built and finished (seven years ago) she told the contractor, "No wall tiles in the kitchen. No door furniture. White paint everywhere. The man thought she was as mad as a hatter! But she wanted time to think, and time to see what was available from which to make her choices of decorative finishes and style touches.

Of course, back then we didn't know that wall tiles in Egypt were pressed into the wet plaster (which is actually a rendering of sand and cement, and not plaster as we know it, at all) and that using a tile adhesive was the equivalent of expecting Freda's famous relative, George Stephenson, to fire his first Stockton to Darlington steam train with a few crystals of Scottie's 'trilithium'!

So, while we were in England, our contractor put some lovely big, oblong, white, monstrosities on the wall. "But Madame Fareda, the water from the sink!" I'm surprised she didn't actually eat the poor b****r! Seeing as the tiles were all a part and parcel with the stainless steel sink and drainer (which was sitting on a frame of one inch water pipe cemented into the wall and had been stained with cement or something being mixed in it) and the wooden under-sink unit, we didn't have the heart to make him pull it all out and start again. (We would have done if it had happened now, mind you. You have to learn by your mistakes!)

So there we were, 7 years down the line, still with a kitchen sink which was annoying Freda every time she saw it, no guests for a while, and nothing to keep yours truly out of mischief. You just know what's coming next, don't you?

You won't remember my bungled hari-kari attempt while I was knocking the said tiles off the wall?

That's Nu-Skin holding my foot on there! It took 4 hours to stop the stupid thing bleeding, here's some blood in my Croc, and some more in the bottom of the shower! I felt a bit like Tony Hancock in the 'Blood Donor', my lifeblood, ebbing away!


My word, they're sharp! The blood was everywhere. Never mind, onward and upward, as they say. I eventually got to the bottom of it all, and as I described in a former posting eventually got the plasterers in and the first coat of paint on. Here's how far I had to take the wall to bits:

Freda would have a more modern 'inset' sink! Which meant a new stone workbench. That was a saga in itself, over three months of sending out samples of what I wanted and stone men from all over Luxor coming with entirely different colours. Again, they thought I was mad, just because I wanted it to match the two other pieces in the same room, actually within a few inches of each other! At last, Mohamed Marble (strange name, even stranger bloke!) came and told me that the quarry where my Aswan granite had come from had been closed for a few years, but he had the nearest match that there was.

Frightening blokes these! Can you imagine a man cutting a 32 mm round hole in 2 cm thick piece of granite with only an angle grinder with a 7 inch diameter diamond blade and a small hammer??? No, neither could I! I shouted "Stop him, what's he doing?" Mr Mohamed smiled (that mad, knowing smile of the 'initiated') and assured me that it would be OK. (I thought to myself, "It'll be OK if he messes up the whole sheet of granite, 'cos I haven't paid for it yet, and I won't be if he does! Haha!") 

Of course he didn't, he's been doing this job all his working life. Necessity is a great teacher, and if you don't have the right tools, then you have to 'make do'. I should have had more faith, as I spent a great deal of my youth repairing old wagons and cars with all the wrong tools!

Anyway, Freda and I finally got it finished this evening, so here it is; the new kitchen:

We brought quite a few trinkets from Marrakech, especially with the new style in mind. I'm sure that you'll be able to pick some of them out.

Well, that's it for just now, hope you like the new kitchen. More to the point, I hope that our future guests will like it.

The times they are a'changin' (or are they really?).

OK then, Clive and Sue departed today. We've had a few laughs with them as they're as daft as two brushes! Here's Sue at the Nile Palace the other night:

We were there on the evening when the dance troupe start off by coming down the back stairs into the bar, before the 'real' show gets underway in the atrium. The pantomime horse is the best I've seen:

I'm sure that some of the folk dancing troupes in England would just love it!

There's been a rather large gathering of medical types at the Nile Palace this past week or so, attendees from all over the world at the "7th International Conference on Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy". Sounds very interesting, eh?

It has to be better than the breakdowns which I used to deal with; which invariably meant lying under some scrapheap of a wagon or 'bus, on some side-road in the 'back of beyond' in a blizzard!

On one of the nights we were there, the conference lot were having a special 'gala' dinner by the pool:

It looked fab, but our contact at the hotel couldn't get us a ticket, I'm sure that we could have passed ourselves off as Mr and Mrs Doctor Edward!

A week or so before this, the Sonesta St George Hotel was hosting a load of film stars and technicians for the first "Luxor Egyptian and European Film Festival"

The Nile Palace also had some guests in who were to do with that, they were obviously film types as they swanned around, looking glamorous! I've heard several people (who should know) saying that it was expected to be the first of many, let's hope so?

It's obvious that the hotels (who are losing millions, by the way) are trying their best to attract a different clientele, while the normal tourists are still staying away.

You'd think I was an advertising agent for the Nile Palace by the way I go on about it, but the fact is that we do go there quite a bit, and they really are trying!
As well as their three for two happy hour deal on tea and coffee (actually on all drinks) they have speciality pastries on offer, all at one price. Here's the "Hot Date Pie with Ice Cream":

It is currently one of the five or six date based sweets on offer for 22le, and absolutely georgeous!

Of course, after lashing out on such a luxury, we were actually guilty enough to then go and have a 3le Hawawshi at Karnak. After Freda losing her flip-flop on our last outing there, she kept them firmly on her dainty little 'plates of meat' this time, at least until we'd stopped and were waiting for Ahmed to get the food. I joined her in allowing the air to circulate between my toes:

What a lovely sight, eh?

When we went to see Clive and Sue off from the Winter Palace, this afternoon, we asked about the cost of the 'Afternoon Tea' as we had heard that the price had been increased dramatically. It had, and was now 150le per person!!!! Yes, that's twice as much! Of course, I registered my dismay, but was somewhat put in my place when the head waiter informed me that 'Afternoon Tea' at the Old Cataract was now 400le, and I should consider myself lucky! 'Nuff said squire!

Before I leave you; I'm sure that I've made the point to you before now that some aspects of Luxor seem to be a couple of hundred years behind the ways which we are now more used to in the West. Well, how about this for modern book-keeping? I'm quite certain that old Ebenezer Scrooge would have been proud to own a ledger like this:

There's a bloke sits there all day, recording column after column of figures, just like poor Tiny Tim's dad, Bob Cratchett.

God bless us, every one!

27th September - Tourism Day!

Yes folks, today is the "United Nations World Tourism Day", (Ok Mr Pedant; 'yesterday was'!) and of course, Luxor would celebrate it in some style.

There were to be two main venues; in the  morning on the plaza in front of Karnak Temple there would be traditional music and dancing, between 9 and 12. Then later at 5 o'clock till 9, a similar programme could be seen at the Abu Haggag Square, behind Luxor Temple. All were welcome, and there was no charge. Excellent, I thought, manna for the blog!

After a relatively hard day working on the guest apartment, I struggled to get a shower and get changed etc., without having an extended nap, but ever conscious of the need to bring you the latest news, Dear Reader, I managed to drag myself out!

Freda first saw a sign of celebration as we passed the bottom of Cleopatra Street, there was one of those stationary balloon things, which they often have at the opening of a new shop or whatever. It was just visible over the top of, and in between, the coaches in the Temple coach park!

We couldn't have any conversation at this point, as the Mosque speakers were going hammer and tongues, deafening, as usual. We made our way around the big Mosque and onto the Square, where there were quiet a few people about, as usual, with little'uns careering around in those electric car thingies. But no sign of any organisation of any sort, and certainly no dancing troupes!

I sat and warmed my bum on one of the stone seats, while Freda stood and looked forlornly around. Within the first minute, we'd seen off two sellers of chai and a nut man with his bogey. We were, admittedly, a bit late for the start. It was actually ten to six by the time we arrived, but, hey, this is Egypt, right?

We must have been there for a good twenty minutes or so, before we adjourned to the Winter Palace for a refresher. The sofa in the foyer was a tad more comfy than the stone in the square, even allowing for the stored heat! It was reasonably busy in there, three young men were sitting opposite us and playing with mobile phones and a 'tablet', I think that's what it was, anyway. One of them looked familiar, and I eventually twigged where I had seen him before; it was in a photograph supposedly taken at Herr Hitler's 'Eagle's Nest' in Berchtesgaden. He was the one in the SS uniform, all blue eyes and blonde hair! Funny that he should still look the same after all these years?

Then came three American sightseers, ostensibly looking for the 'terrace' (indoors?). The doorman explained that they had just passed it as they entered the building, but they weren't being taken in by an Egyptian, no sirree! They hung around for a bit, going out onto the rear terrace, and then coming back in and heading off along the corridor towards the ground floor rooms. One of them even thought to try and confuse one of the porters by asking for the 'bathroom'!

We have two friends staying there at the moment (Clive and Sue) but they were dining out at the 'Taste of India', so we missed them. Never mind, tomorrow is another day. After we'd enjoyed making up new lives for the people roundabout, and had our fill of tea and Nescafe (and the nice little home-made biscuits they are now doing) we made our way back up to the rear of the Temple. It was now about 8.30, and the show was supposed to finish at 9, so we thought that we'd catch the ending nicely!

You guessed it! No-one there apart from the usual suspects, Egyptian families enjoying the cool of the evening with their friends, and children running around blowing off a bit of steam. Yet another triumph for the organisational skills of the Luxor Governorate 

Losing the will to live? I'm really not quite sure; if I'm still here tomorrow I'll probably be OK.

Everyday stuff!

Freda has never liked the tiles on the guest apartment kitchen wall!

The builders were doing most of the work in there while we were travelling back and forward, and some while we were actually here, on 'holiday' haha. She had left instructions to just plaster the walls, and paint them white. "But you need tiles, Madame Fareda. For all the water." "Yes, when and where 'I' want them, only paint just now!"

As you might guess, we came back to (not quite white) monstrosities stuck onto the wall with a half inch of cement. She's complained about them ever since. So, the dearth of guests, and tourists in general, presented an ideal opportunity for her to have the brilliant idea that I could do away with the offending ceramics and make it a nicer kitchen altogether. Isn't Madame Fareda a lucky girl to have me as her multi-talented slave?

The only problem with that statement is that I'm NOT multi-talented, she only thinks I am!!!!

Never mind, "Ours is not to reason why, etc. etc." Here is the shot of the kitchen with the tilework partially hidden, and which is therefore allowed to grace our adverts etc.:

You wouldn't believe the amount of debris which accompanied the broken tiles and plasterwork which came off the wall! (That was when I nearly cut off my foot, remember, Dear Reader?) In-between times, I replaced the rotted plastic cable conduit, and re-routed some of the wiring to facilitate a new socket, and also re-worked the piping for the new kitchen taps. (Multi-talented? I'm getting there!) I eventually got two Egyptian plasterers to come and re-plaster that part of the wall, only it isn't plaster, it's a sand and cement mix, and as hard as bell-metal!

The finish isn't really what I would have liked either, but 'beggars can't be choosers' as we already know!

I've spent about a week trying to fill up the imperfections in the 'plasterwork' with 'majoon' which is a ready-mixed filling compound which actually acts like a coat of finish plaster. I had to buy a sander in order to make it presentable, though,  before I applied the first coat of paint.

I shifted most of the plasterer's waste, in a few smallish bags and bundles. But after cleaning up a bit  more after my 'majooning' and sanding efforts, I was left with a bag which was rather too heavy for me to get down the stairs. "Ah, the excellent Mr Rashad!" I thought. Here he is, stout chap!

 A while ago, I caught Adam beating one of his elder sons in the street, when I asked him what it was all about, he told me that he had been calling Rashad a 'Donkey', just because he's had little education and is used like a beast of burden by many people. Here was I, doing exactly the same, it's rather embarrassing, to say the least!

I've applied the first coat of paint, although just getting it was another (small) nightmare! Our 'Sipes' paintshop is just down the street, as many of you already know, and the Christian man who runs it is fine, he even speaks a little English!

In I trotted, with the remains of the last batch we had had mixed, in an old jam jar, complete with a bit of masking tape bearing the mixing number on the top. What could be simpler for a computerised paint mixing shop? You might well ask!

There were two cans of paint which he was busy with, one on the top of the mixing thingy and the other in the clever shaking-all-ways-together machine, which ensures that the added pigments are adequately mixed into the white base. He whipped the top off my gallon tin (pronounced jall-on, but which is actually 3 litres instead of the more normal 4.54 or whatever) and placed it under the row of mixing nozzles, only to then realise that the computer had given up the ghost! "Bloody Egyptian rubbish, Mr Edward, it makes me MAD!" After a good deal of computer adjustment (kicking and suchlike) and quite a bit if stamping around the shop, we arranged that I would return to collect it in the evening, when it would undoubtedly, insh'Allah, be ready!

It was, and I got the first coat on this morning, as I said. It has to stand 8 hours between coats, so I should have a reasonably easy afternoon. (Insh'Allah?)

See you later, alligator!