Tell me the Old Old Story!

Although I cannot imagine a much more 'foreign' country than Egypt, the people are generally the same as people all over. Poor old Shylock's "If you cut me; do I not bleed?" comes to mind!

So, like the working classes of so many other countries, when the Egyptian poor feel that they can take no more; they cause problems for the 'rich'. Last year we had the revolution; this year we seem to be having our very own 'Winter of Discontent'. Due to strikes in one sector or another there have been shortages of all sorts of commodities. Fuel, bottled gas (used for cooking in almost every Egyptian household) and many everyday foodstuffs are either just not available or priced so high as to be unobtainable by the vast majority. As even us 'rich folk' know; it's rather difficult to feed our families if there is a lack of food, or gas to cook it with, so how much more difficult must it be to also have no money either?

Since Egypt found its revolutionary feet, the usual general sense of helplessness is turning into a general feeling of "B****r this for a lark! If we cannot manage, then we'll make everyone else suffer too!" So, as well as strikes, we are experiencing small incidents of civil unrest. The current strike by the workers at the Esna Lock has brought the river traffic to a standstill, so the Nile cruisers are all stuck, lying around at Esna like  proverbial 'loppy dogs' while travel companies are rushing around trying to find alternative transport to get their clients to the visits at Luxor and Aswan, but which coach operators have fuel? Whole villages, which don't have the necessities of life, and are consequently at their wit's end, are turning out in desperation to block the main railway line, and thus disrupting train services for Egyptians and tourists alike!

Of course, all these problems are being exacerbated by the fact that it is the Egyptian holiday fortnight, and Upper Egypt is awash with rich visitors from Cairo and Middle Egypt who are looking for a bit of warmth too.

As we were making our way home yesterday, I came over all nostalgic as we came across coaches languishing all over the streets around, and not far from, the station:

Of course, it was chaos around the actual station itself. Just next to it, is where some of the long-distance coaches leave from, just to cause a bit more confusion.

I just wished I could have rolled up in my own coach, just like in the old days, only with a coach full of experienced coordinators! I've got to admit that I do miss those days spent roaming the countyside looking for almost mythical stations in the back of beyond. But I also miss my Transliner, with all its home comforts, and the camaraderie among us headcases who spent so much of our time separated from our families; tramping around mainland Britain to rescue stranded railway passengers. I hear tell that my lovely coach is now well past its best, how very sad!

Unseen Luxor?

Hello again, it occurred to me that most visitors to Luxor (or anywhere really) only see what the authorities and tourism people actually want them to see. This is probably OK, especially in somewhere like Luxor, which to every new visitor seems very foreign already, with its fabulous antiquities and strangely clad people, and the newly realised very high temperatures.

As I was putting one of my vacuums away this morning ( oh, I do love bragging!) I noticed a lady, a street or so away, taking freshly baked bread out of her bread oven on the roof! Now then, when we first came here, we could see at least four of these traditional adobe bread ovens from our roof. Now, I cannot see any!

The oven is out of sight, behind the wall at bottom left. You can see the loaves on their little platter things, spread about the available surfaces. This is 'baladi' bread. It's not available from the local bakers, but is often sold on the streets by the woman who has baked it, notably outside the new Mosque in Saladin Square, which is about half way between the Railway Station and the Iberotel Hotel. Otherwise, as is the case in the picture, it's for the family. Egyptians get through an inordinate amount of bread!

The next picture also shows us something about foodstuffs in Luxor:

This is two buildings away from us, and the little inmate sitting on the wall rather gives the game away! Yes, it's a pigeon loft (or cree, as it would be known in some parts). I don't think that they race pigeons here, and I believe that they are only pets until they are ready for the pot!

Luxor rooves can be looked upon as either horrible dirty fire hazards, or hives of activity and resourcefulness. I suppose it all depends on your outlook? This following photograph shows a slightly more typical roof:

Wood! Actually, if you have a look at the other two pictures, you'll see that they too have old bits of wood lying about. That's because wood is not really an indigenous product of Egypt, and most of it is imported at great expense, so it's rather a case of 'waste not; want not'! This is a great place for hoarders!

Stop, Little Pot, stop!

If any of you don't know that story of "The Magic Porridge Pot", then leave a comment, and I'll recount it in another post.

Meanwhile, do any of you have any idea of how far a pan full of porridge spreads when it is dropped from a height of about three feet? I have!

Yesterday started off like most other days; Freda was out of bed first but last in getting her breakfast. By the time her porridge was on the hob, I was clarting on with the laptop, having finished my breakfast 10 minutes ago. It seems strange to me that someone wouldn't want their breakfast when they first get up, but that's the way with some folk, apparently, strange?

Anyway, there I was; tap tapping away, when I heard this almighty crash, and felt a burning sensation on my left leg. The porridge pot was lying on the floor next to me! We've been having porridge for breakfast for a long time now, and after it's cooked we leave it for a minute or two before putting it out, thus:

Safe as houses? One would have thought so, it's in the corner, where no-one walks past, the pan handle isn't sticking out where it could be accidentally caught by a galabiya sleeve or anything. This is where it has stood time and again over many months! If you look closely; you will notice that the pan is standing on top of the two hot-plate covers, the smaller of the two is on top of the larger one, which is still on top of the large hot-plate. However! The covers aren't perfectly flat, they are very slightly raised in the middle, it's so slight that you can hardly notice it! But, this time it seemed that the curvature was enough to allow the pan to slowly slide off the cover, with disastrous results!

Look at the picture again, you can imagine where the porridge splattered. Up the sideboard door and onto the shelves and contents, into the meshrabiya, and the same on the cabinet to the left. As well as all over the tiled floor, it covered a portion of the camel-wool carpet which we put down in the winter, and as well as my left leg, it also splattered on the side of the sofa and sofa cushions, and shopping bags, which live hanging on the end of the sofa. The coffee table also took its fair share of the impact.

With hindsight, I should have gone back to bed right then, and left the clearing up to Freda. But (being the perfect husband that you all know me to be) I just got buckled in and started straight off. Obviously, this was to be a major operation, all the furniture was going to have to be moved, the carpet would have to go outside, all the shelves would need to be emptied, you can imagine the work involved.

It's no good only doing half a job, that's obvious to anybody! So all the rest of the furniture in the room also had to be moved to facilitate cleaning all the floor properly. It just so happened that, in the opposite corner, stood the tent fabric wall hanging which had previously been hanging outside. When Freda moved it, she commented that we should have it back up. "No problem" I thought and said, after all, it only needed a couple of the 'hard-wall' hooks (from Wilkinson's) banging into the wall and the hanging hooked onto them! So that was the intention, while the porridge was drying on the carpet which was now lying in the sun.

But, when we got it outside in the daylight, it became plain why it hadn't been put back up before; it was too faded to any longer be the striking decoration which it was originally meant to be. "Oh, I've got some more somewhere!" came the confident voice, which so many husbands have learned to dread and fear. By now I was resigned to the fact that I wasn't going back to bed (possibly EVER!). I took the cushions from the little dikkeh so that I could open the lid and find the upholsterer's stapler and staples in my toolbox. The new fabric appeared, and was a different pattern to the original, matching the cushions which Freda had made for the dikkehs, lovely! I had the fabric stapled on in no time at all.

Next, was to see where it needed to be positioned on the wall. So with the hanging in my grasp, I jumped up onto the dikkeh, and simultaneously heard the sickening (to me, that is) sound of splintering timber! I'd only shattered the side timber of the dikkeh lid, hadn't I? Of course, Freda had to have a dig about my weight! So, to add to the vacuuming and washing of the camel-wool carpet (and the other two carpets, which might as well be done while the gear is out!) I now had woodshavings and sawdust to clean up on the roof terrace, which was only just cleaned yesterday!!!!!! Never mind, I should know by now that it 'never rains but it pours'! I patched the lid with a piece of timber which I brought from England many moons ago. It was actually part of a packing case of sorts, which I'd knocked up to protect something during transit, it still has my name and phone number on, in case it went astray!

Anyway, it eventually went upon the wall, what do you think?

After the carpet dried, was vacuumed and washed and dried again, it went into the bedroom to save me having to step onto cold tiles when I get out of bed.

So, the moral of today's story is that porridge is a dangerous commodity! You don't need to have forgotten the magic words, to stop your magic pot cooking, to have a disaster on your hands which could take all day to sort out.

Light up the sky with Standard Fireworks!

If you're English, and over about 50, then you should be able to sing the title of this post! Go on, no-one's listening. When we were little, in the 50's, or in 'the olden days' we loved Guy Fawkes night (November 5th). Some people had bonfires in their back lanes, and scorched all the yard doors! We were never allowed anything dangerous like that, we had to wait for dad coming home from work to set off the fireworks (crackers) in the back yard. Of course we had sparklers for in the house, and Mam and our Susan would strike the 'London Lights'.What an exciting time!

Later on, when we were older, the local chapel had a big bonfire, behind it on the spare ground.Where some of the 'Chapel Ladies' would serve hot dogs, and orange squash and cups of 'Chapel tea'. Freda and I had our first proper date at such a bonfire, at Lamesley Church.

Back to the crackers though, I'm easily distracted, sorry. Do you remember your Dad setting off the crackers on bonfire night? The ones which often didn't work, were the Catherine Wheels, such a disappointment. I think such occurrences led to the expression 'a damp squib' meaning that something didn't turn out as spectacular as it had been expected to.

Well, 'Guys and Gals', that's exactly what has happened here in Luxor today! So many clever b*****s have been prophesying doom and gloom here for the anniversary of the revolution, and they have been badly disappointed. Yippee!

I had heard from my neighbours that there were to be two meetings this morning in Abu El Haggag Square. One was to be the Association of Tour Guides, and the other; some group which supports the Military Government. As we had had a phone call from the BBC, with a request to ring back again today, we thought that we should really try and get some info for them beforehand. Off we went, Ed and Fred, reprising our  crucial 2011 role as roving reporters for the world's news! (Well, BBC Radio Newcastle, actually)

On approaching the Square, we could see quite a few men gathered:

(I felt very sorry for the one-legged bird in front of me! I thought, "She'd be easy meat for a passing opportunist mugger!" but then, I decided that she would really be quite safe, I mean; who would rob a woman with only half a knicker? Boom boom!!!! (Colloquialism: half a knicker= half a quid, or 50 pence in 'new' money.) That was repeated from a 'Royal Command Performance' of about 1962, where it was told by the son of Mister Max Bygraves.)

However, when we actually got among them, the men were all standing in a circle! In the middle of the circle, there were one or two handing out leaflets and another man shouting out slogans, to be answered with chanting by the gathered throng, by the time we were a hundred yards away we couldn't hear them. I would estimate that there were about, possibly, at a rough guess, 200 there. All their banners etc.were in Arabic, of course, so we had no idea whom they were. Except that they were definitely not the Tour Guides. As we turned to walk on, there appeared in front of us; two management staff from the Winter Palace Hotel. One, we have known for absolutely ages, since he was at the Etap, in fact. "So who are these?" I asked. He looked over my shoulder at their placards, "Oh, the 6th of February."

I've looked for info on them, but as far as I can see; there isn't an official grouping of that name. So we're non the wiser! April 6th, yes and October 6th as well, but for February 6th, it's just a date where several opposition groups were meeting and hoping to form a 'Reform Commitee' to get shot of President Mubarak.

We jumped a bus and made our way up to Medina Street, where there were reported attacks on the Police Headquarters there last year, and was one of the places where the security forces set of tear gas. There were a lot of road barriers standing against the kerb, as if they might close the road off altogether. This wouldn't be anything new, as the road is always closed here when there are elections going on. While we were so near, it would have been so impolite to not call and see the Lovely Christine, at Tutti Frutti Cafe, so we did! But just for an hour or so. While we were there; Radio Newcastle phoned, so I said that we would be home for 2:30 and could the man ring me then. It was arranged!

Shortly before we left Tutti Frutti, someone arrived and told us of a gathering of women and children he had seen on the Corniche, about 300 or so! (Edit: three DOZEN or so! Sorry, but my hearing must be getting worse!) From what he said, it seemed that this gathering could have been either at the Luxor Supreme Council Offices (quite likely) or the new park nearer to Karnak (where they might have been with their kids anyway, as today was a national holiday and the schools were all closed). We plumped for the offices of the Council and Governor! When we got there, there was indeed a group of women, some with small children. I didn't feel able to photograph them, but as we walked through them I was able to count them exactly. In the main group there were 22, and scattered around (some sitting on the kerb across the road and some at the entrance to the Savoy market) were another 8, making a grand total of  30. I don't think that they were anything to do with theanniversery though, more likely some local grouse.

We got home in plenty of time for the BBC to ring. John asked me a few questions about what had changed in Luxor over the past year, and that was about it! Another 'damp squib'! He said that the interview would be broadcast at between 4 and 5:30 this afternoon, so we rang the kids and told them, and then went off to the Etap to see the new intake arriving. Six Travco (Thomson Holidays) coaches just about full, one Blue Sky (Thomas Cook) and loads of mini-buses and cars came past from the airport, so it's nice to know that we haven't been abandoned altogether.

We left there after it was dark, and we thought that all of the Newbies had come into town.(Except for the Thompson flight which was delayed until after 10pm, that is.) We strolled back along the Corniche, past Freda's Temple (all it up and beautiful) and around the corner up to Abu El Haggag Square again.

This time there were two groups of around 20 or thirty people, men and women, but there seemed to be nothing 'going on'! I got a quick snap, which is very poor.(I don't know what to do about those dots which keep appearing when I take pics in the dark!!! I think I'll try some spectacles cleaning stuff I got from my glasses manufacturer friend. Here it is anyway:

You cannot stand about for long, where I took the pic from, as the kids whose parents rent those electric bike things for them are coming at you from all angles!

So; all in all, a pretty disappointing day for the world's press, as far as Luxor was concerned, anyway. The most exciting thing, as far as I was concerned, was the cherry flavoured cigarette I had from Tutti Frutti Christine!

Well I never! It's tomorrow already, goodnight and God bless.

Bringing the Mountain to Muhammad

I'm sure you all know that expression and what it means, but I expect that you are a bit like me when it comes to knowing where it came from. No matter, you're not going to find out here either, lol!

Now I'm also sure that, by now, you have had to have realised that we only have nice people stay with us. We took this decision quite early on; we are at a time in our lives where we no longer feel the need to put up with people whom we don't like! It's quite liberating, to be honest. We try to ensure that our guests will be people whom we can like by having lots of email contact with them before they come. When we are inviting guests into our apartment, we want them to appreciate that it isn't just a holiday rental, it's the culmination of ten years of planning and putting our hearts and souls into the development of it. We want our guests to feel the love that has gone into making their holiday one which they will not foget in a hurry! Our judgement hasn't let us down yet!!!!

Our guests have been invariabley kind, and not least; an English couple we had before Christmas. The husband offered to make us some dvd's to help wile away our cold winter nights, and post them to us at home in England in time for us to bring them back here when we returned. Along with the dvd's came some photographs and a covering letter. The photographs were for this man:

Now don't go telling me that you don't know him! This is Mr Jadhalla, the world famous felucca captain who once had the equally famous personage of Judith Chalmers for an outing in his felucca. If you've been to Luxor and wandered around by the Winter Palace and the Temple you nust have seen him, at least, if not actually been accosted by him. He's also know as 'Shakespeare', because of his habit of quoting the Bard at every opportunity. Well, our guest (whom we are now pleased to have also as a friend) sent Jadhalla a set of pictures he had taken of the 'Globe' theatre.

So it wasn't actually Mountain to Muhammad, more Globe to Shakespeare! But you get my drift? Anyway, Old Skinny-Ribs was delighted with them, all he needs now is a bit of work and a bit more food in his belly!

As we left him behind to make our way to our meeting (with free tea) at theWinter Palace, I was suddenly aware of a strange noise behind us! Of course, when you're strolling along in the middle of the road, you have to be aware of what's happening around you. I turned, to be confronted with a gang of (in-line) skaters! They were also in the road, and taking up most of it. Being quick witted, as usual, I whipped out my trusty Samsung, just in time to nearly miss them altogether! Here are some of them as they are hurtling down towards the Corniche:

We do get some strange people in Luxor!

Sorry, but that sounds suspiciously like the kettle boiling! Tarra!

No eckthcutheth!

I'd better begin with an apology to anyone reading this who struggles along with a lisp! Most of us have some sort of peculiarity, whether it's the way we look, act or speak. So please believe me when I assure you that there is never any personal malice intended towards anyone whom I come across and mention on here, or anyone who may stumble across and subsequently read this Blog.

Ok, now that that is out of the way; what do you think of the signwriter who did this:

I would have suggested a course of thpeatth therapy instead! I came across the sign as we were making our way across the newly excavated part of the Sphinx Avenue.

It's supposed to now be opening sometime in March, I think they'd better get their fingers out if that's going to be the case! Although they have shifted a lot of muck recently, they've only uncovered a few more small remnants of plinths! Those stone masons down in Aswan are going to be on piecework, I should think, if they intend to get enough Sphinxes ready for people to see.

The Egyptian language mustn't have an 'x' sound, as I hear Egyptians pronouncing the word as 'Sphinkes'. Just a lingual anomaly, I suppose.

We met with the Luxor Senator Dr Abdulmawgoud Dardery the other night, at the offices of the Supreme Council of Luxor. He seemed to be a charming fellow, very good English (which I suppose you'd expect from a professor of English!) and obviously concerned for the welfare of ex-pats, even though we have no votes! He was elected by, and to represent, the Egyptian population of Luxor but fair play to him; he realises that we are also living here (for the time being at least) and that we have no-one else to speak for, or look out for, us.
Visa and work permit irregularities were discussed, along with the problems associated with Orfi marriages and unsatisfactory financial arrangements between foreign 'wives' and Egyptian 'husbands'. Also touched upon were certain problems with bank tellers and luggage handlers at Luxor Airport.
Dr Abdulmawgoud was very concerned with the practice of giving baksheesh to government employees (we would more likely know these as backhanders), which under previous Egyptian governments was the ONLY way to get a satisfactory outcome to any dealings with authority. He stressed the importance of stopping this bribery, as being among the most crucial initial steps in changing the corrupt mindset which still inhabits every branch of government.   
The ineffectiveness of the police was also of great concern to him. Yes we still have police, but he explained that they are unwilling to go into the streets and intervene where we would expect them to, simply because previously they were above the law, and could 'get away with' mistreating anyone whom they thought may be acting suspiciously or whatever. Now, they had to operate within the confines of the law, and didn't know how to, and were also frightened to confront people who might now be tempted to answer (or fight) back!

All in all, it was an interesting meeting, and I was pleased we went. I don't think that anything really concrete was achieved, however Dr Abdulmawgoud offered to meet with us again on his next visit to Luxor, and report on any progress with our concerns.

Wonderings in our wanderings.

Being a bit older and having fewer urgent things to fill one's time with; it becomes second nature to let one's mind 'wander'. As it wanders; it finds things to wonder over, funny.

So it has been over the past few days. The Egypt forums are full of doom and gloom regarding visas and work permits etc., and the Muslim Brotherhood and what they will do in government. It's all very depressing, and certainly not very welcoming to potential foreign visitors, or encouraging to ex-pats or many Egyptians alike!

But, as usual, our daily wanderings and meanderings carry on. I've noticed one or two things which you might find to be a bit of a break from the unrelenting bad news from Europe and elsewhere.

Last week, we were mooching around in one of the less frequented areas in one of Luxor's very popular hotels. I was really taken aback at what we stumbled across! I suppose that many of you will have seen a rat trap before, they're a wire cage about a foot long and maybe 4 inches square; big enough to accommodate a normal sized rat, as you might imagine. We see them in just about all the hotel gardens, discretely positioned here and there, sometimes camouflaged, but they are necessary due to the large number of rodents which are attracted by the easy to access waste food from the very large number of hotel kitchens and restaurants in Luxor. Here's what we found:

That's one of Freda's 'Ruby Slippers' (which she retained after starring in a film, many years ago) just to give you an idea of the size of the device. It makes you wonder exactly what they are trying to catch, I should add that we were mighty pleased that the trap was empty when we came across it!

Talking of hotels; as it was Wednesday yesterday, we had a nose into the Etap to see how their arrivals from England might go. It was quite a bit warmer, reaching over 21 degrees, and we were able to sit in our usual seats just to the left as you come out of the main entrance. From here we can see all the buses coming from the airport as they swing around onto the Corniche. Quite a number of cars and mini-buses pulled into the hotels drop-off point. Also several midi-buses, I was pleased to see so many people checking into the hotel.
I'm often amazed at the thoughtlessness of Egyptian drivers. I'm sure some of you know the pull-in drop-off point at the El Luxor, and can therefore envisage the scene. While a 'Blue Sky' coach (handling agents for Thomas Cook) was waiting to cross the road and pull into the North entrance, a 'Sinderella' midi-bus nipped in from the South, so that they ended up bumper to bumper while dropping off their respective passengers. As the Blue Sky coach had only a couple of people to drop off, it was ready to leave first. No problem to an Egyptian coach driver; he just reversed (blind because of the trees) out into the busy road! No one watching him back, just slowly edging into the traffic! Honestly, sometimes they terrify me!

Anyway, I was quite taken by an advertising banner which was hanging on the side of the building next to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, behind the Etap:

I should think that their range of winter coats would go down a storm in the Catholic community! What do you think?

Tonight, we have been invited to a meeting with Dr Abdulmawgoud Dardery, who is Luxor's representative to the government in Cairo. He is also a leading light in the Muslim Brotherhood. The meeting is being held so that Luxor's many ex-pats can find out some up-to-date and correct information regarding visas. Where 12 month tourist visas have been routinely issued for many years, it transpires that many folk are now only being issued with 6 month visas, which is causing some concern for those who have invested heavily here (buying houses and the like). I don't suppose that the current or past regulations will remain unchanged once the new (presumably stricter) government finds its feet, but maybe this meeting, with one of the MB's leaders after all, might give us some indication of any future legislation, and which way they might implement it. Insh'Allah! 

I'll let you know what happens tonight. (That's if they don't lock me up as an undesirable!)


Search Keywords in December 2011

Just a few more phrases which the strange folk put into their search engines and end up looking at the Our Luxor Blog! How cheated must some of them feel?

beautiful girl smile handgun 31/12/2011

wood working drilling machine with information on Wikipedia 28/12/2011

i can't get my background picture to look right 26/12/2011

what is it like being a hitman 25/12/2011

meiter t.v sint 23/12/2011

sick after cleaning mattress with kirby vacuum 17/12/2011

michelle rounds  6/12/2011 (74 times)

coffee expedition Deborah 6/12/2011 

I think my favourite this month has to be "what is it like being a hitman?" Which is yours?

I think the best 'hitman' movie I've seen must be 'Leon (The Professional)'.starring Jean Reno (above) and a very young Natalie Portman. It's actually one of my favourite films.

The Two Ronnies.

Who amongst you doesn't remember this sketch?

We'll come back to it an a minute.

Yesterday was Wednesday, and as I'm sure you all know; it's the day when most of the flights from England come to Luxor. It's our habit to trip off down to the Etap, drink tea and coffee and watch the tourist buses go by and see the new guests into the hotel. Yesterday was a bit of a disappointment, both to us, and to the hotel! There weren't many buses, and neither were there many new guests for Ali to check-in, I think there were about 18 or 20 altogether. But never mind, all was not lost. When young Mr Gaber brought the bill; it was only 20.25LE instead of the 27le which we were expecting. Apparently they have 25% off all drinks! So that's a good bit of news if you're coming or are already here.

All drinks at a 25% discount at the El Luxor Hotel.

Our new wardrobe (well it's not so new anymore, I suppose) has no handles on the doors! We just open them by holding the keys. Lately, however, (Lady) Fareda has become dissatisfied with this arrangement, and has demanded proper handles.(Like dem rich folks!) Ever ready to oblige (aren't I just?) I took her to the handle shop on the way back from the Etap. It's just a kick in the bum away from our baker, where we were going anyway. We also had decided to lash out on two escutcheons for the keyholes in the guest wardrobe. Honestly, there's no stopping us once we start!
Of course, the man in the shop doesn't have a word of English. (OK you clever-Dick Arabic speaker; what's escutcheon in Arabic?) We wandered around his shop and finally found what we were after. The tiny door handles which Lady Bountiful chose were 15 pounds each!!!!! That's a day and a half's wage for many people here! But never mind, I was out to treat my wife, and nothing was too good or too extravagant for her! (Although I did manage to extract a small discount out of the shopkeeper.)
The point of this story isn't, as you might imagine, to show you what a generous and caring husband I am. No! It's to bring you a (poor again, I know) photograph of something that the Two Ronnies would have liked, as it would have enabled them to stretch out that sketch for a bit longer; it's a...............

Next to it is a spoon handle, there's also, believe it or not; a knife handle! I think it's about time the man cleaned out his window display, though, don't you?

Do you know what? I do believe that it's time for tea!

That Was the 'Forty Years' that Was!

Good evening and welcome, here today and gone tomorrow: our 40th wedding anniversary.

We celebrated in some style, even though we're poor! Started off with a lovely lunch, courtesy of the lovely Christine at Tutti Frutti, you've seen it before but it's worth looking at again:

Although Tutti Frutti is a spacious place, we could hardly get moved there today. I've never seen it so busy. I was pleased that we had actually booked our places! Today, I had the half and half dinner (beef and chicken together), I had also wanted some of her scrumptious apple pie for pudding, but was disappointed to find that they were sold out. Just my luck! We made do with a cup of tea and a natter, before tripping along to Arkwright's for some milk and bits and bobs.

At Freda's suggestion, we called at the Sonesta St George Hotel in order to further our culinary adventure! They had their A/C on so it was a bit chilly in there, as you can see from the pained expression!

After stuffing down the ample serving at Tutti Frutti, we could only manage to share this offering from the hotel's pastry chef:

We'd had a very pleasant afternoon, and with full tummies, we jumped on the first 'bus which came along. Horror of horrors! It had a bad infestation of flies, which we didn't notice until we were seated and on our way!

Every time the 'bus stopped to let people on or off, the flies had a bit of a dance around, bouncing off people's heads and things. It was disgusting! We decided though that it was better to stay on, rather than get off and hope for another 'bus to come along. We were pleased when we alighted in Mustafa Kamel Street! I complained to the driver, but realised that they were probably his pets.Never mind.

So, forty years, eh? I've been thinking how the women you love the most rule your life, don't they? I spent the first (almost) 20 years of my life being looked after and shaped in body and mind by my Mother, bless her. Then Freda has spent the last 40 years undoing mam's work as she moulded me for her own purposes!

It's no wonder they get on so well, when they've both had the same Plasticine to play with. I suppose that they've both done a reasonable job so far, in that I'm still alive and at their beck and call, lol.

(I opened my Christmas box of Hotel Chocolat Winter Cocktails tonight.They're truly delicious!)


As our 40th anniversary looms, I thought I'd share a little sad tale regarding the state of the institution in Luxor:

Earlier on this evening, we decided to have some tuna sandwiches for supper. We like a sandwich or two to munch on as we watch a dvd on the laptop some nights, especially during this cold weather. But we also like to share a packet of crisps with them; they go very well together. There had been an open packet left from before we left for England (14th Dec?), but Freda rashly threw them out, and we had no more. Being the ever-willing-to-please-husband that I am, I offered to venture out and find some while my cherished wife of 40 years prepared the sandwiches.

I came across two of my neighbours sitting in the street, in their top coats and with their arms huddled around themselves against the cold. They looked rather glum, to say the least! "Why don't you go home, where it's warm" said I (in all innocence). "Ah, Mister Edward, I've been married for nearly 25 years, and it's better to be out here in the cold than at home!" "Yes, that's true." interjected the other one.

I continued on to the shop, and was sad for these two good friends and their respective wives!   

Stevie Winwood

Do you remember this geezer?

  That great voice which made famous the name of the Spencer Davis Group in the mid-sixties? I well remember "Gimme some Lovin'" and "Keep on Running" with the heavy bass lines and Stevie's fabulous voice.
I was just getting into the 'Blues' and hadn't yet found English folk music. 

Another great hit from the Spencer Davis Group was "Somebody Help Me", and that's what prompted me this afternoon!

Somebody Help Me by telling me why Santa Claus habitually has a saxophone in his hands at the Steigenberger Nile Palace Hotel, every Christmas, in Luxor?????

Happy New Year for 2012.

Well, here we are in Windy Nook seeing in another New Year. There has been no Blog writing, as there's been nothing to write about which would be of interest to those of you who weren't intimately involved. Sorry!

I went downstairs to my Mam's at 00:05 this morning to be her 'first foot', carrying coal for the fire (now gas, of course) to guarantee the house warmth for the coming year, cash money, so that those who dwell there should never be without and the remnants of Christmas Eve's bottle of ginger wine, so that there would be good cheer for the coming year. It's her 87th birthday on January 10th, so I hope that the tokens which I took will really represent what happens for her in 2012. As usual, Freda and I feel very guilty in leaving her behind as we make our way back to Luxor to rejoin our 'fantasy life'. Although I do comfort myself with the knowledge that my sister and brother are here (and probably more capable of seeing to her needs) as well as our own brood, who I hope descend on her occasionally with her various great-grandchildren. But nothing's easy, is it?.

We don't miss very many material things while we are living our fantasy life in among the Pharaoh's descendants, but I cannot tell you the warm glow I experienced while making these two sandwiches: 

The right-hand side one still has the Cumberland pork sausages to go on! 

So it's mini stottie cakes with best butter, a smidgen of HP Fruity Sauce, large fried egg, two rashers of side bacon and two pork sausages, washed down with cups of steaming Ceylon tea. What more could any man ask for? (Don't answer that, this is a family Blog!!!!)

Carol Singing.
On Christmas Eve, we were a much reduced troupe of carol singers. We had a 16 seater mini-bus instead of our more usual 33 seater! Even this was bigger than we actually needed, as there were never more than 12 of us at any one point. With not singing regularly, my voice didn't start to really work until about 11:30, after we'd been struggling on for five and a half hours! By then we'd got rid of the hangers-on (no offence meant, but we always have a number, of mainly younger ones, whose main purpose in being there is to enjoy the experience, and who don't actually add very much to the quality of the singing, lol) and were singing really well. Little Brother Richard (he's not even 50 yet!) made some recordings, with the intention of putting something on 'YouTube', but that hasn't happened yet. Anyway, it was another absolutely fabulous time of joy and exhilaration, and by the time we finished at 01:30 on Christmas morning, we had managed to raise £434.60 for the charity 'Action For Children' (formerly The National Children's Homes). On our return to the Chapel, Brother-in-law Roy (whose back was too bad to allow him to be tramping the streets with us) had warmed the pies and boiled the kettle! This year we got the mince pies from the very famous 'Greggs the Bakers' for the first time. Along with some pease pudding, pickled onions and beetroot, they went down a treat. The reduced number of singers meant that there were enough of them to have two each!

I'm not sure how long the Windy Nook Methodists have been doing this, but I'm reliably informed that the only year they've missed since starting was 1947, when the snow was just too deep. I don't think that I've missed a year since I first went out 43 years ago. If and when I get the link for the YouTube vid, I'll post it on here somewhere, promise!

Away with the Old, and In with the New! 
Windy Nook 'Store' (the Co-op) at one time boasted the best 'dividend' in the area (it may have even been the best in the country, but I cannot remember for sure). My Mother's 'store number', which needed to be quoted and recorded at every purchase in order to ensure that her dividend was correctly apportioned, is still embedded in my memory after fifty odd years. But, with the poor idea of introducing dividend 'stamps' in the '60's, the whole venture slowly went downhill to the point of closure.

When I was a little boy, growing up just along the street from where we now live, there were a range of shopping opportunities here in the village. The big Co-op department store (spread over several streets and the scene of the gruesome murder of old John Patterson's father) was at the far end of the village, but they had a smaller 'branch' just along the street. To get to it we had to pass Oakley's corner shop, which was a small, family run, general dealer, and also (at the other end of the same block) Jack the Butcher's. Jack was Jack Nicholson, part of a large family of butchers who also had a wholesale business at the Felling (the next door village).The little 'store' was on the next corner, and on the corner beyond; was Mrs Nelson's little greengrocery and fruit shop. I can vividly remember her with her round spectacles and headsquare tied in a knot on top of her head, she always wore a 'pinny' as well. There was a small fireplace in the shop, where she would have the smallest imaginable fire of broken up tomato boxes burning in the tiny grate. What with the gas lamp and the fly papers hanging from the ceiling; it was like something out of a Charles Dickens novel!

In the opposite direction from our house, towards the 'big' store, there was the Windy Nook crossroads. Dotted about here was the fish and chip shop, the paper shop, Jim and Elsie Turnbull's Post Office, the barber and the second oldest building in the village still in use; the Black House Inn. In 1832 it was recorded as being called 'The Coal Wagon', but here it was still working (just, due to the smoking ban) when we were here in the summer.

You can imagine our surprise on coming home to find this:

And just behind, in the pub car park, this:

Most of the other shops are now defunct, being converted into house or flats. The complex which comprised all the differing departments of the old store has been gone for years, along with the houses which surrounded it and the old Primitive Methodist Chapel and school (fondly rememberd by my ex-pupil father-in-law as 'Windy Nook Acadium') which stood nearby. The colliery and grindstone quarries have all gone too, as has Windy Nook as a postal address. Now, we aren't even classed as a part of the Felling! No, now we are privileged to be 'Gateshead', or even Newcastle/Gateshead (spread over two counties, would you believe?). I, for one, choose NOT to believe it, and continue to write my address as Windy Nook, although computer things don't recognise it! It's just another maddening modernity trying to drive me to an early grave!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, even though there has been a bit of an objection (as usual where Tesco is involved) it is a very useful addition to the local facilities.

Two more days! 

Yes, two more days and then we will be setting off for Luxor once more. From what I've been reading on some of the forums and in some news reports; I'm wondering if it will be the same place when we get there! According to some, it's even more dangerous than before. Before when, I don't know. And, dangerous in what respect, I don't know either! 

I strongly suspect that we'll find it about as dangerous as Dorothy found the 'Wizard of Oz' was, when she and her travelling companions finally met him! lol

I hope we all have a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year in 2012. God bless.