A mixed bag of celebrations and sadness!

Sunday was Mothering Sunday, and our mate Kevin invited us to join him and the lovely Jean in celebration of that, and of our friendship, at the Winter Palace Hotel for 'Afternoon Tea'. Well; we didn't need to be asked twice, did we? They also had invited Jean's friend, from almost 20 years ago, Beryl. (Beryl spends half the year living here in Luxor.) 

It's always lovely at the Winter Palace, we do nearly all our celebrating there while we are in Luxor. Here's the motley crew:

The joy of the day was spoilt a bit because Kev has not been on top form while they've been here. In fact he's had to have the doctor out, as he's been really quite ill at times. The sadness was multiplied when they had to go back home to a cold and dreary England on Wednesday. God bless them both, and bring them back soon!
As you know, the Pope died on Saturday. Instead of the 'Lying in State' that we were expecting; they had him seated on his 'Papal Throne', in all his finery. I must say that he looked magnificent, but he reminded me of the gentlemen Peers in the House of Lords, when they are semi-reclined with their eyes closed! While the TV presenters celebrated his life of loving service to the Coptic Christians of Egypt and the World, I couldn't help but to be greatly saddened by the unseemly spectacle of people (including fellow monks)  pushing and shoving in order to get close enough to touch his coffin!

Another case of joy turned to sadness was our two Scotchie friends, who have been here for the past fortnight, also going home on Wednesday. They stayed at the El Mesala Hotel, over on the Side of the Dead. We went out with them on WitcHazel's felucca on Tuesday afternoon. It was splendid, just floating along, chatting and drinking. The wind was just enough to keep us moving along nicely. We had a quite unexpected shock, though, while we were enjoying the tranquillity of being 'under sail':   

No; your eyes aren't deceiving you, it definitely is one of those infernal 'jet-ski' things!

I was (almost) dumbstruck, but WitcHazel told us that it had been there for quiet a long time, and that there was only the one, thank heaven. When we had left them, (with one almost on the verge of tears, the big daft Jessie!) we went off to do some shopping up TV Street. The 'bus was a bit busy, so I nipped into the front seat next to the driver, while Freda squeezed onto a seat in the back with some women. I was rather surprised with the view out of the windscreen:

Somehow, I think Her Majesty's Traffic Commissioners might have had something to say to a PSV driver in England who was displaying similar decorations, what do you reckon?

Another celebration this week, is the wedding anniversary of my dear sister and brother-in-law, it must be 41 years for them! But that is also tinged with a great sadness; six days into their honeymoon our father took another heart attack and died. I think I'm right in saying that it was his thirteenth in seven years. 

The final (I hope) celebration which brought about a very real touch of sadness (but for a slightly less serious reason, perhaps) this week, was the sixth birthday of our youngest granddaughter Isabella Grace. Here she is, still in her nightie, but determined to try out her new roller blades! 

These are the times when we can get homesick, only for family, mind. Couldn't you just eat her?


Not the German bloke who lives in Rome! I'm talking about the REAL Pope; Shenouda the 3rd. I cannot claim to have known him, but I have been close enough to touch him, if I had felt the urge, which I didn't. We saw him at the consecration of the new Coptic Church, just up our street (I'm almost sure that I Blogged it at the time?)

I'm not au fait with their ceremonies and practices, and might well be quite uncomfortable with them if I were! But the Pope himself came across as a lovely man, very 'grandad like'. He is known as Baba Shenouda to his flock. I suppose it's the same as the Catholics calling their priests 'father', except that they seem to REALLY love this bloke! The Coptic Christians will be in mourning for quite sometime I imagine. The bell (which I have not heard before) has now been tolling for two hours! We all know the phrase "Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee!" But this is the first time that I can remember hearing a bell toll for anyone. Perhaps they 'tolled the bell' for old Winston Churchill, but I don't remember. Even if I did, it would only be the recording on the TV or wireless, anyway. This is completely different, when I'm actually here, it seems so serious and solemn! I haven't heard the Mosques yet, could it possibly be that the Muslims are allowing the toll of the bell to be the only loud sound, as a mark of respect? 

This is one of the pictures I took of him, with my phone, actually inside the new church. The quality is absolute rubbish (it's only 3.58kb), but it's the best one I have! Even though he was very small, his 'presence' was very imposing. He definitely had that 'star quality'. He's been the Pope for forty years, and I've no idea about how they go about appointing a replacement.

As Christians, we know that "All things work together for good, for those who love God". Perhaps this sad death of a well loved Patriarch might be the beginning of a new era for Christianity in Egypt? Let's all hope so, and pray for those who will be in leadership positions within the Coptic communities. God bless them!  

Carleton Brown of the F.O./Carleton College of Minnesota.

I don't suppose that our Vice Consul Mr Hulbert would ever be as ineffective as the famed "Carleton Brown of the F.O.". The character played by the incomparable Terry Thomas wouldn't last ten minutes in the real world of diplomacy, I should think. Nevertheless, I cannot help but feel that Her Majesty's representatives aren't really good value for money!

At the Consular meeting last evening , which was held at the Gaddis Hotel, Mr Hulbert did explain to us that the Egyptian Government had forbidden its citizens to any longer hold the position of  "Honorary Consul" for any foreign nation.. Therefore Mr Ehab Gaddis would no longer be the Honorary British Consul for Luxor.

Were we on our own, then? Not quite, apparently.Mt Gaddis would still do whatever he was allowed to in order to assist British subjects in Luxor, but there are a range of Consular services which are now out of his remit; such as issuing emergency travel documents etc. and this sort of problem would have to be dealt with by the Consular staff in Cairo, for the foreseeable future.

Never mind, the other reason for calling the meeting was to discuss what we could do in the event of an emergency, i.e. how could we make sure that important information was disseminated among the British if the normal means of communication were inoperative, for any reason? This matter had been discussed previously, and this time volunteers were asked for; to become "Wardens", whose responsibility would be to pass on the information to a certain number of particular people, and also to report any "relevant happenings", here on the ground, to the Embassy staff in Cairo. They were looking for people with landline telephones, so we weren't any use, as normal there then!

The meeting was very well attended, and there were lots of folk whom I'd never seen before. The present lines of communication (or seeming lack of them) were being discussed by some women at the front, who were obviously not happy with the responses that they were (or not) getting to queries sent to the Embassy. I was saddened to hear Mt Hulbert come up with the line, "We are allowed 20 days to respond".

Then, when the discussion turned to the couple who were locked up for supposedly trying to smuggle antiquities, he assured us that the Embassy would write to the Egyptian Authorities within 24 hours of being informed of such an arrest, and the Egyptians had 10 days to respond!

20 days?10 days? That's the sort of response we expect from MFI, or an estate agent! It's no blinkin use Her Majesty's representative spouting that sort of worthless rubbish, when you're innocent and starving in an Egyptian cell.

Carleton College.

I like to welcome visitors to Luxor, so I often wave at passing coaches, and "Pasha runs" (you know; the convoys of caleches, which cause so much of our traffic mayhem!), much to Freda's embarrassment! We were crossing Sharia Karnak at teatime, and there was a coach pulling around the corner with a small banner in the windscreen, reading "Carleton College" the people looked quite nice, so I gave them a welcoming wave.To my delight; about ten of them waved back! I don't know what they thought of this strange, non-Egyptian type, waving at them; perhaps they assumed that Freda was my carer?

We often go into the Etap via the back door. Tonight, we came across a giant's club, just lying there! A nasty great thing with sharp bits sticking out that would really hurt:

Does anyone know the Arabic for "Fi Fy Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman" Just in case, I don't want to hear an Egyptian giant's voice, and not know that he's coming for me!!!!! Maybe I should report it to the Vice Consul?

Anyway, we were on our way to the Etap, for our usual "Wahed tea wah wahed Nescafe" (One tea and one Nescafe, in case you hadn't figured it out)  It's no use asking for chai, as they wouldn't bring any laban (milk). As we were sitting, I was astonished to see that a Triffid was devouring a palm tree, not six feet away! 

We watched "The Cinder Path" tonight. It's a Catherine Cookson, and one of the stars was Georgina Hale, whom we often see knocking about here in Luxor. Small world, eh?

Perfect Day (?)

No, not the song by what's his name. Anyway, I suppose it hasn't actually been a 'perfect' day, really! But all that we set out to accomplish; we did, so it's been an 'OK Day'.Well, not quite as we had planned, it would be fair to say. The boxes were supposed to be shifted by one of our neighbours and his two sons, in one of those little three wheeled motor bike trucks, which didn't turn up. He eventually stopped an empty service bus, and persuaded the driver to take them as a 'private' for 20 quid. But, somehow (?), that meant me going with the 'bus and one son to the hotel and sorting out the hotel porters etc. It was OK though, the job got done!

All four of our friends arrived safely, which has to be a big plus point. The other lot; we had arranged to collect from the airport and see them into their hotel on the 'Side of the Dead'. It's the first time they've stayed on that side, and we wanted to make sure that they were OK. On the way to the airport, we saw our first benzine queue. In the first pic, you can see how long the queue is as the garage is also in the picture, in the right of the windscreen.

I snapped this last one as we drove past the filling station, sorry about the sun!

Freda is sitting here saying "That's dreadful!" but it's all I've got to show you some of the confusion at the pumps; the two vehicles in the foreground have entered the forecourt from the wrong end, in an attempt to jump the queue. Something tells me there'll be tears before bedtime!

Never mind, our driver (Uncle Naggar) had plenty of fuel to get us there and back. When we got over to the West Bank, we found even worse congestion around the filling station near the checkpoint, it was horrendous! Even though Uncle Naggar hails from the West Bank; he didn't know the Mesala Hotel and I had to direct him, luckily for us it's very easy to find, lol. 

We met WitchHazel at the Mesala Hotel, which is just to the south of the ferry landing, and sat on the roof there while our friends checked in etc. It's a nice roof, with what must be the best view of the East Bank available.
I took several photos, but only two came out OK:

This next one is just a zoom-in shot of the Old Winter Palace, because I like it!

 We sat gassing for absolutely ages, until it became clear that we were going to have to dine at this new (untried) place. In fairness, WitchHazel knows the people there, so while it was new to us, at least we had a good recommendation! I've got to say that the meals Freda and I had (Shish Tawook) were easily the best Egyptian meals we've had on the West Bank, really lovely! Our friends said the same, and they've had many more West Bank meals than us two. So that's a new eatery to add to my list. (With views to die for!)

I'll have to get around to my other favourites as well, so that I can take some pics of the food and do some little reviews for you all. I'm sure that you've noticed a lack of food pictures on this post? Well, I cannot tell a lie (without crossing my fingers, that is) I was too interested in getting stuck into it............again! Sorry.

Just to finish off; Freda is complaining that she feels unwell because she's eaten far too much, all the places we usually frequent know that we always share one meal between us. (Us being so svelte.)

If they think they're going to drive me crazy: they're a bit too late!

I'm writing this when I probably shouldn't be! "Why not?" I hear you ask, Dear Reader. Because I'm blinkin annoyed! That's why. Let me tell you the story.

Last year, we had a couple who wanted to come to Luxor and see the sights and experience the culture, so they had enquired at several hotels about prices and availability etc. They had a major problem, however. The gentleman suffers from malfunctioning kidneys, and needs dialysis every day. This meant that he needed to have his dialysis fluids delivered to his lodgings by the time he arrived. As you can imagine, this is pretty important to him, as he'd probably die without this treatment. None of the hotels he tried would entertain taking in his supplies!

This turned out to be good news, however, for yours truly! It was no problem for us to receive and store his fluids for his arrival. In doing so, we ended up having two lovely guests who became friends also.Now, they are both 'getting on' a bit, and thought that our stairs might be a touch too much for them this year. So I think it was with a bit of embarrassment that they contacted us again this year, with a request to again help out with the fluids, even though they were going to stay in an hotel! The daft hapeths!

Last year, the boxes were delivered by a firm called (I think) 'Middle East Courier Services'. They were no trouble. Three men turned up in a van and just humped the boxes up the stairs, they got a 20LE tip and a drink of tea for their troubles, and were very grateful. This year, it was an entirely different matter. It could even be termed a Saga!

The couriers were a crowd trading under the name of 'Rapido'. When they rang, the person on the phone could barely speak English (and I can hardly speak Arabic, so I cannot really grumble much about that!) but I thought he suggested that I might collect the boxes? No no, they had to be delivered! The delivery was eventually arranged for 10:30pm last night (Saturday). When the driver rang for directions; I went downstairs and gave the phone to our friend Abdullah, who soon put the man right. He landed within a few minutes.

Then the trouble started! The stupid man expected me to carry the boxes up the stairs!!!! You can see the picture, can't you? That's right: 21 boxes containing 240litres of liquid Glucose. It amounts to some weight, I can tell you. I tried to be calm and polite as I impressed upon Abdullah that I didn't really want to find (and pay) anyone else to carry it up the stairs, as it was the delivery man's job, for which he was already being paid!! I eventually told him that if he wouldn't deliver it to my apartment; he would have to take it away. He then wanted me to sign a form saying that I refused delivery, the cheek of the man! After calming down a bit, I sent off an email to our friend.

This morning, I decided to telephone the Egyptian company which supplies this fluid, and complain about their carrier's service, hoping that they would be able to bring some pressure to bear on the carrier to do his job properly. The lady on the other end of the phone was most helpful, and apologetic too.When she spoke to the carriers on the phone, they told her that the stuff had been delivered, and that they had carried it up the stairs! Of course, I told her differently, and she wasn't very pleased! She eventually rang back to tell me that they would deliver in 1 hour, and carry the boxes up the stairs. Hallelujah!

In the event, I carried up the first box; 10 litres, and that was enough for me! I left one of the delivery men bringing up the rest, the other one (who wouldn't have it last night) was just sitting in the van! I went to fetch a 20LE note to give him as a tip.When I got back, here were two young boys humping boxes up the stairs! I recognised them as friends of Adam's sons, so he had to be involved. When I found him, I didn't get a word out of my mouth before he had said that I should pay the two boys the 20LE between them."But I didn't want them!" I was rather annoyed by now, as you can imagine."No no" says he,"the man told me he needed two porters, because he couldn't carry all that himself." So I still ended up paying someone else to do the work which the carriers men were already being paid to do. I'm still hopping mad about it now, over 12 hours later!

Anyway, when I came to sign the delivery forms (obviously, in Arabic) the man asked me for 20LE, "What for?" It turned out that he had been instructed to collect the 20LE to cover the cost of the return jouney after they failed to deliver the first time, cheeky devils! I rang the lady in Cairo, while he was still there, and asked her to speak to him. In the meantime; he spoke to his boss, on his phone, who decided that they should waive the second delivery charge. So the lady wasn't required, thankfully.

The moral of the story is; don't EVER use this bunch of clowns for a delivery, impress the name upon your memory "RAPIDO". I would, however, fully endorse the "Middle East Courier Services", as they were great.

All I need to do now is to make arrangemnets to get this stuff along to the hotel on Wednesday afternoon. Wish me luck, won't you?

E =mc2

Well, it's still fereeeezing here! So much so, that I had to get the two zippy-up storage bags down from on top of the wardrobe, so that we could retrieve our winter coats! Honestly, I've never known a winter like it in all the years in which we've been associated with Luxor. It didn't get above 19 degrees c again today.

We ventured out to the Nile Palace, in the hope of benefiting from their heat, what a nerve, eh? Never mind, it was worth it just for the quality of the tourist watching! I'm sure that the clever-Dicks among you will recognise the title of this post as being the work of one Albert Einstein? (Actually, I used to regularly pass a pub named the "E=mc2" when on railway work, on the way to Preston station.) Then, I suppose that you all think that he died on the day before my birthday in 1955?


Well; YOU'RE WRONG!!!!! We saw him tonight! He's alive and well, and holidaying at the Steigenberger Nile Palace Hotel in Luxor! Granted, he's tried to disguise himself a bit, you know the sort of thing; cargo pants and trainers (things that you wouldn't dream of wearing in real life). I should think that the lady with him is his wife, and as such actually chooses his clothes and tells him what to wear. I have noticed, a time or two, that some wives seem to take the occasion of a holiday as an opportunity to thoroughly humiliate their husbands by making them wear the most ridiculous outfits (or combinations) imaginable!

I can just imagine them when they are out shopping..........."That will do for our George's holiday in Egypt, I'll just tell him that the luminous pink and blue trainers and canary yellow cut-off cargoes are all the rage among the Egyptians, and they'll go lovely with the Hard Rock Cafe tee shirt I got him in Sri Lanka when he had hair and his waist was 34 inches.. I'm sure it will stretch a bit to cover his XXL belly! He'll never know the difference for £7.50!" Poor George. His beetroot coloured face and peeling scalp add a nice touch of extra, natural, colour to his ensemble.

We saw Chico (Marx) again tonight as well, here he is as you might remember him, on the left in the film "Duck Soup". (Thanks to Paramount Pictures for the photo.)


(You know; I've mentioned him before, when he chucked making movies he somehow wangled a cracking supervisory job at the NP.) Tonight, he was wandering around with a projector of some sort, and a couple of minions running around after him with bundles of wire. We think he must have been going to show one of the old films he made with his brothers, but we couldn't be bothered to wait to find out!

I think it's probably time to get my fleece on for bed! It was down to 9 degrees last night....brrrrrrrr.