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!