Little up-date.

Well, that's another one over and gone! Our second Christmas dinner was consumed at tea-time today, only enough turkey left out for sandwiches and the rest shoved in the freezer till required. Their wasn't much left in the way of vegetables, they were delicious! Anyway, I suppose that's the same for the vast majority of you, Dear Readers, so there's not much point in prolonging that line of thought, is there?

What I'm really here to tell you about is the Carol Singing on Christmas Eve. As I said, we managed to get a mini-bus from Mr Kingsley; here it is outside the Chapel before we set off:

Number One Son got a much better picture with his flashy smartphone, but you'll have to make do with mine!  He also had to do all the driving, as I let my PSV licence lapse, along with my HGV, when I turned 60.

It was raining quite steadily when we started, and it got heavier as we soldiered on. Then it turned to sleet, which was driven at us by a wicked wind for a while. But hey-ho, that's life I suppose.

Probably as a result of the bad weather, we didn't have any children to cope with, which was also probably a good thing, really. Although there weren't very many of us, we were all reasonable singers, and being adult, we weren't wasting time by clarting-on (Colloquialism: Clarting-on = messing about and generally being a nuisance to the others) while getting on and off the 'bus. We started off three ladies and six men, and were later joined by a lad from Eighton Banks with a lovely tenor voice (after he'd finished work) and a younger girl. We sang quite well, even if I say so myself.

Here they are (I'm taking the picture) singing for a local doctor, who with his wife
used to be part of our merry band of singers, but that was probably the thick end of forty years ago, how time flies!

The weather eased a lot, and while it was still bitterly cold, at least the rain abated. Which was just as well, as, when two of the ladies and one of the men had to leave at about 11 o'clock, we were joined by my two daughters and my 7 year old granddaughter! Little Isabella (being a Girls Brigade Explorer) was quite an asset voice-wise, and she also took charge of the collecting tin. (Her 'cuteness' might have accounted for an extra few bob!) At the same time my brother-in-law went back to the Chapel to put the mince pies in the oven and make the tea etc for our return when we'd finished.

We actually finished our last carol (O Holy Night) bang on 12 o'clock midnight, and then dashed back to the Chapel where the hot pies (and pease pudding and beetroot and pickled onions and sweet mince pies etc) were ready for devouring!

Uncle Roy counted the night's cash takings, which amounted to £424. We were quite pleased with that! I don't know yet what the final amount will be that is passed on to "Action For Children", as there were several 'telephone' customers in far-away places who hadn't yet paid when I last heard, and the collection from our annual Monday evening Community Carol Service (somewhere around £150) is also to be added on. Hopefully, the final figure will be pushing £600, which I know isn't a fortune, but I wouldn't like it on the end of my nose for a wart!!!!

So there it is, children, a story of every-day simple folk starting their celebration
on the night before their Saviour's birth. Thanks for joining us, I expect I'll be in touch after the New Year begins, tarra!

So here it is; Merry Christmas!

Those of you who live in Britain will, no doubt, be sick and tired of hearing this old number one hit from the pop group Slade. But I read somewhere the other day that Noddy Holder had made half a million quid in royalties from it this year alone, so I'm sure he's not complaining, haha!

Actually, I've always enjoyed listening to it, as it really does give the impression that everybody is actually "having fun", don't you think?

Anyway, here in the Nook, we're preparing for this evening's carol singing. (And praying that it won't rain.) It's just been blowing a blizzard as I was looking out of the kitchen window while washing the dishes, but we'd rather have snow than rain. Also, we are hoping that the wind will drop, as it tends to carry our voices away, no matter how hard we try!

Number One Son and I procured a mini-bus from the kindly Mr Dave Kingsley of Kingsley's Coaches of Washington, this morning, so we're OK for transport. Dave's even donating the diesel to our beneficiaries; Action For Children (formerly The National Children's Home) for whom we've collected at Christmastime for over 100 years.

Freda seems to have just about everything in hand for tomorrow, we've got 12 for Christmas dinner (so far, that is) and neither enough seats nor table space to accommodate them all at one sitting, I'm sure that we'll manage though, we always do!

We've managed to catch up with several people this holiday whom we haven't seen for ages. I was particularly pleased to see an old friend from Kibblesworth, whom I haven't actually seen since we moved to Luxor, I think. He's currently vying for the role his father had before him; that of Number One Baby Eating Ogre! It was great to spend an hour or so reminiscing and hearing the local coach industry gossip, thanks Andre.

Well, that's just about it from me today. Although I will just throw out this invitation: If you're sober, like to sing, are within travelling distance of Windy Nook, and don't mind singing whilst you're freezing cold and possibly wet; then you'd be made welcome there tonight. We gather at Windy Nook Methodist Church, on Stone Street at 6pm sharp and will be on the road by 6:15, hopefully returning by about 1 o'clock. Be there, or be square!

Merry Christmas everyone, and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. God bless us all. (And don't forget the poor embattled Egyptians, eh?)

The wind in Windy Nook and the son in the Sausage Emporium.

What a dreadful day, we were all awakened by the wind this morning at around 04:30. The noise of the wind wouldn't usually have much effect on us sleeping beauties but this morning it was deafening as it came in its blustery blasts. I have to admit that the weather forecast had told us to expect winds that would gust up to 90 mph, driving heavy rain before them, but we hadn't heard a wind sound so vicious before.

The three of us (Benjamin, Freda and myself) were at varying stages of consuming our respective breakfasts while the "Breakfast" programme was playing merrily away to itself on the BBC. All of a sudden, through the snap crackle and pop and other more general breakfasting sounds, I heard the words "Windy Nook" come from the mouth of one of the presenters. You  could have knocked me down with a feather as I looked up to see this:

Windy Nook on national television! Another claim to fame, to go along with the worlds biggest grindstone being quarried here at Kell's Quarry before being sent off to Moscow, and William Booth once having been the minister at our New Connexion Methodist Chapel before being chased away to form the Salvation Army! The piece carried on to an interview held in the local lady's hairdressing shop, just a stones throw from the Jennings' bijou residence where our stone-built crescent meets Windy Nook Road at the cross-roads. What tickled me slightly was that the hairdressing lady was cutting a man's hair at 7:15 in the morning, not only that, but her assistant was doing something with a young girl's hair too! Strange, or what?

Anyway, Windy Nook certainly lived up to its name this morning!

I had been toying with the idea of writing something on here, just to let you, Dear Reader, know that I'm still alive and kicking. But, I've nothing exciting to write about; no revolutions or demonstrations here, no hoards of tourists being subjected to every scam known to man, and definitely no sweltering sunshine or burnt shoulders to complain about!!!! I feel embarrassed to keep rabbiting on about the different tea shops which we are frequenting, or the lists of DIY jobs which Freda keeps compiling to keep me out of mischief, or yet the jobs for which she's arranged various tradesmen.

Nevertheless, you've heard me extolling the virtues of "John the Butcher" haven't you? Well, how about "Young" John the Butcher? This is the younger son of the father, who's black pudding is addictive. He disappeared from the shop a good while ago, much to his father's consternation as he was due to go away on holiday and hoped to leave the young'n in charge. John (senior) did tell me that he had left to start a restaurant in Newcastle, on Westgate Road. No doubt "Senior" has been doing all he can to help, as well.'s now up and running, and Number One Son has been there today! He was very impressed, and brought a menu leaflet home with him:

The name is a bit misleading as he does a lot more than just sausages.

From oysters with raspberry vinaigrette to black cherry crumble cake, and chocolate melt-in-the-middle soufflé to buttered leek and fennel tartlet, it sounds like a lot of fun to me.

Tell you what; if any you get the opportunity to try it before I do, you can let us all on here know what it was like. How's that?

If anything interesting or important transpires, I'll let you all know. Just pop in now and then, and there'll be something new and relevant eventually. Merry Christmas!

Domestic drudgery in Egypt and an 'Incredible Journey'

They're two easily connected subjects, aren't they?

Domestic Drudgery.

Many Western women who visit Egypt are horrified at the seeming plight of many of the Egyptian women whom they come across. Older women are invariably emaciated, with cadaverous looking faces! The younger ones don't necessarily fare much better, except when they're getting married off. Then, they're fattened-up, like the prized cow!

You'd be amazed at some of the many wedding videos which I've had to endure over the years. There they sit; the groom in his hired suit and this big plump girl wearing a 'meringue'. Trouble is, she bears no resemblance to the skinny young bint who's just given me a glass of tea, as she's been back on normal rations for a twelve-month!

Girls are brought up to realise that their place is to be the property of either their dad or their husband, therefore (although you'll see many women in the streets and markets) a large proportion of them see their lives as one where they need not interact whom they don't want to, so they needn't really leave the house. They can live in seclusion, only having to trouble themselves with their immediate families and female friends, and one or two male relatives. Wearing the niqab (where only the eyes are visible) is really just an extension of this practice for many women, a natural progression, if you like?

By and large, what (to an outsider) might look like a life of subjection and confinement can also feel like a natural and straightforward progression from girlhood into being a wife and mother, just like the generations which have gone before!

Perhaps everyday kitchen implements, like these, might strengthen those generational connections, as they obviously haven't changed for a very long time:

How about those for food processors? I believe that they're mainly used for grinding okra. Or how about this which little Mustapha is holding; it's a new rolling pin for his mam. I have to admit that it resembles a pin much more than the one which Freda has, or the one my mam used when we were young, lol.

Culture and the preconceived ideas and opinions which come along with yours or mine don't necessarily help us to understand one another, do they?

The Incredible Journey!

Well, here we are, back in Windy Nook once again. We had been a bit concerned about the flights having to go via Cairo to Manchester, mainly because of the
possibility of the checked-in luggage not making it from the domestic flight to the international one. We've read a number of complaints on the internet where the luggage wasn't transferred because of the short time between flights. In the event, everything went smoothly, and the flights were champion. (Colloquialism: champion = OK, very good, or even thank you.) I even ate all the meal, which was chicken and veg with RICE, instead of my usual preference of potatoes,  to the point that I even tried a piece of Freda's beef on top! 

We sailed through Cairo Airport with plenty of time to spare, and by the time we were approaching Manchester, we realised that the pilot had shaved at least a half hour off the flight time. But our run of good fortune could not continue forever, could it?

I had hoped that we might be able to change our train to the earlier one, about 2pm 
instead of almost 4 o'clock, but we weren't able to, partly because our journey consisted of three separate trains! Never mind though, we waited in the cafeteria come waitingroom until it was time. Freda couldn't book the seats on the first train, as it was only going as far as Manchester Piccadilly, but on the other two we had pre-booked seats, that was fine!

The platform at Manchester Piccadilly seemed to be an afterthought built onto the outside of the main station,  very queer! Eventually, our train arrived at the next platform along from where we were waiting, and by he time we got to the entrance; it was packed like a tin of sardines! Look at this:

No kidding; it was almost as bad as that! When we finally managed to get aboard, and eject the two blokes form our booked seats, I had to sit with a full sized suitcase on the table in front of me, while the bloke opposite was trying to work on his laptop. It was Bedlam!

Swearing never to take the 'changing trains' option again, we soldiered on to the next change-over, at York. We were late getting in, due to the staff not pushing hard enough to get the passengers squeezed in at the other stations, I presume, we were dashing to make our connection. Now, which platform??? 

By some miracle, Freda found a station employee who directed us to platform 10, just a few yards away from platform 9 where we were, but also told us that all Northbound trains were delayed because of a trespasser on the track near Durham City! There was a train already standing there, with Aberdeen on the front which meant that it would be travelling via Newcastle. Obviously, I asked the conductor if we could go with him,  but he refused, wrong train operating company!!!

Someone else informed us, that due to the delayed trains backing up, our train would now leave from platform 11, and that we would have to take the lift (elevator, for our friends across 'The Pond') which would take us down a level to the undertrack walkway, so that we could get from platform 9 to platform 11, with our numerous bags and cases. We did that, and found another train there, with Newcastle on the front, yippee! After finding carriage 'C', we squeezed on board, managing to stow our baggage here and there, only to find that our seats were again taken by someone else. Sadly, the printed booking notices indicated that they'd been booked from Birmingham to Newcastle, so something was amiss!

On miraculously finding another railway employee, we were told that this was actually the wrong train, and that ours would arrive on platform 9. You can imagine how we were beginning to feel, so when we found a Chinese woman and her two loud children in our seats; we just left them to it and sat in two other (unbooked) seats for the rest of the journey. I was as 'pleased as Punch' when we crossed the Tyne into Newcastle via the King Edward Bridge, I can tell you!

New to Luxor; or just new to your reporter?

We haven't been to the Winter Palace for a while, maybe because of the 100le cover charge? Never mind, we were there this afternoon, along with the Quad-Bike Queen, enjoying our tea and Nescafe when all of a sudden some dramatic music piped up!

It reminded me of the beginning of the intro to the Nile Palace entertainment, which used to be on every night (when there were tourists to entertain, remember?) but it wasn't the same piece. Nevertheless, it was obviously an introduction to something, but what?

Ahaaa! I caught sight of these be-costumed folk on the main stairs:

Then, they processed down the staircase, when (being the master cameraman that I surely am) I switched over to 'movie' mode, and got this hopelessly lit sequence for you: 

Wait, it gets better! (The camerawork, that is.) The whole thing would be called (if it had a name) "The Ceremony of The Lighting of the Candles", because that was what it was! The four ladies circumnambulated the central table, the one with either the flower display on it or the black statue of of the cross-legged scribe, Senmut (?) and then they and the one gentleman traipsed all around the room lighting the candles, thus:

The girl did stand still, for a moment, but her moment wasn't quite long enough for me to get myself properly into gear. Sorry! A day late and a dollar short, as per usual!!! (But I do try.)

It wasn't a startlingly wonderful display or anything, but it was something new and a bit different to look out for if you're ever at the Winter Palace around sundown; they did it at 5:30pm today.

Yes, well................

Yes, well what? Nothing really, well as far as the bigger picture goes, that is. But when you're living in would think that all our birthdays had come at once!!

It all started about 5 or 6 years ago, when we found a dirty and dishevelled English girl planted on the sofa in our friends travel office on the Corniche. Well, I say 'girl' but she was more of a woman, really. The 'girl' bit was more of a description of how she was acting. She was actually so thrilled by her experience of quad-biking on the West Bank that she couldn't stop raving about it! This was our introduction to the 'Quad-Bike Queen', a girl who would become a dear friend whom we've cherished ever since.

We were so taken by her enthusiastic manner that we invited her to take tea with us at the Nile Palace, and we were so glad that she accepted. We stopped off at the St Joseph's so that she could get cleaned up a bit before heading off to the posher surroundings. She'd actually been coming to Luxor for over 10 years, always staying at St Joe's, and she'd never even had a nosey around the other hotels, preferring to just lounge around the St Joe's; reading, relaxing and dipping in the pool occasionally. We soon changed that by introducing her to all the lovely spots where the 'special offer teas' can regularly be found!

She stayed with us at 'Our Luxor' the next time she came, but was spending nearly all of almost every day with the quad-biking gang over on the West Bank; she just loves bouncing and bumping over the wild desert terrain! Of course, it eventually dawned on us all that it would be more convenient for her to stay over there, on the 'Side of the Dead', than her travelling back and forth on the ferry every day. So she has spent her subsequent twice yearly visits (apart from the odd night or two at our place) staying in a flat arranged by her mates from the quad-biking garage. Mind you, she always visits us and brings us home-made goodies; like her mother's ginger biscuits for yours truly!

Anyway, she arrived in Luxor two days ago, and we arranged to meet her off the ferry today, for a day with us, here on the 'Side of the Living'. It was lovely to see her again. Back at 'Our Luxor', I made the tea while Freda and the Q-B Queen caught up with family news and a little gossip. Shortly before lunch out came her bag of goodies.......home-made biscuits, mmm, Jelly Babies for Freda, a very stodgy ginger cake made by her own fair hand (we'd better hide that, as we have a different friend calling for lunch tomorrow!) a magazine and a Daily Telegraph, champion! But then! But then!

That's correct, Dear Reader, four individual pork and pickle pies!!!!! Branston Pickle, at that! Now, we're not really great big fans of pork, and apart from a few of John the Butcher's pork sausages and some of Tesco's smoked side bacon, we don't have it very often. Freda occasionally buys small pork (and something) pies from Fenwick's of Newcastle, but that's only now and then. Never mind, these had been frozen until today, and seeing as the giver is a veggie, we saved them in our fridge until tonight.

Here we are getting ready to watch another episode of Spooks, and ravenous to get stuck into our Luxor rarity! A little cheddar cheese from the Forty market (nicely creamy) and one or two spiced cheese crisps, just to set the pies off:

Honestly, they went down a treat with a nice cup of tea, the second cup of tea was nicely complimented by a slightly over-large slice of the heavy ginger cake, just to complete the job!

I'm constantly amazed by people's kindnesses. And not only to us, I know of several people who are sending money over to help Egyptians who are in dire straits, and just trusting that it gets to the right people. It warms my heart!

A Feast or a Famine? (On the Eid El Adha.)

Hi folks, here we are again on the Feast of Sacrifice. When Egypt celebrates Abraham's obedience to God in offering his son as a burnt offering, only the Muslims believe that it was Hagar's son Ishmael, whereas everyone else believes that it was Sarah's son Isaac! Never mind, it's only one of the many fundamental differences between Islam and the other Abrahamic faiths. By the way, did you know that Sarah was a Luxor lass? Neither did I until a man from the West Bank told me, mind you, he was also adamant that Egypt had won the Six Day War against Israel!

Egyptians; they're a queer lot at the bottom of them!

I purposely didn't take any bloodthirsty pictures of slaughtered animals this year. As we strolled around this afternoon, we had to side-step quite a few puddles of blood mixed with water where the streets had been 'cleaned' after the butchers had done their business. (The thought of getting John the Butcher's black pudding recipe for next year, did cross my mind, but it might not go down too well here, eh Dear Reader?)

I keep reading, here and there, that there are no tourists in Luxor. But that's not actually true! There aren't many, admittedly, but there are a few; we see them every day. There certainly aren't enough to keep tourist businesses viable, and ere's a shot of the Savoy Market, just to illustrate the point:

Of the 90 or so units spread over three floors, there are only about six shops open for business. Those of you who know this bazaar will know just how busy it can be during normal working, as people use it as a short-cut to the Corniche!

I'm amazed at people here! We all know that tourism has been the life-blood of Luxor for a great many years, even those who never see a tourist rely on those who deal directly with them for the livelihood. Most of the money coming into the city has been tourist money for probably over a hundred years. And, I see people in desperate straits every day. Yet........many act as though nothing is wrong at all, as if they have no desire for well-paid employment!

Those of you who know Our Luxor, will recognise this dodgy wrought ironwork as the boundary where 'Our Luxor' starts and 'Their Luxor' ends! It's where beyond which, the 'Thousand and One Nights' experience awaits our guests, combined of course with the many much needed Western necessities!

The flat below, on the same landing as this metal gate, is now the clinic of Dr Ashraf. He's a dentist, and I've been to him for a filling. I was most impressed with all the brand-new equipment as well as his kindly manner and reasonable charges. But some of his patients are typical Egyptians!

"What does that mean?" I hear you ask. I don't want to appear racist, or anything like that, however, the typical Luxor Egyptian drops or throws his/her rubbish or litter wherever they happen to be at any given moment. Which means that some of it (fag packets used tissues etc) ends up on our side of the wrought iron! Dr Ashraf's assistant (no, he's not another Igor) is quite conscientious regarding keeping the stairs and landing clean, but obviously, he cannot clean on our side of the ironwork, so we had to come up with a 'cunning plan'.

It eventually became clear that the best solution to the problem (whilst also reducing the possibility of being disturbed by any noise from the lower floors) was to replace the triangle of ironwork with a brick wall, and having the remaining ironwork fitted with Georgian Wired Glass. Ideal!

Seeing as Coffeeshop Adam has had some brickwork done recently, I thought I'd ask him for an introduction to his builder-man.

Adam brought the man, and explained exactly what we wanted doing, and that we wanted it doing on a Sunday (when Dr Ashraf was closed, him being Coptic Christian). It was all arranged, the price was a bit on the high side, but hey-ho, we'd bite the bullet! I got cracking on Saturday, I didn't expect a brick-layer to have an angle grinder to cut through the welds on the ironwork, so just I did it and
left one cut to make on the Sunday morning before he would land at 08:00.

Eight o'clock came and went, so did nine! There was no sign of Adam, the coffeeshop was still closed, so I went to bed. (I hadn't slept at all, with this job running round and around in my head all night.) When I awoke, I went down to remonstrate with Adam, who went off immediately to the man's house. On returning, he told me that the man had had an accident, but that another man would be here shortly. He came at 3.30pm, and after looking at the job (about 3 hours max) quoted me about two weeks wages, plus I had to supply the sand and cement and bricks!!!!!

I just couldn't reconcile this with a people who are in general financial trouble, and I'm sick and tired of strangers trying to take me for a ride just because I have white skin, and am therefore deemed to be 'rich'!!!! So, he was given his marching orders, and the ironwork was humped back up the stairs, and fastened back in with some electrical wire until the welder can come tomorrow (sorry, it's now today!) and tack it back into place. I suppose that it'll get done the way we want it eventually.

People keep posting on various forums etc, that there are no Nile cruises currently
running. What's this then, that I saw today from the terrace of the Nile Palace?

We stopped off to get some eggs from the egg shop, I don't know whether I've ever shown it to you before, so here it is, just in case I haven't:

You'd be amazed at just how many eggs Egyptians can get through; it's not unusual to see someone carting away three or four trays, yes, that's 90 or 120 eggs! And, there's another shop exactly the same not 100 yards away.

As I said, "A queer lot!" (But we still love them.)

Yes; sadly, Luxor is in Egypt!

We went to the dead 'Eatabe' Hotel yesterday for tea. (Actually, I'm exaggerating, there must have been a half dozen foreign tourists there really!) The new governor was there though, along with his entourage and quite a gang of Egyptians, mostly female, or so it seemed.

I think it may have been the same sort of meeting that the Boss had with the ex-pats the other night, but with (what looked like) influential Egyptians. We didn't bother going to the one for foreigners, as they're always the same (in our experience, that is) plenty of suggestions and promises, but nothing ever actually changes! From one report it seems that the main point of the ex-pat meeting was to encourage the foreigners to email or telephone their government's Foreign Offices and try to get them to lift their travel warnings. I hope that his meeting with the Egyptians was more constructive.

I mean; does he really think that the FCO would listen to the English rag-tags here in Luxor?

Today, we tried our other favourite haunt, the Nile Palace. As we passed the Iberotel, it was 'Changing of the Guard' time. You couldn't get stirred for armoured personnel carriers!

Does anyone know what make they are? I wouldn't like to have to drive one, as the drivers compartment looks tiny! They're parked up all over the place, and the poor lads manning them look as bored as can be.

Further along, we passed the Sonesta St George, and couldn't help but notice that the Governor was there! The road was choc-a-block with cars and pick-up trucks, but we've no idea what he was doing.

As it was still light, we sat on the terrace, overlooking the NP pool. There was a European woman in the pool, and her friend came to join her when she decided to recline on her sunbed. There was a bloke,  by himself, wandering around waiting for his swimming trunks to dry before donning his shorts etc over them. And, there was a communist agitator and his wife occupying two of the sunbeds!

You may well ask how I know that this gentleman was a communist agitator; well, I just happen to know these things! He was short, with almost as much pale wispy hair on his face as he had on his head, and he wore small swimming trunks with his pot-belly. Mind you, the real give-away was the fact that he wore wire-rimmed spectacles! (He also had a rather furtive look about him, nasty piece of work!)

His wife was another fairly easy clue; she was much larger than he was, obviously a sweetener from the Kremlin! Say no more!!!!

(I'm currently reading "The Red Dancer, a life of Mata Hari" and we've just watched two particularly thrilling episodes of "Spooks", the series about MI5 !)

That's a nice 'misty morning' picture of the West Bank, isn't it? Well. actually, no it's not! It was taken this afternoon, and it's smoke! You know, of course Dear Reader, why we don't have any industry here in Luxor (apart from tourism, that is, and the reason why many of the locals are on the verge of starvation at the moment) don't you? Yes, that's right; so that there's no pollution to damage the monuments! But burning your farm crop waste is the easiest way to get rid, isn't it? Never mind a bit of smoke here and there!!!

Isn't this fascinating? OK, suit yourself!

While we sat enjoying our tea (and Nescafe) and English cake, I suddenly noticed the Luxor Red Kite, just above us. As usual, I wasn't quick enough with the camera to get any really good pictures, this one's the best, though:

Our caleche mate, Ahmed, took us shopping from the NP, and then on to Karnak for some hawawshi and macarona. It's ages since we had it, and we really enjoyed it. It made me think of our great friend Sandra, in Lincoln, who loves hawawshi, but who's going into hospital today for an operation. Will those of you who pray, pray for her, and her husband too, please?

On the way back, I remembered to get the camera ready to take this next pic, which I've wanted to for ages, but always forget until we're past it. It's Luxor graffiti, and although I've no idea what it's supposed to represent, I think it's splendid!

Time for bed, bye-eeeee. 

How is Luxor now?

Luxor now? Well, there’s nothing much actually happening here, as I’m sure you’re aware. But, I’ve been pondering life etc. all the more! As your 'Starter for 10' here are a few official figures for you. (From Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics.)

Last October CAPMAS revealed the poverty figures for 2010/11 and they weren’t uplifting reading! Urban poverty (less than a dollar a day) in Upper Egypt rose from 21.7% in 2008/9 to 29.5% in 2010/11. In the same time period, the proportion of rural dwellers in Upper Egypt who were also living on less than a dollar a day rose from 43.7% to 51.4%. Of course these figures were calculated before the effects of the 25th January revolution had properly taken effect. And then circumstances since the purge of the Brother Muslims have become much much worse!

That’s a lot of people struggling to keep their heads above water! To me, these frightening figures just confirm what I’ve thought all along, which is: That the (would-be) ruling intellectuals with their power-bases in Cairo and the other Northern cities don’t consider the people of Upper Egypt as being worthy of anything other than disdain, or perhaps more likely; they just don’t consider them at all!  
Please, let me tell you about a long-standing friend here in Luxor. His earlier life is shrouded in mystery, to some extent, and I know that he’s a waste of space economically speaking, or as far as displaying any sort of personal responsibility goes! But I love him, nevertheless. (I’ll change his name, to save any possible embarrassment.)

We first met Tareq in the no-mans-land (as far as tourists were then concerned) that lies along the railway track up and past the local Egyptian market. I was trying to find out what sort of food a man was selling (like hot cakes!), and if I might try some. Tareq appeared from around the corner, asking if we needed any help. Well, with a little of his help, we managed to get some of this ‘stuff’ for a couple of Egyptian pounds, and thoroughly enjoyed our first taste of Egyptian street food…wonderful falafel!

This was only our third time in Egypt (if I remember correctly) but we were becoming aware of the scams and various tricks which it seemed every Egyptian was a master at! Never mind, we accepted Tareq’s invitation to have tea at his home, where we were introduced to his shy wife and three young sons.

Over subsequent visits, we came to rely somewhat on Tareq’s help when purchasing bits and bobs. We had realised by then of course, that this wasn’t a free service, and that he collected small commissions for his trouble. We didn’t mind this, as he took away a lot of the stress and timewasting from our short holidays, leaving more time for us to enjoy and learn more about this strange land and its even stranger people!

Eventually, he told us the story of why he and his family lived in what was clearly supposed to be a small tailoring workshop; his mud-brick house had just fallen down with age, a year or two previously! In the winter, it was dreadful to see them living in the little sewing room, five of them huddled together on the tiled floor with only a couple of rubbishy old blankets to keep out the winters chill.

We learned that his father had been a wealthy manufacturing tailor and merchant, giving alms generously to all and sundry, and well known for his many and myriad acts of kindness. In fact, Tareq was still a much revered man on account of his own kindness, even though he had next-to-nothing to give! When we once took a taxi from the far end of town, and wanted to go directly to where Tareq was living, I gave the driver directions as we went. When we landed at the door, the driver was absolutely amazed that a foreigner should actually know this man. “But this is the house of Mr Tareq, do you know this good man?” If I remember correctly, I think I had to struggle to get him to take the fare, he was that impressed!

As well as him making his small commissions from us, Freda always made sure that we left him a wad of cash when it was time for us to go home again. It was OK, and many regular visitors have Egyptian families which they treat the same, it’s not an uncommon feature of repeat tourism here in Luxor. 

Anyway, us still working in England, and having several comfortably off friends who were of a charitable nature; we managed to raise enough cash to rebuild Tareq’s family home for him. Not to any luxurious standard, mind you, but enough to keep his little family from the worst of the winters privations.

Another taxi driver confided in us that Mr Tareq had, in fact, drank away his family fortune! I found this very difficult to believe, until one day Tareq gave me a very serious lecture on the terrible consequences of drinking alcohol. It would certainly explain away his ‘fall from grace’ as it were. (Or his decline into abject poverty, anyway!)

We don’t see him all that often, now. We no longer really need his help, and he knows that we no longer have the cash to splash around that we did when we were working. So when we do meet, it’s as genuine friends and a great delight with much hugging and kissing.

He’s been missing from his usual place for quite some time now; I thought that it might be because of the lack of tourists for him to ‘help’, but when we came across him elsewhere we found a very different Tareq! When his youngest son needed medical treatment, his only way forward (or so he tells me) was to borrow the money from two gangsters in the tourist market. He’d since sold all of his possessions to make re-payments to these two, and was now hiding from them because he couldn’t find a way to pay the rest of the money back.

Tareq’s story might hit you as just another sob-story from a wiley Egyptian scam-merchant, or it might touch your heart, who knows? The point of me telling it to you, after my ponderings that is, is not to pull at your heartstrings, but to try to relay the fact that there are probably hundreds of Luxor families in similar positions to this, simply because there are no tourists from which to gain those little snippets of commission any more.

I believe that there's a catastrophe of Biblical proportions just waiting here in the wings, and I don’t think that I’m strong enough to wait here and watch it happen!!!!!!!!!!  

All together now.......Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Yes, "Aaaah" indeed. What a load of softies so many of you turn out to be when you're shown a young animal.

She's a lovely colour, and that's from someone who's colour-blind, remember? At about a twelve-month old, this is her first trip out alongside a big caleshe horse. We were surprised at just how docile she seemed; young'uns new to the caleche and the traffic can sometimes be a bit overwhelmed, and consequently rather skittery, but this one handled herself admirably!

Sadly, like in all the horses in Luxor at the moment (that's those that haven't actually starved to death yet!) you could count her ribs if you wanted to. Nevertheless, she's OK and belongs to a loving family. Perhaps Ahmed is being extra careful with her feeding so that she'll match her namesake in the skinny-jumper stakes when they meet in December? But, for the moment, "Annabelle" seems to be quite happy with her lot.

I don't know whether I'm at all happy with my (our) lot, though? I'm on the mend, tummy-wise, thank heaven, but becoming increasingly bored!

The plan was that we'd get a good bit of walking in, to strengthen the veins in my stupid legs, and to try and alleviate some of the arthritic problems from which we are both suffering. But.....the temperatures have still been around the stupid degree mark, even today! And, when we do venture out, we're stopped by every Tom Dick and Hamed wanting to know (from the white "Oracle" of course) when are the tourists coming back?

I told one flabbergasted bloke today in the Savoy Bazaar, "Five years! Why would anyone want to come here, the crazy Muslims are killing people everywhere you look, burning churches and rioting at the drop of a hat!" He was quite astonished at my tirade, I can tell you! "But, Mr Edward, you haven't seen this in Luxor?", he looked bereft and pleading. I put my arms around him, "I know that's not Luxor, you know it's not Luxor, but the rest of the world see the murdering crazys in Nairobi and imagine it to be in Luxor if they came here for a holiday, nobody wants to come here any more!" "But the regulars will be back?" "Yes, but they cannot spend enough to save everyone, can they?"

The more I think about the intractableness of the desperate situation here in Luxor, the more that I too think "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" 

Oh Dear.............

You know, of course Dear Reader, that the 'Devil makes work for idle hands' But have you realised that he also makes up lies for idle minds?

I've noticed this phenomenon in a good number of people who don't have enough to occupy them, either physically or mentally. Take my Mam, (not really, as we all still need her!). Whilst waiting for someone to call, she's not really very idle. She's addicted to several soaps on the telly (which she also hates) and she also likes several of the various format quiz shows, where she invariably gets the answers before the contestants, and, funnily enough, she also really likes some of the American detective stories in the afternoon and late at night!  Then there's her newspapers, which are read religiously at set times and with pre-determined set snacks or whatever. So she doesn't necessarily have loads of spare time on her hands. Nevertheless, she makes good use of these times of enforced loneliness. So much so, that  not long before we left Windy Nook to return here to Luxor, she suddenly decided that Freda and I were going to be burnt to death in our apartment, as there was no fire escape! I still don't know whether I managed to allay her fears or if she was just humouring me, but we've been OK so far. 

To get onto the meat of this post, we'll just get back to the present and our life here in Luxor, eh? On Wednesday, after an afternoon of wallpapering, we decided on a pizza from El Zaeem for the supper. One half would be chicken, for me, and the other half for Freda was plain. It all went down very well, delicious in fact! I didn't go to bed until something like 3 o'clock, and put the fact that my ribs were aching, down to working on the laptop for too long. By 4 o'clock, I couldn't lie still, as I was in so much pain! Up I got, and vomited into the bathroom handbasin several times, but only small amounts of mainly liquid and a few pieces of olive, it did hurt, though! Of course Freda was also awake by now, fussing about like a mother hen, but to no real avail. This scenario lasted until I made and drank some ginger tea at 07:30, when it stopped abruptly, thank heaven!

I found that I could nap while sitting in an upright position, on and off throughout the day, but the pain was still quite bad. I still wasn't able to go to the loo, either, even though I felt that I might burst at any moment! We didn’t go out at all because I was still manfully suffering the  pains, which started just above my belly-button and finished at my collar bones, it travelled all around and faded quite a lot when it got around and onto the back of my ribs.

On Friday, although I was rather weak from the lack of food, we needed to go out for shopping. I did feel a lot better, but I was still frightened to eat in case I did actually burst, stranger things have happened! We stayed in during the day, grabbing a snooze here and there. rang Ahmed later on to take us shopping in the caleche as I couldn’t have managed the local ‘bus. When we got back I decided to start myself off with a couple of fried eggs on toast, you know, something light and easily digestible. Everything seemed OK and I thought that I was cured and just waiting for the strains due to vomiting to dissipate, although I still hadn't been to the loo, and was becoming increasingly concerned about that. Was it a bowel cancer, blocking the way like our lady-friend who visited Luxor often? Then, I wondered about the aching chest as well, even though it wasn't quite so bad. My very good friend Jim Crow (the magnificent coachbuilder) had a cancer in the lining around his lungs (something to do with asbestosis, I believe) which was inoperable, and which saw him off in a very short time! Could that be what I've got?

That night, though, it all started again! I wanted to cough, but it was too painful, like trying to go to the toilet too. All the muscles were shouting at me to let them just rest. I spent most of the night in the living room, snoozing fitfully in my chair and trying to find my exact symptoms on the World Wide Web. I did!!! It was double pneumonia!

Reading these different pages from the USA and our own NHS was really quite frightening. Honestly, you wouldn't believe the number of 62 year old men who had let their symptoms go too long, to the point where nothing could be done for them and they just died! There were heart rending letters from sons and daughters whose beloved fathers had not taken heed early enough, and were now the 'dearly departed'!

The only symptom which was not apparent was a cough, but I did want to! I told Freda, in the middle of the night, and she said that it was nothing like our two grandsons, who both had pneumonia at the same time, when they were little. It made no difference, I knew what I had!  

I started to telephone Dr Yacoub's house on Saturday at 07:02, I knew he wouldn't mind, as it was a life-threatening situation, but could not raise him. At 07:25, I got dressed and went downstairs, to see if Dr Yacoub's 'Igor' (Girges, really) might be there washing the floor, which I know he sometimes is, but no. Then I tried the Pharmacy, where Dr Yacoub's sister-in-law works, but when they opened at 08:00, it wasn't her, but the other lady. She said that she didn't have a number for him, but he would open the clinic at 10 o'clock, or perhaps slightly earlier. I really felt, by this time, that I was dying, I've never felt so bad in my life. Nasty thing this 'double pneumonia', I certainly wouldn't recommend it!

I, very slowly due to my weakness, made my way back up our 83 stairs. Stopping several times to try and catch my rapidly failing breath. It was just terrible. I persuaded Freda to come back down with me, even though she doesn't like 'the doctor's' at all. By the time it was our turn, I was starting to get very irritable due to feeling like death warmed up, and then Igor let a Coptic priest in, in place of us! It really grieves me the way that the priests are a law unto themselves with people almost fighting in the streets to be able to kiss their ring, or whatever. But I managed to keep my trap shut, as I was in no condition to have a stand-up row!!!

I told Dr Yacoub the sad news that I had double pneumonia, and he got me on his examination couch, took my blood pressure, looked at my eyes, poked and prodded here and there, before explaining his diagnosis. My painful chest, was due to my bloated stomach trying to shove my lungs further up into my chest cavity. This also explained the shortness and shallowness of my breathing. In fact, I didn't have pneumonia at all, never mind double pneumonia! I was rather disappointed, to tell the truth. I don't think I've ever had anything life-threatening before. 

What I had/have is "The dyspeptic symptom complex that is often associated with delayed gastric emptying, gastro-oesophageal reflux and oesophagitis." After only two of the tablets he prescribed, I was able to go to the toilet, which made a huge difference. I'm sure that I'm now on the mend. 

So there you are then, the moral of the story being; don't let the Devil make work for your idle hands, or make up lies for your idle minds! (And never diagnose your own ailments through the Internet or medical books!)

Haymaking in Luxor.

Well, not really! What I'm actually getting at is that there's more than me 'making hay whilst the sun shines'!

We went to the Nile Palace the other day, no English cake, I'm afraid to say, but they did have some absolutely lovely chocolate swiss roll. It was very dense, and came in three pieces; one sprinkled with coconut, one with finely chopped almonds and the other with some different chopped nuts. Oh, I almost forgot, and a small glass full of very thick and delicious raspberry flavoured 'monkey's blood'. We were so surprised that I forgot to take a picture, typical, eh?

As far as making hay went:

It looks like Mr Gamal is using this rather slack period to make alterations to his hotel. These balconies overlook the central atrium, where the nightly shows take place. To use a phrase that was very popular years ago, "They're knocking doors our of windows", only the phrase then meant that whoever it was applied to had been working extremely well, but in this case it's literal. Or so it seems!

We haven't been altogether idle, either. Do you remember that I'd lined the livingroom wall with expanded polystyrene sheets, to keep out the heat? Well, I did, at the start of the summer, and it's quite effective. I'm really rather chuffed about it, and was contemplating doing the same with the guest apartment. (Colloquialism; chuffed = pleased with oneself.) However, seeing as we don't intend renting during the summer months any more, we're now really wondering if it would be worth the expense and trouble that it would involve? Nevertheless, we had to finish off that which we'd started in our little hovel on the roof.

We got some sculpted wallpaper from Wilkinson's (a chain of cheap shops in England) and brought it over especially for the job. Today was the day! As you might remember, Freda no longer likes to go up ladders and I cannot hang wallpaper to save my life; so we've made a straightforward job seem very difficult this afternoon. It took us the whole of the afternoon to stick 6 lengths of wallpaper on the wall, and even then, it's not all that good. Never mind, we're also making that hay while the sun shines! Tomorrow, we'll be looking for paint (Uuuurrrgh!) so that I can try to mask the poor paperhanging. Here is is, in the process:

It will look better by the time it's painted, don't worry!

After working hard all afternoon, we decided that we couldn't face going out to shop or eat; so I got dressed and went out shopping for some fresh bread, and a pizza. (That's right, yours truly eating pizza. What's the world coming to?) Of course there are still neighbours to whom we haven't had the chance to speak to yet, since we returned. So it transpired that I met Mohamed Gaber (pronounced Jabber, the nephew of old Mr Mohamed, from in the corner) as soon as I stepped out of the building. As he resembled the Wild Man of Borneo, with his unkempt hair and longish beard, I enquired if he had gone over, and become a 'Man with Beard' (M.B. / Muslim Brother). It was nothing of the sort, which I knew anyway, but I hadn't thought (as usual) and of course he was in mourning for his father in Aswan, who had died while we were away in Windy Nook. I could have bitten my tongue off!

I knew his father, as he often visited old Mr Mohamed, along with another of the four brothers, one who lived mostly in Alexandria, Uncle Shekel. The other brother (whose name escapes me for the moment) was the 'responsible' one, who presided over the Viking Holiday, Cruiseboat and Hot Air Balloon empire. Only Mr Mohamed remains, and he really doesn't look too good!!!! Bless him.

When you're haymaking, it's 'up in the morning' isn't it? Well, it's the same with Balloon flying here in Luxor. With tourism running at something like 5% of normal, there aren't a lot of balloons flying at the moment. But Freda was up with the larks the other morning (OK, my fault; snoring again!) and was lucky enough to see a balloon, not one of our Viking friends, but a Sindbad one.

A bit of a lonely, pitiful sight I'm sure you'll agree, Dear Reader. Especially when you think that only a few short years ago, there would have been 20 odd up there, full of happy and excited tourists!

Anyway, to get back to shopping for bread and the pizza; after I finally got away from Mohamed Gaber, I bumped into another neighbour, Abdullah, from  out the back, half brother of Radwan the tour guide. We only chatted for a few minutes, struggling to be heard above the noise emitting from several giant speakers just a few yards away. I thought it must be a wedding celebration beginning, but it was actually a new shop opening; and a baker's at that! How handy is that, a brand new bakery only a few doors away, they'd certainly been making hay whilst the sun shone, as there was no sign of it two days ago!

So, it's not all 'Doom and Gloom' in Luxor at the moment. Even though there are next to no tourists, and the hotels are operating with one or two rooms taken, some of us are taking the opportunity to make improvements and carry out maintenance on our buildings etc. or even setting away brand new businesses altogether!

I've spied such a new venture on the 'Side of the Dead', how about this:

At last, a novel idea in Luxor, even if it is on the West Bank. A fruit juice and cocktail restaurant! We'll be going over with a couple of friends to really give it the once over, reasonably soon. Watch this space!

Before I sign off, I want to share a bit of (possible) good news with you.......
Apparently, the Jarmins (that's how we tend to pronounce 'Germans' in Windy Nook) are relaxing their warnings (or whatever) about travelling to Luxor come the end of the month! Wouldn't that be a good start to the tourist season?


Seek and ye shall find!

Yes folks, they were in the Recycle Bin, along with 82 items which I'd deleted the other day. Pheeeew! Mind you, after I'd restored everything, then I had to delete the 82 items again, I was starting to get cramp in my arm.

Never mind, it'll teach me to be more careful which keys my fingers touch. (I've still no idea what I did wrong to delete everything in the first place!)

So, do you want to know what happened in Cairo Airport or should I continue with a few more unattached pictures?

Here are a few historically interesting shots:

This one was taken from the Riverside Park in the post industrial town of Hebburn. The giant hammerhead crane, which lies in what was formerly Walker Naval Yard (the shipyard where the huge battleships used to be built) can lift 320 tons! The next one is more close up, so that you can see the workmen on the dock and thereby get some idea of just how big the crane is!

Then this final picture of it, which was taken from the small village of Bill Quay, also shows the curve of the river Tyne where the whole of the far shore used to have similar cranes all the way along! It's not that long ago, either. I can certainly remember them, but this is the only remnant, and it's used regularly to lift those giant spools for GE Oil and Gas, whom our Number-One-Son now works for. 

And here's the interior of the Methodist Church at Bill Quay:

I took this shot just before the closing service there on the 25th of August. However, although it was a sad time for the members there, the chapel has been taken over by a thriving and evangelical independent  church, so perhaps God hasn't finished His work in Bill Quay yet, maybe He just wants a new approach?

The Muslims of Luxor seem to be getting along OK though, in spite of the efforts of the Brother Muslims to dominate them all. I see the Minaret is finally finished on the new Mosque in Medina Street, it's absolutely breathtaking!

OK, that's enough of the pictures for the time being. I think that the best way to tell you about our mis-adventures in Cairo International Airport,  is to show you the letter of complaint which I've sent off to them. So here it is:

Dear Sir/Madam,
It is now almost 4 o’clock in the afternoon on Friday 30th August 2013, and I have only now recovered from spending 12 and one half night-time hours in Cairo Airport on Tuesday/Wednesday!

The first notice we had of our Tuesday evening flight from Cairo to Luxor being cancelled, was when we received our boarding cards at Manchester
International Airport.  Having experienced EGYPTAIR’s excellent service when we were delayed a few years ago, we had no worries as to how we would manage on arrival at Cairo.  

What a difference on this occasion! After landing at 20.10, we made our way through the airport to an EGYPTAIR information desk, where we were met by a man (who came from behind the EGYPTAIR counter) who cheerily asked what he could do to help. Fully expecting the same excellent treatment we had
previously received from EGYPTAIR, we were delighted that this gentleman was taking the matter in hand. He took our passports (there were four of us) and applied the Visa stickers, and asked for £12 (English) each. My wife pointed out that the price of the Visa was $15, but he insisted that it now equated to £12. (Obviously, EGYPTAIR and its employees would be better informed regarding exchange rates etc. than we were at that moment, so she relented, and paid up.)

He then presented us with a single voucher for a meal and a drink for all four of us, to be used anywhere in the ‘Food Village’, upstairs. He also told us that we could collect our passports from the Information Desk
afterwards and then we would be able to find somewhere comfortable to spend the night within the airport. (In actual fact, it transpired that only a pizza joint would accept the voucher, and they closed at midnight, meaning that we would be left without sustenance at least until we were given something on the plane after 08.30 on the following day! How would the Food Village staff get home after midnight during the curfew?)

After spending a couple of very uncomfortable hours in the Food Village, and spending our voucher on some barely edible pizza and bottled water, we arrived back at the Information Desk. I remonstrated with an EGYPTAIR employee about the fact that we (my wife and I being over 60 years of age, and having been travelling, so far, for about 15 hours) were now expected to sleep either on the floor or in an upright position on hard seats! And, that I could not
believe that this was the standard practice of such a prestigious company as EGYPTAIR. He then dropped the bombshell that he was unable to offer us any alternative, as a curfew was in force and we were not allowed to leave the Airport!

My wife also challenged him about the cost of the visas, as she had by then acquainted herself with the actual exchange rate, and he told us that the visa cost was a matter which we should take up with our ‘agent’ who had supplied them! It was only then that we realised that the man who had emerged from behind the EGYPTAIR Information Desk, purporting to be an EGYPTAIR representative, was nothing of the sort. He was no more than a common thief who had actually been aided in his criminal activity by your staff allowing him to hang around (behind) your Information Desk while waiting to fleece any unsuspecting EGYPTAIR customers!!!! This is a most unsatisfactory situation,
which should be attended to immediately!   

Obviously, your staff knew that the curfew was in place well before we arrived (50 minutes before the curfew) and could easily have arranged to have someone meet us (only 4 passengers were travelling onwards to Luxor) with visas in hand, and whisked us away to some reasonably comfortable accommodation before the 21.00 deadline. As well as saving us from an extremely uncomfortable night in the Airport (and losing the next two days through being sleep deprived) we would also have been saved from the silver-tongued thief at your Information Desk!

None of us managed to snatch more than a few minutes sleep during the night, as along with being very uncomfortable and having a nearby television blaring away, there was an almost constant stream of passengers to and fro.
What interested me particularly was that many of these groups of passengers were dragging their baggage along with them, with the annoying buzz of plastic wheels on the tiled floor! This made me wonder where they were coming from and where they were going to? It seemed quite obvious that they were either newly arrived at the Airport, or were just leaving! That being the case, there must have been some special relaxation of the curfew to accommodate the transfer of these passengers?

It occurred to me that EGYPTAIR (being the ‘National’ Airline and during this time of almost zero tourism and consequent financial difficulty) should have been able to strike some sort of agreement with the Security Forces whereby incoming tourists would be able to be looked after properly while they were forced to wait overnight for re-arranged flights.

However, seeing as there were only 4 of us travelling from Manchester to Luxor (or so it seemed) and that we were travelling independently (i.e. without the assistance [or the all important influence] of a major Tour Operator or Travel Company); then we were not viewed as being important enough for anyone within
your organisation to bother themselves about, and we were consequently left to our own devices and in a completely unnecessary degree of distress.

Can you categorically state that no-one left, or arrived at the Airport during the hours of the curfew?

I am shocked and saddened by our careless treatment at Cairo International Airport; the actual flight cancellation and subsequent 12 hour ‘imprisonment’
were bad enough, without the further indignity of being robbed by someone who is obviously well-known to your staff (otherwise why would he have been allowed behind the Information Desk?) and then having the Voucher for food refused at two of the outlets in the Food Village, which made us feel like common beggars!!!! 

I'm sorry about the dodgy spacing here and there, it must be to do with copying and pasting it from Word! But, do you think that should elicit some response from them? I'll let you know how we get on. But for now, I'm going to sign off. (Partly because the Internet connection is playing up, and I'm sick and tired of doing everything three and four times before it actually happens!) Grrrrrr!

Unconnected pictures?

For those of you who don't actually know me, perhaps it would be useful for you to know that I carry my trusty (well, sometimes!) camera around in my shirt breast pocket, with the string handle thingy around a button on my shirt, just in case it falls out of the pocket when I bend over or suchlike. This means that I should always be ready to catch that elusive picture which everyone will be thrilled to see (in theory, anyway).

The reality is that I've a lot of photo's which don't really 'fit in' with anything else, but which I cannot delete because I find them fascinating or whatever.

How about this one, which I took as the aircraft was coining over Cairo as it approached Cairo International for one of the worst travelling experiences of my life, so far! (Colloquialism: coining = turning, possibly from the rolling/turning action of a dropped coin? Haven't heard this use of the word outside of Gateshead.)  

I was rather taken by the swirling effect created by the street lights as the plane banked to the left.

I'm getting in front of myself, as usual! Here area a few which I took in England:

What about that for lady's boudoir chair? I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it; I want one for the bedroom in the guest apartment, but just somehow, I imagine that I'll be over-ruled!

Or how about this strange pair?

That's my lovely sister Susan, with her friend the 'Spookmeister' Stephen Taberner. Stephen is the leader of the fabulous Australian singing group/choir known as the Spookymen's Chorale. I've mentioned them on here before, and we always try to get to their concerts whenever they perform in the North East. During this summer's holiday, we managed to catch them at Hexham, they're well worth going to see, trust me! (For one of their songs at Hexham, they wore Sufi type hats, and two of them [out of the 16 singers] even 'whirled' slowly at the front of the stage.

The song was in praise of some fictional Sufi prophets, one known as Bahari Ghibb, but I cannot remember the spelling of the names of the other two, work that one out if you can!!!!)

Whilst we're still in Hexham, but on an different day, what about this glaring mistake in the window of the Curiously Wicked chocolatier's shop?

Spot it? The chocolate funeral mask of King Tut is pretty impressive, I'm sure you'll agree. However, see the sign on the right? "Summer Travels 1912"? Now then, Dear Reader, we all know that King Tut's "wonderful things" weren't discovered until 1922, don't we? Aha!

I don't know what I've done, but I've just managed to delete ALL of my pictures!!!! I think I'd better leave this here, and hopefully find them again and then get back to you later. OK?

Someone who ploughs?

In the olden days, he would have been called by the name which everyone knows; you know, the bloke whose lunch is taken by all the Townies who visit country pubs and tea-shops around lunch-time? That's right, Dear Reader, the 'Ploughman', he must be awfully hungry by now!

In these more enlightened days, of course, he (or possibly she) would have to be referred to as a 'plougher'. Which brings me to the nub of this posting; Freda wouldn't let me buy one in Egypt, as they were about 150le and she could never imagine getting 150le's worth of use out of it! However, I saw something on 'Freecycle' which I thought that I could modify and convert to make into my very own, ultra-powerful, BLOWER! (Pronounced as in 'Plougher' and not as in 'slower'.) The bloke I got it off, funnily enough, was the Superintendent Minister of the North Tyne Methodist Church Circuit! Small world, eh?

Do you know of Freecycle? It's a website where people give things away when they no longer have a use for them. I suppose that it's popularity increased in direct proportion to the local Councils charging more and more (on top of the normal rates/council tax or whatever that we all have to pay, regardless) for taking unwanted stuff away and disposing of it. They've got some cheek, those Blighters! I still cannot understand why I used to pay business rates for my rented (from the Council) yard and garage yet they also expected me to pay their Legal Department's exorbitant charges every time the tenancy was renewed over the last 40 odd years. After all; I was already paying their blinking overly generous wages!!!!! I suppose that's typical of Mr Bliar's pseudo-socialism for you, the constant re-distribution of wealth from those who work to those who prefer to shirk!

Never mind that now, I've got my blood pressure to think of, thank you very much. Anyway, now that I have this blower, I can blow (remember the pronunciation now, as in plough) to my heart's content. With a saw, a bit of ingenuity and with very little pecuniary outlay, I managed to convert something like this:

Into this:

It's a Beast! Of course, as you might expect, it wasn't all that straightforward, as I wanted to tame it and make it 'user-friendly'. i.e. It needed to have a flexible pipe to direct the 'blow' where I wanted it to go without humping the actual blower into awkward positions; like blowing the dust out of the outside A/C units.

I had to reduce the outlet size and shape from an oblong(ish) 3 inch circumference to a round vacuum cleaner flexy-pipe size. This entailed begging the red concertina hose from a coach operator friend (I think it's an old turbo-charger hose from a 300hp Cummins engine) and marrying that up to half an 'Oasis' drinks bottle, which nicely brought the size down to fit the second-hand vacuum cleaner hose (which I managed to find in the electrical repair shop just down the street here in Luxor, for the princely sum of 25le).

It's great! Now I can blast dust (or indeed, anything I fancy!) everywhere I go. I'm seriously wondering about getting a generator; so that I can hire out the whole kit and caboodle to one of the felucca men on the Nile, for use when the wind drops. He wouldn't have to hire a tugboat to tow him along. Imagine; he could just point the blower into the sail and Hey Presto, away he goes!!!!

What do you think, Dear Reader?