Well, hush my mouth!

I'm always putting my foot in it somewhere along the line! Either speaking too soon or speaking when I shouldn't, or even NOT speaking up when it's really required. I just cannot win!

So what was I saying about "nothing else to report"? Duhhh! I was just thinking of settling down for the evening when there was the sound of a procession or something down in the main street. "Should I dash down with the camera?" "No, because by the time I hobble down the stairs and out onto the main thoroughfare; they'll have passed by." Pretty obvious, really!

But, the noise didn't go away; in fact, it got even louder as if more people were joining in. I put my shirt back on, then swapped my Christmas slippers for my £4.99 pretend "Crocs", picked up the trusty Samsung and trundled down the stairs. Yes, you've guessed it; they were gone! I had a word with the neighbours, who suggested that I take my camera down to Abu Haggag Square, where there were thousands gathered, and having a great time.

We keep getting lots and lots of text messages from Vodafone (in Arabic) which are about as much use as the regular updates that we get via email from the British Embassy! The Queen's representatives are, of course, in Cairo. Luxor is some 400 miles, or so, South of the capitol and is a completely different environment. The place is tiny in comparison, much less cosmopolitan, more backward (not trying to sound offensive here, but you know what I mean!) but the people are much less antagonistic towards anyone else, either politically or for religious reasons. It's as simple as that, really!

Nevertheless, I am mindful of the Consular warnings from the Embassy; in particular that we should stay clear of any crowds or demonstrations of any type, as they can change very quickly into places of danger. (I've always thought that this is a nonsense here in Luxor, but more and more ex-pats living here seem to be more wary than they ever were previously, and are quick to write up their fears on the Internet. It does make one think!) I hung around downstairs for a while, it was obvious that most of the people were in 'party mood':

That's right, they're speakers behind the poster of El Sisi! 

Yes, that's also El Sisi, but without his hat!

Sorry, usual quality, but the mam and the littlest one are waving Egyptian flags.

One of the sons from across the street, proud to hold up a poster of the man they hope to have as their next President. (With his hat back on!)

I had thought........but then I decided that I would chicken-out, and not go. Surely these pics would suffice? That's the sort of Braveheart I am, you see? A wimp, in fact! I trudged, dejectedly, up the 83 stairs to my place of safety. But, by the time I got to the top; I'd had a brainwave (yes Dear Reader, that's two so far this year, and it's still only January!) I would ring for Ahmed to come and take me in the caleche, what a good idea, splendid!

Ahmed duly arrived, and after greeting everyone around, off we went. Of course by the time we got there, all the excitement at Abu Haggag was over, there were only the normal crowds of families sitting about and children playing. There were more than usual, I suppose, but nothing really worth photographing. Ahmed suggested riding along the Nile, in the hope that we might yet come across some revellers who hadn't gone home.

As we passed the Temple, we could see that the Corniche was closed off by the Police, and beyond (in the distance) there was obviously something going off! We managed to blag our way past the Police Officer's barrier by saying that I needed to be at the Eatabe Hotel. What a sight was waiting for us as we approached the Governorate Building:

Perhaps we hadn't wasted our time completely? It was a real party atmosphere, and I was pleased to see that being Muslim or Christian didn't seem to matter:

The religious differences didn't seem to be worrying these two families, as they took snaps of each other with their 'tablets'. I was so pleased, as well, to have several acquaintances come up and shake my hand, they were obviously overjoyed to see a foreigner there, to celebrate alongside them! Mind you, we were all under the ever watchful eye of the Security Services:

There were three of them on the roof of the Governor's Office, with walkie-talkies. Mind, there were also plenty of them  mingling among the crowd, but they were as joyful as the next man, I'm sure. It's funny, but young Egyptians seem to have a 'thing' about standing on top of walls when there is anything going on, I find it rather unsettling: 

The Governor was there too, here he is leaning out of his office window, he was blowing kisses as well!

Here's a video to give you some idea of the noise and the celebratory atmosphere:

video
I think it's time for my hot chocolate, so I'll leave you to enjoy that video. TTFN.

Fly Boys!

I know that you're thinking that this posting is going to be about the "Fly Boys" in the souk, or some such like, but you'd be wrong.

Who among you can remember the seaplane which used to do sightseeing trips up and down the Nile around the Luxor/Esna area? I seem to remember that the last that I heard; it was out of commission and had been so for a couple of years, awaiting spare parts. You can imagine my surprise to hear such an aircraft in the Luxor skies this morning? I dashed out onto our terrace in time to catch this thing flying firstly downstream and then back upstream:

It took me a few minutes to get the old camera working properly, so only caught the aircraft on its upstream journey. I couldn't see any floats on it either, so it would seem not to be a resurrection of the former tourist service. Pity!

Then, just now, I heard a helicopter again! Of course today is the anniversary of the Revolution, so I would expect the same 'copter as we had the other week, complete with its underslung rocket pods etc!!! But no; it's just flying around hither and thither, and dropping things. At first it dropped some floating-down things, with flags on, over Abu-Haggag Square. When it had turned, over the Nile, and come back again; it dropped what looked like a load of leaflets in the same area. It did that a few times, and also dropped some of the floaty things beyond the railway line, about Salakhana (Slaughterhouse) Street. Quite fascinating to watch, I can tell you!


In the second pic, you can just see his tail rotor disappearing behind the satellite dish, and what he's dropped is visible at about 4 o'clock from that.

Nothing else to report, I'm afraid. Other than a rather loud convoy going down our main street earlier, with much cheering and people hanging our of windows to get a good view. Oh, I nearly forgot: I managed to get my electrical bits and pieces this morning and we have stair lights and everything again. I knew you'd be pleased about that!

I'm  hoping that Freda is going to knock up some strawberry crumble for later on, it'll be delicious. See you later.

Congratulations!

Yes indeed; congratulations Dear Reader! Within 24 hours of my last post, I've been able to pass on to my friend whom I mentioned yesterday over half of the money he needs to get his flat made habitable!

As I'm sure you know, one or two very kind readers send me money on a regular basis to distribute among people in dire need whom I come across here now and again. But I was astounded to have a promise within just a few hours, and then the money actually paid in to my English bank within 12 hours.

People can be uncommonly generous when they know where their 'charitable' donations are actually going to. In this case, the donor knows the recipient and his family; and, on reading the Blog post, immediately emailed me just to confirm that her guess of his identity was in fact correct. He actually has the money now, and (after taking us for some hawawshi this evening, along with his brother) went off to find the builder man to get him started ASAP! (Colloquialism: ASAP = as soon as possible.) I couldn't be happier for him and is little family!

While we were munching our hawawshi, Freda sent a little SMS to tell our lovely friend Suzychuck, who was a regular contributor to the Luxor Forum on TripAdvisor before she became ill. Suzychuck and her daft ex-coach driver husband have been Luxor lovers for many years, but she has been very ill, spending the last five months in hospital! Consequently, they haven't been to Luxor for quite a while now, and they both so enjoy the old hawawshi while they're here. Happily, she is now due to be sent home in a day or two, and when she is sufficiently recuperated; she'll be joining us here with her loving and supportive husband. Needless to say, we can hardly wait!

So thanks to our mate's big benefactor, but also to the others who contribute towards keeping the wolf from the doors of the poorest people with whom we are in contact on a day to day basis.

We've come across many people here, over the years, who plead poverty. They look and talk and dress the part, but experience (usually, but admittedly not in every case) tells us who is trying to pull the wool over our eyes and who is genuine. (Colloquialism: pull the wool over our eyes = hide the truth from us.) There was a very shabby chap I used to see on a regular basis, he was never very clean, either. He operated a cranky old battered motor-boat criss-crossing the Nile for a fiver a time, and always looked quite downcast! Whilst talking one day to a motor-boat captain with whom I had stuck up a fairly good relationship, the poor old bloke shuffled past. "Doesn't he get much work then?" I asked. "Huh," my friend replied, "he gets more than his share, and also for the five dahabeyas he owns!" It just goes to show, doesn't it?

This particular family, though, have been known to me for maybe 15 years, and I know for sure that they're genuine; they're solid workers, given the opportunity, and also, in more normal circumstances, would be loath to accept charity. This has been a very humbling experience for this friend, and both him and his brother have shed tears over the generosity of our mutual friend.

So, it seems that my little Blog isn't a complete waste of time. I'm so pleased that I am lost for words, and that's not like me, Dear Reader, as you well know!

Bye for now. xx 

Another day in Paradise?

Well, our friend Mr Bahaa had arranged for us to attend the Electricity office with him this morning, to get our electric bill sorted out. Freda didn't want to go, cause she would get annoyed at the stupidity of the system there and end up shouting at the poor man, who was actually doing his best to help us! And seeing as she'd been up early due to my snoring (as usual) I left her doing bit of her own, when I set off at 10:45.

I have to admit that I really didn't want her there either, she can be particularly embarrassing when the mood takes her! In the event, it was just as well. Bahaa and I were passed from pillar to post, coming away empty handed, except for a telephone number for the bill collector, so that I could arrange to meet him at home at 9 in the morning. We weren't allowed to sort out the payment/usage discrepancy until we were up-to-date with all the outstanding invoices, the last one being December. (We weren't actually there at all during December, so no electricity was used, and the office already knows the, estimated as usual, amount; 222le, and also takes payments over the counter. But, for some unknown Pharaonic reason; I have to wait till the man comes to the door tomorrow!!!!!)

After that, I can then get Mr Bahaa to accompany me again to the head office, and hopefully this time, we'll be able to get squared up! Then the next instalment will be to attempt to get a new meter for just our little rooftop hovel. That should be another laugh!

On returning home, I found that Freda had arisen, but wasn't yet ready for lunch; so I went to bed for an hour, why ever not? By the time I got up again and we both got turned around, she was ready for something, but fancied fish and chips at the Nile Palace instead of having something at home. NP fish and chips are usually a meal that I thoroughly enjoy, but not so on this occasion, I'm sorry to say! Freda enjoyed hers, and was quite shirty about the fact that I complained that the fish wasn't up to the usual standard and that neither was the goodbye sauce. (Colloquialisms: shirty = a little short tempered, goodbye sauce = tartare sauce, as in "tata for now!") Don't get me wrong, mind, I still ate it, it was OK.

We've got one of two Film Festivals here just now, I think this first one is the Egyptian and European one, with the African one coming in a few days. So the usual suspect hotels (Winter Palace, Nile Palace and Sonesta St George) are relatively busy. We had our lunch on the terrace in our usual outdoor seats, and watched a few of the guests frollicking in the cold pool:

Several feluccas were out with guests as well, which is also quite encouraging. (You can click on the pictures to see them better.) Another pleasing sight was the "M/S Grand Rose" cruiseboat gliding up the river. Even though we know that "One swallow doesn't make a summer", we're ever hopeful!

Of course, every silver lining has its cloud, and the worst current one in our circle of friends is that one of them (a lovely, quiet caleche man) is really depressed and downhearted as he cannot live with his wife and small son because his landlady has evicted them for not paying the rent! She's also hung onto their bits of rubbishy furniture until she gets it. He is back home with his mother, and the wife with her father. The little boy spends time between them both, but doesn't understand why; it's all very upsetting. They can get a flat near his family home, but it's very old and needs a lot of work to make it habitable. I asked him to try to find out how much it will cost (and also whether his wife will live there with him if it was done!) and he came back today with a rough figure of 8000le! By the time that the back-rent is paid, we're talking almost £1000! He realises that it's a lot of money in anyone's book, but I've told him that I'll do my best to be of some help; the building man will do the necessary work and take half the money, with the rest being paid in instalments.

It's almost three years now, since the intelligentsia of Cairo decided to do away with Hosny Mubarak as President. But they didn't bother to consider the dreadful impact that the consequences would surely have on Upper Egypt! The suffering has been (and still is) terrible. The current government is actually trying to help those stuck in the tourist trade, to some extent. But a lot of what little assistance there is has come too late and really is too little! Many horses which were working caleches have starved to death, most of those that haven't, have only survived because their owners have almost starved themselves to death; you should see the pitiful state of some of these men!  

I think that's more than enough doom and gloom for one night, so I'll just say, "Goodnight and God bless!"

A slightly different negotiation tactic!

Actually, I maybe should have entitled this missive "The Madame Fareda Health and Safety Executive, for reasons which will become apparent!

But, for the moment; do you recall the palava (Colloquialism: palava = problematic or drawn out procedure which really should have been more straightforward.) I had with the wrought ironwork on the stairs, a few months back? Well, the dentist downstairs (Dr Ashraf) is a Copt, and therefore he doesn't work on a Sunday. So, Sunday is the most convenient day to do any work on the stairs. It doesn't inconvenience him or his patients, with all the dust and noise, and they don't trouble me with coming and going and generally being in my way.

Today is Sunday, and instead of going back to bed after taking breakfast, I got dressed and was raring to go by about 08:30. Ah! Then appeared Madame Fareda, in full Health and Safety mode! (Of course, she's spot-on bearing in mind the accidents which I seem to not be able to avoid these days.) Number One Son had passed on to me some of the old safety stuff he had been using at work and which had seen better days. Two old dust masks, a type that they no longer use, and ditto a pair of goggles. The ensemble was completed with a shower cap from the Our Luxor Guest Apartment, to keep the bulk of the dust out of my hair. Don't you think I look swell?


I was pleased to be able to make use, again, of my latest acquisition from the fabulous collection of tools occasionally on sale at Aldi; my mini angle grinder, with the diamond tipped cutting blade. It's just marvellous, cutting plaster and brick like a knife going through butter!


Oh, it might be useful to tell you what I was about, yes? Well, I wanted to do away with the protruding bit of the stair wall, where the top of one meets the bottom of the other on the landing. like this:



Voila! Obviously, there was a fair bit of rubble when I'd finished, and there's no way that I was going to try and hump it (Maybe a hundredweight altogether? Oh dear, these new measurements! A hundredweight equals 112 pounds, or roughly 50 kilograms.) down the stairs and find some way of getting rid of it.

There's nearly always the Egyptian equivalent of the British "White Van Man" hanging around beside our local Mosque, with his donkey and cart, waiting for a job. I thought that I'd find the right bloke just there, and for once, I was right! He'd just come out of the Mosque ablutions place (toilet to you and me) and was conversing with (I think) his wife. Without English, we ascertained that it was, indeed, his donkey and cart and that he was for hire immediately. Good, eh? I took him by the hand and led him up the stairs to where the intended load was scattered around.

I'd taken 20le from Freda, thinking that it should be enough for less than an hour's work, and when I asked the man, "Be-cam?" (How much?), he indicated that I should make him an offer. "Ashreen?" (Twenty?) He nearly fell over, and by rabbiting and sign language, explained that he had seven children to feed and needed arboreen (forty)! And this is my problem? I don't think so! I offered to amputate his child producing equipment, but he declined, still pleading for the forty. Of course, I eventually agreed, being the soft touch that I am.

So, there's a new Egyptian bargaining ploy for you; "I cannot keep my todger in my pants and therefore you have to provide for all of my progeny!" (I thought that I'd left that scenario behind when we left England.) My advice would be that when you need a labouring man; you should find a teenager, as he's probably too young to be saving for the gold and the flat for his intended bride, and he is much less likely to have seven children to feed, and therefore might not want to charge you the earth!

Anyway, that's only the start of the task in hand, you'll have to wait for the next instalment; when I probably become a bricklayer and plasterer!

TTFN.

Fancy a holiday? Then join me at "Wit's end".

Yes Playmates, that's where I've been today; at my "Wit's End"! I really don't know why I cannot learn simple lessons, is it my age, do you think (senility looming?) or just plain stupidity, or what?

Surely a 'normal' person would realise that after so many disasters one shouldn't go looking for more? No, no; la, la!

All it was was a leaking tap in our upstairs kitchen! Being skinflints when it comes to our own domestic needs; I fitted a cheap chatty Chinese tap in our kitchen (in the bedroom, remember?). I had quite a bit of trouble with it when I put it in in the first place, and when I removed it today, I found out why! The hot and cold pipes in the wall weren't exactly parallel, the cold one was a fraction out and I would rectify this before offering up the brand new mixer tap which had been expensively obtained earlier from friendly Mr Shawky down on Youssef Hassan St.

Now then, how to turn the pipe fitting in the wall by about an eighth of and inch without damaging the internal threads? Answer: go back to Mr Shawky and get him to thread a piece of iron pipe, then screw it into the fitting and push or pull the pipe sideways, easy-peasy!  And that, Dear Reader, is exactly what I did; and it worked! However, whilst unscrewing the new piece of pipe/tool, didn't the fitting screw off with it? Now I was left with an externally threaded pipe end, sunk about an inch into the wall! Lovely, eh? Time for a cuppa and some chocolate, obviously!

The fitting in question was a cast iron twin threaded female pipe coupling, and it was pretty grotty, so I decide on a new one. I was struggling to imagine how I could confidently seal the joint which would actually be inside the wall. I mean; I couldn't possibly wrap it with hemp, as there was barely a quarter of an inch space around the pipe! After a deal of thought, I decided to plaster the inside threads of the fitting with silicone sealer, surely that would do the trick?

Off I trotted again to Mr Shawky's, for the third time in an hour. I knew where the pipe couplings were, so put my hand into the bin and picked one up, Shawky reached a tube of silicone down from a high shelf behind the counter, 17le. Happy as a sandboy, I made my way back to Our Luxor, determined to have the job finished in a jiffy!  W R O N G!!!!

The coupling was about a quarter of an inch short. Damn and blast! (As my Mother would say when she's really really annoyed.) Another stroll down to Shawky's, where the son and I struggled to find the right length, but he did eventually; no extra charge. I had foolishly imagined that pipe couplings would all be the same length, well, you would wouldn't you? The stairs were now starting to take their toll on my stupid old knees, and I could sense that I was snapping at poor Freda when she was only trying to be helpful, bless her.

That's another thing, as well! When we decided to have our kitchen in the bedroom, we had to have a plumber move pipework around to give us two cold taps (the other one being for the washing machine) and one hot. In the process, it transpired that the new cold offshoots came from the main feed pipe before the stopcock, which means that to turn off the water to our upstairs kitchen; the water had to be turned off altogether downstairs at the pump!!!!! More traipsing up and down!

Never mind. I coated the fittings for the taps with silicone and hemp, and while the hot one went straight into place, the cold one had to go into the new female coupling and then onto the old pipe end inside the wall. I slapped a fair dollop of silicone into the internal threads and screwed it on, hoping for the best, as you do! (I should add that as I know that silicone sealant has to be applied to dry surfaces; I had spent about 15 minutes drying and warming the 'in-place' fitting with Freda's hair dryer!)

Only then, did I realise that we wouldn't be able to use the water until the silicone had 'cured'; about 24 hours!!!!!!! I was sweaty and annoyed, and hungry and dirty! Then I had a brainwave (are you sure, Edward?) if I turned on the cold tap, then turned on the water; there'd be no pressure on the silicone to cause any problem as the water would just be running straight through the tap, yes? Then I could have a shower, good idea? Of course I'd have to try it first, so I got Freda to stand by the turned-on tap, and see what happened when I went downstairs again and turned on the main. I would speak to her via the telephone.

"Right then, Dear, I'm turning it on, NOW."........."Oooooh, turn it off, turn it off. It's spaying out all over the place!" Damn and blast again!

When there's only one other person there; it's obvious that she's the one that you're going to kill. isn't it? But, by the time I'd tramped back up the stairs (again) I couldn't have lifted the fly swatter, never mind a heavy 'blunt instrument'! That was it! I now realised that I hadn't learnt the lessons which should really have sunken in long before now, I would go and find Hany the plumber. (In saying that, it's OK learning the lesson that tradesmen have there trades, and that you shouldn't really muck about when you're not sure of what you're doing. But what about when you cannot find any tradesmen who have any sort of clue of what they're supposed to be doing anyway?)

Thankfully, that's not the case with my dear friend Hany. I only wish I'd known him earlier! He came, he saw, and he conquered! All it had been was that I had over-tightened the cold tap connecting nut, and split the rubber washer, would you believe it? But, then again, I'm more used (or used to be more used) to tightening cylinder head bolts to 150 pounds per square foot, or whatever, and not 'nipping' daft joints with rubbishy rubber washers in between!

Here's the finished article, all-in-all it cost 232le and a lot of bad temper!


But among all that upset, we learned that our Egyptian friends had voted overwhelmingly to endorse the new constitution and also that friend Hany has finally gotten engaged. So not a bad day after all, perhaps it's the beginning of a better new year for Egypt and her people?

Goodnight.



Another polling day for Egypt.

Howdy folks! (Sorry, but we've just been watching an old episode of Auf Wiedersehen Pet, where Oz becomes a Country and Western singer, lol!)

Today has been the first day of voting for or against the proposed new Egyptian constitution. Which means that everyone has to be inconvenienced as much as is humanly possible! Mainly by the local 'buses being re-routed down back alleys, causing long, impatient and fume laden queues, because roads have been closed arbitrarily anywhere near polling stations. Elswhere, the Police seem to have been withdrawn. (Are they all on duty inside the schools which are being used for the polling?)

Then there's the coming and going of the helicopter! Swooping here and diving there, and all the while making a dreadful racket (and no; it's not Brahms third racket, just in case you were wondering). (Colloquialism(?): Brahms third racket is a reference to a scene in a British situation comedy called "Fawlty Towers".) Here he is, generally having a good time, I think:

(The helicopter pilot, that is, and not Basil Fawlty, who is not allowed to have a 'good time' at all.) It took me about ten shots to get an even half decent picture, so don't complain, eh? I'd taken a few before we left home, and then some more from the terrace of the Nile Palace, where we took our tea this afternoon. We needed a break from cleaning a reorganising everything at home. I even remembered to take the binoculars!

Tuesday afternoons always used to be a good day for watching the Nile cruisers leaving or arriving, but it hasn't been quite the same over recent times!!! Nevertheless, here came along a cruiseboat which we hadn't actually seen before:

The "Adonis", as well as being surprised to see it, we were also surprised not to recognise it either. I'd thought that we must have seen all the Nile cruisers at one time or another, but the Adonis didn't ring any bells at all! And before any Clever Dick says that it wasn't actually 'working', take a good look at this close-up; there are loads of tourists enjoying the sun and the views from the top deck!

It's 'noses back to the grindstone' in the morning, as we are welcoming our first visitors of 2014 tomorrow. The first one is bringing lunch with her, so I hope it's something I like, and  the second one is due later on in the afternoon. I think she's just bringing herself though, but she's always welcome as would any of you be who are reading this!

Doesn't time fly, it's tomorrow already! I'd better get off now; tablets, teeth cleaned and bed. Goodnight!

Squatters?

Well, here we are back in Luxor. It goes without saying (or at least it should!) that we wish you, Dear Reader, a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. But that wish might not stretch to the squatters whom have been enjoying the untold benefits of "Our Luxor" while we've been away!!!!

I'm pleased that these cheeky little bleeders weren't the sort of squatters which take over whole dwellings or buildings back in England, e.g. "New Ager's" or supposed "Romany's", instead they were Dicky Birds; making use of one of our air conditioner covers:

Mind you, they had moved out by the time we landed, I only discovered their habitation whilst cleaning, or perhaps I would never have realised that they'd been here!

Yes, that's our current occupation; CLEANING! Because we've been away for so long (and also because our good friend wasn't able to do a rough vacuum outside because I'd switched off the electricity) the place was buried under a goodly layer of sand and mummy dust. Never mind; it's coming together slowly. It's very comforting having two vacuums, you know, and my giant 'super-blower' (remember, from a posting earlier in the year) came in very handy for the walls and A/C covers etc., I was very impressed! I'm still keeping it a secret from the neighbours, though; I'd hate to engender feelings of inadequacy or envy in them!!!!

We're slowly catching up with friends and other bits and pieces too. Did I tell you about the frightening discrepancy in the number of electricity units on the bill and the number that were actually on the meter? 

Well, just in case I didn't; the last number on the bill was 29,000 units of electricity LESS than that which was on the meter!!! A bit of a shock, as I'm sure you'll agree. My rough calculation (trying to work from the figures on the bill, which is all in Arabic, of course) we were about £2000 short! The good news seems to be that we are actually only about 2000le short, which is a huge relief. In actual fact, we've been told that if we pay it all in one go; it will only be 1800le, which is even better! That's to sort out over the next few days, with the help of one of our good (good English speaking) friends, that is. It's nice to have friends, isn't it? Adams wife is cooking for us tonight, it'll be lovely!

Well, Freda has arisen from her nap, so it's time to get my nose back to the grindstone for a bit. Next job is to put up the net curtains in our livingroom. 

I'll see you later, alligator!