Water water, every-blinkin-where!

Honestly, you couldn't make it up!

We've got a lovely couple staying with us just now. They've got to be, really, as he is an Old Jarrovian, i.e. an ex pupil of Jarrow Grammar School, like me. But that doesn't exempt him from the trials and tribulations of life in Luxor, does it, Dear Reader?

Two days before these good folk landed, last week, we started having the odd power cut, again! We haven't had any since we returned after our Christmas break, and had been lulled into a false sense of well-being and comfort. Then, BANG; no electricity for an hour! It's happened most evenings since. Of course it had to be when we have our first guests for eight months, didn't it?

We've had a bit of trouble with our water system recently, as well. But I thought that it was cured before our guests arrived, how wrong I was. I realised, the other day, that the water pump was switching on and off without us using any taps or anything. Eventually, I realised that the small non-return valve on the feed into the hot water tank must be allowing the hot water to drop back into the pipework, and that that was what had been causing the noise in the pipes after a tap (or whatever) had been used. So, to kill two birds with one stone, I replaced the valve. the new one being purchased from Mr Showky, for the princely sum of 15le. Very good, Mr Adward!

You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the pump was still acting itself! I checked the same valve downstairs, and yes, it too was malfunctioning. "Mafiche mushkellar! (No problem!) I can fix that." I thought to myself. So, this morning, as we were cleaning the guest apartment (while our guests were clambering about the temples etc on the Side of the Dead) all I needed to do was to nip down to Mr Showky's and get a new valve and replace it. Hahaha! (A spot of manic laughter there, just to prepare you for what is to follow!)

I was careful to stipulate the Italian manufactured valve, as opposed to the Chinese one, as Showky has always assured me that Italian plumbing requisites are so much superior in their quality. I closed the cold tap which feeds the tank, and then opened a hot tap to release any pressure in the tank before I started to undo any of the couplings. Clever lad! When I've done this before, like just the other day, there has only been a very small amount of water which has leaked out of the open pipe. Not this time, though! I had to empty the whole bloomin' tank, it glugged and spurted all over. Never mind, the bathroom is fully tiled, so it would clean up easily. In the event, the pipe nuts were a bit awkward to loosen, as they kept turning the stainless braided pipe as well, and I had to keep wangling the pipe to continue.

It came as a pleasant break to stroll down onto Sharia Yousef Hassan, to Showky's shop and get the new valve, another 15 Egyptian quid. Full of the joys of spring, I had the lot back together again in no time, and was then able to get back to vacuuming and mopping the floors.

It wasn't until I had finished, and thought that I'd just check the bathroom before leaving the flat, that I noticed a drip on the lowest part of the pipe. I felt it..........and the whole of the stainless steel braiding was wet! I must have damaged the interior of the pipe while I was undoing it. Well, it must have been 7 or 8 years old, and the inside could have been hard or a bit perished. Never mind! A new pipe wouldn't break the bank, and all I needed to do was to shut off the cold feed and nip again to Showky's. Again; mafiche mushkellar!

And so it went, a nice new pipe, with nice new, soft, seals which didn't need overtightening.

This is still the old pipe, but you get the idea, don't you, Dear Reader? Champion! On with the cold feed tap. A drip! This time from the point on the handle of the tap. Now, I'm not a difficult man, nor a violent man; but I was getting to be a teensie bit peeved!!! I unscrewed the tap from the iron pipe in the wall, and found that it had an extension on the back. Again I strolled down to see Showky. It was a Chinese tap, as you might have already guessed, and it was also 7 or 8 years old. An Italian replacement was purchased, and Showky even swapped over the extension for me, thread tape and everything!

I was getting sick and tired of climbing our stairs by now, a little slower every trip. When I offered up the tap and extension to the iron pipe which sat about an inch or so below the surface of the tiles, I found (to my very obvious delight!!!) that it DIDN'T REACH! This was getting beyond being even the slightest bit funny (so don't you dare laugh, Dear Reader, don't think that I can't see you through this "telly screen"!). Showky took pity on me and gave me an extra extension free of charge!

After p-l-o-d-d-i-n-g back up the street and painfully mounting the stairs, I wound about twelve layers of put-phut tape (P.T.F.E. Thread Tape) onto the threads of the new extension and screwed it into the open iron pipe set back into the wall. I had to tighten it a bit more than I would have liked, to get the other pipe connection into the correct position, but it seemed to be OK. On with the tap again! As the tears trickled down my cheeks, so did the water trickle down the white tiles!

Frustration was now taking hold! Freda, who could sense that I was about to explode (or perhaps implode?) even suggested that I stop and have a cup of tea. But the guests might be back at any minute, and they'll be wanting a shower!

Grudgingly, I took the tap off again, rewound it with put-phut, about 16 layers this time, and screwed it back into pace. HALLELUJAH!!!! It was OK, and the guests arrived back from their adventure just as I was cleaning up. Perfect!

The afternoon was taken up by showering, lunching and sleeping. With a visit to the Etap for tea and free cake come five o'clock time.

As we left the house, I noticed the water pump click on and off as we came down the stairs, and my heart sank! But not as far as it did when we walked out the street door and came across this:

Yes Playmates, our little alley was flooded, as was the main street:

The water main had burst just above where it came out of the ground! Adam had already reported it to Dr Ashraf the dentist, who had reported it to the water company, and they would come and repair it ASAP. (As soon as possible.)

The cake at the Etap was as soft as a baby's bum and a lot better tasting. After thoroughly enjoying our rest and watching the world go by, we took the 'bus and did a little shopping before returning home. Can you guess what happened next? That's right, just as we got off the 'bus, the lights went out, another b****y power cut! Water spurting all over the street and no lights to see by, that was all we needed! Why are we here? What is it that compels us to stay? Are we just mad? (Remember that last question, just for a minute or so.)

Adam chased me out of the way, up the stairs; suggesting that if the water company men saw my white face when they arrived, the cost of the repair would probably double! I spied on them with my 'long lens', from my "Eagle's Nest" up on the fourth floor.

That's right, three of them; two to watch and one to work, just like back home in England!

Sorry, that should have read; two to drink tea and smoke cigarettes and watch, and one to work! You can plainly see the two tea trays and they'd only been there for about ten minutes!

At first, when I saw this scene, I couldn't believe the evidence of my own eyes. Surely they weren't going to try and repair a water main with a bicycle inner-tube? (That is definitely what they are holding, believe you me!) But they did, and I thought that we might be going mad? The proof of the pudding is always in the eating, eh?

I'm now frightened to venture downstairs, in case their temporary repair has failed due to the increase in water pressure that the evening will surely have brought. I'll let you know what the morrow brings, when they are due to make a permanent repair. (Probably another large bill for your's truly!!!) Yes, I think we must be going mad after all.

Love's labours lost? He should have come to Luxor!!!!

Do you remember me "waiting and waiting" for the return of Hany the plumber? Well, he did eventually come. (Was it a day late, or a week?) Anyway, whatever, when he had been here for a while, I was sorely tempted to help him have an accident while up the ladder on the balcony, thankfully, he was called away on a family emergency before I gave in to the temptation! Hany; the man who just recently saved the day when I was beginning to think that the water pump might be defunct, was becoming Hany whose ignorance of simple engineering was almost as monumental as his arrogance in believing that he could bluff his way to making me believe that simple gadgets (see picture below) didn't need certain parts to fulfil their function. Here, look at these:

They look like a very useful addition to anyone's stock of fixings. The part which goes into the wall is only threaded inside for so far. The screwed in bolt then comes up against a 'bullet', which is pushed into the knurled section which has the four splits in and, being bullet shaped, opens out that part of the device to give a sure grip in the wall. To anyone with the slightest bit of engineering common sense, it's a good idea. But not to our star plumber!

Hany was repairing the rail (made of iron water pipe) on the balcony on which the polythene sun-block curtains usually hang. The fixing brackets were coming away from the wall. I was being the labourer, moving the steps (selem kheshup in Arabic, meaning stairs wooden) handing the tools etc. I noticed that one of the little 'bullet' thingies was on the floor, and pointed this out to Hany. "Ahhh, Mister Edward, that doesn't matter, it's just rubbish, we don't need it." I endeavoured to explain to him that without the bullet, the device couldn't possibly work! But to no avail, all I got was that knowing smile which says "I know best!" I just hate being treated with contempt, especially when I know what I'm talking about and the contemptuous one doesn't know his **** from his elbow!!!!!!! And that, Dear Reader was Mr Hany right there and then. He'll never know how lucky he was to be called away!  

I finished that little job off myself, much to my annoyance, but with my sanity thankfully still intact.

Then, my cheap and nasty JCB hammer drill was working itself! The cable was broken just inside the handle, and consequently the switch would only work if the cable was 'waggled'. No problemo! I knew just the man to fix it, in fact he'd already renewed the cable once before, so off I trotted, confidently. What was that about not counting your chickens before they're hatched?

"Oh no, Meester Adwar, not here. Never can we fix that!" My protestations that he (yes it was definitely the self-same man) had already fixed it once before, fell on deaf ears. He just wouldn't entertain it! Downhearted, I went in search of some bread, along behind the Temple. "Ah," I thought as I passed it on the 'bus, "the old brothers in the downstairs hardware shop are bound to know someone who'll sort this out for me." And so they did. One of their staff was duly dispatched to show me the place and to introduce me to the boss there. What a place, I was enthralled just by the smell of it! They repair everything electrical. Here is one bloke re-winding the field coils (by hand) on a huge electric motor:

He'd already been on with it for 5 days, but expected to have it finished in another day, or possibly two! A younger chap took the drill from me, and when I asked when I should return, he told me to wait for a few minutes and he'd fix it there and then.

He was as good as his word, and while I chatted to the owner of the workshop, Engineer Isaac, he took it to bits, repaired the broken wire and rebuilt it. Best of all; he wouldn't accept any cash! I tried and tried, even to the point of stuffing it in Eng. Isaac's shirt pocket when I came outside, but "No!" was the unchallengeable, and final, answer.

Which just goes to prove that not EVERY Egyptian is out to fleece you!


And that was an ORDER.

We moseyed on down to the Etap (actually now, officially the "Eatabe", as you may recall) for our tea and free cake. We like to sit outside, so that we can watch Luxor life passing by. That's all there is just now, with the dearth of tourists, but never mind, that's still interesting enough for us simple folk!

We had taken a couple of our old "Rough Guides" and a "Lonely Planet" down to leave in their small library beside the pool. Not that they were particularly out of date (the 3 and 4 thousand year old antiquities haven't changed much) but we like to ensure that our guests have the latest publications that are available. Anyway, to get back on-track; as Freda got herself comfortable, I took the books through the hotel lobby etc. to the poolside library. I was rather surprised to see the hotel foyer teaming with Egyptians; I thought that "Egyptian fortnight" was over last week!

As I returned, I kept a lookout for a waiter to whom I could give our order, but there were none about. Walking into the bar, I realised why! There was a football match on the telly in the corner, and the two waiters (Messrs Bedawy and Gaber) were watching it whilst half hiding behind a column while most of the management staff were seated in front of them and engrossed in the game. For a laugh, I clapped my hands like an impatient colonial demanding service! Poor little Gaber nearly wet himself as he signalled to me to be quiet and not arouse the attention of the bosses. I should have realised, of course, that they would both be in trouble if their manager got the idea that they were in any way neglecting guests. Bedawy explained that there was no free cake because the Egyptian guests would just eat and eat and eat it until there was none left, but he did manage to find us a couple of lovely warm pieces, eventually.  

I was just remarking to Freda that "It's nice here, isn't it?" (This is a family joke, at the expense of a certain lovely donkey man (Abdel) over on the West Bank, who keeps repeating it over and over again as he leads his tourists on their "West Bank Donkey Tour".) when two brand new army Jeeps came careering around the corner, disgorging men here there and everywhere. A bit of a fright, if truth be told! They span around in the road and pulled up directly outside the hotel. Then appeared two full-sized coaches, unlettered but with black and red diagonal stripes on their white base colour (like the Egyptian flag). These were obviously being escorted by the Jeeps, and were directed into the lay-by opposite to do a multi-point turn across the road, and they then pulled into the hotel entrance. They had mirrored windows, so we couldn't see the passengers.

All the accompanying soldiers were what I can only describe as REAL soldiers, smart camouflaged battle-dress, boots instead of winkle-picker shoes, carrying guns that looked as if they might just work properly with bearers who would know exactly how to use them if the need arose! I whipped the camera out, but then had second thoughts (you're not supposed to photograph Egyptian forces personnel) NO PICTURES!   

Suddenly, hotel staff began to appear as if from nowhere! One poor beggar was humping the "Red Carpet" all by himself, whilst it emitted a cloud of dust that must have been choking him! Another came running with a floor squeegee and water, the soldiers had the "cannon" posts out of the entrance before the normal security men were off their backsides. "Don't panic, Captain Mainwaring!" You'd think that the hotel management would have had some inkling of this VIP arrival, and organised their staff to cope with it in plenty of time, wouldn't you? I asked Bedawy who they were, "ArRrmy" came his really helpful reply! Actually, the coaches were loaded mainly with women and children. But there were more VIP's to come!

Not too long afterwards, although the staff were still trying to make the floor-tiles look clean and re-position the red carpet so that it didn't have to be folded over in front of the security gate, a rather large convoy started to pull into the hotel driveway (the coaches now half blocking the road outside) flags flying from bonnets ('hoods' if you're an American) and particularly unpleasant looking bodyguards abounding. The little fat hotel manager nearly fell over himself in his haste to salute the be-suited tall man with the Ray-Bans, as he tread upon the sacred carpet. What a hoot! This bloke was surrounded by fawning officers with multitudes of stars on their epaulettes, it was rumoured that he was (shhhhh); El Sisi's assistant!

Several more, smaller, convoys arrived over the time it took to us to sip our ever cooling tea. These were all conveying very senior officers. They wore distinctly different uniforms, as if some were perhaps Naval personnel or Airforce, or perhaps even uniformed Secret Police Who knows? It was all quite exciting, let me tell you! The camera, though, stayed firmly in my shirt breast pocket.

When we left, the hotel foyer was empty, but there was loud music coming from the main restaurant, upstairs, where they must have all been gathered.

8 Wheeler Update. (Plus!)

I was astonished to notice this today:

It's brand new Hyundai, and it's lovely. But do you see how they've ruined the lovely new tipping body by burning great holes in all the side panels in order to ventilate the gas bottles? I can hardly believe that someone has spent a small fortune buying this wagon! I mean, an ordinary platform body (which would have been all that was required to affix a bottle-cage to) would have been a fraction of the price of the tipping body alone, never mind the tipping ram, the power take-off and the assorted hydraulic wizardry! I'm still struggling to take it in.

On a lighter note; our Alice sent me the next picture this morning. I love "Top Gear", it's the best motoring programme on the telly, but I can just hear Clarkson repeating the words on the picture:

Back to reality, though; I've been missing for the past few days because I've been a busy-bee! The livingroom of our humble little abode, hidden away on the roof of "Our Luxor", hasn't been decorated for a long time, and was starting to look rather shabby. So it was decided (???) to repaint the walls. Now, as with everything here in Luxor, that's not as easy or straightforward as one might think!

For a start, the knotty-pine-style ceiling just rests on top of the walls......So?...... So the sunlight shines through the gaps which have appeared as the cement has shrunk, like old people's gums shrinking back to reveal more of whatever teeth they have left!

We've brought tubes of 'decorators caulk' (best buy from Wilkinson's) with which to accomplish the task of blocking up these gaps. Although I'm not an expert (nothing new there then!) I've plugged away scraping out the old cement and filled the whole of the joint with white caulking. Freda chose the new colour, which is the same paint code number as the old one but actually looks several shades lighter! And of course it was the usual see-through quality, but what do you expect for only 80le per 'jall-On' (actually only 3 litres!). Mind you, Girges the paint shop man did throw in a free new furry roller, which was hugely superior to the 1/11 one (Colloquialism: That's one and eleven, being one shilling and eleven pence, equal to about nine and a half of the new 'toy pence' we use in England now, and meant to signify the 'cheapness and nastiness' of any particular item) which we brought from home.

Since we had some slightly different pale yellow, but in a semi-gloss rather than the matt, I thought that some ablaq (Technical term: ablaq = the striped pattern effect which was created by using different and contrasting coloured stone, mainly in the Mamluke period, here in Egypt. But now more often created using different paints or finishing implements.) might look nice on the back wall, what do you think?

Just now, I'm waiting for Hany the plumber to come. He was due at 1 o'clock, to see what he needed, and then he was to return at 2 o'clock to get on with the little jobs and be finished by 4. I've done one of them myself, fixed the dripping (recently new) taps, but the other two jobs are ones that he has done before, and that he was paid for, so he's not going to be able to charge me a second time! I'll just wait, and wait, and wait. This is Egypt, you know?

Yes I know; this is of limited interest!

We could hear the clash of embubas (butane gas cylinders) being unloaded in the street somewhere nearby. So, being nosey, I leaned over the edge of the roof terrace to see what I could see. And here it is:

Now then! You may be thinking, "That's a bit of a waste of time, it's just a small section of a truck and of no interest whatsoever!" And, of course, you'd be perfectly correct in that assertion, Dear Reader. Well, perhaps not 'perfectly' correct, as I will try, by  my Sherlock Holmes style of observation, to interest possibly one or two of you.

For anyone with the slightest interest in heavy goods vehicles; it's obviously an eight-wheeled tipper, as evidenced by the two steering axles at the front and the white all-steel tipping body. (The hydraulic tipping ram is clearly visible at the front of the body, next to the spare wheel.) What is particularly unusual about it, is that it has been modified to carry the gas cylinders by the addition of a steel cage above the structure of the normal tipping body. I cannot understand why an owner would go to such an unnecessary expense, as there are a great many trucks, both rigid bodied and artic's, which are already specially adapted for this very purpose. I just cannot see the economic sense behind it! I also very much doubt that the 28 tonne (or whatever gross weight limit of the chassis is) could ever be reached by loading it with gas bottles, what a waste.

For those of you who have a similar taste in comedy to myself, I have to admit that I can be a bit Eric Olthwaite-ish when one of my particular interests come up! (This is a reference to a uniquely British comic genius called Michael Palin, who invented and played the extremely boring character of Eric Olthwaite for one of his hilarious series of programmes entitled "Ripping Yarns". A very short sample of which can be found by clicking HERE! )

These next two pictures are for those of you who are more interested in Luxor as a holiday destination rather than one for truck spotting activities!

This one's of Freda's Temple, caught as we had an evening stroll along the Corniche the other night, in the cold!

All those lovely columns, it's hard to imagine that the Temple is soooo old, and yet still here for us to enjoy.

And how about this next one to set your appetite away?

Yes, you guessed it; it's another work of art from sweet chef at the Steigenberger Nile Palace Hotel. Raspberry Cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate, sitting in a raspberry jus, it was as delicious as it looks, believe me!

Time for some tea, methinks. Goodnight.

White skin syndrome!

Yes Playmates, I'm sorry to have to say it, but I've been the victim of colour prejudice yet again!

You'll remember, no doubt, that I was waiting for a price for some carpentry work? It was with a new carpenter, introduced to me by friend Hany the plumber. He seemed a pleasant enough chap, with passable English (I know, my Arabic is still rubbish!) and he was prepared to give me a proper time-scale for the work, and to have it completed in plenty of time before our next guests arrive. However, his price was about three times what I had really wanted to pay. (For what to all intents and purposes amounted to an unglazed window frame; he wanted more than I could have bought a double glazed Upvc unit for in England!) I'm just amazed that these triers still continue to do it; they could probably make a good living by charging a reasonable rate, but they really do seem to think that we're all rolling in it!

It seems that we might have negotiated the excess electricity demand down by almost 3000le! I hope so. What do you think of a company who doesn't read your meter for 8 years (and it's in Arabic, and until I've taken steps to have the bill explained in detail, it made no sense at all, even now I cannot make head nor tail of their charging methods!) and then suddenly demands about 60% of what you've already paid over those 8 years, on top? Never mind, it will be sorted out tomorrow, insh'Allah.

Meanwhile (back at the ranch) I have decided to do the carpentry work myself when we come back after Easter. The only trouble is; that I cannot get it out of my mind! I've designed and re-designed it several times just today, and heaven only
knows if I'll be able to get it out of my head so that I can go to sleep tonight.

Talking of night, how about this for for a moon, is it a 'new' moon? I'm not up on this sort of thing.

I love the way it sits on its bottom at this latitude, it looks so strange to us from the more Northerly climes.

'Teaing' at the Nile Palace this afternoon, we snapped this cruiseboat making its way very slowly up the Nile. I've noticed this particular boat on several occasions, you cannot miss the colour scheme, but I'd never noticed the name before: "Diva & Spa"? There were plenty of passengers on the top decks; getting ready for their 'Afternoon Tea' I suppose.

The river was really quite busy today, as we sat sipping away. Lots of motor-boats, and a few large barges. With the wind being up, there were also a number of feluccas traipsing up and down, it was nice to see their sails full of wind. It's just a pity that there weren't more out, and full of tourists!

We had to call at quite a few shops on the way back home, and half way through; Freda split her favourite shoes, her Vivienne Westwood's!

I've tried the Super Glue, to no avail! I'll have to have another go tomorrow, as it's about bedtime now.

Sleep well!

Same again! Same a-bl**dy-gain!!!

As you may have guessed, Dear Reader, I'm a little peeved! But, as you also know, THIS IS EGYPT! (The land of exclamation marks!)

I'm sure that I told you about re-designing the iron gate area on the stairs, didn't I? Well just to refresh our memories: we had decided to do away with the rubbishy wrought ironwork on the stairs. See? That's it, the triangular bit and the narrow piece to the left of the gate, I've never really been happy with it. Even whilst I watched the cowboys put it together on the job; I knew that it would not be a permanent feature.

Freda just wanted it taken out and and bricked up. Haha! After using my wonderful new mini angle grinder to cut the welds, I soon had it removed and had one or two brickie types have a look at it, but they were crazy-men and wanted me to take out a mortgage to pay them. Eventually, I got the blacksmith from around the corner to come and weld the rubbish back in! It would be a case of "another day; another dollar".

In the meantime though, I thought that I'd get on and remove the part of the wall which sticks out just next to the iron gate. It's the dark painted bit at the bottom of the picture above. I definitely Blogged that operation, which finished off with this picture:

I got around to plastering it up, the other day, I'm not very good with a plasterer's trowel, but I'm definitely the best in Haret Osman!

That picture was taken just after I'd finished, it's almost dried out now, but the colour is still patchy.

Never mind, we've got more pressing things on our mind at the moment. We have guests coming!

The reason we wanted to enclose this area on the stairs was because the floor below (which has been unoccupied since we came here) is now the clinic of Dr Ashraf, a dentist. Not that that's a problem in itself, it's just that there are now people coming and going, with a resulting increase in general noise levels. It's not huge, but super-hearing Freda has commented on it, so something must be done!

Well, with the arrival of our next guests only weeks away, I thought that I'd better get my most recent plan (number three) into action. I rang Abdu, the carpenter from Karnak, the other day and arranged for him to come and weigh-up the job today. He duly arrived, and when I explained to him what I wanted; he started to shake his head! "Oh dear!" I thought "What's coming next?" It transpires that he is to be married in a few weeks time, and (like the cobblers children running barefoot) he hasn't even started the woodwork in his marital home!  He made several suggestions as to what could be done quickly and easily to sort of make the best of a bad job, but none of them were to my fancy at all. Plus, it would mean spending money to create what I didn't really want, and would just have to do again properly later.

Egyptian workmen are usually like this, mind. They listen to what you want them to accomplish, and then offer to do something completely different, and much better, of course, because it's more in keeping with their level of skill, or the absolute lack of it! So, with time getting shorter by the minute, I've now got to find a reasonably skilled carpenter who doesn't think that my skin being white means that I'm a millionaire! A difficult task in this day and age, I'm afraid. (Especially when the electric man is chasing me for an extra 10,000 LE! The fool!)

Things at home got a little fraught about things being left until the last minute, again, and being rather depressed by it all, we decided to watch "Cathy Come Home" which Freda had downloaded from somewhere while we were in Windy Nook, just to complete the atmosphere! (At this point, I offered to also play her some of my Leonard Cohen stuff, but she refused.) Cathy Come Home is very difficult to watch, even now, and heartbreaking to realise that this sort of circumstance affected so many people just 50 years ago. When you see again the slums which were commonplace in our young days; it certainly makes you count your blessings. It should be compulsory viewing for today's young'uns. They don't know they're born!