After all; I've been there, done that and got the tee-shirt too, haven't I? Over forty years of self-employment, over forty years of trying to keep successive governments, in their various interfering, controlling and money-grubbing forms, off my back, over forty years of cow-towing to some of the most awful people, because they were customers, over forty years of doing without while other families were enjoying foreign holidays and riding around in cars that were painted all over in only one colour (instead of the "bitsa's" that I had managed to cobble together). And NO, I'm not bitter, that was the life that we (more or less) chose for ourselves and our long-suffering children, and we've all managed to come through in just about one piece. I'm only making the point that I do know what it's like to struggle for a living, and that knowledge and experience certainly colours my dealings with other people in similar or worse situations.
So, why is it that so many of the tradesmen I meet here try their level best to take me for a ride? Do they really believe that all "tourists" are that stupid, and that rich? Long-time Readers of this Blog might remember the running battles I've reported on which I've had with so-called "tradesmen", those who bluff their way around day-to-day as they baffle people who don't know any better with fancy sounding talk and twiddling a few knobs here and there! I'm sick to death of them!!!!!
Freda goes mad with me when I suggest doing any sort of improvements to our property; she's the one who remembers the frustrations and rows that we invariably have with either workmen or go-betweens or suppliers. (My failing memory just blanks out the unpleasant things, or so it seems.) Hence, I've become something of an expert electrician, even though I'm seriously colour blind, and a passable carpenter, even though I cannot pick up a saw or any other bladed tool without attempting to cut off a limb. I'm now something of a dab-hand at fitting A/C units, and kitchen design, manufacture and fitting.
You, Dear Reader, understand well that I don't want to be, or do, any of these things, I've done my stint "at the coal-face" proverbially speaking!
I've not been happy with the guest bathroom for quite some time, as you'll remember. The replacement of the old-fashioned pedestal wash-basin with the lovely counter-top sink was a vast improvement, in my opinion. But it wasn't enough!
At last, Ahmed Hashem (of the flashing teeth and perpetual 'flu) the owner of Hashem Tower bathroom and ceramic shop on Medina Street, has our "Ideal Standard Ultra Flat Shower Tray" and accessories in stock, and they are being delivered to our humble abode tomorrow!! (Insh'Allah.) I had the marvellous idea of asking him to provide the labour to accomplish the fitting etc of the shower tray and the tiling modifications which were required to accommodate it. Good idea? I thought so, after all, he must know the good tradesmen. And, he should be able to command proper prices (to which I would add a worthwhile bonus if the quality of the work warranted it).
Am I really as green as I'm cabbage looking? Mr Hashem duly sent his best man (Ayman) with a "professional" plumber and two tilers (who both looked as if they had taken the day off school, and with oily hair and vile baseball caps, to boot!) Between Ayman and myself and a few translatory phone calls to Mr Hashem, we all eventually understood what each of us wanted to get across, and the gang retired to work out their estimates and deliver them to Mr Hashem, whom I would call "after one hour".
He rang me, within a half hour with the awaited quotes. I was (well, almost) dumbstruck when I heard the price from the plumber, he wanted a month's wage for the hour or two's job of fitting the shower tray! "WHAAAT?" I yelled down the phone. Freda nearly jumped out of her skin, as she hadn't quite been prepared for me losing my cool with the man with whom we'd dealt amicably for the past 9 years. Following a slight pause, he came out with the price from the tiling children. It really was one of those "Richard Littlejohn Moments", when you just "couldn't have made it up"! These two little scrotes wanted two months wages to sort out less than four square metres of tiles!
I didn't dare to go and see Mr Hashem until the following evening, and even then I was still fuming! I couldn't accept the fact that he'd actually given me those prices, knowing us as he does. But, he passed it off as being all he could do. He had complained to both the "tradesmen" that the prices they were offering were far too high, but they wouldn't drop any lower, so much for wanting work, eh? I told Hashem that I'd rather knock the building down altogether than be held to ransom by these clifties.
So, unless you, Dear Reader, knows someone who is skilled enough to complete this task for me, and wants a week's accommodation in Luxor free of charge, then it looks very like I'll be adding becoming a skilled plumber and tiler to my list!
And goodnight Vienna!