Brown Bread?

Years ago, I used to be an avid listener of the radio,  BBC Radio Two being my favourite station. On Saturday nights, I'd be driving around in my mini-bus delivering revellers here and there and tuned into the Martin Kelner late night radio show. On this show he had a feature called "Brown Bread", being a rhyming slang for "Dead"!

It worked with Martin giving a name, like Jack DeManio, or Englebert Humperdink, and contestants would phone in and tell him whether they thought that the named person was either dead or still alive. I cannot now remember whether any prizes were given, or the contestant just had the pleasure of knowing that they were right. Number One Son and I still might telephone one another occasionally and say "Jimmy Young (or whosoever); Brown Bread?"

Well, this is all working up to the fact that news reports of the demise of people "in the public eye" are not always true. For instance: In Cairo airport, on Tuesday as we were travelling home to Windy Nook, we came across the famous English All-in-Wrestler Mick McManus! There he was, as large as life, yelling instructions to other staff members (yes he's learnt Arabic) and directing passport wielding travellers on their way, you could have knocked me down with a feather!

No sooner had we left that part of the airport than we came across another 'mis-reported as dead' film star; one Boris Karloff, I was just about to type "as large as life" till I remembered that he was more likely to be as "large as the undead" when I remembered the type of role which made him a world-wide star.

The flight was relatively uneventful, I listened to my music whilst watching the two films in silent  mode; they're more fun that way, although it can be a bit difficult to catch the different nuances here and there. When the meals came around there was the usual choice of meat or chicken; we get one of each in the hope that one of them will have potatoes (for me) instead of rice. I opened the chicken one to find rice, and Freda opened the beef one to find what looked like a preformed slab of mashed potato. "Oh goody!" I exclaimed, and whipped it away from her.

The chunks of beef were a delight, no fat or gristle and in a small amount of tasty gravy, the veg were sliced carrots (very good) and pieces of something else which I couldn't actually identify (but which was OK). Then I cut into the potato and popped a forkful (metal cutlery as well!) into the expectant mouth, only to find that it wasn't potato after all, but homogenised rubber! What a surprise. (Freda said it must have been pasta; that foreign muck which the poor foreigners have to put up with because they don't have potatoes!) I did persevere with it, and actually forced down at least a quarter of it, but that was quite sufficient; I'm not  glutton for punishment.

Anyway, to get back to the theme of this posting; when we returned to Manchester International Airport, whom do you think we almost fell over? Davy Jones of the Monkees! Yes that's right, him that we've been told was actually Brown Bread. But he's not. He looks older mind you, with his hair, which he still wears long, going grey. And he's still wearing denim jeans as well; always a mistake on older gentlemen in my humble opinion.

But there you are, don't trust all that you read in the newspapers or see on the telly! Which reminds me of the kerfuffle regarding the imprisonment of the "Al Jazeera Three" in Egypt. Judging by much of the over-sensationalised and untrue reporting of Egypt's ongoing problems which I've actually seen for myself, along with the above posting, it just goes to show how dodgy it might be to call into question the Egyptian Court's opinion!



An extra night of luxury!

It never rains, but it pours! I'm sure that you're all familiar with that saying, it's often used allegorically as well, as in; you never get only one problem, they always come in multiples. Or in our case today; we didn't just have a good day at the Winter Palace, they fed and entertained us during the evening too! AND, they then changed our room for an even better one!

One of the managerial types engaged me in conversation this afternoon, and I said that we were happy with the room we had, even though it was a bit on the small side. Immediately, he offered to fix us up with a superior one.  Well, what could I say? Really?

So, here we are ensconced in our new room at the Winter Palace, for another two nights. Freda just doesn't want to leave! (Actually, this experience reminds me of once when we stayed at the Emilio Hotel, quite a few years back, with my brother Richard and Number One Son. The manager, Mr Shoucat, had us in 4 different rooms in the one week, and we'd spent two nights aboard a Nile cruiser! We had quite a turn with one of the rooms that he tried to get us into; there were already people in there, and asleep!) This room is a little better than any of the rooms we've had at the Emilio over the years, as you would expect.

Although this room must measure about the same as the last one; it certainly seems to have more usable space, plus, it has two bathrooms and a balcony! The view from the balcony over the Winter Palace gardens is magnificent.

And, over to the left, we can see into Abu El Haggag Square.

It's just lovely! We sat on the balcony for a while earlier; it was a real "balmy" evening, perfect for lovers. (Pity that it's us that are here, I can hear you say!)

Anyway, I'm getting in front of myself. After having a little siesta, we decided to have a slope around downstairs, among the common folk. Again, I got into conversation  with another of the 'management' types. (They just seem to home in on me, somehow.) Could I explain this certain English phrase in an invitation which they were handing out to the guests, as he hadn't come across it before and did't want the guests to think that the management were daft. I acquiesced and it was OK. He went on to personally invite us to this "do" which was a Music Festival, to be held tonight! Is the Pope Catholic? Especially when he mentioned that there was to be free food and drink provided as well!

The Music Festival (not a label I would have given) consisted of a horse dancing to the strains of a rabbaba band, followed by a very good (boy) Whirling Dervish. He, in turn, was followed by two enthusiastic young stick dancers, and then a four- man singing troupe with their own two drum accompanists, who were joined by three stilt-walkers, who were amazing! Although I took many pictures and a good few short videos of the various performers, I think that this short clip of the "Grand Finale" will suffice to give you a taste of the thing:

The choice of drinks included everything except spirits, I think, and the food was laid out buffet style on the Nile Terrace, where we were entertained by a very pleasant violin player. I tried, from the small heated tureens, kofta, fish and chicken, along with a goodly selection of small open sandwiches, including; cream cheese, turkey and cheese, pate, tuna.......I can't remember the rest, there were so many!

I remember when the Winter Palace Butler (that's him on the left) young Mr Ahmed, first started at the New Winter Palace as a trainee waiter, he learned a lot of his good attitude from Mr Bassem, who was a real Hercule Poirot type of character; waxed moustache and everything, and he was fitted with wheels, I'm sure! Anyway, it meant that we didn't need to buy any dinner, as we'd been well fed.

The evening was rounded off by the appearance of this man in a replica of a 500 year old uniform:

He was something to do with the ceremonial lighting of the foyer candles, I think:

One of the best things about this little holiday is the fact that we aren't having to suffer the consequences of having no electricity during this oppressive heatwave, role on Autumn, when the electricity usage will come down with the temperature and we'll all be happy again. 

Not my words!!!

One of our neighbours, Mr. Mohamed the ancient English speaking guide, has a saying for when the inevitable happens, i.e. the expected workmen, delivery or whatever don't or doesn't arrive…. "Bloody W**s!" he'll shout out. As you know, Dear Reader, I wouldn't dream of using such a derogatory expression, but lately 
I've been sorely tempted. 

I've been told by my editor that I cannot print THAT word in its full form as someone with a chip on their shoulder could take offence and report me to the thought police and I might get locked up

I've been working away quite well, making the frame for the stair window, re-designing the guest bathroom and trying to make good the shoddy workmanship of the Egyptian tilers and plumber. "Now just hang on there for one cotton-picking minute!" I know exactly what you're thinking, because I've been there before you, and asked the same obvious question. "Why didn't I just bite the bullet and pay the first (recommended) tilers and plumber their ridiculous prices?" I've thought long and hard on this, and to be perfectly honest I don't think it would have made a blind bit of difference, except that I would have paid out several times more money for work which I still wouldn't have been happy with! (The situation reminds me of the old undertaker adage, "What's the difference between a three hundred pound coffin and a seven hundred pound coffin?" Answer: "Four hundred pounds!") Never fear though, even though I definitely don't want to add these trades to my ever lengthening CV, I will make their sow's ears into silk purses, mark my words! (What a lot of exclamation marks.)

Here's a shot of a little of the damage that the tilers did whilst removing the old bottom row of tiles, in all they damaged 9 of the tiles which were to remain in 

(The tiles are really white, but my dodgy camera skills are self evident, as usual.) 

I've been using some architectural uPVC (plastic window stuff!) at home in England, and brought a few small pieces with us to Luxor, as I thought that I might find a use for it here to make a small cupboard type of thing to cover the pipework in the shower. Of course, after making some lovely 45 degree cuts for the outside framework, I found that the flat pieces I had just weren't big enough, job stopped   

I had a Paul of Tharsus moment, when I suddenly realised that some could come to my rescue and be used to re-style the lower part of the shower, and without looking at all out of place either. Of course, it isn't available in Luxor, or anywhere in Egypt as far as I can ascertain, so it will have to be brought here via  
our 17 stone luggage allowance on EgyptAir when we return after the summer. Job stopped 

 The other project, making the stairs a bit more sound and cigarette smoke proof,  is also on hold, again! I got friend Abdu, the Karnak joiner, to cut and machine the first and most important pieces of timber and picked them up in the caleche of Mr Ahmed. All well and good! By the time I got around to pretending to be a joiner, and putting into practice some of the skills which Piggy-Man Jenkins had instilled within me at Jarrow Grammar School, some of the timber had twisted. Just a fraction, mind you, but when I had cut my intricate joints squarely, they didn't fit too well. They'll be alright though, don't worry

I have to admit that I was quite proud of the finished result, a bit of Dave King syndrome again, I fear. Eventually, I managed to get Abdu to come to see what I needed him to do next, as there's still quite a few pieces of queer-shaped timber needed to fit in here and there between our well misaligned flights of stairs. (The Egyptian Way, you know!)

Being a self-confessed THICKO, I'd forgotten that, since Ramadan is almost upon us, Abdu the joiner would be stowed-off with work, it's coming out of his ears!!! The Egyptians have to have everything sparkling and new (if the cash is available, that is) for the Holy Month of Ramadan. It's like our Christmas and New Year rolled into one, as far as showing off is concerned. So, that job is also at a standstill!

"Never mind," says I, "I've got plenty of cleaning and the like to get on with in the meantime. It's less than a week till we go home, anyway." Horror of horrors! My faithful old friend; the K'Archer 2101 vacuum cleaner, which I bought second-hand from "Ken the Builder" at Pelaw in 2007, started making an awful noise. Being of an engineering bent, I recognised the sound as that of a bearing having gone West. (Colloquialism: Gone West = broken, worn out.)I stripped out the motor and took it (confidently) to the Christian electrical repair men behind the suq, the one's who re-wind the big electric motors (do keep up!). I was dreadfully disappointed when two of them told me that it was beyond repair, and needed replacing. On returning home, I decided to have a go myself! I got so far, I can see the collapsed bearing, but it just doesn't want to break-down any further! There's a rubbery plastic part, which seems to have fastenings embedded into it, and they are completely inaccessible. Another job abandoned for the duration! I've emailed K'Archer in England regarding the availability and cost of a new motor, but as yet they haven't bothered to reply.  (What I cannot say about them is "Bloody W**s!")

Even with all this frustration and upset, we still had our little holiday travelling around England to see a few of our sadly missed friends, to look forward to. WRONG! As we've had to spend so much recently; we can no longer afford to stay at the pleasant guest houses which we had booked. We might yet still get away, but only if Freda can be persuaded to rough it in the odd Travelodge, and if they can be booked cheaply!

Instead though, Dear Reader, we're having a short break , here in Egypt! At the Winter Palace, no less. (No, not the New Winter Palace, which was demolished six years ago, or even the Pavilion Wing, but the real thing!)

Once upon a time, EBookers were advertising the Winter Pavilon (it's French, dontchaknow) for 71 GBP per room B&B for two nights, including taxes etc. On top of that, booking through "Quidco" Freda could get a 10% cash-back deal, which would bring the price down to 63 quid. Not at all bad for the two of us to escape the twice daily power cuts (the temperatures are crippling at the moment, running in the high 40's) and to pig out on a good breakfast with no washing up or bedmaking to contend with. Then, we realised that the Pavilion Wing was actually closed, and that we would be upgraded to the actual "Winter Palace". Well!!!!! What would you do?

So, here I am, mid-afternoon (when we'd normally be experiencing our first power cut of the day) luxuriating in our beautifully cool (NILE VIEW) room at the Old Winter Palace, while Freda gently snores away taking her afternoon nap. It's like a foretaste of Heaven!

Being the second cheapest room type, the regular cost per night is only 600 Euros, with breakfast adding on only another 180 EGP each. (See the picture below of the rate table on the back of the door, and that's for last year!) Although we don't have a balcony, we do have a nice view of the Nile Terrace and the West Bank. The room is four and a quarter metres high a has about 20 square metres of floor space plus the bathroom. Not huge, but perfectly adequate, and very comfortable. The 180EGP breakfast went down very well, I can tell you! (In fact, it may have even surpassed the famous "Our Luxor" breakfast, but at six times the price, it should have done, don't you think?)

All-in-all, we've ended up having a 530 pound holiday for 63 pounds! Can't be bad, by anyone's calculation! I know that it's bucked me up, no end!!!! Here's a few pics, just to prove to you that we're here:

Our corridor Northwards

Our corridor Southwards

Nile View

Breakfast room

Flower Arranger in Foyer


Our room 

Our room

After all that, it's actually good to be alive, eh?

Moulid of Abu El Haggag June 2014

Dear Reader, I'm sure that you already know a bit about Luxor's famous Moulid, but just  in case........

Each year, 15 days before the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, the said Moulid reaches its climax. It commemorates the mid 12th century birthday of Luxor's most revered 'Holy Man' the Sufi Sheikh Abu El Haggag, whose Mosque is the one built on the top of Luxor Temple. (Although he was actually born in Syria.) I lifted the following titbit direct from Wikipedia. As you well know; I'm not cynical, or anything like that, but doesn't the following scenario sound familiar, or at least typical? 

"When Shaikh Abu El Haggag came to Luxor, Islam at the time was not the major religion in Egypt; Coptic Christianity was the leading religion at the time[citation needed]. The city was a colony owned by a religious Coptic lady[citation needed]. She used to be called The Princess[citation needed]. Her soldiers saw Sheikh Abu El Haggag there and was immediately recognized as a foreigner, therefore he was taken to the Princess for questioning as they feared that he is a spy from a different tribe/region. He complained to her about the treatment he received and expressed that he wishes to become a local citizen[citation needed]. The lady was generous and offered him to stay as long as he wishes[citation needed]. He asked her to give him a land as big as a camel’s skin to sleep on it, she thought that would be maximum of 2 square meters, so she agreed as she was a generous Lady, he asked her to sign a contract confirming the deal which she agreed to[citation needed].
At night, he took a camel’s skin and he cut it into a very thin line at the front of some local witnesses, something similar to a very thin washing line, he used it to border a big part of Luxor Temple[citation needed]. In the morning, soldiers saw this line and reported it to the Princess, and then she realised that he owns this bordered part of the temple as per their written agreement[citation needed]. As much as she was feeling deceived by his plan, they met few times afterwards, she was impressed by his knowledge and then she converted to Islam[citation needed]."
Like so much in Egypt today, this particular Moulid is actually a remnant of Pharaonic ritual and celebration! Islam, as with other religions around the world, has commandeered something of the form and content of preceding religious festivals. In this case, they have usurped the 'Beautiful Festival of Opet", along with its Holy Barques (now dressed-up feluccas) being pulled along with ropes by strong men, and sacrificial foodstuffs now represented by floats from the various trades of Luxor. But, most importantly, in the forefront of the procession come the learned 'Holy Men' of today in their dazzling white robes, chanting verses from the Muslim Holy Book, the Quran. Then, the camels which represent the Mosques. As in all these similar circumstances worldwide, the 'religion of the day' must be pre-eminent! 

Well, I'm afraid that general circumstances conspired against me, on Thursday, to prevent me from catching the earliest parts of the Moulid parade! Nevertheless, I didn't miss very much and caught the Mosque camels, which you'll remember, Dear Reader, are pretty well near the front of the procession.

I'm almost certain that there used to be only six Mosques represented by camels, but I see that there are now eleven. (Mind you, if ALL the Luxor Mosques had a camel in the parade, it would go on till Kingdom come!!!!)

Next came the caleche men, and the carters (with various forms of 'carting' ranging from the humble donkey-cart through three-wheeler motor bike trucks to diesel powered pick-up trucks and up to full sized wagons) there was even an Amoun man with his two-dust-bin hand barrow!

There was a diminution of the number of trades represented at this years Moulid, but the fruit sellers were still in evidence, and the other participants and onlookers were very grateful for their generosity!

These next pics shows the Luxor Health and Safety Executive float as they demonstrate what not to do with butane gas cylinders, they even had a boy on the road demonstrating what not to do with fly-spray canisters; yes they have them actually alight!!!

I watched and filmed the carra-navAl, (the emphasis being on the capital letter) with our friend and regular guest, the Quadbike Queen, from Yorkshire. I had reserved a place for us in the upstairs room of the coffeeshop belonging to one of our neighbours, Mr Fowie (the beast actually took money from me!!!!) as it has a great view over our square (known as "El Hod", after the water trough which used to be there) which the procession was bound to pass through. We were there for the best part of two hours and the camera battery gave out just before the end. (I should have re-charged it after filming the Stick Fighting the evening before, dummy!)

As usual, the event had its share of characters, I don't know the man in the monkey suit, but the headcase on the cab of the wagon is Mr Nasr who works in the suq selling statues and the like, he lives a couple of streets away with his many brothers.

Dispersed throughout the whole of the procession, perhaps the most numerous and vocal of all those employment groups were plainly visible to be seen. Maybe it's only fitting that, as I swear that I heard the name of Sisi...Sisi being chanted, the most boisterous, energetic and enthusiastic group of the day hove into view:

That's them, the unemployed youth! Let's all hope and pray that their Champion, President Abdul Fattah El Sisi, can find some way of harnessing all that exuberance, before it's too late?

God bless them!

This posting was supposed to be all  videos, but I was unable to get some to load. So I apologise for the photographs, which clearly don't do the action scenes justice. Onward and upward!

Moulid time!

Yes, the Moulid of Abu El Haggag is upon us once again. I know this because of the Stick Dancing outside our building here at El Hod (apparently this refers to a horse drinking trough which used to be in the square here next to the Mosque). I took a five minute video of it earlier this evening, while it was still light. Enjoy:

Tomorrow is the grand parade (Car-r-r-naval) which processes all around town, and which will undoubtedly pass-by the end of our little cul-de-sac. If you're good, I'll try to catch at least some of it for your delectation, Dear Reader. But for now, it must surely be bedtime! 

Did I say 'Woe is me'?

I know I actually did, but......... 

That was before our lap-top went on the blink! Now it really is a case of woe is me.

We have been using a Dell 1545 Lap-top, which our No. One Son bought a few years ago, and passed it on to us when he bought another new one, all singing and all dancing! It's been pretty good, really; runs hot a lot of the time, which makes it slow down but fairly reliable and consistent. Until the day before yesterday, that is.

It was working, but wouldn't load the Internet at all; I took it to be a fault with our USB modem/dongle thingy, took that to the shop on TV Street, (full of righteous indignation, of course) and was told that it was working fine!!! It must be a problem with my lap-top, the man told me. Helpfully, he suggested that I bring it in, and he would try to sort the problem out.

Whilst I was reasonably confident that the man was genuine, I couldn't help but recall the liars at Vodafone, who strung me along for weeks while knowing full-well that it was their system which was causing me no end of problems when I was using their dongle, but they were determined to NOT admit it.  

Anyway, he did try, he did this and he did that, and he also did the other, but all to no avail! Eventually, he gave up, telling me that there was a problem with the operating system on the lap-top. After I got it home, it wouldn't even start, although it did finally, but it still wouldn't connect. I tried everything that came to light as I fiddled here and there, but then I came across something that said that not only was the computer not able to connect via the dongle, but neither could it connect via Wifi (if there had been a Wifi connection available, that is) nor anything else!

In a bit of a panic, I rang our little mate Mr Bahaa, as I knew he had a tame computer 'expert'. We dropped the useless piece of junk off at his office, where Mr Ahmed was due to arrive at any time. Of course, he wasn't able to do anything with it, and it would have to go to the real repair man, Mr Noubi, at the bottom end of TV Street.

We got it back this evening, after Mr Noubi had installed a 'new' Windows. Actually, it's only 'new' to us; it's a copy, and it's all in Arabic, and with the writing going from right to left! What a carry-on we've had trying to get it to work for us knuckleheads, even now, it's still using the wrong keys for some of the punctuation marks. I hate this sort of thing, but I've been told before that you just cannot get a genuine Windows in Egypt, at all. 

It cost the princely sum of thirty Egyptian pounds (just about two pounds fifty) and will keep is going with emails etc until we get back to Blighty in a couple of weeks time. Hopefully, we'll be able to get it properly sorted out then.

I wouldn't really care, but I've lost ALL my pictures, and ALL my music and videos. I'd saved a lot of pictures of the ongoing works in the guest bathroom, gone; along with alsorts of irreplaceable pictures of miscellaneous oddities found around Luxor and videos taken at the Folk Club (even one of us singing!). I could just SPIT!

As I've already said, "Woe is me!"