Hesitation Blues.

As I'm sure you're aware by now, I'm a music lover. English folk music, certain poets which have been set to music (specifically Laughing Len and Bob Dylan) Christian hymns and choral pieces, rhythm and blues (not what they now refer to as R&B though), real blues; and even a smattering of pop and classical music!

A track which has remained a firm favourite for a good number of years is Hesitation Blues by the Reverend "Blind" Gary Davis. You can listen to it here but it's over 11 minutes long, so be warned!!!

Anyway, that's not what brought me to the keyboard tonight. I've come "hesitatingly", because I'm embarrassed to have been away for so long. Even now, I've not got all that much to share. We're back in chilly Luxor, after a fairly uneventful Christmas holiday. Well, not really uneventful, but not many events which you, Dear Reader, might find interesting enough to want to read about, and some which I'm not actually allowed to tell you.

I've taken one or two pictures of things which took my fancy at the time, but when I came to put them onto the computer; they didn't strike me as being likely to be of much interest to sane people. However, put altogether, they just might pass muster, let's hope so, 'cause you're being lumbered with some of them anyway!

I'll start by mentioning my younger brother, who's a music nut. He's an accomplished pianist and organist, he runs several choirs and writes and arranges music as well. Well; several months ago, he happened to mentioned that he quite fancied a go at a zither (?). Strangely enough, and not too long afterwards, Freda and I happened to be in a junk shop in Blyth (Northumberland) where we came across the most beautiful zither I've ever seen! (Some of you might remember a TV advert which went, "I saw this and thought of you." well that's exactly what happened here.) We bought it there and then, even though it had no strings! Here it is:

The inlay work is quite exquisite, and there is more, very intricate and uniform, right around the outer edge:

Although it has the name "John Werro" on the label and stamped on the fretboard, I'm reliably informed that he was not the maker, only the importer and retailer. His shop in London closed in 1914, and it has been suggested that was because he went off to war.

After corresponding with people in the USA and Germany (I couldn't find any help at all in England!) I eventually tracked down a German string manufacturer who had been making zither strings since the beginning of the 20th century, and he provided me with a set of new strings in time for Christmas.  Sadly, I wasn't there when Dear Brother opened his present, but I'm told he was over-the-moon!

Freda dragged me to the beach at South Shields one day, but it wasn't very hospitable! I took a short video of the cold rough sea, and caught a glimpse of Admiral Lord Collingwood's monument at Tynemouth at 38 seconds. Sorry about the wind noise:

Sister Susan bought us our usual Christmas presents of tickets to see her mate Maddy Prior singing with the Carnival Band at the Sage music venue at Gateshead. It's an ugly modern building near to our iconic Tyne Bridge, which spans the river from Gateshead to Newcastle:

Thankfully, neither Maddy nor her fellow performers decided to sing that disgusting dirge "Fog on the Tyne", but it would have been quite apt, as we discovered when we left the building, after the performance:

That's right! That's the Tyne Bridge again, but taken from the rail that's in the foreground of other picture.

On Christmas Eve, as you'll surely remember, we go Carol Singing on behalf of "Action for Children", which was formerly known as "The National Children's Home". Although we were of reduced numbers this year (about 6 or 7 for most of the evening) we still managed to break our previous records by collecting about £460 on the bitterly cold and windy night. I can tell you that Windy Nook Chapel and the hot tea, hot mince pies with hot pease pudding, was a very welcome sight when we were finished at just after midnight. A great time was had by all, as usual. Altogether, we sent off something like £640, which we were well pleased with. Sister Susan was telling us that she had come across an entry in one of the old Chapel Minute Books which recorded a decision by the Chapel Leaders Meeting to "Allow the young people of the Chapel to accompany the Carol Singers on Christmas Eve 1917" so we know for sure that we've been singing for at least 100 years, and likely a lot longer! Perhaps they allowed the young people to go because of many of the young men being away at the war, who knows? Our Chapel was known as "The Quarrymen's Chapel", whereas the other main Chapel at Windy Nook served the pitmen of Heworth Colliery, I believe that coal mining was a reserved occupation, but quarrying stone might not have been. Again, who knows?

Christmas morning finds most of our family squeezed into my Mother's parlour, where we open many of our presents, as Mam passes around a box of chocolates.

My artistic brother had made us all a two layer box of 30 assorted chocolates each, very scrumptious!

As always, Freda and I had our progeny come along for Christmas dinner, all 10 of them! (Including spouses, that is.) Maybe I should explain, for those who have their dinner in the evening? In Windy Nook, and places like it, we have our dinner at dinner time, and that's about the middle of the day, usually between 12 and 2 o'clock. "Lunch" is really a foreign concept, other than when it's "packed" and even then we'd be more likely to refer to it as our "bait"; a reference to the mid-shift meal (invariably bread and jam) taken into the bowels of the earth at Heworth Colliery (and others) by the pitmen of yore. And so it was that we dined in shifts, as we don't have seating or cutlery enough for 12 at a time! But it was delicious, as we always knew it was going to be.

After the festivities and resting of Christmas, I had a call (completely out of the blue!) from an old school friend and former business partner. After our grammar school education, he had gone into apprenticeship at a BMC Main Agent in Newcastle to train as a motor mechanic, while I was doing (more or less) the same in my father's business. After dad died, and my mate finished his apprenticeship, we became partners in the family HGV and car repair business. Eventually, he got sick of the small income we had for working stupidly long (and hard) hours and went off to look for oil in the scorching deserts of Sudan and Libya, and to make his fortune, of course! The last we saw of each other was 25 years ago, so you can imagine that, when he finally came to visit last week, we had a lot of catching up to do. We had a great time remembering friends old and new, and others who were no longer with us. I really hope we get to meet again when we return to Windy Nook in February.

Since we returned here to Luxor, we've been cleaning (how novel?) and have only been out for tea etc twice so far. Of course, first stop was the Steigenberger Nile Palace, where I was allowed one of the small cigars which Number-One-Son bought for me for Christmas. What joy! And, what a lovely new chandelier in the hotel foyer:

Last night we had the unadulterated pleasure of participating in an Egyptian wedding. It wasn't planned, and we certainly weren't invited; we were just trying to get to sleep until 2.45 this morning!!!!! Here's the wedding tent taking up the whole of the street on the other side of the school opposite us. What a racket!

The problem we have is that there is nothing around us to soak up the noise, I suppose that that's part of the price we have to pay for living on the roof? Downstairs, and in our street, the noise is hardly noticeable, it just floats over the other rooftops and straight into our bedroom. We might move downstairs for a night or two, what do you think?

We met with a dear friend this afternoon at the Winter Palace, isn't it lovely to see people whom you've missed for a while? On the way there, we collected a new friend. He's from England and has come to live in Luxor where he plans to organise holidays with a Yoga and spiritual theme. More competition for Witch Hazel and Mad Mara (and all the others) methinks! Good luck to him though, he seems to be a nice sort of chap.