Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Triumphant Tales from the Tombola of Treats

We've had quite an eventful night tonight.  We've been to a party in Soho Square which is along the road at Sharks Bay. The hoteliers in the Sharm area all clubbed together to lay on an outdoor 'do' for the holiday makers who are here at the moment. I think it was their way of saying 'thanks' as so many people have cancelled their holidays to Egypt altogether.

It was also a nice PR opportunity and the local dignitaries were there as well as the press/media who were out in force, getting interviews and pictures of everyone having fun, which I'm sure will be used to promote the resort and show that it's safe and people are here and enjoying themselves as usual.

Being a tad on the misanthropic side at the best of times, I usually avoid any type of organised function if I can help it. The idea of trying to force myself to be jolly with a crowd of strangers just makes me shudder but I would have felt mean if we'd ducked it altogether, so Woody and I girded our loins (whatever that even means) and boldly ventured out into the night to join our fellow partygoers.

I'm glad we did too. It was really good fun and we surprised ourselves by having a thoroughly good time. Transport had been organised to take us there and bring us back, there was food and drink in abundance and loads going on to keep us entertained in the square itself. My only criticism would be the toilet facilities. Most people know that public toilets give me the creeps at the best of times and tonight was no exception. There just weren't enough of them to cope with the demand, especially for chicks, so for the second time in as many weeks I found myself in the mens toilets again but that's a whole other story for another day...



Inadequate public conveniences aside, everything else was fantastic.  The square had been decorated really nicely. There were acrobats, jugglers and fountain shows galore and guess what, IT WAS ALL TROUBLE FREE AND TOTALLY SAFE so if you're thinking of changing your plans to visit Egypt because of recent events, please reconsider. I promise you it's completely safe. The tour operators have even reinstated the excursions from Sharm to Luxor and Cairo which is a clear sign that things are settling down and confidence is being restored.

Anyway, back to last night. We'd each been given a raffle ticket at the beginning of the evening and for the grand finale, a tombola took place in the centre of the square and guess what? We won! We won an all inclusive holiday back to Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sunrise Island View resort.

I KNOW! Exciting eh? I never usually win things so it was a lovely surprise although in fairness, I'm too mean to part with the initial stake to gamble and too lazy to enter competitions so it's hardly surprising I never win anything really. I suppose 'you've got to be innit to winnit' as they say and sadly, I never am.

We were thinking of coming back to Egypt at the beginning of next year anyway so it's nice to know that's already sorted out for us but do you want to know what my favourite part of the night was? That's right. I got to HAGGLE. Ha!

Woody wandered off and left me so I spent an enjoyable half hour haggling over a pair of Converse trainers, of which I am now the proud owner. What's that? What do you mean, they're probably fakes? Of course they're not! HOW DARE YOU?!  ;-)

Monday, 21 February 2011

Sharm el-Sheikh

We went along to old Sharm tonight.  Monday is market day so we expected lots of hustle and bustle, bargains galore and a good old haggling session over cups of Bedouin tea.

Instead, we arrived at the market to find this...


See how empty it is? The locals tend to use the market for supplies of fresh produce but you can buy all kinds of other stuff here too. It's usually heaving with tourists yet tonight there was hardly anyone there.




We spoke to lots of the shopkeepers and they really are struggling at the minute. They all say the same thing; they expect the tourists to come back in March, but the sentence has a hollow ring to it once you're heard it from 3-4 shopkeepers and I got the feeling they were saying it to try to convince themselves more than anything.

The travel reps have told us stories about the numbers of people who have cancelled their holidays after watching events unfold in Cairo and I see evidence of this every day in the empty sunloungers on the beach and around the hotel pools, but Sharm is approximately 8-9 hours away from Cairo and has been entirely unaffected by the recent protests. It would be akin to cancelling a holiday to Scotland because you saw on the news that there were protests in Cornwall.

The bottom line is that Sharm is entirely dependent upon the tourist industry. The area itself is very tightly controlled by the Egyptian authorities and it is extremely safe here. There's hardly any crime and there's only one road in and out of the entire area which is heavily guarded. The only people who live here are those employed by the hotels and restaurants and if tourists don't visit, the whole area suffers terribly.

I chat to the hotel staff every day and I see how hard they all work. It's quite humbling really, especially when I consider how much I moan when I have a lot to do. These guys start work at 6am each day. They serve breakfast from 6.30am and then rotate around the various restaurants on the site as they open and close in shifts to make sure food is available until 10pm each night. They can take leave to go home to visit their families in Cairo or Luxor etc., but when they're here they work, seven days per week from 6am to 10pm.

There's no working time directive or trade union here yet the guys I have spoken to think they have it pretty good and consider themselves fortunate to be working here in Sharm. They tell me that the pay and conditions are much more favourable than anywhere else in Egypt. They get basic accommodation provided while they're here as well as the opportunity to work in an environment where most of the customers are relaxed, happy and having a good time.

I don't want to get all preachy about it and I realise many people across the UK are struggling at the minute too, but if you are having a holiday this year and you're still thinking about where to go, maybe this post will at least make you want to find out a little more about Sharm before making your final decision. I do hope so. I've visited this area twice now and I would seriously recommend it if you're looking for a relaxing holiday with good weather all year round. There are great opportunities for water sports, particularly if diving is your thing, or if you just want to escape and relax you can engage (or indeed disengage) to whatever level suits you.

If you do decide to visit, make sure you plan a trip to the market in Old Sharm. I promise you two enjoyable things will happen...
 
1. You'll definitely get a lot of giggles with the Egyptian dudes. They're full of fun and love to chat so make the most of their hospitality and enjoy a cup of tea and a chance to sit down and rest while you explore.

2. You'll get to see my very favourite thing in the whole of Sharm. This little beauty...



Isn't he hilarious? The wooden horse I mean, not the Egyptian guy. The look on Woody's face when I said I wanted to buy it for our living room was priceless. So funny. We had to stop for hot, strong coffee so he could recover from that and try to get rid of the fleas that were jumping all over us both after I'd spent the night fussing up every stray cat we encountered.

Happy holidays ;-)

I'm having a tanfastic time!

I wonder if living in a hot country for a few years can actually change a persons skin forever? Woody lived in Cyprus for a while and I’m convinced that’s the reason he tans so easily now.

I’m lying here on my sunlounger, looking across at him and seething with envy. He’s been as brown as a berry since day 2 of this holiday, despite the fact that he hates sunbathing and spends most of our ‘beach time’ curled up with his book under an enormous parasol to avoid the sun.

Meanwhile I fry myself in direct sunlight from sunrise to sunset, always hoping that this will be the holiday when I finally get a tan.

If I’m lucky, I’ll return to the hotel to take a shower later and I’ll find that my nose has turned pink and I have the beginnings of something that may, at a push, be described as a ‘healthy glow’.

I’ll do my best to nurture it with expensive ‘tan enhancing’ lotions and potions yet I’ll still wake up tomorrow to find it faded away entirely while I slept.

I’ll see my disappointed face peering back at me from the mirror like Casper the Friendly Ghost and with a sigh of resignation I’ll take myself off to the beach to start all over again.

When I get home I’ll be subjected to the usual hilarious comments from family and friends…

“Did you decide to stay at home after all then?”

or…

“Did you actually leave the pub while you were away? At all?”

or my absolute favourite one from my brothers genius mate…

“Alright Jules! Were you sunbathing under a rock again?”

Do you see how lucky I am? I’m surrounded by comedy gold *sigh*

Life can be so unfair at times.


In other news, an Egyptian man approached me yesterday and offered me one camel and one cat to be his wife.  I gave this matter serious thought (he had a boat and I've always fancied a life on the ocean) before accepting his offer.  We were to meet on the beach at 1pm but he stood me up. I suspect he got wind of my domestic skills and made a quick escape. I'll learn from this and make sure the next one leaves a deposit.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

We're here!

Hello. I'm in Egypt. This is an INTERNATIONAL BLOG POST. Fancy that eh?




The 'luxury hotel' is not so luxurious after all but I don't care because the pool is gorgeous and it's HOT! HOT! HOT!

What I DO care about though, is the wiffy which was supposed to be free/included in the price but we are being asked to pay for it. Guess how much? Go on, I dare you...

What's that? You haven't got time to mess about on another one of my senseless quizzes? Well ok then, I'll just tell you shall I?

THEY ARE ASKING FOR SEVEN WHOLE GBP'S PER HOUR FOR WIFFY.

THAT'S SEVEN GBP'S.  EVERY. SINGLE. HOUR.

Cheesus Cod! If, like me, you fiddle with your phone 24/7, that would equate to 297457267 GBP's per day. Trust me on that. I'm an accountant.

Luckily I have my netbook with me and a nice boy has given me his dongle <snigger> to use during our stay so I have avoided this dastardly charge. You can't keep a wily accountant down for long. Ha! *winky face*

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that we actually managed to get away after the holiday mishaps of the last 18 months or so. I must leave you now though. I have my knotted handkerchief on my head, my bucket and spade in my tesco carrier bag and I'm off to explore and have a paddle in the pool. Laters dudes...


PS - They haven't asked me to be President yet but I think it's just a matter of time. They're probably giving me a bit of time to settle in and get a tan so I look good on the tellybox/newspaper pictures when I wear my crown.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Urgh de toilette

I went to the supermarket earlier this evening. When I got there I needed to use the loo so I left Woody in the store & wandered off. The loos were empty but whilst in the toilet cubicle, I heard someone else enter the room & go into the cubicle next door before emitting a huge grunting moan.

"Urgh!" I thought. "That sounds like a fairly strange woman. I'll try to ignore the noise"

More grunting...

"Hang on a minute!" I thought. "That's not a woman. That's a MAN! Jeebus cod! There's a man using the female toilets! How rude!"

Full of indignant outrage I decided to inform a member of staff so the perp could be hauled out & (hopefully) subjected to a good ticking off before being publicly ridiculed for his misdemeanour.

Imagine my surprise then when I yanked open the cubicle door to find another man pissing in the sink. That's right. A MAN WAS PISSING IN THE SINK!

I shrieked and fled back to the safety of my cubicle, slamming my door behind me. "What manner of skullduggery could this be?" I asked myself. "Men? In the ladies toilets? Shocking! Oh, and weren't those sinks an unusual shape?"

Clunk! *Sound of 496526 pennies dropping*

"Holy shit! It's ME! I'm in the wrong toilets!

What can I do? I can't just walk out with a haughty expression on my face. Or can I?

If I stalk out of here with my head aloft and my patented 'eyebrow of disdain' arched tightly across my right brow, will I get away with it? Will I exude such certainty that they question their own choice of toilet? Will they assume they're in the ladies?"

I didn't of course. Instead I cowered in the toilet cubicle fearfully listening to all the nasty, rancid, grunting farty noises and praying that they'd all leave so I could sneak out without any fuss.

I seemed to be there for an age before the panic really set in. Then I started frantically texting Woody to ask him to rescue me from my cubicle. No response.

I texted again. Nothing.

I began to hyperventilate (that could have been a reaction to the horrendous smell though) and texted again. Nothing.

But wait! Sshh! Listen to that...

Could that be silence? Could they really have left?

I opened the door tentatively to be greeted by an empty bathroom. Fantastic! I sneaked out, hoping against hope that there'd be no one outside to witness my shameful error.

Tugging at the door which led back to the supermarket, I was greeted by a frosty faced cleaning lady who had been waiting ages for a 'gentleman' (me) to exit so she could get on with her cleaning duties and behind her, Woody, crying with laughter as he read the texts from his phone.

Oh the shame! Imagine how my face burned, dear reader. And how it burned again when I realised Woody had posted a screen shot of my texts on Twitter later this evening...



Oh and by the way, this is also the day that I accidentally hurled my iPhone from the window of a moving car. One of these days I'll actually get my shit together...

Never mind. At least I've got my holiday to look forward to. We're off to Egypt on Monday. Straight into the riots. Ho ho ho... *sigh*

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Lipshen

We got a new addition to the family today.  Meet Lipshen...



She came from Animal Krackers, a charity which was set up in the late 90's by a local couple, Ian and Sue, to raise funds for local independent animal rescue organisations.  Over time it became a focal point in the community and people started taking waifs and strays along, as well as their donations of items which could be sold in the shop. It's continued to grow since then and has eventually morphed into a strange, but much loved, hybrid of an organisation which serves a number of different functions across the community.

The staff consists of volunteers and they do a fantastic job of manning the retail outlet from which donated items are sold to raise funds. They visit local schools to educate children about animal welfare and they also work with older kids and teenagers to help build their confidence.  They're trying to raise money for a new animal shelter at the moment but until then, they are constantly seeking volunteers to help out with short term fostering of abandoned animals, particularly cats and dogs, as they simply don't have enough capacity to take all of the animals that need help.


When I left home earlier today with a bag of clothes and household items to go to Animal Krackers, I had no idea I'd be returning with a new member of our family.  I love all animals, especially cats, and it really tugs at my heartstrings when I hear the stories of abandonded pets. I always have to steel myself before I go in to the shop or I'd come home with every waif and stray in there but there was no way I could have stopped myself falling for this poor little mite when I saw her. She had me from hello.

Her previous owners were evicted from their house for some reason and when they left the house, they also left the kitten behind. The loathsome creatures even returned to the house a few days later and broke in to retrieve some of their possessions which had been left behind on the day they'd been evicted, yet they still left the kitten behind. I'll never understand that kind of mentally. I'd find it impossible to simply 'dump' an animal. It's utterly heartless.

The neighbours fed her for a couple of days before taking her down to Animal Krackers when it became clear that she had definitely been abandoned and that's where I met her today. Isn't she lovely? She snuggled into my neck, purred and fell asleep and my heart was stolen in a nano second.



It was out of my hands from that point on. I'd bundled her into the car and was half way home before I even remembered that I hadn't spoken to Woody about her but luckily, he was equally as smitten once he met her.

We originally called her Ella, as in the Greek word meaning 'come on'. Woody speaks Greek so it's a word which is used often in our house anyway and we thought it might suit her. We couldn't have been more wrong.  She's very cute but it's cute in a mischevious way rather than a 'poppet' way and she's definitely not a 'girly' cat at all. We had some great names suggested by friends at home, as well as on Twitter and Facebook, but for some reason none of them seemed to suit her.

She's a bundle of energy and is forever climbing walls, curtains, legs and arms; anything that's near her really. She's so small and light she can hurl herself across the kitchen without making a sound and before I'm even aware she's there, she's somehow managed to scale my legs and back and I find her perched on my shoulder like a slightly deranged parrot, peering down inquisitively as I make my cup of coffee.

It's absolutely hilarious and it's this kind of antic that made Woody remark how much she made him think of a witches familiar, so I suppose it was a very small step to then come up with the name Lipshen, which seems to suit her so much more.

We both love the Roald Dahl book 'The Witches' and we always laugh because, as someone who has a natural aversion to children and a total absence of any kind of maternal instincts, Woody insists I remind him of the Head Witch played by Anjelica Huston in the film of the same name and who has a cat named Lipshen as her familiar.

So Lipshen it is! Not that it really matters what we call her as she has a mind of her own and ignores both of us most of the time anyway. She's been here for all of five minutes and she's already created havoc.



Our older cat, Millie, is completely bewildered by it all. Lipshen has already hijacked Millie's basket and is merrily scoffing her biscuits as I type this whilst Millie looks on with a bemused expression on her face.

It's early days as yet but I do hope they settle down and get on together as I doubt I could take Lipshen back to Animal Krackers. It seems we are now a two cat family!      >^..^<    >^..^<