Wednesday, January 24, 2007

This is what happens when you don't have satellite TV

"Ya 2amar"

A scene in an Egyptian soap opera tonight featured a couple walking into a nightclub- type establishment before being guided to their seats by a waiter. Being a consummate professional and connoisseur of old-school restaurant etiquette the waiter stood behind the lady’s chair as she sat down, and then did the holding-onto-the-back-of-chair-and-pushing-slightly-while-lady-sits-down-thing. Now this is all very Omar Sharif and chivalrous etc, but the lady was sitting in a tank-sized leather sofa, which resulted in the waiter having to adopt a stance similar to that one adopts when pushing a car which has run out of petrol up a slight incline.

This took the edge off the rage induced by accidentally hearing thirty seconds of a song by suberstar Yousra. I do not know the name of this atrocity but it is the one where she bleats on about everyone needing love, in Arabic, English and French - because she’s international and debonair, people. The chorus features accompaniment by a choir of children whose voices have not yet broken: a musical crime of the first degree. It seems to have escaped Yousra’s notice but there is a reason why microphone stands are so high: it is to prevent precocious little tuneless individuals sneaking into studios and recording songs with which to torment us. You may be angelic, Derek, but you sound like Tinnitus.

Why must Yousra sing? She is a good looking actress of a reasonable standard who can boast that her lips have been within two centimetres of Ahmed Ezz’s face – surely her work is done? Seeing her in the vicinity of a piano makes the Jaws soundtrack play in my head, and during her rendition of La Vie en Rose in the Yacoubian Building I found myself biting on my knuckles, while trying to curl myself into the smallest ball possible - a defence mechanism used by small mammals in response to danger from predators. It didn’t make the pain stop. I literally felt embarrassed for Yousra, whose unctuous, tuneless, supposedly seductive warbling is essentially poor man’s Dalida, and induces a mixture of rage/vicarious embarrassment every time I hear it.
Speaking of His Majesty Omar Sharif, and I take any opportunity to do so, I saw him in his mole-bedecked glory days in ‘Men agl Imra2atin’ yesterday, and nearly passed out while contemplating his beauty. Those slightly scary intense eyes! Those lips! The man was a god, and I can in fact boast to having met him for exactly two minutes after my Bridge-playing auntie smuggled Mildred and me into a Bridge tournament hundreds of years ago. I am pleased to report that he still had his certain je ne sais quoi-ness goin’ on then, and the motor is still revving now - if his antics at the latest Cairo Film Festival Awards anything to go by. The contrast between his polite but tepid greeting of male winners, and the old fashioned mental undressing treatment he gave the ladeez was a joy to behold. At one point a breath-taking statuesque Italian beauty with enormous bazookers glided onto the stage dripping sex. Omar’s jaw dropped and he immediately began fanning himself theatrically with both hands. During her (faltering but sexy) speech Omar was clearly visible whispering to (Dr – how come?!?) Ezzat Abo Auf and his toupee - while all three checked out her endless legs. He was probably saying something along the lines of “eih el ta3ama deih” only in French, cos he’s sophisticated, innit.

Afterwards while all the fabulous people on stage formed a line and smiled, and the ordinary people in the audience clapped them, I kept my eye on cheeky Omar. Sure enough he edged his way gradually towards Bazookers using a sideways-stepping crab motion before standing on tiptoe and whispering something in her exquisite ear. She looked briefly baffled before herself edging away, both of them all the time clapping and smiling rigidly, leading me to conclude that he may indeed have whispered “eih el ta3ama deih” only in Italian, cos he’s sophisticated, innit.

Meeting Omar seems to be a family tradition, because my mother used to see him - only in black and white – in the Gezira sporting club during the sixties. Both she and I share the same tic of involuntarily sighing ‘ya 2amar’ [moon] whenever we see a black and white Omar on screen. God forbid that anyone should think my mother missed a romantic opportunity all those years ago, because she is now married to a librarian and lives in Croydon, where she can enjoy its first-class tram service.

Lest anyone think I am name-dropping, allow me to state that I have not met any other celebs apart from a pre-Olympics British pole-vaulter who never made it. I did once however enter a restaurant just as Amr Waked and his green eyes were putting their coats on and leaving.
Note: Never before have I hyper-linked to so many men, I feel quite the trollop.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sock it to me

Amnesiac and the Pig are cruisin’ in the Corolla on the traffic-free Maadi Corniche.

It is a Friday, and the Islamic new year holiday, and Cairo can stretch and yawn into the empty other side of the bed, still warm and recently vacated by its poorest migrant workers and richest long-weekenders.

The weather is trademark Egyptian winter: intensely sharp coldness bathed in the sun’s languid heat. The azure perfection of the sky is rivalled only by the anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better silky blueness of the Nile waters, and everything and everyone gleams in the incandescent brilliance of the sun.

Amnesiac has not seen a single donkey or horse being beaten. She has not in fact seen any working animals of any description. She has only seen cats chillin’ on roofs. This is the kind of thing which makes her happy.

Adding to her general joie de vivre is the fact that Ilham el Madfai is singing ‘Baghdad’ on the car stereo, his richly sad love song/lament for the city he loves.

Ilham: We ensy el 3ataab, faqad neseet 3ataaby etc etc [forget blame, because I have put reproach behind me]
Amnesiac: Allaaaah etc etc
The Pig: He doesn’t sing in tune.
Ilham: [ignoring the Pig]: 3aynaak ya Baghdaaaaad, mondhu tefoolity [your eyes, O Baghdad, since my childhood]
Amnesiac: [ignoring the Pig]: Doesn’t matter. His voice is full of shagan.
The Pig: Hmm.
Ilham: [rababa solo]
Amnesiac: [Practically in tears because of its exquisite sadness, and also because of PMT]: This rababa solo is gorgeous!
The Pig: It’s not a rababa, it’s a violin.
Amnesiac: No, it’s a rababa.
The Pig: La2 it’s not. Etc etc.
Ilham: la tunkury wajhy…fa anty 7abeebaty…we woroud maa2edaty [do not deny my face, for you are my darling, the roses on my table]
Amnesiac: Yaaa “ you are the roses on my table!” Gorgeous!
Ilham: …We ka2ss shuraaby* [and my cup of life. Literally “the cup of my drink”]
The Pig: And my socks ya3ni.
Amnesiac: …
Amnesiac: Do you realise that I will never again be able to listen to this, one of my favourite songs, without thinking of footwear?
The Pig: [Looks straight ahead and smiles the smile of a boy who has just kicked his worst enemy’s football onto an unreachable roof.]

* shuraaby is a homophone which can mean either “my drink” or “my socks,” for allegedly comic effect.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I occasionally get acute attacks of the Egypt blues. During these bouts my head aches in the same way it does when I read books which attempt to explain the size of outer space, while my chest feels like I’ve been inhaling pure, undiluted, sadness. Brief but intense, the only antidote to these episodes is watching Rachael Ray, so that I am reminded that there exist other, worse, realities.

Egypt’s capacity to induce melancholy is, of course, no surprise, and these particular Egypt blues should not be confused with the feelings induced by witnessing particularly heart-rending scenes of poverty, oppression or misery. It is a sad truth that an essential coping mechanism for living in this society is steeling yourself constantly to witness/hear about some hideous event practically off the scale of human suffering. As a result, I - and apparently everyone else around me judging by the levels of indifference - have become inured to seeing crowds stepping over invisible limbless beggars, inconsequential people breathing their last breaths in police stations, and six year old Kleenex sellers.

This protective armour has rendered me (almost) insensible to the daily misery, but cannot prepare me for the less direct, more low-key sadness akin to the water which melted the otherwise indestructible Wicked Witch of the West. Sources of this sadness are many and varied, but are linked by the common element of being entirely mundane. They include; soldiers outside embassies with no shoelaces in their boots; the taxi driver in the beat-up taxi who kept having to push up the car’s sun visor every time the car went over a bump; people wearing shibshib at night, in the dead of winter; tears in the seats of trousers which have been repaired using thread an entirely different colour to that of the trouser fabric; the Nile TV English channel programmes devoted entirely to interviews with foreign tourists, and filmed with what appears to be a mobile phone camera; moneyed people who subject powerless restaurant employees to Abu Ghraib-type humiliation, only verbally, simply because they can; Mohamed Hosny Mobarak plaques on any edifice of any kind, including tram stops in Alexandria; donkeys; bureaucratic officiousness; shops called bookshops devoid of books; people using sports club membership as a key factor governing a marriage decision; sycophancy, particularly of the type witnessed on “el bayt baytak”; radio listeners telling Nagoum FM DJs that they love them “gedden gedden” and DJs similarly declaring their love for people about which all they know is their first name; bridal white face paint; dirty bear/clown costumes during children’s parties at MacDonald’s; long little finger fingernails; the ‘who shouted fire’ manner in which people get on and off metro trains; ‘7ader men 3anneyya el etneen’ and then nothing happening; ‘3addeeha ya Amnesiac’; the furniture used in soap operas and films; prefacing first names with Mr/Miss, even when speaking Arabic; ‘look at me’ displays of piety; schools with the word ‘home’ in their names; people prefacing their name with their occupations in situations where their occupation is entirely irrelevant i.e. ‘ma3k el mohandess Abaza’ or ‘ma3k el fadya Amnesiac’; ‘kol sanna wenta tayyeb’ as an extortion device; soldiers lining the 2asr el nil bridge whenever some minor official is in the environs; when these soldiers relish ordering people to keep to the pavement.

These things perturb me because they are a reminder that Egypt’s social and economic problems have seeped into every single aspect of its existence, and are so interlinked, that attempting to fix one area would be like the time ten of my mother’s necklaces became knotted together, and she asked me to extract one, and I discovered that in order to do so I would have to spend hours undoing the whole bloody lot.

Egypt obviously still rules in a myriad other ways, and I could write a lengthy love letter to her exulting her many virtues, but also advising her that she appears to have fallen in with a crowd of shady types who are leading her astray.

Monday, January 15, 2007


I went to a house party on Friday night about which I can remember very little. One very clear memory however, is my “friend” Sharshar inexplicably dragging me over to talk to the boss of a centre where I was going to work, but who I had turned down with a curt email. Sharshar obviously did not give me enough time to think of a convincing and inoffensive reason why I had refused the offer, and the brief but intense moment of social awkwardness which ensued was dispelled only when I realised that Almost Boss guy was so completely pissed that he would not remember the conversation - nor indeed meeting me. It turned out that he had reached this astonishing level of intoxication in record time by doing Ouzo shots. Sharshar discovered this after Almost Boss became particularly animated during a discussion about the human rights issues surrounding the niqab case (the conversational tone at the party was initially high) and spilled his glass all over the sleeve of Sharshar’s suit jacket. The sleeve subsequently spent the rest of the night trying to seduce the female guests before throwing up over a plant.

Gombaz demonstrated that sisters are still doing it for themselves by identifying a Man Target and cutting through the mingling party-goers like Moses traversing the parted waves of the Red Sea. She claimed subsequently that she was “going to get food” and that she and Man Target’s eyes had just happened to meet as she wrestled him to the ground was choosing a selection of mezze.

Sharshar - who usefully doesn’t really like to drink and is therefore the always and forever designated driver (despite the intoxication levels of his jacket sleeve) - spent most of the evening like a UN peacekeeper: allowed only to observe the course of events without himself being permitted to join in the action. He demonstrated good will and forbearance towards we, the drunkards, however. Like an indulgent granddad, he patted the Pig’s hair while the Pig patted his in order that they too could join me in marvelling at the rich textual difference and associated sensory variation experienced during the process of patting their two curly hairs (Sharshar: think Tom Jones. The Pig: Glen Medeiros.)


The Pig

At the end of the evening Gombaz and I line danced (or is the past tense lone danced?), she elegantly and fluidly, me flailing and limping, to house music. This is possibly the first recorded instance of such a juxtaposition of the two art forms, and is certainly so within the middle east and north Africa region. Gombaz then walked on her hands, and the Pig performed a magnificant football player-style shoulder spring (again at my insistence) which transformed the party into a small-scale suburban Cirque du Soleil, minus the dwarves.

We eventually left after the hostess called out from the other side of the room telling Gombaz and me not to keep changing the music, or else she would send us to our bedrooms (while we sniggered). I was eventually bundled into the car and the next day happily examined mobile phone photos I have no recollection of taking. Always a sign that a good time was had.

Update: Gombaz is insistent that she will teach me to dance the 'electric slide' and has made me download two country music songs in preparation. I am delighted to discover that the songs in question are by 'Trace' Adkins (the best names are verbs), and the songs are entitled 'Ladies Love Country Boys' and 'Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.' I am sold!

Separated at birth

Corella DeVille

Walid "el koun" Aouni

Friday, January 12, 2007

Best headline of 2007 so far

Mubarak tells Iran not to touch Iraq

"Yo bitch, you touch my girl Iraq an' ima hurt you, ima hurt you so bad yo' gonna WISH that America got to you first...You hearin' me cocksucker?? I see you in the club and you even farting in Iraq's general direction, and my boy Jimmy gonna knock you upside yo' beard AND yo' head, you know what time it is, biatch."

Big Daddy H

Swings and roundabouts no. 2

Bad things about Cairo Mall, Haram: The monkeys maddened by being chained to fake trees in a jungle-themed coffee shop. The acres of beige polyester. The window displays full of sad looking ladies' underwear in the style worn by elderly prostitutes who refuse to admit that they've had their day.

Good things about Cairo Mall, Haram: Demonic child mannequins:


Demonic child mannequin.

Yeah but Forrest didn't get bothered by boys in Lancers

Continuing this week’s theme of doing foolish, masochistic things, tonight I went jogging in the streets of Zamalek with Gombaz and her 19-year old jogging pal (yes such things exist.)

To put this in context: I have not undertaken physical exercise of any kind since I was doing my dissertation last summer and, during a particularly idle moment did my Cindy Crawford: the Next Challenge Workout DVD.

What persuaded me to undertake this foolhardy step was:

1. Bum envy. Gombaz is a runner and has a posterior you can rest objects on, such is its 90 degree-ness.
2. Being 30. I wanted to test if I can actually still run normally or whether I have irredeemably acquired the gait of unfit middle aged women running for buses (head down, side to side motion, arms and handbag lodged under bosoms to stop them bouncing.)

I was happy to discover that I can still run. In fact it started out splendidly, I kept up with the kids with only minor breathing difficulties, and successfully negotiated at least two 3- foot curbs.

Then we stopped suddenly because Gombaz needed to pee and a minor detour was made to the Four Corners restaurant, after which it all went downhill. As Gombaz and friend glided along in front of me, I began to tire. I like to think that it was because of Cairo’s infernal pollution, but in fact when I face the music and listen, the tune playing is “Amnesiac is hideously unfit.” At about the time I started to lag and eventually stop, three youths in a Lancer appeared in order to shout “encouragement” at certain parts of my two companions’ anatomies. The whole circus disappeared round the corner, and when I eventually arrived (walking and swearing) I saw the youths still in full voice, but noted that they stopped when I appeared. This prompted the sobering thought that perhaps these boys mistook me for a lady chaperoning my two daughters, and had stopped their testosterone charged antics out of respect for the presence of a senior citizen.

Anyway I soldiered on and about the time I began to master my breathing, the Rugby induced knee injury which had been cured by complete inactivity decided to put in an appearance because it missed me so much. This was outside the Marriot, so I was forced to limp, red faced, the entire length of the 26th July drag to our meeting point at Um Kulthoum tower. Gombaz and her pal gallantly remained by my side and propelled me along with light banter, making me feel like an enormous taxiing airplane being guided onto the runway by the men with the lollipops.

I can now say with authority that jogging in public in Cairo is a preposterously foolish act on several levels. I had strong suspicions that it was such before embarking, because of the memory of my father jogging in Dokki in the 80s and being pelted with stones. He however, insists on wearing shorts resembling Speedo swimming trunks, and the uncharitable part of me thinks that he got off lightly with this treatment.

I am now pleased to report that I am the proud owner of a limp similar to that of Dustin Hoffman’s Ratso in Midnight Cowboy and, when mounting stairs, must swing my completely straight left leg to the side in an arc motion.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Not everything that is banned is good/we Ahmed Ezz maalu?

I voluntarily went to the cinema to watch Donia tonight. It turned out to be a particularly foolish act of masochism.

My interest in the film derived from the fact that media reviews had touted it as a bold film which crosses Egyptian cinematic red lines, tackles thorny issues such as female genital circumcision and, as a result of this audacity, had been banned by those reactionary killjoys with their busy scissors at the Ministry of Mind Control. Egyptian films seem largely to fall into one of two broad categories; arty/independent or mass consumption, by which latter is meant either Ahmed Ezz or Hany Salama in a car chase, or Mostafa Qamar/Khaled Selim running in slow motion on a beach with Dalia el Bekheiry/Nelly, all laughing uproariously at some unheard joviality and the sheer magic of life. Having had my fill of implausible plot lines and la la land Egypt First, what Religious Sectarianism?© propagandising with el Raheena , I looked forward to watching Donia. By the end of it I was longing (even more strongly than I usually do) for Ahmed Ezz surviving a 4000 foot drop off a cliff, and Russian actors pretending to be American. As Sharshar said once he had regained his ability to talk after seeing it “law makanoosh mana3ooh kont ana hamna3oo” [If they hadn’t have banned it, I would have.]

The film simply had no plot, but rather was a series of the following self-contained, apparently unrelated scenes: [Excruciatingly long, but friends share pain, right?]

- Hanan Turk does Kate Bush style dancing in a circle, while a very camp Walid Aouni with a frankly ridiculous accent (yes yes kettle and pot) and Corella Deville hairstyle entreats her to “truly feel the music” and “focus all her weight on the pivot” as she is “surrounded by the universe…the UNIVERSE….the never-ending UNIVERSEEEEE” as he himself waves his arms in the manner young children use to represent trees swaying in the wind during school plays.
- Fathy Abdel Wahab lurks in waiting for Hanan in a pervy stalker manner, and confesses his love for her after he descends upon her. Hanan rebuffs him in a playful way, but her cheeky smile, and the fact that she is standing so close to him that she is practically inhaling his nipple, tells us that she is Hot for Him.
- An overweight woman appears in a very short nightgown and belly dances.
- Mohamed Mounir rails against the banning of 1001 Nights.
- Hanan dances again, this time against the backdrop of a giant poster which is meant to be her mother. That it is actually Hanan Turk is plainly obvious to all.
- Aida Riad drives a taxi while smoking, for she is a Woman Who Doesn’t Give a Fig About Social Conventions.
- Mohamed Mounir rails against the banning of 1001 Nights, this time while topless and wiping his sweaty face all over the body of a woman wearing 407 bangles.
- Fathy jumps out from behind Aida’s taxi and tells Hanan that he loves her.
- Hanan dances. Walid is camp.
- Four overweight women dressed in what can only be described as opaque coloured cling film belly dance.
- Mohamed Mounir rails against the banning of 1001 Nights, but this time he is blind. He has lost his vision at some indeterminate moment - possibly during the five minutes that my companions and I were debating whether to get up and leave.
- Aida drives her taxi.
- Fathy and Hanan marry. Hanan wears a wedding dress made out of paper, and gets on the back of a lorry carrying a wardrobe, laughing playfully.
- Hanan and Fathy experience problems in the bedroom, largely because Hanan is eggs and consumed by feminist and existentialist angst which she simply must share with both us and poor old Fathy, who himself just wants a bit of how’s your father.
- Mohamed Mounir, this time not railing against the banning of 1001 Nights, teaches a young boy letters drawn in the sand, in an isolated spot in the desert. Blind Mohamed is led by the arm placed on the young boy’s shoulder, but nonetheless insists on extending the other arm in front of him in a comedy sleep walking manner, just in case he should bump into any buildings left carelessly in the desert.
- Hanan dances, but this time a pouting Walid is angry with her for absenting herself for ten days. He lambastes her in a super bitch way while sitting on a stool a la Boy George, clutching an invisible handbag. Hanan works through her rage by attempting to dance, in a defiant Rocky manner, but Walid and his handbag tell her that “she is not really with him.” Hanan responds by removing the pencil holding up her hair and breaking it in two (why??). The music ends dramatically with the snap and a close-up on the pencil and Hanan’s slightly squinting eyes. Walid fumes. The scene brought to mind a preposterous homosexual Million Dollar Baby. On the ground surrounding Hanan are ten male dancers doing backstroke. We don’t know why.
- Aida drives her taxi with Mohamed Mounir railing against the banning of 1001 Nights in the back.
- Hanan dances, and then Walid makes her eat a rose.
- Mohamed Mounir enters a music store and rails against the banning of 1001 Nights. Meanwhile, the audience wonders whether the director deliberately left a poster advertising Mounir’s latest album in plain view behind him. Is this post-modern irony or an oversight?? Do we care??
- Mohamed Mounir rails against the banning of 1001 Nights, and receives a gift of an uncensored Indian version of the tome, brought to him by Hanan. He briefly regains his vision and sees the birthmark on Hanan’s neck. Sharshar says that the birth mark switched between the right and left sides of Hanan’s neck. This shouldn’t be attributed to continuity problems of course. Rather, it symbolises the constant objectification of women in Egyptian society.
- Mohamed Mounir rails against the banning of 1001 Nights while feeling up Hanan.
- Being felt up by Mohamed Mounir resolves Hanan’s bedroom issues.
- More overweight belly dancing.
- Etc..

And so it went, on and on and on. It was all so highly symbolic as to be entirely stripped of fun and entertainment, but then again maybe me and my companions were too dense to see what the bloody hell eating a rose means. It will however, be well-received Outside by men in glasses wearing polo necks because its scenes with prayer beads conspicuous in the foreground and the obligatory sound of the muezzin inevitably transform it into a damning critique of the socio-economic dichotomy of gender roles in contemporary Arab society blah blah blah.

About the only scene which moved me in any way was that depicting a female circumcision, which was leg-crossingly horrific and quite well done.

We all left the cinema to the sound of my friend Amour dispensing various mother-related invectives against the film’s directors. Amour is 20, his favourite pastimes are looking at Haifa Wahby pictures and playing sadda radda, and his best film is Titanic. We bonded in my last job when I explained female menstruation to him and he repaid the favour by making me a George Wassouf cocktail. Were it not for the fact of Amour’s jubilance about the recent news that his army service had been delayed for three years, I fear that an act of violence could have been committed in the cinema tonight.

This weekend I am going to see Ma7atet Masr to get the taste of Donia out of my mouth. So to speak.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Swings and roundabouts

Good thing about Egypt: People can roam the streets wearing pyjamas, dressing gown and bedroom slippers without a single onlooker's eyebrow being raised.

Bad thing about Egypt: The right to appear in public in such attire is reserved to gentlemen aged over 65.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Elvis and the wings

I am unemployed and idle as I think is obvious from the prodigious amount of crap which spare time has allowed me to deposit on this blog. One perk of unemployment has been my ability to socialise with my cousin Mildred’s kids, Elvis (3) and Boosa (1 and a half). Spending time with them is always a wonderful experience and an opportunity for personal growth for all parties concerned: Boosa demonstrates that it is humanly possible to repeat a single word 78 times in the space of a minute, Elvis is as good as her word and doesn’t vomit in my face when I spin her on top of my head (at her insistence), and I fight the good fight and continue the war I am losing of trying to make them sound British.

Elvis has introduced me to Dora the Explorer, a bilingual Latina cartoon person with a Beatles moptop haircut and a talking monkey. Either the formula is fantastic or my brain is slowly turning into sponge, but I have been entirely seduced by Dora and her hypnotic patho-tunnelo-pyramidos, and regularly sit there fixated, my mouth hanging open, as Boosa plays in the dribble leaking out of it and Elvis climbs on my head.

I found myself watching Dora with three children under three at Mildred’s place last week. Mildred herself was out. Two of the children were Elvis and Boosa. The third kid, Nably, I recognised as the daughter of Mildred’s friends, though I wasn’t sure what she was doing there. I assumed that she was being baby-sat rather than e.g. having driven herself over to discuss her stock portfolio with Elvis.

When Mildred and her husband arrived home I briefly tore my attention away from Dora and noticed that they were carrying with them fancy dress butterfly wings, and reflected on how far either toys or parents have come since my day, when I was given empty egg boxes to play with. In the interests of short person harmony Mildred diplomatically announced that the wings were for both Elvis and Nably to share, because “sharing is caring.” Elvis attempted to challenge this by demonstrating, practically, that “not owning = moaning” but luckily was silenced by the wings. Not for long however, and, like a certain recently departed Arab ruler, she discovered that sanctions and an eventual resort to force follow failure to comply with orders to hand over embargoed items. Nably of course was entirely oblivious to Elvis’ silent rage as she enjoyed the timeshare wings, and meanwhile Boosa pronounced the word “key” repeatedly, and at high volume, for reasons best known to himself. Eventually both Nably and Elvis tired of the wings and discovered that it was more fun to run into each other at high speed.

One of life’s enduring mysteries is how small children are able to locate any available liquid matter and immediately stain themselves with it, even if they are in outer space. Nably did the honours somehow - even though I don’t recall her leaving the room - and Mildred was forced to clothe her in one of Elvis’ jackets. Noting that the wing-stealing intruder was now apparently misappropriating items from her wardrobe, and that compounding the outrage was her own mother’s complicity in this dark act, Elvis pointed at the jacket and bellowed “NO!!!” with a ferocity last witnessed at Sodom. Mustering all her impressive parenting skills, Mildred attempted to enter into negotiations with Elvis, who was pulling the face I myself pull when I see boyfriends looking at other girls’ bottoms. Mildred explained that the weather was cold, and that without a jacket Nably risked falling ill. Asking what she must have thought to be a straightforward question she asked, “you don’t want Nably to get sick do you Elvis?” To which Elvis calmly replied that in fact yes, she did want Nably to get sick - which pleased me enormously. Almost choking on the laughter I was repressing, the sofa shook with my silent hysterics as Elvis reiterated for clarity in a spooky Silence of the Lambs voice that she did definitely want Nably (who was completely unaware of Elvis’ vitriol and was herself protesting having to wear a jacket) to get sick, despite her mother’s protests.

Elvis is of course a wonderful, kind, and good-hearted child, she was merely demonstrating firstly; the importance of never asking a question the answer to which you are not sure of, and, secondly; that as compensation for not being able to go anywhere unaccompanied, drink caffeine, watch TV after 8 pm or make any executive decision of any sort, small people are allowed absolute free reign with the truth and can make startlingly rude observations with impunity. I discovered only recently that this right is rescinded at some unspecified point during puberty, and that since conversations are consequently something of an offence minefield, giving an opinion and in particular a truthful one is to be avoided at any cost. I am beginning to slowly understand why British conversation is so centred around the neutral zone of the weather, where it is virtually impossible to cause offence to one’s interlocutor, unless you are talking to a cloud.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I'm Gouna party

My gorgeous shiny cousin Gombaaz is back from the States to grace us with a brief sojourn in Egypt before she makes her escape to do her masters abroad, somewhere in the Western hemisphere, and apparently preferably in a country with a permanent seat on the Security Council. She is applying to study Kinesiology, which as I understand it means aerobics.

Gombaaz, while Egybtian through and through, has been corrupted by her six years in that cradle of sin which is the US. She now lives a Paris Hilton type lifestyle which she occasionally interrupts to pass by our house, looking gorgeous, in order to regale us, the open-mouthed Hillbillies, with descriptions of her exploits in Cairo’s various nightspots, with assorted moneyed shiny persons. Needless to say she planned and executed her new year’s celebrations with the kind of concentrated dedication that I reserve for writing my CV, or working out how many pairs of knickers I will need to take with me on a trip. Her new year in Gouna was a whirlwind of men and women in tight shirts, shoulder rubbing with tob international suber model Naomi Campbell and private parties on patios overlooking the Red Sea. She can now also legitimately combine the words “yacht,” “I went on a” and “big” in one sentence without being a preposterous liar – an ability to do so is something I have aspired to since I first saw the “Careless Whisper” video with that bird sitting on the helm of George Michael’s big vessel in a tip-ex bathing suit.

Gouna was apparently filled with Cairo’s beautiful people, the kind whose Amr Diab - garnished Grand Hyatt weddings appear in the back of magazines. The way Gombaaz described it, Gouna seems to be a wannabe Riviera enclave of Gucci handbags which has very little to do with Egypt – perhaps like a giant open-air Cilantro? In any case I am super excited to check it out, but am wondering whether people who pack their beach stuff in Seoudi Supermarket plastic bags are allowed in.

We celebrated Gombaaz’s return yesterday with some medium to heavy beverages chez moi while she explained the concept of writing on people’s walls in Facebook to me. I was duped into making an account in Facebook (which seems to be the preserve of 20 years olds with a mania for joining groups) and now find that people with nothing better to do write on my ‘wall’ and that in order to reply, I in turn must go to their Facebook page and write on their ‘wall’. The result is a series of totally disjointed, demented statements floating around in space. Not that communicating with others hasn’t always had this quality for me, but it is somewhat alarming to see it in a visual form. Facebook seems a stupendous waste of time (says the woman who writes a blog) as most of the messages written on these sodding walls consist of “see you tomorrow!” and “it was great seeing you today!” i.e. it is used by people who are in actual physical contact in real life and therefore should know better.

Gombaaz trawled through the 3 million odd people on her Facebook page with me explaining who is engaged to which billionaire. Needless to say all seemed to have photographs taken in mansions or in Miami beach homes, and all without exception were born in or after the year 1982. Looking at their nubile young images made me feel like an internet paedo pervert, and I was glad when the whole torrid process was interrupted when Gombaaz decided that she simply had to go out and ‘party,’ which is American for going down the pub. After a few phone calls she had found someone going to an establishment called 35 who would let her and me in for free. I would not usually set foot in such a place, because I am distinctly unshiny and generally a killjoy, but the fresh new year sap is still flowing abundantly causing me to undertake foolhardy endeavours where general moroseness and a vague sense of doom would ordinarily act as a check. I was also somewhat pissed at the time I agreed to go, which must account for why I invited along Bald but Deliberately So, someone I have never met, who is cousin Mildred’s colleague and who I have spoken to once or twice on MSN.

I was initially pleased to discover that 35 is apparently so-named because this appeared to be the average age of its clientele. Gombaaz – who is 21 - assured me that this is not usually the case. She was horrified by the specimens on display, many of whom did seem slightly advanced in age, if not menopausal. She later explained that all the trendy sexy people were still travelling, and that the place had been taken over by Gulfies during the Eid - like aliens landing from space as I understood it. From our vantage point at the small bedside table used to demarcate the metre squared allotted to us in lieu of a proper table, I could nevertheless discern a certain level of glamour and key-to-expensive-car ownership which I personally only witness on Nip/Tuck. At one point a couple so gorgeous walked in the whole joint lit up with the radiance of their beauty, and I wondered whether if I touched the hem of her haute couture jacket, I would be granted six foot long legs as well.

After an hour and a half of people watching, continuous standing and listening to a man discuss the car buying habits of the Libyans, I threw in the towel. On the way back someone rang me on my mobile. Seeing a strange number, I immediately thought that it must be my pal the stalker, and answered, but without saying anything, leaving a man’s voice to say “hello? Hellooooo?” into the ether before I hung up. He rang again, and I made the Pig answer on the basis that in the paper-scissors-stone strength test a male voice is the stone to stalker’s scissors. But inevitably it wasn’t the stalker. It was poor old Bald but Deliberately So who I had forgotten about entirely and who resorted to sending a timid text explaining who exactly he was. I look forward to the awkward moment when we meet via Mildred, and I have to explain that the Pig is not in fact my pimp, that I don’t usually have men answering my phone for me, and he in turn can explain why it is that when questioned by the Pig he said that wa7ed sa7boo, a friend, gave him my number. Bonkers!