Tuesday, March 27, 2007


In case anybody was in any doubt as to where to tick. (Photo courtesy of al Jezeera it would seem via Sandmonkey)

Taxi drivers’ genetic predisposition to hold forth on issues of our time seems to have made them terribly en vogue in Egypt, and the ability to recount an amusing taxi anecdote is now mandatory in polite society. If you’re quick off the starting block you’ll even end up making a few quid out of their ramblings.

I was reminded of this yesterday evening when darkness prevented me (the world’s most unsociable person) from avoiding conversation with a book.

As usual, the driver possessed a remarkable ability to turn the lead of ‘wost el balad men fadlak’ into conversation gold, and before you could say which-is-better-England-or Egypt? we were discussing the referendum. The driver was particularly loquacious and talked with incredible speed, as if he had a minute to plead for his life, so by the time I alighted I knew practically on which side he dresses. Luckily he was polite and entertaining, and gave me an interesting glimpse of his world.

His main complaint about the referendum was simply that he had no idea what the amendments were, the government having chosen to publicise them two days before voting. He attempted to inform himself by reading all 400 plus articles of the Constitution before voting, but encountered many articles, dealing with the technicalities of parliamentary affairs, which he was unable to fathom, and so sought recourse to ‘ustaaz Maged men el wezaara’ who works with him in his day job. Ultimately he decided not to vote, not in protest, but simply because he did not know what he was voting for, and he is a man habituated to understanding his choices. He asked (rhetorically obviously, my role being limited to emitting a ‘sa7’ at regular intervals) how uneducated, illiterate people could be expected to understand and digest the import of 34 amendments, particularly in two days. He concluded that this was unimportant anyway, since many of these people were in any case under the impression that they were voting for Hosny Mobarak.

All in all he felt disenfranchised, but this is not a new feeling to a man who, after thirteen years of employment, earns 250 LE a month in his government ministry day job. After securing the job at the ministry he was forced to take the night job in order to have ‘twenty geneeh or so to give to the madame.’ He keeps two thirds of what he earns (out of which he pays for petrol) - the other third going to the taxi’s owner - and drives from four pm – midnight, six days a week. On a good day he comes away with 80 LE in his pocket. On a bad day he goes home with nothing.

He was particularly grateful for his two-year army service, because during it he learnt to drive. He had wanted to continue his education in the Open University afterwards, but must direct all his funds into supporting his two kids. Despite everything he never once thought about looking for work abroad because he doesn’t like el ‘3’orba.’

This might have all been a yarn of course, spun for the rich (!) tourist, but the sad thing is that even if it was a fabrication in his case, it is the life story of others.

Watching terrestrial channel 1 that evening there was a ‘the People hath Spoken, Viva Democracy’ type discussion. No mention was made of the fact that independent groups put turnout at less than 5% of course, and the bastards kept interspersing this nonsense with masr ya balady-type video clips featuring old Nubian geezers smiling in front of the Egyptian flag, and clips of Hosny waving, all in slow-motion. Which induced feelings similar to those experienced by a man who is dealt a final swift blow in the goolies when he is already prostrate on the ground.

*My insistence on extracting improbable, weird and unamusing word play out of anything knows no limits.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Boys in blue

I read the world’s most depressing article the other day, entitled ‘Policemen have rights too!’ which made me want to hug a copper and then chuck myself off a bridge.

Egyptian policemen are not exactly flavour of the month here given the proclivity of some of their members to insert strange objects in even stranger orifices, and record the proceedings on mobile phone cameras. The article (published in a respected independent newspaper) describes the experiences of ordinary policemen, and in the process demonstrates the complicated nexus between victim hood and oppression. Their stories once again demonstrate that even those who abuse their authority in order to wound others are themselves being crushed by the monster in our midst. What is most frightening is how these conditions are apparently endured without vocal complaint; that the most precious thing of which these men (and the Egyptian people) have been robbed is their ability to imagine, to even contemplate an alternative existence and refuse the reality imposed on them.


“Every so often a higher ranking officer goes past, and when he does you’d better not be standing crooked, or with your hands in your pockets or bending your leg. And it’s a catastrophe if you go the toilet. You’re not allowed to move, you have to stand still throughout your hours of duty and if you don’t you get fined and lose bonuses.”

“Ya basha what other government sector in Egypt works 12- 14 hours a day? And without appreciation or even a kind word…Even you lot from the press and the media insult and scorn us every day, and blame all of us when one man smacks a suspect…What’s it got to do with me? I don’t hit anyone and I’ve never insulted anyone - on the contrary, we have to stand in the street putting up with crap while we police the traffic and while we're on guard duty and some stupid teenager comes up to us and threatens us and speaks down to us and insults us…and we can’t go to the police station all the time and make a complaint...”

“I’ve worked in the police for 29 years, from Aswan to Siwa to Marsa Matrouh to Damietta…I’m in a flat and my kids are in another flat in Cairo, so I have to pay for two flats. I get time off once every two weeks or sometimes once every month, and I can say that I have spent the Eid with my family seven times in 29 years. I’ve been in this rank for 13 years because there are no spaces in the higher ranks, and my salary after bonuses is 1,420 pounds a month…What can I tell you… I swear that I am ready to travel to Libya or any other country - I wont ask for a contract in France, or America. We’re fed up, we’ve had enough and we’re disgusted. We see the corruption with our own eyes - thieving happens openly and the country is being sold before our very eyes and everyone is helping themselves everywhere you turn.”

Monday, March 19, 2007

Caring for the environment

Continuing my adventures with Egyptian bobular song, tonight I witnessed the magnificent Bahaa Sultan hold court in Heliopolis’ Baron Palace.

For those of you not familiar with your Egyptian singers, Bahaa is the one who instructs people to stand when they are talking to him, rather than staring at his midriff region and trying to work out the distance (in miles) between his belt and the area in which normal human anatomy dictates that his waist should be. Appearance wise he is what would be produced if a Gulf tourist was cross-pollinated with an Egyptian taxi driver: lovely flowing Indian hair/moustache combo meets frequent ‘ya waaaad’ references.

It is rumoured that in addition to having high waisted trousers, Bahaa is known on occasion to have got high and wasted to a degree necessitating both an intervention, and extensive media exposure. They also say that Bahaa is remarkably shy, and given the distinct lack of between-songs banter it would seem that this is true. Either that or he does not feel an overwhelming desire to bond with men in suits during corporate dos.

For this was indeed a corporate event, organised by cousin Mildred’s company, to launch the re-branding of a biscuit company. My motive in going – other than staring at Bahaa’s high waisted trousers – was to eat free biscuits. I in fact consumed zero biscuits, and did not see a single biscuit-shaped object in the environs, which quite frankly I find unacceptable. The Bahaa-induced rapture in the audience more than compensated for their absence however.

The audience’s demography was interesting in itself. Mildred had told me that it would largely consist of “biscuit traders from the governorates” which, if it is not already the title of a novel by Thomas Hardy, should be. She presumably forewarned me so that I would not waste the last of my UK-purchased blusher on attempts to find a husband amongst them. Walking into the tent was indeed like being in a giant, very elegant, ahwa [Egypt's version of old man pubs], with acres of bearded biscuit traders as far as the eye could see. Bahaa, the chocolate chip of the proceedings, shone on the stage in the distance. He was in excellent voice and should be awarded an extra gold star for the manner in which he avoided catching his chin on his belt buckle when he sang. He also had no less than three keyboard players behind him, which is classy showmanship and no mistake!

As is customary during Egyptian concerts low level bedlam was the order of the day. Unidentified people wandered on and off stage, biscuit traders exchanged biscuit gossip at full volume and small children scuttled about like crazed beetles. I was standing next to one group of suits who, upon seeing an old acquaintance exclaimed ‘ooooh Eswed!’ before a dark complexioned man came over and they greeted each other exuberantly. It would appear that biscuit traders put all their creativity into biscuits rather than the monikers they give their friends. The way the men greeted each other also delighted me: Eswed kissed his own palm enthusiastically before shaking hands in a manner which made him look like he was spitting, and made me feel like I was amidst cowboys in the wild west.

Meanwhile, on stage, Bahaa was working it, but doing so in a manner which required the minimum amount of effort possible. His voice is excellent live, but his delivery is entirely without passion and it seems almost as if he is speaking his lyrics somehow. The cumulative effect of this is to make him seem like he is a washed up old singer in some dead-end opera. At one point he emitted a ‘laaaaaaaaaih’ [why] which demonstrated impressive breath control technique, but whose emotional levels were akin to, or less than, those of a robavecchia ambulant merchant [rag and bone man unique to Egypt. I think]. This delivery also made for some strange audience interaction moments: fans periodically went on stage for a photo opportunity, during which they would stand beside Bahaa as he continued to sing, their heads together, both performer and fan perfectly still apart from Bahaa’s mouth. The result was Bahaa lamenting his lost love and ‘the hand that used to wipe away his tears’ in the strange newsreader voice as beside him grinned an overweight balding man in a suit. Brokeback Mountain eat your heart out.

The best moment of the night was undoubtedly provided by the small group of suits who had watched Bahaa with Michael Jackson fan-levels of adoration for the duration of his performance, mouthing the words and turning to each other in glee whenever he bestowed a glance in their direction. They gradually worked their way forwards until they were directly by the side of the stage clapping and nudging each other and giggling. Bahaa presented one of them with a flower before preceeding to sing a song about a rose, causing one of his followers to almost expire from glee. He quite literally spun round to a friend, open mouthed, hands on cheeks, in an ohmygawd manner last witnessed when the Fab Four invaded America and I was adamant that somebody would throw underwear on stage.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I interrupted the increasingly tedious home – office, office – home daily routine by attending a demonstration this evening in the ironically named Liberation Square (viva la revolucion.)

Only-in-Egypt hints of a demonstration were on display immediately; packs of stationary vehicles herded together by traffic diversions raged in a cloud of fumes, their horns bleating furiously, as they were watched impassively by twenty men in black uniforms tightly packed and parked in the middle of the pavement. On street corners men in civilian clothes waited and watched as the strange music of their walkie-talkies floated between them. Further on stood more men in black, the uniforms unable to disguise the fragility and poverty of the men inside them. And everywhere the deep blue of giant police vans.

We arrived just after four demonstrators had been taken away, and their arrest effectively punched the demonstration in the stomach, winding it badly, and ensuring that efforts were concentrated on securing their release rather than on the issues which they had congregated to protest against. Those left regrouped as the media – whose numbers almost outnumbered those present – filmed, interviewed and recorded. This small scrum was surrounded by two lines of plain clothed men, rent-a-muscle hired specially for occasions like these. Plain clothed is actually something of a misnomer, since the men are distinctly identifiable by their clothing - many of them favour woolly Marks and Spencer style jumpers twinned with moustaches. They are also distinguishable by a certain trademark surliness, but what particularly struck me about them was their discipline: tightly formed lines of a precision rivalled only by synchronised swimmers, silence, and not a one of them smoking, which is surely a record in the history of Egyptian manhood. Beyond them were more unfortunates in black, the dullness of their stares more frightening than their truncheons.

After attempting to negotiate for the release of those arrested with the powers that be, one of the protest’s organisers announced that the demo would continue until they were set free. His efforts were halted when he himself was dragged away by the punctilious men in plain clothes, prompting two women to stage a sit-in. As I went past them on my way home I saw the women seated on a curb, vaguely visible through the line of six men surrounding and practically standing on top of them.

I left with a heavy heart and head, my gloom intensified by the black sky and bitter cold. Demonstrations encapsulate all that is wrong in Egypt: chaos, the arbitrary abuse of power which this chaos permits; the policemen’s poverty, the desperation…It is hard not to come out of these occasions feeling that Egypt is hurtling down into a vortex of immeasurable anarchy and pain, especially when one considers very recent past wrongs (blogger imprisonment) and future sins (the amendments proposed to the Constitution.) Yet my mother’s generation swore that they would witness Egypt hit the ground and explode during their lifetime, and we repeat the same mantra almost mindlessly. It is only when confronted with scenes like today's that I feel we unknowingly entered the vortex years ago.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

MSN conversation a waste of time? Pah!

In our continued efforts to amuse ourselves while seated at a desk, Forsooth suggested and I seconded the idea of Ear Throwing, a space where you, dear friends, share with the world the bonkers stuff you overhear in Egypt for the sake of a collective laugh.

To give yourself an idea of what we're going on about visit: www.overheardinnewyork.com, and for all of you sojourned in Egypt get throwing dem ears.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Language exchange/Daddy how are your eggs

Amnesiac and colleague Slick Riches are in the office. Amnesiac is perfecting the art of using MSN whilst appearing to do work, a skill which requires quick-fire reactions and lightning flicking between windows abilities. Slick is slouched, smoking, and staring intensely at his computer screen, exasperated. The silence is broken only by the sound of Amnesiac eating cheese sandwiches.

Slick: Yaaaaa…the stuff I wrote late last night is all wrong…there isn’t one word without a red line underneath
Amnesiac: [considering whether she can risk opening another conversation window] Hmm…
Slick: Yan hareswed…I’ve even reversed letters
Amnesiac: [living life on the edge and opening the window] really…
Slick: What’s it called in English that illness where you reverse letters…Dos – Des…
Amnesiac: Dyslexia.
Slick: [Resolutely] Aywwwwa. Dezlaxeya
Amnesiac: La2 Dys – lex – ia
Slick: Dyslexia…dyslexia
Amnesiac: And if you suffer from dyslexia you are dyslexic.
Slick: [Mischievously] Dyslexic, dyslexic…And if you’re a girl you’re dyslexicayya?

Two minutes later

Slick: [In English, suddenly and loudly]: I AM DASLEEKSEC
Amnesiac: [Accidentally closing an MSN window in fright] YOU ARE DYSLEXIC
Slick: Ya saater…I’m even doslixec when I pronounce it


That afternoon. The only thing about the scene which has changed are the sandwiches, which have been eaten.

Slick: Ana met3’aaz. Met3’aaaaaaaaz. [I’m vexed. Vexeeeeed] Ta3rafy ya3ni aih met3’aaz? [Do you know what met3’aaz means?]
Amnesiac: Yes it means you are experiencing 3’eez, which means you are experiencing bedan [eggs]. You are mabdoun
Slick: La2 3’eez and bedan are not exactly the same thing…met3’aaz is more like angry, but when I’m peed off I might say 3andy bedan kebeera [I have big eggs], bedaany itfa23at [my eggs have exploded]…and so on
Amnesiac: Hmm...So when something is bedan, it’s stupid?
Slick: Yes.
Amnesiac: There’s a word for that in English: bollocks
Slick: Boollecks?
Amnesiac: No, bollocks
Slick: Bollocks
Amnesiac: But don’t say it in front of old people
Slick: Ya3ni ma2oulshi ‘ezzayak ya baba aih akhbar el bollocks 3andak?’ [Hi Dad what news of the bollocks?]
Amnesiac: No

Both return to their computer screen existences.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Swings and roundabouts no.3

Good thing about riding in taxis: The driver bears a strong resemblance to Hany Salama, but is better-looking and is sans the mad stare.

Bad thing about riding in taxis: Taxi Hany’s taxi is in a lamentable state of disrepair, as indeed is Taxi Hany, and he checks no less then three times whether he should take el yemeen illi gay.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Brought to book

This weekend was a fabulous whirl of an unprecedented amount of social engagements and intellectual and alcoholic stimulation.

Things started shakily however as, on Friday afternoon, I spotted a middle-aged couple in Zamalek who were not only riding his and hers scooters (as in kids scooters that you propel along with your foot), but were also decked out in this footwear apparel: [clearly I still have not mastered how to put two images side by side]

The intolerable nonsense equation: clog + adult on scooter = wanker

What do these things mean? I’ve heard that they’re gardening clogs, but the utilitarian wipe-clean plastic of which they are crafted always made me think that they were designed for hospital ward cleaners looking for a shoe which could handle bedpan spills. They should most certainly not be paired with scooters. My mother claims that they are super comfortable, but she lost her right to vote in 1988, when she wore Scandinavian wooden clogs with socks to my school’s summer fete.

I washed the taste of clogs out of my mouth with a house-warming party where on arrival I was reprimanded by Forsooth who, staring incredulously at my waist region, admonished me for apparently committing a fashion faux-pas of momentous proportions by tucking my top into my jeans. She claims that this (sensible, surely) dressing policy was embargoed at some point in the nineties - perhaps during the five years I was lying in a darkened room recovering from the public humiliation of my mother’s wooden clogs.

At the party I proceeded to clear the table of the delicious brownies, Cheez Its and various other North American traditional offerings proffered, before repairing to the nearest corner - as is my wont at parties. I enjoyed sparkling conversation for the duration of the evening, and things only went awry when a person so high that he didn’t realise his cigarette was on fire decided to expound on the politics of steel pipe manufacturing.

After five minutes of sleep I dutifully repaired the next morning to Mubarak Public Library for a seminar on ‘Egyptian women married to foreigners’ which promised to explore the sociological and legal facets of this ‘phenomenon.’ Being myself a product of one of these unions, I was hoping to initiate a discussion about the sociological aspects of Egyptian women marrying foreigners because they have nice na3m hair, but alas was confounded by the fact that the seminar focused on Egyptian women forced/duped into marriage.

Heart-rending cases were recounted, of 15 year old girls more or less sold by their fathers to men fifty years their senior who then proceed to abuse what are children before abandoning them, penniless and occasionally with child. On returning to Egypt these girls/women are at times forced/coerced into similar marriages again and again. The purpose of the seminar was to discuss possible legislative responses to the problem which walk the line between freedom of choice and protection of vulnerable girls. In between the thousand ringing mobile phones some good suggestions were vaguely audible, but one comment really struck me. The chairwomen recounted the case of an Egyptian woman who got engaged to an Arab she met at AUC and wanted a clause in the wedding contract giving her the right to divorce. The husband agreed without objection, but when the couple went accompanied by the chairwoman lawyer to the government office to draw up the contract, the civil servant there swore blind that his ‘own parents would divorce three times’ before he would agree to such a clause. The chairwomen informed him that his job was to implement rather than create the law, but he would not budge. Frightening.

Despite the name, Mubarak Public Library itself is magnificent, housed in an airy, well laid out converted palace overlooking the Nile. The stock selection itself is predictably erratic – the Islam section is approximately a mile wide while the history section numbers roughly twenty books – but there was enough there to make me want to join. I get a bit tired of Egyptians claiming that Egyptians are unable to organise even a sock drawer and that everything fel balad eventually turns to shit, so seeing evidence to the contrary of this was refreshing.

I admit that I am something of a loser when it comes to libraries, and experience a frisson when borrowing books akin to that experienced by a teenage boy discovering his father’s porn collection. I have always been baffled by the dearth of libraries in a country with 80 million people, and put both their mysterious absence, and the rarity of seeing someone reading anything other than religious scripture in the metro, down to the noxious combination of poverty and oppression-induced insularity. I have a private theory that instead of throwing money at trying to fix problems now, donors etc should invest their billions in books for children and young people, because reading about alternative realities gives the inspiration, succour and imagination necessary to question and resist the status quo.

Don’t ask me how books would solve e.g. world debt because my theory hasn't evolved that bloody far yet.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Trouble triptych

I find most aspects of being a functioning adult challenging, particularly:

1. Interpersonal relationships of almost any kind
2. Currency conversions
3. Remembering to smile during encounters with other people, or at least not look pathologically aggressive
4. Getting beyond ‘I’m fine thanks,’ and consequently hiding behind desks rather than having to share a lift with a vague acquaintance filled with silence and expectation
5. Maintaining conversation when my interlocutor wishes to discuss clothes/shoewear/men*/how a mechanical object functions
6. Timing the adjustment of chest armour so as not to be detected by e.g. male colleagues
7. Remembering stuff
8. Wearing belts without missing a belt loop**

While I apparently have vaguely autistic tendencies without the genius, this affliction does not usually extend to clumsiness. But then of course life always likes to mix things up, and voila the eggs on today’s menu:

The Khartoum Incident
Reaching for the hose pipe water jet contraption used in connection with – la mo2akhza - nature’s urges, I inadvertently turn the bloody thing on while it is still attached to the wall. It is affixed at eye level, resulting in a torrent of Cairo’s finest water carwashing my glasses and rinsing the back of my left eyeball, blinding me temporarily in the process.

Speak softly, love
Going to the kitchen at work involves crossing a reception type area where nice paternal colleague Mr Bidangan sits. On exiting my room today, I entered his area at the precise moment when he emitted a schoolboy prankster-type belch of quite frankly astonishing volume, depth and intensity. Its machine gun cadence rang in the air as I speed-walked past, studiously examining the carpet, as he tried to salvage a scrap of dignity by morphing the last notes of his offering into a monstrous fake cough/throat-clearing noise, and in the process sounding like a baboon during the mating season.

Walking home, in addition to the usual weel-coms in Egybt I am accosted by a posse of flying gnats who, in an act of mafia generosity, spare the eye injured in the Khartoum Incident, and instead punish my right eye by flying into it and refusing to leave until I pay protection money. Causing more temporary blindness.

* Other than discussion of their posteriors/any part of Ahmed Ezz
** These things are also known collectively as ‘life.’

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Golly, beards have computers too!

Read this article and the comments below. The author is apparently astonished that the MB is using the internet – maybe he thought that their beards dangle down on their keyboards and interfere with their typing. The comments were marvellous too, as I always like to start my day by reading the rantings of a bunch of rabid xenophobic nutters. Long live the global village!

Brotherhood of the blog
Westerners assume Middle Eastern bloggers are liberal. But the Muslim Brotherhood has just started blogging in force.

The recent wave of internet activism in Egypt has followed an increasingly familiar pattern. A series of blogs devoted to Egyptians arrested for their political beliefs has sprung up, linked together by a few highly trafficked hubs. Some of the the blogs focus on personal matters, describing the prisoners' families, lives and good works. Most feature embedded videos from the courtrooms and high resolution photos of grim security forces and passionate protestors. There are online petitions to sign, banners to exchange, and an attempt to forge broad ideological coalitions. But this is not the "Free Kareem" campaign that has captured international attention. Instead, the latest Egyptian bloggers and their subjects are from the Muslim Brotherhood, and the man whose freedom is being demanded is the second deputy chairman of the organization...

Click me

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Hit me baby one more time

*This post is exclusively about animals, and even worse, pets. I have endeavoured to avoid any and all nausea-inducing references to cuteness/fluff, but apologise in advance for any that slipped through the net.

There is a scene in some god awful teen horror film where in one instant a girl is waving goodbye cheerfully to her friends, and in the next blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment has been flattened by a speeding bus. My life is currently a repeat play of that scene, following the addition to the Amnesiac household of el wagh el gedid, new cat el Safeer.

El Safeer is so named because:

1. I found him in front of an embassy (lucky I didn’t find him in front of a brothel, eh? El Me3arrass doesn’t have the same ring to it.)
2. It gives me secret pleasure when people inquire after the health of el Safeer, and I inform them that he is A OK, but that I noticed slight diarrhoea in his litter tray this morning.

Needless to say the name has not met with the approval of the family. Downstairs Auntie has approximately ten cats (not including the vagrant cats which she feeds in the soup kitchen which is our building’s stairwell). Like high profile belly dancers and Yugoslavian dictators, all are named on variations of a two monosyllables sound combination (Meshmesh, Loza, Coco etc), which of course cannot accommodate a Monika incorporating the definite article. My mother has also rejected the name, presumably for the same reason, given that her cat is named Kanga. She also only likes pedigree cats with 100% pure bloodlines, and one can only hope that she does not harbour the same attitude towards her own offspring.

El Safeer is roughly the size of a grapefruit, and when I found him was virtually comatose. I knew that he possessed a fighting spirit however when the first thing he did after I brought him to my flat was do a poo on the floor - I always employ the same policy when visiting a friend’s home for the first time. In hindsight his offering also made me want to exclaim "Ambassador! With these Ferraro Rocher you are really spoiling us!"* but unfortunately I hadn't named him at that point.

El Safeer then remained immobile and silent for twelve hours apart from when he would startle everyone with a fit. It transpired that these fits were caused by general malnutrition and particularly a lack of calcium, and they ended after wonderful vet Dr Amir (discounts for vagrant cats!) made him smoke a crack pipe gave him a glucose shot.

Once el Safeer was mobile I discovered that he seemed to enjoy walking into walls and falling off beds. When I call him he comes sprinting towards me before passing me by entirely, and stopping suddenly two yards beyond me looking confused - which is a reaction I generally only inspire in humans. My extraordinary powers of deduction informed me that he is probably partially blind, particularly given that there is a definite Stevie Wonderness about his head movements. This suspicion was confirmed by his complete inability to anticipate and thus avoid Lupin’s attacks. Lupin is mildly psychopathic, and generally attacks anything smaller than him which moves. This natural instinct is only intensified by the fact that el Safeer’s eyes are permanently open at full stretch, as if his bottom has just been pinched in a lift full of strangers. I am given to understand that cats interpret staring as hostility, and if this is so, el Safeer must constantly look as if he is declaring war given that he resembles this:

Lupin’s boisterous excesses have thus found the perfect receptacle in the form of el Safeer, who at least 397 times a day finds himself suddenly sat on, knocked over in the style of the horror movie alluded to above, or in a headlock. Lupin means well of course, and I draw the line at him using numchucks. The odd thing is that while el Safeer is briefly stunned by his sudden and involuntarily participation in a WWF contest, he seems unfazed by it, and goes about his business unconcerned. It is exhausting however to have to constantly separate them, particularly at 6 a.m. in the morning, and I am considering sending Lupin to a borstal.

One unasked for addition to my general knowledge gained through cat ownership is the discovery that the perfume used in a certain type of cat litter is identical to that used in ladies' fragranced panty liners, which quite frankly I find troubling.

* Was this advert only aired in the UK?