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PEN’S COLUMN – ONE

by Penny Ashley

pen_camelWelcome to the inane ramblings of a post-menopausal ex pat. Well it’s good to get off on the right foot I always think. A word of warning though. You’ll need a British sense of humour or at least an appreciation of it and a finely-tuned sense of the ridiculous. Hope you like the pic, I had it taken specially because I always think it’s nice to be able to put a face to a name and we always like to be recognised in public. Mind you I hadn’t realised that the nasal hairs had grown so long and let’s not even mention the ears. Apart from that I reckon it’s a pretty good likeness.

I don’t want to raise your expectations too high, especially as I’m only five foot diddly squat. Small but perfectly formed as I tell everyone. Me and my other half (affectionately known as the o/h) haven’t been here long. That’s why we still love the place. We love waking up every day to vivid blue skies and glorious sunshine. As I sit here bashing my pudgy little digits over my keyboard I have a spectacular view over the desert to the mountains. And out of the living room I can see the sea. And out of my kitchen window I can see the wall of the villa next door, but let’s not get picky. And on a clear day I can see Saudi Arabia (well it’s a little more romantic than the Isle of Wight). And when I’m really hot and sweaty I can put on my cozzie and jump in my pool. And then I can sit under my pergola and dry off. Now I couldn’t do that back in the UK.

People always ask why on earth we chose Egypt to retire to. Why not? You’ve been over here too long if you can’t remember how much it costs to fill up a car with petrol. And you need serious counselling if you have a burning desire for clouds and rain. Did you see the BBC World News a couple of months back? The whole country was awash. Swamped under a tide of filthy sewage-infected water. They said that it was pointless trying to keep the deluge out with sandbags; the water would just seep through the walls and up through the toilets! Lovely. And remember that was the summer they’d all been waiting for. It’ll be winter before they’re all dried out and then it’ll start all over again. Of course it’s all down to Global Warming isn’t it! How on earth did we ever live without it? No wonder the Brits have an obsession with the weather. There’s far too much of it.

Anyhoo, back to Sharm. It’s an interesting place to live isn’t it? Take the taxi drivers (I wish someone would). Do they all have a death wish? Now I know they never indicate because they don’t like to let on where they’re going. Fair enough, I can cope with that. Keeps you on your toes, especially if you’re following a tourist coach. Mirrors. Well, there’s no one else on the road apart from you is there, so why bother looking in them apart from making sure you haven’t anything unpleasant up your nose. And never ever look in them when you are backing out of a parking space. Who wants to spoil the surprise when you back straight into a passing car (mine as it happened and it made me v v cross). And lights. What lights?

Mind you I’m not really surprised, I went to Tur one day (actually I’ve had to spend far too many days there and am still on the recovery program) and watched a driving test. Well I think it was. There was man with car and eight traffic cones. He had to drive forward through the cones and then reverse back through them. Not rocket science. Not brain surgery. Not possible. Mish mumkin. I lost count of how many times he tried. Eventually his exasperated friend stood in front of the car and mimed when to turn the wheel left and then right and the poor bloke eventually succeeded and got his piece of paper. Just don’t ever let him loose on the M25! Or on Peace road when I’m out and about.

And talking of roads, whose idea was it to make the kerbs so high? Some 6ft 5in bloke in Cairo I bet. (No apologies to those of you only speak Metric, I only speak Imperial so you’ll have to live it. I’m very old and it’s too late for me to change my ways). If you know his name let me have it and I’ll speak harsh words to him. If I go out on my own I have to get a passing fork lift to help me up and down. And heights make me dizzy so I need oxygen and have to lie down for half an hour. How embarrassing is that? And it makes shopping a bit of a trial. Still, musn’t grumble. The sun’s still shining.

Talking of sun, what happened to the blistering August heat? I was warned that the temperatures would be up in the 50s, that no-one came out till after dark and that nearly everyone left Sharm to go somewhere cooler. Well for those of you who have just come back it was lovely, not too hot and not too cold. No forest fires, no torrential floods, no earthquakes, no typhoons with funny names, no tornadoes with even funnier names. Rather uneventful in fact. So next year I suggest you all save your pennies and stay right where you are!

Mind you, with all the dire warnings the o/h felt he should take a few precautions and get himself a hat. Now we are talking here of a man who’s never before had a burning desire to cover his crowning glory but we were in Metro one night (now there’s another talking point for another day) when he spotted a good-looking guy wearing a wide brimmed leather Stetson. He was one cool dude. Young, fit, good looking. The o/h fancied himself looking similar. Somehow I think it would take more than a big hat for him to get the same effect but I wasn’t going to disabuse him. I went up to cool dude to ask where he got his hat. The Old Market as it turned out. Where in the Old Market? Behind the shop that sells eggs and milk. I know it well! O/h and I searched every shop in every street. We found similar but not identical. And one very big problem. All men’s titfers here are one size fits all. Not old big bonce. Everyone he tried on perched on top of his crown like a bald eagle’s nest. But of course he was told that it was a perfect fit. Who were they trying to kid? Whilst o/h was poncing around I tried a few ladies hats on. They came down to about chin level. After three hours we gave up the search. So if anyone out there knows where the o/h can get a size 7â…œ Stetson please let me know. And don’t tell me Texas!

That’s about a wrap for now. Have you got any subjects you’d like me to talk about? Any moans, groans, gripes? Even, heavens to Betsy, any good things you’d like me to pass on. I’ve got a whole list of things I’d like to be able to get in Sharm and I’ll tell you about them later. I really am tempted to do serious harm to the next person who tells me ‘You can get in Cairo’.

Did you know a friend of mine drowned in a bowl of muesli last week. A strong currant pulled him in!! Boom boom.
Mind you, at least the rain held off today.