Friday, May 19, 2006


I am back in Cairo with that very curious sense of relief at homecoming. It makes little sense when you realise that I am Australian and was recently at home - in Canberra - with my some of my children, grandchildren, mother and dog. There is a very simple delight in having someone on a plane sit beside you telling you how important he is, then have a driver meet you at the plane door to take over your hand luggage and passport processes while Mr Important struggles with the paperwork on his own! Glee is not a nice emotion, but definitely satisfactory.

It is hot, but not as bad as I thought it might be. I have visitors. My father and stepmother arrived only twelve hours after I did, so I am off and racing. My youngest brother is also here with his girlfriend in the lead up to my father's 80th birthday. Dad is not doing too badly - he walked into the Red Pyramid a few days ago and that is not an easy climb.

We allowed ourselves a quiet day yesterday - a catch up day for postcards and shopping in a desultory way locally as we had several hectic days in a row and jet lag was starting to really catch up on me!

We were sitting together in the study when a very loud hammering started surprisingly close. I didn't take too much notice as this is Cairo - but then there was the sound of falling rocks just outside our window. More hammering was followed by more rocks. Veronica appeared to tell us that the apartment next door was making a new window.

I have put images of our house up on the site, but they are carefully taken from exactly the one angle, at the front gate, on the up-traffic side, with my head and camera practically wedged in the gate to get the one and only view that shows the house without too much high-rise gingery grey apartment blocks wedged in tight around it. They are there though. The odd window looks in our direction from the right side, but on the whole the building is as discreet as a very solid eight storey wall only ten metres from the house could be. The odd window is actually very odd. When someone in Cairo wants a window they just pick up a large sledgehammer and make one.

To be fair, we had received a letter asking permission as the law does decree that this is done. The usual trick is to start work a day or so after the letter has been delivered so they can point out that they asked - even though there is not often an attempt to wait for an answer.

This is what had happened this time. The rain of rocks signalled a new window and were actually large lumps of bricks falling from the fourth floor. We were assured that the window would be one metre, and certainly this is what it originally looked like - a neat rectangle about one metre wide and considerably higher surrounded by somewhat rough and ragged wall. Obviously it was impossible to walk down the side of our house while the work was going on as most of these pieces would have brained an elephant.

So with the window done we waited for peace and quiet. Then the hammering started again. A new hole appeared, about two metres from the other one, first a few bricks worth, then enough to show the arm with the hammer on the follow-through of the swing, then enough to show the torso of the swinger! Another hole appeared, about the same size as the first, nicely lined up with it. So - two one-metre windows. Unfortunately for the owner, the windows had appeared half behind our mango tree so possibly didn't have as much light as they might have hoped. They also looked in through our large (actually huge) sand-blasted art deco window beside our central stair well. I didn't like it much but thought it a bit hard to reverse the procedure.

The mango tree is not a thick and lush one. It might have been one, but it also hung over our flat roof (where my studio is)in our predecessors' time. Not only did it deliver large and sticky mangoes in great plentitude in season, but it also delivered to the roof area the rats who climbed the tree to eat them and made themselves homes around the studio rooms. The tree was cut back hard with a lot of enthusiasm and not a lot of finess, and has not really recovered. It looks sad and a bit straggly and some of its limbs have very few leaves. It is still sulking from the rough treatment and has not fruited since, but the rats have also gone.

The next step in the window operation should have been predicted. I guess if I had been up there on that fourth floor gazing at my two new holes, I might have had a similar series of thoughts. First - how nice it was to have light and air. Second, pity about the trees. Third - maybe we can cut them down? Luckily they dismissed this one. Fourth - lets join those two windows together and just have one much bigger one.

So - we now have a three metre window looking through a sparse mango tree into the centre of our house. It has already settled into something I can live with, but it was not fun at the time. Didn't I say that living in Cairo is never boring?


Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,
I note that your visitors to the site have surpassed the 30 thousand mark. Once again it is so good to hear from you I just love reading your musings. I believe a good time was had by all in Coffs Harbour.

Regards Helen

10:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so good to hear from you again! It really feels as though you are home again, in spite of the intrusions.

Regards Margaret in NZ

12:00 pm  

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