Thursday, June 23, 2011

12 hours in the life of Puss

11:30 p.m. "Miaow, before you go to bed, could you just top up my food, water and milk and clean out my litter tray? Thank you very much."

1:30 a.m. "Miaow, I'm hungry, please get up and shake my food bowl (because although there is food in it, it tastes so much better once shaken)."

2:00 a.m. "Miaow, I'm thirsty, and there's no milk left, and water isn't good enough for me. I'm a princess you know."

2:30 a.m. "Miaow, I need some attention. Please let me in so I can jump on and off the bed a few times."

3:30 a.m. "Miaow, poo time, please get up and clean out the litter tray because it now contains kitten poo, and is therefore not clean enough for a princess like me."

7:00 a.m. "Miaow, I'm hungry, my kittens are hungry, miaow miaow miaow, get up now and feed us ALL."

10:00 a.m. "Miaow, what do you mean you have a deadline today? My kittens want to play on your laptop!"

10:30 a.m. "Miaow, I don't understand what you mean by 'get the f^,# out you mangy kittens' and no, I don't know either how they managed to press the hibernate button on your laptop twice in 10 minutes."

11:30 a.m. "Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.........."

* * * * *

And so the cats are all asleep, which means I should be able to work on my assignment, but I haven't had time for breakfast yet, and there is a kitten asleep on my leg, and I don't want to disturb him because I'm scared he'll wake up and start hurtling around again, but anyway I need the loo so I'll have to get up at some point, but it's worth hanging on as long as possible to enjoy this blissful moment of PEACE AND QUIET which makes me want to join in and have a nap, but I HAVE A DEADLINE.....!!!!!!!.

If only it was always like this.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Four Seasons

An educational poster in Arabic and English that we have on our wall:


The storms rage and the tree leaver fall down
The pupils go to scoole
We cultivate the land and sow grains
It has three months: September, October and november


The rain fall down and so the snow.
Its fruits: Orange and tangerine
We wear wool and heavy dress.
It has three months: December, January, and February


The trees bloom and the grass sprout
The weather becomes moderate and the sky brightens
everybody celebrate in spring day
It has three months: Marsh, April, and May


the sky brightens well and the temperature intensifys
Its fruits: Grapes, Apples, Strawberry and watermelon.
They go out to summer resort
It has three months: Gune, July, and August.

A month of kittens

This morning I woke at dawn to a faint sound from the next room:

“Mrrrrr, mrrrrr, mmmmmmrrrrrioaw?”

Puss, in a questioning voice. I pulled the sheet over my head. It was five o’clock and much too early to wake up.

“Miaow? Miaaaaaooow? Miiiiiaaaooooowww?”

It was getting louder. I curled up into a ball.

Then OMPH. She jumped on the bed, launched herself across me with a strong kick from her back legs, then started frantically grooming Patrick, using both paws to steady herself on his head as she licked and bit his hair, trying to make it a bit more straight and catlike.

I got up. She followed. We went back into the room with the kittens to find….no kittens.

“Miaow?” she asked.

“I have no idea where they are. Where have you looked?”


“Well did you try under the bed?”


“In the wardrobe?”


“Behind the dresser?”


I scratched at the side of the dresser and was rewarded with a teeny tiny mew from one of the kittens.

“Would you like some milk, Puss?”


I gave her milk, she started lapping it up, and I went back to bed. Five minutes later she was back.

“Definitely not my turn,” I muttered into my pillow… Another few minutes of lavish grooming persuaded Patrick that this was indeed the case.

* * * * *

The kittens were born exactly a month ago today. There are seven of them, hence Puss is exhausted and a bit crazy. As are we.

Here is Puss showing off her fat belly 2 days before the birth:

And here they are a couple of hours after they were born (once she had a chance to clear up all the blood and gore):

For the first week or two they spent most of their time either feeding or sleeping. Puss generally put them all in a big pile to sleep – a nice easy way of looking after offspring!
They have been growing so quickly. After just a week you can see how more squashed they are when they line up to feed…

…and after two weeks she started to be absolutely mobbed by them.

In the fourth week they got brave and started to explore. They all have such different ‘puss-onalities’.

This is Spot, the runt of the litter.

Little Tabby - a bold explorer


More to follow...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Some things we've been doing

The weather today is beautiful - I went out onto the balcony and it felt like a perfect June day in England: it is warm and sunny, and made me think of strawberries.

My 20-year old self would have reacted as follows:
"Oooo, sunshine & warm breeze....park....sunbathing...lazing around....sun-tan...."
Sadly my 30-year old self reacted thus:
"Oooo, sunshine & warm breeze....good drying day....must get some washing done...."

* * * * *

Meanwhile, life continues much as normal. Patrick's parents were here for a couple of weeks and had a marvellous time. People were so welcoming, and the general lack of tourists meant that it was easy to see all the sights.

We visited Tahrir Square on International Women's Day (8 March) where the party spirit was incredible:

On the left is the centre of the square/roundabout where the camps are set up. The red building is the Egyptian Museum, and the burnt out building behind and to the left of it is the National Democratic Party's headquarters. (That is, Mubarak's party which previously held 97% of seats in parliament. This building was one of the first casualties of the revolution.)

Patrick's Dad was happy to embrace the revolutionary spirit, with his new scarf and hat band:

I am also amassing quite a collection of revolutionary memorabilia:

* * * * *

Last week we spent a lovely afternoon at Alexandria Horse Owner's Club with a friend, Mustafa.

Mustafa rescued us once when our train was cancelled on the way back to Alexandria towards the end of the revolution, due to strikes/protests. We ended up in a town somewhere in the Delta, with no clue how to continue our journey. Mustafa helped us to find a taxi, then a bus, then another taxi to get back to Alexandria. We nearly died when the first taxi, going the wrong way up a slip road, tried to overtake a horse and cart (also going the wrong way) in order to do a ridiculous U-turn onto a dual carriageway. The cart also turned at just the wrong moment, and it was only the fact that the horse reared up that stopped a collision. That moment will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. As will the sight of a herd of sheep under the flyover in the centre of town. It was a special day.

Anyway, Mustafa was incredibly nice and helpful, and then invited us to go horseriding as well. Our riding in no way did justice to the beautiful Arabian horses we got to ride!

* * * * *

Elsewhere in Alexandria, events to promote tourism continue. We went to a concert at the Qaitbey Fort organised by a new youth group, "Pride of the Mediterranean."  The event featured singers, dancers, clowns, performance poetry.

Here's Patrick with Shokry, one of the organisers, who I know from Greek classes:

* * * * *

A while ago I posted a poll on whether we should get a horse or bird phone. The bird won, much to my disappointment. I was Team Horse all the way. But the bird has redeemed itself by the fact that its eyes flash red when the phone rings - something that not only meets, but indeed exceeds my yellow bird phone expectations. 

He is right at home with all the fake flowers and doillies in our flat.

Now I am just trying to persuade Patrick to let me have this parrot telephone table that I spotted in Cairo:

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Update on Puss

Puss the Princess Cat (see alert issued here) is well and truly back, and has moved in with us.

She appeared on our doorstep a couple of weeks ago, and stayed for a few days.

Then one day I went downstairs and found a tiny kitten huddling on the doorstep of a flat on the floor below, where Puss's 'main' owner used to live. Said owner fled the country at the start of the revolution and is yet to return.

(On a side note, he is American, and the US State Department is still warning against unessential travel to Egypt, which is bizarre. The UK Consul General, however, says "our analysis is that you are as safe in Alexandria as you would be in any other Western European city, such as London or Paris." On the one hand, strange advice from the Americans which bears no relation to what it's actually like here; on the other hand, we get to keep Puss for the time being, which is nice.)

Anyway...the kitten. I brought him back up to our flat. He immediately ran up to Puss and suckled furiously. She washed him a lot. She seemed quite genuinely concerned about him, despite having been in our flat for 3 days, without any indication that she had a kitten elsewhere.

Kitten stayed for a couple of days then disappeared again. Eventually Patrick found out the full story: Puss had her kittens in a flat a couple of floors up from us, and they have all been found good homes. (The one I found downstairs had managed to escape one day.) When the kittens were about 6 weeks old, Puss decided she'd had enough of motherhood, and miaowed to get out. That's when she reappeared at our door.

She is now pretty much a permanent fixture.

As much as I love cats, I really didn't want to adopt one while we're here. I'm already sad about saying goodbye to her at the end of August. In the meantime, however, I'm loving the constant miaowing, scratching at furniture, demanding food, wanting to play at 3 in the morning, sharpening of claws on my leg, and suddenly purring loudly in my ear while I'm asleep...

It's a good thing she's cute!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

** V I S I T ** E G Y P T ! ! ! **

On Friday I went to a rally to promote tourism in Egypt.

Millions of tourists fled Egypt at the start of the Revolution, and although the country is basically back to normal and perfectly safe, people are not returning in great numbers yet. So many people rely on tourism for work, and it is a hugely significant part of the national economy (and more so in particular areas, like Luxor or the Red Sea resorts.)

So a group of young people in Alexandria decided to take a positive step and hold this celebration of Egypt to send out the message that the country is open for business again, and ready to welcome visitors.

We gathered at the Alexandria Library at 8 a.m. It was not warm! I have become totally acclimatised to the weather here, so although it was much like a Spring morning in England (albeit with a strong sea breeze) I was freezing!

Here are the first people gathering. At this stage it was just a couple of hundred people:

The glass building to the left of the photo (behind the palm trees) is the Alexandria Library (more info on their website here). The dome-shaped building is the Planetarium.

Many of those participating were students. These girls represented the Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, at the University of Alexandria:
Here's a closer look at the girl on the left:

Let me digress a little... "God Willing" is the translation of the VERY common Arabic phrase "Inshallah". People in Egypt will use this word in pretty much every conversation at some point. It's just not the done thing to talk about anything in the future without saying "Inshallah". In English, it can sound a bit worrying - for example if your pilot says "we'll be landing soon, God willing." So an English person would happily promote Egypt with the words "Egypt is safe" but an Egyptian has to say "God willing, Egypt is safe."

It was not all young people (though mostly). This woman was very keen for me to take her photo:

Gradually more and more people arrived, mainly dressed in red, white and black, which are the colours of the Egyptian flag. After a few speeches, we set off to walk the two miles or so along the sea-front to the 15th century Qaitbey Fort.

People were carrying signs or banners welcoming back tourists in many different languages (some written more accurately than others...)

The girl on the left is my friend Asmaa who invited me to the event.
(Note that the sign on the right helpfully has a Latin translation, presumably for the benefit of the many Ancient Romans who visit Egypt each year.)

After an hour or so, we arrived in front of the Fort, and waited for the long train of people to catch up (there were several thousand by this point.) Everyone gathered round, and some gymnasts entertained the crowds:

In the background of the second picture, you can see the Fort itself. It was built in the 15th century on the site of what was in ancient times the Pharos - the Great Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. By that time the lighthouse had fallen into ruins (though it had still been standing only a century before) and some of its stones were recycled into the foundations of the Citadel.

Finally, everyone gathered to form a huge Egyptian flag on the steps:

It was a really great event, and I wish this kind of thing could be seen on the news, as well as the unrest and uprising. People are SO positive at the moment, and it's a great time to visit Egypt. Patrick's parents have just arrived for a 2-week visit, and they have been bowled over by the welcome they have received. (For example, they were given a bouquet of flowers at the airport saying 'welcome to Egypt', and everywhere they go, people stop them to say welcome, thank you for coming, enjoy your trip.)

So here's a final message from one of the girls I met - "Support Freedom & visit Egypt". Says it all really!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Glistens the evil spirit to send the element

My sister Katy is a beautiful, talented, glamorous young woman. As you can see from this photo, she was right at home in Cairo, hoiking her suitcase over the building site that is currently the main train station:

So what better to give her for Christmas, than a selection of Egypt's finest Chinese imports:

Nice, huh?  Let's take a closer look.

We begin with those well-known brands "Mas Factor", "Chamel" and "Bourjuis"

Closely followed by ever-favourite "Dvoe"

And if Dvoe doesn't do it for you, why not substitute another four-lettered bird beginning with 'D':

In case none of the above have worked, you can change your look entirely with the "Disguise Brush", favoured by glamorous spies and secret agents the world over.

 Finally, I can't believe anyone can live without this product:

I think it is hair glitter, but I'm not entirely sure. I'll let you draw your own conclusions from the description on the back of the bottle. Suggestions on a postcard please...


the evil spirit
to send the

Moves the feeling modelling


Characteristic: Increases luxuriant lives with
the elasticity; Forms the hair surface protector,
Saves After dyes burns suffers injury sends the
Effect: Contains the rich persistent effect to guarantee
the wetfactor, the fresh fruit element and the tension
essence And so on, can rapidly moisten, repair each Kind
to surfer injury sends the nature, the instantaneous
supplement hair needs The nutrition and the moisture,
improve the hair structure prevented the split end, breaks
off and Withered, causes the hair to change smoothly, the
rich elasticity immediately.

Ingredient: Rose volatile oil, protein hydrolysate, vitamin B5

Application method: After cleans the hair, dries the moisture
content with the towel, takes right amount this Uniform tubs
scratches then.
Matters needing attention: Avoids contacting the eye, if
has carelessly moistens into intraocularly, namely uses the
clear water Flushing.

This contains Uygur it to assign E, the heat
preservation factor, and so on protects sends
the essence, increases seven colour films
Decides The factor beautifully sends, the
cosmetology, the beautiful body multi-purpose
puts on makeup the essential thing.