Cross and Crescent


The most iconic image of the Egyptian revolution has to be the Tahir Square photographs of the Koran, prayer beads and cross being held aloft. It has been beamed into millions of living rooms across the globe, and for me it symbolizes hope in it’s purest form.  Un-tinged by political agendas, or personal vendettas it simply portrays the unshakeable belief of a nation that, irregardless of religious allegiance they want the same things, for each other, their children and their country.

Six months on, and I am developing a fascination with the graffiti which is in evidence all around. Prior to the revolution the artists, or vandals, depending on your viewpoint, barely registered a bleep on the radar, but some underlying creative persona appears to have been unleashed to the detriment of walls around Cairo.

Good graffiti is excellent but decades of suppression have sent Cairo’s youth back to primary school levels of artistic expression. It’s all rather disappointing really. Growing up in northern Ireland through the troubles we were surrounded by graffiti, and although not all of it expressed sentiments I agreed with it was usually pretty good.

 Ireland is perceived as being the land of saints and scholars, poets and drunken Irishmen expressing their pain and suffering through art and often rambling on about “th’ whole worl’s in a terrible state o’ chassis” (Captain Boyle Act 1 Juno and the Paycock). Well Egypt is in a terrible state of chassis and they really need to sort out the graffiti.

They run tour buses in Belfast to go and look at all the graffiti and I’m wondering if some of those charitable NGOs could send a delegation to Belfast to pick up some handy hints?  King Billy on the horse may not be appropriate but surely they could substitute it for a camel with a raven haired, heavily mustachioed guy in a flowing galabaya leading the charge. 

They are not that keen on marching here, well it’s too hot even the police need a wee lie down now and again, but should they progress to having marches on 25th January in honor of the revolution then here is a well designed banner for The Upper Nile District. (copyright Mr Gordon Ford)

Back to the graffiti, you see the problem is the flag. Red white and black are fairly cool colours but artistically it is not as stunning as the union jack, and they have yet to progress to the flowing representation when it blows in the wind. (well there is not a lot of wind) The walls are painted in block colours and it looks like some teacher has come along shouting instructions to colour between the lines, painting by numbers springs to mind. It’s just not very creative.

The cross and the crescent is a fabulous image. The crescent moon wrapping around the smaller cross, offering protection to the Christian minority etc, I’m sure some art critics could write books on the symbolism it invokes. Apparently this is not a new image,  it was used as a rallying call to all Egyptians at the start of the last century when they wanted to end British colonialism, amazing how overthrowing the British creates such good art.

Anyway…there is a distinct possibility that Egyptians are the original graffiti artists. Just look at the temples and the hieroglyphics on display, they have been painting on walls for thousands of years, but it is yet another time honored tradition that is falling by the wayside.  

Maybe we should start a petition to ship over those hoodied  chavs who have no work to ignite a revolutionary art campaign. They could tag to their hearts content although spellcheck would need to be rigorously enforced. We could pay them the average wage here which is about 3 dollars a day instead of the dole and save taxpayers a fortune, obviously they would have no house, no single parent benefits or medical care,  they wouldn’t last long……… Now there’s a plan!

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Beer or Tea?

Ok, I know as you get older your views change. Some say you mellow out but that’s a load of namby-pamby twaddle.  Personally  I think I’m developing a Victor Meldrew persona, or at least the female equivalent ………….. Yes I’m a crooked old woman. Its been  steadily creeping up on me over the last few years.  My tolerance level has gone to pot, and I have to say the main instigators in this simmering cauldron of irritations are shapeless individuals and their non-existent dress sense.

There are bits hanging out all over the place and it’s really not a good look,  there are some sights best left to the imagination. I’m heading back to Ireland next week and feel the need to psych myself up to deal with the mountains of flesh that are sure to be on display. Cleavages, cellulite, thick ankles, muffin tops, not forgetting the obligatory bingo wings, and that’s just the men.!

I am cushioned from this extravaganza of personal showmanship by living in Cairo. They should list it in the guide books as a positive phenomena for Egypt………” NO WOBBLY WASTERS ” has a subtle ring to it. However, Sharm el Sheik is in Egypt and there is way too much flesh on display there too. Although I have to say what’s on display in Sharm seems to be rather more toned and sun kissed, which can altogether change my perception, especially if it belongs to a certain Welsh diving instructor……….. I digress for contemplating that picture in my head could lead me in a different direction entirely.

Back to the wobbly bits. I must admit I’m guilty too. Most mornings I head out on the school run with my itsy bitsy  Jammie bottom shorts and not much else. I live in fear of having an accident, for although I always find time to pack my phone and cigarettes (absolute necessities) I rarely find time to throw on something more appropriate. It’s a bad habit but at least I’m not inflicting this early morning vision upon anyone other than family members, the blacked out car windows work a treat.

I used to do it back in Portadown too, but that outfit consisted of a thick flannelette Primark  number topped with a very fetching dressing gown and possibly a puffa jacket on top. Therein lies the problem you see, once the sun comes out everyone and their granny feels the need to top up on their vitamin D deficiency to the detriment of onlookers.

My biggest gripe is with those ridiculous cut-offs that an alarming percentage of middle aged men adopt once it starts to heat up. I really detest these monstrosities particularly the pseudo sporty ones made out of some faux breathable nylon and topped off with the go faster stripes. What is the point? Do they really think that by exposing those couple of inches of flesh between shin and sock line its going to make any difference to their comfort level. Put on a pair of shorts, knee length please and ditch those socks especially if your wearing sandals. 

Men in sandals just reminds me of teachers on walking holidays (yes those dreary teachers again, well they are so bloody pious, who else has time to do that)   in fact men in sandals with or with out socks should be out-lawed full stop. If it’s that hot put on a pair of flip flops and if not stick with the trainers for the sandals generally look like some orthopedic correction instrument. Who designs these things? they should come with built in sockets for the amount of unnecessary straps and buckles attached make them look like they should be plugged into something electric, sending the wearer a shock to wake them up to the fact they look like twats.

There is one exception where I will permit men in 3/4 length trousers and that’s only applicable if they are wearing those fabulous white 3/4 length galabayas and matching trousers. It is a very cool look, starched and pressed to within an inch of it’s life, it’s simply chic, although not if worn in conjunction with black socks and brown sandals which unfortunately seems to be par for the course.

On to the shapelessness. Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country and one benefit of this is the lack of beer bellies on display, among the locals anyway, the expats manage to grow them especially well. At the risk of being accused of vast generalization Egyptians are a very good looking nation, well they are, but only if you focus on the working classes. Once they get a few quid and a car it all falls apart.

You see even if you are stuck at a desk in say the UK chances are you have duties to attend to around the home front. Getting the lawnmower out of a weekend, washing the car, trimming the hedges, even carrying your own shopping are normal everyday activities. You may even go for a run, cycle, or walk the dog on a regular basis, but this doesn’t  happen here, not at all. You most probably won’t have a dog, and there is no way you are going for a run or a cycle, apart from the dangerous road situation it’s simply too hot. (Some of them go to the gym to avoid the heat which results in the gym bunny look which Perplexes me and I  find it  weirdly camp, especially when combined with the bicep enhancing tee shirts)   If you can afford a garden then you will have a gardener, probably a maid and if you have a car someone will carry your groceries out to it, quite often these monied men will have no physical exercise at all.

This results in shapeless men with no muscle tone, for although they may not indulge in a few pints and six packs of chilli pea nuts they do love their sweet tea and pastries. Both groups, the beer drinkers and tea drinkers probably consume similar amounts of calories but what fascinates me is the differing shapes that result. The beer drinkers you can picture, pot bellies with jeans in a size 34 dangerously hovering around their crotch as they can’t get them up any higher. They have been a size 34 since their teenage years and seem determined to remain so, unfortunately this also results in the builders bum being on display during any bending movements.

But the tea drinkers acquire an all over layer of body fat. I have never witnessed so many wobbly bits and man boobs (I think the beer drinker brigade have these too but the belly seems to offer some support.) I have yet to decide which shape is the least attractive but as the tea drinkers have no belly in the way it results in their trousers being hoisted up to dangerously high levels, and again we are  back to the three quarter length trousers. Help me out with my decision, take the poll.

Top Gear in Egypt?

I love Jeremy Clarkson. There I’ve said it. He may be a sexist, shapeless big lump of slobbering manhood, working his way through an extended mid life crisis, but there is something about his wit and charm that makes me go weak at the knees, It’s pathetic really I know. So after a few too many glasses of fine Egyptian wine oxymoron, yes,  I had a thought ……..how could I wangle him out to Egypt?

The seed for this bright idea was planted when a lovely lady whom I’ve yet to meet, called Janet Spence commented on my “wing mirror options” piece, she very astutely thought Jeremy Clarkson would like my views on the dubious need for wing mirrors and their much more interesting alternative uses, and so the idea was born. 

I am proposing writing an invitation to Mr Clarkson and the top Gear team ( well I wouldn’t want him to think he was on to a sure thing, he could bring the others as cover) inviting him to film an episode, it may go straight to DAVE or some other dodgy channel but hey I’m not fussy. 

I would need some help on the plot lines or whatever they are called… is Des Henderson available? Anyway there is no point in bringing in fancy supercharged cars launched this year or even in the last century as the roads would prove rather challenging for anything less than a four by four.   So here goes, this is what I propose…..

All three presenters Jeremy, that May boy with the ridiculous hair,  and the wee one whose name I can never remember ( well he is about 5 foot and so doesn’t even reach my radar, although the teeth give Simon Cowell a run for his money, hamster or something similar I think) should be set a challenge. 

All three would have to drive a public hire vehicle for the day, the one who collected the most fares would win, simple really. Now… In my minds eye I see Jeremy in a black and white taxi. Now for those of you not having the luck to live in this fascinating metropolis that is Cairo I will clarify the reasons.

 These taxis are on average 35 years old, predominantly peugots, not sure which particular design, or indeed if it was ever registered outside Cairo. They have no air conditioning in 40 degree heat, a substantial amount have windows, although not all. The wind up window mechanism is generally operated by a set of pliers freely available from the driver upon request.  Most don’t have floors and you have to place your feet delicately to either side of the Footwell to avoid losing your flip flops. 

It goes without saying  they don’t have wing mirrors or any functioning lights as these were obviously optional extras in the original design. Oh…and they run on gas cylinders which take up the whole of the boot space, but they all have fabulous furry dashboards, yes you read that correctly not furry dice, furry dashboards. Apparently it saves on cleaning time, oh I don’t know… you would need a Dyson to suck out the creatures within but hey who am I to say.
The Hamster could drive the microbus. These are specially adapted minibuses that are super slim to fit through teeny tiny gaps in the traffic, although I may be under selling them as even inspector gadget couldn’t pull off some of the moves they achieve. Their most important “extra” is their horns, for without the constant honking they couldn’t function. I think this form of transportation would appeal to the Hamster as he must have small man syndrome which he could compensate for with a loud personally designed horn……the Benny Hill theme tune appeals but I’m open to suggestions.

As for Mr May…well obviously he will be leading the charge with the white pick up. He strikes me as a white van man, (pay attention Mr Brisbane and Rowe) as they are the safer and more sedate option. Most are Chevrolets,  but, as you can logo it up to suit your own requirements Chav-mo-biles  is an option I’m fond of. When I say safer you must bear in mind that 47 guys in the back, roof, tailgate, and hubcaps of a pick up means seat belts are strictly an optional extra. Baby seats have yet to reach Egypt but the pickups on the school run (yes these are used as school buses) are generally fitted with brakes as a concession to road safety. 

I just need to pull this all together to create an invite they can’t refuse. It doesn’t need to make sense, they never do,  but there has to be an episode in there somewhere. Apparently  there is some widget thing I can attach to this to take a poll but seeing as the hubby (Pete ) is at the Golf …yeah right… that is not going to happen so leave your comments for now.