Monday 28 September 2020

Chapter 5 - Cairo, Wednesday, 22 February, 1990

At breakfast, on my own.  Janet still sleeping soundly when I got up.  A day of rest today, thank God - I need it.  I still feel a bit betwixt and between, probably from yesterday's thoughts.  And I'm tired.  I think I really work hard for the pittance I get paid doing this - I really must speak to Higgs about a rise when I get back.  But I suppose my position is rather weak only doing the tour once a year.  If only I could get this book written and published, and break out of this pattern, this drudgery.

Anyway it's a real pain having to worry about everything - and I'm a born worrier anyway.  I always have to make sure everything is happening as it should, to double-check everything - I sometimes find myself going back to ensure that I really did lock the front door ten seconds ago - is my memory going, or what?  The onset of senile dementia?  Running around looking after my party is totally draining - it's like having a group of big kids to watch over who are always in danger of falling down holes, or getting lost, or injuring themselves.

I tried phoning our hotel in Aswan, just to check; I've already confirmed our rooms at the Savoy in Luxor.  I can't get through, which is a pain.  I have bad memories of hotels and Aswan.  The first time I went there, it was without a reservation - a bad move.  I wanted to stay for three days.  Everywhere I went could only promised one day, or two at most.  Eventually I chose the Ramses Hotel - not just because of the name, I hope - because it was cheap, central, and could put me up for two days, and lo and behold, come the third day they 'found' a room.  How can you 'find' a room: you must either have it or not; I ask you.  Anyway we've always gone back there, and touch wood never really had any problems since.

Janet still not up yet - I hope she hasn't caught something - so far my party have been fine in that respect.  I've left a note saying that I've gone off to the station to check that our tickets for this evening are all right.  The others in the group seem to be amusing themselves.

Ramses Station is not too bad inside - not as mad as you might expect.  But getting here....  The traffic is just crazy - the way people cross the streets, standing between lanes of fast moving traffic.  When you have a two or three lane carriageway, with cars zooming along all the time, the accepted way to cross is in stages: to make a quick dash to a point between the first and second lanes, and then another dash to somewhere between the second and third.  The result is amazing to watch: you end up with two lines of people - ten or fifteen sometimes - standing between the streams of traffic, then all suddenly rushing across.  How more people aren't killed must be down to Allah.

As I enter the station a huge mournful cry of a train, like some enormous beast in extremis.  I notice that there are mosquitoes here.  Miracle - the tickets are ready, and even correct.  E£141 each - more than I expected, though dinner and breakfast are of course included.

Back at the station, this time with my group, waiting for our train to pull in.  Janet got up very late today, and still very quiet; I wonder if I've done something.  Don't recall anything.  We passed the rest of the day doing nothing - eating, sitting around reading.  Ditto the others.  A strange sort of day.  I settled the bill, checked they had our reservations for when we come back.  Then to here.  The train before ours arrives.  Lots of attendants hover, kitted out in a kind of blackcurrant mousse-coloured jacket.  Very fetching.

On our train, which leaves at 7pm, in about 20 minutes' time.  Janet has gone off to get something - I really do not know what's up with the girl today.  The compartment just as I remember it: beautiful.  It sleeps two, but has a roomy three seats.  There is a washbasin, table, mirror.  Perhaps inevitably, the train was built in Germany - Messerschmidt it says.

This is the best bit: when they serve supper - just like on an aeroplane, with the attendant and his little trays, the fold-down table, everything pre-wrapped - even down to the 'individual condiments' - all surprisingly well-organised for Egypt.  Unfortunately the food itself is less inspired.  But who cares?  We're off to Luxor!

Egyptian Romance - list of chapters

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