Idle Eye 95 : The Belly of the Ancients

In my limited experience, there is nothing more irritating than reading about someone having a better time than you in a hot country. Every cocktail captured on a smartphone through which the raking light of sunset passes is enough to have you strapping on a kalashnikov, running amok through the streets of your town and spewing bullets about until no man is left standing. Of course it is. And the pay-off should legitimately come from the flipside, when errant travellers cheques, unbuilt hotels and appalling Germans beating everyone to the towels enable the reader to bask in the warm glow of Schadenfreude. Sadly, in these unapologetically self-aggrandising times, this rarely happens and so in the interests of international relations, responsible journalism and the underdog, I must do my bit. Yesterday, I got the squits.

At first, a distant rumble. The anaemic beating of gastric drums and of no great consequence. Livingstone and Carter surely suffered so, and without the luxury of efficient modern plumbing. I shall ride this one out and emerge triumphant in my stoicism, I smugly noted to self. But then the stomach cramps, violently pneumatic and ever-increasing, hinted urgently at a broad spectrum cure which I resisted with every fibre of my Britishness, only to be vanquished on the sands of need as the brevity of my stay demanded something suitably robust.

Enter Antinal. This Egyptian überpill has been doing the rounds since the time of the ancients, nuking European intestinal complaints into oblivion from the stronghold of his little yellow box. He is the Winston Wolfe of antibiotics: When the contract is made, you just take a back seat and let him get on with it. No introductions, no idle chit-chat, no nonsense. And you certainly do not question his methodology, not that you can as it’s all in Arabic. Endearingly, when he’s done (approx 48 hours later), he tidies up after himself and leaves without a trace. My superhero.

Marvel Comics, you are so missing a trick here. Now that you’ve used up pretty much every insect, heavy metal and superlative on your stable of lifesavers, why not think outside the box a little? Imagine the illicit thrill following a timely rescue from a half Anubis, half suppository-esque creature, whisking you away from untold embarrassment to the sublime comfort of the en-suite in less time than it takes to apologise for the grumbling. You can have that one…

Anyway, I’m through it now and back on terra firma. Thanks for asking. And yes, I know I’ve spent more than enough time on terra lavitoria but you have my word – Enough is enough. I was briefly considering a post about the birds of the Nile Valley, which would have been informative, illuminating and, no doubt, slightly amusing. But it went the way of all things that dare to challenge the might of the small room and the general tone of this blog: Down the pan.

Idle Eye 94 : The Foreign Office

A week ago, as you may remember, I thrilled my minuscule readership with tales from the water closet. They were, for the most part, true and there is nothing that whets the winkle of the Great British Public more than the topic of bottoms and associated hardware thereof. This was, of course, reflected in the statistics and I thank you all for joining me in the virtual small room. My business is your business, as someone I can’t remember once succinctly put it.

I am happy to report that things have moved on a bit since then. These days you find me on the West Bank of Luxor, Egypt, thrashing it out on a laptop in the gaps between conserving the tomb of the last great Geordie pharaoh Neferrenpet. I know, I know. But, as you gear up back home for the onslaught of Daily Express reportage of the forthcoming worst winter since the last Daily Express reportage of the forthcoming worst winter ever, spare a thought for one more fortunate than yourselves: Being an Englishman abroad does present an alternate set of tribulations (as my risible grasp of Arabic will testify), none more telling than the not inconsiderable matter of appropriate attire in a climate as foreign as the language.

For example, this morning saw me down to my last clean t-shirt, the Bolongaro Trevor beauty so eloquently eulogised in IE47. A little too smart for workwear, but on reflection preferable to the lamentable series of insect-infested horrors currently residing inside my laundry bag. What’s more, it has a sepia-toned Union Jack on one side and an Ottoman effort with three crescent moons on the other, a stalwart example of hands across the water if ever I saw one. I did, however, fail to spot the Lancaster bomber shedding its toxic cargo over the pyramids and almost certainly extending a rather skewed message to the host nation.

On the subject of insects, the biting ones are another personal assault one must handle with the kind of decorum expected of the adequately-educated Westerner. Fortunately, my gargantuan quinine intake keeps all but the most hardy at bay, although last night I discovered a dormant mosquito buried deep inside the two-ply of my bathroom roll. What it was doing in there is anyone’s guess, and I was torn between saving the poor creature from a death more humiliating than I know how to put into words, or protecting my own tender cheeks from an equally heinous fate. The vegetarian in me prevailed and the little bastard flew off to lodgings elsewhere. Naturally, I made no mention of it at breakfast today because…well, you just don’t. There are rules.

I’ll put some work stuff in another time. It’s too huge to summarise in a 500 word bulletin built almost exclusively from the rocky foundations of lavatorial humour and self-deprication. So for now, I shall continue to do what you have come to know and love, from the gutter to the pavement. With no apologies…