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Finding Bruno …

I came to Rome partly because of Bruno

Reading about the magnificent souls of the Italian Renaissance I chanced upon the story of Giordano Bruno, a great genius beyond his time. He had the knowledge of a sage and the fiery blood of an Italian.  He had a big mouth and no fear.  He was on a self styled mission to spread knowledge and empower people. These were the “sins” for which he was tortured and killed, for which a great light was snuffed out and a brave life sacrificed.  I cried when I read about what happened to Bruno.  The crying came from deep within and from a long time ago.  I cried for Bruno and I cried for all the other great souls, known and unknown, who have tried to educate themselves and to educate others; and I decided to go and see his statue.

It stands in the Campo Di Fiori, not far from my lodgings.

But Bruno led me on a merry dance and it was two days before I found him.

He lead me down little lanes and across fantastic squares, past ornate statues, palaces and many beautiful shops, along the river and back again, and via some yummy restaurants.  I listened to beautiful music (none of the buskers here are ‘average’ musicians), ate lots of gelati, drank lots of prosecco, had conversations with friendly people, watched a man sewing a carpet, a woman painting watercolour, many passers by wearing different types of fashion, and quite a variety of beautiful dogs being walked by their owners (it is fitting that there are so many well-kept dogs here because in mythology Rome was founded by an orphan that was suckled by a she-wolf).

In my fancy Bruno took me by the arm and gave me a rambling tour of the old city.   That is why I did not find his statue till the very last minute because afterwards I was so overwhelmed that I went straight home (via a shoe shop).

There was a farmer’s market on in the Campo Di Fiori today which was being packed up when I arrived. As each table was removed the rubbish and detrus of the market was exposed, mainly in the form of smashed and trampled fruit everywhere.  Pigeons and seagulls whirled overhead whilst stall holders yelled ‘attention’ as they wheeled away large barrows of folded up tables and goods so that people would get out of their way.

I noticed something different at Bruno’s statue.  Fresh flowers tucked into the moulded wreath at the front. I am so glad someone put them there.   I was reminded of a beautiful friend who is a music teacher.  While travelling through Vienna she became so overwhelmed at the enormity of the effect Beethoven’s music had upon her life that she bought a huge bunch of chrysanthemums and took them to his grave.  My heart is glad that today someone brought flowers for Bruno. In fact he is surrounded by flowers in the form of florist shops. We don’t know if he admired flowers in real life but here in the Campo Di Fiori his statue looks down upon them daily.

Here he is ….

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Now that I know where he ‘lives’ I might go back tomorrow

Another reason I came to Rome was to admire the work of Bernini, a tortured genius whose marble sculptures are famous and who designed the incredible St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Now that I have found Bruno is have two days left in which to find and admire the works of Bernini … starting with the Borghese

Meanwhile here are some photos from Rome

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I don’t know what that beautiful instrument is called but if I could get it home safely I would think about it ….

Bruno made me buy an antique vase I spotted in a window. The shop owner was very nice and told me lots of things about the making and decorating of the vase.  I asked if it were made in Italy and to my surprise he says no, in England.  I bought it anyway as it was piece that sang to me and reminded me of a chalice, it seemed fitting in a way since England is where the grail legends come from.  Soon afterwards I stopped at a restaurant in the courtyard which is the second last photo and as I settled back with a glass of prosevvo a road sign in the far wall caught my eye.  I kid you not, it said ” Via Lancellott” … is that not a reference to Sir Lancelot of the grail legends?

I love life and all the little precious things that happen in a day xxx

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Photos of Montserrat

We crossed the border from France to Spain on the day of the transport workers strike in Barcelona.  This strike followed the earlier vote for Catalonian independence and meant that tourist sites were closed, including the Sagrada Familiara for which we had booked tickets.  Never mind I got to see it from the outside.

The mood in Barcelona was joyful and fun.  People walked the streets with flags draped over their shoulders and everywhere flags were displayed in windows and flying from balconies.

That night in a little kerbside restaurant one of my friends ordered churros after dinner.   The owner / waiter growled and glared, shook his head, said ” no no no” and wandered off.  Some minutes later he walked back to our table bringing a Creme Catalana and plonked it defiantly in front of her.  “Creme Catalana” he announced, and walked off.  Then he snuck back with an almost sly look and left half a bottle of free wine in the table.  We left a good tip.   As we left he was standing smoking on the kerb with a friend.  He came over and offered to shake my hand.  I obliged and said “Viva la Catalonia!” and he almost smiled.

Creme Catalana is a traditional dish of Catalonia.  A bit like the argument between the Aussies and Kiwis about who created pavlova, a similar debate exists in this border area about who first created the dish known as Creme Brûlée to the French, and Creme Catalana to the Spanish.  I am happy to eat one of each.

Next day we passed mounted police on beautiful Andalusian horses. One of the horses had just relieved itself on the street and the policeman had hopped off with a little shovel and a large plastic bag to remove  the evidence, just like dog owners have to do !

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Many of you have travelled to Montserrat.  It is a site of epic proportions.  If you haven’t been there (yet) I will let the photos give you an appetiser but then you must look on google images for more professional shots because it is worth it.

Sadly we were not allocated much time in Montserrat, only two hours, whereas to see everything comfortably it needs to be at least a day trip.  Apprently you can stay there and one of my friends and I are keen to do that in future so that we can absorb everything properly.

For some reason I felt so proud that I had made it there.

There is something about that Madonna that feels familiar

 

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Mural showing locations of other Black Madonnas 
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Over an hour was spent just waiting in the queue to see the famous Black Madonna of Montserrat

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The Magdalene in the Mountains

Legends abound regarding the fate of Mary Magdalene.  The more you read the more different fate/s you find.  Her life story is shrouded in mystery and misinformation.   Somewhere within all that is the real Mary Magdalene.

And anyway, why shouldn’t she have some secrets?  It is a woman’s prerogative, so they say, and it is unlikely that she ever asked to be a Rock Star.  But it is the very secrets that lead people to seek, and search and speculate.  They are what makes it interesting.

There are stories of her travelling here and there and dying here and there.  Some of these are seemingly inconsistent with each other and they are all inconsistent with the story which is told in a tiny French town with an impressive name …. St Maximin la Sainte-Baume.

We went there.

and that is when it all started … and when I began complaining about mountains

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Later we learned that our tour guide also works as a mountain hiking guide.  He is nice and cheerful and informative.  He is kind and genuine, but he has ‘boy-brain’.

For instance, we discovered that when he says “don’t worry this is a short, gentle hike” … what he really means is that you won’t need to worry about getting together a collection of ice picks, ropes and helmets.

This is an example of ‘boy-brain’.  He is not trying to be misinformative, he is just mismatching words and situations and assuming that everyone understands his personal frame of reference.

At one distressed stage I accused him of being crazy and he couldn’t understand why I would think this.  I pointed out the obvious – that he was dragging a bunch of unsuspecting tourists some of whom were elderly and many others of whom were not very fit up an extremely steep and indecently high mountain.  His only response was to explain to me solemnly (as if it were relevant) that this mountain is  ‘not anything like the ones in Nepal …… ‘

why were we on this *#^<~.!#** mountain?

In St Maximin la Sainte- Baume it is believed that Mary Magdalene went to live in a cave on a mountain for 30 (some say 40) years in isolation and meditation before she died.  It is believed that her remains were buried under the church in the town and if you go into the crypt of that church you can see her skull.

One of the highest mountain ranges in Provence is called Sainte-Baume and somewhere rather uncomfortably close to the top of Sainte-Baume is the cave where she is said to have lived.  Pilgrims and sticky beaks can walk up there.  There is a path but it is on such a long relentless incline that you feel as if you are climbing a never ending flight of stairs and get that painful build up of lactic acid in your legs followed quickly by deep exhaustion.  There are endless switchbacks which are disheartening because each time you get to the end of one you turn and pause in horror because you find yourself at the foot of yet another, even steeper, one.

To be honest I would never have made it up there if it wasn’t for the encouragement of other people who more or less pushed me up with jokes, spontaneously created affirmations and visualisations which involved me having to focus on pretending I had wings and was flying,  gifts of water and remedies of various sorts, all in the midst of me crying, wimpering and complaining like a child and telling everyone how much I hate mountains.

which is not really true, I don’t hate mountains they are nice to look at but climbing them seems to be quite unnecessary especially since you can go up in a car.  Yes, the path is the width of a road and I didn’t fail to notice cars both on the way up and on the way down.   When I was complaining to our guide about lots of things including the lack of being provided with a car (or even a donkey) he explained that only Forestry Workers are allowed in the cars.   So in between visualising I had wings to fly up the mountain with I began visualising all manner of plots and schemes to get a loan of a Forestry Worker’s outfit.

Probably the wings were more realistic.

I also visualised creating a business called Dazzling Donkeys in which people can hire adorable little donkeys with Swarovski crystals on their bridles to go up the mountain on and if anyone is cruel to their donkey they have their shoes confiscated and have to go up barefoot and if anyone is kind and nice to their donkey they get a discount.

It is a ‘thing’ going up this mountain so if anyone starts such a business it should go well.  There were so many people there on the day we went including at least two school groups.  Apparently no less then 40 French kings and can’t remember how many Popes have walked up this mountain to go to Mary Magdalene’s cave.  One King apparently walked up on his knees so I would love to know what visualisation got him up there.

It was only centuries later that a Pope inserted into the Bible the references to Mary Magdalene being a ‘harlot’ who was ‘forgiven’ by Christ.  Others believe that she was a high priestess of ancient mystery traditions who facilitated the initiation of the man who was later known as “Jesus” in a sacred ceremony known as “Christing”.  No wonder the King walked up there on his knees and no wonder a subsequent Pope saw the need to defame and denigrate her as stories like this did not suit the belief system that over time became known as ‘Christianity’.

interestingly after The Da Vinci Code (by Dan Brown) caused the sensation it did I read a book comprised of a compilation of essays that different scholars and academics wrote in response to that book (even though it was a novel).  Whilst the various authors came to differing conclusions about other aspects of the book it was unanimous that not only is there (1) no actual evidence to suggest Mary Magdalene was a woman of disrepute there is (2) clear evidence that the harlot story was deliberately inserted into the Bible for the first time many many centuries later.

Meanwhile, in defiance of the dignity of earlier Kings and Popes I went up that mountain huffing, puffing, complaining and cursing, and feeling with each step that I could hardly take another one.  The guide and others carried my bag most of the way, which I very much appreciate, but it didn’t stop me being exhausted and overwhelmed by the experience, and it was days before I could walk properly again.

the cave itself was atmospheric, larger than expected, and had a few rose plants and a lovely view.  A small ‘church’ has been constructed in there and a priest was giving mass while we were there.  I didn’t understand the words but I did think the priest had a fine singing voice and the chants sounded nice in the cave which has natural acoustics such that he didn’t need a microphone.

People speculated on how she could have lived here for so long, where was the bathroom, where did she get water from, what did she eat?  Actually I read a funny story about that.  Apparently one of the monks from the monastery in the town used to be drunk all the time.  His fellow monks decided to ‘dry him out’ by abandoning him in a hut in the forest where he was not able to access any wine.   When he was eventually allowed back into the monastery he told a story about wandering through the forest and seeing Mary Magdalene in her cave.  He reckons that he saw angels descending from ‘on high’ and lifting Mary Magdalene up to heaven each day to feed her and then taking her back to the cave.

Obviously a drunk monk is unlikely to be considered a reliable witness but the story has persisted into legend and when you are standing there on “Mt Everest of Provence” you do feel closer to the clouds …

here are some photos

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meanwhile, having developed a healthy distrust of anyone with a French accent saying the words ‘short gentle hike’ …. I chose not to participate in any other outdoor activities which turned out to be a smart decision as according to other people on my tour things went rapidly from bad to worse … they were lead slipping and sliding through muddy forests, clambering up rocks in the sides of mountains where there were with no paths or handrails and everything was made more slippery by the fallen autumn leaves that were covering everything and still wet from rain.   Unbelievable they were not the only ones.  This is apparently something the French do.  For this the guide can probably be excused however there was nothing on the itinerary that lead one to suspect this was what the tour involved, in fact one girl apparently asked beforehand if she should buy hiking boots and was told she wouldn’t need them. Ha ! The thing is that a lot of the castles and forts of the era were built on the top of huge ‘hills’ that were very difficult to access.  This makes sense from a military perspective but makes touring and sightseeing problematic.

 

One place that I did agree to go to is called Rennes la Chateau, a little commune in the middle of lots and lots of mountains which became famous because the priest there (surname Sauniere …) became suddenly very rich.  He is rumoured to have found buried treasure some of which he used to improve and decorate the church, and it is possible to visit this church without hiking.  Here are some photos

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I was also very grateful that the tour took me to Carcassone, a place I had wanted to visit.  Next stop, more mountains, but located over the border in Spain where you can drive up in a bus ….

Arles and Avignon

Two of the great cities of Provence.

Arles is not pronounced “aaarles” … as in rhymes with “darls ….”

Aussies take note, the French throw the letters of the alphabet lazily around the backs of their throats and let them purr there until they evaporate …

“Ahhrrrlll-eh ”

Try and say it

You emphasise the first letters, slightly say the second last ‘e’, and don’t say the ‘s’

They have a big cathedral there and a colosseum.  Arles was under Roman rule like much of this area.   I get interested in art and architecture but know that many people dread being dragged through the ‘ABC tour’ of Europe (ie, another bl**dy cathedral / castle ) so being selective with photos … let me know if you are interested in seeing more of anything

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Purrrrrr like a lazy lion … ( the French love lions )

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The Roman goddess Minerva 

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Remember ‘ the Maries ‘ … here she is the Highest Mary of all …and the child she brought forth changed the world 

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At the colosseum of Arles, the gladiators were heroes (our guide told us) loved and lauded like the sports stars of today 

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Still can’t figure out selfies, but for all its faults this one looks pretty cool with the sunlight streaming into my wine 

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More lions

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Postcards of traditional Arlesiennes (women from Arles)

in Avignon we went to the famous “pont” and learned that many generations of Popes lived there (in a big castle … not on the pont which is broken now).  “Pont” means bridge and the one in Avignon was so famous it has a song about it …. ‘sur Le pont d’Avignon …’ which you may have learned as we did in school

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Popes palace in Avignon 
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Mermaid at the Popes palace 

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Still working on selfies (nothing much else to do while waiting for them to open the creperie), should have brushed my hair first 

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sur Le pont … 
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Statue sur Le pont 

Not going to say if we danced sur le pont …

 

Photos from the Camargue

I have wifi … !!! (do a little dance) …  I have added a few photos to the last post about St Sara (and fixed a few typos) and including here  some more photos from the Camargue region in Southern France.

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These are the only pink flamingoes I saw close enough to photograph

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A shop window which sums up the themes of the Camargue.

the symbol of the heart-cross-anchor is the official symbol of the region of Camargue

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Here is St Sara in the crypt of the church, and some other church-ey photos including of the skinny spiral staircase to the roof

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Here are some scenes from the shops in town, which are so colourful and fun and have such a relaxed atmosphere

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It was such a liberating feeling and fulfilment of a childhood dream to go riding through the marshes and waterways of the Camargue on a beautiful white horse.  I was so happy.  This is the sort of place where you could stay awhile and let the world go by.

My horse was called Nestor … but by the end he was renamed Mr Farty Pants.

I laughed and laughed so hard there were a few times I almost fell off.

It was for all the world like trotting around on a whoopee cushion.

Hasnt he got a handsome face?

He really was a good horse actually …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Horses and the Tale of the Three Maries

 

The Camargue is a land beside the sea which is famous for white horses, black bulls, flamingoes and rice.  It is a landscape of marshes and fields.  It lies between two tributaries of the Rhone river in southern France and is part of Provence.  Here the reeds grow very tall like papyrus.

The flamingoes were white today because they haven’t been eating their shrimp.  From a distance it is hard to tell the difference between a white flamingo and a heron.  I thought I also saw swans.

The seagulls are rather huge and sturdy and look more like Seahawks.

The ocean washed off all the airport ju-ju and I feel sparkling and new. The water is flat and calm and refreshing.  The beach is very accessible.

The story is that three Maries arrived here on a rudderless boat.

The town is therefore called St Maries de la Mer.

The three Maries were Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacoba and Mary Salome. The word ‘Mary’ is a designation, or title, given to someone of exalted rank such as a High Priestess …… much later it became used as a Christian name

They would have noticed the papyrus reeds and felt at home.

The story continues …

…. that they were either accompanied by a child called Sara, or the child called Sara was born after arrival, and she was Mary Magdalene’s child, the daughter of a High Priestess and a very special child indeed.   St Sara is honoured here as the patron saint of this town ….. she is also the patron saint of the gypsies who are so called perhaps because of an ancient connection with Egypt.

St Sara is depicted with dark skin.

Perhaps she had Nubian blood, descended from the great priestesses and queens of old.  Do you remember Nefertari, whose name means the most beautiful in all the land and who was the Queen of Rameses the Great? (we met her and the Nubian Queens in Egypt last year).   In heiroglyphics Nefertari is depicted with certain insignia to demonstrate that not only was she Queen she was also High Priestess.

Others say that St Sara is a depiction of the great Mother Kali from India, another ancient land connected with the gypsies

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We went to the building which is her church.   It was also built as a refuge for her townsfolk against pirates ( the beach being so accessible to boats ….. ). There is a steep winding staircase that was built for skinny people which leads you right up on to the roof from where you can see out over the town to the surrounding countryside and the beach

The town is cheerful and friendly. Here they raise cattle and they specialise in a form of bullfighting in which they don’t kill the bull.   I like it here.   You can buy handmade cowboy boots, lots of merchandise and memorabilia decorated with white horses, and more types of rice than I knew existed ( I had to put all the packets back when I realised how many kilos overweight my luggage would be ).  The food is yummy.

There are rows of campervans pulled up along the seashore and a lot of very relaxed people.  Tomorrow we go for a horse ride with the famous white horses.  We saw herds and herds of white horses and black cattle from the window of the bus as we drove into the Camargue region.

I am having difficulty uploading photos because the wifi is struggling.   I will send photos in a later post but meanwhile you could find excellent pictures if you Google “white horses of the camargue” then go into “images”.

The place we are staying is a spa.  I am torn because all the ladies have descended upon the spa for treatments in our free time and I would love to join them but I can’t keep away from the sea. The sun has just come out, the ocean is sparking blue, there is a big rainbow arching across the sky, and I am plotting another swim …

PS the lovely painting was by a local artist and for sale at the hotel, it is of St Sara

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The Black Jaguar

By way of an interlude here is a ‘travel story’ of a different kind …… there is much going on in the world ….. and many viewpoints regarding the significance (or insignificance) of the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse, on 21 August 2017 or 22 August 2017, depending on where you are.

I like the story shared about the myth of the Black Jaguar coming to earth during the time of the total solar eclipse … here’s is an excerpt from http://www.whitewolfjourneys.com regarding this myth ….

It is said that at the time of the totality of a total solar eclipse the Black Jaguar leaps into the world of man and hunts down where there is illusion and untruth, exposing it and destroying it. If we open to the power of the black jaguar the gift of sight can be given to see what we struggle to see. Solutions to the situations we face, a deeper understanding of the purpose behind every event in our life. It sets our soul free. It will hunt down where we hold untruths and judgments of ourselves and of others.

Years ago (it feels) Silke the Cat came into my life.  The stories she brought with her are very cute – almost too cute – in the same way that a rich gooey cake can be just a bit too rich and gooey.  But over time I find her stories to be more than cute.

Sitting quietly and reflecting on events, (and jaguars), it occurred to me to revisit the story of Silke the Cat and the Black Jaguar.   Ancient teachers and philosophers told stories, or myths, to reduce what was a potentially overwhelming concept or dilemma into a smaller (incomplete) version, to make it easier to start thinking about it.   An initial and less baffling step, could then lead to another, and so on.  Hence the brilliant world of children’s stories.  Starting points.

I don’t pretend to know the answers to anything going on in the world today …. but as a little escape from it all let us follow Silke the Cat as she travels into the jungle to meet the Black Jaguar

Here she is

Silke the Cat and the Black Jaguar ***

One day, Mummy Cat talked to Silke about violence. She said that it was not nice to attack little beetles and lizards and grasshoppers just for fun, because even though Silke thought they were toys, they were not. They were real living creatures and they experienced pain and terror whenever Silke the Cat attacked them.

Silke had not realised that the little beetles and lizards and grasshoppers were afraid when she attacked them. She thought that attacking them was a fun game to play. She did not realise that it was not fun for them.

So Silke stopped attacking things because she did not want to be violent. When Mummy Cat discovered this she told Silke how proud she was. Silke was proud because Mummy Cat was proud. It made Silke feel very grown up indeed.

Silke had been playing alone that week because Salty the Dog had gone away camping with his humans. Silke felt sad without Salty, and she began to wander further down the street than usual.

As she wandered she heard a yowling sound followed by the dreadful feeling of being pounced on by something that had very sharp claws and very sharp teeth. Silke felt herself being rolled and tumbled by something that was determined to rip her into shreds. She struggled free and turned to face her attacker. It was a Horrible Cat, who lived much further down the street. The Horrible Cat was determined to fight with Silke. His claws were ready, and his teeth were ready, and he was about to pounce again.

Silke suddenly realised what it felt like to be pounced on by a cat.

She suddenly felt so deeply sorry for all of the beetles and lizards and grasshoppers that she had ever pounced on during her life. As she stopped to think the Horrible Cat leapt through the air and pounced on her all over again. Silke did not know what to do because Mummy Cat had told her that she should not be violent. The Horrible Cat was ripping into her fur, and scratching and biting her, but Silke did not fight back because of what Mummy Cat had said.

Just then a car drove past and this distracted the Horrible Cat. Silke was able to struggle free, and even though she was bleeding and in pain, she ran and she ran and she ran and she ran and she ran. She did not know where she was going. She just ran until she could run no more.

When she was so tired that she could run no further, she stopped outside a strange new house that had an open garage door. A section of the garage was full of bags and boxes and shelves of stored items. Silke went inside the garage and burrowed behind all of those bags and boxes until she was far out of sight. There she stopped. Her little heart gradually stopped racing, and she found that she was able to take some time to lick all of her bleeding wounds and scratches. Then exhaustion overtook her and she feel into a very deep sleep.

As Silke slept the owner of the house came into the garage, and got into his car, and drove off. He closed the garage door behind him. Silke was so fast asleep that she did not realise any of this. She became trapped inside the garage as she slept.

Later Silke awoke. She did not know where she was. She crouched down low behind all of the boxes and bags in the garage. She heard no noises and she smelt no familiar smells. After some time she gradually crept out of her hiding place, slowly and cautiously, sniffing everything, and stopping with every step to look around her, watching everywhere for danger.

Soon her memories came back to her. She remembered how she had been attacked by the Horrible Cat, how the car had driven past at just the perfect time to distract the Horrible Cat, and how Silke had been able to run away. She remembered how she had run and run and run until she was so tired that she hid in the storage area in the garage of the strange new house.

Silke spent the next hour cautiously exploring the garage.

She discovered three things. First, that there were no other animals in the garage, second that there was no food in the garage, and third, that there was no way out.

She was locked in.

Silke remembered that there had been a car in the garage. She could see now that the car was gone. Silke remembered that the same procedure happened when Sophie went out. Sophie would get into her car, drive out of the garage and close the garage door behind her. When Sophie came home, she would open the garage door and drive her car back inside.

So Silke knew that all she had to do was to wait for the owner to come home and open the garage door. She went back into her hiding spot and waited patiently for the car to come home.

But the owner of the strange house had gone away for a holiday. He would not be back for a week.

As the days passed Silke became sadder and sadder. She did not know how long she would be stuck in the garage. She cried because she could not go and see Mummy Cat. She cried because she could not go and see Sophie. She cried because she had been attacked by the Horrible Cat. She felt so confused because she knew that she was very good at pouncing as well. She would have dearly loved to attack the Horrible Cat straight back, and to scratch it, and bite it, and teach it a very good lesson. But she knew that Mummy Cat was right. It was not nice to receive violence. It was not nice to be violent.

Silke realised that if she was never going to be violent again, then she would always be at risk of being attacked by Horrible Cats. It made her sad because she thought she might have to stay in the garage for the rest of her life. This seemed like the only way to protect herself from Horrible Cats.

So Silke cried and cried. She did not like being stuck in the garage. There was no food or water, there was nothing interesting to do, there was no proper toilet, and she was all by herself. She hated the idea of having to live in a garage for ever. She began to feel depressed. She remembered the days when she used to take such delight in pouncing on beetles and lizards and grasshoppers, and how she used to attack them for hours on end. But she had decided that she was not going to do such things ever again.

Silke became faint and weak. As the days passed she drifted in and out of sleep and became less aware of her surroundings.

Eventually Silke passed into a special kind of dream, in which she did not know whether she was asleep or awake, but she did know that she was in a jungle. Silke the Cat had never been to a jungle before, nor had she ever seen a jungle, but in her dream she knew straight away where she was.

She crouched beneath a short plant that had very large leaves. The leaves were so big that she could hide her whole body behind them. Every hair on her coat was alive, sensing her new environment. Her ears twitched carefully back and forth and she listened to every little noise. Her eyes darted quickly as she looked carefully at every single thing that she could see. She knew that there was danger in the jungle and she shrank back under the leaves. This was the worst place for a little cat who had decided not to be violent. In the jungle she was surrounded by enemies and predators. She knew that if she was seen by a larger animal she would not live for very long. She cowered behind the leaves and tried not to sob too loudly. She thought this was going to be the end of her life. She hoped that whatever pounced on her would not hurt too much, and that whatever attacked her would kill her very quickly. She lived in dread of being made a plaything or a toy for something bigger than her, in the same way that she had played for hours on end with beetles and lizards and grasshoppers.

After some time she heard a voice.

It was the voice of a Queen.

The voice purred, but it was a purr that Silke had never heard before. It was the purr of a very large cat. Silke could not see the cat but she knew that only a very large animal could purr like that. Silke crouched into an even smaller shape behind the big leaves. She was desperate to be invisible. She was sure that this large animal that sounded like a Queen would attack her instantly if she was seen.

To her surprise the voice spoke her name.

“Silke”.

The voice asked why Silke the Cat was crouching so low, and hiding behind the leaves of the plant.

Silke was stunned. Before she could stop herself, her curiosity took over and she peeked her little head out from behind the leaf to see who was talking to her.

 

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Silke looked straight into the eyes of the biggest cat she had ever seen. The cat’s fur was jet black and it had paws that were bigger than Silke’s head. This cat was the Queen of the Jungle, a type of cat known as a Jaguar. Silke immediately shrank back behind the leaves and tried to be small again. This was dreadful. She had never imagined there could be a cat so big, or so black.

But the voice kept talking to her.

Silke tried to ignore the voice, but then she realised that the big Queen Cat could have already pounced and attacked her by now.

So Silke timidly poked her head out from behind the leaves again and looked shyly into the face of the Queen. The Queen was looking at her very kindly.

The Queen asked if Silke would come out from behind the leaves so that she could talk with her properly. Silke eventually did. When the Queen saw that Silke was so afraid, she decided to take her to a safe place. She picked up Silke by the scruff of her neck, and carried her gently in her big powerful jaws to the cave where she lived. She showed Silke that inside the cave they were protected on all sides, and that no one could attack Silke because the Queen was guarding the entrance to the cave. The Queen gave Silke some food to eat and groomed her until she fell asleep.

 

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When Silke awoke she saw the large black shape of the Queen guarding the entrance to the cave. She felt safe when the Queen was there. She walked over to the Queen and snuggled in between her huge front paws. She began to ask questions. She wanted to know how the Queen knew her name, and that she was hiding behind the leaves. She wanted to know who the Queen was, and how the Queen knew who Silke was.

Silke was very surprised by the Queen’s response.

The Queen told Silke that inside every little cat hides the spirit of a much bigger and more powerful cat. There are many different types of big and powerful cats, such as Lions and Tigers and Leopards and Jaguars. The Queen told Silke that every little cat would one day realise what the spirit of the bigger cat inside of them looked like. The Queen told Silke that because she was the Queen of Jaguars she knew the names of all the little cats in the world that had a Jaguar spirit inside of them. A Jaguar is a big, powerful, jungle cat. The Queen said that inside of Silke was the spirit of the Jaguar. This was why the Queen already knew who Silke was, and why Silke was so good at pouncing, and attacking beetles and lizards and grasshoppers. Even though Silke was very small, she had all of the skills of a big jungle cat.

So Silke told the Queen all about what Mummy Cat had said about violence and about how Silke had suddenly realised what violence was like when she was attacked by the Horrible Cat. Silke explained that she had decided never to pounce, or attack, or be violent again, but that this decision had made her feel sad, because now she would never be able to have any more adventures. Silke told the Queen how much she loved going outside and having adventures. She didn’t want to stay at home and hide in a garage, but she thought that this was the only way she would be able to stop being violent.

The Queen listened to everything that Silke said.

Then she was silent for awhile. She was thinking very carefully about Silke’s story.

After awhile, the Queen explained to Silke that there was a middle path.

The Queen said that she was very impressed with Silke, because she said it is part of growing up to realise your strength, and to realise that you can hurt and terrify creatures that are smaller and weaker than you. The Queen said that she could understand why Silke had made the decision not to be violent. She said that this decision showed that Silke had a beautiful and kind heart.

But she said that Silke should never stop herself from living life and having adventures.

She said that Silke should never live in fear, and she should never think that she was weak because she had chosen not to be violent.

She explained to Silke that the Horrible Cat was a bully. The secret of dealing with bullies is to appear as if you are stronger than them. Bullies, like the Horrible Cat, will never attack a cat that appears to be fiercer and stronger than them. Bullies will only ever attack cats that look smaller and more gentle. That is why the Horrible Cat had attacked Silke.

The Queen told Silke that it was important to protect herself from bullies. The Queen said that if the car had not driven down the road at the perfect time then Silke would have been killed by the Horrible Cat because Silke was not fighting back. If Silke had been killed by the Horrible Cat it would have been a terrible tragedy, and everyone would have been heartbroken, including the Queen.

The Queen told Silke to always remember that she held the spirit of the Jaguar deep inside her. She told Silke that she should always imagine herself as being large and powerful like a Jaguar. She should always walk with confidence and remain alert. She said that if she was ever again attacked by a Horrible Cat, she should immediately imagine that she had paws that were larger than the Horrible Cat’s head, and legs that ran faster, and muscles that pounced more quickly, and eyes that saw more, and ears that heard more, and teeth that were much sharper and much quicker. She said that if Silke imagined herself in this way, and unleashed her claws, and coiled her body ready to attack, and if she flicked her tail in a menacing manner and hissed very loudly, then all the bullies like the Horrible Cat would be instantly scared and would run away. This way Silke would have protected herself, but not used any actual violence.

Silke thought about this for a long time.

“But I am so small” she said. “I don’t look like you.”

“Ah, but I am always within you” said the Queen, “and that is the most important part. Even though you are small, you contain within you the spirit of the Queen of the Jungle. As long as you remember that spirit you will always be safe, because you will act like a Queen, and bullies will not attack you. Then you can enjoy more adventures, and you will not have to stay hiding at home.”

Silke was awakened by a sudden noise.

She woke out of her dream and realised she was still in the garage of the strange house, and that the noise was the sound of the garage door opening.

The owner of the house had come home! What a beautiful sound!

Silke waited until the car had stopped moving and then she quickly ran out the door of the garage while it was still open.

She was free!

But then she stopped in confusion.

She did not know where she was. She did not know how to get home!

The owner of the strange house was approaching her carefully. Silke watched him out of the corner of her eye and tried to behave like a Queen. She could see that the man was not trying to hurt her. She realised that the man was trying to look at her collar. She remembered that Mummy Cat had once told her that her collar showed a little tag with Sophie’s phone number on it. Sophie had put her phone number there in case Silke ever got lost. So Silke allowed the man to come close enough to see her collar. The man telephoned Sophie straight away to tell her that he had found her cat.

Sophie was beside herself with relief. She had become so anxious when Silke the Cat did not come home. She had rung every neighbour, and every vet, and every animal refuge. She had put notices on all of the electricity poles asking if anyone had seen Silke the Cat. But she had received no information or response at all, and Mummy Cat had been in a state of great despair.

Sophie and Mummy Cat arrived immediately in the car to collect Silke the Cat and to take her home.

Sophie put on her magic ears, and Silke told Sophie and Mummy Cat everything that had happened. She told them how she had been attacked by the Horrible Cat, but had not used violence. She had been able to run away because the Horrible Cat was distracted by a passing car, and then she had run so far that she had ended up in a strange neighbourhood where she had hidden in the garage. The owner of the garage had been away for a week and she was not able to get out. While she was trapped in the garage with no food and no water she had dreamed of being in a jungle and of meeting the Queen of the Jungle, who was a big Black Jaguar.

She told Sophie and Mummy Cat about how the Queen had told her that she had the spirit of the Black Jaguar inside her, and that if she always remembered that and behaved in a manner that was big and strong and powerful she would always be able to frighten away bullies like the Horrible Cat. She told Sophie and Mummy Cat about how the Queen had been kind to her, and how the Queen knew the name of every little cat in the world that had a Jaguar spirit inside of her.

Later that night, Silke the Cat had another dream. In her dream she was walking down the street and she saw the Horrible Cat. The Horrible Cat was creeping up ready to pounce on her again. Silke immediately remembered the Black Jaguar spirit that she held inside her. She coiled her body ready for attack. She unleashed her claws, and let every hair stand on end, and she growled and hissed and snarled at the Horrible Cat. As far as anyone could tell, Silke was ready to pounce on the Horrible Cat and tear it to bits. The Horrible Cat was terrified and fled. He did not even touch Silke, and Silke did not have to touch him. Silke knew that the Horrible Cat would never attack her again.

Mummy Cat dreamed as well. In her dream she was walking through a jungle talking to a beautiful big black Jaguar; the Queen of the Jungle. Mummy Cat was thanking the Queen for looking after Silke, and for teaching Silke how to protect herself from bullies.

Sophie had no dreams. She was so relieved that Silke was safely home. She fell into a deep sleep.

 

*** the above story is an excerpt from the book ” MORE ADVENTURES OF SILKE THE CAT ”

for the full title (and all the other Silke the Cat stories ) visit.  www.marygolde.com.au   or    http://marygolde.com.au/the-adventures-of-silke-the-cat/

published in 2015 by Marygolde Projects & Publications

ISBN: 978-0-9924953-3-6

and please note that copyright applies

 

jaguar photos are from the internet and I don’t know who took them

title photo to this blog post is of Mummy Cat

and here is Silke

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The Pyramids

I chickened out of going inside the great pyramid

And I am glad I did.

For a few days I have been saying that I didn’t think I would.

There is a doctor from Switzerland on the tour who gave me advice about pressing the soles of my feet against the floor if I started to feel faint. He is very kind and helped me when I went all ‘collapsey’ at the valley of kings.

There are three American guys also on this tour. One said that if I tried to get out of going inside the great pyramid he would personally pick me up and carry me in there to save me from later regret. Another mentioned that if I keeled over and fainted he would find it amusing to carry me back out.

Very kind.

Thankyou.

But not today.

The pyramid is an impressive sight under any circumstances but when I got out of the bus and saw it looming up into the dark dawn sky I became very sure that I was not going inside that big-stone-thing.

So I officially chickened out.

The guard told me if I wasn’t going inside the pyramid I had to go and sit on the bus. I said I didn’t want to sit on the bus because it’s boring. So instead he told me to go and sit on one of the millions of huge stone blocks that build up the pyramid.

How awesome !

We had another early morning permit to get ahead of the crowds.

So as the guards paced below with their cigarettes I sat perched a little way up on the side of the great pyramid admiring a 180 view of the city lights of Cairo and the stars.

Yes I was lucky, this morning stars were visible.

What a sight.

It was silent too and the temperature a bit chilly.

But I think this morning I was at the most peaceful place in Cairo.

I don’t know all the stars but recognise the three stars of Orion’s Belt because they are so easy. They were hanging just overhead and quite brightly.

There is a theory that the three pyramids of Giza (Cairo) are precisely aligned with the three stars of Orion’s Belt. Sitting underneath those stars this morning, watching them almost dropping out of the sky, it is very easy to believe that someone sitting in this spot many years ago might have had the idea to do that. Besides, ancient Egyptians were really smart. They had precise mathematics and calendars and architecture. They were practising medicine, psychiatry and dentistry (including advanced forms of surgery like brain surgery) long before medicine was ‘ invented’ by Hippocrates in Greece. Pythagoras discovered triangles and angles but he studied with the Egyptians at Heliopolis (now Cairo) who were already experts in triangles

So it makes perfect sense that someone in ancient Egypt was smart enough and sufficiently inspired by the night sky to do that. There would have been no smog pollution in those days and the three bright stars of Orion’s Belt would have been impossible for anyone standing on the Giza plateau at nighttime to ignore.

Plus the Egyptians had mythology connected with the stars so it would have made sense and been entirely worth the effort.

I am grateful to them because thousands of years later I had the experience I had this morning, sitting there more or less alone, in the predawn breeze, on ancient solid stone, watching the light break across the sky and listening to the morning call to prayer rising atmospherically above the sparkling lights of the city.

Like a real life Arabian nights story.

Wow

I feel like I have totally “been to the great pyramid” and I didn’t need to go in it.

There was a dog too, black like the night, who came out of the shadows before I climbed up the pyramid, wagging his tail and licking my hands to say hello.

My new friend.

I am very happy.

Then we went to the Sphinx which was cool because I have read so much about it including an interesting theory that it isn’t a sphinx at all. Whatever it is, it is also very impressive and has a very silent and calm presence. There are noticeably different types of stones and bricks used which makes it look like it has been built / repaired by different people’s at different times.

Then we went on a camel ride alongside the pyramids and this was surreal. I wish I was more awake. By this stage the sun had truly risen and my eyes were truly closing after not much sleep. I was about 85% asleep I reckon. Looking up at three massive pyramids poking out of the sand I suddenly thought of Star Wars. As we lurched along slowly on the camels I was taking in their unusual physiques and strange noises (one blew his stomach out of his mouth to clean it then swallowed it) and I dozily decided that camels are very otherworldly and peculiar. With the city now out of sight it felt like were riding camels through one of the sets for Star Wars.

We were discouraged from taking ‘stuff’ with us for security reasons so I didn’t take a camera and don’t have photos of us all starring in Star Wars.

The cover photo for this post is a view from our hotel, an entirely different landscape.

There are weddings on today at Mena House. Very fancy. The Egyptian women look so beautiful in their dresses. We spent part of the afternoon lurking in the gardens watching everyone and deciding which dresses we would wear and which ones we wouldn’t wear, that sort of thing. Tonight we have our farewell dinner for the tour and then we all go home.

But stars will still hang over the pyramids and camels will still saunter alongside and one day I will be back, I am sure.

 

 

Postscript – here are some Star-Wars-ey shots taken by my friends husband who took his camera along and shared photos around later ( thankyou Guy)

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also turns out there was a professional photographer amongst the guards etc who were with us on the special entry permit so later I had the opportunity to purchase the Star Wars shot of the camel ride at the pyramids, and further below are some old photographs showing areas of water and cultivation around the pyramids which are not there now

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Luscious Luxor and Crowded Cairo

Gone are the clear skies and sparkling waters of Upper Egypt.

There are many cars in Cairo, many people and many residences.

No stars can be seen but the pyramids here are still aligned with them.

Did you know that in Egyptian belief the soul after death had to give their ‘negative confession ‘; I did not do this, I did not do that, ticking off a requisite list of did-nots, many of which are familiar such as I did not kill, I did not steal etc.

But first on the list was “I did not pollute the Nile”

… I did not pollute the waters which give life to my family and all generations to come

Air pollution in Cairo is a serious concern, I have just been googling it. But it is a world concern because Cairo is not the only city that has serious pollution.  Air borne pollution travels with the wind. Water pollution enters the ocean and travels with the currents. What point is there in banning smoking and promoting healthy lifestyles when you can get cancer just by breathing the air or by eating food grown with polluted water.

I agree with the ancient Egyptians, pollution has to be the first concern that affects everyone regardless of where they live or what they wear or who they vote for because pollution doesn’t care about any of the above. And pollution is an insidious thing because it increases and increases slowly but surely, and what we see now is going to be nothing compared to what the kids of today will see when they are our age.

Or maybe not. This new generation of kids are really smart and maybe they will find a way to reverse ‘our’ stupidity, but what an inheritance we have left them ….

Here is the view of the great pyramid from our front door. Today is a good day for taking photos. The air pollution is such that even though it is so big, and so close, you sometimes cannot see the great pyramid from here.

Spooky.

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We arrived in Cairo late yesterday. Before that we were having fun in beautiful Luxor.

Apparently Luxor has about 1/3 of all the historical monuments in the whole world. It is a lush cultivated area along the Nile, (current crops seem to be bananas, sugarcane and cabbages). We drove through villages with donkey carts and kids playing and fields of rich brown earth and fat green leaves irrigated by sparkling blue waters.

Behind looms the West Bank; dry desert mountains, the place of the dead, the place of silence, the valley of the kings.   On the east bank are palaces and temples of kings.  Even though many of their treasures now lie in foreign museums they are still incomparable and totally AWESOME.

They say Luxor used to be the tourism capital of the world.

Everyone comes here to walk amongst these ruins and marvel at them.

We have seen so much I will skip through it all quickly but let me know if you want more photos or info about any of it.  The most impressive thing about heiroglyphics is that they are carved out of the stone, in some cases the space around the image is carved away so the image is raised.  They were then painted with colours many of which have since worn off.  Imagine how they looked in their day …. they still look amazing now.  Such precision in the workmanship.

No new husbands or boyfriends, but standing out from the usual comments and invitations one man did ask under his breath “how many camels?” as I walked past which I thought was rather funny (but I didn’t stop). I have also given up trying to convince people I am not Egyptian. It requires too much effort. Now I just say “yes, Egyptian, living in Australia” – this response explains my accent and seems to avoid further questioning …. I wish I still had my guide from Aswan as people left me alone when I went anywhere with him.

A few more days here. The itinerary includes a visit to the pyramid and sphinx, and a camel ride.  I still remember my ride on Ali Baba the camel in Tangiers some years ago and I am unsure about whether I want to go inside the pyramid.  I got a bit overwhelmed by something or other at the valley of kings and didn’t make it past the reception centre.  How embarrassing if I went all woozy inside the pyramid and needed to be carried out.

Am thinking I might wait for the others between the paws of the sphinx … that sounds more like me

 

Sites we have visited include Kom Ombombo, Edfu, Abydos, Dendera, Hatshepsut’s temple, Karnak and the Temple of Man at Luxor.  We also were able to go inside Nefertari’s tomb which has just been opened and was truly  beautiful.

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Luxor temple and avenue of sphinxes at night

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Abu Simbel

 

We have travelled further south into Nubia, to Abu Simbel, a site which is 45km from the Sudanese border.  (Yes I thought of nipping over the border to see the ‘other’ pyramids but the paperwork would have been horrendous so it was basically a no)

Very cool though to do a bus trip through the Sahara desert (in the comfort of an airconditioned bus).  Our guide told us that if we travelled due west of the road nothing would stop us until we reached the Atlantic Ocean on the other coast of Africa.

It was a dreamy experience travelling through such an iconic desert as the Sahara, even just for a few hours. I now really understand why some cultures believe you need to travel to the desert to find your soul.  There is something about it.

here is an attempt to photograph a mirage,one that appears to have rippling water.

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There is no water there …

but there is at Abu Simbel

It is a site built 3,300 years ago by Rameses II, sometimes called Rameses the Great or Rameses the builder.  He was a legendary king of old, who fought many wars and subdued many foreign armies but who claimed to ‘rule by the feather’.   The feather was a symbol of ‘justice,’ briefly speaking, because it was believed in Ancient Egypt that after death your heart was weighed on a scale against a feather and that determined what happened to you next in the afterlife.  The pharaoh was a symbol of the concept of Ma’at, or balance, and had to maintain order in the land.  Ma’at is the goddess who did the weighing ceremony after death with the feather.

i read somewhere that the poem ‘Ozymandius King of Kings’ was written about Rameses.  There is also some speculation that he was the pharoah in the Moses story though other scholars say there isno evidence to suggest the Moses story is an actual historic event or that he was the pharoah in it.

I like the story that Rameses never went into battle without his pet lion with him.  You can see the lion featured in some of the artworks in his temple depicting his battles.

Rameses married a Nubian princess.

her name was Nefertari – which means ‘the most beautiful in all the land’.

He is said to have loved her deeply and built ‘his and hers’ temples for them both at Abu Simbel.

luckily these temples were discovered in enough time to rescue them from the dam.

They are huge, and so was the effort required to relocate them.

We went twice, once at night for a sound and light show underneath the stars and the sickle moon, and again in the early morning.

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Nefertari is credited with the first ever written peace treaty, between Egypt and their enemies the Hittites, the terms of which she suggested to her husband.

Nefertari is not to be confused with Nefertiti who came earlier and was not Nubian.

we were not allowed to take photos inside, so I cannot show you here,  but Neferertari is depicted as a tall slim graceful and utterly beautiful Nubian lady.  She holds a blue lotus which is a symbol of upper Egypt.  It is also the only known time a pharoah depicted his queen  as being the same height as him and therefore of equal importance to him.

Many of her beautiful valleys around the upper Nile are now drowned under the dam

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Here are some artworks of other beautiful Nubian ladies and adorable Nubian bins

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I didn’t realise there was something missing from my life until I came to Nubia and found it, an ancient part of my soul that I had forgotten I once had.   There is a timelessness here, a place to come to remember, and even though there are other ways to get to Abu Simbel I think that drive through the desert is part of it.

On another note, I haven’t accumulated any more imaginary boyfriends or husbands yet,  but I have a doppelgänger.  We have just checked into our boat cruise to Luxor and I am solemnly informed by a staff member that I was on this boat two years ago leading a tour.  He remembers me.  He is giving me that dubious   ‘oh yeah good one ‘ look every time I tell him it wasn’t me.

Just for fun this is me demonstrating what one looks like when their alarm doesn’t go off and they get a wakeup call and everyone is already on the bus waiting for them and they get ready in 35 seconds.

Funnily enough I was in deep sleep having a conversation with Russell Brand about something which escapes me now, but in this photo it looks like I have taken his hair style back into the waking world with me …

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Tomorrow our boat sails for Luxor.

 

Postscript – below is a photo that my friend took a short time later, my hair looks better ….

 

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