Tag Archives: Tunisia

Terror attacks in Africa, fingerings in Canada & a Filipino drag karaoke photo

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith sat on a plane behind a young man…

I occasionally post quirky ‘found’ stories on my Facebook page. A couple of days ago, I posted one about Hatshepsut, The Bearded Female King of Egypt.

Yesterday, this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith told me it reminded her of her second trip to Egypt in 1997. Her flashback was possibly also not unconnected with the recent beach massacre of 38 people in Tunisia.

So it goes. Welcome to the 21st century.

Sandra told me:

The Swiss tabloid Blick turned a puddle of water into a river of blood flowing  from the temple of Hatshepsut, the site of the Luxor massacre

The Swiss tabloid Blick changed a puddle of water into a river of blood flowing from Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple

In 1997, we travelled there on the very day that the massacre occurred at Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple.

We went straight to the boat on the Nile, had a meal and did not know until the next day that something had happened. We were not actually told what had happened, but were sent on deck to wait for news from the British Foreign Office. From the deck, we saw men on the rooftops with guns, helicopters flying overhead and a raggle-taggle group of men leaning against vehicles on the quayside.

We found out later that they were the Egyptian Army, awaiting the arrival of the president – but still no information for us.

Eventually, we were told that we were to be taken back to the airport to return home, as there had been an ‘incident’, of which we were told nothing.

We arrived at a deserted airport at around 1.00pm and, during the afternoon, as more and more tourists arrived, we started to hear what had happened – that 60 plus people (the numbers varied in the telling) had been killed at Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple.

I had visited there on a previous trip and could well imagine how exposed they all would have been, walking from the coaches.

We eventually got on a plane at around 6.00pm. Counsellors, were on board to help deal with the people who had been closely affected. We were sitting behind a young man whose girlfriend had had her throat cut in front of him, but somehow he had survived.

We were OK. There was more info in the UK than in Egypt. Reporters were at the airport.

Kuoni, our travel company, told us we would get money back, so we went to Sri Lanka a few days later – just randomly chose it as a destination.

Anna enveloped by the fragrant incense of burning rainforest?

I also got a message yesterday from this blog’s Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. She is not related to Sandra Smith.



Anna Smith sent this update on current life in Vancouver. She lives on a boat.

Quiet and dark… Last Sunday, in the morning, I went to turn on my water and saw a school of dainty fingerlings (a word unfortunately changed to ‘fingerings’ by Anna’s e-mail spellcheck) nibbling on the weeds growing under my boat. They were so pretty that I lay on the dock and tried to take a photo, but it came out too blurry. I am not sure what kind of fish they will become.

When I looked up at the sky, I saw an unusually dark, orange-edged cloud looming over the riverbank.

Junk removal man Brad will “haul anything… but dead bodies!!!”

Soon afterwards, we were enveloped by the fragrant incense of burning rainforest. It drifted like fog over the river. It looks like another planet. People are disoriented. They have been confusing the sun with the moon, not seeing the stars or the mountains. The buildings loom faintly. The river looks like lead.

The sun has not ‘risen or set’ for almost a week in Vancouver… It just turns into a red disc at 6.00pm and falls into the orangey white smoke.

Two hundred wildfires are out of control in British Columbia. It’s all anyone is talking about – the smoke and the fires. The fire risk is rated extreme. The prediction is 30 new fires per day for the forseeable future.

Hundreds of troops have been deployed and firefighters from Australia and New Zealand have arrived. Alberta gets the New Zealanders and we get the Australians.

The high temperatures and drought is said to be caused by The Blob. The Blob is a blob of warm water in the Pacific Ocean stretching from Mexico to Alaska, and is suspected to be caused by global warming

The lawn of the Galilee Korean Presbyterian Church is brown.

The lawn of the Galilee Korean Presbyterian Church: not greener.

Smoke has blotted the sky… It looks like Beijing – people wearing surgical masks, coughing. The grass is not greener.

There is a drought. We had no rain for two months but people are excited now, because we are to get a bit of rain tomorrow.

The smoke and heat is making people grumpy. There are no statistics on the cannabis fire situation lately, except that more and more  shops are opening.

As if the sun being blotted out wasn’t enough – I guess you heard about this as it is international news – hookers and their clients all over the world had their business momentarily but seriously interrupted by a sheriff in the USA who managed to convince Visa and MasterCard to stop processing the Village Voice’s Backpages ads for sex workers. This caused a flurry of worker-to-worker advice about how to use Bitcoin and much confusion which was solved after a few days by the Village Voice deciding to allow sex workers to advertise for free.

Meanwhile, life continues at my marina of Hell. I was woken up yesterday morning by a man yelling: “Fuck off! It’s none of your business!” which gave me the relaxing illusion that everything is normal. So I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Anna also sent me a photo of Vancouver-born screen actress Yvonne De Carlo‘s cousin David De Carlo celebrating Canada Day with a friend. Anna tells me:

David De Carlo with a friend (Photograph by Anna Smith)

David De Carlo (right) with a friend (Photo by Anna Smith)

David De Carlo was conceived in Stanley Park under the south end of The Lions Gate Bridge. I met David on Davie street a few months ago when I accidentally took a photo of his ass which was in the way when I was trying to capture something else. We struck up a conversation and he showed me some very interesting visual art that he makes. The picture was taken at a Filipino drag karaoke show, though that is not my favourite art form.

Yvonne De Carlo was a film actress whom Hollywood producer Walter Wanger described as “the most beautiful girl in the world”. She played Lily Munster, the wife of Herman Munster, in the 1960s TV series The Munsters.

Walter Wanger and Joan Bennett

Walter Wanger and Joan Bennett – barely separate from you

In 1951, Walter Wanger shot and wounded talent agent Jennings Lang in the left inner thigh and groin (or, in other reports, the testicles) after accusing him of having an affair with his wife, the actress Joan Bennett. Wanger served a four-month sentence at the Castaic Honor Farm near Los Angeles.

Everyone seems less than six degrees of separation away from everyone else.

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Before “Star Wars” men, I dream of comic Stewart Lee in a tight-fitting suit

Slow traffic yesterday was not as fast as comic Stewart Lee.

I drove up to Edinburgh from London yesterday. It took an hour longer than normal because, between Birmingham and Preston – a distance of 95 miles – the M6 motorway was clogged and we were stopping as often and as unpredictably as the humour in a BBC3 comedy show.

The good news, though, was it took so long that even my non-technical brain realised I could plug my new iPhone into the car’s cigarette lighter socket and, by putting the iPhone in the papier mâché mounting moulded by a friend for my SatNav (after some bastard thieves nicked the original in Greenwich) I could use T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan to listen to the BBC TV News channel while driving up the motorway. To be safe – of course, officer – I only watched the screen when stuck in traffic jams.

I felt as if I had, somehow, dipped a belated toe into what would have seemed a wildly futuristic world to Jules Verne or H.G.Wells.

Which is appropriate, because I am up in Edinburgh to attend a two day event organised by the Guardian newspaper at which both Gary Kurtz, producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and 20th Century Fox’s former vice president Sandy Lieberson explain “how Star Wars, a film rejected by most of the major studios, was put into production by 20th Century Fox and went on to become one of the most iconic films in the history of cinema”.

By coincidence last night, just before I went to bed, I was phoned by the late comedian Malcolm Hardee’s sister Clare. She had mis-dialled. When I told her I was in Edinburgh, she asked:

“Oh, are you up there scouting something for the Fringe?”

When I told her why I was up in Edinburgh, she said:

“Oh, me and Steve (her husband) went to Tunisia last month and saw the Star Wars sets there out in the desert… We went out into the Sahara Desert… and it rained!… Isn’t that typical?… It was lovely, though.”

I then went to bed.

For unknown reasons, I woke up several times during the night, which means I remember a dream I had. It involved Malcolm Hardee Award winning, sophisticated and intelligent comedian Stewart Lee (whose TV show was yesterday re-commissioned by BBC2 for another two series).

He was performing at the Hackney Empire in London wearing a suit several times too small for him. (Two days ago, a friend of mine complained that my trousers were too short because she could see my socks.) On stage, he looked like sexually-disgraced American comic Pee-wee Herman.

Stewart’s act involved stuffing rapidly into his mouth several ham sandwiches on brown bread then trying to speak, which simply meant he was spitting and spewing out lots of little pieces of half-eaten brown bread and ham while he told for-him unusually rapid-fire jokes.

I have seen this ‘act’ before but cannot remember who did it.

The ham sandwiches were similar to ones I had eaten on the long drive up to Edinburgh.

This goes some way to explaining the content of the dream, but possibly not far enough for comfort.

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Painting a New York fart, Tony Blair and Jo Brand

Yesterday, in response to my blog mentioning farteur Mr Methane, Jackie Hunter, former features editor of The Scotsman newspaper, reminded me that early 20th-century artist Maxfield Parrish painted a fart into a mural that now adorns the famous King Cole Bar in New York’s St Regis hotel. I have to agree with her that painting a fart is quite an achievement.

Yesterday was a funny old mixture of a day because British comedians are now planning for the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Going to the Fringe, like having a baby, is a nine-month project involving a lot of nausea, pain and uncertain results.

Charlie Chuck phoned me about his planned return to Edinburgh which sounds suitably unusual and the extraordinarily multi-talented Janey Godley, not planning to play the Edinburgh Fringe this year but just about to go to the Adelaide Fringe, told me about two possibilities she has been unexpectedly offered in two totally different media. From Janey, the unexpected comes as no surprise.

In the afternoon, I had to take a friend to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich which, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom, is surrounded by a high Grade A security fence which makes it look more like a Stalag Luft Queen Elizabeth II escape-proof prison camp in World War II or a Ministry of Defence site in the Cold War.

In the evening, I went to Vivienne & Martin Soan’s monthly Pull The Other One comedy club at the beleaguered and now closed Ivy House pub in Nunhead. The venue was re-opened specially for the night to stage Pull The Other One with this month’s headliner Jo Brand.

Vivienne & Martin now have their next six shows arranged but with no definite venue and are looking round, although they would prefer to stay at the warmly ornate and atmospheric mirrored ‘golden room’ behind the Ivy House bar. One local alternative might be The Old Waiting Room at Peckham Rye Station.

Comedian and novelist Dominic Holland, making his second appearance at Pull The Other One called it “the weirdest gig that exists,” which it surely is. The format is about two hours of variety acts and two stand-up comics. Unusually, nowadays, the bizarre variety acts – far be it from me to name-drop Bob Slayer and Holly Burn – are as important to the feel of the shows as the stand-ups.

Afterwards, Dominic told me that his 14-year-old son Tom Holland, recently on stage as Billy Elliot in the West End, is currently in Thailand filming a lead role in major Hollywood blockbuster The Impossible. I thought Dominic was probably ‘talking up’ this film out of fatherly pride until I looked it up on IMDB Pro and found it is a big-budget tsunami disaster movie “starring Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland” and is one of the “most anticipated films of 2011”.

Other shocks of the evening were that the much talked-about cult comedian Dr Brown has got an entirely new character act in which he actually moves and talks semi-coherently. And I heard that legendary ‘open spot’ act Jimbo – he seems to have been doing open spots as long as Cilla Black has been acting-out the role of ordinary woman next door – is now getting paid gigs, has allegedly changed into a (different) character act and is perhaps going to the Edinburgh Fringe. If he won an award as Best Newcomer at the Fringe it would be very funny and would be a triumph for Brian Damage of Pear Shaped, who has long championed Jimbo and other – even by my standards – very, very bizarre acts.

A very funny night at Pull The Other One ended very entertainingly but totally unsurprisingly with nudity. There were even some calls for The Naked Balloon Dance of fond memory.

Meanwhile, out in the real world, Tunisia continued to stumble around like a blinded meerkat towards potential anarchic chaos and tanks were rolling around Cairo to prevent what threatened to be a popular uprising.

Is it my imagination or have things deteriorated badly in that area since the United Nations, evidently an organisation with no sense of irony, appointed Tony Blair as Middle East Peace Envoy and why is it I never actually see any pictures of him in the Middle East?

Could it be he’s just too busy talking to God and this week, according to The Times, signing a six-figure deal to make four speeches for a hedge fund which made around £100 million by betting on the collapse of the Northern Rock bank in the UK?

This was shortly after the Daily Mail reported that he got £300,000 for making one speech for banking giant Goldman Sachs, while he had a £2.5 million deal as “advisor”  to JP Morgan, who, according to London’s Evening Standard, won a contract to set up an Iraqi bank in the wake of the US-led invasion.

Which gets us back to the subject of Mr Methane and farting around the world and brings up the possibly pertinent question:

What is the difference between being a comedian and taking the piss?

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