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Jane’s Memorial Day-A Special Memory.
It seems a long time ago now but then I suppose it is, Forty Three years in fact. In the Spring of 1980 Jane and I visited the land of the pharaohs. I had recently met Hamada and he kindly ask if we would like to go visit his family in Egypt. He was coming towards the end of a postgraduate degree and it was a busy time for him so he kindly asked if we would like to travel to Alex to meet his family. Jane and I jumped at the chance and hurriedly made our plans. Alfie, Mum and Dad waved us off at Heathrow.
We had the usual bags and things seemed easier in those days. I remember well Jane had a fairly substantial carry-on bag with of course the most important items. Layered carefully across the top were a beautiful precious bunch of English daffodils from Jane and Alfie’s garden. Not wanting these to be crushed they certainly must go as cabin baggage. We were stopped at baggage as they weighed the offending large bag and stated it must go in the hold, as much too big. Jane’s very clear voice said this was just not possible as this bag contained her contact lens! Everyone laugh! They smiled and sent us quickly on our way, with bag intact, (things were certainly different to travelling now)
So started a holiday of a lifetime.
We really didn’t know what we were going too! Having only met Hamada a short time before but he assured me that all would be very fine indeed.
As we started the descent Jane and I looked at each other with a little dismay and trepidation as our noses pressed up against the window showed what looked like a very grubby set of playing cards, stacked as houses and the tiny very dirty looking narrow alleyways of old Cairo. We fought our way through the much too busy airport, first time seeing the scary guns of the security guards, everything looked so shabby at that time, subsequently better in the years to come, when I visited again many times, But we found the allotted meeting place, pushing through the crowds, stepping over seated people, donkey traps, bikes, beggars, old taxi’s and the odd camel to where Hamada’s two brothers and older brother-in-law were waiting outside.
They welcomed us profusely and showed us very politely to an old but beautifully cared for, Black Mercedes sedan and we proceeded through a traffic jam and the tremendous noise and bustle in “downtown Cairo to pick up the beach route out to Alexandria. Jane looked across at me with a wink and a reassuring gaze but I knew we both thought perhaps this is a luxury ride to the slave trade! The guys seemed really nice but oh boy it was hot and our clothes were already sticking to us. It was v hot, no a/c was working in the car or perhaps they thought it was not that hot, it was after all only April. About half way on our journey one of the brothers produced a flask and tiny glasses and mint tea was passed around.
We both enjoyed that, although sickly sweet with sugar it revived us and we became more comfortable but their v little English and our no knowledge of Arabic made us laugh when probably we shouldn’t…Two+hours and 122 kilometres later we arrived outside a huge old grand Victoria house set back on a hill overlooking the sea in the bay of bolckly , Alex. A very fine old house with crystal chandeliers and servants, it was cool inside and smelt so good of cedar and oud, lovely after the stuffy car, there we met the family and more extended family and were able to give the precious daffodils to Mamilet Hamada’s Mother. She sent for a vase and water, which Jane and I could have downed in one go! and proceeded slowly to arrange the flowers as if each had gold stems. They stayed on the piano for the duration of our stay and were v much admired by all, even when faded and crisp. Mamilet repeating the story over and over in her deep guttural voice to any guest that arrived, about the gift that the two English girls had brought from England. Not a bit interested in the Stratton powder compact I had given but that was coveted away v quickly by those beautiful hands and dark Jackdaw eyes.
My poem Al Byt, Al Kabeer, on my blog here tells more clearly, and reminded Jane of those times and where you may read her comments beneath. Soon a large pot of English tea and the famous syrupy Egyptian cakes arrived, we looked at each other and knew all would be very fine indeed.
Needless to say we had the holiday of a lifetime. We were given an apartment belonging to one of the daughters for the duration of our stay but every night we would return to the ‘big house’ for a formal dinner, we had fun dressing for that with our limited clothes and each brought a shawl from the souk to cover our arms. We learnt quickly.
So many things happened during that holiday that to us were incredibly exciting. Travelling across the Nile Delta 261 km to Port Said and then across to Fouad City. Where we spent the night in a really dodgy bunk house with a chair pinned under the door and BIL Al Hussany sitting on guard outside the door all night for our protection. We could hear guns firing, odd rumbles, dogs barking all night. We slept in our clothes as the blankets looked well used but still we laughed although we were scared witless!
Then to another extreme, sitting in rattan peacock chairs on the balcony of the grandiose export company friend of the family, Hamza and Co, overlooking the Suez Canal and being fanned, big heavy hand-held punkah fans and served mint tea and small Egyptian baboosa cakes by the v young boys who worked there. Janey said at the time “well, who would ever believe this?”
So many things stay in my mind of that time. Laying in bed in the v early mornings and hearing a bell ringing and the nay of a donkey outside the bedroom window (and Janey with a wail and not ready to wake quite yet and hiding her head under the beautiful soft Egyptian cotton pillows) then leaning out to lower down the rope which was attached to the window frame and pulling up a basket of fresh apricots and strawberries, then the early knock on our door as a tray of warm battered fruits and soft white bread and v strong coffee/or tea would arrive from the big house for breakfast. Hamada’s household had servants And Nora who was assigned to us, would regularly shrink our best trousers and favourite t-shirts till we wised up and put them back in our cases grubby, saying we had no washing today Shukrun!
Jane loved every moment of it, even when we got quite sick with ‘Ramses Revenge’ after eating an under-cooked Nile fish. We took a chance in the end as we got sicker, drinking a family potion that smoked out of the glass and smelt of sulphur, revolting but we looked at each other, pinched our noses and said “ think of England and downed it!
We did all the museums in our matching navy pleated skirts a fashion at the time and when the half asleep guide in the Alex museum unlinked the ropes around the sarcophagus, for a much closer look, we felt special, being English in those days, opened many doors, we were able to lean over to inspect v closely the toes and part faces to see noses poking through the ragged cloths of the Pharaohs bodies, we were enthralled and felt special as the other sightseers had to remain firmly behind the barriers. We visited the then famous boulevarge cafe an open vine covered roof and rattan furnished meeting place, for wealthy young people and lovers. We also visited the Steigenberger Cecil Hotel in Alex, with its dusty palms in the mirrored vestibule, it was built in 1929 by the French-Egyptian Jewish Metzger family as a romantic hotel, Guests have included, Churchill, Somerset Maugham and Al Capone. Jane and I had her favourite Earl grey tea in the lounge, we lingered a long time over this and ate the sugar lumps and studied the cutlery, gorgeous China and many faces looking for the famous film stars of the day. This hotel appears in one of the great works of English fiction, the book ‘The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. Also something I found out later that the British Secret Service retained a suite there. We fitted in well and the service was impeccable!
We spent a further three days in Heliopolis staying with a marvellous elderly Aunt and Uncle again in the most gorgeous home. We toured at night the alleys of Cairo and even wandered the ‘ladies squeeze’ a long very narrow passageway with gift stalls on either side, when all the lights in Cairo went out, a not too uncommon power cut. We clung to each other as faceless galabiyahed folk pressed rather too closely, scared for sure but still we laughed as we clutched our souk purchases and each other!
We rode camels right out in the desert as,many do but in a Kamseen wind, not like it is now, so built-up and spoilt, it was still free and unstructured, we inspected the wonderful Pyramids, everything was so easy in those days…The wonderful music, the warm people, the sounds, the different foods, we tried most everything. When I returned I wrote a poem for Janey called ‘One year Ago’ Janey loved it, she often spoke of this holiday over the years mentioning it most every time I saw her. Of course I have many memories of my much loved sister but this is My memory this is Our memory and one I will take care of, for always…
Susie Moursi. May 2023.
Music of the time: We are Family – Sister Sledge. 1979. Good Times – Nile Rodges.
True Love Speaks.
There are many ways to love,
but love only endures when it moves like waves,
dancing like the tide, that ebbs and flows.
When love comes into sight
It liberates us all into life until
joined in loving commitment.
To know why the desert
burns with fever,
Is to understand its magic,
Just like the knowledge of real love,
It brings with it such serenity,
such fulfilment and such joy.
Those that truly love, have roots
that grow towards each other,
like the rare desert trees,
they find that they are one tree and not two.
How do we know true love speaks?
Seek for those trusting eyes,
cherish that kindness of heart,
nurture that precious love,
that perfect someone who
makes you smile, for it only
takes a smile to make a dark day
Sometimes people come into our lives
leaving their footprints on our hearts
and we are never the same again.
True love speaks in tender tones
and hears with gentle ear,
true love gives with open heart
and true love conquers fear.
True love makes no harsh demands,
it neither rules or binds
and true love holds with gentle hands
the heart that it entwines.
Two lives together bound by fate,
a love found in the sands of Dubai.
Two parts of a loving whole
two hearts a single soul combined.
So, as we gather here
on this very special day
our dear family and our dear friends
from so many corners of our beautiful world,
we come to celebrate this special love,
for we know love speaks.
There really is no place large enough
to contain so much joy,
so we smile and hold out our hands to the universe
and with all the love we possess
Wish our Leanne and Jo every happiness.
Leanne and Joe’s Wedding 1st April 2023
Photo courtesy of my desert friend Fadi Lydon.
Some comments taken from social media.
what a beautiful poem- Jodie Mernagh April 2023
truly beautiful-Anne Manning
oh that must have been so lovely to hear at the wedding, as always wonderful words. Audrey Blincow.
lovely poem -Ali Voysey-Jenson.
how did you read that without collapsing in tears? Truly beautiful celebrating the love that you brought into the world for the next generation to wrap themselves in. Just beautiful Susie. esp for ex-Pat children. Deidre Hamilton Stewart.
so very beautiful Susie, Dianne West Garvey.
What a beautiful Wedding gift that will only grow more precious as the years progress “ they find that they are one tree and not two” John A. Bayern.
Beautiful and very relevant- Gill Sims.
the photo fits the poem just beautifully – Gwen Macrae.
that is just gloriously beautiful Susie, what a wonderful gift for them.- Sian Williams.
A delightful sanctuary for family fun.
a restful utterance of joy
this rhythm and flow…this energy of life,
proves as natural as breathing…
This house fills your eyes with pretty visions
of eclectic art and precious belongings.
It enfolds, caressing you with every comfort.
As light puffy wisps of pearly white clouds drift
across our beloved England, corks popped,
laughter and joyous sounds rise from
steamy scented jacuzzi warmly enfolding…
Vivid clarity of light brings joy and endless fun.
It fills our memories, brings togetherness
like nothing can…
Hunt the eggs with Pops,
bake the tiny cakes for little hands, with Auntie Ann,
as the men play football with much skill,
tiny feet kick ball to goal!
Walks in the grounds down to a lake,
through dripping juicy pear trees!
Trying all the garden chairs and comfy swing
all in warm balmy air…
These are our memories, just for us to treasure…
As beautiful laughter fills the air,
enticing aromas seamlessly sail
through from the kitchen,
they tickle our noses with delight.
Tantalising Amuse-bouche, specially
selected Mouton Cadet,
holding its own special memories,
all precedes exquisite international cuisine,
all cooked to perfection, second to none!
Quiz night with ‘oohs and ahhh’s’
Stretching those puzzled brains
All in a state of physical ease…
To share this time, to be a part of this
Interlude, has been a seamless delight.
Thank you Woodland Lodge
with your warm embrace and many magic touches,
thank you lovely family and new friends.
Perhaps one day we will return,
Until then these memories of being together will sustain us…
“Feel my dreams for you”
Solace of mind on difficult days,
comfort when troubled
or when sadness bleeds your heart,
wise eyes to be able to see all beauty
especially in unexpected places,
laughter to play on those beautiful lips,
the ability to accept in those sparkling eyes,
hugs that raise your spirit soul
and friends to share those happy days.
Laughter in abundance to surround and fulfil,
to ring in your ears, play on your mouth,
faith to hold you up, to believe on those tough days,
confidence when the journey is not easy…
Patience and courage when days are difficult and
but most of all compassion and an
abundance of love to complete your life.
May you always have a sunlit door to walk through…
Poem dedicated to my Sons and Grandson.
©️Susie Hemingway. 2022
The Open Door Photo: Courtesy of Anne Manning with thanks. (Click to open).
I’m watching clouds today.
You know, when the sky is the colour of cornflowers and the wind is high in a sky as large as an ocean,
these white fluffy cottonwool shapes scud past as
I lie on my soft snugly bed, the sky clear and lemony sunny,
I’m watching clouds today…
My balcony door is wide open, the breeze is sharp and Winter fresh, my nose is going pink
but under my warmest blanket with hot water bottle in place I am as warm as if being on a Caribbean beach.
I’m seeing the world today…
One soft white air-balloon sped by, I am sure people were waving,
followed by a perfect Isle of Wight
then came a magical galleon ship, well maybe not quite a galleon ship but huge sails full of powerful gusts puffed out in front, full I’m sure of gold and pearls.
Then a strangely big leg of Italy very close, kicking away from the rest of its land.
I’m watching clouds today…
An odd tree came next, most shapely I thought, blown sideways but I turned my head just in time… Then came a large alligator not of white clouds but formed from the gaps between but you never have cornflower blue alligators do you?
Imagination is a wonderful thing…
I’m watching clouds today…
Susie Hemingway ©️2021
I had forgotten how much I love these words.
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before, more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”
—Charles Dickens, GREAT EXPECTATIONS
The world turned on its head today,
It collided, stumbled stuttered and fell.
the bustling regular ordinary days
the ones we love the best, changed,
slowly at first but then, with a great rush of fear.
The world turned on its axis, it shuddered,
And all at once fearful for the life of our world to come,
we halted and stalled.
Those approaching the Autumn of their days
must stay ‘contained’ the hardy stalwarts must
not ‘rock this boat’ or it might capsize, might go under…
The young executives our money makers,
our decision makers, now confined to home offices,
sitting in underpants,
as trains and city centres empty
draining like blood from worried faces…
The world turned on its axis today…
The call to prayer, voices thinned, as announcements
came of closures of Mosques,
the suspension of Mass starting to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The world turned on its axle today….
Theme parks stilled, theatres, cinemas, halted in prose,
visas suspended as the world turned on
It’s axis today…
Death is not the only common fear, science is the only common hope.
Humanity is our only common thread.
The world turned on its axis today…
Susie Hemingway ©️March 2020
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We don’t see the lines on faces and eyes
on hands that are swollen and veiny to die,
we don’t see the marks between bruising skin
we only see the heart that lies within…
We don’t see the faded eyes or the creases
round thinner lips all we see are those days,
the echos of past as we engage
in the memories words bring,
now all we see are the tales of fun
of faded impressions in photos when young…
When vibrant, eager and easy to know,
we were brilliant, dazzling,
scintillating, so ready to go
at just a moments notice,
wearing only our smiles
in shorts and flip-flops we
travelled the miles.
Now we only see those days we wish to recall,
of jaunty hearts, crystal minds
when we were young…
Inventive, creative, accomplished and yes phenomenal!
Our extraordinary minds propel us onwards,
our delicious memories sustain us…
So we don’t see the lines etched or the tired eyes,
on faces of friends and lovers who bide,
we see only the heart and the spirit inside
so deep is that joyful echo of life
of an echo…of this echo…
it’s all we see…
Susie Hemingway ©️2019
This magic Isle of new memories that nurtured
the souls of those that loved…
the hot golden days of our desert time,
where friends were made to last and stay
in OUR Oasis town of palms and sand.
For some, more than half a life ago
remember a different time, of roaming camels
soaring temperatures, dusty lives where
bonds were made to last and stay..
“See you again one day” we said.
So for us the stalwarts of this time,
staunch, committed, fun and steadfast
we meet again, still vigorous and redoubtable,
to reminisce of years gone by.
Unhesitatingly enjoying all of our memories…
We shared again on this lovely Island of Crete
We shared again…
Susie Hemingway Moursi – 4th Reunion Crete 2019.
Lowered eyes glanced through grimy windows
smeared rain spots across the filthy panes of Bus34.
Memories sneaked the corners of my mind and rolled hotly down my cheeks.
Casting eyes upwards to grey smudgy skies, head resting at a tired angle
I looked for you…
The dirty light of filthy day, no sunshine broke my blurring eyes
your dear dark velvet, heavily fringed eyes, slowing closing
flooded my mind and filled my vision.
Desperate days that still seemed like yesterday,
days that were long now, spoilt by loss.
Taking this evening route daily
life did not improve, my time to recall,
my time to remember…