As last week’s ‘Beast From The East’ left no stone unturned in its devilish attempt to freeze Britain solid I found myself thawing my toes in a quiet corner of the depot canteen after spending a freezing hour helping George clear safe passage down the snow covered drive for Bert’s Farm Fresh Foods van.
As our fur gently steamed by the glow of the open fire a distant gentle hubbub in the unloading area gave way to a throng of raised squeaks as a horrified Maureen failed to tally the pitted dates on her order form with any of the produce boxes coming out of Bert’s van.
A great deal of excitement generally befalls the mice of the PO Depot on a Friday lunchtime as Maureen, without fail, dishes up an enormous batch of her sticky date and crumble slices with a bucket load of vanilla custard. Such is the anticipation of this being on the menu that any deviation or omission of it would most definitely yield a memo to the workers union and almost certainly action a down tools by elevenses. Realising the gravity of the situation, Millie rang round a few contacts but even Dodgy Dave from the garage, who can usually be relied upon to get his paws on just about anything, couldn’t source the goods from any of his regular contacts. And so, on Millie’s request, I found myself on Monday afternoon, loading my backpack with cheese straws and factor 50 whilst Winston tapped a set of co-ordinates into the time machine to blast me off in the direction of Ancient, Egypt.
On arriving in Egypt I found myself ill prepared, as the impromptu manner of the trip had not provided any time to swat up on a few essential Arabic phrases. Having visited the British Museum on a number of occasions I was aware of the use of hieroglyphic writing in the ancient Egyptian world and figured that my sketching abilities might prove useful by way of an introduction and as a means of sourcing a supply of dried fruits. However, whilst strolling through the local bazaar I soon discovered that the international language of introduction hung upon the waft of cheese straws emanating from my backpack in the 22 ºC heat rather than any cross cultural scribbles, and I was soon sailing down the Nile with my new friend Munir Alfaar.
I’ve had a great week with Munir. Apart from visiting a plethora of temples I’ve had the opportunity to really get to grips with the ancient Egyptian way of life. The food here is amazingly varied although the horseradish oil didn’t agree with me and I spent most of Wednesday on the toilet. Munir kindly showed me how to make a special type of paper by squishing together the leaves of the Cyrerus papyrus plant, a wetland sedge which grows along the Nile. I’m bringing home a few scrolls so that I can practise some Egyptian painting at my leisure. The only downside to Egypt as far as I can tell, is that of the elevated status of the common cat, any kind of whisker pulling or tomfoolery is strictly prohibited for fear of upsetting the lioness deity Bastet.
I leave Egypt with a large parcel of dates, which should keep the depot mice going for the next month and strict instructions from Munir to send Maureen’s cheese straw recipe on to him as soon as I return home.
I hope you survived the cold snap!
Morris would love to hear if you’ve ever travelled to far flung lands and taken part in native craft activities or swapped regional recipes. Drop him a line in the comments box if you’ve a good story to tell or even a good recipe.
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