Egypt, Sarah Style

What have I been up to, internet?

Well, here is a summary of my doings of the year, the fact you should all watch the movie Easy A, and also things I cannot tell you yet.

Also, for those on a quest to collect all my writings ever (anyone? anyone? Bueller?) I am in a book of Irish authors translating Catullus with their own spin. You know, me and John Banville and Michael Longley. I’m fancy and learned like that.

Something even more fancy is the fact that my short story The Spy Who Never Grew Up has been selected as one of the stories in the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year. The full list is there, but – wow. I mean, Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow and Ellen Kushner (not to mention Holly Black and Diana Peterfreund): they are really fancy people. Some days I feel all full of hope about this writing lark.

Of course, I told my loving parents about this, and…

FATHER: Oh, well done, Sarah! Well deserved! Is this the vampire in the boyband short story?
SARAH: No, the Peter Pan is a superspy for the Queen of England short story.
FATHER: … Really?
SARAH: What?
FATHER: Well, I just really liked the vampires one.
SARAH: …
FATHER: Peter Pan was good too…
SARAH: You’re fired. Fired.

One other thing I have been up to is going to Egypt. It has always been the number one place I want to go. I have a job I can do while travelling. I do mainly travel for work, but I just kept thinking ‘Why don’t I go?’ Added to which, I live with a lady who is a museum detective. So in the end, we went!

It ended up that we went right after our emergency house move, and when I was so exhausted from work I wasn’t forming complete sentences, but this is Always The Way.

Going on holiday with a writer is a little bit like going on holiday with an art thief. (But without the police sirens blaring and the eventual imprisonment for being an accomplice. Well, usually without that, I’m not making any promises I can’t keep.) I constantly trail around behind the group making notes of stuff I’ll be stealing for stories later and climbing on things I shouldn’t be climbing on. Get Down From That Antiquity, Writer Girl.

Going on holiday with a museum detective (this really is basically the Durham Lass’s job description) is a much more informative and less mildly terrifying thing, and if the Durham Lass had a blog you would right now be enjoying descriptions of how you can tell if stones lying on the ground looking like any other stones are actually flint tools thousands of years old. But sadly you are stuck with me, making puns about the pharaohs.

I also play games like ‘Winner of the Worst Royal Name’ (King Snofru) and sing songs like ‘Oh I do like to be amid the pyra, oh I do like to be amid the pyr!’ (To the tune of ‘Beside the seaside,’ of course.)

Then there was the camel riding. The Durham Lass was given a frisky young camel who was trying to make friends with all the other camels. I am happy to say my camel was a sedate, mature animal, who spurned the Durham Lass’s camel’s advances. I named him Snofru.

CAMEL OWNER: Time to drop the camel leads and take your pictures!
DURHAM LASS: disappears into the desert on back of joyously free camel
SARAH: Oh my God. Snofru, stay still. Stay still like the wind. On a very calm day.
SNOFRU: stays still. Like the wind. On a very calm day.
SARAH: Good Snofru. Noble steed!

We saw Luxor Temple in the moonlight and Karnak Temple in the sunshine, colour still on some of the art on the walls and pillars.

We also saw the many, many statues of Ramses II. Ramses II was a dude who had a fairly good opinion of himself: he thought he was so awesome all the statues should be of him. So he basically went around the temples and made it so.

NOBLE: Man, this is one crazy hot statue. Gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘stone fox.’
RAMSES II: Excellent. Put my name on it.
NOBLE: Er – no, but you see, pharaoh, this statue is in fact a gi-
RAMSES II: Are you saying Pharaoh’s not crazy hot?
NOBLE: No! No, I would never say that.
RAMSES II: Have you seen Pharaoh’s guns?
NOBLE: Um.
RAMSES II: You know the rules. If you like it then you should put a plaque on it. A plaque saying ‘Ramses II.’
NOBLE: …
RAMSES II: It’s good to be pharaoh.

Seeing the pyramids is strange and awe-inspiring: from a distance, from up close. They’re vast and old, and it’s odd to see those ancient golden lines cutting up the sky, and know the messages on them. Which are basically along the lines of ‘Pharaoh Gazza Is Great.’ Still, pyramids, graffiti, writing of all kinds, is a way to say ‘I was here.’ The difference is how you say it.

The pyramids say it kind of beautifully.

It’s also amazing to see stars painted on the ceilings of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and the Romanised catacombs in Alexandria, where poor little Anubis, jackal-headed god of the dead, has to wear laurel leaves and a fish tail. He’s already got a jackal head, Roman army, stop destroying a god’s chances with the ladies.

Speaking of the ladies, it is a different culture over there, and it was also a little strange to be so aware, as a lady, of whether your hair/elbows/knees were covered, and aware that if they weren’t people would perceive you differently. But of course, to a different extent, this is the case everywhere. People just take more notice of girls’ clothes/hair/what they call themselves/how they act. (This is even true about fictional girls, so there’s no way for real girls to escape it!) All I can do is try not to do it myself.

… I did receive a truly magnificently terrible chat-up line in Egypt. It went: ‘Hey, baby, I like your size.’ My friends have been saying it nonstop since our return. Also – my mother.

From seeing the dawn pour like gold on the statues at Abu Simbel and reading Gothic novels in the sunshine going down the Nile, the Durham Lass and I flew back to Ireland and the worst blizzard of our lifetime.

DURHAM LASS: Why do these things always happen around you?
SARAH: I live in a force field of adventure! Excuse me I have to go put bed socks on my hands.

There you have it, ladies and gents. Latin poems and vampires, force fields of adventures and bed socks. More anon!

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