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At school in the 1950's and 60's, we all used to learn about the civilisations of the Nile in Ancient Egypt.
Did I think that as we drew pictures of the Temple of Karnak all those years ago, that one day I would go and see it for real? I doubt it! Britain was in the grip of post-war austerity and foreign travel was something that not many people ever did. I think that as we learned and drew with Miss Kirkpatrick, in Michenden Grammar School in North London, that very few of our class of about thirty had ever been abroad. Things were so different then!
Now nearly fifty years later, my wife, Celia, and I have travelled a great deal. We've been all over the Far East, to the Antipodes, South Africa, the Caribbean, to Ecuador and the Galapagos, and many other places that are mostly good, but sometimes bad. We now avoid the United States as we don't see eye to eye with Mr. Bush and especially his stubborn support for that cruel and outdated punishment of the death penalty.
I also have a problem that tends to curb our wanderlust. I am a coeliac.
Being a coeliac, is not a death sentence, as in fact it is a negative illness, the symptoms of which can be totally avoided by a simple diet. I have to avoid the gluten found in wheat, barley and rye. In practical terms, this means no bread, biscuits, beer and pasta, unless they have been made without wheat or barley. Usually, this means they are totally tasteless as well, so I've reformulated my diet to be based on meat, especially liver, vegetables, fruit, cider, rice, wine and spirits. And of course the humble potato and the Village Bakery's delicious cakes! Perhaps Marie Antoinette had coeliacs in mind!
In the UK, sticking to the diet is easy, especially as stores such as Marks and Spencer and Waitrose are providing large ranges of normal food without gluten. Why should I pay extra for a specialist gluten-free ready meal, when with a little bit of common sense, most of them should be that way anyway? My mother and those of her generation always cooked with cornflour, so why don't we always do it now? And why do some manufacturers use additives derived from wheat and too much salt? Because it's cheap and they think it's what the public wants.
As an aside here, look at the food sales in Marks and Spencer! These last few months, they've been performing very well. And what is their food policy. Quality, the reduction of salt and the elimination of ingredients that shouldn't be present. Perhaps the public isn't as dumb as companies think. Remember Gerald Ratner!
Coeliacs tend to suffer vitamin shortages especially if they are undiagnosed. In fact I was diagnosed, because I had a lack of B12 in my body, giving me symptoms of excessive wind, bad skin, dandruff, migraines, tiredness and mild depression. Before diagnosis, I hated being in the sun, but now I find a week or so of sun in mid-winter, is like a dose of some super-tonic.
So we booked a cheap holiday in Egypt for the second week in February. Perhaps we chose the wrong week in some way, as it was half-term, but it fitted in with Celia's work.
The plan was to fly by the charter airline, Monarch, to Luxor and stay at the Sheraton in Luxor, for a week of sunbathing and sightseeing. I was also preparing myself for a week of bad, inedible and unsuitable food and not too much alcohol.