flutterbysky, light the blue touch paper and stand well clear! Ask a simple question and.... Your thread reminded me of an experience I have recently had in Cairo and prompted me to write all that nonsense down. Hope you don't mind. It's a bit long but partially relevant. Honesty is probably the worst policy in my experience. I have, for a few years, had a wonderful apartment in Cairo. From my balcony I can observe the street life of deepest, darkest, Mohandiseen. The rag and bone men, the water melon sellers and the bread vendors, come and go marking the passing sleepy hours, still calling out their business as their trademark call signs fade in to the next street. My boab and his good lady wife pass the time between dusting down the apartment?s fleet of vehicles by splashing water on the road and running through the ring tones on their Nokia (oh, that they wouldn?t do that at one in the morning though!). I took over this place from a teaching couple who had no doubt had enough of the midnight ring tone ensemble and who, reluctantly, handed me the keys and said farewell to the boab and his Nokia. I moved in, they moved on. Those in the know about Cairo apartments will understand when I say this place is on the big side. Although built for a small family, the reception rooms would host a G8 summit with room to spare. The Louis the Umpteenth furniture has a quaintness that Liberace would have found appealing even though it is impossible to sit on unless you want to look like Whistler?s mother. I felt at home but home was just too big. I was about to enter negotiation for the delivery of either a Steinway cottage grand piano or a Brunswick Billiards championship pool table, depending on whether I felt like Liberace or Bill Werbeniuk at the time, just to fill the space you understand, when I had the sterling idea of sharing with an old friend of mine from way back, who had just started teaching at my school. The deal was made, the pool table and candelabra canceled, the only thing to decide was, for the sake of the ancient matriarch one floor below, what was our relationship to be? My predecessors had claimed to have been in the state of grace that is matrimony, a white lie for the benefit of Whistler?s mother on the ground floor, as they were neither married, nor is marriage all it?s cracked up to be. This little fib, however, was one that they could easily carry off as the untruth was simple and one that could be carried with them in their professional lives, more of a technicality really. My dear flatmate, somewhat understandably, balked at the idea of masquerading as my wife. ?Not on your blooming Nelly? I think was the mild rebuke employed although I would have been less surprised had she adopted the more common and somewhat stronger short form invective popular with the younger teachers these days. So, having thrown out the other scenarios that sprung to mind, daughter, niece and French teacher, we employed the truth; big mistake let me tell you. ?A friend???? Whistler?s mum intones as if auditioning for a part in ?The Importance of being Ernest? ?Yes. I?ve known her for years. Friend of the family and all that.? The octogenarian pops a couple of angina pills and reinserts her ear trumpet. ?And this ?friend? will be staying for how long?? ?Oh, let?s think now, year or two?? I get in quickly as Madame?s attentions are absorbed in untangling her hearing device from her complex turban. The news carries up and down the street as boabs meet whist on sprinkling duty, marking their territories like tomcats each with their own practiced sprinkle technique (rather like clowns have their on face on an egg, a boab?s sprinkle is unique and passed only to his son). As ants would pass each other little titbits of chemical information to be communicated back to the nest, so, news of Mr Kitfo (now there?s a good clown name) and his ?friend?, bleed un-staunched across Greater Cairo. The problem is that there is no direct translation of ?a friend?. A wife, yes. that?s the one that has to wear the veil and do all the work. A wife is easy. A friend of the same gender? Also not a problem. If male and Egyptian, they are jolly good comrades (but never gay you understand)and follow veiled people up and down the road making comments about the size of their bottom or other body parts and snigger a lot. If they are girl friends they go in pairs to buy more veils and keep their eyes respectfully downward as they snigger about the size of Mahmoud up ahead?s bottom (or maybe it was mine). But men and women can?t be friends! Not in the same apartment anyway. Every morning, as I pass my boab at the gate, he raises an eyebrow in admiration and gives me the look that is the Masonic handshake of us men-of-the-world. ?Ah, yes, a friend, Mr Kitfo, very good. You must be at it like knives? his eyes say, just between them and me and the rest of the boabing fraternity. My ?flattie? and I spent many happy months sharing bills and left-over pizza, enjoying the selection of ring tones from the balcony of a sultry evening and fighting over the least uncomfortable chair. Eventually the ring tones got too much for her and she moved on to apartments new. My landlady has since rediscovered her hearing and feels reassured of her place in heaven now that ?my friend? has moved from under her roof. My boab still sprinkles his portion of tarmac and seems at ease with his simple lot, although there?s something of loss in his morning greeting now that his celebrity foreigner has gone straight. Little does he know I have resurrected my plans for a Steinway grand and matching pair of diamante studded candelabra??. I mean pool table ? POOL TABLE!