Monday, August 29, 2005
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Well, I'm back from my holiday in Hungary but absolutely knackered.
To bore anyone reading, they'll be a blow-by-blow account coming (probably) tomorrow, when I wake up....
The photo is of how sunflowers look when there is no sun (except the baby one)...
Taken on the way back to the airport in Budapest today...
Friday, August 26, 2005
Today, we went into town, to an abandoned factory, to pick up some sand to make cement from. It was a bit weird. We drove down these long lanes between what looked like bombed out factory buildings until we got to one where there was still some activity. My godfather paid a man there the equivalent of just over a pound and was told that he could take as much sand as he could carry. We only needed a large bucketful for some path repair work that my godmother was planning for the garden.
It was all quite surreptitious.
Ózd is part of what is termed Hungary’s ‘rust belt.’ There are a lot of run-down and abandoned industrial buildings all over the area. The other day we drove past a huge factory that I estimated was about 5km long. Only one small section of it appeared to still be in use.
Most of the houses in the area where my godparents live don’t have plumbing. You can see the out houses behind each as you go past. Thankfully my godparents house does, so we have a fully functional toilet and shower.
After the clandestine sand gathering we popped into a small key cutter/watch repair shop on the basement level of an estate block type building. It was no bigger than two metres by three and on every inch of wall were keys and watches of every colour you could imagine. The watchmaker looked about eighty and had massively thick panes of glass on his spectacles. If he were Asian he would have reminded me of the key maker in the Matrix. His box-sized shop was cool. I felt too self-conscious to take a photo though, afterwards, I wished I had.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Today was exciting. We went into town to do some shopping and I played with Freddi.
Ermmm, that was about it really!
I was so bored that here is an example of the type of thing I’ve been thinking about to pass the time:
Looking around here and the other parts of Hungary there appear to be a disproportionately large percentage of women and teenage girls with their hair dyed the same shade of red. I remember seeing the same thing last year so it’s not just a passing fad.
What’s driving the trend?!
Is there a large dyed red hair celebrity contingent in Hungary that women are trying to emulate?
It doesn’t even look good on most of the women that I’ve seen it done on here though but I guess that that could be a bit subjective.
Who knows? These are the kind of things I ponder on a quiet day like this.
The weather started to clear up too. I was so bored I even took a picture of a flower. Everything is really green after the rain of the past few days. You can see the hills in the background too. (Well, a hill)
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
After lunch my godfather turned around and said "Let’s go to Kocise!"
"Where’s that?” I ask.
”In Slovakia across the border. I’ve never been there and I’m sure it’s not far.”
Two and a half hours later we’re leaving Kocise having taken over two hours to get there and realising after just 10 minutes that this wasn’t really a city with anything worth seeing from a visiting tourist perspective.
Scenery-wise the journey there was nice though there weren’t really any convenient places to stop and take photos as we were on a motorway. The few that I did take could do with a bit of contrast as the lack of good light has washed them out somewhat. I’ll just chalk it up as another country I can say that I’ve been to.
I did however have a laugh by taking a picture of my godfather having a smoke on one of our stops. My godmother doesn’t allow him to and he always smokes when she’s not around. I now have blackmail material! Hehe!
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
It rained on and off yesterday and there have been floods across Hungary, Germany and Switzerland. In search of something to do we drove off to a place called Lillafüred. It was about ninety minutes drive. It’s interesting to drive through Hungary just because the countryside is beautiful and the towns different from anything I am used to in England. However as soon as we set off it absolutely poured down and didn’t stop until later in the day when we were heading back. My trusty umbrella got well used again today.
Apart from a beautiful setting, Lillafüred doesn’t have much else to offer other than a lake, huge Bavarian-style hotel and three sets of caves. It’s probably a nice place to go camping for a long weekend, though not in today’s weather!
We had a wander through two sets of the caves (where at least we could stay dry) and got some snaps of some waterfalls in the area. The stagatites and stalagmites were quite interesting though I’d seen better in Hungary and China last year and you can only see so many in a lifetime without being blasé.
My ’godfather’ had come well prepared to go into the cold 10ºC caves with just sandles and a cardigan which was quite funny. He insisted that he wasn’t cold though.
We had lunch when we got back (yesterday’s leftovers) and then I had a nap. This fresh air seems to be having the effect of leaving me tired without really having done much. That perhaps, or the lack of things to do?
When I woke up 2 hours later my godparents were having supper.
I said, "But we only ate lunch 2 hours ago!"
They replied, "We always eat supper at this time."
I guess that they are a bit set in their ways! *sigh* I declined and had my cold supper much later. (Hungarians generally make lunch the main meal of the day and just have a cold supper, which inevitable, in my case anyway, involves bread!)
We have had a lot of thunder rolling across the hills this afternoon. Our poor old hound Freddi is terrified. He ran and hid in the garage earlier and later was lying in the patio shivering away. We tried to cheer him up and make him feel safe with us but he just wouldn’t stop shaking. I managed to coax him out of his kennel later and played with him for a while which I’m quite pleased to do as it’s the only kind of exercise I’m likely to get here..
I have my company medical next month so know I’m not going to do too well on the weight front. If I can get off my arse then lots of jogging when I get back!
Monday, August 22, 2005
I wake up and head out into the garden for some fresh high elevation air. My godmother’s place is 200m above sea level and is on a road that sees barely a handful of cars each day. The only sounds that I can hear are dogs barking in the distance. No cars whatsoever.
No wait. Damn…Off in the distance is the sound of a plane. It’s probably miles away but being so quiet I can hear its distant rumble spoil my paradise.
My godparents have no plans for us to go anywhere today so we talk a lot and play with their four-year-old hound dog, Freddi. They along with my uncle have one thing in common. First topic of conversation…
They ask “Why haven’t you got married yet?” *sigh*
My uncle even suggested he would arrange for me to join a Hungarian dating agency to find myself a nice Hungarian girl. Apparently, having a degree and a good job, makes me a highly eligible bachelor.
I’m told, “You should have no problem finding a woman in Hungary.”
Who knows, maybe one day?
My godmother and her husband (who likes me to call him godfather even though I still have one of those back in London) are a highly practical couple. They are both in the sixties and moved here six years ago and have pretty much redesigned the interior and exterior of the house in a way that any ‘Changing Rooms’ type programme would be envious of.
The house is immaculately looked after inside and the garden which runs down a slope is laid out in rows of fruit and veg and they have even built their own outside gazebo with a place to cook food in the centre.
Today we made use of the outdoor cooking facilities and had a delicious meat stew with, yes, lots of bread!
Sunday, August 21, 2005
My godmother had, however, arrived early so it was a bit of a rush to leave. My grandmother didn’t turn up though, so I’m a bit upset that I never got to say goodbye to her properly. I do hope that yesterday wasn’t the last time I’ll see her.
We stopped off at the local (1 hours drive) Tesco on the way back to my godmother’s house in Ózd. It’s set within a big mall and is larger than any that I have been to in the UK. Tesco seem to be all over the place in Hungary. Their only competition here seems to be German supermarkets.
Unfortunately there is a bit of history between my godmother and uncle. I have no idea of what has caused bad feelings but my uncle suggested that next year I stay with him for 10 days and my godmother for the remainder. When I got to my godmother’s place, she suggested that I stay there for two weeks and no time at my uncle’s!
I stay non-committal throughout the whole thing. In terms of things to do, my uncle has the upper-hand. My godmother lives up in the Northern Hungarian hills just south of the Slovak border. The area is beautiful with national parks all around but is still basically in the middle of nowhere with an hour’s journey to get anywhere. The weather forecast, however, is not good for this week so I worry that our options may become even more limited :(
Saturday, August 20, 2005
The fair is held in an area of park land next to the secondary school where my nephew is going to start going in September and is firmly aimed at the younger end of the market. There are mainly stalls selling sweets and toys along with small amusement rides, dodgems etc. At 10 am the place was already packed with kids and their parents.
It was my God son’s first visit as he was too young to go the previous year. He sat on my lap and we went round in the dodgems, me trying hard not to crash into anyone else. We did well for a few laps and then he saw his dad waiting off to one side and tried climbing out whilst we were racing past. I had a good hold off him, so all was okay but I had to finish off the ride on my own. The same happened on the next ride he went on with his sister, so I guess that perhaps he isn’t showing natural signs, just yet, of a love of speed, like his dad!
As it was my last day with my uncle my nephew and I headed off into town for a last bit of bowling. My uncle wasn’t around so we ended up taking a train for the 15 minute journey into town (just 1 pound return).
Obviously he has the bowling bug now as he managed to beat me in the first three games before I trounced him royally in the fourth. We had a great time. He’ll probably now start going back with his friends and get even better before I next return. *damn*
The train we got back was made up off two sets of train carriages linked together. The set at the front was old stock, the set at the back new. We sat at the back as the seats were nicer but realised when the train halted at the stop before ours that it was unlikely that our carriages would make it to the platform at our stop as it was so long. We had to race down through the train and just made it in time as the train drew alongside our station! Sure enough the doors of the new carriages at the back didn’t open as the platform wasn’t long enough to accommodate them. Phew!
My last night with my uncle and his family felt weird. My grandmother came along and I don’t think that we wanted things to end for this year as we all stayed up beyond midnight finding excuses for things to do, playing computer games, watching late night rubbish TV etc,
My god-son fell asleep and somehow ended up half on half off the bed.
My niece bandaged up my hand after having given me a pretend injection with a cocktail stick as she played at being a doctor, so I decided it was time to go to bed before I got bandaged up completely!
Friday, August 19, 2005
We emerged out in one of the main train stations of Pest called the Keleti station (which literally means “East Station.”) The interior reminds me a bit of Waterloo or Paddington stations back home in that it has a huge arched interior. There were noticeably a lot of tourists gathered in groups here too with large rucksacks a plenty. So I wasn’t alone!
We planned to use the excellent metro system to get around town but hit a stumbling block straight away as the line that we were planning to use a lot had construction work going on. *sigh* I guess that some things are just like back home!
I bought a Budapest Card, a tourist device which was probably not as good value as it could have been but did made a nice souvenir. It allows you free travel for two days and discounts or free entrance to a number of attractions around the city. I struggled to find a lot of these however. Sure enough it saved me a pound in one place and then gave me free entrance to another but more often than not it wasn’t really useful. Some places had signs with the Budapest card crossed out to make it obvious in any language that it wasn’t accepted.
My nephew made do with buying separate tickets for buses, metro and trams as we went along which, though a hassle, was definitely the better value for money option in our case.
As it was we ended up catching a shuttle-bus which was acting as a metro-replacement service. I got to know the locals up close and personal as it was packed! Another parallel with London.
I’d bought myself a pocket sized AA-guide to Budapest for under six pounds just before I came to Hungary on the off chance that I might get a chance to come to Budapest and it really worked out well. It was published this year, has a good top ten recommendation section, great summaries of all the sights to see around Buda and Pest (the Buda part of Budapest is on the Western bank of the Danube, Pest on the East) and great maps of the city along with a clear colour metro and bus route planner (looking very much similar to a London underground map.) So, excellent value for money for a day or two stay. Hmmm, just reading that bit back to myself, it sounds like I got paid to say that. Hehe.
We worked our way around the city pretty well. The day turned out to be near perfect with mostly blue skies throughout. The Budapest metro is quite cool. One of the lines had just small tiled platforms with short three carriage trains. Another line had long multi carriage trains that were a bit run down and looked like something out of old New York. Some of the stations are almost classically sculpted but we didn’t really have time to admire too much as we rushed around from place to place.
We managed to do Heroes Square first thing but this was already filling with tourists hopping off their tour buses, then onto the opera house (closed so early in the morning but interesting architecturally outside nonetheless.) A Spielberg movie was being filmed in the streets behind it. Needless to say, we couldn't get close.
Next, a walk down to the Basilica. A huge St Paul-like dome at its centre. The guide speaking to me in English (I was wearing a tee-shirt that I’d bought in Sydney) laughed when I spoke back to her in Hungarian and told her that I understood what she was saying but it was okay to speak in Hungarian too.
We climbed the steps to the top and got great views over the city. That’s when we discovered that there was a lift on the other side that we could have taken instead of puffing our way up the 330 odd steps! On reflection, I think that that was perhaps what the guide was trying to tell me earlier. Maybe she was laughing as we had taken the ‘more challenging’ route?
We also saw the, sacred to Hungarians, right hand of Saint Stephen which is kept in a sealed glass box and will be paraded around on his feast day. You pay 100 forints (30p) to have a light shine on it so you can take a picture!
After this onto the Parliament building over looking the Danube. It’s beautiful and looks a lot like the UK Parliament (but in a more picturesque setting.) It turned out that Red Bull were promoting their air race the next day and that planes were whizzing up and down the Danube trailing coloured smoke rehearsing for it. Unfortunately the queue for Parliament was truly gargantuan so we had to make do with pictures outside. I’d been the year before but was disappointed for my nephew who’d only been there when he was too young to appreciate it.
We were getting a bit Hungary (ooops, hungry) by now so we managed to hunt down a Pizza Hut (sad, eh?!) and stuffed our faces. The waiter couldn’t understand what I was saying in Hungarian though, which was a bit annoying, as everyone else so far had been fine. A Pepperoni pizza is called an Italian style salami pizza and there are a lot of Hungarian dishes in addition to the ones I’m familiar with at a London Pizza Hut but otherwise it was pretty much the same.
With full stomachs, we headed off to the Buda side of the city. The main bridge across (Lanchid – literally chain bridge, designed by the same guy who did London's Hammersmith bridge) was closed to pedestrian traffic as they were preparing the fireworks for the following day’s St Stephen festivities, so it was back onto another packed bus just to get across the bridge and then off on the other side.
We needed to walk off our lunch so climbed a lot of steps (argh!) to get up to the old Buda town that looks down over the Danube and Pest. There were loads of things to see here and I even managed to get my only free entry to a place (the Mattias church) with my Budapest card. To make up for all the walking that we were getting through we sat down outside a restaurant and had a nice ice cream. My nephew giggled as the waitress insisted in speaking to me in English with me answering back in Hungarian. It turns out that she was learning English so she said that she needed the practice. I said “me too but the other way around!”
All in all we managed to see pretty much all that we had set out to with just a few things missed to add, perhaps, to next year’s trip.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
We went on an afternoon trip to a town called Kecskemét. Kecske in Hungarian means goat. I didn’t see any other than the one on the town’s emblem.
The Rough Guide says that “…is one of the most attractive towns on the plain”
Okay, so fair enough, it was an interesting enough town and a nice way to use up an afternoon. My uncle let my niece come with him and I this time on account of the fact that my nephew would be coming on a trip with me to Budapest tomorrow.
When asked, my nephew and niece say that they are 14 and 10 respectively. I know that they are 13 and 9 but apparently according to both of them “You can add on a year once you are halfway there”!
I’ve been spending a bit of time in Hungary metaphorically walking into lamp-posts. The women have something about them that my Hungarian blood obviously agrees with and I’m finding myself distracted all the time. Hey, I can’t help it! I’m just enjoying my time here! Today, I even managed to flirt with a girl selling melons on the roadside unbeknownst to my travelling companions. We gave each other wistful looks as I was driven off into the sunset after having bought some of her juicy melons. (*groan* Sorry I couldn’t resist than pun!)
We visited the Cifra palota (literally "fancy palace") that is now an art museum with weird decorative outer walls and strange blue chimneys, a few "fancy" churches and saw a walking-talking tea pot. Honest... See!
Otherwise the day was pretty much spent loafing around not doing much. I went along to the local supermarket, (there aren’t as lot to choose from), to help my nephew with the shopping. There are a lot of western goods in the shops so you can pretty much buy the usual stuff if you want to. A poster of David Beckham adorns the wall as you walk into the shop.
I was worried actually that my uncle would be angry or at least annoyed by my turning down the opportunity to drive a train but things appear normal today. I also found out that my god-mother (who I’m staying with next week up in the Hungarian hills) is coming down for the big national holiday on Saturday (St Stephen of Hungary) so it’ll make more sense to go back with her on the Sunday rather than taking a train and then an hour journey by car on Monday.
It makes sense but I wish I could stay longer. It’s hard, as I don’t want to hurt her feelings, so I’ll go a day early. We are getting on so well that my niece cried when she heard the news.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
The original itinerary, however, was a bit different.
My uncle is an overland train driver and he’d arranged for us to hitch rides both ways from the town in the driver’s cabin and to drive the trains for a bit. Now I know that it’s a stupid thing to say, perhaps, that I didn’t want to do this but he just didn’t seem to consider the fact that this was a dangerous proposition. The boy in me would love to do it but I’m far too law-abiding in a foreign country to know that I should be doing anything like this.
“Don’t worry” he said,
“They only have inspectors check the drivers once every five years, so you won’t get caught”
*sigh* “That’s not the point” I thought.
Anyway, we headed into town instead for a spell of bowling and movie number 43 for me, “The Longest Yard.” The Hungarian translation is “The Bone Crunchers” which is probably a catchier title.
It’s a remake of the American football in a prison movie, “The Mean Streak” and Burt Reynolds who was the star of the original has a more than cameo role in this too.
To be honest, I expected the movie to be in Hungarian but it turned out that it was in English with Hungarian subtitles. Apparently only the “big” movies get the full dub treatment. The film was okay but utterly by the numbers predictable. Let’s just say that it won’t win any Oscars but fans of other Adam Sandler films will like it. Plus atmosphere-wise the cinema just had a dozen people in it, so was a bit too quiet for a film where you want a bit of audience reaction to add to the effect.
Bowling wise we had a great time though. Perhaps I’m a bit biased as I actually finally managed to beat my uncle with his weird hurling technique J
I was all set to get my highest score ever and we ran out of time and the game reset!
Argh! Oh well, there’s always next time!
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I went to visit a couple, Veronica & Pista (Stephen) today who are old friends of the family. ‘Auntie’ Veronica was my mum’s best friend from the age of about 5. She’s 69 now and she and her husband have pretty much lived in the same house for the last 50 years. It’s a really nice place just across from where my grandparent’s house was. They have a large garden surrounding the house with grape vines all over and a huge field behind the house along with what used to be hundreds of chickens but is just 30 or so now.
The house was one of the first to get plumbing, so when I was little, along with my parents, I used to come across from my grandparents house so that we could have a proper bath. Otherwise it was a process of fill a bucket with cold water from a tap in the garden or from the water pump in the street, warm it up over a hot stove and use that to fill a metal tub to wash in. Plus it was nice to use a civilised toilet other than the stinky out house that my grandparents had.
They always do a lot of reminiscing and have a lot of good stories about when my mum was small and I always find out something that I didn’t know.
My mum used to help them with their annual cull of the chickens. It’s the reason that I don’t eat chicken. I saw them wringing the chickens necks and plucking them one year when we were over on holiday and haven’t been able to stomach chicken ever since!
Unfortunately they always insist that I try out a few cups of the local ‘Palinka’, this time washed down with a bottle of local red wine! I had to eat loads to keep myself sober else I’d be useless for the rest of the day.
As it was the rest of the day was ‘washed out’ literally as another huge storm moved in and we got rain and the loudest thunder that I’ve ever heard. It sounded like a massive explosion right over the house.
Monday, August 15, 2005
I still get woken up early by the sound of the local church bells. I've noticed that they ring them every half hour or so. It seems to me to be random though, as sometimes they do and other times they don't and they're rarely on the half hour mark exactly, rather they're a few minutes early or late each time. Weird!
Today was a bit more relaxing. Clouds have moved in to replace the blue skies and the sun only peeks through every so often. I mucked about with my niece and nephew not really doing anything special. My niece loves my PSP and that keeps her occupied most of the time.
Plus funnily enough watching my little god-son running around and how he reacts and learns from things and people around him is fascinating. Hours fly by this way!
In the evening we planned on driving down to the main large town, Szolnok. It's about half an hour's normal drive though my uncle doesn't really know what normal driving is so we got there in 15 minutes!
Unfortunately the film that we wanted to see wasn't on. My nephew look so downcast.
To try and salvage the evening I suggested bowling as I'd spotted a small (6 lane) bowling alley in the same mall as the cinema.
My uncle and nephew didn't think so though. Neither had ever been bowling before and to be honest I've only been a few times in my life but my nephew was so disappointed about the film that I managed to persuade them to give it a try.
And guess what....?! We had a brilliant time!
Okay our scores weren't important as with a truly bizarre technique of using the lightest ball and half flinging it down the lane, my uncle seemed to get strikes or spares a lot more than he should have!
Anyway, we had such a good time that we plan on going back either tomorrow or later in the week.
The weather was lovely when we headed back!
Gale force winds, pouring rain as a huge thunderstorm hit the area.
I discovered that my uncle's old Alfa-Romeo had a few leaks so was glad when we made it back to the house no more than a little damp. Any longer though and we may as well have been outside!
Sunday, August 14, 2005
I woke up to find that my aunt had prepared a big breakfast of eggs and mixed in with pork for me! Ermmm. I tried to be polite but could only manage a mouthful or two. I opted for the safer choice of cheese on bread (yes, bread became my saviour this morning!)
I also mentioned that I don’t generally eat breakfast.
The weather is very good; about 28 degrees and sunny. I slapped on the factor 30 and decided to sit outside writing this on my handy Toshiba laptop. It’s pretty cool, slim, weighs less than a kilo and is portable the way a laptop should be. Because of that it has travelled all over the world with me. I’ll transfer any photos I’ve taken onto it through the holiday so that I never run out of space on my camera’s little 256Mb compactflash card.
I actually went along to the local Catholic church for Sunday mass too. It’s weird being woken up at five in the morning by the sound of church bells, dogs barking and cocks crowing. But then this is life in the Hungarian countryside.
The church is quite a small, modest affair but nevertheless is a central feature of the old town. I think that my nephew and I were the youngest there as a prerequisite of the church seemed to me to be a head of white hair! I noticed that the mass had been modified as well to have a lot more sitting down than they have back home!
Today my uncle returned the favour and invited his best friend’s family over for an afternoon of outdoor cooking. Basically they made a traditional fire outside and hung a large metal pot over it. The dish of the day was wild deer (which I’d never tried before) and it turned out to be delicious. Mixed in with Paprika (a Hungarian stable) and with potatoes and off course bread, the meal went down really well.
Of course I’m now starting to think that all this bread and meat every day can’t be doing that much good for me.
How can they eat this every day!?
I guess that they probably don’t and that this is just something special over the holiday whilst I’m here. Plus none of my uncle’s family are fat, so this can’t be their regular diet.
I needn’t have worried though as I spent the next three hours running after six kids, lifting and spinning them around. They never tired out once! Afterwards I felt as if I’d had a workout in the gym!
It’s nice being part of a functional family unit again, even if it’s just for a week. Back in the UK there’s only me as I was an only child and my parents are gone...
Saturday, August 13, 2005
The journey into Hungary wasn’t so bad. Once I’d managed to check in that is! That took over an hour as there was only one check in desk for my airline. Hey, I wasn’t about to allow that to spoil my holiday….
We arrived early into Budapest but I had to wait for my luggage for almost an hour. I was really surprised as it wasn’t just my uncle who turned up but my ten year old niece and my not so young 91 year old grandma! That was a big surprise! She was so happy to see me and didn’t want to let me go.
Each year I come to visit she says “I’m so happy to see you but this’ll probably be the last time.” She said the same thing in the car on the way back and I gave my standard “Don’t talk like that. You said the same thing last year grandma!” She expects it and always laughs. It still feels a bit weird though.
She a typical, sturdy old Hungarian women. She hadn’t had an illness in her life until she hit 89 and then the weight poured off her. Even though she now looks life a yodafied version of her previous self, the same determination to be independent is strong in her. She walks with a zimmer-frame but refuses to allow anyone to help her when she is going up stairs. She has developed her own unique technique and just gets on with it. She’s quite an inspiration.
We arrived in Ujszasz, my uncle’s home town (which literally means new hundred) and I was amazed how much my God-son Gabriel (who was just 6 months old when I last saw him 18 months ago) has grown. I know it’s a cliché how when we were growing up, we all used to have people who didn’t see us very often come up to us and say “My, how you’ve grown!” but now I finally understand. They’re always a lot of kids around my aunt and uncle’s house and I thought that he was someone else’s child!
They had a ton of food prepared for dinner. Unfortunately it’s always more than I or any ordinary person could ever hope to eat. They did the same last year. I have a feeling that they stick all the left-overs in the freezer and eat them when I’ve gone!
Hungarian food also involves eating everything with bread, so I was quite full by the time I’d finished.
Then straight after dinner they said, “We’ve been invited over to Marti’s house (he’s my uncle’s best friend) for a something called a “xxx”. I put xxx because I had no idea what they were talking about. It was a word in Hungarian that I had never heard before. But in the spirit of things I said okay.
It turns out that we’d been invited to an open fire type of evening meal. Right after dinner! And more loads of bread! As the foreign guest I also got plied with the finest liquor that Hungary had to offer, which in this case is a drink called Palinka (basically strong peach schnapps) And then a few cans of beer to finish. Amazingly, if you eat enough bread, the drink doesn’t get to your head much so I actually didn’t get drunk.
However, I didn’t plan on eating this much every day!
The picture is of the sunset over Ujszasz.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Wandered around London late at night. Bought last bits and pieces for Hungary.
Bought myself a new pair of trainers at Lillywhites (who incidentally don't have a web site. So much for the 21st Century!)
When I paid for them
Me: It's okay, I don't need the box.
Sales Assistant: You won't be able to return the trainers without the box
Me: It's okay I won't return them.
Sales Assistant: It's management policy, you have to take the box.
Sales Assistant: You can throw it away outside the shop. There's a bin there.
Me: (I'm talking to a brick wall) Oh. Okay....
I walk out and throw the box away in a bin right outside the door....full of shoe boxes !
Hmmm, in the current climate having a bin full of boxes outside the store. Brilliant management policy!
The managing agent of my block of flats FINALLY got back to me yesterday. I rang twice, left messages and finally e-mailed them. We'd recently switched to them as the last lot were apparently rubbish. *sigh*
My flat has been put to the top of their list for being treated first thing in the morning. *sigh again* No lie in for me then!
I wonder if I'll come home to an ant infested flat. That would be nice !
I was talking to one of the business analysts at work today. He's quite well travelled and was working in Dubai at one point. He said that he came back from holiday and having to switch the electricity back on, with the switch on the other side of his flat, was walking across in the dark wondering why things were crunching underfoot. Had something blown in. He got across to the mains switch, flicked it on and found....
"Hundreds of cockroaches completely covering the floor of the entire flat!"
"They all scurried away apart from the ones he's squelched!"
ARGH! Perhaps ants aren't quite so bad after all!
Well. This'll probably be my last post for a while. Unless I can get to an internet cafe in the remote town that I'll be staying in.
See you soon....
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Work hard, day flies by...
See 'The Island' at the Empire Leicester Square.
Take photos of London at night...
Come home, shower, Reduce local ant population.
Read Version 3 point 1 blog...Worry about Anne.
I was going to write more waffle but Anne, if you read this I hope that everything is okay with you.
I know worries aren't as easy to squash as my small housemates are but I wish that they were.
I hope that you are safe, wherever you may be.
Take care... :)
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Hmmm, I'm starting to think that my days are flying by as my holiday gets closer.
I've moved into the last third of my 'Learn Hungarian' book. It makes my tube journey fly by but boy is it getting hard. My brain aches when I read about regular and irregular verbs, tenses, endings; when to use them; when not to.
But hey, I'm REALLY trying!
The weather in London has been near perfect today with warm temperatures and reasonably blue skies and lots of sunshine! I hope things are nice in Hungary too. I bought some factor-30 sun lotion today (as Boots are doing a 2 for 1 deal.) My pale skin burns waaaaay too easily and I live in optimistic hope of coming back with a nice tan.
I hate sunbathing as I don't like just sitting around in one place sizzling away but like going around and doing things in the sun and feel much happier that way.
I think that on days like this I operate on solar power!
I walked past the Royal Albert Hall after 7pm today so managed to avoid the crowds going to the Proms and took the picture of the Albert Memorial above. See blue skies!
I probably would have popped along for a prom or two but for my holiday. It's probably mega hot in the Albert Hall in this weather though!
Ta ta for now. I'm just watching the football. I've grown up as a big Liverpool fan and have the rest of the game to watch now!
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Busy day at work...It just flew by. I was knackered....But then boy what a beautiful day!
I left work listening to a Ska compilation soundtrack on my MP3 player and with the blue skies and sun shining it just seemed like too perfect a day to be sad.
I walked down from work to Leicester Square and bought a ticket to see 'The Island' on Thursday evening then popped down to Hyde Park and the Princess Diana Memorial 'water feature.' There were loads of people with their feet in the water and I joined them. This is a close up picture of one of the mini 'waterfalls'.
After all I had walked loads and it felt great to cool my hot feet! It's funny to watch the staff who work there chasing after kids who are walking through the water. (It's not allowed in case someone slips, as a couple of tourists did last year.)
There was an irate parent berating the poor warden for not letting his kids walk along in the water and I would have got up to defend the poor guy but for the fact that they were on the other side of the water and I would have to walk across to do so.
I felt too chilled out, the happy hormones in my body must have been in overdrive mode. Perhaps it's because I'm off on holiday to Hungary on Saturday and despite language barrier issues with my family, I'm sure that I will have a nice time.
See those positivity vibes are still with me!
Monday, August 08, 2005
I went to the cinema again over the weekend (yes, I know, I go A LOT.) I subscribe to a UGC Unlimited card, so for my 13.99’s worth I go at least 3 times a month, generally more. Working by Baker Street, it’s quite easy to pop down to Piccadilly or Leicester Square to see a film after work and not particularly hard to travel in from home to a cinema in Ealing or Shepherd’s Bush or into London proper.
So basically, each week, if there is a film on that sounds vaguely interesting, I’ll pop along and see it, whether or not I can get a friend interested. Yes, EACH WEEK!
Scary statistic coming up….So far this year I’ve been 41 times! I remember back in the old days when I used to pop along just when friends could go but I used to miss out on a load of films that I knew that I really wanted to see. So now I just go, regardless.
The film I saw this time is called “Dear Wendy.” It’s a strange one. Very symbolic about teenage kids in America who start out as shy misfits but start to come out of their shells when they carry concealed guns around. They don’t use the guns but just having them; knowing that they are there makes them feel stronger.
However things start to go awry over time as their group dynamic is changed and their new personalities start to emerge with consequences. I really liked the ending actually but I can imagine people who don’t like slow films that build to a crescendo not really going for this one.
How’s that for a quick spoiler free summary!
Being Monday, I always feel knackered when I get home. I still managed to walk down to South Kensington and catch the train from there but just had to chill out when I got home. This week I suddenly feel a lot safer on the train. Things seem back to normal. People are more relaxed. Well apart from the bloke who barged past me as I waited for people to get off the train this morning. He headed for the one spare seat and someone, who was already on the train, got to it first. Haha! He looked gutted!
Normal service is resumed….Though obviously things will never be the same again, for a while yet anyway.
I have to stop myself napping off when I got home else I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight. Hehe! Time to get my pipe and slippers, eh?!
Today, of all days, I forgot to take my digital camera into work. I took the shot above with my camera phone out of the window at work. I have no idea where they were going but I guess that they came from the barracks by Regents Park.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
I got a letter from the managing agent of my flats to say that after some investigation they have identified that my block is infested with Pharaoh ants! They require baiting to get rid of which involves putting something out that the worker ants take back to their queen and slowly poison her. Nice, eh!?
To be honest I've noticed the odd ant now and again in my bathroom always just running along the edge of the bath but I've squished them and assumed that it was just an isolated thing. *sigh*
My main problem is that the managing agents have just given me a week's notice to send in the pest control company and I'm away on holiday on the day that they are due. Typical!
"If you aren't around, please make arrangements to leave your keys with a neighbour or someone else in the building"
Okay, I see my neighbours from time-to-time and say hello. On one side of me they don't speak English, on the other there always seems to be someone new every six months. And I'm supposed to leave my keys with them! YEAH RIGHT!
I'll be giving the agent a call tomorrow to see what my options are. All the flats have to be baited to guarantee that the ants are removed so a bit of notice would have been nice.
Last night to take my mind off annoying ants and other things I met up with more traveling buddy and chilled out in a bar overlooking the river in Richmond. Just what I needed really...
Close to the countryside but easy to commute in from, Richmond is a nice town spanning the River Thames. It's quite an affluent area, so average house prices are too much for me but otherwise it's the sort of area that I'd like to settle in (if I won the lottery!).
Funnily enough I had a dream last night that I HAD won the lottery, so fingers crossed that I am becoming psychic!
We spoke about the world, women and our worries, had a laugh and generally the world seemed a happier place. Our next 'expedition' is to Peru in October, something we're both looking forward to.
I came back to my flat, squashed a few ants (are they multiplying after all or am I just noticing them more!?) and went to bed too tipsy to care...
Thursday, August 04, 2005
It was a strange event. kind of like the largest pub that you've ever been to. The organisers were a bit dissappointed with the turnout. The festival runs for a couple of days through to Saturday and apparently the place was 'rammed' last night. Nonetheless, it looked pretty full to me tonight.
I'm glad that it wasn't too packed. The four of us could always stand to one side, out of the way and not have to worry about being barged into or getting in anyone else's way.
After a few drinks we managed to solve the world's problems between us. Tomorrow is a leaving do, then Saturday a few drinks with a friend and then Mojitos and a BBQ on Sunday. Phew!
I'm tired now so am going to bed.
The picture is of the weird and wonderful British public at the beer festival.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
The Hammersmith & City line started running again yesterday. It was one of the lines that runs through Edgware Road station and so was affected by the tragic events of July 7th.
This finally gives me a route into work that doesn’t involve having to get off at Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly Line and walking down to Green Park on The Jubilee braving all weathers.
I’m sad to say that I’ve started sitting at the back end of trains as I figure if you want to cause as much disruption to a train, you do it at the front. Truth is I feel safer doing this, whether or not it makes a difference…Well…It works for me…That’s all.
I’m off to Hungary next week for a fortnight to stay with relatives. My parents have both died. My dad when I was 18 and my mum when I was 29 (3 years ago). They were both from Hungary but met over here back in the late 60s.
I grew up going to school knowing 80% Hungarian and 20% English. By the time I left school, I spoke 100% English and little Hungarian. My mum and dad would converse in Hungarian and I would reply back in English. As a result up until a few years ago, when my mum passed away, I could understand conversational Hungarian really well but was woefully ill equipped to speak it. The Easter of 2003, after my mum died, I went to Hungary to see my remaining family. I hadn’t been to Hungary since 1991.
As I really wanted to make an effort I started taking evening classes in Hungarian at Westminster Uni. (just down the road from work.) It improved massively. I hadn’t realised how much I knew but also how little I knew. Grammar rules were unknown to me as I had never learnt anything formally. And it was tough going! I made it through the class and passed but still find it hard to find the confidence factor when I go to Hungary to keep on making mistakes as I try to get across what I want to say.
So for the past fortnight I’ve been refreshing my Hungarian by reading a ‘Learn Hungarian’ book on the train to and from work. Hopefully it impresses commuters around me :)
Yesterday, as we passed through Edgware Road I felt a tangible vibe of something that I find hard to describe. I wondered which part of the tunnel had been affected a few weeks earlier. I felt others were were thinking similar thoughts. It felt strange. Almost as if we were holding our breaths collectively until we had passed through and were at the station.
Today, I was so engrossed in my Hungarian book that I didn’t realise that we had gone through until I was at Baker Street and getting off. That’s when I remembered.
Work flew by as I was mega-busy. I’m looking forward to the beer festival tomorrow. I need a bit of evening chilling out !
The picture is taken from a window at work. It’s the globe on the dome of the Planetarium by Madame Tussauds Waxworks Museum.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Well! Last night was quite some night...
We had a bit of a do at the end of work to celebrate our department being relocated to its own building. The move has been good for me location-wise. I now have a great view from my desk of Regents Park but my team of seven is unfortunately split up over three floors of the building. I get a lot more exercise now!
We used to be in an open plan office and being spread around the place has already caused a few problems when I haven’t thought to communicate decisions to everyone as quickly as I could when we were all sat together.
Anyhow, we had food and drink laid on in the auditorium (yes, we have an auditorium in our building!). It was the only room where the forty or so people in my department could fit.
Things started civilly enough. A few drinks and nibbles…polite conversation but as the night progressed and more people left to head home the rest of us seemed to have no problems finishing off the rest of the booze between us.
First cans of 5% proof Belgium lager and then when that ran out onto wine. I am a crap drinker. I’ve made a conscious effort not to drink much nowadays and so I’m always at a disadvantage when it comes to any major sessions. I bowed out after 3 hours. Ironically not because I wanted to but I managed to drip strawberry juice down the front of my white work shirt and after soaking it in the washroom sink, just sobered up enough to decide to head off.
Coming in this morning, I found out that things had turned out to be a hugely eventful session for those hard-core enough to stay around. (For “hugely eventful” read “drunken debauchery”!)
The drinks in the auditorium were finished off swiftly and everyone then headed off to the local pub. This is only about 2 minutes walk away, so tends to be the setting for most drink-related “happenings” after work.
So what happened next? Pieces of gossip that went around the next morning… Ermmm…. Lap dancing demonstrations, drinking from shoes followed by toe sucking sessions, wrestling, falling down stairs and people being picked up and shaken upside down. One of the girls was very kind to put up one of the lads in her flat as he couldn’t get home, although she says that she didn’t realise that he is engaged. A pretty ordinary night out in London, really...
And they all still can’t believe that the staff didn’t throw them out. I think that they were probably too entertaining on a quiet Monday night to get thrown out.
We are all heading back on Friday for someone’s leaving do and a few of us are going along to “The Great British Beer Festival” in Olympia (on my way home, fortunately) on Thursday. So I should get plenty of drinking practice this week!
I’ll top that off with a BBQ on Sunday at the house of one of the girls I was in Cuba with. Suffice to say, drinking limits should be raised by the time I get to that afternoon!
The picture is off what used to be Abbey National’s HQ on Baker Street (and also the location of the postal address 221b aka Sherlock Holmes.) This tower is all that is left of the building. I guess that it must be protected or something. Bit drafty for old Sherlock nowadays though!
Monday, August 01, 2005
Sunday was pretty uneventful...
After spending most of Saturday wandering around London I let my aching feet recover on Sunday... Annoyingly my right thigh muscle is sore but I won't have that much of a chance to let it recover as I'm a compulsive "rusher-a-rounder."
When I come into work, everyone else on the tube or in the street seems to walk soooo slowly. I'm amazed that some people ever get anywhere at the pace they walk. I'm too polite to barge past people (that just isn't right and I'm annoyed by people that feel that it's okay) but it does get frustrating when people walk unaware of their surroundings or the people around them.
A few 'excuse me's generally does the job for me anyway....
So I mucked around in the morning playing 'Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas.' The furore over the unlockable sex scenes in this are laughable seeing as the game allows you to randomly kill people in numerous inventive ways. One of the last missions that I had to pass in the game involved dressing up in a g**p suit (as in Pulp Fiction's bring out the g**p reference) and walking around with a large purple ph***us which you then have to use on a 'girlfriend.'
Hmm..That last sentence will probably block me from reading my own blog at work, so it has been edited with asterisks.
I had a weird moment sleeping last night. I woke up from a dream (can't remember it though) very suddenly. All I remember was that the last second of my dream felt like my brain had suddenly 'exploded' with a huge upload of 'information' and a very bright light. That's the best way that I can explain it. It left me dazed for a few seconds after. When I looked at my clock, it was only 1:40 am, so I'd been asleep for only an hour and a half. Just bothered me a bit afterwards... Felt weird....
The random picture is of a girl celebrating her 'coming of age' taken in Trinidad when I was on holiday in Cuba this March. The weather here is gloomy, so this reminds me of happier climates.