Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for February, 2006

Lines on a map

Posted by Andy Hockley on 26 February, 2006

As you drive north from Bucharest, not far past Ploiesti, you pass a large ugly sign by the side of the road which indicates that you are crossing the 45th parallel. I have to confess that the first time I saw this my internal reaction was “oooh, big wow, the 45th parallel” (I think making sarcastic remarks to yourself is probably the first sign of madness). Later, though, I realized that the 45th parallel is in some cartographical respects a big deal, being exactly half way between the equator and the pole. While the sign itself will never fill me with enthusiasm (many roadside markers in Romania, this one and all county boundary markers included, are a triumph of brutalist sculpture – ugly in-your-face concrete and steel monstrosities), the fact that I cross this significant line on my world every time I go to and from the airport does serve to add a little zing to an otherwise flat and featureless section of the road.

Maybe my interest in this derives from the fact that I was born on the Greenwich Meridian. Well, I was born in a town that lies on the Greenwich Meridian, at least. I have no idea whether the hospital is on the Meridian, and I imagine it is extremely unlikely that I crossed from the Western Hemisphere into the Eastern at the same moment as I emerged from the womb. In fact, in comparison to the 0° line of longitude the 45° line of latitude is actually more impressive – being defined by its distance from the equator and the pole – actual geographically defined reference points – rather than by being on a line with the London hill where the Royal Observatory happened to be built.

I cannot, however, hold a candle to these people at The Degree Confluence Project. This is a site where people armed with hi-tech handheld GPS devices travel to the points (on land) on the earth where the lines of latitude and longitude cross, tell how they got there and take pictures of it. I cannot decide if some of the tales are exaggerated or even made up for effect, but if not then there are some seriously obsessive people out there. The person visiting one of the closest to me here – at Răstoliţa in the Mureş valley actually decided to drive there all the way from Kosovo.

Not sure what brought all this to mind today, especially since I haven’t driven down to (or back from) Bucharest since November. But anyway.

Miercurea Ciuc, in case you are wondering, is at 46:22:01N 25:48:34E. I didn’t know that off the top of my head, I got it from
this map.

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Posted in romania, travel | 3 Comments »

Lines on a map

Posted by Andy Hockley on 26 February, 2006

As you drive north from Bucharest, not far past Ploiesti, you pass a large ugly sign by the side of the road which indicates that you are crossing the 45th parallel. I have to confess that the first time I saw this my internal reaction was “oooh, big wow, the 45th parallel” (I think making sarcastic remarks to yourself is probably the first sign of madness). Later, though, I realized that the 45th parallel is in some cartographical respects a big deal, being exactly half way between the equator and the pole. While the sign itself will never fill me with enthusiasm (many roadside markers in Romania, this one and all county boundary markers included, are a triumph of brutalist sculpture – ugly in-your-face concrete and steel monstrosities), the fact that I cross this significant line on my world every time I go to and from the airport does serve to add a little zing to an otherwise flat and featureless section of the road.

Maybe my interest in this derives from the fact that I was born on the Greenwich Meridian. Well, I was born in a town that lies on the Greenwich Meridian, at least. I have no idea whether the hospital is on the Meridian, and I imagine it is extremely unlikely that I crossed from the Western Hemisphere into the Eastern at the same moment as I emerged from the womb. In fact, in comparison to the 0° line of longitude the 45° line of latitude is actually more impressive – being defined by its distance from the equator and the pole – actual geographically defined reference points – rather than by being on a line with the London hill where the Royal Observatory happened to be built.

I cannot, however, hold a candle to these people at The Degree Confluence Project. This is a site where people armed with hi-tech handheld GPS devices travel to the points (on land) on the earth where the lines of latitude and longitude cross, tell how they got there and take pictures of it. I cannot decide if some of the tales are exaggerated or even made up for effect, but if not then there are some seriously obsessive people out there. The person visiting one of the closest to me here – at Răstoliţa in the Mureş valley actually decided to drive there all the way from Kosovo.

Not sure what brought all this to mind today, especially since I haven’t driven down to (or back from) Bucharest since November. But anyway.

Miercurea Ciuc, in case you are wondering, is at 46:22:01N 25:48:34E. I didn’t know that off the top of my head, I got it from
this map.

Posted in romania, travel | 3 Comments »

Expat musings

Posted by Andy Hockley on 22 February, 2006

What is an expat? And, am I one? I did after all, get nominated for a “best expat blog” award. These thoughts came to me this weekend as I found myself in a workshop attended by some members of Bucharest’s “expat community” and some Romanians – mostly, like me, from outside the capital. I didn’t exactly feel a part of either group, but felt I had more in common with the latter. And on this evidence I’m glad that I don’t have an expat community so I don’t get to listen to whining complaints all day about how much Bucharest/Romania sucks.

This is not to say that I haven’t been in such communities before (though I have tended to distance myself from the “I hate this country” brigade), and I understand the bond that people have when they’ve uprooted themselves and come to live in a foreign country, had to deal with the same bureaucratic quirks, looked for apartments etc. It’s natural that these communities are formed and start feeding off each others’ irritation with the fact that Romania is different from wherever they’ve come. But it does look odd, at best, from the outside (as I felt I was on Sunday).

So, what is an expat? In its simplest definition it is “A person living in a foreign country”, which definitely makes me one. But in itself that definition doesn’t really sum up the way the word is used. Indian immigrants living in the UK, for example, are never referred to as expats. By the same token, Israel has managed in its own inimitable way to create a bunch of expats out of people who have lived in the same place (East Jerusalem) all their lives and have just ended up being victims of a de facto annexation (it’s true, the Palestinians of East Jerusalem are regarded as being from the West Bank and only have resident alien status in the place they were born – even if they have lived in the same house all their lives.)

So, if this definition doesn’t work, what does? The Wikipedia entry, has it that there is a difference between an expat and an immigrant, that “immigrants (for the most part) commit themselves to becoming a part of their country of residence, whereas expatriates are usually only temporarily placed in the host country and most of the time plan on returning to their home country” Now I have no plans of returning to my home country. I’ve been out of it since 1988, and see no reason to go and live there now. But likewise, I’m not intending to take up Romanian citizenship any time soon either. It’s perfectly possible that I will live the rest of my days in Transylvania, but it’s also possible that we will move on and live somewhere else. So, I’m not entirely sure if I see my place in that definition.

In the way I’ve heard it used, it tends to refer to someone from a wealthy country living (however temporarily) in a less wealthy one. When I lived in the US*, the word expat didn’t really come up. In the Federated States of Micronesia, or in Thailand it was clear that I was one. Here in Romania I guess I am one, although absent a “community” of expats it feels a lot different. It’s almost as if to be an expat you have to hunt in packs. Would I have been more likely to have gained Expat status in the US if I’d lived in Florida or Southern California, where there are loads of Brits, rather than small town Vermont?
(*Note cunning reference back to Wikipedia article)

To me, also, it has a slightly negative connotation, conjuring up, as it does, the people who sit around the pool at the British Club, Abu Dhabi, complaining about their maids, or the anglo population of the Costa Del Sol, eating fish and chips and watching Sky News . Immigrant doesn’t have the same negative connotation (except for extreme right wing Daily Mail readers, to whom immigrant is code for all the racist drivel they want to unload but can’t due to the terrible restrictions of “political correctness”)

But there have always been gradations of meaning to describe migrants. The people who used to be refugees are now called “Asylum Seekers” at least in the British press. This cunningly distracts attention away from the situation they are fleeing and puts the emphasis on the country in which they are seeking refuge. With the additional benefit to the anti-immigration brigade of including the word “asylum” which conjures up subconscious thoughts of mental patients. And then of course there is “emigré” a term which seems only ever to refer to Russians, but which apparently means “One who has left a native country, especially for political reasons” according to the dictionary. Which makes me an emigré since I first left the UK to get away from Thatcher (and, obviously, the weather). Then there is “sojourner” which is someone living somewhere temporarily. And of course, diaspora, which until recently I’d only heard in reference to Jews, but then saw something about the Romanian diaspora not so long ago. Does this make me part of the British diaspora?

Personally, I think I’m going to self-define as an emigrant. Romania is my tenth country of residence, and I think it’s more relevant that I left my home country than exactly where it is I have settled, and for how long. All, I can really say is that I’m glad I’m not an expat, or, more accurately, I’m glad I’m not the expat I once was.

Posted in intercultural communication, language | 4 Comments »

Expat musings

Posted by Andy Hockley on 22 February, 2006

What is an expat? And, am I one? I did after all, get nominated for a “best expat blog” award. These thoughts came to me this weekend as I found myself in a workshop attended by some members of Bucharest’s “expat community” and some Romanians – mostly, like me, from outside the capital. I didn’t exactly feel a part of either group, but felt I had more in common with the latter. And on this evidence I’m glad that I don’t have an expat community so I don’t get to listen to whining complaints all day about how much Bucharest/Romania sucks.

This is not to say that I haven’t been in such communities before (though I have tended to distance myself from the “I hate this country” brigade), and I understand the bond that people have when they’ve uprooted themselves and come to live in a foreign country, had to deal with the same bureaucratic quirks, looked for apartments etc. It’s natural that these communities are formed and start feeding off each others’ irritation with the fact that Romania is different from wherever they’ve come. But it does look odd, at best, from the outside (as I felt I was on Sunday).

So, what is an expat? In its simplest definition it is “A person living in a foreign country”, which definitely makes me one. But in itself that definition doesn’t really sum up the way the word is used. Indian immigrants living in the UK, for example, are never referred to as expats. By the same token, Israel has managed in its own inimitable way to create a bunch of expats out of people who have lived in the same place (East Jerusalem) all their lives and have just ended up being victims of a de facto annexation (it’s true, the Palestinians of East Jerusalem are regarded as being from the West Bank and only have resident alien status in the place they were born – even if they have lived in the same house all their lives.)

So, if this definition doesn’t work, what does? The Wikipedia entry, has it that there is a difference between an expat and an immigrant, that “immigrants (for the most part) commit themselves to becoming a part of their country of residence, whereas expatriates are usually only temporarily placed in the host country and most of the time plan on returning to their home country” Now I have no plans of returning to my home country. I’ve been out of it since 1988, and see no reason to go and live there now. But likewise, I’m not intending to take up Romanian citizenship any time soon either. It’s perfectly possible that I will live the rest of my days in Transylvania, but it’s also possible that we will move on and live somewhere else. So, I’m not entirely sure if I see my place in that definition.

In the way I’ve heard it used, it tends to refer to someone from a wealthy country living (however temporarily) in a less wealthy one. When I lived in the US*, the word expat didn’t really come up. In the Federated States of Micronesia, or in Thailand it was clear that I was one. Here in Romania I guess I am one, although absent a “community” of expats it feels a lot different. It’s almost as if to be an expat you have to hunt in packs. Would I have been more likely to have gained Expat status in the US if I’d lived in Florida or Southern California, where there are loads of Brits, rather than small town Vermont?
(*Note cunning reference back to Wikipedia article)

To me, also, it has a slightly negative connotation, conjuring up, as it does, the people who sit around the pool at the British Club, Abu Dhabi, complaining about their maids, or the anglo population of the Costa Del Sol, eating fish and chips and watching Sky News . Immigrant doesn’t have the same negative connotation (except for extreme right wing Daily Mail readers, to whom immigrant is code for all the racist drivel they want to unload but can’t due to the terrible restrictions of “political correctness”)

But there have always been gradations of meaning to describe migrants. The people who used to be refugees are now called “Asylum Seekers” at least in the British press. This cunningly distracts attention away from the situation they are fleeing and puts the emphasis on the country in which they are seeking refuge. With the additional benefit to the anti-immigration brigade of including the word “asylum” which conjures up subconscious thoughts of mental patients. And then of course there is “emigré” a term which seems only ever to refer to Russians, but which apparently means “One who has left a native country, especially for political reasons” according to the dictionary. Which makes me an emigré since I first left the UK to get away from Thatcher (and, obviously, the weather). Then there is “sojourner” which is someone living somewhere temporarily. And of course, diaspora, which until recently I’d only heard in reference to Jews, but then saw something about the Romanian diaspora not so long ago. Does this make me part of the British diaspora?

Personally, I think I’m going to self-define as an emigrant. Romania is my tenth country of residence, and I think it’s more relevant that I left my home country than exactly where it is I have settled, and for how long. All, I can really say is that I’m glad I’m not an expat, or, more accurately, I’m glad I’m not the expat I once was.

Posted in intercultural communication, language | 4 Comments »

Move along now, nothing to see here.

Posted by Andy Hockley on 20 February, 2006

Back from a quick visit across the Carpathians to Bucharest, but since I didn’t get home till about 3am, I’m a bit spaced out today, and not really able to craft the post I want to about one of my experiences there, so instead I’ll regale you with some mere trifles

I came a creditable, but distant, second in the AFOE “Best SE Europe weblog” to Dragos’s @rgumente which has been around longer and is a lot more “bloggish” and deserving of the award. Felicitarii to Dragos, and gratulalok from Ţara Secuiesc. If you’d like some reading from the region, I’ll recommend taking a look as well as at Catherine’s Illyrian Gazette which was also nominated. I haven’t had the chance to look at the other two, but will do soon. I came nowhere in the best expat weblog one (I have questions about what “expat” actually means, but maybe I’ll come back to that later)

The Ice Hockey final is going very badly. Steaua Suki (as they now seem to be called) are 3-1 up in the best of 7 series, and are likely to wrap the thing up in the next game in Bucharest. They don’t deserve it (a) because they get only half the number of fans to their games as we do – and that’s from a huge city whereas we’re in a small town; (b) the decisions have tended to favour them (two disallowed goals in the last two games may have turned both of them in their favour; and last but not least (c) Steaua are owned by the foulest most repulsive man in Romania, that corrupt, racist, bigoted egomaniacal cretin with a Jesus complex, Gigi Becali. The only man in the country who can make Vadim Tudor look like a well-rounded and balanced individual.

In a couple of weeks I’m heading off to Germany to buy a car. I’m not the buyer, I’m just accompanying a friend who is, on some kind of spring road trip. I anticipate lots of crazy hollywood style episodes and adventures, possibly culminating with us driving off a cliff into the Grand Canyon (or Turda Gorge, at least). It’s because second hand cars in Germany are reasonably priced, whereas in Romania they are insane – in Bucharest I saw a 20 year old Oltcit driving around with a sign in the window offering it for sale at 1500 Euros. You’ve probably never seen an Oltcit, unless you’ve lived in Romania, but trust me, a new one would be barely worth that. There’s a 1992 Opel Astra on our street for 4000 Euros. I mean really. It’s utterly insane. Even with flying out to Munich, accommodation for a night or two, all the petrol and road taxes involved in driving home, and the tax you have to pay to the Romanian government to import it, you still end up about 1000 Euros up on the deal compared to Romanian second hand prices.

Posted in ice hockey, links, travel | 7 Comments »

Move along now, nothing to see here.

Posted by Andy Hockley on 20 February, 2006

Back from a quick visit across the Carpathians to Bucharest, but since I didn’t get home till about 3am, I’m a bit spaced out today, and not really able to craft the post I want to about one of my experiences there, so instead I’ll regale you with some mere trifles

I came a creditable, but distant, second in the AFOE “Best SE Europe weblog” to Dragos’s @rgumente which has been around longer and is a lot more “bloggish” and deserving of the award. Felicitarii to Dragos, and gratulalok from Ţara Secuiesc. If you’d like some reading from the region, I’ll recommend taking a look as well as at Catherine’s Illyrian Gazette which was also nominated. I haven’t had the chance to look at the other two, but will do soon. I came nowhere in the best expat weblog one (I have questions about what “expat” actually means, but maybe I’ll come back to that later)

The Ice Hockey final is going very badly. Steaua Suki (as they now seem to be called) are 3-1 up in the best of 7 series, and are likely to wrap the thing up in the next game in Bucharest. They don’t deserve it (a) because they get only half the number of fans to their games as we do – and that’s from a huge city whereas we’re in a small town; (b) the decisions have tended to favour them (two disallowed goals in the last two games may have turned both of them in their favour; and last but not least (c) Steaua are owned by the foulest most repulsive man in Romania, that corrupt, racist, bigoted egomaniacal cretin with a Jesus complex, Gigi Becali. The only man in the country who can make Vadim Tudor look like a well-rounded and balanced individual.

In a couple of weeks I’m heading off to Germany to buy a car. I’m not the buyer, I’m just accompanying a friend who is, on some kind of spring road trip. I anticipate lots of crazy hollywood style episodes and adventures, possibly culminating with us driving off a cliff into the Grand Canyon (or Turda Gorge, at least). It’s because second hand cars in Germany are reasonably priced, whereas in Romania they are insane – in Bucharest I saw a 20 year old Oltcit driving around with a sign in the window offering it for sale at 1500 Euros. You’ve probably never seen an Oltcit, unless you’ve lived in Romania, but trust me, a new one would be barely worth that. There’s a 1992 Opel Astra on our street for 4000 Euros. I mean really. It’s utterly insane. Even with flying out to Munich, accommodation for a night or two, all the petrol and road taxes involved in driving home, and the tax you have to pay to the Romanian government to import it, you still end up about 1000 Euros up on the deal compared to Romanian second hand prices.

Posted in ice hockey, links, travel | 7 Comments »

The Wisdom of the Ages

Posted by Andy Hockley on 18 February, 2006

It is a well known fact that Norman Wisdom is incredibly famous in Albania. Norman Wisdom, in case you are not Albanian, is a British “slapstick comedy actor” and music hall style comedian. He was popular (though I’m not sure how popular) in the UK in the 50s and possibly early 60s. To people of my generation, though, he is actually more famous for being famous in Albania than he is for his body of work – of which, as far as I’m aware, I have seen precisely none. Apparently, Enver Hoxha was a big fan and thus the legend of Pitkin was born. (Pitkin is, I think, a character he played in one of his films). Ask any Albanian over 30 about Pitkin and they’ll wax lyrical for hours. (I have never actually tested this, but I am reliably informed that it is the case. In some kind of hands-across-the-Balkans gesture of friendship/publicity stunt a few years ago when the England football team came to Tirana for a match, they brought Wisdom with them, and the stadium rose as one to salute the octogenarian star.)

Recently I have discovered that Wisdom, here known simply as “Norman”, is very popular in Romania too. Perhaps Ceausescu was introduced to him by Hoxha at a dinner party or at a conference of slightly maverick communist dictators. I think his popularity may be slightly less than in Albania (I have never seen a Norman film on Romanian TV, and in Tirana, if the slightly mocking media reports filed by British journalists are anything to go by, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t an entire channel devoted to his oeuvre.)

This places Norman firmly in the category of strange and somewhat obscure things that Romanians get slightly wistful about. Another is Bollywood movies. As far as I can ascertain, western films were to all intents and purposes banned during the Communist years, but when the cinemas had no propaganda films or reworkings of Tolstoy to show, films were imported from India to fill in the gaps. In fact, they still seem to be relatively popular, possibly for nostalgia reasons, and one or two of the TV channels regularly show them – though they have been shunted out of the cinemas by endless violent Hollywood action films.

Another very odd one is Smokie. I would have imagined (if I’d ever bothered to think abut it) that Smokie were only known and barely remembered by British people of between about 35 and 45. For those that don’t know, they were a 70s group of long haired blokes who sang poorly written ballads in a kind of sub-Rod Stewart gravelly voice (I was going to refer to them as a proto boy band, but even at the height of the popularity I seem to remember they looked at least 30 – at least when the young me saw them on Top of the Pops). I had, of course, entirely forgotten about them, and would have been quite happy had it stayed that way. But then, a few months ago I was at a party, and suddenly one of their tunes came on. “Good God,” I thought, “this takes me back. I wonder who put this on and why”. And then I noticed that the whole room was singing along to it. More or less everyone – old, young and in between. I also need to mention here that over half of the people at this party didn’t speak any English at all. Yet here they were singing along to the frankly rubbish mid 70s soppy ode to personal tragedy “Living Next Door to Alice”.

But remarkably that was not to be the end of my moments of jaw dropping amazement that night. Far from it. The turgid drone reached its chorus, and as the last line of said chorus drained away “And for 24 years I’ve been living next door to Alice”, the room, as one, punctuated the line with (in English) a group shout of “Who the fuck is Alice?” That moment, I’m quite sure, will live with me for ever. This was a party in a village to celebrate a baptism, not some group of post-modern irony obsessed lovers of retro-chic. The guests were of all ages, and many walks of life. If you’ve never seen an old Transylvanian villager with few teeth and no English whatsoever, jump to his feet and shout “Who the fuck is Alice?”, well, frankly, you haven’t lived.

I have since found out that actually this version of the song was actually a recorded one, and was released by Smokie themselves, some years after their initial fame – in the 90s sometime I think- with the extra shouty bit added in by fat and rubbish racist comedian Roy “Chubby” Brown. I missed it by virtue of being out of the reach of English novelty records at the time, but clearly much of Europe was infected. Asking around I have discovered sightings (soundings?) of this oh-so-hilarious update being sung by the general public from Hamburg to Istanbul and beyond.

But, Smokie’s insidious reach extends beyond even this reworking of their most famous hit. They are known for other of their songs which don’t even have added sweary bits. I am, frankly, baffled by their appeal. It’s a rum do, and no mistake.

Oh, and in case you don’t believe me about Albania,
here’s a BBC piece from the time of that football match I mentioned.

Posted in history, music, romania | 3 Comments »

The Wisdom of the Ages

Posted by Andy Hockley on 18 February, 2006

It is a well known fact that Norman Wisdom is incredibly famous in Albania. Norman Wisdom, in case you are not Albanian, is a British “slapstick comedy actor” and music hall style comedian. He was popular (though I’m not sure how popular) in the UK in the 50s and possibly early 60s. To people of my generation, though, he is actually more famous for being famous in Albania than he is for his body of work – of which, as far as I’m aware, I have seen precisely none. Apparently, Enver Hoxha was a big fan and thus the legend of Pitkin was born. (Pitkin is, I think, a character he played in one of his films). Ask any Albanian over 30 about Pitkin and they’ll wax lyrical for hours. (I have never actually tested this, but I am reliably informed that it is the case. In some kind of hands-across-the-Balkans gesture of friendship/publicity stunt a few years ago when the England football team came to Tirana for a match, they brought Wisdom with them, and the stadium rose as one to salute the octogenarian star.)

Recently I have discovered that Wisdom, here known simply as “Norman”, is very popular in Romania too. Perhaps Ceausescu was introduced to him by Hoxha at a dinner party or at a conference of slightly maverick communist dictators. I think his popularity may be slightly less than in Albania (I have never seen a Norman film on Romanian TV, and in Tirana, if the slightly mocking media reports filed by British journalists are anything to go by, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t an entire channel devoted to his oeuvre.)

This places Norman firmly in the category of strange and somewhat obscure things that Romanians get slightly wistful about. Another is Bollywood movies. As far as I can ascertain, western films were to all intents and purposes banned during the Communist years, but when the cinemas had no propaganda films or reworkings of Tolstoy to show, films were imported from India to fill in the gaps. In fact, they still seem to be relatively popular, possibly for nostalgia reasons, and one or two of the TV channels regularly show them – though they have been shunted out of the cinemas by endless violent Hollywood action films.

Another very odd one is Smokie. I would have imagined (if I’d ever bothered to think abut it) that Smokie were only known and barely remembered by British people of between about 35 and 45. For those that don’t know, they were a 70s group of long haired blokes who sang poorly written ballads in a kind of sub-Rod Stewart gravelly voice (I was going to refer to them as a proto boy band, but even at the height of the popularity I seem to remember they looked at least 30 – at least when the young me saw them on Top of the Pops). I had, of course, entirely forgotten about them, and would have been quite happy had it stayed that way. But then, a few months ago I was at a party, and suddenly one of their tunes came on. “Good God,” I thought, “this takes me back. I wonder who put this on and why”. And then I noticed that the whole room was singing along to it. More or less everyone – old, young and in between. I also need to mention here that over half of the people at this party didn’t speak any English at all. Yet here they were singing along to the frankly rubbish mid 70s soppy ode to personal tragedy “Living Next Door to Alice”.

But remarkably that was not to be the end of my moments of jaw dropping amazement that night. Far from it. The turgid drone reached its chorus, and as the last line of said chorus drained away “And for 24 years I’ve been living next door to Alice”, the room, as one, punctuated the line with (in English) a group shout of “Who the fuck is Alice?” That moment, I’m quite sure, will live with me for ever. This was a party in a village to celebrate a baptism, not some group of post-modern irony obsessed lovers of retro-chic. The guests were of all ages, and many walks of life. If you’ve never seen an old Transylvanian villager with few teeth and no English whatsoever, jump to his feet and shout “Who the fuck is Alice?”, well, frankly, you haven’t lived.

I have since found out that actually this version of the song was actually a recorded one, and was released by Smokie themselves, some years after their initial fame – in the 90s sometime I think- with the extra shouty bit added in by fat and rubbish racist comedian Roy “Chubby” Brown. I missed it by virtue of being out of the reach of English novelty records at the time, but clearly much of Europe was infected. Asking around I have discovered sightings (soundings?) of this oh-so-hilarious update being sung by the general public from Hamburg to Istanbul and beyond.

But, Smokie’s insidious reach extends beyond even this reworking of their most famous hit. They are known for other of their songs which don’t even have added sweary bits. I am, frankly, baffled by their appeal. It’s a rum do, and no mistake.

Oh, and in case you don’t believe me about Albania,
here’s a BBC piece from the time of that football match I mentioned.

Posted in history, music, romania | 3 Comments »

Farsang

Posted by Andy Hockley on 17 February, 2006

Today Bogi went to school (not actually school as she constantly reminds me, but ovada – kindergarten) in fancy dress. This is something which is happening all over town round about now and it is due to Farsang. I’ve looked up farsang in our Hungarian-English dictionery and it is translated as “carnival”, but to my mind carnival is a last-day-before-lent thing, and as far as I know lent isn’t starting for a couple of weeks yet. Erika thinks farsang, by contrast, is an entire period of partying that runs from Epiphany (Jan 6th) to the beginning of Lent. It is, I’m told, a big village tradition when everyone parties and wears traditional costume/fancy dress/something unusual, but since we don’t live in a village (and Erika didn’t grow up in one), she’s not really sure what it involves. So I’ll have to do some asking around. These days, at least in Csikszereda, Farsang seems to be a time when all the schools have fancy dress days, and also evening fancy dress balls for the parents (which are actually cunningly disguised fundraisers). Having a very young baby means we have an escape clause, but apparently next year (when Bogi really will be at school) we’ll have to go.

Anyway, here’s a picture of Dr. Bogi this morning. The hat is not a feature of Transylvanian doctors, but part of one of her friend’s costumes which by this time had migrated to her head.

Right now according to the little thing on the right it’s 2 degrees. That’s PLUS two degrees. Spring is here! The first time since it has been over zero for well over a month. Brilliant. I have to go to the balmy sub tropical climes of Bucharest this weekend, where it must be getting close to ten. Time to get out the shorts and t-shirts methinks.

Posted in csikszereda, pictures | 2 Comments »

Farsang

Posted by Andy Hockley on 17 February, 2006

Today Bogi went to school (not actually school as she constantly reminds me, but ovada – kindergarten) in fancy dress. This is something which is happening all over town round about now and it is due to Farsang. I’ve looked up farsang in our Hungarian-English dictionery and it is translated as “carnival”, but to my mind carnival is a last-day-before-lent thing, and as far as I know lent isn’t starting for a couple of weeks yet. Erika thinks farsang, by contrast, is an entire period of partying that runs from Epiphany (Jan 6th) to the beginning of Lent. It is, I’m told, a big village tradition when everyone parties and wears traditional costume/fancy dress/something unusual, but since we don’t live in a village (and Erika didn’t grow up in one), she’s not really sure what it involves. So I’ll have to do some asking around. These days, at least in Csikszereda, Farsang seems to be a time when all the schools have fancy dress days, and also evening fancy dress balls for the parents (which are actually cunningly disguised fundraisers). Having a very young baby means we have an escape clause, but apparently next year (when Bogi really will be at school) we’ll have to go.

Anyway, here’s a picture of Dr. Bogi this morning. The hat is not a feature of Transylvanian doctors, but part of one of her friend’s costumes which by this time had migrated to her head.

Right now according to the little thing on the right it’s 2 degrees. That’s PLUS two degrees. Spring is here! The first time since it has been over zero for well over a month. Brilliant. I have to go to the balmy sub tropical climes of Bucharest this weekend, where it must be getting close to ten. Time to get out the shorts and t-shirts methinks.

Posted in csikszereda, pictures | 2 Comments »