Csíkszereda Musings

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

Archive for the ‘uk’ Category

Random thoughts

Posted by Andy Hockley on 14 April, 2008

I’m just back from England, where I attended the annual IATEFL conference in Exeter with Erika and something like 1600 other people. It was a good trip, though I wasn’t feeling at my best, since the cough I had a few weeks ago turns out to have been pneumonia (or at least some similar non-specific lung inflammation, of similar levels of intensity). I am waiting today to have another delightful visit to Csikszereda’s hospital so that I can work out whether or not more treatment is necessary (this possibly will involve spending a few nights in the aforementioned building while I get regular injections of antibiotics and/or monitoring of rampant blood pressure which has risen in accompaniment of the lung thing. So if I don’t post anything here for a while it is likely because I am stuck in hospital and hence offline.

One of the things that I have complained about often in Romania is the fact that people are so incredibly nesh here. If I dare to take Paula out in 20 degree temperatures without a hat, I get older people especially looking at me like I’m inhumane and ought to be arrested. You see people wearing cotton wool in their ears just to keep the draughts out (and also sounds and other such troublesome things). But I think there has to be some kind of happy medium between the approach to temperature in Romania and the approach to temperature in England.

To set the scene we flew into Luton last Sunday in the middle of a raging blizzard. In April. In southern England. No idea what’s going on. Anyway, it only really snowed on that day, but the temperature never really got very warm – most nights there was a heavy frost, and the daytime temps never rose much above 7 degrees. But in the midst of this hardly summery weather people walked around wearing not much more than their underwear. Mostly these people were teenagers, and especially teenage girls, it is true, so one can put some of this masochistic lunacy down to the vagaries of fashion, but it is a fashion which seems remarkably long-lasting. Whenever I go back and find myself wandering round an English town of an evening I usually find myself marvelling at the lack of warm clothing on those out carousing. This year, if anything the phenomenon has either got worse, or prolonged exposure to Romania has made me more sensitive to it. Perhaps I am becoming assmiliated and before long I, too, will be tutting concernedly at parents whose children are not buried in a vast heavily-lined, multi-layered, all-over burqa; wearing large clumps of cotton wool in my ears; and furiously closing every window in the train.

Posted in romania, travel, uk, weather | 4 Comments »

Two legs better

Posted by Andy Hockley on 9 January, 2008

There’s a famous story, or parable I suppose, which I’m quite sure you’ve heard before, but I’ll repeat it anyway, because I’ve obviously got too much time on my hands.

So there’s this rich successful retired businessman wandering along the beach in some tropical paradise one afternoon. He sees a young man lying in a hammock and goes over to talk to him. I’ll tell it in dialogue since it makes slightly more sense that way:

Rich bloke: “How come you’re lying around in this hammock and not working?”
Local layabout: “What for? I went out this morning, caught some fish for my family and others in the village, and now I’m relaxing”
RB:”But you could go out and catch more fish”
LL: “Why would I do that?”
RB: “You could sell it”
LL: “Why?”

(from this point onwards the story becomes a bit repetitive so bear with me. There is a punchline. Honest. Do parables have “punchlines”?)

RB: “So you could buy a better net”
LL: “But the net I have is good enough to catch all the fish I need”
RB: “With a better net you could catch more fish, and when you’ve caught and sold enough you could buy a bigger boat”
LL: “I don’t need a bigger boat”
RB: “With a bigger boat you could go further out, catch more and bigger fish and make even more money. Eventually you’d be able to buy a second boat, and employ someone to work for you catching even more fish”
LL: “Yes, yes, get to the point will you? Why would I be bothered with all this? Why would I go to all this trouble?”

(In the original parable he doesn’t actually say all that, but I am already desperate for RB to get to the point and allow me to therefore get to mine – which, I’ll warn you now, is probably not worth it)

RB: “Well, after you’ve made enough money, hired enough people to keep your business running successfully for you, you’ll be able to retire”
LL: “And what would I do then?”
RB: “Well you could spend your days lying around on the beach”

I’m sure I could have told that better, but you get the general idea.

Anyway, he says, finally reaching the long overdue point of this blog post, I was reminded of this story on our recent trip to the UK. On December 30th we, along with my parents, my brother and his family went along to “Wimpole Home Farm” which is kind of a touristy attraction type thing near my parents’ house. Specifically it is a working farm in which various animals are kept and can be viewed/touched/groomed/fed etc, as children tend to like that kind of thing. It was all very nice, and we got to have fun, and eat a nice lunch, and be with the family and all that kind of thing – as well as see some piglets born that day, some goats, sheep, donkeys, horses etc etc. Paula, for whom animals are incredibly exciting and wonderful, was particularly happy.

But it occurred to me that the whole concept was kind of peculiar, and that anyone from a Transylvanian village (for example) would find it laughable that people in England would pay money (and we did pay money in not-to-be-sniffed-at quantities) to wander round a farm looking at animals. Since this is precisely what normal life offers for free here. [Another example comes from the time that Erika and I first met, which was in the town of Brattleboro, Vermont, USA. She happened to be there – where I worked – attending a course which took place during the weekend when Brattleboro offered up its annual “strolling of the heifers” festival – the local tongue-in-cheek response to Pamplona’s “running of the bulls”. When offered the chance to go downtown and watch a bunch of cows walk through the streets she laughed disbelievingly saying she could do that any day of the week here. And she was right.]

So is economic development like the parable of the rich industrialist on the beach? You slowly get rid of all your small scale agriculture, swallowed up and sold off to agribusiness so that vast warehouses full of battery chickens, concentration camps full of pigs, and factory farmed cows hyped up on steroids and antibiotics can supply your food needs cheaply and efficiently, and in this way your country/region becomes more and more “developed”, until such time as you have enough money that you can set aside smallholdings where you can revive the lost art of animal husbandry and charge tourists large sums to come and groom a donkey or collect eggs from real live free range chickens? Your fresh food tastes like rubbish and is full of chemicals and hormones, but at least you’ve entered the 21st century.

Posted in development and education, transylvania, uk | 3 Comments »

Sorry

Posted by Andy Hockley on 9 October, 2007

I have been busy which is the reason why this blog has seen nothing but lots of tumbleweed spinning across it for an extended period. Since I’m freelance, this is a good thing, but I do miss the actual writing every now and then (I still compose blog posts in my head while I do other things, but they’re now all stacked up and mixed together).

However, I do have the time to mention this shop which has opened up round the back of our flat. It advertises “English clothes” with the names of various English clothes shops on the outside (Next, Marks and Spencers, etc etc), and the note “second hand clothes from England”. What’s particularly interesting about this shop (since nothing I’ve told you so far is), is the business model it uses. You see they get a load of these second hand clothes in over the weekend, stick them all in bins all round the shop and then sell them for 11Lei per kilo. On Monday. Then on Tuesday the price drops to 9 Lei/kg. On Wednesday it’s 7, Thursday is 5 and Friday it’s 3. So if you want the pick of the stuff you have to go on Monday and pay more, and if you just don’t care you can pay next to nothing on a Friday. No idea what happens on Saturday when the shop is closed. I hope they give what’s left to charity, but I fear that they just send it on to another shop somewhere else in Romania to go through the system again (I’m fairly sure that this shop is not unique to Csikszereda).

We went in once (on a Monday), just to have a look, and it was mayhem, but the clothes were pretty pants. And I don’t mean that literally. They also hadn’t seemingly been washed at all, which meant rooting through the bins was even less appealing than it might normally have been. What really intrigues me is where they get the clothes from in the UK. Are they just stuff that has been left over after jumble sales, or stuff that has been given to charity, or do Oxfam shops clear out their shelves after a while and sell truckloads of clothes to this company for them to drive across Europe and flog to the Romanian public? I’d love to know. I really hope that there isn’t someone making a tidy profit on what people have given away for charity, but some part of me fears this is the case.

Posted in romania, uk | 4 Comments »

From Székelyföld to Sheffield

Posted by Andy Hockley on 27 June, 2007

At opposite ends of Europe dramatically different weather conditions. Romania sweltered yesterday in +40° temperatures (not here as such, but it did get well above 30), with the news showing that in the sun in Bucharest it was over 60°; with news reporters, from all stations it seems, frying eggs on parked cars (can’t somebody find a new and creative way to illustrate the concept of really really fucking hot?); and with (again on all stations) high heeled shoes sinking into pavements.

Meanwhile back in the UK, it’s really raining. And I don’t mean it’s just raining in the traditional daily English sense, I mean raining in the apocalyptic noah’s ark sense (I may have mixed my biblical references there, but who really knows).

Here, for example, pictured yesterday, is a place in which I have spent many happy hours (and, let’s face it, a fair few miserable ones too):

For those unfamiliar with this most beautiful of locations (not that there should be that many people that applies to, since being unfamiliar with this place is a bit like being unfamiliar with the Taj Mahal), this is not some expensive water polo arena, but in fact, a football stadium. Or THE football stadium to be strictly accurate.

(I believe “Time to bring on the subs” is the humorous caption you need here)

Posted in romania, uk, weather | 2 Comments »

Crime Scene Interruption

Posted by Andy Hockley on 11 June, 2007

On my recent trip to the old country, I arranged to meet some friends in a London pub on the lunchtime of the day I arrived (taking the early flight from Bucharest meant I was able to maximise my time spent imbibing some real beer for a change). Anyway at the appointed hour, I located the pub, and wandered up to it, lifting up an annoying piece of tape that was strung across the entrance to the small street it was in, and stepped inside. I breathed in the aroma of London pub, and then noted that the place was pretty empty – there were two staff and two blokes in suits, all of whom were looking over at me quizzically. London’s a fairly anonymous place, so you don’t usually get that “everybody stare at the new person” vibe that you do in smaller places, plus because London is so big you also don’t get empty pubs at 12.30. So, with my unerring nose for these things, I surmised that something odd was going on.

“Errm, are you open?” I asked to generally in the direction of the four starers.

“No, it’s not” replied one of the blokes in the suits, coming towards me, “and you’ve walked straight through a ‘Crime Scene’ tape” (so that’s what that was). He escorted me from the pub and called over the two uniformed police standing at the other end of the street from the way I came in, telling them to gently eject me and to make sure no other wandering thirsty people followed my lead.

After I was safely on the other side of the “Crime Scene: Do Not Enter” tape (I actually bothered to read it this time round), I asked one of the aforementioned coppers what was going on , to which he (somewhat patronisingly I felt) responded “I can’t tell you, but let’s just say somebody is very very ill in hospital”. I don’t really know why he didn’t go the whole hog and use the word “poorly” really.

It was a stabbing, I discovered later, which is not something that often closes down streets and bars in Csikszereda, I have to say. Especially not at that time in the morning. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose. We miss out on, you know, stuff going on and that, but we gain on the people not being stabbed that much front.

I did manage to spend the entire afternoon sampling delicious beer though, you’ll be relieved to know. I imagine you may have been concerned.

Posted in travel, uk | 2 Comments »

S-i-z-e of a toddler

Posted by Andy Hockley on 8 June, 2007

(title to be read in the voice of the bloke on the cartoon in the Banana Splits. If you don’t get this reference, don’t worry, that’s a good thing)

I was briefly in the UK last week, and while there I decided to pick up a few clothes for Paula (they are seemingly both cheaper and better quality than the stuff you can get here). However, on returning I have come to the conclusion that toddlers in the UK are huge mutants. Paula is more or less 18 months old, and knowing, as I already did, that the sizes there are massively overstated (or that there is this aforementioned race of giant toddlers crushing rusks in their bare hands, and stamping all over cars) I elected not to buy clothes that were advertised as being suitable for “18-24 months”, and instead got some that were quoted at 12-18 months, reasoning that she might be at the lower end of that inflated scale by now. But no, they are still way, way too big for her. She’ll probably fit into them by the time she reaches about eleven (at which time little body-suit things may even be fashionable for the pre-pubescent girl). And she’s not that small.

Perhaps the UK, being that bastion of progressiveness that we know it to be, has actually, unbeknownst to me, altered its measurement system of time. Perhaps a British month is now actually made up of 64 32-hour days or something. Why do all measurements there have to be different? Why can’t we, as a people, get over this clinging to the past, and get on with things? It must cost everybody a fortune to constantly have to provide conversions everywhere.

I acquired a new nephew this week and on being told of his birth had to convert his weight into a standard one in order to tell people how big he was (he checked in, prematurely, at “5 lbs 14 oz”, which, in normal language, is 2.7kgs give or take a few grams). Anyway, welcome, Henry. This may be your first internet mention. I hope one day you, too, will not understand “imperial” measurements.

Then, I was at a shoe shop with my other nephew and was asked what size Paula’s feet were. “20 or 21” I replied confidently. “What’s that in English measurements”, I was asked (I had no idea, and still don’t)

And another (entirely unconnected) thing – the trouser press. What’s up with that? In hotel rooms in Britain you nearly always find a trouser press. But nowhere else – I’ve never heard of anyone actually owning one privately, or ever seen them on sale anywhere. So why is it de-rigeur for hotels in the UK to have one in every room? And, for that matter, what is a trouser press anyway? It’s like a very very big iron for lazy people. I tried to use one once, in the name of research, and it was really useless. An iron would have much easier. And more flexible because you do other stuff like shirts and that in them. But no, somewhere in history, someone decided that the trouser press is the way to go for hotels.

I feel better now I’ve got all that off my chest.

Posted in rants, uk | 1 Comment »

A short but harrowing tale

Posted by Andy Hockley on 27 April, 2007

A small story with a happy ending (followed by a bit of liberal hand-wringing and analysis – well you didn’t think I’d skip an opportunity to be self-absorbed did you?)

On Saturday 14th April, I arrived at London Gatwick Airport, after a 10-ish hour flight from Karachi via Dubai. I was, as the vernacular would have it, buggered. My luggage arrived, I loaded it all onto the trolley and headed off to the Gatwick railway station from where I would be heading to my parents’ house near Cambridge. I had one massive and very heavy suitcase (since I was on a 4 week trip all told), a couple of small bags courtesy of duty free and a Pakistani carpet neatly wrapped into a hessian holdall, and my laptop, which I hung on that little hook on the back of the cart. When I arrived at the station, via the formerly cutting-edge little monorail thing that connects the two termini at Gatwick, the next train for London was due to leave in three minutes. I hurriedly bought a ticket, grabbed my bags off the trolley, went down the escalator to the platform and jumped (or lumbered) onto the train, breathing a sigh of relief. I deposited the big suitcase in the relevant place and sat down with the rest. Within seconds we had pulled away from the station and I could sit back and relax for half an hour until pulling into Victoria.

After a couple of minutes, having recovered from my exertions, I decided to retrieve my book from my laptop bag. It was then that I discovered the awful truth. I had omitted to pick that bag up from the back of the trolley when I had left it at the top of the stairs. I think I actually said the words “Oh, FUCK” out loud, as I buried my head in my hands (I had thought burying ones head in ones hands was a figure of speech, but I have now discovered that it isn’t).

With the Gatwick Express being a non-stop hermetically sealed service, I had 30 minutes to come up with a plan – there was no way of jumping off at the next stop and heading back down with a vague hope in my mind. I first called ahead to my folks, and asked if they could call the station, just on the off chance. Then I set about convincing myself that (a) it would be handed in; and (b) even if it wasn’t the world would still turn and I would survive somehow – I could buy a new laptop, and while I’d have lost a certain amount of valuable data, I could probably piece it together somehow. For (a) I worked out a complex percentages system (this mental activity being preferable to self flagellation or just outright despair). 95% of people upon finding a laptop would hand it in, I convinced myself. This didn’t of course mean that there was a 95% chance of it being handed in, because while the 5% who would see it as an opportunity would probably be on the look out for such an opportunity or would certainly pick it up if they noticed it, the 95% would consist mainly of people who wouldn’t notice the bag, or if they did would figure that they didn’t have time to find someone to report it to, and possibly be forced to fill out a form. 20% of those 95% would actually notice it, pick it up and hand it in, I reasoned, without the slightest shred of scientific or even anecdotal evidence to back up this statistic. This still left me looking at a better than 70% chance of getting my bag back. (Thankfully, I hadn’t at this point factored in the fact that at airports especially, rogue bags tend to be blown up in controlled explosions just in case)

The upshot of all this desperate mental arithmetic was that by the time I arrived at Victoria station I was feeling quite sanguine about the whole thing, despite the fact that by now I had talked to my mum and heard that it being a Saturday night, all the offices at the station had proven to be closed. It was then, just as I was detraining (or whatever the new word would be), that I realised that not only was my laptop in that bag, but also my money, my tickets and more or less everything I needed for the next week or so excepting my passport. Once again, I was more or less physically winded by the realisation, actually stopping in my tracks as I walked down the platform. Could I have been any more cack-handed?

I located the lost property office, and (without much hope) asked if I could fill out a form. This entailed a lot of explanation as the guy tried to insist that I needed to report it to the Gatwick Express company, while I kept telling him that I had lost it at the station, not on the train, and thus it would be to his office that I should report it (The privatisation of the railways in Britain has pretty much been an unmitigated disaster, and this lack of coordination between different private companies is just one very small part of the wider chaos). Eventually he relented and let me have one of his precious forms to fill in, which I was doing when my phone rang. It was my mum to tell me that they’d got a call from a security bloke at Gatwick who’d come into possession of my bag and had found their phone number in it. I called him straight away, my voice possibly cracking with emotion, as he told me he had my bag and had looked through it with a colleague and found the money and stuff, and would I like to come back and pick it up.

The upshot, obviously, is that I went back down to Gatwick (for free as he spoke to the ticket collector on my behalf), got my bag, gave him a hefty tip (which was as a drop in the ocean compared to what I had been on the verge of losing), and once again resumed my journey – even more tired, but now oddly, extremely awake. I didn’t get “home” until getting on for 1am, but after that I really didn’t care.

Upon relating this story here, I have been told by everyone that it would be absolutely impossible to imagine that I’d ever have got it back in Romania. And, despite myself, I have to concur with that opinion. I know the chances that I’d ever have seen it again would have been practically nil here. So why is that? (I asked myself). After all, I sincerely don’t believe that Romanians are any more or less honest/dishonest than Brits.

Here are a number of possible explanations: (1) Romanians are an awful lot poorer than Brits (on average) – the temptation to see what monetary advantage could be gleaned would be much greater; (2) Romanians tend to assume that most people in positions of authority are corrupt (for fairly good reason) – in such circumstances, handing in a found laptop would not likely guarantee that it would get back to its owner, more that it would be siphoned off by the person who received it; (3)Years of privation and hardship (in the 80s particularly) have left many people very conscious of opportunity and seizing the moment. I mean I don’t regard the number of apartments which have balconies that have been enclosed using stolen train carriage windows as being indicative of a general national propensity to thievery – more of a general national intense poverty and desperation which existed here in those spectacularly lean years. I reckon that’s a hard habit to break. And finally (4), I realised that I wasn’t mentally comparing like with like. I couldn’t reasonably compare what would happen at Gatwick Airport station to what would happen at Gara de Nord in Bucharest. Aside from having railway platforms, there’s very little that the two places have in common. In fact there are no Romanian railway stations that would be a fair comparison in the possible-light-fingered stakes to Gatwick, at which station, the only people getting on and off are people who have been to the airport, which tends to be relatively well off demographic. Thinking about it, I realised that the closest comparison in terms of wealth and general well-being of potential finders within Romania, would be if I had left it at Otopeni Airport in the departure lounge. And if I had done that (and it hadn’t been treated as a suspicious package and detonated), I reckon I’d have got it back.

I’m not about to test this theory out though. Not if I can help it.

Posted in romania, travel, uk | 3 Comments »

A short but harrowing tale

Posted by Andy Hockley on 27 April, 2007

A small story with a happy ending (followed by a bit of liberal hand-wringing and analysis – well you didn’t think I’d skip an opportunity to be self-absorbed did you?)

On Saturday 14th April, I arrived at London Gatwick Airport, after a 10-ish hour flight from Karachi via Dubai. I was, as the vernacular would have it, buggered. My luggage arrived, I loaded it all onto the trolley and headed off to the Gatwick railway station from where I would be heading to my parents’ house near Cambridge. I had one massive and very heavy suitcase (since I was on a 4 week trip all told), a couple of small bags courtesy of duty free and a Pakistani carpet neatly wrapped into a hessian holdall, and my laptop, which I hung on that little hook on the back of the cart. When I arrived at the station, via the formerly cutting-edge little monorail thing that connects the two termini at Gatwick, the next train for London was due to leave in three minutes. I hurriedly bought a ticket, grabbed my bags off the trolley, went down the escalator to the platform and jumped (or lumbered) onto the train, breathing a sigh of relief. I deposited the big suitcase in the relevant place and sat down with the rest. Within seconds we had pulled away from the station and I could sit back and relax for half an hour until pulling into Victoria.

After a couple of minutes, having recovered from my exertions, I decided to retrieve my book from my laptop bag. It was then that I discovered the awful truth. I had omitted to pick that bag up from the back of the trolley when I had left it at the top of the stairs. I think I actually said the words “Oh, FUCK” out loud, as I buried my head in my hands (I had thought burying ones head in ones hands was a figure of speech, but I have now discovered that it isn’t).

With the Gatwick Express being a non-stop hermetically sealed service, I had 30 minutes to come up with a plan – there was no way of jumping off at the next stop and heading back down with a vague hope in my mind. I first called ahead to my folks, and asked if they could call the station, just on the off chance. Then I set about convincing myself that (a) it would be handed in; and (b) even if it wasn’t the world would still turn and I would survive somehow – I could buy a new laptop, and while I’d have lost a certain amount of valuable data, I could probably piece it together somehow. For (a) I worked out a complex percentages system (this mental activity being preferable to self flagellation or just outright despair). 95% of people upon finding a laptop would hand it in, I convinced myself. This didn’t of course mean that there was a 95% chance of it being handed in, because while the 5% who would see it as an opportunity would probably be on the look out for such an opportunity or would certainly pick it up if they noticed it, the 95% would consist mainly of people who wouldn’t notice the bag, or if they did would figure that they didn’t have time to find someone to report it to, and possibly be forced to fill out a form. 20% of those 95% would actually notice it, pick it up and hand it in, I reasoned, without the slightest shred of scientific or even anecdotal evidence to back up this statistic. This still left me looking at a better than 70% chance of getting my bag back. (Thankfully, I hadn’t at this point factored in the fact that at airports especially, rogue bags tend to be blown up in controlled explosions just in case)

The upshot of all this desperate mental arithmetic was that by the time I arrived at Victoria station I was feeling quite sanguine about the whole thing, despite the fact that by now I had talked to my mum and heard that it being a Saturday night, all the offices at the station had proven to be closed. It was then, just as I was detraining (or whatever the new word would be), that I realised that not only was my laptop in that bag, but also my money, my tickets and more or less everything I needed for the next week or so excepting my passport. Once again, I was more or less physically winded by the realisation, actually stopping in my tracks as I walked down the platform. Could I have been any more cack-handed?

I located the lost property office, and (without much hope) asked if I could fill out a form. This entailed a lot of explanation as the guy tried to insist that I needed to report it to the Gatwick Express company, while I kept telling him that I had lost it at the station, not on the train, and thus it would be to his office that I should report it (The privatisation of the railways in Britain has pretty much been an unmitigated disaster, and this lack of coordination between different private companies is just one very small part of the wider chaos). Eventually he relented and let me have one of his precious forms to fill in, which I was doing when my phone rang. It was my mum to tell me that they’d got a call from a security bloke at Gatwick who’d come into possession of my bag and had found their phone number in it. I called him straight away, my voice possibly cracking with emotion, as he told me he had my bag and had looked through it with a colleague and found the money and stuff, and would I like to come back and pick it up.

The upshot, obviously, is that I went back down to Gatwick (for free as he spoke to the ticket collector on my behalf), got my bag, gave him a hefty tip (which was as a drop in the ocean compared to what I had been on the verge of losing), and once again resumed my journey – even more tired, but now oddly, extremely awake. I didn’t get “home” until getting on for 1am, but after that I really didn’t care.

Upon relating this story here, I have been told by everyone that it would be absolutely impossible to imagine that I’d ever have got it back in Romania. And, despite myself, I have to concur with that opinion. I know the chances that I’d ever have seen it again would have been practically nil here. So why is that? (I asked myself). After all, I sincerely don’t believe that Romanians are any more or less honest/dishonest than Brits.

Here are a number of possible explanations: (1) Romanians are an awful lot poorer than Brits (on average) – the temptation to see what monetary advantage could be gleaned would be much greater; (2) Romanians tend to assume that most people in positions of authority are corrupt (for fairly good reason) – in such circumstances, handing in a found laptop would not likely guarantee that it would get back to its owner, more that it would be siphoned off by the person who received it; (3)Years of privation and hardship (in the 80s particularly) have left many people very conscious of opportunity and seizing the moment. I mean I don’t regard the number of apartments which have balconies that have been enclosed using stolen train carriage windows as being indicative of a general national propensity to thievery – more of a general national intense poverty and desperation which existed here in those spectacularly lean years. I reckon that’s a hard habit to break. And finally (4), I realised that I wasn’t mentally comparing like with like. I couldn’t reasonably compare what would happen at Gatwick Airport station to what would happen at Gara de Nord in Bucharest. Aside from having railway platforms, there’s very little that the two places have in common. In fact there are no Romanian railway stations that would be a fair comparison in the possible-light-fingered stakes to Gatwick, at which station, the only people getting on and off are people who have been to the airport, which tends to be relatively well off demographic. Thinking about it, I realised that the closest comparison in terms of wealth and general well-being of potential finders within Romania, would be if I had left it at Otopeni Airport in the departure lounge. And if I had done that (and it hadn’t been treated as a suspicious package and detonated), I reckon I’d have got it back.

I’m not about to test this theory out though. Not if I can help it.

Posted in romania, travel, uk | 4 Comments »

Ice, Sun, and Shopping

Posted by Andy Hockley on 20 March, 2007

We won! When I say “we” of course, I mean Sport Club Miercurea Ciuc, who finally triumphed in the Romanian ice hockey championship last Friday, winning the final best-of-seven-game playoffs against perennial rivals Steaua Bucharest 4-1. The town is buzzing with excitement, or to be more accurate, there is a faint barely detectable low grade hum, which those attuned to the usual lack of excitement in Csikszereda can just about pick up. It’s been a very good season for the team – they also won the Romanian cup, and finished third in their first season in the Hungarian league (I don’t know if that makes them the third best team in Hungary – since they’re obviously not in Hungary – but that’s by-the-by)

Apologies for my lack of posts of late – I have been extremely busy seemingly juggling about 5 balls, and it doesn’t promise to get any less busy any time soon. Last week, I was supposed to be in Tashkent, for example, but it got called off at the last minute for unspecified political reasons (quite possibly related to the very recent publication of this book in paperback), and instead I was whisked off to London. A city which I imagine looks much like Tashkent. It was a sunny week and I (as I do when it’s sunny in London) was thinking how much I like the city. Of course, it’s normally grey and miserable and that’s the problem with the place. Still, maybe global warming will solve all that and it will become the Rome de nos jours. Except it would be a Rome in which every other building housed a sandwich shop.

One thing I did find myself moved to comment upon while there was shopping. Now it has come to my attention that shopping has become a leisure pursuit of sorts, a hobby, if you will. Why? What possible pleasure is there to be had in wandering through crowded shops desperately trying to find the one or two things you know you want, with thousands of other harried people, getting in each others way, surrounded by unhelpful shop assistants, people who stop at the moment they get off the escalator, bright neon lighting, and general rampant materialism? It’s baffling to me. I mean truly baffling. There are few things I really can’t get a handle on, and the enjoyment of shopping is one of them. And I was doing it in the cathedral of English shopping, Oxford Street. Browsing in a small out of the way second hand book shop or record shop, I can understand. Looking for specific items in the heart of London, I cannot.

Posted in ice hockey, travel, uk | 1 Comment »

Ice, Sun, and Shopping

Posted by Andy Hockley on 20 March, 2007

We won! When I say “we” of course, I mean Sport Club Miercurea Ciuc, who finally triumphed in the Romanian ice hockey championship last Friday, winning the final best-of-seven-game playoffs against perennial rivals Steaua Bucharest 4-1. The town is buzzing with excitement, or to be more accurate, there is a faint barely detectable low grade hum, which those attuned to the usual lack of excitement in Csikszereda can just about pick up. It’s been a very good season for the team – they also won the Romanian cup, and finished third in their first season in the Hungarian league (I don’t know if that makes them the third best team in Hungary – since they’re obviously not in Hungary – but that’s by-the-by)

Apologies for my lack of posts of late – I have been extremely busy seemingly juggling about 5 balls, and it doesn’t promise to get any less busy any time soon. Last week, I was supposed to be in Tashkent, for example, but it got called off at the last minute for unspecified political reasons (quite possibly related to the very recent publication of this book in paperback), and instead I was whisked off to London. A city which I imagine looks much like Tashkent. It was a sunny week and I (as I do when it’s sunny in London) was thinking how much I like the city. Of course, it’s normally grey and miserable and that’s the problem with the place. Still, maybe global warming will solve all that and it will become the Rome de nos jours. Except it would be a Rome in which every other building housed a sandwich shop.

One thing I did find myself moved to comment upon while there was shopping. Now it has come to my attention that shopping has become a leisure pursuit of sorts, a hobby, if you will. Why? What possible pleasure is there to be had in wandering through crowded shops desperately trying to find the one or two things you know you want, with thousands of other harried people, getting in each others way, surrounded by unhelpful shop assistants, people who stop at the moment they get off the escalator, bright neon lighting, and general rampant materialism? It’s baffling to me. I mean truly baffling. There are few things I really can’t get a handle on, and the enjoyment of shopping is one of them. And I was doing it in the cathedral of English shopping, Oxford Street. Browsing in a small out of the way second hand book shop or record shop, I can understand. Looking for specific items in the heart of London, I cannot.

Posted in ice hockey, travel, uk | 2 Comments »