Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gypsy Dualism

This post is partly in honour of our own Raggle-Taggle Gypso-O Mr Gyppo Byard, who seems to be back blogging with a passion, and partly because I live in country that is virtually a stud farm supplying gypsies to the world. It’s often occurred to me that there’s a serious gap between the perceptions in, on the one hand, literature and, on the other, the pages of the e.g. The Daily Mail. I was once involved in a play based on an sappy Spanish story about the romantic lives of gypsies, then when the director was driving us back to his house he saw a caravan at the bottom of the road and exclaimed “Bloody tinkers back again – go on, clear off!!” I’m sure he had his reasons, and good ones, but the dichotomy struck me as exquisite and led me to thoughts of Cartesian Dualism, Platonic idealism, Hegelian dialectics and all manner of other types of shite. And so, I wish hereby to do my bit to close the gap between these two perceptions, creating a synthesis that fosters mutual understanding and allows the peoples of the world to live in peace etc, by substituting the pejorative “Gyppo” for the still romantic “Gypsy” into several well-known phrases:

The Gyppo Kings

Many people’s introduction to flamenco and flamboyant Spanish gypsies. But the group’s actually from France and plays mainly rumba, which is borderline flamenco at best. However, kings they are as all Gypsies are royalty: their sub-culture status allows this, while the rest of us are mere subjects of some inbred anachronism. The Romanian King (of kings) is a man called Florin Cioabă, whose surname means “soup” (almost) and who got into hot water when he forced his 12-year-old daughter (against her will) to get married. Them royals, eh??

Gyppo Creams

Whatever happened to Gypsy Creams? is one of those questions that people of a certain age with lots of spare time and an Internet connection love to ask. They were a type of biscuit made by McVities - and maybe will be again – and if memory serves were like round Bourbons but more crunchy and with a filling like butterscotch. I suppose the only “Gypsy” thing about them was that they were here one day and gone the next.

Gyppo Toast

Bread soaked in milk and raw egg and then fried in a pan. I’ve never heard of gypsies eating this, though in Romania they have a reputation for eating snails; (and I don’t blame them, the ones here are the most succulent-looking I’ve ever seen and remind me of those I’ve paid good money for in fancy delicatessens). I’ve also heard it called ”French toast”. Taking everything together, this begs the question: Les Gyppos… Les Français … ou est la différence??

Dehavilland Gyppo Moth

Geoffrey de Havilland must have been a brilliant engineer: he gave us the “Wooden Wonder” the world’s first commercial jet airliner, very nearly the world’s first plane to break the sound barrier, and the “Moth” series of biplanes beloved of amateur enthusiasts such as David Gower. Maybe it was due to de Havilland’s swashbuckling style that he gave the name “Gipsy” to the engines he manufactured to power many of these, and this stuck as a generic name for the ‘planes as well. Seeing the way that gypsies drive their horse and carts, it’s not a bad one.

Gossard Gyppo

Anybody remember this bra? Anybody ever worn one? Was it comfy?? I was once walking in the hills here on a very hot summer’s day and met a fine Gypsy woman of about 35 who’d stripped down to her skirt and bra and, judging by her smile, was enjoying the feeling. Had I been any sort of man I’d have laid her down her there and then in the corn field with the proud maize cobs battling like swords in the air above us. But she probably had her husband and brothers waiting with knives behind a tree for just such an occasion. I also never got to ask if the bra she was wearing was a Gossard, and if it was comfy.

Next time, to the same ends, I carry out the reverse process: “Oi, sling your hooks you Gentlemen of the Road!”, “Why don’t you clear up your bloody rubbish you Princes Amongst Men!” and pub signs declaring “No Real Rroms”. To end, scenes from the Moldovan Emil Loteanu’s 1971 film Şatra , based on stories by Gorki, and starting with a song that all Romanians can sing no matter what they think of Gypsies (and is if that wasn’t enough, the male “love interest” is an Austro-Hungarian!):

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Titbits from The Romanian Kitchen #1

As I said once before, it took me some time to adjust to the food here, and to be honest I still haven’t fully appreciated that Romanian is one of The World’s Great Cuisines, but, for your delectation, I've collected half a dozen exquisite examples that do present it at its best:

#6 Slănina: Romanian heaven will be made of slănina: they’ll be thrones carved from a solid blocks of it, and the white clouds upon which pass the harp-strumming gypsy seraphim and cherubim lăutari will also be slănina, still dripping translucent globules of cardiac-arresting goodness from their warming on the end of a stick at some celestial camp fire.

#5 Salată: This word covers both “salad” and “lettuce”, and of course the two meanings are not mutually exclusive. If you order salată in a Romanian restaurant you may very well get lettuce.......... with SUGAR on it.

#4 Sarmale: Actually, this is perfectly respectable food, one of the Archetypal Foods of Eastern Europe, a legacy from the Ottomans and recreated in one form or another by many nations over here. A confection of cabbage leaves and pig nonsense (lungs, knees, testicles, etc), and flavoured with savoury, a herb we no longer use in Britain, because it’s rubbish, and which for some reason I cannot smell without feeling ill.

#3 Cluj Tap Water: I recently organised a “no-frills” holiday for ourselves and some of Mrs Dilo’s friends and requested that we all “pack light”. Sure enough, the girls forewent many of their party dresses, but I couldn’t believe the amount of provisions they’d bought from home. The most astonishing was a 1 litre bottle of water. “Is that mineral water??”, I asked. “No, it’s tap water, I wasn’t sure if the water in Spain would be any good”. Bless.

#2 Ant Piss: Mrs Dilo: “When we were children we used to stick a twig into an ants’ nest, pull it out after a few minutes, shake the ants off and suck the twig. It’s got quite a funny taste - a bit acid.

#1 Bulă: A pig, lovingly executed with a Stanley knife, five full-sized cabbages shoved up its arse, its ears shoved up its nose, fried for five hours, then covered in a layer of mashed potato moulded in the shape of a slightly larger pig. (OK, I made that one up).

Ok. Now, at the end of this week I'm off back to the land of fish 'n' chips and Cheesy Wotsits, to my ancestral birthplace, the only two famous sons of which were Pope Adrian IV and Vinnie Jones, and so, 'cos the YouTube clip of Pope Adrian's version of My Way seems to have been removed, and while we have bad taste very much in mind.... take it away Vinnie! (and please don't bring it back again, ever):

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Once In A Lifetime

I’ve been kindly memed by Gyppo Byard and must name 10 things I've done once in my life which I wouldn't want to repeat ever. (Though in accordance with my previously stated desire to blog slightly less, I’m doing only 5) This sounds like a great opportunity for vanity - possibly even inverted vanity - since, though the things in question were presumably Not a Good Idea, they may also have been Incredibly Dangerous and Brave....:

#1: Walking Through a Railway Tunnel in Spain:Go along that path to the lake - it’s quicker if you walk through a couple of very short railway tunnels on the way”, they said; yeah, but forgot to add “.......but not the first one!”, which was very long, blacker than the Earl o’ Hell’s britches and in which I met a train coming the other way.

#2 Hugging a Psycho: I was out for a drink with a friend who’d brought along another bloke who’d recently moved into his house, a brawny security guard, who was clearly quite distressed. As we left to make our separate ways home, in an half-drunken outburst of naïvete and goodwill I hugged him in the hope that this would cheer him up a bit. I was told later that he was serious knife nutter.

#3: Writing the Most Incredibly Rude Things about my Maths Teacher, then By Mistake Handing this Missive in with my Maths Homework: She either didn’t read it or the words simply weren’t in her vocabulary.

#4: Crushing a Wine Glass with my Bare Hand: My girlfriend at the time was flirting with another guy. Many chaps in that situation have done far worse.....

#5: Letting the Oil Run Dry on a Gas Turbine: It was during my abortive attempt to train as a mechanical engineer. I simply didn’t have any common sense. Spectacularly so. Mechanical Engineering has flourished without me.

So, there they are, and I shall endeavour to make other, better mistakes rather than repeat these ones. Gyppo tagged 5 other people to perform this task and I shall tag Kevin Musgrove, Pearl, The Jules, Madame DeFarge and Brother Tobias; others are of course welcome to do it too. Mind how you go.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gadjo’s Video Jukebox #8: Summer is A-Coming In

Hi everyone, I’m thinking I should write shorter posts for a while - for which you may be glad - and spend less time blogging so that I can concentrate on other things (like my singing lessons which start again today). Whether I can achieve this remains to be seen, as you lot may be So Gorgeous that I simply can’t leave It alone. Maybe it’s because summer’s ending that I feel this way. A season we’ve enjoyed, sitting in the garden soaking up the sun, but now dowager Autumn stirs from fragile slumber, starts to clear away the summer’s spread, soon laying lace upon the bare table. I’d like to string it out a little bit longer, before the fuel bills go up and the alcoholic members of Mrs Dilo’s family return to their self-defeating ways of getting through the winter. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”?? Arse. So, here are Helno and the lads of Les Négresses Vertes with their hymn to summer Voilà l'été:

And here they are again in the no less summery but more flamencoy Sous le Soleil de Bodega:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Seven "Quirky" Personality Traits About Myself

ADDENDUM: I've now realised that it was churlish - nay, hypocritical - of me to complain that nobody ever memes me (which is also not true, now I think about it) and then not pass on this thing to 7 other people as requested. So, I'm hereby passing it on to: Brother Tobias, GAW (here's hoping he is on the road to recovery), Brit, Ana (wherever she is), Barry Teeth, Mr Inkspot, and last-but-not-least The Dotterel.

I don’t usually do memes – mainly because nobody asks me – but now I’ve been memed by our Kevin Musgrove, thank you kindly, and must supply the information described in the title of this post. (There’s a modifying clause to this which reads “as evidenced in my blog”, but I shall ignore this: as Kevin sez that I can be counted upon to come up with something unexpected I maintain that my blog is intractable to such a coarse-grained sub-categorisation approach, even one that includes the word “quirky”).

1) I Talk to Myself: The legacy of having been a stammerer and a habit that I refuse to give up. Though actually I’m merely practicing the conversations that I’d like to have with others - it’s not the same thing.

2) I Talk to the Television: Ditto. And also I’ve found this the ideal way to relax after a long day at the office; e.g. “My grandma can sing better than that, and she’s dead!”, or “Blue trousers with an orange shirt??... what were you thinking!” or “Oi, get your hair cut!”, etc etc.

3) I Talk to Animals: Ditto friggin’ Ditto. I can practically talk a tabby cat into bed with me.

4) I Have the Most Appalling Posture Imaginable: For years - decades, even - I’ve earned a crust slumped in a chair at a computer screen and then spent the evenings at dance classes. The latter may have won my soul but the former has certainly triumphed corporally.

5) In Moments of Anxiety or Confusion I Pick My Nose: Drinkers open a bottle, smokers light a fag and Bonobo monkeys get jiggy wid it, but I find a bit of nasal excavation to be the ideal “security blanket”.

6) I Have in Me an Aching Gap where Hard, Naked Ambition Should Be: I wanted to be a dancer but started too late; I trained in martial arts but ultimately lacked the killer instinct; I wanted to be a famous poet... but, ahh, I may yet be one day - I do hate other poets and their poems sufficiently to achieve this.

7) I’m Quite Tactile: This served me rather well during the huggy-kissy “New Man” era of the 1980s but also led to episodes of “inappropriate behaviour”. Here’s Madness: