Thursday, February 26, 2009

National Schadenfreude Week

With the financial crisis etc it’s possible that some of our number are going to start feeling a bit sorry for themselves one way or another. I don’t wish unemployment on anybody, including myself, but one thing truly to be guarded against is self-pity. Therefore I hereby issue a caution. When one is feeling low it’s always better to think about those who have it worse than you. So, I’ve compiled a list. If you feel the cancer of self-pity start to bite, just think that the members of these organisations - pretty much taken at random, really - are even further gone:

Australian Pride

Australians may look cheerful and confident but underneath they are so sorry for themselves. How would you like it if people thought Dame Edna Everage was a real person, that all your indigenous animals looked really stupid, and they kept reminding you about “Botham’s Ashes”, the 2003 Rugby World Cup, etc. Well, Australians have had enough!! From now on they’ll be talking even louder in West London pubs and calling you a pooftah even before their crushed your fingers in a pointlessly aggressive handshake.


Like Scope, the charity that used to be called The Spastics Society, Mope used to be called The Drastics Society. Their response to their drastic plight is to take drastic measures – namely, sitting alone in their bedrooms eating Pot Noodles. And they demand the right to be left there undisturbed, with only a few Leonard Cohen* records and a tub of Boots No. 7 extra-black eyeliner for company.

* Yessss, once again Gadjo Dilo shows himself to be somewhat out of touch with what the Young People are listening to. But you get the idea.

Former Hedge Fund Managers for Equal Pay

It’s just not fair. People who’ve had well paid jobs and are now reduced in their circumstances really need support.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Separated At Birth #1

I knew I’d seen that face somewhere before!

Lou Reed: Former lead singer with The Velvet Underground, former heroin addict, proto-punk, bisexual, transvestite, poet, experimentalist musician and tai chi practitioner.

László Tőkés: Bishop of the Hungarian Reformed Calvinist church, catalyst of the 1989 Romanian revolution, conservative, nationalist and member of the European Parliament.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Power To The People!

I voted for the mayor on Sunday, for the second time, and I got it right both times. It’s feels so good to be a winner! Our beloved Emil Boc - elected on platform of “lets simply mend the roads and not antagonise anybody*, which he largely fulfilled - recently received the call to become his county’s 14,7859th prime minister and so we, the grateful people of Cluj, have elected his deputy in his place. But the list of candidates did not really present the cream of this fine city, in my opinion, so here are my top-ten for the town hall, the only criteria being that they must have been born here or hereabouts:

#10 Gheorghe Mureşan

A 7’ 7” former-NBA basketball player, and actor, born in a village near here. He may seem merely a gentle chap with a pituitary disorder, but think about it, when in Romanian politics his huge bear-like hands could cream the money that much faster off of the EU honeypot.

#9 Sándor Végh CBE

Ethnic-Hungarian violinist - if someone in town hall’s going to “fiddle” the accounts it might as well be a maestro - born here when the town was called Kolozsvár. A favourite of mine as he specialised in chamber music and many of his groups, e.g. The Hungarian Quartet, have an outstanding reputation for their interpretations of Bartók, Beethoven, etc. Shame there’s no street named after him here when so many are named after Romanians that nobody’s heard of.

#8 László Tőkés

The actual Catalyst That Sparked The Revolution. In December 1989 it was a protest concerning this ethnic-Hungarian pastor which eventually let to Ceauşescu’s overthrow, belatedly and with bloodshed. He’s gone on to be elected by Romanian Magyars as a member of the EU, but still looks like he’s not having much fun. A very solid candidate - for the Hungarian wing of the Face-Like-A-Slapped-Arse party.

#7 Mrs Dilo

Could do it, should do it, but her natural modesty always gets in the way. So, no canapés or Ferrero Rocher for me then.

#6 Mrs Dilo’s Mother

Could do it, should do it, and would do it. Food would be distributed for free but all other transactions would be argued down to a matter of farthings, and always to her opponents’ disadvantage. Would put this town straight within a week.

#5 Mrs Dilo’s Father

Only in an ideal world, where his admirably positive view of humanity would ensure he’d let everybody get on with what they wanted to do and that everything would turn out alright in the end.

#4 Max

A dog belonging to one of Mrs Dilo’s cousins. Actually, it’s claimed he’s half-wolf - he certainly looks it, though how he was prised away from his mother has yet to be satisfactorily explained. At less than 1 year old he’s still perhaps a little wet behind the ears, but I reckon he’d look topping in the mayoral sash.

#3 Gabriela Irimia

One half of The Cheeky Girls. Has already brushed up against politics in the shape of Liberal Democrat asteroid-botherer Lembit Öpik, so she’s well primed for the job. I was on the plane with the girls once. They had the only two reserved seats on a WizzAir flight yet still nobody paid them any attention, until in baggage reclaim that is, when a group of lost English lads greeted them with “F*ck me, it’s The Cheeky Girls!!”, which prompted beaming smiles and much autographing of body parts.

#2 Monica Irimia

The other half of the Cheeky Girls. Frankly, they’re as gorgeous and as talented as each other, so they could do the job on a rota system and nobody would know the difference. Öpik himself must have made the wrong choice some nights when he’d come in from work tired, so Monica probably knows as much as her sister.

#1 Lulu

No, not the warbling Glaswegian lady-hobbit, but a Cluj “character”, a vagabond, beggar and sage, with a reputation for hiding in coffins. He’s six-foot under ground now but I reckon he’d make as good a mayor in death as he would have done in life - his response to all questions and greetings was an emphatic yet appropriately vague “You will see!!” Not quite Churchill or JFK, perhaps, but apparently many citizens turned out for his funeral.

* Exactly opposite policies of his predecessor, Gheorghe “Mad-Dog” Funar, who surely deserves a post all of his own some time.

Friday, February 13, 2009

TV Transylvania #2

I sent my previous list of suggestions to the Director General of TV Transylvania but so far have heard nothing. Very strange considering how my wife’s friend knows his cousin’s hairdresser and was sure she could put in a good word for me. Anyway, there you go, I’ve had to think of a couple more:


The state of the toilets in rural Romania would make a coprophile blush, but I don't mind them. (The smell of one’s wife’s relative’s crap may be overpowering but at least it makes a change from the smell of animal crap which is dominant elsewhere.) And they’ve given me a first-rate idea for another TV show. Like those kids shows* where mop-topped youngsters or English eccentrics go into a tunnel or a phone box or whatever and it takes them to another moment in time. Except in this show people would be transported to 2009 – yes, THE PRESENT! Bloke goes in thinking about his animals, his soil, Laura Lavric (again) and his dinner, and he emerges thinking about hedge funds, feng shui, Russell Brand and existential angst. He’ll wish he hadn’t bothered. Plus, all the nations’ couch potatoes are laughing at him!

*Yes, yes they are, they’re kids’ shows: Doctor Who is not scripted by Shakespeare, in the same way that Harry Potter books are not written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.


This was going to be a contrived attempt to tell Jeremy Clarkson that he’s wrong. I used to hate him, seeing as how I’ve almost never owned a car yet don’t feel my life to have been entirely meaningless. Admittedly, I gained a grudging respect for the man when he convinced the nation that oily rag I. K. Brunel was our number 2 Briton. But now I just found out that he punched arch media-tw*t Piers Morgan, and my hatred has turned almost to affection. A Dacia is a Romanian car. They make fancy ones now with French engines and cappuccino holders, but the real one is a 1970s design that you run on petrol, butane, ţuică, manure, or any mixture thereof. It’s the best car here simply because it’s 6 inches higher off the ground than any other car, and it needs to be. If Clarkson ever has to do community service for crimes against the ozone layer, I’ll make a case for the defence that he comes here and makes programmes only about Dacias, and he’s got to have a pig on the passenger seat and 2 ton of straw on the roof-rack.

*Pretend that it rhymes with “Gear”, though it doesn’t really.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I, OU: #1

No Good Boyo has embarked on a series of posts about his universities and Daphne Wayne-Bough recently made me think about my own Alma Mater, which is The Open University (mostly), and what its slogan might be. She spotted that the existing slogan began “OU Students Do It...” but that the rest was then obscured by my noble visage. Room there I’m sure you’ll agree for enough double-entendre to make it worth the bother. So, what should the slogan be?

#1: OU Students Do It In Their Spare Time

True. This is what Daphne thinks it currently is, and she may be right for all I know.

#2: OU Students Do It From A Distance

Also true. And suggesting that they are aloof, lone wolves, rather in the manner of Clint Eastwood.

#3: OU Students Do It All The Time

Yep, you have to keep at it; and you also have to do it whilst holding down a full-time job, otherwise it feels like cheating. It may sound tiring but like any other mono-mania (dipso-, megalo-, ego-, klepto-, nympho-, etc) it’s simply another way of getting your rocks off!! Not always so much fun for those around you of course (ok, tigers, the jury’s still out on nympho-).

#4: OU Students Do It Anywhere

Studying should be done in a study, but no OU student will have one of these. Instead they’ll have a kitchen table, a bed-sit, or simply a cardboard box in a Woolworth’s doorway. But they’re great improvisers: they do it when the kids are watching cartoons, at night when keeping the light on most annoys the landlord, or in the soft toys section after bribing the security guards to go on a prolonged “comfort break”.

#5: OU Students Do It For Free

Studying with the OU is really cheap compared to other ways of doing your head in. Why get yourself into the clasps of usury by paying out to one of those gaudy, tarted-up Jezebels with stupid names like “Oxbridge” or “Redbrick”? Why pay for it??? I never have, much. At the OU your bank balance increases at the same rate as your brain, and not having had a life for several years will have seemed a small price to pay.

#6: OU Students Do It When You Don’t Want Them To

Follows logically from #3. Actually, OU rapists are surprising rare considering the frustrations of distance learning. However, the rape of OU students is a distressingly common event. This is because they’re so knackered at end of an evening’s study (after a hard day at the job they’re so desperate to leave) that their wives/husbands/cell-mates really have no other choice. “Oh give it rest, I’m exhausted - can’t you wait another 3 years?? Oh all right, if you must, but I’ll be asleep”.

#7: OU Students Do It: The University Of Life

Rather a portmanteau title, admittedly, but then so was “Carry On... Follow That Camel”. (No graduate has more right to inverted snobbery than an OU graduate, so why not even “The University Of Hard Knocks”?). And you have to admit that it’s simple but brilliant. The pinheads who think up slogans like “Pure Genius” for Guinness beer etc get paid a fortune, so where’s mine?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Am Now Officially A Git

(That’s an Old Git, mostly.) I don’t want to jump on M C Ward’s bandwagon, or indeed to enter some inverted-snobbery, Four Yorkshiremen type of contest, again. But nothing is more inexorable than the march of time, and nothing also makes one so irredeemably a whinger. So here goes. As some of you may know I have a job in computing for an American company here in Romania’s Silicon Valley. I work with some top computer people, though this hasn’t become so apparent until now. At first they afforded me some respect: I’m a foreigner who's inexplicably come to live in their mud-encrusted country, I have Qualifications, and (for most of them) I Am Old Enough To Be Their Father. Not any more. The last of these supposed virtues is now showing through like a bony elbow in a granddad’s worn out cardigan. I can’t do the work even half as fast as these youngsters. I can’t remember things either. The time between them asking me a question and then looking silently yet meaningfully at each another (during which time I'm saying “errr... not sure... errr... that was 3 weeks ago now... could be anything”) has now dwindled from a just-possibly-respectful 10 seconds to less than 1.

Of course, an old person has experience and therefore some advantages, in theory. In my own pitiful case I might protest “Well, I can dance better than you – even your own national folk dancing!”. I might as well say “I can dribble down the front of my cardigan better than you” or “I can not quite make it to the toilet in time better than you”. My back-up position is to try to make 'em laugh, but that would be about as appropriate here as coming into work naked. I respect them. I might even like to adopt one or two of them. Or perhaps just pass round the office with a bag of Werther’s Originals from time to time. Dhuurgghhhh. Old Git.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Gadjo’s Video Jukebox #7

I’ve always been drawn to gypsy music and dancing, and as I’ve not yet been duffed up or mugged on account of this I see no reason to stop. Heck, I even once had a girlfriend who was half-Rrom, but apart from having been a professional violinist the clichés remained disappointing unfulfilled: she was quite the most responsible person I’ve ever met, rubbish at telling fortunes and never gave me clothes pegs as birthday presents. Once again, after Romanians you have to have Hungarians and vice versa, it’s only fair. Our colleague Gyppo Byard has recently drawn our attention to Mitsou. She performed for many years with the ensemble Ando Drom which, as seen in this video, also showcased some great dancing. And here they are together in one of my all-time favourite tracks; admittedly the video is little more than a photography student’s bedtime dream (and she lets her uncle Feri bácsi join in on the vocals) but I dare you not to dance!