Thursday, April 29, 2010

History Today #2

My previous efforts to solve The Transylvanian Problem set a ball of historical reassessment rolling - in my own head, anyway - and I fully intend to further pursue my investigations. However, there’s just a chance, though it may be a long shot, that we don’t have to rake up the past and thereby get on everybody’s tits. Maybe we can convince both sides that it simply doesn’t matter!* The only way to do this is trivialisation, and there’s nothing more trivial than a TV game-show, surely; so I hereby summon game-show king Mr Bruce Forsythe:

Brucie: Nice to see you; to see you...

Assembled Masses of Romanians and Hungarians (in unison): Nice!!

Brucie: Welcome to the Transylvanian Generation Game, where we try to stop generations upon generations of Romanians and Hungarians continuing to hate and/or distrust each other. Now, here we have Nicolae Ceauşescu who works as a dictator and who instigated a programme of systematically oppressing Hungarian culture and sometimes beating people up simply for speaking Hungarian. And he’s accompanied by his lovely wife – come over here my love, over here – Elena Ceauşescu, a semi-literate peasant woman who nevertheless required that she be revered as a major international scientist - didn’t she do well!

Assembled Masses of Romanians and Hungarians (in unison, and with %100 irony): Hurray!!

Brucie: And their opponents today are Miklós Horthy who works as Regent of Hungary - but he’s only got his hands on (emphasising the word and giving a meaningful look to the camera) the rump of Hungary these days.

AMoRaH (in unison, not understanding if that was a joke but suspecting it probably was): Ha ha ha!!

Brucie: And with him today is his lovely great-great-aunt twice-removed, Countess Erzsébet Báthory**. And it says here that – give us a twirl, my love, give us a twirl - you work as possibly the world’s most prolific female serial killer.

AMoRaH (in unison, despite themselves): Hurray!!

Brucie: The first game today is an easy one to get you started and it’s called “What to do with The Jews”. Miklós, when you came to power in 1920 you introduced laws severely restricting education opportunities for Jews and presided over a two-year period known as The White Terror when thousands of Jews and Socialists were massacred and sadistically tortured – do you think you can win this game?

Horthy Miklós: An iron broom alone could sweep the country clean.

Brucie: Nicolae, you sold Jews to Israel for a good price and invoked the fascist rhetoric of earlier Romanian leaders whenever you saw advantage in it – how do you rate your chances?

Nicolae Ceauşescu: We’ve made good money this way, but... (grinning) ...maybe I steal his broom later if I need it!

AMoRaH (slapping each other on the back and falling about in hysterics): Hurray!! Ha ha ha ha ha!!

Brucie: The next game is called “Who Should Run Transylvania”. Nicolae?

Nicolae Ceauşescu: (shrugging his shoulders) You know, there are more, errr, “business” opportunities for me in Bucharest, and every time I come to Transylvania everybody is so stuck-up I think I must have fall asleep in train and arrive in Austria!

AMoRaH (in unison, practically wetting themselves): Ha ha ha ha ha!!

Brucie: Miklós, how about you?

Horthy Miklós (pausing.... it’s a tense moment): You know, Transylvanian peasants both Romanian and Hungarian rose up against our rule, the Germans we installed there eventually betrayed us, and we even had to fight our brother Magyars the Székely on occasions. Hmph..... I don’t want it either!

A voice from the audience (actually Zsa Zsa Gabor, for it is she): Hey, Brucie, why don’t YOU be King of Transylvania? Would you need a queen??

Brucie (giving a look to the camera): Dthuthvugthrvth***

Another voice from the audience (Ilie Năstase, this time): And bring your former-Miss-World ex-wives with you – I find work for them!

AMoRaH (in unison... several vigorous, miscegenationist relationships having already started up on the back row seats): Ha ha ha ha ha!! Hurray!!

Brucie: Good game good game! (looking at camera) It looks like I’M the contestant for the conveyor belt round, then. After I’ve seen all the wonderful things on it, all I have to do is remember what they were. I get to keep every one I remember and lose the others. Ready? Ready.

The Lovely Anthea: On the conveyor belt today we have Transylvania, human rights, historical objectivity, political accountability, harmonious multiculturalism, cuddly toy.......

* Though it does, of course. Communist-era thinking is still in evidence and should be undone. I’m hoping that (ethnic Hungarian) László Tőkés, catalyst of the 1989 revolution and now well-placed as an independent member of the European Parliament, will lobby successfully in this vein.

** This is not really fair: she’s not exactly relevant to the discussion here, having carried out her activities in today’s Slovakia, between the years 1585 and 1610, and being a psychopathic freak that any society might throw up; but for some she epitomises, surely unfairly albeit colourfully, the dissociation from ordinary humanity claimed to be in evidence in the attitudes of the Hungarian aristocracy. And I needed a female.

*** That noise Brucie makes when he’s dithering.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Classical Music is for Ponces #2

WARNING: The following is of interest to classical music fans only, and maybe not even them.

Unfortunately I couldn’t sing in the amateur concert this month as my throat was wrecked by ‘flu and then by singing the high frigging As in Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus – what bastard gives tenors so many high As?? At least Beethoven had the excuse that he was deaf and couldn't hear the result. And it’s a bit strident, isn’t it? At least in Romania one doesn’t have to stand up. There may be another chance of a concert in the summer; I’ll have added more Schubert to my repertoire by then and right now, what with the garden bursting into life, I’m in a springtime mood!... though of course this won’t be very topical then, will it. First up it's Frühlingsglaube (“Faith In Spring”): an unusually “swoopy” rendition, but I like it, by Norwegian valkyriist Kirsten Flagstad and my homey Gerald Moore; and at the risk of sounding Fotherington-Thomas here* is the text. This year’s will it/won’t it ever get warm has certainly tested our faith in spring to the max, hasn't it. Next we have Im Fruhling ("In Spring") with two of the absolute all-time masters: Messrs. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Sviatoslav Richter:

* The gentle winds are awakened,
They murmur and waft day and night,
They create in every corner.
Oh fresh scent, oh new sound!
Now, poor dear heart, fear not!
Now everything, everything must change.
The world becomes more beautiful with each day,
One does not know what may yet happen,
The blooming doesn't want to end.
The farthest, deepest valley blooms:
Now, poor dear, forget the pain!
Now everything, everything must change.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Times They Are a-Changin’ #1

This town has come a long way since 1989, and even further since the country sneaked under the European Union entrance requirements limbo bar while the other member states’ representatives were away having piña coladas, games of hunt-the-soap and vigorous discussions about Uganda in Peter Mandelson’s Jacuzzi. There are many signs of these changes. One of the first was a Goth bar and Transylvania’s only Japanese restaurant; we also now have aromatherapy clinics, one of my wife’s doctor colleagues has made this place a breast enhancement Mecca, and an Australian woman set up a fetish clothing shop (most of the stock of which has apparently been nicked by Gypsies... hmmm, I wanna see that). Then, this weekend, I saw a sign for the Destiny Nails Salon. Yes?

#1: Back in the day this could only have been an emporium selling coffin nails (think about it).

#2: The salon is situated not far from where many people were shot dead in the (not particularly “velvet”) 1989 revolution, thereby fulfilling an Historic destiny. I’d like to think this is the one.

#3: When the smoke had cleared many received “heroes’ medals”, though, in good Romanian fashion, generally not those who'd been out on the street risking their lives. Destiny... Shmestiny.

#4: “Destiny” must surely be the name of a girl band – isn’t it? - and yet Cluj’s girl band is of course The Cheeky Girls, neither of whom is called “Destiny”, thankfully.

#5: “Destiny” is a fragrance from Calvin Klein - isn’t it?? – and the (Calvinist) Hungarian Reformed Church is just up the street. Ooh, tenuous.

#6 This mighty metropolis has several names depending on who you are: Napoca (Romans), Cluj (Romanians), Kolozsvár (Hungarians), Klausenburg (Germans) and קלויזנבורג (Jews). Now it’s surely the turn of our Armenians and they have "chosen Destiny" and the best of luck to them.

#7: But no, I guess we’ve been EastEndered the same as everywhere else. And I shouldn’t be so sniffy. Maybe folk do need their nails painted to look like the full set of Thunderbirds vehicles - though, ladies, if it’s of any interest, I’ve never heard any bloke say “Phwoar, look at her, get a load of those fingernails!”. “Destiny” is a difficult philosophical concept and therefore counts as (voice of the much missed Waynetta Slob) “exotic”. May its portals never close.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gadjo Dilo's Pecadillos #6

As my mother used to say at this time of year: Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, I wonders where the birdies is! Our neighbour, the retired cobbler, a delightful eccentric and spender of all his wife’s housekeeping money on books giving him the Latin name for every single denizen of the animal kingdom, will know precisely. Springtime is also of course when a chap’s thoughts turn to meditation upon the opposite number, so it’s time for another appreciation of womankind. Strange as it may sound this predilection of mine is utterly genuine, though I think it's quite a harmless one, but then I would wouldn't I.


I had this postcard on my wall for several years when I lived in Denmark. I was deciding, gradually, that the {expletive deleted} bint with whom I was in love perhaps wasn’t going to be my life partner after all and that I should seek a different type. I imagined this postcard lady as a peasant, perhaps East European, but she didn't have to be, she could have been South American, or have been any woman brought up under the tyranny of a totalitarian regime, perhaps Natasha or Joely Richardson*, and had met it with clear-eyed stoicism, sweat, great cheekbones and an ever-present scarlet headscarf.

Former British PM Jim Callaghan said (rightly) that Coronation Street's Elsie Tanner was "the sexiest thing on television", but it was largely co-star Hilda Ogden who took on the headscarf-wearing duties. Clearly it was felt Elsie was already attractive enough for your average British man but that Hilda needed a little boost. Hair curlers were also added and the rest is history, with men all over the country rushing home from pubs in order to catch a glimpse of her before hurriedly bundling the wife up the stairs. Despite their best efforts the producers could never generate the same enthusuasm for Ena Sharples' hairnet.

Isadora Duncan was famously killed by a headscarf: it caught in the wheels of the car in which she was riding and strangled her. Vanessa Redgrave (again) played her in the film and what great job she did. As far as I'm concerned this function of headscarves only adds to their femme fatale allure.

Pentecostal women in Romania wear headscarves which look very pretty and set off nicely the glory of their hair - perhaps negating the point of wearing them, but that's beside the point - especially if you're like Homer Simpson and nurture an attraction you barely understand towards ladies such as pious neighbour Maude Flanders.

Everybody loves Mrs Dilo's aunt Florica :-)

* Joke. I greatly admire Vanessa Redgrave, who has provided a couple of my most transcendent moments in the theatre.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In Loco Parentis #1

WARNING: There now follows reference – agane and agane and agane – to a classic of (British) English literature. If you are not familiar with it then may I suggest that you go away and read it.

Well, even with your help I’m still not in possession of a “career”. And so, as I intimated in the previous post, I may have to resort finally to Plan Z and start teaching. I’ve got precisely one student, my neighbour the cobbler, but he’s as keen as mustard. First, however, we need to establish an educational establishment, and set out some rules, which make no mistake will be very very strict. My first decision is that I will teach Molesworth English - spellcheckers will be set to English (Molesworth), accordingly - this being an altogether better spelling system than standard English and much easier for a foreigner to learn. I do, however, want your advice on several other matters, the first being this:


St. Custard’s
As any fule kno this is the name of Molesworth’s skool and would be a very apropriate wun for ours seeing as how all classes will be held in the kichin.

Porridge Court
Continuing the kitchen theem. This was also the name of St. Custard’s rival skool to wich they lost many matchs of indiferently contested and mud-encrusted sport. I envisidge mud being a big feechure of skool life here as both of us have a habit of dragging it in from the garden and ekspecting our wives to cleer it up.

St. Cake’s
Fiktional skool from Private Eye magazine with Mr R.J. Kipling as headbeak. The only subjekt tort will be the pome If... chiz!.

St. Delia’s
Delia is patron saint both of custard and of cake and our neighbour hav shown a marked interest in subjekts of cake biskits jam chokolat et cetera every time he hav visited our kichin.

St. God’s
Our neighbour is however a Unitarian - a denomination that was started in this town akshualy if you are interested in hist.

The Fotherington-Thomas Academy for Young Gentlefolk
Being uterly wet and a weed who skip along crying Hullo clouds hullo sky! and blubbing like a gurl when seeing a lickle robin shall all be compulsory wich is another chiz.

St. Grabber’s
Former head boy of St. Custard’s and captane of everything (espeshialy foopball) and winer of the mrs joyful prize for rafia work. Grabber will by now hav inherited all his parents munny and we can name the skool after him for the ushual amount!

St. Elvis’s
Molesworth’s skool hav Wandsworth the skool dog a creechure so uterly sordid he make me shudder. Our cat Elvis will hav to take on his roll stoping the mice pinching the Radio Malt and runing erands to the bookmakers.

St. Mrs Dilo’s
Coo-ur gosh wot a titel but Mrs Dilo hav been apointed matron and hav to do most of the work:

Pleeze vote for the wun you feel most suggest akademic ekselense, caracter bilding and plane comon sens!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Look to the Future Now, It’s Only Just Begun #2

The word most applicable to my current job situation is "limbo": the company I've been working for has just been sold to a larger American outfit, the champagne's flowing, and there's the prospect of greater things - but will there be a job for me?? As a result of your enthusiasm yet lack of unanimity or wisdom concerning my previous post of this subject, I’m still not sure what my career is, and therefore feel constrained to offer a couple more possibilities for your consideration:


My next-door neighbour is a retired shoe-mender, and he's becoming quite an important feature in my life. After I planted 72 tulips in his flower bed – not so magnanimous as it sounds.... they’re going to be a joy for me to look at too, my own garden is full, and he did a lovely job re-soling my shoes – he wanted to adopt me as his son and teach me his skills. (He also may become my first student in my new English language school, so, respect.) Now, many of the best people have had dads who where cobblers: anguished homosexual fantasist Hans Christian Andersen; cynical 13th century snuffer-out of English parliamentarianism Pope Urban IV (mmm, thanks, Wikipedia); and Joseph Bloody Stalin. Errr, I’m not sure it beat much sense into any of them. Whaddya think?


Ok, now we’re talking, and over here that should be easy-peasy, you’d think - and I love the soil, me. But ah you haven’t accounted for the social pressure I’m under. Here’s a story. I was once grovelling around in a pile of dirt in the garden - potting up some bizzy lizzies or some such nonsense - and my mother-in-law was watching me. I could see a thought travel across her face, and it was this: “I dragged my family up from the village into the town, for which permission we had to bribe and then lie to the Secret Police; my husband then actually wrote a letter to Comrade Ceauşescu describing our plight of 9 people living in one room, and after getting a reply we were given a flat to ourselves; then, 20 years later, I managed to buy a flat for my daughter in a new block by borrowing to the max from every single person I knew, ultimately a sound investment as money was worth much less after the inflation crisis following the 1989 revolution; now my only daughter marries this guy who wants to be peasant.... full-circle, wheel-of-life, bloody idiot, bad karma, why did I bother.