Saturday, May 15, 2010


I sign a new contract next week. I’ll be full-time again and probably incapable of much beyond grunting and farting when I arrive home to the bosom of my family in the evening. I told Mrs Dilo that I’ll try to get home earlier than I did before so we can enjoy the summer sun together in the garden; I therefore need to leave for work earlier; I therefore need to do less blogging. And it feels like a natural place for a pause right now. I’ve still got masses of stuff in my head that I need to get out – heck, I’ve got many posts already written – but it’s time for a break. Thanks to everybody who’s made blogging such a rewarding experience for me, especially those who comment so regularly and reliably. But I’m sure I’ll miss it - and you - and I’ll be back before long. I leave you with the new team:

Now, I always was an optimist and so I’m feeling quite chipper about this new Con-Lib-Dem-Dave-Nick alliance. I've been hearing how it’s unfolded mainly from the trashy, dirty mouths of CNN’s Fionnuala Sweeney and Becky Anderson. Two of a kind, if you ask me: both 44 years of age and with at least one divorce apiece behind them at a guess, with a slatternly grasp of the English language – “They have literally been tearing each other apart”, “Looking to the future, going forward”..... – and probably never happier than with a Malibu and black in one hand and a Lambert & Butler in the other - in other words, not merely TV journalists but gals I’d expect a 60/40 chance of going home with if I met one of them at a nightclub called Roxy’s. But I digress. I was also very pleased to observe that on hearing the news my (totally unjustified) inverse snobbery didn’t kick in regarding our new Beloved Leader’s background. And so - though I can’t top Gaw’s Sam and Dave in No. 10 - to prove the point here’s another Old Etonian we took to our hearts, the late Mr. Humph Lyttleton. Ta ta for now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Just Wait 'Till I Get Through With It!

NB: I've written this post before the result of the election has become clear, with the intention to post it ‘as is’ whatever that result might be.

I totally (and shamefully) failed to register to vote this time – when I’d made up my mind who to vote for I realised I’d missed the deadline! But on Wednesday, on the eve of the election, I made amends for my lack of political engagement – I finally saw (yes, for the first time) the Marx Brothers’ film Duck Soup. (A lot of the gags are reruns of gags I already knew from BBC radio’s excellent re-creation of the Marx Bros’ Sheekman and Perrin scripted radio series Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, but that didn’t matter - you can’t keep a good gag down - and then there's also some great physical comedy, and was there ever a more perfect foil than the stately Margaret Dumont?). It was the ideal moment to see this film: “If you think this country's bad off now, just wait till I get through with it!” – about 5:48 minutes into this clip Groucho explains his plan for running the kingdom of Freedonia:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gadjo’s Turner Prize #1

A brief glimpse at The “News” on the BBC yesterday informed me that it’s that time of year again. I love Modern “Art”, me... it makes me righteously indignant as no amount of tax rises or human rights atrocities ever could. I’ll get onto the business of singing “Whispering Grass” in a Bratislavan public lavatory as a masterpiece to rival Rembrandt later, but there’s another reason for me to bring up the subject now: we have several blank spaces on our walls chez Dilo. I’ve tried to get my pictures and their frames over from UK but it was too difficult for the big ones. So I want to buy some masterpieces over the Internet that I can hang up, and here are the criteria for choosing them:

The Right Colour: Our walls are lime green, and any picture should match this tastefully.

Easy on the Eye: We don’t exactly have that Brian Sewell coming round for dinner too often, so no art in the house should be too challenging for our guests: poetic or classical scenes, countryside and animals, etc would probably be OK.

No Pornography: I did bring over some smaller pictures, including Edvard Munch’s lovely Yellow Madonna - that’s the mother of Jesus, not the Madonna - but Mrs Dilo’s convinced it’s Pornography! She’s even insisted I keep it my study, with a small curtain that can be drawn across it. I’ll have to be careful.

This narrows it down, and to narrow it down even further I’ve decided (for this first selection): No Rubbish. Here are some I’ve found that may fulfil the criteria:

#1 The Farmer's Daughter (by John Everett Millais): Mrs Dilo and I liked the recent Millais exhibition at London’s Tate Gallery - very Christmassy. This is like that sweet little Connemara Girl, but this one’s made a bit more of an effort. She’s a ginger, so is never going to be appreciated as anything except “Art”; but, oh, what if she starts feeling tired carrying all that milk about and has a lie down in the grass and... oh, I mustn’t think about that – maybe the wife will see what I’m thinking.

#2 The Washerwomen (by Camille Pissarro): Mr Pissaro’s pictures have plenty of green in them, like he got a job lot of it and didn’t want to waste it - I’m the same. Like me he also loves to watch women at work - but, hang on, what if they splashed each other and their blouses became really quite wet and....? Ah.

#3 The Lady of Shalott (By John Waterhouse): You really can’t beat the Pre-Raphaelites for sheer good taste - and gingerness. And there’s some nice greens here and.... but, oh heck, imagine if she thought nobody was watching and decided to take off her clothes and have a skinny dip??

#4 Deux Poires (by Édouard Manet): Paintings of actual limes – which would be perfect for our wall, obviously – were rarely done by your old masters, but other fruit can be a similar colour. Here.... oh, no, that’s just one pair, Édouard – we know what you’re trying to suggest.... typical bloody Frenchie!

#5 Diana and Callisto (by Titian): Blimey! This is more difficult that I thought it would be. A nice classical scene, outdoors, and I think there's even a farmyard animal in there somewhere, but..... And here’s loads more where this came from!! I had no better luck with dryads or nymphs either.... I’m going to have to give this up.

#6 The Alan Carr “Tennis Girl” Poster: Ah, now, maybe this is the one: tennis is classy, there’s some green in the background, and it’s a classic scene - the original Athena poster showing a girl on a tennis court scratching her arse (remember?) was indeed a classic, selling 2 million copies – but luckily here there’s not a woman in sight. I can’t see anybody objecting to this.

Ok, now the “prize”: choose the one you think is best for us and you could win Gadjo’s Turner Prize! Yes, Lana/Tina/Anthea/Alan Turner (subject to availability) will visit your home, dance for you, and let you paint her/his sensual, writhing, naked body with a set of Rowney Artist's Watercolour paints in the art movement style of your choosing - Fauvism, Dadaism, Vorticism... it’s entirely up to you. In the next episode – when the painting you’ve chosen is up on the wall and accepted as part of the furniture - I’ll offer you a selection to chose from that’s a little more modern and daring. To end, and especially for zmkc, here’s the immortal Peter and Dud on the subject:

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.