With nothing else to do coz I still feel like varza, (Aura called to see if I wanted to pop round and keep her company in str. Drobeta while she finished packing up her old office, but even that I couldn't manage - pathetic!) I've been on the web all afternoon looking for paintings by my all-time favourite Roumanian painter, Magdalena Radulescu (1902-1983). Sonia had a great collection of her works - how I adored them. We used to stand in front of them for hours, literally falling into them. The ones I've found on the net aren't half as lovely as Sonia's were. I wonder what happened to them? I haven't seen any of the ones she had on the auction sites. Anyway, here are some below for you to see. I know that there are some in the gallery at The House of the People, but as I never have and never will set foot in that monstrousity ever ever it's much of a muchness. There are a couple too at the National Gallery of Roumanian Art, but they are far from her best. Hope you like them and if anyone can find anymore, please don't hesitate to send them on to me so I can add them.
During our time in Sibiu, Flori wrote a horde of Roumanian musicians on Rosie's train ticket so I could go and discover them on Youtubes. As I'm staying home today, it's the perfect opportunity. I wanted to share some real gems with you.
The first Romica Puceanu. Sunday saw National Rrom Day. They trashed the stadium in Sibiu and plenty of other places besides. It's hard to feel good will towards these people, find anything positive to say...but there is Romica Puceanu: http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=VYneyue08so Here she is singing Mai Spritule.
This is Paunita Ionescu, a fabulous jazz singer with a voice somewhere between James Brown and Nina Simone. Do enjoy her! http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=aITbJI7qB-4
http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=tZjVlMvvsO8 Let me introduce you to a crooner, Jean Moscopol singing 'Tot Ce-i Romanesc Nu Piere' - I like the tune! It means, literally, 'Everything that's Roumanian will not perish'. But the piftie and ciorba de burta can perish all it likes.
This is the incomparable Anca Parghel. I'll see her on 19th April with Flori and Aura. http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=CgeOJFXaNgM Here she is singing A Foggy Day. Very Dee Dee Bridgewater but with a style all of her own.
http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=EhQJzZOw4yA&feature=related Here's my very favourite of all, Aura Urziceanu. Isn't she great?
And that's all for now. Going to watch a film.
Love Sarah xox
I daren't let another day go without giving you news. Today, after a bad stomach night, I'm staying home having a quiet day mainly because I'm so exhausted I can't even manage to get dressed! Tantza took one look at me and brought me a bowl of soup, bless her. Hope I can keep it down!
So, Tuesday, I went to see Aura as arranged at her office in Republica near Panteleimon. I was so happy to see her as it'd been two weeks and I'd really missed her. She has a marvellous office, big windows and light furniture all with a definite Eastern influence. We sat and talked for a while over very good coffee listening to a lovely CD that she had brought me back from Turkey and then drove to Cora (can you believe it, my Roumanian friends, that I've never been to Cora before? And it's cheaper than Carrefour! Why didn't I know that?!) for lunch and a lot more talking. We do that exceedingly well! And laugh a lot, too, however serious our conversation may be. I will see her tomorrow for a conference by Jacques Salomé at Novotel. He's the guy who wrote 'Dis-Moi Où Tu As Mal, Et Je Te Dirais Pourquoi'. I'm looking forward to it very much and hope I'll be better so I can concentrate on what he's saying. It was a beautiful day and Aura decided to drive me to the metro station in her husband's partner's tank, but we drove straight past it, and the next and the next, eventually ending up at Bd. Dacia from the Mosilor end. So sweet. I think she spent half her day in the Bucharest traffic, which incidentally has returned to normal now the summit is at an end. Tomorrow I will see Aylin too and try to remember to take a photograph of her. She's an exact replica of her mum.
I saw Lucia briefly the same day which was lovely. How I missed her and George while away. It's the only down side to taking trips outside Bucharest!
The next day, so yesterday. First, Tantza invited me to lunch as I had brought her cheese from Sibiu. She wanted us to eat it together, and set about preparing a very good mamaliga with cream, the cheese and an egg on top. Cor!!!! Then there was a very good halva. I normally avoid halva because it contains peanuts and arachis oil, both of which make me ill. She said it didn't, so I polished off a good slice. It clearly did however as I was ill all night long. But never mind. We had such a nice time together. I was so sad to hear she'd be alone for Easter, but there's no way I can bring her with us to Brasov. I went to see Mandita to see if she'd be home and what did they think about Easter with Tantza. They said they never had before and well, why not. We'll see what happens and if, indeed, Tantza accepts the invitation.
Another short visit to Lucia in the park opposite the French Institute. She came along the path with a big bag of salted popcorn. I think it's the first time in five years I've ever seen her eating trash! She looked like a school girl with her red coat and scarf and this huge bag of popcorn. It was almost as big as her! I do hope to see them both at the weekend. I went to the theatres and Ateneul to find tickets for something, but too late. Saturday night is full everywhere and there's nothing interesting at Ateneul or Sala Palatului.
Yesterday evening, I went on a Nicole Tour. Nicole, as many of you will already know, is a new friend of mine living in the US, but born here in Bucharest. She read this blog (crazy lady!), posted a comment which lead to correspondence and now we are friends. She is the most wonderful person, with an incredible sense of humour, culture and a love for history and architecture. After 40 years in the US she still has that lovely Roumanian accent that Milla had, the rolled 'r' and the melodic intonation I adore so much. She's great fun, full of charisma, stories and memories. I do wish she'd write a book. She lived just off Dorobanti, so I just had to go and see the house, the street etc. I didn't have the street number but felt this really strong attraction for one particular old house, photographed it, sent it to Nicole and guess what...that was the one. How odd is that. Except not odd because that kind of thing happens to me all the time here. I just can't get used to it.
News from Paris - Marie Jo and Chantal will visit in May for a weekend on their way up to Sighet. I do hope Marie Jo's back will be a bit better so she can enjoy the walks around the little streets she loves so much.
Today, I should have been at Flori's, but I really can't move. A night of staring down the u-bend kind of takes it out of you. So, here I am. Tomorrow Jacques Salomé and maybe the Marriott afterwards as there's the grand opening of a new Japanese restaurant and Lola has tickets - may be worth a look and a maki! Marriott's a bit far away though. Saturday back to work for Simon's cover until 14h and Sunday maybe Flori's or something else. And Lucia and George at some point, because I so need to see them! They're my oxygen. No news from Alex's parents as yet, but an invitation from JCC for Pessa'h arrived yesterday! Whooppeeeee!
That's all for now!
I've just come back from the most wonderful long weekend in Sibiu with Flori and her Gaby, staying with her Uncle Ilie and her parents repectively. Such kindness and generosity goes straight to the heart and this evening I'm feeling introspective, with a need for quiet. I'm glad to stay home and update this blog as I have no inclination to see anyone and make conversation after such a marvellous weekend that has made me stop, think and count my blessings on umpteen occassions.
For those of you who don't know, Sibiu is in Transylvania, about two hours from Brasov by train, and was chief city of the Saxons. It reminds me very much of Brasov in terms of atmosphere and architecture. Walter Starkie wrote of Sibiu in 1929 "I rubbed my eyes in amazement. The town where I found myself did not seem to be in Transylvania, for it had no Romanian or Hungarian characteristics: the narrow streets and old gabled houses made me think of Nuremburg." This is certainly true of the old city today, though the illusion is harder to sustain in the surrounding city.
The citadel of Hermannstadt in German, was destroyed in 1241 by the Tatars, who left only a few hundred survivors. The townsfolk surrounded themselves during the 14th and 15th centuries with four rings of walls and forty towers; they were mighty enough to repel the Tatars three times. The buildings and streets were linked by tunnels and gateways for protection. Much remains and history oozes out of every brick.
The last time I visited Sibiu was with Adrian and Marie-Jo a couple of years ago. We just had enough time to run around the Piata Mare in order to jam in a quick tour of the 18th century Brukenthal Art Museum, grab a bite to eat and then head off again. This time, however, I discovered another side of Sibiu - the jazz side. But more on that later.
I arrived in Sibiu with Rosie after a five hour train trip from Bucharest. It was, as usual, a rather fun journey. It being 'post', ie. the fasting period before Orthodox Easter, everyone in our compartment were exchanging recipes and handy hints of what to use, what could be mixed with what, how to make money stretch, etc. One lady in her eighties who in fact looked most unwell, took a load of jars out of her luggage. Together with covici for bread, we tasted each mixture. During 'post', meat and dairy products are forbidden, so 'foaie verde' really comes into its own. We had nettles with garlic (like Tantza makes), zacusca, toccana and a range of other delicacies that I can't begin to list because I simply don't remember what they all were. When the bloke came round with refeshments, he was most upset to find our compartment full of absolutely stuffed passengers - no need for his wares whatsoever. Rosie, too, ate her fill, having charmed everyone as is her wont. She ate apple purée (is she really a dog, I ask myself seriously), nettles and garlic, vinete (ah yes, how could I forget that?) and onion 'jam'. After our feast, the old gentleman pictured above got out his photo' album. He's 88 years old and wanted us to see him as a very handsome young soldier between 1943 and 1948. In '43 he was indeed very handsome - square jawed, moustached, elegant and brave. In '48 however, his face was long and shadowed, ravaged by hunger and suffering. He told us about how it had been, tears in his eyes at the memories. On to happier seeming things: photos of his wife, aged 81. Still pretty, blue eyed, fabulous skin as so many women are blessed with here (due to the absence of iodine in the soil and healthy home cooking with no additives and fertilisers?). I was quite sorry when we arrived in Sibiu and had to part company. Rica and I (the lady in pink) exchanged e-mail addresses with promises to keep in touch. She now lives in Madrid and had come to visit family for the Easter period. A charming, energetic woman, full of laughter.
Flori and her Gaby were waiting for us at the station. Into the car we piled, Rosie mad with joy to be off the train, and we drove across the city to Flori's uncle's house. It's an old house that has been lovingly restored and renovated, giving a cosy, welcoming feel - lovely open entrance hall and large family kitchen, spacious bathroom and generous bedrooms brightly painted. The big garden at the back is home to chickens, three dogs (a German Shepherd called Lady, a Ciobanesc named Alma and a Ciobanesc Mioritic - I think, or am I just confusng the name with Miorita?! - whose name I've forgotten) and two of the biggest rabbits I've ever seen in my life.
A tour of the old city was first thing on the agenda. Such great shops in the commercial areas, snugly nested along the cobbled streets. It was a miserable, grey, wet afternoon, but that didn't make a difference. Sibiu is beautiful whether rain or shine as far as I'm concerned. We crossed the Bridge of Lies, which, legend has it, will collapse if you lie while standing on it. We told a few porkies but thankfully, nothing happened. Along arched passages and columned walkways we trotted, admiring the lovely furniture shops and art galleries en route.
We passed our destination for the evening: The Imperium Club. Just beside the Bridge of Lies, this place is known for its live music. In fact, Sibiu itself has a fabulous reputation for night life, whether you're into classical music, jazz, rock or retro, there'll be a place for you somewhere. Arriving around 20h30, we were able to choose our table as the one booked was far too near the drums! The band due to perform, Evergreen, are known for their eclectic taste - everything from classical jazz to country, rock and blues. We were joined by Mia and Ioana (Flori's nieces) and Mia's boyfriend, Radu. We didn't talk much - the music was loud, and we were too busy singing along anyway. The Imperium is certainly a great venue. Open for only three years, business is booming in the underground cavern, instruments on the walls (musical ones in case you're wondering), soft lighting and very attentive, pleasant staff. It was a really good evening. We left just as the lead singer's girlfriend (I imagine, as she was up dancing to all the numbers whatever they were, knew all the words to everything and cheered the loudest emitting enthusiastic 'whooooo's at the end of every song), Flavia, finished Peggy Lee's 'Fever' and was launching into 'Summertime'.
The next day we set off to visit Flori's parents. They live in the little village of Ludos, 57km from Sibiu. Gaby and Flori decided to drive the scenic route, which was a little errored as decisions go - the road was atrocious. Gaby's rather old BMW took off and landed like a demented kangaroo, with messy consequences - Rosie was violently sick all over the car and I wasn't far behind. By the time we arrived, we were worn out!
Ludos is the image of Roumanian villages that I've driven through countless times and cooed and wow'd at the prettiness, the time delay of about 50 years and the peace and quiet. It's the first time I've actually lived in one albeit for a day and a night, and the reality isn't quite as it appears. Few families have running water, hardly anyone, thus, possesses a bathroom. Central heating is unheard of, horse and carts are more popular than cars...and there's no road to speak of, just track. However, everyone has cable tv. I saw this as rather funny, but speaking to Lucia tonight and telling her about it she said it wasn't funny at all. It was outrageous that having tv is acceptable by the government for country people, but having a running water supply and sanitation wasn't. She doubts they'll get any in the next 20 years. She's right of course and I feel stupid for having smiled affectionately at this strange acquirement whilst everything else is lacking...she was quite right to berate me and be so cross.
Flori's parents live in one room. They get their water from their own well in the courtyard and have to heat it in huge saucepans for washing themselves as well as the dishes. There's a bath in the courtyard that collects rain water, very good for hair and does your skin the world of good. Flori's mum has an oven and she also has a wood stove, typical in Roumania.They do have an 'upstairs', a fairly recently acquired house that's been renovated and gives them two extra rooms, but they don't appear to use it for now, as it's not yet finished. Flori and Gaby sleep here when they come to stay, and this time, it became my room. Life in this village is simple and hard, everyone has a garden where they grow their own vegetables and raise chickens for meat and eggs. Some people have goats and pigs, a few sheep - they are self sufficient.
Roumanian hospitality never fails to bring a lump to my throat and make me feel humbler than humble. Flori's mum had prepared ciorba, chicken and vegetables with cream, sarmale and apple cake - all absolutely delicious mouth-watering joy. Despite the hardship of life in general, generosity and the warm and hearty welcome is as it is just about everywhere in this country. The traditional apéritif of palinka and home made wine was marvellous. I wanted to help Flori's mum carry in wood for the stove but wasn't allowed.
Flori's parents are deaf and dumb. They communicate with sign language and lots of theatrical movements and expressions. It was wonderful not to have to worry about my limited Roumanian, and I so enjoyed 'talking' to them through mime. That's universal! When I couldn't act it, Flori translated it into sign language. Her father is very proud of his garden which, he said, he and his wife did alone with a bit of help from their son, Flori's brother, Marin. He was most insistent that I see it. It is, indeed, a most impressive plot, lovingly tended. Long rows of turned soil home to all different kinds of vegetables. The chicken coop is spacious and vey well built, the area for the wood solid and brilliantly organised.
I don't know how many people actually live in Ludos, but it can't be that many. The Catholic church is now unused - no more Catholics in the village. When there was a German population, the church was thriving, but Ceausescu threw them out and today the church is an empty shell. The Orthodox church up the road, however, is well attended.
We went for a walk around the village. Here, everyone greets each other, whether you're strangers or notand no matter the age. There was a lovely house for sale going for 12,000 euros. Beautiful wooden front portal, a courtyard inside surrounded by house and outhouses on either side to create a square.
There's a monument to the victims of World War 1 and some really lovely properties to be seen. Surrounded by sweeping hills and a view that just makes your jaw drop, the tour blew the cobwebs away, made me bless my cave here in Bucharest, and the respect and admiration for Flori's parents and indeed anyone living such a tough life in a village, grew to exploding point.
We went to see Flori's brother Marin, his wife Lenuta and their two children Bogdan and Ioana.They live in a typical house in the village, not far from Flori's parents. I didn't see the house entirely so I can't tell you how many rooms but I'd guess at two, with the toilet outside (Flori's parents' WC is across the courtyard, through a wooden gate and in the middle of the garden - a wooden cabin that must be hellish in winter and just unimaginable in summer). It was fiendishly overheated and I felt quite heady. Lenuta bent over backwards to welcome us, offering coffee, wine, cakes and presenting Flori and I with gifts of table covers - quite lovely. The children were gorgeous and quite taken with Rosie, who behaved herself perfectly. We had coffee and left, for dinner was waiting for us back at Flori's parents'.
After dinner, we weren't long in going to bed. Mine was a good, hard bed covered in a thick warm duvet that envelopped me like a nest. I was asleep immediately, awaking briefly at 3am, and slept through until 8h30 when I heard sounds of activity in the courtyard. I dressed quickly and went to join Flori, Gaby and Mr and Mrs Flori. Breakfast was strong coffee and apple cake. Marin, Lenuta and the children joined us for lunch and we left for Sibiu soon afterwards. It was a most incredible experience that has made me question all my gripes and put life and all that I have into some kind of perspective. I've already used the word 'humble', but I'll use it again, for spending time with Flori's parents has indeed enforced this feeling. Brave, courageous people, determined to make a go of things however hard they may be. I admire them more than words can possibly express, and when they said that I must visit again, I promised to do so and meant it from the bottom of my heart.
We had a fabulous 'casse croute' of fried eggs and chips (my favourite Brit dish!). Ilie came by and then we left for our evening of jazz at another venue, the Atrium in the old town, not far from the Imperium Club. The rain continued to fall but didn't dampen our enthusiasm in the least. Starting first at the Café del Sol, we moved on. The Atrium was the most surprising place I've ever been to. Our table was up on a kind of a balcony overlooking the rest of the club, directly above the piano. Behind us a door lead on to a corridor where an exhibition of posters was in progress. Off the corridor were two rooms with comfy chairs and tables presumably for clients who weren't interested in the music. The main wall of the club was taken up by a slide show of excellent photographs of the first tramline in Europe - here in Sibiu!
Around the bar itself were two men who looked just like spies. One, British looking, a tattered kind of James Bond was drinking his beer, while his mate surveilled the room with roaming eyes, glaring at people sitting at the tables around him. We joked about them quite a bit, but perhaps in retrospection, it may not have been that funny after all, given the history of Roumania.
The jazz was fabulous - piano and double bass. They played tango, French jazz Piaf style, Gershwin, Porter, Ragtime...really excellent. Once again, we were joined by Mia and Ioana, and a little later by two friends of Ioana who arrived just as we'd decided to get the bill and leave as we were hungry. Flori and Gaby nipped to the local Tratoria (which was in fact closed) - the chef was quite happy to knock out three pizzas for his late-coming clients (how different from Bucharest where the motto really is 'nu sâ poarte'), which they brought back to the Atrium and balanced on top of the soft drinks fridge until we were ready to leave.
It was a bit of a wrench leaving the great music, the fat pianist (heavens knows how he reached the keys) and the good atmosphere, but we were tired and hungry for our balancing pizzas.
This morning, we were up later than usual. We packed, Gaby washed the car and stuffed it full to bursting point and we were on the road to Bucharest around 14h. The views leaving Sibiu of the Fagaras mountain range were absolutely breath-taking, and continued to be so as far as Pitesti. How hard to leave the fresh air, the peace and tranquility...and yet, I need the capital city and its buzz and vibrance. The country is wonderful for a break. I couldn't ever live there. I miss Bucharest, I miss Lucia and George. It's been the most marvellous weekend and I'm ever-grateful to Flori and Gaby for putting up with me, and to Ilie and Flori's parents for their endless, boundless hospitality. It's so touching, so endlessly surprising and makes me very emotional.
I was delivered directly to my door, and presented with the biggest jar of castraveti I've ever seen. It'll take me ages to get through them all and they're huuuuuge! They came from Flori's mum - thank you! Thank you!
Back at the cave, I wanted to hug it. I won't complain about the leaky shower and the shortage of hot water ever again! Rosie rushed straight to bed and promptly fell asleep. She's been extraordinarily perfect in every way, I must say I'm amazed. She put up with children petting her, car rides agogo, aggressive guard dogs of all descriptions and change after change, but remained quiet and lovely as ever. What an incredible little thing she is. I'm very proud of her.
The week to come is holiday for me. Lidia and Mariana aren't free, so I'll stay here in Bucharest. The weekend in Sibiu has been so marvellous, so full and so rich in emotions that it feels like I've been gone a week, so I don't mind. Tomorrow, I'll meet Aura for lunch near her office at Republica, Thursday I'll see Flori for a Sibiu party and hair colour session, Friday Jacques Salomé will be in Bucharest so I'll go see him with Aura, and at some point I'll have coffee with Yvette's cousins (Alex's parents). Somewhere amongst all this coming and going, Rosie needs to go to the vet for a manicure and I've missed Lucia and George very much so hope to see them before the weeks out if possible. And the girls, too.
Have a wonderful week and please...count your blessings. When you turn the tap on to fill your kettle, think about it. When you go sleepily to your bathroom every morning, think about that, too. And when you take your bath or shower, sing for joy - not everyone can do so. It was a shock. I knew it existed, but seeing such lackings at such close quarters was like whip-lash. I'll try so hard to complain less and be grateful more. This is perhaps what living here has taught me, though I must admit, it's hard not to moan and be damn happy with what you've got.
Love Sarah xox
End of term has arrived! Tests completed, results given (all my students passed), certificates distributed. My last class ended early and so we went to the Trafalgar for a celebratory drink. They are a nice
bunch and I hope I'll be able to keep them all next term. I did ask to have a bit of continuity, ie. keep a class or two for the next module. Maybe this time it'll be possible. I always hate letting them go, handing them over to someone else even though all my collegues are great. I just get quite maternal about their progress, just as I've always done, and keeping going for another 12 weeks with the same class would be a pleasure (for me at least!). In ten years of teaching, it's always been the same.
I realised around 19h30 that I'd better run to give Rosie a walk to avoid Lake Geneva or a dog with cystitis before meeting Ruth on the corner of the road. Another party was in view from 20h30 at the afore-mentioned Trafalgar Pub, this time, for BC staff. It's the scond one for me in as many weeks! It was a hilarious evening and made even nicer by the fact that Ioana, MIhaela and Corina were with us, too. It's rare that the office staff come out for a drink with the teachers and the atmosphere was quite riotous, everyone evidently so glad that term was over, with perhaps the excêption of Ruth who says she loves it so much she misses it. I love teaching too but couldn't go that far. The next week off is a real welcome break. I couldn't have continued much longer. My brain needs recharging, my back's killing me and I haven't felt terribly sociable these last few days, a kind of 'coup des blues' - a sure sign that I need a pause in the busy routine.
So, there we were Steve, Penny, Martin, Phil, Dan and me, plus Sarah, Ruth, Joe and Mark (or is it Mike?!) the assistant director whom I don't remember having ever met. I whispered to Steve "who's that bloke?' and he just fell about! Apparently, I've been introduced to him once, Ruth said, back in September, but I've not seen him since. Oof. Lucky I didn't go up to him, stick my hand out and proffer "I'm Sarah...and you are...?" That would've been an oops for the record! Anyway, a good guffaw was had by all on the subjects of men, marriage, films, music...very good afternoon and evening. Calculating it, I've actually spent 5 hours in that pub today!!!
It's only Wednesday but it feels like the week is at an end already. Tomorrow, I have the cave to clean and the washing to do. There's plenty to prepare for the trip to Sibiu on Friday. Rosie must pack her suitcase and of course, a good walk is in order, especially since Ruth asked this evening if there was any chance she was pregnant (Rosie, not Ruth). I know she's got chubs, but she doesn't eat much and gets good long trots. I don't know what else to do, really. I hope she'll have nice long runs while we're away. With Lucia and George hard at work, the girls busy in their various endeavours, Aura in Istanbul and everyone else busy, it looks like it'll be just me and Rosie.
Love to you all,
Sarah and Rosie the Fat Posie xox
You've had most of the update already so what else to tell you? Well, I spent a hectic week at BC with tests, marking and computing everything...the final week is yet to come. I have a meeting with Sarah tomorrow to discuss the date for the end of my contract. Mid-July or 2nd September? I'll do one summer school as I don't want to be broke in August, but not both. I'd like my final two or three weeks here in Roumania to be put to good use - ie. crying and lamenting a lot, moping, cleaning this place, settling Rosie into her new home and packing in preparation for my unavoidable return to Paris. I'd also like to get to see Mariana in Sighet with Aura, as we have planned, and visit Iasi and Oradea at some point. I promised I'd visit Simona and Tudor when I saw them at Christmas and must keep my word. And what about Istanbul with Lidia? We discuss it every time we're together - when are we going to actually do it?! We really must! Heeelp! Not enough time. It's moving too fast.... I can't bear it.
Thursday early afternoon coffee with Aura and Aylin in the Garden Café at Icoanei - how lovely to see them. They are off to Istanbul tomorrow, and I shall miss them. With me leaving for Sibiu on Friday, I won't see them for a good ten days. I hope they're able to relax whilst away, Aylin from her hefty pile of school books and Aura from life in general. I'm such an idiot. I had my camera with me but completely forgot to take any pix - you haven't even seen Aylin yet. She looks just like Aura - a mini version. An Aurette!
The same evening, Aless met me from BC and came back to the cave for a long chat. I'm a dreadful hostess. Didn't have any food in and so we drank rather than ate! Good to see her, as ever, and thank heavens she'd already eaten and didn't need any sustenance! Fancy having a Romanian in your home and not feeding them. It must be one of the seven deadly sins!
Friday, I had a very exciting sms from Flori. Would Aura and I like to go and see John McLaughlin at Sala Palatului in May? Who? I know...what ignorance. I hastened to Youtubes for some serious education and found a genius. Bravo Flori! You've done it again! The guy is amaaaaazing! He's the most faaaaaabulous guitarist - jazz and flamenco. I have to admit to preferring the flamenco by far, especially when he's playing with the likes of Paco di Lucia (who I can't pass up for neither love nor money) and Al Dimeolo. Here's a little preview for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cadbYIzhqQ. This is Mediterranean Sun Dance and is just out of this world. So will we go? Of course we'll bloody go! I think Alina is organising the ticket purchasing this time, though we have time between now and 15th May. All I hope is that my new timetable at BC won't bugger that up. 15th May falls on a Monday. The concert starts at 19h30. I do hope I can get there, and I do hope it's flamenco rather than jazz. Cross fingers on both counts!
Yesterday was a quality day with Rosie plus domesticity (not that you'd notice!). I had to go in to BC as I had my test results to input on the system. I've got the hang of the programme now and did the lot in an hour, though I needed Penny's help for a refresher course! I then dashed round the supermarket, quite appalled by the emptiness of my fridge which was devoid of anything edible whatsoever (evident last night with nothing to offer Aless). The weather is decidedly changeable and damp and my back is very stiff and uncomfortable, so I couldn't carry much back from the supermarket. Will have to do it in easy stages until it limbers up a bit again.
Rosie and I hoofed around the parks until I couldn't stay vertical anymore. With the Nato summit preparations at their peak, the roads around Icoanei and Dacia are almost deserted. It's like being in another city. I've never seen Bucharest so quiet, the roads so clear, the pavements minus parked cars, so many police clad in illuminous yellow coats and street cleaners in their hundreds. It was a beautiful day, blue sky, sunshine with a nice breeze, and a few hours walking round little leafy squares and our usual parks was good for the soul. Rosie charmed and flirted as always, and anyone who stopped to pet her was met with her most condescending expression which translates roughly as, 'yes I know I'm pretty. And?'
Housework was called for dramatically back at the cave and although I couldn't manage to hoover or sweep due to an incapacity to bend (poor old wreck!), I could dust, and dust I did until I could see my face on all surfaces and the place smelled 'like a whore's handbag' (one of Granny Marion's gems!).
Today I had lunch with Diana (she works at the BC in the library and is also rushed off her feet with the placement testing and registration) who is planning to go to London some time soon. Mad panic when I woke up leisurely at what I thought was 9h30 with plenty of time on my hands for hairwash and manicure and then realising, having turned the TV on for the news, that it was in fact an hour later. Of course, the clocks went forward at 3am last night... Damn! As if it's not hard enough surfacing in the mornings as it is! Fortunately, Diana had forgotten, too, so we were both as rushed as each other.
We found loads of jobs on internet for Romanian speaking positions in the UK. We were gobsmacked. I'll have to send a copy of all the addresses to Gaby, too. They aren't in the same sectors of competence and experience, so there'll be no handbags at dawn! Diana is planning to be there in the summer and is giving herself plenty of preparation time. It was good to have the time with her. We've always got along very well at BC and so to see her outside of those four walls was a real pleasure. She's a very bright, efficient and determined person who lives for 'missions' just like me. I'm sure she'll get to where she feels she needs to be, and sooner rather than later. I rage and rant at how difficult it is for Romanians to find work in the UK when they are so able and so qualified. When I think of Gaby's struggle to find employment and now Diana's, it just makes my blood boil.
This evening, I met Lucia and George for a fabulous dinner in celebration of George's birthday, which is in fact tomorrow. So, he'll have two, unofficial and official. That means a choral awakening tomorrow! We went to Casa Jienilor up near them so he could have a large glass of wine. Very good food as ever - it's really one of our favourite restaurants in Bucharest and never fails to impress us with polite and charming staff, extensive menu and excellent traditional cooking. We were upstairs this time, a first for us -great big windows with a nice view of the city by night. I tried to hold on to the moment because I hated letting them go. I feel so completely 'right' with them, as if I've known them my whole life, and indeed it must be so in some strange, parallel way. It's too déjà vu.
They were in good form, particularly Lucia after a martini and a glass of very good plonk. Silly photo session, some serious conversation and some bordering on the utterly ridiculous, all of which I loved more than they could have imagined. The gorgeous necklace they gave me for Martisor had its first airing this evening in honour of The Birthday and was much admired. I'm so glad because I feel like a princess wearing it. It's much too good for me and should be worn by someone who exudes elegance and chic. It's a real Audrey Hepburn piece and would have looked magical on her in 'Breakfast At Tiff's'. Eventually, feeling full to bursting and more than a little squiffy, we negotiated the staircase, landed without fatalities and they walked me down Mosilor until George couldn't go any further. I turned and watched them cross the road, waiting until they were out of sight.
And now, here I am, home again, ready and energised for the week to come, despite the lost hour. Rosie is snoring cutely on my bed and I guess I should be joining her as it's gone 1am. Another seven days of busyness ahead. Tomorrow I must get my train ticket for the Sibiu trip where I shall stay with Flori and her Gaby at Flori's brother's and visit her adorable Mum. She has a jazz night planned at the Imperial for Friday night, I believe an sounded very excited about it. I must pop in to Ateneul as well as the National Theatre ticket office. I'm determined to get seats for Asteptând La Arlechin by Noel Coward - a real comedy. Not one that professes to being a comedy but makes you cry with pathos! Apart from that, 1A class must have their tests, my other victims their final classes and the off-site assessments must be done, all by Wednesday. Rosie must absolutely have her manicure at the vets, too. Puff! Pant!
Love to you all. Have a good week.
Sarah and Rosie the Fat Posie xox
Just read this on BBC News...
Romania caught short in loo row
Parliamentary official Mihai Unghianu says Nato has complained that there are not enough lavatories at the venue.
Nato is said to have asked the government to install 1,000 temporary toilets - one for every five delegates, each costing $9,500 (£4,700) a week.
Nato has not publicly commented on the issue. Key talks on its Afghanistan mission are expected at the summit.
It will take place at the vast parliamentary palace in Bucharest, built for the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, but now the site for both houses of parliament.
The palace is among the largest buildings in the world, and although it has more than 1,000 halls and rooms, and 4,500 chandeliers, it appears to be short on some of the bare essentials.
The dispute emerged after minutes from a parliamentary committee meeting were leaked.
According to these, in the meeting Mr Unghianu reported that after Nato officials had asked him for the plans of the building, they said they were displeased with both the number and quality of the toilet facilities.
Nato suggested the installation of temporary toilets, but Bucharest objected that they did not have the money to fit them, and that they might upset the aesthetic appeal of what some consider to be an architectural jewel of a building.
The palace's architect, Anca Petrescu, has called the request for extra temporary facilities humiliating.
She told Romania's Adevarul newspaper that all the toilets would be working during the summit, and suggested that someone with portable toilets for hire was trying to make money at the taxpayers' expense.
After you've learned to walk,
Tell one thing from another,
Your first care as a child
Is to get used to your name.
What is it?
They keep asking you.
You hesitate, stammer,
And when you start to give a fluent answer
Your name's no longer a problem.
When you start to forget your name,
It's very serious.
But don't despair,
An interval will set in.
And soon after your death,
When the mist rises from your eyes,
And you begin to find your way
In the everlasting darkness,
Your first care (long forgotten,
Long since buried with you)
Is to get used to your name.
You're called--just as arbitrarily--
Dandelion, cowslip, cornel,
Blackbird, chaffinch, turtle dove,
Costmary, zephyr--or all these together.
And when you nod, to show you've got it,
Everything's all right:
The earth, almost round, may spin
Like a top among stars.
translated by Gabriela Dragnea, Stuart Friebert, & Adriana Varga
Photos taken in Pallady's garden with Mihai last summer.
Why Bucharest for the 2008 Nato Summit??? I just hope it will bring something profitable to this, the dear country of my heart.
Interviewing for placement testing at BC today, I asked every potential student what they thought about the forthcoming event. The majority lifted their eyes heavenwards and groaned, adding that they planned to leave Bucharest at the weekend until it was over. One, however, was very excited about it. She said that it would put Roumania on the map at last as a country to be respected by all the world, and would bring economic profit. I do hope she's right, for this country deserves that so much. Global respect and economic improvements for everyone, starting at the bottom of the ladder, working upwards. Perhaps all the tree and flower planting, turf laying, the painting of everything along the 'corridor', as it's called for those in the 'cortège' to admire, the clearing of cars parked on pavements - perhaps it will make a difference and for once, Bucharest will be seen for what it is in my eyes: a marvellous city of energy, potential and history, a myriad of old and new, albeit rather tattered in places. But what's history without a few frays around the edges and the evidence of hard times that need to be remembered in order for wounds to heal? I cross my fingers, say a prayer and hug Roumania in hypothetical arms as always.
It's strange to be Easter Day and yet not Easter Day. An Un-Easter Day! I am of course a minority here, being non-Orthodox, and have been very touched by all the phone calls, e-mails and sms's from friends here who have remembered.
I had a pre-Easter evening with Lucia and George last night. We met in front of the Bulandra theatre opposite Icoanei Park for a Chekov play, 'Mascariciul' - The Jester. It was very funny, but sad, too, all about how terribly hard life is for actors. There were two, played by Malaele and Urs (brilliant), very poor and so hungry they had to make believe their dinner, cigars and champagne. They mimed superbly, made us cry with laughter as they acted out hilarious scenes from Shakespeare: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliette, King Lear...; a lesson in acting was particularly side-splitting. I couldn't believe it was really Chekhov, as it had nothing whatsoever to do with the usual 'Uncle Vanya', 'Cherry Orchard', 'Three Sisters', 'Lap Dog' styles of melancholia and despair. But indeed, sad it was. These two actors playing actors were simply sensational. I wasn't really in the mood to start with, sure it being Chekhov I wouldn't understand a word. My mind was elsewhere anyhow, but George helped with some necessary translating and as I got into it, my understanding improved. I was sorry when it was over. Standing ovation, of course - the audience loved it, and rightly so. Malaele is one of Lucia's favourite actors, and easy to see why. Really superb. He's a director too as well as an artist.
Afterwards, we drove around for a little while trying to decide where to go for a bite. Aura's Lebanese place '4 Seasons' was full. Lucia remembered an Italian place, 'Maccharoni', not too far away. Good choice! A lovely old house, renovated and now a restaurant. Food excellent, service very friendly and even amusing, and, most importantly for Lucia, it was quiet. My carbonara was excellent, Lucia's pancakes of spinach and ricotta smelled gorgeous and George enjoyed his fish. As for the tiramisu...say no more! Go and try it for yourselves! A déééééééééééééééééélice! Fruits of the forest, and fabulous. Such a wonderful evening, so good to see them, spend time with them, talk as we always do about everything, everything, everything. Wise souls, thoughtful and nearly always right, full of good advice.
Got home to find Rosie had eaten a bunch of daffodils and a dvd....
Today, Easter Day, I woke up late - too late for the Easter service at the Anglican Church, and sat around doing useless things for an hour until Lucia phoned. Rosie was out playing with Kitzu and helping Mr Viagra wash the courtyard with some ideas of her own. Three coffees later, we were wandering around the Ateneum looking for a concert or two. Anything. I wanted to do something nice for my Easter Day. But there was nothing. Enescu and Sibelius played by the European Youth Orchestra by invitation only (not very democratic), a concert of contemporary music including composers like Xenakis and Lopez Lopez (yes, written twice on purpose). At the opera was a show called 'Red and Black' that didn't really appeal to me. So, we kept walking and ended up at Hotel Carpets to see Mura who hasn't been well lately. We sat on the sofa in the 'salon' with coffee and giggled at the silly clients (shorts, hairy legs, socks and sandals...oh dear!) and dreaming about 'if only'... She finally has tickets to see Fernandez, the love of her life, in concert in Spain. She leaves mid-April for two weeks and is absolutely dying to go. Florin called by the hotel yesterday. Poor thing had his driving license taken away for a month. The story goes that three cars in front of him didn't stop to let an old lady cross the road, but he stopped as the light was red and the horrid policeman took his fury out on him. So, wheel-less for a month. Lovely to see my Mura. It's been ages and ages. Each time I go in there, she's on leave and Irina says 'try next weekend'. This time, I got it right. Petrica was there, kind as ever. I think Rosie is in love with him.
We walked back via Cismigiu. The blossom is quite spectacular. Spring has arrived at last. We did a bit of a detour so we could walk through as much green stuff as possible - Cismigiu, the gardens in front of Cretelescu Church (English bookshop open Sundays! Off the planet re: prices though), the small park in front of Ateneul even though dogs aren't allowed (Rosie is an exotic cat so that doesn't apply to her), Icoanei where we met the nice lady with the hysterical giant poodle again and finally the park opposite the French Institute. Magnolia, forsythia, pompom bushes, crocuses...no daffodils, but never mind. Lovely. Sunshine and blue sky. Finally, a perfect Easter Day.
Tonight, Rosie and I will settle in front of the tv and watch Morse where we'll see plenty of daffs in the gardens of Oxford, and then some dvd's I borrowed from the BC library. I've a Poirot, the first series of Doc Martin (don't know it) and a historical doc on the Gunpowder Plot. So, we'll be busy. Another weekend gone, and another week to begin... What will this one have in store, I wonder.
Love to you all, and Happy Easter Monday.