Sunday, October 07, 2007

Memories of Romania

I am having a lovely time in Bucharest, not somewhere I have spent time before, courtesy of friends of ours. For free, we are staying in a 5 star hotel with hot and cold running staff, and even our own personal pimp at the door who accosts me everytime I try to cross the road. But he's very nice, and not pushy,even if a bit misguided.
We had a tour through Ceauscescu's People's Palace ( second only in size to the Pentagon, but third in cubic volume behind the Mexican Parliament) - lacks a bit in pzazz but otherwise not bad, if a little austere in an opulent sort of way.
We wandered through the old town, and various other bits, but the thing that jogged my memory was a statue to the last King of Romania, King Carol, I think.
When I was a little Lear, we stayed frequently in the Bellevue Palace Hotel in Berne. Old King Lear had business there, and we frequently accompanied him, especially if it was the skiing season.
In the bar there was an elderly man with walking sticks who was deferred to by all the staff. He was a permanent resident. His name was Charles and he lived there from about 1952 until he died in the early 70's. Because he was always there, my father, always a gregarious soul, frequently had a drink with him.
Charles was a retired agent for a bank-note printer. Most of Europe pre-WW2 had had it's notes printed in London, and Charles secured the orders and lived off the commission. Quite a nice job, but not in the multi-millionaire class.
Until the day, that is, that he met , in a resort in Italy, a stunningly attractive woman. Charles always had an eye for the ladies, and soon seduced her. The lady wailed and cried that she was undone, because her lover, the King of Romania, would no longer want her.
Now Charles, ever the practical, had never managed to sell notes to Romania. So quick as a flash, he persuaded her that there was a way to earn enough never have to sleep with the King again, and the he and she would be able to ride off into the sunset clutching huge bundles of banknotes.
The lady's name was Lupescu. She heard Charles out and readily agreed to the plan, and promptly left for Bucharest to do her bit. Within a week there was a summons to Charles to appear.
I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say that only about 90% of the notes actually destined for the National Bank of Romania ever got there ( quite apart from the commissions paid to Charles, Lupescu, probably the King etc etc) and Charles and Lupescu led perfectly happy lives for a few years. Charles being very wise had changed all the money into Swiss Francs almost the moment it landed, and so the Communist era in Romania had no effect on his wealth. The only problem was that the bank-note printers and the NBoR suspected that a lot of the money had gone astray, and Charles lost his job - not that it mattered by then.
So Charles lived out the rest of his life seducing various women that passed through Berne and and Bellevue Palace Hotel, dri9nking fine wines and eating fabulous food, and taking the odd drink with old friends.
But whenever Lupescu was mentioned, his eyes would take on a misty glow, and he would sigh gently. " What a woman! Even 10% of the entire circulating currency of Romania was not enough to keep her! She always wanted it all."

3 comments:

In Actual Fact said...

Hmmm. Was he taking in/de flation into account.....

Winchester whisperer said...

Marvellous!

Eurodog said...

Wonderful story straight out of a Le Carré novel.