If you'd asked me at lunchtime how the day was going I would have said dull. Five hours later I would have been doing an impression of Tom Cruise on Letterman ( I think) when asked what he felt about Katie Holmes.
The day started with the usual housekeeping - bank,lawyer, petrol station - and proceeded to the big meeting I am actually here for. I am a vice president of the association that is trying to get money from the EU for various local projects, like proper sewerage, and other civic improvements. Not enough people turned up to start with, so, Madame Elena was deputed to vote for herself and the Gypsy community. Lucian the Animator was deputed to vote for 2 other mayors who phoned in to say they would support whatever I suggested. That still meant we needed one more person ( this at a meeting where nearlty 50 people were present but only 14 had a vote ( actually only 12) and we needed one more. It was decided I should vote twice - once as myself, once as the representative of my company and oh yes, that'll be 4 votes you have with the two mayors. They then wanted me to be voted the Chancellor of the group. I refused. They voted me in anyway, with me voting 4 against. I declined and proposed another member. Immediately all the votes were cast in her favour.
That settled, we got down to the serious business. Which went on forever, as these things do, punctuated with votes about various matters. Afterwards, The Old Folks Association tapped me for a donation of Ron 100 ( about GBP20) followed by the Children's Association, The Mothers Association, the Historical Association and the Association for the Advancement of Cultural Heritage. As far as I know all of them are largely devoted to getting together and having a bloody good knees-up, but then, as someone said to me, " What you want? They are normal peoples"
When I finally got out of the hall, the local Mayor grabbed me " I have surprise!"
The principal teacher, the local police chief, the under mayor, the chief engineer, the treasurer and the man from Bucharest who is supposed to make sure the Government funds are properly spent, got into several cars and raced ( because the Mayor only has one speed) into the gathering gloom.
Into a field.
Up the hill, wheels spinning, hoots of laughter, slipping and sliding until we got to the top. We crested the ridge - and slid to a halt.
There, under the trees, was the most enormous bonfire.
Shouts, laughter, bonhommie - and they all looked at me.
Now I actually still had no idea what was going on. For all I knew I was about to become Edward Woodward in the Whicker Man ( the good one that is).
Fortunately, I spotted someone near the fire with what looked like potatoes being put into a pot.
" Fantasic - perfect! "I said. This was clearly the right thing as gales of cheers and back slapping ensued.
What was being prepared was the most delicious lamb stew I have ever tasted. It was accompanied by potatoes deep fried over the fire and polenta. It all had the most amazing smokey taste ( as you would expect) but was of such a flavour that I have never before tasted anything like it.
Chunks of bacon fat were sweated and toast was dripped onto as a starter. It may sound disgusting but the crispiness of the fat was such that it tasted more like nectar of the gods. Local wine was drunk. The fire sparked and spat. Shoulders were hugged and truths spoken. Foresters came out of the woods to join us, with their dogs, all of whom were fed too.
The chief of police was especially interesting. He gave a speech in praise of the Mayor, but suggested a new pair of boots should be paid for.
The chief engineer gave a speech where he said he wanted a new road roller. The Mayor opined the boots were OK, but the roller would have to wait a while.
As we ate, the stars came out, and the fire added to the sparkle of the night.
More wine was drunk. The food was finished, so the singing began - Christmas Carols we would have called them, but with a sweetness and pathos that our endlessly repeated songs cannot match.
I regret I had to leave - I had another meeting at 9pm 40 kms away - but not before a hug and a kiss on both cheeks from all present, gladly given back.
I said to Alin as we left " That was too good for words"
" You see, Mr. King, they are knowing how to make their lives colourfuls."