I'm back in Romania for a couple of days for the Old Folks Christmas Dinner. I'll come back to that shortly.
I came in through Budapest, having sworn I wouldn't do the train trip again. As it was the only way I could get back to to the UK before Christmas, I did it with a certain amount of ill-grace.
This time, the train left in day light so I had nearly six hours of travelling through a Dr. Zhivago-like land with brilliant sun, dashing horse-drawn sleighs , curling smoke and sparkling rivers. It was a delight and a pleasure.
I had to change in a place called Teius in Romania, which is literally in the middle of nowhere. It was about 9pm their time. The first thing I went in search of was a loo. For 20p I went to the station "superloo". On my way in I was solemnly handed two pieces of loopaper. This seems like a good idea to me - no longer reams of paper strewn all over the place and clogging up loos and urinals. And the loo was utterly spotless.
So I returned to the main part of the station - again a scene like the platform in Zhivago with people sleeping everywhere, huddled against the cold. In the waiting room, which was heated by the most enormous wood-burning fire I have ever seen, there was hardly an inch of space - to lie down, never mind sit. As I stood at the door, wondering what to do, three policemen pushed past me and started shouting and pushing their way towards a small row of seats. After a moment or two, a fourth policeman - with lots of gold braid - came up behind me, and started gesturing after his men. Gingerly, I began walking towards the seats. My suitcase was taken by the Chief of Police, and I was politely pushed into the first seat. The people who had been removed, huddled out of harms way without a murmur, and the policemen stood around.
"Multumesc" I said ( Thank you). The policeman made a simple gesture.
"Is nothing. You are genuine traveller - I can see from case"
We began to talk and it emerged that he allowed the local down and outs to sleep in the train station in the winter ( but not in the summer) - except he insisted that if a genuine traveller wanted a seat they had to shift.
After about twenty minutes it was time to catch my train so I thanked him again. The people were perfectly happy. I noticed one boot near the door. As I passed it, the Chief said to me " We have many cripples. I am helping where I can"
As ever, my time here is taken up with checking that the land we are buying is actually owned by the person trying to sell it, that he doesn't owe any taxes on it, that it is capable of registration and so on. But I came across a new one this time. A piece of land that finished one part of a jigsaw we agreed to buy for about GBP140, did not have any taxes due on it. As we were leaving the tax office, the lady in charge said, " Of course, he owes for the sheep"
Apparently, a farmer pays a small amount of tax on the land, but also a per head tax on his livestock. Normally, they pay the tax on the animals ( they, after all, are easy to seize) but not on the land - it's too much like hard work for the authorities to enforce payment. So we agreed to pay the tax and deduct from the purchase price.
But what of the title above? Well, every ( that's every as in every single one) teacher in Romania has to be able to sing and lead his/her class in Carols and the National Anthem. We were treated to what I would describe as proper Christmas Nativity plays, Carols, and traditional dancing - not PC perhaps, but most enjoyable. The children were full of enthusiasm, did it all with enormous good grace and happy smiley faces.
And what of the Old Folk's Christmas Lunch? Mrs. Lear was not pleased that I should be disappearing just before Christmas, but I explained it was political.
The Old Folks Associations comprise the largest number of voters in the villages. As a result, if you want to be elected, you need to be on their good side. And, because they are older, they own most of the land. So if you want the Town Council ( who owe their jobs to them) to support what you are doing, and you want them to sell you some land, you better be nice to the Old Folks Association.
One final observation.
When I logged into the Internet my first night here, the address bar had not been cleared from the day before.
There, in all it's glory, was the web-site for Coventry City FC.
So in Romania, Coventry has at least one fan.