Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Having been away for the last week, I have deliberately NOT looked up BBC.Co.UK. Unfortunately, I had to watch the news last night and this morning and I have immediately fallen into a complete depression. It must be psychological that after ignoring it all for a week, one forgets how dreadful things are and the reality drives one to despair once more.
Mind you, Andy Murray made it through last night, so that's something I suppose. His first set was truly appalling, and made me think that Jonah Brown had wished him luck. I'm physically incapable of watching tennis matches - every time one of the players hits the ball into the net I have a rush of illogical anger. Mrs. Lear spent all last night glued to the spectacle, so I just had to make do with the computer. Now I can see the point of iplayer....

Monday, June 29, 2009

Around Europe with no clothes...

I apologise for the lack of recent posts.
I have been away without any luggage for a week.
What happened was that at 06:30 on last Monday morning I left my suitcase on Glasgow station. The police when I phoned them were very nice about it, and delivered it home by 07:30. At least they didn't blow it up.
As I was picking up a car in Geneva, I was able to get into France en route elsewhere, and Carrefour provided me with knickers, a couple of shirts, a pair of trousers and some socks. Razor, toothbrush & paste, and deodorant had been acquired at Liverpool airport. Why Liverpool? Because the Easyjet flight was only £29.
I thoroughly enjoyed my luggage-less week. It was made all the more attractive when, on getting on the train back to Glasgow today, there were no seats and nowhere to put anything as it appeared the contents of the Glastonbury Festival had decided to take my train north, complete with tents, dogs, umbrellas and welly boots.
And the train was only 2 hours late as well....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

O'Malleys Nails

The one thing that came out of the wedding yesterday that was mildly amusing was the following story. If you are easily embarrassed,look away now.
O'Malley was a great maker of nails in Ireland, and the culmination of his art was the O'Malley 10 inch special ( that's 25 cms in case you don't know).
O'Malley reckoned it was a world beater, and decided to go all out with an advertising campaign.
The ad agency was chosen ( as these things in Ireland are over a pint or two of Guinness) and on the appointed day O'Malley was ushered into the screening room at the agency. Once he had a pint in his hand ( as did everyone else) the ad rolled.
A barren landscape unrolls, and the word " GOLGOTHA" fades in and then out. A Roman centurion is seen hammering nails, and the voice over says " He'll not get away, because I'm using O'Malley's 10 inch specials" and the tag line comes up. "O'Malley's make sure they can't get loose"
" JESUS H.CHRIST" shouts O'Malley, spilling his drink as he jumps to his feet." Are yez totally stupid? This'll get me excommunicated. Get that destroyed and go away and come back with something I can use in 24 hours."
24 hours later he filed back into the room, and even refused a drink ( it was that serious).
The clip rolled - same scene, same fade in and out. But in the distance there was a hairy chap running away for all he was worth, with blood streaming from his hands and feet.
And the voiceover said:
" Ah, to be sure, that wouldn't have happened if yer man had been using O'Malley's 10 inch specials...."
And the tag line came up: " With O'Malley's they don't get loose"

A busy day

Yesterday was a really busy day, what with the talk for the Gurkha Welfare Trust to the Royal British Legion Women's section, and then the wedding of the year in Ayrshire.
The talk was most enthusiastically welcomed, and, as ever, the ladies were charm itself, even if some of them were definitely in the battle-axe category. Whenever I look at somewhat older Scottish ladies, I am reminded of the story of the women who said their men would not be getting any sex until they had vanquished the foe. Mind you, in Scotland,that might in some cases lead to a reaction of downing weapons and breathing a sigh of relief...
And talking of relief, what's this about no longer teaching " I after E except after C" because the rule is so often broken. It may be but not with words we use every day, like friend, relief and receipt.
The wedding, of course, went on far too long as they all do nowadays. What happened to the wedding, champers, cake and tea, Bride and Groom leave at 6 sharp, and the guests are home in time for Casualty? What's all this standing and sitting about waiting for thinks to happen? My other bete noire are the speeches. No one nowadays as far as I can make out has to read a lesson or make a speech, or read out loud in class,so they can't be heard ( even with microphones) and the speeches themselves are too long, bad and embarrassing.
I've long said if anyone ever asks to marry any of the Ms Lears, they will be made to give their wedding speech first, as will the best man. It's things like this that make me think no one will ever bother to ask - they'll just do it if they want to.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dinosaur's no longer count

I know I'm an old dinosaur who believes in being nice to strangers and helpful when required, but two incidents today have resolved me never to be so again.
The first was a lady driver trying to squeeze between 2 cars, and just about to take not only her own wing mirror, but the parked car's one as well.
Holding my hand up to stop her, I carefully pushed both wing mirrors flat, and waved her on with a smile. As she accelerated away she shouted abuse and flicked a V-sign.
The second one was even worse in my view. Whilst collecting something for lunch, there was a mother and young girl having a soft drink. The mother had a beer mat, and the wee one wanted one too. The mother wouldn't let her have hers ( what kind of a mother is that I ask you?) so I picked one off another table and handed it to the wee girl.
Whereupon the mother told me in no uncertain terms that I was clearly a paedophile and shouldn't be allowed out.
What have we come to?

Hurricane Senga

Hurricane 'Senga' hit the Maryhill District of Glasgow in the early hours of yesterday morning. Victims were seen wandering round aimlessly muttering "Pure mental, man no?"
The hurricane decimated the area causing approximately £9,000 worth of improvements. Several priceless collections of mementos from Majorca and Seville were damaged beyond repair. Three historically important areas of burnt out cars were disturbed.
Many locals were woken well before their Giros arrived the next morning. Police state that incidences of looting,muggings and car crime were particularly high during the night, but calmed down when the hurricane struck.
Forty-two asylum seekers were rescued from an apartment in Elmbank Street,rescuers are going to search the second bedroom later today.Radio Clyde has reported that hundreds of residents were confused and bewildered and were still trying to come to terms with the fact that something interesting had happened in Maryhill .
One resident, Bernadette O'Reilly, a 15 year old mother of 5 said "It gied me a pure fright so's it did. My little Chardonnay-Mercedes came running into ma bedroom greetin'. My youngest two, Tyler-Morgan and Natasha-Jordan-Jade slept through it all. Ah wiz still pure shaking when I was watching Trisha the next morning, so ah wiz". Neighbour Joseph 'young-young' McGurn said "The noise wiz tremendous. At first ah thoat it wiz the young team coming oot of The Bugle Bar, but it wiz even worser."
The British Red Cross has so far managed to ship 4,000 crates of Bon AccordPola Cola and two tons of Cheese Toasties to the area to help strickenlocals.Rescue workers are still searching the rubble and have found quantitiesof personal belongings including Benefit books and bone china fromPoundstretchers.Residents in neighbouring Ruchill offered to accommodate those left homeless, but the Maryhill people decided they were better off where theywere.
A Council spokesman has indicated that it would take take at least a full morning to get things looking like normal and added "There has been a pureBlitz spirit, everybody's been pure blitzed".Poundstretcher has agreed to stay open 24 hours to allow residents to refurbish their homes.The Government has pledged to ensure that bookies, pubs, chip shops and other essential services will reopen as soon as possible.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?This Appeal is to raise money for food and clothing parcels for those unfortunate enough to be caught up in this disaster.Clothing most sought after includes - Fila or Burberry baseball caps,Hoodies, Kappa tracksuit tops (his and hers), Shell suits (female), white sport socks, Rockport boots or Adidas trainers. Food parcels are alsourgently required. Please try to include - Microwave chips, Greggs Pies,Sugar Puffs, Tins of spaghetti, Gypsy Creams, Curly-Wurlies, Red Cola, cans of Special Brew and Diamond White, bottles of Buckie or El Dorado , glue orhairspray.Just 22p buys a biro for filling in the compensation forms. £2 buys chips,crisps and Irn-Bru for a family of nine. £3 will pay for a pouch of tobacco, papers and a lighter to calm the nerves of those affected.
*Breaking News*Rescue workers have found a 10-year-old girl in the rubble. Apparently she was smothered in raspberry Alco- pop. When asked where she was bleeding from she replied "Craigmont Avenue , whit's it got to dae wi' you ya fudd?"


Anyone outwith Scotland will almost certainly not have heard of Livingston Football Club - Livi to its fans.
So you probably won't have heard that it is amongst good company in being broke - practically all football clubs are, even the most succesful, and tend to be kept alive by rich men ( Abramovich springs to mind). Normally sane business men go weak at the knees and throw all common sense out the window where " their team" is concerned.
So it was with some amusement that I noted that Scottish Power had pulled the plug on Livingstone - they cut off their electricity supply.
Livingston does have a fairy godfather in the shape of a chap called Mussone, who says he has already put £2million into the club ( why anyone would do that is beyond me). Now he says he wants the fans to share the pain and has made an appeal for funds.
The Livingston fans have dug deep.... and come up with £149.50.
It's the 50p that I adore.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gurkha motion in Scottish Parliament

This is the motion as proposed by Jim Tolson, Dunfermline West.
"That the Parliament welcomes the victory for the rights of Gurkha soldiers achieved in the Commons defeat on 29 April 2009 when MPs voted by 267 to 246 for a Liberal Democrat motion offering all Gurkhas equal right of residence in Britain; believes that this is a historic victory for the Gurkhas who have served the United Kingdom so bravely; notes the widespread opposition to the UK Government’s proposed guidelines, which are considered to permit only a small minority of Gurkhas and their families to settle while preventing the vast majority to do so; believes that the UK Government’s decision fails to recognise the long history of dedicated service by Gurkha soldiers; welcomes the support for justice for the Gurkha soldiers by former Gurkha officer, Major Bill MacKay of Dunfermline; commends the 70 years of continuous service given by Sergeant Sunar Gurung, who served with Major MacKay, and Sergeant Gurung’s six sons who all served with the Gurkha regiment, and believes that such service should be recognised. "

This is an email from Director, Gurkha Welfare Trust, in respect of the motion being debated today in the Scottish Parliament in connection with Gurkhas, and is addressed to Alison Tolson.

"Dear Alison
Thank you for your interest in the Trust and letting us know about Mr Tolson's motion.

As I explained, the Trust is a non political organisation and we avoid becoming involved in any debate concerning matters of HMG policy. Furthermore, many of the issues championed by Miss Lumley, and in turn referred to by Mr Tolson's motion are outside the remit of the Trust.

However, I really welcome the opportunity to bring the work of the Trust to your attention and appreciate your undertaking to raise awareness of our endeavours . To assist with this:

1. I attach a brief one pager on the Trust. You will see that our core activity is the provision of a monthly welfare pension of some £29 to 10,000 Gurkha soldiers and widows who did not serve the 15 years' to earn an Army pension. For many, this is their only source of income and all that stands between them and destitution. Last year we spent £4.4 million on this activity.

2. Also attached are two previous editions of our newsletter, Samachara. You will see on page four of both editions, the feats of Scottish men and women figure large. The newsletters will also give a feel for the Trust's response to the recent debate on Gurkha immigration.

3. You note correctly that Gurkha Highlander is one of the Trust's most successful fundraising events. Last year's walk was lead by John Archibald (ex Queen's Gurkha Engineers) and previously for a number of years by Neil Griffiths.

4. The Trust is reviewing its response to welfare for UK Gurkha in light of HMG's relaxation of immigration requirements and a likely increase in UK based Gurkhas seeking welfare support . The Trust is in close consultation on this issue with Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas and other service charities and will announce a response shortly. Currently, we work in partnership with the Army Benevolent Fund and Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas. in recognition of the work the ABF does for UK Gurkhas, the GWT provides an annual grant to the ABF. This broadly covers the costs ABF incurs helping UK Gurkhas.

5. The response of the British public in general and the Scottish public in particular for the Trust is overwhelming. Our Scottish branch is an active member of the Regional Branch network and offers sterling support for the Trust, both financially and in terms of raising awareness of the Gurkha soldier. Last year, the British public donated £7.5 million to support the work of the Trust.

6. The Trust also enjoys the support of MOD who provide grant in aid funding for our field operations. This funding covers the lion's share of our infrastructure and admin costs in Nepal.

7. DFID provided £994k to support clean water and sanitation projects in the Hills.

8. As we discussed, we note the huge groundswell of support for the Gurkha solider and Joann Lumley's campaign. However, the Trust is mindful that this good news may mean people lose sight of the plight of our welfare pensioners who will rely on the Trust for the remainder of their lives. Our mission is therefore as vital as ever. Any help you can providing in raising awareness of the ongoing plight of our welfare pensioners would be gratefully received.
Yours sincerely

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yes we can.

Mrs.Lear - who is fast approaching the end of the first year of her Eco-land management degree ( or whatever it is) and in about 2nd place in the class - is away on a field trip of sorts today, so I have the Dog with me.
Nothing very extraordinary in that you might say - but I have to tell you having him with me has a very positive effect on people.
A miserable electrician actually did what he was asked. A timber company actually said they would deliver when I wanted it ( after having to be forced not to give the dog sweeties). A parking attendant let me off when I said I had to let him out the car to spend a penny.
I related all this to middle Ms. Lear.
" Dog and me," I said," can get things done. Yes we can."
" Ah Dad," she said " Which one of you is Bob the Builder? Clearly the Dog is better at DIY than yourself."
That's her out the will then.....

Don't hold your breath...

I'm glad someone has finally said it isn't as good as you think. Perhaps around the bars in Westminster things are looking better as the Summer Season gets going, but here in the real world things are anything BUT rosey. I can't get the graphs to come across, but if you have a look at the article, they are all there to be seen.
In essence, things are just as bad, if not worse, than in 1929. The only difference is the interest rate regime and the monetary response ( although one of the graphs worryingly points out that monetary growth continued for some considerable time after 1929)
More importantly, what's happening on the ground?
We landlords are always the first to feel the pinch and last to come out of recession. If you are a manufacturer, you give what little money you have to your suppliers - landlords come last. A landlord will always do a deal to keep you in the property as otherwise he has to pay the rates and the upkeep, so even NO rent is better than NO tenant.
A stark example is one of our tenants who until November was talking of taking extra space. Admittedly his business relies on entertainment, both corporate and private, but his business has literally died. He's fired everyone apart from one YT, and is back where he started 5 years ago -but in worse shape as the bank won't even give him the overdraft it gave him then.
Another is finding that every time he makes a sale, when he delivers, the client wants "£150 off" or some such figure, and his margins are already squeezed to nothing to get the sale. And then arbitrarily an extra 30 days credit is being taken, not least by government departments.
So it ain't over yet by any means.
I stick to my forecast of some time ago that things will continue to get worse until some time around Easter 2010 - and we'll then have 18 months or so of levelling off, before ANY talk of green shoots is appropriate.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Impossible, I hear you say. Not so, says the cuckoo

You are never, ever going to believe this.
Our business electricity is on a monthly direct debit, and generally every few months someone comes to read the meter, and we get a corrected bill from Scottish Power ( SP).
Except I haven't seen a bill recently, so I phoned and said where was it.
" Your account was closed last October sir"
"Er, so why have you been taking £700 odd per month from our account?"
" Oh that won't be us sir, that's the people who took over your account ."
Now I know I'm getting old, but I also know I hadn't changed the supplier of electricity to our premises.
Some further investigation in " the database" was able to show that the account had been taken over by Scottish & Southern Electricity ( SSE) and a phone number was produced.
So I phoned them and they assured me that they could only speak to a Mr. Bloggs who was the account holder. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, I managed to get out of them that Mr.Bloggs owed them £4000 for electricity up to June 4th, but all the readings ( including, it seems the starting point one) were estimates. I gave them the current reading, which threw the poor chap into paroxysms, as the bill would have been £40,000, not £4,000. I opined that it might be a good idea to get a technician out. Yes definitely - that'll take 3 weeks...Oh, and no, we've never had any money from Mr. Bloggs, or indeed you, sir. Er, and the initial reading was an estimate sir.
Now the one bit of information that I could link to anything is that we have a tenant within our buildings whose name is Bloggs.
So I phoned him.
Yes he knew SSE. Yes he had asked them for an account on a flat he owned in Johnstone. Yes he had used his office address as a contact address. And no, he hadn't heard from them since he had asked for it.
So I called SSE back and put all the above to them.
It would appear that somehow, Scottish Power, without any signature or indeed contact from anyone, had transferred away the account to SSE - who had then done nothing to actually service it. SP closed the account and kept taking the money.
So actually, if we get the money back from SP ( Bank says no problem), we could be quids in as SSE will be unable to prove we ever asked them for an account, or even issued us with a bill. Or even took a reading...
I'm quite looking forward to this.....

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Royal Overseas League

I was giving a talk this morning on behalf of the Gurkha Welfare Trust at the ROL in Edinburgh.

After the talk, and elderly lady came up to me and stuffed some cash in my hand and opined that" It's really nice to see younger people getting involved in charity work"

I felt I should disabuse her, and mentioned I was now an OAP.

" Goodness! " She exclaimed." OAPs are getting younger every day!"

A French affaire

Before not getting my flight on Thursday, I took myself to the Bistrot du Boucher in Beauvais where I have eaten exceedingly well several times before.
As I was early, I sat outside in the sun nursing a beer the restaurant had given me.
A smartly dressed lady, at a guess in her early thirties, came towards me, and started pacing up and down, then lit a cigarette. She had a worried expression on her face. She tapped up and down for a bit on her heels, dragging on her cigarette, then angrily threw it away. The following was all in French, so forgive the rough translation.
" Monsieur, tell me, are these heels too high?"
" I'm sorry?"
" My heels - are they too high for my outfit?"
" Er no, no I don't think so...."
" This is most important for me - are you sure?"
" Yes I'm sure they are just right." She looked relieved, and as a young man came round the corner her face changed into a warm smile of welcome, followed by a lingering kiss when he reached her. He resisted, scowling.
The restaurant was by now open, and the couple went inside. I followed and was led to a table a short distance from them.
My meal was excellent ( Flan of courgette, crayfish and lobster sauce, followed by a magnificent pave de boeuf with salad, and cheese to finish, all washed down with a glass of rose, and then a glass of red) but the drama unfolding across the table opposite was riveting.
They were lovers who had had a tiff ( several over a period it would seem) and the girl was determined to get him back. He on the other hand had had enough - in fact, he had found someone else, and wanted nothing more to do with her. The look on her face was heart-rending. He said he had only agreed to meet, because he wanted her to know finally definitely and irreparably that it was over.
Whilst all this was going on, another man - at a guess 45ish, greying, receding hair, but as the French would say "soignee" - came in, sat down and the waiters rushed to provide him with a drink - he was clearly a regular. The girl glanced his way once, then ignored him. She launched into a justification of her position, how she always wanted to have his children - I did think a bit louder than was strictly necessary - how she would help him, love him, and lots of other things too.
The young man was unmoved.
He stood up.
" C'est FINI!" and walked out.
The girl promptly burst into tears and held her head in her hands.
The older gentleman had watched all that had gone before. He carefully finished his drink, then rose, and sat down opposite the girl.
He spoke very softly so I could not hear all that was said, but slowly the girl's sobs shortened, and after a few minutes she looked up, her previously perfectly made-up face now a Jackson Pollock of dribbled black lines.
A few minutes more and a little smile escaped.
The man put his hand over hers, still speaking softly.
A short while later, she got up and announced her intention to repair her " maquillage" and disappeared to the loo.
The man returned to his table and picked up his keys which had been on the table. As he passed me, I said " Well done, she was very upset."
He stopped and looked at me. He was deciding something.
" Monsieur, I have loved her for more than ten years, but I was always too old for her. She always wanted younger men, always of no worth, of no consequence. She thought tonight would be her last chance for happiness in the future. I have to tell you I would wait another ten years and another ten if necessary.
But I tell you frankly, monsieur, my whole being will be stretched to bring her the happiness in the future she hoped for tonight."

A very nice party

I finally got back to Glasgow about 20 hours late, because French Air Traffic, in the form of Beauvais and Lille, decided to go on strike about 8pm on Thursday evening.
I had the option of a 6am departure to Dublin, followed by a 10am departure to Prestwick, a refund ( all of Eur 10) or the next Glasgow flight at 14:35 on Friday - which I took.
I know it wasn't Ryanair's fault, but I still blame them. Beauvais is almost entirely Ryanair - with a bit of Wizz and Blue Air thrown in, so in a sense the French were targetting Ryanair and its practices.
Mind you, this dominance has done wonders for Beauvais. When they first flew there the town was very much dead on it's feet - rather like Charleroi - but it is now definitely booming along with its rapidly expanding Zone Industriel.
I just had time once I got home to change for the party being held at Titwood Bowling Club, which went off really well, and where I was able to meet my blogging friend Brian Boru. He lives in Biarritz with children and now grandchildren around, and seems very much to prove the point that it's handy to be near the children.
The birthday boy - President of the Gentlemen Fishers of Pollokshields - had to undergo a great deal of ribaldry, as it's only in the last year or so that they have ever caught any fish, and it seemed unlikely for long periods that anything other that a good excuse for a party would be the outcome.
No matter. What did intrigue me though was the whispered comments I got from many present.
" That man behind you in the dark shirt - he's BNP!" which was repeated steadily throughout the night. I suppose in Scotland it's unusual enough to have this effect.
Just before leaving, I siddled up to him and asked why he wasn't wearing a Black Shirt....and rapidly did a disappearing act.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

.. And another free thing....

Today finished as all days should. I got one piece of good news, I got my hair cut, and, as the 9pm church bells tolled in Sighisoara, I was sitting in the square drinking fresh ( as in just squeezed) orange juice on ice. With a huge slice to suck on.
The little church on the lower side of the square and one road down was pumping out organ music. I can only think someone was practicing for a concert.
I sat there for a while with the last of the bright sunlight having dropped below the Citadel, and thought I should go and pack as I leave tomorrow. New way home - Cluj to Beauvais, Beauvais to Prestwick. Could be interesting. Especially as the Prestwick-Budapest flight had been Eur 10 in total and each of the two tomorrow the same. Never let it be said cheap airfares are a bad thing..
Just as I was about to get up, the lady who runs the place with the fresh-orange-juice-and-the-icecream-only-made-with-real-fruits came and sat beside me.
She was holding an icecream in a cup.
" Some idiot German ordered this thinking it was vanilla. They didn't touch it, they smelled it and said they didn't want vanilla that smelled like that. You have it."
It wasn't surprising it didn't smell like vanilla.
It was banana.

Let me give you something for free....

Yesterday was really busy with all sorts of things, not least an attempt to get something to mitigate the cold I have. The Romanian equivalent of Night Nurse seemed to keep it largely at bay ( although this morning it has deteriorated into a dribbly mess. Lovely)
Much to my astonishment, the maps that needed copying were in the back of the car, so we set off very early to get them copied about 40 kms away. They are very big maps and there is only one place in the whole of Mures county that can copy maps of this size. We got a couple of extras for Vassily as his were a bit falling apart.
With the maps, we were able to plot various purchases of recent times, and see exactly where we needed to fill in and who we needed to approach. The maps were RON15 each, about GBP3, and great value as far as I am concerened. The copier, being a genuinely nice chap, also gave us several of those tubes you can post things in to keep our maps in good condition.
Most of the rest of the day was spent discussing strategies with lawyers about a situation where a family fell out about 60 years ago, and where 3 of the remaining 5 members want to sell to us. People talk of Philadelphia lawyers being wily and obtuse, but I'm quite sure Romanian lawyers run them seriously close. And of course the cost of the land is a fraction of the cost of the legal wheeling and dealing.
So this morning it was with some trepidation that we went to another lawyers office with the Topographer. He is the man who draws up the exact location, sizes and areas of every piece of land. The reason for this particular meeting was the inability of one of our next door neighbours to stop planting his corn on our land. Last year we simply told him it was OK, please don't do it again, but this year I feared we would need to make an example of him pour encourager les autres.
Romanian topographers are very accomplished people, and this particular one is one of only 5 that is allowed to present evidence in the regional land court. Although the system is that the land records have a final,all embracing record in Bucharest, what the regional courts say goes. Logically, the local topographers will have lots of local knowledge, in some cases going back several hundred years, and the regional courts take that as important.
So I was quite pleased to discover that, not only was the farmer planting on our land, but actually, because the original title had been messed up when the land was reinstated after 1990, we had an extra half acre.
Which he had also planted on.
The Topographer had produced a ten page report, complete with plans and maps, and even I, in my Scottish miserableness, could see he had not only done a superb job, he had actually done it - if not cheaply - at least at a reasonably good price.
So armed with a court order and the report, we contacted Erne the policeman, and he led us through the village with his siren blaring.
Within about half a second the whole village was looking out of windows or round corners, as we drew up outside a house.
" Mr. King I am very happy to be going into this house", said Erne. " He stole two chickens, a cock and some cheeses the other day, but we had no reason to go into his house. Now I have reason"
Erne hammered on the door and shouted, and the door was opened.
" It's a fair cop" said the miscreant ( or the equivalent in Romanian) "I only took the chickens and cock because I needed to cross-breed with mine. You can have them back now."
"And the cheese?"
" I just ran out and I needed some - but I've got some fresh now. Here"
Well that was one crime sorted. Alin nudged Erne.
" Ha yes and what about the corn?"
"Well, Mr. King was so good to us last year when we plant by mistake, I plant for him this year."
It took me two goes to understand the translation.
" He planted on our land to let us have his corn?"
"Not quite," said Alin" But I tink he is making a gift to you."
And so it proved.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Trying to make money.

Here I am back in Romania for a few days.
I flew from Prestwick to Budapest then caught the 7 o'clock train to Sighisoara. It's supposed to get in at 5am, but for some reason none of the trains have been anything less than an hour late in either direction for months.
It was a beautiful morning and Alin's smiling face, even at that time in the morning, was truly welcoming.
Although there were some odd bits of business to be done, the real reason for this particular short visit is that I personally have to sign for the EU subvention payments for our land here.
And before 15th June, which only emerged after my last visit.
We had been told that Alin could sign as my proxy/power of attorney, but in the event, no one was very sure, and rather than lose out on a handy sum I decided I'd better get back and make with the signature. And the stamp. And the endless other signatures and stamps.
Still, by about noon we were through and spent some time going over the most recent land purchases.
What is becoming clear is that we need more and more maps of different areas and different types. All these are held in the Primaria ( Town Hall) and Vassily is in charge of them. So when we presented ourselves there yesterday afternoon, Vassily looked at his watch.
" The Mayor says I have to stop work in 20 minutes"
" That's OK then."
"Not at all. You will have to come back tomorrow."
I didn't quite follow this, but Vassily dropped a huge wink to Alin and ushered us out of his office.
Needless to say the Mayor and his wife had laid on lunch for us, and, sure enough, twenty minutes later Vassily turned up.
You will know that the variety and quality of the wine I have to drink here is sometimes a bit of a trial, but yesterday the Mayor produced some white wine that was entirely a pleasure to drink.
So much so that by 6pm the only sober person was Alin - I know I'm a terrible trial to him on these occasions.
I'm sure I snored all the way back in the car, and certainly until about 3am - when I was suddenly wide awake. I hadn't checked my emails!
I didn't reply to any, only made a note of what I needed to do.
After all, it would never do to send someone complete gibberish.....

Saturday, June 06, 2009


The park this morning was lovely, if a trifle chilly. The cygnets were being coaxed towards the water for their first swim, and the cob was doing his Terminator impression.
For the first time ever, the local area Police car drove through the park. I spoke with the officers, who said as things were quiet, they were just having a look around areas they didn't normally visit. They opined all the crims had gone to Costa del Sol for their holidays.
For some reason when they were ready to move off, their blue light started flashing - I suspect the wrong button was pressed.
Anyway, the cob took instant umbrage and charged across the pond, wings flapping, screaming in anger, and physically attacked the car. The police drove off rapidly, and the cob went back to the pond.
He's a really proud and protective father.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Let that be a lesson to you.

I've spent the last few days mostly in Edinburgh on Gurkha Welfare Trust business. We are inducting a new Treasurer, and there is a lot of stuff to hand over and sign.
The person who is taking over manages to reduce the average age of the committee somewhat, which is no bad thing, and he's a thoroughly nice chap as well. I can well see us sharing a drink out of Trust time in the future.
The retiring Treasurer had had lunch with an old school chum of his. Their combined ages, about 170, show they are talking about Hawick where they come from about 80 years ago, and there was much chat of the horses and carts that delivered post,coal, goods and whatever at that time in the Scottish Borders.
I always love elderly men's tales of their school days, which invariably demonstrate some naughtiness, but other qualities as well.
Today, the two friends had been engaged in something 75 or so years ago, and had been well and truly caught by a master. Unfortunately, he was the father of one of the boys.
There were other boys involved. But not a word would these two say to implicate their other friends.
" Very well," said the master, " I know there were at least 6 of you involved, so you will each receive the punishment for 3."
In Scotland this would be the tawse across your hands - very nippy.
He singled out his son and dealt out a savage beating. He turned to the boy who would become our treasurer.
" Well John, you can tell me who else was involved and save yourself some pain".
John held his hands out.
" Or I could tell your father."
Now this was truly torture. Telling your father meant a real trashing, and was definitely not to be desired.
Now our treasurer was - and is - a wily old bird. He immediately put his hands down and said "As you wish sir".
The domine looked at him, and sighed.
" Just hold your hands out again," and gave him a couple of half-hearted swipes.
" Now let that be a lesson to you both. Someone who supports his friends through thick and thin is worthy of respect"
70 odd years later the two old friends roared with laughter at this, and there was no animosity that one had suffered more than the other.
In fact, if anything it had brought them closer together.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I'm not really supposed to let this out the bag, but you will have noticed one Ms. J.Smith has resigned along with Mr. T. Watson.
Far be it for me to mention I was in London today.....