An October deadline

It’s been an interesting summer here in Transylvania. The weather has been great. I have made a new video called ‘The House that Penny Built’ (Part 2). It show’s what we have been up to, why Claudia wanted to buy some Viagra in Sighetu and fellow’s Penny’s ever encroaching deadline of our first guests in October. Will she be ready in time? Click the link here watch it villa in breb maramures you need to scroll down the page a bit to see the video.

A Maramures Summer in Breb

Penny and the kids have been in Maramures for the last few weeks working on the final finishes to Casa Mica, our first villa to open. Angus and Claudia have finished school for this year and are hoping to find a new teacher for them to start in Sept ready to fly south when they all go to Siwa.

Nick, a reporter from the Daily Mail came out to spend last week with us writing a piece for the Saturday Travel section. It will be in the paper in a month or so he recons. The pics below are to go with the story. We took him to the Merry Cemetery, the Communist Museum, up the mountain to have lunch with the shepherds and spent lazy days walking around the village meeting the locals and drinking the Holinka 🙂

Three weddings and a funeral.

I was asked to cover the royal wedding for a Romanian newspaper. We arrived in London.
‘We need to meet the Cheeky girls now’ The reporter said loudly in the hotel reception ‘After, I want to see condom town’.
‘It’s Camden Town’ I said

Here they come, the bride and groom. Get ready, focus and…the crowed cheered and surged forward. The plastic bollard I was standing on bent a bit. As the carriage when by I was heading for the ground, my camera pointing to the pavement. I saw the back of Diana and Charle’s heads. No pics.

Ok, tripod set, here comes the kiss, no crowd is going to push me off my ladder and… the crowed surged, I didn’t budge. Thousands of flags waved in the air. Shit, flags, I… I can’t see anything. I missed Andrew and Sahara kissing.

God its so sad to see this, but I guess I should photograph it and…my Nikon F3 jammed and I watched, not photographed Diana’s coffin go by.

OK the plan is to find a Romanian in the crowd, get them to look at me just before the kiss so I can link the shot into a Romanian story… no chance. I decided I have the kiss of death on the subject and opted for a safe shot away from the front line crowds. I stood next to two women in Hyde Park and lined up my shot.
‘Are you official” The woman next to me asked as she looked at my camera.
‘No I am a ghost” I said and smiled ‘I am covering the event for a Romanian newspaper’
‘Really? My friend next to me is Romanian.’
Ok, I think the kiss could come in a few seconds and… ‘Ramona, please turn around and look at the camera…. now!” She did, just as William kissed Kate in the background.

On leaving for Romania we arrived at Kings Cross to get the train; there weren’t any. A bus ride later… and we missed our flight ending up having to kill 12 hours before the next one. We headed to St Albans.
It was weird to be in St Albans as a foreigner. I took the reporter to see the Abby.
‘Wow’ the reporter said to one of the park keepers as we reached the lake ‘You have ducks here, the gypsy must be very good.’
The park keeper looked confused and I hoped he would not ask.
‘What do you mean’ said the park keeper.
‘In my country, the Gypsy, they would eat the duck’.

PS, we had the front page for today ‘booked’ for an exclusive story we got whilst in London, but Laden getting binned ruled the day.

I like women, I love women: I want her!

A friend of mine come over to Bucharest last weekend. We did as we always do, and said we’d have a quite one.

Around 8.00pm we headed out to check out the London Pup, a large establishment out of town a bit that has a huge permanent sign over the door saying “Party animals welcome”. The bar fit for a rugby club.

‘Ah’ my friend said on entering it ‘ there is no one here’
I have lived abroad for 7 years now and I still suffer from the licensing law habit of the first world war and feel I need to have filled my boots by 11.00pm.

We sat at the bar and as I had an important meeting the next day, I ordered mineral water. My friend spotted a bottle of Rum above the bar and ended up ordering some sort of a cocktail in English, to a guy who spoke only Romanian. We caught up on what was happening in our lives and the time flyed by.

A young woman wearing a pair of tartan shorts that stopped a few centimetres below her perfectly shaped butt walked in and sat on a bar stool near to us.

My friend could not help but notice her ‘… and so um yeah, work is going well and..’
The woman heard us speaking and eventually asked ‘ unde este?’
‘ We are from London’ I said
It appeared to be the magic word as her reply was ‘ I cannot hear you from here, I will come and sit in between you both’.
Our conversation changed from family and work to…
‘ I like London, I want to go, I like rum’ she said, as she ordered the same drink as my friend and put it on the same bill.

I could see my friend assumed she was a prostitute looking for work, but I was not so sure: she had necked three shots in about 10 minutes of arriving in the bar and when she went to the toilet we did not get a warning signal from the bar staff to stay away. I told my friend that it is common in Bucharest: skint students will latch on to foreign guys as they are assumed to all be rich and there goal is free drinks all night and if their lucky, a wedding ring.

‘You smoke?’ The girl asked me looking like on of Dracula’s wives.
‘No’ I said.
She noticed my drink ‘ You drink?’
‘No’ I said smiling
She leaned close to me and asked ‘Are you married?’
‘Yes’ I said still smiling
She instantly shifted in her seat facing directly towards my friend and asked him the same question.
‘No’ he said.
She did not move her position and honed in. ‘ How old are you’ she said sounding like Borat’s sister.
‘ We’re 40….’ my friend said not bothering to add the word six to the end of his sentence.
‘I am 23, I medical student, I have no money, I loooooooove English man’

My friend caught my eye with a, is she for real look as they both drank their matching cocktails.

The London Pup stayed more like the Nags head in Daganem for most of the evening and so it was decided to go to Lipscani, the old centre that rocks till the early hours.
‘ I come… with you’ Alexandria said as we now knew her.

We grabbed a cab and she sat in the front smoking whilst hitting on the driver. My friend was still convinced she was a working girl, but I persuaded him she was not and that this was the correct way for a foreigner to experience Bucharest. Being a traveller and all he agreed to go with it.

‘ We go Mojo’s, but you pay’ she kept saying
Shit, is the hustle not by the hour but by commission, from the dodgy nightclub owner? I thought to myself. We arrived; it was quid each to get in. We relaxed. There was only one table left, right in front of the karoke stage and in full view of the entire bar.

‘I like to sing, I looooove to sing… with you’ Alexandria said to my friend as she got up to dance to an out of tune version of Your Simply the Best. She moved around the table and parked herself on me. I managed to move her to the end of my knee and stop the lap dancing but didn’t notice a few moments later that she had her tongue down my friends throat, whilst still sitting on my knee.

Jesus, what will people think, to old English guys hitting on a poor defenceless Romanian girl. I thought

I managed to move her to a stool next to my friend and she started to climb on to him. I could see we were the karoke show now and not the main stage.

This looks so bad; have to think of a way out of this I thought.

Alexandria’s song came up and my friend thought he was going to be dragged on stage, but instead went up with a woman sitting at the table next to us and did a very hot number with her. On sitting back down, my friend was not sure what the night ahead had planned for him.

Alexandria looked into his eyes ‘I like women’ she said ‘I looooooove women… I want her’ and pointed to her duo singer who was waiting for her.

We started to role about with laughter until we noticed our own song was queued and so jumped up on the stage doing a very ad lib version of Bufflo Solder whilst dancing to the reggie beat. The crowed loved us, we loved it, Alexandria loved her new friend and we took our moment of fame to be seen leaving the building on our own – our ambassador reputations in tact 🙂

The land of the Pharaohs… and the free

“Egypt, the land of the free” No you must mean somewhere else right? Surely? A week is a long time in politics as they say and well it took 18 days in Egypt, the pace of life is a bit slower here, sorry for that. As you have probably gathered by now I am a new paper guy at heart, I live in the desert and up a mountain but when a story is in front of me I see it in print.

Over the years I have had a lot of stick for what ‘ the press’ have done, always negative, never ever a good word. 80 million people have put up with Mubarak for 30 years, I feel naughty writing this even now, you were (are?) legally not allowed to say a bad word about him. Every one has a picture of him above their desk in Egypt. I am now getting the picture I put in my last post called ‘Power to the People’ printed up and will have it above my desk in Siwa, I like tradition:)

America with all it’s power and CIA agents, England with it’s James Bond department and the millions invested in humanity projects in Egypt changed diddly squat . A few thousand guys protested in Tahrir square, they were shot at, they were beaten, they where the good guys shown to being treated like dogs by the incumbent dictator, and he fell. He fell because those thousands of people gave their all and risked their lives.

And this is the point every one misses: the camera man from CNN: the photographer from Reuters: the reporter from the BBC also risk their lives. The secret police where going around rounding up any one with a camera or microphone, they shot into the crowds, don’t tell me the camera men were not targets. ‘The press’ risked their lives to get the message out, no matter what the cost to themselves. Not a word. It’s all taken for granted that this sort of information is pumped 24/7 around the world in a time of crisis.

The mixed cocktail of fearless protesters AND journalists have changed Egypt for ever, hopefully for the best. Who ever comes to power now will know one thing, don’t fuck with the protesters and don’t fuck with their best friend, ‘the press’. The average Egyptian has now learnt he does have a voice, he can be heard, its called Al Jazeera, CNN and the BBC and pretty soon it will be several new independent channels in Egypt that will be out for the new government guts, keeping them in check and always looking from the peoples point of view.

Egypt is coming back to normal. We now have guests back in Siwa but many people who were planning on coming to Egypt this year are talking to their friends about their trip. “Egypt, your not seriously thinking of going there still?.” they say “Oh my god your insane, cancel your holiday!”

Their friends panic makes them cancel, not in their thousand like in Taharir sq, but in their millions. The point is, the people that have told them they should not go to Egypt, would never go to Egypt ever under any circumstances as they go to Malaga every year and, why would any one go any where else. I mean?

Many tourist businesses we work with are now left empty and guess who’s fault it is, oh yes. ‘The press’

I am now getting the comments I am so used to. ‘ They make a big deal about what happened last week, why don’t they write about what is going on here this week and say it is perfectly safe to come back and carry on as normal? I point out they may well have done but super man has been sent to cover Iran…

I’m a news guy and I know what the power of the press has been all my life, I have seen first hand the power of the people in the last month and the molotov cocktail of power you get when you mix the people and the press together.

So… for the record, we have had a single woman traveler stay with us in Siwa whilst the unrest was at it’s height, we now have guests staying with us in Siwa today, like nothing had happened. ( It would take a nuclear bomb to go off in Siwa for them to even notice a change). Egypt is safe to travel in, its is buzzing at the moment, its carnival time, EVERY ONE is in a good mood, even the hated police are giving their bosses a hard time openly in from of the cameras now!

Any one who is thinking of canceling their holiday to Egypt ( lucky for us all our guest have confirm they are still coming:) it’s simple, you ignored you boring neighbors advance about going to Egypt before and were set on coming – keep ignoring them and enjoy every moment of telling them your tales from the desert when you get home and showing him the little piece of razor wire you picked up in Tahrir sq you found lying on the floor, that you might now put on ebay 🙂

I did not do my ‘the press’ bit in Tahrir sq, ( I assure I would have loved to) as I am fighting a ‘the press’ battle on another front somewhere in Romania, ( long story) but I will now do my little bit for the Egyptian tourist business and pump this little blog out to every travel section of every newspaper in the UK asking them to do a piece on life returns to normal in Egypt.

So, if your a travel editor in London and your reading this, show them what you can do and give me a call on 00407251414545, I can get you a great story on how a bunch of women have kept a little mud hotel in an oasis called Siwa in the Sahara desert open through the whole revolution and…

LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTION! Egypt before was all about it’s past, come and see all that and it’s present chapter in history… yet to be put in a museum.

Power to the People

Mubarak leaving EgyptWhen I was a kid I used to have pictures of my hero’s stuck on my bedroom ceiling. I wasn’t aloud to put them on the walls, but the ceiling was mine. It was covered in mainly motor bikes, the Kawasaki 900 taking up most of the space. Right down in the far corner I had a small picture of Che Guevara. I didn’t know who he was, or where he was from, I certainly didn’t know he was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary who was all about controlling people – for me, he stood for “Why should we do homework, when we are forced to be in that institution all day” in my little confused world he stood for “I’m not taking your shit and more.”

For the last 18 days I have called Penny two or three times a day to update her on the situation in Egypt. I normally call her after checking the news online but last night I just called and started to talk. Penny and the gang had decided to sleep out in the desert with a load of locals as there where no tourist in town and so no one had been out to the Great Sand Sea for some time. Penny had forgotten to bring the food, so dropped every one off and came back into town. I caught her just as she walked into a shop in the centre of Siwa.

‘Hey Penny, how are you?’
‘Hi Bill, I forgot the food, what’s the news?’
I clicked on the BBC and had a huge scene of happiness come over me. “MUBARAK HAS RESIGNED” was the head line, the live video feed from Tahrir sq kicking in.
‘Penny, listen to this’ I said and put my head set to the speaker – the sound of thousands of people in Cairo like they had just won the word cup. ‘He’s gone’ I said ‘ It’s all over’
‘Mubark has resigned!!??’ Penny yelled
‘Yes’
She screamed and within seconds I could hear half of Siwa yelling in victory in the back ground. I hung up and called Claudia in the desert.
‘Hi dad… what’s up?’
‘Claudia get every one with you to come over to your phone, I have something to say’
‘Ok dad, we’re all here, your on speaker phone’
‘Listen to this’ I said in arabic and again held my microphone to the speaker. ‘Mubarak has resigned!’ I yelled. I could hear their cheers and astonishment that finally…

I called Sasha in the UK and told her the news, she couldn’t believe it; what a moment, how lucky I was too to share it with my family even though I was not there. I am very proud to be apart of Egypt today and proud of my family and our staff who in their own small way did there bit for the revolution by staying on and not abandoning ship.

If I am lucky enough to live long enough to meet my grandchildren, I look forward to walking into their bedroom and seeing pictures of what ever replaces a play station 7. I know I am a dreamer, but I might also see a picture of Mohamed Bouazizi standing at his fruit stall in the corner, and get the chance to tell my version of events. I mean how cool would it have been if my Granddad had came into my room and said “ Ah Che Guevara, he wasn’t really a good guy you know, you see we were living there at the time and…

I used to say “Stalin, Roosevelt and Chruchhill didn’t change the word, so how the hell can I?” I won’t say that again now.

When it Rains it Pours – Siwa Oasis

‘Its day twelve or 14, not sure, its ground hog day and “Didn’t we win or lose the revolution yesterday as well?” I’m BBC Live – Egypt unrest ed out. I can’t watch any more, it’s heart wrenching to see those guys will power and then see the secret police wade into them. But they are winning the war of nerves. Mubarak has said he will be gone by September. 30 years or 30 and third, it doesn’t matter when he goes, as long as he does is the point. Obama is not Bush, he seems a smart guy and as soon as the guys in Tahir Sq have a date for elections. – that’s got to be the victory they will settle for. Mubarak stays on his thrown, handcuffed and real elections are planned and take place. The brotherhood gets 30% of the vote and do a great job of being the opposition and slating Western hypocrisy along with any corruption in the ruling party. Egyptian would be terrorists leave England and become Mp’s in Cairo, look what the IRA did.

I rang Penny today to give her my daily update of what I hear in the news and
“Bill, forget that… that’s the least of Siwa’s problems today!”
“What’s happened” I said fearing the worst.
“ It rained all night!”
“ I see” I said relieved – then remembered we’re talking about Siwa.
In 1929 it rained in Siwa and half the Shali collapsed. In 1953 it rained again and everyone moved out of the Shali as it collapsed into the museum it is today, well yesterday. It rained in Marake a village north of Siwa in 1982 and… it rained again last night.

Penny and the kids were up all night as the brown water came in through the mud roof soaking their mattresses. They have had to move out of the house in the desert and stay in the Siwa Villa. The villa was also flooded and Penny said “ You know our red jeep, its brown now.” History is happening in Cairo and in Siwa, in our own little way, history is also repeating it self.

It's all quite on the Western Desert front

As we all know, a week can be a long time in politics. I am currently in Romania and have heard the stories of the ’89 revolution here told many times. “One minute communism was all powerful, a week later there were road blocks searching for communist sympathisers”. How the might fall, it must be a huge blow to their egos.

Penny, Claudia and Angus are in Siwa, Sasha is in the UK and got out a few days before it all started. As I write this life goes on there as normal. “It’s not a problem Penny” a local says to her “ there was no bus, no petrol, no electric or phones here in Siwa before, we have our gardens, we can go by donkey – humdula”. He’s right, we’re good in Siwa for a few generations, we have our own water supply, solar power and vegi patch.

Angus is feeling it the most, as the Egyptian government cut the internet a few days ago and so he is a bit lost with what to do. They are riding their bikes instead of using what’s left of the fuel that may be needed in the future. Our guests cannot get through, the tourists that are in Siwa cannot get out, so a kind of Ground Hog day feel has set it. Which is completely different to what is going on in Cairo, Alex and we have heard even Marsa Matruh has been affected with looters coming down from Alex who have looted the main street in Marsa Matruh which annoyed Penny as she was going to go there for a final ‘batten the hatches down’ booze run. Nobody knows what to do. The police have disappeared and put back on their civy cloths, they are all Egyptians after all.

It’s weird watching history take place in front of your eyes. To know that Angus and Claudia don’t see the big deal at the moment as, inshala the internet will be back on tomorrow, but they will have their story to tell when their old and their grandchildren ask them. “So Granddad, what was it like in Egypt when Mubarak was overthrown? I read about it in our history lesson in school about how the whole middle east situation changed from this point on.”

He will fall, like all the other bad guys in history, his number is up and he will go in the same humiliating way all the others do, hanging on until the end. The question is, what comes after? One thing is for sure, all the energy of all these brave young middle class Egyptian men and women has nothing to do with religion, its real simple, he’s had it his way for 30 years and they want no more.

We are sticking with it, what ever the outcome, we’re not tourists like in the Tsunami, we lived there too, well we lasted one day and didn’t have time to build a house… this time we did.

If any one has a spare 5 minutes, please give Penny +20165940776 or Claudia +20191407904 a call and a bit of moral support as they cannot call out or send texts or emails.

When it Rains it Pours

‘Its day twelve or 14, not sure, its ground hog day and “Didn’t we win or lose the revolution yesterday as well?” I’m BBC Live – Egypt unrest ed out. I can’t watch any more, it’s heart wrenching to see those guys will power and then see the secret police waid into them. But they are winning the war of nerves. Mubarak has said he will be gone by September. 30 years or 30 and third, it doesn’t matter when he goes, as long as he does is the point. Obama is not Bush, he seems a smart guy and as soon as the guys in Tahir Sq have a date for elections. – that’s got to be the victory they will settle for. Mubarak stays on his thrown, handcuffed and real elections are planned and take place. The brotherhood gets 30% of the vote and do a great job of being the opposition and slating Western hypocrisy along with any corruption in the ruling party. Egyptian would be terrorists leave England and become Mp’s in Cairo, look what the IRA did. I rang Penny today to give her my daily update of what I hear in the news and “Bill, forget that… that’s the least of Siwa’s problems today!” “What’s happened” I said fearing the worst. “ It rained all night!” “ I see” I said relieved – then remembered we’re talking about Siwa. In 1929 it rained in Siwa and half the Shali collapsed. In 1953 it rained again and everyone moved out of the Shali as it collapsed into the museum it is today, well yesterday. It rained in Marake a village north of Siwa in 1982 and… it rained again last night. Penny and the kids were up all night as the brown water came in through the mud roof soaking their mattresses. They have had to move out of the house in the desert and stay in the Siwa Villa. The villa was also flooded and Penny said “ You know our red jeep, its brown now.” History is happening in Cairo and in Siwa, in our own little way, history is also repeating it self.