5 houses in 4 months

A Tale from Transylvania. The video was shot two years ago but I have only just finally finished editing. The story is about how we had to get the roofs on 5 houses before the winter snows. We had 4 months to do it – did we make it in time?

The view from my seat in Marsa Matruh.

I’m sitting where so much of my book and diary’s have been written over the last six years. Each time the chair, if you can call it a chair, is different. Normally the seat has died and now in its reincarnated state; with new pieces of wood, steel or plastic added to the original design, often with no logic behind it at all. At leasts it’s solid this time which is comforting as I am inches away from the mechanics pit where oil and BIC pens enter, never to be seen again.

In the UK you pay your mortgage, or your rent, or your over 55 and lucky in the fact that you won’t have to do this for the rest or your life. In Egypt, doing stuff like that never crosses your mind. When we close our house down for the summer the biggest cost we incur is a new battery for the solar panel every few years and maybe a new key due to someone (me) leaving theirs in Romania.

In our little desert town of Siwa, it’s not mortgages that are a way of life,it’s… keeping your Cruiser running in the desert; get a stamp on a document, it’s… you just do it, no matter how long it takes.

I arrived in Marsa Matruh three days ago. I brought my Cruiser to the exhaust guy and told him what the problem was. He assured me it would be done that night, for sure, np.

The next day I got up at 6.00am and travelled with my accountant to Alexandria, 400kms down the coast. We arrived around 9.30am and started the paper pushing, tea buying process of trying to get – something done. Today it was to get the final stamp on our company we are setting up that has taken six months of ‘tomorrow it will be finished’.
“You have to sign” was the accountants reasoning for me having make the 1240km round trip.

(The cable for the welding arc has just gone under my seat and is touching the metal. If this is the last thing I write, so be it)

After six hours of sitting around and smiling and telling people my address in the UK was blah blah , even though I told them in the same breath I don’t live there and moving from one office to another, the final crunch came after 20 ‘inshala everything will be OK’ s.

“You can’t sign” said the accountant, “you mus have certified translator from Consulate.” Like suddenly every one new that, it was just so obvious.
“Great, they shut in 5 minutes.”
“It’s no problem, I have power of attorney for you, I can sign, it will be finished… tommorow.” said the accountant, like it was a rabbit he had just pulled out of hat.
“You can sign… so, I didn’t need to come here; great”

Penny travelled up with me and we went off to meet the new Consul General in Alexandria. We showed her the Spitfire Bar and went on to the Greek Club for dinner. We discussed some problems Brits have in Siwa and formulated a plan of action to deal with them. The conversation moved away from work and the Consul took out an astronomy magazine and suggested we do astronomy tours.
“We plan to do something like this and mix in metor hunting during the day” I told her.
“Metors, were do you find them?” she asked
I explained how how a shooting star is a small flec of stone between 1mm and 3 mm’s big and how they zap into the earth atmosphere no less than 130kms from where you see it. “A metor is something much bigger” I explained “When they hit the atmosphere they are called fireballs and and they break up on in pact” I swear, ask her, ask Penny, the first one I have seen in my life appeared out over the bay from the light house over Alexandria. It was huge, it was slow, it looked like a plane crashing or a CIA project going to plan just as the books had described.
“There, just like that one” I said calmly and pointed out over the bay, a few other heads turning in the restaurant but we were all WOUUUUUWWWWWWWWWWWW and WOWW! Power of attraction or a huge coincidence.

The next day Penny said she didn’t really need to go to Carfour, but as I will now be away for two months I persuaded her that it was a good idea to stock up whilst in town. Carfour is our nearest super market, all 620kms away.
After a hour I was feeling unusual couldn’t take any more. I went to find somewhere to put my head down. I suddenly got the ‘I need a shit, right now’ but was lucky enough to be just passing the cleanest public toilets on the north med coast in Egypt at the time, just past the checkout. Penny was not so lucky and tried to hold on till she finished her shopping, eventually she did a sprint for the loo and had to have two staff spend 20 minutes helping her find her two trolleys after she had recovered. She had no idea were she, just left them in ile something and made a run for it. What is it with going to smart restaurants and food posing? People say only I can do things like that. Just for the record I have never left a supermarket mid shop to have a shit… ever. Penny is the only person I know who has ever done that, but somehow she gets away with it.

Finally on returning to Marsa Matruh, I come to the exhaust guys this morning expecting to see a shiny new gasket on the engine and the thing running like a V8.
“Ah, Hawaga” (foreigner in Arabic, imaging getting away with calling black people and Poles in England ‘hey immigrant’).
“Yes, all done?” I ask ever hopeful
“No, problem, we need to retap your bolt holes on the engine” ( this took about 20 minutes to translate)
“So why didn’t you do it?”
Blank looks
“I said call me”
Blanker look
“You called me last night and said it was done!”
Just more blank looks and a reply of “You want some tea?”
There is one way to get your Cruiser fixed in this country, like the stamp on the doc, and that’s sit and watch it happen in front of you like a fisherman on your reborn stool, ready to pounce at any time if another car appears with a more pressing or interesting problem or if they just get bored, or; as in my case this time, someone just needed to ring the tappet guy. It took 5 frigging minutes for him to re tap the bolt hole and so now off we go rebuilding the exhaust hours, bolt by bolt by cup of tea. I have just realised I have been concentrating on writing this blog. I have just looked up and, there all working on the three wheeler in the picture. Time to pull on the line. See you soon.

PS. They finished 2 hours later. I moved on and found the guy in town who can repair the canvas roof on the Cruiser, he said he can finish it by 5.00pm tonight np… I feel a long night coming on.

A Tourist in Sharm El Sheik

They say one of the problems of travel is you don’t fit in when you come back home, but you also never really fit in where you have decided to make your knew home. I live in the desert, I speak Arabic enough for any one to see I am not fresh off the plane and I work in the tourist business. In Sharm, it’s well, most people who work in the tourist business here are pretty, whats the polite word for below average intelligence?
“First time Sharm El Sheik” they say like I am a walking hundred dollar bill.
“Ana ash hena” ( I live here in Arabic) I reply
“ah very good… first time Shamel El Sheik?” their false smile not changing through the whole conversation. I try to ignore the fact that he just ignored what I said to him and carry on looking at the swimming trucks for Angus who left his in Romania. The last time I was here I paid 50le for mine. Angus wanted a similar pair, but about half the material.
“For you my friend….” he looks me up and down judging what I will pay “100, very special price for you Sir”
I speak in English “Maybe you don’t understand Arabic, I told you I live here, I know the price of these is 50le.”
“No sir” his muscles on his face keeping his teeth showing at all times. “ This price you speak for low quality”
I say no thanks in Arabic and leave the shop. I go through this about 5 times. No one gives a monkeys that I live in Egypt, understand that Egyptians will be paying 50le and that they make a good profit at this price. I am a tourist; I pay 100. They cannot see any further and well, I can’t blame them. I am in “first time” central. 99% of the people walking around Sharm El Sheik have not been here more than a few days and pay the going prices. They all say it’s cheap and don’t want to hear its about 200% more expensive than Cairo or Dahab just an hour up there road. Their on holiday and, well shouldn’t I be too?
Angus and Claudia wanted to do their Padi Diving Course. What ever that is. They want to learn how to dive and the fact that someone teaches them a whole new underwater laughing and how that big watch the instructor wears works just makes it all the more exciting. Angus said last night before we went out for dinner in our favourite chain of Chinese restaurant in Egypt
“Dad I wish I could just go to bed now.”
“Why Angus, you love Chines?”
“I know Dad, but if I could fall asleep now it would me morning would come quicker and we would be on the course sooner.”
The last time Angus said something like that I think he was about 5 and it was Christmas eve. I suggested doing the diving in Dahab where the beer is 10le a bottle in a bar, not 30le like here, but they and Penny where having none of it. Sharm is the Spain of Egypt and they all wanted a holiday, not be in the usual surroundings of travellers tails and rugs slung over a log from a palm tree. They all wanted a real holiday, like their friends went on in Europe.
Angus and Claudia started their course, and loved it. Each day they would get up and get all the James Bond kit on and off they would go to the sea for ‘school’ with Amy their private teacher and new best friend for the week. On the third day it was “Dad, we’re going out on a boat tomorrow, you gonna come? Pleeeassssssssssse!” How could I refuse an invitation like that?
We meet at 08.00 and by 10.00 we were out in the sea on a 15 meter diving boat called the Hoolagan. Funnily enough every one on the boat was as diver and they were all gong diving, except for a few scuba divers who could not dive because they were flying the next day and so where just snorkelling.
Divers I quickly learnt are like golfers. They can’t imaging doing anything else apart from paying the mortgage, sleeping, playing golf… and talking about it.
“So Bill, why don’t you do a try dive today?”
“Um, I don’t want to”
“So, you mean your not flying tomorrow and your not going diving?”
“Um, yeah”
“But your going snorkelling right?”
“Um, I don’t have any fins that fit me ( I’m told never call them flippers).”
“Ah we’ll soon fix that.”
It wasn’t a question of if I wanted to go snorkelling, it was just a question of getting the right kit on me and shoving me in the water. When I mentioned I suffer from PTSD and could get triggered off by being in the water, it just made them even more determined to get me out there and ‘get over my fear of water’. I tried to explain I’m not scared of water it’s just something… it didn’t matter; I was going in and you could tell, I would be the opposite of a fish out of water all day and be well taken care of by the seasoned divers all around me.There was a really helpful guy who lent me his size 11 fins
“Thanks” I said
“No problem, anything I can do to help just let me know”
“Um, taking pics underwater, I’ve never done it, I have a new video camera and underwater case and..”
“Well, for a start don’t bother trying to look at the screen, just point and press and hope for the best”
‘Ah’ I thought ‘ like doing car shots outside the Old Bailey, easy.’
Angus and Claudia did a good impersonation of Jack Cousteau and jumped into the water. I got it all on film, I think, and followed them with my snorkel spluttering away like an out board motor. I coughed out of my nose into my mask and realised that was not the best idea as my mask suddenly looked like frosted glass. I tried to tred water but having what felt like two planks of wood strapped to my feet I could not get straight, I flapped about looking like I was slowly drowing.
“You OK, you have one of your funny turns?” A voice came from the boat.
“I’m fine I, “ splutter splutter “I just” splutter can’t breath “can’t get|” splutter mouth fill of salt water “straight in the water, I’m fine, np” sea in my eyes.
I eventually worked out that you just turn around and the planks of wood flop in front of you and you can stay still for just long enough to get some fresh water in the mask and the snot out of the mouth piece before drowning your eye balls in salty water. I settled for the semi steamed look and moved on to where Angus and Claudia and Amy were doing their ‘skills’ about 10 meters below me near to the Garden Reef in Sharm El Sheik.
‘I’ve got the hand of this underwater filming’ I thought as I steadied the camera moving slowly towards them below. The current was moving me along and I could see I would be above them in a few seconds. ‘I’ll do a “going through the clouds” type shot and come out the other side still filming through the whole thing’ I thought. I saw a big bubble approaching and watched it explode over the camera ‘that will make a great shot’ as the other 1000 bubbles behind then hit my face. I think I probably got the whole escapade of me loosing all scene of direction and depth as the air exploded sending me to the surface gasping for air and once again trying to turn around and clear my mask from the mist whilst not drowning. A few minutes later I had calmed down and had a clearish view of the underworld and I put myself in a good position to film the kids. I waited for them to do something and whilst I was calm and treading water, underwater, I saw what looked like two stealth bombers coming in, my 3.00 o’clock maybe 20meters away. They were in the fast lane heady straight towards Angus and Claudia below. Within a second they were 5 meters away and the lead Ray slammed on his brakes by pulling himself up showing the full underbelly of his star shaped wings. A truly magnificant site and I instinctively filmed the whole thing, but I realised the camera had shut itself down so had to press the button again and only managed to get the video rolling when the Ray had turned and was disappearing into the blue background. I held the angle for awhile thinking it might come back but nothing, The whole thing was over in maybe 5 seconds.
‘Damn’ I thought ‘I completely fluffed that shot, I’ll make sure it stays on standby the whole time now and get the next one that come along np.’
I filmed some big green and purple fish, some stripey ones, some long one and some swarms of fish that just came around you, like you are a roundabout. The coral reefs started maybe a meter underwater and dropped down to around 10 meters and then slowly off into the deep blue bit on the right. The water was warm and, it was great.
The kids finished their dive 45 mins later and I got out feeling proud of myself that I did not make my snorkel an accessory to murder, but was embarrassed I had missed getting the shot of the Ray with the kids in the same frame. I pulled myself out of the water.
“Did you see the Ray?”
“Yeah, but I missed it”
“You saw it?”
“Yeah, it was maybe 5 meters away”.
We climbed up on the top deck and chilled for half an hour before lunch would be served. I joined Penny at the front of the boat where the girls were all tanning themselves, the men staying under the sun cover out of site of Penny, but not out of hearing distance. Penny was in full flow when I sat down, taking about men who where speedo’s.
“I mean, what do they think they look like?” Penny said. The response from the women was tepid, so Penny kept on making her point. Amy came up on deck and Penny yelled out to her
Amy pretended not to hear, or understand.
Amy reluctantly answered as quite as she could
“Budgie smuggling”
“THAT’S IT” roars of laughter from Penny “BUGIE SMUGGLERS, HA HA! Ah how could they do it?”. The conversation moved on.
I thought nothing of it till I stood up for lunch and noticed that all the men sitting in the shaded area; where wearing speedos. ‘It’s obviously a diving thing’ I thought and realised we must look like the Wayne and Waynetta of the dive school that day.
We did another dive and I got some great ‘facebook’ shots of Claudia and Angus blowing smoke rings underwater and doing hand stands and all sorts. On arriving back at the hotel Amy got out the fish dictionary and asked me to describe the Ray. She too saw it but wanted to work out which kind it was.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t get you in the same shot of it when it slammed on its brakes and raised up”
“You go a picture of it?”
“Video, I should have something, but it it didn’t have you in the shot”
“You’ve got VIDEO of it?”
I fired my laptop up and we all watched the few seconds of the Ray swimming away. I froze the video to identify the Ray. The two pointy things on the front and the dark fins clearly identified it as a Devel Ray. Amy seemed pleased and wandered off.
On meeting one of the other dive instructors later she said “ I hear your group saw a Ray today?”
“Yeah it was a Devil Ray”
She smiled at me “No it wouldn’t have been a Devel Ray, they are very rare”
“No it definitly was, we checked the video of it against the book and it was a Devel Ray”
“You got video of it?”
“You were diving?”
“No, I was kind of snorking, I’ve never don it before, first time.”
“You got video of a Devl Ray on your first snorkel trip?”
“Yeah… what’s the big deal?”
“I’ve been diving here for 5 years… and I have never seen one” she looked at my eyes darting back and forth from one to the other, let out a small sign and walked off.
I arrived in Sharm a few days ago with my work hat on analysing the tourist scene and, well that was then. I was now relaxed with a ‘hole in one on my first game of golf’ feeling as I smiled and took another sip of my way too expensive beer.

PS. This morning we left Cairo for Siwa. We had to take all our bags off the roof of one of the all new modern taxi’s that have meters because once all the bags where in, he said he wanted 5 times the normal rate to take us to the bus station. I told him we would not be needing his services and waited until he realised we would also not be taking our bags back down off the roof rack and that he would have to do it. Instant revenge is so sweet.
We finally arrived at the all new Turgaman Bus station in Cairo. You no longer catch the bus off the pavement behind the Egyptian museum; you now enter a huge entrance hall in the spanking new terminal. The metal detectors bleep and the six policemen sitting there all ask Claudia which country she is from and smile. I buy the tickets for Marsa Matruh. I know if I say Siwa the guy will sell me the only direct connection to Siwa which is the night bus 18 hours from now. The time is 7.30am. He tells me the bus will leave at 7.45am. The ticket says it should leave at 7.15am. The clock in the main waiting area says 7.00am, the second hand is ticking away nicely. All the electronic boards showing the bus gates and times have dust on them and don’t work. We’ve just got on the bus and left the station at 8.05am. I now feel I am now comfortable back in the Egypt I know and thinking of the 12 hour bus ride to Siwa and the winter season ahead.

A tourist in London

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Charlotte st. It’s 8.12am. It’s weird, I’ve been a tourist, a person completely disconnected with a city’s ways, many times. This time it’s different, I still feel disconnected; but I’m in London.
I arrived yesterday morning. I flew in from 36 degrees in Bucharest and went straight to the cash point, my card didn’t work. I changed some RON to pounds at a crazy rip off rate. I headed to the car hire office miles from Luton Airport. The first two companies had no cars.
Avis had a hair dryer for £97. “But I’m only here for the 36 hours” I said.
She gave me the ‘So why you talking to Avis then’ look.
The last car hire place had an young Indian guy booking in the guy in front. “Sir, just because it’s you, I would like to give you a special upgrade opportunity for you today… only £10a day.”
The bearded 50+ techy type was having none of it.
“Sir, as I want your regular business, I can give you the upgrade for £2?”
I thought this only happened in the mad places I live, the guy is treating him like an idiot. The day so far is not going well.
After several shakes of the head the aging techy finally got it across he just wanted the cheapest car he could get.
“Sir, as it’s you I will give you the upgrade anyway for free”
An English guy appeared in the both and serve me. “What would you like?” he said calmly.
I smiled ” the cheapest for 36 hours”
That’s £75, can I take your card. I was done in 5 mins, techy was still telling the Indian guy he did not need sat nav to get to his office. I got out into the car park looking for my Corsa.
“It’s that one”, my guy said, he had followed me out to help a customer”.He pointed to a car that looked like it should be doing weddings.
“That one?” I asked not believing him. He smiled back and winked at me. I jumped in and gazed at the space ship dashboard and noticed there was no handbrake, ‘It must be one of these buttons on the dash’ I thought. I found teh radio and demister and so planned to find the handbrake later. Techy dove out of the car park in his Corsa behind me looking at me through my rear view mirror as if it was all my fault he got the wrong guy.
I am here to pick up a load of camera equipment. Cut a long story short I spent most of the day at ‘Logistics House’ in Portsmouth. They didn’t like my story of “I’ve come from Romania to pick up these packages, can you check again when the driver will be back here as I need to catch my flight.”
You mention Romania and I swear, people see the fangs start to grow on your teeth and the doggy network of mafosa friends on speed dial on your phone. They check my ID again and stair at my washed out passport just to make sure it’s not a fake. When I’m in Romania I am a rich English businessman, or someone working for M16, or a crazy hippie Lord of the Manner type. In England I am a homeless ‘ what do you mean you don’t have a post code’ dropout who has a gang of Gypsies waiting for me at Dover. I’m doggy and to be avoided.
I didn’t make any plans for where to stay last night, you don’t when you ‘come home’ do you. I collected my equipment around 6.00pm and headed to London in my limousine. I drove through the center, it was raining, I went past the palace of Westminster and saw big Ben gleaming in the rain, the London eye slowly turning in the background. A black cab pulled up next to a red bus. I was in that post card. I’ve not had that feeling of London since bunking off school and seeing it in all its glory when I was 15.
I ended up in the Hawly Arms in Camden. It’s changed since Graham Abbot and me used to have a stall in the market there selling my photographs of Mick Jagger and David Bowie. We used to go in there at lunch time and drink all the profits, unfortunately we drunk all the stock as well. It’s all new in there now, but still has the Camden feel. Madness was playing and…

“Hi” a half attractive woman said to me
“Hi” I smiled back
“Um can you give me a pound so I can buy some cider?”
“Um” I wanted to talk to someone so I said “look I’ll buy you a drink, sit down and join me”
“Ugh, I don’t want to drink in here, I drink in the park, I need a quid, just give me a quid.”
‘Ah’ I thought focused on her a bit more and realised she was probably 20 years younger than the wrinkles on her face would suggest.”I, um, two secs”
She eventually moved on to the next table. I had a nice pint of IPA, that I paid £3.15 for. £3.15. I had no idea if that is the normal price these days or the Hawly Arms had become some trendy place and was charging double to keep the vagabonds at bay. I know exactly what a beer cost in Cairo, in the desert, in Bucharest or way up in the Carpathian mountains, £3.15 for a PINT? That’s got to be expensive no? Or is that just the tourist price?
I moved on to get a burger and think about finding an alleyway to kip for the night. I parked up outside the burger bar next to Camden Town tube. Simon Jacobs rang me and we chatted. I stood in the pouring rain and watched as two police cars turned up across the street to rip a hoody out of the newsagents like he had a bomb in his bag. There as a big cufufal and then calm once again; the next person coming in to buy their fags like nothing had happened.
I walked across the street to the burger bar. I listened to the guys serving to see if they spoke Romanian, they looked Eastern European. It was all pleasant small talk until in a big big black guy came strolling in like John Wayne. The guy at the counter’s smile disappeared. The black guy looked into my eyes as his fist opened up and swallowed the pound coins lying in the tip bowl next to my burger on the counter.
He then turned to the burger man. “So what you gonna do.” he smiled and laughed full or him self ” fukin nuffik, hey”
“You proud of that right?” The eastern European guys said back to him comfortable with the situation. I wasn’t. I left. I walked back across the street to stand under an awning to take in the madness of Camden and observe. A short fat guy was walking along the street with his bike. He took one look at me and suddenly stopped under my awning. He stood there for awhile. I could feel him observing me. I munched on my burger. He slowly undid his padlock and chained his bike. He took out what looked like a telephone bill and started to read it out load, then looked straight at me as if I worked for BT. He started rubbing his long thin saddle like it was his cock, his eyes not moving from mine.
He finally plucked up the courage to talk to me. “You think they let me take my bike on the… ” and pointed to the tube. He obviously didn’t know the English word for underground.
“Yeah absolutely, no problem, but you better be quick because there is a tube strike about to start any minute.” there was, honest.
He slowly unchanged his bike and started to walk off in the direction he had arrived, away from the tube. I walked behind him and got in my car and disappeared.
Sleeping in a side street in Camden seemed like a good idea a few hours ago. I headed to Highgate village and parked up in a private road, it had an en suite puddle for the night, perfect. I sleep amazing well in cars for some reason.
I awoke at six and tried to find somewhere to leave my car as I don’t want to pay crazy parking fees all day and attempt to work out how to pay the congestion charge without getting a £500 fine from the hire company. All those millions on setting up the congestion charges, yet not a single sign, hint, not a word on the radio for over an hour on where the hell you can park your car and avoid the blood thirsty parking regime of the West End. It’s like they want you to drive all the way, just so they can kill you. I finally found a Multi story in Kings Cross after driving around for an hour and half. £30 for 24 hours, only £20 for 12 hours. I can by hundreds of sq meters of land for that amount of money, I can get a great sleeper train 700kms across Romania for less. A few hours in London and I am seduced into feeling happy at paying 30 quid to do what the Mayor of London is encouraging me to do. I walked around St Pancras not recognising anything. It’s all new coffee shops and Euro Star. What happened to the ugly prostitutes and men who wore lipstick on giro day. The open necked suited commuters where in ‘right, I can do this, I’m going walk to work today’. You could see in their faces it was a big deal to beat the tube strike and walk the few kilometers to the office from Kings Cross. They all had their running trainers on, the stilettos and brogues in their ruck sacks. I took some pics which I will add to this blog when I get a cable.
I went to check out these blue bikes I had seen on the internet. Does Boris Karloff or what ever the Mayor of London is called think we’re Amsterdam? I looked at the prices.

‘Administration £1 for a day, £5 for a week. £45 a year’. My god! Something that is actually given back to tax payers. They fork out millions I’m sure for the consultants that needed to work out how to use a bike and they actually get something back, cheap transport around London. My eyes moved to the other collum on the meter. 90p half hour, £1 an hour£5 for 150 mins.
How long is 150 mins, I thought ‘How many hours is that… that’s 2 and half hours for a fiver, that’s 5 times as expensive as a taxi in Cairo.’
I decided to keep walking to Tottenham Court Road. I have a all day to kill before my meeting at 5.30pm tonight with a picture agency in the West End. I will spend the day buying a laptop a lens, a camera bag and a blackberry. I have avoided having a blackberry for years now, it’s not exactly hippie is it, a push email account. But I’m not a hippie, OK I live in the desert where the streets have no name, I live up a mountain that is wild to a hill billy. But I still work 7 days a weeks most of the time.

PS. On driving back to Luton last night to catch my flight, I saw something I have never seen in England before. A real werewolf hanging out of a beaten up red Cavalier’s front window in the lane next to me as I pulled off the motorway, waving it’s arms at me like it wanted to kill me; the people in the back seat already victims of his bite. I spent half an hour finding a petrol station in Luton, it’s right next to the car hire place… I spent 5 minutes working out how to open the petrol cap. As I was filling the tank with the nozzle rammed open by sticking the filler cap in the squeeze chamber the car started to role forward due to no hand break. I scream around getting the nozzle out of the tank and then jumping in teh car just before it mashed into the charcoal stand. 15 odd people watching, not saying a word. I got the ‘your not from round here’ look from the customers in the que when paying and promptly left the country.

It was been an interesting 36 hours in the pouring rain being a tourist in my home town. I am back to normal now, well what I call normal anyway.

Weekend walk in Hungary

I traveled 16 hours home from Bucharest to Maramures on the train and the next day we headed to Hungary for a weekend with Suzy and her family. We drove for 4 hours to the Hungry border and only then… did Penny remember she had left Angus’s passport at home. Romanians can go to London without out a passport, but a kid from London is not allowed to leave Romania, without a passport. 8 hours of driving later we arrived as Suzy’s.

The cows shown in the pictures set above looked like they should have been from Lapland. We we’re introduced to some amazing Hungarian cooking, Hungarian goulash, in Hungary tastes just that little bit better. Suzy showed us around the distillery where she works and gave us lots of ideas for making out own alcohol for our guests in Breb and showed us how to make jam from plums without out using any sugar. The drive home was a bit quicker and a little less stressful:)

Siwa Festival -October

The Siwa festival is coming up. I will be checking in the next few days when exactly it is on, it’s normally the full moon in Oct. Below are some pics I took at the festival a few years ago.

Runescape and football

“Dad Dad!”
“What Angus?”
“Someone’s hacked my Runescape account?”
It used to be that real Dad’s used to teach their kids to play football or watch them at least on Sundays. ‘New Dad’ spends his time understanding, or at least I do – what Runescape is all about. Angus lives in an online world when ever he is allowed. This means if allowed; he would literately live in there except for the odd moments of needing a pee, eating and the annoying fact that he will fall asleep at the screen at some stage. About 4 years ago or so when Angus was about 9, we stayed in a hostel in Brasov Romania I think, and we were going off to bed.
“Dad, I’m just going to check my email, I’ll be up in a mo”. Angus said as I went up to our room and crashed out. I thought nothing off it until I came down for breakfast and dragged Angus out of bed to eat some food. He was fine until he saw this Dutch guy and looked a bit nervous.
“Hey man.” the Dutch guy said to Angus like he knew him holding his fist up in the air in respect.
Angus nodded in recognition once, his expression staying the same.
“How do you know him Angus?” I said ” As I didn’t remember seeing him when we arrived.”
I got the trainee Kevin look from Angus and went back to my toast and triangle of cheese spread.
“Hey, your kids full on man” The Dutch guy said to me. Angus not looking amused. “ You son was on that machine when I arrived at 4.00am. We told him he should go to bed around 5.00am and he went up, kinda not happy about it around 5.30am.” The Dutch guy raised his fist again “He’s full on man!”
Angus looked at me like he had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and then glared ever so slightly at the Dutch guy. I had gone to bed around 9.30pm.
Angus has has had his Runescape account since he was 7. There are over 135 million accounts for Runescape, sometimes getting over 6 million new accounts a month. Runescape is aimed at pre teens like Angus. World of Warcraft has even more subscribers aimed at older kids. It doesn’t take to long to work out that there are more people with a Runescape account, than play football on a Sunday at their local club in the UK, maybe all of Europe.
That’s a lot…
Angus has told me over the years of how he has chopped trees, fished for… fish, bought swords that do this and, OK I admit some times I kind of loose track as he explains in great details what the Grand Exchange does and why you need to go there before a major quest. Angus spends as much time as he can, buying and selling, trading and working for money in his online world. Like any trader would in the city, or farmer in a cattle market. He has built his skills, he used to take a week to earn 1000 of what ever they are. When he made his first million he was so proud and showed me his account, before promptly blowing it all on a new cloak that would help his magic skills. He now makes a million in half an hour and is trying to work out how to make 10’s of millions in a day. He’s proud of what he has achieved and today – he got hacked and someone has cheated him and stolen his password.
He’s numb. It’s like building a business for 4 years and you partner sold your shares behind your back. An hour of searching and he has found the ‘stolen account’ section in Jagex, the owners of Runescape. He waits with baited breath to see the outcome but will be able to sleep tonight, only just, as the account has been frozen.
But as Angus says “ If they stole all my gold and magic capes before the account was frozen, I will loose everything”.
I feel for him. To loose all that work to some little shit who is probably going to try and sell Angus’s wealth for real money in the real part of the internet, ie ebay etc.
We shall see. But one thing is for certain. If Angus looses everything, I will stick £100 in an online share account for him and suggest he plays “Real life Runescape” as I call it. He’s ready, he’s 13. He just doesn’t know it. He’s a trader, a wheeler and dealer. I didn’t make him do this, he’s done it all on his own. Be funny if he is making more than we do in a few years time and has a nicer Land Cruiser than we have. We’ll see. But as I said to him tonight, “If you loose it Angus, Real life Runscape is there waiting for you, so all your efforts will have not gone to waist 😉

Dancing with the Gypsy's

After picking up Helen Grossman, a friend from the UK from Cluj Napoca Airport we went and did a bit of exploring in a remote gypsy village on the way to Breb. Have a look at the pics below.


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