Friday, June 27, 2008

The end of part one

It is our last day in mainland Europe. The skies are grey, and getting darker with every kilometre. The wind is fierce, shaking the camper van as we struggle up the hills of the A16 en route to Boulogne, then tomorrow morning, Calais and the Channel Tunnel.
And yes, it has started raining. Altogether a miserable day and not just because of the weather.
I don’t want to stop driving, or to be more precise; I don’t want Nigel to stop driving. I want to explore every nook and cranny of France, visit every Greek island, and eat in as many Italian restaurants as my waistline and bank balance will allow. To say nothing of spending more time in Serbia, exploring Croatia and finding out if the Black Sea coast is a beautiful as the brochures say it is.
Europe is a treasure trove of exciting food and drink, gorgeous land and seascapes, and fascinating people, all shapes, sizes, religions and allegiances. I had not fully realised until now what an interesting continent we belong to, nor just how our fully our future, and our past, is intertwined.
There were many highlights.
We ate most the amazing fish soup in a century-old fish restaurant in the outskirts of Belgrade. It was the very essence of the sea, garnished with the freshest of herbs, served in a small copper tureen that looked as old as restaurant.
We savoured our first, and last, glimpse this year of the Acropolis as we meandered down Ermou Street in Athens.
We were astounded by the scale of Amiens Cathedral, which is twice the size of Notre Dame, to say nothing of the technical genius that built this most powerful of monuments.
We fell asleep to the sound of birds, and woke to the sound of birds.
We drove through the Alpine clouds, tasted champagne at 10.30 in the morning with a bunch of Belgians, danced in the streets of Belgrade during Eurovision, lit candles in Bulgaria’s Rila Monastery, got lost in Budapest and shared showers with total strangers, usually doughty Germans.
We drank beer in the same Hamburg street the Beatles started their career, relished the first sip of cold, cold Retsina, delighted in finding a bottle of Samos Muscat in a French supermarket. 
And I read, for the first time, James Ellroy’s amazing novel The Cold Six Thousand and for the second time, Andrew Nicoll’s equally compelling book The Good Mayor.
There have been some bad moments too.
Damaging the camper wasn’t much fun, nor were the wet few days we spent in Bavaria while it was repaired, though we did taste the best chocolate of the trip during a visit to Neuburg.
Imagine handmade white chocolate, infused with champagne and studded with real rose petals. Sounds wonderful? It is even better than that.
Saying goodbye to our grandson Kyle at the end of our detour to Crete to see him on his summer holidays was painful, but we cheered up considerably when we found out his father, our Sean, had proposed to his partner, Kyle’s mother, Karen, a few days later, and that she had accepted.
And we have had a few cold, wet days, when we were forced to don our ugly plastic anoraks just to go for a pee. But once the camper van was battened down, the red wine flowing and the West Wing on the MacBook, even the sound of rain on the roof became a comforting part of the trip.
We are going to spend the next week in Brighton, and this weekend with my sister Wendy and her partner Steven. We will catch up on all the family gossip, bitch about Big Brother, drink too much champagne and gorge ourselves on food and kinship. Wendy and I may even do a little light shopping, for essentials of course.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Blogging: a sad ego trip or the future of journalism?

I don’t know the answer to the question I have just posed. 
As a new blogger I often feel that my online writing is nothing more than self indulgence run amok; at other times I truly believe it is the future, not just of journalism, but of human engagement, from the personal to the political.
Barack Obama’s online campaign, with its social networks and personal blogs, shows just how powerful a tool blogging can be.
But I am sitting in the French sunshine, waiting for my fish stew to cook, and don’t have the energy to argue the case, for or against. Roy Greenslade however has put together a good piece on, where else but his Guardian blog. Worth a read.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let them drink champagne

It was Napoleon, that most French of Frenchman, who described the UK as a nation of shopkeepers.
Little wonder that the general was surprised at our propensity for shopping, even back in the early 19th century, because from my experience of recent days, the French don’t shop.
Can you imagine the uproar if Tesco, or Asda, or any one of our nation’s supermarket chains decided to close for lunchtime – and not just an hour, but two and a quarter?
Of course you can’t because it just wouldn’t happen. We expect our shops, particularly the big brands, to be open at our convenience.
Not in France it seems. Yesterday we arrived at a reasonably large branch of Intermarche in a reasonably large town, Mourmelon le Grand (le petit is just down the road) at the reasonable time – or so I thought – of 2.25 pm.
“Pardon madame, nous sommes ferme,” smiled the manager guarding the entrance.
“Pardon,” I said, “je ne comprend pas”, and I didn’t mean his impeccable French.”
“We are not open for another five minutes,” he smiled, turning to explain to a group of German soldiers why they couldn’t stock up on beer.
Mourmelon le Grand is a garrison town, hence the soldiers, just in case you were thinking I had wandered on to the set of ‘Allo ‘Allo.
If I had taken the time to check the opening times outside I would have seen that the supermarket opened at 9.00 and closed at 12.15 for lunch, opening again at 14.30 until 19.15. At least you can buy a baguette and a bottle of vin ordinaire on your way home from work.
On Saturday the sign boasted the supermarket was “Non stop” from nine through to seven, but closed on Sunday. Now, there is a surprise.
Once allowed through the hallowed doors of Intermarche I stocked up on life’s essentials. Red wine, coffee, chocolate, some tomatoes noir and, of course champagne – I am in the region after all.
And I threw a baguette and some country bread into the trolley just in case it was too late to catch the boulangerie at the village where we were spending the next two days.
It was just as well, because Val-de-Vesle is a shopping desert. It is home to at least 1500 souls and the delightful municipal campsite hosts hundreds of visitors a month, yet there is no shop. 
I checked, twice, before asking at the campsite reception. “Qu’est que un magasin dans le village?” I asked in my version of schoolgirl French.
“Mais non,” she smiled, then gave me very complicated directions to the nearest shop, which seemed to be at least five kilometres away.
“Il est un cave de champagne dans le village,” or words to that effect, she said on finishing.
A champagne warehouse?
I smiled. When there is no bread, let them drink champagne. I like the French.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Handy hints

Three most useful things for life on the road

  • Our MacBook, we use it for everything – storing photographs, writing home, doing our finances, watching the West Wing and when we have wifi it becomes our radio. We couldn’t live without it, or Martin Sheen. 
  • A corkscrew and a decent coffee pot (thanks Wendy) – no explanation needed.
  • A sense of humour and a sturdy pair of sandals.
Three (and counting) most useless things for life on the road

  • A Swiss Army knife. I bought Nigel a state of the art one for this trip. I asked him the other day if he had used it. “I tightened the screw of my sunglasses with it,” was his reply.
  • A sat nav – all you need is a Philips Multiscale map of Europe, and the aforementioned sense of humour for when you get lost in Budapest…and Neuburg…and Kavala…and of course, France.
  • Heels, underwire bras, Mac make-up, more than one handbag, cheap, and not-so cheap costume jewellery and a very expensive Nicole Farhi silk chiffon shirt dress – yes I packed them all, and apart from the bras I have used none, and the bras only when absolutely necessary.  So will I take them to Africa? Of course, after all, a girl never knows when she might need a good frock…or handbag...or raspberry lip gloss.

Home sweet Hymer

I began this blog on an autobahn heading to Berlin, and seven weeks into the road to Dot, I find myself once more spending a sunny afternoon on German motorway, this time on the A8 heading towards Baden Baden and the last leg of our tour of Europe.
It is hard to imagine life without our motor home. What began as a pragmatic solution to the challenge of getting round as much of Europe as possible in eight weeks has become a way of life.
Nothing fazes us now. We coped when the gas ran out in Amsterdam and when two days later the fitting was condemned as illegal and highly dangerous by a Hymer expert in Osnabruck.
We laughed, nervously, when the lights failed as we entered an unlit tunnel in Serbia. Laughter became rather strained when we realised the horn had gone too, but a friendly Fiat dealer in North Greece soon sorted us out.
We even managed a wry smile or two when our new best friend, Herr Haglet, handed us a rather large bill for the bodywork repairs he had just completed.
We brushed aside the never-ending rise in fuel prices and to balance the books, resolved to drink cheaper wine
We found a simple solution for our stuck waste water drain – biological soap powder and a bumpy road; not a moment too soon, as the smell was in danger of making us pass out.
And when our fresh water tank started emptying of its own accord in Poland, did we panic? Not much it has to be said.
It is hard to adequately describe the appeal of living in a Fiat van, albeit one with a Hymer coach built body attached, but perhaps a sense of freedom best sums it up.
Freedom from the drudgery of housework. Five minutes each day with a broom – 50p in Bulgaria – and a few all-purpose wipes is all it takes to keep it sparkling.
Freedom from the stultifying routine of an eight to seven existence that saps your soul as surely as it pays the bills.
Freedom from stuff – piles of half-read magazines and Sunday newspapers, 400 unseen cable channels, unopened junk mail, unworn shoes, unanswered phone calls, a fridge full of uneaten food…
We still have a few days left in our Hymer home from home and in our wilder moments, after a glass or two of wine, we talk about staying on the road, of becoming full-timers as they say in motor home world.
What is to stop us? The internet keeps us connected to home, our children are grown and we have no career ambitions left, none anyway that need to be, or indeed can be, realised in Scotland.
We are heading for the Champagne region of France where we fully intend to enjoy ourselves. Who knows what decisions we will make after a glass, or several of the finest fizz…

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pitstop in Bavaria

The entry in the visitor’s book for St Anna’s Church, Augsburg, was startling in its honesty.
Amid pleas for “God (to) save Italy” and “Germany too” and a heartfelt petition from a mother for a celestial intervention to cure her daughter’s arthritis, was a confident, yet anonymous, assertion that could only have been written by someone under thirty.
“Actually I have no wishes at the moment, and I suppose I am my own God anyway.”
Oh to be so satisfied with one’s lot. It won’t last. Life will pick her up, I say her because the handwriting was distinctly female, and toss her around before too long.
One day she will have plenty of wishes, if not for herself, for her children, her partner, her elderly parents…and while she may never believe in God, she will realise, eventually, that none of us are our own gods, we are simply human beings together, all struggling to make sense of this strange experience we call life.
I have been feeling a bit grumpy these last few days. Earlier this week we were forced to stop in the very small town of Muhlhausen in lower Bavaria for some emergency repairs to the motor home. Nothing serious, but it did mean we had to stay in a hotel for two days while the Hymer mechanic, Herr Haglet worked his magic.
We found a “pension” right next door to the repair shop, a short bus ride from the city of Augsburg. It looked great on its website – they always do – but alarm bells started ringing when we asked if the heating could be switched on in our room. It was around ten degrees and my hands were tingling with the cold.
“I know it is cold, but the heating is switched off until September,” barked the handsome, but strangely detached owner. He seemed far more interested in his DIY than his guests, so we gave up and put on another layer.
The room was Ikea basic, the curtains were a calming shade of green, but only closed half way and were so sheer that the 4.30 dawn woke us each morning.
There were no water glasses or wastepaper bin, and when, on the first night of our stay, we asked what time the restaurant opened, we were taken aback by his answer.
“We are closed tonight, you could try the campsite down the road, it has a pizzeria.” It did, and we did.
Our stay reminded me of the worst of Scottish hospitality and those awful hoteliers who are more than happy to take your hard earned cash, but less keen to offer a decent service in return.
My worst experience was one Valentine weekend in the East Neuk of Fife, when, on telling a hotel receptionist that there was no hot water in our room, was startled by her response.
“Did you have a shower last night?” she asked.
“ Yes”, I responded warily.
“Then you won’t need one this morning,” she said triumphantly.
Welcome to Scotland, and lower Bavaria. We are off to the Champagne region.

A very modern man

Our enforced stay in Muhlhausen wasn’t all bad. We spent a very pleasant day in Augsburg, a city that I didn’t even know existed until a week ago.
My husband did. Apparently it is a post-industrial city and earlier this year, when he was still gainfully employed, he had toyed with idea of using it as a comparative city for an economic audit of Glasgow he was drafting. He decided against it, but was still keen to see it.
I was more interested in its shopping potential. Seven weeks without buying anything but wifi access and chocolate had left me slightly tetchy. I wanted some retail therapy and Augsburg seemed the place to do it.
After all, it was like Glasgow according to Nigel. I should have known he wasn’t talking about frocks.
There were plenty of shopping opportunities, I just hadn’t counted on German taste. Shop after shop offered sturdy clothes in ten shades of beige, enlivened only by the occasional flash of pastel pink or yellow. The shoes were very expensive, very well made, no doubt very comfortable, and very, very ugly. Ditto the bags.
I gave up after coming across a jacket featuring dominoes, yes dominoes, and headed for the birthplace of Bertolt Brecht, arguably the 20th century’s most influential playwright.
According to the guide book, the city of Augsburg had debated long and hard about how they should honour their most famous son, given that he had decided to live in East Berlin after the war, being of a socialist persuasion.
Luckily commonsense prevailed and his former family home has been transformed into a fitting memorial for a genius.
He may have died in 1956, but was a man of the 21st century. He embraced popular culture as well as high art. He loved boxing, revues, jazz, records, radio and film. He understood the plight of the individual in a mass society. And he liked the odd drink and cigar.
He wrote this short poem wrote in 1939, when in exile from Nazi Germany. It speaks for itself.

To those born later 3

You who will emerge from the flood
In which we have gone under
When you speak of our failings
The dark time too
Which you have escaped.

For we went, changing countries oftener than our shoes
Through the wars of the classes, despairing
When there was injustice only, and no rebellion.

And yet we know:
Hatred, even of meanness
Contorts the features.
Anger, even against injustice
Makes the voice hoarse. Oh, we
Who wanted to prepare the ground for friendliness
Could not ourselves be friendly

But you, when the time comes at last
And man is helper to man
Think of us
With forbearance.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Three thousand feet in the air

We drove through the clouds yesterday and this morning we ate breakfast, three thousand feet above sea level, at the foot of snow covered mountains, breathing air so fresh you can almost taste it.
We are in the Alps, yesterday the Italian, today on the Austrian-German border, just outside Innsbruck.
I am no lover of mountains, or snow, or ski jackets, but Nigel has always wanted to drive through the Alps, so we tossed a coin: heads the south of France, tails the mountain roads. I lost.
I hadn’t anticipated it would be so cold. It is early summer after all. But this high up, even when the sun is shining, as it is just now, it is cold. My feet are freezing and I am wearing three, no, four layers of clothing and a scarf.
Neither had I anticipated the scariness of the roads – nor do I think had Nigel. Our poor old camper almost didn’t make it up a hill yesterday. It was so steep I was breathless just sitting in the passenger seat.
But the main thing I had underestimated was the sheer beauty of the mountains. I am not a poet, so I won’t even try to describe how they look, suffice to say they leave me breathless just looking at them.
We are setting off for our next destination shortly, but not before I listen to the Archers omnibus on my trusty MacBook, thanks to the wonders of wifi.
We are staying in a campsite so modern, so luxurious it is almost decadent. There is the aforementioned wifi, also hot baths, granite shower units, a shop selling everything, and I mean everything, a professional camper could desire.
There is a bar, no, two bars, a restaurant, takeaway, swimming pool…I could go on, but I won’t.
It is of course a German campsite, one of the best, but even the most basic sites in this country are sparkling clean, efficient and full of amenities.
Greece on the other hand is hit and miss, with some sites so run down that even we, in our new chilled out, hippy phase of life, refused to stay in them.
But given the choice between German efficiency, wifi and hot tubs, or Greece’s more relaxed approach to life, I know which one I would choose…
I think there is a bottle of retsina lurking somewhere in the back of the fridge. Is it too early for a glass?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sex and...

When Carrie Bradshaw and Mr Big finally got together again in the last episode of Sex and the City three years ago, my sister and I cried buckets. Our emotions that evening were fuelled, it has to be said, by several large Cosmopolitans, but we were genuinely moved by the very modern love story that was Carrie and Big.
So I couldn’t wait to see the much-anticipated big screen version of the cult TV hit series. Indeed I was so desperate I dragged my poor husband along to the Village cinema complex in downtown Athens earlier this week to catch an early evening screening.
No, I am not going to give away the plot, such as it was, or spoil the ending by telling you if it was happy or not, but I did cry a couple of times and laughed a few more.
But I didn’t really enjoy it. The genius of SATC - the TV series was the brilliant script. Okay, the accessories were to die for too, but the dialogue was sassy, fast paced, even at times, insightful.
The movie script just didn’t have the same sparkle or depth. It was also clearly a solo vehicle for Sarah Jessica Parker, with everyone else; yes even the magnetic Chris Noth, relegated to the sidewalk.
It was also very cynical. I don’t usually mind product placement, but when it as blatant as it was in this movie, it leaves even a brand junkie like me feeling a bit jaded.
In one of the most poignant moments of the movie, an iPhone gets a better close up than any of the four women.
And the graphic sex scenes that made the TV series such a talking point were largely absent. The most desirable thing in the movie was a pre-war Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment, with a walk-in wardrobe that was surely designed by a god-like genius.
As Mr Big would say, it was abso – effing – lutely gorgeous.

...the city

Not even a self confessed Grecophile such as I could describe Athens as abso-effing-lutely gorgeous.
It as a sprawling, raucous city of some four million souls, most of who live in concrete suburbs.
But its heart, the Acropolis is, as I have said already, one of the most stunning cityscapes in the world.
And just a short walk from there is my favourite restaurant in the world. 
The Café Avissinia doesn’t have a Michelin star, nor does it desire one.
It is not in the most fashionable location, tucked away as it is in the corner of the Monastiraki flea market.
And the décor, maroon paint, busy floral wallpaper and mismatched tables and chairs is late seventies Laura Ashley on speed.
But it is a little bit of restaurant heaven. 
We found it by accident on our first visit to Athens six years ago, when we ate there twice in four days, and yesterday was our sixth visit.
I love food, buying it, cooking it, reading about it, and most of all eating it, and so does Ketty Tooros the owner of the Abyssinian.
The menu is traditional Greek, but not the bland versions that tavernas dish up for tourists. This is food as Ketty’s grandmother used to make, but with a few modern twists.
Yesterday we sat down to fava using split peas from Santorini and grilled Halloumi cheese, followed by yaprakia, which is finely minced and perfectly spiced pork wrapped in cabbage and sardines, stuffed with herbs, wrapped with vine leaves and cooked in the oven with tomatoes and onions.
We drank a red wine from Drama, and don’t believe anyone who tells you Greek wine is undrinkable. It now has some terrific regional wines that are as good as the best Italy can offer.
We finished with a dense strawberry compote and Greek yoghurt, and a, small, glass of muscat de limnos from Alexandria.
“I would love to come to Edinburgh in August for your Festival,” said Ketty’s son who was in charge yesterday, “but we are having a baby soon,” he said, smiling with love and pride at his beautiful and very pregnant wife who sat at the next table.
“And Edinburgh would love to have a restaurant as good as this,” I replied.
No doubt he thought I was spinning him a line, but I can’t think of a similar place in my home city.
One that is open from noon to midnight, offers live music at the weekends, serves up great food in a relaxed atmosphere and is not competing for awards, simply celebrating life. And crucially doesn’t require a credit card or expense account for lunch.
Maybe The Dogs, David Ramsden’s new place in Hanover Street comes close, but where else?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Greek delights

A former boss of mine once advised my colleagues that if I was ever grumpy with them (as if), they should simply mention Greece, and I would calm down.
“Get her on to the subject of Greece,” he purportedly said. “She loves talking about it.”
He was right. Greece is one of my favourite places, and not just because of the fabulous weather.
There is the obvious sense of history, with the ruins of ancient towns scattered across the mainland and the islands. Where else would you find the remnants of a 2500-year-old community next to a café offering all day English breakfasts?
The Greeks practically invented Western civilisation. When we Brits were still running around in animal skins and woad, the Ancient Greeks were getting to grips with democracy, drama, philosophy, mathematics, medicine, and of course, organising the Olympics.
Athens is not the city most people think it is. Yes, the traffic is manic; even at 6.30 am as we discovered this morning on our way from the port of Piraeus.
Yes, most of the buildings are post-war concrete monstrosities that give large parts of the city a rather downmarket feel.
And the nightlife doesn’t start until midnight, which for someone who needs to be in her bed by 10.30 pm makes for a very quiet social life.
But it is also one of the most stunning city centres in the world. The Parthenon is one of the most enduring symbols of who we are and what we can achieve as human beings.
I defy anyone to stand in front of the Acropolis and not be uplifted.
But before I get my next fix of the classical world, I have a movie to see. I cannot believe that Sex and the City has been out for over two weeks and I have yet to see it.
Mock if you like, but there is no finer escapism than the world of Carrie Bradshaw, and no sexier character than Mr Big. I only hope it isn’t dubbed.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Yes he can

Yes he did. Hillary may not yet have conceded defeat, but Senator Barack Obama is going to be the Democrat’s candidate for the US general election in November – and very possibly the next President of the United States.
It is easy to mock politicians. Some are dumb, many arrogant and all have egos – you can’t put yourself forward for election without having some sort of belief in yourself. But they are no more egotistical than newspaper editors, brain surgeons or company CEOs – often less so.
Democracy depends absolutely on the willingness of people such as Senators Obama and Clinton, Jack McConnell, David Cameron et al, to put themselves up for election – and for them to take all the crap that goes with the job.
Imagine trying to stay focussed on doing a decent day’s work while all about you newspaper pundits, bar room sages and anonymous bloggers are making fun of your wife, questioning your honesty and blaming you for the stupidity of your friends. Not easy.
But someone has to do it. If we didn’t have people willing to put themselves and their families through the mill that is universal democratic suffrage, we would be living in a dictatorship.
Back to Senator Obama. It is all too easy to get carried away by his charismatic good looks and his energy, and to believe that maybe, just maybe, the West Wing was fact, not fiction.
It is also hard not to be cynical. I believed Bill Clinton when he talked about a little town called hope, and Tony Blair when he welcomed a new dawn.
Neither got it quite right, but they almost did.
Barack Obama wants to do the right things.
I believe in him when he talks about change and building “a world that's better, and kinder, and more just”.
I am neither naive or stupid.  Just a believer in the power of democracy.
And if we were to stop believing in the power of democracy to change the world for the better, then we stop believing in democracy…

Monday, June 2, 2008

Paradise found

Our second month on the road. It is scarcely believable that, just a few weeks ago, First Group, the Royal Bank of Scotland and deadlines imposed from above, below and leftfield ruled our lives. A deadline's source is irrelevant - they are all tyrannical.
Now our only target is reaching the next campsite on our roughly sketched itinerary. Today I write from the foot of Mount Olympus. I will repeat that because it is just sound so damn good. Today I write from the foot of Mount Olympus.
But before I get caught up in our Greek odyssey, let me take you back a few days to Bulgaria.
Our first impressions were bad, and as we approached the capital Sofia, where we had planned to stay for two nights, our mood got more morose.
Concrete high-rise, shanty towns and crumbling roads were all around. We had no campsite in mind; indeed we were unsure if any existed on the outskirts of the city and there was little in our guidebook to suggest Sofia was worth a 48 hour stopover.
“Let’s keep going,” I said, “We’ll bypass Sofia and head south towards Greece, we may find something along the way.”
Nigel did as he was told and kept following the E79 toward Blagoevgrad and the road to Thessaloniki.
“We are going to Rila Monastery,” I announced, as Sofia receded from the horizon. “It is Bulgaria’s spiritual home, it is just off the E79 and there are campsites near by.” Thank you Lonely Planet.
Just off the E79 turned out to be 31 kilometres up into the most amazing snow covered mountains, past fast flowing rivers and picturesque houses. We were silent in our astonishment of how Bulgaria had suddenly turned from being a dour, corrupt post-Communist state riddled with concrete into, well, paradise.
And we hadn’t reached the monastery yet.
Rila Monastery was quite simply spiritual. And I speak as a lifelong atheist. 
It was established by a herdsman turned priest, St John of Rila, in the first century AD and for centuries has been one of Bulgaria's most important historical and cultural monuments.
Today it is home to 300 monks who, in between prayers, play host to busloads of awestruck visitors.
Even the hordes of Japanese tourists led by a guide and interpreter, both with megaphones, yes megaphones, couldn’t ruin the atmosphere of calm contemplation that pervades the place.
The campsite next to it was down a hill so steep, pitted with so many treacherous rocks and potholes, that we decided to book into a small riverside hotel a few kilometres down the road rather than risk the van’s axle.
Budget, I hear you cry. What budget, I respond.
Our host, a young Bulgarian woman, showed us to a delightful room, with a view of the mountains and told us the restaurant was open until 11.00 pm.
We ate a sun-soaked tomato salad and home made bean soup washed down with an excellent Bulgarian red wine at a table by the river’s edge.
“You must love living here,” I said to our host. “It is paradise,” she said handing us a bill for a few euros.
It is also a great place to run an illegal pirating operation. As we were heading back to our room I peeked through an open door. It was filled with about twenty DVD players, all on and clearly recording. Another young woman was making a fine adjustment to her night’s work when she saw me staring and quickly slammed the door in my face.
Bulgaria, a haven for corrupt officials, organised crime and surly bank tellers…and paradise on earth.

Things I miss from home

Things I miss from home

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Gossip
And that is about it...

Things I don’t miss from home

  • The tyranny of going to work every day
  • Opening bank and credit card statements
  • Deciding what to have for dinner
  • Wasting the weekend doing domestic chores
  • The rain
  • Grey skies
  • The rain
  • Supermarket shopping
  • Sleepless nights
  • Watching, wistfully, endless repeats of A Place in the Sun 
  • The number 27 bus full of schoolchildren
  • Small minds 
  • Monstrous egos
  • The rain
There are more, many more, but I can’t bear to list them…