I have had my first run-in with the local fire department here in Hungary. As opposed to my visits from les pompiers in France, this time there were no stray dogs or broken limbs involved - they were putting up the Christmas tree in front of the opera house in downtown Budapest. K and I had been out for a girly dinner and saw all the flashing blue lights as we walked down the road looking for a taxi afterwards so we decided to stay and watch. Did you know there is a custom built hole in the pavement outside the opera house especially for the Christmas tree? Now the guidebooks don’t tell you about that one, I expect the rest of the year it just looks like an ordinary man hole. Unfortunately the massive tree they unloaded with an industrial crane had a far bigger trunk than the hole so we were treated to a display of amateur chain-saw tree surgery by torch-light. It was K who pointed out the universal phenomenon we were witnessing – like queue jumping and football - when there’s a hole in the road and work to be done there’ll be 2 guys doing the work and about ten standing around watching. Not that I’m complaining about having a dozen firemen to gawp at after half a bottle of wine, mercifully there was a distinct absence of arse cleavage given that it was sub zero temperatures at that time of night. d I have to say I much preferred the firemen’s uniforms to the usually workman’s jeans showing a crack that you could park your bike in.
I have also had another run-in with the postal service. Well, technically I haven’t actually torn anyone off a strip given my language handicap but if our postman dares to come by in the near future expecting a Christmas tip he’ll be getting the tip of my Christmas tree up his nose after his latest stunt. On Wednesday I decided to pop home in between a Hungarian lesson and fetching the kids from swimming as it was pelting down rain and Tiggy had been outdoors for a couple of hours. She’s not using her shiny new kennel yet despite all my efforts to coax her in there – comfy blankets, tasty treats, my favourite cardigan… at the weekend I even squeezed in there myself to try and persuade her it was better option than freezing to death in the wind and rain but all I succeeded in doing was laddering my tights and cricking my neck –so being a bit of a softy I wanted to get her out of the rain and into the basement instead. I noticed something wet and droopy sticking out of the mailbox so I hurried out to fetch it trying to think what I might be expecting other than the newspaper and another pile of bills. (To quote Blackadder, ‘I feel like a pelican; everywhere I turn there’s an enormous bill in front of me.’) It turned out to be the batch of photos and personalised Christmas cards I had ordered from Kodak, beautifully packaged in a cardboard envelope. Which was by then water logged and starting to disintegrate. I threw open the mailbox itself expecting to find something extra special filling it up, and there was the weekly newspaper, all wrapped in cellophane, impermeable to water even if he’d chucked it on the floor. Oh, and a couple of bills.
Anyway, I am pleased to say that my Christmas spirit returned by the weekend and we put up our tree and lots of fairy lights and a crate-load of accumulated Christmassy objects the children have crafted at school over the years – a cardboard fir tree here, a paper-plate ‘bauble’ there, and the all time classic painted gingerbread cookies which Tiggy sneaked off the tree and into her bed while I wasn’t looking. We are now proudly displaying the customary fake tree (no pine needles for me, I have enough to moan about) whose upper branches look as though they’ve had tinsel vomited all over them while the bottom third is completely bare. But the kids had a lovely time and didn’t lum for a whole hour.
Now all I have to do is work out how to pack all the presents into 2 suitcases without the kids seeing and without the baggage handlers destroying them. Any pointers would be gratefully received.
Xmas Letter of Apology
2 days ago