Wednesday, 26 November 2008

So the dog has pathogenic e-coli… Yes, that’s what I said: ‘Do what?!’. Just when I thought we were reaching the end of the daily pre-school vet visits, schlepping over to the surgery with two kids, one dog and a bag of sh*te (he’s been growing poo cultures), the vet calls me up to break the news. And how does ones dog pick up pathogenic e-coli? From eating other dog’s poo. Lovely. I always knew Tiggy was a dog of very little brain but I did like to think she had enough common sense to disregard her own or any other faeces. Apparently not. . So now I am administering daily pro-biotic tablets hidden in a lump of cheese as well as everything else which means I can’t go near the fridge now without her following me with her tongue out and a pleading look on her face. Yes, the dog likes cheese. Still I shouldn’t complain, it’s healthier than poo,

Meanwhile it is a winter wonderland here in Budapest. I am so miffed I don’t have my own skis because the park where Tiggy and I walk each morning is knee deep in snow with some cool looking slopes. A couple of joggers have swapped their Nikes for skis and it looks like lots of fun. Still, I have found other ways to amuse myself; I built two snowmen yesterday. While the kids were at school. Do you think I have too much time on my hands or what? I did achieve something useful at the same time, namely clearing the driveway and patio of snow, but I confess that was a bi-product of the snowman building. I’m not sure what came over me but I just had to have one! Tiggy thought I had gone completely mad, rolling huge balls of snow around the place, but she’s getting quite adept at catching snowballs in her mouth now. Pity she still can’t give a stick back when she’s fetched it or walk past doggy do without snacking but you can’t have it all can you?

Saturday, 22 November 2008

What's all this white stuff?

Don’t mention the ‘C’ word. You know the one I mean. The one on every child’s lips as soon as the Halloween costumes have gone been packed away for another year. The one on every Grandma’s lips from the moment the grandkids go back to school in September - ‘I just want to plan ahead, darling…’ The one that ruins your weekly shopping because Tescos has to rearrange the entire store to accommodate the ‘seasonal fayre’ it wants to flog you and can’t possibly continue to stock Weetabix when there are chocolate Santas to accomodate.

NO! I said don’t say it! I am doing my best to get organised and catch all the last posting dates and work out how to smuggle the usual sleigh-full of presents to my mum’s house with a baggage allowance of only 20kg per person but I fear my C*******s spirit is still in the bottle at the moment. And I hadn’t counted on the dog getting sick this week and needing injections at 8am each morning, then pulling a ligament whilst romping round the forest yesterday so she also requires ointment applied to her foot 4 times a day ‘and please stop her from licking it off for at least 5 minutes afterwards.’ You what?

So to top off the week with a big fat cherry I have been snowed on 4 times today. It has been very weird because the snow cloud was caught on top of the Buda hills for most of the day so while it was semi-blizzard when we took Pickle to football practice right up in the hills this morning it was just cold and sunny with ominous looking clouds in the distance down in town at Nobby’s football tournament. Our house is halfway between the two and the snow finally reached us in swirling gusts at about lunchtime so I dug out the snow chains for Sharan just in case as we set off to watch Daddy and his mates kicking a ball about (ooh, I’m going to get hell for that one – I have been told time and again, no, it’s NOT just a game…) However by the time we reached the bottom of Gazdagret hill it was sunny again, with an ominous cloud in my rear-view mirror. Weird.

Have you picked up yet it’s been a football kind of a day? Nobby’s company had their annual inter-departmental tournament and despite the fact that this time last week he couldn’t stand upright having put his back out with a particularly violent sneeze (?!) Nobby insisted on playing. These tournaments have come up several times before in the past; after all I have been a football widow for the better part of twelve years now. And although I used to enjoy standing on the touchline for hours on end yelling encouragement, these days it’s not quite the same when you have two little monkeys pulling on your trouser leg moaning ‘Mummmeeeee, I’m booooooored!’ two minutes after kick-off. I had to boycott most of the French competitions after the first one over-ran by about 3 hours and I had to make my way home alone on the train with two small, tired, hungry kids and leave the car for Nobby so he could follow on when it eventually ended. In the old days I'd just have met him in the pub. But I have to say I was very impressed today; these guys could teach the French a thing or two about running to time and they laid on lunch too. Needless to say my two stuffed themselves with free chocolate bars all afternoon then ran around like loonies whenever the pitch was empty. HoweverI am pleased to report that Nobby’s back held out and his team came second out of seven.

Then as we all exited the dome we discovered the world had turned white. That cheeky cloud had followed me down the ruddy hill and dumped all over us while we weren’t looking. Poppet and Pickle were very excited and immediately set off to make their mark on the pristine layer of white in the car park. And now all they want to do is cut out paper snowflakes to decorate their rooms. Plus of course, what does snow mean when you’re 7 years old? What question have I already heard ten times since we got home?
‘How many sleeps till Christmas?’

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Wedding wear

There is a wedding in the offing. My big bruv is getting hitched at Christmas. In their wisdom he and his intended have assigned bridesmaid and pageboy roles to my offspring and Nobby is an usher so at least it’s up to the happy couple to sort out the monkey suits for all of them. My sister’s husband is also an usher so she and I have assigned ourselves the roles of Chief Champagne Testers and Bar-Props while everyone else is busy doing their thang. However I still need a suitable outfit for myself, and this has been causing me some problems.

Nobby and I took a stroll round a few party-dress type shops at the weekend while the children were on a play date to the cinema. There were some interesting, imaginative outfits on offer, and we met some enthusiastic if slightly unhelpful assistants – I guess it’s my own fault for not looking up the Hungarian for ‘classy yet comfortable and suitable for a wedding at one o’clock in the afternoon’ that I found myself being shown all things satin and taffeta and tied up with bows. After two of them poured me into some purple cat-suit style thing which clung to every curve that I decided I’d rather be up to my neck in popcorn and cola in front of Madagascar II with Poppet and Pickle. I mean I’m all for figure-hugging and I am willing to employ industrial strength lycra support to be able to pull it off, but my bruv hasn’t shouted me dinner in a long time and I want to be able to enjoy the wedding feast without risk of taking out some elderly uncle’s eye out with my popping buttons.

So the search continues. Although the only store I will be visiting tomorrow is the ski-wear shop because we are due snow here this weekend and last year’s gear is halfway up the kids’ arms so we are risking serious loss of appendage if I don’t get them some new jackets pronto. I wonder if I they’ve invented the wedding shell-suit yet?

Monday, 17 November 2008

Bombs in Budapest

Nobby took the day off on Friday so we pootled off to town for a bit of culture – Bodies The Exhibition . The children were horrified that we wanted to go look at preserved human bodies with their insides exposed (“Were there any eyeballs? Did you see a brain?” “Yes we did.” “Eeuuurgh!!”) Don’t get me wrong, it was all very educational and took me right back to my Biology A Level studies, but I couldn’t get over the feeling that the exposed femur on the skinless chap with the football bore more than a fleeting resemblance to the thing I gave Tiggy to chew on before we left.

Anyway, on the journey into town we passed a line of police cars outside a building site which had been cordoned off. ‘Ooh, it must be a body!’ we decided; clearly our modern diet of CSI and Waking The Dead makes us bypass more benign explanations such as a protest against the construction, or a gas leak and leads us straight to murder and mayhem. But I did wonder why the army had just turned up as well... On our way home we were heading past the same building site, only to be re-directed to a safe distance because they had since blocked all the neighbouring roads and created a traffic jam to rival France’s finest. We were very nearly late for the school family assembly where Pickle put in a memorable performance of ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ along with the rest of his class.

As it turns out the bulldozers at the site had uncovered an unexploded World War II bomb. Not quite the murder mystery we had imagined, which wasn’t so bad as we were rather over dead bodies after the exhibition (the parma ham pizza was not the best lunch choice in hindsight) but still pretty exciting. Nobby called the office which is located within the ‘blast radius’ (we watch ‘24’ as well, see how easily the terminology comes?) to find out that had he been at work he would have been on stand-by for evacuation! We shared the gossip with the other expat parents at the school who were very excited too. But the Hungarian Mums were somewhat blasé about it, apparently unexploded bombs turn up on construction sites fairly routinely here given the bombardment during the war. I guess we sometimes forget where we are now.

Well, I notice it has been about a month since I last Blogged, how does the time pass so quickly? I have a couple of valid excuses for my slackness. One being that I had to turn the study into a bedroom for a week while my sister and parents were here and I didn’t think my Sis would want to find me tapping away into the small hours while she was trying to get some sleep. Another excuse is the weekend I just lost to a migraine that completely floored me from Thursday night to Sunday morning. Big thanks to Nobby and K for rescuing me from the school runs and general childcare while I lay in my darkened room.

It’s been quite hectic recently though, with the half term holidays, a lovely week with my rellies, meeting up with Rose who was also in town staying with her Mum… and a Halloween party for all the kids in both my children’s classes at school. I have to say that throwing a bash for 22 children and a dozen adults wasn’t the nightmare you might imagine, thanks to a tonne of face-paints, a table full of goodies and a cleverly constructed witches cave with spooky music. Oh, and an unseasonably glorious sunny November day really helped – I wonder what the neighbours thought of all the witches and vampires jumping on our trampoline and swinging off the climbing frame all afternoon. I was oddly serene afterwards as I took down the spiders and pumpkins which festooned the house.

That is until I stepped into the post office the following day – now THAT is what I call stress. Let me explain. A Hungarian lady we know sent us a parcel. I wasn’t home when the Postie came so I got a slip in Hungarian which I sussed was something to do with a delivery but couldn’t fathom where I was supposed to go with it. I asked a semi-bi-lingual lady at the Tescos post office, who sent me to another local post office, where I had to resort to calling K to translate over the mobile as even my pals the Berlitz phrasebook and sign-language were falling flat. Eventually we confirmed I need to go to the big sorting office in downtown Budapest, so off I trotted, slip in hand, putting 15 minutes on the parking meter as this shouldn’t be too hard now, and after all we’re not in France any more, right? Wrong.

All the signs in the sorting office are illegible to me of course, so I stood in the wrong queue for the first 10 minutes until someone showed me the way. In the new queue the person in front of me handed over a similar looking slip to mine, the man went in back for a moment, returned after 30 seconds with a parcel, gave it to the person and it was my turn. I handed over my slip, the man went in back, returned with a parcel about 5 minutes later, put it on the floor next to him, tapped on the computer for a bit then started to talk to me in Hungarian, shaking his head ominously.

The only phrase I know in Hungarian is ‘I don’t speak Hungarian’. Luckily a nice old man in the queue behind me spoke English and stepped in to give me a hand. And then he started to have an argument with the post-chappie while I stood there staring longingly at my long-awaited parcel. It turned out that although my parcel was *physically* still at the sorting office, it had *officially* already been returned to the sender because they only keep them for 10 days and I had shown up on day 10. Some official notification had already been sent to someone that it was going back so I wasn’t allowed to have it, even though it was right there in front of me! The old chap was getting very cross on my behalf because it seemed they were all for telling me to go away empty handed and letting them return it, even when I had him explain that the sender had moved away from Budapest 2 days after posting the parcel so it was going to come straight back to the sorting office when she didn’t answer the door. At this they decided it would be ok if the sender could telephone the sorting office to confirm that I could have the parcel. ?? Isn’t that what she was doing by mailing it to me in the first place? Argh!!

Anyway, I am risk of ranting here and I had been so enjoying leaving the French bureaucracy behind. I don’t know how it followed me. Since that incident, which was indeed resolved by a phone call from the sender when I eventually tracked her down in Dublin, although in theory I could have had anyone make the call, how on earth did the post office know it was her who sent it? I have entered a twilight zone of triplicate forms, successive help-desk visiting and standing in line like I’m at back at Disney but without the thrill-ride at the end of it, and this was just to return a £1.50 battery. So I have a feeling there is more yet to come.