I am in Romania, in a very strange city near the country’s western border with Hungary. The flight here seemed to take no time at all. We went up and down so quickly that I barely had time to work myself up into a tizzy. Furthermore, I don't think I have ever been ushered through a passport control and a baggage handling system so speedily. One gets the impression that not many planes land here.
The taxi from the airport took us through dusty fields, delineated by tall pampas grasses, which reminded me of parts of the deep south of America. There were peculiar adverts on strange billboards, unfamiliar road signs, boarded-over cafes, strange shops selling weed killer and grand houses which seemed to be very slowly turning into dust. The grass by the side of the roads was already turning slightly yellow.
The outskirts of Timisoara looked very run down. This isn’t a wealthy European city. Perhaps it wants to be, but I suspect its people will always look slightly down-trodden and careworn. Men sit on benches on street corners smoking cigars, young girls walk around in the fashion of twenty years ago, huge chunks of plaster are missing from old buildings. It’s very other-worldly; almost as though the town were living in some kind of cine-film.
Keith and Alison in the city centre
The hotel we’re staying in is situated right in the middle of the town. It's very swanky and posh. We’re sandwiched in an area between two incredibly impressive squares where the architecture is like nothing I’ve seen before; very definitely European, but laced with something else; something indefinable. Slightly gothic; very dark. Transylvanian, perhaps.
We’ve already been exploring, and we sat for some time in a cafe in the larger of the two squares. I mistakenly asked for a hot chocolate, which arrived in the form of an almost solid brown piping hot custard, which I didn’t enjoy in the slightest. What I DID enjoy, however, was that the square was filled with hundreds of little towels and sheets hanging out like someone had just done the mother of all wash-days. I assume it was some kind of art installation, but it was very beautiful to watch them flapping around in the breeze. I have also enjoyed finding little book sellers on the streets. I was amused to see the story of Oliver Cromwell translated into Romanian.
The Prix de Circom is awarded as part of the Circom Conference. It's wonderful to go to an award ceremony knowing that you’ve won. I don’t have to polish up my fake smile or mouth the words “thank God” when the worthy film about people with mental disability wins instead of mine! I suppose it’s also a good opportunity to network. It’s one of the only positives about being a freelancer. I genuinely could up sticks and go and do a project for a European broadcaster if there was some interest. That said, my recent issues with the England project and the Lincolnshire Poachers has meant that I've become incredibly wary of those who promise too much.
May 5th, 1661, and Pepys remained in Guildford. There was a visit to a church, followed by a lengthy discussion about religion, which lasted so long that they forgot to go to church again in the afternoon. Pepys spent some time larking about in the garden of his lodgings with Mr Creed, seeing which of the two men could jump the furthest from an old fountain. Pepys won; his prize, a quart of sack.
Pepys and Elizabeth had a terrible row over supper, bizarrely about the relative beauty of one of their acquaintances, Mrs Pierce. I can just imagine the conversation. Pepys goes overboard talking about her beauty (which in fairness, was legendary; we’re told that by her 19th child in 1678, she still only looked about 20 years old!) Elizabeth feels offended and jealous and tells Pepys that Mrs Pierce really isn’t all that. Instead of backing down, Pepys labours the point, which makes Elizabeth angry, which causes a row, which means they have to go for a walk across the fields just to calm down. I wonder if he ever learnt!