Come along for the journey!

Come along for the journey!

Saturday, 31 July 2010


So, it's been fantastic to catch up with Andy & Sam. Can you believe how plucky and pioneering Andy & Sam are? Moving out to Hungary and buying a farm, getting some animals, with plans to grow what they eat and maybe more…the whole nine yards. Sam is English, but raised for a significant spell in Hungary and Hungarian speaking Romania.

They showed us a great time - first stop, the flea market, where we picked up not only a couple of Hungarian nicknacks, but also a couple of Hungarian words too. This is particularly impressive as, having done half my Tessol course a while back, I can inform you that Hungarian is agreed to be the most difficult language to learn for English speakers in the World! More than Chinese! It's just mental. This makes Andy's achievement of becoming fairly conversational, and stringing sentences together, a work of God himself.

There are other challenges of assimilation into Hungarian life that Andy has to face, including the ability to grow ridiculous facial hair, wear clothes that look garish and 20 years out of date, and eat half ones body weight in meat. Oh hold on, Andy's gonna be just fine. The Hungarian diet is pretty meaty and with plans to raise and eat nothing but pigs, Andy is nearly fully fledged Hungarian already. With Sam so familiar with Hungarian language and ways, alongside Sam's mother Cathy next door, he is set up well. The two of them are really going for it, Sam is cracking on with her Phd and Andy is employed by the university. They're enjoying dreaming some big dreams and settling into country life.

We were also taken to see some traditional Hungarian sights. Most of all, we got a real glimpse into Andy & Sam's lives: where they work, worship and welax (needed the 3point sermon style there). It makes our challenge of getting back on our feet with work and things feel very doable. Lovely talented people those Cheesman's. And speaking of axe wielding, rest assured Andy continues to play his guitar at level 11 at his Hungarian speaking Church, in a language we all understand. Go Andy! (Cue 'God made rock & Roll for you').

Thursday, 29 July 2010


Why is it you know you're going to get good times and relaxation in some countries, and end up with some travel horror stories in others? After a genteel jolly through Sarajevo, we were stopped by the police on one of the major roads north. Flagged over, I was asked to step out of the vehicle and come to the patrol car. I was informed that our lights were on and that "…we have to punish you". Seriously. Scarey words when you're not even in the EU.

I was curious, because I had read at the border and online that Bosnia requires lights to be on all the time. "Ah, yes but not the side lights". It's raining, with dark clouds overhead, the sidelights seem reasonable. "Oh no, we have a set fine for having extra lights on…35 Euros". This I was informed had to be paid at a local bank, whilst our passports were held and we returned with a receipt. Bonkers. I spoke to the English speaking younger officer and asked why it wouldn't be reasonable to simply warn us given the ambiguity over the requirement. He replied there was nothing he could do as the non-English speaking older officer was calling the shots. I was keen that if I was going to have to pay the money in this 'good cop bad cop' situation, then at least I'd get my 3500 cents worth across.

I said to the young cop, that it is no wonder the police have a bad reputation, not just in his country, but in many countries. "I know" he said, "but what can I do? He's the boss". "Well I'll pay the fine, but you know this business can stop with him - when you're calling the shots one day, you'll be able to do things differently right"? Around about now, I was getting ready to have my pious butt thrown into jail…but I was pretty annoyed.

I stood resigned to the fact that this was the way it was whilst they continued processing paper work. Moments later, the 'bad cop' returned my passports with the younger cop saying "You're lucky, you can go".

I'm a tad feisty in the face of injustice. Gonna get me in trouble one of these days. Incidentally, this blog entry wins the prestigious 'Nekolina best title award' for innovation.

Incidentally, still had no camera battery at this time, so you'll have to settle for a pic of when Neko was pulled over in Oregon.

WHAT WAS THE CASH POINT IN THAT?: (Somewhere in Bosnia)

So it was always going to happen - you buy a vintage car cos it looks pretty and you so know you're going to end up stranded in some loony place where noone understands a word you're saying and a very moustached gentleman dismantles your car with a view to charge you inordinate amounts of money. Ahh, like I've said before, stereotypes are a real time saver.

Well we were correct on the inevitability of breaking down - it was just a case of when. We bought a pretty sound car all up, with only 80k on the clock and a more than sturdy engine that any grease monkey could work over - none of this new-fangled computerised nonsense. Still, we were thankfully wrong on all our other hackneyed ideas. Driving through the middle of nowhere, conquering a mountain pass and enjoying an excursion of the Bosnian Forest parks, we were out running the weather that the ol' motor isn't so keen on, and it finally happened. Thankfully, we came to a halt right outside a restaurant, where there was a group of English speaking lads (not so common here), and they knew 'the best mechanic in town'! Woohoo…how lucky was that?!! We're saved.

Within 10 minutes, we'd been kindly pushed off the road into a field opposite, offered Turkish tea and some chit chat, and the mechanic was beginning to tinker about. Out came the front driver panel, out came the light covers in the boot. It's an electrical problem. Sounds about right, that engine's bomb proof, but we do enjoy the occasional quirk with the heating and things. With our big plan to get through Bosnia in a day on our way to Andy & Sam for dinner in Hungary, we had a picnic lunch and no local cash. Holy smoking spark plugs batman! Next thing you know, we're being driven to a cash point by a couple of guys in central Bosnia.

Thankfully we weren't robbed and left for dead with our car up on bricks when we got back. Rather, the everso kind gentlemen returned us to a smug looking mechanic, who'd fixed our car (it was a blown fuse - 20p part) with the slightly quirky adjustment of having to turn our lights on to start it. He rigged up the petrol pump to the lights. Basically, if we turn off our lights now, we stop. This isn't going to roll with the Bosnian police. We've gottsta get outta here.

For his troubles, and he'd been there over three hours mind, we were expecting the worst. He could have charged anything - we had our backs up against the wall. After a bit of head scratching and cheek puffing, he gave me a good hard look and told me " 10 Euros please"…in Bosnian. He wouldn't even let me tip him.

So what did we learn from this wee exercise. "Don't follow leaders an' watch those parking' meters"…words of wisdom from Bob? Dump your stupid stereotypes at the border? We're figuring it all out.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

ENJOYING THE MOMENT: (Dubrovnic, Croatia)

We left our camera charger and spare battery in Greece. We were fleeing a cafe where a woman was telling us about how the Masons were taking over the world, and Neko was getting a particularly hard time as an Obama supporter. We've gone through Montenegro and Croatia without a camera. A severed limb.

Such was our desperation that when we mounted the beautiful walls of Dubrovnic at sunset, we resorted to asking a young guy with the same camera if we could buy him a drink and charge our battery on his charger at the same time. On the surface of it,  it looked like a classic tourist scam…smiley pretty gal, drugged drink, then lighten his load of a fancy camera. Bonza. He declined our plea.

It was actually quite nice simply walking the walls without trying to get all the angles and pics for posterity, something I struggle with at times: enjoying the moment….now.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

MACKS & OSK VISIT: (Halkidiki, Greece)

We left Thessaloniki a morning after arriving to go to Halkidiki with Mackenzie & Oskar - who managed to swing getting a few days off during their high season!

We felt very privileged to get in on some of their spare time as it's so rare and precious. We had a very kicked back relaxing time, until O&M showed their fierce side on the go-kart racing track. They're both completely nuts - Mackenzie's bull riding adrenaline crazed past shining through.

On our return to Thessaloniki, we spent our time hanging out with Ted (In Greek, phonetically: Thethothis…that's a lot of 'th') a ringer for Jose Murinho. He was a star. He helped us translate vital things to the mechanic, so that the car was tip top after a year sitting still, prior to setting off on our four thousand mile journey home.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Following our fascinating detour via Bulgaria after EasyJet cancelled our flight due to Greek airport ground staff going on strike, we managed to see Polis & Maria for all of a few hours before they flew off to England! How frustrating. Still, it was good to be there after our silly cycling fund-raiser, and we presented them the finished short film Kris made about the victims and perpetrators of human trafficking. Maria, once the awkwardness and laughter of hearing her own voice recorded (never great) wore off, seemed to think it was a good representation of the work she is doing. She took it as planned to the conference in Sweden and the Salvation Army General's wife has ordered extra copies. That's encouraging.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


England's green and pleasant land
We are back for a brief stopover on route back to Europe where we'll pick up the car and begin our swan song home. Liz & Christian welcomed us home with a BBQ.

We stayed with Georgie & Bloxy, celebrated David's birthday at the Lido, checked in for a therapy session with Professor Williams, played footy twice and had a very tense round of Golf with Dr Dalton and Dr Harley.  A very fun stopover was extended by our flight being cancelled due to an airport strike in Greece. We're delayed leaving England again - last time it was the ash, this time it's the Greeks (sounds like a line from 'Lock stock'). We now fly via Bulgaria!