Saturday, May 07, 2005

Post election and other random ramblings

So, Labour won. No surprise there, and with the choices on offer it seems that the result was probably about the best it could be (not the best possible result, but the best possible result in the system we have). I didn’t vote. This is because being abroad means that I need to organise myself well in advance to ensure my participation, and this year I wasn’t especially enthused by any of the parties (or at least any of the parties who had a cat in hell’s chance), and therefore didn’t bother to get organised. It’s also because I feel a tad fraudulent (and always have) voting in an election which, aside from foreign policy, and arguably the government’s attitude to Europe, I am not really affected by. I don’t pay tax in the UK, I don’t use the education system, I don’t use the NHS, etc etc. This means that I effectively disenfranchise myself, because no other country has ever awarded me the vote either, even though I have paid taxes in (more or less) every country in which I have lived.

This time round the principle choice was either war criminals or racists. It wasn’t especially inspiring to be honest. I’m glad Labour’s majority was slashed, and I’m glad that the racistscumbagtories didn’t get in. I’m also glad that Respect got a seat (even that it was George Galloway). I’m sad that the Lib Dems didn’t get more seats (and even seemed to lose a number of seats to the racistscumbagtories) and that the Greens didn’t do better. Still, it could have been so much worse, and maybe, just maybe, the Labour party will do the decent thing and dump that antidemocratic, lying, right wing tosspot Blair for someone vaguely principled. I am not holding my breath, but I have a soupçon of hope.

Yu-Gi-Oh news

Bogi has now acquired a set of Yu-Gi-Oh cards. You may remember my fear of Yu-gi-oh in a recent post, well, now that fear has become reality. Yu-gi-oh cards come in a pack of around 40. There are no rules included, merely a set of 40 peculiar playing cards. Each card has information on it, as well as a picture of the creature or magic it represents. That is as coherent as it gets I’m afraid. The “benefits” of each card are described in what can only be termed Japanese English. What each one means would I suspect, be impenetrable were it written by a BBC journalist. But translated directly from the Japanese it is baffling in the extreme. It makes Labour party policy statements – “Britain forward not back”, “Tough on verbs, tough on the causes of verbs” – seem like clear and succinct English. I’d like to give you a couple of examples (and please remember as you read these, that there are no instructions or rules as to how to play this game):
  • On a card entitled “Headon Attack Preparation” it says (and I quote in full) “Change the warriors or a monster of reining monster into reverse card and in defensive condition”
  • On a card entitled “Final Assault Order” it says (again verbatim) “When the card is in field, the obverse monster cards will be changed into attack status and it can’t be rechanged.”
  • On a card entitled “Porter Gaisuto” it says “Force one opponent’s Trap-Magic card in field return to the pack. The effect is disappeared simultaneity.”

I want to stress here that these are not three badly written cards I selected for comic effect. I drew them out randomly. They are all like this. And the worst thing is, Bogi loves this game and wants to “play” it all the time. Since the game, such as it is, appears unutterably boring (and incomprehensible) to me, I am not as enthused by this as by doing a jigsaw puzzle (“puzzlezunk”) or by wrestling (“Birkozunk”) or anything she normally wants to play with me. So, in order to get the ordeal over with as quickly as possible I tend to admit defeat very quickly, my monster cards spiralling away into the pack under extreme attack from Bogi’s Headon Attack Preparation and the like. This has proven somewhat counterproductive as I normally play unpatronisingly and piss her off by beating her from time to time*, whereas she has quickly learned that she we will win Yu-gi-oh-zunk with few problems, and hence wants to play it all the time.

(* Except for in “memoryzunk” -which you may know as pelmanism- at which she is unbeatably amazing without cheating)

Saxon Violence

Sibiu looks like it is a beautiful city. The pictures in guide books and the photos you can buy tell you that it is. If you can look at the streets with your eyes held faintly upward so you cannot see the floor but can see most of the buildings it still is a beautiful city. In German it is Hermannstadt the capital of Saxon Transylvania. Everything is German sounding. The art gallery and museum is the Bruckenthaler, the streets have German names, the architecture is Saxon. In 2007 Sibiu will be European Capital of Culture, confirming Romania’s arrival in the EU and bringing tourists flooding to Transylvania. For now, though, there is a problem. The title 2007 Capital of Culture has meant that Sibiu is the 2005 European Capital of Digging. The main square (Piaţa Mare) looks basically like a bomb site. The smaller Piaţa Mica is little better. Walking around the city involves long sections on planks laid across the mud, like paths across swamp lands in national parks. Getting from A to B involves a trek via Q. Even the museum is being done up and is ¾ closed. It’s pretty disappointing all told. It’ll look great in 2007, I’m sure, but right now it looks like a city that will look great in 2007. Apparently, with traditional Romanian efficiency, the work has been going on for 5 years now, though I can only hope that what we saw was the peak (or trough) of the work.

The Best Vegetarian Restaurant in Romania

Is at the kitschily named “Hanul Dracula” just outside Sighisoara. (Sighisoara was where Vlad Ţepeş was born and hence everything in the vicinity that is even vaguely directed touristwards is named after him in some way. Like Whitby only without the Captain Cook dilution). I’m not 100% certain that it is actually the best vegetarian restaurant in Romania, but it’s definitely the best one I’ve been to. Not that it is a vegetarian restaurant of course, merely a restaurant with vegetarian options. But what options. Normally if restaurants here have a section entitled “vegetarian” it contains one entry – Cascaval Pane. Cascaval Pane is cheese, battered and fried. Honestly. The Hanul Dracula has a number of delicious creative variations on traditional Romanian cuisine. A white bean pate. A mushroom pancake. I was in heaven. The only drawback with the place (it’s a hotel too) is that it’s 4 km off the main road down a dirt track. A very rugged dirt track. The kind of road that you rarely get out of first gear on, and certainly never get above second. So it’s a bit of a trek, but worth it.

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