Category Archives: Personal

Romania should withstand pressure to lift ban on international adoptions

european-parliament-buildingThis article was also published in the EU Observer in November 2009

Ever since Romania prohibited international adoptions in 2001 it has been pressurised by the leaders of France, Italy, Israel, Spain and the US to lift the ban.  Behind these politicians are private adoption agencies, adoptive parents and others interested in getting children for whatever reason. Continue reading

It’s a disaster

img_9832Preparing for disasters is an industry and also an attitude. There are lots of professionals flying around the world advising governments how to prepare for earthquakes, floods and natural disasters; thousands of humanitarian aid agencies rush in when disaster strikes and there are public officials everywhere whose job is to prepare the public for the worst — not to mention firemen, policemen, medical workers and soldiers who invariably form the front line of any disaster relief efforts. I have some experience of this profession. Continue reading

Diary of a bike

brompton_bikeI got ridden to Laurentiu’s house in the dark on a road through the centre of Bucharest, a road that is usually crowded but at that moment was deserted because it was the middle of the night; Laurentiu appeared in his pajamas and handed over a disk, a memory stick, said farewell and we were off — but only for a bit as time was pressing and I got folded up and put in the back of a taxi as my Master feared we wouldn’t make it on time, and his fears were probably justified as it is rather a long way to the airport.

I could hear the taxi driver complaining about how expensive spare parts are for Dacia Logans, “more expensive than the most expensive German cars” he said, and he believes Japanese cars are the best and my Master concurred.  At the airport I was handed to a man in a tie who put me on a revolving machine and then wrapped me in thin polythene until I was hermetically sealed and almost unrecognisable — but then an unseemly argument ensued at the Lufthansa desk about their demand for a 70 Euro fee for putting me on the plane; we went to the cash office where negotiations resumed and the price fell to 35 Euro due to my diminutive stature. Continue reading

Doing the Transfag


See my photos here

When I first heard about the Transfagarasan road it was described with a sense of awe, as  “the higest road in Europe”, as an engineering miracle commanded by Ceausescu who ordered it as part of his military strategy.  A quick look on the internet shows that it isn’t the highest road in Europe, but neither is the Col de la Bonette, the French claim which is challenged by the Brits from the Hidden Europe magazine who say: “There are tarmac roads in the Alps which are higher, and if you are prepared to take gravel roads into account, then many are much higher.”  But at an altitude of 2000m the Transfag is no slouch and I reckon it is about the 5th highest road in Europe. Continue reading

A game of monopoly

luca-laraIt came in a shiny tin box for Christmas.  The Romanian version, with credit cards instead of cash.

There were four of us: me and Alina; Lara, who is 9, and Luca who is 6.

We laid the board out on the floor of the kids bedroom, which is a bit cramped.  But we were enthusiastic, especially Luca whose only aim in life is to play, and we had the whole weekend ahead.

The game dragged on and on.  Hours passed before anyone won a street, without which you can’t sting people for rent.  Avoiding bankruptcy was a constant struggle.  I became irritable and annoying. Continue reading