The Curse of the Piglet

Day 607

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This week’s story begins as all of the best stories do.  With a screaming child refusing to eat risotto.  Let me set the scene.  It’s November, it’s raining and I haven't slept for more than a year.  Zsuzsa is nowhere to be seen and I am a desperate father.  I try to pretend that the risotto is a choo-choo train and that Mila’s throat is a tunnel, but she’s having none of it.  In sheer desperation I turn on the TV and flick to a kids channel. A cartoon pig in a red dress stares back at me.  

“Ah, I’ve heard about you pig.  You’re the hammy enchantress who stole my baby nephew’s heart.”

Suddenly the screaming stops.  I glance at my hysterical child and find a placid, smiling replicant sitting in her place.  She smiles at the pig, picks up a spoon of risotto and begins to shovel.  My decision is made.  The pig stays on our TV.  That was about three months ago and little did I realise then the impact that this seemingly innocuous moment would have on our household during the coming months.  

I’m now sitting on my sofa watching Peppa hunt down a duck who has stolen her golden boots.  In my hand is a Peppa Pig branded yogurt.  On our table sits a Peppa Pig toy house.  To my left sits a cuddly Peppa, to my right a cuddly George (Peppa’s little piggy brother).  I’m alone of course.  Zsuzsa is in the bathroom painting on her eyebrows and Mila has been in bed for an hour and a half.  To be honest I’ve no idea why I’m continuing to watch this toddler fodder.  Perhaps this porky enchantress’s powers work on grown ups too?

Zsuzsa emerges from the bathroom sporting a powerful pair of eyebrows and joins me on the sofa.  We watch in silence for a couple of minutes before Zsuzsa decides to speak.

“You know what honey?  I think Peppa is a bit of a bitch.”

My brow instinctively furrows at these slanderous words. 

“Why do you think that?”

“She’s pretentious.  The things she says.  The things she does.  Don’t trust her.  Stuck up.  Stuck up little pig.”

I make a strange noise that is meant to convey my opposing stance, but instead sounds more like mild constipation.

“I think she’s just a sweet little pig.”

Zsuzsa looks at me as though I’m Piers Morgan and I’ve announced that I’m about to remove my underpants.

“No!  No way!  She’s a fuckwit!  I saw an episode yesterday where she wouldn’t let George play with her and Suzy Sheep!  What’s that about?”

“Well George is a little bit young.  Maybe she just wanted to spend a bit of time with her best friend?”

“But the way she went about it.  Bitch.” spits Zsuzsa, head shaking.

She's even infiltrating our working environments

She's even infiltrating our working environments

I decide that I need to defuse this situation.

“Yogurt?” I ask.

Zsuzsa mellows and nods.  I could definitely teach Kofi Annan a thing or two.  I make my way to the fridge to retrieve a Peppa Pig yoghurt.  Whilst there I have an idea.

“They should do Peppa Pig branded ham!” I say, excitedly.

“Also, I really hate this episode.” says Zsuzsa, ignoring my incredible business idea.  This is probably why she has never been invited on Dragon’s Den to be a judge.

I hand Zsuzsa her toddler yogurt.

“This is actually my favourite episode.” I say.

“Meh.”

“Meh?  What do you mean meh?  It’s got everything!  It’s got a duck with boots on, a thrilling chase, an incredible ensemble of characters, they go on a boat.  They go to the moon for crying out loud!  It’s even got Brian Blessed in it!”

But Zsuzsa is unimpressed leading me to believe that Brian Blessed, for some extraordinary reason, is not a household name in Hungary.

“It just doesn’t have the emotional depth of the muddy puddle episode, or the one when Daddy Pig takes them to Potato City.”

We sit in reflective silence for a moment.

“I think we need to change channels.”  I say.

“I think you’re right.”  says Zsuzsa.

The Anti-Daddy Club

Day 597

The Anti-Dad Club day out to the Pillango Farm

The Anti-Dad Club day out to the Pillango Farm

I’m watch a children’s programme with Mila while Zsuzsa potters around in the background doing Hungarian lady business.  The children’s programme is about animals, one of Mila’s three greatest passions along with mandarin oranges and Peppa Pig.  A butterfly appears on the screen.  A broad grin breaks across Mila’s face. 

“Pillango!” says Mila whilst excitedly pointing at the screen.

“No honey.  That’s a butterfly.” I say.

But Mila’s having none of it.  Obviously, she, like many other people, thinks her daddy spouts a colossal amount of shit.

“Pillango!”

“Butterfly.”

“Pillango!”

“Buttefly.”

“PILLANGO!”

We appear to be at an impasse.  Mila’s looking at me as though I’m stupid.

“Mila darling.  It’s called a b-u-t-t-e-r-f-l-y.”

“It’s pillango in Hungarian.” comes a voice from the background.  It’s Zsuzsa and she is living up the the lady hype, proving that women can indeed do two things at once.  In this case pottering around and advising about butterfly nomenclature.

This turn of events may seem trivial to you, but all that does is prove to me that you are, as predicted, a shortsighted nincompoop.  For don’t you see?  This means that Mila knows a word that I don’t!  I’ve been learning Hungarian now for maybe three years-ish, including evening classes at Westminster University and a year and a half in Budapest surrounded by Magyar nonsense.   Infamously, Hungarian is one of the hardest languages to learn on earth, but nevertheless I’m starting to make progress!  Speak to me in advanced Hungarian and I will stare at you as though you are a quantum physics equation, but ask me what colour a particular type of fruit is and I will Hungarian your goddamn arse off!

But here I am, being out Hungarian’d by a tiny 18 month old human who still struggles to eat without smearing it through her hair.

An owl appears on the TV screen.

“Bagoly!” says Mila excitedly.

“What’s owl in Hungarian honey?” I ask Zsuzsa, trepidation in my voice.

“Bagoly.” replies Zsuzsa.

“Bagoly.” repeats Mila.

My blood runs cold.

Slyly learning

Slyly learning

“What’s up honey?” asks Zsuzsa, noticing my cold-blooded face.

“She’s catching me up.  Soon you’ll have a secret language.  You can create an anti-daddy club and I’ll be none the wiser.” I reply.

“We won’t create an anti-daddy club.”

A bear appears on the TV screen.

“Brum brum!” squeals Mila.

My eyes narrow.

“Zsuzsa, what’s the Hungarian for bear?”

“Maci.” she replies.

“Ha!”  I shout delighted.  “Got you!  Brum brum is not bear!”

At this moment I’m revelling at my infant child’s language failure.

“Brum brum?” repeats Mila, but with doubt now creeping in to her voice.

“Brum brum is the sound a bear makes” says Zsuzsa.

“What? ! That’s bullshit!” I say, dumbfounded.  “Bears don’t say ‘brum brum’!”

“Yes they do.”

“No they don’t!”

“Hungarian bears do.”

“What kind of crazy-assed bears do you get in Hungary?”

“Ones that go ‘brum-brum’”.

“Do you mean cars?”

“No.  Bears!  Ask any Hungarian and they will tell you.  Bears go ‘brum brum’.”

I shake my head in disbelief, but I know what I’ve got to do here.  I turn to Mila.

“Challenge accepted.” I say, eyes locked, inches from her face.

I get up from the sofa and head towards Mila’s bedroom.

“Where are you going honey?”

“To learn Hungarian” I reply.

I enter Mila’s bedroom, sit on her tiny chair, take a Hungarian baby book from her bookshelf and begin to read.  If there’s going to be an anti-daddy club, I’m going to be a goddamn member too.

Let battle commence

Let battle commence

Mila & Rupert

Day 576

Contemplating feeding Rupert to the ducks

Contemplating feeding Rupert to the ducks

Mila’s nursery have given us a toy bear named Rupert to take home for a week.  We are to take photos of all of the wild and rambunctious fun that Mila and Rupert shall share during this magical week and write in a journal about their innermost thoughts and feelings. 

It’s now Thursday and I’m starting to sweat beads of panic.  To date we have taken exactly zero photos of Mila and Rupert’s fun-packed week and written a grand total of zero innermost thoughts or teddy bear feelings.  I have decided to act and so I’m now in the midst of concocting a most enchanting scene.  Mila has been skilfully plonked on her rocking horse with Rupert expertly positioned in front of her.  An array of soft creatures and funky toys are combining to create a most fantastical backdrop.  Happy with the mis-en-scene, I dash across the room to the perfect spot and grab my camera phone.  The lighting is perfect.  I prepare to capture this beautifully natural moment.  However, nanoseconds before flesh touches phone, Mila picks up Rupert and flings him from her horse.

For the fourth time.

“Oh for fffffffffff…”

“What are you doing honey?” comes a voice from behind me.  It’s Zsuzsa.  I know this as she sounds uncannily like herself.

“…udge sake.”

“What’s going on?”

The sigh of a broken man escapes my lips.

“We’ve got to take some photos of Mila and Rupert!” I say.

“So?”

“So Mila keeps messing up the shot!  She thinks that Rupert is a dickhead.”

We both cast our eyes at our infant child.  She has now dismounted from her steed and is using Rupert as an implement to destroy my perfectly sculpted backdrop.

“Come on honey.  It’s just a few photos and words.  It’s no big deal.” Zsuzsa says.

“But have you seen the book?  People have taken Rupert on holiday with them!  He’s been on airplanes!  He’s been to the beach!  The fucker's been everywhere!”

“Are you being unnecessarily competitive?” asks Zsuzsa judgementally.

“No.” I reply, staring at my feet in shame.

“What have I told you about being competitive?”

“Not to be.”

“Are you sulking now?”

“No.” I reply, making an effort to tuck my bottom lip back in.

We sit in reflective silence while Mila continues to destroy worlds with her fluffy battering ram.

Herne Hill breakfast making champion, 2018

Herne Hill breakfast making champion, 2018

“I know!” says Zsuzsa excitedly.  “What if Rupert goes to a funeral?  I bet he hasn’t been to one of those before!”

We are to attend a funeral next week.

“Yes!  Brilliant!  That’s an amazing idea!” I yell, a smile breaking across my face!

Ten seconds later, after we’ve both mentally processed the idea of photographing a teddy bear in various poses during a sombre funeral, we both come to the realisation that it’s actually an awful idea.

“Oh I don’t know.  Just go and feed the ducks or something honey.  Take Rupert and take some photos.  Move on.” 

I sigh, pick up my tiny child.

“You want to go feed the ducks little lady?”

Mila nods enthusiastically.

I pick up Rupert.  Mila sees this and gazes at the bear with disdain.  I don’t know what the bear has done to Mila in the past, but the one thing I know about my cub is that she’s an excellent judge of character.  There is little doubt in my mind that Rupert is obviously a prize winning twat once you get to know him.

I shrug.

“Come on sweetheart.  Lets go and have some wonderful, forced, staged fun.”

Lovely, staged fun.

Lovely, staged fun.

Rupert attempting to read over Mila's shoulder, the little twat.

Rupert attempting to read over Mila's shoulder, the little twat.

Day 558 - A Slovakian Horror Story

AKA - The Overlook

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We are at a hotel in Slovakia and we are outraged.

“What on earth do you mean!?” a gobsmacked Zsuzsa asks the hotel attendant.

She has just informed us that the spa and wellness centre is located in another building.  Whilst this might not sound like the biggest deal in the world to you, what you don’t realise is that this will require a 100 metre walk in the open air to reach it.  That’s right!  100 metres!  Outside!  We’ll need to put our coats on!

Let that just sink in.

“But it doesn’t mention this on the website!” I say, shaking with rage.

“Sorry Mr Hutchins, but it’s just outside.  We didn’t think it would be a problem.”

“Oh didn’t you!” I snidely retort.

“Er, no.”

Naturally I’m furious, but then, being the zen master that I famously am, I decide to take a step back and focus on the positives.  “Come on Gareth.  We’re on holiday.  It’s New Year’s Eve tomorrow.  Mila is three hours way with the in-laws meaning that we can finally get some sleep, and the ski slopes are just outside.”  A calmness begins to creep over me.  I breathe in the fresh mountain air and glance at Zsuzsa, but I notice that she is still seething.  I take her to one side.

Spa time

Spa time

“Come on honey.  It’s not that bad.  We’re on holiday and we’re baby free!  We can sleep!  We can fudging well sleep!” I excitedly say, although I don’t actually say the word “fudging”.  “We have three days of hitting the ski slopes and spa-ing.  Then we can sleep!”

“But the spa!  It’s in another building.” says Zsuzsa, fighting back the tears.

I put my hands on her shoulders and look her in the eye.  

“We will find it.” I say.

Zsuzsa considers these words, my strength and positivity are visibly flowing into her.  I notice something in her eye.  Trust.  She is beginning to trust my words.  Together we will make it to the spa, despite the fact that it is situated in another building.

“Let’s just enjoy it.  Picture it.  We get up in the morning naturally!  We have some breakfast and take a little stroll to the slopes.  We strap some pieces of wood to our feet, hurtle down a mountain with very limited control, and then once we’re done we skip gleefully to the spa.”

A hint of a smile appears on Zsuzsa’s face.  She takes a deep breath and tries to be a big, brave girl.  We return to the hotel attendant.

Zen master

Zen master

“Okay.  How do we get to the slopes in the morning?” I ask.

“It’s just thirty minutes on a train or a ten minute drive.”

The bottom falls out of my world.

“What?”

“The train station is situated about ten minutes walk away.”

I’m struggling to breathe.

“But, the website says it’s a 70 metre walk away?” I say, voice cracking.

“Those are just the baby slopes.  The real ones are ten minutes away by car.”

I don’t know what to say.  The world begins to spin.  My heart is beating ferociously.  My eyes are getting watery.  Outrage is returning once again.  I can feel it growing in my belly.

“Are you seriously saying that we have to drive to the slopes?  For ten minutes!”

“Um, yes.”

“And then after a day on the slopes!  We have to walk to the spa!?”

“Yes.”

“What is this!?  The bloody stone age!?”

“Come on honey.  Let’s just go and enjoy it.”  says Zsuzsa, taking my arm and leading me towards the room.

That night, in our pygmy sized room, which is roughly the size of a volvo, we lie down ready for a night of uninterrupted, blissful, natural sleep.  The lights are turned off.  The only sound we hear is the sound of the wind whistling through the Slovakian mountain air.  That is, until…

“Hurrumph!” says Zsuzsa.

A light is turned on.

“What’s up?” I ask, through bleary eyes.  

“This bed!  It’s on an incline!” replies Zsuzsa.  “I keep rolling towards you!”

“Really?”

“Yes!  It’s sloping!  I can’t stop rolling!”

I get up and examine our bed.  It’s true.  There is an incline.  One side of the bed is at least 3 millimetres higher than the other.

“It’s only a tiny incline.” I say.

“I keep rolling!” an emotional Zsuzsa responds.

I realise what’s going on and I hold my hands out to calm her.

“This hotel.” I say.  “It’s trying to come between us.  It knows that together we are strong, but if we are apart it can defeat us.”

In that moment all we can do is hug each other and hold each other close.

“We’ll get through this honey.  I promise” I whisper.

There and then I make myself a promise.  I won’t let the hotel defeat us.  We will stay strong.  We will not be torn apart.  And then, once we’ve left I will crush them.  I will crush them with a scathing review.  Sloping beds!?  A 100 metre walk to the spa! ? A ten minute drive to the ski slopes!?  Just who do these scoundrels think they are?

PS Happy New Year folks.

Happy New Year Cowboys, cowgirls and non-binary, gender neutral cows

Happy New Year Cowboys, cowgirls and non-binary, gender neutral cows

Day 551 - Back to Budapest

AKA - The Taxi Rank That Tried to steal Christmas

Running amok

Running amok

“Where’s the damn taxi!?  It was supposed to be here ten minutes ago!” I ask anxiously.

“Honey, Mila needs a nappy change.  I think she’s done a kaki.” comes Zsuzsa’s unorthodox reply.

“Daddy!” says Mila, excitedly.

Oh yes.  She’s just started saying “Daddy” as opposed to her previous word of choice, “Dadda”.  But I’m determined to not be thrown off course by my confusing women.  I continue with my current topic of choice.

“We’re going to miss our flight!  I can’t believe this.  I specifically booked it for ten to give us time to get to Heathrow.”

“Have you seen the wipes?” continues Zsuzsa, stubbornly.

“Anya!” screams Mila.

“Hi?  My name’s Gareth.  I booked a taxi last night.  It should have been here ten minutes ago.”

“I can’t believe this.  I left the wipes here on the table, but now they’re not here.  Where are they?”

“Heathrow.  We need to be at the airport in forty minutes time or we’ll miss our flight to Budapest and Christmas will be ruined!  Please don’t ruin Christmas.  Um…terminal three I think.”

“Honey!  Where are the wipes?”

“Hold on one second.  What?”

“The wipes!  Mila’s done a kaki!”

“Er…Have you looked on the table.”

“They’re not on the table!”

Mila tugs my trouser leg. I glance at her.

“Have you done a shit little lady?  What?  No.  Of course not you!  I was talking to my daughter.  What do you mean you can’t find our booking!?…I was being rhetorical!…Great!  That’s just great!  We’re going to miss our flight!  Are you happy about that?  Are you happy about ruining Christmas”

“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” bellows Mila.

“Oh sweetheart!  Honey!  Mila’s fallen over!” exclaims Zsuzsa, concerned.

“Oh dear….Can you deal with it baby?  I’m trying to sort the shitting taxi out!”

“Where is it?”, Zsuzsa sighs.

“Have you tried the table?” I reply.

“I’m talking about the taxi!  Also, the wipes are not on the table!  I’ve told you that already!”

“They’ve mislaid the booking, but don’t worry.  I’ll sort it.”

Back to the soulless taxi orc.

“Look.  This is a shocker.  WE NEED A TAXI NOW!  Ten minutes?  No!  NOW!  Do you hear me?  Don’t go sending me a taxi in ten minutes!”

Fifteen minutes later and the taxi arrives.  Just one hour later and we pull up at Heathrow Airport.  We’re at check-in with a world record number of bags.

Opened Shortlist magazine whilst on the flight and...it's only bloody me in the magazine!  Zsuzsa didn't seem as surprised or as impressed about this as I was.

Opened Shortlist magazine whilst on the flight and...it's only bloody me in the magazine!  Zsuzsa didn't seem as surprised or as impressed about this as I was.

“Do you have any luggage to check-in?” asks the BA lady behind the counter.

“We have all the luggage in the entire world to check in.” I reply pointing at the mountain of bags.

“But you’re booking doesn’t have checked-in luggage.”

Oh.  My.  God.

“Yes it does!”

“Also we only have bookings for you and your wife, not your baby.” continues the BA lady.

My eyes roll back in to my skull.

“What’s up honey?”

“Nothing baby.”

Satisfied, Zsuzsa wanders off with Mila.  

Deep breath.

“Listen…er…Alice  We have a booking for the three of us.  Me, my wife, our daughter and all our luggage!  Don’t do this to me.  Please, just sort this shit out.  Your computer is wrong.  Trust me.”

“One moment.”

“What’s the hold up honey?”asks Zsuzsa, reappearing from thin air.

“Oh, er, just some admin stuff.  It’s fine.”

“Hello?  It’s Alice.  Could you check a booking?  According to my system they don’t have check in luggage and their infant also isn’t showing.”

“We do have luggage!”

“Sorry sir.  One moment please.  I’m just sorting it out for you.”

“Waaaaaaaaa!” says Mila, whilst lying on the floor.

Anyway, five hours later, following an hour and a half delay, and we finally make it to Budapest, along with all of our luggage and our tiny lady.  We jump in a taxi and make our way across the freezing cold, Christmassy city, towards our apartment.  We carry all of the luggage in the entire world and a sleeping child from our taxi, up a flight of stairs, turn the key, open the door and enter.

We’ve made it.

“Hello again Budapest.  Did you miss us?”

Zsuzsa trots off to the bedroom.  I put our sleeping daughter down and collapse on the sofa.

“Honey.  The heating’s not working!”

“Oh for f….!”

Arrive in Budapest, hand Mila to the grandparents, leg it to the thermal baths.

Arrive in Budapest, hand Mila to the grandparents, leg it to the thermal baths.

Day 541 - Shark vs Octopus

AKA Christmas Time, Farley's Rusks and Wine

Engrossed in Blue Planet

Engrossed in Blue Planet

I’m at home watching an octopus fight a shark on the tele box, which as we all know is the only TV worth watching, when I hear a key in the lock.

I instantly recognise that key sound.  It’s the sound of my beloved, pygmy wife, arriving home.  She’s been away for the last couple of hours at our first parent's evening.  I say ‘our’ but this one solely belonged to Zsuzsa.  Being the kind hearted soul that I am I’d ‘gifted’ it to her, leaving me to ‘take one for the team’ by staying home with Her Tiny Majesty to watch as much shark octopus fighting as our beady eyes can handle.  Mila has just gone to bed as things were getting a little bloody.

“Hi honey.” I say.  The octopus now has the shark in a head lock, it’s tentacles forced into the toothy fish's gills, so obviously my eye ball direction does not veer from the TV.

Zsuzsa simply sighs and heads straight for the kitchen.  A minute or so later, she plonks herself down next to me and sighs again.  The shark and octopus are taking a breather and so I take this opportunity to make eye contact with my wife.  In one hand she has a glass of red wine, in the other a Farley’s rusk, a food and wine pairing of champions.  Her eyes are sorrowful as she takes a bite of rusk and then washes it away with vino.

“What’s up honey?” I ask.

Zsuzsa takes a big gulp and then looks me straight in the eye.

“They made me sing.”

Her bottom lip nearly wobbles.

“Who did?”

“The nursery people.  They made me sing.”

Seeing my wife so distraught immediately makes me sad.  What have these barbarians done to her?  I won’t have it!  Nobody is allowed to make my wife sad except for me!  I’ve half a mind to hunt down these nursery people and vanquish them.  All I can say is that it’s a good job for them that we are not living in medieval times and that vanquishing is now frowned upon.  They're also lucky that I'm too busy watching a shark fight an octopus.

“All of the parents had to sit on the floor in a circle and sing a song about bonfires.”

This is getting worse by the minute.  Not only was my poor wife made to sing, but others were subjected to her singing!

“Why did they do that?”

“To help us understand why the song was good for our children.  We sung for an hour!”

“An hour!?”

“Yes.  And then we had to make up a story and do the hand actions to tell the story.”

“What was your story about?”

“Fireworks.  About a big yellow firework that went all the way up to the moon.”

Zsuzsa makes an elaborate hand gesture as she says this, swinging her hand all the way up to the ceiling.  She then sighs again and visibly deflates as her hand falls back to earth.

The octopus has now legged it and is in hiding, disguised as a bunch of shells.  Pussy.

“But I thought parents evenings are about chatting about how things are going with your child?” I say.

“Me to.”  replies Zsuzsa.  “But it turns out its mostly about singing about bonfires.  Must be a UK thing.”

I frown.

“I don’t think it used to be like that.”

We sit in reflective silence for a moment.

“Bloody Brexit!” I eventually add.

On TV the shark octopus fight has ended in a score draw.  We’re now watching a different shark eating a rotting whale carcass.  Zsuzsa watches, perplexed.

“Can they eat this stuff without catching diarrhoea?” she asks.

Silence.

I get up and head to the kitchen to grab a glass of wine and a rusk. 

Day 526 - Die Hard 5

AKA - Escape from Wales

Believe it or not, I'm not actually painted on to the side of a van.

Believe it or not, I'm not actually painted on to the side of a van.

I’m hopping mad, which when you come to think of it is a curious phrase.  I’ve never once seen anyone hop when they get angry, and I’m not sure rabbits are particularly known for their uncontrollable fury.  But anyway, I’m angry.  We’re at a service station near Cardiff and our shitty car has broken down.  I’m on the phone to my insurance company.

“What do you mean you can’t come and rescue us?  I have rescue insurance with you?” I say.

“Sorry sir, but we’ve already sent a service vehicle to see if your car can be fixed.  If we’ve already sent a service vehicle we can’t then send a recovery vehicle.” says the soulless voice on the other end of the line.

“But he couldn’t fix it!  How was I to know if I needed a service vehicle or a recovery vehicle!?  I’m not a mechanic!”

“Sorry sir.  You’re policy states…”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass what my policy states!  This is madness!  Insanity!  I’m stuck in the arse end of of nowhere (aka Cardiff), with my wife and a sleeping baby!  What am I supposed to do?”

“Sorry sir, but you’re policy states…”

“Stop saying that!”

“…”

I realise that I’m not going to get very far and I’m very cheesed off.  Which come to think of it is another very curious phase as cheese almost never makes me angry.  If anything it should be something you say to convey rampant joy.

“Honey!” says Zsuzsa from the car.  “Mila’s awake.”

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I look in the car and see my desperate wife and confused baby staring back at me.  I take a deep breath.  This calls for decisive action.  This calls for me to be a man.  I need to step up to the plate and solve this conundrum and save my family.  I call my mummy.

“Mum, we’re stranded at the services.  Can you come and save us?”

“…”

“Mum?”

“We can…but Tony is dressed as a beast.” she eventually replies.

Tony is my mother’s husband and he's playing the beast from Beauty and the Beast at a local play.  He’s just finished rehearsal.  His painted green, covered in fur and has horns and claws.  I’m imagining him turning up to the service station to rescue us…as the beast.  I instantly decide that this would be astonishingly wonderful.  Alas mother dearest doesn’t seem to share my enthusiasm.

“Can you try your brother first?” she pleads.

I call my brother Ross.  Half an hour later he turns up, looking green, although this isn’t related to beast make up.  His green-tinge is because he’d been out for his birthday the previous night and has spent the entire day at home in his pyjamas, wallowing in hungover despair.  To drag himself here must have required a quite gargantuan effort.  

I’m reminded of an occasion from a couple of years ago.  I was heading to London from Wales, when I’d realised that I’d left my wallet in Wales.  I’d turned around, before then realising that I didn’t have any money for the Severn Bridge and not enough petrol to get to London.  Ross had also come to my rescue that time, brought my wallet to England and then had to pay for the pleasure of getting back in to Wales.  Good old Ross.

Now here he is, an extraordinary shade of green, standing in the service station like a hero.  In this moment he’s very much like Bruce Willis from Die Hard if Die Hard had been all about John McClane helping out a man who’s car had broken down at a service station.

“I’ve got a plan.” he heroically says.  “I’m a member of the AA.  I can say I was in the car and then when they turn up they can take you to then end of your journey.  I’ll just say that I now need to head home and then someone will come to pick me up.”

Fast forward twenty minutes and the AA man arrives.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to be in the car as well.  I can’t continue the journey without you.”  he says to my green brother.

I briefly see panic in Ross’s eyes.  He’s suddenly terrified that he has to sit in an AA van and be driven 3 hours to London with a crying baby, sleep on my sofa and then catch a train back home the next day.  This is not a renowned hangover cure.  Now it’s my turn to be a bloody hero and save him from this gruesome fate.

“What if we just tow it to a local garage?” I ask.

“Yeah, we can do that.”  says Mr AA.  “You’ll still have to be in the car though.” he says to Ross.

Ross sighs the sigh of a resigned, partially broken man and secretly passes me his car keys.

Ten minutes later we overtake Ross on the M4 as he’s being towed away to a local garage.  We smile and wave, but oddly he doesn’t seem as delighted as we do.

This, I think to myself, is the sequel that Die Hard 5 could have been.  

Day 514 - The Banger

AKA - Kings and Sky TV Engineers

Chameleons

Chameleons

I’m at a local car mechanics with the car that I’ve owned for only a hand full of weeks.  At first the car seemed too good to be true.  It was surprisingly cheap, looked good except for a smattering of dog hair, and was easy to drive.  But sadly, after only a few weeks, the facade was removed and I’ve discovered that the car is, in fact, a complete dick (I could easily be describing one of my ex-girlfriends here).  Basically the car won’t start in the mornings, or at the very least, it takes a fair bit to get it going.

“Maybe it’s just not a morning person?” Zsuzsa had helpfully suggested.

And now here I am.  At the local mechanics.  Over the horizon the mechanic appears, the whiff of tax free cash in his nostrils.  Naturally I’m wary.  You hear countless horror stories about mechanics taking advantage of gullible customers and over charging them.  There are obviously loads of good ones, but there are also many that are not dissimilar to feral dogs.  They may seem all warm, cuddly and friendly, but give them the slightest hint of vulnerability and they’ll nip your hands and run off with your string of freshly bought sausages flapping in the breeze.  I’m determined to avoid having my sausages stolen so I decide that I must exhibit an air of confidence.  I mustn’t show weakness.  I need to convince this potentially feral hound that I’m nobodies fool.  I will not be taken for a ride, although I fear that I may have to unless I can get this banger fixed.

“Alright mate?” says the mechanic, although he seems to be allergic to the letter ’t’.

“Yeah mate.  Motors playing up.  Dunno whats wrong wiv it mate?” I reply, unexpectedly channeling Danny Dyer.

I suddenly remember something that I’ve seen in a film and give the tire a kick.  He notices and is obviously in awe of my motor knowledge, although he’s trying his best to hide it.

“Bleedin' swine takes an age to get started in the mornings.  Wondering if it’s the crank shaft?” I add.

I have no idea what a crank shaft is.

The mechanic stokes his chin thoughtfully.

“Hmmm.” he says.

From inside the car, there’s a little noise.

“Dada!”

Oh yes, Mila has accompanied me to the garage.  Nothing says “This fella is savvy around cars.” like a baby companion.

I look at Mila.  She returns my gaze.  She doesn’t say anything, largely because she can’t, but I can tell that she’s impressed by the way that I’ve been handling myself around this car man.  This is also not the first time today that she has witnessed me, like a chameleon, adapt seamlessly to my environment.  Only an hour or two previously she had seen first hand, how I dealt with the Sky TV engineer who had come to provide myself and my family with wondrous TV.  The engineer was about twenty five and probably from Essex.  But did I panic?  Did I bollocks!  I simply, but expertly, dropped an obscene number of “bruvs” in to conversation and before we knew it, the Sky TV engineer had been at ease, feeling as though he was around one of his own species.

“Dada!” says Mila once more, which I believe is Milanese for “Father.  I am so proud of you.  You are a man who is equally at ease conversing with kings as he is Sky TV engineers.”  

I chuckle like Ray Winstone, turn to the mechanic whilst pointing at Mila, and say “Betta get ‘er owt!  Be in the dog house with the Mrs if I forget the blinkin baby!”.  

I now appear to be channeling a 1970’s British sitcom.

The mechanic gives the car another thoughtful glance.

“Okay.  Leave it with me mate.  I’ll have a look today.  Should be sorted tomorrow.”

I collect my infant child and strap her to my person.

“Cheers mate.  See ya tomorrow!” I reply, turn and walk briskly away.

One week later and the car returns.  I’ve been charged £345 for a new sensor, a minor leak and to move the exhaust pipe down slightly(?!).  The next morning, I turn the key and it still won’t start.  

I bet it’s the sodding crank shaft.

Day 494 - The Little Things

AKA - I'm Too Sexy

Reaclimatising to London life

Reaclimatising to London life

“What’s up honey?” ask Zsuzsa, her thick Hungarian accent failing to disguise her concerned tone, as she’s just found me sitting in the dark in our living room, laptop in front of me with a  furrowed brow.

“I’ve hit a wall.”  I say.

I see horror slowly creeping across her face.

“I mean in the writing sense.  Not with the car or anything.”

The horror dissipates, which sounds like a straight to video horror film.

“I’ve got second series syndrome.  It’s that difficult second album!  I'm joining the list of people who reached giddy heights too soon, and then couldn't reach them again second time around.  I’m Right Said Fred!”

“Who are Right Said Fred?” replies Zsuzsa.

I scoff.

“Right Said Fred!  I’m Too Sexy?  Deeply Dippy?”

Zsuzsa stares at me blankly.

“Released an album called 'Up' in the early nineties?  Bald?”

Nothing.

“Did they have a second album?”

“That’s the point!  I don’t know!” I say, throwing my hands in the air to emphasis my concern. 

“Just relax honey.” Zsuzsa says reassuringly.  “You’re not Right Said Ted.”

“Fred.”

“I’m sure inspiration will arrive.”

But I’m not convinced.

“I just can’t think of anything to write about?”

Zsuzsa’s eyes widen, she smiles and she slaps the table.

“Got it!  Mila getting jealous?” she says proudly.

“Jealous about?”

“About us holding hands!  Hugging!  Dancing and stuff!”

I consider this, nodding.  It is true that Mila has started to freak out whenever Zsuzsa and I make any kind of physical contact.  She whines when we hold hands and screams if we kiss.  God knows what her reaction would be if she caught us in a biblical sense!  Although saying that, the chance would be a fine thing.

“Hmmm.” I say.  “Maybe.  But I’m not sure there’s enough to stretch out over a whole article."

But Zsuzsa, like a Hungarian Kris Akabusi, is full of energy and won’t be defeated.  Ideas are literally (not literally) pouring out from every one of her orifices.

“What about how you solved our corkscrew dilemma when you managed to get in to a bottle of wine with just a hammer and a screw?”

“And a screwdriver.”

“Yes!”

Now it’s my turn to feel proud.

“I was a bit like Bear Grylls wasn’t I?” I say smugly.

“You were baby.  Exactly like Bear Grylls.”

We high-five because we are that cool.  I consider the corkscrew angle, but then sigh.

“Again honey.  Not sure I can stretch it out.”

Awake at an illegal hour

Awake at an illegal hour

“Okay.  Us both falling asleep in the cinema?”

“But I bet a lot of parents fall asleep at the cinema.”

“Within the first five minutes though?”

But I’m still not convinced.

“And then the clocks moving back an hour, but no one telling our baby?” says Zsuzsa.  “You could write an article about the clocks going back!  When Mila woke up at 0430!”

“Those clock movers are bastards!” I say.  “Why do they even move back?  For the ten milkmen left in the UK?  What about the parents of young children!  Bastards!”

“Oh!  Oh!  Oh!  I know!  What about you accidentally finding yourself in that mother and baby singing class and being forced to sing?”

“Too soon.”

“Too soon?”

“I need the scars to heal a little before I can share that experience.”

We both sigh.

“What am I going to do?  There’s lots of little things that have happened, but I just can’t see how I can craft an entire blog post out of them.”

“You’ll figure it out honey.  You’ll figure it out.”

Day 471 - Series 2

AKA - What the hell has happened to the £1 coin!?

Packing up a The Buda Nest (sniff) 

Packing up a The Buda Nest (sniff) 

I’m standing in a pie and pasty roadside shop perusing the selection.  I decide to go for a sausage roll just as the employee approaches.  He grunts, which I decipher as a request for me to order.  I clear my throat.

“Egy kolbász…uh…roll…kerek szepén (One sausage…uh…roll…please?” I skilfully ask.

The employee just stares at me.  I look at his name badge.  It’s Martin.  I decide to try again.

“Egy kolbász roll kerek szepén?”

“You what?” he grunts.

I sigh.  I look around at my surroundings.  I’m in a service station somewhere in between Bristol and Swindon.  I return my gaze back to Martin.  Martin works for Gregs and he’s currently staring at me with an exceptionally blank expression.  I’m half expecting a spot of drool to drip from his gormless mouth.  I few moments ago I looked at Martin as an equal.  A worthy competitor in the game of life.  But now, after his woeful display betraying his lack of Hungarian language skills I pity him.  You’d have thought working for Gregs, a basic grasp of Hungarian would be mandatory, but sadly it would appear not.  I worry for them as a business.

“Sausage roll please.”

Martin picks up a sad looking sausage in soggy looking pastry, pops it in a bag and hands it to me.

“90p” he says.

I pay him.

“Ta.”

“Szivesen (my pleasure).”

“Uh.”

I scoff and leave.

And so this is how the opening of Series 2 of The Buda Nest begins.  In a Gregs, in a service station in between Bristol and Swindon.  

Oh, by the way, Series 2 will mostly be set in London.  It’ll be like when Curb Your Enthusiasm had an entire series set in New York, rather than LA.  There will be moments set in Budapest as we’ll be returning there frequently, but base camp is in London, for now.  Fans of the show will be glad to hear that all of the major cast will be returning, all played by the same people, and there’ll also, no doubt, be new, wacky characters and surprising cameos added to the melting plot throughout the series..

I arrived in the the UK last night thanks to RyanAir.  To add even more glamour to my flight, I had priority boarding!  Oh yeah!  Look at me.  King of the sewer rats! 

Two highlights of my RyanAir flight?

  1. As I was sitting by the emergency exit I was asked by the air stewardess if I’d be in charge of people escaping if we plummeted in to the sea.  I’m not sure what my qualifications were to get this heady role, but nevertheless, for one night only, I was Captain of the Emergency Exit.
  2. Our pilot introduced himself as Mr Demolition Man.  MR!  DEMOLITION! MAN!  What?

But anyway, back to somewhere in-between Bristol and Swindon.  Like a modern day Steve McQueen, I’m now bombing down the M4 in my newly purchased, second hand, Vauxhall Zafira.  I’m fiddling with the radio station, but sadly I think it might be broken, as try as I might, I can’t find Petofi Radio, one of Hungary’s biggest radio stations.  Where the devil is my obscure Hungarian pop music!?  I sigh.  Maybe I need to take the car to see a mechanic.

If truth be told I’m fairly sad to be back in the UK.  Budapest has been astonishing, and giving up pretty much everything to move there and become a 40 year old, immigrant Dad was, after deciding to give Zsuzsa a virtual wink on a dating website, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  We’ve loved it.

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But, now here I am.  Somewhere in between Bristol and Swindon.  My wife and tiny human cub will soon be joining me in London.  We’ll move our nest to London and still live life to the full.  I’m keeping the name as The Buda Nest as well!  The London Nest just sounds, a bit…well it’s shit isn’t it.  Plus we’re going to try and be in Budapest as much as humanly possible.  

So hello again UK.  From what I’ve been reading, you’ve been a bit of a dick in my absence.  But fear not.  I’m back.  Guess I better sort this mess of a country out. 

First Autumn London stroll with Grandma

First Autumn London stroll with Grandma

Day 465 - Doctor Rat

AKA - RETCH!

The beginning of my fun free diet.

The beginning of my fun free diet.

It’s Wednesday morning and I’m lying on my side in Doctor Rat’s surgery, tube down my throat, nurse stroking my cheek, tears streaming from my eyes, repeatedly dry retching, while Doctor Rat takes me on a fantastical tour of my duodenum via a TV screen.  As Wednesday mornings go, it’s so-so.

This less than magical situation that I currently find myself in, is all because I’ve finally decided to get to the bottom why I’ve been coughing for the best part of the last seven years.  I’ve seen doctors in London about it several times over the years and been given various diagnosis ranging from, “Some people are just a bit coughy”, or "Maybe it's a bit of a bug?" to, “Could be acid reflux.”  It was the later suggestion that has brought me to gastro expert (not the delicious type) Doctor Rat and his ominous, invasive hose-pipe.

“Swallow please?”

RETCH!

I look up at the screen and see that the camera now appears to be in something that resembles a tunnel of ears.  It's like my own personal version of the movie Inner Space.  I'm half expecting to see Dennis Quaid commandeering a miniaturised vehicle through my intestine.

RETCH!

I decide that I need a distraction so I order my mind to wander.  I begin to think about the previous day when I took several bags of clothes to a homeless shelter.  Zsuzsa is on a mission to clear out all of our unused items to make way for more items that won’t be used.  I pull up at the homeless shelter, carry the bags through the hordes of hairy homeless, enter a building with a dubious smell, and dump the bags at reception.

“Köszönöm (Thank you)!” says the man behind the counter.

“Szivesen (My pleasure)!” I reply.

I then peer in to the bag to see what delights Zsuzsa has left for the shivering homeless hoards.

Bikinis.

Er…

“We are now near the antrum.“  says Doctor Rat, yanking me from the homeless shelter as he does so.

I look at the screen.  Yep, looks like the antrum to me.  I glance up at Doctor Rat, peering at him through bleary eyes.  Whoa there cowboy!  What the hell are you holding!?  In his hand is a metal wire with a kind of pincer on the end.

“I will now pass this down the tube to take a sample for a biopsy!”

RETCH!

Okay mind.  Let’s get the hiking boots back on and go wandering once more.

We’re at an aquarium, just over a week ago.  Mila is pressed up against the glass of a huge tank.  An enormous, savage looking shark swims towards Mila.  Mila, who we’ve recently discovered, for some unknown reason has a fear of cellos, just grins at the oncoming shark and then attempts to stroke it through the glass.  The shark does not look amused.  If sharks could scoff I'm pretty sure it would have done so.  But little Mila is fearless.  My baby girl’s got balls.

….

Not literally.

Shark hunter

Shark hunter

I’m suddenly aware that the hose-pipe is being pulled out of my body.  I breath in deeply as the pipe leaves my mouth and I sit up straight.

“Okay.  All done.” says Doctor Rat.

“Is everything okay?” I ask nervously.

“Yes, yes.  No tumour.  No ulcer.  Just a bit of inflammation in your antrum, but I’ll give you something for that.

“And the biopsy?  What was that for?”

“Helicobacter.  Bacteria that might be the cause.  No problem if it is.  Medicine will fix it.”

“So I’m fine then?  I take the medicine and carry on as normal?”

“Yes, yes.  Exactly as normal.  But no caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, fruit juice or chocolate for a while.”

Wait...what?

RETCH!

Day 456 - Hilarious Couscous

Previously on The Buda Nest…

Zsuzsa scarpered to London leaving poor, helpless Gareth to deal with a ferocious baby on his own.  After a successfully navigated first day, Gareth celebrated with a lovely bath, watched Wonder Woman and drank some white wine while waiting for his period to arrive.  However, day two was a different beast.  A rain filled beast.  A sleep deprived beast.  A pear puree covered beast.  Gareth was beginning to struggle…

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Day 3

I fell asleep 4 times during a conference call today.  They were only nano, close your eyes for a split second, shit did I just fall asleep, sleeps, but still. 

I think the main culprit was last night’s radical plan of not going to bed until 2 in the morning.  My mind was too active and so I did what any sane human would do knowing that they have to be up before the sun to look after a small human.  I watched a South Korean zombie movie (Train to Busan.  By the way it’s brilliant.) until the wee hours.

I’m now on a bus on route to collecting my little piglet from nursery.  Just to avoid any confusion, by that I mean I’m on route to collect Mila, my child.  I don’t have a piglet, and even if I did, it’s doubtful that they’d attend nursery school.  Despite the self inflicted sleep deprivation, I’m actually holding up well and back in good spirits.  Maybe it’s because the sun is shining again?  Maybe I have SAD?  Or maybe it was because I just slept my way through a meeting on data. 

Anyway, I’m on a bus. 

I’m listening to a weekly podcast from a popular Welsh comedian (Rhod Gilbert).  Something is said about couscous and it tickles me.  The first time that couscous has ever tickled me, or probably anyone, during the entire existence of couscous.  An involuntary snicker escapes from my lips.  It’s just a little snicker, but before I know it, it’s turned in to a chuckle.  The chuckle then morphs in to a chortle.  Then chortle becomes a guffaw.  Before I know it the I’m roaring with uncontrollable laughter.  People are beginning to stare, but it’s no use.  I can’t stop.  I glance up at the old lady sitting opposite me.  She quickly looks away, but it’s too late.  I’ve seen it.  Fear.  She shuffles uneasily, but I’m now snort laughing and struggling to breath.  Tears have  begun to stream down my face, all because of a remark related to couscous.  The old lady glances at me and we make eye contact.  I’m crying, mouth open, eyes wild.  I look like a maniac.  She quickly looks away.  

I want to tell her not to be afraid, but I don’t know the Hungarian for “Don’t be afraid little old lady.  I’m just laughing about a funny remark related to couscous in a podcast.” A moment later and she gets up and moves to another seat.  I now have a vast expanse of space all around me and I make a mental note to try this same trick next time I’m on a busy London Underground during rush hour.

The bus arrives at my stop, I get off, pick Mila up, feed her, bath her, put her to bed, put the washing on, sweep the floor and tidy the flat.

I am a domestic goddess.  Hear me roar.

Day 4

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Fed Mila pork scratchings today.  That's what babies eat right?  Dried pig fat and pig skin?  

Day 5

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She’s home!  The prodigal mother has returned!  Huzzah!  We made it through the great Zsuzsa drought of 2017!  It’s been tough.  It’s been sleepy.  I’ve spent the week desperate for a poop.  We’ve both missed Zsuzsa like crazy, but you know what?  Oddly, I’ve actually had quite a lovely time, just me and the little lion cub.  We’ve bonded a bit more.  

There was a moment yesterday, Mila had hurt her finger and came running to me for a hug and for me to kiss it better, and I had this weird feeling.  I’ve obviously felt like a Dad now for more than a year, but I suddenly realised that I’m someone’s Daddy.  That might sound weird, but it hit me that I’m the person someone runs to to kiss bumps better.  I’m her Daddy.  

Poor Mila.

 

Day 452 - One Man & A Baby

THE PROLOGUE

girls.JPG

Shit.  Zsuzsa needs to be in London for a week with work and I’ve just discovered that she’s not taking Mila with her.  I’m going to be a single parent for a week.  Shit.

Look, I love Mila, love spending time with her etc, but I also love handing her back to Zsuzsa and turning off my brain every now and again.  I’m running over the scenarios in my head and struggling to come up with solutions.  How am I going to do this?  How am I going to get Mila up in the morning, make her breakfast, dress her, change her nappies, take her to nursery, collect her from nursery, take her to the playground, feed her dinner, wash her clothes, bath her and put her to bed as well.  I also need to work!  It doesn’t add up.  I can’t see how I’m going to fit in feeding, and dressing myself.  Also, when the devil am I going to find time to take a poop!?  I love taking poops!  This is not good. 

Come on Gareth.  Deep breath.  All you need to do is keep a small human alive for a week.  You can do this.  Maybe.  

If this was a film, I’d probably be played by Simon Pegg, and at about this time in the story I’d bump in to a weird old man, with one eye, who warns me that a storm is coming.  The viewers would wonder if he’s just talking about the weather, but it would turn out that the blind old bastard is a prophet of doom.  He can see trouble on the horizon. 

Or maybe I should be played by Tom Hardy!  Yes.  I like that better.  Starring Tom Hardy as Gareth Hutchins!

Hang on though.  If it was a Tom Hardy movie it would probably be a lot more serious and dramatic.  I’d probably also get in to a fist fight with gangsters at some point.  I don't want to get in to a fist fight with gangsters.  No.  Let’s go back to Pegg.  Much safer with good old, harmless fun Simon Pegg.

DAY 1

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Zsuzsa is now in London and day one of single parent life is done and dusted!  A doddle!  I don’t know what Zsuzsa has been moaning about for the last year.  I woke up at 0630, the sun was shining and I proceeded to run a tight schedule with surgical like precision.  Mila arrived at nursery on time, I arrived at work on time.  No crying.  No drama.  No problem.  I then spent a lovely afternoon with Mila at the playground and even found time to have a delightful wander around Buda Castle with the sprog before visiting a wine shop to stock up for the week.  Mila is now tucked up in bed like a good little girl, I’ve just stepped out of a lovely, relaxing bath, and I’m about to watch Wonder Woman whilst drinking white wine.  Christ!  I’m probably only one episode of Gossip Girl away from kick starting my menstrual cycle.  

That said, I could be a single mother.  It’s not so bad.

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DAY 2

Beautiful shot of use standing in the rain next to a bin.

Beautiful shot of use standing in the rain next to a bin.

Fuck being a single mother!  I’m done.  Mila woke up just after 0600.  It was raining outside, I had a headache from drinking too much white wine and I couldn’t find the right clothes for Mila to wear.  I ran around the flat in a blind panic, rifling through piles of tiny tights and blouses.  I arrived at work late and covered in pureed pear.  I didn’t have time to have a shower and we’d run out of coffee.  Several hours later, still stinking of pear, I collected Mila in the pissing down rain and had to spend the afternoon in a garishly coloured indoor play centre in a shopping mall just to keep her amused.  I was also desperate for a poop for more than five hours and couldn’t deal with it until Mila was in bed. 

I'm exhausted and I think my period is coming.

PS I’ve just realised that I’ve only fed Mila food beginning with ‘P’ for the last two days.  She’s eaten pear, peach, porridge, pancakes, potatoes and pogacsa (a Hungarian breaded thing).  Maybe I should move on to ‘Q’ tomorrow and only feed her quiche, quinoa and quince.

To be continued.

Day 445 - Noel Edmunds, Scourge of the UN

AKA - The Couples Massage

Two men and a baby

Two men and a baby

“And that’s when he gave me the signed photo of Noel Edmunds!” exclaims Matt proudly as we stroll through the Buda Castle area.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Who the devil is this mysterious Matt fella,  why has he been given a signed photo of Noel Edmunds and how can I also get my filthy mitts on one?”

Well allow me to explain, you impetuous young scamps.

1.       Matt is a dear friend who has come to Budapest to visit myself, my pygmy wife and Mila (aka the spawn of our loins).  He is a typical man from Caerphilly.  And by that I mean that he’s married to a Mongolian and is currently being paid to learn Arabic full time.  Ten a penny in Glamorgan.

2.       He has been given a signed photo of Noel Edmunds by his Arabic teacher as an award for successfully passing his Arabic exam.

3.       There are some beautiful signed photos of Noel available on eBay.

Anyway, now that’s out of the way, let’s get back to Matt and I strolling in the Buda Castle area.  Matt is just about to elaborate on why his Arabic teacher is giving him signed photos of bearded men.

A finer prize would be hard to find.

A finer prize would be hard to find.

“Well.” Says Matt.  “We often discuss what Noel Edmunds might do in any given situation.  He is our go to third person.  For example, last week, ‘Noel Edmunds does not like the United Nations because he hates democracy.’”

“Does he?” I ask.

“Probably.” Replies Matt.

I ponder this for a moment.

“I guess any man that refuses to change his hair style for the best part of forty years is likely to be anti-United Nations.”

Matt nods, sagely.

“I read a great description of Noel Edmonds the other day.” He says. “It described him as looking like a child’s sand drawing of Aslan.”

“Ha!” I blurt, whilst simultaneously making a mental note to cut back on my daily blurting. 

Having decided that we’ve exhausted Noel for the moment, I attempt to steer the conversation down a different path.   “How’s  fatherhood?”

Matt has recently become the proud father to a gorgeous little half Welsh, half Mongolian lady.

“Yeah.  Good.  Pretty tiring, but good.  How is it, one year on?”

I smile.  I’m remembering this time last year when I shared a beer with another friend not far from where we are currently strolling.  At the time I was a wet around the ears father while my friend was a seasoned pro having owned a two year old child for, well, two years.  I remember listening to him harp on about fatherhood like a small boy listening to a grandad telling old war stories.  I was in awe and very much mesmerised.  He was my Obi Wan Kenobi.  But now I am smiling as I’ve just realised that the apprentice has become the master.  It is now Matt who is an eager, but inexperienced young padwan and I am the almighty Jedi master.

“I can’t remember the last time I had feeling in my face.  That’s how tired I’ve been.  Also, you know what I miss more than life itself?  Lazy, rainy Sunday’s lying on the sofa, binge watching film after film.”

We both sigh and walk on.  We’re heading to our couples massage that Zsuzsa has taken it upon herself to book us, as though it’s the most normal thing in the world for two male friends to do.

“I got turned away from my last massage.” says Matt. “Too hairy.  Would use up too much oil apparently.”

“They turned you away?”

“Yup.”

M&M

M&M

We arrive at the massage parlour.

“Would you like one room or separate rooms?” says the lady behind the counter.

“SEPARATE!” we holler in unison, a bit too loudly and a bit too quickly.   We are then each led off to our own SEPARATE curtained cubicles.

“Nuiil 'Iidmundz la yuhibu altadlik” murmours Matt from behind his curtain.

“What does that mean?” I ask.

“Noel Edmunds does not like being massaged.”

Bloody Edmunds.

Day 440 - The Wienerschnitzel That Wouldn't Die

Aka - The Anniversary

Back at the seen of the crime, four years later, spawn in tow.

Back at the seen of the crime, four years later, spawn in tow.

I’m concerned that Zsuzsa is suffering from severe sleep deprivation.  It’s our wedding anniversary and she’s just, out of the blue, asked me if I think human flesh would be delicious.

“Um, I don’t know.  Maybe.  Why do you ask?”

“I just feel sorry for chickens.” she replies, a sad expression currently appearing on her face.

This comment has done nothing for my concerns.

“You feel sorry for chickens?” I ask.

“I do.  I mean how unlucky they are that they they’re so delicious.  If they weren’t delicious we wouldn’t eat them.”

“Uh huh.” I say and take a bite of my weinerschnitzel.

As an aside, as I know how fascinating you’ll find this, the wienerschnitzel that I’m currently stuffing in to my face is, according to the menu at least, the biggest wienerschnitzel in the county.  After one bite I can also confirm that it’s also the toughest and most inedible wienerschnitzel in the county, probably the country, possibly the world.  As I chew my way through the rhino-hide like texture, I’m predicting that it will be digested slowly in my intestines over the next twenty odd years.  Please stay tuned for updates on my wienerschnitzel digestion status in the coming weeks. 

“I think if was to choose a human to eat, you’d be right up there.” I say, which looking back suggests that maybe I also need forty or so winks.

Zsuzsa looks at me perplexed.

“I’m not saying I’d want to eat you.” I add.  “Just that I think you’d be one of the tastier ones.  I’d miss you of course.”

“Of course honey.  I know you would.” says Zsuzsa, reaching over the table, grabbing my hand and smiling sweetly in to my eyes.  “Happy anniversary darling.”

I’m wondering if this is the perfect opportunity to drop in that I’d quite like to watch the boxing in the early hours of our anniversary morning, but something tells me that the moment isn’t right.

We finish our anniversary evening with a stroll around the town of Eger (the place where we were married four years previously) before slowly heading back to Zsuzsa’s parents home to be reunited with our tiny human spawn and settle down for the night.

Our wedding wine.

Our wedding wine.

We’d only decided to travel to Eger that morning.  I’d woken up feeling impulsive.

“Honey!  Let’s be impulsive!” I’d excitedly bellowed while throwing my hands in the air.  And by that I mean raised my arms, not that I’d begun juggling with my collection of vintage severed hands.

“Urgh.” Zsuzsa had groaned.

I'd read between the lines of her response and decided that my poor wife was verging on slipping in to a coma, but I wasn’t to be dissuaded.

“Come on honey!  Let’s be impulsive!  Let’s just do something!  Something instantaneous!  Something on the spur of the moment!”

“Urgh.”

I’d instantaneously decided to make a couple of coffees.

Ten minutes later and we’d formulated a plan.  An impulsive plan to go to Eger, offload our baby with the in-laws and leg it.

“Let’s travel light!” I’d excitedly suggested.  “Let’s take pretty much nothing but a small bag and a baby!  Let’s throw some clothes on and get up and go!  Come on!  Woo-hoo!”

Zsuzsa had nodded.  The game was on.

Four impulsive hours later and we were at the car.  Like some sort of pack mule, Zsuzsa has covered my body from head to toe in bags.  Zsuzsa was standing beside me with a suitcase,  a toy pushchair and a paddling pool.  This my friends, is what travelling light and impulsive looks like, parent style.

It’s now six in the morning the next day, after our romantic meal and stroll around Eger.  My wienerschnitzel is still in its honeymoon period of digestion and Mila is crying.

“Urgh.” says Zsuzsa.

I look at my tired boutique wife and I pity her.  I take a deep breath.  This is my moment to shine.  This is my moment to be a hero.

"Don't worry honey. I've got this. I'll take her downstairs to play." I whisper.

Without opening her eyes she smiles at me.

"Oh thank you darling.  You're a legend."

"Don't mention it baby." I say and kiss her on her cheek.

I pick Mila up out of her cot and take her downstairs to watch the boxing. 

After all, not all heroes wear capes.

Day 423 - The Chimp and the Iguana

AKA It's About Time

Rashford.JPG

“Maybe we could try walking on all fours tomorrow, see if she copies us?” suggests Zsuzsa.

Mila has begun walking on two legs, and as much as we’re overjoyed that our little girl is developing in to a fully functional human being, we’re also kind of missing her funny, lizard-esque crawl that she appears to have left behind.  I mean, I realise that it would possibly hold her back with job interviews and finding a partner if she crawled everywhere as an adult, but until only a few days ago she was our little iguana.  We kinda miss our little iguana.

“Yeah we should try that, but just in the house” I say.

"Obviously just in the house!"

This pang of nostalgia has been brought on by the fact that Mila is starting nursery tomorrow.  She’s only going for a couple of hours initially, but still, it’s a big deal.  Our baby’s growing up, right in front of our eyes and at the most frightening pace.

Slow down little lady!  No need to rush!

It only seems like yesterday when our little cub couldn’t roll over and instead just lay on her back in between us in our bed like an upturned woodlouse.  We spent hours trying to encourage her to turn over and were elated when she finally managed it, even though initially, it was probably an accident.

It only seems like yesterday when she tasted real food for the first time, instead of her mother’s delicious booby juice.  The shocked look on her little face as she began her culinary adventure was priceless. 

It only seems like yesterday when she couldn’t crawl forward and instead, just lay on her belly, desperately wagging her arms in the air like a washed up little whale.

“Come on Mila!  You can do it.  Crawl to Daddy.”

It only seems like yesterday when Zsuzsa showed me a video of a bemused Mila crawling after a ball at her baby yoga class, people cheering all around.  And it only seems like yesterday when she worked out how to sit up for the first time very shortly after learning to crawl.

“Honey!  Come quick!  She’s sitting up!  Oh!  Too late.  She’s fallen over.”

It only seems like yesterday when she rose to her wobbly feet for the first time.  

“Did you see that!  She just stood!”

“I did!  I saw it!”  

And now here she is, clumsily charging around our apartment on her two little feet, big smile on her chubby chops, often bumping in to things and occasionally falling flat on her face.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I love our little walking baby girl!  I'm immensely proud, but I can’t help missing our little woodlouse, our little boob addict, our little washed up whale and our little iguana.

“Don’t worry honey.” says Zsuzsa.  “We may have lost our little iguana, but we’ve gained the most adorable little chimpanzee.”

I consider this, and you know what?  She’s right.  I need to get over this and look forward rather than backwards.  Mila wanders over, holding out a hand so that she can take mine and I can guide her through the flat.  I take it and we meander forward from corner to corner.

“Mi ez (What’s that)?” says Mila while pointing at a wall.

“That’s a wall sweetheart.” I say.

“Mi ez?”

“That’s called a table.”

“Mi ez?”

“Those are my flip flops, that mummy keeps telling daddy to move.”

Zsuzsa approaches.

“I’m going to take her to the park.” says Zsuzsa.

I hand our little chimpanzee over, they leave the flat and I open up my laptop.  I’ve some revisions to make to my film script following a chat with the director a couple of days ago.  

Before diving in to the script I quickly peruse Facebook.  I follow a group called The Dad Network, having written for them on occasions in the past.  One of the group members has posted a cartoon strip and I begin to read it.  It’s so poignant and hits me hard in the face like a bombardment of chopped onions.

Cartoon.JPG

I stop.  The script can wait.  I dry my eyes, close my laptop, put my flip flops on and head to the park to experience some quality time with my beloved wife and our little chimpanzee.

Day 414 - Our Little One Year Old

AKA - Hurricane Hutchins

What a difference a year makes.  8,760 little hours.

What a difference a year makes.  8,760 little hours.

August 2nd

I’m sitting in a Burger King car-park, in Budapest, at 0100 in the morning.

I’m not dogging, and I’m not a burger fiend or anything like that (well, no more than any other sane person).  No, my brother and his tiny family are coming to stay and I’m lying in wait near the airport to collect them.  Just to clarify, by ‘tiny family’, I don’t mean that they are a family of primordial dwarfs.  More that he’s bringing his little children with him as well as his beloved wife.  One is a few days shy of 7, and the other is 3.  I’m excited about seeing them, but also bracing myself.  With three children together in a confined environment, naturally, there’s a storm coming.  Hurricane Hutchins is almost upon us.

August 4th

Today is exactly one year since our little lady burst her way in to this world via my beautiful wife’s groin.  I can’t believe it’s been a year!  A year since a doctor muttered the immortal words, "Come!  You can see the head!"  I can still hear the sound of Zsuzsa’s primal scream drowning out the operatic tones of Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma!  I can still feel the strange feeling that I felt when I was handed a little purple baby while a Hungarian doctor babbled away to me in incomprehensible Hungarian.  I still remember driving home from the hospital on my own in the evening (Zsuzsa and Mila needed to stay in for a few days) and plonking myself down on the sofa with a bottle of red.  I can't believe that it's 21 months since Zsuzsa muttered the words, "Honey, can you see a cross here?"

It seems like only yesterday that we were a care-free, happy-go-lucky couple who would swan off to far flung corners of the world at the drop of a hat.  A couple who got their fair share of sleep and could spend a rainy sunday snoozing on the sofa or binge watching entire seasons of House of Cards, should we choose.  That life has now been put on hold for the next 18 years or so.

We celebrate our little lady's first birthday at a stunning winery/restaurant near Lake Balaton with family and friends.  Mila seems to be overjoyed.  A great day to finish off a quite extraordinarily wonderful year.

August 7th

Today Mila took it upon herself to start called her Uncle Ross, 'Blub'.  Uncle Blub.  It's got a nice ring to it.  Uncle Blub claimed not to take it personally, but I did notice him sucking in his gut around Mila for the rest of the day.

Riding the tram with Uncle Blub

Riding the tram with Uncle Blub

August 9th

Today Uncle Blub and his family are departing Hungary and heading back to a rain engulfed Wales.  We’ve had a lovely time frolicking in the lake and barbecuing copious amounts of chicken, pig and cow.  We’ve been to Budapest Zoo where we witnessed a reptilian orgy of Romanesque scale in the tortoise enclosure.  We’ve ridden the child-slave railway through the mountain's of Buda.  We’ve drank our body weights in Aperol Spritz.  We’ve generated infantile chaos on the grandest of scales at some of the finest eateries that Budapest has to offer.  It’s been a blast, great to see them all and spend time together, and to see the cousins bond.  But now I’m physically and mentally exhausted and wondering how anybody can cope with more than one child.

Before they leave, we visit an al fresco bar/restaurant.  I look around.  The children are off playing somewhere and my brother is also nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s Ross?” I ask.

“I think he’s behind that bush, somewhere over there?” replies his wife, Ceri.

“What’s he doing behind a bush?”

Ceri just shrugs.

A few minutes later and Ross emerges carrying a plastic bag.  Our eyes meet.  Ross looks sad.  He motions to the plastic bag.  There’s something in it.

“Pants.” he says.

He sighs, looks straight ahead and walks a few more metres towards a bin.  In the background his youngest then emerges from behind the same bush with a proud smile.  Ross then turns to me, still looking sad.

“Diarrhoea.” He says.

A few hours of pandemonium later and they have left.  Mila is in bed and Zsuzsa and I are sitting in blissful silence on our sofa.  I turn to my wife.

“Maybe I should get a vasectomy.” I say.

“We should look in to that.” says Zsuzsa.

Birthday shenanigans at Istvandy Pinceszet.  Apologies for ruining the photo by looking like an 1980's slime-ball.

Birthday shenanigans at Istvandy Pinceszet.  Apologies for ruining the photo by looking like an 1980's slime-ball.

Day 399 - Croatia Episode II - The Beach

Previously, on The Buda Nest…

We travelled to Hvar from Budapest whilst being force fed biscuits.  The island was beautiful, but the sea was fishy.  We stole a random family's clothes and then fled the island with our next destination being Brela…

Zsuzsa, Mila and a delicious assortment of pebbles

Zsuzsa, Mila and a delicious assortment of pebbles

The first I heard of the beach was in Brela, on the Frankopanska Road.

“We found it yesterday.  It’s an idyllic, isolated beach on an untouched peninsula.” says Mr Tomato.

Mr and Mrs Tomato are friends of ours from Budapest, who like a pair of juicy, ripe stalkers, just so happen to be staying in Brela, in the same apartment building as us, at the same time as us!  And as much as I’d love their real names to be Mr and Mrs Tomato and for them to be real life, children’s book characters, these are actually their nicknames.  The beach that Mr Tomato is referring to is in response to our glum faces on the discovery that all of the beaches in Brela appear to be pebbly.

“I just don’t understand it.” I say whilst searching through Google.  “Look!  All of these sites talk about the gorgeous sandy beaches of Brela!”

“I know!” agrees Mr Tomato.  “That’s why we came to Brela as well (that and to stalk us).  But it seems to me that Croatians have a different understanding of sand!  You should seriously check out this beach that we found though.  It’s heavenly!  No tiny pebbles!”

Croatian sand.  Dubiously sized grains.

Croatian sand.  Dubiously sized grains.

The next morning we mentally prepare ourselves to tackle the pebbly beaches of Brela with baby Mila.

“Maybe it’ll be alright.” I say to Zsuzsa.  “Maybe Mila will enjoy the pebbles.”

“Honey.  Mila will try and eat the pebbles.  She will find them inexplicably delicious.” she replies.

“Maybe she won’t.  Maybe you’re underestimating her intelligence.  Maybe she’s smarter than you give her credit for!  She’s not stupid you know?”

Half an hour later, and having grown tired of screaming “No!” and grabbing pebbles from Mila’s mouth after she attempted to eat the entire beach in a pebble eating frenzy, we leave the beach.  We join Mr & Mrs Tomato and together travel in a convoy to this sacred, secluded paradise.  Mr Tomato is of course leading the convoy as only he knows the secret path to the secret beach.

The Class of Brela 2017

The Class of Brela 2017

Twenty minutes later and Mr Tomato leads us off the main road in to a busy secret car-park.  We get out of our cars.

“The secret beach is this way.” says an enthusiastic Mr Tomato, pointing in the direction of a row of beach front shops selling Croatia hats, mugs and flags.

We follow Mr Tomato past the busy secret shops, via several busy secret beach front bars, meandering our way through the hoards and throngs of sweaty beach dwellers who must have heard about this secret paradise via hushed whispers in secret corners of Brela.  A few minutes later and we arrive at ‘The Beach’.  True to his word there are no bite-sized pebbles for Mila to munch on.  Instead the ground is covered in fist sized, jagged rocks.  Hmmm.

We hurl our pop-up tent next to a jet ski rental hut.  The sun is beating down on us and there’s a severe lack of shade on the beach/quarry but I’m determined to make the most of it.  I pop my snorkel on and head to the water.  Mr Tomato sees me, shakes his head and then points to my feet.

“Make sure you wear shoes in the water.  It’s full of hedgehogs!” he says.

“Huh?” I reply.

“Hedgehogs!  Sea hedgehogs!”

“Er…”

“Those spikey ball things!”

I’m wondering if Mr Tomato is suffering from sun-stroke, but pop the snorkel on and stick my face under the water to humour him.  Sea urchins.  Super sharp, super spikey sea urchins as far as the eye can see.  Sea urchins looking for a lovely human shaped pin cushion to house their many pins.  I resurface.

“So let me get this straight.” I say.  “We’re at this secret, idyllic beach, surrounded by beach dwellers, next to a jet ski rental hut, precariously perched on a bed of jagged rocks, melting in the sun without shade and we can’t walk in the water without puncturing our feet on a…er…sea hedgehog?”

“Yes.  We like it.” replies Mr Tomato.

I make a mental note to never accept a beach recommendation from a man named after a fruit or vegetable again, and return to my baking hot tent on the jagged rocks.  I sit down in the sweltering heat and turn to by beautiful wife.  She returns my gaze, and smiles sweetly. Suddenly I feel contented.  She leans in to whisper sweet nothings into my ear.

"Honey.  I think Mila's done a massive poop.  It's your turn to change her?" she softly says.

Oh, my beautiful holiday paradise.

Laters Croatia

Laters Croatia