- 15 Apr 2008 12:00 PM
After eight months on the hippie trail he landed, even thinner, in Australia. Seduced by sunshine, he stayed much much longer than was healthy for him. Aided by a Hungarian wife, he eventually escaped to Budapest.
There, despite giving up his lifelong career of journalism for a year, he found the pull was too hard to resist (plus he was starving as an English teacher).
1. When did you arrive in Hungary and what brought you here?
These Hungarian women get around, don't they? I met "mine" in 1999 when I was living in Australia and she was visiting her sister down under. We married in Hungary in 2000 and we lived in Australia from 2001 to 2006, when we came here.
2. Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?
Yes, as mentioned, in "lucky country" Australia, land of sunshine, conservatism, good wages, leaping marsupials, and milk and honey. Why not kick it in and come to struggling Hungary?
3. What surprised you most about Hungary?
We came here on a "research" holiday in 2004 to see if it was wise to relocate, but forgot about the research and had a good time instead. Thus we got a bit of a surprise in 2006 to find that, below the surface, the country is really in a mess.
4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?
One day on the obvious sights and one day on the less obvious: tucked-away courtyards, some magnificent shop interiors, grand cemeteries, the lepsc? (outdoor stairways), a few wonderful libraries, the less-known coffee houses.
5. What is your favourite Hungarian food?
Pastries such as spenótos-sajtos hassé, meggyes or mákos rétes.
6. What is never missing from your refrigerator?
7. What is your favourite Hungarian word?
"Hallo" used as "goodbye". I predict that one day Hungary will be known in guide books as "the country where they say hallo when they farewell you".
8. What do you miss the most from home?
My wife says it's lucky that I am fairly adaptable and don't really miss England or Australia. But I wish they gave away DVDs with Hungarian newspapers like they do in England. You can buy a paper at the weekend there and become the owner of Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" or Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin", for instance.
9. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?
I've been a journalist for 500 years but became bored with it in Australia and started up in Budapest as an English teacher. However, after realising that many students were cancelling lessons to go skiing in Austria, and I wasn't, plus it's a near-impossible way to live, I had to return to journalism. I think being a sandwich-board man would be a nice alternative though. And sweeping up litter would be very satisfying.
10. What's a job you would definitely never want?
It must be difficult to be a politician and hold your head up.
11. Where did you spend your last vacation?
Strangely, employers always seem to want me to freelance for them so that they don't have to go to the unnecessary expense of providing me with paid holidays. Contract, what contract? We managed a couple of days in Slovenia at Easter but came home early short of our destination, Istria, because of a snowstorm.
12. Where do you hope to spend your next one?
St Petersburg or Morocco are wild dreams.
13. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?
I grew up in the thick of Beatlemania in the UK. I'd love to see again "The Knack", directed by Richard Lester, and featuring two blokes, one who could pull the birds and one who couldn't. I read a lot. I also glued together plastic model airplanes for some strange reason.
14. What can't you resist?
Casting a sly eye at a nice passing lady. My wife just says, "Stop looking at the girls," in an understanding way.
15. Red wine or white?
Mainly red but not a connoisseur.
16. Book or movie?
Really, an impossible question. These and music are the great inseparable arts, in my book. You can stick ballet up your tutu. If the choice is the book or the movie of the book, invariably the book. It is rarely improved on.
17. Morning person or night person?
Age seems to have made me a morning person and I don't think I'm going to grow out of it now.
18. Dog person or cat person?
Can I pass on just one question?
19. Buda side or Pest side?
Pest, really, almost without question, although marital compromise sees me living in Buda (quite near the tram to Pest).
20. What would you say is your personal motto?
This is tricky. How about "When are you ever going to grow up?"