Thursday, March 12, 2009


It's nice to visit a country where flowers are loved and enjoyed. India is one such country. Flowers are everywhere. Even in the poorest marketplace in the poorest part of town, someone will be selling flowers, garlands, or something to tie in your hair. Romania is another such society. Having been there during Valentine's weekend I saw lots of women of all ages carrying flowers. How nice that this isn't just a young lover's thing. I was in Romania again last weekend. This time it was the tail end of celebrating Mărţişor - on the first of March women (usually young and single women I believe) receive a small gift of a jewel or a flower tied to a red and white string. Also that week was March 8th - International Women's Day - again more flowers are given. So that's three out of four weekends where women will receive some sort of floral based gift. Nice!

But here's the unusual thing. Women in Romania carry their flowers upside-down, that is, with the heads of the flowers facing down, and I mean right down, by their sides, arms straight down so the heads of the flowers are often barely above ground level. If you haven't seen this before, your initial thought is that perhaps the woman is somewhat nonplussed by the floral gift she has received and is therefore just looking for a convenient bin in which to chuck the bouquet. I asked about this and was told that it's actually considered a better way to carry flowers. Carrying them pointing upwards would run the risk of damaging the flowers, the heads may break off, or they could be crushed in a crowd. Held straight down, the flowers run the least risk of being damaged. On consideration, this seemed a perfectly reasonable explanation but it is still somewhat disconcerting (to a Western European like me) to see flowers being carried in what seems a rather contemptuous way.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Custard Probes

It's always interesting to go abroad for a short break and detach yourself from your home country because you tend to miss out on the minutiae of events. On your return you usually find relatively little has happened in your absence but there's always something that catches your eye on returning and this particular weekend was no exception.

I've been back to Romania for another fantastic weekend. No chance to log on to the internet and check the BBC website. No email and no home news. I'm not a news fiend but I do try and keep up with current events and like to know what's gong on, if only at a mostly superficial level.

Here in the UK we have a politician called Peter Mandelson with, one suspects, a mildly colourful lifestyle. Sacked/resigned from a senior position in government on at least two occasions for extremely dubious financial dealings, he was shipped off to Europe where most of our least successful politicians are sent, to see out their days in disgraceful luxury but away from the glare of public opprobrium at their mendacity. Mandelson actually came back and was again given another senior job in government - one suspect this was only to placate some disillusioned faction of Gordon Brown's party (there are quite a few of these I imagine so he has to make a lot of peace offerings to keep his party on a barely even keel and maintain the semblance of organised government). Mandelson was almost immediately undone and up to his usual tricks again by being caught accepting the hospitality of a Russian billionaire on his yacht in the Mediterranean. He survived this particular spat but has continued to rarely be out of the news for some reason or another.

This time, as I stepped off the plane at Heathrow I saw a TV screen with such an eye-catching headline I could barely imagine what he'd been up to this time....Mandelson Custard Probe was quite an anticlimax when I finally read the actual story.