I'm home, if that isn't obvious, and I've already done a day's work. That would've been bearable if my boss hadn't got through the week-or-so without me by stockpiling a hillock of paperwork to shuffle, or if my arch-nemesis, the owner of a certain restaurant who ABSOLUTELY REFUSES TO KNOW WHAT THE FUCK HE BUYS FROM US hadn't called.
My heart sank, actually sank in my stomach - I felt it - when I heard his voice, because I knew what was coming.
"I want as last order," he said in his near-impenetrable accent.
He does this every time, then completely ignores what I tell him, information I have to down tools to find because he'd rather waste our time once a month rather than pick up a fucking pen.
Three times, he asked me a box quantity of a particular product.
"How many in box?"
"Ten per box."
"Yes, and in the box there is...?"
"Ten. There are ten in the box."
(Makes shuffling sound with phone, mutters in Arabic) "I want four boxes. How many in box?"
"TEN! I TOLD YOU! THERE ARE TEN IN EACH FUCKING BOX!"
I was shouting now. I didn't care if he never called back and we lose him as a customer, because he's an inept cunt who has us dancing through hoops. I tell him stuff, he doesn't listen, and when he arrives (five days after he says he will), he changes his mind on the spot.
I'm finding it hard to believe that yesterday I was in Budapest. I'm also finding it hard to believe that Martin's still there, as he had more work-leave than me. It's only 3 hours from Vienna, and vastly more interesting. The train station left a lot to be desired though. I'd been to the city twice before, but Martin was a Hungary virgin. It was my first time arriving via the station however, and it unsettled me. For one thing, we arrived amid frenetic scenes of hostel touts and black market money changers, all jostling for business among the seriously paralytic who staggered around benches and studied us and our enormous tourist rucksacks enviously.
The money changer took an instant dislike to me. He was holding a wad of Forints and a calculator, and blocked our passage to the Bureau de Change where he stood openly plying his trade.
"Look, I give you better rate," he said as he punched some numbers into his Casio. It didn't seem like such a bad idea, but then I'd had a bad experience in Budapest once before. It had been on my first visit, accompanied by Hippy Dave and Swedish Rob. (Luke had pulled the night before and was snogging someone by the Danube.) Some burly men had enticed us into their small, neon strip club with the words, "Cheap entry, only 300 Forints". Thinking one pound was a great bargain to see women naked, we went inside. We were then offered a bottle of Heineken at five pounds each, approximately 250% over the odds, so we tried to leave. I say 'try', because the Russian bouncer stormed over and barked the one English word he knew at each of us... "Hospital... Hospital... Hospital." We were then forced to pay the not-divulged-on-entry minimum fee of thirty pounds a head. For some reason, I was the one sent out to the ATM to fetch it. (I did seriously consider leaving Hippy Dave and Rob to their fate, such was my frustration at being nominated Group Banker.)
So when the money changer offered us a seemingly good deal, I thought better of it. Surmising that he may be holding a wad of now defunct old Forints, I asked to see one. I examined it and said, "Nah, forget it." The (admittedly tall and burly) money changer bore his eyes into my soul, not unlike that earlier Russian meathead, and I made a mental note to avoid Hungary's tourist prowlers.
We got to our hostel, on first sight, a dump, and panicked when I saw the owner. He looked Russian. He was burly. And the hostel was virtually anonymous and looked like someone's flat. Nonetheless, all was forgiven once we made our way out onto Erzsébet Krt. Those grand familiar avenues were back. Hello, trams. Greetings, family-owned shops. Good day, gorgeous women.
This post is becoming unnecessarily large, so I'll get to the point; we hit the town (initially with some difficulty. Vienna had given us ferocious hangovers). We discovered the Greatest Bar on Earth, Szimpla. It felt like a vast, cavernous factory, perhaps because it once was. It had alcoves. It was bohemian. It was almost pitch black - the best lighting for me - with a few kitch lamps providing a pleasant glow. And it was heaving. For some reason, it seemed full of Americans (one of whom seemed bemused that I wanted him to vote Obama), and guys with guitars and accordions (It was a bloody accordion, Martin!) would turn up and entertain a room. We stayed as long as we could, then popped upstairs to use the bathroom only to discover a second floor.
It was on my last day when something happened. Regrettably, it wasn't sexual, but it felt scarily intriguing. We had walked past an estate agents to see their flat prices - they averaged out at about £80,000, some were even in the 50s and 60s - and I comforted myself with the thought that if this were London I could easily get a mortgage and buy a place, even in these dire times. Then a second thought occurred to me; if I could buy a flat in Budapest, why don't I? I'm 34. I have no girlfriend. My prospects at achieving even weight loss are at best (ahem) slim. I have actually made my life rather boringly mundane and easy. I would actually own somewhere, actually have property that I could say was mine. In someone else's country mind you, but then my Grandma was Hungarian so technically I'd be going back to my roots.
Thus, all day at my desk, I numbercrunched. I looked at websites that offered British TV abroad (crass, I know, but I've stayed in a Spanish villa watching Channel Four news and it was strangely comforting to see the same programmes at the same time as my family, 1,000 miles away in the rain.) I tried not to think of the colossal expense and effort of this project, and instead enjoyed the idea of renting out a Brit-ready apartment (NO stags) that would pay off the mortgage.
One of my favourite cities on earth.
With gorgeous summers.
And gorgeous women.
Who still ignore me.
But I bet they'll be keen when they see my huge bastard flat that I could stay in once or twice a year.
And why not? After all, I'll never be able to afford a place in Bastard Bloody London.
And with that circling of the square, thereby ends my travelogue of Eastern Europe.
Normal whinging shall now resume.