First we went to Vienna where my friend saw the Breughels while I nursed my filthy cold and hacking cough in our room. My affliction synchronised nicely with the start of our holiday. It blasted in the dayI was to go to stay in Kent with her so I decided to hot toddy myself well and join her at St. Pancras.The day I set off for London I felt marginally worse & hacked & sputtered my way to Waterloo where Irene met me.

The Eurostar was a bit of a disappointment, a little snug to say the least – I had had visions of Orient Express luxury with nice gals wafting among us with flutes of Champagne. Not so but adequate and not as sardine – like as my trip to Cuba. We changed at Brussels and then at Cologne where we had a break of a couple of hours. We went to our couchette and realised why the ‘ette’ is the operative part of that word. It was tiny, the attendant had all the charm of a rattlesnake. An abrupt rattler at that. She informed us that we must get our bunks down NOW and bustled us into the corridor while she performed her ritual and we slunk back in. we had gift packs of odds and ends including flip flops and water, nicely done up in cellophane and finally we settled on our bunks, me barking and hacking only taking time out to blow my hooter. We did not find the temperature gauge and woke to dry mouths and aching heads. Dehydrated to a terrible degree.

Vienna is a rather lovely city but I was in no state to enjoy it and unfortunately at the sight of our hotel my brain started up a musical chant ‘Hotel motel holiday inn – say wha?’ a vacuous a song that I caught from Eve Ferret. This played itself out while we toured the city on a tram, while we ate a mediocre meal with no veggies and after a good night’s sleep interrupted by a few coughing fits the chant resumed. Only to be banished by a small boy singing ‘I want to move it! Move it! move it with my car’. Which took over.

We arrived at our hotel in Budapest and the room was big enough to run a yoga or tai chi class and the view from the seventh floor was of the Parliament building across the Danube. Even as I hacked my cough I was delighted. It was incredibly posh with two double beds, a mini bar & a safe. The breakfast was truly marvellous with all kinds of juices including beetroot, super muesli, fruit and not only croissants but all kinds of cake including marble cake, as well as bacon, tomatoes mushrooms hash browns and enough cold meat to make ourselves packed lunches. The staff, nearly all boys with nice adventurous haircuts were magnificent and clearly enjoyed their work I told one that I loved his quiff and we exchanged smiles for the rest of our stay.

The city is full of mystery – probably from old films seen long ago and I found it romantic, I could imagine spies lurking in corners and the Hungarians are some of the most interesting unique people I ever encountered.  Their scowls are comparable with the Russians but they show even less inclination to smile, even the beggars glare. One female held out her clean palm for money with no apology at all and a terrifying snarl, she seemed to always be by the metro. All very unlike our own beggars with their tendency to grovel the Hungarians appear to be well adjusted to their role.


As an old commie I thought, when first venturing behind the Iron Curtain to Moscow that the people would all be smiley and joyful –like the propaganda posters of jolly peasants…(after all those years of equality) in fact they appear extremely grumpy as do the Hungarians and are as delightful once you talk to them. On every bus I was offered a seat by a smiling woman A marked  difference to we Brits is their attitude to their dogs, they love them – so much so that if you have the temerity to approach the dog they snatch it away as if you might steal their love away! Here in Britain the normal reaction is to simper modestly and glow with pride when ones dog is admired. Like you made it yourself.

We found a vegan restaurant with very good food and the proprietor made special tea for me for my cough. The rest of the restaurant food lacked vegetables but mostly was enjoyable. On our way back in Vienna we went to a restaurant in a mall where the food was superb and where they kept Israeli wine, this upset me and I delivered a lecture on Gaza to my friend Irene, which was unforgivable of me but she forgave me.The food was Middle Eastern and delicious and I am afraid that it was Israeli. So much for my principles.

The spa was wonderful , if slightly confusing to begin with. On our way there we met an excellent woman who told us which bus to take and spoke perfect English which she had taught before she retired. She was fascinating and made it clear that all the Russians were not nasty and that she had Russian friends. She must have lived through the liberation by Russians and I have huge regret  that we didn’t get her name and address – she had lost her husband in January and wanted to talk and such an interesting voice from the past. We left her on the bus and entered the spa following two old lads with their bags of towels.

We found the spa confusing in the extreme but finally found our way to the sauna after which we went for a shower – the ladies showers were closed so we joined the men in theirs. I stepped out of the shower to the sight of a guy towelling his back with his tackle flopping about, we ignored each other. Later we bought tiny rubber hats to swim in the pool with a vast variety of people of all types and sizes all of whom didn’t take any notice of each other. I had been nervous about going to the spa because I still had my cough hanging on in there; in fact my cough seemed to enjoy the fluctuating temperature and eased itself a little. It has returned since. On our way out we found ourselves trapped behind a barrier with two men who gallantly vaulted over the barrier and left us to it but we did escape, finally.

On Sunday afternoon I saw my first sign of St Patricks day in Buda and when we got to Pest we saw hundreds of people with green hats or Guinness symbols all fairly drunk and capering merrily. I wanted to point out that they had the wrong day but restrained myself and I have no idea what the celebration was about, but who cares? Everybody was happy and we finally found our first Ruin pub.

I LOVE Budapest it is charming, wayward and full of eccentrics who take not a blind bit of notice of you,a kind of freedom exists there and I thank my friend Irene for her company and I want to go back soon.

Our trip home was improved by a nice humorous Austrian male attendant and we turned the heat off and slept rather well until six when we went into the corridor and watched as we went along the Rhine valley saw odd castles on vertiginous hills covered in vines and now I am tempted to go on a river cruise – but I won’t I shall go back to Budapest….

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Since I was diagnosed with cancer of the lung and pelvis in late July I have lived a rather exciting life, it has made me increasingly aware of time’s winged chariot so I had a short break on the Riviera and have plans for a holiday in late March. Then there was my visit to the Penny Brohn centre which I insisted on calling a boot camp. Nothing could be farther from the truth and the days spent there were some of the most comfortable and useful I have ever enjoyed. I also met one other woman who was taking the same route with her cancer as me. She is convinced, as I am, that cancer is not the big bad monster, enemy but a new and interesting vagary of the body  that must be dealt with as such.

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When do you become too old/ill to bother with

I do wonder at what age we become a loss to the health service. It began weeks ago: I had asked to be referred to Physio & was getting ready to go there when the first call came. ‘The physiotherapist says she can’t assess your needs in a half hour.’ The man said. Then make me an hour appointment’ I said before he cut me off. Ten minutes later he called again to say that as I fell over I was not a suitable case for treatment. (Too old & with cancer!) Though he didn’t utter these words, he said that they would send somebody to my house. I explained that I wanted to use their equipment and that I had been to their gym before and found it useful. (not worth investing time in this old bird, probably be dead  in a few weeks) He left but phoned again in minutes – I had hoped that I may have the joy of speaking to the Physio this time, but no. Continue reading

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There are some good things about being old, even being old and decrepit has benefits. For a start not so many people have any right tell you what to do – and if they do it is easier to tell them off. It is a little easier to be selfish – in the true sense of that word – you have had more time to decide what is important to you. This can change from day to day or even from hour to hour. People tend not to expect consistency from the old. In fact rather a lot of the expectations of the young are pretty derogatory but we can forgive them for their foolishnesses with a look that says ‘been there, done that and decided against it!’ an arched brow is useful for this manoeuvre with a slightly  knowing smile.

It is very irritating when the young take it for granted that they invented many of the more enjoyable vices – we know better of course. And we got there first and we could tell them a thing or two but we won’t, and they wouldn’t listen which is fair enough.

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So I appear to be living with cancer in a kind of equity. My doctors, one of whom is an old friend and I am convinced that she likes me, looks at me with a mixture of exasperation & sadness. ‘Are you sure you don’t want treatment, even just to be on the safe side?’ I explain once more that treatment does not seem safe to me & that my tumour has not grown perceptibly. I also tell her that I feel incredibly well and that my new herb, green tea, bi -carb and stir fry diet appears to work well and I am loving my wok. I still have a hideously sweet tooth and I succumb to the odd lemon yum yum but have cut out the bon bons and haven’t bought biscuits for years. I have lost a half stone of what the adverts insist on calling ‘belly fat’ and can wear a jacket with ease that has always been beyond me – or my girth.

I seem to be making light of my cancer according to people I discuss it with. I don’t think I am, I was appalled when I was first diagnosed – my primary reaction was to flog everything I have and go on holiday – in fact I had a few days booked before I was diagnosed. Also, having been given seven months to live by one doctor I felt relief that I would not have to decide if I painted my front door – which has begun an automatic peel. Also I only taxed the car for six months though I decided to splurge on a service because I have a friend who badly needs a car. So I began to arrange my life around this depressing outlook.

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