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It was an intimate affair. About thirty discerning souls in the back room of Beckett’s Bar in Budapest on a cold, rainy, rather miserable Thursday night. Given the week that was in it, it’s probably not surprising that more didn’t venture out. Denial can do that to you. But tonight was all about the love. And the man on stage, resplendent his three-piece suit and spats … he was all about the love, too.

No one quite knew what to expect and those sorts of expectations can be difficult to manage. The audience was a global one with Hungary, Scotland, England, Ireland, Norway, America, and Australia (and possibly more) ready for whatever the wee man with the funny accent (a heady vocal cocktail laced with traces of Glasgow and Donegal) threw at us. Some, concerned that their English mightn’t be up to it, relaxed when Little John Nee admitted that his English wasn’t great either. We were in safe hands.

jn2_easy-resize-comWe’re used to being technically entertained – the lights, the amps, the pageantry that come with modern productions. But last night, we could have been in a town hall in the back-end of anywhere.  It was just him and us. He had his array of instruments neatly lined up on the stage behind him; we had our appreciation and our wonderment on tap, ready to pour.

jn4_easy-resize-comA storyteller who uses music and drama to tell his tales, Little John Nee took us on a journey through rural Ireland, popping over to Scotland on the Derry Boat for a look-see and then back again. He introduced us to people we’d never met but would know ten years from now if we ever ran into them. As we listened to his songs and stories, it hit me that what we were seeing bordered on innocence. No bells and whistles. Just pure, honest-to-goodness entertainment … from the heart.jn7_easy-resize-com

Storytelling is about holding the audience’s attention, about having them hang on your every word, about painting a picture that makes the sights and sounds and smells you describe come alive. And we were there. Everywhere Little John Nee went in that 90 minutes, we went with him. He gave us a gift: the opportunity to use our imagination, to let it take flight. Those of us born and reared in Ireland had no trouble at all reading volumes into the nod of his head, the tip of his chin, the roll of his eye. Those who had visited were back in the land of the familiar. And those who’d yet to make the journey started planning their trip.

His is a rare talent. He has a way with words, an innate ability to extract the best of stories from a combination of words like androgynous, brobdingnagian, cantankerous, and daffodils. We rode a wave of emotion with him, the peaks and the troughs. And afterwards, we felt good, better than we had a couple of hours earlier. Everyone was smiling. Reflective smiles that come with having been privy to something special.

Come back any time, Little John Nee. Next time, stay longer.

[Photo credit to Declan O’Callaghan]

Last week, I gathered some of my miscellaneous currency – you know the bits you have left over after a trip and are too lazy to do anything with? I had notes from Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Switzerland, and Turkey. About €10-20 worth of each so not an unreasonable haul. Me and my man in the Northline booth, a young lad of about 30, were getting on just fine until I went to give him 30 Turkish Lira. He waved it away, dismissively, with an attitude. When I asked why, he roared at me.

NO!

I asked why again, thoroughly confused, and got an even louder: I SAID NO!!

Up till this point, language hadn’t been an issue. And I had no reason to expect it to start now. I counted to six and asked again, quietly, Why? Sure after four consecutive transactions, I at least deserved an explanation.

And I got another maniacal: I SAID NO!!!!

Still in control (barely), my heart thumping and my teeth clenched I told him that there was no need to shout at me. I could hear him perfectly well. [Man, I sounded so like my mother.]

He screamed: I SAID NO!!!!!

I didn’t know where to go with that so I told him that I really hoped his day would get better.

THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH MY DAY. I SAID NO. NO.

I didn’t stay to argue. And I won’t be going back there any time soon.

I called my bank today. I wanted to transfer money from my euro account into my Hungarian forint account, both of which are in the same branch. I was curious to know what it would cost me and what sort of rate I’d get. I also needed to clarify the difference between foreign currency and foreign exchange.

Because I’m an individual not a corporation, they could offer me 301 ft for my euro. If I was a business I could get 305.

But I have a business, I said. I can transfer it to that account. It’s with your bank, too.

No. As I would be the one transferring the money, it would be classified as an individual transaction.

So I thought, if I withdraw the money, walk outside, change it at a different Northline office, I can get 308 ft. Then I can come back and deposit the cash in forint.

Yes. But withdrawing the euro will attract a 1.09% charge, he said. Of course, we wouldn’t charge you anything to accept the forint.

How do banks get away with this crap?

Last week, Louis CK commented on how we’re all using the Christian calendar to date our cheques. I, for one, would love it if we could all use the same currency, too. Think of how much it would improve my life: no mad men with a pathological dislike for handling Turkish lira screaming at me, no unseemly profits for my bank for its discrimination against individuals and its penury currency exchange rates.No blood pressure issues for me.

On the grateful side: I didn’t shout back. I’m learning that I need to pick my battles and that sometimes, I simply can’t win so best not to even attempt the try.

My life is bursting with good intentions. I am forever making notes to myself to see, do, go, call, write, ask… and a good 7 times out of 10, I never get around to doing anything but rebuking myself weeks later for not having seen, done, gone, called, written, asked …

museum-applied-arts-budapest1For weeks now, I’ve been reminding myself to go see the Home Sweet Home exhibition at the Iparművészeti Múzeum (Museum of Applied Arts), which, incidentally, is the third oldest applied arts museum in the world (or one of the oldest at least, depending on what you read). It runs until November 15 and time was running out. So late this afternoon, I went. And was dutifully impressed. 

I was with three American friends, all of whom qualified for a concessionary ticket. Am not sure I agree with stuff costing more to be young(er). But hey – at less than €10 for a full-priced combination ticket that gets you into everything, it’s nothing to be sneezed at.

The Home Sweet Home exhibition is actually three exhibitions in one. Tickets also  include  admission to  the BID – Collective Imagination (Imaginación Collectiva) and the Hungarian Design Awards and Design Management Awards exhibitions.

I was particularly impressed with a range of clothing designed for those with autism, based on studies of behavioural habits and favourite poses/relaxed positions. There was also a set of black-and-white ceramic tableware designed for those who are partially sighted; shopping bags made from fishing line and wire; and shoes that can be worn on either foot and so are only sold in ones.

I love design shops. I love seeing how creative people can take thoughts and turn them into something tangible. I love the possibility of it all.

Globalization, technological revolution, environmental issues, sharing economy – concepts that have shaped our mindset in recent years. But how does an abstract concept take form? How does the world leak into our homes, how does our micro-environment transform into a mirror of the society, and how are designers inspired by the big changes of history? HOME SWEET HOME exhibition tries to answer these questions – mainly through items by Hungarian designers, in an inspiring way for both general public and professionals.

 

The second exhibition runs a little longer. Lifting the Curtain presents the birth of modern architecture in Central Europe from a rather different perspective. [PF and CM – thought of you both – you’d have loved it.] It’s not about architects or styles, but more about  the networks of modern architecture and the influences that transcend borders. I hadn’t known, for instance, that back in 1944, as the Russians were getting closer and closer to Budapest, an entire class from the Technical University (including students, professors, and admin staff – some 1600 in all) were put on trains and shipped out of the country. The idea was to save a generation of engineers and architects who would return to rebuild the country once the war was over. Most ended up in Denmark as POWs before eventually returning to Budapest where the architects among them brought back some influences of Danish modernism. Who’d have thunk it?

Stolen wallet aside, it’s been a good week, one that ended in fond reminiscences. It’s not often I get to sit people who don’t know each other around a table and listen to them discover (and marvel at) how they all have Alaska in common. Or get to visit a home on Csepel Island that might have been transplanted from Valdez. Or actually get to do something before the window of time snaps shut on me. Yep – lots to be grateful for.

And Rex, you’re here with us in spirit – we know. 

 

What’s this? I asked the waiter, pointing to what looked suspiciously like a piece of a chilli. It’s a chilli, he confirmed. But it was in my coffee, I replied, raising what little of the voice I still had in a question. Yes, he said, nonplussed, it says so on the menu.

We’d stopped in to the ever-so-awfully-posh New York Café for a cup of coffee, just because one of us hadn’t been there before and I figured that three years of boycotting the place (almost to the day) after my first and only visit was long enough to hold a grudge. For all its faults [price, service, attitude], it’s a beautiful space.

IMG_1513 (800x600)I spotted a Magyar Kavé on the menu – a Hungarian coffee. A new one on me. I read a little further. The ingredients: Tokaji Szárasz Samorodni (a dry Tokaji wine), méz (honey), eszpresszó kavé (espresso coffee), and csípős tejhab (spicy milk foam). I’ll have some of that, I thought. Hang the expense. Wine and coffee together? Could life get any better? 

It tasted strange, but good. And I kept drinking. And then I bit on something that, on closer inspection, looked a lot like a chilli seed. And then came the chilli. And then I called the waiter.

Chilli? In coffee? I asked, raising my eyebrows so high they hit the exquisitely ornate ceiling. Yes, says he, defensively, it says so on the menu. Really, says I, damn sure it didn’t as I’d already transcribed the entry. May I see?

Off he goes to get the evidence…

Well, not really, he said – it just says spicy milk foam. I don’t know about you, but when I think spices for coffee, cinnamon or nutmeg come to mind, not chilli.

It’s been a long, hectic, mad week of literary talks, play readings, workshops, logistical nightmares re flights and visas, and lost voices. I’m still speaking in croaky whisper, ignoring the phone as I can’t talk loud enough to be heard. But when I add last night’s pumpkin parade to the discovery of Magyar Kavé, I’m grateful that after eight years, this city still regularly surprises me.  Wine and coffee, in the same glass. Who’d have thunk it?

 

 

From a three-piece suit in a business blue to a shiny silver Vegas number accented with red socks, the boys from Pink Martini had a wardrobe to be proud of. A most unlikely looking bunch of musicians as ever I saw – not that anyone can ever really look like a musician except they have that rock-star chic look going. Ten lads of varying ages and nationalities took the stage in Budapest earlier this  week with lead singer China Forbes. The band hails from Portland, Oregon, but they came from far and wide to get there.

PMOn the road since 1997, Pink Martini is a versatile little orchestra. Their 2013 album Get Happy  features 16 songs in 9 languages. No shortage of variety there. Band leader and founder of the whole shebang, Thomas Lauderdale, spoke to the mainly Hungarian audience in Budapest this week – in Hungarian. Granted, his pronunciation made mine look pitch perfect, but he tried. And not just the usual ‘Hello, Budapest’ either. He had pages of script and introduced many of the numbers in halting Magyar. One of the first classics they played was Je ne veux pas travailler (I don’t want to work) which is now an anthem of sorts for any sort of strike in France): I don’t want to work, I don’t want to lunch, I only want to forget and so I smoke [English translation; song is in French].

PM2Their 2014 album Dream a Little Dream has some interesting guests: Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and August von Trapp, the great-grandchildren of Captain and Maria von Trapp of The Sound of Music fame. How did I not know that (a) the von Trapps were a real family and (b) they still sing together? Where have I been? It takes listeners from from Sweden to Rwanda to China to Bavaria, and also features The Chieftains, who have to be among Ireland’s best known exports.  pm3

I first met them a few years ago when my mate VB from Arizona sent me their album Hang on Little Tomato. I fell in love with the song Let’s never stop falling in love. She also sent me Hey Eugene with its classic of the same name, written about a chap China met out on the town one night, a chap called Eugene who took her number and never called : Hey Eugene! Do you remember me?
I’m that chick you danced with two times Through the Rufus album, Friday night, at Avenue A

Percussionist Martin Zarzar (from Peru) works Mar Desconocido, a number which Lauderdale describes as ‘like a song from a Pedro Almodovar film with an excerpt of a Chopin waltz in the middle of it.’  That might go some way in describing just what the band are about. They’re bloody amazing. One of the most memorable numbers of the night had to be a duet of an old Armenian number featuring percussionist Timothy Nishimoto (him of the red socks). I lost count of the number of languages on stage – I know there was French, and English, and Armenian, and Croatian, and Spanish … and possibly more. But then again, what would you expect from Harvard graduates?

Hungarian audiences aren’t noted for going wild. Theirs is a more restrained enthusiasm. And yet, when Lauderdale invited the audience on stage a couple of times to dance to particularly dancy numbers, there was no shortage of volunteers. By the time I weighed up the hassle it would be to extricate myself from my centre section seat and the energy it would take to actually move in something fashioning a dance, against being able to say that I was on stage once with Pink Martini, I stayed put. Make no mistake: I’m a fan. And I’m glad that the lovely VZsZs managed to get some tickets. But I was knackered. So tired, in fact, that I almost fell asleep. Not good.

I’ve been to concerts (Kris Kristofferson and Leonard Cohen come immediately to mind) that have gone on for more than a couple of hours. But lately it seems that gigs are getting shorter. Sinéad O’Connor wasn’t on stage for much more than an hour. And Pink Martini didn’t last much longer. What it is I wonder? Is it because our attention spans are shortening? It can’t be money, can it? It’s the same to them whether they play for one hour or two surely? They’re in country anyway. Mind you, there was some debate on stage over whether or not they’d been to Budapest before. Turns out they had been – but only to eat. They actually played at the Balaton.

No matter. I got to seem them live. In Budapest. And for that I’m grateful. If they come your way, do what you need to do to get tickets. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

For anyone moving to a new city, making friends can be difficult. And the older you get, the harder it seems. I’ve reinvented myself a number of times, moving to cities and countries in which I knew one, maybe two people, and oftentimes no one at all.

Back in my 20s it was easy. Most of those I met were of similar age and as young, free, and single as I was. They were open to meeting new people and making new friends. Of course, I’m blessed to be Irish, probably the one nationality in the world that almost everyone seems predisposed to liking. By virtue of my birth I come packaged with an expectation in others that I’ll be up for a party – whenever, wherever.

In my 30s, I noticed a difference. A subtle difference, mind you, but an important one nonetheless. My peer group were now newly married couples, perhaps young parents whose priorities in life had changed. They had husbands and wives to go home to. They had children to bathe. They had stuff to do at the weekend and families to be with on the holidays. I managed. I always do. But it was a tad harder.

In my 40s, it took a lot more effort. Moving to a country whose spoken language still defeats me, a country where things are simply different – not better or worse than other places I’ve lived, just different – this was harder again. And a lot of it was down to me. I had my peculiarities. I was prone to my particular figaries. And I had become a little more discerning about whose company I kept. I’ve noticed that my tolerance levels are gradually declining as the years advance.

For the first couple of years in Hungary, I didn’t seek out an expat community. In fact, it wasn’t until the birth of the Gift of the Gab some two years after I’d arrived, that I had my coming out. I began to meet people. Some expat groups were a little too cliquish for my taste, a little too ‘them and us’ when it came to Hungarians. And I tried a few. And then true to form, the Irishness in Hungary won out.

The Irish Hungarian Business Circle (IHBC) is one of a number of chambers in town and despite its name, its focus is not purely business; there’s a charity and a social arm as well. And the social arm is very inclusive. The regular pub gatherings (this year in the Caledonia) on the First Friday of each month draw people from all over. The volunteer work trips to the orphanage in Göd attract people of all ages. And the regular hikes during the year are one of the best opportunities this city offers to meet new people.

IMG_1022 (800x534)Some hikes have had six hikers. Some have had over 40. The inimitable Malcolm Trussler tailors the walks to suit the numbers … and the weather.  Last Sunday saw 20 of us get the train to Nagymáros where we caught the ferry across to Visegrád and from there hiked a nice 10.5 km through the lower Pilis hills to Pilisszentlászló. Sixteen adults, four kids, seven nationalities … and a dog.

As we wended our way through the hills we fell in with different people and had a chance to chat without distraction. No phones. No iPods. No tablets. Just us. Clean air. Good conversation. Afterwards, we ate at the Kis Rigó Vendéglő before bussing back to Szentendre and catching the Hév back to Budapest.

Next hike is planned for October. Dust off those boots and get the thermos ready.

First published in The Budapest Times 2 October 2015

 

Hungary has made the news in Ireland. When I was there last week it seemed like all anyone was talking about was the migration situation. Pictures of Keleti train station. Pictures of Szeged. Pictures of the fence. Pictures of families sitting, waiting for an uncertain future.

The one overriding question asked of me was “Is it as bad as they say?” And the only answer to that is no. It’s worse. And then they asked why Hungary (and by implication, Hungarians) wasn’t doing more. People in Germany were offering up their homes on AirBnb. Austrians were driving to the border and beyond to pick up families and take them home. Angela Merkel was offering to take in hundreds of thousands. Ireland might only be taking 4000 (to our shame, some say) but Hungary doesn’t appear to want any at all.

I had neither the political nor the sociology background to answer their questions with anything even approaching authority. But when I started to talk about my experiences and what I’ve seen and heard and read, I was a little surprised at what came out.

None of the current Hungarian government is on my Christmas card list. Neither is the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary. I believe they both could have done more. And yet I found myself taking quite a defensive position.

I reminded my petitioners that here in Hungary, people don’t have much. Monthly take-home salaries are figured in hundreds of euro rather than thousands. Flats are small. There are no spare rooms to offer.

Some 40% of the population hasn’t enough to make it to the end of the month. Farmers watch as the crops they need to get their family through the winter are picked clean by those passing through. Many in the east of the country live hand to mouth. Many in the cities, too.

And while the international press might scathingly report on the quality of food provided at the camps, they forget that patients in Hungarian hospitals fare no better. And while they castigate the police for their heavy-handedness, they forget that Hungary, as a Schengen border country, has been charged with keeping that border safe.

And yes, it could all have been done differently. Ideologically it’s a shared border that should be manned by all Schengen countries. The responsibility should not fall on Hungary alone. But then does Hungary want help? Yet another question I cannot answer.

refugees_walk_beside_motorway

The government here is making a hames of it all (and it’s not alone).  But the people, individual Hungarians, are showing a generosity of spirit that should not be forgotten. It has to be difficult to see Keleti awash with young people scrambling not for food but for places to plug in their smartphones. To see queues at Western Union as money is wired for train tickets out. To see placards thanking Germany and shaming Hungary.

It’s an impossible situation. Everyone has an opinion. Many are simply afraid.

Afraid that ISIS might be using this exodus to Europe as a cover. Afraid that we might wake up one morning to find our churches replaced by mosques. Afraid that our poor and our homeless will lose out to those who are looking not for a safe place to live but for a better standard of living.

Fear makes us say stupid things. It makes us batten down the hatches and indiscriminately protect what we have. It makes us add exclusivity clauses to which neighbour we should love.

And while letters of accusation fly back and forth between governments and EU leaders scramble to get their act together, more and more refugees arrive at the Schengen border in the hope that they will be granted access to a safer world. The very least that we can do is to show some compassion.

First published in the Budapest Times 18 September 2015

I love a good speech. And I love a good wedding. And it doesn’t get much better when you have both together. One of the lucky ones who got to see the gorgeous Dora Nyiregyhazki marry the equally gorgeous  Edward Quinlan in Budapest yesterday, I was struck, not for the first time, by the wonder that is marriage.

IMG_0352 (800x600)Gone are the days when marriage was something you did once. It’s commonplace, for myriad reasons, for people to try it and try it again. And all with the best of intentions. The Big Day. The dress, the hair, the makeup. The invitations. The seating plan. The Music. The breakfast. The speeches. The effort that goes in to make the big day one to remember is monumental. And this wedding ran like clockwork, oiled by a room full of genuine warmth and feeling. They’re a popular pair. And they both looked every inch of their gorgeous selves. There’s something wonderful about seeing two people so obviously in love. It helps restore, replenish, rejuvenate. It brings a little more light into a world that can sometimes be too dark. That sense of newness that comes with weddings is one to be savoured. It’s almost as if, on the day, anything is possible.

IMG_0341 (800x600)IMG_0369 (600x800)All the speeches were laugh-out-loud tributes to the couple with plenty of anecdotes. Each very entertaining. For my money, though, Dori’s mum gave the speech of the night, one that got me thinking. She asked the pair what the most important requirement is for a happy marriage. Not surprisingly they answered ‘love’. But no, she said. It’s patience. And the second most important requirement? Patience.  And the third most important requirement? Patience. How right she is. For with patience, anything can be overcome. And for someone who could do with a little more of that particular virtue, it was something  I needed to hear. Thank you, Ildikó. My first lesson of the day.

As she married them, the Registrar quoted from a poem by Jozsef Attila:

The train is taking me,
I am going
perhaps I may even find you today.
My burning face may then cool down,
and perhaps you will softly say:

The water is running, take a bath.
Here is a towel for you to dry.
The meat is cooking appease your hunger,
this is your bed, where I lie.

A second lesson. It’s too easy to forget that it’s the little things that matter. Those random acts of kindness. Those little considerations. Those seemingly insignificant acts that say so much about what we feel. That’s love. Real love. The sort of love that lasts.

IMG_0364 (600x800)

At the end of the ceremony, Ed and Dorí were asked to each pour a glass of coloured sand into a bowl. This they were then to take home, and every year, on their anniversary, they’re to take it out and look at it and remember the committment they made in front of us all. A third lesson for me: take nothing for granted.  Relationships take work. A lot of work. It’s when we start taking each other for granted, that’s when they founder.

It was a great day, a lovely evening, a brilliant night. We danced, we laughed, we partied. And as the fireworks went off in the city beneath us, there was something special in the air, something tangible. And that something was hope.

Here’s to you both, Mr and Mrs Quinlan.

May the light of friendship guide your paths together.
May the laughter of children grace the halls of your home.
May the joy of living for one another trip a smile from your lips, a twinkle from your eye.

Congratulations.

In a world where politics polarises people, where contrary opinions can ruin friendships, where ideological differences can result in being ostracised, it’s easy to forget that we’re all human. We all have feelings. We all bleed red.

Whether you’re in favour of the new fence going up between Hungary and Serbia or whether you’re against it doesn’t take from the fact that thousands of those it’s designed to keep out are already here. And more are coming by the day.

Where are the churches? Those pastoral institutions that purport to have the care of humanity at their core? Surely it can’t be true that they are sitting idly by and doing nothing? Admittedly the problem is so huge that it’s difficult to know where to start, but thankfully there are groups of motivated individuals out there who are banding together to make a difference.

maid2People like Zsuzsa and Patrick at the Caledonia Pub on Moszár utca who have offered their pub as a drop-off / pick-up point for volunteers going to meet the trains of incoming migrants arriving from the border towns. They’re in need of items like baby food, personal hygiene products, medicine, and food. They have cold storage facilities for fresh fruit and sandwiches and a network of distributors. Volunteers can meet there to plan and discuss who is doing what and what needs to be done next. Check out their Facebook page Caledonia Social Bite for details.

maidAnother group, Migration AID, has set up sub-groups to man each of the main stations so that those arriving see some friendly faces doing what they can to help. Volunteers give juice to the kids, toiletries to the parents. Many need plasters for their blisters, cream for their sunburn, and lots and lots of water. Some need medical assistance, or help finding missing family members. And through their social media networks, these volunteers put out the word and find someone who can help.

I can’t begin to imagine what it might be like to have walked for hundreds of miles, for weeks on end, from Iraq, Syria and even Somalia, in search of a better life, leaving everything I own behind me, and then to finally arrive and not see a friendly face. In some circumstances, a plaster and a bottle of water must seem like manna from heaven.

Reports say that about 1000 people cross the Hungarian border every day. Those who don’t slip through unbeknownst to the border officials are fingerprinted as they request asylum. They’re given entry papers and 48 hours to make it to their reception centre. If they don’t, and they’re caught with expired papers, they face jail. When they disembark in Budapest, the station staff shepherd them outside. So they head to the parks, where the police come and move them on. They’re left to roam the streets, waiting for their next train out. There’s no coordination, no infrastructure, no system in place to cope.

But the people have rallied. Hundreds of volunteers are readily giving up their time to help in a situation that is getting more nightmarish by the day. They accept the fact that for whatever reason these people are here and they need help. Each one has a story to tell, stories which many of us, accustomed to a life of relative plenty might find it difficult to empathise with.

And while it is important to debate the politics of it all, to find a policy solution that will stem the tide, we would do well to imagine ourselves in their shoes and think of how we’d like to be treated if, tomorrow, we found ourselves homeless, blistered, and hungry in a strange country, knowing that going home wasn’t an option.

First published in the Budapest Times 17 July 2015

It’s official. I’m now sharing my flat with hundreds of little black flies. They’re quiet little buggers. They make no noise. And apart from their sheer numbers, they’re little trouble. They don’t require feeding, walking, or talking to. And seem quite happy to be left alone to their own devices.

But they’re everywhere.

flyI opened the press this morning to get out the frying pan and a mass of them swarmed out to meet me. They hang out on the walls, on the doors, on the floor, even. They group in ones, in pairs, and in threes, fours, and fives. And they’re all over the gaff.

I did contemplate fly spray. But then I had a vision of my Hare Krishna friend, asking me – ‘What harm are they doing?’ And, as I say, apart from the numbers, they’re not really bothering me at all.

Yes, I wish they weren’t here. I’d like my flat back, please. I tried to find out what they were and have come up with four possibilities, but none of them seem to match. And the photos don’t help as my ones are camera-shy.

Drain flies: Drain Flies breed in drains, sewers, septic tanks and soil that has been contaminated with sewage.

Fruit flies: Fruit Flies can be spotted around fresh fruits/vegetables, rotting fruits and vegetables, drains, garbage and damp organic materials.

Phorid Flies: Phorid Flies are found in sewage contaminated soil, garbage, drains, human cadavers, rotting vegetables and fruit, garbage as well as damp organic materials.

Sphaerocerid Flies: These flies may be found in manure, damp organic material, drains, rotting fruits and vegetables and garbage.

They’re not just around the sinks – they’re everywhere. I’ve no fruit or veg hanging around. There’s nothing damp. Nothing rotting. Nothing to attract them really – other than my winning smile and marvellous personality.

Any ideas anyone?