April 27, 2010

my REAL declaration of love

my REAL declaration of love, originally uploaded by andytgeezer.

Elena can be really sweet.

On Saturday I went paragliding all day and by the time I got home she had put some postcards on the wall in this configuration. I was so pleased she had put up a REAL wall, as it’s been ages since we have had breathing space to do one, then I realised what it said!

She certainly knows how to get my attention!

April 23, 2010

your REAL wall number 3 from Mim4art

On our recent trip to Romania, I managed to get around to sending some
postcards out to some people in my REAL mail mailing list. This one went out
to Mim, who blogs at mim4art.blogspot.com

Here’s what she has to say by email

Hello Andy and Elena,

I sent you a piece of mail this afternoon for


I took this photo of you Cathedral

postcard on MY real wall.

best to you both,


> mim4art.blogspot.com and www.mim4art.etsy.com

My postcard is the building on the left against blue sky. The building
pictured was very near to Elena’s brothers house in Iasi, Northern Romania,
which was the one-time capital of Romania in the olden days.

Mim is now off to Washington, DC to see the Smithsonian Craft Show, which is apparently a gathering of the top crafts people from around the U.S. Wish I could be there, but I can’t as I’m off paragliding this weekend. It’s my first flight without an instructor, so wish me luck!

April 20, 2010

my REAL wall – 20 April 2010 – Business breakfast

Lately the output of REAL mail and REAL walls by me and Elena has dropped off a cliff. We are both stuck in assignment hell, with my deadline tomorrow morning and hers in a week, so we’ve not had a great deal of time to do anything else.

On Saturday we went to Hammersmith to line up in the morning outside the theatre first thing in the morning. The Lyric theatre has a very cool offer for local residents on their opening night – just turn up at 9:30am the Saturday before the opening night and they’ll give you a pair of tickets for the opening night for free!

So we try and make as many of these as possible, grabbing a pub breakfast beforehand, then queueing behind the other local residents for our freebie.

Here is Elena in the pub before the line, and as you can see, she has her book with her and is studying away.

No rest for us until May 5th it seems

April 13, 2010

my REAL wall at Baneasa Bucharest

I’ve been back in London for a few days now, but here is the last pic of postcards that me and Elena took in Bucharest after walking from the centre of the city to the airport.

If there’s one thing that Romania is really well known for, it’s the chaos of bureacracy. In the main, Romanians are lovely people and very welcoming hosts once you get to know them. However, when it comes to public services, they really do suck and it seems all common sense goes out the window as soon as a Romanian puts on a uniform.

Ask any Romanian living abroad about fines and they’ll tell you that every trip you take on public transport is a minefield of avoiding pointless fines, and that no matter what you do, you will get fined on a trip.

Last time we came to Romania, me and Elena flew into Cluj-Napoca. When we got off at the airport, we had to get a bus into town. However, when you get a bus, you need to firstly buy the ticket from a booth outside, which are not necessarily at the bus stop. And for that matter they are not usually open.

That day, the booth wasn’t open for some reason, so we got on the bus and tried to explain when the inspectors got on that the booth was closed and hence we couldn’t buy a ticket. Obviously they didn’t listen and fined us 10x the cost of a ticket. A very typical occurence.

This time, given that it was Easter when we returned, not a single booth was open in Bucharest but the buses were still running. As we had 2 hours to spare, we decided to take our chances and walked all the way there, which took us about 90 minutes. It just seemed a much better idea than paying money to morons.

April 8, 2010

Bird Flu – a your REAL wall from am-y

Bird Flu, originally uploaded by am-y.

A bit of a pleasant REAL wall surprise came into my inbox today from the brilliant am-y from Singapore.

I recently sent her a card, and remember her description as being the arty type who would appreciate a more arty card, so I dug up a dance card and popped it in the post.

Much to my pleasant surprise this evening I got a Flickr mail showing me that my card had arrived and found it’s way onto her REAL wall in Singapore.

I’m sure you’ll agree, this is a fine example of REAL wall and a pretty damn cool T-shirt too!

April 6, 2010

my REAL wall – The white tree mystery

There’s something that has puzzled me ever since I first visited Romania in 2005.

As you drive through the towns and countryside, meandering through sometimes painfully poor villages, all the tree trunks are painted white, uniformly to a metre up the trunk, where the paint just stops. All the trees are like this.

After observing this the first time by the roadside, I asked my host and she told me that the reason for painting the trees was to make up for the lack of roadside lighting in the night. Apparently the paint made the trees more visible, so reduced the number of crashes.

Fair enough, I thought and thought no more of it until I walked through an orchard. All the trees were painted for the first metre of the tree again, all the way through the orchard. Weird.

My host explained this away by saying that it was for the drunk people who tended to shortcut through fields on the way home when they stumbled back from the pub.

Now I started to smell a rat and decided to ask someone else. The can of worms was open and it seemed that the more people I asked the more weird answers I got.

“The trees are painted white to stop the ants climbing the tree trunks as it makes them visible to birds”

“The trees are painted every year to make them more pretty”

“The trees are painted to stop them being cut down and sold for wood on the black market”

“White paint contains an antiseptic that seeps into the trunk and protects the tree from infection”

and so on.

Elena goes with the explanation that the trees are more pretty and that it’s an old Romanian tradition she has grown up with all her life. As we drove through the Romanian countryside, she made sure to point out all the white trees and comment loudly about how much more beautiful white painted trees were than our plain English ones. I roundly disagreed and pointed out to her that this can’t possibly be a Romanian tradition as I have since seen white painted trees in Vietnam and Egypt.

The closest we ever got to finding out why trees were painted was in Egypt, where me and Stew actually saw a guy painting a tree trunk.

When we asked him what he was doing, it turned out that he didn’t speak a word of English, so the mystery remains.

Any ideas?

April 4, 2010

my REAL wall does Easter in Romania – Part 1

This Easter me and Elena went to visit her folks in Romania and I experienced my second Romanian Easter, this time with the company of your postcards.

Romania is still a very traditional and deeply religious society, hence Easter here is still a big deal, and is laced with religious significance unlike our chocolate and fluffy bunny affairs in the UK.

Along with postcards from Sunnysidey, Cross Ryu and Carlene, you can see some eggs (Oua) which are boiled in red dye (Vopsest), signifying the blood of Christ. 3 of the eggs have patterns on them, as they were boiled with flower petals on them to leave a pretty imprint, while the 4th egg, which I initially wanted to leave out of the pic, is just as important, as it represents the deep red of the bloodstains of Jesus as he suffered for humanity and all that.

Traditionally, the family gather around the table with the eggs and have a game. One person holds an egg, while the other hits their egg on top with another egg. The one whose egg remains intact wins and you go around the table until you have a final winner. Last year I lost every round of this game until I found out a little secret, but I won’t tell you it, as Romanians LOVE having foreigners around to play this game…

April 4, 2010

my REAL wall does Easter in Romania part 2

At midnight on the night of Easter day, it’s traditional to go to church with a candle and listen to the priest.

The whole town goes and, after cramming into the church, or even just into the gardens, the priest begins to light the candles of the gathered masses and the whole place sing songs and join him in prayer, before walking 3 times around the church then going home.

The candle symbolises Christ coming into your life and lighting it up, so once you’ve walked the candle home, you go into each of the rooms in your house and bring the light to the whole house.

So, at 11:50pm, me and some of the family made our way to the church and waited in the cold wind outside. Obviously, I understood nothing at all as the whole sermon was in classical Romanian, and was just relieved when the candles started emerging from the church.

After singing a little, some of the less committed (myself included) decided that we’d done our bit of Christianity/tradition for the time being and made a beeline for the door, hands over the flame as we tried to ensure that our homes had enlightment and all that.

My candle had a small wrap of tissue at the base to try to stop the wax getting on my gloves (a failure as you can see) and being the clumsy heathen that I am, my flame went off 4 times on the way back, being saved only by kind strangers and smokers I was walking home with.

By the time I entered the house with my flame alight I was so keen to get to all the rooms and light them all up. Elena’s mum met me at the door and, as I took my shoes off and she congratulated me on bringing the flame all the way home, the tissue paper caught light and started a pretty wild fire in my hands.

I could just about murmur "Eu am o problema" before I realised the fire was about 20cm high in my hands.

Still not wanting to give up, I had to decide between blowing the flame out (and possibly risking eternal damnation or something) or legging it around a house of sleeping in-laws with an increasingly dangerous, scaldingly hot flame.

Luckily, Elena’s mum made the decision for me and blew the thing out, before I had the chance to think too long about it.

Not really sure what that does for my eternal soul, but I’m sure that St. Peter won’t look too harshly upon my efforts…

April 3, 2010

my REAL wall in the Valley of the Rocks

On the final day of our little break in the south west of England, me and Elena drove to the north coast of Devon to a town called Lynton.

I had come here about 6 years ago and had great memories of a place called the Valley of the Rocks, where me and some friends went to climb.

The day was grey and wet, with drizzle all day and when we finally arrived Elena wasn’t too keen to climb the rocks. But, by the time we got to the top, and she saw the view she had to admit it was worth it.

The rocks here are thought to be among the oldest Devonian rocks in north Devon and we only had the feral goats to share the view with.

April 1, 2010

my REAL wall in rural England

After driving for a few hours, me and Elena reached a small village called Porlock in Somerset where we set our heads for the night.

These days, with the rise of mobile phones, these iconic red phone boxes have started to disappear from the streets of England, so when we saw one in the middle of a tiny village in the middle of Somerset and a tiny stream to add excitement to the whole process it was a little too sweet an opportunity to pass up.

From left to right, the postcards come from Richard Canard, Okadascat and Serena