I live in Budapest. This is very odd as I don’t usually live in Budapest. In fact, I’ve never lived outside of the UK, but here I am, sitting on a sofa in my new digs in sunny Budapest. A soon to be forty-year- old, soon to be first-time father, immigrant. My heavily pregnant wife is currently on the phone, speaking to her mother in tongues. Some Hungarian duck pate is lazily lounging on a piece of Hungarian bread on a table next to me. All of the food products in our kitchen have an unnatural number of ‘Zs’ on their packaging. If I look up, my view is of the Buda hills. It’s sunny and hot outside! No, this is definitely not London in June (which according to the grumbles and moans that I’ve read via Facebook is currently suffering rain on a biblical scale). I arrived two days ago and still feel very much like an old cat, torn from his natural habitat and dumped into a new home. I’m discombobulated, sniffing all of the new corners of my home whilst resisting the urge to pee and mark my territory. What am I doing here? Well as all good stories should begin, it started with a brain fart.
“What if we move to Budapest for the first year of Junior’s life?”.
We initially dismissed this thought, but soon realised that it wouldn’t simply dissipate like a well-behaved fart into the ether, no matter how vigorously we wafted.
Naturally there were opposing thoughts that did their best to put us off the Budapest scent. “What about my job? What about our mortgage? How would we watch Masterchef?” But then that little brain fart slowly became a brain hurricane, battering all obstacles in its path and turning the opposing thoughts on their heads. “What if I quit my day job and pursued my dreams of being a full-time writer? Why don’t we rent our place out? We can stream Masterchef via the old tinterweb can’t we?” And so I did it. I quit my lovely, secure day job in London and we found renters for our London basecamp. What followed were several weeks of blind panic. I’d wake up in the dead of night, mind racing and heart pumping. My thoughts during these wee hours usually went along the lines of…
“Fucking hell! What in the name of God have I done?! I won’t have a job! Nobody will understand me! I’m going to be forty! I will be forty seven when my child is seven. But that’s only three years from fifty! When I’m fifty, that’s only ten years from sixty! I’m supposed to retire at around sixty five aren’t I? I’m a mere half a century from the probable end and I’ve just quit my job to go and live in a country where they speak mostly in ‘consonants’ and I have a baby on the way! Help me!”
But with the unwavering support of my miniature wife, my tiny tower of strength, I got through those dark hours, and now here I am in beautiful Budapest, trying in vain to understand what on earth everyone else is saying, whilst eating an unnatural amount of sour cream and with a heavily pregnant little lady by my side. The next 12 months or so should be an interesting ride, full of cultural clashes, sleepless nights, shitty nappies and me being a clueless father in a foreign land. So like a slightly more hirsute Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I’m going to chronicle my adventures.
Here we go….
It’s my first full day in Budapest. I wake up, the sun is shining. Yes! Take that UK! Shove your erratic weather right up your rainy anus! My heavily pregnant Hungarian wife, who at this late stage of pregnancy is beginning to resemble a pregnant guppy, is in the kitchen making coffee. I step out on to our little, but delightful, balcony and survey the scenic Buda hills, take a great big contented breath of Buda air, and then it hits me. Bloody hell, it’s hot! Very hot. I immediately make a calculated decision that it’s too hot for pants and this, obviously, makes me happy.
“Morning honey” my miniature wife beams, waddles over with her big fat belly full of baby, and hands me a piece of paper with an unusual number of ‘Zs’ on it. I look at the paper, puzzled. “This is your list of challenges for the morning”. Have I woken up in The Crystal Maze? As wondrous as that sounds, alas the answer is no. I’ve been given a number of ‘The Apprentice’ style challenges to complete, assuming of course, that it was an episode of ‘The Apprentice’ where they were challenged to go and buy nectarines. The thing about me, probably one of your favourite bits about me actually, is that I’m bloody brave.
“I accept your challenge! I will buy you fruit!”
And so off I trot, to the wild plains of Buda, a warrior in flip-flops, armed only with a piece of paper covered in ‘Zs’ and a mobile phone with a dodgy reception. Shortly after stepping outside I notice something unusual about my hair. It has become apparent that my hair and the Hungarian climate are an unusual, dare I say it, heady mix. Back in dear old Blighty my hair is slightly wavy, but nothing too extravagant. However, after a little under five minutes in the mid- thirty, Hungarian heat, my hair has decided enough is enough and is making a play to become exceedingly extravagant. My hair has turned into Liberace. Suddenly I’m a white man with an afro, or so it feels. I need to check this bad boy out before meeting my friendly local greengrocer who I’m sure, even before meeting him, is called Laszlo.
Being the eagle-eyed swine that we both know that I am, I spot a darkened car window just a few metres ahead and on the other side of the road. Bingo! I momentarily wonder if there are Bingo halls in Budapest and then flip-flop over to the car, looking around to avoid appearing like a preening, vain peacock wearing a David Hasselhoff wig. With the coast seemingly clear I peer into the dark, back seat window and begin inspecting the damage. Verging on a code red, curly hair disaster, but I can manage this. With a bit of spit and a fleshy five-pronged comb I can tame this frantic beast. And so I set to work. You know how when you’re in a lit room and the lights go out, and for a few moments everything is pitch black, but then gradually, your eyes adjust and you start to make out shapes? Well the same is actually true for darkened car windows. I’m leaning right in, staring so intently at my own reflection that I can count my own pores, when something moves. It’s in the car. I adjust my gaze slightly and then lean in further to inspect the movement. What I see chills me to the core. There’s somebody starring back at me. A pair of eyes. A startled pair of eyes. A startled pair of female eyes. A mother’s eyes. A breastfeeding mother’s eyes! I am staring intently at a breastfeeding mother, discreetly feeding her tiny baby. Oh, the horror! And yet I’m still staring, like a rabbit caught in the headlights!
Must...stop... staring! The expression on the woman seems to be changing. Anger is replacing fear! I do the only sensible thing that I can do. With all of the blood drained from my face like a piece of halal meat, I mutter the word “sorry” under my breath, turn and hurriedly canter away, flip- flops clopping like a mule.
Back in the safety of the flat, moments later, I tell my wife the bad news.
“All out of fruit, sorry honey”.
The streets of Buda are fraught with peril. The next twelve months could be dangerous.
I’ve been in Budapest for two days now and I fancy a sausage. As luck would have it, I’m standing outside a shop on Szent Istvan Kerut that looks suspiciously as though it may contain sausages. I wander inside and intrepidly make my way through the shop. Aisles of tinned food, bottles of potent spirits, fresh tomatoes, peppers and cheeses try to put me off the meaty scent, but they are doomed to failure. Nothing can stand between this man and his sausage.
I reach the back of the shop and I am delighted. For in front of my sparkling eyes lies some kind of sausage Babylon. Rows and rows of delicious, processed animal meat hang, delectable, delightful and practically screaming out to be devoured. “Come eat us!” they plead. “You are our destiny!” they somewhat creepily chant. But the path to my sausage destiny is not as simple as you may currently be imagining. Oh no! For I must first get past the sausage guardian who stands before me, behind a meat counter, guarding her meaty treasures. I am not fooled by her appearance. She may resemble a sweet, if slightly hairy, little Hungarian lady, but I know she is carved from granite with an unbreakable, iron will to protect these sausages from the unworthy. She has sworn an oath to these slender tubes of meat, and around here that means something.
Cautiously I take my position in a three-person queue. Another elderly Hungarian lady comes and stands to my right and this throws me. Who is this brazen harlot, this free spirit, this renegade who doesn’t abide by the law of the queue? Stand behind, not to the side! With my British upbringing, naturally, I am falling apart inside. While this battle is enraging, the leader of the sausage queue claims her meat and moves aside, and the queue moves forward. Surely this challenger to my rightful throne will now hold back a step so that order can be assumed. But no! What is this treachery!? She moves forward with me, in unison! We are side by side! My mind is racing. Beads of sweat are forcing their way through the pores in my forehead. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the next three minutes were some of the most stressful of my lifetime as this mental and physical battle took place. But, with a series of throat clearings, a subtle use of elbows and an ability to spread myself to three times my usual width, I eventually thwarted the challenger, despite her aggressive use of walking stick.
And now I’m at the counter, just me and the sausage guardian, face to face. But then it hits me. I haven’t chosen my sausage poison! I had been so engrossed in fighting off my queue challenger that I hadn’t prepared myself mentally for my next challenge!
“Szia” bellows the guardian menacingly. “Uh, szia” I skilfully retort.
“Kekndflsecnejnflzefmdzzwsnz?” apparently asks the guardian.
And in the heat of battle I panic. All of those Hungarian classes that I have been taking to prepare me for this epic moment are wasted. I can barely remember English. My queue challenger shuffles behind me, with menace. In that moment all I can do is grunt and point at one particular sausage adorning the wall. The sausage guardian looks at me and seems confused.
“Horz!” she says.
I have no idea what that means. I mentally travel back to my Hungarian class in London, racking my brain. No, ‘horz’ is a new word for me. I nod defiantly.
“Horz?” she says again, although this time adding a question mark.
The sausage guardian is apparently perplexed by my choice of sausage. Is this a trick? I need to be assertive and demonstrate that I am worthy of this treasure. I need to display my balls of steel (not literally). I compose myself.
“Igen, köszönöm szepen” I reply, suddenly delighted with my use of the native tongue.
The guardian, clearly impressed by my linguistical magnificence, but trying to play it cool, shrugs, grabs the sausage from its hook, wraps it in paper and hands it to me. I return the kind gesture by crossing the guardians palm with forint, turn and triumphantly leave. I have won. I am the penitent man! I have passed the test. I have seen off my challenger. I will now return home to my basecamp, present my heavily pregnant wife with the fruits of my victory and we will enjoy sausage!
Thirty minutes later.
“Honey. Why have you bought a horse sausage?”
We order a pizza.
Today I was interviewed by one of Hungary’s biggest national radio stations about the Brexit. And this is unusual as in my six days living in Hungary I have hardly ever been on the national radio. So when I was contacted by the radio inviting me to share my thoughts, I decided to break my ominous radio silence and the whole of Hungary breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“Would you prefer to speak in English or Hungarian?” I was asked. I pondered this dilemma for a few moments before deciding that I’d probably struggle to get my succinct political thoughts across using only the four words of my Hungarian vocabulary. Especially seeing as one of those is ‘paradiscom’ (tomato) and another ‘fogotmos’ (to clean ones teeth). You can listen to the full interview online, but if you find yourself struggling to understand the Hungarian translation that has so rudely been placed on top of my sweet voice, it roughly translates as “Bollocks! That’s me fucked then!”
It’s crazy to think that I was the glue that kept the UK together. Of course, I’d always expected that this was the case, but it was only once I actually left the country and witnessed its catastrophic collapse into chaos and parody from afar, that my instincts had been proven right. We’ve voted to leave the EU, the prime minister has resigned, the candidates to replace Cameron remind me of the end of the film Ghostbusters when the heroes were asked to choose their destroyer. Scotland might bugger off and they might take Northern Ireland with them. The inhabitants of Hull have all turned blue.
Pretty soon we’ll undoubtedly run out of petrol and be ruled over by Immortan Boris. The next thing to go will be the food and we’ll have no choice but to become cannibals, or something much worse…vegans. But I’m afraid I can’t come to the UK’s rescue on this occasion. I’m out here for at least a year now and have a miniature wife and an even more miniature baby to think of, so the UK will just have to pull itself together and get on with things without me.
I’ve decided that I won’t let fame change me. I may be Hungary’s hottest new radio celebrity, but I have to keep my feet on the ground. I have a young family to think of. I won’t go down the same route as the Justin Biebers and Kim Kardashians of this world. You might be sceptical of this, but I promise you, I won’t.
But anyway, I imagine you're currently trying to work out what a Hungarian radio celebrity does to distract himself from the shitty mess that is The Brexit. Well, the answer is: get out of the city and enjoy some of the delights of Europe’s largest lake. I am of course talking about Lake Balaton. So, we're now jumping in our Skoda Yeti hire car and will shortly by cruising down the M7 like some kind of Hungarian P-Diddy and Jo-Lo, Petofi Radio blaring out 80’s Hungarian hits as we go, in a desperate attempt to forget all of the chaos in my homeland.
Waiting For a Girl Like You
Speaking as a man who is yet to witness a baby tearing his wife’s perineum apart with just its head, I think it’s the waiting that’s the hardest part. We’ve been on tenterhooks for two weeks ever since the doctor remarked that the baby could come at any minute, but so far ‘nada’. We can't go too far from base camp, I can't drink booze despite being surrounded by delicious Hungarian grape juice wherever I turn. So we just sit and wait and when we’re not sitting we’re walking. In fact, we’ve probably covered every yard of Budapest in the last week. Which when you consider that my wife has to carry her belly in her arms, is quite a feat. Across streets, over bridges, to fröccs and langós festivals, over hills, to a Picasso exhibition, through markets and even to a concert (Budapest Bar) she has carried that gigantic belly in her tiny arms. She may look like an Easter Egg with legs, but I have to admire her pluck.
But anyway, I’ve now been in Budapest for about a month and I’m with a friend at a small beer garden (Spiler) near Buda Castle. The friend has a two-year-old child and he may not yet realise this, but he is my Obi-Wan Kenobi of fatherhood. With Junior’s arrival looming large I am looking for reassurance, guidance and a few handy tips of how best to keep a human cub alive. I’m also trying to assess just how tough the first few weeks of parenthood might be.
“You know the first couple of weeks with the baby?” I say.
He throws back the hood of his robe, leans upon his staff, looks me in the eye and then wisely replies, “Yes”.
This is good. So far, all positive.
“Will I be able to get any sleep?” I ask.
At this he laughs so hard that food comes out of his nose. I am surprised by this response. Mainly because he wasn’t even eating at the time.
“I didn’t get any sleep for the first three months!” he snorts.
“You’re going to be so tired that you won’t be able to feel your bloody face!”. He chortles. “Take my advice young padawan. Get as much sleep as you can now as you won’t be able to sleep once the baby arrives! You’ll look and feel like SHIT!”.
Naturally, I am thrilled by these words.
"But still, I guess I should count my blessings that I don't have a 9 to 5 job at the moment. Right now every day is Saturday!", I remark, striving for an upbeat finish.
"As soon as the baby comes everyday will be a Monday!", he sneers.
I consider whether I need a new Obi-Wan, whilst wondering if my friend has ever considered a career as a motivational speaker. Nevertheless I have tried to take this sagacious advice on board and have been attempting to hibernate as much as possible. For two weeks I’ve been half man, half dormouse, but as we reach the finishing straight it’s not as easy as one would think to pop off to the land of nodsville. The reason being is that I have discovered that once darkness falls I now achieve an unnaturally high state of alertness. I am a cowboy sleeping with one eye open. A praying mantis poised to strike. A man shitting it that his wife is going to go into labour. I think this newfound ability stems from someone once telling me that babies are most likely to come at night. The ‘apparent’ reason being that our instincts tell us that as it’s quiet, there’s a lesser chance of predators being around. I think this sounds like 'utter bollocks' as surely more predators come out at night, but nevertheless my subconscious mind believes them.
It’s two in the morning. My wife gets out of bed to empty her battered bladder. Like a ninja I sense her stirring. My eyes shoot open and I sit up in bed, like a meerkat on speed.
“Are you alright honey? What’s up?” I ask, but before she can reply I am already wearing trousers and searching for the car keys.
“Need a wee.” she wearily replies.
My trousers are off and I am back in bed, but I cannot sleep as I am fully alert, heart pounding. About thirty minutes later I eventually begin to drift off. Then up she clambers. I’m awake again. I’m wearing trousers. She is weeing. Back to bed. Repeat every thirty minutes until dawn.
Come on Junior! Please don’t take after your mother and be late. We’re waiting for you!
Nearly being a father is tougher than I’d imagined.
Running Out of Names
Our baby is now five days overdue and we can’t decide on a name. If we were having a boy the name was long decided and agreed. Hugo Zoltan Hutchins! He would no doubt have been both a comic book character and a wizard. But little Hugo will just have to wait as, unless it’s a boy with a micro penis, all evidence suggests that we are having a girl, and we are more than delighted with this.
“Why don’t we call her Sonia?” my wife suggests.
I almost choke on my yogurt, which I’m confident would have been a world first.
I show her a photo of the Eastenders character called Sonia and she gets my point.
“What about Uma?” I ask.
“Are you insane!?” she growls back.
I take this as a maybe.
This game of baby name tennis has been going on for months now, ever since our twelve weeks scan where we discovered that we were most likely going to welcome a little madam into our world. The drama is also heightened on discovering that you are not allowed to leave the hospital in Hungary until a name is registered! Yikes!
I decide that a run might help with the baby name idea generation. I am also spurred on by the realisation that I may have to take my top off in a hospital in the next few days for some skin to skin action with a new-born baby.
It’s midday and I am running around Margit Island like an unconventional English/Welsh gazelle. It’s over thirty degrees Celsius and I am the living embodiment for the Noel Coward song, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”. I am now rather regretting my running decision.
Halfway through I spot a leafy little exercise yard and instantly decide that this is a perfect excuse to take a break from my foolhardy run. I study the machines on display and make a calculated decision that the peculiar device that allows you to swing your legs from side to side is probably the least taxing of all the available machines. After all, what more do you want from exercise than to relax? So on I hop and begin the bizarre routine of swinging my legs from left to right. It’s in the shade and I start to smile as I feel my life-force returning.
But then something dreadful happens. Something almost too ghastly to even mention. A man makes his way towards my machine, and as bold as brass, hops on to the section that opposes me and begins to swing his legs about. He is facing me, our noses are centimetres from one another. His breath is caressing my skin. I am horrified by this brazen display of disregard for the unwritten rules of personal space encroachment. But not unlike Theresa May, I resist the urge to immediately trigger Article 50 as, being British, the last thing I want this random chap to know is that I feel uncomfortable by his unbelievably close presence. So, with my heart composing its own hard-core drum n' bass 'tune', and with every fibre of my being secretly screaming “What the fuck are you doing you scoundrel!?” I try and play it cool. This begins with a nonchalant scratch of my shoulder with my chin. It provides me with the perfect excuse to move my face into a safe zone. But I immediately realise that this is only a momentary respite as I can only scratch my shoulder with my scratching chin for so long without appearing to have descended into madness.
I need a new 'face safety' strategy. In a eureka moment it comes to me! I will study the ground for a while as though it is as fascinating as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel! But it’s no use. I can’t continue to look at the ground for more than fifteen seconds for fear that this stranger will suspect that I am looking uncomfortable, and as a Brit, it is in my DNA that I must do all that I can to avoid this shame. I reluctantly decide that there’s only one thing for it. I brace myself and then slowly, calmly and assuredly look straight ahead, into the eyes of my aggressor. Our eyes meet and it is horrible. If we both extend our lips we could probably kiss. And in this bloodcurdling moment I’m now afraid that this is what he has in mind, so I quickly glance at my wedding ring in the vain hope that his eyes will follow. But they do not. This bushwhacker is made of sterner stuff and will not be fooled by ‘sleight of eye’ tricks. I want to grab him by the ears, shake him and forcefully say “I don’t know what you’re used to around this neck of the woods you cretin, but in Britain we respect each other’s personal space!” But it’s no use. This man is a shameless bastard, plus I don’t know the Hungarian for “neck of the woods”. Or “cretin”. Or any of the rest of it. So I look at the ground again.
Eventually, after what seems like an eternity, but was probably actually less than thirty seconds I decide enough is enough. You have won sir. You have won! I hop off the machine whilst whistling, trying to act as nonchalant as possible and involuntarily break into a peculiar display of lunges to help me appear so. I don’t think it worked. I then run away as fast as my tired legs and shaken mind will carry me, a mentally broken Brit in a land full of foreign, personal space invading madness.
About a hundred metres down the road I spot a little stall, selling beer. I decide to stop. I remember that all of the world’s greatest ideas are generated in a pub.
My wife has a theory that our baby is reluctant to leave the womb as she is worried about the current state of the sterling.
”I'm not sure that she's actually aware of the current financial crisis facing Britain", I say.
"But the pound is doing so badly against the (Hungarian) forint!", she worriedly explains. "It's not good!"
I'm still not convinced.
"What if my worries about the financial climate are being projected onto her?" she continues.
I guess this makes a little bit more sense. Maybe.
I try to reassure her. ”Look, babies are late all the time. Just because she's decided to hang around in your womb it doesn't mean that she’s scared. Take it as a compliment. I'm sure lots of people would rather be in your uterus. It would be the perfect place to avoid reading headlines from The Daily Mail.”
Just at this moment there's a noise on our terrace. My wife doesn't hear it, but I do, probably due to my newly acquired heightened sense of alertness. I pick up a pencil as a weapon and go and investigate. It's a pigeon. A dying pigeon, sitting on the floor of our terrace. I think how lucky it is for any prospective burglars that this is a pigeon and not a burglar, as this pencil has been freshly sharpened.
"There's a pigeon on our terrace." I say. "I think it's dying.”
My wife appears by my side, munching her way through a pineapple (in a desperate attempt to get the baby packing).
"Yes. It's definitely dying.” she confirms, before adding, "What are you going to do about it?"
"What am I going to do about it?" I fire back.
"Well, are you going to strangle it?" she asks.
"What!? No! Why would I strangle the pigeon? I'm not the kind of guy who goes around strangling pigeons willy nilly!” But it occurs to me at this moment, that I am the kind of guy who uses the expression 'willy nilly'.
Only seconds later, the pigeon breathes a dramatic last breath and then face plants firmly into the concrete. I am sad for the pigeon, but also incredibly relieved that I don't have to throttle it.
"What now?" my wife asks. She’s full of questions today.
I think for a moment before replying, "I guess I'll put it in the bin.”
I go to the cupboard under the sink where we happen to store all of our plastic bags/pigeon coffins. I peruse the options on display before spotting the perfect choice. The pigeon may have suffered a sorrowful death, but at least she will find peace in an ornate, see-thru Aldi carrier bag at the bottom of a Sulo bin. A tomb fit for a pigeon king. I make my way back outside and carefully place the dead pigeon into its discount chain coffin, using a used orange juice carton as a makeshift prodding device to confirm death.
With the pigeon in the bag, accompanied by the orange juice carton, I leave the flat and begin my journey to the bin. I decide to use the lift as I'm feeling hot and lazy. The door is about to close when a foot appears, blocking the door's closure. It is our neighbour, an old Hungarian man who doesn't speak English.
I look at the freshly dead pigeon in the see-thru carrier bag and simply think, ”Shit!”. I have never shared this lift with anyone except my wife, but fate has chosen this particular moment to alter this statistic.
The old man gets in and smiles at me. I try to hide the bag, but it's too late. He has seen the pigeon. He looks puzzled. I frantically scroll through my brain to see if I know any Hungarian that can help explain my situation. I've been learning an hour a day for the last six weeks and I'm getting much better. Sadly though I haven't yet covered the topic of pigeon deaths and bin burials. Also, I really wish I knew the Hungarian for "I don't usually shop at Aldi.” So I simply smile awkwardly, shrug my shoulders and say "Pigeon", loudly and in English. It is horrible, but at least we only have two floors to go.
On the first floor the elevator stops again, unexpectedly. Three smiling Hungarian women enter. They look at the strange Brit carrying a dead pigeon in a see-thru, Aldi carrier bag and their smiles drop.
I wish I was back in the womb.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mila Juno Hutchins. Mila Juno Hutchins, meet the ladies and gentlemen.
So, she’s out, and as a result I have a newfound respect for women. THAT. WAS. BRUTAL! My tiny wife somehow managed to push out a 57 cm long, 8 pound 10 ounce baby. My little wife who can still comfortably shop at Baby GAP. I have to doff my cap to my amazing better half and also to the miracle of modern medicine, as if the events of August 4th had taken place one hundred years ago I’ve no idea how we would have got her out. But all is well and we are both in shellshock. Oh my God. What a day!
It started at 05:00 with The Show. My wife wakes me up.
“Honey, The Show has started!”
The Show! The Fucking Show! Sounds like so much fun doesn’t it? Visions of jazz hands, music, dancing, can-can girls and maybe even a magic trick. But then my wife shows me The Show firsthand and I can confirm that The Show is not as entertaining as it sounds, and probably wasn’t written by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The Show was shortly followed by a series of contractions that made my wife make noises that sadly, I don’t think I will ever make her make. It’s definitely happening. I calm my wife by charging around the flat screaming “Don’t panic!” I am Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army. We get in the car and off we go. Over the past month I’ve discovered that the roads of Budapest are particularly confusing at the best of times, but when you are driving along with your wife screaming in pain every 5 minutes, and me screaming “Don’t panic!” I can confirm they are still fairly baffling.
We get to the hospital and I am surrounded by rooms of women screaming and groaning. They are no doubt either giving birth, watching pornography or watching The Walking Dead. I mentally decide that they are watching pornography.
We get into a room and it begins. Zsuzsa is in pain, crying and wailing. Given that she usually cries if she misses a train this isn’t abnormal, but I sense this is more than a missed train. Call it intuition. I give her a piece of chocolate and start recording her with a video. She doesn’t appreciate this. I stop recording.
What followed was like the opening twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, but for seven hours. I’ve never witnessed such savagery, such brutality. Oh the horror! THE HORROR! I felt as though I was starring in my own, foreign language version of SAW.
At one point, I was holding one of my wife’s legs, a midwife was holding the other, one doctor was playing the slip fielder, while another big male doctor pressed down hard on my little wife’s belly, trying to force the baby out with some kind of crazy Hungarian toothpaste technique! And all of this whilst not understanding a single fucking word of what anyone was saying! Throw in an exam paper
that I hadn't revised for and take away my trousers and that's my nightmare! Right there! I had visions beforehand of casually sitting by my lady wife’s head, holding her hand and whispering sweet nothings while the doctor did the dirty work, but I had no say in the matter. I was at the business end. I was in the trenches. I probably now have trench foot.
And now it’s over and I can confirm that I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhâuser Gate. Now I’ve seen a baby's head do unmentionable things. All of those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain.
If you are not familiar with Blade Runner you may now be thinking that I’ve been over doing it on the nitrous oxide. Outrageously though, they don’t have nitrous oxide in Hungarian hospitals! It was the whole reason that I got my wife pregnant in the first place! Livid.
But she’s out. Both mother and daughter are doing well. Mother will hobble and sit on a rubber ring for a few weeks I’d imagine, but all is good. We are ecstatic. Our little family has just grown by 50% and she’s gorgeous. I’m sure there will be tough times ahead, but for now, we are an overjoyed, mentally drained, tired, family.
I leave the hospital for the night while my wife and little Mila both try and work out how to breast feed. I’m now outnumbered by ladies, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you’d told me several years ago that during the summer of 2016 I’d spend a whole morning, miming the action of pumping a tit to bemused-looking, elderly ladies, on the other side of Europe, I’d have been dubious. Today this happened.
I was traipsing around Budapest in a desperate quest for a breast pump. From shop to shop I travelled, like J.R Hartley looking for a book on fly fishing, but with more nipples. And you know what? Not one person in any of the shops spoke a word of English! What on Earth are they teaching these people in the breast pump selling schools of Budapest!?
The situation repeatedly played out like this. I enter a pharmacy/medical supply shop. An elderly, gruff Hungarian woman stares at me blankly.
“Beszél Angolul (Do you speak English)?” I say.
“Nem (No)” they reply. Bollocks.
I do the only thing I can, and look them in the eyes pleadingly, whilst pretending to grab my imaginary tits and squeeze them.
Cue a furrowed brow from the gruff Hungarian lady.
My eyes become more and more pleading as my tit squeezing mime becomes more and more elaborate. On a few occasions they twig and answer me with a shake of the head. On a few other occasions they just continue to stare blankly. But, just like those man-hungry Mounties, I eventually get my man/breast pump.
My search was all in preparation for my ladies finally returning home to our Buda Nest. Mila was born four days ago, but due to the particularly savage nature of the birth, Mila ended up hurting her collar bone and my wife dislocated her arsehole (or something like that). So they’ve been kept in until now to recuperate. Mila also needed a blood test as she was apparently looking a bit pale. Thankfully the results came back positive, with the midwife concluding that she was probably looking a bit pale because she was half British! What the…!? But today was the big day. They’d been given the all clear! My little lady and my even littler lady were coming home.
The message to come and collect them comes through and I’m overjoyed, despite the fact that it might disrupt my evenings, which over the last four days have consisted of me, a pair of underpants, a sofa, The Olympics and a bottle of wine. I jump in the car and race across Budapest to collect my girls.
Once at the hospital it becomes apparent that we now have an abundance of possessions that must go with us wherever we go. In the past, when we’ve hosted friends with children I’ve always been incredulous or sneerful, or both (sneerdulous?) by the sheer amount of apparent ‘shit’ that they’ve hauled with them. Sterilisers, little tubs of slop, numerous wheeled contraptions, bags, more bags, a few more bags just in case. Now, even before our baby has arrived home, I cast my eye at our car full of ‘stuff’ and begin to calibrate their apparent madness. It was bursting at the seams with baby shit (not literally)! I make a mental note to do all that I can to stop this insanity in its tracks. We need to be the kind of couple who put our flip-flops on, chuck the baby in a baby bag, grab our passports and toothbrushes and head to The Amazon. This may be wishful thinking.
We leave the hospital and drive home. Mila screams from start to finish. On the straights I almost reach twelve miles an hour. After what seems like several days (but was in fact less than twenty minutes), we get home and it hits us.
What the holy fuckety fuck do we do now?