Wednesday, 5 April 2017

From Hungary.

So, I am writing this on Tuesday from the terrace of Andi's parents' house on the outskirts of Budapest.

I won't be able to post it though until I'm back as, despite there being broadband internet, nobody can remember the password and the British (surely) genius who decided that it was a good idea to put that on the router doesn't seem to have extended his or her wisdom to Hungary.

I was therefore a bit worried when, connecting briefly to the outside world via my phone, it looked like we might be going to war with Spain. As Hungary is in traditional Hapsburg territory, I even feared momentarily that I might be interned.

Actually, internment itself would probably have been OK since it is a very pleasant 24 degrees here and I've always liked pork (pretty much the only meat anybody eats, albeit in infinite variety). But internment without access to the internet would have been intolerable. Although at least I wouldn't have to worry about seeing any spoilers for the Walking Dead series finale until a latter day Drake (not that one!) or Howard (more of a possibility) or Raleigh (Labour is big on Raleighs at the moment) had succeeded in securing my liberty. Firstly by the traditional burning of Cadiz and then seeing peace guaranteed by persuading Prince Harry that he must forgo the fair Meghan for the hand of the Spanish Infanta. Aged eight. Or Forty-eight. Or whatever. Who cares when the Nation's interest needs served?

However, war with Spain came to nothing, allowing the attention of the Royal Navy re-directed towards the National Trust. So I should be fine now if, on my return, I stay away from Culzean Castle.

As Chris Deerin points out today, the Country has gone mad. Or at least some of it has.

Andi's folks stay in the suburbs of Budapest, on the large Island of Csepel, where the Danube divides,in a very Scottish way, between the “big Danube” to the north and the “wee Danube” to the south. It is an astonishingly peaceful place, despite every single resident apparently owning a big dog. Except for those who own two big dogs. And sometimes some small dogs as well. Just to keep the big dogs company..

But at the centre of the island, nearly thirty years on, there is an air base, on prime land, which, although still used for light aircraft, can't be developed properly because, for the forty plus years prior, it was was operated by the Red Army, Who, on leaving, but even before leaving, simply dumped their unwanted diesel, paraffin and other chemicals into the soil. Making it a mammoth task now to clean that up.

Victor Orban, the political top dog here, is not my cup of tea. He is a firm believer in the superiority of Hungary and Hungarians over all and any other nation. A sort of central European Alex Salmond. And the principal opposition is worse, coupling all of the above with an open anti-semitism in a way that might make even Ken Livingstone blush.

But Hungary is still a very European Nation. The EU flag flies alongside the national tricolour and shield on just about every public building. Sometimes even outside supermarkets. There is no going back here. I wrote, while here before  about the Hungarian insistence on a hard external border to the EU, but as you negotiate the M0, Budapest's equivalent to the M25,you are struck by the signposting to Austria, Slovenia, The Czech Republic and Slovakia and the importance, ultimately, of maintaining Schengen access to each as you head off in whatever direction.

The idea, in some quarters at home, that the EU is a project about to collapse would be laughed at by the vast majority of Hungarians. Even here, in probably the most eurosceptical of all of the remaing 27. Because the EU means peace and significantly greater prosperity. And one day, if required, Hungary will find its own Macron to point out that adherence to liberal “western” values will always trump the alternative of returning to the status of a closed nation state, never mind a border land. Notwithstanding today's grandstanding by the Vizegrad 4.

So, the EU will go on. And, slowly but certainly, Britain will come to realise that declaring that we have no need for any allies at all on the Continent of Europe makes no more sense in the 21st Century than it had done for the previous five Centuries before.

For if, even at the height of Empire, Lord Salisbury concluded that self same thing, then surely Theresa May will eventually do so herself one day. If not, hopefully before it is too late, the electorate will do it for her.

Anyway, back in Hungary, they have had a relatively mild Winter. So the blossom is already on the Cherry Trees (white for sour cherry; red for sweet) and will surely be gone before the Lilac even first appears.

And I'm getting ready to go home.

From where I will finally post this blog.

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