DancersS. and I have taken up Scottish Country Dancing. We’re unbearably smug about the fact that we are fleeter of foot and comprehension than the rest of the council-run class; eventually there must be some karmic reaction to my calling one of the other couples ‘rhinoceros and elephant’, but I don’t think you’re supposed to look like you’re sumo-wrestling each other when you go for a spin. The teachers are amusing enough themselves: Kenny is chipper and sprightly, while Glenda never cracks a smile — and you never know when she’s going to appear at your elbow to lecture about Keeping Up the W (which S. and I understand, but I’m fairly certain noone else in the class knows what she’s talking about). Last night our first dance was a ‘Strip the Willow’, which could theoretically be an elegant interweaving of spinning couples but usually devolves into drunken dizzy crashes. In the middle of it S. grunted bossily at me, sending me into paroxysms of giggles until I realized I had wrenched his thumb, which he had hurt skiing Saturday.

Speaking of skiing: although the snow was terrible, I have to say that staying in a ski chalet just around the corner from Dracula’s castle adds quite another dimension to your holiday. We went out to Romania last week and spent a few days in Bucharest and a few more in Transyslvania, which is an absolutely lovely place. Bucharest reminded me of India in a strange way – obviously not the architecture or the culture, but just the feeling of its new, wild energy. There is so much money being pumped into the country (or, more likely, the city) and yet there are few rules; you pay off the right person and you can do what you want, which means that there is effectively no city planning. Strip-mallish developments explode out of the city with no public transportation and no pedestrian links, guaranteeing that Bucharest’s already nightmarish traffic will only get worse. And yet… there is something very attractive about escaping from the nanny states that are Britain and the US. Sometimes the difficulty of travel is that you see the best elements of every society but have no way of  putting them all together in one place.

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