By Mike Ormsby
“Off to vote, Domnul Vasile?” I lean from the bedroom window, looking down towards our garden fence.
Our elderly neighbour pauses in the lane beyond it, and glances about with a puzzled smile, as if wondering where the voice came from.
Despite the wintry weather, Vasile is dressed rather dapper today – dark suit, shirt, tie, and shiny shoes. His feet must be cold in all that snow and slush but he seems in good spirits, which is unusual, considering he probably hasn’t got any spirits inside him just yet. Most of the time, Vasile wobbles along in an old tweed jacket, corduroys, and wellies caked in mud. Sometimes he’ll stop for a pee in the middle of the road and talk to himself. Or to Little Richard. But not today.
I wave a hand to catch his eye. “I’m up here, Vasile.”
“Oh, it’s you, Domnul Mike, bună ziua.” He points a stubby finger at me. “What’s all this, nine o’clock and still in your pyjamas?”
“Late night, late start.”
“Not me, Domnul Mike. I have to rise early. Sheep, see.”
“And cows, eh?”
“Them, too.” Vasile rests a hand on our fence. “You should get a couple of goats, Domnul Mike, this yard is plenty big enough.”
“Goats? No chance, Vasile. We’ve already got three dogs. And five cats, one of which is yours. She adopted us.”
“Keep the damn cat. I never see her, these days.”
“So, are you going to vote?”
“Yes. It’s a long walk in this, but I feel I should. And you?”
“I can’t vote. I’m from England, a little country near Europe.”
“So I hear.” Vasile winks at me, sharp as ever.
I gesture towards foggy hills. “Important day for Romania, though, Domnul Vasile. So, I hope you’ll vote for the right people.”
“And who might they be?”
“People who’ll make things better.”
“Better what, Domnul Mike?”
“Better roads, schools, hospitals. And less corruption.”
“In Romania? You must be dreaming. Go back to bed.”
“I wish. Time to get up and work. Anyway, if you don’t mind my asking, who will you vote for?”
“Not the usual lot. What do they do for our village? We’ve got no bus, no gas, a dodgy water supply, and the snow plough hardly comes. And what about jobs, real jobs? My wife works in Germany, for ten months a year, just so we can renovate the house. Get my vote? They’ll get my boot.”
“Exactly, we need a change. So, who will you vote for?”
“No idea. I’ll wait until I get there.”
“I’ll look at the list, find a name I never heard of, and vote for them.”
“Oh, I see, well, fingers crossed. How come you’re not wearing gloves?”
“Who needs ‘em? Not cold.”
“I’ve got a thermometer up here. It says minus five Celsius.”
“Better get dressed then, hadn’t you? Bye, Domnul Mike.”
Vasile pushes back from the fence, and moves on, stepping around gloopy puddles and adjusting his black astrakhan hat. I watch him go, and hope for warmer days. The sun is trying to penetrate the thick, grey fog that sits on our hills and fills our valleys. But the fog won’t budge. It wants to stick around, engulf us, stop us seeing. Perfect weather for an election in Romania.
This story is from Mike Ormsby’s recent book ‘Never Mind the Vampires, Here’s Transylvania’. Mike is the author of bestseller ‘Never Mind the Balkans, Here’s Romania.’ Literary critics dubbed him ‘The British Caragiale’.