Ferenc, my friend and hotelier, had knocked up a cooked breakfast for me on Sunday but on Saturday and Monday two bread buns and a plate of sliced cheese, sliced salami and sliced cucumber were the fare. He was obviously very pleased with the K-Tel slicing machine that his auntie had bought him last Christmas.
Taking into consideration the fact that I didn’t speak Hungarian or German and he didn’t speak English, when dining Chez Ferenc we had some wonderful conversations together.
‘Bon appetit,’ he said as he placed my plate of early morning victuals on the table in front of me. ‘Merci beaucoup,’ I replied, to which he responded with a quick ‘D’accord!’ And that was it. The French tongue was never used again by either of us whilst in each other’s company. Perhaps it should have been.
Ferenc’s English vocabulary may have been very limited but it did include the words, ‘Watford one Leeds United two so Hull City are promoted with Cardiff but Leeds are stuck in mid table.’
I would have guessed that he was round about the same age as me so I was dying to ask him how he had fared when Hungary was under Communist control. However, I worried that questions about a harsh past might cause him upset and distress so I kept quiet about such matters.
Then he mentioned the fact that Leeds United used to have a white rose on their shirts and Blackburn Rovers have a red rose and that in the past there had been a big war and what the bloody hell was that all about? I was shocked, mainly because someone who lived in a place as beautiful as Balatonalmádi should be aware of the existence of a place like Blackburn, but also because he brought up the subject of the War of the Roses, fought out between the armies of the House of York and the House of Lancaster. How insensitive of him to drag up a long forgotten conflict but a conflict which still caused me upset and distress.
Had I known that he was going to be so insensitive I would have asked him what his mature but incredibly attractive wife was doing being married to a scrawny little runt such as he. But my respect for the feelings of others stopped me, as did my inability to ask my question in Hungarian or German.
Then he brought me the bill for my three night stay at his lovely hotel. He had used a much better exchange rate than I had expected and he had missed off the local tax and the bottle of Egri Bikavér that I drank in my room on the first night. I corrected his calculation and bunged him a couple of grand (£6) more than he had expected. He looked so surprised and then he looked so sad as I drove away down his drive in my car.
The stuff that Ferenc put on his Corn Flakes.
I reckoned that my Magyar mate, Ferenc, just enjoyed a chat in any language. If I had taken him to the pub and bought him a pint he probably would have let me off the charge for the room completely. Ferenc was an utter star of a man and I will always remember him.
But time passes so quickly and things change so much as we pass from town to town. So bring on the next hotelier . . .
Later in the day I went into a bit of a panic as I reflected upon our breakfast chinwag. How rude Ferenc must have thought me for not asking him how Ferencvaros had got on in their match yesterday.