Monday, November 7, 2011


Running Up That Hill

On October 9 2010, I arrived in Bucharest, Romania to start my new job as part of the Hospices of Hope organisation. The night before, I was out in London with some friends and while in a restaurant, some very inconsiderate individual walked up behind me and stole my bag from the back of my chair. Inside was my passport, wallet (complete with bank cards, driving licence and cash), iPod, work documents including my contract, a book and my filofax (yep, very Gordon Gekko) with lots of interesting things I’d picked up on my travels over the years. The following morning, I spent the morning running across London to report the theft, apply for and receive a new passport and get to Heathrow all before 5pm to catch the flight to Bucharest. Having taken weeks to pack up my life in the UK to start this new chapter in Moldova, I had to try and get as many documents replicated as possible in the space of a few hours. I’m glad to tell you that I made it but it was one of the most challenging things I have ever had to do.  

Fast forward a year to October 9 2011 and I was about to undertake one of the other biggest challenges I have ever had to face – the Bucharest International Half Marathon. When I arrived at the Hospice offices in Bucharest a year prior, the fundraising team were knee deep in the organisation of the Bucharest International Marathon races at the end of the month. At that moment I decided that I was going to take part in the 2011 race and raise some money for the work of Hospice Angelus in Moldova. Of course, that was the easy part. Despite being overweight and unfit, I thought that if I gave myself a year, this would be more than ample time to train for running 13.1 miles (or 21.1 km). Actually, six months would probably be enough. Right?

In January of 2011 I found a running club called the Chişinău Hash House Harriers here in Moldova which consists of expats and locals who run every second Sunday around the city. For the first few months, I walked the courses and then started properly training for the run around April. A fellow Hasher, Teapot (who I also cajoled into running the full marathon in Bucharest), was consulted and put together a training program for me over a period of six months. It was designed to build up my strength and endurance and kudos to Teapot, because it worked! Admittedly, I didn’t strictly adhere to the program over the six months so by the time that the race came around earlier last month, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make it.

Joined by Teapot and two other runners raising money for Hospice, Lindsay and Conrad, we arrived at the start line around 8am on 9 October 2011. Sadly, unlike the time we spent in training, it was lashing down with rain and pretty cold. For the parents, who had come over to enjoy the October warmth in Bucharest, they were disappointed that winter had come early but still came out with their Scottish flags in support.

The start line ran up Bulevardul Unirii towards The People's Palace, the second largest building on earth

At 9.30am, the start gun signalled the beginning of the race. Armed with an iPod full of tunes chosen by my sponsors, I was off and the initial view of running up Bulevardul Unirii towards the Palace of the Parliament was great as this still is such an impressive sight to me. Constitution Square, where the Palace stands, is normally the start and finish point of the marathon, however because of a NATO Summit, we had to start further down at Alba Iulia Square. Halfway up Bulevardul Unirii, there was a turn to the left across the man-made River Nistru and it was a long slog for about 2.5km down the edge of the river and 2.5km all the way back up the other side. The weather had kept any supporters at bay for this leg and so it was a bit endless running this part which was straight, dull and not in the slightest bit stimulating. This was when the tunes chosen by my sponsors kept me going – some favourites were Running Bear, Heigh Ho, Kinky Boots and my favourite, Keep On Runnin'.

Following the river part of the run appeared the first hill, which was gradual but thankfully very short. Back onto Bulevardul Unirii and down to Alba Iulia Square where the finish line was in sight. However Alba Iulia Squire isn’t really a square at all, rather a bit of a roundabout, so there are three roads which meet there and therefore the run also consisted of running down and back up the other two thoroughfares. The first was only about 100 metres down and back but the second road was probably about 1.5k and running away from the finish was really tough. It was great to run back up that road and not only see my folks waving the aforementioned flags, but to see the finish and my colleague Marc (the race starter) waiting to cheer...and send me on for the second lap. Yep, the race was two laps of the course for the half marathon and four for the full so off I went again. As I ditched my rain jacket I noticed that I had done the first half in 1 hour 27 – slow, but so far, so good. At this point I was starting to fade a bit so used the first ‘Gu’ gel which had been kindly donated by Teapot. Water and Isostar also kept me hydrated and everything was going great until I returned to the river part of the run. At this point, while I still hadn’t had to slow to a walk, I was really struggling to keep going but didn’t want to let myself down by stopping running. The four Team Hospice runners for Angelus Moldova had raised almost £6000 for the work done here and I was determined to not let my sponsors down so kept focused and pushed on. Coming back to Bulevardul Unirii and seeing Alba Iulia Square in the distance gave me the necessary boost to keep going and going. Supporters were starting to line the streets towards the end and this was another great push for me. Just as I was running down the last street of the square, I noticed the finish line and was gutted that I had to do that last 1.5km away from the chequered flag.

Running back up the street and seeing the finishing line in the distance, I had my finishing song on – Highland Cathedral by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (as recommended by a seasoned marathon runner). What a great song to finish on – the pipes and drums kicking in – really gave me that necessary push to run towards the end. Have a listen here and you'll hear what I mean. The sight of mum, dad, Lindsay and Conrad at the end made me go for a final sprint for the last 100 yards (ooft, this was a REAL mistake as I thought my legs were about to go) and I made it to the end to be met by the lovely volunteers with my medal. WOW! I couldn’t quite believe I had managed it. 3 hours and 5 minutes of running and I was now a half marathon runner.

The feeling afterwards was something else and I was really amazed at how quickly after I had stopped running that my legs started to turn to jelly. A congratulatory Snickers was soon followed by a beer with Lindsay and Conrad and then we went off to see Teapot as she crossed the line and became the first Team Hospice female to complete the marathon. Great effort and she joined Lindsay as the first Team Hospice female to complete the half marathon, so well done Team Moldova!

Lindsay, Conrad and I celebrate our half marathon with a cold can of Ursus, King of Beers in Romania (and the world)

Teapot hoofs it to the finish and completes her third marathon

Celebrating with Teapot and another Ursus

It really was a magic day followed by quite an epic after party (although I was so knackered that I only managed a few hours). With final calculations done, Team Hospice Moldova raised £6500, including Gift Aid, which is a staggering amount. But this was only part of the achievement – we all hit another goal that day. Teapot completed her third marathon while Conrad and Lindsay beat their time of the Miami Half Marathon they ran in March. For me, I had run over 13 miles. Six months prior, I couldn’t even run one. It really is a case of ‘if I can do it, so can anyone’ and I stick by that. I want to say thanks to all my friends, family and colleagues for supporting me throughout this time and especially for giving so much of their hard earned cash. Hospice Angelus really is a great cause to donate to and the money pledged really DOES make a difference. I am so privileged to work for such a worthy organisation and to see all of you get behind the work that we do is a great honour. Which leads me to one final question:  who’s up for joining me in Bucharest for the 2012 International Marathon?

And for anyone who would still like to sponsor me, please click right here to make a donation to an excellent cause. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Well, I guess in a city with hundreds of drivers who have no concept of road courtesy or in some cases, legitimately earned driving licences, my time to have a run-in with another driver was inevitable. On a daily basis I scream at drivers who bypass the entire queue waiting at the red light to sit at the front of the line (past said light) and screech off before the light has turned amber. Sometimes I even get annoyed at people who simply bypass traffic lights, mount the kerb and then hoof it down to the corner and alight the pavement on the other road. Furthermore, I frequently get annoyed with marshrutka drivers who just stop to let their passengers get off at random spots without signalling and then pull out again as you go to overtake them thus ensuring you have to either speed up to get past or slow down to get back in traffic. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Moldova is not a country of courteous drivers – their trip is much more important than yours and thus they take every opportunity to romp past you at breakneck speed or pure and simply, cut you up and leave you reeling while also using expletives that not even the most Russian of babooshkas cannot fail to understand. 

So on Monday on my way to work, when I passed two separate road traffic accidents within 2 minutes of the office, I did think to myself that I was lucky that in almost a year in Moldova, I had come away scrape-free.  However, as one usually does when one has such a thought, I forgot to touch wood. So an hour and a half later when I was out in the car delivering invites to our VIP reception (in this instance, to our financial partners SOROS Moldova) with our new fundraising co-ordinator, Vadim, I missed a stop sign and drove straight into the path of a Daewoo Damas (see below) coming from my right. For those of you who have been hit by another car, whether it be a minor or major incident, it can give you a nasty shock and so rather than mouth of a bunch of expletives, I apologised to my passenger and pulled over onto the side of the road to get out of the way of the other traffic. This was my first big mistake. You see, rather than pull out of the way of traffic coming behind you or towards you, the trick is to keep your vehicle in the path of said traffic so that when the police arrive you can show them what happened. So despite me telling the driver that it was completely my fault and that I was sorry and would pay for any damage, he still kept the wee eggbox of a vehicle in the middle of Str Sciusev, a street which I can only describe as one of Chişinau's busiest. Logic? Nah.

A DAEWOO Damas - thankfully not a monster truck

Now, what you must also understand is that when something of such a magnitude as a car scrape happens in Moldova, everyone within 100 metres suddenly makes it their business to congregate and ooh and aah at the wonder that beholds them. Indeed, all of a sudden two of the driver’s pals appeared out of nowhere and became involved. Thankfully I had a witness and translator on hand in Vadim as the driver refused to speak Romanian and only conversed in Russian. I also called our executive director to come along and sort it out as he is definitely the right person to have around in a crisis. 20 minutes later, after I had signed a wee scrap of paper saying that the accident was my fault, we went on our way to the traffic police station to report the incident.

Despite this being my first encounter with the fuzz in Moldova, my experience with the police in eastern Europe has been vast. In Romania, I once had my mobile phone nicked in a pub and spent 4 hours the next day at the police station filing a crime report for Orange so that I could claim the phone on my insurance. The crime reference number they eventually gave me was ‘1’ and so I have never had a huge lot of faith in the eastern European police authorities. But perhaps things were about to change in Moldova...

As we arrived at the station, Vadim informed me that this should only take half an hour and that we would be back at work soon. A year living in Moldova has made me slightly more cynical and thus I felt confident in making him a bet that we’d be at least an hour. After being directed to the front of the queue at the police station to file our report in order to claim with the insurance company, we were sat in front of a wee stocky cop who did not look unlike the bloke from Plan B. He was very thorough in explaining the process and sent us off to the ‘Expert Filer’ to get him to write the report and pay £1.25 for the privilege and then return to him. Upon return, he was extra friendly and really went out of his way to be nice and sympathise with the situation. Of course, I decided that this was a very nice policeman and that he was doing everything he could to assist the stupid foreigner. Alarm bells should have been ringing, however I just thought he was being helpful. It wasn’t long before I had my wake-up call as his phone rang and I heard him talking about an accident on Str Petricani which I knew was a large thoroughfare on the other side of town. He finished with the words ‘see you shortly’ and this is when those alarm bells started banging. He got up and told us that he would be back in ten minutes as there had been a serious accident on Petricani and when he did, we would be the first people he would see .

Over an hour had passed and so as Vadim bought me the coffee he’d lost in the bet (albeit with sugar which we had specifically asked not to be added resulting in Vadim almost getting in a fight – a story for another time) we discussed  as to how the rest of the day would pan out. I wasn't sure why the kind policeman had just upped and left but I was assured that as I was a foreigner there may have been a way in which to make him stay and finish our paperwork. Or not (who knows who might be reading this...)

90 minutes after leaving, PC Plan B walked back in and completely ignored us and went to his office. A lot can happen in 90 minutes and so while he was away, a rather large queue had formed outside his office and we were not part of it. As someone entered the office, we protested saying that we had been told we would be next. Plan B just raised his eyebrow, sneered and told us to wait. Eventually we got to sit down and draw a diagram of what had happened on the scrap bit of paper he gave us. He then decided that this bit of paper was ‘not nice enough’ so gave us a bit of A4 printer paper to draw on. Then we were given certain bits of paper to fill in. I had never seen these bits of paper before and since this had been Vadim’s first instance of being in a car accident (so sorry Vadim – only his 3rd week in the job), we were both a bit clueless as to what to do. To cut (an already) long story short, we were told to stop asking questions and if we wanted to ask questions then we could join the end of the queue (which had grown even more) and he would be happy to answer them then. He also chastised us for using a black pen when he had completed the rest of the form in blue. By this point I was almost at breaking point and after almost 4 hours and a huge pile of work to get back to at the office, we just signed what we needed to do and were on our way.

Office 116 - where I spent most of my Monday

My first experience with the law in Moldova was over. Unlike Romania where you were frequently pulled over for no reason at all, I have been pretty lucky (yep, knocking on wood) and hopefully this won’t happen again. I’ve learned to look carefully and stop at every intersection (even if I have right of way) and to perhaps not get too enraged at my fellow drivers as it was my stupidity and lack of attention that caused an accident which could have been a whole lot worse. In fact, with the amount of behemoth trucks driving around Chişinau, we were extremely lucky. And finally, I really hope that guy from SOROS Moldova turns up to the reception next week otherwise I might just get a little bit vexed. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


The Wind That Shakes The Barley

There's a phenomenon known over here in Eastern Europe known as 'curent'. More lethal than smoking, more dangerous than a polar bear with toothache and more deadly than a bite on the arse from a black widow, it strikes the fear of God into people all over this part of the world. So petrified are they, some people are even too scared to open a window.

I've been wanting to write about this for a while but someone in Bucharest beat me to it (and wrote a much better article than I ever would have anyway).

Have a read of Ken Huegel's hilarious blog post here

Monday, August 15, 2011


Every time I have thought about my blog recently, I’ve tried to think of something different to do. Procrastinating is my favourite activity and since school I’ve been a world champion at it. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe in writing a blog for the sake of it and I certainly don’t want to ramble a lot of pretentious twaddle which I see a lot of in others’ online diaries. So I have to keep thinking of fresh ways in which to keep my blog relevant and contemporary. The best way I can think of doing this is to write the truth about what’s happening here and how things are changing within the Hospice.

When I accepted the job with Hospices of Hope, the whole concept of my becoming Country Manager was ‘to change’. According to Sheryl Crow, “a change would do you good”, and I’m an avid believer in this. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it but when things aren’t working then you need to rethink your strategy and come to a different solution.

There have been lots of changes in the Hospice over the last few months. We’ve recently seen quite a change in the personnel here and while this has caused a bit of unrest, I truly believe that while we’ve had some extremely difficult decisions to make, and through guidance and consultation, we have made the absolute best decisions for the future of Hospice Angelus. Having recently won a grant from the Bosch Foundation in Germany, we have hired a doctor, nurse and social worker to work in the non-cancer area of paediatric care here in Moldova. Sadly, this resulted in us losing one of our long-serving members of staff, however we are extremely happy with the new candidates we have and we are looking forward to watching these members of the medical team undergo their training and become valued members of the Hospice Angelus collective. Additionally, the decision was made to remove the post of PR & Events Manager from our organisation and replace this with Fundraising Co-ordinator. Our fundraising department is in huge need of expansion just now and while this decision was by no means taken lightly, we feel that we have made the right decision in creating this new post. In addition to this, we have said a fond farewell to our summer intern, Olea Brega, whose activities at the Hospice you can read about here

Not only have we seen a change to our personnel, but there has also been a noticeable change to our fundraising events. This year we have seen our charity ball raise four times the amount we expected and we have also reaped the benefits from a pool tournament plus the Hospice Angelus Big Charity Quiz which is now going to be a monthly fixture on our events calendar. For the remaining part of the year, we hope to be extremely busy organising the following:
  • A football tournament for local businesses, organisations and embassies in September
  • A concert and photo exhibition to mark International Hospice Day in October
  • Participants for the Bucharest International Marathon on October 9th
  • A fashion show in November
  • A special event to recognise our 10th Anniversary in December
  • A winter run in one of the main Moldovan wineries' tunnel
For further information about these events, you can see our events on our website or why not become a fan of  our Facebook page

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Run Along

Summer has come and so things are not only busy at the hospice, but also with regard to life in general. As I prepare to return to Scotland next week to spend time with family and friends, I thought it was about time to update my blog as to what has been going on recently in the Hospice and to what is coming up next. 

Earlier in June we had our first Hospice Angelus Big Charity Quiz and it couldn't have gone better. We had a full house and a very competitive crowd who were on the pulse when it came to answering questions. Under the direction of our talented quizmaster, Mr Rich Roesing, our 21 teams battled it out answering questions on entertainment, geography, history and sport amongst others and their generosity led to us raising 230 euros on the night. A real success for the Hospice and the feedback we had was extremely positive so we've decided to make it a monthly event and the next quiz will be on August 10th at the same venue, Caruta Bar on Str Ismail. A big congratulations to the our winning team, Tempest in a Teapot, who romped home with the top score and a few bottles of wine too (although some may argue that more wine was not necessary for some team members). Thanks to our volunteers who helped us out at the event in addition to all who attended.

Here are a few pictures from the event:

Our venue, Caruta Bar, was the perfect size for our event

The expats had some stiff competition from the Moldovan nationals

Seemingly friendly, the gloves were off when it came to beating the competition

Quizmaster extraordinaire, Rich Roesing, kept the crowd under control

We have a handful of events coming up over the summer which we are keeping under wraps but expect an announcement about these shortly. Some of these events are organised with the help of our summer intern, Olea Brega, who is working with the fundraising team for 2 months as part of a community program with her university. Originally from Chisinau, Olea is currently studying at Wofford College in Pennsylvania and we are grateful for her help and the fantastic ideas which she has already come up with. 

One thing I can tell you about is the Bucharest Marathon which takes place on October 9 2011 in Romania's capital. We are looking for runners to support and run for Hospice Angelus in any of the four races (full marathon, half marathon, 4 person relay or 4km) so if you are interested in doing so please drop me an email and I'll give you further details. 

Alternatively, if you'd rather just support the Hospice and not bother with the running, you can sponsor me for the half marathon here: I'm not really built for running so if you would like to support me in this challenge, please pledge what you can. The website above is 100% secure and you can donate any amount you like. All the money that you donate will be given DIRECTLY to the work of Hospice Angelus here in Moldova. 

Many thanks to you all for your support and encouragement over the last 9 months. I'm off home to enjoy a wee break before arriving back in Moldova at the end of July to work into the autumn and winter. Have a great summer!

Friday, June 10, 2011


Still quite lazy on the blog - lots going on and not much time to update. But for now, here's a great new tune I've heard today. Tune of the summer perhaps??

Thursday, May 26, 2011


The Winner Takes It All

The next fundraising event to benefit the work of Hospice Angelus Moldova will be a charity quiz night to be held at CARUTA BAR on Str Ismail 45 in the heart of Chisinau on Wednesday 8 June 2011. 

WHAT ACTUALLY IS A QUIZ NIGHT? Quiz nights are pretty common in the UK and you'll find that most pubs will hold one either on a weekly or a monthly basis. We will ask you different trivia questions over the course of the evening and whoever gets the most points wins! Hospice Angelus is bringing this concept to Moldova and if it's a success, we might look to making it a more regular event.

WHAT KIND OF QUESTIONS WILL BE ASKED? This is the beauty of the event! We will be asking you about anything and everything. From music to Moldova, food and drink to film, sport to science, you never know what topics will come up in the quiz. However we can assure you that the questions will not be too difficult (nor too easy either). 

WHO CAN TAKE PART? Absolutely anyone. Teams should be made up of 4 people but we're not going to be too strict. For example, if you only have a team of 2 people, you can pair up with other people on the night or stay as you are. We recommend that you at least have one person in your team who understands English so that you have an understanding of the questions being asked. 

WHY IS IT IN ENGLISH ONLY? As this is a new concept in Moldova, we want to do it well and the organisers have more experience of running quizzes in the English language. It may be that if the event is a success, and there is call for it, then a Romanian or Russian language quiz night can also be held. 

HOW LONG WILL THE NIGHT LAST? As long as we start on time, the quiz should finish around 10pm.

ARE THERE ONLY PRIZES FOR THE WINNERS? Of course not! While this is a competition, it's also going to be a night of fun, laughs and banter so we will award different teams for different things. So get your thinking caps on for what your team name will be as we will award the team who comes up with the wittiest and most impressive moniker.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO PARTICIPATE? Entrance is 30 lei per person and this will go entirely towards the work of Hospice Angelus

WILL THERE BE REFRESHMENTS? Caruta Bar has a wide variety of drinks and snacks which you can purchase on the night

THIS SOUNDS LIKE GREAT FUN. HOW CAN I RESERVE A PLACE? Spaces are limited so please contact or call 022 244850 to reserve a place. We look forward to seeing you there. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Not in the slightest bit related to my work in Moldova but I am loving this song at the moment. And the video, man the video is just brilliant. A work of genius.



On Friday May 6 2011, Hospice Angelus hosted the 2nd Hospice Angelus Charity Ball. 150 guests including the Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat along with his wife Sanda, Princess Marina Sturdza and many other government ministers, ambassadors, diplomats, business people and friends enjoyed a champagne reception followed by a 3 course dinner and an auction which raised over 10,000 euros. With prizes including a tennis match with celebrated author Tony Hawks, VIP tickets to the summer Bon Jovi concert in Bucharest, weekends in Brasov and Prague plus an Author bike, the excitement in the room was electric. Accompanied by music from local opera star Serghei Varsanov, Jazz group Trigon, dancing from the National College of Choreography and wrapping up with rocking out to the amazing Snails, guests were also entertained by hosts of Sare si Piper, Nata Albot and Andrei Bolocan. Andrei also showed that he was a natural in hosting our auction along with Hospice Casa Sperantei's Fundraising Director, Marc Jenner. Here are a tiny selection of some pics below:

Our auctioneer, Marc Jenner, strikes a pose

Soren and Beatrice attempt to extoll money from Amy Sherwood and Alexei Ghertescu

Looking for more success, they hit Inna and Jon (Inna goes on to win five cases of beer)

Aaron sports the selection of Steaua Bucuresti football tops

Princess Marina Sturdza addresses the guests

Jessica shows off the Swarovski Crystal Clock donated by Princess Marina Sturdza

Laquia models one of our most sought after prizes

Dragos Bucurenci congratulates Angelus Board Member Angela Brasoveanu on her successful bid on the bike

The Hospice Angelus Cake

The National College of Choreography entertain the guests

Hosts Nata Albot and Andrei Bolocan attempt to get me to auction off my kilt

Sandy and Andy busting some incredible moves on the dancefloor

George and Angela get their grooves on

Donna and Jon ruled the dancefloor

As did Rali and Inga

Me and my pal Dragos Bucurenci

Victoria looked ace with her new bit of stuff

Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat meets an international celebrity

Our creative geniuses, Dorin Goian and Liviu Burlea

Derick and Laquia flaunt their wares

Hospice Director Valerian Isac with Princess Marina Sturdza, Dragos Bucurenci, Nata Albot and Andrei Bolocan

I'll post some more about the ball in due course but here are some great news articles which publicised the event:

plus Marina Sturdza's slot on Sare si Piper:

Thanks to all who supported us on the night and we look forward to welcoming you to the Hospice Angelus Charity Ball 2012. Oh yeah, and why is this post called WOW? Because it was all that kept coming out of my mouth all evening. PLUS we raised in the vicinity of 23000 euros. WOW!

Friday, April 15, 2011


Life Is A Rollercoaster

It’s been a while since I posted a blog entry as life has been pretty hectic here in Moldova. Work has been busy over the last few weeks with organising our first Hospice Angelus Pool Tournament and a visit from 1986 European Champions Steaua Bucuresti along with local team FC Dacia Chisinau to the children of our Hospice staff which you can read about here. We also have our biggest fundraising event of the year which is the Hospice Angelus Charity Ball coming up on 6 May. These activities have taken up most of our time in the office and the support of the local community has been awe-inspiring.
On top of that, I have committed myself to running the Bucharest Half Marathon in October for the Hospice. As most of you know, exercise and I have never been bosom buddies so I thought that when I said I would do it I would have time to pull out. Not so. It’s just under six months away so I’ve started my training program and I’ve really surprised myself about how much I can do with just willpower. It was suggested that I do a podcast running program called the Couch to 5k which strengthens you up to run 5k within 12 weeks however a couple of weeks ago I managed to run my first 5k in 41 minutes. The Peace Corps volunteers here organised a fun run and it was a beautiful sunny day here in Chisinau so I went along. Halfway through the course I was lapped by the frontrunner which discouraged me somewhat, however I soldiered on and despite coming last, I managed the whole course. I’ve also found a couple of runners similar to my own pace to practise with and also a gorgeous private park to run around. Chisinau is one of the greenest towns in Europe and has a plethora of parks however they are full of litter and not very bonny. But the Dendrarium Park is private (10p to get in) and reminds me a bit of Central Park as it feels like you are in the middle of the countryside whilst being in the city. I’ll be posting a sponsor page in the summer so I’ll post information about it in the summer. Dig deep please!!!
Life in Chisinau is never dull. I’ve met a great amount of people since I returned in January, both expats and locals. There’s always something on at the weekend and for the last two weekends we’ve been trying to play a bit of golf, but the frustrating April showers have ensured that we’ve not been able to. Golf here is a fairly new activity and I’m keen to pick up a club again at the local course. The season opened a couple of weeks ago but I’ve not managed but I won some lessons at Christmas so I’m keen to go. Here’s the thing, there are only 3 holes at the course and apparently there is no real fairway, just rough. But I can’t wait to give it a shot. You can see a bit more about golf in Moldova here:

As I say, the weather has been pretty hideous over the last couple of weeks and Moldovans are pretty miffed that spring has not yet arrived. I can’t wait for summer. Sun, heat, green all around the city and sitting outside sipping a chilled beer are the main aspects of summer here and we are all longing for those days. So if you fancy a trip over here over the next few months, let me know. I had my first visitor earlier this month in the form of Tess from Denmark and we had a blast. I got my first chance to visit one of the many wineries here when she was here with some friends. Chateau Vartely is one of the closest wineries to the city and we all crammed on a minibus to get there. Amazing surroundings, fantastic company and a brilliant selection of wine and food. Sadly I lost my camera that day so all my photos of the day are gone but I’ll try and post some from another source.
Finally, I’ve been thinking a lot of home lately and it’s definitely healthy for me to keep my finger on the pulse as to what’s going on at home. Facebook helps with this but I’ve also been downloading a lot from the Desert Island Discs archive from BBC Radio 4. I listen to them in the flat, on the bus to work and when I’m running and it’s very therapeutic and specific things that remind me of home raise a smirk. David Tennant talking about going out in Glasgow, Alex Salmond choosing Caledonia as one of his discs and Emma Thompson talking about life in the Highlands helps keep me grounded and reminds me of what I’ve left behind. Have a look at the website and download a few. You won’t regret it.
Rambling over. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Here's To St Patrick

Last Thursday, St Patrick's Day was celebrated in Moldova and they really did it in style. We went to Albion Club, one of the best haunts in the city and were treated to a great evening of live music, green beer and leprachauns. See the footage here

Round about 4:20 you'll see yet another of my TV appearances. I think my interview is much more interesting and sober than the rest of the expats. Just saying...

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Dance The Night Away

Please see the attached flier for the Hospice Angelus Charity Ball 2011, THE Chisinau social event of the year. Please contact me for further information and feel free to pass on to anyone you feel may be interested.



As things are hotting up in Moldova (not just the weather, but the work of the Hospice), I wanted to post some links to a recent TV appearance I made on the local Moldovan TV channel, Sare si Piper (Salt and Pepper). Our hospice co-ordinator, Denis, is the official photographer on the show, which airs Monday - Thursday from 1815 to 1945 on Jurnal TV, and he asked me to go on and cook some Scottish food in my kilt (see the start of the stovies getting made here) and teach the hosts to do some traditional Scottish dancing.

Some of my colleagues and friends came along to watch the show being filmed (much appreciated support) and it was a great laugh. The show lasted 90 minutes and I was on for much of the time. The hosts, Andrei Bolocan and Nata Albot, were really welcoming and made me feel at ease. Andrei even went as far as to wear a makeshift kilt (but I obviously had better legs) and correct Nata when she got my name wrong. You can watch this and enjoy Mr Bolocan's fantastic Scottish accent here, along with Nata's obvious infatuation with Ewan McGregor and the evident comparisons between Moldova and Scotland on their video clip.

The show is kind of a cross between This Morning, The One Show and Saturday Kitchen and they really went to town in showing traditional Scottish items and some funny videos from YouTube. It was nice to hear the Weegie accents and to see some of the homeland. I was really impressed about what they knew about Scotland including how many islands there are, that Scotland only gets 4 hours of daylight per day (!) and that the national animal is the unicorn......again, not sure but they seemed convinced.

And then the piece de resistance, the Irish ceilidh band they had on to do a Scottish Reel. It was brilliant and set us up nicely for doing the Gay Gordons which you can see below (note, that we didn't get a chance to practise this first and was her first attempt).

The show ended with the stovies looking a bit like vomit and a little bit of slagging as it was just mashed potatoes and meat and this is available all over Moldova. But the cranachan went down extremely well. It was a brilliant night and even made the Scottish press. My journo pal, Jane Bradley, wrote this article in the following day's Scotsman:

and so thrilled were the show to hear about their new found fame, they featured Jane's article on the next night's show. You'll notice in the clip that Andrei mentions something about the dessert from Perth. The story was that they asked me to bring along a bottle of whisky for the cranachan so I thought I should bring a bottle of Perth's finest (depending who you ask), Dewars. They only used 6 tablespoons for the dessert so there was a lot left. Once the show ended, I went to collect my bags from the dressing room downstairs and when I came back I asked for the bottle. Apparently, this negated the shock horror I portrayed earlier in the show when asked if the reputation us Scots have as stingey is true. Either way, the crew and audience had pretty much tanked the entire bottle in 5 minutes so I didn't get to take any home. I feel that this story also backs up the recent articles published by the World Health Organisation about Moldovans and their attitude to drink which you can read about here. Take that, Bolocan!

Take a look at some of the stills from the show here:

Andrei and his make-shift kilt

Irina, Cristina and Victoria from the Hospice were in the audience to have a laugh

Denis, our volunteer co-ordinator at the Hospice, who was responsible for my appearance

This was the moment I realised that I'd probably cocked up the recipe

The ceilidh band who played on the show

Co-hosts Nata Albot and Andrei Bolocan. Pleased to be with such a celebrity.

Thursday, February 17, 2011



We are delighted to announce the first Hospice Angelus Pool Tournament which will take place at the Megapolis Mall in Chisinau on Saturday 26 March 2011 from 10am.
Details can be found here:

For further information you can contact me on 0601 44007 or using

There will be 32 teams of three battling it out for the honour of being the winners of the first ever Hospice Angelus Pool Cup. Why not have your company, organisation or embassy enter a team or bunch together with a group of friends to enter a team.

We feel forward to seeing you there for a day of fun....and surprises

Friday, February 4, 2011


The Passenger

I'm starting to really warm to Moldova. The people, the culture, the city, even the weather. However, there is one thing that I'm not sure I will ever get used to - the public transport.

There are several ways to travel around the city. The cheapest (and my most preferred method) is by trolleybus. A single trip on the trolley costs 2 Moldovan Lei (about 10p) and in my opinion, it's the comfiest way of getting around. They're pretty shabby and can be freezing at this time of the year because it would appear that the seals on the windows and doors haven't been replaced since the fall of the USSR, but all in all they're good value for money, especially if there's a heated debate onboard. Unlike buses in the UK, you don't get on and pay the driver, rather a kind of conductor comes along and takes your 2 lei and gives you a wee ticket. However, there are still people who believe that they shouldn't have to pay and it's not uncommon to see a full-scale battle on the bus. This has happened to me only once.....

A trolleybus on the street where our office is
It used to be that the number 3 trolleybus (the one I get to and from work), decided that to pay a conductor was a waste of money as the route is quiet. So instead, you had to buy your ticket from the bus driver when you got on and then go and punch it in a slot to validate it. However, Chisinau Public Transport do not quite yet have the same safety standards as good old Scottish & Southern Energy, thus you would hand the driver your 2 lei once he had already set off at breakneck speed and he would attempt to rip a ticket from the ticket book while the steering wheel lurched off to the left or right. To save time (especially in the evening when the bus was packed), I would buy 10 tickets so that I could just get on and punch my ticket and be done with it. Smart thinking? No. This is Moldova, after all.

The last time I did this was a couple of weeks ago at the end of the working week. When it came around to Monday morning again, I followed my usual routine of getting on, punching my ticket and then floating off to another world of humour with the Radio 4 News Quiz on my iPod (a must for all comedy fans by the way - get the podcast weekly here). But what's this? A conductor on the number 3? Yep, they'd decided to do away with the previously life-threatening manner of distributing tickets (had Ian Marchant been in touch?) and reverted back to the normal way. I showed the conductress that I'd stamped my ticket and she nodded and was on her way. It wasn't until the next night on my way home that I had gone through the same motions and when the conductor came to collect my cash, I showed him my ticket. He said that this method had stopped the previous week and that I would have to give him another 2 lei to buy a proper ticket. Not wishing to do any such thing, I refused and explained that I had paid for these tickets previously and would he kindly be on his way. He didn't budge. Ears were pricking up and I was starting to receive interested glances (more than usual which is another thing you get used to as a foreigner in Moldova) from my fellow passengers and so I came to realise that I couldn't back down. I continued to debate with the conductor that I had paid 2 lei last week for this ticket to the same transport authority and would not be paying the fare again. This went on for a couple of minutes before he (thankfully) realised he was fighting a losing battle and could not physically remove me from the bus (he was a wee lad and even if he wanted to, he'd have to push me through a packed crowd who by this time were well and truly on my side judging by the positive nods, grunts and occasional cheers). Victory was mine and justice had been served. It was a real moment of triumph. Then, in typical Moldovan trolleybus style, the rods on top of the bus slipped from the electrical cables, leaving us in cold, dark and stillness so we had to get off the bus and wait for the next one and.....of course, pay another 2 lei to travel on it.

On a chilly and busy Chisinau trolley bus
The most popular way of travelling around the city (and most convenient as there are more routes) is by mini-bus (marshrutka in Russian - it's a much better word than the Romanian translation which is rutiera). There are hundreds of these fleeing around the city ranging from new Mercedes to ancient Fords but to me, they are all death traps. They are more frequent than the trolleybus and cost only 1 lei more (taking the grand total of a journey to 15p), however to me, you take your life into your own hands when you board.

If you've read Tony Hawk's book Playing The Moldovans At Tennis, you might remember him talking about his first experience on a marshrutka. He talks about getting on, handing over his fare to the driver as he takes off at breakneck speed (see the aforementioned number 3 trolleybus driver) and then slowly getting pushed to the back of the vehicle. On stagecoach buses in the UK, drivers (usually) strictly adhere to the guidelines of sitting and standing passengers. The marshrutka buses are all privately owned and as a result, there are no such guidelines. In fact, they will cram as many people as possible onto these buses. I have seen marshrutkas whizzing by with arms out of windows, faces pushed up to the glass and even a line of backsides lined up along the front windscreen. People push, shove, grumble, groan, grope, grab, complain, lean, need help with hygiene and personal boundary issues and generally are miserable on marshrutkas.

A line of marshrutkas in Chisinau
There are also proper buses which are less frequent and more expensive than the trolleybus. It costs 3 lei to get on these and if one comes along going in the right direction, I'll get on it. They're fairly quiet, comfortable and new. The instructions on how to disembark are only in English so I'm not sure how the Russian babaooshkas (old women) manage to figure out how to get off but somehow they manage. They're smart cookies, you see.

So hopefully this gives you an idea of how best to get around in Chisinau. Trams are a thing of the past (hear that, Edinburgh City Council??) and gondola cable cars have been banished with the Soviet era (although the stations and cable towers can still be seen rotting in the city parks) so we're stuck with the above-mentioned methods, and I for one am happy with them. Well, the trolleybus anyway.

Friday, January 14, 2011



I've been back in Chisinau almost a week now and it's been a week of ups and downs already. I really was apprehensive about coming back after a brilliant two weeks (minus 2 days because of fog at the beginning of the holiday keeping me at Chisinau airport) seeing family and friends. One Peace Corps volunteer told me that the feeling of dread and despair you get when you begin the descent into the Chisinau is a pretty dismal experience and when I saw that the fog was still lingering around the airport, I was filled with doom and gloom before I even got off the plane. But I shouldn't have been as there has been a lot of positive news this week for the Hospice.

We have had some great news from some prospective supporters. Prior to Christmas, I had written a grant proposal to The Souter Charitable Trust, an organisation based in my home town of Perth, who give generously to charities which aim to relieve human suffering. Yesterday, I received an email from them stating that they were delighted to award us with a very grateful donation which will go a very long way towards ensuring the Hospice will run well into the second quarter of 2011. A big thank you to them for their generosity!

It costs around £75,000 per year to run the Hospice and the foundation's donation has helped us get off to a great start in 2011. There are many ways in which you can also help raise money for Hospice Angelus. Many of my friends and family have already committed to running the Edinburgh Marathon, Half Marathon or 10k at the end of May.

If you would like to run for the Hospice you can find more information about the marathon here. Please let me know if you would like to run and I'll get some information to you. Additionally, if you live elsewhere and would like to run a marathon, host an event or would like some ideas about how to do so, give me a shout and I'll gladly assist. Furthermore, if you fancy going somewhere a bit more exotic for a run, I've also managed to cajole some friends into running the Bucharest City Marathon in October. It's a great opportunity to see Romania and to help a great cause. Again, if you're interested, please let me know and I can send you some information. And yes, I will be taking part in this also - not the full thing (I'm no daft), but the half. Or the 10k. Depends on the training schedule.

More good news came today when we had the regional head of a very big and well-known accountancy firm who not only offered to give us IT equipment, a team of volunteers for event organisation and pro-bono account auditing, but also a substantial donation towards the running of the Hospice. I really have been bowled over this week by the generosity of some people and this is not limited to just in-country.

A friend of mine who works for the Scotsman in Edinburgh recently published this article and the response has been amazing. On the back of Jane's article, we have received emails from around the world, including Canada, where an organisation has already shipped us much-needed stoma bags and the necessary adhesives. Additionally, on the back of an email I sent out to my contacts before Christmas, while I was home I received 5 boxes of medical supplies from Perth Royal Infirmary and a promise to help in the future. This kind of help is crucial and so gratefully received.

Finally, I had word from my mum yesterday that Auchterarder Golf Club (click here for how to book a round at this incredible Perthshire course) have decided to make Hospice Angelus Moldova their charity of choice this year to support.

Would your organisation want to do this too? If so, get in touch and I'll be happy to help. Thanks to all at the golf club for your support.

So this post is just to say a massive CHEERS, THANKS, MULTUMESC AND MERCI to all of you who have supported the Hospice in 2010 and to those who plan to help us in 2011. Your efforts and donations do make an incredible difference and I'd like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for getting involved.