Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Hello readers. My name is H. D. Rotherham and I am ghostwriting on behalf of Niall as he is now too famous to speak to you directly. He has fled to Istanbul after his fame in Bulgaria made it impossible for him to lead a normal life any longer. For the purposes of this and all future diary entries I will write as the man Niall himself, but any remarks you may regard as offensive or insensitive are entirely my own fault and not Niall's in any way.


Ok, I'm in my Istanbul hostel (the Orient hostel) after doing yet another overnight train, this time from Sofia. I think that makes 3 overnights in 6 days. But don't worry about me - I'm so unbelievably macho that I don't need the same level of sleep that you mortals require. Because I'm famous now, my face plastered all over the Bulgarian press. I've lost count of the times I've been stopped in the street in the last day or so, althoughj admittedly most of them were by gypsy women with dead-looking babies.

So indeed, I've finally left Europe and am now into Turkey, a country that doesn't really seem to belong to any continent. Only arriving today, and the overnight was alright. The first time we've used a sleeper carriage for an overnight, and the extra 5 quid was totally worth it. 14 hours in a 2nd class carriage would have been rough last night, but the sleeper was alright. With us are Maurice and Becci, from Sofia and before that, Bucharest. Everyone's been getting on pretty well, although it does look like Istanbul might be the end of the line for us. And so soon after forming a band together too. Yeah, over a Chinese meal on Sunday we decided to form a band. It's called "Hot Gossip" and our first album is "Internal Chocolate". We used to be fusion, but have since progressed to a sort of post-fusion sound.

But I think I'll spare you further details.

Our final days in Sofia then. I think I vaguely detailed the first night there, basically going out for a meal and drinks, but the quantities of food at the Chinese we kept going to are so vast that, unbelievably, we were so full and so knackered after eating, that we couldn't drink any more and just went back to the hostel and fell asleep.

Hmm, and yeah. Something else unbelievable has happened. Both Maurice and Becci (I feel like I'm talking about a couple of poofy Frenchards whenever I write these names, which couldn't be further from the truth) actually can out-sleep Simon. Maurice can out-eat Simon too, which is no mean feat. Simon's feet still smell 10 times worse, so he still has one feature of "interest".

Sunday at Sofia then was me shopping for hats and globes, Back at the hostel the hats proved a massive hit. I'd already donated my Uzbek hat to Maurice because he strangely suited it so much (it made him look like a rapper and me like a Hare Krishna), and the two girls who help run the hostel - Pauline and Toni - in the course of the day suddenly and seemingly spontaneously became a maelstrom of ultra-excited hysterics and got everyone in the hostel into the communal room and made them wear my hats, plus a few other spare hats, and took photos in between the quite incredible bouts of hyperlaughter. It might be the most excited I've ever seen anyone, ever. Later on a few of us went for drinks. The four of us, plus a Belgium guy whom myself and Melissa (the Australian girl at the hostel) are convinced is using prostitutes, called something stupid and French like "Ive", an old bearded Finnish guy whose middle name is Viking so I refuse to call him anything else, and a Japanese guy with a name I won't pretend to remember. It seemed the fit the pattern of most Japanese names: consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel-saki. Try it - make your own Japanese name. Ripasaki, Boposaki, Vewasaki, Nevosaki.

We drank a bit, before the three extras couldn't hack the pace and left the four of us to go to our Chinese meal and form our band, "Hot Gossip". I have a feeling Simon's going to say a bit more about so I'll spare my words/

Monday was our last day in Sofia. After a lazy morning drinking tea in the hostel (the tea in the hostel consisted of stuff called "Toursit Tea", stuff a year out of date, and stuff when translated from the Cyrillic read directly, and worryingly, as "Bioprogramma". Still, we drank it). Then I went out with Melissa for a wander, and to the dodgy memorabilia market. Simon insists upon calling this girl Maureen, but I'm not going to because she was rather attractive. On the way we searched for a copy of Tema magazine, which was meant to have myself and Simon featured of course, but had no luck, mainly through lack of newsagents.

The market was great. I've totally got into my haggling and wandered about arguing with various old men about artefacts/junk I had very limited interest in. I did find a couple of watches I liked though, and after considerable arguing and walking away I managed to get two for 40 Leva (12 quid), plus two free gifts thrown in because I was the "first customer" and because the guy liked to give presents to his "friend". How touching. The gifts were a medal celebrating 40 years of Communist rule, and a pair of earrings that Melissa happened to be looking at while I haggled. The watches were quite cool. One was a Soviet Russian one that only a day later I discover runs at a rate much faster that conventional time, but the other one works. It's the first Bulgarian digital watch and is big, very ugly and clunky. I've been without a proper watch for many months now, so even though everything I bought is probably made in Taiwan and can be bought elsewhere for 50p, I feel I've somehow profitted.

After that I wandered with the bitter and cynical Melissa, tolerating her mocking of my accent, until we finally struck gold and found the magazine and after a little flicking through it, found my face. I tell you, it's a hell of a strange thing, flicking through a magazine in Cyrillic and coming to a full page photo of yourself. We bought every copy in the kiosk (2), and delightedly showed the girl in the kiosk the pictures. She seemed rather amused.

I went for a coffee with Melissa then, hiding my face from the hordes of admirers. We examined the rest of the magazine, which is a glossy affair and looks very credible and fairly highbrow. There's 2 photos of me and one of Simon and... heck, I'll show you when I get back. We later got Pauline to translate some for us, and half our quotes seemed to have been made up, so hey, journalist is just as corrupt in Bulgaria too. Excellent. The magazine also has tits on the front page, which is probably the only reason I didn't make it. But it's to do with breast enlargement surgery and not porn. Oh well.

And after all that it was simply a case of getting back to the hostel, packing up, getting yet another huge Chinese meal (every evening I was in Bulgaria I ate Chinese) and pissing off to Turkey. Viking the Finn is also with us. We've checked into the Orient hostel, where we'd agreed to meet with Bambi and Barbie, but Maurice and Becci found some hotel. I may like haggling but Maurice is the most damn fussy haggler I've ever seen. You know there's no fear of being ripped off when he's around, or if you are then at least you'll get great entertainment as he gets absolutely furious with whoever's tried to scam him for 65p.

Istanbul looks to be fun then. We've aleady met up with Bambi (Barbie was in bed) and we'll probably be looking round the city with them later. Drinks with everyone later? Uh... I don't see why not. Melissa's going to be rejoining everyone too in a couple of days. She's supposed to be travelling about, but apart from her brief foray into Sofia, seems to have spent all her time (a month so far) in Istabul, and so after just a few days away is returning. It's one of these times when the people seem to "work" and get on so I'm hoping for a good few days. Cursory ideas are for 5 days in Istanbul.

Ok, I realise my description of all these people are still woefully inadequate but hey, I'll fill in the gaps if I ever rewrite this. I've got better things to do right now/

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