Wednesday, 16 March 2011

It was written

One of the benefits of the Internet age for expatriates is being able to tune in to domestic radio stations from anywhere around the world, rather than having to rely on the vagaries of shortwave reception and local FM relays. So here in Budapest I start my working day with BBC Radio 4, "Farming Today" and "Today".

I can also catch other programmes, and occasionally listen to Melvyn Bragg's "In Our Time", always enjoying the experience but often ending up feeling that I have not really quite understood what the intellectuals he lines up have discussed. Such was the case with last week's 500th edition which dealt with free will. The discussion centred around the idea of determinism, that ever since the Big Bang everything that has happened has been determined by the laws of nature, and that we therefore do not make our own decisions at all but that they are made for us, and that free will is, in the words of the 80s disco classic, 'just an illusion'.

If I had known that I would have gone to work last Tuesday better prepared. At midday Helen rang me to say that she had fallen off her bicycle, and when I picked her up discovered that she had been knocked unconscious, needed stitches in her chin, had broken a tooth and a bone in her hand, which meant that instead of flying to India for a three-week yoga retreat she was to spend a week in Szent Janos Hospital here in Budapest.

Now, often the thought of having to stay in a hospital in a foreign country is something of a nightmare, and so it was for us. We had heard stories about the inadequacies of the local healthcare system and feared the worst. And at first sight Szent Janos seemed to meet the descriptions we had heard. Old buildings, run-down facilities, and a sense of slight edge of chaos.

However, once our initial shock at the incident had subsided and Helen had settled into her room, it all seemed much better. Once the staff had gotten over some initial fear of dealing with a foreigner and Helen had expanded her Hungarian vocabulary so that she could describe her feelings and ask for basic needs, things improved considerably. As the days went by it became apparent that the staff worked incredibly hard in very difficult surroundings, and that while the buildings might not be state of the art the staff were extremely competent and caring.

As with any hospital stay, we were glad when it was over, and she is now home recuperating.

Quite what the fates have in store for us next I don't know, but I hope it is something rather more pleasurable than they dealt out last week.


  1. Poor Helen - definitely no laughing matter. Hope she's fully mended.


  2. Heavens! I'm sure that was quite concerning but I'm happy to hear that everything turned out ok. Hope Helen has a quick recovery!