Yes, it's that season of the year again, round about carnival time, when fundraising balls dominate the social calendar and some poor fucker gets roped in to do the organising.
That the noose of the Nagykanizsa School of Music and the Performing Arts should have fallen around the neck of my partner, light of my life and mother of my child has led to my becoming a poor fucker by default and, as I am desirous of avoiding atmospheres and unpleasant scenes and would rather prefer everything tickerty boo and my lunch on the table, I have been unable to kick up much of a fuss about it. Coward that I am.
Well, just how difficult can it be? Book a venue, sort the music and food. Job done.
Hmmm. Not quite, professor.
Having chosen to accept the mission, Idris decided quite rightly that, if 't were worth doing...etc and, taking a quick glance back at the history of the event (maximum attendees 90, last year's profit, zilch), made the decision to drag the whole thing, kicking and screaming, into some sort of relevance.
She chose a theme. The East. The Orient and beyond as opposed to Bulgaria and the Carpathians. I ask you. Just what on Earth was she thinking about? We live in a small town backwater in the west of Hungary with about as much connection to the exoticism of the East as Bradford railway sidings.
I think it was the idea of forever having to wash my own socks that finally brought me round or maybe it was the fear of having to arrange quality time with my daughter over the phone but anyway, I succumbed.
She wanted the entrance to the venue to resemble a bazaar. The two trestle tables were easily enough arranged and, bizarrely enough, she was supremely confident of her ability to turn these into a reasonable approximation of a middle eastern souk.
You see, I had reckoned without the Hungarian equivalent of the old boy network. Idris is a music teacher. She also runs her own private music nursery school with which she tours kindergartens in the area giving music 'lessons' to the pre-schoolers. She is also one of the members of Vabababa Társulat, a travelling theatre group of musicians who write their own stories with musical effects and accompaniment and tour nurseries and schools in the county, giving performances to kids. She does, as a consequence, know more young children in this town than just about anybody else and they, not to put too fine a point on it, absolutely adore her. This, as I have since discovered, gives her enormous sway with parents.
One visit to our local carpet emporium and a swift chat with the father/owner later and we left with a selection of the finest silk carpets and wall hangings from all points east. A visit to a furniture store and the mother/proprietor pressed about 6 Indian reed baskets upon us and it only needed a quick dash into the ethnic gift shop and a slight twisting of the arms of the parents/shopholders and we had our bazaar. Hookah pipes, jewellery, ceramics...the lot.
We also found a wonderful oil-burning lamp which every guest will have to rub on entry. A genie will then apparate (or so I am told) and present them with a small welcome gift.
As for the music. Well, much more problematic and has certainly led to the most inventive swearage thus far. I mean, this is a charity ball to raise funds for a music school right? I'll say that slowly. A. Music. School. With more competent musicians per hectare than anwhere else this side of Heiligenkreuz and every single fucking one of them wanted paying for their performance. Fuck 'em. It did rather give me an insight into why it has never made much profit before as it seemed everybody was intent on creaming as much out of it as they could. Bastards. Well, I say every single one...with the honourable exceptions of Angéla, of whom more later, and Laci, a double bass player of Romany descent who has his own band and agreed to play for the dancing for a very much reduced rate. I like Laci. For a dirty, thieving, job-shy, gipsy whorecunt, he's not at all bad.*
We also did a tour of nearly all the shops and businesses in town and most have donated something that we can offer as prizes in the raffle.
And so, on to the show.
You're not going to believe this but, this small town on an old trading route between the Alps and the Adriatic has as part of its cultural possessions a rather nifty and decidedly attractive troupe of belly dancers. They said yes. I said yes, please.
Now, back to Angéla. She runs an after hours percussion orchestra for the kids at the music school...a lot of xylophone work mostly but other percussion, too. She has agreed to arrange a kind of Taiko or Japanese drum performance for us. It's looking up.
Idris' contacts in the theatre world led to us being able to procure the services of the 'Fireflower Moving Theatre' who will perform traditional eastern tales with music and dance accompaniment.
Our Frog attends the local ballet school and they have agreed to send a group of modern dancers along, too. Although quite how this will tie in with the oriental theme is anyone's guess.
Idris and a fellow oboist from a nearby town are going to perform a comedy snake charming act and that just about wraps it up.
The only thing that bothers me is the food. We chose a restaurant as the venue and they will take half of the 4000ft ticket price for food and hire of the large banquetting hall.
I give you the contents of the trench for your perusal.
On arrival: Glass of honeyed pálinka
On arrival at table: Cheese sticks with lentil dip.
Served at table: Meat and vegetable balls with curry sauce.
Indian chicken breast marinated in spicy yoghurt in a ginger, honey and fruit sauce.
Char-grilled turkey kebab.
Stove cooked pork steaks.
Red onion chutney with figs.
Apple and almond strudel with cinnamon sauce.
Doesn't look too bad but I wonder what a Hungarian chef will do with it.
We also did a deal whereby we get a discount on the 50-50 ticket price split which kicks in should the alcohol bought exceed a certain level. Pepe and I are both going. This is guaranteed.
So, we get tickets, posters and invitations printed (see above graphic) and, so far, have sold 184 of the buggers with one week still to go. We are on course for both record attendance and profit and, quite remarkably, are still talking to each other.
Better not be too much of a success or they'll ask her to do it next year an' all.
*Irony alert, folks. (Just in case, you understand. One can't be too careful.)