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Ronan's report

Monday 19th August, 2013

Lots happening at the moment. For one thing I haven't smoked a pipe or cigar in almost three weeks. The reason I stopped is because I couldn't stop two weeks out before the Ironman, despite training for it for 8 months for 2-4 hrs/day. If smoking has such a hold over me, then I should absolutely stop.

Having stopped there is no question that I am taking more air, am faster, breathe deeper, recover quicker. All good things. But I'm depressed, irritable, have weird sleeping patterns - such as getting up in the morning like everyone else! - and my tolerance level of others has at times become rather short, maybe I just hadn't noticed how annoying most people are! In a nutshell, I have become pretty wired.

"Don't push me; I'm a real live wire" - Talking Heads - is how I feel right now!

And I've been thinking about why this should be, and have done some research into the matter, and am now sure, without any shadow of a doubt, that I am missing the nicotine rush affect upon the brain that smoking gives. Nicotine is an anti-depressant, and also a stimulant, and while it's certain that drugs control you, it's also true that you can use drugs to control your mind (which may be the addict in me talking!).

Anyway, I don't want to be a smoker. But I do miss the stimulant, and have considered alternatives to smoking that would allow me to continue to take the drug. There may indeed be health benefits to nicotine... I know that may be difficult to imagine, but apparently it's true. And quite frankly something that stimulates the mind, probably, is going to have health benefits, just so long as it doesn't stimulate the mind so much as to make you crazy!

Anyway, that's not even the big news, the big news is that I may or may not be travelling to Russia tomorrow. And I won't know until later today, because my passport is currently being held up by UK customs... but hang on, let's go back to the beginning...

Last year I was invited to fish Varzina lodge on the Kola for large brown trout, to which I said: fantastic; I'm coming! And I was going to go but got massively busy and had to cancel. This year I was invited again and, simultaneously, was also invited to a fly fishing show in Siberia, one week apart! So OK, Russia here I come!

Two and a half weeks out (not my fault, really!), with flight tickets and official invites acquired, I start applying for my Russian VISA, hoping that I could just drive to the embassy in Budapest and pick one up, like everywhere else. No. It was never going to be that simple was it? Foreign VISAs in Hungary take a minimum of two weeks and I need a Hungarian address card to pick it up (according to Akos - since the web page was in Russian AND Hungarian, but not in English!).

So we couriered my passport over to the Russian embassy in London, who were excellent over the phone (and didn't hang up on me when I asked if they spoke English - for example, - as they did in Budapest!) and who also have a 24hr service - for a price that I obviously had to agree to. Quite why you can pay five times the price and get the same VISA in 24hrs as opposed to two weeks I don't know, but you can!

And then there were more problems. Because I had filled out the application thinking that I was going to apply in Budapest but had ultimately sent it to London, I had to redo exactly the same VISA application online again, firstly saying that I was going to apply in London and not Budapest! This is because the programming behind the online application was made by an idiot.

Anyway, this is just a small sample of the problems involved: The flight bookings were complicated because the website shut down on me and wouldn't take my card - Lena in Ukraine ended up booking my return tickets. Passport photos were difficult, because this is Hungary, and they don't have little passport booths in supermarkets - instead you have to find a wedding photographer's shop, and the only one I knew in Nagykanisza was closed for the summer! The entire thing has been fraught with complications! Basically if ever you decide to go to Russia, apply for a VISA in your own country and while you are in it - that's my advice!

Finally... yes, everything was looking good and we could arrange the courier pick-up from London and back to Hungary. But the Hungarian courier wouldn't do it. I still have no idea why; Akos tried to arrange it and it was impossible! Fortunately, in the UK, my family has an account with TnT (which I didn't know!) and they arranged the courier back from the UK. Wow - it's all about to happen!

And then the UK customs grabbed it. It's not possible to overnight courier passports out of the UK without special authorisation. Why, I don't know. Were there so many people couriering passports out of the UK that didn't belong to them, that someone had the bright idea to delay them all by five days?

And so now it's a bit of a problem, because today and tomorrow are Bank Holidays in Hungary. So, what may or may not happen now, is one of my family goes to the TnT customs holding office first thing today, gets my passport back and then flies out with it to Hungary. This is our only solution and it will be nice because I get to see my mum again, and can buy her dinner in Budapest!

The world is mad!

Anyway, it's Sunday afternoon at the time of writing. I'm off now for a long run (to get my head back in order) and then I'm going to have a couple of beers and finish packing for a trip that may or may not be about to happen!


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