danube1Having done the Brussels 20 k, I am now stuck with the running virus. When I have to travel I pack my running shoes and get up earlier so that I can run around wherever it is I happen to be staying. Budapest is a brilliant place to run. My hotel is just near the Chain Bridge, and I have plotted out a course that takes me down the Danube to the Liberty Bridge, then up on the other bank all the way to the Margaret Bridge, where there is an island just made for joggers, and then back down the Danube to the hotel. I’ve managed to run this twice now. The weather is beautiful and, once again, I found myself bemoaning the lack of such a river or water course of some sort in central Brussels. Yes, there’s the canal, but it’s not in the centre and, well, it’s just not the same thing. Back to Budapest. As I was running I was struck by the relative absence of something, but at first I couldn’t work out what it was. Then it dawned on me; you very rarely hear a police or ambulance siren in Budapest. In fact, you only hear one when, presumably, they genuinely need to put the siren on. In Brussels or London you can hear them virtually all the time. I can still – just – remember the thrill of the bells that the old police cars and ambulances and fire engines used to ring when on urgent duty in London. And I remember the first appearance (if that’s the right word) of an ugly siren. Soon that horrible noise had become ubiquitous – the bane of modern urban life. (Whenever my mother heard a police car’s siren she’d complain that it must be teatime.) They are now generally misused simply to get a police car past an obstruction of some sort (how often have I seen police cars turn on their sirens when stuck in traffic jams!). I have a terrible story to tell about police cars and sirens in Brussels, but I am saving it for the right strategic moment. In the meantime, I’m open to all suggestions as to how we, the common people, can curb the misuse of sirens. To the barricades!