Bedroom: If it were a shoe…

img_1635If it were a shoe, it’d be a Manolo Blahnik. But it’s not. It’s a writing desk that is doing a wonderful job as a bedside table. Ok, so I have to reach a little, but it works. Such extravagance. I know. I know. But when squeezing your size sevens (nines to my American friends) into an MB is nigh on impossible, and the classic Hepburn cast-offs wouldn’t even cover a shoulder, then a girl has to get her glam somehow.

It’s very decorative. It’s very chintzy. It’s embellished to within an inch of its life. It practically shimmers in the sunlight. There’s a tiny piece of new wood inserted in the front right leg, but I can forgive that slight imperfection. It’s a little like the filling I got last week when I noticed a rather sizable chip in my front tooth – I know it’s there but you’d be hard pushed to see it. In a month’s time, I won’t even notice that little, tiny piece of new wood. I won’t. I won’t.

And yes, I know from the comments you’ve made that some of you still aren’t sold on the glitzy floor lamp so I can only guess what you’ll think of this. But please, just for a minute, suspend your distaste and look at them both together. Aren’t they a match made in heaven? And for those of you thinking ‘boudoir above the saloon’ , get thee out of Dawson City!

img_16342The devil is in the detail and if you look closely, you’ll see a couple of Ajka crystal votives in a classic amber doubling as bookends. If I had all the money in the world, I’d have an Ajka chandelier hanging from every ceiling. Right now, I have to content myself with champagne flutes and candle holders (both thanks to the gracious MC who has exquisite taste). Unfortunately, it looks as if Ajka is in trouble… is nothing sacred?

Living room: The elusive könyvszekrény

img_1633While the rest of you have been getting on with your lives,  I’ve been searching in vain for a suitable bookcase (könyvszekrény) to house the books that MN shipped to me from Ireland. And after some months of brief dalliances and short-lived affairs, I was about to give up hope of ever finding one that would simply jump out at me and scream ‘take me home’. Not that I wanted a screaming könyvszekrény… a loud whisper would have done the trick just as well.

That’s not to say I didn’t meet some wonderful specimens in my travels. I did. There was the lovely tall, reddish, shiney beidermeir wannabe who had style, admittedly. And it had height – always a plus in my book. But it was just that little bit too polished for my liking. It was trying that little bit too hard to be just what I wanted. There is something very off-putting about too much class. It can make you feel a tad inferior (if, of course, you’re one of those poor unfortunates who suffer from brief moments of self-doubt).

Then there was the matching pair of rustics… old wardrobes cut down to make bookshelves. Workable, reliable, and easy on the eye but they lacked excitement. They had no get up and go. Not that you’d want a bookcase that got up and went but still, they didn’t do it for me either. They were the right price, the right height, the right width, the right colour; on paper they were perfect but there was no chemistry.  We would have bored of each other quite quickly. Long winter evenings with nothing to talk about, nothing to say.

I thought I’d cracked it last week when I came across one fronted by the trademark black wooden pillars of an earlier beidermeir period. Tall, thin, classic looking, a tad more expensive than I’d bargained for, it had an air of mystery about it. Something that begged you to ask it more. It had an allure, an intelligence. It stood awash in a quiet certitude of  experience and dignity, turning its dark corner of the basement into a little oasis of light and calm. It nearly had me. I’m a sucker for good breeding. I’ve noticed though that I can convince myself of just about anything. I’m my own best listener. I can spin myself a tale and make myself believe whatever I want to believe about whomever or whatever. And that can be dangerous. So although that particular piece ticked all the right boxes, there was something a little too convenient about it… and that little something fed into what I felt was a growing, if quiet sense of desperation. I was in need of a könyvszekrény.

And then, totally by accident, completely unexpectedly, on my way to the register to put my name on the classic, black-pillared specimen, having resigned myself to something I swore I’d never do (i.e., settle for less than I deserved), JFW pointed out another. And it was love at first sight. It wasn’t that youthful heart-racing, sweaty-palmed, knock-kneed sort of lust, but a more mature, dignified acceptance of fate. We were meant to be. It had legs. It stood high, tall, and proud. Its mismatched glass doors radiated character – one side bevelled, the other plain – ying and yang. It was just the right shade of confident and had that well-travelled look about it. This baby would tell some tales. It had class – the right sort of class. It looked good, spoke volumes, and could definitely hold its own with the Art Deco table, the china cabinet, and the chobi rug. This was a keeper.

It moved in on Saturday and we’ve been getting to know each other slowly. I like to think it’s as happy as I am with the living arrangements. And so what if the bottom drawer doesn’t close because the lock is locked in the open position and the key is missing – its imperfections make it even more charming. And, I don’t think I’ll be changing the glass anytime soon either. Different is good. Conventional is boring. And that little edge of never quite knowing how it will reflect my image of myself as I pass by makes life interesting.

Living in the ghetto

img_15871It’s only now the penny has dropped. When I first started talking about moving to Budapest, one recurrent theme in the advice offered by soon-to-be-friends and those more experienced in the BP property trade, was ‘don’t buy in the 8th district’. Lord knows I heard it often enough for it to sink in. And I was sure it had.

Last week, the lovely MI invited me to dinner and asked me where I’d like to go. I wanted to stay local – I am conscious that most of my socialising is done over in the 6th and if I’m to lend any credence to my localism advocacy, I need to start patronising some back-street hostelries closer to home. We set off from the flat and instead of following my usual route up Ulloi út  to the Korut, we turned right into what seemed to be one massive construction site. img_1625

While picking our way through bricks and mortar, breathing in the heady fumes of fresh concrete, I was struck by the incongruity of it all. It reminded me so much of when they first started ‘rebuilding’ inner city Dublin. Lots and lots and lots of new buildings going up, with lots of old ones having been demolished.

The restaurant, on Náp utca, doesn’t believe in advertising itself. On my own, I’d have walked past it. Inside it was dressed to kill. Yet we were the only diners. Friday night. Just us. In the ghetto. The 8th district.

We had drinks in the courtyard (udvár) and it felt slightly peculiar to be sipping on a rather nice Villanyi Rosé while the neighbours in the flats above the restaurant sat on their balconies, enjoying a cigarette and an after-work cocktail, while looking down on us from on high.

While walking through the same area the next afternoon, what got me most was the juxtapositioning of old and new and I wondered, for the fifty-millionth time, where the planners were!!!!!! When I was searching for my flat, HM knew not to even show one if I could look out any window and see a new build. Even though I lean more towards tradition than modernity,  I like modern architecture. I can appreciate good design. I don’t think we need to replace like with like in a vain attempt to make time stand still. I do img_1616believe, though, that there’s a very fine line between tat and taste. And when it comes to designing a new building that will sit admist those long established, just a tiny bit of thought would make all the difference.  

I am sure that of the new builds in BP have been pilfered from the Costa dels – monstrosities in shape and form, painted in colours that look wonderfully chic on Burano but gaudy in the Budapest sun. img_1617

Irish journalist Peter Murphy (think  Damien Lewis with a pen), wrote an excellent article for the Budapest Sun recently – Where the names have no streets. It will tell you more about the 8th that I ever could.

In the meantime, life is good and all is well. The search for furniture continues. I’ve finally posted a picture of  the piece that made my heart stop and I have added a rather quaint 1920’s stool and some really lovely etchings to my collection (still to be blogged). In the meantime, I’m weighing up to forints to see which way to go with my bookcase.  Decisions, decisions.