Saps and saplings

I have amused myself to the point of inanity in recent months trying to work out a pattern to BKV’s seemingly random staffing of controllers at my local metro station. Just when I felt I was on the brink of some major discovery, after nearly five months of mental note-taking and complex calculations, they’ve disappeared. And they left without even saying goodbye. For two days now, I’ve had to brave the escalators into the wider world without their customary cheery jó reggelts and köszönöms. I feel like my right arm has been cut off… the one that’s itching to wear one of those armbands.

I’ve heard tell of those who’ve passed through the jegyellenőr gauntlet with the same ticket twenty times or more; or those who’ve travelled for weeks on an expired pass. So I have to wonder what exactly is it that my friends with the armbands think they’re controlling. I’m not the first to wonder why the BKV doesn’t just install ticket machines at metro stations. Or have front-entry buses? And I certainly won’t be the last sap to ask why not? So why not?  

Sledges, skis or saplings?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a great fan of the BKV. I really am. It’s one of the best public transport systems I’ve encountered in my travels. Its detractors should trying living in cities where buses travel in bunches, if they travel at all, or where timetables express hope rather than intent. Perhaps we’re both on the same cycle but I’ve rarely, if ever, had to wait more than five minutes for a bus, tram or metro to come get me. There are clocks to tell me exactly how long I can expect to be kept waiting. The journey planning tool on the website has demystified Budapest for me making even the remotest parts accessible. And the English-language instructions about what I can carry with me are simple and to the point: one sledge, one pair of skis, one wrapped sapling tree or a pram.

Back in the early days when, although a seasoned traveler, I was a BKV novice, I thought that as long as I stayed underground my ticket was valid. I changed lines and didn’t validate a second ticket. I was nabbed at Nyugati, my book of tickets confiscated, and demands made on me for my passport and 5000 ft. I had neither. I asked to go to an ATM to get the money and by the time I got back, the lady with the armband (the one I’m itching to wear) had vanished. I reckoned I owed the universe about 3000 ft (the fine minus the cost of a book of tickets), a debt I duly discharged using the next homeless man I met as my broker. It wasn’t an experience I particularly wanted to repeat. So, after calculating that I’d cover the cost of my pass by Day 17 (I can be a little dim at times), I decided to cross over to the other side of the tracks and go the Havi Budapest-bérlet route. I also corrected that unwitting mistake I made when first recounting this story: my ticket wasn’t inspected…I was controlled!

Off tramway

My pass is like a front-row ticket to a series of vignettes played out in front of me at least once a day. As the controllers board and take a minute to get in costume, the actors take their cues. The martyred monthlies sigh in exasperation as they root through their bags and pockets, annoyed that their respectability is being called into question. Those on the precipice of pensiondom frown slightly, adding those all important extra wrinkles in their attempt to look just a little beyond the magic age of 65. Those who have already passed this mark smile a peculiarly self-congratulatory smile that admonishes ‘you, too, can travel for free when you’ve clocked up as many miles as I have’. The pubescent plugged-ins barely miss a beat as they languidly show their passes. And then there are the dodgers; highly skilled performers of a different kind.

The starers simply stare, be it out the window or into space or at their shoes, hoping the controller won’t be too persistent. The diversionists get on their mobiles and launch into a very important business call from which they cannot possibly be disturbed. The magicians disappear out of one carriage and reappear in another. The expressionists look amazed at the fact that their passes have expired. The innocents smile and simper…and make like tourists. It’s a Mecca for the method actor.

But because I’m concentrating on not behaving in a way which is scandalous or antisocial, and because I don’t get to wear an armband, I’m relegated to sitting quietly with my wrapped sapling tree and enjoying the performance.

This article first published in the Budapest Times 22 November 2009

Butterflies, tigers and Budapest bars

Art is making something out of nothing and selling it… or so said the legendary Frank Zappa…and I think he said it after one of his trips to Budapest. Whether it be the light features made from empty wine bottles in Köleves, the seats made from old bathtubs in Szimpla kert, or the complete interior remake from someone else’s trash in Csendes, the Hungarian ability to make something from nothing is artistic simplicity at its best.

I had the (mis)fortune to be in Alaska when the Celtic Tiger took up residence in Ireland. Happily ensconced in my log cabin, hundreds of miles from the nearest city, I was quite oblivious to its antics. Ireland had practically full employment; GDP was growing in double digits on a yearly basis; and for the first time in living memory, emigrants were returning in their droves. And I missed it all. While I was living off Copper River reds, frying up moose-burgers and chewing my way through last-season’s caribou jerky, Ireland was wining and dining in Michelin-starred restaurants, gorging herself on oysters and caviar, and becoming all too familiar with Dom Perignon and Ms Bollinger. And I was happy for her. Her day had come.

Pubs with soul

Before the Celtic Tiger was born, you could find pubs in Dublin where floors were covered in sawdust and used as ashtrays; where granny’s hand-crocheted anti-macassars decorated flea-ridden sofas whose patterns had long since faded into oblivion; where grandfather clocks signaled closing time. Pubs where musicians on their fiddles and tin whistles and bodhráns lulled us merry punters into a happy melancholy, providing a soundtrack for the heady Guinness-fuelled opinionating on everything from the state of world politics to the odds of Dublin winning yet another All-Ireland final. Pubs where elderly couples sat in companionable silence, having said all there was to say and the boys in the back played the odd hand or two of cards for a few quid to carry them over till payday. Back in the day, before the Celtic Tiger, pubs in Ireland’s capital had soul.

Everything measured, everything matched

But as the Celtic Tiger grew into an all consuming monster, the slow death of tradition began. I know we welcomed it with open arms…and who could blame us? After so many years of playing second fiddle to other EU states, it was time we had our turn on the world’s stage, and we relished it. But at what cost? Old pub interiors were gutted and replaced with shiny new wood and brass fittings. Quirkiness was replaced with more of the same. Designer candles took centre table. Cocktail menus offered screaming orgasms, sex on the beach and long slow comfortable screws up against the wall. Everything was measured; everything matched. Yes, the price of a pint had gone through the roof but sadder still, that witty deconstruction of the week’s events had been replaced by a dreary discourse on the price of property. With the smoking ban in place, smirting (smoking and flirting) outside in the freezing cold was nonetheless much better craic than staying indoors to be browbeaten by loud piped music and tales of killings made on the stock exchange.

A Magyar tigris

I moved to Budapest for many reasons and for no particular reason at all. Perhaps I was hoping to get in on the földszint of what I was sure was going to become another European success story. To see first-hand what happens when EU money swells the coffers of a relatively impoverished nation; when foreign investment wipes out unemployment; when talented emigrants return to the fold bringing with them a new perspective; when non-nationals flood to the country, armed with exotic languages and spicy foods. But now, two years later, there’s ne’er a sniff of a Magyar tigris. The only black and orange creature I’ve seen here is a butterfly. And when I sit in one of the many ruin pubs in Budapest, I give silent thanks.

I dare not say aloud what I am thinking. Selfishly, I want the bars in Budapest to stay as they are. The collection of random furniture; the smoke-filled rooms alive with animated, intelligent conversation where music accompanies thought rather than drowns it out; long tables scattered with half-smoked boxes of cigarettes and novels in many languages; people moving effortlessly from Hungarian to English to German so that everyone is included in the conversation, the toe-tapping beat of gypsy jazz. Nothing matching; nothing measured; everything unique.

And then I look across the road and see the shiny modern interior of a new pub through huge, brightly lit windows…and the smudge on the glass looks remarkably like a paw print.

This article was first published in the Budapest Times 12 October 2009

Hungarian Roadtrip: Budapest to Sárospatak via Tokaj

It’s about 248 km from Budapest to Sárospatak if you take the highways and stay on course, but that’s what trains and bus tours are for. When you have a car (thanks to PM), you can stop and start as often as you like. See a church spire in the distance? An interesting road sign? An oddly named village? Check it out. That’s the beauty of driving. And I love it. We left Budapest by 8am on Saturday morning and met very heavy fog outside the city. It felt as if we were flying through clouds rather than driving on tarmac. We were on our way to see a man about some nutbirds and the man lives in Sárospatak, close enough to the Slovakian border.  Once called ‘the Athens of the River Bodrog’ , it’s in the heart of the Zemplén region of Northern Hungary.

On our way, we decided to visit Tokaj, one of Hungary’s more famous wine regions. I’ve been to Villany and was impressed. I was perhaps expecting a little too much from Tokaj and was a little disappointed to see that like its wine, it’s just a little too sweet for my liking. It’s not as if they’ve haven’t had time to practice. There are records of vineyards in Hungary going as far back as the 5th century. The sweet, white dessert wine from Tokaj is probably the country’s most famous export,  christened by Louis XIV of France as ‘Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum’ – Wine of Kings, King of Wines. I’m no expert… and as long as I have difficulty getting my head around drinking a wine made from grapes that have been infected by a fungus Botrytis cinera (Noble Rot), I probably never will be.  Mind you, were I ever trapped in the region and unable to escape, I’d live quite happily with its Furmint – a rather nice dry white with a distinct apple flavour. The jury is still out as to whether this grape came from southern Italy or Hungary. Bearing in mind that in the summer the place is most likely overflowing with tourists, on this particular Saturday morning in November it hadn’t yet woken up. Most of the cellars were closed but we still managed to get a taste or three in before actually making a purchase. The town itself is the centre of a much broader wine-growing region and on the road to Sárospatak, we passed many vineyards. To take full advantage, you need to bring a teetotal driver as Hungary is notoriously strict with its zero-tolerance drink driving policy.

Driving the country roads, we passed many Trabants and it really felt as if we had indeed driven back in time. The pace was visibly slower. It might well have been the late 1950s, when the first Trabant came off the line. The fog had burned off by now and the autumnal leaves  were majestic in the sunshine. Scores of fishermen lined the riverbanks and lakeside edges. Flasks of coffee and bottles of hazipalinka littered the picnic tables as they waited patiently to catch their supper. It reminded me a lot of Alaska. The quiet. The beauty. The solitude. KG is getting much better at navigating and we trundled along without anydifficulties at all. There are still river crossings in Hungary where you have to drive onto a large raft and be literally pulled across. What a way to go. The more I see of this slower way of life, the more I dream of upping stakes and moving to that cottage by the sea. There is something quite godlike about it all.

We made it to Sárospatak with plenty of daylight left to make a quick trip out to the National Cemetery in Karos. It’s supposedly the richest cemetery associated with the first Hungarian settlers in the Carpathian Basin. I am struggling to find any information on this in English, so if anyone reading has a comment, please share it. From what I could see and understand, it appears to be a major archeological dig – there are lots of staked signs which I think mark the sites where relics were found. There is a large circle of totem poles, or what look very much like totem poles, but again, I couldn’t make sense of it all.

Back into town then for a last look at Rákóczi Castle and a glimpse of time gone by. The older part of the town is rather lovely; the newer part, rather new. Famous for its Calvinist college, the town has turned out many famous students.  In fact, the education system at the college was organised by János Amos Comenius, a Moravian humanist, late in the seventeeth century. Comenius is probably more famous for writing the world’s first illustrated textbook for children, Orbis Pictus (World in Pictures).  The organic archictect Imre Makovecz has also left his mark on the city (and a little bit of me wishes he hadn’t…I’m not quite sure I get this ‘organic architecture’ in urban areas). The cultural centre on Eotvos utca is a little too much for my liking as is the Hild Udvar shopping centre. But each to her own, I say.

The Hotel Bodrog, reputedly a **** hotel, was fine. Although unlike any **** I’ve ever stayed in (Hungary is quite liberal with her stars), it did the business: it provided a clean bed, a good breakfast, and a steam room/sauna/jacuzzi/pool complex… with the added realism of peeling wallpaper, chipped formica, and cracked walls. We ate in a lovely Italian cellar restaurant, The Collegium, which is well worth a visit, if you’re ever in that part of the world.  Despite being fortified by Furmint, any inclination to paint the town red was dulled by the fact that the town was closing at 10.30pm. mmmm I wonder just how much of the quiet life I could actually take.

Gorgeous girls and goosefat

I am very fortunate to have some wise and wonderful Hungarian friends who are extremely knowledgeable and clued in. Between them, they have managed to answer practically all of my never-ending questions about life in Hungary as it is now and as it was then. Their areas of expertise include history, geography, politics, linguistics, sports and the arts, with a little bit of religion thrown in for good measure.  Together, their knowledge of who’s who and what’s what in Budapest alone is encyclopedic. They have their fingers on the city’s pulse. They speak its language and, more importantly, they also speak mine! But try as they might, there is one question that still remains unanswered.

Making comparisons

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that Hungarian women are beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that grown men literally stop and stare as they walk by. And it’s not that surreptitious glance from a gawky teenager that you might see in Dublin; a glance made all the more daring by the chances of being caught in the act. No, Budapest has left puberty behind. Here, men stop. And stand. And stare. It used to catch me unawares. There I’d be, walking along, lost in my own little world, trying to conjugate a particularly difficult Hungarian verb, when the man in front of me would suddenly stop. And stand. And stare. And I’d run right into him and ruin the moment. Now I pay more attention. I’m more considerate. I save my conjugation for cafés. But it rankles. Hungarian girls are gorgeous: they have perfect figures, great skin, healthy hair… and all of this on a diet of red meat, goose fat and lángos! How can it be so? Where’s the justice? Answer me that!

I love my food. I can’t imagine life without red meat and chocolate. I shudder at the thought of never again enjoying Filete Enchocolatado. While at an open-air market recently, I noticed my visitors going pale at the sight of pork steaks swimming in vats of hot oil. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. At dinner later that evening, while they searched in vain for a fruit-filled palacsinta, I went straight for the hórtobagyi. Hungary, for me, is hog heaven, with a large duck pond and a garden full of geese. But unfortunately, I am missing that all-important gene that allows Hungarian women to eat what they like, when they like, and still look fantastic.  I’ve thought about this a lot and for want of help from my encyclopedic friends I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s simply no other explanation. It has to be genetic…doesn’t it?

Making concessions

The last time I fitted into a size 8, I was 18. I have neither the interest nor the inclination to do what’s needed to go back there.  Don’t get me wrong: if it could be done with a wave of a túró rudi, I’d be first in line. But diet and exercise are two words that don’t feature in my vocabulary, in any language! I have made a couple of concessions though. I only allow myself langós when I have virgin guests in town – far be it from me to deprive first-time visitors to Budapest of an experience that is truly Hungarian! When I cook at home, I always have at least two real vegetables: tomatoes, onions and peppers don’t count! Come to think of it: that’s another question I must ask. Where do all the real vegetables go once they leave the market stalls? The carrots, the parsnips, the turnips, the cauliflowers – I’ve yet to see one come out of a restaurant kitchen in solid form!

 Making choices

My weight fluctuates according to where I’m living. In California, it was too hot to eat. In Alaska, it was too cold not to. Ok, so perhaps I didn’t have to take hibernation as seriously as I did or have so much sympathy for the whales that I began to morph into one myself.  No matter. That’s history. Today, I have chosen to live in a city full of beautiful women; a city which is populated by men who are very obvious in their appreciation of this beauty. Perhaps, subconsciously, the skinny person living inside me is making a last-ditch effort to escape. Maybe hers is the voice I heard telling me to move to Budapest in the first place. Maybe she was hoping that being in the presence of such beauty would inspire me to lend her a hand. But, as Woody Allen wondered: what if the 20lbs I lose is the best 20lbs I have? The pounds that contain my genius, my humanity, my love and my honesty? What then?

This article first appeared in the Budapest Times on Monday, 22nd October, 2009

How’s she cuttin’?

IMG_3967For as long as I can remember my dad has been going to the bog and cutting turf. Once a year, we get a delivery at home that has to be neatly stacked in an outside shed. The main bulk of it can be thrown into a heap inside but the walls have to be carefully constructed. I used hate to see the turf coming. It meant hours of back-breaking work after school when I’d rather have been reading. And never, in all these years, never once did I ever bother to go the bog with him – not once.

I was at home in September and he was heading over one evening to check the turf…to see if it was drying and to fix any stacks that had fallen. As we drove through the bog, he explained how various families were given plots during World War Two as coal supplies from Britain had stopped almost entirely. They would cut turf manually with a special spade called a sleán. Imagine, at that time, over six million tonnes of it was hand-cut. Once cut, the turf is stacked to dry. Neat rows lined up like sentinels, watching over each other as the air dries them out. And once dry, the turf is drawn. Cut, dry, and draw. That’s the order. A tradition that is centuries old and fast dying out.

IMG_3971IMG_3985The purple heathers and bog pools simmer, emitting a soft glow in the shadow of the setting sun. The place is deathly quiet. Surreal. For thousands of years, this turf has been growing. For hundreds of years, we have been cutting it and using it as fuel. And now, experts predict that in five years’ time, we’ll see the beginning of the end. Four bogs in Kildare alone are stopping turf-cutting. What then? What will happen to the tradition?

IMG_4004My dad works away, restacking fallen walls, checking that each sod is drying out. These strong hands  have built and made and sown and harvested. These hands have held mine to cross the road; they’ve shaken hands with mine in congratulations; they’ve worked to give me that innate sense of security that allows me to be who I am. As I listen to the silence, I am moved by the rhythm of his singlemindedness. As I watch him at work, I am ashamed that it has taken me so long to take the time to travel those five miles with him. And as I write this, I say a quiet prayer that he will be around to draw turf for many years to come. I promise myself that I will spend more time listening to what he has to say, lest the traditions disappear entirely.

Stealing sins in the Czech Republic

IMG_4104Oh Lord, give me such signs in every foreign country I visit and I will be happier (if that’s possible), and more relaxed, and less intimidated. I came across this sign in a  church in the Czech Republic a couple of weeks ago . Oddly enough, it was posted on the confessional box. You’re on camera! Steal and the police will come and take you away… but steal what? My sins?

I was in Kralupy, on the Vitava River for the 2009 European Scout Academy. About 130 of us descended on the town of 18,000 for five days – Tuesday to Sunday. Some came and went over the course of the event, others were there for the duration. Hard work this scouting (I kid you not).  We had full days of workshops and meetings (both formal and informal). It’s reallly something to see people from so many different backgrounds and cultures being brought together by a shared interest. And their ability to flit from one language to the other is mindboggling. The highlight for me was the International night when each country represented has its own table of food and drink and flags and books and whatnots. Everyone (but me, as I don’t have one…I’m a civilian volunteer, of sorts) was in uniform and only too keen to tell you something about where they’d come from. (As an aside: Israel is in the European Scout Region…so it’s not just me who has difficulty with ye olde geography?!) And again, Slovenia (see an earlier post) was the winner for me, although it wasn’t a competition. Those lads are really proud of where they’re from.

Anyway, despite that fact that a rather charming young fellah from Denmark suggested I might be a little too old to go on the planned pub crawl on the night off (can you imagine?), it was a lovely few days. I pointed out that a 60-strong crawl would be more like a hop… and a little hop at that. And sure enough, they managed two stops. Am I glad I stayed home? You bet.

Although only 15 miles North of Prague, I simply arrived and departed from there. I never quite got around to visiting the city again. I’ve IMG_4145been before and having recently discovered that the world’s travellers either prefer Budapest or Prague, my preference is pretty obvious. I did come across this other sign on a post office on my journey between train stations (Prague has six, and I tried three before I found my train to BP!) Comforting to know you have to leave your gun outside! And also this very evocative statue that would, in fairness, rival many of my favourites in Budapest.

IMG_4148

I delayed a little too long looking at this one and very nearly didn’t make my train. But it is something. To think that such heated emotion can be captured in such a cold material… maybe in my next life, I’ll give it a go.

And not a pair of knickers in sight

IMG_4149I’m not quite sure what happened this evening. I can’t decide if I’ve had a great night or simply one that will take a while to recover from. I think I’m in shock.

The last time I saw Sir Tom in the flesh, as it were, he was strutting his stuff on stage in the RDS in Ireland back in the early 1980s.  Girls my age were losing track of their grannies as the old dears rushed the stage to cast their knickers at the King. His trousers were painted on him. And when his oversized rhinestone beltbuckle caught the light, you could have seen it glitter from Mars. Women older than my mother seemed to have lost their reason. I distinctly remember a group of women from the Irish Countrywomen’s Association flinging a pair of enormous bloomers onto the stage embroidered with ‘We love you, Tom’. I was fascinated. The music was great; the entertainment value was excellent; and when I got over the bout of prudishness brought on by the gyrations, I kinda fell for him… in an I’ll-keep-my-eyes-shut-and-you-just-sing-to- me  kind of way.

De Wimmen bought me tickets for tonight’s gig in Budapest .(Yes, I know the photo says Prague but had I seen this photo before mentioning that I wanted to go, I wouldn’t have gone. The Budapest PR posters were a lot kinder. To say that he’s had a nip and a tuck here and there goes no where near the truth. It is scary. Really scary. Really, really scary to see what a 69-year-old man can look like, if he has money.) Anyway, we all headed off to Papp László (KG and her lovely new boots and me) and were in our seats just before 8pm for the warm-up act: Felicity Rawlings. Great voice. Nice girl But no Delilah. And I was there for Delilah.

Sir Tom took his own sweet time coming on stage. And I was getting a tad fed up. It was 9.10pm before the band arrived and then another five minutes of strobe lights and SFX before the man himself appeared singing Sugar Daddy, a song penned for him by Bono and The Edge. It was downhill from there. Six modern, poppy songs later (all from his new album 24 Hours) we finally get Delilah. And this is where my confusion started.

I’d been slowly seething, like an auld wan, about not getting what I’d paid for (even though technically I hadn’t paid for anything). I’d expected a trip down memory lane, to drop in and see if the old home town looked the same and to learn all about never falling in love again, maybe even see what was new with pussycat. Instead, I was watching some ould lad in leather strutting his stuff on stage as if he was 29, not 69, and Mick Jagger he ain’t.  Tom’s wiggle was a very poor imitation of a bad waggle. Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for doing as much as you can for as long as you can but honestly… this was embarrassing. The man has a fantastic voice –  still as good as it ever was (the eyes-shut trick still works). He was certainly on form and when, an hour later, I finally got a sniff of the green, green grass of home, I started to relax a bit. It seemed as if the modern stuff was over and he was back to the fellah I met all those years ago.

But as we flipped back and forth between old and new and detoured through the southern United States (I had to open my eyes at this stage to make sure it was still him on stage), I lost myself in an internal debate about concerts. Ticketgoers pay to see a performance and have expectations. Performers are in it for the money and to promote their new stuff. You’d imagine that it was all about satisfying the punters’ needs. So why then, when the crowd was on its feet, in rapturous applause for an oldie, why didn’t he stick with the tried and true instead of all this flash?

I’ve been to four really great concerts in my time: BB King many many years ago in Dublin; Kris Kristoffersen in Dublin a few years back; and both Leonard Concerts, this year (Budapest) and last (Amsterdam). All were low-key with minimal, if any, SFX or lighting effects. Tonight was electric…literally. Louder than loud.  Why? Why? Why? …. Delilah. 

The Knighthood didn’t make the crassness disappear and the women love him all the more. The crowd was on fire. They wanted more and more and more (oops, that’s Joe Dolan, isn’t it? I’m getting my shapers mixed up!) But I really didn’t know what to make of it all. Yes, of course, plug the new album (and respect to the man for still putting it out there), but a little more of the good stuff would have been nice. Actually, in fairness, the title track 24 Hours has a hint of Johnny Cash about it… and had I heard it at home, I might have been rightly impressed. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just too old for anything but the unplugged version. Bitching aside though, he did actually play all his big hits… it’s just that he didn’t have that many!

Kitchen: Hi honey, I’m home!

I mentioned earlier that the light in my kitchen is a little iffy… so it was with some trepidation that I decided to let two of Mr C’s plants take up residence there. In case you’ve not heard, Mr C has moved abroad and I’ve got custody of his ‘girls’. It’s been a little traumatic for all of us. You know how allergic I am to too much oestrogen so some of them are now boys. But, as he hadn’t named them, I think we’re ok.

IMG_4150I’m having great craic (and this is probably some indication that I need to get out some more) with the names! This is Honey on the right. He gets his ruddy complexion from the vino. He seems to have adapted well, though, and I’m hopeful that his place in front of the window will give enough light for him to continue growing. IMG_4152 On the left, we have Babe. Again, the light is a bit of an issue but so far so good. I have to get the ladder out to water him and it’s a right pain in the arse, not that I’d ever say that out loud.

When I come in from outside, my ‘Hi Honey I’m home’ and ‘How are you, Babe? no longer fall on deaf ears. And I get to practice my American accent. My neighbours are fascinated. They’ve caught me in mid-greeting a couple of times and am sure are wondering who I have stashed away inside the flat. Whoever he is, he’s very quiet…

Hallway: With a dash of green

IMG_4163I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to keep the hallway stark. Black and white are the only colours allowed. But when the flatbed truck arrived with Mr C’s girls, I hadn’t quite realised how many of them there were. And I only have so much ‘top’ to put stuff on. So me and Fred and Ginger (pictured right) are experimenting. I’m hoping that the pair of them will get enough light from the halldoor  to keep creeping. I finally managed to get those top windows to close (brute force) so the draught that was so welcome in the summer is now no more. Life seems to be suiting the pair, though I have noticed a few dead leaves recently. I only hope that I don’t break my neck watering them. It’s quite the climb.

Living room: And out steps David Attenborough

IMG_4156My living room has been taken over by plants. Yucas. Apparently, they’re the worst offenders in the Feng Shui world. But I love them. I was going to have a couple of chairs and a coffee table in the corner on the right so that I could enjoy a coffee in the winter sun, but now that Thelma and Louise have taken up residence, there’s no need. Likewise, with Mo. She’s filling her corner rather well and doing wonders for my diet – I feel like I lose 10lbs by just standing beside her.

I never really had a good sense of depth or space but since this furnishing business started, I’ve almost got the hang of creating the illusion of space. By moving the table cross-ways rather than length-ways, the room doubled in size (well, almost). A strange thought, that… how much of my life is merely an illusion? mmmm…

It’s wonderful having ‘living’ things in the flat. I now have someone to talk to. And it seems healthier, too. IMG_4160 This is Charlie. The poor child spent her first month here wrapped up as I hadn’t realised that her bits had all been folded into the top for the journey over. It was only last week that I pulled on one and it unfurled. She must have been dying – a little like being stuck in a complicated yogic position for weeks! IMG_4157

Marcsi, on the left, was the brave one sent ahead to test me. I hadn’t realised what Mr C was up to, but in order to make the cut as chief guardian, I had to pass the test – keep Marcsi for a couple of months and keep her alive! I passed, obviously. She’s a sweet thing but has been off her food lately. I need to get her a bigger saucer  – twice now I’ve over-watered and watered my bookcase as well (and I know that isn’t a good thing!). IMG_4159

Harold you’ve met before. He was a flat-warming gift from the Foy Winklers. He sits in a bucket of pebbles and seems to be enjoying his harem immensely. This is rather interesting as before the rest of the ladies moved in, he and Maud had to be separated. When the two of them were in the same room, they both took ill. Now that he’s in the living room with his ladies, and she’s reigning queen of the bedroom, both seem to be in fine fettle. I wonder though, if having Michael Collins looking over his shoulder is raining a little on his parade?