2014 Grateful 4

Last week started off well and finished well – but the bits in between I could live without repeating. If I’d charted my emotional well-being, my mood, my perspective, I’d have gotten a somewhat erratic line drawing with highs and lows and bits in between. And as the highs and lows were extreme – it was exhausting – and I’m knackered.

Some time ago, when the best of medical minds were wavering about how to treat my MS-like symptoms, given that I don’t have MS, they came up with the bright idea of anti-depressants. Those little white pills would, apparently, make me feel right again. No more pins and needles, no more fatigue, no more legs giving way, no more mind/brain disconnect where my reactions are a second behind my brain’s instruction to the point when I drop stuff and burn myself. Just one pill a day and all this would disappear. Or so they said.

Strangely, I wasn’t at all tempted. I’m not a doctor. I don’t have a medical degree. And I’m not that into a Google-ised self-diagnosis. Many lifetimes ago, however, I did suffer from depression and for two years took those pills and lived in a world that was flat – no highs, no lows. They gave me time to heal, took away the anxiety, the paranoia, the despair. They helped me function. For that period in my life, they worked. And I was grateful for them because I was depressed. Today, I’m not.

The symptoms still come and go and always the recommended treatment stays the same. But I’ve gotten attached to my highs and lows and can’t imagine going back to flatlining where everything was the same. Instead of popping little white pills, I prefer the company of good friends who understand the madness and don’t feel the need to fix me.

WheelSaturday was a case in point. What was to be a quick spin around the Christmas market at Vörösmarty tér turned into dinner at a restaurant I’d not been to before, followed by a turn on the Eye (another thing off my bucket list), followed by some good music and great conversation. Lost in another world on the way home, I missed my stop and ended up in a part of the VIIIth I’d never seen. Walking through the streets of Budapest at daybreak on a cold December morning was all the tonic I needed. To see the world slowly waking and to have the time to pause and reflect on my part in it was therapeutic. To have people in my life who can turn my mood and make me laugh and bring me out of myself when the doubts set in is a blessing. To know myself well enough to be able to avoid the pills and ride the waves – that’s something for which I’m truly grateful.

 

Stop *&^!* thief!

The first Advent candle has been lit and the countdown to Christmas has officially begun. December is one of my favourite months of the year. The biting chill in the air is nicely combated by a warm infusion of mulled wine. The party mood is palpable. The markets are open and the city has a fairy-tale feel. I left the flat on Tuesday full of the joys of the season and just thirty minutes later my mood (and my language) had degenerated into that of a blaspheming fishwife. I surprised myself at the breadth of my invective – I hadn’t thought I was capable of such anger.

pp2My phone was stolen from my zipped-up bag while on the 47 tram. It happened as I crossed Széchenyi híd from Gellert tér to Fóvam tér. One stop. I didn’t notice until I went to pay for a coffee in the Grand Csarnok; the tourists queuing alongside me were treated to a strange mix of Hungarian, Gaelic, and English, as every bad word I knew came billowing out of me in a torrent of abuse directed at the world in general and one person in particular.

I don’t know what’s worse – that I didn’t notice it happening or that it happened at all.

I know it’s a first world problem – in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t herald the end of civilisation. Nobody died. It’s an inconvenience, albeit an expensive one, but just an inconvenience nonetheless.

If the culprit stole it just because they could, I’m not impressed. If they stole it to sell to feed a drug habit, I could drum up some modicum of sympathy. If they stole it to sell to buy food for their aging parents or starving children, then I could admit that they needed it more than I did.

But it’s not the loss of the phone itself that has my dander up – I won it a few years ago in a raffle so it didn’t cost me anything – it’s what was on the SIM card. Texts from my mate Lori before she died; Viber conversations that I like to revisit when I’m in need of cheering up; photos that I’ve taken to remind myself of books I want to read and wines I want to taste. The phone numbers, the addresses, the entry codes to friends’ apartments, none of which, of course, I thought to back up. Why would I?

Other people lose their phones or have them stolen. Not me. I had prided myself on being a little more careful. It could have been worse – they could have taken my wallet, too, and then I’d be facing an even worse nightmare as I made my way around town in an effort to replace my address card, my registration card, my driver’s licence, not to mention credit cards, debit cards, and my kidney donor card.

ppNo, it’s not the phone – it’s what the act itself represents. An invasion of privacy. A violation of self. An unwanted intrusion into my world that was neither solicited nor welcomed. If I met the culprit I’d ask them if they’d ever thought to weigh up their profit against someone else’s loss? They might get 5000 forint for the phone but the information I had on it was priceless, to me. I’d have much preferred just to give them the cash. Or even have them call me and offer me my phone back – at a price. A survey in Business Insider earlier this year puts me in the minority – just 5% of smartphone thefts are done on the street. It also puts me in the majority – I’d be prepared to pay to get it back. Perhaps though, that says more about my enslavement than it does about anything else.

First published in the Budapest Times 5 December 2014

Pass the bottle

Agggh! Stop it! Have mercy! There is a limit to how much information this brain can take, particularly when it doesn’t correspond to the message that went before it. If you call yourself a scientist and do scientific studies and then publish your results, would it be too much to ask that you at least try to correlate those results with someone else? Some other scientist perhaps? Or at least provide a rating of how credible your results are? (Mind you, that hasn’t really worked with the hotel industry, has it?)

Instead, you publish and then before the ink is dry on your paper, some other equally qualified (?) expert says your findings are a load of nonsense. Now, ye can both sit in lab and go back and forth arguing yere respective cases – ye have the facts, the education, and the time to do it. But what of me?

IMG_5324 (600x800)Just when I’ve gotten my head around the ‘fact’ that alcohol is bad for me (yes, I know it makes me do stupid things and that were I to drink excessive amounts regularly, it would fry my liver and it does play havoc with my eyes – I’m not completely stupid), I find out that this might not be the case after all? What am I to think?

This latest report, from a former World Health Organisation alcohol expert says that drinking is only harmful when you consume more than 13 units a day. And there’s only about 10 units in a bottle of wine, ergo a bottle of wine a day would do me no harm. Now, before you get as excited as I did – the report was published in the Daily Mail. Do with that what you may. The think-tank 2020health weighed in, too, saying: ‘This is an unhelpful contribution to the debate. It makes grand claims which we don’t see evidence for. Alcohol is a toxin, the risks outweigh the benefits.’ So there are benefits?

According to the report, moderate drinking is better than abstinence but heavy drinking is worse than abstinence. The question I can’t get out of my head is whether a bottle of wine a day can be construed as moderate? Every day? mmmmm

There is so much conflicting information out there that I’m pulling my hair out in an effort to make sense of it all. For every scientific report in favour of anything, there’s another against. It’s terribly difficult for an undereducated mind to know what to believe. I’m left to interpret what information I have to hand, filtering it through the prism of prior experience and personal knowledge, yet there is always the danger that I’ll choose the wrong interpretation. But by then it’s usually too late to avoid the damage.

Another glass of wine, anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

Dum spiro, spero

Way back when I, at the tender age of 12, was choosing subjects that would decide what I was going to be when I grew up, I could have opted to take Latin. Instead I went for French. There are few things I regret in life, but if I had to dredge the memory bank for just one, that would be it. I should have taken Latin.

A good friend of mine, the inimitable BA, who lives down by the Balaton, is fond of quoting in Latin. I particularly like his prayer before drinking:

Ex humore merum cui fecit diva potestas
Christe, refecturis humilibus benedic

Christ, for whom divine power made wine from water,
bless the humble ones about to turn some back

I have a love/hate relationship with the language – I hate the fact that I feel so stupid when I don’t understand what’s being said and yet I love when I discover the meaning. His latest contribution to my ever-expanding Latin vocabulary was dum spiro, spero – where there’s life, there’s hope.

latinI’ve been flitting around the idea of learning the language, but then remind myself that  I might be better served learning Hungarian. Yet there is a host of free resources available online and I could learn from the comfort of my own flat, at a time I chose. Learning Hungarian would be of more use, though, and my brain power is limited.

[I was surprised to see that a couple of the Harry Potter books have been translated into Latin, as has Rebilius Crusoe (Robinson Crusoe). Who’d have thought it? ]

latin2But there are dangers in taking up Latin – especially for someone who has been known to make the occasional (ahem) incorrect assumption. Apparently, in Latin, one word can have many meanings, which gives rise to many idiomatic phrases. Translating individual words from Hungarian usually adds up to a semi-coherent message in English (not the other way around, though). But not so in Latin. The dangers of making false assumptions about a word’s meaning, or, worse still, seeing it as a single word and not part of a phrase, can wreak all sorts of havoc. Take the phrase hominem e medio tollere – to kill a person. My painstaking effort to translate resulted in ‘to remove a man from the middle’.

I’m tempted to replace my usual greeting of ‘What’s up?’ to ‘quid agis?’ Sounds classier, no? And what about these for conversational accessories?

  • docendo disco, scribendo cogito (I learn by teaching, think by writing)
  • in omnia paratus (ready for anything)
  • memento vivere (remember to live)
  • de gustibus non est disputandum (in matters of taste, there can be no disputes)

Mind you, Latin does have a certain pretentiousness about it, which lends itself beautifully to those (meí?) wanting to sound more intelligent than they actually are. Cue the phenomenon of dog Latin – dropping any vowels from the end of an English word and adding  -us, -icus, or -ium. Remember The Vicar of Dibley, and the Horton family motto Veni, vidi, brutus spearium gloriosus, which is Dog Latin for (in David Horton’s words) ‘I came, I saw, I tore the thick bastard limb from limb.’

The Art of Manliness has a great blog post on Latin, if you’re interested in reading more.

 

2014 Grateful 5

I’m a sucker for romance. Always have been. I had thought that I might grow out of it as maturity set in and idealism gradually morphed into cynicism. But no. I wrote earlier this week about Aron who, in the movie For some inexplicable reason, tracked down a ticket controller to invite her out for a cream cake. And while I didn’t get any such invitation, what happened was just as good.

I’ve been promising myself for two weeks that I wouldn’t get out of bed yesterday. I was going to stay offline completely – no laptop – and just have a day to do nothing. But even though I didn’t set my alarm, I woke up, as usual, at 7.30 am. Not impressed I got up, wandered around, and then went back to bed. At 9 am I woke once again to the sound of the doorbell.

I was tempted to ignore it but I knew that if I did, I’d spend the day wondering who had been there. So I got up, sans glasses, and answered it. A young girl – a stranger – stood outside. Mary Murphy? she asked. Igen (yes), I replied. Ezeket neked (these are for you), she said, handing me a bunch of flowers. And with a final Szép napot (have a nice day), she turned and left.

I called out a belated thank you, and took my flowers inside. Still half-asleep and sans glasses, I put them in water and went back to bed. I lasted until 2pm before giving up the ghost and getting up – properly this time.

flower1I went in to check my flowers to see where they’d come from. The usual plastic sprong with the little envelope and card was missing. Now, I’ve just finished the eighth of twelve books in the Inspector Morse series (I’ve been reading them back to back) so my detective skills are at an all time high. I made a coffee and sat down to figure it all out.

The flowers hadn’t come naked, as they usually do if delivered from a florist. They’d been wrapped in paper as they are when you buy directly. The girl didn’t ask me to sign anything either, so it wasn’t a florist who delivered them.  mmmmm….

I looked again for a note – and this time found it amidst the stems. Typed. One line. I meant that you should discover me so, by my faint indirections. I recognised that … a line from my favourite Walt Whitman poem Among the multitudeIntriguing.

But unless it’s someone who knows me (as the poem might suggest – or was that coincidence?), how did they know where I live? My address isn’t on my business card, deliberately. But then I Googled me and found that with a registered company name anyone can get the address. So that opened the pool a little as I’ve been handing out more cards than usual lately. The plot thickened. I wracked my brain for a while but couldn’t come up with any possibles. Romance has been a little thin on the ground in my world. Until now 🙂

There’s a lot to be said for it. Romance, that is. I read a post on FB this morning that served as a sharp reminder that sometimes it can be left too late. Too often, while we might start out with grand romantic gestures, these fade over time as the more mundane reality sets in. Equally, we might confuse the ‘grand’ with expensive, expansive, and excessive, when in most cases the simpler the better.

I’ve a lot to be grateful for this week – including Thanksgiving and turkey leftovers – but I’m especially grateful for the thought behind the flowers. If you’re reading this, thank you. You made my day. And you never know:- you might inspire others to revisit the romance in their lives, too.

 

 

 

Down to a fine art at Psychart24

I took Art in school. I can’t draw but in my early teens I quite fancied myself as an impressionist. Daubing various splotches of different colour paint on a canvas and trying to make them look vaguely like something was therapeutic. My trees morphed into waterfalls and my meadows into oceans, depending on how my paint ran. My frustration lay in the fact that in my mind’s eye I could see exactly what I wanted to render on paper, but somehow, that vision never made it from my brain to my brush.

I’ve stood in front of some paintings in galleries, wondering at the mind behind the madness on the canvas. I’ve seen adult work that could have been improved or bettered by a four-year-old. In my ignorance, I’m quite critical. I’m no expert. I’m more familiar with what I like than with what I’m supposed to like. And whether or not the artist is known or unknown is irrelevant.

Despite my ignorance, paintings fascinate me. I might go back five or six times to visit a piece before buying – just to be sure that it sits well with me. Right now, I’m obsessing over a painting that is being exhibited at a new gallery down on Üllői út – my street. The gallery is like a breath of fresh air on a thoroughfare that is rapidly lining itself with bars selling 4 cl of Jagermeister for 290 ft!

The bright, spacious premises that is 60-62 Üllői út, is now home to Budapest Art Brut Galéria. The walls are lined with bright, colourful paintings painted during a recent 24-hour paint marathon. Curiosity got the better of me this week and I went inside.

The Moravcsik Foundation started in 1991 with the sole aim of contributing to the treatment and rehabilitation of psychiatric patients through art therapy. In 2005, it helped create an art therapy workshop within the nearby Psychiatric Clinic at Semmelweiss University. In 2006, the artists’ work was first introduced to the public in an effort to reshape its perception of those living with psychiatric illnesses.

Psychart1 (800x531)Psychart24 saw Art Brut artists working alongside professional and amateur artists for 24 hours to produce final pieces that were then adjudicated by a panel of judges. A number were chosen for exhibition and sale in this new gallery. Beside each painting sits the name of the artist – just their name. There’s no mark showing whether or not they’re patients. And while the price of each painting might speak to how good it is, it’s no indication of the mental state of the artist. I was enthralled.

There are many artistic luminaries whose sanity has been questioned over time. Be it Picasso and clinical depression or Van Gogh and bi-polar, somehow art has always been tinged with a little bit of creative insanity.

Herman Melville posited: ‘Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colours, but where exactly does the first one blindingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity.’

The gallery is worth a visit. It gives jobs to people with psycho social problems who are undergoing treatment at the University; their work at the gallery is part of their therapy. The Foundation employs about 14 ‘healthy’ people including therapist helpers, a psychiatrist, art manager, and about 50 patients.  It’s a wonderful concept and offers a rare insight into the working minds of others. You can also buy candles, decorations, notebooks, leather goods, and wooden games, all produced by the Art Brut artists – perfect for Christmas. There are various art programmes for everyone; check them out on Facebook or at the website: www.artbrut.hu

First published in the Budapest Times 28 November 2014

A good 'un in the making

The world is getting smaller by the day.  A friend of mine in Palm Springs, California, emailed me to say that they’d heard an interview with a young musician, George Ezra, where he talked about his song Budapest. They mentioned that he was going to play a gig in the city this month. I checked and it was true. I’d not heard a thing about it here, but did get tickets.

It was on at the Akvárium Klub – a place with a rather spotted political history and one I don’t particularly care for, even before it was taken from one and given to another. But the tickets, at 4500 ft (€15 / $20) were a steal and I so wanted to hear how he sang the Budapest song live. I’d only ever heard it sung live by the inimitable Jess Leen and wanted to compare.

He started lezra2ate – nearly 45 minutes after the support act left the stage and he played for just 50. Fair enough – he only has the one album to draw on. His banter needs work but am sure he’ll grow into it – and that’s me being really critical.  I was by far in the minority age-wise and everyone else in the room seemed to be happy enough.

His sound, to this untrained ear, is all over the place. I heard shades of country, of Wham!, of Bowie, and while many of his songs failed to fully deliver on their promise of greatness, the potential is definitely there. I reckon in a few years’ time, when he figures it all out, I’ll be getting tickets again. He does have an amazing voice for a young lad who looks like he’s just made his confirmation.

The video he did for Listen to the man (my new favourite of his – am partial to anything that tells me I don’t need a plan 🙂 ) was shot with Ian McKellen – one of my all time favourite actors. A must watch.

It must be amazing to be so young and to have such a huge following. To be centre stage doing what you love to do and have everyone applaud, and ask for more. To have featured with Ian McKellen, too? What a life – and it’s only starting. Apparently Ezra’s 2015 tour sold out in 10 minutes. The boy’s got talent.

For some inexplicable reason

It’s been ages since I’ve been to the pictures. I generally catch up on what’s playing when I’m on a plane or when the DVD goes on sale. I’d forgotten how much I used to enjoy it. When I was living in Oxford, I had a membership card with the local arts cinema and saw everything that they showed. Likewise in Chichester. It’s a habit that I’ve gotten out of and one that I need to get back into again.

For weeks now some of my friends here in Budapest have been banging on about a low-budget Hungarian film  – For some inexplicable reason – that is so good, people actually applaud at the end. No one really explained what it was about so I went tonight on recommendations alone.

Written and directed by Gabor Reisz (a first movie for him), it’s nothing shy of brilliant. A review in the Hollywood Reporter describes it as an ‘unpolished debut’ but if this is unpolished, then Hollywood can keep its sheen.

Aron (Aron Ferenczik) has just turned 29. An unemployed film history graduate, he’s floundering in a world that wants him to wear a shirt and conform. His girlfriend, Eszter (Juli Jakab) has dumped him, taking everything with her. She took her hairs from the drain and left me, he tells us. How could you not fall for a man who would even notice they were missing?

Seeing Budapest on screen, the pubs and places I go to, the trams I take, the streets I cross, was all a little surreal. Seeing the family dynamics in action was hilarious (Zsolt Kovacs is brilliant as his dad).  Seeing his friends in all their normalcy was compelling. This is a movie about life – it doesn’t require any great imagination and far from transporting me into a world of fiction and fantasy, it was like getting a peak at a reality from a rather clever perspective.

And it gave me something to think about. Aron’s fixation with a childhood incident at school where his friends stood by and watched him get beaten up was an uncomfortable reminder of some of the grudges (thankfully they are few) that I hold. On my way home, I made a conscious decision to let them go. That was worth the ticket price alone.

His bumbling confession to Eva Ink (Kata Bach), a ticket controller he meets on the tram and tracks down to ask out was endearing. She thought him mad. I thought him fabulous and wished, not for the first time, that there were more men like him the world.

His blithering rant at the young one he picks up one night should be mandatory watching for anyone coming of age – it was certainly a shout-out to the sisters.

Aron isn’t a drinker but pushed to the limit he goes on a binge and wakes up the next morning having bought a ticket to Lisbon (sort of puts anything I’ve ever done in the shade). He goes. And he comes back. And somewhere in the interim he makes his peace with the world.

My friend KT asked me afterwards if it was a universal theme or one that was uniquely Hungarian. Would it travel, she wondered? Variety reports that the World Sales Rights have been bought by a Paris outfit. And Reisz himself has said:

Only if we create something meaningful, that has a relatable story, can we have a better chance of exporting our film in and beyond our borders.

It’s universal. It’ll travel. It’s a film worth watching. And one worth buying to watch again. It’s on my shopping list.

[How come I didn’t know about the great Hungarian jewelry design shop in Művész? Shame on me. ]

 

2014 Grateful 6

A hectic week in Geneva at the Geneva Internet Conference (GIC) was followed by an equally hectic weekend in Budapest for Jack Doyle’s 5th Birthday.  I am knackered. Looking at the week ahead, it seems that there’s be little in the way of rest there either. I’m tempted to see it all as a practice run for Christmas and the New Year, but secretly I’m hoping that December will be a quiet one. The older I get, the more I realise that I have a limited amount of energy and what I have in reserve needs to be restored on a regular basis. I can’t keep taking from the pot without putting back. Burning the candles at both ends is not for the fainthearted.

In Jelen last night for a quick bite after the final showing of Pretext from Budapest English Theatre, there was an odd combination on stage: a DJ and a double-bass player.  The DJ played techno tunes and the bass player played along – beautiful.

LaurieWhile I’m not a great fan of techno music, I was recently introduced to Laurie Anderson (she who was once married to Lou Reed and who, in her lovely tribute to him in Rolling Stone, summed up their relationship beautifully: For 21 years we tangled our minds and hearts together).  I’m not even sure if it is techno music – or what the definition of that it – but in my world, that describes it perfectly. In our Sleep – a duet with Reed – is one of my favourites.  Born, never asked is haunting. Perhaps what she does is more performance art? I don’t know. Am not musically literate enough to say.

jelen (400x428)Anyway, back to last night and the two boys. I don’t know who they are or what they go by. Exhaustion had kicked in and I wasn’t compos mentis enough to ask or note. But it was lovely. And, given the fact that the GIC had addressed the issue of silos in Internet governance, i.e., where many international organisations, both from the UN and civil society, address the same issues (e.g. cybersecurity) from different perspectives (e.g. health, development, human rights) and rarely talk to each other, this melding of two very different musical forms into a coherent whole gave me pause for thought.

Instead of focusing on our differences, perhaps we might be better served by concentrating on what we have in common. Instead of sticking to our guns and fighting our individual corners and angles, perhaps we might get further if we attempted to seek a compromise. Instead of creating an us-and-them world, we might start thinking and talking in terms of we and our.

I’m not for a minute saying that we should blend into an amorphous whole and lose our sense of individuality – that would be boring. I just think that the sum of the parts is often greater than the sum of the whole.

There are people with whom we work well – people who bring out the best in us, who have a complementary set of skills, who know how to deal with our quirks and follies. And there are people with whom working is, well, work. The same goes for relationships.  I know the drama queen in me gravitates towards calm and when on holiday, I’d so much prefer that other person (or people) to be organised and in charge. You don’t get to be one vowel from venerable, age wise, without recognising your limitations, and giving the nod to your strengths and weaknesses. But perhaps admitting them to the world is a little more daunting.

Today, mid-way between two hectic weeks, I’m grateful for the reminder that difference should be both celebrated and exploited for its potential. I’m grateful, too, that my self-delusions are few and that my energy reserves run deep. And I’m grateful that I have a sleep-in scheduled for next Saturday 🙂

 

 

 

 

Save Christmas till December

I’ve been known, on occasion, to talk to myself – out loud. It can be rather disconcerting for passersby who happen to overhear the argument I’m having, especially when there is no visible evidence that I’m in talking to anyone but me. No headphones, no microphone, no phone at all. Usually they tend to give me a wide berth. Sometimes they stand and watch, particularly if my argument involves my pacing up and down the street as I try to decide which way I’m going. Yes, there is dark side to us all.

I was down near Boráros tér the other day. I’d popped into Spar. I’d never been into this particular branch before and as I tried to figure out where the shop entrance was (it’s in the basement, if you’re interested), I saw a Christmas tree, fully decorated, standing near the door. I stopped and let out a very loud ‘Oh, for goodness sake – it’s only November!’ The security guard might have missed my meaning but he certainly caught my exasperation and from his resigned shrug, I reckon he was in complete agreement.

farmerI’ve never noticed Christmas coming early to Budapest. Yes, I’ve complained when it hits before the prescribed date – 8 December – and when it lasts longer than the deadline – 6 January, but I’ve never seen it appear this early. Of course, that prescription is one I’ve brought with me from home. The 8th of December is known in Ireland as Farmers’ Christmas; it’s the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation, and traditionally the day when nearly every farmer in the country headed to Dublin to do their Christmas shopping, heralding the start of the season. The 6th of January is known as Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas) – another feast day – this time of the Epiphany. This is traditionally when the women of Ireland get to celebrate after weeks of hard slog in the kitchen, while the men stay home and do the work. It brings the season to a close.

Christmas outside Christmas is, for me, evidence of our growing obsession with consumerism, or perhaps, more correctly, evidence of the market’s (natural) growing obsession with consumers. The more time we have to shop, the more money we will spend; so it follows that the longer the lead-up to Christmas is, the larger their profit margin.

I get the fact that our antipodean friends celebrate Christmas in July (as a bit of fun, but still mainly Christmas in December). I understand their need to have the holiday in the cold. My first Christmas in California was so surreal that I simply couldn’t take it seriously – eating turkey in shorts and a t-shirt, al fresco, in hot weather just didn’t do it for me. July or December works. But not November.

Christmas marks the end of yet another year. It’s like the last hurrah before a new chapter begins. It’s a time of homecoming, of reckoning, of forgiveness, of goodwill. It’s when the goodness in most of us spills over and we become nicer people, however temporarily. And you’d think that would be something I’d welcome?

US president Calvin Coolidge reckoned that ‘Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.’ And in an ideal world, I’d be right there on the podium with him. But as the cynic in me screams commercialism, even the idealist in me says you can get too much of a good thing – so please, World, save Christmas till December.

First published in the Budapest Times  21 November 2014