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?

Bedroom: The finishing touches

IMG_4162I’ve been looking and looking and looking and finally found a rug to tie this half of my bedroom together. The perfect round chobi. (No, it’s not perfectly round… it’s just perfect and round.) It’s the same pattern as the one in the living room, only larger. If you remember, I bought the first one from a chap from Afghanistan who moved to Budapest more than 10 years go. He had a shop on Rakoczi utca that closed down, much to my dismay at the time. Well, he opened up again a few doors up and a few months later, much to my delight. And, lo and behold, he had two circular chobis this time and this one was the one. And he remembered me… and he gave me a present of a lovely brass elephant… and if he hadn’t ruined it all by calling me ‘Missus’ I’d have been walking out of there on cloud nine!

It does make the room, though. It finishes it off nicely. When you’re sitting on the couch in the living room and look through the double doors, it’s like another living room (you can’t see the bed). It does wonders for the sense of space.  Maud likes having something to sit on and Juci (the little thing on the chest of drawers) seems to be enjoying her perch. She was a birthday present from the lovely N & J and although she’s the baby in the family, she seems to be holding her own up there. Her new shoots are coming along nicely. I must say, I am rather pleased with it all. (Wonder where that accent came from?????)


The light in my kitchen is a little strange. I haven’t figured out if this is because of the paint or just because it faces the udvar (courtyard). Mind you, I’m on the top floor so you would imagine that I’d get all the light there was to get, but no. It doesn’t matter though; even if the overhead light is on a lot of the time, it’s still a lovely space.

I have had a fixation with having a blue kitchen ever since I started collecting Denby pottery in 1992. For two years, I bought pieces whenever I had the money. I got it as presents and as ‘thank yous’ for favours done. It stayed in a tea-chest at home from 1994 to 2008 when it finally arrived in Budapest. It’s only now that it’s in daily use that I’ve realised how hard it is to get replacement pieces as Denby discontinue their patterns after a couple of years. It’s a bit like finding a spare part for an old car – you need to wait until someone junks theirs so that you can feed off the pickings!

When I left Valdez, CV gave me the most wonderful wall-hanging that she had outlined in stitch. It must have taken ages. It’s in blues and it needed a home. IMG_3383And I had that wonderful Jon Van Zyle print to hang. That started me thinking: maybe my kitchen should reflect something of how I remember Alaska . So I went for the barren look: ice grey/blue walls; floor tiles that pick out the sparse browny colour of the tundra; lots of blank wall space; a blue marble counter top reflecting the deep blue summer sky (LV thought I was mad buying this as it was the most expensive one in the place, but it was just the right colour and needs must); and plain white units (there are some things Ikea does right!). A number of people have commented on how empty my walls are, so the effect is there.

I struggled somewhat with the appliances though and it took some time find a table and chairs that would blend in the black oven and the dulled stainless steel fridge. But perseverance pays! I found both at Domus, and what a day that was. I mimed my way through the purchase, arranged delivery, paid the bill and even got a VAT receipt, all the time swearing to myself that I’d learn Hungarian. Still, it was only last October….

It took time, too, to find a plant stand for that gorgeous piece of Cool Mountain pottery from Youghal in Co. Cork; one that would look like it was an extension of the floor tile. But again, perseverance paid off. Another find in the BAV on Jaszai Márie tér. Not one normally blessed with such patience, I’ve watched AMcC wait until she finds exactly what she wants and some of that patience must have rubbed off; or perhaps it is the effect she creates by getting exactly the right piece that sold me on biding my time.

IMG_3739On my travels to NE Hungary recently, I came across some exquisite cross stitch work. I love the detail. Having watched a couple of women actually doing it, I realised how time-intensive it is. Funny, until SJ explained it to me not long ago, I has horrified at the cost of some of the lace and embroidery work in the shops in Budapest. But when you divide that end sum by the number of hours it must have taken to do, what you come up with falls far short of the minimum wage. Photographers charge hundreds for their photos; artists charge thousands for their paintings and yet each napkin, tablecloth, runner, is an original work of art, painstakingly created by hand. Ok, so the patterns may not differ too much, but each one is hand stitched. I have a whole new respect for the threaded arts; such patience is priceless.

The one thing that I’m missing is a narrow, black wrought iron book-case to put at the end of the kitchen units…one that will house my cookbooks. I carry the measurements in my bag, and one of these days, it’ll find me!

Guest room: And room for a guest or two…

I didn’t sleep very well last night. I’d read a beach book in one sitting and bawled through it… you know, the usual story: wife dies, dad takes kids and moves home, runs for judge, solves a murder, stands up to the bigots and racists and falls in love with the local lesbian. It was way too much emotion for my little mind at that hour of the night. So, instead of counting sheep, I tried counting my visitors. Since I moved to the Ghetto in November last year, this little room has seen 11 sets of visitors. That is the collective word for visitors, isn’t it? Set? Or is it ‘lot’? mmmm…..

IMG_0725Anyway, 17 people have stayed with me in the last 7 months.  In all my travels and all the flats I’ve had, this has to be a record. Ok, so visiting Alaska would have involved a little bit of planning, California ain’t to everyone’s taste and Chichester… well, enough said! Safe to say, though, that Budapest is proving to be extremely popular. I even have some visitors on their second or third go around. Not bad at all! On at least two occasions, I dropped someone off at Terminal 1 to take the Ryan Air flight to Dublin and then bussed to Terminal 2A to meeting another lot coming in from London. Talk about revolving doors! Am sure my neighbours are wondering what’s going on. It’s not like they can even put an ‘average’ age to the faces… it runs the full gamut from 17 to 70 but they all have one thing in common – they love life!

Mind you, if my visitors show up in pairs, then I’m a little less inclined to do a full guided weekend – I figure a quick whip around on the first night so that they can get their bearings and find their way home is grand. Then it’s map, keys, catchyalater. I mean, ‘cmon, if I’d had to walk through the marzipan museum 11 times, or had to spend a total of 27.5 hours in the House of Terror, I’d be suicidal by now. Wining and dining I can find time for… then I get to try something new, too. I’ve even suggested on two occasions that they fly into Bratislava and out of Budapest. I catch the train to Slovakia and we stay over one night before coming back to Budapest,IMG_1849.

Guest bedrooms are always a difficult one – striking that balance between oestrogen and testosterone  when it comes to colour, style and taste can be challenging. I found the duvet cover in Chichester and it tied in so nicely with the slates (bought in Co Clare years ago on a roadtrip with Macker) and my celtic cross (a rather odd find in Valdez, Ak) that it had to be the feature for the room. Everything else was built around it. It’s my homage to home – two homes actually, Alaska and Ireland. My gran’s graduating certificate from Oxford, the deed to my little plot of land in Kennicott, Alaska, a picture of the house my mum grew up in that was used by British Airways in an ad campaign…. stuff I’ve been carting around for years! The chairs I found in a second-hand shop at the back of the Grand Market. A good find. The cushions came from parna, a treasure trove of great vintage linens, and are hand-embroidered here. So intricate and yet so simple.

If you look really closely, you’ll see my window box. For weeks I was the only one on my emelet (floor) without flowers on my sills. I didn’t want to give in to peer pressure, albeit silent, but I was beginning to think I was living in the valley of the squinting windows. So I compromised. Boxes yes, flowers no. Trees and shrubs instead. That’s conforming with a lowercase ‘c’!

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.

Bedroom: All I want for Christmas is a clerk’s chair

img_1001Don’t be deceived. This may look like an ordinary chest of drawers to the undiscerning eye, but it’s actually so much more. One of the joys of trawling through antique shops, junk shops, and flea markets is that you get to find out, first hand, how tetchy the staff are about you opening and closing drawers and presses (cupboards for the Americans and English). Some verge on apoplexy if you so much as lift the edge of a macassar whereas others would happily let you see if you could crawl into the wardrobe and bring your friend with you. That element of childish ‘let’s see how far I can push it’ is quite amusing and certainly adds to the experience. As does wandering around wearing a backpack… amazing how some of us get our kicks eh?

On those rare occasions when you open up a drawer or a door and find something unexpected, it’s even better! Then you can oooh and ahhh out loud, and when the other shoppers gather around, you know your hand is the one on the handle and you’re the one with first dibs.

Such was the case in the BAV on Jaszai Maria tér a couple of weeks ago. February 12. I’ve been looking for a chest of drawers. Any I’ve seen have been either in poor condition or very expensive. Or the drawers weren’t deep enough. Or it wasn’t high enough. Or the handles weren’t pretty enough. This one I liked the look of, and liked the price. And when I opened it, it practically called my name. And everyone else heard it, too. In a matter of seconds, there were two others around me, chattering away and looking as if they were wondering how to make me disappear.


How cool is this eh? The front of the top drawer is opens out to form a writing table! Now, with my short legs, I can stand and write quite comfortably. Not a long letter though, more of a short note, or maybe a cheque. Any lengthier correspondence will require a clerk’s chair…

When it was delivered, I found a CD of Beethoven’s Violin concertos in one of the little drawers. An added bonus! I just love it. The other three drawers are deep and wide, so it’s just perfect for me. It is missing its keys though – so four more to add to the list. I could make a career out of key shopping!

I’m not sure of the vintage – I’d say Victorian – any of you have any ideas? I thought it might have been a Bachelors chest, but it doesn’t have the shallow top drawer for the shaving foam! It’s old though. And I wanted something old and gold to put on the top. I’m getting quite protective of my tops lately and don’t want it ruined by an oil ring from a makeup bottle.

img_0999Now, you know how Sundays are my ‘day of rest’ – literally. Sam Waterston himself couldn’t drag me out of bed before noon (mmm actually, he would be a very good reason for me to stay in bed even longer).

Well, this Sunday just gone, I was up at the crack of dawn and getting off the metro in Szechenyi at 7.50 am heading for the Petofi flea market. My first time. And what an experience! A new venue on my guided tourist route.  Anyway, I was with the Queen of Vintage who was shopping for linens and I found this embroidered table runner. The picture doesn’t do it justice. The detail is exquisite. And if I’m to believe the woman who sold it to me, it once lived in a castle owned by them who had the monogram RB. And sure why wouldn’t I?

Getting a name for myself

Picture it. Saturday morning. Downtown Pest. The tourists, those brave enough to stumble out into the cold, are wandering through Raday útca wondering why their mates told them this was the ‘hot spot’ in town. Their mates, no doubt, had visited in summer, when Raday is indeed a hot spot. Packed to capacity with café table and chairs, it’s the main restaurant drag in town. You can eat your way around the world and find somewhere new and more exciting every night. This time of year though, it’s deserted. Not even the bravest soul with the warmest blanket would last long in the biting cold of Budapest. Nonetheless, there were a few around, with cameras, to witness my ‘bringing the lamp home’. Yes, another lamp.

This one was too big to take on the tram; and I was too cheap to buy a ticket for it to travel on the metro. So, I walked it home. And it was heavy. I  set it down to wait for passing traffic to clear; whatever about getting myself knocked down…. An unsuspecting couple came around the corner and did a stop and stare while another chap across the road pulled out his camera. Honestly, you’d think no-one had ever seen a girl take her lamp for a walk before!

New pages: So ugly it’s beautiful; All I want for Christmas is a Clerk’s Chair.

Bedroom: Low lights and high ceilings

Who would have thought that 4-metre-high ceilings were high enough to make a resonably sized light seem rather small? It surprised me no end. There I was thinking this latest acquisition would drop too far down…   It’s a little worn in places perhaps, with a crack or two in the bowls – it’s been around a little while, though it’s no-where near as old as its roomates.

img_09661I haven’t paid much attention to lights until lately – and now that I’m in the market for a chandelier (csillár) or two, I’m amazed at how many there are and how fine the line is between taste and tat. Some of them look amazing in the distance and not so wonderful up close. Mind you, the tallest person I know would have a hard time getting up close and personal with this light!

One lovely thing about this city is that you can stumble on an Aladdin’s cave every day of the week. There are so many nooks and corners selling everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. And, like the Zebras’ survival mechanism (pack up close so the lions can’t tell one of us from the other), some of the larger lighting emporiums are just too much! It’s impossible to pick. That’s why the smaller shops or those that only have a few lights are the best bet.img_09651

The BAV on Margit Korut in Buda is one such place. It is on the verge of ‘too much’ yet has just the right amount to whet your appetite without dulling your senses. To really appreciate the aesthetics, you need to see a light on its own. Just it, the ceiling and the room it will inhabit. What can look so right in the shop (I have three of these failures) can morph into something hideous on the journey home. I was lucky with this one.

What I like about it is the quirkiness (and the price helped a lot, too – a markdown from 45000 ft to 30000 ft ($130, €100, £90)). The hanging baubles are just the right side of naff and hopefully will catch the sun during the day. It was the organgey-green vein-like pattern that swung it for me, though. Perhaps there’s something for the shrink to analyze there!