2020 Grateful 12: Katharine Hepburn

I’m not loving much about life lately, but the prods the universe send me never cease to amaze me. Read more

2020 Grateful 13: Bajai Halászlé

For years, I’ve been living with the illusion that the standard for fish soup (halászlé – which translates literally as fisherman juice)  was what is made in Szeged, the third-largest city in Hungary with a population of about 160 000. The first time I visited the city, that’s was what I was told. And sure why wouldn’t I believe them? It was on every menu in every restaurant I ate in or passed by. Situated on the banks of the River Tisza and close to Lake Fehér, (white lake) Hungary’s largest saltwater lake, fish are plentiful. Read more

Painted with someone else in mind

I sent a picture of my latest art purchase to a friend. Their reply said it all. Art, they said, is very subjective. And it is. Read more

2020 Grateful 14: Revolutionary spirit

Back in 1956, October 23 marked the first day of a 12-day revolution in Hungary. What began as a spontaneous uprising with thousands taking to the streets demanding freedom from Soviet oppression and a more democratic rule ended badly for so many. Some 12 days later, on November 4, very early in the morning, Soviet tanks rolled into the city to put an end to this insubordination, much to the surprise and shock of those in the West who had lent little more than words of sympathy in support of the beleaguered Hungarians. It’s estimated that more than 2500 Hungarians died and that about 200 000 fled the country. Read more

2020 Grateful 15: As ghoulish as it gets

There one old lady in our village who’s never seen outside without a headscarf. There are a few of them, but the one I’m thinking about wears the traditional hand-pleated skirt over stockings and rides a bike. She’s too bosomy to fit a witch profile but her on her bike is as close it comes to witches on broomsticks in this part of the world. Read more

2020 Grateful 16: Let down by my Rs

I don’t particularly look Irish. I don’t look not Hungarian either. There’s nothing discernable from how I dress or walk or laugh that sets me apart from most Hungarians I know. Except, of course, for when I speak. This is particularly pertinent at flea markets. In Hungary, flea markets are great unlevellers. Even for külföldiek (foreigners) who are well versed in how the markets work, there’s a two-tier system in operation. Read more

Answers on a postcard, please

I was in a big city. I thought it was Dublin but the building-lined road looked very, very wide. London’s Pall Mall came to mind. But the hotels were massive, Vegas-like structures. Wherever I was, it was a big English-speaking city. I was standing by the side of the road watching tens of flatbed trucks go by. Each truck had about 50 glowing brown bodies, naked from the waist up, glistening with sweat. They looked Indian.

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Which is the fairytale?

In this trigger-happy social-media-driven world we live in, I’ve been holding my whist. I love that Irish expression for keeping your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself. But this morning, I was incandescent with rage. Pure, unadulterated rage. I was seething.

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2020 Grateful 17: Gerald Hammond

My dead-people’s dinner table has had an extra seat added to it, somewhat surprisingly as I’ve only just found out that Gerald Hammond is no longer with us. I’ve spent a blissful three weeks or so reading the 13 novels in the Three Oaks series written by the Scottish author. Not believing in coincidence, the day I finished the final book, I read an article in The Guardian about the COVID rule of six not applying to shooting sports in the UK. The headline would normally have been as far as I’d have read, but having spent so much time with John Cunningham (Hammond’s protagonist), I’m giving more thought to game shooting and what’s behind it.

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2020 Grateful 18: That light in the sky

Drawing the curtains in the front room the other night, I noticed a peculiar light in the sky. I watched it for a while, thinking it might move. Maybe it was a low-flying plane. Or a rogue satellite. It looked for all the world like an artist’s rendition of the Star of Bethlehem on a Christmas card. Read more