2013 Grateful 1

It’s hard to believe that yet another year has passed. This is the last of 52 posts in the Grateful 2013 series, an idea inspired by the inimitable BMcD a couple of years ago. Had you told me then, Biddy, how much my life would have changed as a result, I’d probably have laughed in something approaching a quiet disbelief.

I’ve waded through shelves of self-help books in my time and recognised a common thread in the importance of giving thanks, of being grateful. Admittedly, I was a little skeptical when it came to believing that the more I give thanks, the more the universe responds. But now, two years later, I am living testimony to the fact that it does work. Life is good – damn good.

This year has been one filled with old friends, new friends, old new friends, and new old friends. To all of you who have touched my life, no matter how tangentially, thank you. You may never know the difference you have made. Even those nasty encounters with meanness and pettiness served as a stark contrast to the kindness and support that was much more visible and as a reminder of all that is good about human nature.

I thought I’d wrap up this year by sharing some quotations – words of others who have so beautifully captured my wish for you all in 2014:

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.Epicurus

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.Ralph Waldo Emerson

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.Eckhart Tolle

Go raibh mile maith agaibh go léir.

Boldog újevet.

 

 

2013 Grateful 2

I live a life without issue, that is I have no children. I can’t ever remember wanting to have children but that said, I wouldn’t have objected had the good Lord seen fit to bless me with an offspring or two. But it wasn’t to be. As a child, I used to dream of fostering, of adopting – ever since I saw the documentary narrated by Henry Winkler: Who are the DeBolts and where did they get 19 kids?

I love my nephews. I have two. They regularly remind me that I cannot include patience amongst my many virtues. They amaze me with their logic, untarnished as it is by the shoulds and should nots they will inevitably adopt as their own. I am fascinated with other people’s kids and occasionally irritated by their poor behaviour. I find myself increasingly wondering when children started parenting the adults and when adults lost control.

There’s a saying that just about the time you start realising your parents were right, your kids start telling you you’re wrong. My parents were strict and I promised myself that I’d be a lot more lenient with my kids, were I to have any. But I know now, with the benefit of hindsight, that I’d have been even stricter. Perhaps its just as well my maternal gene is in abeyance.

That said though, Christmas is a kid’s holiday. It saddens me that it’s become less and less about Christ’s birthday, and more and more about Santa Claus… and getting stuff. It upsets me that big ticket items like iPads and sound systems have replaced the dolls and teddy bears of old. I’m lucky. I have practically everything I need and get a far greater kick out of giving than receiving. It’s the opening of the present that I like – once it’s opened, I’m not beyond rewrapping it and giving it to someone else, thus multiplying the pleasure. Want vs need – that’s what it all boils down to. Give me the stuff memories are made of any day over something I have to find a home for.

IMG_9306 (800x600) (800x600)But I digress. Back to kids. My mates in Zurich sold me on the trip when they told me about the singing Christmas tree. I couldn’t quite imagine what they were talking about and just had to go see in person. I challenge the most hardened Bah! Humbug! to do the same and then tell me that they still don’t like Christmas.

Just a few steps from Bahnhofstrasse, tucked away in a little Christmas market, with plenty of glühwein choirs take to the tree at 17.30 and 18.30 every weekday evening from late November. Initially hidden from the crowds, they suddenly pop out and start singing. Gobsmackingly cute.

The concept came from Bellhaven University in the USA where, in 1933, the first living tree was conceived. Since then, it has spread across the world to Canada, the Philippines, Switzerland, South Korea, and Sri Lanka. Back in 2007, the one at Knoxville, Tennessee, attracted 60 000 people to one event. They range in size from 18 to 48 feet (5.5 to 15 m) and can hold anything from 30 to 450 singers. What a simple, yet spectacular idea.

Amidst the fuss and frolics this Christmas, I’m reminded to take the time to be grateful to children – for their insight, their incisive humour, and their uncensored views of the world.

As the late John F Kennedy was fond of saying: Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.

My favourite piece of advice for kids comes from American poet Shel Silverstein:

Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.

There’s a lesson there for all of us.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52

2103 Grateful 3

In two days time, on 17 December, I wonder how many will remember the anniversary of the death of Mowlānā Jalāloddin Balkhi, known in Persia as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī and in the West simply as Rumi. He died hundreds of years ago, back in 1273.

rumiIn his introduction to his translation of Rumi’s The Shams, American Poet Coleman Barks wrote: ‘Rumi is one of the great souls, and one of the great spiritual teachers. He shows us our glory. He wants us to be more alive, to wake up… He wants us to see our beauty, in the mirror and in each other.’ What’s interesting about Barks is that although he doesn’t speak or read Persian, he’s considered one of the greats when it comes to interpreting Rumi and his ilk from that region. What he does is paraphrase other translations… most peculiar methinks…
I’ve had a few odd dreams this week that involved poetry and speaking in verse. Perhaps it’s the Christmas season and the over-indulgences that seem to come hand in hand with the holiday festivities. On a trawl through the site of the Academy of American Poets, I came across this:

What Was Told, That

by Jalal al-Din Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest. 

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that's happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane, 

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

And it reminded me, for the fifty millionth time, how important our words are. What we might think of as a throwaway comment could do untold good (or bad) to another. Innocent remarks repeated out of context can do serious damage. And quiet, thoughtful appreciation, if given voice to, can mend the most damaged of souls.

This week has been one of reflection – one where I am grateful to those who have shared their appreciation of me (and with me) – and in doing so lightened my load. Thank you.
Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52

2013 Grateful 4

IMG_8447 (591x800)I’m a fan of graffiti… not the aimless posts of I wuz ‘ere or the the like … but the clever kind, the witticisms, the art. So on that night a few weeks ago, when I crossed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, I was so absorbed in reading the graffiti on the wall that I didn’t really notice the wall itself. Having only just landed, I wasn’t nearly brave enough to do something stupid like take out my camera, but emboldened by some degree of familiarity that came with five days of residence in Bethlehem, I got up early one morning and, accompanied by the very able (and somewhat imposing) MM, headed back to said wall to take some photos.

IMG_8564 (800x600)IMG_8466 (800x599)IMG_8526 (800x600)Bethlehem is contained within parts of what is known as the Israeli West Bank barrier – a division, that when finished, will run about 700 km in total. The jury is out on what it’s actual name is: Israelis describe it as a separation, anti-terrorist, or security fence while the Palestinians call it a racial segregation or apartheid wall. The BBC prefers to call it a barrier.

IMG_8476 (800x599)IMG_8446 (800x600)Right now, the 8-metre (26 ft) wall that runs alongside Bethlehem for about 15 km is an open page for graffiti artists the world over. Probably the most famous of them all, Banksy, visited in 2005 and left his mark on the city. Unfortunately, so early in the morning, the Banksy shop hadn’t yet opened for business (good to see, though, that some enterprising soul is making a living from the art).

IMG_8508 (800x592)As we wandered roundIMG_8534 (597x800), what stuck me most forcibly was that I hadn’t even known this wall existed. Unlike the Berlin Wall, it doesn’t seem to attract the same degree of infamy. Once again, I was reminded at how sheltered I’ve been and how little I really know about what is going on in the world. It’s as if I live in a bubble far removed from anything bad or evil. And while I might read about what is happening elsewhere, I can’t really even begin to understand what it must be like for people living with this every day. For me, crossing over from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and having to walk through the checkpoint was a little exhilarating the first time; an inconvenience the second. To accept this as part of everyday life would, I’m sure, not take very long, but what is lost in that acceptance?

IMG_8538 (800x600)I stopped dead at one point and felt a surge of helplessness. What could I possibly do that would in any small way make a difference? There is so much bad going on in the world, so much injustice, that were I to sit and think about it all, I’d surely go slowly mad.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some wall stories with you – but today, as I look back on the last few weeks of travel and the different places I’ve been, I’m truly grateful that the novelty of packing a suitcase and going hasn’t yet worn off. It might be fading just a fraction, but the chance to see new places, experience new things, and create new memories is one for which I’m eternally grateful.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52

2013 Grateful 5

Five o’clock kick off, she said. It’ll be cold. Very cold.We’re playing under floodlights, he said. It’ll be cold. Very cold. Neither of them said to bring a cushion.

As the newly formed Létavértes International Fan Club made their way to Széchenyi tér in Budapest’s XVth district late yesterday afternoon, I am sure that some were wondering what in God’s name they were doing with their Saturday evening. We’d left a warm pub with some First Division UK football on the screen to trudge to the suburbs to watch a third division Hungarian team play their last game of the league.

DSC03250-1Some admitted to not particularly liking football. Others admitted to never having been to watch a live match before. More still reckoned they knew more about it than the players on the pitch.  Hailing from  Australia, England, Hungary, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, this mixed-age motley crew had at least made a token effort to wear the Létavértes red and white colours but underneath the woolies no one was any the wiser. It was bloody cold. And for all our collective experience, none of us had brought a hip flask.

We hogged part of the mainly empty stands near midfield and prepared to cheer our boys on to glory. We were definitely in a minority with the home team’s supporters out-yelling us at times. But the difference  was that while we were cheering for our lads, everyone else seemed hell bent on berating the referee or dogging the players.

A couple of young boys, sitting with their dad, let off a string of curses which, had they a magical power between them, would have seen guts spilling forth, hearts stopping dead, and teeth rotting out. If you wanted to come to grips with Hungarian obscenities, the stadium was the place to be. Somewhere along the way, the actual football seemed to have been forgotten.

Personally, I have only a vague idea of what is meant by offside. I can’t see well enough to distinguish between a deliberate foul and an accident. And I’m not at all current with the rules and regulations involving yellow cards. But I know enough about heart to recognise it when I see it. And the football yesterday was riddled with heart.

Man for man, our boys were younger, slighter, and more agile. The REAC lads were older, stockier, and not quite as innocent (indeed, I wonder if ‘innocent’ can be used in the same sentence as footballer?) Both sides gave it their all and our lads responded well to the cheering on from the sidelines. They won 1:6.

DSC03249-1In an interview afterwards, the TV chap commented to ZS (the LétaV coach and the reason for all of us being there) that it was good to see fans cheering on the football for a change. He said that we’d created a great atmosphere. And the team, in thanks, dedicated one of the goals to us.

The lads did us proud. Coming off the pitch, as we stood and applauded, they looked to the stand and gave us the thumbs up. They’re getting used to us. The first time we appeared on the sidelines, I don’t think they knew quite what was going on. This time though, they had a better notion. It might still bemuse them as to why we’d all be bothered, but they seemed happy out that we’d made the effort.

In a week that saw closure on one chapter of my life and signalled a somewhat manic work period ahead, I am grateful that we got up off our arses and braved the elements to support LétaV. It’s easier to talk about doing stuff that to actually do it – and all too often we leave it to others to fly the flag, happy enough as long as someone is out there supporting.  I’m so glad that I was in the stands, too.

Last time we had 10. This time we had 21. Both times we had people from six countries.  Next season, who knows. Come on ye boyos!

2013 Grateful 6

Described as the Holy of Holies from which the Divine Presence never moves, the Western Wall in Jerusalem was high on my list of places to see in the city. I’d been warned by an Hungarian to take extra care when composing my letter to God as whatever I asked for would be granted. And for the days leading up the visit, this ask played on my mind.

IMG_8353 (800x591)A holy place of prayer for Jews for centuries, in December 1947, after some bloody incidents with the Arabs, they were no longer allowed to approach the Wall. When the  Jewish Quarter of the Old City fell in May 1948, it would be another 9 years before they could even look at the wall from a distance. It wasn’t until the third day of the Six-Day war (7 June 1967) that Israel’s parachutists broke through the ‘bloody gate’ which the mufti had opened and liberated the wall. Later buildings were levelled and an area cleared in front of the wall for praying. I can’t quite figure out what the rocking is about – that back and forth movement of the upper body – but add it to the singing and I finally get why it has been known for eons as the wailing wall.

IMG_8282 (800x600)Today, men and women are segregated, each having their own side of the wall at which to pray. The touch of millions of hands and foreheads has polished the stone in places and no two pieces look alike. Every crack and fissure in the wall up to human height is home to pieces of paper containing the prayers of the faithful, a living testimony to faith, hope, and belief.

IMG_8269 (800x600)Nearby, sits the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. Destroyed twice by earthquakes, once in 746 and again in 1033, and damaged severely in the quakes of 1927 and 1937, the building is still as imposing as ever. Said to be the point from which Muhammad travelled to from Mecca and from whence he departed for heaven.

IMG_8357 (800x593)In the distance sits the Golden Dome, considered ‘the most contested piece of real estate’ in the world. I think though that that refers to the foundation stone it houses rather than the dome itself… but I’ve been known to be wrong. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all view it as significant – which, in my little mind, would go some way towards confirming what I’ve always believed – there is one God who goes by different names.

This week, as the memories of my trip to the Holy Land remain bright and clear, I’m grateful for my bucket list – for that innate curiosity that makes me want to pack a bag and travel. And I’m even more grateful that I have the wherewithal to do so.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52

 

2013 Grateful 7

I’m not what you’d call a people person. Despite outward appearances, I find being around people all the time somewhat nerve wracking. Call it fanciful, but I can feel the energy seeping out of me and need time and space to recuperate. I dread networking events where small talk comes wrapped in hors d’oeuvres and niceties are made more palatable by the champagne.

IMG_7760 (800x600)So when I was invited to join a group of 26 Serbs, Macedonians, Kosovans, Croats, and one Dutch on a trip to the Holy Land, I was a little apprehensive. Apart from me and Roeland, everyone would speak the same language and I know how isolating that can be. Even our guide, Srdjan, was Serbian and while most spoke varying levels of English, the natural default was understandably Serbian or some variation thereof. Other than my friend Milutin, I would know nobody. This was definitely me moving out of my comfort zone but enticed by the idea of writing text to accompany his photographs, I signed up.

IMG_8095 (800x600)It didn’t help that after a day’s touring, I worked most evenings. Such are the joys of freelancing. You take the work when you can get it because you never know when it will dry up. But as a result, I missed out on some of the camaraderie. And yet I was conscious of how irritating it can be to have to translate a joke for someone after the punchline has been delivered. During the day, Roeland’s wife Olivera, a woman of immeasurable patience, translated for us… which I’m sure was a royal pain in the proverbial  for her but she was unwavering.

The group is solid – they’ve been travelling together since 2002 and all have a scouting background. I met Milutin through scouts, too, and although we had that in common at least, no one knew me from Adam. And no one judged. If I wandered off from the group, no one batted an eyelid. If I chose to sit apart with my book, no one took offence. If I sat at a table on my own for dinner, no one commented. That’s what I love about the Balkans – this lack of judgment, this acceptance of life for what it is, of people for who they are.

IMG_8680 (800x600)The trip itself was exhausting. Breakfast at 6.30 most mornings, on the bus by 7.30 and then away for the day, stopping here, there, and yonder. Srdjan had mapped out a packed itinerary and included enough free time to wander cities like Jerusalem and Bethlehem, with the occasional choice thrown in for good measure: an hour at the beach or yet another church or monastery. Despite the full agenda, the early mornings, and the late nights, the good spirits never waned. Rakija is to the Balkans what air is to the rest of the world. To see a bottle of this spirit make its way down the bus before 8 in the morning and then reappear at various times during the day was nothing short of amazing. Who drinks that early? And yet it was never overdone – just a sip every so often to keep the bugs at bay. In the evenings, in Tiberius, I joined a few of the lads on the wall outside the hotel where we sat around before dinner having a beer, Milutin translating for me so that I didn’t miss out on what was being said. And it was there that I came appreciate, once again, that sense of humour that sets them apart as a nation – as self-deprecating as the Irish, and as deadpan in their delivery, their readiness to release their inner child is enviable. The laughter was constant and came from the heart.

IMG_8232 (800x701)I’ve long since enjoyed a love affair with the Balkans. Three of my favourite men in the world are Serbian. As a people, they rate highest on my scale of nation favourites. There’s something about their attitude to life, their ability to enjoy the moment, their constant good humour, and their readiness to engage in informed discussions on just about anything that makes them unique. Everyone has a story – one that involves resilience, humility, and an insight into what’s important in life (family and friends) that leave most other nations standing still in their wake.

IMG_7750 (800x600)Age does not limit them. It doesn’t seem to matter at all. They might have respectable day jobs with multinationals or international organisations, jobs that are demanding in so many ways, yet they wear this responsibility lightly, recognising that while it is important, work is not the be all and end all of life. Friends and family come first and foremost.

I fell into conversation with one of the older lads who told me of a trip he’d made to London when he was 17. At immigration, he was asked if he had enough money to keep himself for two months. Standing tall, he replied: I am visiting a Serbian family; I have no need for money. I’ve witnessed this hospitality on more than one occasion and it still warms the cockles of my heart.

What can I say? In a week that saw a host of illusions being shattered, I am grateful that at least one conviction has remained intact. I’m still deeply in love with the Balkans and its peoples.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52

2013 Grateful 8

I have long since imagined Bethlehem as a little mountain village with perhaps one main street, an inn, and a manger. I had a romantic notion that it would be devoid of traffic, its sanctity disturbed by nothing more than the sound of birds singing and the soft gurgling of running streams. Was I ever wrong.

IMG_7851 (800x600)Think Blackpool and add some religion. Hotels flaunting unimaginative names like the Manger Hotel Square or the Holy Family Hotel compete with stylized versions of American stalwarts. Souvenir shops offer all three grades of Olive wood – A (dried for at least a year), B (just dried – time not stated), C (not dried at all). Nativity sets are ten a penny, and as for the Baby Jesus… well, rabbits come to mind.

IMG_7854 (600x800)But what Bethlehem lacks in sophistication, it more than makes up for in friendliness. Everyone is in a good mood. Even the pairs of eyes peering out from the myriad black burkas seem to be smiling. The chap in shop we visited gave us coffee (all 27 of us!) and a rundown on what to look out for when making our purchases. Stallholders had that ubiquitous enthusiasm about their wares yet there was never pressure to buy. A car pulled up. The driver got out. He asked where we were all from. He then went on a good-natured rant for five minutes in which he showed how well versed he was in European politics, the religious beliefs of various American presidents, and the state of the universe in general. It seems that no one wants for an opinion. And he didn’t seem too bothered that we didn’t buy anything from the boot of his car.

IMG_7842 (800x600)IMG_7846 (600x800)It’s people-watching heaven. With so many tour groups from all over the world mingling with locals from all sorts of cultures and creeds, it’s in stark contrast with the monochrome palette I’d witnessed on the drive in to Jerusalem from the airport. And while the hustle and bustle would be welcome in other cities, it seems strangely out of place here. Perhaps my mother was right when she first introduced me to the ninth beatitude – blessed is she who expects nothing for she shall never be disappointed.

As I write I’m trying to decide whether I’m glad I’ve seen it for what it is or whether, given the chance, I’d turn back the clock and keep the vision intact. But, given the week of revelations that I’ve had, I’m grateful that this is all that’s on my mind right now.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52

IMG_7820 (800x588)IMG_7850 (800x592)

2013 Grateful 9

There’s a chap who is a regular at the 6pm mass I go to on Sundays. He seems a little out of step with the rest of the world. When he comes in, always late, he does a full reconnaissance of the church before carefully choosing his seat. Then mid-way through mass, he gets up and moves somewhere else. And he might move a third or fourth time, too. When the rest of us sit, he stands; when we kneel, he sits. Whatever tune is playing in his head is not the one the rest of us are listening to.

This evening, he went to the top of the church and sat in the second row. When it came to passing the collection plate, he was first in line. The collector asked him to help out as his No. 2 hadn’t showed. My chap was a little stunned at first but  as this interaction played out in front of me I could see his face change from fear, to surprise, to sheer joy.

He carefully watched what the other collector was doing and mirrored it. I know I’m given to flights of fancy, but I swear that by the time he finished his rounds, he’d grown an inch or two. He was standing tall and proud and so happy that he’d been asked to do something and not, as I suspect, passed over as usual.

I had a conversation this weekend over lunch with the lovelies where we talked about asking people to do things. I was reminded of the wise words of a very wise woman – if you’ve never heard my no, you can’t appreciate my yes. All too often we don’t ask someone to do something because we think (a) they don’t have time, (b) they will say yes, even though they want to say no, or (c) they’re simply not capable. And while we’re perfectly within our rights to decide whom to ask to do what, when we make those decisions are we depriving them of an opportunity of sorts? Perhaps they (a) need encouragement to better manage their time, (b) need practice in saying no, or (c) need the chance to show themselves (and others) that yes, they can.

Trust me. Ask me. Let me decide. And then accept my answer for what it is.

20131103_105519_resizedIt’s been a long week, but a good one. I’ve had the chance to show the AussieMayos some of my city and in doing so get to see it through a new set of lenses. I’ve happened across the strange and the peculiar and sat in silent wonder watching serendipity at work. But more than anything else, as it comes to a close, I’m grateful for the daily reminders that life offers that neither people nor circumstance should be taken for granted.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52

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2013 Grateful 10

Just returned from the wilds of Alaska back in 2001, I found myself in Carlow at a nightclub. Some lad was chatting me up. His opening line? I can see by ya that ya like a bit of chocolate. Ten out of ten for observation, I thought. Zero out of ten for propriety.

I’ve written before about how much I like my food. I like to cook and I like to eat. I’ve been known to cook for myself, and to set the table with  a linen napkin and my best crystal and silverware. I’m partial to a bit of finery and on occasion I even enjoy a little luxury.

I’d heard in passing about KNRDY – the restaurant with no vowel in its name. It’s on October 6 utca and by all accounts had prices well out of my reach. The billionaire’s burger on the menu comes in just shy of 12 000 ft (about $56 or $40). Enough said.

20131024_200152_resizedBut I was curious and the universe provided. A friend invited me to dinner there. I was impressed from the outset by the service. Displaying just the right amount of attention without that obvious insincerity that similar high-class restaurants in Budapest seem to wear as a trademark, the staff were knowledgeable, friendly, and very professional. The reading lights on the menu made it easier to read without taking from the atmosphere and attention to detail was evident in everything from the offer of a purse holder to the watchfulness of the waiters.

20131024_202909_resizedNicely mellowed by what had to be the best cosmopolitan I’ve had in this city to date, we decided to split some seared yellowfin tuna sashimi with cucumber salad. The creamy wasabi mayo was a perfect complement to the meaty fish and I was greedily regretting having agreed to share. Still, even the half dish was ample and I would be glad later that I’d saved room.

20131024_205216_resized20131024_205207_resizedI went for seared king scallops on cumin and coriander lentils and while I enjoyed them immensely, I have to fess up to looking enviously at the bone-in Omaha ribeye that sat across the table. We shared some potatoes roasted in duck fat and a gorgeous dish of creamed spinach and leek gratin. All this was nicely accompanied by a Pouilly Fumé from Pascal Jolivet. I prefer to drink Hungarian wine in Hungary but who was I to argue with the choice. Delicious. A red wine from Villány accompanied the steak –  a 2007 Wunderlich Ars Poetica. Apparently KNRDY’s owner liked it so much, he bought it all – every bottle. And while I am reluctant to drink red wine, I liked the taste I had of this one … a lot.  Dessert, a New York cheesecake and some pecan pie, was set off beautifully by a glass of Mezés – a Tokjai furmint. Heavenly.

From the minute you set foot in the restaurant, you can see what’s on offer. The various cuts of meat are on display right inside the front door. Chalkboards tell you the weights of the pieces they have available. Tables are far enough apart that you don’t feel you’re eavesdropping on your neighbours’ conversation (mostly men, by the way) and the music from the 70s and 80s was a refreshing change and quite nostalgic. Rumour has it that the staff was trained for six months before the doors opened and that is obvious in itself. What’s also obvious is that Mr K knows what he likes – I got the distinct impression that he had personally approved and tasted every dish on the menu.

As we toasted our blessings and sat for a minute in silence reflecting on how lucky we were to have had such a meal, I gave thanks yet again for where my life has taken me. And when the bill arrived, I was even more grateful that I wasn’t the one paying it.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52.