2013 Grateful 21

I’ve lived to tell the tale. I’ve survived yet another birthday week. For those of you not yet old enough (or fortunate enough) to have experienced this particular phenomenon, first introduced to me by the inimitable DF in Washington, let me outline the basic concept. Once you pass the tender age of 40, instead of forgetting about birthdays altogether, you have what she calls a birthday week – you celebrate for a whole seven days. Nothing like a series of late nights and revelry to keep old age at bay.

IMG_6904 (600x800)Mine started on Saturday, 3rd August, at Kincsem Park – an open invite to join me at the races saw hats being demothballed, picnic baskets being aired, and the inner gambler in some emerge. It was hot, bloody hot, too hot to sit on the grass with no shade so we picnicked in the stands – just by the finish line. While we were awash with food and wine, we were a little light on tipsters. But with 10 races on the card, we had plenty of time to figure it out. Kincsem Park is a great day out, any day. Add some old friends, some new friends, and some good wine, and it’s even better. A swathe of taxis took the hard core to Grund – a garden bar in the VIIIth district – and then for a 2am snack at a great little place on Ulloi. Sunday, as it should be, was a day of rest and recuperation.

IMG_6976 (800x600)Monday was about being nice to me – hair do, manicure, long lunch, phone calls abroad. Tuesday, the day itself, started off with lunch at Kompót, my new favourite place to eat in Budapest. And then it was over to Buda (on a day pass!) to Kobuci where a Jerry Lee Lewis tribute band kept the floor heaving despite the temperatures. People came and went all evening and again, it was great to catch up with those I’ve not seen in a while. I like this idea of open invites – you never know who will show up. Another late one though as Szimpla beckoned and then some more dancing … at a great little place on Ulloi.

IMG_6956 (800x599)The week progressed with more lunches, dinners, coffees, and catch-ups. The cards came through the letterbox and transatlantic phone calls added to my days. And then on Friday, it was off to Szeged by train to see Porgy and Bess. More on this spectacular experience later. Back in town yesterday, for the official close of my 2013 birthday week, I found myself giving thanks to the good Lord for the people who have come into my life…. and stayed a while. For their generosity of spirit and that added extra they bring with them: different perspectives that challenge, provoke, and entertain and further enrich an already blessed life.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh go léir

 

2013 Grateful 22

I have always wanted to live on the water, by the sea, near the coast. My dream is to live on a small island with its own private beach. An oasis of cool in the summer and a wild, raging cacophony of sound in the winter, as waves crash against the shore and gale-force winds serve as sharp reminders of the fragility of life. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Yes, I know… it leaves one big question hanging out there … why did I ever move to Budapest?

IMG_6742 (800x590) (800x590)While Oslofjord technically isn’t a fjord in the geological sense, its accessibility and proximity to the city makes it a little bit of heaven on earth. If you’ve seen Edvard Munch’s The Scream or Girls on the pier, then you’ve had a taste of what it looks like. Boats travel regularly to the islands from a city where using a boat is as common as using the bus or the tram or the metro and all are covered by the one travel pass. It’s usual practice to pack a swimsuit, food, and a disposable BBQ and head out after work – it doesn’t get dark until about 10 so there’s three good hours to replenish the spirit and replace the calm desiccated by corporate living.

IMG_6718 (800x595)IMG_6653 (800x600)The islands in this inlet, those that I can remember, each have their own claim to fame.  Hovedøya has its monastery ruins and during WWII was home to an internment camp for female Nazi collaborators. Gressholmen apparently has its rabbits. Mind you, we spent an evening at Gressholmen and didn’t see one rabbit so I can’t vouch for its claim to fame. The islands of Nakholmen, Bleikøya, and Lindøya have their cabins while Langøyene has the best beach and camping facilities.

IMG_6683 (800x600)IMG_6694 (800x600)The boat ride might have taken all of 20 minutes, if that. And then it took another 15 to walk across the island to a secluded spot on the water’s edge. Those who arrived with us didn’t stay as long so we had the place to ourselves for most of the time. The water was glorious. Cold and clear. A tad rocky but beautiful. I was in my element.

While the salmon skewers sizzled on the BBQ and the Aperol spritz worked its decompressive magic, the only thing breaking the silence was the sound of the seagulls. We watched as they dove for fish, stole sausages, and argued amongst themselves about who had the best whatever. I love the sound they make and have often wondered whether I could get a soundtrack with nothing other than the sound of waves and gulls and if by playing it each evening I could bring the sea closer to home.

IMG_6666 (800x600)In a world where technology increasingly raises the bar when it comes to entertainment, where our attention spans grow shorter by the upgrade, where our ability to sit still and do nothing is challenged by lengthening to-do lists and an increasing sense of time running out, it was simply glorious to sit in silence and just be.

This week, as I near the end of another birth year, I am grateful for the opportunity to recalibrate, to regain my sense of perspective, to feast on fresh salmon and shrimp in good company and spectacular scenery.  I am particularly grateful for those people who seem to randomly drop into my life just when I need them the most.

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

2013 Grateful 23

I’ve often wondered how Las Vegas came to be Las Vegas. What attracted all those casino magnates to the city? What prompted the glitz and the glamour?Vegas was born in the early 1900s, and in 1911, Nevada was the place to go for a quickie divorce. If you lived there for six weeks, you were eligible for one. These short-term, divorce-seeking, residents holed up at dude ranches, forerunners to the Strip’s hotels.  Who’d have thought?

In 1931, construction on the Hoover Dam brought an influx of workers and a boom to the local economy. And with all that money floating around, it was time to legalise gambling. The first few motels/casinos that opened had a distinctive western theme, like the El Rancho on Highway 91 which opened in 1941. This was followed by the El Cortez Hotel –  the first casino in downtown Las Vegas, and in 1942, the Last Frontier.

The glitz and the glamour didn’t arrive until St Stephen’s Day in 1946 – the day after Christmas, when Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo opened. Supposedly named after his girlfriend Virginia Hill (she had long legs that reminded him of a flamingo), the hotel was a flop; it closed for three months to regroup and reopened in March 1947. I’d love to know what they learned in that time. Whatever it was, it worked. The hotel turned a profit in its first month and is still going today.

But all this was happening in the desert – and it wasn’t until Siegel was murdered that the press came to see what was going on in the sand. Liberace made his debut there in 1944, Frank Sinatra arrived in 1951, and the rest, as they say, is history.

IMG_6451 (800x600)I first visited Vegas back in 1991 – and then I was enthralled. It was smaller then, more manageable. Action concentrated on the strip – the old strip. You had your plastic bucket to collect your quarters from the slots. You could spend a dollar or two on the roulette tables, or eke out your rent money playing blackjack. A breakfast of steak and eggs might set you back a fin. Waitresses were plentiful and the drinks, although watered down, kept coming. People dressed up to gamble.

IMG_6457 (800x600)Fast forward twenty-two years and the scene is a lot different. No more coins from the slots – now you get an electronic receipt you can cash in. Minimum bets are $5, show tickets start at $200, and a poolside chair will set you back $30. And yet the place is heaving. Air-conditioned walkways link the hotels so there is no need to walk the streets. Hundreds of young women in Vegas for hen parties queue up to see the Australian Chippendales. Hundreds more married women in their 40s and 50s escaping the humdrum of domesticity for a weekend, put on their glad rags and take to the town. Loud jocks and golf-shirted weekday dads walk around with jugs of beer – looking cool. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

IMG_6465 (800x600) (800x598)At night, it all looks great. But in the sober light of day, you see that the marble isn’t marble. The brick isn’t brick. The statues aren’t granite. It’s all fake, a front; there’s nothing real about it. I love to gamble and previous trips to Vegas and Tahoe and Biloxi saw many a happy hour at the tables. But this time around, something had changed. Just as I no longer felt the need to have my cards read in Madrid, my half-hearted attempt at the slots soon gave way to lethargy. I simply wasn’t interested.

IMG_6483 (800x594)This week, as temperatures in Budapest tip 40, I’m writing the last of a series of posts on my US road-trip. It was an amazing few weeks. I caught up with old friends and made new ones. I revisited places I’d been to before and discovered others I’d never heard of. With plenty of time to reflect on the meaning of life as we ate up mile after mile of asphalt, the trip gave me time to think. To evaluate. To see how I’ve changed. To remember what matters. For this I’m truly thankful.

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

2013 Grateful 24

I was going through some photos this morning and found a couple that made me stop and think about shadows and mirror images.

IMG_6314 (800x592)Plutarch, that Ancient Greek author had something when he said: I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. I’ve had cause to reflect on this in recent months and know that no matter how difficult it might have been at the time, having friends who don’t pull any punches when it comes to offering their (un)solicited opinions regarding something I’ve said or done definitely gives me a new perspective of my reality.

That’s not for one minute to say that I believe it all – it is simply their opinion, offered in the spirit of friendship. There’s a difference between empathy and sympathy and no matter what the dictionaries say, I’ve learned that for the former, you need to have lived through a similar experience yourself before you can ever hope to really understand the feeling, while the latter is guided more by concern about the effect the feeling has had.

IMG_6322 (800x592)I’ve been known to offer my two cents’ worth of wisdom, either solicited or unsolicited, and while I might stand convinced that what I say has value, it too is simply  an opinion. Whether or not you take it on board is a matter of choice.

But when I got to thinking about it, I was reminded of a George Bernard Shaw quotation that I had to dig 0ut: The only service a friend can really render is to keep your courage by holding up a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself.

And then I looked a second time at the helicopter shadow and it became clearer. A helicopter is a complicated machine, big, bulky and capable of all sorts of aerodynamic wonders and yet for all its complexity, its shadow is a simple one. Too often, we make our lives more complicated than they need to be. We analyse and over-analyse a situation and turn it into something fit for discussion at a UN convention. More often again, though, we fail to reflect on issues at all and go through life in the hope that it will all come right in the end, sometimes shortchanging ourselves and not manifesting our true potential. It’s great to have faith, but faith, too, needs some work: finding the balance between the shadow and the self is as good a place to start as any.

While friends might appear to have all the answers and while the books might read as if they’re a blueprint for life, an honest conversation with ourselves about who we are and who we want to be cannot be avoided.

And staying with shadows: seeing such a small shadow might cause us to underestimate the size of the plane. The shadow of what we do and say stretches far and is often distorted to the point that it bears little resemblance to the original intent – for better or for worse. I can still remember snippets of conversation from 20 years ago that radically changed how I live my life. And I often wonder if the person responsible for what was said has any idea of the affect their words have had. No matter. I’m still grateful that I was there to hear what they had to say and aware enough to let those words take root.

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

2013 Grateful 25

Bleak. Barren. Beautiful. It’s hard to describe the scenery in New Mexico, especially as you drive towards the Arizona border and the competing beauty of the neighbouring state encroaches. Mile after mile of hills and canyons that should be alive with cowboys and Indians and homesteaders yet when we passed a ‘For Sale’ sign,we were left wondering what in God’s name anyone would do for a living out here.

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But people live here, in this heat, in this desert, and somehow manage to survive. It beggars belief. I wouldn’t last a week. Not even if James Garner, in his heyday, was the one issuing the invitation to come hither. Nor even Sam Waterston as he is right now. I can’t for the life of me imagine living a life so remote. Alaska was different. Alaska was cold.

IMG_5976 (800x598)And yet, far from the sameness of Nebraska, around every corner there’s a new palate of colour and a new something to marvel at. And marvelling done, my mind inevitably went back to wondering why people chose to live here? Or perhaps, the better question might be why they’ve chosen not to leave?

IMG_5988 (800x600)I used to think that choosing where I lived was a given – a choice that was a divine right. But I’ve come to realise that I’m one of the fortunate ones that get to make that choice, unbridled by family ties, career ambitions, or financial constraints. That’s not to say that had I all the money in the world, I wouldn’t up sticks and head for the west coast of Ireland in a heartbeat. But usually when I move, I have a pull factor that is as great as the push factor. Driving these barren miles through the New Mexico desert and crossing over into Arizona, I had plenty of time to think about where next. And you know, while the push grows stronger with each political development in Hungary, the pull is staying remarkably silent.

IMG_5992 (800x584)Our concept of home varies. For some it’s transient, merely an address. For others it’s a gallery of collected treasures. For more it’s about people. For me, it’s a state of mind. Eight states into our eleven-state trip, I couldn’t help but marvel at the diversity of the U S of A: its scenery, its people, and its frames of mind. Heat aside, the reminder just how much control I have over my life, and where I go, and what I do, was worth every bead of sweat. And for this opportunity to reflect, I’m truly grateful.

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

2013 Grateful 26

For as along as I can remember being aware of the power of prayer, I’ve have had to balance the idea of praying with the surefire belief that my prayer will be granted against the thought that some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. My prayer will either be granted or it won’t and if it isn’t then it wasn’t meant to be. (I often wonder what I’d believe had I been born into a different religion.)

IMG_5873 (800x600) (2)Back in 1878 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, America’s oldest capital city, the Loretto nuns found themselves in a quandary. Their recently completed chapel had a design flaw. The choir loft couldn’t be accessed. Sitting 22 feet about the ground, short of a ladder or levitation, there was little they could do. Every carpenter they consulted said the same thing: it would have to be a ladder as there wasn’t the space to build a stairway.

IMG_5870 (600x800)So the sisters decided to say a novena to the patron saint of carpenters, St Joseph (him who is famous in my book for selling houses – just bury a statue of him in your garden and the house will sell – it has worked, honestly). Novenas are said over nine days and just at the wire, on the final day, when the nuns may have been losing a little faith – a man appeared on a donkey…with his box of tools. He started work on the staircase and months later, when done, disappeared without pay or thanks.

More than 130 years later, the staircase’s design is still baffling architects as it has no visible means of support; it was built with wooden pegs and has two 360-degree turns. And this was 1878 remember!

IMG_5863 (800x600) (800x600)We Catholics love our miracles so it’s little wonder that the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe attracts hoards of visitors.  The tree outside its front door is laden with rosary beads, left by those whose prayers were granted and those who might be still praying for their own personal miracle.

IMG_5146 (600x800)I was reminded of something I’d seen when we’d stopped in the Casey Jones village on our way from Nashville to Memphis. A ‘pray it forward’ box where people deposited their prayers and then, if so moved, picked someone else’s prayer at random to pray for… a different, non-electronic form of social communication that would be lovely if it caught on.

This week, I’m grateful once again for my faith and that core belief that what’s for me won’t pass me.

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

2013 Grateful 27

It’s been a long time since I’ve driven so far. It’s been years since I used to drive 306 miles to play 36 holes of golf and then drive home again. Distances such as America has on offer make the longest road in Ireland look like a walk in the park.

IMG_5345 (800x599)I like to drive.

I like the meditative space it gives me. And the adrenaline rush when I spot a cop car, partially concealed behind a bush in the median. Will I get a ticket in the post or not? I wonder.

I like the weird and wonderful things I pass – odd places that I would never travel to but am happy to stop and see, now that I’ve happened across them.

I like the personal chats in roadside restaurants and cafés – conversations with people I will never meet again. Yet for a few brief moments in time, we’re present, together, talking. Sharing experiences in a way that is both intimate and remote.

I like the way my mind wanders, with one random thought fuelling an internal debate on something that could be either inconsequential or the preparatory work for a major, life-changing decision.

I like that time takes on a whole new meaning. There is no clocking in or signing out. I drive until I’m tired – some days three hours, some days eight. There is a plan  for the day but that plan is flexible, dependent on detours and distractions. I like that.

As this sweltering week draws to a close on temperatures over 45 degrees Celsius (115 F), I’m hot, I’m tired, and I’m missing my own bed. I’m grateful that as I’ve travelled and discovered new places, new people, I’ve also had the drive-time to appreciate what I’m missing. In essence – I have the best of both worlds – here and there.

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

2013 Grateful 28

I’m rapidly eating into my 15 minutes of fame. I made the newspaper in Henderson, KY and was one of the screaming masses in Nashville, TN, for yet another live recording of the Grand Ole Opry. The world’s longest-running  live radio show, it’s been on air for more than 85 years. Some visitors to Nashville may well eschew it as being too cheesy to bother with – yet this, my second time at the Opry, was no less impressive than my first, back in 2001.

IMG_5036 (800x592)It is more than a radio show – it’s an institution. Performers have 12-minute sets (about enough to do three numbers, with a bit of banter), which are followed by a series of radio commercials and this runs for about 3 hours with a short intermission. In a line-up that includes today’s chart-toppers alongside the stalwarts of yesteryear, the Opry is a home from home for so many country artists.

IMG_5114The audience the night we were there included some 3000 nurses who were in Nashville for a conference. Requests from the audience sent birthday greetings to those in their nineties and congratulated one couple on 56 years of marriage. One young lad of 20, who was spending his last night stateside in the Opry before shipping out with the US Marines, got a standing ovation. The Opry is Southern. It’s American. And it’s a source of national pride. When Charlie Daniels took the stage and did The Devil Went Down to Georgia, the place exploded. It was impossible to keep still. He got my No. 3 vote for best song of the evening. To see a man who has come out the other side of middle age give every ounce of what he has to satiate an audience who really appreciated being in the company of one of the all-time greats of country music – well, it brought a tear to my eye.

IMG_5048 (601x800)Jeannie Seely is another old-time favourite who took the stage that night and when I grow up, I want to be just like her. This lady oozes class, charm, and a certain rebelliousness that is evident in how gracefully she is aging. She’s adorable and her rendition of Let it be me had me in tears … I know, I know, I’m a wimp… but there is something magical about the Opry that stirs the depths of my soul and brings the water to the surface of the well. I couldn’t find Let it be me on YouTube but did find her at the Opry in 1966 singing Hank William’s Don’t touch me. I was definitely born into the wrong era. Jeannie got my No. 2 slot that evening.

IMG_5080For me, though, the song of the night went to the Black Lillies, a relatively new band on the scene. Their song The Fall is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in a long, long time. Front man Cruz Contreras has a voice to die for, one that is perfectly harmonised with that of Trisha Gene Brady. Together they make an amazing sound. This is when I broke out the tissues; I even bought the CD.

The whole Opry experience is nothing short of amazing. Country is probably the only genre of music that has that family thing going – where everyone seems to know everyone else and all call the Opry ‘home’.

This week, having said goodbye to Kentucky and Tennessee, I’m grateful that despite being tone deaf, music – the right kind of music – can still make me cry. In a world where senses are increasingly being deadened by technology, it’s nice to simply, and uncomplicatedly, feel…

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

2013 Grateful 29

Thursday, after an unexpected stopover in Washington DC, I called a mate in Ireland in an attempt to track down another mate in DC. I found both. The conversation was simple. ‘Hi, it’s Mary. Am in DC. Need to cadge a couch for two.’ The reply was simpler. ‘Sure. Here’s the address.’ That it had been five years since we’d last hooked up was irrelevant. That it had been more than a year since we’d spoken didn’t matter. It was as if it had been yesterday and we were simply picking up from where we’d left off. That night I met some of NQ’s mates, he met mine, and new friendships were forged.

Fast forward a few hours and we’re in Kentucky enjoying the hospitality of another mate whom I’ve not seen since 2001. We’re in pretty regular e-mail contact so inviting myself to stay wasn’t an issue. When the airports contrived to keep us away, RB said that he’d wondered whether the universe was trying to tell us to stick to e-mail or whether it was deliberately creating a difficult path to paradise. Suffice to say that we’ve arrived – in paradise. Tired, cranky, but otherwise unscathed.

IMG_4662 (800x600)RB’s house sits on 32 acres and overlooks Nolin Lake in Kentucky. He designed it himself, under the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright, and has unpacked his bottom drawer to great effect. The place is stunning. More than 300 square metres of light, air, views and a fantastic array of Alaskana are replete with the good taste, style, and elegance that so epitomise the man himself.

IMG_4664 (600x800)With columns painted to look like marble, and floors that actually are, the place is a work of love and attention to detail that encapsulates a lifetime of memories. It’s one of the most comfortable spaces I’ve ever been in and were it not for the slow Internet connection and the fact that opinionated women don’t do well in Kentucky, I’d move in tomorrow 🙂

There are houses and there are homes. There is interior design that looks like it has been designed and then there’s that wonderful piecing together of single items that just connect, each one working towards creating a feeling of togetherness. A little like life, methinks, and the variety of friendships that make up a circle of friends and reflect a life well lived.

IMG_4667 (596x800)The place is a joy of discovery, a veritable treasure hunt of perspective and taste. My favourite? The powder room. I can see a whole new use for statues now. I could even get attached to the bears.

IMG_4670 (800x592)Our homes reflect so much of who we are and what we like; how we live, and how we have lived. Opening them to others to enjoy, too, is a pleasure I know well. I never give much thought to how friends abroad might live until I get there. I never try to imagine what their places look like until I arrive. And then, it somehow all seems to fit. No two are ever the same. They might share elements that reflect a common past – in my case, both RB and I share Alaska and our respective collections reflects our length of residence. We both have a fondness for chobi carpets, too. And we even have a thing about hall space and galleries. But his space is very much his, as mine is very much mine.

IMG_4669 (800x591)This week was often difficult, trying, and downright annoying. It had ups and downs that were poles apart and the ensuing highs and lows kept the adrenaline running. As it draws to a close and I finally get to sip a mint julep on a rocker on the porch overlooking an expanse of water, in the company of good friends, I am truly grateful for the friendships I have made in my travels; for those people who have come into my life for whatever reason … and stayed. I am truly blessed.

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

2013 Grateful 30

Back in 2002, I was in Carlow in the Dinn Rí nightclub. This fellah with a very fla’ (read: flat!) midlands accent asked me out to dance. When the song was over, he turned to me and said in his fla’est of tones: ‘I can see by ya, dah ya like a bi’ a chocola’. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he then added: ‘jus’ like me mammy’.

Yes, I like my food and there are few things I enjoy more than a good meal in good company. Strangely though, I can get enough of eating out and prefer, more often than not, to cook for people who bring an appetite and some good conversation to the table. Last week, driving around the Balaton, I had no kitchen and had to (sigh!) resign myself to eating public fare.

Friday night, I dined with the inimitable BA at the Kővirág Panzió és Étterem in Köveskál. I was a little worried when my fish arrived that I wouldn’t have enough to eat but fortified by the ragout soup I’d had to start, there was plenty and it was all good. On Saturday, I had some more of the ragout soup, but this time at the Szent György Panzió és Étterem in Tapolca. This quaint spot next door to the Lake Cave is a warren of reasonable-sized dining rooms, one of which we had to ourselves. IMG_4406 (800x600)It wasn’t all that difficult to imagine the hands of the clock spinning in reverse,  transporting us back 20 or 30 years when the place surely had its heyday. The wine was good, the food was grand, and the service was prompt and friendly. Add to that the luxury of having a whole dining room to yourself and you start to think you’ve died and gone to restaurant heaven. Or better still, have actually gone back 20 years and are part of the upper echelons of society!

IMG_4542 (800x400)I was on a ragout frenzy at this stage and in Héviz on Sunday couldn’t pass up the boar ragout at Liget Étterem és Pizzéria as a frontrunner to the grilled trout.  Perched on a height overlooking the town, we ate to the orchestral strains of some classic music that wafted our way. It was a tad surreal trying to IMG_4539 (800x583)speak Hungarian with a mouthful of pisztráng while listening to the theme song to the Pink Panther!

I border on the obsessive when it comes to eating, particularly when I’m away. No sooner does one meal end that I mentally envision the next. It doesn’t need to be haute cuisine. It doesn’t need to be silver service and linen napkins. All I ask of food is that it delivers on its promise and fulfills whatever deep and irrational expectation I have of it.

Some people eat for the sake of eating. Other eat at every opportunity because at some stage in their lives they had nothing at all to eat and something inside them switched to permanent survival mode. I know of an holocaust survivor who is first to the table every time, regardless of what’s on offer.

On those occasions when I eat just to eat, I don’t feel satisfied. I fixate on food: if I have Thai in my head then the most luscious leg of lamb just won’t cut it. I think of only once in my life (in Rome, craving some Chinese noodles!) when the meal I finally got surpassed all cravings and expectations. Even when I’m on my own, I cook a full dinner.  I almost always eat for the pure pleasure of eating – and this week, I’m grateful that life has afforded me the luxury of being able to do so.

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