St Patrick’s Day in Budapest has a long lead-up. From the Embassy’s National Day celebrations on Wednesday evening to the IHBC gala dinner on Saturday night, the parade today – and everything else in between – you need to be made of strong stuff to keep going. I’m feeling my age. Trippin’ the light fantastic isn’t as easy as it once was. I’m always surprised at the local interest in the best known of Ireland’s three patron saints. A couple of times over the course of the last few days, I was asked to explain why or what we (Irish) celebrate on St Patrick’s Day. His is a story that varies in the telling, but today, I was reminded by the lovely SR about this gem.
I’ve been feeling a different sort of gratitude these days. Not gratitude for stuff that has happened – although there’s plenty of that in me – more being grateful for things that haven’t happened, with two big ones this week. Last summer, in Ireland, in Lidl, I bought a kettle. Mad you say. Surely they sell kettles in Hungary. Even ones not made in China. And yes, they do.
I love a good roadtrip. Especially when it involves dropping in on friends I’ve not seen in the longest of times. From LA to Palm Desert and Palm Springs, to Scottsdale, Maricopa, and Tucson, to San Diego and back to LA, the 2000+ miles went all the quicker because of the reconnections made along the way. It’s says something about the strength of friendships ewhen I can drop an email to someone I’ve not seen since I last worked with them in 1992, tell them I’m going to be in town, and they immediately issue an invite to stay.
Wandering around Williams AZ shortly after 8 am on a Friday morning, I spotted a rare sight. A man smoking. It was such a novelty that I went to join him. We’d been stateside a week and he was maybe the third person I’d seen with a cigarette. Ah no, you say, you’re not back smoking? I’m not, but I have the odd one when I feel like it. And sure amn’t I on my holidays. Anyway, this particular cigarette would prove to be the most interesting one I’ve ever had. Read more
It’s Sunday night. I’m sitting at the table in the Jungle Mansion. One of their 13 friendly local raccoons is messing around outside. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s an unseasonable California. The talented SRP is playing the piano. She’d asked what my favourite piece was. I didn’t have to think. Panis Angelicus. She’d not heard it before, but went online, downloaded the sheet music, and played it. Beautifully. Such unpretentious talent is humbling. Read more
January has been a busy month. I was in Hungary doing communications/public speaking workshops each Tuesday and then doing the same in Ireland each Thursday. My brain is addled. I’m now in Malta gearing up for more of the same. I’ve been preaching the importance of vocal variety, eye contact, body language, facial expressions, gestures, pauses, voice projection and the myriad other elements that go into good communication and watching participants improve week on week. All very rewarding. Read more
Yup. Sometimes I hate being right. It doesn’t happen often, but happen it does. And when it happens, when I hate being right, it’s usually because the universe has smacked me in the face with a wet fish and told me to wake up and start listening to myself. The last time I ignored my inner voice, it cost me my wallet.
Many many moons ago, I fell ill. No one knew quite what was wrong with me. I spent a couple of weeks in Cherry Orchard (built as a fever hospital and where contagious diseases and such were treated). Anyway, released with a clean bill of health and no diagnosis, I resorted to faith healers. On the advice of a friend (long since dead) I went to visit a nun in Drogheda who was a diviner. She told me that I was suffering from metal poisoning and that I should replace all my metal filings with porcelain ones, never wear jewellery around my neck or in my ears, and watch what I ate. For the latter, she told me to get myself a crystal and work with it. She warned me against using it for anything else though – sure that’d be against my religion.
I hightailed it to Temple Bar (before it was Temple Bar) to what was probably the only crystal shop in Dublin and I bought my crystal. I’d buy a second many years later in Palm Springs. And I usually carry one or the other with me.
I’m not asking you to believe what I believe or to do what I do – I’m simply telling you this for the sake of my story. I have a crystal and I use it regularly to find things or decide whether or not I should be worried about something or to see what is making me ill.
Late last year, I went through the mind-crippling experience of buying new glasses. I opted for two magnetic dots – one on each lens – to which I could attach my sunglasses. The sunglasses were cut to fit the frames and at around 27 000 ft, weren’t exactly off-the-shelf cheap. I last saw them on the 4th of January. I had lost the hard case they’d come in but had the glasses, now packed in a thin, soft, felt envelope. I didn’t need them for a week or so and it wasn’t until the 10th that I went looking for them. And they were nowhere to be found. Three of us spent an age turning over the flat. I’d already turn the house upside down to no avail. I checked shoes, bags, and coats. I looked in boxes, in presses, in drawers. I even checked the freezer having once found my car papers stuck to the bottom of a tub of ice-cream. I emptied bins, sifted through rubbish, double-checked the car. But nothing. Nada. Nincs.
So I brought out my crystal.
It told me that my sunglasses were in my office on a shelf. I looked. And I looked. And I looked. I took down books. I lifted journals. I leafed through papers. Nothing. But it insisted.
I had a decision to make. My crystal said I should wait – they’d turn up. I was running out of time. I’d need them for February but wouldn’t be in town to get new ones unless I ordered them last week. I said aloud, on more than one occasion – The minute I get the new ones, the old ones will turn up. As I was passing the optician, I rang the lovely PE who comes to clean my flat once a week.
Did my glasses turn up? I asked.
Not a sign of them, she said.
And this from a woman who cleans out toasters and dusts between the radiator and the wall. They were gone.
So I dropped into the Opti, shelled out the money, and ordered a new pair. She’d have them tomorrow, she said. I was flying that afternoon but I’d live without them till I was back. But then she called, a couple of hours later, and said she had them. I went to pick them. Got back to the flat. Started packing for my flight. Went to take my screen cover for my laptop from the shelf beside my desk and what did I find? THE BLOODY GLASSES.
I was right. Not quite to the minute, but near enough not to matter. And I hated being right.
That was last week. It’s taken me this long to get over the bruises I got from kicking myself. I’m grateful for the reminder to be more patient, to listen to my inner voice (amplified by my crystal), and to be more mindful about where I put things in the first place.
About a year ago, on a flight from Munich to Malta, I did the unthinkable. I tore out a couple of pages from the inflight magazine. I’d come across a poem I really liked and wanted to have a copy of it to reflect on later. Which I did. Fast forward to November and I received an email from the poet, Giulia Privitelli, who had come across my blog. The book of poetry I’d mentioned – Walking in Circles – had finally published and she kindly offered to send me a copy. I thought no more of it. Until it arrived. It was waiting for me when I got back to Budapest in late December.
Walking in Circles is an ‘illustrated poetic journey’ that started in 2017. Privitelli teamed up with illustrator Steve Bonello to work on the project. Both pilgrims, they ‘intertwine their life experiences and art forms as they reflect on art, nature, childhood, growth, death; on feelings and thoughts that we cherish, question, and fear in a landscape that looks the same but is forever changing’. It’s a beautiful collection of poetry that is my go-to read as I travel around the city, each poem a tonic of thought and reflection that grounds me while at the same time freeing me from the limits of my reality.
But even more than the book, fascinating though it is, was the letter that accompanied it (reprinted, in part, with permission).
Once again, I thank you for sharing one of my poems on your blog. Even simply knowing that you took the time to read it on the plane gives me a certain sense of glee; to have ripped it out of the magazine, reflected upon it, and allowed it to reach into your own memory and experience…well, that is to have gone one step further. And that couldn’t have made me happier.
It might see like an (awe-fully) small thing to get so excited and giddy about, but it has always been the small things which get me all excited and giddy. The poems were written that way, too – one small observation, curiosity, episode – small things which trigger an unexpected avalanche of words, rolling into each other, forming something that resembles a poem. Just like your own blog, “there was no plan”. One brief moment becomes the memory of a day, that day becomes the memory of the week, the week becomes that of the month and the month becomes that of the year, and so on, year after year, for every moment we experience. Smallness has great potential, don’t you think? And it quickly becomes overwhelming. Small things may be shared because they are light; they allow space for an exchange to be made, for movement, for others; small things bounce off each other, shape each other; they cannot impose; they contain as they too are contained; small things, the smallest, may be part of anything, they can lead to anything. They are relatable. Small things may be so easily overlooked or discounted, but when discovered they can just as easily be fully absorbed, fully known and therefore fully appreciated; they build up towards a whole. And we, in our smallness, are part of it.
Jokingly (but also seriously) what is the spectactular if not an imperceptible number of tiny, different specks coming together? This is how I would rather look at our world because, honestly, I cannot think of anything more exciting, more beautiful, more necessary to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture! My eyesight isn’t the sharpest, but I hope to spend a lifetime looking for and discovering small things, just like you have when you opened the inflight magazine. […]
What a lovely, lovely message to end one year with and begin another. Perhaps the answer to the absurdity and chaos in which we live, perhaps the way to deal with the preposterousness of the players on the world’s stage, is to delight in the small things. To find that brief moment that becomes the memory of a day. Perhaps if we concentrate more on these small things, they will indeed lead to something – a calmer, saner, more hospitable, more considerate world.
I don’t recall ever asking you to share a blog post – but for this I make an exception. If this resonates in any way with you, please consider sharing. If we can all refocus on the small things, and delight in the ordinary, perhaps our collective tomorrow will be one to look forward to.
To buy the book, Walking in Circles
I caught some form of crud during the week, a nasty chest infection that seems to have moved in and taken over. Not for love nor money could I face getting up this morning at 7.20 to make it to 8 o’clock Mass. I figured the good Lord would forgive me but as the day wore on and I finally did surface to see the light of day, himself figured it would be a shame to waste it. My time in the village is limited this month to two weekends – I needed to make the most of them.
We headed into Balatongyörök around 3.30 pm to catch the sunset over the lake while enjoying a cup of coffee and a pastry at the lovely Promenád Kavéház. Judging by the lone slice of banana cake, the couple of chocolate wedges, and the handful of macaroons, we weren’t the only ones to have had this idea. The offer was thin but the view was amazing. Looking out across the lake over to Fonyód was like looking across a massive pane of glass. Blue sky. Calm water. Crisp air. Lovely stuff. Back around 1900, Charlie thought so too. He’s quoted here as saying something along the lines of ‘I’ll never forget that moment when I saw this fairy country… I stopped as if my feet were roots.’
It was cold though. At least I was feeling the cold until I was beset by a hot flush. They’re the bane of my life these days. I never know what to wear and seem to spend my time taking off and putting on my clothes. It’s a pain in the proverbial. I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night or managed to stay in one room for any length of time without having pop outside for a breather. I’m wishing it would all be over. Menopause is proof in my mind that God isn’t a woman. Still though, in cold weather, said same flushes can be a blessing in disguise. And true to form, on the walk around the viewing point, I was nicely warmed.
We popped into Aldi to pick up a few things before getting 6 pm mass in Keszthely. Wandering the aisles with plenty of time to spare, I was all happy … until I flushed again.
Sweet mother of divine Jesus, I cried. Just give me two flush-free hours and I’ll be happy. Just two. Surely that’s not too much to ask!
I was more than a little pissed off. Dehatting, descarfing, degloving and then unzipping and derobing is a major inconvenience, especially as it all has to be put back on minutes later.
We headed over to Magyarok Nagyasszonya templom (Our Lady of Hungary church) for 6 o’clock Mass. Waiting for the priest to show up, it felt like the coldest church I’d ever been in. Not a radiator or electric heater in sight. It was so cold that I could see my breath.
I’d had a near missing coming into the place. The full complement of lights don’t go on till 5.45 but we’d mistimed it and got there five minutes earlier. I opened the main door and stepped in – and down. I ask you, what sort of idiot architect puts a step at a door threshold? I went sprawling but managed to right myself before I hit the floor and better yet, managed to contain the inevitable expletive to a whisper. Just as well, because the acoustics were good.
At 5.55 pm, there was only ourselves and two old dears in the congregation. I was beginning to doubt there was Mass at 6. But then the crowd appeared, all of a sudden and all at once. We caused some consternation as of all the empty pews in the place, we’d sat in one that had regulars. I was too cold to move or care and as they squished in regardless, the element of body heat wasn’t lost on me.
The priest was late. It wasn’t until he made an appearance at 6.05 that the seat pads were switched on. I’ve only ever seen this in Hungary. The seat pads are heated – like electric blankets. The rest of me might have been frozen solid but my bum was nice and toasty. It’s the weirdest thing.
I borrowed himself’s hat, thanking the protocol that frowns on men covering their heads in a church but encourages women to do so. I figured I’d have no more than 15 minutes before a hot flush kicked in and then I’d be nice and warm. Himself was thinking the same. I radiate heat when it happens. Some not in the know might take it for a miracle of sorts. But nothing. Not a damn thing. Then I remembered the prayer I’d uttered aloud in Aldi. It’d only been gone and answered! The luck of it all.
After a week that seemed like it would never end, I’m grateful to have been cautioned – I need to be more careful what I pray for.
If you’re in Keszthely, the church is worth a visit as it has some spectacular old frescoes. But watch the step.
The first month of the new year isn’t even in double digits yet and already I’m beset by a feeling of foreboding that just won’t go away. I can’t quite put my finger on it but 2019 has none of the hope or expectation that its predecessor had. It’s not like anything is wrong; it’s more a feeling that things could be heading for a downswing and the chances of avoiding or averting whatever’s in store seem small, if non-existent. I’m not depressed. I’m not paranoid. I’m not even fatalistic – I’d be more than happy if I’m wrong. It’s just a sense I have that it’s going to be a year to remember and not for any good reason. Only time will tell. It’s been a while, years in fact, since I’ve felt this way and thankfully, I know from experience that I have a coping mechanism that works. I need to delight in the ordinary. I need to lose sight of the big picture and concentrate on the little things.
A few weeks back, I took the car for a spin through the local carwash. The last time I’d been there, the chap in charge all but pulled out what few hairs he had left in desperation at my stupidity. Am sure that his account of ‘that idiot woman’ kept the local pub entertained that evening. Okay. My bad. But no, I didn’t for a minute think that the car had to be out of gear and the handbrake had to be off for it to move – wasn’t that the whole point of automation? Of course, in retrospect, it’s completely sensible. The car has to be free to move through the wash; it doesn’t just get up on a track and trundle along unaided. But who would have thunk it, eh? My Hungarian wasn’t quite up to understanding the finer mechanics of the workings of a carwash but after a few shouts, yells, and wild gesticulations, I got the message. Finally.
And he remembered me. I left an impression. I could see the universal upwards eye-shift that screams – oh, no, not her again. But then he spotted himself beside me and relaxed. All was well. I had a man in the car who’d tell me what to do. How was he to know that I don’t need to be told twice? Bless him.
Anyway, as I sat looking out at what was going on, it struck me that way back whenever, some bright spark sat down one day and dreamed up this idea. It’s a spectacular piece of work really. The rollers, the runners, the hoses, the jets, the pipes, the pullies, the nozzles, the water, the suds, the foam, the drying columns, the fans … each piece playing its part in an operation that had my car looking like new in a matter of minutes. Harmony in motion. I wondered who was behind it.
It seems there are a number of contenders for the title.
Back in 1914, in Detroit, MI, Frank McCormick and J.W. Hinkle opened what they called an automatic laundry. But the only automation going was human. As the car went through a tunnel (being pushed by a few chaps, no doubt), one guy soaped, another rinsed, and a third dried. It wasn’t until 1940 in Hollywood, CA, that someone had the idea to pull the car through the tunnel using a winch. And it was later again, in 1946, that Thomas Simpson came up with the sprinkler idea, but still, some poor sod had to do the rubbing and the drying.
Here’s where Google divides. One site says that Paul Maranian, opened Paul’s Auto Wash in Detroit – the world’s first automatic car wash – in 1948. But a second says it was the Anderson brothers of Seattle, WA, who finally went fully automated in 1951. Archie, Dean, and Eldon didn’t have the benefit of social media to spread the word and it would appear that in 1956, some parts of the USA still hadn’t gotten wind of their invention. Dan Hanna, from Portland, OR, which is really only down the road from Seattle, while on vacation in Mexico became fascinated with the workings of the local carwash. He went back home, got his mother to mortgage the house, and opened his own Rub-a-Dub in Milwaukie, OR. By 1959, according to the Hanna website, he had a working model of ‘the first mechanized car washing system’. Automated vs mechanized. mmmm….
That took me off on a whole other tangent.
According to those in the know, mechanization saves the use of human muscles whereas automation saves the use of human judgement. Now, I’m the first to admit that I’ve failed repeatedly and spectacularly when taking aptitude tests where cog A turns in one direction, cog B turns in another, and I’m supposed to figure out which way cog C goes. I’m damn near useless with any sort of instructional diagram. I need it in word format. My brain simply doesn’t interpret diagrams, but even with this limitation, surely mechanization would come before automation?
It doesn’t matter a whit to me, really, which came first or who gets the credit for what. I’m grateful that my coping mechanism still works and that I can still be distracted if I find delight in the ordinary. Who knows what I’ll learn this year!