2020 Grateful 10: The Rule of Life

Generations of Benedictine monks around the world have been living by one rule for more than 1500 years: to have death at all times before them. Read more

2020 Grateful 11: Grateful Living

I was reminded recently of a 2017 interview between Oprah Winfrey and then 91-year-old Benedictine, Br David Steindl-Rast, whose TED Talk has racked up more than seven million views. Read more

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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