Mystery solved

I mentioned before that our new garden is full of surprises. As the trees, plants, and bushes bloom, we’re gradually getting to know what we’re living with. We’re still undecided whether we have apricots or peaches, but time will tell.

Our new domain, the Kis Balaton, has its own surprises. I’m not great at naming the various crops planted and unless they’re potatoes flowering or are already in bloom (like oil seed rape), I’m wrong more times than I’m right. And that, my friends, is taking some getting used to.

Right outside the village, I’ve watched a field of somethings grow taller and tried though I might, I was unable to put a name to what was growing there. This week, the mystery was solved. And I’m delira and excira to see a field of glorious sunflowers.

Many years ago, on one of my first forays out of Budapest, I saw fields and fields of these yellow beauties in all their glory. No matter how bad my mood, they’re guaranteed to make me smile. With temperatures soaring, and storms turning the power feed into a staccato-like chorus of on-again, off-again, bad humor is not infrequent, but not nearly as long-lasting as it might be in the city. I think I may becoming a nicer person. #lovinglifeinthevillage 🙂

I went in search of  a poem by William Blake that I vaguely remembered, and it says it all for me…

Ah! Sunflower

Ah! sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves and aspire;
Where my sunflower wishes to go.

Like Blake, I, too, am a little tired of the if onlys, and wish that more people (of all ages) would seize life by the petals and feel it, and live it, and be it. Sunflowers are planted, striving to reach a place they’ll never get to. Humans are not. We can move. We can follow the sun. We can turn our faces sunward and be positive. If we are fortunate enough to have a choice and not live under regimes who make our choices for us, we can choose where we go, what we do, and how we want to spend the short time we have on this Earth. By all means sunflower it – look at the sun and aspire to where and what you might want to be. But for Blake’s sake – move!


2017 Grateful 26

Philadelphia. 7 June. 1753. Benjamin Franklin sat down to write a letter to George Whitefield, an English clergyman who was taking America by storm. Billed as the ‘Grand Itinerant’, he called no church home, preferring to travel around the colonies preaching to the masses. For more than 30 years, he held his audiences in the palm of his hand, leading them to penitence and reigniting their souls with a passion for God in what was known as the Great Awakening.

I came across an excerpt from this letter recently and went in search of the  full text.  The more I read, the more I realised that BJ could have been writing today. June 2017.  And I wondered how much better the world might be, were we to heed his words. I read it through a number of times and the same line kept jumping out at me.

I wish [faith] were more productive of good works than I have generally seen it; I mean real good works; works of kindness, charity, mercy and public spirit; not holiday-keeping, sermon-reading or hearing; performing church ceremonies, or making long prayers filled with flatteries and compliments…

How relevant this is. My mind began to draw all sorts of connections between dots that weren’t there back in the 1700s. We have so many friends today. Thanks to social media, many of us have friends we’ve never met, people with whom we might interact on a daily basis through a litany of likes and hashtags but couldn’t pick out of a crowd. Have we reduced active support to sharing posts and reacting to photos? Are we drowning in a sea of good intentions, blaming our shortcomings as friends and neighbours on a lack of time? Are our leaders more intent on replaying their soundbites than actually getting anything done, building foundations for the future on shaky rhetoric?

In sharp contrast to city life, in the village if you need something done, you simply ask. We needed to borrow scaffolding from friends in the village. 1 km door to door. It was too heavy to hand carry and too heavy for a roofrack. But a neighbour two doors up, to whom we’ve spoken to maybe three times, has a trailer and his wife has a car with a trailer hitch. We asked, he delivered.

My néni-next-door popped her head through the trees to say hi. She was curious to know what laundry detergent I was using, as the sheets I had air drying outside smelled wonderful. I had doubts at first that I was understanding her correctly but yes, I was. She disappeared and came back with money, asking me to bring some for her from Budapest next time I was down. She asked, I’ll deliver.

There’s hardly a day that goes buy without some ask being delivered on, in some form, shape, or fashion. Perhaps it’s still a few decades behind the times. Perhaps its the absence of distractions. Perhaps its simply a community at work. It feels good though. And is nice to be part of it. I’m grateful.

BJ captured it nicely in his letter to Whitefield…

For I do not think that thanks and compliments, though repeated weekly, can discharge our real obligations to each other …

We ask, they do, and we do in return. Practical living at its best.

Morphing into my mother

My mother trained as a nurse but gave it all up when us kids came along. She has spent the better part of her life making a home and keeping it together. I used to marvel at how she always seemed so busy. Volunteering. Playing golf. Baking. Cleaning. Cooking. And to my shame, I secretly wondered if she was afflicted by some sort of mania that made her go – non-stop. But she was (and is) simply doing. Now I think I finally get it.

Take yesterday as an example. Up at the crack of dawn (the sun in my world rises about 7.30),  First job of the day, even before breakfast, was to help move furniture down to the barn. It had already spent a night outside and I didn’t want the neighbour-lady giving me grief for wanton destruction of property – even if it was my property. It’s a village. Everyone has an opinion. Last time I was down she told me that I was letting myself go – I used to be so smartly dressed and now…well… enough said. It’s a village.

The previous evening, we’d cleaned out the living room so himself could varnish the floor. But there was a problem with the sofa. I have no idea how it got in there as there was no way in God’s earthly world that it would fit through the doorway. So we were up till midnight, him doing the technical stuff like removing bolts, me gleefully taking a knife to the shockingly ugly purple patterned velour, removing the padding and tearing away the fabric with little hope (or care) of ever putting it back together. And we didn’t find as much as a forint. The hidden treasure amounted to a collection of antique mice droppings. That done, I had an editing job to start and another to finish. I was emailing clients in Spain and Serbia, going back on forth regarding meaning and substance. Then I had some blogs to finish for a client in India. And whatever inroad that made on my to-do list was very minor indeed.

I am picking my way around the house as the hall is crammed with furniture. My office is the same. But the floor should be finished this evening and tomorrow we can move the bed downstairs. I’ve gone Hungarian. The room is the brightest and the coolest in the house and the nicest energy-wise. So we’re moving in. But it’s big enough to have a seating area as well as a bed so it will be used during the day as well. Is it only a Hungarian thing, that reluctance to devote one room solely to sleeping when it could be used during the day? Do older houses in Poland and Romania have  the same proliferation of daybeds in multi-purpose rooms? I wonder.

I somehow skipped lunch – I didn’t have time to eat, which is no bad thing. But there was laundry to be done. And builders supplies to be taken down to the barn. And stuff to be cleared from underneath the stairs because I need to find room for a small freezer.

The afternoon was closing in and the sun had dropped just enough to make it bearable to be outside. So I got to weeding the path. The sweat was pouring out of me like a tap on half-flow. Despite being covered in bug spray, I got two significant bites and now know that I need to garden in socks and to hell with the tan lines. Oh, how quickly we change our priorities. [I’m still getting over the shock that I went out into a garden to work … voluntarily. And I did it without thinking because it has to be done.] I weeded till I began to lose the will to live, all the time wondering how my mother does it. The weeds are winning. I fear there’s more path left than motivation.

Then it was time to make dinner. A simple fare of Chinese duck, new potatoes, and broccoli. I’m working on perfecting my salsa but so far all it always turns out an unappetizing shade of pink. It’ll take time.

After dinner, we did a crossword. And this is when it hit me. I am morphing into my mother. Mind you, it’d be no bad thing as she’s one amazing woman. I had a couple of papers to finish before I finally crashed to be woken this morning by a call to say the plasterer was on his way to check out the repairs that need doing to the windows. As I went out to unlock the gate, I tripped over a weed. Yep – it’s going to be another long day…



2017 Grateful 29

Many moons ago, friends shared a house with a girl who’d come back from her weekends at home saying what a fantastic time she’d had. Everything had been brilliant. Great craic. Amazing. Then one weekend, when she stayed in town, they got to see that her version of brilliant, amazing, and great craic didn’t quite live up to what they’d envisioned. I’ve been there, too. I’ve done that burning-the-candle-at-both-ends thing in an effort to have a good time. I’ve sought out the amazing, the spectacular, and the craic and turned my nose up at the quiet, more restrained weekends others enjoyed.

Perhaps it’s old age, maturity, or just growing up – but lately, it’s the simple things in life that I get the most fun out of.

(c) L. Nugent

The lovelies were visiting from Dublin this weekend. We picked them up from the airport on Friday, and took them down to the village to see the new pad. Barely giving them time to unpack, I put them to work picking and pitting cherries. That evening, we bbq’d before driving the 50 minutes to Zalaegerszeg to see the great Ripoff Raskolnikov in action at the Pop-Up Café, a lovely little venue tacked on to the side of a community centre. [Frenk is playing there next weekend – I can see it becoming a regular haunt.] It was a brilliant gig – and I use the word intentionally. The lovelies were well impressed with this talented lyricist who could give Tom Waits a run for his money. [I’ve chosen two songs that I think Imelda May should sing, and I’ve made a note to write  and share this with her. I think she’s with it enough to answer or at least read an FB post. If anyone has an email address for her, holler. What a great new image she has eh?]

The next day, after a leisurely breakfast and some more cherry-picking, we stopped by the Balaton Airport for a nose. Tucked in behind a disused army barracks, it’s quite something. Flights still fly from there (RyanAir used to land its Dublin flight there back in the day and I’m hoping they’ll start using it again). But if I landed there on my first visit to Hungary, I think I might have some misgivings. And if I had money, I’d be looking at what could be done with those buildings … so much scope.

Next we headed over to see the lads at Florridora’s – the masters of Cream Teas. There we spent a lovely couple of hours catching up over pots of Earl Gray and plates of lavender shortbread, coconut sponge, rocky road, and traditional scones with whipped cream and raspberry-and-lemon jam. They now offer a catering service and will come to your home to prepare and serve a cream tea for your friends, colleagues, neighbours. A cracking idea – and they travel – and they bring their own china.

Back then to the cherries and another al fresco dinner with the neighbours. Later in the evening, the guitar came out and the sheep next door were entertained. I still need to get to grips with this noise thing. I am ridiculously considerate of my neighbours and need to relax a little and take advantage of the fact that it’s my house dammit and if I want to be outside chatting at 11pm, that’s okay. Yep – I made it to 11 before moving the sing-song indoors. Next time, I might make it till 12. Gulliver’s jerkin wasn’t knit in a day.

Sunday morning after mass (I was accompanied up the road by a neighbour I’d not spoken to before and managed to hold my own in conversation – in Hungarian) I came home to a fab breakfast of baked eggs with asparagus. This would set us up for a morning at the Liliomkert market over in Káptalantóti where I ordered curtains from a Transylvanian néni who travels in every few weeks with her wares. We communicated through her 10-year-old grandson. Between my Hungarian and his English, I can only hope that I get what I think I ordered. I’d left my wallet at home so came away without the cinema chairs, the old locker, and the gold-framed mirror I’d set my eye on. Next time.

Traffic was so bad going into Keszthely that we turned off and headed inwards, over the mountains. What spectacular views of the vineyards and the rolling hills and valleys. We stopped for lunch on the way back before going home for a quick nap to ready ourselves for the last game of the season at Zalaegerszeg. Big Z is set to take over the team later this month and I’m looking forward to the season starting end of July. The VIP box is quite something. The stands were practically empty, it being end of season with nothing riding on the game. Just wait, though, till he works his magic. Hajra ZTE!!! It’s all to play for. We stayed in town for dinner – the first of many to come, I hope – before heading back to the village. This morning, before starting out for Budapest, we got some more cherries picked – the sour ones are now ripe and that tree is loaded. I’ve spent the evening accosting my neighbors and forcing ziplocked bags of megyes on them. The rest I pitted and pulped and bottled.

Perhaps by other people’s standards, we didn’t have a glamorous weekend. Nothing life-changing happened. No records were broken. Nothing remarkable and yet everything remarkable. Some sayings were added to the repertoire:

  • Have you met you? Said in response to a ridiculous denial of something that’s bleedin’ obvious.
  • A present from me to me. Used to justify an outlandish purchase.
  • Every pot has a lid (or in Hungarian – every hole in the sack has a patch to fit). Another way of saying, there’s someone for everyone.
  • I’ll have one more than no more. Used when having that last drink is never enough.
  • And my all-time favourite Steinism – You’re not putting hearts in babies. As in get over yourself – what you’re doing isn’t that important.

I didn’t want to leave. The next couple of weeks will be full on, both people-wise and work-wise. But this week was a good one. This weekend was my sort of brilliant. Good times spent in good company – this is what I’m grateful for.



Childhood revisited

I used to hate the summers when I was growing up. And I’m still not a great fan but back then, it wasn’t the sun and the heat (30 degrees today) that did my head in, it was the fruit picking. The strawberries. The raspberries. The blackcurrants. The gooseberries. All had to be picked and topped and tailed. Backbreaking work. I ate so many that I rarely, if ever, touch a berry these days. I make an exception for cranberries – and only because they’re a core ingredient of cosmopolitans. And of all the jam my dad makes, I can only face his redcurrant and mint jelly.

I’m back in the village for a couple of days. The painter has been in. He’s done a great job inside and is working his way outside, too. [Not quite sure why he painted around a wasps’ nest, though.] The house is coming along nicely. Bought a bed today – a real bed. With a real mattress. After six months on a sofa bed, I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep. And after a hard evening’s working picking cherries, I deserve it.

Yep, the universe is playing a cruel joke. I mentioned before that we were a little unsure as to what sort of fruit trees was have in the garden. Well, I know for definite that we have cherry trees – two of them. And two very prolific babes they are – if that word can be used to describe a cherry tree. There’s probably a more appropriate horticultural term but hey, I never did pay much attention in the garden.

What’s more – the only time I’ve ever willingly (as in not out of politeness) eaten cherries has been when they’ve been sitting on top of a Black Forest Gateau. But in lieu of flowers (after a two-week absence) I was met at the station with a bowl of the red devils and I was starving. Turns out, I like them. Or at least, I like the ones that have come from our trees.

But what to do with them? There’s bucket loads. I think tomorrow I will try my hand at making that Hungarian summer staple, cold sour-cherry soup. And then on Thursday, I might give the cherry gin a go. Any suggestions for Friday?


2017 Grateful 34

If memory serves me correctly, something it rarely does these days, it was this weekend two years ago that I took a bus trip out of Budapest, a trip that would have life-changing consequences. When I bought my ticket to visit friends in Zala county, little did I know that I’d end falling in love with the village and buying in to their idyllic way of life.

When they first upped sticks, selling their flat in the city to move into and renovate a ramshackle country manse, I thought they were mad. Although just 10 minutes off the motorway, Balatonmagyaród isn’t exactly a hive of activity. There are two shops (of a sort) serving a population of about 430. One, opposite the church, seems to trade in bread and UHT milk with very little else on the shelves. I bought the entire stock of washing-up liquid one day – both bottles. The other doubles as a dohany nemzeti (a cigarette shop), a coffee shop, and a pub. It’s standing room only when the first six through the door take their seats.

But during the week, various suppliers come through the village in their vans, each with their own distinctive jangle. My favourite is the butcher van (with its Old MacDonald tune) staffed by a young couple who come on Wednesdays. They have sausages to die for. The breadman I’m steering clear of, as I don’t need that daily temptation. The frozen food guy will have to wait until we get a freezer. And the household supplies won’t get any business as I have that hording gene that ensures I always have a bottle of whatever I need in reserve.

In the 2-hour drive from the city, I play my country music and sing my head off to Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Travis Tritt and the like. If the mood takes me, I think along to Blues. But when I pass the county line into Zala, I start to breathe more easily. When I drive through the village of Zalakomar and come out the other side (right now greeted by a haze of yellow with fields planted with oil seed rape) I can feel every ounce of tension dissipate. That couple of miles before I hit our village is one of mounting excitement. What will have budded in the garden? Will the carpenter have been to put in the windows? Will Gyöngyi Néni (my neighbour) have left some eggs on the doorstep? Will the view over the Kis Balaton have changed?

The house is a work in progress. It’ll take a while (as in years) to get it to where I want it but that’s okay. The process is one I enjoy. When work has stalled, I find myself shopping for old furniture. I’m trying my hand at shabby-chiqing and plan on giving upholstering a go, too. I get to do the inside; the outside I’ve left to himself.

I’m not a gardener. Never have been. Laziness saved me from uprooting weeds only to discover this week that they are actually irises. But the fruit trees are budding and we haven’t a clue what we have. Peaches? Cherries? Plums? Apples? It’s all a matter of wait and see. And that’s the beauty.

Time down here takes on new meaning. Everything is laid back. They say they’ll come around 8 on Tuesday – but which Tuesday, whose 8? Things happen when they happen. On days I have work, I work; all day and half the night, cooped up in my dark room that just got a fabulous new window. My coffee breaks I take on the terrace.

We eat when we’re hungry, stay up half the night watching West Wing dvds, get up when we feel like it. There’s no schedule. There’s nowhere to be. There’s nothing to do but live.

Two years ago, when I got on that bus, I never for a minute imagined that this would be the part of my life that I miss most when I’m not living it. And if JFW and CsRW hadn’t paved the way, I’d not be here. So this week, with the new windows in place and the painter set to start next week, I’m truly grateful for that May day invitation two years ago. Who’d have thought that I’m really a country girl at heart.

All in a name

I’m a great fan of Oscar Wilde and one of my favourite plays is The Importance of Being Earnest. I’ve been known to bet on a horse just because its name reminds me of something or someone I like to remember. I’ve been known to drive miles out of my way to see what is behind a curious place name. So when I discovered that the neighbouring village of Zalavár was once known as Moosburg, I laughed aloud. The Alaska me had come full circle.

Driving around the lake recently, we went in search of the museum signposted on the road to Sármellék. We had passed it once before and I’d noted the funny-looking church that I’d mentally added to my Lake-Church photo project. Not quite sure what to expect, what we did find was remarkable.

The history of Zalavár dates back to about 840 AD. At the turn of the twelfth century, it became the county seat, long since relinquished to Zalaegerszeg. Around that time, the Benedictines built an abbey and monastery there and over the centuries other private estates grew in the area. The history reads like a saintly Who’s Who with the likes of Adrian,  Cyril, Methodius, and Benedict all getting an honorable mention. Various churches and chapels were built and dedicated and then razed in the battles and wars that ensued: The martyr Adrian’s Church, the Chapel of St Stephen, the Church of the Blessed Virgin, and a church with no patron at all.

Looking out over the fields at the remnants of the foundations, it doesn’t take much to imagine Zalavár as a thriving metropolis, a far cry from the sleepy village it is today. That so much has survived the ages is a miracle. Excavations over the last 60 years or so have yield a treasure of antiquities that flesh out the history of what was once a very important place indeed. So whether it was Moosburg or Mosuburg or Mosaburg (depending on what you read), Zalavár is worth a second visit when the museum opens at the end of this month.

Rephrasing the ask

When I told my mother that I wasn’t doing guilt any more, she laughed. Deep, down, on some basic cellular level, guilt is hardwired into the Irish psyche. It took (and takes) a lot of effort for me not to be guilted into doing something I don’t want to do. [See, it’s even a verb in Ireland.] I’ve had to retrain those around me to rephrase their ask to get the answer they want in a way that leaves me guiltless.

But it wasn’t always so. When I was still doing guilt, the conversation would go something like this.

I’m going into town to do some shopping.

30 minutes later:
I’m heading off now.

15 minutes later:
I’ll go so.

This is where I’d usually cave and go – Okay, okay. I’ll go!!! But since I gave up the guilt, the ask has had to change and all concerned now know that if they want me to do something, the ask has to be explicit.

So me and mam are sorted. I’d forgotten all about it until recently, when this conversation happened…

It’s a lovely day – do you want to go for a drive around the lake?
Nope. No ta. [I was up to my tonsils and happily cocooned in my den, oblivious to the sun shining outside. I was where I wanted to be and I didn’t want to be disturbed.]

10 minutes later:
You sure you don’t want to come? We could check out …..?
Nah, not today. Tomorrow maybe.

5 minutes later:
Shame to waste the day…
mmmmm, whatevs

In fairness, there were no dramatic sighs or annoying tsk tsks, no sound track to accompany the hopeful questions that were clearly not getting the right answer. But then I remembered… they hadn’t had the training and divine inspiration was in short supply.

So I explained about not doing guilt. And about changing the ask from ‘Do you want to ….’  to ‘Will you…’

Invariably, if I’m working, the latter has a much better chance of happening. So we went. To the lake. And got there just in time to see the sun beginning to set. Fabulous.



Reluctant to leave

After a number of years of living in rural Alaska, I began to hanker for the city smoke. The bustle. The arts. The restaurants. I didn’t want to have to wait until the annual theatre festival – I wanted drama, year round. Not the personal kind; the staged kind. I loved living in Valdez. My commute was  spectacular. The mountains seemed to rise out of the water on those days they weren’t completely hidden by cloud. I liked the small-town feel of it all, that everyone knew everyone. But after 9/11, I felt the walls close in a little and I needed to go home.

I swapped rural Alaska for semi-rural Ireland to ease myself back into it all before heading to London – the big city. I traded community for anonymity and I loved it, too. For a time. But then the city got too much and I downsized – to Oxford. Still within a relatively easy commute of the city but straddling the fence between the modern metropolis of London and the wizened, oldie-worldliness of Woodstock, it was great while it lasted. Circumstance moved me further South East and after two years of living in an earthly rendition of God’s waiting room, I was back to hankering for city lights that didn’t go out at 8pm. And so to Budapest.

I love it. And if anything, I love it more now than I did, say, last year. Because now I don’t have to get on a plane to leave it. I have the best of both worlds, splitting my time between the city and the countryside and two more different lives I can’t imagine.The country me favours fleece cotton pj bottoms and an old sweatshirt. She potters from desk to kitchen table to sofa depending on the mood. Nights are spent watching boxsets or reading. Days are spent working or exploring. Phone calls are a rarity and visitors are few. It’s a little piece of heaven.

Balatonmagyaród sits on the southern end of the Kis-Balaton, a few miles off the M7. From what I can find, the first time it appeared on any records was in 1308… so it’s old. Back then, villages were owned by families and in the late fifteenth century, it was the Báthory’s turn. Some time around 1540 it was destroyed (by the Turks perhaps?) and again around 1680, when the Germans and Croats passed through and burned it down.

In 1696 Széchényi György took over and pretty soon, despite the odds, the place was flourishing. By 1739, there was a church. By the 1800s, several noble families had taken up residence and by the mid-1800s, 752 people called it home. Fast forward to the 1920 when the lake was drained to reclaim some agricultural land and this is where it gets hazy for me. From what I gather, this wasn’t altogether successful; so much so that in 1985 (I think), the lake was flooded again. The marshes returned, the birds came back, and it’s now a conservation area, famous for its bird life and the Great Crested Grebe, in particular.  The walk around Kányavári sziget, an island in the lake accessible by a rather spectacular wooden bridge, is a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, enjoying the birds and watching the fishermen watch the fish.

It took me a number of years to get my head around the fact that the Balaton doesn’t stand upright on the map but rather drapes itself as if on a chaise longue. And now I discover that the Kis-Balaton appears to be not one but two lakes. I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag.


Anyway, yesterday evening, just after sunset, I watch hundreds of greylag geese come home. They flew in formation back to the lake for the night, having spent the day God only knows where. It was quite spectacular. The noise was deafening. I would have thought they’d be long gone by now, particularly as the lake is quite frozen. But they’re sticking around and, from what I read, these overwinters are not that unusual but they’re just a fraction of the whole population. The lake is about 400 m from the house but these guys may as well be living next door. If only I could speak goose.

I’m happy to swap the police sirens for gaggles of geese. I’m even happier to swap the post-midnight street arguments about where to go next for gentler, more rhythmic bird calls. And like the greylag geese, when it comes time to go, I’m reluctant to leave. But Serbia calls…


2016 Grateful 7

It’s hard to go back, they say. Things never quite live up to how you remember them. If they were great, they’ll be not so great. If the place was gorgeous, it’ll be a little less gorgeous. If your time there was miserable, it’ll be even more miserable.

Sure, I’ve gone to places and loved them and then gone back years later to find it had all changed, or it was smaller, grubbier, not nearly as nice as I remembered it. It could well have been, of course, that the company was different, or my mood had changed, and the place was still exactly the same. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it; I simply move on.

That said, when I go back somewhere and it’s even better than I remember, that’s bonus. Something to be grateful for.

A number of years and a lifetime ago, I was driving down by the Balaton on a Sunday morning and happened across an outdoor market in the village of Káptalantóti called Liliomkert. I remember being impressed at the time and thought that if I were down that way again, I’d definitely drop by.

Fast forward three years or so, and the same market came up in conversation with a friend whose mum lives in the village. Down by the Kis Balaton, this time, on a Sunday, we decided to take as spin over and check it out. It was a bank holiday weekend, so all the vendor stalls were taken. The place was heaving. The weather was cooperating and the sun was shining. It was a glorious day.

I came, I saw, and I spent my money. Three times, I got so carried away with being able to hold a semblance of a conversation in Hungarian, that I walked away without paying. Three times they called be back, looking for money. But such is life in the countryside that no one was all that bothered. They’d have caught up with me sooner or later.

I’m going through a phase at the minute, a painted phase. I’m quite taken with painted wood, something I wouldn’t have thanked you for eight years ago when I was doing up the flat in Budapest.  I was quite chuffed with this bench, a market find for the upstairs balcony. Come summer, I plan on taking my morning coffee sitting on it while looking down over the fields to the lake I know is behind the trees. Right now, it’s too bloody cold, although with the leaves gone, we can actually see the lake.



And ever since I came across the idea of vertical bookshelves on a trip to San Francisco, I can’t get enough plant stands. As this is the only part of the house that has a wealth vibe (in Feng Shui terms), I needed something that would take a lot of very specific colours and a money plant to channel that chi. And ya gotta love the whole shabby chic thing… a great excuse not to sand and paint – just leave it. Peeling paint is all the rage.

Not quite sure what to do with a large white wall in a big kitchen space that will be redone (once the plant stand in the wealth corner starts producing money), I had a root through some carpets and kilims. And I scored this pair – hand-woven in Poland, with the original labels still attached. It adds some warmth, reduces the echo, and ties in nicely with some pieces I want to work on.


There are few things I like more than a good market. Add the open air, some sunshine, and a little patience, and I am guaranteed a great day out. There was food, music, wine, coffee, pálinka, and lots to laugh about. Lots to be thankful for there. A must, if you’re in the neighbourhood.

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