There’s not much by way of night life in the village. The local pub/café closes at 9pm. And that’s it. No restaurants, no bars, no cinema, no theatre, Nada. Our entertainment of choice is watching movies and TV series projected onto a wall in the front room. A French colleague back in my Chichester days had such a set-up in her house and I loved it. No TV as the focal point in the room. Just one plain white wall as your screen. Magic.
But as I have a tendency to binge and watch for hours, the next most important ingredient in a perfect village winter evening is a couch. A comfortable couch (kanapé). The one we inherited with the house makes a great bed but a crap sofa. So we went shopping.
And wowser – what an eye-opener. People in this part of the world must have massive houses with massive rooms because the sofas we saw, for the most part, were massive with massive price tags. Huge, L-shaped puffy things in plush-toy fabrics. We wanted a three-seater, no longer than 220 cm. How difficult could that be? Of the hundreds we saw and the tens we sat on, we only came close three times.
The first was on a tour of the myriad furniture shops in Keszthely. It was small enough, grey enough, and affordable enough. They would order it and upholster it in a fabric of my choosing. It would take 8 to 10 weeks to arrive. We came, we sat, we thought, and then at the end of the day, after striking out everywhere else, we came back, ready to order. But on the second sitting, himself decided it was just a tad too small. Not quite deep enough. It didn’t put the lounge in loungeable. Now, on the Belbin team ranking, I’m off the scale when it comes to being a completer-finisher. I want everything done now. I have zero patience. Waiting just ain’t in my nature. I had a mission that Friday – I wanted to buy a couch. End of. And I have a cut-off point when shopping, when the enjoyment needle goes from grand to losing the will to live. I was at tipping point when I heard the backtrack, I think I screamed.
Our ever-friendly assistant had come upstairs, notepad in hand, ready to take the order. I told her he had changed his mind and muttered that perhaps I needed to change my husband as well as the sofa (and no, I didn’t get married – don’t ask – it’s just easier). She looked at him and at me and at the couch, and then told me quite sternly that he looked good – and that I wouldn’t do any better were I to change him. Sometimes humour doesn’t translate. One of us left happy.
It took me a few days to forget the experience and to psych myself up for a trip to Max City, a three-story building in Buda full of designer furniture shops (SF – you’d love it). It was a little depressing seeing so much fab stuff on sale and knowing it was way beyond our means and not just a few yards beyond but marathons beyond. That said, I doubt in any lifetime that I’d be able to justify spending the price of a new car (or a house in an even more remote village) on a sofa that wasn’t at least 100 years old and had been sat on by Hemingway. And although definitely out of our price range generally, we did find a second possible. A blue one that would go very nicely with the faint thread of blue on the fab Kerry Woolen Mills blanket that covers the bed, a bargain I picked up in Killarney last year. Good height. Right length. Super comfortable. Nice legs. Made in Poland. A 12-week order period. Delivery to the Kis-Balaton would be an additional 20%. Definitely at the upper limit of our price bracket but my back was screaming for a new sofa. The only drawback was that you couldn’t take off the cushions or turn them over. So were a glass of red wine to spill, we’d be screwed. Oh they could sell me an all-purpose magic fabric cleaner but really??? And when did I get so practical?
We went down a notch or three and popped into Kika, another massive department store with all sorts of stuff you never knew you needed. Again, more massive sofas, and of all of them, just one possible. Half the price of the blue sofa, but not nearly as well made, It didn’t have that sturdy feeling. But it was available on the spot, no waiting period. And the colour would work with the grey in the fab Kerry Woolen Mills blanket that covers the bed (I love that blanket). And the cushion covers unzipped for easy cleaning. We were almost there – but delivery would cost an additional whopping 70%. I’d reached my tipping point. I was losing the will to live.
Thoroughly disillusioned with the new-sofa offer, and not prepared to wait 12 weeks for something I might ruin on the first sitting, I reverted to type. I much prefer old stuff. It’s better made, for one thing. It’s stood the test of time already and hasn’t given up the ghost. The day we were in Keszthely, we’d stopped at one of those Holland Bútor shops – shops selling old furniture imported from Holland alongside Hungarian antiques. There are quite a few in the county so business must be good. While we were there, we’d seen a couple of old brown leather sofas that were very comfortable. But at that stage, I wasn’t thinking brown or leather or old. But there comes a point in life when comfort trumps style, especially when your back is screaming for mercy and there’s a whole six seasons left in the series you’re watching.
So we went back again, for another sit, and another look this week. Of course it was nothing like I’d remembered. I’d convinced myself it was a low-backed brown-buttoned Chesterfield … but it wasn’t. But it is extremely well made. Solid. In good nick. Affordable. And it was available. Any spills could be easily washed off. And it would age well with time. My Hungarian got us through it. We bought. Yer man delivered the next day, for free. And my back is happy. Yep, going for old is where it’s at.