A few years ago, I came across a diary I had written when I was 16. The certainty of my writing left no room for discussion. I had obviously given a lot of thought to what I wanted from life and, in that innocence peculiar to 16-year-olds who have never been given reason to question why life wouldn’t deliver exactly what was expected, I was sure it would all go to plan.
I was going to be a teacher, married to teacher, living in Co. Wicklow. The plan was to have two kids, a boy (Tadhg/Irish for Tim) and a girl (Maud), by the time I was 27 and be ready to retire and travel the world some twenty years later. I was even going to drive a powder-blue VW bug.
Then, unlike now, I had a clear idea of what I wanted. Now, unlike then, I’m ever-so slightly more realistic; my certainty somewhat battered and bruised. None of it happened. Not the marriage, not the kids, not the house in Wicklow or the VW bug. I am teaching about three hours each week though, and did lecture in Incident Investigation for a couple of semesters at the community college in Valdez. So, at a stretch perhaps…..
I was reminded of all of this when I took this photo of my ‘sitting room’.
When I first started imagining how the flat would look – during that rather anxious period of time when I’d signed the papers, paid the money and was about to start renovating – I had envisioned my dining table in this corner. I had it wired for wall lights so that when dining, I could just light that part of the room, creating a more intimate atmosphere. And then, of course, the table turned out to be so gorgeous that I just couldn’t hide it in the corner. So this became the ‘sitting room’.
I searched for a long time for the sofa and armchair. I wanted it to look old but not be old (sitting on horsehair never appealed to me, particularly when the provenance of the horsehair was in doubt). I wanted it to look stylish but not modern. And I wanted it to be green. My mother’s eagle eye spotted these in Domus (a relatively upscale furniture emporium in Budapest). I ordered them in November and they arrived in late January (Hungary has its own internal time clock).
So much of Budapest is ‘happened upon’. I found this Chobi rug while walking down Rákóczi út, which separates the 7th and 8th districts (Budapest has 23 districts in total) between Astoria and Keleti (the Eastern) railway station. In 1906, it was named after Ferenc (Francis) II Rákóczi, who led the Hungarian uprising against the Habsburgs from 1703 to 1711. He had the rather cumbersome title of ‘The Prince of the Estates Confederated for Liberty of the Kingdom of Hungary’ (so, what does your fellah do for a living? Well, he’s the prince of the…..) and he was also Prince of Transylvania. The uprising didn’t go to plan and the poor chap was exiled. He spent the remainder of his life in Turkey. Back in 1906, when his remains were brought back to Hungary, the funeral marched along this street. Today, you can see remnants of its former splendour with some truly amazing buildings. Some, like the Volksbank building, have been beautifully restored. (If you ever get a chance to see the conference room in No. 7, have a look – it’s fantastic.)
As you walk down Rákóczi út, towards Blaha Lujza tér, there’s an Middle-Eastern-styled Souk on your left. It’s heaving with carpets. On top of one pile, I spotted this Chobi. It sounds a little affected perhaps, or even downright silly, but I was so chuffed with myself that I recognised it for what it was and actually knew what I was looking at. The place is run by a chap from Afghanistan who moved over here in 1992 and is now married with kids. His sister works there, too. I went through the usual ‘is this your final price’ routine but my heart wasn’t really in it. It was already a very good price and I was happy to pay it – it would transform that corner of my room and tie it all together.
Mind you, I had trouble imagining a circular rug in that space. I have trouble with round things: during the renovations I was extremely adamant that my taps should be angular and not curved; my sinks the same. Even my bath. But this rug, being handmade, isn’t exactly round. Actually, it’s slighly misshapen, which adds to its charm.
On the advice of JFW – who has an extensive collection of carpets and seems to be able to use them to create spaces in places where you couldn’t imagine space in the first place – I thought about it. And, the next day, I went back and bought. I am getting rather used to have art on my floor rather than on my walls!
Later that day, I hit a shop on Tuzoltó utca, where JFW had gotten a good deal on a bookcase. It’s an odd place. More like a house clearance centre than an antique shop. It is very much a question of rooting around to see what treasure you might unearth. And it was here that I found what I hope will be the first of many ‘occasional tables’ (although technically I think that with the drawer and the height, it doesn’t qualify as an OT). While it’s not the best restoration job in the world, it’s still a rather charming piece from about 1910. And I do like my drawers! I particularly like the metal accents on each side of the drawer (hard to see in this picture) and the bar across is black wood, which ties nicely with the black on the legs of the main table.
It is all coming together rather nicely. BTW The plant’s name is Harold (a housewarming present from the W-Fs). He seems to be doing okay (if by ‘okay’ you mean that he’s growing as many new shoots as he is losing leaves). I don’t have a very good history with plants – perhaps because I’ve never found any who like country music.