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On being an aunt (3)

Emboldened by my self-perceived success with three 13-year-olds, and having enjoyed another whole day with just two of them, I was feeling brave. This time I borrowed three other kids and took four of them to the zoo.

I’d spent the previous day in Palatinus, the open air pool complex down on Margit Sziget (Margaret Island). It all went to plan. Not that I had a  plan other than to lie in the sun and read while the two boys amused themselves on the slides and in the wave pool. They took their charge seriously and dropped by every hour or so as agreed to give me time to take a dip in the pool. They also came by when they were hungry. They’d only met a few days before and yet they seemed to intuitively know what the other wanted to do. Amazing how simple relationships and friendships can be before we start adding judgement, preconceptions, and expectations to the mix.

budapest-palatinus

But to the zoo.

I have sod all experience when it comes to kids. Add this to a heightened sense of awareness of other people and a sometimes overpowering streak of consideration and you’ll get to the basket of nerves I was when we set off.

Is it possible to control four kids between the ages of 11 and 14? And even if it were, should I be bothered? Shouldn’t kids be let do kid things and make noise and ask questions and enjoy themselves without me, the adult, raining on their parade? Yes, I reasoned, they should. So I promised myself that I would swallow the chastisements and bite my tongue any time I felt the urge to caution or to reprimand. I told myself that no matter how loud they were, they were just being kids. And the rest of the world would just have to deal with it.

zoo2I nearly came a cropper when I opted out of the America House (in Budapest Zoo, there is a series of houses that are home to animals and birds from various parts of the world) and went for coffee. One of them came with me and within earshot of a lone woman enjoying her latte and her book, I was quizzed on Knock Knock jokes. The lady seemed a tad annoyed but that was nothing to when the others joined us and began to explain, at full volume, what they’d seen. I stifled a ssshhh and let them at it. She packed up her book and took out her paints and resigned herself to a less than peaceful second half to her coffee break. Fair play.

Only once did I hear the s word – spoil sport. But I was right. There is a limit to what they can be let do and there is a time when consideration of others and a certain amount of awareness of the consequences of your actions is needed. He got over it. Eventually. And I learned that far from being seen and not heard, kids need to question, to explore, to laugh aloud, to run riot … they need to be kids because they’ll be adults long enough.

I made the fatal mistake of commenting on how sad the rhinoceros looked and how cramped his space seemed to be. That set them off on a series of evaluations of the amenities other, smaller, animals enjoyed. And then wondering about whether the animals were happy. And for a while I thought I was going to have to deal with a minor bout of hysteria. Thank the gods for ice-cream.

My 4pm meeting was postponed till 5 so I had an extra hour to fill. We hit the lake in Varosliget where I rented a paddle boat and sent them off to sea,  figuring that if they capsized, there were plenty of able-looking blokes in staff t-shirts on hand to save them. One did slip and fall on  their back in water and I was proud that I didn’t panic. They were laughing so I took that as my cue to ignore the incident and say nowt.

It was bloody hard work though, keeping an eye on them and keeping track of them and answering the litany of questions that arose on stuff I know nothing about. It was humbling in a way. And it was instructional. And perhaps I’ll be a little more tolerant of other people’s kids in future and not expect them to be little paragons of virtue, sitting quietly and behaving. Perhaps.

 

Monkeys, by any other name, are still monkeys

Could I have two tickets for tonight’s concert, please?
It’s sold out.
No tickets?
Yes, there are tickets. But it’s sold out.
So, can I get two tickets?
Yes, but you will have to stand.
That’s no problem.
Can I go in now to see the zoo?
No. You’re standing. You can’t go in until the concert starts. Only those with seats can go in early.

IMG_4158 (800x600)I had come to Budapest Zoo to see Budapest Bar in concert. The website said that with your ticket you could enter at 7 pm, check out the animals, and then see the gig. But only if you got a seated ticket, apparently. If you were standing, then you couldn’t go in. This made no sense. If I was wandering around looking at the animals, I wouldn’t be sitting in a seat? But hey… I was tired. I’d had a bad day. And I really wanted to see Budapest Bar.

So I bought the tickets and then killed an hour in the local IBIS bar. Not the most fascinating place I’ve ever had a drink in, but the wine was wet and came in a glass and I’d had a bad day. I said that already, didn’t I?

Those of you paying attention will remember that Budapest Bar was the band that impressed me most at Sziget. A gypsy band with six musicians who play the cymbol, keyboards, violin, double bass, drums, and accordion, they attract a who’s who of Hungarian contemporary singers. The craic they had on stage had the audience in stitches and us mono linguists wishing for the billionth time that we had the Hungarian to get the humour.

IMG_4153 (800x600)And the joy that is Budapest Bar is that they open up a completely new world of new voices. I now have a major girl crush on Németh Juci. And a major boy crush on Frenk. Together, their rendition of Wild Rose was mindblowing.

My second favourite song of the evening was Frenk – again – with the Alabama Song… this was the one that converted me to Budapest Bar in Sziget.

And in third place was a version of Purple Rain that was, to my mind, better than any one I have ever heard, including the original. Frenk and a girl called Sandi… who in her own right was bloody amazing, too. The talent… the talent…

Fourth place (after this I gave up ranking) went to Rutkai Bori for Mr Alkohol. But you need to see her in action to appreciate the animation. As the inimitable MLB said: I’d wrap her up and take her home.

They played everything from the Pulp Fiction opening number to David Bowie’s Everything will be alright tonight. It was undoubtedly the best 1900 huf (€6/$8) I have ever spent on live music.

These lads love their stuff. The singers, all of them, are animated, acting as well as singing. The audience of about 800 souls chilling out (literally) in the low twenties open air at the zoo on a Thursday night in Budapest were with them all the way. Sure what else would you be doing?

Next door, in Gundel  (perhaps the most expensive restaurant in the city) patrons sitting on the terrace had a great vantage point and a free gig. But it would be hard to begrudge them, seeing as some entrées on that particular menu go for 40000 huf (about €125 or $175).

The booze wasn’t cheap cheap… but the setting more than made up for it. It was a gorgeous evening. Great music, good wine, scintillating company. What more could a body ask for?

Well, I’d have liked to have seen the monkeys!

PS They’re playing a gig in the synagogue on Sept 3. If you’re in town, it’s well worth trying to get tickets.