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A mutual love

Being Irish, I have an abiding sense of tragedy that sustains me through temporary periods of joy. I wish I could claim those words as my own but I can’t. They are why I fell in love with WB Yeats – Irish Nobel laureate, poet, playwright, politician, and romantic. They are also why the Internet me calls herself ‘stolenchild’ after the most beautiful of all his poems, one that speaks to the Irish worry that a child’s mind might be stolen by the fairies. I’ve been told repeatedly that I’m often away with the fairies – a poetic way of saying that my grip on reality can be tenuous at times.

That my love of Yeats might be shared by half of Ireland is no surprise. That my love of Yeats might be shared by a tranche of people in Hungary, though, is quite remarkable. I came across the newly formed Hungarian Yeats Society recently, an enterprise conceived by a young student, Melinda Szűts, who was so enchanted by Yeats’s poetry, drama, and literature that she wanted to bring his work to the attention of other Hungarians. They have big plans for next year, when the 150th anniversary of the poet’s birth will see events in Debrecen, Pecs, Győr, and Budapest.

Damien Brennan, President of the Yeats Society of Sligo, the mothership of the Magyar Yeats Társaság, was in Budapest last weekend to give a talk at the Irish Ambassador’s residence on the life of Yeats. Hosted by HE Kevin Dowling, the early evening soirée gathered about 40 enthusiasts in search of something more than the usual dry biography such evenings often entail. Damien didn’t disappoint. He brought the man to life, sharing with us the details of his work that for many (ok, maybe just me!) had heretofore gone unremarked.

MGyeatsI was enthralled. I didn’t know that when Yeats first laid eyes on Maud Gonne, a woman he would love for nigh on 30 years, he remembered the moment as when  ‘the troubling’ of his life began, for Maud would never love him back. In fact, she didn’t want to love him because she ‘could never love him enough’. They did get together once, in Paris, in 1908, when, as another love put it, ‘the long years of fidelity were  rewarded at last’. Yet it was not to be.

But it is more than a love of Yeats that connects Ireland and Hungary. About 1000 Irish live here, the majority in Budapest. The Irish Hungarian Business Circle, with its legendary First Fridays, a social gathering that takes place in the city’s only Irish pub – Jack Doyle’s – on the first Friday of every month, attracts not just Irish and Hungarians but a host of other nationalities, too.

The annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations see thousands take to the streets wearing the green. While Szombathely, the homeplace of Leopold Bloom’s father, celebrates Bloomsday every year, Budapest has a Belated Bloomsday coinciding with Museums’ Night, when Joycean devotees gather to celebrate the life and work of another great Irish writer. And the Leopold Bloom Award, a contemporary art award established by an Irish logistics business with a Budapest presence, is given biannually to a young Hungarian artist.

Our most recent Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, was commemorated in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences earlier this year when Irish poet Medbh McGuckian came from Belfast to read his poems. And over in Győr, Irish pilgrims visit the Basilica to admire the famous weeping Madonna painting, donated by Bishop Walsh, from Ireland, who was given refuge there in the late seventeenth century.

Author James Michener once described Hungarians as the Irish of Eastern Europe. Is it any wonder that I feel so at home here?

First published in the Budapest Times 14 November 2014

I got to name a gekko…

As I’ve long since passed my biological sell-by date, I’ve given up any thoughts I might have had of naming my children. I had always thought to marry a gentleman and have what’s known in Ireland as a ‘gentleman’s family’ – one boy, one girl… Tadhg and Maud.

Tadhg because:
a) I like how it’s spelled and how it sounds
b) It was my greatgrandfather’s name
c) It’s Irish for Timothy and I’m a great fan of Ronnie Corbett’s Sorry!
d) It’s a name few people have

Maud because
a) I’m secretly in love with WB Yeats and he was in love with Maud Gonne, ergo…
b) of the song – Come into the garden, Maud.
c) of the movie – Harold and Maude.
d) it’s a name few people have.

Mind you, I’ve never hankered after children so other than not getting to name them, I’m not unduly upset at being without issue.

Gekko Elato kert Budapest

So, when my good friend and talented artist  Emese Dobonyi painted her gekko on the walls of Ellátó Kert, I was thrilled skinny to be given the honor of naming him. As he’s  a Mexican/Hungarian gekko with enough green in the mix to be Irish too, the obvious choice was Tadhg. I spent many an hour at Ellátó this summer in the company of her good self, enjoying the funky paintings and the down-home feel that the place has. I met lots of interesting people and enjoyed the diversity of thoughts, ideas, and conversation that has become synonymous in my mind with Budapest and its ruin bar scene. While Tadhg has been Tadhg since the wee hours of one particular July morning, ’tis only now that he’s been christened in public. And by virtue of this blog, I’m claiming his naming. Ta very much Ms Dobonyi…for Tadhg …and everything else. [I wonder how many tipsy Irish tourists have sat looking at that wall wondering at the connection – especially those who spell the name Tadgh.]

 

Elato Kert Budapest

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