2016 Grateful 9

Being Irish, I have an abiding sense of tragedy that sustains me through temporary periods of joy. Words to that effect have been attributed both Oscar Wilde and WB Yeats but I’m going for Yeats – they seem more poetic and less Wildey to me.

y4I’m a fan of the man. Have been for years. That’s not to say I’m any sort of authority on his work or indeed his life. I’m not. Definitely not. But ever since coming across the album Now and in a time to be, I’ve been a fan. Touted as a musical celebration of the works of WB Yeats, the playlist is classic, and all the more so because the man apparently believed that his poems should be put to music:

1. Under Ben Bulben – Richard Harris
2. An Irish Airman Forsees His Death – Shane MacGowan & Cafe Orchestra
3. Politics – Karl Wallinger
4. Before the World Was Made – Van Morrison
5. A Song of the Rosy-Cross – Mike Scott & Sharon Shannon
6. The Fish – Sinead Lohan
7. Gort Na Sailean (Down by the Salley Gardens) – Tamalin
8. The Four Ages of Man – World Party
9. The Song of Wandering Aengus – Christy Moore
10. He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven – Nervous
11. The Stolen Child – The Waterboys
12. Yeat’s Grave – The Cranberries
13. Lake Isle Of Innisfree – W.B. Yeats
14. Under Ben Bulben – Richard Harris y3

I was living in Valdez at the time, a small Alaska town whose shopping experience was (and perhaps still is) limited. Retail therapy was scarce. But at one stage, there was a music store and it was there that I came across the CD. I bought a copy and after listening to it, went back and bought y2two more. I then had them order in another couple as they made great gifts. I had no luck finding the CD in Ireland or since, for that matter. But I played it over and over and over again. It was while listening to The Waterboys version of Stolen Child that I got my stolenchild moniker.

Fast forward a few years to a dinner in Budapest with the Dix duo and an introduction to yet another compilation of the poet’s work put to music – The Waterboys album, An Appointment with Mr Yeats, reviewed to some acclaim. I listened to it a couple of times and then filed it. With my other CDs.

y5I prefer to work in silence so I rarely listen to music. Unless I’m driving. And I’ve not been driving much till recently. Now that I’m back on the road, the CDs are being dusted off and old joys are being discovered.

This week, I’m grateful to have a car. And while  I’m having to recalibrate my shopping habits given the rural nature of life, I’m grateful that the closest shops keeping convenient opening hours are 30 minutes away. So I get to drive. And I get to listen to music. And I’m really happy to have rediscovered an old favourite.


Trees. Death. Dying.

People in suburbia see trees differently than foresters do. They cherish every one. It is useless to speak of the probability that a certain tree will die when the tree is in someone’s backyard…You are talking about a personal asset, a friend, a monument, not about board feet of lumber. So said Roger Swain, the man in the red suspenders who for years held forth on his PBS show The Victory Garden. [When looking for a clip of it to show you, I came across this 1942 short film explanation of what a Victory Garden is – it might come in useful in the future, if the world stays on its current trajectory.]

Anyway, I was struck by our relationship with trees today, as I walked down Bajza utca. Ahead of me, in the section between Délibáb and Benczúr, I noticed a couple of lads from Főkert chain-sawing their way through a tree. I was too far away (and wearing my out-of-prescription sunglasses) to see exactly what they’d cut down.

20140416_095047_resizedBill Vaughan came to mind – he who is famous for his aphorisms (my favourite being In the game of life it’s a good idea to have a few early losses, which
relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season). He defined suburbia as a place where developers cut down trees and then name streets after them. Yet this seemed to be going on in just one section of rather a long street. And before and after, old trees stood glorious in their greenery.

20140416_095016_resizedAs I came closer, it seemed that a number of trees had been felled – thin ones, that looked very dead indeed. And I was surprised, that amidst such growth, this one section of Bajza could be so barren. What is it about this part of the road that kills off trees, stunts their growth, withers them on the spot? It would be interesting to find out.

The neighbourhood itself screams of affluence. Lots of embassies around – and the FAO has its offices nearby. Back in the day these stately homes were obviously single-family residences and I had a fleeting moment of envy when I thought about those who’d lived there then. And a slightly less fleeting moment of envy when I thought about those who could afford to buy the magnificent building for sale around the corner.

20140416_095817_resizedBut back to the trees. When I was home last weekend, I went to see my uncle. My dad’s brother. He’s dying. I’ve gotten this far as a good Irish Catholic without ever clapping eyes on a dead body despite the number of wakes I’ve been to, and this was my first close encounter with death in the flesh. And it was disturbing. To see a man who was so sure he’d collect his cheque from the President when he turned 100 lying there with a foot in the next world was upsetting. I made a mental note to myself to root out that prayer for a speedy death (and while failing to find it on Google – if anyone has a copy, do send it to me  – I did come across a rather interesting piece on imprecatory prayer, which I thought was an absolute no-no).

20140416_105421_resizedDeath seems to be rampaging through my world right now, however tangentially. It seems as if everyone I’ve met lately is either coming from or going to a funeral. It’s showing no discrimination between age, gender, or nationality. A ten-year-old boy clipped by the wing mirror of a passing car as he waited to cross the road. A mother of three in her mid-30s overdosing and then sitting in her car waiting for the pills to take effect. A man in his 60s whose wife just died in February, following her sooner than planned. All of them would have left their mark on the word. Just like those trees.

But after my meeting, retracing my steps, I saw that even the stumps had been uprooted and it seemed that all was set to plant something else in their stead. Two thoughts crossed my mind. One was about how replaceable we all are and the second was a fervent hope that the soil had been checked or something had been changed so that the new trees might not go the way of their predecessors and instead have some hope of surviving.

Random thoughts indeed for a Wednesday morning in Budapest. But as my man Yeats once said: If what I say resonates with you, it is merely because we are both branches on the same tree. I just couldn’t resist.

Educational epitaphs

I thought I was a little odd visiting Bródy Sándor’s grave each November and leaving flowers, but I have nothing on this 40-something French girl who comes to Ireland five or six times a year to visit Michael Collins’s grave and also sends flowers for Valentine’s Day and his birthday. Amazing what Liam Neeson’s portrayal of the great man can ignite.

IMG_7245 (600x800)Mind you, I inherited a photo from my aunt of a man in uniform, sure that it was of my grandfather. A friend visiting from Ireland said he was surprised that I’d have a photo of Michael Collins on my wall. I’m not sure who got the bigger shock.

Michael Collins ranks up there as one of Ireland’s great historical figures. And Glasnevin cemetery is full of them. Parnell, Larkin, O’Donovan Rossa  – they’ve all secured a place in history and a plot in this cemetery. Used as I am to rather banal epitaphs, it was quite a shock to see cause of death etched in stone. Walking through Glasnevin was like leafing through a history book.

IMG_7241 (589x800)IMG_7223 (594x800)I felt stirrings of that elusive thing called patriotism as I was reminded, yet again, that the freedom I enjoy today is courtesy of so many who gave up their lives to secure it for me. There were two sides in the Civil War and to this day, there are two camps alive and well in Ireland. I wrote a while back about the American Civil War and the South’s reluctance to move on and let go, so it was with more than a little chagrin that I listened to our guide tell of visitors who would refuse to stop at de Valera’s grave or walk by Michael Collins without as much as a nod. And I wondered, not for the first time, about history and how, how it is passed on  shapes our view of the world.

IMG_7235 (600x800)I’m a great fan of WB Yeats and have noted a couple of instances where he refers to a chap by the name of O’Leary. In September 1913, he writes: Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone; it’s with O’Leary in the grave. And again, in the poem Beautiful Lofty Things: Beautiful lofty things: O’Leary’s noble head. I’d always wondered who this chap was and now I know. Buried next to James Stephens, for whom he was best man, O’Leary was a Fenian, believing in Irish independence and the separation of Church and state, and, apparently, a friend of Whistler. Now there’s a connection that would make for an interesting ‘six degrees of separation’.

IMG_7211 (800x600) (2)The prize for the best attended funeral goes to Charles Stewart Parnell – more than a quarter of a million people turned out to see him buried – a sizable number of whom wanted to make sure he was dead. Parnell was buried in the cholera pit, where more than 13 000 others met their end in a mass grave. It was thought that here, he’d be safe from the grave robbers and those who might want a piece of him.

In many countries, grave robbing has fallen off the statutory law wagon. Back in the day, when medical universities needed bodies to dissect, corpses were traded by the imperial inch. Just one body was worth two months’ wages in Ireland and in the UK, the same body would be worth six. In Austria right now, police are looking for a grave robber who has broken in the graves of composers Brahms and Strauss and stolen their teeth! Apparently he plans to open a museum. Oh, the workings of the human mind – what a mystery.

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