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2013 Grateful 32

IMG_4314Weddings can be horrendous affairs, attended out of duty and obligation rather than any great desire to see the son of a distant relative’s next-door neighbour’s daughter hook up with some young one he came across while riding bareback across the Mojave desert. And then, on the other hand, some can be great craic altogether, where you wish you had an inexhaustible supply of energy that would carry you through till the early hours of the third morning after the celebrations had started. That was me, this weekend.

Burning the candle at both ends doesn’t even come close to describing how I was working under the misguided notion that I’m still 22 and don’t need my sleep.  My mates K&R got married and despite months of watching K and her spreadsheets, all the time wondering why on earth she was bothering with such detail and taking on such organising, I can say now that it all paid off. In spades.

Probably for the first time ever, I realised what weddings are really about: an opportunity for two people to mix the product of their entire lives in one room and, in front of all of their friends – people who have in some way helped shape who they are – take that first step down a new path. To put faces to names that I’ve heard mention, to hear stories about both of them from days of yore, to see what an eclectic collection of friends they’ve amassed, and to be part of it all, was simply amazing.

That I’m as tired as I can ever remember being is no exaggeration but from the time it started on Friday at 6pm, till it finished early this morning at about 4am, it was worth every minute of it. As a favour for K&R, I made my debut as a tour guide on a double-decker tour bus specially hired for the occasion. I had two tours – my first and my last. It was quite the experience I tell you. What surprised me most, other than the miscellaneous facts I’d gleaned about Budapest in my frantic last-minute research on Friday afternoon, was how much I’ve come to regard this city as my own. As I spoke of architectural periods and construction dates, as I listed places I like to go and would recommend that the other wedding guests see too, as I recounted things that have happened to me here over the last few years, I got quite emotional.

It was an emotional weekend all round, really; a brilliant weekend and one of the best weddings I’ve been to. Now, please – don’t anyone else get married until I’ve had time to recover from this one. And, as I fight my way out of a coma-like stupor and try hard to focus on what needs doing this week, I’m grateful that every now and then, big romances happen in real life, not just in the movies. And I’m truly grateful that I had a tiny part to play in this one.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52

Grateful 19

People change. Every day. We age. We put on weight. We lose weight. We restyle our hair. We get glasses. We try contacts. Places change, too. New buildings. New skylines. New owners. New management. This funny old world of ours is never the same two days running. Budapest, particularly, is undergoing a massive transformation. Shops and cafés and restaurants are closing down. New ones are opening up. Because something is there today doesn’t mean it will be open tomorrow. Because the food is good today, doesn’t mean it will be good tomorrow. And as for the service… excuse me while I take a deep breath.

Back in 2009, I discovered Épitész pince and I blogged about it. Now, three years later, I practically spent the weekend there and found that amongst life’s myriad changes, Épitész has remained a constant.

On Friday, JFW had his not-a-stag-do there. It was not-a-stag-do in that the party included both men and women… and his mother. A trifle non-traditional. The food was excellent and the service remarkably smooth. On Saturday, we were back there again for the wedding. And it was beautiful. The courtyard setting. The ivy-covered balcony. The stone steps. All so very Romeo and Juliettish. And ever so romantic. About 40 sat down to dinner and conversation flowed as people made new connections and reconnected with old ones. Two waiters worked the floor. For the first time in Budapest, I never had to repeat an order – just catch their eye and nod and my Havanna gold was delivered. And the pleasantness never waned. Truly remarkable.

The Hot Jazz Band entertained us till 10 pm and then DJ Ábrahám Zsolt took over in the adjoining gallery and played a storm. Songs I could sing to and dance to, too. Haven’t heard many of those in a while. What struck me about it all though was that the good things in life never go out of fashion, they never change. Love is love, no matter where you are in the world. Friendships thrive despite the miles that separate. And people coming together to celebrate is something that has been around since the dawn of time. Add that heady mixture to Épitész pince, what has for me become a sanctuary of sorts, and you have a recipe of success. If you’re in the market for a venue that will live up to expectations, then look no further.

This week, as Mr and Mrs JFW, embark on married life, I am grateful for the constants in the world – love, friendship, and reasons to celebrate –  the benchmarks which keep us grounded and furnish our reality with strength and fortitude.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52

Grateful 22

Last Saturday, I was in Ireland at my oldest friend’s wedding. She’s not the oldest person I know, but aside from my family, she’s the friend I’ve known the longest. We’ve been friends for 40 years. I had a ball. It had been 20 years and more since I’d met a lot of her family and while I recognised most of them, few of them recognised me. I’d been keeping track of them over the years and had regular updates from Úna about what was going on in their lives, so I had the advantage. I took a perverse pleasure in chatting to them and watching them search frantically for a name to put to the face and the context … and then fail miserably. The excuses? I’d changed my hair and now wore glasses. Not once was time a factor.

This Saturday, I’m in San Francisco for what would have been my best friend’s 50th birthday. We’d been friends for 21 years. I’m catching up with people I met 10 years ago – recognising faces but having a hard time putting a name to them. They’ve been hearing about me over the years from Lori and so now the shoe is on the other foot. I’m the one at the disadvantage. Many tears have been shed and many more are still in the making. It’s a tough time for everyone.

These two women – both of whom have played an important role in my life – have never met. I think sometimes at how segrated my life is. Sometimes, my relationships remind me of a slice of pizza. The segments/chapters of my life are the slices and I’m the plastic piece in the middle that keeps the lid of the box from soaking up the cheese. I have a leg in every slice and yet most of the slices barely touch.

Numerous times in the past week, I’ve had to encapsulate the last 10 or 20 years of my life into a few sentences and in each retelling I find myself marvelling at what a truly blessed life I lead. As someone put it yesterday – I’m living the life that most people dream of.

Today, as we celebrate Lori’s birthday, I’m truly grateful for my pizza.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52