November 29, 2007

Learning something

I do love a good moan about how tired I am and after Madrid I am finding it hard to get up in a morning and drag myself to school. Being a teacher means that the staffroom is full of other people who feel the same and the lamentation of our loss of energy as we count down the last three weeks to Christmas has occurred every day this week.

As the sky darkens and I make my way home from the school, the sheer joy that a cup of Yorkshire tea and the chance to sit on my sofa brings, is simply immeasurable. I have been spending every spare minute getting the first section of the new book ready to send to some publishers and I am hoping that the first letters will go out this weekend. Friday is only today away so my beautiful quiet apartment will be my whole world very soon.

Or at least it would be, if I didn't have to go to Ikea to get a duvet that doesn't make me feel cold in the middle of the night. The Christmas markets have started in Budapest and my one outside aim for the weekend is to take some pictures and smell the mulled wine and sausages. It is nearly December now, the end of my first term is almost here and I am ready for some twinkly lights and wooden carved things. I am so tired, but so happy, Budapest finally feels like home.

November 25, 2007

Work hard, play hard

I an back in Budapest and blogging from my amazing apartment that I missed very much. Just a few hours ago I was in Madrid and one of my highlights was going to eat Churros in the Cafe San Gines near Plaza de Mayor. There are loads more Madrid pictures to show and more things to talk about. I have spent the last few days in workshops and the straight out into the city, working hard and playing hard. This is especially out of character as my ususal motto is 'work hard and do nothing the rest of the time'.

November 23, 2007

Artificial light

I arrived late on Tuesday night and didn't get into my hotel room until well after midnight. All I noticed on arrival is that Madrid Barajas airport is huge and architecturally amazing. The hotel is massive and situated not in Madrid, but near the airport on a massive motorway. It is safe to assume that while I stay here any time away from the hotel feels like escape from the bubble.That said, the conference is good and there are things that I am learning that will make me a better teacher on my return and you can't get more value for money than that.

On the two occasions that I have had free time I have been shopping on Calle de Serrano and bought patent leather shoes that have an ankle tie, and been to the Prado. The Prado was the one thing that I knew I wanted to see and would be highly annoyed if I did not have the chance because I was stuck in the bubble hotel. I didn't get to spend as much time there as I would have liked, but it was very much worth the effort to see the Goya and Velazquez paintings that the place is known for.

I don't have a feel for Madrid yet, I won't spend enough time here on this visit, but the people seem friendly and I know more Spanish than I thought I did and have been happy ordering cafe con leche all over the place. I only wish that my Hungarian was up to the same standard of ease of learning. Coming here makes me understand why I love Eastern Europe so much, although I do love to travel and it has been a while since I have been somewhere new. Expect more photos over the next couple of days as I once again fail to care that I look like a tourist when I get my camera out at every available opportunity.

November 19, 2007

Kezet Csokolom

After school on a Friday I am continuing my Hungarian lessons. They are at the worst time in the week, but my teacher makes them so much fun that I look forward to them and the time whips past. Over the past couple of lessons all my classmates and I have been discussing the correct greetings to make to the right people and how we have been choosing to say hello to our neighbours.

Kezet csokolom is a very old saying apparantly and directly translated would mean something like 'I kiss your hand'. It was the greeting that young men would give ladies when kissing their hand and behaving in a very Mr Darcy like manner whilst smelling of lavender one assumes.

Anyway, it is seen as a mark of respect and so one may say it to a very old person, or a young guy to a young girl. These things go in and out of fashion in any language, I certainly don't go around saying 'Hiya!' to people from an older generation, it is a bit cheeky. Csokolom seems to be very gentle, very sweet, and I know that the older women in my building smile sweetly when they get a Csokolom, but merely grunt when the greeting is a Jo napot or similar, maybe they think they are due a bit of a formal greeting from the English girl who lives on the third floor.

I had my first csokolom on Saturday morning. It was in my local electrics shops where I bought a hand blender entirely in Hungarian. He used csokolom as a greeting and a goodbye and when he said it, I smiled as I knew he was being gentlemanly. I am really liking my Hungarian lessons, I feel every week like I have a couple more words to use in my Budapest life.

November 16, 2007

White weekend

It is a non-uniform day at work today and so I am in my jeans. Outside the snow is falling, but not beautifying the world as there is no white staying on the ground. I have made it alive to another Friday and am a week closer to Christmas. All this and a trip to the Embassy bar after work. In the dark! Out! On an evening and everything!

I have been promised that there will be snow in the city over the next few days and I have my camera charged and ready to bring you photos of that event. It no longer feels like Autumn, it is definitely winter now. I am researching different recipes for Pogacsa, a little cheese scone like Hungarian snack and will be baking this weekend when the cold wet weather might keep me inside once more. I am enjoying collecting recipes from all over the world at the minute and have even coerced a Korean parent into giving me one for Kimbap, which I love.

Do you have any recipes from your part of the world that will fill my Budapest apartment with the lush scent of fresh baking? Comments in the box please...

November 13, 2007


Even though I am nearing my fourth month of living and working in Budapest, I still get flashes of total confusion. Most of the time I feel settled and work is still going very well, but there are occasions when a voice screams 'You don't belong here!'. Maybe it is a moment when the cashier at the supermarket asks me a question I don't know the answer to, or maybe it is when the taxi takes a turn down a street that I have never been on before.

When I daydream that life is more simple, less challenging and more settled, I drea, of York. I dream of a life where I can study for my Masters in Theology, and buy a tiny flat within the city walls. I can see S, J or P every Saturday and we will sometimes have Sunday Brunch at Meltons too. In my daydream, I am not bothered by the grey skies of England, because for a couple of months a year I can travel to Latin America, finally travel around India and see Alaska. All this is funded by a very successfull debut book.

Sometimes, I don't know why I write the things that I do on my blog. I imagine that this is a travel blog, all about places and people, but it really isn't. When your mind wanders at work, where do you go? Do you find yourself in a French field of Lavender? Are you high- flying and rich in New York? Or are your daydreams highly specific, as I believe mine to be?

November 12, 2007

Let it snow

I hid away all weekend and lost myself in thoughts of where I want my book to go. Yesterday, it snowed and I spent the day inside, wearing fleecy pyjamas and not straying very far from my computer. Being at work today will seem like a distraction as I want to stay in the headspace of trying my hardest to produce something creative, something that represents the sort of person I am.

Yesterday when it snowed the whole sky was white. I opened the window and an icy breeze flew through, but I wanted to breathe in the cold because I had stayed inside too long. I feel like I am turning into a bit of a hermit on weekends. The truth is that at the moment I just want my own company. I have made plans to get out into the wide world this next weekend though, so I don't feel bad about enjoying my solitude.

The world seems a little more open today and although the air is like opening a freezer door, the skies remain blue and that is all I need to feel happy to start another day. The next few weeks will go fast, but I am determined to approach agents before Christmas. I am getting ready to come up for air.

November 09, 2007

Dreams in the day

I have been having happy day dreams over the last few days and last night I found my mind wandering again. I read somewhere that day dreams show you your hearts desire and if that is the case then my hearts desire is complicated and highly unlikely to make it into reality. I still have big plans for writing this weekend, but think I will also try and go see the Anne Frank exhibition at the Holocaust Museum.

I often wonder how people really see a city in a few days. I have lived here for over three months and only now get a feeling for what sort of a city Budapest is. There are loads of museums and galleries that I want to go to, but there are also different cultures, food and coffee houses to be discovered too. At least the beauty of Friday is shining a light on all other things, guiding my way to the weekend. As well as writing and the Holocaust museum, I will be watching more of the BBC adaptation of Robin Hood, which was filmed in Hungary. I am not sure if I will be recommending it just yet, I'll let you know after a couple more episodes.

November 07, 2007

Glass half full

The week is nearly half done, and so far things this side of half term are all fine. Now that the clocks have gone back it is still light when I get up and at the end of this week there are only five a half more to go before my Yorkshire Christmas. Work is still going well and most days I feel busy and productive. It is cold today, only 3 degrees, but the sky is very blue and I will be happy to be outside with the kids at break.

In other news, I am doing lots of planning and reearching for the new book, which I am quite excited about. This weekend will be putting together a synopsis and trying to finish the first chapter to send off to some agents. I have decided to be social and have put my name down for a 'meet and greet' at the British Embassy and am looking forward very much to meeting old friends from Paris and Warsaw when I go to Madrid.

I have had a few days where little snippets of happiness float past me and before I realise it, I am smiling and looking forward to the next few weeks. I love the new bed that I made with my own hands and is still standing, even after three nights of sleeping on it. Life feels OK at the moment, good things are coming.

November 04, 2007

Sisters are doing it for themselves

I am building a bed. My landlord bought one for me, as the bed that is there is very old. So here I am, on the floor, screws and planks of wood strewn around me, reminding myself that I have a degree in Womens Studies and do not need any help from any-one. I can build a bed, I know I can, although my brother laughed out loud and told me not to injure myself. Stay tuned for pictures of the completed bed later.

November 03, 2007

Cold and clear

The weather in Budapest is perfect. It is cold but sunny, so I walked around for hours yesterday doing not much expect watching and breathing in the fresh air. I watched these breakdancers on Vorosmarty Square for ages. If you ever get to Budapest I would totally recommend watching the streetlife, these guys were amazing. I couldn't help but wonder what the square would be like after I get back from Madrid when the Christmas Markets will start.

November 02, 2007


J lost her Dad less than a year ago and yesterday lost her Mum too. I am sobbing and can't stop because I am so far away and can't drive to be with her. Nothing I can do can make it any better and the fact that she has had to go through this twice in a year breaks my heart. It is strange using the word 'lost', but it is only because I can't bear the alternatives.

All souls day

On November the first in some countries, Cemeteries are like picnic spots. Parents take their children, a flask of coffee and light candles to remember those who are no longer with us. The atmosphere is never bleak, as it is a day when you can talk about those you have lost and visit them, feeling like they are still with you, and that is not a cause for sadness, only rememberance.

I was tired when I left school yesterday, it was a day with no children and so I found myself out the door at 3.15 ready to go home and hibernate as is the desire brought on by the dark evenings. When I lived in Warsaw I remembered all souls day as I visted Powanski cemtery with K, N, Ally and J. It was packed with people and looked so beautiful. Tired as I was last night I had brought my map and knew that if I didn't make it to the cemetery I had located near my district, I would be mightily annoyed at my own laziness.

Kerepesi Cemetery lies near Keleti train station, and has the most gorgeous statues I have ever seen. Melancholy, angelic, just so lovely. The graves were all lit up with candles and no-where in the city have I seen autumn in all its glory like it was there. The leaves carpet the roads in a vibrant gold from the avenues of trees that mark the paths between the graves. I took lots of photos, but could never seem to get the lights right, but I posted a couple on here anyway.