January 30, 2009


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January 25, 2009

Birthday weekend update

My birthday on Friday was one of the most special I have had in a long time. I tend to hide way on those days, especially over the last few years as my twenties slipped away and I could no longer deny that I am actually an adult, in age at any rate. But this year, lots of different people made a fuss of me and I really enjoyed it. My students gave me a little surprise party complete with a home-made birthday cake and little faces jumping out from under the desks. My work colleagues gave me a wonderful gift, more generous than I could have hoped for and the whole day was topped off by pizza and loud singing to a candle on a slice of chocolate cake.

Yesterday I went for lunch with D and C, wandered alone by the river and felt like I was happy and alive. Such a lovely weekend, it has left me tired and content. Only three more weeks to go and I get to see my gorgeous new nephew, who looks so beautiful on skype I can only imagine how lovely he will be in the flesh. There is a lot to feel happy about and I feel like this will be the year. One third of a century must be long enough to learn something about happiness and the meaning of life.

January 23, 2009

Birthday Blog

Birthdays get stranger the older you get. With every year that passes I feel my insides squirm as I try to reject the additional number that my birthday brings. I am up to 33 now, which is a third of a century in anyones book. I suppose that the total lack of family for the past 6 years means that there is never any tradition to the birthdays that I have had while I am overseas. Each one has been different, little party in Paris, chicken wings in Warsaw, and coffee and cakes after school this year in Budapest.

Am I wiser as well as being older? I would like to think so, but I suspect that with age simply comes a more articulate ability to talk around those things we don't want to think about. January simply is not the month for birthdays, I've been up and about for two hours and it is still dark outside. Every-one is still Christmas poor, but I know that what we need is some hot chocolate and carrot cake from fancy Callas after work with a good giggle and little white tea lights. Happy Birthday me, this is the year.

January 18, 2009

Ice, ice, baby

Every morning this week, I have been watching huge chunks of ice floating down the Danube as I cross Margit Bridge on my way to work. Fast forward to Saturday when I am out of work in the daylight long enough to get a picture and loads of the ice had melted and left a sorry grey mist over the whole city. There have been severe weather warnings across Hungary this week, ice rain, followed by countless accidents. Even today the weather remains bitingly cold and I find myself happy that I have so much to do at home today.

As for the rest of this thing I call life, it is filled with work and wonder. I think that January is the month that everybody is just waiting out, the lack of cash and post holiday blues take over everything that is going on. I know that I am just staring the year down, thinking about the summer and getting ready for the holidays that are coming up. Warsaw in March, the Hungarian wine region in April, Scotland in August, all happy events that make this miserable January worth sitting through.

January 07, 2009

Two red fish and a cowbell keyring

Sat at my desk, I am looking at two red and gold fish from China and a novelty keyring with a small tassled cowbell on the end. Both are gifts from students, things that they brought me back from their holidays over the festive periods. The fish are supposed to be good luck, and on the dawning of a new year, any luck that is to be had is very welcome indeed. On day four of the return to work, I am still feeling alarmingly positive about everything. Maybe it is the sharpness in the air that temperatures well below zero brings with it, or the soft, calming snow that has not stopped falling since this morning.

There really is something about Eastern European winters. While K and N enjoy the drop of -10 or more in Poland, I remember my first January in Poland, freezing as it was. Now here in Budapest, you get an idea of why people in the West always imagine the cold here to be so brutal. It is, but as it doesn't last long these days there is a grace to it too. I am not sure that will remain my view if Hungary becomes one of the countries that is cut off due to the spat between Ukraine and Russia, but I still have gas at work and home at the moment, fingers crossed.

January 04, 2009

Winter at last

I am back in my snuggly warm apartment in freezing cold Budapest after an amazing holiday. I loved being at home and really enjoyed Christmas, but it was all over so fast and straight after Boxing Day I was on a plane to France for New Year with S and N. Having read loads of books about that region, mostly by Joanne Harris, I was excited to be able to be in the middle of the Medieaval towns that saw so much of French History revolving around them. I never made it to Carcassone, which I wanted to see, but next time around there is loads more to discover.

Back in sunny Budapest, with the temperatures dropping well below zero, the beeping horns and scattered streets of the Jewish quarter are much the same as I left them three weeks ago. In the middle of my second year here, I am looking forward to a bright 6 months before the summer holidays hit and we see what is coming for the end of 2009. There is snow forecast for tomorrow and I think that the January that I know and love is well under way at last. Shocking blue skies and cold pinched cheeks are what I hope for and popping out for supplies I was not disappointed. The mild autumn that always felt like summer was just on its way out is gone for good it seems.

After chatting with N and S I feel I want to get to know Budapest and Hungary in general a little bit better this year. I still feel like a visitor and have never really got into her mind like I felt I did with Paris and Warsaw. This is going to be a year of big change for me, I know it. Things have shifted in my mind and I finally have the little bit of clarity that has alluded me for so many months. Happy 2009 everyone!