Tag Archives: Hungary

I Left My Heart…

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A lock on Szabadsag Bridge over the River Danube

I’ve now spent the majority of the summer back in Hungary and I’m not done yet. I previously spent eleven years in Budapest. They were heady years when I grew up in many ways, fell in love, got a proper job, learned to drive, took my degree, first published my creative writing, bought my first properties and found my closest friends. All the above are milestones in one’s life and mine all happened in Hungary.

 

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Budapest is an intoxicatingly beautiful city. In my pretty informed opinion it is the most beautiful in Europe. It is also an entertaining, lively, full on, sometimes maddening, never boring, place to live. I think I needed to step away from the Danube for some years to digest my time here and to write about her with some objectivity.

I am now close to finishing the first draft of my novel which is set between Dublin and Budapest (and Kali medence – which is a beauty spot near Lake Balaton attributed spiritual energy) and the words are flowing. Hungary grabs the imagination and shakes it up in a way I’ve only ever previously experienced in Ireland. I’m enjoyed having Hungary as my muse this summer and grateful also for the years I spent in England which gave me the distance and silence I needed to appreciate Hungary properly and to digest the significance of my time here.

My next stop is Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival… wonder what impact that will have…

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Budapest in December

Budapest in December

There are a few schools of thought on where a writer should live. In the 1920s and 1930s, the greats flocked to Paris, the 1960s – London, the 1990s – Prague, and perhaps it was Berlin in the noughites.

However, it should hardly matter where you are, if you are determined and disciplined, you’ll write in a suburban semi in a provincial town, just as well as you will in a garret in Montmartre. One thing the abovementioned cities do have in common is that they were all cheap places to live at the time of their popularity with writers. Writing is not a well paid profession, and it makes sense to nest somewhere where rent and food is affordable, thus lessening that worry every month. Other writers will argue that one should focus on areas where artists are congregating so one can better breathe in the zeitgeist, feed on that cross pollination of ideas. Then there are those who say it is a better idea to reside somewhere in relative proximity to the centre of your chosen industry – and for publishing that would be London/New York/Berlin. Others suggest pitching down in a city which is going through an ‘interesting time’ such as a war or social revolution.

Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, Ireland

Dunmore East, Co. Waterford, Ireland

 

I’ve come to my own conclusion which I’d like to share today. I’ve spent much of my life wandering (perhaps running away, or was that gathering experiences?) So much so, that it is hard to know where home is now and I’ve spent the past year considering my future quite strongly. I think it is time I surrendered and called somewhere home and I think I’ve found the spot or rather, it has found me.

This Christmas/New Year, I’m spending time in Norwich, UK, Budapest, Hungary and Waterford, Ireland. All of which could lay a claim to being my home – and in some respects, they all are yet none of them are.

Having spent the majority of my adult life abroad, the impact of my experience of exile is thrown in to relief when I return to Ireland. And I don’t like that sense of no longer belonging. Also, Ireland is as complicated, contrary, passionate, stroppy, defensive and temperamental as I am. And therefore, I am not convinced it is the place to live as a writer (although, it does make for excellent material).

Budapest, my adopted home, the city which gave me maturity and launched me as a creative writer – and where the majority of my friends and social circle still reside, is slipping from me. A friend emailed yesterday with some suggestion of cafes I should try out when I’m in Budapest over Christmas. I was mildly affronted. I don’t need ‘where-to-go’ tips for a city I lived in for eleven years. I used to edit a guide to Budapest, forcryingoutloud! But in truth, I didn’t know any of the places my friend suggested. Life has moved on in Budapest, without me. I’m am no long of that beautiful city. Also, Hungary has recently taken some scary steps politically and I don’t want to be there while it continues on that sad path – though I do feel compelled to comment on it from afar.

Norwich, a 'fine' city.

Norwich, a ‘fine’ city.

 

And then there’s Norwich, England, a city where I came to study for my MA in Creative Writing and have ended up spending much time here over the past four years. Norwich is a pleasant, very English city, which I had to locate on a map the week before I arrived here. All I knew about Norfolk was that Oliver Cromwell came from hereabouts, which to an Irish person, is not a great recommendation.

I’ve since found Norwich to be a ‘goldilocks’ town. It’s not too much of anything, yet it seems to have everything in moderate measure. In short, it is comfortable and pleasant and undemanding and reserved and allows me to sit back and digest the years I spent living in more dramatic, demanding, raw, aggressive, passionate theatres like Hungary and Ireland. In this way, I feel that Norwich is, in its quiet, unassuming way, a city conducive to art – if more so as a catalyst in its facilitation of creativity, rather than a city that inspires great art per se.

Can I dare to say that I’ve found home? I don’t think I’ve quite made that decision yet – but I can venture that it is quite likely that Norwich will be my home in the future.


It was the day the pumpkin appeared on the chair…

Tok Jo! (Hungarian for ‘Pumpkin Good’ or ‘Perfect’) a painting by me, 2003

Freewriting is what you write when there’s no one looking. Freewriting is the madman in your brain taking the controls and sending words all the way down to the tips of your fingers. Freewriting is where you’ll find the most brilliant story ideas, if you look hard enough.

To freewrite, just write. Write the first word that comes to mind and then follow it with another. Set an alarm if you can. Don’t worry about grammar, structure, character development – just write. And when you’re done, stand back and take a look. Is there anything in there you can use. I’ll say there is!

Here’s an example:

‘Right now I’m sitting at my computer and the coffee cup is on the edge of my desk. It looks a little like an iceberg, as it is white and chipped and cold because the coffee has been in it since the morning as I didn’t do the washing up last night and the sink is full of plates and saucers. All those plates look surreal sitting unwashed in the sink like that. All at different angles like a Picasso painting with ketchup instead of paint dribbled over the plates. I wonder if Picasso got his ideas from waking up one morning and seeing his jumble of washing up in the sink I wonder if all the museums in the world actually have pictures of Picasso’s washing up and not his mistresses and Guernica and does that mean the joke is on us?’

The above freewrite might seem silly but it’s also an example of how freewriting could, potentially, inspire a proper piece of writing. This daft thought about Picasso’s washing up could easily be worked into a comedy radio play where a hung-over Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse wake up after a night out on the town and dare each other to paint a picture of the mess of washing up in the sink. Thus, the modern art movement is accidentally launched. Another possibility you could take from this freewrite is the concept that something generally considered ugly and in need of repair or attention (washing up) can lead to tremendous artistic inspiration – and this idea could form the kernel of a short story or a poem.

Here, chose one of the prompts below and let it lead you into a three minute freewrite.

I wish I had said….

It was no use pretending….

A long time ago…

For the first time ever….

It was the day the pumpkin appeared on the chair…