Saturday, 7 July 2018

In Search of Chandeliers

Not many people realise that Budapest has almost totally reliable hot and sunny summer weather, blue skies, et cetera, to rival the Costa del Sol:

So much so that I get ideas above my station and start taking what I longingly wish might be artistic photographs of shadow, but are actually just pictures of the rather nasty flooring someone put on our balcony while we were away once, with Ikea furniture and balustrading shadows superimposed:

To stop me wasting my time, my husband has developed a new game for us - it is called Hunt the Chandelier. 

He actually began the game one day last year when we went to Nancy and I got flu and he discovered a flea market and bought a beautiful brass 19th century chandelier for 30 euros and some hours later came crashing into our hotel room with it, soaking wet and panting, as it weighed a ton and he had had to walk a mile and a half with it. 

Who needs a gym membership when you are playing Hunt the Chandelier?

Despite this fine opening gambit, there is still much to play for. In fact, my husband explained that day that we still needed another 8 chandeliers (by the most magnificent good fortune, the flat next to ours came up for sale and we bought it and we are now renovating that one and joining it onto the one we have had since 1998, so that is why we are in need of so many, not for any perverse reason).

As a consequence, Hunt the Chandelier has led to numerous outings since then. 

Out of the two of us, my husband is the better player of the game, because he is single minded. I invariably get sidetracked. For instance, the other day, as as we wandered through Budapest playing the game, I got distracted by:

a pretty china dog with eyes like Elizabeth Taylor, the actress:

a painting of an unpeopled interior that reminded me slightly of one I was fond of that got stolen when we were burgled in Brussels last year:

A painting that is quite breathtakingly outside of my price range but that I still can't help looking at (price tag: 66,000 Australian dollars - twice what I paid for our entire flat in 1998!)

A trophy statue, entitled, "Sportsmen", awarded to some longlost Hungarian sports team

Some enormous china owls, which I would have liked to give to my aunt, as she used to collect owls of various kinds, but there is no point now, since she is dead:
An exquisitely made trunk, with a hanging space on one side and its very own internal chest of drawers:

My husband won that round of the game, scoring with this magnificent object:

Which took us down to seven more needed, I think - or possibly six.

Instead of renewing my efforts, I once again got distracted by seeing a borzoi, one of my favourite kinds of dog:

and by a glimpse into a cool interior courtyard - these glimpses off hot and noisy streets are one of the things I love about Budapest:

I got further distracted by a pair of brass dogs that were once somebody's wedding present, symbols of faithfulness:

I got not merely distracted but horrified and infuriated by what the local council has given permission for in a street round the corner - worse even than mere façadism, they are allowing some horrible developer/so-called architect to take a really beautiful old building, gut it, knock the top off and then just plonk on some upper stories that are not merely charmless but downright ugly - and all just across the road from the house where Miklos Banffy, author of The Transylvanian Trilogy (if you haven't read it, it is glorious) used to live:

I cheered myself up by wandering in off one of central Budapest's most traffic-riven streets to the peaceful inner courtyard of an elegant building that I hadn't visited before - another of those oases I mentioned above:

Meanwhile my husband was planning another serious round of Hunt the Chandelier, this time at a place just outside the city that billed itself as a big antique centre, with countless chandeliers.

Out we went and no sooner had I entered the place than my mind wandered.

I saw:

this dear little mini-wedding chest:
This large one, which made me wonder who Anna Schmied had been and what became of her:
Lots of old stoves:

Toys from a bygone era:

Ranks of old weighing machines that made me think they could be used by the BBC as the next villain in Dr Who - imagine them coming to life, row upon row of them, marching implacably (or more sort of spookily gliding) towards Parliament Square:

They could possibly be joined by all those stoves and maybe even those strangely out-of-date toys. Really any slightly out-of-date inanimate object made animate would have a kind of original Avengers weirdness that I think I could find suitably blood-chilling.

After some effort, I persuaded myself that I did not in fact need an ancient Hungarian postal service letter box:
I also eventually decided that I did not need a forest of hatstands as a talking point in my front hall:
I was completely untempted by heap upon heap of metal washing basins:
ditto the rows of abandoned wheelbarrows, forlorn though they looked:
I was interested to see that glass light shades can almost become a decorative end in themselves when grouped together:
I had to chastise myself when I began stupidly humming "And did those feet in ancient times"; I think I was just trying to avoid wondering where all the owners of these boots are now:
I made a mental note that if I ever wanted to start a peasant uprising, I knew where to come for the necessary props:
I thought about how, much as I love old things, I would never want a retro baby bath:
or even probably an ancient, rejected perambulator, despite the excellent sprung suspension they usually have, (actually I could be persuaded on this, if I had a fractious infant, as you can get babies to sleep well by rocking them in one of these):
I considered the way that I am strangely attracted to new pieces of technology, even though I know that the thrill of the new almost always gives way with the passage of time to the shock of realising the things have become dated and slightly absurd:

In this vein, I then wondered if my mother, who has just invested a large sum of money in a magnificent and brand new tractor, might not have been better off sticking with older technologies:

I went off on flights of fancy about who the people were who had owned hats made by Prinssen of Harlem or Weldon Massarley of Bennet Street London, or Wilhelm Christen of the Josefstadt in Vienna - or, indeed, been dashing enough to invest in mechanical hats (I think they were top hats that flattened and then popped up) perfected in Paris:

I thought that the world of shopping was nicer when the cash registers were as decorative as this one:
(although possibly not this one, even though it had curiosity value, with its forints and fillér - a now extinct Hungarian coinage - display):
I found it hard to believe anybody would be tempted to buy this weedspraying device:
I thought this bottle holder was more attractive than something made of plastic, but would be pretty tough to lug around:
I admired the various packages for things that now come in rather more nondescript coverings:

I found it almost impossible to imagine how anyone other than Professor Branestawm could have come up with this contraption that supposedly was designed to grind coffee beans:

Luckily on this occasion, chandelierwise I wasn't outplayed. Emerging from the shop I discovered that my husband had found no chandeliers worth mentioning. We agreed that the game was a draw that day and retired to a nearby town called Vác for lunch.

As so often in this part of the world, we found the town was a charming place:
If you should want to move there, I noticed this house, which an optimistic estate agent might describe as a "doer-upper":
This is the view looking in through the window from outside:
We strolled around, admiring the place:

including an arch built in 1764 in honour of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa:
next to which the local authorities have more recently decided to build a large prison:

While chandelier-wise we came home empty-handed, the entire experience was a very happy one. We saw a pretty place we might never otherwise have gone to, I had a bowl of delicious chicken and tarragon soup, and we both ate ice cream. Normally, just after I've bought ice cream, I remember that I don't like ice cream. This time though I chose a red currant version, speciality of the shop; it was one of the nicest things I've ever eaten. It is these kinds of little tangential experiences that inevariably result from Hunt the Chandelier that make me enjoy the game so much.

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