Sunday, 11 October 2020

Seventy Six Trombones

On a recent Saturday we decided to go to Budapest's flea market. You never know what you will find there. On this visit, musical instruments were to the fore 

as well as large brass parakeets, ancient pedal cars, and inevitably the empress Sisi in various guises, but never radiantly happy

The market provided a lesson in the evanescence of technology with this stand where once prized sewing machine bases have become neglected and recycled as a makeshift stall

There were also strange pieces of erstwhile, to me at least, unknown technology, such as this, which the stall holder explained was a kit for making cigars (he made a lot of gestures, but I still don't really understand how it works):

I don't want this old television, but if I were a prop mistress needing to set the scene for a Cold War eastern European apartment interior, it would be the first thing I would choose. It on its own conjures a time and a place, the smell of papirosi and wet felt boots and diesel that was so much of that time

I imagine this could add to the atmosphere, if I had extra funds, a fine hero worker, supporting his comrades, marching ever towards tomorrow's Communist dawn:
Whenever I'm at the flea market, I see old things of little obvious interest to any Hungarian, and I always start to wonder how they ended up here:

but then I'm distracted by other things that are so ugly, my thoughts turn to wondering how anyone could have conceived them:

This third one, I should point out is hideous (I think) but very, very valuable - I heard the stallholder name a four figure euro price for it (not that the inquirer bought it):

Then there is the sadness of once treasured photographs, recording moments that were important to someone once, but that now exist in a state of meaningless anonymity:

Since being robbed a couple of years ago, I've been missing various paintings, including one of a domestic interior empty of people. We bought that picture in Budapest, and browsing around at the flea market I began to realise that the empty interior may be a Hungarian speciality. But none of the ones on offer quite filled the hole left by the one we lost:

I usually get bored long before my husband so then I start to play a variation of a game I used to play with the magazine called Country Life when I was young. I would go through the opening pages of that publication and tell myself that I had to buy one of the houses on offer for sale on any page, no matter if I hated them all - the game was to choose which was the least awful, or, if there were several I could imagine living in, which I liked the most. At the flea market, I do the same with stalls, trying to decide which would be the least awful choice (or the best) from among their wares.

Which would you choose from among these? The collection of plates or the smoking man or the leaded glass panel? 

At this stall the choice was simpler - a still life, a Hitler bottle stopper or a grubby plush toy:

This was a tricky choice - a very heavy commemorative ashtray in the shape of a stetson, associated with some long ago iron company or something similar; a sampler some poor soul probably sweated over night and day, a miniature of a person who seemed to never have seen the sun or a landscape with a rather miserable looking factory in the background:

Then there was a decision about whether you could bear to live with three old black clad women or three hideous cats or a mother and two children who appear to be part of that unsettling film called The Others:

The weird thing about this game is that you begin to accept that you might buy all sorts of things you don't really want. Thus I became stupidly fascinated by some old guns, because the metalwork on them was the only thing worth looking at one one stall - and the pictures of hounds and prey were in fact rather lovely, which I probably wouldn't have noticed had I not been playing my silly game:

In a similar way, in contemplating them as things I could possibly buy - and indeed might have to, according to the rules of the game - whereas I would normally have dismissed these figurines (probably from the 1960s, possibly some kind of Hungarian phenomenon that has its afficionadoes?) out of hand, I became oddly drawn to their awfulness and could imagine myself getting an absolute passion for them and collecting the lot - I suppose this is what is meant by the phrase "an acquired taste":

I spent a lot of time trying to work out what this was a picture of. I began by thinking it was the Opera House, on Andrassy utca in Budapest:

but then, peering more closely, I saw that it was labelled "Lenin körut":

Then, with the help of my ever well informed husband, it dawned on me that what I was looking at was the theatre on Blaha Luiza tér that was scandalously ripped down by the Communists in 1965, for no reason except that they could. Complete vandalism, just as you would expect from the followers of those two swine, Marx and Lenin.

While I'd been sifting through all this rubbish, my husband had dug out a bottle labelled 1940, "nur für die Deutsche Wehrmacht", Chateau Pichon, Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande:

We weren't quite convinced that it was genuine (did they really put the alcohol percentage on labels in those days?) but when we got home and looked up the Comtesse de Lalande we discovered a fascinating story, in which a countess was forced to hand over her estate to the Germans, who made wine for themselves using her grapes and equipment during the war. Before leaving, she had dragged a heavy piece of furniture over the door to the cellar, but the commandant discovered what she had done and called her back to protest. She assumed he would kill her but he said that he felt insulted, that they were not barbarians and that none of his officers would touch a bottle from her collection. I'm afraid that I would have made the same assumption as she did. It was all very well trying to argue you were gentlemen while working for a regime headed by Hitler. Leaving aside all the other atrocities committed by Nazis, the photograph in this article does not suggest that the officer in question was reliable even on the question of not helping themselves to vineyard produce. 

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