Tuesday 24 January 2012

Rooms with a View

the exterior of our London flat, King Frederik IX Tower [click to enlarge images]

For many years we kept a place in London. Or, to be more specific, we had a fourth floor flat in an ultra uber [apologies as we have not yet mastered the umlaut] modern, Danish designed block in what, at the time, was one of the less ruinously expensive boroughs. What sold it to us, as ultimately it did to others, were the floor to ceiling windows giving directly on to the Thames. From these, and the luxury of two balconies, we enjoyed watching a steady progression of shipping, if river cruise boats, the odd sailing vessel, Sunday morning canoeists, the occasional small liner and the ever present River Police can be called such, plying to and from the Pool of London.

a looking glass in our Brighton drawing room reflects the sea and pier below

But we are no Ratty and Mole of Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows', content to be 'messing about' on the river, when there is for ever the call of the sea. And so, prompted by memories of childhood holidays in the 1950s when respective parents repaired for the summer to the seaside resorts of Swanage in Dorset and Cornwall's Newquay, or possibly recalling long weekends in which we languished in the comfort of the Alexandra Hotel overlooking Lyme Bay, we 'relocated' [to employ the jargon of the pointy-shoed estate agent from whom we purchased our 'rooms'] to Brighton. 

the end section of the pier glimpsed through our Brighton bedroom window

It is no mere accident that Brighton is nicknamed London by the Sea. For less than an hour's journey from the Capital it boasts all of the fun, glamour, excitement and adventure of its larger neighbour. Culture abounds as do, apparently, celebrities, whilst a large gay community and a welcome influx of foreigners and students from around the globe ensure a prevailing atmosphere of immense kindness, tolerance and diversity.

a corner of our Regency square in Brighton

No longer uber [umlaut still in hiding] cool in London we now, on flights from Budapest, are to be found, rather in the manner of characters drawn from the pages of Miss Austen, observing life amongst the Regency terraces from our 1827 vantage point, eavesdropping on the latest gossip of the coffee houses, or tweaking the lace curtains as we spy on the beach below. Now, if only we had binoculars!

Monday 16 January 2012

Blessed be the Ties that Bind Us

Once, at dinner in a favourite local restaurant, we were accused of being spies. To put this into some form of context the owners, who have become firm friends over time, introduced us, with much enthusiasm and, as it transpired, a great deal of misjudgement, to the couple seated at the next table. Upon discovering that we lived in Hungary they became convinced, and from then on it must be said we did little to persuade them otherwise, that we must be some kind of secret agents. At the point that we were informed that the country [the United Kingdom] did not need people like us, the conversation somewhat petered out. It came as no surprise to discover that we were not on their Christmas card list!

Dora Carrington's portrait of the novelist E.M. Forster

All of which puts us in mind of E.M. Forster's essay 'What I Believe' in which, in consideration of friendship, he writes 'If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country'. Happily we have not been called upon to do either. And if truth is to be told, then the closest we have ever come to espionage is in knowing the son of Kim Philby who, with Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean, spied for the Soviet Union and defected to Moscow in the 1960s.

Kim Philby depicted on a 1990 USSR stamp

Forster is not, of course, alone in the value he attaches to friendship. Dante places both Brutus and Cassius in the lowest circle of Hell when they choose to betray their friend Caesar rather than Rome.

The last two or so years have not been the easiest. During this time we have together successfully fought a rare form of leukaemia, now six months in full remission, which for over a year delayed much needed spinal surgery, carried out most successfully on Wednesday of last week. The death on Christmas Day of the only surviving parent added great sadness and further complexities to our lives.

hands joined in friendship

We should not, in any sense, be where we are today without the love and support of so many of our friends both here and in our adopted country of Hungary. But, equally important to us, have we been so touched by the enormous friendship we have felt from so many of you throughout the Blogosphere from across the world. Your comments, emails, cards and messages have meant so very much to us both and have served to enrich our lives beyond all measure. For this we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts; this post is for you.