Wednesday 22 April 2015

'Love in Budapest'

Of late we have been doing the round of the Embassies. We are most fortunate to count among our close friends the Ambassador to Hungary of the Republic of Latvia and his wife and, as a result, find ourselves as guests at many of the wonderful concerts and events sponsored by that country.

As recently as last month we were privileged to be asked to attend the Occasion of the 25th. Anniversary of the Day of Restoration of the Independence of Lithuania where a recital, to include works by Bach and Mozart, as well as by contemporary composers such as Dino Saluzzi and Gorka Hermosa, was given by the outstandingly talented accordionist, Martynas Levickis.

Before that we enjoyed the most marvellous evening at the Finnish Embassy and next month we are eagerly anticipating the screening of a new Estonian-Icelandic-Latvian-Lithuanian documentary film.

James Black, Producer/Director, Gulf Atlantic Pictures at the British Embassy

But where, you may well ask, is all of this leading? Well, put simply, only hours ago we found ourselves in the British Embassy for the launch of 'LOVE IN BUDAPEST', a film to be shot entirely on location here in the City.

a flyer to promote the new film 'Love in Budapest' at the British Embassy

the Old Banking Hall of the British Embassy for the launch of 'Love in Budapest'

That in itself is so very exciting. Even more so is the fact that we are both now under contract to appear in this 'non-stop song and dance romantic adventure' in the small part of Miss Dottie, a radio presenter, and the more major role of Robert, the owner of the Dance Theatre, described as 'a much loved haven for talented and aspiring dancers', in which much of the action is set.

Jane Hattatt/Miss Dottie, centre, with Eszter Boyd-Gibbins and Mark Lakatos

Lance Hattatt/Robert, second from left, with Astrida Liegis, Ari Kupsus & Krisztina Kovács

Produced as an Anglo-Hungarian co-operation by Gulf Atlantic Pictures, under the direction of James Black, and to go out to a global audience in 2016 this is, we are confident, a film no-one will wish to miss.

James Black and Marianna Muroczki, Assistant Producer, in the British Embassy

Jane Hattatt in conversation with Richard and Julia Lock in the British Embassy

So for now we are talking 'movies'! Soon 'Speed', 'Rolling', 'Action' and 'Cut' will, we imagine, become part of our everyday world. Until then, lines must be learnt, character developed, lipstick applied and nails painted!!

a flyer for the forthcoming film 'Love in Budapest'

Move over Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt!!

[With the exception of the last, all images in this post are by kind permission of Gyula Sopronyi whose exhibition, 'Floating Aspect', opens in Budapest on the 28th. April 2015]

Thursday 2 April 2015

Zoom, Click, and Add to Basket

It began with groceries from Waitrose. Lured by delicious images, a few clicks of the mouse, no wayward trolleys or aisle miles to worry about and the goodies delivered directly into the kitchen in the capable hands of a friendly driver. We were hooked. The world of online shopping had entered our lives and secured a place in our hearts.

online shopping for groceries a necessary part of our lives when in the UK

Success in the bidding wars of 'ebay' brought silver pepper shakers and Carlton Ware to us via Royal Mail. Navigating the Hungarian online equivalent, 'Vatera', proved both technically and linguistically challenging but, one happy day, four 1950s 'cocktail' chairs were ours. Amazon secured a rare copy of James Lees Milne and 'Gumtree', most recently, furnished us with a 1920s sideboard courtesy of Neville, a man with a van. As we tend not to be overly fond of shops in general how much better this was, we agreed, to buy from the comfort of home and await deliveries at the hall door.

a 1920s sideboard - a purchase made on 'Gumtree' and delivered by the obliging Neville

the sideboard installed in the dining room of the newly acquired Norwich holiday home

And so, when a house was required as an alternative to our Brighton 'rooms', we 'booted up', 'googled', 'searched' and 'surfed' the world wide web to find what in our mind's eye we were looking for. Rightmove, Primelocation and Zoopla became the tools of our trade. Virtual tours of properties from Anglesey to Zennor filled our computer screens from dawn to dusk.

one of the many online property companies of which we made much use

We zoomed in on Google maps, we analysed floor plans, we walked the streets with the aid of 'Street View', we noted crime statistics, the employment status and age profile of our virtual neighbours via 'Street Check', comparing prices and property trends as we clicked merrily along. Geological surveys warned of landslips and Radon Zones, floodplains highlighted areas at risk and a store locator ensured the presence of John Lewis and Waitrose close to hand should we ever feel the need to make a real visit.

Finally, our target was in sight. Emails to our solicitor ensured that our personal presence in the entire purchase process would not be necessary, as indeed it was not. A small but perfectly formed Victorian, artisan terraced house, dating from 1887, complete with original sash windows, picture rails, cornicing, working fireplaces and two very modern bathrooms was to be ours.

detailing around the sash windows at the front of the house makes for interest

a typical Victorian fireplace and surround to be found in the dining room

a bedroom fireplace, the size of which can hardly have been adequate to heat the room

Airline and 'bus tickets, bought on line of course, would take us there.

Did the reality match the dream? We turned the real key in the actual lock.

the inevitable work which comes with every move - some of many boxes awaiting unpacking

Love at first sight. A very modern romance, we thought, about to begin.

the drawing room on our next visit to be decorated in 'Little Greene' French Grey

Monday 9 March 2015

On the Move

"Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement. The whole world before you, and a horizon that's always changing!" [Kenneth Grahame 'The Wind in the Willows']

the cathedral city of Norwich, Norfolk

We are repairing to Norwich to take possession of our new house! As a result we shall be unable to post, comment or reply to comments over the next two to three weeks. We shall much look forward to returning and catching up with everyone towards the end of the month.

Monday 23 February 2015

Come into the Garden, Maud

We no longer garden. Or so we thought. Indeed, even the few containers placed along the walkway of our Budapest apartment, and intended to add colour to our lives, albeit with the ubiquitous pelargonium, more often than not remain empty. It is simply that we are no longer interested in the way in which we once were. Perhaps twenty-five years of intensive, concentrated gardening, during which time we created a formal, two acre garden which gained National recognition, is enough for one lifetime.

And now our newly acquired seaside holiday home, which is not of course by the sea, comes with a garden, which we should not call a garden, but rather describe [and here we part company with the estate agents, their property details and photographs] as a barren strip of ground, walled in part, some 10m x 5m, the principal feature of which, although none of this has yet been seen, appears to be a neighbour's washing line.

What is to be done? We consult our books, and first some of those for which we must take a responsibility. 'Gardening in a Small Space' [upon what authority was it based?] suggests nothing, neither does 'The Gardening Year' [beyond work] nor 'Gardening with Colour' [which, in any case, is not what we are about].

hopes for inspiration here sadly rapidly dashed
month by month, season by season, year round toil

more concentrated labour but in Hungarian 

unsuitable for those in  their monochrome phase

But something may yet evolve. For cannot a reasonably sized, brick built outhouse situated at the far end of the garden become a focal point, converted to a summerhouse, a garden room, even a folly, from which will stretch [forgive a tendency to hyperbole] a broad terrace of York stone punctuated with buttresses of English yew, Taxus baccata, and approached through an avenue of Irish Yew, Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata', complete with water jet, classical urns [can you assist, Tom Stephenson?] and topiary?

Why not? Taking inspiration from a recently found image on 'Pinterest' and recalling The Tower and Rill of our own Herefordshire garden, we see a way forward.

an image discovered on 'Pinterest' which may well inspire the new garden

recalling our Herefordshire garden, an idea to be adapted for Norwich

This could indeed be our solution for a low maintenance, yet hopefully stylish and interesting, garden of the kind to be found behind every artisan, terraced cottage, of which ours is but one, the length and breadth of Norwich. Why not indeed? And do be assured of some 'before' and 'after' photographs. 

Meanwhile what of the front? Measuring some............!!

Monday 9 February 2015

A Whiter Shade of Pale

Our love affair with Farrow and Ball, their paints of course, not the men, has endured for three decades and more. For our post-war Collins' house in Southampton, it was love at first brushstroke. 'Smoked Trout', 'Mouse's Back', 'Picture Gallery Red' and 'Cooking Apple Green' all found their way onto our walls and into our hearts.

Farrow and Ball, these paint perfectionists with their deliciously named tints and tones, convinced us that although we had flirted with Dulux, Zoffany and Crown in the past, only Farrow and Ball, founded in Dorset in the 1930s and still there today, was the real deal when it came to decorating.

the deliciously named shades of the Farrow and Ball colour wheel

a recent redecoration of our Budapest kitchen using Farrow and Ball 'Old White'

So our timber framed Herefordshire cottage, our follies and garden rooms and our Regency Brighton flat were all decorated in elegantly colourful Farrow and Ball style. The colour palette from which our choices were made was as extensive as it was seductive. We defied fads, trends or 'hot' colours of the year as we enhanced our rooms with 'Dayroom Yellow', 'Oval Room Blue', 'Vert de Terre' and 'Elephant's Breath'.

our painter at work in our Budapest kitchen where 'Old White' is teamed with 'Lime White'

Then the 'grande passion' arrived in the form of decorating our 200 square metre Budapest apartment with its 15ft ceiling heights. Untouched for 50 years and in multiple occupancy, it was a sorry, unloved sight of peeling plaster, grime blackened, of unspeakable bathroom, and a plethora of dark brown, gloss paint. 'Lime White' was to be the knight in shining armour. Eggshell for the woodwork, Estate Emulsion for the walls, all 92 litres of it shipped from London. Rapture. And so it was. 

'Lime White' , a colour used extensively in our Budapest apartment

The soon to be ours, Norwich terraced house is a blank canvas. But what colours to choose? Whatever, our artist friend, Enrico, of whom note should be taken, said, "Farrow and Ball, it is so last year!" Annie Sloan's 'chalk paint' is, apparently, what is colouring all the best drawing rooms these days. After all, according to the 'World of Interiors', "it will transform even the drabbest bunker into a haven".

it is for 'Little Greene' we are now enthusing

But, we have been seduced by another! Little Greene has been producing paint and paper since as long ago as 1773. With its reassuringly high pigment levels, this paint offers a depth of colour with undertones that subtly change in different lights providing real character and definition. With 49 [not 50] shades of grey, who can resist? Not us!

P.S. We are not in the employ, nor do we have any connection with, any paint company whatsoever!!

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Home and Away

'It is a truth universally acknowledged', to borrow from Jane Austen, that the British coastline is gradually, but steadily, being eroded away. On this we speak with a degree of authority. But lest we digress further, let us explain.

Whilst Budapest remains home to us, for some months now we have toyed with the idea of a place by the sea - proper sea. For although we enjoy the time we spend in Brighton, which we shall continue so to do, we crave soft sand, rock pools, fishing fleets, pleasure boats, cliff walks, seaweed, ozone in the air, deckchairs for hire, indeed all of those things associated with seaside holidays from childhood, now rather too long ago.

'On the Coast, Isle of Wight' [1860 Frederic, Lord Leighton]

So, availing ourselves of the internet and establishing with the various estate agents our intention to buy 'off plan', so to speak, for to arrange an actual viewing, we decided, involved far too much time and effort and would, almost certainly, become tedious, we set about our search.

'Near Swanage' [1916 Mark Gertler]

We favoured Dorset. An apartment, directly overlooking Durlston Bay in Swanage and sited at the cliff edge, we thought it wise to abandon when it was revealed that the authorities could no longer maintain or support coastal defences and that the magnificent views of the sea crashing against the rocks below were likely to become even better, and that before we had finished placing the furniture.

'Ventnor from the East Cliff' [1899]

In Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, we fell in love, on line of course [the estate agents produce such alluring pictures], with a charming little Edwardian villa. The first sentence of the structural survey report, when we read it, indicated that our desired house was in a 'landslip zone'. We moved on, and so perhaps did the villa.

'Barbican & River Stour, Sandwich, Kent [1900 Henry Maurice Page]

Sandwich, an attractive mediaeval town and Cinque Port, now two or so miles inland from the Kent coast, seemed perfect. A pretty terraced cottage, nestling within the Conservation area, upon which we set our hearts, was prone to flooding. We let it go.

the exterior of a house which we actually, and unusually, saw

Lance Hattatt taking a bracing walk along the promenade

Warned away from both Lyme Regis [more shades of Miss Austen] and Cromer, and not a little dispirited, we journeyed to Cornwall in the belief that we should do so much better if on the spot. Four days later we returned to Hungary satisfied that our search was over. A stone built, late Victorian house, a pebble's throw from the sea, seemed ideal, the eight hour bus journey from London a mere nothing. Sadly the dream died with the discovery of high levels of Radon lurking within all those rocks.

'Bournemouth by the Sea' [1896 Henry Maidment]

Let us not bore you with the detail of the brand new, Art Deco style apartment in Bournemouth, and never let it be said that the chance remark overheard of 'Bournemouth for the newly wed or nearly dead' affected our decision in any way. Nor will we repeat here our eulogies for a smuggler's cottage on the borders of Devon or a mansion flat in Eastbourne. Suffice it to say, they have come and gone.

'Norwich Cathedral' [1955 David Freeman]

For at last we are settled. It is for Norwich we are enthusing and if this cathedral city, to which we have never been, and this artisan cottage, which we have yet to see and will not until it is finally ours, are as far removed from the sea as can be, then so be it.

Steeped in history, replete with period features, our little house, built originally for the workers of the Colman's Mustard Factory, will, we are sure, provide a wonderful holiday home from which to explore both the historical city, surrounding towns and unspoilt countryside beyond. In a matter of just a few weeks we shall take possession, and how exciting is that!

Christmas Day 2010, Sunset over the Terraces of Norwich [Unknown]

Now, what was that about earthquakes?

[We have been unable to ascertain ownership of the image, Christmas Day 2010, but will be pleased to provide full acknowledgement]

Friday 23 January 2015

Musings on Museums

The museums of Montevideo are of particular interest on two counts. First, there is universal free admission when, erratically of course, they are open. Secondly, they contain very little in the way of exhibits. Sparsely furnished rooms, oddly curated ephemera, scant information, in Spanish alone, and a complete absence of other visitors is the order of the day. However, none of this should deter the contemporary traveller or explorer. Far from it since, when one does finally secure entry, these 'Museo' are hidden gems in the fascinating crown of cultural history of Uruguay.

at the entrance to the Museo de Juan Zorrilla de San Martin, Montevideo, Uruguay

the windows of the museum draped in lace curtains forming protection from the sunlight

Our guide book promised that the Museo de Juan Zorrilla de San Martin, the summer house of the nineteenth century poet and diplomat of that name, would provide a café, a shop, an air-conditioned gallery space as well as a museum. Within sight of the sea, a pretty white Andalusia style villa, built in 1904 and expanded in 1921, and set within peaceful gardens hid amongst towering modern apartment blocks waiting to be discovered.

a green oasis, the gardens of the museum, now overlooked by apartment blocks

a typical tiled fireplace to be found in the villa's principal reception room

the poet-diplomat's simply furnished bedroom on the ground floor of the villa

Simply furnished and tenderly kept, complete with its private chapel, the villa proved to be a pure delight. It was as if the poet himself had merely stepped out for a moment and we were welcome guests free to roam at will. And, all around the house, a lush green 'hortus conclusus' decorated with vivid blue tiles, provided a calm and shady sanctuary from the searing heat of the summer sun. Peace was gently broken by a gentle fountain without a café, shop, gallery or other visitor to be seen.

the two intrepid tourists of the day, camera to the ready, examine the books in the poet's library

the private chapel within the villa, an aspiration as yet, and most likely never, to be fulfilled

Also whitewashed but in every other sense completely different, Casapueblo situated between the Uruguayan coastal towns of Piriapolis and Punta del Este, is visually eccentric and stunningly beautiful in its setting. A huge Gaudi-esque house-sculpture, it was begun in 1960 by the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró around a shack in which he was living. It grew first into a studio, then a house with accommodation for friends, and then finally, as it has become today, an hotel and museum as a monument to the artist and his work.

the entrance to Casapueblo, the museum of the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró

Casapueblo, glimpsed in the background, overlooking the South Atlantic

We risked life and limb to photograph the exterior of this extraordinary building, as it clings to the rock with the South Atlantic Ocean at its feet, avoiding as we did the hordes of day trippers and tourists and the greatly overpriced museum entrance fee.

the dramatic situation of Casapueblo perched above the South Atlantic Ocean

Take us back to Montevideo, we cried. How we had loved the vintage cars in the Museo del Automovil Club del Uruguay, especially the Armstrong Siddeley and the cache of trophies won by Hector Suppici Sedes, a Uruguayan racing driver killed in a crash in Chile in 1948. And what pleasure we had had in exploring the near bare rooms of the charming Palacio Taranco, housing as it does the Museo de Artes Decorativas.

But, no matter its free admission, we had given the Museo del Fútbol a miss!