Families, they're alright. I am in Budapest with my brother, his wife and their super cute baby. My brother, who is currently singing J Buckley's Hallelujah to his son as he bathes him, had drawn up an itinerary of three activities per day before we arrived and pinned to the kitchen pinboard amongst a few random photographs and cards. He is not the most organised of people, but he is an adventurer at heart; he puts as much as he can into his hours, until he finds a café with some good coffee and some chat.
Today we were hoping to go ice-skating (He is now on Pop Goes the Weasel) as per the plan. We took the metro which is like a funride at a fair, not least because the annoucement at each stop is accompanied by something generated by an ice-cream van or honking a clown's nose. The rink was closed so we ended up (now onto You Can Call Me Al) walking for hours, past all sorts of victory monuments, romanesque, gothic and baroque tribute buildings (not because there aren't real ones in Budapest, we just happened to stumble upon the tribute fare built 100 years ago), genuine Succession buildings, and communist appartment blocks. The streets here are wide and today they were almost deserted. Today or this evening is the time for Christmas celebrations (over fish) in Hungary. I am not sure how we figured we would be able to do more than just walk and look at the few passers-by.
The women here wear a lot of brown clothing, with gaudy (orange, gold and red) accessories, their hair dyed black or red and black eye-liner drawn heavily along the bottom ridge. I write this fully aware that I probably seem like a small boy to them, like I don't make enough of my looks. The men look like weather-beaten sailors or possibly pirates, but perfectly nice ones. (My brother is now singing a demonic version of Silent Night).
As the three of us strode into the wind that was puffing up our full length coats, I sensed that we were about to do Matrix slow-motion backarches then reach into our coats for our guns to blow the crap out of something. Instead we tried in vain to withdraw cash at several cash machines (ATMs), and struggled to identify and explain the significance of various monuments – both are not so easy in a country with a complex political history. Finally we spotted a dull yellowish light and some dark movement – a cafe was open! We ordered coffees and hot chocolate (or cocoa). The cafe was airy and smoky, bohemian and potentially revolutionary yet stately, a place for scheming as well as mindless drinking, friendly yet surly, cold yet warm. This paradoxical style of writing is not only good and bad, but good and evil.
My brother and I talked about our family, everyone in it. We analysed each member's motivations and childhood traumas, factoring each of the possible combinations and permutations. We were fortunate that everything was closed today otherwise we would not have been able to have a proper catch up, which, in a family like mine, means reaching agreement on the causes behind the major frustrations, disputes and tragedies of the day, with a sense of love and humour of course.
It's root vegetable soup time.