In Hungary at last!

At last I\’m in Hungary, marinating in Hungarian. It\’s a language I heard throughout my childhood when my mother used it as a kind of secret code so she could talk freely to her friends and her mother. She never taught it to us though it would have been so easy for her – the excuse she gave was that our father would have felt left out if we could talk a different language. My brother believes this, I don\’t. I think my father was a bigger man than that and also that he would have loved to show us off as brilliantly bilingual children.

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I think my mother was secretive. There were things she didn\’t want us to know and denying us her mother-tongue kept the keys to certain locked boxes away from us.

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Her excuse to us was that she wanted us to be completely English.

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A silly idea. It\’s true that until her stroke and subsequent slow descent into Alzheimer\’s and vascular dementia, she spoke perfect English with no trace of an accent. She was so good at being English that English people would talk about \”bloody foreigners\” in front of her – which she told us with great pride. She believed she could pass for English despite being far too chic.

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However our household world was not really very English. We had an exotic Christmas Eve with presents and smoked salmon, followed by a normal Christmas Day with more presents and turkey. We ate very different food from our friends; beef stroganoff and chicken marengo and gulyas (pronounced \”gooyarsh\” please, not \”goulash\”) were completely unknown in those far off pre-cookchill days. There would be emotion, shouting, intense arguments over politics and literature and pretty much any subject at all. Exotic foreign friends of my mother would turn up and talk Hungarian, Polish, French and this was regarded as normal.

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I wasn\’t encouraged to invite school friends home to tea. That was after my best friend was presented with chicken marengo (the least exotic thing my mother could think of to cook), asked for ketchup, was asked why and burst into tears. I was blamed for this, of course, and it was my fault because I should have warned her.

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Occasionally, I look around me at England, where I was born, and my fellow-English and wonder what on earth they can be thinking. I\’ve got better at being English as the rules on Englishness have relaxed and I\’ve got over the thing about having to feed anybody who comes to your house.

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I still want to learn Hungarian, open those locked boxes if I can find them. In fact, all my life I\’ve tried to learn Hungarian. I\’ve bought at least six expensive Teach Yourself Hungarian courses, some dating back to the days when \”munkas = worker\” was the first word taught and Communism made any visiting very difficult and, in my mother\’s view, dangerous.

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I failed to learn it because… Well, I\’m not that great at sustained application and to be honest the whole thing bewildered me. As all Hungarians tell you with apologetic pride, \”Magyarul nagyon nehez\” or \”Hungarian is very difficult.\” Perhaps I could have come in my twenties. I didn\’t and it wasn\’t only because that was when Communism was crumbling through its own dementia and everyone thought there would be a nuclear war before 1989. Instead Hungary was the country that made the first hole in the Iron Curtain. God, I wish I could have been there but I was busy with children by then.

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And now it\’s all around me sounding both familiar and strange. Although I can take refuge in English whenever I want, thanks to the Internet, words here and there are starting to come clear.

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I find I do better if I don\’t really listen. I perfectly understood the woman at the supermarket who had bought a tin of beans and forgotten to pack it, but I dried up completely when I tried to point out the vagrant tin at the check out.

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Next step – dreaming in Hungarian.

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After that – finding those locked boxes that may not even exist.

January Brings the Diet… 3Steps to a Great Eating Habit

Yes, this is the result of a New Year\’s resolution but it\’s also because I want to brag – I\’ve just delivered another book for Kindle called \”3 Steps to a Great Eating Habit\” which is a book I\’ve actually been intending to write for about thirty years.

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This is my take on how to install a normal eating habit when you\’ve been pogoing between diets and binges for years. It\’s based on the latest research into our metabolisms which pins the blame for our blubber on sugar. I don\’t have a link for it yet, but when I do I\’ll post it here.

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I\’m my own experimental subject (again) so I\’ll be following my own recommendations from the book – starting with Step 2, stage 2 – come off sugar. I\’ll let you know how I get on!

 

 

Happy New Year. Happy Epiphany as well!