Sunday, 24 August 2008
There are times when Hungary feels like a good place to be. Among friends, of course. In good weather (and we have good weather). At times when Hungary is winning a gold medal at, say, water polo, a sport at which the country has always excelled. In the streets, the most resonant streets in Europe in terms of light, space, shape and human presence. In restaurants, eating good, decently priced food. Along the Danube, the most glorious of European rivers. The city is clean, the transport is efficient, the baths (that I tend not to go to though C does) beautiful, sad, glittering. Film is good. Theatre is good. You can, as the posters should say if they don't already, have a good time in Budapest.
For me it is a great mass of conflicting emotions. I have moments when I am blissfully happy, and others when I am on edge. It is, I suppose, the emigré's lot. Boring, boring, boring. But let me put it this way. The hereness of here I can fully experience, the insideness of here, never. The insideness is elusive. What I think I know by instinct I don't know on the pulse. Or possibly vice-versa. Hence the confusion.
But back to the water polo. Or indeed to the rowing of one sort or another.
Hungarian TV sports commentary is quite different from the British kind, especially when a Hungarian competitor is involved. The build-up is heroic, the glorious past is rolled out, the hopes of the nation are firmly fixed on the team or individual who is to be the saviour of the nation. The race begins, the progress of the Hungarian is followed prayerfully, a prayer that becomes ever more fervent as the race progresses. The competitor is urged on with religious passion. Not even Saint Teresa of Avila in her wild lament knew such pain and ecstasy. Look! Look! the commentator points. Ecce! Ecce homo!
And should the Hungarian win, the hosannas are tearful, voluptuous, iconic. The honour of the nation has been saved, the martyred saints, the downtrodden, the bones of the dead have been raised on high and dance on the right hand of God for ever and ever. Made it, Ma! Top of the world!
A little de trop, mes enfants, don't you think? sniffs the urbane cosmopolitan in me. Yet, I think I understand this. I am sure I have not sounded the very bottom of the ecstasy but feel I have a handle on it. The question is what I do with that handle.