The first thing to say is a very heartfelt thank you to you, Anna and your lovely family for a very special few days together. I hope you wont mind this rather jumbly description! It highlights my long years of affection and respect for Waldorf Education and Steiner Family Life, which these days is such a challenge in a world full of high speed pressure, consumerism and instant gratification. It is a way of life that not only tries to prolong and safeguard natural childhood, but stands for social values of care, respect and love for each other and the environment…. a love for the seasons as they pass, and a profound integration of creativity and practical activity which is just so nourishing for us as human beings. Your home and family are a happy reminder that it is possible to make a stand for something important.
More notes, extracts from a letter home… This post should really have come before the last 2… Oh well, never mind!
> “Hello darlings,
Just on a roll with writing at the moment, but not quite ready to post, so want to write a bit of thinking out loud without having to try to make it look good if you see what I mean!!
Another very full few days of family life! There is something so instantly comforting and recognizable about a Steiner home, isn’t there?
> The smell of Eco-friendly washing liquid, a special table with mother earth surrounded by sleepy root children… Dressing up clothes and clothes horses with veils all over the place, wicker baskets full of making things stuff…. piles of colourful clothes without too many designer motifs etc. etc!
> My first morning I was joined in my bed at 6.30am by bright-eyed 3 year old little Ágo who talks brilliantly non-stop with all the explanatory “of course you know exactly what I mean don’t you?” hand gestures and pretty Bori, aged 7 who is much more dreamy, sucking her thumb and wiggling her feet slowly like (memories) little ice-blocks against my nice warm ones!!!
> Such little snugglers!
> Breakfast round the long table with Aron (13) and Giergy, (11) Zolly (father) and Anna (mum) plus the 2 little ones was a great mixture of bread, toppings, granola, Kafir, yoghurt, chopped apple etc. and then Zoltan took me into Budapest, talking hard all the way and demonstrating the lack of consideration his fellow Hungarians have for each other (“nobody cares for each other”) by challenging the oncoming cars with creeping further and further forward while the others refuse to let him rightfully through a traffic obstruction.
> He wants to live his life being happy not miserable and wonders what is the problem with people being considerate and kind to each other.
> He is really fiery and thinks so much about what he wants for his children. For example, he deplores the almost constant pleas from his older boys for computer gadgets/games etc. We talked about the negative effects of even a small amount of ‘screen fever’ on their mood and behaviour and just how difficult it is to set limits. (and this is also an issue for the boys in Betti’s household too) I really like him! He gets up at 5.30 on alternate Sunday mornings to go with his neighbour 60km to fetch beautiful water from a well in the hills. And of course the kitchen is full of bread making stuff and herb teas! They had a gorgeous traditional wood burning, celing-high stove built by a local villager who had been apprenticed to a master builder… it is made from straw and dung, and the first burn bakes and fires the construction. There is an upper oven and seats either side. The builder came to live with them while he was building it. Everyone snuggled round it and the clothes are warm in the morning from having been on the very top all night!
> They have a lovely student called Bence staying with them, who goes home at the weekend to see his lovely girlfriend, who is almost but not quite as important as his sandwiches!!! He spoke excellent German to me while I spoke English/German to him. For his year 12 project, he went to stay in a monastery which included a month of silence. Quite an extraordinary young man, who is so twinkly with the children and stays up late talking about life with Anna in the evenings!
> In the afternoon it was like old times! I went with Anna to a little kindergarten fair… something going on in every crammed corner of the room, felt-making, lovely food, a very slender lady in dungarees, playing the cello and the recorder and singing to a group of children and mummies on the floor while toddlers jumped from an impossibly high wicker den, landing far too close to everyone!! Wonderful! And of course, lots of felt things and decorated conkers for sale….!
> The next day we went to a big family gathering to celebrate Zollie’s fathers 66th birthday and to see him and Mum before they go to spend Christmas with a sister in London. This was in his brother’s magnificent house with a HUGE stove by the same man on the expensive edge of Budapest. 3 more children here, and with 2 more in London makes 9 grandchildren in total!! This brother, Mathe, has turned his life around and has become an expert in vegan cooking and as well as working for local government and running a web design business, he is pioneering compost production in collaboration with a group of Eco people who are passionate about town gardens and producing local food! He is a walking dynamo and it was so lovely to see the whole family laughing and playing together. The older children put on a magic show for us and I am ashamed to say that after the enormous lunch I sat down in the bean bag and completely crashed out! They say that he used to be called atomic child because he was born while their father was working on the design and construction of a nuclear station!!!
> I spent the evening reading to 2 of the younger children in English (I had completely forgotten how violent Jemima puddle duck was) and then painting Ágo dressed up as a joker and Bori dressed up as a fairy doing her knitting (you will probably get to see these on the blog later) and then listening to the lovely dreamy Giergy play his trumpet for me. He was so inspired by my painting that he got his paints out and was asking what my paints were and where could he get them. This morning I was able to get Harberton arts to send on a small starter box with 6 little colour blocks in it… last night I sat up with Anna who showed me family photos as well as pictures of all the gorgeous bridges across the Danube that are join Buda with Pécs. Her story is so similar to mine and we found we had a great deal in common. We both felt that it was no accident that we had met. Despite perpetual maternal exhaustion, Anna manages to do huge amounts of home baking and hold doll-making workshops, go to school meetings, chop wood etc.
> Before I left, there was a lovely group of women making those snuggly dolls together and I helped to hold the heads tight while they had their eye and chin lines wound round, and ‘inside out’ the pink arms and legs. Zoltan says he is very lucky that she can manage all of this because his job is so demanding. He is a great support, but works hugely long hours for which he has to be “100%” and so has little time or energy to do much when he gets home. He would like 2 more children…….
> When I left the other morning, it was -2 and damp and foggy with attempts at snow. The main road into Budapest is woefully inadequate for the volume of traffic and although it is wide just at the end of Piliscsaba, it soon narrowed and I was having to be really alert to keep steady as the lorries hurtled past. Generally they have all been very considerate, but one or two have been really brutally close. On the way out of town I passed one of the most interesting buildings I have ever seen… It’s a university, only a few years old, called the Josephinium. The fence is made from giant pencils and the domed fairy tale main building is all on a tilt!
> It was ever such a relief to leave the awful main road and head into Solymar (said shoymar) and I had a bit of lunch in a friendly roadside restaurant. Then I had to get to a precisely placed pin in a googlemap to meet Betti; except after hauling myself skillfully up a very sharp little hill, realized it was precisely in the wrong place! She was waiting with frozen baby and two brave cold boys whose chains had come off both their bikes, just round a few corners and an uncharacteristically caring motorist who had spotted me (how could he fail with my hi-viz waiscoat) gave her a lift to where I was. Then began a hazardous ride through beautiful, deeply leaf strewn, rocky paths in the silent woods in fading light, and we stopped to thaw out baby Zsofi at a friend’s house… she just happened to be in. It was a beautiful house with a very large dark green ceramic stove/wood burner. Then off we went into the dark again and when we got to the main road from our unlit track Betti slid on the edge of the curb and the whole bike plus baby tipped over spilling them onto the pavement. It was such a nasty moment… baby ok but I could see Betti was really shaking as she did up the straps again. She regretfully said she hadn’t realized how cold it would be for little Zsofi… I had been worrying about it since I left, but hadn’t had the common sense to phone her and tell her not to come… Mind you I can’t imagine how I would have found her if she hadn’t come out!
> We got to their beautiful home safely with me at the back on the main road, riding out in the middle as I was the only one with any lights! Glad to say by now it was just a little country road, but it still felt a bit hairy, as small boys in the road don’t always stay close to the side and I was having to dodge occasionally!
> No sooner than we had sat down for a quick snack than it was time to turn around and go off out into the cold again, only this time in the car to go to an elegant private house with an indoor swimming pool for the boys to have a swimming lesson while I met and talked to 3 absolutely lovely mothers.
> Back home for supper and to meet Dad. He had been to the dentist….. did you know that there is dental tourism In Hungary? ….. so had a numb wonky face and by half past 8 every one had gone to bed! Apparently we have an early start tomorrow…. And on Wednesday evening I am giving a little concert on the Steinway a few doors down!
> All this in the short time between arriving in Piliscsaba (Pilisschaba) on Friday lunchtime and 9pm on Monday evening!
> The first family (Anna and family) were SERVAS contacts, Betti came through people networking on my behalf at home. isn’t that wonderful? Betti just sent a message to my blog! Then the next stop will be a flat in Budapest for a week from Zsofi, another such connection…
> My wonderful friend Jane from the women’s group is going to come and stay with me for the weekend and we plan to go and sit in a spa in HOT water somewhere… Apparently, Budapest is full of them!
> It is certainly a lot for me to take in and attempt to remember, so it is great to sit and spill it all as it comes to mind. Somehow when I fall into bed and write my diary, I can’t quite manage to write so much and when I look back at it it seems to miss out a lot.
> As for Hungary so far…? Well after the initial excitement of crossing the Danube and feeling so welcome, hearing what the Hungarians I have met so far have to say about each other… Nobody cares about each other… People are poor…. The consumerism makes people want more and go into debt to have it….. It is so hopeless why should we care…. Some people are very rich, the rest are very poor… And (worst of all) when there are big projects that look like they will bring more wealth to the area, huge sums of money go missing, straight into corrupt men’s pockets and nobody DOES anything about it; they just get away with it….. I have begun to feel so sad. Zoltan says that if only Hungarians were more aware of their own superb culture and history, they would be really proud of themselves and like themselves much more. So here I am wondering if this is another scar from the Totalitarian Regime, or if it is in the Hungarian natural constitution to be resigned and subject to melancholy or firey outbursts.
Balancing this is the feeling that I am so lucky to be meeting people who are going against this tide and who by their actions are spreading hope and humane behaviour through their family and social interactions. Let’s hope that the next generation will take it forward.
> Incredibly interesting but utterly exhausting to be bombarded with so much information in such a short time! I am in overload!
I will obviously have to write that book.>
In the meantime, hope you are all keeping warm and getting some relaxation in between all the busy and demanding things you are handling. Please take care of yourselves, Darlings.
Loads and loads of love, Mum xxx”