After the excitement of a cycle trip to IKEA and the acquisition of a coat stand (see previous blog) I decided that I would go out and relax, so started by going to Becket's, a nearby 'Irish Bar', to watch the France-Ireland rugby game on the television. The place was packed with a mixture of French, Irish and neutrals and there was a lot of cheering, groaning (and new to me) clapping. The television coverage was French and the commentary was taken from Irish RTE, and for presumably technical reasons this was about 20 seconds late, which made for a disorienting experience, with hysterical commentating about something that you knew was going to end in great disappointment.
Anyway, France won by a large margin and the Irish contingent ordered more Guinnesses and settled down to make the best of the rest of their Saturday evening.
As for me, I had a plan to visit the Merlin Theatre. The name reminded me of Sheffield and they were advertising an evening with a Serbian gypsy band at 10 o'clock which sounded like it might be interesting. Their Hungarian-only website mentioned that something else was happening at 8.30, but various on-line translation services were unable to explain to me what this was, so I figured that it might be a warm-up act.
So I arrived at the Merlin a little after 8.30 and found myself a beer and a seat at an empty table in a corner next to a small dais, and waited for the music to start. After a little while an intellectual looking couple arrived clutching two microphones and sat down at the end of my table. Then a large, jolly-looking man with curly hair turned up and joined them, shortly followed by three young women and an obvious boyfriend. What then happened reminded me of the film Wetherby, where a stranger arrives at a door at the same time as two couples arrive for a dinner party, and each couple thinks that the stranger is with the other couple. So everyone started to shake hands, introduce themselves and wish each other good health before starting their drinks. I, of course, was included in this social ritual.
However, my obvious confusion blew my cover, and the intellectual man and the curly haired one asked me in English if I could understand Hungarian. No, of course. So they explained that what was going to happen next was that the curly haired one was a distinguished Hungarian author and that he was going to be interviewed about a new book he had just written. They apologised that I would not understand what they were talking about but they assured me that I would understand and enjoy the band that followed.
So the interview progressed. I understood nothing but was pleased to find that I could actually pick out a few words, and at one point was startled when the author mentioned my name and everyone smiled. What did he say? "Mr. Hopkins, the visiting British intellectual...", "Mr. Hopkins, the guy over there who understands nothing..." I'll never know as I did not get chance to talk to him again.
After the interview I briefly talked to the boyfriend who was curious to know how I felt about sitting there understanding nothing. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I was spending a lot of time going to places and understanding nothing, but that I was getting the hang of it.
What actually was going through my mind was the strange conjunction of a serious book reading, gypsy band and all night DJ, and that people would actually go to a place to enjoy all three. To me it said a lot about the cultural sophistication of people here. I struggled to imagine a similar event working in Britain, but perhaps I'm being cynical...
Anyway, as the intellectual man had said, the gypsy band Kal, were much easier to understand (and unexpectedly they did a lot of talking in English). They were very different in style from the bands I had seen previously. They had two accordions and a violinist as well as guitars and drums, and their style was rock, punk and rap influenced as well as gypsy. They certainly got everyone dancing, as within seconds of starting their first song everyone was jumping up and down and spinning wildly. None of the slow warming up that characterises English gigs.
They played for nearly 2 hours, and I enjoyed it very much, but felt that their rocky edge wasn't altogether to my taste. But, nonetheless, the combination of international rugby, a book reading and a fun gig had made for a really good evening out and I walked home through the freezing night air in a mellow mood.