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Budapest Diary

Nearing the end of this journey I visited the places and scenes of my past that feature in my novel #BedTableDoor

This was more or less the view from Liberation Square (the communist name) with the Elisabeth Bridge in the background now it is Ferenciek Tere. Then, in 1981, we had ugly neon lights and the Parizsi Udvar (first picture featuring in many Cold War spy films) was closed.

And this was Belvarosi Cafe - where you could spend a whole afternoon gazing at chess boards over a cup of coffee. Writers often came here for a chat. It was a favourite meeting place for all kinds of people - old chess players or young drop-offs. You had to be quiet - to let the chess players think - but often, large tables were taken over by a group who discussed matters of... punctuation in poetry, for instance. The last time I heard, this was a casino, now it is a cabaret and a plaque on the wall reminds us that this was the first cafe to open in the city after the siege of Budapest on 18th February 1945.

And this, if my memory does not lie, was the door opening to paradise - the jazz club in Petofi Street. It was in a huge flat on the first or second floor and always packed. The Binder Quartet was my favourite jazz band (22 minutes in my favourite terribly nostalgic song) and I followed them all over the place. I could not get into the building today, and anyway, this club is gone now, but sneaked into next door, just to give you a taste of staircases in Budapest.

The trams and underground looked like this - courtesy of the Millenium Underground Museum at Deak Ter. We sat on benches like that and you can still find them in the "little" Metro - kept in its former glory. It was the first underground train on the continent inaugurated on 2nd May 1896. The picture at the bottom is taken today in the subway of Ferenciek Tere, I could not recognise any of it - but it looks great.

I will launch Bed Table Door in Belfast at the Crescent Arts Centre on 20th October at 6 pm.

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