For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to own my own place. Over the years, the ‘place’ in question has moved from a stone cottage in the West of Ireland, to a crofter’s cottage by a loch in the highlands of Scotland. I’ve had visions of a log cabin in Alaska and a house with a large lan’ai overlooking the ocean in Hawaii. I’ve thought about a terraced house in Dublin and a two-story flat in an ex-Council towerblock in London . A flat in Rome or a mountain retreat in Macugnaga have both appealed, depending on whether I was in my city or country mode. I’ve considered vineyards in France (very briefly), sheepfarms in New Zealand, and even an organic farm in Wales. I have, at various stages, fantasised about being Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton in To the Manor Born; Barbara Good in The Good Life; Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City; Maggie O’Connell in Northern Exposure; Mary Kate Danaher in The Quiet Man; Diane Sugden in Emmerdale; and a host of other leading ladies, each with a lifestyle and a ‘place’ of their own that seemed to fit the me that was me at a particular time.
My ‘bottom drawer’ was born in the early 1990s when I won a green card to the USA in a lottery and took a two-year career break from the Bank of Ireland in Dublin to live the Californian dream. It was a whole new world. A world with lots of ‘stuff’. I remember buying a set of miniature sculptures of golf poses made of nuts and bolts. I had visions of them sitting in a display cabinet in ‘my place’ once I’d bought it. Thankfully, my taste has improved dramatically in the intervening years and while I kept one of them as a reminder that tat is simply tat, no matter how exotic the location in which you find it, I’m a little more selective now.
I’ve added to this drawer over the last 18 years – pictures, cutlery, linens, wall-hangings, sculptures – and have finally bought a flat, in Budapest, Hungary. I’m in the process of unpacking my treasures and buying new bits to furnish it. I was strangely detached from the process, as if I was doing it for someone else – although I knew that someone else was me. I have waited so long to own ‘my place’ and have searched so hard to find it and yet somehow, I wasn’t sure if it was the panacea I had expected it to be. And then today, this morning, Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 at 9.17 a.m. in Budapest, Hungary, I took delivery of a piece of furniture that made my heart stop, just for second. And I just had to share the journey.