Working late in the Internet cellar correcting someone's thesis about
Udmurt. At midnight,
some low-key dancing on bar stools marks Hungary joining the EU.
Another day in the office translating
story. Nice timing.
A drink with Rita, then later with
Gordon & Jim.
Another ambiguous spring morning. The street
have had new soil put in their little disc grilles.
My jolly neighbour asks when my name day is. I tell her I don't know. She pops
into her kitchen, and comes out saying
it is today.
Two girls atop
give me a little notebook thingie advertising
'Kill Bill 2'.
Over a cappuccino, Steve tells me a former
girlfriend of his recently died. Aged 39, her heart simply stopped one night
as she relaxed on her sofa. Steve stresses this was two weeks after she
learned he has finally fathered a baby. We also discuss
Weather actually hot. More
I proofread a haunted-house script vaguely like a cuddlier version of
too cool to open on any but the shiniest
computers. Today able, for once, to treat Marion to a coffee at
Pasareti ter cafe. Glorious sunshine.
Dinner at Mihaly's again. His son, Zoltan, tells me he is one of Hungary's
grandmasters. He says the
English opening is a little safer
to play against a computer program. Their elderly brown dog comes
and rests his head wistfully in my lap during the meat course.
Was about to ask New Scientist about paper cuts. But question
1st meeting with
in months. Mariann introduces us to Italian
producer's office again with his huge, perhaps overly playful,
Tiring day. Mariann makes fine
Into town with
Robin at dusk.
utca Italian restaurant, four men
play cards a little self-consciously as we order pasta and wait for Istvan.
Finished the 'da
Vinci code' book, and it rained a lot. Brown's book
did make me want to reach the conclusion to see how it all tied up,
but obviously fresher for those who didn't read
Holy Grail' 20 years ago. And for a thriller celebrating
the sacred feminine, the portrayal of heroine Sophie as dumb
brunette was fairly slack. We are supposed to accept that
a celebrated academic "symbologist" and a top cryptographer [Sophie,
solving riddles since childhood] fail to spot basic anagrams, or
recall that da Vinci made notes in mirror script, or notice that
a code number has ten digits in it.
Her suggestion that an alphabet be written in two rows
arouses murmurs of admiration for her cryptography teachers
from another vacuous stereotype, the comedy upper-crust Brit. Sophie,
one moment a soignee Parisienne, the next moment cries "You've got to be kidding!",
at the prospect of meeting an English knight, like an
awestruck American girl-next-door. This rive-droite fille is also
apparently traumatised like the most prudish of suburbans
for an entire decade at having glimpsed a sexual ritual
as late as her university years. As a crack agent in an elite
French police force we might also expect young Sophie to know
that new-fangled telephones can remember telephone numbers and that
messages tend to stay on telephone answering machines until you
remove them. Apart from cartoon characters [and not the
Vinci type], the thriller machinery is clunky
in general. Bad man turns out good. Good man turns
out bad. An armoured truck from a high-tech Swiss bank carries
[surprise] a radio-positioning transmitter, a likelihood which crosses
the mind of neither the "top" cryptographer nor the "top" academic
driving said truck. And this transmitter can be "switched on"
remotely, by - er ...radio transmission.
lesson that pioneering pays poorly, and the serious
fortunes come from retailing other people's ideas for larger
More egg-painting. Robin & I decide not sprinkle water on any girls.
Letty is too ill to receive visitors, but when two smartly-dressed
village lads turn up to say their little rhyme, Zsuzsi is
delighted to have them spray perfume on her and give them in turn a
chocolate egg each.
After dark, Robin
& I fetch drinking water from the village well.
As we return, we find Zsuszi & her little brother in a cloud of
insects under an outside light, contentedly collecting dozens of
some hideous local bug
to pop them, still buzzing, into a jam jar.
Christ is risen, citizens. We
eggs with paints & coloured pencils,
then have an egg & spoon race with them. Mysteriously, I win.
Saturday' here. I start reading the
Vinci code' book Annika sent me from Sweden.
This morning, Mariann tells me I am like a
meets us at the nearby
cakeshop where, it being
the weekend assistant and one of the
weekday assistants are serving on the same day.
Popped into both the
embassy and the
shoeshop in one
Start work on the ID-card
article. Hope it works.
A slow Monday, since it's already holiday.
The shopping centre has ended its show of naff photographs by famous
Nick Faldo etc]
for charity. Main sign of
intelligent life, interestingly, was from
Kate Moss, who
cunningly offered a cluster of small snaps of friends at
instead of one big picture. Perhaps chance or
perhaps good advice, but a brighter professional
model might notice that (1) there is actually quite
some craft to taking good photos,
that furthermore (2) she isn't good at it herself,
and therefore she is (3) better off not
exposing her amateurishness with one large composition.
With Moss's possible Socratic exception, all the
other famous folks clearly had no idea they had no idea how
to take a photo. Not even the vaguest sense that
proportion or arranging things in the picture frame are involved.
Klum proudly shows a portrait with a boat going into her head.
Mariann takes me to see Lollobrigida, a pair of Croat girls with guitars in a
cellar bar, not this Lollobrigida.
Rather quiet. 'Tangled Wing', the
book Ryan left me mentions lots of interesting studies into people,
animals, and our inherited natures. Unfortunately, it has that
writing style (both florid and stodgy) that some artistically-rounded
scientists from New England inflict on readers: you can feel the
Rilke quote coming,
hundreds of pages ahead. In one squirm-making passage where he asks
his doctor how such an exhausting, small and ugly thing as his baby
can be so adorable, we can almost see
doing him as a whiskery funny professor, exploding lovably that
"that's a cliche from one of my own
worst lectures, doctor!" (real quote
from book). The overall
drift is to emphasise how evidence shows human
character to be Darwinian and genetic, without yielding to vulgar
sociobiologism. But, from 1982, it already looks quite dated.
is referred to respectfully as a pioneering anthropologist
who changed all our views, rather than as the rather gullible girl
since been claimed to be,
who didn't learn the Samoan language and totally fell for
Samoan village women's leg-pulling about adolescent sex play.
Konner's passages on
"eloquent" writing and deep insight also
rang a little odd to this reader. Sounded nothing like the dense,
rambling pages of ranting text
I found in Freud, an emperor
whose clothes wear thinner with every passing month. Konner seems
to be yet another person who popped in for a year
or two to study the !Kung people
[must check that ! notation: a clicking sound?]. He was shrewd
enough to see that their gentleness is as much to do with poverty &
simplicity as any "natural purity". Some good bits. What does
Wing' mean, exactly?
The performance all goes a bit wrong - my students got stage fright - but trip back
very soothing as we enter the
Carpathian microclimate. Everything
warmer, yellower and slower through the train window once we had crossed
Further east, check this Russian/Ukrainian girl's diary (pix
load a little slowly) of her motorbike journeys
through the Chernobyl dead zone.
April Fool's Day. A strange mood at breakfast, where I come down to garbled
stories about people coming back from bars drunk late last night and a door inside
the hotel being broken. Jim gets billed by the police, here quaintly called the
'Gendarmarie' to give them a more villagy feel. Polizei are for cities. Anyway,
quaint or not, the Austrian village 'gendarmes' persuade Jim down to the station
for what he thinks will be a clarification chat about what happened, get his passport
off him, and then charge him more than his week's wages for the repairs to
2 splintered door jambs he has no memory of damaging in a night of several tipsy teachers
wandering around trying to get into the
At almost six hundred dollars
for two inserted wooden strips, one 3" x 1" x 1" and one 7" x 1" x 1", carpentry in
Austria is clearly an excellent business to be in. Unless Austria is short of wood?
I cook fudge brownies,
twice, with two different classes. My own class insist on taking brownies home for
their mothers. A first. Teachers enthuse about the cakes too.
Can they taste 3a's goodheartedness?
Later, Siegrid invites us over to her house for an afternoon coffee after teaching,
and it boils down to Beata, Leeann and myself moving our hands in passing motions over
bottles of Siegrid's
Bach flower remedies,
paying close attention to our energy fields.
Her pear liqueur was like good advocaat, and her wild-cherry liqueur was gorgeous. Before
bed I pop into
Pischelsdorf's one Internet cafe
and update this diary on the one terminal.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
contact at otherlanguages.org
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