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euskara {basque}
magyar {hungarian}
nederlands/vlaams {dutch}
sami
suomi

other links : i ii iii

2004
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October 31st; Small smoky bonfire in Robin's garden. He is reading a book on early modernists like Appollinaire.
October 30th; A quiet Saturday on the puszta. Not looking forward to going back to Heather's flat in Pest, where neighbours are nagging me to reward them for stealing my bicycle. Completely sincerely, the smoking, shuffling woman in her fifties is asking me to pay for the plumber she called in to remove the water pipe my bike was locked to so she could hide it for a month without telling me. She seems genuinely hurt & distressed that I don't want to give her cash. I suppose the thing when dealing with children of any age is not to lose your temper.

October 29th; On train to Robin's finished Francis Crick's brisk book about research in biology 'What Mad Pursuit'. Crick crisply explains how the puzzle of the DNA double helix was misunderstood by other researchers [who, he says, didn't follow his & Watson's advice to build carefully-calibrated lab-bench models of molecules with jigs, metal rods for atomic bonds, and coloured balls for atoms], but is careful to explain how often he and Watson made mistakes, and how often he was wrong in later research. His decisions to go into molecular biology in his thirties, embryology later, brain physiology still later, sound coolly considered. He assessed each on the basis of his age and how long it might take to get up to speed in a new field. His dry amusement at the liking of many researchers in fields such as brain structure for not testing their theories and not "bothering with details" sounds like a wise scepticism those scientists should perhaps find more daunting.
October 28th; Tandoori chicken at Erik's with Group and Robin3, a futurist (rather than a Futurist). Walking back from Erik's quite palatial pad down Andrassy ut with Jeff (telling me about art collections and Bobby Fischer), adorable Mici chances on us, bubbling with charm.

October 27th; Two days ago finished a book about Cleopatra that appeared in Mihaly's kitchen about a year ago. From Ryan? Esther? 'Cleopatra' by Lucy Hughes-Hallett, edited by bouncy Bloomsbury founder Liz Calder, chugs along quite nicely as a read, though overall somehow a little less than the sum of its parts. Hughes-Hallett describes how each era has portrayed and mythologised Queen Cleopatra differently, as seductress, as loyal 'wife' who dies for love, as sado-machostic killer & consumer of men, or as big-spending good-time girl with a heart of gold. In the process she gives a couple of nods to French-speaking psychoanalytic thinkers Julia Kristeva and the hard-to-spell Helene Cixous [near-namesake Luce Iragaray, author of works like the rather ambitiously-titled 'The Forgetting of Air in Martin Heidegger', is overlooked, perhaps too esoteric even for Lucy]: repeatedly Cleo is used to show how men distort and misunderstand women. We get some reasonable, if brief, insights into many plays and books about Cleopatra: the Shakespeare, Dryden & Shaw versions of the story, as well as many lesser-known. But the book suffers from the self-contradicting flaw at the heart of all relativist arguments. All the different ways men have portrayed Cleopatra are both contrasted with a "real" Cleopatra (shrewd ruler, scholarly linguist, political player) but then later taken to show that there is no real Cleopatra, allowing Hughes-Hallett to try her own version of Cleopatra, hearing the "tolerant laugh" of the queen/image/myth who could have united male and female, east and west, at the end. So all history is relative - but how do we know? Because some of it isn't relative but wrong, which means.... Hughes-Hallett is subtle in places, letting the sillier portrayals of Cleopatra speak for themselves, but she still leaves out most of what Shakespeare, Dryden & Shaw found worth saying. Elsewhere she relies heavily on the straw misogynists she built up to load up with the views she wants to attack. By the end hard not to sympathise with some male prejudices. Age might wither this one quite soon.
October 26th; Well-argued book review about chavs. Wonderful fog this morning. From the middle of Erzsebet bridge both Pest and Buda had totally vanished: just like a bridge through a cloud, from nowhere to nowhere. Later at the Muvesz, Rob talks me through keys, modes, & octaves again. One diagram was particularly useful. He mentions that John Peel had died. The Radio 1 page leaves out that he was a Shewsbury boy like Ingrams, Rushton etc.

October 25th; 4th night I sleep 10 hours. Dreamed I knocked out a girl I knew at university, felt her legs later were cold & hard, so realised she had rigor mortis and I had in fact killed her. Woke from this dream in Pest to find my eyeballs ached, my sinuses hurt, and a chest cold bad enough to be coughing up green chunks. I should stop caffeine. Since I seem to be ill, I mix some warm water into my morning shower. Met Annabel in the afternoon at her new editorial control centre, looking jolly & energising.
October 24th; 3rd night I sleep 10 hours. Lift to Kecskemet with Georgina. Letty gives me an apple.

October 23rd; Kitten allergy strikes with new vigour at Robin's. 2nd night I sleep 10 hours.
October 22nd; Hussam says Saudi Religious Police told him how a black-cloaked 'sorceror' outran their Hummer jeep on foot in a Riyadh suburb.

October 21st; 5-ish beer with Miklos. Fall asleep at 8pm.
October 20th; Hussam reappears, strangely eager to learn English. Perhaps unwisely, Wayne & I drink a whole bottle of wine in Heather's kitchen. Of course, we mustn't forget 'Sleepwalking woman had sex with strangers'.

October 19th; Tom and Melinda back from Milan. We now represent some stern-looking German horror films involving operating theatres; one is called Sukkubus. Note the double k.
October 18th; I finished a short novella from Moni's library, 'Indiai ejszaka' ('Indian nocturne'/'Indian night'), by Antonio Tabucchi, translated by Eva Galos. Aiming for an atmosphere of mystery and ephemeral of-the-moment-ness, quite a success. Though I was haunted by George's brother Dave saying that after seven years in Spain, getting to read fluently in Spanish, he still got no pleasure from reading unless it was in English. Since Dave was some linguist (Yiddish, French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian) this was - and still is - rather depressing to hear. Narrator is in search of an old Portuguese friend who disappeared on a trip to India. Inevitably narrator gravitates to the poignant one-time Portuguese colony of Goa. Tabucchi caught me up in his lost-in-India mood a few times, even through the Hungarian filter, and the ending is very poised, with its sneaky switch of narrator and its moody, film-like close. Vaguely reminded me of Peter Handke's book for some reason. Proudly slim, with the old dream-state cover graphic trick: turn the Taj Mahal upside down and centre on the image of the palace reflected in the long oblong pond. Saw my first inverted Taj on a psychology Pelican paperback of my mother's from the 60s/70s. Nice dream scene in the archive library. Open-ended chats & chance meetings with Indians well-drawn. Off-handedly enigmatic.

October 17th; David alerts me to the curious sheep.net.
October 16th; Mariann sweetly invites me to the first party at the new flat she shares with Akos & Ivana. Quite tricky to chat and socialise with new people when I feel physically sick from the cigarette smoke completely saturating the flat by 11pm. Lots of pretty girls, nearly all puffing out filth like communist factories. My smiling and nodding must have looked glazed, in between stumbling out onto the balcony to gasp lungfuls of clean air. I had forgotten quite how gruelling Hungarian parties are.
The redeeming chats were with Mike, a Hungarian who has managed to fix an East Anglian accent just down the road from the St. Alban's accent Ben Chaplin does in 'Birthday Girl', and his tall friend/persecutor/sidekick Dani who told me to my face, refreshingly, that he found last night's film dreadful. With them was an amiable chap with the name Zak. After all these years I have finally met someone called Zak. It's not all been in vain.

October 15th; Scott's film is played at Urania cinema, all 52 minutes of it, and I find myself at the reception later for some reason telling the New Zealand prime minister about my caffeine-withdrawal headache. She must have been fascinated. But while watching the Seress film earlier (sitting between the pianist who taught me how to play Gloomy Sunday one-handed, and the man who hired the black dog for the scene where Scott sits next to a black dog) I started to feel some gnawing doubts about the whole thing. Perhaps I've seen chunks of the film too often by now? There seemed to be rather too many shots of me, wandering around in the 7th district early in the morning in a three-piece white suit. I hope somebody enjoyed it.
Afterwards we repair to a slightly William-Gibson-esque, Bladerunnerish restaurant with Chinese decor, yet Japanese Katakana lettering in illuminated panels along the wall, and throbbing garage and eurobeat sounds as music. We crouch on small cushions and wedge our legs at various angles under the orientally low table while waiters and waitresses loom over us like adults over a playpen. I have a couple of drinks with a very interesting inside source who shall not be named, and then we move on to somewhere called something like Moo Moo or Mush Mush, where I bump into Canadian photographer Rich, Norwegian-speaking Betti from the Vista days, and lovely, feline linguist Mici.
October 14th; Lesson with Dusan. Buy shoes. Attend Writers' Group: live Erik on fine form. Jeff is married again, so gives me lift home by taxi. Must finish Geza's barely-started glassbrick job in Heather's bathroom.

October 13th; Find old whump link: Houseplants of Gor.
October 12th; Woken at 3am by attempt on front-door lock. (That's-when-good-neighbours-become-good-friends!) My bicycle wasn't enough for them, I suppose.

October 11th; More work on local history.
October 10th; I start to listen to online radio, and the clubmix of Radio Maxxima. Surprisingly many House tracks claim that House Music is a Spiritual Thing. Aha.

October 9th; I end up somewhere with Scott, David & Aniko, who works with blind people. Rita & Zoli drop by.
October 8th; When was coffee with Marion, Chris, & New Steve? Will have new student, The Boy of Many Cultures.

October 7th; Erik's online news thing continues to entertain, inform, & give locals a right telling off. Nice one here, and piece about Eva's persecutors here.
October 6th; About a week ago, I read one of the books Jessica gave me. With all the rush to move flat, I didn't have time to note anything. Though it has beautiful diagrams, and a very striking argument, a bit of a disappointment as a case. Darwin's Black Box is a book by biochemist Michael Behe in which he explains that no evolutionary explanations have been shown to make sense on the molecular scale. He relies heavily on an extended metaphor from humorous drawings by a cartoonist called Rube Goldberg (An American version of Britain's Heath Robinson) about systems which are "irreducibly complex". This means if you take a bit out, none of it works - so how could it have evolved in steps? Via mousetraps and Paley's metaphor of the abandoned watch (who thought we'd ever see that one rise again from the laboratory slab, twitching with fresh voltage?) Behe gets to the lovely core of the book - the fascinating machines at molecular level that enables bits of cells to flip their oars, twizzle their propellors to swim around, plus everything else. I have to admit, his defence of Paley is daring, and shrewder than I'd have expected. But only a couple of the wonderful devices most think have evolved at molecular level look like the molecular machines we've designed or have already built on a slightly larger scale. If most cellular systems (such as the hormonal cascades he discusses) scream out 'design' to Behe, my gut reaction is he hasn't seen many designers at work. David Goodsell's lovely book I read a few years back is I think more open-minded, but maybe I'm just an unreconstructed evolutionist, ho ho. Just compare this machine (a more honest view of the flagellum motor above) and this machine. Both equally "designed"? I ask: what would an evolved mechanism look like to Behe? What does he expect? Nevertheless, stimulating to hear evolution still a mystery at molecule level. I guess previous development versions don't have anywhere to hide, but get chewed up and reprocessed entirely by other molecules, like enzymes. So no fossils down there on the nanoscale. New puzzles are always fun. Both books have gorgeous drawings.

October 5th; Sunday two days ago was dull. I translated & David transcribed the porn in the other room. David told me there is now a group of fetishists called plushies.
October 4th; In evening met Robin & Constantine. We run into Istvan, cheerier than I've seen him for ages, plus a quiet English film-maker called Peter who is doing something in Transylvania, and we all had dinner with Vali & Andrea. Andrea in particularly grand mood talking about polo, castles, and some mysterious inner struggle Boo Boo is supposedly engaged in. Duck breast and plum tart very good - larger portions would have been nice. Place on Kertesz utca with brown paper all over the walls. Miklos the owner told us, while Istvan tried to fix his laptop, how he himself once worked in computers decades ago, writing code for a Yugoslav mainframe the size of the restaurant he runs now. He said it had a memory of 44k.

October 3rd; This is colourful and interesting.
October 2nd; Now Tom & Melinda have driven off to the markets at Cannes & Milan, I'm relaxed but there is a largeish translation I must do this weekend. Seems to be about synagogues.

October 1st; A full Friday. Already got back last night to find large amounts of items from the new tenants moved into the flat I haven't quite abandoned yet. Peeping into what was still my bedroom last night, I found it already choc-a-bloc with stacks of the new people's ugly stuff, ready to clutter the whole flat. The usual signature colours of rancid-butter yellow and dogshite brown, and the impractical, lumpy drabness of the items makes it clear who is moving in: they could only be Hungarians. I settle down on the floor of a different room for my last night's sleep in the flat.
Woken up by next-door neighbour Ica neni before 8am with the news that I will not be able to move my last bags out this evening, but must do this before noon.
Nina's wheeled suitcase plays a vital part in getting my last few boxes three streets away in a couple of trips. In the old flat, I bump into a white-haired middle-aged woman moving in and she does a kind of wince, sidles towards me and mutters something. I ask her to repeat, and she again does the facial expression, a kind of oily grimace of fake sympathy. She is asking me if I have somewhere to sleep tonight, as if a few days earlier would not be the time to ask, and as if I am not standing in front of her with boxes in my arms (where does she think I am taking all these boxes right now?). I gaze in bafflement at the black rings under her sneaky eyes and take in her whole expression of inbred craftiness as she simpers at me slyly. Is she trying to be cuttingly rude about my scruffy possessions, or genuinely sympathetic? Or just polite, or looking for some possible deal? God only knows. By now I should know better, but I am still dumbfounded every time a Hungarian says something so stupidly insincere. Yet they say daft things all the time: I just never get used to it. So I nod and thank her for her concern.
Half an hour later, a chat with my neighbour about life goals and spirituality as we sit in the old flat one last time over the last suitcaseful and I give her Mihaly's keys. Clearly Ica neni has always been curious about me in a firm, friendly sort of way, quite unlike the new resident (in fact also a neighbour, just moving downstairs one floor). As she questions me she gets enthusiastic as she realises I'm in a mood to satisfy her curiosity. Despite being a bit conventional (I can still remember her surprise that a guest of mine from Serbia could not speak Hungarian) Ica, who is in her 70s but could pass for someone in their 50s, is honest and open-minded. She asks me why I don't marry, we move onto whether I want a life partner or just someone for sex, why I don't live in Britain, what kind of job I'd like, the perils of living alone and working freelance. I bring up God and she seems pleasantly surprised. Perhaps buoyed by this cheering goodbye chat, I have an odd feeling after I trundle Nina's suitcase on its last journey to Heather's flat down on Izabella. Walking into the room in Heather's flat for perhaps the fourth time this morning and the tenth time this week, I have a strange new sensation. It is the same room it was an hour ago, yet somehow looks different. Quite suddenly, it has become home. I will sleep here tonight, nowhere else.
Showering at Heather's I stepped out onto the street in brilliant sunshine. It has been cloudy and Manchester-like most of the week. I go to work, eating my new breakfast of choice (ham croissant and a Turo Rudi) on the red 7 bus where a rather gorgeous blonde discreetly eyes me up with the usual guarded interest as I munch. Tom, Melinda & I look at the van he bought. Returning to Izabella street, I buy a new barrel for the heavy bar-lock on Heather's door that Geza (who is indeed a bit of a geezer) somehow wrecked. Thinking it will be a mere 15 minutes, I struggle for an hour and a half, step by step finding new problems with the lock and its heavy-duty security bar, until finally I get it fixed and working with the new barrel in place. Realising that screwing the spacer strip onto the barrel in the correct way held the barrel about 1/32" (about 3/4 of 1mm) too far in for the key to engage and turn from outside, was the crucial step. Once I grasped this, and realised I could glue, not screw, the spacer strip to the barrel in a slightly different position, it was all downhill. Seeing it was up to me to set the ratchet on the two ends of the security bar, where I wanted them to be when the barrel was at full turn, was helpful too. I kept thinking the mechanism had its own hidden logic I had to obey, rather than understanding the innards were simpler, not more complicated, than I'd imagined. While judging by the oversized screw Geza left lying by the bar he had taken off, he had not seen that the protruding screwhead inside the right-hand bar slot was what was stopping the lock fully closing. Once I found a smaller-but-still-large-enough screw, I was home and dry.
Very much how I felt dozing off on a new floor, enjoying another new start. Home and dry.
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Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact at otherlanguages.org

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