other links : i ii iii
Small smoky bonfire in
garden. He is reading a
book on early modernists like
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
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.
On train to
finished Francis Crick's brisk book about
research in biology
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.
Tandoori chicken at
with Group and Robin3, a
(rather than a
Walking back from Erik's quite
palatial pad down Andrassy ut with
(telling me about art collections and
Fischer), adorable Mici chances on us, bubbling with charm.
Two days ago finished a book about Cleopatra that appeared in Mihaly's kitchen about a
year ago. From Ryan? Esther?
by Lucy Hughes-Hallett, edited by bouncy Bloomsbury founder
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
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
Kristeva and the hard-to-spell
Iragaray, author of works like the rather
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
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.
Wonderful fog this morning. From the middle of
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.
diagram was particularly useful. He mentions that
John Peel had died.
The Radio 1 page leaves out that he was a
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
bad enough to be coughing up green chunks. I should
caffeine. Since I seem to be ill, I mix some warm water into my morning
in the afternoon at her new editorial control centre, looking jolly
3rd night I
10 hours. Lift to
with Georgina. Letty gives me an apple.
strikes with new vigour at
Robin's. 2nd night I
sleep 10 hours.
Hussam says Saudi
Police told him how
a black-cloaked 'sorceror' outran their
jeep on foot in a
5-ish beer with
Fall asleep at 8pm.
Hussam reappears, strangely eager to learn English. Perhaps unwisely,
& I drink a whole bottle of wine in Heather's kitchen. Of course, we mustn't forget
woman had sex with strangers'.
Tom and Melinda back from
We now represent some stern-looking German
horror films involving operating theatres; one is called
Note the double k.
I finished a short novella from
ejszaka' ('Indian nocturne'/'Indian night'), by
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.
alerts me to the curious
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
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
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.
Scott's film is played at
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
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
Norwegian-speaking Betti from the Vista days, and lovely, feline linguist
Lesson with Dusan. Buy shoes. Attend Writers' Group:
Erik on fine form.
is married again, so gives me lift home by taxi. Must finish Geza's barely-started
job in Heather's bathroom.
Houseplants of Gor.
Woken at 3am by attempt on front-door
wasn't enough for them, I suppose.
More work on
I start to listen to
and the clubmix of
Maxxima. Surprisingly many House tracks claim that
Music is a Spiritual Thing. Aha.
I end up somewhere with
David & Aniko, who works with
people. Rita & Zoli drop by.
When was coffee with Marion, Chris, &
Steve? Will have
new student, The Boy of Many Cultures.
news thing continues to entertain, inform, & give locals a right telling off.
one here, and
about Eva's persecutors here.
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.
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
Goldberg (An American version of Britain's
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
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
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
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.
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
machine (a more honest view of the flagellum motor above) and
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.
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
In evening met
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.
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.
is colourful and interesting.
& Melinda have driven off to the markets at
I'm relaxed but there is a largeish translation I must do this weekend. Seems to be about synagogues.
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.
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
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,
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
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
Very much how I felt dozing off on a new floor, enjoying another new start. Home and dry.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
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