has 28 alone. Stupid
site in Cockney.
Wayne is the guvnor.
Arab newspapers: 0 ads with prices.
back from the US, tired but happy.
The final window of
advent calendar opens and I eat the last chocolate. So this
is February's version of Christmas Eve. Delightful chat
at Andi's gym. Later I meet Tibor, my desk twin at
Odd scene on the
today. A happy woman, blonde in a puffy white coat, is passionately
kissing the man to her right while a gloomy woman to her left, brunette in a
normal grey coat, rests her hand on
the blonde's near shoulder. The way the blonde turns away to kiss makes this easy and
appears to make her shoulder comfortably available for the brunette's whole right forearm.
I watch them, trying to make out if the blonde and brunette know each other. Seemingly not.
The brunette's forearm stays on the blonde's left shoulder for at least five minutes. Then
the blonde & the man get off the train without acknowledging the brunette, or
apparently even noticing her.
Jeremy, Peter, &
Robin for drinks
and food near Margit Bridge.
train both ways in the dining car was quite pleasant, but not exactly
a restaurant on wheels. On the trip out to Vienna I joined the express
from Belgrade and a Serb waiter
simply told me the omlette in the menu was impossible because it was no longer morning.
Instead I got a "Serb salad" (this turned out to be an expensive coffee cup of chopped
cucumber & tomato, nothing else) and a
nasty Belgrade beer I couldn't
finish. On the way back some Hungarian waiters cheerily told me the menu pancake item
was impossible because they had "run out". Since I was one of only three "diners" in the
dining car in either direction, for two staff it was not exactly strenuous. Neither
pair offered to take the bold step of simply making me an omlette or a pancake
there in the kitchen. Actually cooking
something, as it were. The Serbs
lounging around chatting loudly for 3 hours one way and the Hungarians singing
along to R&B in the kitchen for 3 hours the other way were each jolly
enough to listen to, but somehow, even after all these years, I'm
still a bit surprised every time I meet sheer, unembarrassed idleness.
Morning gym, then afternoon train to Vienna and back to buy more
for the last-digit project.
Two train journeys to check the
LA maps for
All-day meeting for
(a hotel with domino-pattern carpets). Willy says we must find our
Our group's presentation comes 4th out of 4, but we still get some cake afterwards.
Day ends with table football & pool.
A long night of festivities with
friends. While Ildi tells us of her
experience aged 14,
her husband Peti presses neat spirits on me until I start surreptitiously
pouring my shots into everyone's red wine instead
of drinking them. Around 2am we enter
some raucous cellar
on Raday street with mock cave paintings on the
wall and a glitter ball. A singalong crowd cheered on Golden Oldies such as
Where's Your Mama Now?
(holiday hit when I was 7 in Spain and the popular toy was heavy, clicking pairs of
coloured plastic balls).
Revellers roared more approval to old Hungarian songs hatched
from a dark musical wasteland where
Boney M blends with
Yesterday was long, and after the evening meal & drink, today was a bit tiring. Franc
drives us back across Austria, Margit sweetly meets me with Arab-language newspapers, drives
us across the border, and we get the 3-hour train back from
My students show me their
Then we see a (quite skilfully)
staged at school. The class
join me at a cafe for some chat, after which kind Armin drives me to
where I e-mail some film material to
Early start at the Stainach
I babble on about
Long day travelling (train + car) to Stainach,
parcel in the post to
Bump into New Steve in mall. Then
cranberry liqueur with
Jake & Lucia, late beer with
2nd time weight-training at the
though this time no golden sunset over the
river pouring through the wall of glass - instead grey skies and snow. In the evening
in the underpass between Nyugati station and the
shopping centre, a woman
writhing on the ground, screaming insults at a man trying to hold her down, with an
interested audience of about twenty people standing around watching.
Writers' Group at Dejan's mystery address in the half-finished building. Charming
Duygu & Clara from
Human Resources were there, Dejan tells me he is an ex-prostitute,
we write teenage angst poems and attempt my
Victoria hints she is a
adding that she has been a "hardened
cunt" about romance
"since the age of 13",
rather bringing things full circle.
At lunch yesterday Rohit (who speaks
told me he's setting up a south-Indian-cuisine
takeaway service in Budapest.
Noam Chomsky is both inspiring and tiring, so
finishing (at the weekend) his weighty and indignant
Democracy', a book I found lurking under Heather's
sitting-room coffee table, was a bit of a chore.
However, I feel quite churlish complaining about this
book, since it is an appalling litany of
foreign-policy horrors and cynical lies told by
(mainly) American and British politicians.
Overtaken by the second Gulf War, it finishes just
after the end of the first Gulf War in the early
1990s, and portrays the US as among the most greedy,
hypocritical and nasty regimes the world has ever
seen - or at least since the British Empire, which gets
an honourable mention from Noam as runner-up for
takes care to mention that the Soviets were
nasty too, but suggests (quite convincingly) that
Moscow was never as much the peace-disrupting
aggressor Washington claimed it was, while Washington
was. His portrayal of US leaders as self-pityingly
self-righteous throughout American history rings a
bell, to be sure, and the
mass of evidence
he marshalls looks hard to explain away.
Unfortunately, however sympathetic one is,
prose dripping with furious sarcasm is quite
wearing on Gentle Reader. Instead of a satirist's wit
we get a mix of tight-lipped indictments and bitter
jibes. The wooden title is a good representative of
the clunkier writing, though some of the barbed
sentences and inversions (references to "the
non-people of the world") would have been very
effective if they'd been deployed more
sparingly. I don't know if he sees wit as fluff, but
anyone who thinks a good prose style isn't worth
working for should read this book. Chomsky wants to
convey a desperately-important message, yet
his own writing style loses him thousands of
Giving a sub-section, in all seriousness, the
cliche-perfect comic title
probably undoes, in just two words, at least a quarter
of the work Chomsky put into writing this tome. Also
you get the uncomfortable feeling that Chomsky and
people like him are so very very cross they would be
killing and torturing people themselves if they could.
Still, I shan't forget in a hurry the description
(carefully footnoted, like all his citations) he
quotes of one Central-American peasant family found
seated round the dinner table all holding their own
severed heads after a visit by US-trained and
sponsored vigilante forces. A debate with informed
critics of Chomsky would be nice, but I suspect he's
right that Washington's media strategy is simply to
ignore, smear and sideline unfavourable news, so that
most Americans never even hear of other views. If his
adverseries are half as sly and arrogant as he claims
Chomsky might be justified in boiling with
righteous rage, tedious as it is to read. He's no
Swift, but we have to take whatever principled
dissidents - or at least privileged dissemblers - we get.
Pick up chimney report from the
office during its remarkable opening hours
(on Tuesdays 7am to 9am). Evening hot chocolate with Mariann.
Lunch with Liia. Apparently,
Eno has his own 'sideways' approach to stimulating
creativity, and you can try it out
beer with Franc, then
I thought the
website man was a bit like
Sir-Stewart-Wallace-as-Himself in the old Beastie Boys
video, but it's just the pale moustache.
I retrieve and open
package, weeks in the post office due to lack of woman behind
small window to ask about large parcels. Annika had sent me an
Advent calendar with
little chocolates behind the doors (unspoiled) and the Swedish book for
Nina. So February
will be an advent-calendar month. I opened doors 1 to 4 happily. For some years,
I've been thinking
calendars for other parts of the year would be fun, and
that the Internet itself with its links is a lot like opening the little doors on
an advent calendar. People usually look at me oddly when I say that.
In a related development, a pretty girl in a bar asks to borrow my pen. Called
Kati, I suppose, because when I ask her name she says it is Kacsa (Duck): my first
time with that nickname. Cordial greetings going out to Duck.
In a Thai restaurant with
(nervous about her Polish interpreting test).
We both overhear a confident English office chap
saying loudly "It
was an immersive reality situation".
What does this mean?
Beer with brave girl with bit too much faith in
psychiatrists. 2nd beer with
though unwell, she attempts to snap me for new column in
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com
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