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2005
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March 31st; All work, no play. Sex parties well overdue.

March 30th; Another late night in with Heather & Lailah. This time it was rum & a Portishead record until Heather started showing off her salsa steps to some (reasonably enough) salsa music. Nice after a very long day of work.
March 29th; More San Francisco map-checking. Should I reread Tales of the City now I know some streets in SF?

March 28th; Easter Monday. I didn't follow Hungarian custom and spray eau de cologne on any Tiszainoka village girls. Instead I stayed in & worked on Robin's computer while everyone went swimming somewhere like Tiszakecske. Standing room only on the Kecskemet train back to Pest. Found the flat deserted, spotted a paperback of Heather's and read it on the sofa. 'Bloodsucking Fiends' is a comic romance about vampires in San Francisco by Christopher Moore. Good storytelling, one or two engrossing & credible characters (I liked The Emperor, a Don Quixote tramp a lot like the one Robin Williams played in that cloying film, but much more fun, much less sentimental.), and some amusing dialogue. Moore keeps tight control on the plot: I never quite double-guessed him. Unlike Pratchett, he nails the glib fantasy to everyday detail and keeps it unpretentious. Rather too smug, but still a good light read.
March 27th; More visitors. Sack race & 3-legged race.

March 26th; Got to Robin's last night. Today we meet the sweetly shy would-be au pair Katika, who has one brown eye and one blue eye. Jeremy & Zita & baby arrive later.
March 25th; After ten days, the dolts in Heather's building still haven't taken down the Hungarian flag flapping outside the window from last week's national holiday. Two minutes' work, at a stretch.
Last night with Heather & Lailah & the pink drink [some kind of combination of Belgian beer and grenadine?] very relaxing. 'The Cherry Orchard' [translated by Arpad Toth] last Saturday was enjoyable, though I found it hard to imagine what the quietly fidgeting schoolchildren in the audience were making of it. The theme of the feckless aristocratic family must be pretty mysterious to anyone who has never met an aristocrat, or even met anyone who has met one. And the sting in the tail of a supposedly adored aged servant who is then left behind and forgotten at the end is rather lost on anyone who has never seen a servant, and cannot imagine an affectionate relationship with one even being faked. Good acting all round, though somehow Mrs. Ranevsky never charmed me enough to make me believe in her hysterical self-deception.
While at Pischelsdorf, Sylvie lent me 'Thief of Time'. An easy, sometimes enjoyable, and often irritating read by [apparently] a very popular author, Terry Pratchett. A cross between 'Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' and 'Jonathan Livingstone Seagull', every page is larded with an embarrassing mixture of sticky sentiment and knowing, self-satisfied smirks. Chinese/Japanese-sounding monks, Victorian-sounding clockmakers, pretentious jokes about time and characters like the Horseman of the Apocalypse being portrayed as funny old codgers, the Fifth Horseman who gets a job as a milkman: the overall effect is cringe-making. Book and author extraordinarily pleased with themselves: casual to the point of cockiness about using any magical or sci-fi plot device to hand to solve the self-created problems of this pointless yarn and its flat characters. Don't let Pratchett steal your... oh, never mind.

March 24th; Good day at work, starting to see results.
March 23rd; Long d a y. Must get rich - but not like this.

March 22nd; Same 3. No time to describe play or book.
March 21st; Long day: Asylum, art/shop/eat, & EP work.

March 20th; In the cramped changing room of the gym, a cheery Hungarian man out of the sauna says it is Murphy's Law that he & I have neighbouring lockers out of all the available empty lockers. (Hungarians like to invoke the entropy-style "Murphy's Law" as a way to say there was no way to get the job done properly, whereas the original laws of American engineer Captain Edward Murphy were a way to make sure the job got done properly.) I reply that it is more likely the fault of the petty-minded girl at reception who allocated my key. Cheerful man points out that this might be Murphy's Law instead - that we get such a girl on reception when we come in. Quick, eh? Reminds me of the book that Sylvie lent me in Austria, which I should describe at some point soon. "For is it not written in the scriptures 'Ooh, you're so sharp, one of these days you'll cut yourself'?" one quote goes.
March 19th; More streets-of-San-Francisco checking, then I visit Kerry's theatre at Arpad bridge for an enjoyable afternoon performance of Cseresnyeskert (Chekhov's 'Cherry Orchard', about which more later), then more map-checking. At 9pm I meet Marek at a cinema with Fruzsina & drop my snapped bag off at home. I promptly lose Marek, texting me from a French mobile which seems to run out of credit and start refusing my messages. Wander down to Trafo anyway, but they're not there. Time to go home, as Andy Pandy used to phrase it.

March 18th; Long day. Up at 6 to pack and drill 2c in their performance. Lisa Marie falls off a chair, but can still sing at 10am with the others. We say farewell to all the kind Pischelsdorf teachers. By 11.30am we are in the mini-bus being driven across Austria by Margit. Then in 2 trains across Hungary. Then I walk from Deli station straight across the park (bag-strap breaking tiresomely on the way) to the map office for 4 more hours of San Francisco. Then over to Pest to meet Kerry in a karaoke bar. We get to the party for Ivana & Marko at 10.30pm, to meet Mariann, Phil, & Margo.
March 17th; Last night's festivities with the Pischelsdorf teachers at the cold-cuts restaurant were tamer than last year's. I left early while Bob (guitar) and Marek (fiddle) were in the middle of a reggae interpretation of Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire'. This afternoon after school, Franc & I snack from the shop and chat.

March 16th; My children take me to the supermarket so we can buy ingredients to cook banana bread.
March 15th; Last night Franc, Csilla & I noted the curious decor at the Gasthof Stibor (a place that last year charged Jim his whole week's wages to repair two door jambs). It had never struck us before that a three-foot-long wooden spoon dressed in chef's clothing in the hallway was odd, or that the table next to it with bits of old rope, sea shells and a dead tortoise, was in any way unusual. The first landing hosts an elderly, dust-covered plant festooned with old playing cards threaded onto it with wire.
Today a rather dishy brunette sells me a watch battery in a proper clock-mending shop, and two extremely friendly post-office assistants help me send a letter to RBS.

March 14th; We are 2c and today Mark taught us to sing 'Baa baa, black sheep'.
After school, drove with Franc & Csilla to Graz. Took a rather impressive Bond-movie-style lift to the top of a hollowed-out hill, then we drank juice on a cafe island in the river shaped like a concrete boat. The cafe toilets, entirely walled inside with curved mirror, added to the Tomorrow's-World effect.
March 13th; We arrive in Pischelsdorf. Franc much later, because he drives to Pischeldorf first by mistake.

March 12th; Another long day at the map office, street referencing San Francisco. When I pop out around 8pm to try (unsuccessfully) to get some bacon & eggs, one of the porters actually has the nerve to refuse to unlock the door when I return, ignoring my knocking as I stand outside in mild rain. I text Tim to come down to let me in and we pass the porter, lurking like a guilty child behind his little glass window, sulking about people working in his building on a Saturday.
Last night with Veronica & her bubbly friend Petra at the karaoke party was fun, though the usual cigarette-smoke headache (Thankyou to the nice lady in the Mammut health store who gave me one of her own aspirins and a glass of water on Saturday) took its toll. A bit alarming to see that young Hungarians still like songs from 'Hair', and (shudder...) actually sing along to them. Happy atmosphere though.
March 11th; Another late night at the art/shop/eat office, with its astonishing white lift. Didn't need the rudeness.

March 10th; David quotes a letter from someone telling him this film is "more real than reality".
March 9th; On way to work for Tim & Maya, I pass a man in Moszkva square doing glockenspiel music on 28 glass jars filled with different amounts of water. Uptempo classical favourites, like the William Tell overture. Jolly.

March 8th; Stephen's bathroom-renovating men seem distressed when I ask them not to switch the radiators on in my room or the room next door. The sweeties look concerned for my health. Sari in buoyant mood at school. Marion says Pitman might have work.
Today was Women's Day, apparently. The Hungarian men at the VOIP office were well prepared of course, having assiduously come into work early to put little bunches of flowers on all the girls' desks.
March 7th; Reach Scott & Sam's film meet an hour late.

March 6th; Astonishing dreams early nights give you, it seems. Mine involved cocoa powder, vanilla butter, a ghost and a lonely old woman. Truly horrid.
After dark, called out to help Terri pick up two boxes from a big yellow lorry on the edge of City Park. A long passing convoy of protesting farmers flashed their tractor lights and tooted their horns at us in greeting as we struggled to wedge the two large items into the back of a taxi.
March 5th; In bed (or at least bedding) by 9.30pm, just like George Bush, so the story goes.

March 4th; Another unsettling day. Finished a lovely book I found second-hand this week. Short, informative, well-illustrated with diagrams, 'Textiles' was written for British children in 1969, and suggests quite a lot has changed since then. This book's producers are so professional and modest there is not even an author or editor credited, though presumably Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Cochrane and 'Teacher Consultants' Margot Chahin, David Drewett, Peter French, and Henry Pluckrose had something to do with this fine 60-page book. Nor is there any indication of which age group the Macdonald Junior Reference Library was aimed at, but the authors were not afraid to tell them all about cloth-making with natural and synthetic fibres in reasonable detail. Quite apart from the first diagrams I have ever seen which explained several different looms clearly, I finally have been told what worsted is, that twill and satin are types of weave, that 'raw silk' means silk made from the long, not the short, fibres, and so on. Only four pages in, a brief history gives way to glossary which is most of the book. Wonderful words like 'calendaring', 'scutching', 'sisal', 'spinneret', 'bat', 'hackling' are introduced and straightforwardly defined. Plants like jute, hemp, flax all get brief, clear descriptions. This all written in some of the best English I have read in years.
It closes with an index, and a quick 3-page section with 6 short biographies of textile pioneers. All six were 18th-century people, from John Kay inventing the flying shuttle in 1733 to Joseph Jacquard creating the punched-card loom in 1801 (which inspired Hollerith's 1890 US-Census data-tabulator). This section had a quieter tone. After the crisply-explained, cheerfully-coloured diagrams, this three pages was simple text, and the short biographies were sobering. One Frenchman, one American (Eli Whitney), a Nottinghamshire clergyman, and three Lancastrians. Two Europeans made money from their inventions (though even the most successful inventor, Arkwright, got his patent cancelled), the American did not get money from his cotton gin, but got rich with a different business. The other three were cheated out of their incomes and remained poor until death. Further, four of the six faced organised, violent opposition from other weavers, some of them decades before Ned Ludd and Captain Swing.

March 3rd; Steve's men appear in the morning and begin putting glass bricks into Heather's 2-foot x 8-foot bathroom window hole. They even talk about turning on the heating system. Bracing briskness in the flat may end soon. Bump into Linda, Gordon, Betti & Jim later.
Rather easier for a woman to say this out loud these days. Via artsandlettersdaily.
March 2nd; It takes HVB, a bank, 30 minutes of my time to close my account. They also charge me 23 US dollars.

March 1st; Weather still chilly. The big Polgar sister interviewed. Some bits of the article suggest prickliness.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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