Another warm day. I sleep a lot. Thank goodness I'm not at the
Formula One thing.
Wake up with little insect lumps all over me. Mid-afternoon I
carry my boxes up into Robin's surprisingly hot attic with help from Bela.
Now that I officially live nowhere, perhaps not a bad time to restart
life. It's very hot here. Around midnight
& Georgina drive to a mid-point somewhere like
to pick up Zsuzsa from another family, a bit like a secret package.
Wake up in time to dump rubbish, sort final boxes, wash and wax floor,
and shower myself before
Robin drives up on an
alarmingly hot sunny morning. Heather sees us off with coffees, and
we set off for countryside, his old Benz packed with my remaining
boxes, in need of further winnowing down. Each boxload I threw away
increased my sense of freedom. Unusually warm journey on motorway,
while Robin drives and relates slightly hard-to-follow stories
about Farnad the Persian Persian-carpet dealer from London and I
tie wet bedspread across right-side car windows as sunshield.
house around 5pm - complex plan to go to lake to swim with
Edina & Geza
and children involves Robin & I setting off on motorbike
with sidecar across dusty fields, only to get stopped by a friendly
policeman in next village for driving without correct papers or
helmets and being sent back home. On dirt track
on way home, gears jam and back wheel stops moving.
While Robin goes off to bring back Benz and tow rope I stay with the
crippled bike, lying down on the ground to chew blade of grass as
tangerine sun slips towards horizon. Half hour later he drives up,
suggests we swim anyway, and we abandon bike. On the road there we
drive past a cheering crowd standing in village holding a blow-up
sex doll, with legs
parted. At lake, we swim with children, where, continuing inflateable
theme, Edina & Geza have brought a giant blow-up crocodile I ride
around on in lake briefly in last glimmer of
sunshine as well as swimming. Robin
splashes around with Vicky the dog. Weather still hot
even as night arrives and midges begin biting. Back in field, I
get on bike, and hold handlebars fast right to keep it out of ditches
while Robin tows it slowly with Benz. Locked back wheel skids
the whole way through soft powder of dirt tracks.
Midges sting my ankles and forearms
with evident glee as I strain to stop handlebars snapping left, and
focus eyes on twin rearlights of car in dark and dust ahead for a
fairly long-seeming twenty minutes back. Tow rope snaps. Robin reties.
Fully night by the time we reach home, still sweating.
Entire day packing. Heather gets swollen eyelid from some allergic reaction,
so I refer her to Bill, an
homeopath in Budapest my old homeopath in
Saffron Walden told me about by e-mail recently. She sets off.
I pack more and pop out to an Internet cafe to
do some online work for
Cheering messages from folk on
talkboard thread devoted to cakes coated in
marzipan encourage me as I continue search for new home.
I get back mid-afternoon to a
remarkable tale from a rather stunned Heather. She arrived at the
good doctor's surgery to be shown by a lacky into a giant blue-walled
hall with a large hot tub filled with rock formations, and a chair
covered in electrical fittings. The lacky washed her swollen eyelid.
Somewhat bemused, Heather, while demanding to know
where the doctor was, then allowed
herself to be strapped into the chair while a headset of electrodes
were fitted to her head, and she was sat facing a video screen full
of repetitive, hypnotic images. About a quarter of an hour later,
feeling queasy, she unstrapped herself, went upstairs and found a
waiting room. The doctor appeared, and turned out to be a middle-aged
man dressed as a woman [Heather recalls painted toenails, deep
male voice, and a frock] who was very rude to her, suggesting
that he had kindly fitted her in [She also recalls him saying
"I have the biggest computer program in the world"], but if she
was going to give him/her lip then she should "zip it".
Meaning, "go away, now". She did this.
I meet her on street with Marcelo & Olivia
as we all return to her flat, where once again, soothing live
guitar music begins while I enter final phase of packing among them.
Strange, liberating optimism washes over me as completion
nears, and Bossa Nova music strengthens mood of wistful,
light-hearted hope that hangs around the tall, lanky
Marcelo anyway. Olivia &
both suggest I go to Rio, at once, to begin
afresh. I now see how thoroughly Heather's life in Oakland
was changed by her parents' house burning down (along with the
rest of her suburb) when she was a
teenager: hence her focus on people, not things. And on
life's big lesson, that I keep having to learn again and
again: be kind.
More packing. Several evenings recently I have come back to
find Heather singing
Nova songs to guitar music by
from Brazil, while
Macedonian police interpreter Olivia
colleague) smoulders langorously on the sofa.
See several flats. Ice cream with
Rob & Eti.
Indonesian restaurant dinner with
Vali, Andrea & Boo Boo.
On the train to the Plain yesterday, I finished Heather's copy of
and Imperialism'. After the disappointment
of 'Orientalism' and another
of his (discouragingly titled
of the Intellectual') a few years
back, I was by now not annoyed that
is a literature academic
who writes poorly. This book said some true things, and a few interesting
things, and was redeemed by the last ten pages, which is perhaps where he should
have started. He wants to point out, reasonably enough, that lots of literary
criticism writes as if great books are isolated objects devoid of context. He feels
that political circumstances of the time are relevant to literary works - even if, or
not mentioned in those books, like the dog that didn't bark in the night. Also, that
European imperialism goes strikingly unmentioned or uncriticised in works as diverse
'Mansfield Park', Verdi's
'Kim', or Camus's '
Outsider'. Their pro-imperialist background
is both a result of imperialism, and has, Said says, perpetuated
imperialist views among the audiences of these artworks. This seems
thoroughly true. The difficulty is what you say further about this once
you have pointed it out. Like those books which say, plausibly, that something
like Protestantism is a major theme, spoken or unspoken, in Jacobean
drama, you can correct the oversight, point out people should not use
the prestige of Classic Literature to defend the politics of that time
against newer ideas, and then? Then it seems you have to continue by
making a kind of new science of it, using terms like 'mode of discourse',
'cultural space', 'victimology'. So we get sentences like
"A full contrapuntal appreciation of Aida reveals
a structure of reference and attitude, a web of affiliations, connections,
decisions, and collaborations, which can be read as leaving a set of
ghostly notations in the opera's visual and musical text."
Since writing is clearly not his strong point, it's hard not to ask
what literature critic Said is good at. Spotting hidden themes
and biases might be it, though others spotted them before him. This book warns
us that all cultures misrepresent other cultures, and dominant cultures tend to
be contemptuous of other cultures they are dominating at that moment. He also
explains that a work of literature is not diminished by such analysis, and he
is careful to be very respectful towards the artistic merit of works like 'Kim'
even while discussing their deep pro-imperialist bias. He warns us that writers
like Austen and Camus can seem to be discussing universal issues of mankind
because they have made the others, the servants, the colonised, into invisible
people. Others have said this about the speculations of Athenian thinkers
given free time to discuss universal themes because slaves did the boring
daily chores for them. This is about it for Said's argument. He defends the
multifaceted subtlety of Asia and particularly Islam against the crudity of
Western 'Orientalist' images of what they are like. Given his criticism of
simplistic depictions of other cultures, and given that he lived in the
US for some decades, his simplistic blurring of American and British
imperialism almost into one cultural force is rather striking. He refers
to several Arab thinkers and critics I would like to have seen quoted in more
detail - they might have been a bit more lucid than Said. As the book
closes, Said rises to call on us all to transcend nationalism. He quotes
of St. Victor: "The person who finds his homeland sweet is
still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already
strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign
place." Good close.
Raining. Shall take the polystyrene blocks
cut for me down to the Great Plain
while I move house.
One of this site's
early, pop in on
notes. Afterwards I wander across the street, bump into Sandor in affable
two blocks on find Katalin,
sitting outside a cafe surrounded
by grass. We walk several streets north to Istvan's
late-afternoon sunshine, the baroness
purring enticingly on the way about "gorging
on language fruit full-mouthed"
of knowledge (not the
knowledge tree of course).
Later to supermarket to get turkey breast and cherries for dinner over at Jeff & [different] Andrea's.
cooks a wonderful curry while
group splits into two teams to make a silent
90-second film on a camcorder (team 1) and then dub it
with interesting dialogue
(team 2). Victoria brings poppadoms
and Adam ("We
Democrats need more heartless
military babykillers"), who, once it is late,
eyes my pineapple juice,
asking if this is how I "come down from altitude"? Also there is
friend Sylvia, who tells us she is famous for owning
million buttons ("I brought
a hundred boxes of buttons to Hungary, because I know they'll always look after
me.") and mentions she has seen the afterlife one
night in a dream, and it is
like a very enjoyable party. Even with very fluffy allergy-inducing cats there, I am able to stay for
the gorgeous fudge brownies (Much better than the ones I teach my classes to
make in Austria)
knocks up around midnight. Esther looks rather
as Kalman, she & Sylvia put
together a rather good chunk of dialogue. Meanwhile I chill cherries in
Jeff & Andrea's fridge and sit around their flat feeling dazed.
As bus waits, engine running, before leaving for
a male, college-student age, gets
on, sits down opposite me, opens a
and begins reading. Slowly, I realise that his tall blonde
girlfriend is standing inches away the
other side of the glass window looking in, gazing at him wistfully and a little
worried. She's worried because a whole 5 minutes pass without him noticing she
is still there, outside the bus. Finally, she has to tap on the glass, he looks
up, they exchange an affectionate glance, and he returns straight to his reading.
She gives him one last sad look without him seeing her, and then she leaves.
Potter still effective, apparently.
that posts nifty poems in English.
A Hungarian Sunday-market trader tries to sell Brian a second-hand
for 500 dollars.
Over to Jeff & Andrea's to edit
footage with Dejan. Kalman joins us. After we
software for an hour or so, Dejan decides the original night-time footage
is too bad, that he will shoot some day-time to replace it, and then generously buys us
lunch. Out for a grapefruit-flavoured ice cream later with Brian.
Readable yet important
Tamas & Sari2.
about a periodic-table table.
little brother. Am soaked in downpour.
helping Sari read magazine article about
Dejan & Almir see us off at station. Dejan has to stay behind to clear up visa
difficulties. On the train back to Budapest we meet two charming Bostonians worried about who will succeed
Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court bench. One suggests I read
In an exciting thunderstorm last night, Dejan drove us (Victoria, Kalman,
Wayne & me) out of town and over the Serbian border. By midnight at a club
we meet lots of Dejan's friends, including Almir a.k.a. Johnny
("You are in
Yugoslavia. You like? You take!"), and begin filming. Dejan buys us a remarkable drink tasting a bit like air-freshener. Wonderful smoked-meat hamburger later.
Dejan's deeply hospitable mother plies us with a filling breakfast, and Dejan drives us into town around lunchtime to get our weekend 'permits' from
the police, most of whom are quietly playing cards in their inner office. Trips to cafes and then a walk beside a lake. Dinner with Dejan's parents involves barbecued meat and lots of multilingual natter
with jolly neighbours on the patio. In the early evening, I nip inside their summer house and see 'Dude,
where's my car?' on a Serbian TV channel, a rather nice slapstick rework
of the old innocents-abroad formula. Two idiotic friends meet a cult,
a French ostrich farmer, some aliens - and since the whole film is spun
out of a night-before so wild they remember nothing, pretty much anything
can be thrown into the mix. Quite sweet, though not really in the sense of the
slogan "Sweet" one of them finds tattooed to his back. Later we drive back
into Subotica, Dejan playing the soundtrack to the film about the town we are shooting. Back at The Club on The Street, an improbable number of sharply-dressed,
leggy Serbian girls keep pouring into the dancing-and-drinking courtyard throughout the night. Almir ("I am ready, my friend. Are you
ready?") reappears to resume his master class on flirtation in Serbia. Meeting girls in
is, Dejan & Almir agree, a
special case in several ways. At my tentative suggestion, we skip the after-dance
4-a.m. meal this time, to get a bit more sleep before our midday train tomorrow.
Second half of 2-part
euro/gold article up.
Palestinian chap at Internet cafe sweetly asks if anyone I knew was hurt in
explosions in London. Beer & chat with
Charlie near Moszkva square. Victoria serves drinks as night falls outside her hillside
Sunny and cool, windy spells take turns through the day. Ice-cream break with
shadows slide diagonally across streets at bicycle speed.
Bump into one-time
Cafe manager Istvan, now running the
cafe just by the
of Seeing', his first-person account of finding
Method of eyesight-training helped improve his vision. Clear
and persuasive writing. Now to practise the techniques. Some lovely phrases,
like 'greedy end-gainers', describing how most of us hurry impatiently towards
a goal. Also striking how intuitive his discussions of illumination are,
measuring brightness in graphic, easy-to-visualise
instead of those pretty-sounding but utterly opaque
SI units of brightness, the
finds a delightful site of sound files of children from around the world making animal and vehicle noises. Very nifty & tasteful visually,
is not really about
but is full of darling little silhouette icons.
On their way to swim in the lake,
& family see me off at Tiszaug station.
Six stations later, an elderly man gets onto the slow train at one village
carrying a plastic shopping bag depicting a large chess position on each side,
in black & white pieces and red & white squares. One side of the bag
shows either the start position, or a couple of moves into an opening.
I glimpse the other side for a second. It is later in a game: perhaps a checkmate?
On the fast train from Kecskemet, meet two charming
We regroup later
in the evening in Budapest for
karaoke & beer.
Rains all day. With Edina, Geza, Robin for cakes & cappuccinos to a cafe in
We chance on a packed church hearing a soul-piercing
Out into nowhere to meet
Get lots of work done on the train. Georgina & the two boys
present me with a hat filled with mulberries as we meet at station.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com
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