otherlanguages.org
. . . Main links

Basque / Dutch / English / Hungarian / Japanese / Swedish

link to i-mode page

#

#

non-alphabetic scripts

#

other links

#

endangered languages

#

sign languages

#

maps

#

songs and music

#

dead languages


*1

#

linguistic philosophy

#

artificial languages

#

AI, speech recognition

#

encryption, steganography

#

language history

#

calligraphy

#

cognitive psychology

#

mathematical linguistics

#

animal communication

#

language list

#

non-language links

2006
...............................................................................................................................................................

April 30th; Economist John Kenneth Galbraith died yesterday aged 97. Today, Georgina & I cycle into the village to see if we can borrow a chain saw. Lajos agrees to lend one, and brings it over to saw the legs off a garden structure. Later Geza comes over to do some sketching, and Edina comes over to go over the translation of her witches-&-dragons thesis with me again, and correct my Arabic homework.

April 29th; Robin & I drive to Tiszasas to meet a carpenter, who tells us that the city of Venice is supported on piles made of red pine? On the way back we pass a warehouse with white walls, bright blue metal roofs, surrounded by fields of intensely yellow rapeseed. In the afternoon I bake a carrot cake from Georgina's recipe.
April 28th; My old Bulgarian accountant friend Ljubo kindly sends me the first ten thousand digits of pi, just in case they should come in handy. Later, another visit to Csaba of The Stapled Head, whom we disturb playing football with some friends in his long, narrow garden. He shows Robin and Bela and me some antiques, plies us with strong red wine made from his grapes, and explains where his garden hedgehog lives. Back at Robin's, the wine forces me to doze for a couple of hours, sliding in and out of very odd dreams.

April 27th; Back in the gym. Later, run to catch train to Robin's in the countryside. Due to residual post-flood-peril silliness, bits of rail track are closed off, so train from Lakitelek to Tiszaug turns into a bus. A completely silent group of country people wait patiently under a tree outside the Lakitelek railway station next to a blue coach. I ask them if it will pass through Tiszaug. One or two nod, eyeing me suspiciously. After ten minutes a small group of men plod wearily over to the bus. The man who is the driver stonily ignores us, not meeting anyone's eyes, his normal sullenness up a couple of notches to achieve the internationally-understood I've-been-called-out-on-my-afternoon-off-to-do-this-job expression. Gloomily he puts me off at some sliproad blocked by a road barrier, vaguely gesturing the village is just down the road. The closed railway station where Robin is patiently waiting for me is in fact two miles away. This is not brought closer by my mistaken sunny half-hour detour walking rail bridges, crossing the lakelike swollen river Tisza, its far edge lost in a vista of half-drowned trees. Eventually Robin and three of his children find me somewhere in the village of Tiszaug, resting in the shade outside a bar.
April 26th; Oversleep for my morning appointment with Drew, who kindly buys us a breakfast of soft, doughy cheese & sour-cream things inside the big market hall. He does this while recording my munching sounds and interviewing me for his radio show/website. Then we have a couple of Unicum bitter liqueurs and chat about life. Swimming pool closed so I go weight-training instead. Perhaps a blessing, since so hot today I might have sizzled like a strip of bacon at the open-air pool.

April 25th; Urban geographer Jane Jacobs dies, aged 89. It was her books that first got me interested in microcurrencies.
Pre-lunch drink with Robin. He describes visiting
Balla's bird-handling friend and his tame ravens, kestrels, and most enticingly, a completely albino peacock. Then with Robin to meet a cheerful Jeremy at Menza, where I hear first-hand how Jeremy got stabbed a few weeks ago. He describes the taxi ride with British Friend Over For Weekend, who, in an advanced state of merriment, began tickling the Hungarian taxi driver with some paper money. Taxi driver slightly over-reacts by calling a heavy friend to meet them. They meet. Heavy mistakenly sets about Jeremy with a big piece of wood (While British Friend Over For Weekend cowers in back of taxi?), but when Jeremy removes wood from thug and gets him by throat, thug stabs Jeremy in chest. Surprisingly he is well again after a couple of days in hospital, describes the police as friendly, and successfully identifies heavy in a line-up - who is now apparently looking at three to five years inside. All a bit unnecessary from sneaky, cowardly taxi driver, seems to me. As a finish, Jeremy chucklingly discloses that British Friend Over For Weekend is apparently quite senior in Customs and Excise, and on the Monday morning after presented a research document to Chancellor Brown about British binge drinking. Early evening fruit juice with Mihaela, who kindly presents me with a tiramisu! She enthuses about the Guy-Fawkes-themed film 'V is for Vendetta' she saw the night before. Later, on to another venue for drinks & cakes with Rob, who is a bit poorly. He shows me pictures of his 8-month-old daughter Mali looking quite pert and thoughtful. We chat about religion until Terri suddenly appears, surprising us with news of her improving Russian. All rather social really.
April 24th; Second session at Liia's dentist. This time a descaling session - referred to in Hungarian with quaint directness as removing "tooth-stone". I am naturally very frightened of his nasty, whizzy grinding tool, though he tries not to hurt me. In his waiting room before getting started, I finish the last couple of pages of the unspellable Bernard Lietaer's 'The Future of Money'. A bit sad that a book on such an important topic, by someone so well qualified to write it, is such a mess. It is appallingly edited. The final (and most interesting) chapter is called 'A primer on how money works' but throughout the chapter the top of each page says 'A primer on how money work'. Several graphs have careless errors in - one has what looks like fragments of dates left in mixed with amounts of money. Other diagrams are hideous, with no errors, but creating confusion with unneeded stick men symbolising union between hovering boxes of jargon. The typography is ugly, with a mix of san-serif and serif fonts, some in grey boxes, some with horrible square bullets. The whole is dotted with more grey boxes called "sidebars", not to the side at all, but interrupting the main text like advertising breaks. The book is larger and heavier than necessary, with very thick paper. Sad, because when Lietaer says that alternative currencies are the most important social force of today, he is right, but no-one will believe him, unless, like me, they've been interested in this for years and don't need persuading. He gives a clear explanation of how interest rates discount the future, while demurrage (negative interest - a charge for holding money) does the opposite. His book is full of interesting nuggets, like the fact that the Dutch dyke-builders are still faithfully paying interest on perpetually-dated 16th-century land-drainage bonds, or that the Roman Catholic church only stopped condemning usury in the 19th century. Some points - like his worry about the scale of speculation in the world currency markets - are well expressed, and he has a lively tone. I would have liked to read more about his background as a currency trader and central banker. This book might be an excellent way of reaching the activists he most wants to address. His time-travel vignettes of life in 2020 were embarrassing, but they might get the message across to many. The material about Silvio Gesell was the most interesting. By evening to Castro's for a chat with Margo. Using their WiFi, I put a Create Your Own Currency proposal onto MySociety.org's site in Gesell's honour.

April 23rd; The California Coffee Company cafe on Terez crescent turns out to have a WiFi connection, but a very poor one. A waiter tells a guest it is a German firm.
April 22nd; Before leaving Robin's, I finish two of his books I was enjoying. 'Drawn from Memory' is an account by E.H. Shephard of his childhood in the 1880s, with his own pen illustrations. 'A Guide to Elegance' is a book by Genevieve Dariaux telling women how they can dress smartly and look chic. The book itself is sumptuously printed, with a clean blue dust cover and perfectly laid-out pages. It gives no visual evidence of having been discreetly edited up to date (from 1963 to 2003) with a handful of extra mentions of things like mobile phones. The style is clear and sharp in the French style. (Women should not go clothes shopping with girlfriends. Lipstick should never be outlined.) This crisp simplicity is slightly spoiled by the lack of credit to any translator from the French, and a handful of mistakes. One point has a typo across the page from a use of 'disinterested' where Dariaux meant 'uninterested'. Nonetheless, the rational, modest tone with which Dariaux explains how she "transforms a plain woman into an elegant one" is like a drink of cool water on a hot day. Meanwhile, Shephard's book is beautifully written, in clear, simple prose. It expresses his nostalgia for the years when he was a small boy, very much loved his mother, drawing very well already aged eight. His writing is never cloying or sentimental though. In his sketches his own small self looks startlingly like his drawings of Christopher Robin in the Winnie the Pooh books that - much to Shephard's annoyance - became the work he was best remembered for. On the train back to Budapest I finished the last of the four ghastly Euripedes plays in English in the Penguin Classics edition of Medea and other plays I picked up for one pound at Oxfam in Hebden Bridge, translated by Philip Vellacott. This last play was 'Heracles' (Hercules). The hero arrives back home from his labours just in time to save his father, wife and children from ignominious death, only for a goddess to send him into a fit of madness (motivated by little more than spite), in which Heracles then murders his own wife and three sons. The supposed nastiness of women (and by extension, goddesses) is something of a theme running through these four plays. Medea kills not only her husband's new wife (with a poisoned dress & crown she judges the other woman's vanity will not be able to resist) but her own two children so as to distress her unfaithful husband to the extreme. Hecabe gets a group of women together to cunningly lure a bad man into a trap. Once he is in their tent, they slit the throats of his children, and then hold him down and put his eyes out with their brooch needles. Rather more heavy-duty than I was counting on.
Once off the train, I make it the birthday parties of both Mr Saracco (where I meet Ray, a drum manufacturer, and his lovely companion Inez) and Reka (where I meet Bence and lots of other former students). Much revelry.

April 21st; Because of the flood danger in surrounding villages, helicopters and small planes fly over Robin's house all day. Some lower-lying villages have already been partly evacuated. Francis of PublicWhip.org.uk sends me a link to his fascinating home page. It covers upside-down maps, two-dimensional computer languages, and the inspired PledgeBank - by which people agree to give money to good causes if a certain number of others join them.
April 20th; Apparently the flooded river Tisza is now brimming right at the top of the dyke. Robin & Georgina went to the dyke with food & refreshments for volunteers, helping them fill sandbags for an hour before I even got up. They say the whole village was down there, shovelling sand until it ran out. Worrying thunder and heavy rain all afternoon stop us from going back for a second session that will be possible when the new sand arrives.

April 19th; Rise late feeling ill myself. The doctor comes in his orange car to visit Robin, and while he's at it pronounces my blood pressure normal. PublicWhip.org.uk e-mail me a list of MPs who voted against ID cards [high on the list] and for ID cards [low on the list]. Here is the list. Going out of the house at night here, I face a barrage of throbbing frog music in the grass. It seems to occupy all the sound space between baritone and treble, and like a wall of sound gives the impression of being 5000 frogs, though it's probably nearer 15. From indoors there seems to be a high insect trilling on top, but no actual insects outdoors yet. It's still frogs all the way down.
April 18th; Robin & I cannot visit Balla's studio, because Csongrad is cut off by flood wardens. Robin still ill.

April 17th; Easter Monday. Robin & I drive to Kecskemet to deliver Zita to her train, learning by phone as we drive back that the now less-enigmatic Aron was waiting for her in the railway station so he could kick or knock her coffee out of her hand. More excitement! Later a thoughtful painter from Csongrad, Balla, arrives for lunch and he & Robin discuss karmic destiny [Balla is Buddhist], his years living in Sweden, and the role of art in society's spiritual life, rather testing my interpreting skills. As an aside, Balla mentions that he is currently interested in women with body-builders' physiques.
April 16th; Christos Anesti! We all paint eggs in the kitchen. Mid-afternoon: egg & spoon race, 3-legged race, and grandmother's footsteps. Afterwards, Georgina & Zita cook a wonderful Easter Sunday roast followed by delicious lemon pudding. I awake from an early-evening snooze to see the enigmatic Aron leaving in a scene of some confusion just as this dinner is about to be served. Apparently drunk, he sets off into the night in only the shirt he arrived in, returning some hours later to sleep in the table-tennis room.

April 15th; Out in warm sun pegging up my wet washing on the line to the sound of a distant cockerel. I sit on a white garden chair in sunshine, and find that a beautiful green frog with a stripe down each side is sitting on the chair next to mine. Not believing those stories, I do not kiss it. Later to Tiszakurt with Robin, Kasper, Bela & Vicki the fox terrier in the Izh motorbike with sidecar to meet Constantine. We are stopped while motoring along the top of the dyke because flood water is high and vehicles are banned in case vibrations cause the dyke to leak. Kasper eats a couple of beetles for some reason. Tea in garden with Constantine later. After dark the enigmatic Aron arrives to sleep on the floor in the boys' room.
April 14th; A peaceful, tranquil Good Friday. Returning from a little Easter shopping with Robin near Cserkeszolo, he takes me to meet Csaba of The Stapled Head, who warmly welcomes us with palinka/schnapps, jaffa cakes, and multivitamin juice. We meet Tomika, his easygoing tyre-mechanic friend. Hospitable Csaba gives Robin a pot plant and takes us round his kitchen garden: his almond tree is in blossom. I play with the large blue electronic die his promotional hostess girlfriend uses to award people Pall Mall gift cigarettes. You tap the bottom and after a little flashing sequence, illuminated green dots settle down to show a number from 1 to 6. I briefly hide behind my fingers while Csaba proudly plays the DVD of hospital photos from his toboggan accident in Sud Tirol. We also admire Csaba's cellar full of water which he has on occasion stocked with fish, and the goats' skulls he sells on the Internet after boiling the heads.

April 13th; Rob tells me that he had started becoming worried about his dentist, even before I related trying to see him. Apparently on Rob's last two visits, his Tatra street dentist had been talking slightly unsettlingly about giant cracks in Rob's teeth, and urging him as a cure for this to drink something over four pints of beer each night before going to sleep.
Manage to get on the last train to Kunszentmarton to be picked up by Robin. Thoroughly upset myself on the last leg of the train journey reading another of Euripedes' nasty tragedies about vengeful women.
April 12th; 14 hours sleep. Suitably refreshed, float over to see Liia's dentist, bumping into cheerful Liia herself just leaving her appointment. Mr Dentist tut tuts over my panoramic jaw x-ray, and convinces me to have my remaining milk tooth removed so as to scrape out an apparently menacing cyst underneath. Once out, the tooth indeed looks to have reached a pretty sad state. What a wonderful thing is anaesthetic. Final mineral water with Houcyne before Easter later.

April 11th; To Kalvin square for a quick and efficient dental x-ray, then to office to pick up the books and papers I left there in January. Looks fairly deserted (Adam no longer works there, among many who have left) but still some kind of minimal business running under the new CEO. Lunch with Liia, Les & his fiancee from Croatia, Mr Carlson, and Paul. Then Houcyne and I walk up Gellert Hill, making me feel very out of condition. Perhaps a little foolish of me so soon after a four-day fast.
April 10th; Wake at 11am after four hours sleep. Beautiful spring sunshine. After an extra-long cold shower, and generally making myself fresh and sweet-smelling for any dentist that will see me, I stroll out into the sun, light-headedly thinking about food. A short but vaguely tiring walk down Tatra street takes me to the address of Rob's and Terri's dentist. His sign has no phone number or opening hours on it, just two names and the word 'dentist', so I press his buzzer. "Yes?" replies a weary yet smug voice. Pause. I ask if he is the dentist and I can come in. "No surgery today", he replies, sighing at my stupid presumption that I can simply step into his clinic. Who do I think I am? After two months in Yorkshire, I really had forgotten what Hungarians are like - he acts like he is patiently putting up with me. I point out I have no way of knowing when his clinic is open. He tells me to phone for an appointment without telling me his phone number and our conversation ends. I walk slowly onto the main street and notice something I have never seen before. A bright sunbeam strikes the overhead tram wires, highlighting two coppery streaks hovering in mid-air as they follow me down the crescent.
I get on a tram to the next possible dentist, recommended by David on Saturday. An angry-looking pair of women, mother & daughter, are near me on the tram, and when it suddenly brakes they both lose balance and crash into me and into each other. They don't apologise to me, of course, but they do start colourfully swearing at each other. I get off, find the second dentist also closed. At least it has a phone number on its street sign, even if no clinic hours. All around, drawn out by the spring sun, are large numbers of pretty Hungarian girls. Without exception they are all immaculately slim, and either stony-faced or scowling. Friends have suggested in the past that these two facts are connected, and that a large minority of young Hungarian women, to keep their figures at mannequin standards, are only eating five or six small meals a week. Perhaps my short break from eating gives me some insight into what it is like to be a Hungarian girl - constantly hungry and tired? I am just drifting along in slow-motion, but if I had to do even a mildly challenging job in this state, I might well also be bored and tetchy. This seems like it could explain the slenderness and irritability of Hungarian girls until I remember that I know plenty of slim women from other cultures who are cheerful and hard-working. Then Liia's dentist phone-texts me an appointment for this afternoon. Taking a break, I check e-mail, and find that, courtesy of David, this weblog has been mentioned in a major news title. Float over to Deli station to be early for the dental check-up. His waiting room is full. When we meet, I immediately take a liking to this dentist. I cannot tell if his brisk friendly manner is due to seeing me as (1) a potential long-term customer, or (2) a sick patient it is his chosen vocation to heal, but I don't need both. Just one of the two will do. Either are preferable to people who resent customers on principle. I recall an incident in my first months here which gave me an early insight into the national character. I was extremely ill and feverish. Two Hungarian doctors were keen to have a lesson, and we agreed the English practice would be in return for the medicine I needed. Though I felt close to passing out, they made sure they got their sixty minutes' worth of English practice before I could take the drugs that they had laid on the table in front of me. An instructive introduction.
Liia's jolly Dr Kertesz makes a refreshing exception. He says my gum infection is not serious and can be treated on Wednesday. He reassures me I can eat today. However, I'm glad I denied even a sugary fruit juice to the evil bacillus in my mouth for a couple of days so as to starve it into peace talks on my terms. Later, I break my fast with bacon & eggs with milkshake followed by earnest flossing, brushing, and disinfecting, and a couple of hours early-evening sleep.

April 9th; Complete third day without food or drink, apart from water. Feels quite odd. As if everything is slowed down and strangely simplified. A not unpleasant sense of semi-exhaustion. This left me too tired to either go to the film recommended by Mihaela or David's poetry reading at the new address of the Goethe Institut he mentioned when he met us on the street yesterday, but an early night seemed reasonable, except that I found myself wide awake until 7am. Quite interesting, this fasting lark.
April 8th; Mineral water with Mihaela, who tells me she & Bryan saw a fascinating illusion in their flat today - an inverted image of the street below, somehow projected onto their ceiling, camera-obscura style. Later more mineral water with Houcyne in the Muzeum Cafe, where he espouses a wonderfully easy-going life philosophy.

April 7th; Wake up in Budapest after 12 hours of sleep. Dental problem seems to be reasserting. Decide to stop eating.
April 6th; Get to Victoria in time for coach to Luton. I can sit on a cool stone plinth in the shade, swinging my legs and enjoying lovely spring sunshine on the other side of the street while the driver has his coffee before leaving Victoria. On the coach, near where I am sitting, a man in clean, newly-ironed suit is slumped asleep. After an hour on the motorway, we reach Luton town. The sleeper awakes and asks me in a slurred London accent for the time. I tell him. He then asks if you have to get to the airport two hours before a flight? I say not usually, and he then asks me exactly the same question again, revealing he is not simply drunk, but very drunk indeed. Something about the mismatch between his smart clothes and his mid-afternoon drunkenness is puzzling until he makes a call on his mobile. He speaks loudly and rudely, calling somebody a fool repeatedly. He speaks with that weary tone of loathing in his voice that the totally pissed often have, but as he is speaking Hungarian, all is now clear. In the airport, the drunk man joins the back of the queue at the gate, getting irate with me when I mis-hear a question in his slurred English. He's thankfully sent away by the official because he has the wrong gate, the wrong time, and the wrong airline, though he has managed the right airport. On the plane, by chance meet Paul from Asylum, and at Customs in Budapest get chatting with Houcyne, a hydrologist.

April 5th; Orange juice with Adrienn near Charing Cross Road, buy new bag. Later with Nigel to meet Danny at Simon Jenkins' 50th birthday party in an LSE bar, where I meet Phil of no2id.
April 4th; Train to Saffron Walden to see Roger the homeopath. On top of the plutonium, he suggests I try essence of scorpion.

April 3rd; Train down to London to Nigel's. Changing trains, I go through the barrier at Leeds for half an hour to look at some books in W.H. Smiths. As I go back onto the platform to catch my train, I put down mother's heavy leather Gladstone bag in an empty ticket-barrier channel, get my ticket out and show it to the inspector. As I crouch and replace the ticket, a youngish woman leaving the platform with two trollies heads straight for my channel, though others are vacant. As I apologise and get out of her way, she passes me, saying sharply "I didn't realise you were able to stop here". It takes me a second to realise I have just been told off, reminding me how adroit many women are at thinking up snide little remarks, and at seeking out opportunities in the day to use them on someone.
April 2nd; Finish mother's copy of 'The Eternal Darkness' by Robert Ballard, a book about his career in deep-sea exploration. Interestingly, Jacques Cousteau emerges as a major pioneer, not simply a TV character. I had no idea he invented the acqualung [Nigel tells me just now as I type this in, that it was for use against Nazis when Cousteau fought with the Free French]. Ballard emphasises the coldness and blackness of the deep ocean, the lonely remoteness of being miles down with, in the early days, only a tankful of buoyant gasoline with which to return to the surface. After good material on pioneers like the Americans Beebe and Barton, and the Swiss scientist Piccard, who set both height records in the upper atmosphere and depth records in the ocean when he invented the bathyscaph, we get down to Ballard's own career. It is also impressive, and spans helping verify the tectonic-plate theory of continental drift, developing new kinds of deep-sea submersible, discovering the hot-seafloor-vent ecosystems, and finding the wreck of the Titanic before anyone else.

April 1st; Go to Leeds to pick up my Trainline ticket to London.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

back up to top of page