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2006
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June 30th; Long sunny Friday with a late and very leisurely mid-afternoon breakfast with Nigel at Assia's cafe. His ex-alcoholic friend Dennis joins us for a cigarette and a caffeine drink. Come evening, I decide to try Nigel's modafinil. He suggests a dose of 4 tablets, only twice the recommended.
Midnight: Take the four pills, and settle down with Nigel to watch the two last episodes of Peepshow on his DVD.
June 29th; Still aching slightly from yesterday's rounders game, have two separate helpful meetings with agents to discuss book. At the second agent's office, I drink perhaps too much of her dry white wine. Then to Notting Hill for lovely dinner at Mark's. He now has three children. I meet his wife Kate, and Paul, also a friend from college, and his Persian wife Leilah. Mark & Kate have a very cuddly golden retriever called Tray, apparently a traditionally doggy name in Ireland. After quickly proving far too squiffy to defend in table football, I watch a ten-minute film by a friend of Mark's about a man whose dog keeps telling him he is his lawyer and will have to defend him in court on Friday. Mark fondly recalls Nigel from college as the Nigel of Darkness, and we naturally contrast him with Mr Hubbard as the Nigel of Light. With help from Paul & Leilah, I catch the final train to Catford. London Bridge station is packed at midnight with affable, talkative Londoners. I return and learn the Nigel of Darkness twisted an ankle and had to cut short his walking trip with Juno.

June 28th; Early in the morning, Nigel leaves with Juno to Oxfordshire for a big two-day hill-country walk. I visit Spectator office for interview with Michael Heath. We sit on white iron chairs in the garden while two people struggle to assemble a ping-pong table nearby. Around 7pm meet a cheerful Piera with Lucy & Joanna in Hyde Park, still bathed in evening sunshine. We join a very enjoyable rounders game played with tennis ball & cricket bat [so that even I could hit some shots]. I meet Oliver, Jason, and Martin, who are all alarmingly good at hitting and running, as well as Rebecca, studying Arabic & Persian, Annamaria, an architect, and Sylvia, who speaks Mandarin. Quite a lot of sprinting. Surprisingly fun. Piera saves me from leaving my human-fly sunglasses behind in the grass. Manage to get to Islington afterwards to meet Mr Hubbard and find his blithe daughter, Maddy, watching Big Brother on television.
June 27th; Do some book research in the Charing X Road Borders cafe, while they play PJ Harvey over the piped music. Good cheesecake. Later, Nigel & I go to the chicken restaurant in Catford and discuss triangular projects.

June 26th; Pack for flight, and carry two bags through heat to Isabel's office. We go for lunch: chicken tikka masala. Bombay Palace has become Bombay Express. Both Jake, then Terri, pass our table out on the sun-baked Andrassy boulevard and say hello. Do Tarot reading for Isabel, and that naughty Devil card pops up again, alarming her rather. Get to airport, meet Franc for a coffee to get his keys, catch aeroplane, and find myself sitting right in front of a Hungarian mother reading aloud to her pink-frocked toddler in English. She does this in an annoying sing-song voice, with that not-quite-right British accent Hungarians do. She reads aloud to the child all the way through the inflight safety instructions. A man also on the plane is [silently] reading another book. When I ask, he recommends it. He tells me as we enter Gatwick airport that the book claims that an oddly large number of politicians are men who lost their fathers in childhood. Train across south London to Nigel & Juno goes surprisingly well. After fish & chips we stay up watching several excellent episodes of Peepshow on DVD.
June 25th; With Robin & Letty to visit The Honey Makers, on the way to my train. Back to Budapest through fields of yellow grass, on a day so hot all the curtains in the dining car were kept drawn. In Pest meet Sam & Scott and do more some filming in the leather trousers as Detlef the Director.

June 24th; 3 outings in one day. First with Georgina to nearby villages for some shopping, which includes a huge bag of improbable black cherries almost the size of plums. One slightly confused peasant is selling beans by the kilogram off two stools in his front drive, yet has no weighing scales. Scales are eventually found and Georgina buys some beans. Sun hot. Then we enjoy some mineral water and a pastry in a small patisserie outside Cserkeszolo. We are served by a sweet blonde girl who has extended her eyeliner Egyptian-goddess-style in a thin black line half an inch outside each eye. Later we go swimming with the children at the Tiszaug lake. Letty persuades me to swim right across with her to the dense reeds on the far side and back. Sun still hot. Geza & Edina advise me beside the lake on advertising for women. Someone floats out on an inflateable sunbed that mimics a 2-D Coca-Cola bottle. On the way back from swimming we have ice creams in Tiszakurt. I choose pineapple and a new flavour whose label is handwritten, not grasping that 'Beliz' is just 'Baileys' with Hungarian spelling. It is coffee-liqueur-flavoured ice cream, not at all bad.
Final outing is to see if
Robin gets called onto the pitch to play in what turns out to be a rather serious village football match between Cserkeszolo & Tiszakurt that kicks off at 6pm sharp. With Vicki the fox terrier leashed onto one wrist, I manage a quick nap in some shade under a straw hat through the first half. Csaba of the Stapled Head is in goals for Tiszakurt, who win 4:2. Continues being hot. Affable Csaba invites us back to his house. While the children & I graze on his raspberries and then relax on the red sofa out in his narrow garden, he & Robin talk business about honey trading and the canoe lying on the grass. Csaba's dog cools off by swimming in his flooded cellar at intervals. As we leave, Csaba's pregnant girlfriend Agi and her girlfriend Marcsi drive up.
June 23rd; Out in the countryside pleasantly woken by what might be a wren if I knew birdsong, and the sound of a semi-Ealing comedy 'School for Scoundrels' through the wall, blended in my dream.

June 22nd; Loud helicopters overhead and policemen hanging around. Santa Claus is coming to town. I just make it onto my second preferred train with seconds to spare, and order my usual omlette. On the second, smaller, train from Szolnok to Lakitelek, I finish Mariann's copy of 'Genetikai Abece' by Mihaly Berend. Two pages from the end I find that of all the empty seats on the carriage, I've been sitting at one where some teenager has lightly scratched a declaration of love to a Mariann into the formica side table. Berend's book is lucid, interesting, but not too high-level, thank goodness, with nice graphics and clear explanations of a lot of genetics up to the 1980s. Some of the closing predictions of genetic techniques that will be possible in the "very distant future", such as cloning and introduction of individual genes by packaging them into a virus, have already come true. Robin meets me and we drive to see Balla near Csongrad. We graze on Balla's garden cherries and mulberries, tour his studio, and then he suggests we take a bottle of dry red up an observation tower out in the fields. After driving through some sandy, rutted lanes and negotiating six slightly worrying steel ladders we get to the top of the tower with bottle, corkscrew and wine glasses. Magnificent view across a flat, flooded countryside of oxbow lakes. There are patches of water as far as the eye can see, some open, some covered in pale green weed. Yet the real Tisza is almost out of sight on the horizon. The sky suddenly turns a heavy grey, and a strange, increasingly strong wind starts to blow, so we go down and take Balla home. The evening drive back to Robin's goes through some small squalls of rain, but we arrive in eerie, dry darkness, with completely silent lightning rippling across the sky in the distance.
June 21st; Longest day hot & sticky. Get nothing done.

June 20th; At 2am last night emerge from exploring the rollonfriday talkboard and meet Hussam on the street looking cheerful. Very hot today. Go weight-training. After, get a bus over to Buda to attend a Toastmasters' meeting in aid of learning public speaking. Fun. As well as Steve, run into Rajiv & David there.
June 19th; Lunch with Isabel & Heikki. Summer at last.

June 18th; Yesterday's combination of whisky and naughty cigarettes at the garden party leaves Robin quite white & shaken today. Rather nobly in the circumstances, he gets up and drives me to Lakitelek through hot morning sun for my train. Curiously, several carriages on the 2nd train from Kecskemet are packed with oddly wholesome-looking teenage girls. I only work it out when one of them gets an acoustic guitar out. Of course - Christians. Probably returning from some church-related summer camp. Next to my seat a small clutch of them begin singing songs from sheet music. Back in Budapest, Scott picks me up from Castro's hotspot for a late afternoon filming at the Kerepesi Cemetery. He & Sam equip me with black leather trousers so that I can again become Detlef the German art-film director, this time to interview Scott's brother Craig. Craig adopts a rather wonderful persona as a pompous English stage actor with a bow tie. Some bored spook gets us told off for filming on the roof of the Lajos Kossuth mausoleum, but all goes quite smoothly.
June 17th; After finding we are a day late for the wine festival in a neighbouring village, Robin & I visit a garden where Csaba is making a fine spicy meat stew in an open-air cauldron. Meanwhile others grapple with the outdoor aerial to get the television set sitting in its own white garden chair to show colour rather than black & white. After being plied by our generous hosts with beer, whisky, and champagne, I sink into dazed confusion as a bright sunny afternoon turns into night while Italy & the US draw 1:1 at football.

June 16th; Off for a quick swim & paddle with Robin & children in the flood water where the swollen Tisza river, 3 or 4 times its usual width, still laps up against the dyke. Very hot sun and surprisingly cool, even chilly, fast-moving water under the trees. Later we watch a dark & atmospheric film on a DVD from Mihaela & Bryan: 'V for Vendetta', which is entertaining and in places visually stylish. Some of its depiction of a British police state in the not-so-distant future looks uncomfortably plausible. However, since lots of people all over Britain still cheerfully burn effigies of Guido Fawkes as a conspirator/terrorist who attacked English liberty, the idea of defending liberty by dressing up as Guy Fawkes perhaps works better as a cartoon book than a film. I'd prefer the more eerily low-key 1977 BBC series '1990' got rescreened, but good to see anyone talking about freedom at all. Affecting, yet still fun.
June 15th; Magna Carta Day. Robin & I catch 11am train to Tiszaug whose route is unusual, via Kiskunfelegyhaza and Szentes, annoying a ticket inspector. Georgina meets us, driving us to a cherry orchard's scrub trees where we graze on cherries & mulberries, reminding me of the baroness's remark last July about "gorging full-mouthed from the tree of knowledge". Even unripe yellow cherries sweet & soft. At Robin's, Zsuzsi presents me a posy of small purple flowers, which turn out to be a wild version of the sage I couldn't buy in Budapest last autumn. All things come. Indoors, the effect of cool cherries, spiced sausage, warm toast, and cold beer is so lovely that I need to take a nap for an hour or two. Drift off to the sound of his children learning cricket outside.

June 14th; Work at Andrassy Lite. Meet Robin, Zeno & Jeremy at Muvesz Cafe. Join Mihaela & Robin at an exhibition opening at the MM gallery, where I drink too much pink and yellow wine. Afterwards, Bryan, Zeno, Istvan, and Peter, an artist who does lots of photo montages, join us for dinner at Dupla.
June 13th; Swim 1/2 mile and go weight-training. Meet Robin for a mineral water at Muvesz Cafe, where we are joined by Sasha and, later, Erik. Afterwards, an interesting chat with Muhammad at another cafe.

June 12th; Last night found Samu, the diffident Dalmation, has already gone from the flat. Today, still pink from yesterday's swimming on the island, I write a sample essay for Hannah, then visit Hannah for the lesson. On way back drop in at a restaurant to meet several former Asylum colleagues watching a US/Czech football match.
June 11th; Breakfast with Ben, then Hannah & John also. Ben is now a lawyer in Brussels, but is not too impressed with Belgium. Afterwards to Margit Island to do my 1/2-mile swim, before lying in the sun for a couple of minutes to get pink and confused. Trying to sleep off the heatstroke at home I miss Ben's father's concert, and find myself sharing a pizza with Ilan instead, hearing an intriguing theory that the US attacked Iraq to defend the dollar when Hussein began selling oil for euros.

June 10th; Rather worn out by yesterday's swimming and walking around with heavy bag, I do only a small amount of work. Send some last corrections to Edina's thesis, add to book, read a bit about glaciers.
June 9th; Get up in morning and say hello to Samu, the plaintive-looking Dalmation that has appeared in the hallway of the flat, folded awkwardly into a tiny box he clearly finds uncomfortable but is too polite to complain about. A couple of nights ago, got in late and picked up his friendly doggy scent before switching the light on. Julia sometimes looks after him for some friend of hers. Then I swim a 1/2 mile at the pool on Margit island, meeting Rob, Eti & Mali at the busstop on their way to a different pool on Margit island. By lunchtime manage to get to a remote corner of the 13th district to meet Mihaela at an adorable cafe selling excellent pastries, near her new workplace. From this, am ten minutes late getting back into town for the memorial service Miklos & Marion organised for Simon, who killed himself three weeks ago. About forty of his very distraught former colleagues & students: Simon might have been surprised. From this event, I get to Sam's flat to prepare for the evening's filming. Scott & Sam seem a mite hung over after the previous evening filming at a strip club, but we start out for the studio party in Buda. After two hours walking and catching trams up and down the long Huvosvolgyi road [I unwisely am still carrying my heavy bag with laptop in] we find the studio at 141, not 41, and the party is still happening. They welcome us with schnapps and free ballpoint pens with logos on. We meet some camera people and shoot the interview where I am pretending to be an obscure German film director dressed in black. We return to Sam's flat. His blonde flatmate Kozi the television chef is home. Tonight she is wearing her mobile phone in a soft bag shaped like a small blue penguin hanging from her belt instead of, as last time, in a soft bag shaped like a small orange dog hanging from her belt.

June 8th; Meet Scott to discuss tomorrow's film thing.
June 7th; Weather irritatingly British. Cool cloudy spells with chilly wind broken by short showers and poignantly brief half-hours of radiant sunshine. Cake & mineral water with Jeremy after he & Zita show me two of their film trailers, each with a girl in. One was being fitted into a long feathered frock & more conventional diamante necklace. The other girl had a gilded head-dress on to become Cleopatra. All for a Dubai property development advert apparently. Later at Castro's meet two charming Australians, Sophie & Ferne, who are soon off to Greece. We furtively exchange reactions to Hungary.

June 6th; Long phone chat with climate scientist. Andrassy Cafe Lite is good to work in.
June 5th; To Cafe Vian to sup. I get a green pasta thing in a large bowl cast to look as if tilted to one side. Its rim slopes towards me by about twenty degrees, not unlike a small, shallow urinal.

June 4th; Dull day. More reading about albedo.
June 3rd; Afternoon ice cream with Rob & his sweet, inquisitive daughter Mali, now nine months. Briefly meet Eti, and then down to south Pest for dinner with Esther & Franc, who is very forgiving about me standing him up yesterday. Lots of lovely people at dinner, including painter Stephen.

June 2nd; More agents showing interest in book project. I completely mess up meeting Franc.
June 1st; Over to Marion & Paul's for dinner to discuss Hannah getting into university to do law. Ben phones up from Brussels - first chat for five years. Earlier, finish Luton airport impulse-buy, 'Why most things fail' by Paul Ormerod. Enjoyed his 'Death of Economics' some years back. This was good too, albeit with some slightly chunky sentences. Ormerod's point is that failure is the norm in both biology and economics. Species, firms and government initiatives all fail in huge numbers. He describes how research in the late 1990s found a relationship between size of extinction and frequency which has nothing to do with any traditional theory of the firm, but rather measures how interdependent firms or species are with each other. Fascinating, impressive.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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