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.
Take the four pills, and settle down with Nigel to watch the two
last episodes of
on his DVD.
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.
his wife Kate, and Paul, also a friend from college, and his Persian wife
Leilah. Mark & Kate have a very cuddly golden retriever called
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.
Early in the morning, Nigel leaves with Juno to Oxfordshire for a big
two-day hill-country walk.
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
Around 7pm meet a cheerful Piera with
& 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
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
Do some book research in the Charing X Road
cafe, while they play
Harvey over the piped music. Good cheesecake. Later, Nigel & I
go to the chicken restaurant in Catford and discuss triangular projects.
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.
pass our table out on the sun-baked Andrassy boulevard and say hello.
Do Tarot reading
for Isabel, and that naughty
card pops up again, alarming her rather.
Get to airport, meet
for a coffee to get his keys,
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
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
& 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.
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
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.
of the Stapled Head is in goals for Tiszakurt, who win 4:2. Continues being hot.
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.
Out in the countryside pleasantly woken by what might be a wren if I knew
and the sound
of a semi-Ealing comedy 'School
for Scoundrels' through the wall, blended in my dream.
Loud helicopters overhead and policemen hanging around.
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
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
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.
day hot & sticky. Get nothing done.
At 2am last night emerge from exploring the
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
meeting in aid of learning public speaking. Fun. As well as Steve,
run into Rajiv &
Isabel & Heikki. Summer at last.
Yesterday's combination of whisky and naughty cigarettes at the garden party
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.
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
Kossuth mausoleum, but all goes quite smoothly.
After finding we are a day late for the wine festival in a neighbouring village,
Robin & I visit a garden where
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.
Off for a quick swim & paddle with Robin & children in the
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:
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
cartoon book than a film. I'd
prefer the more eerily low-key 1977 BBC series
got rescreened, but good
to see anyone talking about freedom at all. Affecting, yet still fun.
Carta Day. Robin & I catch 11am train to
whose route is unusual, via
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
Zsuzsi presents me a posy of small purple flowers, which turn out to be
a wild version of the sage I couldn't buy
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.
Work at Andrassy
Zeno & Jeremy at Muvesz Cafe. Join Mihaela & Robin at an
exhibition opening at the
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.
Swim 1/2 mile and go weight-training. Meet
for a mineral water at Muvesz
Cafe, where we are joined by Sasha and, later,
an interesting chat with Muhammad at another cafe.
Last night found Samu, the diffident Dalmation, has already gone from
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
to meet several former Asylum colleagues watching a US/Czech football match.
Breakfast with Ben, then Hannah & John also.
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.
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
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
From this, am ten minutes late getting back into town for the memorial
& 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
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
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.
to discuss tomorrow's film thing.
Weather irritatingly British. Cool cloudy spells with chilly wind broken by short
showers and poignantly brief half-hours of radiant sunshine. Cake & mineral
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
property development advert apparently. Later at
meet two charming Australians, Sophie &
Ferne, who are soon off to Greece. We furtively exchange
reactions to Hungary.
Long phone chat with
Lite is good to work in.
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.
Dull day. More reading about
Afternoon ice cream with
& his sweet, inquisitive daughter
now nine months. Briefly meet Eti, and then down to
Pest for dinner with Esther &
who is very forgiving about me standing him up yesterday.
Lots of lovely people at dinner, including painter
More agents showing interest in book project. I completely mess up meeting
Over to Marion & Paul's for dinner to discuss Hannah getting into university
law. Ben phones up
from Brussels - first chat for five years. Earlier, finish Luton airport
most things fail' by
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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