, one Hungarian follower of the path of detachment snarls
at him from feet away. The yellow-shirted ones stomp crossly onto stage
to set up their instruments. It's clear Keri will be too busy to chat to me.
Get plenty of sleep. Wake around lunchtime, and examine clothes on floor. One pocket
contains a bread roll from Sam's flat, and another a packet of Eve cigarettes, I
think from Anna. Though the catarrh continues, I have no hangover.
Emma Thompson's anecdote about
telling her as a child that champagne hangovers are the worst has long
puzzled me, since it is easily testable and pretty obviously untrue even
without testing. Why would Williams say
something so evidently daft? Why would Thompson
repeat it? Is it just a weak way to boast about drinking lots of champagne? Look
a little at Spanish and Arabic wordlists, blow my nose a lot, and wander around in the
sunshine. Up at Oktogon, find the
is in progress. A trailer with an orange theme
slowly crawls past covered in dancing girls dressed in orange throwing us orange
balloons. In the crowds spot several groups of deaf people having hand-signal conversations,
presumably enjoying the gut-vibrating bass line. Return to riverside district.
Bump into two people I have not seen for a year or more. Rex back from Cyprus, and
later Linda, back from the shops with some eggs.
Lots of sleep and rest. Get to Sam's flat at half past ten in the evening,
for a night of driving around Budapest with
Sam, drinking champagne
in a stretch limousine. These vehicles move with a strange smoothness through
traffic. Probably a combination of the psychological effect of smoked-glass windows
and the physical effect of a long chassis cutting out road bumps.
On Scott's instructions, I am again wearing his black leather trousers so that I
can be Detlef, the art-movie director. Filming inside a limousine seems tricky for
Sam & Harlon, especially since Scott has helpfully stocked
the vehicle with Kerstin (looking leggy in black miniskirt and shoes with those straps
that go up the calves),
(in a remarkable Magyar Mystic Meg outfit of hippy wraps
and silver jingly things), Rita (flowing orange outfit with orange turban), and
from Malaysia adding some Oriental charm. At Scott's instigation, we hold a seance
inside the limo led by Keri, (no bee
this time), and he also commands three
of the lovelies to caress me adoringly on film. We visit
where Kerstin buys me an Unicum, and later on dance for
Sam's camera at
where Rita makes me drink a tequila. Enjoyable evening.
Quiet trip back to Budapest by
with headcold still firmly entrenched in my
sinuses, making it hard for me to read. Two fat Hungarians
with child are at the next table in the dining car. At the end of the trip, the
fat male taps me on the shoulder and grinningly gives me his
bill to pay. The waitress smirks and the two fatties chuckle while I examine the
bill and say it isn't mine. Standard example of Hungarian humour: random cheekiness
against easy target.
As he gets off the train, he reassures me that I shouldn't worry because he paid the
bill "for me".
Still snuffling & coughing. Much of day in bed. Late afternoon, Kopany visits
Robin with his two twin daughters. Before
they cycle home at night we stand in the garden looking for
we can name.
Head cold worse. Mope around a bit. We visit the honeymakers, who give me a herbal
remedy that seems to be made of grass. Last thing,
shows me how to make the ginger & lemon tea that Constantine swears by.
Wake up with sore throat. Kasper's birthday party. Conjuror Tamas arrives,
at Robin's last time for Letty's
four years ago. This time in the ping-pong-table room, with some very impressive
rope tricks. He joins us later in the garden for chocolate cake, and does some close-up coin tricks
while in a short-sleeved shirt. All surprisingly fun. Afterwards lots of running around,
sprinting, wheelbarrow race, tug of war.
Robin & I stroll to Sandor's nearby to pick up the motorbike from two nights ago.
We sit with him for an hour in the shade
drinking a couple of white wines with soda, and watch two of his mares pacing around in
the hot sun: a 17-year-old chestnut & a 22-year-old white. I find I need to sleep
after this. I wake up in the late afternoon because visitors have arrived.
Eva brings over a delightful couple from the US,
and we all go swimming with Edina at the oxbow lake. We return to
roast onions and chunks of bacon on a bonfire in the garden. Though slightly chilly,
Robin & I stay out
chatting late around the glowing disc of embers under a sky full of stars and a
horizon rippling with silent lightning. This is probably when I catch my nasty cold.
a friend from Robin's London days, drops by with
his wife Rita & 22-month-old daughter Greta for coffee in the garden. Afterwards
& I pop over to
Tiszakurt to take Kadicsa home and explore the village fair. Tiszakurt turns out
to be dark and crowded, but we enjoy the fireworks from the car. The fair at
Tiszainoka is cosier, and we bump into Danillo again. Calling out the tombola
numbers takes half an hour. Everyone cheers supportively when a chubby girl called
Ancsa wins a prize a second time, but is a little surprised when she has to run out
a third time to collect a prize. By the time
she runs out for her eighth prize the cheers have turned to jeers.
A morning in town hot enough to
make it worth repeatedly crossing onto the shady side of the street.
While buying a present for Kasper, bump into
bravely asks the shop assistant if we can
take the cellophane off the book to look inside. Since the girl has just done her nails
she delegates this job to Terri. I quickly drop in on the
Institute. Crowded train from Budapest to Kecskemet. Robin meets me with
Zsuzsi & Kasper. Later
& I visit a party in the village. We get there at around 11pm. 5 or 6 thin,
grey-haired people are twitching and swaying in front of a head-piercing
wall of sound produced by some tubby, balding electric guitarists. We slowly
gather that everyone has downed a lot of alcohol. Sandor, our host who keeps horses there,
welcomes us, and a lively geophysicist with spectacles is attracted to me the
way a compass needle is attracted to lodestone. I spend the next hour dodging
his embrace. A bowl of beautifully-baked light, fluffy savoury pastries appears,
I find and eat
a pair of two-inch-long marzipan ponies, and Robin is offered a grappa from a jovial
Italian called Danillo who also keeps horses and has lived in the Hungarian countryside
for years. Inside we meet Bela, a dignified white-haired man in a hat who apparently
did a prison sentence for a friend. The police come at half past midnight to ask us to
switch off the painfully loud amplifiers. No-one warns you about this when moving abroad.
You form the decision to leave your home country at some point when a raucous party is
singing along to a Stiff Little Fingers song or a football anthem, gloriously offkey,
only to discover that every country has its own dire music in spades. This
evening's Hungarian rock favourites from the late 70s and early 80s all combine
clever Magyar lyrics with crass guitar licks hovering in a dark
hinterland somewhere between Slade and Kiss.
Once quiet begins, a snoring figure on a makeshift bed, near the drinks table we are
standing at, suddenly awakens and challenges Robin to knock back a second generous
measure of grappa in one gulp. When I ask him what he does in Budapest, the
pear-shaped rebel says in English "I live", adding for defiant clarification
that this breaks down into eating, playing guitar and "fucking womans". While Robin's
eyes water visibly, the sleeper awoken seems unaffected by the grappa.
He waddles outside and starts a quite convincing and thankfully quiet version
want to be a rock and roll star" on an acoustic
guitar, accompanied by another man on tambourine. Robin & I leave, minus the
Izh motorbike, at around one, turning down the chance to walk to another village to
attend another party: probably one of those events that seem to
hold hope only if you are in a group of very drunk men at 1 in the morning.
Morning meeting with Judit, where I try tiramisu-flavoured tea. Bit odd. Later, eat
with Tim on Raday street. Tim shows me one of his children's new British passports
with an embedded chip.
drops by, then Mariann joins us, then Mr Saracco. He
& Tim pour gin down Mariann, while the two men resume an argument about whether real pumps are like
this or like
After this, go with Phil & her to find that the
Library is still closed.
Kasper and me back to Budapest to shop for taps. Later we
who is writing a screenplay for a historical drama. Evening dinner with Hannah &
Marion, talking about democracy.
Long day learning about
In the evening,
& I find Zsuzsi on the sofa, her hair wrapped up in a post-bath
yellow-towel turban, entranced by a film on television. I realise it is
'Gone With The
Wind', and watch a scene where lots of women in bell-shaped skirts
nimbly scamper down corridors. I detect lightweight 20th-century fabrics.
Try to imagine breaking into a run under the weight of a floor-length brocaded
linen frock while breathing within a tight whalebone corset. Of course, fear
is a great motivator.
Take mid-afternoon train to the countryside. The little train from Kecskemet is
another of the modern air-conditioned ones just into service. One or two
older country people sit in thoughtful quiet at intervals down the carriage, smelling
faintly of urine. Reach Tiszaug at 6pm.
the children & me to
where we meet Car Dealer Csaba at the cake shop. Over ice cream served
by the Egyptian goddess girl, Csaba
explains to me in more detail the way he ended up paying lots of extra money for
storage of imported cars at Rotterdam harbour. I promise to try to help. As we bid
farewell to Csaba, Georgina sends me to look for Robin and the children who have
all disappeared to the evening bakery to pick up loaves of warm bread. I walk
5 minutes down the road to fetch them. One side of the road is taken up by a
graveyard with horse-chestnut trees, where a rich sunset stretches from one end of
the sky to the other, bands of salmon-peach light on the horizon capped by a lid of
Early morning read a bit about
grammar. Late morning sound comes
through wall of a girl in next-door flat who seems to get it once a
fortnight or so. She emits a distinctive series of rhythmic muffled whelps, a lot
like those teddy bears which squeak when you thump them. Early evening bump into
Sam at Castro's. Soon after,
go with Constantine to Liia's mellow drinks party. A few days ago, Liia & I found that
we live diagonally opposite each on the same street junction. Bryan & Mihaela are at
the party, and on finding that Liia can pick up WiFi in her flat, they pop over to my
stuffy little room to test my laptop's reception. If it is held out of my window, the
laptop is on the Internet, Bryan learns. Probably it would also work on the balcony of
George & Julia's room, which can be seen from Liia's balcony.
Cover abortion debate for Hannah. Later meet Paul to discuss language teaching.
Early evening, badminton at
gym with Liia, my first game for years.
Morning decaff cappuccino with Peter to hear about technical-writing job. Later I find
I've been sent
interesting video: some weaknesses, but worryingly reasonable in parts.
Meet Mariann at the library to look for Arabic books. In the library cafe downstairs,
she describes what sounds like a trying week in Montenegro. Take bus out to Erd to teach Sari.
Back in town later meet
at a cafe named after Spinoza. Language-learning &
ambiguous Tarot readings.
and Kath see me onto my train at Lakitelek. Two short but nicely-timed
rainstorms during the day mean I leave my washing still wet on the line in Robin's
garden. Peter from the Asylum days rings me up on the train. In the evening, Terri
makes wonderful salad for Liia & I, while I look briefly at
By night and day I keep passing an acronym statement painted in four-inch-high
white letters on the pavement just outside the Bajcsy Zsilinszky exit from the
Deak ter metro. Its nine lines' first letters spell out the vertical word
s-z-e-r-e-t-l-e-k, the Hungarian for "I love you". It appeared a couple of weeks ago
and I noticed then that the lettering matches another pavement declaration
about thirty yards on, just outside a doorway. This second has been repainted once,
and is dated to 6th August 2004, just over two years ago. The older one says in
large, six-inch white letters, "I will love you for ever, Kittenmouth". He makes her
sound striking, and helpfully shows the rest of us where she lives.
Kath arrives from Budapest. We pick her up at Tiszaug and drive to the
bakery again for hot bread. On the way, I suggest we improvise a Ouija board with
scrabble tiles and try to communicate with some spirits in the evening. Kath and
Robin demur politely. I suggest we are in no danger as long as we have a Bible to
hand and remain reasonably resolute. At this second I feel a stabbing needle-like
pain under my right eye. Grabbing at my face with a cupped hand, I find some kind of
insect there. Flung onto the armrest, it turns out to be a confused-looking bee
that blew in through my window and must have hit my face at some speed. Although
there was an injection of poison which hurts for another few minutes, it seems
it did not leave its sting in me, and Kath kills it.
After picking up a freshly-baked loaf, we stop off for ice creams at Tiszakurt. After
dark, Edina & Geza come over to take Kadicsa home. Geza describes the nervousness of
lorry-driving instructors in Hungary. Edina corrects my
Outing with Georgina to
to print out two pages of text and post them.
Surprisingly difficult. After overcoming other hurdles we even find a postbox with
a slot too small for the envelope. Finally, success. In the cafe she drinks a cappuccino
while I eat an excellent pineapple, pear, and
orange-yoghourt flavoured ice cream.
At 4.30am am suddenly woken in the library by loud thrumming of wings beating against
glass. Put light on, thinking a bird is caught between the two window panes,
but instead find a fat rust-coloured moth desperately trying to escape from inside the
glass case of mounted butterflies just by my head. With an almost three-inch wingspan it looks
as if a specimen has come alive. Like a wind-up toy aeroplane, it is frantically
careering from side to side under the glass,
breaking wings and body parts off the deader lepidoptera. I carry the
horridly vibrating case through the sitting room,
past Constantine sleeping on the sofa, and put it in the room beyond.
Place the buzzing box on the map table there, still wondering if
one of the things somehow returned to life. Unsettled by childhood horror of moths &
memories of a nasty sci-fi story about butterflies on pins, I go back to sleep among
At breakfast, Robin explains he put the moth in the case several days ago, thinking it
was dead, so entombing it alive like a
character. Constantine has already gone back to town
on the early bus. We drive
out to the Tiszaug signalmen's hut to catch her
mid-afternoon train to Budapest. We sit in the car on a patch of scrubland
in the rain for ten minutes before the two-carriage train chugs
into view on time. A fully
uniformed stationmaster marches out, waving his coloured disc on a stick. As
Terri clambers up with her bags, the train driver asks us all how old
Robin's Benz is.
Quiet, cloudy day. Constantine cooks up a lovely lunch of meat sauce with black
olives. Georgina drives us to a neighbouring village, and she, Terri, & I have
cakes at the patisserie where
Egyptian-goddess serving blonde works. Her eyeliner extends out a whole inch at
each temple now.
& I go down by train to
On the train I read her Tarot twice. Both times
The Sun and
cards. In Tiszakurt we drink wine & soda outside a bar, waiting for Constantine on his bus.
On route to the house we pick up some warm loaves of bread from an evening bakery staffed
by two amiable village girls.
Visit Hannah & Marion in the morning, and hear about cellar flooding and fallen trees.
kindly gives me some of his clothes in the mid-afternoon. In the evening,
encouragingly lends me a book to read. We try several herbal teas.
Weather cools. Interesting theologian et al.
with Mihaela & Bryan. Thunderstorm.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
up to top of page