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2006
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September 30th; While waiting for Julia's friend Vinto to arrive with car along with George temporarily back from Austria, I do another trip by trolleybus and bus, with a box of books. Arrive and, wonder of wonders, again cannot open door. Opposite neighbour (a non-lemon woman, happily) appears and kindly helps in struggle. After a few minutes, she gets me in. I leave box inside and carry back Nina's now-empty suitcase to old flat. George is back. I pack the suitcase with new stuff, close it and give it to them for trip in small car with only room for three passengers and luggage, and there in the hallway its heavy-duty handle snaps off. Blithely unconcerned, George carries it to the car, casually mentioning an overland trek of several days he once did between two countries in Africa loaded with over three hundred pounds. A couple more trips by car, and one by taxi, take Julia & me to new flat with almost all our things. One more trip tomorrow morning. We get there to find that George has alone moved a double bed apparently built from solid chipboard.
September 29th; Not an ideal day. Get to sleep at 1am, knowing I must rise at 7am to teach the knee surgeon. Woken at 5am by the Dalmation, Samu, whining outside my door like a rusty wheel. Every now and then, Julia, whose brother is the dog's owner, so is in charge of walking and watering the dog, pops out of her door and hisses at it to shut up. At 6am, knowing what a long day awaits me without sleep, I snap, open my door and slap the dog across the face with the back of my hand. Shocked, Samu becomes silent. I lie down and realise that a huge lump is rising on my hand and that I hurt myself on Samu's skull. I might even have broken something. No sleep. Up at 7am, shower, dress, go to student's surgery. He greets me cheerfully, but explains he has already cancelled the lesson with my colleague. I come back to begin moving house in earnest. Pick up large basket of clothes and catch trolleybus. On journey realise am unsure of address, have left behind notebook and also the newer mobile phone with Julia's number on it. I arrive, feel my way across the park, and find what I am sure is the correct building. Instinct tells me the sixth floor, and the door is unambiguous. I put down basket and get out keys. After ten minutes I start to sweat and feel a kind of hollow panic. The keys turn, but the door does not open. I ring on the neighbour's door, and a woman with a face like a dried lemon appears and tells me it is nothing to do with her. Obviously I could not have guessed this fact without her help. Continue to struggle and the door stays locked. I text the only Julia in my older mobile, dimly suspecting (as is in fact the case) that this is not my flatmate but someone else. Phone up twice and leave quietly desperate voice messages for whichever Julia I have telephoned. After half an hour, artist Edit from the gallery opening suddenly rings me and invites me to a garden party on Sunday. A moment of cheer on the increasingly depressing, windowless sixth-floor apartment-block landing. After three-quarters of an hour a charming cleaner suddenly turns up, Tunde, and when I explain my predicament (the caretaker shuttles between several buildings of course) actually offers to go and get him so I don't need to leave my basket of clothes outside the locked door. As she speaks these words, the caretaker, Laszlo, appears, to the surprise of both of us, from another floor. Tunde says she saw me on Thursday night to reassure him. He commences battle with the locked door. After another six or seven minutes he gets it open. Another dodgy security barlock the landlord had vaguely warned us about. Am into the flat. Fighting back instinct to fall down on floor and sniff carpet in gesture of gratitude, I deposit basket, lock door, and walk back through park.
Arrive back in time to meet Robin at station at noon. Then we find Constantine, have some quick lunch, go to the printers as threesome, and organise more name cards. On the street before we separate, Constantine tells us some anecdotes about meeting the Marquis of Bath (he of the "wifelets") in the 1970s when his efforts to make it as a pop star included a record-sleeve recommendation from Des O'Connor. Set off for the new flat with Nina's suitcase, trundling on its little wheels. Trolleybus. Then express bus number 173. Back across the park among the Corbusian high-rise towers that allow there to be lots of suitably municipal park between them. Trundling the suitcase through the green open space that was supposed to transform 20th-century Man, I notice something while walking over it. On the aged asphalt pathway through the grass, an anarchist slogan is painted in three-inch letters across the path. Since it is in dark grey on pale grey - like this website, except with two greys that are much closer together - it is easy to miss for a call to revolution. In capitals in Hungarian, the slogan, with a couple of letters A circled of course, translates roughly as: "Corruption is built into heirarchy! Organise from below!" I reach the correct floor of the correct housing tower, open the door successfully, and get into the flat. Then as I unclip the suitcase and it does not open, I recall my finger slipping against the wheel of the combination lock while on the trolleybus. I realise that I have locked Nina's suitcase and do not know the combination. Feelings of panic return. Slowly restore calm to self, and begin by testing the eight combinations that are one digit away from how it is. One opens. Empty suitcase, leave new flat and return to old flat across town. Julia & I drink rest of Limoncello, making me bleary and relieved. Stumble out into the night for a kebab.

September 28th; Visit printer again. Samu still in hall.
September 27th; Last night read a short book lent to me by Marion - 'Life After Life' by Raymond Moody, a doctor who interviewed about a hundred people in the 1960s and 70s who told him they could remember odd things from periods when they were clinically dead, or came close to death. These include floating around the operating theatre looking at their own body, seeing the famous flashback replay of their own life, and meeting a sympathetic 'being of light' who asks them telepathically what they have learned or accomplished in life. We're a bit used to these stories now, and it is easy to forget how odd everything would be if they were objectively true. A lot like 'Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)', in fact. Saving the best for last, Moody, who has since this book had a whole career documenting these near-death and after-death experiences, gives an example of a hallucination which has nothing to do with death and is stranger than any that do. Apparently some people get 'autoscopic' hallucinations - external visions of themselves, often only from the waist up. Moody cites a bizarre case from the medical literature of a couple two years before marriage who one night saw together a shared autoscopic hallucination of the two of them, so dark as to be almost in silhouette, hugely enlarged, in some trees one evening. They sat together watching their massive illusory images from the waist up talking and gesturing for something like twenty minutes, comparing notes as it happened. Supposedly it wasn't just a weird optical phenomenon, since their silhouettes were talking and gesturing differently from the two subjects. Extraordinary.
Early afternoon meet Boo Boo about magazine editing job.

September 26th; Lovely night with Franc, Esther, Nannette. On the metro journey getting to Franc's, I sat opposite a well-stacked girl wearing a tight tee-shirt that said 'Devil Woman' across her breasts, a large pair of red horns hovering above the word 'Devil' completing the effect. Today, still warm and summery. Tea at Ilan's new flat. Hannah & Marion later.
September 25th; So this is why I'm still single. Thank goodness we've got that sorted out.

September 24th; Last night finished Constantine's copy of 'Charting Made Easy' by John Murphy. He did warn me it was a bit basic, but I learned one or two new things in its short sixty-page span. Until Chapter 13, when oscillators are introduced without any explanation of how they are generated. Lots of Limoncello with Julia as we talk to Samu the diffident Dalmation, back in the hallway for another weekend away from home. Cleaning a flat and contents with no washing machine or bath or vacuum cleaner is a little trying: curious readers should attempt to wash bedsheets in a handbasin some time. Julia and I hang around on her balcony a bit enjoying the sun. Out on the street bump into Liia and go back to hers for a soothing cup of tea on her balcony, not the one facing Julia's, but another one round the back onto a leafy garden. In the evening, run into Diane, Anja & their friends while in Castro's. Most jolly.
September 23rd; Weekend in Budapest. Ice-cream breakfast at sunny cafe table. Learn some endings. See Terri at Internet cafe. Day looks pretty low-key.

September 22nd; Early morning start to meet new student Dr Hehl, a knee surgeon, in his surgery. We look at a working model on his desk, where the ligaments are made of rubber and can be unclipped to see inside the joint. He says almost every woman handball player sooner or later suffers a serious joint injury. 1pm-ish, lunch at an Indian restaurant with Mariann & Phil, where there is a powerful smell of wet paint, an adorable fluffy white dog, and the waiter asks me what a poppadom is. Meanwhile, a possible example of French humour.
September 21st; Hot sun. Radio Maxxima returns. In his office in south Buda, Attila tells me he stayed up several nights to attend the demonstrations in front of Parliament. Long evening bus journey with Julia to see possible new flat in Ujpalota, wherever that is.

September 20th; Szilvia at Europa Cafe. Surprise contact from 2 college friends, Chris & Mr Pye. Nigel of Darkness says: "Big fight in Budapest. We angry people, make angry on street. And make porno - dick in ass! Yes!"
September 19th; Breakfast meeting at Constantine's, where Istvan updates us on 2 nights of demonstrations. Join Andrea & Boo Boo at the bar they want to convert. Evening gallery opening for portraits by Sasha, where I meet Wayne's bride-to-be Paula and fellow artist Edit. Robin sets off to witness 3rd night of disturbances. I see Isabel for cakes, Spanish lesson, & Tarot reading.

September 18th; Slow soothing day, still sleepy from clean air. Robin drives us back to Bergamo, alongside Lake Como. We stop off for an afternoon snack at elegant cake shop with fetching blonde maid. Hot sun. Lots of lorries drive past our shaded pavement table. Reach airport and return hired car. Wait around in confusing, cluttered airport. Spot Italian woman in strange pinafore skirt made to look like an inside-out denim jacket tied round her waist. Normal flight to Hungary, get last metro into town. Chat at Constantine's flat until late.
September 17th; Robin & I have breakfast at a nearby hotel with Giada, a photographer, and two of her friends. I am already pink-faced from unexpected Alpine sunshine the day before, so hide from hot morning sun under big table umbrella. Relaxing day as guests trickle home. Sun turns to drizzle as Robin & I try to visit Maloja Church only to find it locked. There is however a giant chess set outside it (64 flagstones in dark and pale grey plus lightweight plastic pieces two feet high), so we play as light rain continues. Robin wins. By night-time, there are only three or four of us rattling around in the empty corridors of the huge, increasingly Shining-like hotel. Soon to revisit the grandeur of its early days, it has just completed several decades as surely Switzerland's vastest youth hostel, a couple of hundred rooms each fitted out with five or six spotlessly clean pinewood bunkbeds. Just before sleep, I switch on my mobile phone, and receive a Hungarian text from a friend in Budapest inviting me to a spontaneous political rally in front of Parliament, and asking me to pass it on, chain-letter-style. Forward the text to four or five people back in Budapest, and go to sleep.

September 16th; Wake to beautifully clean mountain air. Locate Robin in nearby chalet inn, where some Italian guests of the event are discussing a complicated telecom scandal in Milan & Naples. We breakfast on scrambled eggs. The son of the proprietor comes over to our table in dark glasses, explains he is blind after a car accident, and tells us a series of jokes in English about being blind. Refreshing walk before lunch, during which Rebecca tells me more about Arabic at SOAS. Lovely lunch, interesting-looking talk, but incomprehensible to me and Danish guest Anna because in Italian, from a priest. This is clearly the centre of the weekend. The host Amedeo hovers in the background, tall and shy, as lots of blonde Italian women scattered over the white sofas in the main room listen attentively to the priest's talk. Meet lots more people at dinner. Stay up much too late.
September 15th; Some cleaning & packing. 4pm meet Robin at Budapest airport, where I find a not-obviously sexual message over the top of a doorway in the men's toilets: "UK jobs 00 44 161 437 1232". A Manchester number. Perhaps I should ring it. We fly to Milan, find our travelling partner has left before us, and we manage the exciting challenge, new to either of us, of hiring a car.
With Robin driving, we manage to escape from the road system around Bergamo airport, and enter a sequence of long, sleek tunnels going north. 11pm we surface on a quiet section of street near Lake Como, and find a cake shop open with some local youths hobbling around inside on crutches, and a proud proprietor quietly peering out into the darkness. As soon as we enter and try to communicate, the Italian owner takes us down metal stairs into his kitchens to show us what food is available. Bringing us sandwiches and cold beer he joins us at a table outside on the street and the three of us have a surprisingly successful conversation by mixing Latin-sounding English words and French words in an Italian accent. We drive on through more tunnels, rain, a very low-key Swiss border post, and half an hour of uphill hairpin bends to finally arrive around 1am in the village of Maloja, loomed over impressively by the palace hotel.

September 14th; Teaching down in south Buda. After dark, polish my shoes in the company of Scott & Sam.
September 13th; Order namecards at printer. Take tram 14 to teach Hannah. From inside tram see yellow evening sun lighting only tops of trees and crowning what Larkin called foreheads of houses, like a kind of weightless gold.

September 12th; Hot sun continues. Brief lunch of fruit & chocolate with kind Mariann, followed by a work meeting with Paul at Hungary's Nike office.
In the evening, finish Ilan's copy of 'Tomorrow's Gold' by Marc Faber. A great deal of the book is about stock manias and crazes in past centuries, and has the usual common-sense caveats about distrusting people who talk of new business eras and paradigms. Having lived in Hong Kong since the early 1970s, ex-Lambert-Drexel employee Faber calls himself a contrarian with some justice. His section on the ever-changing list over three thousand years of largest-city-in-the-world is interesting, and there are some lucid moments. The short descriptions of England's South Sea Bubble and John Law's Mississippi scandal in France at the same time are very good. Some sections are slightly muddled in the writing, but the overall approach is sincere and intelligent. Although most of this has appeared elsewhere, contains some reasonable investing advice.
September 11th; In the morning finish Nicole's copy of 'The Historian', by Elizabeth Kostova. For the first twenty pages or so, was very impressed. From there to the end this gradually faded into the desire to get the measure of an "assured" first novel that apparently sells. The novel is told in the first person by a 16-year-old vaguely American girl, growing up in Amsterdam in the 1970s, who discovers an eerie letter inside a book on an upper shelf of her father's library. The letter starts "To my dear and unfortunate successor". Finding out what this means is the first major hook. What the dear and unfortunate reader gets is another novel about Dracula, though one told with conviction. It's the novelist's visibly beady eye on the film rights that's a little offputting. I was quite caught up and then my disbelief unsuspended itself in the first quarter of the book, somewhere between the 1950s Turkish official with bitemarks in his neck, and the sad death of the 1970s Dutch librarian. We get some slightly precious but atmospheric travel-writing about different bits of Europe, some vividly drawn people, summed up by clothes, faces, and mannerisms, becoming almost believable as personalities, and heavy use of the story-within-a-story technique. There is a lot about archives, libraries and old books smelling of leather, vellum, dust, evil and so forth. At one point we are actually four levels of story deep, with a 15th-century letter being quoted in a historical article, being quoted in one of the narrator's father's improbably long letters, being read by her on a train in the "present day" of the 1970s. Kostova is careful to be clear which layer of narrative sediment we are in at any given point, and deftly leads us in and out of the 1970s, the 1950s, the 1930s and other decades back to the 1470s. This nested storytelling probably helps American readers to imagine their way back over distances of history. On the other hand, the to-and-fro rather gives away that you would never really know at any given moment whether you were reading the words of the English academic young in the 1930s or his American graduate student young in the 1950s, unless their names were being mentioned frequently. The plot coincidences are absurd too. If the book has a clear message, it is: Don't do graduate research - you lose lots of sleep and go barmy. However, beneath the surface of this tale of eccentric archivists pursuing clues in old books is the identity-blurring dream that sold it hand over fist. The narrator is somehow 16, American, yet lives in Europe, speaks Dutch and French and has the poignantly yet liberatingly absent mother of all girls' own fiction. Kostova caters assiduously to the American fascinations with Europe, civilisations older than theirs, amazing people who know foreign languages, and family roots. Her strong, understated opening made me hope that the terrible secret or conspiracy might surprise. Later there is again a brief, tantalising moment when two jolly Turkish scholars in 1950s Istanbul gravely announce "We work for the Sultan" - and it looks for half a page as if the book is going to be about something a bit more interesting than vampires.

September 10th; Another hot, sunny day. Fruit juice and chat with Ilan, followed by a wonderfully squiffy evening down in south Pest with Franc & Esther.
September 9th; Hot, sunny day. In the evening, join the expansive Mr Saracco & Adam in Csiga (Snail) Cafe at the Budapest Week reunion of people who worked on the newspaper, possibly unconnected with that website. I leave early, meeting Franc & Esther on the street outside. Later, revisit web pages about Cecil Collins.

September 8th; Meet Tim, Jim, Irish Tony, & Mr Saracco for drinks. For some reason everyone starts calling Tony 'The Pixie'. Mr Saracco shares his Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts with us, and kind Tim orders drinks with chips & vinegar for the group. We sit outdoors: I huddle feebly under a soft red blanket in surprisingly vigorous wind. Tim describes some middle managers at the latest paper mill he is consulting for, as well as alerting us to a recently foiled attempt to overthrow the government of Belgium. Mr Saracco relates how a building site emptied wet cement onto his new vehicle. Jim mentions he finds The Koran bossy and rather lacking in spiritual content. A good craic was had by all, if I spell that right. Later on meet a tired but cheery Franc, who gives me teaching contacts. He describes a Hungarian printing firm that insists it does not need his sample envelope to do his job properly, then phones him up to ask which side is the front of an envelope.
September 7th; Thoughtful article about science hoaxes, bad fingerprint evidence, and overreliance on maths. Robin & I drive along leafy sunlit B roads into Budapest, lunching on arrival, then seeing some lawyers. Meet Politics Judit & Isabel at an early evening gallery opening, then up to the Castle District after dark for some Wine Festival socialising. Isabel points out the crescent moon seems 90 degrees wrong: horizontal like a smile or a slice of melon. Someone tells us there is a lunar eclipse on.

September 6th; Another day of hot sun. An interesting stripe starts to fade into my green shirt on the clothes line. Robin, Bela, & I go to Cserkeszolo, eat some pudding, drop round at Csaba of the Stapled Head to find him not in, then to Sanyi of the Stranded Truck, also not in. As dusk falls we drive slowly back through a rutted lane of powdery soil between banks of high reeds.
September 5th; Robin & I motorbike over to Tiszakurt to borrow blank CDs from Edina. She & Kadicsa share coffee & grapes with us in their earth-walled kitchen. Back at Robin's, we look up websites on Genesis P. Orridge, for example this. (Sample quote: "Our enemies are flat.")

September 4th; Eat ripe plums from one of Robin's trees. Finish library copy of 'Kis Spanyol Nyelvtan' (Short Spanish Grammar) by Judit Kertesz, a handy 100-page review. The similarities of the verb endings in different tenses slightly worrying, but other bits more reasonable. Definitely one of the clearer, better-laid-out grammar books. Ryan phones from America, and recommends George Lakoff & Jeremy Silman.
September 3rd; Robin's daughters go to Kecskemet to start school. Robin, Bela, & I kick a football and a rugby ball around grass littered with crab apples to an Alien Sex Fiend concert recording from the studio. After dark, Robin & I fill a big basket with wood from the stables. We keep a respectful distance from the hornets' nest over the doorway, then take the kindling inside to make the first fire in the sitting-room hearth since spring. Once it is burning, we play Scrabble at the same time as watching 'Top Gear' on television. We are unsure whether 'psis', 'joves', or 'qua' are legal words. Robin wins comfortably.

September 2nd; Wake refreshed after 12 hours sleep in Robin's totally dark guest room. Last weekend saw two small, dim lozenges of light in the blackness. Got up out of bed and felt my way towards them. One is a faintly glowing inch-high sticker of a rabbit on a doorframe from when it was the girls' room. The other is a matching luminous mouse. By night Robin & I attend the local school's 25th anniversary party and meet two cheerful Dutch nurses, Anni & Jenni, speakers of Frysk. On the school wall is a huge piece of marquetry, a ten-foot diameter wooden sunshine by someone called Jolan Torocsik.
September 1st; Up early for breakfast with Ilan, brief tea with Mariann, and some suitcase-moving with Scott to his new room at Nicole's flat. Nicole lends me a book. Nonedescript journey into the Great Plain, although the small train from Kecskemet is delayed and contains an admiring group around a tireless human beatbox. Remember them? Entertaining for a few moments, he twitches his hands to manipulate imaginary record turntables and makes rhythmic squawking sounds for the ninety minutes he occupies our one-carriage train. Hungarians are good at imitation.
Robin meets me in the dark at Lakitelek, in serene mood back from Jozsi the honey-maker down the road.

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Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact@otherlanguages.org

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