& family go to Budapest for day leaving me in charge of stove and fireplace.
Both keep going out, and I keep relighting them with soap-powder
boxes. Smoke scents kitchen. Genuinely chilly outside.
Scott & Sam's
Get a sweet card from Zsuzsi. Eerie quiet at
Stove in kitchen fuelled up again with chopped wood. First damp, cloudy day in weeks.
Strangely warm blustery wind billows my shirts on the line as darkness falls. Sense
of something out there in the night.
Wake up at
in the countryside, and do an hour of English with Evi & Tunde over from
the village. Afternoon, play some tennis with Letty to the sound of 60s music
(Walking back to Happiness;
Cupid, Draw back your Bow;
Lion Sleeps Tonight)
and then 70s music (songs of
coming from the studio.
Late morning visit with Clemence to
Museum to see press photo show.
We stray into disturbingly deserted permanent exhibition full of silent dummies wearing
Hungarian folk costumes. Videos of Translyvanian craftsmen playing to empty rooms.
Meet Robin for mid-afternoon train to Great Plain.
Hear poor Julia coughing next door in small hours.
Pleasant couple of beers at sunny afternoon street bar with Language School Paul,
hearing of a new teaching project. After dark at
with the elegant Clemence.
Train to Budapest.
& I join a group including Neil, Agnieszka, Zsuzsa G., Zsolna for curry.
video of rioting in Budapest.
Car Dealer Csaba comes over with his friend Istvan, driving a very pretty 1940s
in a colour apparently known even in Hungary as "British racing
green". Increased sluggishness of the usually frantic
alarms everyone and at the end of the day
& I drive him over to the vet in Tiszakurt
with Bela. Lupi stands on the back seat of Robin's 1970s Benz, looking large as usual. The car
radiator dries up and we just make the two-mile journey. The vet diagnoses the dog as having
something like pneumonia, gives him an injection, and supplies tap water to refill the Benz,
as a local builder offers Robin some new tyres. Night falls. While changing the car's oil,
Petrol Station Csaba tells us laser treatment on his right eye has improved his vision hugely.
Late in the evening, Robin & I watch
of demonstrators in Budapest facing off against riot police.
Surprisingly quickly got used to the big wood-burning stove
Robin has put in the middle
of his kitchen since last weekend. Enamelled a handsome blueish mid-green, it has a long
white-painted pipe with an L-bend leading up into a high corner of the wall. Much of
the afternoon Robin & I are mending the slightly ramshackle front gates built out of
lengths of plank and chickenwire nailed together, a bit prone to collapse.
Digging the posthole deep enough to get the rotten wood from the previous post out is
the main challenge. Around 3pm Zsuzsa from the
Sun strolls by with a friend. Geza comes
over as the late-afternoon sunlight gets low and golden. As we remount the gate,
he tells us about his lorrydriving adventures in Britain, Italy, Turkey and Spain.
Gate finished, Robin & I cycle into the village to meet a possible English student
for me called Eva, the sun an intense orange-pink by the time it goes down.
In hot morning sun, I peg up my wet clothes to dry. Usual childish enjoyment in attaching
a deep blue shirt to the line with a bright yellow peg, and so on. In the afternoon,
out to the edge of the field with Robin, Zsuzsa, Bela and the dogs, for some firewood
chopping. Robin, Zsuzsa, & I pop up a tree to saw at a big branch. I foolishly walk
through a field full of shoulder-high spiky kindling, and get my shirt and arms
needled with irritatingly tiny thorns. One journey back manages to carry
Robin, myself, two children, a ladder, a ten-foot branch and quite a lot of firewood
on the Izh motorbike & sidecar. In the evening, Robin & I accompany Letty to a
party, the first organisational test of the new mayor, a blonde woman in her thirties.
She mingles with revellers, anxiously checking that everyone is happy with food & drink.
A light, happy atmosphere. A cheerful man in a white pullover turns up, supposedly
on the run from the police the last couple of months for growing marajuana under lamps
in an abandoned village building. At about the time some of the previous mayor's livestock
were found stabbed dead. Trayfuls of small plastic cups of home-made spirits in various
interesting colours are brought round. Several stocky girls in traditional Magyar outfits
(which apparently means red-satin waistcoats with billowing white skirts and orange
ribbons) get up on stage and dance La Bamba.
Peaceful train journey south to
Odd thing about living out here among the tower blocks is how many adored,
carefully-looked-after dogs there are. Caught several groups of people, a week
ago at dusk, walking their dogs in the huge park, greeting each other in a friendly way.
Almost being civic - at least as
defined 'civic'. About three days
ago was overtaken on walk back to my building by a little girl, perhaps 9, on one of
those scooters you have to kick along, like a skateboard with handlebars, racing some
little fluffy dog back home. She told me it was a Shi-Tzu, like Puppy in Holland. This
was so long-haired and thoroughly-brushed that no running legs were visible.
It looked more like a very furry
brown-and-cream patterned cushion bouncing along in a kind of repeated flopping
movement. The way an enthusiastic pillow might bound along behind its little-girl
owner if it could.
Today, go into town to do more sound recording for
airline. After this meet
Russian filmmaker Paul at Oktogon so he can pay me for last week. He has his baby girl
with him in a small pram. He explains he is changing his
mobile phone provider from
operate sex-chat lines, and he feels these are humiliating to women and, naturally
enough, conflict with his Christian beliefs.
Woken by smell of something burning in another flat in the tower block. Otherwise a
quiet day in the
typing in draft of article. Go out mid-afternoon and visit the glass box patisserie,
another of those Bauhaus
cafes with steel furniture and mirrored cases
Like laboratories of cake science.
Attend court in the provincial town of Heves as moral support for
along with her lawyer Emese. Emese's father drives us out to
Heves and back. Most peculiar
couple of hours. Terri's one-time builder she is suing counteraccuses her in court
of sexually harassing him, stealing his tools, and (when she mentions him giving her
false addresses, not answering her phone calls, and forcing her to track him down
through the Scientology Church) of being elusive when he tried to reach her.
He seems to have learned much of the
confidence and dominance body-language.
Judging by her persistent, manic stare, his long-legged blonde friend sitting to my right
is also a spiritual student of
Ron Hubbard. For about an hour and a half she stares fixedly in 8 or 9-minute bursts
at myself, Terri, her lawyer, and the interpreter in turn. All complain of this afterwards.
Towards the end, when even the timid judge seems to tire of the builder's repeated claims
that Terri demanded sex, and insists that the two respondents' private lives have no
bearing on the case, the long-legged blonde suddenly shouts out "But
that doesn't exclude it as a motive!", suggesting that her
staring might not only be Scientology technique. Despite the fact
that he is in breach of a contract he wrote, signed and apparently tried hard to avoid
honouring, Zsolt appears impressively unembarrassed.
Of course, I've met plenty of non-Scientologist
Hungarians quick to angrily accuse you of exactly the offence they have committed,
investing their attack with intense self-belief. The intent - or at least effect - is
to stun and disorient more honest victims with their sheer shamelessness. Nonetheless,
Scientology looks like it's good for amplifying this tactic.
The judge seems sympathetic to him,
despite all the written evidence Terri has amassed. Perhaps a small-town effect:
both Terri and Emese the lawyer tell me that, at the previous session, this judge
puzzled them by saying she could not understand why Terri was suing (her Hungarian builder
for installing dangerous wiring into her Hungarian flat) in
Hungary. Either chronic ignorance of the law or simple bias on the justice's part must be
the two leading candidates.
I manage to use the time to write a first draft of a magazine
article about languages. Back in Budapest, Terri invites me for dinner at
Goa. Even later dawns on
me that with a woman judge, two women lawyers, a woman interpreter, a woman
respondent, and a woman spectator, Zsolt and I were the only males, outnumbered three to
one in a curiously tiny chamber about half the size of a school classroom,
stocked with classroom-style, pale-wood furniture.
Try this nifty little
square thing recommended by
Robin chops wood. Then we take dog Vicki in motorbike sidecar to Cserkeszolo along
dusty rutted paths between fields of beige grass, past piles of vivid yellow
sweetcorn cobs. At Lakitelek, emerges that all the
have disappeared. Robin &
I explore some fields full of brown weeds as evening falls, until our clothes are
studded with spiky little burrs. He kindly drives me to Kecskemet, where we find trains
will take another hour and a half, so we have some soup, then pancakes with curds &
cherries in a quietly grand, almost empty restaurant with custard-coloured tablecloths.
Back at station, services delayed by another half hour, but finish my Arabic homework
on a train which finally takes me back to Budapest.
suggests that the lump on the back of my left hand where I hit Samu the Dalmation
and I still get sudden flashes of pain every now and then is a torn ligament or tendon.
Lovely thought. Whole family goes for afternoon walk with dogs, during which Letty
& I chat about demons.
Relatively low-key Friday 13th. Send postcards to people at
RoF. Buy some
washing powder. A couple of days ago read to end of out-of-print
'Spanyol igei vonzatok' ['Spanish
verb phrases'] by Julio Zavaleta & Ildiko Szakolczai, from the library. Tidy little
breeze through a list of Spanish verbs. Favourite sample sentence, on page 77:
"La gitanilla me instruyo en las artes magicas." [The Gypsy girl instructed me in the arts of magic.] Useful at
the airport, obviously. Last time we met,
pointed out several odd
forms and even mistakes in this book and in the grammar book by Judit Kertesz, so
shall take whole thing with pinch of salt. Catch train to
Robin's. Night air getting
chilly now, spiced with that sharp, smoky scent of burning stubble.
Wake up refreshed thinking about forgiveness and love. Who's that chap in India with
the hairdo who teaches unconditional love? Ah yes,
he is. Have cold shower in bathroom. Notice pack of tissues on top of washing machine.
On one side is a cartoon of a yellow duck wearing a space helmet flying through a blue
night sky of stars, with a rhyme below, in
English: "Once upon a time in space, Shaggy found another
race." On the other side of the pack of tissues the night sky
continues, with a brightly coloured title 'Zeva - Kids' and something looking like a cross
between a large, cheerful dog and a spaceship, helpfully labelled 'Shaggy'. Go out in
glorious sunshine, hair drying in a few moments. A dusty strip of street-front shacks and
prefabs surrounds a rambling cluster of covered stalls, where I buy a medium-sized white
fluffy towel from a Vietnamese-looking woman. On the bus trip across town to teach Miklos,
cross a bridge at the same time a train with lots of beautifully-restored
prewar carriages in burgundy & cream passes under it. On the second bus, a girl gets on
with a tight shirt carrying a huge emblem of a royal crown in gold on a black
background across her chest.
Gold capital letters on a rippling banner say in English 'Dogs
Rule' over the top of the crown.
In the lesson Miklos & I discuss lighting & colour. After, still in bright sun, I
cross back over the Danube to start another evening of filming with
Scott & Sam.
Full day of filming. First at
Schiller showrooms up near Gyongyosi street for Paul, a Russian
filmmaker, where I am paired with the bonny Melinda for an afternoon shooting a car-showroom-based
English-language-teaching video. From there straight to
for some more merry filming as Detlef with him & Sam. This in Scott's
swish new flat with its uncanny resemblance to Helen Mirren's Barbican apartment
Long Good Friday'.
Meet Mihaela for cake & drinks at another patisserie near
her office. One of the
modernist cafes, all brushed-steel tables, mirrored cake cabinets, gleaming coffee
We sit outside,
and surprisingly hot sun forces us into the shade.
Clear some of boxes from floor.
Try exciting new route to see Marion & Hannah, involving the red 96 bus speeding through
districts I've never visited, like
all in bright sunshine.
Wake up in narrow room in
where boxes piled on the floor leave a corridor just
big enough for me to get to the door, and just about open it. Of course,
whoever built this room made things more fun by putting the light switch
behind the hinge of the door.
Moving house is like
being burgled, except that you do it to yourself. Have filled wardrobe
and unpacked books, so am wondering where to put the rest. How do I start?
By buying a proper towel? Or by building myself a larger bedroom somewhere like
More lounging around in Edit's sunny garden. We return to town so she can attend
Wayne & Paula's wedding. The number 2 tram stops because hundreds of
protesters outside Parliament are standing on the tracks singing Hungary's
national anthem, making us even later. As a wedding gift,
Edit takes seven orange straw shopping bags, each with a polished red apple
inside. I leave her outside the reception changing into high heels at
the police barrier. A couple of streets away a brief motorcade passes
of people shouting and waving big Turkish flags.
While talking about
children's drawings, Edit & I find it
is so hot in her Budakeszi garden we have to sunbathe. Remarkable a week into October.
Apparently the boy who made the drawing of bats, owls, and foxes we look at, called
'What happens in the night', lives at the other end of the village, next to a wood
inhabited by wild boar. Make trip into town to meet Paul about teaching: we have a
drink at a bar outdoors in late-evening sun. Back in Budakeszi after dark, the dust
track Edit lives down seems more winding than by day. The usual untrained dogs yap
& howl at each other while an almost-full moon
hangs like a dinner gong over the woodland at the other end of the village.
Long sleep. Teach in south Buda, where I learn about valves and switches. For example,
if you manufacture special
electrical switches for use in places like oil
refineries or flour mills where a
spark can set off an explosion, one trick is to pack the switch box full of sand.
Attend a poetry reading in memory of Zsuzsa Beney, who died a
couple of months ago, including selections from her
final book of essays, called
'Moebius Strip'. Since
her writing, certainly any of
writing which I translated, is rather on the bleak,
dark side anyway, quite a sobering 3/4 of an hour.
More cheeringly, earlier in the afternoon, in warm, tree-shaded sunshine down Andrassy
street suddenly come upon Sasha walking the opposite way in a very good mood. Sasha
radiates a powerful positive spirit, and his unEnglish habit of hugging me tends to
leave me feeling blessed. I was reminded of the time a couple of years ago
I chanced on Raphael in the middle of Andrassy street in front of a wall of vehicles
waiting at the lights. He was in his usual white shirt open almost to the waist
with chunky, Greek-style silver crosses. Somehow Raphael, another tactile hugger,
slowed down time: we strolled back across the road arm-in-arm at truly
Mediterranean pace with no fear of the lights changing against us.
Wake up on sofa on sixth floor of tower block in Ujpalota to sound of power drill in either floor
or ceiling. So loud, cannot tell which. In town, meet Tim for
From upstairs window of tea house get to watch Tim
negotiate urgently with parking attendant.
Wake up in Edit's sitting room. Red, pink & orange predominate. Lots of books. Briefly flick through
her magazines, then we set off into
town, where I wander around a bit, then go to new flat to sleep more.
Complex day. Back of left hand now mauve, brown & yellow from
Friday's impact with Samu the Dalmation's head.
Move last consignment in car driven by Julia's friend Arpad. We drive serenely through
eastern Budapest to Arpad's choice of classical music. Everyone is very tactful about
my four-foot wingspan
inflateable aeroplane squashed into the back with George and me. Moving finished, catch bus back into
town to collect money off Kalman, then go to Edit's garden party in Budakeszi where I meet her friends Jelena,
Nella, & Annamaria, and we all peel some potatos and drink wine together. I sew button back on shirt. Hurry back
to Pest to introduce first cut of
comedy pilot to crowd in Scottish bar. Isabel & Keri arrive and a
good number of people gather, who seem, like Kerstin, in good spirits. Take bus back to garden party in Budakeszi, where I meet
Jane & Tamas around dying embers of bonfire. Look through computer file of some of Edit's art installations. Intoxication ensues.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com
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