with Andy's class goes well. Andy explains banana dance, to general bemusement.
After school, our host teacher Renata and her
husband show me round their
printing firm in Auersthal.
Student Sebastian comes to cooking class proudly wearing chef's hat.
Jolly cooking teacher, also a
Renata, adds to sunny atmosphere in kitchen. Sharp-dressing Elie from New York & exotic
Harry from Madagascar are enormously popular with the children.
teach in nearby
Rather long train journey to Austrian village of Auersthal, accompanied by many other
teachers, including, part of the way, Australian Bob,
We meet Renata, our host teacher, when she & her husband rescue us after dark from windswept
railway platform in neighbouring town.
but feeling very idle.
4th stall at the cartel: mandarins for 398 forints a kilogram. Tea & cookies with
Mariann & Phil & their tropical fish.
me to an article about
languages. Is Israel going to bomb Iran?
from last month.
finds a nice Paris-Metro
at third stall in the market. Like the other two it charges exactly
398 forints a kilogram.
If even greengrocers won't compete on price, it's no wonder this country's poor.
Lesson with Languages Judit, where I try new tea with aloe vera, and then a lesson
as he tells me about someone's theory of the
seven stages of birth.
Gabor, formerly of
He explains what was bad about
[a few ex-Asylum programmers are still building on it for
new owner] & Asylum's business plan, and what his
new employer gets right. We remember former colleagues.
Soothing tea with Kath, looking at
Wake, still ill. Get to the sinister, high-ceilinged
Restaurant inside Keleti
station to meet Jeff at 4pm and repay his loan from Friday night. He is with some
other teachers, including the dapper Elie, just off for another week in Austria.
Last night finished a library copy of Anthony Powell's
Fisher King' in a crowded 15th-district
pizzeria with Barry White music playing. A curious book
which, from what I hear, does the same thing as Powell's 'Dance to the Music of Time'
cycle of novels: realistic writing about everyday gossiping characters hinting
at epic, timeless archetypes.
Boat cruise round British coast some date like
late 1960s or early 70s. Other guests on the boat gossip and speculate about
two passengers: the
beautiful young ballerina who has given up her dance career to nurse an elderly,
crippled photographer. Stranger, more intriguing storytelling than I expected.
Wake in Budapest flat on sofa, still ill. Sky grey. Has the
howling dog gone
floor-skip feature seems to have been mended during
Friday. Aroma of burnt bacon from Andy's cooking class fills entire
school. Much frantic rehearsing in main gym. As my class practise, a perky girl
in costume bounces over to me, says that her
class told me the date of the town wall wrong and, on
checking, have since found that it's more than 500 years old.
Noon arrives, hall fills with chairs,
parents and other children under calm guidance of Melitta.
We somehow get through our four classes' presentations. A
number of sketches involve students falling over, dressing as police officers,
and making wonderfully direct declarations of love for each in simulated TV shows and
theatre auditions. However, one of my class's sketches, some
kind of match-making game show, has some surprisingly sophisticated humour when I
watch it the tenth time. Since I did none of the writing, I realise Scott & Jeff are
right, and I should trust students to be more creative. We say goodbye to everyone.
Johannes chauffeurs Jeff & me
across border to Szentgotthard, with me, full of medication by now, suffering
travel sickness on the smooth, zig-zaggy hour-long drive.
In Szentgotthard, the greyer,
Midwich-Cuckoos mood of
Hungary quickly replaces the more upbeat,
feel of Austria. We enter
a deserted railway station decorated in brown, dark brown, and black,
to wait ten minutes at an unmanned ticket window, watching a key
and padlock swinging in an apparently just-abandoned office. We
retreat to the restaurant over the road, where a waiter sunk in infinite gloom brings
us the nastiest beer I have drunk in several years, but a quite enjoyable pizza.
Tinted windows simulate the look of imminent dusk for the whole hour we sit there
while Jeff tells me over our meal how crass he found the high
from crack cocaine when he tried it in the US.
We are finally able to buy train tickets. Szentgotthard's empty station gives the strong
impression that the whole of Hungary has been evacuated during our week in Austria
due to some obscure official emergency. We get on a deserted Austrian
train which is spotlessly clean, has strips of fluorescent orange in various places,
and a recorded woman on the tannoy pronouncing Hungarian town names in a strong
Germanic accent. Jeff and I change trains at Szombathely. We find a dining car bound
for Budapest, also empty, where a manic waiter greets us with the heartfelt
love of a man who has been drinking heavily for several hours. He croons with passionate
pride over the soup he has just got out of a tin for us. He repeatedly comes back to
instruct Jeff to eat his main dish more quickly and to drink more schnapps, while
I mix aspirin into my herbal tea.
agitated at the drunken waiter's 15th attempt to get me to order a drink I have
made completely clear I do not want, and Jeff has to calm me down. Over the day of
travel, Jeff & I talk about people we know in common. He mentions his last formal
contact from Jeremy's
Zita a year or so ago.
In this scene from the recent past, Jeremy, a guest at
Jeff's flat, is relaxing and does not take several calls from Zita on his phone. Zita
then sends two text messages in rapid succession to Jeff's phone, first pleading, then
demanding, that he make Jeremy phone her. Her third text to Jeff's phone in a space
of ten minutes reads simply
a message Jeff now treasures as Zita's last
direct communication with him. We discuss other interesting topics until we arrive
in Budapest and are freed from our comedy food vendor. Jeff & I split at Ferenciek
square at around 10.30pm after over eight hours of travel from Austria.
I carry my two bags over to Castro's restaurant, find no space to sit, and trudge
back to catch a late bus home. Out of a dark corner on the street two girls emerge,
asking me for
directions to an absurdly well-known nearby part of town. As we walk together towards
the bus stop we all need, I explain I am ill, tired, carrying two heavy bags and just
minutes back from a week of work in Austria. In turn I learn that Lili, the confident,
bubbly one who first hailed me, is planning to begin anthropology at university so as
to study Arabic, while her less cheerful friend Claudia is living in Arizona. I mention
my laziness studying Arabic with Edina, and Languages Judit's success in getting on to
her Spanish & Arabic course. By the time we are on the bus together, I have the faint
yet distinct sense that seconds before meeting me, Lili had been saying something
like "Don't be silly, Claudia.
It's easy. Men are everywhere. There's one
right there. Come on, just watch this."
As I stand out of the way for them to get off
our bus at their supposed destination, a sudden stony-faced expression from Lili
suggests that, indeed, she just lost some kind of bet with her friend that I will
ask for a phone number, escort them somewhere, or give similar proof of
the ease of handling men. Dazed, I sink gratefully into an empty
seat to ride the bus the rest of the way out to my suburb and home and rest.
Entertaining anecdotes of last night at breakfast from my three colleagues, all
manfully coping with impressive lack of sleep.
My cooking lesson goes slightly awry, and rather bland banana cake emerges from
the three ovens. I think there was too little nutmeg and cloves.
Student Florian suggests there was also too much cinnamon. My class's
sketches for Friday's performance begin to take shape. Glaswegian teacher Jeff
reports finding on arrival in one class that a fat
boy had sticky-taped a smaller boy's limbs, body, and head to a chair, the sellotape
cocoon apparently distorting the small boy's face into something rather like a Francis
Yes, I'm definitely ill. Almost certainly something from one of the children: one girl
from Monday missing already yesterday and today. Last night's ten hours of sleep did
not restore my health. The teachers are sweetly plying me with healing powders during
the day. Afternoon lessons are a successful game of indoor cricket with Andy's class
in the large gymnasium, which has a section of the old town wall behind the wooden
fittings. At 6pm I join everyone at a local restaurant in the
A meal teachers generously invite us to, to feast on local meats, cheeses and -
in my colleagues' case - local wines. I am sitting next to a slightly worrying
stuffed creature in a corner display niche which has the body of a squirrel, the wings
of an owl, and the horns of a miniature goat. Cheerful conversation ranges widely. I
meet the buoyant Petra, and our host teacher Melitta kindly drives me
back to get to sleep early
while the others revel into the night. Apparently later they are bought drinks by a
singer whose car almost ran over my class yesterday as we examined
the "First World War" town wall.
Shy students debate
First day teaching. Teachers extremely welcoming, students more charming than usual.
School is an adapted palace [Late Baroque?] in an
walled section of town inside a
dried-out twenty-foot-deep moat lined with grass and moss. Slovenia is over the
river bridge at the other end of town.
Wake at 4am in dark, visualising oblong grids. Have hot bath to become
sleepy again, then dream of a settee flying among the stars. Pleasant train trip
in dining car with flip-up seats to
to meet Margit. By mid-afternoon have reached
Radkersburg on the
Austrian-Slovenian border. Hotel has pale-wood furniture in the large, comfortable
rooms and ceramic tortoises with wooden rabbits on the floor in the hall downstairs.
There are four of
us and the others are Jeff from Glasgow [apparently I sent him a weird poem by
phone text some time ago], Andy who I taught with at Steinach two years ago, and
Scott from near Glasgow.
What a relief.
worry off my mind.
centre again. Manage to buy new belt. Mildly amusing
typo on shopping-centre website:
large banner headline reads "Yesterday, Today,
Home page" since the Hungarian words for 'Home page' &
'Tomorrow' are the same with two letters swapped. Up several days now.
Wonder when they'll notice that. Left hand now completely healed from
Dalmation in autumn. Right arm still healing from being bitten by
Robin's large white
Good with dogs, me.
Summoning lift to 6th floor to leave apartment block today, realise something was slowly
becoming aware of. If lift is above the floor I am on, the indicator often goes
up one floor for a second before starting down. Today it is resting
on floor 9, according to a little red electronic number. I press the button to
bring it down, and the illuminated 9 becomes a 10 for a second, then back to 9,
before going 8, 7, 6. As if
the lift is jolted up a fraction of inch by the circuit closing, so registering
the next floor before starting down.
Warm, mild, westerly winds outside as I walk to
Enter the crowded assortment of stalls that makes up the market. An outer
perimeter of one-storey shops assembled out of non-matching prefab kits
hides an inner ring of more traditional wooden stalls covered in vegetables. These in turn
surround a market hall which is a recently-built steel warehouse shed filled with small
stalls. Inside this hall stalls and shacks line the inner wall, in turn surrounding an
entire one-storey supermarket completely contained within the steel shed. I wonder if the
supermarket was there first and the shed got built over the top, or whether the shed was
put up first, and the supermarket was then assembled inside. Passing one stall inside
the shed but outside the supermarket, I see a large solid sign in heavy plastic jutting
out at right angles to the storefront. Printed on one side is the Hungarian word for
MEAT in big clear letters.
On the other side is printed the Hungarian for
FAT in the same font.
Pleasant pizza lunch with Mariann near Moszkva square.
The book arrived.
See Andrea for lesson in the morning at
Auguszt cafe. Then to the
Statue Park [or 'Staue Park'
as it spells itself in its English signs] for some work with Film-maker Paul. Under
grey, thundery skies we meet the sunny Elisa and Jorge, both from Madrid,
also making a film. The four of us are the only visitors there the whole afternoon.
On the bus back into town, Paul & I chat about Jesus.
In the evening, I find that my microphone and
account are working after all.
centre. Eat crisps.
Day of sloth.
Cartier-Bresson slide show.
Quiet day. Meet Muhammad, who has nasty cough. Finally see some of the famous
Turns out to be just another dull American TV comedy. Found
one a bit more interesting. Or, on quite another level,
Back to warm, mild winter. Dine with
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