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2007
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February 28th; Cricket match 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.

February 27th; Children enjoy cake-baking. 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.
February 26th; Sleep in Auersthal, teach in nearby Matzen.

February 25th; Rather long train journey to Austrian village of Auersthal, accompanied by many other teachers, including, part of the way, Australian Bob, Dallan & Nick. We meet Renata, our host teacher, when she & her husband rescue us after dark from windswept railway platform in neighbouring town.
February 24th; Lots to do, but feeling very idle.

February 23rd; Health returning. Test-drive some CMSs.
February 22nd; 4th stall at the cartel: mandarins for 398 forints a kilogram. Tea & cookies with Mariann & Phil & their tropical fish. Rob alerts me to an article about dying languages. Is Israel going to bomb Iran? Article from last month. Yubo finds a nice Paris-Metro sing-song.

February 21st; Buy mandarins 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 eating chocolates with Miklos, as he tells me about someone's theory of the seven stages of birth.
February 20th; Lunch with Gabor, formerly of Asylum. He explains what was bad about Asterisk [a few ex-Asylum programmers are still building on it for Asylum's new owner] & Asylum's business plan, and what his new employer gets right. We remember former colleagues.

February 19th; Soothing tea with Kath, looking at fabrics.
February 18th; Wake, still ill. Get to the sinister, high-ceilinged Baross 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 'The 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.

February 17th; Wake in Budapest flat on sofa, still ill. Sky grey. Has the hoarsely howling dog gone away? Lift-indicator floor-skip feature seems to have been mended during week abroad.
February 16th; 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, Stepford-Wives 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. I become 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 "Fuck you", 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.

February 15th; 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 [Jeremy's friend] 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 Bacon painting.
February 14th; 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 buschenschank tradition. 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 night-club singer whose car almost ran over my class yesterday as we examined the "First World War" town wall.

February 13th; Shy students debate Valentine's Day.
February 12th; First day teaching. Teachers extremely welcoming, students more charming than usual. School is an adapted palace [Late Baroque?] in an old 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.

February 11th; 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 Szentgotthard to meet Margit. By mid-afternoon have reached Bad 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.
February 10th; What a relief. Another worry off my mind.

February 9th; Shopping 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 hitting Dalmation in autumn. Right arm still healing from being bitten by Robin's large white Komondor last month.
Good with dogs, me.
February 8th; 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 market. 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.

February 7th; Thank you Elysia! The book arrived.
February 6th; 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 Skype account are working after all.

February 5th; Lorenzo Albacete on death.
February 4th; Go round shopping centre. Eat crisps.

February 3rd; Day of sloth. Cartier-Bresson slide show.
February 2nd; Quiet day. Meet Muhammad, who has nasty cough. Finally see some of the famous Seinfeld. Turns out to be just another dull American TV comedy. Found this one a bit more interesting. Or, on quite another level, this.

February 1st; Back to warm, mild winter. Dine with Tim.

Mark Griffith, site administrator

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