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2007
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April 30th; Signs of moderate recovery from mother. Read Hebden Library copy of 'The Rise of Political Lying' by Peter Oborne. Oborne claims that the Conservative governments of the late 1980s and early 1990s were marred by deceit from a handful of mavericks like Neil Hamilton and Jeffrey Archer, while the post-1997 Labour governments have been marked by institutionalised lying - implicating ministers, ministries, No. 10 Downing Street, and the government as a whole. Carefully argued.
April 29th; Church, then hospital. Judith drives back north.

April 28th; Day at hospital with mother & Judith. Dinner with Judith in evening.
April 27th; Judith drives down from Scotland for the weekend to see mother. We realise we have not met face to face for a couple of decades.

April 26th; Last night finish mother's copy of the sternly-titled 'A Series of Lessons in Raja Yoga' by Yogi Ramacharaka, reprinted from 1905 at some point in the early 1960s. Serious stuff - lots of repetition, as a good course of lessons should probably have. Today, attend midday Communion on the correct day. Visit hospital in the afternoon.
April 25th; Gorgeous spring weather. I go to midday Holy Communion at St Michael's but find it locked. Julia, clearing dead flowers out of the sunny churchyard, says it is on Thursdays, despite the notice. She mentions her husband takes Modern Greek evening classes in Huddersfield and tells me about the church music group. Mother seems slightly better today when I visit.

April 24th; Mother weak. Baptist church poster sobers up. I should be less harsh.
April 23rd; See cardiologist at hospital. Story of mother's weak heart confirmed. Very slight improvement.

April 22nd; Acting on a suggestion of mother's yesterday while partly lucid, I go to a church in Mytholmroyd this Sunday morning, and find it quite a help. There is a sermon about Jesus helping the fishing disciples net 153 fish, and the preacher cheerily mentions that Augustine said the significance of this was that 153 is the 17th triangular number, and the triangle symbolises the holy trinity. After the service, Graham kindly introduces me in the church hall next door to Tim and Sara, who live on a narrowboat in Hebden Bridge. They share boisterous tales of Inland-Waterways inspectors being thrown in the canal by Hebden hippies. At hospital, mother still frail. A kindly Rof friend phones in the evening to cheer me up.
April 21st; Visit mother in hospital. No improvement. Finish her copy of Colin Wilson's 'The Outsider', the book that made him famous at 24 as one of the "angry young men" in the mid-1950s. Nothing about the book struck me as particularly angry or young. It is a confident, sweeping discussion of "outsiders" in modern literature, tracing them back from 20th-century existentialists like Sartre to mystics like William Blake and George Fox. Dostoyevsky gets respectfully discussed in detail, as do Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Wilson concludes that existentialism & nihilism are spiritual urges, not always recognised as such. Some of the book was quite heavy-duty - though clearly written - because the themes of wasted life and moral failure made difficult reading matter this weekend.

April 20th; Go to hospital. Mother incoherent.
April 19th; Mother very ill. Get doctor, then ambulance. All streets in time are visited. Ambulance crew very cheery & kind. Spend whole day at hospital.

April 18th; Take mother to chiropodist. Sunny, then chilly.
April 17th; Read mother's copy of 'Evolution' by Colin Patterson. One of those books that tells you it's a textbook by repeated use of one extra colour when simple black-and-white diagrams would have been more attractive. In this case the colour is a slightly weak orange, in a paler and brighter version. The diagrams are clear otherwise, and Patterson dives into subtleties: ring species which are two subspecies that can interbreed in one place and two separate species in another location, evolution of blood haemoglobin, neutralism and junk DNA. Hard-going in places, but very good.

April 16th; Visit pharmacist. Valley drenched in bright, even hot, sunshine. Meet cheerful, though limping, 9 or 10-year-old boy who gives me directions. He hails his sister down the street and she does not react. "You see? Told you Bethany's as deaf as a post." he says sadly, shaking his head at the ways of the world.
April 15th; Try to work on Internet at bar in Hebden. A large group of cheerful men arrive - the type who cannot sing, so therefore sing very loudly. I hope we can still count on them to care about freedom.

April 14th; Finish mother's copy of 'Beau Brummell', a biography by Ian Kelly of the dandy who got early-19th-century London society men wearing the forerunner of the modern suit and tie. His early rise is fun to read about. Brummell seems to have had enormous aplomb and luck, the ability to make people laugh, and an instinctive sense of style. The long slow decline of his fortunes from about 1815 is harrowing however, including detailed descriptions of his syphilis-induced madness in increasingly sad French hotels, prisons and asylums. The accumulating mass of begging letters from someone once so insouciant also make for rather a distressing read. In a final afterword, Kelly suggests Brummell not only changed fashion, but founded a type that lingered on in France and England. That he inspired aesthete dandies of the 1890s like Beerbohm and Wilde, fictional characters like Raffles, Hanney, or James Bond. Even that this founding example of modern 'cool' crossed the sex boundary for Coco Chanel to pull off a similar restyling of women's clothing in early-20th-century France. This section could have been longer, and the long, slow humiliation of Brummell's slide into debt and pathos could have been a bit shorter for my taste. His wit hasn't quite aged well: clearly you "had to be there at the time". Only when the Prince of Wales throws a glass of wine in Brummell's face sitting to his right, and Brummell immediately throws his own glassful in the face of the person to his right, cheerfully crying "The Prince's toast: pass it on!" do we really glimpse the quickness that makes someone remembered as a wit, even if not much they said sounds witty two centuries of context later.
April 13th; Dr Orange phones me. He says mother's condition is irreversible.

April 12th; More warm sun. Quiet day with mother.
April 11th; Warm sun. Britain's government to publicise where ex-criminals live so as to promote witch hunts.

April 10th; Some improvement: mother tries crossword. I finish rereading Richard Sennett's 'Conscience of the Eye', a book about cities and moral ideas I first read Ryan's copy of. Starting with the unusual remark that it is rarely clear in a modern city "where to go to experience remorse", Sennett writes an extraordinary study partly about the districts of New York, Rome & Florence, and partly about social space. Some of his text seems slightly overwritten, but the book is thought-provoking and deeply intelligent. The third in a trilogy: time to read the first two.
April 9th; Easter Monday. Mother worsens. Gruelling night.

April 8th; Catch train to nursing home. Mother insistent she wants to leave. Nurses help us pack. Taxi home.
April 7th; Delayed flight to Manchester. On plane meet some Sheffield students who have hitch-hiked to Prague & Belgrade finding how generous West European motorists are and how unpleasant East European motorists are to anyone trying to get a lift. Reach central Manchester just in time to miss last train to mother's village. John kindly drives me back to his house in Sale. Spend night there, we chat.

April 6th; Hairdresser tells me there is a strike at the airport, endangering my flight tomorrow. Visit fitness gym for first time in months. Enjoy familiar pinewood smell in sauna. Hot sunshine on the streets, but cooling spring breezes. Bus takes 10 minutes to crawl last 100 yards in sunny traffic jam, puzzling out here in Ujpalota until I remember today's date: people are leaving work early to celebrate today's execution and Sunday's resurrection. Manage to change lightbulb in functionalist kitchen-ceiling light fitting. As expected, not easy. During day, finish my Christmas present from Nigel of Darkness: 'Mind Performance Hacks', by Ron Hale-Evans. Slightly worryingly subtitled 'Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain', this is a rather well-written set of tricks for thinking more efficiently, written [since it's an O'Reilly book] with programmers in mind, but with plenty for everybody. Ranging from the semi-autistic [how to know the day of the week for any Gregorian calendar date, or how to count to a million on you fingers in binary] to the sensible [assessing priorities & risks, simple mnemonic systems, getting a good night's sleep] this is definitely worth reading. There are even some bits on self-hypnosis and breathing control, albeit with reassurances that there will not be any "mystical nonsense" to alarm readers.
April 5th; Another warm, cloudy day with smells of spring blossom. By morning I go to the sound studio and record two sentences for Malev airlines. I drop in at Mariann & Phil's for soothing ginger tea. Spot an old thermometer screwed onto a doorframe in their flat, calibrated in both Celcius and Reaumur units. Work most of the afternoon on laptop. By evening, don leather trousers to play Detlef the art-house film director for Scott & Sam. We shoot a scene where I audition Scott's brother Craig for a Transylvanian vampire movie while Craig's girlfriend, playing my aloof assistant Ulrike, sketches naughty things on her notepad.
Get home 11-ish to find light has failed in the windowless kitchen. Of course, since this is an International-Style modernist building designed by functionalists, neither Julia or I can see how to get the glass fitting off the ceiling to change the lightbulb.

April 4th; Mihaly holds our lesson in his modern, hi-tech car. We drive through a sudden downpour across Budapest. He describes his recent trip to South America: aggressive Brazilian girls, an odd spiritual experience at the Machu Picchu Inca fortress, an Amazon jungle week swimming in red rivers, black rivers, green rivers alongside rayfish and small alligators. Later that evening another student, Andrea, mentions finding Machu Picchu overwhelming. Dinner with Scott, Sam, & the film group.
April 3rd; Cycle off to next village to meet Edina. She and I stroll along the grassy top of the flood dyke back to Tiszainoka in sunshine bright enough to burn my forearms red. As we start along the dyke, we are chatting about Islam & Christendom. Just as I am saying something about Islam being the only system left still claiming to rule both the spiritual & material worlds, a wasp or bee hits me in the side of my head, stinging me painfully. Another hint not to mock the God of the Molecule, I suppose. Robin drives me to Lakitelek early for my train, and we sit in the shade eating tasty pizzas. As Robin sees me to my small local train to Kecskemet, he notices a handwritten sign in the train-driver's window written in Hungarian runes. We ask about this, and the driver, Gyorgy Katona, invites me into the cab for the half-hour journey. As we chug down the single track between tufts of yellow grass and village stops sometimes no more than signs in open fields, he tells me about his passion for the railways and his own life path from Romania's Hungarian-speaking mountain region. His sign in old runic writing says "I'm a Transylvanian Szekely, not a tourist." Gyorgy tells me how he walked across the border into Hungary in 1988 with his daughter on his back and holding his wife's hand. Since then he has travelled to Britain and other countries often meeting railway buffs. He voyaged to Japan to sit in the front of bullet trains with his Japanese colleagues. A happy memory was riding the cab of an InterCity service with British engine drivers going at 125 miles per hour between Bristol and Derby. Before he visited England, the diesel depot at Szentes gave him a wreath to put on the grave of famous Hungarian railway engineer Gyorgy Yedressik who died in exile in London in 1954. He found Yedressik's grave in Streatham Park cemetery, and was shocked to see no flowers at the tomb of the designer of so many Hungarian locomotives. He laid the wreath on the grave of the man who, despite having to flee the communists, wrote a letter from Switzerland giving up all his railway patents to the Hungarian people, and whose name Mr Katona saw on the side of a jumbo aircraft [Yedressik also designed a type of jet engine]. Returning to Hungary with some photographs of the cemetery Gyorgy describes his pain when the editor of the railway workers' magazine says the topic is unsuitable. "It was like a spade in my heart", the train driver tells me simply.

April 2nd; Some friendly folk on the orange website talking about us co-operating somehow to reclaim our freedoms. Late morning, cheery woman comes over to reclaim the Shakespeare thesis I edited a bit. We sit outside, talking over my questions. Mid-afternoon, chatty hydrologist pops over. He, Robin, Zeno and I sit round on white iron garden chairs in warm sunshine looking at his report about local spring water. His report says all the different drillable depths near Robin's village bring up water that is warm, but too salty or toxic to drink. Mother seems a bit better. Buy ticket to fly back this weekend. After dusk, a vivid peach-coloured full moon due east of Robin's house gets Zeno's friend Monika excited.
April 1st; Argument on phone with sister Judith, who has driven to Yorkshire and is helping mother with her latest illness. When I tactlessly remind Judith of how rudely she rebuffed my letter about all four of us jointly caring for mother 15 years ago, she angrily puts phone down on me. Drive with Robin's children to riding class. Shapely Rita puts each child in turn for forty minutes on a very gentle horse called Frida. As Robin and I stare at the horizon, Danillo clops by on a large stallion for a chat. The beast is at least 18 hands high. Hungarian horse people call its colour 'yellow' while British horse people call its colour 'chestnut', so it's mid-brown.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact@otherlanguages.org

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