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2007
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July 31st; Refreshing lunch out in remote suburb of Pest with film-maker Mr V and his wife Agnes. Their little ones Kata (18 months) & Samu (3 months) provide light relief. Drinks & dinner with Tim: we discuss the 1980s Greenham Common Women, American politics, Sacha Baron-Cohen, Suez 1956, Boris Johnson, and being the client not the designer. Tim makes the startlingly sensible suggestion that most British left-wingers loathed and still loathe Margaret Thatcher because she reminded them of their mothers.
July 30th; In the small hours, finish the book Elysia kindly posted me from Minnesota as more background for Tarot readings. 'Llewellyn's 2007 Tarot Reader' is a collection of articles about different Tarot packs, spreads, reading techniques, and so on. Articles cumulatively helpful. Closes with an article about a pack involving lots of cats, including one card said to depict a cat in a pink jumpsuit. Give first speech at Toastmasters, feeling quite nervous and mistiming everything. Everyone very friendly, though, and the vibrant Natalie tells me about her fencing. Before bed, drink & quick chat about Albania with Neil.

July 29th; Another pleasantly hot day. Run out of time for church, but manage gym in plenty of time. Except the lazy Hungarians have changed the opening hours from what's printed on the 3-month card they gave me 4 weeks ago, and decided to close 4 hours early at weekends until late August. They can't even be bothered to put this change of plan on their website, at least not anywhere obvious like the front page. Too much effort for Hungarians: would mean them thinking about other people for a moment.
End evening with pasta & red wine at Esther's, where I make a renewed assault on downloading this software to her Apple. Unsuccessful of course, but we have a jolly natter instead.
July 28th; Leisurely lunch with Marion. Later, Gail & John join us for drinks. At lunchtime, on my way into town through hot midday sun to meet Marion, a tall, good-looking lad moves to get off the bus. He grips the hand rail, and I see his right-hand knuckles up close. They're disfigured from some kind of serious burn: taut scar-tissue finger skin stretched over random pads of flesh, like melted plastic. He & I dismount, passing a cross-looking, pretty brunette getting on the bus, wearing a tight black tee-shirt with a slogan in English across her breasts in large white capitals: Don't Waste my Time.

July 27th; Anonymous friend & I try to download Apple emulators and Linux things.
July 26th; Warm again. Relaxing lunch with Mariann. Stimulating drinks with Tim. Meanwhile, more evidence Chomsky's hardwired / innate grammar idea is wrong.

July 25th; Weather cools. The New Statesman tips Fred Thompson for US Presidency Republican candidate. Interesting list of alleged mistakes in a reader's response at the bottom of the page.
July 24th; Meet Marion for long lunch at new venue. Excellent, relaxing chat on many topics. Later to gym, where, on the roof terrace, an inspiring whiff of thundery ozone and a cooling breeze suggests a change of weather on the way. Afterwards in a metro carriage see a large middle-aged woman wearing a tee-shirt with the word STORAGE written in English across her breasts. Over the last month or two my mid-brown watchstrap has turned almost black. I assume my sweat (salt?) is tanning the leather somehow - really tanning it, not in the sunshine sense. Still hot outdoors and indoors, but the evening starts to cool. Finally, at Central Cafe bubbly Eszter tells me over herbal tea how she's enjoying Cambridge.

July 23rd; On fast bus into town meet an ad creative from LA. Once in town, assist anonymous friend with some documents. Delicious lunch & leisurely afternoon of chat about office politics ensues.
July 22nd; Long Skype conversation with kind Roffer. Warm, sticky weather continues.

July 21st; So warm, Ilan & I stay in all day. A helpful repeat of the humous-making tutorial.
July 20th; Georgina drives me to Tiszaug to catch train back to Budapest. In the air-conditioned dining car from Kecskemet, there are new placemats with a stripy, colour-TV-testcard look: like late Bridget Riley or Rem Koolhaas's design for an EU flag. A relief from the vile previous placemats with photographs of flowers. The serving lady is friendlier too. Now all they have to is make the food better and halve the prices and these people might have a business on their hands. The train is delayed for two extra hours a few miles outside Budapest, and the heat outside begins to slowly overwhelm the air-conditioning. Finally I get back to my flat, shower, pick up some books for Ilan, and return to town to meet him at 'Bitch'. He is tired from the heat. Later we watch the Channel 4 documentary attacking the claim that human activity is driving global warming.

July 19th; Robin & family are back. Hot sun continues. I do some drawing, scanning, Photoshop stuff. Young Kasper shows me this nicely-cast video on YouTube about computers. After dark, Zeno cooks us all some chicken in the summer kitchen he has created in the outbuildings.
July 18th; Zeno whips up a lovely breakfast of scrambled egg, fresh tomato & onion. Outside it is extremely warm. I wash two shirts and put them out to dry: likely to be minutes rather than hours. The Hungarians use an imported word 'kanikula' to describe these dry summer heatwaves - I can recall one of Lilla's exuberant outbursts of mirth that I did not know this word a couple of years ago. Zeno shows me round the building developments around Robin's house. There is now an outside guest room with dark furniture and cool, white walls and a wonderfully rich aroma of linseed oil. Unfortunately it is also teeming with wasps. Each time I open the door there are five or six crawling on the inside surface of the door, and another few wriggling under the netting on the window. Zeno pins up a carpet inside the door as a kind of curtain to stop them, and as I take my bedding from the library there and move the carpet/curtain aside apparently undeterred wasps swarm round my head and one stings me in the neck. I return bedding to library. Zeno also shows me the newly-built well which I find rather alarming. It is wide enough that no child or small person could do a chimney climb out if they fell in. It's about 20 feet down to the water. I ask Zeno how deep the water itself is and he answers with a disturbingly enigmatic smile that it is "hard to be sure". Late afternoon, go to the ox-bow lake to swim with Edina, Geza (back from work in England & France), Kadicsa & Bence. We discuss the differences between Zeno's anti-modernism and Geza's anti-modernism, and our chat continues over a lovely dinner with wine at their house. Edina & I talk about the Arabic book.

July 17th; Early to gym, and then afternoon train in the heat to Robin's in the countryside. Robin & family are abroad until tomorrow, so Zeno offers to meet me at Tiszaug. However, a slow-witted ticket inspector assures me, when I ask him three separate times on his pleasantly cool, air-conditioned train, that I do not have to change trains at 5.30pm at Lakitelek for Tiszaug. This keeps me on the train passing through Obo:g and Ujbo:g (in his heat-or-drink-frazzled mind "Tiszabo:g", though there is no station with that name) all the way to Szolnok. He tells me my only option is to come back from Szolnok to Lakitelek, reaching Lakitelek again at 8.30pm. (Indeed he claims the return train passes through Tiszaug itself though in fact he helped me miss my last connection to Tiszaug proper.) At Szolnok I go to a shop, buy a yoghourt and report back to the platform after a half-hour wait for the train the fat inspector promised. He meets me on the platform. Now he has passed from embarrassment into righteous rage, he asks me where did my journey start? I say Budapest, via Kecskemet, where he first met me. He says this is impossible because the number handwritten on my ticket shows I have originally come from Szolnok. "So how did you get to be back here then?", he asks, dismissing my explanation that I am not "back" there at all. We both get onto the train. This same ticket inspector is working on the train back from Szolnok, and has the nerve to ask me where my ticket is for this "extra" journey that he directly caused by not listening to me properly three times. We argue. He threatens to have me arrested. I ask for his name several times, while giving him my name. After much big-chested resolute anger on his part, looming next to me as we pull into Lakitekek three hours after I was there before, he slinks away to another door trying to maintain a pompous strut as he does this. This inspector failed to understand me earlier in the afternoon when I clearly and slowly asked him for the waste-paper bin on the first train, continuing to look blank as I showed him my rubbish, asking me what I want to do with it. He only understood when I said "to throw this away", so he is probably either badly hung over or lacking sleep. Zeno did not have to wait three hours, luckily, but went home and sent kindly Pisti & Erzsebet & their little boy Mark to pick me up the 2nd time. Pisti is a mason - one of the real type who cut stone. Three of us (Mark is shy) have a refreshing chat in the car to Robin's. At Robin's after dark, Zeno & I drink white wine with mineral water, dining on spaghetti with pesto & garlic. During this, soft-spoken Zeno explains to me the deep importance of the Romans adopting the cult of Cybele, England's dark influence on the post-17th-century world, plus the crucial role of freemasons, Jews, & sexual magic in the French & Russian Revolutions. Very confusing. Is this how the ticket inspector felt?
July 16th; Hot day. Diligent Ujpalota watchmender, a blonde woman with a concentrated face, cheaply and quickly repairs my watch & my travelling clock. Two Hungarian watchmenders told me last year that the clock would need a complete new movement, and both quoted prices forty times what she charged me to mend it in 5 minutes. Into town to help Ilan retrieve his laptop back from repairs abroad, wrongly seized by the customs office. Despite being in the wrong they try to bill him. Then we get almost the last tickets into the packed open-air Szechenyi Baths, where Ilan & I spend a delightful afternoon with the langorous Kate & her charming friend Molly. Sadly, the two soignee Virginians are unable to join us for dinner.

July 15th; Go to the cinema with Mihaela & a couple of her friends, one of whom finds my concern with privacy odd for someone keeping a weblog. He cites my diary entry where I wake out of a dream about a vegetarian sex cult as a little concerning. We watch 'Paths of Glory', a 1957 film directed by Stanley Kubrick about a scandal surrounding a court martial in the French army during World War One. Lots of symmetrical long shots of the chateau the officers are using, and shots following officers in close-up as they walk along the trenches greeting the men give the film (black & white) a dark mood of power & heirarchy. Kirk Douglas as the heroic colonel overacts a little at the end of the story, and a casting tendency to give good characters American accents and bad characters French or British accents is noticeable, but still a strong film.
July 14th; Masterclass with Ilan continues. Today's topics include 1. How to set up a niche business (look for the anecdote) ; 2. How to keep a marriage happy ; 3. Wickedness of the British Empire in the Near East, Ireland, & India ; 4. Current questions in geopolitics (with special emphasis on Iran) ; 5. Freestyle speed flirtation at the all-night supermarket.

July 13th; Iced coffee with Mihaela. She now attends Toastmasters.
July 12th; Iced coffee with Muhammad. Mr Castell invites me onto iwiw.

July 11th; On bus up a Buda hill to the gym meet a cheerful group of Swedish dance students. After work-out take 59 tram to its terminus to get hypnotised by Erzsebet. She takes me through the garden of flowers, past the sparkling stream, across the meadow of flowers, into the mirror in which I meet my former self, the usual. Rather relaxing, though odd in another language. Some good advice about how to proceed at self-hypnosis. 1 a.m. at a Pest bus stop meet Clara, Tara & Sandra from the Irish Republic, ready to party.
July 10th; Lots of rain. In the market of stalls near the bus stop, translucent tarpaulins are stretched over the aisles, and are rapidly filling with rainwater. One girl at a stall is stretching over her vegetables with a wooden spatula to poke at the underside of one bulging valley of rainwater. It is ballooning a section of tarpaulin menacingly over her cucumbers. I help her empty it safely, and she seems irritated. She seems even more irritated when I buy 3/4 lb of sour cherries from her for breakfast. Catch the fast bus into town to get my eye test. Very helpful optician lady with lots of interesting machines.

July 9th; The life-coaching continues. Ilan ("I'm just trying to teach you how to become a mensch." Pause. "You know what a mensch is?") explains his views on marriage. From the news we note that Europeans are told that Al Qaeda has issued a threat against Iran, while Americans are told different. After the gym, back in Ujpalota, Kati's Hungarian hypnotist responds by text.
July 8th; Quiet Sunday with Ilan and Szilvia. Szilvia's friend Kati comes to dinner and recommends a hypnotist.

July 7th; Lunch with Rob. We discuss Mesmer, Ryan, Christian, Polkinghorne, and my friend Sam.
July 6th; Lunch with Heikki. Scott puts the Gloomy Sunday Cafe film trailer on YouTube. Interesting memories.

July 5th; Wake up at Ilan's. He shows me how to make humous and explains how Operation Magic Carpet airlifted Jews to Israel from Yemen. Then Ilan & I pop over to the Bitch club again. Chat with Szilvia, who joins us there, as well as Roza & Adi before meeting club-owner Bill/Desire in person.
July 4th; Wake up after a night of rich, strange dreams in Tim's spare room to find myself being watched by a two-foot-high fluffy penguin, hanging on a noose on one end of a frame of coat hangers. Bounce green transparent ball in garden with Florence. Drive back into town with Tim. Later meet Ilan. He takes me to the club Bitch, where Esther has been working. I meet Bruce & Adam, and we are waited on by the shapely Kata. In the club, I read some of a book about the club-owner's bioenergetic diagnosis machine. Meanwhile, sitting under a revolving mirrored ball and listening to a club-music soundtrack, we watch Bruce's copy of a subtitled 1970s blaxploitation film starring someone called Foxy Brown, a film in which a white man gets his penis cut off and put in a jar of formaldehyde. Back at Ilan's & Szilvia's, we drink herbal tea and discuss girls who don't realise they're lesbians.

July 3rd; Stunned by summer heat, take afternoon siesta nap for three hours until 5pm. Meet Tim in evening and go back with him to Paty. Drinking ginger wine in his kitchen I meet his newest addition, 3-year-old Florence. We talk about Blair, Brown, and Mr Saracco.
July 2nd; Uneventful, but hot day. Couple of days ago read Kath's copy of 'Campo Santo' by G.W. Sebald. Some essays disappointingly dry, but some others have a lovely self-effacing writing style. His fascination with Corsica (several essays in the book about the island) curious. Thinks aloud well about memory. The start I read of his book 'The Emigrants' at James' house was haunting.

July 1st; Ginger ale with Terri, whose mother died in December at the same age as mine. She mentions her father remembering being thrown onto stacks of duvets by his father, and the bit Sebald quotes from Nabokov comes back. As a child before 1917 remembering his Russian nobleman father being flung into the air three times by cheerful peasants after successful negotiations were completed: the boy Nabokov inside the house watching as his smartly uniformed father flies three times up past the window. At Ilan's, Szilvia rustles up a lovely Indian meal - they are looking at moving to southern India. Ilan shows me an item on his laptop from a British TV talent show where a mobile-phone salesman reveals he can sing an opera aria properly, and the audience breaks into spontaneous cheering as he sings his heart out. Surprised to find tears rolling down my cheeks, either from the man's triumph over sceptics or from the rousing, emotional score itself - or just my general frailness since mother's death. Perhaps time to investigate classical music.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact@otherlanguages.org

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