Move house today. Last night finish
Neil's entertaining copy of Nick Cook's
'The Hunt for
Zero Point'. Hard to sum up. As Neil warned, the book is strangely
rewritten by some book editor into cliche-stuffed American prose, though it's originally
by an experienced British
Nonetheless, very hard to put down. A chance lead
from a 1950s article about anti-gravity research in American aerospace leads him into a
peculiar goose chase after Nazi secret-weapon scientists in the last months of WWII. Ties
together lots of Odd Physics tales (UFOs, time machines, levitation, whatever you want
really) into one thoroughly diverting read. I assume corkers like mixing up gigawatts with
terawatts are due to the lay-it-on-thick book editor.
Move house with kind help of
who has a grapple with my
puzzle at one point as I do some last-minute packing & sorting.
Evening drinks with Neil and his accountant friend who audited some
Wake up from intense, empowering dreams about spirals. A crisp, sunny autumn morning in Vienna. We drop
off at an English-teaching seminar she is going to with
& Barbara, and Nicolas kindly drives me to Westbahnhof for my train back to
Budapest. As train pulls out of station, I finish
'La Science, a l'usage des non-scientifiques' by Albert Jacquard. Twinkly-eyed geneticist airily
chats to humanities readers about how school maths should not be treated as a test of aptitude but as a crucial piece of common culture. He suggests logarithmic time is a good way to interpret the sensation of passing life, and that complex numbers are a wonderful thing misnamed 'imaginary' and hampered by poor notation. In an ambitious closing section he says science is the property of all, and should use its neutral, communal language to found a consensual ethics on our relations with each other. The lovely, simple black-and-white line diagrams are rather spoiled by not having been proofread by the publisher or author, so almost all contain errors. Sections of arithmetic in the text have mistakes too, such as muddled-up subscripts. Found myself wondering who Jacquard's readership is, but he has written a lot of books, it seems, so he must have one. Confident in both lucid discussion (though there are a couple of lazy blunders, like asserting that all religions claim to have the only truth) and numerical examples, his prose has a casual elegance that I suppose comes from attending a Grande Ecole. Likely also that the kind of reader in France who wants to remind themselves of their school maths learned it rather better first time round than in Britain. I did wonder a bit though. Around page 82, Jacquard cheerfully introduces spherical co-ordinate geometry, curved space, and
tensors, in less than three pages. I hope his other readers were following better than I was. He is impeccably liberal, and attacks Anglo-Saxon monetisation (one-dimensionalisation, he calls it) of value and the use of maths to mystify discussion of politically important issues, like Eysenck's claims about inherited intelligence.
Back in Budapest, I walk through Keleti station. Seeing some men hunched round the platform-end buffers with chess sets, I remember how Brian couldn't get a game of chess with any of the men in parks he approached here. Lajos & Arpi, however, do not need to be asked. As soon as I walk up, Lajos cheerfully challenges me to a game for a bottle of beer some time I am not (a) keen to have a piss, (b) moving house. I promise to come back to the station to play them soon. Back in the Ujpalota pizza restaurant I finish
'Utmutato Tarot' ('Tarot as a Guide to the Way') by Hajo Banzhaf and Elisa Hemmerlein. Translated from German to Hungarian by Judit Szabo, this was a little like reading a phone directory or a gardening book: more meant to be referred to than read. Each left page gives an image of each Tarot card twice, once from the Rider-Waite pack and once from the Crowley pack. Then some general chat about the card's significance and intended difference between the two packs. Each right page interprets that card in one of four positions in a four-card spread the authors recommend that gives a querant the "next step" in a certain question. Interesting to see their views on where Crowley's (or rather Lady Frieda Harris's) darker, muddier, more cluttered card designs differ subtly from Waite's (or rather Pamela Smith's) pack images. Pick up keys from new landlady.
Train to Vienna. Heavy rain as it pulls out of Budapest, followed by glorious
sunshine across western Hungary. Perfect blue sky studded with improbably cute, motionless white clouds. As I change trains at the Austrian border, an enormous shelf of grey cloud slides across sky, and rain returns. Meet a buoyant
at Sudbahnhof - we find Nicolas across town. We go camera-shopping, then
eat and drink in a Viennese cafe, talking about freedom and the media. Wonderful coffee with orange liqueur & whipped cream. More chat about photography. I shower and fall asleep on their inflated air bed, wet head wrapped in Nicolas' fluffy blue NATO towel.
& Istvan at art event at
Mucsarnok. This includes a
Peter Watkins by
Deimantas Narkevicius. I found the way the film was shot distracting, but it was interesting to hear Watkins
say he is becoming increasingly pessemistic this last five years about
people's reluctance to criticise moving pictures or to discuss how they mesmerise us. Apparently, Watkins now lives in Lithuania, which might be how he met Narkevicius. Robin & I eat lots of
savoury pastries and meet a Japanese philosopher of telecommunications.
Totally forget appointment with new landlady. She has to phone me up to remind me. She
and her husband take my arriving 3/4 hour late quite well. Chinese restaurant with
He tells me about the barber in southern India who will cut his hair outdoors in the
shade of palm trees next Tuesday. Just as well: Ilan's burgeoning Afro makes him look
more and more like an ethnic Greek dude from a
Day working on migration papers out in Ujpalota. About six weeks on,
the 100 yards of road in front of
prefab shops and market stalls
remains unfinished. New bits
of hot tarmac being spread. Small piles of foot-wide ripped-up tongues of pavement
sit around. Rectangles of grit the size of vegetable plots still
incomplete. Groups of smoking men squint sceptically at big yellow
machines parked in clouds of fine, hovering dust. It was quite interesting at first,
when they tore up the road in one day. For a week it became like a dry river bed of
ripply cement twelve inches below its usual depth. But now increasingly clear it is going to go
from a job 12 men could do well in two days to a job 20 men are going to do badly in
for late lunch at a table outside in glorious autumn sunshine.
Mystery friend at Batthyany square. Vegetarian snacks at dusk and chat about
Theological breakfast with Marion.
Sleep until midday. Meet John in the late afternoon to drink pear juice and natter about
I go on Sam & Kinga's
again. Curry with
who predicts Bush will hand the Republican nomination to
McCain "on a plate".
Curious that a few days ago on Saturday I was woken up again by a power
drill somewhere through one of my bedroom's thin walls or floors. I counted,
and this is the fourth time this neighbour has had
half an hour of
drilling in the eight months of my living here full-time. Is this some kind of intense putting-up-shelves hobby? Each time it's so loud I cannot
even guess which direction the neighbour is. How often does a normal person
need to use a power tool in their own flat in an average year? Of course the
real problem is the thinness of the separation (the neighbour could probably
make good screw holes with a ballpoint pen, the walls are so soft).
Typical of modern architecture's failure to function, building a whole
structure out of unnecessarily heavy and strong materials like
concrete, plus other unnecessarily light and soft materials like
pasteboard. Instead of building it the way the architects and
builders would make a place they intended to live in themselves.
In the early evening today, a barrel-shaped stumbling man gets on the
bus up the hill to the gym. A ring of empty seats quietly forms around him. He snarls curses against his loathsome enemies, the rest of us on the bus. This he does in the special rasping-toad intonation that in Hungarian is reserved for the exclusive use of the repulsively drunk. Arriving at his bus stop he gets wedged in the automatic doors, but with some help from other passengers, manages to get off at last, complete with his incongruously pristine
plastic carrier bag.
Lunch with John. Slightly unfairly, I accuse him of being both a
Hobbesian and a
Rousseauist. More work for
Heikki. Then out to
Ikea to buy some of
those stackable-and-nestable transparent boxes
showed me. Called something like 'Flaj',
I buy ten and lug them home along with my bag on metro and bus in the rain. Recall some
British newspaper columnist risibly calling Ikea's habit of giving their products daft
names a kind of "cultural imperialism". Apparently it puts customers at a
psychological disadvantage by forcing them to say a Swedish word. Poor loves.
Gossip is that
& Leicester, and
& Bingley, are next banks at risk
after cash-flow problems turned into a run on
Sunny weather returns after that cool, rainy ten days. When I look out of my bedroom
window I'm increasingly puzzled by the horizon. Beyond a few miles of flat suburb rise
up some surprisingly large hills. Might even say mountains. But what can they be?
According to the
perspective principle ("Small, but near. Big, but far
away.") if these are at any respectable distance they must be huge. Are the
a hundred-plus miles away, really so large-looking from a 6th-floor
window in eastern Pest? Ah, there we go.
Medium Mountains". Sound sad enough to be them.
Drinks with John. Mail some
On Sam & Kinga's
radio show. Talk about civil liberties, ID cards, &
genocide book. Relaxing Indian meal with
then 3 gallery openings, meeting
Wayne & Paula,
& Madeleine. Madeleine has also been on Sam & Kinga's radio
show, and tells me everyone else has too. Oh well.
Green tea at
Get to know some delightful people online, including a Viennese
bar for some last drinks before he leaves Hungary for New Zealand. From there to
night session to join
birthday party in the steam room.
Though I get there fashionably late by two hours at a bit after midnight,
am still almost two hours early. Relax an hour in
hot pools of mineral water under 30-foot-diameter stone dome of city's
17th-century Turkish baths, bombarded by regular text messages
forecasting their imminent arrival. Shame. Promisingly sybaritic venue for revelry.
Last night I got back to find flatmate Julia doing some
dressmaking with her friend Anett for an African dance event.
Good to see her in buoyant spirits. While running hot bath, I open
fridge to finish off a box of cherry juice. I find Julia's
saucepan of rather heavy-duty casserole stored in there impregnated my box
of fruit juice with garlic & turmeric flavours.
Today I join Robin at the studio of printer
where a screenprint version of one
of Robin's photographs is in progress in a room with a headache-inducingly intense
chemical aroma. We snack later at a small bar belonging to Italian Carlo, before
catching Istvan at an exhibition by
three artists at the
French Institute, where
& Eszter. From there we go to find
& her friend Marta at some sort of hotel venue called
Later on, Tamas & Krisztian join us there and explain
their political views to me. With startling candour, Tamas tells me he is a
right-wing extremist. Savouring dry white wine and
olives with herbs, I listen closely as he and Krisztian praise
Giovanni Gentile, &
Julius Evola (a favourite
Distinguishing Fascism from Nazism, Tamas tells me that someone in Hungary
who saved several thousand Jews from death in WWII was a
passionate Fascist I hadn't heard of called
Jorge Perlasca. He & Krisztian say
Burke is too soft for Continental Europe. So it would seem.
on an industrial park in Obuda.
has been texting me telling me how good they are. Wandering around a complex of randomly unlabelled, unmapped
buildings and yards full of mud in heavy rain for 3/4 hour, getting directions from
people who are either modest & clueless or cocksure & clueless, a little
irritating, but eventually I find it.
Here is a BBC documentary about
death of Dr David Kelly. Plus
Rowena Thursby's website about Kelly's death, also being looked into by
Norman Baker MP.
Refreshingly simple song with
Printer 3 in Ujpest is a bit brusque, but businesslike at
least. On way back to the metro terminus, I stop off at a place calling itself the
Out of Town Cafe, or
Cafe, with dark wallpaper, wooden furniture properly
upholstered with some soft, green velvety material, and a small mechanical clock
on the mantelpiece chiming quarter hours. A cheerful, slightly chubby waitress
in black comes over at once to take my order for a decaffeinated Viennese coffee.
She has a broad strip of runes tattooed around her upper arm. Since I
have not yet learned
runic alphabet from the card
Gyorgy gave me in April, I have to ask her what it says.
"As it was, so it shall be"
she explains. Although this is usually a far-right
slogan advocating return to the
Hungary', she is so prompt & friendly it
seems churlish to remark on it. Writing Hungarian in runic spelling is popular only really among a few nutty nationalists, but it needn't be that way.
Secret magical alphabets are fun things, definitely to be encouraged. I can
still remember my disappointment and loss of motivation first time here on finding that
however different their language family, Hungarian had no separate script and
used the boring old Latin alphabet like everyone else west of the Cyrillians. If
there'd been books
characters I would have fallen on the language there
and then. Even today it's more likely to be one or two ranting pamphlets than
anything worth reading. More Boy-Scoutism needed.
Lunch with Heikki.
Fail to meet Drew.
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