Feel a bit snuffly. A
advises stuffing grated ginger & sliced lemon & chopped garlic into a jar of honey.
I do this.
invites me along to a press conference and introduces me to a charming Hungarian
escapologist she has photographed in the past.
for ginger ale. Discuss project.
Wake five or six times through the night out of one detailed dream: I am making and
living through a black-and-white film called 'The Library of Demons'. Quite odd.
Get some breakfast from the petrol station and then go across town to photocopy Edina's book.
Meet Edina for tea at Oktogon.
Clocks moved this morning,
yet it's exactly as
dark at 5pm as it was yesterday.
Wake up at 4.30pm, rather lazily. Another moment of clarity.
Do some editing work and read
Franc's copy of
'The Hard Life'
by Flann O'Brien, a wonderfully light, short comic novel
set in Dublin in around 1900. The voices and their dialect
are clearly but unobtrusively suggested - the narrator refers to
his brother as "the brother" throughout, it is "the County
Limerick", and so on. Strange adventures emerge naturally from
the provincial worldliness of the characters.
Wake up at Franc's. A breakfast coffee on his square. We drive
into town, and I find
at the Budapest Gallery opening,
where lots of other people like
are also mingling. Robin explains how he finished off his two
works for the joint exhibition. I go home, do three hours completing
Sep's proofreading, then return to town to find Robin, Istvan,
Tamas, & Zeno drinking with the lovely Nora.
Dinner at Franc's.
His cat Lenke & I make peace. We watch some
on television (a show I have never seen)
and then chat into the small hours.
the honest & affordable Ujpalota watchmender in the afternoon.
In the Hungarian-expert way, he mends my
watch strap and inserts a new battery in my travelling clock in
More rain. Whole day proofreading. Last thing at night finish
Spymaster'. Chilling biography of
Francis Walsingham, security & surveillance chief under and after
Cecil in the 1570s and 1580s, and his role in uncovering plots
against Liz 1st from Continental powers & English Catholic
intriguers. Full of informers, torture, and unpleasant double
agents. One David Jones stands out. He is saved from starvation
by a kind Catholic woman and he then shops her to the authorities.
Rains in Budapest the whole day. Do some proofreading, and visit
Ujpalota suburb, only to find that all the normal shops are shut.
Forgot about the
Russian-invasion holiday again.
Say farewell to Piera & Giacomo. Get to Luton by big green bus.
On flight to Budapest and last thing at night read
by John Gray.
back from Shanghai, meets
me at the airport. We go back to his flat nearby for a
buoyant evening of food & chat. Gray, a philosopher, had the sly idea of naming a book after a
Lao Tzu quote which reminds us all instead of the violent & nihilistic 1970s
Peckinpah film. This film used the same quote to name its distorted version of the
more interesting (and film-worthy) novel 'The
Siege of Trencher's Farm'.
Gray's style is epigrammatic to the point of pure assertion - I don't recall detecting many actual arguments. Clearly some British philosophy departments still
turn out the breezily confident type. Reminds me of Rob's
wonderful anecdote about his Oxford friend Mungo's putdown of Mill.
Gray persuasively points out that secular humanism is a continuation
of the Christian redemption project, and therefore philosophically
weak. While it is good fun to read an academic who
entertainingly dismisses Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Russell, Wittgenstein in a couple of pages each, some quite glib ideas of his own slip in as part of the
sleight of hand. His ideas of relating ourselves to other animals and reading more theology are very worthwhile, but his blithe certainty that artificial intelligence & Gaian catastrophe will fulfil the Spenglerian decline of humanism is silly. His economics is shaky too, which matters, since much of his broad-brush-stroke vision is really about economics. Several quite well-known people declare the book the most important one they have read in a year, suggesting they don't get to read much. Despite some punchy anecdotes, less than the sum of its parts.
Giacomo introduces me to music by
On the back of bubbly Piera's moped again. We visit a jeweller's with
a rather warlock-style black onyx cross in the window and drop in
where her November 7th show will be. Giacomo
returns from Genoa, and he & Piera & I meet Marc-Henry & Christina
again. Then we all have a Thai curry with Diane, a swish, spice-loving Francaise.
I write a list of abusive terms for her to use about her boss, so she can
supplement her recent mastery of the term 'wanker'.
By day I meet Mr Amery for a refreshing coffee near his office by Liverpool
Street station. By night accompany Piera in expansive mood to a stylish party
at her clothes-designer friend
Lots of dramatic, dark-haired signoritas prowl among soft, white
furniture somewhere near Notting Hill. Marc-Henry's Christina keeps me company. Finish
Vitamin Murders' by James Fergusson. A curious tale of how the author gets intrigued by the murder of British nutritionist Jack Drummond, his wife & daughter, while on holiday in 1950s France, and starts to investigate a mass of conspiracy theories that still (at least in France) surround the triple killing. Drummond, a champion of healthy eating who designed Britain's wartime food-ration diet and was the man who took the e off 'vitamine', is lovingly portrayed. The curious idea of putting his story into parallel with Fergusson's growing paranoia about food additives and agricultural chemicals in his own life and that of his own wife & newly-born daughter is less successful. A slightly
half-hearted gonzo book emerges in which he gets close to solving the Drummond murders and learns that one persistent chemical in his own body at several times over safe levels dates from a few days one childhood summer helping with the harvest. Interesting in parts, as Drummond's links with wartime espionage and biological-weapon experiments at Porton Down start to slowly swim into view. Touchingly, local French people still put fresh flowers on the three graves.
back to Budapest. Lovely dinner at the twins downstairs. Piera shows me photographs of
my blue shirt she took earlier, suggesting it somehow represents for me the spirit of
my dead brother. Then she explains some family-tree therapist she visited, and suggests
that some of my ancestors were involved, on one or other side, in the persecutions of
Protestants under Mary Tudor. As she mentions this era, cold shivers run down my back,
suggesting part of me is worried and interested by this curious idea.
Train to Saffron Walden for cheering session with
wizard. On train out finish
'Viktor Schauberger: A Life of Learning from Nature' by Jane Cobbald, which contains six or seven of his haunting sketchbook drawings of spiral shapes in water & air. Very odd character. Schauberger emerges in
the Zero Point book as an eccentric inventor who was ordered at gunpoint in wartime Germany to start work on
an anti-gravity engine. The institute run by his family would prefer to safeguard his name as an early green visionary. An Austrian forester, he spent hours, indeed days, in the 1920s and 30s alone in forests observing animals, trees, river flow, and whirlpools. From this emerged some startlingly original ideas on the physics of vortices, only hinted at by Cobbald. These form the unlikely link between a forester with some patents in unusual water pumps, and the wartime anti-gravity researchers who thought spinning discs at high speeds could create columns of reduced gravity.
On train back, finish Jake's copy of
'Untouchable' by Mulk Raj Anand. A crisply-told tale of a day in the life of an untouchable in pre-war India. Son of a street-sweeper, this latrine-cleaner is as low as Hindu India's caste system can go. The book traces how his life changes over a day after he unintentionally pollutes another Hindu by bumping into him in a crowded street.
Afterwards, jolly Piera drives me and the twins Rebecca & Lucy to see a South African group of musicians at the Festival Hall. We meet Sep and other people.
While travelling around London, see a newspaper article
on a caving expedition deep underground. Lunch with theologian at
Westminster Abbey. Dawns on me I have never been there before.
Back to London with Buzz & Dan by car. An interesting moment when we switch the sat-navigation in
his car to a sexy woman's voice which, refreshingly, is in French yet uses miles, then find we cannot
get her to switch back to English. Later on, join Piera on her moped as we scoot over to a party at
Oliver's. She tells me to lean into the curve, and I start to enjoy whizzing in and out of West End
traffic in a nifty Mediterranean manner. XL crash helmet only just fits my oversized skull.
Oliver's party filled with interesting people, including a svelte botanist who tells me about horrible situations on caving expeditions deep underground.
Up with Dan for the drive to Winchelsea. After some tidying in the house, we walk on the pebble
beach with Buzz, who has us each being a particular locomotive from the
Tank Engine stories on the way to the sea. I find two pebbles with holes worn in them, and Dan, a Phd geologist,
tells me that the scientific name for these is "pebble with hole in". Lovely dinner and lots of newspaper supplements before sleep.
Finish 'William Wilberforce' by
William Hague on the platform of Moorgate tube station in the afternoon.
A moving story of how the slavery abolitionists worked towards changing the law over several decades, struggling against apathy and self-interest inside and outside Parliament, mobilising one of the first effective public-opinion campaigns on a moral issue. Wilberforce's combination of dogged determination to use his wealthy background to do good, and his undoubted charm and gentle generosity, repeatedly forgiving with his friends and enemies alike, is inspiring. Attacks on him for not doing more for British workers (though in fact Wilberforce did support other progressive causes) and for being a hypocrite sound churlish. Cobbett particularly looks unattractive in his opposition to him: hard not to see simple envy of someone who more people liked and who did more good in his life.
Later meet the bookclub at a restaurant in Pimlico, where we discuss Wilberforce, at least a bit. I leave just before they decide next book will
be by Gordon Brown. To Dan's for an early-ish night.
Wake up in the Nigel of Light's sitting room. Last night, I disturbed him as he was
solving some software emergency over the phone in a town called
Today, float 2 hours in
floatation tank. Meet an online friend for
pizza in Soho, and she tells me a wonderful story about Westminster Abbey writing to High Court judges asking
for contributions to upkeep of the floor they walk on once a year. Later, meet
Piera and friends Jon, Freddy ["Shall
we follow the hot chick, then?"], & Ogale at a pub on Gloucester Road.
Go to East Dulwich to
Wake up at Dan & Catey's. Very rainy day in London. Make contact with
in floatation tank in Clapham. In the evening over dinner, Catey tells me that
the American actor Kevin Spacey lives in a local tower block
with sunglasses and a puppy, so he can be creative director of the
Leave Sam at Datchet, where the
mysteriously closes for the day at 1.05pm - why? They could just give a nearby
newspaper & sweets shop a licence to sell tickets and there would thereby be
a ticket office open all day. So simple. Take train into London munching a warm
Cornish pasty, perhaps my first for a decade. Perfectly inoffensive, yet hugely
overrated food item. Really would not be a disaster if I never ate another Cornish pasty
as long as I live. By evening, meet Dan & Catey & Buzz. Buzz vividly recalls me sticking
my tongue out at him in the summer. Dan tells me Gordon Brown's honeymoon is already
Drive with Sam around Eton & Windsor & Slough Trading Estate.
In the last he shows me two of the garage-type buildings
Sylvia Anderson started their puppet-based
TV production company at the end of the 1950s. In another warehouse close by,
we chance on an art show of soothing muted hues, mounted by some people called
435. Two of their artists with a surer sense of colour are
Mark Bennion &
By evening, we watch a video of the excellent Startrek stage play Sam wrote a script
Pack, go to
for flight to London. As usual, it takes thirty minutes to get on the aeroplane at
Budapest instead of ten. We queue up inside the terminal, and are told our tickets
are graded into four categories, and we'll be called forward in order. Two buses park
outside. We take about ten minutes filing through and getting onto the
buses, with some of the people from different groups being mixed
up between buses. The buses close their doors, wait quite a few minutes,
drive the 150 yards to the
plane [around 30 secs walk with a heavy bag] and to make the exercise look a little less
pointless, they describe a loop around the aeroplane to double the journey length. Then
we wait inside the locked buses for some more minutes. Then they open the doors,
and people push and shove to get onto the plane. Since there is a big crush on the
stairways, we all wait on the steps another ten minutes.
Of course everyone would have been separated naturally and in precisely the order
wanted if we had all just walked out
of the doors and across the tarmac twenty minutes earlier.
By evening, meet Scriptwriter Sam at the cafe inside the Charing X Road Borders bookshop,
and we enjoy a wonderful Italian pizza round the corner.
Rain, misty autumnal damp. Revisit fat yellow
with peeling paint
5 minutes from new flat. Salad lunch with Anonymous Friend, milkshake later with John.
is seriously bad for you. Get paid by
Meet Julia in the
evening over a pizza to give back Ujpalota keys.
Decaff coffee at an
with the bubbly Kerstin. Quiet dinner with Marion.
Drop in at yacht magazine. Later, drink Vietnamese tea at Kalman's office to hear
of new voice work. He says it will be a film about
Wake up in spacious new flat near the
of the 32nds (a regiment, not a
homage to the inch). Beautiful, sunny autumn day. Bus out to Ujpalota to clean
old room. Meet John later for curry & chat.
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