Drop in on mystery friend for a lem-sip. Attend book launch by Greek Orthodox
priest college contemporary of Orsi, friend of
Orsi, Mariann & I enjoy curry afterwards.
Franc's. We watch
'Between Iraq & a Hard Place'
with Darren. We meet Stojko, Tamas, Cliff & Nada at some event involving
improbable quantities of leggy, doe-eyed mannequins in an
all-white restaurant round the corner.
i) Sleep late.
Stork trundles on.
Ukraine report - editing for
Heikki until 6am.
Out for breakfast with Marion. Feeling much better. By night, catch bus out to
suburb for pizza at what was my local restaurant until October 1st. Tasty, affordable,
with spicy chillis to deal further death blow to the foul bacillus in my system. The
pretty waitress takes and brings my order with the frosty curtness she has been
adopting just for me since the third time I dined there a year ago. Though
I have no evidence and shouldn't flatter myself, it does resemble the sort of rudeness
some girls reserve for a male they think should have asked them out, but didn't.
Sleep under duvet 13 hours. Definite improvement in health. Britain has just realised
with citizens' data.
Begin to feel better. Up & out to
where I buy a pillow & duvet, two duvet covers,
some shot glasses. When I add, over a tea with
later, that I also bought a yellow
fluffy towel and an orange fluffy towel, he chuckles approvingly and calls this
Still unwell. Manage to get through my
presentation. Anniversary today of
Aldous Huxley's death. Also of the
gangster's son who found out the same day what happens to you if you go
round saying you're going to break the CIA
"into a million pieces".
Still unwell. Meet
for lunch and cough all over him.
Still unwell. Filthy, insolent microbe. Meet
and Language School Paul for fruit juices.
excellent explanation of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
Still unwell. Watch another three-hour Adam Curtis documentary,
chopped into 18 ten-minute slices.
Rather curiously, turns out to be an extended rant against
Berlin. Watchable and interesting, though.
Still unwell. Wrap up warm to cross town in rain and eat pizza. Intriguing website
military scientists who died in odd ways.
Still unwell. Watch
on the life of Frank Zappa. Strangely sad, but for one amusing element. While
interviewed in the 1990s Zappa looks and sounds startlingly like Bob Cohen, a multilingual
klezma-musician New Yorker who lives here in Budapest: apart from
this curious surprise, not much fun about the film. Leaves the strong impression
that Zappa's songs & ideas were really not very good.
Still unwell. 2 quite amusing short videos:
& Max's Internet Thing.
Wake up in flat in Budapest, more ill than any time since being up the ladder in drizzle
on Saturday. Serious headcold. Mid-afternoon, at request of Language School Paul, I trek out, coughing
and snuffling, to an Internet cafe to take part in an online training session. An hour and a half learning to use a piece of
conference-call software in a virtual room with some friendly Germans.
Wake up at Sam's. We look at some animation a friend of his and he are working on, and he drives
me to Heathrow, from where I catch the coach to Luton. On the way interesting chat with a cheery coach
driver from Northampton and a medical imager from South Africa who says he speaks
Russian (so he could afford to study medicine in Moscow). On the flight, I read
an entertaining book about research into psychology and sociology. Much about the psychology of humour, belief in the paranormal, and altruism.
meets me off flight at 8pm, we eat, and
we drive to some schools across town where he has to pick things up from
grumpy sleeping porters.
Wake up sevenish at Ralph's, having been a bit poorly overnight. Out to bus stop early to meet Piera. I get
wrong bus stop, and can feel I am now quite ill. After fifteen minutes' walk lugging my luggage in the
drizzle the distance between the more austere Chelsea Bridge and the slightly cake-shop Albert Bridge, in its odd pastel-painted shades of pink, salmon, pale blue, pale green, cream, white and yellow, I find Piera on her moped. We manage to fit our luggage on, and scoot across to Bethnal Green. We weave through traffic, swerving in between very pointy-looking lorries and buses, getting our fingers very cold, despite gloves. She shows me the
exhibition space, and is startled to find part of her photographic work is missing, mislaid or taken by
someone. After tea & cake, I get across town to the
West End, buy tickets for a theatre show, buy honey, ginger, lemon, and garlic, and float in darkened room at Clapham Common for a couple of hours. Then I see Marc-Henry & Christina in Notting Hill. Finally make it to theatre where Sam is waiting. We see the show
a stage adaptation of the cynical, status-conscious banker in the Daily Telegraph cartoon strip. Very impressive and stylish staging - one man
acts Alex, surrounded by a host of screens with monochrome cartoons, still and animated,
interacting with him. Almost every line funny.
Get over to Westminster to interview Norman Baker about
book coming out this week on the death of David Kelly, weapons inspector.
See Piera in afternoon for tea at
gallery. We agree to meet tomorrow morning.
Sore throat in morning, so miss
Sunday service. Catch train down south and find Ralph at home in Battersea. After he kindly cooks
dinner, I drift off under blankets on the sofa by the light of logs burning in his fireplace, glinting through my
sofaside glass of water. Giant shadows flutter across the ceiling.
Kind Colin from church brings ladders over. In drizzle, I go up ladder while he holds
the bottom and snip away at ivy. With his energetic help, we cut the roots eventually
and rip much of the ivy off the gable end, just as it is entering the house, stuffing
the gutters, and encroaching on next door. We go for coffee afterwards, and he tells
me about the perils & details of renting out houses, while also explaining the link
Church movement and the
Blessing. After dark finish
Intellectual' by Steve Fuller and
Undercover Economist' by Tim Harford. Fuller's short book is very entertaining in parts, and heavier in others. It defends the role of an intellectual as a kind of partisan philosopher, "speaking the truth to power". Early on in the book, tongue only partly in cheek, Fuller mentions his role in the witness stand defending creationists in a US court hearing as part of the intellectual's duty to support unfashionable causes. Harford's book is spun out of his Financial Times column. It contains an extended defence of Ricardo's comparitive-advantage argument for free trade, has some interesting material about how prices get marked up, and an excellent chapter about why neither private insurance nor state funding delivers what people really want from health care for the poor.
people come to look at cellar. Sift through old bills.
Buy washers from hardware stores in two villages and try to mend leaking cistern.
By night, meet Tim and James the vicar at a Men's Group session in
the new church hall. We eat chilli con carne and chat about
IKEA shopping, and
Later in the evening, I finish
God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins in the bath. Entertaining read, but, as expected,
largely vulgar positivism. Some very witty bits on the "sheer weirdness" of the Bible, but naively buys the 1920s view that all language is divided into true and untrue statements, with no third category. His scathing humour is fun and it feels liberating. Unfortunately, the bracing attack is built on glib confidence in his own argumentation: he dismisses claims that Hitler's and Stalin's murders can be identified with atheism on the facing page to his refusal to disassociate historical tyrants from the religious affiliations of their times. He allows himself to say that religion is a superficial part of the atmosphere of an age when anyone viewed as a hero from our perspective (such as a pioneering scientist) claims to be religious, but suddenly changes tack when a king with any religious affiliation (as he was just saying everybody claimed back then, sincerely or insincerely) commits mass murder. Quite blatantly, when someone we now approve of is religious, he says it wasn't meant seriously, but when someone we now despise is religious he alleges they were motivated purely by religion. His claim that most large wars and genocides would not have occurred without religion is a particularly obvious piece of self-deception. Presumably, Dawkins thinks that the 20th-century Rwandan and Cambodian genocides had some kind of hidden religious dimension, or would have been even more savage if carried out by priests? His excitement about the wonderful findings of biology and geology remain infectious. But what was in 'The Selfish Gene' his interesting 'meme' suggestion, that some ideas (including religious ones) parasitise minds the same way genes use organisms to make copies of themselves, has in the thirty years since blossomed into an outsized growth. Dawkins seems increasingly in the grip of the meme meme.
up to Leeds and Mytholmroyd.
After getting lost in
last night, wake up on Kate's sofa. Some of the curious grapes I bought yesterday, so
fresh and crisp they taste like very juicy miniature apples, along with some delicious
flapjack cubes, are left over from last night. The park by
day is filled with wide lawns sprinkled with brown and yellow fallen leaves. I sit
on the steps of a cross claiming to mark the site of a 7th-century abbey and eat my breakfast
gazing down an avenue of moulting trees.
Get stuff done at Charing Cross Road internet cafe, then pizza with Sam [I unwisely eat a large tiramisu too]. We go together to Piera's official opening, and meet
hordes of lovely people, some of whose names I forget horribly. I get quite
squiffy on some pink wine that keeps getting refilled.
Spend the night in Nigel of Light's sitting room. A hard room to go to sleep in, because
he has such a wonderful range of tempting-looking books on two shelves exactly at
mattress-on-floor height. Once I do fall asleep, the coffee in the tiramisu wakes me up around 4am and keeps me awake for several more hours, unbelievably. Revenge of the evil bean.
I find Robin at Amir's
flat, which is very near where I briefly lived in the Libyan Consulate squat
some years ago. After a fine Lebanese kebab, Robin & I meet Piera & Giacomo, &
Giacomo's father over from Genoa, to see how Piera's pictures look. Saharawi journalist
shrewdly describes Londoners as slaves to their jobs & houses.
Robin & I meet at airport for flight to London. On the plane, I read a few pages of
Rebecca's book while Robin snoozes. Kate kindly agrees to put us up tonight, and
I doze off on one of her sofas, pleasantly dazed by dessert wine, chocolates,
toast & slices of spiced sausage. While falling asleep, I have an odd sensation
as I listen to the sounds of London through the open window in the dark. It is as if
part of me floats up out of my chest and goes out through the window, soaring up
into the fresh, cool night sky. I drift off to a strange composite fantasy of London
rooftops: somehow a blend of prewar
Poppins stories and the postwar
More work. Briefly meet Julia. Chilly evening. Read web excerpt of excellent
Stay in, more work for
Heikki, plus Marc-Henry & Kant.
To relax, learn about
Stay in, do work for
Heikki, plus Marc-Henry & Kant.
Robin texts me to say he got both of us tickets for London on Monday. Explore the streets around me a bit. Some slightly tacky
bronze statues of schoolboys outside a nearby school I guess commemorate (and Edina confirmed) the novel 'The
Paul Street Boys', set apparently in this district a hundred years ago. Because one solid-metal teenager is at a perfect height for knocking an unwary pedestrian's front teeth out, the sculptures are floodlit at night.
Everything is shut and grey for Day of the Dead. This is Hungarians' central-Asian ancestor-worship festival grafted onto
Saints Day. Wonderful dinner & natter at
Franc's. We watch
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