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2008
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February 29th; Judy of the cafe days sends us from upstate New York a cartoon strip consisting of Garfield minus Garfield. People keep mentioning Amy Winehouse.
February 28th; All day doing voiceover work for Kalman . A warm slot of sunshine pours in through the one window, double-glazed, of the plywood-soundproofed studio. All across Eastern Europe, tens of thousands of prewar and 19th-century buildings were carefully double-glazed with two separately opening windows such that each outer window, when opened, swings in the wind and smacks its brass handle straight into the glass pane of the swinging opened inner window. Have never seen a single one of these windows with a handle recessed into the frame so this accident cannot happen. Hungary is particularly rich in these. Whoever covered the inside of this sound studio with plywood and muffling fibreboard simply built a plywood case around the inner window frame, making it into a kind of hinged wooden shutter that neatly opens and shuts, I'm sure still with a complete window casement and pane of glass sealed inside. The outer window casement is a normal frame with glass, and its brass handle slides harmlessly across the sheet of plywood when the wind blows it against the flat, hinged box that used to be the inner window. Wine & soda in the evening with Isabel .

February 27th; Get my green shirt off the washing line and detach the extra coloured plastic clothes pegs that weighted it down so it wouldn't blow away in the wind. Georgina now has pegs of operating-theatre pale green, creamy-butter-coloured pegs, and a lot the rather extreme pale blue that cars used to be painted in the 1950s. Drive to Lakitelek with Robin at sunset. Get train to Kecskemet. There discover that cash machine inside railway station dislikes my card, so walk into town in the smoky evening. Am told to follow the railway track past the graveyard to the chicken-processing plant, where an OTP cashpoint set into the front door of the chicken factory sorts me out. Come back and get a later train to Budapest with an oddly solemn mood in the dining car laid out with custard-yellow tablecloths. One man reads something serious-looking. Another looks like he wants to doze off. Several yellow tables away a Spanish-speaking couple chat intensely - the bearded man seems to be beseeching the blonde for about a hundred miles. I eat two sausages with mustard, followed by fluffy chestnut stuff with cream.
Up late, revisit the Garrett Lisi story ["surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything"], and to me looks less like a theory than another hexagonal periodic table of particles. Whatever this E8 thing is, the spirit of Lisi's attempt reminds me worryingly of Keith Critchlow's geomancy book two days ago. Short film tries to explain it, as if it could. Apparently, it fails anyway.

February 26th; Finish Robin's copy of 'The Lost World of the Kalahari' by Laurens van der Post. Extremely readable, with some elegaic passages showing his belief in the magic of Africa's wilderness. Van der Post says he was fascinated from the days of his World-War-One Boer childhood with the mystique of the recently-vanished Bushmen, culminating in a trip in the 1950s with a camera crew into the Kalahari Desert to find and meet a last few members of the untamed tribe. There is strong evidence now he was often untruthful. However, I nowhere got the impression reading this that he claims that he lived with the tribe, as one critic says he claimed: it seems quite obvious from the book that the time out in the desert took up only a few weeks. Other yarns he spun as far as I can tell fall outside the Kalahari story, though the sulky French film-maker Eugene Spode comes so badly out of van der Post's depiction of his role on the trip, I would quite like to hear Spode's version of this expedition. However, all the other characters are depicted charmingly and gallantly as themselves charming and gallant. We sense a romantic storyteller repairing the past, recounting a tale so that it feels right rather than telling it more precisely as it happened. It becomes obvious just how much van der Post is in the grip of a Rousseau-style Noble Savage dream as he desperately scours the badlands of Africa, swamp and desert, for a primaeval, austere innocence embodied by the Bushmen. His desire to believe, his yearning for this unsullied people in their wild Eden of harsh purity, is so touching and so frankly communicated, it is hard not to be caught up in his lyricism. Perhaps his dreamer's bias was less obvious to nostalgic, war-soured readers in the late 1950s. A combination of this charismatic belief in his own golden vision, his haunting turns of phrase, and the mood of the time, must explain how van der Post was able to bewitch so many people. It's clear he could weave around himself the aura of another time. "For instance, about midday when a wind rose to blow rose-pink through the silver air and tore the sound of our feet, like dead leaves, away over the waters behind us, we arrived at a green island meadow sunk in a round shelter of high woods. There, as still as if they were stitched petit point by point into olive-green tapestry, lay an apricot lechwe male with a harem of five all fast asleep around him." Or, the hippo he drolly nicknames Augustine: "He visited us nightly, announcing his arrival with a loud crash through the wing of reeds, a fat boy trying to make our flesh creep with fierce puffs of breath. For a while he would study us from all angles and then return, full of simple wonder, to his soft water, where he made solemn and reverential noises at the moon." About fifteen minutes after I complete the book, around 10pm the lights dim and the electricity starts to fail. Robin and I go outdoors. A small electricity transformer up a pole 200 yards down the road is shorting so spectacularly that the pink-orange glow around the box burns brighter than a streetlamp, and the strong buzzing sound is audible from the house. In fact, we can feel the rasping electric hum in the air getting stronger as we walk up for a closer look with the two dogs. Could this be the source of the strange headache I have had growing on me all evening?
February 25th; Beautiful warm sunshine and blue sky out on Great Plain. A couple of men outside work with trees and spades. One called Odon is apparently the common-law husband of the beautiful Gypsy girl Robin found pregnant and drugged in the snow last month wanting to die, and father of her unborn child who it seems she will now be able to keep. Finish a rather odd book called 'Islamic Patterns' by Keith Critchlow, an art historian. This is full of large line illustrations in black and green line, of geometrical patterns used in Islamic tiling, carpets, and latticework. It explains how to generate each pattern with pencil and compass, and discusses their relationship (Critchlow says) to sacred numerological ideas among Muslim thinkers. These sound heavily Platonic, and at one point Critchlow remarks that "almost all of what passes for science nowadays" is Aristotelian in character. Other intriguing digressions, all brief and sphinxic, mention Kepler's geometry, astrological ideas of planetary return based on ratios of orbits, praying with relation to north, east, south, west, and the mathematics of symmetry classes. What are not mentioned (perhaps because the book is from the mid-1970s) are the aperiodic tilings of the 2D plane by Penrose and others, and the even more finite-flavoured Heesch tiling problem.

February 24th; Lamb for lunch. Most of day rewriting a document about Vietnam for Kalman. Fidel Castro resigns so his brother can take over as supreme leader. Television gives a glimpse of Cuba's rubberstamp legislature, another vast amphitheatre-shaped room full of dozing men at desks.
February 23rd; Robin in bed ill. All day, curious problems with the electricity supply, both black-outs and brown-outs. With Georgina in early afternoon to see Farsang/Carnival celebrations at the boys' Tiszakurt primary school, packed with proud parents. 9-year-old boys dressed as Roman senators, 10-year-old girls dressed as bees, and so forth. We return and still no voltage. As dusk settles in, I light candles while Georgina phones the electricity company repeatedly. As night falls, the power comes back on.

February 22nd; Robin picks me up in the morning, and we drive to Kecskemet to collect Letty and Zsuzsi from boarding school. Sunny, mild. From there to the Great Plain. I doze on sofa from late afternoon to about 9pm. Television reports trouble over Kosovo again.
February 21st; Last night cooked at Franc's, while he kindly cut some triangles of wood off a plank with his frightening electric jigsaw. We watch half of 'Ghostbusters 2'. Today, potter around a bit.

February 20th; More sunshine. Walk further up the row of shops in search of small chunks of wood & rubber solution. I have the curiously reassuring feeling I am tucked into some faded, timeless corner of the Monopoly board. A bicycle shop [closed], two greengrocers, two furniture shops, a solarium, 2nd-hand clothes [always advertised in Hungary as 'Imported British clothing'], a silversmith, an ironmongers. The real prize on hunts like this is of course the hat shop. In out-of-the-way suburbs, or some provincial towns in Hungary, you can still find a woman living from selling hats to other women in her own shop. Locating a milliner shows you have discovered a forgotten corner of the era already being bid farewell to in Britain by 1960s books like Colin Watson's Flaxborough novels. Coming back down the other side of this Budapest high street, I find an optician's with the wood of the shopfront painted cream, proudly bearing the names of the two specialists across the top. They have a ludricrously large wall-mounted four-foot thermometer outside the door. A huge barometer takes up a quarter of the shop window. In confident 1950s capital letters the dial shows Rain/Wind, Changeable, Dry, Thunder, Fine. The pointer is at Fine.
February 19th; Last night glued the last two planks to the trestles, and today test how they fit into the slots between the stiffeners on the underside of the tabletop. One fits snugly, the other jams. Probably the glued join drifted overnight. Also since that section of plank was warped, I seem to have reversed the warp when gluing it to its trestle. This made it slightly wider at the other end of the groove than where the wide part was when it spaced apart the groove planks while their glue set. I hope you're all paying attention.
So I use Franc's rasp to file down most of the offending edge, then, when sun appears, pop out onto the balcony to scrub the remaining tiles. This takes two bowls of water, a scrubbing pad, & an entire roll of paper kitchen towels. I go out into the street in warm sunshine and, looking for sandpaper, find a shop nearby. Just north of the church is - in its own dumpy way - a proper row of shops. What in Britain we call a high street. A carpentry shop, a paint shop, two upholsterers, a florist, electrical goods, a stationers, a newsagent, lots of other shops actually selling useful things you might want to buy, as opposed to huge display windows bragging about a lifestyle you can't afford. Some of the dust on my balcony clearly comes from this street, but there appear to be people doing things here. Strutting past in tight jeans come several teenage Gypsy girls with almost cartoonishly sexy figures. Set off to find Franc and notice it is quite mild, almost warm out today. Franc & I meet in a library cafe. He says he has noticed girls flirting enthusiastically all day. I drably suggest that it is the sudden warmth in the weather. Like blossoming trees or grasshoppers, the women are wired to begin the mating season as soon as the ambient temperature rises above a certain level. After more tea & cake, Franc drops me off at home, I find the remaining sanding only takes ten minutes, and around 11pm have a Skype chat with Bob in Philadelphia.

February 18th; In the small hours last night do first stage of gluing four planks to the underside of the tabletop board. On my tub of Cola Blanca glue from Barcelona I have the choice of following the instructions in Spanish or in the Hungarian label attached by the importer. I speak no Spanish whatsoever [despite my half-hearted efforts last year], but even basic guesswork suggests an important difference between step 3 espanol and step 3 magyarul. The Hungarian clearly says to hold the join together for several seconds ["nehany masodpercig"] by hand ["a kezeben"]. I wonder what the Hungarian translator thought "UNIR y mantener bajo presion 20min" might mean? The phrase 'presion 20min' seems a good clue to keep it under some kind of pressure for 20 minutes. In case there is any doubt left, the Catalan manufacturers helpfully add a small diagram for step 3 in which a screw clamp is pictured holding a join together. Since it was made in Spain, since the Spanish one has a little picture, and to be on the safe side, I keep it under pressure for 20 minutes. This might explain why Hungarian furniture falls apart when you try to move it somewhere gently [or in one case when you don't move it or even touch it]: it's the translator's fault. In the late afternoon I visit the post office and stand in a queue where everyone is very annoyed. I find I am whistling parts from the William Tell overture. What is odd is that I know very little music, but I seem to be accurately remembering at least four little separate chunks, not just the dum-diddle-um, diddle-um-dum-dum bit. Strange. In my postbox is a kindly posted copy of the book 'La putain de la Republique' I was unable to get in London. Thank you, Coumba! I walk outside into the cold, and as I go up the steps of the big Nyugati railway station I suddenly understand. The man who plays tunes with little hammers on a row of glasses part-filled with water is there, and for a small crowd of glum but attentive Budapesters he is galloping confidently through a later section of the Rossini piece. Obviously, half an hour earlier, I walked past him and unconsciously remembered the themes of the simplified tune he was picking out with great brio on his improvised glockenspiel. In the post-office queue I was continuing something I wasn't consciously aware I'd heard just a few seconds earlier.
February 17th; Start cleaning my balcony. So thick is the layer of grime that with bleach and a scrubbing pad I use up an entire half-roll of kitchen-size paper towels just cleaning 12 tiles. About 25 others left. Then I stop since my fingers start to hurt from the cold, and I'll need another roll of paper towelling and more daylight. Since the street is almost pedestrian [fewer than ten cars a day drive down it some days] being laid with bricks to slow vehicles down, where is this sticky black dust from? It must have drifted from streets away. Perhaps no-one has cleaned the balcony tiles in the 4 or 5 years since this block was built? Because of the bleach, my fingers now smell like swimming pool.

February 16th; Back down to OBI to get another two planks sawn to length, since Franc advises me to attach two to effectively widen the trestles' span, and I want four to stiffen the tabletop. A biting cold wind blows off the river on my way down to the DIY megastore. Inside the shop - almost opposite the strange, low, yellow-brick building - the staff seem baffled and miserable. I see two orange-jacketed OBIserfs chatting with someone in silk breeches and a powdered wig. An overweight woman stomps past in a ball gown. Following instructions, I buy a 2.5 metre plank, take it to checkout, buy it, walk back to the sawing section, show my receipt, and ask them to cut two sections the same length as the 3'10" strip I have brought in, fresh from its planing at Franc's last night. The man behind the cutting counter is clearly disappointed I've returned, and he measures my strip of pine with a tape measure. I suggest he can just use the length as a ruler for cutting the two other sections. He is so defeated and depressed by what I'm saying, it looks for a second as if he is going to burst into tears. He shuffles off wordlessly, cuts my two lengths and brings all the wood back. Now I wander around looking for rubber strip. Someone, presumably another member of staff, passes me wearing a deerstalker and cap with a long, curved pipe in his mouth. He is not quite carrying off the Sherlock Holmes look, but marches into the woodworking section undeterred. Finally, I buy a rubber doormat, intending to cut it into strips at home to give, as Franc suggested, grip between the trestles and table-top. Come back down the moving ramp from the first floor. No-one walks, despite the slowness of the ramp, making it tricky to get round customers and staff blocking the way. Blob-like people stand on the ramp with their home-improvements kit, silently radiating despair. I pass a particularly cheerless middle-aged woman in orange OBI staff outfit, with hundreds of price tags all over her. There are even 4 or 5 curls of sticky price tags in her hair. This must be another festive costume of some sort. Perhaps they are having a staff party later, and this is why they all look so heartbroken? I approach the check-out area. Two tills are open, one manned by someone with a skull's head inside a deep, black cowl. Oddly enough, no-one wants to take their purchases through the Harbinger of Death's check-out, and four of us quietly queue at the other till, waiting to buy our things from an apparently normal woman in the shop's official uniform. The Grim Reaper looks a bit uncomfortable sitting alone at his cash register waiting for someone to say hello to him. I get to the front of my queue, and see that a brown suede Stetson hat discreetly slung across my check-out girl's shoulders identifies her as a cowgirl from the great days of the Wild West. She seems so sour and crushed by her job and her hat she will not even meet my eye. I purchase my overpriced black rubber doormat to the sound of ELO singing about 'Mr Blue Sky' over the shop tannoy and take a few steps out of her throbbing force field of loathing. Buy a surprisingly reasonable poppyseed pastry from a surprisingly friendly woman just after check-out, who explains to me that it is Farsang. Of course. I had forgotten all about Farsang, again. A pagan festival they have also in Germany where people dress in bizarre costumes to frighten away the spirits of winter. Probably folded into Carnival in other countries. I briefly imagine a perky store manager enthusing to his staff about how much fun it will be for everyone to dress up, and then I step out into the cutting chill of the windy street, daylight failing as dusk draws in.
Never heard of this lot. How innocent they sound and look now, in their velvet suits: Hepcat daddy go.
February 15th; Pop over on the tram to the Palace of Arts to record their sound announcements. I go shopping to buy ingredients for dinner before meeting Muhammad & Mahmoud for Irish coffee in Ferenc Liszt square. At 7pm, Franc picks me up in his car so I can take my four strips of pine to his flat to saw them a couple of inches shorter than the width of the tabletop they will stiffen. Amazingly, I manage to prepare supper without disaster and as we eat, Franc cheerfully remarks on the event of being cooked for [he usually cooks], pointedly recalling some women he has often fed who he says cannot put a meal together. We chat about drawing, poverty, co-operation and meditation. He helps me saw and plane my four-foot planks down later while Lenke his pillow-shaped cat snoozes nearby.

February 14th; In the small hours, find two cheerful little four-minute films. A Valentine-ish one called 'Glee' and a monochrome tabletop animation called 'Tim Tom'.
Once the day starts, I meet Katalin for a fruit tea at the library. She tells me about translating this into Hungarian , and her theatre work with and since Peter Halasz. Back home, friends point me to this site of talks by some leading thinkers and doers. Shame about the loud, annoying "excitement" music on the front of each video. Most talks are the usual guff. Men in open-necked shirts & training shoes use terms like "stuff" & "cool" to communicate the thrilling urgency of their ideas: people from the Blair era doing the rolled-up-shirtsleeves vision thing. Nonetheless, one or two justify the hype. Biologist Aubrey de Grey agitates for research to cure ageing, and illustrator David Macaulay talks about his love of Rome.
February 13th; Quiet day, sunny. Tea & decaff cappuccino with Constantine, returning to London tomorrow. His mother is still very ill. I sleep several times during day. Troubled dreams. In one early evening one I am in a modern house where the dark becomes tangible and granular. I check the chunks are not thousands of cockroaches moving across the floor of my dream, but they aren't. Just swarming shreds of darkness.

February 12th; Strenuous day. The acacia log sections prove stubborn in the hearth even with Robin's bellows, and he reluctantly resorts to kindling. In the crisp, cold afternoon, we walk to the village post office. Chloe, Vicki's successor as fox terrier, strains on her leash. Around 4.30pm, a drive to Lakitelek with Robin, and the two boys, Kasper & Bela. As often on the dusty Great Plain the setting sun is impressive. Oval, much wider than its height, it floats down slowly into the bare trees as we drive along. Rather like being followed by a glowing tangerine blimp. We have hot chocolate & pizzas in the pseudo-log-cabin restaurant next to the railway station while I try, without much success, to get into conversation with Kriszti, the cute girl behind the counter. In the restaurant, Robin reminisces about the months he spent in Nice as an artist-in-residence, one night picking up a local French girl in his car. When he took her home to her parents a couple of days later, her mother was clearly dominant over her father. Robin recalls that a mongrel bitch in the sitting room was having puppies right there and then, and the lack of male control gave him the feeling that the females, therefore nature, were in complete charge of the household, being fertile and multiplying themselves. I'm still thinking about his remark years ago that a woman laughing is the sound of "nature laughing". Uneventful train journey to Budapest. Once again, Lakitelek gives me one of the old tickets to travel. It's a small thick cardboard rectangle, exactly 1 & 1/4 inches by 2 & 1/4 inches. The glossy front is rich mustard yellow with black lettering printed deep into it. The back is grey & matt, and has a fainter printed grid of Arabic days and Roman months for the inspector to punch holes that date it. A proper train ticket .
February 11th; Labour prime minister Gordon Brown claims he did not know that Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told him last month that the police were bugging a Labour MP in 2005 and 2006. Bit hard to believe. During a quiet early supper, dusk slides into night in Robin's darkening kitchen . We finish the first bottle of red.

February 10th; Out with Robin in the morning. We drop by Tiszakurt to meet Laci's wife. She takes us down into their wine cellar and we pass large grey plastic vats of wine to get to the racks of bottles at the back. Unprompted, she drops the price and mutters something about the wine being hard to shift when we remark on how many bottles she has back there. Seeming concerned to put labels on for us, we tell her there is no need, I write CS for Cabernet Sauvignon on one cork and KF for Kek Frankos on the other two corks, and then she brings us the labels anyway. They are of the Mrs Tiggywinkle's Flowered Soap school of wine-label design. Then we drop in on Agi & Jozsi the honeymakers. They remark on not seeing me for almost two years. We join them for rosehip tea and walnut & cherry cake, they and Robin chatting in German. Then we buy some jars of honey. Robin on the way out rather perturbs Jozsi when he sees an embroidered teatowel version of the Last Supper in their kitchen and starts to explain in German the Jesus-married-Magdalene claim of the Da Vinci Code. I try to smooth things over by explaining in Hungarian how Brown lifted the whole thesis from The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail, but we are in danger of being late back for lunch. Wonderful lunch: delicious roast lamb, lemon pudding, and the rather woody Kek Frankos red wine stuns me so much I pass out in the library for a couple of hours. With Robin after dark to Kecskemet to take the girls back to their boarding school for the week. Letty and Robin have a brief exchange about his furry hat as they get out of the car. We say good night. Letty and Zsuzsi, laden with suitcases, disappear behind the giant wooden door of the Mary Ward Young English Ladies' Grammar School & College.
February 9th; Wake up at Franc's in south Pest. The wall of the room I was sleeping in is covered with quivering smears & bubbles of sunshine reflected off a mass of silver tinsel on top of some boxes. We have breakfast and drive into town. As he suddenly sees a big spill of jagged crunched glass in the road, he swerves into another lane, being hooted by a driver behind. Franc remarks that Hungarian motorists have the patience of four-year-olds. The impatient driver behind sails past us, acknowledging with a cheery hand gesture that we were right after all to swerve. "The wheel's still turning but the hampster's dead" mutters Franc as the other driver zooms enthusiastically ahead of us into dense traffic.
After dealing with a slow-witted but sweet-natured clerk at the internet cafe, I catch the train out to Szolnok, getting into conversation with three charming American and Canadian girls spending the year off before college in eastern Hungary. The second leg of my journey is spent chatting with two Hungarian drama teachers taking a long way home via Szentes after their headmistress failed to have them picked up after an interesting drama conference in Budapest. Robin meets me outside the station in Kunszentmarton in the misty chill of 10pm.

February 8th; As I walk south down the river from Petofi Bridge, there is a growing sense of space. This comes as the dumpy industrial buildings are set further apart, lower in height, from earlier decades in the 20th century, interspersed with more scrubby grass and bleak-looking trees. The number of people with non-standard numbers of teeth or limbs gradually increases. Something oddly soothing about the district's sense of having given up: Hungary's default mood. I'm specially inspired by one particular long, low set of vaguely neoclassical prewar buildings in yellow brick. They are set behind two sunken rectangles of municipal grass and half-hearted trees. So much like parts of Manchester. Reach Baumax down there. No luck: though the collapsible plastic shopping baskets in hideous red & yellow are admirable, the staff are sullen even by Budapest standards. At the big OBI on the road back, I find what I want. Two kinds of wooden trestles to support the Siberian pine tabletop. Tea & dinner with Franc.
February 7th; Polish page is finally up. Thanks, Grazyna!

February 6th; Visit Franc in the gallery he is renting together with Mr Zeigfinger. I suggest more lighting. We go next door for a ginger ale and bump into Mr Carlson. Arrive early at Peter's opening. He is still putting up the photos of Berlin in his rather mystical exhibition. I have to leave soon after Robin, Istvan, & Zeno arrive, so that I can meet Rob in time at the Indian restaurant. Rob tells me a bit about James Q. Wilson, the Gospel of Judas, and Michael Frayn. Also my recent severed-head dream reminds him of a dream he had some time ago in which he opened the top of his own head, scooped out spoonfuls of his brain, and sauteed his own brains with unsalted butter & shallots. Eerily, Rob describes how, as he spooned more of his brain matter into the frying pan, he could feel his own consciousness slowly shutting down into darkness. Rather like HAL's circuit-shutdown scene in '2001'.
February 5th; Robin & I load my last boxes into his car. Sunny start to day, but still chilly. We drive back to Budapest, leaving out a visit to the honeymakers this time, but calling in at the sawmill selling glued lengths and boards of Siberian pine. This time we arrive before 3pm, and inhale draughts of intoxicating pine scent as I wander around the storeroom with the men looking at 3/4-inch, 4' x 6' board. Robin & one of the sawmill men strap the board to the top of his car, and they throw in four wooden strips to stiffen it. We drive towards town, on the outskirts pass 11 or 12 remarkably pretty prostitutes spaced out along the old trunk road used by lorrydrivers, and enter Budapest. We drop my stuff off at my flat, and meet Istvan & Zoli at a pizza restaurant on Andrassy street. I try the decaff cappuccino with ice cream floating in it.

February 4th; Another soothing, quiet day at Robin's. I doodle by the hearth and join an India-based social networking site. Cannot remember which night in Rome I dreamt that my head had been removed - either the Saturday or the Sunday. Somehow I had grown a new head, but I was still tenderly protective of my old severed head, wanting to put it somewhere it would not rot and start to smell. I can still remember the heaviness of my detached head weighed in my two hands in the dream.
February 3rd; Lovely Sunday lunch of pork with crackling. Chunks of log glow in the open fire while I help Robin read some paragraphs in a book about poultry-keeping for Hungarian language practice. I get a headache quite late, so the two of us fish through a rubbish bin at night outside by the light of his mobile phone to search for some discarded painkillers: luckily we find them after 5 minutes.

February 2nd; Robin's children set off for their riding lesson. Surprisingly mild weather. Robin & I talk until late over a midnight feast about lots of topics, including King James' slightly nutty pamphlets on tobacco and witches.
February 1st; Wake up with a cartoon of an upside-down pink rhino still stamped on my left wrist. My entrance branding from last night's rather sleepy guitar venue. Bob reminds me about the noisy retro Swedes. Rather Stones redux. Travelling out to Robin's later than usual, I have a brief peak experience when coming up the steps from the tunnel into the concrete modernist box of Szolnok station's ticket hall. It seems vast and empty at ten at night, and the mix of neon strip lights with covers and without covers down the long oblong ceiling somehow resemble landing lights on a runway stretching into the distance. Likewise the marble tiling down the floor suggests huge vistas and endless possibilities. The girl at the ticket counter eyes me up and down with a smirk as I ask her about my connecting train: I probably look and sound a little too perky. At the far end of the ticket hall a small huddle of mumbling people sit quietly round twelve vertical drums, like Tibetan prayer wheels, neatly pasted with printed timetables. Though inside glass boxes, they can be turned easily from outside to read the train times. Robin kindly meets me at Kunszentmarton at half past eleven, and both his dogs in the back seat of the car lick me enthusiastically as I get in.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact@otherlanguages.org

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