Judy of the cafe days sends us from upstate New York
a cartoon strip
consisting of Garfield minus Garfield.
All day doing voiceover work for
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
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
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
["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
thing is, the spirit of Lisi's attempt reminds me worryingly of
Keith Critchlow's geomancy book two days ago.
tries to explain it, as if it could. Apparently, it
Finish Robin's copy of
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
tribe. There is strong
he was often
I nowhere got the impression reading this that he claims that he lived with the
as one critic says he claimed:
it seems quite obvious from the book that the time out in the desert took up
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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?
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
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
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
south, west, and the mathematics of symmetry classes. What are not mentioned (perhaps
the book is from the mid-1970s) are the
aperiodic tilings of the
2D plane by Penrose and others, and the even more
Lamb for lunch. Most of
day rewriting a document about Vietnam for
resigns so his brother can take over as supreme leader. Television gives a glimpse of
rubberstamp legislature, another vast amphitheatre-shaped room full of dozing
men at desks.
Robin in bed ill. All day, curious problems with the electricity supply, both black-outs and
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.
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
over Kosovo again.
Last night cooked at
while he kindly cut some triangles of wood off a
plank with his frightening electric jigsaw. We watch half of
Today, potter around a bit.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
putain de la Republique' I was unable to get in London.
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.
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
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
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
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
How innocent they sound and look now, in their velvet suits: Hepcat daddy go.
Pop over on the tram to the
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
and meditation. He helps me saw and plane my four-foot planks down later while Lenke his
pillow-shaped cat snoozes nearby.
In the small hours, find two cheerful little four-minute films. A Valentine-ish
and a monochrome tabletop animation called
Once the day starts, I meet Katalin for a fruit tea at the library. She tells me about
, and her theatre work with and since
Halasz. Back home, friends point me to
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.
de Grey agitates for research to cure ageing, and illustrator
Macaulay talks about
love of Rome.
Quiet day, sunny. Tea & decaff cappuccino with
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.
Strenuous day. The acacia log sections prove stubborn in the hearth even with Robin's
bellows, and he reluctantly resorts
In the crisp, cold afternoon, we walk to the village post office.
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
prime minister Gordon Brown claims he did not know that
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told him last month that the police were
a Labour MP in 2005 and 2006. Bit hard to believe. During a quiet early supper,
dusk slides into night in
. We finish the first bottle of red.
with Robin in the morning. We drop by Tiszakurt to meet Laci's wife. She takes us
into their wine cellar and we pass large grey plastic vats of wine to get to the
of bottles at the back. Unprompted, she drops the price and mutters something
wine being hard to shift when we remark on how many bottles she has back
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
we drop in on Agi & Jozsi the honeymakers. They remark on not seeing me for
two years. We join them for rosehip tea and walnut & cherry cake, they and
chatting in German. Then we buy some jars of honey. Robin on the way out
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
Vinci Code. I try to smooth things over by explaining in Hungarian how Brown
the whole thesis from
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.
Robin have a brief exchange about his furry hat as they get out of
We say good night. Letty
and Zsuzsi, laden with suitcases, disappear behind the giant
wooden door of the
Mary Ward Young English Ladies'
School & College.
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
conference in Budapest.
meets me outside the station in Kunszentmarton in the misty chill of 10pm.
walk south down the river from Petofi Bridge, there is a growing sense of space. This
the dumpy industrial buildings are set further apart, lower in height, from
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
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.
down there. No luck: though the collapsible plastic shopping baskets in hideous
yellow are admirable, the staff are sullen even by Budapest standards. At the
on the road back, I find what I want. Two kinds of wooden trestles to support the Siberian
tabletop. Tea & dinner with
page is finally up. Thanks, Grazyna!
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
Carlson. Arrive early at Peter's
He is still putting up the photos of Berlin in his rather mystical
exhibition. I have to leave soon after
Istvan, & Zeno arrive, so that I
can meet Rob in time at the Indian restaurant.
tells me a bit about
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 &
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
scene in '2001'.
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
restaurant on Andrassy street. I try the decaff cappuccino with ice cream
floating in it.
Another soothing, quiet day at
I doodle by the hearth and join an
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.
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
luckily we find them after 5 minutes.
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.
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
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 /
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