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2008
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September 30th; I revisit 3 Telecom to get my wireless broadband modem properly mended. The second geezer is much more helpful, and everything seems good. Uneventful train journey up to the North reading some of a Simon Blackburn book in a crowded carriage. Grey, drizzly London gives way to grey, drizzly Yorkshire.
September 29th; Wake up in Highbury, north London, and have breakfast with Nigel of Light, who is on the mend after months of gruelling chemotherapy and X-ray therapy for his cancer. He is almost back to doing full days at the office again. I pop out and see the local blokes at "3" Telecom, down the road at Angel, to find out why my broadband wireless modem is not working. Then I buy some silver clay from a frighteningly large New Zealand man with zig-zag tattooes up both arms in a small jewellers' supplies shop near Hatton Gardens. There's an electronic lock on the door so customers can be buzzed in and out. After this, buy a Book of Common Prayer second-hand on Charing X Road, and get another book from a Swedish girl in another shop. We disagree about identity cards [she believes Britain needs them] and then when I say I moved abroad to meet more pretty girls, but now there are more coming from abroad to Britain so I might move back, she suddenly melts and starts to blush and volunteers a discount on the book because it is a little dirty. Not feeling particularly silver-tongued, just trying to be polite. Back at Nigel's, we find his girlfriend cannot join us for dinner, so just the two of us go to a local Italian restaurant with lovely food but some naughtiness on the bill. Back at his, I find my 3 modem connection isn't working after all.

September 28th; To airport for flight to London. Sunny. Reach Nigel's flat in Highbury by 11pm.
September 27th; Fruit juice with Ethnography Judit. She tells me about a 1980s novel involving a sinister menage a quatre in Venice that shows strong use of mirror imagery.

September 26th; To Peter the film-maker's for some ouzo and some snatches from his feature film, bits of Jodorowsky, and an abstract film-maker.
September 25th; Before the lesson in which Akos passionately describes his forex hedging work as part of a corporate treasury team, I am waiting in the lobby of his office block. I notice a sculpture I have not spotted on any of my previous visits. Nor has Akos noticed it, he says, though he passes through the lobby every day. It is a spiral swoop of detached ceiling tiles. They get more oblong, long and brown in a five-foot curve down from the ceiling until they slim into a wooden shaft piercing one of the fat white pillars holding up the first floor, about six foot up from the floor. From a distance, it resembles a giant feather, with the wooden shaft as the quill. The trick almost works, except that the sculptor's pseudo tiles up near the ceiling are not quite the same matt off-white as the ones actually tiling the ceiling. Upper faces not dusted recently, though many are within reach of a raised hand. Curry with Rob: we talk about 'The Quiet American'.

September 24th; Clutching my new skipping rope, I join Mystery Friend 2 for some Mexican food. Along the bar from us an American shaped like a large parcel loudly discusses Hungarian bank loans with the bartender.
September 23rd; Over a breakfast cup of herbal tea, Robin recounts that he bumped into people he needed to meet by chance three times yesterday in town. Yusska, a Japanese painter, Zeno, the Latin translator, and then Albert, the musician. Peter the film-maker drops round to take Robin off to see an early Peter Greenaway film he has on DVD: oddly enough a spoof documentary on an English conceptual landscape artist obsessed with the vertical line. I go back to bed and pass out. Oldie but goldie: Safety Tips from Anubis.

September 22nd; Grey, chilly day. Sleep on and off about 14 hours. Time for the jar of honey stuffed with chopped garlic, ginger, & lemon. Obtain ingredients and mix. Now we're only allowed to buy and sell long positions on the markets in London or New York, it appears - just like Eastern Europe a few years ago. In fact it seems that short sellers are now called "rampant" short sellers who "conspire" to "manipulate" prices downward. Completely different from people who push share prices upwards then. Robin's friend Paris-in-London has a similar frustrating tale to my Thursday & Friday experience of feckless brokers' online platforms not working, then on the phone simply failing to execute what would have been profitable trades, losing my trades, finding them again once the position is losing money, stopping me out 20 points outside the loss stop, etc etc.
Thoughtful, still-relevant, 5-year-old essay about Sayyid Qutb by Paul Berman. If no other, read this page. Poorly-written but still thought-provoking sentences like "Who but Sayyid Qutb, from his miserable prison in Nasser's Egypt, could have zeroed in so plausibly on the difficulties encountered by Jesus' disciples in getting out the word?"
September 21st; Again sleep 13 hours. I'm clearly ill. In the evening, Robin & I try the Indian Spice Trick, eating a hot curry to scorch the bacillus. Buoyant after being man of the last cricket match of the season [50 runs and getting three batsmen out as wicketkeeper], Robin suggests we go to the restaurant owned by some of the Indian businessmen he was playing with this afternoon. The match was at Hungary's only dedicated cricket pitch, at the Zichy-Hadik country house. Restaurant totally empty, however, save for us. He notes that the flat just below mine in my building has a moon and a sun on their doormat - almost lined up with the polystyrene moon and sun sitting on top of my oven. Over the reasonably spicy main course Robin mentions a strange vision he had at an early age of a Nordic landscape with rocks & fjords. It struck him as the perfect landscape, his true home. Another early memory is of a beautiful blonde woman in a barn he perhaps saw in a film, which stayed with him as a primal search image. This leads on to a female cousin of Robin's who, with one Scots grandparent and one Swedish grandparent, apparently had such pale skin at birth that it was effectively transparent and her disgusted mother could see the baby's internal organs through the skin. Luckily the skin later became at least an opaque white. I had not realised that Sasha the painter lives in a kind of colony of adjacent studios, and has for a neighbour Bullet, a third painter who does landscapes where all the people have no crotches, and a slightly dazed French count called Etienne. Robin quite rates Etienne's monochrome sketches of butterflies obscuring naked women done in very hard, faint pencil.

September 20th; Feel a bit frail. Sleep 13 hours. Franc comes over for afternoon tea.
September 19th; More film stuff with Paul V. Dinner at cosy restaurant with Martin & the young ladies.

September 18th; The Fed starts dumping barrowloads of money into the financial markets, to allay concerns after several banks go down this week.
September 17th; Meet Paul V. to do some film-making in the office of some long-suffering British businessmen. Dinner with Franc afterwards.

September 16th; Fruit juice with Jose. Late lunch with Mystery Friend 2, who sweetly says I should write a book like him. What about? I ask him. "That is one of the challenges of writing a book - deciding what it will be about." he sagely replies. In the evening, meet Martin & Jeff. I drink some wild-strawberry schnapps.
September 15th; Wake up humming this, oddly enough.

September 14th; Grey Sunday. Read a bit. Some Groove Armada.
September 13th; Go swimming. Cool morning, hot afternoon, cold evening, like autumn, not summer any more. The pool has two things like blackboards, about 3' high and 7' long, facing across the width of the pool, each about 10' from its end of the first swimming lane. I splash patterns of water on the board as I splosh by, and it is completely dry by the time I swim back there on my next length. The black surface has been coated with something like matt varnish. I cannot decide if the splash marks run down the board or just dry off in the sun, so I finally pause and just watch one for two solid minutes. Bit of both of course, but to my surprise most of the pattern runs slowly down the board, its top edge getting lower & lower until it rejoins the waterline. Full moon in a few hours: the night shop has some disruptive types demanding alcohol, sounding oddly loud for Hungarians. Some Canadians here explain scanning electron microscopes properly. If this kind of television isn't totally dead, there might still be hope. Compare it to this rubbish.

September 12th; Friday, third day in a row of gym with Jim. I recall him a couple of weeks ago explaining his dedication to painting each day, saying if he doesn't keep it up, he will somehow end up back in London schools, his art students calling him a "cunt". Uncharacteristically, he did a sudden London intonation for that word, making it "cant". I get the impression Jim doesn't much want to return to either London or his native Glasgow.
September 11th; Photo session with Melinda, hot sun. Delicious dinner at Franc's. Relate details of my schoolboy crush in Szeged the other week. On his television we watch a gentle film called 'Stranger Than Fiction', about a writer who meets her character. Starring thingummy who didn't want to be my college auntie in the first term. Odd scenes where people react in a fairly matter-of-fact way to a fictional character turning out to be real and telepathically hearing his creator's narrating voice. A bit like a blunter version of 'Our Man in Havana', and explained the other way round. Tricky stuff, fantasy.

September 10th; Leave Harm & Pepijn in the capable hands of the old lady with the almost-on-the-corner patisserie for their breakfast, and join Jim for exercise at the gym. Then meet Melinda over a tea to finalise her modelling appointment tomorrow, and later on join Ethnography Judit for beer & ginger ale.
September 9th; More excellent apple crumble from Georgina, after I stroll into the village and buy the last pat of butter from Marika's shop. Robin & Paris kindly drive me out to Lakitelek for my evening train back to Budapest. On train I finish 'The Basque History of the World', an interesting book recommended by Jose about the Basques and their culture. Mark Kurlansky's history book is rather oddly dotted with recipes but is written with feeling. One startling claim is that - independently of the great Chinese expeditions in the 1420s - Basque whalers and fishing fleets had already found Greenland and Canada in the 1300s, but plausibly kept their new rich fishing grounds a closely guarded trade secret. Supposedly by the time John Cabot got to "Newfoundland" in the 1490s, there was already a 2,000-strong Basque-speaking community of fishermen and traders living there with stories about having been there a century. Arriving back in Budapest at Nyugati train station at 11.30pm, I find two Flemish students with rucksacks, Harm & Pepijn, contemplating catching the last train to Bratislava to get a night's sleep because they cannot find a hostel. I tell them they'll arrive in Bratislava at around 2.30 or 3, so not getting much rest. We go back to my flat instead.

September 8th; Woken in Robin's studio up in the gallery by a strange horn or bell sound. It is late morning, and drenching rain pours down, drumming on the roof of the studio. I get dressed, peer out of the windows, and see a car outside the gates pointed as if it wants to enter. Something makes me resist going out through the downpour to walk over to a car when no-one is willing to get out of the car to get wet themselves. I have the strong feeling it is Second-Hand-Car-Dealer Csaba. 3/4 of an hour goes by. The rain eases off. I go over to the house, pick up an umbrella and go down to the gate. Inside Georgina is sitting in the front passenger seat, chatting with Fefe, ex-mayor of the village, about fruit trees. They thank me and tell me they are fine.
In the late afternoon, the clouds and rain stop, the sun comes out, and Robin's enthusiastic friend Paris arrives from London. He has good anecdotes about doing his barrister pupilage at a chambers called Pump Court, buying and selling property, and seems to know his plants and wildlife. He shows me some of his online trading platform. There's a strange incident where young Bela makes himself very ill apparently drinking quite a lot of chilled wine out of the fridge. Later on, Robin, Paris, & I chat for a couple of hours in the studio discussing Japanese girlfriends, falling in love by mistake, and stroppy women barristers. Last thing before sleep we stand outside, looking up at the cold country night sky stuffed with stars you never see in cities, and I grow envious of Robin & Paris both having superb eyesight. They keep saying things like "look at that slightly yellow star, to the left of the pinkish one."
September 7th; Wake up at Robin's in countryside. Another baking hot day. In the morning, I find the two dogs outdoors have wedged themselves into the one-foot-wide strip of recessed space at the front entrance, behind the yellow velvet curtain, trying to avoid the heat. This creates a kind of doormat of solid dog we need to step over while entering or leaving the house. The only other times they do this is if it is very cold, or a thunderstorm is coming. Georgina makes a wonderful lunch with chicken and apple pie. The large white dog Lupus now not only has a normal 'kolonc' [an 8 to 10-inch wooden log Hungarians attach to their dogs' collars to stop them from leaping gates and walls because they're too lazy to spend three weeks training them as puppies, or in Lupi the komondor's case because they've cleverly created a breed which cannot be trained], but also a heavy metal hook of the type you used to see in old-fashioned butcher's shops. This means that all during the long, hot day the two sounds around the house are the buzz-bump of baffled insects banging into window panes, and eerie metal scrapes & clangs as the restless hound drags its iron ballast along just outside the house. After dark, freed of his constraints, Lupi charges across the lawn to knock me down, only recognising my voice at the very last minute. This is despite having insisted on joining Robin & me out on an evening drive for some ice cream just a couple of hours earlier, when he stuffed his large, fluffy dogness through a car window, like squeezing a whole sack of mail through a letterbox, until he filled the back of the car. Now out on the lawn, vaguely satisfied my voice matches his audio file of people-who-need-not-be-maimed at-least-not-right-now, he busily circles me a couple of times, then bounds off elsewhere. This is while a totally silent lightning storm flickers round all points of the night-time horizon.

September 6th; When I step out of my flat mid-afternoon, on the street it's like opening an oven door. The huge building site that's been ticking along day & night since last year has made some now visible progress during my 3 days in Szeged: behind the cinema, two rough storeys made of concrete have appeared. After I get some things done, in the early evening, Robin arrives from his cricket match. We drive out to the Great Plain as night falls. For the last half hour when it is finally dark I close my eyes and feel cool air blowing into the car after a long hot day, and I have the odd sensation that I can locate the stars through the top of my head like pinpricks.
September 5th; Gym and lunch with Jim. He relates being out with his girlfriend one sunny day in Budapest. They see a small girl refusing to talk to her mother, before then reconciling and holding the parent's hand again. The little girl was briefly in a huff, and Jim asks his girlfriend if the child was practising how to sulk. His girlfriend says "Yes, sure", then suddenly realises what she's divulged.
A list of ten endangered languages, thanks to Rob. A news story that the mainstream media showed strangely little interest in: preventative arrests in Minneapolis by teams of armed officers searching houses of people supposedly intending to mount street protests at the Republican National Convention, before anyone actually did anything.
Finished 'The Shock of the Old' by David Edgerton, a book about how historians read history - wrongly - in terms of new revolutionary technologies. Very much a book the folk at the Dead Media Project would like. Edgerton points out that the rickshaw only dates from the 1880s, and is quite a new technology - while Hitler used more horses marching on Moscow than Napoleon over a century earlier. He mentions how Cuba, after the supply of Soviet tractors was cut off, massively reintroduced oxen into farming in the early 1990s with success, and discusses the low-tech African maintenance yards where old cars are kept running for decades. Of course he touches on the robust Kalashnikov rifle, India and China still manufacturing new steam locomotives in the 1980s, how most people in both World Wars died from artillery and small-arms, not from aerial bombardment, and suggests that World War II might have been won quicker against Japan if the money spent on the atom bomb had been spent on conventional military hardware instead. Edgerton's point is neglected and important: "The history of invention is not the history of a necessary future to which we must adapt or die, but rather of failed futures, and of futures firmly fixed in the past." He goes on: "We should feel to research, develop, innovate, even in areas which are considered out of date by those stuck in passe futuristic ways of thinking. Most inventions will continue to fail, the future will continue to remain uncertain." As he points out, some observers believe the Swedish founder of IKEA, a firm selling wooden furniture, is richer than the US founder of Microsoft. This book crystallises a feeling I have had for many years. Reminds me of how at school I persuaded my team in Mr Hardiman's history class in a business game designed to explain 18th-century iron & steel economics, to counterintuitively invest all our imaginary funds in the old technology - charcoal-fired furnaces. All the other teams followed the path of the future, coal-firing. I calculated right, and with outdated steel-making our team won the game.

September 4th; Affable Gizella & Szilvia arrive for photo session, their carrier bags loaded down with trinkets and high heels. This during sunny afternoon slot when the light is bright and hot out on the balcony. Robin & Stojko drop by to leave me a 2' x 3' copy of the print Robin & I worked up from one of his Deptford photographs a couple of years ago. I rejoin them at the opening of a new gallery which boasts some original Vasarely 2D and 3D works, repairing to a cafe with Zita P, Eva B & her twin Gyorgyi, and Tamas. Tamas later describes July's alchemy conference {or rather 'secret signs & symbols' conference} in a little more detail. Apparently, former CIA-School lecturer Gerhard Strasser gave a paper.
September 3rd; Am referred to a fascinating online talk claiming liberalism rests on two foundation blocks, but conservatism rests on five foundation blocks: Jonathan Haidt. Look for the wonderful map of US voting districts in the 2004 Kerry/Bush presidential election. It shows how Democrat-voting areas stay on the waterfront and Republican areas in the hinterland, even pixellating an image in blue Democrat-voting districts that outlines the Mississippi river upstream into the MidWest.

September 2nd; Restless online presence Snapr throws up a mixture of worthy sites today. These include strange high-heeled shoes, a film of people being silently made to conform in lifts, and ghosts on London Underground 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Disturbed by the pressure-to-conform elevator film, I find this startling video of experiments where people conform to group pressure in the classroom. Wait for the moment when the young blond male changes his mind, and decides to disbelieve what his eyes are telling him.
September 1st; Extraordinary news cycle. Former PoW of the Viet Minh John McCain chooses a lady governor of Alaska [she purdy] as his vice-presidential candidate in the forthcoming US election. She believes in teaching evolution in schools "alongside other theories". Here is Mrs Palin looking very trim in a fabulous photograph with two of God's "creations": along with the dead bear and the megacrab/seafood-thing, note the Big Sky Country cloud vista in the shot. Rumours swirl that her recent baby is actually her daughter's, but within 24 hours we learn that her schoolgirl daughter has not delivered but is indeed pregnant and will of course marry & keep the child. Meanwhile, via the Telegraph and before that De Telegraaf, a truly bizarre story about a Dutch spy withdrawing from Iran. To cap all this, this is the day another American woman, a military interpreter who worked closely in Iraq with dead-in-the-woods germ-warfare inspector David Kelly, feels it's time after five years to tell the Daily Mail in London that Kelly's right elbow hurt him so much he would never have cut his left wrist with his right hand. Her testimony to Hutton's bogus inquiry into Kelly's death was sidelined: surprise, surprise. Next six months might be quite something.
See Christian & Mikkel off at 8.30am to airport. Evening drink with Dion, also from conference.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith @ yahoo.com

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