otherlanguages.org
. . . Main links

Basque / Dutch / English / Hungarian / Japanese / Swedish

link to i-mode page

#

#

non-alphabetic scripts

#

other links

#

endangered languages

#

sign languages

#

maps

#

songs and music

#

dead languages


*1

#

linguistic philosophy

#

artificial languages

#

AI, speech recognition

#

encryption, steganography

#

language history

#

calligraphy

#

cognitive psychology

#

mathematical linguistics

#

animal communication

#

language list

#

non-language links

2008
...............................................................................................................................................................

October 31st; All Souls' Eve. At breakfast, Robin & I discuss the Bacon Butties - gay friends of the English Catholic painter Francis Bacon. Later in the day, I wonder if the Americanised, reintroduced Hallowe'en is slowly nudging out Guy Fawkes Night as the late autumn holiday in England. I should make an effort with my thought comparing Guido Fawkes to Al Qaeda - I could call it "from 5/11 to 9/11", even if the swapped-round numbering is a bit of a cheat. A linguistic story from Wales: someone puts a not-in-the-office e-mail onto a road sign.

October 30th; The table under the roof-window upstairs in the studio gives a view each night of a wobbling tangerine sun descending, balloon-like, behind the street of Gypsy cottages at the end of Robin's western field. At five a.m. a thin, grey light gets me up, and I do some small trades on the humming screen, while heavy clouds bustle across the sky and rain drums on the roof just above my head. In daylight, the felt cloth covering the small desk is clearly faded, a pale grey-blue rectangle across the the table top where the daylight has been on it for months & years but rich billiard-table green round the sides where it hangs. Around six a.m. I go back to bed at the other end of the gallery as the grey light lifts into a bright, bleak morning. I wake again around noon. Bizarrely, it is not just warm but hot outside. The sun is brilliant. It could be early September, or even late August. I realise in practice I cannot reach Budapest for 5 in the afternoon, send Politics Judit an apologetic text, and she phones back, bubbling with excitement about going for an interview tomorrow for her first job ever. No longer just socialising and throwing parties, she is thrilled at the chance to be judged for her intelligence & competence, cheerfully anticipating getting her takeaway cappuccino and catching the 4 or 6 tram each morning like a proper Cosmo Girl. Then Letty, equally excited, brings Robin over to the studio - the idea is that we will all drive to Kunszentmarton in the warm sun and 1. get Robin a builder's straight edge for scoring lines and preparing canvases, 2. retrieve my new Tesco mobile [taken there yesterday by Georgina] from Roland the phone-cracker, and 3. pick up a male fox-terrier puppy to be a companion to Chloe. Only step 1. succeeds. Letty is heartbroken when Robin puts his foot down and says he is not accepting a puppy which is a smooth-hair/wire-hair cross, reproaching her for not checking this first on the phone. A small psychic cloud of darkness follows the car back home through the sunny afternoon. Another wonderful meal from Georgina's increasingly deft cooking. Towards the end of the late lunch, Robin relates his slightly worrying trip across the Channel with Ralph in a sailing boat a couple of years ago in high waves & strong winds. An image has stuck in his mind: he looks up along the boat to see Ralph in his sailing cap, looking stern at the rudder, man-against-the-elements, framed on each side by a woman. Ralph's English girlfriend vomiting over one side of the boat, the central Asian girl crossing the Channel with them vomiting over the other side of the boat. As he tells the tale, the room grows dark at 4pm, shifting from sunny to dusk-like dimness in a couple of minutes. A huge cloud has slid across most of the sky, the wind has turned cold, a few raindrops test the ground, and the whole late-summer aberration of the previous night & day has come to an abrupt end.
October 29th; In the evening, a strange warm wind begins to blow round the house. During the chill but sparkling afternoon, yellow-leafed trees only fidgeted in the breeze, but the later it gets after dark, the higher and fuller and warmer the wind, moaning around outside the house in great swells of restlessness and hope. I discover how to melt the top of the wax cake, under a big lamp in the studio, instead of heating it from the base. Still struck how impressed Robin was last night when I tried a trade online from the gallery roof-space of his studio, and made fifty quid in a few minutes. I tried to stress how often one loses money rather than makes it. Again this evening, we potter about in the studio together. While he works on an ink drawing, I melt some more candles and watch the candlestick charts of the FTSE index ticking up and down in green & red on my laptop screen. Behind the laptop on the small desk stands an 18-inch-high ceramic Saint Anthony holding a headless child. A thick British Museum postcard, curved by damp into almost a half-barrel shape, just reaches the saint's knees since he is on a plinth. The postcard is one of the old 3D images that changes when you tilt it. At one angle, against a black background, it shows the decorated sarcophagus of a mummified ancient Egyptian priest, at another angle it shows the skeleton inside. I keep it angled so as to show the painted exterior of the sarcophagus.

October 28th; Back in Cserkeszolo, I buy some Catholic candles, with small pastel-coloured portraits of saints on the sides, some with transparent chests to show glowing thorn-wrapped hearts. Over a long, quiet evening with Robin in the studio, carefully melt these into the biscuit tin, while Lupus the komondor dog dozes outside the door. When after dark he is released from the special weight round his collar [his 'kolonc'], this lies at the end of a chain on the brick forecourt outside the studio door, two chunky boles of wood nailed together in a T-shape. Not unlike a Gnostic cross, Robin says. The saints do not melt, and their paper or plastic portraits float stubbornly unchanged in the amber fluid of boiling hot clarified wax, along with the loops of gilt strip, like those sealing cigarette packets. These hang in the liquid wax like reverse haloes around the edge of the tin, at the feet of the saints, threaded onto the unused strings of wick. The saints' heads all meet at the centre, their bodies aligned with all points of the compass. In the hardware store we visited today in bright autumn sunshine, the wall clock had pictures of birds instead of numbers on the dial. The owner assured me that at each o'clock, the appropriate birdsong plays electronically. At night, as I go to sleep again on the platform up the stairs at one end of Robin's barn-like studio, I can hear the scratching sound of the depressed mouse that lives in the wall and roof spaces. I go out to the spacious outside privy, built of dried earth bricks, finding a way through thrashing tree branches by the light of my mobile phone, the small glowing screen enabling the primal experience of shitting under the stars. Inside the privy, the phone lights the space so dimly I don't notice the candle and box of matches in one corner.
October 27th; Buy candles in Cserkeszolo. Later in studio melt candles into a biscuit tin over the stove. Wonderful dinner of goat-meat lasagne & cake with cream. Watch the FTSE bucking about in the 3900 to 3700 range. Some unsettling recession stories around, like this one from Volvo lorries. Midnight feast of milk & cornflakes with Robin.

October 26th; Slow rail journey out to the Great Plain, with a spare hour changing trains in Kiskunfelegyhaza eating a pizza. I find out at 4.30pm that it is in fact 3.30pm due to the stupid clock-moving ritual again. Robin & his boy Kasper meet me at Lakitelek as darkness falls and I watch them eat pizza in their turn. We go back to Robin's studio and listen to Peter the film-maker's eerie sound track by candlelight, drinking wine.
October 25th; Up late. Whisky & fruit juice with Mystery Friend 2. We meet Paul, his Polish friends, plus the sparkling Kristina and the demure Segolene, run into Sean who praises some TV show set in 1960 called 'Mad Men', and later I bump into Nick the chess player & his Chicago friend Matt.

October 24th; Meet Pauline to attend the latest party thrown by friends of Politics Judit. We arrive too early, during a previous event for hedge-fund managers, so this gives Pauline time to introduce me to a very good Italian pizzeria near the MOM Park shopping centre. At the party we meet Zita P, Andrea, Esther, and Szilvia the Button Lady. Large numbers of pretty though angry blondes stalk around, glaring at the fund managers. Before bed, I finish my mother's copy of a book called, promisingly enough, 'Power & Greed' by Philippe Gigantes, a French Canadian writer. On the cover A.C. Grayling praises the book as clear and forceful, though facile might be a better word. Gigantes contrasts the teaching of a set of moral teachers [Socrates, Solon, Moses, Mohammad etc] with the rapacious behaviour of history's great movers & shakers, whom he calls 'grand acquisitors'. The basic idea, that most history is made by gangster-style hypocrites who do whatever they can get away with, is asserted rather than demonstrated. The overall effect is schoolboy nihilism.
October 23rd; Train to Manchester, tram part of way across town - have to walk rest. 2nd train down to Manchester airport. Fly to Budapest. On the runway at Budapest, as passengers push & shove each other to be first off the plane onto the little bus [and therefore last off the little bus at the other end] which takes people 300 yards across the tarmac, I stay in my seat and finish Nigel's copy of 'The Newtonian Casino'. This is the account of a group of rebellious young engineers and physicists in California who spent much of the late 1970s and early 1980s developing a computer small enough to fit into the heel of a shoe, with which two-man teams could predict roulette wheel performance with enough accuracy to have an edge over the house and win lots of money. Of course, the very fact the book got written is a big clue the scheme never quite worked, but it is still sad to read how long they tried, how persistent and clever they were, yet how weakly the whole thing ended. By 1985 carrying predictive devices into a casino had been made a crime in Nevada, so their game was over, just as the hardware and the software was getting good enough to make it really reliable. A few of them get involved, along the way, in the early days of chaos theory in physics. One of the motley crew of idealistic young anti-capitalists, Letty, worries from the start that the casino plan is so heavily focussed on getting money and so little on the noble things they will do once they have their financial freedom. As the hippy-chick heiress with the East Coast fortune who often helps out with chunks of cash at crucial moments, she has a certain right to voice this doubt. Somehow their mixture of cunning and innocence makes for depressing reading - did they seriously think casinos would not notice people dropping in for regular lucky streaks on the roulette tables, even if it was only a few thousand dollars at a time? How can people be so well educated in a couple of areas and yet completely ignorant of other things like how capitalism works, or why it works better than their half-baked alternative ideas? This dumbness is tragically underlined at the very end, when the team discover that lots of other similar teams exist, and much of the equipment they painstakingly designed and built from first principles, like North Korean autarkists, was already available on an open black market of highly-developed gadgets for card counters. Though the engineers are smugly superior about mathematically naive gamblers who think they have numerical systems to beat the wheel, their own plan turns out to have the same naivete on another level.

October 22nd; Tim & Sara from church pop round with two friends and some pizzas, and we all eat and drink, celebrating the relative booklessness of the front room, down now to only two bookcases. Discussion turns to children's shows from television, old films, and detective novels of the classic era from 1920 to 1950. I tell my collapsing bookcase anecdote. One from Calvin Harris.
October 21st; Wake up on the sofa in Nigel's bright front room as men with a lorry deliver some sheets of plywood Nigel needs to build the shed for his mighty machine. Over a delicious cooked English breakfast we watch on television as a group of slightly haggard-looking presenters all agree that houses are still a great investment assuming you want to live in them. What a novel idea. Advert breaks bring us the sight of Johnny Rotten advertising butter and Suggs advertising fish fingers. Nigel mentions how some local people got fined by the council for leaving rubbish bins out on the pavement at 6am for a 7am collection, though they had to leave for work. He reminds me how the scent of my cheese & onion sandwiches on a school geography field trip bus once made Mottershead quietly, uncomplainingly vomit on himself in the seats behind me, and how two channels along the central aisle allowed his liquid sick to flow up and down the coach for the next half hour, in rhythm with the vehicle as it rounded bends up in the Pennine fog. As the two of us move the plywood sheets round to the back garden he reminds me of his dragging-the-Scotsman anecdote. It was an icy winter's day in north Manchester and Nigel is a couple of streets away from home. A crumpled form on the ground hails him in a strong Scots accent, asking Nigel to help him get home. The Nigel of Darkness says he is not sure if he is strong enough to lift him, and the Scotsman says "Och, no worries, ye can drag me". So Nigel grabs his collar and drags him across the ice. They reach a house where another small man is anxiously watching. "He's all right!" cries the Caledonian, cheerfully, as Nigel retreats, and the Scotsman is pulled into the house. The Scotsman's parting words: "Aye, thanks, man - hang on. I know you. Din ye drag me the other day too?"
I make it over to Bradford in the late afternoon, where Ed & I retire to a quiet bar with piped music to look at some poems by Geoffrey Hill. As we go through, we find some powerful phrases and lines which begin to convert me to Ed's view of the importance of Hill among post-war poets.

October 20th; John drives over from Manchester in the Astra van, and we pack the first proper load of book boxes. John is pleased with what he describes as the Astra's "perky" performance. He has kindly bought us sandwiches for lunch - though I am supposed to take him out for a feast to thank him for giving me his whole day. John has calculated that with two trips over the Pennines we will not have time for a proper meal with him taking the van back to the rental place. We unload at Jo-Georgina's, John bringing the boxes to the front door while I move up and down the stairs, doing a total of three foot-tons of work. At one point John mentions a rumour that Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson had a gay thing going on in the early 1990s, perhaps explaining the nastiness between them later. At various moments on the four drives, John exclaims "Feel my turbo." in pleasure at the vroominess of the acceleration. He explains that while work can be measured in foot-pounds, torque is measured, using English units, in pounds-foot [sometimes misquoted as pound-feet]. At one moment, we overtake a printshop lorry with, John is surprised to note, the Eye of Horus on the back. Passing through Sowerby Bridge the third and final time for me, John points out a small, two-tone sports car in mint green and white. He tells me these are called Cappuccino cars, big in Japan in the 1990s, became sought after in Britain and were imported here by some enthusiasts. I have a powerful deja vu feeling about this whole moment, and we decide we have probably driven through Sowerby Bridge before, spotted the same, locally-owned Cappucino car, and John probably told me all about it the previous time. Back in north Manchester again in the late afternoon, the second load is a little smaller [perhaps another two foot-tons as I carry the second load of boxes up Jo's stairs]. We stay for a cup of tea, and John looks over Cody's maths homework while the irrepressible Cody natters on. Then John splits, anxious to return the van to the rental store before its bed-time, and Jo drives Cody & me over to the Nigel of Darkness down the road. There I learn that underarm hairs are called 'oxters', and the sceptical Nigel mentions a friend of his called Nick who claimed recently to have once met a hippy in a pub who was levitating a ten-pound note crumpled into a ball above a tabletop. Nick phones later in the evening, and Nigel puts me on the phone. He describes to me the scene. Apparently the hippy let him cup his hands round the crumpled note and check with his hands for wires or rods. Nick also handed over a ten-pound note of his own, he says to me on the phone, and asked the hippy to do the same with this, whereupon he did, apparently adding that he didn't know how he did it. Later, in a mixed mood of fascination and disgust, Nigel & I sit through four separate deeply unimpressive haunted-house documentaries on television. Nigel points out one ghost-show's hostess, whom he gallantly refers to as "the peroxide trout", as being a Blue-Peter presenter when younger and cuter.
October 19th; Church packed in morning service: a baby gets christened. Tea with Julia, Tim & Sara afterwards in church hall. Enigmatic online jester Sinjr serves up more web delights later: these include model buildings made of biscuits, this charming little desert hideaway, and a rather hard-to-describe fashion shot.

October 18th; Minnie almost visits, but is betrayed by her car.
October 17th; Day of rest, if you can rest here. Outside wall still has wet stripe below overflow. Spend day looking at my three separate stacks of boxes.

October 16th; Pack more boxes with more books. Clean empty shelves. Walk to Hebden Bridge in bright sun to buy new strap & new battery for wrist watch.
October 15th; More packing of more books. In the late morning, John kindly drives over from Manchester, and we take the first fifteen boxes across the Pennines to Nigel's cousin Peter's girlfriend Jo-Georgina's house in Blackley. The sky all the way over and back is filled with spectacular Constable-ish cumulus clouds, fat and white with dark grey bottoms and small slices of pale blue peeping through the crowded sky. As the road leads up over the Tops, John says he likes the blasted-heath-style rolling moor carpeted with some ugly reddish-brown plant, perhaps heather - I don't know. Not a single tree on any horizon up here. Isolated in bare, empty miles of this scrubby, red-brown weed under big, ominous skies, we drive past one solitary, large, closed-down pub, with metal security panels sealing off the doors and windows. Hills give way to valleys, and then to suburbs. After we find our way with the A to Z, Peter meets us at Jo's house, cheerfully helps carry boxes upstairs to the spare bedroom. Back in Manchester at last.
As we take the M62 over the Pennines, John tells me about an ex-copper from Liverpool he knew while working at a sports-supplies shop some years ago. This policeman during the 1980s had as part of his job the chore of once a month checking up on the local nuclear-war shelter, the bunker that would house the Merseyside Regional Command Centre in the event of missiles with atomic warheads devastating Britain. The check was to make sure that down in the bunker the food & medical supplies were up-to-date and hygenic, the air-conditioning and electricity in general was still operating, the doors were still secure and the guns and ammunition were in working order. Naturally, the Liverpool police officers who did this job knew & discussed the plan they had to carry out in case of nuclear attack. This was a remarkable plan. Once the attack warning sounded, a few of the coppers were to go at once to the command centre, open it up and let in the bureaucrats and local officials designated to continue government from the bunker. Having done this, the policemen were then supposed to hand over the keys and go back outside into the radioactive wasteland: the plan allowed no room inside the bunker for the police, only for the officials. John chuckles as he points out what a valuable guide this intensely stupid plan is to the bureaucratic mindset in general.
1) Nothing matters more than that government shall continue & civil servants shall survive.
2) Those civil servants are so thick they sincerely think that, when nuclear war begins, police officers will obediently open up the bunker for them, let them in, and then meekly go back outside like stray dogs to die of radiation sickness in the rubble.
Of course, the Merseyside coppers had long ago, privately among themselves, made one important adjustment to their small jigsaw piece of the national-security plan. The police would be safe inside the nuclear shelter. The civil servants would be locked outdoors to fend for themselves.
Over crisps & beer afterwards in the Dusty Miller pub in Mytholmroyd John mentions some odd internet censorship in his local library run by Trafford Council. Two sites with quite a lot of swearing and naughty words were allowed through by Trafford's software: guido fawkes and devil's kitchen. But the following sites, which use much more moderate language, were blocked: eureferendum, burningourmoney, biased-bbc, and Iain Dale's Diary. Politically unacceptable?
Later at home I finally finish a book a friend gave me recently, 'Who Shot JFK?' by Robin Ramsay. A fairly quick, lucid overview of various theories about the conspiracy that the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s reluctantly conceded had killed John Kennedy with or without Lee Harvey Oswald. Some recent revelations brought up by a new committee [stonewalled by the elder George Bush but allowed to start work by Bill Clinton] that subpoenaed witnesses in the mid-1990s and declassified masses of documents on the case researchers are still reading. Quite a good introduction.

October 14th; Whole day packing books into boxes, listening to Radio 4 all day to stay sane. Lonely task. At one point, find myself listening to a programme all about a schmaltzy song I've long disliked: 'What a Wonderful World', first recorded by Louis Armstrong. So as to keep going with the book-packing, I don't switch it off. Different people reminisce about what it means for them, and I hear a soldier or sailor horribly disfigured in a fire on board a ship in the Falklands War relating what the song meant for him. As I listen to his flat, soft Welsh accent calmly explaining how he couldn't rescue a mate from the flames when "he kept slipping through my fingers, because my hands started melting", a sudden wave of intense sympathy breaks over me and I find myself wracked by gulping sobs, tears streaming down my face. I cannot stop crying as his brave, matter-of-fact voice continues about how he felt while in hospital that as long as he could just get back home to his "Mam" and have her cook him a meal, everything would somehow be all right. "Getting back to Wales was massive. It was huge." he softly, gratefully goes on. Listening to him, I shake, sobbing among the cardboard boxes of mother's dusty, beloved books that she couldn't bear to sell and I can't either, imagining his mother's distress when he comes home to her kitchen burned beyond recognition. I'm overcome by this Welshman's stoical, gentle strength. I'm overwhelmed by people's heartbreak at losing limbs, losing relatives, seeing loved ones scarred, in pain and so on. And all this has to be to the annoyingly sentimental Armstrong song.
October 13th; Pack more boxes with more books. What was last week being called the 'Swedish Model' for saving the banking system [government sensibly takes stakes in rescued banks] has now on Radio 4 suddenly become the 'British Model'. This is since Gordon Brown adopted it and is rebranding it for export elsewhere. Perhaps the Swedes are amused.

October 12th; Spend day packing boxes with books.
October 11th; Retrieve raincoat from menders in Halifax.

October 10th; Another day of buckling bourse prices. All a bit too whiplashy to trade with short stops, unfortunately. Walk to the next village, Hebden, to pick up my credit card from the bank, who bizarrely overlooked the idea of ordering me a PIN number to use with this card. So I had to phone from the bank to do this. This will take another set of those mythical "three to five working days" to arrive. So now I am waiting for my new debit card and a PIN for the credit card, which could of course have been ordered ten days ago by the bank staff I was having detailed phone conversations with. Do they need someone to tell them to put their clothes on in the morning? Again Lady W a k s.
October 9th; Ed kindly drives me to the Leeds IKEA where I buy 120 cardboard boxes to put books into back in Mytholmroyd. Afterwards we have a brief drink and sandwich in a pub at the end of the village. Ed tells me of his admiration for Geoffrey Hill's writing. Later to Leeds, [dozing off on train due to lack of sleep last night] for dinner with Sporty Lady, who is in cheerful giggly mood: she moves house to the Persian Gulf in a couple of weeks. The Indian restaurant we go to is bustling and has an odd habit of serving naan bread suspended from a kind of pair of metal antlers that stand on tabletops - not unlike those vertically hanging flags that sometimes stand beside players at big chess tournaments. Every now and then a tannoy announcement cuts into the music to give it that supermarket/airport atmosphere. After our curry and cocktails, when it's time to leave Leeds, I get to the railway station at about ten to 11pm and am told the last train out to Halifax left at 10.37pm. What is striking is the sheer boredom and blatant lack of interest in my situation as I ask around to find if there are late buses to a neighbouring town that is barely more than 30 miles away. Some of the station staff look at me blankly as if they have never encountered a situation of this kind ever in their lives, and they quietly resent me even politely asking them what I can do. The two bus companies each recommend the other bus company. It turns out I have to spend 36 pounds on a taxi to get home. If this is the best transport Leeds can manage for visitors, it's obviously a town I don't need to make much effort to see again.

October 8th; Wake up on the sofa in the bright, sunny front room of the Nigel of Darkness. Cousin Peter has come over to help Nigel build his shed in the small back garden, despite his mother's grumbling. I help them carry the plywood boards round to the back, and climb behind Nigel's bright blue tarpaulin mini-marquee to finish digging a narrow trench. Cousin Peter squeezes in there with me between the tarpaulin and the brick wall to the neighbour's garden, holding big plastic bags for me to dollop the spadefuls of clay into. A large 10' x 3' x 3' shape looms on the lawn under more blue plastic sheeting, which Nigel explains is some kind of manufacturing milling unit he has bought, and which the shed is to house. Over a lovely cooked breakfast, Nigel reminisces about philosophy at King's and the day he both complained to his tutor, Ross Harrison, that the bound copies of a particular journal in the philosophy library smelt of urine, and helpfully suggested that the Cambridge Department of Philosophy might like to rename itself the Cambridge Department of 'Philosophy and the Unknown'. He gazes across the breakfast table through the conservatory windows to where the blue, boxy tent of his shed-to-be looms in the garden. He wistfully recalls not being at the King's seminar where - it having emerged that both of Ross Harrison's children were dying of leukemia - a cringeing, muffled group of philosophy students sat looking at the carpet dreading their discussion of the problem of evil. Jimmy's friend Monica reported the awkward silence as Harrison quietly murmured that the existence of things like illness and cancer among innocent children created a problem for people with religious beliefs. Nigel muses that he might have started off with the idea that the problem of evil was primarily an administrative problem, and says with a sad, thoughtful smile that the occasion, had he been there, would have been "a true challenge to his Nigehood."
I catch the train back to Yorkshire in the best that the North of England can manage for bright sunshine, pick up my raincoat from the dry cleaners, pop in at the post office, and am back at the house around 1.15pm only one minute when a jolly postman turns up with my new laptop battery. I thought I had missed him by getting back after 1pm. I get another train to Halifax to try to get the raincoat pocket mended where I fell over out walking with Graham & Daphne just after I brought up House Churches in our discussion. I buy a pullover from a charity shop. It is soft and blue but oddly has three thin green lines of wool stitched into the inside of the pullover neck, not visible [glad to say] from the outside. I also buy a copy of New Scientist magazine, hoping that this time the usual disappointment will not happen. But it does. Waiting for the train to Mytholmroyd, I read the article on people with unsual minds, and there is nothing to it. As often with this magazine, I could have written it myself with half an hour of internet research. Allan Snyder in Australia has used magnetic pulses that shut down advanced cognition and found that subjects get better at certain kinds of memory or other autistic-savant tasks during his experiments, suggesting that these skills are not the sign of special abilities, but of lack of interference from higher mental functions. That's it. The rest of the magazine will probably, as usual, be just as much of a let-down. There's an article about recycling rubbish, another about some recently-discovered particle, a piece about new kinds of steam power, an article about fusing internet traffic for short periods to ease bottlenecks and a lovely pinhole-camera photograph of the sun moving through the sky over Clifton Suspension Bridge. Must stop bothering with this magazine.
October 7th; Train to Manchester. At Mytholmroyd station in midday sun, I meet a woman with a pug-faced spaniel that looks unusual. She explains that it is a true King Charles Spaniel, and that the dogs most people take to be King Charles Spaniels are correctly called Cavalier Spaniels. In central Manchester cleansing Buddhist lunch with James C. We explore a road next to Strangeways Prison to ask computer shops about laptop batteries. I get recommendations for a next-day ordering service. Then to Crumpsall to meet the Nigel of Darkness at home. As soon as I sit down, his mother puts the kettle on for tea, I mention the Cavalier Spaniel story, and Nigel mutters something about his half-Rottweiler, half-Great-Dane bitch Juno being a Roundhead Spaniel. He kindly accompanies me to a mega-Tesco where I buy a new mobile phone. On the tram there, he mentions that he had three sessions of colonic irrigation recently, and wouldn't let the woman play whale music while it happened. "How do you know what they're saying about you?" he protested, adding that he needed to listen to whale music like he needed a hole in the head, but of course the New Age therapist did not find this funny. At some point at or on the way to the supermarket, Nigel mentions unflatteringly that he sees Barack Obama as a black Blair. Then back to his home to meet Jo-Georgina and go by car after dark to her house and measure up her spare room for my boxes of books. Nigel's cousin Peter is there, in good spirits, and ten-year-old Cody natters away the whole time like a radio no-one can switch off. During a break in the rain, we return to Nigel's house, and Jo-Georgina tells a ghost story from her adolescence growing up in the Caribbean involving people standing or floating in her bedroom, often with no heads. I ask if she was frightened and she says yes, terrified. Sometimes she would wake up in bed, open her eyes, and see a horizontal headless person hovering over her bed. Naturally, she would shut her eyes at once and start screaming. Later Nigel & I watch some supposedly psychic medium on television milking "celebrities"' emotions and then a bit of 'Australia's Next Top Model' on television while we chat about public transport.

October 6th; Busy, useful day doing stuff. Recall London last week when I found myself in a Tube carriage with about eight or nine students who had lines scribbled in red pen all over their arms and faces. One crawled past me on all fours. They explained they had been up and drinking for a night, a day, and were starting on their second night. If this was true, they were in a surprisingly good state, cheerful and fairly alert. A scribbled girl, sitting on the floor, seemed to be the ringleader, and started to instruct her chums to do various accents. First came American, and one girl said "Walthamstow?? Where the fuck is Walthamstow?" just right, so they could promptly move on. "Right, now Australian." instructed the girl on the floor.
October 5th; Morning service at church, tea & biscuits in the church hall. Over a mug of tea James the vicar, back from his travels, tells how some tribal Yemeni guerillas kidnapped four Westerners a few years ago. However, they treated them so well that two of them, Germans, regularly go back to Yemen for holidays with their former kidnappers. Then to Graham & Daphne's for lunch. The three of us chat about collectives like "a parliament of owls", Tony Blair's psychological profile, Princess Diana, Norman Baker, Shire Archeology, the House Church movement in 1970s Britain, Rob Bell's ministry, Buddhism, & wild birds. We walk up Cragg Vale in the afternoon, and chat through a fine Harvest Festival meal in the church hall. After supper a short slide show about the vicar's fact-finding trips to Sweden, Yemen, Adelaide {pioneers of the "Men's Shed"}, & Michigan, looking at community-revival projects on his three months' sabbatical, followed by a short evening service.

October 4th; Get train to Leeds. Small success and major failure. Last night's Vodafone top-up voucher that the Co-op cashier could not put onto my phone [preventing me from phoning 3 Telecom support for my 7th conversation with them] was a bit frustrating. I could have topped up my mobile online, but the modem fault prevented me from registering on the website, thus denying me a phone with which to find out how to repair the modem fault. An assistant in a Vodafone shop quickly shows me how to top up the mobile credit in another way, without having to make a phone call in which the voicemail menu ignores my keypad tones. However, PC World, Curry's & Dixon's all stock hundreds of laptops but not a single laptop battery: that would be too much like offering a service. One helpful man running a computer stall inside the indoor market not far from the corridor of shouting butchers has some laptop batteries [as a real computer retailer might] but not that one. On the train, I finish Simon Blackburn's modestly titled book, 'Truth: a Guide'. Blackburn seems to be writing a guide to philosophical theories of truth, but he is too animated by post-modern forms of relativism to give a really thought-through account. His real targets are outrages like astrology, homeopathy, telepathy. Repeated uses of the map metaphor are supposed to show that all theories and representations are map-like, it is vital to rescue scientific materialism from the appalling new superstitions, and some defensible version of philosophical realism must be the correct view of truth for right-thinking people to hold. Ugly cover.
October 3rd; Find new laptop battery still runs down in one hour ten minutes, using only e-mail and FTP. Go back to shop. Computer shop explain I have wrong anti-spyware. Later shopowner catches me in street on way back from greengrocer and generously urges me to go back to old battery and destroy my cheque.

October 2nd; Friendly plumber comes in morning to mend water leak that has been keeping a stripe of outside wall wet. Chirpy house valuer calls round at lunchtime and values cramped, dark cottage. Go back to village computer shop to complain, since my new battery that was late arriving in August [one reason I've returned to Britain] runs out after an hour and ten minutes of mild use. They suggest another 16 hours of charging. More problems with 3 Telecom modem. I have 5th conversation in 3 days with a 3 Telecom support person.
October 1st; Wake up in cramped, dark cottage in Yorkshire with, now, no mainline phone. I find that my 3 Telecom modem does not work at all. I phone the technical help desk, and get some instructions on improving the speed of my computer just in time (20 minutes) for my Vodafone SIM card to run out of credit. Ten pounds for less than half an hour of calls inside Britain? My laptop is better now, but still not good. I can use Skype to telephone, but still cannot open my e-mail. A second call to the 3 Telecom technical help desk improves things slightly.
Of course, the really vital thing, my credit card posted out by NatWest in mid-August, is nowhere to be seen. I call them and they promise to send another one out, but this will keep me here another week. Thank you, NatWest.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith @ yahoo.com

back up to top of page