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2009
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February 28th; Sleepless in small hours, so finish mother's copy of 'A Book of English Essays', edited by W.E. Williams. On my to-do list for ages, finally get to read Hazlitt, Lamb, Goldsmith alongside each other. Addison's piece about Ladies' Head-dress is an intriguing glimpse of seventeenth-century fashion looking back to fourteenth-century fashion. Steele's fascinating account of a bare-knuckle prize fight in around 1700 is another piece of reportage. I wonder if many of the newer essays will be frustrating for future readers because the lovely writing leaves out the details of the era that they are curious for. Huxley presents a literary theory of realism, and V.S. Pritchett, in almost the final essay, defends Swift's satire of the hovering island Laputa as the most far-sighted of the elements of Gulliver's Travels. I've always found Swift fatuous myself, and what Pritchett takes to be his attacks on today's reign of science always struck me to be smug Enlightenment sneering at the very idea of doing science at all. If that's right, a worrying close to a book that opens with two essays by Francis Bacon, one of the first philosophers to promote systematic study of natural laws. Perhaps I'm being unfair.
Think I'll stop posting links to YouTube pages, since most of them go dead so soon, but here are a curious pair of early-70s tunes by ex-Mohawk-turned-TV-theme-composer Alan Hawkshaw: 1 2. Other sites noted on the orange talkboard: the utterly Germanic project Naked People; a Russian-sounding photographer whose models look good clothed & naked; the surprisingly sweet we-left-two-cameras-on-New-York-park-benches page; and the delightfully simple idea 'If WW2 Was Fought By Gamers'.
February 27th; Zsolna & Gregor hold their end-of-season drinks at an art gallery. Bump into Miklos B, Eszter again, and Jaap & Ilonka. Afterwards with Mystery Friend 2 [who buys us all some intoxicating cocktails of some sort], Edit, and Martin, to various locations. I become drunk & morose. Last night's chat with Magdolna was particularly interesting. Heard about her 2-day meditation course, this handy website for typing in Cyrillic, and the draughtsman Lajos Szalay on show here who lived and worked in Buenos Aires & New York.

February 26th; Spring thaw continues. Man makes scale model of Herod's Temple. High-pitched whine oldies cannot hear. Manchester IP firm messes up the paperwork for this excellent patent.
February 25th; Someone phones me to say she had a nightmare last night and I was in it. Lunch with Georgina in Kecskemet. Train to Budapest in mid-afternoon. Slanting shadows from a yellow winter sun on the horizon slice the open carriage into ribbons of dark and light. Nap for a couple of hours at home, then drinks & dinner with Edit & Mystery Friend 2. Back from Moldova, Mystery Friend mentions a magazine 'Moldova: The Easy-to-Read Guide to Moldova & its Success', and cruelly reveals that one journalist here is an ex-Moonie & a train spotter, once interrogated for two days in former Yugoslavia after being found in a bush next to a marshalling yard, with sandwiches & a thermos flask, noting down the numbers of railway locomotives. We touch on rumours of general naughtiness among the lasses of Budapest.

February 24th; Sanyi of the Stranded Truck prepares tasty lunch in Robin & Georgina's kitchen.
February 23rd; Lunch in Gyor with Currency guru Matthew from Geneva. We choose a place called Big Ben filled with luridly coloured velveteen sofas. Later on, train down to the Alfold, where Georgina picks me up. Sanyi of the Stranded Truck is at the wheel of her car, driving us across the snow-covered plain in the dark chattering away in his incomprehensible dialect.

February 22nd; I get good spam.
February 21st; Dinner with Eva P.

February 20th; Curtis Liggins asks. Mel Britt answers. Farsang party {I forget to do a mask or fancy dress} just over the river with Zita P, Eva B, & Istvan, who tells Zita with glum humour that she has named her adored 2-year-old daughter after the Roman Princess of Darkness. Meet Gregor & Zsolna, chat to Zoltan from Geneva [who predicts "violent social unrest"], bump into Eszter.
February 19th; Pick up Canadian chainmail thing from the parcel centre. Cold wind, sleet, and grey slush in the streets. Oscar Perry makes a quick-paced plea for reason. Judy Freeman says we won't have to wait much longer.

February 18th; Wake out of strange rich dreams. Here's a colour sketch pad.
February 17th; Rise late, still a bit feeble, and go downstairs to find two posties standing in the lobby. They have brought me two lots of modafinil at once, so I sign for them. I take 200 milligrams, and change to meet Robin at the Katti Zoob fashion show Zita P has helped to organise. The show has an early rhythm & blues soundtrack and is themed around the 1950s and early 1960s, so roughly from Dior's New Look to Mary Quant. The pale greens and rich yellows are the best fabrics, but it is quite hard to focus on them because of the three mannequins. The dark-haired minx, the strawberry-blonde lynx, & the dark-haired vixen, all willowy and almost unnervingly pretty. I have difficulty understanding the discjockey's accent while he chats during each break while minx, lynx, and vixen change into new frocks, but Hungarians assure me they cannot follow him either, which I somehow doubt. Briefly meet Ms Zoob. Later with Istvan to an event where a Japanese man paints pink blobs on a large piece of white cloth while two jazz-funk guitarists improvise. There we bump into Andrea. The curious, detached sense of clarity makes itself felt here, and Istvan, Andrea & I discuss the woman's point of view in romance. Andrea, with a bit of cross-examining, is very articulate. If anything, the medication makes me more sympathetic to the woman's point of view. Early on, at the fashion show, I find myself suggesting to Robin that Luce Irigaray might be worth reading, and recommend him her description of woman-as-unmappable-tactile-surface. Now in the small hours, I find myself paying close attention as Andrea explains her frustration with a man who is not courting her, and then gives her advice when at the end I pose my own romantic query. Sometimes mysterious {at one point, quite drily and without drama, she says "I am much bigger than any liar, I am the lie itself."}, but usually cogent, she mostly disagrees with Istvan. Yet towards the end, they start to converge. Andrea states quite firmly that in a courtship the woman's opinions or inclinations are totally valueless - the man is generating new emotions and either he changes something inside her or he fails to change something inside her, and in neither case does it make any sense for him to consider what she wants as separate from what he makes happen. He is action and she is object - something like this. Then Istvan chips in and describes Goran, his womanising Serb friend in the ad industry, with a remarkable sentence. "Goran never respects the individual woman," Istvan emphasises, "Goran always respects the situation, the seduction itself, the moment." At this instant, like two separately working pieces of machinery, Andrea's view and Istvan's view seem to click into engagement, like two cogwheels. Andrea stresses the primacy of the moment, and criticises the educational philosophy behind the upbringing of Englishmen who fail to seduce women properly, because of its overemphasis on the individual, and, she claims, its forgetting of the moment. I ask if Rudolf Steiner's education theory, stressing music and dance and rhythm for children is better, and Istvan talks about a diagram that Steiner used to explain how schooling should work. Both underline the value of now, presence in and homage to the moment, and I realise they both are attacking what at college my tutors would have called 'personhood'. "Moments are all there really is" says Andrea, in the composed voice of someone who has thought about this quite a bit. "This idea of people, individuals, is a false ideology - it can never be like that, though it's a very strong illusion. Romantic love demands people break free of this illusion." For a second the idea flickers up in my mind that this is like the peculiar time-space description that Benjamin Lee Whorf claimed held in the Hopi language, blurring multiple and singular entities. Or like the disciplined Japanese struggle to forget habitual thinking, and achieve no-mind, unwilled willing, through Zen. Or like Gurdjieff's teaching of the struggle to stay 'awake' and evade the grids of categorical thinking, the struggle to stay alert and present. The Japanese, the Hopi and all the Amerindians, the Hungarians [and, so Gurdjieff alleged, the "remarkable men" who taught him] all originally came from central Asia, of course. From thousands of years of restless, spaceless movement, tribes moving around like ships across the vast empty plain, alternating between sudden action and decades of inactivity. At this point, I decide it's the modafinil talking, we all part, and at 3am I pad home softly through still streets carpeted with snow. A few fat flakes are still drifting down and forming little jagged white blades on the overhead tram & trolleybus wires.

February 16th; Spend most of Monday in bed/sofa. Today am able to eat 2 pears and 2 bananas, though still feel hollow from yesterday. Read 'How to Lie with Maps' by Mark Monmonier to cheer myself up between fits of dozing. Perhaps a book Simon Blackburn, fond of the map metaphor, might read. A bit plodding in style, very American, full of references to "the cautious cartographer" and "the unwary map-user". Some nice examples of how every map simplifies and distorts, in fact must do so to work. Examples of invented streets, bogus rail lines, imaginary towns and disappearing road junctions. Nice to get clear in my head at last that longitudes and latitudes are the angles and meridians and parallels are the lines.
February 15th; In the night, I wake up feeling very ill indeed. Exhausting diarrhoea and vomiting. Sunday morning manage to get Jeremy to go to Austria in my place so I can rest and vomit a bit more. Disorienting dreams. Food poisoning?

February 14th; Quiet day preparing for a week teaching in Austria.
February 13th; Meet Magdolna at Ludwig Museum to see the exhibition she recommended. On the way up we pass through a room of Finnish stuff, including something like the Jehovah's Witnesses' conception of paradise, a long picture called World of Plenty by Tea Makipaa. Then upstairs we reach a whole floor of work by the prolific Hungarian woman artist Dora Maurer. She started out as a very formal conceptual artist, doing beautiful analytical sketches of small movements in photographs, permutations, overlapping grids, interactive photography, moving in methodical steps through paper folding, experiments with different tones under different lights until her recent work with curves, complementary colours, and false perspective. We are guided round by a thoughtful Hungarian girl who was taught by Maurer. Only in her very latest works does Maurer seem to gain some release from her relentless self-imposed research programme. Puritanical precision seems at last to be transcending itself and finding the elusive simplicity she's been struggling towards for so long. Interesting and hard-working artist. Afterwards to the gym. The muscular girl Jim chuckled might thump me if I said "dyke" too loudly, catches my eye on the way in. She nods at me with a fatherly smile of approval, as if pleased to see I'm not wasting a Friday night on frivolous socialising or imbibing unhealthy beverages. She seems to be in there all day every day, always with a large-shouldered male trainer giving her advice. These calmly bovine male coaches change from day to day, but are always quiet & patient, giving softly-spoken but clear explanations if she snaps at them. A couple of weeks ago, I saw one make her lie face down on a rubber mat while he massaged various parts of her back, arms, legs in a curiously distant way. I realised he reminded me of the detached gentleness of a vet probing the stomach of a labrador for abnormal swellings.

February 12th; Up early to dub a video with Peter L for this security firm. At one point my character asks what the main external thing securing a bank is, and the expert answers that the first line of defence is the walls. As I get to the area round Csillaghegy for the morning of sound recording, stunned by lack of sleep, I look for a shop to buy breakfast. Sharp, low-angled winter sun cuts across busy traffic. I suddenly walk into an intense gust of bone-chilling wind and feel enormously free & alive. Just make it back into town in time to invigilate an exam where oddly criminal-looking economics students slouch and twitch in silence. To awe them with my vicious neutrality, I get out my tin of clear wax and some tissues and ostentatiously polish my shoes in the centre of the examination room while they scowl in bafflement at their question papers. Sleep a bit in the afternoon, and then find this excellent video by Nigel of Darkness' friends The Who Boys, formerly McGovern, together with the Tony Crackburn Orchestra.
February 11th; Wonderful late lunch with Politics Judit. In a small tucked-away restaurant we devour a platter of cured meats, drink wine & coffee, and gossip wickedly. In the evening, Magdolna & I try her wonderful soup while talking late about multi-lingual scrabble, the meaning of Harry Potter, and astrology - her daughter is Scorpio with Scorpio rising like me.

February 10th; Train into Budapest delayed by accident on track: a suicide? Three women in my compartment get quite chatty & sociable. We all strike up acquaintanceship cheerfully discussing someone getting cut in half by the train in front and how this mishap has inconvenienced us all. Gypsies in the next compartment start singing "What are you doing?" and finally join us for cigarettes and a genial natter about one lad's recent release from prison. He adds happily that his three little sisters of various sizes {enthusiastically trying to climb out of the windows} will be much easier to bring up properly once his baby's mother gets out of prison too in a couple of months. In Budapest sleet is falling. Meet landlady, buy turps, pick up 2nd-hand law tome from postbox, and meet Foreign Correspondent Edit with her dog Simon for Mexican snacks.
February 9th; Georgina's friend Eva leaves after spending last night in the sitting room with Georgina. Robin & I still cannot get the acacia logs to burn reasonably in the hearth.

February 8th; Rainy, English weather. Not cold at all on the Great Plain. Much mud, slight mist. This site wants to rate the greenness of stuff we buy.
February 7th; Robin & I take train to countryside together. Georgina picks us up in the red car at Lakitelek. In the evening, go with Georgina & three of the children to a new swimming-pool complex at Tiszakecske. In an outdoor pool of hot mineral water we indolently splosh around like prehistoric creatures. Underlit clouds of steam billow up into the night sky. Back inside the swimming-pool restaurant, while the boys wolf their pizza and ladylike Zsuzsi shares her pizza with me and tries not to look too interested, Georgina gives her thoughts on my romantic interlude this week.

February 6th; Breakfast with Mystery Friend 2, on his way to the airport. Beautiful bright winter sunshine.
February 5th; Britain's estate agents soldier on. More editing of credit-crunch book. More lovely wine with thoughtful Magdolna, as she tells how she almost went blind.

February 4th; Poor Akos has gone missing.
February 3rd; A British printer phones my Hungarian mobile to discuss reducing his quote, so someone's trying at least. If you want to know more about Britain's state, this page might help. Increasingly odd people are contacting me. Yesterday my three newest Facebook friends were 1. someone calling himself 'The Mad Greek', 2. a person with a photo of a muscular black man in manacles & chains named 'Joe Mandingo Munguengui-Kikujunga', and 3. Cody, who though she is "Chilling with her hampster Dusty" is at least someone I know. On the other hand, she's ten. Might be time to rein in my online social life slightly. Robin drops by, and we drive out by night to the basic pizzeria across the river for some properly-done pasta.

February 2nd; More publishing chaos. Fruitful phone chat with Bob from Philadelphia. He recommends this fine song by the Rezillos {note the girl singer who's overdone the coffee}, and I alert him to some unfairly-neglected British children's television. Bob sees the Clangers as not unlike West Virginians and appreciates the colour & texture of the fabric they're made from. These people write to me. Particularly like the look of the course 'Running Your Own Cult', led by the excellently-named Reverand Ivan Stang.
February 1st; Wake up late. Finish Robin's book 'De-Architecture' by James Wines. An interesting long essay from the 1980s by a founder of SITE, postmodern architecture firm - or not - depending on whom you believe. Wines says the central challenge of architecture is communicating communal ideas, and that an architecture that cannot integrate buildings with other arts [such as sculpture], as the International Style cannot, is in trouble. Nonetheless, he goes out of his way to praise the International Style, while suggesting that the questioning, irony, and dialogue behind Marcel Duchamp and Dada still has insufficient influence on architecture. He discusses the wit and human civicness of Renaissance & Baroque architects like Michelangelo or Bernini. The index of 1980s-era, dogma-softening projects by architects, sculptors, installation & conceptual artists like Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson & Richard Long at the back is stimulating to see in an architecture book. SITE's open-minded High-Rise of Homes remains unbuilt.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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