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2009
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June 30th; Tea & Tarot reading at Mary's rather smart flat. She mentions an interesting rumour that a Hungarian cabinet minister flies out each week to China for consultations - or instructions. We try out her pack of rune cards.

June 29th; Back in Budapest, the landlady's son kindly solves my fuse problem, and gives me a key to the big fuse cupboard for the landing. A week ago, slightly to my surprise, I used a modelling knife to cut a water jug with handle out of an empty plastic mineral water bottle. Three days later I threw it away and made a better one. This is working well at watering the herbs without sploshing too much water onto them. Unlike the unaltered water bottle; in that, water sloshes the length of the bottle as I hold it horizontal and its shifting weight overwhelms the hand trying to hold it steady. Now I'm imagining Mark III water-bottle-into-jug. Today I surprise myself again by finishing my homework for tomorrow's animation class with Andras, the last before summer, doing some simple little black and white drawings in each of what turns out to be almost 100 frames. Eight feet of celluloid, rather than six, I find out. I take six hours, so that's roughly 16 frames an hour. A dark, close day, where thunder murmurs a couple of times. No storm breaks though as afternoon turns into dusk, me kneeling on a folded rug, using a board laid on the sofa as a workbench to mark up each frame of celluloid, music playing in the background.
June 28th; Up at 9am, but no-one else is except Elie, who I'm later told did not go to bed. Elie marches into the guesthouse dining room as I finish my breakfast sharply demanding I tell him where everyone is, as if I should know. Later, Elie, gripped by rage, orders Dallan, if he sees Neil in Budapest, to tell Neil "You tell him to give me back my banjo, give me back my industrial blender, and Make Those Gypsies Bring Back All Of The Other Things That They Took." Dallan agrees to do this. Midday travel back to Budapest from Furstenfeld. We get to the train station at Szentgotthard at the last minute despite me being packed & ready four hours in advance, so no time to buy lunch since the station has no shop, and we have only 8 or 9 minutes, not enough time for the restaurant across the road. There follows a hungry and thirsty hour or so before reaching Szombathely with six minutes to change trains. Luckily, the train from Szombathely to Budapest has a dining car. It is staffed by a seemingly retarded waiter who needs to repeat everything three times and speaks strangely. However, he is courteous, prompt, and doesn't oversalt the food. He does a better job than any MAV waiter on any previous buffet carriage. He brings me the first fresh bread rolls I have ever touched on a Hungarian train. Dallan, who grew up in Utah, tells me about the wife of the first transcriber of Mormon Church prophet Joseph Smith as he translated aloud from the golden tablets that no-one could look at, from behind a screen. Apparently, she slyly burned some of the transcription, asking her husband if the translation sounded the same when Smith was then forced to dictate that section again from behind his screen. Dallan says she subsequently left her husband in disgust at him believing Smith's obviously cock-and-bull story.

June 27th; Early morning train to Austria with lots of English teachers, including a contingent from Berlin. An American girl called Kat who is having some short stories published explains her philosophy towards her characters as "I'm not in favour of much happening - sometimes I try to do mean stuff to them, and then I feel kinda guilty." Almost at the Austrian border, Dallan glimpses three crop circles in a field as we rush past in the train and he archly remarks that he thinks that someone made them. He adds that his three-year-old, as a kind of affirmation, says "Keep it gay," to adults at random. A long day in Austria unfolds, with a guided tour round a winery, a meeting about the English-teaching weeks at Austrian schools which inadvertently reveals that rather large amounts of money are left over after paying us, and a tasty meal of roast pig at a cellar restaurant. I leave and go back for some sleep before midnight just as a few people are starting to pair off and get seriously drunk.
June 26th; Magdolna tells me at dusk that her fortune teller has a distinct prediction about me. It involves a brown-eyed brunette & a blonde. Well, that narrows it down, doesn't it? We discuss going to see this supposedly remarkable soothsayer soon.

June 25th; Astonishing piece of old Serbian typography.
June 24th; Meet Mary at her regular cafe where the waiter does designs in the cream on the coffee. Find design school in Buda. Buy fish-oil, liver, & carrots.

June 23rd; At lunchtime Esther comes round to see my herb garden. By night, join Gretchen & Nannette for an animation class with Andras. I mark up my six foot of celluloid so slowly I don't really get started.
June 22nd; Soothing ditty from Wagon Christ, with quietly clever conceit to the cartoon video. Less soothing tune & video from Plaid, a sort of Powerpoint presentation from the dark side.

June 21st; Sunday. Afternoon snack with Gretchen. Dark, damp, cloudy day again. We talk about Midsummer's Night, and arrange to go to an animation class together next week.
June 20th; Saturday. Visit the Buda Garden Centre in drizzle. They have exactly 18 clay saucers 2.75" in diameter, no more. At the bus stop to come back, two women are waiting for the bus. They look odd, somehow. Both perhaps late 20s, early 30s, one very plump, the other very red-faced, both in jeans & old pullovers. Under the grey, cloudy sky in these outfits they look British, in fact, and they could easily be English librarians or academics in the dress-down uniform. However, this is Hungary so the question is why are two women out dressed like this? Also, they are smirking at me as if there is some joke I am not in on. They watch me get the clay saucers out of my bag and use sticky tape to tightly wrap them in two stacks of nine against shifting and breakage. A strange instinct is creeping up on me - I ask them if we are inside or outside the city limits. I know the edge is round here somewhere, and I might be one bus stop outside the area my transport pass covers. More smirking and twinkly-eyed looks are exchanged by the two bints as they tell me no, we are just inside the city limits here. The bus pulls up, we all get on, and they slip on their ticket-inspector armbands. Aha! That was their secret.
Out late with Olga to the all-night museum-opening event across Budapest. Lots of attractive girls, most with boyfriends, many without, cruising crowded museums looking for what, exactly? Foreign men? Hungarian men interested in art & antiques? Most of us don't know what we're looking for, on reflection. Big queues. Inside the Agricultural Museum in the 1897 Vajdahuyad mock castle couples are sitting all up the marble staircase listening to a drum-based ethnic folk group. The drumming & chanting sounds hair-raisingly authentic, nomadic, and Central Asian. The museum seems to be as much about hunting & game as about farm animals. Lots of people dancing with burning torches in various places. Olga succeeded in her exams and is very happy. We find the photographic museum and watch a projected video of washing going round in a washing machine. There we bump into Eszter & Mate.

June 19th; Friday. Teeth descaled by dentist. Forgot how much I dislike this. Struck by this song, though the voiced lyrics are really quite bossy, American preachiness even in the midst of hedonism. In the official video the visual message of the song seems to be "You're a leggy East European blonde, so get off your bed, saunter over to the audition and cinch that modelling job. You know you owe it to yourself." How are the rest of us supposed to react to being patronised like this - those of us who aren't beautiful girls, for example? I recall mother once dismissing a Talking Heads song as a "homily", and realising with surprise that she had spotted something. As the lass on this track pontificates, with her slight trace of non-native English, "If you're not trying, nothing will change. It's your choice, the way you live your life." Wonderful how quickly people who succeed, especially in the US, start telling other people they have only themselves to blame.
June 18th; Thursday. Meet Magdolna on the rooftop bar of the Corvin building as the sun sets. She lends me a book. She is also puzzled that I wouldn't accept 3.5-inch saucers when I ordered 2.75-inch saucers. It's like everyone agrees here that customers are a nuisance, and the onus is on the customer to prove that what he or she wants is an acceptable request. All week I've been going to flower shops round town, humbly asking if they stock flower pots or flower seeds. Some of them almost roll their eyes at the stupidity of my request. We're a flower shop, dumbo. We sell flowers & plants. Why would we sell flower pots or flower seeds? Duh.

June 17th; Wednesday. Introduce Jeremy 2 to the dentist who remembers taking out my last milk tooth three years ago. Brief glimpse of the Menopausal Munchkin lady dentist in the reception area.
June 16th; Tuesday. Iran appears to be kicking off, as some Brits would put it. I go to the local flower shop to pick up the eighteen 2.75" clay saucers I ordered, having taken one in to show her and confirmed my order by phone text {"Eighteen clay saucers, each 2.75 inches = 7 centimetres"}. Of course, she's bought eighteen 3.5" saucers, not 2.75", and is surprised I don't want to buy them. She'd texted me confirmation they'd "arrived" - why not text me a message saying "I can only get 3.5-inch/9-centimetre saucers - is that all right?"?

June 15th; Mr Dentist e-mails me at around 4am. Early bird. In the sauna at the fitness gym five of us have a discussion about the Iranian elections.
June 14th; Herb garden continues to push up little shoots in the different pots. A few very small flies seem to be hovering around one or two pots. Are they pests or helpers, signs of life? I think they might be the Stupid Square Flies that annoyed Nina so much. Could this Maurer be the Hungarian artist I saw with Magdolna? More bits of v i s u a l r e l i e f.

June 13th; Dinner party at Martin's. I show him the cribbage board. Music in street below his window.
June 12th; Yesterday checked Martin's list, found my local electronics hobbyist shop, and bought something looking a lot like a cribbage board with grids of tiny holes in it. Today, find out how to put transparent bits in a favicon thanks to Tony Weeg, locate the Media & Communications College, and visit my last dental clinic to meet a woman dentist who is sulky even by Hungarian standards. She denies there is a list of dentists at that clinic, so I just copy out the names on the document trays behind the unoccupied receptionist's desk. Menopausal munchkin. Vital guide to surviving a bear attack.

June 11th; Lunch at a friend's place, where he tells a good tale of Customs & Excise before it was absorbed into SOCA. He mentions meeting a group of Romanian student policemen who on learning of their British counterparts' powers said "So you live in a police state then?" On another occasion a group of German student coppers were astonished to find how linked-up and extensive the Kent Police Computer Database was, and bleakly reminded him "We know what happens in a country where the police have powers like these."
June 10th; Go to see Nicolas talk about coaching at an informal gathering at an Indian restaurant. Meet Sascha & other interesting people, and chat quite late.

June 9th; After breakfast with Agnes, we roam around looking at the big cranes near my flat. Lunch on a very hot & sunny island with Mystery Friend 2 who is specifically trying to improve his tan. Intriguingly, while iStyle, Apple's Hungarian resellers, told me that I would need a component they refused to give me the name of, costing 240 euros, a different firm said a cable was damaged and replaced it for 10 euros. Curiouser & curiouser. My basil might have survived the weekend, and the other herbs continue to grow. A third are still just soil, but each day another pot betrays one small loop of intense green in its black dirt, like a single stitch which in a few days will untangle into lots of shrill green strands above soil. On the tram finish a book by Joseph Campbell called ' The Hero With A Thousand Faces' which is surprisingly dull. Campbell draws together myths & epics from across the globe to illustrate a thesis about common themes & motifs in all human legends. Each individual description of some Japanese or Eskimo or African or Greek or Irish legend is charmingly colourful, but after about three pages I stopped caring about any of them. His background idea of challenges to the hero, the integration of the individual into the social fabric, the celebration of that society's vision of the cosmos, all the rest of it.... is a tad pompous in places, hovers oddly unsupported by any given myth, and just isn't very interesting. Reading three detailed mythological journeys into a big fish's stomach in succession, for example, robs each one of its singular magic, without reaching any really convincing psychological synthesis of all of them. A rather overconfident late-1940s Freudian/Jungian handwaving about the 'psyche' and its 'archetypes' is the real background for this peculiarly unsatisfying book.
June 8th; Robin drives me to Lakitelek railway station. We visit the seamstress on the way. I give her my pullover where some stitching has gone but it is still in one piece, and she nods approvingly: a simple task. Then Robin hands over two garments which are virtually in shreds. She seems a bit nonplussed but promises to try her best. Over the door of her shop are four red stencilled farm-animal silhouettes, which Robin points out to me, having earlier suggested I make a papier-mache notice board shaped like an animal, though not quite like this.

June 7th; At Robin's. I wake late. There are huge amounts of juicy black cherries around. Georgina ties a basket to my waist, I climb on a stool and 3/4 strip two small trees in an hour and a half, both gorging myself and putting at least 20 lbs of cherries into the basket. I can hardly carry it back to the kitchen, where an enormous disc-shaped wickerwork pan at least three feet in diameter {full of cherries yesterday} covers the small table. This is where the haul is shaken until it is only one cherry deep and can then dry out.
June 6th; Getting ready to take the afternoon train down to Robin's. Cloudy, then sunny. So much world, so little time: p r i n t, p i c s, & g i r l s.

June 5th; More work I don't need from Google & Twitter. Though my code is clean, I must make "requests" through a byzantine set of online forms to ask if Google will unblacklist this website pretty please? Of course no e-mail address I can contact - they'd have to pay someone then, instead of getting me and other users to do their work for them free. The whole experience is uncannily like trying to communicate with the gas board. They can tell me what they want to tell me when they want, but I cannot find how to talk back to them. Perhaps I am not actually allowed to speak to the mighty Google? I must be humble, I must be humble...
June 4th; Sunny weather returns. Like the pumpkin shoots before, 5 or 6 of the oregano seedlings are still wearing the peppercorn-like seeds they grew down and out of, so that pot looks like a set of small plants juggling & balancing balls on their heads. Online, some soothing, meditative s t u f f.

June 3rd; A few more shoots in my miniature herb garden. I order more seeds.
June 2nd; Evening drink with Agnes. Tarot reading, and my 2 spreads about women are a bit concerning. 4 pieces of elegant t y p e design. Tune by Soulstice.

June 1st; On John's way to the airport back to Manchester, we stop off at Magdolna's for a delicious lunch featuring her wonderful turmeric & potato soup. One of the cats refuses to leave John's lap, and her son Mate, who recently won a prize in a nationwide business team competition, seems a little the worse for wear after revelry last night.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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