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2009
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August 31st; Get through to my bank in Yorkshire on the phone and recharge my card. Really must make some money. That or stop spending it. Get to Vodafone to pay to turn internet back on, and it is packed with wholesome German girls, all in Budapest to start their medical studies this week. Naturally, they all decided to open their mobile-phone subscriptions at the same time. Once again at gym, like yesterday, chat with the impressively fit & lithe Andrea, running her seven miles a day on one of the machines. We talk more about her dog Daisy, an alarming-sounding appetite-suppressing drug she swears by, travel & languages.

August 30th; Mess around on my balcony with bleach, vinegar, salt, lemon juice, glue & paintstripper. My 3rd piece for Sascha is up. I fail to meet Franc, due to my own lack of organisation.
August 29th; Gloomy weekend starts off with the realisation that downloading OpenOffice to unlock Marion's old-Windows-version book manuscript and some Apple stuff last night used up my whole month's internet allowance, and my card will withdraw no cash on the street. Beavis-like, I look round my flat for bits of spare cash I might have forgotten down the back of the sofa or wherever. By night, cheer up at a party at an outdoor bar. The trolleybus driver knows where in the park this bar is, and makes a special stop for me. The party is for the three Es: Esther, Edit, &, over from Missouri for a few days, Elysia. Wayne is there, the mysterious Other Mark with his dog, Jeff as quick on the uptake as ever, Alex looking slightly wilder-eyed than I remembered him, Steve C. in mellow mood, Victoria, and others. Edit lets me wear her Taltos-charmed necklace all night {a silver pendant shaped like a bunch of leaves} so that I can feel hippier than usual.

August 28th; Itching from cat contact last night, though not too badly. I rub fresh lemon on the tabletop and find that as natural bleaches go, this is not too bad. Cheerful techie man at Vodafone in the WestEnd shopping centre extremely helpful. He patiently reinstals all the needed software on my PC laptop. We have a nice chat. This is after someone on the phone earlier in the afternoon gets a bit miffed when I ask why opening hours are not on Vodafone's website, explaining patiently to me that the regular times have not been reloaded to the site since the special opening hours for St. Istvan's holiday last week. I forget my tact and cheerfully say isn't the point of websites that you can update information like this in two minutes, rather than needing a whole week? and he is annoyed by my arrogant foreign pushiness. These things take time.
August 27th; Repot second catnip seedling for Magdolna. In the process one of her cats becomes euphoric and rubs herself all over me.

August 26th; Meet Mystery Friend 2 at the Cha Cha Cha bar on the island with the two French girls he is hosting for a friend. Cecile and Helene are very buoyant and chatty, and Cecile tells of a dream she had recently in which zombies are taking over the world. She & Helene have swords to defend themselves against the monsters, but then it emerges they are in no danger because it is "the loving time" for the zombies so everything is all right. Soon after Cecile relates her dream, Helene's head sinks onto the table and she falls asleep in the middle of rolling a naughty cigarette.
August 25th; With Mystery Friend to an Internations get-together at an Indian restaurant, and afterwards to a small party at Heather's flat, since Heather is briefly back, gathering data on Gypsies in Hungary. Afterwards, MF2 describes one male at the party as being so irritatingly insignificant he is tantamount "to a rounding error".

August 24th; Mystery Friend 2 back from abroad, and we meet Tamas for a slightly dodgy pizza. I tell them of my interior-design struggles, and MF2 describes me as the "Don Quixote of Furniture". Tamas tells of a recent taxi journey where he is trying to persuade a young blonde girl to show him her snatch, and she finally consents. The taxi driver puts the lights on, turns round to ask his fare, and she pulls up her skirt to display her pussy to both of them while shyly looking away.
August 23rd; Start day reading about Tibetan saint Milarepa. Vigorous weight-training session follows. Tabletop very dirty now after my cleaning efforts.

August 22nd; Roller-blading - sorry, in-line skating - practice with Esther, over in the 13th district. We break for ice cream, and when she sees I'm taking wire back to the hardware shop because I'm trying out electronics now, Esther squeals "Is no hobby safe?!", breaking into a peal of giggles. We get back to in-line skates. Concentrate so hard on not falling over that I don't notice I'm catching the sun and get pink forearms & pink forehead. The bored girl at the ice-cream parlour cheers up when she sees us wobbling about outside, and gives us some tips. Read more of Marion's favourite book.
August 21st; Re-melt supports onto the failed sample shelf holder. One more by Stolen Identity: Who You Are. During the day, I look at the fridge-magnet alphabets, squashed into a clump in the centre of my landlady's fridge door. I spend five minutes getting childish pleasure from shaping this solid blob of fridge magnets into a giant heart shape. When it gets dark round here, the silence sometimes in this street is so deep I can hear the water percolating down through my flower pots. This evening around 1am, drifting across the hot, still backstreets, come the almost cat-like sounds of a woman being "given a seeing to" as some Brits would say. Revealing piece of slang, both blunt & embarrassed at the same time. More yelps than moans, quite audible from right down the block.

August 20th; National holiday in memory of the Hungarian king and saint, who as Nina pointed out, had molten lead poured into the ears of people who disagreed with him. I forget this holiday again, and around midday phone this firm. The woman picks up the phone rather annoyed I have rung her, demanding to know who I am. Of course, it does not occur to her that taking home the work mobile {number given on the website} and using it for her own private life really leaves her with no right to complain if a customer telephones her. Nor would she dream of apologising if it did occur to her. Planes buzz around the building, and after dark the famous fireworks. For a second, I get the mad idea that the explosions outside might frighten my herbs. I must be getting broody, peering too much at their tiny but enlarging leaves, the same way women coo and cluck over babies' "perfectly-formed" fingernails.
August 19th; Sascha puts my article up already. Interesting lecture about the "coming collapse" of the US middle class. Much shorter clip on same topic.

August 18th; Sample bookshelf fails the strength test after full loading of about 10lbs. Not bad though, about ten normal and twenty small books supported by about three square inches of total bonded surface just before failure. Then I use wire wool to clean my pine table and spread a sinister dark-grey stain across a square foot of it {either vinegar or bleach reacting with steel}. To my surprise, a puddle of undiluted bleach I leave on it while dozing a couple of hours in the stifling early-evening heat lifts the stain completely. I go out to the night shop to buy more bleach, and the big lady gives me grave & wise warnings about mixing bleach and vinegar. I finish 2nd article for Sascha.
August 17th; Wake up to sound of aeroplanes buzzing around in the sky. Of course, the Red Bull Air Race is only a few days away. Might be fun, since I'm about ten minutes walk from the river.

August 16th; Dinner with Marion & Paul. She kindly drives me back home with my box of herblings, though we get lost {my fault} in a maze of one-way streets near my flat, and since they're cobbled, I have to hold the box packed with terracotta pots and saucers a few inches above my lap with my arm muscles sprung like shock-absorbers. Marion's magic touch has restored the dill & chives & woad to thriving health. Marion mentions her test for all art, music & literature, the Mary Poppins test. An artwork should present a complete world you want to enter.
August 15th; More paint-stripper onto plastic on my sun-drenched balcony. Christopher Hitchens on sex & comedy, on religion, and on morals.

August 14th; At sunset, Magdolna & I meet a man at Blaha Lujza square whose team has made a 7'-high cross papered with make-believe-blood-spattered sheets of A4 paper saying in Hungarian things like 'SIN: Hatred', 'SIN: Murder', 'SIN: Sex Outside Marriage', 'SIN: Fortune-Telling', 'SIN: Doing Magic' {How many people would care whether it was a sin if they thought you could really do magic?}. The man asks us what "our relationship is", we say "friends", and then he says "No, your relationship with Jesus." Nice lead-in! He hides his impatience at my answer that the gospels are the word of Paul, and Paul never met Jesus, but that the Jesus edited by Paul is a wonderful character. Magdolna & I ride the lift up to the bar on the roof of the Corvin building nearby. As dusk turns into night, she insists on using my pack to do some Tarot spreads for me up there. One money question spread starts with the Hermit, has the Fool in the near future, and has the High Priestess as the penultimate card. The other money question spread starts with the High Priestess, has the Fool again in the near future, and ends with the Hermit. One other spread about staying in Hungary fell between those two. Thorough shuffling and cutting rather in vain?
August 13th; Thursday. Robin & I drive from the Great Plain to sun-baked Budapest, arriving late lunchtime. Dry plumes of dust and big, humming machines fill the building sites now round my flat on two sides.

August 12th; Finish Robin's or Mike's copy of Goethe's Parable written by Goethe in 1828, translated into English by Alice Raphael. Admirably short & readable, this is a curious 50-page story Goethe wrote late in life, apparently alluding to some secrets of his decade at the Weimar court from the 1770s to the 1780s. The translator says the story hints at Goethe's interests during this time in alchemy, the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the chance to promote noble social reform aims through secret societies like the Freemasons, making this text very fashionable again two centuries on. Heavily and obviously symbolic, this short book shows just how hard parables are to write. It lacks a strong central character {such as a hero undergoing a testing journey} familiar from most fairy tales, myths, or legends, and the narrative on the whole is weak. The symbolic moments littering the tale are over-obviously signalled to the reader as such, yet obscure in their message {the translator 'decodes' the story in an afterword, not quite what a good parable should need}. This violates two central principles of epic literature. Meanings should be discernable, intriguingly on the edge of mystery, rather than just plain baffling. Also, they should emerge naturally from a story readers engage with rather than the tale being a plodding itinerary that walks the reader through a list of planted symbols. Nonetheless, the style is limpid, smooth and modest, and the puzzle of what Goethe lived through and believed in to write such mumbo-jumbo with such seriousness is far more interesting than the intended messages themselves.
August 11th; Get up at 8am, let dogs out of garage, go back to sleep and at 10am get up and realise from the sound of voices that Robin & family are back a day early. They arrived at 9am. They relate their adventures in Croatia. I cycle to see seamstress. She still isn't ready. I cycle on to Cserkeszolo and on the way, berate my guardian angel out loud for "really not trying hard enough." Five minutes later I realise that exactly the same thing has happened as three days ago. The bicycle's back tyre has started going down. The puncture must have been at almost the same place on the road out. No-one in Cserkeszolo can sell me a puncture-repair kit. No helpful man in straw hat appears. I walk back, wheeling the lame bicycle, and it seems to be not so far, about 4 miles. Oddly, today and yesterday, when it is cloudy, the sunflowers behave differently. Disconsolate, they hang their heads. They drop their faces down, like an army of embarrassed schoolboys staring at their shoes during a telling off.

August 10th; Cycle into village for canteen lunch. Cloudy. Afrojack & The Partysquad: Drop Down.
August 9th; I wake up with old idea for a better musical notation more vivid than ever. Cycles per second as the vertical axis, 1/10ths of a second as the horizontal axis, vertical axis opens out into sub-windows to actually show the number of cycles. Hot again out on the Great Plain. Quiet Sunday. Feed & water dogs & cat. For those who enjoy overproduced gloss: 1 2.

August 8th; I wake refreshed in the studio up on the gallery, and liberate Chloe the fox terrier and her two puppies from the garage at 8am. I have been told I must stop Chloe and her favourite from bullying the smaller puppy, who has a wonderful dark chocolatey marking on the back of his neck, like a big blob of cocoa powder dropped into swirling milk. However, they are not really puppies any more - they are perhaps 4/5ths adult size, properly dog-shaped, and do lots of scampering. The third one was given to a local whose sister promptly backed her car over it, I was told yesterday. This death has caused something of a rift between brother & sister since the brother loved his new puppy so much he was sleeping with it in his bed. After improvising a soft blue shoelace into a strap for a wide-brimmed straw hat, I cycle to the next village, Tiszakurt, to see the seamstress, on one of Robin's better brakeless, gearless bicycles. Then I cycle to Cserkeszolo and stop off for a water & coffee in a small bar where a girl customer with a great tumbling mane of blond hair is wriggling around happily to Gypsy pop music on the jukebox, dressed only in a black bikini. Looking for food shops I start to notice the back tyre behaving oddly, and when it is time to return, it is clear the tyre has punctured, and gone completely flat. Walking the bicycle back, I pass a woman with a puppy which is very pleased to see me. She reveals she is Dutch, and the dog is a Hungarian Vizsla, 11 weeks old. The dog is keen to playfully bite me and my pink long-sleeved shirt - a gift from Georgina the day before - and is bubbling over with enthusiasm for life. A little further on, a man also in a straw hat passes me walking, and says I need a pump. He stops at a small gardening business and asks the woman for a pump on my behalf, while I bashfully say I can walk and really it's perfectly fine, oh goodness etc. A man comes out with brown skin, a thick mass of blond hair and a thin, but fit, hollowed-out physique. He has a faded tattoo on one arm which is almost the same colour as his sun-browned skin. His sleeveless tee-shirt hangs off him, and seems to have battery-acid stains down the front. Though quite young he has a weathered look to him, as if someone staked him out on a beach with tent pegs for a month or two at some point. He vaguely knows Robin, and the two men seem genuinely keen to have a go at repairing the bicycle. Pista teases out the inner tube and searches for the leak, before sealing it with a patch from his own bicycle's kit. The pump seems far superior to any pump I've ever seen, since about ten foot movements fill the tyre so it is hard and tight. I invite the two men for drinks at the next bar. The rumpled blond man chuckles but doesn't join us, so Pista, my straw-hatted helper, and I relax over some cooling beverages at a nearby drinking hole until I have to cycle on. Back past fields of sunflowers, looking quite burnt and cardboardish, as they stand in thick ranks, like glum triffids. The way they spend each day slowly turning together so that their receiving dishes always face the solar orb, sullenly waiting for instructions from the mother ship, often strikes me as a bit creepy. Perhaps it's the way that sunflowers' big flat discs of petals look a bit like flowers with faces in children's drawings, horribly enlarged.
Already in Cserkeszolo, as it reaches 4pm, something oddly familiar about the slightly richer blue of the sky to the east begins to strike me. Complete with flotillas of crisp, fluffy clouds floating somewhere purposefully, these are classic high-summer late-afternoon skies of the type that England sees at most ten days a year. As I cycle along, looking up, I realise I recognise them not just from other summers, but from paintings to illustrate book covers. Back when I was in single figures, paperback collections of "science-fiction" stories (often written 20 or 30 years earlier than 1972 or 3) would have scenes on the cover either from the distant future on earth or of scenes on other planets inhabited by people, also in the distant future. The mountains might look oddly pointy, there might be an airbrushed research base or city of glass tubes or globules squatting somewhere in the middle distance, but the sky would be comfortingly familiar, the cloud-dotted rich blue sky of July or August somewhere near the end of the afternoon. For variety, some of these covers might portray a snowy planet of dramatic glaciers and ice-topped pointy mountains, but the indigo-tinged skies of the Mediterranean (not the heavy off-white skies and grey shadows of real winterlands) still anchored the starbound imagination of sci-fi readers. A complete version of one of these covers would have a detailed machine or vehicle, revealed as vast in dimensions by fiddly little details of valves, inspection hatches & windows to give us scale; some familiar yet also oddly-different countryside, often with squat, lopsided trees also reminiscent of the olive-and-lemon-growing south; a female figure in the foreground, shapely, leggy, dressed in some skin-tight silvery garb or armour from 3000 AD, holding some streamlined yet complicated weapon. All this under the Constable-chocolate-box sky of a perfect day for a game of cricket.
Back at Robin's, Piera's friend Genevra pops up online, and we have a text chat over Skype, prompting me to look up all that business about Avignon and the anti-Popes.
August 7th; Up early, and Marion, angel-like, agrees to look after my herb garden. I spend an hour carefully packing the tiny terracotta pots and saucers into a crate, cutting strips of cardboard to keep them all in place, and carrying it on a tram and a bus over to her house. She has a cooling drink ready for me, and Paul and John and John's girlfriend are all at home. Robin texts me to say he has a surprise meeting in Kecskemet at 3pm (surprise to him, anyway) and 4pm will be fine. I get some things done, catch the train, and meet Georgina & Robin in Kecskemet at 4.10pm when my train comes in. In the car they mention a local who would like to sire some more fox terrier puppies by Chloe, someone who sees Chloe as a.... I suggest "Puppy Pump", and Robin & Georgina sweetly say I should let my "inner poet" out more often. Slightly panicky preparations continue through the evening, and they all drive off for the Croatian border at 9pm, planning to smuggle the smallest child over the frontier on the floor of the car, his passport not being in order apparently.

August 6th; Trundle around town in heat looking for liquid wax, a household product for rubbing into wooden furniture. Staff at both the hardware warehouse and the household-goods supermarket are exasperated that I could be so stupid as to imagine they might stock such an item. Get lunchtime text message from Isabel (though I check my phone too late to meet her), who is on a surprise trip back to Budapest and thought we could have tea this afternoon. Surprise to me, anyway. Meet Magdolna for a fruit soup and iced tea at a kebab place and she tells me how wonderful the place she spent a week with Heikki & Aline was. No electricity, no running water, lots of foxes, deer, and wild boar. I get back home at 10.30pm to find an e-mail from Robin saying the house-sit is on, and can I be on the Great Plain at noon the next day?
August 5th; Start phase 2 of the bookcase, out on the balcony with the painstripper again, melting the first eight strips onto the surface of the board as dusk settles and it's too dark to work. Water. Women.

August 4th; Lively session at the gym. About a week ago I was there late one evening, and the big hall, instead of being full of girls doing step aerobics, had just two people in Japanese bamboo armour and black cloaks, practising kendo. Late at night, under angle-poise lamps I measure up the transparent support boards and ponder how and where exactly to stick the strips to the sides. Won't be long before I load up one shelf to do a strength test. Now I can't really believe it's going to be strong enough, though. Oddly, my woad, my poppy, and one of my marigold seedlings just died yesterday. The dill & the chives look seriously unwell too. Still, the others seem healthy, and I've had to resow after seedling death before. Animals. Women.
August 3rd; Hot sticky weather continues. Start reading Patricia's slide show about immunology - interesting stuff. Bit like maths though, in the sense that everything is logical except the names, which are opaque & often historical. Just as maths is full of things like 'Goldberg Spaces' and 'Wilson-invariant Robinson metrics', immunology is full of objects with names like CTLA-4 and CD25, which can only be understood by people who have reached that point after taking a certain {perhaps wastefully long} path through other bits of biochemistry. I'm not quite asking for them to be called Bob, Trevor, & Susan, but a few more repetitively explanatory words, even if they're long words, and a bit less of the strings of letters might be good. Of course, reconstructing access to any knowledge into a different shape from the way it's structured now is rarely something that people who've already learned the old way want to do. Actually, if they had the imagination to think of doing it, this is the sort of thing Hungarians could do well in Hungarian. They could give each antigen a synthetically constructed name, as long as necessary, the way you can in Magyar, which literally explains what the thing does. But they're too conformist and desperate to be down with the international lingo of the specialism so as to get that job in Zurich or Caltech. It would never occur to a Hungarian immunologist or biochemist that their unusual grammar might actually be good for something. Too lateral for them. Jewellery. Women.

August 2nd; Wake out of a dream about Humphrey Lyttelton - I'm not making this up. Out again on my balcony in hot sun in a white towel, carefully dab on more paintstripper to melt the surface of each 2" segment of plastic strip.
Two from Stolen Identity: Argentina & the even lusher Hey.
August 1st; Robin brings sand from the Great Plain for my herbs.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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