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2009
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September 30th; Visit a new part of town and wonder of wonders, find the stainless steel rod I want. 5mm diameter, wholesale price. The woman at the reception is friendly & efficient, doing the invoice in quintuplicate. One copy for me, one copy for the warehouse, one copy to the man at the gate to let me out, and two copies for her. Still, quick, cheap, what I wanted. Curry with Mystery Friend 2 in the evening. He says something shockingly disrespectful about one of Britain's hard-working life peers.

September 29th; Uneventful day, bit cloudy. Put some whites in the washing machine with slices of lemon, having found that this works, and is probably a bit kinder to the fabric than full-on chemical bleach. Appropriately enough, the soothing sounds of Lemon Jelly: A Tune For Jack / Nervous Tension / Homage to Patagonia / Kneel Before Your God / The Fruity Track.
September 28th; With Mariann 1 & her 15-month-old Charlie to a 6pm gallery opening. Ah yes... where would we be without Jimi Tenor? Finland's answer to Joe 90 makes merry: Strawberry Place / My Mind / Caravan / Black Hole {skips at 0:28 & 0:35} / Sunrise / Sugardaddy / Total Devastation {song only starts at 1:50} / Let the Music / Xinotepe Heat / Higher Planes.

September 27th; Morning phone chat with friend in Australia, who explains she has not eaten for 5 days, and is now accessing huge, ancient reserves of strength, alertness, and telepathic receptivity. At the gym the two girls minding the counter are glued to the television as usual, rapt. Once I get Fitness Mariann to mix me a protein milkshake, I suggest that we should exchange English & Hungarian language practice. The prospect of tackling a foreign language seems to fill Mariann 2 with gloom. I've never heard her English, but the task surely can't be that hopeless? In a brief phone call later with Mystery Friend 2, he remarks that bright, lively English women with opinions are refreshing, and come as a contrast to East-European women who can look very svelte, but "give you the feeling you're with an uppity alien." On the other hand, he mentions a Slavic friend of his who says that "It's all very well being with a girl who has opinions and sometimes it's nice having an exchange of views, but sooner or later she's going to disagree with you."
September 26th; On Saturday, after-lunch cakes & coffee at the Goethe Institut with Henry, who is setting up a bar in Hungary's southern city of Pecs. {Briefly recall despondent class of pharmacy students, long ago on the 17th storey of the medical tower. Buffoonish male student, on hearing the word 'Pecs', remarks to me and the others with fatuous grin that the prettiest girls in Hungary are from Pecs. Girl 1 in the class immediately snaps at him, "How would you know?" Girl 2 chimes in, "You've never been."} Late afternoon, see Magdolna, she drives my herblings back to my flat, and we have a cup of tea. Later in the evening, meet Gretchen, Mary, Molly, Mystery Friend 2, Jeremy 2, Kath, and others at a night club in the next street from my flat. I get into a lively argument with Molly about modern architecture. Mystery Friend 2 takes her side {always full of surprises - he likes Rem Koolhaas of all people} and we both accuse each other of decontextualising something or other. MF2 is on fine form, saying at one point that "Fatness indicates moral turpitude," and, of the strange faces of cannibals, "Once you've eaten another person, a different look comes into your eyes." Later on, Molly says that "Basil Brush is fascinating because he internalised his own oppression," pointing out that he wears the cape and tweed cap of the fox-hunting classes, and on the subject of my herblings, that "You have to be butch with oregano. Assert yourself." As the group thins out and people start to go home, Gretchen, MF2, & I turn to discussing men, women, & the war of the sexes. Mystery Friend: "The ladies like to imagine themselves as being like the sun which cannot be looked at directly, but I don't buy into that." Gretchen still insists that a man's flirtation needs "more ambiguity." Mystery Friend 2 ponders for a second on ambiguity, and then suggests, "I'd like to shag you tonight .....or would I?"

September 25th; Up all Thursday night getting things done. Friday morning daylight begins with some cheerful online banter with a friend in Ljubljana. Here's the Spektre remix of Remo's 'Empire' and for lovers of harsh dischords, David Vendetta with Barbara Tucker and 'Anticipation'. Talking of small hours, a couple of nights ago, I look through my missed calls and send a text message at 1am to someone who has been trying to phone me, asking them to text me tomorrow. At 1.15am this person phones me. I decide to actually answer it. A high-pitched mid-teen girl's voice says in Hungarian "Hi, it's Bzgbkjdbf {Brigitta?} here, remember me?! Can you call me back on this number?" I assure her I recall who she is, but could we talk again at noon the next day? Even better, could she send me a text message? Next day I get up at 1pm, and find she has tried to phone twice, but has not sent a text. I text her again in Hungarian, again asking for her to send a phone text. No reply. Wonderful to behold how when a woman wants something from you, you have only to ask her to write it down for her to give up and go away. Probably because she's banking on using her voice to cajole or finesse you into doing whatever it is for her, but she knows it is in fact a completely unreasonable request. Vivid dreams continue. The other morning woke out of a dream in which I was painting onto wood, first an intense, rich, sticky green, followed by a darkly brilliant blue, not quite Prussian, not quite navy.
Friday afternoon, coffee & cakes in the sunshine at a street cafe with Mystery Friend 2. Mary & Molly pass by, and we arrange to meet tomorrow night. After they go, and I mention poverty, MF2 asks of Molly "Does she favour eliminating the poor?" pointing out that eliminating poverty and eliminating the poor are two rival options. He coins the saying "The poor will always be with us.... or will they?" Friday evening, with Inese to Kinga's piano-bar opening, where we are slightly surprised to see a kind of Wild-West-saloon show of dancing girls. The audience is filled with stocky, muscular men with short necks accompanied by hard-faced, pneumatic molls. After midnight, I'm walking home alone along Visegrad street, when I bump into Stojko. We stop & chat on the street for half an hour. At one point, Istvan asks me, intensely, "Have you ever come face to face with a wolf? Alone, in a forest at night, in the winter?" He relates an experience while doing military service in Yugoslavia at the start of the 1990s, when he was in a remote forest. He describes the primeval moment of meeting the ancient, familiar enemy as one of the most powerful experiences of his life. The way the wolf looks "into his being"; the way it instantly judges him as an opponent; the way the two animals greet each other across the gap of centuries. Stojko slips the catch off his machine rifle, clicking into an old instinct from thousands of generations before, kept on file for just this eventuality. He is ready to instantly kill the animal. The wolf understands completely, looks into him again, and calmly moves on back into the darkness.
September 24th; Take buses out towards the People's Park area, shopping for steel rods. Find a carpentry store with some iron rods of the right slimness, so buy one of those to show people. Three tunes from Andre Kraml, two with quite striking use of voice {Call Me Now / Safari} and an instrumental, Vollballern. If only the cute little elephant graphic was on a slightly longer loop.

September 23rd; Afternoon coffee & natter with Terri at a cafe beside the Opera House. Back at the craft shop, at the moment of paying for a second pen nib, I discover the first nib is still with me, lodged in the lining of the coin section of my wallet. Quite nervous at speaking in the evening in Mary & Gretchen's event. My stuff on the future of printed books perhaps a tad dull & businessy for that audience, but everyone is very kind about the second impromptu speech. I redeem myself talking for three minutes off the cuff about 'peas' {processed versus fresh garden}. Nice chat afterwards with Cricket David and others.
September 22nd; Tuesday. Preparing speech for tomorrow, I buy a metal pen nib at the craft & hobby shop, and then lose it. A couple of everyday girls, just hanging around. Judging by their legs, both these two are some distance north of six foot.

September 21st; Monday. More work on tabletop in the sunshine on the balcony. Reproached by my bulbous, 7-and-1/2-inch tall, cream-painted letter P lying at the foot of the fridge door, I write to an American website tendering for writing work, at least apply to join a Canadian clip-art website, and in the small hours finally instal Joomla with help from a kind online mentor.
September 20th; Sunday. Rest from yesterday's gym and other exertions. Finish the slim book Politics Judit lent me, 'Rhedeyek es Fraterek ['The Rhedeys and Fraters'] by Irma Csosz, a local historian who seems to specialise in reconstructing the genealogy of these two aristocratic Transylvanian families. A bit breathless & deferential in parts {we get lines about the donkey that knew all the children at the stately home in the 1930s} it has some moving excerpts from gravestones and memorial plaques, as well as folk songs one of the recent descendents wrote. Amusingly {at least for non-Hungarians}, the three previous lords of that region all lost their estate as punishment for plotting against Hungary's kings, but the fourth line seem to have stayed loyal for four centuries. A poignant paragraph towards the end mentions furniture dispersed among different flats all over Budapest as the once-powerful family faced increasingly humble & restricted circumstances post-World-War-One and then under communism. A family tree near the back shows Judit as some degrees of cousinship by marriage away from Britain's Elizabeth II.

September 19th; Saturday. Long, successful day full of things done and items crossed off lists. Dinner at Magdolna's. Her daughter Eszter suggests I join her on some Facebook game application involving running an imaginary farm. As I chat with Magdolna, Eszter's laptop in the kitchen emits an occasional moo or baa as her cyber-livestock gaze on fields of virtual pumpkins and strawberries. From there to Howard & Cathy's party, where I'm surprised to bump into Constantine, along with Jake & his Tartar wife Lucia. Lots of pretty girls. Some cheery banter about Baltic languages, lingerie, and driving on the left.
September 18th; Lovely lunch in sunshine with Esther. At the gym, Andrea says her mood crashed for a week after just ten days on the sinister diet drug she was recommending: she's all against it now. The two perhaps-gay deaf mutes are back, cheerfully hand-signal chatting with each other in complete silence in the free-weights room, oblivious to the house music. Double-Dutch mix tricks from Kraak & Smaak: No Sun in the Sky / Bobby & Whitney. Three lucid articles by Paul Graham about starting companies: What Kate Saw / Determination / Consumers Never Paid for Content.

September 17th; Breakfast at cafe with Merav. Rainy day, but she's all kitted out with umbrella. Seems I need universal installation discs {not the discs sold together with a computer} for OSX 10.5 ....anyone? Mix up bleaching cream off an internet recipe out of oats, olive oil, yoghourt, & lemon juice, put my tabletop in the bath, and smear some on. This is at around 2am. Looks exactly like dried sick.
September 16th; Robin & Ralph get me to Tiszaug train 'station' just in time for the 11.11am train, and the slow, quiet journey back to town happens as it always does. At Kecskemet, a tall young beauty gets off the train with me. I almost help her get her trolley suitcase down the metal steps. However, since she doesn't acknowledge or look at anyone, I think: why should any of us bother? The usual even tan, long black hair, figure-hugging black top, wraparound shades come with contrived aloofness. She must think it gives her more power, an air of princess-like gravity. Looking neither left nor right, neck straight, staring ahead in a slightly android/zombie way. The simple look is more elegant than the village girl yesterday, but the pride that comes with it spoils the effect. Her slender form ripples across the hot, dry railway tracks, pulling her suitcase on its little wheels, into the shade of the station building. I get back to Budapest, meet my amiable landlady, go to the gym, doze two hours. Eight songs by Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herren Band. Deepest Red / A Special Morning / My Darling / Think Twice / Nikita / L.I.P.S.T.I.C.K. / Casino / My Private Night.

September 15th; I duck out of Robin & Ralph's canoe adventure on the Tisza river. In hot sun, they drive me to the next village, Tiszakurt, and drop me off at the jolly seamstress. She seems a busy, bustling lady in her blue work coat. Nonetheless, she has not started my shirt, nor mended Robin's two shirts, nor his pair of trousers. I take the opportunity to change my order into a girl's dress, not just top, and we measure the fabric in her narrow work room further narrowed into a corridor between two walls of piled up cheap plastic carrier bags, each with mending & sewing work for a different client. On the steps down to her front yard, I find Csilla, a local girl, tickling the tummy of the seamstress's mongrel puppy, Dumpling. I first met Dumpling last week. He is larger than his scrappy mother, a pale brown, nonedescript bitch tied up on a piece of string. The seamstress thinks his father might be the Puli sheepog next door. Dumpling has soft fluffy fur the colour of butterscotch, authentic puppyish rubberiness in his limbs, and the cheerful, trusting curiosity of all young dogs. Actually quite round and dumpling-like in shape, he wriggles happily on his back in the dust as Csilla strokes him. She has come for her frock, and the seamstress has not done that either. Csilla is exactly on the borderline between being a randomly-decorated little girl and a pretty woman. Though she is already quite curvy, it's the self-adornment that gives her age away. She can't possibly be more than 16. The long hair is slightly spoiled with some red-tint streaking ideas, her mascara has been put on with a paintbrush, and her left hand and wrist are covered with detailed, grid-like patterns in some kind of amateur henna experiment using what looks like black biro ink. She's still too young to realise that, with her slightly scruffy jeans and over-jazzy shirt hanging perfectly on her slim, tanned body, she is just fine as she is. Behind the girl's symmetrical shoulders & her elbow-length mane of thick hair, the road is ten feet away, and the whole other side is taken up by the graveyard. Fenced in by railings & chicken wire, the cemetery looks as if it contains five or six hundred souls, and the seamstress's front drive almost looks straight down a central avenue dividing it into two halves. Mail-order-catalogue twin metal gates at the start of this avenue yawn wide open to welcome the new dead, and the sandy, gravelly path between two rows of small, slightly-ill-looking trees divides the left half, almost full, from the right half, almost empty. The nearly empty right-hand part is mainly scrubby yellow grass wilting in the hot sun, with a small cluster of white crosses and headstones that look as if they have just made it across the central drive, from left to right. Like mushrooms whose spores have jumped a natural frontier so they can spread into new territory. Unless those are the sheep, leaving the goats behind.
I do a little shopping, and recharge my phone in a small supermarket that has the perfect combination of rustic sleepiness and an array of things you might actually want to buy. The 'supermarket' in Tiszainoka, a whole grade simpler, reminds me more of Ghana when I was little, with large sections of empty shelf, and at the very most 6 or 7 different types of item on sale. I get to the bus stop back to Inoka, not feeling like walking for 45 minutes in the heat, and suddenly, just as the bus pulls in, Edina appears from nowhere. She gives me a lift back, she & I drink tea with Kadicsa as her new baby Bendeguz gurgles, and she tells me her book is out in the shops. Robin & Ralph return with a strange story of almost being killed. Both walking down the river bank after some canoeing, Robin apologises that "there's nothing much going on round here" and that second a large tree crashes down just a few yards in front of them. They bring back some of the honey fungus which chewed away the tree trunk, and as light fades I do my first plaster-mixing experiment in Robin's studio. Striking how fast it sets, and how warm it gets. Enjoyable dinner. A small panic over Robin's missing magnifying glass is averted when I find it in the library.
September 14th; I get up at 8am, expecting Robin & Georgina back today. The boys are up watching television, and the adults are dozing, exhausted, because they already arrived back from Italy at 5am, having driven almost non-stop. In the late afternoon, Ralph, who dropped in on Jeremy in Budapest the day Robin had to drive to Florence, comes down, and we all drink schnapps to celebrate, conversation ranging over types of jam, laws in England, and whether gluten-intolerant people often have a harsh metallic laugh. This is Ralph's first visit to Hungary since the 1970s. A small trip out with Georgina, Ralph, Robin together ends up as night falls at a distillery in Tiszafoldvar. The expert in overalls happily answers Ralph's detailed questions about his silvery tubes, valves, condensers, and inspection portholes. I just about manage to interpret.

September 13th; It's obvious now that last night's diarrhoea was from eating too many of Marcsi's sun-dried slices of apple. Strangely satisfying to chew, the flat loops, soft corky discs with a hole in the middle, taste of little and are mildly sweet. Nonetheless, without loo paper, throughout the night I was repeatedly in the mud-brick outhouse wiping my bottom by candlelight on old Daily Telegraph colour-supplement pages about "throw cushions" & wine coolers. After lunch, I let the two boys cycle to Cserkeszolo for an adventure, on condition they bring back loo paper. Of course, they fail to bring back any shopping. Before leaving for Kecskemet, the girls report phone texts from Robin & Georgina, now in Venice on their long way home. Turns out on cross-examination that the boys didn't go anywhere near Cserkeszolo, but Kasper didn't think to tell me of his change of plan or to take his mobile phone with him to the local village. After dark, Kasper & I have three games of table tennis on the terrace while a massive hornet persistently headbutts the lantern and while Kasper tells me of his sporting ambitions. At one point, we have to stop suddenly, the hairs on our necks bristling. The three fox terriers locked in the garage begin to wail with what can only be described as human voices. Kasper & I look at the locked garage door as the wailing of the mother & two bitch puppies rises to exactly the pitch of girl choirs doing 1950s sci-fi-movie soundtracks. Every night, the warbling of the dog chained up round the other side of the house sounds more and more like a person too. As Lupus struggles to express his sorrow, his protective tenderness, his angry remorse & sweet longing towards the fox terrier bitch on heat he can scent locked in the garage a hundred yards away, his barks, whimpers, and yowls soften and twist into nearly-human vowels. Three days ago, Marcsi updated my list of Hungarian beast-specific verbs {I'd forgotten them, of course, apart from 'tuzel'} to express that a female animal is on heat.
Let's compare. The same almost.
macska [= cat] ivarzik, rather than bagzik. Also, Marcsi didn't know that cat & rabbit share the same verb, and likewise cow & donkey. Dialect-dependent, perhaps.
September 12th; At night, we can all hear Lupus, the chained-up Komondor dog, howling and weeping over Chloe, the fox-terrier bitch, on heat and locked in the garage. The hound's moaning is quite eloquent, modulating from barks to whimpers. Even though the big furry white thug dog bit me and drew blood a couple of years back, it is hard for a fellow male not to be moved by his frustrated sadness. Across the species boundary, the heartbroken pleading of the serenading poet is quite clear in his gulps of misery and the gloomy silences between. He is off his food. He yearns for nothing but her.

September 11th; Marcsi arrives and does some cleaning & cauldron cooking in readiness for the children arriving this afternoon. Her soup & chicken-with-pasta dish gets a mixed reception in the evening. Brief phone text from Robin to say that they have arrived in Florence in time for the family wedding tomorrow.
September 10th; See Robin & Georgina off on their long drive to Florence around midday. Alone again on the Great Plain with four dogs and a cat. I doze a couple of hours in the studio, sleeping off the fig schnapps and green-walnut schnapps Robin & I drank last night.

September 9th; Read an article about foreknowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbo(u)r. It seems to need "expert attention", according to someone. Really turns on whether Admiral Kimmel was deliberately deprived of information so Japan's attack could go ahead unchecked. Have a final scrub of my table-top out on the balcony with two more lemons, and take the train to Kecskemet where Georgina meets me after a school parents' meeting. As I get off at the station, I take in for the first time an outbuilding next to the station, backing onto the tracks with three gable ends, rendered pink. Each gable has a differently-shaped small window under the arch of its roof. One is two narrow slits, another is a square on a corner, like a diamond, the other is round. So not quite the same as the three Play School windows.
September 8th; Magdolna drives over in her car. She says some disease is killing my pumpkin plant. I have designed a better box for my herblings since their trip to Marion's - one larger box instead of two stacked. Improvement. Drink strawberry schnapps at Magdolna's and peel potatoes which she makes into her potato soup.

September 7th; Go looking in the shops for cake tins with false bottoms. Hilariously overpriced, of course. Since when did a disc of aluminium that fits into a hoop of aluminium need to cost ten pounds sterling? This in a supposedly poor country which is allegedly trying to compete, hoho. Amazing the fall in the pound's value since the Second World War too. In the evening I have coffee & croissant with Tamas, and listen to his story that Richard Nixon wanted to help a planned right-wing royalist/fascist putsch in 1970 Italy.
September 6th; Wake out of very vivid dream about putting on Shakespeare or Dante performances in a park with giant inflateable characters, each 20-foot tall, moving around with an actor with a microphone and a couple of technicians inside each massive puppet. Something like 'Midsummer Night's Dream', performed at dusk might work well. I suppose they would glide or trundle, a bit like huge chess pieces. They were lit from within as night fell, making them like Chinese lanterns crossed with hot-air balloons, and of course you could project pieces of film or still slides {I am awake by this point, and no longer dreaming} from inside onto their faces or chests to represent thoughts or memories. Later in day, I buy bandages. Try to wind bandage dressing round my feet to help with the Achilles Tendon aches. I wake from my afternoon siesta feeling the strong urge to get the bandages off both feet. The elasticated strips seem to both be pressing unpleasantly against my tender tendons.

September 5th; I stroll past some romantically dowdy & scruffy shops on sun-baked Nepszinhaz street, the street where Houdini was born. In one cramped something-of-everything shop staffed by a humourless Arab man, I find some perfume. In a square, chunky bottle, the sickly sweet scent has the rather lovely brand name in English, 'Tender Stalking'.
September 4th; Get back into town in the afternoon by bus from Tim's. Chicken salad with Magdolna at Imola's restaurant. 2 by Wax Tailor: Am I Free; Ungodly Fruit.

September 3rd; Make it to Tim's house in the village of Paty for a lovely dinner cooked by Erika. Tim is excited by the ongoing construction of new walls and rooms, enlarging the house. We play with his son's hampsters, Tim comparing the pouches inside their mouths to Swiss bank accounts. We talk about vodka brands, and other subjects, such as the approaching book launch.
September 2nd; Late breakfast at an outdoor cafe table on Andrassy street in cool shade, with bright sunshine lighting the facade of the buildings opposite. It is Mystery Friend 2, after we chat about his just completed novel, who remarks that anyone judging him from quotes in this diary might see him as a misanthrope. He then cheerfully adds that most university degrees nowadays are "mainly therapeutic" and "some people have no business developing self-esteem."

September 1st; At gym, natter with Andrea again, and find Fitness Club Mariann at the counter in more buoyant mood than yesterday. Today she is in a remarkable purple blouse and black pinafore frock and explains she was bounced off a personal-trainer course and onto a finance course. Three songs from Stereolab: 1 2 3.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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