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2010
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June 30th; Wednesday. Meet Nigel of Darkness for lunch at railway station in Manchester, and find he is going down to London today too. We pick the same train, find it is delayed by "a person on track", and eventually catch a train where we share a table with a bubbly physics presenter who works in both plasma physics and science television, and also a wry Belfast business manager at a major law firm. The law-firm lady is very sympathetic and patient as I root hopelessly in my bag balanced on her lap for things I mispacked. Why is everything on British trains so small & squashed? Because we didn't go with Brunel's 7-foot gauge, that's why. Straight off train meet my IP lawyer Sarah for a green tea, and take some useful notes. From there on to a French bar near Charing X Road where I meet some lovely people along with Mystery Friend 2. At one point he insists we repair to a strange karaoke bar where instead of humiliating ourselves in front of strangers {surely the main idea?} eight of us rent a room with deep red walls. I give a passable rendition of a Sugababes track, and Mystery Friend puts much spirit into 'Suspicious Minds'. Exotic Girl 1 & Maria from Serbia reveal hidden reserves of energy & groovesomeness.
June 29th; Tuesday. Someone collects the old desktop computer.

June 28th; Struggle bagging up mass of old ivy & weeds in the tiny back yard, cause of the helpful Environmental Waste order that forced me back to Britain at this convenient moment. Resprain my ankle just when it was finally healing. Super. Neighbour who saved mother's life offers to do some plastering round the house. Monday.
June 27th; Train back up to the north, with a 1st-class ticket that is half the price of the 2nd-class ticket. However, the smooth rolling movement of the Virgin train, together with the shrunken windows, makes me quite motion sick.

June 26th; Repair to local London pub with Mystery Friend 2, where we watch half of USA versus Ghana, the first match I see.
June 25th; On third night in west London with Mystery Friend 2, read his copy of 'Modern Culture' by Roger Scruton. Very interesting and thought-provoking book, which {to my surprise} defends Modernism. Modernism is all Scruton thinks we have left of High Culture.

June 24th; Have late lunch with niece Emily near her workplace, and hand over the African stool and a few of mother's garments.
June 23rd; Take train down to London. Negotiate tube system with two bags, remembering how tiny & cramped everything is in our capital, as if it was built for dwarves.

June 22nd; Man drives skip over to house. More clearing.
June 21st; Surprisingly, ankle still hurts, so climbing narrow stairs with boxes not ideal. Attic gets swelteringly hot each day in this weather. Grateful people have now taken away a television & an electric sewing machine.

June 20th; Sunday. Toil quite successfully all day. Finally, we learn what England needs to play better football: more cat shit.
June 19th; Cheerful meter reader turns up and reads both gas & electricity meters. Saturday.

June 18th; Gardening woman fails to come to the house at 1.30 when she promised. Radio & people around still annoyingly fixated on World Cup. Haven't they noticed we always get knocked out early on?
June 17th; Toil in house, clearing stuff. Find a website to give stuff away to people.

June 16th; Visit the Nigel of Darkness in Manchester and see his Magnificent Machine in its garden shed. He kindly lends me a wireless dongle. We visit the 3 showroom in town together to make it work with my Apple, which Nigel refers to as The Gay Lava Lamp.
June 15th; Wake up in John's spare bedroom, sunlight pouring in. We drive over the Pennines and arrive at my house all ready to travel to a local tip, only to find there is no rubbish in my yard after all. The gardener woman from Hebden visited the wrong house before refusing to clear my tiny garden because of the extra rubbish that isn't tipped into it. By night, read a curious old detective book I find in one of the boxes, 'Under the Influence' by Geoffrey Kerr. The premise is that one character cannot help but read people's minds, but only when he is just slightly drunk. Not too little, and not too much.

June 14th; Wake up drenched in curiously vivid, detailed, calm overview of traditional forms of theatre as related to pageantry. Laid out in my head in the form of an illustrated book. Much as I hate spraining an ankle, there is something rather wonderful to feel my body gradually healing itself ...day by day slowly returning to full power & health. Things to be grateful for: never having suffered a pollen allergy. Slightly glum flight to Manchester, where John kindly meets me in the new Control Britain where he is not allowed to stop a car outside the terminal building for even 5 seconds but must search for me in the paying carpark instead. We meet at a petrol station.
June 13th; Edward sends me a link to his thoughtful weblog about being a rural Tory in the north of England.

June 12th; Marguerite comes back from her gruelling week-long what-to-do-if-you're-kidnapped course in Britain. She tells me about it over a pizza. Country house, ex-SAS types, guns, mud, being thumped, having a hood on your head all afternoon, the usual. Apparently the imaginary country was called Hostilia - on the border of Genitalia, of course. Marguerite, a perhaps sheltered liberal lawyer lass from Chicago, is well impressed by her new discovery: the hunkiness of fit soldiers. Memorable quotes: "The English are such an odd mixture of the European and the civilised," and the intriguing "Political Correctness is now a marker for social status in the US." Ankle still weak, still limping.
June 11th; Deadline comes and goes - I finished editing the day before yesterday, but Regina's work ties her up for two days, and she goes on holiday tomorrow for a week. Oh. Off to Britain it is then. Weather very hot & sticky here now.

June 10th; What kind of musical performance thrills Google programmers? Answer: this. Gets most impressive at around 12 and a half minutes, even if this is Circus Britain. Nathan Lee & Beardyman.
June 9th; Reka & I find each other at the Blaha tramstop in bright hot sunshine. I hand over her friend Ari's phone and she sweetly gives me a Mars bar with some raffia string wrapped round it. So that's my good deed for 2010 out of the way. I can go back to being an annoying twat now. My ankle is still disturbingly swollen and tender. Up late working on book.

June 8th; Visit Regina at the office to see how the first 11 chapters look. Tasty burger & beer dinner at Martin's. Martin is temporarily back from Sicily, tanned. Eszter, Thomas, Marcsi, Edit arrive later on during a long evening. On the night bus home I find a mobile phone left on a seat, and at home I use a key & a pen to rather painstakingly pick out the tiny letters on the screen so as to send a phone text to ten friends of the phone loser. A Reka replies at once and we arrange to meet in the morning.
June 7th; Ankle still hurts. More work on book.

June 6th; Warm sunshine all day long, so of course I am trapped indoors with my sprained ankle, editing away at least. Marguerite kindly brings over some food before catching her flight. Just when I was giving up a bit on artsandletters, some good articles: assassins, ordinary Brits, and a poignant piece where a mathematician called Joel Cohen valiently attempts to compare a Housman poem from 'Shropshire Lad' to an elegant inequality about sums of minimums of pairs of numbers drawn from a list of natural numbers and a list of non-negative real numbers {proved by Zbaganu}. He really tries, and if you can sometimes read a short line of algebra without falling on the floor chewing your own tongue out, he makes quite a goodish case that there are strong formal similarities, insofar as a poem about youth, age, and loss can even be compared to an elegant result about sums of minimums. Cohen and a colleague generalised this result to a whole set of surprising inequalities which really look quite lovely if you like that sort of thing. However, Cohen's attempt to evangelise for the aesthetic charms of his subject is heart-rendingly sabotaged by a dreadful typo. This mangles the inequality in its first citation and must have radically slashed the number of poetry-loving readers he took with him into the second half of the article. In fact, the mysterious {to me, at least} variable x_i appears unexplained no less than three times along with an x_j. Since no x is ever defined, but much is made of the a, b symmetry where... "The symbols in the left lobe are exactly the same as the symbols in the right lobe but the letters a and b appear in different order; this is chiasmus in the broad sense. In the right lobe, (a, b, b, a) is an example of chiasmus in the strict sense as the sequence (a, b) is repeated in reverse order (b, a)." ...it's pretty clear it should have been b_i and b_j, not x. There's another typo in the middle of his numerical example too. Anyway, at least the sub-editors didn't cripple the poor man's sensitive {and persuasive} analysis of the Housman poem, the way they did the maths result he took such pains to explain to non-specialists. "With rue my heart is laden / For golden friends I had, / For many a rose-lipt maiden / And many a lightfoot lad. / By brooks too broad for leaping / The lightfoot boys are laid; / The rose-lipt girls are sleeping / In fields where roses fade." The piece has two goals, to show that mathematicians can enjoy and appreciate literature, and to show that literature types can enjoy and appreciate maths, and goal 1 succeeds pretty well. Shame, because without the sub-editors' mistakes, the hugely more ambitious goal 2 might have had a chance as well.
June 5th; Since I infuriatingly twisted my right ankle last night not long before dinner with Bodo, Szilvi, and Eszter, I spend most of today again editing the book, but this time while confined to the sofa/bed. Painful to walk anywhere. Still, hope creates life.

June 4th; Henry sends me a nice piece of Dutch humour about English sport, and Dorina & Kumar a 1960s song which might go well in the Joan Littlewood film I keep musing over. Would be about the first run of lifelong communist Littlewood's 1963 stage musical 'Oh What a Lovely War!' that so successfully cemented today's mythical view of World War One into the British public imagination. If '1990' billed itself as "'1984' plus six" this would be "Antonioni's 'Blow-Up' minus three".
June 3rd; More rain. Send first batch of chapters to Regina for initial layout. Go to a talk by Anthony Kenny on his account of just war, just rebellion, and just counterinsurgency. Stay afterwards with Henry chatting with a couple of members of the department - George mentions the sinister but apparently very influential Carl Schmitt as being still largely untranslated into English. Afterwards with Henry enjoy a beer and chat about Semmelweis & oral history at the Captain Cook pub. Then get home to meet Martin's friend Bodo at my flat for some drinks while it rains some more, and while we wait for his friend Eszter to pick him up in her car.

June 2nd; Mend sofa leg. Might even Steven Pinker be starting to grasp the obvious dimness of Noam Chomsky's untestable non-theory about "innate grammar engines"? Based on the non-mystery of children's not very impressive acquisition of their first language, plus Chomsky's deeply unpersuasive generalisations out of English & German. Lunch with Martin. I give him the animal syringe with needle kit and he gives me some electronic kitchen scales. I weigh my own scales with them and my home-made balance with pans appears to be weightless. Odd.
June 1st; More aerobics include some very painful thigh exercises. A dangerously fat Hungarian woman passes me on the street quivering, blancmange-like in a tight black dress with silvery sequins picking out thick, four-inch-high capital letters, saying in English 'Give More'. More cloudiness with more rain. Must mend sofa leg.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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