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2010
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December 31st; Lunchtime train to Budapest. Work on Caterpillar factory film for Kalman. Drinks in the evening to midnight with Albert and his friends at Balletcipo bar. When it is time to sing the truly miserable Hungarian national anthem, it seems almost none of the Hungarians actually know the words even to the first stanza. A lot of pretty girls in the bar, some of whom seem to know me quite well: also worrying on the memory front.

December 30th; Rather dreadful day, as out on the Great Plain I get phone call from Yorkshire that my pipes have burst and my house is flooding. I was sure I had turned off the mains. Finally after many phone calls and e-mails, Tim & Sara rescue the situation, finding the key they have, and enter the property, obtain plumber etc. It seems that even if I had turned off the mains, as I thought I had, the flooding would still have happened, since there were two bursts, one just before the stop tap. House not insured, not that I expect an insurance firm would pay me even if it was. Of course, I wanted to leave the heating on low, but was unable to get a boiler technician to attend on my last visit to make that possible.
December 29th; Meet Henri and Camilia on the train down to Robin's. Lovely lunch. Camilia, who is Romanian, challenges me to finish Trollope's 'The Way We Live Now', one of the last books mother urged me to read, but reading it in the light of a malign Central European influence on the English idea of free-market capitalism. Henri tells me about his job organising conferences at the French Institute.

December 28th; Still no box of postcards posted from The Other Village. On the other hand, the new cheery postman says hello as we pass in the nine-week-old shopping mall, so that's a good omen.
December 27th; Nag Robin into driving me through steady snowfall to Tiszaug, now seemingly a closed-down station with not even the signalmen working there, for the 11am train. We get there earlier than I feared, so Marika neni sits in the back of the car feeling the cold since we are twenty minutes ahead, and the train arrives five minutes late. I wade through six inches of ditch-filling snowdrift to clamber onto train, and have a quiet journey until, almost at Budapest station, I meet and get chatting to Helga & Flora as we get off the train. Finding we are all travelling further by underground, and going in the same direction for several stops, I urge them, pitiful self-publicist that I now am, to visit and join my Facebook group online.

December 26th; Chat late over a simple soup by candlelight with Robin. He mentions the virtues of chastity belts. Outside snowfall from last night covers the ground with about an inch of white softness. I fuse the Christmas tree lights and mend them again, while Robin & I talk. As we sit by the tree, the cat, Babette, stirs itself to catch the mouse that has been hiding in the larder, brings it to us to gloatingly play with it in front of us and loses it under the sofa. It is Robin, not his cat, who is quick enough as the mouse re-emerges to hit it on the head with the strange metal implement workmen found in the ground while building his chicken coop.
December 25th; In the morning help Georgina roll pastry to make mince pies. Possibly I overcorrect the greasiness of the pastry and put too much extra flour in. Feeling queasy & weary, I sleep much of the day on the futon in the library, reading a new book of Robin's. 'Futurism' by Richard Humphreys is a lushly illustrated short paperback charting how the Italian art movement grabbed the headlines across Europe between 1910 and 1920, and very crisply explaining its theoretical basis. I hadn't realised just how central Marinetti was to the movement, both in launching it and relaunching it. Humphreys shows how the violent urge to free Italy of its past and embrace the machinery & speed of the modern age segued eerily into the destructiveness of both The First World War and Mussolini's Fascists that Filippo Tommaso Marinetti got increasingly embroiled with. Interesting to see the way the British Vorticists were a self-conscious reaction to Marinetti's visit to London. Especially striking how quickly & shrewdly Wyndham Lewis spotted the totalitarian attitude at the heart of the Italian movement, predicting - before anyone else, it seems - that Futurism would lend itself to violent political oppression. Some of the paintings are lovely and intriguing, nonetheless. They transport any reasonably sensitive viewer back into the heady excitement and urgency of the first decade of the 20th century, unaware, unlike us, of where that gushing agitation for change would lead.

December 24th; The big feast day in Hungary. I feel a bit overwhelmed by dinner, which involves several ducks. We put gifts under the blinking tree. A short walk before dusk turns out to entail lots of mud, but the shaggy white Komondor dog is happy at least to be temporarily unchained from his car tyre to explore a mile or two of the larger world. For Christmas, I get a rather lovely bottle of scent which is a curious but successful blend of pepper, pine, & something like vervain. The black glass bottle is shaped as if it is being sucked sideways by some powerful force.
December 23rd; Get early to sound studio to work with Kalman, tidying up script with Andrea, saying hello to Scott, rushing home to pack. Make it in time to catch train out into the Great Plain. At 6pm Robin & Zsuzi meet me at the deserted ministation at Tiszaug in the dark.

December 22nd; A bit overloaded. Among many other things, reopen my library borrowing account at the French Institute and borrow two films on DVD along with some books. I do almost everything on my daily list, shopping, post office, invert tabletop & wax underside to unwarp it, but I collapse in the early evening, rather overwhelmed. It looks as if superstition actually helps people do better.
December 21st; Thai curry with Rob. Much hilarity.

December 20th; The Boy Paradox. Shouldn't be too hard to design the girl version.
December 19th; Do Japanese people learn to multiply like this? Rather lovely.

December 18th; Seems that Don Van Vliet = Captain Beefheart has died.
December 17th; Straighten out postcard-printing over the course of several e-mails and phone calls with printers in The Other Village. Meet Mary for tea in the new mall to give her copy of book and hear her Belgrade ghost story. After dark {of which there is quite a lot these days} I finish Ilan's copy of 'The Craftsman's Handbook' by Cennino d'Andrea Cennini, translated into English from the 500-year-old early Italian original by Daniel Thompson. A curious slim book of neatly listed tips and tricks for the jobbing artist in Quattrocento Italy. Cennini proudly says at the outset that he was a student of a student of a student of Giotto, so obviously knows what he is talking about. Strangely compelling read, full of lovely words like 'size', 'verdigris', 'lac' or 'porringer'. No clue as to why Cennini decides to publish some of the secrets of the trade, but I suppose this is an early example of craft giving way to technology.

December 16th; Really quite chilly outdoors. Design book-promoting postcard under Regina's watchful eye at her office. Then take photo of book at Esther's flat to slot into space in middle of postcard design. News story: Eighties Appliance Billionaire Lists Mansion That Resembles Eighties Appliance.
December 15th; After dark, visit Peter B.'s atmospheric & stylish flat to eat some Syrian food and watch, with about thirty other people, a slide show of a visit to Syria a month ago. A bit confusingly, he tells me this is a group of people who are a charitable association for restoring old spa springs in Transylvania - hence the study trip to Syria - but after a few years you learn to just accept some things. A distraction pyramid from Zdravko.

December 14th; Get to Luton in the morning for early-afternoon flight to Budapest. I fall asleep on the plane for about an hour, waking around 4pm. I see lights flickering half way down the cabin {I am sitting right at the back} and it takes me a few seconds to see that as people walk down the aisle, glowing orange discs flit across their backs or tummies. The stewardesses have a purple jacket with a ridiculous pink spike coming down from the neck to the middle of the back, and across the back around the bottom of the spike there are lights the size of large tangerines moving either right-to-left or port-to-starboard. I crane my neck but cannot see out of the nearest right-side windows, but clearly the sun is setting on the starboard side of the plane where we seem to be hanging above a floor of cloud. As each person walks up or down the aeroplane, a blood-orange light - the sun - comes through each porthole window in turn. If they walk quickly enough away from me, there are sometimes two, one jumping onto the pullover or dress from the right just as the previous one flits off to the left. I watch this for a few minutes, and the orange disc becomes a half disc, each person again and again being the projector screen for the sun sliding below a horizon invisible on anyone's clothing except as a flat horizontal edge at the bottom of the light. Then it goes, and the sky outside goes deep blue, indigo, then black. To my immediate right two men play a game on a small magnetic board, and I'm slightly surprised to realise they're playing Nine Men's Morris, not a game I've ever seen in a travel set before. Though it's dark, it's still quite early, and I get home and shower and still have time to go out and meet Anthropology Marc for a Thai curry. He tells me about his study of worship at a shrine to the Virgin Mary in part of Transylvania.
December 13th; Cross-country train journey, with changes at Leeds, Peterborough, Ely, and Cambridge. See Roger the Wizard and chat about various things, including him suggesting that on the 13th it is fun to stay in room 13 of a hotel. Get train down to London, booking a room at a Quaker place called Penn Club while on the train. Tea with Alla in Chelsea. Just make it to Penn Club 15 minutes after last check-in, and they give me a single room on the first floor. I get up there, run myself a hot bath in the baths & loos area down the corridor, and look for my room. All the rooms have brass numbers on the doors, 9, 10, 11, 12. After 12 comes mine, "12A". I've been given room 13. In the same plain style as the whole hostel, with one exception. A big photograph along one wall, about two foot six long and a foot high, of some yellow-breasted finch. The finch is at least eight inches tall in the image. A thick card border frames the recessed photo, a slot cut into the bottom margin with neatly chamfered edges. The printed slogan inside the slot reads "Brilliant gold amongst the fallen leaves. The Goldenbreasted Bunting searches for both seeds and insects on the forest floor." I stare at this for a moment, then take my bath.

December 12th; Wait all day for Shirley, the woman who told me she needed as much furniture as I could give her because "I've just been widowed", to contact me about coming over today as we agreed on Friday. No phone call, text, or e-mail. The second-in-line, Chris, pops over in the evening and helpfully takes away a couple of bookcases. Church this morning was interesting because James the Vicar seemed to be on a kind of roll. I've seen good sermons from him before, but had the impression today - as he combined a service about John the Baptist with the actual baptism of a very good-natured baby called Oscar - that it is all falling together as a skill and that he is increasingly in tune with the congregation. Over a black tea, chat to kind people who express polite interest in my publishing imprint & first book.
December 11th; Use two screwdrivers to prise the metal number 7 off my front door in order to repaint it properly, oil having failed to loosen the screws. Oddly satisfying. Rather lovely empty trace shape of the 7 in old paint underneath. Some windowcleaning. Have I lost the key to the back door? Some very good broadcasts on Radio 4 as I work round the house. One moving account of how important live music was on pre-wireless naval expeditions, centred on the ukelele player on board Shackleton's ship to the South Pole {interesting to hear how the ukelele dominated popular music for about the sixty years up to World War One, perhaps in a similar way to the electric guitar over the sixty years since 1950} and an interview with a French film director. This man has put himself into a film apparently which is a pretend documentary with real American women burlesque artists - ie strippers. The director is thoughtful and articulate in English, and says French girls could not have performed in the film, but American or English girls can. "English girls can do this" he says "They have humour, this incredible faith in the show as a thing in itself, in the idea of expression. And in a way only shy people can do something like this, go on stage to become someone else." Can't quite work out if he is being delicately rude about Anglo-Saxon women or complimentary about them, or both. Both, I think.

December 10th; Reach my house in The Village three hours later than planned last night. Two hours late because of a flight delay. Another hour because of missing my connection when some arrogant Polish girls casually take ten minutes at the head of a train-ticket queue at Manchester Airport railway station to discuss all their routes with the saleswoman. Of course the Poles were furious, totally unembarrassed, and deliberately took even longer when I asked if they could hurry up. Today, buy some rasp files, and shave down the warped wood that made the front door jam. This takes a bit more than an hour, but is nice to finally have a smoothly-fitting front door. Also put up some curtains, and scrub off the rim of soil & moss that was clinging on to the bottom edge of the wall outside the front door, earning approving nods from passing locals. "Losing battle there, mate" chuckles one big passing Yorkshireman as I rinse soil off the pavement, admiration clear in his voice. However, no word back from the estate agent who promised to arrange a photographer's visit, no chance of getting a technician to see to the broken heating boiler before I leave, and the woman who was going to pick up some furniture I'm giving her free doesn't ring or text as she'd promised she would in the morning until I e-mail her in the late afternoon - her van will not start. Quite interesting. Is Britain now a country of unreliable people? I call the phone numbers in the boiler manual. They've changed, but instead of automatically redirecting, messages spell out new numbers. I'm left waiting on the line, listening to bad music. Other people give me yet other phone numbers, some of which are wrong. An hour and a half to learn there is no way I can get the boiler mended in the next five days. Several times hear recorded excuses about the "heavy volume of calls". Winter took them by surprise, again.
Last night, on the flight and the train from Manchester, finish a book by Jeanne Achterberg called 'Imagery in Healing'. This book summarises twenty years of clinical studies into accounts of people recovering from serious illnesses by visualising their bodies overcoming the infection, the cancer, etc. One or two startling points: J.V. Basmajian finding that biofeedback could work at the level of a single cell {though the obvious refinement to train a subject to modify two adjacent cells differently, seems not to have been tried}; Larry LeShan saying that his patients who defy death out of fear, or out of wishing to support others such as loved ones, rarely succeed, and that only those who want to live to realise their own plans and in a sense self-centredly enjoy the life they desire for themselves seem to be able to recover from lethal diseases; Achterberg herself mentioning that those who are difficult patients and denigrate the doctor are more likely to survive than those who accept the diagnosis and try to co-operate. Both clinically retarded people and psychopathic or schizophrenic patients have unusually low cancer rates, she mentions, despite leading often extremely unhealthy lifestyles.

December 9th; More odd feelings of freedom & happiness in cloudy morning as I look down deserted streets. An odd warm breeze, and the Christian pastry blonde & I are able to chat, unusually with no queue and no-one coming in. Almost eerie. Wind turns chilly. Afternoon flight from Budapest to Manchester delayed. I update weblog from cafe in airport departures lounge, though 'lounge' a slight stretch as terms go.
December 8th; Robin brings the books of mine that have been sitting in the boot of his car for a couple of weeks, and we search the new empty neighbourhood mall for breakfast. At 11am, I do a sound recording for a Kazakh airline. Early afternoon I try to pack and prepare for flight tomorrow. Try to post more books off, and find exactly the French grammar (only in easier-to-use book form) I wanted in a spare ten minutes when the post office queue number doesn't come up in time. At 3pm, exhausting Arabic lesson I didn't have time to sufficiently prepare for. Stagger out, and after posting the books off in the last ten minutes the post office is open, bump into Ruslan, who is now living three weeks a month in Geneva. We walk together for ten minutes, talking about Swissness.

December 7th; More packing and preparing for journey to Manchester. Bit of a race against time. Have to rush off to pick up a package at a post office I have never been to, about quarter of a mile behind Keleti station. Come out with my parcel. Under mid-grey skies, sudden feeling of hope & light blusters through the Victorian warehouses & marshalling yards of eastern Pest like a kind of pre-storm wind.
December 6th; With Ilan at gym, where we see the slightly plain girl with the very sporty body. She isn't using the strange 'ladder' to exercise this time though. I was there alone about a month ago and saw a curious rope ladder laid out across the floor, a bit like one of those tiny railway tracks film cameras sometimes roll on to move steadily. She was using this to do a kind of hopscotch-style set of exercises under the instruction of the glum-faced lardy sports coach slouched on a bench. She would move one way jumping or hopping in and out of the rungs in one pattern, and then back the other way picking out a different rhythm of steps. Looked tiring, and very good training. In the afternoon, post off more copies of book to some more of the contributing authors. Enter post office feeling oddly breezy, walk up to queue-ticket machine and see a slip with an imminent number sitting on top of it. I draw the attention of the old lady waiting next to the machine to the ticket, offering it to her, and she gives me a scowl as if I had just pulled out a hideously deformed erection to show her. She physically shrinks away from me. I take the ticket, the number comes up, I saunter past about thirty people all waiting holding other numbers. The silence delicately changes texture. After drinking some tea with Kalman at his office full of model aeroplanes, down at metro station pass brunette clad in puffer jacket being towed somewhere by a mega-poodle.

December 5th; More curious allegations about the allegations against Mr Assange.
December 4th; From Heidi online, this article. The US showing its true colours - sorry 'colors'. The list of things we mustn't mention seems to be growing rather suddenly the last two or three days.

December 3rd; Do some Arabic homework from Wednesday. The idea that some letters are sun letters and others are moon letters is rather lovely.
December 2nd; A few days ago went with Marguerite to dinner with Nancy & Lee. Avoid the aggressive rudeness in this almost-empty restaurant is my advice. The three Americans, then I ten minutes later, separately switch from the 'Blue Tomato' to the friendlier pseudo-Belgian place over the road.

December 1st; The nude men clock. Vital stuff.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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