Tom & Sue - and Tom's elegant Hungarian girlfriend allowed out of the IBM sweatshop around midnight to join us - make up the company.
Thursday. A few years ago, bless her, English student Esoteric Veronica was comparing my birth chart to those of Lenin, Hitler, and Stalin. That was unsettling enough. Now she's mellowed somewhat and started suggesting I'm Lucifer. In our lesson today we talked about arrogance (Richard Rudd says this is "an addiction to words"). Meanwhile, relistening to Water to Wine from yesterday, sung by Kali, mixed by Kaytranada, they should work together more often. On her own she doesn't quite have his polish, and on his own, he doesn't quite have her personality, soul, whatever you call it. Kali Uchis: Your Teeth in my Neck and Feel Like a Fool. Too much of the Amy Winehouse feel. Whereas Kaytranada - partly him on Girl, or rather more on You're The One - plainly needs someone else's soul or feel to work with. A bit like a demon perhaps.
Wednesday. Would you name your daughter or yourself Kali? Anyway, some overproduced tunes from Kali Uchis with the lush knob turned up full:
Pablo Escobar /
Honey Baby /
Water to Wine.
Tuesday. A long-running court case against Michael Mann got more interesting a few days ago. His global temperature charts, long challenged as being based on bogus data analysis, made a Canadian court decide to award heavy legal costs against him. Mann has long refused to share the algorithms he used to create the "hockey-stick graph" that started the whole global-warming bandwagon off in the first place in the 1990s. His continuing refusal - very odd from a working scientist - to share his algorithms even when ordered to do so by a court, reduces the chances the initial greenhouse case had any good science in it.
Monday. Pro-EU Britons get indignant about Johnson proroguing Parliament for a few days in September, although both John Major and Clement Attlee did this during previous postwar governments. These are people who are such 'friends of democracy' they were planning to set up a parallel Parliament or somehow seize control of the current one. In the name of defying what a majority of British voters explicitly asked for twice - in voters' own "best interests" presumably.
Sunday. Well overdue I saw Last Year in Marienbad, shamelessly ransacked by film-school graduates since. This interview with its director is charming. Some false modesty mixed with real modesty, no? I like the way he stands to be interviewed, in a nice plain suit.
Saturday. Alain de Botton being witty & kind on important topics (in this case romantic love). He's found a good niche, but he adds value.
Friday. Michael A. texts me in the afternoon that he's reached Athens airport, partway through the trek to his island.
Thursday. I wake up in the soothing darkness of a room near Blaha with blackout curtains. The media is full of stories about the Amazon burning. The media headline stories seem oblivious to these Amazon summer fires not being in the rainforest, being below average for the last 15 years, being dwarfed by much bigger fires in real rainforest in the Congo, and so on.
Wednesday. During our lesson, Tamas gives spoiler-free account of the 2-hour-45-minute new Tarantino film about Sharon Tate. He's unimpressed.
Tuesday. Vegan man restarts on meat and can again ejaculate. Gets hate mail from other vegans.
Monday. Get summoned to Robin's in the evening to do a Tarot reading for a 22-year-old girl Krisztian is hanging around with recently. She refuses to give me any hint of the topic, so I tell her what the cards say. Rather shocking to see so many wands & swords, with the death card and only one feminine card (ace of cups), shunted off centre stage into the recent past. Obviously some violence, lots of masculinity, something like chaos or menaces. She starts laughing and decides to be more open before her second spread. Aged 15, she was the girlfriend of a Chinese gangster, got shot at by him during a quarrel, and he did a prison sentence. The second spread puts the ace of cups in the same location again, and this time pairs the Devil (weakness of the will) with the pack's only two cards specifically about strength of will (Temperance, and Strength). She wants to know (2nd question) whether to go back with him (because it was a lot of fun) and the cards are clearly saying she doesn't have to if she decides not to. I ask if she has a tattoo specifically showing he owns her, and she sheepishly shows me a Chinese ideogram on the nape of her neck, supposedly saying 'dragon', making her, I suppose, the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Already a week now again using my (cardboard-reinforced) blue sports bag. Left Robin's wickerwork hamper back at his farm last Monday after about 3 months of carrying it around every day while Aranka sewed and stitched the blue bag back into health. Reactions were mixed, but there were a lot of reactions. British people seeing me with the basketwork case all immediately asked if I was off to a picnic with Ratty & Moley (or sometimes Tigger & Piglet). Hungarians mostly looked at it suspiciously and nervously made jokes about well-connected diplomats and the elegant-scruffy look of the British Gentleman Abroad. Two of those Magyars literally called it a "diplomatic case". During one long July evening at the 'gravel pit', an outdoor bar near Michael A.'s flat, Michael unembarrassedly dozed off on his side of the cafe table while Robin's picnic hamper sat between us watchfully. Michael woke explaining he'd been in a dream about a Zulu Inkatha event in South Africa, and Robin's wicker briefcase set him off on this dream path. This was because he used to go to meetings back when he was the Zulus' constitutional-law adviser in the 1990s with a not-dissimilar-but-larger basketwork hamper filled with food, champagne etc. This store of tuck would help him get through the long boring hours sitting in marquee tents listening to people talk rubbish about politics. The wicker container was affectionately known by ANC delegates & other black politicians in the constitutional-conference days as "Comrade Mike's Politics Basket". A few weeks ago when his shipped belongings finally arrived from South Africa, he opened one packing case to show me the original Politics Basket, still in good shape.
Sunday. Finish a curious book lent me by Esoteric Veronica on the train to the countryside. 'The Gene Keys Golden Path' by Richard Rudd is a kind of short guidebook to another longer book about a system of divination and personal insight called the 'Gene Keys'. Crudely, it's a kind of combination of astrology and the hexagrams of the Chinese Book of Changes, with some quasi-Jungian elements added. Later, at Robin's house, we all get involved as Aniko's mother flies her drone over the property shooting video in hot sun. Siegfried the younger dog is disconcerted. Aniko is now six months pregnant by Robin. Aniko's mother also does scuba-diving, underwater filming, parachuting, circuit design, and is currently on a course studying glandular nutrition, in case you wondered.
Saturday. Piece about Walter Gropius building something non-ugly in his early days as an architect.
Friday. The dead moth is gone from the outside ledge in one window of the lift. It was there in March this year and gone by April 2019. Tragically, I failed to spot the exact date it was finally cleaned away - or just fell off.
Thursday. A 1970s conference suggested a cashless society would be the perfect surveillance state.
Wednesday. A video from the (mostly) new Brasilia of Kazakhstan, Astana, showing off its Sinbad-inspired fascistic modernism, vaguely humanised by a dancing girl. Rumour is the new capital has an almost unbearable climate, with one or two references to an annual season of blood-sucking midges the size of bluebottles. I also heard Kazakhs eat boiled or fried puppies, but mustn't be churlish. Nice video. But is that vogueing?
Tuesday. Voice of a by-then-elderly Florence Nightingale in 1905.
Monday. Travel back into Budapest on what Gyuri promises, as he drives me to Kunszentmarton train station, is going to be a kanikula/caniculae day, over 100 degrees Farenheit. In Kunszentmarton, I meet Aranka's contact Editke in the fabric shop and we look at various pieces of cloth together. The train journey itself is hot enough to change sides of the carriage every time the shady side shifts. At Szolnok station, leaving myself ample time for the transfer, I walk down the long white cement tunnel going under all the tracks to get to platform 16. These are of course, in order away from the 60s modernist station, 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16. Obviously. If this was a 19th-century British station Guardian readers would blame this kind of illogicality on tradition. On Britain missing out on a proper bourgeois revolution, of which Hungary is unlucky enough to have suffered at least four. Once I am relaxed and waiting at the last platform I see there is a view across at least another ten tracks. New grass vigorously grows between them, but the shine on the rails shows they are all in use. Then a line of parked empty carriages hiding the horizon. Above this only some sort of white-painted gas/silo fractionation-type tower rises sci-fi-style into a blue sky. Almost like looking out to sea. A Hungarian man politely asks if this is the right platform for the Budapest train. I say yes and - whoops! - he is able to smoothly move in with the next question, about "how I see" the next 3 or 4 years unfolding. He is angling for some kind of catastrophist view of current events, and I say yes another bourse crash but no matter, and no, no climate apocalypse. Doggedly the poor man, obviously a Jehovah's Witness by now, soldiers on and asks me about the book of Daniel and the kingdom of God. I say I favour Augustine's view that the city of saints is outside time and space. A very tiny twitch of irritation here gives him away, but he maintains his calm wheedling sales patter, and we finally compromise on a leaflet and part in peace. Later in the afternoon, having handed a basket of 24 eggs over to Robin at one of Budapest's grand railway termini, I meet a new student who is going abroad soon to study ceramics.
Sunday. It seems that yesterday Jeffrey Epstein, he of the private island, private jumbo jet, and parties full of very young girls for celebrity guests, killed himself yesterday in his cell in a maximum-security prison. It appears he was taken off suicide watch (despite an apparent earlier attempt a week ago), his cellmate was removed, and the CCTV cameras were switched off. As one wag on the internet jested "If you were surprised that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself yesterday, just imagine how surprised he must have been!" Hur hur.
Saturday. An intriguingly odd discussion of human/machine merging from the eccentric perspective of Rudolf Steiner followers.
Friday. I go from Robin's farmhouse to see Seamstress Aranka in the next village Tiszakurt, unfortunately accompanied by Siegfried, the grandson of the komondor sheepdog Lupus or Lupi, appropriately enough, since he was a bit loopy. Siegfried's mother Sissi died just a couple of months ago, leaving the grandmother Domor, Lupi's widow, as the senior hound. The current fox terrier also died some weeks back this spring, so the doggy social milieu at Robin's is a little altered. It's a hot, airless day, and I go to the next village on foot, equipped with large straw hat and sun-blocking cream. Parts of the garden wall collapsed some months now, replaced with not-so-effective wire netting. Knowing the ways through, Siegfried suddenly pops up next to me on the walk once I'm about ten minutes into the journey, refusing to go home. He has no collar or leash. He looks and acts like a pale labrador that's had a bang on the head. None of the aggression of his grandfather, just a good-natured streak of daft curiosity and stubbornness. We get onto the main road and it's clear he has never seen large vans or lorries before. He actually hides from each one in the ditch as it passes, clearly seeing them as more menacing than the cars. He goes up to each barking dog in each garden to say hello, but never barks back at them. We reach Aranka's and she has finally mended my stuff. She and her family are a bit nonplussed that I'm with a dog that has no leash, and their cuddly mongrel Dumpling, tied to his post, is upset about this too. Business finished, Siegfried and I wander into Tiszakurt, looking for shade. Wilting somewhat in the heat we hide in a bus shelter, and magically a minute later one of the only 2 or 3 buses a day arrives to save us, 3 minutes behind schedule. I talk the driver into letting us board the packed vehicle, and I crouch on the steps holding the hound while passengers discuss the whole conundrum of a dog without a collar in the company of a funny foreigner in straw hat etc. We get to Tiszainoka, and a villager fishes a long ribbon in the German colours out of his parked car, and expertly fashions a collar with slipknot and loop for me to hold at the other end. We pop this on the astonished Siegfried (the man teasingly mentioning he gave me a lift a year ago, and I'd forgotten him) and the small group of locals agree that order has been restored. I walk the final 15 minutes with the hound, confused and unhappy at being tethered to a person, a whole new experience for him. Siegfried has reluctantly got used to the leash by the time he & I return to the farmhouse, triumphantly bearing my blue bag that Aranka has magnificently repaired at a very modest price, albeit taking about
four months. I can leave Robin's basketwork hamper case at the house now.
Thursday. Going straight from my lesson with Esoteric Veronica, I catch a train down to Robin's place on the flat, sun-baked Great Plain by the Tisza river. Two (deliberately surely) Bond-themeish Goldfrapp tunes: Pilots and Lovely Head.
Wednesday. Surprisingly interesting and even-handed BBC web article about hysterical Malaysian schoolgirls. Though this is from a heavily Islamic region, comparisons with other religions suggests that strict moralistic governing of adolescent girls might be a factor in mass crazes of screaming, fainting, heeby-jeebies etc. Perhaps the Beeb should become a long-format paper/web magazine like the Atlantic, and give up on the broadcasting.
Tuesday. On my way back to Budapest for a lesson with Esoteric Veronica, I finish Michael O'Sullivan's book about the 1934 adventures of Patrick Leigh Fermor: Noble Encounters Between Budapest and Transylvania, an English traveller across Europe. With an elegaic tone, O'Sullivan traces Leigh Fermor's journey on foot from chateau to chateau across the Hungarian-speaking parts of Eastern Europe with evident pleasure. At the same time his regret at how so many of those grand families were later brought low under communism is just as sincere. Small black-and-white photographs like those in Sebald novels add to the other-worldly mood, romantically recalling the grace & taste of vanished aristocracy.
Monday. Zsuzsa's mount strides around us looking glossy & elegant while Zeno the Alchemist, Bela, Gyuri and I take items from the car in the late-afternoon sun. It's parked round by the seed & grain store area next to the chicken coops. The big chestnut-coloured horse Solero seems to genuinely want to help us unload groceries out of the small car, but has not much idea what to do in practice so strolls around a bit, getting in the way. Later in the kitchen, I find Bela, supervised by Zeno, injecting dozens of doses of strong schnapps into a melon using a 5-millilitre syringe.
Sunday. More rain outside all day. Read a 1983 picture book I found in a bedroom at Robin's house on the Great Plain, 'Kozep-Azsiai Muveszete Avicenna Koraban' (Central Asian Art in the time of Avicenna) by Lutfija Ajni, E. Guljamova, Karolyn Gombos, G. Verhovskij, and translated into Hungarian by Ilona Kovanecz from what I assume is Russian. That's judging from the original title, written as 'Iszkussztvo szrednyej Azii epohi Avicennu Izdatyeltszvo "Irfon"'. The text is thorough, explaining what was going on politically & culturally in parts of Central Asia around the year 1000 AD. During the brilliant poet, medical physician, and philosopher Ibn Sina's life - Latinised to Avicenna - much was occurring in what by the 1980s (when this book was produced) were still Muslim republics of the Soviet Union. Pictures a little disappointing, though some are beautiful. Or at least show an object which might be beautiful even if its picture isn't. Some photos of the fragments of arch from vanished mausoleums or collapsed mosques have a look-upon-the-works-of-Ozymandias feeling. A few bits of thousand-year-old tile or brick work are still striking. The overall impression from the history text in the book is of a region, era, and religious system so violent and despotic that it was no surprise the period's handful of bright individuals like Avicenna left little long-term trace on the culture they were unlucky enough to be born into. Avicenna himself moved home several times and spent time in prison for political reasons. In the early evening Artist Robin arrives from the big city, and we bounce ideas around until late as usual.
Saturday. Last night slept 15 hours. Outside dark and rains all day. Today read a picture book from Robin's library, 'Sufi: Expressions of the Mystic Quest' by Laleh Bakhtiar. The illustrations are wonderful, and some consist of large, clear, whole-page pieces of black-and-white calligraphy, perhaps the single most impressive craft in Islamic culture. While pictorially wonderful, some of the text is confusing, often providing a minimalistic, laconic reference to some intriguing giant diagram of Sufi concepts which diagram is mysterious, pretty, but leaves rather a lot still unexplained. For example, there is a fabulous wheel taking up page 62 representing stations of the moon, along with signs of the zodiac, each of the Arabic letters, and handy categories like 'The 4th Heaven, The Sun, Abode of Hermes' or on another spoke, more simply 'The Hidden'. No clue what's going on there. Fifty pages later a similarly baffling section has some rather lovely magic squares doing arithmetic with the names of Allah (eg, if Allah is 66, that name can therefore = 21 + 26 + 19, or 20 + 22 + 24, or 25 + 18 + 23 : and so on). More methodical commentary in more detail would hugely improve this visually lush book. Solero strides around in the garden Biblically, chewing horse-chestnut branches within reach. Apparently he is in his new paradise because he's killed no fewer than three lambs out in the meadow by charging the flock and taking out his frustration or boredom on straggling youngsters. Hence he now potters about outside the house, sniffing the fruit trees as if in a picture of Adam naming the beasts.
Friday. Interesting article comparing the search for partners by men & women to two separate economies, with very different degrees of inequality. Catch train. Uneventful trip out into the Great Plain of rural Hungary. The leggy serving lass at Szolnok station looks tired, snappy, blank-faced of late. After dark find Zeno the Alchemist & Peter K., his & Robin's artist friend, smoking quietly at a small table on the verandah, sheltered by foliage, rain pouring down 3 or 4 feet away.
Thursday. Seems I got quoted in a Breitbart piece.
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