I get a satisfying black glare in return. Non-deferential Customer Must Die! I get down the white tunnel and catch my connecting train with one minute to spare. Spiked book review about Marxism.
January 20th; Monday. Last night slept 11 hours. More frost and picturesque fog on the Great Plain. Quick overview of the Saint George question.
January 19th; Sunday. Last night slept 14 hours. A quiet day at Robin's farm. So much frost it looks at first glance like snow. By the cloudy, slightly less chilly gloom of early afternoon, each tree has a disc of powdery white fallen frost around its trunk, like the exact opposite of snow. Out fetching firewood from the freshly-swan pile near the squawking geese, ducks, and hens in their wired enclosure, the oddly labrador-like Siegfried sees my task is carrying branch-sized logs, so picks one up in his mouth. He follows me to the house and as I think, poor hound, can't let him in the house he instantly drops his log and looks at me reproachfully. Last time I was here a fortnight back there was a moment when I stood outside the front door frustratedly asking myself where I could find some kindling to start the fire indoors with, whereupon Siegfried immediately grabbed one end of a log, ripped a long strip of bark off with his mouth, and then came over to put the end of the kindling strip into my hand. Coincidence, I guess.
January 18th; Saturday. Train via Szolnok out into a Great Plain cold & foggy enough to make the branches heavy with ropes of frost. Every tree looms out of night-time mist remade as a crystal-coasted weeping willow. Under the new timetable I have to spend more than an hour at the white concrete Szolnok station. I buy snacks from the two cute leggy girls at the late-night sandwich stand - they seem to have replaced the earlier leggy girl who worked there. As I sit waiting for my connection (and later on the hour-long local train ride to Kunszentmarton), I read an Economist magazine of 2020 predictions obviously put together in around November 2019, kindly given me by Iris. I know the Economist has been slipping in quality for a couple of decades, but this was a shock.
No longer anonymously written, as used to be their tradition, each article gives the writer's name, along with a jaunty (but flattering) little pen-drawn headshot. Like those scraperboard portraits the Wall Street Journal used to do, except those were useful & tasteful.
Some of this mag's writing appeared to be straight-up advertorial: heads of businesses giving lame forecasts while mentioning their firms or political bodies over and over again. Throughout the whole issue man-made global warming is uncritically treated as established fact, mentions of Brexit piously reiterate the terrible risk of displeasing Brussels, snide carping remarks reinforce that El Trumpo is still the class enemy - not the surprisingly successful survivor of the most co-ordinated press bias in a century. The editor's introduction states that this annual will in future be edited by Tom Standage, "A master at spotting trends and putting them in context". On page 91, this same Tom Standage makes five very conventional predictions about what will horrify our grandchildren, four of which are self-evidently wrong (they will blame us for not doing more to stop "climate change", eating meat will seem outrageous in retrospect, opposition to unrestricted immigration will be seen as wicked, and attitudes towards "gender" will make us look old-fashioned). Only the fifth, about overuse of antibiotics, has any tenuous link to fact. The other four are obviously silly trends (at least obviously to anyone who regularly guesses about the future) which have already run their course, now clearly going into reverse.
A handful of good articles (one on indoor rack-mounted plant-growing, one on house-price inflation) give a glimpse of what the magazine used to be. But against these are a host of pieces showing real lack of thought. An article on South Africa and Cyril Ramaphosa completely leaves out the miners in the wrong union he had shot dead during the 2014 platinum-mine strike. A short article on cricket gloats that the Olde Worlde sport is being "updated". Several articles on the forthcoming 2020 US presidential contest take an anti-Donald angle for granted, as if removing him is self-evidently vital for the US and the Global Something. "Divided, damaged, and diminished" runs a headline on Britain after/during Brexit, even though the country is blatantly more energetic & optimistic than it's been in over three decades. The overall tone has now become actually childish, not just breezily glib as it was for years. This annual reminded me of film reviews I wrote for the school sixth-form magazine, though not quite as good.
An "arts" piece closes with rumours of a forthcoming black female James Bond (a group of us at school at the end of the 1970s predicted this), making the embarrassingly outdated sideswipe at Brexit that "Britain may once again be yearning to return to a mythical, glorious past - but James Bond, it seems, is coming to terms with the modern world." From a magazine that was founded soon after the debate on the Corn Laws to agitate for tariff-free trade, (whereas reliance on tariffs and overregulation is written into the EU's DNA), this kind of cupboard love for trade blocs positively cringe-making.
January 17th; Friday. A few Fridays ago, when Mark kindly took me to a classical concert at Hungary's Palace of Arts (and bizarrely we got separated by some officials so I got lost, coming back to a different balcony) I found myself watching a Serious Music Rebel two seats along from me. He had a stripy Cod-Frenchman shirt, jeans, boots, and spectacles with red frames. Looking like an ad agency art director in other words. He sat intent through one of the pieces, moving into a kind of attentive doze as he focused on listening rather than looking. Meanwhile: a new consensus building that vegetarians are "unhealthy and mentally disturbed".
January 16th; Thursday. A quick word or two from "Britain's pub landlord" about Scots independence and British regional accents.
January 15th; Wednesday. Marking the recent death of Roger Scruton with a Dalrymple article about the corruption of language.
January 14th; Tuesday. Suggestions to spray stuff in the sky to dim the sun, and evidence the sun is dimming anyway. Not forgetting those recent volcanoes might also be doing the job.
January 13th; Monday. An AI technique works on real brains, and it seems that downloading skills into brains is a real thing now.
January 12th; Sunday. Apparently fisherman are part of China's underwater drone detection system.
January 11th; Saturday. In the morning visit the men at the hardware store to ask how I instal the new spring case for the shutter blinds. Later on, am on a bus under blue skies going along suburban streets approaching a hospital in southern Pest. With a leafless wood on one side of the road, sunlit cottages on the other, I glance up at the dot-matrix digital clock. The bus says it is 01:11:11:00, then as I watch clicking to 01:11:11:01. I've been getting lots of spam letters recently about noticing such numbers in plain view. When I look back up it's moved to 01:11:11:11. Down this road lies madness.
January 10th; Friday. Apparently those tiny water-bear things can freeze into some kind of glass. / Light sometimes comes out of people's eyes, horror-movie style?
January 9th; Thursday. El Trumpo's zapping of General Qassem Soleimani appears to have paid off. He was a co-ordinator of irregular militias in Iraq & Syria. Usual suspects are outraged. Seems that Ed Miliband as a minister in 2007 vetoed an earlier chance to off the sinister-looking but very talented Iranian commander.
January 8th; Wednesday. A claim that unvaccinated Amish children don't get certain diseases. Though since they're socially isolated from epidemics and live lives low on stress, they might not be the best of control groups.
January 7th; Tuesday. Once again am sleepless from 3 to 6, and again eerie mood of inexplicable joy & beauty. Mutinous muttering among the goldbugs again.
January 6th; Monday. Much talk about how Australian bushfires are the fault of manmade global warming. Another
is they are the fault of
environmentalists (or perhaps just mentalists) who believe in manmade global warming, and have forced policy changes on logging
January 5th; Sunday. Awake in the small hours with strange stabbing feelings of indescribable happiness and gratitude: hard to put into words. Stumble over this woman's songs while trying to get back to sleep: Opening Night / As The World Turns / Aeroplane. This might be a case of less is less, but the record-cover image of her in flared slacks standing on someone's double bed is in some way exactly right for this echoey dream-ballad stuff.
January 4th; Saturday. Again go with Greek Michael to the nearby Indochinese soup restaurant. Place still full of well-presented fillies. Here's an interesting and clear piece about the alliance of Islam & leftism.
January 3rd; Friday. Later in day go with Greek Michael to the nearby Indochinese soup restaurant 100 paces from his door. Several tables of willowy girls with long, freshly-coiffed tresses are at tables in the restaurant, wearing the currently fashionable skintight black fake-leather leggings. I get the impression this place, only open 3 or 4 weeks, is still in its trendyness honeymoon as the new location in town to dress up and trawl for eligible bachelors, ie. men who aren't me.
January 2nd; Thursday. Much of the day we sit around the hearth, though there is an exciting mid-afternoon shopping trip to Kunszentmarton. Same night Andras & Denes cook a Hungarian dish for dinner and then drive back to town, giving me a lift. It seems that, even though they both slept last night in the only heated room at Robin's (its cosy grate heaped with glowing logs), the rural freshness was too much at least for Denes. Is modernism finally sinking?
January 1st; New Year's Day. Andras & Denes come down to Robin's and we drink to the New Year one day late. I show Denes the cow-moo device Andras gave me. Interview with idealist philosopher Bernardo Kastrup.
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