Half a ton

March 25, 2009

This is as good an occasion as any to try to revive this blog.

Went out with the Chinaman for dinner for my 50th birthday. We went to the exact same restaurant and the exact same Starbucks as we did when we went out for his 50th.

You can’t improve on that and I won’t even try.


An apology, with suggestion, in iambic pentameter

October 7, 2008

And now it’s time; a posting to my blog
Lecram continues patiently to dog
Me into writing something down. At last
I have some time to sit and think. Stand fast
And order the unruly strands of thought.
Off work today – oh, no I have not caught
A cold, or eaten something bad. It’s just
Some backache. Not too awful but I must
Be careful when I stand or sit, else ping!
Distracting stabs of pain, the wretched thing.
In short, I have the opportunity
Having the day, in essence, clear and free
To write this for the friendly folk in Fresno,
California – and I’m sure there is no
Nicer place now. So tell me is it fall?
It must be cooler. Trees will look more small
Unless they’re evergreens. Apologies
For ignorance of California’s trees.
But that’s enough chit-chat about the foliage.
I’d like to sit again in Lecram’s garage
(Pronounced the British way), or theatre;
As you can see I’m wrestling with the metre;
Because next year each one of us is fifty
A celebration would be rather nifty.
A century and a half, the different ways
We’ve lived our lives, Lecram with writing plays;
Kien with music, songs that stir emotion;
And I.. let’s carry on. There lies the ocean
To cross although the stormy swells be mighty
In Fresno shall we have a birthday party?

Hungarian Journal 3 (The Kehida water slide edition)

September 1, 2008

– – \ \ | / – – OMG! —///||\\\- WTF! /|\-\|/-\|/-\|/-\|/-\|/-SPLASH!

Hungarian Diary 2

August 29, 2008

We’re lazing about, watching CSI: Miami (and yes, Horatio’s Hungarian dub sounds just as take-off-the-sunglasses-and-make-the-point as the original) after a five and a half hour stint at the fürdő, which is Hungarian for bath. Calling it a bath doesn’t really give a fair picture of the reality though.  There are pools to swim in, yes, but also pools to lounge in and play chess, pools to get whirled round by riptides, cold pools to plunge in after heating yourself up in one of the four saunas that we found, smelly pools with health giving properties – in short, the apotheosis of water. It was no ordeal to spend a fifth of a day in such a glorious celebration of aquatic pleasure. Another reason it suits me very well is the total lack of body fascism characteristic of Hungarians. My potbelly and Speedo were totally unremarkable in the variety of human form present – you could say that the shapes of the people mirrored the infinite variability of water if you were prone to that kind of metaphor.

This of course mirrors the first post, which was set in Lake Balaton and of course to do about water. There is really no thematic motive here, just that it has taken till now to overcome my laziness in posting. So, a quick summary is in order. From Keszthely, we drove to Baja to see more relatives, the Prof’s uncles/aunties/cousins/nephews-in-law. This meant three days of eating (joyfully and lipsmackingly), drinking (amply but responsibly) and talking. The music of fractured Hungarian and broken English has a particularly dissonant beauty.

Leaving Baja on Sunday evening, we drove to Piliscsaba, north-west of Budapest, to Prof’s cousins house. Every day so far has been full of eating, drinking and talking, though the English is much better (our Hungarian, though, still walks like a horse with one leg). Activities this week – walks in the neighbourhood, one unplanned, dazed, day in Budapest, a drive to Esztergom just over the border from Slovakia, Slovakia for 30 seconds (took a wrong turn), and, finally, five and a half hours in Széchenyi Fürdő. With the swimming, you know.

Magyar napló

August 21, 2008

Having had enough of literary pastiches, it is time to try something more straightforward. Since I’m on holiday in Hungary this next couple of weeks, I will try to keep a Hungarian diary (hence the title). It may not be possible to keep this up unfailingly, because the next stage of this vacation is a family reunion where plenty of drinking will need to be done to avoid undue offence.

We had a surprisingly pleasant flight to Sármellék, given that we were being taken there by Ryanair. We stepped off the plane and straight to Prof’s aunt’s house in Keszthely for a hearty lunch of lecsó and beer. Movement seemed impossible, but heroic people do heroic things, so we ambled through a park (with an inexplicably fallen tree, which attracted some comment) down to a beach on Lake Balaton. Surprisingly to me, given that I live in a nanny state where everything is free including health care (end provocative rant), we had to pay to get onto the municipally owned beach.

This, of course, did nothing to dull my childlike enjoyment. We got changed into our swimsuits and proceeded down to the water sporting an impressive parade of potbellys and Speedos. Of course, coming from a country where open water is rarely cooler than 2 degrees above body temperature, I started to feel a little chilly, so elected to stay behind to watch the younger kids while the rest swam out to deeper water. Which choice did little to keep my upper body warm because one of them immediately splashed me. There followed a prolonged offensive, the attacks ranging from chasing, grappling, toppling, splashing, mud-smearing, seaweed-tickling and biting. I survived through wiliness and the ability to run away very quickly. The return of the adults saw me heading out to deeper water pretty damn sharpish.

The rest of the day was calmer, with the walk back, dinner with lots of cured meat and paprikás, a night time walk through the middle of town, and a quiet session writing this post for you, dear reader. With that, I will take myself now to bed and wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Writer’s block?…

August 18, 2008

… indeed. Road city nose block; the blooming guava trees standing guard along Lorong Gurney are silent – don’t be silly, they’re only trees, they don’t talk! – as I proceed towards the main road in a shopping trolley. But I am telling the story backwards – I must try to hold Pontianak’s rapt attention (sitting there twirling her shroud around her fingers) because she has no patience for Joycean stream of consciousness and holds fast to the traditions of linear storytelling – she is my muse and goads me on to write this fevered account. Also, she works for nothing and I would have to close down the belacan factory if she flounced off bored to jump on top of a car to shriek howl scream all the way to Alor Setar.

So, to tell the story properly (not to say that I am proper), on that day, the 14th of September 1972, at 4.32 and 17 seconds in the afternoon (or maybe a bit before, perhaps after, perhaps maybe even 5 years later or before or sideways); wait, it was in the early hours of the morning that the gerbil fell floridly. But to explain this I should tell you first of the bomoh who made tea. We sat in his hut, which had a garden on the roof, as he mouthed incantations and passed his hands over his bubbling cauldron. After some time, he passed us two tin mugs full of a brown liquid, in which we had milk and sugar. All of a sudden, a hole appeared in the roof, and amidst a velvety glitter of bougainvilleas, hibiscuses and orchids a small rodent fell onto the table between us. Raising itself in a stunned fashion, it looked at us as if to say “My fall parallels the the fall from grace of our country, from the pastoral gentleness of our ancestors to the industrial Westernness of other people’s cups of tea”. But perhaps he was just stunned.

To summarise, the bomoh chanted, we had tea, the gerbil fell (with flowers), I travelled hidden in a shopping trolley toward the main road. I write this sitting on the edge of a spring bed with a thin mattress above the work of pounding shrimp and chili and I suffer writing block yet again. No wait, I have another string of verbs to run together, now then, where was I, shopping trolley, food mixer….

(With apologies)


June 16, 2008

It has been a long time since the last post. Luckily, there is now something to write about – the Prof and I are married! Yes, we were drinking coffee one morning while I bemoaned the lack of fun and portentuous things to write about in this grey city where the weight of history presses down on your shoulders and squeezes thought from your head.

“Let’s get married”, she said.

“Yes!”, I concurred, throwing my straw boater into the air, “that will smash my writer’s block!”

And so it was done. Gentle reader, if you look above you will now see my tagline commemorates our union.

OK, it wasn’t quite like that. We didn’t talk about blogs at all in fact. We did, though, have a very nice day and then we went straight to Ghent in Belgium, which is yet another place I would like to live.

Pics to follow.

(Later that day) And here they are..

The good looking couple

I want to live here