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"...it comes to this: nobody is capable of really thinking about anyone, even in the worst calamity. for really to think about someone means thinking about that person every minute of the day, without letting one's thoughts be diverted by anything -by meals, by a fly that settles on one's cheek, by household duties, or by a sudden itch somewhere. but there are always flies and itches."
- from 'the plague' by albert camus
alone in the flat i hear an unspecified noise out in the corridor. thinking back to the native invasion and subsequent vandalism of last week, i get up and as quietly as i can approach the front door. placing my eye up to the spyhole i see two male friends of the couple with the dog that live across the hall saying their goodbyes. the door is closed and they turn to leave. they're obviously drunk and in their high spirits one of them suggests in a stage whisper that they should swap their friends' doormat with ours. while one picks up their friends' mat, the other picks up ours. instinctively, i knock loudly three times on the door and scare the shit out of them; they drop both mats and after a brief moment of three stooges style panicking, run for it. now that's entertainment.
having finally cleared the hall of most of the boxes, there is now a larger expanse of uncarpeted / un-rug-ed floor there than anywhere else in the flat. this sudden breadth of laminate flooring seems to have had a strange physiological effect on me. i realised last night that as i walk from the living room into the hall and the aforementioned expanse, i adopt an odd waddle-like gait as if the larger area is effecting my balance and / or depth perception. i repeated the walk a number of times and try as i might, if only in the slightest way, the waddle remained. perhaps i'm part duck.
stranded on pudding mill lane due to a fuck up on the dlr and i'm forced to make my own way to stratford, which is, granted, only one stop but having been rudely ejected into an unfamiliar area, it strikes me that i could be anywhere; in fact to the uninitiated, pudding mill lane looks not dissimilar to the middle of bloody nowhere. so it is that the day after i've watched, with barely disguised derision, the fools running the london marathon, with the clock ticking and my appointment rapidly approaching, and just as the sun comes out, i find myself in suit, shirt and tie running through the wilds of bow in search of a bus stop to take me to stratford. running. now while i know that i run in a perfectly normal (despite what i've already stated above about my newly found indoor waddle) or at least usual way (and i know this because i've actually analysed myself while running), why is it that any memory i hold of me running, even moments after the incident, has me floundering along, slack-jawed and bandy-limbed, a kind of physically challenged collection of discoordinated bones and elastic? it seems that in recalling myself running, my brain steps in and substitutes what actually happened with an ungainly comedy replacement. maybe it's something to do with getting older and whereas when i was young i used to run everywhere and it was pretty much accepted that a young boy should, now i'm older perhaps i feel that i should be moving at a more sedate and subdued pace...? not easy when you've a train to catch...
no technical wizard but the people documented
at www.clientcopia.com make me seem like albert bloody einstein:
and just like that, seemingly out of nowhere, a week's work in budapest! trust me, no one was more surprised than me.
departing from heathrow, our plane followed the thames, and as the sky was unusually clear i managed to spot the limehouse cut below us and later what i think might have been southend pier.
sadly i didn't get to see much of budapest as we were leaving the hotel at 7:30 each morning and not getting back until 8-ish, with precious little free time in between. the little i did learn is that 'buda' is on one side of the river danube (somewhat less than blue by the way) and 'pest' is on the other; o and budapest is actually pronounced 'buda-pesht'. hardly a wealth of knowledge.
on the first night we all went out to a rather swish restaurant called rather improbably 'arcade', where i had a frankly incredible meal consisting of goose carpaccio, with a blackberry and pepper sauce as a starter, followed by tenderloin in walnut sauce and tagliatelli with gorgonzola. it was, if i may steal the parlance of the (late?) great bernard matthews: "bootiful".
returning to the hotel for a swift drink at the hotel bar, m'colleaguerichard points out that the room is full of prostitutes. and so it is.
during our stay a strange practice was taken up by myself and m'colleaguerichard, namely the somewhat obsessive use and abuse of lemons. how these kind of 'in jokes' start and quickly grow out of all proportion from the initial amusement that spawned them is a strange phenomena indeed; though i'm sure that boredom and a certain lack of intellect plays a part. suffice to say, a tiny and mildly amusing misunderstanding with a hungarian waiter and the lemon fascination was born. we quickly realise that it stops being funny fairly early on but agree that all it needs is the perseverance to push it through to the other side of not being funny, until lo and behold, it's funny all over again. m'colleaguerichard has a tray of lemon pieces delivered to my room. i secrete a lemon in his pocket for him to discover later. the very same lemon is delivered to my room, stabbed through with a hotel pencil... you can see how these things deteriorate, how, say, i soon find myself in a local supermarket, buying ten bags of lemons to pile up outside his hotel room door... well...
one day at work i saw a budapestian man eating a turnip like it was an apple. ruddy savages.
o, and if you ever have the urge to be caught off guard and ogled naked by a vaguely unattractive east european woman in a maid's outfit then merely drop me a line and i'll tell you the name of the hotel we stayed at. three of our number were walked in upon by housekeeping without a by your leave, so if that's your thing then do get in touch.
we were all somewhat confused and amused by a large structure to be found at the back of the office we were using; what looked like a giant, upturned thimble, with an icelandic flag protruding from its top. according to a nearby information placard, this was apparently called 'the plankton'. nearby was a picture of what looked like some kind of sci-fi coffin with three narrow viewing slots cut into it; the picture showed it amongst the bleak mountain ranges of iceland. this was called 'the turtle'. the information placard informed the reader that the plankton was a one man, static observation platform, developed by the icelandic army, to be placed at sea so that the soldier (singular) inside could watch for possible attack. likewise the turtle was to protect a solo soldier against the elements while he watched for attack inland.
the idea of hapless icelandic recruits being stuck into these odd gadgets for lard only knew how long and stranded in the middle of nowhere made everyone laugh at the monty python-like absurdity of it all. it would appear however, after a little research conducted when i got home, that iceland in fact has no army per se but relies on something called 'the icelandic defense force', peopled solely by american military personnel. so what the hell is this all about? that's right, you guessed it, it's 'art':
"antal lakner, a hungarian artist, chose to place a type of submarine on the river main next to a sort of historic documentation site on the riverbank. we learn that the icelandic army is a fictitious unarmed defensive army for observation only.
it consists of various elements like the marine unit plankton that floats on the river, a one-person observation unit that looks like something between submarine and ufo.
in the small documentation unit on the riverbank, the interested visitor can get further details on the icelandic armys equipment and uniform.
the project uses the public sphere to generate a situation at the interface of reality and fiction. with a good deal of humor lakner creates a work questioning todays ambivalent role of armies."
project, the icelandic army, describes a fictitious unarmed army which,
because of the lack of any military threat, fulfils solely defensive
and observational roles. for this, lakner, who was born in 1966 and
lives in budapest, has developed a diversity of implements. the green
tin coffin in the container, for instance, is called turtle and has
a flap in the front to climb in and out of it, and can be positioned
anywhere by means of the practical handles on the side, anywhere, that
is, where observation is needed. the positioning of turtle in iceland
can be understood by looking at a map which also shows the territories
of deployment for the unfortunate lighthouse. it bears the name plankton,
looks a little bit like a thimble with a flag which has become too large
and turned upside down, and has been designed for observing from the
for further antal lakner images try www.galeriefrank.net/data/artistes/antal_lakner/
and finally, hell must have ran out of real estate...
end is at hand!
recommended: (audio) 'danger of the water' by the futureheads / (comestible) goose carpaccio, with a blackberry and pepper sauce, followed by tenderloin in walnut sauce and tagliatelli with gorgonzola/ (visual) a crystal clear london from the air/ (sensorial) the ridiculous self satisfaction of buying ten bags of lemons
reviled: (audio) a 6:30 alarm call / (comestible) what tasted like peach schnapps mixed with cheap perfume / (visual) the picture in my mind after someone described why certain gay bars have coathangers in their toilets/ (sensorial) airflight ear popping
postscript: as far as i have been able to ascertain, bernard matthews is still very much alive.