Friday, March 26, 2004

Budapest - scrap of a diary I found in April 2011

Another enjoyable day today. Went to the fine art museum in Victory Square by metro -- the MI. Very fast journey. Just went with Mum as Mason went to the US embassy to investigate things to do with his website. Lots of interesting art there, but only managed to see a small amount in an hour and a half. Bruegel (older and younger) particularly top. Some Goya too. Ghastly queue to get in with no apparent organisation for half an hour. Also strange Stasi like way the attendants shadow you as you look at the paintings. I took my Berghaus off at one point and slung it over my shoulder. I was told firmly that I had to carry it under my arm.

Back to the Kommedia for a bite to eat and some coffee. Mason had been to a tea shop to talk about business and come back with a bag of exotic teas they'd given him. Mason then went back to the hotel to talk to the embassy guy on the phone and Mum and I took the metro to the Buda side of the river. Got confused and flustered en route and had irritatingly left my map in the restaurant. Easy journey nevertheless and got out at Moskva Ter and walked up the hill to the castle area. Wonderful views of Pest especially from Halaszbastya - the fishermen's bastion. Very cold and windy however. Got back to Opera within 15 minutes of getting on board the tube at Moskva.

Then next door to the Opera to see McBeth by Vivaldi. Fabulous opera house. Really enjoyed the opera too, or at least the experience of it.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Budapest - scrap of a diary I found in April 2011

Much better mood this morning. The consequence of a decent night's sleep and no hangovers. Felt dreadful yesterday morning. I managed an hour's sleep between writing my last entry and getting up.

Things didn't start too promisingly. Had breakfast (a nice one) and forgot to call Mum and Mase to say I was doing so. Then we went to the Opera House around the corner and brought some tickets for Thursday night. Then there was a big anxious chat about what to do next. Mason had spent nearly an hour plotting things. I decided to split off from them and meet them for a boat trip at two. Feeling anxious, horrid and tired I began a two hour exploration of Budapest on foot (on the Pest side of the river) mostly in unrepentant rain.

It was fine though, and by the time I had walked for a couple of hours I was much better spiritually, emotionally and physically. Nice city. I remember thinking at one point that you can tell something about the soul of a city by seeing it in the rain.

Got a boat trip to which was fun with a tape of a woman being and a guy being Buda and Pest which was quite fun. Stopped for an hour at St Margaret's island where Mum and Mase found toilets and Mase ate something. I went for a short walk with Mum. Nice place with lots of busts of unknown (to me) writers dotted about the place. And there was also the ruin of St Margaret's Abbey. Wandered back to the hotel.

Then off to see a Tango show. Went to see a Belgian tango show. We got "extras" tickets which meant we had to cringe at the side of the circle, but it was fine. Starving by the time it had finished at 9pm as I'd not eaten since breakfast. Went to a cafe bar called the Comedy and had chicken and chips. Not over keen on veggies here for some reason. Home and quick read of the Longshoreman by Richard Shelton and slept. Was overtired.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Budapest - scrap of a diary I found in April 2011

Drank too much yesterday. Started off with three gin and tonics in the airport after I'd met Mum and Mason. And continued after that. Mind you the flight wasn't great towards the end so I was happy to have been anethsetised.

I arrived in Heathrow early - too early - and Mum and Mase were late and arrived looking flustered. Budapest is raining and grey so far, but we had a niceish meal in a slightly touristy restaurant called Nostalgia. I left Mum and Mas and went for a walk at night - feeling slightly drunk. I came back to the hotel bar and bought some cigarettes, smoked one and retired.

Have been feeling horribly heartbroken again today. Probably just drunken maudlin. I feel old, sad and unhealthy right now in the middle of the night in a strange town.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Deer Path - scrap of a diary I found in April 2011

Really tired now. Went for a walk after a fairly nasty breakfast with Mel and Chloe along Navy Pier. Icy wind and quite good views of the city. Returned and Mel and I took a cab out to Deer Path. Getting on well with Mel. Arrived - finally - at Deer Path Inn, which styles itself as English in "Historic Hotels of America" strategically left in the room it says it is modelled after a mid-15th Century Manor House in Chiddinghurst Kent, England.

Each of the Inns guest rooms purports to be named after a National Trust of England site. Mine is called Ormesby -- two big rooms with armchairs and two big tellys. Curious absence of soul however.

Then work. Went to Abbott with Mel and Kristina and prepared for tomorrow's presentation. Client pleased I think. My campaign is going mental.

Back to Deer Path at 4:30ish. Mel went to her room and I decided to go for a walk. Loads of churches, huge houses and virtually nobody to be seen. I picked up some curious looks as I walked about, and a police car slowed down near me. I Deciding to go to sleep I think for a bit. I'm shattered and feeling a bit weird through sleep deprivation.

Chicago - scrap of a diary I found in April 2011

One of those longer than ever days yesterday. Spent the first half pottering about in a considerable amount of fear. I tidied up. I went around the corner and bought myself ten fags smoked two nervously in the back garden. A couple of phone calls to Mum and Mas, and Bob and packed and set off.

Once I had set off I felt better, although entirely still like a condemned man. On the plane reading a book about luck that Mike lent me. I was actually fabulously lucky on this journey. I only realised after the event that I had been upgraded. My seat number was 1A First Class. So the flight was even more restful than business class. I had been able to go to the Red Carpet lounge in Heathrow and drink free gin and tonics and smoke some nervous gaspers. The flight had its turbulent moments but with judicious gin and tonics I kept the horror well at bay. I was able to get quite flat in my seat and had my legs up in front of me all the way. It was fabulous. In fact I did find myself laughing, watching a stupid film called Johnny English. Laughing? On a plane?

Chicago looked absolutely amazing from the air. Warm yellow grids and twinkling lights. I got a momentary sense of the nobility of the human project. The grandeur of the city against the black patch of the lake was, to use and Americanism, awesome. I wasn't looking forward to getting hold of the taxi at O'Hare but I called the toll free number after sailing through customs and immigration. I simply found a phone and called - no cash required.

To my amazement a black stretch limousine appeared where they had told me to wait. I felt a surge of sheer cheeriness of having survived the flight and finding myself being conducted into town in such style. I was staying at the W Chicago Lakeshore. I have a view of lots of huge towerblocks outside. I'm staying on the 24th floor and when I look outside the other buildings tower above my head. Called Mel and arranged to meet her and her pal Chloe in reception. Actually reception was like a club. I did wonder if I was in the right place at first -- really loud music and bits of bling on show. Quite a nicely mixed black and white crowd too.

Met Mel and Chloe who was very pretty in a gamine sort of way -- and we jumped into a taxi to go to a fairly nearby restaurant. Sat at the bar having yet another G&T with Mel and Chloe. These SA princesses have good manners and apart from the human rights issues and whipping blacks they are fine. Quite giddy with tiredness but the euphoria of survival and the amazingness of being in Chicago eating a nice steak with two attractive intelligent women took over somewhat. Which brings me up to the moment. It's now 5:33 and I've had a brace of teas made with their coffee maker as they don't have a kettle. My body thinks it is almost noon. Listening to sirens makes me feel like I am in a movie. The room is cool and stylish. Maybe I'll try to have a bit more kip.

Bah. Still here. have been watching the grey daylight in Chicago. No dawn as such, merely a cold greyness. Tops of some of the towers lost in misty cloud. Saw one bird flying and realised there was hardly a scrap of green to be observed from my window. There is something terrifying about all these towers. I could see in one near me a woman having a cup of something. And in another a TV flickering in a darkened room. Little domestic things but in the sky, in a huge block.

Of course I've seen skyscrapers before but I wonder just how they stay up. The engineering is terrific. Perhaps 9/11 also keyed into something else; that these buildings are in some way unnatural and precarious and when 9/11 happened their frailty was revealed.