Monday, June 27, 2005


I have two jobs to do today.

Three or four minutes into the first one and I am jolted sharply out of my rather sonambulant post-awakening state by a sudden 'whoosh' and a rush of cold water splashing all over my mentionables and causing me to completely lose my place in the Elmore Leonard novel I keep in the throne room.

I react entirely in character and say, "Fuck". A lot.

A quick investigation of the cistern reveals it to be beyond all hope of repair so it is with an internal "Later" that I grab a coffee and head for the study to continue my content assessment job.

Three or four minutes into this one and...there is no 'whoosh', just an unresponsive screen and the inevitable realisation that my service provider has gone tits up again. Later having arrived much sooner than I thought it would, I test my ability to fit and install a new cistern by dismantling the old one. I turn off the stop cock and disconnect the flexible pipe. It flops limply, issuing a thin stream of water onto the bathroom floor. I have an incontinent stop cock. I go to fetch a bucket all the while wondering what the plumbing equivalent of prostate problems might be.

The cistern is now in kit form on the floor where I leave it while I check the PC and discover that the server is back up. I allow myself to be distracted for a while and do a quick blog hop. I see JonnyB has linked to me with the tag 'This man needs help' and I find myself in wholehearted agreement.

I can't quite summon up the will to carry on with the web site content stuff and decide to go to the cistern shop where I ask for a 'víz tartó' instead of 'tartály' and am met with blank stares all round. I am reminded of the time I was at the checkout in Tesco and asked for a tent (sátor) instead of a plastic bag (szatyor) and the time I asked an old girlfriend in front of a group of her friends whether or not she was still showering (zuhányozni) when I meant smoking (dohányozni).

The problem now is that, being a phoneticist, my pronunciation of Hungarian is such that I am often mistaken for a native and people don't make the linguistic assumptions they would normally when communicating with a foreigner. They expect semantic exactitude and suffer system lock when they do not get it. In the present case I am reduced to pointing and carefully enunciating, "One of those, please".

I make my purchase and hurry home with none of that feeling of warmth and excitement that is the usual result of having a recently bought package in the boot of one's car. I step out of the car and into dog shit. Not only that, but I also notice that she has been in search of cool ground and has decided that the freshly watered earth around our equally freshly planted green pepper plants would be ideal.

So it is no wonder that I feel just a trifle unfortunate as I kick off my shoes on the step and enter the house where I am greeted by Froggy and Idris.

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Suddenly I don't feel so unlucky after all.

And the new cistern? I'm just off for a quick void. I'll let you know.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


But it's close. Reading D4D, as I do, mostly for the twunty bits I will readily admit - anybody that can invent the expletive 'crunty spadgewanglers' is okay by me - although the fact that he rides a bicicular form of transport unattached to any form of motor whatsoever does, in my opinion, rather invite the opening of the car door in his general direction, I have become accustomed to being on the receiving end of news, anecdotes and even recollections (a strange word that one, conjuring up, as it must, images of a repeated gathering together of material sharing some common characteristic) of disagreements, contretemps and plain banging of the head against the brick wall of twuntiness moments relating to his experiences as some kind of IT wunderkind whose major source of employment would appear to be sorting out the various and sundry cock-ups made by overpaid amateurs in his field, the pay grade of whom remains, unfortunately, well above his own and, to my current regret, failed to empathise entirely with his situations viz-a-viz Twunty Manager.

I must sidetrack at this point and read all that back. Phew, bit of a struggle but I made it out the other end with a reasonable understanding of just what it was that I was on about so it must be considered a success even though it did appear at times to be an attempt at the Bernard Levin award for the Most Gratuitous Use of Convoluted Sentences in a Blog Post but that's by the by. Now where were we? I haven't lost you, have I? Heavens forbid you were waylaid by one of the errant sub-clauses I so callously embedded in the foregoing. I realise now that my attempts at elucidation, and even elaboration, could easily have been construed as unnecessarily obfuscatory but I am drunk and crave exactitude.

If I may repeat the plea of an earlier post, forgive me or anally implode. The choice is yours.

So, onwards to the meat, the grist, the nub, the kernel of this bloggage.

As regular readers will no doubt be aware, I am contracted as an examiner to one of the many examining boards concerned with the issue of internationally recognised certificates, diplomas and what have you admitting candidates to whatsomever degree in the production of English as a foreign or second language and, in this capacity and given my own linguistic qualifications, have often been invited to the Capital to lecture on the very subject. In attendance on one occasion was a delightful young lady from the organisation in question who was so impressed by my grasp of the Communicative Approach to Language Teaching that she immediately thought of my good self when, on return to Blighty, she was entrusted with the overhaul and modernisation of their website.

There followed several electronic communications in which she laid out the task in hand. To go through x levels concerned with English for assimilation purposes on their site and assess the content with regard to the new European Framework for language examinations...A1, A2 through to attempt to standardise language qualifications with regard to level throughout the European Community, and with regard to their suitability for international ESOL.

All was well. A daily fee was agreed (the amount of which caused an instant stir in the trouser area) for about 4 days' work and I awaited copies of the contract for instant signage. This was the zenith of our negotiations. From here, there was only one way it could go and it proceeded in a downhill direction with alarming rapidity.

One (and two). Delightful young lady one left the organisation to be replaced by delightful young lady two shortly after my computer crashed and I was made aware of the fact that Incredimail history can only be retrieved if the program itself can be made to boot up. It couldn't. Address book, records...exploded into the ether. Had I made a written record of the rather obscene amount offered to me? Had I bloggery.

So, DYL2 contacted me and at some stage of the conversation mentioned the x+1 levels I was supposed to assess. "Excuse me. x+1? DYL1 only mentioned x." We agreed on an extension to the original draft of the contract and I tried to access level x+1 on the web site. Nowt doin'. It wasn't there.

DYL2 fixed the access problem and was desirous of the knowledge as to how much I would charge for the assessment. I ummed and ahhd and cursed the virus that had reduced my e-mail history to so much ethereal binary mist and enquired as to how much she had in mind. "Well, obviously for 6 days' work, we'll be looking at a figure in excess of ..........." which was less than I remembered had been offered by DYL1. "Well, my usual fee is ........... + expenses but as in this case there will not be any expenses and as it is a 6 day contract, then I suppose I could do it for ......... a day." Bugger. But still remuneratively pretty damned good.

I began the work on the understanding that the contracts were in the post and had progressed fairly rapidly through the site before sending an e-mail indicating my progress thus far.

I received a reply which was a little disconcerting. It stated that, where I had made recommendations as to level and adaptations, I should inform them as to exactly where these exercises could fit within their existing ESOL structure. Okay, I said, but if you expect me to search through that as well, it's going to take more than 6 days.

A new total of 10 days was agreed and I renewed my work. Problem. The existing ESOL structure was not as I had been informed and placing the material within it was impossible. "Mmmm. You're right. I'm going on holiday tomorrow so can I get in touch with you when I get back? And by the way how is the resources assessment coming on?" "Huh?"

It turns out that they are also expecting me to assess a section containing links to web sites with ESOL content. A new total of 16 days is agreed. Just before DYL2 hangs up the telephone she states, "I'm not quite sure what this A1, B2 business is that you've written but I'm sure it will become clear later." Oh, they're only the Standard European Framework codes for the assessment you've asked me to do is all.

Oh, well. As things are going, it looks as if I shall have to take control of this project and write my own brief. Despite the twuntery, I may be able to make myself indispensible and retire to somewhere remote, warm and coastal sooner than I had imagined. God protect me from middle management, though. Twunts the lot of 'em.

Friday, June 24, 2005


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At least one rather short but beautifully packaged Unitedite might be interested to know that, yes...she's still at it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Tiger, tiger, burning bright
I'd sooner have potato blight
An English champion? My eye!
I wish he'd just...

Oh, well. At least the blue rinse brigade can get back to cutting the crusts off sandwiches and setting the net curtains a twitching. Neighbourhood watch is back and this time it's grumpy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


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This little children's TV cartoon character has obviously penetrated deeply into the national consciousness and has an awful lot to answer for.

I don traditional gardening attire, underpants and T-shirt, shoulder my trusty spade and hi-ho into the garden ready to test the efficacy of JonnyB's advice to flip them up and carefully observe their trajectory before driving them through the covers for four.

Having been a reasonable middle-order batsman, I am looking forward to finding out if the old hand-eye co-ordination is what it used to be and set to excavating one or two of the fifty or so mounds now dotting my particular portion of the landscape.

I haven't even broken sweat when I notice my 'good' neighbour eyeing me with a rather puzzled expression. We have the following conversation which I shall translate into the dialect for verisimilitude.

"I kiss your hand, Uncle Pista."

"Nah then, son. What the fuck's tha doin'?"

"Cricket practice, Uncle Pista."

"Tha what?"

"Well, actually...I'm endeavouring to dig up a mole. I shall then toss it into the air, twat it with the spade and see just how far into the next field I can hoick it."

"Oh, aye? I mun let them on t'other side o t'fence catch thi at it."

"Why's that, then?"

"Tha'll be oop in front o t'beak. Them uns protected species, dun't tha know?"


Monday, June 20, 2005


Here's one that slipped through the media net.

In November 2004, the United Nations Committee on Disarmament voted on FISBAN. This is, or was, a Verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty the intention of which was to prevent the addition of any more nuclear bomb material to existing stocks throughout the world.

The vote was 147 to 1 in favour with two abstentions.

Job done, one would have thought.

Well actually, not quite, professor. The 1 carried a power of veto, cast as it was by the good ol' US of A. No surprise there, then.

The two abstentions should cause you no problems either, were you of a mind to attempt an identification of their countries of origin. Go on. Have a wild guess. The two patients sitting cross-legged in the surgery having that spot below their patellas tapped by Uncle Sam's hammer are...

You got it. Israel and Britain.

Shocked? Thought not.

I suppose a case could be made for the two abstentions being the most honest, brave and non-hypocritical decisions. After all, in the event of governments in fact disagreeing with the resolution but eager to curry political favour among their electorates (always allowing that the vote is actually covered in their media which is by no means assured), it is easy to vote for something that you know the US will veto anyway and thus destroy two targets with one missile.

Be that as it may, the point in all this which really transported away the chocolate digestive was Britain's reasoning behind its abstention.

The resolution had, apparently, "divided the international community at a time when progress should be a prime objective".

147 to 1. Some divide.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


"Hungarian dubbing of foreign films is the best in the world."
" do you know?"

"I remember one poem I read in translation. It was so beautiful. It touched me so much. It must have been even better than the original."

"This rain must make you feel at home. Real English weather."
"Exactly where are we again?"

"English people are terrible at languages."
"And just what language are we speaking in right now?"
"Ah, well...not you, obviously but..."
"Hold on a minute. What is your motivation for learning English?"
"It's spoken all over the world...language of business, internet, lingua franca, blah blah."
"So you only have to learn one foreign language, right?"
"Well, yes."
"So exactly which foreign language should an English person choose, then? One which would offer exactly the same level of motivation and yield the same results. I would have to learn at least four foreign languages to give me the same benefit as your one."

"You must be happy about Labour introducing an ethical foreign policy."
"You've heard about that?"
"Oh, yes. The Hungarian press is the bes..."
"Problem is, dear heart, that ethical is defined as anything the United States decides is in its interests. The identical actions by any other country not backed by them is defined as international terrorism."
"But historically..."
"Historically, the same is true. Go back to Nürnburg and look at what was defined as being a war crime. Basically anything they did that we didn't. Bombing the buggery out of civilian populations was carried out on a far greater scale by the allies than by any of the axis powers. And look at Pearl Harbour. Japan's reasons for its pre-emptive strike were exactly the same as those being used now to justify the war in Iraq. All those US bombers and warships stationed in the Pacific region, talked about in US Govt at the time as being able to reduce the wooden houses of Japan to charcoal and destroy their industrial base...a threat far more real and tangible than anything Iraq posed to the US. Again, we are moral. You are an international terrorist."
"But at least there was and is an international consensus, a coalition..."
"And just who were the first on board this time, eh? Britain, obviously. Hanging on to the coat tails of the US administration. Russia was there, too. Had to be. Chechnya. Quid pro quo. Turkey. Pakistan. Quid pro bloody quo."
"So you would be a Democrat, then?"
"You just don't get it, do you? Clinton and Kosovo ring any bells? Carter and El Salvador?"
"Another beer?"
"You're on."

"English food isn't as good as the Hungarian, is it?"
"Ever tried it?"
"And just who is the most popular TV chef in Hungary right now?"
"Jamie Oliver?"

I rest my case(s).

Sunday, June 12, 2005



Ever Decreasing Rectangles

Turn my back for two weeks and this is what happens.

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If I were ever to have a coat of arms, it would be crossed scythes on a field of green rampant. I was once asked by my neighbours (aka the Locusts) whether I would mind very much if they were to hop across and chop down the acacias and pines at the bottom of our garden. The rationale behind this being that they cast a shadow across their garden in the late afternoon, thus reducing their annual onion yield by about 3 kilos. My response was to plant acorns in the hope that the curse of the late afternoon shadow, pictured below, would be visited upon the children of their children's children. You gotta love 'em.

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The death toll amongst the indiginous population was probably approaching astronomical proportions but several lizards were seen skinking away from the blades and a few of the more slow moving inhabitants also made good their escape.

A refugee.

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Rain stops play.

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I occasionally suffer from delusions, testosterone fuelled no doubt, that I am capable of providing for my family by the fruits of my labours alone. Above are two results of this; one reasonable - the kennel, and the other risible - the fence and gate.

At least this job's a good 'un.

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And to think, the fact that it had a huge tract of land at the back was one of the reasons I bought the original house. Maybe I had visions of a tennis court and an outdoor swimming pool and sauna complex. I was allowing myself to be carried some distance away from fiscal realities, that much is certain. Speaking of which, as we are still a two and a half car family...

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...any offers?

Oh, well. Next week, we'll be taking up the ancient and noble art of fencing.

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I can't wait.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Froggy is getting a little jealous of my marking examination papers so I decide to give her an English test.

"Okay then, sweetheart. What's the English for 'macska'?"


"Hungarian sausage."

"Okay then. What's this in English?"

At this point I cheat and whisper the answer into her ear.

"Most emlékszem! Table."

"Okay. What's this?"
"And what colour is it?"
"So it is and wha..."
"And white."

"That's right. Now, you see that photo over there? The one of you. You're sitting on something, aren't you? What's that called in English?"
"Hey, that's good. I was expecting you to say mummy." Completely failing to recognise the obvious set-up.

"Okay, then. If mummy's a woman, what's daddy?"


I did ask.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Okay. I admit it. I was bored. And drunk? Maybe. More than a little. But whatever the motivatory factor, I was inspired to review the more than 1000 files of mp3s I possess and, in a spirit of historical analysis, was inclined to peruse same with respect to era. Precisely? Give us a break. Precise is that at which I am by no means good after even one of the 5.2%. (See blog title for further elucidation)

I will skip the 50s as examples therefrom would be overloaded with Monk and Miles and would, therefore, be of minority interest only and quantum jump to the swinging, fab sixties.

First stop, Jefferson Airplane and the less than 3 minutes of perfect pop that is 'Somebody to Love', closely followed by an example of crescendo building that would shame Freddie's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven' in that the same effect could be achieved by the same Airplane in less than 3 minutes again and still be as relevant when my daughter hears it for the first time as it was when I did...I give you, 'White Rabbit', a lesson in generational miscomprehension if ever there was one.

As long as whimsy remains a feature of any decent dictionary, then I reckon the Kinks' 'Waterloo Sunset' should remain on any playlist worthy of the name as should, of course, 'Lola'.

Hendrix would be well represented of course, although less for his guitar playing than for his vastly under-rated vocal accomplishments such as the 3' 21" version of 'Hey Joe' the phrasing of which and the uncomfortable edge of 'Purple Haze' still stand out as a beacon to the R&B derivatives that so despoil our airwaves today as does 'The Burning of the Midnight Lamp'.

Then 'that' snare shot that introduced 'Like a Rolling Stone' of the few records that can truly be said to have changed the world. Iconoclastic? Yes, but who gives a fuck?

The 70s were a tad problematic and I feel I should gloss over the early (embarrassing) years and concentrate on Tom Verlaine's Television and David Byrne's Talking Heads as representative of my listening during this rather dodgy period in musical history. James Brown deserves more than an honorary mention and even though 'Stoned to the Bone' might possibly be said to be a little tired, it still hits the spot as a perfect example of laid back funk.

The 80s? Fuck off. Did anything happen in the 80s? Well, for me, yes. Probably the most traumatic decade in my life so far but rather negligible from a musical point of view. Medium Medium springs to mind with 'Further than Funk Dream', a track which amply demonstrates the correct use of a saxophone in 'popular' music as similarly doth spring anything by Marianne Faithful in the same period. Particularly 'The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan' and 'Why d'ya do it?'.

The 90s? Well, pray allow me to recommend an episode of 'I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again' from what my machine assures me is 1997 12 00, the veracity of which I am still in doubt. Bloody good episode, though. Featured Stippen Pry, that well known Readers' Digest mailing list error and is well worth a listen.

Oh well, I am old and lack stamina. The 2000s will have to wait until such time as I am able to push the limits of my listening hours beyond 0100 in the bloody morning.

Pass the amphetamines, Alice.

Friday, June 03, 2005


Well. It's not the first time and it sure as wombats won't be the last. Thanks, Lamps.

Quite what it is about this that I like so much, I have no idea at all. Maybe it's the banjo.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


RogerB was right after all. It was only a bloody Novotel. Ridiculously easy to find, though. Leave Nagykanizsa on the M7 and 225 kilometres later, hang a left into the hotel car park. Sorted.

What, no porter? I load myself up with suitcase, briefcase and business-like shoulder bag with company logo and somehow manage to contort my frame such as to allow myself to close the boot of the car without losing control of any aforementioned encumbrance before I realise that I have put the keys in my left hand trouser pocket.

I load up again and head for the main entrance where I discover two seemingly contradictory items. One, that the hotel is a four star establishment and two, that the doorman has been replaced by an electronic motion detector situated above two sliding plate glass doors. I have a brief consideration that I am as a pig at the gates of the sausage factory and step within range.

My normal walking tempo would appear to be several metres per second brisker than that of the normal guest, a realisation brought upon me as the doors dislodge my shoulder bag, causing me to drop my briefcase which opens on impact and disgorges most of its contents all over the welcome mat. A cool entance it most decidedly is not.

I make my way over to reception where I commit the error of communicating with Surly Bastard in Hungarian. This results in his inability to find my name amongst those with reservations as he has obviously made the assumption that I am Hungarian and, as such, should have a Hungarian name. The phonetic equivalent of my appellation unfound, I switch to English and am eventually given a keycard.

I enter the lift and am about to press the button for the 8th floor when I notice the no smoking stickers placed adjacent to some of the buttons, including the 8th. About face. I explain my requirements to Surly Bastard and he wordlessly performs the necessary adjustments before handing me another keycard. How anybody who has obviously taken a vow of silence can find gainful employment in the reception of a four-star hotel will have to remain a mystery.

I enter the room and place the keycard in the slot just inside the door. The lights come on as does the TV, the screen of which displays a personalised message welcoming me to the hotel. Obviously Surly Bastard was under instruction not to temper the delight at receiving this greeting with one of his own.

The room itself is fine and I am pleased to note the lack of any sticky chocolaty confection on the pillow. I also observe with satisfaction that the leading edge of the toilet paper has not been folded back into a neat little triangle and I allow my hopes to rise once again.

I shower, dress for dinner and, pausing only to request a 7 o'clock wake up call from Surly Bastard II, I hie me to the restaurant. I am seated with almost indecent haste and am handed a menu. I begin to converse with the waiter in Hungarian and he snatches the menu from my hands and disappears only to return after a few minutes with one written in the language of his native land. I order the drinks in Hungarian and switch to English for the food. His software jams and I imagine one of those Windows error messages flashing up into his vision. Obviously a binary waiter...either/or but not both simultaneously.

I receive my cream of mussel soup and am only slightly disappointed to discover that the mussels are not fresh. It is also saltier than I would like and it is this I blame for my consumption of four beers during the course of the meal. The twice marinated fillet of Hungarian ox with spiced potatoes is excellent however and I am sufficiently cheered to engage the waiter in conversation as to which Hungarian TV channel will be showing the Champions' League final later that evening. He informs me that Viasat 3 fulfills my requirements to the letter and follows this with the information that this is unavailable throughout the hotel. I press him and he agrees to phone the hotel's bars and enquire as to whether they would be showing it via any other nation's television.

I stroll into the bar by which time Milan are already one up and, fearing the worst, order another beer. I soon realise that the bar is populated entirely by Germans and Italians, all of whom are rooting for AC. As the first half progresses and my vocal involvement in the match increases in direct proportion to my by now accelerating alcohol consumption, I am much ridiculed, traduced and mocked for my nationality and temporary allegiance to Liverpool Football Club. I take it all in good spirit and accept their offers of consolation beers with good grace. I remark at half-time that it isn't over yet and accept several wagers of alcoholic comestibles based on the number of goals Liverpool actually manage to score and on the final result. A rather interesting period during the course of the second half results in quite a considerable queue of beers on the part of the bar I occupy and it is only after the second period of extra time that I manage to reduce it to one. The end of the penalty shoot-out sees the queue expand to even larger proportions and it is at this point that my memory of the evening becomes, shall we say, hazy.

I wake up at 8 o'clock, curse Surly Bastard II and somehow manage to shower and get down into the lobby for 8.30 where the minibus awaits to transport us to the venue. Us? Oh, my god. There are about 15 of us, all staying at the same hotel. I hide behind my sunglasses and pray that none of them strolled into the bar last night.

The workshop begins and we have to interview each other before introducing our interviewee to the others.

"The guy at the back in the shades and looking rather the worse for wear is Simon..."

My turn arrives.

"Er...the lady over there in the rather attractive blue dress, what did you say your name was again?"