Friday, 1 July 2011

Home for a Day 2

The last day was links day. Rain. Humid and louring. We go to a number of the important locations and I record a sentence or so to hold the programme together. First thing we head up to the Fisherman's Bastion to catch a little old style gypsy violin in the background. The number 16 bus will take us to the heart of it. We shuffle along the ramparts until there is some musical background then I speak extempore but to a generally agreed point. Next, we look for a quiet cafe to record some more. Having wandered about half an hour we give up in the Bastion district and decide to go the Astoria in Pest instead. We wait for the 16 bus down into town and get on. I sit down in the row before the back next to Elizabeth. Others take their places. At one point I feel a light touch at my side and look around.

I should explain that I carry about a small folder full of necessary cards, a mobile phone and my passport. This bulks out my top pockets but have buttoned pockets at the side, three buttons per pocket so my wallet is in my left side pocket. That is where I feel the tap. Behind me sits a stone faced Japanese man. Two passengers, a girl and a thick set man, have changed places near our end. I feel for my wallet and it's not there. Of course I spend some time checking. The bus moves on. I look behind me. The stony faced Japanese man is behind man next to the thick-set man. Now what I should do is say something like: 'If you give my back my wallet I'll say nothing, otherwise I'm ringing the police right now.' Of course he will look puzzled and cross but might think the better of it and hand it over. It has my driving licence in it and an unusable debit card which has been cancelled because of the previously lost green bag. It has some cash too but not a huge amount. The driving licence and debit card would establish my ownership.

Yes, but I don't do this. I am temporarily dazed. And then all three get off at the next stop and my wallet is gone. I have no cash. I ring the hotel in case I have left the wallet there, and I tell Elizabeth and Martin. Inwardly I move from being shocked to shrugging, which is my default position at loss. I have been going to Hungary for twenty-seven years and have never lost anything or had anything stolen. Now twice in a week. When I found my green bag - and I rang the kind man who handed it over in Nyiregyháza - the girls in the hotel remarked that I had had some bad news and some good news. Yes, I replied, but the good news was even better because it came after bad news. Now it was bad news time again.

But work must go on. We record links of trams, we get metro noise, we go to the Astoria for more recording and have lunch there. And I am joking - we are all joking - about the lost wallet. I am, seriously, being encouraged to sound jaunty and excited about nearing the end of my personal 'quest' for the truth about gypsy music. I should put a smile in my voice. I am especially excited, I quip, because I have lost my wallet and have no money. I am even more excited because I am riding in real police car to a proper Budapest police station. I have never been so excited in my life because I am to be charged with bumming rides on public transport and am positively gleeful because I am being arrested. My voice is full of smiles.

Of course I don't go to the police, because there is no time, and we go to the last link in front of the Liszt Music Academy, where I do a personal link (when I was still a child in Budapest our block faced the Academy and there are photo to prove it) and to do a quick summing up. I write the later links for myself as I was getting annoyed with ad libbing to an unwritten script. This works rather better, psychologically at least.

Then we pile into the taxi just as thunder clouds build and arrive at the airport under the full dark anvil. Something on or in me sets off the security alarm so I undergo a more detailed examination. Hands up. Turn. Sit down. Take off your socks. Blah blah.

At Gatwick Elizabeth lends me £50 so I can get home. Wonderful C meets me at the station shortly before midnight. I get home. It's gone midnight.


Marcus Speh said...

hello, i'm doing some research on hungary for a novel, actually, and i really enjoyed reading your blog posts & generally finding out about you. i have subsequently put a link to this blog on my own blogroll. cheers from berlin!

George S said...

Marcus, that's a deal. I have added you to mine - under your name not the website's.

I know Berlin well and have good friends there.

Best wishes

Gwilym Williams said...

Hello Marcus,
Don't forget to mention the new statue of Ronald Reagan unveiled in Budapest at the weekend. A real Hungarian hero by all accounts.

George, I hope they put Ronnie's famous quote on it:

"Mr Gorbachev, pull down that wall!"

:) best,