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After The Thermal Baths, Home Again


Budapest is my kind of city. It’s elegant and unselfconscious, and you can rattle around it on uncomplicated trams, and it is full of old fashioned light fittings and hidden cafes, and soups with several layers of sour cream, fat and beans, and transylvanian cabbages and things that are red.

We had a very peaceful three days there. It was never too noisy, and we moved slowly around its quiet cemeteries, its hushed bookshops, its lazy coffee rooms.

At the Gellart Baths we allowed ourselves to be bossed around by no nonsense women who gave everyone a white sheet and if you got it wet, then hard luck. Massages were functional, and there was no mention of holistic, life enhancing, meditative anything. Here health is bracing and technical!

My favourite trip was to the Statue Park, where all the old monuments from the communist era are exhibited on a bit of wasteland next to a housing estate. They looked so funny, out of scale, and camp as Christmas with their big muscly thighs and noble noses.

It’s nice to be back, even though the pets at home seemed rather annoyed, and various bits of carpet had been chewed. Tomorrow we launch the new poetry book, and I am looking forward to sending it out into the world. I am writing my plays for Women’s Hour too, and also finishing off The Manifesto.

My body feels rather solid and tough. It managed Budapest without any funny turns, and we must have walked about four miles a day.

This weekend I am reading at two literature festivals; Southwell , near Nottingham, and Lancaster. I hope they have nice baths in both places. It’s not very good weather, icy spots of sharp rain, not at all like the balmy climate of Budapest, where people were still swimming in outdoor pools.