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1. Vienna, my fourth or fifth time i think. Whether the recent Multicultural Enrichment or my own perception/memory, it seemeth sore beset with infestation of criminal & evil-doer. In bars, pubs, restaurants, it is much like Munich; on the streets & u-bahns, German seems a minority language (20%), the rest being half Muslim-tongue, and Slav. There are, as in Munich now, roving packs of military-age Muslim, and lone predators, but unlike in Munich they seem to rule the roost here, with a cocky sneering arrogance – i guess word travels quickly, that Vienna police do nothing, and rape is fine. Not that German courts would do more, but the police are everywhere to be found in Munich, in pairs, armed, serious of mien & girth, and they will act.

i wander aghast from my hotel to Stefansdom, muttering “the sand people! the sand people!” and glad of my Uzi and pepper spray. Even the Viennese slavs look more prone to Adidas than the Munich variety.

2. It is a faintly evil & weird city. Clown graffiti:

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Sinister shopfronts:

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Though i am tempted to investigate this creepy-looking cafe, just for the name:

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Most of the city is banal and ugly, with too much traffic, noise, and especially in winter little colour; and yet it often has a strangeness to it; gruesomely modern and sorcerous, with a vision inimical to men:

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At first disturbing, and then stimulating. It reminds me at times of Edinburgh in winter; unlike Munich, this is a city you could disappear into. Munich, for all its history, seems to me a city without magic – too clean, too orderly, too civilised; Vienna has, to my eyes, its own magic, a kind of seedy, leering, alien presence.

As ever, a lot of beggars, and many crazies – folk shambling about grinning at nothing, dressed only in, e.g. shabby pinstripe suits and slippers (no socks).

3. i meet the Viking. He has a cut on his nose, looks as if he tried & perhaps even succeeded in a Muslim-style sexual assault but the victim put up a struggle. i tactfully inquire, “did you rape someone?”. The usual response, a Hmmm, and then: “I walked into a glass door.”

We drink at Siebensternbräu, where i note many Hs cut into the walls, i put forward my own, sinister interpretation:

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We go to the usual Pub Bukowski, where the Viking finds a woman in the toilet. At the time i just shrugged, thinking “that is the kind of thing that happens to him”; only later, i thought “he probably went into the women’s toilet”.

We defile many other bars etc., including Das Torberg, The Sign, in search of gin, whisky, pig flesh, and smoking facilities. We fail to have any real adventures, by which i mean the Viking doesn’t smash anything or commit any assaults, or get smooth with the ladies, or set his absinthe on fire. i play him one of my favourite Varg Vikernes videos

and he later draws this tribute while talking about how he wants to become an Augustinian and experiment on himself:

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We walk the streets for miles. The Vienna strangeness continues:

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i presume the shadow figure at the bottom was some intended artistic effect, but i don’t recall seeing it at the time, and so it was probably Vlad Dracul – about whom i talked at length, gleefully wondering if the Order of the Dragon is still extant.

4. i wander a bit around Vienna alone. Some strange juxtapositions:

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and find myself on Argentinierstraße, looking up at Karlskirche

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i wander down it, feeling memory tugging, then remember – i was here 3 or 4 years ago, looking for the so-called Palais Wittgenstein.

5. i go to Bratislava to meet the Viking and his Intended. It is hideous:

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We walk down a horrible road, then get a horrible Slavic bus down a horrible dual carriageway, to an incongruously excellent restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Superb menus:

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Soup is base! The Viking scowls, “I will take this home and edit it for free.” And i: “That’s blasphemy, you would ruin the whole thing.” And he: “Hmmm.”

Sated by duck and cabbage and blueberry pancakes, we stagger into the old town, which is small but very pleasant:

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The city is full of Slavs. i am the only darkie to be seen, and there are Adidas-Slavs a-plenty, and scrofulous-looking scum slouching about looking like crippled orcs waiting to pounce on a hobbit, but on the whole it seems safe enough. The cops are fat and look vaguely embarrassed and cold, lacking gloves in the winter chill.

It’s a genuinely Muslim-free zone and in my heart i know that i will end up fleeing here and will live with the Viking and his Intended, teaching their 20 blonde children good Odinic values and the Way of the Uzi.

6. The Viking springs one of his Surprises and introduces me to Patrik Slažanský, a local pipe-maker. Patrik arrives with an orange suitcase full of his creations:

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The Viking generously purchases a pipe for me, i opt for what is probably the most expensive, “Dark Beauty”, a real wonder of the art:

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i’ve smoked it twice now and find it finely balanced in the hand and mouth, with a cool, clear smoke. It sits happily in the hand, with something of a battleship’s stately poise, and a living lightness. As Patrik said (in Slovak), his pipes are made from his love of the art, and he hopes they carry that value and intensity with them, to their eventual owner.

7. The train home, i get a carriage to myself from Salzburg to Munich, and luxuriate, re-reading Dune and drinking:

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i admire the pipe, noting how its coloration changes easily in sunlight, a good sign:

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And now i am back in Munich.

1.  Am off to Vienna tomorrow, will likely have no internet access for a few days, so will try to write something now. Not much time or energy of late, on top of 12-hour days i’ve been slaving at my hideous Bildungsroman the last few months, actually the last 14 years, and am now reasonably content but still of course unsatisfied, on each edit finding yet more gross imperfection & lewdness. My only consolation is that each version is slightly better than the one before, this latest noticeably more than the one i published on Lulu in 2008. It’s been hard work because i had no idea how to write a novel when i began in 2002, and so one can see it like renovating a house built on bad foundations, unable to just rip the whole thing down but instead preserving the essential structure and bit by bit figuring out how it should have been to begin with. The 50 or so rewrites are not testament to the novel’s excellence, but rather its (and my) original inadequacy; much as the Japanese swordsmiths folded the steel umpteen times because their iron was low grade, and this folding served to even out the carbon content.

2. My life has been a long process of painful refinement, because, presumably, the original ore was so low-grade. And yet, i find myself partially conscious, unlike many – not intelligent exactly, but able to simultaneously live, think, and observe my own thought processes & emotion. Most people, it seems, are not. Last week i realised why i am so panicked by complaints, by surly-looking students; i noted that every time i have a great group or class, and think “i like my job!” i almost immediately have a shitty class as if to say, “hey, you bastard, you should die.” i believe such recurrent patterns are (for me, at least) intended to instruct, and so i dwelt upon the matter, and after 7 years of fairly frequent complaints, 7 years of fearing i will be fired and die in a ditch, in Bradford, 7 years of nonetheless surviving all, it became clear that the particular shape and urgency of this fear is what one could call a past life residual stress. Being outcast and despised, and destroyed, is part of my essential nature, but in this context, particular and explicable.

3. i am presently going through a kind of convergence of times and selves, manifesting partly in odd coincidences, and some kind of “telepathy” – with the latter, i find myself knowing what people will say, before they say it, and while some of it is probably easily explicable since i know my students, their core vocab, and can thus occasionally anticipate almost exactly their next few words, there have been enough weird moments where, realistically, no one could have imagined what would follow, and i was sitting there nodding & smiling encouragingly, thinking the words which my student then uttered.

4. i attended the McLingua Christmas Party, getting a plate of disgusting Indian food (actually quite nice), a glass of red wine, and locking myself in a classroom to enjoy the party without distractions. i then read some of a Daniel Silva Gabriel Allon novel (well-written if sometimes predictable spy thrillers about a Mossad agent; more or less okay though i notice that Germans are always described as stupid bigots and, well, it’s no surprise the author’s wife works for CNN) till California Jesus and Doug the Greaser came in, stared at me, and said, “What the fuck, are you READING?”

Later, i met a fellow pagan more or less by chance, as we say in Middle Earth. Curiously, i am far more radical than he – he’s my age, Welsh, an archaeologist, but a soft polytheist, whereas i am very much one of the heardingas (runic pun). For me, there is no point pursuing this if one is merely adoring and beseeching figures in one’s own head – perhaps it works for some; for me not.

5. Age now 40, i feel i have outlived my self and rather pleasantly exist in a volatized space where it makes no real difference if i physically live or die. Almost all my human contacts are in class, and i have to read English for hours every day to maintain some connection to the language. My students are of course just my students, i am friendly, cordial, encouraging, but there is necessarily no real connection; i rarely socialise, having learnt to avoid and distrust my colleagues; the last time i met anyone i trusted was the last time i saw Juniper in Kassel, a month ago; but tomorrow i will cavort with the terrible Viking in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, sacrificing Christians and quaffing mead gin in the name of the old gods.

 

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