I was really excited to be going to Budapest. The week before, for research, I visited my local library and got three CD’s out: Bartok and Kodaly, who were both Hungarian. And one by Nelly Furtado. But I was looking forward to being able to some stuff for my book about John, the businessman who travels a lot.
‘John sits in the hotel bar and picks up the cocktail menu on the table. ‘It’s a difficult choice,’ the woman next to him says, leaning over slightly. They get chatting. And, a few minutes later, she tells him that the next day is a national holiday, one that marks the anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956. ‘Oh, what’s that?’ John asks, having never heard of this historical event before.’
I do really want to talk about the Hungarian Uprising at some point in the book. I don’t know, maybe I need to find a less clunky way of introducing the subject. But I loved my few days in Budapest, wondering around with my guidebook. I didn’t realise that, at one point, Budapest had the largest jewish community in central Europe and its synagogue was the second largest in the world.
I did start to wonder why I have to travel in order to feel something and inspired to write. I guess I do find it difficult at home. Coming back, I started to feel a bit depressed. And back at my day job, very quickly, all I could think about was going away again.
A few months later, in May 2010, my dad died. I couldn’t believe that I would never see this man, my father, again. Anyway, I wanted to try and write about the disease that he had, but found it really difficult. So I decided to create a character in order to do that: Steven. He also lives in Herne Hill. Anyway, his father is called Monty. And Monty has a disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a sort of dementia that affects the neuro-muscular system. So things like walking, talking and swallowing become increasingly difficult.