After finishing my evening meal, I decided to take a wander through Budapest and see what was happening. I ended up back in one of the central squares, Teak Ferenc Ter, and happened upon a cluster of wooden cabins, set up on the side of the street. These cabins were serving food, beer and selling souvenirs. Being at a loose end, I decided to grab a beer and take a seat. My inclination to do so was almost somewhat influenced by the presence of a guitarist and bass player duo, sat on a small stage. The guitarist, who clearly had ‘it’, and the bassist, who clearly lacked ‘it’, were busting out a variety of blues, funk and jazz. Whilst the bassist sat there, looking sullen and with thoughts elsewhere, the guitarist contorted his face and body to accommodate the sheer passion pouring forth from his playing. For those of you who’ve read On the Road, it was the kind of spectacle that would’ve had Dean Moriarty sweating and shouting “Yes! Go!”. I myself gave the odd ‘whoop’ or cheer of encouragement. And this is where the Doctor comes in to the story.
Decked out in a loose shirt, camouflage combats and cowboy medallion necktie topped off with a MacDonalds hat, his skin showing signs of being well lived in and hours spent under the sun, the Doctor was quite a character. He took a seat on the bench across from me, and initially our interaction was focused around the music. We both whooped and cheered, drummed along, air guitar’ed and air piano’ed to the frenetic guitar playing, shouting for more and getting it. The Doctor then turned back to face me and we began attempting to talk. In my best Hungarian, which isn’t much, I tried to ask if he spoke English. Which, to my initial delight, he replied “Yes'”. However, my excitement quickly faded when I realised that his English was only marginally better than my Hungarian. Despite my best attempts to explain that I had no idea what he was saying 95% of the time, he continued to try and talk to me, emphatically waving his hands.
For some reason, he then emptied his pockets of cash and slid it across the table to me and kept motioning over my shoulder. I genuinely had no clue as to what he intended me to do with this money. He then did the same with cigarettes, taking a packet of Golden Gate’s from his shirt pocket and insistently hold them out to me, and upon my refusal he threw them upon the table and returned to motioning at the coins he had set in front of me.
However, in spite of a communication barrier the size Russia, we got on pretty well. We reverted to the most ancient of communications: waving at each other with obscure hand gestures like mad men. How frustrating it must have been when there was no common languages established. But quite soon, I began to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog day, as the conversation looped and looped. We would make the same hand gestures, exclaim ‘Cha!’, toast our drinks, bump fists, and we would then introduce ourselves, again. I would shake his leathery hand and say “Tim!” and he would reply “Mirhai! Doctor, Mirhai!’. After about an hour of this, I was getting a bit tired of shaking his worn palm and managed to slip away with two Parisian women (one a piano tuner, the other an acrobat) who had joined our table and were heading off to the Metro. As I walked away with them, taking my last gulp of beer and throwing my plastic cup in to the bin, I looked back at the Doctor and his face was a mixture of bemusement and annoyance at our leaving. He also looked a touch crestfallen, and that’s an image that will stick with me.