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December 2008

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1st December 2008

Into December and it is certainly winter. Mornings are by now invariably either frosty or rainy. That seems to be the pattern. Apart from that one very minor flurry of snow we have had none. I'm told we don't get much here, but I know it can get cold. It has been known to get down to minus twenty!

My horizons contract. I rarely venture into town, only when I need tobacco or large amounts of cash to pay major bills or make major purchases. I can only see one more possibly in the offing and that is a small wood burning stove to put in the small room. When I contemplated this part of the world and first started looking at properties on the Internet I thought how primitive it was when I read "Heating by individual stoves". How wrong can you be? OK, it is a bit of a chore clearing out the ash, getting the fuel in and so on, but it is reasonably cheap, ultimately reliable and, in an area like this with managed forests, carbon neutral and environmentally friendly. The ash goes straight onto the compost heaps (except the hardwood ash for when I get the soap making project resurrected!).

It was a showery day - lots of sharp showers. I managed a bit at the kennel in between. Otherwise it was rather the mixture as before - cleaning and cleaning up the windows, a bit of woodwork and general housework. All rather boring, so I tend to flit from job to job just to try and maintain a degree of interest. Here is one job that I knocked off during the day:
Window Catch Repair I'm rather pleased with that, though I say it as shouldn't. The catch had to be moved up about a quarter of an inch, and the wood proved to be not very good anyway, so I chopped it out and replaced it, cut the groove to accept the window catch and refitted the catch plate. The catch plates are "handed" by the way. This is clearly marked "BAL". The slot is not straight. It narrows by about a millimetre towards the bottom. The result is that it tightens the window hard against the frame. Simple but effective. It was, of course, nailed in. It isn't now - it is held in by two nice little stainless steel screws.

Photo as promised, plus another:
Village green with Christmas lights - ain't that pretty! Village Green with Christmas Lights
Village Main Street By Night Looking back down the hill. The pub is where the light is on and cars parked outside.

I'll stick them in Panoramio and hopefully they'll end up on Google Earth.

2nd December 2008

For the first time the village street was icy. The rain that had fallen overnight had frozen and it was a pure sheet of black ice. Nobody seemed to bother. The cars went about their way - a little more gingerly than usual, and the old boys continued to cycle from the pub to the shop and back again. Very different from the UK, where these days a couple of inches of snow brings the entire country to a halt, closes schools, and so on. I remember walking to school (yes, we all used to walk to school in those days, and anyone whose mother accompanied them after the first couple of days was considered a cissie) with the snow coming up to the top of my welly boots.

I carried on with the seemingly never ending task of cleaning and cleaning up the windows. It really has been a mammoth task, with the accumulated grime of years clinging to them. It has made a huge difference, of course. The big room now seems much lighter and brighter (even though it isn't - yet). Very noticable from outside. I do hope the neighbours have been watching :)

When I checked my e-mails whilst having lunch I had a pleasant surprise. An old boss of mine had got in touch. (I hope he won't mind me saying). Of course, some years have passed, and he wasn't an old boss then. In fact he was quite a young boss. I have to say that he was one of, if not the best boss I ever worked for. In a strange way it is my association with him, and the company we worked for, that indirectly and by way of a chain of consequences, has led to me being here. It was whilst working for that company, and with his encouragement, that I became interested in computer programming. I was fascinated with it from the start - making this machine running on '0's and '1's do exactly what I wanted it to do. Without that opportunity it is doubtful if I would have ended up going to University on a computer related degree, and without that it is doubtful whether I would be Peak Oil aware and so make the choices I have. Strange circumstances!

A Peak Oil article aimed at the President Elect late in the day.

3rd December 2008

Another cold grey day. I had a day off the planing of the chopping board - my hands were suffering too much. It is an ongoing problem. Everything I do involves gripping tools, and I sometimes wake up barely able to feel my fingers. The cold doesn't help. I did another set of windows, and then cleaned (most of) the house. After lunch I went to Nádasd for some cash, and to pay the water bill. Then the pub.

That was it for the day, so, at the behest of one of my regular readers, I thought I would give you a status update on things in progress and things that need doing. D'you all think I have enough to be going on with before I retire? (Wink, wink) This is far from being a complete list, just the stuff that sprang to mind whilst writing this. At least with such a variety of jobs on the go I can flit from one to another as I see fit, and avoid boredom.

4th December 2008

Yet another dull grey day and quite cold still but at least not raining. Went to the shop as usual. Most of the people I see in there are regulars at the time of day. I can almost guarantee seeing the same faces at the same time day by day. It is noticable that they are now about an hour or so later than they were in the summer, so their habits have changed with the seasons as have mine - I do get up a bit later. The little group outside the shop with their miniatures of Palinka and bottle of beer at seven in the morning are still there. I do get greeted with friendliness by all these regulars these days. I come to the conclusion that they now realise I am here for the long haul - not just a summer resident!

I sharpened the shoulder plane and set to for my daily dose of planing the chopping board. One more day should see the planing finished. After that I cleaned off and cleaned the last pair of windows. As I said before, I will try and at least get them in primer before the winter sets in. At least it is one complete bit of one job ticked off the list!

Filled the log baskets, then before tackling the next job I gave the small axe a birthday with my favourite tool. It was looking a bit battle weary (not caused by me!) so I gave it a good going over and a nice keen edge. After that I spent a whole hour chopping kindling. Another mind numbingly tedious chore!

I finished the days activities with restoring the sand heap yet again. The dog will get a good whack if I can actually ever catch her digging it out. She sends it flying for about five metres all around. All in all a really boring day!

5th December 2008

Hooray! Finally finished the planing of the chopping board! Another one ticked off the list. Of course it now has to be sanded down, and I think I may well oil it (olive oil). I'll confess now - I have actually used it. It is super. With it being end grain a good sharp knife just gets very slightly between the fibres and it cuts whatever right through effortlessly. It moves with the weather. One day it will be perfectly flat, the next slightly convex. I will also confess that a while ago when I did the first side I thought I had buggered it! I sanded it down wet. I have never seen wood go parabolic before. It must have bowed two centimeters along its length and a centimeter across. The really pleasing thing is that every glue joint held in spite of the stresses they must have been under. I stuck it by the stove for about a fortnight before it eventually decided it was going to go back flat.

Did some washing and then I decided that the remaining rendering along the section of wall I am repairing just had to go. I set about it with hammer, scraper, side cutters and my wonderful tool that will pull nails out of Boy Scouts or earth walls. It took three sessions, and filled the wheelbarrow three times. Everything was covered in dust. The yard was covered in dust. The hallway was covered in dust. I was was covered in dust, and the dog was covered in dust. I cleared up, swept up and hosed the lot down outside. And that was definitely it for the day. I was absolutely knackered. I have to say it does look so much better now, with a nice clean line where it will be rendered up to the sound existing rendering:
Better? What do you think? House Repairs

6th December 2008

Jeremy Clarkson on Radio 5 Live. Listen for the comment just twenty six seconds in - "the end of days", "get yourself an allotment". Well who'd have thought it? Clarkson - the ultimate " petrol head"!! Perhaps he is a closet Peak Oil Doomer...

I had a day off! Yes, a full day without touching any of the ongoing projects. The only 'normal' things I did were the run of the mill lighting the fires, cooking, eating and the pub! Instead of that I engaged the brain. Now, I know that this plot is of the order of 3,695 square metres, which is just a bit shy of an acre. I wanted to know, without a one hundred metre tape measure or even a twenty metre one, some fundamental dimensions.

I went to measure the front fence, unwound my tape measure to its full five metres and it decided to die. It would go neither in nor out. Back in the house, dismantle, rewind and retension it and give it a good spray with WD40. Discretion being the best part of valour, I measured the front fence bit by bit. It totalled up to 21.87 metres - some seventy one feet. Quite an impressive frontage but by no means the largest in the village.

I sort of knew it anyway, but once you start doing the figures it has to be taken into account, that the plot is not rectangular, but is a parallelogram. Looking from the road it goes off at a slight angle to the right. I needed to determine the angle, so I had to fall back on 'O' level trig. Working on the assumption (yes, yes - I know - never assume, it makes an ass out of you and and ass out of me) that the house is at least more or less square, and measuring the front of the house (7.21 metres) and the distance from the fence at either end I was able to calculate that the angle of the parallelogram at the north eastern (and by definition cos it is a parallelogram, south western) corner is about 79.5°. Now, the area of a parallelogram is its base times its perpendicular height. So I had to measure the perpendicular height of the yard.

Out came my trusty 3-4-5 triangle, and with a bit of hither and thither I managed to find a single spot where I had a straight run up the yard, unhindered by house, well, sand heap or outbuildings. It was close - nine inches either way would have been a no-no. But I did get it measured at 28.77 metres. Now that surprised me, as I always considered the yard to be long and thin, but then again that doesn't take into account the house and outbuildings either side. The only open area the full width of the plot in the yard is right at the front for some four metres. Behind that there is always some building or other either side of the yard. Nonetheless a reasonable area for Pickle to run about in. The road at the front (Petőfi utca) runs slightly south of west (or north of east, depending which way you are going). The boundaries between my house and both the next doors run more or less north-south, as Google Earth will confirm

Now I was able to calculate the area of the yard, and from there calculate the area of the garden, and back-tracking from that work out that from the gate between the yard and the garden to the fence at the top of the land, walking straight up the middle, is about a hundred and forty two metres. I'll bet you wish you hadn't asked!

On one of my trips from the house to the shop and back I was actually quite astonished to see the old lady next door at No. 72 winding the handle of the well.

The Hungarian Santa, called Mikulás, (Me-ku-lash) visits children tonight, St. Nicholas' Day, which is the name day of "Miklós."

7th December 2008

A nice morning to start with although I was late enough up - eight o'clock, which is quite late for me on a Sunday. I hung out the washing (on a Sunday - shock horror) and then gave the chopping board as much sanding down as it is going to get. There are still some planing marks in it but it will do. I was thinking about the power thing again vis-a-vis the chopping board. How many hours have I spent planing it flat (ish) by hand? Stick it through a thicknesser on a nice slow feed - say thirty seconds a side. That is what fossil fuels give us. As I said I would, I oiled it and here it is:
Chopping Board in Beech Here it is, suitably chunky, by the front door. I tried to get a picture of it indoors, but even at an angle all I got was reflections. With a bit of study you can make out the different pieces of beech that it is made from. All reclaimed pallet material - love it!

I opened a bank statement today that arrived on Friday. Nasty surprise! Someone appears to have managed to make a counter withdrawal on my account of ninety quid! How the hell can they let that happen, when they know fine well that my postal address is in Hungary? That's my food shopping in the village shop for over a month!

I had an early lunch, and without any more excuse of "displacement activity" I finally went to tackle the job. Pressing the wine! First I cleaned up thoroughly, inside and out, one of the two carboys I had been given. The Hungarians call it a demijon, but to me a demijon is much smaller. I don't know what they hold, but they are big - at least five gallons. Maybe twenty five litres. Then I rehoused it, as it was just loose in its protective cage. I would have liked to use plaited straw, or even better a Turk's Head knot, but I just don't have the time. I used a chopped up firehose (of which there is a fair amount lying about - I suspect that the previous owners did a sneaky bit of bypassing the local water metering system!) for padding the carboy into its cage. There's some interesting stuff on the mathematics of Turk's Head knots on Wikipedia - I'll leave you to look it up.

Into action went the little press. As I expected I had to make up several "cheeses" of grape pulp:
As you can see, I ended up with six cloths-full. That is all the cloths I have at the moment. I reckon I could get at least another three on there. As you can also see, it did get sprayed about a bit. And my hands are black with the stain! Pressing The Grapes

I must learn to think big! I did two lots of pressing with my little press, and that took all afternoon. By the time I was finished it was dark and I still had the log baskets to fill. There is, I reckon, one small pressing left to do, and most of what is left in the fermenter is just wine. Nevertheless, my little press did its job and did it well. What was a fully heaped up barrow load of grapes pressed down to less than a bucketful. I managed to get a hydrometer reading by extracting a little bottleful of the pressings. 1.000 S.G. so it most certainly has fermented. I managed a couple of small glasses too. Very cloudy and young, but most definitely wine. I have tasted much worse Beaujolais Nouveau!

Ate, changed, pub!

8th December 2008

I experienced a phenomenon this morning. Not the first time I have experienced it, but only once before in my younger and more foolish motorcycling days. I lit the stove and put the coffee on, then as usual walked over to the shop, quite early, before seven. The road was wet. I was in the shop for a few minutes before I got served - no longer than five. When I came out the road had frozen. What alerted me was a car that I stopped and waited for before crossing the road, but he indicated and pulled up at a house about three doors down. It was that particular slither of tyres on a slippery surface that warned me. Sure enough, in those few minutes the road had gone from wet to black ice. There was a dusting of snow on the roof tops too. Not enough to be worth getting the camera out for.

Over breakfast I planned a mini-project. The cutlery drawer in the kitchen is p***ing me off. The knives always end up at the back, and the stupid little three pronged forks always end up at the front. What are those little forks anyway? I had a measure up and designed myself a cutlery tidy, to be made out of walnut, with dovetail joints. I need to get back into practice with that sort of stuff. I will confess that I never did get as far as my paternal grandad in mastering the art of secret mitre dovetail joints. But then, he was a wheelwright and coachbuilder. I started on planing up the pieces of oak for the unit to stand next to the stove. It will be blatantly rural, but I do want the workmanship to be as good as I can get it. It's the first time my new smoothing plane has really seen action. Planing the oak is a right royal pain! Although it is all straight, and a reasonably fine saw used to cut it, when you first start planing it just takes fibres off the surface, and they clog the mouth of the plane. I know from experience that with oak you have to have the cap iron set very fine, or the plane will tear the interlocking grain of oak. I have mine set at about one sixty-fourth of an inch, or about a third of a millimetre. Once into the wood, and removing shavings it works just fine. It's the initial stage that is a problem. Never mind - I only have twenty one pieces to do, not including the top. It is all waney edged (by choice) so the bark has to be removed then a scraper used to get back to hard wood but retain the shape of the wany edge. Once removed and smooth it is quite sensuous to the touch, all the little bumps and hollows.

After lunch I wanted a project that I could start and finish easily in the afternoon. I rescued the nice brass handles off the summer kitchen door that fell off. (Same as the ones in the house) The existing handles on the outside door are cheap and nasty aluminium ones that persistently keep working loose. I cleaned and polished the brass ones up, and the escutcheon plates. They were suffering from a degree of dezincification as the brass was quite red on the surface, so I reckon it is many years that they have been exposed to the rain untreated. Hmmm, the square that goes through the lock turned out to be too big, and too long. Out with the favourite tool, and ten minutes of grinding and trimming and cutting a new slot for the nail (yes, handles are held on by nails!) and I had it fitting. Found some suitable screws for the escutcheons from my stock of stainless steel ones, and in a couple more minutes the job was a good one:
Exterior Door Handle As you can see!

Before this, the door was quite difficult to close since I put in the draught excluding fillets - needed quite a bang to get it to catch. Now it catches easily, with a satisfying click. Can anyone explain that? The lock and catch mechanism was untouched. I just put the replacement handle through. Odd!

After that, it was just the daily drudgery of log baskets and fires. Then eat and go to the pub. That bit isn't drudgery :)

9th December 2008

A beautiful morning, but of course another hard frost. I carried on with the woodworking stuff - cleaning up waney edges and planing oak. By mid-morning the frost had melted wherever the sun had got through to it, leaving the whole village a patchwork of shaded frosty bits and open green bits. I tried to get a decent photo of it, but the contrast ratios defeated even my Nikon. I did get one or two pictures though:
Frost on one of my fence pillars. Frost On Fence Pillar
Hungarian Chicken House I had been meaning to get a picture of this for a while. This is the old lady next door's chicken house. It is by no means remarkable - there are many others like it in the district. When they start to fall over they simply prop them up with poles. I don't know why, but it always brings to mind "The Hut on Hen's Legs" from "Pictures At An Exhibition"
The after effects of the wine pressing on the press. It hasn't been Photoshopped - the stains really are that colour. Next door's one is almost black with the staining. Wine Stains on Press

Nothing else out of the ordinary happened, apart from the death of a USB cable. The camera was reporting connection to the PC, but the PC was not seeing the camera. That cost me three reboots and a recharge of the camera battery to sort out. Fortunately I have spares of that type of USB cable.

They are very, err how shall I say, conservative of energy use at the pub. This evening the heating was barely into the comfort zone. You certainly could not have sat in comfort without a coat on. Women's handball was on the telly. Very big here in Hungary. Not a game that I know a lot about, but very fast, high scoring and by-the-heck they are a rough, tough bunch of girls - surprisingly physical game! The weather forecast was by one of the usual presenters. An old boy - bit of a character. Always reminds me a bit of Ian McCaskill.

I can't find anywhere on the blog where I have mentioned about modes of address in Hungary. The convention is surname first followed by given name, in the eastern tradition. Unless you are a foreigner, in which case they use the western tradition - given name, surname.

10th December 2008

Planing wood, chopping wood, filling log baskets. Oh, the tedium of it! Just for a change I got to thinking about how I was going to finish my little kitchen unit, and other things, once they are made. I thought about beeswax, but judging by the price of honey here it is probably very expensive. I decided on a little experiment. You know all these bits of jobs that I am doing make me think of James Howard Kunstler's novel, "A World Made By Hand". I haven't read it. I still have my copy of "The Long Emergency". Anyway, I thought to myself "candlewax". For many, many years - since the four day week and the power cuts in the 1970s, I have always had candles in the house with a box of matches alongside. I always know where to find them (but that is another story - remind me to enlighten you, it's a memory trick). I decided to sacrifice one of my precious candles (the one that wilted in the kitchen window) and see if I could make some wax polish. A drop of white spirit (lakbenzine) and the grater. Would it dissolve the candle wax? I was very impatient. The answer is yes, it will, but very slowly. After an hour I tried it on a small piece of planed up firewood oak:
Polished Oak I should have taken it outside and used the polarising filter, and, unfortunately, before I realised how bad the picture was, I had consigned the test piece to the stove. You can just about make out the difference between the left hand side (planed and sanded) and the right hand side (planed, sanded and waxed). Notice the prominent medullary rays, very characteristic of quarter sawn oak. One of the beauties of quarter sawn timber is that it doesn't bend with variations in humidity. Yes, it shrinks and expands but at least it stays flat!

After lunch, it was shampoo Pickle time. Bless her, she is still plagued with fleas. I get the odd visitor myself. I am trying to get hold of a supply of diatomaceous earth here in Hungary, but it is hard going. I have found a company that mines it, and I have found many companies that incorporate it into various "health" capsules, but I have yet to find a company that can just supply me with a 25kg. bag! The house and yard are dusty enough that a few handfuls hurtled about won't make any difference, and it kills fleas (and other insects) by making minute scratches into their cuticle, and they dehydrate to death. The shampoo doesn't work - the fleas are back within a day!

After that I nailed chicken wire over the open window in the " naughty shed" to prevent either Pickle's egress or next door's dogs ingress. Without more chemical intervention (which I really don't want) she will come into season any time soon!

I finished off a little job for The Magic Flutes Band whom I used to conduct over in Bournemouth. I still keep in close touch and help whenever I can on the computery side of things.

11th December 2008

Jeremy Leggett in The Guardian.

Horrible, nasty, rainy day! I contented myself in the morning by finishing priming a window and starting another. I pressed as much as I could of the last of the main crop of wine. Towards the end the stuff that was coming out was almost thixotropic - give it a poke and it runs about like liquid, leave it a few seconds and it is more the consistency of stirred jelly. It left me with about four litres of sludge which I tipped into one of my smaller fermenters and have yet to make a decision as to its fate. I exactly filled one of the large carboys with wine.

After that it continued raining. You know the old 'saw' in the UK about "rain before seven, fine by eleven"? Well, it doesn't work here. It is more like"rain before seven, rain all bloody day"! So I did some much needed blog updates.

I got quite philosophical about the approaching Christmas season. Although a staunchly Roman Catholic area, it is much lower key than it is in the UK. Many houses now have illuminated decorations, but they are mainly restricted to a little display in a window. All white - I haven't seen any coloured ones anywhere apart from the red ones underneath the cross on the village green. This being a hugely agricultural area there is an enormous sense of the rest period between the end of the harvesting for this year and the start of the whole cycle again next year. It makes you appreciate the reasons why, in the Northern hemisphere, many (all) religious persuasions have a rejoicing festival of some sort at this time of year. After all, it is commonly thought that the Christian faith "manipulated" the celebration of the birth of Christ to supplant the pagan festival of Yuletide.

It was still cold, wet and nasty as I wobbled my way home from the pub - quite early - he closed just after eight o'clock. I had made the fire in the big stove at the usual time and when I walked back into the big room the heat struck me. I fetched the thermometer from the kitchen and placed it in an average part of the room and left it a few minutes to settle. It was twenty four degrees in there!

I finished off the day with a little Sibelius (the music scoring software, not the composer), turning a score into a piano score. Very peculiar, and not very intuitive, but I managed to get my head around it and do what I wanted, only to find that my printer has finally died!

12th December 2008

Clarkson on money and the Vauxhall Insignia in The Times. He really is getting to be a doomsayer.

Another cold, grey, rainy day, so not really anything very exciting to report. Planing oak and sawing walnut for the kitchen tidy in the morning. After lunch, but a while before I wanted to light the fire I did a part of a quick mini project. I cleaned the cryptic (not) message off the big stove, gave it a wipe down all over and started on regrouting the tiles. The grout is missing in many places. I don't think it is a problem with the adhesion of the tiles themselves to the stove - just the grouting. I regrouted it with sieved fire cement. In spite of the fact that they call it 'flour', as it comes the fire cement powder has quite coarse bits in it, certainly too coarse for grouting between the tiles. Strange stuff when mixed with the sodium silicate. It either flows, or is too stiff to work with. Which reminds me. I really must get round to casting a new little door for the chimney that the kitchen stove is hooked into. The present one is literally crumbling to pieces. They are all in place, so the chimney is sealed, but I know that if I opened it up to clean out the bottom it would break into a dozen pieces and never go back.

As if to confirm what I said yesterday, it was still horrible and raining when I left the pub!

13th December 2008

It started as any other day. Light the stove, put the coffee on, shop, breakfast... I had just started marking out for the joints on one side of my kitchen unit when I heard it. Oh, shit. Damn and blast. I shot out of the house, and my suspicions were immediately confirmed. Pickle was causing absolute mayhem with the old lady's chickens. There was the little tell-tale gap at the bottom of the fence. God knows how she had wormed her way through, but she had. I grabbed the lead and legged it round there. The old lady was nowhere to be seen, so I just straight into her yard. Every time I told Pickle to "sit" and "down" she did, but every time a chicken moved she was away again after it. Round and round sheds, round and round the garden and, of course, I am not fleet enough of foot to catch her. Fortunately she made a strategic mistake and chased a chicken into a shed. The chicken escaped past me, and I had her cornered. She had a good leathering before I put the lead on her. She had another one as well when I put her in the "naughty shed". I locked her in there then. The old lady appeared. I think she had fled to the safety of the house. She was not best pleased.

I went and sat in the house, in a quandary. The last thing I want is for Pickle to be a captive animal, chained up. But on the other hand I cannot afford to be in a position resulting in legal sanctions at best, or at worst the loss of the dog, one way or another. I must have mulled it over for half an hour. Decision made, I rescued Pickle from the shed, ensconsed her securely in the house and set off to Nádasd on the bike, with a heavy heart. It had stopped raining, but was still a grey, grey day - just a match to my feelings. I purchased running wire (the twisty 7x7 stuff) pinch bolts and a ready made dog chain. They come with a ring on one end for the running wire and a carabiner on the other. They didn't have ground screws. Ah well, a couple of stout stakes will have to do for now.

I cycled back, and as I was passing, called in the pub - seemed rude not to! The landlord told me that they would be shutting at five as there was a function in the evening, and to avoid me being disappointed later. I went home with the stuff.

I put the chain around the well handle as a temporary measure, and Pickle on the other end of it:
Poor girl! She just didn't know what to make of it. She just stood, head down, back arched , tail between the legs and trembled. Pickle Tethered

I don't mind admitting that I just sat down in the kitchen and cried. This definitely goes down as one of the low points!

14th December 2008

Up at first light, still not in a good frame of mind after yesterday. Ah well, it has to be done. I made sure that I made plenty of noise about it too. Whacking a couple of big oak stakes a couple of feet into the ground and drilling the holes for the running wire to go through. I had the dubious consolation of hearing someone working with a chain saw at about half past eight on a Sunday morning somewhere nearby. Not long afterwards the huntsmen started again in the woods, and the crack of rifle shot echoed round the village (it was rifle shot, not shotguns. I have heard enough of both to know the difference).

I installed the running wire, feeding the chain onto it before I clamped the second end. It is long enough that Pickle can reach almost everywhere that she did before, but just not quite up to the front wall, or either of the neighbours' fences. I left enough horizontal slack that she could sit on the doorstep or get in her kennel. Sadly I hooked her on it. Again the tail went down and she trembled. I used it as a lead and took her or a walk around the yard to show her where she could still get to. Poor Pickle was not happy! It was beer o'clock, so I went back in the house leaving Pickle on the chain. I looked out of the kitchen window to see the chain dejectedly trailing into the kennel!

Enough! I went out to entice Pickle out of the kennel, but she would not be enticed. By brute force I dragged her out and unhooked her from the chain. All she wanted to do was go straight back in the kennel. It took me standing in front of the kennel and a lot of affection and encouragement before I managed to get her to respond. I seriously worried that I had broken her spirit, and that would be the last thing I wanted to do. I rejoice in seeing her at full gallop around the yard, or up at the fence barking at a cat on the other side of the road, but eating next doors chickens... well that has to be a no-no.

Another day of achieving precisely ***k all! As a displacement and frustration activity I made cheese straws. They baked perfectly in the stove - not quite enough cheese though. As usual I went to the pub. When I returned I pushed the bike across the yard to put it in the outhouse and the running wire curled up and attempted to trip me, glinting in the street light, as if mocking all my efforts to control Pickle and succeed in this project!

15th December 2008

Another grey, miserable day. Mobile went flat overnight (again!), which is a pain since I have been using it as an alarm clock. As a result I was later up than intended. I happened to mention to helper last night in the pub that I would be going into Körmend on the half eight bus as it was market day. He had said that he was going too, so we had arranged to meet at eight fifteen in the pub (of course). I didn't even bother lighting the stove and by the time I was organised it was time to leg it to the pub, which I did. Helper was there, along with a number of the other regulars. The philosophy seems to be "Avoid hangovers - stay pissed!". He was having a beer. I was good and had a coffee.

Bus time, and helper, me, and several other regulars legged it to the bus stop in nice time for the bus. The bus only runs at that time of day on market days in town(Monday). Into Körmend and the first stop was the cellar bar. I will confess that I did have a beer there! We were joined in there by another Halogy local - the young man that took me at arm wrestling. In no particular hurry we wandered into town. I went to the bank for cash. Helper and young man indicated another bar. I joined them there and once again was good and had a coffee. We were joined by yet another Halogy regular.

I left them with the arrangement to call helper when I had done my rounds and got back into town. I wandered down to the market, wandered round, bought precisely nothing and wandered back to town, stopping en-route at the dohanybolt and the kerekparbolt for, respectively, tobacco and bicycle oil. Walking back towards town I mulled over "do I really need to go to Tescos?". This little inner voice came back and said "Buggered if I know, mate. Buggered if I know". I decided I did, and legged it the best part of a kilometer to Tescos. On the way past I checked the times of the Szombathely bus back into town. Eighteen minutes! Two minutes into Tescos, two minutes back leaves fourteen minutes - new lap record needed! Did the Tescos, legged it back towards the main road, only to see the bus go by some three minutes early when I was only about ten metres away from the other side of the main road. There was nobody at the stop. He didn't even slow down.

Damn and blast. I trudged my weary way back into town considering what I had achieved. Not a lot. I bought four items in Tescos, the main one of which being two one-kilogramme bags of coffee beans of a decent make. "Is it worth it?", I thought, and the little inner voice came back and said "Buggered if I know, mate. Buggered if I know". Sober consideration indicates that no, it is not worth it!

Back in town, I bought some treats for Pickle (does she deserve them?), and wandered back to the cellar bar. I phoned helper, as arranged, and he said he would meet me there in ten minutes. I looked at my watch and it was twenty to one. I had a little mental bet with myself that he wouldn't be there before one o'clock. He excelled himself. It was twenty past one when he got there.

I still had not achieved one of my major objectives, which was to buy knitting yarn (for a garment for me!). I left the cellar bar in plenty of time to achieve that and get the next bus back to Halogy. Helper indicated he would meet me at the stop. I went back to the textile shop where I had bought the curtain material (as yet untouched) to seek help as to where I might get yarn. The lady pointed me in the direction of a little shop that I had passed by many times. How on earth had I managed to miss it? There on the door were the familiar "Anchor" and "Coates" signs. I entered to discover an Aladdin's Cave of all the familiar drapery and haberdashery stuff that I had been seeking. I was served by a somewhat dour and unsmiling chap, and, with the aid of a diagram (how many times have I written that in exam questions!) I got through to him what I wanted. I located something suitable and made the purchase.

On the way towards the bus stop I called in the local mimi-supermarket for an item that, in my haste, I had forgotten in Tescos, only to meet up with helper in there. We walked to the bus stop to wait for the bus, and after a moment the Halogy regular who we had met in the second bar turned up, more than a little the worse for wear. A decided dose of Dorset Leg Plaiting Disease. When the buses turned up (there are always two at the same time) instead of the cranky old bus we got the nice one. The cranky one turned up, for another destination. Our friend was quietly determined that he should be getting on the cranky old bus, and helper had to more-or-less forcibly drag him from one queue into the other. It was standing room only on the bus, so he had to stand, or rather prop himself up against a seat and lurch, to the amusement of the assembled company. To top it off, when we reached Halogy he abandoned his shopping on the bus. It was retrieved by helper, but in spite of numerous ministrations he still managed to wobble off home without it. All very funny!

I had a beer then went home to Pickle. She had been at home in the house for about seven and a half hours - the longest she had ever been left. No problem at all. A couple of sticks chewed to bits, and she did shoot out to the yard with some sense of urgency, but no problems.

I returned to the pub later, just for an hour at last knockings, and once again the feeling of bonhomie was apparent amongst the gathered company. Christmas really is just around the corner.

16th December 2008

An article in today's Guardian detailing the IEA's ever more pessimistic outlook on Peak Oil. Jeremy Leggett's comments are interesting. Also from the Guardian a video interview between Fatih Birol and George Monbiot.

Maybe I had one or two more than normal yesterday, as I ended up getting up quite late. Still before eight though! Yet another grey drizzly day. Can't remember when I last saw the sun. I haven't figured out if this is normal weather or not. We seem to be stuck in a mild, moist airstream coming up from the Mediterranean. The stove was an absolute so-and-so to get going this morning. I suspect that that is because it was not lit at all yesterday. And a lack of decent kindling. Ended up resorting to the blowlamp for about a minute - that did it.

With the running wire now running right through my brickmaking area on the yard, it was time for a bit of a reorganise. In any case, with the weather as it is brickmaking is impossible anyway. All too wet. I decided to relocate it under cover and chose a corner of the potting shed - not that there has been much potting lately. The problem was that the front half of the potting shed was full of miscellaneous crap. Some of it I will admit to, but a lot was exactly as it was when I walked into the property. All the hardware type stuff got piled into the area marked "to be put on the roadside next April when the free disposal service runs". Old cash box (empty, of course), rusty graters, various connectors for pipework that no longer exists, etc, etc. Of course under all this the floor was covered with what in effect was soil. It all got swept. The floor itself is, I suspect, rough limecrete. It has obviously never seen a trowel or float. Anyway it all got reorganised but I drew the line at hosing it out. That was the morning, that's how bad it was.

After lunch I relocated the brickworks into a suitable, cleared corner of the potting shed. Then I hosed down the yard. That was a marathon effort in itself. All boring, mundane but ultimately necessary stuff.

I cooked a vegetable soup on the stove as it got dark. Delicious! I saved some to mix in with Pickle's dry dog food when I fed her, and when I did (a bit later) she absolutely wolfed it down. I'm half convinced that she could be a veggie dog!

17th December 2008

After all the traumas and dramas of the last few days I managed to get back to work. I marked out more joints for the kitchen unit. All rather slow going as the waney edge has to be taken into account in conjunction with the thickness of the timber. Pickle's regime has definitely changed. I put her on the chain as little as possible, but when she is outside off the chain I am in close supervision. I have to say that since the 'incident' her character does seem to have changed. She seems more placid, and is quite happy to lie on the mat in the hallway if I am working inside, rather than constantly pestering to be let outside. Mind you, the foul weather could have a bearing on that. Reminds me a bit of the one "Where do you find a dog with no legs?" - "Where you left it!"

Towards lunchtime I decided to put to good use the kerepar olaj that I had bought. The push bike has been on the road for almost nine months, and apart from a little minor adjustment involving pipe wrench, hammer and screwdriver (simultaneously, to do one job you understand) it has had nil maintenance. I set to and did the lot. Wheel bearings, crank bearings, deraileur gears, chain and all the Bowden cables on the bike. It took a bit longer than I anticipated, with the result that lunch was grabbed rather swiftly in order for me to do a quick turn-around trip into town.

When I got on the bus my next door neighbour was on there, me having got on at the pub and him having got on at the bus station. The distance is about the same, but the effect is less. He greeted me with warmth, and on the journey we did manage a bit of small talk, to the limit of my Hungarian. We got off the bus together and walked towards town. Well, he strode - being about six inches shorter than me - and I struggled to match his pace! Fortunately he was destined for the Town Hall (or Tax Office, both being housed in the same building) which was only about a hundred metres from the bus stop. At a slightly more leisurely pace I went back to the wool shop for some more wool, having discovered the amount required by the pattern, and a pair of five millimetre needles, which I didn't possess. Lots of other sizes but not five millimetre.

I managed the quick bus turn-around with ease, and was back in the village pub about three quarters of an hour after I left. Now, I had a bit of a quandary! My whole intention in "getting knitting" was that I would use the time in the pub, which is pleasurable but non-productive, to be both pleasurable and productive. I didn't know where the land would lie as regards me knitting in the pub, so in my best pidgin Hungarian I asked the landlord. Hungarian really wasn't up to it, so I had to get out the yarn and the needles and make knitting actions, along with the Hungarian for "here in the pub?". "Most certainly no problem" was what I got back. Jumping ahead a little, since then, if I go to the pub and don't have the knitting, the regulars want to know where it is!

Having returned home, sorted out fires, Pickle, food and myself I returned to the pub quite late - about half past seven. Pickle's breeders were in there, and I no sooner got out the knitting than it was taken over by the lady. I sat and watched as she did a couple of rows, thinking "WFT is she doing?" It was odd and it was different and I couldn't figure out why. It looked more like she was doing crochet than knitting! She handed it back, and I immediately encountered a difficulty in doing knit-one purl-one rib. It took me a couple of stitches to figure out. The knit stitches were all back to front. Once I had worked that one out there was no problem, other than that the work was very slack, as in lacking in tension.

She tried to show me how she knitted but it left me baffled. She held the yarn in the left hand, wrapped two or three times around the index finger. Now, I learned to knit at a very early age, at school. The old headmaster was obviously a very forward (or backward) thinking guy, because all the boys had to do needlework and all the girls had to play football. I'm going back to the 1950s here!

I got home and thought to myself "Have I lost to plot here?" So I went on the Internet (as you do) and Googled "knitting yarn left hand". It turns out that there are two schools of knitting - the English/American (No, sod that - the English) and the German/Continental (No, sod that, the Hungarian). The English one, where you do all he hard work with the right hand ;) and the Hungarian one where with a little wiggle of the left hand and a slight shift of the pointy bit, you achieve the same in less than half the time. I really must try and get my head (fingers) around it - so much more productive.

18th December 2008

When I got up it was much darker than usual, and I found out why when I went to let Pickle out. It was very overcast, and as my dear old mum would have said "snowing half crowns". For the younger readers that is a reference to to old pre-decimalisation silver coinage which went from a threpenny "joey", via sixpence, a shilling and a florin up to half a crown. I tried to get a photo of it but it was much too dark without flash, and with flash it was all an amorphous blob with some white stuff falling in the foreground. By the time it was properly light it had turned to rain and the snow was pretty well all gone. There will be another time I have no doubt!

After breakfast I returned to the ongoing work. I started with trying to make a new chimney access door in fire cement. My first effort at a mould was an abject failure. I used lime mortar, and it simply was not "going off". I think the lime is well past its sell-by date. Ah well, it can get scattered on the garden. I ditched that and just made up a mould from the wet sand. Mixed the fire cement to a more or less pourable consistency and in it went:
Chimney Access Door I still have an inner one to make too.

I made up a parcel of walnuts for England and managed to catch the Postie with it - hope they get it in time for Christmas. I have a recipe for walnut butter (a-la peanut butter). Must try it, as I still have two big basketsful to get through, and there are only so many walnuts that you can eat. Unfortunately, it doesn't keep well. The health claims for walnuts are interesting - I'll let you look that one up for yourselves.

The weather was still not nice, so I spent some time updating the blog, and yes I know I am getting behind!

Evening I went to the pub, as usual, but the pub was not as usual. The regulars were relegated to two small tables by the bar and the rest was laid out for a function which was in full swing, complete with an entertainer. I had to think about what I wrote then, because he was actually supposed to be a singing and playing musician. Imagine the worst pub singer in the world, and then double it! He was singing, playing an accordion with one hand and a keyboard with the other, and none of the three elements bore any musical relation to either of the others. Even the regulars were cringing. When he took a break one of the attendees at the function took over the accordion, and he was actually half good. Must be coming up to Christmas!

19th December 2008

Cold and wet again. Days since we saw the sun. Having finally sorted out the marking out of the waney stuff for the kitchen work unit I actually managed to start cutting joints. Without tenon saw and vice it is a painfully slow process.

I was going to clean the house which was in turmoil. The hallway was covered in muddy welly marks, the kitchen floor was covered in wood shavings and the big room is covered in dust and dog hairs. I suddenly though that it was a complete waste of time making any sort of effort in the big room until all the crappy, peeling wallpaper was gone and also the dreadful polystyrene insulation. So I started stripping it out. I got a quarter of the way round the room and removed three wheelbarrows of polystyrene insulation and two wheelbarrows of rubble that has become detached from the wall behind the insulation:
Walls and Insulation Like this.
Walls and Insulation The internal wall is not too bad.
On my trips in and out of the house I could actually smell the damp coming from the bad wall. The damp that is trapped on the outside by the cement rendering on the part I haven't started on yet can also not escape into the house because it is sealed in by the polystyrene.

20th December 2008

I know the blog is getting well behind, so I'll keep this one short. I had another woodworking morning, chopping out the kitchen unit joints. To make a half decent job of it I can manage a couple a day. They are simple halved joints - the strength of my construction will depend upon the Aerolite glue, but it is gap filling up to (I think) two millimetres, served me well in my boat building days and is one of the few glues that is certified for wooden light aircraft construction. You know, they didn't have such stuff during the war, but the De Havilland Mosquito held together under amazing punishment. I believe (second-hand, of course - I wasn't around at the time) that my paternal grandfather (I mentioned that he was a wheelright and coachbuilder) actually made bomb bay doors for Mosquitos during the war. I digress, as I am apt to. Supposed to be keeping it short!

I swept out the kitchen and hall with the intention of mopping through and then reorganising yet another bit of the kitchen, but I simply ran out of steam and stopped.

In the pub in the evening, in company with helper and the local woodworking expert there was lots of discussion about hammers, mallets and various other woodworking tools. I suppose it is quite good that my Hungarian is up to such a thing, but it goes back to the fact that in my situation you learn the stuff that you are particularly involved with. In many ways Hungarian can be a very simplistic language. For instance, when discussing an item by name and number the plural is never used - "one beer" - "two beer" - "three beer", but in other ways it is rich and diverse. I often hear the word "megvan" which, according to my Kisszotar means "to be, to exist", but in many conversations it is used in connotations that leaves me baffled. It will come with time, I suppose!

21st December 2008

An article on UK debt on the Beeb site.

Up a little later than normal, and for some reason Pickle was full of beans. I let her out to perform the usual offices and then she went off on one with her new trick. She will gallop round the sand heap at full pelt and then suddenly go off at a tangent and belt into the kennel, turning round and reappearing in less than a second, only to repeat the whole process three or four times. Gets a bit of exercise though. Beats me how she manages to get turned round in the kennel in the time she does!

When I started stripping off the insulation from the big room I did worry about the effect that that would have on the temperature in there. I needn't have worried. If anything it is slightly warmer in the mornings. I can only put this down to the fact that with the insulation in place the warm air was trapped in the room when all the doors were closed, but once opened up in the morning the air exchange with the rest of the house and the outside allowed all that heat to dissipate. Now that the wall is exposed, I think that a fair percentage of the warmth is transferred to the huge heat sink of the earth wall from where it is fed back slowly but constantly back into the room. I am still only lighting one fire a day. Speaking of which, upon checking my UK bank account I see that two hundred and fifty quid has appeared, with the only reference being my National Insurance Number. Rather a bit late to help for Christmas, vis-a-vis the ninety pounds still unaccounted for. I suspect it is my winter heating allowance, to which I knew I was entitled even though living abroad - paid my taxes long enough for it, so no concience on that score. Don't tell the British Government, but judging by current consumption I will actually come out with a slight surplus at the end of the year :)

The extent of my work for the day was a bit of woodwork (not a lot), and mopping through (again).

When I got to the pub early in the evening I was gently berated by helper for not answering my Hungarian mobile. Truth to tell I hever heard it! Anyway, I was presented with a plastic carrier bag. Contents:
Hungarian Tools I don't know whether am right or wrong in calling it a mal. I can find no reference to it on the Internet, but that is what I always understood the circular-type hitting tool to be. The etymology of it is a corruption of the French "mail" which these days is a polo mallet, as opposed to a "mailet", which is obviously the diminutive, becoming mallet. Quite different to a "marteau"

22nd December 2008

This from the Tehran Times in the wake of the recent interview with Fatih Birol.

A cold but clear morning with the sun out for once. Did lots of bits at lots of projects - kitchen unit, dog kennel, sawing walnut for kitchen drawer tidy, and so on. Got some washing out whilst there was a bit of breeze and sunshine.

After lunch, a quick blog update, then the quick turnaround bus trip to Nádasd to Posta to get out of debt, and a quick in and out of Bödő for ten kilos of dog food, then the bus back to Halogy. At least I won't have to worry about having to grab food for Pickle over the holiday season, and it was cheap! One of the bills I paid was for refuse disposal (bin men). About a fiver, but I couldn't really work out how that was made up or what period it was for. If you recall, I had been here several weeks before I even got a bin. Since then I have put it out four, maybe five times, and then mainly because I had filled it with the crap left by the previous owners of the property.

Of course on the way home I called in the pub. Helper was there and it developed into a bit of a session. During the course of this I learned some sad news that the old chap that had greeted me in the very early days in a decidedly Glaswegian accent had been rushed to hospital. Not a good thing for the time of year!

On a more cheerful note, and through the wonders of grep I know I have never mentioned it before, but in my experience the drinking salutation "nas drovia", which I expected would be treated with a degree of antipathy is in fact always a source of, at least, a wry chuckle, and often outright merriment; as if to say "Well, we saw those Russian b*****s off in the end!".

The local woodworker who had made by hand the tools mentioned yesterday turned up. We had a friendly discussion about payment. It turns out that he is quite happy to be paid in beer (or palinka) which suits me fine.

Another noticable thing about Christmas here is that the Christmas trees (they do have them) don't go up in peoples houses until the twenty third of December or Christmas eve. One of my contacts in England says "and yes, that's just as it should be". There was an item on the news bemoaning the price that people are prepared to pay for them this year - they are nearly giving them away! In the knowledge that this property used to be a Christmas tree plantation I myself have been approached a number of times by people asking for Christmas trees!

23rd December 2008

A slide show from Matt Simmons. It does not make comfortable reading!

Spent the morning again on the various ongoing bits of woodwork. On my travels I noticed something almost as horrifying as when I spotted the dreaded Colorado Beetle. I happened to glance at the carboy of wine to notice the onset of Mycoderma (Flowers of Wine)! OK, that meant an all out emergency job in the afternoon.

I pondered what I could do about the wine problem over lunch. Possible solutions sprang to mind:
  1. Drink it
  2. Throw it out
  3. Let it take its chance
  4. Something else
Solution one was appealing, but impractical - thirty litres of wine is a lot to get through in just a few days. Solution two was distinctly unappealing, the amount of effort that has gone in thus far. Solution three would be fine, but again, what on earth would I do with thirty litres of red wine vinegar? So it had to be solution four, but what were the alternatives? I came up with: The first solution, although appealing as requiring minimum effort, had to be discarded due to the fact that I had nothing that I knew to be sodium metabisulphite based, or at least not in the necessary quantity. I was not about to venture to town on what could possibly turn out to be a fools errand at this stage before Christmas. Could I achieve the second one? I had a count up of the various containers that I had, cleaned out and stored in the pantry, and decided yes - just! By the way I don't think I have ever mentioned that by law all houses in Hungary have to have a pantry. The big pan came out and I stocked up on kitchen firewood and wound the stove up. By pure happenstance the big pan exactly held seven wine bottles, and by coincidence my nine months worth supply of empty, saved, consumed-wine bottles was fourteen. That was topside of ten litres worth for a start. I also had a load of empty, clean and washed out one litre screw top plastic milk bottles that I had saved thinking they might come in useful for storing, say, pea or bean seeds. That was it - I was in the Louis Pasteur business. I had to guess at temperatures, of course, but I got them all good and hot and held each batch at that for twenty minutes. The first lot was in glass wine bottles, so they went in cold and were brought up to temperature. No disasters apart from minor spillage due to not allowing enough head space for the expansion. After that it was on to the plastic ones as they could go straight in the hot water. I had a minor disaster there, in that the plastic bottles shrank slightly once they got up to pasteurisation temperature, so I did lose a bit of wine. Ah well, losing a bit is better than losing the lot. I got down to the last five litres to syphon off before I knocked it on the head. That left those five litres plus seven glass wine bottles to be dealt with tomorrow. Not such a major effort after this afternoon.

Pub in the evening, and I enquired as to whether there was any news of my Scottish-Hungarian friend. None, other than that he was still in hospital.

24th December 2008

Christmas Eve, and I had arrangements to be out at helpers for the afternoon. I had quite a bit to sort out in the morning, starting with finishing off the wine pasteurisation once the stove was going. I lit a fire in the big room and stoked it up well knowing I would be out for several hours, then refilled the log basket. Ditto the one in the kitchen. Wrapped some presents and then sorted myself out. I wore my old "walking out" gear from my brass banding days - blazer, which has seen a lot of use, and a pair of black trousers that I have been unable to get into for a long, long while. Why I had held onto them I do not know. A case of too good to throw out, combined with well one day I might be able to get into them. I can now!

I had been forewarned that the pub would shut by two so I met helper in there for a quick beer. Sure enough, by half past one the landlord was making chucking out noises. There were only three of us in there anyway. I had a leisurely Christmas Eve at helpers place, accompanied by what I would describe as plain fare. It was explained to me that there would be meat tomorrow. It brings it home how limited a budget village folk survive on, and indeed fits in with my own perspective, that fresh meat is a luxury. I rarely buy it these days. I am happy to get my animal protein from cheese, eggs and cooked meat.

I left about seven, as Pickle had been on her own for a number of hours. Helper walked down the village with me to my house and went on his way, wherever. It was very quiet. We saw a single van, but not another soul on the street, nor were there sounds of partying and merriment from any of the houses. How different Christmas is here from the UK!

25th December 2008

Christmas day, and up before it was really light. Unwrapped lots of new goodies from England - I'm still enough of a traditionalist/sentimentalist to wait until Christmas day to open stuff. Mainly woodworking tools of the non-powered variety, with a sprinkling of other stuff. Apart from lighting the kitchen stove and making coffee (which got laced with a drop of the walnut liqueur on account of it being Christmas) I did absolutely nothing. Oh joy, oh bliss! During the course of the morning I had a couple of Skype conversations with the UK. Wonderful thing Skype - all free, of course. I glanced out of the window at about half past nine, and to my delight it was snowing heavily:
Snow on Christmas Day
Unfortunately it didn't come to anything. It was just a bit too warm and wet for it to settle. The Hungarians are actually disappointed too that there is no snow for Christmas!

At the end of the morning I dressed in my finery again - the suit this time. Had it a long time, but it is a very good suit. Fell off the back of a lorry, I think. I bought it from one of my landlords, and at the time it was probably a one hundred and fifty pound suit. I got it for fifty, and it has certainly stood the test of time. Has to be fifteen years old. With time a little pressing I quickly shot round to No. 68 with a couple of small presents for them. I was invited in, but graciously declined, explaining that I was already committed elsewhere. They imparted to me some very sad news, that my Scottish-Hungarian friend had passed away in hospital the previous day. A rotten thing to be happening at this time of year, and I was particularly saddened as, because he spoke English (well, Glaswegian) he was the first person in the village with whom I could really communicate. He had helped me in various other little ways too.

Saddened, I went to keep my appointment with helper in the pub. I no sooner got in there and greeted him than he repeated the news. I explained that I already knew. There were only three or four regulars in the pub, but there was definitely an air of sadness. A quick beer, and off for Christmas at helpers.

It was a very low-key event, but there was meat (chicken). As always (seems to be very common in Hungary) the food was of the type that had already been prepared, and just needed heating through. Of course they were using the wood burning kitchen stove in their kitchen - very similar to mine - which also provided the heating. I see no evidence of central heating in that house. The meal was a soup, pasta based, with dried chilli peppers to cut up and sprinkle on, at one's discretion, followed by rice, vegetables and the chicken. As always there were various cakes and sweetmeats to finish off with, plus their own wine. They obviously press it off the grape pulp very quickly after crushing, as it was a rosé as opposed to the full red wine that mine has attained. The entertainment was watching films on telly. I have to say that watching "Shrek" in Hungarian was an interesting experience!

I took my leave at about seven on account of Pickle having been left in the house for several hours. Helper came along with me and we did stop off at the pub where I had one beer before returning home. The pub was open just as if a normal day. There were a few extra bods in there, and the skittles was in full swing. Much like many other days. The closing, and "their" Christmas had obviously been the Christmas Eve.

So that was a Hungarian Christmas!

26th December 2008

Mmmmm - 26th December, and we all know what day that is, don't we! No, no - not Boxing Day - think ecclesiastical! It's St. Stephen's Day, so it was of course my (and coincidentally, helper's) Name Day. Ooo-er!

I treated it as another day of rest, although I did end up doing about a half hour of woodwork in the morning. Just before twelve there was a tap at the door. The dog didn't start barking until I went to open the door - useless hound! It was the next door neighbour from No. 68 inviting me round for lunch. I could hardly refuse, having refused yesterday, but that left me with a slight problem of being double booked! I had a quick-ish lunch with them, getting away as soon as was decent. Lunch was quite similar to the ones I had had before - slightly different mix of veg (red cabbage), but again the emphasis was on the fact that there was meat!

Off to the pub to meet helper, then back again to his place for yet another lunch. That was a repeat of Christmas days menu - leftovers I suspect. More telly watching, but then me and him beat a retreat, wanting to get to the pub to celebrate our Name Day! I had one beer, then shot home to sort out the fire and Pickle. Then back to the pub for what turned into a session. There was lots of well wishing ("boldog névnap"), and a certain amount of drink coming from the well-wishers. Pickle's breeders were there with family en-masse, and helper was looking after a young boy and girl. The Hungarian for baby sitter is apparently "baby sitter". One of the family came over (we were at another table) and said something to the young girl. To my astonishment the little girl turned to me and said "What's your name?" in perfect English. I had quite a little conversation with her. Her range of vocabulary was astonishing, and her grammar flawless. Ten years old!

The family left fairly early, and helper and I resumed our session. We both got quite well oiled in the end. Quite emotional, manly-hugs type of thing. I will confess to just the slightest trace of Dorset Leg Plaiting Disease as I wandered my way home!

27th December 2008

It came as an unpleasant surprise that I woke up this morning with somewhat of a hangover! The result was, to say the least, an unproductive morning. The shop was open for a couple of hours but there was no bread, which is always part of my staple purchases. I knew I had flour at home, so I just bought yeast instead. It was towards lunchtime before I managed to get my act together. Mind you, the whole village seemed the same way. There was very little traffic - even more little than usual, and few people about on the streets.

After lunch I did what I had been threatening myself to do for some while, and had an hour or so of indoor gardening. Two days late to satisfy tradition, I sowed a load of onion seed. Also carrots and cabbages. The yard was frozen hard, and I suspect the garden will be too by now, so that is the winter digging gone by-the-by. Too much to do, and too impatient to make progress with many small and big projects is the problem.

I did some web-type stuff, which caused me great grief as it worked straight out of the box in Opera under Linux and in Firefox under Windows but still will not work under Internet Exploder 7 under Windows. Very annoying! In a fit of pique I changed tack and wrote an RSS Feed for the site, for those tech savvie people that appreciate such a thing. Much to my surprise it validated first time. You can find the link on my banner - the orange button that looks like this RSS Feed. The other one is a link to an RSS Validator.

28th December 2008

A BBC article on food in which declining oil supplies are mentioned.

Up early, as usual for a Sunday. Dawn broke to reveal a bright and frosty morning. The big room in the cottage is still lovely and warm in the mornings, and I am still only lighting the stove (cserépkályha) in the afternoons, although progressively earlier as time goes on. The removal of a quarter of the polystyrene insulation from the walls still does not seem to have made a significant difference, although at the moment there does seem to be more condensation between inner and outer windows. Only to be expected as the trapped moisture in the walls dissipates.

Very much a day for inside work, and it does feel like the Hungarian winter has really kicked in. I was told - may already have mentioned it - that the southerly airstream of the last couple of weeks or so is definitely unusual for the time of year. Even with that, the daytime temperatures rarely got above six or seven degrees. I contented myself with more woodwork, some knitting and making and baking a loaf of bread.

By the way, the soap factory is back in action now that I have a seemingly limitless supply of hardwood ash. I don't think I ever mentioned that I discovered the reason why the last lot of lye was a deep blood red colour. Believe it or not, the straw! There was I thinking that it was some nasty contamination related side effect (plutonium, or other rare earth related stuff) and all it was was the straw. This time I have given the straw a good soaking beforehand, but if it turns out somewhat coloured again I won't worry about it. I will know that it is purely natural, vegetable based, and if I do manage to get soap I can send it with a clear conscience to my vegetarian friends and relations.

I have been keeping a close eye on the now bottled wine since the "great wine crisis". It certainly appears that my efforts were successful - there has been no reappearance of the flowers of wine since then.

There has been lots of talk about "Syvester". I though that "Syvester" was a "puddy tat" that tried to eat "Tweety Pie", and it wasn't until I consulted the trusty szótár that realised that the talk was in fact about "szilveszter" which is Hungarian for New Year's Eve. There will, apparently, be a big 'do' in the Faluhaz, with fireworks and stuff. Another new experience to which to look forward.

29th December 2008

As usual, it was certainly warm enough inside when I got up, but it seemed a bit on the cool side once I let the dog out. Whilst I went to the shop I stuck the thermometer on the kitchen window sill. I checked it when I got back. Minus seven! Mmmmm - definitely on the cool side!

I concentrated on the woodwork, and by the end of the morning had managed to get as far as assembling the first end of my kitchen project 'dry'. Here it is:
It is a little more 'fits where it touches' than I would like, but without proper work bench or vice it is about as good as I can get! Woodwork

By one o'clock the temperature had crept up to minus one, and it occured to me to check the outside tap. It wouldn't even turn in spite of being lagged! Ooops! The prospect of another water disaster (and another bill) loomed. I used the kettle to thaw it out until I had it running. I left it turned on slightly and jumped down the mains water manhole. Turned off the water, then turned on the drain tap. I suppose I let about half a gallon go, knowing that that would draw air into the open tap. Out of the manhole, turn the tap off, then back down the manhole and turn the mains back on. After a few seconds the meter stabilised and came to rest. Phew, thank goodness for that. At least I know that all that is in the outside tap is now compressed air. I must remind myself not to use it!

I did another hour or so of stripping out the big room:
Debris from Wall Once again, I could feel the dampness of the debris that peeled off the wall. Most of it had simply dropped away from the wall and was wedged behind the polystyrene, trapping the dampness. Pickle had to investigate, of course!

Later in the pub the weather forecast that shows the isothermal chart for Europe (forget which station it is on) was on. There was a huge swathe of light and dark blue (cold) centred over Russia, extending up as far as Norway and down to about 2/300 kms ESE of here. The forecast for Szombathely, which is only about thirty kilometres away was for minus ten overnight! Because it has been so cold, below zero daytime too, all the moisture in the air has frozen out, so it actually doesn't feel that bad. I have had to move up a grade on headgear (still have another grade to go yet!), but still only wearing the summer weight motorcycle gloves.

Helper had a panic phone call whilst I was there - someone had been letting off fireworks that just go bang, which is illegal in Hungary (10,000Ft a bang, apparently), and their dog had thrown a wobbly. I went back to his place with him to help pacify his little dog. There were bits out of the door, and blood where the poor dog had splintered its mouth trying to chew its way into the house! Poor thing was still trembling. I helped calm down the dog, and ended up, as always, with food and a couple of glasses of wine. By the time I got home my stove had gone out, and I had to relight it. I was not about to let it go cold right through the night in view of what I had seen on the weather forecast!

30th December 2008

It was a bit warmer this morning - only minus six. I have come to the conclusion that they don't actually have weather here, apart from the cataclysmic thunderstorms in the summer. It is either hot, cold or comfortable, staying the same for days and days. At the moment it is cold and grey. Day after after day after day! And I have February to look forward to, which I am told is "miserable".

I did a load of jigsawing for various projects in the morning, successfully filling the hallway floor with a mixture of oak and walnut sawdust. One of the ongoing projects is the worktop that will go on my rustic unit that will sit next to the stove. Every day, as I throw the bits of oak on the fire, I filter out the ones that are good enough to go as part of my oak-tiled worktop. I am slowly planing up the edges and the butting end grain pieces and gluing them together. Planing up the end grain of oak is, quite frankly, a pain. Mind you, only slightly worse than planing it along the grain. I'm not going to bother with a photo until it is done!

The succession of sub-zero days is taking its toll on the temperature in the house. The temperature in the kitchen before I light the stove has dropped from ten degrees to nine! :) It is, I suspect, about time to light the tile stove twice a day. Until now I continue to light it in the afternoon and stoke it up at night, with the warmth continuing well into the morning or lunch time.

The last time I updated the blog I sat in my slightly reorganised office corner with my feet freezing. For some while I have been suffering cold feet in the house - that's physically cold, not metaphorically. I have looked at mats on the market and in Tescos, and quite frankly they are simply not value for money. Very expensive for what they are. I thought about making my own and looked up "rag rugs" on the Internerd, in the thought of either finding, or finding how to make rug canvas. It suddenly came to me in a flash of inspiration that to make some foot mats I wouldn't need it. You recall earlier this month that I was thinking of spinning straw and making Turk's Head straw supports for the carboys, but simply did not have the time. I realised that on my travels looking at that I had seen plans for a rope rug in a Turk's Head design, and also realised that since yesterday when I ripped down the first of the old curtains in here I had the ideal material with which to knock up some rope. I don't think I have said, but the existing curtains in here are useless. Being a loosely woven hessian-type material they neither keep in heat nor provide any sort of privacy when closed. I had planned to cut them up and burn them - use as kindling, but a plan to recycle them formed in my mind.

Situation normal after that. Eat, pub, home, bed!

31st December 2008

New Ear's Eve. Thank goodness, as I could do with at least one new ear. Already somewhat challenged in the auditory department (probably about eighty percent deaf in the left ear) I find the response to high pitches in the right ear declining significantly. I have to rely on the "vibrate" function on my multiple mobile phones to be sure of receiving calls, or know that I have received an SMS. By the way, the Hungarian for SMS is SMS. Thought you might like to know that. Fortunately for me Hungarians rarely hold conversations sotto voce. In fact the normal volume for conversation is akin to being just short of a shout - if it can't be heard half way down the main street they are not talking loudly enough.

I was going to soliloquise on my achievements and failures of the calendar year known in Western civilisations as Anno Domini Two Thousand and Eight. But I won't. I may well early next year, but for now I will refrain.

I started on the foot mat project. Details and pictures later, when the Nikon battery is recharged. Then it was time to get ready for "szilveszter". Up to you to look that one up.

Suitably pomaded and attired I made my way to the Faluhaz just after half past seven. Helper was on the door, and I duely got charged the 1,500Ft entry fee. Nobody, but nobody got in without paying!

I cannot but admit that it was with a degree of trepidation that I entered and found myself a seat at one of the smaller unoccupied tables. I did not want to intrude upon any already present gatherings. Questions and thoughts filled my mind: Would I be welcomed? Would I be treated as an outcast? What would all my friends and family in the UK be up to? Have I offended any New Year's Hungarian tradition? All this and more, but I needn't have worried. Those already there that I knew, either by name or by sight, came and greeted me, and as others came in they also too greeted me. Greeted me not casually or with formality, but with genuine warmth that allayed my fears and made me realise that I am here and I am an accepted part of this village community.

I suppose I could say that it was a bit like some of the village "hops" that I went to in the Lake District in the UK. But not. By the way, did you know that there is only one lake in the Lake District? Yep. Bassenthwaite Lake - all the rest are "Meres" or "Waters", so when you hear someone talking about "Lake Windermere" do be sure and pull them up. On the Ordnance Survey map it is quite clearly labelled "Windermere", not "Lake Windermere". Hmmm - off on one there for a moment.

The evening progressed as one would expect - lots of dancing and drinking. The one thing I missed out on was not taking my own picnic. No problem - the next table provided for me. There was an entertainer - voice and keyboards, and I have to say he was a whole lot better than the one I mentioned that was in the local pub. Didn't understand a word, of course, but the music was good.

The big surprise came at midnight. The assembled crowd counted down the seconds, and as soon as it was midnight the musician launched into "Himnusz". The entire assembly rose to their feet in silence whilst it was played. Quite a solemn and meditative moment. Absolutely unlike the gay abandon of "Auld Lang Syne" in the UK. What followed was a feast of formal kissing. Everybody (including me). Men on men, women on women and women on men. You may have seen it on TV, of course, but here it is certainly ritualised on an event like tonight. Always three kisses - left cheek to left cheek, right to right, and left to left again. I have seen it before, male to female, between close friends (and experienced it), but New Year is everybody with everybody!

There was a "tombola", only it wasn't - it was a raffle. I won two prizes (both alcoholic), pictures to follow. I'll find a little prize for someone who properly explains the difference between a tombola and a raffle - Wikipedia doesn't!

And that was 2008. A "boldog uj év" to all of you, and especially to those who have texted me and to whom I have not replied!


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