The cottage in Halogy Banner image. The Hungary project Halogy Arms RSS Feed
[Valid RSS]

January 2009

Date 1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9|10|11|12|13|14|15|16|17|18|19|20|21|22|23|24|25|26|27|28|29|30|31

1st January 2009

Short and sweet for today. Having been up until 3:30am local time I didn't surface until gone ten o'clock! I did precisely nothing, and still managed to be late meeting helper in the pub. I was suppose to meet him at half past twelve and managed to get there by about ten to one. We had a beer, then another, then he had a phone call - "pici munka". "Half an hour", said he. I thought to myself, well that's an hour then. An hour went by, and another quarter of an hour. It was a bitterly cold day and I know how much recovering it takes in the cottage to restore the temperature if it starts to get cold, so I left a message and shot home to light the stove. I had it lit, and let it burn up well to get the temperature of the stove up. It is a definite process when it is this cold. Light it. Once it is burning well chuck a load of wood on and leave the air supply open and let it blaze. Once it has reached a certain point you can chuck another load on and close the air supply off as tight as it goes, then it will maintain its heat and gently burn through that wood for some hours. I had got towards the stage of stoking it up and closing it down when I saw helper and another young man walking up the road, obviously having completed the "pici munka". It was actually Pickle that alerted me. The young man had one of those wretched things that you blow through and it squawks. Not the type that unrolls, but in the form of a posthorn - straight and about three feet long. He was blowing it at intervals up the street, hence Pickle's agitation. I opened the window and called to helper that I would be back at the pub in ten minutes.

I actually managed to get out of the house in five! Blow me down if I didn't catch up with them no more than a hundred metres from my place, young man still squawking the horn! I cycled alongside them and we did finally get back to the pub, where young man made himself popular by squawking in all the regulars' ears. I'm surprised he didn't end up wearing it from a part of his anatomy that would certainly have discouraged him from squawking it again :)

We finished off the beers, and started to wander back to helper's place, only to be waylaid en-route by Pickle's breeders, who pressed a New Year's libation upon us. They were working - the hens don't stop laying just because it is New Year, so we drank the libation in their egg packing outhouse. It's a long, long while since I saw that many eggs. Back in my Lincolnshire days. Every egg has a little red stamp on it (who remembers the little lion on the eggs that guaranteed their freshness - but didn't, and who was it that did the ads. on commercial telly?), and every single egg is stamped by hand here. They have over a thousand laying hens. It's a lot of stamping!

We finally ended up having "lunch" at about four o'clock. I got away at about half past seven and helper came along with me with the shared intention of grabbing a quick beer in the pub. Catastrophy! Pub was shut, so we went our ways beerless...

2nd January 2009

Trying to keep it short again! I managed to get the first set of joints on the bits of oak I had been working on glued up, with much use of string, Spanish Windlasses (nice picture) and folding wedges. It took a while of setting up before I committed glue and hardener to the joints.

I changed into sombre clothes for a sad occasion. I was attending the interment of my friend that had died, in the local cemetery. I declined on attending the Templom. Once again I was to meet helper, have lunch, and we would go to the cemetery together. I ended up at his place, with no sign of him, and indeed had lunch. The hospitality is never-ending! With still no sign of helper and time pressing I legged it to the cemetery. Most of what I would call the "old village" of Halogy was there. I reckon there were over seventy people, most of whom I knew either by name or sight. My friend was Halogyi (of Halogy). He was born here and lived here until he fled the country in 1956, to end up in Glasgow. I happened to end up standing next to my neighbour from No. 68 whilst we paid our last respects. A sad day!

I had been pressed to return to helper's after the ceremony, and as I was leaving the cemetery helper was just arriving. Work had kept him away. Such is the existence here that having a bit of work and earning a few Forints takes precedence.

I little later I managed to get away, and unlike yesterday helper and I did manage to get a beer in the pub! I had the one and went home - usual routine - light fire, ensure firewood. Whilst the fire was at stage one I had a quick check of the Internerd, to find that I had an e-mail which managed to break the sad mood the day had cast. I had a brand new baby grandson back in the UK! Excellent news! A little later I returned to the pub and had a quiet one-man "wetting the baby's head", sharing the news with some of the regulars.

3rd January 2009

The big room was starting to p*ss me off. To be perfectly frank it was, and is, a sh*t hole. Dust, muck and dog hairs. I spent all day shifting stuff that hadn't been moved for months, dragging furniture about and ripping out more insulation, finally ending up with the wheelbarrow, sweeping brush and shovel. Yes, that bad. I suspect that what I am uncovering is the original finish to the internal walls, which looks like plaster painted with a series of rollers. More than one layer. And it all has to come off!

I finished at about three in the afternoon. Early enough to get stocked up on firewood for both the room and the kitchen, but late enough that it was getting seriously cold again. I guess that this is the Hungarian winter. It has not been above freezeing for days and days, day or night. Mind you, it is still relatively benign here compared to many parts of Hungary.

By the time I went to the pub it was an icy cold evening/night. Bitter! There was an article on the news about twenty thousand flats in Budapest with no gas (and no other form of heating). And another showing people living in plastic covered cardboard shelters apparently in the countryside. Makes you think!

4th January 2009

Cold this morning, really cold. I wasn't up too early, so the thermometer didn't go outside until nine. Minus ten!

I spent the morning, once the kitchen was nicely warmed up, doing lots of bits and pieces of woodwork. I put one of my Christams presents into action for the first time. Took a while:
I have had my No. 92 shoulder plane for many years and it has done a lot of work - rough work as well as fine work. I had decided that it should have a birthday (30th?) and be treated to a new blade. My ecclesiastical and botanical expert obliged! I honed the new blade, then removed the old one from the plane. I thought to compare them. You can see that I have honed away some three millimetres of the original blade. When I went to put the new blade in the plane, the shaving parter (a little widget that both parts the shavings and seats the blade) would not go in the plane. I checked the new blade against the old - apart from the length, identical. In a few seconds I realised that the reason was thirty-ish years of accumulated crud in certain parts of the plane body. The old blade had grown (shrunk?) to accommodate this. The new one didn't! You can also see how, over the years, the honing angle on the old blade has receded from the ideal. I gave it a birthday too, with the angle grinder, restoring the proper honing angle. Old and New Plane Blades

I was out to lunch again! Seems to be getting to be a regular thing. After that I had a quick beer on the way home, with helper, then home where I managed some more of my foot mat. Photos:
Making a Rope Rug First obtain a suitable board and bang in twenty two nails, five down each side and six across top and bottom. This used to be a pastry board. I was going to chop it up and burn it but it has had a reprieve. Number the nails.
Make (or use existing) rope. My rope is the old curtains from the big room, cut into strips and plaited. Making a Rope Rug
Making a Rope Rug I pulled threads from the cloth to give me a decent cutting line.
Rather than attempt to make the entire length of plaited rope at one go, I chose to plait a length, weave it into the mat, then stitch the next set of strips on, as shown here. Plait, weave, stitch until it is finished. Making a Rope Rug
Making a Rope Rug There's the first two lengths in place taking us from nail No. 1 to nail No. 9 (of 22). Note the unders and overs.
Now I have completed a full 'turn', going round nail No. 22 and back to nail No. 1. Now comes the boring part. One turn was four and a half rope plaitings. Each rope plaiting involves crossing the strips over some two hundred and fifty times. Yes, I know cos I counted!!! The finished mat will require three full turns. Whatever - better than burning the old curtains! I'm starting to get the hang of this recycling thing :) Making a Rope Rug

After that it was a bite to eat and back to the pub for a couple. It was so cold as I went home that I was concerned for the plumbing at the kitchen end of the building, so, for the first time, I relit the kitchen stove and let the kitchen get a bit warm before I retired.

I don't think I ever told you the rather poignant story that was on the telly a while ago about an old boy in deepest rural Hungary. It does get a lot more rural than here!. I don't know what it was that he sold, but it was quite a lot of money. And he was paid in 54,000Ft notes. They really did look quite good, but I ask you - 54,000Ft? If the modern day equivalent of a nine bob note was a one hundred and ninety pound note, then that's what it would be. Sad part is that he accepted them!

5th January 2009

Life continues quietly, and with the cold as it is most outside work in the village has ceased. One hears the occasional use of a chain saw, and I hear my next door neighbour using his circular saw to cut up firewood daily. It continues to amaze me that there simply is no 'weather'. It is either cold and clear, or cold and overcast. Very light winds, and still no sign of precipitation.

Indoors, I did another mat plaiting and installed it, now well into the second turn on the mat. One complete cutting, plaiting, stiching together and weaving cycle takes about an hour, and after that I am bored with it. Once again (as always) I have multiple projects still on the go. I keep chipping away at them, a bit at a time and they all creep on towards completion. When I did office work I used to work on the 'Vesuvius' principle. Everything went in a heap, and if it became important enough it would bubble its way to the top. Some American professor or such named it thus, studied it, and declared it to be actually quite a good way of working in spite of its apparent disorganisation. Thus it is here, that if the completion of a project is paramount then it gets completed.

Later in the morning I went out to get kitchen firewood and found the cause of a loud bump that I had heard earlier. I thought maybe part of the building had fallen down but it was the water butt which was now on its side. It had frozen on top to a depth of maybe three inches. As the top curves in this effectively formed a plug of ice. The subsequent cooling of the water in the butt had caused expansion and bowed the bottom of the butt outwards slightly, it being plastic. The consequence was that it became unstable on its footing and fell over. I hacked a hole in the ice and let the water go - there was absolutely no way that I could get it standing up again otherwise:
Ice on Water Butt Even with most of the water gone, with the weight of the remaining ice it was still a struggle to stand up again. I managed to dig out enough sand to get under it and give it a firm footing.

I put out some washing to drip dry, and within minutes it had formed icicles from the dripping water:
Icicles hang from the washing. Icicles Form on the Washing

I knocked up one of my nice thick veggie soups from what I had on hand. Potatoes, onion, garlic (of course), herbs, various beans and pulses, carrot, salt and pepper and a little flour to thicken it up. Stick it on the middle part of the stove and just let it simmer. Wonderful on a day like today with a doorstep wedge of the local bread.

I had occasion to boot into Windows and thought to run SpyBot and AdAware. SpyBot installed an update, and then the scan kept stopping. "Can't find" something or other - pain in the whatsit. It now does well over three hundred thousand checks. I'm convinced that Joe Public just does not realise what an appallingly insecure "operating system" Windows is! That little lot took over three hours of my precious time. I did manage to make use of some of it by figuring out how to get a little RSS feed icon into the address bar. Just a one liner, and it worked first time.

6th January 2009

A Peter Goodchild article, James Howard Kunstler with predicitions for 2009 on the LATOC site, and a reminder of how fragile energy supplies can be from the Beeb as a result of the Russia/Ukraine disagreement! Plenty of doom and gloom today!

I had a busy day. Lots of bits at lots of projects, otherwise unnoteworthy! That's it.

7th January 2009

I had a small session of sharpening a load of tools first off, while the kitchen warmed up. After breakfast and coffee, of course. Another two of my bits and pieces from Christmas came into play - a brand new oilstone just for the smoothing plane, and a top quality Irwin-Marples chisel. My old oilstone is all shapes having been used for many years for many different purposes. I could resurface it I suppose using carborundum paste and a face plate. Not worth the effort. I did use the old oilstone to give the Marples chisel its first honing. Made me realise just how crap the local chisels bought from Tescos are. It was quite hard work to get the new chisel honed - it really is hard, but once honed I expect that it will keep its edge many times longer than the others.

I had a job planned for the afternoon which was quite significant - strip down and clean the laptop! I had noticed that even in the cooler times in the room the fan was running at full speed. Not a good sign! I found, and as I would have no Internet connection whilst the laptop was out of use, made copious notes from a maintenance manual for the laptop. After lunch I set about it. The manual was good, and I was methodical with a clean work area and numbered pieces of paper upon which to place components and disassembly screws in accordance with my step by step instructions. All went well until I came to the bit of undoing the ZIF (zero insertion force) connector for the LED panel. Typical situation - you need to be a miniaturised Japanese monkey to get your fingers to it. Fortunately for me, in my twists and turns to get at it, it suddenly popped itself out. Now I know why they are called ZIF connectors, not ZIRF (zero insertion and removal force)! The next snag was that the manual was wrong - maybe a spec change from when it was written. It called for the removal of eight screws from the top, seven from the bottom and three from inside the DVD bay to separate top and bottom halves. Try as I may I could only discover seven on the top, and that was in fact how many there were - not eight. Next stage was getting the mother board out, and I started to struggle - five screws, it said. I found three, then four - all underneath plastic sealing that had to be disturbed. Where the hell was the fifth? I finally found it by dint of the very slight angular rotation that the removal of four screws had allowed. With motherboard finally separated from the base (but not from the top, as there was a skinny little ribbon cable that ran from the mother board to somewhere else on the motherboard, but over one of the parts of the top case) I managed to get to the cooling part and clean it with the aid of brush, bicycle pump and a needle! The thought that constantly ran through my mind throughout this struggle (give me a tower case any day!) was "If this bugger works when I put it back together I'll eat my young". The only difficult bit in reassembly was the ZIF connectors, until I realised that, like with so much else, there was a knack to it, the knack being to connect them in the opposite order to that used in disassembling the thing. As always I ended up with a small piece of broken plastic with a brass screw thread moulded in and two spare screws. No idea! I certainly didn't break anything taking it apart, and the spare screws are destined to remain a mystery anyway. With seventeen screws just holding top and bottom together the thing is seriously over engineered. I needn't have worried about eating my young. It didn't work. All plugged in and switched on I got a dreaded four beep signal from BIOS then nothing! I may have made detailed notes on disassembling, etc., but I must admit it never crossed my mind to write down the POST beep codes. Pulled the hard disk and reinserted it - same. OK try memory. I found that neither memory module was seated properly. Unlike others, before you press them down into their clips there is a definite 'click' as they go into the slot. I just hadn't pushed them hard enough! To my amazement it all worked, except for wireless networking - one of the connectors to the card is basically, well, buggered. No loss, I prefer Ethernet anyway. Never did much like that wireless stuff.

I went to the pub after that for what I considered to be a well-earned pint or three!! The Russia/Ukraine gas thing featured even more prominently this evening on the news!

8th January 2009

Bitterly cold, though bright morning. The thermometer went out at nine and got down to minus eleven. The temperature in the big room in the mornings is probably about fifteen. A bit cool to be prancing about in the nude, but warm enough under the one thin duvet that I have. (More detail than you need, I'm sure)

I got a bit of washing out and it froze more or less instantly. The kitchen stove did its job and it was certainly more than comfortable to work in there so I cracked on with the various woodworking projects, which continue to tick along.

After lunch I did a bit of housework which was mainly sweeping up the shavings and sawdust that I had created in the morning (again). It's all good - all goes towards lighting either or both of the stoves, depending how much I have created. On my travels I made a discovery. I found what looked like more of the existing seat covers folded up, somewhere I hadn't looked before (obviously). It turned out to be a single length - about seven metres of the cloth. It isn't very prepossessing, being a canvas type material in brown, lighter brown and beige, but it is tough, hard wearing and doesn't show the dirt too much. In fact the discovery made me realise just how much the existing loose covers need a good wash! That will certainly wait until spring. I immediately thought about projects for it, and the first to spring to mind was for curtains in the big room. As I say, unprepossessing, but I am not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Unfortunately it fell short by about a metre of the amount I would need, as it is only eighty five centimetres wide.

Otherwise an unremarkable day.

9th January 2009

Another bitterly cold morning. There continues to be no weather, just unremittingly cold. Invariably at the moment in double figures of minus overnight and in the mornings. By lunch time or just after it may creep up to about minus three on a really good day. There was frost on the upper surface of the door key. On the inside of the house! (I know I shouldn't, but I invariably leave it in the lock when I lock up at night) I didn't achieve much in the morning, mainly doing a bit of measuring up for my plans for the cloth. I did manage a single plaiting of the mat, which is now two complete turns. Only one more to go - five plaitings, or four if I am lucky with the tightening down. I forgot to mention that when I got home last night from the pub, as usual the heat in the big room came as a blessed relief from the bitter cold outside. I thought to put the thermometer in an average kind of spot in the room. It's a rather slow thermometer, so I left it for about ten minutes before I checked it. Twenty Celsius. If it is minus ten or fifteen outside, and twenty in the big room (with the insulation gone) that will do me quite nicely!

I caught the five to one bus into town on one of my ever-more increasingly rare jaunts into town. I had plans on three essential bits of shopping, and maybe two optional ones. As it happened the time slid away quite quickly and all I got done was the three essential ones. One was a visit to the fabric shop, the one where I got the knitting yarn. When I got there it was gone! Closed up. Empty, apart from the normal debris you see when a shop has closed down. Fortunately there was a hand written sign on the window amongst all the advertising stickers. Trusty szotar enlightened me that they had moved. In fact they had moved to the shop I had previously mentioned which was where they obviously 'made up' curtains and the like. It turned out to be a much bigger, entirely more spacious emporium than the little shop they left. I was served again by the rather unsmiling, taciturn chap. I managed to ask (obviously correctly, as he got the items immediately) for a reel of cotton, brown, and a box of pins. I also bought one other item of which more later.

Purchases completed I went to catch the half past two bus back to the village and made it with no more than about a minute to wait. As I get to know more people, and my still very limited Hungarian improves slowly, it becomes more and more of a social event - catching the bus.

A couple in the pub, home and remake the fire then back and another couple in the pub - what a tedious existence! Home again, and early to bed. Rather exhausted after a couple of fairly late Internet sessions.

10th January 2009

Got up not early, but not late either. There was even more frost on the inside of the door key this morning. As usual, once I am up and dressed, priority No. 1 is to let the dog out. She is still under close supervision if she is out loose, and this morning it was a good job too. Two of the old lady next door's chickens were right by my fence, and Pickle absolutely flew when she saw them. I yelled at her "NEM!" (NO!) and brandished a handy stick. To her credit she stopped in her tracks and resumed her morning routine.

Back in the house, with dog safely ensconced, I started my morning ritual. Light the stove. Make coffee. Problem! BIG problem! No water. All the taps inside turned freely - not frozen up - and I got a dribble out of each and then nothing. Oh-oh! Not to be denied my coffee before I started to investigate, and having an inkling as to the cause I was thankful of my habit of always filling up the big stove kettle whenever I emptied or part emptied it. Bugger, bollox! As usual I went to the shop whilst coffee was cooking, somewhat delayed. I managed to get the last loaf of bread (sliced - yuk) and the other bits I needed, it being a Saturday. Back to the house and pondered as the coffee cooked. Took a bit longer than usual, it being so cold.

After coffee, toast and jam, I forewent my usual update on the Beeb News and doom and gloom trawl to investigate further the 'no water' problem. I think I already knew the answer, but went to investigate anyway. You may recall me saying about winterising the house, and lagging the pipework in the outhouse, so that was my first, and only port of call. As inside the taps out there turned freely, and I got a dribble of water from each of them. Hmmmm - no water!

Back inside I realised that suddenly potable water was a precious commodity. I had lots of it, unfrozen, in the house, but all adulterated to some degree or other by dilution with ethanol and various other complex organic compounds. I bottled up what remained in the kettle, which had boiled again and I allowed to cool. What to do? I sent an SMS to helper in my pidgin magyarul, and then thought about the well. Well (excuse pun), I knew that it obviously hadn't been used for many years. When I went out to investigate I found the two (asbestos?) boards were firmly cemented in place by frost. A couple of pints of my meagre supply went on the stove, and when boiling were poured around the edges of the boards. I still needed to use a chisel to persuade them finally to come away. At least there was liquid water in the well - as to its purity, etc., ...

Next problem was how to get it out. The well has handle and roller but precious little else - no bucket, and only about four feet of chain. Well (excuse pun), I have a galvanised bucket which is actually clean. Being a bit scientific, and somewhat nautically minded, I knew that if you just chuck a bucket in the water it may just sit there and float. With that in mind I took the drill to my galvanised bucket, which has an external rim on the bottom (don't they all?) and drilled a hole through the rim.

I cleaned as best I could my big pan and a couple of plastic buckets and assembled them by the well. I should have taken pictures, but I was just a bit preoccupied. The steel washing line came out to play once again. One length on the handle of the galvanised bucket and one length through the hole in the bottom rim to serve as a tripping line. With a bit of experimentation and a bit of practise I found that I could haul up about two thirds of a galvanised bucketful. The problem was that I was wearing gloves, and the steel washing line is very thin! A bit like trying to land a pike just holding the fishing line!

By the time I got my assembled containers filled the last one was looking decidedly muddy. Enough! I retired to the house, assembled my collection of containers of varying degrees of clarity of water and thought about what to do next. Simple. Filter it and boil it. So I did. I have a picture but can't be bothered to get it off the camera right now. I used cotton wool to filter it, which gave me surprisingly clear water, and then it just went in the kettle, was boiled for at least ten minutes, allowed to cool and bottled.

Brings into startling relief how much we take for granted just turning on a tap. By the way, as an aside, the village first had a mains supply of water, via the water tower, in 1988.

I was getting towards the end of this process when helper arrived. He had a look round, checked out the same things that I had checked out, and declared "Nagy katasztrófa". He went off and found a couple of the locaL guys who came along, checked out the same things that I had checked out and helper had checked out, and declared "Nagy katasztrófa". They went away, and helper went elsewhere to return with a guy I know very well from the pub - his only English is "How do you do?". Quite a character. He had a look round,checked out the same things that I had checked out, and declared "Nagy katasztrófa". Seems I may have a problem.

Ah well, I have filtered, boiled water. I have enough food, and the place is still warm. Time to go to the pub!

11th January 2009

Another day without running water - how tedious! helper and the same guy (the second one) came back again today and worked on the water supply for three hours. I kept the kitchen door shut during all their ins and outs, but the outside door was open a lot of the time. Pickle has a small water bowl in the hallway - it froze! To give you an idea of what it is like, the temperature in the kitchen with the stove stoked up was twenty, maybe twenty one. On the inner surface of the outer kitchen window of the Hungarian double glazing (separate windows with a large air gap) was condensation - frozen condensation! Huge temperature gradient across that window! There was much blowlamping at various points of the building, and at one stage there was a small dribble of water from the bath tap, but that was it. I can only put that down to the expansion of the water within a pipe that was not actually frozen due to the application of heat from the blowlamp.

I was due to go out to lunch at helper's at one, but that came and went. It was about an hour and a half later that helper and the other guy gave it best, having signally failed to restore running water. They declared "Nagy katasztrófa", and indicated that the problem was under the yard, and that the supply between the outhouse and house was not buried deeply enough. It goes back to the history of the house. The cold water supply actually goes into the outhouse via a pipe that curves through the well. There is pumping machinery in the little cellar in the outhouse, and apparently originally the 'mains' water in the house was simply pumped straight from the well. When the village mains came along they simply connected it up to the pipe in the well, bypassing the pumping unit in the outhouse, rather than pipe it properly from the main supply manhole straight to the house. Whatever! I still had no water.

Before we finally left helper grabbed a couple of buckets and disappeared down the mains manhole, to reappear with the buckets rinsed out and filled with fresh mains water via the drain-down tap in the manhole. Now why didn't I think of that??

We stopped off at the pub (of course) and had a couple before finally making our 'lunch' appointment at about four in the afternoon. Nothing new there, then. The lunch was a cabbage soup. Absolutely delicious! Such an underrated vegetable, and the Brits really have no idea what to do with a cabbage apart from boiling it, or maybe making a coleslaw. I have to say that the Hungarians are very inventive (no -wrong word) adroit, artistic, avant-garde, breaking new ground, causative, constructive, demiurgic, deviceful, fertile, forgetive, formative, fruitful, gifted, imaginative, ingenious, innovational, innovative, innovatory, inspired, original, originative, poetical, productive, resourceful, teeming - take your pick - when it comes to cooking cabbage, and over here it is a highly rated vegetable food source. Having tasted just a couple of the things they do with a cabbage I can understand why! Whilst there, a friend of helper's mother turned up. She has no water in the house either. Can't say it makes me feel any better, but at least it makes me feel that I am not alone!

A little later, in the pub (of course), someone turned up that had heard that I had no water, put two and two together and made five. He was told by helper in no uncertain terms that it was nothing I had, or had not done, either within the house or without, but was a fundamental problem with the supply. Duly mollified, he went away.

12th January 2009

I got up, and spent the entire day feeling rather out-of-sorts. I don't know if it was reaction to the trauma of the weekend or what, but I was very down and just felt rotten. I suppose I came closer than I ever have to knocking it all on the head, taking Pickle back up the road to breeders, grabbing a load of cash and a train ticket to Ferihegy, and catching the first flight to the UK. It didn't really help to know that the village shop is in the same boat - no water.

Anyway, I didn't. Neither did I achieve very much. In fits and starts I did manage to do a single plaiting on my mat, and start another small project towards keeping the house warm. Every single bit I did towards it was thwarted by something. I jigsawed and drilled two small blocks of wood as the first step. And Pickle ate one. The screws would not go in the holes and tighten up. I dropped a tiny fixing screw and it went I know not where. It all added to my feeling of helplessness and depression, which was only relieved by the arrival of helper, who refilled all the available water containers, and had quite a detailed chat about how to fix the problem. It will cost, of course - it will have to come out of my capital budget, about £200 - but it will permanently fix the problem. I did feel a little better about things after that, though still out-of-sorts, so we went to the pub!

13th January 2009

Another bitingly cold day. The only saving blessing is that there is no wind chill factor to speak of, there being no wind to speak of. I managed to get to the shop before it was really light. I have this habit of looking at chimneys to see who has fire going. I don't include the ones that just emit steam. That's gas central heating and could easily be on a timer. I only include the ones from wood stoves. They are still up earlier than me, but it is a small consolation to see my pitiful wisp of smoke from my chimney that is fed by the kitchen stove as I walk back the few yards to my house, in the knowledge that the kitchen is warming up and the coffee is cooking.

All pretence of outside working is at a stop, not only for me but thoughout the village. The only outside work that is taking place is cutting and sawing firewood. I ended up on the Internet, and for want of anything better to do checked the historical weather records for Szombathely, which you will recall is only some twenty five miles away. I went back to 1990 and checked out all the Januaries. Just my luck. This really is an exceptionally cold year! Yes, it occasionally gets very cold, but normally there are only about five or six days in a row where the daytime temperature is in the minuses, then a (maybe brief) mild spell. Sometimes the daytime temperature is in double figures. Not this year.

I had a bit of a blitz on the foot mat before I left the house and went out for lunch - again! I have one more plaiting to do (I reckon) and it will be finished. None too soon. I still have a couple more 'house warming' projects to do at no cost before I have to think about spending money!

I called in the pub on the way to lunch and I was it. The only customer. The landlady was in charge and she was watching telly in the bar on her own when I went in. We managed a conversation about my water situation at home. It is just a bit bizarre that with all the Hungarian that I don't know, I know the Hungarian for 'manhole'. The way it is, I suppose. One learns the stuff that it is necessary to learn in the light of immediate experience.

Had lunch, made my excuses and started to wander back home. Of course I called in the pub and helper was there. We had a beer together then I headed home. He said he would come and check out the water situation. At home I relit the fires and restocked the wood baskets. Sure enough, helper arrived shortly afterwards with two extra water containers. It was dark by then, so I had to hold the torch shining down the 'akna' so that he could see to fill up the buckets and containers.

Later, in the pub, we rediscussed the JCB thing and he was hopeful that it could be organised for Saturday.

14th January 2009

It was a bit light this morning - more light than normal. Last night was slightly milder too, and the big room was very warm this morning:
Snow in the Yard Yes. It finally had snowed. Not a huge amount, but snow nonetheless. Very dry powdery snow - you couldn't make a snowball out of it. I know, I tried for the benefit of Pickle.

After breakfast I contented myself with the final plaiting for my footmat. It was just long enough. It had turned out just the right size and with the ends stitched in it didn't really need any tightening down. Here it is:
For the benefit of the technically minded it is a 6 Bights by 10 Lead Turks Head knot with three turns courtesy of J Scoles. At least I finally got a project finished :) Turks Head Knot Mat

I was out to lunch again! I took them a present of a bag of my spuds.

Back home I started on the next project. Hand stitching hems! Good job it is rather forgiving material.

15th January 2009

I worked all day on the current project started yesterday. It's another house warming project. I would have finished it too, but I got called away to a meeting with helper (in the pub, of course) who had made lots of phone calls and wanted to discuss what needed doing to restore my water supply. Still without, obviously. That's it for today!

16th January 2009

I forgot to tell you about what happened in the village, and elsewhere, when it snowed. As soon as it got light there were lots of blokes out with snow clearing scrapers. I knew where mine was (must get a picture) and did the path from the front gate to the house. There seemed to be a collective effort, well almost collective, to ensure that the footpath was cleared right throrugh the village. I won't say where, but it was noticable that two particular houses made no effort at all. People did the vacant lots, and someone cleared the footpath outside my late friend's house. Nothing at all was done with the road. Life continued and traffic continued to pass, if a little more slowly than usual. They are obviously used to it, as I was, living in the countryside in the late 1960s and early 70s. Driving on snow holds no fears, especially fresh snow - fun!! I remember going over the Lincolnshire wolds with eighteen inch snow drifts across the road. My dear old Dad had told me how to deal with it. As fast as you can get the car to go, and "bash". Keep it relatively straight, and if it slides a bit just let it find the edge of the road, where there is grip. The important thing is just to keep it moving. I digress again. What was not forseen was that it snowed again, then changed to freezing rain, then to rain. All the surfaces that had been cleared simply became slick with ice with the ground frozen so hard. Hmmmm - the snow clearers' work was all in vain. I salted my path, but it didn't help much.

Back to today, and I finished another project. All the hand sewing of hems was in the production of a pair of curtains made from the fabric I found, to go across the inside of the outside doors - hence a house warming project. Picture:
Door Curtains I said it is an unprepossessing sort of a material, but it is quite surprising how much cheer they add to the hallway.

I was on the last few stitches when there was a knock at the door. By dint of a bit of pidgin magyarul I ellucidated that he was "JCB man". Part of the arrangements that I had agreed with helper was that some random, unknown to me, geezer would bring his JCB and dig a trench for a new water feed pipe direct from the manhole to the house, and deep enough that it won't ever freeze. I suppose I get a sort of perverse sense of satisfaction that my efforts at winterising the house have in fact worked, and that my problems stem from a gash system from former times! JCB man imparted to me the knowledge that he couldn't go through the frozen ground, and it would have to be broken up by hand. Or wait for it to thaw. He went off to impart this knowledge to helper. I went back to sewing. I did manage to finish it (hence picture above), then had a quick swill round and a dash into town for a not inconsiderable slice of cash to pay for the work involved in repiping the mains water into the house.

I made a couple of other purchases whilst there. One was to replace the small axe, which, quite frankly, has become dangerous. The handle broke once already, the head is split across the hammer side, and the shaft is persistently loose on the head in spite of my best efforts. The other purchase was dog food. In a particularly black moment I had the thought that the purchase of the one could relieve me of the on-going liability to purchase the other! It soon passed. To await the bus time to get back to the village I went to the Cellar Bar. I was approached in there by some random middle aged woman who promptly tried to scrounge 1000Ft off me! The answer was a polite but firm "No!".

Later, in the pub, there were a few insights on the news bulletin. The Russia/Ukraine gas thing continues to cause mounting problems here. The weather that I wrote about above has caused traffic chaos, and a large number of casualties. Schools remain open, unlike in the UK where these days they close if it just looks like snowing, and finally, reference JCB man, they showed a clip of a grave digger using a pneumatic drill to start digging a grave - that's how hard it is!

17th January 2009

I see that Microsoft has managed it again.

Still sub-zero, days and nights. Still no water, but helper continues to appear at some stage each day to fill buckets and containers straight from the manhole. In spite of the temperature it was a clear, bright day and believe it or not there is a little warmth in the sun. I keep chipping away at the various projects, an hour here, an hour there. I did a bit of sewing on the next house warming project but soon got bored with it and turned to the woodworking. It felt warm enough to work in the outhouse, which was a good job, as any serious planing that has to be done is done in there. I also had enough water on hand to do a small wash. I can keep on top of smalls and a couple of tee shirts, but the small mountain of big stuff that needs washing keeps growing. It's not the washing that is the problem, it is the quantity of water needed for rinsing out.

I made walnut butter for lunch. Ten walnuts, a drop of oil and a little sugar. Used the pestle and mortar (which isn't really big enough) to grind it down to a spreadable consistency and whacked it in a sandwich. Interesting - not quite the same consistency and texture as peanut butter, and very filling. Makes a change from just munching them, and I still have a small mountain of them to get through. The effort involved made me think about EROEI - you know, how much energy you get out as a ratio to the energy input. I still see people write about negative EROEI - you can't have negative EROEI. The break-even point is, of course, 1.0. If you have an EROEI of less than one it isn't worth doing. Bit like wild animals that will expend so much energy catching some food that doesn't replace the energy they used catching it that they will starve themselves to death.

Helper appeared and as well as refilling my water containers took a hayfork and used it to losen the snow where the JCB is to dig. It didn't make a very good job of it, so I went over it with the hoe and in about ten minutes had all the snow actually removed.

I promised photos of my tombola (raffle) prizes. It has been a while, but:
This is the Russian sparkling wine. Russian Wine
Kekfrankos Wine And here is the Kekfrankos Hungarian red. It is a half litre bottle and as you can see a very unusual bottle. It is sealed with sealing wax.
A close-up of the label shows that it is a 1996 vintage, limited edition of 10,000 bottles, individually numbered, and it celebrates the eleven hundredth anniversary of the vinyard. Now that is going some! How many going concerns in the UK can go back eleven hundred years? One of the oldest of which I know is Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem pub in Nottingham which (supposedly) dates back to 1189AD Kekfrankos Wine

Ah, yes! Feel free to correct me, but my understanding of the difference between a raffle and a tombola is that in a raffle the tickets have counterparts which are separated, folded and put in a drum/box/whatever. The tickets are drawn out by whomever and if your ticket matches the one that is drawn you win a prize. In a tombola the winning ticket numbers are already on the prizes and each participant gets the chance to draw a ticket for themselves, which then wins a prize if they match one on display. Typical instance of tombola is the fairground stall with the prizes with the tickets on on display, and you pay your money and chose a straw from which to extract a rolled up ticket to see if you can match one. Any advance?

18th January 2009

I got a bit of woodwork done in the morning, then, it being Sunday I had a good clean and mop through of the kitchen and hallway, including finding new (temporary) homes for loads of stuff that was lying about. I wanted to do the big room too, but ran out of time as helper came round to do the water and we chatted for a while.

He left, and I promised to meet him in the pub in a few minutes for a swift one before, once again, I went up to his place for lunch. I ran a few minutes late, and between us we made it half an hour late. Nothing new there, then - move right along. Lunch was soup, and a main course. The main course was a sort of meat loaf, served on a bed of what I would have called couscous (I think it probably was), but which in Hungarian is supposed to be tarhonya, which is not quite the same thing. Absolutely delicious, whatever. I'll come back to the food again another time.

As usual helper and I left his place after a respectful period of time, and as usual called in the pub. I had one or three in there with him then got home rather late, lit the tile stove, stocked up on wood and settled down for a while in front of the computer. Bloody cold, in spite of the foot mat. I might explain that it is all a matter of what I inherited in the house. In this case the power points. One of the only two I know about is by the head of the bed and the other is directly opposite. That means that my "office" is in the coldest corner in the room. Without a major reorganisation (which is coming) there is not a lot I can do about it right now except moan!

19th January 2009

Another cold but bright morning. I carried on with various projects, including once again being able to use the outhouse for a bit of woodwork. Once again I was interrupted by the arrival of helper, this time armed with pickaxe. He set about the yard with the pickaxe in an attempt to locate where the actual water supply comes into the house. In view of the JCB plans I joined him, armed with mattock, and started at the manhole end of where a trench will have to run. After about fifteen minutes we gave it best. He had managed a small indentation into the concrete path by the house - poor as the concrete is - and I had managed to chip away a piece of about fifteen inches across by a foot long by about three inches deep. And that was by the manhole, where it is just earth. It really was like breaking up concrete. He went off to his other jobs, promising to return later to top up my containers of water. I went back to projects.

By lunchtime the temperature outside had risen to probably ten degrees, and a major thaw was underway. I was in the kitchen doing something, I know not what, when I heard a gurgle. Definitely a gurgle as in water moving in pipes. I opened the cold water tap in the kitchen and was rewarded by an even louder gurgle. No water, as it was turned off at the mains in the manhole. Investigation needed, I went down the manhole, turned off the draindown cock, and turned on the two in-line taps to turn the mains on into the house. I was rewarded by a rush of water through the pipes. The little serrated wheel on the meter spun at a blur, then slowed, steadied, went into reverse, then forwards again and finally settled at a standstill. OK, at least there wasn't water gushing out somewhere unknown. I hopped out of the manhole, went back in the house and hey-presto there was running water from the taps. Hooray!!! I went back and rechecked the meter. There was just the tiniest bit of movement on the little wheel - one serration in about twenty seconds. I could live with that for now. When I discovered I was flooding the cellar, it was moving about two serrations a second! The only place there was no water, or very little anyway, was the loo cistern. Not too bothered about that - easy enough to flush it with just a bucket of water. I sent an SMS to helper with the intention of him not having to turn up and replenish me with containers of water.

Somewhat later I decided it was beer o'clock and set off towards the pub, only to run into helper on his way to mine to see what the situation was. I reassured him that all was well - I had water at the taps, and still plenty of containers full if it should freeze up again, so we retired to the pub. We had a nice little session and I managed to find out a bit about the tax system, and also his opinion of the Hungarian government, which I won't repeat here, being still a guest in the country. All revolves around money, which I know I have mentioned before on the blog.

20th January 2009

Short and sweet today. I carried on with the various projects. Also did a huge wash of all the stuff that has been accumulating in the absence of running water. The thaw continues, and the weather is almost spring-like, which fills me with the foreknowledge of what needs to be done in the garden. There are pockets of snow still lying, but it is mainly mud and muck underfoot.

Helper came round to see what needs doing with the big room. Normal answer - a bit of repair here, a bit of preparation there! Hmmm - think not! We did get talking about the ceilings, which are not good. I managed to establish that they are false ceilings, with the original larch ceilings above. Unfortunately it seems that in between them is the insulation, and even worse it is probable that the false ceilings are asbestos sheeting. Fine and good so long as it is not disturbed! Long term plan is to restore the larch ceilings and insulate above them, but the big room is certainly high enough that it would stand another "restored larch" ceiling below, with even more insulation between. A day or two ago there was a television scene that was shot in a traditional Hungarian "tanya". Now that really was primitive.

21st January 2009

Still plugging away at all the various projects. I still have water - no recurrence of the freezing up, fortunately. The shop still has no water. I actually managed a bit of a chat to the lady that runs it about it. She is having to lock the shop up and pop home - about three doors away - every time she needs to spend a penny, or wash her hands, or just make a cup of coffee.

I found a web page about a place in the States that takes people in and teaches them "homesteading" skills. To my relief (I thought it might be just me) one of the main comments that comes back from the participants was how long everything takes when you have to do it by hand. Mind you, one of the clips on their video showed two guys with the type of saw that me and my son used on the big conifer and they were really making hard work of it. My medium sized bowsaw would have gone through it in half the time, just powered by me! To emphasise the point here is a little tool that I have made. It represents about two hours of solid work, measuring cutting, planing, glueing up and finishing:
Tool Tool

It is made of walnut, for a reason, and no it is not a right angle. In fact the included angle is approximately 82°, which isn't at all bad seeing as it is within about half a degree of the angle I calculated by trig! I will, of course, have to make another. That's enough clues, and I think I can manage a small prize for the first person to identify its purpose in life, and it needs to be quite specific. The clues are in this paragraph.

After lunch I went to Nádasd to pay some bills and some other shopping. I don't think I said that I had had three electricity bills. I thought there was just the one bill a year, but no, each of these bills is for one month and each is for the princely sum of seventy five pence. The Hungarians obviously don't appreciate the actual cost of raising an invoice. I called in my favourite ironmongers and bought dog food, two low energy light bulbs, a bulb holder and some cable clips - hmmmm fifteen quid! The most expensive bit by far was the low energy light bulbs - over four pounds each! They gave me a 2009 calendar, for which I duly thanked them most seriously. Anything 'gratis' is regarded in great esteem here, and I realised that my continued patronage of them was being rewarded in a way that would certainly just be taken for granted in the UK!

Spent too much time in the pub on the way home!

22nd January 2009

After the usual morning routine I had a bit of a shuffle round and found a nail, a UK style plug and a length of two core cable of dubious origin and set to to install myself a wall light just above the computer. There are two reasons: one, to give me a bit more light for actually working on the computer and two, so that my ugly mug can better be seen when I am using the webcam. Here it is:
Wall Light In true Hungarian fashion it is hung on the wall (loosely) with a nail. Notice too that the fitting is porcelain. Yes, they still use porcelain light fittings.

I plodded on with a bit more woodwork, and had just about had enough when Posta arrived. One of the items was a market research questionnaire on behalf of Sainsburys, redirected from the UK. At the top of the address box it said to correct the address if it was wrong - so I did, and filled it in, and will send it back. Let them pick the bones out of that. I quite truthfully answered that the two supermarkets I use are Tesco and Lidl!

After lunch it was back to ripping out the polystyrene. I was pulling up one of the bits of wood that hold it at the bottom. A fair length of it was behind the units on the one remaining wall. As I pulled it out it snagged on something. With a bit of a wiggle it came out, and I had a look behind the unit to see what had caused it. To my astonishment there was a wall light. And it was on! I had a bit of a double take thinking "OMG, has that been on ever since I turned the electricity on?" and then immediately thought "You silly sod, course it hasn't - you would have seen it shining up the wall at night!" I had to move one of the units to get at it. Not nice - I suspect a minimum of five years worth of cobwebs. Like something out of Hammer House of Horrors.

I had reached the limit of what I could do without a fairly major reorganisation of the room, so I turned my attention to the upcoming relocation of the mains water supply to the house. I was in the middle of a second attempt to locate where the water reaches the house from the outhouse when helper appeared. He gave me a mild bollocking for starting to dig up the yard - it appears to be on hold now until March, and then he instructed me to meet him in the pub as soon as - "pici üzlet" (a little business). Now, there is nothing your average Hungarian likes better than "pici üzlet", which takes the form of a good barter. I was a bit at a loss to understand what the "pici üzlet" was all about, having totally been lost by his attempted explanation. I met him in the pub, and managed to discover that we were having one drink, going to his place for a bite to eat and then cycling to Daraboshegy for the "pici üzlet". OK, I went along with it.

We had the drink, went to his and ate, then set off in the gathering dusk to Daraboshegy. We went in the little pub there and met a rather shambling old boy. I knew him by sight - I had seen him catch the bus, and it looks as though he is rather unwell. Pleasant enough chap. We didn't have a drink, but followed the old boy to his house just over the road. It turned out that the "pici üzlet" was that I had come to look at a Hungarian workbench with a view to buying it.

It had all come about because I had had a moan to helper about the price of vices in Hungary. Woodworking-type vices, not hookers you understand! Like a silly little four inch vice is 13,000Ft - top side of forty quid. A decent vice is in six figures of Forints - ouch! Anyway, by the light of the only light we had between us, which was one of those dreadful blue lights in a cheap lighter, I inspected the bench. We retired to the pub, where a deal was struck. Six thousand Forints for not one vice, but two, complete with a substantial Hungarian work bench attached! About twenty quid! Whilst in Daraboshegy we also arranged transportation, at a cost to be agreed.

We cycled back to Halogy, by now pleased of the wretched blue light as it was very dark and virtually impossible to see the road, and we went our separate ways, well pleased. Turns out that helper, having taken note of my moan about the vices had put the word out to see if anyone wanted to be rid of a work bench, and the old boy in Daraboshegy turned up trumps! I can only say that it is the Hungarian way!

23rd January 2009

The promised appearance of the work bench somewhen during the morning prompted a flurry of activity from me. I had been making do with the rickety table in the summer kitchen for attempting woodwork for a while. Bits of wood were stacked, apparently higgledy-piggledy around the place, and on the floor, but I have a system, so I knew the purpose of every single bit - even if it was only destined for firewood. Now, all was planned and agreed, with handshakes all round in a gentlemanly fashion, but no cash had changed hands and I didn't really know whether it would happen or not, or just turn into some "if only" Hungarian pipe dream. No. About ten o'clock Pickle (on chain :( ) went ballistic. I poked my head out and there were the various actors in the scenario with car, trailer and work bench. They marched straight in the yard, oblivious to the fact that I have a dangerous, vicious, biting dog. Of course all she did was a lot of barking and an equal amount of tail wagging.

In view of the fact that some large lumps of wood would be coming through the gate, and to obviate the danger of Pickle tangling her chain and running wire round the legs of movers of said lumps of wood, she was installed in the house. Helper helped me put the final touches to where the bench would go, including bashing off the last few bits of crumbling render in the summer kitchen, so that it could at least be backed up to brick. Not that the bricks are much better! Only took a couple of minutes, then helper and deliverer handballed the bench top in. It was as much as two men could manage. The legs/frame was entirely separate, and rather flimsier. Frame installed in the summer kitchen, helper and deliverer attempted to put the bench top on. Fortunately, the old boy whose property it still was, no cash having changed hands, assisted with vigourous cries of "Yes" and "No" in accordance with whether they were going in the right general direction or not. I suppose it must have taken a couple of minutes - it seemed longer. There was a solid "thunk" and that was it. The only thing that holds the bench top onto the frame is gravity. But there's plenty of it. The complete bench was shuffled up to the wall. Due to the uneveness of the summer kitchen floor it still left a bit to be desired in stability.

I was summoned to the pub to complete the formalities of "pici üzlet". They went off in the car and I made a rapid tour of house, dog et. al. before getting on the bike and riding to the pub to join them. I managed to arrive at the pub at the same time as they did. I don't know if they went via Szombathely! As befitting, I bought a round. The agreed price was paid for the work bench, and I had a discussion with the guy that delivered it. Five hundred Forints! That's one pound sixty six! I happen to know it took them two hours to get it out of where it was and onto his trailer.

I really cannot begin to explain it, but it turned into an almost party atmosphere. ""Az Angol" has bought a work bench". Lots of chat, and far too much drinking for eleven in the morning.

Eventually that assembled party dispersed, and I was dragged - not reluctantly - to helper's place for lunch yet again. By the time I had lunched, and remained a respectful but not disrespectful length of time, and helper and I had made our usual return trip to the pub it was getting dark. As I left the pub it was raining. Cold rain. By the time I cycled home it was sleeting.

Fires made and all cosy in the house, somewhat later I had to let Pickle out for necessary functions. There was a dusting of snow on the ground. Somewhat later still I let her out again. This is what she came back like:
By the time I got the camera most of it had melted! Dog with Snow

24th January 2009

It did snow during the night:
Snow Not a huge amount, and much wetter than previously.

I spent the morning starting to sort out the bench. I gave it a good sweep down and clean - had to use a scraper on it in places. I wedged the frame to sort out the uneveness of the floor, and it clung itself to the brick wall. Pictures:
Here it is, in all its glory! Hungarian Work Bench
Wooden Screw Vice Here is the wooden screw vice, minus its plate which has gone missing. A small repair job. Pickle inspecting as usual!
And here is the tail vice. With this I can clamp up and work on stuff about the same length as the bench. Tail Vice
I started on replacing the plate for the front vice and there is a certain gentle irony in the fact that I can use the bench to repair the bench. What a treat, to be able to clamp up a piece of wood and use both hands freely to plane, chisel, saw... Just so much more productive!

Afternoon - domestics!

Evening - pub, where I met helper and found out something quite funny, and also quite touching in a way. Apparently, in the village me and helper are being referred to as "báty és öcs" which, roughly translated means big brother and little brother. I think I'm big brother!

25th January 2009

I spent a while planning and starting to make the repair to the bench vice. By the way, nobody got near my question about the little walnut tool. Keep reading the blog - there may be another clue! In the meantime helper was beating seven shades of sh*t with my hammer out of the connectors that are persistently refusing to come undone. The decision seems to have been made somewhere along the line that I really don't need the monstrosity of a furnace in the pantry, nor the radiators, nor all the pipework. I suppose the decision has actually been made by me, in the light of the place being warm and comfortable enough during the recent very cold spell.

I helped helper to hand-ball the removed radiators into the yard, where we grew the existing stack of them by the well. I don't know whether I ever said, but they remind me of the radiators in my old junior school - and that is going back to the nineteen fifties. The only difference is that these are steel (but still very substantial) and those were, I think, cast iron. Helper set about removing the pipework, and I was called upon at intervals to assist in removing various odd shaped pieces to add to the stack by the well. I said to him during a beer break in my kitchen that it must be a bit odd, when most people would be wanting to put central heating into their houses, and I am ripping mine out. The conversation was a bit more simplistic than that but the purport was the same. His response was that my house was warm enough and the only problem was making two wood fires instead of one. (One in the kitchen stove and one in the tile stove) I told him it was easier doing that, than dealing with the monstrosity in the pantry.

After the beer break we went back to removing the last remaining central heating pipe from the big room. It ran the full length of the eastern wall about three inches below the ceiling. It had defied helper's efforts, and helper's and my combined efforts, so I applied a little science. At the loose end was what was left of a cut off elbow. I stuck a pipe in there and heaved. To my surprise the pipe yielded - almost too quickly for me to control. With a struggle I managed to keep the end that just broke wedged up towards the ceiling and managed to get the other end down to floor level. With another struggle we got it out of the house!

Having finally got rid of as much of the old pipework as we could, we retired to the pub for one. I returned to the topic of the central heating, and why anyone would want central heating when they have a cserepkalyha. I asked helper how many houses in the village still had them. He knew. He counted them off on his fingers and identified whose houses they were in. From what I could gather rather more houses have them than don't. Certainly all the older houses in the village do - and still use them.

When I finally returned from the pub - after more than one - the Internet was down. The phone connection is a bit 'iffy' and sometimes there are only three green lights on the router instead of six. Normally a quick waggle of the connection fixes it. Not tonight. I ended up rebooting the router and the computer. I don't know whether it was a stale IP address that hadn't renewed itself or what, but it fixed itself in the end, so I did a fairly big blog update.

26th January 2009

Short and sweet. I spent the morning shifting furniture and ripping out the last of the polystyrene. Towards the end of that helper turned up and, the last of the polystyrene having been despatched and the furniture dust sheeted down, we attacked the crumbling walls with scrapers removing rotten decoration, rotten plaster and rotten previous repairs. Several barrow loads of assorted debris got removed. That's it! Pictures will follow.

27th January 2009

I really must try harder to find some doom and gloom on the Peak Oil front. At the moment it is all the continuing collapse of the capitalist system.

Normal sort of a morning - coffee, shop, toast and jam, etc. Just after eight the same guys that ripped out the big old furnace from the outbuilding turned up again and removed the radiators and pipework from their stack against the well. The difference this time was that helper had done some wheeler-dealering and I actually got some Forints back. Not a lot, but some!

Helper continued with the scraping down of the walls whilst I had a good blitz of the kitchen and hallway. The removal of radiators and pipework had taken a serious toll on any pretence at cleanliness.

Helper left to go to a big funeral in the village. His explanation of whose funeral it was escaped me. I didn't go. It was funeral weather. I believe there is another tomorrow. It had rained all morning. The combination of the previous hard frosty weather, then snow, then thaw, the rain had turned the yard into a quagmire. I thought I had isolated where the main problem was with getting the yard to drain, but it still continued to be a freezing puddle. As I went out with the shovel to try and fix it it turned to sleet, and in a matter of minutes to wet, heavy snow. I managed to make some improvement, but once again was driven indooors by the weather. It was time to light the stove by then anyway.

The snow continued relentlessly. By the time it was time to go to the pub there was no consideration of cycling. So, feet clad in the green wellies I plodded my way up there to arrive with my outer garments coated with snow. It was no better on the way home, other than the fact that the snow-bearing wind was now at my back. I settled in to do more blog updates. At about half past nine the lights flickered, flickered again, flickered again badly enough to reboot the router and after about thirty seconds finally gave up the ghost. Fortunately I knew where the candles were. I have a memory trick that was told me, and I practised until it works (about ten days), when I was nineteen. It has served me well over the years. If you want I will share it with you. It's easy but needs a few days of mental application. Anyway, the lights didn't come back on, so once the laptop battery died I went to bed by candlelight.

28th January 2009

The power was still off when I got up. I had the foresight to set the alarm on the mobile phone, in spite of how rapidly it drains the battery. Lit the fire in the kitchen stove, put the coffee on and went to the shop. The lady in the shop was working by torchlight with her trusty battery calculator. She told me that there would be no power to the village until at least tomorrow, maybe the next day. Hmmmm! Someone else told me that they had no central heating. Theirs is wood fired, but relies upon an electric pump to circulate the water. When the power went off they had to dash out to the furnace and pull the fire out of it - otherwise boiler explodes! Ha!

I had no such problem. The coffee was cooked when I got home. (The service in the shop was a bit slower than usual) I made toast in the normal (?) manner by throwing the bread on the by now well hot cast iron cooking surface of the stove and had a delicious breakfast. All the days plans were thrown into confusion. The remodelling of the house seems to have acquired a life of its own, like a runaway steamroller charging downhill. The plan was for the "vas girl's" blokes to arrive with a big angle grinder and remove the remaining pipework and the old furnace from the pantry. That obviously went out of the window.

I just carried on with what this project is all about - living as far as possible using hand labour to achieve what the particular task requires. Much of it is just tedious. Sawing and chopping wood for the kitchen fire, for instance. I am fortunate in that the hardwood for the tile stove just has to be thrown in a basket, taken indoors, and burnt. I still have a small mountain of stuff around the place that is only good for sawing up, chopping up and chucking in the kitchen stove.

I contented myself with a bit more work on the several woodworking projects on the go, and, whilst it was light enough, with some more needlework. As it was starting to get dark helper arrived with the news that the pub was shut for the night as there was no power. As I recall, in the Winter of Discontent, when we had a three day week and scheduled power cuts, the busiest places when there was no power at home were the pubs. They managed to stay open with no power in the nineteen seventies in the UK... Anyway, helper presented me with a couple of cans of beer, with the explanation that the landlord had sent them along because the pub was shut for the evening. But I would have to pay for them tomorrow. Ah, the Hungarian way!

I sent a couple of SMS's to the Uk during the day, explaining the situation. The odd thing was that my land line phone didn't work either. I unplugged it from the router and plugged it straight into the phone socket but all I got was a continuous out-of-order type tone. I knew that other people hand land line phones working, so it was a bit of a mystery.

I ended the day at home, warm and cosy and doing a couple of hours knitting by candle light. Believe it or not the light level was about the same as where I normally sit in the pub! And a good bit warmer.

29th January 2009

There was still no power this morning. With both mobiles flat I had no alarm to wake me, but by sheer mental will power I was up at the normal time. Lit the stove, then hit the first snag of the day. Yesterday when I made the coffee I had beans already ground in the electric grinder. Today there was only about one third enough to support my morning caffeine hit. I ended up with my little pestle and mortar pounding coffee beans as fine as I could get them before I could put the coffee on. I went over to the shop as usual and thought World War Three had broken out. Normally at that time there are maybe three or four people in there. Today there were about fifteen waiting to be served. They queue patiently, as in the UK. It took a few minutes for the penny to drop that the shop lady had not opened at five thirty, in the pitch black, but had waited until there was at least an attempt at daylight before opening. It took me twenty minutes to get served. The coffee was well and truely cooked by the time I got home, in fact the fire in the stove was almost out. I make the fire first off with fast burning stuff that will heat it up quickly, then put some larger slower burning bits on later just to maintain the temperature.

Of course it was sod's law that just as I sat down with my coffee the power came back on. One of the first things I did was to grind a load of coffee and put away in a container - can't be doing with the pestle and mortar thing. For one thing it just isn't big enough.

After that it was business as usual. I'll keep it short, as I am still (once again) desperately playing catch-up, thanks to the power cut!

30th January 2009

With power restored, the guys actually turned up today to complete the job of ripping out the remaining pipework of the ex-central heating and removing the old boiler from the pantry. I can only say that it had a bit of a surreal feeling about it. They were very good, even bricking up and making good the hole in the chimney (which is shared with the kitchen stove) where the furnace flue was pulled out. They did abandon a certain amount of pipework that was simply too difficult to remove. Most of the pipes were welded in place where they joined!

I tried to carry on with my stuff, but my efforts were very disjointed as the guys kept interrupting me with "Steve? Is this to go?" etc., etc. One of the results of this was that, after ten-and-a-bit months I finally got to look in the loft. Amazingly, it was relatively clear of the miscellaneous crap that is present in piles in all the other lofts! They removed some pipework from up there, and presented me with a perfectly good, almost new sweeping brush that they had found up there.

Posta turned up, and for once was not able to supply me with cash. She tried several times, but her machine simply refused to connect. Hmmmm - trip to Nádasd then. Helper appeared, and I told him I would have to go to Nádasd. No problem, meet him in the pub in an hour. I met him and had a beer. Then we walked up to the house (farm) where they have the goats, pigs and ducks. I ended up helping him to haul a trailer through the snow, slush and muck to hook up to the little Suzuki car by the front door. They are obviously a bit particular about trailers in Hungary, as it not only got hooked on the tow ball, but was also tethered to the car by a chain. Helper was most meticulous about checking that it was all in order.

We were invited in for coffee, and gratefully accepted and had a warm. After that, the lady of the farm drove us to Nádasd, where helper and trailer were left at the builder's merchants and I was dropped off at the Posta to get some cash. I had arranged with helper where to meet (pub, of course), so we met when he had finished at the builder's merchants. I had the choice of getting the bus back to the village, or waiting for someone else who would pick up the trailer and drive it back to my place, as it was now loaded with stuff to repair my big room. I chose to wait. I did a quick bit of shopping, including treating myself to a tenon saw. The lift turned up promptly, and we drove back to the village. I opened the gates to the yard, and the driver hurtled in and promptly picked up a puncture to the trailer tyre. Ah well! The stuff in the trailer was unloaded into my potting shed outhouse.

Much later, sitting in my office attempting to update the blog I happened to have a little poke around the stuff on the wall where the radiator has been removed. A huge chunk came away, to reveal a bad crack in the wall that is the mirror image of the one outside. I could actually feel the wind coming through it! One bit of good news is that the stuff that is going on has actually revealed that the house is "pinned". That is to say that there are steel rods embedded in the walls right around the house that stop it from falling in the yard! Small mercies!

31st January 2009

Did my normal routine of up, let the dog out, light the stove and over to the shop, then once the coffee is cooked my daily trawl for doom and gloom and my essential hit of the Beeb news. Only this morning as soon as I booted up the computer the router showed an orange light. I rebooted it, which is a painfully slow process, and it showed the orange light again. It had never done that before, and I was thinking oh-oh maybe it's the dust, so in one of those blonde moments I dusted it and rebooted it again. To my astonishment it booted up fine - and the power to the house promptly went down. Mmmm - bit scarey - Steve reboots his router and the entire village is suddenly without power!

It was one of those overcast days that threatened snow, but didn't. If I remember correctly it was forecast as zero Celcius by day and minus one by night. In other words just cold. It was certainly too cold to work for more than a few minutes at a time in the outhouse. I really didn't manage that much, either inside or out. The power came back on at about three in the afternoon.

Much later, in the pub, the TV news showed rural areas elsewhere in Hungary that have been without power for three days now. They use concrete pylons to carry the local power supplies into the villages, and they are, well basically, falling down in the weather. I think they call it "crumbling infrastructure". One of the areas severely affected was the Tisza Lakes area of Hungary. I also forgot to mention the news item about the Tisza river being unnavigable as it was icebound. Pure luck that I ended up here, as the Tisza area was one of my chosen areas for investigating buying property. Seriously cheap there. I know why, now!

Well, I'm gradually catching up. I have a load of pictures in the camera that I haven't found time to deal with yet, so they will have to feature in February's blog.


March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012


Photo Galleries