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February 2009

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1st February 2009

We had snow flurries all day. The forecast was for one Celcius by day and zero Celcius by night. Huge temperature variation, then! On top of that a major repair job was happening in my big room. All the materials had been delivered and I had been summoned to a briefing at 7:30am. In the pub! On a Sunday!!! All parties met, I had a coffee and (I hesitate to say) a Hubertus, helper had a coffee a rum and a bottle of Kozel and the szakember had a triple fröccs, and then a single. I was tempted by a beer, but resisted manfully. Fortified, we headed for my place. The szakember had all his tools draped around his bike, which he pushed through the snow, and when I say tools that was everything up to a three metre aluminium straight edge!

Itthon, Pickle got tied up sufficiently short that she could take an interest in, but not interfere with the proceedings. Interesting language, Hungarian - they have separate words for "at home" depending whether you are at home or somewhere else. Itthon is "at home, here", Otthon is "at home, there".

They (helper, szakember and his son) carried on throughout the day. I kept out of the way and did a bit of woodworking and a bit of needlework. My needlework is not good, but getting better all the time, as the picture below shows!

By the time they had finished, the windows and doors had been open all day, and a not inconsiderable amount of moisture had been imported into the big room. It was bloody freezing. I stoked up the tile stove as much as I could, but it remained the coldest night I had had in there all winter, in spite of having survived temperatures of minus fifteen outside. Shows the importance of just keeping the place shut up tight and heated.

Anyway, it's picture time folks! Here is a pot-pourri of what has been going on at the house for the last few days, including today:
Finally all the polystyrene insulation is gone... All The Polystyrene Removed
More Debris ...into lots of piles of squares on the floor...
...and in addition to that is the crap that helper is scraping off the walls... More Debris
More Debris ...all over the place.
Everything got sheeted down with dust sheets. I bought the cheap ones. Five metres by four - about seventy pence! They are so thin it is a job to find the folds. the only advantage is that you can actually "float" them over all the furniture - just a little waft up and down of the leading edge and you trap an air bubble underneath and you can glide the sheet where you want it. Needs two people though. Furniture Sheeted Down
Hungarian Curtain Rails This is one of the curtain rails that held the dreadful net and loose hessian curtains. I don't think I mentioned that the actual curtains are held up by what I can only describe as mini-crododile clips. They make a little zigzag in the top of the curtain and clip it in. It gives the curtain a slight fold as it hangs. Never was one for net curtains anyway. There was even one over the glass in the door between the kitchen and hallway. Pickle saw that off!
Here's the old boiler in the pantry. Old Boiler
Old Boiler And here's another view. This was the day that the guys ripped it out, hence the angle ground pipes.
The boiler and pipework all got ripped out - here it is on the yard. Old Boiler and Pipework
Hole in Pantry Floor It left this hole in the pantry floor. The picture really does not do it justice - it has to be two feet deep, two feet wide and about five feet long. It has steps built in at one end so that you can walk down to feed the boiler!
The walls got repaired today. Here's one view of the work in progress. Interior Wall Repairs
Interior Wall Repairs And here's another view.
My magnum opus for the day. My second attempt at needlework is the draught excluder sausage much beloved by the British. Here it is lying against the kitchen door. Obviously its final destination is the door in the big room, but since the door in there was off its hinges whilst all the above stuff was going on I couldn't photograph it there. Its cost has been minuscule. The fabric is part of that I discovered, It is given weight by bags of sand (for weight) and polystyrene chips (that my stuff was packed in) wrapped up in strips of the internals of an old quilt that was in a wardrobe when I got here. I had to buy the sand, of course, and the thread with which I sewed it up. Draught Excluder

2nd February 2009

A Richard Heinberg presentation in five parts. As ever, what Richard has to say is a must know for the energy prospects of the world!

Still chipping away at the woodworking projects. Pun intended! Trying to think of a suitable one for the needlework.

I did a little woodturning job. It's not very good, but not bad considering that it was in the chuck of the electric drill, I made the tool that cut the edge, and both were hand held for the actual process. In the context of what it is for, it'll do! Reminds me of the "good enough" software thing! Picture:
Wood Turning Made of walnut, of course. Just one of the components for the mending of the vice on the bench. Hmmmm - little job, I said.

That's it - apart from the fact that it has now started to thaw slowly, there is nothing else to report.

3rd February 2009

Not much today - still trying to catch up. Needlework and woodwork as before. I'll mention some of the new tools that have been seeing a fair bit of use on the woodworking projects. The hand brace has been used a few times. Wonderful tool. Shifts wood equally as fast as the spade bits with the electric drill, and much, much cleaner holes. Also the Irwin-Marples 8mm chisel. I may have mentioned what a so-and-so it was to hone - really took some effort. I now know why. It has not been sharpened since, and it slices through oak like a hot knife through butter - a sheer pleasure to use. The new shoulder plane blade has seen some action as well. I used it in the finishing of the little walnut tool that nobody has sussed out yet. Keep looking - there is a clue coming up.

Here's a little project with which I am well pleased:
Made of walnut, once again. They are the handles for the next needlework project, which is a knitting bag. At the moment I am still carting it about in the plastic shop bag that the yarn came in and it is beginning to show the wear and tear of knitting needles poking through. Walnut Handles

I didn't mention it, but I had an envelope addressed to "Stefan, angol" a couple of days ago. I actually had a bit of a moan (in jest) to helper saying it should be addressed to either "Steve" or "István"and it should be "Az angol". To my surprise this evening I got another copy of it, dutifully translated into English [sic](most of it):


for the pig slaughtering in Halogy
Daraboshegyről disznó jő,
Halogyiak fazekába disznó fő,
ahogy futnak a szagos percek,
Űteműkrehurka serceg

Hurka, kolbász,májas, véres
izlik annak aki éhes
Szánk zsíros mosolytól fényes,
ahogy rád gondolok édes

On Saturday, 28th of February the soccer team of Halogy organises


for all the residents of the village. The costs are covered by charity funds, the village and its local government has no expenses.
After the slaughtering and processing the
dinner of the pig-killing day
is held at 6 pm in the village hall accompanied with gypsy music.
Everyone is welcome.
We kindly ask you to take part in the dinner.
Let's have a splendid evening together.
Enjoy yourself.


At 6:00 am ingestion of "Pálinka,"
the slaughter of the pig.
At 06.15 ingestion of the second "Pálinka",
breaming of the pig
Comsumption of mulled vine.
Chopping the pork into pieces.
Cutting the bacon (more like fat),
beginning of fatfrying.
Preparation of the meat for roasting, cooking.
Making black and white pudding and
pork sausages out of it.
Filling of puddings and sausages.
Roasting delicacies.
At 6 pm dinner accompanied by
smooth gypsy tunes
Revel together
A pig killing like this is, of course, a very important social event in the village with such dignataries as fhigh pigsticker, subv pigsticker, fire master, high taster, taster and, best of all, rabbles master. I await with interest!

4th February 2009

The thaw continued slowly. The banks of snow that were piled into the drainage ditches shrink a little each day. That is not to say that we cannot have some more ferocious winter weather. In this decade Szombathely has had -22.5C in February. I spent the morning on the projects, and it is good to be able to spend the woodworking time working in the summer kitchen where the bench is, rather than being either confined inside or constrained to work only for a few minutes at a time outside. At least this year I have some forewarning of what it will be like once the garden starts growing again.

After lunch I went into town with helper to buy decorating materials for the big room. First stop was the cellar pub, of course. We had a quick one and I went on my way to do my couple of bits of shopping with the arrangement to meet back at the cellar bar in about half an hour. By dint of legging it I got back there in just over twenty minutes. Situation normal, there was no sign of helper. The plan was that I would go to the shop with him and pay for the stuff then catch the half past two bus back to the village. He had arranged a lift with the stuff back to my place at about four o'clock. With time beginning to press a little for the bus he suddenly appeared. I was a bit confused until he got through to me that the car was actually already there. I necked the last mouthful of beer, went to the shop - which is conveniently next door - and paid. The stuff was already loaded in the car. The most bizarre part of the episode was that helper managed to leave the painting and decorating shop with a carrier bag full of cans of beer which he had managed to negotiate as part of the deal. Oh, what? Beer from a painting and decorating shop?

The stuff was dropped off at my place. Then - you've guessed it - we met up back in the village pub. There was no mention of petrol money. I think the guy who gave us the lift was already in town anyway, but I paid him in beer. He was quite happy. I had the one, then headed home to get the wood in, light the fires and eat.

Later, back in the pub, I had a minor catastrophy with the knitting. I had been distracted by someone taking an interest and found what I can only describe as a right dog's breakfast about a third of the way across the next row. I mentioned previously about the light levels. Impossible to see what was going on in there, so I just folded it up and put it away.

5th February 2009

In the cold light of day, the usual offices performed (stove fire, coffee, shop, BBC news and a quick trawl for doom and gloom), and without too much of a hangover I set about repairing the knitting. It didn't take me long to spot the problem in the daylight - a dropped stitch. The problem was that it had run down four rows and was about to run down a fifth. With the aid of a couple of double ended needles I was able to hook up the errant stitch and work it back to where it was supposed to be. I amazed myself by the fact that I was working from the "wrong side" (the inside) of the knitting and actually managed to hook it all back as "purl" stitches, which was correct. Knew a lady once, long ago and far away (if she's alive now she would be in her late nineties) who found a mistake in a cable pattern and quite deliberately dropped the whole set of stitches, let them run back to the mistake and then worked them back into pattern. That is what I call expert knitting. I'm not in that league.

Knitting repaired, I turned my attention back to the repair of the vice on the bench. Seems to have been going on a long time, but then the other vice and the bench have been in daily use. I had a problem. I needed to draw a circle of about sixty two millimetres diameter. It didn't need to be that accurate - anywhere between sixty one and sixty three would do. Problem was that I didn't possess a pair of compasses. I had already tried the nail/pencil/string thing and it really wasn't good enough. Solution? Knock up a tool to stand in for a proper pair of compasses:
Makeshift Compasses A gash bit of walnut with a saw cut into which slots my second biggest needle, with a hole drilled through the walnut, pencil inserted and held in place with a match trimmed into a wedge.
A closer view. Makeshift Compasses
Circle The resulting circle drawn on the vice repair component. That's what I like about computer programming - it's about solving problems at a little tiny level. Note that I did not say software engineering, which is about solving problems at an entirely different level and requires a completely different set of skills. My little circle is analogous to taking the inputs and outputs of a subroutine, function or method (call it what you will) and writing the code to do that particular job, including making it bullet proof in terms of input and output, which seems to be what a certain well known software company is so bad at!

A little while later and I have to admit to having attempted to use my home made parting tool to turn out the circle, failed and had to resort to the jigsaw I finally had all the components for the repair of the main vice on the bench completed:
The components for the vice repair. These are: the actual turned wooden thread with its boss and a ghastly iron pipe handle that simply has to go, the face plate that clamps up the work, the bottom guide that keeps the face plate in its correct horizontal plane, the turned circle of walnut that goes onto the end of the screw thread, the plate that fits over the screw thread and bolts to the face plate so that it will go backwards and forwards and not just launch into space and the necessary nuts, bolts and screw for the installation. There is a visual clue here to my little tool puzzle, but to win my prize the answer still needs to be quite specific - you may need to revisit the original question! Components for Repair

By the way, did you spot the joins in the walnut handles? I didn't have any pieces of walnut firewood quite long enough!

6th February 2009

A beautiful sunny day for a change - almost spring-like, but I am not taken in by that as I know what February can bring, as previously mentioned. I prepared finally to mend the vice. (It is pretty final, once installed it will need surgery to take it apart again) I only hit one minor snag. I had drilled a hole in the end of the big threaded lump of wood to be able to screw and glue the turned walnut plate onto the end of it. I don't know what wood it is but by heck it's hard. Turned out I had chosen a screw just a bit too long and it simply would not bite through the wood. In a hurry, as the adhesive was already mixed and applied, I had to find an equally meaty, but shorter screw. It finally went together, apart from a "measure twice and cut once" moment that had to be resolved with the use of the saw - d'oh.

I was just tightening the nuts and bolts when helper appeared. He admired my handiwork for a moment then went in the house, sheeted down and set about the final session of scraping down the big room. I determined that the time to go for the horrible iron pipe that was in the vice was right now. So out came the angle grinder and off it came. OK - a nice little mini-project - replace it with an oak handle. I found a suitable piece set by. I split it and trimmed it with the axe - oh how lovely it would be to have a side axe, but they are a ridiculous amount of money. Cut to length and, with the aid of a coin of the realm a suitably sized circle on each end, then planed it as near circular as I could get using the shoulder plane. I got it to a nice, easily sliding fit in the big boss without being too sloppy. It being all timber, allowances have to be made for seasonal expansion and shrinkage.

I went back into the house to grab some lunch to find the big room once again uninhabitable - huge quantities of dust everywhere, with helper adding more by the second. I kept out of the way and made a sandwich in the kitchen.

After lunch it occured to me that it was all very well having a nice new oak vice handle, but there was nothing to stop it falling on the floor if I happened to let go of it if it was anywhere near vertical. As anyone who has ever used a vice knows, the tightening bar has a knob on each end to stop that happening. I pondered the problem. I could have drilled through a piece of wood then mounted it in the drill chuck and made some attempt at turning it, but then it would have had a hole in the end. Not what I had in mind. With a bit of luck, and a fair wind I discovered that my more-or-less circular handle was exactly twenty five millimetres in diameter which is fortunate as it matches one of my drills. I found a suitable piece of oak (not difficult), drilled the holes for the handle, roughed it out using the jigsaw then lovingly hand finished a knob using only the shoulder plane and sandpaper.

The big room turned into a disaster area - piles of wall scrapings everywhere. A good job everything was sheeted down! At the end of the working day it all got swept up as best it could. Ah well, it is all helping to fill the hole in the pantry floor where the furnace was!

7th February 2009

A warning in the Arab News of the complexities of the financial crash and possible futures for oil supplies.

In the morning I made the other knob for the new vice handle:
Oak Knobs Here they are. Slightly eccentric, but I suppose that might just be a reflection on me :) They aren't perfect, but then they are not meant to be. They weren't turned on a lathe, and there is a certain something about an artifact that is deliberately rustic and slightly imperfect, in just the same way that you can immediately tell if a garment is machine knitted or knitted by hand.
The vice fully assembled. You can still see the moisture from the glue hardener at one end of the rod. The knobs perform their function well. The rod no longer drops on the floor! Oak Knobs, Handle and Vice

Helper turned up to do some work in the afternoon, but had barely started when he was called away to deal with a domestic crisis at home. Something to do with firewood!

8th February 2009

I found this transcript of Roscoe Bartlett's speach to Congress. Although the presentation was nearly four years ago it is still worth the read.

There was a bit of a discussion in the pub last night that I didn't mention. It was between me, helper and the local woodworking expert - the one who made the new bar front for the pub. It appears that, at long last, something is happening on the wood for the gates front. As a result I had arranged to meet helper in the pub today. At half past eight! AM! I got there only about five minutes late, had a leisurely coffee (and a Hubertus) then a leisurely beer. During the time we sat, about an hour I suppose, most of the regulars had appeared and left - some multiple times. Skittle teams arrived in force at about nine o'clock. Just turned half past nine we left the pub and went the two or three doors up to woodworking expert's house. About thirty seconds walk, I guess. The amusing thing is that he cycles to and from the pub! The Hungarian way continues to be "Drink early, drink often"!

When we got there he had not yet surfaced, it being Sunday, so we returned to the pub and had another leisurely beer. We were close to finishing it when woodworking expert showed up in the pub, so that was yet another leisurely beer. Eventually we did manage to get back to his place. There was a lot of talk about timber, and I got a guided tour of his workshop. We agreed details, confirmed over a quick shot of "Pálinka,"! From there we went to helper's for lunch. At least we both went there but helper did a quick change and went back to the pub to play skittles. I had another delicious meal at his house, and just about managed to hold my own in conversation. Helper's step-father and I actually managed quite a good chat about woodworking! They already knew that I would have to move along fairly swiftly, as helper wanted to get a bit more work done in the cottage before the end of the day. Naturally, I met helper in the pub and, naturally, had a beer. We did eventually make it back to the cottage where helper added to the clouds of dust and debris in the big room, and I, in the wisdom of an alcohol fueled euphoria, started yet another woodworking project.

We didn't get that much done as it was soon time to shut the doors and light the fire in the tile stove. I neglected to mention a very quirky thing at the woodworking expert's house. He has a big fine house, as befitting his status. He has five or six steps up to the house (pretty well all the houses have steps up to get into the house). At the bottom of the steps is his drive, and on the other side of the drive is a ten or fifteen foot strip of garden. Right by the edge of the drive and straight down from the steps, planted in the ground is a bit of tree. It is the bit where the trunk bifurcates into two almost parallel limbs. It happens to be elliptical, not circular, and it is planted in the ground with the single trunk uppermost and the limbs buried in the ground. And I have to say (and the woodworking expert confirmed it) that it is blatently reminiscent of female pudenda. I'll leave you with that thought for the day.

9th February 2009

Do you know, nobody commented on the change to the header I made a few days ago! Helper appeared early, the big room was deranged again, everything sheeted down and a load more dust created. That was me banished from there for the day then. I contented myself with woodworking in the morning and a bit on the sewing project in the afternoon. I found time to make one of my huge vegetable stews - enough to last for three days. At the moment some of the ingredients still get bought, mainly due to the failure of seeds brought from the UK to thrive here, and the depridations of the slugs. This year I will buy some local seed and see how that goes. I found in the shop some tiny tins of something pork. Only the equivalent of thirty pence, so I bought one, chopped it up and added it to my stew. I can only descibe it as being about half way between port luncheon meat and tinned chopped ham and pork. It dissolved in the stew to small but discernable lumps of meat.

Delicious, it was. With a hunk of the local bread. There's always enough to mix a bit in with Pickle's dry dog food. A bit fussy about the dry dog food, she is. There is a definite order of preference. At he bottom is Real, the mini-market in town. She has to be really hungry to eat that. Next is Coop. Then Tesco value. But the one she likes the best is the stuff I buy from the ironmongers. If I give it just a dribble of human food she absolutely wolfs it down.

By the end of the day I knew that I had been on my feet too long - the knee. Nevertheless, since I arrived here I have not had to take a single Ibuprophen tablet on that account.

10th February 2009

A lovely bit of doom and gloom from James Howard Kunstler. It is interesting to read what he says, particularly in paragraphs five and six, and compare what is actually happening now with what he wrote in "The Long Emergency" in 2005. One has to ask the question "Is this the start of it?". Of course he refers to the US of A, but I only see differences of scale, not of kind, in what is also happening elsewhere!

I had been promised delivery of the wood for the gates at half past seven in the morning, and they arrived not long after that. They were stacked out of the way in the potting shed:
Timber For New Gates Timber for the new gates - apparently in no semblance of order. There is nothing to indicate which bits are for which gate, and in what order!

I finished off most of the woodworking project started on Sunday in an alcoholic haze. Didn't take long. I still have one small set of components to make, and some items to buy. Helper reappeared late in the morning. I explained that I would have to go to Nádasd to get cash to pay for the gates. There was a bit of discussion as to which buses to catch, and we ended up deciding to get the five to one up to Nádasd, and the half past two back to the village. I was just finishing off with the woodwork when there was a bang (well, more of a loud clonk I suppose) immediately followed by Pickle barking from somewhere she most definitely was not expected to be. I didn't have time to investigate then, but she was off the chain, whatever. She got locked in the kitchen for her pains.

Helper came along to Nádasd, apparently just for the jolly. We had a beer, then I headed to Posta for cash and Bödő on the way back for the bought components of the woodworking project. I got dog food as well although I had plenty at home anyway. Saves thinking about it another time. The total bill was about 2,500Ft, and considering that the dog foor was 1,700 odd Ft the ironmongery that I bought didn't cost much. One of the things I wanted they couldn't supply - out of stock. I met him back in the pub, where we had another beer, then headed back to Halogy, where we had another beer (Ah, the Hungarian Way!). We did manage to drag ourselves away back to the cottage at about half past three, where we both got a bit more work done.

11th February 2009

The first job of the day was to sort out Pickle's chain:
I still don't know what caused it, but she hit the chain so hard that she had actually straightened out the hook on the carabiner. I though at first it was broken, but then noticed the little notch that engages with the clip was still there. It took a fair amount of punishment to get it bent back into a hook. Pickle must have really hit it with force. Wonder she didn't break her neck - or the collar! Damaged Carabiner

Woodwork and sewing in the morning after that. After lunch I flew mad and decided I had had enough of the turmoil in the big room and started to banish dust. I managed to work up a sweat doing it, but I got about a third of the room swept free of dust, the crap scraped out from the edges of the parquet and mopped twice. After that I had a nice gentle bit of exercise - chopping and sawing wood for the kitchen stove. I had a good go at it and ended up with about two and a half days worth of supply. Tedious, but the exercise was good.

Towards the end of the day I had need of yet more hot water. As I was using the cooking end of the stove to cook I decided to remove the centre ring of the other part of the stove to put the big pan of water more directly onto the heat. I was amazed by the amount of soot in there - no wonder the stove has been getting a bit of a bugger to light! The stove was of course at cooking temperature (hot), so I could do nothing about it right then. I made a mental note that it would have to be the first job the next day before lighting it.

12th February 2009

So I did. Remember, and therefore clean out the stove before lighting it. It was definitely a gardening gloves job. All a bit out of my purview, having never dealt with a wood burning kitchen stove before, but it turned out to be quite straightforward. There are two-and-a-half cast iron plates on top of the stove. A big one above the fire, a big one above the oven and a half a one at the other end where the stove pipe fits. As they are crudely intermeshed the latter had to come off first. It wasn't too bad. The one above the oven was grim. The one above the fire was clean. There was also a shedload of soot deposits on top of the oven. To explain its operation, there is a single control - simple slider that decides the ratio of heat that goes over the top of the oven, or goes vertically down from the firebox and underneath the oven. Obviously the destination is ultimately the same - out of the stove pipe and up the chimney. The business end of the slider inside the stove was well coated with soot, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how little had found its way into the stove pipe. I was equally surprised to find no soot at all gathering underneath the oven. It had worried me slightly, seeing as there is no way to get at it to clean it out. I need not have. There was just a small deposit of ash, easily cleaned out with the little rake thing that came with the stove.

When I lit it, it went off like an express train instead of filling the kitchen with smoke. Ah well, all part of the learning curve.

I finished the other end of the oak thing to stand beside the stove:
Rustic Woodwork Well, almost. A bit of trimming and planing still to do, and some work with the cabinet scraper. Plus waxing once finally assembled. Work continues.

I did a bit of sewing too. Then turned my attention back to the big room. I managed to clear up, sweep and mop another third. By the time I had done that it had turned bitterly cold outside. A biting wind from somewhere round about north had sprung up. The TV weather forecast later was not good. Minuses into double figures by the weekend. The Hungarian winter hasn't finished with me yet!

13th February 2009

Hmmm - Friday the Thirteenth! Better be a bit careful then - not that I am superstitious, touch wood. The bitterly cold wind assailed me once again as I trudged the long thirty or so metres to the shop. Once again there was a long queue to be served. I think all the village regulars had the same idea as me - stay indoors as long as possible.

I had made the decision the previous evening to sacrifice some elecricity by way of putting on the boiler (immersion heater) overnight. The reason being that I decided to strip off all the loose covers and other stuff that had been thoroughly impregnated with the dust from the big room renovations and wash them. It was a big wash! And it took six big rinses before I was convinced enough to hang them out. In spite of the cold it was what my Grandma would probably have called "a grand drying day". Within a couple of minutes the little moisture that was dripping off them had frozen into a fringe of irridescent drops of ice along the bottoms. Nonetheless, the bitterly cold, gusty wind blew them this way and that, and it did indeed turn out to be "a grand drying day" as by shortly after lunch time they were bone dry and I was able to take them into the house. They won't go back on the furniture until I finally manage to banish all the dust in the big room.

I had a look at the timber for the gates, which, as I said, seemed to be stacked in no particular order. I tried to identify which bits were for which gate and in what order. I gave it best after about fifteen minutes on account of a) I couldn't work it out, and b) I was freezing my b*****s off! Another day! At least I now have the timber.

I forgot mention a delivery that I had in the pub last night. Woodworking expert presented me with a box of (and a bill for) the bolts for the new gates, plus an item (well eight, actually) for which I had asked, being the wing-nuts that were out of stock at Bödő. It turned out that he had driven all the way to Szombathely and back to obtain them! With them obtained and a little work with my good chisel and a gash chisel I was able to finish the first of a pair of home made clamps that are the project that I started in an alcoholic haze last Sunday:
It's a wonderfully adaptive system. Different lengths of cross piece and threaded rod allow extension to almost any length. The only restrictions are the strength of the arms and the spine strength of the cross piece. As the threaded rod is in tension it could have a short bit at each end connected by a wire via a couple of eyes. The oak pins serve only to stop the cross piece falling on the floor. In service there is no stress upon them, as the holes in the cross piece are larger in diameter than the pins. Need a different length of clamp? Simply knock up a cross piece to suit! Home Made Clamp

I was already out for the evening (well, I had gone to the pub) when I had an SMS from my daughter that she would be live on Beeb Radio Three. I managed to get home in time for the second half. At least I found out that the Beeb I-Player works here with radio even if it doesn't work with telly!

14th February 2009

Not a lot to report, really. Bit of woodworking, bit of needlework. Over lunch I pondered the wood for the gates problem. I revisited my 'O' level trig to see if I could sort out the lengths for the wood. I could, but it simply was not worth the effort of multiple calculations. I resorted to Dia, and at large scale determined the lengths of each piece of wood required. Within a millimetre or so, but we are talking about gates that are nearly two metres wide and a metre and a quarter high at the lowest point. Interesting point - with formed (curved) tops to the pieces of wood for the gate, what is the scientific difference in the curve between taking the abscissa at the centre line of the wood compared to taking it at the point of contact of an arc of circle? I certainly don't know. But taking it at the point of contact looks right, and as my old sailing friend used to say, if it looks right it is right.

After a day missed, I finally finished sweeping out and mopping the dust from the big room. It is, of course, an occupation of increasing returns. This time through the act of sweeping raises more dust that settles again everywhere. Next time, hopefully, it won't need sweeping and the remaining dust can be mopped from the floor, or wiped with a damp cloth from other horizontal surfaces.

15th February 2009

I managed a lie-in today. Didn't get up until eight thirty! Very cold again, and once again I find myself driven back indoors after a few minutes out in the summer kitchen. Perhaps that's why it is called the summer kitchen! Did some woodwork, and quite a bit of sewing - I really need to get that project finished and in use.

Helper turned up - eventually - and did a bit of work in the big room. I was busily planing and sawing when I saw Pickle make a dash for the front fence. The inevitable happened. There was a bang when she reached the extent of the chain, then she was at the front fence. This time she had broken the hook on the carabiner!

I ended up quite early in the pub for a couple, before returning to the house, getting the wood in, lighting the fires, eating and so on. There was a handball game on the TV. Not unusual, but to put it in context the home team was Veszprém. One of their players was murdered in a nightclub fight this week. It has been a major item of news coverage all week. The player was actually a Romanian International. The TV coverage went from the announcement of the news, reaction at the stadium, the búcsú (farewell - probably with a requiem mass, not sure) and the funeral. As you can imagine, today's game was a very, very emotionally charged event. Veszprém won by two goals, and at the end most of the team broke down in tears as did the coach and manager, many of the spectators and most of the people watching in the pub. Including helper and me. Very emotional.

Pickle With Arms Crossed Later, whilst I was updating the blog I caught Pickle lying on the bed with her front feet hanging over the edge - crossed! Couldn't resist it.
By the way, the Hungarians don't have a word for fortnight. They have two words! "Two weeks" :)

16th February 2009

A nice article about us doomers from the Toronto Star.

I had two unexpected visitors this morning. The first was the next door lady - not the one with the chickens. She had brought around my rates bill. Hmmmm - dunno how I will ever manage! Eleven hundred Forints! As I write that's £3.15. I don't have a clue what period that covers, but if you go back quite a long way in the blog you can find where I paid the previous one that had to be hand written. I can't even remember when it was, and right now can't be bothered to grep for it. That was at breakfast time.

A while later I was busying myself leveling off the two tops for the kitchen unit (one leg turned out to be a millimetre or so longer than the others, and the top is so strong and stiff that I doubt that I will be able to get even a millimetre of twist into it), when Pickle went ballistic. I poked my head out of the summer kitchen to see helper's step-father being held at bay. I did the normal and hooked the running lead around the kennel (which still isn't finished!) and that keeps Pickle back about four feet from the house door. We had a conversation which related back to what we had been talking about on one of my visits to their house. I mentioned it on the blog. It turned out that he had come to take a couple of measurements from the work bench. I wasn't entirely sure what he had in mind, but he obviously knew as he was in and out of the summer kitchen in seconds, measurements taken.

Not long after he left helper appeared and proceeded to make a load more dust in the big room. Ah well, in the words of the famous Jewish Scotsman Rabbi Burns "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley". So much for my cleaning efforts.

Much later, in the pub - I can't remember what sparked it off, a news item I think - I said to him how lucky I had been in chosing to come to Halogy. There is certainly ethnic unrest in parts of the country, and there have been reports of houses in villages, by appearance not much different to this, being targetted by Molotov Cocktails, and even drive-by random gunfire. Helper managed to get through to me, and confirmed my own feelings, that it is a regular steady workaday village. The conversation moved along to my new gates. I said that it would set tongues wagging in the village (as best I could). His reply was along the lines of "Certainly good". We moved along again - I don't know how - to my position in the village and Hungarian citizenship. His reply (as best as I could understand it) somewhat astonished me, and gladdened my heart at the same time. To paraphrase (and don't quote me - it is hearsay evidence) it went along the lines of there are lots of people in the village that see me as " István" and regard me as already being Hungarian, and a lot of people also will help with getting the whole property back together. I was quite heart-warmed and emotional as I cycled home, until I got home and found that Pickle had consumed about half a tub of Flora!

17th February 2009

Transcript of a talk given by Dmitry Orlof which, though rather long is well worth the read. And this short article from Robert Hirsch (lead author of what is now known as The Hirsch Report).

The kitchen stove has become a lot more amenable since I gave it the good clean out. It still requires some decent kindling, but no longer fills the kitchen with smoke whilst I go to the shop before the bread runs out. I can't remember whether I related about the lady in the shop selling me the wrong bread. Most days I buy half a loaf. I know I have mentioned about how she just whacks it in half with a bloody great carving knife. This particular day I asked for my half a loaf as usual, and she wrapped it in the sheet of greyish paper that they use and stuck it the top of my shopping bag. When I got home I found that she had not given me the normal half of a one kilogramme loaf, but half of a two kilogramme loaf. Now, two kilogrammes is a lot of bread - what, four pounds and nearly a half Avoirdupois. I had to get my big carving knife out to cut slices off it! I did actually measure the first slice - ten inches by five.

Most mornings I meet a varied selection of the villagers in there, sometimes the next door neighbour, sometimes the chap from up the road, but by coincidence I always seem to get in there at the same time as as a very large, affable, cheery lady whose name I don't know, but I know lives a few doors the other way down the village. She always has a smile on her face, and somehow it always seems to brighten the morning. I try to be punctilious about my manners in the shop - always "Köszönöm" (Thank you), and always a "Viszlát", which is a shortened version of "Viszontlátásra" (goodbye), so I suppose equivalent to "'Bye". The pleasant thing is that although I direct my "Viszlát" at the shop lady there is always an answering chorus from the other customers. It serves to strengthen my sense of "community" here.

I was busily planing away somewhat later when Pickle did her ballistic barking thing, so I poked my head out to see helper's step-dad being held at bay by Pickle. He presented me with what I will describe as a pair of points. You mount them in the workbench and clamp the wood up between them. The wood is then, whilst firmly held, free to rotate, making it easy to rough out more or less circular stuff in preparation for putting on a lathe. I asked the cost. Nothing - just a gesture of friendliness from a kindred woodworking spirit. That's what it is all about!

It got colder and colder through the day, so I retired indoors and had another bash at the banishing of the dust. I'm getting there!

There was a market (well, a single trader setting up shop) at the Faluhaz, so I went and did a bit of retail therapy. I bought a set of cheap and nasty saucepans (but better than what I have!), and a plastic tablecloth to replace the one on the kitchen table, which is seriously showing the signs of wear and tear. By the time I came away from there it was snowing - quite heavily. Back home, I lit the tile stove and settled down to a blog update.

Ate, time to go to the pub. When I went out the wind hit me like a knife. Bitterly cold. As I cycled to the pub I realised that I was riding on black ice - steady does it then! The weather forecast is not good. As previously, the Hungarian winter certainly is not over yet!

18th February 2009

I bumped into the next door neighbour from the top end of the plot whilst I was doing my shopping. He is a very affable old chap, and, unlike a lot of that generation of Hungarians he doesn't just spout off at me in Hungarian and expect me to understand. He has the knack (as does helper) of speaking to me simplistically about the weather, or what I am doing to the house. Always greets me with the traditional handshake. Nice man!

It was bitterly cold again - even the Hungarians are complaining about it. The Hungarian weather forecast site forecast it to get worse! I'm not quite sure about the weather forecasting here. In the pub weekdays they tend to have three consecutive sets of news, sport and weather forecast from three different channels. The weather forecasts are always different. I don't know - maybe the weather here is that difficult to forecast!

Once again I was repeatedly driven indoors by the cold whilst attempting to do a bit at the workbench. I did manage to do a very small amount of woodwork, but really not much

Lunch time, and it was a case of crossed-wires. There was a plan to go into town for a bit of decorating material, but I really couldn't remember whether the arrangement was that I should meet helper in the pub. I dived up there just as the bus came into the village. It normally turns around and heads back out in about five minutes. Took me a couple of minutes to get to the pub - no sign of helper. By that the bus went back towards town. Ah well, that plan didn't work then! Not to appear discourteous of the pub, I had a beer. I was just finishing it when helper appeared. So I had another, whilst helper explained that he had had to do lots of other little jobs elsewhere. It has always been a clear understanding between us that, from my part, his other work takes priority. After all, the work that he has done and is doing for me won't need doing again for a number of years (I hope!), so any other on-going jobs that are there now and will still be there for him next year take priority.

We came to the conclusion that the trip to town would be tomorrow "for sure". After the pub he did come and do about three hours work in the house. Of course this meant that the windows and doors (inner and outer) were open for those three hours, and there was no fire in the stove. Once again the big room got thoroughly chilled, and had had another large introduction of moisture into it!

I contented myself with some hard physical graft sawing and chopping wood for the kitchen stove. Nevertheless, it was so cold outside that I wore coat, hat and gloves to do it. I was quite nicely warmed up by the time I finished that, even though the house wasn't.

Whilst sawing and chopping I had an idea - well two actually - for future woodworking projects. One quite small - shouldn't take long, and one not so small, but not urgent. More for the sake of trying to do a fine, very satisfying thing. More on both later, cos I'm not saying what they are just yet until they are completed and with their respective recipients. I don't know whether the second one will even work, but it will be so satisfying if it does. All made out of firewood, of course!

Once again I was pleased that I chose this end of the country. The overnight forecast for the Great Hungarian Plain was minus seventeen!

19th February 2009

Another very cold morning. The big room, whilst comfortable enough, has not yet returned to its former warmth in the mornings due to the still-obvious dampness induced by the decorating procedures. It is quite obvious from inside where the bad rendering still exists outside, and that part of the walls remains damp, although drying slowly. The problem will not be cured until all the bad rendering is removed, and hopefully will not recur once the external repairs are complete and the walls re-rendered.

I was busy on the sewing project when helper actually appeared. He managed about an hours work, and I made a token effort at clearing up the kitchen, and then it was time to go into town. As usual the first port of call was the cellar pub. I don't know why, but in my naivety I thought that the big cserepkalyha in the pub, which I knew worked as I had felt the heat from it on previous visits, was gas fired, the place being in town. Not a bit of it. As we arrived, the barman was just throwing another basket of logs into it! As far as I can make out it is the only source of heat in there, and it is a big barn of a place - about twice the size of my house and attached outbuildings. I suppose it has the benefit of being underground, and the cserepkalyha is a big one, about half as wide again as mine and half as deep again. Nevertheless shows how effective they are. I have to say it is always warmer in there than it is in the local in spite of the latter being gas fired centrally heated. Mind you, the landlord or landlady are constantly turning it down. As I think I already commented, it is not the sort of place where you take your coat off!

Helper and I arranged where and when to meet and I went off for cash and a bit of other shopping. One of the items I wanted was a centre punch. I went in both the tool shops in town, and in spite of the aid of szotár and a drawing in my little black book they had no concept of what I was after. In a fit of pique, and not to be denied my centre punch I bought a reasonably meaty high speed steel twist drill, with the sole intention of destroying its usefulness as a twist drill by turning it into a centre punch. All they wanted to sell me was an eyelet punch, which everyone seems to stock, including Tescos. What is the fascination with eyelets here? I bought some yarn for another, rather nice and quick, little knitting project, of which more, once again, anon. And some press-studs, which were very cheap. They are to replace the very crude stitching up of the loose covers for the chairs, when I decide that there has been sufficient dust banishment to put them back on.

I stood and waited for about five minutes at the appointed time and place agreed with helper - typical, no sign. By then the combined effect of the intake of beer and the intensely cold weather were making their effect known upon my bladder, so, on the excuse of looking for helper I popped back down into the cellar pub for a little light relief. More detail than you need, I know! I went back to the appointed spot, and within a couple of minutes helper appeared, having been in the painting and decorating shop all the time. I got dragged in there, and there was an interminable session of chatting, choosing and bargaining (helper is very good on the bargaining side, I have to admit). I kept checking my watch, thinking that we would never make the half past two bus. We did. And had time for another beer in the cellar pub!

Back to the village, having caught the bus by seconds, and history repeated itself by helper working for another three hours, again with windows and doors open, again introducing a load of moisture into the big room, and again it ending up freezing cold and damp! Not good!

20th February 2009

The first job of the day was to destroy the drill bit I bought and turn it into a centre punch. Not the sort of thing I wanted to be doing in the house, so I took it out to the summer kitchen. It took quite a lot of gentle work with the angle grinder. The summer kitchen was again bitterly cold, and the angle grinder blows a huge amount of air through its motor, presumably to keep it cool - haha! I worked gently so as not to remove the temper from the high speed steel, and I actually had to take a break half way through to warm my hands in the kitchen. Got it done eventually though.

Helper appeared, and I assisted him to put a chalk line around the top of the walls for the border. There has to be a border - you'll see why when I publish the photos when it is finally complete. He carried on with the rest of what he was doing, and I set about the timber for the new gates. As I think I said, I had used Dia (a diagram drawing program) to lay out the gates. I had checked, double checked and triple checked my measurements before committing to tape measure and saw, and I even went as far as taking the first piece of timber after I had cut it and checking it in situ. As my grandad, my dad and I would say "Measure twice - cut once". It was fine. Spot on, in fact, so I carried on and cut the rest. Helper disappeared for his liquid lunch and I had a quick break and went on the Internet. I spotted this from the BBC, not doom and gloom related. Quite funny really.

I had carefully taken all the pieces of wood, in penny numbers, by height from lowest to highest out to the summer kitchen, cut them then taken them indoors to the small room and stacked them against the wall in a semblance of their positions on the actual gates. I even turned each piece on its end and compared it with its counterpart(s) for length to ensure no "major malfunction". I had just finished, and I have to admit was quite pleased with the result when helper reappeared. He plunged back into what he was doing, but at a suitable moment I dragged him away and showed him what I had done. He was impressed too!

I did a bit at the smaller of the two new projects (more anon), and for once the work in the big room was finished at a half reasonable hour and I was able to get the stove lit. Once again a fair amount of moisture introduced into the room, but better than it had been, with the stove at least getting lit early.

21st February 2009

It was very cold outside again, so I determined to get one indoor project finished. I sewed all day, but I finally got the knitting bag finished:
Here it is, in all its glory. The walnut handles are stitched in place and it is a thing of beauty. I'll let you into a little secret though. It's not actually finished. The hems on the flaps that fold over the contents of the bag are only tacked up. I'll rescue them when they start to come undone. Knitting Bag

I treated myself today. I had a bloody great fry-up for lunch. The only thing that was missing was Heinz Baked Beans. They do have baked beans in Tescos, but they are not really the same. I had to settle for peas. Sausages, bacon, fried egg, chips (my own spuds, of course), peas and a slice of fried bread. What more could a man want? Forget the "Nouvelle Cuisine"!

Evening, and in the pub, complete with the new knitting bag and working on the new little knitting project of which more anon, and helper's family turned up. Hmmmm - well that degenerated into a bit of a "session", then...

22nd February 2009

Sunday, and somewhat later up than normal thanks to last night's session! I don't know why, but Sundays always seem to turn into a cleaning day. Today it was the kitchen and hallway - again. It all ought to be done every day really, but then I would get nothing else done.

Again, another Sunday and another invite out to lunch, under strict insturctions to be there by one o'clock. Helper and I made it by about half past. Quite early really. One of the reasons for being late is that I am now the proud owner of a litre of "Kerté Pálinka", which, of course, involved sampling the goods before purchasing!

I was priviledged to be allowed to take a photograph of helper's mother's tapestries:
Tapestries I couldn't quite work it out, but they either cost a lot of money to do, or they are worth quite a lot of money now they are done. She apparently has big ones representing the four seasons, but I didn't get to see those.

I managed to get away at about half past four, which of course involved a call in the pub on the way home. Most unusually the village mayor was in there. I cannot remember ever seeing him in the pub before. I can't imagine why but it turned into another bit of a session and I didn't get away from there until seven. It came out that I had set out the curves for the new front gates - I think the local woodworking expert's nose was a bit out of joint at that. I reckon he was bargaining on that job.

Home at about seven o'clock, to no fires lit, no wood in for the tile stove and no wood for the kitchen stove in the morning. Ah well, about half an hour scrabbling about in the dark then! And it was snowing, on and off.

23rd February 2009

Situation normal when I got up. Stove lit, coffee on, trip to the shop, and so on. As usual, coffee in one hand, toast and jam in the other and boot up the computer to have a look at e-mails, the Beeb news and a quick trawl for doom and gloom. Only to be confronted with pleas from a business associate with web problems. That was it for the best part of the day!

Helper turned up towards the end of the afternoon to put the border up around the big room. I had to assist. My job was to hold the roll of border and feed it out to him as he walked, stilt-like, on the Hungarian step ladder around the room. Has to be seen to be believed. He can "walk" them through a gap of about nine inches, whilst still being three steps up! Two rolls went up - you'll see why there has to be a border when I have it good enough to take pictures. There was about six centimetres left over, and you can't see the join!

24th February 2009

A very dull and dark morning, and by the time I had lit the stove and went to the shop it was snowing quite heavily. Not a morning for working in the summer kitchen! The result was a morning of relative inactivity. Ah well, I suppose a half day off once in a while doesn't hurt.

By lunch time it had brightened up, and by the end of the day the morning's fall of snow had all but disappeared. I sprang into action in the afternoon and decided that today was it. Time to remodel the big room. As it originally was, the bed was in the draughtiest part of the room, my office was in the coldest part of the room and there was a row of three furniture units along one wall (where I found the light!), making it impossible to clean behind them and leaving a dead, useless spot in one corner. I planned as I went along, cleaning and mopping floors as I went and removing the last traces of decorator's debris and paint spots. The bed went to the other side of the room - the least draughty. The office went where the bed was - might be draughty, but I am normally clothed when working at the computer :) One of the easy chairs went by the office and next to that the unit containing books, paperwork, etc. The unit containing the day-to-day clothes went by the foot of the bed and the big wardrobe by the other unit. It was a fairly hefty effort, with the kitchen stove constantly of the go providing hot water. I must have used seven or eight changes of water just in the process of getting the floor thoroughly clean. Had an unexpected beneficial side effect too. The furniture is big, heavy and relatively solid. Result is that it takes some moving, but I found that once I got them on a damp bit of floor that had just been mopped they slid quite easily.

By the end of the afternoon I was exhausted but well content with the results. I have a load of stuff to go on the walls, but I had vowed to myself that they were not going up until the room had been done. I confess I did not expect it to be this soon! Once I have them up and the room, apart from internal paintwork, is finally as I want it, I'll do some pictures. Guess what happened next?

25th February 2009

Somewhere along the line I have lost a wooden spoon. I have no idea what has happened to it. I can only conclude that Pickle must have got hold of it and reduced it to a state of being unrecognisable. By the way, the Hungarian for wooden spoon is fakanál. The two unaccented 'a's are pronounced as in doh-re-mi-fa... and the accented one is a short 'a' as in 'fat'. Say it out loud, then think about it! ;)

Helper turned up part way through the morning and removed all his debris from the big room - empty paint containers, tools, etc. Then we planned a trip to town to get the materials for the next stage of doing the new gates. Pub, bus, pub, bank, pub, tobacco shop, pub, other shops, pub, decorating shop, pub and another pub was how it went. We were nowhere near to catching the half past two bus back to the village, so we aimed for the half past three. Unfortunately, helper spent so long haggling in the decorating shop that that one went out the window as well. The last pub we went in was one that I have passed many times, but never thought to go in, as it has all the appearances of being a restaurant, not a pub. It calls itself a "Tanya" (traditional Hungarian peasant cottage), and inside it is all very recent, but all done in traditional style. Beamed ceilings, a huge brick built stove, not a tile stove and it is the only place to my knowledge that I have been in that has segregated smoking and non-smoking areas. There were two "old boys" at the next table playing Hungarian cards (previously mentioned). One was winning big-time, and the other one was getting extremely agitated and animated. Very funny!

I eventually dragged myself home. (We ended up getting the half past five bus!) A bit later, having fed Pickle, and myself, I decided in my alcoholic wisdom to put together the constituent parts of a new extension lead to feed the alarm clock in its new position. Now, how long does it take to put a plug on one end of an electric cable, and a socket thingy on the other? Try an hour and twenty minutes!! UK plugs/sockets are predominantly two dimensional. Not so Hungarian ones. A three dimensional monkey-puzzle. Well, it puzzled this particular monkey for quite a while! The only thing that was familiar was the colour coding of the wires. They use the continental system of a circular plug with two pins, the earth being on the periphery of the circle. There is, of course, no distinction as to which connection the brown and blue wires are connected to, as the plug goes in either the right way, or upside-down with equal facility. I never did understand the logic of the UK system where the blue (live/line call it what you will) always has to be connected to a certain pin. After all, it is alternating current that we are dealing with. If it was D.C. I could understand it.

26th February 2009

It was "Fat Thursday" today. A bit like Shrove Tuesday, but with less religious significance. They have it in Germany, Poland and Italy too, to name but a few. Apparently lots of eating houses do half price offer-type stuff. There was one such at the village down the road with the unpronouncable name, and there was a vague plan to cycle over there and partake, but it came to naught.

It was also a lovely, almost spring-like morning. The garden and yard are just starting to show the first signs of new green. Fills me with, well not quite a sense of dread, but a foreknowledge of what is coming once the garden kicks in. I started on the job of drilling the metalwork of the gates for the positions of the bolts for the new woodwork. I actually had to hang my coat on a bush by the gate, it was so warm working. My home made centre punch literally took some hammering. By the way, here it is, together with one of me working:
It is not quite ground to a perfect point, but did its job of preventing the drill from wandering. I managed the fifteen holes along the top bit of metalwork for one big gate when I had to stop as the drill bit was becoming blunt. I couldn't be bothered to sharpen it there and then. Home Made Centre Punch
Drilling the Gates I am in my winter finery. As soon as the weather starts to really pick up all the hairy bits will have a severe trim. Here I was just about to drill the very first hole for the new woodwork.

After lunch I briefly turned my attention back to the big room by refixing the telephone connection patress back on the wall. I even used the plumb line for that, to ensure that the position was absolutely vertical with where the wire comes down from the ceiling. Ah, the joys of trying to be a perfectionist! In the midst of that Posta arrived with a single letter. It was from Budapest, and clearly official, as I recognised the word for office. I thought to myself oh-oh, what now? The letter itself began "Tisztelt Választópolgár", which roughly translated means "Esteemed Constituent" Turns out to be a letter asking if I want to go on the Electoral Register for the purpose of European Elections. The form that came with it is in four languages - Hungarian (unsurprisingly), German, French and English so it is all quite clear.

This is roughly what the new gates will look like:
The timber is, I believe, cherry wood. You will know when the job has been done, as the header picture will change again! Timber for Renovating Yard Gates

Helper appeared later. We numbered up all the gate pieces and he took them outside and gave them their first coat of sealer. And that was about it for the day.

27th February 2009

First job of the day was to resharpen the drill bits. The six millimetre one because drilling eleven holes through the steel of the gate structure had blunted it, and the three millimetre one because (inevitably) I had broken it. It's now a very short 3mm drill bit!

It was a nice, pleasant and dry morning so I went back to the setting out and drilling of the gates. Later I decided that some of the few remaining bits of central heating pipework had to go. Some because it effectively provided a direct hole(s) from the outside of the house into the inside and was therefore a cause of huge draughts into the kitchen, and some because it was in the way of something else I wanted/needed to do. One bit of the pipework from the potting shed into the bathroom simply slid out with a little persuasion. The other was loose, but could not be removed. I investigated. You may remember me saying about the pipework having been welded in in-situ. Well, that was the cause - a weld on the pipe in the potting shed. Out came the angle grinder and I set about removing the short section of pipe beyond the weld. The inevitable happened. It had to happen sometime, and it was today. The angle grinder took a huge grab into the pipe and shot itself out of my grip and down the wall, catching three of the fingers on my left hand in the process. Two were just superficial grazes, but the other one was quite nasty - much blood! Ah well! I gave it a good wash-out, staunched it as best I could, bunged on a plaster and went back to work.

Later, having achieved my objective without losing any more digits or parts thereof, I did a huge blog update. Six days worth! That filled up the afternoon, and it was time to wash, change, eat and go to the pub. Nothing new there!

28th February 2009

As you will remember from a few days ago, today was "Halogyi disznóvágásra" (the pig killing of Halogy - that's what the 'i' on the end of Halogy is all about, indicates 'of'). I do not intend to be graphic about it here - just a general overview of the day, and some of my thoughts. The alarm clock was set for five in the morning. You will remember that the day kicked off with an ingestion of Pálinka at six! This happened in the pub, with all the dramatis personae gathering for the day. I had my Pálinka and a coffee. There was an interesting piece of woodwork being bandied about. A brief description would be that it was a metre or so long of, say, 100mm by 15mm timber with a series of holes in it, and a beautifully made wooden handle attached so that it could be held horizontally. I enquired its use. That was a mistake as they insisted in demonstrating. Another shot of Pálinka was poured, the glass popped into one of the holes and the wooden thing held out to me so that I could take the glass. So that was two Pálinkas at six in the morning.

I was unsure of what was to happen next. I knew it all took place at the Faluhaz, but that was about all. Promptly at about ten past six the assembled company left the pub, me with them. I made to get on the bike and cycle to the Faluhaz, but the chief organiser indicated for me to get into his car. Instead of heading for the Faluhaz we went the opposite way, and a short drive saw us in Daraboshegy. We turned up to the place of a chap that I know (he was the one that delivered the workbench), and found the pig already ensconced in a cage on a trailer. She hung her head as if in the foreknowledge of what was to befall her. I was commanded to take photos so did. There was another round of Pálinkas - this was the second ingestion! Once again I ended up with two, so that was four Pálinkas by six fifteen in the morning. Could spoil your whole day!

We drove to the Faluhaz in the growing grey of dawn, and all I will say here is that the pig was despatched - I suppose that I could descibe as quickly, with respect but in high spirits - and was butchered right there. There were young children there, not older than eight or nine, obviously taken there with the intention of seeing an animal butchered. Whatever your opinion of that may be, I will say that in countries such as the UK the process of turning an animal into food is now hidden away and is remote from the consumer. My grandfather used to raise a single pig every year in his back garden, and I recall seeing the same process as I was now watching when I was only seven or eight.

As this was happening, more and more people arrived at the Faluhaz as day broke. Huge food preparation tables appeared and were set up on the courtyard. A variety of equally huge cooking pots and pans, and boilers to match also appeared. Some were gas fired, some were wood burning. It was cold enough that a supply of hot water was required just to pour on the gas bottles to keep the pressure up. The ever growing assemblage of people set about turning it all into the evening's feast. There was an older, very distinguished looking man there, in a very smart light grey suit pretty well from the beginning. Like me, he was taking lots of photos. Turns out that he is the local MP! There are only the two ingestions of Pálinka mentioned in the programme, but, trust me, there were more than the two - more like six. Doesn't seem to affect the locals. Maybe they just hide it better than I can!

As the morning drew towards lunchtime, a series of delicious sweetmeats appeared, and the hectic flurry of activity began to die down as people completed their tasks and withdrew, presumably to recuperate and prepare themselves for the evening. I would venture that by the end of the morning I had seen the greater part of the population of the village pass by the courtyard and take an interest in the procedings.

As it wound down, I also left and somewhat unsteadily set out on a threefold mission. Firstly to recover the bike, which was still at the pub. Secondly to redress the balance of alcohol in the system by dilution with somewhat less alcoholic content liquid, and thirdly to also recuperate myself and prepare for the evening.

Slightly recovered, I returned to the Faluhaz quite early so as to be sure of not missing anything photo-worthy. As I arrived, so the cigány musicians were just unpacking their car. Of interest was a large and battered wooden box that they removed from the car with some large degree of care. Hmmmmm? I went inside the Faluhaz to find the place fully prepared for the evening. All the table places were set out and sweetmeats for later already in place. I chose a spot at the back of the hall, randomly, from where I could escape in either direction and take photos. A few early comers were there, most of whom I knew, either by sight or name. More were arriving by the minute.

I took the opportunity to get some photos of the cigány musicians setting up. The contents of the big battered wooden box were revealed. To my shame as a musician I had to ask what it was. In my defence I can plead that, to my knowledge, it is the first time I have ever come face to face with a Cimbalom. At least the Hungarian and English are the same! Except the pronounciation. I took loads of pictures which will be revealed in the fulness of time.

The evening progressed. There was free beer. Well, I suppose that there is no such thing as free beer or a free lunch. I didn't mention that I am part of the charity that allows the event to take place. My contribution was 5,000Ft - agreed to in an alcoholic moment in the pub - and the taking of lots of pictures. Promptly at six the feast started. The cigány musicians played, and very good they were, too. I ate, drank and took lots of pictures. When I get half a chance I will post two galleries. One of the early part of the day - not for the faint hearted, and another one of selected images of the evening. I'll put them under separate links - not on the main blog.

The food was delicious. The evening progressed, and I made a bit of a (good) name for myself by persistently addressing one local character who insists on wearing a waistcoat to these events as "Waiter" and equally persistently asking him for another beer, which of course he was unable to provide. Lots of amusement, but I really was a bad man. The evening wound down, slowly, but it was the wee small hours of Sunday before the dregs of us left the Faluhaz. I only know that because of the time stamp on the last set of photographs that were taken! I managed to wobble my way safely home the two hundred or so metres to my house. And that was the village "pig killing". As an afternote, as I write this, be advised that blog updates will be a bit delayed due to two factors. Number one is a couple of catastrophies that I have had to deal with, and number two is the need to reorganise the navigation on the blog. If I fail to answer e-mails, IM, Skype, etc. then worry, otherwise just be patient and I will get up to date.


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