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March 2009

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1st March 2009

After yesterday - well - I achieved, basically, nothing. Severely hung-over I crawled out of bed at about half past nine. By the time I had made a fire, and cooked coffee the realisation dawned that I had promised to turn up and help clean the Faluhaz. With leaden head, and leaden feet I trudged down there, only to find it all done. So with equally leaden head and feet I trudged home.

Took me the rest of the day to recover, and although I did make it to the pub in the evening I had the one beer, and I was back home and in bed not long after nine in the evening.

2nd March 2009

I got up quite bright, having had a decent amount of non-alcoholic sleep. As you do, I answered a call of nature when I got up. As I went into the loo I could hear the sound of water running. Not running as in trickling across the floor, but running as in running through pipes. "That's odd", I thought. I answered the call of nature and flushed the loo. The cistern filled as normal and shut off, but there was still the sound of water running, as through pipes. I went outside to the manhole and lifted the cover to look at the water meter. Sure enough, it was going round like a good 'un. Back in the house I went round everywhere that there should, or should not have been water. No sign! Went in the potting shed outhouse and checked all in there. No sign. I even went and peeked in the loft. No sign! Oh-oh - another water catastrophy! Back down the manhole, I turned it off once again. Bollocks!!!

I had plenty of water anyway - a kettleful, a big saucepanful and one remaining five litre container from the last water catastrophe. So I lit the stove, made coffee and toast with pear jam, and went back to work. Somewhat later helper appeared. I told him of the water catastrophy. He went down the manhole, turned the water back on and repeated the steps that I had done in the house and the outhouse. Came back and declared the same problem that I had already divined. "Udvar viz cső problema". He went away, came back, and was followed by the young man that works for the water company who tried to help in water catastrophy number two. He went down the manhole, turned the water back on and repeated the steps that I had done in the house and the outhouse. Came back and declared the same problem that I had already divined. "Udvar viz cső problema". Hmmm - back to having no running water again.

So I did a bit of woodwork. And after that, dusty and unclean, went to the pub.

3rd March 2009

Helper and I had decided on a course of action. I think it had already been pre-decided back in January when the water froze the first time. Dig up the yard and put a new pipe in, straight to the house. My job was to dig out by the manhole close to the gates, then start on the trench across the yard. To my old bones credit, by the time he appeared I was down to the incoming water pipe by the manhole. And I can tell you that it is one metre and ten centimetres below the level of the yard!. I had to dig back and cut steps as I got further and further into the hole. I stopped for a beer and a smoke, and helper appeared. He set about finding where the water pipe went into the house. He started digging on one spot, which I thought was wrong, so we had a huge bet (Five Hundred Forints) as to where the water supply was. I lost!

After that we put a line down and started to advance towards one another, to discover that underneath the crumbling tarmacadam of the yard was somewhere between a foot and eighteen inches of gravel, boulders and brick rubble. By the end of the day we retired to the pub, defeated, having managed to dig the trench the necessary depth for about a tenth of the way across the yard, and dig through the rubble about half way across. I held my end up, but by heck my trapezius muscles ached.

Someone had a moan about the navigation, so I have trimmed it down. Archives? Forget it - do the math! Current month = 14. Just add ?node=[whatever month you want to look at] (minus the [] brackets) to the stuff and it should still work!

4th March 2009

Up early, and back to swinging the mattock at the hardcore. Helper appeared early too, and we gradually advanced, or retreated, towards one another from either end of the trench, depending upon which way we were facing whilst hacking at the hardcore. It took until about half past eleven until we had the last of the hardcore out, and were down to subsoil the full length of the trench. We would find ourselves stopping for a breather and just leaning on our respective tools, grinning at one another. Couple of beer and smoke breaks along the way, of course. We had a well deserved one of those when the last of the hardcore came out. Helper looked at what we had left to do and estimated at about an hour and a half. He wasn't far out - took us an hour and three quarters and we had a trench a minimum of one metre deep right across the yard.

I forgot to say that the previous evening we actually located the source of the water leak. Helper turned the water back on whilst I filled the kettle, a couple of buckets and another water container for the next day. As I was filling them the sound of water running, as in pipes, was much louder than previously. Finished, helper turned the water back off and called me outside. In the hole that he had dug to access the pipes was a substantial puddle. I suspect that it was a shrinkage crack when the supply froze.

Helper was good enough to drag me back to his place for a late lunch provided by his mother. Delicious, as always! We didn't linger over long, as a young man from the village who works for the water company was due to appear and install the new mains pipe. I also forgot to say that the mains pipe was bought in Körmend by Pickle's breeders whilst they were on a shopping trip, and delivered to the house by them. I paid for the pipe and offered petrol money and was turned down flat. "Nem problema"!

The young man turned up promptly, and an hours work and the fitting of two new, beautifully made brass connectors and I had water back on in the house. He charged me two thousand Forints. As I write, that is about five pounds ninety, and that included the fittings! Helper and I started on hurtling the earth back into the trench as it began to gather dusk. We had been instructed that it should have about forty centimeters of coverage along its length. After the last two days it was quite an effort. Pictures:
Replacing Mains Water Supply Helper's end of the trench.
The pipe at the bottom is the culprit behind the water leak. It is cracked about three inches from where it disappears into the earth. Replacing Mains Water Supply
Replacing Mains Water Supply My end of the trench. this is adjacent to the manhole, and you can see the mains pipe emerging from the manhole.
Looking down the part-dug trench from the house end. Replacing Mains Water Supply
Replacing Mains Water Supply Breaking out hardcore. Must get the hairdresser to deal with those pink roots!
The completed trench. Replacing Mains Water Supply

Helper went off to the pub and, having replenished the basket of firewood I followed him. We had a beer or three, and consoled one another on our various aches and pains, and congratulated one another on a hard job well done. Before long it was kicking out time. Me and helper always seem to be the last to leave (nothing new there then!). I went outside, and there was the bike - gone!. I went back inside and told helper. He came outside and looked, and had a quick look in the pub yard, then shot off on his bike like a scalded cat. At the time I thought it a bit odd, but I have since learned that he cycled all over the village looking in the places I would not have thought of - the cemetery, the church, the bus station, behind the Faluhaz. I walked home, thoroughly dejected. Got home and pondered. Walked back to the pub and had another look around - no bike - and walked home again despondent.

Back home I pondered again. Ah well, bite the bullet and call plod. 112 would not work on either of my mobile phones - it is supposed to connect you to the emergency services anywhere in the world. I could not for the life of me remember the police number so I had to hunt around and find the old phone directory that is still in the building. Found it! 107 is plod. Went to ring the number and the land line was dead. Now that was odd as I had a perfectly good Internet connection. Took a bit of investigating, but I traced it down in the end. The phone was plugged in the wrong socket on the Internet router. I plugged it in the correct one, and the phone immediately rang. Now, that was really odd. I answered it, to find to my delight that I was a grandad again. My son calling from the UK!

After a suitable chat I did finally get to dial 107. I gathered that I was speaking to Police Headquarters in Szombathely, and explained the situation in my best pidgin magyarul. To the guy's credit on the other end, he had enough English to ask me where I was. I told him my address, and he said he would contact his colleagues in Körmend. Sure enough, about half an hour later two rendõr turned up. I knew them by sight. One of them plays skittles in the pub, and they had only been in the pub a couple of days ago on one of their routine visits. Fortunately, the other one had very good English and I was soon able to explain the situation. He even took a picture of the bike away with him on a pen drive. A bit different from the UK, where the theft of a bicycle does not even warrant the police attending. They didn't hold out much hope of finding it. With mixed emotions I went to bed.

5th March 2009

Got up, as you can imagine in not the best of moods. This is one of the lowest crime rate areas in Hungary, but it just had to be me that was the victim of a crime - just my luck. As a displacement activity I cleaned out the kitchen and hallway which had suffered somewhat during the digging of the trench. I wore the farming boots for that little exercise, and the hobnails do tend to cling on to stuff and then relinquish it where it is not wanted. I hosed down by the house door and along the path too, as that was just as bad. Helper turned up and hurtled some more of the stuff out of the trench back into the trench. Then it started raining, so we both stopped. I told him I had to go into Körmend to make a statement about the bike theft - the policemen last evening had told me that I had to do that if I wanted it investigated further. Helper immediately volunteered to come along as a witness.

We met back at the pub (nothing new there then!) and caught the bus to town. We got dropped off more or less opposite the police station. Apart from the Hungarian flag outside it is an unremarkable - in fact downright ugly - building, with nothing that obvious to indicate that it is in fact the police station. Helper did some explaining at the desk. The policewoman (armed) came to the entry door to the inside of the police station and there was some more explaining. Didn't let us in though. Whilst this was happening police were coming in and out, and one who I know by sight from the village stopped, shook our hands and exchanged pleasantries. Would it happen in the UK? Not sure.

We were told to wait, so we waited. And waited and waited and waited. Someone came and spoke to us. Helper was told he could leave, but be back in half an hour. I was told to wait. So I waited. And waited. After another while someone came and told me "Ten minutes", so, of course I finally got in there half an hour later. It appears that they were waiting themselves for a suitably qualified English speaker to appear, and he had finally appeared. After that it was quite brief. I made a short statement, produced my documentation and that of the bicycle, gave them another (better) copy of the photo of the bike, signed it in duplicate although I know not what it said apart from my own details. And that was that.

There was no sign of helper, either in the waiting room or the environs of the police station. I realised that I could kill two birds with one stone by taking a short walk away from town to obtain some information I wanted, so I did that. A quarter of an hour later I was headed back to the town centre. I looked in a pub where I thought helper might be. Not there, so I headed for the cellar pub. A very leisurely beer (my first of the day on account of the trip to see plod), and then another and it was creeping on towards time to get the half past five bus. Miss that one, and it is a wait until after ten at night for the last one. With about three minutes to go before I would have left to get the bus back to the village anyway, helper suddenly appeared. He still managed a spritzer and a chat to one of the locals before we left, in some haste. We caught the bus with only seconds to spare.

Back in the village and in the pub (naturally), with my limited grasp of magyarul, I can only say that I got the impression of a sense of outrage in the village. That someone had had the effrontery to steal the Englishman's bike. Everyone was asking - "Bicicli?, Bicicli?". Quite heart warming actually, although it in no way made up for the loss of the bike.

6th March 2009

Rather a different day. At least rather a different morning. I went on a photoshoot. I had been asked to take the photos by way of an exchange of favours. I was picked up promptly at nine, by car. We got in the car and the driver promptly put the seat belt on. I thought it slightly odd, as I was under the impression that the photos would be taken in the village. Not a bit of it - we ended up in a village not far from Szombathely, probably thirty five kilometers from Halogy. It was a bit of a nightmare journey. They are in the middle of what they call (I think) "pothole season" here. Some of the roundabouts on the main road were almost undrivable, having to thread slowly around a mass of huge potholes. I don't think I am exaggerating to say that the worst of them were eight to ten inches deep! It was not only on the roundabouts. There were frequent series of holes just along the normal straight roads too. Apparently they have men and vehicles to repair them, but no money to buy the necessary materials. A glimpse into the future for many countries, perhaps?

The subject matter of the photoshoot was, believe it or not, chicken cages. An egg farm - battery hens. These ones were the latest EU specification, and the photos are apparently for a book. The cages were fully occupied and so the stipulation was that I could not use flash or supplementary lighting as it would disturb the hens. Difficult! I managed to get most of the shots - I was using shutter speeds of up to four seconds! Led to some interesting pictures of the hens moving about. One shot did defeat me, and the Nikon. It was a shot of where the birds get their water from, and it was right in the darkest part of the cages. I was having to use a long zoom, just to get the detail and it was so dark that I couldn't get a decent framing in the viewfinder, and the autofocus simply wouldn't work. I set it up manually and guessed, but it didn't work. It was the only shot that was an absoluted duffer.

We returned to Halogy, and I was dropped off at the pub, which was kindly bought for me. Surprisingly, helper was in there too :) I had a beer and went home for some lunch.

Shortly after, helper appeared and did some more shovelling of earth back into the trench, now rapidly disappearing. I did some woodwork. He said something about bicycles - still a sore subject - and went off. After about ten minutes he reappeared, complete with a rather up-together ladies bike. It transpired that one of the villagers was happy to loan it to me (in exchange for the occasional drink, of course). Nevertheless, an unexpected act of kindness that reminded me how much of a community this is!

7th March 2009

I had breakfasted, and was just answering a call of nature (more detail than you need, I know), when there was a commotion in the yard. Pickle was going ballistic, and I could hear someone calling my name. As soon as I could I went to the door, to find my next door neighbour in a degree of agitation. "Gyere!, gyere!", he said (Come along, come along). So I followed him. Out of the yard, we turned right, towards his house. He went at his normal pace, with which I am barely able to keep pace. To my surprise we passed his house and carried on up the street. He was (as usual) having a gentle dig about the fact that I am not Roman Catholic. I just grinned and followed. We turned into the little alleyway that leads to the side door of the templom, and I was thinking "What on earth is going on here?". His wife was by the side door and two or three other ladies that I know by sight. They were all in an equal degree of agitation to the neighbour. I expected to be dragged into the church for some reason, but no, we went past the side door of the church to the end of the building and the neighbour held his arm out. There, leaning against the back wall of the church, was my bike!! Neighbour put his hands together as if in prayer and looked up at the sky, or the church spire, and said some stuff about "Isten" (God). He pointed out a chap by his front door at a house up the lane that runs up the hill, by the side of the church. Apparently he was the one that saw it first. I waved and called out a thank you to him. The bike appeared undamaged, at least nothing was majorly bent looking at it. I grabbed the bike with glee, but as I turned it round to take it home I felt an ominous clonk that should not have been there. It took but a few seconds to isolate. The front wheel had obviously been severely tinkered with, as there must have been about a quarter of an inch play on the wheelrim. Certainly wasn't like that when I lost it.

I walked the bike home. All other plans for the day were scrapped and I set to to find out the cause of the front wheel problem. It was easy. The bearing cone and its locking nut were only finger tight. I have never had cause to touch them, and if it had left the shop like that it would have surely manifested itself before now. Problem was, I didn't have a cone spanner. Normal solution - make one, so I carefully ground out the other end of the spanner that came with the angle grinder. It was a bit on the flimsy side by the time I had done, and the jaws spread as soon as I got any poundage on the locknut. I just hope it is nipped up tight enough.

Helper appeared in the midst of this to see if it was true about the bike. It was probably all over the village by now. It transpired that I had rung the chap that did the translation for my statement (he gave me his number), he had rung the local bobby - the one that plays skittles and he had rung helper. Helper did a few bits and pieces, clearing up his tools and the like. By then I had finished the bike, so, accompanied by helper, I gave it a test run. To the pub. With the lock!! I was heartwarmed by the general air of rejoicing that I encountered. "The Englishman has his bicycle back!" I lost count of how many times I was asked "bicikli megvan?".

On a different topic, I don't know why but I had a tot-up of the cost of repairing the water. The original estimate was 43,000Ft plus parts - 25,000Ft for hire of a JCB and 18,000Ft for the plumber. In fact I got the job done for 10,000Ft to dig the trench, 2,000Ft for the local chap to fit the pipe and 2,600Ft for the pipe itself by having it got from Körmend instead of over 3,000Ft locally. Total saving - 31,000Ft. All thanks to helper! I can buy sixty three rounds of drinks for me and him with that :)

8th March 2009

It being a Sunday I ended up cleaning the house, as usual. Helper appeared and gave the wood for the new gates its second coat of sealer. I noticed as he was doing it that he had them nicely sorted into the two large gates and the small gate, all in correct numerical order (remember that we numbered them). Methodical - I liked it. I was asked out to lunch yet again. We were under strict instructions to be there promptly by half past twelve, so we made a special effort and got there by quarter past - two!!

Helper told me of another sudden death in the village. He tried to explain who, but I couldn't place who it was. I know that it was a senior Halogyi, related to many people in the village. Trouble is, I don't know surnames, and lots of the given names are very common. They also mainly use diminutives. Zoltan (very common) becomes Zoli, Ferenc (very common) becomes Feri, Ludwig (quite common) becomes Layos, and so on. Strangely, I haven't heard Isti used for Istvan (also very common!).

We wandered back to my place - via the pub, which was shut on account of the sudden death. At mine, the now-dry wood was stacked back into the potting shed - still in its order. And that was work for the day. Later, there was a palpable air of sadness in the pub, which had reopened for the evening. How different from the day before, when the buzz was me getting my bike back. I have the impression that they are a very emotional race, and not afraid to show their feelings.

9th March 2009

I have to say that I studied the weather break when I chose my time to move here. The historical weather records that I checked show a definite break from winter to spring, with an average daily temperature rise of about ten degrees within a matter of days. It was a bit late getting here last year, as you will remember from the very early days of the blog. The signs are all there now, though, that it will happen in the next few days.

Everywhere is starting to show green, and I am at least aware of what will happen in the next few weeks. I start to see people working in their gardens. Much pruning of vines and fruit trees. My plan is to start on that within the next few days. I know I have a mountain to climb with the garden but I do have a plan. The soil is plenty wet enough still to do much serious digging. I know what the weather will be like once we get into May. After ten in the morning is simply too hot for really strenuous stuff. I intend to employ the local tree expert to sort out the fruit trees which have obviously suffered many years of neglect. And the vines will have to be dealt with. I saw one of the neighbours today lovingly pruning his. Mine certainly need a serious pruning, and all the posts still need replacing. I have a number of areas that I want to clear of weeds and the nasty shrubbery that defeats the scyth and put down to grass. Mainly round the fruit trees so that the windfalls won't be bashed to pieces when they fall on the ground. I also need a proper grassed walkway the full length of the garden so that I can at least get from bottom to top without the risk of breaking an ankle - yes, it is that bad at the moment.

I also need to start back on dealing with the house exterior. The painting needs finishing. The wall repairs to the outside of the kitchen need finishing. And the rest of that wall is not even started yet. The rendering is all removed (almost) from the front of the house, but the earth wall repairs there are not that serious and it has dried out really well even in the winter. The other wall of the house I will have to access by going into the neighbours yard, but again I don't think it is that serious. The rendering is so bad that I think I can have it all off in a couple of days. At least no cement! I have a couple of small windows to deal with on that side of the property but I don't think they are as bad as the others. They don't get the sunlight or the exposure to the same degree.

Sorry about that. It was a nothing sort of a day, so I thought I would do a little introspection.

10th March 2009

Here's a nice little project, that gave me a great deal of pleasure:
Bootees A little bit of pub work for one of my new grandsons. I'm hoping they will have received them by the time I publish this. Took me four evenings worth of work in the pub. Would have been three, but I ballsed up the first one - can't read a pattern. Eight rows, plus two rows, plus repeat the last two rows eight more times does not equal sixteen. And anyway, the pattern displeased me. It had the same rib either side of the seam. And it didn't have a nice turnover for the foldback. So I changed it. I have another pair to to for the other new grandson - I already did some from a pattern on the Internet, but they were way too small. Thanks to someone in the UK for the yarn.
I stitched them up first thing today, in somewhat of a hurry so as to be sure to catch the post. I did!

Mid way through the morning helper turned up. It was the day for the first of the new gates! Some brute force and ignorance got rid of the "Kolditz" appearance rotting wood that I inherited with the property. Helper cleaned up, wire brushed and painted the steel framework of the door. We had a beer whilst we waited for the paint to dry enough to put the wood onto it. Helper was all for just sticking the new wood against the metalwork and drilling holes in it. I was having none of it!. All the careful work that I had done setting out the holes and verticals would have gone straight out the window. Whilst he was doing the painting of the steelwork, I set out a level straightedge across the gateway. Once we came to put the wood on, I took charge of marking each piece with a centreline, and ensuring that I was happy with the position of it before letting helper loose with the drill. I already knew that the steelwork for the small gate is about half an inch out of vertical. I made sure that the woodwork was as near vertical as I could get it. With me measuring and positioning, and him drilling and bolting, it made for a good bit of "csoportmunka". The only hiccough was on the very last piece of wood, and when I offered it up I thought "That doesn't look right". It wasn't! My assumption all along was that all the pieces of wood were ninety eight millimetres wide. This one wasn't! It was ninety four. Enough to be noticable! With all the wood finally installed, helper an I sat on my doorstep and had a self-congratulary beer. <smug-mode>I happened to notice that through the small gaps in the new woodwork on the gate I could see straight across the road to the really nice house opposite. It gave me huge satisfaction to note that my new woodwork matched up with the verticals of the house perfectly</smug-mode>.

Another project that I finished today:
I won't even ask you to guess. The give-away writing on the wood has been (not very carefully) edited out. Took me about two hours, and it is for, or a part of, another ongoing project that I will reveal in the fullness of time. Seeing as the image file is called jig.jpg I will leave you with the information that it is a jig :) By the way, to give you and idea of scale, that is Pickle's nose top left! Jig

I don't quite know how it came about, but much later we were discussing the price of bricks. It turns out that an old brick here costs about eighty pence. Quite expensive.

11th March 2009

It was a nice bright morning, so I cracked on with drilling the large gates for the new wood. I was soon working without a coat on - I hung it on one of the now-pruned, yet-to-bud hibiscus shrubs by the gate. Thirty more holes to drill. After the first hole the angle grinder came out again. Firstly to sharpen the drill bit, which wouldn't drill putty, and secondly to put a new point on my home made centre punch. It (the centre punch) had actually done quite well - forty eight lots of whacking against the steelwork of the gates - but it was getting a bit tired. I managed about a dozen or so of the thirty remaining holes to be drilled when an abrupt change to the weather (that's a polite way of saying it started pissing down) put an end to using power tools outdoors. You know, I would not have fancied drilling all those holes by hand. This electricity stuff is good - just as long as it lasts.

I forgot to mention my new tool tidy. My tool collecton has way outgrown the tool table which is now residing in the corner of the kitchen. I decided to knock together a tool tidy to stand in the hallway:
Tool Tidy It is as rough a piece of work as you are likely to see - took about two hours, and is definitely of the school of "it fits where it touches" school of carpentry. Never mind, it answers a need. It is held together with hand made walnut dowels!

With no improvement in the weather I decided to bring forward by a day a quick trip to Nádasd. With my shopping list in the black book I walked up to the pub for a beer before the bus came. It was closed, and I saw the son of the publican all dressed in black. It dawned on me then that it was the funeral of whoever it was that I still didn't manage to identify. I hung about in the cold and rain and caught the bus when it came. It was the posh one. The one with the driver's little door that is not made of plywood and nails. And it has a really nice turned wooden handle on the gear lever. Still costs the same, and the front door doesn't open and close properly. Did a raid on the ironmongers and got all the stuff off my list in about three minutes. Left me with a quarter of an hour before the return bus to the village. Maybe get that beer now, then. Nope - the little pub in Nádasd was closed also. I think for the same reason. So, again I stood in the cold wind and rain until the bus back to the village arrived. When we arrived back in Halogy it was obvious that the ceremony at the cemetery had just finished. It was obviously a huge funeral - there were cars parked everywhere, even right up as far as the football field. They were queued up to get out onto the road.

On a totally different note, the weather, although still cold from time to time, has picked up such that I am now down to about half a basket of wood a day for the cserepkalyha, and I don't light it until well into the evening.

12th March 2009

A lovely spring morning, in spite of the fact that the TV weather forecast said it would rain. I drilled the remaining holes in the ironwork for the big gates. I had just finished when it snowed. Well, I suppose to call it snow would be glorifying it a bit. Somewhere between sleet and frozen rain. Not for long though, and the sun soon came back out.

I was just doing a bit of woodwork (ongoing) when Pickle went ballistic at someone at the gate. It was the firewood man, come to tell me that they would deliver it on Saturday. He quoted me a price, which seemed a bit steep - a good bit more than last time. But then, I am a captive audience, so to speak.

After lunch I was busy setting out the levels for the big gates when the local blacksmith arrived. Pickle, as usual, went ballistic. With no more ado, he walked up the yard, gave her a playful whack on the snout and came back and got to work. He needed to measure one of the hinge pins, and, having asked me to steady the other end of the gate, he lifted the whole thing off its hinges. Not a tall man, but strong as an ox, as you can picture what a village blacksmith is like. All measured, he put the gate back on just as easily.

I did manage a blog update a little later.

13th March 2009

Keeping it brief, in the attempt to catch up on the blog, I managed a fair amount of woodwork. I've got far too many projects on the go. New ones with a higher priority overtake older ones. They are still all on the go, though. Nothing has been abandoned - just maybe put on hold.

Another beautiful day, which once again reminds me of what is about to happen in the garden. I do have a plan, but once again I am tied by a set of consequences and actions in order to even start on it. Both helper and I are desperate to get the gates finished, but now we have to wait on the village blacksmith as it will involve some welding. No point in putting on new wood and painting the steelwork when it is all going to be burnt off again.

I forgot to mention that yesterday, as I was going to the shop quite early (before seven) the old lady from next door who was just coming out of the shop waited for me. I wondered what was coming - something about Pickle and chickens, maybe? But no, she waited to speak to me just to say how good the new small gate is. Nice! Bridges mending perhaps?

14th March 2009

It dawned a beautiful day. Almost flat calm, and just a few fluffy white clouds in the sky. There is heat in the sun again already. I was in the shop by half past seven, and I was almost too late for bread, which would have been inconvenient, it being Saturday.

I had hoped to go to Bécs today to a Philharmonia Orchestra concert in which my daughter was playing. Circumstances conspired, and I waited at home for my ordered firewood to appear. Whilst waiting I did a bit on a couple of woodworking projects. Then, in the fullness of time, the firewood appeared. The tired, old, blue Bedford three tonner equivalent made its usual two or three attempts to get in my gateway. (The gate hole is about three point six metres wide from pillar to pillar - not that difficult!) The driver finally managed to back up to an approximation of where I wanted the firewood, to my surprise demolishing neither the well nor Pickle's (still unfinished!) kennel. With a crash my ten cubic metres of firewood was on the yard. I looked, and my heart sank. Apart from the pallets it was all walnut. Well, either I compromise my principles and burn walnut or I'll be very cold next winter! I paid the firewood man, somewhat considerably more than last time but still cheaper than other sources I have explored, and gave him a tip for the driver. That's twice now that he has managed not to knock down gate pillars, dog kennel or the well.

They left. I had some lunch and a beer. Then I set to, hurtling the newly-delivered firewood into the wood store. There was still more oak in there from the previous lot I bought than the firewood I inherited when I first arrived here. It is well buried in walnut now! I had managed one container (two cubic metres per container) out of five when there was a toot and a shout from the front gate. It was the firewood man. He said (in English) "I am sorry". Thoughts flashed through my mind - Oh god, has he delivered the wrong firewood here, etc., etc. But no. He had decided that he had overcharged me and handed me back a bunch of notes - several thousand Forints. I didn't have the effrontery to count it, and, me being me, just stuffed it in my pocket. I did notice that there was a five thousand Forint note on the outside and at least two one thousand Forint notes as well. Hmmm! Not so expensive then :)

I carried on hurtling the firewood about until I had almost had enough, when helper appeared. He carried on and I had a rest, and a beer. After that I set about two other jobs, equally as physically demanding. One was to get the stack of various wood from off the yard into what has now become the kitchen stove woodstore and two was to deal with the small, now almost roofless, outhouse abutting the huge pear tree. It had been bugging me since day one when I got here - it simply had to go! To my surprise it yielded readily. Pictures and descriptions will follow, but not right now. The old lady next door came to the fence whilst I was hurtling the wood about. Something about nylon (pronounced neelon hereabouts). All was revealed once helper arrived. She wanted the cling film that was wrapped around the wood on the pallets. I presume to burn. They seem not to have any hangups about what goes on the fire. If it will burn, it gets burnt!

With daylight fading, helper and I made our separate ways to the pub. The weather had been glorious all day, and it was very noticeable that there was a kind of buzz about the village with people out and about and working in their gardens.

15th March 2009

Priority No. 1 for the morning was to sort out Pickle's running wire and chain, for several reasons. It has been in a right mess since January when I disconnected one end in the expectation of the yard having to be JCB'd right where one of the stakes was. The other problem was of my own making. When Pickle broke the carabiner, like a prat, instead of angle grinding through the broken carabiner I angle ground through the swivel. I don't know if anyone can tell me, but do dogs always turn in the same direction? Pickle certainly does, the result being that the chain gets shorter and shorter and the running wire ties itself into an unbelievable mess due to the twist in it. It just coils itself up, and not neatly! Anyway, reinstall the running line I did, relocating it slightly. I managed to get both the stakes slightly below ground level this time, so Pickle won't be able to get tangled round them.

After that it was housework. At lunchtime I was in a bit of a quandary. Helper had said that he might come and get an hours work done. There was also a tentative plan for lunch at his. Additionally, I had promised to take the camera to the local football. Time dragged on, and eventually I decided to see if helper was in the pub. He wasn't. End result was that I did get to the football, literally as the starting whistle went and didn't get any lunch. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny afternoon. The clubhouse faces south west, so catches the sun all afternoon. I do believe I had actually caught the sun a little by the end of the match!

I was starving hungry by the time I got home, so I relit the kitchen stove and made one of my big vegetable stews and had a good helping of that with the last of the weekend's bread.

16th March 2009

Helper and I went to Körmend today, catching the half past eight bus that only runs on Mondays (market day). Off the bus, the first port of call was the Cellar Pub. A leisurely beer in there then we set off towards the market. I went to the bank, helper went to the the little pub on bástya utca. Having got cash, I joined him there. Another leisurely beer later and we finally made the market, which is only a couple of minutes walk away. We wandered all the way round the market, and I broke the bank by purchasing a wooden spoon for eighty five Forints to replace the lost one. By chance, we found ourselves in a little pub just by the market. I knew it from when I came over here to buy property. It is where the estate agent dropped me off whilst he went off to get my passport notarised. In there we bumped into two brothers from the village. One of them tried to hide, but the girth, and the baseball cap, gave the game away. The session degenerated into stealing the new Dréher beer mats - helper involved too. It was really rather funny! They were like naughty schoolboys.

I made a discovery. Spar! Yes, the same Spar as you see on small town High Streets in the UK. There is one right by the market. Didn't look that big, or that prepossessing from outside. Inside, it was a revelation. Clean, tidy and bright. I found what I was looking for with no problem - őrölt gyömber. The only other place I can find it is in Tescos, and if you cast your mind (or clicking finger) back it is a very long time since I have felt the need to go to Tescos. But I couldn't find őrölt gyömber anywhere else. None in the village shop, none in Nádasd and none in any of the other mini-supermarkets in town. I bought six packets - enough for three big brews, unless I bake some biscuits, of course. Then it will only be enough for two and a half brews.

We wandered back towards town. I did a couple of calls in close proximity. One was the számítógépbolt for some CD-Rs and the other was a top up at the dohanybolt. I called in at a couple of other shops in the town centre and bought nothing in one, and something in the other. Strangly enough we ended up back in the Cellar Pub! We did manage not to miss the bus back to the village though.

Unfortunately, my bike was locked up outside the village pub. I felt obliged to pay the parking fee, so, two more beers later, I carefully and somewhat unsteadily rode home.

I had a much needed bite to eat - lots of alcohol soaking bread. Then I felt the need to work off the incipient daytime hangover, so I went back to hurtling the firewood into the outhouse. Quite a bit later, after I had had enough hurtling of diofa, and had filled the big room wood baskets and the kitchen wood basket, helper appeared with the local blacksmith. Come to fix the gates. I plugged in his ultra-heavy-duty expension lead and waited for the bang when he started using anything. First thing that happened was that blacksmith and helper hoiked the left hand big gate (as you look from the road) off its hinges. Blacksmith gave the hinge pin (which is concreted into the gatepost) a few good whacks with a fairly meaty hammer. Next he took his definitely non-toy angle grinder and took the hinge off the gate. Took about four seconds! More like four hours with mine! By the way, the scars have almost healed. Then they put the gate back on the one hinge. Blacksmith put the new hinge he had made on the hinge pin and then wedged the gate in place. I looked in horror as he wedged the gate about a half inch higher than the other one, and the verticals in the centre between the gates no longer matched. All my careful work with drill, plumb line and levels out the window! Sptzzzz, sptzzzz went his arc welder as he tacked on the new hinge, then sssspppppttttzzzzzzzz as he ran a line of weld down it. I need not have worried. He knew exactly what he was doing. Out came the wedges holding the gate and it dropped back perfectly into its proper position. After that he fitted a drop down bolt to one of the gates, and a fold-over latch at the top of the steelwork. All perfect! You'll see when you come to visit! The price of this? A few beers in the pub...

17th March 2009

Up at five thirty - still dark, just the beginnings of the first light of dawn. In the shop by six thirty. Carried on with the wood working projects for a while in the morning. One of these fine days I will give you another update of the projects that are started, ongoing, and their current status. I don't think any have been totally abandoned, never to be returned to. All a matter of priorities.

After a beer break I went back to hurtling the ever diminishing pile of walnut firewood into the firewood outhouse. Bang! yet again, I cracked my head against the doorway designed for a midget. Something had to be done, and NOW! A quick measure up the sides - six feet. Draw a line across. Drill a hole with the brace and bit so I could get the jigsaw in, and saw it off six feet high. Find another bit of wood the right size. Nail it to the door hole uprights, and nail the now dangly bits back in place. Job's a good 'un. Strange thing is, that when I went back to hurtling the wood in there, I still instinctively ducked!

For a couple of days now, well at least since my firewood was delivered, there has been by day a monotonous thump thump thump coming from next door (the old lady with the chickens). I finally tracked it down today. A neighbour from just up the road is using a huge, obviously home made, wooden mallet to split her firewood. When I say huge, I do mean huge. The head has to be about a foot long and about five inches in diameter, all bound about with nailed on strips of iron. The shaft has to be about four feet long. The guy has been wielding it for two, maybe three, days now. I would guess that he is about my age!

After lunch we, Pickle and I, ventured into the garden, for the first time this year. In anticipation, because the old lady with the chickens's fence is far from secure, I had made a ground screw with which to tether Pickle so that she could go no further than an eight metre diameter. I screwed it in, hooked the old chain into it, and hooked Pickle's collar onto that. Then I set about the last remaining conifer - the one I had left as it was tangled with much vine and many grapes last October. I tried the bowsaw, but about a third of the way through it just bound, and I was making no progress. Ah well. Out came the big ax, and I chopped it down the old fashioned way. I was just trimming the branches off when there was a doggy commotion from next door. The three dogs that they now have appeared at my fence, and Pickle shot off towards them. My poor effort at a ground screw was simply no match. She uprooted it as if it hadn't been there. There was a whole load more doggy commotion at the fence, with much barking, tail wagging and mutual admiration. At least I was on hand to ensure that there was no breach of the fence. In either direction. I found something a bit more substantial to which to tether Pickle, and, as I was now on that side of the garden, set about pruning the first of the vines. Now, I know nothing about viticulture apart from how to actually make the wine. So I simply copied what they had done next door. Yards of tangled vine were hacked off, but by the end of it, apart from the fact that my vine is not attached to any posts, it looked quite similar to theirs. Only another eight to do, but it didn't take that long.

Somewhat later, in the pub, I was just finishing off the sleeves of my knitting for myself when one of the local characters made some crack about it taking a year to get finished. Not far wrong, actually. My response was "One year, one pullover - what's the problem?", which drew a fair bit of mirth from the assembled regulars!

18th March 2009

This from, of all places, The Register. Glad I'm not in the UK.

It was a bright and clear morning, but there was a bitterly cold, brisk, gusty northerly wind. I stayed indoors, stoked up the kitchen fire and did a load of washing. I ventured out as briefly as I could to peg it out. It was dry by lunchtime in spite of being dripping wet when I hung it out.

I contented myself with bits and pieces inside, and in a continuing attempt to keep up to date with the blog, that's it!

Apart from the fact that it is a year to the date since I left the UK.

19th March 2009

From the BBC this morning. Personally I find the report over optimistic. Just exactly how is the world going to increase food production in the face of the inevitable oil depletion that by 2030 will alone be causing huge global problems. It's coming folks, it's coming. Also, the Financial Times has seen fit to publish this graph from The Oil Drum.

A year to the day since I arrived in Hungary, somewhere towards the tail end of the afternoon. I remember it well! Panicking about whether my passport should be checked, panicking about missing getting off the train at the right stop. Panicking about whether all would be well with the house sale. All very different now. I am accepted with friendliness as part of the village by all but a very small handful of people. I suppose that every community has to have its share of xenophobes! I don't have a qualm about walking into shops and asking for stuff, and in those shops I use regularly I am again welcomed with warmth and treated with respect.

I woke up this morning to a bit of a nasty surprise. Up, dressed, let the dog out - the yard was white over with snow, and it was snowing heavily. Very cold. Well that changed all my plans for the day, then! It continued to snow throughout the morning. I took this shot from my big room window looking at the really nice house across the road:
I look straight down their yard. I haven't actually checked, as the thought has only just occured to me, but I think the positioning of the houses along the street may be staggered, from one side to the other, so that you don't look straight at another house but rather down the yard. Wintry Weather

I worked pretty well all day at the computer, so really nothing to report. Apart from the interlude with the parcel. I had a parcel to send to the UK, so I hung the sign out on the gate. Postie duely arrived, in the snow. She took the parcel, and eyed it dubiously, weighing it up and down in her hand. I had made a fair effort at getting the weight of it right, but she was not convinced. She said something about the shop, which, to be honest, escaped me. My next door neighbour appeared, and with a bit more pidgin Hungarian I understood that I should take it to the shop. That did baffle me a bit. Do they run a parcel service from the shop? Once I got to the shop, all was revealed. They had sent me there to get it weighed. All part of a miriad little services that happen in a village like this. The shop lady weighed it on the shop scale, and it turned out to be fifty grammes over the weight division. Bugger! I didn't know that polystyrene chips weighed that much! Ah well, gotta hand it to the post lady. Back home I trudged through the continuing snow. I left the parcel to be dealt with the next day.

The warm hat, scarf and gloves had to come back out of the wardrobe for my trip to the pub from where I had stored them only a couple of days ago, thinking that they would not be needed again this year. Wrong! Oh, and by the way, it was Pickle's first birthday :)

20th March 2009

Tom Whipple. Always good for doom and gloom!

A year to the day since I made the long, hard, heavily laden cycle ride from Körmend! A year of major catastrophies and minor triumphs. A time to remind myself what it is all about - me being here. The gardening was a bit of a disappointment. OK, I got more than enough spuds to last me until the next crop. I also got more walnuts than I know what to do with! Seeds imported from the UK (probably a bit dodgy!) were very disappointing. They simply did not thrive, apart from the spinach, and the tomatoes. I confess that I was totally unprepared for the amount of fruit that the garden produces. I never did get around to sorting out the strawberries. I must have thousands of strawberry plants, but they are simply overrun by the grass and the weeds - a priority job for this year! All was rather overtaken by the discovery of the internal and external state of the house. Much work to be done - still ongoing.

I constantly have to remind myself that it is all about doing everything, as far as possible, by hand. The temptation to use power tools is all too present, and I will confess to using them. But when you stop and think "How long would that have taken by hand?" it makes you realise our dependency on fossil fuels. The IEA (optimists!) put Peak Oil at 2020. That's only eleven years away. Since I found out about Peak Oil I can say that I fall firmly into the camp of the "Peak Oil Doomers". If I take after my mother's side of the family, I could make eighty years of age, particularly given the change in my lifestyle. That would take us to about 2030. Even CERA (uberoptimists!) admit that Peak Oil is likely by then.

Ah well, enough philosophising! I sat down at first beer-break time today, and thought to myself "What have you achieved today? Bugger All!". I mentally reeled off what I had done in the two hours or so that I had been on the go, to realise that I had, actually, either done, or sussed out, five different jobs. Made me feel a lot better!

The postie came back for the parcel today. I had made the necessary adjustment, checked it in the shop, and the parcel came in at 1,980 grammes. Just nicely under the two kilogramme borderline.

After yesterday's snow it was still not a nice day, so again I was restricted to mainly house-bound tasks. And, in an attempt to get caught up with the blog, that's it!

21st March 2009

Very short today! I have a particular project on the go, which I can't say much about, as it is to be a surprise - a pleasant one, I hope. The realisation that in only a few days I will be back to the external repairs, and sorting out the garden, encouraged me to spend the whole day on the one project. Not something I normally do. Once it is complete, and delivered, I will give you a full update on it including pictures. It's nice. I like it!

22nd March 2009

Sunday morning, so house cleaning day. I made a catastrophic discovery! I'm becoming house proud. That can't be right, as a friend says "I like living in squalor". I don't know whether it is the Hungarian influence or what. I must admit that I still have a problem with horizontal surfaces. Always have had since I can remember. If its horizontal, put stuff on it until you can't put any more. Then find another horizontal surface and continue. You know when the process is complete, and you really need to do something about it. The floor is full!

Speaking of OCD (which I wasn't) I have a problem with matches. I have to ask myself how come one of the most untidy people in the world has OCD. Hmmmm! Matches. Yes. With the box the right way up - you know, so that the matches don't fall on the floor when you open the box - and the writing of the label the right way up for reading, the heads of the matches must be on the left. And they must always be struck using the side which is nearest the body when reading the label. Round the twist? Absolutely! It isn't anything to do with being here. In the days when smoking was allowed in pubs in the UK I used to exhibit similar behavour. (Didn't I Max?)

After the house cleaning I carried on for a while with the unnamed project, it being a not very special sort of a day.

After lunch the weather changed. The cold wind dropped. The sun came out, and it was time for some work in the garden. I am no viticulturalist in spite of managing to produce thirty litres of my own wine last year. I know about wine making and distillation, but actual vines? No. But I knew that getting them pruned and into some sort of shape was priority, so I set about it. I had seen the lady next door pruning hers (the one with the dog and the husband, lady that is, not the one with the chickens) so I simply copied what she had done. Everything that was not the old, dark brown wood went, and I was left with a skeleton of gnarled branches with twigs attached. Not worried. I know from the one that was almost ploughed in, strimmered (at least twice) and overrun with weeds how resilient they are. Under the weeds and miscellaneous debris it still managed a crop of tiny, tiny grapes.

I had just got back to the yard, from the garden when helper and another young chap from the village arrived. It being Sunday and nowhere open they had found themselves in a quandary as they urgently needed some cement. Helper knew I had nearly a full bag, so they came and "borrowed" it, on the promise that a new, full bag would be returned the next day in exchange. No problem on my half, so off they went with the cement to complete whatever task it was that they were doing.

Ablutions and ingestion of food completed. off to the pub, where I learned that Pickle now has eleven (yes eleven) new brothers and sisters. I'll go and see them once they start bouncing about. Bitterly cold when I left the pub - a nasty wind, and round about freezing, so the stove got well stoked up once I got home.

23rd March 2009

The sun was just rising when I lit the kitchen stove. Looking out of the window I could see the shadow of the house starting to creep down the outhouse, with a blue sky and a few fluffy white clouds. A beautiful spring day. It lied! When I went out of doors there was once again a bitingly cold gusty wind. Nevertheless, I had a load of washing to do. At least the production of the necessary hot water kept the kitchen nice and cosy! I managed a bit of woodwork, but once again found myself driven indoors by the cold at frequent intervals.

By lunch time all had changed. The wind dropped, and the sun produced some heat. Time to get back into the garden, and continue sorting out the vines. I had already done the one nearest to the house, on the No. 68 side, and continued working my way up the No. 72 side. I had got to the furthest ones from the house, and this is what I found:
Overrun Vines There are vines under this lot! There were grapes there last year too, but virtually impossible to harvest under this! The lot that runs transversely at the far end is brambles. Now, I'm all in favour of brambles - blackberry jam, blackberry and apple pie! But not when they invade the vines to this expent!
A close-up, to show you what I mean. Overrun Vines
Vines The knarled black thing in the foreground is a vine. You can see that I have chopped back a walkway between where the brambles are and where the vines are.
This is the same.view as the previous close up. Unfortunately, when I cleared all the stuff that the vine here was holding up, it just cracked up into dead pieces. Strangled. Overrun Vines Cleared
I stuck at it until about five, then back to the house.

The borrowed cement was supposed to come back today. It didn't!

By the way, this laptop shows every incipient sign of dying. It switched inself off twice, instantly and for no apparent reason whilst I was doing this blog update!

24th March 2009

The Guardian on Peak Oil gardening.

Nothing to report, really. Life in the village is picking up into spring. There is much agricultural machinery on the move, but there are still areas on the fields round about that are waterlogged. The local telly news reports indicate lots of areas still seriously affected by snow, and many road accidents. I have to say that here at least, a few inches of snow does not bring everything to a halt as in the UK.

Bits and pieces in the morning, lunch, then - on a whim - I went to town on the five to three bus to buy a single item. Always tight timing, the bus gets to town at quarter past three, and the bus back to the village is at twenty five past. So I legged it to the wool shop, bought one ball of wool, looked at the watch and decided I could get in and out of the local mini-market and still get the bus. So I did - bought two or three items in their, and resumed legging it for the bus. Oh-oh! Ominous. Nobody at the stop. Bugger! As usual in the situation I just stood and filled the pipe. I was about to light it when the bus appeared. Very unusual, there are normally several villagers there to catch that bus.

The cement still has not reappeared.

25th March 2009

I carried on with my unnamed project well into the morning. All will be revealed, I promise. It's coming along quite nicely. I just need to get it finished before I have to turn most of my attention to the garden and the continuing repairs to the outside of the house. Speaking of which, my home made earth bricks have stood a severe Hungarian winter without a problem. Still much work to do.

Helper came round - he made me understand that today was to be the day for the big gates. He went into the potting shed, and wheeled out the wheelbarrow, stacked criss-cross with all the pieces of wood for the gates. Parked it by the old gates, grabbed the angle grinder and ripped off all the old "Kolditz" gate wood. Without the timber the steelwork is actually quite flimsy. Helper and I, with the aid of two or three passers by, were able easily to lift them off their hinges. (Joking) He set about the steelwork with wire brush, angle grinder and eventually the frames got put back on the hinges and he painted them.

The painting was done about midday. helper said "I'm off to the pub for lunch, I'll be back in an hour." (or words to that effect). Hmmmm - we can guess what sort of a lunch that would be, then! I had a little mental bet with myself that he would be back at about three in the afternoon. He excelled himself. A quarter past three! In the meantime I had busied myself and marked up all the wood for the first gate with the drilling points.

Upon his eventual return we set about it. The second piece of wood caused a problem. A slight twist in the wood and an equally slight twist in the steelwork meant that we had trouble getting the nut to thread on. I guess that we must have spent fifteen minutes just on that one piece of wood, but we finally got it in place. After that it was plain sailing, and in about an hour we had all the wood in place of the first gate. Just as we were coming to the end of it the village mayor walked by. I think he was probably on his way to what I would call a parish council meeting - he had his little attache case under his arm. He paused for a moment opposite. Looked over, and just smiled and nodded before resuming his walk to the Faluhaz. Somehow, a little gesture like that makes everything worthwhile. I still get the occasional bout of "What the hell am I doing here?", you know. Helper says he is "Jó ember" (a good man).

We had a beer break, then set about the other gate. Towards the end It became apparent that, in spite of all my careful caculations, and what I said about the vas szakember, there was going to be a levels problem between the two gates. And so it turned out - nine millimetres. Doesn't sound much, but it is noticable. It's easily answered though. Once I get helper here, if we "steal" a millimeter on the bottom hinge of one gate in one direction and a millimeter on the other hinge in the other direction, that will close the levels by about six millimetres. A little adjustment of a millimetre on each of the two pieces where the gates meet, and we will be within a millimetre - close enough. My old art teacher at school used to rip the sh*t out of anyone who drew eyelashes on a portrait. He said that beyond a certain distance the human eye simply does not have the capability of resolving them. We know they are there, which is why people draw them, but if you can't actually see them, why draw them. So it is with the gates. Nine millimetres is discernable - one or two isn't.

Work complete, we adjourned to the pub, where a few toasts to the "új kapu" were drunk! You know, we still do the occasional "Slàinte mhath" to our departed Hungarian/Scottish friend.

At home, trying to update the blog, the laptop did its instant dying trick twice more. Sorry - it had to have it! With it still switched on I closed the lid, turned it over and banged it down hard on the table. Kill or cure. Amazingly (touch wood) it worked. It hasn't done it since. Left a very interesting dust pattern on the screen though. Does anyone know how to clean under the keys on a laptop keyboard? My ordinary workstation keyboard used to get taken to pieces every so often, and all the non-electronical bits used to go in the bath for a good scrub down.

I forgot to mention that, more or less right on time, Pickle came into season for the first time. I expected a stream of "unwelcome gentleman visitors", but, unless she has been rapidly got at whilst my back was turned, it just hasn't happened. Hungarian dogs, evidently, are either well behaved, or, unfortunately, like Pickle, who will still fly at the fence at the sight of a next-door chicken, tethered. Sorry, that sentence was a bit convoluted.

26th March 2009

Moving into spring rapidly now, and my work patterns are beginning to change. I was up at five thirty and in the shop by a quarter past six. The shop lady showed evident pleasure to see me at that hour. The locals are also similarly changing their habits. I see in the shop at that time the same people who a month ago would have got in there at half past seven or so.

I was working by seven thirty. First job was to steal some glass from one of the derelict outhouses. When I moved here, over a year ago, one of the items that was packed up and shipped over was a box of pictures. In spite of my supposedly careful packing two of them had broken glass when they arrived here. I had declared to myself that none of them were going on the walls until I had a room in a sufficient state of decor to receive them. Well, that time had come, so the broken glass had to be replaced. It's pretty obvious that anything shipped from the UK to here is in for a fair amount of rough handling! Anyway, I extracted a couple of panes of glass from the outhouse. They proved to be big enough for one of the pictures, but not for the other. I retrieved my previously lost but now found brand new glass cutter and made one of the panes fit the picture that it would. The other pane got cut up for an indoor gardening job - more later.

I finally managed to complete the sister (or is it brother?) tool to the mystery one of some time ago. Here they are together:
The prize is still up for grabs. You can see that the included angle on the one is different to the 'tuther. As a further couple of hints, the choice of materials is not coincidental, and you might start thinking about 'O'-level trig, and gradients. It can be answered in ten words. In fact I can get it down to seven words. Mystery Tools

After lunch, it was back to the gardening. Pruning vines, starting to clear the dried up debris from last (and previous) years died off growth, pruning the elderberry trees. The neighbours simply can't deal with the fact that I am keeping a couple of elderberry trees. They bore a huge crop last year, but, as with the cherry tree, most of it was simply out of reach. Hence the severe pruning. There are several things you can do with elderberries, not the least of which is to turn some into wine. I do declare that a good elderberry wine compares very favourably with anything that comes out of France. By the end of the day I had just one section of vines still left to prune. Conventional wisdom is that they should be pruned once the leaves drop in the autumn, but hereabouts they prune them about now. I know, because the neighbours have all been doing the same thing. Scattered around the garden I now have a small mountain of stuff for disposal, and the fruit trees haven't even been pruned yet. It is destined - selectively - for either bonfire or cutting up and putting in one of the other little outhouses to dry out as next years kitchen firewood.

Later, after the ritual of eat, change, pub, home, light the stove I was working away on the computer, and there was a rumble and thud from the direction of the stove. Enough to disturb Pickle, and me, in my deafness. A distinct smell of soot pervaded the room. Oh-oh! Is the chimney about to come through the roof? Ah well, couldn't investigate it then. The stove was lit, and well hot. A priority unexpected job for the morning. The cement still hasn't been returned :(

27th March 2009

Normal morning routine, but once again up very early. No.1 job, investigate what was going on with the stove. Into the pantry and removed the little doors that give access to the bottom of the chimney. Hmmmm - as I feared, absolutely solid with stuff. How many half bricks was I going to find in there? I set to to dig it all out, to find, to my relief, none. What I had was a simple "fall of soot". Speaking of which, a quick search on fall of soot turned up this site about wartime life in Scotland. Not that far removed from everyday life here now, for many families.

Managed to do some other woodwork today - nothing special though.

Afternoon, and back in the garden. Somehow, with the knowledge of what I need to do and what is to come, it doesn't seem quite so big or so daunting. Of course, I have a list of prioritised jobs that I must get to, but at least if I can get so that I am only tackling new growth with the scythe it will be that much easier. I only managed a couple of hours, and got rained off, so I went indoor gardening instead. I have been saving washed out empty margarine tubs (yes, I still use Flora) for some while. It goes with the ethos - save it for an unknown reason, or burn it on the fire. Well, I saved these. It came to me in a flash of perspiration for what I could use them. Seed trays! Nowhere have I seen anything remotely resembling seed trays. I was going to knock some up out of the various crates and such lying around. As I said, it suddenly came to me. I used the trusty soldering iron to make a series of nice holes in the bottoms (much too flimsy to drill), and hey-presto ten nice little seed trays. Next step was to make some labels. I have to say that the gardening hint about the polystyrene labels was not an unmitigated success. The writing faded off them, and if the wind blew, they blew away. This time I went decadent. Walnut! I have tons of the stuff. Ten minutes work and I had a large supply of nice walnut wood labels - the sort with a point on the bottom that you stick in the compost or soil. I would have carved the seed names into them so that they won't fade in the sunlight, but that would have been going too far, and I simply don't have the time. At the moment. I have a plan! Anyway, they all got filled up with my home-made compost mix. I really can't get on with the local compost - everything germinates nicely, then after about ten days simply dies. So I have made my own mix of half-and-half garden soil and the bought compost. I'll let you know how I get on. About six or seven different species of seed went in. On the tops went the glass slips that I made from the spare window pane, and on top of the stove they went. The top of the stove does not get that hot. The sides do, but the top gives a nice constant steady warmth.

The cement still has not reappeared!

28th March 2009

You will be pleased to know that the prize for identifying the little mystery tools has been won! Yes, a certain young Mr.Jones, who used to be a student of mine - a very good student, too - came pretty well straight back with the answer once I published the last picture. They are, of course, tools for setting out the angles on dovetail joints - one for hardwood, with a gradient of one in eight, and one for softwood with a gradient of one in six. Made out of, respectively, hardwood and softwood. A small prize will be winging its way to Mr. Jones!

An unpromising sort of a day, blowing a hoolie and not that warm, I started off by working on the unnamed project. By lunchtime the wind had calmed, and it became a very pleasant afternoon. Gardening weather! I carried on where I left off with the pruning of the vines and a load of general clearing up. You know, it is little wonder that the vines were all collapsed in a heap, apart from where they had grown into adjacent trees or fences. Most of the posts were only set about a foot into the ground. Absolutely, totally inadequate here. They need to be in at least two feet six, the soil is so soft. I still have no idea where to get new posts, or how much they will cost. I do know that if I buy good quality hardwood ones and give them a good tarring (or something equivalent) they will last me out - probably. I will also use wooden horizontals. Traditionally wires are used, but they have no inherent vertical strength and the weight of the vines when laden with leaf and grape causes them to exert a considerable inward pull on the posts. Not a good idea. Opinion is obviously split, as the neighbour one side has wires and the other wood. Similarly in the rest of the village - some wire, some wood.

I managed another conversation (of sorts) with the old lady next door - the one with the chickens. She is obviously a great age - has to be in her eighties, if not nineties - and she was out there hoeing away and weeding, etc. Makes me feel very inadequate!

I put in quite a good afternoon. Folding up lengths of rusty wire and chucking them on the ever-growing heap of miscellaneous metalwork for disposal. Stacking all the old posts in various spots, to be destined for kitchen firewood at some stage. Then I had had enough. Back to the yard, filled the wood baskets and started cooking a quick something or other before pub time. It was starting to get dark, when Pickle, who was in the kitchen, went ballistic. I looked out the window to see helper handballing a bag of cement into the outhouse, followed by a bag of meszhidrat. Good lord! The loaned out materials had finally reappeared.

29th March 2009

Somewhere along the lines, no doubt in some alcoholic state, I appear to have entered an agreement with the local fa szakember to have new doors made for the house. In my optimism, I thought that there would be a shop somewhere where you could actually buy new doors. I never found it! There is a place in Nádasd where you can get plastic ones. YYuuuugggggkkkkk! I'm sure that I never related the tale about working for a fortnight for a good brass band friend for a fortnight just before I moved to Bournemouth and started as a student at the University. The job was making brand new sash windows to replace the ones in a listed manor house (in Wiltshire I think). The old ones were two hundred years old! The new ones had to be identical in every respect - apart from being new, of course. They even had little slats hanging down inside the sash cases to prevent the sash weights from clashing together. If memory serves there were eighteen windows. Point of the story? What are all the plastic windows installed now going to be like in two hundred years time? I do know, though, that the local fa szakember would go green with envy if he saw that workshop. In all seriousness, the doors do need replacing. I just put it down to a job in the far distant (> 1 year) future. Remember what I said about things obtaining a momentum of their own?

Anyway, along the lines of discussing my new doors, in the pub the previous evening was some talk of carvings. I sort of got the drift about them talking about kézimunka (hand work) but after that it got out of my depth. I did manage to gather that the fa szakember wanted me to turn up at his place at eight o'clock. But that got changed to, he would give me a shout at my place when he wanted me to appear. He did. At a quarter to nine. I was just in the middle of glueing up one of the kitchen stools. Left out in the rain too many times! I windlassed up the stool then followed on up to his workshop. What he wanted to show me was six hand carved wooden panels which he wants to use for the panelling on the outside of the doors. Rather dirty and tatty, but beautifully carved. I agreed for him to use them, and he drew me a diagram of how the new doors would go together. After that we had a Palinka to seal the deal.

Later, there was a cock-up over lunch. Helper had suggested lunch at his today, but at the time was not sure. As far as I understood, he was the OK it, and then let me know. He didn't, so I thought it was off. It wasn't, and they wondered where I had got to, as I found out later.

30th March 2009

As you do, when you have got into a routine (which I haven't) I awoke a couple of minutes before the alarm was due to go off. I glanced across. Five fifty eight. Ah well, the alarm will go off in a couple of minutes, then. Only it didn't. Three or four minutes later I glanced again, to find the alarm clock well and truely off. Bugger - no power. Not that that affects me too much. Got up anyway, lit the stove, and by the time I had done that the power was back. I just carried on with the day's routine. Shop, breakfast, etc.

It was not a nice day anyway - overcast and threatening rain. A day for finally deciding that dust and grime was sufficiently banished from the big room that I could finally hang my stuff on the walls. So I did:
Big Room in Hungarian Cottage Wall, ceiling, border, a bit of the tile stove, a picture reflecting the flash from the camera, a wall hanging and a bit of a doorway.
The reorganised office end of the room, with obligatory wine bottle, glass and beer tankard on the office table. Big Room in Hungarian Cottage
Big Room in Hungarian Cottage The corner where the bed now lives.
Looking east. You can see what this looked like before by checking out the fifth picture from 1st Feb. Big Room in Hungarian Cottage

After that, I went back to doing some woodworking stuff in the outhouse. I ran the extension lead out there, and did a couple of jigsawing jobs. Unplugged the jigsaw, plugged in the drill and it didn't work. WTF? Put the jigsaw back in and it didn't work either. Power in the house? - yep, the hallway light switched on. Dragged the drill back into the house. Didn't work. Neither by now did the hallway light. I went outside and checked the meter cupboard (must get a picture of it sometime). Hmmm - all the green buttons were in, as they should be. It took me a minute to realise that both the electricity meters had no LED lights on. Power cut - disguised by a series of coincidences!

The power cut put paid to some work I intended to do, and by lunchtime the weather had turned with the promise of a fine afternoon. Bit of gardening then. Well, work in the garden, anyway. Mainly clearing up from the pruning of the vines and starting to saw the elderberry prunings into managable size chunks to go in the 'next years' outhouse. Once dried, it will burn, and if it will burn it represents free water heating and free cooking with no additional CO2 imposition on the earth on my part.

By the time I had done that, then stocked up the kitchen wood and the stove wood, the power was back on. Much too late to do the computery work I had intended to do today.

31st March 2009

One of the side effects from yesterday's power cut was that the alarm clock had reset itself again. It has a small internal battery that stops it losing its settings for a short while - maybe half an hour. When I went to bed yesterday I had to redo all the settings - date, time, stations, alarm times. I had got a bit pissed off with Radio Körmend - a) I can't understand most of it, and b) the music is definitely not to my taste. So I had a quick flick further through the channels, finally finding one that sounded as if it played a reasonable selection of music. I set that as the preset that comes on with the alarm. The alarm woke me, its volume set to batter through my deafness and drug induced slumber, at the appointed time of five fifty nine. At six o'clock a voice said "Here is the news at six o'clock". In English! As I write I still have no idea what the station is. It's Austrian for sure - there is a lot of Austrian German spoken on there. But the news was in English.

Back in the garden - early. A heavy dew. We are back into the time of heavy dews. Good! For two reasons. One, it will ret my hibiscus that I have laid out for retting. Would be much more effective in a retting pond, of course, but I don't have one (yet). Two, the scythe is just so much more effective when everything is damp with dew. The extra weight on the foliage helps to keep it in place as the blade slices through the base. Yes, I am already back into that routine, but at least this year I am making sure that last years dead stuff is scythed down before the new stuff grows. I still find the utmost pleasure in the use of the scythe. Swish, step forward six inches (more, if it's easy going), swish, step, swish, step, think, swish, think, step. The sun was out, the birds were singing, Pickle was digging to Australia, and village life was (still is!) good.

To cut a long, and otherwise uneventful day short, much later, in the pub the village fa szakemeber presented me with a carrier bag, and went off on one, none of which I understood. Helper, with his uncanny knack of being about to translate into Hungarian that I can understand, translated. The carrier bag contained the wooden panels I had seen the other day. My job was to restore them. Ouch! I'll look forward to that, then!


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