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October 2009

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1st October 2009

After breakfast I managed a limited amount of woodwork, which seems to be dominating practially all my time at the moment. I couldn't get too much done as to day was Hospital Day. Yes, today I had to go back and have the progress of the leg ulcer checked. In my preparations I made an unwelcome discovery. A day or two ago I had a quick go round the outbuildings with my (new-ish) little multimeter to figure out what, if anything, amongst the catastrophy of random wires, sockets, stuff twisted together, stuff hanging down - you get the picture - to see if anything was actually live. It wasn't. I even went back to the meter cupboard outside and set the big black switch in there, which has always been in the 'off' position, to 'on'. Still no sign of life. I had left the switch on. The unwelcome discovery was that I had, for once, turned the electric boiler on (immersion heater). I rarely do, unless I have visitors. I can get just as clean with a bucket of water heated on the stove and a sponge. Which costs me only the sweat of my brow and the exercise of biceps and triceps, and I'm sure other muscle groups as well, to saw and chop the necessary wood. The water was cold. Bugger! Fortunately the water in the big kettle was still hot from the mornings fire. I always replenish it when I have used any of the hot water and stick it back on the stove. It is quite a big kettle, and it is surprising how long it stays hot. Anyway, I managed basic ablutions before setting off into town for the hospital.

It was the normal bus driver. I did not get off at my normal stop by the castle, but got up to get off by the main road, where there is a bus stop just round the corner. He asked me where I was going and I told him the hospital. He indicated not to get off there, and I ended up in the bus station. Now, the bus station is (for me) a good ten minutes walk back to the main road. Granted it is somewhat further westerly than where I had planned to get off, but as it later turned out the more westerly is somewhat less than the more northerly, plus there was the extra time involved in him driving through all the back streets to get to the bus station. I legged it to the hospital. The timing was tight enough anyway. I played the old game of turn right, turn left through the back streets and did actually come out right opposite the hospital entrance. Inside, I presented myself to reception and the lady on the desk picked the phone up to see if the dermatologist would see me. I was five minutes late. That is to say, five minutes after their closing time - appointments are not timed, as I mentioned before, just turn up and queue. Before she had chance to dial what I can only describe as a "jobsworth" who was in the little reception office intervened. "No. Come back on Monday" So that was that. I got turned away.

Bugger, bollox! I headed for the little pub on the market so that I could have a decent sit down and a smoke. That's my excuse anyway. I got a beer, as you do, and it being a really lovely afternoon went and sat down at one of the outside tables. I was in a little world of my own, thoroughly pissed off, and equally pissed off with a wasp that had tried to drink my beer and I had had to fish out with my pen, when there was a tap on my shoulder, and a voice said in English "Are you missing all that rain in England?". It turned out to be Franz, the guy who sold me the house. He does always stop for a quick chat whenever he sees me, which is not often. As usual he asked how it was going, I told him about the leg ... etc., etc. You get the drift. I have to say that short encounter broke my mood, and I wandered back to town in an entirely better frame of mind.

A couple of stops (and drinks) later I did eventually get home where practicalities reintroduced themselves and I finished of the afternoon sawing and chopping kitchen firewood. I had a special treat. Fish fingers and chips. The fish fingers came from the Spar shop in town and I shot up the garden and dug the spuds for the chips. One of my last lot of visitors had left behind a little empty Listerine bottle. Should she throw it in the kindling. No, I'll find a use for it. I did. Thoroughly rinsed out, it has now become a vinegar bottle. The stuff I buy from the shop is way, way too strong to put upon chips. Twenty percent acetic acid. I watered it down about five to one, and it turned out just right to put on the chips. Mmmmm - fish fingers and chips with salt and vinegar. Not quite haddock, chips and mushy peas, but close. Close enough! It won't last, of course. The vinegar bottle. Might last ten years, or even maybe twenty if I keep it out of the light. But a good, well cared for glass one will last for several millenia I reckon.

2nd October 2009

I got up depressed after yesterdays debacle at the hospital. The weather didn't help - grey and raining. Shop, home, coffee and toast and more antibiotics. Hate them. They have a most unfortunate side effect upon my digestive system. I won't elucidate. No, bugger it, I will! They give me the shits in the morning. There. More detail than you needed I'm sure.

On with the woodwork and time begins to press. If I had time I would do a priorities update for you but it will have to wait until I have the time. The rest of the grape crushing bits got put together:
All the walnut bits planed down and assembled onto the spindles. They are starting to look quite meaningful. And they are starting to get heavy. Not the finest workmanship in the world though! Oak and Walnut Grape Crushers

After lunch I filled and wheeled another nine barrow loads of firewood from the falling-down firewood store to my chosen outhouse. I reckon I have maybe moved about a half of it, but I have at least taken the pressure off the fence/wooden wall between my place and the old girl next door, so I don't think that it will now collapse into her yard. I have to say that where it is now it looks, comparatively, like a pimple on a drum. If I stacked it as high as it was and filled the outhouse to the same extent I think I would have about ten years worth of firewood. Anyway, it was hot, sticky and nasty work - so I went for a beer. I bumped into an Austrian friend of helper in the pub. He has good English, so naturally we sat together and chatted. He was (maybe still is) a truck driver and he can get by in six or seven languages. He makes a point to learn as he goes along. His English is very good, his Hungarian by his own admission not so good, but still quite a bit better than mine. He regaled me with the tale of one of his truck driver colleagues who absolutely refuses to learn any Hungarian, and is alway wondering why he gets lost and cannot get directions. I thought the English (British?) were the worst in the world, but maybe we have some competition.

Back home, it was the usual routine of getting in firewood. Two lots tonight. It was getting on the chilly side so as well as doing the kitchen stuff I also filled two baskets for the tile stove. A good job I did, as it turned out to be cold enough later to warrant lighting it for the first time this year. I didn't really stoke it up, just lit it, threw about half a dozen lumps of firewood on and once it was well alight closed it right down to burn through steadily.

3rd October 2009

Today's woodworking was to chop out and fit the wooden gears to the grape crushers. It turned out to be a fairly horrible job. I wanted them to be a nice sliding fit on the squares of the spindles. The first thing was to actually mark out where the squares were going to be chopped, which was a little conundrum from the start, as the centres as I turned them were not quite actually central. I had to find the true centres with a bit of 'O' level geometry. Draw two chords - I had to draw them where I could go from tooth top to tooth top - find the centre point and erect a perpendicular. Where the perpendiculars intersect is, as near as I could get, the true centre of the gear. From there I set out a true right angle and worked out the position of the square for the spindle accordingly. I thought about how to project that to the other side of the work so that I could work from both sides. I gave that up as a bad job. I decided that I would just have to trust my astigmatic eyesight and somewhat unsteady hand to ensure that I made the square nicely the right size and nicely vertical through the gears. With the steady use of really sharp good chisel and a tiny bit of easing of the squares on the spindles I finally managed it:
Gears Installed And that was the morning and a fair bit of the afternoon gone! At least it slots into the category of jobs that I will, hopefully, only ever have to do once!

Towards the end of the afternoon I did a quick dash into the garden. Dug a couple of spuds to cook, decided that it was time the ground nuts came out and collected a few paprika and lots of walnuts. Three hundred and seventy! I also finally managed to share out the barley I had acquired. Half for me and half for John.

4th October 2009

I really did not have a good day. My mind was on the leg, which is still sore, and I was still pissed of about missing the hospital on Thursday. I neglected the housework. In fact I neglected everything until, with some effort, I finally forced myself to get on with the woodwork. There had been a sort of tentative arrangement that I might pop round to helper's in the afternoon. I didn't do that either.

I forgot to mention that Pickle managed to break the food drier. Something obviously set her of in a big way, and she had gone round it on her chain that not only did she hurtle it onto its back but she also managed to crack one of the legs. I put it away into the outhouse today to await repair and completion. Without its glass lid, at this time of year it is doing precious little drying anyway. Woodworking jobs for the winter.

I spent a few minutes bashing sunflower seeds out of their heads. I have so many that they amost filled a carrier bag. I have thought of another nice quick little project for before it gets really cold. A bird table to suspend just outside the kitchen window. I'll be able to give them a little handful of sunflower seeds each day, and I'll try and remember to put fresh liquid water out for them too. I reckon Pickle can spare a few crumbs of the leftover bread for them, too.

5th October 2009

It being Monday I went for the market day bus at half past eight to get into town. This was one of the main problems with last Thursday's debacle. The choice had been either to get the seven o'clock bus in the morning into town or chance the one o'clock and leg it. I had already been warned not to get there too early. Apparently the old girls start queuing up at about seven in the morning and they don't even open until half eight! No, Monday suited me much better. I had a list of things that I wanted to get done in town before I even contemplated going to the hospital. One of them was to start the process of changing banks. My random choice of bank when I first arrived had turned out to be not such a good choice. I was told at the time that I had chosen the most expensive bank in Hungary - they charge for everything. I was recommended another bank. I mentioned it to helper who immediately came up with a name. He assured me that the person associated with the name was in a position of authority at the bank. I asked "Ő beszel angolul?" (They speak English?). "Pici, de bistos jó ember." (A little, but they are certainly a good person.) The "they" being the use in the singular. Please note that this related conversation doesn't actually tell you anything about the sex of the named person. Thank goodness, with the convoluted nature of the language at least they don't do genders. Bloody French!

I made the bank the first port of call. I walked in, in some trepidation as you do with any new official or semi-official dealings. The first thing that struck me was that there was nobody queuing. Except me. There was a sort of reception desk inside, with a big guy with a gun behind it. I knew him by sight - I had seen him outside a few times having a smoke as I passed this way or that. He was on the phone. Once off the phone he nodded me over and said what I can guess to be (probably well wrong) "Yes, mate, what's your problem?" I explained in my best pidgin magyarul that I wanted to open an account. By that there was a youngish man standing at the side of me, very smartly dressed. He introduced himself as the very name that helper had come up with, so that was an immediate hurdle overcome. I repeated myself to him in my pidgin magyarul that I had been recommended his bank and wanted to open an account. With his bit of angolul and my bit of magyarul we managed to understand one another quite well. He asked me if I had ID, so I produced my Hungarian identity card. He asked if I had other ID. I had had the forethought to take my passport with me, but it turned out that my UK driving licence would have done equally as well. He handed them back to me and sat me down opposite one of the two ladies working the desks. He had a quick word in her ear and then returned to me, the gist being that she would attend to my needs as soon as she had finished dealing with the customer she was with at the time. My banking needs, that is!

It was soon my turn, and as she had already been primed with what my requirements were she started the process of enrolling me. She had little English. It turned out not to matter. She took my details from the various bits of ID that I passed over, entered them in her computer and hit the "Print" key. All the stuff she had obviously entered on her Hungarian terminal was presented to me printed out all in English, all the right boxes ticked, etc., etc. Wow! The only hiccough was that (as always) she had my family name as Stephen John and my given names as Welsh. I pointed it out and she corrected it instantly. I read it all through, all in English - wonderful - and then signed everywhere where I had to sign, and that was that. What a pleasant experience.

After that I went to the little pub around the corner - I do know a fair few in town now, thanks helper - and had a coffee!! It was expensive - more than a beer! Well, it was hospital day. After the coffee I retraced my steps the hundred or so metres to the first shop I wanted to visit. Knitting! I won't say more at the moment. Another project to be revealed later. Another couple of shops for various oddments and it was time to head out to the hospital.

Somehow, knowing exactly where I was going this time, it seemed a lot closer. On the desk was the "jobsworth" that had turned me away on Thursday. "Cards!" she snapped. I gave her the cards. "Börgyógyászat?" she snapped. "Igen". She slapped the cards back to me and I found my way back up to Börgyógyászat. I suppose it was about half past ten by this time. There was still a big queue. Back to the FIFO! I found a seat next to a large lady with obvious skin problems. Well, it is dermatology. As people in the FIFO moved nearer the front they tended to move up the seats nearer the door. I was content to stay put. The large lady moved up to be replaced by a quite pleasant chap of maybe mid fifties of years. He wanted to talk. I explained that I was English and (still) did not understand much magyarul. Fortunately he was the sort of guy that can adapt his language to be brief and punchy and just use key words. We ended up having quite a bit of a conversation. The Hungarians love to converse. We talked about fishing, his family and my family - children, grandchildren and stuff - the weather (of course), what I was doing living here in Hungary, and quite suddenly it was my turn. I didn't go straight into the dermatologist but was instead directed into a little room with a label on the door which I had translated as "Undressing Room". And that's what I did. I was commanded to remove the dressing from my leg. So I did. Only a moment or two later I was called in to see the dermatologist. Time for a new paragraph.

She sat me down and went to work on the ulcer with what I can only describe as snare drum sticks wrapped in barbed wire. It bloody hurt. However, when she had finished she declared herself well satisfied. The pink, raw bits are, apparently, signs of healing. She warned that it could be months before it finally heals. I already knew that. She told me that the antibiotics (Amoxycillin) had not worked, and prescribed yet another antibiotic. I'll look forward to that in the mornings then! She also dropped a bombshell that my blood tests had indicated that I was very healthy! Ha! With my lifestyle? But then again that was never discussed. At least I don't have AIDS, diabetes, high collesterol... I told her that since living in Hungary I had lost fifteen kilogrammes in weight. Her eyebrows lifted in concern. "Why?" "Because I was fat!" She laughed. Back in a fortnight.

With just a nice amount of time I wandered back to town, via the Spar shop, the little market pub... I had a couple more purchases to make and as I walked along I did a bit mental calculation of how much tobacco I had at home in relation to the fortnight before I had to return to hospital. I decided that I could do with three or four more packs of dohany to see me through. As I approached the tobacco shop I was quite surprised to see the young man that runs the shop standing outside. Taking a pipe of tobacco. I had no idea he was a pipe smoker. It smelt good too. I asked him what it was and he told me. I bought a couple of packs of the cheap and cheerful Hungarian stuff and one of what he was smoking. It was not on display. He had to disappear from the shop for a moment and fetch it. I think it may be his private supply. He threw in a pouch of another, unknown to me, tobacco, gratis.

Time to go home. The half past two bus was absolutely heaving. I don't think I have every seen so many people on any bus, let alone the one at that time. They do tend to operate along the lines of Indian buses. Get as many people in sitting down, then as many standing as is physically possible. Except for one unusually selfish young lady. One seat for her back pack, and one seat for her arse! Very unusual here to see any form of disrespect for elders by the younger generation, but I suppose there are exceptions everywhere.

Back home, I managed a bit more of the woodwork, but by then time was pressing on. So it was into the kitchen for food - I can't remember what - and a swift ablute and off the the pub. Quelle surprise - or is it quel surprise? Bloody French.

6th October 2009

Lots of little, necessary bits of housework got done. I can't remember what, but, trust me, they were necessary! After that it was back to the woodworking.

I had another catastrophy of the measure twice cut once variety today. Problem was, I did. The problem was not in the measuring, it as in the adding up. 386mm + 176mm + 1 != 463. == 563. With a bit of thought and a bit of application of the freshly sharpened shoulder plane I managed to salvage the situation without recourse to having to measure, saw and plane two new bits of firewood.

Another minor catastrophy also reared its head. For the life of me I can only find one 3.75mm knitting needle. I know there were two - you do tend to buy them in pairs, and it is a size I have used many, many times before. Speaking of which, in old money it is a No. 9 size knitting needle. How many of you know what that means? Anyway, I needed another 3.75mm/No. 9 knitting needle to knit a test swatch for tension on the new knitting project. So I made one out of chestnut. Firewood, of course. Wonderful stuff. It splits straight down the grain and is very tough and resilient. Of course the grain is never quite straight. Nature abhors straight lines. But it is possible to get a very nearly straight piece six or seven millimetres square just with the use of the ax.

With a knitting needle made to make up a pair I started on the test swatch. It was a good job I did. It was miles out with the local yarn. Too big. So I knitted another test swatch on the next size down needles. Spot on. Which was a bit of a pisser as I had to redo all the ribbing on the next size down, and I had a pair of both of those sizes, so I needn't have made one!

I had occasion to reboot out of Linux and into Windose a couple of times today. One of the real annoyances of Windose is how long it takes to become actually usable once you have logged in. I still log in - have to type in my password every time, even though I am the only user of the machine. Force of habit, and in Linux force of the system. Out of shear boredom I did some statistics. Microsoft make a big song and a dance about how quickly Windose boots! Mmmmmm - OK. This box is an HP Pavilion AMD Turion 64bit, running XP Pro 64 bit and Centos 5.2. (Not simultaneously you understand). Now, let's check out this "how quick Windose boots" crap. From hitting the power on button Windose took fifty four seconds to get to a log in screen. Centos took eighty six seconds. Score one for Windose then. However, from typing in the password and hitting return Windose took an interminable two hundred and forty five seconds before it was what I would call usable whereas Centos took just ninety five seconds to have everything lauched, loaded, running and ready to use. A Microsoft mind game, I think. My other serious annoyance is patch Tuesday. Of course in my case it may well not be patch Tuesday, it would be the next time I happen to have to boot into Windose. The annoyance is that I normally reboot out of the dreaded Windose and straight back into Centos, which is utterly frustrated when Windose will not shut down and sits there saying "Windows is installing your updates. Please do not turn your computer off. It will shut down automatically when your updates are installed". Something like that anyway. For TWENTY ***KING minutes??????

Now there is a scarey article.

7th October 2009

Not much today. Work proceeded on the grape crusher, I did a bit at my sweater, and I didn't have to light the tile stove. What an eventful day! That's it.

8th October 2009

From the news front page of the Beeb this morning! And this fascinating article on regenerative agriculture.

More work on the grape crusher. It has risen to absolute top priority because I should be picking the grapes now! I discovered a design fault. Not a minor one either. That took a fair bit of time thinking about and sorting out. I had not planned for it to be high enough off the big fermenter to allow for the sweep of the handle. D'oh. So I made four little legs for it. Nowhere near the workmanship of the actual machine (which is rough enough anyway). To complete the mission I needed nuts and washers for the bottom of the legs. I had enough threaded rod to hand. A quick trip to Nádasd was indicated. Whilst in the ironmongers I decided that it was also time that I invested in a new bow saw blade. Mine was getting unusable, and dangerous. About two quid. I had time on my hands enough to pop over the road to the little pub in Nádasd. There's a surprise, then. I had literally just sat down when who should walk in but helper, with another guy from Halogy. Working together for the day, I think. They went to the bar and on the way back helper plonked another bottle of beer in front of me, then they both went and sat outside.

Very kind of him it was, too. But I had a bus to catch back to Halogy in seven minutes time. Six minutes to get through nearly a litre of beer? I think not. I like my beer, but I do hate having to rush it. I wandered outside and joined them. I necked as much of the beer as I could (about a third) then handed it back to helper, with the one word "Bus". It is the same word in Hungarian - just pronounced somewhat differently. At the table was a young lady. Hungarian, but quite unusual. Blonde hair (natural) and freckles. Not many of those about, although there is a wee laddie that catches the bus from kindergarten back to Halogy who is equally as blonde.

I managed to make the bus back to Halogy, thank goodness. I really did not want to have to hang around for two hours for the next one. Back in Halogy the first call was the pub, where I had left my bike locked up. Well, you have to pay the parking fee, don't you? To my astonishment helper and his workmate were already in there. Not only that but he presented me with a beer to make up for the two thirds of a one that I had had to hand back. I did revoke after that one and cycled home with my goodies.

I fitted the new saw blade to the bowsaw, managing to slice down the little finger of my left hand in the process. It was seriously sharp. Lots of blood. Nevertheless I put it to good use. You know, the bluntness of a saw blade is insidious. It creeps up and creeps up and before you know it you have a tool that is more hindrance than help. I sawed a piece of five inch diameter walnut with the new blade in about ninety seconds. I got to thinking about saws, and in particular panel saws. Many years ago I had a good quality Spear & Jackson panel saw. When I lived in Lincolnshire I knew an old boy that would sharpen and set it for ten bob. It was always superb when he had done it. You could actually cut curves in one inch hardwood with it. That set me to thinking whether such saws were still on the market, and that got me to thinking about Disston, who supposedly made the finest panel saws in the world. That got me to wondering if you could actually still buy a proper hard steel taper ground panel saw. The answer is yes. For really serious money. What a throw away world it has become. A couple or three generations ago tools such as these were nurtured, maintained and handed down from father to son to grandson. It was part of the craft of using one to be able to sharpen and set it. The old ones command great prices now.

The weather forecast is worrying. Minus one within the week. I have a mountain of work to climb to sort out what I need to sort out in the garden before I lose a load of stuff! I did not recall it getting that cold that early last year, so I had a quick look at the archives as I wrote this. It didn't. But it did about a fortnight later. Part of the climate characteristic is that spring turns steadily to summer, which descends steadily into autumn, but the onset of spring and the onset of winter seem to be quite marked, happening within a matter of days.

9th October 2009

Good Lord! Shock Horror! The guy from the village that had promised and promised and promised to turn up and do some work for me DID!! So I set him on, big time. I will say this for him, that when he does turn up and do some work he sets about it like a good 'un. I gave him the whellbarrow and a pair of gardening gloves and told him to get all the fruit from the various apple and pear trees. Within an hour I had two big baskets, one large tray piled high, and a wooden crate full of mixed apples and pears. I had to do a quick rethink, as I was expecting that taking him a fair bit of the day. I set him on moving the rest of the firewood out of the falling down outhouse into it new home. He disappeared at lunch time for a bit less than an hour, which is fair enough. By half past two he was getting down to the last dregs of the firewood, and had had to build himself a ramp up which to wheel the barrow to get it piled up higher, or else overspill out of the door. Quicker and easier than hurtling it on top of the stack by hand.

I carried on with the woodwork, and collected another three hundred and seventy walnuts. You know, I thought it was going to be a poor season this year, but now I am not so sure. The fall of them has been quite different this year. Last year many fell still in their husks, so it was either wear gloves or have brown fingers to collect and de-husk them. This year it is mostly clean nuts that I am collecting.

10th October 2009

I was not best pleased with the shop lady this morning. I bought my normal small (750g!) loaf to last me over the weekend, and when I got it home and carved it up for morning toast it was decidedly not today's bread. I checked the paper label, (you remember - one of my annoyances), and yes it was yesterdays bread. Ah well, it's the first time it has happened, and I guess she has to fob it off on somebody. Happened to be my turn.

Breakfast was a problem. I lit the stove, or attempted to light it and all it did was smoulder and fill the kitchen with smoke. I blamed the wind direction and/or the firewood. Eventually it went and about half an hour later I had my coffee and toast. I had no such problem later in the day when I cooked early evening.

11th October 2009

I had a repeat of the kitchen stove problem this morning. Only worse - much worse. With eyes streaming and coughing like mad I threw all the windows and the front door open, and the smoke billowed out. Not to be denied my toast and coffee I ended up cooking both with the blowlamp, then dodging outside to eat and drink them. Something seriously adrift somewhere.

When I went back inside I felt the up pipe in the hallway. It was not even warm. I waited until what little heat the stove had generated had dissipated enough for me to lift the cast iron plates with the aid of the oven glove. Nothing untoward there. I shone the torch into the inside of the stovepipe that goes through the wall. Couldn't see a problem there either. Not to be defeated I decided to see if the pipework would move. With the appliance of science (well, brute force and higgerence actually) I managed to get a bit of movement on the stove pipes without doing any damage. Some while of wiggling and waggling and it suddenly all came apart. Accompanied by a huge fall of soot onto the tool tidy and the floor. The stove pipe was utterly blocked right on the bend at the other end of the pipe that I had looked at with the torch. Ah well, I now knew what the problem was anyway. I took off the vertical pipe that leads into the elbow that leads to the actual chimney. Clear as a bell - nothing there. With the aid of trowel and brush I removed as much of the blockage as I could. I could see daylight at the other end but a load of soot remained in the horizontal pipe outside my reach. Thinks "I need a brush". Thinks "I haven't got a brush and it's Sunday". I cast this way and that around the yard for something to makeshift as a flue brush. Nothing. I even checked out an old bundle of kindling which had been in the garage ever since I got here. That was no good - too stiff. The problem is that the hot gases leave the stove via an aperture that is not directly in line with the stovepipe. I know not why. A design feature maybe. It suddenly came to me! Hibiscus. The hibiscus is still in full leaf and the branches are flexible enough to negotiate the offset. I found a suitable branch to sacrifice and it was a seconds work with secuteurs to have it in my hand and back to the kitchen. Worked like a charm. I pushed/pulled it through three times to get rid of all the soot build up. All the pipework went back into place and I decided that I had better give it a bit of a road test, so I lit it again. It lit instantly - the firebox was still warm - and it went off like an express train. I made some more coffee to celebrate. It was cooked in minutes.

Thinking about it, it was very nearly a year since the stove was installed. I had cleaned the inside several times but never really gave the pipework a thought. All part of the learning curve. And you may remember me sealing the pipes together with acrylic filler. Upon reflection, totally unnecessary. The whole thing is built on the Venturi principle. The widest point is the firebox. Everywhere else in the stove is narrower, hence the hot gases speed up, hence they are at a lower pressure, hence when working properly it will draw air in from outside into the hot gas stream. The same thing applies to the stove pipes - they are very slightly narrower where they join together. Thought you might like to know that.

I cleaned up the soot and went back to the woodwork. Time was seriously pressing. Frosts were forecast and I had not picked a single grape. The main body of the grape crusher, with amendments, was completed:
The hopper still had to be made, but the rest was finally completed. One of the wooden gears had a high spot and had to have a little delicate remedial work with the chisel, and there were a couple of high spots on the crushers that had to be planed down. After that turning the handle worked just as it was supposed to. Time would tell if it worked "under load". Still the hopper to make, into which to hurtle handsfuls of grapes. Grape Crushing Machine

I got that finished just nicely in time to go to the local football match with the camera. It was a lovely sunny warm afternoon, so I went as I was - tee shirt and jeans. Towards half time I realised that I had blundered as the sun lowered and lost its warmth. At half time I dashed home and donned pullover and the coat of many pockets. The cycle ride back up the hill certainly warmed me up. When I got back I leaned my bike where I usually leaned it. On the other side of the post was an old motorcycle. Obviously sombody's pride and joy. Something a bit like the old James 98cc bike - for those old enough to remember. Later I got introduced to its owner and got this photo:
Old Motorcycle in Hungary I asked him how old it was. Fifty five years old. A little single cylinder two stoke, and when he went to ride it away it started first kick. As I say, his pride and joy.

After the match, which the local team won, there was food provided and one of the locals came round with his home made pálinka. The food was the traditional meat dish in a spicy paprika sauce. Mystery meat, I'm afraid. It was a dark meat and there were lots of bones in it, but small bones so it was certainly not beef. No idea. Whatever, I had a load of bones and bits left in my bowl and so had helper. I set him to look for a doggie bag, and having found one he not only scraped out my bowl and his but went and collared a few more as well. Pickly dog had two days worth of treat out of that!

12th October 2009

I had, in a moment of weakness, agreed to go into town with helper. As usual I met him in the pub. It was bin day. Mine never went out - hasn't been out for weeks. The only thing that goes in it is tins and odd bits of foil wrapping. I wash them out before I put them in the bin, so it is all quite clean and the bin does not get smelly and attract nasties. I was astonished by the amount of greenery apparent in lots of bins as I cycled up to the pub. There is obviously not a lot of composting going on in many quarters. That does surprise me here. I know that both my neighbours do compost. Not that theirs is anything like mine. I have literally tons of the stuff dotted here and there. It is pencilled in for this autumn to get some of it back into the soil in my winter digging.

I met helper, with not that much time to spare. I was a good boy and had a coffee before we went for the bus. It was not to last, of course. We caught the bus with time to spare as he did not do a particularly quick turn around at the bus station and was a couple of minutes late by the time he got to us. There was the usual atmosphere of almost joviality on the bus, with all the regulars going in for market day. Did I ever mention that the regular bus drivers if they see me cycling up or down the village or walking over to the shop always give me a wave?

In town the first stop was, of course the cellar pub. We had one in there. Then we set off. I popped in the gardening shop where I bought a couple of fermentation locks to fit my new carboys and an ordinary sized one for my neighbour John. Couple of other bits too - can't remember what. I had tentatively arranged also that helper would assist me with a bit of banking business at my new bank. I decided to revoke of that idea as a) there were no funds in the bank and b) even if there were I had yet to receive a bank card with which to withdraw them.

Instead I met helper in the next pub - the pressza (coffee bar) on Bástya ut. Another beer in there. Whilst we were lingering over that it came on to rain. Serious rain. Persistently precipitating. We were planning to get to the market and have a look round, but it continued pissing down and one beer turned into two. It was still raining and I thought to myself that I was not about to walk down to the market in that. A brainwave occured, and on a whim I dashed round to the big shop on the next corner. Well, hobbled rapidly. I knew that they sold umbrellas in there. They had plenty. I chose one that was not too girly (most were) and checked the price of it. Nine hundred forints, about three quid, so I went for that. I had the checkout girl snip off the price label, left the shop and up it went. Back to the pub.

Eventually helper and I decided that if we were going to the market we would have to get on with it. I, of course, was now not worried. I had a new mobile roof. By the way, it is quite commonplace here to see people cycling under umbrellas in the rain. We eventually braved it and set off for the market, me under my new umbrella and helper making the best of it. We got as far as a little bar the existence of which I did not know. One of the Halogy - errr - pissheads saw us walk past and immediately came to the door and called helper back. It was his birthday. We helped him celebrate. Oh dear!

We never did get to the market, and eventually trudged our inebriated way back to town to catch the bus back to Halogy...
...where we went in the pub. Not good. far too much beer and bugger all achieved for the day. Speaking of which, where did that bloody umbrella get to? Ah! I did get it home in one piece :)

Sorry, Malthus here - not gonna happen!

13th October 2009

It became colder by the day. I don't remember it being this cold this early last year. I have a mountain of work to do before winter really kicks in:
The grape crusher got completed:
Note the subtle change to the handle since the last picture - design flaw! It needs more work yet, but for now it'll do. I am too much of a perfectionist, but my present circumstances have led me to a situation of looking at what I have achieved, whether it will work, and how aesthetically pleasing it is. I now only go as far as whether it will work. If I think it will, then "It'll do". A bit like Microsoft I suppose, except that the difference is that I am only inflicting it upon me - not millions of computer users around the world. Home Made Grape Crushing Machine

I was more than a bit surprised when postie arrived today. My Visa card for my new bank account arrived. My previous bank (no, current bank, as I still have no funds in the new one) wanted eight hundred thousand forints in the account before they would give me a Visa card. The new one wanted nothing - they just dished it out. It came with a load of instructions for activating it. I will have to seek help with that!

Nothing else noteworthy for the day.

14th October 2009

Bad leg or no bad leg, it was on with the wellies, out with the wheelbarrow and onto the garden. The grape harvest. By the time the leg said "enough" I had managed three vines. And a thankless task too. It really has to be a number one priority to get the bloody things off the floor and some proper posts put in and a bit of training done. Back at the house with my meagre collection of grapes it was time to wash out and sterilize the big fermenter. Then it was time to road test the grape crusher. I have to say that it exceeded my expectations. Worked like a good 'un! It was only about five minutes work to crush into the fermenter my entire mornings work.

After lunch it was time to have a go at the other piece of urgent woodwork - another press, but not for grapes or fruit. More later. Then it was back to the garden and collect grapes from more vines. There was a wickedly cold north easter blowing. The aluminium sheets that prevent Pickle from digging out the entire sand heap were hurtling round the yard, no sooner replaced than to be blown away again. Not a moment to be lost, so I went back and had another go at the vines. They went through the crusher too.

As light faded I also managed to harvest the second crop of tobacco leaves - ooops - Suzy's English herb! A single frost will see them off as sure as night follows day.

Later, in the pub, the news showed scenes of a premature onset of winter from all around. To the north, east and south there were pictures of heavy snowfall and traffic chaos. Ah well, didn't happen in Halogy fortunately. Unusually helper was absent from the pub. I only found out from the landlord at kicking out time that he was ill.

15th October 2009

After the usual start to the day I put on my vintner's hat. This year, armed with hydrometer which I did not have last year, I wanted to get an Original Gravity reading on the juice from the grapes. The last time in town I had bought (forgot to mention) a small cylindrical I can only call sampling tube. Obviously made for the job. I grabbed a few random bunches of grapes and extracted the juice by hand pressing them in one of my pressing cloths. O.G. about 1075 (about, as it is not a hugely sensitive hydrometer). Oh well, it will stand the addition of just a little sugar, which is quite common practice hereabouts, certainly for home producers. If I take it up to O.G. 1085 which will give me about eight and a half percent alcohol that will do me. California, Australia or South Africa it is not. I regularly used to get a bollocking off the girlfriend of one of my mates. My criterion for buying wine was quite simple - the maximum amount of alcohol for the minimum amount of pence.

After that it was back to the garden with the wheelbarrow to collect the rest of the grapes. I have come to the conclusion that I did actually prune them too hard last year. The harvest was certainly a bit down on last year. I did make one pleasing discovery. There is a big old vine near the back of the pig stye and I really thought I had killed it. It showed no life in spring or most of the way through the summer. I was amazed to find that through the early autumn it had managed to throw a dozen or so new shoots. Not big rambling shoots, and no fruit but shoots nonetheless. I will make sure to leave active buds on them next year.

Back to the house and out with the grape crusher:
Crushing the Grape Harvest I thought you might like to see the action. It will need a couple of teething problems sorted out before next year. A couple of the crushing bits had expanded with the damp after yesterday's outing and were now very tight, and there is still a high spot on one of the gears. Nothing that a few minutes work with shoulder plane and chisel will not sort out. I deliberately built it to be dismantlable for maintenance.

I am once again following local custom and just letting the wild yeast do its job. Nature did a wonderful job with the grape. It has all the right amounts of exactly the right chemicals to support the growth and feeding of yeast. No need of yeast nutrient. I did not realise until I did a bit of research that white grapes are fermented after pressing, whereas red wine is fermented on the pulp. It is normal to leave it on the pulp for three weeks to achieve the greatest robustness and body. I am not sure, but I think that some of the local producers just press it. The result is more of a rosé than a full bodied red. I do know that my next door neighbours at No. 68 ferment theirs on the pulp. You may recall that last year I almost had a disaster by leaving mine on the pulp far too long whilst I completed the wine press. No such problem this year.

The next bit of woodwork was completed:
It is a bit meaningful. The threaded rods are fifteen millimetres diameter. As you may be able to see, the dovetail mitre gauge came out to play too as did the dovetail saw. Tobacco Press

The electricity bill came with the post. At present conversion rates (and the pound is not good against the forint) about one hundred and eight pounds for the year. Bearing in mind that pretty well all my hot water comes off the stove I thought that rather a lot. Until I considered that last years bill was about ninety pounds and that was just for seven months. Ninety divided by seven multiplied by twelve is about a hundred and fifty four pounds, and I think the exchange rate was better last year when I converted that, so all considered I have actually made serious inroads into the cost. Still too much, so I have taken to unplugging the Internet router when I am not on the Internet. It takes about the same time to boot as it does to boot the computer and log on, so really although the nice thing about broadband is that it is always on, what is the point if the computer is switched off and I am not in the building.

Winter approaches, and with the current woodworking complete I had another go in the workshop, cleared all down and once again returned the tools to the house. They tend to accumulate in the outhouse in penny numbers as I have need of them but it certainly is not the place for them to be night and day in the depths of winter.

I had a quick tidy up in the outhouse garden. The remaining tomato stakes got pulled out, the few remaining hot round peppers picked and the plants pulled out and thrown on the ground. I'll just chop them up a bit with the spade and dig them in with the compost that I have planned to dig in too. All adds to the feeling of late autumn and the onset of winter.

Helper was in the pub later. He had had one of the twenty four hour shivery things - you know, the stuff that girls call "Man 'flu". As a man, I can say that I know when I have had influenza. I have only ever had it twice in my life, and you do know about it. The last time I actually got sent home from work. I had forty seven miles to drive home, and it was a nightmare. I took myself to bed wearing track suit bottoms a duvet jacket, and under a thick duvet. For the next three days the only reasons that I left bed were to drink water or have a pee. That's 'flu!

16th October 2009

Looking back, it was all going reasonably well with the gardening work when the leg problem kicked in. In retrospect maybe the local doctor should just have sent me immediately to the hospital. But he didn't, and it's history. Has buggered up my plans for where I wanted to be with the gardening this year though. Having said that, it has been a much, much more successful year than last year. I am starting to get a feel for quantities of stuff that I need to grow to see me through the winter. Last year too many potatoes, this year too few peas (and tomatoes). By virtue of the village guy finally turning up I have a small mountain of apples and pears to turn into alcohol. What better use for them? Last year they mostly just rotted - I still berate myself for that, although in the way of nature I guess that it provides a fine mulch of nutrients that will find their way back to the tree roots. Winter comes, and I still have much to do.

I managed a short session of scything today. Just to get a bit that I wanted to get at. It all needs scything and collecting onto the compost heap, ideally before it all collapses on the floor when the frosts arrive.

I went to the pub for a beer after that. I was about to leave when the bronze medal play-off for the under 20s world cup came on. Well, I thought it would have been a bit churlish to get up and walk out while the Hungarian national anthem was playing. So I bought another beer. I got quite involved with the match, not because Hungary were playing but because the under 20s have a freshness and lack of cynicism sadly lacking in the older professional games. It ended in a draw. They obviously have different rules for the under 20s, as it went straight to a penalty shootout. Unless they changed the rules about extra time while I was not watching. The Hungarian goalkeeper was amazing. He save three out of the four penalties that he had to face. It never got to five, as the Hungarians only had missed one.

I didn't realise, but the final followed on not long afterwards. And helper had arrived by then. Oh Dear! I went home with more than my fair share on board.

17th October 2009

With the grape harvest in, and fermenting nicely, it was time to turn my attention to the spuds. By the way, did you know that the Hungarian for potato is actually "burgonya". By and large they are called by all and sundry "krumpli". Which I guess is exactly analogous to us calling them spuds in English. First thing was that the cellar needed a serious reorganise. There was still about a third of a tray of last years in there, and after last years debacle with water supply and low temperatures I intended to make sure that it was a bit more like a root cellar this year.

I am probably about the last one in the village to dig his spuds - those that grow them, of course. Amazes me how many people don't. I was working to my readings in the root cellaring book that I was bought. It says to leave them in the ground as long as you possibly can, but have them out before they freeze. That way the cellar will have chance to get cool and the spuds will come to no harm in the ground.

Where was I? Ah yes - reorganising the cellar. So it did. Amongst my reorganisation was to remove (by brute force and higgerence) a load of the remaining pipework in there. Some of it, by dint of the amount of leverage available, simply came unscrewed. Some of it just broke off, but I got it clear enough. Then I placed a double line of bricks along the length of the cellar to put my trays on. Big mistake last year - stacking them one on top of the other on top of the other. The top ones got frosted and the ones in the middle got sprayed with freezing water during the last water catastrophy. No. This year they are all going right at the bottom of the cellar separated from the ground moisture by being on a line of bricks.

The remains of the last tray of spuds came out, and to my astonishment there were three or four potatoes in there that, for whatever reason, had never chitted. They were as fresh as the day they went in there.

After that, it was into the garden and dig spuds. I did a bit of serious weeding at the same time. As last year, the ground just got turned over and the spuds planted. I managed to the end of the first row. Then I went up the village to buy eggs. And see how the latest Pickly siblings are doing :)

Back to digging the spuds, and I retired, defeated, three quarters of the way down the second row. The spuds had gone in the barrow. I was working in just tee shirt and jeans. It really was quite a pleasant day. I know not why, but when I stopped digging spuds I covered the barrow with the aluminium cover from the long-abandoned compost box. Good job I did - it poured down overnight.

Up to the pub as usual, but in response to last night they closed at half past eight.

18th October 2009

Very short and sweet today. I was Sunday but no housework got done. I did manage to dig the final four feet of the second row of spuds and hurtle them into the barrow. The patch of ground where I planted them this year is really poor soil. The spade hits subsoil - almost like trying to dig sandstone - when only eight or nine inches deep. This patch really needs some soil restoration.

I managed in all to get almost a level wheelbarrow of potatoes. They are not the size that they were last year, but there are enough big ones for the occasional jacket potato. Lots of "runts" this year, which is a real pain as every single one has to come out. Tiny little potatoes between twelve and twenty five millimtres in diameter, or half an inch to an inch for my older readers. I threw them into the bit of ground that I don't dig. Pickle does that. The frost will see them off.

Wheelbarrow and spuds were wheeled back to the yard and parked in the potting shed. I'll sort out the trays and get them into the cellar within the next couple of days. After that I ripped the remaining door off the workshop outhouse as a start towards fitting the old house doors on there. I expected a struggle but it all surrendered easily and was done within minutes. The door sill was rotten - absolutely rotten. Only a half inch (that's twelve millimetres for my younger readers) of decent wood was left, front back and top.

I can't remember - did I update the blog? Anyway, later I went to the pub. Then came home, and as usual let Pickle in and fed her leaving the bike on the path. As usual, fed and watered she was let out for her normal offices. When I went to get her in and put the bike away there was a very very thin film of ice on the bicycle saddle. I think my efforts of the last few days had not been in vain!

19th October 2009

It seemed barely light when I woke up. What normally wakes me up it the alarm clock turning itself off. It plays some random Austrian station that only does Baroque music, which is fine if you like Baroque music but still better than the random garbage from thousands of Frequency Modulation channels. Anyway, something woke me up. I rolled over to look what the time was and the alarm clock was blank. Oh, bugger. That meant that it was after eight in the morning as we were scheduled for planned power outages between eight in the morning and four in the afternoon for two consecutive days. Out of bed and switch the light on to consult the wristwatch. Eight fifteen. With ablutions to do, the leg to clean and dress I had no chance of getting the eight thirty market day bus. And today was hospital day. Bugger!

I abluted, cleaned and dressed the leg and pondered. My ponderings resolved into the fact that I would just have to cycle it. I was not about to miss another appointment, as much as they said it did not matter (there are no appointments as such), and I was not about to chance having to leg it from the one o'clock bus from the village. No. Push bike it would have to be. And so it was. I was in no great hurry to set off. I knew that the later I got there the quicker I would be seen. I set off just gone eleven. Right into the teeth of a gusting, bitingly cold wind. It took me forty five minutes to cycle to Körmend, and by the time I got there I could barely feel my hands. I called in the Halascsarda and had a coffee just to warm up. I got the friendly waiter.

Warmed up, I cycled through the back streets playing turn left, turn right and eventually came out by the hospital. Parked and locked the bike and went in. There was a lady on reception that I had not seen before. I said "Dermatology" (in Hungarian, of course) and gave her my cards. She looked at me as though I had dropped from outer space. We had an exchange - me "Nem értem", blah blah, me "Nem értem"... Eventually, with the aid of my EU medical card she found me on the computer and then it was plain sailing. I wandered up the stairs and sat down and I barely had time to get my Hungarian book out when I was called into the undressing room. So I undressed. The leg that is. I barely had time to do that when I was called in. The dermatologist went to work once again with her mini-tymp sticks coated with barbed wire. She declared herself well pleased with progress. More prescriptions followed - different ointment, new tablets. Back in three weeks this time. I collected the prescriptions at the hospital dispensary. I unlocked the bike and cycled back the way I had come, this time calling in the little pub on the marketplace. Well, I will allow myself one beer before I cycle my way back to Halogy.

I made one purchase in town, and decided that as I had the bike I might as well do a Tescos. Not that I was about to do a huge shop, but the morning debacle meant that I had no bread when I got home, plus I could do with some other bits and pieces. I'm not sure at this stage, but it could well be my first visit to Tescos this year. I had a look for a potato peeler. Not a one to be had. I do find that surprising. I decided on a meat treat too. I headed straight for where I knew the offers were. They were in the same place, but something was different. It took a moment for the penny to drop. The display fridges had changed. Instead of the normal open ones they now had sliding, automatically closing doors on them. I settled on a pack of minced beef - a rare treat. I wanted some margarine too, and when I got to that fridge it was the same. Looking around, every single refrigerated display in the place had been replaced by the ones with the sliding doors. They are obviously taking energy efficiency very seriously. It must have cost a small fortune to rekit that store. On the way past the deli counter I also decided on some cheese. The lady rattled something off, and I replied "Just looking". It happened that she was just putting out some prepacks of cheese that looked rather more interesting than the standard fare of "Trapiszta", so I grabbed one. When I got home I translated what was one the label. It was "Hard cheese with large holes". What more can I say. It tasted somewhat like Norwegian Jarlsberg, but obviously wasn't.

Not to be denied my potato peeler I called in the Gazdabolt shop on the way back through. I don't think that I have ever mentioned that, although it is a self-service store with Tescos-type little baskets on the way in, they have at least four members of staff who will pounce on you and take you to find whatever it is that you are after. Compare and contrast with B&Q, where the only contact with staff that you are likely to encounter is to get run over by a fork-lift truck. As usual one of the staff, a young lady, pounced on me. "Damil" I said, so she took me to the damil. Hmmm - difficult choice - red, or green? I opted for the green. I then explained that I did not know the magyarul, put I wanted a "Potato tool". She understood perfectly and took me straight to them. There was the choice of two types, in different colours. I chose the more expensive (five forints!) green one to go with the damil. Total cost - one thousand and five forints, and personal service and translation thrown in for nothing.

I set off back to the village. The blustery, by now not quite so cold wind was still blowing. At my back this time. I made good progress and was back in the village in thirty one minutes. I might have been worrying about losing my fitness but that is not so bad. I called in the pub for one - only the second of the day, and this was by now half past three in the afternoon. Whilst I was there the electrickery was restored. I cycled home quite well content, and the rest of the day is history.

20th October 2009

I don't know what they put on my dressing at the hospital - some sort of powder instead of ointment - but when I went to bed it did not itch, it was not sore, it burned! For a couple of hours I turned this way and that but it was no good. I simply could not sleep. I got up and got dressed again. Turned the computer on and did a bit of blog updating, but it was still not good. Finally, in desperation, I took myself off to the kitchen and did my normal nine or ten o'clock routine of cleaning and dressing the leg at about half past three in the morning. After a little while it eased somewhat, so at about four in the morning I took myself back to bed.

I slept intermittently, finally falling into a deep sleep just before dawn was breaking. I never heard the alarm. I roused at about ten in the morning, thoroughly washed out. At that hour I proceded as normal. Shop, stove, coffee, toast. After that I did not feel like anything energetic, so I decided on a gentle sweep out of the house. I was sweeping out the hallway when there was a rustle and a gentle plop from behind me, where I had just swept. The hall wall fell down:
The Hallway Wall Fell Down The hallway wall had fallen down behind me. Not in its entirety you understand - just the bodged up outer surface. None too soon. It had been on the move for a while. It also took a while to clear up. I suppose the moral of the story is "Don't sweep close to the walls".

Somewhat lethargically I wandered up the garden, used the long hose as a syphon to drain the garden water butt, which, being wooden, needs to be stored at least under cover and dry for the winter. Then I hauled the fifty metres of hose back to the yard, disconnected it and coiled it up and put it away in the potting shed. I left the short hose connected. I still have use for that this year.

I did a bit more work on thinking about, and putting into actuality, putting the old house doors onto the workshop/summer kitchen. That was it - I was buggered. I did manage to get to the pub though :)

21st October 2009

It had promised to be a cold night, and so it was. The first frost lay crisp across the grass when I arose and let Pickle out. The house door did not stay open many seconds, and I made a mental reminder that the hall curtains still need putting back onto the new door frame. The big room was warm. I had banked the stove up a bit in expectation. The kitchen was not that cold - about thirteen. Once I had the stove lit it soon rose to about twenty. Coffee, toast and my daily trawl for doom and gloom done, I returned to the kitchen to cook up the minced beef that I had bought in Tescos. I had something in mind for it - later. Of course it had never crossed my mind that the magic ingredient would be Oxo cubes. They have them in Tescos I believe. I had to make to with the next best thing that I could find in the village shop, and it was gulyásleves cubes. Made by Knorr, would you believe. Gulyásleves translates as "pottage" in both my on-line dictionaries, but you will notice that the "gulyás" bit translates to English as goulash! Anyway, I cooked the mince down in its own juice with a finely chopped onion and for good measure threw in three of the Knorr thingies.

With the arrival of frost my thoughts turned to getting the spuds into the cellar - they were still in the wheelbarrow in the potting shed. The cellar still needed some remedial work. There was a hole - about eleven inches by ten - much too close to the outhouse door for my liking. It was where one of the offending water pipes left the cellar, to feed a tap in the summer kitchen. You could see the top surface of the pipe as it went across the floor. I gave it a heave and it came clear of the floor. I had not realised, but that half of the outbuilding just has an earth floor. I heaved it up and down in an attempt to get it to break off where it went through the wall, but it was having none of it. It bent a little this way and that, but I was afraid of giving it too much oomph in case I got a faceful of iron pipe for my pains. I could not leave it as it was, as it was now no longer flush with the earth floor and presented a hazard to limb. Out came the dreaded angle grinder, and since the previous episode of pipe cutting I really did not look forward to it. I set about it, and then to make matters worse as soon as I pierced the pipe it started pissing out water. Oh what? Was this mains pressure water? It couldn't be. The thing was connected to nothing. Sure enough, the spurt of water became a trickle and stopped. However, it left the rest of the pipe full of water, and when I went back with the angle grinder it was just throwing a mist of water all over itself. Not good. Water and mains electricity certainly don't mix. I limited myself to just running round the sides of the pipe and thinning them as far as I could reach. Then I went back to the heaving. As soon as I started heaving the pipe started to give way in a nice predictable fashion, and within seconds it joined the others from inside the cellar on the outhouse floor. Thankfully I unplugged the angle grinder, took it back into the house and wound up the expension lead.

I decided that a beer was in order, and was sat contemplating my beer and my navel in deep reverie when Pickle started howling. Well, doggie singing. Wednesday - "Kutyatap, kutyatap". At least that's what it sounds like to me. The dog food van. I dashed out in the hopes that I had not missed him and looked up and down the road. He was nowhere near me - still a good three hundred metres away on his way into the village. He played his little tune again as he came on towards me, and Pickly dog sang along again. It is strange, she has only started to sing along since I started buying the dog food off him. She sings along to various others that I don't use, and I can only conclude that it is a throwback to when she was a puppy. She sings to the gas wagon, and both icecream vans. She doesn't sing to the Posta - just barks! She doesn't sing to the meat van though. I wonder if she would if I started buying stuff from him?

After lunch the remedial work happened. I wedged a couple of bricks in the offending hole, hosed it all down clean, made a big mixing of lime mortar and dolloped it on. The spuds went into their trays and into the cellar they went. I still need to bodge up a cover for where you actually descend into the cellar, but that can wait for a week or two.

When the shop opened in the early evening I popped over there for something and the shop lady presented me with a little something (I knew not what) wrapped up in foil. "Vacsora", she said, which meant nothing to me. I thanked her, left and took the vacsora home with me. I now know that it means supper. Back home I rapidly knocked up some shortcrust pastry, only not. The last time I had tried to make shortcrust pastry it was rather disappointing. As you will all know, for shortcrust pastry you use half the amount of fat to flour. Well, that didn't work with the local fat and the local flour, so I upped the amount of fat a bit. Eight ounces of flour and five ounces of fat. Cooking magarine, as it happens. The stove went on. I had decided that I simply could not do without a meat and potato pie. I forgot to say that I put spuds into the mince stuff - would have spoilt the story. Only one problem. I don't have a pie dish. I have what I think is meant to be a muffin tray. Ah, well - I just made six little meat and tatie pies. Into the oven they went, and with the relevant amount of juggling the top/bottom heat control and turning the tray this way and that, purely by accident I cooked them to perfection. I ate five of the six! I took the one remaining little pie and gave it to helper in the pub. He ate it there and then. It was still warm. He declared it to be "finom". I'll let you look that one up.

Back home from the pub I investigated the supper the shop lady had provided. It was three slices of different sweet-type buns that they sell. Chelsea bun/Danish pastry-type things. I managed one. Pickle stole the other two whilst my back was turned. She got a whack for that. Not best pleased - I was quite looking forward to the cherry one!

22nd October 2009

Tom Whipple. Does not make comfortable reading! And this warning speech given before the Money & Oil conference in London on 20th October. More food for thought.

It was a really lovely late autumn day. Very pleasant, not at all cold - very mild in fact with heat still in the sun. I got to the shop a bit before eight. It was packed. I think the reason for that is that tomorrow is a bank holiday and everyone was making sure they were stocked up.

Home, coffee and toast, and a mountain of washing up. Ah, domestics! Did the leg, then decided that it was time that my second crop of tobacco had some attention. I did manage to cut it before the first frost arrived. It had lain around in a bunch for a couple of days whilst I pondered how to cure it. The first crop went into a south facing semi-derelict outhouse which I roughly curtained out with the industrial sized cling film that the firewood pallets were wrapped in, and maintained the humidity by popping in there daily and giving the walls and the floor a good misting over with water. I had thrown several remaining bits of the cling film crinkled up on the floor so that they filled up with mini-puddles to ensure that it remained humid. That was out of the question now - much too cold. I had read on a forum that rapid curing could be achieved by stacking the leaves on the ground and covering them with a damp carpet in the sun, giving them a turn from time to time to prevent mould. Sinced the second crop was, effectively, bakhshish I decided on a little experiment. I just stuck the whole bunch into a black bin bag, folded the end shut and chucked it on the top of the tile stove. I had given the leaves a good turning over a couple of days before, and it was time to turn them again. To my amazement in just four days in constant warmth and very high humidity they had colour cured. Apart from three or four really small leaves they were all the rich brown colour I was looking for. They were, however, very wet. Time to hang them up to dry. I found the remnants of my ball of string, only to discover that with the ravages of time (and a few wettings in the outhouse) it was rotten. I shot across to the shop. No string. No potato crisps either. There have been none in the village for days - neither the pub nor the shop. I meant to look when last in town, but in my rush I forgot. Whyever there should be no crisps in the village will remain a mystery until I next go to town. As I write (2009-10-28) there are still none. If there are none in town I will seriously start to worry. If such a staple as potato crisps disappears from Hungary it bodes very ill for the food supply of the world. I digress. No string. Ah well, I would just have to use a few feet of the sixty mile ball of polypropylene stuff, not that it is ideal for stringing through the veins of tobacco leaves. So I did, and hung them in the small, unused room to dry. Which is a good job - the unused bit, that is - as the drying leaves do give off a quite unpleasant aroma.

The ash bucket, the kitchen remnants which is mainly onion/potato peelings and coffee grounds, and various fliers went on the compost heap and then I started my winter digging campaign. With the frost the still alive paprika plants in the outhouse garden had bitten the dust, as had the remnants of the tobacco plants. They simply got pulled up, thrown on the ground, chopped up with the spade and dug in. It was pleasant if solitary work. Down to tee shirt and jeans and I actually worked up enough of a sweat that the specs had to come off. I did the best part of an hour and got over a third of that little bit of garden done, including removing nettles and couch grass as I went. The rest just got dug in.

I did some work towards putting the old house doors onto the outhouse, and by then I had been on my feet long enough so I retired inside to do a bit at the latest leatherwork project. I have a commission. They even provided the leather. I am making a quiver, as in archery. I did mention it back in July, and I am only just getting started! They insist there is no rush. I guess not. Winter is not the time to be out with the bow and arrows, unless in the woods doing a bit of silent poaching I suppose. I got as far as planning, drawing out and cutting the piece of leather, and quite a conundrum it turned into. It was not just a nice rectangular piece of leather. There were bits cut out here, bits cut out there. Some of them quite big bits!

I went to the pub later. I was very quiet. I suppose there were four or five of us in there. No sign of helper. He came piling in at about a quarter to nine, spitting nails. Only just got away from work. They closed at a quarter past nine. He was not best pleased.

23rd October 2009

Not a lot to report today. After my morning ritual. It is a ritual! I did a bit more work towards putting the old doors on the outhouse. Mainly measuring up, but starting to figure out if I was going to have to saw the bottoms of the doors, or whether I had enough vertical space to play with so that I could fit them and they would open outwards towards the yard the same as the old rotten ones did. They certainly won't open inwards. For one thing the end of the work bench is in the way, and it won't go anywhere else and for another thing the internal floor level is such that I would probably have to saw about three inches off the doors and that is fairly major surgery. No point anyway if they won't both fully open.

It being another very pleasant day I had another session of digging after lunch. I managed to reach about the three quarter mark of the outhouse garden. I stocked up all the wood baskets - I have four on the go at the moment. Two big ones, a new one and the old one that Pickle chewed one of the handles off when she was a puppy, a small one that moves from big room to kitchen and back full of kindling-type stuff and the decrepit kitchen one which really is only fit for firewood itself.

That was enough physical for the day, and with the light fading I ventured up to the pub for an early evening one. Helper was in there, injured and somewhat the worse for wear in the alcohol department. He had managed to sprain his ankle. Some of the regulars by sign language indicated that he had come off his bike. The bike appeared a lot less the worse for wear than he did. Poor chap - I'm certainly not mocking, but he was quite funny. He was insistent that it was not drink that had caused it, but during the course of the evening he must have told me at least forty times that he had hurt his right ankle. Nowhere else, just the ankle. Oh, and a skinned knuckle, but he said he did that at work. I was quite willing to assist him home but at kicking out time he just shot off and by the time I got down the driveway of the pub he was nowhere to be seen. One of the regulars had watched him and said that he had taken a short long-cut home by going up the pathway towards the cemetery. Why I don't know.

24th October 2009

It was raining in the morning and by the looks of it it had rained a fair bit of the night too. Blast! I had left the wheelbarrow out with a few oddments of brick ends and rubble to do with sorting out and measuring up for the outhouse doors. They were almost submerged. Not good. It is a pressed steel body and it will rust out if I give it too much of that treatment. Mind you, the saving grace is that from my local friendly neighbourhood ironmonger you can buy just a new body. For a wheelbarrow you understand. After shop and breakfast I consigned the whole lot, water and all, into the hole in the garage floor. I put the barrow back in the potting shed on its side to drain and dry out. I have to say that I am very careless with gardening tools. They tend to stay where used, or where I know that I will need them next. Except the scythe. It always goes back into the potting shed, and since I have been told better always stored with the blade at the top and the butt end of the snath on the floor.

In view of the weather I finally got started in on the actual stitching of the leather quiver. I have much to do. I have promised delivery this month and time is short. I managed to get the belt and leg loops cut, folded and stitched. That was a fair bit of work just on its own. The Hungarians wear the quiver at the leg, from the waist belt, rather than the behind the shoulder pattern that I associate with quivers. I was going to make it dual function - able to be used both ways - but decided that that was over-gilding the lily and too much time.

After lunch I decided to untangle the knitting. It turned into an unmitigated disaster. I untangled it and decided to knit up one row. Try as I might I could not get it to come out right. Whichever way, it was off by one stitch. So I did a stitch count. Sixty six. Bugger! There should be sixty seven. I traced it back and back and finally found it. Three rows into the pattern. I might just as well take it back to row one of the pattern and start over. I had already decided that it simply is not a suitable piece of work to be doing in the pub. In the gloom - they are not overly extravagent on the lighting front - two of the colours are pretty well indistinguishable anyway. I abandoned it for consideration.

Got the wood in, cooked briefly, washed changed and went to the pub. Helper was notable by his absence, which is very unusual. People were asking me if I knew the score. I didn't. I had neither seen or heard anything of him all day. On the way out the landlady was kind enough to remind me that the clocks went back an hour tonight. I already knew, but it was good of her to mention it. Come to think of it, it's also somewhat reassuring to think that I actually knew what she was talking about.

25th October 2009

Steve Sorrell in the Daily Telegraph. Steve is lead author in the recent report by the UK Energy Research Centre.

I was in no particular hurry to get up, with an extra hour as the clocks went back. I lay in until about ten in the morning (summer time, so actually nine). Amazingly Pickle was also quite content to doze on the floor and let me be. She normally starts to get restive once it is light. Morning ritual, and with the second slice of toast - the one with whatever the flavour of the moment jam on - and a full cup of coffee it is time, particularly on a Sunday, for me to boot the computer, check the e-mails, answer/delete where necessary and have a good trawl for doom and gloom. To my surprise, once I logged in to my computer, the clock at the bottom right still said the same time as my wristwatch which I had yet to put back an hour. Hmmmm - was I imagining that the clocks went back, or that that was what the pub landlady had told me. I checked the calendar. Nope - today was definitely the last Sunday in October. I glanced back at the clock on the computer. And it was right. Whilst I had been looking at the calendar it had corrected itself. I can only conclude that it is because I run Network Time Protocol on this computer, and not rely upon the internal software to put the clock right, and (I'm guessing) that it took that length of time before it got around to actually contacting one of the time servers. (Peter?)

Eventually I got around to some work. Leather work, lunch and finished off the digging of the outhouse garden, apart from a couple of feet at the end where I have a few plants that ideally want new homes.

Once again, as dusk was beginning to fall, I found myself in the pub. I only went for a quick one (Honest Guv!). It was packed! It was almost as though there was a celebration of the fact that the clocks had gone back. I think that after Bucsu and a couple of times they had functions on the lead up to last Christmas it was probably the busiest that I had ever seen the pub on a "normal" day. A particular chap from the village bought me a drink. Then I bought him one back. Then someone else bought him a beer and he shared it with me. Someone else bought him a beer and he shared that with me too. In the meantime football was on telly. Barclays Premier League! I managed to watch two complete matches whilst I was there - Liverpool vs. Manchester United (live) and Manchester City vs. Fulham (recorded). In between there was a bit about Zoltán Gera, a Hungarian who now plays for Fulham. By a bit after half past six it was winding down, and by seven the place was almost empty. The remaining die-hards left about a quarter past. No sign of helper all day! I found out later that my neighbour John had drifted on up there at about quarter to eight only to find the place locked, barred and bolted.

26th October 2009Updated

More leatherwork, and I managed a catastrophy with my Leatherman tool. I broke the awl. Clumsy, I know. Fortunately I had a spare. I don't now!

I gave the wine its daily stir. This year I have adopted the philosophy of not letting a cap develop on the pulp. Some vintners do and some don't. I had decided not to after last years almost catastrophy. I really don't want to go through the palaver of pasteurising the wine. Mind you, at least this year I have a mental note of when to press it. It was still fermenting vigorously and fizzed nicely when I gave it a stir. The wooden spoon that I am using is steadily going a rather impressing shade of purple. Or possibly magenta.

I had just finished that when Pickle set up a frantic barking - one of her "I don't know who you are but I want to play with you" type barks. I poked my head out of the door to see a young man who I knew by sight advancing fearlessly up the path beating off Pickle with a chimney brush. The village chimney sweep come to do the chimneys. Now, as you will recall various unfolding dramas regarding the big stove and the kitchen stove you will be aware of the fact that I am completely au-fait with the state of my chimneys, neither of which needed the intervention of a chimney sweep. I told him so. He still made me pay! Three thousand and forty forints. I even got an official receipt off him - all printed out - with how many chimneys I have and of what type. Why he never came around last year I don't know. I did see him go to the old lady's next door. Pleasant young chap though.

I had a bit of a clear up in the yard. All the fallen pear tree leaves. It took a while. It wasn't as impressive a heap as last year when I had a willing volunteer ( :) ) to do it. Mind you it was a fair bit earlier last year, so this year the leaves are already shrunken and withered before they got heaped up. The tree was pretty well bare of leaves, so I don't expect to have to do it again.

I popped up to the pub for a quick one after that, only to be besieged with questions about helper. I had no more idea than they had! I even tried to ring him on his mobile but got no anwser. I determined to shoot round his place tomorrow and find out what the score was.

Back home, and the wine flies finally got to me. Bloody things know that I have fermenting wine. I thought that we had missed them this year. I don't remember it being this late last year when we were plagued with them. Same in the pub. Back to putting a beer mat on top of the glass. Some of the regulars don't bother. "A little bit of meat"! Well, yeah, but I find it annoying the way they stick to the tongue on the way down. I confess to resorting to chemical means, but that got rid of the little buggers - for now!

I bumped into my next door neighbour on my travels. He had a moan about the chestnuts. His wife had had a moan about them yesterday. Her conversation had left me slightly puzzled. She had talked about little trees and I know that my chestnut tree is a great tall thing that, like most trees in the actual garden, just points straight up to the sky with very little footprint. Whatever happened to "Underneath the spreading chestnut tree"? I made a mental note to have a look tomorrow.

I went back to the pub later. Still no sign of helper. My neighbour John turned up and in the way that it does the talk turned to soil. It turned out that he has a fair amount of clay soil on his plot. I have found no clay at all on mine, but, thinking about it, there is a garden that I pass as I cycle to the pub that has been dug over for winter and is quite obviously a clay soil - the turned over soil is just sitting in big lumps. Mine is nothing like that. All I get is a fine tilth.

27th October 2009

Another nice late autumn day. I had another bash at the leatherwork and managed to break the second awl in the Leatherman tool. I was not being particularly clumsy either. It did not break with force like the first one. There was just a click and there it was, broken. Mind you, it certainly had not helped with the fact that I was going through six layers of leather. This was attaching the belt loop to the work. The belt loop is just like the belt loops on a pair of jeans. Folded into the centre and stitched down made it double, then the ends folded over made it quadruple, then stitched onto the actual work, which also had a reinforcing patch stitched onto it for good measure. Over engineered? Probably. I cast about for something to substitute for the broken awl and eventually came up with something from one of my tool sets. I have a set of various small screwdrivers, both flat head and cross head, torques and little hex drive bits. The smallest hex drive bit is 0.7 millimetre. I cannot imagine that I am ever going to encounter having to deal with a 0.7 millimetre Allen screw, so it got (literally) pressed into service. It seriously struggled to do six layers but I finally got that bit done.

It took me a good half an hour to figure out how to get the bit of broken awl out of the Leatherman tool. It was broken off absolutely flush with the tool. I got it out eventually, but that still left me short of one awl for the Leatherman.

After lunch I went chestnutting. With gardening gloves. Horrible job. If you pick them up just wrong the spines on the husks just go straight through the gloves into the fingers. There was a fair amount of cussing. The riddle of the trees was resolved as well. There is not just the one big old chestnut tree. Nearby there are two little ones. Elsewhere in the garden is yet another little one. I note that I did mention last year about losing the few chestnuts I did manage to collect on account of Pickle's antics and the fact that before I rescued them they ended up being submerged in rain water which did them no good at all, so I abandoned them. Blow me down if Pickle did not go straight underneath the same bit of fence this year! Unfortunately for her, she was also securely chained to an oak tree on my side of the fence. Ha! Equally unfortunately she managed to get the chain entangled with the turned up ends of the chainlink fence with the two feet of chain that she did pull through. I untangled her, pulled her back through my side and gave her a good whack. Can't think why but she did not go back the wrong side of the fence. I did an hour or so, and quite pleasant it was. Pleasant enough to take the pullover off and tie it round my waist. I had a smoke break and then went back and did some more. I had half a bucketful and I reckon I had covered about a third of the area of fall of chestnuts.

I had still been getting asked about helper, so I decided to cycle up the village and find out what the score was. His little dog set up a frantic barking as I went to go in the gate, as all good Hungarian dogs do, and in a moment helper hobbled onto the door step. He was wearing a sandal on that foot, and his ankle was swathed with cold compresses, but at least he was on his feet and getting about. It had obviously been quite bad sprain. They were pleased to see me. I did not stop overly long, but long enough to observe with interest his mother preparing turnips for storage. Peeled and grated they went in a huge bowl. A small amount of the same strong vinegar that I have here, a good sprinkling of salt and a small jug of water. Then the whole lot was given a good turning over and mixing by hand and finally two or three slices of bread placed on the top and it was set aside. I never quite did get what the bread was for.

I took my leave. Helper thanked me for going to see him. Whether anyone else had I know not. I called in the pub for one on the way home, that turned into two or three and I ended up getting home after six in the evening and having to fill a log basket for the stove by torchlight. Must get myself reorganised on that score. That was it for the evening though.

28th October 2009

A Graudian report from Monday that I missed until today's trawl for doom and gloom.

Leather work, a bit of housework and more collecting of chestnuts. I made sure to put Pickle on a slightly shorter chain today. She still managed to get her head under the fence. She had another whack. Another half a bucket of chestnuts, and I was into the long grass and having to ferret about even for the full husks. I took Pickle back to the yard and I returned to the chestnut trees with the strimmer. I gave it a really good thrashing, intending to go back the following day and collect again. Until in the house I weighed my crop of chestnuts. Just over a stone! What the hell am I going to do with over a stone of chestnuts?

In the pub in the evening the local guy once again promised faithfully to come and do some work tomorrow. It has by now become a joke, and if he ever does turn up that will be a bonus. Some highlights from the local news: Tungsram are laying off two thousand seven hundred workers throughout Hungary, two Budapest radio stations are going off the air and another body had turned up in the Tisza river.

29th October 2009

God, I'm tired. The stuff that I need/want to get done continues to mount. I just have to accept that there are only so many hours in the day and there is only one of me and something has to give. Speaking of which, once again there was only one of me today. The village guy never turned up - big surprise, not. Helper is tied up with two or three big painting jobs that he has on the go.

One of the reasons for being so tired is the leg. It does give me disturbed nights. If I happen to move about in my sleep it twinges - enough to wake me up. And speaking of the leg, it is getting better. The healing process is very peculiar. It was quite a jagged wound, as you can imagine a chain being dragged across the leg (twice!) to cause. All the jagged bits have healed and it is now perfectly circular. There are little crescents of new, pink skin at intervals around the circumference. It will still be a long time healing entirely though.

I did a bit at the leatherwork. I had promised it for October. They assured me it didn't matter. A good job too, as I cannot see me getting it done until the first week in November at the earliest.

I did some fairly hefty exploratory work towards fitting the old house doors to the outhouse. I removed a row of bricks from where the old rotten sill was. I was quite pleased to find another row of bricks underneath which I will leave very much alone. Then I removed another row of bricks that were kind of embedded into the remains of the crumbling tarmac of the yard. I checked the levels - I would hate to do all the work and then find out I had to dig up even more yard before I could get the doors open - and that seemed OK.

Then it rained, so I went back indoors and did a bit more leatherwork.

30th October 2009

I had another go at the preparations for putting the old house doors onto the outhouse. If I can have it done by the end of November and a suitable little stove found and installed I will be happy. Woodworking in the kitchen is OK, but rather limiting. I have become somewhat accustomed to having the facilities of the workbench there. With a suitable piece of timber I put in a level for a cement sill, and chipped/raked out all the bad stuff either side:
It looks a mess. It is a mess! Hmmmm - must take more pictures. The last one was on the 20th! Preparing for New Doors

I stole some sand from the sand heap and with the aid of the remains of a bag of cement, in dubious condition, made a gert (that's Lincolnshire for rather big) mixing of cement. Dolloped into the hole and trowelled off, and - bugger - it was not enough, so before it had chance to go off I made another little mixing and whacked that in too.

I thought I deserved a beer after that, so I went to the pub!

One of the old regulars was in there. He goes to the pub daily, has a couple of small glasses of beer (piccolo = about eight fluid ounces) and maybe a pálinka. He has started to refer to me as "Pistika" (pronounced peeshteeka) which actually means "Young Steve". Dunno, maybe I have arrived in this village community.

31st October 2009

I was up reasonably early. Early enough that I was in the shop before seven. It's quite interesting to note the change in behaviour, or not, of various groups of people in the village. What I would call (with no disrepect) "the old girls" have not changed their behaviour at all. They are in the shop somewhere between six and maybe a quarter to seven in the morning. A slightly younger element of the village are definitely just a little bit later in there than they were in the summer. Nevertheless, to be sure of getting bread for the weekend you need to be there a bit before eight.

I had left some tee shirts somewhat undried on the line:
Frost On Clothes They had a frost on them. It may look like a trick of the light on the way they drape, but I can assure you that it was frost.

Helper turned up. Somewhat later than planned. Today's task was to demolish the firewood house, now more or less empty, that had threatened to fall into No. 72's garden:
Here he had got about half way through. I assisted where necessary, which wasn't much - mainly grabbing the roof tiles as he handed them down from the top three or four rows. He pointed one out to me as he handed it down. It had a date on it. Nineteen seventy six! It is possible that it was put there as a replacement for one that broke, of course, but it is equally possible that the whole of that little structure postdates that tile. Which does not fill me with reassurance as to the longevity of structures here. Most of the timber on the western side was just rotten. That was the main cause of it trying to fall into next doors garden. The roof had parted company with the sides, and the horizontal bits that held the tiles on was just rotting away. And yes, the little building top left is the outside kharzi! And Pickly dog had to get in on the act! Half Way Through Demolishing Outhouse

In between I did a bit more preparatory work towards putting the new doors on the outhouse. I began to chop away the rotten bits of that woodwork. On one of the uprights it extended well above the bottom hinge, so I had to extract the hinge also. I stood that as long as the leg would allow me. Woodworking is actually the worst thing I do. It is all standing and the exercise is in the arms and the shoulders. I retired indoors to have a bash at the leatherwork. I can say with certainty that it was not about to be delivered in October, as I had promised. I was in a little world of my own - punch the hole, push the needle through, find the hole and push the other needle from the other side. I am using proper stitching on this work, as well as decent thread. Two needles, one on each end of the thread, worked from either side of the work. I was suddenly aware that I was not alone. It was a mild enough afternoon and the house door and the kitchen door were wide open. Helper had taken a break and crept into the house. I don't know how long he had been watching me patiently punching and stitching. He sat himself down. I stopped and opened us a beer apiece. He said that there was no way that he would have the patience to do what he had watched me doing. I knocked it on the head, and we both went back outside. He was equally patiently demolishing the final bit of the firewood outhouse - the brick pillar. It rocked on its base anyway. I would just have shoved it over, then sorted the bricks out afterwards. He knocked each one off individually, then carefully cleaned the lime mortar off the faces (with my axe!) and stacked the bricks. Finally it was done. In the fading light of a late Saturday afternoon we cycled up to the pub. Where we got pissed!


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