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December 2009

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1st December 2009

Well, barring disasters (I still have one hanging under my feet - the drains!) I have to say that the blog might get a bit boring and short. I will - as ever - endeavour to make it not so. But I can't promise. Hopefully I will find the time once the weather really does close in to sit here and publish three galleries of selected photos of the big days in the village - Szilveszter (New Years Eve), Disznóvágásra (Pig Killing) and Fálunáp (Village Day). I'm also working on another page, at the request of one of my several anonymous e-mail correspondents, which will appear in due course in the main navigation.

Today it was raining and it was cold, and apart from a bit of housework I got bugger-all done. Apart from a trip up to Bödő for some chicken wire (not to do with chickens at this time of year - more later), some Fischer fixings and yet another new outside tap connector I achieved precisely nothing, other than ending up in the village pub with Hobo and Jozsi. Oh dear!

Now, I think just to keep it interesting I might just offer a small prize for the first person to let me know just precisely where was covered in snow on the first of December! Very small clue - six words if you include "the" otherwise five.

2nd December 2009

A wet, cold, misty and thoroughly unpleasant day. After breakfast I did take a brief walk up the garden to dump some compostables on the compost heap. I had a quick check on what is in the ground at the moment. Peas and broad beans. It was too early for the peas to be showing, even if they do germinate before the frosts set in. The broad beans, as before, are a disappointment. This was an autumn sowing variety and at a guess half of them have germinated. Those that have are fine sturdy little plants with a close bunch of about six to eight leaves. The failure rate is just too high though. If that is all I am going to get I think I will give up on them, as I think I have said before.

I had kept the stove alight and popped over the shop to get yeast. I intended to use one of my indulgences from last hospital day - real mozzarella! So I made cheese on toast for lunch! No, of course I didn't! I knocked up one of my home made pizzas. As usual, eyes were slightly bigger than so one slice ended up in Pickle. You heard the one about Paddy in the pizza shop, of course. The girl said "Do you want me to cut it into four pieces or six?" and Paddy says "Ah, ta be sure - cut it into four. I don't think I could eat six pieces!" Groan.

The weather cleared a bit after lunch with a watery sun attempting to get through. Armed with my new hose connector I determined to have another go at the still-blocked drains. I had a go from the house end with the hose on full pressure, forcing it down the pipe drain rod fashion advancing a bit and retreating a bit. It did keep steadily advancing by six inches or a foot at a time. I kept that up until I had filled the manhole up as much as I dared, then went to repeat the operation from the other end. I kept getting a short burst of filthy water, then it would slow back down to a trickle. Back to the house end and I found that the level in the manhole had indeed dropped a bit. Something was happening, then. I repeated the house end operation, and - quite suddenly, with a gurgle and a whoosh - the whole lot disappeared. I could hear from where I was a huge cascade the other end into the septic tank the other side of the yard. I kept feeding the hose through, but I came to a point where it would go no further. Nevertheless the water was now draining away quite freely. I tested it further using buckets of rainwater from the butt and they too simple drained away instantly. I had had enough of that and decided to call it a success, so back went the lids at both ends.

After that effort, something more sedate and back to a session on the knitting.

Here's a picture I missed from a couple of days ago:
New Doors Fitted It is definitely a "during" picture - you can see the big gap down one side. There is an equivalent one down the other side hidden by the part open door.

3rd December 2009

A nice day, but decidedly cold. I managed to get the gap on the one side of the outhouse doors filled in and finished and then it was back indoors. More knitting, some attempt to update the blog and that was about the limit of it.

Of course I went to the pub. For some reason there was almost a party atmosphere. I can only put it down to the run up (or down, as you prefer) to Christmas. For whatever reason there seemed to be more than the usual amount of good natured banter. The banter in the pub is de rigeur. It always happens, but it is not always good natured. Sometimes sides are taken and the proponents will, either individually or en masse verbally tackle the opponents. And vice-versa of course. Anyway, the banter tonight was of the good humoured type.

4th December 2009

Another damp day. Grey misty and cold. The weather forecast continues to be a mystery to me. It is rarely correct. Especially the seven day one for Szombathely that I check daily. Three days ago it could have forecast a nice day. Two days ago it could have forecast rain, but the actual weather seems to be a guessing game. I can only suppose that it relates to the fact that we are situated in a quite unusual meteorological place. We are kind of sandwiched between the Mediterranean climates of not that far south and the hugely continental climate of FSU to the north and east.

Stove lit. Coffee on. Shop. Toast. Trawl for doom and gloom and it was time to sit and do my daily one hour stint in the remaining warmth of the big room on the knitting project. I'll do a picture first - it won't give the game away of what the project actually is:
I grafted the shoulder seams on the garment that I am knitting. It is a garment. I deliberately chose to graft it outwards, giving a rather nice and extremely neat decorative rib to the outside. A Grafted Seam
Steve's Handy Knitting Hints - No. 2 - How To Graft a Shoulder Seam
As I said above this leaves a very, very neat shoulder seam. However! If the seam is on the inside the outside will appear perfectly smooth. But I personally find that the rib on the inside is a little obtrusive. A decorative rib on the outside, or an obtrusive rib on the inside. Whatever - the choice is yours. I will explain how to do it. If you have a pattern that goes along the lines of "shape shoulders" or otherwise says something along the lines of "cast off [x] stitches at the start of the next [y] rows don't cast them off!!. On the next and succeeding rows simply turn the work when you get to the stitches that should have been cast off. When working the back of the garment you will probably come to an instruction that says "leave the remaining [z] stitches on a stitch holder" or safety pin, or piece of yarn, or spare needle - whatever. Slip the whole lot onto your whatever. You should still have the same number of stitches as you had at the beginning of the shoulder shaping.

If you are knitting a jumper there will be a "divide for neck" instruction for the front. If you are knitting a cardigan then each side will have the appropriate reductions. In either case you should end up with a load of stitches on your stitch holder that should have been cast off. Now it gets interesting!

Taking the example of my little photo I had sixteen stitches on each side of the shoulders. (It is a child's garment!) You should now have - in my example - sixteen stitches on one needle, stitch holder from the front and sixteen from the back. Now, important instruction. If you want the seam to be inside put the right sides together. If you want the seam to be on the outside put the wrong sides together. Next slip alternate stitches from each of your holders onto a needle the same size as you used for the ribbing - one from the front, one from the back. Be sure to remember which you started with, and also be sure to do both left and right seams the same way. In other words if you slipped the stitches from the neck edge to the arm seam on one side be sure to do the same on the other side.

Now, the hard work is over. Knitting, or purling depending whether you are working with wrong sides together or right sides together respectively - K2tog (or P2tog), *K2tog (or P2tog), cast off previous stitch*. Repeat from * to * until all stitches are cast off. There you go.

I did that. Took me an hour. Then I went back to the making good of the door frames on the outhouse. At least this time I was working correct handed as it was the right hand door. I managed to get rid of one small mixing when the mistiness turned to rain. That was the end of that job for the day, then.

Jozsi turned up and quite willingly in the remaining drizzle started on finishing off the clearing up of the final remains of the demolished firewood shed. Hobo turned up too to look at the drains. I explained that the drains were now fine, and demonstrated with the use of more rainwater. Then we went to the pub when it got dark.

Hobo discussed a possibility with me. More later, possibly.

5th December 2009

It turned out to be a day when I achieved precisely nothing. Well, I suppose that is not quite true. I achieved nothing at home. It started normally enough. Shop, stove, coffee, toast, trawl for doom and gloom ... then Hobo appeared. Armed with four apple trees for John. He requested that I went with him to interpret. Ha ha. I suspect that John's magyarul is about on a par with mine. I reckon the only difference is that over the months of increasing communication with Hobo he knows what to say to me and in such a way that he knows that I will understand. We had a beer first.

Then we trogged off down to John's place. John had obeyed his instructions and there was a small row of garden implements stuck in the ground at about five metre intervals where he wanted the little trees. There was only one small hiccough. John was expecting three trees and Hobo had turned up with four, so a rapid decision was made as to where the fourth one should go.

Hobo set to and dug out for the roots of the trees. I had a very onerous task. Not interpreting, but holding the trees in the holes whilst Hobo went a few metres away and eyed up their situation like a professional on a golf green. With millimetric precision they were positioned, firmed in and watered in. It was a cold morning and once all was done John's offer of coffee was most welcome.

We took our leave and wandered back to mine. Where we had a beer. Well, the sun was well over the yard arm by then. But there was no sun. We chatted for quite a while about this and that. Eventually Hobo left, I had a late lunch and set about doing absolutely nothing. The only productive thing I did for myself all day was to ride up the village for eggs. I was waiting for the eggs to appear when there was a tap on my shoulder from behind. I turned to find myself face to face with Mikulás - the Hungarian Santa. Once unmasked, I recognized him as being the friend/relative? of Pickle's breeders. Speaking of which there are only four little Pickly dogs there now. One had already gone to its new home and two more were due to disappear to new homes tomorrow. Out of the four remaining, three besieged me, biting jeans bottoms, shopping bag and hand when it was offered. They are all very, very fluffy - nothing like the coat that Pickle had when I got her. I suppose that it is nature's way of protecting puppies born late in the year. I had another couple of glasses of their rather fine wine whilst I was there. We talked a bit about the vintner's art. It turns out that their wine is about ten and a half percent alcohol. Quite a bit stronger than mine. I know why, but my vines need sorting out before I can aim for that.

On my way back down the village I noticed that Jozsi's bike was outside the pub. I wanted to know when he was next going to appear and do a bit of work. Yeah, right! Any excuse. Hobo was in there too. Oh dear! The village football team manager came in, which would have been completely by-the-by only the talk happened to turn to game. Not football, the type you eat. I mentioned to Hobo that I could do with a pheasant sometime around Christmas. He mentioned it to the football manager, and the football manager scribbled in my little black book:
Handwriting Yeah, well - your guess is as good as mine! It turned out that what he was trying to tell me was that he would have one for me in one to two weeks. We talked about hanging game. They had no concept of such. I described hanging a pheasant up by its neck until it begins to have a greenish tinge under the armpits. That's high enough for me. They baulked at the prospect. I knew people in Lincolnshire who would not consider them ready until they found them on the floor - the head having parted company with the body.

By that, he disappeared outside and in a very short time reappeared with a feast. Game stew! With nokedli (Hungarian dumplings). Plates and cutlery appeared, serviettes appeared and bread appeared, and everyone that was in the pub got fed. (Not that many of us - seven or so regulars) I really don't know why, but I ended up with a huge doggie bag. Not that it was about to go into the doggie. I had about half a loaf of bread, a jar containing the remnants of the stew, which in case I forget to mention fed me for two successive evenings, and the remants of a jar of pickled cucumber - the little kind. I don't know whether they are just little cucumbers or gherkins. My bag was so full that I had to wedge my precious eggs, which still had not reached home, on the top. Pickle's breeders, plus the Mikulás guy, plus the two young children came into the pub. They had a good laugh when I showed them the bag and that the eggs had not yet reached home. It was Saturday anyway, and the Christmas spirit becomes ever more evident. It was a good evening.

6th December 2009

After yesterdays evening's exertions I was not up too early - had a lie-in until half past eight! The house had a good sweep through. I would have mopped too but Hobo turned up. For nothing more than a chat. Quite a long chat, and after that I had lost the will to mop through. By the way the Hungarian for sweeping is "elsöpör" which could be translated as "first quarrel". Interesting language. I lit the kitchen stove warmed about half of the remaining game stew up and knocked myself up a batch of nokedli. Quite quick and easy, once you have a pan of boiling water. There are more different recipes for nokedli out on the Internet than you could shake a stick at. Every one is slightly different. If I recall correctly one page said that every family has its own recipe for nokedli, and of course their recipe is better than anyone elses. I made enough so that I could finish off the stew tomorrow. I think it has been on the menu everywhere that I have eaten out - wild stew and dumplings. I have certainly had it at least twice in the Hálászcsarda.

7th December 2009

One of those days where I flitted from job to job, never spending more than an hour on each. I still never stopped all day. Quite a productive day actually. Knitting, a computer job that I do for an organisation in the UK three times a year, cleaning and woodwork. Speaking of the computer job, can anyone enlighten me as to why Microsoft Word, which is pretty well the office standard, can make such a BAD job of handling tables. I inserted a new table into the document. One row, two columns, cell contents centred and no borders. I little while later I had an e-mail giving me another couple of names for that table. Will M$ Worm allow you to add a row to a table with only one row using the normal method of highlighting the row, right clicking and selecting Insert Row from the context menu. Will it buggery! The item for insert row disappears if there is only one row in the table. Now what is all that about?

Jozsi turned up. I set him on finishing off the clearing up of the ex-firewood lean-to. He made short work of that, and dug it over. I intend it to be the herb garden so that if I want a little bunch of something to chop up I don't have to trail right up to the outhouse garden. I set him on digging the next bit of the main garden after that, so one way and another I have ended up with quite a lot of ground opened up for next year. Costing me, of course. As usual he worked until the light went and then we drifted up to the pub for a beer. Ah! I forgot to mention that I had to make a confession to him. The previous evening he had presented me with a plastic container of kocsony (pronunciation quite close to cochon in French). It is a Hungarian delicacy. Pig skin in aspic jelly. Well, it might be a delicacy, but not for me I'm afraid. I told him, and he just said to give it the dog, quite unfazed. I remonstrated that it was too good to give the dog and he should take it back home for his family.

The news came on the telly - all politics and gas. The gas is going up. What a surprise. I suppose that it is about the time of year for Russia and the Ukraine to start playing their political games over gas supplies too! I had the rest of the stew when I got home. I cheated with the nokedli and just dumped them in and warmed them through with the stew. It is quite alright to serve them the next day, but you are supposed to pop them back into boiling water for a few minutes or else sauté gently in a little butter, without browning.

8th December 2009

Keith Kohl with some sobering facts about oil production. And an interesting interview with B. J. Doyle (a.k.a. Rockman on The Oildrum website and whose posts I read with interest as being from someone really in the know).

Another quite unpleasant day - cold and damp. Certainly cold and damp enough to curtail outdoor activities so I contented myself with more of the computer work, a bit of a blog update and some work in the kitchen. Jozsi had already said that he would not be here today, so I managed to eat and organise myself before going to the pub! Hobo was missing. Quite unusual for him not to be there, but not unheard of. I wasn't on my own for long, as John turned up. He is getting the hang of coming out a bit earlier too, having missed the pub a couple of times when they shut really early. They shut fairly early tonight as well - half past eight. When I got home I checked something on the computer and found that I had been given - in a very roundabout and circuitous way - a correct answer to the 1st December thing about snow. I quote:
Now the First of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Lord, the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go
It is, of course, from "Sweet Baby James" by James Taylor. I have actually been along that road. No snow though - it was August! No cattle or cowboys, either.

9th December 2009

James Howard Kunstler on the Whiskey And Gunpowder site, which is a fairly unusual place for him to pop up these days. I quote: "People who are not knuckleheads will make the practical arrangements that they can. These will, by definition, be localized, small-scale, and non-global communities, doing what they would have to do anyway." Yep, that's what I'm doing!

I finally bit the bullet today and did a long overdue cleaning job. Me! Because the intricacies of the girding of the loins with pressure bandages and anointing with healing balms and soothing salves take place at opposite ends of the day I had been making do with a good strip wash and wipe round of the smelly bits. I had a proper shower today. Forty minutes! It took forty minutes, and I was in and out of the actual shower in about four.

Speaking of the leg, it is very much better. The ulcer is now down to about the size of half a pea and (touch wood) I am actually optimistic that it will be completely cured by the time I have to return to hospital on the seventeenth of this month.

Not intending to do any more outside jobs or manual labour for the day I got dressed in decent clothes. Not finery - that only comes out for karácsony and szilveszter. I had arranged to speak to the person in the UK for whom I was doing the word processing stuff anyway, and when we did speak it took an hour to ensure that all was correct. Thank goodness for Skype! Not only were we able to chat for nothing but as each section was amended and corrected I was able to do a direct file transfer via Skype, so they had it in the UK immediately.

I went to the pub at a reasonable time of day - half past six, maybe a quarter to seven. I had only been in there a couple of minutes when John turned up. I think we were both thinking the same thing. Get in there in time to have a leisurely two or three before they kick out at eight o'clock. Wrong. They were having a skittles evening. Twenty, maybe twenty five sitting down for a meal and then skittles and plenty to drink afterwards. John bit the dust at about ten. I struggled on until half past, then called it Wednesday. Managed to cycle home without falling off or riding it into the ditch though. Still managed not to forget to anoint with healing balms and soothing salves as well, but I was not long out of bed after that.

10th December 2009

I started in on the embroidery of the knitting project. Oh, not good. Not one of my stronger skills. Mainly because I have done very, very little. I got a bit done. Including one bit three times before I was satisfied with it. I put it away before I lost my temper with it.

Having given myself a long overdue clean yesterday I tackled some equally long overdue large items of washing today. Mmmmmmm - long overdue!

Just after lunch I made up a mixing to do the final bit of sealing up the gap round the new outhouse doors. I never even had time to dollop any in when Hobo turned up and told me to get on with something else - he would do it. No problem. I had plenty of other stuff to do anyway. I went back to a nice little bit of woodworking when the drill packed in. Cable broken up inside - again. I stripped it all out, chopped out the bit where the clamp always breaks it up inside and went to find the soldering iron. In the midst of this Jozsi turned up, and without even asking just went and found the spade and went digging. Bugger, I discovered the soldering iron still has a British plug on it and my one and only Brit=>Hungarian adapter was where I did not want to disturb it - on the alarm clock. Oh well, I had a spare Hungarian-type plug. Change the plug on the soldering iron. Whipped the British one off and started on putting the Hungarian one on. Blast - all the wires were the wrong length. I chopped them off, stripped the insulation and stuck them in their respective holes. I didn't much like the looks of the way the screw which grips the earth wire was not. Gripping, that is. Off it came and I stripped off more insulation so that I could make a little wire loop so that the screw would grip it all round. Now, what I would normally do at this stage is to run a little solder into the eye to make a nice firm hard eye for the screw to go into. Errr, major problem! It was the soldering iron that I was working on! Anyway, I got all the wires nicely screwed in only to discover that I had forgotten to put the outer cover onto the wire first. Out it all came again, on went the cover of the plug over the cable and back went the wires - having to remake the eye for the earth wire in the process. Finally, success. I plugged it in, waited a while and then rubbed the solder against the bit. Nothing. I held the soldering iron up about an inch from my face. You can normally feel the heat from the soldering iron by doing that. Nothing. Tested it with the solder again - still nothing. Bugger. In desperation I took a quick dab with a finger end on the long parallel part that leads to the bit. I felt that unmistakable sizzling sensation as the heat erases the fingerprint pattern from the end of a finger. It is still erased now, as I type! Not painful, just annoying. The problem turned out to be that the bit was not clean enough to accept the solder. I worked around it by using the heat from the iron to heat up the wires in the drill that I was trying to join and using the solder directly on the wires. That worked, and in a few seconds the insulation was back in place and in a couple of minutes all the screws were back joining the two halves of the drill. Only to find that I had not inserted the sleeve that the cable goes through back into its hole in the bottom of the handle. One of those days. At least it now works again. Until the next time that the cable clamp breaks the wire. I might just invest in a couple of metres of decent stuff and replace the lot. By now the light was fading. Jozsi returned from his digging. I put all the tools away having achieved only a now-working drill, and we all went to the pub.

After yesterday evening I was not in there overly long. I wandered home to find the alarm clock flashing twelve o'clock at me. Must have had a power cut. Strange - there wasn't one in the pub!

11th December 2009

A powerful and depressing piece from John Michael Greer. It makes uncomfortable reading. I would recommend that you all read it!

Cold and miserable again. Miserable and cold. And the forecast is worse! With the house warm I settled down and finished off the embroidery on the knitting. I have to say that it got better as I went. I was pleased enough with the outcome. I doubt whether the recipient will be. Well, he is not yet one year old :)

I filled the wood baskets early, in anticipation of having to light the stoves early. Then I sat in the warm and did that last big blog update. Still (relatively) sober. There was a power supply problem whilst I was doing that. The house lights kept flickering, some times for several seconds at a time. Every time it happened my ADSL router rebooted itself, only sometimes if it was only a little flicker it just hung. So then I had to power cycle it myself. Eventually we had a proper power cut. Only for about five minutes, but a complete outage. The laptop battery just about hung on for that length of time. I think the Americans would say it was FUBAR. It will last a maximum of about ten minutes now. It does not fill me with optimism for the future of pure electric powered cars. I mentioned the old fashioned milk floats way back in October last year. The lead/acid batteries went on for years. In fact I was looking at a twenty four volt wind generator on line at some stage, and they supply lead/acid batteries with a fifteen year guarantee. They didn't quote a price though!

Hobo appeared, to remind me that the pub was shut this evening - a private function for all the skittles teams that use the alley. He said he would try and arrange to get me in the back and would ring me if it was on. He never rang. I had enough beer at home anyway and just took an early night.

12th December 2009

A cold, cold morning and a few flakes of snow lay on the yard. Not enough for a covering, but the yard had got cold enough overnight that they stayed where they had fallen. As usual over breakfast I checked the weather forecast for Szombathely. It's a seven day, very brief forecast and it does seem to change daily as we go through the seven days, so really it's a bit of a guessing game but it is normally a reasonable guide to the trend of the weather. It was bleak! Minuses by day and by night for several successive days and snow forecast. I could foresee all the garden work coming to an end, and - pending finding a suitable little stove - work in the outhouse would no doubt be limited to short periods.

Hobo and Jozsi turned up. Well, Jozsi turned up and I set him to pollard the barren walnut tree, and then Hobo turned up and went to help him. Between them they made sure that the huge chunks of wood that were destined to be pruned away did not fall across the neighbour's fence. I know that people take an interest in the gardening side of things, so here are some pictures:
This is the original bit - the bit that was ploughed. Only is now extends two or three metres further back towards the house than was ever ploughed. It's still not enough. I want it to be about fifty percent bigger yet. Then I want to extend the camping lawn up as far as the dug bit. Winter Digging
Winter Digging This is the area, again much extended, where the strawberry patch was. Totally overrun - will have to start over in the spring. The weeding is going to continue to be problematical for a long while. All I can do is to keep bashing them back and bashing them back in an attempt to prevent them from re-infesting the garden areas that have been cleared.
Here is the walnut tree before its haircut. You get an idea of scale, as Jozsi is there preparing to start the hair cutting and he is quite a tall chap, probably about five foot eleven. Walnut Tree Before Pollarding
Wild Bird Food Whilst Hobo and Jozsi were attacking the tree I made some wild bird food, in the foreknowledge of the weather forecast. Lard and lots of various types of seed, pressed into a block and allowed to set. Now I just need to make the feeder.
The boys did about three hours on the tree. I stayed indoors and did some more knitting. By then the cold had got to them and they knocked it on the head for the day. We went to the pub in convoy and I bought them a beer. Have to confess I stayed rather long! Well, kicking out time actually :) In the course of the evening I mentioned the weather forecast to a English speaker and got back the answer "Well, it is winter, you know!". I'm not being sarcastic when I say that I really hadn't thought about it like that. It is only a few days since I was out there digging in just tee-shirt and jeans. But yes, it is winter. I got another little food parcel in the pub. To make up for my enforced absence yesterday the landlady gave me a jar of the stew they had had. Once home I lit the kitchen stove, heated half of it through and made another quick batch of nokedli. Very nice it was too, and I still had a half a jar left for tomorrow. I settled down and watched a film after that, so was very late to bed.

13th December 2009

Jozsi and Hobo turned up again towards the end of the morning and did another two and a half hours on the walnut tree. They seemed to be making reasonably heavy weather of it, and it was not until I used the bowsaw myself that I found out why. All the set had gone off the teeth. The blade was sharp enough but with no set on the teeth it would just bind in the cut. Another little job to sort.

It was even colder today and it was only just after two when the tree trimming came to a stop. A repeat of yesterday, and we withdrew to the pub. I made sure that it was not a repeat of yesterday, though and was back home and settled in for the evening by five thirty. The rest of the stew followed, and as before I had made enough nokedli for today as well. One egg seems to make just enough batter for two servings for me - ideal. I have no idea where to buy half an egg, though, if I did want to make a batch for just one meal.

I did a bit of Internet work for an associate, and then I was in bed by nine thirty to make up for last night.

14th December 2009

We had had a good dose of snow overnight:
The tarmac parts of the yard were not quite covered. It must retain more heat than the rest, but everything else was layered with a good sprinkling. Snow

In spite of the cold I had a quick snowball fight with Pickle when I let her out. Just like another dog that I had she will attempt to catch a thrown snowball, and if she misses will attempt to locate it in the snow. The dopey bugger I had before would dive into a freezing river after a snowball. A Weimaraner, he was. Green eyes.

For the first time I had to follow the Hungarian advice I had received almost at the end of last winter, and I made a small fire in the cserepkalyha in the morning just to top the heat up. I should have bookmarked it so that I could link to it, but I didn't, so you'll have to do with my description or search for it. I found and read an article on the Internerd about masonry stoves. It was absolutely right about what it said about them being such a wonderful heat store. And it was absolutely wrong about how to use them. It emphasised "clean burning" of the fuel. I.e. letting it have as much oxygen as it wants so that you get a swift conversion of fuel to heat and little pollution. Yeah, OK, I can go with the pollution bit, but my own experience, observations and advice received indicate that that is precisely the wrong way to use a masonry stove. A simple knowledge of the laws of physics (i.e. heat rises) indicates that by doing that, all you are doing is sending the heat up the chimney. Local lore is that you should absolutely prevent as much heat as possible from going up the chimney, keeping it working quietly away within the confines of the stove itself. You get a good blaze going, and then you shut it down tight. Of course, a little oxygen creeps in around the edges - enough to give a nice red hot smoulder of the wood in the stove. But the heat gets transferred to the actual bulk of the stove. I don't think I ever said, but the stove is at least two tons (or tonnes if you prefer) in weight. Makes a UK storage heater look a bit sick, doesn't it!

I began sewing up the seams of the garment. Oh, how I hate that job!

Later, I had only just got in the pub when John arrived. He had a bit of a problem at home as his door key had snapped off in the lock. After clearing up a misunderstanding we had a conversation with Hobo, who had a couple of conversations with other people which resulted in one of the regulars disappearing and reappearing within a couple of minutes armed with a carrier bag with two brand new locks of different lengths and a couple of tools. He and John disappeared back into the night to reappear some while later with John's problem solved. A new lock, with spare keys fitted at gone seven in the evening. The village skill sets never cease to amaze me, and, as ever, if it is a real emergency it happens right now. I have to say that they are very good at categorising what constitutes an emergency. House unlocked - emergency. Drains blocked - ah well, you'll manage. And I did.

15th December 2009

I'm not sure if this Dmitry Orlov article is meant to be tongue in cheek, or not. Unfortunately Dmitry has a good track record of being right!

More snow overnight, and the yard was completely covered this morning. Sub-zero temperatures all day. I did a load more stitching up of the garment. Garden work is almost certainly finished now until late February at the earliest I reckon. Hobo and Jozsi had already said that they wouldn't be doing any more whilst the weather was like this. Can't say I blame them.

I had some fun with Pickly dog. I don't know why, but she has adopted the skittle ball that Hobo gave me and was chasing it round in the snow with her paws. It accumulated snow as it went and Pickle then ate the snow off it. If I went anywhere near it she got very, very protective about it. A real growl. I would sneak up from behind and give it a kick when she was not expecting it. Good fun.

I filled the wood baskets early, then went to the pub for an early one. The landlord plonked a "pici Hubertus" in front of me, on the house. Which was nice. There were only me and one other regular in there. Situation normal, I did end up staying over long so nothing else got done today.

16th December 2009

Cold, with just a sprinkling of snow. Too cold for anything much outdoors. Once again I did the Hungarian thing and made a small fire in the tile stove in the morning, just to keep up the heat.

There was a village meeting in the Faluhaz at six in the evening. Mr. Plod gave a little talk - the same two Plod that came when my bike was stolen. Then the village factotum gave a report, then the mayor and then AOB, which was short and sweet. As ever, I understood little, but I have to say more than I did last time. It was encouraging that the mayor actually acknowledged my presence with a nod. Of such small gestures is esteem built. The discouraging thing was that there were only eighteen people from the village actually bothered turning up.

About four or five of the people at the meeting were pub regulars, so guess where they went. I went home! To stoke up the stove and collect the bike. Then I went to the pub :) Hobo was already in residence at the usual table, and it happened that fa szakember, his drinking buddy and the local fire chief also ended up on the same table. I had half an eye on the telly and half an ear on Hobo (the left ear, of course - I'm more than half deaf in that one) when I heard the local fire chief, who was having quite an animated conversation with fa szakember, mention "vilag olay" (world oil). Of course my ears pricked up, and when he saw my interest the local fire chief said "You understand?". "Yes" said I. "That's why I'm here!". I may quite easily have the wrong end of the stick, but I reckon that the local fire chief is Peak Oil aware.

17th December 2009

Hospital day, and somewhat of a pain in the rear. For one thing Hobo had tried - unsuccessfully - to find me a lift into Körmend. What followed from that was that I had to catch the seven o'clock in the morning bus. I dragged my heels as long as I could in town but still ended up at the hospital by nine thirty. It was packed! Partly, I think, as a result of the dermatologist not having been there at the start of the week. She was, believe it or not, in Liverpool for a few days. The wait was interminable. It was after twelve before I was seen. Ah well, it had its compensations. She took one look at the leg, said "Oh yes!", and discharged me. Unless something unforeseen happens she reckoned that the leg would be completely healed in a matter of days. I left with the inevitable presciptions nevertheless - enough dressing-type stuff for probably a month. I'm hoping that it won't be that long!

I did a series of shop raids, stocking up with essentials, and non-essentials to see me well into the new year. I had intended to catch the half past two bus back to the village but Hobo's mum and her husband came into the cellar bar and persuaded me, whith great reluctance on my part (Ha!) that it would be much better to catch the half past three bus. It is, actually, much better. The half past two one is invariably packed and standing room only, the half past three one is usually half empty. And so it proved as we were able to ride in comfort back to the village.

Later, in the pub, they were having one of the several skittles social evenings that they hold at this time of year. I guess there were about twenty of them. One guy had an accordion case. I reckognized him from last year and decided that this year it simply was too good to miss, so I cycled rapidly home and grabbed the i-River. I present for your delight the worst pub singer in the world. I make no apologies for just including it as a link. I had a quick look at embedding it. Most of the methods of embedding either won't work on my architecture, or use the <embed> tag, which is not W3C HTML compliant. I simply do not have the time to tinker. It's quite a noisy recording, with a lot of background chatter but a couple of times you can really get the idea of just how bad he was. One young village chap came in, took one listen, turned his back towards the performer and crossed himself so that we could see. Raised quite a laugh at our table.

18th December 2009

The Second Part of the John Michael Greer series. Not as compelling as the first, but I suspect that it is scene setting for what is to come.

Lots of housework. It was actually quite a nice day out but it was bitterly cold. Too cold for outside work, except for the inevitable stocking up of the log baskets. I kept the kitchen stove ticking over all day, and once again the tile stove got lit for a short while in mid-morning to give it a heat boost. I swept and mopped right through and did some general clearing and tidying.

On my travels I did manage to get this picture:
Pickle Guards Her Skittle Ball I mentioned how protective Pickle is of the skittle ball. Here she is in her "I dare you to try and take it off me" pose. She does spend a lot of her time outside playing with it and rolling it around in the snow on the yard.

Later, in the pub, the landlord left a channel on that has a sort of a magazine programme after the main news, simply called "Map". It covers all sorts of topics from all sorts of places. One of the items was a report on Steve Wright's Christmas web site. There was another, smaller skittles do tonight. Another accordion case came out. What a relief - the guy could actually play, and left the singing to the rest of the gathering and they did some traditional Hungarian songs in fine voice.

19th December 2009

I was up early and in the shop by seven thirty. By heck it was cold! And snowing again. Once home I put the kitchen thermometer out on the window sill and left it for a while. Minus eight! The kitchen stove went on and stayed on all day. It kept snowing and there was a fitful north easterly breeze that drifted it in plumes off the edges of the roofs. I did some cooking - sesame seed biscuits - which I have to say were less than a success. I won't be using that recipe again. American recipe - all cups and tablespoons. How the hell do you measure a tablespoonful of margarine, for goodness sake? Or golden syrup for that matter? And how big is a cup? Give it to me in ounces, or grammes even. Should have known. Next time I'll just modify my tried and tested biscuit recipe and see how I get on. Can't be any worse. I baked them on a well oiled baking tray. They just went "blob" into one amorphous mass that filled the baking tray. And they stuck like sh*t to a blanket. I had to put the baking tray on the heat on top of the stove before I could peel them off. Grrrrrr!

After lunch it was still snowing. Snow or no snow I had to have eggs. With wellies and thermal socks, biker leather jacket with three layers underneath, thermal hat and the heavyweight winter biking gloves on I trudged up the village. There was no way that I was even going to attempt the bike, although what traffic there was, including the bus service, continued to thread their way up and down the village albeit at a reduced pace. Bit of snow? Life just goes on. Most of the pavement had been cleared once during the day, but odd places not. It was hard enough going in those places to keep warm. Here and there people were continuing to clear the snow from their paths and their bit of the village footpath in spite of the fact that it continued to snow. One of them was the guy that scythed my land all that time back not long after I first got here. He has always been friendly since, and I stopped and had a quick chat to him. Then on up the hill for the eggs. I got fifteen today - enough to last me over Christmas. They are still much cheaper in the village than they are in town. I had looked at them in the Spar shop. Three hundred and eighty forints for ten. Three hundred forints in the village.

I called in the pub for one on the way home. There were two of us in there, including the landlord :) The village guy that I could never get to turn up and do some work was there at the pub working. Shovelling snow. It was still snowing. He would clear the yard and the pathways up to the pub, them come into the pub for a drink. Then he would go back out and clear it again. I stayed for a couple and a few locals came and went, coated with snow. I was home just before half past four. The old lady next door was scaping the snow from her pathways, as were the people over the road. It was still snowing. That was it for me for the day. I had lit a late morning fire in the tile stove to keep the heat up, and to my amazement there were still enough glowing embers in there that, without recourse to any form of ignition, I was able to have a fire going again in a matter of a minute. I settled down with a couple of beers at home and watched a couple of films.

20th December 2009

I awoke to a very different morning. After breakfast I took the camera out to record the aftermath of yesterday:
Looking down the village... Snowy Village
Snowy Village ...and up the village. And these pictures are straight from the camera, so yes, it really was that blue. I suppose if I had used a skylight filter it would have knocked it back a bit, but I used no filter at all. It was just one of those crisp, clear days.

I did a bit of housework - cooking related. After yesterday all my efforts from a couple of days ago were completely in vain. Bits of snow and muck were paddled all over the hallway and kitchen. Just impossible. Many of the houses have what would be called the summer kitchen in what you might term the same place, or instead of, a hallway. That is actually a much better arrangement, as there is space to segregate outdoors from indoors and enough space for stools or chairs to allow footwear to be changed there. Those who have seen my hallway know that it is quite small (and quite busy). I made a start on the last little bit of knitting for the current project. I wanted it finished today. The knitting, that is. It would still need to be sewn up.

After that it was more of the normal routine: log baskets, eating, changing and going to the pub. I thought I had gone quite early, getting there a bit before six. Not a bit of it - they set a new lap record of closing at seven fifteen. I managed one beer. I did manage to catch the weather forecast, and it was as I expected. The skies were still clear and the temperatures plummetting. The forecast was for minus fifteen overnight! I had what I think was a new experience for me on the way home. It was so cold that my breath formed a frost on my moustache and beard - you know, like those pictures you see of arctic explorers! I got home to my nice warm house where I made a most unwelcome discovery! I had left Pickle with the run of the hallway and kitchen in anticipation of the arctic conditions. Of all the things that she could have had a go at she had chosen a set of five identical items that were destined to be (late) stocking fillers for my family. More as a curiosity and amusement than anything else. They were utterly beyond redemption - bits all over the hallway. Nothing was salvagable. She was somewhat soundly chastised for that.

21st December 2009

An interesting article from the Daily Bell. Sort of Peak Oil related.

I went to the shop not overly early and just managed to get a half of the last loaf of bread in the shop. The cold took my breath away there and back. I stuck the thermometer outside, in its usual spot on the kitchen window sill. Once I had the kitchen stove going and a bit of warmth coming into the place I retrieved the thermometer. Minus seventeen!!! Shit! I got this:
The ice patterns on the inside of the house door window. You know, when I were a little lad the bedroom window was like that every morning that there had been a frost. You used to rub a little circle with a finger tip and make a little spy hole to see what the world was actually like outside. Must admit, for the first time the tile stove struggled. I was warm enough in bed, but once out from the (rather thin) duvet it was distinctly chilly in the room. Frosty Window

I had a nasty surprise when I switched the computer on. Last night I had done what I normally do, which was to pull the plug on the ADSL router, tell the computer to shut down and pull the plug on it, too. I had pulled the plug and it just went "OFF". This morning, when I switched it on, it had very conveniently forgotten all my desktop settings. I had to relaunch all the stuff that I expect to launch automatically and re-configure the desktop and the applications panel to behave how I had patiently taught them before. Pain! The battery is an ex-battery, it is deceased, it is no more, meghalt accumulator, popped its clogs. Oh well, it will just have to be a mains-only machine then. I'm not about to pay loadsa money for a new battery that would probably buy me a third of a brand new stove for the workshop!

Having finished the knitting on the previous project, I plunged into a new, somewhat urgent one. It has to be finished by Christmas Day. Apart from firewood, and cooking that's all I did all day. And a good session of it in the pub too! Speaking of which, I met up with Hobo in there (of course) and he told me that it had actually got as low as minus twenty five during the night! Anyway, by the time I achieved my objective of having all the ribbing done on the knitting I had a definite case of w**ker's wrist. Worker's, you dirty minded buggers! Worker's wrist.

We piled out of the pub, a bit before he got ratty with the skittlers who were outstaying their welcome a bit (village lads) and a gritter pulled up outside. Odd! They had left the roads well enough alone whilst they were covered with packed down powder frost and now they send a gritter out? As I walked home it came to me. The forecast is for much milder weather tomorrow, possibly with rain. The road surface has to be seriously sub-zero by now, and so a shower of rain would turn the whole lot into a skating rink. Instant black ice. So, it appears that the gritters work in exactly the opposite way that they do in the UK. They grit before it thaws, not before it freezes. Logical, considering the conditions. Speaking of which...

Late in the day I caught this on the Beeb website. Pitiful, absolutely pitiful. If people cannot control a car in that amount of snow then they simply should not be driving!

22nd December 2009

The promised big thaw came overnight. By morning the road surface was just mush and slush. Well, everywhere was really. It turned into quite a pleasant day. The sun came out from time to time, and there is still warmth in it.

After breakfast I knitted. All morning. There is a three day deadline on this one. Has to be finished by Christmas day. I will be well pleased when I can put the needles aside for a couple of weeks and just do some other stuff. There is plenty of other stuff!

I grabbed a "just in time" lunch, and set out to get the bus to town. I was still eating the lunch on the way to the bus stop. Hobo's mum and her husband got on the bus to go into town at their stop. Goodo! I had a question for her. She was amongst the first to get off the bus. I, being the gentleman that I am and having stood aside to let several elderly ladies get off, was somewhat behind them. I managed, at a rapid hobble, to catch them up. "Tudsz hol vasarol marhafággyú?". "Nem tudom" was the answer. We were right outside the Real supermarket, so she shot in there to the butchers counter and was back in seconds with the answer "Nincs" Oh bugger - a vital ingredient and I cannot find out where to get it.

I went to the bank, and having drawn enough cash to see me over Christmas, punched through the multilingual ticket queuing system to see an actual person. I opened a new account. Stirling! Makes a lot of sense. I have already been hit twice with transfering money from the UK and ending up with a low exchange rate. I managed to make myself understood, and all was accomplished within a matter of two or three minutes. All this was precipitated by a minor (non) crisis with PayPal, with a larger crisis looming on the horizon. I have argued and argued with PayPal about this, but they will have none of it. Their system will simply not allow me to change the address for my UK VISA card from the UK to Hungary. It's good enough for my bank, and it's good enough for the likes of Amazon and many other on-line retailers, but apparently it's not good enough for PayPal. The crunch came when I ordered a certain item that was about three quid more expensive than my PayPal balance. The system is supposed to be that they get the rest direct from my account by direct debit. My UK bank (quite rightly) bounced the direct debit because PayPal still quote my ex-UK address. What did they do next? Charged it to my debit card! Which, of course worked fine. Idiocy and jobsworthness of the highest order. I think that at one stage they quoted money laundering at me. Yeah, right! Send Interpol round here! They will find that this is where I live and I don't have a washing machine in which to launder money. Nor even enough funds in the world to be worth laundering.

I went to the Spar supermarket after that. I was still thinking about the lack of marhafággyú. John had told me that The British Pantry in Budapest had sold out of mincemeat. Bugger, no mince pies for Christmas then. I had had a thought to just make my own mincemeat, hence the need for marhafággyú - can't be doing with the veggie stuff. It occured to me as I entered the Spar supermarket to just buy the rest of the ingredients and get the marhafággyú shipped out from the UK. I did try their butcher's counter. "Marhafággyú megvan?". "Nincs" was the reply. I even happened upon the distaff side of the English Contingent whilst in there. Unfortunately she knew not where to get hold of marhafággyú either. Ah well, the rest of the ingredients will keep.

I met back up with Hobo's mum and husband in the cellar pub, by (sort of) arrangement. I got my Christmas day invite, which was nice! I had my first beer of the day. Well, first beer in a pub anyway. But it was actually only my second. I had had one at home late in the morning to complement the knitting. I do it by targets, you know. "OK, when you've cleared up the dog shit in the yard you can have a swig of beer". You get the idea!

We had a couple and went to catch the twenty five past three bus back to the village. As we were walking along the parade of shops a bus hove in sight. We were still a good minutes walk from the stop. Too far away to read the destination plate on the bus. The husband legged it. Me and Hobo's mum got there as quick as we could to find the bus drawing away from the stop and husband panting. It was not our bus! Ours arrived after a couple of minutes and it was back to the village. Where I went in the pub for far too long before finally ending up at home.

23rd December 2009

I found this story about Tornado offering stranded passengers at London Victoria a free ride rather hearth warming, and certainly good PR on behalf of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust.

The thaw continued quite rapidly. The only place that snow remained was where people had piled it high when clearing their driveways. You would think that the drainage ditches would be full to overflowing with all the meltwater but it is so well draining here that the water just disappears. The sun came out for part of the day and it was really quite pleasant. There is still a little warmth in it even at this time of year. I did a bit of tidying up in the yard to take advantage of it.

After that I got back to the knitting again. I had just got into it when Pickle did her ballistic bit. It was John, back from Budapest and with a few bits from The British Pantry. To my surprise it included a couple of jars of mincemeat, in spite of his having been told that they were sold out. So mince pies for Christmas was on again! I hope some other expat didn't unexpectedly go without on my account!

A bit more knitting and a trip to the pub and that was about it really. Except to mention the leg. I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear that by now the leg ulcer had shrunk to about the size of the end of a match!

24th December 2009

An interesting essay by Vinay Kumar on Peak oil and the psychology of work.

I knitted. All morning. I was reckoning on just about having enough time to get it finished by tomorrow as it was to be a present for Hobo's mum. Just after twelve I wandered up to the pub, as you will remember that he shuts early on Christmas Eve. Me, Hobo and John had arranged to meet for a swift lunchtime one as there would be no evening session. We had had a couple when Hobo had a notion. He shot off saying he would be back in a minute. He was. He summoned me with "Gyere!" (come along). We went to the house right next door to the pub. Once there I knew the chap - he is one of the pub regulars. He has always been quite friendly towards me, but we don't talk much beyond the normal pleasantries. Anyway, we struck a deal and I left there in only a matter of minutes with a live rabbit in a box. Hobo just stuck the box on the ground by my bike saying it would be OK there. We finished our beers off at leisure. There was a bit of a last minute rush of regulars in the pub, and we finished off and wandered back down to my place, me pushing my bike, John pushing Hobo's and Hobo in charge of box of rabbit. By the way, in Hungarian there is no distinction between hare and rabbit - they are all just "nyúl".

Back at the house I made sure that Pickle was tied up well out of the way, and into the kitchen went box of rabbit. Hobo opened the box flaps just a little so that rabbit had plenty of air and a little light. Then he and John both left. Hobo is actually a bit squeamish about what he knew would have to follow if I wanted my rabbit stew! I have to say that I don't take pleasure in it myself. It is just an unpleasant necessary step in turning a rabbit into food. I won't dwell on it, but once done the rabbit was just meat as far as I was concerned. I set about the next bit. Have to say that I am well out of practice. I got quite good at it when I lived in Lincolnshire. I quite regularly used to find a hare on the kitchen doorstep. Strange - there were never any shotgun pellets in them! All the time I was dealing with rabbit the nursery rhyme "Bye Baby Bunting" was going through my head.

Of course, the length of time I was dealing with rabbit was lost to the knitting project and I realised that I had no chance of getting it finished in time. Ah well, I lost interest in it for the day and just settled in for the evening with a beer and a film. I would just have to make the apologies on the morrow. Oh, and there was no Posta today, either. Or at least I neither saw nor heard her.

25th December 2009

Christmas Day! My second here in Halogy. And much to do! I made sure the wood baskets were filled and that I had kindling for my return later in the day. After that I gave myself a much-needed haircut (thanks Nic). Showered, changed, did the leg (not quite completely healed yet), made mince pies and rang Hobo to find out what time we were expected. Then rang him again to find out how many people would be there (mince pies). That was it then, off out for the rest of the day. I met Hobo in the pub and we had a couple. I gave the landlord and landlady a mince pie each - just a gesture, but it resulted in a food parcel coming my way. There was a lot more in it than a couple of mince pies too, and I got a beer on the house.

We wandered on up to Hobo's stopping here and there to exchange Christmas pleasantries with various people along the way. The Christmas fare was much the same as last year. There was one big difference this year though. I didn't have to refer to the dictionary a single time!

Hobo dragged me away just before four o'clock as he was gasping for a beer. It gave me chance to have one also before wandering home to catch family in the UK via Skype and webcam which was great. Of course it would happen that whilst I was doing that more of the family were also trying to get me on webcam at the same time. Anyway, it got a little busy in that household so we arranged a session at nine my time, eight in the UK which was not too late to catch the grandchildren. I went back to the pub, and then returned at the appointed time (well, just after - you might know) and had another good session with family. Quite a pleasant day even though far away.

26th December 2009

Well, I hope that all of you readers of my blog had a happy, harmonious and safe celebration of the passing of the winter solstice in whatever way your particular faith, or lack of it, celebrates the passing of the winter solstice. I guess from the lack of any headline news on the subject that we have indeed actually passed the solstice and are not going to be plunged into perpetual darkness by the continued shortening of the days.

I quite deliberately chose to do no work whatsoever today. Well, work on projects anyway. I suppose it depends upon your take as to whether cooking is work. My take is that cooking is a chore - necessary if you actually want to eat cooked food. I suppose I could just have had an apple, walnut and raw onion sandwich. But then I would have had to peel, core and chop the apple, peel and slice the onion and shell and chop the walnuts. I did get as far as peeling, slicing and finely chopping an onion. And a couple of carrots. And putting the rabbit to cook in the slow cooker.

It was of course in the Christian faith the Feast of Stephen. My name day - and Hobo's! Before I started on that I delivered a leg of rabbit to John. He wasn't about so I left it tied up in a plastic bag on his door handle. After that I cycled straight back up the village to the pub. The sun was over the yard arm! I was about five seconds from the pub - almost under one of the windows - when my phone rang. I stopped and answered it. It was Hobo wanting to know where I was on our name day. I had a little wind-up with him and told him I would be ten minutes. Stuck the phone back in my pocket and I was in the pub in about ten seconds - to his astonishment of course until he clicked on that it was a wind-up. We had some beers, and a couple of freebies came our way on account of it being our name day. I lingered quite long, until I realised that I had left the slow cooker on high and it was quite full (there was a lot of meat on that rabbit!) and I would likely get home to find it boiled over all across the kitchen table. I need not have worried. It was fine and I ate a good portion.

I wandered back to the pub, to find that Hobo had bitten the dust. He had gone home and never reappeared. A group of the local youngsters appeared and came and sat on the same table. I knew them anyway and we had quite a chat. One of them was a very pleasant young chap - always is when he comes in the pub - who quite long ago had borrowed a bag of lime from me, which eventually came back as you remember. I confess that I had quite forgotten that he was a builder, and I don't think I ever knew his name. His girl friend was one that in the very early days of me being here had asked "Why?". I actually questioned them about whether they would prefer to be here in Halogy or somewhere else a bit bigger, maybe Szombathely. Their answer quite surprised me considering my experience of the UK, where generally young people don't want village life. Here in Halogy is good!

27th December 2009

I was ill. One of those shivery shakey things. I managed my toast and coffee in the morning, but all I had to eat all day after that was an apple. It was not a digestive thing, but I had no appetite nor desire to drink anything other than water.

The only productive thing that I did was to start the curing process of the rabbit pelt, which took up most of my day. Wash it out in warm washing up water and rinse thoroughly. Soak for an hour in well salted water. Gently squeeze dry. Then lay out on a board fur side down and sprinkle all over with a mixture of one third salt and two thirds ash. That was it. Leave it like that in a cool place for a couple of weeks. The website said a bin liner in the fridge. No fridge - it has just gone in the potting shed, which at this time of year is as cool as a fridge anyway.

I went to bed, partly clothed, and just sweated it out, alternately shivering and sweating and sleeping little. I finally got to sleep at about four in the morning!

28th December 2009

I was a little better today, though relatively washed out due to the lack of sleep. I was up in time to get bread - just!

I was not about to bust a gut with work anyway. I had made a concious decision to quite deliberately take it relatively easy between Christmas and the New Year. Nevertheless I did manage a few bits and pieces of work. Nothing heavy though, except carting in the log baskets. I neglected to tell you that since the relocation of the firewood store my supply of little oak blocks has reappeared. Of course they got well buried when the big lot of walnut firewood went in the store, but obviously the stuff that went in there first came out last and so was more or less at the front when I started on the stuff in the new store. I suppose by now I have amassed two or three cubic feet of little bits of perfect oak.

I made another needle for a stitch holder ready to pack up and send to the UK. I have four made now. That should hopefully keep my UK knitters happy. The needles are much much stronger and more flexible than the walnut ones I made. I might even go into production as a sideline. Knitting double ended stitch holders hand made in Hungary! I also got a fair bit done towards the bird feeder that I am making. Then I settled and did a bit more to the current knitting project.

Hobo came round to check on me. I had been missed in the pub the previous evening! I didn't miss this evening though, but I only had a couple and went home.

29th December 2009

Having enough bread from yesterday to last me I had made the decision to have a bit of a lie-in, not having to get to the shop particularly early. After a leisurely breakfast I was just setting my stall out to do a bit of woodwork when Hobo appeared. He asked me to tie Pickle up on a short chain, and whilst I was doing that a car pulled up, well known to me. It was "How do you do?" Láci, armed with chain saw. He threatened Pickle with it - joking, of course - then he and Hobo disappeared up the garden. There was much sound of chainsawing and in I guess somewhat less than an hour they reappeared. I did a monetary settlement to Láci - a thousand Forints plus a couple of beers when I see him in the pub. Just over three pounds - not excessive when you consider that included his petrol and oil as well. Oh, by the way, in case I forget to say elsewhere petrol and diesel has reached a new record high price here in Hungary. Higher than when crude was $147 a barrel. They disappeared, Hobo promising to return and wheelbarrow the now sawn up walnut into the other wood store for drying. It will need at least a year of seasoning before I use it on the kitchen stove. Must get an "after" picture of the pollarded tree. In a few years it will be ready to crop again. You never know, it might even begin to bear walnuts.

After lunch Hobo did reappear and spent the afternoon barrowing the wood down from the garden. About fifteen barrow loads I think he said. Probably last me about a fortnight or so in the kitchen stove. Whilst he was doing that I did some much needed housework, then some cooking. I tried out one of my new toys from Christmas - an oven thermometer. Hmmmmm - after about twenty minutes the oven had crept up to about a hundred and fifty Celcius. I needed it a bit hotter than that, so I gave it a bit of a stoke up and a bit more bottom heat. Whilst it was getting up to heat I knocked up a batch of shortcrust pastry. I went back and checked the progress of the oven. Blimey!! The thermometer was off the top of the scale. Somewhere about three hundred and thirty Celcius. Oooops - that was just a bit too hot. I left the oven door open a moment and it soon dropped back to where I wanted it to be. But it just shows the power of a wood burner! I made a rabbit pie. I said there was a lot of meat on that rabbit!

30th December 2009

Not much to say about today. It was cold. Not freezing, but cold enough to deter long work in the outhouse. In fits and starts I finished the bird feeder. I found what passes for a wall nail here and pounded it into the wall outside the kitchen window. It took some pounding too. I think that was the first time I had ever put something straight into the earth wall of the house and it took me a bit by surprise. Just as hard as hitting a fair size masonry nail into brick. I sacrificed a metre or so of the left over plastic coated fence wire and hooked up the bird feeder, arranging it so that if it does happen to get a bit of a swing on in the breeze it will bump the window frame and not the glass! All I need now is for the birds to find it.

31st December 2009

Goodness me! New Years Eve already. Where did the year go? Of course this evening was the Szilveszter Bál in the Faluhaz. I spent the day making sure that I was better prepared than I was last year. And on top of that there was no bread left in the shop. Fortunately I had fresh yeast at home. I spent four hours in the kitchen. Four Hours! I made sure this year that I had my own little picnic to take with me. I just read what I wrote last year about how they provided for me, but this year I was a good Boy Scout.

I started some yeast, then made a bread dough and set it to prove. I had to be a bit parsimonious with the yeast as I only had fifty grammes and expected to bake again over the weekend and also do something else today. The kitchen was wonderfully warm anyway but it still took some time for the dough to prove. I started another batch of dough which was for (I know not the Hungarian name) the equivalent of cheese scones. Any sort of a "do" and they are always there. Only they are not cheese scones. I have seen Hobo's mum make them, and basically just copied, but it is very labour intensive. Make a bread dough then once it has started to rise put it on a floured board and roll it out into an oblong. Grate cheese over the middle third then fold one end over and grate cheese over that. Fold the other end over, turn ninety degrees and repeat. About four or five times. Have you ever tried to roll out bread dough? It just wants to go back where it came from. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise. Once risen it's back to the floured board and roll it out about half an inch thick. Cut into scone sized pieces with a pastry cutter and put on a floured baking tray. They flour the trays here, not grease them. Cover and leave to rise again, then grate some cheese over the top and into a fairly hot oven - about the same as for scones. As I say - cheese scones, but not! I didn't use enough salt, so they weren't quite cheesey enough. Oh for some mature Cheddar!

I made mince pies as well. My new mince pie tray from the UK got an outing (thanks A!). Nice proper old fashioned ones with rounded bottoms. Not that there is a shortage of rounded bottoms here in the village, but not the sort you bake mince pies in ;)

Whilst all this was going on the bread had proved and went in the oven. Which was a bit fierce. It came very close to the "If it's black, it's buggered" stage, but I rescued it just in time and turned it round so that the other (uncooked) side could become equally dark brown. Still eating it today - tastes alright! Come the time to take it out of the oven I discovered that my non-stick bread tin is no longer non-stick! Bloody non-stick. Waste of time. Unfortunately, somewhere along my travels I lost my precious bread tins. I had six old pressed steel bread tins rescued from a closed down bakery. They were black, but not non-stick. Black through innumerable times of being oiled, having bread dough proved in them and baked in a real bread oven. They never stuck. And they were never, ever washed. Just oiled and the next lot of dough put in. Went off on one there! Where was I? The bread. It came out in one piece with a couple of hefty whacks this way and that on the work surface.

By then it was late in the afternoon. I had most definitely had (almost) enough in the kitchen. I wandered down to John's and retrieved one of my frozen kolbasz from him, nicely thawed out. With just a small fire going in the kitchen I stuck it in the oven to cook. I went about my ablutions and ended up with my suit on, never having found time yet to change my blazer buttons. I lost one, and you can't go to a do like that with a missing blazer button, now can you? Whilst I was changing there was what I thought was a knocking at the door. It wasn't. It was the detonations of a small fireworks display by the Faluhaz indicating the start of the evening. Remind me to talk about dogs and fireworks.

At the appointed time, in my finery and with my picnic basket (well, shopping bag) in hand I wandered down to the Faluhaz. It was early and there were not that many people there yet. I recalled my trepidation of last year as I went inside. It was different. Very different. In the first place there was nobody on the door collecting the money. Hobo had refused point blank to do it this year and nobody had stepped in to fill the breach. But the big difference was inside. Last year I think I was still an object of curiosity. This year definitely not. Last year I was treated and greeted in a friendly manner. This year I was treated as a friend and a villager. Last year I found myself an empty table so as not to intrude. This year I was guided to a table, and on the way there were handshakes with all the village men already present. It was a good feeling.

The evening gathered pace, with the same entertainer as last year doing the honours. There was much merriment and dancing with gay abandon. I might go on at some stage about the perversion of the word gay in the English language but I won't now. I had conversations, as best as I was able with my lamentable grasp of magyarul with a number of people that I had never spoken to before, and one such particularly pleased me. I was out in the smoking area, having a pipe of tobacco, when a particular chap joined me. I have seen him many, many times in the pub. We had never spoken. I had the impression that he regarded me with disdain. Not tonight. We had quite a conversation about village life, what I was doing with the house and land and so on. Small steps, small steps.

Eventually it was midnight, and all the younger people, with their access to modern technology, began to count down the seconds. Nothing happened. After about a minute someone rousted out the entertainer from the faluhaz kitchen and he dashed on stage and began to play Himusz. It was different again from last year. He not only played it but sang the words and so did more or less everybody else. I hummed it. I know the tune but not the words. All the right notes and in the right order - Mr. Preview. Who said something not quite like that? The local policeman turned up - on duty - and dutifully went around every single person there doing the handshake and kissing routine. Fireworks were lit and thrown outside. What I would call threepenny bangers. The fine is a thousand forints a bang. Mr. Plod turned a deaf ear. As before they had a tombola (raffle). I didn't win anything this year. Never mind - I still have one of last years prizes that I am hanging on to for a very special occasion. It was about three in the morning when I drifted on home. Not too worse for wear. Poor Pickly dog was starving hungry so even at that time I fed and watered her.

Even at that time I also decided that I should minister to the leg. No need!! At last, at long last it was completely healed. A belated "Boldog új évet" to you all. I have made a New Year resolution not to drink any more...

...I won't be drinking any less either.


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