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April 2008

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1st April 2008

I purposely didn't get involved in anything special when I got up, banking on the village hall being open and able to get on the Internet. Wandered on down there, and, sure enough it was all locked up - not a sign of anybody. Grrrrrrr! Went home piqued, and finished off assembling my kit spade. Very nice too, but I still haven't used it.

Just on the off chance, I wandered back down the village hall just before twelve. Glory Be!! The door was open and the lady was there. Although there was no commonality of communication, she knew that I was "The Mad Englishman come to use the Internet". The kit was right there at the side of me, turned on and ready to go. There wasn't a queue. I got stuck right in. My e-mail is being forwarded to Hotmail, so I logged in to see what the state of play was. Not too bad - 52 unread mails. I skipped through them, only dealing with personal ones needing replies. Good job I know my way round in Windoze, cos obviously it was all in Magyarul. Interestingly it was XP not Vista. Crunch time was what would happen when I went Start => Run => cmd. No probs - it opened a DOS box. It got interesting when I went ftp ftp........... All Hungarian, but the commands are the same, so I was able to upload the blog. Unfortunately my memory stick had eaten the update for yesterday, so you'll have to wait for that one.

The lady seemed to be getting a bit impatient with the time I had spent, so I knocked it on the head, only to find that she was actually trying to tell me that she was open anytime until 3pm. Ah, well, another time.

On the way home I remembered I had no bread, so I called in the Coop. They had no bread either, but they had flour. I had the makings at home so I bought a Kg of flour. They had lots of sorts and I didn't have a clue, so the lady in the shop chose. It was a good choice, as it turned out to be strong bread flour. I knocked up a plaited loaf, just big enough for me, and decided to try out the oven. A bit difficult seeing as the control is totally illegible. I went for it anyway. It's nice to know I haven't forgotten how. Last time I did that was in the 1970s - those that are old enough will remember the bread strike. It didn't affect the independent bakers, and with my contacts I was able to buy bread flour and yeast. For several years, Saturday mornings job was to bake six loaves (and freeze four of them). Oven was a bit fierce - turned out a bit over-brown, but very tasty and edible nontheless.

This afternoon I rescued some timber and started to make a stackable composting box. When I got bored with that I started clearing out the 'greenhouse' area. Had enough by 6pm so ate and went to the pub!

2nd April 2008

Started putting together compost frame this morning. I'm aiming for 1.5 metres high, and by my rough calculations that should provide about 1 tonne of compost. The ethics of recycling has a whole different meaning here. There is very little officially in place, but I am using wood AND nails that have quite obviously been set aside for reuse. Come 12 o'clock I decided to see if the village hall was open as I wanted to check on a number of web sites. Of course it wasn't. I had to go into Körmend anyway. Needed to do a food shop, and with the best will in the world the village shop isn't Harrods Food Hall. By now it was pissing down, so I opted for the bus. Not as cheap as the railway, but not too bad. Considering that it was midday and from our little village, the bus got quite busy.

I had three objectives in Körmend, two major and one minor. The minor one was the food shop. Major No.1 was to get some cash. Shoved my card in the ATM and requested £75. I got two notes out. One was a Ft 20,000 note = about £65. Hmmmm - I think they will turn their noses up big-time if I try and spend that at the pub. Major No.2 was to try and obtain a copy of the Hungarian Land Registry entry to send back to the UK for legal reasons, and I seriously expected this to be a major challenge. I had only one hope in the town - the only place where I found English spoken. So I went to Tourinfo. "Angol vagyok. Beszél valaki angolul?" "Yes, I speak English". And so went for a few moments a convoluted conversation, because although the young lady spoke English, trying to get through the legalese of "Hungarian Land Registry" was a bit of a challenge. I ended up getting out of my bag the contract to buy the cottage and land. As soon as I showed her the Hungarian original the lights went on. She actually took me to the right department, spoke to a worker there and found out the procedure, helped me fill in the form and explained where to go, where to pay the money, and then where to go next. As she left, she said to me that if I needed any more help to go back to Tourinfo and find her. I can't explain how this helpfulness is just so obviously part of the national culture. The UK should take lessons! I expected some protracted stuff to enable me to get the copy I was after, but it actually took about ten minutes, and I was out of there with the proof that I want to send to the UK that I do own it!

Went for a beer and caught the bus back to the village. It was home time from school when we got to Nadasd, and about 150 children clambered on board. Well, it seemed like 150, there were probably about 20!! Obviously so normal.

Got home and decided to demolish the rest of the greenhouse. The centre post in the middle was an absolute a**shole - not only did it go about two-foot six into the ground it had a 'knuckle' on the bottom of it. I had to dig it out. Anyway I now have one post to take out, cos by 6pm I was knackered. I'll post during and after pics - you already had the 'before'.
Here's one of me from yesterday that I didn't get chance to include. Here I am trying to look more Hungarian than the Hungarians, recycling the timber from an old gate into firewood. No, seriously, the wood is perfectly good enough to make the sides of my composting frame. It's just a series of four sided bits that stack one on top of the other. They leave a gap of about half an inch between each lot, as I'm told that it improves the composting as it is an aerobic process. It is supposed to get up to between 50 and 60 C when it is working properly which kills all nasty pathogens, and decomposes pretty well everything to wonderful compost for the garden. Recycling wood

3rd April 2008

Well, today was a housework and gardening day. Did the washing - hand wash of course. It was a fine day, but a brisk northerly wind, so it never got that warm. Hung it out, dripping wet, and by 5pm it was all bone dry. It's five years since I have been able to do that, and there is definitely a difference when washing has been on a line and had a good blow. Just as good as fabric conditioner any day. I digress.

Farming boots on, and onto the land. It might have been ploughted and harrowed, but it never did get rotovated. The consequence was that about every third spadeful found the crap that had been ploughed in. It was bloody hard going - took me 45 mins just to turn over the first lot across the garden, and I'm still unfit, but getting better. I wondered how my knee would stand up to this lot, but the amazing thing is that the last time I had to pop some Ibuprophen was the day I actually arrived in Körmend. It was a worry, especially the digging, but the stratagem that sorted that was to dig left-footed. Normally I would dig standing on my left leg and using the right to propel the spade. I did find this uncomfortable - not so much painful as not having the strength to do the balancing bit. Changing feet fixed it. The act of digging is an extensor action and I don't have a problem with that: cycling, going UP stairs, etc., are all fine. No doubt Gilder would explain. Anyone heard anything from him by the way?

Having dug my row, I trenched it six inches deep in the proper way and planted a row of seed potatoes. I had enough left in that bag for another row, but I though "Bugger that" to the prospect of another trench like that, so I cheated. I just put a line down and used the mattock to dig a hole for each seed potato. We'll see which row fares best.

I have another bag of seed potatoes yet, so that will be two more rows. They can wait - I want to get some other stuff in first. I keep reminding myself to get some marigold seeds - apparently they are a very good deterent to things like carrot and onion flies.

By 3pm I'd had enough. Went for a pint! I'll see if I can get on the Internet tomorrow and update. Oh! By the way! The bugs are, according to my eldest, Pyrrhocoris Apterus, or Firebug.

4th April 2008

A gardening day. Knocked together a couple more of my composting frames, and then made a nice level spot for them at the top of my little patch of garden, which I have to say is beginning to look too little! Had mail from T-Com, regarding the ADSL. It was a lot of words for not very much really - they do like being wordy. Usual crap - "Here are your details. We will carry out a survey in seven days. You need the attached details to get on-line...".

That was the morning, apart from a wander down the village hall to see if I could get on the Internet. That was a No, then. More gardening after lunch. Peas and broad beans planted. Hope the bloody mice don't eat them before they grow. There really didn't ought to be any bloody mice the number of cats there are in the village. It's odd, they have a very different attitude to domestic animals in the village than they have in, say, Budapest. Animals there are pets. Here they are not. Cats are to keep vermin down, and dogs are to bark at everybody and anything - all times of they day and night. And of course one sets off another, so if I slam my door in a couple of minutes there are dogs barking at the other end of the village.
Not much to look at! It's not much to look at, but here it is at the end of today. The composting bin is far right centre. The places where it has obviously been walked across are where stuff is planted - much more to come.
I decided that I needed to go to the ironmongers shop in the next village and get a bow saw. There is just so much wood lying around all over the place and most of it is only fit for burning, such as the old greenhouse that I demolished. Gave myself a right fright - couldn't get in the outbuilding to get the bike out! I had got to the stage of big hammer but I tried the key one more time. Couldn't remember whether I had left it locked or unlocked, so I tried unlocking it. The key turned and the door opened. Bloody Hungarian locks - most of the old type are "double throw". The first turn of the key locks it, and the second turn locks it more - don't ask me why! I had obviously locked it, thought I hadn't locked it, and locked it again.

Went to the ironmongers, which wasn't nice, as it was in the face of a stiff wind. Got the bowsaw (I never had one of those before either). I chose the medium sized one. The little one looked too whimpy, and the big one looked too much of a beast. Easy ride home - wind behind me :) Had to try it out didn't I. I decided to see how long it would take to fill a log basket. 15 mins!. Oh well, come September I know that I'll only be sawing for about two hours a day!

5th April 2008

Today was a something and nothing day really. I knew that I had to do a Tescos and needed quite a bit of stuff (well comparatively). Started the day by scything down the long grass in the front garden. Front garden! It's about 3 metres straight in front of the house. The Hungarians regard it as a status symbol. You can guess where that leaves my status! What I could do with is a load of hardy annual seeds that like a north facing aspect - that would 'k em. The reason for cutting it wasn't the status thing (although it was noted). I wanted some relatively wet stuff to go on the compost heap. All the stuff I piled on there is just dry, and it won't compost as such.

Anyway, as I was off to do a Tescos, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, so on my way I did a little photo shoot of the village and some other stuff so that you can all have a better idea of my environs and a little bit more. These pictures don't fit in to the regular run of the blog, so I have tabulated them with captions and links to larger (but seriously compressed) versions. Couldn't be arsed to put the big ones in a proper HTML page, so you'll just have to use the 'Back' button...
Our Bus Station Our Village Hall
Here is our bus station. There isn't much in the village beyond this point. The buses
start at about half four in the morning, and the last one from Körmend gets in
just before 11 at night. There are about 6 serices a day - including Sundays.
Whatever happened to village buses in the UK?
This is the village hall. In magyar Faluhaz, as you can see. It literally means "village house".
The Village Mini-Coop The main street from opposite the village shop
The shop opens from 8am until officially 12:45, but like everything else, if they think
they are going to close, they just close. Not overly expensive.
This is looking up the main street from opposite the shop. You can see my house
second on the right, after the red fence, so you can see how close I am to the shop.
Village Church The top end of the main street, pub on the right
Church. Not a lot more to say. This is looking up the main street from near the pub (my local).
Water Tower Daraboshegy - the next village
Every village should have one. In fact every village has got one. This is the
water tower from where we get the icy cold, wonderfully pure artesian water
The next village across - Daraboshegy - is much more pretty and 'twee' than
Halogy. It's much smaller than Halogy and was at one time part of Halogy but
they put in a bid for independance.
Bunnies Daraboshegy - another view
See what I mean about 'twee'? This is the centre of Daraboshegy, with the Faluhaz in the background and a memorial
to some random Hungarian in the very centre.
Maybe for sale Tiny Cottage
This cottage on the outskirts of Daraboshegy looks unoccupied - I wonder if
it is for sale. Didn't see any signs.
Here is a really tiny cottage just on the outskirts of Körmend. Still
occupied by an old lady - I saw her pottering about. Makes me realise why
my place is called a "family house".
Hope you have enjoyed this little pictorial wander around the place. I hope that now you have seen the sights I will be able to use the IRiver to capture some of the sounds too.

6th April 2008

Sunday! A day of rest-ish. Decided to act on Tibor's advice about keeping the vegetation away from the fabric of the house, and have a general tidy up. I pruned the roses (probably to destruction, but they are well past their sell-by date and I doubt if they have been pruned for years). As a good neighbour I also removed all the yellow dandelion heads before they fill the neighbourhood with floating weed seeds. There were quite a lot.
I had done this and was sitting in the kitchen having a coffee when I saw movement. If it hadn't moved I would not have seen it. Camouflages well, don't you think. I had seen them around before but never had the opportunity to grab the camera. It's rather a surprise to see so many considering what an endangered species they are elsewhere. They are a bit lethargic at the moment - not quite warm enough for them. I'm happy enough to leave them alone and have an environment where they can thrive. I suspect they have enough problems with the cats - I already found one dead one. Livestock!
In the afternoon I put my potting shed and my newly purchased Tesco Value potting compost to good use, sowing six different varieties for planting out.

That was Sunday.

7th April 2008

It had rained overnight when I got up. Everything was damp and fresh. I had begun to wonder if I was going to get any rain. I am reckoning on a long hot summer, but it is a bit of a worry when perhaps it begins at the start of April.

With not much to do on the land at the moment, I decided to have another go at the derelict area where the greenhouse was. I sorted all the ex-greenhouse timber. One stack fit only for firewood, and another for "recyclable" timber. Took about an hour. I removed some old guttering that really didn' serve any useful purpose, particularly as that particular outhouse is coming down. Then I started to clear the patch. The first to go was the flowering cherries. Very pretty, but nobut a weed. There are plenty more to look pretty. Started scything down the undergrowth when the wind picked up, and the sound of thunder heralded another downpour. That put the mockers on that, then!

Did some indoor stuff then decided between the showers to see if the Faluhaz was open. It was so I spent twenty minutes bashing around the Internet. Sorry no e-mails - it wasn't that sort of a mission. Bank, exchange rates, blah-blah.

I took advantage of a gap in the weather to dash over to Bödő, the ironmongers (if that doesn't look right, try setting your character encoding to UTF-8 - works fine in my Firefox under Apache ;) ). Bought a sickle (sp?) and I wanted a sharpening stone. Not about to use my good flat one for that. Amazing how effective a bit of (almost) non-verbal can be. I just imitated the action of sharpening and made a swish-swish noise, and the guy knew immediately what I wanted. Bought some grass seed too for the camping lawn.

Went home and the weather held off enough for me to continue clearing the patch. Good job I bought the sickle, as the scythe gave up the ghost big time, the handle coming into three pieces. It was expected, it was rotten with woodworm.
Before, during and after! If you go back to March 24th, this is the same bit of land with the greenhouse on. I would guess it has taken me about six hours at various stages to get this far with this area. When I think of my first thoughts, it is amazing how much progress can be made on the priniple of "little and often". Still much to be done though. I'm going to enjoy taking that outbuilding down!
In the meantime, as I was hurtling stuff about on said patch, there was a call from the yard, and the English contingent appeared. Quite impressed by the progress. The conversation turned to plumbers, and as I had had a nasty thought about my early morning caller, I asked if they had already sent their plumber round. Thankfully they said No, they hadn't. Doesn't solve the mystery of my stroppy caller though. Anyway, it is now arranged that the plumber will call tomorrow. As a total aside, plumber in magyar is "visvezeték-szerelő", which literally translated means "water pipe mechanic". Nice!

Becky tried to ring me on the village public phone box, without success - no incoming calls apparently. So I went to the pub instead.

8th April 2008

I knew the plumber was coming, so I was up and about by 7-30. Breakfast, and not a lot happening. It was a cold and grey day, so I decided to work up a bit of body heat by digging out the drainage channel in front of the cottage. Apparently each household is responsible for their bit. I'm told that we can have torrential rain that pours down off the land. That's why my yard and my land is lower at the middle and there is a drainage channel that goes off the property. Same applies to what happens outside. Unless it has a clear channel to get away, it backs up and floods the road. Well, I did my bit, but next doors is, if anything, worse than mine was.

I'd just got stuck into that when CK's wife appeared shortly followed by a van load of plumbers. I think there were five of them! They sussed the job out in short order, and I was told that they would be back with the parts they needed. I sort of thought "Yeah, what day?". Shouldn't have worried, because within about half an hour two of them reappeared. The leak in the cellar was fixed within about ten minutes. The other job took them about an hour. By 11:30 all was done and they went rejoicing on their way. Nobody asked for any money yet.

In case they did, I thought that I had better have some money on hand. I had missed the post lady. "What", I hear you say, "has that got to do with the price of sprouts?" Well, I found out today that not only is she the post lady, but she is also a mobile bank, complete with a terminal in the back of the van from where you put in your card and get it accepted, and she dishes out the cash. It really does get better and better. Can you imagine that in the UK?

Went to Körmend instead and grabbed some cash. Whilst there I thought I would see what was happening with my bank account in Hungary. They have a multi-purpose queueing system, and when you go in you hit one of about six buttons and get a numbered ticket. Normally anything starting with a two gets dealt with by the very attractive young lady at desk four who I saw twice before. She wasn't there today, and the queueing system seemed to be haywire. People were going all over the place, and I was going nowhere. Well, eventually my turn did come up and I was called to desk six, where a very pleasant young man not only knew all about me, but spoke fluent English as well. Hmmmm! Obviously a queueing system where not only can they manipulate it at will, but also know who has what ticket, I think. Whatever - it worked for me. I got my Maestro card, my Internet Banking card and a full and careful explanation of how to use them.

Did a bit of shopping - including what will do nicely for a fermentation bin and went home. Grubbed out one of the flowering cherry roots. Bastard job! Four more to do, and that was only one of the small ones. Had a nice hot shower - bliss, not having to worry about flooding the cellar any more. Remind me to fill you in with some detail on the pub.

9th April 2008

Not much to report to the blog today, actually. More of the same this morning, which was a fine clear beautiful morning without a cloud in the sky. Did some grafting this morning (grubbing out another bloody flowering cherry - and there are three more to go, the big ones). Did some domesticals, had another fight with the dandelion population, and did some potting up and sowing of seeds this afternoon.
I thought these fellas came from South America, but I'm told by my zoological and botanical specialist (my eldest) that he's quite at home here. He is a tree frog though, and the ability of those little suckers on his feet is quite remarkable, as after I did my photoshoot of him on the tile roof I gently tossed him into a bit of undergrowth that I was not about to disturb. Where he went there was what I can only describe as a bit of straw - not a lot thicker, but his one front foot made contact, and that was it - there he stuck. Should this little fella be here?
For amusement this is where he went to. Well camouflaged isn't he:
Spot the frog
He's here!
Spot the frog

10th April 2008

More of the same in the morning, grubbing out yet another cherry root. One of the big ones. That's three down and two to go! One a day is enough. Spent some time nurturing my seedlings. After lunch had to go to Tescos as the tobacco situation was desperate but not serious! Went on the bus, cos I was too idle to cycle after the mornings exertions. It still involves a fair old walk from the town though.

I managed to fill the backpack up remarkably heavy again, and there was a hoo-haa at the checkout, cos I'd managed to obtain an item with no price on! End result was that I had to 'yomp' it back to town to get the bus. Made it with a couple of minutes to spare.

End result was, naturally, that I wanted a beer, so I got off the bus by the pub and went for a beer. Nothing unusual in that, I hear you say, but what followed was truely bizarre. Went to the bar and ordered my 'korsó' (pint), and as I turned away from the bar, one of the old boy regulars said "Arrrrre yuuu English?" (with the E pronounced as an E, not Inglish as we do). Well, I was somewhat taken aback to be addressed in a broad Glaswegian accent in a village bar in the middle of nowhere in Hungary! It turns out that Frank (which I suppose is what he got called in Scotland) was one of those who escaped at the time of the 1956 revolution, and he had worked for thirty years as a turner for Harland & Wolfe on Clydeside.

We had quite a chat over a couple of drinks, and some of the locals asked a few questions about why I was in Halogy. I tried always to find the magyarul words in the dictionary and answer them directly. I think this went down well - not that anyone here (apart from my mystery early Sunday morning caller) has been offish with me anyway. I'm always treated with friendliness and courtesy throughout the village. But I think they very much appreciate that it is my choice to come here, and that I very much like being in the village.

Having parted company like old friends, I went on home to explore my new purchases. One of the things I bought was a battery drill. Just my luck - I got the one without a bloody battery. That's an unscheduled trip back into Körmend, and the dealings promise to be good, with my opening shot being "I'm English. I don't speak Hungarian." We'll see.

Last off, my daughter Becky managed to get through to me on the village phone and we had quite a chat. Which was nice!

11th April 2008

Had a nightmare with my pendrive last night, so I ended up writing yesterdays blog this morning. That was most of the morning, doing computery-type stuff. It was blowing a hooli, although warm and dry, and the cyclists amongst you will know that the real killer on a pushbike is a strong wing, other than an uphill gradient that just goes on and on and on. Well, it was that sort of wind, so I chose the bus.

Legged it to Tescos, with my speech prepared. Went to the customer service desk - "Jó napot. Angol vagyok. Nem beszélek magyarul." get drill out, get receipt out, "Tegnap. Nincs akkumulátor!". Much clucking and chattering, one lady called another, who called what was obviously a supervisor from the shop floor, who clucked and chattered, and the second lady made a phone call, and a manager type appeared. Lady No. 2 explained the situation to him, and he got on his mobile, and obviously called his boss. He started spouting at me in magyarul, so I said "Nem értem!" and gave him my magyar/angol dictionary. He grinned, and so did I, and he flicked though the pages until he found what he was looking for. He pointed it out to me, and it meant replace. So I said Yes, good. And that was that.

Did a small shop - should have enough stuff now for a week. Legged it at a much more leisurely pace than yesterday back to Körmend. Bought a couple of postcards, again with the use of the trusty dictionary. The nice lady in the shop sold me the stamps too. She had a little table in the back of her stamp book that gave her the price to Nagy-Britannia. I wrote one to the staff and regulars at the Shelley, and popped it in the post. Just nicely in time to get the Halogy bus, where I popped in the Faluhaz and managed about 15 mins on the Internet. I'll be well pleased when I get my own connection!!!

Steve's Handy Gardening Hints NO. 1 You know that expanded polystyrene stuff that is packed round computers, printers, etc. With the aid of a sharp knife it makes wonderful pointy-stick-type seed tray labels that you stick in the edge of your seed trays so that you don't mistake your Pelargonia for your Brassicas.

I noticed a couple of things on the way to the pub. Firstly, they do their house numbering exactly as we do - odds on one side and evens on the other. Unusual, they normally do everything differently. The other thing I noticed - I don't know why it took me so long, but it struck me tonight - the houses on 'my' side of the road are all the ones where gardening is regarded as the growing of food. The other side of the road is the 'Joneses' (a-la keeping up with). They grow flowers and have cars and satellite dishes. Hmmmm!

I'm having a "Pink Floyd" evening by the way.

12th April 2008

When I woke it was bright and shiny, but by the time I had had my two cups of coffee for breakfast it clouded over, and looked like rain imminent. I had had a plan for rainwater for while, and as the rain looked set in I thought I'd go for it. There was this big polythene drum in the pigsty and I thought it would make an ideal water butt - just saw off the top. So I did. What had it had in it? Oil, or something of that nature. Bugger. I gave it a wash out as best I could with Tescos lemon washing up liquid, and I have to say it shifted most of it, but not good enough for a water butt. Ah well, I shall have to resort to stronger measures. It is ideal, as it has to be ten times the volume of what is there now, which is a rusty drum about fifteen inches across and two feet high, but has so many holes in it that it never gets more than about a foot of rainwater in it.

After that came the battle of the doors. As you will recall, I had one go at the front doors the day it snowed. Well, I decided that, as much better as they are, they aren't good enough. When they are shut you can pull the main opening one a good 4mm further shut. Easy - just move the lock plate in about 4mm. Yeah, right! Did that - the catch wouldn't catch, and as for the lock...

Some hour of measuring, chiselling and generally buggering about later, Glory Be, catch catches, and lock locks. Now to tackle the security lock on the same door. Same problem! Another hour. The "Leatherman" certainly worked overtime today!

Next off was the door to the main room, which has also annoyed since day one. Having lived in shared accommodation for the last twelve years, it has become second nature to come and go quietly. I still can't get used to living in a detached house, and the fact that I had to put my shoulder to the door and crash it shut jars somewhat. Something wrong with the bottom of it. I was not really looking forward to it, as it is a beast of a door. It's solid wood and is three feet wide, six foot four high and two inches thick. Fortunately the vast majority of doors here are "lift off" doors. That is, the hinges are just a single big pin on the frame, pointing up, with the door having the other half of the hinge which simply has a hole to receive the pin.

The door is big and heavy enough that I was not about to try and lift it off by sheer strength (I haven't got that much!). So some sort of mechanical advantage was called for. With garden mattock bought into play the door popped off as easy as you like. Fortunately the hinge pins are nice and free. Yeah, OK, I wonder what it's going to be like getting it back, thought I.

The doors in Hungary are different to ours, or certainly those of this age. The doors have the rebate, not the door frame. Having got it off I identified where I thought it was catching and set to with trusty shoulder plane to sort the problem. Half way through, or about half an hour, my mate Ray called me on the mobile. We chatted for a while. When I went back to the door I had one of those Simpsons moments - D'OH!! I had only been busy working away on the top of the door, when the problem was actually the bottom. Grrrrrr!!!

As soon as looked at the other end, I could see the problem - there was no rebate. So I made one. Then came putting the thing back on its hinges. At the second attempt it slotted on as sweet as a nut.

By the time I had done this lot my right thumb was really painful! Workers cramp, I think. You know - the thing you're supposed to stop doing when you retire!

I limited myself after that to a little light "potting". I've got lots of tiny green things being nurtured now, but at the moment they are all very insignificant and not worth posting pictures of. I'll do that when they are worth seeing!


13th April 2008

Sunday morning, up at 8am as usual. Not hot - sunny/cloudy. Got out on the garden just after 9am, and I finally got rid of the last two blasted flowering cherry stumps. Actually worked up a sweat! At least that is the ground cleared for digging and sowing the grass for the camping lawn.

Thought about continuing the dandelion war, but to be perfectly honest it's a losing battle. If anyone knows how to get rid of them, without digging every single one up, and without using chemicals then please let me know. Had a look at the veg. garden - not much happening there. Seedlings are doing well though. Even the ones that are living outdoors. I notice that I now have lettuce, onions, spring onions and I think the carrots are about to make a showing. I've decided on three separate garden patches - veg. garden, salad garden and herb garden. Plus the flower border if I can be bothered.

Put a load more stuff on the compost heap. I think it is starting to work already as you can actually feel the heat coming from it. I can't remember if I mentioned it, but the bacteria that do the work of composting work best at between fifty and sixty celcius, which is quite hot. It's that that breaks down any nasties that might get amongst the compost.

Afternoon, set out where the camping lawn is going. I got enough seed that it is supposed to do 35m2, so I have made it 5 x 7 metres, which looks quite big enough. I just have to get it dug, leveled and worked up to a fine tilth. Not really much more to report today, but I thought I'd share this with you:
What do you think? One of my rare treats is the occasional packet of crisps - big packet. This is the local brand. Does the artwork say the same to you as it says to me? As far as I am concerned, it absolutely shouts out "Walkers"

14th April 2008

Got up early. So early in fact that I couldn't understand why it was so dark when out of the windows was a clear blue sky. It was only when I went in the kitchen and realised that the sun was only just rising that it clicked. This would be about 7:30am. Breakfast. Out on the garden. Started digging the camping lawn. In three and a half hours (with a coffee break) I had managed one metre all the way across. It's not the digging - that's easy. It's the picking out of all the weeds that takes the time, and there are plenty! It should get easier - a fair bit of it has had a good going over getting the cherry stumps out.

Anyway, by going on one o'clock I'd had enough, so I decided to have a gentle bike ride to the next village the other way where I hadn't been yet. I planned to go the back way by the reservoir. It's shown on the map as a tourist route and the English contingent descibed it as one of their regular walks. I had no sooner left the village than I was on a dirt road. Well that is why I sold the racer in England and bought a mountain bike here. I followed the road, as I thought. If you look very carefully at the map you can see it is actually marked with a red letter K. I realised that I had got off the road to the reservoir when I was headed to the top of a hill - ain't no reservoir up here, thought I. I was only five or six hundred yards off course, and realised I should have taken the right fork, not the left, at the bottom of the hill.

I retraced my steps, and sure enough in about a kilometer I got to the reservoir. Very peaceful and tranquil. Odd places people were fishing. Might have to think about that - free food! I carried on, and in a short time was on the road to Felsőmarác. It appears to be a singularly boring village. I was not inspired a single time to get the camera out.

Steve being Steve has seen these black lines on the map, which roughly translate to a solid black line meaning field way drivable by car, and long dashed black lines meaning fieldway. So I decided to hang a left at the village pub in Felsőmarác and use the solid black lines to get back to Halogy via Daraboshegy. "Field way drivable by car". Yeah, right. Having gone far enough that I was not about to turn back, the field way drivable by car degenerated into a churned up quagmire that nobody in a car could have got through. To add to that, the map simply doesn't show all the similar tracks (logging tracks) that are in the forest, for by now I was most definitely in the forest.

After about twenty minutes the realisation dawned. "Oh, shit! Lost in the Őrség National Park!" Ah, well. I knew from the map that civilisation was no more than a kilometer away in more or less any direction. So I put the sun to my back and simply walked the bike through the forest until I came across what was obviously one of the solid black lines on the map. I knew that I had to go downhill, so I went downhill and sure enough within a few minutes I could see electricity poles and that only meant a village. I cycled into the village and within a quarter of a mile I knew where I was - Daraboshegy. Strangely, I had come into the village not more than a couple of hundred yards of where I was actually aiming for.

Anyway - map and pictures...
Map of where I went
Sorry about the state of the map, but I think my scanner is buggered. It does't seem to have stood the trip to Hungary very well
The reservoir The reservoir.
This is where the forest starts by the reservoir. Looks kind of nice and tame. Not when you get lost in it. Start of the Őrség forest
Field way drivable by car This is why I chose a mountain bike. This part is in the farmland and, yes, it is a fieldway drivable by car.
I don't think that I have ridden such conditions since I was a teenager. Hard riding. In places I was spinning the back wheel in the mud. Bike will need a good clean tomorrow (and putting back together - the front mudguard stays are flapping in the breeze!). Mucky wheels

15th April 2008

Very much a wet morning when I got up. I wouldn't say pissing down, but not far off. A good solid rainfall, with no break in the clouds. Time for some domestics and under cover jobs then. With no further ado, I made bread dough, sterilised my fermentation bin, and weighed out a load of sugar. Into the fermentation bin, make up to two gallons, add the juice of a lemon and a good dollop of gyömbér (ginger). Started off another lot of dried yeast, and as soon as it was acting strongly, into the brew. Two gallons of ginger beer - should come out about 6% alcohol.

I also made a discovery. I found an almost full packet af what, with the aid of my trusty szótár (dictionary) I found was dish washer powder. Now, if that will not shift oil deposits from my prospective water butt, I don't know what will. It did! Poured a good half of it into the plastic tub and followed it up with a kettle of boiling water. I could see the black caked-on deposits dissolving even as I poured the water from the kettle. I gave it all a good scrub with a stiff brush, and all the gunk came off. It is well stained from its contact with nasties, but I'm not worried about the staining. I turned it upside down to drain off, and tomorrow I'll give it a good flush out with plenty of water. I'll stick it under the guttering next time it rains and see if there are any oil deposits floating about on it afterwards. If not, I'll try the water on some selected plant life and see if it dies. If not - well and good, I've got a nice new big water butt. I could actually do with twenty or thirty of them for the summer!

Next job, which has been on the list for a while, is a lid for the compost bin. The heap needs to be moist, but not soaking, so it is better covered and add moisture of choice as needed. High nitrogen moisture is best of course, as those of you that are avid Blue Peter followers will know (or whichever Beeb program it was). I sacrificed one of the crap wood chisels to chop out the shape I needed. It didn't take all that long, but the chisel is, err well, not much use as a wood chisel any more! (I would have said buggered, but there might be children reading this blog!).

That went well until I came to move it to bend over the edges, and promptly took a slice out of a finger. Well, with the prospect of little people visiting from time to time that had to be fixed, so Leatherman was called into action again and every edge was smoothed, and when the sides had been bent to shape the corners where they folded together were smoothed as well. Nobody is going to come to harm on that!

Decided I ought to clean the bike after yesterday's escapade. Of course the inevitable had happened - puncture! It was obviously flat, and yet when I extracted the tube there was still pressure in it. I had a frustrating few minutes while I figured out how to stop the diddy little pump that came with it wanting to fit a continental-type valve, and fit one with a Schraeder valve. Sorted that, and put some air into it so I could find the leak. It was the tiniest, tiniest little hole, like one little bubble every five seconds, but there it was. It was barely visible on the tube, and I actually had quite a job making sure I patched the right spot. Eventually mended, front mudguard mended, cleaned and put away. I'll see if it is still inflated tomorrow.

In the meantime I managed to do a very quick Internet. Didn't have time to do a blog update - that will have to wait until Friday, but I did at least find that Barclays have at last transferred me some money to my local account. That will be another fun little escapade - sticking my card in the machine, figuring out which option it is to check my balance and changing my PIN. While I was at the Faluhaz I got a copy of some documentation that will allow me to register my presence here. At the moment I have the mains services, but no local services (read dustbin man and dustbin). It set me to wondering how long I could stay here before some sort of officialdom caught on. Not about to go down that route of course - quickest way to get chucked out once somebody cottons on.

That was today. Gordon Sumner (sp?) by the way.

16th April 2008

I was up bright and early this morning. Actually I was up before the sun was, at about 7:30. I was having my second coffee when the sun finally lit up the roof of my outbuilding across the yard, so I sat over my coffee and watched the shadow of the house slowly lower down the outbuilding until eventually part of the yard was in sun. Boots on! The digging was so much easier after the rain yesterday, and getting rid of as much weedage as possible even more so. I worked through until 10am, getting a reasonable amount done, then it was coffee time.

I found a note on the doorstep, obviously from the English contingent, detailing the steps I need to take, documentation, where to go, etc., to get residency. All very straightforward. Out of five documents I already have three. Of the other two, one is a 1,000Ft Duty Stamp available from the Posta, and the other is a non-official copy of the land registry entry for the house (another 2,000Ft). You may remember me saying about getting an official version. The only difference is that the official version has a nice little holographic sticker on it, certifying it as genuine.

I reorganised my day in an attempt to get as much as possible done towards this. Domesticals (washing) brought forward and got out of the way. I already needed to get into Körmend (tobacco again! and a few other bits) Cycle or Bus? Is the back tyre still inflated? Doesn't matter, already missed the bus!. To my surprise the back tyre was still inflated, so I grabbed rucksack and headed on out. It was a bit of a head wind on the way there. So much the better, I thought, tail wind on the way home. I got to where the road to Körmend leaves the main road, and you have to use the cycle path - about 1.5Kms out.

It hit me like a truck! Within seconds of getting on the cycle path to Körmend I was sneezing, eyes streaming. I actually had to stop, the sneezing fit was so bad. Got to be tree pollen - I still don't know which varieties it is that does it. It's 22:40 now and I am just about over it - hope the season doesn't last long!!! Result - missed the land registry office by about five minutes - blast!

Went on to the Posta where I bought the necessary okmánybélyeg (duty stamp) for my residency application. The security man there obviously took a dim view of me cos when I left the building he hung around watching me until I had unlocked the bike and left. Love it! I'll make a point of playing the English eccentric with my coat of many pockets, and wind him up every time I go in there until he grows up and decides he is on a loser :) After that I did Tescos, and that's about it.

A couple of quick asides, before I go to bed. Any Uni people that are following the blog - does Elliott have the URI? Secondly, I really need some montcalme brown seeds. Thompson & Morgan used to do them but as far as I can see, alas no more.

Queen BTW.

17th April 2008

Horrible morning! Cold, damp, overcast and always the threat of rain. Did't really give me enthusiasm for anything much. Too wet to dig. Washed out the plastic water butt and transferred the rainwater in the small current leaky one - well as much as I could. Still smells awful chemically though. Maybe I'll try it out on the dandelions first :) I gave up the dandelion war - loosing battle I'm afraid. It's very pretty, but once they seed!!! I suppose I could have made about 100 gallons of dandelion wine.

Had a look at the veg. garden plot - not a lot happening there, not even much by way of weeds. The pear tree blossomed, by the way. Nothing to look at really, it was a case of here today, gone tomorrow. It is much bigger than I remember it! I'll try to remember to check its girth at its base, but I am guessing at about seven feet round!

Tinkered around with this and that for the rest of the morning, not really getting anything much constructive done. Bit of a downer actually. Picked up a bit after lunch. Lunch was a blue cheese roll. Cheered me up considerable - first decent bit of cheese I've had. The local cheese is very mild. Oh for a kilo of Cheddar that takes the lining off the roof of your mouth!.

After lunch, the weather being not really any better, I started to have a go at the box that Dale has suggested to assist with learning vocabulary. He kindly provided the dimensions - it holds standard filing cards 13 x whatever cms. Designed by a Swedish language professor if I remember correctly. Finding the materials took best part of an hour, bearing in mind that this is all recycling. Much wood was looked at and discarded. If I wanted it to weigh 20kgs it would have been easy. After that I did some domesticals round the house. Swept out, mopped the tile floors, etc.

One thing struck me today. The big room, which is effectively my bedsit, i.e. where I sleep and write this blog, is without a doubt now the warmest room in the place, in spite of it being North-facing. Did you know this is a clay house? Same as cobb in the West Country. The outer walls are two feet thick. When it has been unoccupied as long as this one has, those walls get cold and they take a fair bit of warming up. By the way, did you also know that the main cottage is double-glazed? Well, it is, or it would be if any of the windows closed tight. A job for before next winter - make all fit, repaint, draught exclude. The windows are all softwood but the frames are hardwood - might have to do some replacement stuff on some of the windows, but the frames, in spite of years of neglect, are all sound.

Jan Garbarek - Officium. For those who don't know, it is Gregorian chant accompanied by saxophone improvisation. Sounds as though it ought to sound awful, doesn't it? It isn't. It is strangely captivating. I only heard one live performance of any of it, and that was at Canford school. Very effective. What year was that, James?

18th April 2008

What a different day to yesterday! Sunny, but not too hot. A bit cloudy to start with, but as soon as the sun started to get up that burned off. Definitely a gardening day. Made steady inroads into the camping lawn and I think two more days like today will see it ready to seed. Much still needs to be done with the periphery of the area though. I have my salad garden and herb garden to organise.

Had a walk up to the veg. garden. I have A PEA PLANT!! Still nothing doing with spuds or broad beans though. After lunch I carried on with the camping lawn until about 3pm, then I had a general outdoor tidying up session. (You wouldn't know it!)

Friday - Internet - Faluhaz! Had a shower and changed, cos I smelt like a goat. Speaking of which, I saw one the other day in Daraboshegy. It was about the same size as the one that one of the regiments uses as a mascot - huge. Bloody great curly horns, and about four foot at the shoulder. Wouldn't like to get the wrong side of it. Which regiment is that, James? I forget.

Faluhaz, Internet - 19 e-mails. One from a complete stranger who had found the blog. Intrigued to know how, but he was quite rightly having a moan about the navigation being up the shoot. I uploaded the updates. In fact I uploaded everything I could. Which promptly totally broke the site. I checked the file dates and they were all over the place. I checked my memory stick and that said the same - WTF? I wasn't prepared to lose another chance to upload, so I told the lady I would be back in ten minutes.

It looks like I am going to have to invest in a new memory stick. The files on it are all over the place. I even had to format it in the end, just to get the correct versions of the files on there. When I deleted everything, it simply truncated all the files to a zero length, but they continued to exist. Windose wouldn't get rid of them, Cygwin wouldn't, and neither would Linux. BTW, complete stranger, what you encountered with the navigation is part of the same problem - the left hand navigation was updated 1st April to take account of the April blog, but the old version wouldn't go away on my pen drive and broke the site. Unfortunately, I'm very time limited when I use the Internet at the Faluhaz, so don't have time to properly check that all is working. I need to kick some backside to find out when I can expect my connection here!

Went up the garden when I got home to find that I now have three pea plants and a broad bean plant. Time for the bird scarers tomorrow - I brought a whole plastic box of ex-CDs with me for that purpose :)

John Surman. Must take some more piccies!

19th April 2008

Had a something and nothing day really. It was too wet to dig after yesterday, and I really wasn't in the mood anyway. I did go up the garden and put up some bird scarers. Did some indoor stuff including baking bread - I really do like my home made bread. After lunch I spent a while on the woodworking project, and that was about all I did do today, except for going to the pub, of course.

20th April 2008

A much more productive day! I was up early, which is quite usual for me on a Sunday, to find that it was a brilliantly sunny day with not a cloud in a clear brilliant blue sky. What a day to be alive and living peacefully in a country like this! It had dried enough to dig, and I had a really good go at it - must have done a couple of metres across the camping lawn. Did almost four hours worth, but by then I had had enough. Here are a couple of pictures from today:
The grape vine is in bud. I never had a grape vine before, let alone seen one in bud. Grape vine in bud
Weeds I'm somewhat ambivalent when it comes to weeds. Some, like the dandelions are a social pain, in that they spread so profusely, and the neighbours don't like it. But with others, well, I feel that they are the natural inhabitants of the land, and we with our cultured crops are the interlopers. I'm hoping that my botanical expert can tell me all about this one - it looks benign enough, if it is even a weed, but I don't recognise it.
I suppose that I am much too impatient with what I have got growing, but what suprises me is the huge variance in germination rates between what I have sown. The most successful has been the spinach beet - a cut and come-again for traditional spinach. The pot fell on the floor from the window sill after I sowed them. I simply scooped the lot back into the pot and thought that they would have to take their chance. Out of sixteen seeds (yes, I am like a miser with seed - I count them, and as far as possible sow them individually) I now have fourteen seedlings. Tomatoes, on the other hand have yielded only three plants from twelve seeds - fine sturdy little seedlings they are, but a one in four germination rate? Carrots are even worse. Broad beans are second most successful - today I have ten little plants showing, as against still only four pea plants.

I was having a coffee in the kitchen with the outside door open, as usual (if I'm in and the weather is half decent, the door is wide open). I heard some giggling and calls from outside and popped my nose out to find two young women with children calling to attract my attention. A strange exchange followed, starting with me replying to them "Nem értem magyarul" (I don't understand Hungarian). After a protracted err, I can't say conversation, discussion involving much leafing through dictionaries, it turned out they were offering to have taken off my hands any scrap metal I had. I managed to get through to them that in three months there will probably be quite a lot of scrap metal that I want taken off my hands. It was all very good humoured, and they left saying in English "Bye-bye, thank you". They reminded me of someone, but I can't say who on here!

Fauré - Requiem. For no particular reason other than it is Sunday, and I can sing along.

21st April 2008

Got up early, did my shift on the camping lawn - over half way now, but if the weather stays as it is another week won't make any difference. I reckon about another four or five days. i think I have done a good job on what I have done so far, because it has stayed nice and level, and there are a minimal amount of weeds showing.

There was a degree of excitement in the village this morning. No! Excitement is not the right word. Hustle and bustle fits the bill better. Suddenly from nowhere the road verges were piled high with what was obviously domestic cast-offs - not your regular garbage. I was so intrigued by what was going on that I rang the English contingent and asked. Apologetically, because I had not been told before, I was told that this is the one chance in a year to get rid of whatever, or however much unwanted stuff. The (local authority - dustbin men - refuse disposal operatives - whatever) on this one day a year will take it away FOC. Ah well, I have plenty of storage space, and in the knowledge that it will happen again in April next year, they will have plenty to shift!!

Had a look up the veg. garden on my way to the compost heap (soon going to have to go higher), and peas are still on four, but broad beans are now on twenty! I think I might have to do a John Seymour, and pre-germinate the peas. Have I mentioned John Seymour? Well, 'grep' says not, so I will now. He is sometimes referred to as "The Father of Self Sufficiency" and one of my children bought me his most excellent book "The NEW complete book of SELF-SUFFICIENCY. The classic guide for realists and dreamers" (ISBN 0-7513-6442-8). Even if you only have a small allotment it it well worth at least getting hold of a copy from your library for a read.

Gave my gardening boots a birthday and cleaned all the dust and stuff off, then gave them a coat of polish. Situation normal, sitting under the porch, and it was so hot that the polish actually melted into the boots. All that changed pretty quickly, as the clouds gathered and thickened from the west. Sure enough, even bigger and better than last time, thunderstorm. Dark, heavy rain, blustery wind. Not cold though.

I went indoors and did some admin-type stuff. I.e. change of address notifications to official people who I really don't much care whether they know where I am or not. By about a quarter to eight the weather had more or less cleared, so (as usual) I went to the pub. The frogs were having a field day. They had obviously enjoyed the thunderstorm. they were hopping about all over the place. I must have seen about twenty of them just on the footpath between my place and the pub. Pub was busy for a Monday night - there were seven of us, discounting the skittlers. Remind me to do a bit more in depth on the pub.

Eleni Karaindrou. "Music for Films". Interesting, but not any films that I have seen. Not that I am a (whatever the necessary prefix is)-phile. Reminds me of a load of Chopin that I may or may not have downloaded from the Internet, and the guy who may or may not have shared it may or may not (allegedly) had it in a directory (won't call them folders - they are directories) called, if I remember correctly "Music to Revise By".

22nd April 2008

Definitely a "nothing to report" day. Very wet after yesterday - clear but cool in the morning. Concentrated on domestics - boring! I did a bit more woodwork, rearranged the tools (I now have a tool table in the hallway - looks a bit incongruous with a scythe blade and two sizes of axes on it (joking)). I got round to unpacking the few precious books that I bought over with me. Two small shelves worth. I made myself a hi-tech tool for removing the ash from the stove - hehe! About five minutes with a hammer and a pair of grips, but it does the job very well. Been reading Seymour, so expect Christmas and birthday pressies to be made from the production of the stove - not what you expect at all!.

Showers this afternoon. By the look of the sky I thought we may have a repeat of yesterday. By the way, it filled up my big water butt to overflowing. I said I needed many more.

Went down to the Faluhaz to do an Internet, to be met by nothing but frustration. No problem getting on the Internet, the nice lady simply kicks the children off who are just playing Internet games. No, FTP wouldn't play ball, so you got half an update as far as the frogs yesterday, apparently. Then the National Mockery site kept kicking me off. And then, having saved (as I thought) some important stuff sent to me as a Hotmail e-mail, when I got home - not a chance. M$ .aspx file, saved with a .htm extension. Why, oh why?????? When you save a web page, yes it creates directories for the images, etc., but you expect it to save the content. Hotmail, No!! That and the FTP thing quite spoilt my day!

Körmend tomorrow. Quite a lot to do, including trying to find out what is happening with my ADSL! I'll decide whether to bus or bike when I see what the weather conditions are like. It's always a bit of a balancing act as to whether to do the 20Kms cycle, or the 2Kms walk from Körmend centre to Tescos and back. And the time factor. If all goes well, I should be able to organise myself a day next week to go to the Idegenrendészet (foreign affairs police) in Szombathely and officially apply for residency.

Brass band stuff, cos M$ etc. spoilt my day.

23rd April 2008

Cold, overcast - well hazy sunshine, and a brisk wind. That settles the mode of transport to Körmend then - bus. In the meantime, with the morning to fill it was still too wet to be digging. I decided to start with the wood sorting and storing project. There is an absolute mountain of it lying about. Some on the ground, some in various outbuildings and lofts and some (believe it or not) still standing. There are at least two dead trees standing on the land. One is an ex-conifer and it must be at least forty feet high. I'm saving that one for when the boy is around. I guess than will be another new experience for both of us - certainly for me. Hopefully there will be another bloke around, then we can be "the tree fellers" (think about it!!).

I had a bit count up, and believe it or not, counting places that are built onto the structure, including separate lean-tos and excluding the garage and pigsty, I have TWELVE outbuildings. Far too many - that's greedy. As shown:

Approximate plan - not to scale

Apparently I have to have a demolishion permit to take any of it down. Hmmmmm! What if it happens to fall down by itself in the night? Local opinion is that a fair bit never had planning permission anyway. I chose the first lean-to on the left hand side going up the yard (that's south-ish on the diagram) for my choice of wood store. The outbuilding there is big, and I can store all the decent reusable wood in there. It is far enough from the main house that I am unlikely to want to extend into it, It is also near enough to the main house that fetching some wood in the face of a blizzard will not be too much of a hardship. So that is where the dry wood for immediate burning is going.

Discovered furnace Inside, there was another little lean-to which I had not bothered exploring much, as it was just a jumble of rubbish. Once I started clearing it, and demolishing the interior lean-to, I only discovered another wood burning furnace. Yes, those girls are definitely going to have a whole load of "vas" in three months time.
Did as much as I could, including trashing a set of steps that were absolutely riddled with woodworm. There is a certain sense of satisfaction in the use of a hammer in such a way. After that it was into Körmend on the bus. Target one failed - Land Registry - one look at the queue was enough. Next target T-Com - where is my B Internet connection???? Apparently they understood, but I didn't understand their answers. Eventually one of the ladies wrote on a post-it 1 - 2 weeks. We will see. Apparently they are fielding a lot of similar queries at the moment. After that it was Tescos (where I got the girl who understood my Hungarian but didn't know where the pipe tobacco was), and then back to Halogy.

Arvo Pärt. Different. Thanks to my eldest for introducing us! Knee hurts - must be some weather on the way.

24th April 2008

Lovely warm day, after a cool start. I decided that my current modus operandi, where I just try and concentrate on one job at the expense of everything else simply won't cut it. The other jobs just pile up and pile up until one of them becomes the priority. So today I changed the way I am doing things. I am allocating much smaller time-slices to the stuff that needs to be done, but doing many more in a day. For one thing it avoids boredom, and for another it avoids exhaustion. So, today I have spent one hour digging, one hour doing other gardening stuff, one hour reorganising the proposed woodshed, one hour starting to clean up the front fence (wall) for painting, one hour woodworking and three hours in the pub ;) Seems like a good days work to me.

The front fence is an absolute exemplar of everything that is wrong with the place. There must be four or five coats of utter rubbish plastered on it, and it is quite obvious that there has been zero preparation between them. I have nine pillars, each about five feet high, separated by horizontal bits top and bottom (not being a stone mason, I don't know the technical terms) with uprights in between. In one hour I managed one pillar, about a foot of horizontals and two uprights. Well, I guess it hasn't been touched for years, so another one shouldn't make that much difference. One saving factor - when they saw what I was doing every single person that passed spoke, even if only to say Good Day! I was working away when I heard a car making obvious slowing down noises and it pulled right up alongside me. It was Franz Scheinegger, the estate agent who sold me the place. Very friendly, we had a chat, and he asked if everything was alright with the house. I told him fine, apart from the amount of work to do. It turns out that he actually lives in Felsőmarác, the village that I went through the day I got lost in the forest!

I have visitors for a few days next month, so I went to the village phonebox to receive a call relating to the arrangements. As it is only fifty seconds walk from the pub, in the right direction, it seemed churlish not to call for a pint. As it happened Frank was in there, and a pint turned into four!! He spoke with some eloquence about the changes to village life from his childhood until now. There is only a single milk cow in the village at the moment, there is not a single working horse. There are no goats. No pigs apparently. Saddens me immensely. Goats seems very attractive - three immediately saleable commodities. Milk, cheese and meat (except, of course, that under EU rules I would not be allowed to sell the meat - own consuption only. For goodness sake I may well like goat meat but I don't think I could eat a whole one!!). And I have an enormous expanse of vegetation that they can eat without invading my meagre crops. Frank said that when he was a boy the road was literally covered in sh*t - pig, horse, cow...

On a more cheerful note, at the latest count I reckon I have sixteen species of plant life not necessarily thriving but clinging to a precarious existence in Halogy. Several are actually thriving. Had thyme and basil germinate in 48 hours this week - indoors. All a huge relearning curve, of course.

Beatles - needed something a bit lighter after last night.

25th April 2008

Continued with the new regime today, and it seems to be working. It's a bit more disciplined and forces one to think about what actually really needs to be done NOW! It was a nice morning, so once the sun was up I did my stint on the camping lawn. Within a couple of days I will have to divert my digging efforts elsewhere - strawberry plants are beginning to flower and they will do no good at all unless I free them from the overburden of grasses and weeds that will soon suffocate them.

After that I finished off demolishing the interior structure of what is to be my woodshed. The first thing that I had to do was to put a sensible prop under one of the roof beams, as I was worried about the fact that it looked like the one remaining partition was actually performing that function. There was already a "prop" under the next adjacent beam. I say prop in quotes, because it consisted of a board that was obviously destined for firewood and it was itself held up on a piece of log that had obviously already been cut. Anyway, when I banged my prop in, that one fell down, so I must have done something.

Lunchtime, and after that I chopped down the front garden with the sickle. No sooner had I finished that it came on to rain. Not a thunderstorm, but it soon developed into a good consistent downpour. I just had time the rake it up, and that curtailed the outdoor activities. It turned very cold later.

I was leafing through "A fekete könyv" (The Black Book), and saw an entry in there that I had intended to comment on, but as far as I can see, didn't. I was reflecting on our dependence on fossil fuels, and recalled what I had seen written somewhere (right or wrong). That is, that one gallon of petrol (gasoline for my American readers) is equivalent in energy content to about 10,000 man-hours of effort. There is no wonder that my solo efforts seem so puny. I would guess that to cultivate my acre intensively would need four or five of me, but then again it is supposed to be able to support about thirty people.

I managed to get to the Faluhaz and upload the blog up to yesterday, but yet once again forgot that the utter **** M$ FTP program cannot distinguish automatically between ASCII and Binary files, as the Linux one does without problem, so once again the images uploaded are, well, buggered :(

Steeleye Span. Must be thirty five years ago. Long ago and far way. As far as I know, Maddie is still out there doing it!

26th April 2008

I suppose it was going to happen sometime. Well the first time was today. Something I disagreed with tried to eat me! Unfortunately, whatever it was it chose about one centimeter from the corner of my left eye for its repast. End result was that I have been barely able to open the eye all day. About once an hour I've been putting cold compresses on it. I did try and get out on the garden this morning, but had to give it up. Either the glare of the sun irritated it, or working with one eye shut I found very disorientating. I ended up doing not a lot. Managed a bit of pottering in the pottering shed but that's about all - found some cotton wadding, so I'm attempting to pre-germinate some peas in the hope that they'll do better than the last lot.
Here's me looking, well, a bit sorry for myself. If I manage to find the perpetrator of this, severe reprisals will follow. I wonder what the magyar for "Yes, but you should see the other fellow!!" is? Won't stop me going to the pub though :) Effects of insect bite!
In the absence of any sensible stuff to write about here is list of what I have so far got growing, or am waiting for to grow, in no particular order:
  • Basil
  • Clementines
  • Italian leaves (whatever they are)
  • Lemons
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Potatoes - still waiting
  • Rosemary
  • Spring Onions
  • Thyme
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Kiwi fruit - not that I hold out much hope
  • Lettuce
  • Pak Choi (whatever that is)
  • Peas - all four of them!
  • Rocket (which looks exactly like Pak Choi)
  • Salad mustard
  • Sunflowers
  • Tomatoes
Had enough - not a good day. I'll just finish off listening to Frank Flour. Clue - one of his best mates was called Les.

27th April 2008

Well the eye doesn't necessarily look that much better, although no one has commented on it, but it certainly feels a lot better. I wasn't in a hurry to get up this morning, so I was having breakfast just gone 9am when I had a visitor. As always when the sun is shining and I'm in the house, the door is open. I was sitting at the table when a movement caught the corner of my eye. There was this little black and white face peering round the kitchen doorway. I spoke to it, but I guess that it doesn't understand angolul, being a Hungarian cat. It withdrew a little, and when I looked around again it was still there, but promptly scarpered.

It's amazing what an enforced day off can do. By the way, I'll organise a little magyar present for the first person that correctly identifies my two pieces of humour from yesterdays blog, answers by e-mail. Back to the plot. I was quite full of energy, and got a fair amount of everything done today. It was actually very hot in the sun, and once I had finished in the gardens, I was walking back to the house and I passed under the pear tree. It was so cool and pleasant. My (already in mind before I got here) plan will definitely include the pear tree. I must also seriously consider redeveloping the 'Summer Kitchen', but not as a kitchen. I sat for a few minutes in my favourite spot, and to be frank it was just too hot.

On my last trip up the garden I had the briefest glimpse of livestock I hadn't seen before. A little lizard. I had the impression that it was green-ish, but he scarpered across the garden and hid in the overgrowth so fast it was hard to say. Hopefully I will catch one sunning itself before it has time to raise its body temperature enough to do a runner at such speed. By the way, today is the first time I've seen frogs since the thunderstorm.

Jeff Wayne. Doesn't Richard Burton have the most quintessential English narration voice? Shame he wasn't English!

28th April 2008

Up quite early to find a glorious day - once again warm and sunny with not a cloud in the sky. I keep telling myself to do a bit of IR photography of the place while everything is still so green and fresh. As the day progressed it simply got hotter (and the biting insects became more voracious, but none of them found any tender spots). Had a good go digging. Didn't even take a break before lunchtime, which I suppose is a sign of how much my general fitness has improved. There is one patch that I am working through where every single spadeful turns up what looks suspiciously like walnut shells. I had never given the tree a thought. Bear in mind that when I arrived none of the trees had foliage. They have all blossomed and come into bud since I got here. Never having had any experience of walnut alive (beautiful cabinet maker's wood) , I still haven't a clue as it just looks like a tree to me. I'll soon find out. I wonder if you can survive a winter on potato and walnut stew?

After lunch degenerated into a load of domesticals, but I was determined to get to Bödős - I only wanted three things, but I needed them in varying degrees of urgency. It was a bit like the two Ronnies sketch "forcandles - Oze, etc" but I actually managed to ask for everything in Hungarian - and be understood, which is quite amazing when one of the things was kesztyű (gloves). I have already utterly destroyed the pair I bought from Tesco - mind you, looking back at the receipt, they were only 30p! Mr. Bödő showed me his range of gloves, starting at the cheapest, which looked like cheap golfing gloves. The second pair were about the same as the Tesco ones, so he got serious and started shifting stuff around, eventually fishing out from inside a bin of other stuff a pair of serious gardening gloves. I managed half-a-kilo of nails. (The Hungarian for nail, as in hammer and, is szég, more or less pronounced Seg. I wonder if the originators of 'Segs' was a Hungarian company. For the ninety-five percent of my readers who are too young to remember Segs, they were like little flat hob-nails that you bought in Woolworths and hammered into your shoe heels to stop them wearing out so fast.) The final thing I wanted was "Oze" - well, not quite. I wanted some small diameter pipe for a particular purpose. Once again, I asked by name - cső, which is almost the noise you make when you surpress a sneeze. Nonetheless he understood my request, and started showing me hosepipes. "Nem, kisebb" (No, smaller) and he found just the thing. I wanted two metres, which was no problem, but when he measured it out, there was only about three-quarters of a metre left on the roll. He showed me, and, I presume asked me if I would take the lot. Of course. I will find a use for it. All done, he tapped it into the till - just shy of 1,000Ft, less than three quid! He's a lovely guy - quiet, understanding and obliging. It is always a pleasure dealing with him. I hope he thinks the same of me! He certainly doesn't run away and hide when I appear "Oh No!! Here's The Mad Englishman again". When I got home I checked the receipt, as it was all so cheap. The hi-tech super-hard gardening gloves were 400Ft - £1.25!!

Made a list of the stuff I have to do in the garden, and it is getting fairly serious. The pressure is on!

Tried Jennifer & Hazel Wrigley - no lyrics. Tried Gorecki. Hmmmm - think I'll save that one until I'm really depressed. Ended up with The Eagles.

29th April 2008

Cool with grey, leaden overcast skies - reminded me of Bournemouth! Nonetheless I was up early and on to the veg. garden by 9:30. I had quick coffee break at 11:30, as I had mail (Tax man, wish I hadn't bothered), and then I worked through straight until 1pm. Got proper trenches dug, and the worst of the weeds removed and planted two rows of spuds. In spite of the relative coolness, it was quite humid and sweaty.
Planting potatoes Just about to start planting the second trench of spuds. If they all come up, that will be eight dozen(ish) potato plants. Call it a hundred. If each produces just two pounds of potatoes, that's two hundredweight(ish). Looks like I might be eating a lot of potatoes. Seymour says that, given a diet of what is naturally available locally, they are our most important winter source of vitamin C.

Steve's Handy Gardening Hints NO. 2 As you can see from the picture CDs that have been turned into coasters by Microsoft have a use as bird scarers, After all, one can only use so many coasters, and people do tend to buy you nice ones. I'm told they last two years and then the silver falls off. I brought a boxful from the UK :)

Judging by the picture, I reckon I still have about a stone to lose.
After lunch, the weather now threatening to turn thundery, I decided to do a bit of relatively gentle 'house' gardening. Both Tibor and the English contingent warn me that the sides of the house should be kept clear of vegetation, as it encourages damp. To remind you, it's a clay house.
As you can see in this 'before' picture, there is a problem. So I had a nice gentle start at tackling it. I'll do some more 'during' and 'after' pictures.

I accidentally found a natural cure for weeds. It does not act quickly, but it appears to act. They don't like the juice from my pipe poured down the stem. Wonder what it's doing to me :)
More weeds
After that, it was shower, pint, Faluhaz, eat. Then back to the pub.

A couple of observations from my Internet perusings, short as they were. There was a scary article on food shortages on the Beeb web site!! I also found a superb website about cobb houses and lime rendering. I also (I think) managed to confirm that my trees (found another, and there may be another one yet) are indeed walnut trees.

Carl Orff. Need I say more?

30th April 2008

This mornings performance was shaded by the fact that I was woken somewhat after midnight by my mobile phone going off. In my position I can't really afford to ignore it, as it is my only reliable means of communication, so I answered it. As it happened, it was my good friends (and they are my good friends) in the Sir Percy Florence Shelley touching base. Unfortunately, there are two things they didn't realise: (1). My local shuts at 9, and (2). I am one hour in front. It was good to speak to them all, but it did have repercussions this morning, in that I was not as full of energy as I may have been.

The result was that I ended up limiting my gardening activities to sowing a load of pre-germinated peas, and finishing off sowing the dwarf variety of broad beans that are already doing so well. I hope this lot are just as good.

I had to make a decision as to whether to go to Körmend or not, but at the last minute decided to bus it, and at least do a Tescos. As in the UK, this is a bank holiday weekend, with Monday being some sort of feast day. Whilst in Körmend I decided to see if I could find out what my balance is in my local bank account. Well, the card worked! I'm going to have to take the camera with me and sit quietly and translate the options, screen by screen. There was a queue of people waiting to use the machine, so I came away. Strangely, I think I managed to change my PIN, cos PIN in Hungarian seems to be PIN, and it prompted me a couple of times for 4 digits. I'll try another time when it is quieter.

The town car park is closed - they are setting up the fair. Just like in England, all the dodgy people setting up all the dodgy rides :) Might be worth a bike ride over on Saturday just to see what goes on.

Tescos, pub, home - did some repotting of little plants when I got home. It was blowing a strong wind, but from the south. Really warm. The water in my water butt has to be about thirty celcius - warm to the touch.

It got me to philosophising (if there is such a word) about things in general, and my retirement in particular. You know, I love work. And I seriously enjoyed my job at Bournemouth Uni., even if I did get seriously screwed over by the management. (I see it is on-going - one of my buddies sent me the clipping from the Echo about the vote of No Confidence. Well, I voted with my feet, not for the first time). Having lived in rented or shared accommodation for the last twenty years, I actually dreaded my retirement. Yes, I have hobbies, but you cannot fill all the twenty four hours, seven days a week with your hobbies. Neither can you fill them in the pub, unless you want to be one of those really sad people that you know from wherever, and I know from Shelley's, and I also know from here. What I have done has saved me from that. Retired??? There simply are not enough hours in the day!

I got to thinking about my grandchildren also. How many children of say six to nine years old in the UK has actually seen a frog in the wild? Or a lizard? Let alone held one. When I dig, or throw wood about, or whatever, I try to leave as much of the natural habital as possible alone. It's a wonderful nature's playground, and when I pull out a load of weeds and some little green caterpillar comes crawling out I am captivated. My grandchildren are very young but in a couple of years!! Tree houses and swings spring to mind.



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