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November 2010

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1st November 2010

It was, being the First of November, Mindszentnap - All Saints Day, and being a predominantly Roman Catholic country it was a bank holiday. You poor unfortunates in the UK have to struggle from August bank holiday until Christmas without a break. Much better organised here, with back-to-back holidays on 23rd October and 1st November. Not that it made a lot of difference to me, apart from the inconvenience of remembering and the staleness of the bread.

Looking back at the jobs I had lined up at the beginning of October, I had actually done quite well. All on my list was done apart from the winter digging and that was well in progress. Ongoing jobs that never got completed include the path up to the top of the land, and clearing round the fruit trees. Neither is such a big problem as previously. The path is now well trodden. I have been up to Telek utca and back probably two orders of magnitude more than in the previous years, and the stuff around most of the fruit trees was bashed into submission with the ex-strimmer.

The goats went out, and Rudy did his agressive bit again. Several times. I was quite worn by the time I had them on their posts, but I know that I cannot let Rudy win. He has to know that I am the herd leader, not him. I actually managed to raise a bead of sweat wrestling with him before I returned to the house for breakfast.

I bottled the current lot of cider and decided to check on the elderberry wine. This time I removed the carboy from its plastic casing. As soon as I did I could see that it was not a "stuck" fermentation. It was still working, with a little circle of bubbles in the centre. I checked the gravity of it. It had definitely come down since last time. It just needed the time to ferment out completely. That gave me a small problem. I only have the two twenty five litre carboys. One had the elderberry wine in. I would need more than one more carboy that size to accommodate the real wine. I popped round to John's to see if he had a spare ten litre carboy that I could borrow. He hadn't, but he had a spare twenty five litre one. Problem solved. For this year at least.

I celebrated All Saints Day by doing some more winter digging, and then getting a couple of cubic metres of dry walnut leaves into store for the goats.

Dusk caught me by surprise. I hadn't really accustomed myself to the needs of getting the firewood in and the goats in an hour earlier. The goats went in, in haste. I shoved some overnight food in for them in the gloom.

Later, in the pub, the news reported traffic chaos in Budapest as a million people tried to visit the cemeteries there. I couldn't quite get my head around that one. There were also more reports from the environmental disaster area around Kolontár. More problems.

2nd November 2010

Another not nice day, but once again it was not raining so the goats went out. I had breakfast first today thinking it might come on to rain. I stayed on the garden and knocked off an hours winter digging.

Around half past ten I returned to the yard, hung the sign out for Posta and turned to the next most pressing job. Pressing the wine. I have to say that my little press, although it performs well enough, has major design shortcomings. When I built it I was coming from the English country wine tradition - a gallon of elderberry, another gallon of something else, and so on. It simply did not occur to me that I would be dealing with fifty litres of grape must, or twenty five litres of apple pulp. I've seen a nice one at Little Tractor House. Hydraulic. Handles ninety litres at a time. Only two hundred and ninety five thousand five hundred forints. Only nine hundred and twenty quid!

Posta turned up. With no cash machine! Blast! Yet another interruption to my plans for the day. Cycle up to the post office in Nádasz and cycle back. On the way back it started to spit with rain. By the time I got to Halogy it was seriously raining. Goats in!

With it persistently precipitating outside I went back to pressing the grapes. I knocked it on the head at about seven, had a bite to eat and then went to the pub. I resumed pressing when I got home and finished at about ten in the evening. I had by then about twenty litres in one of the twenty five litre carboys. I looked at the barrel. There was a lot more to come, and the further I went down the more liquid it became. I sulphited what I had and put an airlock on. I did think to take a sample and check it for gravity. It was below 1.000. Mmmmm - going to be a very dry red wine, I think.

3rd November 2010

I woke up in the first faintest daylight coming through the roller blinds to the sound of faint wimpers and scuffles. I rolled over in bed and beheld a sight that chilled me. Pickle and Blackie were, I think the term is, bound. Tail to tail. In the case of dogs the creature with two heads. Unable to separate. Expletives deleted. Oh No! There was another wimper from Pickle and they separated. Blast. I did not even expect her to be coming into season. I had thought that the vet's injection was good for six months. And I had not noticed. Blackie obviously had, and had taken full advantage.

For once Hobo turned up when he said he would - about nine. I described my predicament to him. I was, and am, not in a position to deal with a litter of puppies. Some phone calls to the vet were made. Hobo and I sat over a very early (for me) beer and discussed the options. Option one was to have Backie "done". Only three thousand forints and ten minutes work. Yeah, fine, but Blackie had already done his stuff. Option two was obviously therefore to have Pickle "done". I pondered. Oh how I pondered! It was something that Hobo said that finally made my mind up. What he said was that if I had Blackie "done", if some wandering miscreant dog got in the yard when Pickle was in season I would have the same problem - maybe unknown. He also said that if Blackie got out and managed to impregnate some random bitch in the village that would not be my problem.

My ponderings came to the conclusion that I would have to have Pickle "done". It was not a pleasant decision, but necessary. More phone calls to the vet followed and it turned out that he would do it tomorrow evening at his surgery.

Hobo left, and in a black mood, I went back to pressing the rest of the wine. It took me all day. Once again I finished at ten in the evening. Nevertheless, the wine was pressed, sulphited and in a couple of carboys under air locks. Forty litres! It will be better when it is a hundred! No need to buy beer from the shop.

At some stage in between Hobo had reappeared and had a conversation with my neighbour Tibi about transporting Pickle to the vets in Körmend. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing but eventually I got that Tibi would do it.

4th November 2010

After the last two days of pressing wine the kitchen was in disarray. I had to launch upon a serious clean up operation.

In the meantime I had to keep Pickle and Blackie apart. For the first time Blackie had to go on a chain, and he didn't much like it.

I did some Internet work connected with tomorrow.

At the appointed hour Tibi came round to take Pickle into Körmend. He had rearranged his old Lada such that Pickle and I would be in the back. I had a seat facing east-west, leaning against the off-side door of the car. Pickle had a large rubber mat. Tibi had insisted that she be muzzled. It wasn't necessary, and she didn't much like it. We set off, and all Pickle wanted to do was look out of the front. She had never been in a car before but she behaved impeccably. At the vets there was already one bloke there. He had two miniature Pekingese tucked under his arms. He managed to drop one on its head. I think the expression is "Sack the juggler".

The vet came out, right there on the street and gave Pickle a huge shot of something which she didn't much like. After about ten minutes Pickle keeled over unable to move. Her eyes were still open and she was clearly conscious - just unable to move. The vet called us in, and between me, Hobo and Tibi we dropped Pickle's inert form onto the vet's operating table. Hobo was crying. The vet told us half an hour. Hobo invited Tibi but he declined. Hobo and I legged in round to the Tanya pub and had a beer. Then we legged it back, at my best hobbling pace. Eventually the door to the surgery came open and it was up to me, Tibi and Hobo to get Pickle back in the car. Once home we had to reverse the procedure and get Pickle into the house. Blackie was locked in the kitchen. He didn't much like it.

Tibi disappeared with his car. I wandered round here to find out how much I owed him for the cartage. Bless! He had to poke his nose indoors and ask Marika. I think that what came back in Hungarian was something along the lines of "It's Gods will.". I spent the rest of the evening looking after Pickle and making some preparations, of which more tomorrow.

5th November 2010

I caught the seven o'clock bus to town. Hobo had said that he would be there to take over as gazda at half past six. I had to leave for the bus about a minute after he arrived.

I had a few calls to make in Körmend - Halascsarda, bank, drug store - then I limped my way to the railway station. Well, I called in the yellow pub and had a coffee first. Then I went to the station and bought a train ticket. Return to Budapest! It was all unremarkable, except to say that the lady once again asked my age. Sadly, I admitted that I was only sixty three. The ticket cost seven thousand one hundred forints. As I type that is twenty one pounds seventy-ish. For a return journey of over five hundred kilometres. Imagine that, UK readers. Ticket bought, I returned to the yellow pub and had a beer. I had plenty of time before the bus to Szombathely. Yes, just as in the UK, it was a bus replacement for the train. They are completely relaying the tracks from Szentgottard to Szombathely.

The bus was were I knew it would be. The driver was not interested in my ticket. I found a seat and at the appointed time we set off. A railway employee came round and checked the tickets, which I found amusing. In due course we ended up at Szombathely railway station.

I had almost an hour to kill, and with another beer many hours away headed to the little workman's pub in the corner of the square by the bus and railway stations. I had had an amusing incident in there when I came to Hungary to buy the property. I was on my way back to Budapest to return to the UK and found myself in similar circumstances. I had a wander round and eventually ended up in this same little pub. I asked for a coffee. The girl behind the bar said "bleah, bleah, bleah - bleah - bleah, bleah" and I said that I did not understand. She huffed, and went somewhere around the coffee machine. And came back with a glass of beer. Well, it worked for me! There was no such problem this time. I asked if they had K?bányai. No, Soproni. That would do. I had a leisurely beer, and in plenty of time found my way back to the station.

The train and platform was on the announcements board so I made my way over. There was a guy sitting on one of the platform benchs having a cigarette and chatting to someone else who was obviously railway. I double checked with him that I was getting on the right train. He said it was, so I hauled myself on board. The guy turned out to be the ticket inspector on the train, so I met him again once we were under way.

The journey was uneventful, except for something that I will return to in a couple of days. Once in Budapest I made a right dog's breakfast of finding my way to the hotel. On trams, off trams, on one stop, back one stop... Eventually I found the tram to take me to the hotel. By good fortune I saw the hotel just as the tram was coming to a stop. The tram stop was only metres away from the hotel, which was a good job as I was pretty well buggered by then. There was a small hiatus at reception. The on-line booking agency had given me a PIN code for the booking. They didn't recognise it. However, as soon as they realised that they were dealing with the mad Engishman from Halogy there was no further problem.

The hotel had no bar, and a restaurant that only opened for breakfasts. I set out in search of sustinance, liquid and solid. I limped away from the hotel, looking for somewhere to eat. I headed back towards where I had caught the tram. About half way the thirst got the better of me and I called in a little pub. Five hundred forints for a bottle of Dréher - ouch! There was absolutely nowhere that I fancied eating, and eventually I ended up right back where I caught the last tram and had to settle for a MacDonalds. Well, at least you know what you are going to get with a MacDonalds - anywhere in the world - crap.

Half way back to the hotel, I needed a sit down. I saw another little pub. I went in and had a look at what was in the fridge. K?bányai! I asked for one and the landlady asked for the money. I asked her how much again - I did not believe my ear. She repeated. Two hundred and fifteen forints. Cheaper than the village pub. I lingered over the beer then limped my way back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel I finally figured out how to put the telly on. I flicked through the channels. a-la Laci (village pub landlord) and finally found a game of Rugby Union. Bath vs. Cardiff. It was persistently precipitating in Bath. I watched the match with glee. Oh, how I miss the Six Nations! The match finished and I went to bed.

Only to be woken by nearby guests shouting and trying doors and holding loud conversations at two in the morning. I thought about having a go at them, but discarded it as unlikely that they would understand a shouted "F**k off". They dispersed, and my slumber having been thoroughly disrupted I tried to get back to sleep.

6th November 2010

The purpose of my visit to Budapest was today. I was up bright and early and took breakfast in the hotel. I didn't explore the restaurant thoroughly enough and missed a goodly number of goodies that I only found tomorrow when I saw someone else going hither and thither. I was alone in the restaurant. Either the other guests had been and gone (doubtful) or I was very early.

I had a text message asking me if I could get hold of a particular item. I went to hotel reception where I explained in my best pidgin magyarul that I needed to find a certain type of shop. The young man on reception actually understood, got a map of inner Budapest out - giveaway type - indicated on it the location of the hotel and indicated three locations where I might find the shop I was looking for. I also asked where in the vicinity to buy tram/metro tickets. He indicated that on the map as well.

I unpacked my bag and took it with me containing just my camera. It was not the best of areas and I did not want it on display. I set forth on a shopping expedition and just to have a short look round the area. I had had the forethought at breakfast time to pop an Ibuprophen tablet. I was pleased that I did. I got as far as Macdonalds and called in for a coffee and a sit down.

Refreshed, I set off again in search of the shop(s) that I needed. I had gone some three hundred metres before I realised that I was on totally the wrong street. Sixty three, and forgetting how to read a map - premature senility! I retraced my steps and, not far from where I went wrong found a bench to sit on for a few minutes. I had only been there for about a minute when some random person approached and shot off a load of Hungarian at me. I was a bit on my guard and shot off my standard reply "I don't understand. I am English". The answer came back immediately, in perfect English "I was just asking if you minded if I sit here for a few minutes" The few minutes developed into about half an hour. The guy turned out to be an English teacher in Budapest. We had quite a cultured conversation. I owe him an e-mail! The time came to part company and he went off the one way and I t'other.

In a short limp I found myself on the correct road. I counted the streets off on my map. The indication on the map did not make clear which side of the road the shop would be on. I looked at all the shops both sides on the indicated block and saw nothing likely. I decided to go one more block. Well, actually I had no choice. It was not the sort of road that you try and just walk across. The pedestrian crossings were either four blocks back or one block further on. I opted for the latter.

Immediately over the crossing was a likely looking shop. I peered in the window. Mmmmmm - just books. I discarded it and started my way back down the other side of the street. It was a big shop. Treble fronted, I would think. As I came to the end of it I saw a meagre collection of what I was looking for on stands by the window. If I had gone any further I would have gone past the shop. There was a door some ten or fifteen metres back. Way Out Only. I limped back to the way in. After a short course in orienteering I found my way to that department. There way a lady on the desk. I asked her in my best pidgin magyarul if she had in stock what I was seeking. I even had it written down and showed her. She shrugged and the corners of her mouth turned down. Nonetheless, she led me to the stands I had seen. They were four sided revolving stands. At the very first one she revolved it but two sides and there it was. What I was seeking. I paid for it and left in high spirits. Mission accomplished!

A flurry of text messages passed regarding arrangements for the rest of the day. I limped my way back towards the hotel, calling to get what I hoped was a sufficiency of tram/metro tickets for the day on the way. I managed as far as the little pub that sold the cheap K?bányai where I decided that I needed to sit down and recuperate for a few minutes. The starchy ladylady recognised me and immediately asked "K?bányai?". I ended up having two, and a couple of incidents took place. The first was when a couple of guys came in dressed in overalls, one carrying a quite big tool kit of Black & Decker tools. The other one was similarly dressed but minus toolkit. They had not been in the place long when the landlady outed them. A regular at the bar managed to get it through to me that they were known pickpockets! I little while later a man and a woman came in and started trying to sell stuff around the pub. The landlady didn't out them. My guess is that it was all hookey gear - off the back of a lorry. Nevertheless I did buy a good leather belt and five pairs of socks off them. The leather belt is one piece, with not stitching and has the Real Leather mark on the inside. Mind you, it is a good job it is one piece with no stitching. It will need a little work as it was made to fit a forty eight inch waist! It was less than a quarter of the price that I would have to pay in Körmend.


Another flurry of SMS messages passed, and I finalised arrangements for the rest of the day. I wandered back to the hotel, calling in a Tesco Express that I had noticed before. Ah! Tesco Value baked beans. My carrying space was limited but I bought a tin for me and a tin for John. I think I did mention buying some in the Spar shop but they were just not the same.

Back at the hotel I changed and then set forth on the next venture of the day. I caught the tram back to the big main road junction, then Metro 2 for just two stops to the stop called Stadiums - should that be Stadia? It was in Hungarian anyway. I was off to meet my littlest daughter and to attend the Sting concert - Symphonicities - in the evening. My daughter was playing in the orchestra!

After a very short false start I found her hotel and as soon as I entered the doorway she was there to greet me. We (she) bought a beer and we joined the group of musicians that she was with. We sat and caught up for a while and then it was time for her to go to sound check. They had palyed the concert so many times that they did not need to rehearse as such, just check that all the mixing and monitoring was right for the particular venue. The venue was actually the Papp László Sportaréna, which is where they do the team handball and basketball type stuff. We went to the back entrance. My daughter told me to wait there. I did not have much choice. There was security everywhere. She returned shortly with a stick-on badge, and I was, officially, "Working". Ha! Anyway it got me into the sound check and I had a guided tour of behind the scenes. Astonishing. Computers everywhere, video equipment, monitoring equipment. There were several semi-trailers parked back stage. Apparently the standard kit for the show is seven semi-trailers full.

It was time for my daughter to do her musicianing bit. My pass got me through the security between back stage and the audience arena. My working consisted of finding a seat in the centre, a couple of rows in front of the mixing console. Mmmmm - mixing console! It was as big as my big room! The orchestra tuned up, Sting appeared, a mini-audience appeared and they started the sound check. To my astonishment my daughter left her place in the orchestra and part way through the first number of the sound check, joined forces with a chap and they tango danced right there at the side of Sting! I have to confess I shed a wee tear.

Once the sound check was finished I found my way back through security to where I knew my daughter would come off stage. We met up and were just chatting when The Man himself caught sight of us. He waved, jumped down off the stage, came over and shook my hand. I really hadn't expected that. We had a brief chat, including him saying some very complimentary things about my daughter and he shot off. I will confess to being quite tongue tied. I don't think I have ever been in close proximity to an international super star before, let alone shaking hands and talking to.

My daughter and I had a bit of a wander, deciding on where to eat. We eventually settled for going back to her hotel. I had something interesting off the menu. She had a pizza. In due time we parted ways, me to wait a while and her to go and do the stuff she needed to do before the concert.

As I thought, I left in plenty of time to find may way to my seat. Wrong! It was a bloody route march. Once there, all the PBI like me had to climb the equivalent of a single multi-storey car park staircase and then queue about thirty metres deep to get our tickets validated. I got through that and it got worse. The signage inside was, well basically, crap. Gate Yellow, Sector 208, Row M, Seat 1 was what I was looking for. The Sector 208 signs led me on. And then disappeared. I retraced my steps then went back. With the same result. I ended up going in the gate marked Sector 209 and asking. I was told "Up there". Sure enough, I went up there and there was Row M, Seat 1 all unoccupied so I sat down. Only for there to be a group of four people a few moments later indicating that I was occupying one of their seats. I returned to the assistant who then made me disturb an entire row of people instead of just sending me to the next entrance. I was not alone in this. It was chaos. The concert should have started at eight. It was eight fifteen before they decided that they had a sufficiency of people seated to start the concert. There were still people finding their seats another fifteen minutes later.

It was a wonderful concert. I had borrowed my daughter's point and shoot digital camera for the first half. No photography allowed! Yeah, right. I shot of a load of shots - not very good from where I was. I had arranged to get it back to her in the interval. Fortunately she had advised me to bring along the "Working" pass. A good job too. I needed it three times to get to her and twice on the way back to my seat.

The second half was more appreciated by the audience than the first. They had by now got into the spirit of it. There were encores and then I limped it back to the metro. I was by now paying the price for so much time today walking about on tarmac. It is just so unforgiving compared to the land. I have a confession to make. Ticketless, I hopped a tram the two stops down to the hotel. If anyone ever asks me about this, I will deny it, of course.

Back at the hotel I had had the aforethought of having a couple of cans on standby. Good job too. It had been a dry evening since I met my daughter at about three in the afternoon. I channel hopped on the telly and wound down consuming my couple of cans, then hit the sack. Would you believe, the same noisy so-and-so's that woke me yesterday did it again. Oh well, I would be gone tomorrow.

Apologies for this huge, totally off topic of Life in a Hungarian Village to my readers. Steve's adventures in Budapest!

7th November 2010

I returned to Halogy. Settled up at the hotel, then tram to the metro, metro to Déli pályaudvar (South Station) - by the way the word pályaudvar has four separate vowel sounds one after the other, mmmm - train to Szombathely and once again a replacement bus to Körmend, then eventually the bus back to the village. There was a little more to it than that but I'll come back to it.

I mentioned something on the fifth that I said I would return to. Well, I'm returning to it now. Does the name Devecser mean anything to you? No? Until October the tenth I wouldn't think that it would have meant a lot to the majority of Hungarians. Devecser was the second village hit by the toxic flood from the MAL plant. On the way to Budapest the passing of the train through the place took me by surprise. The camera was buried right at the bottom of my travelling bag. I made a mental note to take some photos on the way home. I did:
Devecser This is the only photo out of sequence, just to set the context.
Devecser This little brook runs right beside the railway track. You can see that it is still running red and you can see the high water mark by the stains on the vegetation.
Devecser You can see the red tide mark on the cottage in this picture. The bridge is new. The old one was swept away by the flood. I suspect the house will have to be demolished.
Devecser They continue to try and clear it up but you can see the stains on the railway enbankment and the railings.
Devecser A car lies at the edge of the river, unrecovered. It was swept there by the force of the flood.
Devecser There are still hectares and hectares of land stained red by the mud. You know, they called in EU experts for advice. I think that they simply do not know how to tackle it. I think it is beyond them.
Devecser All the stocks of wood at the side of the tracks ares still soaked in the red toxic slime. I think they are irretrievable for any purpose.
Devecser All these cars are write-offs recoved from the flood and dragged to the station yard. In particular look at the one about two thirds from left to right just about level with the back of the second lorry.
Devecser And another. This is not the same car.
Devecser Stacks of contaminated rubbish are strewn across the station yard, which itself is still awash with the red mud.

Seeing it on the news just does not have the same immediacy as seeing it go by out of a train window. I was not the only one looking out the window and/or taking photographs.

I arrived back in Szombathely with fifty minutes to wait for the connecting bus to Körmend. Guess where I went? The girl saw me walk in and immediately said "Soproni?". My first of the day. I lingered over it and at due time wandered back over to the station to catch the bus.

Back in Körmend I double checked the time of the bus back to Halogy. 17:20. Good job I checked. I thought it was 17:25, the same as on weekdays. I hobbled my way back into town determined on one last splash out for the weekend. I had had nothing to eat since breakfast anyway, and with nothing substantial in at home I decided to have a meal in the Halászcsárda.

I had a beer with the meal, as you do. then, with time to kill, I had another. I had just poured it when Hobo rang. He wanted to know when I would be getting back to the village and related that there had been a huge catastrophe with the black dog. I couldn't get my head round some of what he said, but I thought he was talking about the chain. Oh f**k, he hadn't managed to strangle one of my dogs, had he?

I sat there with the best part of an hour to wait for the bus, my thoughts growing darker by the moment. The minutes ticked by oh so slowly. Random thoughts went through my head. I don't have decent portrait pictures of either of them. I could never, ever find another Blackie - he is a one-off. A wonderful great big black mongrel that would be a thousand to one chance of recreating. I know exactly where I could get another Pickle.

The minutes ticked by and it was finally time to go for the bus. I hobbled to the bus stop. There was one person at the bus stop and then another person came along. A bus came that none of us wanted. Another bus came. The Halogy bus. He stopped, never opened the doors. I looked at the other two people there and he started to drive off. I shouted and one of the other people shouted and he stopped again, and with a show of petulence opened the door. With an equal show of petulence he took my money and gave me a ticket. Once open, the door would not close properly. He stopped multiple times and opened and closed it in an attempt to get it to shut. In Nádasd a young girl got on the bus. There was a repeating of the door opening and closing thing. Oh for goodness sake I need to get to Halogy and find out what Hobo has done to my black dog!! Between Nádasd and Daraboshegy he stopped twice more and repeated the performance on the little back road. I was by now beginning to suspect conspiracy! The young girl alighted in Daraboshegy and the driver repeated the door shutting thing once more. Inwardly I was fuming. "FFS - If you knew that the bloody doors wouldn't shut why the f**k didn't you fault it and make them give you another?!!".

I knew where Hobo would be, so I got off the bus there. The driver petulently let me off. I won' say what I thought, but it ended in "off". Of course Hobo was in the pub, and I was prepared to throttle him. His face lit up and he grinned from ear to ear when he saw me. My mood lightened immediately. Whatever the catastrophe was with the black dog was obviously not that bad or he would have been crying in his beer.

I asked the direct questions about the goats and dogs and all was, apparently well. I tried to get to the bottom of what the huge catastrophe with the black dog was but simply failed to understand. We had a couple of beers and it was time for me to go home. Hobo insisted on accompanying me to show me the huge catastrophe. It was in the big room. Backie had ravaged an old cushion from one of the chairs. I bought it with the house. It was filled with shredded foam rubber. Hobo had at least swept it up into a heap in front of the cserepkalyha. I had to laugh. Hobo had thought that Blackie had done the shredding!

8th November 2010

I like this by Alan Wartes which corresponds very much to where I am coming from.

It was definitely a case of After the Lord Mayor's Show today. And, yes, I did end up shovelling sh*t, but that is for tomorrow. It was another lovely day, as it had been all weekend. I put the goats out and surveyed what needed to be done and what had not got done. The winter digging was still ongoing, but thanks to Jozsi I would not have to break any new ground next year. Two things that had not been done were that no firewood had appeared, and Hobo had done me no favours by raking up the carpet of leaves on the camping lawn into one big heap in the middle. Damn and blast, they were supposed to have been left to dry and moved into the big garage. Goat food. Well, if the weather held I would just have to unrake them, dry them off and move them myself. Not heavy work, but time consuming.

I breakfasted, sorted out and put in various places the clothes and stuff I had taken to/brought from Budapest.

I got as far as filling the wheelbarrow with compost from one of the many little heaps here and there and then it was lunchtime. I had a little job to do before that though. Tibi had outright refused any financial reward for his time, petrol and energy in transporting Pickle to and from the vets. I had organised a little return in kind for both of them so, welly clad, I took it round there. I knocked and they opened the door. I stayed on the doorstep on account of the wellies, but they insisted I went in. I fished out my bits and pieces and presented them. "What for?". "A little thank you for your help with Pickle". "No need, no need!". Not satisfied with that they sat me down at table gave me a large pálinka and shared their lunch with me. A three course lunch it was too. They had a side dish of something that I had not encountered before. Pickled lettuce. Now, I have a recipe for lettuce soup, but it never entered my mind as an English person who is only used to seeing lettuce as part of a salad on a plate, that you can pickle the stuff. Rather good it was too. A beer went with the meal, and another large pálinka at the end, and eventually I managed to take my leave. I had not even thought about taking the dictionaries with me. We had chatted over lunch, watched the news on the telly (which included more scenes from Devecser and district), and I had told them of my adventures in Budapest.

When I got home the will to do winter digging had evaporated. Can't think why! It was getting on in the afternoon by then anyway. I contented myself with getting in the nights supply of goat food into the goat house and doing the firewood, then contemplating my navel for a while.

In due course of time I got the goats in and went about my normal evening routine.

9th November 2010

The weather forecast had forecast rain for this morning. Not a bit of it. It dawned bright and clear as the previous several days. The goats went out.

I did a load of washing. Hobo turned up, and in the absence of anything better for him to do I sent him up to Telek utca where there is still a small mountain of what will be good firewood once it is dried out.

After lunch I did the sh*t shovelling bit. A long overdue cleanout of the goat house. I remain uncertain about what to do with the remains of the maize stalks that they hadn't eaten. They like the leaves and the male flowers and a bit of the stalk at the top. They leave the rest. I don't know how well they will compost. They all went on the temporary heap outside the goat house. Jozsi turned up to do some ground breaking for me. I set him on and went back to cleaning out the goat house. I had the new bedding hay all ready to go in the wheelbarrow. I had planned on doing the cleaning out, going back to the house for a sit down and a smoke, and then replenishing the bedding hay. It came on to rain. Enough that the goats should come in. I just had to work through and then get them in. Jozsi continued his ground breaking irrespective of the rain.

He continued until it was almost dark. In now time honoured tradition we cycled up to the pub where I bought him a beer and paid him. I got collared for buying Hobo a beer as well.

I had the one and went home, cooked, ate, lit the tile stove and cycled back to the pub. John was there but Hobo had bitten the dust.

10th November 2010

Another grey and coldish day, but once again it was not actually raining so the goats went out.

After breakfast I turned to cleaning the windows in the big room. Long overdue. I managed one set - that's ten separate panes of glass and there are two such in the big room. No wonder it doesn't get done as often as maybe it should. I was just finishing the one set that did get done today and it came on to rain quite sharply. Blast! Goats in.

It was near enough lunch time by then, so I had lunch and afterwards did some clearing up in the kitchen. It stopped raining and the cold front passed. You could clearly see the back edge of the front (huh?) approaching from the west. It promised to be a fine end to the day so the goats went out again. They had only been out two or three hours before, so they went back in the same place. I went back to spreading compost and a bit more winter digging.

I deserved a beer after that, so I went for one. Jozsi was there and when I finished my beer he finished his and came back here and did some more ground breaking. Once again he worked until it was pretty well dark. The only time he stopped was to watch me get the goats in. He watched with amusement as I did my normal trick with Rudy - just unhook him from the stake and let him go. He had a bit of a prance around and a gallop this evening but when we got to the bottom part of the garden he walked at my side, his shoulder to my left leg just like a dog walking to heel.

With all my early evening jobs done, and Jozsi finished we wandered up to the pub. I normally just have the one, then home to eat and so on then return later. This evening I just stayed there but I did leave very early, about half past seven.

11th November 2010

The weather had improved considerably since yesterday. It was a lovely morning. I went back to the shifting, spreading and digging in of compost. The ground was very wet after the rains and it was hard going - heavy, but pleasant in the sunshine and solitude of the garden. I did two good sessions and by the end of the working day had all the main garden done apart from the area where the beans had been and a strip between the cabbages and leaks.

Once again by about three in the afternoon I thought I deserved a beer, and once again caught up with Jozsi in the pub. Back home I had only just wheeled the bike into the yard when I saw Suzy at the garden gate. What the heck? She was shortly joined by Rudy. Double what the heck! I had parked them right up towards Telek utca. They turned together and galloped and gambolled right the way back up the garden, then they turned and galloped all the way back again. I had to laugh out loud at their antics. Both still had their chains on. Time to make alternative arrangements with the stakes I think.

I was not quite so chuffed when I found the ravages they had wrought amongst the cabbages! It would not be long until their bed time anyway, so I secured them nearby once they had settled down, then went to fetch poor Betty to join them. She was not happy about having missed out on all the fun.

Jozsi came and finished off breaking the bit of ground that I will want next year, and the usual trip to the pub followed after the goats had gone to bed. I did just have the one and go back home, then out again later.

12th November 2010

It was another delightful day. It was hard to imagine that we were almost half way through November. Once the sun rises it still has good warmth in it. I had made the usual start to the day and the goats were out and contented.

I started in on the digging again. I heard and saw Tibi at work chainsawing and chopping firewood. There was a shout from the fence. Marika. Get round here with your wheelbarrow. So I did. The wheelbarrow was just that. It did not have its extension on. They sent me back for the extension. I passed it over the fence and returned. It turned out that Tibi was donating me a wheelbarrow load of firewood. Tibi and Marika hurtled loads of firewood into the barrow. Tibi sawed and chopped more. I couldn't get a look in. Tibi's tools were gargantuan. There was an axe that I had previously seen but failed to mention on the blog. I had asked him how much it weighed. Ten kilogrammes! It had quite a short handle, maybe two foot six, but by heck it packed a punch. If Tibi hurtled it into a piece of wood and it would not split he had backup. A nine inch piece of railway line welded onto a two inch steel handle about two feet long. He would embed the axe and just keep belting the blunt side of the axe with this thing until the wood had no choice but to succumb. And the guy is seventy! It still puts me to shame.

Eventually I had an extended wheelbarrow of wood which took me all my time to lift and wheel home. What neighbours!

Once home I parked the barrow right by the house door. Less distance to go to fill the wood baskets. I went back to the digging. I had started on the patch that had held the non-existent tomato crop.

Hobo appeared later, only to be collared by Tibi followed by an animated conversation. I gathered that it was about firewood. Now, Hobo had been promising to get me some firewood since January of this year. Good chap that he is, none had appeared. Tibi went and got his car and made me and Hobo pile in. Hobo had said that the firewood was about three kilometres away. Mmmmmm - more like seven. Once there we trailed through the forest. Hobo indicated some sodden softwood logs on the ground and some fallen trees. Tibi looked at me, rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Nincs kaloria!", which I think you can probably get the gist of. We piled back in the car and went back to the village. I later offered Tibi some petrol money. Once again he would have none of it.

To cut it short, the day continued as usual after that.

Late in the day I caught up with the latest IEA report. This New Stateman report covers it. Mmmmm! Once again the IEA is in denial. They have finally admitted that conventional crude has peaked. In 2006 according to them. They reckon that unconventionals (tar sands/oil shale/shale gas...) will push total peak back to 2035. Dream on, baby, dream on.

13th November 2010

It was another glorious, sunny, late autumn day. Autumn? It should be winter. Well, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. I found the goats a spot well up the garden with lots of stuff to chobble and they stayed there contenetedly all day. No escapades today.

A spot of housework and back to the digging. I thought to take the pH meter with me. I was digging a patch that I had limed last year. Well, it was certainly a lot less acid than last year.

Lunch, then back to the digging. I was still working over the bit where the tomatoes had been. I ran into the join between the bit that I had done, and thoroughly weeded, and the bit that Hobo had dug and that never had been properly weeded. It was riddled with couch grass. Not so bad as to make it hard work digging, but it had to come out. It slowed progress considerably. I don't know of any other way of dealing with it other than to patiently hand weed it out.

At the end of the afternoon, goats in, firewood, cook, eat and go to the pub.

When I got home went into to kitchen do do the dogs' food as usual. It was warmer in there than normal. I checked the kitchen stove and it was as it usually is - still warm but not hot. I detected where the extra heat was coming from. The blasted electric stove had managed to turn itself on again. Fortunately on only the lowest setting of one of the rings. Bloody thing! It has to go. It is dangerous. In desperation I turned the oven on so that the light inside came on, then went outside and punched the trips in the meter cupboard until the house lights and sockets stayed on and the blasted oven stayed off.

14th November 2010

It was a lovely day, the goats were out and I was pottering about the yard when Tibi came to the gate in his Sunday best, before templom. He told me that he was going to organise wood from Daraboshegy tomorrow and that he would let me know tomorrow what the plan was.

I finished off what I was doing in the yard and went back to the digging. I didn't bust a gut over it but by the time I finished that patch on the other side to what I call the main garden was finished. All I had left now was the two remaining strips on the main garden.

The only other thing worthy of note was that, if I got it right, four hundred houses would have to be demolished in Devecser where the toxic flood went through. Also, I know that I will forget to mention it in a couple of days so I'll mention it now, there are For Sale signs popping up all over the place in the district.

15th November 2010

Nothing out of the ordinary to report. Except that whilst I was digging Tibi called me to the fence and told me that he would be round to get me at half past seven tomorrow to go and sort out firewood. That was short and sweet.

16th November 2010

True to his word Tibi was round and about at half past seven. I was in the shop. I poked my head out the door and he saw me, then shot off somewhere in his car. I don't think I have ever told you about his car. It is a bright green Lada, with tappititis - if you know what that is. I guess that he keeps it running himself. From time to time I see him driving either a big black Mercedes or a big white Mercedes. I know who the white one belongs to - his son. The son works for the Post Office! I have no idea about the black one. But Tibi's car is the bright green Lada. Unfortunately it is not the only one in the district and I have been known to wave at the wrong car! Anyway, he was back in minutes with a trailer on the car. I presume he had shot off to borrow it. I dropped my shopping off and dived in his car.

Where did we end up? The parketta factory where all my previous firewood has come from. We waited a while, then the boss appeared, then a fork lift truck appeared and dumped one of the conainers of wood onto the trailer behind Tibi's car. I thought it was going to jack the back end of his car off the ground, but it didn't - just. The fork lift driver shifted it forward until it was just slightly in front of the trailer axle. He knew just what he was doing. I paid for the wood. Tibi had to sub me. We set off back to the village, Tibi driving quite gingerly. Once we got as far as the football field Tibi had the feel for it, and we hurtled down the hill and round the bend at the bottom at about ninety kilometres an hour. Na, only kidding. He was very circumspect of his driving. He has, screwed to his dashboard, a couple of badges. One is for one hundred thousand kilometres of accident free driving, the other is for two hundred thousand! We got back to the house and I locked the dogs inside.

I opened the big gates and Tibi drove in. Well, I have to say that had that been me I would have reversed in. When I worked for the Weights and Measures Department in Lincolnshire one of the requirements was that we had a tow hitch on the car. We had an evil little trailer. Very short wheelbase and just a big black box. On certain jobs we used to load it up with a ton of half hundredweight weights. It had a little garage all of its own, with a zigzag opening door. The little garage had been built to fit the trailer. With the door fully open there were about four inches either side of the mudguards over the wheels. I'm bragging now - I admit it - but I was the only one of the Inspectors there that did not make the assistants wheel it back into its garage by hand. I used to just reverse it in. Where was I? Ah yes, Tibi and the wood. Marika joined us, and Tibi, with the usual admonishments from Marika drove and reversed this way and that and eventually got as near as he ever would to where I wanted the wood. Between us we hurtled it into a wood house. It took an hour. I found a paper clip in the trailer. I kept it, of course. One never knows when one will need a paper clip.

Once unloaded, Tibi had to unhook the trailer, turn his car around in the yard and then hook the trailer back on. You know, they are very particular about hooking trailers onto cars here in Hungary. Illegal distillation, growing of certain things in the garden and much other stuff besides is fair game, but woe betide you if you put a trailer on a car and don't have safety chains left and right, and the electrics properly plugged in and working. I wonder about that when I see the state of, for instance, the wagon that comes from Daraboshegy when I order five such loads of wood, and many others that I see on the road.

Tibi took the trailer back whence it came. Once I knew he was back home I went round to pay him what he had subbed me. I tried to give him another thousand for his time, trouble and petrol. He would have none of it. Oh well, I'll get my back way in another way!

I went back to the digging.

Much later in the day, it was time to get the goats in. As usual I replenished their evening rations in the goat house. When I emerged from the goat house Marika was in the garden feeding the goats goodies. What can I say?

Late in the day I saw Kjell Alekett takes a sober look at the recent IEA World Energy Outlook.

17th November 2010

I was up early. Hobo was coming round for some of his painting tools. He has painting tools all over the place. He moves them from one house to the next and abandons them there until he needs them, then retrieves them. He always knows where they are though. I was just up and about when he arrived. About quarter to seven. My morning routine is to get up and dressed, open the house roller shutters and then let the dogs out. He must have arrived in the yard just between me opening the shutters and letting the dogs out. He had been and retrieved the house key to let himself in and was about to open the door with it when I unlocked it. He was met by a tumult of dogs. You know, a pack of dogs just does not do them justice. Many, more descriptive, collective pronouns come to mind with my two. Today it was a tumult as they shouldered one another aside to be first out the door, almost collecting Hobo on the way. Must post some more when they come to mind.

For once, I actually beat the old lady next door into the shop. We exchanged pleasantries, as you do. Speaking of which, from time to time I had always seen the old chap that is my neighbour on Telek utca in the shop. I had always thought that it was a fairly long way to walk for him to get to the shop. I spotted the solution one day when I followed him out of the shop. He takes a short cut through my next door but one neighbour's yard. I barely know them. Which is very unusual here. Over the two and a half years that I have been here I do tend to know who lives where, and I increasingly understand who is related to whom. But those neighbours are a bit of a mystery.

I went home, and it being sufficiently early had breakfast before I dealt with the goats. I needed fortification, for today was the day that I had to trim Rudy's hooves. All eight of them. I put all three of them on their chains as usual, but just took out Suzy and Betty, parked them nearby, and left Rudy hooked in the goat house. I had to do a swift repair job on the tray that goes on the front of the goat table. Once done I chucked some choice goodies into it, enticed Rudy onto the table and set about his hooves. Is that the plural of hoof? It was relatively painless, relatively quick and I reckon relatively effective. The only problem, as before was his off-side front foot. Ah! They drive on the othe side of the road here. His right hand front foot. The goat table is, for the moment, hard by the wall. Back foot on that side is no problem. Front foot is. I can't remember how I solved it, but I did. When I took the wellies off later there where goat toe nail clippings and bits of foot in them everywhere. Nice!

Having done his feet, I took him out to join the girls and park them for the day. He got a strop on. I had to put him on his back and make him "Meah, meah" three times before he desisted. There's gratitude for you.

I never mentioned that when I went to buy them, in the pen was a huge buck with horns about a foot and a half wide, and maybe almost five feet tall at the shoulder. I had misgivings then, but since I have found out that he was undoubtedly a Boer goat - grown for meat.

I finally got all three where I wanted them and went back to the digging. There was not much left. About seven square metres. I got back in the yard in plenty of time for the dog food van. Well, either he was extremely early or he didn't come.

After lunch I went and finished the winter digging:
Winter Digging The main garden.
The bit on the other side, which will soon be as big as the main garden. Winter Digging
Lettuces A row of lettuces which I mentioned previously, donated by Marika.
I deserved a beer after that. You know what's coming! I got collared in the pub by the faluhaz lady and the mayor. Something about photos, and a couple of dates. I noted the dates, and said yes. Inexplicably, Jani, who was beside me at the table, bought me another beer. Slightly less inexplicably the landlady, due to her having witnessed the conversation between me, the faluhaz lady and the mayor, plonked another one down for me. Oh dear!

With both rain and darkness starting to fall I cycled home, rescued the goats from the garden and got the firewood in.

It wasn't finished yet. I had just got the firewood in when Jani appeared, summoned me to the shop and another beer appeared. I still have no idea what that was about, but once again joined the village p*ss-heads outside the shop.

I neglected to say that, once again, the shop has apparently made it up as they go along. Evening opening is now from half past three to half past four in the afternoon. Which left me with plenty of time to go home, light the fires, cook, change and go back to the pub!

Tom Whipple.

18th November 2010

Oil shock warning from UK industry task force via the Beeb.

I found a minor catastrophe when I woke up this morning. The tile stove was cold, and it was none too hot in the big room. My fault. I had neglected to shut down tight the air door last thing last night, and all the heat in the tile stove had gone up the chimney. Not the first time, and won't be the last without a doubt.

It was Betty's turn to have her feet done today. No problem at all, she remains a slight little thing. I must have got a bit enthusiastic with the clippers, as I actually managed to draw a little bead of blood. She didn't complain. After that they all three went out to work. It is starting to become a conundrum where to park them. I still have one or two scrubby places to put them but in most places the grass is now finely nibbled and growing very slowly.

I managed to miss "Kutyatap, kutyatap" yesterday. Either he never appeared, or I never heard him. I was certainly nearby, and normally the dogs alert me by barking well before I hear him. I had to be sure today to catch the Purina van to get the dog food. The only problem is that he is a bit of a movable feast, arriving outside the shop anywhere between half past ten and half past eleven. He also doesn't play a nice little recognisable tune like most of the others. Anyway, I managed to spot him and bought dog food from him. Four hundred forints cheaper than the other one! I think he might be getting my custom again.

Back indoors I started on a final session of jam making. Not that I don't have enought jam already on board but this was for a purpose. The little machine came out to play, I put about a pint of water and a teaspoon of citric acid in the slow cooker, peeled and cored a load of apples and bunged them in the slow cooker on Low.

I went back to bashing apples in the afternoon. I can't say it was pleasant work. It was cold and damp sitting on the doorstep slicing up the apples and pounding them with the big stick. It wasn't hard enough work to keep warm.

I did as much as I could and went to the pub for a beer and a warm.

Back home and it was firewood and get the goats in time. Light the stoves, eat, pub.

19th November 2010

It was pouring down again when I got up. Another day for the brolly as far as the shop and back, and the goats certainly had to stay inside.

I breakfasted first, then went and gave the goats some more food in their house and attempted to tackle Suzy's feet. I gave it up as a bad job - too many goats milling about and she would not settle.

Back in the house I still had the stove going and set about the jam. I transferred the contents of the slow cooker into the jam making saucepan, put it on the stove and added the sugar. As I was stirring the sugar in a little alarm bell went off in my head. "This is not right!" I glanced over at the scales. The weights still sat there accusingly. Taunting me, as if to say "You daft bugger!" I had managed to add two kilogrammes of sugar to the cooked down remains of one kilogramme of apples!. Well, there was no way to get the sugar out now, so more apples simply had to go in. I moved the saucepan to the cooler end of the stove. I did not want it coming to the boil right then. A bit of dashing about and frantic work with the coring and peeling machine followed, but I did manage to get another kilogramme of apples into the saucepan.

The saucepan went back on the hot end of the stove and I kept giving it a good stir to get the sugar dissolved. When it was near enough I sat down for a quick pipe of tobacco. I had hardly got it filled and lit when there was a sizzle and a hiss from the stove. Bollox! The jam had boiled over. Back went the saucepan to the cool end. I was never going to get that much stuff made into jam in that saucepan. You know, there is a fringe benefit to running a wood stove like mine. The spilled uncooked jam mixture, there was not that much, simply boiled, burnt and carbonised on the cast iron cooking surface. Once I had found my way back to the stove through the cloud of smoke I simply took a scaper to it and flicked it into the wood basket.

That did not answer the saucepan question though. I ended up having to use the really big saucepan that I normally use just for heating water to wash clothes and the like. All it had ever had in it whilst I had used it was water. Nevertheless, I gave it a good scrubbing out with a mixture of bleach and washing up liquid and a thorough rinse out. Satisfied, the jam mixture went into that one and back on the hot end of the stove. After that it went to plan, except that I was short of one small jar when I jarred up the jam. I left it in the saucepan and put it somewhere cool, to deal with tomorrow. It was still raining so I had an early lunch.

By the time I had finished the rain had diminished to a sprinkle. Light enought that the goats could go out. Except Suzy, who still needed her toe nails clipped. I parked Rudy and Betty nearby. Without the distraction of the other two it was a matter of minutes to sort out Suzy's feet. Hah! Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks! Errr - no - that's not quite the quotation, is it? You know, thinking back, I don't think they had ever had their feet done when they came to me. I will no doubt talk about it again. Once out and parked they set about the greenery with a vengeance. By the time I got them in again later they were all three like little barrels.

The seasons roll round. Every day that the goats can go outside and eat is a bonus, unlike the unseasonable weather earlier in the year when every day that they had to stay inside was a minus. The time rapidly approaches when they will be in for the winter, and I have much to do before then.

The normal routine after that...

20th November 2010

The weather forecast had said rain today. I got up to a clear bright morning with no sign of rain. On a whim I bought a cauliflower in the shop, the goats having eaten all of mine! It was a big one - just short a kilogramme. Less than a quid!

The goats went out, and stayed out all day.

After breakfast I went back to apple bashing. A couple of photos:
Bashing the apples about with a stout stick. On the left in the polythene bin is the pulp already bashed. On the right and slightly behind is a collander full of apples ready to be bashed. On the left again, and slightly behind is the chopping board. I really must have a word with my hairdresser about dyeing the top of my head pink! Cider Making
Cider Making And here is the result of the process, in process.

I had some correspondence from a friend about cider making. I already mentioned using a stout stick to pulp the apples. When we first tried this method (Hobo and I) we just kept piling the bits of apple into the container and pounding away. Well, it was not so successful as there were lots of remaining big bits of apple in the pulp than would not press. I found that the answer was not to let the container get too full, keep the centre clear for actually bashing the apples and not to hit them too hard with the stick. It also helped if the bits of apple were skin side down. At first bash them quite firmly but not hard. If you hit them hard they explode and then you have to chase big bits of apple all over the bottom of the container, and here and there amongst the pulp. If you do it right, the apple clings to its skin and unfolds like a Goode homolosine projection. Anyway, after that I aimed to beat the pulp down until no bits of apple were more than a millimetre thick. You can see in the picture the pure apple juice gathering in the bottom of the container.

Later I made cauliflower cheese, as you do. To do that I had to make a roux. Interesting. I substituted some of the butter (marg) in the roux with some pumpkin oil that Marika had given me. I had never made a green roux before!

21st November 2010

It was a similar day to yesterday, so the goats went out and stayed out all day.

It was Sunday, so I cleaned out the goat house after lunch.

I had been invited to a meeting in the faluhaz at five in the evening. I thought it might be something to do with the official inauguaration of the new mayor, but I got that completely wrong. Shortly before the meeting started an English speaker explained to me what it was all about. As near as I could get was that they were going to set up a society, organisation or affiliation, for want of a better way of explaining it, for the Betterment of Halogy. Apparently there were significant benefits to doing so, including government grants for this and that. My English speaker reminded me that the village has no money. With council tax at three pounds a year I can't say that I was surprised. A side effect of this had been that we had no Falunap (Village day) this year.

The new mayor convened the meeting. You know, I get by from day to day from day to day, on and off of buses (and trains if necessary), I can find my way around Budapest and in and out of hotels. But the language of what was going on utterly defeated me. The only bit that I understood was what the membership fees would be for joining the society/organisation/affiliation. A staggering one thousand two hundred froints a year.

The meeting went on, and a committee was elected. It came to my turn. Fortunately my English speaker had been elected onto the committee. I got the gist of what was going on, and was asked if I was prepared to take photographs of events in the village to assist the newly formed society/organisation/affiliation. I had known that it was coming anyway, and of course I said yes. I do live here, and it is one of the very small ways that I can repay all the help and kindness that I have encountered. I got a round of applause for that! The meeting wound down, and I managed to get a couple of shots of the assembled citizenry before we all dispersed.

I went to the pub after that, naturally.

22nd November 2010

It was raining first off so the goats stayed in. Later it stopped so they went out. Kind of boring, isn't it?

After breakfast the press came into the kitchen for what was undoubtedly the last outing of the year. I pressed the five litres or so out of the apple pulp and pitched the yeast. I had lunch and went to the pub for a beer. Laci was not about, so the landlady was in charge. I was the only customer there. We had quite a conversation about all the different things that I make myself, food-wise (and drink). I told her about the different jams, about the various concoctions made from pálinka, such as the walnut liqueur and the honey and chestnut one. She disappeared and reappeared in a couple of minutes. A food parcel - cakes! Erzsi, the lady from the faluhaz appeared and thrust a paper into my hand. I already knew about it. It was an invitation to the dedication of the Nativity stable which is set up on the village green each year. I had agreed to take photos. Jóli (the landlady) told Erzsi about my jam making and alcoholic exploits. Another discussion ensued.

I had a small linguistic revelation today. The Hungarians manage to have two words for bicycle - biszikli, which is quite obviously borrowed from English, and kerékpár. I had happened to be looking through the supermarket fliers which the post lady delivers once a week and I happened to notice that Lidl were selling car wheel nut wrenches, which in Hungarian turned out to be kerék kulcs. The penny dropped, I looked it up, and sure enough kerékpár translates literally as "a pair of wheels". There you go.

After cleaning off the press, putting it away for the winter and collecting the apple pulp into a bucket for the goats I managed to achieve not a lot more other than to do the firewood and get the goats in.

23rd November 2010

It was cold, but good weather. The goats once again went out and stayed out all day. My travels around the Internet reveal that goats are good for short spells as low as minus forty!. They have hollow hair, you know. When it is really cold and you stroke them the outside of their coat feels very cold, unlike the dogs where you can feel warmth when you stroke them. The goats are obviously that much better insulated, to the extent that we imitated them by science in developing hollow fibre insulating materials. If I can collect goat hair when they moult I will not need science - I will have the real thing.

I had to knock up a temporary repair in the wood house. The infrastructure between me and the neighbours is failing by the minute, thanks to the dogs. Theirs and mine. There is a war going on between my dogs and Tibi and Marika's dogs and it centres round the crumbling infrastucture. I nailed a door up against the hole between me and them as a temporary measure.

I set about dealing with the mountain of half eaten maize stalks dragged out of the goat house. They are just so wasteful. I have to find a better way. I chopped the maize stalks into suitable sized pieces to be incorporated into the compost heap. I managed about half an hour. It was backachey work and mind numbingly boring unproductive work. I managed about a third of the accumulated stalks.

I decided for want of something productive to do in the garden to take more vine cuttings. You may remember that I gave some to John and planted some myself last year. Both of us had an utter failure with them. They came into bud and then the dreadful late spring weather came and they got no further. Oh well, try again this year. I took five cuttings for him and five for me from each of the three best vines in the garden. I stuck mine straight in the ground. I used a different technology from last year. I just stuck the spade in and gave it a waggle, then withdrew it leaving a narrow but deep slot in the soil. In went a cutting and I just heeled it in. Minimal effort. I had all fifteen in in a short space of time. I popped John's into a carrier bag and cycled round to his and gave them to him.

A little while later I went round to the faluhaz on a two-fold mission. One was to print off a couple of sheets using their printer and one was to pay my dues for membership of the newly formed affiliation/asscociation. I offered to pay and was taken aback by the abruptness and vehemence of Erzsi's refusal. I really thought I had said something majorly out of place. I said "When do I pay?". "Never" she replied, "You take the photos".

Speaking of which, my first outing will be on Saturday when they have a service on the village green to dedicate the simulation of the Nativity scene which they set up there each year. It got better. When I got to the pub Hobo told me that they wanted to borrow one of my goats to be beside the stable throughout. I received this not without misgiving. How would one of my goats react to being taken away from the others in the dark, transported somewhere totally strange and subject to lots of coming and goings and all the stuff that would go on?

Apologies for delay in updating. I have been without ADSL for four days!

24th November 2010

It was another nice day, and once again I was able to put the goats out. I did some washing and then had to make the decision as to whether to go into town today or tomorrow. I checked on the goats. I moved Betty to a better place but otherwise they were fine and there was not a cloud in the sky. I decided to go to Körmend today. Ah, the joys of keeping livestock.

Once in town I decided to check out the revamped Spar shop which is on the opposite side of the road to the back end of the castle grounds. It was a far cry from the last time I went there, when I had to stop twice and rest and actually find somewhere to sit down once because of the pain of walking. I can't say it was comfortable, but I managed to get to the Spar shop, do the rounds and walk back to the town centre without stopping. I liked the Spar shop. The one by the market place is laid out in a very peculiar way, with diagonal aisles and no way through from this section to that section in places. The one I was in today was very conventional with the aisles straight up and down. I found it so much easier to see that for which I was looking. I bought some liver as a treat. Half a kilogramme for just over two hundred forints - about sixty pence. Two good meals for me, and no doubt some gristly bits in the middle for the dogs.

Once back in the town centre I did take a breather in the Presszo (and a beer). I went into Trafik and got what I needed, then into Zenit, the ironmongers. I only wanted wood screws. They were quite busy with a number of people around the cash desk area obviously making major purchases. I happily waited until one of their staff became free. It was the lady that serves in there. I was a bit surprised when she greeted me with a friendly "Jó napot!". I was even more surprised when I had my wood screws and went to pay for them. The guy who is obviously the manager was on the till and I also managed to get a "Thank you" and a "See you!" from him. Well, well.

I caught the half past two bus back to Halogy. It was chokka as usual. Back in the village I went into the pub to pay the bike parking fee. Hobo was there, and I made the decision to have a couple then, and not go back in the evening.

I had left it plenty late enough with the sun setting to go home and do the firewood and get the goats in. Fortunately Hobo came along and assisted.

By half past eight I had a severe dose of cabin sickness, and in spite of what I had said about not going back in the evening I shot up to the pub for a quick one. As I took the bike out the gate there was a tractor coming along, the way I was going. He was somewhere down by John's place, a couple of hundred metres. I set off expecting him to overtake me somewhere by the templom. I didn't cycle particularly hard, but by the time I got to the pub I had actually increased the distance between me and him. I stood outside for a few seconds to see what his hold up was. It proved to be a gargantuan trailer load of maize. It was a three axled trailer and each axle had a wheel and tyre each end that must have been two foot six wide. You could hear the tyres squishing as they flexed with each revolution under the weight of the load. I would swear that I saw the road flex underneath it as it passed. I reckon there must have been close to forty tonnes of maize in that trailer.

I went in the pub and had my beer. It was close. The few regulars there (Hobo was missing) were gathered at the bar in their "it's almost time to leave" posture. I downed the beer and went home.

25th November 2010

The weather forecast had said rain, but it didn't. Once again the goats went out all day. Every day is a bonus.

After breakfast I did some more chopping up of the maize stalks. Once again I lasted about thirty minutes. I did get as far a piling them in the barrow, wheeling them up the garden and piling them unto the main compost heap.

Hobo appeared. For no other reason than to call in and have a chat. It was lunch time by the time he left, so I had lunch.

After lunch I set about making a manger. Well, it is that time of year! The front and back had to come off the pallet that the wood that Tibi fetched had arrived on. The pieces on either end were obviously successive slices of where a tree trunk flares out into the roots. The edges to the edge of the pallet either end were sawn straight. The sides towards the middle had the flare - one this way and the other that. I hit one of them to get it off and it split and came off in two pieces. Fortunately one of the pieces was just the right size for what I intended. It just needed to be trimmed straight on the flared edge. The other came off in one piece. Mmmmm - I needed it to be roughly the same size as the other. I hit it with the axe, and it started splitting. I hit it again and it split completely. Both pieces were within five millimetres the same size. I had to plane the split side roughly straight and mark the other sides (the flared sides) parallel. I trimmed them with the axe too. It was not many minutes work, and those edges could stay rough. Surprising how much wood you can shift quite rapidly with an axe. I found a narrow piece for the bottom and similarly roughed a bevel on each side. Those did have to be planed. I drilled for the nails on the front and back. I was not about to attempt to nail through thirty five millimetre oak. In just a few minutes front, back and bottom were assembled and it was time to get the firewood and fetch the goats in.

I ate and went to the pub. I had an unpleasant surprise upon my return home. No phone or ADSL connection.

26th November 2010

It was a misty and frosty morning and quite obviously winter was well and truely here. Quite astonishing to think that it was only a few days ago that I was out digging in tee shirt and jeans.

The goats still went out. There are still some scrubby bits they can get on. Rudy had a strop on and had to be subdued, several times before he decided that I was still boss.

I did some much needed housework. The place was in turmoil. The floors get dirty faster than I can keep them clean. It dries to dust and the passage of marauding packs of dogs stirs the dust up in their wake to settle on all horizontal surfaces. And some vertical ones.

Just after lunch I cycled up to the phone box to see if I could report my fault. I don't know if I ever mentioned in the very early days but the signage in the phone box is tri-lingual. Hungarian, English and Russian. Interesting combination considering the twenty one years since the Russians went away. As you might expect it turned out to be a menu system. "Press one for...". You get the idea. I retired defeated. My Hungarian was simply not up to that. Pee'd off I went for a beer. Hobo was there (surprise!). I explained my predicament and enlisted his help - for the price of a beer, of course. We wandered back to the phone box and Hobo spent an inordinate amount of time punching buttons, including punching my home phone number in twice, but eventually managed to speak to a human. The odd thing was that I noticed that the very first menu selection Hobo chose was the number nine. Now, we had rung the number for reporting faults. I wanted to report a fault. Perhaps it is just me, but my befuddled English brain would somehow have assumed that the menu selection would be number one. Ah well, it is Hungary. I had an SMS from T-Com whilst I was in the pub. It was an acknowledgement of the fault and gave me a fault reference number.

Apart from the absence of Internet, which was like having an arm cut off, it was a fairly normal end to the day. Firewood, goats, food sort of thing. I officially declared winter and took the knitting bag to the pub in the evening.

27th November 2010

It was a lovely morning but overnight there had been a fairly substantial fall of snow. I had breakfast before I thought about the goats. By then the snow was melting in patches and there was greenery here and there. Out they went. They really did not know what to make of the snow, but they were happy enough once I had them out on the green patch.

I was under the weather - again. Sniffly and snotty all day. I forced myself to bash on with the making of the manger for the goats. I stuck at that pretty well all day. A bit rough and ready, but being made of thirty five millimetre oak I think it will stand up to the goats.

I went out on my photo shoot in the evening. Hobo turned up with the village factotum with village bus and a trailer attached. Hobo took Suzy kecske in the trailer up to the village green. At the due time I wandered up there. It was a kind of deication of the representation of the stable scene and a celebration of Advent. It was rather touching. A young couple from the village did Mary and Joseph and various other village youngsters did the shepherds, the three wise men and the three kings. Suzy was there tethered to a post just outside the stable and was quite a star. I had worried about her, but Hobo kept her well supplied with nibblies (pumpkin) and she was as happy as anything with all the people around and the fuss that she got from the children.

After the ceremony was over there was a general social gathering, with a bonfire, cakes and mulled wine. The local padre sought me out and had a few words. Pleasant ones, from the bit I understood. The gathering wound down and it was time to withdraw to the relative warmth of the pub. Factotum hitched up his trailer and Hobo and Suzy were reinstalled. (Don't mention reinstallation to me at the moment - touchy subject) I knew that Hobo would see Suzy safely returned to the company of Rudy and Betty in the little house, so I let the bicycle take me down the hill straight to the pub.

I went home from the pub to a cold house - no fires lit. Hobo had stocked me up with wood for the tile stove. It was a disaster. It took me three attempts to get it going!

28th November 2010

It was a cold, cold morning with leaden skies. It was a Sunday anyway so I lit the stove and put the coffee on and went and fed the goats. The goats were going precisely nowhere today. The kitchen was pleasantly warm when I returned to the house and I was unpleasantly cold. The coffee was almost cooked and the stove hot enough to make toast rather quickly.

I was finding my way into the regime of winter goat feeding. It was, and is, quite a steep path of the learning curve. I had misgivings of my ability to have them survive the winter, which looks like being a harsh one. Speaking of which, do you think that they would actually tell us if the North Atlantic conveyer had switched off? I have my doubts. Anyway, today I gave them far too much food. By the end of the day much of it had been scattered and trampled upon.

I managed a bit of housework but I was still feeling rough. I made lunch and as I sat and ate it, it started snowing. It was, as my dear old mum would have said "snowing half crowns". It did not look like stopping either. Before it settled I managed as far as the pub for a beer, then home to feed the goats and get the firewood in. I was carrying one of the wood baskets back to the house when the war between my dogs and the dogs from next door broke out again. I called mine away in no uncertain terms. When they returned to the house I noticed bloody paw marks on the hallway floor. Pickle! I investigated and between their dogs and my dogs they had actually broken one of the few remaining pieces of window glass between my wood house and their yard. Pickle had obviously cut her foot either on the pieces on the floor in the wood house or on the bits that remained in the window frame. She would not let me examine it, but as all animals do (including humans) was licking it better. Oh well, it was four on a Sunday afternoon, snowing cats and dogs, I was unwell and it would just have to wait for the morning.

That was it for me for the day. I cooked something up and ate it, did some reading and went to bed.

29th November 2010

At half past two in the morning two quite obviously big machines thundered past pretty close together. I was still awake anyway and rolled over to look at the alarm clock - that's how I know it was half past two. Could only be one thing - snowploughs.

In the morning sure enough there had been quite an accumulation of snow. Some six to eight inches. More where it had curled round the front of the house in the north easterly. It was certainly the heaviest snowfall that I had experienced since living here. First job of all was to clear a path to the road. That was heavy enough work. The snow was dampish and heavy itself. The snowploughs certainly had been round and the result was an eighteen inch high ridge of semi-compacted snow between me and the roadway. Oh well, for now it would have to stay an eighteen inch high ridge. I would just have to step over it.

After that it was business as usual for a while. Shop, feed the goats who most certainly would not be going out today, light the stove and have breakfast. I was just doing the last of those when my Hungarian mobile let me know I had a text message. It was from T-Com telling me that a job had been raised on my fault. To their credit the repair man was there less than an hour later. He plugged the ADSL modem in and watched at it got as far as it was going to get, picked the phone up and listened, unplugged and replugged it and listened again. He went into his bag of tricks and fetched out his own ADSL modem and plugged it in in place of mine. The result was the same. I asked him whether the problem was this end, with the wires or something. He said that he did not know and indicated that he would have to go to Nádasd to check that end. Obviously where the telephone exchange is. He said that he would ring the land line if he fixed it. I couldn't go far away from my office - further than the hallway and I cannot hear the house phone anyway, so I did this and that nearby. I happened to be sitting at the desk doing whatever at the computer when I noticed that the modem now had four green lights and a red one as opposed to just the three green lights whilst I had the problem. In a few seconds the red light turned into a green one and that was that, back on the Internet. If the man rang the house phone I never heard it, and I was at the desk for a while dealing with e-mails and such.

The morning was, well, buggered anyway so I had an early lunch and then fed the goats. Hobo turned up, cleared a load of snow and topped me up with firewood. We decided a beer was in order - when is it not? So, he being on foot and me being unwilling to risk the bike to the pub we walked up there together. We walked on the roadway, but in the gravelly bit at the side. We had been in the pub but a short while when John came in. It turned into having our normal evening session, but in the afternoon. I had no intention of venturing out in the evening.

Back home it was feed the goats before darkness fell and light the tile stove and the kitchen stove.

30th November 2010

We had no more snow but it was minus five in the morning. All three goats were going "meah, meah, meah" when they heard me out and about. Oh dear, I obviously had not given them enough food yesterday evening. I fed them and they stopped going "meah, meah, meah". For the first time I lit the stove in the workshop. I finished off the manger but the stove was not doing its stuff and I retired, very cold.

The kitchen stove was out. I decided on a job that I had been threatening to do for a while. To clear the kitchen stove pipes of soot. The last thing I need is to get into January and have the blasted thing just fill the kitchen with smoke and refuse to light. I cleaned under the cooking surfaces of the stove first. There is a single control that determines whether the heat is directed under the cooking surfaces or under the oven. Mmmmm - there was quite a lot of ash down there. I got it out as best I could. There is no easy way of cleaning it. Eventually I know that one fine summer's day I will have to disconnect it from the pipe work, drag it out to the yard, stand it on its end and hose it out. I'm really looking forward to that!

With the usual amount of struggle, and at some cost to Hobo's decor of the hallway (he had plastered tight around the pipes) I got the pipework off. Outside, blast the hosepipe through it and that was that. All except for the pipe that goes through the wall and actually connects to the stove. Last year I had used a hibiscus branch. I went and looked at the hibiscus. Nothing even remotely suitable. The penny suddenly dropped. Silly sod! When I had the drains blockage I imported a set of drain rods. One of the tools in the set was a scraper. They were situated only about a metre away from where I needed to clean out the pipe.

After that it was simple. A couple of times through with the scraper and all the pipework went back. I though to clean out the soot that accumulates at the bottom of the chimneys via the inspection doors. The one from the tile stove yielded little. The kitchen one was another matter. I filled a twenty litre ex-emulsion paint can up. What was really worrying was the number of little bits of brick that came out with it. Mmmm - I needed to get into the attic and have an inspection. As I write, I still have not. Even more worrying was that when I lit the kitchen stove to cook in the evening Blackie went ballistic, looking up towards where the chimney was and barking hysterically.

I fed the goats again. Maybe I had overdone it. All three were like little barrels.

Of course I went to the pub in the evening. I left the bike at home again and walked it.


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