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December 2011

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1st December 2011

I forgot to mention, but starting another month of blog brought it to mind. Somewhen over the last week or so my dose of catarrh had quite quickly gone away, thank goodness. I was back to just the normal snottiness that I think we all tend to get when it is persistently cold weather.

Speaking of the cold weather, I also looked back at last year's blog to realise that this time last year we were under a fair bit of snow. Not so this year, and I managed another hour and a half of the winter digging. It should have been finished by now of course, but then again when I think about all the time I had spent preventing various animals from getting where they were not supposed to get it is hardly surprising. Also this year the help simply has not been there. My normal sources of help - mainly Hobo and Jozsi - seem to have had much more work on this year than last. Hobo has certainly had many more painting jobs on than previously and the knock on effect from that is that Toni was now screaming for his services. I was a long way down the list. Whatever! Although I have not had the help I have been plodding along with the various jobs and am well enough pleased with progress.

Having said that, I got the firewood in and should have gone down the road for more goat greenery but I simply did not have the energy. They would have to make do with maize stalks and a little hay.

2nd December 2011

The weather was dull and unpleasant still. Not bad weather to curtail outdoor activities but generally not nice. After the normal start I carried on up to the garden after feeding the goats. Another couple of barrow loads of goat compost were spread and it was back to the digging. Progress was rapid. This was the area where the tomatoes and paprika had been. I have no idea why, but except at the very edges it was more or less free of couch grass.

I did my stint and then it was back to the house to sort out the kitchen. Lunch after that.

Early afternoon, feeling a lot better than I had yesterday, I went down the road with barrow, scythe and fork and stole another barrow load of greenery. Back home I did the firewood.

In the evening it was stay home and do a load of Internet work. Related to, but not the computer work that I always do for a UK organisation at this time of year. It took me some while. I tried to do the uploading of it at the end but I was tired and to be honest made a right dogs breakfast of it. Go to bed. Sort it out in the morning.

3rd December 2011

The weather remained the same. I cannot remember whether I said but both the Norwegian Internet site and all the local telly forecasts had been wrong more than the were right for the best part of a month. I did a stint of digging.

After that I went on the computer to sort out last evening's Internet dogs breakfast. Of course, being fresh, rested and sober made it but the work of a few minutes to fix. Stupid stuff like uploading an index.html file into a directory where there should only have been an index.php file, and completely failing to upload any of the files whose names began with a dot (.) (UNIX/Linux people will know what that is all about)

After lunch I was chopping firewood in the woodhouse when there was a rattle on the tin sheet that Tibi has nailed up to prevent his dogs getting at my dogs and vice-versa. It was Marika. Something about fenyerfa (softwood - pine, fir, spruce, larch...). I stopped chopping and wandered into the garden. Marika passed over the fence a basket of greenery trimmed from a pine tree. Just the greenery - no wood. And another basket, and another and another. Whilst she was refilling the basket I looked over at what Tibi was doing. He was well up a ladder about the same length as my long one and had a pole about twenty feet long to the other end of which was attached a pruning saw. He was trimming all the lower branches (lower???) from a pine tree that I had never noticed before, leaving only the few branches at the very top. Ah! That will be next year's (or the year after) May Pole then. I have to say that I had not realised that the May Pole trees were cultivated thus.

I went back and finished off getting the firewood. There was a fair amount needed, as all the baskets were completely empty. Having just looked back on the blog and noticed an entry about Hobo getting the firewood in and me having to have three attempts to light the tilestove, I thought that I would give you an insight into my technology. Firewood at the moment comes into the house in four types. Pear from the freshly felled tree, oak - ex-Lajos, acacia and softwood. The firewood also comes into the house in about five different sizes. Big, for the tilestove. Anything from three inches square to as big as will go in the firebox hole. Medium, about two inches square. That goes on the tile stove once first lit and is what I call keeping warm wood for the kitchen stove. Next down is small, which is oak or acacia for the kitchen and acacia for the tilestove. That is anywhere between half an inch and an inch in either direction. In the tilestove that is large kindling. In the kitchen that is cooking firewood when I want some real heat from the stove. Last off is kindling for which I reserve pine. Eight or ten pieces from six to eight millimetres in size and broken into pieces about five inches long. The wood for the tilestove is stacked in the basket by order of size, with some large pieces of acacia on top of the large pieces of pear wood to get a good fire going. In the kitchen it goes into the basket by area so that I can get at whatever sized bits of wood I need for whatever I am doing in the kitchen at the time. I do have to say that I cheat. I do light the pine kindling using the blowlamp. Ten seconds to get either of the fires going. On a good day! Ah, isn't applied physics (and chemistry) a wonderful subject.

Pub in the evening.

4th December 2011

I was up early for a Sunday. I think that it was the extra light coming through the roller shutters that did it. It was definitely a better day. The sun was not actually shining but the murk had lifted and it looked like the sun might well burn away the ground mist later.

Sunday or not I went and dug. It is a bit of a race against time, but every bit I get done is a bonus. I console myself with the thought that, whatever, none of it will be as bad as the first year that I arrived here when just breaking the ground - even though Tibi had ploughed it - was a sheer torment.

When I finished it was about quarter to twelve. It being a Sunday I decided on a pre-prandial at the pub, as you do. Hobo was there. One became two - he bought it. I only just started it and put a beer mat on the top, told Hobo and went home and fed pigeons and goats. I went back to finish the beer. It got worse. One of the pub skittle teams had obviously had a good win and were more than a little flush with open bottles of beer. They had to leave. The excess was distributed. Hobo got two bottles and so did I. Oh well! We went through the beer quite leisurely. I was going to go home but Hobo rattled on about goat food. It turned out to be at his house. I was fed lunch and red wine. Hobo's mother apologised for the chicken. It turned out that it was an ex one of theirs. Five years old! And cooked for five hours. It was still a bit chewy. Eventually we got the goat food. Hobo had said cabbage. It turned out to be kale. Well, in Hungary, just as with onions, anything remotely resembling a cabbage - i.e. brassicas - is some sort of cabbage. Káposztafélék. "Cabbage animals" accordind to Google translate.

Hobo shouldered the bag of kale. His bike was still at the pub. You know what is coming! Yep. Two more beers later and with not much daylight left I landed home. At least I landed home with Hobo. The goats had to come out briefly, the old maize stalks removed, new bedding spread about and the goats back in. There was a hiatus when the goats went out. Rudy barged his way out as the three smaller ones were coming out. With a chain clip in hand I grabbed his collar. Only to be left with collar in hand and Rudy loose in the garden. I clipped the chain to the collar but it took Hobo holding his horns and me putting the collar back on him to get him secured. I had a surprise. I had to let his collar out another hole. Gotta get another new bigger, stronger collar for that goat. We left the girls and the kid wandering loose. They were not going very far. I closed the goat house door and we went to go back into the yard to do the goat house bedding from that side. There was another hiatus. Black dog escaped into the garden. Well, he would have to take his chance. I still had new bedding to get in for the goats and feed them for the evening.

To his eternal credit black dog ran all the way up the garden to Telek utca, poked his nose out onto Telek utca and decided that what was happening where me and Hobo were was much more interesting, so he zigzagged his way back down to the yard gate. Even more to his credit he never even bothered in the slightest about Rudy on his chain or the other three wandering loose. If that had been Pickle there would have been goats and dog all over the county.

With Blackie back in the yard, Rudy on stake and the others going nowhere far, Hobo and I set about the inside of the goat house. All the old maize stalks came out and a new layer of bedding went in. I set about putting food for the evening into the goathouse and returning the goats. Rudy was first. To my amazement he was quite amenable. No problem at all. The girls and the kid were just as easy. With the light fading fast they did not need a lot of encouragement to return to their little house.

Meanwhile, Hobo had chopped a basketful of pear wood and forked down from the loft enough of the old stuff up there for a couple more replenishings of goat bedding. Guess where we went after that? Oh dear! Definitely oh dear! Tomorrow's hangover well and truely sorted out, then.

5th December 2011

I managed to spread another couple of barrow loads of goat compost on the main garden and then it came on to rain. Ah well, I had had quite a good few days of doing a bit every day for this time of the year.

In spite of rain I did some washing of clothes. I have had to come to pragmatic decisions about clothes. A couple of for instances. The summer weight motorcycle gloves that I brought with me from the UK have finally been relegated to working gloves. They suffered somewhat the first year I was here. By now they are shot to pieces but at least they still keep the backs of my hands and the palms warm. Another is that I have here a genuine Ferrari sweat shirt, complete with Ferrari name on the label inside the neck as well as multiple other places. Destined to be a work jumper. If I had left it in its original packaging it would probably have been worth money, but I did not. Over the years, me being a pipe smoker, it has accumulated a miriad of tiny pipe burns to the front thereby rendering it worthless anyway and the decision to relegate it to work clothes puts aside any remaining sentimental attachment that I might once have had for it. It is after all just a sweatshirt.

After lunch and feeding pigeons and goats, rain or not it was firewood time. The candidate kugli that I selected was what I would call a medium sizes one. Somewhere about eighteen inches across. It proved surprisingly amenable to being bashed to bits. I bashed half of it to bits and had both big room and kitchen wood baskets well heaped with pearwood. There would be enough in that one kugli to similarly fill them tomorrow.

I decided on a beer, so went to the pub. Hobo and John were in there. Oh well, an early session. As the daylight ebbed I lidded my beer and went home to lock pigeons in and give the goats the last feed of the day. Then returned to my beer in the pub. In the meantime the weather had deteriorated to the extent that is was now persistently precipitating. Another couple of beers followed but then we mutually decided that that was it for the evening and went our ways relative early.

6th December 2011

I got up to find that I had a problem. My left ankle was exceedingly sore. Almost like a sprained ankle, but not. It is shot to pieces you know. Some years ago - twenty odd - I suffered a severe sprain to that ankle. So bad that, having just left the building to go somewhere, I had to return to the building by hopping on the right leg. An evening and a night of agony followed and I ended up at the local casualty unit quite early next day. I hopped into casualty and to their eternal credit they had a wheelchair under me. I was duely triaged and sent down to x-ray, then back to a cubicle. Quite shortly a young doctor arrived with the x-ray plates. He hooked the first one into the light screen and his actual words were "Bloody hell, that's a mess. When did you do that?". I told him "1967". "Motorbike?". "Yep". He considered for a moment and delivered his verdict. "There is so much scar tissue in that ankle that I simply cannot say whether it is broken or not. I am going to send you home with crutches and if you still cannot put any weight on the ankle in three or four days come back and we will plaster it because it will mean that it is broken. Are you all right with crutches?". He stopped for a moment to consider and then said "That was a bloody silly thing to say, wasn't it?". "Yep". I spent six months on crutches once I got out of hospital after that accident!

Anyway, where was I? The ankle was exceedingly sore. It still is as I write. I had not the first idea of what had caused it. Nothing that I had noticed. I limped to the shop and back, had breakfast and then limped to the pigeon house and out to feed the goats. I carried on limping and went and did a load more digging. You may find that surprising, but digging was not actually painful. What was painful was putting one foot in front of the other. As you will know if you have done any digging recently you tend not to do that when digging. Small sideways steps. And driving the spade in was also no problem as it does not involve flexing the ankle.

I did my stint, returned to the house, resurrected the kitchen stove fire and did the washing up. It being late morning by then I took a break, filled the pipe and opened a bottle of beer. I was smoking pipe and contemplating navel when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head and saw a mouse running across the top of the back of the easy chair which is by the side of the kitchen table. It saw my movement and stopped and looked at me for a second. Then it carried on wherever it was going. I had known that I had a mouse. I had glimpsed it before. I must be going dotty because I find myself strangely reluctant to kill that mouse. I know what it eats. None of my stuff. It steals maize seeds - goat food. Maybe ten a day. Whatever.

I managed to catch Tibi and ask about shifting the load of stooks from John's garden with his tractor and trailer. Day after tomorrow.

I did the firewood and went to the pub for a beer and some company. Back home, the usual early evening routine but with a difference. Today was St. Nicholas day which is when, by tradition, children in Hungary get their Christmas presents. I had been forewarned that if I went down to the faluhaz with camera I might get a glimpse of St. Nicholas. I did, and I did. Complete with his angel helper and his devil helper (for the naughty children). Very worth while.

I ended up in the pub for far too long. Winding Hobo up about Peak Oil. I do tend to. Well, he was winding me up about the pearwood on my yard and telling me about a wonderful machine, powered by electricity, that Toni had for splitting kugli. My response was, as always, "Kézimunka!" - work by hand. At one stage Lajos even got involved when I talked about sawpits. You know, there is no need to go back to sawpits. The technology was there long before fossil fuels became involved. Wind power or water power will do it. Unfortunately, that needs to be rebuilt before the rest of it comes crashing down. More later!

7th December 2011

I opened the roller shutters to find a clear day an the sun just rising. Praise be! Shop, breadfast, pigeon water, goat food and out onto the garden to dig.

I did not do a long stint - about an hour - then back to the house to resurrect the kitchen fire, do some clothes washing and cook a meat and tatie pie. The pie took an hour to prepare before it went into the oven. Ah, convenience foods. Freezers. When I was a young boy we had little of that. Bread, of course. Various bought in preserves and maybe the odd tin of salmon set aside for when we had visitors. Mother was in those days a housewife and as such prepared and cooked all of what I would call main meals, plus puddings plus cakes and pastries. As much as I like my own homemade meat and tatie pies I chafed at the time it took. What else could I have done in that hour. Oh well, that's the way it is. If I want the pie I have to sacrifice the hour from other stuff. If just-in-time deliveries start to fail (my best guess within the next three years) there will be many, many millions of people in a much worse situation than I am.

Pie cooked I left it to cool and had a sandwich. Then firewood. It varies between half an hour and an hour of daylight time. It will be more once the thermometer is in minus territory all day and all night.

8th December 2011

Up early, let the dogs out, went to the shop and in normal custom let the dogs back in to share breakfast toast. As soon as Blackie got in the kitchen there was a commotion. He headed at the speed of a large black dog in the direction of the corner by the bathroom door. There was a deal of rummaging about. It could only have been one thing. Mouse. He did not catch it. I had no idea that he had it in him to even try. Both dogs are not the slightest interested when I remove a dead one from the trap, but Blackie certainly went after the live one. Mind you, the size of his feet there is room for a legion of mice to escape from between his pads.

Normal service resumed after that. Stove lit, coffee on and share the crusts of the first two slices of toast with the dogs. Third slice, as ever, was just for me, with jam and then a smoke over the coffee.

Pigeons, goats, digging and then back to the yard to do the firewood. I had just started in when there was a doggy commotion from the gate. I poked my nose out and tibi was there. I limped on down there and went out the gate to talk to Tibi. The dogs continued their commotion. Without ado Tibi went in the yard, stamped about the yard and, bellowing, sent them off, tails between legs in disarray. He came back to talk to me. The would have his tractor and trailer ready tomorrow to move the maize stalks from John's place onto my garden.

Over and after lunch I spent some while on the computer finishing off as far as possible the job that I was doing for the UK.

Normal end of the afternoon stuff and then I set of early to the pub where I had been told that I would be picked up at five. Hobo turned up. Hobo was sure that it was tomorrow that we would be picked up. I checked the SMSs on my mobile phone. No, definitely today. Somewhat later than that, just gone six we were picked up. Not until after another beer. Then we were whisked away by black Mercedes to Csákánydoroszló, where, suitably attired, I had been inveigled into the part of Mikulás to two Austrian children there. I was assured that it went well and we spent a very pleasant evening chatting, smoking and being fed beer wth/by out hosts until we were whisked back to Halogy at a suitably early time for me.

Time for a bit of gloom and doom. What Peak Oil Looks Like is this weeks blog from John Michael Greer. You know that I set time aside to read his blog every week anyway. It is a part of what I do here. Read the fourth paragraph!! if nothing else.

9th December 2011

After all the usual stuff there had been a tentative arrangement made with Tibi for him to shift the maize stalks. We had a chat about it. There was no sign of Hobo to help so once again it was the Hungarian tomorrow. Tibi did set off and actually go to John's place and suss out the size of the problem.

I managed to get the kitchen and hallway swept out - seriously needed. Then I had lunch.

I managed a bit more winter digging and then did the firewood. It did not need a lot and by luck I identified a candidate kugli that I was able to bash to bits - smaller for the kitchen, larger for the tilestove - in only a matter of minutes. I went to the pub after that for a beer. John turned up. We had a couple and whilst we were having them the "Closed" sign went up on the outside of the door. I had already been primed that it would. This evening was the banquet for all the skittles teams that Láci hosts. Last year I got smuggled in as photographer. Hobo turned up at my place a while later to tell me that my services were not required.

John and I finished our beers and departed, with the advertised closing time rapidly approaching. Pub regulars continued to appear. I was not too worried either way. I had some supplies at home.

I did the goats and locked the pigeons in and as it happened, once I had received Hobo's message, settled in for the evening. I managed more computer work for the UK and some blog updating.

10th December 2011

I got up and did all the usual stuff then I hung around. Today was supposed to be the day for moving the maize stalks from John's place. Nothing was happening, so I wandered round to next door. Tibi and Marika invited me in, in spite of my remonstrations about having bits of goat sh*t hanging off my welly boots. First thing that happened was that I was propelled in the direction of a very large pálinka - about a treble. There was some chat and a couple of phone calls were made. Another very large pálinka came my way. It was finally organised that it was on for moving the maize stalks.

I went home and put the computer on, leaving the house door open so that I would hear Tibi's tractor. I never did hear it, and the next I knew the dogs were going ballistic at the garden gate and Marika was there telling me to get myself into the garden sharpish. They had already been down to John's and loaded up a trailerful of maize stalks. Tibi had parked his tractor in his garden and was hurtling the bunches over my fence. With me there was a team of four of us picking them up and stooking them around the adjacent trees and against the fence - John, Marika, another Láci, about whom I must write more later, and me. No sign of Hobo.

Another load followed, and I limped at best speed to help load it and then back again to help unload it. And that was it. Goat stalks for the winter. I paid Láci there and then and then limped back to the yard. I later paid John the same. Back at the yard the dogs were having a barking match at the street end. I poked my nose round to see what was going on, and they were barking at Tibi, Marika and Láci by Tibi's gate. I limped on round there. Tibi enquired whether I had settled up with Láci. I told him I had. He was happy with that. I enquired of him how much I owed. He shrugged his shoulders and waved his arms in dismissal. I told him that I would find another way other than cash!

John and I met up in the pub for what we considered a well-earned beer. Helmut turned up. A couple of beers turned into more. I went home, locked the pigeons in and fed the goats for the evening. Then returned to the pub where I still had yet more beer on the table. I confess that I was in my cups by the time I finally went home. I think the two treble pálinkas from Tibi started the rot. Not good!

11th December 2011

I must warn you before you start reading that I am about to report on what was undoubtedly the blackest day ever in the almost four years that I have been here. Tomorrow's entry will be not much better.

Up, dogs out and lit the stove for breakfast then let the dogs back in for their scraps of toast. Then out to give the pigeons water and feed the goats. When the first bunch of stalks went in Rudy and Suzy immediately came milling around to grab a share. The kid hung around in the background as usual. Normally Betty does too, but there was no sign of Betty which was not normal. I shoved some more stalks in, hurtling some towards the other end of the garage where the kid could get at them away from Rudy and Suzy. I went into the goat house to investigate. I found Betty lying on her side in the sty, quite still. I bent down to check for signs of life but I already knew what the outcome would be. I carried her body out of the goathouse, closing the doors as I went. I laid her gently down just outside the goathouse still hoping to spot some sign of life. There was none. I returned to the house to contemplate this turn of events.

It was, of course, a stockman's worst nightmare. Trains of thoughts ran through my head. "Could I have prevented it?" "What was the cause?" "Will it affect the others?" "Should I get a necropsy done?" The answer to that one was yes, but I simply could not afford it. I went on-line and searched for sudden death of goats. A particular forum had an answer from a breeder of twenty four years. In effect, a list as long as your arm. He detailed some of them and descibed their symptoms. That was the thing - Betty had had no symptoms. She was fine yesterday evening and gone this morning. I could list the symptoms she could have had but won't.

None of it helped. In the absence of a necropsy there was nothing to do but make pragmatic decisions about what to do with her body. The only thing I came up with was to bury it deep. I chose a spot with care. There is a gap in the vines that run up the eastern side. Well, there are several. I chose a spot where I wanted to plant a new vine just as soon as I manage to get some propagated. She would go there. That way, once I got my vine established, every time I pruned it, trained it or harvested grapes from it I would think of Betty.

I dug it as deep as I could - a spade depth. It took me the rest of the morning, with breaks to do that. I carried Betty's body over from the goat house and laid it to rest as gently as I could. I put a good handful of maize in with her so that she would have something to chobble on on her way to whatever particular Elysian Fields goats go to. I had thought to keep her collar but that went in with her too. Only she had ever worn it. I shed a tear as I covered her over. I have shed more writing this.

Pragmatism reigned. The pigeons and remaining goats all had to be fed. After the morning I had had I needed a beer and some human company so I went to the pub for both. Back home the goat house had to be sorted, which was a job that I had scheduled for today anyway. The goats went out briefly nearby and I spent some time removing the old maize stalks and renewing the bedding.

Firewood had to be brought in and I cooked and ate. With a notable lack of appetite. I returned to the pub in the evening but did not stay long.

12th December 2011

I was in a black mood. Yesterday was just filled with practicalities and today was the day when Betty's death really got to me. Nevertheless, life went on and I just had to get on with it. There was half a ray of sunshine when I went to give the pigeons their water. Unusually the sitting bird left the nest to queue up with the rest for the fresh water. That gave me a chance to look at the nest. There were two squabs. Sadly, one was dead but the other was very much alive. Well, one is better than none and it lifted my mood a little.

With trepidation I went to feed the goats. I do tend to get stockman's paranoia. All was well. The other three were bouncing around as usual. I fed them.

John called during the morning to find out if I had electricity. I had. He had not. He left to go and figure out why not.

I did some washing and then got the firewood in. Quite early I fed the pigeons and goats - all was still well. Then I got changed. Unfortunately I had to go to Körmend, today of all days. The relief shop lady - good as she is with stock - had let me down and had no pipe tobacco in stock. She did a couple of days later but I needed it today. Out and caught the bus. The bus was still not going through the town centre but round the outskirts via Tesco and back along the main road. That left me with a steady limp into the town centre. Slow but not painful. I got a little cash from the bank, went and bought the tobacco and then a couple of items from the miserable ironmongers. One was an eight hundred gramme hammer, for a reason. At current exchange rate two pounds twenty!

I wandered round to the Presszo bar for a beer, as you do. I contemplated the time and decided that at my present pace of perambulation I had no chance of getting to the Spar shop and then back to the bus stop in time for the half past two bus so I lingered a little. I noticed that the one armed bandit was no longer there. That was strange - I forgot to mention it, but the one armed bandit has been removed from the Halogy pub also. Odd. As it happened, as I limped across Hunyadi János utca the Halogy bus was just at the bus stop. I would still have been pushed to get it.

I limped on round to Spar where I bought all the usual - margarine, liver, coffee beans - and a couple of other items. It left me with some time in hand. A beer, I needed another beer. I went to the big pub that is right on the road junction within sight of the bus stop. It was shut, with a sign on the door indicating that it might be shut for some time. Never mind, there was another pub that I knew of but had never been in only some twenty metres or so along Rákóci utca. It was shut as well. What was going on? Pubs shut, no one armed bandits? I found a pub a little further along that was open. I had been in it before. When some of my guests had arrived Hobo had insisted upon dragging us in there to eat. The reason? It is cheap. It is also a fairly rough and ready sort of place. Any port in a storm, as they say. I had a beer and headed for the bus.

When I got on I found a seat beside Hobo's step-dad. We made a bit of small talk as we headed back to the village. I called in the pub for a very swift one and headed on home to lock the pigeons in and check on and feed the goats. I did that in semi-darkness. They were fine.

Early evening routine. I lit the kitchen stove and the tile stove then microwaved another portion of the food parcel that the landlady gave me from the pub. She said that it would last two days. It lasted me for four with no ill effects.

I went to the pub in the evening but was not there long. Home - I might have done some blog updating - and early to bed. It was persistently precipitating as I cycled home. You know, I have a little cycle computer on the bike. Apart from one ride to Nádasd and back I appeared to have spent some seven hours cycling to and from the pub. Not good!

13th December 2011

Well, it started off as a normal enough morning. I went to the shop, home, lit the stove and had breakfast. After breakfast I went about the usual tasks. Give the pigeons fresh water and feed the goats. Whilst I gave the pigeons their water there was a bit of a doggie commotion at the garden gate. When I came out of the pigeon house to my astonishment Rudy was by the garden gate, hence the fraccas. What the heck? I did think to arm myself with a bucket of water before I ventured into the garden with Rudy. Into the garden I went to sort out the goats.

I had no need of the bucket of water. Rudy was quite perplexed. He had managed to get himself out of the goat house but was utterly baffled by how he was going to get back in to the other two. He followed me quite meekly as I went to the outer goat house door and unbolted it. Unprompted he trotted inside. Equally he followed me and stood whilst I unbolted the inner door which separates the two halves of the goat house. Once I opened it he just as meekly went back in to join the others. I fed them.

I realised how he had managed to escape. In the garage part where they are confined is a window, steel framed, to the south. It used to contain glass windows and one rather large opening with a piece of steel steel with a stovepipe sized hole cut in it. Over the time that Rudy had been in there on his own he had managed to see most of that off. The maize stalks had been going in there this winter - a bunch to the left, a bunch to the right and a bunch hurtled as far as possible towards the other end. They had obviously built up sufficiently (the goats drag them all over anyway) as to allow Rudy to scramble out.

Another unscheduled job against animal egress, then! I found suitable material in the goat house loft for the outside, then returned to the yard to find suitable material for the inside and stuff with which to affix in place outside and inside bits. I was in the process of doing that when John appeared, beating the dogs off as he advanced up the yard. Could he use my Internet? He had an urgent job to do and could not get on the Internet at home. Sure - no problem. We went indoors and I booted up the computer on what was the chaos of my office, in the greater chaos of my big room, logged on and left him to it.

I went back to making the goat house goat proof once again. It took a while. Well, that was the scheduled gardening work for this morning out of the window then. By then it was lunch time so I had lunch.

I had to do firewood. A medium sized kugli of the old pear tree was the candidate for today. An hour and a half, but just that one kugli provided two baskets of wood for the tile stove and another two for the kitchen stove. There are still a lot of them. As the afternoon drew to a close I locked the pigeons in, fed the goats and went back to the house. I dealt with the liver bought yesterday and had the final portion of the food parcel that came from the pub. The landlady had said it would last two days. It had lasted me four.

I did a bit on the blog, changed and went to the pub.

14th December 2011

I have no idea why, but I was up and about bright and early. It was barely daybreak, and a frosty start to the day.

After the usual start - still paranoid about the goats - I decided on a little twofold firewood experimentation. It had occured to me that I needed to get the old pair tree wood off the yard and into the wood house before the winter really closed in. I know from experience that if it got covered in snow and the temperature well below freezing I would never get it moved - it would be frozen into one great solid lump. Accordingly I had a bash at moving some of it myself. Mmmm. In two painful limps across the yard and back I moved one medium sized and three small kugli. I was going to need a bit of outside help with that one, then. Next I had a bash, literally, at one of the really big kugli on the yard. I knew that they were beyond my ability to get into the wood house and, as it later transpired, even Hobo revoked at moving them.

I maneuvered one into position. I was surprised how easy it was. As ever, the secret was not to use might and main, but to use a little less force more accurately and work chipping away not too big pieces round the circumference. It did not take me many minutes and the pile of stuff I had removed from just once around the kugli later filled both tilestove and kitchen baskets to overflowing. The big axe did take some thrash from the new hammer, but at least this hammer does not remove steel filings from the surface of the blunt side of the axe.

John appeared. Still having Internet problems at home. He did what he needed to do and left.

That was when the day, for a while, went haywire. I was somehow convinced that it was gone eleven when the dogs did their normal howling stunt at the gas wagon as he went by playing his jingle. I just thought how late he was. Some while later I noticed the old lady just putting out her container for the milk delivery. Once again I thought that she was very late doing it. I only noticed as I was walking the bike down the path to go for a quick beer before feeding the animals and birds. As I cycled up to the pub I found it odd that I had not heard the templom ring the noon bells. The penny still did not drop until I was actually in the pub and noticed that the clock said just a couple of minutes past eleven. I even wondered why it was that his clock was an hour slow. It was not until I checked the time on my Hungarian mobile that I was able to convince myself that it was in fact me that was an hour out and not the rest of the world. Maybe it was just from getting up so early.

I was almost ready to go home and make good use of the extra hour that I had discovered when John came in. Oh well, away went the extra hour. I was still home early enough that I was able to grab a sandwich before doing animal feeding.

After that, housework, firewood and cycle up the village for eggs.

I went to the pub in the evening as usual. Hobo had obviously had a good hit work-wise, and not only bought beers for the whole table but then bought me another when it would normally have been home time. I was just a bit later home than expected.

15th December 2011

Short and sweet. It rained all day. Cold and horrid. Apart from doing the animals, which always has to be done, and getting the firewood in which also has to be done all I did all day was a bit of housework. I bottled out on chopping any more firewood outdoors but I had a small stack chopped for the kitchen and another chopped for the tilestove and they did come indoors. Otherwise, more housework (much needed) and pub in the evening.

John did not come round, so I presumed he had his Internet problem fixed - later confirmed correct.

16th December 2011

The day did not start well, in trivial ways. The relief shop lady sold me a half loaf of yesterday's bread, which I did not discover until I got home and was not best pleased. Mmmmm. Why sell me the day old half with the label on which clearly indicated that it was yesterday's bread? I knew anyway as soon as I went to cut it.

When I went to water the pigeons and feed the goats I found that the surviving squab had succumbed. I could not get worked up about it. After all they are only a potential source of food, and that particulat squab was a ne're-do-well. It had rarely opened its eyes and showed none of the animation that the surviving one of the first pair that I still call "Cheep cheep" did. Charles Darwin in action. Survival of the fittest. I suspect that the present crop of humans - "homo horribilis" is the only species on earth that has managed to cocoon itself from survival of the fittest. It won't last.

I did some washing, it being a fine day. Work jeans washed in lye. Not good for the hands but with a surprising side effect that I had not noticed before. I already mentioned before that scrubbing the work jeans with lye gets them just as clean as using detergent. Today I noticed that the side effect was that all the muck that was going to come out came out and went down the plug hole with the wash. I rinsed them three times and on the third time the water going down the plug hole was virtually clear. Not so with detergent. I could rinse them five/six/ten times and the water would still be turbid. I wonder why that is?

Hobo turned up looking for a bit of work. I set him on to move the kugli from the yard to the wood house. I finished off with the washing and went onto the next job. I needed to get the goats out for a short while to clear the goat house of old maze stalks and spread new bedding. Now, I have no idea why it is but when it is just me and the dogs the dogs are happy to stay in the yard when I go to deal with the goats. Whenever there is someone else about black dog will find a way to escape. And so he did. Off up the garden before I had chance to close the gate on his neck.

I limped up to Telek utca. No sign of him. Well, he would have to take his chance, but I could not get on with what I wanted to do until he was either squashed under a vehicle, shot, or returned home. Fortunately it was the latter. I saw him come out of the lane by the templom and called him. He started back home, then changed his mind. Several times. He eventually came back to the gate and went into the yard to join Pickle and Hobo, tail wagging.

I went back to the day job. The goats went out briefly nearby. Rudy was determined to have a go. With aforethought I was armed with my bucket of water. You know, the laws of physics are wonderful. It so happens that if he does charge I hold the bucket between me and him. He bashes the bucket and the resulting effect is that a surge of water comes out of the front of the bucket. Right on his head. He retreats, spluttering and sneezing. I like it a lot.

With goats secured it was a battle of time against the weather forecast. I had not expected to be even able to get them out at this time. Two hundred and sixteen spent, chewed, trodden on, p*ssed and sh*t on maize stalks came out, and yes I counted them. New bedding went in. Fresh good hay, and as the clouds rolled in and the first rain began to fall so did the goats. They did not need encouraging. Even Rudy.

Hobo had had enough. So had I. Dogs were confined to house and we went for a beer.

Hobo had had the forethought to stock me up with wood in the house, so that was one job less when I got home. I secured the pigeons and made sure they were roosted, then fed the goats. That was the physical over for the day, and physical enough it had been.

I cooked, ate, changed and in the fulness of time went back to the pub. A small Austian contingent turned up. A couple more beers than bargained for turned up. Rather late I arrived home but was determined to do a bit of blog updating.

Fortunately I has just pressed [Ctrl]&[S] when the lights went out for a second. That was long enough to cause the computer to reboot itself. No sooner had the lights come on than they went off for another second. Then came back on. The computer rebooted itself again, but in another second the lights went out and stayed out.

It was not a problem for me. You know, I have been meaning to write about this for two years plus and never have (I think). I could look back on the blog and find out but I cannot be bothered. I have no bedside light. Don't want one, don't need one. What I have there is a candle. Every night when I am done with this wonderful technology I light me a candle to guide me to bed - you know the rest, it runs through my mind every single night - turn off the computer and the electric light and by candle light go to bed. I like it. So I will this evening.

17th December 2011

Very strange, but the fact that I went to bed in the middle of a power cut caused me to not sleep well. I think it was the fact that I was aware that the alarm clock would not wake me. Another result was that, not knowing what time it was, I was up at first light.

After the normal start the mornings job was to let the fire die down in the kitchen stove and give the outside of it a good cleaning. Much needed.

It was pretty much a normal sort of day after that except that in the afternoon I bumped into Hobo who told me that this evening it was the village football club banquet in the faluház and he would get me in there to take some photos. He said that he would call at mine about half past five as he was on his way there. I duely got washed and changed in plenty of time and was working at the computer awaiting his arrival. It never happened. Well, it later transpired that it did but I was unaware of it. The dogs were out, as they usually are at that time of day and Hobo had revoked at coming in the yard in his decent clothes. The dogs must have barked at him but then, also at that time of day, they bark at anything that moves and I tend not to go out of my way to investigate so I missed Hobo.

Oh well. I went to the pub as normal where I sat and chatted to Lajos. I imparted to him the knowledge, which had been the subject of previous discussions, that the Hungarian for Erica Arborea is cserjés hanga, of which he had never heard. I really do get to know the most unlikely things in Hungarian. I will leave you to do the little research on why it should have been the subject of discussion.

18th December 2011

It was a bright, cold morning when I went out to do pigeons and goats. When I got into the garden I noticed that overnight we had had the tiniest sprinkling of snow. Apart from firewood I got little done. My ankle was still playing up and I more or less rested up for the day. That's it.

19th December 2011

It was a cold and not very pleasant day. Minus three when I looked at the thermometer. All was well in the livestock department.

I did a good stint of handicraft-type work in the morning. I fed the birds and goats early for a reason. Then I started on bashing one of the really big kugli on the yard to pieces. I have already mentioned that the stuff on the yard will become inaccessible once the weather really closes in and I wanted to reserve the stuff that had been moved under cover for when that happens. I happened to chose one that was not overly difficult to split and in not too long a time bashed off about a quarter of it. That quarter proved sufficient to fill both kitchen and big room baskets twice.

I fed the goats their afternoon feed really early, locked the dogs in and set off to have a beer in the pub and then go to Nádasd. I have not mentioned that locking the dogs in, much as I don't really like it, has answered the black dog's paranoia about me going out on the bike. He would always try to escape if in the yard but if I put them in the house they are both quite happy.

The reason for going was that Hobo had told me some while previously that at Café Rick in Nádasd you could get a fifteen hundred forint mobile phone top-up as opposed to the three thousand five hundred to do it via Posta. It prove to be a fool's errand. It either never was, or now was not and I did not have sufficient funds on me to pay for the higher amount top-up.

I returned to the village with a lemon. It had been bitterly cold waiting for the bus back, with a biting northerly wind blowing straight down the main road through Nádasd. I was well pleased to get back to the relative warmth of the village pub. John was in the pub and we were shortly joined by Hobo. The ankle was by now giving me serious grief, not helped by the two hundred metres each way trudge in Nádasd. It did not improve as the evening went on. Oh well, the bike was outside and it would take me home without discomfort. I took my leave early.

Back home I lit both the fires to get some warmth through the house and settled to some blog updating.

20th December 2011

It was a nice morning but colder still - minus four. I realised as soon as I got out of bed that the ankle was still a problem. Time for some self help, chemical and physical. For one of the very first times here in the village I popped an Ibuprophen tablet and I got down the walking stick from its hiding place. I had known for years that I would likely eventually need a knee relacement. It first flared up back in the 1990s. The doctor then had told me. His actual words were "Did they tell you when you did your leg that you would get arthritis? Because if they didn't they should have." From experience I knew the knee was likely to flare up. I had never given a thought to the ankle, in spite of the state that I know it is in. Well, the knee is not too much of a problem. Hopefully with a bit of TLC the ankle will sort itself out in the same way. The long term prospects are not good and could seriously disrupt my work here. I have to confess that until I looked it up on the Internet whilst writing up this blog entry I did not even know that prosthetic ankles existed. They do, and have apparently made huge progress in the last six years. It would probably mean being out of action here for six months.

I got on with life. Shop, breakfast, water the pigeons and feed the goats. After that I had a bit reorganise of the huge pieces of pear tree on the yard. I had been using one of the really big kugli as a chopping block. I needed to use a smaller one, as that particular kugli was an excellent prospect for getting chopped up and used before the weather closes in. It was soaking wet and had sunk into the two inches or so of chainsaw chippings that lay beneath. Try as I might I could not get it off the ground. I could not get my fingers underneath it where it had sunk into the chippings. The appliance of science was called for. A suitably stout but not too thick piece of wood was located in the workshop - walnut, as I recall. With the aid of half a brick I managed to bash it sufficiently far under the kugli that I could lever the kugli off the ground. I stuck a sufficiently stout piece of stick under the kugli as to keep it off the ground. Back round the other side and it was but a seconds work to have the kugli up on edge and not many more to roll it out of the way.

In the meantime the little goat, hearing me working (and cussing) in the yard had set up a "Meah-meah" from the goat house. I wandered round to see what the problem was, still with a degree of stockman's paranoia. There was no problem that I could find. Just little goat hearing me out and about and going "Meah-meah".

Whilst I think about it I must write about the different winter behaviours - no, wrong word - responses of doe/buck/wether goats to the onset of winter. Doe and wether are responding in the same way. No more hair, but a huge layer of fat. This time last year I just put it down to Suzy being pregnant, but this year with the wether doing just the same as Suzy, I think not. Neither Suzy nor the wether have grown much coat - they have just got fat. Rudy on the other hand has not got fat. He has become increasingly shaggy as it has become colder.

Life went on. I had lunch, fed the goats and pigeons and set about chopping firewood with my newly reorganised base. A very large kugli was rolled around, somewhat thicker than I really wanted to tackle. Nevertheless, in half an hour I had enough pieces that, chopped down smaller to suit either kitchen fire or cserepkalyha would last me two days. I chopped enough down for kitchen this evening and tomorrow morning at least and enough for the tile stove to last two evenings at a push.

I went for a beer after that. It became two when, quite unexpectedly, one of the other late afternoon regulars plonked another one in front of me. Not for the first time I might add, and he will never let me buy him one back. I will.

I necked the beer down a bit sharpish, and in the growing gloom of a dull evening cycled home to lock the pigeons in and give the goats their last feed of the day. Ah, how life here revolves around the turning of the seasons and the hours of darkness and light. Get used to it people. It will be coming to wherever you live within the next few years!

Light the stoves, cook, eat, beat the dogs and go to the pub.

Gloom and doom! A good article about debt - talking about the US, but I think could equally be applied to Europe given the current mess. Get out of debt, and stay out of debt.

21st December 2011

No idea, so three pictures instead:
Maize Factory The maize stripping operation. Many happy hours. Top right is the bag of cleaned maize seeds. As you can see the maize is almost up to the level of the table top. Left is the bag containing the cobs left to strip and in the foreground is the bag wherein the stripped cobs are deposited. Rudy will have a good go at eating them but the others won't and from experience they don't compost. Better to save them for the kitchen stoves. I still have several bags to burn from when I first arrive here.
The complete bag of maize, photographed against the bike for scale. It is a bloody great bag of maize. In Hungarian it is a mazsa, or more correctly a metermazsa. One hundred kilogrammes. It took me a bit of shifting to get it there for the photo and then another good bit of shifting to get it to its final resting place in the hallway. Maize Sack With Bike
Szent Mikulas Just to prove that he does not miss out an out of the way place like Halogy. Of course, he does not get here on the twenty fifth. A bit before that!

22nd December 2011

It was just one of those days for lots of different small jobs to be done. Pigeons and goats first off, then back to the house. It was time to deal with the first lot of lye produced this year. The lye is only made from the ashes of the tile stove, never the kitchen stove. The former is 99.9% hardwood ash. The latter is anything that will burn - wood, trainers, dog food bags... all fair game for heat. Not good environmentally but better than driving a car! It is a case of if you can't beat them join them.

A load of washing followed and then it was down into the root cellar for spuds for me and little spuds for the goats.

Routine after that.

In the evening, in the pub (where else?) I spoke to Lajos about coppicing. Apparently it does happen here in Hungary but maybe not on the scale of elsewhere. Right then, apologies to any Irish readers in advance, but what do you call a bunch of Irishmen standing in a field? A thicket! Groan!

23rd December 2011

As I went out to the shop first thing it started snowing. Well, that was unexpected. Neither my Norwegian site nor the local telly had forecast that. It did not come to much. By lunchtime it had turned to cold, wet rain and by two in the afternoon it was gone. Mmmm - no white Chistmas here then. The locals were disappointed.

In deference to the ankle I did a load of blog updating, as you might have noticed. But then I still had to get the firewood in.

Pub. Once again I noticed that the nearer we got to Christmas the less the clientele. An inverse relationship to the UK.

24th December 2011

I was just a bit later up than intended. Well, an hour. There had been an arrangement made with Hobo that he would turn up at seven and carry a case of beer over from the shop. He was late as well. I was dressed and about to open the roller shutters when I heard him berating the dogs.

We wandered over to the shop. I actually needed little for various reasons. The shop was busy though and it took a few minutes to get served. I took my stuff and Hobo carried the beer. He did not linger at my place. I think he was working for Toni today. I did the pigeons and the goats before lighting the stove but that allowed me a leisurely breakfast. As usual I had reserved myself a treat for this time of the year. Strawberry jam.

After breakfast I put in a solid two hour stint of firewood work. The baskets inside were stacked high and there was a further supply by where I was working of both kitchen wood and tilestove wood. Quite simple - I did not want to be out there chopping wood on Christmas day and Boxing day.

I fed the goats and pigeons and at about noon went to the pub. Long time readers will remember that today is the day that they shut early afternoon, and I had already heard Láci tell one of the regulars that they would shut by two. Hobo was there but he had only just arrived himelf. He had spent the morning at Toni's on the same errand I had been on. Chopping firewood.

Helmut and Silvia joined us but just for the one. They were on their way back home having just done their Christmas shop in Körmend. Somewhat more substantial than mine by all accounts.

Hobo and I had another couple and by then it was working towards two and the landlord and landlady were making obvious moves towards closing. We finished up and set about going our separate ways. Some of the locals were pushing their luck by coming in at the last minute even as we left. Mind you, they were mainly the small fröccs type of local, so they would be in and gone in a couple of minutes.

Back home I had a quick bite, reviewed the situation and decided to chop just a little more firewood for the stacks outside. Half an hour was enough. I had been swinging on the end of various sizes of axen a fair bit of the morning.

As daylight ebbed I fed the goats, locked the pigeons in, went back to the house and lit both stoves. There was a good reason for relighting the kitchen stove. I was going to cook and eat my Christmas dinner, Hungarian fashion. So I did. Chicken - bought in unfortunately. Spuds, mashed and roast - from the garden. Peas - ditto. Carrots - ditto. A creamy goat cheese and onion sauce - onion from the garden and just a small portion of sage and onion stuffing - ditto. And a couple of small glasses of red wine from my vines. Not bad considering, and next year I am hoping that it will be a brace of plump young pigeons from my loft. Well, outhouse.

I entertained myself on the computer - watched a film actually - over a couple of beers, then went to bed quite early.

25th December 2011

Christmas day. My fourth here. And rather different it turned out. But I'll get to that. It was a normal start to the day, except for the shop being shut. Which it would have been anyway, it being a Sunday.

I was up early anyway after an early night last night. I did breakfast first and then went and did pigeons and goats.

After that I did not do anything very much except go on the Internet and check e-mails and exchange pleasantries with various people. I had intended to light the tilestove but that passed me by. Oh well, the kitchen was warm enough. I fed the pigeons at the usual time. I don't know if I have ever said, but when they hear my voice and me rattling the food they all go in a frenzy of flying this way and that. All at once. The result is that one particular spot that has room for maybe two or three pigeons suddenly has to accommodate seven. It lasts about a second and they are off somewhere else.

I did manage to pop round next door when I knew that they were back from the templom to deliver a couple of presents for them. As usual I was plied with alcohol, but I did revoke on a second (very) large pálinka opting instead for a beer.

I fed the goats after that, and they had double rations. I was off out for the afternoon and evening.

I abluted and changed, then off to the pub to meet up with the rest of the triumvirate for a trip to Csákánydoroszló for a Christmas afternoon with Helmut and company. It was a really good afternoon and evening. We chatted and drank and smoked in their downstairs summer kitchen. Come the time we all went upstairs and had a very fine meal from cold platters. Meat, fish, cheeses, garnishes...

We went back downstairs to resume the smoking and drinking. Lots more pleasant time. It came time for me to go home - I had pastoral duties to attend to in the morrow. They offered me to crash out at their place. No, I had to get home. I did get home. Not saying how!

26th December 2011

The house was perishing when I got up. Last evening when I got home I had rapidly checked e-mails then dived into bed. The tilestove had never been lit. First job of all was to light the kitchen stove and stoke it up well. Then out to feed the goats and give the pigeons fresh water. I could already feel the warmth from the kitchen stove beginning to percolate through kitchen and hallway when I returned.

I did the absolute bare minimum all day. The tile stove was lit early in the afternoon to get the warmth back in the big room. Normally I light it as darkness falls after I have given the goats their last feed of the day and at that time there is still residual warmth in it. Today it was stone cold. There is a thing that I have only noticed within the last few days, which is strange considering that this is my fourth winter of using the tilestove. There is an area of floor around the tile stove where the parquet floor absorbs the radiant heat from the tilestove. It includes where I put my feet when I get out of bed in the morning. As I say, I had never noticed it before. I wonder if it could possibly be that when I came here, the house having been empty for four or five years, the subfloor in the area of the tile stove was thoroughly damp and has gradually dried out each successive year of me using the stove. The house generally is still dreadfully damp, mainly due to the state of the outside walls which I continue to fail to find the time to address.

It was, of course (one of) my name day(s). As it was Hobo's. I went to the pub in the evening. All evening I paid for one beer - the one I bought for myself when I first arrived there. I will just say that several more came my way over the course of the evening. I would say a "Goldilocks" amount - not too little, not to much but definitely enough.

With me and Hobo at the table was a fivesome - two couples and a guy on his own. Two of them I knew. One is a Hungarian friend of Helmut and one is an Austrian friend of Helmut. I had met them several times before, and they had recently begun a relationship. The other three I did not know. They were chatting away quite animatedly and Hobo was listening in. I was busy trying to decypher what little I understand of what was going on on the news on the telly. It took a little while for the penny to drop that the young man of the couple that I did not know was speaking to the Austrian just mentioned in English. He turned out to be the brother of the aforementioned Hungarian young lady. He had no German, Thomas had little Hungarian and their common language had turned out to be English.

I had had a few exchanges with Hobo whilst this was going on. I took a lot more interest in what was being said (being naturally nosey) once I had realised that they were speaking English. There were a couple of exchanges with Hobo, and it was only then that the brother realised that there was a real, live Englishman sitting at the table. We spoke quite a lot after that. His English was rather good. He told me that he had learned most of it watching films! He quite made my night by telling me how good it had been for him to speak to a real Englishman.

27th December 2011

It was another cold and grey day. Not seriously cold, but another of those days when we were trapped under a sea of grey murk in the centre of an anticyclone when the temperature difference between night and day could be counted on the fingers of one hand. And yes, I do mean the fingers.

Apart from the usual, I did yet more clothes washing and topped up the firewood for the various stoves and that was it.

Mid-afternoon I went to the pub for a beer. I was getting close to leaving when John came in. It was his name day. And by default mine and Hobo's also as we are both István János. Hobo needs no excuse to celebrate a name day. A round of drinks appeared. I had one slurp from mine, then lidded it and went home to perform my pastoral duties.

I returned to the pub still in my uniform - working gear and green wellies and stood the session as long as I was able. I left Hobo and John to it and went home to light the stoves and have a belated something to eat. I was not about to have a repeat of yesterday in the morning tomorrow - stone cold house etc...

I found this interesting article on the Beeb website exploring the meaning of debt on my trawl for doom and gloom.

28th December 2011

The day was a repeat of yesterday amost in its entirety so I will not bore you with it. The only differences during the daytime were that, having gone through a fair amount of my indoor stock for the stoves I had to spend some time replenishing it. The other thing was that I managed a single trip with big wooden barrow up the garden as far as where the maize stalks that Tibi had brought round in his trailer and wheel a barrow load back. It was enough.

Reading between the lines of that you will realise that I am now getting about without walking stick. The ankle continues to improve day by day and I was by then down to a single Ibuprophen tablet a day at breakfast time.

I went to the pub in the evening as usual. Helmut and contingent were there. Once again I paid for only my first beer when I went to the pub. He is a very generous chap.

29th December 2011

The weather remained unchanged - grey murk and cold. It was yet another morning of squaring up the kitchen and washing clothes. When I had enough of domestic drudgery I went for a beer. Hobo was there. I no sooner sat down with him than he imparted some sad news. Imre, the pigeon man, had passed away. I think I mentioned some little while ago seeing the ambulance go to his house. He had been taken into hospital, steadily deteriorated and was now gone. Hobo imparted that the funeral was tomorrow. Two in the afternoon at church and three at the village cemetery.

My one beer became two when "How Do You Do" Láci bought me a belated one for my name day.

Firewood in the afternoon. I chopped quite a load from the big stuff out in the yard, but I did have to take several breaks driven off by the cold. Yet another day when the cold of the night was minus three and the heat of the day was plus two. Speaking of which, I had an e-mail from one of my correspondents which mentioned, inter-alia, Güssing which is a small town in Austria not that far from here. It is worth reading the Wikipedia entry - the bit about renewable energy as my take on it is that Güssing is your original transition town and has (completely?) transitioned away from fossil fuelled energy to renewable resources. Quite fascinating - worth the read. It shows what can be done.

I had kept the kitchen stove alight all day. Once warmed up at breakfast time it needs little wood to keep the kitchen and hallway at a comfortable temperature. With goats fed and pigeons locked in I cooked and ate.

I did a bit on the blog then it was time to change and go to the pub. Hobo was there, in his cups. I had not been sat down long when John joined us. Hobo was quite amusing. When he gets like that, which is not often, he can either be as he was this evening or in a dark Hungarian frame of mind. All evening Hobo would light a cigarette and the say that he was going home when he finished it. The inevitable happened. When John and I left at closing time Hobo was still with us.

30th December 2011

Another cold grey day. I cleared up in the yard, if you know what I mean. Then did the firewood.

In the afternoon I changed into black trousers and shoes and set off to go to the interment of Imre in the village cemetery. I called in the pub on the way and had just a coffee and a kis Hubertus, then on to the cemetery. This was only my second time there. Both times that I had been was as a mark of respect for someone that had helped me and now was gone on. It was the second funeral in the village that day. I know not who the other one was. Not someone I knew. I will remember Imre for his astonishing agility at being able to catch the pigeons - he was in his eighties. I will also remember me and him chatting in the pub about the pigeons. He always took an interest in how mine were doing.

A Hungarian Catholic interment takes a while. I am not being morbid here, just telling you how it happens. Not being Roman Catholic, or for that matter Christian, I have no idea whether the same applies elsewhere under the Roman Catholic faith. The templom bell chimes at a time that it does not ordinarily chime. You can hear it from the cemetery. There is a small what I would call chapel in the cemetery and a service takes place there. When it is over the undertakers carry the coffin and place it upon a, I can only describe as, cart to be wheeled to the grave. The templom bell tolls then. The committal is quite short but then the undertakers fill the grave whilst everybody stands and then place all the floral tributes over and around the grave.

I have to tell you about the undertakers. They are not at all like undertakers in the UK. If I had to categorise I would say council workmen. Dressed in black, but not long, black and formal. Zip up short jackets close to that which I use as working gear. No headgear, as you would expect, but I have a vision of them donning baseball caps once they returned to their van or whatever.

I went home quite quickly, removed the good clothes and re-donned the working jeans and trainers. I fed the goats and locked the pigeons in. I confess that I was thinking of Imre as I did that. Oh, and you can interpret the "quite" as meaning that I did find time for a very swift beer in the pub on the way.

Pub in the evening, and the crew assembled. Me, Hobo, John, Helmut, Silvia and the children. It lightened the mood.

31st December 2011

The last day of the year, and I woke up to a glorious morning. Clear skies and a sharp frost. Shopped, breakfasted and the sun was already melting the frost when I went to feed the goats and water the pigeons.

The same as Christmas eve I put in a good morning of bashing away at firewood. For the same reason. I did not want to do that much tomorrow. And besides, it was just too good a day not to be out doing something. There was a minor problem. I was chopping in the shade, and my chopping block was still frosted. As I worked it turned into a layer of ice. The top of it is not horizontal anyway. It became so slick that if I put the axe down on it it would just slide off onto the ground. Like chopping wood on a sloping ice rink, except that it was firm under foot.

After lunch I decided that, for multiple reasons, it was the day for doing something about the goat house. Firstly it was the ideal day for them to go outside for a while. Secondly I needed to get in once again and clear out a load of the finished maize stalks. Thirdly I wanted to get some more fresh bedding in for them. And last but not least I knew that it would be a filthy, dusty and sweaty job and I might as well get it over with before I cleaned myself to go to the New Year celebrations at the Faluház.

And so I did. Some two hundred and odd finished maize stalks came out. I had a new scheme for that now. I stacked them, bundled them and tied them exactly the same as they came to my place and the bundles went into the fallen down, derelict little ex-outhouse just by the goat house. New bedding went in, food went in and the goats went in. There was a rearrangement of the goat domestics. Rudy went back to being alone in his bit of the goat house adjacent the yard, and Suzy and the wether went into the little enclosure on the garden side. As I write it seems to be working well. There is no way this/next year that Rudy can be in that half of the goat house. He would destroy the roof. I could not hazard a guess at how much Rudy weighs now but it is at least eighty or ninety kilogrammes. Once again in winter quarters he has grown quite wild. As soon as I get him outside he determins to have a go. He inevitably gets a wet head. Icy cold water. It only takes the once and he is as good as gold!

Goats back in and fed I locked the pigeons in for the night. I thought of Imre as I did that. Then it was back to the house where I ate, and as best I was able abluted for the evening at the faluház. You might wonder at that. Well, the ambient temperature in the bathroom this evening was six Celsius. And no hot water. If you think that I am doing any sort of ablutions in there for the duration of the winter think again!

I put on my best. Blazer, trousers, shirt, tie (silk) and shoes. When I was good and ready I wandered down to the faluház. Once again it was a very different evening. Sadly, some families that I had seen in previous years were absent. I put two and two together and came to the conclusion that they were the immediate families of Imre, still mourning.

Hobo turned up, John turned up and Helmut, Silvia and children turned up. As I moved about I was called to tables here and there to be offered sweetmeats of various kinds or a shot of pálinka. I cast my mind back to the first szilveszter when I was here. I went in trepidation, and was greeted with friendship but curiosity. This evening I was amongst real friends.

It took a while for the penny to drop, but eventually it did. The entertainers this evening were all home grown - all village people. One guy who eventually took the lead I can only describe as being a very rough diamond. But he and his family did it for us this evening!

And so, belatedly, I will wish all my readers Boldog Új Évet Kívánok!


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