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January 2012

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1st January 2012

I think that I might be just about to start the New Year off by going off on one. They did it. They finally did it! They banned smoking in the pubs. I knew it had to come eventually, but the fact that they did it today got me to thinking. About politicians. The world over. Lots of gob and few brains. I really do think that what inspires modern day men to become politicians is that it actually beats having to work for a living.

Today is just such an example here in Hungary. Now, as an ex-pat of the UK where the smoking ban in pubs came into force on 1st July 2007 it was no hardship to me to slip back into the habits that we all assumed in the UK back then. However, think about the (lack of) mentality of a government that brings such a ban into effect on the first of January.

At least the British government brought it into effect in the middle of the (supposed) English summer. Not so here. First of January, I ask you. How better to inflict as much damage on the pub trade throughout Hungary I cannot imagine. And thus collateral damage to the government's finances and those of the country as a whole. Pity the poor magyar ember who is faced with this just as the coldest of the weather for the year is setting in. And this is not just me. Both the locals and the landlord and landlady apparently reckon the same.

Let's extend the discussion a bit to larger issues. Climate change - there's an issue. Peak oil - there's another issue. The withdrawal of Canada from Kyoto is nothing short of shameful. Not that Kyoto had any teeth anyway. But I find it indicative of a corrupt and bought and paid for government. Why withdraw from Kyoto? The tar sands of course. The biggest ongoing environmental catastophe on the face of the planet. And why? For oil. For money.

What are national governments doing about Peak Oil? Nothing. Do you know why? Because it is not a problem, it is a predicament. Know the difference? Well, problems can be solved. Predicaments can only be ameliorated. Admitting that it is a huge problem makes them unelectable, as Jimmy Carter found out. Now, we can't have that can we? Doing nothing for a living except gob off, and slipping the odd million or so inside the back pocket.

Philanthropy - there is a word to be conjured with. Where are the philanthropists? Oh yes, I know that there are a few abouts. Bill Gates for one, and as much as I hate and loath what he stands for in software I laud and applaud his philanthropic works. There must be others but none spring to mind. As an ex-brassbandsman I tend to think about the roots of that British institution. Many of the still great British brass bands have their roots in philanthropy. Even when I was still a relatively young man in my 20s I know of a company not so far from where I lived where, had I been a bit better brass player, I would have found a job, no questions asked. Ransom & Marles.

Off topic but related. It is Olympics year this year. I am pleased to say, in London, so long as they don't balls it up. I have a little private bet with myself. I reckon that this London Olympics will be the last modern Olympics in the form that we know them. I really, really do hope that I am wrong, but I am reckoning that the whole world will have descended to some sort of chaos by 2016 that there will be no Olympics, or maybe just a shallow shadow of what we are used to.

And with that rant out of the way, having cheered me up no end I will once again wish you Boldog Új Évet Kívánok!

Normal service will resume tomorrow, or whenever I publish next.

2nd January 2012

Business as usual. The shop was open this morning as usual also. Just because New Years Day happened to fall on a Sunday they do not get an extra day off on the Monday to make up for it.

Having done no firewood yesterday, after pigeons and goats my first job was to get some in to keep the kitchen stove going. It did not take long as I still had a small mound of the results of bashing the previous large kugli to pieces. I just took enough kitchen sized bits to keep me going and did the rest later.

It was not too bad a day. Cold, but precipitation free and no grey murk. I ventured into the garden. My target was the fence between me and Tibi right up by Telek utca. The last twenty metres needed a serious haircut. Some of it about three or four metres high. Now, Tibi, wonderful neighbour that he is and as helpful as can be, does like to have a go about the stuff that is growing in the fence. So I set about it. I managed about four metres. The fence itself is in disarray. It was when I first arrived here. This was the area where Pickle as a young dog would invariably find a way into Tibi's garden. I sawed and secateured the lot down to about a metre and a half high.

I have to say that it is very tempting in a couple of years time, when there is some regrowth, to rip out the decrepit chain link and to see if I can teach myself hedge laying with the stuff that is in there. It is after all my fence.

Tail end of the morning I had had enough. Time to go for a beer. It was about twenty to twelve when I got to the pub. Speaking of which, I have cured black dog's escaping habits. Apart from when I go to the shop in the morning, if I have to leave the house they both get locked in. It suits me and it appears to suit them. There have been the odd occasions when I inadvertently left something out where I should not have and one or other dog has found and consumed, but apart from that, which is my fault anyway, they are quite happy with the arrangement. It will change when I can afford to emulate Tibi, with his yard divided into two - a doggie area and a dog free area. I have the plans in mind. Anyway, I went to the pub and got a beer only to be told that they were closing at twelve and reopening at four. I ended up downing my beer a bit sharpish.

Back home, lunch, fed the goats and pigeons and then another good slog at firewood.

I fed the goats and locked the pigeons in at about a quarter to four and went for a beer. John appeared. Then Hobo. It turned into a session.

3rd January 2012

Short today. It had rained overnight and everywhere was wet. After the usual start I took rusty panel saw, bowsaw and secateurs and ventured up the garden to have another hack at what I started yesterday. I spent a while starting to coppice the birch trees that have sprung up in my wilderness area. I was quite surprised by the girth that the first one that had appeared had attained. I had to cut down several suckers (I suspect) before I could get at that one. I found that it was bifurcated at its base and in three years of growth each trunk was now about five inches diameter at the base. The knee was saying enough by then so I headed back to the house. To my amazement there remained enough glowing embers in the kitcen stove for me to be able to blow it back into life.

Nothing out of the ordinary to report after that except that Helmut and contingent were in the pub in the evening and I happened to mention cutting down the beech trees and coppicing. I was surprised when he understood what I meant by that and he came back with a German word that sounded very much like coppice. Google translate did not find it.

4th January 2012

After yesterday evening with Helmut et. al. I was not up overly early. Still well before eight and in plenty of time to get bread in the shop. The weather was good and the sun was just beginning to rise as I lit the kitchen stove.

After breakfast I watered the pigeons and fed the goats, and then, according to my aide memoire notes, something else which signally escapes me. With no Internet connection (again) as I write I do not know if I got the single word from one of the on-line dictionaries. It certainly does not feature in my pocket dictionary.

Firewood, lunch, pub where I found Hobo with nothing to do. He got press ganged into a couple of hours work. Shifting the maize stalks from where they had been stacked when thrown off Tibi's trailer to a bit nearer the goat house - round the walnut tree. It did not last long. It began persistently precipitating. Hobo did not stick that for long. I have to say that I would not have either. We sat in the warmth of the kitchen and chewed the fat for quite a long time. He provided the pálinka and one beer. I provided the other beer.

Hobo went off to the pub. I told him that I would join him (not wishing to be unsociable) once I had locked the pigeons in and fed the goats. So I did. I did change out of the wellies. John was there...

A couple of things pub connected but not mentioned. One day as I was leaving from a lunch time beer the landlady (Joli) had been pruning a plant and three little clippings were left on the driveway. I had had a hankering after some cuttings from those plants anyway, so I asked if I might have them. Joli told me what they were. By the time I got home I had completely forgotten it. I later had to get her to write it down. In Hungarian - monkey tree. Majomfa. With the help of Google I identified it as crassula ovata. Only a couple of days later Hobo and I were having a smoke out the back when I asked him about a particular tree in the pub garden. He had no idea. "Ask Joli". In a little while Joli obligingly appeared, so ask her I did. "Etecfa" - Vinegar tree. Once again Google and wikipedia came to my rescue and it turned out to be rhus typhina. I think Joli quite likes me taking an interest in the stuff she has growing in the garden and as house plants.

Late in the day The Daily Telegraph on the price of oil. Thanks to Jeremy for the heads up on that one.

5th January 2012

The result of an early retreat from the pub yesterday evening was that I was up, well, before the crack of dawn. When I drew up the roller shutters it was utterly dark outside. I went and shopped, and back home lit the kitchen stove as the first grey showings of daybreak arrived. I had a very leisurely breakfast. Then it was business as usual.

Water the goats, feed the pigeons and then back up the garden to continue attacking the bit up by Telek utca. I did not last long. There was a biting, blustery wind blowing and although the temperature was maybe minus two the windchill factor put a one in front of that.

I had a warm up in the kitchen and then went and got in what bit of firewood I needed. It was not much. I do try and keep at least a couple of days worth inside. Not so much because of the weather, but more to ensure that if I suffer some incapacitation I have enough to keep warm. I know that in that event I could rely on Hobo to help out. Speaking of which, I don't think I ever told you about the old lady next door and the firewood. I mentioned Imre chopping wood for her and pausing to watch as I dealt with the goats. Well, one day recently the old lady set about moving the heap - a big heap that I reckon was about two cubic metres of wood. I have no idea to where she moved it. Her house is much bigger than mine and she lives alone there. I am guessing that she maybe has one room in her house in which to do nothing but stack firewood. But I get away from the story. A basket at a time, all day she carted that firewood away. By the end of the afternoon it was all gone. Oh, I wish I had that persistence.

I baked bread instead. The shop had shut early today. The dogs set up one of their barking matches in the yard. They do that you know. If there is nothing to bark at outside on the street they will bark at one another. I stuck my head out of the door at a particular crescendo of frenzied barking to behold nothing out of the ordinary except a little dark green Renault parked outside the shop that I recognised. Stocktaking day. The relief lady was going away and our normal shopkeeper would be back tomorrow.

The middle of the day was as usual - nothing special. I went to the pub mid way through the afternoon. Jozsi turned up looking for work. I had some for him. We finished our respective beers and Jozsi obviously decided that he was in no particular rush to get started as he bought another beer for himself and one for me.

We did set off after that and I set him on with what Hobo did not get done because of the rain yesterday. In about an hour and a half he had it completed just as darkness was falling. In the meantime I had got in what little more firewood I needed and fed the goats and locked the pigeons in.

In now time-honoured fashion I paid him and then, with dogs locked in, followed him up to the pub and bought him a beer. Hobo was already there and he knew that Jozsi had been working for me. Jungle telegraph at work, as I had seen nothing of Hobo all day.

I had an early session and was home by eight. I ate and did my normal Internet trawl then went to bed early again.

6th January 2012

It was the usual start, followed by more hacking down up by Telek utca. The wind was not as strong as yesterday but had turned into the north. I stuck it out until my feet got cold. A bit longer than yesterday. Back to the house for a warm and a second brew of coffee.

Out to do more kugli bashing. I had a first session on another one of the big ones. You know, I really did not expect to be able to be out there at this time of year. I expected it to be either snow covered or frozen solid to the ground by now. It is proving to be an exceptionally mild winter so far. I moan and groan about the days when it is plus two by day and minus two by night, but I don't think that we have had a single day when the temperature stayed below zero for the whole of the daytime. This is very much different to the last couple of winters when even before Christmas we had spells when it was well below zero day and night. I was speaking to one of the locals about it. He told me that when it is like this to expect a lot of snow in February. We will see.

It has had another side effect. I have not had a single wild bird come to the bird table that I have seen this winter. It is my habit not to feed them in the spring, summer and autumn. Just assist them through the winter. I put food out for them when the first frosts start happening. So I did this year. Last year the birds were there within about ten minutes. This year, none. I was so concerned about it that I even asked Eva. Her response was not to worry about it. They would come when it got cold. I await events and bow to local knowledge.

Where was I? Kugli bashing. Mmmmm - I was (am) picking up a bit of RSI with the kugli bashing. A little muscle somewhere between the triceps and the biceps of the right arm was (is) giving me a bit of a twinge. It goes away for a while after I have actually exercised it by bashing kugli, but then returns in the evening, overnight and in the morning until I repeat. I have identified which muscle group and the cause. It is the group of muscles (or one of) that you use to lift the upper arm to shoulder height or beyond. It is, of course, caused by lifting the heavy axe right overhead. Bringing the heavy axe down to crash into a kugli and break off a larger, smaller or not as the case may be is no problem.

There is a side effect to this when I go to the pub as I did this evening. It twinges when I lift a glass to the lips. Oh well, continue the exercises until it no longer twinges and then go home!

I had an unpleasant surprise when I arrived home this evening. No Internet connection. Again! I had a quick look but could make no sense of it, so to bed.

7th January 2012

I had a shock when I went to the shop. They had hiked the price of beer from one hundred and twenty nine forints to one hundred and forty nine overnight. From thirty five pence to forty. It was an affront to sanity. A sign of things to come, I think, and not just here.

Normal routine when I got home and after that I had a go at sorting out the Internet problem. Two hours, including checking out Ethernet cables, phone cables, digging out the standby laptop and finally digging out my paperwork and doing a factory reset on the modem. Now, I had never been into the web interface for the DSL router in all this time. When I had the Internet installed the T-Com man had done it using my paperwork. He had explained what he had done, but as everyone who has had to do this type of computery stuff knows in three and a half years you forget. Eventually I got it working. A morning gone.

A frenzied flurry of activity followed in the afternoon. Housework, firewood, sorting out the workshop, pigeons, goats and cooking. I ate and in the evening went to the pub. When I returned home I had no Internet connection. Again!!!

8th January 2012

Usual start. After that a good cleanup of the hallway and kitchen. It needed it. Oh, how it needed it. It took a while.

I put one of my veggie stews (plus mystery meat) in the slow cooker for later. Apart from the mystery meat it was all from the garden and I had a sandwich for lunch. Plus a mandarin. Anything citrous and small here is just a mandarin. Clementines, satsumas - all fair game just mandarins.

I fed the goats and pigeons. As I got the hay for the goats I noticed how sweet it smelled. I had noticed it before but it was one of those trivia that I never thought to mention previously. We are some way into January, the goats have been inside most of the time since late November and I reckoned that I was about half way through the hay in the little room in the wood house. The loft above one of the sties remains stuffed fairly full of hay from the other source and thanks to Jozsi the big walnut tree is encircled about some four or five feet deep with maize stalks. Plus I have half a goat sty loft of good dry walnut leaves. I don't think they will go hungry.

I did a load of getting in firewood including starting on smashing up another of the big kugli. It was not good going. There were a couple of scars in the bark and, as I got into it, it became clear that they were where the tree had shed branches probably many years ago. I did that until I had had quite enough.

It was by then time to lock the pigeons in and feed the goats. After that I retired indoors and with a goodly bowl of my stew booted up the computer to go on the Internet. No Internet connection - again! I flew mad and pulled it all to bits, rearranged all the wires, put the modem in a different place, plugged it all back together and restarted it. Still no Internet. In disgust I turned it all off, changed and went to the pub. The younger element of the Hungarian/Austrian contingent were in there. We had a good evening.

Back home, more in hope than in anger, I turned the computer on again. Still no Internet!

I contented myself with doing some blog updating to be published once I had a connection again. Then to bed.

I don't think I mentioned the spectacles - the ones I wear full time when not working at the computer. I cannot remember what day it was, but as usual I gave the dogs their bit of fuss when I came home from the pub. It happened that I put my head down to give Pickle a fuss at the exact same instant as black dog put his head up to get his bit of fuss. The result was a collision in which my eyeglasses - that is what they still call them here in Hungary - clattered to the floor. When I retrieved them they were in two pieces. The left arm was detached. I left them thus and dealt with them in the cold light of day. The screw holding the left arm had broken. In true Hungarian fashion (and in a fashion that my dear old dad would have been proud of) I fixed them in time honoured fashion. A couple of rounds of insulation tape. Thus they remain, servicable enough, and will remain so until I can afford new. Or not, as the case may be.

9th January 2012

More in hope than in anger I tried to connect to the Internet this morning. I was not expecting much after a weekend of either very patchy connection or no connection at all, but to my surprise I had a connection. I devoted much of the day, apart from a good spell of firewood chopping, to getting some blog updates written and published, and various other Internet related activities that needed attending to.

At six in the evening on the dot I lost the Internet connection again and could not re-establish it. Somewhat miffed I went to the pub where I met up with Hobo. I told him about the problem. With no further ado he immediately arranged to use the pub phone and in a matter of minutes the fault was reported. I was a bit happier after that, and otherwise it was just a pretty normal evening.

10th January 2012

It was raining when I went to the shop. Cold, wet January rain. Not nice.

After the usual round of pigeons and goats I was confined to the house and yard in expectation of the appearance of Mr. T-Com. Not that it was fit to do anything garden-wise anyway. I had managed to accumulate ten unwashed tee shirts. That was one of the jobs. They got the lye treatment same as the jeans. They were all work tee shirts anyway.

I had just put them to soak for a while when there was a doggie commotion. I poked my nose out to see Mr. T-Com's van. Not outside the house, but over the road by the telegraph pole wherefrom my telephone connection originates. He began tinkering about in the junction box at eye level. I withdrew into the house and watched events from the relative comfort of my office. It happened that I had the computer on so I used my browser to connect to the web user interface of the modem. I noticed that I had lost all telephone connectivity, so for sure he was working on my line. Within minutes the phone line came back up and then in short order the DSL connection and the voice connection. Five nice green lights on the modem. I had to use the web interface to reconnect to Internet but that was fine too. I had the modem run its diagnostics check and within a few seconds I had a full column of green ticks.

By that there was another even greater doggie commotion. Mr. T-Com was at the gate. I told him that I had checked it and all was now good. He went off quite happy. Nothing to sign, no need for him to come in the house. That was that.

I had an early lunch and went and fed the pigeons. The weather had now changed and it was fine and sunny. Time to get the goats out for a while whilst I did some goat house maintenance. The kid and Suzy were no problem. Rudy was. He got very wet about the head - twice - with icy cold water before he decided that it was perhaps best for him not to get in a strop. Lots of spent maize stalks came out and a load of new bedding went in.

It was hard work getting the maize stalks out. I left the goats out with their lunchtime hay and went for a beer. Guess who I saw in the pub? Láci the landlord - nobody else there. I had the one and cycled home. Firewood. After that I got the goats in. Rudy was equally persistent about being beligerent. I was equally persistent about being prepared (although I was never a Boy Scout or a member of the SAS). Once again Rudy got wet about the head with icy cold water twice before he acknowledged that enough was enough and trotted, almost obediently, back into the goat house where his food already awaited him. The other two were no such problem and trotted back to the goat house by themselves, trailing chains.

I went to the pub in the evening. John turned up at about eight to be greeted with "Jó reggelt" (Good Morning).

The news on the telly announced, for the second day in a row, new record fuel prices. Well, considering the recent plummet in the value of the forint, which is a bit of a two edged sword personally, I cannot say that I am surprised.

I still had Internet connection when I arived back home. I was quite pleased about that. You know, I think my problems began when another Mr. T-Com started poking about in that junction box last Friday. Mmmm - fragile infrastructure.

The very first wild bird of the winter came to the bird table today. A marsh tit. It was only a fleeting visit but it pleased me enormously.

11th January 2012

The next few days are, I am afraid, going to be a bit samey. Can't help it, tell it as it is. It was yet another nice bright morning, but cold. Shop, breakfast, pigeons and goats done I headed back up the garden to the neglected quarter. I managed an hour before the cold drove me off. I am starting to amass quite a pile of small wood up there. It will all burn. Unfortunately it will also need to be dragged down to the yard. Tedious. And chopped/sawn into firewood sized pieces. Even more tedious. The weather was just too good to miss. This was a job that I had intended to do last year but then the weather had closed in, there was constantly snow on the ground and once the button marked Spring had been pressed I had more important garden jobs to attend to. After my experience of the previous winters I really never expected to be out there doing what I was doing.

I bashed another large kugli to bits. That was a couple of longish sessions. Then I used the middle sized axe to chop stove and cserepkalyha lumps off what I had knocked into big bits. I was doing that when I noticed a red stain on the piece I was chopping. It is not unusual in the pear wood. I carried on chopping. More red stains appeared where there had been none before. I investigated. Left thumb. I had never even felt it happen, but I had managed - I know not how, certainly not with the axe - to lift a slice of skin about four millimetres square just by the joint at the end of the thumb. It was bleeding quite nicely. I reckon that it was the firewood itself that caused it. The pearwood does not splinter but splits into irregular shaped pieces with razor-like edges. Oh well, back into the house. I washed the wound and hunted for a plaster. By the time I found a plaster I was dripping blood on the floor, so I had to wash and dry it again. The first plaster that came to light in the glory hole of a kitchen drawer where I keep such stuff was a Boots one. How many years old would that be then? Nevertheless, it was the right size for the wound so on it went. I looked at it and thought to myself that it would not stay on long. I fixed that with a couple of rounds of insulation tape. That worked.

I went to the pub for a beer to replace the liquid that I had lost bleeding.

Back home I fetched in the firewood that was still on the yard for the stoves. I did a bit more tidying up of the workshop and that was the day. Apart from pigeons, goats and cooking. Bolognese with mystery meat.

Pub in the evening. I must tell you about a telly programme that they have running here weekdays, early evening. It is a quiz show of sorts. It is called "Maradj Talpon" which translates (equally correctly) as "Remain Standing" or "Stay On [Your] Soles". It takes place in a circular arena, with one smaller circle in the middle and (I think) ten around the outside. The main competitor, who stands to win twenty five million forints, stands in the small circle in the centre. His opponents, if you like, stand in similar small circles around the edge. The main competitor selects opponents of his choice and then by turns they answer general knowledge questions that are displayed to them with a partial answer revealed, as in "What fruit is an anagram of the Hungarian dog vizsla?", to which the partial answer revealed was -z-l-a and the answer of course was szilva (plum). Both contestant and opponent have twenty seconds to answer. I particularly remember that question, as the opponent did not get the answer and I did :) The contestant, if they know not the answer is allowed to pass the question to their opponent by saying "Pass", pronounced in the Hungarian way of course. The opponent is not allowed to pass, and the contestant only has a limited number of passes. When an opponent is eliminated there is a circular device between where they stood which rotates and reveals a sum of money. There are two of 100, 125000, 250000, 500000 and 1000000 forints. It is fitted with a handle so that the quizmaster can operate it manually should the need arise. And, yes, I have seen it happen. The manner of the demise of either opponents or competitors is what gives the programme its appeal. The small circle in which they are standing opens with a clonk and they disappear, accelerating towards the centre of the earth at the rate imposed by the force of gravity - thirty two feet per second per second as I recall. Aside, it is interesting to note the vestigial remnants of the grasping instincts shown by young babies. In every case where either competitor or opponent has taken the drop, bar one, their arms come up so that they could grasp at whatever salvation there was on the way down. The single exception was, I suspect, a military man. When he knew that he was about to take the drop he came to attention and saluted. He never flinched as he dropped from sight. If they ever reveal the secrets of what happens beneath that stage I will let you know.

12th January 2012

Same old. It was a nice day and I headed back to finish off the neglected quarter. Well, it might have been a nice day but it was bloody cold. I stood it until I could no longer feel my thumbs. It left little to do, and my stack of stuff for drying and burning at least grew a little larger.

After a warm up in the house and a second brew of coffee I did the firewood. It was pushing on to lunchtime by then so I ate and then went and did pigeons and goats.

I settled to the computer for a while after that. It being a Thursday my first call, after checking and responding to e-mails, was John Michael Greer. I have been following his blog for some while. Certainly since before moving here. I consider it part of my work here to read his writings and to read as many of the follow-up comments as time permits. I occasionally post a comment myself under the name of "tubaplayer99" (I think).

Unusually, today I followed one of his own links in his blog which led me to a PDF document which you can find here. I read the whole document but a particular paragraph jumped out at me:
While the practice and values of voluntary simplicity take many forms, and are always context-dependent and evolving, prominent simplicity theorist, David Shi, has suggested that some of the primary attributes of the Simplicity Movement include: thoughtful frugality; minimizing expenditure on consumer goods and services; a reverence and respect for nature (and its limits); a desire for self‐sufficiency; a commitment to conscientious rather than conspicuous consumption; a privileging of creativity and contemplation over possessions; an aesthetic preference for minimalism and functionality; and a sense of responsibility for the just uses of the world’s resources. More concisely, Shi defines voluntary simplicity as ‘enlightened material restraint.’
which struck a chord as explaining probably better than I can what I am all about here. Particularly the phrase "a reverence and respect for nature". I will write more later, but not just now.

This in its turn took me to this interesting article on simple living in Wikipedia.

Pub in the evening. I still need a social life. Hobo started on about the dogs again. Well, yes, the yard is like a battleground. I explained to him my plans for having a doggie area in the yard and a non-doggie area. Lajos was with us. I was talking about steel fences and then dropped into the conversation that if I had the money I would have them made out of titanium. That raised a laugh all round!

13th January 2012

With yet another nice sunny day and the wind not so cold I headed on up to Telec utca to start giving the bit on the right a good haircut. It had been on my to do list last year but with winter so cold and with snow on the ground for much of it it never was done. It had attracted adverse comment last year and I had given a bit of a trim - with the strimmer, which was a bit exciting. The stuff growing in the fence had obviously not been cut back for years - I will soon have been here four - and there were some substantial bits of wood to get through. It was a bit of a puzzle what to cut first and from which side to saw it. I got off to a false start with the very first piece I cut. It obviously wanted to fall in the garden but it was tight up against two other branches on the garden side that, according to the law of sod, wanted to fall towards the road. The inevitable happened and once I was well through it it sat on the bowsaw blade. I could move the branch enough to get the bowsaw out, but not enough to be able to do any more sawing. Mmmmm! Rethink that one then.

I carried on elsewhere. I was working from Telek utca side. The sun was on my back and I was soon warm enough that I had to unzip the work jacket. My feet were not cold either, as I was mainly working from the short ladder so they were off the cold ground. I had neglected to take my telephone with me so I had no idea what the time was. I was quite enjoying it out in the sunshine and I carried on until the knee was saying enough. I knocked it on the head and wandered back to the house for a sit down and a smoke. I was astonished when I looked at the clock. It was gone half past eleven. No wonder I had made good progress. Two and a half hours of clipping and sawing.

With sit down and smoke done it was lunchtime anyway. After lunch I did the goats and pigeons and then it was firewood time. I had plenty of big lumps smashed off kuglis so it did not take long. Taking advantage of the continuing good weather I wheelbarrowed three loads of the small stuff that Hobo did not get to into the wood house under cover. It was under a tarpaulin outside so it would not be getting any wetter. It would not be getting any drier either and if we have a spell of sub-zero it will be welded into a solid lump.

Tail end of the afternoon, and with the sun dropping so was the temperature. I knocked it on the head and went to the pub for a well-earned beer. I had earned it. Today had been pretty physical, but pleasant nonetheless.

One beer and home to lock the pigeons in, feed the goats and retire indoors to light the stoves, cook, eat, change and go back to the pub. It was another one of those evenings. I bought myself the first beer when I went in and did not pay for another. Some generous people at the table this evening!

14th January 2012

Yet another good weather day. As before I headed to Telek utca. I was armed today with the fairly new, somewhat meaty Stanley saw instead of the bowsaw. Plus the secateurs. The Stanley proved more than adequate for the job, and being much more handy for getting into narrower gaps between the stuff to be cut, was a much better choice.

The three branches that defeated me yesterday were its first victims. They came down one by one with satisfying enough crashes. Only one went across Telek utca and as I reached the point of no return I made sure to have a good listen out for any traffic and look for cyclists or pedestrians.

An odd thing happened. I had seen a chap I know - a pub regular - hanging about on Telek utca some seventy or eighty metres further up. At ten o'clock on the dot the bread van by. I knew of its existence but had only seen it a couple of times before. Hobo had told me that if I missed out on bread in the shop the van was always by the templom at about ten for a few minutes. That was useful purely as knowledge but not from a practical point of view, since if I need to buy bread in the shop I require it at breakfast time for my toast and jam. I digress (again). The van stopped for the chap I know and he obviously bought what he wanted. That was when the odd thing happened. There was I, four steps up my small ladder sawing great lumps out of trees, when the bread van reversed all the way back from where chappy had got his bread and stopped right by me. The window came down, and the lady driver enquired of me if I was there for bread. Mmmmm! Yeah, right! I politely declined and she drove off and resumed her round. Trying to drum up a bit of trade maybe, but it happens that the bread of choice that I buy in the shop comes from that same bakery in Csákánydorószló anyway.

Same old after that. Firewood, more barrows under cover, etc, etc...

15th January 2012

Normal start. Shop, home and light the stove for breakfast. It grew darker outside as I did that and I had to turn the light on. I glanced out through the window to see the first flakes of snow beginning to fall. It gathered pace. Oh well, amend the plans for the day then. The pigeons still needed watering and the goats feeding. Cold work it was too.

Back in the house I decided that it was a two coffee morning. It was nice and warm in the kitchen with the stove still going and I lingered over the coffee and a pipe. I had a quick sweep round - surprisingly the floors were not too bad. By that, the sun came out. It was creeping on towards lunchtime so I went out in the yard and did a quick bit of kugli bashing. I started on a big kugli that was also rather thick. Thick enough that the bits I smashed off it would only go in the tile stove. They were too long for the kitchen stove. I was about at the limit of what I could achieve with the technology I have. The blunt side of the big axe took a fair amount of stick from my hammer that I bought for the purpose.

I managed halfway around the circumference and then it was time to feed the goats and pigeons and have lunch myself.

I belatedly managed a while on Telek utca but it was cold work and I did not last long. A bit of firewood in and that was it. I went to the pub for a beer. I was only having the one and I had every intention of not being out this evening, as I had managed to run myself short of cash. Hobo urged me to join him in the evening. I checked on the exchequer when I got home and found that, besides a thousand forint note that I was reserving for my shop in the morning, I had enough small change that I could afford to buy myself a single beer in the pub, so I did go and join Hobo in the evening. I was under the impression that maybe Hobo would put his hand in his pocket. Yeah right! Hobo's hand stayed firmly out of his pocket, but what he did do was to arrange with Láci that I could have a beer "on tick" until the morrow. Well, I reckon I could have organised that myself. So I left the pub, quite early, owing the price of a beer.

The telly was forecasting a severe cold snap to come. As I write it has not happened. There was also a thing that I had never seen before on Hungarian television. They broadcast a news flash that scrolled across the bottom of the screen two or three times. It involved quite a large area down by lake Balaton and the police and the catastrophe response team were in attendance. I could not make out the cause of it, and there was nothing subsequent on the television news, so what it was all about I have no idea.

16th January 2012

It was yet another fine, sunny and unseasonable day. After the usual start I went and finished off the haircutting along Telek utca. It did not take long. The whole lot was now trimmed back to a little over two metres high, and the outside clipped back to within about four inches of the remains of the chain link fence, and all the straggly stuff likewise cut back on the garden side. I had been astonished whilst cutting back the big stuff there to find that the sap is rising. I noticed that some of the deciduous branches that I had cut through that did not fall just sat there and dripped. I also forgot to mention that whilst trimming back the fence between me and Tibi I noticed a baby walnut tree there that is in bud!

Back in the yard I got in the firewood. No kugli bashing today, I already had a fair stack to go at.

I had the sign out for Posta, for cash as mentioned yesterday. Posta duly arrived. In the relief van that has no cash machine. Bugger. Reorganise the day. I did not even have the bus fare left in my pocket. Only one thing for it, I would have to bike it to Nádasd. Early lunch, early goats and pigeons, and pump up the bike tyres. With dogs locked in I set off.

It was really rather pleasant. The sun was at full strength and there was only the slightest hint of a head wind on the way there. I went the long way round, via Daraboshegy. I had taken the precaution of wearing the heavy duty winter motorcycling gloves. I was warm all over. Except my feet. By the time I arrived in Nádasd my feet were cold. Maybe I should have left the green wellies and thermal socks on.

I called for a couple of small bits in Bödő and set off back to the village. I was back in eleven minutes. I called in the pub for a beer, as you do. Then back home. I had a little more firewood to chop - acacia from inside the wood house. Then it was time to go up the ladder into the loft and fork down some more of the old straw up there. It was time the goats had another layer of bedding - well, overdue actually. This presented me with a conundrum. I normally did the bedding early afternoon on days when the goats could go out for a while. This was getting on in the afternoon and I was not about to get the goats out. The problem was how to renew Rudy's bedding unmolested.

I did Suzy and the wether first by heaping the bedding onto some plastic sheeting and taking it in from the garden side. No problem. I had a cunning plan. I took the plastic sheeting back, refilled it and returned to the garden side of the goat house where I lifted it into the loft and left it. Not long afterwards, when it was time to feed the goats, I fed them their maize stalks as usual and gave Suzy and the wether their maize ration. Then, as usual, I gave Rudy his maize ration and whilst he was busy consuming it I rapidly retrieved the bedding from the loft, chucked it in his sty and kicked it about a bit and, totally unmolested, retreated from the goat house. Ah, man beats goat! It is good when a plan comes together.

House fires, eat, change and go to the pub in time to watch people accelerating towards the centre of the earth at thirty two feet per second per second. I forgot to tell you about the money. I mentioned the amounts and the top prize, but never wrote about the practicalities, the actualities. At a certain stage of the game, which I have yet to figure out, the contestant can elect to walk away with half the amount that they have on the board. Once they have disposed of (I think) seven out of ten opponents they can walk away with all that they have on the board. Usually a couple of million forints, give or take. They almost all take the money and walk. Now, two million forints is of the order of five thousand pounds. That is a lot of money to your average Hungarian.

To Hobo's and my surprise the show finished at ten to seven. Ah! Team handball. Hungary versus Russia. Did you know that on 1st January Hungary changed its name? Well it did. It went from being the Republic of Hungary to being just Hungary. Magyarország. Quite right too! And I believe that that is what you will see on their backs when they compete in the Olympics. Not Hungary - Magyarország.

17th January 2012

It was a day when I did not achieve that much. All the normal stuff got done - goats/pigeons/dogs. I forgot to mention that Mrs. Pigeon had presented me with an egg. I expected two, but a second one was not forthcoming or if it was something had away with it.

I managed half an hour smashing kugli and half an hour breaking up the small stuff by the fence, which diminishes slowly.

The lady from the faluház came by with a paper about recycling. I don't think I ever mentioned it but we have yellow plastic sacks into which to put selected stuff for recycling. Well, as much as I am in favour of recycling I have little to offer. It is creeping on for a year since my bin went out. I quote from the back of the dust cover on John Seymour's excellent book: "Nothing should be wasted on the self-sufficient holding. The dustman should never have to call.".

I spent some while deciphering the paper that the faluház lady had given me, with the aid of Google Translate. I only used that to confirm my understanding of what I had already made sense of. Don't end a sentence with a preposition! I only used that to confirm my understanding of the Hungarian of which I had already made sense. Get back in pedant's corner, Steve.

Much of it did not apply to me anyway. Paper. I either compost it or burn it. Plastic. I know it is naughty but it goes on the kitchen stove fire. Those composite containers for (e.g.) soft drinks, etc., that are waxed paper with a layer of foil. They go in the fire, and I fish out the foil afterwards and that goes in the bin. Well, it can now go in the yellow sack.

There was a snippet on the telly news in the evening about student fees. As far as I understood it they were to be five hundred thousand forints p.a. About £1400 a year. A lot of money here.

18th January 2012

It was yet another glorious morning. When I pulled up the roller shutters the sun was just up. It was cold and frosty though. After the usual start I found myself doing yet another job that was totally unexpected for me to tackle at this time of year. I got the strimmer out. What For? I hear you say. Well, certainly not grass. Over the days up in the neglected quarter I had found myself cursing again and again as I tripped over some stubby, shrubby remnant or had wild brambles wrap themselves around the wellies.

I retrieved strimmer and some bits and pieces from the potting shed. I noticed a problem in there - more later. Back at the house doorstep I exchanged the grass cutting head on the strimmer for the brush cutter. I had tried it before when the grass was up. Useless. I would soon find out how it performed now the grass was down.

I carried the strimmer into the garden. I did think to start it right there by the gate to avoid trudging all the way to Telek utca, finding that it would not start and trudging all the way back to find out why. It took a lot more starting than usual but eventually it coughed into life. With it running strongly I disengaged the throttle stop and opened the choke. It stopped immediately. Oh well, if it had started once it would start again, so I began the trudge to Telek utca. About half way there the thought struck me. "You plonker! You never primed the petrol!!!"

Sure enough, once at Telek utca I repeated the procedure but this time priming the petrol and the strimmer settled to its normal sewing machine-like tickover. I started on brush cutting. I had to stop frequently to remove abandoned small branches buried in the undergrowth from when How-Do-You-Do Láci had coppiced a tree for me up there. Suddenly, there was something far wrong. The strimmer in a matter of seconds went from cutting quite sweetly to a severe vibration. I switched it off immediately. It had felt as if maybe one of the three blades of the brush cutter had parted company. As it coasted to a halt I could discern that that was not the case, but the brush cutter blade was turning more than a little bit eccentrically. Like me then, I suppose.

The trudge back to the house turned out to be necessary anyway. In the yard I found that black dog had decided that the strimmer line cutting head and the lower guard (also removed) looked like useful things to play with. I removed them and placed them well out of his reach. I retrieved the spanner for the brush cutter from the toolkit, but the Allen key that I needed to lock the head persistently evaded my grasp. I ended up tipping out the whole contents of the tool kit bag to retrieve it. A washer rolled out of the bag, did a short little circle and sat there looking at me accusingly. Blast! That was why the brush cutter blade had come loose. I had not fitted the shake proof washer.

Bits in hand I trudged back. It did not take long to disassemble and, this time fitting the shake proof washer, reassemble the brush cutter. I set to work again. It took a while, but I utterly shredded an area of about eight metres by fifteen in the neglected quarter. That brush cutter is a fearsome thing. It took out shrubby stubs over an inch in diameter with ease.

Satisfied I returned to the yard. I momentarily pondered doing around the big chestnut tree too, but discarded that when I realised that there were a couple of small stacks of stuff fit only for garden fire that would have to be moved first. I blew life back into the kitchen fire from the merest glow of embers, stoked it up and made more coffee well satisfied with my efforts.

I was not done with physical. I did a bit more kugli bashing before lunch. Then I had lunch. It was time to feed the pigeons and the goats, but I had another little job to do as well. Rudy's feet. Once again, with aforethought (and expense - eighty forints), I had bought a small cabbage from the shop. I had hoped that the goats would be eating little fresh cabbages off the land, but Suzy had put paid to that on an escaping spree. A complete patch of little cabbage plants that should have been destined for winter treats and days like today. I digress - again. I enticed Rudy upon the goat table with the cabbage, which was no problem. I also gave him his ration of hay. Oh, he was not cooperative! Kick, kick, fidgit, fidgit. It took me a while but I got it done. By the end Rudy was threatening to take the goat table to pieces. With water bucket in hand I released him from the table. He only got a little bit wet as I enticed him back to his end of the goat house. I remained unmolested. All good fun. You might think that a throwaway sarcastic comment but it's not. All day, hard work with the possibility of getting hurt. But I hadn't and so it had been fun.

Well satisfied I went to the pub for a beer. I negected to say that the other two goats went straight back in once Rudy was safely in his side of the goat house. I had the beer and back home replenished the firewood baskets. Whilst I was doing that, the old lady from No. 72 appeared at the fence and over came a litre of her pink wine for no reason at all. That was the cherry on the top of what had been a good fulfilling day. And all part of the reason why I so much love living here.

Pub in the evening.

19th January 2012

After yesterday it is short and sweet today.

The time had come to take out the mice. Would be nice to have a cat to do that, but if that was going to happen the cat should have been on the scene before Pickly dog arrived. Anyway, the time had come to do something about mice. I caught four in two days. With 2,468,921 ways into the house and with goat maize and pigeon food stored in the hallway there will always be mice. I trap them until there are no more and then put fresh bait on the unset trap. When a mouse is taking the bait I set the trap. As I write, I need to do that tomorrow.

Still no wild birds coming to the table.

I have a problem with the spuds in the cellar. Some of them are rotting. Not many, but some. I have no idea why. It is mainly affecting the really dark red spuds that I grew from the seed from Tibi and Marika - repurposed from goat food. Most of the crop is fine - just the odd one here and there. Strange thing about goats. This time of year they love raw spuds, little ones. Last month they would not look at them. From the experience of last year, come March they will not look at them.

Firewood and stayed home in the evening.

20th January 2012

After a normal start I did a bit of kigli bashing. Not much, about half and hour.I already had a fair stack of stuff on the yard that I could convert to either stuff for the kitchen stove or stuff for the cserepkalyha.

I set about a new (old) job. Posts for the vines. I was chopping out the holes that I had lovingly made for the size that I had expected the cross pieces to be, only to find them so much bigger. I managed one and a bit.

After that, business as usual.

The clouds cleared in the evening, and the temperature plummeted.

21st January 2012

It was another fine morning but cold again - minus five. As usual I went to the shop for a Saturday shop. I espied a csemege vekni on the shelf and bought it amongst my other comestibles. I was not best pleased to find when I got it home that it was yesterday's bread!

I did more work chopping out vine posts. It is still hard work in spite of the nice chisel that I bought in Fitting, Körmend. I had seen them in the shop before and had thought that they were of German origin. Not so. It turned out to be made in the Czech Republic. and a fine tool it is too. Every bit as good as the Marples chisel that I had sent over from the UK.

I got the firewood in - not much work - and went for a beer. Helmut turned up and we chatted for a while. I had to go and lock the pigeons in and feed the goats. Feeding the goats provided me with a little extra work. Once again there was a hen from No. 72 in the garden. Once again it squalked as I grabbed for it, and once again once I had grabbed it, it was quite happy to be deposited the correct side of the fence and legged it back to the old lady's hen house. I find it quite amusing. Pickle less so. She just wanted to be amongst it.

22nd January 2012

It was yet another nice day. I suppose that I could have put it to good use and carried on with the outside stuff. I still had a bit more that I wanted to get done in the garden and some more vine posts but I just needed a break from it so I did the housework as usual.

I kept the stove going fairly well all morning and had jacket potatoes for lunch. A winter luxury! After lunch I fet the goats and pigeons as usual. Suzy had hers on the goat table and I did her feet whilst she was munching. After Rudy it was a pure delight. She stood quite contented and in the process of doing eight hooves she kicked but once, and that was probably down to my clumsiness. What a contrast to the battle I had with Rudy. It was all done and I released the trap on the table. She continued to munch for a while before getting down. Speaking of feeding pigeons, it is fairly obvious that I have acquired a rat (or rats). The pigeon food had been knocked over and raided the previous couple of mornings. I made alternative arrangements for it - an unknockable over plastic box. I left it open. I would rather have the rat eating pigeon food than the pigeons until I can make disposal of rat(s) arrangements. Another trip to Bödő I think.

Kugli bashing and firewood after that. On one of my trips by the kitchen window I noticed that the thermometer there was registering twenty Celsius in the sunshine.

I cycled up the village for eggs. If they are home, they are always open for business, even on a Sunday. On the way home I called in the pub for a beer as you do. After that it was home to do all the early evening stuff. With clear skies and the sun setting the temperature was plummetting. Back in the house I relit the kitchen stove and lit the tile stove. In previous years I would have been lighting the tile stove by three in the afternoon at latest. This winter has been so mild so far that I have only had to light it at sunset.

I went to the pub in the evening at about seven. John appeared a few minutes after eight. By quarter past they were kicking out. It had clouded over after nightfall and was gently raining. It was noticable how much warmer it was with the cloud cover.

23rd January 2012

Very short today. In the morning after the usual start I bashed out another vine post. Boring! Well, no. Chiselling.

Firewood in after lunch and then a beer in the pub. John turned up and bought a round so it became two.

Home to do the goats and such, and then in for the evening.

24th January 2012

Even shorter today. Apart from the fact that I did not see John in the afternoon and I did go to the pub in the evening the day was identical to yesterday.

25th January 2012

The sun was just peeping over the horizon with a clear blue sky when I went to the shop. There was a biting northerly breeze blowing. With the wind chill factor it felt like minus ten. Back home I lit the stove and had breakfast. With the breeze blowing from that direction the kitchen stove needed no encouragement. It went off like an express train. The shop lady had managed to fob me off with a day old loaf again. I will have to be having a word up her nose.

After breakfast I went to water the pigeons and feed the goats as usual. To my surprise the outside tap worked. I had expected it to be frozen solid. Thinking about it, the temperature was not actually that low - it was the wind chill that made it feel so, and the outside tap is south facing and was sheltered from the wind.

I gave the pigeons fresh water - Mrs. Pigeon was still sitting the single egg. I begin to have doubts about that one. Then I went into the garden to give the goats their stalks and maize. I grabbed a handful of stalks from the fence and walked round to shove them through the now devoid of glass window frame to Rudy. Oh-oh! Where was Suzy? When I walk round with that first bunch of stalks Suzy always has her nose out of the window. She was not there. I shoved the stalks in for Rudy and looked into the other side of the goat house. Poor Suzy. She was standing on the goat table where I had secured her last evening and fed her there whilst I had to do some other stuff. Bad goatherder that I am, I had entirely forgotten to release her from the table. She was quite unconcerned. I had given her her evening rations on the tray on the table anyway. When I think about it, it is not that much different to cows tethered up in a row in a stall. And I have found that goats are quite amenable to such situations anyway.

Whatever! I released Suzy and finished feeding them. Back to the house for a warm. I took the brace and bit - a small one - and bored a single hole in the two tall posts already completed. It was cold enough that I went back to the house for another warm. After that I selected the next new big post to be chopped out. I chose the easier one of two. I dragged it to the workshop - easier than lifting and carrying it. I marked it out and set to work again with brace and bit. I stopped when I could not feel my thumbs, and that was in spite of wearing the working gloves. Using the brace and bit I can do wearing gloves - it involves little gripping. Using mal and chisel I cannot do in gloves. Too much energy goes into gripping the gloves and it soon becomes painful.

I did a bit more after lunch. I used a bigger bit to rough out the hole. A brace and bit removes wood far faster than a chisel does. The cut is not big, but whilst strength remains in the arm to turn the brace it removes wood continuously.

A bit of firewood in, a beer in the pub whilst I watched Kommisar Rex and then home for the evening.

26th January 2012

Another lovely day and the blustery wind from yesterday had dropped a bit so although it was actually colder it did not feel it. I shopped first - four hundred and some odd forints. Speaking of which I found this item with quotes from Orbán Victor (P.M.) and Sándor Fazekas (Rural Development Minister ) on the Budapest Times site (English language) today. I might be a thousand percent wrong but to me it smacks of someone who knows about Peak Oil but cannot speak about it directly. You know, he is absolutely right. It never ceases to amaze me the number of people in the village that buy in things like potatoes and onions.

After breakfast I found out how cold it was as the outside tap refused to function. I had to return inside to obtain water for pigeons and goats. Pigeons were watered and goats fed and watered. Mrs. Pigeon was still sitting but I do not hold out a lot of hope for the viability of that egg.

After that I wandered up the garden and completed the coppicing of birches that I wanted to do in the wilderness patch. Some of it will doubtless be firewood but I have a cunning plan for whatever of it is suitable and whatever else I can find suitable from the heaps lying up by Telek utca. When I first moved here there was an open gap on Telek utca where a gate used to be. I closed it with a very gash paling fence of recycled wire and recycled odd bits of timber. It still stands, and it is slowly being encroached upon by various shubbery which will lead to it being impregnable which suits me well. The problem is next to that. There was a bit of what was supposed to be fence next to where the gate was. It was a master stroke of design. Not! Top and bottom was steel L-shaped angle iron. The verticles were rivetted in and were aluminium alloy. A couple of the verticles were missing also when I first moved here. I attempted to replace them - none too successfully - with wood. The inevitable had happened in the intervening time. Inevitable when you mix iron and aluminium. Electrolytic action had corroded the aluminium and the rivets and one by one the verticles fell out. A herd of pigs or goats - big ones could get out of that bit of fence now. I can even get out of it by ducking under the top angle iron. What it needs there, I had decided, was a nice handmade hurdle about a metre and a half high, so I will be trying my hand at it.

Speaking of which, I had the weirdest dream. In the dream I went out to do the goats in the morning and found the old lady shouting at me from a little way up the garden. She ducked only a little way and walked straight through into my garden. I wandered up to see what the problem was and immediately saw that where she had walked through was a bloody great hole in the chain link. Well, the goats had not been out, and the dogs had not escaped. I investigated. To find two baby elephants wandering about in my garden. I even drempt about going and ringing the police to report two baby elephants in my garden. What was that all about?

By the time I had done my bit of coppicing I could not feel my thumbs so it was back to the house for a warm.

I went back to brace and bit after that. The post that I was working on was about as big as my good Jennings pattern bits could handle. There were twelve posts originally. Two were sawn up for cross-members leaving ten. The one I was dealing with now was No. 3, leaving seven. There may be one more that I can deal with thus. I am not sure until I examine it more closely. The rest are going to have to be sawn into two, by hand, by me and then the edges trimmed off. At least if the weather closes in it is a job that I can be doing in the workshop with the stove going for a couple of hours a day.

Lunch, and then feed the pigeons and the goats. Doing the goats was somewhat protracted. They had their food as usual. I had noticed that the area between goat house and garden gate was littered with bits of dropped hay and maize leaves that had fallen either during transit or distribution. There was a lot of good dry stuff there so I raked it into two heaps and used it to top up their bedding. Edible bedding! After that I had to entice the wether onto the table with a third of a cabbage broken up fine so that I could do his feet. I reckon that it was the first time he had been confined on the table. Previously I had been able to do his feet by casting him onto his bum and confining him between my knees. He is now almost the size of Suzy. No more casting him on his bum, then. He did not know what to make of being thus confined, but once he realised that there was no escape he settled to munching and was not too disruptive of me trimming his hooves.

After that I did a bit more chopping out of the current post, got the firewood in, which involved just a little bit of kugli bashing and once again went to the pub to watch Kommisar Rex. Speaking of kugli, I still have enough seriously big chopped bits to feed the tile stove for at least a week and more still on the yard to chop. There is also still maybe six or eight barrow loads of smaller stuff to move, but until I reorganise the wood house I have nowhere to put it. Plus still two more stacks of the smaller stuff of the old pear tree to deal with.

Home for the evening. I fed the goats and locked the pigeons in, then went to the shop for a couple of bits. The little pub outside the shop has begun to reconvene, but it will have to be a bit warmer yet before I join them. Sorry about another short entry.

27th January 2012

It was another cold but clear day. There was a bit of frost about as I walked to the shop. Stove, breakfast and out to do the livestock. I had a shock as I walked past the kitchen windowsill outside. It was minus seven. It actually felt not so cold as the previous days when we had the strong breeze. The outside tap was a waste of time of course, so once again the goat and pigeon water came from within the house. The pigeons drink from an ex-five hundred gramme margarine container. I had to bash the ice out of it this morning.

Well, with the weather as it was and the forecast as it was, a window of opportunity closed. I had hoped that amongst my estate maintenance stuff that had been going on I might be able to get the first seven vine posts and six crossmembers assembled. Forget it. The surface was like concrete and was only likely to get worse.

I was well enough pleased with the progess I had made anyway. What I had managed to get done over the last weeks would have needed to be done in the spring anyway, and every hour spent was an hour banked against doing proper gardening when spring does arrive.

I managed to do a load of washing and get it out on the line. Two pairs of work jeans and a few bits of what I might describe as smart summer gear.

I managed a bit more bashing out of the current vine post upon which I was working. I left it just needing fine trimming so that a crossmember will nicely fit. Then lunch, feed the goats and pigeons, and read John Michael Greer and comments. That took a while.

A beer in the pub, which became two when Hobo bought one and then home to a serious bout of firewood work. I bashed and chopped all the necessary for kitchen and tile stove, and then, in a frenzy of activity, rearranged the acacia firewood to give me more room in the wood house for the stuff on the yard.

Business as usual after that. Feed the goats, lock the pigeons in and light the fires. Fried egg sandwich this evening, and why not.

For the first time in a couple of days I went to the pub in the evening. The Austrian contingent arrived and we had a good time.

28th January 2012

Another morning of minus seven. Lit the stove before going to the shop. It was not a big shop anyway. There was plenty of food about the place. Back home and I immediately felt the benefit of having lit the fire before shopping. It was already discernably warm in the kitchen. Coffee, toast. Blast! I had forgotten to buy margarine. I finished breakfast and went and did goats and pigeons first, then returned to the shop. Aaarrrgghh! The choice of margarine was Coop or Delma Light. Pet hate of mine - margarine that does not melt when you spread it on hot toast. From experience the Coop stuff was worse that the Delma Light. Beggars could not be choosers so I had to settle for the latter. I did have a gentle go at the shop lady quoting several brands that were better than the aforementioned.

Not overly much got done after that. I managed a few minutes on a handicraft job which proved more troublesome than expected. I made bread, which was a semi-disaster. (Failed to rise to expectations). Firewood as usual and another barrowload of the stuff from the yard was wheeled in and tipped in the space that I had made for it.

Pub in the evening and a normal session for me, John and Hobo. None of us needed helping home.

29th January 2012

I was up late, for me. Gone eight in the morning. I had heard the alarm go on but had not heard it go off, if you see what I mean. When I opened the shutters one look at the sky told me "snow". It did, just as soon as I went out to do the morning food and water. It did not amount to anything. It was the equivalent of snow drizzle. Is there a word for that? I was going to write that the Hungarians probably had a word for it, and following along the lines of the Inuit peoples having x number of words for snow I visited Google, and thence Wikipedia to find that it is, basically, bollox. I did find out about the Sámi people though, of whom I had never heard before. Fascinating but somewhat sad. Equivalent to the North American Indian tribes. I will let you follow that up yourselves.

Housework - lots of, although you would not know it - and firewood.

A late afternoon beer and home to do the goats, stoke up the fires and stay in for the evening. Yeah, right. I ended up back in the pub at seven. They were closed by eight.

The Norwegian weather forecasting site was forecasting minus eighteen for a week on Tuesday. Ouch!

30th January 2012

Minus eight this morning. Hobo said minus nine but I don't think we are about to have a major fallout over one degree of Celsius. Once again I lit the stove before going to the shop. I notice that when I get in the shop at maybe quarter to eight all the people that I used to see in the summer in there at about half past six are there. I am quite often in there at about the same time as Marika. Country living. Go to bed when it gets dark and get up when it gets light. Except not me. I go to bed long after your average Halogy villager has retired.

Lighting the stove paid dividends. When I returned from the shop I could already feel the warmth from the stove. An additional advantage or two are that the coffee cooks so much quicker and the stove is just the right temperature for lightly burning bread.

Onto the day job. Goats/pigeons. Mrs. Pigeon was still sitting that egg. Washing - pants and socks. Nine pairs of pants and ten pairs of socks. Where the hell did they come from? Obviously I had worn them but it seemed no time at all since I washed another load. I still had more to do - two pairs of work jeans and what I might call some smart gear (yeah, right) - but it would have to wait.

After that, in spite of the cold, I did manage to finish chopping out the current vine post. It did not take too long, and with the sun on my back it was not unpleasant. I had forgotten how heavy it was until I went to stack it with the other completed ones. In my enfeebled elderly status I could just about get it off the ground and take a couple of steps with it. I ended up dragging it. There is no doubt about it, the rest are going to have to be sawn.

Firewood. Lunch. More firewood. I reorganised in the yard. The guys that took the pear tree down had left me one huge kugli. The younger one had said to use it as a chopping block, so today I did. It is about twenty seven inches in diameter and about the same high. It had been on its side, but with some effort I rolled it to a clear spot and set it on its end. It went down with a satisfying thud and embedded itself into the semi-frozen three inches of pear tree chain saw chippings thereabouts. It proved to be just the right height for someone of my stature and with an axe the size of mine.

Much firewood went into the house. Another barrow load of the stuff off the yard went into the woodhouse and it was time to go for a beer. Rex was on telly of course.

Back home, and with the temperature plummeting I managed with a bit of organisation to feed the goats and get a nice new layer of bedding in for them. Unmolested again.

Pub in the evening, but briefly. I was home just gone eight. Hobo and Miki had something going down. They were definitely not the best of friends.

31st January 2012

Well, it was a repeat of yesterday really. Except that it was minus eleven! Hobo later said that it had been minus twelve. That got me thinking. It was two days running that he had said that the temperature was one degree lower than I had said. My thoughts led to the conclusion that he could well be right. He lives towards the top of the hill leading up to the football field and the roads out of the village to Nádasd and Daraboshegy. I think that that difference in elevation at this time of year and with the current weather could well account for a one degree difference. I don't think that I mentioned that the previous time that I had cycled to Nádasd for cash everywhere that was in permanent shade had about two inches deep in snow. There was none anywhere in Halogy.

Apart from the usual I had to repeat that exercise today - cycle to Nádasd for cash. I have no idea what is going on with the post vans but it seems like the post lady has to put up with the relief van which has no cash machine about one week in three. Fortunately the weather was once again good. I left the wellies on for the ride this time. I got cold feet last time. The only part of me that was cold on arrival in Nádasd was my right thumb. What was that all about? Why not the left thumb as well? With cash in hand I went in th Coop and bought some sensible margarine to put on the toast!

I made best speed back to the village and had a swift one in the pub. Back home, and I made best speed in getting in the firewood for this evening and the morning in the kitchen and for the tile stove this evening.

Back to the pub to watch Rex, having lit the tile stove first.

It was a normal finish to the day after that. John turned up quite late in the pub, to be greeted with a chorus of "Jó reggelt"s (Good morning). Fortunately it was a skittles evening so we were able to linger over a couple of beers.

And that was January.


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