Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mid-winter

A deep freeze shows signs of thaw and is as welcoming as the sound of the whistling kettle on the kitchen stove. This bottom end of Winter is not to be sneered at, the chilly sun is a temptation to be outdoors but being wary of frozen door handles and hungry cat's eyes. Icy steps which won't catch your fall, stiffened muscles and dripping noses yet our dogs bravely carry on sleeping on guard outside the front entrance. A mystery Land Rover passing up and down each day, we have managed to persuade the driver to now wave each time. And when the fog descends in the evening twilight, size 9 footprints appear from the gate into the woodland. Bits of pine bark on the snowy floor leave another clue as to what is being brought back. Another construction project is being planned for when the white stuff melts away. Inside the cottage bits of fluff, bits of material, just generally bits are found in the temporary workshop called home. Textiles being brought back to life full of pattern, shape and fun. A glimpse of brighter times ahead, hoping only hope will tell.       

Monday, January 25, 2016

Slovak shop

We hadn't been in for a long time. Normally the door is locked and the owner is having an early or extended lunch break depending on the time of day. As we were passing, our persistence to try the closed door once again of this second hand clothing shop was too tempting. Not that we needed anything in particular but a few moments out of the outside cold was more than an attraction. For once, the door was able to be opened. Inside it is small and dark with a curtain not drawn back on the only possible window light. I gave my customary greeting to the mannequin that faces you when you first come in. Beyond the over-crowded clothing rails and from behind another curtain appeared the shop owner. Not a chance of a smile on her face, we've only bought one item from her in four years. But we weren't perturbed as we began to browse in the dim conditions under hanging Christmas baubles which predictively hadn't been stored away (it seems to be traditional for shops here to keep festive decorations up for as long as possible, the butcher's shop has a very pleasant tree with all the trimmings next to the freezers full of pork!). This shop does not require any security camera, the shop owner's eyes are enough. Her laser stare follows your every movement and if for a moment you decide to touch anything you can hear her breath from over your shoulder. She does not communicate nor offer assistance and she will put things back straighter after you have left them. An unfortunate persistence of many Slovak shops still treating customers as a hindrance came to mind. 
A closer look at a large textile item from off a top shelf and an un-sighted "Airwick" room freshener flies off and hits the ground. The temperature in the shop dropped to freezing point. Broken pieces were scattered near our feet. We didn't dare give eye contact back to the proprietor. Our browsing adventure was over, a quick shuffle to the door, another short glance to the attractive mannequin and we were out. Sniggering like naughty schoolkids, and then the realization that our mishap probably led to the shop closing early that day too.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Leftovers

With great anticipation we dive our spoons into the reheated festive sauerkraut soup. It doesn't bother us that for the last two days every mealtime has consisted of leftovers of the same in our household. Not that the toilet runs could put us off for having any more, this was our neighbour's speciality this time. Full and hearty, three helpings later in my dish and a small shot to wash it down. Although our visit had not started so well, a bottle of english bitter for him to try was not approved. Nothing can beat the taste of a mass produced 'Heineken influenced and owned' Slovak lager rather than a flatter and  deliciously fruity malt produced in a small brewery in Cornwall that I had brought over. But that did not deter his temptation to gossip. Four inches of pot-belly bellowing from below his t-shirt at every exaggerated piece of news he tells. Like our other neighbour from the other day he lives alone and having company round is a special occasion, although he is far too proud to admit to such a thing. 
A less than sobering short trip back through the densely dropping fog and a chance to re-adjust to normal house temperatures (we aren't afraid to wear a jumper here!). A lazy finale to the christmas weekend, with just a few trimmed cuttings cut and a clean out of the outside loo excusing for a need for a hot water wash.
Rumour has it that winter might be starting here next week. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dec 24th

Gazing at the old television screen with the sound muted. A Czechoslovakian farce plays amongst the adverts for the up-coming Christmas film feast on the tv, which to great fanfare includes Home Alone 1 and 2. Enough reason to never own a television set in Slovakia.
The flickering light bulb just about shines enough light and gives a lovely warm glow to the kitchen of our old neighbour's home where we are sipping cheap Hungarian plonk. His stories begin in a vague detail that I can understand before the speech slides more to a mutter as more is drunk. 
He has lived here all his life, he knows nothing beyond a dozen kilometres from here but has a frightening amount of knowledge and self-suffiency. We are humbled to speak to him and to have as a neighbour. 
Our extended stay takes us to darkness outside, but the fog has fallen to give a silently mystical and reflective lightness as we wander back through the woodland to our place. 
The weather is un-seasonally wrong as like everywhere at the moment. All the frantic wood cutting and garden clearing from the Autumn months seems more like a wasted effort. The ground is still not frozen and we are easily warm enough with less wood burning. We wish for the snow to come to help with the eco-culture as another ladybird wakes between our bedroom window pane. Only a more traumatic January and February can save the season.
The smell of sauerkraut on my hand, squeezed out from it's airtight container for the evening's festive soup. Fish with potato salad to follow, almost to tradition. But I am starving now and I fight with my dog for a piece of dried bread roll. Tomorrow's visit to our excessive 'other neighbour' for leftovers aplenty is still a mouth-watering distant thought with more to gossip, drink and take in. Maybe those television planners have got it right, it is always nicer to be not so home alone at this time of year.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

November chore

Cracking nuts, debris strewn all round the bedroom floor. Our only room with evening heat, the flickering lightbulb is becoming more of an annoyance. As I sit near the window a small draft sends a shiver to my left shoulder. Crackly wood in the fire gives us false hope that we are warm enough. Winter came a few days ago. 
A yelp as Jana hammers her finger and the fortunate nut escapes to a far corner of the room. Not for the first time this month a bit of anguish and a few foul words are expressed.
Beautiful sunrises are only eclipsed by even better sunsets. Ground is now freezing and glittering into the moonlight, it is time for the land to relax. This is the time when some of our summer guests would be asking "so what you going to do now..?" This morning I was stumped for a few seconds, what can I do now? Wood is mostly cut for what we need, internet has gone slow and tea is in the pot, so what next? Fortunately my finger tips were not too frozen to have a go at cleaning and fixing stuff, tidy a few what-nots, rack up the apple wine (which means a quick sip and a bit more!) and generally keep myself occupied until Harik was after a walk. A quick survey of the woodland and a few more possible tipi pine poles are found. A deja vu of last winter's work look's like approaching.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Remembrance

Plastic colourful flowers are compared and handled sensitively by all the regular craggy faces in the town. It is that time of the year again for all to remember who is not here anymore. Even the 'Martin Skrtel' lookalikes are not afraid to show their softer side and take a fake bunch of alyssums to a distant relative's half sister's last resting place.
Bizarrely we were told by a neighbour where the best deals were to buy some 'made in China' creations to lay in the cemetery even though we have no family connections in our town's resting place. Sarcastically how thoughtful. But then it could be read as to how important the time of year is to family and friends and is presumed for everybody. We were thankful for the advice instead.
It is also that time when serious looking head-shotted political hopefuls are plastered on every car park's billboard. Each year there is more of an edge of casualness to these pictures. We lost the jacket and tie a year ago, this time another button is undone on the shirt, but still the smile is lost. Only a smugness has come to replace stiffness that existed before. Small words and big egos, what is their connection to who is walking below? Like the 1st of November, some traditions won't change here.  
Sleep well Dad.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Gentle reminder

Walnuts lying in crates which scatter the kitchen floor waiting for their turn to dry above the warm stove. Fighting for space are my clothes after another wash from all the clinging mud in the woodland. Another seasonal slash with the chainsaw in the trees which has perfectly timed to follow the worst deluge of rain this year. A slimy surface and boots clogged with twice their weight in mud. An annual chore to collect our wood supply but now that the sun shines and the full Autumn colour illuminates around, I feel very fortunate to be here. Not least two days previous when I had slipped and landed on a protruding small tree stump whilst holding an 'on' chainsaw. Shaken and winded, my composure slightly bruised. Maybe I was getting too cocky or there was an invincibility thought about the work I was doing. I needed that reminder that anything good can change in a split second.