Sunday, January 29, 2017

COLDER world

And there you have it, even the man who sells wood burning stoves thinks it has been a bit colder. Although he is trying to sell us a stove, so you would expect him to say so really. The high of having his expertise available to fit the 'chosen one' in our kitchen before winter melts down, to the consequent phone call and free-fall after the announcement of a four week delay.
Winter is done by then. 
Waiting is nothing new to us though. I began counting down the colder days back in November, before winter was winter. It is actually quite a depressing trait to do when you start repeating the day's date or the day of the week. Suddenly a week until it is February becomes 6 days, which sounds longer! Or you group a few days together until it is Friday when our neighbour Jano is wandering past the window to catch the bus for his weekly shop. Then switching languages and repeating days into Slovak, even the sound of the words creates a psychologically longer week. Thankfully there is no leap year this time.
The abundance of fruit and pumpkins in the cellar remains, despite being slowly digested or processed. Progress is snail pace until the farcical Spring arrives. 

Friday, January 20, 2017


Frozen for weeks but accumulating in an anxious week of severity and extremely low temperature. All is snowy white and calmer now but for a time we couldn't escape the cold. Outside water froze within minutes, hen shit likewise. 
Waking in the morning to see little Harik shivering was painful to see. But he never wants to be inside, that's how he was brought up by his previous owner. 
Inside has not been much better. Our stoves chucking out heat but not to us it seems. Four jumpers on felt like none. Brisk walks outside, lips and noses felt like Vicks vapour rub had been luxuriously smudged on. 
The local town hangs onto the festive spirit as christmas continues in shop windows. But faces are droopy. The coolness in the air leaves a bitterness, though a shrug of shoulders to carry on regardless. What's new is only exaggerated gossip.     
A million miles away from the Dad's Army politics in the bigger world. But the eyes are still watching, as time passes each slow wintry week sinks away. Snowed down with only opinion and no action. Bring us something to warm to please.   

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hen do

Our pampered hens could not face their fear of snow. The insults and swearing as I open the hen door that first morning after. Two hours later and not a single step outside. But this was to be there temporary moving out day anyway, to a warmer undercover spot as the first taste of a real winter begins to bite. For the next week they are sharing with some very bemused cats in the old henhouse quarters. Soon they are stealing from the cat bowls, who's in charge here? Now nearer the front door and within eye view, our every step outside and the demanding clucking starts. Our realisation as to why we had put their henhouse so far away in the first place.
The bleak conditions coming and a test for all nature to show its hardy survival skills. For us, four jumpers on top of thermals and that's inside the cottage. Just the sound of the burning stoves to remind us that we are warm enough. But working with our resources, namely autumn's apples at the moment, help to keep us occupied. Recipes of new jams and wine, maybe another attempt at cider without becoming vinegar this time. Plenty of time to try as the wind blows the snow back onto the cleared road and leaves us stranded for a few more days.   

Sunday, December 25, 2016


The cold germ epidemic striking Europe was brought home with my recent travel back across the Channel. A sniffly nose and chesty cough, the type of which we haven't witnessed in Havran Cottage for more than a year or two. My antidote to chop the daily wood on Christmas Eve was probably not the brightest idea as I felt the groggy-ness worsen. But Christmas means Christmas and so the evening food slog had to be respected and enjoyed despite any ills. And nothing feels better than hearing a hot burning stove's crackling wood, with a candle for light and warmth and the annual viewing of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fowl language

Idyllic moonlit nights, starry skies and an icy stillness to the air. All is calm before the calamity. Watching our freedom of movement erode with nationalistic flag waving, yet it seems so distant from us right now. But this creepy feeling is on my mind every waking morning, Jaffa's barking at distant wild animal noises suddenly become irrelevant. The irony of becoming trapped here in an ex-communist state. I'm not saying we don't enjoy our life, but sense and sensibility might need us to one day drive us back. Soon we might not be able to do so together. It's all speculation and humming, and my dramatic thoughts might just be that. There are far worse nervous souls and why should I worry about it after where we have got to. The opportunity to build a garden shed from scrap with no neighbour disputes, with only puzzled deer speculating what it could be. The breathless cold is perfect to chop wood every day, even when I don't need to chop! Hens swearing their fowl language and clucking demands, it's entertainment in these frozen times. The luscious jam smells from the kitchen stove, next year's supply in production.  Dreamy life and feeling stuck, it make's no sense.
The behaviour of the country I left is as far away as the moon.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Once bitten,

Left with summer memories and a boisterous puppy, a drenched woodland for cutting fallen trees and a weed heaven in the vegetable garden have occupied our workloads since then. 
A backache made from holding the chainsaw steady, safety specs on for the comfort of concerning wife and certainly not for any visibility benefit. Any average Slovak man wouldn't be seen in these or the over-sized gloves I have for that matter. The trembling whizz of the chain doesn't now frighten our young dog like it did to Maco before. Another worry when his wandering comes close to have a sniff. 
And the garden which grows plenty of unwanted non-edible as well as the edible (a forager guest from last July would disagree!). When all is dug in or taken out at this time of year, it rests close to empty. It looks at peace, the challenge has ceased until the new year's thaw.
The empty walnut trees should have been enough warning that the wandering mice will be looking for alternative food locations this Autumn. Completely conspicuous of the lazy 4 cats roaming the different sleep positions outside our doorstep, a few brave furry rodents have scratched their way into the house. Unpleasant scurrying at night has given us a few restless nights waiting for the traps to catch them. Covering up what tiny holes we find in our walls where they may have come in from, a battle of nerve and surveillance will hopefully prevail! 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tea please

What will be will be. A limbo of uncertainty brought about by cretins with an immigration vote. I shouldn't be so harsh as most were allowed an opinion in the referendum and rightly so. What it has given to us we can't predict. Learning the language could gain citizenship if a hard-line is pressed on my residency. But my wary excuses for not knowing it well enough and the english influences in the cottage don't help. My head is older and wiser on a practical level these days but knocking any memory of foreign sentence structures, verbs and adjectives through those cracks is much harder for my mind to grasp. A revision book with the basic principle language rules is great to carry with you, but of no hope when an 88 year old neighbour is explaining his latest flirty escapades.
Maybe some days the silent speech is similar to the Jehovah Witnesses that stand in the town all day not saying a word. Although I do refer to them as the modern day equivalent of cold war spies taking in the gossip when people pass. I know that they know I'm English for starters.
I've learn't how to listen to a Slovak speak a long detailed question to me and be able to reply a perfect response in the correct tense that "I don't know". 50% of the time it works and they walk away non the wiser of my origin. Another 20% though might ask something else and then it get's harder to answer the same way without cracking and showing my inept understanding (particularly if I know how I'm going to answer before I hear the question).
None of this makes me or both of us want to move. Our place is too valuable to us after five years slogging and battling. 
Maybe it's a bubble we are in but a nice one at that, and not one that needs bursting for us or the many more like us in Europe.