Wednesday, April 16, 2014


A week can last a long time, in Havran I swear it lasts longer. 
Sleepily I write amongst the overnight herd at Stansted Airport awaiting FR2314's early morning departure back to my other civilisation. Switching languages in my head (hahaha, not as if my Slovak ear is anywhere near proficient and my learning worded textbooks remained closed once again on a journey; I need kicking!), preparing my return. Bag packed with another back-dated country living magazine to provide some fantasy for the cottage and another retro board game, not that we get bored. 
Can't wait to be back, back into the escapism with no frills. The dogs get confused the first few days when I am away, the cats less so. But me more so as I recognise less and less from the country I used to live in. That's not necessarily a negative thing, just it reflects on how long a week can last.    

Friday, April 11, 2014


The full blooming trees spookily glisten under the moonlit cool and clear night sky. Over on the hillside above Havran Cottage a wheelbarrow squeaks along the bumpy surface with a bucket full of mid-size stones which will eventually complete a drainage path surface. It may look like further criminal damage to our local landscape but clearing the rocks from the surrounding fields can only help the farmer when he comes to cut the meadow grass in the summer. And all the secrecy with our night fall trips? Neighbours like to gossip and gossip they would do if they see us searching for stones. "Mad englishman, surely he could buy a load".
But our criminal adventure must continue. The price of stone is high and our area is awash with them. We must continue with our quiet evening trips.  

Friday, March 14, 2014


Sour sucking cider-making, sticky and now processed!
When I was young I have to confess I stole a few penny priced sweets off a counter from our village shop. Egged on by a friend, the habit lasted for a few months. My sweet-tooth has lasted a lot longer.
A few days ago I became an accomplice to another unforgiving crime, pulling down a helpless tree for no other concern than to stop the branches coming into contact with any high-sided vehicles. That is what our chainsaw trigger happy neighbour said anyway. 
When I was asked to hop a ride on his tractor to help move a tree I was expecting a fallen one that we had permission to cut. When we reached our destination there was no such thing, only a favourite young oak tree which our cats enjoyed to climb to chase the birds. Before I had time to think, the chainsaw was in full flow ripping through the base. 
By this point the tree had no point of return and instead of resting my hands on my head in disbelief I was being sworn at to help make sure the tree fell in the opposite direction of the road. My finger-printed evidence was now left on the bark. My poor language skills could not hide the anger inside me at this un-provoked act of vandalism to the natural surroundings. I walked off dis-gruntled. 
To add to the shame, the broken tree became our issue as shockingly our neighbour did not want the wood. Dusting off my chainsaw, a different me came back and sliced the tree down to manageable pieces for both Jana and I to drag back to the cottage later under the cover of a moonlit night sky and out of sight of the Forester's eyes. My sweetshop skills had not deserted me.  

Monday, March 3, 2014


Two weeks has seen rapid change here. The woodshed transformation into a space twice it's original size is not far away from completion to cater for our summer guests needs. A 'tardis-sized' shower room now stands waiting for it's fittings and our old original roofless barn has been carefully semi-demolised and made into a safe space to disappear to. More channel digging through hardcore stone pieces to enable a water pipe to reach it's destination taps in the woodshed and shower room. And more time spent within the company of builders to achieve all of this. Two knackered souls with empty pockets are left to finish and smooth off all these installations before the fast approaching opening in May. No interruptions please!  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Morning light

It's just the two of us. Mr and mrs, a couple of dogs and a few cats. That's it. Striving each day to make things work out here and to better and enrich our lives. Somedays, like today for example, are tough mentally and physically. Pulling down parts of outbuildings which are redundant, preparing for the arrival of builders this week (for the last time we hope), and endless other tasks without offering a minutes rest. But there is no one else here to do it but us, with dogs and cats for company. Just us, to accomplice something positive here everyday. Soon our place will be open again for the arrival of guests and days like today will just melt into like any other when there isn't anyone else here. The pinkish sunrise may get forgotten and remembering all the things we did this day will probably do so too. But we would like to think that serving good memories for others when they come to stay will make all the hard work appreciated.

Monday, February 10, 2014

No smoking please!

Another week of outside jobs as the winter shows no signs of arriving. First up was the demolition of the 'smoke house', a curious little house like structure which is commonplace in the Slovak countryside. Used for smoking and preserving hung slabs of meat and sausages during the butchery season, our chargrilled example was beginning to look like an eyesore from the front door. It was also in the way of the proposed extension of the woodshed and soon to become outdoor kitchen/eating space (we haven't thought of a name for this exciting new addition to the Havran Cottage catalogue, only 'the shed' or 'the kitchen shed' so far..)
As we had shown no sign of killing many pigs round here it wasn't likely to be getting used either. Out with the crowbar and hammer and so the endless task of taking out nails. Typical Slovak construction always uses far more nails than is needed and much longer ones than what I had encountered anywhere else. The result being a day spent rather than an hour. But we prevailed finding rusty iron artifacts and a few old teeth along the way. Now we have clear view of the garden and a vision of what will come next with the woodshed. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Cider making outside as it snows. After a few days a liquid with a whiffy smell. Probably the wrong time of year to be doing this, but then what else to do with more than a dozen crates of apples.
Every day, morning, noon and night, a check on the action as it quietly froths in a huge glass jar. A couple more days and maybe it will be time to decant to demijohns in the cellar. And then the waiting game begins.
Cider is supposedly easy to make, and yet even after a few attempts in the past and success in creating wine out of marrow two years ago, I haven't created anything other than vinegar out of apples. On this attempt, well the conditions are really too cold to be considering to do this, the apples are over ripe possibly, and a few bruised ones may have been processed through the chopping. So a morning's labour may have been wasted or maybe not. Only time will tell, I'll give it another year before I try again.