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.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Old man Fojtik up to his old tricks once more, trunks replaced by stumps in nearby woodland. The chuckling sound of his old Vetor tractor the giveaway evidence heard last week or so. Not a new occurrence for the 87 year old, but something which keeps him occupied, busy and alive. 
Never a moaner though unlike a farmer or two we know round here. Revolving storms that don't like to say goodbye for the summer have left more to be discontented. 
But new life beginnings are finding their feet as usual among the calm interludes.
Our surplus supply of potato crop is rather enjoying the wet and sun combination. But battling the stripy potato bug munching the foliage takes time from other unfinished jobs.
Tipi's are back on our landscape, new eyes straining across our boundary to have a look. The older Slovak face is stern and can look very dis-trusting of what you are doing even if you aren't doing anything! This is especially apparent when you smile in return.
Neighbour Jano continues to be bitter and still knows more about everything than you could ever know. The bulging 'Hitchcockian' belly now protrudes more proudly in warmer t-shirt weather. His shadow glides across our window on cue every Friday morning for his walk to the local bus for town. 
Remaining here could become an issue not long from now with referendum uncertainty. Not the politics of the politicians but the politics of people will decide from many moons away. An edge of friction and nervousness has crept into our lives. We came here to escape that. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ladies of Hen Manor

15 months of wait and finally a vacant, over-grown plot has found some short-term tenants. 6 moody birds brought from a back of a trailer are now strutting peacefully and exchanging meaningful views of the very political hen world. One casual attempt to go beyond on the first day and a few lost feathers in Maco's mouth to confirm their animal instincts of the dangers of what lies beyond, we hope! 
Already friendships have formed (we like to think!) between them and us, so much so that it feels like they have been around the place always. It leaves us with a dilemma. How long are they staying? A few eggs in the summer and free-range roast in the Winter was the plan, but now they all have characters...
And how long am I staying? The British are deciding on my behalf. The plot thickens, well not where there is 6 hungry hens.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Animal instinct. Almost drowning through soggy February with desperate, half-finished 'projects' scattering the landscape. And now a smile returns to Maco's face and the sun shines, as a full-on engaged battle to regain some normality to the look of our place resumes. 
Tasty details from imaginations are beginning to feature, quizzical neighbours don't understand.
Tools in wrong places, constantly a challenge to save time and remember where they were last placed. 
Quarrels, ideas, egos on what looks best. Usually by the end of each day tired limbs and a sense of calm prevails before we start again the next morning.
Organised chaos, and this after nearly five years here. When we are ready to move in it may be the time when we have to move out.
But for now we feel lucky to be able to do this, to experiment and make mistakes too. Nothing wrong with that.
A "not that nice" door and frame stands proudly near our front-door waiting to be sold / given away for free / driven to iron recycling or the tip. It has been in this temporary resting place for 3 weeks. We walk past it everyday and everyday we plan to do something about it. But everyday it stays in this same place as other tasks take precedence. That door and frame is a symbol of our work here. Once that door has gone, we will be ready. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

february gloom

Last week's thawing out from a brief winter, boggy prints from boots, dogs and cats pepper the ground outside our door. The semi-hardness of the ground is annoying. Too clingy to work on and the inevitable mud finding its way into the cottage.
Now snug inside with a little bit of butternut squash spread on toast, a roaring storm of rain and snow persists outside. Welcome to February. 
A guilty feeling of leaving six pets outside to face the conditions. But all have a place to stay out of anything thrown from the sky. Even venturing out to check up won't reduce any fears, relief will only coincide with their next feeding at breakfast time tomorrow. 
This month is notoriously difficult to predict it's weather, which makes schedules and job lists irrelevant. Bright ideas may start to see the light after the few dark weeks of winter but will always take longer than can be anticipated because of un-forecasted snow or rain. 
Tasks are building though, an apprehensive construction of a garden shed is on the wish list. Maybe we can keep the bad weather a bit longer!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


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.