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.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


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.