Planes, trains, automobiles, bikes and a bus

A lift from Hawes to Skipton, a bus from Skipton to Crosshills, a lift from Crosshills to Cowling, a lift from Cowling to Manchester, a plane from Manchester to Amsterdam, a train to Beverwijk, a bike ride to Heemskerk, a bike ride back along with a train or two to Amsterdam, back on a plane to Kracow, a train to Debica and finally a lift back to Rzemien.

Thankfully all this traveling was broken up into bite size pieces, I say bite sized as food seemed to punctuate the gaps in my journey 🙂

My first treat was in Skipton and a Stanforths pork pie warm from the oven; memories of stopping for a two pie and a pint of milk breakfast on the way to work  came back to me with the taste of the molten gelatine. Eating a warm pork pie is an art in itself, especially if you don’t want to end up with greasy fingers and evidence of this guilty pleasure displayed down the front of your chest; the secret is to bite off a bit of the top crust creating an exit route for the juices to be drunk from, only once the liquid is cleared can you get down to the serious business of devouring the pies contents,  but I was taught this lesson well as Stanfords was the first pit stop of the day on our way to site with my mentors as I trained as an electrician at the tender age of sixteen.  It’s a career that didn’t last, as the government sponsored Youth Training Scheme stopped funding after twelve months, and I guess I failed to impress my employers enough for them to start paying me a wage; however I have some great memories of that time, not just  how to eat pork pies 🙂 (job number one for thoses counting)

On to Cowling and my second sisters house, busy as ever with her dogs and her boarding kennel business, I was lucky enough to be treated to a Chinese take away; probably the first I’ve had in more than two years, possibly even longer, and I have to admit that it tasted good; too good if I’m honest! Although only a brief visit I enjoyed my time in Cowling; I had made the journey over a few times in the last couple of months but the distance between my siblings made it hard work to spread myself about. We did manage to fit in one evening when we were all together, the first time for a long time, and I hope I have convinced them to come down in the summer months to see a bit of Poland.

Arriving in Amsterdam, I was quick to buy my train ticket and jump on; research on the internet armed me with enough information to make it look like I knew what I was doing; except for when I had to ask where track number 7 was, of course I was standing next to the sign with a big 7 and an arrow pointing down as I asked the question! This journey left me in Beverwijk and I was met with the lovely smiling face of Gosia; the timing could not have been better as she had just finished work as I arrived and we chatted, giggled and acted like teenagers as we took the short walk to her flat. I say her flat, in fact it is shared with nine other Polish women who were all eager to meet me, I think I was quite a novelty; not only was I male I was also English! The meet and greet soon turned into an open invitation for food and as it was Easter the girls had come together as a group and prepared a true feast of Polish delights. In fact the variety of dishes became our food for the next three days as we where successively invited back for the remaining meals of my short stay.

The hotel I had booked in Heemskerk was about a fifteen minute cycle, just as well as it helped to burn off some of the excess, and we headed off there in the evenings to indulge ourselves in the luxury of the full length bath, large double bed and thermostatically controlled heating!

After cycling back for breakfast the next morning we took a short walk to the covered Turkish market; on entering you are immediately hit by the eastern music competing for business along with the stall holders, and you could easily be swept away into a dream that you had just entered a market in Turkey. You could literally buy anything, from toothpaste to a tagine, record players to rugs, but for me the most impressive vendors where those selling spices. Piled high with low prices, full of colour, scent and all fronted by enthusiastic stall holders inviting you to buy from them in several languages until they spotted some recognition in your face and honed in for the sell.

As we were in the Amsterdam area we had arranged to pop in and see some friends who live there; a Polish- English couple but the other way around; i.e. he is Polish and she is English. They have lived in Amsterdam for over fifteen years and they are also renovating a house in Poland, about half an hours drive from where we are building our house; we were introduced last year and we have become good friends. A brunch of pancakes with various toppings set us up for a walk through the park and onto the city centre, after a quick tour of the studio they run and some of the community projects they are involved in. We are looking forward to seeing them again in May when they will be back in Poland.

The trip back to Poland was almost scuppered as the plane was delayed by two hours, then four and finally six hours! Thankfully someone in the accounts office must have done the sums on how much compensation they were going to have to pay out and a standby plane was wheeled out of the hanger and they delay was reduced back to two hours; just long enough for me to spend the free lunch voucher that was dished out for the inconvenience.

My train journey from Krakow to Debica was not without event, but I think I’ll pop that in my next post; an open letter to the Minister for Tourism in Poland 🙂

And finally, before this post gets far too long; Gosia jumped on a coach about six hours after I left and arrived back home the next day, her career in dissecting orchids was cut short due to a misunderstanding with the management! Hooray 🙂

 

I’m going home :)

Now this may seem like a bit of an odd statement given that my country of birth and residence for more than 96 % of my life, so far, has been in the UK; maybe more surprising since I have especially enjoyed my time back in Yorkshire, the county of my birth, after a spell of more than 25 years away; ok I have visited on many occasions, but this last break was more of an extended stay than a holiday.

I have lived in Skipton, although not by my own doing, Leeds; my own choice, Scarborough; for adventure!; the Isle of White and Jersey. The latter, some people may not consider being part of the UK; but they spoke English, most of the time, and they had fish and chip shops!

Jersey played a big part in my life and I was able to scale the ladder from tuber engineer (potato picker), to business owner; more luck than judgment, or maybe  not; it’s a difficult reflection to make out. Non the less I ended up where I am with an optimistic view on life and having more than 30 jobs under my belt, I joke that ‘I’ve never been a milk man’ and if I were ever write a book about it that will be the title; although it’s more likely to be a blog post 🙂

So here I am, on my way home to Poland, and although it’s a cliché, home is where the heart is and I’m overwhelmed with my desire to get back to the next chapter of my life with the woman I love and have loved for the last seven years; I hope she reads this 🙂

Reading this back it sounds a bit soppy, but I’m happy to be driven by my emotion and as an eternal optimist I know it’s the right place be and Gosia is the right person to be with.

I have noticed that a few of my posts have become a little biographical, a trend that many blogs that I follow follow, is this a bad thing? I don’t know. One thing I do know is that the story of the rest of my life is just beginning and I wouldn’t want it any other way 🙂

4 days to go…….

Walling, walling, walling, rawhide! (gloves required)

Even though the Yorkshire breed is a hardy one and bare hands are the tools of a great waller (you have to feel the stone) there comes a point when you have to pop on the gloves to stop your finger ends from wearing down to the bone. Of course I’m a ‘soft lad’ after many years of tapping the keyboard, but I had thought that my season of house building had toughened me up a little.

Armed with nothing more that a lump hammer, a crowbar a pick and a couple of nails and a piece of string my first day of dry stone walling started early yesterday. The frost was thin on the ground the air was fresh and the sun was just starting to say hello, which made for an entertaining journey through the dale peering through an unwashed windscreen; thankfully I wasn’t driving.

A couple of valleys to the East on narrow winding roads, passing through the odd village and hamlet, we reached our destination; what appeared to be a well organised farm yard, even though it was scattered with the commonly found polythene wrapped circular hay bales and an assortment of machinery. The usual greetings ‘ar ya reet’ and ‘ow’s it going’, plus a fair amount of chatter that I wasn’t privy to soon revealed that the Mule (a glorified four wheel drive golf cart) was out of action due to an altercation with a steep hill and a failing handbrake, so our eyes turned to the ‘landy’ (Landrover), but of course this was also suffering from a few mechanical problems; a flat battery, a deflated tyre and a possible starter motor issue. A bit of quick thinking, some jump leads and a general consensus that the tyre would ‘be reet’ we only had one final hurdle to jump before we headed off up top and a days graft. As we pulled the Landy up to the red diesel tank to pop a bit of fuel in to stop the annoying orange warning light the plan fell into disarray, not only was the tank locked but so was the fuel cap, with no key to be found! The plan was finally shattered,  along with the early morning quiet, as a masked quad bike rider tore into the yard, sliding to a halt a couple of feet away from us. Denty (the only name I will ever know him as), the rider and supervisor, was quick to explain that our intended wall was still undert’ snow and our trip to the hills was scuppered. Fearing, or possibly hoping, that the days work was not to be, I meandered around whilst new plans were made and we soon headed off across a couple of fields to a fifteen meter stretch of half built wall; an unfinished job of fifteen years past.

The first opportunity I had to take a photo, 3 or 4 hours into the job
The first opportunity I had to take a photo, 3 or 4 hours into the job!

I was initially drafted in to do the ripping out of an old section of wall whilst the lads rebuilt the section, but as the job had changed so did my role. I was now tasked with digging out the old stone that lay at the foot of the wall, sorting and passing required sizes and filling in; all relatively east tasks compared to my intended labour. I still found the work hard, but enjoyed every minute as the the sun warmed our backs and the wind stayed calm. The layers of clothing soon came off and Hadley, my nephew, was soon bare chested; there was even a moment when he stood in the middle of the field in just his boxers and alpaca socks as he discarded his thermals; quite a sight for any passers-by, however distant. Ben, his partner in crime and on occasion referred to as a smurf due to his blue tracksuit, made much of this and the banter remained thick, fast and funny throughout the day.

All of this was topped off with wonderful scenery and on the odd occasion that we stopped to have a bite to eat I marvelled at my surroundings and I couldn’t think of any better place to be working and I was reminded of the old saying ‘you can take a Yorkshire man out of Yorkshire, but you can’t take Yorkshire from the man’ and for good reason.

As the day wore on so did my gloves, even wearing two pairs gave little protection and the material  was through on four of my fingers! I did however take heart and considered that I wasn’t a complete wuss as even my betters donned sturdy pairs as they set the heavy top stones.

With the Job done the sun decided to leave us and I welcomed the cold beer and outstanding lamb shank meal my sister had cooked; the addition of a second nephew and a few friends created the perfect atmosphere to finish the day and for the first time in a long I went to bed early and slept with a clear mind and an aching body 🙂

Do you want owt fromt’ shops

The village of Hawes nestles in the valley below us, about a mile and half away across fields on a flagstone path (a trod) that was put down a couple of hundred years ago or more; maybe even dating back to medieval times. The Pennine way meanders through the area and I have walked many of the fells on previous visits and in my childhood, the moor above the house has an ancient Roman road which is testament to their engineering skills as it survives over two thousand years after its construction so it’s a popular area for walkers, hikers and farmers and you are as likely to meet someone on the way as you are to pass a car if you take the easy way and drive to shops for provisions.

With my general lack of exertion other than that in the kitchen, with a spot of gardening on the side when the sun manages to break through, I prefer to take the route of my forefathers and head out; wrapped up warm in my North Face and topped off with my hand crocheted hat (thanks Gosia 🙂 ) with my rucksack strapped to my back. ‘Owt fromt’ shops’ is my usual cry before I set off and I keep my fingers crossed that the list doesn’t include too many heavy liquids; beer is fine, but milk!

I was treated to snow this morning, but the wind has died down so it was a very pleasant walk and for once I remembered to put the camera in my pocket, so I’m subjecting you to yet another gallery.

I didn’t take any photos of Hawes as it’s well documented on the web already, with professional photographs and meaningful descriptions, but if you ever venture there on your travels then try the butchers homemade Wensleydale sausages and for a wider range of provisions then ask someone where The Good Life is as they stock the best variety of fruit and veg, free range eggs, along with the more unusual items from black cardamoms to egg tagliatelle.

Weighed down with supplies the walk back up to the village of Burtersett is harder work, but it gets the heart pumping and the lungs working and when you know that there is a warm fire and a cup of tea at the end of your journey the time passes by in a flash, especially with the magnificent views all around.

Luckily my work in the garden and the recent snow allowed me to take this last photo without causing too much embarrassment to my sister, I’m just hoping that the bulbs that I planted come through and add bit of colour before I leave.

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But now I must crack on, unfortunately for me my home made pita breads are liked by all and I have to get another batch on the go for tonight’s feast  🙂

Hall of Residence

The one thing I can say about my sister is that she has taste, which is probably why she had her own interior design company once upon a time; back in the day she was very well known and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Kevin McCloud before he hit the TV screen, and refitting a fifty room manor houses was not unknown. Sadly a number of reasons, including ill health, have meant that she is no longer whisked off by helicopter to Chivas whiskey distillery to rearrange the decor.

But true to form, when she moved back to Yorkshire from Spanish Galicia, she picked an absolute gem of a house and in a perfect location.

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Hillary Hall in fact, late 17th, early 18th century, grade II listed building; my new temporary Hall of residence.

Of course the downside to living in an listed building is that the landlord was unable to put in double glazing or make too many alterations to try and keep the heat in, and it gets a bit nippy; my first job of the day is to get the fire lit 🙂

In saying that, with all this cooking and baking I’m doing the kitchen stays nice and toasty and I have a decent view out of the window when I’m busy cleaning up MY mess 🙂

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I wish I’d have taken the pictures yesterday when the sun was shining, although that may have been a false representation of what the weather is normally like ‘up north’ Maybe once I’ve finished sprucing up the garden I’ll get a few more shots, rumour has it that the sun may shine again later this month.

Bhutta aur aloo ki mazedar tarkari

Or should I say Sweet corn and potatoes with mustard seeds and mint; A real winner and vegetarian to boot, definitely one to remember, unfortunately the Shahi korma (Royal beef in a creamy almond sauce) didn’t really come up to scratch; maybe a little mild when served with the afore mentioned aloo. Just as well I also made a spiced lamb biryani to make sure we all had plenty to eat.

Four hours in the kitchen, four hours! And I loved every minute of it 🙂 Although it did cross my mind that my sisters faith in me was misplaced along with her ability to portion size! But as she decided to empty the freezer she also let loose her imagination on what to do with the various bags of meat that came from the frost bitten depths.

Madhur Jaffrey is responsible for the first two dishes and the good old BBC provided me with the step by step for the biryani and whilst I had a few hectic moments, especially near the end, I managed to produce enough food to feed the village. Or alternatively two nephews, my sister and I for two days; including breakfast!

I won’t give you a run down of the recipes as I’m sure you will find them from the references above, just take my word for it, that the Bhutta and Biryani were well worth the effort.

The next day I was pointed in the direction of the World Encyclopaedia of Bread, or should I say my sister presented me with the book and several bookmarks; and Rye bread and a Polish Poopy Seed Roll were demanded as things that would make her feel better:) Of course I obliged and another marathon slog in the kitchen, with time to run to the shops and do the recycling filling in the gaps between the rising of the dough!

Both turned out ok, although I did fall foul of an over enthusiastic fan oven; with both specimens surrounded by a convincing crust, but you live and learn and the following days pita bread turned out just fine. A bad workman always blames his tools, I’m just getting used to the tools I’m working with.

All this activity it’s no wonder why I haven’t blogged a lot recently:)

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Missing post

After struggling to find the time to write a post I found a ‘saved in drafts’ (great blog by the way) and thought I could quickly publish it with a few witty comments to try and make up for my lack of attention to blogging.

After a quick edit and spell check I thought I had posted it, only to find this evening that it has gone missing! And despite my best efforts to find a temporary copy lurking on my laptop, it appears to be gone forever 😦

Without the time or energy to rewrite it I will surmise the entry as a ‘how to’ germinate chilli’s and making sure you get them in pots on your windowsill any time now; it will save you money and you and up with three products; Fresh Chilli, Chilli Flakes and, if you have the patience, Cayenne pepper (made from the ground seeds). I’ll try and rewrite it when I convince my sister that she should have a few plants going on her windowsill, even if there not likely to make it outside in the fickle Yorkshire summer.

So what’s happening, why no posts, no replies to comments, very little reading of your posts? All I can say is I have entered into a life of servitude, I am not only the chief cook and bottle washer, you could also add baker, cleaner, plumber, driver, shopper, electrician, mechanic, wood cutter, fire starter, recycler and all round handyman 🙂 I just don’t have the time! That’s not strictly true, but by putting this down in my blog I’ll find out if my sister is reading it and if I never blog again then call the police and tell them to search for a shallow grave in the Dales:)

I have a little bit of work lined up, helping my nephew out with some dry stone walling at Bolton Abbey, so another feather in my cap if it comes about; although I hope the weather improves a bit first!

Ok, that’s it for now, I did manage to get some photos today which I hope to post soon, but I don’t want to post too much now just in case this one disappears as well 🙂

A kind of heaven

You know (a term that I’ve picked up already in my short time back home) that you can’t beat a proper English Sunday roast dinner. Roast sirloin of beef, Yorkshire puds (I made ‘em), new spuds, carrots, cabbage and peas; accompanied by home made horse radish sauce and a gravy  blended from the meat juices, onions, garlic, carrots, celery and a drop of red wine; and on top of all that, in the company of my family; I am in a kind of heaven.

In fact I’ve enjoyed it so much I’m going for a nap, but I had to write this down first 🙂

A change of view

As you may have noted in my last post I was due to catch a plane last Monday, which I managed to reach on time; the weather in Poland remained subdued and I was more worried about the snow at my destination. Thankfully the snow in Manchester had pretty much disappeared on my arrival and although the air steward said I might have trouble crossing the border to Gods own County, the trip with my nephew was safe and without incident; arriving around midnight to a warm wood fuelled living room and a glass of red wine; fantastic !

Now I know I might have pushed up my carbon footprint for the year, but when I saw a return flight for £62 I just had to take it; I’ll offset the damage done with my composting toilet in the summer 🙂

It’s just about a year since I was last here visiting my sisters and nephews and it’s great to be back, there is also a good chance of finding a little bit of work to fund my visit and maybe even put a little bit a side; with the added bonus of the glorious Yorkshire countryside. Unfortunately the baggage restrictions have left me without my camera, but I managed to get a quick snap of my new backyard on Wednesday morning with my sisters happy snapper before the battery went flat. I plan to take more once I get out and about a bit more.

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Oddly enough it feels colder here than in Poland, I’m guessing because of the damp in the air; where Poland is a very dry cold, does that make sense? I checked in with friends back in Poland and they said they had a meter of snow on Thursday, so maybe I’m better off here.

As I said it’s great to be back seeing family, but with all the catching up I have suddenly found myself not having the time to blog as often, I’m sure that will change soon; I can feel the urge 🙂