A little bit of sunshine

I just read last nights post and thought it looked a little bleak, so I thought I’d quickly post this picture from last week.

It was the start of a wonderful sunny day with the sun taking temperatures just above freezing. The house heated up to 23c\73f without having to light the fire, the water warmed up to 45c\113f from the solar water panels and I ventured outside to chop up a bit more wood to make sure we can deal with another cold month.

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From the terrace on the East side, sorry about the drain pipe.

Roll on spring!

Weddings, wellies and a whole lot of snow

I had to check the historical weather data to see when we last had temperatures above freezing, believing that it was sometime back in November, but of course it’s not as bad as I thought, we have had nineteen days above freezing since December the 1st 2016, although only two nights!

Continue reading “Weddings, wellies and a whole lot of snow”

The great God of Thaw!

No crash of thunder or flash of lightening; no, just a gentle warming, trickle of water and a chance to see the grass again below the snow. I like Thaw, he’s a nice God, and he came to visit us three days ago.

After our first imprisonment this year, we were finally released from a seven day lock down on the use of the vehicle. Whilst the snow wasn’t that bad, the drifts that covered our two possible escape routes were way above the Nivas sump and without one hell of a lot of shovelling there was no way out other than on foot.

To be honest it’s wasn’t that bad, we did run out of milk, but not for long as Gosia hitched a ride with the neighbours to get provisions. A short walk down the hill and a longer walk back with a rucksack and shopping bag!

It has been cold, which on it’s own is no real problem, but it was backed up with some pretty strong winds which pushed the limits of our poorly sealed windows. Unfortunately one of the jobs I never completed last year was the external window sills and insulation round the French doors onto the terrace, so the wind kept finding it’s way in and keeping the temperatures down on the few extreme nights we have had.

Not that it’s that bad, don’t get me wrong, I keep the boiler stoked and the temperature stays close to 20ºC and we have only resorted to using coal twice when the temperature dropped to -16ºC and that was more for Malina than us. I’m just a little disappointed with myself that I never sealed the building better.

Still it will be spring soon and whilst the weather is dry and sunny, like it was today, then we pick up quite a bit of solar gain through the windows. There was no need to fire up until the sun went down today and we picked up a tank full of hot water (48ºC) from the solar panels and it was only 8ºC outside! Anything free is always sweet to a Yorkshireman.

Anyhow, just a short post to keep me in the swing of things, I’m busy fulfilling promises I made which must be completed by the weekend for Gosias birthday and names day, these Catholics have a good deal!

And now to try and catch up on a few of your posts I haven’t read yet.

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A little bit of bread but no cheese

It has to be one of the sounds that defines spring for me, but whilst it’s good to finally hear the Yellowhammer perched on the roof of the old derelict house, I know that by the late summer the melody will have worn a little thin! Mind you, you have respect to a bird that inspired the beginning of Beethovens 5th symphony.

So here we are again, back in the land of the potatoes (Pyrowki). Our normal approach was still blocked by snow when we arrived last Wednesday, so we headed down the valley road to our neighbours to park up and climb the hill. Not so bad, unless you have a car full of supplies to relocate, and after the first assent by foot it was decided to test the Nivas four wheel drive credentials. Lots of wheel spinning, mud flying and random steering to keep us on a relatively straight path; we managed to get within about 100 meters of our barn and stable, good enough for me.

Home sweet home
Home sweet home

Our little stable has faired quite well over the winter and after a quick sweep up and dust down it just need a little bit of heat to make it our home from home. So after a quick sweep of the chimney, i.e.  dismantle the chimney into sections take them outside and poke them with a stick whilst shaking them violently, the fire was stoked up and the temperature began to rise.

Get that fire buring
Get that fire buring

The weather was surprisingly good so after a quick inspection of the house we decided to crack on with a few outside jobs; we had started to clear the patch of land beyond the orchard in the Autumn so it seemed like a good idea to continue with the task before spring sent up a new set of brambles. Work is hard going after such an extended break without much physical activity and after three or four hours we headed back to the stable, breaking ourselves in gently so to speak.

Clearing the brambles
Clearing the brambles

That was until we noticed  the small river winding it’s way down our track, it had sprung up during the day as the snow started to melt and was taking the easiest route to the valley; but not only was it taking this route it was also taking our road, depositing it further down flied! And on top of that the recently filled trench that hid our electricity supply cable had collapsed creating a small canyon, the cleared earth finding its way into the well water. Anyone who says that washing your hair in well water turns it green would be mistaken on this occasion as it would definitely be a dirty orange if you used ours. Mind you it tasted ok 🙂 (Joke!)

So armed with a spade I tried to find the source of the rapidly evolving rapid  and quickly dug a trench to divert the flow a couple of hundred meters further up the hill; a job that carried on the next day as we also discovered a small swimming pool in the basement of the new house! The digging of a swale in the top field and drainage around the foundations have made their way up the list of things to do, although I hope this was a bit of a freak event as many hectares of half meter snow melted over a three day period; that’s a hell of a lot of water and not likely to occur again until next year, is it?

Land clearing, wood chopping, house cleaning and visiting friends filled the last four days quickly and a few beers and vodkas snuck in as we were welcomed back; we have been well fed and watered as we did the rounds. The proliferation of eggs, as everyone’s chickens have started to lay again, is apparent in the food that everyone cooks for you; Friday saw a breakfast of scrambled (4 eggs) a lunch of egg mayo sandwiches (2 eggs) a later lunch of a cheese omelette (4, maybe 5 eggs) and finally a supper with an accompanying dish of  stuffed eggs; I only managed 1 🙂

But it’s not all eggs, oh no, we did finally fire up the bread oven on Saturday and along with a Dahl inspired by Food and Forage Hebrides I made some Naan breads. Whilst Gosia was kind and told me how good they tasted I think I need a little more practice with the oven and experiment more with the distribution of fire; although from the results of the weekend I know that I will be able to make a top notch pizza that should cook in under 5 minutes; with the high temperature that is generated on the brick base.

It’s good to be back 🙂

Seasonal adjustment

It snowed the day after I arrived back in Poland and it didn’t stop until it had put down at least a foot (30cm), Gosia was traveling down from Holland by coach so understandably I began to worry a bit; but of course this is Poland and it would take more than a foot of the white stuff to stop the wheels turning and Gosia arrived just after 2pm.

Smiles all round and family visits covered the next few days and I settled into my dog walking routine; the deep snow keeping me fit and my boots wet.

Sadly Scooby and Bruder are no longer with us as they both died whilst we were away, foul play is suspected, but cannot be proved. We have consoled ourselves with the fact that at least they had a good eight months whilst we were here before our winter break; certainly for Scooby who was saved from a certain death when we adopted him earlier last year.

It’s hard to go for a walk with Jackie without thinking of them both and they will be remembered for a long while to come.

Of course Jackie is happy we are back and whilst there is snow on the ground she bounces about like a young pup, despite the extra weight and fur she has put on in our absence; clippers and a sausage ban are in order!

As the week went on the snow started to melt, but the temperatures remained low and close to zero making it hard to get motivated and carry out the many mundane tasks that had to be done; my mood was failing to match my normal enthusiasm and even the enticement of vodka as we visited friends failed to truly pick me up and shake me.

But then Monday the 8th of April arrived as a glorious sun filled the room at around six in the morning, a quick look outside showed evidence of a hard frost; the ingredients for the making a crisp and clear day. My usual litre of tea was soon followed by a hearty breakfast of fried eggs and potatoes, before I headed off across fields with Jackie. Thankfully the snow had all but gone, although the melt had left lots of standing water and mud, but thanks to the frost I had a firm surface to walk on and my feet remained dry for the duration.

As the day went on the sun beat down and the temperature began to rise along with my mood, and the shopping trip to town, the MOT on the Niva, the paying of large bills to the electricity company for connection the new house; the clearing of leaves and other debris from the garden; they all passed by without a frown.

I even decided to plant some chillies for propagation on the windowsill; a small token to join the many hundreds of plants that Gosias mum had already started off. And now that we had a road legal vehicle we made plans to head over to Pyrowki in the morning and assess the situation and get cracking on the house:)

So here I am, typing away as the day starts, on my second cup of tea and I’ve just brought Gosia her coffee; the sun isn’t shining but the air is mild and dry and I’m still feeling good; so expect an update on the day and our findings soon.

 

A short compilation

I feel a bit guilty; I haven’t really posted anything recently, at least nothing that follows the loose blog theme that I have.

I have had a few ideas, I even have a few drafts which explore some of the journeys that I have taken since I took up temporary residence in Yorkshire, but I just can’t seem to put it together in my head or on paper; albeit electronic.

It’s strange, but I have read quite a few of my favourite blogs and it seems to be a common affliction, even if the reasons behind the doldrums may differ for other bloggers; I’m wondering what the underlying problem may be for me in particular?

I started writing this last night and never got any further, but after my journey to the shops this morning I managed to clear my head;  helped by the blizzard conditions, change the title and came up with a structure for this post.

First off is Sedbergh, I have family there and I planned to meet my other sister as she was holding a pointer day along with my aunty. Our family have been involved in the breeding of pointers for over 80 years, which explains why they were holding a pointer day, although I have a distinct lack of pictures of the event, or Sedbergh for that matter; but I did stop and admire the views on route.

It was a great day out, especially if you like pointers and I got to see one of my cousins for the first time in over twenty years and we made the most of our time, taking a walk around the surrounding counntryside and catching up, as the dedicated pointer people talked about pointer things 🙂

I pass by Ribblehead Viaduct every time I head over to Settle or Skipton for shopping or other such adventures! So I thought it only right to take a few pictures of this outstanding feat of engineering. The local myth is that the foundations are built upon wool, litrially; although after a little bit of research I discovered that the viaduct is built from the money from the woollen industry. I love the fact the it was built with a curve so that passengers of the train could admire the structure as the passed over it; the link above is worth a read, although there are many other references on the web for more information if you’re interested. I remember seeing the Flying Scotsman on the Settle to Carlisle line, which passes over the viaduct, as a child and placing a 2p coin of the track so that the train would run over it and I would have a memento of the event; I have no idea what happened to it, but I remember the moment! As you head on down the road you get to see the impressive Pen-y-ghent, which I scaled several times during my childhood.

As you may imagine, if you are aware of the weather in the UK at the moment, many of these roads are now impassable due to the heavy snow fall of the last few days; which scuppered a few of my plans, including my trip to Wigan to attend a Straw Bale workshop. I really sorry I missed it as it would have been a great opportunity to meet new people and learn a some new skills, but for the record check out www.wiganallotmentnetwork.org.uk ; a fantastic organisation with lots of community activities going on.

snowed in 23rd March 2013 (2)Road to Ribblehead

That was the condition of the roads, never mind the path through the fields down to the village.

Once I got to the shops they had run out of bread, amongst other things and a brief conversation soon revealed that they hadn’t received a delivery in two days! Just as well I have plenty of flour in 🙂

I just hope it clears for next weekend as I head off to Holland to see my beloved Gosia; I’m so looking forward to seeing her again after almost three months of separation. Thank you to Lady Sighs for providing the perfect words for how I feel.

Hoping your all safe and warm, I know I am now that I’m back from my trip to the shops 🙂

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.

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 🙂

The Big Thaw

Well that was what I thought last Sunday when all the snow disappeared in Rzemien, just the odd bit hanging about where the wind had gathered the dusty flakes into a drift; that and the slush left at the side of the road by the snow ploughs was the only evidence left of the last three or four weeks of brilliant white.

So with the temperature rising and set to stay around the zero mark I thought I would take a trip out to the house and check on things, just to make sure that the big bad wolf hadn’t blown the house down.

The drive there was perfect, tarmac all the way, but as I got closer I couldn’t help but notice the snow topped hills and sure enough as I ascended to the 400m plateau the snow line became apparent. I’d guess at about 300m the road still had traces of ice and the surrounding fields were only partially green. I started to wonder what it would be like as I got closer.

But rather than trying to explain, I thought I’d take some photos 🙂

So as the road disappeared I thought it wise to park up at our neighbours farm and walk the rest of the way. Of course this been Poland I was greeted with the offer of a ‘drink’ which I gracefully declined as I had to drive later in the day (explained with the usual two arms outstretched holding the imaginary steering wheel moving from side to side) Still I was invited to take a tour of the out buildings to be shown the generator that they had recently purchased or possibly even constructed, as it resembled an old diesel truck engine mounted on a welded steel frame and some electrical circuitry protected by a series of porcelain fuses. It was even turned over and run for a few minutes just to show me how it worked, which I gave my approval of with the three or four complimentary words that I have in my extensive polish vocabulary, repeated several times in varying order. All very happy with this I was then told about the borehole they had just had dug (we started a trend in the area) and how the old pump they had was not powerful enough to pump the water beyond 30m and they may have to (god forbid) buy a new one; although thinking about the generator, I’d imagine a new pump could be fashioned from an old tractor and a couple of bits of bailing twine! I have to admire the reluctance of people to throw things away here and always coming up with a solution with what is available.

Heading off on foot it soon became apparent that the snow up here was here to stay, the ice had set into the snow and for most of the walk I was on top of it, only occasionally breaking through the crust; very slippery going for me and the dogs. But we soon made it over the hill and the house came into sight, non the worse for the recent cold weather.

Heading down to the barn and stable there was clear evidence of deer and some worryingly large paw prints, but then I remembered that Kazek had been keeping an eye on the place and the prints belonged to him and his mountain dog; phew! Mind you the deer had had a good feed on our young apple apple trees and another mental note was made to make sure I protect the fresh trees we plant this year. Its odd they don’t eat the quince trees, just as well as they make a good fruit for one of the many liqueurs that we made in the autumn. I also noted that the snow and ice had taken its toll on the weaker of the silver birch, bending and even snapping some of them, so natural selection has selected them for felling when the weather warms up. By the way, for all you avid humanure folowers of the composting toilet diary; I took a quick picture of the pile 🙂 The snow on top probably indicates that the anorobic process has stopped for the winter, although with no recent deposits to feed the pile I’m it’s probably to be expected.

Once I’d checked on everything, started a fire, talked to Gosia on Skype, walked the dogs and had some lunch, it started to snow again, so I decided to hedge my bets and head back home; I had a flight to catch on Monday so I didn’t want to get snowed in in Pyrowki 🙂

Knitting with nails

I just love hearing some of the stories of how people used to cope when they lived under communism, todays tale of a women who learnt how to knit with nails, as knitting needles weren’t available, put a smile on my face. It also spurred me on to write a post; although I’ll probably have to go off subject!

As the snow has started to melt with the rising temperatures of the last few days I decided to take the dogs on an alternative walk and take a few photos of the nearby palace, or fortification as it is referred to on Wikipedia, before the snow and ice completely disappear.

The palace is just behind Gosias parents house and I would be able to see it from our window if it weren’t for the trees; it was recently renovated for the reputed cost of five million zloty (about a million quid). Its worth taking a look at the Wikipedia photo for the contrast, although I have just looked through my archives and found a couple from 2007, which gives you a good idea how things have changed. Money well spent I think, although its a shame that its not open to the public; instead the new owners have decided to fill up the moat that encircles the property and erected a fence to enclose the extensive patch of land that comes with the dwelling. I can’t blame them, but I had to laugh when I saw that the local kids had found a way in and where happily sledging down the embankments that surrounds the house.

The surrounding area of land is a public park, with a school and other educational facilities nearby. Gosia said that she could get out of bed and be at school in under 5 minutes if she just happened to sleep in. The gate in the fence at the back of the house is still used by the local children as a shortcut to the school; a number of them even park their bikes in the garden before morning registration.

Whilst the school has seen recently development and appears to be in a good state of repair there are a number of other buildings that could do with a cash injection; the one below, in particular, seems ripe for renovation and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before someone puts up the money; as long as they don’t end up fencing it off.

In amongst all of this history you still find the occasional sign of the old communist Poland which I find just as fascinating and I wish Gosia were here to help me out with the explanations of what things were in the past. My favourite if the old mill that used to process the grain for the surrounding area. I’m sure much more went on than just milling grain, but all it is now is a derelict shell; very reminiscent of the textile mills back in Yorkshire. There is a rumour going around that the owner of the palace has his eye on the place and is looking to develop a hydro electric plant, so who knows what it will look like in a few years.

Progress is already leaving its mark on the area, which is one of the reasons I don’t often take this walk anymore, not because of  the renovation or the fact that they have resurfaced the old track and they even make an attempt to keep the area tidy once a year; no something more subtle than that. With progress comes control and as the recently erected signs clearly state (if you can read Polish) dog shit will not be tolerated! Sorry, but I left my poo bags back in the UK.

A funny old day

As you know my days are filled with dog walking, blogging (reading more than writing) and more recently trying to watch the film recommendations of Beetleypete. The list that I was working to expanded today with another list from Curnblog, who’s blog was recommended by Pete, getting more work is not an option: i don’t have the time! I won’t for a minute proclaim to understand what these two film buffs are talking about, their opinions and critique are far beyond my simple thinking; but they do make a very compelling argument and reasoning for why I should want to watch a particular film’; so thank you both, I’ll let you know how I get on.

After my morning walk with the dogs I know that Gosia will be awake from her Dutch slumber and we chat almost every day whilst we drink our respective morning cups of coffee and tea; although it’s quite likely that this is my third cuppa of the day. Skype is a wonderful thing and I just hope that it remains free in the future, I will refrain from being a cynic at this point just in case I upset the karma.

I have mentioned leaf and twig once before as he (I’m guessing) provides me with a daily smile, and today’s post was no exception. A picture of a tree that has at some stage in its life tried to avoid something, you will have to follow the link to know what I mean. On seeing todays post I was compelled to send a quick comment as I had also seen such a tree in the local forest.

Determined to try and find this tree again today, so I could take a picture, I headed out on a two hour walk with the dogs, and could I find it? No, and I felt certain I knew where it was! But as I had the camera with me I thought I would take a few photos, if not for you (the reader) then for Gosia (the reader) who I’m sure will be happy to see the dogs having fun and also to appreciate that it is still cold in Poland; never mind the –7 in Holland 🙂

So homeward bound and after my walk I followed my little routine of feeding the dogs, popping to the local shop for a beer or two, or three (if I haven’t purchased in bulk earlier in the week) and then settling down to an evening in to watch a few films.

But no, as I entered the kitchen I was confronted with an almost panicked mother in-law and as I was only able to understand one word in five I failed to grasp what was going on; had I done something wrong to offend my hostess? After ‘hiding in the kitchen for 10 minutes, taking the time to feed the dogs and then pop to the closest shop; which was closed, I pondered what could possibly be happening. I had worked out that someone was visiting, but had no idea why this had sparked the reaction that it had.

Of course everything has a simple explanation and once the guests had left I was able to work out, through various mimes and gestures with the occasional pidgin Polish word thrown in for good measure , that the local priest had just popped in to bless the house. It was probably just easier to keep me hidden away than to try and get me involved, which I’m grateful for.

Conscious that I was still beerless (I know it’s not a word) I thought I would head out again and further afield to one of the other three shops available to me within half a mile. I’m not sure why my normal shop was closed but its quite possible the priest was running to a schedule and the shop was only a couple down on his list, so I had to think ahead and headed for Zombecks’. This may well be the wrong spelling, or even the wrong name, but that’s how I remember it. I do know that the son of the owner worked in Jersey (Channel Islands) for a while so there was a possibility that someone might speak English, however upon arrival it soon became apparent that the vodka was the native language and a slight recognition from the owner of the shop resulted in several Na zdrowies and shots of vodka, This may well be the reason why I’m posting now and making grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and rapid changes in direction of topic. Maybe not!

Thankfully I enjoyed a feast of sour cabbage soup (I will remember what it’s called tomorrow) followed by goulash with barley, accompanied by pickled gherkins; so my constitution should be good, especially if I only drink one of the beers that I bought.

But now to settle down to ‘Le Reine Margor’ or possibly ‘Gods and Generals’, most likely the second option whilst my vision is struggling with subtitles.

Dobranoc!

Frozen Baby Wipes!

After such a long break back in Rzemien we had started to go a little crazy, thinking about all the things we should be getting on with back at the house: walls to trim back ready for the electrical cables and fittings, internal walls to build which will then allow us to start on the plumbing, wood to order for the terrace and floor giving it time to season over winter, paperwork to fill in and deliver to ensure we keep the authorities happy and vehicles to check that the antifreeze is good to keep them ice free. So yesterday, with my teaching done for the week and Christmas fast approaching, we thought we better head out and see what we could achieve before we get caught up in the festivities.

Van packed with freshly washed clothes, food for us and the dogs, laptop, camera and beers; the last three my responsibility, we set off determined to stay for at least four or five days and get some work done. Checking the forecast, which predicted snow showers and milder temperatures of –6°c for the coming week, we thought we would be fine as long as we could get to the nearest farm; park the van and walk the remaining km or so and get the Niva out of the barn and then drive back to get the supplies out of the van; a great plan!

The main roads seemed fine, even if the snow was starting to settle a little, the moving traffic was keeping the tarmac visible; so we were able to make progress at a reasonable speed, but as we drove on we did start to wonder what it would be like closer to home. Not that we had to wait long, as three-quarters of an hour on, as we turned off the main E40 and onto the road for Olimpow. A road with no name according to Google maps, which wasn’t far from the truth as we joined the snow covered track! Now any sensible person would have turned back at this stage, but common sense had long since left the vehicle and we crept along in the hope that we might just be able to make the remaining 20 km, including the final hill that takes us to our planned destination. The 20km yes, the hill, no; not a chance, not even half way. So we turned round and headed back to take an alternate, much longer, route. The new route was a little flatter, but not without event; if I told you that Gosia was close to wetting herself on more than one occasion then I’m sure you get the gist of it, but I managed to keep the van on the road and eventually to our neighbours down in the valley; the new idea was to park up there and walk up the hill to the house, get the Niva…….

So as Gosia stopped to chat and catch up on events in the village I headed up the hill in ever deepening snow to retrieve our Russian built 4×4. Worried about the antifreeze situation I quickly checked the radiator and was happy to see liquid in there and not a block of ice, so I fired up and headed out into the virgin snow; perhaps a foot (30cm) deep. Reversing out of the barn and getting up the first hill proved a little difficult, but once I reached our hand-built road, albeit under deep snow, the Niva found a bit of grip and I started to have some fun; even more fun as I reached the top of the hill and the drifts thickened to a couple of feet (60cm) and with no clear definition to the road I ploughed on through fields in the general direction of the nearest farm. I once read that the Niva was built for Siberia, not suburbia, and I couldn’t agree more 🙂

So supplies transferred, we began to asses our situation; temp outside -4, temp inside -2, so I started the fire, reassuring Gosia that I’d warm the place up in no time, that was when I noticed the water boiling pan was frozen solid; not to worry it will melt, then Gosia shouted from the barn ‘the pickled gurkins have frozen in the fridge, and the eggs!’ Umm, it must have been cold (Kazek recored -20)! Of course as we started to check we discovered all sorts of things had not taken to the cold temperatures too well, including 50KG of apples we had in storage, our 5 gallon water containers and the baby wipes we keep in the outside toilet!!

And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Gosia, the frozen baby wipes, and our plans of a five day frozen retreat in Pstrongowa did exactly that and we decided to retreat back to Rzemien.

At least we brought the Niva back with us, so we won’t be hindered by the weather; should we be daft enough to go back again anytime soon 🙂

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Snow, aerobics and mixing your drinks!

So the snow has arrived, not for the first time this year, but in a more convincing manner than before. A good 3-4 inches (about 10cm) came down on Sunday evening, running into Monday; backed up with temperatures on the minus side to harden up any snow daft enough to try and melt, so slippery underfoot as well as wheels; especially in the villages that rely on the smaller local councils to put the grit down. Luckily we arrived in Rzemien on Saturday night in preparation for the christening of a good friends baby, so the snow is still pretty in our eyes; had we being stuck in Pstrongowa then I may have a different view. By all accounts the higher ground in Pstrongowa has become impenetrable to all but the well equipped explorer, our neighbours even called us to check that we were alright and offered us shelter, so we are definitely in the right place; here in the warm central heated oasis that is Gosias home:)

Now I’m not particularly religious or hold any strong beliefs, it works for some people and as far as I’m concerned that’s their business, and as long as they don’t try and force their faith down my neck I happy to coexist. So when we had to attend the local Catholic Church for the christening on Sunday I went without protest or comment. However faced with a religion that I do not follow, a language that I barley understand and temperatures in the church probably below zero I was glad of the aerobic exercise that was to be had; stand up, sit down, kneel down, stand up, kneel down, sit down…..I did feel for the baby though, that water must have been cold; holy or not!

As a ‘visitor’ to Poland, a label I’m sure I will keep for a long time to come, I’m often seen as a target for some fun; especially when drinking alcohol is involved. Now as a rule I drink beer, it’s in my genes as a Yorkshire man; although I have to admit I have strayed to the dark side whilst living in the south of England and moved from the traditional ales of the north to the more common continental lagers served down south.

Thankfully the brewing industry in Poland is alive and well, full of tradition and diversity with many different brands to choose from, and Perla has become my favourite tipple; that is unless there is even a remote chance that vodka will be served! One lesson that I have learned is that you should never mix lager with vodka; admittedly it has taken more than one bad experience to learn this lesson, but learnt it most definitely has been. So with the faintest sniff of vodka in the air I resolve myself to hang back on any other drink and step up to the challenge that is inevitably set down by the red blooded male population of Poland; to join in the round.

Vodka can be drunk in a few different ways in Poland, the traditional method only requires one glass and one (sometimes many more) bottle(s) of vodka, no matter how many people are involved; you simply fill the glass for the next person in line (in the circle) after inviting them to drink by toasting their health, as you can imagine this can lead to a very rapid depletion of the bottle and uncontrolled intoxication in double quick time. Thankfully I have avoided this method of drinking all but once and I have very few memories of what happened; other than to say that Eddy became E.T. and I was told to go home!

Luckily christenings are a much more civil affair and vodka is drunk out of your own glass at the pace set by the host as he personally charges the glasses of all the guests, giving you the opportunity to opt out at anytime. Well, that is unless you are sitting next to the host or one of the afore mentioned polish male guests, in which case national pride is at stake and as the only Englishman at the table you have to match them drink for drink; their idea of fun is to then watch you get drunk!! Now I could at this stage tell you what happened at the last christening that I attended three years ago; the same family with their first child, but I couldn’t honestly tell you much about it after the third course of food, in fact I learnt more about what happened that day at this christening as stories were retold and an encore was expected! However on this occasion I’m able to say that I kept a steady head, stuck to the vodka and managed to make our own way home as one of the lasts guests to leave, after saying good night to several stumbling individuals and woke the next day without a hangover, a clear memory and I believe my pride intact; meeting some of the male gusts the next day it seems that I was in a minority J

It’s taken me a while to learn the lesson, but I can honestly say that you should never mix your drinks.