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From the garden

The give and take of time and truck

The village is heaving with gardens, various plots of land with flowers and fruit and vegetables. Those who live here all the time can keep an eye on things and compensate for the lack of rain by watering their produce. We haven’t yet capitalised the P&R in permanent residents, something that is seriously curtailing our Good Life adventure. Still, himself has planted peppers and tomatoes with the unsolicited help of her-next-door and they’re actually growing. I have a sneaking suspicion that herself has a vested interest in seeing them flourish and that, in the absence of rain and of our good selves, she might be watering them herself. But I’m not complaining.

The cold war that began when we put up the fence last year is slowly warming to tepid. We had a grand chat yesterday that consisted of her giving me her recipe for pickling cucumbers. I proudly showed her the two big jars of ones I’d already done, expecting at least a nod of appreciation, however grudging, but, of course, I had made the mistake of slicing them. Why did I slice them? Why? And she didn’t spot any dill in my brine. I had mustard seeds, chili peppers, and black peppercorns,  though, but no dill.

From the garden

An hour later, I heard her calling over the fence. She had dill for me, and more cucumbers (presumably so I could get it right this time), and a massive zucchini, the size of which amused her no end. From what I gathered (bearing in mind how limited my Hungarian is) our German neighbour a few doors up had had great fun with the one she’d given them. Apparently, he likes his pantomime. Say no more. Say no more.

Anyway, having repeated the recipe she gave me for rántott zucchini three times to her satisfaction, I left her wondering what I’d make of it all.

Coincidently, other neighbours had given us a big bucket of walnuts that I’d spent four hours shelling yesterday afternoon. I glazed most of them in maple syrup and rock salt for salads but still had some left dry. And with memories of a delicious banana bread the lovely MI made for us a while back, I thought: Why not make a zucchini and walnut bread. And if I make enough, I can give a loaf to each of the neighbours, a sort of homage to their produce and their neighbourliness.

This is what I love about village life. The sharing of wealth. The give and take of time and truck that makes everyone’s life just a little bit easier.

 

Walnut and zucchini bread

 

 

Back to Bratislava…again

IMG_1998It’s hard to say what it is that keeps taking me back to Bratislava… apart from second-time visitors to Budapest wanting to broaden their horizons. For some very strange reason, I’m in love with the city. I don’t think I could live there though… yet there’s something strangely cathartic about getting off the train after 2.5 hours of journeying through the Hungarian and Slovakian countryside and stepping into the world of John le Carré. It’s like being back in the Cold War…or at least what I imagine being in the Cold War would have been like.  It’s not the best side of the city by any means. Generally hustling with all sorts – backpackers, touristy tourists, local commuters, shoppers, and the usual hang-abouters that come with every train station – it’s far from picturesque. Concrete just doesn’t cut it when it comes to atmosphere. Still, though, there is something in the air. Slovakia joined the eurozone in January this year and I missed that bit of excitement this time around. There’s something rather magical about getting used to new money; the temporary suspension of reality when you just spend and hope for the best, having tried in vain to come up with an easy denominator to make the calculations easy.

The No. 13 tram takes you down into the old town – the historic centre – and close enough to my hotel of choice, the Kyjev. The lift takes minutes to get to the top floor and when you step inside, you step back in time about thirty years. My imagination runs riot and again, I can see spies around every corner. I love it. Nothing has been touched in years. This is in sharp contrast to the old town, where modern sculptures have been plonked in random places.

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I’ve been to Bratislava four times now, and each time have made a valiant effort to light a candle in the Cathedral. Only it’s never been open to the public. I’ve been on varying days – Monday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday and each time it’s been closed. Right next door to this rather splendid tribute to Catholicsm, is a far more intriguing building that is overshadowed by its neighbour. Personally, I think it has more character; better reflects the mood of the people; and for me, symbolises the arty side of old age. If it were a poem, it would be Jenny Joseph’s When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple. You have to hand it to the Bratislavans – they take any and every opportunity available to art it. The day I was there, we came across a bunch of lads who had just taken part in choral competition. While waiting outside on the street to be summoned for their photo call, they started singing. Beautiful a cappella. The jury is out on who enjoyed it more: the singers or those fortunate enough to happen past at that moment. That is Bratislava. You never quite know what’s around the next corner. It’s not somewhere to spend a week – a day and a night is plenty – yet no two days or two nights are quite the same.