The rain it raineth every day

Day 12: 29 July 2004

Thursday. I wake around 6.30 for a 7 o’clock breakfast. It has been raining all night, but it is beginning to ease, for the first time in four days – black clouds are giving way to lighter patches and even blue sky is growing. We begin to congregate on the veranda, and it starts to rain again.

Helen speaks with Attila – breakfast here, and then to the barn next to Csabi’s place to bail our hay. Imre has a quick breakfast, picking meat and Turkish peppers from the table and eating them on the hoof before taking the tractor to his house to collect the bailer.

N the meantime we make our way through the village, pausing at the pigs to commiserate with the survivors over Wendy’s fate, but remarking how tasty and tender she was, before beginning the preparatory work in the hay barn of forking the hay out from the side compartment into the central area and to restack some of last years bails and make room for this years; our bails!

A couple of the gang disappear off to another barn to help Gabor bottle his redcurrant wine. Back in the hay barn, in contrast to the scything where we were working in smaller groups, today, taking turns with the pitchforks, there is a greater sense of camaraderie in the whole group activity.

Eventually, Imre arrives shortily with the tractor and bailer, and after setting up we are ready; to the off! Imre forks the hay actually into the bailer but we are involved forking the hay to him, and keeping the pile stocked up, and then more still to continue moving it out of the side of the barn an onto the pile. Lastly, we have a chain to take the finished bails from the machine and pass them back into the back of the barn.

One short hour later, we are forced to take a break when the blackest of clouds cast the farm in shadow, and we shelter in the barn from another downpour of rain. The rain is short-lived though, and after 10 minutes Imre is able to start up the tractor again.

I work on taking the bails from the trailer and passing them into the hay barn, then after a change of the guard, I am up on top the hay helping to fork the ay down to first Jessica, then Judy. At one point, after sinking down into the hay, Leonie forks more over and completely submerges me in hay. Lastly, I work my way to a turn at the front of the line, forking the hay out the barn for Imre to feed the bailer with.

Finishing up with a group photo of all of us on our 43 hay bails we decide to break for a walk to Tompa’s oak tree and the Slovak border. In the end, by the time we have dumped our bags back at the ranch it is lunch, and Attila suggest that we eat first and go for a walk after.

Lunch is a cold bean soup followed by goulash and doughnuts that we augment with plum jam. There are three of these each, but universally we decide that one each should be left to accompany a mug of peppermint tea later.

Setting out for he second time to find the tree, we leave the village via the road and take off up the hill to the right, past a goat-herder and his flock, to the sign (which we this time turn round to point correctly to the left) and this time head off along the ridge, and down past where we stopped a week ago.

On the edge of a wood of sweet chestnuts is one immense oak tree, branching int the sky, some dead branches, and others full of leaf. 350 years old, it’s knarled and twisted and full of poetry.

We walk on through the wood to a break n the trees and a small muddy stream that you could easily imagine to be the border with Slovakia. Having left our passports behind, we return hom, taking a slightly different route through th woods and into the organic farm at the back of Csabi’s house. In theory now, would be a good time to visit the handicraft shop, although practically our boots are caked in mud. We go back to change, and all take the opportunity to wash our boots off and put them out to dry.

Next comes a visit to the village museum and an opportunity to see the textile display and retrieve our felts that Feltmaker Christine has displayed. Then to the church, the one with the four clock faces, each painted to tell different times. Inside it’s another former Catholic now Protestant church with a double aspect facing inwards. Again two balconies face each other and these are hand individually painted along with the panelled ceiling, pulpit, and organ. Drapes of black and gold signify the conformations that have taken place here over the years – including Monica, our cook.

Jessica, Judy, Gabor and myself ascend the little tower into the actual bell tower behind slatted windows. I cannot resist the temptation and pull the striker across to sound on the bell – just once.

From here we go back into the village, we think to the handicraft shop. Attila has other ideas and takes us up into the back streets of the village to see the house of the former mayor of Gömörszőlős. One of the barns is an extension of the museum with artefacts from an agricultural past, but another looks lived in and as we look around at the looms, the former-mayor himself descends in on us from an upper level. A short, kindly man with a goatee beard, he speaks only a few words of English and requires Attila’s translation.

With enthusiasm, he tells us about the farm, the village, his work, and in another room, the woodworking he does – crafting the traditional designs for the beams and trellis work at the front of the houses. In another outbuilding, that he grandly calls his gallery, there are a collection of pastels by his favourite artist.

We are beginning to tire – too many late nights and early starts – and an incredibly interesting as the tour is, we at last make our way to the handicraft shop. Wherein we discover that we should have been earlier for it has been thoroughly picked over by visitors to the festival yesterday. I had intended to buy the little carved wooden Shepherd’s salt pt with the hidden compartment for paprika, and both Helen and myself were interested in the necklaces carved from peach stone – all are gone.

I do however buy a organic sheep’s wool hat, a carved wooden water bottle, and some wooden flowers that supposed to open and close in different weather. Our purses satisfied we head back for that peppermint tea and doughnut.

From then on the roller coaster of our final day continues. Gone are the leisurely after lunch siestas – now we are propelled into a need for inclusiveness preparing the supper that has been left for us, and packing for the early start tomorrow.

I manage a shower and to pack most of my clothes before supper, and Zoë’s birthday champagne. Our last dinner is the remains of bean soup and the Wendy ghoulash, washed down with Bull’s blood wine.

Following supper, most of us find time to break from the party, whilst others are getting the bonfire going, to pack our gear. Some, of course, choose an alternative approach to packing light, and avoid taking home sweaty clothes, and so it is by the light of burning trousers that Helen gives a present to the Hungarians, and for us to present our fantastic leader with her signed, bright orange, T-shirt. It is at this point, that Helen herself, with the help of her glamorous assistant, Attila, awards this years holiday awards…

Gömörszőlős Award Ceremony

Claire Bailey – Hungarian Interpreter
Ewan Harrison – Services to Peppermint Tea Making
Judy Randell – Creative Diary Writing
Leonie Hunter – Paper making
Louise Juul Larson & Jessica Lloyd – Hungarian Dancing
Martin Peirce – Authentic Scything
Steven Davis – Ultimate Shithead
Thomas Shepherd – Photographer Extraordinaire
Zoë Marlow – Feltmaking

By the dying embers of Louise’s white, drawstring linen trousers, we take it in turns to present the bottle of whisky each to Francoise, Imre, Gabor, and Attila – which in return, ever contrary to his actual views, Attila pronounces, “It’s my favourite!”

We toast our holiday, and Ewan prepares to repeat his driving of East European cars (after an earlier spin in Monica’s Trabant), by taking Gabor’s “Green Monster” Skoda for a spin. It is this point, as the night spins into confusion, that Irene arrives at our campfire, with a bag and a tape machine – do we want to learn some more Hungarian dancing?

Damn! We had got so carried away with the non-stop schedule of walks and tours and shopping that we had forgotten to visit Irene, and now she has come. As Ewan, Zoë and Leonie take turns in the green monster, Helen, Jessica and Louise do wonders at finding a place on the veranda for a dancing lesson with Irene, and when Martin and I join them we are ready to begin.

Jessica gets the footwork and helps to counts us through it, but it takes a team effort and all our concentration when Jessica, Louise, Martin and myself attempt a dance that involves a cradle. Dancing in a circle of four, arranged in boy-girl order, Martin and I must lock hands behind the girls’ back, they with their hands on our shoulders. Four steps to the left, and we go down whilst the girls come up, lifted by our interlocked hands; four steps more and down; four steps in a circle, and up; and so it continues.

After initial embarrassment, confusion and falling over we manage it, and proceed in showing off to every friend or Hungarian that passes. And a lot pass as all of a sudden the heavens have opened and the gang are fleeing indoors. Irene herself leaves, taking with her our promises to research St Margaret’s chapel, and insistent that the rain won’t hurt. Martin none the less presents hers with his umbrella.

We decamp to the reception room where Attila has set up the office computer to play music through. DJ Attila picks the tunes and we dance; ad the wine from Eger is depleted over the hours.

By half past one I retire to bed, in need of a few hours sleep if we are to set off on foot to Kelemer to catch the 6:02 bus to Budapest…

Day Thirteen: The long walk, and the bus to Budapest (a parting of ways)…