Snapshot from jumping meerkats video clip

What’s this got to do with hernia repair? Read on.

Last Friday I had ‘open’ hernia repair surgery. Subsequently house bound, even chair bound though decreasingly so, I have decided to set down my thoughts/experience with the operation as they may be of use to others facing a similar procedure. I also want to record the luck of discovering a Romanian doctor on duty at the time the NHS had deemed I should be sent home. I have to admit that I was somewhat anxious before the event, and searching for advice on the likely post-op situation, how long to recover, etc, much of the information was contradictory. With this background I had been warned by everyone from hernia repair surgeon to most acquaintances who had had the op that I should expect severe pain and to be ‘out of action’ for quite a time, even surprise from Germany that it was to be ‘open’ rather than ‘keyhole’ surgery and that I was to be discharged home the same day. I consoled myself that the pain could not possibly be as bad as that experienced last year, first waiting several hours for an ambulance then for quite a while in A & E with bladder retention; then, by the time a catheter was in, I was pretty much lunatic.

I’ve had the hernia for quite a while but only very recently had it become much of a problem, particularly sometimes limiting one of my favourite activities – walking. I was also concerned that a planned 5 week trip to, around and back from Romania next summer in 43 year old ‘Lofty’, our VW Bay camper, might seriously aggravate it. The NHS nurses and doctors last year having dispelled my fear of hospitals (in the NHS Airedale General Hospital; they were truly superb), and having got the OK from my ‘prostate consultant’, I decided to have the hernia fixed at the earliest opportunity. My GP referred me to the local Yorkshire Clinic, a private hospital but with an NHS hernia repair clinic, as this had by far the shortest waiting time – about 6 weeks from referral to op.

Wonderful but overworked nurses

I’m not convinced that all the paperwork, risk assessments and dire warnings delivered before surgery are in the best interest of the patient; they could hardly be better designed to scare off the ‘victim’. The same can be said of the interminable paperwork which prevents the nurses doing their jobs as well as they might. They are seriously overworked for the most part because of the mindless tick box mentality of organisations like the Care Quality Commission (the same can be said of teachers in education, prevented from doing what they could do so much better without the nonsense imposed by OFSTED). What is it all about? Not patient care and safety as claimed; it is clearly there just to try to avoid litigation. It also results in ridiculous discharge procedures with much needed beds being taken by patients who should have been home hours, sometimes days, before

Reassuring pre-op visits

Front of the Yorkshire Clinic

The Yorkshire Clinic, an easy 5 mile drive from my home village

Back to the Yorkshire Clinic, at 7.00am Friday 23 January. I’m quickly shown to a pleasant room and visited by a nurse, whose function seemed mainly to ensure I am who they think I am, to confirm the answers I had given to a string of questions several times previously, and in writing, and to be assured that I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since the day before – a lovely, caring lady who also took blood pressure, temperature and assured me they were all “perfect”. The nurse was followed by a very pleasant young man who turned out to be a physiotherapist who gave me a lot of really useful advice on how to behave post op and on pain management should I need it – very reassuring – and a number to call from home “at any time” should I have a problem. Then the surgeon, who confirmed he intended to do the correct surgery in the correct place and marked it, with the remark “Now that’s what you might call a hernia!” – well at least he knows what he’s in for. Then the anaesthetist who, as at Airedale last year, is a very pleasant, communicative, reassuring lady. She has, of course, to go through all the dire warnings about the dangers of general anaesthesia, but I’m not really listening; I remember my first experience as being really quite wonderful, chatting away to a friendly nurse then, wonder, I’m chatting to a different nurse and I feel great – it’s all done. I couldn’t believe it. None of my ward companions in Airedale who had opted for an epidural were so happy. Epidurals seem to be the preferred NHS option (though not, I think, for hernia repair); are they cheaper?

During the visits I ascertained that I was “third on the list”, so scheduled for surgery at about 11.00am and therefore should be discharged “mid to late afternoon”. I texted my wife to tell her to come at about 3pm to accompany me home in a taxi, then settled down to listen to a mixture of BBC Radio 3 and 4 and Classic FM, on the iPad thanks to the hospital WiFi (sadly lacking at Airedale – if I come up well on the Lottery I’ll pay to have it installed there). I’ve no appetite for daytime tv, though it was available.


Pretty much to the minute at 11.00 a nurse arrived to escort me down to the anaesthesia suite. I had already donned the paper pants and anti-thrombosis stockings so it took just a few seconds to put on the hospital gown and my own dressing gown and slippers. Another friendly welcome from the anaesthesia nurse who again went through all the obligatory questions, stuck sensors to various parts of me and wired me up. beep, beep, beep … she assured me all the readings were looking good.The anaesthetist arrived; a cannula was inserted expertly and painlessly in my right hand. After a friendly chat and the obligatory checks she told me she was going to put something in the cannula and I was going to sleep. I vaguely remember floating down like a feather- lightly swing, swing, swi … .

“Do you have any pain?”, I heard someone ask. I said I did, a little. How does it rate, 1 to 10, I was asked. Remembering A&E the year before I think I rated it 5, maybe 7. We’re going to give you some morphine. I vaguely feel it going into my right hand. How’s the pain now? I rated it a bit lower. More morphine. “How’s the pain now?”. I think I rated it zero. I’m not quite sure of all the details here but I know I was happy that I felt fine. Porter called; up in the lift to my room and slid from trolley over on to my bed. Wonderful! It was about 1.30pm I think.

I may have had a nap here; I cannot remember. I do remember being asked if I’d like a drink and something to eat. Brown toast with butter and tea I said. Quickly it came; a meal fit for a king I said.

At some point I put radio on the iPad again. I am delighted when Petronela, my wife, comes in at about 2.45. We chat, I cat nap, we chat, among frequent visits by the nurse.

Oh dear! Where’s the loo?

At this point things began to go wrong from my point of view. I feel I need a pee. Slowly I get out of bed and go into the en-suite bathroom. I stand there, waiting. Nothing. I remember the advice after the catheter had come out last year: relax, don’t strain, don’t ‘try’, turn a tap on, wash your hands. Other advice such as have a shower or a bath are not an option following the hernia op. Walk about; I do. Back to the bathroom, I wait. Nothing. I get back in the bed.

Anglo-Romanian crisis

Meanwhile, Petronela is talking on the iPad to a group of friends in a small, private teachers’ forum. My situation becomes an urgent Anglo-Romanian incident. Advice comes in thick and fast: wiggle my fingers under the cold water tap. I do it. Nothing. Pour water noisily from one glass to another; it’s done. Nothing. Make the sound you make to young children when you want them to pee. “Pshsh, Pshsh, Pshsh”. Nothing. Pshsh! Back to bed.

Several more attempts in the bathroom, interspersed with running water, Pshsh, Pshsh, walks around the room, as my bladder increasingly tells me it needs relief but nothing will come; my anxiety is increasing.

Several trips to the bathroom then, wait for it, cold water tap on. Suddenly, there’s a slight, slow trickle as just a few ml, 5?, are transferred from me to the expectant water below. But then it stops, despite the still strong feeling that ‘I must go’. I wait. Nothing. I walk about. Nothing. I go back to bed.

Animals jump for joy

Snapshot from video clip of jumping meerkatsCheers and congratulations from the waiting forum in Romania. One member sent a video clip of some meerkats jumping for joy. Hilarious; I was rolling about with laughter – surprised I didn’t pee myself! Before clicking the link prepare a change of pants – unless you happen to have post-operative retention.

Jumping meerkats!


In comes the nurse. How much? Don’t know, very little but more than a few drops. She gives me a graduated jug to catch it should I go again.

Buna seara

After one or two more trips I do go again. About 50ml, but bladder still not emptying. Nurse is not satisfied; nor me. In comes a pleasant-looking youngish man in doctor’s gear, the duty doctor. “How’s it going?”, he asks. That’s not an English accent; where are you from I ask. Romania he says. “Buna seara”, I say, and enjoy the surprised smile on his face. I resist the temptation to jump for joy like the animals I had seen shortly before; I have good reason to know that while the Romanian national health service is in a pretty poor state – lack of facilities and money – they produce doctors among the best in the world (a story for another day).

An excited brief conversation in Romanian ensues, though he speaks excellent English. We ascertain that he’s from the wonderful city of Sibiu, former capital of the Principality of Transylvania and European Capital of Culture in 2007. He has a wife, a teacher of English, and a three month old daughter, in Romania and commutes every fortnight, spending two weeks on duty in the Yorkshire Clinic then two weeks in a Romanian hospital. He is Dr Aurel Sbarcea. He is just great and I relax. I know everything is going to be OK.

Back into English for the medical chat. He’d like to see the bladder being emptied before letting me out. If not, unpleasant as it is, he could put in a catheter. He advises that for safety I should stay overnight. He’ll leave Petronela and I to discuss and come back in a while to see how it’s going. We have to make a decision soon as the hernia clinic is in a day ward and closes at 9pm. It’s a no brainer: one emergency with bladder retention, ambulance and A&E, is quite enough. When he comes back at 8.45 we move to another very pleasant room, Petronela calls a taxi to go home, I’m settled down for the night by the night nurse – as pleasant and caring as all the others had been – saying she’ll be back at 2.30am to take blood pressure.

I wake up at shortly before 2.30am and, yippee, I do 300ml. Nurse is pleased. Back to sleep.

I wake at 4.00am. 200ml. Back to sleep.

Nurse wakes me at 6.30am. 300ml. She’s pleased. The doctor will probably be happy for me to go home now, she says. I order breakfast: porridge, toast and marmalade, tea.

Dr Sbarcea arrives and is pleased with developments; he wants to see a bladder scan but subject to a satisfactory result I can be discharged. He’s clearly very busy and cannot stay long; new patients are arriving thick and fast and the overnight empty rooms are beginning to be occupied. Nurses and ancillary staff hurry hither and thither in the corridor outside trailing blood pressure machines, piles of bedlinen, bucket and mops, trolleys with tea and coffee. It all beginning to resemble Arnold Wesker’s ‘The Kitchen’ but unlike that, or Gordon Ramsey’s simulation of it, there is, nevertheless, an air of quiet competence overlying it all.

Day nurse comes in. She’ll be back shortly with bladder scanner and do the discharge, she says, but first she has another discharge to do. Maybe that patient was shouting to get out; I was not as I was very comfortable, had music and any other internet facility I wanted on the iPad and there were clearly now a lot of people needing more attention than me. In the NHS hospital I would be concerned as beds are needed desperately; that did not seem to be the case here. Occasionally the day nurse appeared to say she and bladder scanner would be with me soon.

I took occasional walks in the corridor. I was not in pain, enjoy moving about and know that it is good for recovery. On one of my walks I bumped into Dr Sbarcea. He asked if I had had the bladder scan yet. Not yet I told him. He’d try to get someone to me he said. I smiled a thank you.

Buna ziua

Shortly after this, Nurse Adriana arrived with bladder scanner. I don’t think she’s English despite the double-barrelled English surname on her badge, so ask where she is from. “Cluj Napoca in Romania”, she answers. “Buna ziua”.

Bladder scan quickly accomplished. Retention is so low she does it more than once to be sure – just 2ml. As she quickly and efficiently completes the discharge papers we manage to exchange a mini bio of each other: she’s been in England nursing for about 3 years and lives with her British husband about 15 minutes walk from where I spent my childhood. Excellent English of course. She calls Dr Sbarcea who says he’ll come down before I leave if he can. I call my village taxi service to come and take me home. Adriana tells me what five English nurses have already told me since the day before: during the two weeks Dr Sbarcea is in Romania he is sorely missed. I can believe it. I’m sure she would be sorely missed too.

Pain relief

I asked her about pain relief medication; the codeine tablet plus two paracetamols with which I had been plied regularly had worked extremely well: no pain except when moving (getting in and out of bed or chair, not walking). But I had read advice to take ibuprofen so asked her why the mixtures. They each act in a different way and can relieve different kinds of pain, she told me. Since being home I have identified three different types of pain I think: pain from the internal surgery; pain from general swelling around the groin; more recently, a different pain, more of a ‘sting’, from the 10cm, clipped incision. I’ve settled on one codeine (15mg), one paracetamol (500mg) and one ibuprofen (200mg) every six hours: waking (6am), lunch (12noon), dinner (6pm), bed (12midnight). It seems to be working very well.

Conclusions – from treatment in two hospitals

1. I am delighted with the treatment and attention received at the Yorkshire Clinic. This is not to say that I would not have been equally happy at Airedale General Hospital had it been able to offer an early appointment; I have received and continue to receive superb care there too, as both in and out patient. Admin and discharge procedures are a little more problematic at Airedale; nurses there seem more overworked.

2. Surgeons and anaesthetists at both hospitals are excellent; lady anaesthetists are quite wonderful.

3. Nurses and nursing assistants are overworked and underpaid; how they manage to stay so caring, pleasant and helpful is quite extraordinary. In large measure the overwork results from tortuous admin with massive paperwork overload. CQC – the Care Quality Commission – has a lot to answer for.

4. Fear of litigation leads to extraordinary, no doubt very costly, inefficiencies.

5. ‘Covering their backs’ with every risk set out in detail tends to instil fear in patients rather than alleviate it. Try not to listen to, or read, it; just sign as they won’t do the procedure if you do not.

6. We are very lucky to have the NHS in the UK. The politicians have to stop using it as a game – I am certainly sick of listening to them, all of them. We have to accept that we cannot live for ever and sometimes things will just be unaffordable.

7. I have no confidence that any of the political parties are able to develop, adopt and implement policies to adapt the NHS to what is required today.

8. I am very lucky. I got to my mid 70s with no serious illnesses, no hospital visits. I continue for the moment, it seems, to heal quickly. I hope it continues for a while longer as I have another hernia, smaller, to be repaired when I’ve recovered from this one. Then I can stride again over more of God’s own country for a while yet.

Mixed tenses? I seem to go back and relive some of the above as I relate it so I go in and out of past and present. I’ve decided to leave it like that. 




21 January 2015


White snow dying     grey

Children’s faces sad    silent

Birds sing    dreams of Spring

The chair and the table. The table is the same colour as the chair; the lighting makes it look different here. The Romanian home-woven carpet is probably about 100 years old - typical Bucovina motifs

The finished chair and table. The table is the same colour as the chair; the lighting makes it look different here. The Romanian home-woven carpet is probably about 100 years old – typical Bucovina motifs

And now for something completely different (hoping my project does rather better than John Cleese!). Relaxing with feet up is something I like to do in the evening in my dotage, having generally been up and active from around 5.30am (I’ve always been a ‘morning person’). A La-Z-Boy wing recliner chair was what I aspired to. The recommended retail price of around £1,000, or even sale offers of around £750, was more than I was prepared to pay and anyway I do not like the current ‘boxy’ cubic designs.

Then I saw an old, rather shabby, ‘curvy’ example which was more to my liking and managed to buy it for £25, thinking I could have it re-upholstered. Think again: quotes to re-upholster were around £750!

The chair as bought. Note the large grease stain on the head rest and wear patches on the arms

The chair as bought. Note the large grease stain on the head rest and wear patches on the arms

While trying to come round to the idea of re-upholstering it myself – a major job – I saw something which surprised me; someone painting an upholstered chair (‘up-cycling’ is the ‘in’ term I learned). It was on the BBC2 tv series ‘The Great Interior Design Challenge’ and, much as I dislike the tendency of programme producers to turn everything into X-factor type competitions so rarely watch them, I caught a bit of this and saw enough interesting, low-cost ideas to follow the series. The amateur designer in question had never painted upholstery before, she said, but it seemed to work.

Make your own chalk paint? No thanks – even for a cook

Onto internet to research, I found that the paint in question was ‘chalk paint’ and most of the blogs/sites turned up were about how to make chalk paint; fortunately, the search also turned up Annie Sloan, an Oxford lady who invented ‘chalk paint’ about 20 years ago and had turned it into a successful business. There were quite a few YouTube video clips giving instructions (but I prefer written words; maybe there are others who do too), even a clip showing Annie herself painting an upholstered chair.

What is more, there was a distributor of her paint in nearby Leeds – My Vibrant Home in the Grand Arcade ( A trip there and a chat convinced me to have a go and I left with 1 litre of Annie Sloan’s ‘French Linen’ and a tin of her ‘Soft wax’ – well under £30. I suppose for a very large project – a lot of furniture or even walls etc – making your own might result in a worthwhile saving but the hassle was too much for me.

An interesting comment from the Leeds shopkeeper when I said that I’d probably blog about my project, though I usually blogged about cooking, or poetry/writing, or photography: she said many of her clients followed these hobbies too.

The chair

Stage pictures at the end

Stage 1: Wet the chair, just water, all over. A hand spray is suggested but I didn’t have one so used a sponge. The back/head rest of the La-Z-Boy just lifts out of the base so I split it to make painting easier.

Stage 2: Paint the chair with chalk paint, working the paint well into the fabric with a brush, especially the areas on the arms where the fabric had worn through (I used a large old brush so didn’t mind destroying it by working the paint in). Let it dry overnight.

Stage 3: I ‘sanded’ the well worn areas with 600 grit glass paper to make them as smooth as possible without going through the paint, then painted it all again with a large, flat brush. Let it dry again overnight.

Stage 4: Very lightly rub down all the paint with 1200 grit glass paper (on the fabric the paint had a ‘gritty’ surface – this is not so on a firm surface like wood or plastic – see the up-cycled table below). This is to remove the ‘gritty’ feel, not to remove the brush marks which give an interesting texture.

Stage 4: This stage was needed only because the chair had a large grease stain where the head rests. Evidently the one thing chalk paint does not like is grease/oil. I had hoped the second paint coat would cover it but it still showed through. One part PVA adhesive was mixed with five parts water and painted on just the head cushion to seal over the grease. Had I known the second coat would not cover the grease stain I would have applied the acrylic adhesive ‘primer’ after the first coat, so stages 5/6 would probably not have been needed.  Let dry overnight.

Stage 5: Paint the head cushion with another coat of chalk paint. Let it dry overnight.

Stage 6: Rub down the head cushion again

Stage 7: Apply Annie Sloan ‘Soft wax’ to the whole chair. On the cushioned surfaces it was difficult to apply with a cloth so I used a paint brush. It was still rather difficult to apply to the flexible surfaces so I warmed the wax a little in the warming oven (about 50degC); it then went on more easily. Rubbed immediately with a soft cloth, then buffed with a clean soft cloth.

I think it looks great – from a short distance it could be a leather chair. I’m not sure how durable it will be, especially the deep cushion parts, but I’m sitting in it to type this and it feels good.

Project 2: ‘coffee’ table

Having a little chalk paint left I decided to give a rather ugly low table – acquired for £5, for utility not beauty – the up-cycling treatment. The surfaces were imitation wood grain plastic veneer, probably on chip board. Two coats of chalk paint on the outside surfaces transformed it. I painted the inside with flame red conventional silk ‘emulsion’ paint left over from decorating a wall. I roughly brush painted this, intending it to be a base coat for a second rollered coat. However, I liked the ‘mottled’ effect so much (and my wife concurred) that I left it like that. I’ve not yet decided whether to leave the chalk paint with its natural matt surface or give it a coat of wax. Either way it looks a lot more than £5 now!

Chalk paint – conclusion

This is the easiest paint to use I’ve ever come across. No preparation is needed as it sticks to anything. The only thing to upset it is grease or oil marks, which bleed through. But a primer coat with watered-down PVA adhesive solves that. I reckon that to put a coat of chalk paint on something takes no more than half the time needed with conventional paints, probably quite a bit less. What is more, washing brushes is a doddle – the paint just comes out under the tap (I’ve never been able to get brushes completely clean before, even with water-based paints).

I think I’ll be back to the Leeds shop pretty soon.

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Annie Sloan’s website:

Fascinating to read the stats produced by the WordPress monkeys for views etc of my blogs in 2014. I had not realised just what an effect my bout of ill health had had, especially on my ‘hobby’ blog – that on classic cameras and photography and film. However, I was delighted to see that, for the most part, I had managed to maintain a reasonable presence on the blog/website I do for the village in which I live; as a service to the local community, albeit voluntary, I guess I unknowingly gave that a  lot of priority.

Here are the main points:  (An alternative Menston village website. Lovely place, lovely people, in Yorkshire of course)

Lofty in the Wharfe Valley38,000 views; 419 pictures published; busiest day, after I published a post about a local school concert dedicated to Nelson Mandella, had over 1,300 views. This was exceeded over a weekend when we had a classic car show in the village and had several dozen pictures from it on the blog. Almost 100% of the pictures on the blog over the year were taken specifically for and uniquely published on it. (A view from Yorkshire, about anything)

Raluca, Alina and Ramona, l to r, with Ancuta behind. Four of the 'Bunnies', my delightful special needs class from School no.11, Suceava, in 1994. They are wearing T-shirts from a special needs school in Pensacola, Florida, with which the Bunnies did an email project (despite the headmaster's attitude which was that I was wasting my time trying to do such a thing with them. He had to eat his words, but more of that in a future post about the delights of teaching English in Romania.

3,300 views; 66 pictures published; busiest day was in November but surprisingly the post most viewed on that day was about teaching English in Romania, which had been published in February. This blog does not, of course, have a specific theme, and my impression had been that the most popular theme was food and cooking. I’m not going to change my approach: to write – on whatever takes my fancy on the day. (An additional blog for my interest in film photography, ‘classic’ cameras and legacy lenses on digital)

Some of grumpytyke's film cameras

Only 2,900 views; only 6 pictures published (this astounded me and made me realise just how much I had been ‘out of it’); the busiest day was in July with 64 views but what is surprising is that, again, the post most viewed was a much earlier one, from January 2013, though which of the two themes in the post – the Contax AX camera, or ‘forbidden photography’, was the attraction, I’ve no idea. These stats will definitely prompt me to make more of an effort to post regularly on this blog, which will be helped by the recent decision not to confine themes to classic cameras and film but to broaden the approach as summed up in the final phrase of the tag line. Nevertheless, I am going to try to develop more film (and prints) – though it’s scanning, which I find a real, boring pain, which is the main problem.

As the above may be of interest in the context of the stats for their own blogs, I’ll reblog this on grumpytyke pix before, very soon, getting the tanks out and looking out the as yet undeveloped films.

By the way, many thanks to the blogger ‘Aware of the Void‘ (great photo blog) whose publication of his stats prompted me to have a look at mine.




New Year vies with Easter as the most important celebration in the Romanian calendar, the latter being the most important religious celebration of course. New Year’s Eve, Revelion, is an important date in our home as it is Petronela’s birthday – so ‘open house’ in accord with Romanian tradition. All are an ‘excuse’ for a magnificent feast which would please any Yorkshireman. Our tiny flat was stuffed, as were our bellies, with traditional Romanian New Year dance and celebration music as a background (see video clips links at the end of this post).

Carp skeleton

Eaten – crap remains ;) !

Carp (crap in Romanian) is one important New Year’s Eve dish and, as I reported in an earlier post, I was delighted to find one in Leeds Kirkgate market. This, at 1.5kg, simply baked in the oven for 1 hour at 180degC (in foil) with a couple of garlic cloves inside, was reserved for dinner with Romanian guests who stayed overnight for Revelion – New Year’s Eve, hogmany – celebrations. It is eaten with mujdei – mashed garlic which might be in oil, milk or water to make a sauce. Delicious – see picture!

Birthday ‘open house’ spread

Romanian food and wine for 'open house' on Petronela's birthday - the part of the spread which would fit on the table. Romanians will no doubt recognise things but there's an explanation in the text

Romanian food and wine for ‘open house’ on Petronela’s birthday – the part of the spread which would fit on the table. Romanians will no doubt recognise things but there’s an explanation in the text

While Petronela made two other important dishes the day before – salata de bouef (despite the name, no beef but piept de pui – chicken breast, cartofi – potatoes, morcovi – carrots, pastarnac – parsnip, castraveti murati – pickled cucumbers, mazare – peas, all in maioneza (mayonaise, real home-made mayonaise of course), and parjoale (Romanian meat balls), I was back to Leeds Kirkgate market to Marinela’s Romanian shop for other authentic Romanian food.

I found kaiser (cured pork), carnati taranesc (‘peasant’ sausages), salam Victoria (a salami with whole pieces of ham in a kind of firm pate), salam de Sibiu (Romania’s most famous salami from the town of Sibiu – really delicious), gogosari in otet (red bell peppers pickled in a sweet vinegar), gogonele (green tomatoes – again pickled). Also on the table are pufuleti (puffy corn bites beloved of children – like me), covrigi de Buzau – twisted bread sticks from the city of Buzau,  brezel – little salted pretzels, fursecuri – there are many types of these little sweet pastries but these are cones with Turkish delight inside, nucsoare – little walnut-shaped sweet pastries filled with a nut, cocoa and rum essence mixture, and two renowned Romanian wines, the rose Busuioaca de Bohotin (which our English guests were crazy about) and Grasa de Cotnar (again much appreciated by those of our English guests who prefer a sweet wine). Also on the table, one of our favourite Romanian red wines, 3 Hectare, and home-made (in Romania) cas – sheep’s cheese, from our freezer.


Apart from baking the carp, my contribution to the New Year’s Eve dinner was ciorba de burta – it translates literally as ‘stomach soup’ and if that doesn’t sound very appetising then ‘tripe soup’ won’t sound much better to most people. Even many Romanians (including one of our guests) won’t eat it. It’s delicious: briefly, ox marrow bones and pig’s trotters are boiled up with some onion, garlic and root vegetables for a couple of hours; the cleaned tripe, cut into thin short strips, is simmered in the resulting liquid for an hour or so till it’s tender, then vinegar (preferably from pickled vegetables) is added. It’s finished with egg yolks and sour cream beaten together and added before serving. The best I ever ate was – would you believe it? – in the railway station at Gura Humorului in the Bucovina – but mine was pretty good. One course is friptura (grilled or fried meat); ours were chicken legs, marinaded in wine, oil, garlic and herb and spices then cooked in the oven.

Our Romanian guests brought piftie (or racituri) – basically pieces of tender cooked meat in jelly, another favourite of mine, and sarmalute (stuffed pickled cabbage leaves).


Two video clips of Romanian New Year traditions (click the picture):

My goat is very proud

Picture of Marius Zgaianu with 'goat'






Hi little horses – let’s gallop

Picture of 'horsemen', a Romanian tradition

Boxing Day was restful: a superb walk up to the Chevin Inn for lunch. Time in the afternoon to watch again some of the great dancing in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the New Bradford Playhouse by watching my video clips (and later to put some more pictures and video clips up on the net – see below – as promised on the village blog which I edit).

We’ve called in the Chevin many times for a drink when walking back home from Otley Chevin but have never eaten there (though we quite often ate at sister pub The Stansfield Arms when we lived close to it). The food was good – wild mushrooms and gammon steak for Petronela, chicken liver parfait and braised lamb shoulder for me. The young people serving were very pleasant and efficient, and the Timothy Taylor’s Landlord was an excellent accompaniment. All in all a good experience.

Wild mushrooms with a poached egg

Wild mushrooms, poached egg

Ham and egg, chips, onion rings

Ham and egg, chips, onion rings

Chicken Liver parfait and salad with toast and butter

Chicken liver parfait, salad

Braised lamb with minted peas and mash

Braised lamb, minted peas, mash


Ballet – A Christmas Carol
Library of the complete works of Charles Dickens, with a volume of Christmas Stories open at 'A Christmas Carol'

A pre-Christmas treat was the visit to a Christmas performance by young dance students from my village of Menston and their colleagues at Bradford Theatre Arts dance classes. I put a couple of video clips up on the village site which, of course, has concentrated on pupils from the classes in Menston village, run by Stephanie Clements for the past 20 years, but promised to put more here when Christmas cooking was over.

Apologies for the quality; I’m very much a beginner in video and as part of putting these clips up I had to teach myself a video editor (the free version of VideoPad). As is often the case, the program is very good but instructions not so. I may be able to improve the clips with time in the future. Stage lighting can be difficult for photography but it appears to me much more so with video; however, most of the faults are down to my inexperience. The one and a half hour performance was a real joy to watch and I hope some of that comes through in the following eight clips.

Ballet is very hard work and, for me, these performances contradict the frequent complaints about young people, as did the hardworking youngsters making our Boxing Day lunch so enjoyable.

Cratchit Family –

Lights –

Christmas Joy –

Song and dance –

Nic and Molly –

Happy Dance –

Cratchit Family Dance –

Finale –

A few pictures

Click on any one to see them larger as a slideshow with captions

A beautiful crisp, sunny Yorkshire day.

(Click any picture to see it larger)


Roger pouring Freixenet bubbly at the breakfast table

Smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, Irish potato farls and Spanish Cava – Freixenet

Presents, Romanian carols, walk, Betty’s Hot Chocolate (present), Calvados, Queen’s Christmas message, English carols


Roger at the cooker with prawns in the pan

Prawns, marinated in garlic, ginger, olive oil and chilli pepper for 24 hours, in the hot pan. Note the bottle

Prawns cooked - after 2 mins a side on a very hot iron pan

Prawns cooked – 2 mins a side on a very hot iron pan

Flames as prawns are flambeed in Pernod

The exciting bit – flaming Pernod. Who needs Christmas pudding?

Prawns on the table, with a lovely cold Bourgogne Aligote

Prawns on the table, with a lovely cold Bourgogne Aligote. No knives and forks for these – fingers only

Waiting for a 'chop' from the rack of wild boar; roast potatoes a la Michel Roux Jnr/Albert Bartlett; parsnip puree; red cabbage braised in red wine/wine vinegar with mixed spice; purple sprouting broccoli; 3 Hectare wine from Romania

Waiting for a ‘chop’ from the rack of wild boar; roast potatoes a la Michel Roux Jnr/Albert Bartlett; parsnip puree; red cabbage braised in red wine/wine vinegar with mixed spice; purple sprouting broccoli; 3 Hectare wine from Romania

Pavlova cappuccino, kumquat slices braised in syrup and poached peach.

Pavlova cappuccino, kumquat slices braised in syrup and poached peach.

No room for cheese! Might make a space for a bit of Colston Bassett Stilton before bed. Wensleydale, smoked Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire and Bleasedale Bewety going back in the fridge for another day.

Lazy day tomorrow; to the pub – the Chevin – for lunch! Half hour climb to prick the appetite; if necessary roll back down.



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