grumpytyke:

It’s a long time since I wrote something on this blog, one reason being that the blog/site I created and maintain for the village in which I live has taken up much of my spare time. However, I have often written on this blog of my admiration of Romania and Romanians so thought I would re-blog the latest post on my village website here as Farage’s comments about Romanians just lost him a vote, albeit an ‘anti-Cameron’ rather than pro-UKIP vote, in the European elections. Grumpytyke

Originally posted on menstonvillagewharfedale:

In the week of the local and European elections, our columnist ‘grumpytyke’ faces a dilemma:

“In my opinion Menston has an excellent local MP in Philip Davies, the current Wharfedale Ward Councillor Dale Smith seems to have worked for the people of Menston, and the candidate Gerry Barker says he will do so if elected. So what is the over-riding reason that I cannot vote for the last named this week and the first named next year?

“It’s very simple: a vote for them is effectively a vote for David Cameron and ‘Concrete’ Boles. These two (ironically assisted by Labour Councillors in Bradford), despite their protestations to the contrary, are clearly intent on destroying for ever – for short-term gain – much of not only what makes the Yorkshire Dales loved by all of us who are fortunate enough to live here but many areas of beauty elsewhere in this green and pleasant…

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Icon of Saint Dimitrie

This icon of Saint Dimitrie, Dimitrios (Greek) or Dumitru (Romanian), is one of several in our home

Today is Saint Dimitrie’s day, so also ‘my’ day as Dimitrie is my name too, given to me when I was baptised on 26th October. In the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, the name day corresponds to the day on which a saint “fell asleep”, or died (Gregorian calendar).

I was given the name in the Orthodox church of ‘Stefan cel Mare Domnesc (the Lord’s Church of Stephen the Great), Iasi, the church I attended when I lived in that Romanian city (and the church in which I was married).

Although in Romania the saint is known as Dumitru, I chose the Russian version – hence Dimitrie – and that is how my several Orthodox priest friends, and some other friends, call me.

When I was in Romania people would call at my home on this day and share a drink and a snack, or even a celebration meal. Now, in the UK, I receive email messages and ‘iconograms’ from friends and relatives in Romania, especially from my Godparents – Godfather Vasile, now a mathematics lecturer in an Australian university, and Godmother Gabriela.

I first went to St Stephen’s church for the wonderful choir; there are no instruments in the Orthodox church other than the human voice and perhaps for that reason choral singing in church is often magical. However, I met Vasile when he was a mathematics teacher in a high school in which I was teaching English; we became friends and he introduced me to understanding of the Orthodox church service, so eventually to my name.

Saint Dimitrie

Saint Dimitrios was a Thessalonian, of noble parents, an important soldier but also a teacher of Christianity. This is a story associated with him:

When Maximian (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus Herculius Augustus, Roman Emperor from 286 to 305) first came to Thessalonica in 290, he raised the Saint to the rank of Duke of Thessaly.

However, at a later date it was discovered that the Saint was a Christian and he was arrested and kept bound in a bath-house.

While the games were underway in the city, Maximian was a spectator there. A friend of his, Lyaeus, a ‘barbarian’ who was a notable wrestler, boasted in the stadium and challenged the citizens to a contest with him. Everyone who fought him was defeated.

Seeing this, a youth named Nestor, an acquaintance of Dimitrios, came to the Saint in the bath-house and asked his blessing to fight Lyaeus single-handed. Receiving this blessing and sealing himself with the sign of the Cross, he presented himself in the stadium, and saying “O God of Dimitrios, help me!” he engaged Lyaeus in combat and smote him with a mortal blow to the heart, leaving the former boaster lifeless.

Maximian was very upset by this and when he learned who was the cause of this defeat, he ordered Dimitrios to be pierced with lances and killed while in the bath-house. Nestor, as Maximian commanded, was killed with his own sword.

 

Having had an enforced break not only from posting but also from reading the blogs of those I follow, it’s been a real struggle to catch up. There were more than 500 email notifications of new posts etc going back to the end of March and I haven’t got through them all yet. To be honest, many have been ‘filed away’ unread but there are some bloggers who I know will produce something which I don’t want to miss in every post – fortunately they do not post every day, let alone several times a day. I’m slowly getting through these. Catching up on my other (photo/film cameras) blog was much easier as most of those I follow just post a picture or more, most writing very little if anything.

Birthday treats

:) So yesterday was my birthday – don’t ask how old but it’s very. I got some real treats.

:) First, a lovely Romanian lady found the one post I did manage to make a few days ago and followed this blog, so of course I went to hers. A wonderful site mainly devoted to Romanian food. She writes in Romanian but also in very good English. The title, amintiridinbucatarie (‘Memories of the kitchen’), is a clever play on the title of a very famous book by the Hans Christian Andersen of Romania, Ion Creanga, called ‘Memories of childhood’.

:) A ‘liker’ in this Romanian blog took me to my second treat – a young lady in Canada, of Romanian descent, who blogs not only on food but on my second passion too – photography. She provided the basic recipe for today’s evening meal but also, praising her father’s photography, took me to his blog, so I’ve signed up to that :) as a third birthday treat. I will not reproduce her recipe here , just click that link to find it, but I made one or two minor modifications which are noted below.

My modifications

1. I did think of eliminating the ‘g’ from the oil, making it rapeseed oil (from Yorkshire) but decided to go for the authentic Romanian – sunflower – instead.

2. I had some genuine homemade sausage in the freezer – made by my mother-in-law and smoked by my father-in-law in Romania, so I used these (we usually put them with another Moldovan staple – beans – which I adore). We also make both potato and bean casserole with smoked ribs of pork, or bacon ribs.

3. It doesn’t apply to the whole of Romania but in Moldova, in the north and east of the country, where my Romanian persona was raised, a dish without dill is almost unthinkable, so a generous handful of chopped dill went in a couple of minutes before serving.

:) 100+ followers

My other treat? I saw that the number of my followers had just passed 100. I know that’s small beer compared with many but it’s a great thrill to me, especially as my blog doesn’t meet the rule of four Us: I think it is usually ‘Unique’, and often ‘Useful’, especially when about food; but this blog is certainly not ‘Ultra specific’ – intentionally so – nor ‘Urgent’. Nor does it follow WordPress’s constant urging to post every day (from my observations bloggers who do that rarely manage to keep a high standard).

PS. Why no picture? The aroma from the ‘ceaun’ (Romanian pot) so excited my wife when she came in after her day of teaching she couldn’t wait to get it on the table, so I forgot to take the picture until after it had been eaten!

I don’t have a lot of time for blogging at the moment – the weather is superb for walking and photography but unfortunately that means it is also ideal for some much needed ‘tender loving care’ for Lofty, our beloved VW camper. However, having just cooked and eaten the obligatory full English breakfast I thought I’d use the 15 min ‘digestion’ pause to get this off.

The Romanians are almost uniquely able to have a joke on themselves and, being far better generally educated than the majority of people coming out of UK schools, are able to do it with a wit and substance sadly lacking in much of what we see from British commentators. I just love the poster campaign launched by the Romanian paper Gandul (‘The Thought?) in response to that from the Guardian. The posters are in English so English speakers can understand them even if the accompanying text is in Romanian.

http://www.gandul.info/news/why-don-t-you-come-over-raspunsul-gandul-la-campania-britanica-nu-veniti-in-anglia-update-10528548

So here are some of the Romanian poster words, each of which has a postscript “Why don’t you come over. We may not like Britain but you’ll love Romania”. There are many more gems.

Your weekly rent covers a month here – pub nights included

Our Tube was not designed with sardines in mind – sorry sardines

Our newspapers are hacking celebrities’ privacy, not people’s phones

Our air traffic controllers have seen snow before. They were unimpressed

We don’t have a congestion charge here. We believe congestions are punishment enough.

Our draft beer is less expensive than your bottled water.

And my favourite – almost absolutely true:

Half our women look like Kate. The other half, like her sister.

Most of my followers will know I have a serious love affair with Romania and Romanians and the majority of Romanians coming here so far are very well educated, hard-working and an enormous benefit to our society. But this doesn’t mean my eyes are closed to the problems: corruption is endemic (but worse in Bulgaria) and certainly a large number of Romanians coming here have come to commit crime and will do so in the future (the Romanians would say that they are not Romanians, but gypsies, and while I cannot support this racist statement there is an underlying truth).

So, much as I love Romanians and their country, the concern about freely opening the door to them is well-founded.

But it will be great for Britain to have a boost to the population of people who can actually speak English!

“What’s with the ‘mafia’ in that factory?”, I asked my companion. Or, rather, what I actually said was “Ce este cu ‘mafia’ la fabrica asta?”, necessarily exercising my newly-acquired broken Romanian in my first few months as a volunteer in Romania. This was May 1993.

My companion in the train compartment was my landlady, who had kindly accompanied me on a train journey from Siret, in the far north of Romania, to Focsani, 300 kilometres south, to what I had been told was “The best factory for BCA building blocks in Romania”. We were now on the return journey.

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.

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 dandelion coronets we made on the day, and 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).

She didn’t speak English but, as a book-keeper and someone I already felt I could trust after living two or three months with the family, she was an invaluable companion on an expedition to purchase building blocks for a new ‘half-way house’ to be built by the charity I was working with as a volunteer in Siret, for teenagers coming out of the then infamous institution – the camin/spital (hostel/hospital) – in Siret.

A big bag full of bank notes

Purchasing building materials in Romania in 1993 was not a case of picking up the phone, placing an order, waiting for delivery and an invoice to be subsequently paid, as I was used to in the UK. It was necessary to go to the producer, select the product, see it loaded on a freight train back to where it was required, and pay in cash on the spot. The necessary cash, in the ‘old’ Romanian currency – lei (lions) – was not a few bank notes in my pocket; it was a very large sports bag full of notes of the maximum denomination. I cannot now remember the actual amount, but it was millions and millions of lei in a heavy, zipped, padlocked bag (carried by a very nervous tyke).

“Everyone knows about the mafia”, was the response in perfect English, not from my companion but from a tall, slim, elegantly attired lady sitting opposite. The smile was friendly, but there was also a hint of some joke I had not seen and an overlay of amusement in her eyes.

It wasn’t unusual to meet an English speaker on a train then – there were a lot of British, American, Canadian and other English-speaking volunteers in Romania in the early 90s – but to come across a Romanian speaking near-perfect English was very unusual; the usual second language for well-educated Romanians was French (ignoring the Russian which they had been obliged to learn). Opening up Western tv programmes to the population changed that and then internet came and every child I ever met wanted to learn English. What a wonderful situation for a teacher of English – pupils desperate to learn.

You don’t have to be a teacher

Back to my new acquaintance – Felicia: she turned out to be the Inspector for English for the ‘county’ (judet) where I was living – Suceava. Eventually she pleaded with me to come to ‘teach’ English in what she described as the top high school – Liceul ‘Stefan cel Mare’ (‘Stephen the Great’ High School) – in the ‘county town’ of Suceava. “I’m not an English teacher”, I said, though I had taught English, for short times, to immigrant children in south London and to adult Spaniards at the Berlitz school in Madrid. “It doesn’t matter”, she countered. “We have excellent teachers but have not and never have had a native English speaker”. She was very persuasive and we finished the journey with me having agreed to extend my 6 month stay in Romania and go to ‘teach’ in Suceava. How things went from there is another chapter, sometime; suffice it to say for years more I taught English all over Romania and ended up married – to a Romanian history teacher

The Mafia

Oh, I’d almost forgotten the mafia. “The word you were hearing, was ‘marfa’ not mafia”, Felicia chided me. “They were talking about the product you wanted – ‘marfa’ is Romanian for ‘produce’.

“Mind you, you almost certainly encountered a mafia”, she added with another wry smile.

***

This addition to my ‘About’ was prompted not by something from Romania, but from another tyke (Yorkshireman for any of my readers who – unlikely – don’t yet know this dialect tag which we proudly bear) who has gone ‘self-sufficient’, building a strawbale house, in Poland (despite the post title, it’s in English):

http://winkos.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/przepraszam-nie-mowie-po-polsku/

I just love where blogging takes me and I was surprised to learn that Eddy’s story has so many things in common with mine, including being lured into teaching English. My own wanderings into strawbale building will have to wait for a future post.

From time to time I’ll do a bio post like this, in no chronological order, and eventually add it to the pages under ‘About’ above.

A couple of days ago Stefane, our favourite foodie blogger (My French Heaven), mentioned making hot chocolate for Sunday breakfast and, just about to go out into the snow to try to get some photos, I noted to make that rather than tea as a warmer when I arrived back.

Hot chocolate and 'afine' jam; the afine are related to blueberries but, in my opinion, far superior (as are British bilberries).

Hot chocolate and ‘afine’ jam; the afine are related to blueberries but, in my opinion, far superior (as are British bilberries).

However, the post also reminded me of the only French lesson I enjoyed at school – somewhere around 1952/54 – when our usual draconian French teacher, Mr Milton, said “Today we are going to learn to make hot chocolate, as the French make it”. I’ve been following his instructions ever since.

A crucial part of the plan is to mix the cocoa with sugar first, then a little milk to make a paste, before adding the hot milk. Stefane advised the same thing, though he said ‘powdered sugar’ – perhaps that was mis-translation as I think powdered sugar is what we Brits would normally call icing sugar, but I think granulated sugar works better. So here’s what Mr Milton told me (and what I have just done to make the cup pictured above – I even got out French ‘porcelaine a feu’ in deference to Stefane):

Put cocoa powder (I like my chocolate very chocolaty so 2 heaped teaspoons for the cup shown) and unrefined sugar (I don’t like things very sweet so about a rounded teaspoon) in the cup and add a little cold milk, from what you have measured for the cup, a bit at a time stirring continuously till you have a thin, smooth paste.

Bring the rest of the milk, with a small pinch of salt, just to the boil and pour into the cup, stirring all the time till the cocoa paste is completely mixed in. Pour the mixture back into the pan, add a small knob of butter (if you use the usually salted English butter you can leave out the salt in the milk), bring back to the boil and simmer for one minute, whisking all the time .

Pour back into the cup, sit down and slowly savour your ‘hot chocolate’.

Stefane mentioned American blueberries but although they have become very fashionable I don’t really like them. But I really like their smaller wild cousins – bilberries from the Yorkshire moors in Britain or ‘afine’ from the lower slopes of Romanian mountains – the two are similar but not the same. Neither are cultivated – they are there free for the taking in August.

The jar of ‘Afine 2012′ jam in the picture was made by my ‘unofficial godmother’, Lucretia Hariuc, in her home in the Romanian Bucovina region. I brought it back (with a lot of other ‘goodies’) last summer. If you would like to know more about this remarkable lady who made it, you’ll find much about her in articles about Romanian decorated eggs under the ‘Romania’ menu above.

Several of the blogs I follow add the strapline ‘author’, or mention that this is what they are in the ‘About’. I think I understand what this means.
 
However, some add ‘writer’ as a strap line or describe themselves as this. I’m not sure I understand what this means (I know the dictionary definitions of course).
My first writing professionally was on something pretty much like this

My first writing professionally was on something pretty much like this

 
Am I a ‘writer’? I don’t think so, or I don’t think many people would consider me to be one, but I have certainly written millions of words in my lifetime. I’m leaving aside personal letters (and, over the past 20 years or so, emails), reports and the like, which would account for many, many thousands of words. For around 10 years I wrote no less than 5,000 words a week, so a total of 2.5 million words would be a very conservative estimate during this time alone. In the remaining 40 or so years of my adult life I’ve probably averaged a weekly writing output of about a fifth of this, so around another 2 million in all. Let’s say around 5 million words in total. You might gather that I like to write. Does this make me a ‘writer’?
 
One response
  
Commenting on a recent post on a blog I follow, I said that from the post and the many comments it attracted: “Some of the responses, and even your post, seem to suggest that it (a ‘writer’) is someone who is urged to write by some distressing, or maybe happy, event. I’m sometimes prompted to write by such things, but that doesn’t seem to make me a ‘writer’ either”.
 
The blogger, who terms herself ‘author’, replied: “I don’t think a ‘writer’ is someone who is urged to write by some distressing, or maybe happy, event … We are all writers if we are ‘writing a book’ – but when that book is published we become the ‘author’ of the book. I see no reason why anyone who is writing a book (whether it be fiction, poetry or an autobiography) can’t call themselves a ‘writer’ – because basically they are”. This seems to suggest that – with the exception of an autobiography – you are only a ‘writer’ if you write something fictional. So what about, eg, a ‘travel writer’?
 
I have not written, nor am I writing, a ‘book’. I have attempted a short story – ‘published’ on this blog. And every one of those 2.5 million words over a 10 year period I mention above was published – on paper; what is more, they were not self-published – I was either commissioned to write them or they were accepted and paid for by a publisher. Probably around a quarter of the other 2 million I mentioned were published. But this still does not seem to make me a ‘writer’.
 
Some of the bloggers who say they are a ‘writer’ write, often very eloquently, about writing. These are usually very popular blogs, attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of followers and comments. Many of these writers on writing have not had anything published other than self-published, often then only on their blog. Does this make them a ‘writer’? I’m not sure. What is more, sometimes when I’ve been able to access something they have ‘written’ – a book or short story – I’ve not been anything like as impressed as with the quality when they are ‘writing about writing’.
Some of the many thousands of words written to my mother over several years in Romania. They don't make me a 'writer', but what if I transcribe them and publish as a book? Will this wave the magic wand?

Some of the many thousands of words written to my mother over several years in Romania. They don’t make me a ‘writer’, but what if I transcribe them and publish as a book? Will this wave the magic wand?

 
An urge to write?
 
Does it have something to do with an urge to write? I’m not sure about this either; I have had an urge to write since childhood but again this doesn’t seem to make me a ‘writer’. In fact, almost everything I find interesting, fascinating, distressing or joyful urges me to write, and sometimes I write about it, as now. Does this make me a ‘writer’?
 
Steinbeck, Dickens, and who?
 
I’ve been reading books, I am told, from the age of three. The most influential on me was read when a teenager – Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath‘. The grammar is often dreadful, some passages seemingly overlong and difficult to get through, but I have no doubt he was a ‘writer’. Why? Because what he wrote has had such an effect on the whole of what I became? I don’t think this is the answer either, because some authors who I have no doubt are ‘writers’ simply give me enjoyment, as does so much of Dickens (I’m ignoring here his wealth of social commentary, which has also done much to mould my social conscience).
 
I don’t have that many ‘writers’ and ‘authors’ as followers so perhaps I should ask those of you who have to broadcast the question out to their many ‘writer/author’ followers and feed back in some way.
 
Or is the question of interest only to me?
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